Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Taken by Surprise?

"Please identify any items you left behind at Thanksgiving," the e-mail from our son who had hosted the family last week, read. Well, I didn't leave anything, I thought smugly as I pulled up the photo captioned, "Thanksgiving Lost and Found". Our detail-oriented offspring (he calls it OCD) had everything neatly arranged and evenly spread out on a black background for our convenience and/or surprise.

I recognized a striped hoodie shirt I had seen on my grandson, and a game cube his brother had been playing with non-stop. Other items--headbands, doll blanket, and small slippers could only have been left by the two little girls in our party. There were also a couple of pair of glasses--sunglasses and reading glasses--but they weren't mine. Then my eyes fell on a coiled, black item that looked familiar. My belt! The patent leather-looking one with the pretty square buckle! I hadn't even missed it!

What I had missed while I was there was a belt for a sweater I had brought. Getting dressed to go out, I reached for a coiled length of black grosgrain and put it around my waist, ready to close the buckle fastener, when I looked down to see I had a guitar strap in my hand! How could this happen? I distinctly remembered seeing my belt on my bed and putting it into the suitcase! I must have gotten the look-alike (except for a loop to go around the neck) strap by mistake! So I had to improvise with the belt I now see in the e-mail photo!

Another surprise we had on our adventure was when Jamie, the chef, pulled a show-stopper at dinner. He had placed all the beautiful side dishes on the Thanksgiving table, and set the nicely-done turkey in the center. "I never have figured out how to carve these things," he said as he held the knife poised over the breast of the tantalizing centerpiece. Then, to our amazement, he sliced completely through it crossways, slice after luscious slice, revealing the stuffing underneath.

"How did he do that?" someone gasped. Then I remembered seeing him debone the turkey that morning, leaving only wings and drumsticks intact. It had the desired effect of surprise on the guests.

We were surprised again when Grandma's voice emanated from the tape recorder he had set down in the middle of a game that night. What a poignant and sentimental experience that was as she told old family stories that had us laughing and crying at the same time.

Surprises may be delightful or alarming, but there is no reason for us to be surprised about our eternal destiny. If we have put on the full armor of God, including the helmet of salvation and the belt of Truth, we will not be left behind; we will be reunited with our saved loved ones at a beautiful supper in heaven, where we will all be wearing our wedding garment, without spot or wrinkle or wardrobe malfunction!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


"USE YOUR OUTSIDE VOICE," the billboard read as we traveled along the interstate highway on our way home from Texas. Clever, I thought, (even though I wished the kiddos traveling with us would use their inside voices). By appealing to advertisers to take advantage of the millions of people passing daily or weekly and reading a commercial message, the billboard offered a unique avenue of communication.

Use your outside voice. Isn't that what John the Baptist did in the days before modern communication? In his raiment of camel's hair, the rugged outdoorsman announced himself as "The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight," Matthew 3:3. In verse 2, he preached, "Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

Jesus had grown up by then and was ready to accomplish His mission. But when He was born, thirty years earlier, the angels had heralded his birth with their "outside voices" to shepherds on a Judean hillside. We know it as the Christmas story as recorded in Luke 2:1-20. First, the angel of the Lord appeared to them, and to reassure them in their fright, said, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people." Then he told them of Jesus' birth in the city of David and gave them the sign of finding the child wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

"And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men." You can be sure they were using their outside voices!

Several times during Jesus' ministry, God affirmed His Son in His outside voice: First, when Jesus came up from baptism, God spoke from a cloud saying, "Thou art my beloved son; in thee I am well pleased." And again on the Mount of Transfiguration, God re-emphasized in His outside voice, "This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him," Matthew 17:5.

Jesus used his outside voice when He stilled the waters, cast out demons, called forth Lazarus, and countless other times. Sometimes he magnified his voice by using the natural amplification of the lakes and mountains when he taught. Finally, He used his outside voice when he cried out from the cross, saying, "It is finished," completing the work of our salvation.

Once more His outside voice will be heard when, as in I Thessalonians 4:16, it says, "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the arch-angel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first." And if we are alive and have heard the shout, the next verse promises, "Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." One outside Voice you don't want to miss!

Blast from the Past

What a slice of history we were experiencing! In the middle of a family huddle of conversation and laughter over the dining table at our son, Jamie's, house, I was suddenly aware of my own voice coming from a tape recorder. "When did you record that?" I asked in surprise. Then I realized I was hearing a tape made some 20 years ago by our then highschool son when we were on a trip to "Grandma's".

"Grandma", my mother, was being interviewed for posterity by Jamie, her sixteen-year-old grandson. And here was posterity giving rapt attention to her colorful tales told in her dear, familiar voice, unheard for the past 15 years. "These are folk tales!" her great-grandson, Grant, exclaimed in delight. Grant doesn't remember much about my mother, having seen her only a few times in his young life; she passed away when he was only seven.

A natural story-teller, Mama had us holding our sides in laughter as she recounted outlandish adventures she recalled from the "hard times" of the 1940s. I was familiar with these stories, and I could hear myself faintly in the background jogging her 82-year-old memory, or reminding her to speak into the mic. (When her voice grew faint, it was because she had put the microphone to her ear like a telephone.) Then, enjoying the blunder as much as anyone, she laughed at herself, her voice pealing out in delight to us across the airwaves and across the years.

Mama's stories were kind of like the Bible, telling the unvarnished truth in un-sugar-coated realism of their desperate hard times that called for desperate measures. Yet when told from her distant vantage point, any embarrassment or disgrace dissolved in the hilarity and novelty of the situations, especially to the ears of her hearers.

