Monday, October 31, 2011

Never Too Early

Taking his cue from the JFK statement, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country,” the evangelist said, “Don’t ask God for a task that fits your ability, but believe that God will give you the ability for the task.”

He recalled a time when he was a youth pastor many years ago. As a project for the youth group, he assigned them the task of hand-copying the Bible! Surprisingly, they rose to the challenge and worked long and hard for 18 months, the Bible being divided into sections for different groups.

“It was amazing,” the former youth pastor said, showing us a newspaper clipping with the publicity gained by the unusual project, with the headline, “YOUTH GROUP COPIES BIBLE BY HAND”. “Sometimes in stormy weather when the youth group had gathered and the power went out due to snow and blizzards, they would work by candlelight, carefully writing on old parchment paper, just like the scribes of old.”

He described one girl who was particularly dedicated to the project. “She was short and thin, with long stringy hair and came to church whether someone picked her up or she had to walk.” He went on, “This girl had the sweetest personality ever, but with her freckles and uneven teeth, she couldn’t be called pretty. In fact, she was more than plain, she was ugly!”

“She was devoted to the task, though,” he went on. Then the evangelist’s voice broke. “And do you know where she is now, some 35 years later?” he asked. “She’s in the jungles of Peru, working with Wycliffe Bible Translators to translate the Bible into their language!”

Tears came to my eyes at the realization of this marvelous outcome for the young girl, who seemed to have little to offer in the eyes of the world. The evangelist said he was firmly convinced that God had given her the ability for such a task when she was faithful to the lesser task way back then.

Just today I have been so gratified to see the results of years of parents pouring into children and staying faithful to the Biblical injunction to “Bring up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” A beautiful worship song has been composed and recorded and put on the internet by a talented young man whose father was a worship leader in our former church for years. We knew the parents as a young couple who were devoted to serving the Lord.

Also, today, I viewed on the internet a wonderfully done, inspirational, dramatic video, created and directed by our youngest son. God has surely given to these young men the ability for the tasks of reaching people for the Kingdom!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

High Dollar Rollers

“We’re going to do something a little different this morning,” said our pastor just before starting the Sunday morning service. “Brother John has asked me if he could have a couple of minutes, so I agreed. Brother John?” he said as he motioned for the man, who could only be called a character, to come up.

“Well, I just wanted to take this opportunity to wish my wife a happy anniversary!” John said in his folksy drawl. “We’ve been married 56 years!” Everyone applauded politely, and he continued, “Now I couldn’t be like so many of these guys who are talented: Susie's husband could sing her a song for their anniversary, and Sally’s husband has an old 'coon dog, he could take her 'coon hunting for their anniversary,” he said as she smiled indulgently from the piano.

“Brother Joe, he’s a barber, so I guess he could give his wife a haircut for an anniversary present,” the loquacious original went on as the lady shook her head vigorously from the pew. "And you preachers out there, you could probably preach your wife a real good sermon for her anniversary!" (I must say I could relate to that!) "But I wrote my wife a poem," he said proudly. Then he read a whimsical poem in his clumsy, appealing way, to his wife’s pleased embarrassment.

“I told her I was going to take her on a trip for our anniversary, so we went to two garage sales,” he quipped. "Then I asked if there was anything else she wanted to do, and she said yes, she wanted to top it off by going to Burger King!”

Later, the guest speaker talked about a recent anniversary of his own. “I was in a drugstore getting my wife a card a little late,” he explained. “The line to the cash register was long, and I had been waiting awhile when I felt someone tap me on the shoulder.” He paused a moment and then said, “It was my wife!”

“ ‘What are you doing here?’ she asked me. ‘Are you buying me a card?’ I told her yes, and she said she was buying me one, too! Then I said, ‘Why don’t you just read this one, and I’ll read the one you were going to buy me, then we can go get a sandwich with the money we saved!’ And that is what we did!”

With age comes thrift and a greater appreciation for the simple things. We, too, are guilty of pinching pennies and enjoying the senior discounts. But our best anniversary was our 50th, when our kids surprised us with a destination “AnniverseReunion” at the Gaylord-Opryland Resort Hotel where all our six children, their spouses, and our 18 grandchildren joined us for a memorable few days. The glitzy surroundings were balanced out by our visit to the Grand Ole Opry and our huge family dinner at the rustic Caney Forks Fish Camp restaurant! It turned out to be our most economical anniversary, too, since they wouldn’t let us pay for a thing!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Victory or Defeat?

For a slice of community life, there is nothing like going to a Friday night football game! We attended last night primarily for an important event during half time, a ceremony honoring the graduating senior band members. Our grandson, Adam, accompanied by his parents, would be presented along with fellow seniors and parents, on Senior Night.

Before the recognition ceremony, the band had played valiantly several stirring anthems, such as “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”, in a precision marching formation across the field. We strained our eyes to see Adam, and I finally picked him out when the trumpet section separated from the others for their featured emphasis. He stood tall and proud, feet expertly executing the steps of the routine while raising his trumpet in harmonic symphony with the band.

