Thursday, January 31, 2013

Go Light Your World

"And God said, Let there be light: and there was light, " Genesis 1:3.  How we love the light!  (Except when I'm trying to sleep, which is why I bought a sleep mask the other day. Now I have misplaced it and have to suffer through my husband's reading light or computer work at his bedroom desk.)

Almost every time we leave the house, our route takes us down a street a block over that has beautiful, old-fashioned light posts.  Not just light posts, they are more like the lamp posts of days gone by with their graceful globes and wrought iron posts.  Once a grand neighborhood, it is time-worn now, but still with several substantial mansion-like brick homes.  A peaceful sense of calm comes over me as I imagine the unhurried  past, even the times of gas lights and lamp lighters.

"Look, they have finally fixed the light," my husband remarks as we come to the intersection near our house on the way to church.  He is right.  After more than a month, city workers have finally removed the 4-way stop sign anchored by sandbags in the middle of the road, power trucks have come and gone, and the traffic signals are  working once again.  It was tiresome for all to have to stop and wait for each to take his turn at the busy intersection.  For a change I am happy to see even a red light.

The other night at our Bible study, an elderly lady spoke up.  "I have to tell you about a miracle that happened to me in church yesterday!" she said exuberantly.  "I have never been able to see the preacher unless I am practically on the front row.  If I sit anywhere else, he is just a shadow moving around." 

She went on to say that she was sitting near the back with some friends, when suddenly she realized she was seeing the minister clearly, as if in a globe of light.  Every move he made and every facial expression was clear to her, helping her to understand everything he said.  "I just thank God for giving me that miracle!" she said wonderingly. 

They say that candle light is the most flattering light for the human face.  The gentle glow enhances dinners, and talk flows easily, warm and sparkling in the intimate illumination of candles.  It is interesting that Jesus uses the candle as an illustration of our light as a Christian.  "Ye are the light of the world.  A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.  Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light to all that are in the house.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven,"  Matthew 5:14-15.  Go light your world!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I am a Promise, I am a Possibility

January is a busy month for us, with three granddaughters choosing a January birthday, all within 10 days, at that.  One granddaughter turned 21 on the 21st, with the next turning 14 yesterday, and the youngest celebrating her 10th birthday tomorrow.  Different ages and different stages, but all excited with the joy of living.

The grown-up granddaughter just started a new job, and we peeked in at her at work yesterday as she confidently and competently checked out groceries in her position of cashier at one of the supermarkets.  She is taking a break between completing a degree in December and beginning further studies later on, meanwhile decorating a house of her own!

I called my fourteen-year-old granddaughter last night to wish her a happy birthday.  She was bubbling over with excitement, fresh home from after-school activities and looking forward to the birthday cake waiting on the counter after her favorite meal bubbling in the crock-pot.  "Mimi, I tried out for track today!" she said, her voice full of enthusiasm.  "I came in 2nd in the hundred-yard dash!"

A few minutes later, I talked with her mother.  Her husband had picked Rachel up, and after seeing her run, told Amy, "She was an antelope!" I don't doubt it.  This formerly languid youngster had shot up tall and won ribbons and medals in cross-country running last year.  A beautiful child, she is sometimes plagued with teen uncertainties, so I'm glad for this activity that is a real confidence builder for her.

The 10-year-old is glad to have a double-digit birthday at last, and is getting ready for a minstry trip with her parents.  As the youngest of several siblings, Mackenzie is already an aunt with 3 baby nephews, a big helper and joy to everyone. 

"But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children," Psalms 103.17.  That is a wonderful verse and promise that I claim.   "Yea, thou shalt see thy children's children," we are told in Psalms 128:6.  I only wish I could see them more often!

Monday, January 28, 2013


My heart is singing!  My daughter confided a secret to me in a hushed voice over the phone yesterday.  With a dramatic pause, she told me she had discovered my teen granddaughter can sing!  Oh, I remember that feeling when I recognized she herself could sing at about age 12!   "Mama, she sounds just like me!" she intoned unbelievingly.

"But I thought she could always sing!" I exclaimed.  "She sings in youth choir!"  Then she told me her daughter says she only lip-syncs in choir!  Ooh, shades of when her mother was young and too shy to sing in public without my prodding.  My daughter has a lovely voice, with many saying she was their favorite singer...when you could get her to do it.  I must admit she has overcome most of her voice-shyness by now, unlike the times she used to get stomach aches when  she performed.

"How did you find out she could sing?" I asked.  Amy said she actually knew it when her little girl was four years old; she recognized a special quality in her voice.

"But I hadn't heard her sing in 10 years!  She's  been hiding it!"  She said she would not have found out, but her daughter had gone into her bedroom and recorded a novelty song popular among her friends.  "She didn't want us to hear it, and only did it to let us know she had learned the words," Amy explained. 

How exciting!  My granddaughter is not only beautiful, smart, and accomplished in sports, but now I find she is musically talented as well!  Well, only her mother will be able to relate, understand her hesitance, and help her develop this gift.

