Saturday, April 28, 2012

Bumper Crop?

"Howard, look! It looks like an ocean!" I exclaimed yesterday as we drove across the countryside of the Oklahoma wheat lands. It was true. As far as the eye could see, it was a sea of green as the vast fields roiled in swells and undulating waves in the stiff wind.

I thought of the line in the patriotic song, America the Beautiful, "How beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain..." The fields were beginning to show a tinge of amber, looking like the yellow-green froth of ocean waves atop the stalks as they ripened for June's harvest, scarcely a month away.

The local newspaper heralded in a headline the other day that the coming crop is "Outstanding, So Far!" All hopes and expectations are for a bumper harvest. It won't be long until it seems the aroma of oven-fresh bread can be detected as the golden kernels bake in the sun waiting for the threshing of the combine.

Jesus said in John 4:35, "Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh the harvest?" A notation I read says this was probably a proverb of that day meaning that there was no hurry to perform a task. On the contrary, Jesus states in the rest of the verse, "Behold, I say unto you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest."

Again, in Matthew 9:36, the Bible says that Jesus was moved with compassion when he saw the multitudes who had followed him as he preached the gospel and healed their sicknesses and diseases, because they were as sheep having no shepherd. "Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest," Matthew 9:37,38.

When my brothers were growing up in the fifties, as strong youths they would often work in the harvest, sometimes following the reapers to work in neighboring states as the harvest progressed northward, starting from the wheatlands in Texas through Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and beyond. All hands were needed to bring in the harvest.

They returned home several weeks later, bronzed and muscular, with the satisfaction of their pay filling their pockets. In a spiritual context, Jesus continues in John 4:36, "And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together." Our work is cut out for us!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Breaking the Back of Lack

I learned something at our Bible study the other night. As our teacher was delving into the scripture, he brought out a deeper meaning to passages we might ordinarily skim over superficially, missing something important.

For instance, Malachi 3:10, "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, If I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it."

In addition to giving financially, we were told that this could apply to all parts of our lives, because "tithe" means a tenth, part of a tenth, or a part. "We are to bring all 'parts' of our life to Him, for it says to bring all the tithes," he explained. When we do this, we are becoming more like Jesus and his teachings on forgiveness, giving, treatment of others, trust and on and on.

Our leader pointed out when Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes in the miracle of feeding the 5,000, God indeed poured out more than they could contain, because they gathered 12 baskets full of leftovers!

He also stated that the word, "storehouse" can mean "treasury." Matthew 6:20-21 says, "But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven...For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." When Jesus had the disciples bring the 5 loaves and two fish to him, he was giving insight into how he operated in the kingdom. First, he looked up to heaven. Then he blessed the loaves and fish, then he broke the food and gave it to the disciples to distribute.

"When Jesus did all this, He was accessing the treasury in heaven! When he broke the loaves and fishes, he was breaking the back of lack! The disciples had focused on their lack when they said all they had was this small amount of food, but Jesus shows us the pattern for living in the kingdom!" our leader stressed. Thanksgiving ("When he had given thanks," Matt. 6:11) blessing, and worshiping God!

"Trust and reliance on God breaks lack!" our teacher expounded. "By worshiping God he entered into the kingdom, or storehouse/treasury, where the blessing was stored up!" He continued, "There is no lack in God's kingdom!"

Luke 6:37b says, "Forgive and ye shall be forgiven: (38) Give and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give unto your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again."

The instructor pointed out that "give" and "forgiven" are from the same word. As a part of blessing others, we can forgive. Obeying this command of Jesus seems to be intrinsically related to opening the windows of heaven and accessing heaven's blessings!

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Word Fitly Spoken

"What did you  tell me about speaking tonight?" our pastor teasingly asked a nervous young man who was to give his testimony that evening.

"I'm getting sick," the self-conscious, big burly fellow admitted with a flushed face, only half-joking.

His friend, another young man who had been attending the church for nearly a year now, had also been very nervous when asked to give his testimony the previous week.  I laughed when he had said, "Well, I was hoping I would have to work today, but that didn't happen."  Oh, I could so relate.   It is terrible to have stage-fright, or to dread speaking in public, no matter how much you would like to.

