Thursday, February 27, 2014

Seed Faith

Spring is getting closer every day!  I sat in the sun for a long time today, my face soaking up the golden rays, even though I was bundled against the wind.  Several fat robins were darting in and out of bushes, with one making a zooming, low-flying swoop along the walk way on the way to joining a mate on a low tree branch.

We had just finished lunch at a Chinese restaurant, something I hadn't done in forever, thinking I didn't like Chinese food.  But I found it hearty and satisfying and, I have to admit, tasty!  When we were almost finished eating, the waiter presented our check on a little metal tray holding two fortune cookies.  Just for fun, I cracked one open, and it was empty!  Was that a bad sign? jk!

"There was no fortune in the cookie," I said to the waiter when he came round.  "No fortune?" he exclaimed, and quickly brought me another.  This time I pulled out a tiny strip of paper with the words, "Things are not always what they seem.  It's not that bad."  How did they know I had been feeling ill and was worried about it?  I had to laugh.  My husband's said something equally innocuous.

I was feeling better, so we decided to drive out to the country to see the progress our son had made on a building project.  In short order, a couple of our gardening friends showed up to work on the garden.  We joined them, Howard pushing a garden tiller to make furrows with me sowing seeds for spinach and turnips.

"Do you need help planting the onions?" I asked, and soon I was placing the little green onion roots in the ground.  Now it looks like a real garden, with the onion shoots sticking up in orderly rows like little green soldiers.

Several curious cows a neighbor is pasturing there gathered at the fence line, their winter coats ruffling in the wind and outlined in silhouette by the sun. A yellow school bus, followed by a cloud of dust from the newly-graveled road, came over the hill and stopped out front.  Our two young granddaughters appeared momentarily around the corner of the house, making their way inside with the eagerness of kids out of school.

We stopped for more seed packets on the way home, so I don't need a fortune cookie to tell me where we'll be tomorrow!  Nor do I attribute my feeling better to a cookie, because my husband prayed for me this morning!


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

To Market, To Market

Yesterday I decided to tag along with my husband on a short errand since I had not been out of the house all day due to feeling a little puny.  He had ordered a new guitar strap and wanted to have it monogrammed with the words, "I AM BLESSED."  He discovered the monogram service at a local gift shop a few months ago and had had "ONE OF THEM," emblazoned on his other guitar strap.

He'd had me put a pin through the strap to mark the exact location for the words.  I was a little dissatisfied with the look of the first one, because the letters were placed vertically, on top of one another.  Howard ran his finger along the strap indicating how he wanted the words on this strap placed, and the worker nodded in agreement.  "The top of the letter should go here," I pointed out, making sure she understood it was to be written and read horizontally.

"Oh, you want it that way!" she noted in surprise.  (It's a good thing I went along, I thought to myself!)

"Where are you going now?" I asked, to which Howard replied, "To get an ice cream cone," heading the car in the opposite direction of home.  Since he was going to Braum's, I suggested he get a loaf of the raisin bread we liked.  He came out with a bag containing raisin bread, white bread, and a large carton of ice cream bars!  (They were very tasty, though, I decided after having one.)

"Do you need anything else before going home?" my helpful spouse asked. I was thinking I could use a can of cream of chicken soup for a casserole I was considering making for supper.  He said he would run in to the store near our house.  I wondered how a can of soup so filled out the plastic bag he was carrying, then I looked inside to see the can of soup, a roll of braunschweiger (liverwurst), and a can of pork and beans.  My husband, the inveterate shopper!

Resignedly, I sigh and realize that he is a product of his upbringing, that of being raised in the family grocery store and working there growing up.  His ease with stock, familiarity with brands, and loving to experiment with something new on the shelves is second nature to him.  But so are his people skills and outgoing personality that were nurtured there and have served him so well in ministry!

Even if he did go in after bottled water today and come out with frozen waffles and three boxes of macaroni and cheese added to his tab, I have to smile and know, like the title of the song on his guitar strap, "I AM BLESSED" with such a sweet, thoughtful husband.  And as far as creative shoppers go, there are worse things than being "ONE OF THEM"!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Great Expectations

At a community songfest the other night, I bought a cookbook made by ladies of a local church. Looking through it when I got home, I was pleasantly surprised to find recipes I'd wanted to make, but couldn't remember the exact details.  One was icing for German Chocolate Cake, a delicious, simple cooked frosting I used to love when my sister-in-law made it.  I can't wait to try it.

The other was for Chocolate Gravy! I knew it by the name, Cocoa Gravy, as a child, when Mama would make it for our breakfast.  She made biscuits and regular gravy for the adults, but the kids got Cocoa Gravy over her wonderful, homemade biscuits!

Lying in bed this morning contemplating what might taste good for breakfast (difficult decision, since I don't have much sense of taste), I remembered the cookbook and Cocoa Gravy!  Just the right incentive to make me spring out of bed.  (Hubby had arisen predawn, made his own breakfast, and was fast asleep in his easy chair.)

