Friday, November 29, 2013

Seventy Times Seven

Our 4-year-old granddaughter awoke cold and wet.  Changing her sheets, her daddy remarked, "Maddie, I'm sorry you wet the bed," to which she mumbled, "That's alright, Daddy.  I forgive you."  Our son told me that is her normal response when someone says they are sorry. She may have things a little mixed up, but if only grown-ups could be that forgiving!

In Matthew 18:21-22, Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother who sins against him. Seven times?  But Jesus says he must forgive him seventy times seven, obviously meaning an unlimited number of times.

We had a discussion on this in our Wednesday night Bible study recently.  Some people thought forgiveness should only be given upon repentance. Jesus does say in Luke 17:3-4 that one should forgive if another says he is sorry and stops sinning.

He even says in Mark 11:26 and Matthew 6:15 that, "If ye forgive men their trespasses, then your heavenly father will forgive you; but if ye forgive not, then neither will your father forgive you." We learn in the Lord's prayer to say, "Forgive us our trespasses (debts) as we forgive those who trespass against us."  If we expect forgiveness, it sounds as if we must forgive!

The thought was raised in Bible study that in many instances, we should forgive even though there has been no repentance, instead of keeping unforgiveness, hate and resentment in our own heart. As a pastor's wife, I once counseled a woman to forgive her ex-husband rather than hold bitterness against him forever.  She became very upset with me, saying he should only be forgiven if he asked for forgiveness.  Not only was she bitter against him, she left the church and did not come back.

There is a saying that harboring unforgiveness is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die. I wonder if the reason Jesus can't forgive sins in this case is because the heart is too hard to receive it. (The Bible tells us to harden not our hearts.)  We know that there are some things Jesus wanted to do on this earth that he couldn't do.  The Bible says that he could not do many mighty works in his own country because of the unbelief of the people. Matthew 13:58.

Jesus says unless we become like a little child, we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.  One of the characteristics of children is that they are very forgiving.  May we become like them.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Kid Sense

"Isaac's unbiblical cord came off last night," our 7-year-old granddaughter Anne-Marie announced over a taco supper with Thanksgiving guests tonight.  Her little brother will  be three weeks old tomorrow, Thanksgiving day.  Maddie, his 4-year-old sister, had asked if he had an "invisible cord" upon first seeing him in the hospital.

Earlier today, the children had been playing UNO with their doting Uncle Trevor from Texas. Helping her with the game, Trevor said to Maddie, "Now look at your hand to see what colors you have," referring to her cards.  Holding the cards in one hand, Maddie dutifully scrutinized the palm of the other hand, then turned it over to examine the back. Children are so dear in their misunderstandings.

Maddie's parents had been trying to teach her to identify her right and left hands.  Her father pointed out the trick of  holding the fingers of the left hand straight,  with the thumb at a right angle, making an "L," thus indicating the left hand.  Then he realized she can't read, and might not recognize the "L."  Instead of sucking her thumb, Maddie has from birth put her two middle fingers of her left hand in her mouth when tired or sleepy. They solved the problem by saying, "The one where you suck your fingers is your left hand."

Jonah 4:11 speaks about the people of Nineveh, where God said more than 120,000 people did not know their right hand from their left, possibly speaking of children or those who didn't know right from wrong.  A stubborn Jonah at last preached to the people, whose repentance saved their wicked city.  Teaching children right from wrong is a gradual process.  Yesterday in the children's section of Barnes and Noble, Anne-Marie was very careful in selecting a book.  "I don't want anything with magic in it," she said earnestly.  A difficult task, indeed!

The comment at dinner about the baby's cord set off a discussion among the younger set and had them quizzically puzzling out this mystery.  "That's how the baby gets food and air," a daddy explained, "It's their lifeline!" Soon they were talking about belly buttons, merrily singing a Veggie Tales ditty on the subject.  But  I think Maddie had it right, all along.  There is an invisible cord that connects us to our Creator, drawing us toward heaven.  That cord is Jesus Christ, without whom not anything was made.  He is our spiritual sustenance, our lifeline to God.  And that's not unbiblical!


