Monday, February 28, 2011

Heart's Joy

“Come on, let’s wash your hands,” I said to the 22-month-old girl in the church nursery yesterday. They had had a treat, and she was a little sticky. The toddler had been playing with the toy kitchen, and she responded by looking up at me and placing her hands under the plastic faucet of the play sink, as if fully expecting the water to gush out.

How do babies who hardly talk know so much? I had given my granddaughter, almost two, a miniature Barbie from MacDonalds, which she played with by hugging, and touseling the long hair. Then I snapped on the detachable wings which came with the doll, and she immediately began holding it aloft to fly! Who knew? Then later, she found some small airplanes in the toy area of the Cracker Barrel store where we had eaten, and “flew” them around, as high as she could reach.

Since I am not around my little granddaughter much, I am always surprised by the great strides in development she has made since the last time I saw her. Thankfully, her parents try to keep us abreast of the children’s progress and the funny things they do. Yesterday our son, Jamie, told me of Maddie’s reaction when he went to pick her up from the nursery in their church after Sunday services. When she saw him, she grinned gleefully, dropped her toy and rocketed to him, throwing her arms around him like a drowning swimmer.

It reminded me of what happened in our home last night. We had been keeping our son, Greg’s, small terrier while he took his family on a weekend trip. Although the dog knows us well, it took her awhile to settle in and stop hovering around the door as if hoping they would walk in. She was well behaved and friendly, though, and just before it was time to go home, she was finally consenting to cuddle on my husband’s lap. Then my daughter-in-law, Joanna, came by to pick her up. I called the dog to come from the kitchen and got no immediate response. Then Joanna called her, and at the sound of her mistress’s voice she shot like a bullet into the room, almost knocking Joanna off her feet in her unadulterated glee at being reunited.

I couldn’t help but think of the parallel of the joy that will be ours when we see our Father in Heaven, and we are reunited with our absent loved ones. The Bible says “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” I Corinthians 2:9. Not unlike the babies, we can only imagine.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Language of Tears

“Where is my daddy? I want my daddy!" she cried over and over, her face crumpled in tears. "I want to go home! They left me here and I want to go home!" she sobbed. My heart went out to her as it would have to my 4-year-old granddaughter. But she was not my granddaughter, but a grandmother herself, if not a great-grandmother. We were doing a service at the nursing home and one of the patients had become confused. When we first arrived, she motioned to me from her wheelchair to tell me something.

“I need help,” she confided worriedly, “I don’t know where I am.” It was so reminiscent of my mother’s last years that I felt instant empathy for her, recognizing the frightened, lost look in her eyes as her memory failed her. I told her she was in the activity room and we were going to sing. The elderly woman calmed down a bit and I saw her mouthing the words of “Love Lifted Me” as my husband led in song. Whether that triggered some remembrance of her father, I don’t know, but she immediately began crying out for him. Finally, the attendant took her to her room.

Earlier this week my heart was torn at the sight of a small child weeping inconsolably at the final goodbye for his great-grandfather. They had been so close all of his seven years. He could only cling to the arm of his great-grandmother, who took him on her lap as they wept together, his eyes closed while the tears rolled down his face from under his long lashes. I and others tried to comfort him, but he was disconsolate in his grief.

There is a song that says tears are a language God understands. David says in Psalms 56:8, “ Put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?” God is mindful of our tears.

Jesus wept at the death of his friend, Lazarus. We are promised that someday He will wipe all tears away, that there will be no more pain nor death and we will be eternally with Him, at home. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. Psalm 30:5.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Rules of Engagement

Our granddaughter, Sarah, has recently received an engagement ring. It represents all her dreams and hopes for the future, in that it is tangible evidence of a promise that she will be wed and enter into a life of happiness and fulfillment with her husband.

It reminds me of a scripture in Ephesians 1:14, beginning in verse 13 where it says, “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, (14) who is the guarantee (down payment, earnest) of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”

In a way, that is our engagement ring. We are the bride of Christ, to be redeemed and celebrated at the marriage supper of the Lamb in Heaven, Revelation 19:7-9. We are told in Isaiah 62:4-5, that we are called Hephzibah, a difficult name that means “My delight is in Her”, and our land, Beulah (a symbol of true Israel), which means married, and that God will rejoice over us as the bridegroom rejoices over His bride.

In the story of Isaac and Rebekah, Abraham sent his servant to find a bride for his son. The servant brought Rebekah jewelry of silver and gold and clothing. These were engagement presents! He brought gifts to her family as well, as a dowry.