First, I made a half-dozen biscuits and put them in to bake.  Then, following directions, I mixed the sugar, flour, cocoa and salt, adding milk and stirring it into what became a luscious-looking, bubbling pan of chocolate temptation.  I  broke open a hot biscuit and covered it with a generous dollop. Hm.  It was good, but as expected, I couldn't detect the butter and vanilla flavor it contained, not to mention the full taste of chocolate.  And it was too sweet!  I called my husband, and he wasn't impressed when he took a bite.

Finding the recipe in an online website, I realized I had used more sugar than necessary. I could have used 1/3 cup less, according to Paula Deen!  Next time I will, although I'm not under any illusions it will taste as good as it did to my childhood palate!  Anyway, homegrown cookbooks have not been subjected to the scrutiny of a test kitchen and are not immune to a few typos.

Oh well, accidents will happen, as I learned the night I bought the book. I had noticed  the display of them on the counter when we entered the concert.  The hostess on duty invited me to look through it, then my husband wrote out the check.  At the end of the program, Howard wanted to speak to someone he recognized, and leaving his styrofoam cup of coffee on the table he went to greet his friend.  I reached to pick up the cookbook and knocked over the coffee! I grabbed the book, but it was splattered.

The kind concession attendant brought towels and sopped things up, but when I opened the book he saw that the page edges were wet.  "I can fix that," he said, and surprised me by handing me an unspoiled cookbook from the stack on the counter.  "Are you sure?" I asked, and he assured me it was okay.  Maybe my next batch of Cocoa Gravy will be, too!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Presentation

"Have you had any prospects on the sale of your house?" I asked our son Trevor as we chatted with him on the phone this morning.  (Coincidentally, two of our sons have placed their homes on the market recently.)

He told me they had had several lookers, then he said the real estate agent reported they had all complained about the same thing.  I couldn't imagine what it would be in their beautiful, spacious home in an upscale area. "What was it?" I asked.

"You know that large poster we have over the fireplace?" he began.  Of course, I remembered it. It was a reproduction of Michaelangelo's The Last Judgment that they had brought home from a trip to Rome a few years ago. I admit it was a bit startling, but they had pondered over a meaningful souvenir and had decided on a piece of art.  "Well, they didn't like it!" he finished.

"Then you should take it down," I suggested, to which he replied, "That's just what the agent said, so we did!"

How odd that prospective buyers would focus on non-permanent wall decor!  Trevor said he guessed it was just so big and a such a focal point in their 18' high den that it distracted them.  "I had to remove the deer heads from my office, too," he went on, "Their advice was to de-personalize everything."

I thought it was a shame about the multi-point mounted displays of his hunting trophies; they had looked very handsome and added to the  masculine motif of the space. I had to wonder about the painting, though.  Were people disconcerted about the subject, which not only portrayed saints going to heaven, but some people being cast into hell?  Or were they offended by the art style of the day, with nude or barely clothed figures?

In today's politically-correct agenda and attitude, some would rather ignore or be shielded from life's realities.  In an amusing "for instance,"  I thought of something our 7-year-old granddaughter said last evening.  Earlier that day, our neighbor had called and asked if we liked trout, saying he had caught several recently and wanted to give us some.  Of course, we took them!

Howard was showing the nicely packaged trout, frozen in sealed plastic bags, to our son's family who had dropped by after supper.  "Ooh! Those fish have eyes!" Beth exclaimed as she pointed to the handsome, dressed fish that seemed to be balefully looking up at her.  I plan to cook them that way!  Whole, either in the oven in a lemon-butter sauce, or fried crispy, golden brown and served on a platter, old-world style!  

The fish Jesus served the disciples were probably whole, as well as the ones he multiplied from a young boy's lunch.  And it was Jesus who warned of the coming judgment, the whole, unvarnished truth! 

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Last Straw


"Oh, I'm out of straws!" I said when I took the last one from the tall jar where I keep them.

"Why do you drink from a straw?" questioned my young granddaughter.

"To keep tea from staining my teeth!" I replied.

I do love using a straw, and always ask for one in  if the waitress forgets.  "I figure if I'm going to pay for lunch, at least I shouldn't have to lift my glass to drink!" I kid them.

Of course, the expression, "the last straw," comes from the old saying, "the straw that broke the camel's back," meaning some minor irritation on top of other dissatisfactions or disappointments that results in an explosion of impatience and burst of temper.

The Bible is full of scriptures dealing with anger.  Ephesians 4:26 admonishes, "Be ye angry and sin not," and the rest of the verse advises, "Let not the sun go down on your wrath."

In Proverbs 15:1, we find the wisdom that "A soft answer turneth away wrath," and verse 18 says, "He that is slow to anger appeaseth wrath."

There is a story in the Bible that seems to be a time when Jesus lost his temper. Mark 11:15, as well as verses in the other gospels, tells of Jesus cleansing the temple.  "And they came to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money changers, and the seats of them that sold doves."

In verse 17 of the same chapter, we read, "And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves."

But a few verses previous, in Mark 11:11, we find Jesus entering the temple the day before, and only looking around.  The Bible doesn't say anything about the money changers there, but could it be that they were there and he controlled his anger, knowing what he would do the next day? At any rate, I'm sure what he found felt like the last straw!

"He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city," Proverbs 16:32.  Jesus was brought up on these scriptures, knowing the law and reading the scrolls.  Jesus didn't lose his temper, but used his righteous anger against sin.  The way to "be angry and sin not!"