It was a bittersweet moment for the seniors, this their farewell performance on the home field. Not only for those in the band, but for seniors in the cheerleading squad, the drill team, and of course, the football players, who were recognized prior to the game. Tears were evident among the young girls dabbing their eyes and embracing fellow cheer leaders and marching pals as they exited the field after memorable performances.

Huddled under a blanket, I had come prepared and fortified against the cold with a cushion to sit on, a throw across my lap and wearing a coat and sweater. Thankfully, it wasn’t as cold as the previous night, but as the hour grew late, the night grew colder. Most were wearing coats and jackets, many with knitted hats pulled over ears, some with blankets draping, but the young and brave were often coatless. I even saw one girl in a sleeveless, bare-necked summer top who seemed oblivious of the temperature.

Not being a football fan, I didn’t lack for entertainment just watching the cross-section of people who maintained a continuous parade in front of me back and forth to the refreshment area or just moving from place to place. I loved seeing the children, their eyes full of expectancy and excitement, milling here and there, trailing after friends and not watching the game at all. I thought of my young granddaughters probably doing the same thing at their brothers’ games in Georgia and Tennessee.

We left after half-time, so I don’t know how the game turned out, although the home team was ahead when we went home. Like the game of life, many will leave before it is over for others. Life is a series of growth and goodbyes, each level leading to higher plateaus and achievements. Since no one knows when their life might be interrupted for that final scoring, we would do well to live in a state of preparedness, ever listening for that final trumpet blast that signifies an end to life as we know it and the beginning of life everlasting.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Blessing

“Thelma, look at that bird feeder!” my husband exclaims in disbelief. “I just filled it up this morning!” It was remarkable! The level of birdseed had gone down by nearly half.

“It’s the cold weather,” I say, “They are stocking up for the winter.” Sometimes they can finish the contents of the long, cylindrical feeder in a day. No doubt they will need all the reserve they can build into their fragile bodies to keep warm and maintain health to reproduce next spring.

One of Howard’s favorite hobbies is feeding and watching the birds that gather around our porch feeder and front lawn bird bath. Recently, he had forgotten to buy feed for awhile, and it seemed as if the birds had all gone south for the winter. We hadn’t seen any to speak of for days. The feeder still sat unvisited after we had filled it, and Howard was puzzled.

“The word has gotten out by bird telegraph that it’s slim pickings at our house,” I told him. “Give them a few days.” A couple of birds showed up later, and then, sure enough, it was if they had all gotten a signal through their telephone wire perch that “there is food in Egypt.”

My granddaughter, 4-year-old Anne-Marie, was heard praying recently: “Dear God, I just bless that I will dream about cowboys, and toys and princesses.” We have been hearing a teaching on “The Blessing” recently, dealing with Aaronic Blessing of Numbers 6:23-26.

The words that Aaron, the priest, was instructed by Moses to speak over the children of Israel are, “The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.” The emphasis on the teaching we heard is that we can give the blessing ourselves, as Christians. For instance, we can bless our food, bless others, etc. After all, the Bible says we are priests (1Peter 2:5,9). Many churches use that blessing today as a benediction.

Anne-Marie was blessing her dreams (maybe a good hedge against nightmares!), and Howard was blessing the birds with food. We are blessed to be a blessing!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

All in A Day's Work

“Our whole family has lice!” the 12-year-old announced guilelessly when I picked her up for church. What? Now she tells me! I had sat between her and her 7-year-old brother that morning, and at one point I impulsively kissed his head bending so sweetly over his Sunday School paper!

“All but me, I don’t have them!” she hurriedly added. “She couldn’t find any in my hair.” She told me her mother had looked thoroughly. Now it made sense that her younger sister told me this morning she was leaving after Sunday School for “personal reasons”!

Lice! The bane of school kids everywhere. Once in Mississippi one of my kids pointed out a woman at a garage sale, saying, “Oh no! The Lice Lady!” It was the dignified public health nurse who had earned that moniker by checking heads at school.

Maybe I should tell the pastor’s wife, if she doesn’t already know. What a delicate subject and situation! I had read that they are not spread by hats and scarves or using others’ combs and brushes, but by direct head-to-head contact. (Is my head itching, or am I just imagining it?)

Just yesterday I was reading the Bible portion of the one-year reading plan which happened to be 2 Timothy 4, Paul’s earnest exhortation to Timothy. (In it, there is a reference to “itching ears”, but not quite the same thing.) Paul was suffering in the cold, damp dungeon and reminded Timothy to bring his cloak, or coat, when he came. He also wanted the books (maybe portions of the Old Testament) and parchments, perhaps for more writing material.

Many of Paul’s “friends” had forsaken him. “Only Luke is with me,” he says in verse 11. Luke, a physician, was no doubt much comfort to him in his health needs, besides which he was a gifted writer, which had to be helpful. Paul said he was already being “poured out like a drink offering,” as his time of departure was at hand (4:21).

Kind of puts things like the risk of getting head lice from picking up Sunday School kids into perspective, doesn’t it?

