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


“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.