Thursday, December 16, 2010

Happiness and Happenstance

”Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.” We have a new mouse around here. A wireless, computer mouse that my son gave me for a Christmas present, along with a laptop cover. My built-in “mouse”--a little pad with right and left clicks below the keyboard--was getting a little difficult, sticking unpredictably and trying my patience. I attempted to use the new one yesterday after repeated taps were futile in clicking the old one.

My grandson had explained the use of it thoroughly, but that was a few days ago. Somehow it seemed counter-intuitive, like trying to do hair while looking at the back of your head in a mirror. When I wanted the arrow to go up, it went down. When I tried to make it go left, it went right. I accidentally dropped the mouse and the bottom came off. Putting it back on, I saw that I had been holding the mouse backward! Turned around, it fit my palm and worked properly, the right and left click right where they were supposed to be, and the little roller easily accessible to scroll up or down.

Last night at church we filled shoeboxes chock full of small gifts for underprivileged children. One of the workers made Mexican hot chocolate to refresh us. I asked what Mexican hot chocolate was, and they said it contained cinnamon. It was very good, but I could not taste the cinnamon. “Can you smell?” someone asked me. “No,” I said, “that’s the reason I can’t taste!” They said it smelled wonderful, but it was lost on me. I only knew it was hot and sweet.

Tonight we went to see the Christmas lights in a special display out by the lake called “The Festival of Angels.” Besides angels, there is a bonanza of scenarios and vignettes simulating action by the timed sequence of the lights outlining the electrified figures. Gingerbread men run away, jump into a pond, and frolic on a jungle gym. Horses trotted in front of a covered wagon, its wheels turning without ever going anywhere. We watched as penguins hurried up a snowy slope, but we gave up on them sliding down the other side, as it seemed some of the bulbs were not coming on, rendering them invisible.

Tomorrow night we will attend a Christmas party for the church staff, wrapping up our pre-Christmas activities before we leave to see family for Christmas. I am taking gifts unwrapped in a carry-on, hoping to avoid delays in security. Travel can be fraught with opportunities for glitches and frustrations, but in spite of minor disappointments, it will be worth it to see loved ones. Christmas isn’t perfect, but it does celebrate the Perfect Gift, the One who makes it all worthwhile.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Royal Flush

“God keeps answering my prayers!” my husband said wonderingly. Well, I know it’s true, because almost daily he comes home and tells me how he prayed to make sales, usually when business is dead at the store where he works, and he almost invariably has a good day.

But today he gave me the distressing news that the plumbing in the bathroom was clogged. He plunged with his “plumber’s friend” repeatedly, but to no avail. “I’m going to call Greg and see if he has something in his garage I can use,” he said as he reached for the phone to call our son. Greg told him he had a “snake,” some kind of flexible, coiled plumbing tool in his storage building. Since he was at work, he told Howard to go ahead and get it.

“Come and go with me,” Howard said to me. “Two sets of eyes are better than one. I might have trouble finding it.” But almost as soon as we walked into the large workshop, with tools neatly hanging from peg boards and all manner of projects visible in various stages of completion, he spotted it: a wheel-like device hanging from a hook on the wall. Alas, it didn’t do the trick. Greg suggested he look in his garage for a larger one.

“Did he find it?” Greg asked over the phone a little while after his father left. Just then I saw him drive up.

“He’s getting out, and the trunk is opening, so he must have gotten it,” I told Greg as I looked out the window. He told me to have his dad call him when he came in.

A little later Howard emerged from the bathroom with a triumphant look on his face. “It worked!” he said. I exclaimed how glad I was he found the right tool. “Well, it wasn’t in the garage,” he told me. “I had looked everywhere, and finally gave up. I got in the car and was leaving, when I felt like something was telling me to go back.” He shook his head and continued. “I started to unlock the garage again, when I felt I should look in the carport. I looked around the corner of the garage, and there it was, with the barbeque grill sitting on top of it!”

Praise God! We were spared a plumber’s bill! I told my husband that I’d had a lot of prayers answered, too, usually in the most unexpected way! God is concerned with all our needs, great and small. The Bible says He is an ever-present help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace in time of need.” When your plumbing goes out, you are definitely in a time of need!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Clearly

“What is the name of the cabin you’re going to for Christmas?” my daughter, Julie, was asking. After stopping at our younger daughter’s home in Georgia, our plans are to go on to Gatlinburg with her family, and Julie’s family will join us there on Christmas day. I told her I couldn’t think of the name of it right then, but it would come to me and I would send her the link so she could see it.

After racking my brain, some catchy name like “Ain’t Misbehavin’” kept popping into my mind, but that sounded like an old movie, so I discounted the thought. Then today I was talking with our son, Jamie, and told him what I was trying to remember. “I think it’s something like 'Moosin’ Around',” he suggested, recalling when his sister stayed there last year. Well, he wasn’t much help.

Then as I was riding along in the car awhile ago, “Ain’t Moosebehavin'" popped into my head! "That’s it!” I laughed. A play on words, and I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. But when I wasn’t concentrating so hard, my subconscious put it together. A little later, as we got out at a store, I noticed a car tag and tried to puzzle out the name on it, “RUOK". “Is that supposed ot say Roark?” I wondered. When I realized what it meant, Howard asked me what I was laughing about. “That tag,” I pointed, “It means, Are you okay?”

Language is supposed to convey a message, but sometimes things can go awry. Jamie told me he had decided to pick up a gift for Tammy, his wife, although they had already made a major purchase as a Christmas present for both of them. Tammy had walked away to another part of the store, and Jamie asked the clerk if they had any more of a certain item, a kooky gift for a laugh, that he wanted to surprise her with. He looked up to see Tammy coming back just in time to hear the clerk say loudly on the radio, “Do we have any more of the DQ toy home Blizzard Makers?” He said they did, and now he and Tammy both knew it.

As we were singing carols at our women’s group Christmas party the other night, the song, Silver Bells, was suggested. I told my neighbor sitting next to me that I had sung that since I was a child, and only recently realized that the bells the song refers to are the bells rung by the Salvation Army at their collection buckets! I had just imagined silver church bells or holiday bells pealing the joy of the season.

In our Sunday night Roundtable, the question was brought up about the difference in meaning of the word “Abba,” and “Father”. While most understood “Abba” as the more intimate term a child might use, like “Daddy,” instead of “Father,” some had never thought of it that way. Galatians 4:6-7 says, “And because you are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore, thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” Spoken clearly, with no room for misunderstanding. What a great Reason to celebrate Christmas, even with all the mishaps, mistakes and mix-ups that make it so memorable.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

At The End of The Day

Yesterday was a great day! It didn’t start out that way, however. A bookkeeping oversight had sent us scrambling as we crunched numbers and crumpled paper. Every avenue we attempted was thwarted, until suddenly God answered in a way we didn’t expect, and our day was suddenly tranquil.

By this time it was noon, and here I was still in my robe and pjs from my earlier distraction. Howard left for work, and I sank down in front of our big screen tv. How cozy with the lights of the Christmas tree, the fireplace, and the nostalgic program that was on. After an hour of self-indulgence, enjoying candy from a box like the stereotype housewife eating bon bons with her feet up, (this was fun! I should do it more often!) I showered, shampooed and busied myself in the kitchen.

Thinking ahead to our absence next week when we will be on our Christmas trip, I had cleaned and emptied the refrigerator of all but the essentials the day before. But there were still a few apples in the crisper drawer, so I decided to make Howard an apple pie. (Nearly every night after supper he inquires diplomatically if there is anything from my oven.) So today I will surprise him. Then I found a zucchini, two tomatoes and half a red onion, and visions of Italian roasted vegetables formed in my mind. With garlic, olive oil and a few other gleanings from the vegetable bin, the dish would be the perfect accompaniment for the tilapia left in the freezer.

The phone rang, and it was my husband wanting to know if the mail had come. Checking it, I had good news to report--a check from the bookstore for books sold, another from a friend buying a book, and a special surprise I had been alerted to look for from our son, Jamie! Thinking it would be a Christmas card with a picture of his family, instead I saw a sturdy package the size of a big photo frame. I tore into it and was delighted to find a hardback, bound printed album of photos from our Thanksgiving get-together! What a lovely gesture! He had ordered it by mail, and it turned out great.

After supper, relaxing in the good events of the day, I answered the phone to our son, Greg, asking us to come over and see their Christmas lights they had put up. Even though it was hard to leave our hearth on an early-dark, chilly evening, this was Friday night and an outing sounded nice. They had put illuminaria along their walk and plant borders, icicle lights outlined their spacious porch, and a huge angel twinkled with tiny white lights on their lawn. Their tree looped with strands of popcorn and keepsake decorations stood over a pile of colorful packages in the living room. Howard and Greg were soon thumbing through song books and enjoying the guitar, while I passed out some of that candy brought from home. We left carrying a casserole of ham and beans, a good start on tomorrow’s blessings that were sure to come!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Train Up a Child

I have always heard that if a child doesn’t learn to obey his parents, it will be hard for him to obey God--or other authorities, for that matter. I was reading in the book of Samuel about him as a child under the tutelage of Eli, the prophet. It is clear from the account of little Samuel’s hearing a Voice and his quick, repeated response to Eli that he was an obedient and alert servant.

This did not come without training. From a tender age Samuel had been taught to listen for the voice of Eli. No matter that he was roused from his bed three times in the wee hours of the morning (for the lamp that burned throughout the night in the tabernacle, and was extinguished at dawn, was still burning), he still quickly sprang up to what he thought was Eli’s voice. Of course, he was a growing boy and needed his sleep; most children would be loath to leave the delicious slumber and comfort of their beds when called by an adult. Whoever liked to get up early for school or chores?

The Bible says that Samuel did not yet know the Lord, no doubt due to his immaturity, yet he knew the voice of the man of God over him and knew to come at his bidding. His parents had doubtless instilled in him those good habits even as a very young child. This was excellent preparation for his stellar future, when he would hear from God as the last judge and first prophet of Israel. He is known as a type of Christ, being a prophet, priest and judge. But he learned to recognize God's voice that night while still a child.

