Monday, March 31, 2014

Life Lessons

At the Saturday night singing we go to known as Gospel Jubilee, one of the musicians told the story of the old country song, "Release Me." He said the hit was written by his cousin, who later gave his heart to the Lord. A few years before he died, the author re-wrote the song with Christian lyrics, which the singer proceeded to sing for us, the first line being, "Please release  me from my sin," and ending with something like, "Release me to sin no more."

"Wasn't that something about that song?" I remarked to my husband when we got home, to which he replied, "My CQ in Basic Training used to give me a week-end pass if I would play the guitar and sing that for him." Surprise!  I had never heard that before!

"Yes," Howard went on, "It happened several times.  I got a lot of free passes that way," telling of his army experiences in the fifties.  I guess there are always new things to learn about your husband!

The next day we drove up to our son's house and found them sitting outside watching the girls shoot arrows off the deck.  "Wow! Where did you get those cool bows?" I asked, seeing the large, rustic bows, glistening and smooth with bark removed.  "Did your dad make them for you?"  He had, and they were quite an upgrade from the dollar store versions I'd seen them playing with before.

Seeing them send the arrows flying over the pasture land surrounding their country location made me remark, "Now you look like Indians!" then laughing because of course, the kids are Indians and were adopted from the Ponca Indian tribe!

I thought of the time when one of our grandsons was little, and he told me over the phone about his new bow and arrow.  I shared his excitement, asking, "Did you get a target?" and his answer was, "No, I didn't get it at Target, I got it at Walmart!"

Sin is often described as "missing the mark."  The aforementioned song writer realized before it was too late that he had missed the mark with his life and thankfully made heaven his target for the rest of his days.

Satan promises many free passes in the temptation to sin, only to pierce one's soul with its consequences, for James 1:15 says,  "Then when lust has conceived, it bringeth forth sin, and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death."

We'd had communion at church that morning and were reminded that the fruit of the vine we drank from represented the blood Jesus shed for us, so as to be forever adopted into His family, becoming heirs and joint heirs with Him, even as our grandchildren are now legal heirs of their father's estate. Now that's a free pass!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Food for Thought

"Look! The tomato man is there!" my husband exclaimed as we passed a vendor's truck in a parking lot as we drove to town. "We should stop and see if he has any honey!" he suggested.  I could see the man was ready to close, since he was putting his goods into boxes.  Howard turned off at the nearest intersection and headed back.

We have been on a nature kick lately, especially as far as food is concerned. We found "local" honey from the Ark City area, just a few miles beyond the state line.  Also homemade, seedless, blackberry jelly. The price was high, but it should be worth it to get something natural.

We couldn't wait for breakfast the next morning, and when we realized we were out of eggs, I used the tidbit of sausage I found for gravy to go with the biscuits I made. The honey and blackberry jelly we slathered on them made us feel like we were eating at Cracker Barrel!

After a busy day, we couldn't decide what to have for supper, considering ordering pizza or going out, since it was a Friday night.  We had thought about going to see the "Noah" movie, but from the reviews I read it sounded pretty intense, so we didn't go.  "Why don't I get a couple of steaks from the store?" Howard suggested.  We do have a nice meat market close by, so I agreed.

The steaks were wonderful, and at a fraction of a restaurant meal!  I hadn't grilled steaks any time in my immediate memory!  Relaxing after supper, I tuned in a Gaither Homecoming program.  The featured guest was Sandi Patty, the incredible soprano with what Bill Gaither called "that flawless voice."  I'd never been a great fan of hers, but by the time the program was over I was a convert.

Gaither featured clips of her memorable performances, and when Sandi sang "We Shall Behold Him," I joined in with its author sitting nearby, the late Dottie Rambo, in raising my hands in praise. Then I was lifted to unbelievable heights along with her voice when I heard a presentation on which she sang her rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner. It was in July, 1986, when ABC used her recording to close a Statue of Liberty celebration, set to a soaring background of images inspiring patriotism for our country.

That's when America was still America! I couldn't help thinking, as the inspiring words, "America, America," soared as high as the clouds in the visual montage.  The words from 2 Chronicles 7:14, "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land," came to mind as I thought about the condition our country is in.