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Friend in Need is a Friend Indeed

“You never know who God will send your way!” I remarked to our pastor as we left the service late yesterday morning. He had called the congregation to prayer, but when the last of us got up from the altar, everyone had gone except the lone figure kneeling there, still earnestly seeking God. A newcomer, in town on a short-term work assignment, he had joined those who were praying for our upcoming revival next week, but he had outlasted them all in his intercession. The minister agreed with me; it seemed the earnest young man had been sent to stand in the gap.

My words came back to me as we came out of the church last night and walked toward our car. The same friend was standing there, and I heard him say something to Howard, like “I’ve got good news and bad news.” I couldn’t hear the good news, but the bad news was, “You have a flat tire!”

Oh, no! I thought. Just that morning before we left for church, I asked Howard to see if the tire looked low to him. I thought maybe it was just the way it was sitting on the edge of lawn by the driveway. He thought it was, so he stopped and put air in it before we left town for our small church some 15 miles away. After church we had driven 12 or fifteen miles farther to eat lunch at a favorite restaurant just over the Kansas line, then all the way home and back to service tonight, not ever thinking to check the tire again!

Howard looked in the trunk for a can of tire inflator, but he and our volunteer had a hard time getting the tire to take the air. He found another can he had kept for emergencies, but as soon as they inserted the air, the tire collapsed again. “I can feel air coming from the back,” the younger man said as he put his hand behind the tire. “I think the tire has a bad place in it.” Finally, they got the tire inflated enough that they thought it would make it a few blocks to the service station to be aired up properly.

It was no use, though, as the tire had to be changed. Our good Samaritan quickly inserted the jack, Howard loosened the lug nuts, and they soon were replacing the damaged tire with the temporary one from the trunk. I was grateful for the strength of youth as our helper tightened the lugs on the bolts and made the wheel secure for travel again, although we held our breath and prayed that we would make it home safely.

Giving us his cell phone number to call if we needed to, the young man waved to us as he headed to his motel room. We followed his lights until we took our turn toward home, confident that God had indeed sent someone our way! We’re getting a new tire this morning!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

From Generation to Generation

How sweet it is! When children and grandchildren excel, that is! Our sweet Rachel had advanced to the state championship runs. And in scarcely a month from joining the team! Only 12, she was going on her first overnight school trip for the important event some 5 hours away. Nervous, but eagerly anticipating, our granddaughter tried to get some sleep bunking with teammates the night before.

“Mama, I want to come home,” her mother heard over the phone. “My stomach hurts,” her little girl whimpered. After reassuring words, Tums, pep talks and much tossing and turning, morning came and there was nothing for it but to toe the mark. On the track, Rachel’s confidence came back, and she helped lead her team to victory. They took first among 20 schools and Rachel received her first medal! We are all so proud of her!

Another granddaughter, Michaela, was chosen to go to a leadership conference in Indianapolis, far from her home in Eastern Tennessee. Home schooled and sheltered for most of her life, she had only recently begun public high school, but her traits of industry, conscientiousness, and excellence had brought her good will and recognition from her teachers.

“Mama, this is better than church camp,” the teenager exclaimed to her mother over the phone. Our daughter, Julie, had been more nervous than Michaela about letting her go on such a long trip. “My group is all Christian, and we are having so much fun!” The orderly, well-planned seminars and workshops, for which the students wore the required black skirts and white shirts, resonated with her personality and raised her awareness of a larger, important world out there where she could be involved and make a difference. She came home bubbling with excitement.

Last night I had the pleasure of reading some of my son’s first book! How rewarding to hear his heart coming through the varied scenarios and plots he has devised in this literary work called Parables. Jamie’s travels, education and experience have come together, enriching his words and the reader’s world by seeing through his eyes. A gifted student of life, our son writes in genres of poetry, science fiction, romance and mystery through complexities made simple and entertaining, and always uplifting. No wonder I’m on a high!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

All Creatures Great and Small

“The news of my death has been greatly exaggerated,” said Mark Twain. I thought we had had a loss in the neighborhood, when I surmised one of the most eccentric members had died. After all, I never saw her in her yard anymore, nor strolling across the street oblivious of the traffic she might be holding up. Oddly missing from our landscape was Ms. Guinea Hen.

All that seemed to remain of her was a metal replica of her silhouette held in the ground by an anchoring rod on the lawn of her owner’s house. In fact, I saw someone kneeling beside the likeness and digging in the ground one day. What was I to think, except that I was witnessing a burial ceremony?

After at least a year, I hear tonight that the guinea is alive and well. My daughter-in-law was taking supper to our son who is doing night-shift field work at the nearby refinery as part of a “turn-around”. Near the gate to the plant, Pebbles, their dog, began to bark out the car window at something that caught his eye. The guinea was indignantly ruffling her feathers at the dog and screeching her peculiar squawk.

Maybe she thought one dog in the neighborhood was enough, considering guineas are often used as “watchdogs”, due to their distinctive warning sound, a staccato-like, repetitious grating guaranteed to drive away any intruder.

