Sunday, December 3, 2017

Christmas Memories

It seems every where I look in stores at their Christmas offerings, I see an eye-catching motif repeated on a variety of goods: kitchen towels, framed art, wall hangings, ceramics and dishes or pillows! The attraction? A red pick-up truck hauling a green Christmas tree! I am always reminded of an incident and favorite memory of the past.

Our teen-age son and his best friend had come from our community in south Mississippi to Austin, Texas where our oldest son, Mark, lived. He and his wife were youth pastors at their church, and the youth fund-raising project was a Christmas tree lot. The Mississippi lads had driven down to help out in a red pick-up truck, Trevor's hard-earned and proud possession.

Trevor's friend, Richard, had been in missionary training school, but was on winter break. The guys had enjoyed their stay, having sold many trees for a successful holiday venture. Needing to get back to Mississippi, the boys took off immediately after the lot closed down late Christmas eve.

They were tired and rumpled, their long-hair (the style then) falling to shoulders, and Richard had grown an unruly beard. Coming over a bridge at one point, they noticed they were being followed by a state trooper. Then they got stopped.

"What are you fellows doing out so late?" the officer questioned suspiciously. They explained they were headed home, showed their ID and answered more questions.

"I'm a missionary," Trevor's scruffy-looking pal offered, which was rewarded with a skeptical look.

"Where did you get that Christmas tree?" the officer demanded.

"We worked at my brother's tree lot for the youth of his church. There was one left, so we're taking it home for Christmas!" Trevor explained.

With that, he let the guys go, but it must have been a sight to see, the little red truck with a Christmas tree aboard, bobbing in the wind on a cold December night with two young adventurers eager to get home for Christmas. No wonder it's a Christmas theme!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Stranger Things Have Happened!

"Hello, stranger!" I said jokingly into the phone when I saw my daughter's number on the display screen. I had been trying unsuccessfully to reach her several times and was glad she was calling. Then I heard a man's voice asking for Howard! How embarrassing! Quickly getting off the phone after telling him Howard wasn't home, I realized my mistake. The area code was similar, and I hadn't looked at the rest!

Speaking of strangers, my husband seems never to meet one. He had gone about 70 miles away to Enid today with our grandson in regard to an antique tractor's repair. "Are you there yet?" I asked him over the phone. He said yes, they were starting home.

"You'll never believe this!" my excited, extrovert hubby said. He told me the man who waited on him had the same last name as people he used to know in the small town where he grew up. I had heard many times of a Sunday School teacher of that name he had when he was about seven years old. She had made such an impression on him because she always played a ukulele when they sang the children's Bible songs in class.

"She was his aunt!" Howard exclaimed. I'm not sure how he figured this out, but I could imagine the sleuthing, questioning, and genealogy trails he went down to arrive at this joyful discovery! He did say that when he found out the store employee was of the same church denomination in which he himself had grown up, he began to put two and two together. He remembered that the lady of the ukulele was the pastor's wife!

Howard finally got a ukulele when he lay in bed with chicken pox in grade school, and his dad brought him one to pass the time. He has loved it ever since, likely because of the influence of the Sunday School teacher.

Won't it be wonderful in heaven when there will be no strangers, and we will know as we are known! We can imagine harps in heaven, but there may even be ukuleles!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Eye Opener!

What shall I make for breakfast? I mused before I got up this morning. Already this week we'd had biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs and sausage, oatmeal and strawberries, and fried eggs and bacon. I knew what sounded good: blueberry pancakes! We'd bought blueberries a couple of days ago, and I couldn't wait to taste their deliciousness!

I went into the kitchen and got out the pancake mix, stirred up the batter and opened the fridge for the blueberries. Hm. I didn't see them. After shuffling through everything on the shelves and in the crisper drawers, I called to Howard, "Where are the blueberries? They're not here!"