We heard something sad and even tragic while we were with our son in Texas last week. Riding in the car, we got to conversing and reminiscing about old times, and Trevor told us he had been looking up Mississippi schoolmates on Facebook. One kid he had known since first grade--in fact, his first friend made as a newcomer to the school--was hard to track down. I remembered the little black boy who delighted Trevor with his funny antics. Once he ate supper with us, and maybe even spent the night in about the third grade.

Finally Trevor stopped looking in classmate data and typed his name on a search engine. It came up in the Police Notes of a Louisiana newspaper. Our son was crushed to find out the boy he had known as funny, energetic, and resourceful, despite coming from a disadvantaged home situation, was in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola for life. Trevor said he felt the boy never had a chance, growing up desperately poor with no father.

Reading on, Trevor found that the man, now more than 40 years old, had been living in a park. He knocked on a door and asked the older woman who lived there if she had any work he could do for food. While she had no work, she made him a sandwich. A few nights later, he returned to her property, removed a room air conditioner from a bedroom window, gained access to her home and robbed and raped her. I cringed at the story for more than one reason.

Nearly 20 years earlier, our newly married daughter and her husband were living in the house she had grown up in since we had moved away. One night when she was home alone, she thought she heard a knock on the door while she was taking a shower. She wrapped a towel around herself, grabbed a robe, and went to the door. This was in the country and she was fearful, but, peering out, she recognized one of the persons standing on the porch. It was the same boy Trevor had known as a friend in elementary and who had been to the house so long ago. They gave her a line about a survey or something, but she quickly closed and locked the door.

Our phone rang in Louisiana where we were visiting another son, and her trembling voice related the situation. "Mama, Shannon's at work, and I'm scared!" she said. “Call him!” we insisted. She didn’t like to bother her husband when he was on duty, but after all, he was a policeman! She did, they followed up and found the men with burglary equipment in the car, and ended up charging them with several burglaries in the neighborhood. Thank God for angels over the house that night.

Such a tragic end to a misguided life. But maybe not the end, because, as we told Trevor, Angola Prison has in recent years become the scene of great revival. The majority of the inmates are now strong Christians, and Angola, whose very name sent shivers down the spine of hearers for years, now has the reputation of being a model prison in behavior and orderly conduct. Inmates can even study and earn a degree in Christian Ministry. Perhaps God will at last get this prisoner’s ear, and his life will be salvaged under the Godly preaching of the ministries that have been called there. God is the Father who never gives up on His child.

Windows of Heaven

In a sermon on giving last Sunday, our pastor referred to the story of Hannah, mother of Samuel. She had prayed desperately for a son for long time. It was only when she promised God to give her son to Him, that God answered her request. God blesses us so that we can be a blessing. After Hannah sacrificially gave her son to the Lord’s service, this formerly barren woman was blessed with three more sons and two daughters (I Samuel 2:21)! You can’t out give God!

Sowing and reaping is a biblical principle. What you put into something is what you will get out of it. As the pastor pointed out, this goes for anything--time, attention, effort, money, etc. I can see this in my own life. I was blessed to be a stay-at-home mom and to be able to be there for our six children. I now am reaping the benefits of a well-raised family. Certainly not all to my credit, for their father was a strong spiritual influence, besides being a good provider and loving authority figure.

And the blessings continue! Besides our children, we have 18 grandchildren who are serving the Lord or are being brought up to serve Him. And now even a great-grandchild, whose grandparents, our oldest daughter and her husband, are covering with prayer.

God’s blessings are not strictly monetary. We are thankful for the blessings of good health, adequate provision, contentment, serenity in our home, and being able to share with others. Ours has certainly not been a trouble-free life, but God’s faithfulness has been evident throughout the various trials of raising a family.

God wants to bless His people. But, as we heard Sunday, God isn’t looking for just another donor. He is looking for someone who will humble themselves to His plans and “let go of what He says to let go of”. As Christians, we can’t ignore God’s Word. In Romans 4:12, we are encouraged to “walk in the steps of faith which our father Abraham had…” Abraham gave tithes to Melchizedek, a priest and king of Salem, before the law was given to Moses many years later. So giving tithes is not just “under the law”, but before the law, during the law, and after the law. Jesus sanctioned this practice when he was telling the Pharisees to include mercy, justice and faith in their lives, while not neglecting their tithing, Matthew 23:23.

I am not pointing out myself as an example, but just giving a testimony. I have found Malachi 3:10--where God promises those who give tithes and offerings that He will “pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it”--to be true as my heart overflows at His goodness.

Monday, November 29, 2010

God's Good Earth

“Summers! Summers!” somebody was yelling as we walked into the Heritage Homestead Fair near Waco, Texas. We were visiting an Amish-type farm and craft event with some of our kids the day after Thanksgiving. Who could be calling us? Turns out they were calling our son, Jamie’s family, who was staying with us and other family members in Waxahachie, Texas. It was their Houston best friends! Neither family knew the other would be there that day, but they were the first people we met! It’s a four hour drive from Houston, so what were the chances they would run into each other at that moment in a throng of hundreds of people?

We had met their friends on several occasions and were delighted to finally see the latest additions they had made to their family: two little girls from China, ages two and four, the youngest having arrived only a few months ago. An older girl of six or seven had been adopted from there a few years back, adding to their original family of four children. The Chinese children were startlingly beautiful, with their porcelain skin and jet black hair framing doll-like faces. Their own red-haired daughter says she is big sister to my titian-haired baby granddaughter, Maddie.

We had a wonderful day at the Fair, watching a demonstration of corn being ground by a horizontal propane engine into cornmeal (fine), grits (coarse), and chicken feed (rough chop). Then we toured a working water wheel grist mill and saw the grain ground by a mill stone. Of course, we had to buy products from there, including cookie mix made from milled oats and sorghum syrup from cane. We saw a farming demonstration of a pair of mules turning the soil with a plow guided by a farmer on a two-wheeled spring seat.

Mules later pulled a big hay wagon we rode on to tour the property, the high point of which was when we were allowed to dismount the wagon to view a scenic overlook high on a bluff. The bucolic scene below of neatly laid out fields and pastures with a cozy farmhouse tucked in one corner was enough to make one want to join the religious community.

In the crafts pavilion, we were fascinated to see the journey of flax and cotton through a carding process, curled into a spool that would be placed on a spinning wheel to be spun into thread. Then we could see the thread being woven on a loom into dish towels. The residents of the community made the everyday essentials that can be found in any home: dishes, brooms, baskets, furniture, clothing, linens, boots, and food products. They portrayed a simple, wholesome, if somewhat cloistered, Christian lifestyle. In their plain, modest clothes and cosmetic-free faces, everyone seemed peaceful and happy. So refreshing to us in our hurried outside world.

But Jesus didn’t call us to come out of the world, but to go into all the world and preach the gospel. Although the early church tried the communal lifestyle in the beginning, they were soon scattered by persecution, inadvertently spreading the gospel with their dispersion. Jesus said in Matthew 5:14-16, that we are the light of the world, and a city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Preserving the old ways and living a simple life style are admirable, but we can be salt and light wherever we live, even bringing a bit of the mission field home with us, as in rescuing orphans from China. It is His world, and he has us sprinkled like salt all over it, sometimes bumping us into each other in the most unexpected places.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Button, Button, Who's Got the Button?

Oh, good, it’s not going to be cold tomorrow, I thought Saturday, when thinking about church clothes for Sunday. I could wear a transitional dress with a jacket I hadn’t worn since last fall. But when I got up Sunday morning, it was almost summer-like outside. A cotton-blend dress that I had would work better. I put it on, glad to have a chance to wear the stylish outfit I liked so much, a brown dress with a brown, three-quarter length jacket covered in big white polka dots with huge brown buttons down the front and on the cuffs of the sleeves.

We got into the car and headed for church. What’s this? I wondered, as I was settling into my seat and saw a strap flapping at my wrist. I tucked it into its loop and reached to button it. The button was gone! Oh, no! It was too late to go back home and change, so I hoped the loop would hold the strap and no one would notice that my cuffs didn’t match.

How long had the button been gone? Placed near the back of the cuff, it would have been hard to notice it missing. As soon as I got a chance today, I started looking for it. Maybe it had dropped onto the closet floor. Searching the floor and under a shoe rack with a flashlight, I noticed several things, but not the button. Here was a pretty top I hadn’t seen all summer slipped off it’s hanger and behind something. Seeing various shoes and hangers on the floor, I knew I had to clean it out. Organizing is my least favorite thing to do, but my husband’s favorite.

“Howard, would you help me with this closet?” I called, since he was home today and reading on the porch. In his own good time, he tackled the chore, getting bogged down in a carton of books stored since we’d moved here. But alas! No button. I looked in my button box and found one that was the right size, but it was blue. I searched the jewelry box and found a pair of buttons, one huge and one small, in a plastic packet that must have come attached to some new garment, but they were gray.

We usually don’t think of a necessary item like a button as a luxury, but I think they used to be considered as such. I remember reading in Tom Sawyer, how Aunt Polly used a needle and thread to fasten Tom’s shirt. And I used to hear my dad talk about when he was a boy, they “tacked” the opening of clothing together with a needle and thread--kind of sewing them into a garment! The Amish don’t always use buttons, instead using snaps or hooks and eyes, or even sewing or using pins as less showy fasteners. (When I was little, I would see my father make a simple lock, called a button, for a shed door--or even one in the old farm house--with a strip of wood nailed to the facing and twisted across the door to hold it secure. “Button that door!” was a common command from him back then.)