Why do kids do this?  I still remember when this grandchild was four years old and in VBS.  Her sweet face scowled at the audience at the commencement program, and I was convinced she didn't get a thing out of Vacation Bible School.  The theme had been "Brave Believers," taken from heroes of the Bible such as Daniel, The Three Hebrew Children, and other well-known personages. 

Then one day she, her mother and baby sister were in our pasture when  the horses began galloping full speed toward them.  Amy picked up the toddler and raced for the gate, then turned and saw the 4-year-old holding a big stick up in front of the horses and the horses coming to a sudden stop right in front of her!  When asked how she did that, she replied matter-of-factly, "I'm a brave believer!"

This is also the child who completed her training in "White Horse Riders" Bible program at age 10 so she could go on a mission trip with those who qualified to an Indian tribe in New Mexico.  Her first trip on an airplane, she has flown many times since, most recently on a trip to France last summer.  Her world is expanding.  How will God use her?  I will wait and see, praying. 

Invisible Cloak

When our son, Jamie, was little, he was enamoured of super heroes.  His favorite plaything  was a cape.  My supply of bathroom towels was always being raided and I was often enisted to find and fasten a safety pin on one draped around his impatient 9-year-old shoulders.  One year he even received one for a special day (birthday or Christmas, I don't remember.  I also don't remember if I gave it to him or just suggested it to his married sister when she asked for a gift idea.)  I just remember his "yes!" grin when he put the huge black thing around him.

This came to mind the other day when we were tending our chickens, and I thought of the day some 30 years ago when I went into our backyard and was shocked to see all his father's flock wearing paper capes!  Jamie had somehow fastened a napkin around each feathered neck.  They were dashing about a bit awkwardly, as if uncertain whether to fly or escape their extra wing. 

Now his little girls are in that stage; I have a birthday photo of 6-year-old Anne-Marie in her super-hero cape in accordance with her party theme.  In the kaleidoscopic way time has of overlapping memories, I can see myself watching "Max and Ruby," a cartoon I viewed daily as I baby-sat with my then pre-school granddaughter 10 or 11 years ago.  In retrospect, Jamie as a kid reminds me of Max, who didn't say much, but always came up with unexpected ideas that left him with a self-satisfied little grin.

"Look, Howard," I pointed out to my husband that day last week at the chicken pen. "I believe that chicken is sick!"  She was standing motionless apart from the others, her feathers slightly ruffled and her dull-colored comb flopped down listlessly.  The other hens were sleek and energetic with their red combs a bright contrast to their lustrous white feathers.  She did peck at the food a bit, and I saw her at the water feeder, so at least she was eating and drinking.

"Remember how shocked we were when we went out one day to look at your chickens and they all had crooked necks?" I reminded my husband about his long-ago flock.  We had consulted a vet immediately and found out the condition was called "wry neck".  Thankfully, the medicine we got to put in their water made them as good as new in a day or two.  I don't remember what caused it, but it probably crossed my mind that our caped crusader could have been behind it with his costume enthusiasm!

At any rate, our hen is now okay, and our son is now a crusader for the only real super hero, our Lord Jesus Christ, whom Jamie proclaims weekly from his pulpit.  He has a hero's heart.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Circle of Influence

"Could you give me a ride to church?" an elderly member of our congregation called to ask.  Of course!  She didn't like to drive at night and we were happy to pick her up for the midweek service.  We made small talk on the way, and she told me she had talked to the couple who usually takes her to church who is away in Wyoming.  They had gone there to be with the wife's mother, who was having surgery.

"I wonder why she doesn't live here near her daughter?" I asked, to which our passenger said, "Well, she has a son out there. And she works, too." 

"You mean she has a job?" I exclaimed.   "How old is she?" 

"She's about my age," she answered.  Well, our friend is only 84!  I asked what kind of job, and she replied that she worked for the school system.  "She is a "grandma," she explained.  I asked if that was like an assistant teacher, but she said, no, she was  there only for the children.

I thought perhaps it was a volunteer position, but my knowledgeable source said it was a program that involved having a grandma for each room.  "They pick them up and bring them home, and they get paid, too!"  From what she said, the grandmas are there just as a comforting, calming presence for the kids, evidently giving reassuring hugs, a welcoming lap or just a listening ear. 

What a great idea!  Helping a senior citizen feel useful and filling a need in the lives of children whose parents are often overworked and over stressed in today's world!  I love it!  Kids need Grandmas!  I keep two of our grandchildren after school for a couple of hours three days a week.  If we have to do a short errand on the way home, they protest, "No!  We wanna go to your house!"  Our son told me they said, "We love it over there!"

Other than making them a snack and letting them watch TV, or on nice days watching them when they play outside, I don't do much except go about my routine.  But they are content and happy!  Most of my children and grandchildren live far away, so my husband's and my  "grandparenting" is mostly long distance.  It is nice to be reminded once in a while that our influence is still felt and appreciated, though, as in a phone call I got this week.

