Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day Prequel

"Look how fast the clouds are moving," I remarked to my husband last evening as we were headed to Kansas for a church meeting. Our friend was going to speak at a church outside Winfield, and we didn't want to miss hearing him. I knew the weather forecast had been for rain and thunderstorms, but it didn't seem threatening when we left home.

After a few wrong turns, we finally located the church out in the country. I was sure we had found it when I saw a big, lighted-up sign saying "CHURCH". Upon closer inspection, though, we saw it wasn't the church we were looking for. When we were just about to give up, we came upon the metal building with the "DUNAMIS CHURCH" sign on the front.

Some more of our friends and members of the speaker's family were there, and we enjoyed a good service. Afterward, I thought we would leave promptly, especially since I was very hungry, not having had supper. (Howard had wolfed down a hamburger and fries in the car, but I didn't want to eat then.)

"We have food here for anyone who is hungry," a friendly lady said to us after the service, indicating tables at the edge of the room. "I made chili and there is peanut-butter cake," she offered tantalizingly.

"I'm hungry, but I don't think I should eat chili this late," I demurred.

"Well, I'm going to get coffee," Howard said, as he headed toward the refreshment tables. Great, I thought, I'm hungry and he is taking his time. I walked over, too, thinking I could find a light snack. I put a few chips and a cookie into a paper bowl and nibbled a few minutes. Finally, though, the fragrant chili got the best of me, and I decided to have a bowl.

It was good! And not too spicy. We might as well stay awhile, I reasoned, since the rain had been pelting loudly on the metal roof of the building. This was turning out to be a blessing, shut in with the congregation with food and fellowship.

Then the lights began to flicker as the rain became louder. Once again, they flickered, then went out. It was so dark I couldn't see my hand before me, as the old saying goes, but somehow the last few bites of chili made it to my mouth.

"Thank God for cell phones," I heard someone say, as little phone lights began to flick on. A flashlight was found, and someone called for the auxiliary lights. Turns out the batteries on it were dead. My husband had a tiny light on his key ring which was like a candle in the darkness.

"It's still pretty windy out there," someone said as we peered out the glass doors. "I opened the door awhile ago and the wind about tore it off!" she exclaimed.

Still, it wasn't long before Howard was braving the elements and bringing the car around. At least it wasn't blowing quite so hard, and the moon was shining in a clear sky.

No sooner had we left the church than we saw utility workers' lights on a truck beside the road with a spotlight trained on the power lines. As we got closer, we could see why. The lines were down! Evidently a twisting wind had blown through while we were in church! Thank God, it missed the building!

Today I heard of damaging tornado reports in neighboring states. We felt blessed to get home safely from our 30-plus mile ride with only one incident: In the darkness, my husband had left his Bible on the church seat. We may have left the Bible behind, but God's Word and safekeeping were with us all the way!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho

We were at the George Bush Presidential Museum in College Station, Texas one day last week. It was quite fascinating looking back on the administration of the 41st president of the United States, and especially interesting to see mementos, pictures, and snippets of information about his family.

But perhaps the most intriguing exhibit was a large slab of concrete, unimpressive at first glance, that turned out to be a piece of the Berlin Wall! It was probably 10 feet high with a curved base and covered with graffiti that had been added over the years, cryptic slogans and messages of hope to a divided city. The placard noted that when the grafitti got painted over, people would simply re-do it, tracing the words through the still slightly visible image beneath.

One apparently recent message that dominated all the others and stood in mute testimony of the power of the shout, read, "Shout and the wall will come down," Joshua 6:5. The story is of the the walls of Jericho falling. "...the people will shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him," Joshua 6:5b.

My husband had recently preached a message he called, "The Power of the Shout". I was thinking about this as I turned on the car radio this morning while waiting for Howard to come out of a store. Just then a preacher's voice came from the radio, "Shout and your wall will fall down!" The host had also been referencing the Fall of Jericho. Then he told the listeners, "On the count of three, I want all of you, as far as this station reaches, to shout 'Hallelujah' with me! Believe your walls of doubt, fear, loneliness and discouragement will fall!"

I had just read a thoughtful article concerning Lent. The writer advocated fasting "allelujahs"for Lent. His point was that we say "Hallelujah" (Praise the Lord) so often and inappropriately that it becomes meaningless, when sometimes we should be saying, "Have mercy."

I don't believe we can "Praise the Lord" too much. And sometimes, we can even shout it!

Unlikely Peas in a Pod

"Annaree, Annaree!" Maddie, 2, called to her big sister. That they adore each other is obvious, even though Maddie's vigorous, assertive personality is in stark contrast to five-year-old Anne-Marie's sensitive, gentler self. I found myself thanking God that Maddie was not born first, as she would have pulverized her younger sister. Instead, Anne-Marie gets the scratches and clumsy, though surprisingly hard, bumps and blows inflicted by the adorable-looking moppet with the tangle of red curls.

