Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Trip Interrupted

"Aunt Thelma," my niece spoke over the phone, "My dad is visiting and he would like to come and see you and Uncle Howard."  How nice! I thought, and asked to speak to this old friend we'd not seen for probably 50 years.  He and my sister had been divorced several years, even then, but he would always feel like a member of the family for all of us.  He still sounded like himself, his voice just not as strong as I remembered.  We didn't talk long, but we looked forward to a possible visit.

Finally, it was set up for yesterday.  I was glad I had done some housecleaning the day before, and enlisted  my husband to help me finish making the house company ready.   We scurried around with excitement, not knowing exactly when they would come, but they would call before the hour's drive from Wichita.  Finally, as the day wore on, I tried to contact my niece by phone and internet, but got no response.

"What do you supposed happened?" I asked my husband.  "Did I misunderstand?"  There were two possible dates for the visit, and I had chosen Tuesday, yesterday.  Finally, we ate supper, and I was getting ready for bed when the phone rang.

"I need to tell you why we didn't come down today," my niece said, "I've been calling so many people I forgot to call you.  Daddy has had a heart attack and is in intensive care at the hospital!"  Oh, no!  How I hated to hear that!   He is 86, but he had been healthy as far as I knew.  His wife had died about a month before, and he was doing some visiting and reconnecting with folks after the confinement of her illness. He was talking of looking up family in Texas, too.

My mind went back to my first memories of Eddie.  I was only 5 when he and my sister got married, and I remember him taking a nap at our house.  For some reason, I crept up and planted a kiss on his sleeping countenance!  Then, to my chagrin, he opened one eye, winked, smiled at  me and went back to sleep.

Before that, he would show up at our house unannounced, walking down the country lane, smiling his shy grin and making himself useful on the place, chopping wood, fixing small items or just hanging around.  Mama loved him.  After the young couple's marriage, and for the rest of her life, he would call her "Mama."

As a newly-wed, he went into the Navy, and I remember them using some of his pay for Christmas presents for our family.  I got the first new doll I can remember, and my brothers got tiny replicas of Navy battleships.

When I got school age, my sister begged Mama into letting them take me and send me to school.  She had her hands full with a houseful of boys, so I was allowed to go.  They bought my books, school dresses, and paid my fees.  I stayed with them and went to school again in 3rd grade, and even for a semester in high school.  It seemed they were always there for me.

The phone just rang with the news that his surgery went well.  A stent was put in, and although he needs a second stent in a few weeks, the outlook is good for a successful recovery.  In that case, we will be the ones visiting him, but that visit will take place after all!

Monday, October 29, 2012

October Surprise(s)

"Do you smell anything?" I asked my husband expectantly as we entered the door after church.  There is nothing better than coming home on Sunday and being greeted by the delicious aroma of dinner in the oven.  This morning I had put in a chicken to roast, with carrots, onion and potatoes, but without much sense of smell, I could only rely on him for a mouth-watering description.

"No," he said, "not yet."  My heart sank as we headed toward the kitchen.  The house was cold, and so was the oven door! Looking at the oven dial, I couldn't believe my eyes.  It was set on the lowest temperature!  The food wasn't even lukewarm!  How could that have happened?  I had double-checked it, but misread the direction of the indicator!   How disappointing! 

"Well," I said resignedly, "let's just make a sandwich and eat this later."  He looked doubtful, but I reminded him that we could go out to the farm and feed the chickens, and hopefully our feast would be done when we got back.  I ate rather glumly, but I had to admit the grilled ham and cheese tasted good.  I hoped I would be hungry later.

My spirits about our poultry project had been a little depressed, too.  A couple of weeks ago, we had taken a drive to Stillwater to eat lunch and visit a couple of stores.  Since I found some items for myself, I couldn't protest when, on the way out, Howard said with satisfaction, "Now we are going to Atwoods and see if they have any guineas!"  We saw lots of baby chicks at the farm supply store, but he wanted guineas. Finally he asked the attendant and she directed us to the right cages.

Howard selected two brown "keets," as the babies are called, and then he expansively pointed to a white one and said, "I'll take that one, too!"  They were about six weeks old, but the saleslady said they still had to be on a wild bird food.  We had spent about $20 before we left.  Howard kept them in the basement for several nights, then in a warm spell, he put them in cages in the backyard. 

Everything went fine, until one evening sitting on the front porch I tried to read the words on a white truck that was slowing in front of our house.  "Does that say 'A-nim-al Control?' I murmured.  When it stopped and a man began walking toward the house, Howard went to meet him with a friendly greeting.  They talked awhile, and when my husband came back, he said there had been a complaint that day about a rooster crowing in our backyard!  We had moved our chickens to the farm weeks ago!  Nothing came of it, and although he told my "farmer" it was okay to keep the guineas back there, we moved them to the farm the next day.

After a few days, my husband and son decided the flock, including the guineas, could be "free range," and let them out of the chicken pen.  The brown ones were missing the next day.  I hated seeing the disappointment on Howard's face.  We dutifully penned the white one we'd found cowering behind a bale of straw, but a few days later it went missing.  Charting it up to a hawk or something, we tried to put the fiasco out of our minds.

Driving up to the farm, we saw Greg working on the chicken house, adding new nesting boxes.  "Your white guinea is here!" he announced.  There it was, pecking among the chickens!  Thank you, Lord!  (It probably helped that Howard had caged the abusive rooster!)

Our dinner tasted great when we got home a couple of hours later, followed that evening by a wonderful church singspiration and fellowship.  What a great day the Lord had made!

Clear as a Bell?

"Did you get the nail?" I asked my husband as he came into the room.  We had bought an item of wall decor and I was needing his help to hang it.   Instead of answering, he went out the front door.  I was standing by the fireplace looking over the mail I had just brought in.

"Is that the mail?" he asked when he came back in.  "I thought you wanted me to get it!"  He had thought I said, "mail." It was funny, but it happens all the time with two people whose hearing is not as keen as it should be.  We've just learned to laugh it off and hope we don't misunderstand something important..