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

On Second Thought

One of the things I was sorry about when our son's house sold was that the nursery Jamie had painted for their first baby with beautiful murals several years ago would likely be painted over and lost, a lovely work of art.  I knew he had done a lot of repainting to facilitate the sale, so I asked him about the nursery, which both daughters had used by then. I was surprised to hear he had left it as it was.

"The realtor told us not to cover it up unless a buyer requested it," my daughter-in-law told me. I wondered how the room bordered with the hand-lettered 23rd Psalm near the ceiling and pastoral scenes of lambs and the Good Shepherd would be received by a potential buyer.  "As it turned out, a youth pastor and his wife who were expecting a baby girl bought the house," she said.  "Our agent said the nursery may have been the deciding factor in their decision."

How wonderful!  The beautiful Psalm would still be ministering, and the Bible says His word does not return void. Tonight after an evening meal enjoyed by gathered family members in their new house, we were casting around ideas about which video we might view on their wall projection screen. Suddenly Jamie pulled out a video of an Easter play he had written and directed and in which he had also acted a couple of years ago.  I had never seen it, although I remembered it was a big success at their church.

We were amazed at the message of the play, as a self-righteous, boorish man met what seemed to be an untimely end and was given a second chance to redeem his life. The realistic acting, the humor, and the scenarios carried truths that brought reflection on our own lives.  The play carrying God's message was still effective, even after the passage of time.

Our little granddaughter, Maddie,  had surprised me yesterday by performing a cute Thanksgiving action-song she had learned at Pre-K. I had been trying to get her to do it for her uncle, our son whose family had just arrived.  She had bashfully declined, and ran on to play with her visiting cousins.   I reached out to catch her and draw her onto my lap as she scurried by, but she pulled away. Then, pausing and looking back at me, her smiling face peeking through the framework of a high table, she said playfully, "I'll sing the Thanksgiving song!"  A twinge of conscience for giving her Mimi the brush-off had stopped her in her tracks!

It's never too late to reconsider.  (The Bible says to "Consider your ways!")  Jamie has said he will not put so much effort into doing a nursery again, but with a new son in the household now, maybe he will reconsider, too!






Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thanksgiving Visit

I'm loving getting to spend time with my little grandchildren I don't get to see often.  It is my first time to see baby Isaac, just over two weeks old.  Always cuddled in downy blankets and the softest little footed outfits, he is utterly irresistible in his newness and perfection.  I can't get enough of him.  I held him during the entire song service at church today. Clasped against me as I stood with the congregation, the weight of his warm little body felt as light as a feather. Then muscles in my arms and chest held in their uncustomary position began to hint that I could enjoy him just as much sitting down.

He is a very discerning little boy.  Like the story of the princess and the pea, he can tell the minute his back comes into contact with his padded car seat.  He protests vigorously and loudly as we try to ignore his outrage.  His mommy is incredulous when I want to take him out.  She has a stronger resolve than I do; I wouldn't make a good mommy today, I guess--too indulgent.  I was sure he would injure himself crying so fiercely, but when the car stopped, he made a miraculous recovery and his sweet disposition returned.

In the midst of a hopping and dancing demonstration for us yesterday, our four-year-old granddaughter stopped and said worriedly of her 5-year-old boyfriend,  "I have a strange feeling! Joel tells me I'm awesome, but he never tells me I'm beautiful and cute!"  Then she resumed whirling, her red pig-tails bouncing merrily.

Today at lunch out, serious Anne-Marie, just turned seven, said knowledgeably as she studied the football game on the television left on for patrons, "Dad, I think Canada is playing Miami." Our hearts were warmed in church this morning when she surprised us, moving  past us in the pew and joining several of her friends, kneeling and draping themselves upon the steps of the platform in devout attentiveness to the worship music. She is positively angelic!