Blonde, fragile-in-comparison, "Annaree" can sometimes be heard sobbing, brokenhearted at something her insensitive little sister has dished out. Soon, though, they are hugging, having lovingly forgotten their differences.

Anne-Marie was always a cuddler, while Maddie eschewed being held too much, wriggling free to get down. Anne-Marie liked sleeping in her parents' bed, while Maddie preferred to sleep alone in the quiet of the nursery. Now at almost 3, Maddie is a determined, deliberate speaker who insists on being understood. Anne-Marie is a spiritual, angelic, little sweetheart with serious thoughts who loves to go to church.

Today my son said they were riding along and saw a man with a bandana around his head. Maddie piped up, "Look, a pirate!" Then they saw a jeep, and fanciful Anne-Marie said, "Maybe we could sell one of our cars and buy a jeep!"

How wonderful that each of us is born with our own identity. God says he knew us before we were formed in our mother's womb. He made us for his own purposes just as we are. It is up to us to develop our gifts and utilize our personality for Him.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sunrise, Sunset

"Oh, boy, I can't wait for church tonight," my 5-year-old granddaughter said at breakfast. Several times during the day, I heard her say something similar. All the while, I was remembering her daddy had told us that since they had a ministry school at church on Thursday night, we might not go on Wednesday. We were at their Houston home for a few days on a visit from Oklahoma.

As the day grew late, and we were caught in traffic coming home from an outing, Anne-Marie became concerned about getting home in time for church. "Honey," our son said, "We probably won't go to church tonight."

"I wanna go to church!" she exclaimed. Each time he spoke discouragingly about the possibility, she wailed louder. "I wanna go to
chu-rrch! I wanna go to chu-rrch!"

"Why do you want to go to church so bad?" I asked, trying to calm her.

"Because!" she cried, "I want to lea-rrn. I want to learn about Jesus and God!"

Church would start in less than an hour, and the rush hour traffic was impossible. Finally, Jamie told his daughter that she could go to church. Our daughter-in-law, Tammy, would leave directly from work and meet them there. Meanwhile, Anne-Marie had fallen asleep in her car seat.

"Maybe you should just take her home and put her to bed," I suggested, looking at the tired-out, tear-stained little face. Jamie said she would wake up and keep crying to go.

He dropped his father and me at the house and took off with sleeping Anne-Marie and two-year old Maddie, who wouldn't be left behind, to meet his wife at the church.

Later, I asked him what Anne-Marie said when she woke up. "She opened her eyes and cried, 'I wanna go to church!'," he told me. "We told her we were there, and she was happy."

I'm so glad the children love church, even if it is just their age-appropriate classes. I was very surprised that when Jamie had asked Maddie if she wanted to ask the blessing over the food at dinner the night before, she bowed her head and said a precious little prayer. And to think she was hardly even talking when I had seen her a few months ago!

Maddie's speaking expertise had shocked me when she got my attention in the car on the way home from the airport. I heard her saying something from her car seat in the back of the van, and I asked her, "What did you say, Honey?"

In a very firm voice, she said, "You called my daddy, 'Jamie'. He's not Jamie, he's 'Benjamin!' I TOLD you!" (I forgot that nobody calls him his childhood nickname around home.)

What a blessing to see them grow, not only mentally and physically, but spiritually. One night as they were playing and running through the house, Maddie had on a princess costume and a boy's winter bill-cap with earflaps pulled over her red curls. They were told to slow down, and Maddie retorted gleefully, "I just can't stop running, I can't stop running!" Yes, and how swiftly, I thought, into the future God has prepared for you as you learn to walk with Him.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

God is in Control

I just read (and shared) a post of a supposed conversation between someone and God about their "very bad day". Several inconsequential things had happened, and the Lord showed him that the inconveniences were for his own protection. I thought a about our trip yesterday.

In the first place, I had awakened far too early, but my husband insisted we get on the road by 6:00 a.m. for a two-hour drive to Tulsa where we would leave on an 11:45flight to Houston. Well, we actually left at 5:30, and the fog was horrendous. We saw at least three pick-up trucks that went off the road, one upside down, and several ambulances and a firetruck. Maybe the Lord spared us from any more that could have happened had our time frame been different.

Then, arriving in Tulsa, I could not get the GPS to accept my entry for directions to the airport. We hardly knew where we were in the dense fog, but a man in a service station in the very seamy neighborhood where we 'd pulled off told us we would find it if we turned right at the next corner.

Then there were delays in security when my husband had to be patted down repeatedly from the alarm going off because he hadn't removed his belt. Finally we got to our gate, and there was nothing to do but wait. I could see the flight before ours was late, but the attendant assured us our plane was already there. We looked out to see a rather dinky express plane. When she said we could board, comparatively few people got in line. Probably because it's a small plane, I grumbled.

I had dressed warmly, but it was freezing in the plane, so I borrowed the coat my husband carried to put over my legs. Then when we got aloft, the cabin became extremely warm in the tiny two-seater space we occupied. Soon the stewardess brought something to drink, but no peanuts or snacks. My ears had plugged up until I was completely deaf, and I had looked forward to having something to eat.