Like the time when our kids were little, and I heard my nine-year-old son ask, "Mom, can I have a hot-dog?"  I was reading the paper and answered distractedly, "Sure, if there are any left from lunch."  Pretty soon I was aware of him on the phone saying something like "AKC, Registered, and other mysterious utterances. I saw that he had the classified section of the newspaper spread out before him.

"What are you doing?" I demanded, to which he replied innocently, "I'm looking for a hunting dog!  You said I could have one!"  I reminded myself to start listening more closely!

Sometimes I accuse my husband of having selective hearing, though.  I can call him repeatedly from the kitchen, then, thinking he hasn't heard me,  I finally go to the bedroom and let him know, "I called you three times!"  His response is "And I answered you three times!"  (Well, what with the stove fan on, the refrigerator humming, and the microwave dinging, I guess I hadn't heard him!)  Anyway he knows that I mean the meal is ready; he just doesn't want to leave his pursuits of reading, TV, or computer. I feel like saying, as I did when the kids were young, "When I call you, I want you to come!"

There is a story in the Bible about young Samuel, who thought he heard Eli, the priest call him, and rose obediently from his sleeping mat.  He immediately went to the priest, and said, "Here I am." (I Samuel  3:4). This happened three times, until Eli instructed him that if he heard the voice call him again, it was the Lord. This time, Samuel recognized it as being from God and received his instructions.

The Bible says in Romans 10:17, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."  The previous verses have taught that whosoever calls on the Lord will be saved, but first they must hear about him, and how shall they hear without a preacher? It goes on to say, "How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel."  Well, my preacher husband is probably in there studying his Bible, hearing from God, so I guess I'll give him some slack.  That is the most important hearing, after all!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Just Can't Stop Praising the Lord!

"Brother Howard, will you lead us in a testimony service?" the pastor asked at church last night.  There was a small crowd for the midweek service, but it seemed almost everybody had an uplifting testimony, especially an exuberant saint in his 90th year. Still preaching, when my husband gave him the microphone he told of meeting up with someone at a service over the week-end who had been saved under his ministry over 50 years ago.

"I had been asked to preach for a brother, and I was working a job at the time, also," he related.  "I was just getting into my message when this little girl, about 16, she was, very pretty in a white dress, came up and stood in front of the altar."  He said he was irritated about being interrupted, since he had made so much effort to get there after work and he didn't think anyone should break the anointing when someone was giving the Word.

"What do you want?" he had demanded brusquely, to which she replied, "I want to get saved."  He replied that there was no better place nor time than right here and right now, and she was gloriously saved.

"When I saw her yesterday, she was thanking me for leading her to the Lord.  'If I hadn't gotten saved, I wouldn't have gone to Bible school,' she said, 'And if I hadn't gone to Bible school, I would not have met my husband.  If I hadn't met my husband, I would not have my wonderful sons,' she said, with tears in her eyes. That meant so much to me!" he finished.

"Tell about the Holy Ghost!" his wife prompted from her seat at the piano.  "That was good!"

"Well, I didn't want to take too much time," he admitted hesitantly, "But it turns out that after she got home and was still rejoicing and praying in her room, she had the wonderful experience of being baptized with the Holy Spirit.  She was praising so loudly and making a racket, that her father heard her and told his wife,
'Make her shut up!'"

"Her mother couldn't get her to be quiet, so she put her in the closet!  That didn't stop her, and she is still praising God after all these years.  That  meant so much to  me," the old preacher said, wiping his eyes as he sat down amid appreciative applause. 

I thought of Jeremiah, who said in the chapter 20, verse 9 in the book by his name, "Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name.  But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forebearing, and I could not stay."

Or Paul, in I Corinthians 9:16, when he says, "For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of:  for necessity is laid upon me; yea woe is unto me,  if I preach not the gospel!"

I think the old preacher feels the same way.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Birds and the Bees

"How are you doing with your chickens?" our pastor asked Howard across the table as we were having after-church snacks at Braums last night.  That gave my husband the perfect opportunity to fill him in on our latest installment in the poultry saga.  We had brought the hens home about two weeks ago and transferred them to the country over a week ago, but not without incident either time.

"Funny you should ask," Howard replied with relish.  "Yesterday I had dozed off reading on the front porch, when a voice woke me up. 'Howard, Howard,' I heard, and saw our neighbor lady peering through the screen.  'I have a white chicken in my backyard!"

He was instantly awake, though a little puzzled.  Grabbing his shoes from the house and calling me to follow, he headed for her backyard.  It was our chicken!  I suddenly had a flashback of two escaping the first morning we had them, and we'd never recovered one of them.  It was limping, obviously a result of vigorous recovery attempts by us and our eager granddog.  Our efforts at catching it this time were futile, too, until he called the dog to pin it down, sending the poor thing into shock, from which, thankfully, it recovered in the coop.

"I had just been reading in the Bible about how God had promised the Israelites that their herds would multiply and their flocks would increase," Howard told our pastor, "I prayed that for me, and now he was increasing my flock by one lost hen!"

"It also says He'll give back what the devil has stolen," I chimed in, thinking of how the chicken had been frightened farther away by the dog in the first place.  Well, it was satan's fault that dogs are not always the gentle creatures God made in the beginning when they were not carnivorous.

About that time I heard a buzz of conversation and laughter from a group of ladies at the end of the table, and one spoke up that she'd had a prayer answered in church tonight for my husband!  "A big old bee was circling around at the back of the church where I was sitting, and suddenly I saw it head straight for the platform where you were playing the guitar," she explained.  "Then it looked like it hit your head!  I prayed, 'Lord, send that bee back here and don't let it sting Brother Howard!'"

My husband looked surprised and said, "I thought I felt something hit my head, but figured I imagined it and kept on playing!" (I hadn't seen a thing!)

"Anyway," our friend continued, "Just then it did a complete circle and came back and landed right at my feet!  Then my husband stepped on it!"