"If my people...called by name..."  Until recently, America was known as a Christian nation--called by His name!  I think there is a longing in many American hearts to return to old-fashioned values and wholesome lifestyles.  Maybe that is part of why I long for the land, and the fruits of harvest as in former times when I was growing up and all we knew were natural foods. The answer is in the Bible.  Take heed, America!

Friday, March 28, 2014

(Extra-) Ordinary Day

"Lord, bless my wife and make this the best day she's ever had," Howard concluded his prayer. It was not that unusual, since my husband often speaks in superlatives, but yesterday came pretty close to perfect.

He woke up with a yen for a McDonald's sausage biscuit, but I suggested we eat at home. I dug out the waffle iron and made breakfast while he washed and sliced strawberries. We enjoyed it with delicious glasses of milk from a nearby farm.

Then I told him I had read two great stories in Guideposts, and I agreed when he wanted me to read them to him at the breakfast table. Just when I had made myself presentable (thankfully), the iPad sounded with Baby Isaac on the screen. Face Time! We were so happy to see all three of our youngest son's children! Maddie, 5, filled me in on friends who had dropped by that morning whose dog got out while there and used the neighbor's yard for a doggie rest stop. I found out the scrape I could see on her elbow was a carpet burn from church. She didn't say so, but I could just see her running down the hall and falling!

I asked serious, blonde Anne-Marie what she does in Home School Enrichment, and she gave me a detailed schedule of her day, including math, science, creative writing, spelling, lunch and recess. Then she recited a long, Shakespearean-type poem for me! She is seven.

I checked the weather outside and it was glorious! A chance to have lunch on the porch! Howard wanted a chef salad, so I boiled an egg while he got out salad makings and added cheese, ham, avocado and green onions to the bowl. Served on our colorful, deep-dish plates, it was delicious, and made all the more pleasant with my view of our neighbor's beautiful forsythia bush blooming right outside our screened porch. We topped off our lunch with leftover homemade cherry pie I had warmed and served a la mode.

We drove to our son's house in the country after lunch, since I had to pick up some classroom supplies and explore a kit for kid's church that we are going to co-teach with him. After our planning discussion, I couldn't resist the sunshine calling me from the beautiful new deck he has built. I could see the recently-planted garden from there, and I had to see what was coming up. Lettuce, onions and other little green things are popping out of the ground!

"Will you have time to fix me something to eat before I go back to help work on the truck?" Howard asked when we got home. I thawed some chicken, applied barbecue sauce and put it in the oven with potatoes to bake for an hour. With corn and green beans, it made a tasty, if hurried, supper.

What a wonderful day it had been. The temperature reached 79, but it dropped to the 30's last night and is cold and disagreeable today. The Bible tells us not to boast of tomorrow, because we do not know what a day may bring forth. But I can be thankful for yesterday, and the prayer my husband prayed!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Mnemonic Devices

At our informal meeting for mid-week Bible study, the pastor asked us to turn to the book of Ephesians. "It's in the New Testament, between Galatians and Philippians," he prompted. That prompted me to share something I remembered a long-ago pastor saying that was helpful to me:"Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians--Go Eat Pop Corn. That's the way I always find it," I piped up.

You would have thought I had revealed the key to the Bible Code or something! Pastor laughed in surprise and said he'd never heard that, and he thought he'd heard it all. "I'm going to remember that," he said. He even said he was going to tell it to his mother, a minister herself. "She knows a million of those little sayings," he said, shaking his head.

Acronyms have always been popular memory aids, used by everyone from school children in learning to spell words, to corporations and government for programs and services, such as AARP, NASA, etc. Not long ago I was helping my 8-year-old granddaughter spell Geography. "This is what my dad taught me when I was your age," I said, "Just think, George Eat Old Gray Rat At Paul's House Yesterday." She caught on right away and wrote the word correctly.

Since then, I have seen the word, Arithmetic, made easy to spell by saying, "A Rat In The House Might Eat The Ice Cream." When we see a rainbow, we think of Roy G Biv, remembering that the colors of the spectrum are Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet. An easy way to remember the lines and spaces in music's treble clef is Every Good Boy Does Fine, for the lines, and F A C E for the spaces.

The early Christians used secret symbols and words to convey meanings to the faithful and hide them from their oppressors. Many today object to using Xmas for Christmas, but X may have been an early symbol of Christianity. The image of a fish is recognized as a symbol of Christianity, which began when the Greek word for fish, ichtys, was made into an acrostic meaning Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.