At the end of the flight, we stood uncertainly with our coats and carry-ons, wondering how far it was to "Baggage" in the Houston airport. As if waiting on us, an empty luggage cart with a driver in a shuttle loomed in front of us. "Could you take us to Baggage? we asked him. He looked pensive a moment, then said, "Sure."
No doubt he saved us endless walking, and he accepted the modest tip.

Our son, Jamie, thought we would be at terminal "C", although we were at terminal "B". "We will have to ride on a train," he explained when he met us, because he had parked near the other entry. Oh, no! A train! I thought, picturing the fast-moving trains in the Atlanta airport where you could hardly hang on. But it was a small, private car that provided comfy sofas and a quick delivery, but not at sound-barrier-breaking speed.

We would baby-sit so our son and his wife could go on a Valentine date, so my husband and I shared a spaghetti supper with our granddaughters, the most charming dinner companions I can think of. I was reminded of "The Lady and the Tramp" Disney movie with its romantic moments over a plate of spaghetti, so I guess our menu was approriate for Valentine's Day.

Looking back, I have to acknowledge the Lord's hand over our whole day. Perhaps by stopping for directions, we avoided an accident that could have happened in the fog.
I should be thankful for the diligence of the security personnel in preventing hijackers.

During our seemingly boring wait to take off, I wondered about a large group of wholesome-looking young people who came tramping in together. I knew there was something different about them, as they seemed to give off an aura of positive, purposeful and up beat attitudes as I saw them interact with each other. Then I noticed insignias on a jacket here, or a cap there, of the Christian college, ORU, in Tulsa.

While we were waiting the interminable several hours at the Houston airport for our flight home, we had a lovely conversation with a soft-spoken, denim-skirted, no-makeup young lady who was a singer in a gospel band. Seated on the floor across from where we sat in airport chairs was a group of fit and handsome young men in camo fatigues, military guys waitng for their flight. When our flight was called, I passed by them and told them how proud we were of them. They extended their hands to me in appreciation. "God bless you," I said as I clasped each hand. And God bless us everyone, I thought, and He has.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Hope Springs Eternal

No school! Snow day! It was almost Valentine Day and we'd just experienced our first snow of the winter! It blew in blizzard-like just after bedtime, and the next morning there was a four to six inch layer of snow on the ground. The car was piled
high with snow, and dirty-white mini-Everests were scraped up by snow plows along the main streets all over town.

The children, emerging sleep-satiated from their bedrooms, pulled on gloves and coats, hopping on one foot to pull on a sock to fill a waiting boot. Then, scrambling for coats and gloves, they couldn't wait to build a snowman. Thanks to having some adult help, they managed to erect two snow people--one beside the driveway and one in front. The one near the driveway got knocked over by a car backing out, and the one in front wore a black bowler. The next time I looked out, the snowman had turned into a lady wearing a feminine hat. All part of the craziness that goes with our zany weather.

A few days ago we heard a severe weather warning in the middle of a perfectly beautiful, warm day. Not thirty minutes later, the sky was black in the west and suddenly I heard a noise like artillery fire raining down on the metal carport. I looked out to see a barrage of hailstones peppering the ground. The kids, getting caught in it, came in from the library drenched and screaming. "Why is the sky raining ice cubes?" the five-year-old shrieked.

But today, with Valentine's 10 days behind us, we took our first walk of the year through our favorite park and gardens. The weather was sunny and moderate, but windy with the premature winds of March! Nevertheless, the outdoors was beautiful. Signs of spring were peeking through as blades from flower bulbs were pushing up from the brown earth. A frolicsome squirrel hurried behind a tree trunk, only to peer down at us from a higher perch before he hid himself again.

I called hello to a woman who had been examining some growth at a flower bed. "Isn't it nice out?" she responded. We had been sitting in the gorgeous sunlight at a picnic table admiring the deep blue of the sky and enjoying the flutter of leaves blowing across the ground.

"I told my husband it is like heaven," I answered. That is what the perfection of the gardens always reminds me of, even in its winter beauty.

"Be sure and pick some parsley," she said, indicating a green bouquet in her hand.

"Thank you," I said, "I've always been afraid to pick anything down here."

"Well, I'm a Master Gardener, and I give you permission this time," she said, as I noticed that on her ID badge she wore.

Gathering a handful of the deep green herb, we headed home, the heady fragrance filling the car with its promise of Spring right around the corner!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

In the Driver's Seat!

"Look, everybody!" our granddaughter, Allison, announced as she came into the room, smiling broadly. We looked up to see her carrying a cardboard mock-up of a 50's classic car that formerly held a kid's meal from a local retro-diner. Peering over the miniature windshield was a pair of bright eyes in the Stuart Little pointy face of her pet hamster. We burst out laughing at the comical sight.