What a curious symbiosis we have with our creature friends.  Someday it will be like it was in the beginning, when the lion will lie down with the lamb, and the thorns, thistles and bee stings will be taken away.  Until then, sometimes it seems we can't live with them, but we certainly can't live without 'em!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Howard on Wheels

"Are you ready to go?" I asked my husband.  We had been feeding chickens and the dog at our son's place in the country while they were out of town.

"No," he replied, his eyes fixed on the 4-wheeler, parked tantalizingly nearby.  "Let's take a ride.  Greg said it would be okay."  At first, I demurred, but then I thought, Why not?  I figured we'd ride up to the pond, turn around and come back.  Not!

"How far are you going?" was my anxious query, clinging on behind him on my uncomfortable perch as he revved up the engine and we sped past the lake.  What was I thinking?  He was headed to the far end of the pasture!  I'd had a ride before with my daughter-in-law, but I'd had a pillow they kept for such purposes, and she listened when I asked her to take it easy!

"Don't go over the humps!" I pleaded, as we headed toward the first of several berms in the terrain put there to prevent erosion on the slopes.  My words were lost on the rushing air as he yelled, "What?" and ignored me.  Each time we approached the mounds, I feared a drop off, then was relieved when the ground magically smoothed out before us.

Soon we were at the top of the pasture, and he was looking for a gate leading to an outer fence by the road.  "I want to check out the fences and find where that cow went through!"  So that was it!  A sedated long-horn that had resisted transport by the former owner had reportedly gone through a section of fence before she was caught, and he was curious about the damage.

On and on we went, circling the whole 30 acres.  "Stop!" I yelled, as a virtual cliff came into view.  I hadn't seen that before!  Trees were clinging by their roots at the edge of a dramatic drop of several feet near the main highway.  My energized driver swerved just in time. 

"There it is!" I pointed, as we slowed at a damaged section of fence.  Now maybe we could go back. Wishful thinking!  Finally I spotted the peaceful scene of the large oak holding the rope swing our son had put up for the kids the other day.  I couldn't believe it when I was at last allowed to dismount.  Oh, my aching back from those unpadded jolts! 

"That was horrible!" I complained as I maneuvered my (not long) legs stiffly from behind him and got off.  "Did you enjoy it?" I asked, sarcastically.

"Yes!  I thought it was wonderful!" he said maddeningly.  He would, I realized.  A contoured, comfy seat, being in control, the wind in his face, gripping the handlebars with a front-seat view!  He was Steve Mcqueen!

Oh, well, I couldn't begrudge him a little enjoyment, I realized.  It reminded me of life, as I thought about it later.  We can either protest, not trusting our Driver, and see the negative, fearful side of everything or relax and enjoy the ride!  I must admit, the view was great at the top, looking down on the bucolic scene below.  It would have been fun if I hadn't been so timid.  Lesson learned:  Don't be afraid to try new things.  It can stretch your faith!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Barber Shop Tales

"Do you ever go to the Livestock Auction here?" my husband asked his friendly barber, a man from our church.  We had been helping at a work-day for the church that morning, and Howard wanted to get his haircut in this small Oklahoma town where both the church and barbershop are located. I told him I would meet him there after I checked out a garage sale with two of the other volunteers.

"What?" said the barber, who is quite hard-of-hearing.  Another customer, obviously a local resident,  clarified loudly, "The sale!  He wants to know about the livestock sale!"

Evidently, this was a familiar subject to the talkative patron, for he told us who used to own the auction business  back in the day.  "Old Sam (I'll call him) had a habit of barbecuing beef after the sale, and he and his cronies would wash it down with whiskey," he began.  Then, warming to his story, he said that one day after they had had their fill, one of the cowboys (good ol' boys, as they were known in Mississippi) who owned a  pick-up truck was driving in front of old Sam to keep him on the road going home.

He said Old Sam was driving so badly, a cop stopped them and had the auction owner get out of the car. "Old Sam insisted he was trying to keep the man in front of him on the road.  When the officer pronounced him drunk, they ended up wrestling in the ditch.  He got the best of the cop, jumped in his car and took off for home!" With obvious relish, we were told that the officer recovered and began shooting at the rapidly disappearing tail lights. "They went on home, and the next morning, a friend talked Sam into turning himself in!"

"They didn't do anything to him, though," he laughed, "He was such a good guy...if you needed a hundred dollars, he would just pull it out of his pocket and give it to you."  He went on, "One of his friends had a bumper sticker made up that said, 'Don't shoot! Just passin' though!' Pretty soon everybody in town had one!"  About that time my phone rang, and I took it to the porch for a long conversation with my daughter until my husband came out.

Later, I thought about the bumper sticker.  It made me think of the song, "This World is Not My Home, I'm Just Passing Through."  It's nice to have friends in this world who regard you fondly, but I would rather be able to say, like the words of the song, "The angels beckon me, to Heaven's open door, and  I can't feel at home in this world anymore."  Hopefully, the old auctioneer was able to say that, and heard it, too, when his earthly days were over.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Morning Splendor

This gorgeous fall weather kind of makes me nostalgic.  I commented to my husband yesterday as we were driving along in the glorious sunshine and crisp temperatures that I missed the home in Mississippi where we had raised our children.  "Why is it so easy to want to live in the good times of the past?" I wondered aloud.  "When, as Christians, we know that the best times are ahead of us!"

"We really should be excited about that," I admitted, "because the Bible says that the path of the just gets brighter every day!"  I looked it up when I got home and found in Proverbs 4:18, "But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day."

Not only do we enjoy God's favor in our own lives, but we have a responsibility to others, too. That means, as life goes on, we should be more of an example and spread the light to those around us!

David used these words in telling of job qualifications for ruling he had received from God, but they are applicable to every light bearer: "And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out the earth by clear shining after rain," II Samuel 23:4.  That sounds like transparency, compassion, and a warm welcome, to me.

Matthew 5:13, calls us the salt of the earth, and in verse 14, the light of the world.  Jesus says in the next verse, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."

