Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Gift

“This is for you because you gave me the nice blanket,” our friend who does yard work for us was saying as he approached the open car window. Howard was picking him and his lawn mower up to do some mowing for our son. What is that? I wondered as he thrust something into the window. “For you to put on the porch,” he grinned.

O-oh, he was reciprocating. I had almost forgotten. When Eddie, a Native American, had been at our house helping my husband clean out some packaging from the installation of a new hot water heater in the basement, he had spotted an old blanket or sleeping bag down there and asked if he could have it. He put it in a plastic bag to take home, but apparently he had forgotten it. Then the last time he was over, he asked for it. It was no where to be found. Maybe it had been mistakenly thrown away.

As Howard was about to drive Eddie home that day, I asked, “Does he need a blanket?” and told them to wait a minute. I have bedding galore which is hardly ever used, so I thrust my hand into the linen closet and pulled out a puffy, quilted spread that I didn’t need. “Here, give him this,” I said as my husband headed out the door.

Howard told me later that Eddie really liked it, saying it was the nicest blanket he’d ever had. Well, I had liked it, too, and was glad he appreciated it. I had bought it at an estate sale, attracted by the bright blue and white design quilted into a diamond pattern on the comfy covering of just the right weight--light, but still warm. It had been on the bed before I changed my decorating scheme two comforters ago.

I looked at what he handed me and saw it was a heavy, metal motorcycle with side car, made of painted tin with an antique finish, wheels with spokes and handle bars that turn. (Maybe it was more for Howard than for me.) Eddie had painted our screened porch last year and admired my collection of bric-a-brac, including a miniature tricycle and tiny wire bicycle.

He didn’t know that I was tired of the junk and about to do some clearing out. But the gesture was so sweet! I wouldn’t have thought of refusing. Howard later told me that he thinks it is part of Indian culture to give a gift in return for a gift. And it is kind of a nice piece. Maybe I’ll just put it on the mantle for now, rather than let it collect dust on the porch. After all, it was given in kindness and that is all too rare these days!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Family Ties

What a lovely phone call I just received from my daughter-in-law, Tammy! I could probably count on the fingers of one hand the times she has called me in their six years of marriage, so that’s one reason it was special. A consummate career woman who is very conscientious toward her job, she rarely has time for anything but paying devoted attention to her small daughters and husband when she is home. But now she is on a two-month hiatus from work, and they are on vacation. So, knowing we are very interested and concerned about their whereabouts on this ambitious jaunt along the entire west coast, she wanted to touch base with us.

Tammy described in vivid detail their day in Seattle, making it easy to envision the famous Pike Place Market they visited. As she talked, I could see the flowers, the fish mongers, the craft stalls and the live music with banjo players. “You guys would love it!” she exclaimed, then told me they visited the original Starbucks where they bought Dad a coffee mug. “We’ll get it mailed to you,” she promised.

Including warm, funny vignettes about my granddaughters, their mother told me of 2-year-old Maddie’s reaction to the fish market. “Eew!” she had blurted, “That’s disgusting!” when her sensitive little nose picked up the fishy smell of the stalls.

Anne-Marie, 4, had ordered a cup of hot chocolate at Starbucks (the temperatures there are in the 60’s), and they wrote her name on the ticket. When she heard the order pick-up call for “Anne-Marie” , she said in surprise, “How did they know my name? Have we been here before?”

Friends had told Jamie and Tammy to be sure to ride a ferry while in Seattle, so they chose a 1 1/2 hour cruise. Maddie especially loved it. Tammy assured me they kept their hands on the children at all times, even though there were safety guardrails. The whole family enjoyed an on-board meal, which helped pass the time.

Now they were headed down the green, picturesque drive to Portland, where among other things they will go to a Science and History Museum with features for children and a gigantic book store. A part of the trip the kids like is the hotel accommodations where they can relax and play around. Tammy said last night Anne-Marie surprised them with a page of carefully written alphabet letters she had worked on in a rare moment of quiet.

This was their first full day of vacation. I hope they continue to keep us posted with regular updates during the next two weeks. There is nothing dearer to a mother’s (and grandmother’s) heart. Thanks, Tammy!

You are the Air I Breathe

While watching the film, EVEREST, at the IMAX theatre in Ft. Worth recently, I learned something amazing about the body. As the climbers ascend to heights where the atmosphere has become thinner, they begin to suffer oxygen deprivation unless they make camp, rest, and exert themselves as little as possible for a couple of weeks until their bodies acclimate to the new environment. Meanwhile, their bodies are producing more red blood cells than usual, enabling them to take in more oxygen and continue their climb.

In reading about this later, I found out that many athletic and Olympic training camps are held at higher altitudes to increase the endurance and stamina of the athletes, since they develop greater lung capacity and increased blood cells at these levels. This enables them to compete at greater performance levels, at least for a few weeks, when the body returns to its previous state in their normal environment.

There is even evidence that living at higher altitudes increases longevity, due to the increased red blood cells bringing more oxygen to the heart. I think I have read of instances of people from Tibet or other mountainous regions who have lived extremely long lives. Of course, they get a lot of sunshine up there, which may make them healthier.