The hamster, Daisy, can often be seen rolling around in her exercise ball. The sight reminds me of something in a movie, "Indian in the Cupboard," I saw a few years ago. The brother of the main character had a pet rat kept in an exercise ball which bounded through the house and down the stairs like some alien sphere.

Daisy was entertaining us in her ball the other day when a friend dropped by. She told the story of a gerbil of her childhoood that flew around in his ball, sometimes slamming against things at top speed. One day when it made impact with the dishwasher, the small plastic door flew open and the gerbil was suddenly free. Stunned by his sudden freedom, he stood frozen to the spot. The cat, which had been watching in fascination, didn't know how to react to the sudden availability of the object of his desire and also stood frozen in indecision. Just as he was about to pounce, a voice yelled, "Stop!" Halted in his tracks by his mistress, the cat forced its natural instincts into submission.

"Sometime later," the friend continued, "a mouse got into the house, and we expected the cat to take care of it. Instead, he just looked at it, holding himself back because he remembered his reprimand!"

How often have we felt our God-given impulse to stand up to evil squelched because we have been conditioned to be "politically correct" or "tolerant"? Just this morning I was reading Jeremiah 1:8, where it says, "Be not afraid of their faces." God had called Jeremiah as a prophet to the nations, but Jeremiah was pleading his inadequacy as an inexperienced youth. The rest of verse 8 assures him, "For I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord."

We need to get out of our protective plastic bubble of timidity that is going nowhere fast and take the wheel of opportunity to stand up for our beliefs and righteous convictions! We can be sure He will deliver us, too!

Friday, February 10, 2012

A Preacher's Story

"Let me tell you a preacher's story," our speaker interrupted his sermon by saying. The service had run late, and the elderly gentleman promised he would speak only 15 minutes. That was disappointing, as we, or at least, I, thoroughly enjoyed the 88-year-old's sermons and life experiences he shared.

He told of an exciting trip he and his wife had made to Galveston several years ago to attend a tent revival by a well-known preacher of the day. Bad weather sprang up, however, forcing the revival indoors into what he said was a very fancy, luxurious church. Their plans had been to live frugally on the trip, combining services with free time spent fishing, intending to pack ice chests full of fish to take home. Due to the weather, they couldn't fish and had to pay $50 for a tiny truckers'-like room with only a bed and a nightstand.

"God," he prayed, "please make a way for us to attend the revival by giving us a place to stay that we can afford!" That night he heard a voice behind him in church saying, "Where you stayin'?" He turned his head around, glancing at the floor to see a pair of ragged tennis shoes with a couple of toes sticking through the holes. As his glance climbed upward, he saw a giant of a man wearing cut-offs and a well-worn t-shirt.

"I told him I didn't have a place to stay, since we had checked out of our room that day. 'Stay with me!' the voice boomed. Well, I had asked God to provide a place, and he had, so I accepted, even though I figured that a man dressed like that wouldn't have much of a house," he explained. The preacher said he couldn't believe it when they drove up to a palatial home. After a good night's rest, a knock on the door told them breakfast was ready. "We ate like kings all week and had a great revival!" He said they were treated so nice, he got over his racial prejudice right then.

A WWII veteran, our speaker told of the prejudice among servicemen toward the colored troops. "We called them "Eleanor's Boys", he recalled, since the name, Eleanor Roosevelt, became associated with the "Tuskegee Airmen" when she was given an airplane ride by an African-American aviator and chief of the program to prove to her that they could fly an airplane. The black fighter pilots became known as "Red Tails", since they painted the tails of their airplanes red. Interest has been piqued with their story recently with the release of a movie about them by that name.

The Bible says in Galations 3:26-28 that there is neither Greek nor Jew, bond nor free, neither male nor female, but all are children of God who have trusted in Jesus Christ. The old soldier telling the preacher's story would be the first to agree.

All's Well That Ends Well!

"I remember the old Winfield hospital being on a hill," Howard told a relative of the patient we had come to visit today. "My older brother, Marvin, used to deliver papers when he lived here as a boy," he continued with his finger propped thoughtfully against his chin. "Once, when he was delivering papers to the hospital he came down the hill so fast on his bicycle that he ran over a nurse's white shoe!"

My husband has a story for every occasion. Today he may have been trying to deflect attention from the fact that we were a little late in arriving. He had promised to be in the patient's room in ministerial support by 7:00 a.m., but we hadn't awakened until almost six, and it was 6:30 when we managed to get out of the house for the trip to Winfield that took nearly an hour.

The cell phone had rung when we were almost there, and sure enough, it was the impatient patient, but by the time I got the phone out of my purse, she had hung up. My return calls disconnected, then I tried to place a call on Howard's phone. Same story. Then that phone rang, and my minister husband was able to pray for the patient in case we missed her. At last we were nearing the hospital. We hurried toward her room, but a nurse told us they were just going to get her to bring her to surgery. Then, seeing the uncertain looks on our faces, she said hopefully, "If you hustle, maybe you can catch her before she leaves the room."