He had no clue, and I repeatedly searched the refrigerator. "Maybe we left them in the car," I speculated hopefully, "I'll go see." It was still dark out and had been raining, but I was determined to find what I was craving. Besides, I noticed other things were missing, too: strawberries, refrigerated breakfast rolls and a can of biscuits! There was no bag of groceries in the car.

"You must have left them in the shopping cart!" Howard ventured, but the cart was empty when I returned it for the 25 cent deposit! I concluded we had left a bag on the counter when we bagged the groceries. He said, no, there were five bags, and we brought 5 bags into the house!

I gave up in frustration, and said, "Why don't you pray?" He did pray that we would find the missing groceries. I was resignedly getting ready to put the plain batter onto the griddle when Howard said, "There it is!"

What? Sure enough, a bag of groceries was sitting on a small bench in the corner just inside the kitchen door where I had set them down when we came in from shopping! Not only did I find the blueberries and things I missed, but also a head of lettuce, green peppers and broccoli! Everything looked fine, and we had blueberry pancakes for breakfast!

Why couldn't I see them? It reminded me of the story in II Kings 6:17 when the servant of the prophet Elisha saw the city of Dothan surrounded by an army of horses and chariots. He said to Elisha, "Alas, my master! What shall we do?"

The Bible says, "And Elisha prayed, and said, "Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see." Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of chariots and fire all around Elisha.

God still answers prayer!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Heartthoughts: The Butler's Tray

Setting out Fall d├ęcor around the house, I snapped photos of some of the arrangements. What is acceptable to the naked eye is not always reflected in pictures! (You've heard the saying, "The camera adds five pounds."?) Well, the camera also picks up things one doesn't always notice. Like today, when I took a picture of a coffee table that showed its wear and tear.

But let me back up. One day some 40 years ago my husband and I were shopping at the brand new Walmart that had opened in our small Mississippi town. What a delight and treat it was to have such a sparkling, wonderful new place to shop! They even had some furniture!

"Look!" I pointed out to Howard, "That coffee table is a butler's tray! I've always wanted one!" It wasn't a big elaborate tray like some I'd seen for coffee tables, but it was affordable and we loved it. It came unassembled, however, but my handy spouse was good at putting things together.

Everything went smoothly until the screws in the brace underneath would not tighten sufficiently, although the table was sturdy enough. The kids used to absently twirl the board with their feet as they sat on the sofa.

As our kids grew up, one by one they would bring home a sweetheart. Their younger siblings started noticing a pattern. When the romances became serious and the couple in love would sit on the sofa to announce their engagement, cheeks flushed and eyes downcast, they unconsciously twirled the brace with their feet.

"Look Mom," one would whisper to me, "They are twirling the board!" We knew then we were about to get a new member of the family!

Well, the butler's tray has acquired many scrapes and scars over all those years, both from feet propped up and coffee spills, I'm afraid. That's what was showing up in the photo. I hadn't used the tray in years, until I needed to fill a spot in rearranging recently. Our kids have all married, and though there may have been some scrapes and scars along the way, we couldn't be prouder of all of them and the wonderful families God has given them. Now it's their turn to watch their kids make those announcements! I wonder if any of them have a butler's tray?

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Chance Meeting

"Did you see the figs?" A woman I had passed on our walk in Cann Gardens called as she approached me. Figs? I must have missed them. Then I saw them and their big, beautiful leaves. I commented that the leaves were so large, no wonder Adam and Eve used them as coverings!

She must have thought I was biblically inclined, because she and her husband began a conversation with us as we rested on a bench, telling us they were missionaries! We had a wonderful visit with them for at least an hour! When Howard heard they work in Kosovo, he exclaimed, "Kosovo! We supported a missionary there!" Turns out they knew him!

"Yes, we sent money to buy a cow for a widowed villager there!" (The man had been left with children when his wife was a casualty of a war nearby.) We had known this missionary's father, and Howard asked if there was anything our church could do for his ministry. We were told we could buy a cow!