I wonder if in the same way we can increase our spiritual capacity? I know that once when I went on a three-day fast, I became more spiritually sensitive as I was less concerned about my physical needs. It was as if I had grown new spiritual receptors; the words in the Bible seemed to jump out at me with new clarity and meaning. People who spend much time in prayer seem able to do just that--spend a lot of time in prayer. They have grown stronger and increased their prayer stamina. Their hearts have grown stronger in the rarified atmosphere of prayer.

Colossians 3:1-2 tells us, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth.” And in Matthew 6:19-21, we are admonished not to lay up treasures on earth, but in Heaven. Verse 21 says, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Jesus’ blood that he shed has brought eternal life-giving oxygen to my heart, and I think I will live just fine in that ultimate High Altitude!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Mountain Top Experience

“Mama, do you think going to an IMAX theatre would make you dizzy?” our son, Jamie, asked. We would be seeing them in Ft. Worth in a few days, and he was lining up some activities he thought we might enjoy. It was entirely too hot to do much outside, and the IMAX sounded cool and inviting. I assured him I would be fine, since I hadn’t been troubled in over a year by the vertigo symptoms of Meniere’s syndrome that had plagued me several times in past years.

I had been so looking forward to this adventure. We would drive the hundred miles or so to the Amtrak station, then take a train ride on the Heartland Express to Ft. Worth, where they would meet us. Since they would be in the area for a few days’ vacation, it was a perfect chance for us to get together without our driving all the way to Houston.

We thoroughly enjoyed the last leg of our journey, relaxing to the rhythm of the rails and watching the scenery go by outside the wide windows of the dining car or from our reclining coach seats. The beautiful Washita river sprawled wide and shallow, angling along beside the train for miles, giving glimpses of cranes and other wildlife. I’m sure an animal I saw making its way into the woods was a small, black bear. A few miles back, I had seen a coyote slipping along a fence line in a drought-parched pasture.

Now after a nice lunch with our family at the Cowtown Diner in picturesque Sundance Square, here we were at the imposing Ft. Worth Museum of Science and History where the IMAX theatre was located. I cringed a little at the sight of the stairs leading up to it, but they were wide, shallow steps that weren’t too difficult for my just-getting-well left knee that had been the bane of my summer.

I gasped when we got inside and I saw the huge, domed theatre with seats ascending almost as high as Mt. Everest in the film we would be watching. No way could I sit close to the front of this giant screen that curved overhead as far as I could see, but getting a seat compatible with my farsighted vision meant climbing farther up. Not only that, walking along the ledge in front of our upturned seats with nothing to hold on to would require all my balancing skills. The seat backs in front of us were recessed at feet level and I could see myself plunging down below and beyond. What was I thinking?

“Mama, just close your eyes if you need to,” Jamie warned, after I had already read the precaution on the screen that there was a “Quiet Room” to go to if one felt disoriented. I could see why, when the movie started with a terrifying aerial view of Ft. Worth as we took a virtual airborne tour of the city, zooming in from dizzying heights and just as quickly zooming out. But that was nothing compared to EVEREST, as we watched climbers teeter on ladders stretched across unfathomable depths or hang from walls of ice over chasms below.

It was a remarkable story of courage and bravery (misplaced though it was, in my opinion) to conquer near-insurmountable obstacles and climb to the top of the world. Climbers risked life and limb, some dying to lie frozen forever on the desolate peaks of the mountain. The real-life hero of the story did reach his goal. But sadly, he gave thanks to the goddess of the sky instead of the God who made the heavens and the earth. By the time the exciting presentation was over and we exited at the top of the theatre, I felt I had climbed Mt. Everest and survived!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Medium of Exchange

“The Buck Starts Here”, was the name of the introductory movie we were to view Saturday before starting our tour of the US Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Western Facility, in Ft. Worth Texas. Our son joked that they had already taken us to everything in Houston, where they live, and now they were starting on Ft. Worth, where they met us for this brief vacation.

By the time we viewed the film, looked at the displays and went on the guided tour, we had a pretty good idea of how they make our paper money. Some of the things that stand out in my memory was a little bit on the history of money. The instructive display outlined several criteria for money: 1) Easily carried, or portable. 2) Durable. 3) Attractive or desirable. 4) Backed by a government or authority that it is “legal tender”.

Throughout the tour, which was conducted through a long hall way with display windows on each side, we viewed various stages of making our currency. First, the paper made of cotton and linen is cut into sheets that will eventually become 36 “notes” of various denominations. The sheet goes through a three-step coloring process, imbedding the dyes that will deter efforts at counterfeiting. The engraving process is carried out by the use of enormous pressure on metal plates that stamp the artwork and numbers on the bills.

Finally, the notes of Ones, Fives, Tens, Twenties, Fifties and Hundreds are bundled into “Cash stacks”, shrink-wrapped in plastic, loaded on pallets and put through the final step that turns them into real money. They are put through a machine that records their serial numbers. Only then are they loaded into secure vehicles for transport to banks and government destinations.