Well, buttons are certainly a necessity today, and a fashion ornamentation, as well. I didn’t find mine, but maybe by Spring, which will probably be as soon as I wear the outfit again, I’ll have found it, or at least a suitable replacement. We did fill a bag for charity with several purses, shoes and articles of rarely worn clothing. And, I have a clean closet, so all is not lost. Only the button!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

To Sow a Seed

How fascinating it is to realize that everything happens for a reason and that the smallest detail is important to God! I heard an amazing thing yesterday that happened several years ago, but has significant impact today. British Evangelist Nathan Morris, who is leading the great revival meeting in Mobile, Alabama, was asked in an interview about how he came to be a minister. He said that his parents were visiting the United States from England on a vacation some 15 years ago and were walking down the street of an American city. His father, a pastor and avid Christian, was wearing a t-shirt with “JESUS” emblazoned across the front. A passerby noticed it, stopped and said, “There’s a revival in Pensacola! You should go!”

They did go and discovered the mighty move of God that was going on at the Brownsville Church. On a return trip to the U.S., they brought their teen son, Nathan, to the revival. He had an encounter with God that would later propel him into the international ministry he has today! Now thousands, if not millions, are being impacted for Christ by this young man. All because of a t-shirt, you might say! We forget the effect that we have on others by the things we do or say, intentionally or unintentionally. We might think it a little thing just to hand out or leave a gospel tract on a table or in a public place.

During the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, an official from the American Bible Society visited our church in Gulfport, Mississippi, to interview my husband as a local pastor involved in hurricane outreach. Upon leaving, he left a sizable donation in appreciation of the work there. In a private moment, he confided to Howard that he at one time had been lost spiritually, living as a street person. A man in a park one day handed him a gospel tract, which he later read and accepted the message of Christ. This dignified and well-spoken black man was obviously a bright light for Jesus, as a result of being given a tract.

Praying a blessing over your food at a restaurant, routinely leaving your house for church carrying a Bible, honest dealings in business--all can be a witness for Christ. Someone once said, “You are not invisible.” Possibly we think we live in anonymity just because we may not know many people, but you are soon known by your smile, your attitude, your habits, or even your general demeanor. The Bible says, “Let us not be weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap if we faint not,” Galatians 6:9. When is due season? Only God knows. It may take a short time, or a lifetime, but we may be sure that from tiny seeds, a harvest will come.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Afterthought

“Oh, before you leave, I just wanted to tell you something,” the owner of the Christian bookstore we were in yesterday commented. “A customer was in here the other day, and he told me that your church had prayed for us when he was in service recently!” We have a custom of praying for a missionary and a local pastor and church or ministry every Sunday morning, and my husband had named the bookstore as he led in prayer that day. They have a regular prayer meeting and special speakers in a large room at the back of their store. “The man was so excited about that,” she went on, “and so touched that he had tears in his eyes.”

“That’s remarkable,” Howard responded, “Just yesterday someone told me something similar. I had met some people from another church at a function one night last week, and I mentioned their church in prayer on Sunday.” He went on, “I didn’t know some of them were present that morning visiting with family who attends, until I was told how pleased they were that we had prayed for them and their pastor.”

“You know just a few words of prayer or thoughtfulness go a long way,” our friend remarked, “you never know the effect of just a little seed that is planted and how it might affect someone.” She went on to explain that she makes it a practice to pray a blessing over each Bible that is sold in her store. She said that one day as she was doing that, a customer came in, but rather than quit praying, she went on, while the customer busied himself browsing through books. Later, he seemed a little stand-offish, and she wondered if she had offended him.

A few days later, a lady came in and bought a Bible. As she was thanked and handed the purchase and receipt, the woman hesitated and said, “Aren’t you going to pray? My friend was here the other day and said he heard you praying over a Bible.” The man had been paying attention, after all!

She told of another time when she had been working on bookkeeping upstairs when her employee called up to her that a person wanted a blessing prayed on the Bible she had just bought. Since the proprietor was recovering from a car accident injury and not wanting to go back down the stairs, she responded to the cashier, herself a devout Christian, “Well, I’m in the middle of something, so you go ahead and pray.” The customer quickly called out, “No! I want you to pray!” Turns out that several of her family had received her prayer-blessings on their Bibles, and she didn’t want to break the chain of continuity.

“Pastors are always being called upon to pray for others,” the bookstore owner reflected, “So it probably meant a lot for that pastor to hear that you had prayed for him the other day. I know it meant a lot to me,” she concluded.

We know from what Jesus said in the Bible that prayers don’t have to be long to be effective, Matthew 6:5-7. It is not our much speaking and vain repetitions that he desires. A simple prayer from the heart is worth more than all the flowery words, and a little does go a long way.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Skype! Yikes!

What a wonderful surprise I had yesterday! My son was fiddling with and manipulating my computer by remote, and he hooked me up with Skype! Suddenly I was in their living room seeing my 3-year-old granddaughter face-to-face and having a conversation with her! We talked about her 4th birthday coming up (“I’m having a Sweet Pea birthday cake, and my party is at the zoo!”), her playmates (“Gabe won’t marry me because he’s mad!”). Then she thrust her doll into view (“It’s Barbie, from Toy Story 3!”) Her enormous blue eyes lit up as she went on, “I want to tell you about my dream! I dreamed my friends were over, then I couldn’t find them!”

I asked her if she wanted to go to school, now that she was turning four. “Actually,” she said, “I do go to school at my church. We have praise and worship! And we have snacks!”

“Do you practice letters and numbers?” I asked her, to which her reply was, “Well, 3’s are kind of hard. They are…uh…different.”

I hadn’t seen their family much this summer, but briefly in Tennessee for a family wedding a couple of months ago. I don’t think I even had a conversation with her then, busy as she was dashing around with cousins. It’s amazing how fast kids change. Here she was, articulate, animated, dimpled smile flashing and blonde curls bouncing. Be still, my heart! If baby Maddie hadn’t been asleep, it would have been double the fun.

Later that evening when PaPa was home, we got on Skype again. This time 19-month-old Maddie was in on the fun, if escaping to distant corners of the room in pursuit of some elusive toy. At one point, they got on a battery-powered 4-wheeler and zipped around riding double. I remembered when Maddie had received that as a first-birthday present, and, standing beside it, she turned the ignition and hung on for dear life as it took off with her. She must have grown into it a bit by now.

“I forgot to tell you something about my dream,” Anne-Marie announced, coming into view, then, distracted, the moment was lost. We are looking forward to our trip to see them as we meet at our son, Trevor’s, house, for Thanksgiving. An outing to an Amish Homestead Fair is planned for Friday following the holiday. With the petting zoo, carriage rides, craft exhibitions, and musical performances, I’m sure it will be a wonderful excursion for one and all. Until then, I can see them on Skype, and maybe Anne-Marie will remember more of her dream. Meanwhile, she and her little sister will populate mine.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Do You Remember?

Now where were those pickles? Peering behind everything in the refrigerator, I couldn’t see them. I had made grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for lunch, and I remembered the dill slices we had bought. I could just imagine their crisp, salty flavor with the melted cheese of the sandwiches. “Howard,” I called to my husband as he sat on the porch swing waiting to eat, “did you put those pickles somewhere when we unpacked the groceries?”

I got a negative answer, and I mentally retraced my steps as we’d come in from the store the other day. I remembered my hands were full, and as I juggled loops of plastic bags in my hands, one slipped and I heard an ominous, dull thud on the sidewalk with the tinkle of broken glass. Looking down to see a greenish-yellow liquid seeping from the grocery bag, I realized I’d broken the jar of pickles--the only breakable thing in the bag! Like a revelation it had come back to me! This was the first time I’d thought of it! Well, we had sweet gherkins with our sandwiches, and they weren’t too bad.

A couple of days ago as we were pulling out from a place of business, someone pointed out that we had a low tire. The next morning we got up and it was flat. Turns out we would have to replace the tire. On the way to the tire center, Howard had me remove paperwork from the glove compartment with receipts and information on our tires’ history. When he presented them for warranty coverage, he found he had the right papers for three of the tires, but not for the one we needed. A further search at home revealed another record of tire replacement, but, alas, it was not the right one either.

On the way home after getting the new tire mounted , I asked Howard why he was so convinced it was covered by warranty. He said he remembered it wasn’t that long ago that he had bought it. He became irritated with my questioning, though, as I tried to make him retrace the circumstances of buying the tire. Then his face lit up. “I remember! It was when we were in Houston, and Jamie and I went to Sam’s Club and bought it!” Now he was glad I’d prompted his memory. Calling our son, Jamie, however, corrected this recollection. Jamie said they had indeed gone to Sam’s, but ended up buying it at Walmart.

Our memories are unpredictable and not infallible. Stress clouds our thoughts, and just when we need presence of mind most, we can become fuzzy in our thinking. Thankfully, God is the same, yesterday, today and forever, the great I AM. James 1:17 says that there is no shadow or variableness of turning with Him. He is our Constant. His Word says that if even our mother forgets us, He will not. We are inscribed on the palms of His hands, Isaiah 49:16. A beautiful picture of the scars of Jesus. May we never forget that!

Motivation?

“What are you doing?” I screeched at my husband. “You’re ruining the cake!” I had just put down the phone to realize he was carrying the three small bags of groceries with the cake we had bought for our church fellowship slipped sideways in the bag. I could see the layer was askew on the base, with frosting all over the inside of the plastic dome. Closer inspection showed it must have been upside down, since exactly half the frosting was peeled back, now stuck to the top of the container, and stripping bare that half of the cake top. “Just like a man,” I fumed. The phone had rung inside my purse just as we were loading the groceries, and I talked to my daughter until we’d come into the house.

We had stopped at the store to get cream cheese for a spread I was making with some special herbs we had at home to serve with crackers. I was pondering that it would be a skimpy snack contribution tonight, when I saw the beautiful single-layer bakery cakes with the luscious-looking chocolate frosting at a tiny price. I guessed we would have to keep the now-spoiled cake for ourselves, and I went to work on the cracker tray, using the grapes we had bought to fill it out a bit. I repaired the cake as best I could, shoving it in the fridge, and went to sit down and settle my nerves.