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Journey

"Got my bag, got my reservation, spent each dime I could afford.  Like a child in wild anticipation, long to hear that 'All aboard,'" so goes the old "Sentimental Journey" song. That's the way I'm feeling since we got our tickets yesterday to go visit the grand babies  (and their parents) in a couple weeks!

And no, it's not the Chattanooga Choo-Choo, or the Wabash Cannon Ball, it's the Heartland Flyer, and then the Texas Eagle that we'll be boarding.  We enjoy train travel because there's no driving, no airport security hassle, the views are more entertaining and the people are interesting.

Well, what we got was not really a ticket, just a computer copy of the receipt.  We like to have it just in case, but usually we are not asked for it, as all that is necessary is to give the conductor are our names, which he locates on his computer, and we are good to go.  And actually, we spent no money on our tickets.  Our kids we are visiting provided them!

I am reminded of something Corrie Ten Boom wrote in her book, The Hiding Place. As a child, she had questions about death, and was fearful and worried about it. Her father wisely gave her an illustration.  "Corrie," he said, "When you go to Amsterdam on the train, when do I give you your ticket?"  She answered, "Why right before I get on."  He then reassured her that God would give her whatever she needed just when she needed it when that time came.

And we won't have to present a ticket when we get to heaven, although it has already been bought by the blood of Jesus Christ and we were given it at the moment of salvation.  A search will be made in the Book of Life to see if our name is recorded there, just as the earthly conductor looked on the roster of passengers for the train.  If our name is found in the Book of Life, we will hear the words, "Well done, thy good and faithful servant.  Enter thou in to the joys of the Lord," Matthew 25:21, 23.

The last verse of the old song from the 40s that I quoted goes, "Never thought my heart could be so yearny.  Why did I decide to roam?  Gonna take a sentimental journey, sentimental journey home." Yearnings for distant loved ones are poignant and sentimental, but may they pale in comparison with the yearnings we have for our heavenly home, where we're "never more to roam."

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Men Ought Always to Pray

"Oh, this is wonderful!" I exclaimed as we descended the sloping walkway into the gardens.  The almost-balmy temperatures, the beautiful day, the endless sky and God's creation spread out before us.  I think it was our first visit to the park all winter.

"We should have brought our lunch!" I lamented when we had sat down at an inviting bench and table.  It was almost noon, and we thought about buying a sandwich and bringing it back to eat, but we decided to walk first.  By then we had changed our minds and decided to stop for a pizza on the way to our son Greg's house in the country.

What a good idea that was!  The fresh-baked pizza was incredible eaten in the cheery surroundings of the snack tables and bright interior.  We called Greg to come join us, but he was busy with at home with workmen installing air conditioning.  The pizza was too much for the two of us, so we told him we would bring some to him.

How I love the country!  One seems closer to God there! I thought about that later when we were home and Howard posed a question:  Are the prayers that we pray effective forever?  I knew there was a verse in the Bible that seemed to indicate that prayers are stored up, so we looked up Revelation 8:3-4:

"And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.  (4) And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand."

Revelation 5:8 says, "And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials (bowls) full of odours, which are the prayers of the saints."

Maybe those are the prayers awaiting answers?  We receive the answers to many prayers while we are living, but some are no doubt answered even after we are gone.

David must have believed that God kept record of our tears and distresses, for he writes in Psalm 56:8, "Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?"

Being out in nature that day and contemplating the heavens made me reflect that God is not limited to time and space, as we are.  It is always today with God.  He is "I am."  The same yesterday, today and forever.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Changing Seasons

I saw a ladybug today!  A bright red dot was on my car window, and when I flicked it off, it flew away!  Getting out of the car a few minutes ago, a bright spot of yellow on the dead grass greeted me.  A dandelion! Ugh!  Both, signs of spring, though.

The unaccustomedly warmish weather and the beautiful sunshine after such a cold, snowy season was just the excuse I needed to finally bring our porch out of winter.  I bagged up the pine cones and greenery from a display in our garden wagon and replaced them with a life-like artificial bouquet of flowers tumbling from a wicker basket. I had  long since removed Christmas decor, and now with a little neatening and straightening, the screened porch looked springlike and inviting.

"Would you like to have lunch on the porch?" I asked my husband.  Howard was agreeable, so I spread a bright lunch cloth over the wicker table, and voila! we were back in business! I pulled the table into the splash of sunlight at one end of the porch, and the glass storm door blocked the wind, so we were comfortable eating our chicken-salad in the refreshing, outdoor atmosphere.

Later, driving out to the country to our son's farm, we found them engaged in a perennial ritual of spring: Putting in a garden!  The ground had been prepared for months, but today they made furrows and planted potatoes and onion sets, with the help of two friends who are going to grow things there as well.  Although  I didn't get down on my hands and knees and place and pat the dirt over the potatoes as they did, I did enjoy the beautiful vistas of rolling prairie and dried, windswept grass with signs of spring bursting out all over!

The children's redwood playground set had been transported to their country location and was set up and and being refurbished.  Our two young granddaughters and a neighbor child were sliding, climbing and swinging from bars in their boundless energy and freedom from school on this Presidents' Day.  I know spring won't officially be here for another month, but this wonderful reprieve from the long, long winter is just the tonic I need.