I couldn’t believe my eyes the first time I saw the unusual-looking fowl when we moved here a few years ago. Looking something like an army helmet on foot, it patrolled like a sentry around its territory, even wandering into a grassy area buffering the plant from the residential area. I suppose that’s where it has been hanging out during all the months when I thought it was among the departed. Evidently it was good pickings with plentiful bugs, ticks, ants and other insects among the trees and grasses in the unpopulated park.

According to the story told my husband by the owner of the speckled bird, the guinea showed up the day that their watchdog of eleven years died. The lady said she always thought God sent her the guinea to take its place. In that case, our feathered friend might be around for a long time!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Sower Went Forth to Sow

I don’t think they’re getting anything out of this, I thought to myself. I had accompanied my husband to do a service at the nursing home, and the patients that had been brought to the meeting room seemed particularly unresponsive to the music.

Not to be deterred, Howard kept trying to engage them. “You’re singing great!" he exulted, although it was really just the two of us singing, since I had added my thin, alto voice to his eager efforts. Once in a while, someone’s lips moved almost indiscernibly to the lyrics, and that seemed like a major accomplishment. I was touched, though, when I had modeled the motion to “raise your hands to the One you love the best,” one unsteady arm went up.

We tried to ignore the constant diatribe by one angry patient, obviously the victim of senile dementia, who chanted, “No! I don’t like that! I don’t want that!” scowling fiercely as she flailed her arm threateningly at us. She was a child again, asserting her will by refusing something--food, wardrobe selection or decision--that some long-ago adult had thrust upon her. No one seemed to pay any attention to her, most seemingly withdrawn into their own world in a state of passive acceptance.

Howard cajoled, encouraged and ministered to them far beyond the extent of my endurance, and after an hour was almost gone, I sat down. He had started to gather his things, but laid them down and picked up the guitar again for a final strum and farewell refrain. One lady had a tentative smile on her face, and an attendant had been enjoying the concert. As I passed the chair of one of the most attentive patients on the way out, she reached out to touch me. Bending down, I strained my ear to her say in her faint, wavering voice, “We really appreciate that. We enjoyed it so much.”

In the car, I asked Howard what the activities director had said to him during a brief conversation when we had first come in. He said he had reminded her that we could visit rooms where patients were sad and depressed to try to cheer them, and she had responded, “Oh, this group fits that category! Go right ahead.” Hopefully we had succeeded.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Guardian Angels

Last night as a sermon illustration on his message, “A Saving Saviour”, our pastor recalled an incident that happened to him in his childhood. He and his two brothers were forbidden to go to a recently dug pond near their home in rural Oklahoma. Nevertheless, after a big rain which filled the pond to overflowing and in their parents’ absence, the boys, all non-swimmers, ventured to the pond. The youngest jumped in, flailed around and was about to drown. After a terrified argument about who would rescue him, one boy became the hero and saved his brother’s life.

Though it was a serious situation, our pastor’s animated story-telling style infused the long-ago scenario with drama and humor, keeping the congregation on the edge of their seats or gasping with laughter. “That was quite a story,” I remarked after the service to the lady sitting next to me.”

“You know,” the 83-year-old said, “something like that happened to me when I was young!” She went on to tell how she had gotten into a pond with several cousins. Although she couldn’t swim, she rode and hung on to a log as it bobbed around in the water. Suddenly the log sank, taking the little girl down with it. “I was drowning!” she exclaimed, the memory obviously as fresh in her mind as when it happened more than 70 years before. “And the strangest thing happened!”, she said in amazement. “My life passed before my eyes!”

“Really?” I replied. I had heard of this phenomenon before, and I was fascinated. I asked her what it was like, and she said scenes of her childhood flashed in rapid succession through her consciousness! Thankfully, a cousin who could swim pulled her out in the nick of time.

I’d had a close call myself as a child. Raised with a houseful of boys, I had trailed off after them to the creek one day and found myself sitting on a log holding on to my eight-year-old brother and floating through flood-swollen waters. I remember falling from my slippery perch and seeing the yellow water swirling before my eyes. Then suddenly I was being yanked to safety by my long blonde hair my brother had grabbed! Maybe the buoyancy of the water helped, but somehow he managed to get me back on the log. Angels watching over me! My short life did not flash before my eyes, so I guess he caught me before I had reached that point.

Some say this condition is caused by lack of oxygen to the brain, but who really knows? It is amazing to think that our histories are stored like this, with events we might not even remember surfacing in an instant. Romans 14:10-12 tells us that we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God and that each one of us shall give an account of himself to God. I’m sure God will have a way of replaying our lives for us to see. How thankful we will be if our sins have been blotted out and we have trusted in our “Saving Saviour”.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Movers and Shakers

“Look how funny!” I told my husband today. We were eating lunch at Sonic, the piped music blaring a ’Fifties rock’n’roll song, and above a board fence on the other side I could see two children bouncing on a trampoline. It was as if they were choreographed! They had no idea they were bouncing to the music, but as their arms and legs flailed and they bounced like rubber balls, the song warbled, “Get out to that kitchen and rattle those pots and pans…Shake, Rattle and Roll…” I had to laugh at their unintentional entertaining performance.

