Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Memorial Day Memory

What was I so worried about? My daughter, Amy, thought as she viewed the peaceful scene before her. She had had misgivings about her husband taking their three children on a tubing float trip down the river, but this looked idyllic. The placid river, the overhanging tree branches and the sun-dappled water were a perfect backdrop for their adventure. Their voices carried clearly over the water and were full of excitement and happy clamor as she waved to the group, which included her brother-in-law and his two children.

Amy headed back to the house to spend the afternoon with her sister-in-law visiting and cooking. She put ribs in to smoke, started a potato salad and made a peach cobbler. The tubers were bound to be hungry when they got back. This was a four-hour trip, so they should be home about seven. Sixteen-year-old Reid, a newly certified life guard, carried the only cell phone in the group, and they promised to stay in touch.

An hour or so later, he called to say they were having fun, except that the water was so calm they were not moving very swiftly. At home, the afternoon passed slowly, even with the distraction of entertaining a little niece who was too young to go along. Amy became concerned later, though, when there was no answer to repeated calls to check on her family. She decided to drive down to the little store which had recently become outfitters in canoe and tube rentals.

The manager became alarmed. “Why, that was a seven-hour trip!” he exclaimed as he checked their itinerary. That would put them in past sunset, which would be dangerous on the dark river. “They didn’t ask any questions, I assumed they knew that!” he said worriedly. It turned out they had talked to someone inside the store, but her husband, Shannon, an ex-police officer, had seemed confident, so there were no further instructions given. Actually, as a relative newcomer to the area, he was not that familiar with the river and it was his first float trip there.

Panicky by this time, the two women began to search up and down the river at points where it was visible to try to catch a glimpse of their family or talk to other floaters. Some said they had seen the group with several children about two hours away. With a sinking feeling, Amy knew they couldn’t make it by nightfall. Clambering through bushes for a better view, they came upon some kind of turbine and heard what they thought were strange rumblings from it. “They are starting to generate the river,” announced a bystander ominously. Oh, no! my daughter thought. That means the water would rise and become rough and roiling. “Some people drowned when they did that last year,” the person went on.

Rushing back to the outfitter, Amy clamored for assistance. She was assured that they were not “generating” the river, but when she heard the concerned proprietor making a search and rescue call for missing tubers, she was even more alarmed. Praying frantically, she beseeched God for mercies. She knew that, in their haste, the group had taken no water, sunscreen, or anything else.

After what seemed like forever and when she could stand it no longer, the phone rang. “Mom, we made it back,” Reid said. “I lost my cell phone, so I couldn’t call. I borrowed this one when we were picked up.” As relief flooded over her and tears of gratitude flooded her eyes, Amy thanked God for the safe return of her family. She shuddered with horror as she viewed the pitch-black river a little later and realized what could have happened. Pushing those thoughts from her mind, she herded them all home where they ate ravenously, all talking at once of their ordeal.

There had been hardly enough current in the river to keep them moving, so they’d had to improvise by paddling and swimming, tying some of the tubes together for safety and towing the younger ones. Urged on by their concern and the rapidly approaching night, they drew on all their strength and barely beat the darkness. Exhausted, but able to laugh at their fears now, and grateful to collapse in the security of home, they realized they’d had a miracle. Stronger arms than theirs had carried them to safety.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Leap of Faith

I called our son, Greg, the day before yesterday to see how their trip to San Antonio was going. His jocular laugh filled my ear as he said, “We’re walking around in Italy, Texas, taking a break and not in any particular hurry!”

“Italy, Texas!” I said. “That’s where we were stuck for about 45 minutes in a traffic jam last week!” We had been coming back from Houston to stop at our son, Trevor’s, house near Waxahachie; and now, 18 miles from there, we had come to a halt. We were to be there for supper and were already an hour behind, and now this!

Nothing is so frustrating as being slowed down or held up in your progress, whether on a trip or in life. I was just thinking about the comparison this morning, when after church and lunch out, Howard suggested we watch a video of a person of an eastern religion coming to Christ. The young woman in the video started out by saying life is like a trip, with many bumps and delays along the way.