When it was time to go, I looked at the cake, now firmed up and looking better, and it occurred to me to slice it up and see how it looked. I got out a pretty cake stand, overlapping the wedges of cake on top, and it didn’t look half bad. The red swirls in the chocolate of the re-cycled icing were less evident with focus on the glistening dark cake. I couldn’t believe it when it was met with oohs and aahs as I uncovered it at church. I had already smoothed things out with my husband over my outburst, but now I was really ashamed as I remembered his crest-fallen look at my scolding. And over such a little thing, really.

During our round-table discussion at a kind of free-for-all where we were invited to ask questions prior to our lesson, our pastor’s wife brought up a question about our school supply giveaway we’d had during the summer. She had run into one of the volunteer beauticians who had helped with the free haircuts, and asked how she felt about the experience, remembering how she had built it up as such a rewarding thing to participate in such an event. The young woman told her she didn’t know if she would do it again, as she was turned off by the shabby treatment the hairdressers received from some of the recipients’ parents, and the sense of entitlement she noticed among them. Pastor’s wife wanted feedback from our workers of what they’d picked up, which was largely different from the haircutter’s report.

I thought about our motivation for doing things for others. Is it for self-gratification? If so, we are often disappointed. The Bible tells us that whatever we do, we are to do it as unto the Lord, Colossians 3:23. It is hard to expect nothing in return for our efforts, but even Jesus was, and still is, mostly rejected and unappreciated. Some day all of our works will be judged, and many will be burned up as worthless, depending upon whether they were built on the proper foundation, and perhaps, even on the motivation behind them. Food for thought.

Monday, November 8, 2010

ABC'S

Anne-Marie, who won’t be four for another week-and-a-half, is catching on fast. Our granddaughter is learning to spell. (As far as I know, she isn’t reading yet, although that may be another of her hidden talents.) Recently, her parents were discussing some family activities, and not wanting to involve her in the conversation, they used a technique common to parents--spelling key words. “Should we go I-C-E S-K-A-T-I-N-G?” Jamie said to Tammy. Anne-Marie piped up, “I wanna go ice-skating!” Her astounded parents tried again.“Or should we go see “B-E-A-U-T-Y AND THE B-E-A-S-T?” he asked. His daughter jumped up and down and shouted,“Beauty and the Beast!”

I was sharing this nugget of grandmotherly pride with our pastor’s wife last night, whose little girl will be four in a couple of months. We often compare notes about the children’s antics. She told me that when her daughter was even younger, she asked her mother about the letter “u” in a word. When the letter was identified for her, the 3-year-old said, “Oh, H-O-U-S-E, that spells “house!”

That reminded me of the time when Anne-Marie was around two-and-a-half, and, pointing to a bar of soap on the bathtub, she said to her mother, “Look, Mommy,
D-I-A-L!” These are instances of the old expression about learning being caught, rather than taught. The kiddies’ language skills, extending even to print, are developing by leaps and bounds, starting before we even realize it. One of our sons, then a little more than two years old, saw a newspaper page I had dropped on the floor while reading the paper, and said, “Mama, that says, ‘CHURCH’,” pointing to the big block letters ‘CH’ in an ad. Actually, it said CHICKEN, 39 CENTS/LB, but he was on the right track. He had often noticed the word CHURCH on a lighted sign in front of our house of worship and recognized the similarity.

Years ago, when my niece’s children were small, she was putting away groceries and said to her husband, “Where did you put the C-A-N-D-Y?” Her pre-school son looked up brightly and said, “I want some of that sandy-candy!” repeating the sound of her spelling and giving them an eye-opener at the same time. As adults, we often forget how quickly kids learn, not giving them enough credit and thinking of them as babies. (Until we see how glibly they can sing and repeat television ads and slogans!) Science tells us that we are hard-wired to read at about age six, but parents often get clues way ahead of time. Spiritually, kids are astute, too, having special awareness of God and His love if they are guided in that direction. “Train up a child the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it," Proverbs 22:6. It’s later than you think.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Come and Dine

“Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins,” Jesus said in Matthew 9:17, “or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined.” Not exactly what happened to me yesterday, but it reminded me of it. I had previously saved some chicken stock in a couple of pint jars in the fridge, then, not using them immediately, I put them in the freezer. Howard’s short-order lunch request yesterday was for homemade chicken soup, and I wanted to use the stock to enrich the broth.

I set the jars under hot running water as I hurriedly chopped celery, onions and carrots and thawed some chicken strips. I turned the jars upside down and shook them, but the frozen contents wouldn’t come through the mouth opening. I even turned them upside down in a colander over the boiling soup, but was only successful in emptying one jar. Putting the other back under the hot water tap, I heard a sharp crack. Like the time I poured hot tea into a glass pitcher. Still, it was only a crack, and I poked at the frozen blob with a knife. My knife made a fist size opening in the glass, the contents were lost, and the jar went into the trash. (The quick soup was delicious, any way.)

Jesus was talking, of course, about how the fresh truth of the gospel would not fit into the dead religion of Judaism. Something would have to give. I couldn’t help but think about that last night as I witnessed on the internet the powerful preaching of a young British evangelist holding a revival in Alabama, where a strong move of the Holy Spirit is taking place, with the evidence of healings, signs and wonders. He stressed the soon coming of our Lord and how people need to press in to a deeper relationship with God. Many people will not accept this, of course, preferring to stay in a stiff, cold religion that does not require anything of them.

The revival is reminiscent of the Brownsville Revival in Pensacola, Florida, that began some 15 years ago and lasted for 5 years. In fact, there are connections to that revival, in that last night’s evangelist had visited there as a youth, was touched spiritually, and later went into ministry. It is mind boggling to note the changes that have come about since then, especially in communication. We are now in the information age, able to transport at lightning speed the good news of the gospel and news of the moving of God anywhere in the world!

The Bible speaks of the time when the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord! No doubt the development of the internet is in God’s timing to preach the gospel to every creature and make disciples of all nations. The warm, sweet wine of the Holy Spirit, vibrant with life, will never stay in frozen containers or brittle leather bottles, but resides in pliant new vessels, heart-shaped for love, and filled with compassion for the lost. It is more than chicken soup for the soul!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Word Fitly Spoken

Where is everybody tonight? I thought, as only a few people gathered for the Wednesday evening service. Later, from the pulpit my husband noted that some were absent for various reasons, and optimistically recalled his oft-repeated story of the “best” service he was ever in--when only 6 people were in attendance, and they had experienced a marvelous presence of the Holy Spirit. Well, there were five of us here, so that was encouraging.

It made me think of something I had read recently in a church publication that comes to our house. In one of the columns, a writer told the story of a deacon’s faithfulness. He said it was midweek service night at church, and a terrific snowstorm had moved in. The pastor couldn’t even get to the church, nor could his associate pastor. It looked as if it would be up to the deacon to deliver a sermon. He felt entirely inadequate, yet didn’t want the small number who had made it to church to miss the Word of God; so, shaking in his boots, he did his best, reading some scripture and applying some truths he felt God gave him.

At the altar call, a teenage boy who had stumbled in to take refuge from the snowstorm came forward, where “God opened his heart to the salvation message.” The faithful deacon, who had taken his text from Isaiah 45:22, had no way of knowing that the young seeker would turn out to be Charles Haddon Spurgeon, renowned preacher and author of the 19th century and still influential today.

One of the attendees last night was a lady I had never seen in midweek service before, and only sporadically on Sundays. Afterward, she lingered to talk, expressing her appreciation for the message. And a stranger showed up, too. Only God knows her felt needs and if they were met. We never know the impact we might have in a small act of obedience (which was my husband’s topic last night).

A few days ago, I had put in my blog a recounting of the story--this time by my daughter--of my grandson’s accident on a four-wheeler. Coming from his mother, it was especially moving. As I was scanning through the blogs yesterday, I noticed a comment on it that I hadn’t seen before. I quickly opened it (comments are much coveted by bloggers: for every one received, who knows how many actually read it?). It was not from any of the known followers, but from a stranger. He said he had placed a Google Alert to pick up on the phrase, “pleading the blood (of Jesus)” whenever it was mentioned in cyberspace. My daughter had told how her father had prayed for our children, “pleading the blood” over them each day, and how she made a practice of doing that for her own family. And it was flagged by this stranger, who often prayed that way, too!

That explained another comment I had received on a blog a couple of months back, this time from the North Carolina Department of Tourism! I had written about our trip through the beautiful mountains and mentioned stopping at an attraction in a certain town. The very polite and friendly comment said she, the Director of Tourism, enjoyed my story, but I had mistakenly identified a museum to be in the wrong town (actually across the street from the right city)! Evidently, her Google Alert had been for a key word pertaining to tourism.

I have always heard that the words we speak go out on sound waves which will continue forever--more conceivable now than ever before. May we say with the psalmist, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer,” Psalm 19:14.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Innocents

Kids say (and do!) the cutest things! Art Linkletter knew this and made a career of it. Their fresh take on things and their unique view and fuzzy interpretation of a confusing world is a source of fond amusement for adults, myself included.

My three-year-old granddaughter, now almost 4, loves her “coca-dot” dress and likes to eat “cretzels.” Her precocious little friend, a year or two older, was playing at her house and saw her “Jessie” cowgirl doll from Toy Story lying on the floor. It was completely undressed, and the well-brought-up little boy took the doll to his mother, shoved it in her face and declared, “INAPPROPRIATE!”

She has a 19-month-old sister who is watching her as a role model, doing everything she can to keep up. Big sister had been trying to jump rope on a video her father made of his prodigies, when Daddy asked her to sing. She began whirling and warbling, swinging her rope, when the baby, grabbing the other end of the rope, began singing into the jump rope handle, using it as a microphone, swaying and belting out unintelligible phrases.

When my own were little, they made me laugh all the time (sometimes you had to laugh to keep from crying). My five-year-old daughter came to me one day and said, “Mama, can I watch Family Few (Feud)? There’s nothing else on but soap offers.” (Her older brother called them “Soda-poppers.”)