Our small church loved the idea, and within a week the big jug with a red thermometer and markings on its side held the requisite $600! After viewing a video of the poor recipients' joy at receiving it (the young daughter was ecstatic at the prospect of drinking milk) the church collected money for another cow!

What a pleasant respite our encounter was, after the horrendous news we had seen that morning of the carnage in Las Vegas! In a blog the day before, I had referred to our alarm system going off at church, and although it was a malfunction, it didn't keep the firemen from showing up. Then I heard that the Las Vegas shooter's location was found because the smoke alarm in the hotel room had gone off due to all the shots fired!

I was struck by the report that many of the 22,000 people gathered for the event were desperately trying to find a way out of the concert, but all exits had been closed to keep non-ticketed people out. The newsman remarked, "Locking people out also means locking people in."

It is the missionaries' desire (and ours!) to spread the good news of salvation, so that no one will be locked out of Heaven, but will be at a glorious "Lock-in" with Jesus forever more!

Jesus said of the last days, in the parable of the fig tree, "Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near--at the doors!" Matthew 24:12. The alarm has sounded!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Heartthoughts: Security!

We were engrossed in the pastor's sermon this morning when suddenly the sound of screeching filled the sanctuary with emergency lights flashing! A mechanized voice was repeating robotically, "Emergency Alert! Everyone vacate the building! The disabled will exit first!"

What in the world? We could detect no emergency as everyone was looking around uncertainly. In a few minutes a man appeared in the doorway with the welcome news that it was a false alarm! Still, there was no electricity. The pastor was trying to finish his sermon without sound amplification, and we strained to hear him, although he had come down from the platform to be closer to the congregation. Suddenly his voice was normal. The power had come back on and the wireless microphone he wore was working.

Later, exiting the church following the service, we saw two firemen standing near the door. Evidently the Fire Department was alerted when our alarm went off. Thank God for technology even if it does malfunction once in awhile!

The announcement was a little alarming (no pun intended) at first, because one never knows what will happen these days in public gatherings. Many churches have resorted to having security in place for the congregants' safety.

I am glad for passages in the Bible such as Psalm 91 which reads:

(1) "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
(2) I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him I will trust.
(3) Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.
(4) He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
(5) Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;
(6) Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor from the destruction that wasteth at noonday.
(7) A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.
(8) Only with thine eyes shall thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.
(9) Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation.
(10)There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh they dwelling.
(11)For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.
(12)They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.
(13)Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.
(14)Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.
(15)He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him.
(16)With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood...

"There's a space on the other side," I said to my husband when we saw that a car was blocking the gas pump where we wanted to park. Howard was driving around toward the pumps on the other side when a car turned in ahead of us. Leaving us a little room, the driver went to the second pump. Behind him, our hose barely reached our car!

Just then the man who was getting ready to pump gas got back into his car and pulled it forward a few feet!

"Thank you!" my spouse said in surprise, to which the other customer replied cheerfully, "No problem! There is enough room for all of us here!"

"That's a polite man," Howard remarked, and I agreed. The stranger's words reminded me of something I heard on TV from a man a few days ago, referring to different beliefs and racial prejudices. He said something like "This is a big country. There's room for everyone here!"

"What is that sound I hear?" I asked my husband that night at bed time. He couldn't hear it at first, but when I laid my head on the pillow, the sound resonated over and over. I could not get to sleep because of the steady, staccato noise. Finally I got up and checked for faucet drips, barking dogs, appliance noise or whatever I could think of. At last I must have slept, but in the wee hours I awoke to it again. It had to be dogs barking! I concluded.

Today as we were driving home the back way, I noted that the Standing Bear Pow-Wow had begun. We passed the huge gathering, glancing toward the concession stands and all the cars and people there. Howard put the window down for a better view, and then it hit me! Drums were booming loudly in pulsating rhythm. We looked at each other and said in recognition, "That's what we heard last night!"

The mystery was solved! Thinking of our diverse population, I had to agree with the statement of the man at the gas station and the man on TV: "This is a big country. There's room for all of us here!"