I remember another time in Mississippi when I sat in the car listening to the radio while Howard went into a store. The music was inspirational hymns and worship songs, and as I glanced up at the sky, the gulls were swooping, soaring and gliding in perfect rhythm to the music. It was as if they were praising God! As if they had some ability to pick up on the radio waves in the air and were expressing joy flying effortlessly in harmony with His creation.

I love the old hymn, “This is My Father’s World”, which says, “This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears All nature sings, and round me rings The music of the spheres.” Evidently the author had something of my same feelings. The next verse begins, “This is my Father’s world, The birds their carols raise, The morning light, the lily white, Declare their maker’s praise.”

Jesus said, when people were praising Him during his triumphal entry into Jerusalem as he sat upon a colt, “I tell you, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.” The Pharisees had told him to rebuke those who were saying, “Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.”

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard,” Psalm 19:1-3. We had a friend in Mississippi whose gift was writing poetry and songs. His favorite saying, almost a mantra, was “Listen to the rhythm of the Spirit.”

There is a natural rhythm and design that God has put into nature; after all, Genesis 1:2 tells us, “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” We are not to worship nature, nor the creature instead of the Creator. But what a joyous experience it is when we are in tune with the Holy Spirit. “In Him we live, and move, and have our being,” Acts 17:28. Almost like being choreographed!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Wedding Portrait

My granddaughter received a long-awaited package in the mail this week. Her wedding album! Never had photographs been so eagerly anticipated. But her volunteer photographer and favorite uncle had had a busy summer.

Two weeks on a mission trip to Japan; a prior commitment to help me with the publishing of my book; work assignments juggled with child care; an epic two-week family vacation to the west coast; sermons to prepare and youth band practices to direct; a traumatic burglary to his home; a trip to Oklahoma for his mother’s birthday; a youth camp to plan and direct; entertaining parents on our vacation; the list goes on and on. Besides which, he is, or was growing up, a master of procrastination! Well, he did have a lot on his plate!

But I’m sure the pictures were worth the wait. And it was less than six months, not long for a gift that will last a lifetime. A treasured memory of a beautiful bride, her groom, and all their favorite people around them captured forever in the glow of happiness that a wedding brings.

Wedding dates, so eagerly anticipated, can seem to take forever to arrive, then suddenly, the date has come amid all the flurry of preparations and just as suddenly passed. In the Bible, a story is given of an ancient wedding, described in the customs of the day. The bridesmaids were all in readiness, but the bridegroom delayed his coming, then arriving at midnight, found some of them unaware and sleeping. Their lamps had gone out, and going for more oil, they missed the wedding due to their careless inattentiveness.

It’s not fun to miss a wedding. We arrived at a nephew’s wedding once just in time to meet the bride and groom exiting the church. Running late, we’d had to get a gift card and then stop to put gas in the car. Our “oil” had run out, as had the lamps in the Bible story.

In the biblical fashion of marriage, we are awaiting our Heavenly bridegroom. We do not know when he will arrive, but it is our job, as the Bride of Christ, to make ourselves ready. A bridegroom of Jesus’ day left his betrothed to build and prepare a home for the bride under his Father’s guidance. No matter how eager he was to hurry the job and take shortcuts in his haste, he could not retrieve his bride until his father deemed the house to be ready.

Jesus told us that He has gone to prepare a place for us. We may not know the date, but all signs point to His imminent return. May our wedding gown be without spot or wrinkle, and may we with the scripture in Revelation 22:17, agree that “The Spirit and the bride say, come.” And in Revelation 22:20, when Jesus says, “Surely I come quickly,” we respond, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”

Running the Race

“Rachel has been chosen to go to State with the top runners in Cross Country!” my daughter, Amy, told me over the phone the other night. Wow! My 12-year-old granddaughter has really discovered her talent! It was only a few weeks ago that she was invited to try out for the team, and now she is excelling as a champion!

"Will you go with her?" I asked Amy, since she said the event was 5 hours away. She said they would go to the meet, (but Rachel informed her she wouldn't ride with her family, but go on the bus with her friends, because they would stay at a hotel and stop at Chik-Fila on their way back.)

I called Miss Rachel to congratulate her last night. It was past six, an hour later, their time, and she was just getting picked up from school by her mom. “We had a run tonight, Mimi,” Rachel bubbled. “I got a ribbon! I was #15,” she went on.

15 out of 200 isn’t bad, I knew. “The top 10 got a medal, but the top 20 got ribbons,” she explained. She didn’t sound disappointed at all, but very chipper and excited. I found out why a few minutes later.

“Mimi, I was the only one to improve on my personal record!” Rachel announced proudly. She told me she had beaten her previous best by several minutes (or seconds, maybe). “And my homeroom teacher, who is the track coach, asked me to join track!” I had thought it was the same thing as Cross Country, but apparently not.

“Track will be much easier running, but more competitive,” Amy explained. Running on a short oval or track would be simpler than the hills and woods of Cross Country, I realized. I congratulated our little runner again.