She was prompted to say this while on a train in an Asian country that had unexpectedly stopped, and she was trying to console a frustrated fellow passenger. Then, as she looked out the window at a field, she realized in amazement that this was a familiar place. The long interruption of travel provided opportunity for conversation between the two women.

“I grew up here!” she told her new acquaintance. The scene flashed back to her as a child flying a kite in the field with her father. Suddenly her father had groped his chest and crumpled on the ground in front of the terrified child. He died of a heart attack, plunging the family into a time of uncertainty and confusion, complicated by the revelation of her father’s infidelity in her parents’ marriage.

The 12-year-old had become bitter and full of unforgiveness, even giving up on her religion and principles. After wayward living and during a religious holiday, she decided to earnestly seek God and His will for her. As she pleaded in prayer to know God, a light appeared to her and a figure that she somehow knew was Jesus told her to follow Him. This changed her life, but she was forced to leave home and be on her own at age 16.

In telling the story of her journey and the many rough places accompanied by God’s faithfulness, she realized she could at last forgive her father. “So there is a happy ending?” her seatmate asked.

“That is up to you,” the young woman replied, with the unspoken, but understood, invitation for the older woman to follow Christ.

We are not promised an easy road in our Christian experience, and there will be bumps and delays impeding our progress in our walk with Him. But it is inspiring to hear of others who are faithful despite almost insurmountable odds. Jesus is still extending salvation to “whosoever will.”

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Charge to Keep

“Do you have any seersucker trousers?” Howard asked the sales girl. We were shopping some of the Memorial Day sales and he wanted some of the cool, striped cotton pants so popular in the south. The suits are a summer uniform for urban professionals, especially in New Orleans where we used to live.

“Is that a brand?” she asked, clueless. When I described them to her, she said she didn’t think so, but we’d better ask someone who had been there longer.

So many things seem to be known only to those of us who’ve been here longer. Take the Thanksgiving I asked a grocery stocker if he could tell me where the mincemeat was. Howard had requested his favorite pie for dessert to top off our feast. “I’ll go look in the meat department,” the young man said after scratching his head quizzically. Later I found a jar with the pie filling. The mixture of fruit and spices may have originally contained meat, but I think they use vegetable shortening now for the smidgen of fat.

The other day we were driving through southern Oklahoma on our way to Texas, and I saw the sign for Gene Autry, Oklahoma, a small community near Ardmore. I asked our granddaughter, Allison, who was traveling with us, if she knew who Gene Autry was. She didn’t. Well, she’s only 19, and probably has never heard the famous cowboy’s ballads or never saw him in the movies. He lived briefly in that area the year I was born, so the community of Berwyn was renamed for him.

I remember once mentioning Jackie Kennedy to one of my then teen-age daughters, and she had never heard of her. Kids live in such a world of their own, one in which I’m not too familiar, either. My 13-year-old granddaughter put a new picture on her face book, and I thought it was another boyfriend. She told me the name, and later I started recognizing it from people’s comments about American Idol. Apparently, he won, but I never watch the show. (Because I don’t like the name, “Idol,” which shows how old-fashioned I am!)

In the same way, there are always those in the younger generation who have not heard of the story of salvation. Young people are a mission field. David said in Psalm 71:17-18, “O God, thou has taught me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works. Now also when I am old and gray-headed, O God, forsake me not; until I have showed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.” A worthy prayer for every Christian.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

No Greater Love

Wow! I just viewed some of the surprise homecoming videos of military dads returning to their families. What joy and jubilation as they were reunited, especially fathers and children. Their facial expressions run the gamut of astonishment, crumpling into tears of emotion and disbelief, to screaming, laughing and joyful crying. One would have to be made of stone not to cry with them.