In receiving the Holy Spirit, we have access to spiritual gifts, which are a manifestation of the Spirit, or evidence of His activity in us. We are to desire these gifts, even as a fiancee desires her engagement gift or gifts. Some people seem afraid of these gifts and do not want to accept them or believe that they are for them. But we have a Heavenly Bridegroom who is trustworthy and has our best interests at heart. Just as an earthly bride and groom put up earnest money when buying a home, He has deposited earnest on our heavenly home and prepared it for our occupancy! The ultimate engagement gift!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Favor

What shall I wear to the funeral? I pondered. I took out every dress that was black or mostly black from my closet. One by one they were dismissed: too long, too short, didn’t fit right, too thin, too heavy. (What do you wear when it’s not quite Spring, but no longer Winter?) I told my husband I didn’t know what to wear to his brother’s services. “Do you need to buy something?” he surprised me by asking. I told him no, that I had plenty of dresses. Then the thought occurred to me that it wouldn’t hurt to see what was out there, especially with the winter clearance sales going on.

I entered the store with low expectations, and I was pretty much right. I needed a serious, no-nonsense dress, yet one that I at least liked. Maybe like a suit, or something with a jacket (but not a full skirt to blow in the wind) in a dark or black fabric. Nothing was appropriate. Then I saw a two-piece outfit with a straight skirt, kind of like a suit, but pretty and feminine in brown. That might work! And it was priced ridiculously low, with another 20 per cent off that! It was a size smaller than I usually wear, but it looked like it would fit. I tried it on and was pleasantly surprised: it looked better on than it had on the hanger. The label in the jacket read “Sweet Suit”. I liked that.

But I would have to have brown shoes! The only thing about wearing a dress to a funeral is that dresses call for high heels, which are not practical in the cemetery, and boots would not go with the outfit. Looking through a stack of shoe boxes, I saw a pretty pair of wedge heels in brown leather. They felt sturdy and comfortable and would be practical as well as attractive. I had found my whole outfit for half the price of a dress! Going into Walmart for stockings, I saw their pajamas on sale for $2.50! I picked up a soft pair of cotton knit with a black and white pattern of tiny hearts. Right for now or summer, they were perfect for our trip.

The changeable weather was warm and windy for the services, but the dress was cool and light weight. A few hours later when we got out of the car the temperature had dropped, and I was glad I had brought a coat for the trip home. The Lord had provided for us so beautifully, smoothing out details like clothing and travel, leaving us free to commemorate the well-lived life of the loved one we held so dear. It was a fond farewell to one we would see “in the morning.”

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Christmas in February

Our grandson, Chase, 23, had given us a restaurant gift certificate for Christmas, and we finally got around to using it for a special meal on Valentine’s Day. Howard had it safely tucked in his wallet and had almost forgotten about it, and Valentine’s Day seemed a perfect time to use it when we were out of town the other day.

For Christmas, I had given grandson Kyle, an airplane enthusiast, a boxed set of airplanes to construct of heavy, poster board-like paper. When he opened them and I saw you had to cut them out, I was wondering if he would ever use them after all. But when we were at their house a few days ago, I saw a couple of them he had made. “Look how good these fly, Mimi,” he exclaimed, sailing them into the 18 foot high expanse of their den.

Every spare minute seemed to be consumed with laboriously cutting them out with scissors, gluing and flying them. Their dining room table had become an airplane factory. 10-year-old Bradley was knowledgeably tossing around such words as ailerons, rudders, etc. and Kyle, who had gone up in a glider for his 14th birthday, was full of terms like lift, thermals, and so on. They had made seven or eight by the time we left. I was glad they finally (re) discovered them, even a couple of months after Christmas.

We had stayed at their home to attend the services of my husband’s brother’s funeral. It was a bright spot in what could have been a somber occasion. Although the funeral was sad, it was bittersweet, a mixture of tears and laughter, as good times and funny memories were recalled, but especially when we dwelt on the happy ending that Delmar is at home in Heaven. It was as if the Lord had taken him in a moment, for a few minutes before, he had listened as his wife read scriptures to him as he rested after enjoying a home-cooked supper.

We couldn’t help but reflect on their mother’s homegoing, on Christmas day, her favorite holiday, several years ago. Howard always said she loved a big Christmas, and she got one that year. And now his brother, too, was celebrating a “Christmas” in February.

Friday, February 18, 2011

With God

“Let me know the funeral details,” my son’s mother-in-law had written to him. “Delmar was a wonderful man. He was loved and respected in Waco,” she went on. And he was. On our infrequent visits, we could hardly go into a store or walk down the street with Delmar, my husband’s brother, for people wanting to stop and talk to him. A pastor there for nearly 50 years, he was well known by so many. All three Summers brothers were people persons, loving conversation and with a genuine interest in their fellowman.