"Mom," my daughter said, "I find  myself speaking your wisdom all the time!"  What?  She said, "At work, I hear myself say something, and I think, That sounds like Mom."  She went on to say she shared with her co-workers that her parents weren't real strict, but saw to it that the kids  had a good moral and spiritual foundation, and that that is the way she raises her children.  "I remember you saying, 'Pick your battles,'" she said.(I laughed, not remembering saying that, but  interpreting it to mean, "Don't sweat the small stuff.")

The next day a granddaughter called, wanting to talk to Pa-Pa.  She loves to discuss spiritual things with him.  At the end of the conversation, I shared a bit of my experience with her, and the following day she phoned to say how that had helped her.

At our Bible study the other night, we read the scripture in John 6:28 when the people asked how they could do the works of God.  Jesus replied, "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom who he hath sent."  Simple and brief, but it encompasses everything.  Kind of like influencing children and grandchildren.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Hat Box

"Mom, are you having a nice day?" my son, Greg,  spoke over the  phone.

"Yes, I'm actually in Stillwater, looking for a birthday present for Allison," I said.  His daughter's 21st  birthday would be in a few days, and was I looking for leg warmers.  I'd seen some cute ones recently, but I just found out the store here was out of them.

"Oh, that's great!" Greg said.  "You know what she really wants?  A hat.  She was looking for one when she went with me to Oklahoma City the other day."  When I asked what kind, he said, "A fedora.  A feminine looking fedora with a narrow brim."

I could see a selection of women's hats on the wall in the accessories department across the store, so I thanked him and went to browse through them.  I found several cute hats, but I wasn't sure what a fedora looked like.  I was pretty sure it wasn't a cloche, though one I picked up was pretty in raspberry felt. Suddenly I spotted what Greg seemed to be describing. It had a narrow brim and was decorated with silver studs circling the base of the crown.

"Could you tell me if this is a fedora?" I asked the sales associate.  "What do they look like?" I questioned further.  He said he had no idea, but he took it and went to check with a lady who knew more about hats.  When he came back, he reported that it was a fedora, although his supervisor said they usually had wider brims.  "Then this is  what I want," I said decidedly. 

Today was Allison's birthday, and we were invited to come over and have supper and birthday cake with their family.  The hat was still in the bag on the bureau in the bedroom waiting to be wrapped.  I didn't have a hat box, so I bought tissue paper, thinking I could make a pouffy parcel, accommodating the hat and adding a bit of mystery.  That was unsuccessful, so I looked around for a box, finally spotting one that was the right height and only a little too big when I surrounded the hat with tissue.  It made a large, festive present.

The little kids were excited about the gifts and kept urging their big sister toward my box that she left tantalizingly for last. Her delighted smile told me my granddaughter loved the sophisticated black hat, smart and stylish on her head as she modeled it for us.  "Is that all?  A little hat?" the six-year-old frowned, looking expectantly for something more. "In that big box?"  she gestured incredulously.  We explained  that the box had to be roomy, but to her, a big box meant a big gift.

Alerted by several people on Facebook, one a teacher, I just looked out at the gorgeous moon, glowing with a ring around it.  I learned that the effect is created when light is refracted from ice crystals in the upper atmosphere.  Quite a show!  Now that's a big gift in a big package!  I hope Beth is up to see it!

Friday, January 18, 2013


I had just finished my blog yesterday and still had the computer on when our son called and asked if I wanted to Skype with the girls.  Yay!  A moment later I was looking at the sunny faces of our dear little granddaughters, 3 and 6.  Little sister Maddie had a book that she wanted to "read" for me. 

She turned the pages of the picture book about getting dressed.  She delighted in chortling out the page-wide scribbled word that was a clue to the excuse for not wearing a selection:  "Too PURPLE," (written in purple),  "Too ITCHY," too...polka-dotted, etc.  until finally a satisfactory outfit  was found on the last page.

Not really reading the words, sometimes my bright little red-head would get creative.  Of a skirt with animal prints, instead of "too spotted," she said, "Too CHEETAH!"  (I remember being surpised when they were here at Christmas and she walked over to a ceramic animal I had always called a leopard and correctly said, "A cheetah!")

I reminded blonde kindergartner Anne-Marie that  Valentine's day is coming up, and she would probably soon be making paper hearts for Valentine cards.  "I already helped Allie make one at church," she said, to which my surprised reply was, "You already made a Valentine?"  "No," she replied, "We made a card for a homeless person!"  When I asked her if she knew what a homeless person was, she said wistfully, "A person without a home," a serious expression in her usually sparkling blue eyes.

It is so rewarding to watch the different personality traits in children.  Anne-Marie has always been compassionate, tender and caring.  Maddie is exact, determined, and deliberate.  She makes sure you understand exactly what she is saying, and that things be done a certain way, which was difficult before she learned to talk!

I'm sure God will use each girl and her gifts in the way he has already planned. The Bible says He knew us before we were ever born and knows the plans He has for us. Jeremiah 1:5; 29:11. "How precious are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!" Psalm 139:17.