One of the seasoned gardeners helping today said she always planted potatoes and root crops in the dark of the moon.  I remembered my mother planting that way, too.  "The dark of the moon is after the full moon when the moon starts to wan," she said.  "The light of the moon is when it is waxing toward a new moon.  Then you can plant what grows on top of the ground," she finished.

My daughter-in-law was going to fill out a row of potatoes with onions when the capable, energetic lady with windblown white hair teased, "If you plant them too close together, the onions will get in the eyes of the potatoes and make them cry."  Whether with help from the farmers' almanac, tried and true experience or funny old sayings, the garden was getting planted.  I couldn't help recognizing that planting a garden is an exercise of faith. Faith in the future, and faith in God, who planted the first garden.  And my cleaning the porch was having faith that spring is just around the corner!  

That Great Gettin' Up Mornin'

Two of  our grand kids had spent the night with us Saturday, and I was hoping we could all make it to church on time the next morning, what with getting them up, breakfast for everyone and sharing one bathroom.  I couldn't believe it when everything went like clockwork, and for once we were actually on time!

That says a lot, since we try to there at 9:00 a.m.!   Recently our pastor has moved up the time for Sunday school by 30 minutes, so as to have time to gather in the sanctuary for pre-service prayer. Now we have a half-hour to seek the Lord's presence in preparation for church, and still time to greet the rest of the congregation and visitors when they arrive.

We feel it is making a difference in the services!  In a meeting last night, Pastor commented on one of the youth he had noticed in fervent prayer, the same youth I remembered as a rowdy child just a few years ago, faithfully picked up for church every Sunday by members.  This teenager is now a helpful assistant in everything from passing out bulletins to taking the offering!

The subject turned to prayer in the small group meeting, and my husband shared something I had forgotten about that happened in New Orleans many years ago where he operated a business. Our brother-in-law, the head of the small corporation, was in the hospital facing heart surgery. Howard called in all the employees, from delivery drivers to office workers, and announced a time of prayer for him.  Putting a Christian employee, a pastor, in charge, Howard went upstairs to pray in his office. Imagine his dismay when he came down a little later to find a fight had broken out among them!

"You must have felt like Moses when  he came down from the mountain!" I laughed.  We agreed that prayer is not without obstacles.

In the conversational buzz after the meeting, some of the women were talking about health tips. One said taking vitamin D makes her feel great, while another said it didn't help her at all.  I mentioned I drink milk, getting vitamin D there.  Vitamin D is also known as the sunshine vitamin, as the sun causes a reaction on the skin to produce the vitamin.

It was the earlier rising of the sun these mornings that helped me rise early and get to church on time yesterday.  And it is the Son and the sunshine of His love that we seek to enrich our lives and those of others.  That is the real vitamin D: the Divine one!




Saturday, February 15, 2014

Dancing Hearts

My sweet, just-turned-eleven-year-old granddaughter sent me Valentine greetings from Tennessee! She had covered an entire page with cut-outs of smiling, crayoned hearts with Sharpie-penned arms and legs flying in joyous dance, above which was printed, "I Love You."  She also sent a marker-drawn rainbow and the words, "You are my rainbow...When I have a bad day...You always know...What to say."

And to think I hadn't sent her a Valentine this year!  I called her and thanked her, though, for the sweet sentiments that make a Mimi's heart happy.  The dancing hearts reminded me of a singing ministry family who used to visit our church in Mississippi more than 30 years ago.  They were from Scotland, and dressed in their plaids and kilts they sang their signature song, "Dancing Heart," in their inimitable, joyous style: "Oh, the Holy Ghost will set your feet a-dancing, and set your heart a-dancing, too!"

For the first time in all those years I heard the song on the radio recently and realized it must have had a resurgence in popularity, even as I became aware that the ministry they started is still alive and well.  The Bible says in Proverbs 16:9 that man's heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps, which seems to be the case for them.

Often I have plans for the day or an event, and things turn out to be a complete surprise.  I agreed when my husband asked if I would like to go out for an early Valentine dinner on Thursday evening.  But, on impulse I suggested that since it was the first beautiful weather we'd had in weeks, we go to Stillwater for lunch and shopping.

Then for Valentine's day, I made a special roast beef supper, and Howard bought a chocolate Valentine cake for dessert.  After supper, opting to skip "The Waltons," my favorite program (I had just viewed two episodes when I heard the news of Ralph Waite's passing!), we decided on something I'd never seen before.  We had a fascinating evening watching a show about extreme tree-house building!

The sadness of hearing about "John Walton" was softened somewhat when I read about his life.  I didn't know he started out as an ordained minister, then later became a heavy drinker.  He said that he couldn't bear to portray such a wholesome character and live that life style, so he reformed, saying that Hollywood had saved his life.  He was active in a Presbyterian fellowship at the time of his death . It was said that he died of a "tired heart," but by the spirit he exhibited in his TV role and, by all reports, in real life, God had given him a "dancing heart."



Friday, February 14, 2014

I Heart You!