So I guess my tip for finding Ephesians was perfectly appropriate, an acrostic in very good company!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

"Why are you doing dragging that home?" I demanded of my husband. Howard had been helping our son clean out his garage and was carrying a dusty, black-metal desk lamp with the broken end of a light bulb still in it.

"I got it for your desk," he said hopefully. Later, after he removed the bulb and dusted it off, I thought it might have possibilities. It was kind of cute, with a metal vine and leaves twisted around the curved neck and encircling the shade area, but there was no shade!

He put a bright tear-drop bulb in it and put it on the desk. It wasn't half bad! "We'll have to buy a shade," he said. I glanced around as he left the room and my eyes fell on a small bag made of hopsacking hooked on the knob of a standing mirror. On impulse, I slipped it over the shade framework and it fit perfectly. Then I switched on the light and was amazed! The metal vine and leaf underneath showed artistically through the rough cotton weave. It looked like something from IKEA!

Howard had been wanting me to make a cherry pie, so remembering I had a pie crust at home, I bought a can of cherry pie filling the other day. Then I realized there was only one crust left in the opened box, and the pie would need a top crust. Oh well, I could make one, I thought, but I didn't have shortening. I decided to use oil, but thought better of it, and wondered if I could make a crust with baking mix. I dumped some in a bowl, added a little oil and water, and rolled it thin. It seemed okay and fit over the pie beautifully. I brushed the crust with egg white and put the pie in the oven. The results were delicious! The crust was flaky and golden and so easy!

Whether or not my examples are invention or adaptation, I am glad of the invention and/or development of the iPad! Yesterday I heard mine give a distinctive sound, and when I went to check, there was my 4-month-old grandson, Isaac, wriggling and smiling on the screen! I had been missing him since we came home from their house nearly two weeks ago. My young granddaughters were at school, so my son kept the camera trained on the baby who was giving me his undivided attention via the face-to-face video call known as Face Time!

What a joyful quarter hour as I watched him kick and squirm! I wanted to kiss his adorable bare feet practically sticking into my living room! I could see that he had grown and filled out more in the short time we'd been gone, and by his twisting and turning, I could tell he was perfecting his technique for rolling over, a feat he had done once during our visit. Between his beatific smiles, Isaac enjoyed the sweet fist he shoved into his mouth or sucking on his middle fingers, as was his sister's habit.

When they had to hang up, Isaac was kicking his right leg non-stop, a trick the little genius had taught himself to make his spring-seat rock when we were there. His own invention, you might say!



Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Pen Pals

We had been discussing the merits and health benefits of drinking raw milk with our son, who had recently purchased some at a heritage farm in our area. He told us it was delicious, and that although he is usually hungry not long after eating, that does not happen if he has a glass of the rich, whole milk. We decided to get some, and asked where the farm was.

"Come on, I'll take you there!" he offered. We got into his SUV and soon were driving across miles of unremarkable, flat terrain of a northern Oklahoma landscape dotted with shabby country houses, the view occasionally relieved by neat homes interspersed with fields of incredibly green winter wheat.

My thoughts drifted, and I mused, "Can you imagine coming out here on a train from the east as a mail-order bride?" thinking of the television production of "Sarah, Plain and Tall," and the loneliness of the prairie. Just then we turned off the road and came upon a large, wooded acreage enclosed by endless rail fences surrounding other enclosures of wire paneling.

A calf caught my eye first, standing stiff-legged with tail twitching, eagerly feeding at the generous udder of its mother. The huge Jersey cow was a picture of maternal patience as she stood monument-like in unflinching stolidity. Her pronounced, angular hips were poking up under the brown coat that spread like a cowhide tent over her bony haunches. Now and then the suckling darted to the other side to try a new angle on a second helping. He lost his footing once, but regained it as he scrambled upward in endearing awkwardness.

A motley crew of varied animals presided over by a sentinel goose eyed us placidly from their pen beside the long driveway. Two or three goats lounged sleepily on and against an earthen embankment. A couple of dogs wagged their tails from inside the fence, a pokey horse shaded himself under a tree, and several hens clucked about to the noise of a honking, long-distance conversation between the sentry and her mate from his shed in the background. It was a vignette worthy of "Charlotte's Web," with the exception of Wilbur, who seemed to be out of pocket.