After church, I was needling the reluctant speaker about his qualms, when I saw that he was serious in his feelings.  He was to tell a little about his experience as a survivor on the huge oil-well explosion in the Gulf a couple of years ago, as well as giving his personal testimony.

"If you run out of things to say," I suggested, "just open it up to questions.  That will take a lot of pressure off you." 

And that is what he did!  After five or ten minutes of earnest effort, punctuated by deep breaths and pauses, a few scriptures read and halting words of testimony, he said, "That is all I have, unless any of you would have any questions."  As people raised their hands, he immediately relaxed, became conversational, and lost his self-consciousness.  Thank you, Lord!  I was glad my tip seemed effective!  (He told me later that his wife had told him the same thing, so I couldn't take all the credit.)

In response to people's genuine interest, the shy speaker painted descriptive word pictures of his experience that we would never have known otherwise.  He had been asked if he heard people praying or calling out to God in the wake of the accident.  He said he wasn't aware of that, but he knew he himself was praying.  When I asked what the reaction of the workers had been, he described running, shouting and shock.  "In one of the rafts, I had to threaten to knock a guy out if he didn't get hold of himself," this gentle giant said somberly.  "There could have been a chain-reaction to panic."

Both men, who were from Mississippi,  had given effective testimonies to the Lord and blessed the hearers.  Their humble, sincere personalities  had endeared them to the congregation over the past several months, some families taking the two friends into their homes for meals or fellowship on many occasions.  Working away from home as they were, they presented a sympathetic focus for the big-hearted hospitality and mothering  tendencies among our older ladies.

"God setteth the solitary in families," Psalm 68:6 says.  We could all bear witness to the blessings of that promise. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Duo Do-Over

When the monthly church calendar came out, I was surprised to see, after the speaker's name for April 17, Song: Thelma Summers. They knew I didn't sing, but since a poem or reading was also acceptable, I usually read a selection from one of my books when my turn came to participate. Hmm. I had been thinking of a certain song lately. Maybe I would sing, I thought, if I could get my husband to help me and play along on the guitar.

I didn't refer to the calendar again, but about a week ago, I realized my "date" was the following Wednesday. I cajoled Howard into saying he would sing with me, but he is a procrastinator when something isn't his idea, and soon it would be the next day! We had to practice! (If hanging curtains together is the test of a marriage, that is nothing compared to trying to sing together!) Not only was he vague on the words, but he has a unique sense of timing--which is fine for a solo, but tough on a partner!

Nevertheless, with the help of YouTube, we ironed everything out, and breathing a prayer, we set out for church the other night, armed with the verses copied in very large letters and his best guitar. (The other one was already at church.)

The service moved along rather swiftly, I thought, then just before the speaker took the pulpit, the evening singer was announced. "Would you please welcome Sister Betty and Sister Sally to sing tonight," I was shocked to hear! While relief and confusion swept over me, Howard was giving me quizzical looks from where he sat on the platform with his guitar. Did I get the date wrong? As soon as church was over, I rushed to the back and checked the calendar. It was next week!

During the announcements, the pastor had surprised us again by saying that next Wednesday night's message would be brought by Brother Howard Summers. (We simply must stop misplacing our calendar!) Well, it would be a double-header, with him helping me sing!

I think the Lord worked it out, though. If my husband had had to learn and practice a song when he was under pressure to prepare a sermon, he probably wouldn't have helped me. Now we have already practiced and a simple run-through should suffice. (I can't imagine what the people were thinking when Howard showed up with two guitars!)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Treasures of an Ordinary Day

"I love you, Mimi! I love your presents," Joy said, in the midst of opening another birthday gift, but still casting her eye on the birthday bag I had given her. Aww! And I was wondering if the things I bought were too young for a 7-year-old, or if they would pale in the presence of her new bike, clothes, and other important gifts from the rest of the family.