Happy Valentines!  Standing at the sink washing dishes this morning, I was startled to see over my shoulder my husband leaning toward me with a beautiful, blue bouquet!  On closer look, I laughed to see it was a feather duster he was trying to put away!  I didn't know he'd been dusting! Other ladies may get flowers, but I get a dusted living room (maybe he's making way for flowers later today)!

My spouse can be unexpectedly thoughtful sometimes, even if in unconventional ways.  I bade him goodbye the other morning as he headed out, and I had barely gotten into the shower when the phone rang.  "Go unlock the back door!" Howard said urgently.  "I forgot to  put out the trash!" Later, I asked why he made a special trip back for that, and he said he did it for me!? (Then I realized he thought it was Thursday, trash pick-up day, but it was only Wednesday.)

The other night at church our pastor asked which teaching our church backgrounds stressed more: Purity, or the fruit of the Spirit?  He was making an analogy of Christians' conduct of separation from the world and the "purity" of the Pharisees.  They were focused more on keeping rules than caring for people. It got me thinking about Galatians 5:22-23. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering (patience), gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance."

Being slowed by roadwork on the highway yesterday, Howard stopped our progress and motioned for a vehicle coming out of a service station driveway to go in front of us. "Why did you do that?" I questioned impatiently.  Then I remembered the fruit of the Spirit and my resolve to exercise them. Maybe he was thinking of that, too.

Later, at a store checkout, the clerk rang up my total and said, "Would you like to add a donation to the American Heart Association to that?"  I paused for a moment, then, remembering that love is a fruit of the Spirit, I said, "Sure," and included a donation.

"What are they doing?" I puzzled aloud as we drove down the street and witnessed a kind of dance between a postman and a dog.  A big bulldog repeatedly advanced toward him, then retreated as the mail carrier held up his hand.  "He's afraid of the dog," I said.

Howard immediately wheeled around and asked if we could help by calling the police or something. "I've called animal control, and I've sprayed him several times, but he doesn't seem to mind," the mailman said.  I could see how he would feel vulnerable, especially since the weather had warmed and he was wearing short pants!  "Thanks for your help, though!" he said.

No doubt the letter carrier was delivering lots of valentines.  Valentine hearts are for love, but the many expressions of love and kindness given today need not be limited to February 14.  The fruit of the Spirit is in season  all year long!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Lightbearers

"What is that?  Is that a Bible?" the student inquired of our friend, who was substituting at a middle school recently.  She had set the students on an assignment and had taken out her Bible.

"Why do you have it here?" the boy went on, to which she answered, "So I can read it!" "Well, I'm an atheist," he announced.  "I come from a family of atheists."  Our friend  knew the boy to be highly intelligent and a voracious reader.

"He has a very advanced vocabulary for a boy of his age," she said, "He uses the biggest words! He reads all kinds of books, including the study of religions! He even read the Bible verse I had opened!" Then she concluded, "I'm going to see that he gets a C.S. Lewis book, maybe The Screw Tape Letters, I think that would get through to him."

What a coincidence!  I told her that just that day we had seen Rabbi Jonathan Kahn, author of The Harbinger, on television giving his testimony.  He had been raised Jewish, and as a child had heard all the heroic stories of Old Testament figures.  But at age eight, when he didn't see any of the power of God manifested in his religion, he declared himself an atheist.

As he grew up, he read everything he could get his hands on: Science, biographies, literature and even philosophy.  Then one day he was crossing a railroad track in his car, when, too late, he saw a bright light. The train was upon him, and he found himself calling out to God. Although injured, he survived the impact.  He finally had to admit there was something or Someone responsible for "all this." Then he read Hal Lindsay's The Late, Great Planet Earth, and became a believer in Jesus Christ.

These stories remind me of Paul, or Saul, as he was known before God changed his name.  He was a learned man, "a Pharisee of the Pharisees," taught at the feet of Gamaliel, Acts 22.3.  In his religious zeal, he persecuted the early Christians and was on his way to bring them in chains to be punished when a great light from heaven made him fall to the ground, Acts. 22:6.  In  it, Paul saw the Lord (I Corinthians 9:1).

As a result of meeting Jesus that day, Saul of Tarsus became the great Apostle Paul, writer of most of the New Testament.  Who knows what the inquiring schoolboy of today might become or when he might see the light?  After all, it was no coincidence that his substitute teacher "just happened" to be a Christian and "just happened" to bring her Bible that day!  Rather, I think it was a divine appointment!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Just Do It!

"Casting down imaginations,  and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.  And having in a readiness to revenge (punish) all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled," II Corinthians 10:5-6.

We had been discussing this and other scriptures in a Bible study last night.  The teacher was stressing that "vain imaginations"  and thoughts could apply to worries over sickness, lack, etc., that one may have, when the "knowledge of God"  includes healing and provision.  He said when we "punish" those thoughts, we banish them.

"Maybe those thoughts could also apply to our feelings of inadequacy," I ventured.  "And we're afraid to 'punish' them, or negate them and claim the promise of  'I can do all  things through Christ which strentheneth me,' because then we might have to do something!"

"That's it!" someone exclaimed.  "I have been dealing with that in a friend I have been mentoring on the path of salvation.  She seems to accept and believe everything, but when it comes to making the decision for Christ, she says, 'I can't.'  She seems to be afraid she will have to do something!"