I will always treasure memories in my heart of our children growing up, and of the times we enjoy with them today and the people they have become. But my life apart from my children is still important, fulfilling, and getting brighter every day, with every morning an ever-rising promise!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


"I'll meet you at the card section," my husband said as we entered Walmart.  He wanted something in the grocery department and knew I was looking for a musical birthday card for our son, Greg.  We had already stopped at one store whose cards I usually love, but it turned out they had no musical cards.  The thought had occured to me when I realized I had no feasible idea for a gift for our son who was turning 46, but I wanted to remember this important date at least in a small way.

"This looks good!" I said to myself when I saw a card with a guitar, knowing that when I opened it there would be twanging guitar music.  Guitars are one of his passions.  But the flames around the red guitar and the rock music might not be just right.  I'd keep looking.

"Yes!" I smiled, when I spotted a card that said something like, "This might be a little extravagant, but I knew you wanted a little house in the country..."   They had just bought a country place where they were making improvements!  Then I opened the card and read the words, "So here it is!"  It was a weathered old structure just like several of the outbuildings on their land! My ears were blasted with a Beverly Hillbillies type tune complete with fiddles, guitars and banjos.  This was perfect!  Thank You, Lord!

I couldn't wait to show it to Howard when he came to meet me.  His grin told me he thought it was perfect, too!  Then I saw a classic car calendar for 2013 (redoing vintage cars is another one of his passions), got a gift bag, and breathed a sigh of satisfaction.  I knew he would like it, and he did, getting a kick out of the apropos, off-beat card.

They are off for a birthday trip tomorrow with the family, coinciding with the kids' fall break.  We are dog-sitting with our granddog, who is finally lying down, tired from running to the door, listening expectantly, and giving the occasional sharp bark as she looks at me questioningly.  Tomorrow we will feed their other dog who is on guard duty at their farm and tend their chickens (and ours).  Presents don't have to be expensive!

There is one Gift, though, that was very expensive, yet available free to everyone, the Gift of salvation. It cost Jesus His life, but it gives us back our life when He redeems us from sin. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  For God sent not His Son unto the  world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved."  John 3:16, 17.  There is no greater gift!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Chick Tracks

"We missed you at church last night," the pastor spoke over the phone.  "Were you ill?" 

"No," I said, "Howard just had to get the ox out of the ditch."  More accurately, it was getting the chicken out of the coop!  My husband recently indulged his longing to have chickens when our "egg lady," who brought us a treasured dozen every Wednesday church night, told him that her sources had dried up.  Her supplier was getting rid of  her 28 hens.

My thrifty husband's ears perked up when she said the owner was willing to let them go for $5 each.  "I'll take them!" he exclaimed, barely suppressing his excitement (and without even asking me)!  Just then another church friend, overhearing the conversation, said eagerly, "I'll take any you don't want."  So, thinking of his wallet, I imagine, he decided he would take ten, with an eye to putting them on our son's newly purchased country property.

Accommodations would have to be provided for them there, though, so they would "layover" (no pun intended) in rabbit cages in our back yard vacated by previous objects of his enthusiasm, grown cold.  The initial transfer went smoothly, under cover of darkness, since the covert operation had to wait until the chickens went to roost.  (Nice that our neighbors couldn't see, too!)  While Howard  was feeding these prizes the next day, however, two super-hens flew the coop, flapping past him and sailing over the fenced enclosure. Thankfully, they were rounded up with the help of an eager pooch borrowed from our granddaughter.

Our son had prepared the chicken house, and yesterday was the only day they could be delivered. We didn't expect it to take all afternoon, but it turned out to be a day fraught with drama, suspense and "fowl" play.  I was drafted as a helper, and armed with his longsleeve flannel shirt to protect my arms and oversized gloves supplied by my husband,  I was stationed as a guard while he opened the cage.  Those wily birds proved very elusive, so I was dispatched to the house for a wire clothes hanger.  After a heated discussion about the size of the hook (I remembered how Mama used to catch chickens, but he had his own recollections), we tossed the clothes hanger idea.  I would stand at one end of the cage and shoo them to the other end where Howard was waiting.  This was working, but too slowly.

Finally resorting to grabbing a clawing drumstick myself, I caught one, then another prey, but two managed to escape over the fence.  Howard went to get our granddog again, who by this time was overly enthusiastic, resulting in a casualty, or maybe two.  It was hard to count them in their feathered jumble.  The neighbors found the whole thing highly amusing and joined the search for the escaped fowl. It was with our own ruffled feathers that we finally had all 12 ( including the ones the seller had thrown in as a bonus) in their cages and on the way to their new digs, a refigured playhouse with nesting boxes and roosting rails added.

I breathed a sigh of relief and prayed for their safety when we left for the night.  Today we went out to paint the hen house, finding them safe and sound, contentedly singing their off-key chicken warble and scratching happily in the dirt of their pen.  Counting them, I couldn't believe there were 13!  Repeated countings came up with the same number!  One chicken must have only fainted and hidden among the rest!  At any rate, we had missed church, and when our pastor called this morning, I knew our chickens had come home to roost!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Heart Warming

"Oh, do you have a wishing well?"  I questioned, looking out the glass door onto our son's patio.  Maybe it's a planter, I thought, as I admired the handsome, stone structure. 

"No, it's a fire pit," our son explained.  "We built it  so we could sit out there and enjoy a fire these nice evenings."  Well, no wonder I didn't remember it.  I remarked what a good job they had done, and he said they'd built it from a kit!  After supper, we all gathered around it to roast marshmallows for s'mores.

We were at Trevor's and Jennifer's house in Texas to spend the night before going with Jamie's family to the fair the next day. We'd had a wonderful meal they had prepared, and now it was so pleasant to enjoy laughing and talking around the cheerful flames of the firepit.  The delicious s'mores were a perfect dessert, stickiness aside, for grown-ups and the youngest among us, too.