Howard and I had stopped at the dollar store where I had perused the miscellany of possibilities. "It's fun to buy for kids when you don't have the responsibility of a big gift," I remarked to my husband. I was looking for a ball and jacks, but I picked up a Bible coloring book (I liked it because it had memory verses in it), pen-like crayons that extended with a click, hair accessories, a paddle ball and a paint-by-number kitten picture, and still had enough for polk-a-dot tissue wrap and a card from a $10 bill! Joy had fun pulling the mysterious shapes from the bag.

Who knew that the little things would bring a smile and please so much? As I thought about it later, the memory bringing a smile of my own, I reflected on how God sends little blessings to us, filling out the unexpected places of our day with bright blips of happiness: Funny things grandchildren say, shared with us by their bemused parents ("Daddy, working in the garden is like the old days, except instead of cooking, the women are in the house facebooking!" --9-year-old Mackenzie. Or 5-year-old Anne-Marie mixing up the joke, Why-is-six-afraid-of-seven? Instead of saying, because 7 8 9, she says "Because of 6 and 20.")

Then there are the precious pictures sent via internet of glimpses into their everyday lives--from birthday parties and zoo trips of the little ones, to proms, sleepovers, and mugging shots from their own cameras in teen narcissism. ("I look awesome!"..grandson, Brad, 12.)

Spring sunshine, the antics of the dog or cat, unexpected bargains or blessings..("Would you like one of our chocolate chip cookies?" the young waitress says as she comes to our table with a basket of warm, wrapped parcels of heaven. "How much?" my wary husband asks. "They're free!" she responds.)

The happy weariness of my just-retired husband as he comes in grubby and knee-stained from putting out tomato plants and onion sets; cooking for an appreciative family; giving teenagers a free pass, picking up the slack on their turn at dishes; a Bible verse in a sermon standing out with personal meaning in a church service...

All these and so many more from our Heavenly Father who is the Master Gift-Giver!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Words by Heart

"Did you find out the answers to the Jonah question I gave you last week?" A man at church asked as he approached us last night. Oh no, we'd forgotten about it and didn't even remember the question! He said the question was, What are four things the church could learn from the whale?

"To spit out evil?" I took a guess. Wrong. Then he told us:

1. It took him (Jonah) in when no one else would.

2. It gave him a place to pray.

3. It pulled him up when he was on his way down.

4. It set his feet on solid ground.

We smiled and laughed appreciatively. Then the nice, if slightly eccentric, youngish fifty-something began to tell us a story he had composed in rhyme. By way of explanation, he said he had never been close to his dad. The poem was about someone being estranged from their father, then finding all the qualities he had missed in his dad in his Heavenly Father. It was rather profound, and I told him he should make a song of it, since he is a talented singer.

"I did!" he replied, and then sang the touching song to us as we stood in the aisle while the lights blinked, signalling that church was over.

"Have you written any more songs?" I asked. We always enjoyed his singing and his remarkable skill at the piano when he could be persuaded to present something in church.

"No," he answered. "You see, I was exposed to lead when I was young and I can't remember anything." What? This was hard to believe about this gifted, at once shy-and-friendly, though slow-to-warm, person! But what he said next shocked us even more.

"I can't read or write," he confided. To our disbelief, he told us he had managed a business and worked on many jobs in responsible positions. As if he sensed our unvoiced questions as to how he did this without reading, he said he could follow along somewhat on a printed page.

Wow! This must be the reason he would not sing or play something someone requested, or participate in a song out of the book. He couldn't read the words! We had known him, if slightly, for several months, so this was a surprise.

My husband and I were still marveling over this brother's revelation on the way home. "It kind of makes me feel ashamed at complaining over anything," I said, "At least we had fathers who loved us, and we can read!"

Lord, let me not ever judge or criticize anyone's shortcomings. They maybe dealing with things we know nothing about!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Little Things Mean a Lot

Today a friend knocked at the door asking if my husband were home. Howard joined him on the front porch for a chat in the adirondack chairs, which turned into a lengthy visit, something my husband is able to enjoy now that he is finally retired.

"What did David have to say?" I asked when my spouse finally came in.

