Wednesday, March 28, 2012


"I can't hear her! I can't hear her!" Maddie, my almost-three-year-old granddaughter was saying. I was viewing a video, via internet, of her getting my birthday present--a read-aloud story book in my voice. Her daddy was telling her to say, "Thank you, Mimi," but she was a little confused, used to seeing me on Skype or at least hearing me on the phone. She had even been looking for me in the pages of the book.

This was almost as good as being there! When Maddie heard her name inserted in the princess story I was reading, I could see the reaction of puzzled delight on her face. Then, when the musical cue for me to read or for her to turn the pages sounded, her head full of red curls bounced to the rhythm as she smiled and swayed along. Be still, my heart!

Each time Maddie heard her name, she caught her breath, her eyes widening in wonder. A few minutes before, when her mommy was struggling to open the tightly taped package, Maddie and her five-year-old sister, Anne-Marie, were giddy with anticipation. "Are you excited?" Tammy, my daughter-in-law, stalled tantalizingly, pulling off the tape.

"I'm excited," Anne-Marie squealed.

"I 'cited!" the birthday girl bubbled. Then, turning, she disappeared from camera range and I heard her say, "I hide!" as she briefly ran away. It was the same reaction caught on video at Christmas when Santa appeared at their door. Anne-Marie had run screaming to her bedroom as the imaginary stuff of her dreams materialized before her eyes. Sensory overload. Some things are just too much to bear!

"We hid as it were our faces from Him," the Bible says in Isaiah 53:3. This time it was not joyful excitement, though. It was fear and dread as the Bible mixes prophecies of Jesus' disfigurement of crucifixion and the terror experienced by sinners at impending doom and judgment. They will have refused the love and sacrifice extended to them by the Saviour sent to save them, and now it was too late.

Someday, a video of our lives, as it were, will be played for us, and if we have not accepted Jesus as our Saviour there will be unrefutable evidence to convict us.

"Tell me the Story of Jesus," the old hymn goes, "Write on my heart every word." This is His birthday present to us, told in His own words. How much better to receive Him now, and enjoy Him and His good gifts for eternity. We all have birthdays, but by being born again, we can have the best birthday of all!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Listen Up!

The dial on the bedside clock of the hotel room read 1:00 a.m. Suddenly our friend was startled awake by a voice that could only be God's. "Get up and go home," the Voice instructed. "I want you to attend that Sunday school class you used to teach," he heard in amazement. Yes, he had taught a class for several months, but that was before the unexpected death of his wife. He hadn't been back there since, and the class was now being taught by someone else, a brilliant, elderly lawyer, retired.

To his own astonishment, he found himself dressing and heading out into the winter night at 2:00 a.m. for the four-hour ride home. He had come to Arkansas to bring some mementos of his wife to a friend who wanted them. All the past trauma had suddenly become too much. He had had to get away...from well-meaning family, the packing, sorting, the hundreds of decisions that had to be made after the loss of his wife of 50 years. So many things to be gone through. Neither he nor his daughters had realized how many collections their mother had, nor how vast they were. It was suddenly overwhelming; this trip would do him good.

But now he was making his way home in the wee hours. What could it all mean? Arriving home at 7:00, he slept just long enough to rise, shower and make it to the church. The teacher, who had developed a scholarly series for the class, came to the front and announced, "I won't be teaching what I had planned today. God woke me up at 1:00 o'clock this morning and told me to talk about what I went through when I lost my wife."

Our friend listened in a state of shock. It was just what he needed to hear! The testimony of someone who had been there and knew what he was experiencing! The sense of loss, disorientation, confusion, grief, decision-making--he too, had been overwhelmed and unable to cope. The speaker spoke of the day when God got his attention, and with love and compassion reassured him that He was beside him and had plans for him.

He approached the speaker at the close of the class. "Did you know I had just lost my wife?" he questioned, to which the teacher exclaimed, "No! I just knew that God changed my message at one this morning." When the visitor told him his story, tears cascaded down the speaker's face. In awe of God's care and concern, our friend felt a healing taking place in his heart.