This bridge to the past, a lesson in perseverance to her descendants, only makes us appreciate more the goodness of God, who brought our family through to stability and a measure of prosperity when faith in Him became the cornerstone of our lives. Thank you, Mama, for helping us to remember.

Monday, November 28, 2011

I'd Know You Anywhere!

“Allison?” the stranger said questioningly, looking intently at my 19-year-old granddaughter. We had just entered Houston’s biggest and most famous shopping mall, the Galleria, during our Thanksgiving trip from Oklahoma. “Is that you?”

“Yes. Hi!” Allison said. With a brief how have you been, the moment was past. In answer to my puzzled look, she offered, “That was someone I used to know in Louisiana.”

In Louisiana? Wow! They had moved from there six years ago! And imagine the odds that the first person we ran into in the crowded mall was someone she knew!

It reminded me of the time we were in Houston at Ikea, and we bumped into a former church member from Mississippi. She now lived near Houston, an area of some 3 million people, and we were living in Oklahoma. Amazing! Or the time we lived in New Orleans and had taken a vacation to the Smoky Mountains. We stopped at a convenience store in Birmingham and found ourselves parked beside our next-door neighbors from home!

It is startling and usually a happy surprise when you run into someone like this. We had stopped at the Welcome Center in Texas as we came from Oklahoma last week with our son and family. We noticed a couple playing with a darling puppy on the grass in front of the building and walked over to admire it. As the children petted the pudgy little charmer, my husband engaged the man in conversation. Turns out he drives a truck which delivers to a company where a friend of ours works. He knew him well!

I Corinthians 13:12 says, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then I shall know even as I am known.”

We have instant access to so much information today, thanks to the internet, but that is nothing compared to the full knowledge we will have in Heaven. And although we can reconnect with people from nearly every stage in our lives via Facebook, imagine the joy of seeing so many in Glory face-to-face! Some may even be a surprise to you (and you to them)!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Give and It Shall Be Given

"Mama, you said God would bless me if I gave money in the offering, and He did!" My 12-year-old granddaughter exclaimed to her mother. Her uncle had just given his young visiting nieces and nephews money as Christmas gifts. Rachel wasted no time in enjoying this blessing as she shopped at the Galleria later yesterday.

I had to agree with the sentiment myself last night. With my family scattered far and wide, I take advantage of the chance to give them their gifts early if I will be seeing them before Christmas. Not long ago I had seen a gorgeous soup tureen at an amazingly low price at an estate sale, and, against all logic, since I would soon be downsizing and putting things into storage, I bought it. I enjoyed it for a couple of weeks and then the thought occured to me that it would make a wonderful present for my daughter I would see at Thanksgiving.

But what to give to the rest of the family? The wonderful big Scrabble set I had found at a previous sale would be perfect. I liked it a lot, but they had so enjoyed using it on a visit a few weeks ago, I decided to give it to them. And they were thrilled with it, thanking me profusely before loading it into their vehicle to take home to Georgia.

Then yesterday, following through with the activities on our hosts', Jamie and Tammy's, agenda, we browsed through the corridors and stores of the Galleria in Houston. We picked up a couple of items, including a cushy gingerbread man for our grandbaby at a build-your-own teddy bear store, but we really didn't shop.

Later on, we filled a couple of hours at a bookstore until dark when we could take a tour of seeing Christmas lights with the family. I had covered the entire store twice, and had bought nothing but a birthday card. Several books and displays were interesting, but nothing called out "buy me".

Just as I was headed to the exit to join the others, my son, Trevor, called out to me. "Mom! Did you see that giant Scrabble board back there?" No, I hadn't seen it, just the regular-looking ones in the games department. But my eyes lit up and I asked where, exactly. He pointed me in the direction, and I found a huge, deluxe edition with inch-high letters in an attractive carrying case displaying a colorful game board. I loved it! It looked expensive, though!

"The sign says 50% off," I said to the clerk. "Does that include these?" I asked her.

"Yes, it was supposed to be just for the smaller games, but we decided to include this, too. But just for today," she emphasized. Well, it was Black Friday, after all. My heart leapt at the possibility of getting the beautiful set. I asked if I could take it to show my husband, and she offered to carry it up front when I remarked how heavy it was.

"Are you buying that?" my son asked, wide-eyed, when he saw me following the sales clerk. I told him I wanted to see if Howard would buy it for me, and he said, "I'll buy it for you!" I protested, but he was adamant. How sweet to buy me such a wonderful gift! I thought.

When we got back to Jamie's house, everyone exclaimed over the handsome board, and my husband and our son, Mark, joined Trevor and me for a game. What fun we had and what a pleasure to whirl the effortless turntable and admire the beautiful "Giant Edition" with its walnut frame. Was God blessing me for unselfishly giving away my other treasured set? I believe He was!

Friday, November 25, 2011

In His Image

Oh,no! Anne-Marie got hurt! I thought, as I saw my 5-year-old granddaughter wailing, face red and tears pouring, in the wagon with the other small children. Someone rushed and picked her up, but she was inconsolable. They carried her to where we were sitting at a picnic table, and she was still boo-hooing.

"What happened?" I questioned. "Is she hurt?"

"No. Maddie told her she didn't like her." What? Her two-year-old sister hurt her feelings? Anne-Marie was nodding to my question under tear-soaked lashes.

The wagon was pulled up, and the crest-fallen, red-haired culprit climbed out. She looked up at her big sister and said, with some prodding, "I sow-wy."