Tonight they went with their parents to dinner to celebrate the other grandfather's birthday.  We are helpless in their house, having messed up the television reception when we put the movie that our son had selected for us on pause, then couldn't operate his complicated remote system. We can't figure out the state-of-the-art microwave, either. It seems everything here is state-of-the-art. We complained that we were too hot last night, and he adjusted the thermostat before they left and we have been freezing all evening. At least I have this laptop to keep me almost as warm as thoughts of my family, for whom I can't wait to get home!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Stormy Weather

I was awakened in the wee hours to the muffled sounds of a broadcasting voice.  Then, noticing the pillow next to me was vacant,  I got up expecting to find my husband asleep in front of the television.  Opening the bedroom door, I realized it was Howard in the kitchen praying, bombarding heaven for a serious need.

I lay back down to the rumbles of  distant thunder,  which were becoming loud claps as the thunderstorm grew closer. Finally the sound of  pelting rain against my window told me it was here. Settling into a steady rhythm on the roof, the rain was comforting, like the healing tears of reconciliation that come after the clash of a marital spat.

The scriptures that we had read at prayer meeting the other night came back to me.  "Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a spring; The rain also covers it with pools.  They go from strength to strength; Each one appears before God in Zion." Psalm 84:5-6.

Some versions describe the rains as autumn rains, which is what we are experiencing tonight.  The point is, by making Baca into a spring, or well,  they turn a place of bitterness into a time of refreshment.  Looking up these verses, I noticed David's prayer in Psalm 86 and reflected that it surely agrees with the spirit of my husband's prayer.

David describes himself as poor and needy as he entreats the Lord to bow down His ear. Verse 6 says, "Give ear, O Lord, unto my prayer; and attend to the voice of my supplication. (7) In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee: for thou wilt answer me."

The whole chapter is filled with intense proclamations of faith and devotion: "For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone. Teach me thy way, O Lord; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear they name," Psalm 86:10-11.

Morning is dawning and my husband is sleeping to the patter of rain, refreshed and reassured by his season of prayer. I write the words of verse 12, "I will praise thee, O Lord my God with all my heart: and I will glorify thy name forevermore." Amen!


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

True Love

There's a new man in my life!  So far it's a long-distance relationship, but it was love at first sight when I saw him on my computer screen.  Arrangements have been made for us to meet in a few days, and my heart flutters with anticipation.  I can tell by his eyes that he is a deep thinker, and he is a dapper dresser!  Of course, there is an age difference, since he will only be two weeks old tomorrow!  My grandson, Isaac!

Two young ladies are already vying for Isaac's affections, one an articulate, beautiful blonde and the other an opinionated, red-haired charmer.  Isaac has two big sisters, 4 and 7.

I love the old poem, Cradle Song, by J. G. Holland that goes, "What is the little one thinking about? Very wonderful things, no doubt.  Unwritten history! Unfathomed mystery!"  That's what the little one's thinking about!

I never knew what his father was thinking, either, growing up so fascinated with new discoveries and ideas. He led me a merry chase, into everything and full of surprises.  Now it's his turn to raise a boy!
                   
The poem goes on, with a little rearrangement:

Who can tell what the baby thinks?
Who can follow the gossamer links?
Yet he laughs and cries, and eats and drinks,
And crows and chuckles and nods and winks.
                          ~~~
 And of course, there is Isaac's first love, his mother.
                          ~~~
What does he think of his mother's eyes...
What does he think of his mother's hair...
What of the cradle-roof that flies
Forward and backward through the air?

What does he think when her quick embrace
Presses his hand and buries his face
Deep where the heartthrobs sink and swell
With a tenderness she can never tell...

Even with all these lovely ladies in attendance, I think there is still room for a loving Mimi in little Isaac's life, and I can't wait to make his acquaintance!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

That's What I Love about Sunday

"Where did the ducks go?" I exclaimed in surprise to my husband.  I had just spotted 3 ducks at the edge of the water, then saw them go under for food or hiding, I thought.  But they never came back up!  The must have swum under water like little submarines until they were out of my sight!