I experienced de ja vu last night as we again sat around a fire roasting weiners and marshmallows, this time at our son, Greg's new place, a farm/ranch right here at home.  We were invited out for a Friday night bonfire, but though a weather front with high wind gusts prevented a fire that grand, we still  managed an impromptu cook-out, a garden-wagon serving as a table holding chips, drinks, marshmallows and the makings for hot dogs. 

As appetites were satisfied, a sweet musical harmony emanated from the shadows as the quartet of girls, from kindergarten to college, sang along with portable music someone produced.  Though a livelier tune, the notes drifting on the night air seemed akin to a  cowboy ballad at our pasture picnic. Leaving the circle of warmth and light and driving away into the darkness, we could see the fire as only a small glow in the distance, but we knew it was providing light and warmth to those still  gathered in its borders.

There is something about a campfire that is welcoming.  Jesus sat on the shore with a breakfast fire he'd made for his disciples who'd had a bad night of fishing, which, with His advice, turned into an overwhelming catch.  John 21:9 says, "As soon as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread."  Then he called to them, "Come and dine."  The Bible says that none of them dared ask him who He was, knowing that it was the Lord.  This was one of the appearances Jesus made to them after his resurrection.  After they had eaten, Jesus had important words  and instructions for them.  Words come easily around a fire.

Friday, October 12, 2012

What's in a Name?

Is Your Name Here?  I read on the billboard as we sped past on our trip recently.  Suddenly I heard myself singing, "Is my name written there, on the page bright and  fair..." words from an old hymn that surfaced from my memory bank.

The Bible has much to say about the eternal record of the redeemed in which the names of those who have trusted in Jesus are written.  Revelation 3:5 says, "He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels."  Verse 4 says, "...and they shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy."

In Revelation 2:17 we read, "...I...will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it." This name reflects our identity that is assigned in Christ.

Much thought and consideration by new parents is put into choosing a name for their child.  They usually want something distinctive that will set their child apart from others, even honoring them with a name passed down through the family from an esteemed relative.  Those who want an informal name might choose something trendy, cute, or faddish.  Often whole generations can be identified by the prominence of certain names, popular at their time of birth.

Then there is the throwback to names of the past, a kind of re-generation of names, you might say.  We are seeing a lot of that now, with names like Olivia, Henry, Annabelle, Emily, or Alexander becoming popular.  One thing parents want  (or should want ) is to avoid  a name that will draw ridicule or disfavor toward their child.  Some names are even illegal to name a child.  Silly names like the names of fruit or sport cars are discouraged.  Biblical names are timeless and can  impart a sense of dignity and/or beauty to the recipient.

There is no doubt that names are important.  They set a tone, a perception, and will follow us through life.  Many find themselves trying to live up to their name, or to live down their name!  As important as our earthly names are, there is one Name that is most important of all:  The eternal Name of Jesus, one that transcends time.  When we become Christians, we take on His name. 

Like the billboard, our names are read by all men.  If we bear the name of Christ, we have a responsibility to honor that Name. There is a saying that we are the only Bible some people will ever read.  Paul says in II Corinthians 3:2-3, "Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart."  Changed lives are evidence of our new name!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A New Twist

Wouldn't you know the day we went to the Texas State Fair it turned disagreeably cold! The day before had been in the 80's, keeping us guessing as to what clothes to bring.  However, we were able to layer, and  being with family, especially grandchildren, insured a fun time in spite of the weather.  Ducking indoors whenever we could, we watched a dog show, looked at exhibits, and visited a dazzling new car display.

"Do you want to watch a cooking show?" our son, Jamie asked as we came upon a beautiful, stainless steel kitchen area with several rows of seats in front already filled.  I said it would be hard to see that far back, but he pointed to the mirrored wall slanted over the cooking area where we would be able to see perfectly. (I would have done anything to get to sit down for awhile!)

It was set up just like a TV cooking show, with a man coming out and arranging small containers of ingredients to have at the ready.  Then, just before starting time, he donned a chef's jacket and began an entertaining banter about the show and about the restaurant he owns.  He said he was going to make pretzels, and passed out the recipe sheets for us to take home.  Then, as he worked, the chef told us a couple of stories about the origin of pretzels and their peculiar shape.

Stirring, pounding and kneading the dough, our entertainer told a story of how an apprentice baker accidentally dropped the dough in lye water.  At first, he was reprimanded severely, but rather than waste the dough, they put it in to bake, and it came out the distintive golden brown that pretzels are known for.  I couldn't believe I heard him right, but I found out there is a type of pretzel known as lye pretzels.  However, soda water works about as well, which was what he used.

The chef said that the shape pretzels take when they are whirled and looped, then knotted, making a heart, traditionally resulted in their being given as gifts to newlyweds, thus the term "tying the knot."  Another story he related was that pretzels were given to children as a reward for saying their prayers; one can almost see their  bowed heads and folded hands in their shape.

When the dough was ready, the chef took small globs, rolled them into long strips, then cut them into portions for each pretzel.  He said that the surfaces of old-fashioned pretzel boards were marked with cutting guides for each pretzel segment to avoid mistakes.  Taking the rolled-out, cylindrical strip in his hands by each end, he whirled it into the air, crossing and knotting it into the signature shape.  Some were a little lop-sided on the baking sheet, but he assured us they would be delicious.  Too bad we had to leave before the samples were passed out.

There are many stories of the origins of pretzels, and most have a religious or Christian symbolism attached to them.  The three holes formed by their shape are seen as representing the Holy Trinity to some people.  They were often eaten on Friday as a religious tradition.  How amazing that so many things in our culture stem from religious roots!  I will never think of a pretzel in the same way again!

Wheels of Progress

My favorite attraction we visited in Texas  the other day was the Cowboy Hall of Fame in the Ft. Worth Stockyards, or more particularly, the Sterquell Wagon Collection which is housed there.  The rodeo stars who were highlighted and the Old West displays and artifacts were interesting, but the wagons were fascinating.