I was glad Rachel seemed more thrilled about beating her own record than winning over someone else. It reminded me that as Christians, we are not to compare ourselves to other Christians, but to strive to be better than we are. To grow in grace, as Paul said in II Peter 3:15.

Many times in the Bible our life is compared to a race. In II Timothy 4:7, Paul says, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course (race), I have kept the faith.” In Psalm 119:32, the psalmist says, “I will run the way (course) of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.”

I read once that the reason the Grand Prix winning cyclist, Lance Armstrong, has so much endurance is because his heart is one-third larger than normal. Lord, give us a heart with a great capacity to show forth your love to others, and may we always improve our own personal record!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Mid-week Visitation

We had had a wonderful, anointed song service last night at church, and the spirited, substitute pianist was asked to sing a special song before she returned to her seat. When this dear lady sings and plays, all heaven comes down. Lost in the Spirit, she thunders on the keys, her aged body rocking back and forth, and fairly belts out worship songs that make you want to dance in the aisles.

Thankfully, our pastor was sensitive to the Holy Spirit and recognized the congregation’s willingness to yield to Him. “Let’s just all come to the altar to seek God, especially for our upcoming revival,” he entreated. There would be no sermon tonight, but we would hear from heaven. God met with us as many knelt, stood, or worshipped at their seats.

Finally, I rose from the altar where I was praying beside my husband and sat down on the front row. I noticed a young man kneeling alone at the altar, his head buried in his arms in prayer. A newcomer, here on a work assignment from out of state, he had previously expressed gratefulness for finding our church, though different from his own denomination.

Suddenly I felt drawn to go to him, and, uncharacteristically for me, I laid my hand on his shoulder and asked him if he had been baptized in the Holy Spirit. He lifted his head slightly and said he didn’t know. He nodded when I asked if he would like to be filled with the Spirit. Soon he was praying with uplifted hands, tears streaming down his face. I got my husband to come and pray for him, also, and others gathered around joining him as his prayers turned to praise and rejoicing.

Although it wasn’t scheduled for another couple of weeks, revival was here! Pastor asked the young man if he wanted to say anything as he got to his feet a little later.

“I might have told you,” he began, “I used to go to a Pentecostal church when I was in high school. But that was a long time ago. I hadn’t been in that kind of church since, until I came here,” he said, wiping his eyes. “My mother has been praying for me these many years when I haven’t been right with God. She’ll be so happy God has answered her prayers.”

God answered a lot of prayers last night, including my prayer for renewed strength and healing from a physical infirmity I’d had lately. Doctor’s tests the day before hadn’t revealed the cause for my fatigue and weakness, but I am already feeling stronger today, thanks to the faith-renewing touch of God’s Spirit last night!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Power Cord

My computer was dead! It went dark right in the middle of the article I was writing! No lights, nothing. No matter how many times I pushed “start”, it wouldn’t. Finally I closed it. When I was certain it was no use, I called my son to toll the funeral bell on my electronic friend. He said it sounded like something electrical, and for me to take it to the repair shop.

The next morning, I half-heartedly pushed buttons one more time, saying a prayer for it to come on. Just as I was about to close the lid, my computer sprang to life! Thank you, Lord! Later, I used it briefly, it shut down, but again, prayer brought it back! It had been resuscitated twice, but it went down for the third time. This time I took it to the computer shop.

It wasn’t dead, it only needed a new power cord! Praise God! I was feeling so bereft without it! The answered prayer had been dramatic, though, and my prayers that I wouldn’t have to get a new computer were answered, too!

Last night at our Bible study, the leader asked his grandmother to share the testimony again that she had given last week when we were absent. She said she would be happy to. Ms. Ruth said a few days before, she had taken a shower, got ready for bed, and suddenly felt very unwell. An awful feeling came over her, and she considered having her grandson take her to the emergency room. Just as she had made up her mind to do just that, she heard God say, “What about Me?”

Upon hearing those words, she thought, okay, I’ll go pray about this. She got into her recliner and began to pray. “Suddenly a feeling of warmth, almost a burning, began to go through me from here to here,” she said, drawing her hand down the middle of her chest and abdomen. “At first, it kind of scared me,” the elderly woman admitted, “but then when it stopped, I felt good, and I’ve been fine ever since!” She gave God glory for healing her, as the rest of us joined her in praise.

Before he started our lesson our leader asked prayer for pain he had been having in his feet and legs. Going on with the lesson, he began to read in Acts 3:2, about the lame man God healed through Peter and John. He read verses 7 and 8, which say, “And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. (8) And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered into the temple with them, walking, and leaping, and praising God.”
When it was pointed out what he had just read, our instructor began jumping in faith that his feet and legs would be healed! I can’t wait ’til next week to see what God has done!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Jehovah Jirah, My Provider

Yesterday our pastor was preaching about God’s provision, referencing scriptures such as Genesis 45:21, when Joseph gave his brothers provision for their journey as they returned to Canaan to rescue their father’s house in the time of famine. Not only did he send resources to take back to their father, he also took care of their travel expenses and needs. The sermon emphasis was that not only will we have Heaven as our reward, but God also takes care of us in this life.