We were at our son's farm on this gorgeous, autumn Sunday afternoon.  We had been watching him install a gate at the top of the pasture, reveling in the sunny weather and blue skies dotted with billowing white clouds and the  brisk air that made me zip my jacket. This vantage point gave us an elevated view of the lake at the bottom of the hill, as well as trees of the wooded areas below that spread like a blanket in their subdued tones of amber, orange and scarlet.  Their brilliance was fading a little now in mid November, but closer up, the sun still caught their colors in breath-taking splendor.

All around us the waves of prairie grass were whipping and bending in the invigorating wind. Muffled booms were coming from a shooting range at the far end of the pasture. That sound, coupled with the ducks who had recently began returning to the huge pond that curved lagoon-like farther on, created a seasonal ambience only enhanced by our frolicking grandchildren clambering up and sliding down the loose hay of a giant bale placed for the couple of cows pastured there.

We pulled ourselves away to get home in time for evening prayer meeting at the church. Driving there later, I gasped at the sudden, unexpected beauty of a  magnificent, rising moon.   The pinky-orange globe hung like a jewel in the gathering darkness.  This day had been so full  of God's wonders.

During our prayer meeting, a request was made for a five-year-old girl who woke up this morning telling her mother that she wanted to go to church.  I had talked with the visitors from the pew behind them, but I didn't know that the little girl had given her heart to the Lord in Sunday School earlier!  Hearing the good news made me reflect that God surely knows how to wrap up a Sunday!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Where is Everybody?

If anybody should have a hang-up, you would think I would.  It may sound like a joke from a stand-up comic, but my folks actually moved twice without telling me!  The first time, I was 16 and had been away on the short trip from Blackwell to Tulsa to see the Ice Capades with my boyfriend and his brother's family, spending the night in Pawhuska at my sister's house on the way home. When Howard took me home that day, the house was empty!

Like most teenagers, I hadn't been paying much attention to what was going on around home, caught up as I was in my own world.  I knew they had been talking about moving, but I didn't realize it would be then!  I hoped I would find them at a house they'd been considering, and thankfully, there they were.

The next time, I was married with two little ones, and we had decided to move to Independence, Kansas, where I would attend college and be close to Mama and Daddy and other family members. We had discussed our plans with them, packed our few belongings in our loaded car, and arrived late at night, expecting to stay with them for a few days until we got settled.  Guess what!  The house was dark, and as we could see upon closer inspection, vacant!  After checking at my brother's, we found them in an unfamiliar area of town and piled in on them (they still had three teenage boys at home).

Another time I had been gone on a school trip, and when I walked with my girlfriend to her house where someone was to meet me, the girl's mother called out to me in the dark, callously announcing, "Dale died! Your folks have gone to Pauline's house in Sapulpa."  I was stunned! Grief stricken at the news of my brother-in-law Dell's death, I got a ride to my house and of course, found no one.  I could only think to go to my newly-wed brother's apartment (turns out he was supposed to meet me, but he fell asleep) until the family was reunited, along with my grieving sister the next day.  Talk about traumatic!

Mama was not unfeeling, she was just distracted a lot and a victim of hardship.  When I was younger, my oldest married sister persuaded her to let me stay with her and attend school, which I did at least three times during my school days.  Mama had her hands full with seven boys, and I was delighted to be the center of attention at my sister's house.  They had luxuries like electricity, running water, and school supplies.  I don't remember missing my parents much, but I was always happy to return home.

I was homesick for my family my entire married life, living 500 miles away and only seeing them twice a year.  My parents loved our kids and welcomed them warmly on vacations, the stress of raising their own family behind them.  I know it says in the Bible "Would a mother forget her child?" and then, though the answer may be yes, we are told He will never forget us.  It must have hurt my mother when we were separated those times when I was little, for she was always bringing me home prematurely.  I was blessed, along with my sister, to be able to take care of Mama in her last years.  And I have a keepsake: years of letters she wrote to me when we didn't live close.  It's true.  God never forgets us!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Sweet!