We had gotten the phone call about 2:30 this morning with the news of his passing--unexpected, even though he had been ill the past few months. Howard did not go back to bed, although I found him dozing fitfully in a chair when I awoke. I saw where he had Bibles and scripture books spread out in front of him, and a notation that he had scribbled marking them as bringing comfort after the sad news. My eyes fell on one from Isaiah 57:18, “I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners.”

It seemed so appropriate, for now my brother-in-law was healed, led into God’s presence, never to be troubled by sickness or pain anymore, but comforted. Just as we on earth had known his ways, his kindnesses and thoughtfulness, God had also taken note of them. And He comforts us, his mourners, in our sorrow as well.

The wisdom and forethought of God was brought home to me again today when I got an e-mail about the Fibonachi numbers, a formula discovered in all of nature that points to a divine creator. The whorls, or spiral or circular pattern of fingerprints, flowers, nautilus sea shell, pineapples, pinecones, the human ear and even the spirals of our universe point to Intelligent design and bear the very finger print of God. How amazing that our brother is now in the brilliance of that Presence, no doubt all questions answered by the One who loves us and created it all.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Making Arrangements

Isn’t it good to know that “We are God’s (own) handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, (born anew) that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us, (taking paths which He prepared ahead of time) that we should walk in them--living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live.” Ephesians 2:10 (Amplified New Testament).

God has good works that He has planned for us to do! He has even prepared the paths that we are to take, all the while living the good life that he has prearranged for us! Think about it: when you do something good, you are actually fulfilling God’s will for you. He has arranged our life so that this will happen!

That means that when I went to the nursing home last night and loved people in the name of the Lord, He had it planned that I would do that. And Monday, when we took my ailing, almost-82-year-old sister for an outing and a lunch that she thoroughly enjoyed, we were operating in His plan!

I really like the part about living the good life! “The good life” has become a catch phrase for any number of ideas representing an idealized existence: plenty of leisure, security, wealth, satisfaction with worldly goods, to name a few. But God’s good life is one of serving others and being content. I Timothy 6:6 says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain,” and Proverbs 10:22 assures us, “The blessings of the Lord maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.”

I appreciate the good life. Contentment in modest living, sharing with others, the reward of children, and a happy home. His blessings are untainted with regret, guilt, or sadness. They are given unconditionally, with no strings attached, even as the love parents bestow upon their children, ideally.

How do we know we are walking out God’s plan for us? By living a Spirit-led life. Romans 8:6 tells us that “To be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” Does this mean that we are to be so spiritually minded we are of no earthly good? No, it just means that we have our priorities straight. The earthly is temporary, but the spiritual lasts forever.

What a comfort to know God has planned our lives, and if we seek Him for direction, we can live within that plan. A key verse is Proverbs 3:6, “In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” By acknowledging him, we ask His guidance and follow His precepts. Only then can we have fulfillment and truly live “the good life.”

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Lean on Me

I saw a robin yesterday! The first robin of Spring! And today is a gorgeous 66 degrees, prompting visions of baseball and kids playing outside. Maybe those tattered baseball sign-up notices posted around town that were bravely whipping in the winds of last week’s blizzard will get some responses yet.

This morning I was chilly and reached for an old fleece hoodie of my husband’s to slip on. I felt something heavy in the pocket and pulled out a rusty, two-inch bolt. It was like a touchstone to the past when our boys’ pockets yielded up all sorts of various and sundry items on laundry day. Sometimes he is as unpredictable as a boy, as in an incident that happened right after breakfast today.

Howard had eaten heartily, then headed to watch something on tv as I did up the breakfast dishes. When I walked through the living room, I saw that he was sound asleep. Just sleepy from rising early to take our grandson to school, I figured. I called him, and he awoke reluctantly but drifted right back off. After an hour, he was still difficult to wake up, but I knew he had planned to go food shopping with me before he went to work. Getting a late start, we finally left, getting home barely in time for lunch and work.

Before he left, I saw Howard looking at a pill bottle. “Is this the right kind of Tylenol I’m supposed to take?” he said.

“No, that is Tylenol PM; it’s to take at night,” I told him. He had bought it by mistake once, and I hated it because it made me groggy the next day. “Did you take that this morning?” I demanded, the light beginning to dawn. He nodded that he did. “No wonder you were sleepy!” I exclaimed.

Finishing the dishes earlier, I was letting water out of the sink, swirling it with my hand to speed the drainage through the garbage disposal. I flipped the disposal switch and instantly felt a jolt of electricity shoot through me! “Howard! I yelled. “I got shocked!” That was when I found him asleep in the living room. He said something about grounding the appliance before he went back to sleep. Even though it may be (almost) Spring, we are no spring chickens. Thankfully, we are there to look out for each other!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Hats Off to Heart Day!