Well, my plans are to see them February 17, on a special occasion when their father will be recognized and receive his ministerial credentials in a licensing ceremony at their church. He is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Greek and Hebrew.  Already a Youth Pastor for a Chinese congregation, apparently God has even more plans for Jamie in the future!

Thursday, January 17, 2013


I love seeing pictures of our grandchildren posted on internet, but then I am not satisfied until I have the photos in my hand!  When we were in Georgia for Thanksgiving, my 15-year-old granddaughter helped me transfer some from Facebook via a kiosk in the photo department of a local drugstore.  I haven't found that convenience at home, so I was so happy to get the sweet pictures.  I slipped them into the padded envelope provided by the photo service, added a couple more I'd gotten on the trip, placed them on the dresser and packed our luggage.

"Where are my pictures?" I cried when we got home and I had searched every bag, purse and carry-on  we had taken with us.  They were nowhere to be found. A telephone call to my daughter confirmed that I had left them on the dresser of our granddaughter's room!  Amy promised to send them right away.  I tried to restrain myself from reminding her after a week, but then two weeks went by.  By then, she had found items her father had left and would mail them all together.

Watching the mail, I was sure the box would be delivered after a week.  No box.  But there was a package on our neighbor's porch of just the right size!  It lay there tantalizingly all day, and finally I got  my husband to ask if it were our package delivered there by mistake.  "No, but I'll tell you if it comes here!" our neighbor laughed.

At long last the package came.  I proudly shared the pictures with family and friends, then decided to frame some of them.  I went to Hobby Lobby and selected some handsome frames a few days ago and started framing them as soon as I got home.  Oops, the 5x7's wouldn't fit, due to the white border the photo developing had added.  I trimmed them laboriously and got them inside.

A larger, matted  frame had a narrow ribbon going from the cardboard stand to the velvety back of the frame for added stability.  When I couldn't pry the backing loose to insert the photo, I tried to pull it up by the ribbon, and the ribbon  popped off (of course). Attempting to glue it back, I saw it had tiny prongs that should re-attach, but nothing worked, so I let it go.  Some smaller pictures kept slipping sideways as I centered and added padding to make them fit in a double, silver frame I had.  At last I was satisified with the results.

It was a lot of work and effort, but I know it was worth it when I walk through the rooms and see the smiling faces of family.  I saw a cute saying on a church sign that said, "If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it."  I know the feeling!  Think of what it took to make us part of His family.  His Son came personally the long distance from Heaven to be delivered to a manger in a stable, His baby years being spent in exile in Egypt.  Then long years were invested in preparing for and awaiting His destiny so we would have a home in heaven.  How God must love His children!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

How Sweet It Is!

"Wow!  Those look good!" I exclaimed as a  plate of brownies was set on the coffee  table at the end of our Bible study.  An inch thick, frosted and with a pecan half one each one, they looked  scrumptious.  "Who made them?" I asked, and someone said, "Grandma Ruth." 

I asked the quiet, sweet, oldest member of our Bible study what kind of mix she used, and she said, "I didn't use a mix! They are homemade!"  It figures, I thought, as I bit into a melt-in-your-mouth treat that had the buttery, chocolate flavor you just don't get from a box.  (When one lady demurred because she was on a Daniel's Fast*, I said, "I'm eating your brownie," as I had an irresistible, but smaller, second.  They put two in the freezer for her to eat after the fast, though.)

It made me think of my first time to taste a brownie.  My teenaged brother, who I think had gotten the recipe  from a neighbor, got out cocoa, butter and eggs in Mama's kitchen and produced a warm, chewy, denser-than-cake surprise that delighted us kids.  That was in the fifties when cake mixes had just come out (maybe there were no brownie mixes yet) and my mother was discovering an easier way to bake.  But nothing in those imperfect, early mixes compared with her homemade creations.

I could just picture "Grandma Ruth" working in her kitchen, measuring and mixing, using the best ingredients for the pan of brownies.  After all, this was a work for the Lord that she could do, to produce a refreshment for friends who had gathered to worship, sing, and study God's word.  Not that she didn't contribute to the group in other ways, often with a testimony, comment or prayer request that was on her heart.

A largely unnoticed, but faithful member of the group is the hosts' little terrier/spaniel  mix, Gideon.  He sniffs everyone as they come in, lies patiently stretched out on the floor toying with one of his playthings, or tries to climb on a lap occasionally.  He also lies under the piano when the worship leader  plays and sings.

We had been warned at the last meeting to keep watch on our gloves, as they are one of their pet's favorite things.  When the hostess went into the kitchen for something, she came back holding up a black glove.  "Does this belong to anyone?" she asked, then handed me the damp glove when I claimed it. It must have fallen on the floor!

In the small talk following the meeting, I looked up to see Gideon trotting into the room with two puffy additions to his face at each end of a fuzzy grin.  Wondering at the comical sight, I suddenly realized something. "Oh my goodness! He's got my earmuffs in his mouth!" I yelled in surprise.  Sure enough, he was holding the furry headpiece in his mouth with the earmuffs almost in the proper place!  I put them back in my purse and set them behind me, but when I stood up, he perched on the sofa  trying to get them again!