"Now tell her you love her," she was instructed, to which Maddie said softly, "I wuv you." Then they hugged in a sisterly embrace and the sun came out again. The clouds were rolled away as quickly as the storm had arisen.

New, visiting playmates were present on this Thanksgiving afternoon, and Maddie had temporarily transferred her loyalties to them in some small infraction in the crowded wagon, I suppose, and offended her sensitive sister.

Later, when I told their mother what had happened, Tammy remarked on Anne-Marie's tender nature. "I never have to scold her," she said. "Just a word of correction or a look is all it takes. If I do more, she crumples into tears." We laughed about the difference in the little girls.

Maddie's personality, at this stage anyway, seems robust and tough in comparison to the little sunbeam that is her sister. A serious baby frown often creases her two-year-old brow as she seems to hold the world at a distance until she is good and ready to invite you into her good graces (which is always worth the wait).

God makes us all unique, with our special gifts. That is no doubt one reason the Bible says to train up a child in the way he should go. Watching children develop and observing their traits is like opening a present, discovering something new and different, though no less valuable, in every one. God is a God of infinite variety and newness. My husband is fond of saying, "They made one like (her or him) and quit," to which I say, "Who? No one is like the other!" Rather, He made each one, then broke the mold! And thank God, He did!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Give Thanks

“Did you get the CD on ‘The Blessing’ that I sent you?” Howard asked our daughter, Amy, who had joined us at our Thanksgiving reunion yesterday.

“Yes! I love it!” Amy responded enthusiastically. We had gotten a teaching on the Numbers 6 Blessing, or the Aaronic Blessing, as recorded in the biblical book of Numbers, Chapter 6. Howard had sent a copy of the CD to our two daughters and had been sharing the concept with almost everyone he talks to and incorporating it into his sermons.

“I’ve been praying it over my patients!” Amy exclaimed, to her father’s delight.

“You have?” he remarked in surprise. “What do they say?”

“They love it!” she said. Then she explained to family who overheard the conversation that she is the Director of Out Patient Surgery at the hospital where she works in Georgia. “I especially pray it over those who are nervous about their surgery. Sometimes they are upset and crying, and they are very receptive!”

She went on, “One lady said, ‘You’re Methodist, aren’t you?’ ‘No,’ I said. ‘Baptist?’ ‘No, I’m Church of God,’ I told her. ‘Then lay hands on me again!’ she insisted!”

“I’m always praying it over my children, too,” Amy emphasized. “I believe in it!”

The scripture says, “The Lord bless thee and keep thee: The Lord make his face to shine upon thee, and be gracious to thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee and give thee peace,” Numbers 6:23-26.

I can’t think of a better blessing to pronounce at our Thanksgiving table, and I’m sure my husband, the patriarch of the 26 of our clan gathered today, plus a couple of others joining us, will be called upon to pray it!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Oh, how cute! I thought when I saw the little Castle Tent in the circular. That would be perfect to take to my five-year-old granddaughter (who is all about princesses) when we see her tomorrow! It was Howard’s day off and I suggested we drive to our “shopping town” where the store is located. The big sale was to start Monday, and that was today. I was a little fuzzy on the details, though, but I was thinking the special prices began at 4:00 pm.

We took the toy to the register. “I know it’s not four o’clock yet,” my husband said to the cashier, “but can we get this for the special price? We’re from out of town.”

The young man checked the sale paper. “No,” he said, “This goes on sale on Black Friday.” Black Friday! That would be Thursday at midnight, and we would be in Texas by then! I wanted to go ahead and pay the full price, but Howard wanted to think about it. Oh, well, she has too many toys, anyway, I consoled myself. Disappointment hung like a stubborn cloud in the back of my mind as I walked away. I checked out some advertised boots, but the rock bottom prices were for Friday, too.

I looked around for my husband, and I glimpsed him at the register. He was buying the tent! “Did you change your mind?” I asked him. He was in a jovial mood, and the clerk was saying something about how much he had saved! “What happened?” I asked him as he handed me the bag.

A woman had been standing at the counter with her purchases, and hearing our discussion with the cashier, Howard told me she had said to the clerk, “Can’t you come up with some coupons or something for this man?” Evidently he had, giving us 20%-and 15%-off coupons that were in effect all day Monday! I had forgotten about that! With the 35% reduction, we got our purchase for less than the sale price! Thank you, Lord!

I thought about that last night at our Bible study when the leader asked for any testimonies. A man had just disclosed that he had had a distinct impression from the Lord that when we hold our arms up and out in worship, it is like a funnel for us to receive from God. (I visualized a hopper car on a train.) We had started the meeting with praise choruses including the one which says, “I saw the Lord: He was high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.” Howard’s sermon title on Sunday! He had already shared about our spiritual blessings that day when the visitor sang “Holy Ground”, so apropos for his message.

So I told about my bargain. Then the leader, passing me a notebook, asked me to read the word he had written previously at the top of the page for his topic: RECEIVE. In Matthew 10:8, the Bible say, “Freely you have received, freely give.” Matthew 10:8. Truly the reason for being blessed!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Brotherly Love

Neighborliness and good will are alive and well! I just read a story in our local newspaper of a family of 11 whose van had broken down (down as in dragging the interstate with sparks flying!) on I-35 near neighboring Blackwell (where I grew up), stranding them in the middle of a 2,000-plus mile trip.