Then there are the heart-rending personal stories aired of families separated and (sometimes) reunited in the recent tornado tragedies. When we hear casualties as only statistics, it’s sad, but when we hear the first-hand accounts of those involved, it becomes personal and we feel their pain and loss, or in all-too-few cases, their joy.

Families were God’s idea. In fact, in Ephesians 3:14-15, it says, “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.” We, as Christians, are part of God’s family! We are named for Jesus Christ, our Elder Brother! Whether in heaven, or on earth, we are still part of the family.

In fact, the Bible is full of family imagery in our relationship with God, who is our true family. He is called, Father, Husband, and is compared to a nurturing mother. Jesus is our Heavenly Bridegroom. We are God’s children!

The earthly family is under attack today at its very foundation, the institution of marriage. But families are the building blocks of our society, little microcosms of teaching, rearing, training, nurturing, governing, caring, loyalty, and cooperation units without which our culture would crumble.

Just as the children loved and depended upon their returning dads, we are told in the Bible that we can go boldly to Him with our needs. “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him,” Ephesians 3:12. Jesus called God, Abba, a term equivalent to our word, Daddy. And He is just as joyful to see us as a father his child. Actually, earthly love pales in comparison to His love for us, His family.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Of Fruit and Flowers

Before we left for our trip, I emptied the water from my vase of roses, leaving the flowers there. When we returned a week later, I found the roses had dried, but their heads were lolling in a permanent droop over the bent stems. I put a ribbon around them and laid them on a bookshelf. Lying there, the full faces of the roses are exposed to view, beautifully preserved almost in their original state. Actually, they look even better, because when I left they were beginning to fall open, flattening out unattractively. Now they are almost a tight bloom again, thanks to gravity and the shrinkage of drying. Though I can’t smell, I’m sure there is still a faint fragrance about them.

We heard a series of messages from some special speakers at our son’s church in Houston. One was based on II Corinthians 2:14-16, dealing with the fragrance of Christ. The Word says, “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savor of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savor of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savor of death unto death; and to the other the savor of life unto life.”

A comparison was made to Zacharias, the priest and father of John the Baptist, who went into the temple to burn incense. When he came out, he doubtless carried the fragrance of the incense in his clothes, and there was no doubt to anyone where he had been. We are to carry the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ wherever we go.

Another message dealt with the fruit of the Spirit, which has nine attributes: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance (Galatians 5:22-23). Part of what the speaker said, emphasizing love, is that joy is love rejoicing, peace is love reposing, faithfulness is love believing, gentleness is love relating, and self control is self, controlled by the Holy Spirit.

Just as the scent of the roses lingers, may the very fragrance of Christ linger on us wherever we go. If we possess and practice the attributes of the fruit of the Spirit, there will be no doubt of that!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Children's Children

“Don’t panic! Stay calm. It will be all right.” The soothing, feminine voice reassured the patient. Car accident? Tornado victim? No, it was just our four-year-old granddaughter comforting her two-year old sister who was having peroxide and a band-aid applied after falling and skinning her knee.

To say Anne-Marie is dramatic would be an understatement. We loved being with them this week and sharing a slice of their everyday lives. When I would answer Anne-Marie after vaguely hearing her say something, she would respond, “I wasn’t talking to you. I’m just playing,” then go back to her conversations and imaginative scenarios with her toys. Maddie is her comic imitator and admirer as she watches and copies her big sister.

Maddie is following the same late-talking pattern Anne-Marie exhibited, but frankly, I think she has skipped from talking to reading. As we drove up to What-a-Burger, the signature Texas restaurant, she pointed and squealed, “Burger!” Browsing a kid's book rack on one of our shopping ventures, she whirled to her mommy and yelled, “Swiper!” as she noticed the name and character on a Dora the Explorer cover.

On a trip to the mall, our daughter-in-law, Tammy, wanted to pick up swim suits for the girls so they could play in the fountains on the plaza. I’d been with them before when they stepped on the intermittent spurting fountains, hurrying to guess which one would erupt next. While Tammy scanned the tiny bathing suits on the rack, the kids eyed the sandals displayed within their reach in the children’s clothing store.