When that same brother was a pre-schooler, one day I heard him singing his version of “Jesus Loves Me”. He rendered it, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so; N-B-Y, between-y slow, I am weak but He is strong.” He’s middle age now, but he’s still creative in music!

Once when I was in school I saw one of my younger brother’s spelling papers where he had to use “literature” in a sentence. He had written, “Our dog had a literature of pups.” I’m sure the teacher smiled at this, whether she smiled on his grade or not.

Confused or not, they will get it straight sooner or later. The pre-readers will become readers, and their world will widen beyond anything they now comprehend. In the book of Jonah, God had pity on the city of Ninevah, in which there were more than 120,000 who did not know their right hand from their left. Was this just an expression for people in darkness, or were there that many innocent children there? Either way, God was concerned and wanted Jonah to preach to them. Our children are a mission field. They will likely never be more receptive to the knowledge of God’s love than they are now. Let’s make the most of it!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Saturday Surprise

Wow! God really knows how to bless! We had wanted a big-screen television set for a long time, checking them out at Walmart and comparing prices. Still, it would be a big splurge. Maybe for Christmas. Then Saturday at an estate sale we saw a 37” flat screen table model for $150. Howard put a bid on it for $100, and our bid was accepted! It has great color and we really like it. But finding a place to put it was a problem. This couldn’t go in either of our small bedrooms, and since it was not a thin-line model, we couldn’t put it over the fireplace or bookcase in our living room.

The only other alternative was to put it on a tall, bistro-type table occupying one corner of the front room. The table itself was almost too big for the living room; we bought it several years ago for a special dining area in the large house we had in Mississippi. The legs are massive, making it heavy and awkward to move. We seldom use it for eating, since we aren’t always in the mood to hike ourselves up on the tall chairs, instead using the table we have had for nearly 50 years in the dining room.

“Where are you going to put this?” our son, Greg, asked as he was preparing to help unload the (nearly) impossibly heavy tv set. As I cleared off the table, he noticed the leaf in it, called a butterfly leaf, that we had never been able to figure out. The table has remained full size ever since we’ve had it.

“You can’t make it smaller,” I told him, “the leaf won’t fold down.” Not to be deterred, he tugged it open, crawled under and inspected it, then pushed the divided leaf, hard. It folded, and, voila! it pushed closed! Now the table was much smaller, making it just right for the tv and giving us much-needed space in the living room! Thank you, Lord! And thank you, Greg!

We had been looking forward to watching a special revival service on the internet that night, but we discovered that in changing the cable to the new set, Greg had disconnected the internet. We would get him to fix it the next day when they came over for Sunday dinner. Disappointed, we turned on the new television set just in time to see the “Precious Memories” logo of a Gaither Homecoming coming on. It turned out to be a wonderful program featuring The Crabb Family, whom we had seldom watched before. It felt like revival in our living room as they sang under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, in full screen and living color!

In Her Own Words, The Rest of the Story..Amy Nix

"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is thy faithfulness," Lamentations 3:22-24. It was early Saturday morning, and my son, Reid, had to get an early start. Swim team for the high school had contributed to Reid's "turning over a whole new leaf", so to speak. Since when did my 16 year old want to get up at 6 am on a Saturday? It didn't matter to me. I was glad to see his new-found fervor for school and its activities. He seemed to be excelling at so much lately. I was so proud of him and his determination.

Off into the darkness we traveled, first stopping for a quick breakfast, then off to school to meet the bus for the ride to a nearby town where he was to practice in their large pool. I felt kind of sorry for him. It was 40 degrees outside, and he had on a wet swim suit under his sweat pants. I had not seen to it that it had been dried from the previous evening's practice. Sometimes I felt like my mothering was lacking. I was so involved in work and the demands of home, things were often slipping around the house and with the kids. Well, it was Saturday, anyway, and I felt optimistic about the day. Saturday was my favorite day of the week--no surprise there.

As I watched Reid join all of his friends, clad in sweatshirts with boggans on their heads, I just grinned. I began to call out to God, thanking him for my precious son. He was our only boy, the first of three children. They are all truly the most precious gifts that we could have ever been given...the "air in my lungs," I have often thought. I've heard it said that mothers have a special bond with their sons. Sounds pretty corny, really, but I could identify. Although Reid is growing up and he thinks that I am way out of touch with his world, I still often think of him as that firecracker of a toddler, hair bouncing freely around his face and those two white chiclet teeth, just a little bit too big for his mouth. He was my little pal.

I always remember my Dad praying for us. He always told me that every day he claimed the 91st Psalm, one of protection, over each one of us, and that he would plead the blood of Jesus over us and our lives. It had become a common practice for me over my own children, but this morning, I really called out to God more earnestly than I had in a long time. I wept and prayed a prayer of thanksgiving, but couldn't ignore a nagging fear of loss. A fear of loss... such a heavy burden. Thank you, God, for my son, my daughters, my husband. But why such a fear of loss? I began to pray for divine protection, wisdom, and guidance in Reid's life, feeling most threatened for him, sixteen years old...driving a car, experiencing so many new things.

I rebuked the devourer, Satan. Finally, giving it all to God, I told Him that I trusted Him. I cannot live in fear. I know that "God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind." I know of so many who had suffered loss, and still somehow gave God the glory. My prayer was for God to keep Reid, but to help me trust him no matter what. I continued my prayer for my daughters and my husband, still holding Reid in the back of my mind. I was driving into the driveway now, making a long mental list of things to do that day. We would pick Reid up at 11.

The day didn't go as planned, of course, and I was becoming frustrated when we still had not gotten our errands done by noon. Besides, I was getting a headache, quickly growing out of the mood to shop. Giving in to my husband, I got up and we headed to town. I wanted to buy some mums and pumpkins for a fall arrangement, and a new picture to hang over Reid's bed in his newly-painted room. Finally at Hobby Lobby, we found the perfect picture. It reminded us of Reid, a silhouette of a couple of surfers waiting for the ultimate wave. His sister, Corrin, confirmed that we should get it after she sent a snapshot of the picture to Reid via her phone, getting his approval. We would soon be on our way home.

It wasn't half an hour later we were standing in line at the checkout when Shannon's phone rang. My eyes grew large when I heard him asking questions about an accident and agreeing to meeting at a nearby emergency room. "Reid has had an accident on the
Polaris and has a gash on his head," was his terse response to my alarmed expression. We had taken him to a friend's house earlier on the way to town, and certainly, they couldn't resist riding the ATV, as they had done so many times before. Ok, I kept my cool, thinking that perhaps it was an over-exaggeration. I wasn't one to over react, especially with all I had seen in my almost 18 years as a nurse. "He probably won't really even need a stitch," I thought, "....probably just Katie's parents wanting to be really careful...I'm not about to sit in an
ER all afternoon on my coveted Saturday."

When we met Reid and Katie's Dad, I got a sick feeling. Reid was visibly shaken, with blood on his shirt, neck and arms, dirt and grass in his hair, and blood coming from his nose. He was pensive and stiff, and I could tell he was hurting. I immediately changed plans and told Shannon that I wanted him to come to the ER with me instead of staying home with the girls, and we set off to the ER at my work. Reid reached from the backseat to grab my hand in the front. His hand felt cold, and he looked scared. Oh, my baby, my heart was breaking for him. At that moment I remembered how I had fervently prayed that morning.

"Oh, my Lord," I said to myself. God had made himself real to me. God had spared Reid. As it turned out, the Polaris had gone off the road when they made a curve, flipping and throwing Reid out into the woods. He could have been killed....so many variables, and any change of circumstance could have taken him from me. I knew that God had protected him divinely.

Later in the ER, Reid shared his feelings about the accident. It was sobering, and he knew that God had indeed had His hand upon him. He confided that it made him re-examine his life and his spirituality. It was suddenly clear to me... God had impressed upon me to trust Him. He is sovereign, and although there are times that He allows things to happen that we may not understand, it is ultimately for His glory. Had Reid not had this life-threatening experience, he may have gone his own way, ignoring the prodding of the Holy Spirit upon his life. It also reminded me of the importance of listening to the Holy Spirit. When we are burdened for others it is imperative that we yield in a spirit of intercession.

About 5 hours, a CT scan, and several Xrays later, we were headed home. I asked Reid if he could go back and change anything about the day, would he reconsider going to his friend's house. "Mom, I wouldn't change a thing," he said. "Everything that happens to us makes us who we are and forms our character." I also asked him if he thought he could go to church the next morning, despite the 14 staples in his head and the aches and pains that went along with the rest of his injuries. After all, he had some praying to do. "Mom," he said, giving me a long look, "It's not between me and church...it's between me and God." Wow, that wisdom I prayed for him to have is sure kicking in faster than I thought!

An ordinary-looking quick dash through the drive-through at Steak and Shake marked the end of an exraordinary day that had started out so differently. I am
left with a feeling of immense gratefulness and a new appreciation for God's mercies. "They are new every morning...great is thy faithfulness, Oh Lord."

Monday, November 1, 2010

Known by Him

Yesterday in church our pastor used several scriptures relating to the sanctity of life in his sermon. He began by reading from Genesis where God breathed into man the breath of life. “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” The Bible records that all other creatures were created, apparently living, and says nothing about God breathing into them. He explained this as meaning man is unique in having a soul and distinguishes us from animals.

Reading from Job 27:3, where Job says, “As long as my breath is in me, and the breath of God in my nostrils, (4) My lips shall not speak wickedness , Nor my tongue utter deceit,” Pastor said that Job is linking his very breath to God and creation. Then the account of Jesus healing the blind man was read from John 9:6 where He mixed saliva with mud and applied it to the blind man’s eyes. The minister then brought out something that had never occurred to me: Jesus was reaching all the way back to creation and using the original building material, dust of the ground, to do a creative miracle on this man’s eyes!
He is able to create, and re-create, both physically and spiritually!