Howard had been looking for one of his favorite hats lately, but it hadn’t turned up anywhere. Then I got an e-mail from my son, Jamie, with a picture of his little girl wearing the hat! “Do you recognize this?” was the message, as Anne-Marie smiled delightedly under the brim from more than 500 miles away. So that’s where it went! We had left it there when we were in Houston a few weeks ago! No wonder we couldn’t find it!

Later, as we were on our way to Stillwater to celebrate an early Valentine’s outing, Jamie called and we laughed about the incident. He was the first of all my six children I would talk to that day. We had called Greg, who lives locally, to tell him where we were going. He was spending his time off working in his shop on a project. Jamie’s family was on their way to the zoo on this beautiful Saturday.

We caught up with Mark in North Carolina, who was bubbling with news of a church conference he and his wife, Rhonda had just attended in Arizona. He is our oldest child, and pastor of a church.

Earlier, I had talked to daughter Amy, on the way to a Sam’s Club in Georgia. Her busy family includes Reid, who had had a couple of friends spend the night; Corrin, who was planning a movie outing with friends that afternoon, and Rachel, the youngest, at 12, who had gone with her best friend and family to check out a boat for the coming season.

A call from our daughter, Julie, in Tennessee, later in the day was full of news of the activities of the young people in her family, at whose ages the celebration of Valentine’s day was of utmost importance. A visit with our son, Trevor, from Texas, rounded out the calls. Their day was full in getting 10-year-old Bradley to a birthday party at a skate park, and of working in a church fundraiser selling Valentine flowers.

I had bought Valentines for our three youngest granddaughters and placed them on the mailbox to be picked up yesterday. For some reason, the postman did not stop at our house, so the cards were still on the mailbox when we got home at 5:00 p.m. today. A disgruntled call to the post office brought the promise that they would still be picked up this evening. And they were, about 6:30. At least two of the kids would probably get them on Valentine’s day, and the other should only be a day late. I have the worst time getting Valentines delivered on time. But I am very blessed in keeping in touch with my kids. Which makes my “Valentine’s Day” very special!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Father-Daughter Dance

Daddy never took me to a Father-Daughter dance. He never took me in his arms and whirled me around the dance floor when I was little. I don’t think daddies did that when I was small. Although he was a fun-loving parent, he was more of the old school, when fathers made the living and let the kids make their own fun. I remember reading in an Erma Bombeck book about when she played with her dolls, she never knew what to do with the Daddy doll, so she just stuck it under the bed. She said her own dad went to work, got their prescriptions filled, and brought the car around, never realizing until after he was gone how important he was.

Neither did Daddy let me stand on his shoes while he shuffled me around to the music. But he did measure my foot with string, set off to town and come home with a brown paper-wrapped parcel once that I undid to find a shiny pair of little brown oxfords. New shoes! That was during WWII when shoes were rationed for a time, and the ones we got wore out quickly, made of inferior stuff due to so many raw materials like rubber going to the war effort.

I loved those shoes. I put them on my nightstand when I went to bed so I could wake up and see them in the moonlight. Only 4 or 5, I remember saying I was going to take good care of them and not ever get them dirty. I polished them religiously for a while, then one day I looked down from playing and saw how scuffed they were and wondered when I had quit polishing them.

One day about that time Daddy did spend a rare afternoon of leisure with us kids and took us fishing at the creek in the bottom lands below our house upon the mountain. Although we had fun, fishing was poor that day, and we started home with one fish. Daddy decided to round up our two work horses and take them back up the hill to do some plowing. My older siblings were helping herd them, and I suppose I was, too, I really don’t remember. I do have an impression in my subconscious of a view, as if from above, of a small stick figure, arms outstretched in front of thundering hooves as they bore down upon me.

Daddy gathered my limp form and carried me running and scrambling all the way up the side of that mountain, sending the older boys ahead for help to get me to a hospital. He never left my side during those three days, when, despite massive head injuries, I made a complete and miraculous recovery. Prayers had gone up and God had answered. No, Daddy didn’t take me dancing, but he did take me up in his arms and save my life that day.

Oh, but I did get my Father-Daughter dance in church some 50 years later. The Lord moved mightily and steered me in a joyous dance of praise and worship. Back and forth, in and out among the other worshipers in an exquisite blending of submission and control. He led, I followed, as it seemed Jesus waltzed me across God’s dance floor. I haven’t missed a thing!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Stormy Weather

Hey, I think we’re in danger of having an avalanche in Oklahoma! What else am I to think when I see a giant snow mountain to rival an Alpine ski slope in the Walmart parking lot being encircled by police tape! In fact, there was a regular range of those mountains, all scraped up after our record snow fall, and not having diminished over the past frigid week.