What with the sweet  presence of the Holy Spirit, the homemade brownies, good fellowship and laughter we left with a case of the warm fuzzies, very welcome on a frigid evening!

*Daniel 10:3, "I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled."

Monday, January 14, 2013

Every Thing Nice

I know the holidays are over, but I just purchased something at a Christmas clearance sale that is like a breath of fresh air.  A cinnamon broom!  Everyone who comes in sniffs appreciatively, looks around and thinks I am baking something yummy.  I personally cannot smell anything, but marked down from $5 and  costing only a dollar, it was worth every penny for the comments I get.

Cinnamon has always been my favorite spice, and cinnamon toast one of my favorite things, sense of smell or not! I like to mix butter, sugar and cinnamon together, spread it on slices of bread and toast them under the broiler.  It all melts together and makes a satisfying crunch when I pour milk over it and eat it with a spoon.  Voila! Cinnamon Toast Crunch! (Only better.)

My husband just found out that cinnamon stabilizes blood sugar and helps in the treatment of diabetes!  He takes cinnamon pills daily. (He might need one after eating some of the peach cobbler I baked this afternoon...with cinnamon, of course.) I have also read that it improves memory and mental functions and energizes!  What a wonderful spice!

Nowadays we hear about super foods and brain food, but really, all foods God created are good for us.  It seems He makes the ones that are particularly good for us bright and appealing, like apples, blueberries, strawberries and other colorful fruits and vegetables. 

Cinnamon is mentioned in the Bible in Exodus 30 as an ingredient in the making of the holy anointing oil. The spiced oil was burned in censers to show honor and reverence to God.  Although the recipe for the holy oil is given in the Bible, it is one recipe that was strictly forbidden to be copied for ordinary use.

Like most of our abundance of food products in this country, we take for granted the ease of buying cinnamon and other spices today.  We forget that wars were waged over spices.  Much more valuable in the past than they are today,  they were used in place of  money, for food preservation, and perfumes, among other things. Columbus was on a search for spices when he discovered America.  You might say we wouldn't even be here if it weren't for cinnamon!   

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Paid in Full

My daily Bible reading selection a couple of days ago was in Genesis 23:1, the account of the death of Sarah, Abraham's wife.  Since under God's direction, they had come to the land of Canaan, they were strangers there, and Abraham had to obtain a burial place for Sarah.  The Bible says he desired to buy the cave of Macpelah, at the end of a field.  The owner of the property, evidently knowing something of Abraham's status, offered to give him the field and the cave, free of charge.

Abraham was insistent that he pay for the property, and finally, the owner sold it to him at the full price. Verse 17 says, "And the field of Ephron, which is in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field, and the cave which was was therein, and the trees that were in the field...were made sure unto Abraham for a possession..."

Yesterday's Bible reading portion says that when Abraham died at 175 years old, his sons, Isaac and Ishmael, buried him beside his wife Sarah in the cave at Machpelah.

Last week, when Howard was asked to serve at the graveside services of his friend, we had to go far into the Osage countryside to the cemetery.  We had no idea how to get there, so we rode with friends for the 45 minute backroads-finally-unpaved trek into unfamiliar territory.  The small cemetery was surrounded by fields, pastures and herds of cattle.   They had purchased the lots and double headstones back in the eighties, perhaps when they lived in that area.

It reminded me of when we lived in Mississippi, next to a stately church with a cemetery that extended past our property behind our backyard.  The little boy who was the son of the music minister next door called it "the garden," partly, I guess because of all the beautiful bouquets left from funerals.  We took walks along its meandering paths and our kids played over there sometimes, even flying their kites in the vacant field of the cemetery.

Sometimes questions arose from the children, such as the time our little boy asked about a double headstone with one side completed with a husband's information, but the other with just the name of the wife, who was still living.  He was also curious about the built-in flower vases. One day the six-year-old rushed in and questioned breathlessly, "Mom, when is Dad gonna die?"  When he saw my shocked look, he brought a bedraggled bouquet from behind his back and said, " 'cause I picked some flowers for his grave!" 

When King David desired to buy a threshing floor on which to sacrifice to God to reverse a plague, Araunah the Jebusite offered to give it to the king, including animals for the sacrifice and wooden threshing instruments and equipment for the fire.  David replied, "Neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing," II Samuel 24:24.

A sacrifice is not a sacrifice unless it costs something.  We live for God instead of for ourselves by denying ourselves to follow Christ.  Paul says in Romans 12:1, " I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service."

Our name may be on a headstone someday, but in the light of our heavenly reward, any sacrifice we've made to serve the Lord on earth will seem like no sacrifice at all.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Life Lessons

"Mom, are you guys okay?" my son Greg said over  the phone.