“Mommy, do you like these?” Anne-Marie questioned as she slipped on one fancy pair after another. I looked down to see Maddie wedging her pudgy foot into a shiny gold pair, too. A few minutes later, she was pulling a t-shirt from a stack and holding it up for size against her chest. Typically female, they are born shoppers.

All our grandchildren are growing up! Two will be seniors in high school this fall, two in eleventh grade, two entering high school and another promoted to middle school, making two in middle school. That only leaves one in elementary and the two pre-schoolers! The other seven are young adults now.

How blessed we felt as we returned home after visiting all our “away” children’s families on our two recent trips! We attended church with them, Howard even speaking at the English service of the Chinese church where our son, Benjamin, is youth pastor. Jamie (as the family knows him), warmed our hearts as he stressed to the youth the importance of bringing up their future families in a Christian home, as he was brought up and is bringing up his family.

This was brought home to us when we stayed overnight at son Trevor's family's house, on the way back. Our grandson, Kyle, 14. was excited to tell us of the youth ministry trips he will participate in this summer, playing his guitar on worship teams, as well as teaching VBS on outreaches with his former Children’s pastor. God is so good!

Monday, May 16, 2011

He's Still Workin' on Me!

We heard a sermon to graduates yesterday, but really, it applied to everyone. The minister, in encouraging young people in confidence and self-esteem, assured them that God thinks about them and knew them before they were even born. He referenced Psalms 139:16, which says, “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.”

It is a comfort to know that God wants the best for us, as it says in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” In light of all this, I know it is futile to worry and fret about things, but I did put myself under a lot of stress this weekend, especially for Saturday, the day of the book festival here.

It did turn out to be a rewarding event, despite all my concerns. If only I would not anticipate the negative, and try to presuppose what might happen. I must confess, it felt a little intimidating to be in the company of so many authors, all displaying their best works, but they were just people, after all. And quite an interesting group, at that. The author whose table was next to mine was a native American, dressed in a fringed, buckskin outfit with books on Indian folklore that she had written and illustrated. They were quite popular, especially with kids, although adults liked them, too.

An author who was a native of England, now living in Missouri, was there, and had written many novels, poems and other works. We had a chance to read from our books or speak about them at a podium set up in the library of the mansion where the festival was held. “Are you going to speak?” I asked him as he stopped to chat at my table, to which he answered, “No! Those are all authors in there!” I knew the feeling. When I finally got up my nerve to read, there wasn’t time (the organizer said they were all taking too long), so I was just as glad.

One of the participants was a pastor’s wife who wrote devotionals and a study on Ecclesiastes. We enjoyed talking together, and I met the author of a book I was given for my birthday about the E.W. Marland family, the one who built the house in which we were standing that very day. He had lived in this home with his first wife before he built the imposing Marland Mansion that has become a landmark for our city.

It was with a sigh of satisfaction that I finished the long day and gathered my things to go home. The surroundings had been beautiful, the mood festive, I had sold some books, we had eaten barbeque, and my husband had wandered around meeting people, listening to guitar music and filling me in on what was happening in the other parts of the mansion where other booksellers were set up.

The pastor finished his message with a verse from Ephesians 2:10 where it says we are His workmanship. He said this meant a work of art, a work in progress. That means there is still room for improvement! Maybe I won’t worry so much next time!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Flower Power

Someone mentioned recently that she gets flowers every week when she buys groceries. I always notice the floral displays when I shop, but it seemed like a splurge for quickly-fading beauty, so I always resisted them. But today, they had bouquets of roses of every shade at a very small price. I was admiring them and noticed they were further marked down to half off, now that Mother’s Day has passed. I couldn’t resist this time. I bought a half-dozen coral colored beauties with glossy green leaves gathered into a bouquet with a spray of baby’s breath.

They are gorgeous and spirit lifting! I searched around at home and found just the right vase that echoes their lovely hue. It’s like something alive in the room, warm and glowing in the lamp light. Well, with the packet of floral preservative included, they will look that way a little longer. I wondered what was in the stuff, so I did a little reading about it.