The Ministerial Alliance of Blackwell and our city, working through the Salvation Army, put them in motel rooms for five days; a local technology center cancelled lesson plans for the week so that all students could fix the van; a local pastor found used parts in Wichita, Kansas, a new tire was procured at cost in Tonkawa and a muffler in Ponca City. Finally, the displaced group was ready to be on their way, admittedly leaving a part of their hearts in northern Oklahoma. They were quoted as saying they didn’t want to leave here. No wonder! Such kind folks!

Then this morning just as Sunday School was about to start, a pastor and his wife from another church denomination stopped by. They had come about two weeks ago to express sympathy and offer prayer for the pastor and victims of the horrendous accident that had just occurred. Today, he told my husband, who is Interim Pastor, that he had another offering: he wanted his wife to bless us with a solo that she is slated to also perform tonight at a community Thanksgiving service.

And bless us she did! As the magnificent strains of “We Are Standing on Holy Ground” poured forth, congregants stood to their feet, hands raised and tears streaming. What a holy moment! The song touched a chord that embodied shared feelings of gratitude and praise, as well as solace for the trauma we had all gone through. Then as my husband began to preach, it was apparent to all that the song segued perfectly into his message concerning Isaiah’s vision of seeing the Lord “high and lifted up” and the angels' cries of “Holy, Holy, Holy”.

Before the visiting pastor departed, he made the surprising revelation that their church is to receive an offering tonight for our pastors to help with medical expenses. Now that’s neighborliness AND true religion!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Optical Illusion?

“You can’t park there! It is a handicap spot!” I interrupted Howard’s turn toward the space. He reluctantly reconsidered and found another parking place.

“That was a parking place!” he insisted, “It wasn’t handicapped!” I maintained that it was, since I’d seen the big blue wheelchair painted on the surface. “Will you promise not to get mad if I show you I’m right?” he asked, but certain of myself, I told him yes, if he would not get mad when he found I was right.

His eyes widened when he saw the spot, but he said, teasing, “I only said it was a parking place, and it is!” I reminded him that he said it wasn’t handicapped, so I was right.

Things are not always what they seem. Though we enjoyed the verbal sparring about the parking place, I sometimes think the enemy distorts our perspective and doesn’t miss a chance to spoil things for us. For instance, at church the other evening, my husband entered the pulpit in a victorious mode. “Praise the Lord!” he exclaimed, waving his arm enthusiastically. The more he moved his arm, and it seemed interminable to me, the more the hem of his long-sleeved knit shirt looked strange. It seemed to be unraveling, with part of the sleeve hem drooping at his wrist.

Stop singing! I thought. But he sang and pumped his arm even more. My eyes were glued to his wrist, and I was sure everyone else’s were, too. Was it my imagination? Was the sleeve only tucked under a little, making a wrinkle? I tried to look away, willing my mind back upon the words we were singing.

Why is this bothering me so? I asked myself. But I could just imagine the disparaging thoughts the church ladies were thinking: Why doesn’t she make sure his clothes are in good repair? (In reality, I do well to get myself ready, and trust him to do the same, although I usually spot a wardrobe mistake before we leave.) Sometimes the hem looked normal, and I would relax, only to have it pop out again. My eyes seemed to playing tricks on me.

At last Howard gave the microphone to someone else and sat down. Unbelievably, his sleeve looked perfectly fine, then. When I examined it as he took his seat, nothing was wrong! “Why did your sleeve look funny up there?” I asked him later. He said he had turned it under! No wonder it was slipping out!

Well, at least the hem hadn’t come loose. We had a wonderful service and I was ashamed of my useless embarrassment. Lord, forgive me of pride and help me in “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Last Flight

“This is so sad. Olin and Dusty were such sweet people,” I read as I idly scanned face book posts. Then I saw the words, plane crash, and recognized two familiar names. It couldn’t be! The pilot couple we had met one day at the church next door to our son’s house! In fact, they came a couple of times and were long-time friends of the pastor. I remember asking the petite, attractive, senior citizen about her name.

“Is your name, Dusty, because you were a crop duster?” I asked her, half joking. She said no, she had never sprayed crops, but somehow she had picked up that nickname. I read in the news clip that her name was Paula. I couldn’t believe it when she told me she was 81. She looked sixty to me.

Her husband was a former state senator. We had run into him one other time at the hospital. He recognized us right away and had a friendly greeting and witty remark about something. In retrospect I remember the day they were at the church I wasn’t feeling well and had prayer for healing. As I sat down, he said, “Well, you look pretty!”

The paper said they were taking the OSU Basketball coach and assistant, who were also killed, on a recruiting trip. They had told us about their work with Angel Flights, providing air transportation for charity or community service. “I’ve carried lots of hearts,” he told us.

For the second time in two weeks we have been startled by unexpected deaths in people we knew, if ever so slightly. Again, we are saying to ourselves and each other, “You just never know.” When Howard said that to me the other day after our pastors and evangelist were injured in a wreck and the evangelist’s wife was killed, I said, “Yes, you do know. It’s a fact that we will all leave this life someday. It’s just that we don’t know when.”

“Whenever you asked Dusty how she was, she always said, ‘I’m blessed,’ my friend’s fb post continued. “You can guarantee they’re singing in heaven right now,” she finished.

Olin, the honorable senator, carried hearts, extending lives to those on earth, and making many hearts glad. Now they have taken their last Angel Flight, this time themselves carried by angels, as all will be who have given their heart to Him.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Holidays Ahead!

We had our first hard freeze last night. The other nights when frost was forecast, I dutifully covered my lush ferns and orange fall flowers, blooming so brightly and bravely in the planter my husband made for them. I had written them off as goners after they were crisped by horrid temperatures this summer. But much watering, plus the moderate autumn weather had given them new life, now snatched away by the inevitable cold snap.