"Yes, why?" I responded brightly, to which he surprised me by saying, "Well, the school called and said you didn't pick up the girls."  What?  We had gone to the school to pick up our grandchildren, but their big brother was there getting out of his car. We alternate days with him and his older sister in picking up the little kids. He was uncertain of his new semester schedule, so we had arranged to get them.

"What are you doing here?" I asked him, "Nobody called us to change the schedule." 

"Well, I was free, and since Tuesday is my day..." he began, when I said, "Today is Monday!"  Then I smiled, waved and said, "Well, you got 'em," and we started toward home.

As we turned at the corner, I looked over my shoulder and said, "Where did he go?" not seeing his car anywhere. "I guess he for sure heard me," and Howard said of course he did.  Just then I spotted his car in the pick-up line and said, "Oh, there he is."

Evidently, that was a look-alike car, and he had gone home, thinking we were picking the kids up!  Unbelievable!  Their mom  left work and got them immediately. 

A few days ago, Howard and I had invited some friends over for Thursday evening to watch a beautiful video of a family of Christian musicians, violinists and singers.  I reminded my husband that we had left the video at our son's house when we were sharing it with them at Christmas.  He assured me he would retrieve it in plenty of time. 

Guess what!  No one could find it!  Our evening was still enjoyable, but I felt bad when our friends  came over expecting that and we played Scrabble instead!

Plans change, and the unexpected is to be expected, it seems.  I should have double-checked to see the children get into the car.  I should have followed that nudge of uneasiness, which was no doubt the Holy Spirit, when I first didn't see our grandson.  And my husband should keep up with his videos!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Our Father's World

"Look at the ripples they make," I said to Howard as I pointed to the small armada of ducks on the pond.  "Like little motor boats," I mused, then, "or paddle boats, I should say," realizing little webbed feet were pumping madly under the water to produce their rapid progress.

Suddenly I spotted more ducks hidden in the small cove at the end of the pond.  They must have spotted us at the same time, and as dozens fluttered skyward, I could see the regal green helmets of Mallards, the band about the neck a royal circlet above the velvet brown of breast feathers.  What a beautiful sight!

Glimpsing something white at the other end of the long pond, I used the binoculars to see  three unusual  ducks with bright white bodies, glistening black heads and black tail feathers. Perhaps the Tufted Ducks or Scaup Ducks I found when I tried to look them up, they were different from the ones ordinarily at the pond,

The temperatures have moderated the past few days (even if the clouds and dampness of possible rain make them uncomfortably chilly to me!), and with the disappearance of ice from the water's surface, the ducks are back.  Yesterday Howard and I hiked to the top of the levee for an up-close-and-personal view, although there weren't more than a handful ducks that day.  They had found a small pool of ice-free water at the bank's edge.  Today they have "elbow room."

We had been exploring the "valley" at the bottom of the property, picturesque with huge boulders and the stream below the pond.  We could see the goats, horses and burros across the dividing fence on the hillside of the adjoining farm.  Climbing up toward the stacked shelf of huge, flat rocks behind a shed, we noticed a set of recently placed stones on newly excavated earth, a stairway in the making.  Evidently a project by our kids for easy climbs in the future.

At the top of the rise among winter-stark, gnarled trees that line the pond is one I call the "Lover's Knot" tree--two trees, really.  Their trunks are intertwined in an embrace, the botanical hug giving way to arm like branches lifted to the sky as in joyous celebration.

Isaiah 55:12 speaks of praise, even in nature, when it says, "For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands," looking forward to the time when Jesus returns and things are like in the beginning.  Until then, I can still enjoy nature!

Monday, January 7, 2013

A Little Bird Told Me

"Lord I lift your name on high, how I love to sing your praises," the song came from the radio as I listened while my husband was in the store on an errand.  A flock of gulls caught my eye, as they soared, dived and turned glistening wings in a sychronized movement that changed to a new pattern in an instant.  As the notes of the praise song rose, so did the billowing gulls, as if lifted on the strains of the music.

"Let everything that hath breath, Praise the Lord," the scripture says, and it didn't take much imagination to see this in God's flying creatures.  They were doing aerobatics of joy as I watched in awed appreciation.

"Look!" I said to Howard as he got back in the car.  But by that time the birds were disappearing from view over the car, and the song had ended.  "You missed it," I said, and tried to tell him about the aerial display.

We had been noticing long strings and Vs of ducks and geese flying over and wondered if they were headed to the farm pond.  But of course, it was  frozen over, as were all the other inland bodies of water locally.  "We saw a few ducks that had landed on the ice on our pond today," our daughter-in-law, Joanna, said over Sunday dinner yesterday.  "The walked a few steps back and forth, then they flew off."

"It sounds like Noah's dove and raven looking for a place to land," I quipped. Only in reverse, I thought. The were looking for land, not water.

In Matthew 8:20, Jesus said, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head."  He was trying to present to would-be followers what they would give up to follow Him.