We got a frosty gallon jug of milk with two inches of cream across its wide top, and I never tasted anything so good! What a pleasure to see contented, happy animals living and producing in God's natural setting. No wonder the milk is good! I'm thinking of seeing if they sell goat milk!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Psalm Twenty-three

Our pastor preached a challenging message from the 23rd Psalm yesterday. He said the first half of the psalm deals with learning to trust God. After all, the psalmist realizes that with God as his Shepherd, he will want for nothing! The young pastor likened lying down in green pastures beside still waters to kicking back and lolling at the beach. What relaxation! What soul-restoring comfort!

"But trials will inevitably come," he stressed, saying that is what the last half of the psalm is about, and that we will go through tough times, maybe through the valley of the shadow of death, but we will be able to because we have learned to put our trust in God!

"As Christians, we are not to stay in our comfort zone. We are to go out into the world (our enemies), engage them in conversation and be a witness to them," he admonished. Citing the verse,"Thou preparest a table for me in the presence of mine enemies," he encouraged the congregation to sit down and have coffee with unsaved friends and be the gospel to them.

Since we did not have church last night, Howard attended a Bible Study at the home of friends which we normally go to on Monday night. He came home bursting with excitement and bubbling over with his news. He told me he was telling about our trip to Texas and sharing our daughter-in-law's testimony of being healed in a tent revival we visited while there. When he mentioned the name of the town near Austin where our son lives, a couple who have been visiting the Bible study looked up in surprise.

"That's where our son lives!" they exclaimed. It turns out their son is a street preacher in Austin. They indicated their son was in need of encouragement, and Howard told them our son is a pastor there.

"I'll call Mark and tell him about your son. Maybe he can look him up!" he offered, getting the address of the preaching location.

"I know exactly where that is!" Mark said when Howard called him. "I'll go there and meet him," he said.

What a strange turn of events! It's amazing to see how God works! To think someone in Oklahoma would just happen to go to a Bible study because his church just happened to be in the transition of a new schedule, and meet a couple concerned for their son who just happens to live in the same Texas town as our son, and that they would just happen to both be ministers!

No, nothing "just happens," for verse three closes with the words, "He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake." And perhaps for helping someone who is going through his own valley.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Changes, Changes

"You messed up my desk!" Howard complained when he saw a couple of papers out of place after I had sat at his desk to write. For some reason, clutter can be all over the room, but as long as his neat stacks of books, pens aligned in a row, and papers arranged to his satisfaction are undisturbed, my husband is satisfied. He's a neatnik about that, if nothing else.

"Then move that small desk into the other bedroom for my office!" I responded. Two desks had replaced the huge one that used to be there. Surprisingly, he agreed. The problem was that we had both been using my laptop, seemingly just when the other wanted it. But our son gave us a new iPad when we saw him recently, and he inadvertently added to our peace and harmony, since Howard uses it most of the time and we don't have to share the computer. And now I have a private place of my own to mess up!

What took us so long! Of course, a little rearranging was necessary in our small house, but everything that had to be moved looks great in its new home as if it has always been there. Even a little change can make a big difference and give us a brighter outlook!

Our son decided to get the kids out of the house and take them on a nature trail the other day. Maddie, who just celebrated her fifth birthday, wasn't too enthusiastic, especially since they had to drive a way to get there. "Are we still in America?" she chided. "Do the people speak English?" Jamie said when they got there, she peppered the air with complaints. It was too hot, she itched, she was tired, she wanted to go home, apparently not appreciating the wonders of the great outdoors. She was probably imagining playing with all her new toys!

It had rained on the day of her party, so the treasure hunt her daddy had planned had to be held indoors, where the children were a pounding horde rushing up and down the stairs to and from the third-level playroom. The rain didn't slow them down much, as the bounce house became a water attraction.

Though we often want it to stay the same, life is about change. Family dynamics change as children grow up, get married and have families of their own. Dwellings may change or be down-sized as parents become empty-nesters. Technology certainly changes day by day. God is the only one Who doesn't change.

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning," James 1:16. "For I am the Lord, I change not," Malachi 3:6. Paul writes in Hebrews 13:8, "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever." We can count on this constant, though plans may change and we have to adapt. But who knows? When that happens, perhaps God is trying to give us one of those good and perfect gifts!