Several parallels between money, or medium of exchange, and our salvation occurred to me. First, our testimony is easily carried; it is with us wherever we go. Then, it is durable; it will last a lifetime. Thirdly, ideally, it is attractive. Our lives are to give off a sweet-smelling savor, or the fragrance of Christ, making salvation attractive. (II Corinthians 2:15, Ephesians 5:2.) Fourthly, God has accepted the blood of Jesus as “Legal Tender”, or payment for our salvation. Paper money, such as we use, has no intrinsic value of and in itself. It is known as “fiat” currency. Fiat is a Latin word meaning “Let it be done.” Jesus said, “It is finished.”

I forgot to mention the ultimate proof of a note’s reliability. It has threads woven through it that show up under a special light that prove it is not counterfeit. The scarlet cord that runs from Genesis to Revelation is Jesus’ blood, one that cannot be counterfeited. Also, there are watermarks on our paper currency that show up if held to the light--often a picture of a president or other symbol. A true salvation testimony, when held up to the light of scrutiny or criticism, will reveal the image of Jesus.

Just as the engraving process is carried out under tremendous pressure, Jesus suffered such enormous pressure of the weight of bearing the sins of the world that his sweat become as drops of blood during His Passion in the Garden of Gethsemane. The very word, “Gethsemane”, means “oil press”, indicating that that was the place where the olives were squeezed in an ancient press. All this that we may have His Name engraved on our hearts for all eternity.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

This Old House

The other day someone put a video on Facebook entitled something like “My Old House”. It was about returning to the house of her childhood and finding it redone and sparkling with freshness, but still the house she remembered. The video was interspersed with snapshots and old home movies, some with frayed and faded edges, but still giving a glimpse into the living out of lives that had gone on there in bygone years. Shots of the author growing from a baby to child to teen and adult were set against dated backgrounds reflecting the times and styles. Special dinners, family meals, or birthday celebrations were evidence of her treasured history.

I commented to the person who shared it that it reminded me of our house where we lived and raised our family for 20 years, then where our married daughter lived for 10 years after that. It looked nothing like our house, but the photos filled me with a poignancy and longing that brought tears as scenes of my own children’s childhood flooded my memory.

Before our daughter and her husband sold the house, it too, had been beautifully redone. The new owners sent us pictures a few years back of some of the work they had additionally done, accomplishing things I had always wanted but never saw in the tight budget years of raising our brood of six.

Then a few days ago a comment was made about my blog where I had referred to that house that made me do a double take! It was by a Facebook friend I’d accepted, but couldn’t actually place, but it turns out they are the ones who bought the house and are living there! Now, by viewing their pictures, I have had a virtual tour of the lovely property and all the improvements they have made!

Our time there was blessed, but God must surely have wanted this young family to live there now. I hardly recognized the grounds, which obviously a lot of talent, love and hard work have turned into a showplace of patios, neat vegetable plots, a garden shed, children’s fort and other plantings. It warmed my heart to see their child swinging from the old rope swing my kids loved so much. If I remember right, the house sits on beams of cypress, which lasts a long, long time. I have a feeling the house will, as well.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

To Catch a Thief

My son’s house was burglarized last night! They weren’t home, and thankfully not much was taken, but what an unsettling experience! Coming home and finding your closets ransacked and things in disarray is bad enough, but the uneasy feeling of being violated lingers and is hard to shake. I remember that feeling from many years ago when we had a similar incident.

It was a sleepy Sunday afternoon; the house was quiet with my husband having taken the kids to the variety store, when the phone rang. “Mrs. Summers, I know this is going to sound strange,” a voice said, “but we would like your cooperation with something.” Identifying himself as the sheriff, the caller went on with his request. He said he had been tipped off that our house was supposed to burglarized that night! “Would you allow us to have a stake-out in your home so that we can catch the thieves?”

I was aghast, but I quickly called my husband at the store and had him speak to the sheriff. The authorities explained that they had received this tip from someone who knew the set-up and wanted to report it. It turned out to be a girl we had known when she was younger who used to come to our house and knew our family’s habits. Evidently she had helped plan the break-in, but was having second thoughts and was going to the police.

We were informed that the robbery had been scheduled to be committed the previous Sunday evening while we were at church; they were to call our number and let the phone ring 13 times, then if no one answered, that was their all-clear. But I had stayed home with a sick child that night, and when I answered, they hung up and the plan was shelved until tonight. The sheriff wanted us to depart as if we were going to church, then they would hide in our house and wait. We were a little shaken, but we agreed.

Telling us about it later, they described the uncanny scenario. They had parked their undercover vehicles in the church yard down the road and walked to our house, letting themselves in to wait while they hid in our darkened house. It wasn’t long until the phone rang eerily 13 times.

The officers took their positions, one behind the sofa in our den, one in the bathtub and one behind our bedroom door. They heard someone try the backdoor, then brazenly approach the front door, but it was locked with a deadbolt. A few minutes later, they heard the unmistakable sound of a window screen being slit. We had left the casement windows cranked open, and soon a ski-masked intruder slid through it sideways into our living room.

Just as he entered our bedroom, where he thought there would be a briefcase with cash from the store’s receipts (which my husband in times past had sometimes brought home with him from the family business) he was stopped with the nose of a gun and put up no resistance. His accomplices were quickly apprehended, as well.