"He brought me something," Howard announced, looking pleased. When he pulled it from his pocket, my mind went back to the conversation we had Sunday when our friend and his wife were over for Easter dinner.

"I've been keeping my angels busy lately," Howard had ventured. He was referring to a minor scrape we'd had on our trip, then a few days later, he bumped a car while backing out. "It was in my blind spot," he explained.

"You need some safety mirrors," David offered, "little mirrors you stick on your side view mirrors." Why hadn't we thought of that! I'd seen those "fish eye" mirrors on cars before.

Howard had a couple of little shiny, convex mirrors in his hand that David had brought him! How nice! We went out immediately and attached them. What a difference! Our vision was improved remarkably. We drove to town, and I noticed one on another car right away. I felt good, knowing we had them, too.

People don't often take time to be so thoughtful, especially men, and it was a real mark of caring to share a handy little gadget like that. I guess some things just strike a chord with men, like something that happened the other day. We had just gotten home from our trip and were sitting in church before the service started.

"What's that?" I asked Howard as I noticed a tiny purple item that had fallen out his Bible; then I realized it was a plastic guitar pick. "Pick Jesus," I read when I saw the gold letters on it. How cute! I thought.

"I got it for Pastor at the Billy Graham Library bookstore," he surprised me by saying. How sweet that he would think of that, and not say anything about it! Just a little gesture between two guitar enthusiasts, but the pastor was surprised and pleased.

Maybe men are not so unthoughtful after all! It just has to strike a chord! (No pun intended.)

Georgia on My Mind

One of the nicest memories I have (and there were many) of our several days in Georgia with our daughter, Amy's, family recently was the day we had nothing scheduled. Amy was off work for our visit, so she had planned ahead to make the most of our time together.

One day she did have to go to her closed office for an hour of paperwork, but that gave us the opportunity to go along and see where she works. She showed us her lovely office, decorated with nice appointments and family pictures, opening to a waiting room for out-surgery patients. We saw the rest of the facility where she is clinical manager and were thoroughly impressed and duly proud of her! She caught up with us a little later at shops nearby, then the whole family went to Olive Garden for a festive soup, salad, and breadsticks lunch.

Another day we walked the Victorian-style historic district in Rome, Georgia, where her hospital is located. A pleasant stroll among the charming brick structures led us to a fascinating antiques/old book store, a quaint bakery with a glassed-in view of fancy cake decorating in progress (where our daughter selected a decadently rich chocolate cake for her husband's birthday) with a huge, plank table for deli-sandwiches, and a flower shop doubling as a gourmet kitchen store.

This was after Amy had treated us to a "high afternoon tea" at an ornate old tea room draped with ceiling-high valances and heavy panels, carved friezes of cherubs along the walls, scalloped silver chargers on white tablecloths set with china tea pots and delicate floral cups. We had hot tea of different blends, finger sandwiches, delicacies and soup. The atmosphere was as memorable as the food, making for a great experience for all, including my husband.

For weeks I had been wanting to see a film my son mentioned to me, "The Iron Lady," a story of Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister of England, but it was never anywhere near our viewing area. The closest place was in Wichita, 90 minutes away from our home, and then never at a convenient time. I couldn't believe it when I saw it playing at an out-of-the way theatre near Amy's! Howard took me to see this fascinating slice of history when an equally-fascinating woman was in power for more than 10 years. We also saw the movie, "October Baby," which I had heard about, an important story of an abortion survivor.

Sunday church, relaxing on their deck or front porch, picking up one granddaughter from golfing practice and seeing her in her golfing togs and watching the other grandddaughter's gymnastic practice, listening to grandson's musical compositions he sang and accompanied on his guitar via internet, and enjoying home-cooked meals were other high points of our visit.