The preservative contains sugar, for food, citric acid to facilitate hydration, and an anti-bacterial agent to keep bacteria from clogging up the stem and cutting off the water. The article I read said that the packet usually does not contain enough of the mixture for the amount of water most vases hold, so the solution is weakened, and you might end up having just enough sugar to promote bacterial growth, and not enough anti-bacterial stuff to kill it. In that case you’d be better off with just clear water. Who knew?

Somehow that struck a parallel of spiritual life to me. We are like a flower, one of God’s wonderful creation. We need spiritual food, or the Word, and the hydration of the Holy Spirit for life and beauty. We also need an anti-bacterial agent to keep sin from clogging up our spiritual connection to the Water of Life. This agent is the blood of Jesus, the remission for sins.

I found that water molecules stick together, and as they evaporate, they are pulled upward into the flower petals, keeping them fresh and beautiful. The right amount of acidity makes them stick together even more. Reminds me of the unifying power of the Holy Spirit, and the scripture, “Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together,” Hebrews 10:25.

If the gospel is watered down, like the too-weak solution, it is almost worse than no gospel at all, with just enough sugar to let sin grow, and not enough anti-bacterial power to resist it. Evidently, some manufacturers of floral preservative think consumers don’t know any better, and they get by with providing a too-small packet and too little product to save a few cents. This results in dirty, smelly water and short-lived flowers. A lesson on dead churches and superficial Christianity.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Silver Lining

Now I know how Jonah felt when his vine died! I came home from our trip to find the vines that afforded cool, green, privacy for one end of our screened porch gone! I knew our son had removed a tree for us while we were away, so I asked him about the vines. He had had a helper with him, who busied himself cleaning up leaves and branches, and Greg supposed he started pulling up vines and didn’t quit until my porch was denuded! I have a bamboo matchstick blind there, but it isn’t the same!

Despite our great memories of our vacation, I did come home with one unintended souvenir. No, not bedbugs from a hotel, but sore joints from climbing stairs! It seemed every place we stayed, except a couple of motels, had the bedrooms upstairs. Both daughters’ homes had two flights of stairs, the cabin in the mountains had stairs, and our last motel accommodation had stairs. I realize I’m not in the best of shape, but this is ridiculous! I have evidently strained some ligaments, especially in one knee.

This happened to me a few years ago when we lived upstairs in an apartment, but once I moved to street level again, the discomfort disappeared. I’ve been waiting for this to go away and trying to avoid a doctor visit, but something’s got to give! It’s unaccountably worse at night, so I am also losing sleep. The situation is complicated by the fact that I can’t take anti-inflammatory medicine, being allergic to aspirin as I am.

On the positive side, we had a lovely Mother’s Day picnic yesterday with several family members. Greg and Joanna asked us to meet them at 1:00 o’clock Sunday at Cann Gardens, where we found them at a table spread in the shade of a beautiful oak tree. Granddaughter Allison had prepared most of our lunch, including a chicken salad with apples and walnuts; pasta; and a cherry cheesecake. Greg had cut a ripe pineapple into wedges and placed them in neat rows in a dish, someone else had brought a relish tray, and grandson Adam made lemonade with strawberries floating in the glasses. The warm sun, lush surroundings and comfy quilts on soft grass made for a wonderful time of family camaraderie and conversation.

I had talked with all our six children, receiving thoughtful cards and wishes, plus the picnic and a pot of flowers. Son Jamie said something would arrive in the mail for me on Monday, and it did! Darling photos of their kids, just what I’d hoped for. Anne-Marie, 4, posed winsomely in a summer frock of blue and white stripes, the bodice covered in rows of scallops like waves at the beach. Two-year-old Maddie’s look-alike dress was a bit obscured as she nestled in her mommy’s arms, fingers in mouth for her signature pose, and again with plump knees bent under khaki shorts as she seated herself on a landscaping rock. More photos were included of her birthday party and Anne-Marie’s carefully chronicled first haircut. I have enough to keep me scrap booking for days. That shouldn’t hurt my knees! And my vines will grow back, so how can I pout? I count my blessings!