The retreating backs of the escort team told us they would be there before we would. "She will be coming down any minute," we were assured, "just wait here by the elevator door and you will see her."

This was getting to be a comedy of errors! I had told Howard not to worry about finding the hospital, because we have a GPS. He held me to that, and I tried to program the hospital in, not knowing the name of it, only the city. The only thing that came up was a veterinary hospital. Then he instructed me to call information to get the right address.

By this time, we were near Arkansas City, which is only 10-15 miles from Winfield. "I think we should take the by-pass!" I suggested to my husband, because, although Ark City is a small town, it has a traffic light at almost every block along its entire length, and getting through town can take a while.

It was the first time we had taken the by-pass, and I could see right away it was good idea: Peaceful, swift and scenic. The snow, which was neglible at home, covered everything in Christmas-card beauty, turning evergreens into Christmas trees, and the bare branches of other trees into works of art.

It did seem to be long, however, but finally a sign proclaiming, "Round-About Ahead", came into view. "What is a Round-About?" I wondered aloud. I figured it was the exit of the by-pass, but I had never heard it called that. Turns out it was a small round circle in the road with an exit opening to the right, the middle, and the left. We edged past the first slot, then quickly maneuvered into the proper hole that hopefully led to our highway.

"Does this look familiar to you?" I asked my husband after we had exited the by-pass. "No!" he exclaimed, but before long, familiar sights made us realize we were on the right road. The phone rang again, with the update that they would be taking the patient to surgery in 10 minutes. We were 5 minutes away.

"She should be here by now!" I told Howard, after we had waited by the elevator for a few minutes. "Maybe we should still just go to the room! You know it always takes them awhile to get a patient ready to move!" We were about to do that, but just then the elevator door opened with the gurney holding our friend. They waited while we had prayer for her there in the hall.

There was time for many stories to be swapped between Howard and the patient's husband while we waited. Soon we were back in the room with her; a scope had revealed none of the problems she had feared, so surgery wasn't necessary. After she had eaten, she could go home. And we would be home in time for Howard to go to work at his afternoon job, thanking the Lord for our safe trip and the outcome that was an answer to prayer!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

G is for Good!

"We will be learning the letter, "G,g", next week," the note from 5-year-old Beth's teacher stated, "so we are making a grocery store. Please save clean, empty containers and food boxes for our store." So that's why that empty cereal box that I had just thrown into the trash was sitting on the counter this morning! Okay, I could do this.

Just as I was about to discard a plastic ice cream carton, I thought better of it and washed it to send to school. Then there was the empty stuffing mix box from last night's supper. (I hope the food doesn't have to begin with "G"! Ground beef, Ginger?) I noticed a bag that looked like trash on the fridge, but on closer inspection I saw it contained empty boxes that formerly held mac'n'cheese, tea, drink mix, and breakfast bars.

Another bag held a plastic milk jug, hot chocolate box, and juice box carton. (I had tried to save a paper pulp egg carton, but it was stained with bacon grease from when my husband made breakfast.) The note said cans with no sharp edges were acceptable, but I forgot and threw away the cans from the green beans we had at dinner. (Saving them is one way to re-cycle!)

Actually, most of the food consumed around here is made from fresh meat, vegetables and fruit that doesn't come in re-cycleable packaging (unless you count plastic bags). We eat from a healthy menu plan subscribed to from the internet that includes recipes and lists of ingredients--some fancy and exotic--and where to find them in the supermarket.

Except for the shopping, which my daughter-in-law does, often tearing the grocery list in half to share with a drafted assistant, it simplifies and equalizes dinner preparations, since the six adults take turns cooking. And we never have the same meal twice! Besides which, we are exposed to a lot of new foods!

I cook twice a week, of which one of the days is Sunday. I usually take a break from the meal plan (which can be low-fat or low-carbohydrate) on Sunday and make an old-fashioned beef or pork roast with all the trimmings. Following prescribed recipes and techniques does not come easy for me, and I usually end up exhausted by the time my meal is ready (Spontaneous cooking is more my style!), so I'm glad I do it only once a week!

Having raised a family of six children, I am well familiar with the letter "g" as in "groceries" and have seen my share of depleted cereal boxes! But if the school is emphasizing the letter "g", I have one for them from our new regimen: Gourmet!

The Long Goodbye

At last the house has been swept clean. All our packing and moving activities have been accomplished, with a little help. I dismantled the last vestige of privacy and decorum when I took down the curtains yesterday, having left only the barest of window coverings up until then. Now the house is impersonal and neutral, ready for refurbishing, a bathroom remodel and little repairs that come with the wear and tear of occupancy.

Memories flew like dust motes from the curtains as I shook them out. My over-the-sink curtains that I had stitched from a pair of kitchen towels—charcoal and ivory graphics spelling KITCHEN running down them, a matching towel cut in half lengthwise to make a valance. No hem necessary, I just pulled threads for a rustic fringed edge.