The day we stayed home, Amy made a plate of egg-salad sandwiches, gathered some tasty left-overs from the fridge, and we had our own tea-styled lunch on her screened side porch. Her dad had to clear his books from the round table, but we lingered in unhurried conversation over our lunch, Howard spinning stories for his daughter giving rapt attention, all in the fresh air with blooming azaelas showing just outside. Priceless!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Good Old Mountain Music

"I helped chink it! I helped chink that cabin!" Our guide at the museum of The Carter Family Fold informed us, as we were asking about the A.P. Carter cabin we were about to visit. We were in Hiltons, Virginia, where our granddaughter and her husband had taken us to see this bastion of mountain music and enjoy an evening of the bluegrass/country band's performance.

The old gentleman went on with his story. "I mean I helped re-chink it when it was moved to this location." The cabin had been located in an inaccessible location parallel with Poor Valley, even though it was on the National Register for historic places. It was moved with much difficulty and expense to its present location several years ago.

"I looked up one day and saw a woman looking all around the property. I asked her if I could help her, and she asked if I knew anything about the cabin. I told her that I had helped chink it. She was taking pictures, and the next morning, I turned on the news (I think he said Good Morning America), and there I was on a video, identified as the man who helped restore Alvin Pleasant Carter's cabin!" Surprise! You're on Candid Camera!

Well, if the old location was inaccessible, this one seemed nearly so, as our grandson-in-law drove us deeper into the valley on a winding, mountain road. "I don't know if you all like lemonade or not," he ventured, "but this place has the best lemonade you've ever tasted." And it was unique, generous cups of sweet/sour refreshment we balanced climbing up the stairs to our seats in the building the brochure said seated 800. The announcer said there 300 here tonight.

"Have you ever seen flat-foot dancing?" our granddaughter asked us. We hadn't, but soon after the band performance started, people materialized as if from nowhere on the broad, wooden floor fronting the platform, dancing individually or with partners in a flat foot folk dance of a rapid, heel-and-toe mountain style that vibrated energy throughout the whole auditorium. One couldn't help admiring their enthusiasm, as oldsters, children, and young people alike mesmerized those in the stands with their hoedown to the hard-driving fiddle music.

Howard was having the time of his life, immersing himself in this bit of nostalgic history of his favorite music. "Did you see that open Bible on the table as we came in?" he pointed out. There were reflections of a Christian outlook in religious signs and slogans posted here and there. Judging from the mixed-age gathering, it was family entertainment.

"They always close with a hymn," our young hosts assured us. I thought I had recognized a hymn earlier in the fast music, but I was hoping to hear more. It was getting late, so I pressed to leave after the intermission, but my husband wasn't ready to go. And I was glad we stayed for at least part of the final segment, because they played and sang several spiritual songs then, leaving us humming and thoughtful as we reflected on the music that someone said "goes into your ear, down into your soul, and comes out your feet."

A good analogy of the gospel: one hears it, accepts it, and walks it out and takes it to others! "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings,... that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!" Isaiah 52:7. Now that is real mountain music!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter Miracle

Much has been in the news recently about events hailed as Easter Miracles: The jet plane crash in which no one was killed; the recent Texas tornadoes where there was no loss of life. It made me think of something, tiny in comparison, that happened here yesterday.

We'd had a wonderful Easter dinner. My daughter-in-law, Joanna, had stayed up late the night before with preparations, including setting a gracious table with a white cloth and hand-lettered name cards at each place. The next morning, a lovely bouquet of long-stemmed lilies and palm fronds was placed in a tall, slender vase in the middle of the table (a smaller version was on the "kids" table).

After church, eleven of us, including guests, enjoyed ham, stuffed eggs and other sides, as well as grandson Adam's birthday cake, a festive pie and two other kinds of cake. It was so good and we were so hungry that we could only collapse on sofas after such a satisfying meal. The conversation continued in the living room before guests went home and others retired to the front porch, where, revived by the brisk air, everyone decided to go to the park for biking and walking.

"I think I will lie down for a few minutes," I excused myself, trying to ease a headache that had bothered me all morning. Shortly Howard came in and joined me to "rest my eyes for awhile." After he fell asleep, I decided to clear up the dishes, thinking the warm water and mild exercise would help as much a nap for my headache.

