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!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Challenge from Abroad

We just got back from hearing a special speaker at a prayer room in the back of the local Christian bookstore. The minister and his wife are here from Romania, where they have a mission work, although they are natives of Holland. They are missionaries to the Gypsies. In fact, they have even adopted a Gypsy teenage girl, already having three children of their own.

He was a fascinating speaker, not only because of his powerful message, but also for his somewhat-broken English and interesting accent. I had no trouble understanding him except for a time or two, once when I asked his wife what he had said that made everyone laugh. He had been talking about the uniqueness of his native land, and said there is a common saying over there, that “God created the earth, but the Dutch created Holland.” He was referring to the fact that it is below sea level and surrounded by dikes.

His subject was “Unity in Prayer,” and at one point the speaker was emphasizing how important it is to make sure you have a strong relationship with God and have prayed for protection before you enter upon a venture for Him. He told how they and a group from their ministry had set out to have a service in a community of Gypsies one evening. It seems that in the traffic they encountered, there was a make-shift wagon being pulled by a carload of Gypsies, which was veering all over the road, causing one of their party to run into it. When the pastor got out to investigate, he found that there was a very inebriated driver pulling the wagon. “Why are you driving when you are drunk?” he demanded, taking the man’s shoulder and looking sternly into his face.

Just then the crowd of people who were in the car with the drunk man began assaulting the pastor, blaming him for the wreck. One man took a shovel from the wagon and began beating him. As he tried to ward off the blows, both physical and verbal, another started swinging a heavy chain over his head, hitting and injuring their victim. A side mirror of the vehicle had been damaged in the collision, and a woman, cursing and shouting, tore the mirror arm loose and struck him about the head, arms and shoulders with it. Finally, staggering and bleeding, the pastor began to rebuke the demons that were ruling in the brawl. This infuriated the people to near-animal status, their eyes almost glowing with rage and fury. Suddenly police cars showed up and the brawlers were arrested.

“I should have been better prepared in prayer!” the pastor admitted. “But I took a stand against Satan, anyway, and he was defeated! We had thirty people come to the Lord that night!” Explaining how easy it would have been to go home in discouragement and cancel the meeting, he stressed that perseverance and determination are vital in prayer and in resisting the enemy. He said that many people quit praying just when the breakthrough is ready to come. He compared prayer to a fuse on a stick of dynamite--it has been lit, and the sparks are traveling to the explosive, when we get tired of praying and give up, just before the explosion of answered prayer. An excerpt from an amazing message, delivered like a Dutch-uncle, in the land of Uncle Sam!