Then there was the covering for the glass in the kitchen door that led to the back porch. I needed something between a curtain and a shade for privacy, but nothing suited. My kitchen was black and white, so when I saw the red-and- white-striped sailcloth of a barbeque apron, I fashioned its width into a curtain, heavy enough that no shade was needed. The apron strings cut into short lengths became curtain tabs attached with decorative buttons I found in my sewing box. The bib, folded down and hidden from sight in the back, meant no cutting was required.

“I like your bathroom curtains,” the mover said as he handed them to me. “Are they towels?” Yes, new towels that I had looped over the rod, running a stitch through for the tension rod that held them up. “I think I’ll get my wife to make some like this,” he said. I liked them, too, and could enjoy them later as towels!

Like an amateur archeologist, I examined stray papers and scraps of memories chanced upon in closet corners or the recesses of deep shelves. My husband’s forgotten stash of old brief cases yielded obsolete papers and carefully kept records, worthless now, except for an occasional keepsake like the laminated newspaper story and handsome picture of him done by a Christian writer friend many years ago. It was Howard’s remarkable account and testimony of leaving the business world for Christian ministry.

Thankfully, I looked behind an opened closet door and saw a 16 “x 20” matted photograph of our oldest son, Mark, then about two years old, overlooked and hanging on the bedroom wall. The picture is over 50 years old, with Mark now a longtime minister himself. Just another testimony of God’s faithfulness to our family over the years, no matter where we live.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

On the Same Page

"By the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established," Deuteronomy 19:15. We heard four sermons in a row by four different ministers over Sunday and Monday that seemed to be saying the same thing, "Go forward".

The first one was my husband's Sunday morning message, where he took his text from I Samuel 16:1, when God said to Samuel, "Fill your horn with oil, and go.." Samuel had been mourning God's rejection of Saul, the people's chosen king who had ceased to please God. "Now the Lord said to Samuel, 'How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons.'"

The emphasis was that God had something better in mind. This time God would put His choice on the throne: David. Neither Samuel nor humble David, who was tending sheep, had any idea of the great future ahead of them. Howard urged the congregation to cast off discouragement, fill their horn with oil, and go! "Anoint yourself!" he exclaimed fervently, speaking of being full of the Spirit.

That evening, a guest minister and son of our pastors, preached about the determination of the woman with the issue of blood to reach Jesus and to touch the hem of His garment. "For she said, 'If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well." This was her statement of faith. She didn't stay home in her illness and distress, but braved a throng of people, even though she was considered unclean and forbidden to be in public, and got up and sought out Jesus. The preacher continued, "And He said to her, 'Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be healed of your affliction.'"

Then Monday at a ministers' fellowship meeting, the first speaker focused on David, who was hiding behind a rock waiting for a signal from his friend, Jonathan, Saul's son, that would indicate whether or not he was safe from Saul. Jonathan would shoot an arrow beyond a certain point--his signal to David. From his hiding place, David heard the prearranged words: the arrow had gone beyond. The news was not good. Saul still wanted to kill David. The minister read from I Samuel 20:41, "...David arose..." then in verse 42, "So he arose and departed." Although it would be 10 more years before David was crowned king, he continued toward his destiny. He rose up in the face of despair, and we can "go beyond" circumstances, limitations, etc.

The next speaker preached about living full, and dying empty. That is to say, using all the talents, gifts and abilities God gave you to minister on this earth, because "You won't need them in Heaven," he said. He referenced Paul in 2 Timothy 4:6, "For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. (7) I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."

The minister finished by posing the question, "Did Elisha die empty?" He read about Elisha's bones still being so full of the anointing that when a dead man was tossed into his tomb, the man came back to life, II Kings 13:21. He thought maybe there was still some power in Elisha that hadn't been used, supporting his position from the previous seven verses, 14-20.

Knowing he was about to die, Elisha directed King Joash in an exercise of striking arrows to the ground relating to their hoped for defeat of the Syrian army. The king struck them only three times, instead of five or six times. Elisha was angry with him that they would not be as victorious as they could have been, and probably died in frustration, disappointed that the last ounce of his power had not been used to help Israel.

Fill your horn with oil. Go in faith. Rise up. Live full and die empty--heard by more than three witnesses and each a charge to Christians to go beyond!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

God's Design

"What would really be nice," our church district superintendent was saying at the conclusion of the meeting yesterday, "is that you would invite a missionary out to lunch." I nudged my husband and suggested we ask a young woman whose name we had recognized as the daughter of an on-campus ministry director that our son had had in college some 15-18 years ago. The group was a home-away-from home for Jamie and he had become very close to the director and his family.

I introduced myself to the sparkling, red-haired missionary candidate who would be serving in Mexico. She had been 11 when our son had known her. "Oh, Jamie's parents!" she exclaimed, happily accepting our invitation to lunch. Her friend, another missionary whom we had met previously, stood with her, so we invited her to come along, too.