We slept a little uneasily in our beds that night, and I had to console my then 5-year-old daughter to settle her down. “Amy,” I told her, “You know this house was built from an old church.” I reminded her of the Word of God that had echoed from these rafters in long-ago sermons. “Besides, you know how our front door has the shape of a cross in the top part and the shape of a Bible in the bottom part? That is called a Cross and Bible door.” (The investigators had even remarked, ‘That’s a good door!’) I went on, “And you know that Daddy and I have anointed our doors and windows many times with oil for God’s protection over our house. And tonight He has protected us.”

“Gosh, Mama,” she said before she drifted off to sleep, “With all of that, no wonder nothing bad happened to us!” She was right, and even the bad memories had begun to fade, until we got the news this morning. But God is still faithful. Their most valuable possessions were left untouched by the intruders. Howard said an angel probably slapped their hands away. Either that, or maybe they weren’t allowed to see them!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Does Anybody Want to Testify?

Praise God for an old-fashioned church with testimony time! Without it, I wouldn’t have learned of uplifting experiences shared by several people last night. One was from a grandmother who told of her little grandson finding a baby bird that had fallen from the nest. She watched in fascination at the child’s attempts to save the scraggly, fragile bit of life. As the little bird opened its mouth, the child tried to feed it, giving it crumbs, grain, or whatever he found at hand.

Just as the grandmother was convinced it was a lost cause, the mother bird flew up, rewarding the gaping beak of her young with proper food, exhibiting an inner God-given concern that reflected the love of her Creator. Her heartfelt way of comparing this anecdote to God’s love for us, voice breaking at the realization that when hungry hearts reach out, He is ready to fill them with whatever is needed, brought fresh revelation and praises to God from the listeners.

Next a tender testimony told in the warm, country brogue of an older man was of his son’s praying over a mechanical problem with a car. It seems the son, an expert mechanic, had struggled repeatedly with removing a bearing from a vehicle. In his clumsy, but effective narrative, his father recounted the times of frustration his son had in his battle with the task, finally throwing up his hands at the project and just turning it over to the Lord in prayer.

Having put it out of his mind, he was stepping out the door to take his wife out to eat, when suddenly he stopped. “I can fix that car now! The Lord just revealed to me what to do!” He put the dinner date on hold, rushed to the automobile, and the bearing slid out almost effortlessly. The father wept in gratitude that his boy’s upbringing in the Lord had stayed with him and taught him to call on God. We were wiping our eyes, too.

A lady stood to her feet to say she was having lunch with a friend, when a young woman walked up and greeted the friend, who actually didn’t recognize her. After identifying herself as having been a classmate of the woman’s son, the newcomer explained she had cancer and had lost her hair. At the end of the conversation, she asked to be put on their prayer list. “I told her, ‘I’ll do more than that. I’ll pray for you right now,’” our church member exclaimed.

“We really felt the Lord move, and the girl was brought to tears,” she went on, “Then another woman walked up, saw her crying, and asked what was wrong. ‘Nothing!’ the girl said, “I was upset, but they prayed for me, and now I feel so good!’” We couldn’t help but feel good, too!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Grocery List

“We only need a few things at Walmart,” I said to my husband as we set out to do our grocery shopping. I wanted to shop at the economy store across the street, but they didn’t carry some things I wanted. It’s a mistake to go grocery shopping with your husband, even though it is extremely nice to have him along to help with the bags.

I started toward the back to get decaffeinated tea, but Howard took a detour to pick up his favorite mini-pies. “You look for what you want in that aisle, and I’ll look at the cheese and cold cuts,” he directed me as he headed to his favorite section.

Shortly I had everything I needed (and then some) and was ready to leave the store, amid the distractions of my spouse pointing out to me what caught his eye that he had “been hungry for.” I couldn’t believe my eyes when at the check-out, I saw that he had slipped in a five-pound “chub” of bologna! I hadn’t seen one of those in years! Also there was the ever-present slab of cheese.

After spending more than a third of our grocery budget in Walmart, we decided to keep it down at the next store. Since we hadn’t bought groceries for a couple of weeks, naturally we needed several things, and as I took a detour to pick up paper towels, Howard browsed at the freezer section. Unloading at the register, why was I not surprised to see a half-gallon of ice cream that had made its way into the cart?

I realized later that the reason we had bought so much was because we shopped late-morning, and we were both hungry! “What do you want to do about lunch?” Howard asked me on the way home. Well, with ice cream in the car, not to mention milk and meat, we couldn’t very well go in and eat somewhere. Besides, after buying all that food, why eat out?

“How about bologna sandwiches?” I needled him. And that’s what we had, along with a can of chicken noodle soup I had picked up. With a tall glass of iced tea, it was delicious. Especially when you know you have a fat hen and a pack of frozen dumplings waiting in the fridge for a sumptuous meal when you’re not too tired to make it!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Out Loud, in front of God and Everybody

“When I got married, I liked my wife, but I didn’t love her,” the lay preacher said during his message Sunday morning. I gasped at his startling admission in public, but he went on with his story. He said he had reached the age of 29 and thought he should get married. He had been seeing someone and they decided to wed, although he knew he only liked her as a friend. After about 5 years, he wanted a divorce. His wife asked him why, and he finally admitted, “I don’t love you.”