I can imagine the worries of authorities about the dangers of mountain climbing by bored kids who are seemingly coming out of the woodwork since schools are closed. After all, mountains are not something seen here on the plains. And if that snow is as puffy as it was three days ago, a kid could sink into its depths and not be found until the Spring thaw, which may be a melt down akin to the melting of the Polar Ice Cap!

Today we met two teen girls carrying snow spades, giggling as they huffed and puffed, running up the middle of a snow-packed street. They were no doubt looking for walks and drives to clear of the still mostly undisturbed blanket of white. Neighborhood sidewalks are impassable, so the street is now the pedestrian thoroughfare.

Not a sticky snow, efforts at snowman construction from the fluffy flakes usually yield disappointing results. The occasional odd attempt standing in a yard is usually small and wimpy. However, I spotted a seven-foot creation a few blocks away today with a fiercely determined stance, reminiscent of a drunk trying to keep his balance. A lot of work had gone into him, judging from all those dirty, hand-size hollows patted and pounded into his surface with obvious effort.

The weather has been a headline maker this week. I saw one newspaper that heralded in 2 inch letters of neighboring Bartlesville, one of the coldest in the state: “BRRRRTLESVILLE!” Snowfall was not the only headline maker in the news today, however, but a fall of a different kind: the Egyptian government, for better or for worse. It is getting to be a strange world we live in--erratic weather, unstable governments, and any number of other uncertainties. Thankfully, we have a Shelter from these times of storm that appear on the horizon. We can be safe in the hollow of a Hand that is sufficient for all who want to make Him their refuge.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Weather Words

Rin-ng! The telephone woke me up this morning. I saw it was our son, Jamie, calling from Houston. “Mom, how cold is it there?” he asked, concern in his voice.

“Pretty cold, it was 16 below when I called the time and temperature in the night!”

“Well, I just heard it is minus 26 up there!” he exclaimed. Oh, my! That is scary, I thought. I told him we were alright, with heat and running water. My husband had turned the heat on an hour or so before, so it wasn’t even that chilly in the house. He sounded relieved and hung up with the admonition to “Be safe, and don’t go outside!”

We were about to venture outside yesterday, when I saw our son, Greg, parked in our street, and Adam, our grandson, wielding a snow shovel in our driveway, as if clearing a path for his dad to drive in. Howard and I went out and called for them to come up. No easy task, wading through nearly two feet of snow, but before long we were all outside, and Adam was sending clouds of the billowy white stuff into the air as he cut a path (canyon) for us from our porch to the drive.

How beautiful! The pristine, glistening snow lay like a heavy blanket of seven-minute icing on a cake landscape. It seemed a shame to mar it, but fluffs of it were sticking up like fresh-cut frosting wherever a boot or shovel had sunk into it. This was fun! There was something almost euphoric about experiencing the fluffy, glittering diamond dust, feather light and sparkling all around us. We laughed like children in the bright sun and still weather.

Howard suggested hot chocolate, but Adam, thirsty from shoveling, wanted a coke. “Hop in Mom,” Greg said, “We’ll drive down and get him a coke.” Hesitantly I got in, and we took off down our sloping street through the lightly trafficked, semi-packed snow. Oops, the truck was slipping as we turned into deeper snow to go up a hill. Greg reversed and backed up to get a better go at it, but we only slid further to the opposite curb, stuck in the slippery drift.

Merrily, the guys got into the spirit of digging out the truck, putting makeshift traction under the wheels, but about that time another truck with 4-wheel drive pulled up, hooked a towing tether to the bumper, and they were out! After all that exertion, our boys went home, and Howard and I set out to explore, returning home with no problems, only seeing others being dug out and rescued along the way. Thankfully, the weather is supposed to be springlike tomorrow. Oklahoma is living up to its slogan, “If you don’t like the weather, stick around awhile.” I only hope the snow doesn’t!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

F.A.I.T.H. --Feeling Always In The Heart

We woke up to an 18 inch snowfall this morning and 7 degree temperatures! Schools and jobs are closed. Our front patio that is elevated by several steps above the driveway is level with the driveway, and the snow on top of our cars looks three or four feet deep. “Thank God for a warm house, power and food!” I exclaimed, looking out at the flying white stuff that was supposed to continue a few more hours.

I was reminded of a scripture from a Bible study the other night in Philemon 6 where Paul says he has prayed “that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgement of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.” Our acknowledgement of the good things he gives us, both spiritual and material, is a great way to witness! By sharing our faith, we not only encourage others, but more fully realize and participate in these blessings ourselves!