There were some sixty styles of wagons, representing their various uses for living and working, from chuck wagons to sleighs, which could be converted to wagons when needed.  I loved the Amish, or market wagons, the dairy wagons, and wagons for almost any business you can think of:  Photographer's wagon, U.S. Mail wagon, Laundry wagon, etc. Of course many were just used for pleasure or transportation, including the "surrey with the fringe on top." 

At one point, I exclaimed, "Oh, look!  A calliope!" when I saw a fancy, gold-trimmed conveyance with lots of curves and curlicues.  Lovely flowers were visible through glass windows, and on closer inspection, I saw a beautiful mahogony box with elaborate moulding behind the glass.  Then I realized it was a coffin in a hearse!  Wow!  How much more genteel than the hearses of today!

I couldn't help but marvel at how far we have come in little more than a hundred years!  Up until then, since the invention of the wheel, people had traveled with horse drawn vehicles.  Time seems to have moved slowly then, when people waited patiently for deliveries, letters, or services.  Labor was slow and intense, from housework to farming to industry.  Few appliances were available, and certainly not the instant communciation of wireless internet service we have today.

My husband and I were studying the meager contents of a chuck wagon kitchen's simple shelves--just salt, bacon, flour and beans, with a pot and frying pan alongside.  Menus at home were probably plain, too, with no convenient mixes or frozen foods, and probably no imported fare or delicacies except for the very wealthy.

Even in my lifetime, I remember when our country home had no electricity and we rode around in Daddy's wagon for short jaunts, probably not to town, but on country errands.  What a drastic contrast to today's living! Kids are clueless as to how it used to be.  I saw a funny instance when a father remarked to his youngster that he didn't have a computer growing up.  The child was astounded, and asked "Then how did you get on the internet?"

Daniel 12:4, reads: "But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased."  In our old family Bible, there is an artist's rendering of the verse with the headlights of cars beaming down a crowded highway, with the caption:  "Prophecy of the Automobile."  I don't know about that, but no one can argue about knowledge being increased, and few would disagree that we are living in the times of the end.

Drawing from the biblical account of Elijah's chariot to heaven, the old song says, "Swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home."  However Jesus decides to come for us, may we be ready! Even so, come Lord Jesus.  Rev. 22:20.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Never Too Late!

"Look!" Howard said as he came in carrying a gift bag, "Jamie got us T-shirts!"  I saw from the logo it was from the university where he is taking a Master's course. 

"Oh, you are making up for what you did to me in college!" I needled Jamie, who was grinning sheepishly as he carried in our suitcase.

"Red or Blue?" Howard asked, to which I replied, "Red."  It was a good thing I did, because when I unfolded the shirt, I saw  the word, MOM, painted in an artistic flourish with a big heart in the middle instead of the "O," and HBU (Houston Baptist University) in blue letters above it. Howard's had the word, DAD, on it.

Back in the day, Jamie left a lot of close friends in our small Mississippi town when he went off to study at the University of Oklahoma.  Friendly and gregarious, he was something of a mini-celebrity to the kids at church, who wrote him faithfully when he first left.  He was especially close to a fun-loving family of girls and their youngish parents who were often involved in youth activities.  I think there was a mutual crush between our son and their eldest daughter.

Imagine my surprise and chagrin one  night at church when I saw their mother wearing an "OU MOM" T-shirt!  That should've been mine!  My unpredictable son!  I guess on his limited budget, he couldn't afford one for me, too!  Oh well, I chalked it up to adolescent insensitivity.  Like I did when he came home for his first  weekend, attended church with us, then didn't show up for Sunday dinner, instead leaving it to me to find him eating at the home of friends!

Well, he's a parent now, so he must know how that would feel, and to his credit, he is very solicitous of his mom  and dad as a grown-up! But I think I felt a little of what God feels when He says, "I am a jealous God," Exodus 20:5.  Besides the obvious definition as resentment,  when I looked up the word I read, "intolerant of unfaithfulness; apprehensive of losing affection or position."

Of course it was unreasonable to think I was losing affection, and I could not lose my position, but the twinges were there, just the same! On the other hand,  God is intolerant of unfaithfulness! He wants and deserves our devotion, faithfulness and praise.  And that is something for which no T-shirt, slogan, or bumper sticker can substitute!     

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Delicate Impressions

"Look at the difference in their maturity level," I spoke fondly of my granddaughters to my daughter-in-law, Tammy.  Three-year-old Maddie was covering her kids' menu color sheet with large, looping circles of orange crayon, while Anne-Marie, almost six, had turned her sheet over to the blank side and drew with utmost concentration.  Their  mother nodded in agreement.

We were at an upscale cowboy-themed restaurant in Ft. Worth's Sundance Square.  Decorated in rustic grandeur, it had several large paintings on the walls.  "Can I see your picture?" I asked Anne-Marie.  It seemed to be a rather complicated drawing, with a princess-like figure with flowing blonde hair sitting in one corner, a couple of people on the other side, and a row of tiny rectangles across the top.  "What are those boxes at the top?"  I asked her.

"Glasses," she responded as she went on coloring.  Suddenly someone started laughing, and we realized she was copying the painting on the wall of an old-time saloon scene with a fancy lady on a bar stool, and a long row of glasses on a shelf above the bar!  Poor baby!  She had no idea what she was copying, but it was recorded in childish detail on her paper.

I hadn't even noticed the flambuoyant art work, we had been so intent on conversation and visiting with our kids in Texas this weekend.  After lunch, we were going to the historic stockyards district, where we would see a cattle drive and other old west attractions.  It was all perfectly innocent, but it made me realize anew how impressionable children are.

We might not think kids are paying any attention to their surroundings, what is being said, or thinking of anything but their play, but they are absorbing like a sponge all the time, sometimes to the embarrassment of adults.  Their traits of transparency, candor and honesty are part of which make them so appealing and precious.  And they don't miss a thing.