I'm afraid many times I talk myself out of doing something I would actually like to do.  Like having someone over for dinner.  I am full of excuses: Too much work, house isn't ready, have to shop, too tired, ad infinitum. But sometimes I just take the plunge and do it anyway, and I am never sorry.  It always turns out to be a blessing, both to me and to them.  I get the stimulation of company and people are drawn closer together.

Take yesterday, when  I wanted to invite our son's family over for Sunday lunch, something we used to do quite often.  There were four of them and two of us, so six was a good number.  Then they adopted two little girls, making eight of us.  Then their college daughter invited her girl cousin to live with her, so that was nine.  Factor in our granddaughter's boyfriend and their other grandmother, who lives alone, so our table settings were for eleven!

It may have been a little tumultuous, but we managed and had a very good time!  Everyone ate heartily, and the food stretched.  Then after dinner I said to my granddaughter,  "Allison, shall we remove the tablecloth and play that game over there?" indicating a word-spelling card game they had given me once that I had just re-discovered.

So instead of crowding into our small living room, several of us laughed, guessed and puzzled for an hour still around the table while the men snored companionably in the living room.  I'm glad I overcame my imaginations and was able to practice my gift of hospitality!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Iron Sharpens Iron

My husband just couldn't resist the tantalizing commercial he saw on TV advertising "the sharpest knife in the world."  After all, he grew up in his father's meat market, and worked for awhile in the trade of  butcher early in our marriage.  Even today, he despises a dull knife. So before I knew it, he had ordered one!

Suffice it to say the knife did not meet his expectations.  In fact, it wouldn't cut at all!  However, they had enclosed a knife sharpener, which still did not produce a satisfactory result.  I heard Howard complaining about it to a friend one day, who said, "Bring it to me.  I can sharpen it for you."  This man is an avid sportsman and  gun collector who fancies collecting knives as well, so Howard took him up on the offer.

Now we have a very sharp knife in the kitchen drawer.  His friend uses some kind of belt grinder to keep his knives on edge, it seems.  Not only that, the friend sent home a second knife, kept in a protective case, which Howard looks forward to using filleting fish.  Now that's a good friend!

I was reminded of the verse in the Bible that says, "Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend," Proverbs 27:17.  Well, my husband's eyes light up and he comes home with a brightened countenance when they go out for coffee!

Last night was the weekly meeting at our pastor's house for a training session.  As we discussed and commented on scriptures and the book we are studying, ideas, opinions and experiences that brought new insight were shared.  We were sharpening one another's countenances with the lively discussions!

The same is true for our Sunday School class.  Yesterday the teacher said with interest, "I had never thought about it that way," after I shared a pertinent point.  (I hope she wasn't just being diplomatic!)  Small groups like this where friends meet are beneficial, and even seem to have the Lord's blessing!  Malachi 3:16 says, "Then they that feared the Lord spake often to one another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for those that feared the Lord, and thought upon his name."

The next verse says, "And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him."  Quite a reward for living the Christian life and enjoying fellowship along the way!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Gone Fishing

"Mom cooked an awesome supper last night, " I heard my husband tell our son today.  He told him about the mess of fish I fried that he had caught months ago when the weather was warmer.  I had frozen them, but they tasted fresh caught and were delicious!

We enjoyed our meal, especially when we reflected that the fish were free; all we had to do was pull them out of the water.  There is something almost miraculous about getting food straight from nature.  It is amazing that we can pull vegetables right out of the ground if we raise a garden. Makes you appreciate your Creator.

Savoring the crispy, browned fish last night made me think of the song, Come and Dine. "The disciples came to land, thus obeying Christ's command When the Master called unto them 'Come and Dine.' There they found their hearts' desire, bread and fish upon the fire Thus he satisfies the hungry every time."

The story is found in John 21 when after the resurrection Jesus appeared to the disciples while they were fishing.  They had caught nothing, but in the morning, Jesus, whom they did not recognize, called to them from the shore, "Children, have ye any meat?"  To their negative answer, He spoke, "Cast your net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find," John 21:6.

John realized it was the Lord, and when Peter realized it, he put on his clothes and jumped into the sea in his eagerness to see Jesus.  (Since he put on his garment, I wonder if he was planning to walk on water!) Jesus had performed a similar miracle as recorded in Luke 5:1-11 when He called them to be His followers, saying, "Fear not, from henceforth thou shalt catch men."

Now Jesus was getting ready to go back to heaven.  He knew Peter needed encouragement and needed to confirm his commitment to Christ, since he had recently denied Him three times. Correspondingly, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him. Jesus changed Peter's name from Simon to Peter, or from a pebble to a rock.  He told him to "Feed my sheep."  As a leader of the church, he would become a fisher of men. The best kind of fishermen for us to be!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Waxing Nostalgic

What? No plastic wrap? I thought when I was looking over the store shelf display of foil, freezer bags and storage solutions.  Well, there was wax paper, something I hadn't bought in years, so I grabbed a roll of that.

Later, cutting off a length to cover a bowl of leftovers, a wave of nostalgia surfaced as I stared at the thin, waxy sheet.  Growing up, wax paper was a staple at our house.  As a fifth grader, it was my morning chore to pack five brown-bag lunches for me and the four of my brothers who attended our country school. Three little brothers were still at home.