Romans 10:17 says, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” How do we learn to hear? By the Word of God, which leads to faith. A notation I read states that faith is based on knowledge of God’s Word and His Character. When we have learned, from the Bible and our own experience, God’s ways, His personality, and His steadfastness, we have no trouble having faith in Him and sharing it with others.

Many people try to define faith. We are told in the faith chapter of Hebrews 11, verse 1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.” (sub-stance: standing under, used here like “title deed,” --our title deed of things hoped for.) Another expression of faith is “confident assurance”. I read a quote a friend put on Facebook, “Faith is knowledge within the heart, beyond the reach of proof.”

Hebrews 11:6 says, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” As I consider the mountain of snow outside, formed by billions of tiny snowflakes, each one unique and different from the other, and realize the power of the Creator, I have no doubts of Who He is. Reason enough to share Him with others!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Effectual Fervent Prayer

“Can you remember a time when someone’s prayers made a difference for you?” our Sunday School teacher asked in class this week. I’m sure there are countless times, but the one that sprang to mind was when I was in the throes of premature labor with our second child many years ago. Anxious and afraid, since the baby wasn’t due for seven more weeks, I was also experiencing a lot of pain. Unfortunately, there was little relief they could give me in interest of the baby’s safety.

It wasn’t exactly a welcome thought that came into my mind when my husband said, “There’s someone here to see you.” But it was our pastor’s wife, a mother herself, who came in, and seeing my distress saying she would only be a moment. Gratefully, I heard her pray a sincere and trusting prayer of faith for my relief and safe delivery. At once I was at peace! The pain was suddenly bearable. A few hours later our daughter, Julie, came into the world with no anesthesia, weighing over five pounds and healthy. I was able to take her home with no extra hospital stay when I was dismissed.

That moment of prayer and the remarkable answer has always stuck with me. “In fact,” I told my Sunday School class, “she was the wife of the pastor whose name is on the cornerstone of this building.” How unreal that we would be back here after living away over forty years! The church at that time had met in a cement block building that still stands across the highway from the present location. After we had moved away, our friend, as founding pastor, had guided the church to build the simple brick structure that now serves as our fellowship hall. A beautiful new sanctuary was added a few years ago and many pastors later.

A circuitous path led my husband to the ministry nearly 25 years ago after a 23-year business career. No longer the young father who shepherded our young family to church back then, as associate pastor Howard now stands in mature age behind this pulpit every Sunday to lead in prayer and to preach on Wednesday nights, a senior statesman of the faith. The Lord gave us four more children, and after that first experience with natural childbirth, I chose it for my next baby! That prayer went a long way!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Disconnect

You are Offline. That was the terse message of my computer. Offline! The lights on my modem were still on. I checked all connections, and the little blue light on my laptop was working. The screen suggested clicking Tools to see if the Working Offline key had been clicked. I couldn’t bring up Tools, and when I went further to see why, I was advised that to run the program recommended could harm my computer, and did I want to take the risk? I will wait until a decent hour and call my son.

Offline. That’s the way I felt last night as I sat in the waiting room of an urgent care clinic. We were told it would be a 45 minute wait. “You got here just 5 minutes too late,” the perky desk clerk had said. When I asked her what she meant, she said, “Three people just walked in before you.” It was over an hour, but it would be worth it to get my probable sinus infection treated and get relief from a stubborn headache.

After another hour wait in the patient room, a chipper, joking, PA gave me a choice of two shots or oral medication. Then he loaded me down with prescriptions for an aggressive antibiotic, steroids and Mucinex. Whoa! This seemed like overkill! I just wanted an antibiotic, even though they are rough on me. I should have taken the shots, I thought later.

“Do you want to get something to eat?” Howard asked. We had missed supper so my husband could take me to the doctor right after work, and now it was past eight and we were hungry. Nothing sounded good except a bowl of soup, so we headed across the parking lot to a restaurant, ordering a cup of soup and half a sandwich. The young man promptly took our order, then came back and asked if we wanted our soup now. Of course! We were famished!

“Are you doing okay?” the waiter said as he came back to check on us. Our miniscule cups of soup were almost empty, and I remarked how small they were. “Well, I’d give you another, but I have a new boss, and I like my job,” he said apologetically. That was okay. I’d just eat my sandwich without soup when it got here. But it never came! We waited forever, it seemed, sitting next to a glassed in area where I could see people eating. Howard told me it was the smoking area, and the way the door was swinging in and out, I was sure we were being polluted by cigarette smoke (and they had babies in there, too!)