Last night at church we heard a sermon on Philip, who God spoke to and instructed to go to Gaza to preach to the Ethiopian official (Acts 8:12). Philip had been in a great revival in Samaria with healings, miracles and multitudes of people. "No one wants to be interrupted in the middle of a successful revival," the minister lady stressed, "but Philip was obedient to go!" Apparently God still speaks to those willing to go.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Spring Fever

"What is that wonderful smell?" Howard asked, stopping in his tracks, as we were taking a walk this morning. We were at Cann Gardens and had just passed a bed of jonquils and hyacinths.

"It must be the hyacinths," I said, "I don't think jonquils have much of a fragrance." We both bent down for a sniff, and although I couldn't smell much, he practically swooned when he stooped over the regal, deep blue flowers.

I had always admired the little plants, but I wasn't too familiar with them. They seemed to have popped up from nowhere since the last time we visited the gardens. I found out they are grown from bulbs and are favored for their heady aroma. If they are that intoxicating, I intend to plant some next year!

Spring is here more than a week early! Actually, it's more like summer with temperatures in the 80's this afternoon. We took our lunch to the park today, eating at a round picnic table in the glorious setting of new growth and skies the color of robins' eggs, luxuriating in the gentle caress of a gossamer breeze.

After feasting on rotisserie chicken and rolls picked up at the deli, we strolled further, crossing the little bridge and admiring the gold koi swimming at the edge of their pool in the space allowed them by the net of leaves yet to be removed from the dark surface.

"Look at this!" I exclaimed as we came upon a tableau straight out of a picture book. A mass of white jonquils with startlingly orange centers stood in a cluster in a protected alcove. Another must for my garden!

Loath to leave, we still had time to sit in our yard swing before Howard went to his afternoon job, reluctantly putting away the guitar he'd been strumming to rejoin the workaday world, which was probably suffering from Spring Fever as well.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Traveling Mercies

A traffic pile-up! A parent's (and grandparent's) worst nightmare! "Mom, did you see the pictures on Facebook?" my daughter asked over the phone. I gasped when I saw them. Our teen grandchildren, Reid and Corrin, had been involved in a wreck, rear-ended by cars with crumpled hoods lined up behind them. A car had braked suddenly in front of them on rain-wet streets, forcing their sudden stop.

"Are they okay?" the frantic question leaped from my lips. They were fine! All the other cars had obvious damage, but theirs was relatively unscathed! Thank you, Lord! Was it the stability of the well-built car, or the presence of guardian angels? Both, I'm sure!

The kids had just returned from Winterfest, a 3-day youth retreat, where they had been in glorious, spiritual services with evangelists and singing groups. They had safely navigated themselves through miles of Atlanta area traffic to and from the church for their hours-long bus trip, and now as Reid was taking his sister to her golf tournament after school on Monday, the unexpected happened.

How quickly things can change! Thankfully, there were no injuries that I know of in the accident, but one of the pictures that captured the scene in dramatic detail said it all. The yellow bulk of a school-bus loaded with their schoolmates gaping at the bus windows was a poignant backdrop filling the screen as it squeezed by the morass. It could have been worse.

I'm glad I had prayed for all my grandchildren that morning. I'm sure the enemy was not happy that they had had their lives spiritually renewed in the atmosphere of worship and praise, preaching and teaching and re-dedication they had been in over the week-end. They have been preserved and protected by angels because God has a purpose for their lives.

Jeremiah 29:11 promises, "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end (a future and a hope)." Thank you, God, for that promise!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Earnest Money

I know I have some black socks in here somewhere, I thought as I tumbled through a bottom bureau drawer. But what's this? I wondered, as my eyes fell upon a small leather pouch in the bottom of the drawer. Then I recognized it as a bag of coins we had misplaced while moving! Howard had thought they were lost, along with some more valuable coins in a collection, and had been quite perturbed about it awhile back.

"Look what I found!" I relished saying as I held them out to him. His eyes grew round with surprise. I went to close the drawer, and another surprising sight met my eyes--the box he had described to me as holding his coin collection! This would really make his day! And I was right! He was both happy and conscience-stricken about his outburst when he thought they were missing.