Many today are searching for they know not what.  Nothing seems to satisfy--not possessions, careers, leisure or entertainment.  It is amazing to see the offerings on television that have grown ever more crude and debased.  The "reality" shows are "where it's at," but not just the novelty of huge families or multiples, but now it seems we must laugh at less-cultured people and find hilarity in their off-beat (contrived?) humor.  We gasp at their daring exploits and take vicarious pleasure in their ribald language and expressions.

Many shows present what can only be described as the downright exploitation of children. Whether in pageants, dance performances, or now, a culmination and combination of ignorance, sin, and coarseness in a family held up for ridicule and amusement for their uncouth and irreverent ways, especially painful to see in the six-year-old daughter of a particular reality show.

We would do well  to follow the injunction of Phillipians 4:8 where Paul says, "Finally, my brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are  pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."  Good advice to lighten your load and make you feel as free as a bird!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Divine Assignment

"To be a disciple is to be a learner," the speaker said on the cd we were listening to in the car. "And after a period of time, the disciple begins to do and talk and  act like his teacher."  Howard had gone into the store, and when he came back, I made an announcement.

"We have raised six disciples!" I said.  "We lived with them day after day, and they saw the real us, for better or for worse," I explained.  It was true.  Little by little, and mostly unconsciously, they absorbed our values, our world view, and largely our life style!

The years of taking our children to church became such a habit that that is the way they raise their own children!  Now they are making (or have made) disciples!  And some of those disciples are making little disciples, as the great-grandchildren come along!

"I'll be glad when they reach the exponential curve," my husband said, half joking.  Well, they will.  Counting spouses and the two new adoptions, our family now has 40 members.  That's one way to disciple and build the kingdom of God!

Not that they're clones or don't have their own personalities.  Each one is different, has different interests, likes and abilities.  But they are grounded in their faith and are salt and light in their communities.  Jesus's disciples couldn't have been more different.   He said to them in Acts 14:12  that believers would do the works He did and even greater ones (don't you love it when your kids out do you?) because He was going to the Father . I think that meant that He would send the Holy Spirit to empower them.

Many Christians desire to go to the mission field, wherever that is, but our own children are our first mission field.  The seeds planted in their childhood are like the mustard seed mentioned in Matthew 13:31-32.  Jesus said, "The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: (32) Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among the herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof."

Psalm127:3 tells us  that children are an heritage of the Lord.  Verse 4 compares them to arrows, and in verse 5, the scripture says, "Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them."  Like arrows, our children will go into places we will never go and into a future we may never see.  How wonderful if they carry the gospel with them!

Thursday, January 3, 2013


"I never heard Melvin say a bad word, nor a bad word about anybody," Howard remarked in his eulogy to his friend at the graveside services today.  "He was a kind and caring man," he went on.  I reflected on the times we visited Melvin in the nursing home where he was suffering from Alzheimer's, that his manner was always gracious and polite, even though he may not have recalled who we were.  "You all come back, now," he would smile as we took our leave after singing to him while my husband played the guitar.

As a minister, Howard was speaking at the 85-year-old's funeral.  Not many people were there, since the few relatives they had were scattered across the country.  However, with the warm and engaging memorial he was giving, my preacher husband made us forget the cold weather and picture the younger, happier days when we had known the departed, whose widow in the row of chairs in the funeral tent  was leaning in to hear his words.

When he had finished speaking, Howard strummed the guitar and led in singing Amazing Grace.  The voices lifted sweetly in the open air as the pastor came forward to pray, comfort and lead in the Lord's Prayer.

After all the words had been said, the two military personnel who had been standing at attention outside the shelter saluted, turned, and one began playing the plaintive notes of taps, her trumpet a sharp silhouette against the dark clouds behind her.

In military cadence, the uniformed pair walked in single file toward the flag-draped casket, removed the constraining band and snapped the flag smartly above it. Then in perfect synchrony, they carried it horizontally to halt in front of the widow. A mesmerizing  ceremony followed as the colors were transformed  into a triangle of 13 folds, the end tucked snugly into a firm, final triangle before the presentation to the bereaved mourner.

The young female soldier knelt respectfully on one knee before her and said in a soft, clear voice, "Ma'am, on behalf of a grateful nation, may I present this flag as a token of appreciation for the honorable and faithful service your loved one has rendered this nation."  You could have heard a pin drop as we sat in awe at the solemnity of the moment.

The casket was opened, and  a bent, stooped, solitary figure kissed her fingertips and pressed them to his lips, kissing him again on the cheek and the top of his head, bidding her husband farewell.  From somewhere a voice began quietly singing.  The strains of "I'll meet you in the morning, by the bright riverside," rose outside the tent as others, facing the open bier, joined in with "You'll know me in the morning by the smile that I wear, in that city that's built foursquare." 

It had been an intimate, meaningful service, a closure for the "long goodbye" of Alzheimer's that clouded the last several years.  The clouds parted, and the sun began shining as we left the cemetery, knowing that a soldier had gone home where he would have no problem in recognizing anyone!


"Look what I found for you!" I said as I took my intended purchase from the cart and showed my husband.