“I thought you should have some more soup,” the waiter said, setting down a cup in front of us. “I’m sorry you have had to wait so long, we had some big orders come in just ahead of you.” That sounded familiar. I really didn’t want the soup, and by now, I didn’t want the sandwich, either, which didn’t seem to be coming. We finally left, amid their apologies and proffered coupons.

Sometimes it’s easy to feel “offline” with God. Especially when we don’t get well quickly enough, or when it seems everything is going wrong. I think of the old song, Royal Telephone, couched in terms of old time telephone service, “Central’s never busy, Always on the line; You can hear from Heaven, almost any time.” It’s true. God is always there, leading and caring for us, and ready to restore our imagined disconnection as soon as we call. (P.S. Just as I went to post this, my internet worked! I’m online!)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Role Play

My son commented about his 4-year-old daughter’s fascination with her sticker book of Disney princesses and their weddings. He’s sure little boys wouldn’t be interested, and he’s right. When I was at their house last week, I marveled at Anne-Marie and her nearly-two-year-old sister, Maddie, at their play. As Maddie sucked on two fingers, she would toss a blanket square over a baby doll lying on the floor, place one hand on top of the blanket and expertly grasp baby and all, clasping the bundle to her chest. She has an inborn nurturing instinct that comes natural for her which she can’t help displaying. (Excluding the time I found the baby doll in the oven of her play kitchen!)

One morning she got upset because her pop-tart broke when she took a bite and threw a fit in her high chair. “Let me calm her down,” motherly Anne-Marie said, putting her arms around Maddie and holding her close. After a couple more obligatory wails, Maddie was all smiles and finished her breakfast.

Anne-Marie’s favorite doll is a “wedding girl”, as she calls a bride doll, or even a baby doll in a christening-type white dress which she calls a “wedding girl” also. Not long ago she announced matter-of-factly of her 5-year-old playmate that “Gabe won’t marry me because he’s mad.” She was inseparable from her cousin, Bradley, at a family gathering recently. “I’m going to marry Brad; I’m SERIOUS!” she proclaimed at the lunch table, while patient, 10-year-old Bradley looked on stoically.

When I was making deviled (excuse me)--stuffed eggs for a church get-together recently, I tried to peel them from the air pocket at the end of the egg. This reminded me of something my daughter, who raises chickens, told me. “Mama,” she said, “you can tell which egg will hatch into a male chick or a female chick by the shape of the egg.” Really? “The roundish oval eggs are females, and the longer ovals are the males.” She said some old-timers there in Tennessee had told her that, and she had found it to be true when setting eggs.

Whether this is factual or not, I don’t know, but I do know that male and female both have their role to fill. Boys are just naturally aggressive and boisterous and use action words like, Bam, Screech, Pow, etc. when they play, just as girls usually want to play House. Son Jamie hasn’t yet raised a boy, but I’m sure he’ll notice a marked difference when the time comes! You don’t have to be an old-timer to know that.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

He's in Control

The snow is beautiful, but confining. The sun was shining brightly, though, so we ventured out of the house around noon. I had put on my tallest boots to wade through the deep snow to the car. We needed to pick up a few things at Walmart. We were amazed at the heights of the drifts against the building; not the scraped piles looming everywhere, but smooth, naturally curving drifts of probably 8 feet in places. The light was so brilliant, it took several minutes for our eyes to adjust to be able to see inside the store.

We were hungry by the time we finished our shopping, so, bundled against the cold, we stopped for a bowl of chili before completing a couple of other errands. “We’ve got a broken water pipe!” Howard announced when we got home. Oh, no! I was beginning to think we had gotten off scot-free as far as damage was concerned. “It’s the outside faucet,” he explained. I put away the groceries and didn’t think much more about it, leaving it to my husband to worry about.

Pretty soon Howard decided to get the other snow-covered car out and fill it with gas. He was at loose ends: the place of business where he works was closed, church had been cancelled--no need to prepare a sermon for tonight. He came in half an hour later, looking breathless and flushed. “The car is stuck,” he said. Evidently he had gone down a side street that hadn’t had much traffic, and when he tried to take off from a stop sign, the car slid onto the side and wouldn’t budge. Calling the roadside assistance service, he said they wouldn’t be there for about 40 minutes. I saw him grab a shovel and take off. He said he was going to try to dig it out before they arrived.

I couldn’t understand why he would want to exert himself, and told him to be careful. He came back an after an hour or so. “Did they get it unstuck?” I asked him. They had come immediately, he said, so he didn’t have to shovel the car out after all and was able to finish his errands.

“Oh,” he said, “We don’t have a broken pipe after all. I saw frozen water on the ground, but it was from letting the faucet drip.” Thank God!