Assembly line style, I carefully wrapped, folded and tucked the ends of the waxed paper under the sandwiches, which might be fried egg, bologna, or PBJ.  After a hungrily bolted lunch and after the paper bags had been carefully creased, folded and stuck in a desk or back pocket for use the next day, we hit the playground, often carrying a left-over from lunch: a sheet of wax paper.  It came in handy to sit on for a super-slick ride down the tall, humped slide!  Quite a thrill unless your feet didn't catch you in time and you had a hard landing!

Then there were the craft projects in school, when we gathered fall leaves and preserved them between sheets of waxed paper sealed with a warm iron that our craftsy teacher magically produced.  The word, re-cycling, hadn't come into our vocabulary then, but we were experts at it.

The frigid temperatures and crunchy snow outside yesterday put me in a baking mode again.  I had everything I needed for a cake, except frosting. With a yen for the fluffy sweetness of a divinity-type icing, I looked up 7-minute icing on the internet.  (I may be nostalgic, but I still like the modern conveniences.)

The procedure sounded too complicated with double-boilers and mixing over the stove for seven minutes, then I remembered Mama just pouring boiling sugar-syrup into the egg whites and beating them.  I could do that! Down-sizing the ingredients a bit and accommodating the recipe to my needs, I was feeling a bit iffy about the whole thing.  But the frosting materialized beautifully in the whirring beaters as I poured in the boiling syrup, and it was delicious! Thank you, Mama!  And thanks for the memories!  (But how am I going to cover the sticky cake with wax paper?)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Photo Finish

My new internet fascination is viewing the surprise presentation of "movies" of all my Facebook friends.  It's an innovative idea that everyone seems to like, but it's also a little unsettling to realize someone analyzes all your posts, makes independent selections of what you'd like to see, then sets them to music.  (Although, of course we all realize that we give up control of our entries the minute they are published.)

The shots we have shared are usually those putting us and our subjects in a good light, even though they may be of funny or unguarded moments. In most, we have carefully posed and dutifully smiled, with some being even of our most important and formal moments, such as wedding or graduation pictures The best are almost always of babies and children, who are completely unselfconscious in their innocence and cuteness.

They say when we die, a movie of our entire life plays out before us.  I have a friend who had a near-death experience when she almost drowned, and she said that happened to her.  She was a young girl at the time and still recalls the scenes of her childhood flashing through her mind.

We know that the Bible says that we will all stand before the judgment seat of God at the last day. Perhaps there will be a playback of our lives that will bear evidence of our earthly behavior.  If so, we would not be able to select just the flattering pictures or those when we were doing a good deed, but every scowl or grimace and hateful thing we have ever done would be on display.

There is one caveat, thank God, and that is if you have trusted Jesus as your Savior, your sins are blotted out.  Even so, Christians will be judged at the judgment seat of Christ according to their works and and receive or lose rewards accordingly.  I Corinthians 3:14, "If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.  (15) If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire".

What kind of picture does that present for us as individuals?  Now is the time for us to make our "calling and election sure" (II Peter 1:10).

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Do as Unto the Lord

"Everything you do is ministry!" my husband announced when he came home from Bible Study last night. "I've come to the conclusion that everything a Christian does is ministry," he reiterated.

"Does that mean when I cook, it's ministry?" I asked.  He said it was.  Wow!  Maybe he  means it was ministry to him!  So that means when I got up this morning and made rolled-out biscuits, gravy, ham, eggs and grits, it was ministry!  (I know it was good!)

And when he fell asleep after breakfast on this snow day, it was ministry when I pulled off the sheets, did a load of laundry, cleaned the kitchen and made the bed?  I know it was ministry when he cleaned the bathroom for me (while I was making a pot of homemade chicken soup for lunch).

I suppose it was kind of a domestic ministry when I spent a confined afternoon emptying out a bureau, cleaning every drawer, sorting socks, pajamas and shirts and arranging them in neat stacks.

Was it ministry when I shared a video on Facebook of Chinese Christians receiving a shipment of Bibles and their awed, emotional response?  Or when I took a stand online against abortion by letting my stance be known?  Or gave a kind response to or agreed to pray for someone in need among my internet contacts?

There are many ways to minister, and if I can go by my husband's response, the chili I made for supper was ministry ("This is the best chili you ever made!").

Our daughter called last night asking for prayer for her university son.  An overhead pipe broke in his dorm room and flooded and ruined everything. Not only that, he has come down with flu, besides having to resettle in barren, temporary quarters.  Prayer is a ministry, too, one in which we are glad to bear one another's burdens and lift them up to God in believing faith.  Probably the most important ministry of all.  

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Girl Who Loves Books

"I want one of your books, Sister Thelma, the first one," a church friend announced recently.  I told her I'd bring it to her, but I repeatedly forgot. Until yesterday, when I handed it to her in Sunday School.  When she asked how much, I gave her a discount price, and she said she was going to buy the next one next month.

The only thing about it is, she can't read!  Kandy is usually carrying a book of some kind, though, from her "reading" class.  There is a volunteer-taught literacy program she has been a part of for at least the six years I have known her.  She often totes around such classics as The Call of the Wild," by Jack London, or a biography of Abe Lincoln.  She especially likes books with dogs on the cover.