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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Maranatha

"What does Maranatha mean?" I asked my husband as he got back in the car. I had been listening to the radio while he went into the store for an item. A singing group was singing "Marantha," and as many times as I've heard the word used as a church name or Christian fellowship group, I'd never thought much about its meaning. Howard said he thought it was a greeting or salutation.

In a way, he was right, for when I looked it up when I got home, I found it is an Aramaic word meaning," For the Lord is coming," or "Come, O Lord," something the early Christians used to say as a greeting. In fact, in I Corinthians 16:21-22, Paul writes, "The salutation of me, Paul with mine own hand. (22)If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha." Anathema:(1) a thing or person accursed or damned. (2) a thing or person greatly detested.

It was a beautiful first day of Spring, and we had been out in the country watching our son and family build a deck. The weather was delightfully warm, if very windy, and the view of their pasture with a farmstead nestled on a hill beyond the stream was positively picturesque. Across the road, a weathered barn with animals scattered about could have been a scene lifted from an old-world country.

We were amazed at the building skills our son exhibited, both for this project and for a room addition he had constructed last week. His architectural bent and draftsman training were very much in evidence, although I had not known him to build anything like that before. It is wonderful to see the innate gifts in your children even as we wonder where they got them!

Sunday was the last session of our study course we have been attending on Sunday nights. It had been largely about David, and his trials with Saul as he came into leadership. The subject came up of the band of men that gathered with David in the cave of Adullam. The Bible says they were distressed, in debt, and discontent. The pastor posed a question,"What do you think of when you think of these men?" to which I quipped, "The Island of Misfit Toys!"

They were considered misfits, but in the end they were referred to as David's mighty men! They had strengths within them that came out under David's influence and are remembered as doing great exploits! The consensus of the class was that everyone has his own gifts, and it is useless and wrong to compare oneself to others or be envious of what they may be able to do. We agreed that God has given each of us unique personalities and capabilities, and we should be true to our particular calling.

I look forward to the day when the hope of Maranatha is realized and to be welcomed in heaven where God has a marvelous future for us and a fulfillment of all we are meant to be. "Even so, Come Lord Jesus."

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Shop Till You Drop (The Suitcase)

"Oh, good! They are opening a Kirklands in Slidell!" I exclaimed to my husband last night after seeing the announcement on Facebook. Then I caught myself for momentarily forgetting we don't live in Picayune, Mississippi anymore, 12 miles from Slidell, Louisiana, where we used to shop.

I chuckled when I thought of that this morning, walking into the bathroom and seeing the pretty bouquet of washcloths tied with a blue ribbon matching the blue, monogrammed "S" on each one. I had bought them on our trip at a Kirklands in Katy, Texas. I just had to stop at the home decor store when I spotted it while we were looking for a restaurant. I was delighted to see what used to be my favorite home store. I remembered how disappointed I was last fall when Howard and I were in Tennessee and followed the mall's guide map to Kirklands. We were greeted with an empty store that had gone out of business!

I love picking up small, novel items for the house I find on trips that I might not see at home. However, I had packed light on this vacation to avoid managing extra luggage. The two small and medium suitcases we brought were packed pretty tightly, though. I would slip this purchase and a miscellany of other trinkets bought at IKEA into a shopping bag as a carry-on at the train.

"You're traveling light!" our son Mark had remarked as he unloaded our luggage when we had arrived. Then when we came back to his house on our way home, pulling them from his trunk, he said, "You must have added something to these suitcases!" I was afraid they were heavier, especially when the conductor that hefted them into the train for us said something about maybe a few less rocks next time! (Although Howard said he meant the rock-strewn area where we boarded when the train went a few feet past our paved stop.)

Traveling light is hard, but it is what Jesus did during his earthly ministry. He said in Luke 9:58, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the son of man hath not where to lay his head." However, as He and His disciples traveled about the country, the Bible says certain women were with them and "ministered to him of their substance." They must have helped finance Jesus' ministry and doubtless provided meals and some small comforts of home to his itinerant lifestyle.

I love making a comfortable, inviting home for my husband, the minister in my family. Over and over again he has complimented me and is appreciative of my efforts in homemaking. In Titus 2:5, women are referred to as keepers of the home, and Proverbs 14:1 says that every wise women builds her house. But maybe they didn't mean transporting stuff for it from far away places!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Notebook

"You are a blessed mother," my husband whispered as he slid into the seat beside me for the second service at the church of our son's family. He had accompanied Jamie to the Chinese church where our son is a youth pastor, and they were now back to join us here. I couldn't imagine what he meant and gave him a puzzled look. I was glad the spirited song service covered his explanation when he said, "He used your notebook in his sermon."