Prior to the sermon, we had watched a moving video of pre-born babies in the womb and their amazing development from conception to birth. As portions of Jeremiah 1:5 and Jeremiah 29:11 and other scriptures were printed beneath the images, I could not hold back the tears at the love of God in giving us precious children and the wonder of life.

I experienced their appeal and sweetness last night when parents brought their children to a fall festival our church was part of in cooperation with the volunteer fire department across the street. As they trooped in to play the games, eat hot dogs and be part of a costume contest, my husband and I had a birds-eye view. The activity we monitored, a “Dig for Treasure” box of sand with buried trinkets, was right in the center of the room. All evening, tots disguised as characters from cartoons, storybooks, movies or imagination, knelt on the floor and dug into the sand, eyes wide with delight as they pulled out shiny stones, beach creepy-crawlers, or glittering gems. Our fun part was to reward them with candy.

A tiny Wizard-of-Oz “Dorothy,” her black wig and braids perched slightly askew and dressed in a blue gingham dress with “ruby” slippers, stole our hearts, as did a “Bob the Builder” clad young man with tools on a belt around his waist. A sparkly Cinderella and tutu-encircled toddlers were irresistible as parents placed them in line to see if their darling would be judged the cutest. Using imagination, trying out identities, they are on their way to growing up. “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future,” Jeremiah 29:11. A smile, a kind look, a handed treat--small seeds of God’s love planted in this hope for the future, our children.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

All Will See

“How great is our God; sing with me how great is our God, and all the world will see how great is our God.” That song kept going through my mind today as I reflected on His amazing love and care for His children, and that he wants to communicate that to us. In less than a week’s time, I have become knowledgeable of at least three remarkable incidents when God spoke clearly to mothers about their sons.

The first was last Saturday when my daughter felt a burden of prayer and intercession for her 16-year-old son. After seeking God earnestly in his behalf, Amy turned her concerns for him over to God, and felt God say, “No matter what happens, I will use it for my glory.” She assumed this meant his future life or career, although she couldn’t explain the feeling of loss that she had. Then God told her, “He will be all right.” A few hours later our grandson had a narrow escape when injured in a four-wheeler accident. What if she hadn’t been impressed to pray?

I wrote about her experience in a blog, “In His Hands,” and it was read by one of my nieces. A few days later she wrote to me saying, “Almost the same thing happened to me yesterday.” She said she had been running laps, intending to do four. She decided to pray for one family member during each lap she ran. When she got to the fourth one, she heard the Lord tell her to pray for her son. It was an intense, forceful urge to pray, and she fervently prayed for him in tears and supplication. That afternoon the school called and said he had incurred some hard blows to the head during football practice. She rushed him to the hospital, where CAT scans revealed a concussion. We both marveled and praised God at this intervention and prayer alert from God that no doubt kept her child from worse harm.

Yesterday I was told of an even more amazing occurrence. Someone my daughter knows of is the mother of an older teenager who had spent his life overcoming problems relating to his premature birth. In recent years, he seemed to be getting a handle on life and had made great progress. Then a few days ago, one of his mother’s friends alerted her about something he put on face book that sounded like a cry for help. Knowing how teens bare their souls and are often dramatic on face book, his mother didn’t attach too much importance to it; her son seemed fine. Then that night she was awakened out of a sound sleep by the Holy Spirit to “Go check on Jason !” (not his real name). She rushed to find him, locating him in the garage hanging from the ceiling by his belt! I wept as I was told this, but incredibly, it had just happened and she rescued him! He was not harmed! Praise God for mothers who listen when God speaks! How great is our God!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Brush Strokes

How can painting a kitchen make me so tired when someone else did the painting? I guess it was all the prep work and the after-work. I’m afraid I have something of a “Cracker Barrel” kitchen with my collections of signs, bowls, pitchers and kitchen d├ęcor, not to mention loaded-down pot racks, art work and baskets. My husband and I denuded the kitchen for the painter, then before we put it all back together everything had to be washed, cleaned, or dusted. And of course, culled and rearranged. I am exhausted, but having everything look so fresh and clean made it worth it!

My husband had gotten a head start a few days ago when he decided to organize my cabinets (his way). After a painstaking couple of hours, he told me to come and look. Every cup was turned upside down individually on the shelf; every mixing bowl was also upside down, sometimes with another on top, but other than taking up a lot of shelf space, the dish side looked pretty good. And he did a good job of sorting the glassware into the proper sizes. But when I looked in the grocery cabinet, I didn’t recognize a thing. He had taken everything from its respective package and put it into a gallon zip-loc bag! I knew he intended to do this with cereal, but I thought he would encase the whole box in a bag. Now I could only guess at cereal type, and other wax paper bag-enclosed-within-a-bag contents.

Last night, it had gotten chilly after supper, so I made a cup of hot chocolate. The mix was sugar-free, and I wanted to disguise the taste of artificial sweetener, so I tried to find the marshmallows. Scooting things around, I at last found them behind a bag of cornstarch (which I recognized from the piece of torn cardboard box displaying the word, “Cornstarch,” he had placed inside.) Later, I heard Howard yell, “These cabinets are already getting messed up!” Bless his heart. Maybe it’s because everything is out of my reach! (Actually, the reason he did all this is we had seen a little squeaker, but it’s been gone for two weeks now!)

Kitchens get messy. (After all, it’s the power house of the home!) Life gets messy, even our spiritual life (after all, it’s the power house of our being)! Thankfully, we can let Someone Else do the painting. He is the Master Painter whose love covers a multitude of sins. We must be willing to get rid of the dust and clutter of our spirits and submit to the broad strokes of His loving hand. Then, restored and refreshed, it’s up to us to maintain our daily relationship, to be quick to clean up the spills, for we have an Advocate with the Father, John 2:1. He has already done the hard part.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Internet Ingenue

“A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” No where is that more true than in using a computer on the internet! I had needed to place an order for a shipment of books, so I sat down last night to go through the process. Since they already had all of my information, I just had to fill in the order, check the shipment and billing address, review the order and wait for “Order Complete” to pop up. Just as it did and I was exiting the site, I caught a glimpse of something unsettling disappearing from the screen. I quickly reviewed my order, and saw that somehow I had clicked on the wrong shipment address! There were a couple of other addresses listed, since in the past when friends or family wanted several copies of my book, I just had it shipped directly to them. Their addresses were still on file!

I frantically called my son, Jamie, the internet guru, and he guided me through the process to contact the company. We stated the problem in the appropriate box and asked for a correction. The automated message said we would hear from them sometime during the next business day. Well, getting nervous that they might not stop the shipment in time, I have been checking my e-mail messages all morning, but no new notification. I did notice on the “Contact Support” site we had used that there was a telephone icon, with the friendly promise that they would immediately return a phone call. Just as I started to do this and a box popped up, I saw the next place to click, entitled “How does this work?” I found out how it worked, but the box would not pop up again! Jamie was driving and unable to help me at the moment.

Giving up and deciding to get off the internet and turn off my computer, I noticed a box at the bottom of the screen that said “Call Us.” I clicked on it and it re-established my lost site. After filling out the information, I immediately got the return phone call! A very friendly representative said the order had not been shipped, he had seen our correspondence, but normally we would not get a response for 24-48 hours! I knew in that time, the order could be sent! He assured me he would contact production and hopefully change the shipment address in time. He is to let me know as soon as he finds out.

I talked with my son again, and, in an effort to reassure me, he said that the worst case scenario was that it would just go to my friend’s house in Mississippi where I had inadvertently sent it. “No!” I exclaimed, “She is going on a cruise and will be gone all week!” I could just imagine my precious books sitting on her porch, possibly getting wet or stolen. Besides, which, it would be expensive and inconvenient for her to send them to me!

I was just about to conclude my blog on a note of uncertainty, when I checked the e-mail once more. Praise God! The message read, “We have updated your order to the correct address.” And I did it (almost) by myself!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Life, Interrupted

“What is this brown water?!” I said aloud when I opened the washing machine and saw suds floating on chocolate-y looking water. I had just placed a load of whites in there and was checking to see if the new detergent seemed sufficient. Then I remembered that there were some dish towels in the bottom of the washer that Howard had tossed in there earlier. What was on them? Had he spilled coffee and mopped it up with the towels? No doubt, that was it, I fumed.

“What was on the dish towels you put in the washer?” I demanded, calling him at work. “Something has turned the water brown!” I didn’t get an answer, as he had a customer and would call me back. I spun out the offending water and went to wash the sink full of dishes. I had put off these chores until now, because this morning we had been dismantling the kitchen and out buying paint in preparation for having it painted tomorrow. I turned on the tap, squirting in dishwashing liquid and turned to retrieve a pan from the stove. When I looked again, the sink was filled with brown water! Uh-oh, it wasn’t Howard’s fault. The city must be working on the lines.

Sure enough, when I called the water department, the mystery was solved. I was informed the fire department was to blame, having been “stirring things up over there.” “When people get home this afternoon and start using water, it’ll clear up,” I was told assuredly. Well, I was home now! What about me? Kind of made me think of the old adage, “Don’t put off ’til tomorrow what you can do today,” (or dishes ’til this afternoon)!

The Bible forbids boasting about tomorrow in James 4:13-14, when it says, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” The next verse admonishes us to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”

That truth about our life being a vapor is more real every day. Just yesterday we learned of the passing of yet another friend we’d had in Mississippi. He was a contemporary; our kids played together, we had shared with them a joint venture in establishing a church there, our daughters were roommates when they first went off to college. It hardly seems possible that he could be gone. But just as God breathed the breath of life into man, when that breath is gone, so are we, like a vapor.

The kitchen was supposed to be painted last week, but we had put it off, taking a chance that the weather would still be suitable this week. So, as Paul said when he was bidding goodbye to his friends in Ephesus, “…I will return again to you, God willing,” Acts 18:21, I am saying, “God willing, we will get the kitchen painted tomorrow.” And hopefully we will have clean dishes and laundry to put away!