A few minutes later, I was straightening the living room and refolding a scattered newspaper when a full-page announcement of a coin-collectors/evaluation event the next day caught my eye. What a coincidence (no pun intended)! Maybe he could find out what his coins were worth.

Meanwhile, we decided to take the bag of loose change to a coin-counting machine at a local supermarket. We were studying the screen displays to see how it worked when a young man approached with what looked like a 3 ft. coke bottle filled up about a fourth of the way with quarters and other change. We let him go first so we could watch.

"That must be $300 worth of coins!" I exclaimed. He said they were a month's worth of tips from his job at a restaurant. We watched as he poured the money into a tray, then tilted the tray into the machine. It took several trays full before he was finished. His grand total was $280, so I was pretty close. Then he got a cash voucher, telling us to take ours to customer service to present for currency in the amount of our coins, minus a 9% counting fee. (Come to think of it, my guess was almost on the money, before the deduction!) Well, we had only $10, but it was fun, anyway.

What would we do without money? Of itself, it is worth nothing, especially paper money. But when the serial numbers go on, it is accepted as a medium of exchange. That is the final step that changes it from worthless paper to something of value. Then it is known as "fiat", a Latin word for, "Let it be done." I learned that when visiting the U.S Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Fort Worth, Texas last summer.

Another word that represents a medium of exchange is our salvation. We traded our sins for salvation when Jesus applied the blood of the cross, our Medium of Exchange, to them. "It is finished," Jesus said. Fiat: Let it be done. It was His signature written in blood, putting all the power and authority of Heaven behind the authenticity of our redemption. Just as the serial numbers were stamped on the money, so He has set his seal upon us if we have traded our sins for salvation. Ephesians 1:13-14, II Corinthians 1:22. The lost was found.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Need to Read

"Look what I found!" my husband called excitedly as he came in from from an errand with our son the other day. He had a Bible commentary under his arm and an old video of "A Man Called Norman", something we had enjoyed 20 years ago. Greg likes junk shops and old book stores, so he had taken his father to one. "I got all this for $1!" Howard went on.

Then yesterday, Howard told me he was taking me there. "I want to get another one of those commentaries," he said, "they had a whole set of 12."

"Well, if they're only a dollar," I said, "why don't you get the whole set for $12? We can find a place for them somewhere."

When we got in the store (that was overflowing onto the parking lot) we headed to a musty back room where he immediately went to the books. The set was quite handsome, seemingly never used and still in their book jackets. "How much would you take for all of them?" Howard asked.

"One dollar!" the man said. So now Howard is as happy as a kid with a new toy. (I'm enjoying reading them, too.) My husband was on the look-out for a big-print Bible, too, since he left his in Kansas the other day and hasn't been reunited with it yet. He found one with medium print, and I got a Thesaurus, all for $1.50, including the 12-volume commentaries! (I looked up the commentaries on the internet, and found they cost over $400!)

I don't know if it's because of the internet with its plethora of information, e-books, and Bible info, or if people don't read as much these days, but it seems books are waning in popularity. (Just when I'm loving seeing my books in print!) Or maybe it's that we're running out of space! My Kindle holds 500 books--a compact library!

I just read a piece in the AARP Bulletin that proposed the government buy seven fewer fighter jets and spend the money instead on "a handheld computer tablet for every first-grader in America". The generation gap widens!

A few days ago as I was preparing to speak at the Wednesday evening service at church, I said to son Jamie in our phone conversation, "I've been putting prompt notes on cards, but when I go back, they don't trigger anything!"

"You need to write your whole message down," he said. "That's what I do. Now that would never work for Dad, he's so extemporaneous, but it would for you."

"But that would be a dozen pages!" I protested. "And when I try to pick up a sheet of paper, it's hard to grasp!"

"You could do like me, I put them on my ipad," he mused. That would never work for me, even if I had an ipad. He advised me to turn up the corners on my papers, and it worked! I got through the old-fashioned way, and people were very kind with their comments.