Angels and Demons

The pastor preached on angels this morning. It made me think of a conversation I had with the young mother of our first great-grandchild the other day in Tennessee. She had brought the baby by for his Mimi (my daughter) to watch while she went to a work meeting. She is a C.N.A. and works at a nursing home. I asked if she liked working with the elderly, and she said she enjoyed it.

“Is it sad when they pass away?” I asked her, thinking of our experiences ministering at nursing homes and how we missed some of the faces we had grown used to as they passed on.

“What is sad, is that many of them have no one who comes to see them,” Shelby replied. She told me of one patient whose passing was imminent, and she asked Shelby to hold her hand. “I held her hand for a long time,” she reflected, “then she smiled, and was gone.”

“Have any of them seen angels?” I questioned, to which she exclaimed, “Oh, yes! Just before she died, one lady kept pointing to the corner of the room and asking me if I saw the angels.”

“I had one man, though,” she continued soberly, “that kept saying, ‘I’m hot! I’m hot!’ Then he started yelling, ‘I’m burning! I’m burning! I’m going to Hell!’ Then he died!”

I had heard of this before. Some pastors we knew in Mississippi told this story that had happened to them: One night the pastor’s wife (a preacher herself) woke her husband up with the urgent impression to make a call away out in the country at the house of someone they knew of who had been ill. There was no phone, and, reluctant to get out in the middle of a cold winter night and knowing how hard it was to start their car, he said, “I’ll go only if the car starts right away.” To his amazement, it cranked right up. Then he said, “If their gate is not unlocked, I’m not going in.” The gate, which was habitually locked, was open. He added one more condition: “If the light’s not on, I’m not going up on that porch.” They saw a dim light. Then another caveat: "We're not going in unless someone comes out on the porch."

As their car lights illuminated the porch, the front door flew open and a man rushed out. “Come quick!” he yelled, “Mama is dying and she says she’s burning! She's been calling for you, but I couldn't leave to go get you!” They went in to find that in her agony she had pulled out most of her hair. And sure enough, she was screaming, “My feet! They’re burning! Help me!” She had refused the Lord before, but as the pastor couple prayed for her, she gave her heart to Him. Not only that, she recovered and, if I remember right, became a strong church worker and maybe even went into the ministry. Angels and demons. Something to be taken seriously.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Thy Word

As soon as breakfast was over, I decided to try out my table décor for the book festival exhibit next Saturday. We were required to cover a card table with a tablecloth, have a theme for our display and be as creative as possible in luring the book browsers to our table. This had been in the back of my mind all during our trip, and I had picked up some trinkets and a cloth along the way. I had selected things with a heart theme in mind as a complement to my book, “Heartthoughts”.

Heading to the bedroom where we had a table of similar size, I spread everything out and eyed it with a critical eye. Hmm. A few changes here and there and it would probably do, especially since the table I would use that day would be slightly bigger. Still a little doubtful, I joined my husband on the screened porch where he was having his Bible study.

It was beautiful out here in the cool, clear morning air. My irises had not greeted me as I hoped when we came home, having spent their blooms in our absence, but our knock-out roses had blossomed and were brilliant against the white of the house. I picked up my Bible and it fell open to Psalms 45. I began to read and couldn’t help but feel a kinship with the words, and that God was letting me read them right now when I needed them:

“My heart is overflowing with a good theme;” it read. “I recite my composition concerning the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer,” verse 1 concludes. I could probably recite everyone of my compositions by heart, and I always tried to magnify the Lord in them, though I didn’t always succeed as well as I hoped. The whole chapter is likely a description of Christ and the church, but as I read, it spoke to me even further.