Last week one of our precious daughters, Amy, and two of our sweet grandchildren, Corrin and Rachel, flew out to visit us from Georgia. Our time together would be all too short, so I put a lot of planning into the days they would be here, knowing the kids, especially, would not be content to sit around the house and visit.

The first day, we went on a lovely walking tour through Cann Gardens to enjoy the beautiful fall flowers and scenic grounds. After a burger/milkshake lunch at Happy Days, which Corrin had requested, we took the kids to a private showing of A Dolphin’s Tale (since the local schools were not on Fall break, we were the only ones at the matinee).

I had a special dinner planned, and even though I had forgotten a few things, my family helped gather everything from goat cheese to dried cranberries in a dash to the supermarket. We would have salmon in puffed pastry, and cheese, cranberry and walnut salad with lemon/maple vinaigrette. I had just set the table with my prettiest dishes and was taking the entrée from the oven, when the electricity in the dining room went out. We could figure it out later, but right now, dinner was served and the room was dark!

I had two candlesticks on the table flanking a seasonal arrangement, but that wouldn’t make enough light. (The salmon rested on a yellow rice base and was topped with spinach, making a lovely contrast of colors when cut through, which couldn’t be appreciated in half-light.) Then I remembered a veritable inferno of grouped pillar candles on the fireplace mantel. I had bought them at Ikea in Houston earlier this year, and they had never been used. Our table was lit up brilliantly!

Thank you, Lord, for working everything out! He knew there would be a time when I needed those candles! I saw His hand in the details throughout their visit, from Amy’s appreciative comments about the smooth sheets and pretty bed covering, their enjoyment of our porch and their compliments on the meals, to their awe of the prairie dogs and eagles in the country. The best part was their safe arrival and safe return home. God had given them (and us) provision for their journey.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Right Place at the Right Time

“Stop the car, Howard!” I cried, “That looks like a lost child!” We had just let our visiting daughter and her kids out at Walmart and were planning to circle or park, when I saw the little girl with a panicky, terrified expression on her face standing on the curb at the front of the store. She was crying, and no one was noticing, though several shoppers were coming out around her.

Releasing my seatbelt, I jumped out of the car almost without thinking.

“What’s wrong, honey?” I asked as I touched her shoulder.

“I lost my daddy! I lost my daddy!” she sobbed. I asked her what he looked like, and the color of his hair. Looking around, the only man I saw was of another race walking across the parking lot.

“Let’s go in and find your daddy!” I said as I took her hand. She wasn’t much over four years old.

“Not my daddy! My granny!” she clarified fervently. I told her we would go in to the “office” and they would find her granny. She calmed and trustingly held my hand as we entered the store.

“I have a lost child,” I said to the first employee I saw, a greeter. He looked very flustered, but told me to take her to customer service. Suddenly that seemed far away as I hurried past a bank, a money center, and maybe a game room. My heart was moved at the thought of this little child, maybe the age of my next-youngest granddaughter, innocently depending on a complete stranger to take her to safety.

Just as we entered the customer service area, an elderly woman standing at the counter turned around from her shopping cart and said, “Why, there she is right now!” as the little girl buried her face against the woman’s skirts. “She was just here a minute ago!” the woman exclaimed. Evidently she hadn’t realized right away that the child was missing, because she’d had time to get outside where I found her looking searchingly over the parking lot.

The clerk came around from around the counter, and in a lecturing tone, said, “Now if that ever happens again, you must come right to this area,” she told the little girl. And how would she find this area? I thought, putting myself in her place, less than 40 inches tall, unable to read, her thoughts a jumbled confusion in the crush of shoppers and bright lights?

I was just glad I had seen her. Anything might have happened to her, from stepping in front of a car to going with the wrong person. Thank you, God, that I hadn’t gone into the store with my daughter, that we hadn’t gone to Walmart earlier as we had planned, but I was, in this small window of time, able to save a little one from possible harm. It felt good to be part of something that I have no doubt was divinely orchestrated.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Winning Word

I found a Deluxe Edition Scrabble CrossWord Game at an estate sale. That means I paid a couple bucks for a $30-$50 game! The kind I’ve always wanted with a turntable and recessed squares to hold tiles. It’s in perfect condition, and I thought, never used, until today when I found a pad of “Official Score Sheets” in a recessed area in the bottom of the box. The three on top had been meticulously filled in, and the penciled date was recorded as 7/7/90.

The columns were neatly marked with scores of Gene, Dad, Mom and Tonya for two games on the first sheet. Tonya was the consistently high scorer except for once when Gene and Tonya played a couple of games with Lynn and Dale, and Lynn emerged the winner. Tonya was ahead on a game that was obviously interrupted as evidenced by a half-filled sheet. Maybe because the kids wanted to play, judging from the names of Katie, Anne and Mary in childish print beside their (lower) scores on the next sheet.