I checked on them this morning, since we haven’t completely vacated our house at our former address. My ferns are brown and wilted at the edges, with some of the fronds turned a dark, reddish color. I feel like a neglectful parent. But when we are away next week for Thanksgiving, I couldn’t have protected them anyway, so I surrender to the elements and the forces of nature in what could be an early winter.

My granddaughter writes that there is snow in Tennessee, and the annual Christmas tree has been erected here in the middle of a downtown intersection, so I must admit that the holidays are upon us. We are cozily ensconced and snug for the winter at the home of our son and family, so I will leave it to their traditions to decorate for Christmas. However, I am thinking of bringing my skinny, pre-lit tree to tuck in some tiny space in our small den for a seasonal accent and cheering spot of color.

Speaking of holidays, I called my five-year-old granddaughter, Anne-Marie, this morning to wish her a Happy Birthday, but I was informed she had gone on a field trip with her pre-kindergarten class. I asked my son about Maddie, the two-year-old, and found that she was on the field trip too, as her mommy was required to go as a sponsor. Their father told me that the Birthday Girl had received her card from me yesterday, and that the “Do Not Disturb Princess” door-knob hanger that came with it was hanging from her bedroom door. The other side reads, “The Princess Will See You Now” when she permits access to her room.

Only 5 days ’til we get to see the Princesses at their house in Houston! I’m so looking forward to seeing most of my kids and their families there! I think our day-after-Thanksgiving activities include the glitzy Galleria shopping mall, a spectacle of lights and color sure to put us in the Christmas spirit. No doubt the young teen grandchildren will be gliding on the indoor ice rink as the rest of us watch from the sidelines at the winter scene below, belying the fact that it is most likely a warm, humid Houston day outside. If it’s still as cold here as it is today, I’m sure I won’t mind at all!

Something Smells Good!

An unfamiliar car pulled in next to us in the church parking lot. It seemed to be full of white-haired ladies. As they trailed along the walk on this cold, winter-feeling evening, they reminded me of little snowbirds bobbing their way into the church. Later, as my husband announced, “Sue has a song for us tonight,” introducing our own sprightly 80-something who had invited the visitors, she said, “My friends from Willow Creek Apartments are going to sing with me.” They were from her Bible Study group.

A quartet! What a treat, I thought as they made their way to the platform. The ladies were introduced, along with their respective parts: soprano, alto, tenor and, I believe, contralto. Suddenly the church was filled with sweet, ethereal music. Soft, tremulous voices blended in soothing harmony like a refreshing breeze after the robust enthusiasm of our spirited song service. I would compare it later to “a sweet smelling savor” mentioned in our guest speaker’s message that would follow.

Various lay speakers had been scheduled for mid-week service under my husband’s leadership, as our church adjusted to our pastor’s absence during his recuperation. Tonight it was a lady preacher I had never heard, a regular member of the congregation who could not attend on Sundays due to the outside ministries she shared with her husband. Her peppery style and irrepressible joy were a bubbling brook, tumbling and overtaking her words in a rush of Holy Ghost zeal as she gave her charge of commitment to the attentive listeners.

“Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life,” she read from II Corinthians 2:15-16.

Previously, others’ prayer requests were put on hold as, in wisdom and compassion, the leader had us stop and pray immediately for an urgent plea for a recent convert who was being pulled into temptation. The last part of verse 16 asks, “And who is sufficient for these things?” as Paul stresses the magnitude of our responsibility and the significance of our influence on others and their eternal destinies. May we always be the fragrance of Christ to them!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Juniors and Seniors

“Mommy, look! That man hurts!” my just-turning-5 granddaughter said to her mother. They were in the mall, and Anne-Marie had noticed a man with a very large bandage on his face.

Knowing her daughter’s compassionate nature and being sensitive to the Lord’s leading, Tammy replied, “Do you want to pray for him?” Anne-Marie was thoughtful and said she didn’t know, although she has prayed ever since she was small. (Once she even prayed for Mickey Mouse whose feelings had been “hurt” by Pluto.) They approached the man and Tammy asked if he minded if they had prayer for him. He was surprised, but agreeable.

After her mother had offered a short prayer, she asked Anne-Marie if she wanted to pray. The little girl stretched forth her hand, pointed her finger and commanded, “Be healed! In Jesus’ Name!”

Obviously touched, the stranger stammered, “I love--I mean--I thank you!”

God can use anyone, young or old. My husband had served as associate pastor at a church here for three years, but about six months ago God moved us to another church. We had been feeling a sense of unrest for some time, and Howard had even been considering going on the evangelistic field. This was one of the reasons we decided to free ourselves up from the expense of maintaining a home and accepted the offer to share the home of our son and his family.

Meanwhile, we have been loving our new church, with my husband playing the guitar for the worship services and preaching a couple of times when the pastor was away or just needed a break. He was scheduled to preach just recently, but a week before the date had come, everything changed. Our pastor, his wife, and our evangelist were seriously injured in an accident that tragically took the life of the evangelist’s wife.

Howard was called on to fill in for the pastor. Then he was asked to become Interim Pastor during our pastor’s rehabilitation and recovery from his injuries. How remarkable that we had settled there and had become comfortable with the congregation and they with us, as if we were put in place for such a time as this!