The next day turned unseasonably cold, and as we were walking through the sights of the state fair in Texas, I quipped, "It's so cold we should be singing Christmas carols!"  Maddie looked up from her stroller and smilingly sang, "Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way!"  Going home later, I asked her what her favorite part of the fair was.  She was silent for a minute, then said in her deliberate manner, "The carrousel."  What a big word for her to know (I still say "merry-go-round.")  "The carrousel," she repeated matter-of-factly, "But we didn't get to go on it."

It sounded like her Pa-Pa, when I asked him what he liked about the fair.  He said, "The livestock, but we didn't see any."  (There must have been some there, but evidently we weren't at the right place at the right time, search as we might.)

After we got home today, I called our son, Jamie, thanking them for the nice time we had and asked about their trip home to Houston.  He said they had stopped for supper, then two bathroom stops, one for everyone and one for Maddie.  "That's what happens after they are potty trained," I laughed.  Maddie had had her own ideas  about that project, but when she finally came around, there was no going back.  "She was wearing a pull-up," Jamie said, "but she said, 'Big girls use the bathroom!' so we had to make a special stop for her."  Like I said, things make impressions on kids. Would that they would always be the right things! 

In or Out of Touch

"Do you have the cell phone?" I asked my husband as he locked the front door.  We had  at last gotten ready for our trip and had already put the suitcase in the trunk of the car.  He frowned and said he thought I had it.

"Let's go back in and look for it," I said resignedly. "Remember, you had it when you were talking to Jamie a few minutes ago," I reminded him, trying to retrace the phone's path.  Well, he couldn't remember putting it down, so I searched in every conceivable place: the kitchen counter, the bookshelf with its dark, concealing finish, the bathroom, both bedrooms, the desk, the coffee table.

"We can't leave without it!" Howard declared, which I knew was true.  We were headed to Norman, Oklahoma, the first leg of our trip to Texas.  From there we would take the "Heartland Flyer" for an easy train ride to Ft. Worth.  Our kids would meet us there for a short week-end of fun and family fellowship.

After searching the car, Howard glanced across the street to a house remodeling project where painters were going in and out.  "I'm going to ask them if  they will use their cell phone to call our number.  You go in and listen for it to ring," he instructed me.

Soon he was back, carrying the neighbor's phone in his hand.  I had come out of the house with the admission that I hadn't heard anything.  "Maybe it's in the suitcase!  Ring it again!" I stood by the car trunk, but heard nothing.  "Let's look and see, anyway," I said.

Feeling a little foolish, I unzipped the suitcase.  There it lay, plain as day on top of a pink sweater! Then I remembered finding a scarf I had been searching for, unzipping the packed bag and putting it in.  I had had the phone in my hand then!

As we drove away, I looked at the phone dial, seeing we had missed a call, which was of course Howard calling from across the street.  I wondered about a voice message it showed, though, so I pressed the button, only to hear static, then my own muffled voice!  "Did you let it ring?" I heard myself say, and Howard answering in a fuzzy reply!  It was the conversation we had when he  had come back from across the street! Had the phone picked it up through the trunk?  Weird!  Anyway, we laughed and were just thankful we had found it.

This inanimate object speaking to us from the trunk, you might say, made me think of an illustration our pastor used in his sermon last Sunday.  When he got up to preach, an usher placed a huge, decorative boulder from the flower border out front on the altar.  It had been inscribed with with the words, "Jesus Loves Me", a message those entering the building saw every Sunday.  The sermon was entitled, "Substitute Praisers," from the passage where Jesus said that if the people did not praise Him, the very stones would cry out.

Also, it was a reminder that every word we speak is no doubt being recorded somehow on the the ether waves of time, or some other way in God's universe, possibly to be replayed back to us someday, giving us pause as to what we say and how we conduct our speech.  Like our pastor said, may we never let the stones speak for us!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Winds of Change

The after-school kids' shows were still on when I heard the screen door fly open.  Soon both girls had deserted their perch in front of the tv for the great outdoors.  I went to see what the attraction was, and I saw they were engulfed in a gust of swirling leaves, hands raised and feet dancing.  The air was suddenly cooler, blowing invigorating energy into our surroundings. 

Unable to resist the fresh air, I smiled in amusement from our screened porch  at joy the children were having with their frolicsome playmate, the wind. Long hair blowing straight behind them like a flag in the stiff breeze, one a pony's tail flying behind her in the gale, they leaped in great bounds, the billowing wind giving  its buoyant support.

Two school boys came ambling by,  pushed by the wind and carrying a box of fund-raiser chocolate bars. My friendly granddaughter directed them to the house, even though she had gotten to us first last week with the project.  The boys dallied, the girls chattered, pointing, hopping and dashing with the teasing wind, until their new playmates seemed to remember the work at hand and went in search of more customers.

On their way back down the street, the salesboys' now-empty box provided even more fun when it was grabbed by the wind, retrieved, worn on the head like a helmet, flaps pulled over ears, as the boys showed off for their appreciative admirers.  Soon the girls' mother came to pick up my baby-sitting charges, and our street grew quiet again as the wind died down. 

The children's rosy, flushed cheeks as they drove away gave evidence of their healthy exercise and rejuvenating play, no doubt with the same warmth and tingling in their limbs I remembered after playing outdoors as a child.

The refreshing of the wind made me think of the winds of the Holy Spirit.  It first came on the day of Pentecost with the "...sound from heaven as of a rushing, mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting." Acts 2:3.  This wind changed the people it touched, and they changed the people they touched.  They became engaged with their neighbors, unable to keep their joy to themselves.  The Bible says about 3,000 people were added to the church that day.  There is something about the Wind!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


My 36-year-old son says he and his 5-year-old daughter are on the same page.  They are both  learning tthe alphabet and learning to read: she in kindergarten and he in Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic.  He says he'll be glad when it becomes reading for enjoyment, rather than plodding along sounding out words.  I'm sure Anne-Marie will, too.  But if she is progressing like her father, she's doing fine (under his tutelage, by the way). 