Monday, October 25, 2010

How Sweet It Is!

We needed a couple of items from Walmart today, including a mailing envelope to mail one of my books to my brother. I found the envelope, which cost $1, although I could buy two for $1 at the dollar store. Then as we passed by the grocery department, I noticed a bin of cosmetics marked down. There was my favorite lip color! I hadn’t been able to find it lately. It was a bargain, so I bought two. A few more items we hadn’t planned on went into the cart, and when we checked out our tab was over $37! “Check that receipt,” Howard instructed me as we started to walk away. Sure enough, the $3 cosmetics I had bought had rung up at $8.50 each! We found another overcharge, and the service desk refunded us $14!

I got in the car and attempted to put the paperback book into the bubble-padded envelope, but it wouldn’t fit. I could have sworn that was the size I needed! Well, we could stop at the dollar store. I had bought them there before and they fit fine. I picked up what I needed there. These looked bigger, I thought with satisfaction. I tried to insert the book. I couldn’t believe it! I had gotten the wrong size again. Why was this day becoming so frustrating? I went back in to get what would be the 5th envelope (they come two to a pack)! At last I got the book mailed! (Efficiency is not my middle name!)

Why is it so easy to lose your joy? Especially since I’d had such a victorious day yesterday with the news that our grandson’s injuries from a four-wheeler accident were not that serious? I think it all started last night when, instead of attending a small group meeting where we had concluded our study, we met at the church to examine and study ballots and political questions and referendums for next week’s elections. The sheet with the state questions on it was passed out, but the print was smaller than the smallest Bible print. And I had forgotten my glasses! So I sat, miserable and clueless, while others who actually enjoyed politics waxed long and thoroughly on my least favorite, albeit useful, topic.

It wasn’t until I got home this afternoon that my aura of gloom began to lift, when I found our son had put pictures of our grandbabies on face book. Those happy little faces made me smile and feel warm all over. It’s now less than a month ’til Thanksgiving when I will get to see them! I decided that the only way to make it up to my husband for my bad disposition was to bake him an apple pie. It seems to have worked, and now an air of peace pervades our home along with the fragrance of nutmeg and cinnamon. A sweet smelling savor!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

In His Hands

I was looking over the mail when I heard a musical note emit from the cell phone. Oh, it probably needs to be charged, I thought, then when I opened it I saw instead that I had a new message. “We are taking Reid to the ER,” it said, “He was in a wreck on an ATV.” Dear Lord! It was a message from our daughter, Amy, in Georgia. I immediately got her on the phone, and in a strained voice she told me that our 16-year-old grandson had been thrown off 4-wheeled utility vehicle, and that they were on the way to the hospital. He had head injuries and other, hopefully more minor, injuries. I was wild for details, but there wasn’t much she could tell me until he had been examined at the hospital.

I called Amy’s brothers and sister, sharing and asking them to pray. Then I called our pastor for prayer. Howard and I had already prayed and were still praying. Then I remembered face book. I typed out a message describing what had happened and posted it to all my friends. Next time I checked, many messages assured me that prayers were going up. We spent an anxious afternoon, getting news that Reid had a four-inch gash in his head that had to be closed with staples, that he was in a lot of pain in his neck and arm, and that they would have to do CT scans to check for further injuries.

It would be 5 or 6 hours before we heard that scans of his brain, facial bones, arm and head came back normal. Hallelujah! We were overjoyed. They were able to take him home that night. God is so good.

I tried to call Amy’s and Shannon’s house this morning before church, but getting no answer, I figured they were probably getting some much needed sleep after their ordeal. We had further prayer at church for Reid, and I called to check on him as soon as we got home. Good news awaited us, that, although he was still on pain medications, he had slept well and was up and around, despite swelling and soreness. More details of the accident had become known. Instead of hitting his head on a rock, as we had feared, it was determined that his cut had been caused by a metal seat belt slot cover or clasp as he was thrown forcefully against it. Hair, blood and scalp tissue were found on the metal device. Thank God he hadn’t been slammed into a rock, which was probably the reason he was spared. He obviously struck his jaw and arm on impact, judging from swelling and abrasions. It could have been so much worse.

“Mama, did I tell you about my prayers for Reid that morning?” Amy asked me as I talked to her. She hadn’t mentioned them, but she went on, “I took Reid to swim team practice at 6:30 Saturday morning, and when I let him off I felt a real burden of prayer, as well as an overwhelming feeling of loss.” She said she sat in the car in the morning darkness praying for Reid for probably 10 minutes or more, crying and pouring out unknown fears for his safety, protection and future. “Finally,” she said, “I turned it over to God, and I felt a great peace. And I heard the Lord say, ‘Whatever happens, I will use it for my glory.’ And He said Reid would be all right.”

“I didn’t know what it meant,” she went on, “but I felt comforted and we went on with our day. After we picked Reid up and were eating lunch, he asked to go to his friend’s house, then Shannon and I went shopping. We had redecorated Reid’s bedroom last week, and were picking up some accessories in a store when we got the call. I remembered my prayers and felt sure he would be okay.” And he was. And Amy knew they could trust his future to the Lord, too.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Age to Age

I remind myself of a squirrel who buried acorns in the summer then in the winter forgot where he put them. I was convinced I had lost a favorite set of clothes, even calling the homes of our kids I had visited during the winter to see if I’d left a pink turtleneck and grey cords at their house. Notorious for leaving things on trips, I assumed the worst when we had our first premature cold weather last month and I was looking for something warm in my closet. Where were the sweater and grey pants? An exhaustive search in both my husband’s and my closets proved futile, as did rummaging through drawers of dressers and chests.

Then yesterday I was retrieving a house shoe from under the bed with the help of a flashlight and cringed at the dust hidden by the bed skirt, but illuminated by the unforgiving beam of the flashlight. No wonder my allergies had been acting up! Grabbing a dust mop and going over the hardwood floor under the bed, I suddenly met resistance with the handle. Pushing harder, I dislodged a plastic storage carton, from what I could see, holding some winter throws and something of my husbands. I pulled it out and started removing things, and there was the sweater! I had absolutely no recollection of putting it there! Then, rifling through hangers on the closet rod looking for jeans, my hand touched something ribbed. What’s this? I found the lost pants hanging near the bottom of a multilevel hanger!

I must be slipping! No, Lord, I rebuke that thought! I’ve never given much thought to age, because, on the inside, I mostly feel like I always did, despite what the outside may show, which is apparent to me every time I look in the mirror. Still, it is a perk to hear something like I heard yesterday from someone I’d never met. A writer wanted to include me and my book in a Senior Supplement in her newspaper, but she had to confirm over the phone that I was a senior. I told her my age, but upon our meeting yesterday, she thought me some 20 years younger! (Thank you, Lord!) Although she asked what I “did” in the way of diet, exercise, etc., I had no secret to give her. I’ll just take whatever blessing the Lord gives me! She said she hoped I took that as a compliment. Are you kidding? I’m thankful to be living in an age of increased longevity, to enjoy good health and be as active as I want to be.

Many others fit this category, too, as I see more all the time. When we did a service at an assisted-living home last week, I couldn’t help noticing a middle-aged-looking man paying close attention, and afterwards Howard and I talked with him. Turns out they knew many of the same people in Blackwell, and in the course of conversation he said he was 88! He looked 60! There was not a wrinkle on his face! But when he left, I could see he was stooped and used a walker. A friend, who is 60 herself, visited a senior center recently and watched the participants do line dancing. She said one of the women seemed to be having a little trouble with some of the steps, but she learned afterward the woman was 100 years old! An upper-age octogenarian lady from our church has learned to play pool at the senior activities there, and beats all her opponents!

James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” No matter how we may resist growing older, God is the only one who doesn’t age or change. As the Bible says, “Jesus Christ, the same, yesterday, today and forever.” Amen!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Feeding the Flock

Oh no! The roast is not going to be ready in time, I thought anxiously. I had checked it after a couple of hours and it was still red in the middle! That wouldn’t do for a pork roast, so I turned up the heat. It was almost time to take our food to “The Table,“ our monthly church fellowship meal. Pondering what to take this time, I had decided to use half of a huge roast bought on sale and cut into two roasts before I had frozen it. I could serve it sliced and make a potato salad. I also wanted to make strawberry jello with bananas, since I had plenty on hand. Looking through my pantry, I saw I also had the makings for a chocolate sheet cake, except for powdered sugar and real butter I could pick up when I went to the store.

The morning got away with various errands and chores, and before I knew it, it was time to start cooking. I hurried the jello by using ice cubes for a speedier set, sliced bananas into it and got it into the refrigerator. Then I made the (usually simple) cake, but today I seemed to be all thumbs. I bumped the measuring spoon of cocoa powder and it flew all over the floor and kitchen mat. What a mess. After getting it into the oven, I had to wash the cake batter from the mixer beaters to make the icing. I really should get the potatoes on to boil for the potato salad, but what would all that humidity do to the cake frosting? I waited until the cake came out of the oven and was frosted, then I put it in the dining room away from the steamy kitchen.

Looking at the clock and checking the cookbook-recommended time for pork roast, I put the meat in the oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. The recipe actually said to cook it at 500 degrees first, then turn it down to 250 for 1 1/2 hours. Instead, I turned it down to 350 degrees, thinking that it would cook more quickly and still be tender. I wanted to make gravy from the drippings, but gravy wouldn’t go with potato salad, so I decided to cook rice to be done just before we left. But first, the potato salad. The eggs got done and peeled, but the potatoes took a little longer. Finally I had it completed, but it wasn’t to my satisfaction, since I’d used russet potatoes instead of red ones; when cooked, their waxy texture makes better potato salad. These tended to crumble and taste grainy, but my husband said it was good. (I’d have to trust him, since my taste was largely absent that day.)