God knows all. He sees the future while we walk by faith and trust in Him. We are thankful that we can do our part in holding the congregation together as He binds us with His love and comfort, pouring out spiritual blessings in abundance in our time of need!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


I ran across an article that mentioned a famous painting called, Left Behind: Mountains Ahead. It showed discarded goods of a wagon train as people were forced to give up treasured possessions to lighten the load for the greater good of getting safely over the mountains. I looked it up on the internet and saw the artist’s conception of pieces of nice furniture, a chest with clothing and jewelry spilling out, and an ornate full-length mirror scattered incongruously across the prairie.

It reminded me of moving from our house to share the house of our son’s family recently. I had to decide on what to take and what to leave behind and put into storage. We could take enough to furnish a small den and a spacious bedroom, plus, of course, winter clothing and personal items. At first, our new place had a decorator look, with carefully placed accessories and furniture arrangements. But each time I returned to our former home, I collected a few more items. I just couldn’t leave my beautiful books, favorite wall art, a footstool or small table that could surely fit into a corner, let alone any of a dozen pair of shoes I had to have.

Finally I had to stop. But the funny thing is, I don’t even miss the other stuff now! In fact, it’s kind of a relief not to have to dust it and be distracted by it. Buying and collecting things (especially at estate sales!) is so fun and entertaining, but when you have them in your possession, you have to make room for them and take care of them. It’s almost as if things own you. But to be free of things (not that I am completely, of course) is an exhilarating feeling! To be in the midst of family trumps boredom and loneliness surrounded by inanimate objects anytime!

We read in the Bible of Paul’s exciting journey to Rome as a prisoner aboard a ship. When a major storm called Euroclydon, a northeaster, arose, they had to begin to lighten the ship (Acts 27:18). On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard. By verse 37, after Paul encouraged the terrified sailors to eat, they further lightened the ship and threw the wheat into the sea. Later, they cast off the anchors and left them in the tempestuous sea, v.30. (Even though the ship eventually fell apart, all were saved from drowning as God had assured Paul.)

I’m sure at some point I’ll be happy to be reunited with our “stuff”; after all, much of it is full of memories. But the intangible things that we hold in our heart are the most important. The prophetic scripture in Hebrews 12:26-27, echoes Haggai 2:6-7 when it says, “Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.” Material things are temporal, or temporary, but the unseen is eternal. And it doesn’t weigh a thing!

Workers Together

“Mom, you should hear what Anne-Marie’s Sunday School teacher told me this morning,” my son was saying over the phone about our four-year-old granddaughter. “She said she had never heard a child pray like Anne-Marie!”

“Really?” I chuckled, though not surprised. I had heard of her elaborate prayers since she was a three-year-old. The little blonde angel takes praying seriously, even if she does have surprising requests sometimes, such as asking God to send Easter candy raining down from heaven. “Does the teacher ask her to pray?” I wondered.

“No, she volunteers! She leads the class in prayer!” he said in a bemused, if daddy-proud, voice.

Well, I thought, she’s like her mommy. Our daughter-in-law is an intercessor at their church and is a fervent, effective prayer warrior. As it says in James 5:16, “The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much,” and I’m sure that applies to women, too. I have no doubt our granddaughter will be one of the new generation of young people God is using and will use to bring people to Christ in these last days.

More and more I hear of children with remarkable gifts and testimonies in their young lives that awe us and even put adults to shame. Some are precocious and talented artists, painting pictures of Christ with breathtaking reality, having amazing effects on people. Others are singers, their pure, sweet voices seemingly sent from heaven above. The book, Heaven is for Real, by a young boy who experienced heaven in a near-death episode in surgery, is touching people across the world.

Psalms 8:2 tells us, “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.” In Matthew 21:16, Jesus responded to those who criticized the children’s praise, saying, “ Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou has perfected praise?”

We can either stand and watch in amazement as the younger generation outstrips us in our efforts of evangelism, or we can join them in their zeal for the harvest, adding the strength, support and wisdom of their elders as we all work together to “still the enemy and the avenger”. This is a victory in which we can all share.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Seedtime and Harvest

Last night my husband closed his sermon with a story that I’d heard many times before, but I was just as moved as the rest of the congregation by his fervent, gripping manner of speaking. I was nervous at first, since he had already preached a long time, while I willed him to condense his narrative and stop digressing into stories within a story. Nevertheless, he was determined to give every dramatic detail of the true experience of two young missionaries many years ago.

They had gone as naïve Christian workers from Stockholm, Sweden, to a remote area in the wilds of Africa. Another couple went with them, but when they had hacked their way through the undergrowth to arrive at a settlement, they were rebuffed by the natives. Again they hacked through the treacherous terrain, erected flimsy shelters, and attempted to reach the people with the gospel. After 6 months of exhausting and seemingly futile efforts, the second couple despaired and went back to the mission station to return home. The first couple would have gone back with them, but by this time the wife was 6 months pregnant and couldn’t travel.

Day after day, they struggled. They had learned Swahili and tried to win the people over, but their efforts were met with disinterest and hostility. All except for one young boy who came to their hut every week to sell them fresh fruit or an occasional live chicken. The young missionary wife befriended him and told him stories from the Bible. Though somewhat interested, he did not accept the Lord.

Before long, a baby girl was born in these discouraging circumstances, joining a two-year-old brother. A few weeks later, the mother became seriously ill. A searing infection reached its peak and left the husband a widower with a crying newborn in his arms and a toddler hanging on to his trouser legs. Standing over the grave of his beloved wife and destroyed by grief, the missionary declared he was through. He gave the little girl to the missionaries at the mission station, took the small child, and returned to Sweden.