"Bring your favorite recipe for cookies, cake, or candy to share and we will cook together at our November ladies' meeting," the  announcement read.  Interesting! I wondered how a dozen or so women would fit into the small church kitchen and do their own thing.  Okay, I mentally went over some of the things I liked to make and decided on a simple and a bit unusual choice:  Chocolate Cheese Fudge.

Gathering all my supplies, I set out for the church a little early.  A few women were already there, some working at the counter on snack treats and one putting a peach cobbler in the oven.  I used the stove top, so there was plenty of room.  Soon someone was rolling out cookie dough on the island, and another friend came in lugging a grocery bag and carrying a pineapple.

"I've never made pineapple-upside-down-cake before, so I might need some help," the young woman sang out.  My fudge was already cooling in the fridge by then, so I offered a tip or two when she seemed uncertain.  She soon had the pineapple cut up, and I shared about melting the butter and brown sugar in the pan. An older lady arranged the pineapple slices for her, while the young woman  mixed the batter then poured it over them.

When almost everything was ready, we sat down at the table, oohing and aahing over the novelty of the selections.  One of my favorites was "bacon and eggs," made by dropping a dollop of melted almond bark onto the middle of two pretzel sticks and topping the "egg white" with a yellow M&M. Too cute and very realistic!  My daughter-in-law, who made the aforementioned treat,  also assembled little "grinches" by threading a green grape, a banana slice, and a  strawberry on a toothpick, topping it with a marshmallow for Grinch's Santa hat.

While we munched and chatted over Christmas cookies, fudge,  Oreo balls and the pies, a late-comer assembled darling little sandwich-bag cones filled with hot chocolate mix, marshmallows and chocolate sprinkles tied with a red ribbon for her appreciative audience.  Not only was the food fun and tasty, just as enjoyable was getting better acquainted with one another.  I had no idea what an entrepreneur and civic leader one of the members is, and that the grandmother in a prayer request is 90 years old, still independent and driving her own car, and had just given up her long-time prison ministry last year!

The upside-down-cake we had been waiting on came out of the oven and was presented in all its golden goodness with a blush of satisfaction by the novice baker. We left the meeting full of food, friendship, shared experiences and needs prayed over.  A recipe for satisfaction!
       

Friday, November 8, 2013

Golden Days

"I think that I shall never see...A poem as lovely as a tree," I recited to my husband as we walked in Cann Garden today. The trees were dancing today in their finest garb as the wind twirled them, sending down a shower of golden leaves like so many fluttering hankies of a fading beauty taking her last bow in a stage performance.

"Let's walk in the leaves!" I urged my husband, tugging him toward the growing crest beside the walkway. Crunch, crunch!  This was exhilarating!  We couldn't help laughing as the wind blew us along, me with the hood of my jacket pulled up and Howard holding onto his cap. We felt like school children making our way through the multicolored carpet that spread under most of the trees and spilled out onto our path.

Finishing our walk, we saw that a group of people were having lunch at the gazebo.  When boys and girls started to spill out, we realized it was a school group.   As we got in the car we could see them frolicking in the leaves as the adults gathered jackets and lunch supplies.  Leaves were flying, and some of the kids were rolling in them.  "Let's make a leaf pile!" one cried. Scooping with their hands and scraping with feet, the kids soon had the beginnings of a pile.  Pulling out the drive, we could see a child emerge from under the leaf pile and another dive into it.

Joyce Kilmer's poem, Trees, goes on:

"A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed
 Against the earth's sweet flowing breast

A tree that looks at God all day
And lifts her leafy arms to pray.

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair.

Upon whose bosom snow has lain
Who intimately lives with rain

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree."

"Look!" I called to my husband, "that squirrel has two nuts in its mouth!"  I at first couldn't make out what looked like a leaf sticking out from each side of the squirrel's mouth, but then I realized it was two pecans still in their green hulls.  The squirrel gripped the twig that joined them together as he scampered to a hiding place.