We may live in a new age, but I think there will always be people who love to peruse old book stores, and people who like the solid feel of a book in their hands and the ease of turning back or forward a few pages. One Book, the Bible, has stood the test of time, and though people may find new ways of reading it, it will always echo across the centuries as the Word of God. It is sharper than a two-edged sword and more powerful than any fighter jet.

Ecclesiastes 12:12 says, "Of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh." Verse 13 concludes, "Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man." Enough said.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Of Human Nature

I just read a book about shepherds and sheep, and I found out sheep are creatures of habit. They go down the same trails until they turn into ruts or even gullies and engage in other repetitive, destructive practices. A comparison of people to sheep in the Bible was noted, especially in our tendency to go astray.

Well, I admit I'm a creature of habit, and it has been brought home to me several times lately. One day we shopped at a certain grocery store, and as we got ready to pay, the clerk said, "Debit? No cash back?" I smiled and said that she must remember us. She nodded and said, "And you always want to look at the display screen!"

She was right! This store checks out at lightning speed, so I position myself to see the running tab for acccuracy! When she must have hundreds of customers weekly, I was amazed she remembered this about us!

A few days ago, Howard and I stopped for lunch at Sonic, something we do on a semi-regular basis. The car-hop said, "Where have you two been? I've missed bringing out two junior deluxe burgers, hold the onions and mayonnaise on one, substitute mustard, one unsweet tea and one sweet tea!" She knew or usual order exactly, and we had gotten a different waitress many times!

We went into another fast food place one day, and the cashier chorused our order even as we gave it: "One chili, baked potato w/sour cream'n'chives, small chicken nuggets and chocolate frosty." So, we order off (what used to be) the Dollar Menu!

Today we went there for lunch, and I asked Howard to order for me while I stopped by the ladies' room. "No, I can't order for you," he protested. "I'll wait for you." I reminded him that if the cashier already knew my order, he should at least be able to remember it. He reluctantly agreed and said he would do it.

When I sat down at the booth, I thought my baked potato looked funny with something brown in it. He had ordered it with bacon! "What is this ranch dressing for?" I asked him. He said he just thought I might enjoy it!

Well, maybe I'm the one who is the creature of habit, rather than my husband! The book said sheep were just below pigs in intelligence, and I may be compared to a sheep, but who's potato is the bacon on?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Mid-day Fare

"Where would you like to eat?" my husband asked me. Hmm. A difficult decision with so many nice places to choose from. Let's see. Do I want the gazebo by the road, or the one near the entrance to the gardens.

While Howard went back to the car for our picnic, I tried a few on for size. The round table and benches under an arbor felt cozy, but since there were as yet no vines on the metal framework, it wasn't very private. The view was panoramic from the concrete picnic set in the middle of a circle of green lush grass under a big oak, but with no leaves, it felt out in the open. We settled on the lovely, new gazebo with the octagonal picnic table and the glider rockers.

And what was on the menu? Cold fried chicken from last night's supper, miniature containers of potato salad made from leftover mashed potatoes and two hard boiled country eggs, a bread-and-butter sandwich cut in half, three celery sticks I found in the fridge just begging to be stuffed with peanut butter, snack-sized diced peaches, and two individual pies, apple and cherry. Oh yes, just enough cold tea from the pitchers in the refrigerator to fill two plastic bottles.

What a pleasant picnic! We had already strolled the walking path, pausing to rest on benches and admire the greening and budding landscape. A tree that was covered in tightly wrapped green buds only a few days ago was now turning pink with blossoms. We had previously peeled off the green outer cover of one of the fat buds and discovered exquisitely wrapped, fragile, crimson petals. "I think it's a tulip tree," I said in delight. In a day or two, I'll know if I was right.

Another bush, I think a type of flowering quince, had pink buds only yesterday, but today it is blossoming out in reddish, pinky-orange flowers. I have had this shrub in pink, so I read the small sign beneath it with its botanical name to confirm its identification, but now I do not remember what it said. I only remember that it was pretty.

Flowers, a lovely landscape, a gourmet--albeit thrifty--lunch eaten al fresco on a beautiful first day of March. Now that is dining out!