While they stood winding up their conversation with friends, I excused myself to follow up on a hunch I had from another name I'd heard mentioned. "Is there a guy in your group named Destry?" I asked a young man. He said, yes, and pointed him out as he stood at an information table across the sanctuary. The unusual name rang a bell when he was introduced with other young missionaries earlier. Jamie had gone to New York to visit someone by that name when he first got out of college. I remember how worried I was at the thought of him seeking out an acquaintance in a huge city where he'd never been before.

"Are you Destry?" I asked as I approached the tall, courteous, figure. He said, yes, and I asked him if he'd ever lived in New York. When he acknowledged that he had, I said, "I think you may know my son. I'm Jamie Summers' mother." It was like we were long-lost friends! Although they had gone to different colleges, they knew each other through Chi Alpha, the ministry group. A fragment of memory reminded me of the concern Jamie had expressed about the newborn of his friend and his young wife. "You had a new baby at the time, I think," I mused. He nodded emphatically, saying his son had been premature. Wow, he must be a teenager by now, I realized.

All day I was amazed at how the thread of Christian relationships was woven through our conversation. At lunch, Angela, the now grown-up redhead, mentioned a church in Mustang, Oklahoma. Our nephew's son serves in that church as youth pastor, and I asked her if she knew him. "Yes!" she exclaimed, "We used to do youth camps together!" She said had never made the connection between our common last names.

And so it went. Howard got into a conversation with a missionary from Kenya, who dropped a name of a colleague there. "We knew his father!" Howard said, "He was a missionary to Kenya from Hattiesburg, Mississippi!" What a small world!

Our pastors, who were at lunch with us and knew the young woman who sat at our table who would be going to South Africa on a construction/water well drilling mission with her husband, shared with her that the director of the drilling operation was from the little town of Newkirk where he is pastor and where, during his recuperation, my husband is interim pastor!

What will it be like in Heaven, when we are following all the threads of the ministry of the faithful, stitched in a hodge-podge on the earth's side of God's canvas, to reveal a beautiful tapestry of souls that God had in mind all along!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Dancing Partners

"Look at the pretty little girl," my husband said as we were eating at a restaurant last night. I turned and saw a 9- or 10-year-old girl, princess-like in a cloud of white nylon net, accompanied by a man wearing a tuxedo, obviously her proud father. She had a tiara on her upswept hairdo, while his head was fashionably bald, lending a note of dignity and sophistication to what must be an important evening.

"They're from the Father/Daughter dance," I said in realization. We had seen the event publicized around town, and recalled it from the past couple of years when friends had attended with their young daughters.

Sure enough, a few minutes later, we spotted a small, bespectacled diner in a dress of hot pink ruffles, accompanied by her father in dress clothes. She, too, was wearing a tiara that sparkled like her smile from their booth across the dining room.

How nice that men were going to this effort to build a special bond with their daughters, I thought, affirming them and taking the opportunity to instill values and positive behavior traits important to their future. (No doubt both parents were involved, though, for I'm sure a mom was behind it somewhere, loving putting together a child-sized formal outfit, complete with earrings, jewelry, shoes and corsage).

A strong father image is invaluable to a girl's life, and it is rewarding to see many fathers today taking a larger role and hands-on approach to parenting. Seemingly gone are the days when dad just went to work, disciplined, and provided, although times were like that when I was growing up.

I loved my father, but we never went to a Father/Daughter dance. (Nor did I go to any other dance, for that matter--except for square-dance programs in our rural school.) Still, I remember being held on Daddy's lap when I was sick with a cold, feeling secure when I could hear him cough or snore at night, and listening to him sing folk ballads to us around the pot-bellied stove.

Sometimes Daddy entertained us in those pre-television days by making an "Eatin' Baby". All the kids would be shooed from the room, and after a few minutes of delicious anticipation, we would be allowed back in to see a strange apparition in the corner. A pillow, tied toward the top to form a head with a face drawn on the pillowcase, would be sitting in Mama's rocking chair, arms (Daddy's?) extending from behind with a spoon in one hand and a bowl in the other, feeding itself. When we asked it questions, it would throw the spoon at us or turn the bowl upside down, to our delighted shrieks and giggles.

The father-daughter dance of life is a delicate balance of love, friendship, discipline and guidance, with mutual respect on each side. From our fathers we gain ideas of what we want in a husband, for our daddy is our first crush. ("Daddy, why aren't you a movie star?" I would ask adoringly when I was little.)

My daddy gave me away when he walked me down the aisle to my waiting bridegroom, but he has never left my heart, only stepping aside while I changed partners to one who met his approval in the dance of life.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Stand by Me

"Boo-hoo-hoo!" groaned 6-year-old Joy, "I don't wanna do my homework!" It was an every-night hassle as she half-heartedly scrawled her spelling words in practice. "I can't remember them!" she protested.