“Listen, O daughter,” it says in verse 10, “Consider and incline your ear; Forget your own people also, and your father’s house.” I admit I spend a lot of time longing for those of my own family who live far away, and I spent many poignant years missing my parents and siblings when I lived and raised my family separated from them. But I think it is drawing a contrast between the love of family and the depth of our love for the Lord, for the following verse says, “So the King will greatly desire your beauty; Because He is your Lord, worship Him.”

Even if my table doesn’t win the “Best of Show” award, I hope it will reflect the spirit of the book that agrees with the ultimate goal of verse 17 which says, “I will make Your name to be remembered in all generations, Therefore the people shall praise You forever and ever.”

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Traveling Mercies

“How much farther shall we go?” Howard and I questioned each other as we were nearing our regular overnight stop on our journey home. The sun was still high in the sky, and we had gained an hour when we came back into Central Time Zone, so it made no sense to stop for the night yet. Besides we really weren’t tired. “Let’s go on to Little Rock,” he suggested. That would be more than halfway and give us a shorter day of travel tomorrow.

“What lake is that?” I asked after we had crossed the Mississippi River at Memphis. Then, as the water extended farther, I realized it not a lake but the flooding of the river. I was used to seeing rice fields flooded entering into Arkansas, but this was worse. Soon, we noticed houses marooned and surrounded by water. I had heard Arkansas received a lot of rain, but we had been out of touch with weather reports except as concerned us on our trip.

Shortly after leaving our daughter’s in Georgia, we noticed a lighted sign over the highway with the message that the upcoming Ringgold exit was closed due to massive debris on the roadway. What could that mean, I wondered? Why didn’t they clear it off? My question was answered a little later when I saw another sign that said there was no access to the town. Looking out the window, I saw an incredible sight. Pulverized houses were crumbled and dropped on to the interstate exit and the approach to the city. Not trailers or flimsy houses, but the brick and concrete of substantial homes and businesses buried the highway. One of the tornadoes that narrowly missed Shannon and Amy’s home had hit here!

We had prayed as we were caught in a weather front in the mountainous area between Chattanooga and Nashville. The rain, fog, and steep grades made for dangerous conditions. We stopped at a restaurant for a long lunch, waiting it out, and the sky was lighter when we came out. Now we were enjoying beautiful sunshine and began looking for somewhere to stay as we came to Little Rock. Spotting a Cracker Barrel, we checked on lodging close by, but nothing suited. Unsavory-looking characters were hanging about smoking or lounging over balconies on some. Other motels were too expensive or filled up. After looking at 4 or 5, we followed up on one last recommendation.

“We got our room!” Howard said triumphantly as he came out of the office. It was moderately priced and turned out to be a jewel box of a room. It was small, but immaculate and tastefully decorated with elegant touches of black diamond inserts in bathroom tile, angled sink mirrors, crisp white pillows on the pair of turned-down beds, the sheet snugly folded in a tight fit over the coverlet halfway down the comfy mattress.

We relaxed and thanked God for his blessings, and again the next day when we heard that I-40 in Arkansas had been closed due to flooding, apparently not long after we had passed through. “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee, and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee,” Isaiah 43:2. We had gone about 2,000 miles on this trip, but He was with us on everyone of them.

Grand Finale

“Mom, what are you going to do when you get home?” our son, Mark, asked on the phone as we talked to him during our trip home after being gone nearly three weeks.

“I don’t know,” I said, “when I think about it, it’s just a big blank.” We’d had such a good time visiting with several of our kids and grandchildren while we were away that home seemed dull in comparison. Besides all the fun we’d had in Tennessee and North Carolina, we spent two more days stopping back by Amy’s in Georgia. Not only had we gotten to attend services with her at their beloved church near Atlanta in Marietta, just hanging out with them and seeing a slice of their everyday lives warmed my heart.