The dozen or so plates were neatly stacked, and the dishwasher was open, waiting to be unloaded, but I opted out and closed it, preferring to wash the dishes myself. Soon the sparkling glasses were dry enough to put away, and the stack of plates was drying in the drainer. From there it was short work to collect the rest of the dishes from the tables, throw away crumpled napkins, straighten chairs and do the pots and pans. I even had time to get on the computer before we left for church.

"Did you get my message?" Joanna asked as we came in later. I told her no, we had left our phone at home. She thanked me for cleaning up, and I went in to pick up my phone and hear her message. "We walked in the house and I couldn't believe it!" my daughter-in-law's voice came over the phone. "It was an Easter miracle! I couldn't believe you cleaned up the whole kitchen by yourself, and the dining room, too? That was so awesome! I'm incredibly blessed! We love you guys." She told me later that she knew the dishes would be waiting on her and she was dreading the clean-up chore when she got home.

An Easter miracle? Wow! I'm so glad I surprised and blessed her, but of course their kindnesses to us are blessings, too. And it was almost as if I were having help as I almost effortlessly breezed through the task, almost complete, then wiping that counter or whisking away those cake crumbs from the buffet, or straightening that chair. Even homely tasks can be inspiring when you are filling a need and inadvertently blessing someone!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Next Year in Jerusalem!

"Barak atah adonai..." I could just imagine the words being intoned in a rich, rabbinical voice. "Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who has...," followed by the particular blessing being enumerated. We were at our first Seder, a Messianic Passover Haggadah, and found ourselves immersed in the ancient ritual of recounting the Jewish deliverance from the bondage of Egytian slavery.

The church fellowship hall was set up like the finest banquet: White tablecloths, cloth napkins standing in folds beside the formal place settings, their deep hue echoing the "wine" in clear cups beside each plate. On the opposite side of the dinner plate was an individual seder plate holding ceremonial items of Passover: Bitter herbs (horseradish), a sprig of parsley, and an apple/nut mixture. A seder plate on the communion table in front of the pulpit held these things, plus a roasted egg and a bone.

Everyone was handed a booklet called a Haggadah (which means "the telling"),which gives the "seder" or the order of service. The service began with the lighting of the candles, by a woman. From there the pastor led in the fifteen points of the ceremony, which included responsive readings from the participants. We ate the bitter herbs scooped on matzah bread (the bread of affliction), then the apple mixture was eaten to camouflage the taste of the herbs, illustrating that with every hardship God brings times of sweetness.

Dipping the parsley in salt water represented the tears shed in the Egyptian bondage. At one point, a pinky finger was dipped into the wine, once for each Egyptian plague, then drops fell like blood when shaken onto the seder tray as each plague was recited three times: mice, mice, mice, etc.

The unleavened matzah bread represented Christ. Pierced like crackers, it reflected the piercings of Christ. The brown lines streaked across it in the baking process formed stripes which brought to mind the stripes he suffered on his body.

In recounting the Passover story, Gamaliel, the teacher of Paul, taught that three things must be included: The unleavened bread, the bitter herbs, and the Passover lamb. The lamb was represented by the roasted shank bone of the lamb whose blood had marked the houses of the children of Israel.

Much more symbolism was incorporated in the 2-3 hour service, ending with the cup of praise, the last of four partakings of wine. We recited the Hallel as we responded, "His love endures forever," to the commands of "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good," and other other divine attributes found in Psalm 136:1-16,26.

This was the 22nd year the seder has been presented by the group in Winfield, and I hope it won't be the last one we get to attend. "The Passover seder is now complete, just as our redemption is forever complete," read the leader. "Let us conclude with the tradtional wish that we may celebrate Passover next year in Jerusalem."

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


"Nice to have breakfast out here!" the elderly gentleman remarked to us as we sat in the sun at an outdoor table. It was so much better out here in the beautiful spring air than inside the McDonald's where we had stopped so Howard could get a cup of coffee. We were on our way this morning to Charlotte, NC, to see the Billy Graham Library, leaving before breakfast so as to be on time to meet our kids, Mark and Rhonda, there. Thinking we could grab something along the way, we had forgotten that there is nothing for miles along the high mountain roads except for dizzying heights and scary curves.