I cooked the rice, and took the roast out, hoping for the best. Removing it from the pan and covering it with foil to let it “rest,” I made the gravy. Time was growing short. Finally I had Howard slice the roast, and it was perfect. Keeping the slices intact, I placed in the crock pot with the gravy and went to get dressed. The rice had gone into a smaller crock pot to keep warm. This feast had grown exponentially along with my aspirations, and now it was a huge load to take to church. When I saw the smaller-than-usual crowd, I groaned mentally that I would have a lot to take home. Surprisingly, though, there was just a tidbit left in each container, leaving enough for our lunch today. The cake was ¾ eaten, and I sent the rest to work with Howard today to share with his co-worker. Thank you, Lord, for working it all out and giving us a very enjoyable evening, besides!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pansies, Periwinkles and Prayers

The flowers in our long planter box hadn’t been the same since our September vacation. They had gotten a little dried out, despite an occasional watering in our absence. Even though we watered copiously when we got back and tried to re-establish their lush blooms, the changing season seemed to be against us. Oh well, they wouldn’t have lasted past November anyway. I have always loved Vinca flowers, or periwinkle, their prettier name. They were a favorite of mine when we lived in Mississippi, tolerating the hot summers beautifully and lasting into November or longer. But these would have to go.

“Let’s pull them out and plant pansies,” I suggested to my husband. I had never raised pansies, though in the South they were very popular as winter garden plants. I would see their two-tone blooms of purple or yellow looking like little faces bobbing merrily in the breeze in other people’s flower beds. Their delicate appearance belied their hardiness and ability to withstand the cold. We got a couple of flats, and found their proper name is Viola. After ruthlessly pulling out the woody stems and scraggly stalks of the Vinca, we set to work putting them into the soft soil of the flower box. I’d forgotten how much work even a little gardening is and wished for a “garden seat,” a low stool on wheels to save an aching back or spare stiff knees. However, it was a rewarding tiredness I felt as I looked in satisfaction at our newly bright planter, stretching across the front of the house with spots of color.

In the language of flowers, the periwinkle stands for friendship. The shy little pansy represents “thoughts.” What a sweet way to think of flowers. In gentler times, people were aware of what flowers meant in the etiquette of relationships. There used to be a thing called romance, when attractions developed slowly with all the little niceties and nuances of courtship, and flowers spoke a language all their own. Period movies depict messages sent and understood by the choice of flowers. We still love to get flowers, but who sends much besides a bouquet of roses these days? Victorian hearts beat wildly, or not, upon receiving particular floral messages.

Thinking of the delicacy of flowers reminds me of the Bible verse in Isaiah 42:3, “A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench,” speaking of Jesus in bringing salvation to the Gentiles. This was brought to mind Sunday in a message from our pastor as he urged compassion for the lost. He warned against taking a “holier than thou” attitude and treating sinners shabbily, or defending our stance in self-righteous tones. “If you do that,” he said, his voice catching with the gravity of his words, “ it had better be without a shred of pride. We must have genuine love and concern for their souls.” He entreated the congregation to pray that God would give us a passion for the unsaved. That kind of love is a language all will understand.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Scent-sory Perception

“What smells so good?” Howard exclaimed, as he came in from the front porch where he’d been waiting for his lunch before going to work at 1:00. I was making beef stew, and the intoxicating aroma was wafting out the door where he sat enjoying the crisp fall weather. I told him what it was, and he asked what I had put in it that made the lovely smell.

“Onions,” I replied. Since I had put them in when I first put the meat on to cook, he’d been detecting them for awhile. “I learned that from Erma Bombeck,” I quipped. “She said that when dinner was running late, she always put an onion in the oven so her family would assume it was almost ready.”

I guess everyone who has ever sold a house uses the “cookies in the oven” tactic or the smell of apple pie to give potential buyers a warm and fuzzy feeling about their house. I know I fell for it once, coming in to the grandmotherly figure taking a cake out of the oven at the house we would buy and live in for twenty years! (She also had a wonderful pitcher of ice-cold water sitting in the ’fridge, offering us a refreshing drink on a sweltering day. I found out later the water was “egg water,” the name given to water from the artesian well water supply. The taste and smell only disappears when the water sits for awhile.)

In the Bible, Esau gave up his birthright when he sniffed the air and caught a whiff of his brother, Jacob’s “red pottage,” maybe stew or something like our red beans’n’rice with their tantalizing fragrance. His temporary craving made him sell his inheritance for a bowl of food. All that was left was for Jacob to trick his father into sealing the deal with a blessing after eating a look-alike meal that smelled like his favorite venison from Esau’s bow.

Today many are duped by the insidious “smell of success,” and compromise their principles and their priorities to achieve it. I remember a popular song that had the phrase, “There’ll be a lot of compromisin’ on the road to my horizon, But I’m gonna be where the lights are shining on me.” My daughter, who has had a career in nursing for many years, said to me one day, “Mama, poverty has a smell,” speaking of her experience with patients. “It smells like grease, dirt and bad breath.” She went on, “And money has a smell, too. It smells like gum, perfume and leather.” I’d say she has a good sense of smell, and a bit of philosophy, too!

Jesus said the poor would be with us always. Righteousness is available to the rich or the poor. The most important thing to remember is given in Ephesians 5:2, where Paul tells us, “And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us as an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savor,” and in 2 Corinthians 2:15, “For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” The best smell of all!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sheep of His Pasture

Our pastor brought out some interesting points Sunday as related to the 23rd Psalm. In referring to the sheep knowing the shepherd’s voice, he said it was the habit of the shepherd to speak pretty much continually to his flock. As he walked along in front of them, he would talk, sing, make up poems--anything to keep his voice a constant, reassuring presence to the sheep. As a result, the sheep were so acclimated to his voice that they became sensitive to it and “knew” it, relying on it for their safety and well being.

We can imagine that David sang original compositions to his sheep in his hours of isolation, picking up all kinds of comparisons as he studied nature, the sheep and other wild animals. His devotion to God no doubt grew as he observed His world and creation and relied on Him in the desolate places. He probably sang the songs and recited the chants so many times that it was easy to remember and write them down when the sheep were resting “beside the still waters.” Our beautiful Psalms are the result.

Another point the pastor emphasized was that when an unruly sheep no longer listened to his master’s voice, running away, endangering its life and the lives of the flock, the shepherd would resort to breaking the leg of the animal, probably with his “rod,” actually more like a bat or heavy club used to defend and protect the sheep. This seemingly inhumane act was really an act of compassion to save the sheep’s life, for the shepherd would then place the sheep across his shoulders, carrying it and tenderly caring for it until it healed. By that time, in its position near his head, the sheep became even more familiar with the shepherd’s voice. Needless to say, a transformation would occur, and the sheep never strayed again.

When we were in our son, Mark’s, church in North Carolina this summer, he preached on aspects of the 23rd Psalm. One thing that stood out to me was his explanation of the verse in John 10:7, which says, “Then Jesus said to them again, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.’” Verse 9 goes on to say, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” Mark said, from his research, he found that the sheepfold did not have a physical door made of wood; rather, the shepherd lay down at night across the doorway, using his own body as the door. Nothing could go in or out except it passed through him first. What a picture of our entrance into the Kingdom of God!

I have found, having experienced partial hearing loss due to an inner ear condition, that I follow more closely what people are saying if I look at them while they are speaking. If someone behind me says something in a soft or mumbled voice, sometimes I am completely unaware that they are speaking. It reminds me of what I have heard about servants of old, how they watched their master’s face for any indication of communication to them, whether by expression, a glance, or a word, they were anxious to do his bidding. Jesus says in John 10:3-5, “To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice: and he calls them by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them: and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” What better way to know His voice than by beholding His face!

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Good Day

“Revive your dream; revive your vision,” the minister we’d heard Saturday was saying. “Whatever it is God has called you to do, be persistent in it,” he emphasized. It was a theme I had heard several times lately, and I couldn’t help but think about the book I had written and had published in April. The initial excitement had worn off, and I hadn’t pushed any book sales for awhile. Maybe that message was for me. I know it’s not a big thing, but it seems to be what God has enabled me to do, so I asked Him to revive it and turned it over to Him.

Since October is Pastor Appreciation Month, my husband had received some gift cards in one of the baskets for the ministers on the information table at church this morning. One was for a bookstore, and they were open on Sunday afternoon, so Howard wanted to go there and browse to see if anything took his eye. As we left the church, we were feeling a little adrift, since I often prepare a big meal and invite our son, Greg’s, family over for Sunday dinner. But they had plans today, so I hadn’t made anything ahead; I would just make something easy when we got home. But our spirits were buoyed by the gift cards, and we decided to eat out.

We had a finished a nice lunch when the waitress asked if she could interest us in some pumpkin pie. At the word, “pumpkin,” Howard’s favorite, his eyes lit up. This restaurant is known for their delicious signature pies. He asked the price, and she said $3.69 without whipped cream or $3.99 with. We were trying to decide, when she said, “Or you can have the “expired” pie for 99 cents.” Well, the price was right, and she assured us it was perfectly good, only required to be sold that way for health code purposes. She brought us a warm slice with fresh-from-the-oven flavor topped with whipped cream. We shared it, and it was delicious. Getting a bargain buoyed our mood even more. This was turning out to be a great day!

It got even better at the bookstore, when the cell phone in my purse rang. It was a writer from a newspaper in a nearby town, and she wanted to interview me and feature my book in an upcoming newspaper supplement! She needed a picture and a book, though. Well, I just happened to be in the bookstore where my book was stocked, so I got one back to give to her, since I was out of copies at home. Then there was the matter of the picture. I remembered a picture from my granddaughter’s wedding that might do, only I would have to crop it, since my husband was in it, too. I was sure I could work something out, though.

When we got home, the phone rang again, and it was the newspaper lady. She told me she would bring her camera and try to get some pictures in an outdoor setting for a seasonal fall photo. This was beginning to sound like fun! Things are definitely looking up since I turned them over to the Lord! Oh yes, the Christian bookstore where we heard the special speaker the other day wants to stock my book and do a book-signing in November! Thank you, Jesus!