Why was she having so much trouble? This lively, almost-seven-girlchild loved dancing around energetically doing ballet leaps and springs, or singing loudly to something plugged in her ear. Except for her almost-obligatory moaning over school work, she was cheerful and caring, exhibiting grown-up patience with the little firecracker who was her younger sister. "Don't cry," she spoke in soothing, velvet tones to her after their tussle over fingernail polish. "Let me polish your nails. Someday you'll have a daughter, and she'll like nail polish, too," she crooned.

After re-taking her test on which she'd missed six the first time, she still missed four words on her practice test. "Let me write them on my hand!" she surprised us by sobbing desperately as she was almost forcibly urged to the car for school yesterday. Where did she learn that? My daughter-in-law drilled her all the way to school, offering coins as a reward for effort. Imagine our surprise last night when her foster daughter came home from school all smiles with a note from the teacher that she had scored 100% on the test!

Her victory has done wonders for her self-confidence. She had faced her fears and overcome. Sometimes as adults we feel (if not act), the same way. I know I do. I can dread something, even losing sleep over it, but it usually turns out fine once I undertake it. For instance, unlike my husband, I am not a public speaker. In small groups or one on one, I am fine, but getting up in front of people and speaking makes my mouth go dry and my brain freeze up.

I finally figured out the secret, though. When asked to teach adult Sunday School, I found myself planning everything I said in advance, and worrying that I would finish too soon, start rambling, etc. But when I actually taught, the combination of class discussion, the ideas the Lord gave me, and my preparation, made a successful presentation. I hadn't figured in the audience! And I hadn't figured in the Lord's presence and help!

"I can do all things through Christ which strengthenth me," Philippians 4:13. The Bible says He is an ever-present help in time of need. I'm trying to remember that, because I have been asked to speak to at the Wednesday night church service in a couple of weeks! Lord, help me! And I know You will!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Seeing His Shadow

"February 1st...Tomorrow is Groundhog Day," I remarked to my husband as we drove home after picking up 5-year-old Beth from Pre-K.

"How did YOU know?" came a small voice from the back seat. I looked around to see our foster grandaughter admiring a large, construction paper groundhog mask she had pulled from her bookbag, obviously an art project that day. After all, she had only just learned about it, so how could we know of such a holiday?

Kids. They have it all to learn. And I'm sure the story piques interest in young students to think of a groundhog seeing its shadow and going back into its hole (or not) for six more weeks of winter hibernation (or not). After all, we all want Spring to come after the cold of winter, however mild it may have been this year.

Shadows themselves are a source of wonder for children, fascinating and mysterious as they are. I read once of a small child out for a walk with his father. The little boy wanted to venture ahead and was given permission, as long as he stayed within his father's shadow, lengthening in the late afternoon sunlight. He obeyed, and felt safe in the outline of the familiar silhouette, knowing his father was near.

The Bible speaks of shadows as types of a spiritual reality, as in Hebrews 8:5, they "...serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things," and in Hebrews 10:1, "For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things,". Colossians 2:16 says (religious observances)"are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ." Hebrews 9:23 speaks of "patterns of things in the heavens."

We often hear songs and references about "in the shadow of the cross." The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ was slain before the foundation of the world, so the shadow of the cross rests over creation. When the sun is overhead, there can be no shadow. When Jesus is foremost in our lives, the Son is overhead, and we are in the light where there is no shadow to fear.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Trip Ahead!

We have a special date planned for Valentine's Day! A fancy restaurant? No, that would be our kids. We are baby-sitting our Houston grandchildren at their home! A perfect Valentine, spending the evening and a few days with a couple of little sunbeams that brighten our lives with their sweet, smart, funny antics that we usually experience only long distance.

A few weeks ago, our son said he wished we could come down and see some improvements they have made on their house, having installed new flooring. It's a long drive, though, and in discussing travel arrangements he asked if we might come by train. That is always fun, but it involves being picked up at Ft. Worth, which is still a long way from Houston. Then a few days later, Jamie asked how we felt about flying. Our ticket confirmation for February 14 was on our e-mail the next day!

Now all we have to consider are airport parking fees and luggage costs both ways. Maybe we can get everything in one suitcase, plus two carry-ons, which are free, the last time I checked. With all the add-on expense in flying, I can see merit to the idea I read about awhile back that predicted use of disposable clothing to avoid packing and dealing with luggage. We're not there, yet, however.

There is only one flight that will not require, nor permit, luggage. When we go to Heaven, we won't take anything with us. It has all been sent ahead. All our good deeds, our prayers, our alms giving and our faithfulness are our treasures in Heaven. Jesus told us not to lay up our treasures on earth, where they can decay or be stolen, but to store them in Heaven where they will last forever. Even our ticket is bought and paid for if we have trusted Jesus as our Savior.

Evidently, some construction has also been going on in our heavenly mansion, for Jesus said He was going away to get it ready for us. Not only will we get to marvel at its beauty, but there will be loved ones to see and enjoy forever. Valentine's Day is about love, but it is only a pale reflection of the love God has for us, for God is Love! And Heaven will be the ultimate trip!