"Well, I'll say!" he responded in pleased surprise. Only yesterday, Howard had remarked in the kitchen that he would like to have an old-fashioned juicer, the glass kind with the molded pouring lip, so he could squeeze oranges or grapefruit in the mornings.  I told him I hadn't seen one in years, then here it was in the kitchen gadget aisle in this upscale outlet store.  On sale, too!

I also picked up a novelty shopping bag that said, "Plastic or Paper?  NEITHER," then in small print something like "I'm using my recycled shopping bag, thank you."  I thought it might make a bright accent in my kitchen. 

"Do you want to use this bag today?" the clerk at the check-out asked, pausing and pointing to the sturdy, new bag.  I told her no, and she put it in with our other purchases.  Taking the things from the cart to put in the car, I had my hands full and felt a slippery plastic sack slip from my fingers to the pavement with an ominous thud. 

"Oh, I hope nothing broke!" I moaned.  Not only broken, the juicer was in a jillion pieces, practically pulverized despite the sales girl's heavy wrapping!  My husband was as sorry as I was!  Such a little thing, to be so disappointing.  He took it back to try to exchange it, but of course it was the only one.  (They did refund the $3.99, though.)

Earlier, after we'd had a bite of lunch at our favorite place, I returned from the ladies' room to find Howard staring at some cash on the table.  "I went up to buy this brownie," he said, indicating the half he'd saved for me, "and saw this folded money on the counter.  I thought maybe it had fallen from my wallet as I went to pay, and picked it up, but now I think I have more money than I should."

We deliberated a few minutes, re-checking his wallet, then he returned to the cashier.  I saw the clerk shaking her head, then Howard was pointing to a jar on the counter and putting the money in it.  He said he had donated it to the poor, since no one had called for it.

A few days before, we'd gone to a place with lunch specials, and I noticed a man in an adjoining booth who was lingering an inordinately long time over a cup of coffee.  "I think that man is hungry," I wrote on a napkin to my husband.  He nodded, but didn't do anything.  After a few minutes, a waitress came and offered the man a full tray of food, which he accepted gratefully.  When we finished, I emptied our tray and Howard said, "Go on to the car.  I'll be right out."

"I thought maybe you would give that guy a hand-out," I said reproachfully, as he got back in the car.  He said he had gone to the counter and told the clerk that if anyone else came in in that situation, to feed them with the $5.00 he was giving her.  "But what if they spend it themselves!" I fretted.  He turned around, went back in and gave money directly to the  man!

I guess I should stop trying to be the Holy Spirit with my husband's conscience, and start listening for myself.  After all, He was probably telling me to use the shopping bag!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Whiter Than Snow

"Oh, look how beautiful!" I said to Howard at the awesome beauty of the trees outlined with snow.  We had just driven to the country to take care of our chickens at our son's farm.  We'd had less snow in town on this New Year's day or else it just was more noticeable out here.  My dull mood brightened immediately at the postcard-worthy scene.  We had been at loose ends on a gray, uneventful day, my husband taking a long nap and my not settling on anything I wanted to do after last night's festive mood of New Year's Eve..

But this was breathtaking!  Every stark branch and trunk on dozens of bare, wintery trees was etched in black and white, turned  into a work of art by God's design.  "I wish I had a camera!" I said wistfully, to which Howard reminded me, "You do! On your phone!"  Oh, yes, but I'd only tried it a couple of times.  I got some shots, but I wasn't sure if anyone received them.  Soon our son drove up, saying he would get some pictures.

One tree, especially, took my eye.  It was bent almost horizontally to the ground, its huge, curved trunk providing an easy climb for our grandkids on ordinary days, especially with the short ladder leaning against it.  Now it took on the contours of a daring playground slide.  A little more snow, and the children could have made use of the big, sturdy sled their father had hammered together for them from scrap lumber on the property. 

With no special plans, we impulsively stopped at a country cafe where several hunters in camouflage  met us as they trooped out the door.  We had a satisfying bowl of thick-brothed ham and beans with cornbread, fried potatoes and an obligatory side of black-eyed peas--comfort food on this bleak, early-winter day.  (We'd had the same thing at our son's house last night when he had made a delicious meal.  And to think  I had declined the offer to take some home with me!)

Looking at Facebook later, I saw the news that a young friend's grandfather had passed away.  Sending my condolences to her, I was shocked when she replied that it was her dad's father, someone we had been good friends with years ago in Mississippi,and about our age!  He and his wife had been our older teens' youth leaders in a church they, another family, and we had started back then, which is strong even today.  So many memories!  Although we hadn't seen him in many years, it was inconceivable that he was gone, the second friend passing in as many days!

The trees, stripped of all appearance of life and mere silhouettes of their former lushness in the green days of summer, are not really dead, they are resting, to come alive in Spring with newness and fresh beauty.  The same with our friends.  Their lives are mere shadows of the glory of their eternal Spring in heaven.  I quote again the Bible verse my husband came upon at the news of the other friend's passing the other day: "For I reckon that the suffering of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." Romans 8:13.