I realized this was the road we'd been on about 5 years ago when I saw the sign, "Sam's Gap", a deep valley below this mountain of over 3900 feet elevation. As on that occasion, we had become nervous about gasoline and stopped at the self-same rustic, log, service station/eatery--the first beacon of hope we came upon. Unfortunately, the cafe was not open, so we foraged for snacks of a huge honey bun, a shared turkey and cheese sandwich, chips and a bottle of milk. It served to make my husband sleepy, and now we find this McDonald's only a little farther on.

The old man was wearing a WWII veteran's cap, and Howard soon engaged him in conversation about his military service. "I'm 92!" the friendly senior confided with a smile. My minister husband asked him if he knew the Lord, and he said he did. "I'm not afraid to die," he said confidently. He dropped a miniature tootsie roll on our table, and waved as he drove past us a little later. I think he saw our tag on the front of the car stating, "God is Bigger Than all my Problems". (Several times on this trip, we have gotten smiles and nods as people point to the tag in agreement--even though it takes me a minute to realize what they mean!)

The Library was awesome, as in awe-inspiring, with its huge, rustic barn complete with bathroom sinks big enough to wash milk buckets in (the senior Grahams were in the dairy business), snack bar with tractor seats on the bar stools, corrugated tin bathroom stall dividers, and other down-on-the-farm touches.

Of course, most inspiring were the "Journey of Faith" rooms depicting the life and ministry of Billy Graham, excerpts of his passionate sermons, a mammoth wall painting by Thomas Kinkade, touring the house that was the boyhood home of the famous evangelist, and the beautiful garden that is the resting place for his wife, Ruth. Ever the sharp wit, Ruth Graham had chosen as her own epitaph something she had seen on a road work sign, "Construction complete; Thank you for your patience."

I am enjoying her wit in a book from "Ruth's Attic", the bookstore, and the latest one by her husband, "Nearing Home". He was 92 in a featured news interview, his aged countenance in sharp contrast with the early, film-star good looks of his youth...the same age as the old soldier, both facing the future unafraid.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Word Pictures

"Would you like to hold him?" my 18-year-old grandson asked. He was holding a baby goat, one of a set of twins born a few weeks ago. I gingerly took the gangly, appealing little creature on my lap and was immediately awed. It was like holding a kitten! Light as a feather, his coat felt like the softest down, fine and smooth. The little nubs on his forehead hinted at his future as a proud billy, but the startlingly loud "Ba-a" emitted plaintively every few minutes sounded like "Ma-a" as he called out for his mother.

A few of us sitting on the front porch after supper were soon joined by other family members pulling up a chair or rocker to catch the last glory of the sun as it dropped behind the mountains. A misty haze was already rising in the hollows, adding dimension and depth to these overlapping hills, part of the aptly named Blue Ridge or Smoky Mountains.

Our toddler great-grandson was poking around, fingering the grass or being called back from exceeding his boundaries on the sloping yard. "He loves nature," our daughter, his Mimi, noted. (I am Mimi the Great!)

"Show him how to blow a dandelion puff," I suggested to one of his doting young aunts. Soon he was pursing his lips and giving tentative little puffs, then smiling in wonder as the downy sphere exploded into dozens of air-borne seed particles.

My husband had been holding forth in conversation out here earlier, mesmerizing his young-adult grandchildren with stories of old New Orleans where he had worked for so many years. When I walked up, he looked at me as if to say, "You've heard all this before, I know you wouldn't be interested," so I left him with this rare treasure, a chance to spin his spell-binding tales for a new audience.

Now our grandson stood up to go on a quick run for store-bought desserts, his pretty girlfriend in tow. Stalwart and tall and silhouetted against the light, his chiseled features and muscular frame personifies youth and strength. Thank you, God, for family and for this time to enjoy them, and the vignettes captured in our memories against the backdrop of your creation. "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills," the scripture says, "Where does my help come from? My help cometh from the Lord, who made heaven and earth."