Years passed, and the baby, who was adopted by another missionary couple, grew up and was sent to the U.S. for college. She married a man who would become prominent in the national leadership of their denomination. Many years later, the opportunity arose to go to a church conference overseas. The keynote speaker and organizer of the event attended by thousands was a striking black man with a commanding presence, the president of his denomination. As he spoke, he mentioned living in the area where the baby girl was born. She later talked to him and asked if he remembered the young missionaries she described, giving their names. “Why yes,” he said, “I used to sell them chickens and fruit. The missionary’s wife told me Bible stories. I heard her husband left when she died after their baby girl was born.”

“I am that little girl,” she replied. She subsequently located her father and convinced him that their labor had not been in vain. One small boy reached with the gospel had resulted in uncounted thousands for the Lord. The father, who had lived a life of bitterness and rebellion, found a place of repentance and forgiveness and was able to return once again to see his beloved Africa, this time seen through tears, not of defiance, but of gratefulness to God.

The rapt silence in the sanctuary was broken by a single slow, deliberate clapping behind me, which, as others joined in, became a steady applause from the congregation.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Seasonal Changes

Thanksgiving is two weeks from today! It has suddenly crept up on me during the distractions of the past couple of weeks! I have hardly had time to think about something I have looked forward to with joyous anticipation for so long--meeting with most of my family for a Thanksgiving celebration in Houston at our son, Jamie’s house!

Our son, Greg, and his family reserved a mini-van rental weeks ago for the trip and invited us to ride with them. What a relief to leave our car at home and the driving to them! Meanwhile, the reality that we are trying to accomplish a move has set in.

It all started a few months ago in the heat of summer when we received an enormous electric bill. I was complaining about it to Greg, and he said, “Well, why don’t you move in with us?” When I thought about the winter heating bills ahead, it sounded tempting. They have a large, two-story house, and we started playing with idea a bit. Maybe Howard could even quit his job and take preaching engagements now and then. Suddenly they had cleared out a small den for us and made a bedroom and bath available! The house could be rented out.

Finally we got in gear and have moved almost everything over there; we will put the other things in storage for the time being. Talk about down-sizing! I can’t wait for the freedom of responsibility in maintaining a home!
Everything in our new digs is looking cute and cozy, but rather a shambles here at the old house right now.

I was just getting over the news that our two-year-old granddaughter had had a playground accident and was wearing a cast on her arm, when our dear pastor and his wife were involved in a serious car accident that took the life of their friend and injured her husband, who had been holding revival meetings at our church! Between Howard taking charge of the services at the church and a trip two hours away to a Tulsa hospital to check on them and moving piece-meal, not to mention two earthquakes in one day and a large after-shock, it’s no wonder I have had sensory overload!

No matter, I can devote the next week to getting ready for our trip. I’m already getting excited about it again. Jamie is a chef who produces wonderful feeds, besides which he is not one to let his guests be bored. There are always fun activities planned, in addition to catching up on family news and the wonderful camaraderie and hilarity of being together. What a great time to count our blessings!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Autumn Reverie

“Look at those colors!” I exclaimed to my husband yesterday as I pointed out the roadside scenery. The trees were gorgeous in their fall glory. We were on our way to Tulsa through the rolling Osage hills. Valleys were spread with a multi-colored blanket, the rounded treetops the crowded puffs of a cozy comforter.

Here I’d been wanting to go to Tennessee or New England to view the autumn foliage, and we had this riot of colors right here at home. Maybe it was the grey, damp skies that set off the Technicolor panorama before us. The yellow hickories and yellow-green elms were bursts of sunlight among the glowing red-orange embers that were oak and hardwood leaves. Individual maples wore a color wheel of vermillion, dark red, bright red, yellow, orange, brown, green and yellow green.

Before moving to the flat plains of the Kay county wheat lands at age 10, I’d lived in this hilly area of Oklahoma, but I don’t remember appreciating or noticing the seasonal color changes of trees. That was probably due to the obliviousness of childhood, but I wonder if the pastime and hobby of those known as “peepers” was even popular back then. Today thousands mark their calendars and schedule vacations according to the best leaf color in any part of the country at any given time. People are more mobile now and have more free time than back then, when we had more important things to think about, like having enough wood cut for the winter.

We had taken the 2 hour trip to visit the hospital beds of friends involved in a serious car crash. Stopping by the hospital canteen for coffee, my eyes fell on two men seated at a table. Though one looked vaguely familiar, I couldn’t help looking intently at the other man. He looked more than vaguely familiar. His eyes, expression and facial features almost made me think I was looking at my dad! I tried not to stare at him, but when I stole a sideways glance, he was looking at me, too. It was uncanny. A little later I found out they were brothers of our pastor, who was one of the accident victims. I didn’t want to embarrass the man by telling him my impression, so I let it go.

Maybe it was the nostalgia of being in this area again, or the remembering of wood smoke curling above humble country houses in the crisping autumn weather that made me identify with the careworn, kind face of a stranger. Or perhaps a common gene of my slight Indian heritage ran through these local people that made them seem slightly familiar. My tall, handsome father’s strong features of jet black hair, straight posture and tanned complexion had faded with years, his skin becoming fragile and papery as the golden brown leaves blowing outside, the ones evoking a memory on the wind.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Paths Crossing

“I need another book,” our pastor’s wife, Clara, said to me last Sunday. I had given her one of my books as a birthday present, and she had previously bought one to give to a friend. “I want to buy one to give to Kaye, our evangelist’s wife,” she said.