Shortly thereafter, the couple attended a church service and gave their hearts to the Lord. One day the pastor of the small church asked all the married couples, of which there were four, to come forward. He asked the husbands to face their wives, look into their eyes, and say “I love you.” The man could not do it. He said all around him he could hear the words, “I love you, Honey,” “I love you, Baby,” and other words of endearment.

Then everything was quiet. They were waiting on him to make his proclamation. He just stood there in the dead silence. Finally, he forced himself to mouth the words, “I love you.” As soon as he said the words, his composure broke; he wept and embraced his wife and knew in that moment that he did love her, and told her so. They have now been married 48 years.

It reminded me of our Sunday School lesson that morning, which had been about the disciple, Peter. After Jesus had been resurrected, he asked Peter, “Do you love me?” Three times Peter asserted that he did. Perhaps after Peter had denied Him three times, Jesus was giving him opportunity to three times restate his devotion. (Twice Peter answered in the form of the word, “phileo,” or affection. Jesus had used the word, "agape", or divine love. Later, after Peter had been filled with the Holy Spirit, he would use the word “agape”, in his writings.)

In our salvation experience, we are told that “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9. Our oral confession is a kind of contract that binds us in agreement with Him. There is something about speaking aloud that makes it real to us. Evidently, that is what happened to our Sunday morning speaker so many years ago.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

What's to Eat?

What to make for breakfast? I wondered as I headed for the kitchen this morning. With my limited sense of taste, nothing ever sounds good to me, but I still get hungry. I’m not a cereal fan, and I was tired of scrambled eggs. My eyes fell on the box of baking mix. What about a breakfast pizza? I had a small smidgen of sausage, but there was also the left-over ground beef I had cooked yesterday for tacos. That might work.

I mixed a biscuit batter, oiling the bottom of the 8 x 8 baking dish, as well as my hands, and patting it out in the pan for the crust. I had done this before for a quick lunch, and I knew tomato sauce was good on it, so I spread that on the surface. I added the meat mixture, and remembered I had pizza seasoning in a pepper-type grinder. Since my produce was low, I couldn’t chop a pepper or green onions, but the seasoning would suffice. I was also out of cheese, except for some pre-wrapped slices of a pepper cheese that Howard had gotten by mistake. Crumbled on top, it worked fine.

While the pizza baked, I cubed cantaloupe and whisked up some scrambled eggs. Since it was getting late, this would be our Saturday morning brunch, with hot coffee and a bit of the left-over peach pie from supper. Howard liked it, and we were just finishing when it was time for him to go pick up a helper he had scheduled for yard work. He had promised to take me to a movie I wanted to see this afternoon, so I did the household chores while he worked outside.

There wouldn’t be time to catch lunch before the first showing of the movie, so I was glad we’d had a hearty breakfast to tide us over, with a little help from the popcorn we shared. It was mid-afternoon when we came out of the theatre, and the first thing Howard said was, “Let’s get something to eat.” Lunching that late messed up our supper schedule, so we had a catch-as-catch-can, make-do snack when we got hungry this evening.

Breakfast time will be here right on schedule in the morning, but with our having to leave for church at 8:30 to help out during our pastor’s vacation, there won’t be time for a lavish Sunday breakfast. Cereal may have to do. Then I will have to get imaginative for our lunch, working with the scanty contents of my fridge. But the Lord always provides, and I really must buy groceries on Monday!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Heartthoughts: No Sibling Rivalry

Our Sunday School lesson last week was on John, the Beloved, who referred to himself as “the disciple Jesus loved.” One man in the class commented that he had always wondered why Jesus loved John most. His conclusion was found in the verse, “Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you,” James 4:8, inferring that John had given much attention to the relationship himself, in learning, devotion and loyalty.

Some people have the quality of making one feel special. They know the art of listening, of being there “in the moment,” not half-listening, thinking of what their response will be or being distracted by someone across the room. They are really there, being genuinely interested, drawing things out of you that you might not tell everyone. Such people are rare, but they leave you feeling like they are your best friend.

I had thought of someone as my best friend, until I heard others calling her their best friend! She truly had the personality of being warm, attentive, finding common ground in conversation, generous and kind. I think of a young family member who also has those qualities. He is a joy to be around, popular and loved by everyone.

Perhaps these qualities in Jesus were what made people feel that He loved them best. There were other people in the Bible that were said to be loved by Jesus. Of his friend, Lazarus, his sisters, Mary and Martha, said, “Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick,” John 11:3. No doubt he loved all His disciples: the tempestuous Peter, Matthew the tax collector, doubting Thomas, Nathaniel (“a man in whom there is no guile”), and the others. He even gave Judas a special job.

I heard once of a family whose mother had died. At her funeral, one of her grown children said, “You know I was Mom’s favorite. She told me once and asked me not to tell the others.”

“That’s funny” one of the siblings said, “She told me the same thing!”, to which the third one exclaimed, “No, I was her favorite. She told me so.”