I was reminded of our church’s “game night” that we had every Friday in Mississippi when people were encouraged to bring their board games for an evening of fun and fellowship. My favorite was Scrabble, played on a unique-looking, revolving board treasured by a youngish, fun-filled lady who had inherited it from someone in her family. I remember the board sitting on an octagonal base, with sloped sides for each player, letter trays resting discreetly out of the view of other players at the bottom. Janell always carefully packed and put it away in the huge box at the end of the evening.

The major competitor for Scrabble was a game of Mexican Dominoes, presided over by a sprightly octogenarian who gave all participants a run for their money (figuratively speaking). Her crown of white curls bobbed in excitement as she won almost every game, her delighted laugh cackling above the howls of mock disappointment from her gentlemen opponents.

Both the domino expert and the vintage game board owner are gone now. My Mississippi friends have finished their game of life; their scores have been tallied, with any discrepancies paid in full by the blood of Jesus. The anonymous people recorded on the score sheet in my box are more than 20 years older now, possibly still in the midst of life’s game, or even having gone on.

Thankfully, our scores don’t have to be winning ones to obtain eternal life. We only have to come to saving faith in Jesus. Like Paul, may we say, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” II Timothy 4:7-8.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Wait and See

We have a lot of older people in our church, and Sunday the soloist sang something dealing with “life’s setting sun”. Later, when he was taking the prayer requests, he commented on the song. “You know,” Tom said, “when I was singing that I thought about several of us that could apply to.” He went on, “I know my sun is setting.” Wow! He’s only a few years older than me, I thought, and I don’t feel like that!

“I had a friend,” the thin, sprightly man continued, “who was told he had only a few months to live and to get his affairs in order. He did that, planning his funeral and lining up his pall bearers. Six months went by, then a year, plus another year, and he was still living, Finally, all his pall bearers died,” he finished with a chuckle.

Then the pastor, who had come along side Tom standing at the altar, told a story. “Friday night wife and I went to the football game with Tom and Sophie to see their grandson play,” he began. “But at half time, when the score was Visitors 12 and Home 3, we decided to call it a night and go home,” he said, shaking his head. Then, turning to Tom, he asked, “Now what was the final score, Tom?” to which Tom answered, “Visitors 13, Home 36!” The pastor concluded, “It’s not over ’til it’s over!” On that encouraging note, they received the prayer requests.

Life is unpredictable. Also unpredictable are the things that come from children’s mouths. Our son wrote that their four-year-old daughter has spent most of her church time in the nursery, but she sat with them this past Sunday, which was communion Sunday. When Anne-Marie saw what was going on, she exclaimed, “Oh, we get a snack! And something to drink, too!” I doubt Tammy, her mom, could explain everything right then, but I’m sure there was a teaching moment later.

When Anne-Marie’s father was about her age or a little older, I heard him singing as we left the church one Sunday, “No, you’re not, No, you’re not, You’re not the temple,” misinterpreting the words of a hymn that say, “Know ye not, Know ye not, Ye are the temple. Ye are the temple of the Holy Ghost.”

As long as we have grandchildren’s football games to attend and kids’ funny sayings to make us laugh, we will at least feel young and have to admit that “It’s not over ’til it’s over.” Besides which, I got a new lease on life today at lunch out, when the cashier asked my husband and me if either of us might be over 55 to qualify for the seniors' discount!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Like Father, Like Son

“Mama, remember that tank you got me for Christmas when I was a kid?” our son, Trevor, said to me over the phone yesterday. I had asked him what our grandson, 11-year-old Bradley, was up to, and, by way of explanation he had brought up the toy.

Of course I remembered! It wasn’t just a toy, but a miniature replica of a real army tank with rolling tracks that carried it realistically around the house, climbing over books, shoes, or anything else in its path. Young Trevor had seen it in a store and coveted it fiercely. If I remember right, it cost more than we usually spent on toys, but it was his special present that year, and he has kept it all this time.

“Well, Bradley wanted it to play with, but something is broken about it,” he went on. “But I found one on Craigslist still in the box, new from 1980 or so. We got it and now all Brad does is play with it!”

A chip off the old block. I could just see my grandson, so like his father with the same red hair, lying on the floor engrossed in imaginative adventures with the fascinating plaything. Trevor had spent countless hours the same way in the timeless world of boyhood, playing with racing sets, a favorite toy called “Chutes Away”, or that tank.

When he left home after college, the tank was a treasured possession that went with him. A couple of times over the years, Trevor has pulled it from his closet and showed it to me in a sentimental moment.. (This is the son who hangs on to a camouflage jacket from 20 years ago and still uses the same faded, paperback Bible from his teen years.)

“Well, you said Bradley is always asking what you did as a boy, so now he knows,” I laughed. Brad is incredulous that his dad survived without Wii games, computers, and video games. But when Trevor spins tales of hunting, fishing, and exploring the woods of his rural childhood, Brad is actually a bit envious.

I am thankful that not only has our son kept his Bible, he has also kept the faith he grew up with. Trevor and Jennifer are instilling in Bradley and his brother, Kyle, a foundation for their futures by attending church as a family and living by godly principles in front of them. Now that is equipping them with something more powerful than a military tank!