A special treat for me was tagging along shopping and helping granddaughter Corrin pick out a dress for the 8th grade Formal. Amy had asked me if I would check out some stores for possibilities while she was at work that day, and that evening we were doing follow up. Corrin at first selected a demure, flowered confection that looked very cute on her, but of course, we couldn’t stop with the first thing she saw. It was like dressing a Barbie doll as we sat in the dressing room while she modeled one irresistible fashion after another, from a polka-dot with a flouncy skirt to a star-wars grey sateen with angular straps. Naturally she would decide on a dramatic black and white that made her look like a movie starlet. Watch out, Mom and Dad!

On the way home we picked up 16-year-old Reid from Life Guard classes he was taking for a hoped-for summer job. He’d been getting sunburned and sore from the training; tonight was a written test and he wouldn’t know the results immediately. He piled into the back seat with his friend, another hopeful, while 12-year-old Rachel made room by climbing into the rear of the SUV with poster-board and supplies for a school project to do when we got home.

Shortly after I had talked to Mark, the phone rang again. “Mom, we want to take you to dinner tonight when you get home if you’re not too tired,” Joanna, our daughter-in-law announced. She said it was complicated, but Allison had a large credit on her food tab at college that would be lost if it were not used by Saturday. She was inviting us to go with them to an upscale hotel on campus that served pricey gourmet food by chefs-in-training.

The place was spectacular! The Ranchers’ Club looked like a rich cattleman’s club complete with a glassed-in display of cowboy hats and the names of their local ranch owners in the foyer. Deep leather chairs lined up around a table like Dallas’s South Fork set with gleaming white linen, china, crystal and silver awaited us. A four-course meal was served, with new place settings for each course (these kids were doing it right!) and fabulous food with exotic touches (edible art, they called it) adorning our plates. After respective desserts of mousse, chocolate torte, and apple/cranberry crustattas, we decided it was good to be home! Like my husband is fond of saying, “Daily He loads us with benefits.”

Monday, May 2, 2011

Change of Plans

“Mimi, we can’t go to Carter Family Fold tonight after all,” my granddaughter Bethany, told me over the phone. She and her husband, Jesse, had planned to take us out to dinner this last evening of our visit in Jonesborough, and were excited to treat us to an evening of music at the original home site of June Carter and the Carter family. “They aren’t open on Friday night after all,” she explained. Then she said, “Would it be alright to go out to eat and then go to the Lamp Light Theatre?” I remembered the Christian Playhouse, but had never been there. Of course it was alright!

After a wonderful meal at an upscale casual café named Cheddar’s, we followed the winding roads through the countryside to arrive at the theatre, nestled into a wooded glen and occupying a long, low-slung building. “FRIEND OF SINNERS”, the name of the production, was prominently displayed on a wooden sign out front. Bethany thought the play was kind of a Passion play, but it was so much more.

We had arrived with only minutes to spare before the lights went down to illuminate a panoramic set with marble steps and plaza, used, according to the scene, as the temple, Pilate’s hall, and the Sanhedrin. Tucked into room-like displays in corners and spotlighted appropriately, were Zebedee’s house, the home of Mary of Bethany, the upper room and scene of the Last Supper. A door to the tomb seemed carved into the brickwork at the lower level.

I was enthralled with the “up-close-and-personal”, three-dimensional look into the activities of depicted life in Jerusalem. Homes had pots, baskets, bedrolls, shelves and other authentic-looking details. Beggars begged, dancers danced, children frolicked, families argued, and Jesus taught. In everyday language and with local accents, believable dialogue and acting presented a clear picture and wonderfully human aspect of Jesus and his teachings. It felt as if we were transported back in time.

Before we knew it, three hours had passed and Jesus was being caught up into the rafters and disappearing from sight. As an anti-climax, a powerful candle-lit display of white-robed choirs, singing Midnight Cry, reinforced the altar call given, and at the end, Jesus returned in triumphant robes, a resplendent crown and holding a sceptre as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We were quiet on the way home until our grandson-in-law broke the silence and lightened the mood when he said, “I went to high school with Jesus,” referring to the young actor who gave such a brilliant portrayal of our Lord. I had no doubt that Jesus had also gone to high school with them.