Truth be told, they were probably all her favorite. I know mine are. Sometimes when God is blessing us, we feel we are God’s favorite child. Actually, He loves us all so much He makes us feel like we are the favorite. He died for the sins of the whole world, so that any who accept him may enjoy intimate fellowship with Him forever. Since John’s gospel was written last, he had the last word, but we can rest assured we are loved just as much as he was, and we are only asked to return that love by doing His will and our devotion to Him.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Heartthoughts: The Longest Night

“Howard, look at the stars!” I murmured in awe as I joined him on the porch swing. It was 2:30 a.m. My husband had sought refuge from the hot house and was dozing fitfully sitting up in the swing. Our power had gone off hours before during a thunder storm. And not just ours, but the whole town was blacked out. (I found out later it was whole county.) That is why I could see the stars so brilliantly against the velvet sky. The moon that had illuminated everything so brightly earlier had set while my tired body had evidently succumbed to slumber in spite of the heat.

The storm had hit just as we were leaving the house last evening for a Bible study at the home of friends. We noticed the traffic lights were out right away, so we knew it was widespread. The Bible study went on, nonetheless, the hostess lighting an oil lamp and candles, although we still had some late summer daylight left. Of all evenings to have a record turn-out for the meeting! Though a little stuffy, we managed fine, with lots of jokes bandied about like, “We have the Power, now we just need electricity!”, and the warm good-humor in the novel situation.

Our good humor evaporated, though, as we tried to bed down in our dark house. We managed to find a couple of flashlights, and I lay down on the sofa near the screen door for a breath of air. I had told my husband he could have the bed, where he would probably be cooler sleeping alone. But he sat long and late on the swing playing his guitar until I fell asleep. He had later come in, found it too warm, and opted for the swing where I found him. By now it was a cooler 74 degrees, so I persuaded him to lie down awhile.

This morning he was wild for coffee, so we set out in the car to search somewhere for a bite to eat. Our neighbor drove in just as we were leaving, telling us he heard on the car radio that the power might come on between 10:00 and 12:00. We tuned in a station and learned that Blackwell, about 15 miles away had had their power restored. It was a beautiful morning now, with 70 degree temperatures and the sun just coming up.

Waiting in the drive-through at MacDonalds, we were eager for coffee and breakfast. As Howard prepared to pay at the window, the attendant said “Go on through. The lady in front of you paid for your meal!” How nice! We couldn’t have known her, but what a surprising gesture! (Maybe we looked like power-outage refugees, though!)

Thankfully, our power came back on promptly at 10, and I was able to do laundry and enjoy the beautiful weather by hanging clothes on the line. The brief interlude of inconvenience--punctuated by the fringe benefits of sparkling stars, neighborly kindness, and cooler temperatures, not to mention the rain--was past, but we would remember the blessings long after.

Monday, August 8, 2011


“Why are they pulling off the road?” I wondered aloud as we were following behind our son and his family out to Kaw Lake. We stopped behind them, and I saw our daughter-in-law and grandson get out and stand beside the car. Must have needed some fresh air, I concluded. They seemed to be watching something, though, and as my eyes followed their gaze, it dawned on me. Prairie dogs! They had said there was a colony out here, and there they were!

Little heads were popping out of holes, and furry little bodies stood upright to hold the pieces of bread the kids tossed to them. How cute! The land rose slightly behind them, and I could see the openings of dozens of burrows. The tiny creatures appeared as if by magic then disappeared just as quickly beneath the surface.

I forfeited my air conditioned view through the window to get out and see them and toss some bread myself. In all the years we lived in Oklahoma, which was up until 1962, I had never seen prairie dogs. They must have migrated into the area in the many years we lived away. I told my son in Houston about it on the phone later, and his reaction was, “You mean they have prairie dogs outside of zoos?” That would have been my reaction, too. “We’ll have to take the kids to see that the next time we come up!” he exclaimed. I’m sure my little granddaughters, 2 and 4, would be fascinated.

We had stopped by Greg’s and Joanna’s house shortly before that, having visited an estate sale just to have something to do, and now the whole Saturday afternoon loomed empty before us. Greg said they had been to the lake that morning for an SPCA fishing tournament that Joanna had volunteered to help with. “I had never been to that part of the lake,” Greg told us. “Would you like to go see it?”

We were agreeable, then suggested they first go with us to check out a fishing camp at Lake Ponca that we had been invited to use. It was very rustic, but a fantastic place to fish from the floating docks, swim, or while away an after noon on the redwood deck shaded by a gnarled old tree. The water was beautiful up this close.

And now here was a fishing dock at Kaw Lake that we hadn’t known about!(I decided I’d better not ever take a cruise, after getting slightly dizzy on the swaying docks.) On the way out of the area, we stopped for cokes and candy bars at an all-purpose filling station/convenience store that proved a wellspring of information from the friendly owner on everything from the eagle nesting grounds to deer, wildlife and fishing. The yellowed newspaper clippings on the walls with pictures of record-setting catches of gar, paddlefish, and all sorts of trophy-worthy angling bore witness to the sportsman appeal of the area.

We headed home munching our treats with a sigh of contentment. Our spirits were lifted by being out in nature and enjoying God’s creation. Who said it was going to be a boring day? All that was necessary was that we get out and open our eyes to the wonderment all around us!

Before Honor is Humility, Proverbs 15:33

“Look, there’s our Sunday School teacher’s name,” Howard pointed out to me when we visited a community wellness center recently. Sure enough, there was a familiar name engraved on a bronze plaque as vice-president of the organization that included facilities like the lovely pool where I’d gone for some water therapy for my knee.