Now I was more puzzled than ever. A couple of months ago Howard had come in from working in our detached garage carrying a box, saying, "You might be interested in this." It was papers and mementos I had stashed away when we moved here six years ago and forgotten about. Going through the memories brought back by the kids' old school papers, awards and certificates, I knew I had to keep them.

I bought six loose-leaf binders with page protectors and began to fill them for each of our children. Since Jamie was the youngest and more recently a student, his binder became pretty plump. On impulse, I grabbed his notebook before our trip to see him and had given it to him the previous day when we arrived. I had no idea he had taken it to church.

Later, Howard told me our son had presented a sermon on steadfastness to the youth. He said Jamie had begun by showing some of his elementary school drawings and saying, "My mother saved everything," then progressing toward the back of the book where I had included his scholarship acceptance letter.

"My #2 lead pencil had managed to fill in enough of the circles on the PSAT (Pre-SAT) test I took as a junior in high school to qualify me to apply for the National Merit Scholarship," he told the kids. (How well I remember making him fill out the application and collecting all the necessary recommendations!)

We were elated when he got word that he had attained the first level in the award process and became a National Merit Candidate. More work was necessary with more papers to fill out, then he was notified he had become a finalist. We couldn't believe it when he was actually a winner and declared a National Merit Scholar! With this award came an offer of a free-ride, four-year scholarship at The University of Oklahoma.

"I had let the deadline to accept the scholarship go by, and my Mom called OU to see if it was too late. Thankfully, I still got in," Jamie had told the young people. ("He gave you all the credit," Howard said teasingly, "He didn't even mention me!")

"I found out you had to maintain a 3.5 GPA to keep the scholarship," Jamie said, "but I was so caught up in college life and Chi Alpha, I got a "D" in a course and had to go to summer school. I knew I had to get serious, and Praise God, I got A's in summer school, bringing my average back up!"

Howard said the point of his sermon to his young congregation was to not give up on their hopes for the future, that God would make a way if they remained steadfast in working to achieve their dreams. "My parents did not have a lot of money. On a minister's income, they couldn't have afforded my education, which included living and studying in France for a year," he concluded. "I became very sick in France, and homesick, too, and I was tempted to go home. But by the grace of God, I stuck it out." He ended by encouraging them to put their hope in God. I know He is the One who brought about our miracle!

Monday, March 17, 2014

God is Good All the Time!

"Why are you up so early?" I sleepily asked my husband when I looked at my phone and saw it was only 6:30. We had gotten home from our trip after midnight, and I wanted to sleep as long as possible before getting ready for church. I got up shortly after seven (I thought), and when I went back into the room I found my spouse sound asleep in bed! Well, it was still early, so I ate breakfast, checked the internet, and decided to wash and style my hair.

When I finally got Howard up, he mumbled, "You know our clocks are wrong. We didn't change them before we left." What? That meant I had squandered precious minutes! It had actually been past 8 o'clock when I got up! No way could we get to Sunday School now, and by the time he got ready, church had been in session for half an hour.

We got there halfway into the morning message! The pastor was giving an illustration about diets, then said we should be a pig! I was missing something! Then I realized he was referring to the joke about the chicken only making a contribution to breakfast, but the bacon meant the pig gave his all. (When I explained our tardiness to a friend after church, she laughed that someone had showed up at noon last week. They had set their clocks back instead of forward.)

We were just happy we had gotten home safely and the Lord had worked everything out about our train relay adventure. Our sons had planned that Jamie would pick us up at Mark's, then Mark would come to Houston on Friday to take us back to his house near Austin to catch the train home on Saturday. I was concerned that they would have to make the 2 1/2 hour trip twice in one day, then Mark called saying they would be there on Thursday and would spend the night. What good news!

Turns out that he was asked to do a funeral in Houston on Thursday, allowing them to stay overnight and giving us more time to visit, as well as go out for dinner at a fabulous place across from the Galeria. Even better, we got back to their house early enough on Friday for them to grill out, then we all went to a tent revival sponsored by their church.