Such a strange day, out of routine, with schools and many businesses closed, and granddaughter’s college classes closed still another day tomorrow. But God had been with us all day, and he would be with us tonight, when the temperature is supposed to be minus 10. There is no fear in the warmth of His love.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Lights Out!

Marooned by the storm of a lifetime, we were enjoying a late, sumptuous breakfast in the light and comfort of our warm kitchen, when suddenly we were plunged into darkness! A power outage! How could that be? There had been no ice, and the wind kept most bare surfaces swept clean of the snow that was drifting where it could. A call to the energy company revealed that the power failure was widespread, cause unknown, but they would be on it ASAP.

Things were eerily still. In an instant, the excited weather channel chatter we could hear from the living room television set ceased. The heat radiating from the furnace cooled, the flickering glow from the electric fireplace disappeared, all the lights in the house were suddenly extinguished. What could we do to pass the time? It was too dark to read; there was no computer or internet; even our cell phone would eventually go dead. I couldn’t go back to bed, having been forced from my pillow earlier by the headache that had just begun to subside.

We knew we could put the food on our enclosed back porch to stay cold or frozen, but there would be no hot meals if the electricity was off for very long. My husband began to wash the breakfast dishes, and I wanted to tell him to save the hot water, but I realized it could soon grow cold, anyway. (He said he was just about to vacuum, but how could he now?) Funny, that was usually not a voluntary task!

How do people cope without electricity in modern times, and what did they do when snowbound in earlier times? For one thing, they probably had wood burning fireplaces or stoves. Our son has a set of gas logs in his fireplace, which puts off some heat, but it was too treacherous to get out; anyway, it hadn’t come to that yet.

I was just getting out some candles, even though a watery daylight came in--the glow would be warm and cheerful, at least--when all at once, life returned to the house! Warm, pulsating energy filled the rooms as furnace resumed, television conversations continued, the fireplace flickered, and tiny red lights blinked on appliances as the heartbeat of the house was restored. I quickly plugged in my cell phone to recharge against any other eventualities.

We sent heartfelt praise to God that our inconvenience was short lived, and hopefully, over. A tiny lesson in how quickly things can change, and a reminder of the uncertainty of life. The Bible says in Proverbs 27:1, “Boast not thyself of tomorrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.” How true.

A Little Child Shall Lead Them

“Look, Maddie,” I coaxed my 22-month-old granddaughter as I jiggled a Woody cowboy doll from Toy Story. She looked up from her pursuit of flinging toys from the doll play pen as I bounced the figure and sang, “I’m an old cowhand, from the Rio Grande…” She grinned slowly and began to jiggle herself, picking up the rhythm and rising on tiptoe with one foot. Suddenly she put something in my face, and I realized it was a microphone pulled loose from its stand, the connection dangling at the end. Must be part of a play set they had.

Their play room was beginning to look like the nursery in Sunnyside Daycare from the aforementioned movie. This red-haired angel didn’t talk much, but her actions said it all. She understood everything. Earlier, her juice box straw kept slipping, turning away at an awkward angle. But when I tried to help her, she resisted and maneuvered the box to a satisfactory position herself, sipping from the straw that bent horizontally across the box top.

I loved getting to spend time with my young granddaughters on this visit. And how fascinating to observe this marvelous creation! She was a wonder and a mystery, unique, yet predictable in her age appropriate behavior. It struck me that every person is like that: an individual like no other, specially designed by God for His purposes. I suddenly felt a new appreciation for others. No matter what the exterior of a person, they are infinitely interesting and complex.

My husband is blessed to be a “people person.” He seems never to know a stranger, drawing out the most casual acquaintance and finding common ground for conversation. Every excursion we took on this trip was slowed down by his stopping to talk (at length!) to someone, from the fund raisers outside Walmart to the hostess at the train snack bar. Despite my impatience, he always came back telling me the most interesting things he had found out. At a hotel we had stayed in, Howard took our computer to the front desk for help with the free wifi, staying an inordinately long time.

Turns out he had engaged the desk clerk in conversation, who revealed her discontented heart at leaving her home years before to come there with a boyfriend, which hadn’t worked out, but she had never returned home. She admitted to him that she had never gone to church, but he told me he directed her to a church, telling her God had a plan for her life. “If He has a plan for my life, why did He bring me here?” the woman questioned. Howard pointed out that it was not God who brought her there, but He could make good come out of it. He said her countenance had changed when he left, and she said she would consider going to church. Everybody has a story, and sometimes all it takes is a listening ear to bring out an opportunity for ministry. Or a listening heart when God speaks, even through watching a child in a toy-strewn nursery.