It's true!  Only God can make a tree--a place where children play, birds and animals are sustained, and writers find inspiration. In Isaiah 55:12, the prophet writes these encouraging words, "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."  My sentiments exactly!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Baby Daze

Speechless! was my response to a video I watched last night on human growth and development before birth.  I guess it caught my eye because our grandson was due to be born the next  day..  What  a marvelous God we have whose wonders are evident in the intricacies and inexplicable mysteries of our makeup so brilliantly portrayed in the video!  I went to bed with the presentation on my mind, anticipating our own miracle by morning .  I woke up several times, watching the clock for 5 a.m. when I knew our son Jamie would be taking Tammy to the hospital for her C-section.

I finally got up around six, checking the internet for messages.  I went to the expectant father's page and  saw Jamie in hospital scrubs with a solemn expression on his face.  Then I picked up a  post from Tammy saying the scheduled delivery would be at 7:30.  I read several bantering comments back and forth between Jamie and his friends for a half hour or so, then for at least an hour there was silence.  I knew he was busy.

Suddenly my phone was alive with text message announcements, which I could not retrieve, due to a malfunction of the cell phone. Then my daughter-in-law Joanna called and said Jamie asked her to call me. He was born!  Soon a picture of a plump cherub with inked feet filled my screen. It was real!  The miracle we had awaited for a long nine months was here!  Later a video of Baby Isaac showed him peering  with baby aloofness through newborn eyes as he twisted in his dad's arms, turning his head to expose a sweet spot where his kissable cheeks had hid his neck. Be still, my heart!

I was wondering how his big sisters would react, especially Maddie, who is four.  The other night I asked her over the phone if she would be a helper, handing Mommy a diaper for the baby.  She surprised me by saying of her big sister, "That would be Anne-Marie doing that!" Today her father reported that she had paid a visit to the hospital to see the baby, but after 20 minutes she stated, "Can we go home already?"

Well, Maddie may be less than thrilled with a usurper, but she will soon take it all in stride, I'm sure.  Kids are so resilient and age-predictable.  Last night our church had family night, and it was a special treat for us to see the life and energy bursting forth from the kiddos as they played the active games planned for them. We were amazed at the intensity and enthusiasm of our 7- and 8-year-old granddaughters as they participated.

When we picked them up after school today, we let them burn up some energy at the park where they climbed, played on swings and jostled school friends for a good half hour.  We ourselves had walked at Cann Gardens earlier today, rejoicing in the gorgeous autumn weather, our mood buoyed already by the good news of Isaac.  The glorious colors in the canopy of leaves all around us left me awed at such an infinite Creator, and His goodness . To us and our children's children, for all generations.   .

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Listen Up!

"How do you get the ideas for your music?" the interviewer asked the child prodigy in a television interview I was watching yesterday. The gifted eight-year-old replied that when she tries to think of something, her mind goes blank, but sometimes when she is resting in the middle of the night, the words and melodies come to her.

"Then I get up and write them down, and my parents wonder why I look so sleepy the next morning," she exclaimed with a winsome smile.

Then I read the testimony of a political news contributor from a major network of how she became an evangelical Christian. She had viewed believers with contempt and sarcasm, but one night Jesus came to her in a dream or wakeful state, she wasn't sure which.  He said, "Here I am."  She began to meet God at every corner, it seemed, and her life was changed.

Since I write a blog/devotional, I am always on the lookout for inspiration in everyday happenings. Sometimes when a few days go by and nothing clicks, something will come to me in the middle of the night.  Fragments of memories and unrelated ideas float around in my relaxed mind, begin to coalesce, and often come together in a meshing and realization of God's goodness and presence that I can share with my readers.

David says in Psalm 63:5-6, " My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips: When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches."

"For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not.  In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed; Then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instructions," Job 33:14-16.

Many stories abound of people of eastern religions to whom Jesus has appeared in a dream.  God wants everyone to know Him and the plan of salvation.  Lately I have exclaimed over all the glorious fall colors and have recognized God in the beauty of His creation. "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork," Psalm 19:1.

Romans 1:20 expounds, "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse."  Dreams, visions, sermons, the Bible, personal witness, the printed page,  and the internet, to name a few, are means to draw people to Christ.  Matthew 11:15: "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."  Even in a dream!