Our teacher, a native American, whom we had come to know slightly when we started attending this church recently, was a mixture of the stern and affable, a man of quiet demeanor who came alive when he was teaching. Yesterday we ended up at the same lunch table eating out after church. Another friend who was present said, “Not only is his name on a plaque at the bank, and several other places around town, it’s also on a plaque at the Smithsonian!”

Well, I knew he was prominent, I just didn’t realize how much so. He quietly explained that a vote had been taken among the Kaw leaders, and he had been selected as one among several others to represent their council at the National Museum of the American Indian at the Smithsonian. Wow! Quite a distinction! Turns out his name is also on a plaque in the church foyer as National Sunday School Teacher of the Year!

Our phone had rung yesterday with the plaintive voice of a young girl from church that I had been befriending, giving us a tearful prayer request. The church she used to attend was closing, and she was heartbroken. When they received prayer requests last night, I asked her if she was going to give her request. She shook her head and said she was going to wait until they called people up for special prayer. Hearts were touched as this ingenuous child stood at the altar, along with another young teenager whose father was gravely ill.

I could see I was not the only one she had her disarming effect on, when at the conclusion of the service, I saw a visitor turn to my young friend, and taking a pretty locket from her own neck, she gave it to the young girl, gently putting it around her neck. “I want you to have this,” she said, speaking some other words I couldn’t hear.

True humility is rare, though not as rare in children as in adults. Jesus said, “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” I had seen an example in both young and old that day.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Proof Positive

“Dad, they said that this is not the original car title, but a copy,” Greg told his father as he came in from the DMV. He was getting a car from us for Adam to drive to school and he was taking care of the paper work. Howard got up to go check his files for the original, but Greg interrupted him. “They said if I got a sample of your signature, and it matched the one you put on here, they would accept that, since I already had this notarized.”

“Don’t sprawl it out like John Hancock,” I chimed in as Howard took pen in hand. “You want it to match.” Sometimes my husband signs his distinctive signature in a scrawly flourish, but apparently it matched for Greg’s purposes.

One’s own name written in one’s own hand. The power of a simple signature. Almost as reliable as a fingerprint, although it can be forged. Kings used to use signet rings as their signature. When pressed into a seal of wax, it put the power of the king behind whatever document it was upon.

Jesus’ signature to us was the nail scars in his hands. His handwritten promise written in red that we could be saved from sin if we put our trust in Him. His obedience in bearing the weight of the sins of the world put all the weight of Heaven behind His Signature. When our King pressed his signet ring into the wax of the Holy Spirit, we were sealed unto the day of redemption, Ephesians 4:30.

Car titles are proof of ownership. There is an old song, I Hold a Clear Title to a Mansion, referring to our home in heaven. Jesus said in John 14:2, “In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” Whether that means rooms, as some say, or dwelling places, the important thing is that Jesus will be there and there is room for all. In the next verse, He promises, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also.” That sounds like the Signature on a Title to me!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Fear Not

I woke up kind of bummed because I knew I had a doctor’s appointment this morning. I was afraid he would say there wasn’t much improvement in my knee and think up some other scenario for me to do. He had already suggested physical therapy, but gave me the option to wear the splint 3 more weeks and get water exercise. I did that, but not too diligently, I’m afraid. I thought about just cancelling and not going back. But I’m so glad I did!

“Your knee looks much better!” he pleased me by saying. He could bend it farther and press in more spots than before without pain. “Is this the only place it hurts?” he asked as I winced in one particular spot. Then he said he was going to give me some cortisone and let me go! At last! (There had been too much swelling before.) I’d heard those shots really hurt, but with the numbing agent which only stung briefly, there was no pain. The medication will last about three weeks, after which I should be fine!

My spirits lifted immediately. This had turned out to be a good week! Monday I got my computer back, so I felt like I was again in the land of the living. Tuesday, the shipment of my new book, Seasons of the Heart, came in! Thursday I got some mailed off, and today the news from the doctor. Oh yes, my eye has healed, too! “Daily He loads me with benefits”!

Why is it so easy to expect the negative? That is having faith in the wrong thing, and we are to have faith in our God who provides good things! Nine times out of ten, our worries are futile, anyway, with most things we fret about never happening. I know my granddaughters were worried and apprehensive about school starting, one in high school for the first time, but from their Facebook posts, they had a wonderful first few days of school!

My husband is re-reading a wonderful book by a Mississippi minister friend of ours, Rev. Kenneth Worley, who saw dozens of miraculous answers to prayer and God’s intervening in seemingly hopeless situations. “They sure saw a lot of miracles!“ Howard exclaimed, looking up from the book, Eye Witness to the Miraculous, to which I replied, “We probably would, too, if we stepped out in faith like they did!”

James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” In other words, God is good all the time!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Golden Years

“It’s so nice to have a man to do that!” a woman who was returning her shopping cart for the 25 cent deposit said as she noticed Howard pulling the car up to collect me and our groceries. I smiled in agreement. I was getting in the car and he was loading the groceries when she walked past again on the way to her car. “That’s a good guy!” she called back to me.