"Can she read any of that?" I once asked a mutual friend, since I had asked Kandy to read something once and she was unable to except for the simplest words, and was told, "In a way she can.  For instance, she might see the word 'automobile' and call it 'car.'"

Kandy often does her "homework" in church.  That is, she copies pages and pages of any printed material in her beautiful handwriting, and proudly shows it off, but she doesn't know what it says! Although she is in her mid-sixties and a great-grandmother, her mental age is about 6.  Kandy plays with Barbie dolls and loves to tease and frolic with kids of that age.

Although usually sweet-tempered, sometimes this "young lady" stalks into church or Sunday School with arms folded across her chest and announces loudly she is "mad" at somebody (usually her aggravating son who lives with her), or a friend who has inadvertently hurt her feelings with well-meaning correction or advice.  Her venting doesn't last long, though, and soon she is all smiles, her happy grin crinkling her eyes.

At Christmas time, Kandy made her own cards with surprisingly accurate likenesses of recipients and their families drawn in her signature elementary-school style and passed them out at church. Few can resist this friendly soul who loves the Lord with all her heart.  Jesus said in Matthew 18:10, "Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven."

Besides, one of my books may soon be the one Kandy is showing off!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Kitchen Kut-Ups

I seem to be losing my touch in the kitchen!  A few nights ago I was toasting garlic bread in the oven and managed to singe my hand with the broiler!  Instead of retrieving the toast, I pulled out a hand bearing a brown, toasted streak above my thumb! Ouch!

The next day, cutting dumpling strips, I sliced across two of my fingers! (Not deep, thankfully, but they sent me scurrying for peroxide, antibiotic ointment and band-aids!)  Not only that, I have a sore cuticle from not wearing rubber gloves to wash dishes.

Maybe I've just been in too much of a hurry, getting supper on the table and remembering the toast as an afterthought.  Howard had cooked the evening meal two nights while I was under the weather, and I had to get back into the swing of things.

I had decided to make chicken and dumplings for our church dinner today, so a couple of days ago I bought a nice hen and asked the store employee where the frozen dumplings were. She had never heard of them, and directed me to the frozen noodles.  She managed to find one package of dumplings hidden behind the noodles.  "We have a truck unloading," she offered, "Wait here and I'll go check for some."

I took a couple of packages from the box she brought me, then second-guessed my decision and worried that it might not be enough.  That's when I remembered flour tortillas could be used as a substitute and cut my fingers slicing them.

The finished product was a success, despite my struggles with my old crockpot.  Taking it from storage and finding the plastic lid with a crack in it and the temperature knob missing made me wonder if the word "crackpot" would enter someone's mind.  I felt better when a parishioner told me my chicken and dumplings were "outstanding." Like most church dinners, there was an excess of food, leaving me some for leftovers.

Immediately following the meal, we had our annual church business meeting, and Howard was elected unanimously as board member! Still on a high from last night's Singspiration, he must have thought this was turning out to be his day!  Then late this afternoon he got a call from the coordinator of last night's event asking him back for a return engagement.  "I didn't know we were that good!" I heard him giving a phone message to our son. "He really piled it on us, saying several people told him after we left how much they enjoyed it!"

I think I'll go heat up a bowl of the chicken and dumplings for him, if I don't hurt myself in the process!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Who Knew?

"What do you want to do about lunch?" I asked my husband when I met him at McDonald's after my hair appointment.  He'd been relaxing with a cup of coffee, but he assured me he hadn't eaten anything.

"Do we have any leftovers?" he asked hopefully.  We didn't, so the perpetual back and forth about where to eat began. It's a tough choice, since I usually can't taste much, therefore no place pleases me, and the places I do pick, he doesn't like, and vice-versa.

Just then the phone rang, and a little voice said, "Grandpa, would you and Mimi like to eat lunch with us?"  What timing!  He agreed, and she said, "12:00 o'clock!"  We would be there, for home cooking, the only kind I really enjoy.  Thank you, Lord, for such a surprise.

Our son in Houston had lost his wallet, and it had been missing for a few days.  I asked him if he had cancelled all his cards, and he said he hadn't, for he knew he had had it last at home.  I suspected that their four-year-old daughter had lost it, for she is fascinated by the cards, license, and photos in it.  She has been allowed to explore it under her father's watchful eye, but she has been known to playfully take it out of his pocket.

I was about to despair that he would find it in their three-story house, but today he announced the glad news that it was found.  Maddie, their youngest daughter, had told him, "I don't remember where I hided it."  It was found in the baby's diaper stacker that hung on his crib in the room where she likes to hide.  Again, thank you, Lord, for the surprise ending!

Tonight my husband sang at a Saturday night gospel singing, to which he had invited another of our sons and a couple of others to sing with him. He wasn't sure if they all could make it, but they showed up and it turned out well.  After their portion of the program, our son picked up his mandolin and was preparing to leave when he stopped by my table and exclaimed exuberantly, "Mom, if Dad hadn't asked me to help him tonight, I would never have opened my mandolin case and found my lost $500 glasses! Now I can see!"  God loves to surprise us!