“Oh, good!” I said. “Which one do you want, Heartthoughts or Seasons of the Heart?” She said she wanted Hearthoughts, my first book, so I impusively said, “Then let me give her Seasons.”

Our revival had just started that morning, and I had only briefly met Kaye. I saw who I thought was a visitor sitting on a row by a regular family. They had smiled at me with a knowing look when I murmured an inquiry as to whether she were with them, so I approached her with a smile and asked, “Who are you to these people?”

“Nobody!” the pretty lady said disarmingly. I apologized, and then it dawned on me she was the wife of the evangelist. That night I gave her the books, one from me and one from Clara, and she was delighted, saying she loved to read. I told her they were from my blogs, and she said, “Oh, I love to read blogs! What is your blog address?” I said I would write it down for her. It was fun getting to know her when we went out for a snack with the pastors after church.

I found out she had two daughters, and I asked if they lived near her. “Well, they did until recently, then one moved away,” she said. I knew how that felt, and asked where they had moved to, ready to commiserate. “On the other side of town,” she said. I had to smile, a little ironically, since I live nearly a thousand miles from my daughters. “I baby sit, get up at six o’clock and go over and get the kids ready for school every morning,” she told me gaily. Exactly what I used to do, I thought, identifying with her devotion to family.

We got to say a few words over the next few services, and Tuesday night I stood by her in the pew and chatted as the service closed. Wednesday night, the last revival night, I was feeling ill and didn’t go to church. My husband told me she had asked about me and had joined the other ladies in a circle to have prayer for me.

Thursday afternoon I answered the phone to terrible news. On their way to the airport, there had been a head-on collision seriously injuring our pastor, his wife Clara, and the evangelist. Unbelievably, Kaye had died. How could that be? Only a few years younger than me, dating her future husband through high school and struggling through Bible school together as a young couple--all the things I had learned about her in the past few days that made me feel like I knew her. And maybe she knew me, too, a little, through the pages of the books I’m sure she must have taken time to read from. I’m so glad I had the impulse that day to give her one. Impulse? I’m sure now it was the nudging of the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Way I See It

“What does this cough medicine do?” I asked the drug supplier stocking the counter. I knew we wanted an expectorant for my husband’s cough, but I was curious about DM, or Dextromethorphan. “Which is better?” I asked.

“I don’t know, Ma’am,” he said. “You’ll have to check with our pharmacist.”

I went to the pharmacy and asked the person at the window. He pointed out that DM was a cough suppressant, which I would have known if I’d had my glasses on. “But don’t you need to cough to clear your lungs?” I asked, “Which is better?” Then he called over a woman who must have been the pharmacist.

When I asked her about it, she said, “Well, it is rather counterproductive to take a cough suppressant when you need to cough, so I guess that one is better,” referring to the cough syrup with expectorant. Then she said, “You’re the first person who has ever asked that.”

Now where have I heard that before? Couldn’t have been at the airport when I took off my socks as well as my shoes for security. “Well, it says, ‘lose the socks’ on the paper in the bottom of the tray,” I explained when the attendant said, “What are those socks doing in there?”

“You’re the first person that has ever done it!” she exclaimed. (Turns out it was an ad for a Florida beach vacation!)

Or when I read the sign at security that said to have your computer removed from your carry-on to have ready to place on the belt, and I followed directions. When the security guard saw me carrying the computer, he exclaimed, “You mean you actually read the sign? You’re the first one that ever has!”

So I’m naïve. Or do I just march to the beat of a different drummer? When our special speaker at church was doing a sermon on “laminins”, the cross-shaped protein substance that holds our muscles together, he called it “The First Super Glue”. All I could think of was, “We are cross-stitched together!” When you think about it, though, it is pretty accurate: If it were not for the benefit of salvation from Jesus’ death on the cross, we would be fraying at the seams!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Falling Apart? Not in a Million Years!

“I want you all to be schizophrenic!” the evangelist surprised us by exclaiming. His next words clarified what he meant. “Some people say if you talk to God, that is wise. But if God talks to you, you are schizophrenic! So I want you to be schizophrenic!”

This unorthodox preacher held us on the edge of our seats in every service, it seemed. He was always enlarging our minds and presenting new ways of thinking about old truths that left us hungry for more. His impassioned messages left us with hearts crying out for more of the Holy Spirit who was so in evidence in the meetings.

Last night the minister began by giving us mind-boggling revelation about the size of the universe that God has created. He showed that our sun is the size of a basketball compared to the pea that is the earth, saying that a million earths could fit inside the sun. The nearest star is 8.5 light years away, and a light year is the distance that light can travel in one year, or six trillion miles!

Citing scriptures like Jeremiah 51:15 which says, “He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heaven by his understanding,” and “All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made," John 1:3, he established the vastness of God for us.

Stressing that Colossians 1:17 teaches that by Him all things are held together, the evangelist gave a fascinating illustration of what he called “God’s Super Glue”. Having worked as a surgery tech as well as a Bible school professor, he was very familiar with medical knowledge and the anatomy of the human body. He had learned of a major protein in the body which literally holds us together. It is known as laminin, and without it, the flesh would not stay on our bones. The amazing thing about it is that under a microscope it can be see that it is in the shape of a cross!

How amazing to know that God not only created the infinite universe, but that he also created the intricacies of the human body and left his fingerprint there! Not only are we held together physically by the cross (laminin), we are also held together spiritually by the Cross! The writers of the scriptures had no way of knowing this about our bodies when they penned the above verses! Thank God that they and we take by faith our salvation, but a modern scientific discovery stands in mute testimony of the God who created us all! He is talking to us!