Well, of course, I know that, and probably even take for granted that he will do all the “man” things. (But the shopper likely didn’t notice the leg splint I had on, mostly hidden by the loose Capri pants I was wearing.) It’s easy to forget that there are many single moms out there who struggle with daily chores, not to mention older widows or those who live alone. And there are just lots of women with spouses who have to, or like to, do things on their own.

My husband used to work six days a week, not getting home until seven or eight o’clock at night, for most of the years our children were growing up. Then it fell to me to do everything without him--school events, shopping, picking up kids, doctor appointments and on and on. His only time was Sunday, which was church in the morning, lawn mowing and/or nap in the afternoon, and church at night.

I admit I have gotten a little spoiled now that he is home so much and we do almost everything together. But he has always been the consummate gentleman, polite and considerate even at home, and naturally assuming heavy chores or difficult tasks. I am a truly blessed woman in having a faithful, loving husband who has been such a godly example for our children.

The great passage on marriage in Ephesians 5:22-33 says in verse 25, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it.” I can’t think of any other person that fulfills that command any more than my husband. There is a saying that goes, “The best thing a man can do for his children is to love their mother.” It must be true, because 53 years of marriage says a lot, as do the successful marriages of our six children!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

In His Name

“I haven’t ate,” the young girl sitting beside me at church said tonight. She had been wriggling in her seat and frowning, getting tired as I was at the long sermon by the guest speaker, I had thought.

When I at last could speak to her, I said, “You mean you haven’t had supper?” It was past 8 o’clock already. She shook her head wistfully. “Your mom didn’t cook supper before you came to church?” I asked her.

“She couldn’t. She didn’t have anything. We lost our food stamps,” she explained. “We have some Ramen noodles,” she finished. I didn’t know what to say, but after church the child looked up at me and said, “Could you give us a ride home?” She had come with her brother, sister, and a young friend. I asked who brought her, and she told me, but said, “She only has three seats. There isn’t room for all of us.

Well, we had a small car, too, but surely we could work something out. “My mother can come and get me,” her friend said.

I asked my husband if we could give them a ride home. “I wish there was somewhere we could get you something to eat,” I ventured, to which the preteen said, “There’s Sonic.”

We managed to get the three kids in our back seat, although there were only two seat belts back there. “My mom doesn’t have any money,” the 7-year-old boy volunteered. “But she has a good job,” he went on. I asked where she worked, and he said “At the casino up by Ark City. But she just started.”

“My dad works with my grandpa, but my grandpa only made $10,” he went on. They told us their grandfather was a master carpenter, and their dad worked for him, as well as in a computer business he ran. The whole situation seemed strange, but the least we could do was get them drinks and hamburgers all around before we took them home.

I expected the children to eat in the car, but they wanted to take the food home with them. I will have to find out more about their circumstances, but it was a joy to befriend the sweet, polite children. Then I realized we’d just heard a message in church about the sheep and goat nations and the time of judgment predicted in the Bible, Matthew 25:32. Verse 35 says, “For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink.” Then verse 40 says, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” Thank God for the opportunity to minister to the “least of these.”

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Words, Webster and Witticisms

“I’m reading the best book!” I exclaimed to my husband as he came into the room with an inquiring look on his face. “And you haven’t even cracked it open!” I chided him, holding up a copy of my new book, “Seasons of the Heart”.

“But I know the author!” he defended himself, to which I shot back, “That’s like saying you know God, but don’t read the Bible!”

Well, not a good comparison, but it popped into my mind. Of course, I had read most of it to him as I wrote it, but I couldn’t resist needling him. Anyway, I did find it interesting! Especially since time had passed since I’d recorded the events and happenings that were the inspirations for my thoughts.

A face book friend wrote that she was amazed that people were surprised when they found her witty and funny, even though she admitted to some blonde moments. I can be witty (mostly after the moment has passed), but I love to read the funny things kids say in their unconscious witticisms that reveal their transparent hearts.

Such as when another fb friend related a conversation between her and her young son as she showed him a romantic picture of an earlier version of his parents eating at a favorite Italian restaurant. Ignoring the wistful scene and dreamy-eyed young folks, his question was, “Did you eat all your food?”

It reminded me of when I showed a picture of my daughter as homecoming queen to a little girl I was babysitting. After solemnly contemplating the picture, the five-year-old asked, “Did she win because she could stand the stillest?”

My four-year-old granddaughter keeps us in smiles as we hear her spin on things like the other day when they were here visiting from Texas. In their hotel room that night, Anne-Marie said, “I miss Hooston! It’s the greatest planet on earth!”

I thought I’d heard it all though, until my daughter called me the other day and told me she was going to try a recipe called a “grunt”. “It’s the same thing you used to make with blackberries that you called a cobbler,” she explained. Since my computer was in the shop, I couldn't Google it, and it wasn't in the dictionary where I found only, "grunt: to make the sound of a hog." (Well, we did pig out over it!) However, in my “Joy of Cooking” recipe book I found it is indeed a steamed fruit dessert cooked on top of the stove and topped with biscuit dough. One recipe said its name comes from the sounds of satisfaction people make when they eat it, but the cookbook said when steamed in a bowl inside a pan of boiling water, the sound it makes when turned upside down and coming out of the bowl sounds like a grunt.

See, one can learn new things when reading my books, and I’m putting that in my next one!