Recently, thanks to internet, I saw Jamie preach a Greek Exegitical Sermon to his English-speaking Chinese  congregation in Houston.  It was very enlightening as he incorporated what he had learned (after only 3 weeks of study!) into his sermon!  For instance, in the original Greek, the word Jesus used when referring to being born "again" (John 3:3)  can also be translated as  "from above." If Nicodemus had "heard" what Jesus meant, the rest of the passage would be more clear, as Jesus further taught about the neccessity for  transformation of the Spirit in understanding the things of God.  (The gist of the semon was something like that, anyway..something may have been lost in  (my) translation.)

This reminds me of little Maddie, their three-year-old, who is on her own track in figuring out language.  Jamie related that one day Anne-Marie pointed and said, "Look there is an airplane at 12:00 o'clock!" to which her father said, "No, that's 1:00 o'clock."  Maddie corrected them both when she said emphatically, "That's not a clock!  That's a plane!"

After 54 years of marriage, my husband and I frequently have trouble understanding what the other is saying.  It's not a listening problem, it's a hearing problem.  I have a tendency to speak more softly, which causes misunderstandings for him.  His voice is strong and resonant, but intially it's in a lower range, and if I miss the first word, I might miss his whole point.  Very frustrating sometimes, but also very hilarious at other times!  Kind of like the man who said it might rain, and his wife said, "What train?"

Thankfully, one might be hard-of-hearing, but still able to hear the voice of God.  He speaks through His Word, which even the deaf can read.  He speaks in the still, small voice to our hearts, or maybe even an audible voice in urgent situations.  No matter the language, God speaks it. 

Psalm 19:1-3 says, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. (2)  Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. (3) There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard."  Some things are crystal clear!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Hobby Farming

Since our son and his wife just purchased land in the country, Greg and his dad are planning all sorts of grandiose ventures as ranchers/herdsmen/woodsmen or gentlemen farmers.  They took us on a four-wheeler tour of the property last week, and their ideas, especially my husband's, billowed as loftily as the towering cumulous clouds stretching majestically across the big sky above the rounded hills and meadowlands.

The former owner raised a smattering of long-horn cattle, so father and son  hung around a corral enclosing the animals that awaited transport to a  new ranch, envisioning what they would raise.  Howard favored goats, but he is also considering buying a few calves to feed out and nurture on the expansive pastures.   To that end, he went to a livestock sale today, with me tagging along for the experience.

Mainly a fact-gathering outing, the auctioning off of cattle held little fascination for me, other than feeling a bit sorry for the poor, dumb brutes that were paraded across a pipe-fence stock pen in front of potential buyers perched on concrete bleachers or folding chairs high above the sales arena.  The animals were plaintively beautiful, staring wide-eyed and uncomprehending, legs planted solidly as they beheld the observers before the exit door opened and they hurried toward the light. 

We were amazed at the prices, yet there was steady bidding from several, obviously well-heeled, cattlemen, in the gallery.  Numerous cattle trucks were parked outside, either from bringing the animals to market or awaiting additions to their herds.  After nearly an hour, we walked outdoors to see if there were other kinds of animals to be auctioned.  Howard was hoping to see pigs, goats, or even sheep, as well.  Instead, we saw vast amounts of cattle, indicating an all-day affair.  My husband gave in to my prompting to go to lunch, then we headed home where he could search on the internet for smaller sales.

His sites popped up when I turned on the computer tonight, and I saw my farmer-at-heart husband had gathered information on chickens, ducks, geese, and guineas.  I thought I had married a merchant-turned-preacher, but over the years I've found out his true identity, one that he might at last fulfill now that he has the time for it!

Work in Progress

Just as we went out the door to church yesterday, I glanced at my black sweater.  "Howard," I said to my husband, "Check to see that I don't have any hair on my shoulder."  I had just shampooed, and I didn't want any strays showing up for some well-meaning helper to remove.  It's has always been a pet peeve of mine to see a hand advancing toward me, an intent look in its owner's eyes, while a collar was straightened, a speck removed or flaw pointed out.

Then while chatting over the pew later with a lady behind me as we waited for church to start, she peered and aimed a pinched thumb and forefinger toward me, informing me I had a loose hair.  "That's okay," I said, moving swiftly away toward my seat.  "My hair is always doing that."

"No, it's not on your head, it's on your sweater," she persisted.  I told her about my pet peeve, and her response was, "Why?" I smiled and shrugged, but later I couldn't help feeling a little disconcerted about my reaction.

Our worship leader was away, so a newcomer was leading the singing this morning.  After a slow beginning, he launched into a peppy tune I'd never heard before, but it was easy to learn and I was soon singing with feeling, "Jesus on the inside, Working on the outside." It fit me perfectly!  I would be reminded of that later.

It was announced that after our monthly singspiration that evening, we would gather for fellowship over desserts, and were asked to bring something sweet.  I'd been wanting to bring a special treat my daughter told me about, but we hadn't had these fellowships lately, so I hadn't prepared anything.  That didn't stop me from going to the store immediately after lunch to procure the fixings.

The dish was similar to a fruit pizza, but the crust was cookie dough baked in miniature muffin cups, forming tiny containers for a topping of cream cheese/Kool Whip with small slices of fruit inserted decoratively.  I found everything I needed and was soon mixing and slicing while the cookies baked.  It seemed fruit had gone up considerably in price, and for such small portions it was a shame I had to buy whole containers, but the results would be worth it, I assured myself.

Between batches, I would dash to the bedroom to practice a song Howard and I were to sing that night that he was laboriously copying in large print so we could read it.  I wasn't too sure about it, but if the cookies turned out right, maybe the song would.  That was my prayer, anyway.

The cookies were beautiful, but nobody seemed to know what they were, and about half were left over. (Of course, there were many desserts there.)  After waiting until almost the end of the long program to sing our song, most of it was pretty rough (hopefully the smooth parts made up for it).  Nevertheless, I couldn't help feeling deflated and defeated in spirit as we went home.  Feeling bad about my attitude, I had to remember the words of the song that morning, I have "Jesus on the inside," but still "Working on the outside."