The revival was to draw the Hispanic community to the newly formed Spanish church. The speaker preached in Spanish, then an interpreter translated his words into English. Mark and Rhonda were there on the first night, when our daughter-in-law experienced a wonderful physical healing! Having had RA for over 20 years, her joints had incurred damage, with one of her arms permanently bent at the elbow. After prayer, she could straighten it out for the first time in 12 years!

Howard and I wasted no time in going forward for prayer. We were instructed to touch the part of our body that needed healing, then after prayer, the evangelist asked us to do something we couldn't do before. Howard has trouble with his knees, and I looked to see him flexing his knees and doing deep knee bends! He can move about without pain now! The hives I had been plagued with for two nights did not trouble me that night! I could only think they were from eating Chinese food, but whatever the cause, they have not come back. Praise the Lord!

We came home full of God's blessings, including a new iPad from Jamie and a new pair of athletic shoes that Howard bought at our sons' insistence. Now he walks in comfort and feels like a new man! Isn't that what vacations are supposed to do?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Reflections

"Oh, look! A rainbow!" I exclaimed, as the majestic sight came into view in the wide window of the train. Then I heard an announcement alerting the passengers to look east at the beautiful rainbow. We were traveling home from our trip to Texas seeing family and had been experiencing thunderstorms. But now the western sun had made a late afternoon appearance, and conditions were just right for this optical phenomenon.

The solid grey cloud cover provided the perfect backdrop and the water droplets to reflect and refract the vibrant colors of the spectrum. It was the most vivid rainbow I think I had ever seen, clearly visible from one end to the other as the bow touched down in the field in front of us. Not only that, there was a second bow with inverted colors being reflected from the first one.

The whole landscape was bathed in a golden light as the sun broke through the clouds, endowing ordinary houses, pastures and barns with an aura reminiscent of a Thomas Kinkade painting. The newly greening grass, the suffused light softening the grey clouds and the pastel, multicolored arch made me think of Easter. My husband even remarked on the beauty of the scenery.

A little later, I was wondering about a herd of cattle clustered near a pasture fence line. Then my heart was touched as I spotted a tiny, black calf all alone on the other side of the fence, running frantically back and forth, trying to find his way back in to be reunited with his mother, obviously one of the cows anxiously looking on. I couldn't help but think of our baby grandson we had just left and how frantic he gets if his bottle is not immediately forthcoming when he is hungry.

Settling back in our comfortable coach seats, Howard and I reminisced over our lovely visit and the royal treatment we enjoyed from our sons and their families. We had just left our son Trevor who had thoughtfully come from his Dallas area home and met us in Ft. Worth for our 3-hour layover and had taken us to lunch for a wonderful visit with his family.

In Austin, our daughter-in-law Rhonda had had a home-cooked meal waiting for us when son Mark brought us home from the station on our arrival. Son Jamie and family were to pick us up the next day to spend the week with them in Houston. While we waited for them, we all spent time browsing an antique mall, then caught up on family news at a restaurant lunch when they arrived.

The week was a blur of good food, including Chinese, Mexican, Cuban, Scandinavian, and Cajun, not to mention Jamie's gourmet breakfasts of crepes, breakfast casserole, luscious fruit, creamy oatmeal, fancy French toast, bacon and sausage. Outshining them all, however, was the impromptu picnic I shared with my little granddaughters the day I stayed home with them and we ate perched on the steps of the deck. Gloomy skies and chilly days had given way to glorious sunshine, and we dined al fresco, basking in the fresh air and the warmth of each other's presence. Memories to feast on until I can see them again!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Small World

"What is your baby-sitter's name?" I asked my granddaughter, to which the almost-5-year-old replied, "Rebecca." They have a sitter three days a week while our son, a youth pastor, is getting his master's degree in Biblical Languages at the university. I've been curious about how the helper is doing with the new baby since our daughter-in-law has gone back to work.

Last night at mid-week church service, I was surprised when Tammy said, "I want you to meet Rebecca, our baby-sitter." I had forgotten they said she worked in children's ministry there. Next Tammy said, "She's from New Orleans and knew some of the same people you knew!"

Turns out the people she was referring to were the ones tragically killed in an accident a couple of years ago. We were in shock when we read on the internet the newspaper report of the tragedy. The family was from our small hometown in Mississippi and had attended church with us for several years, even being in our home in a small-group meeting. The older couple, along with their special-needs son and their son-in-law, lost their lives when an 18-wheeler crossed the median and hit them head on.

The son-in-law had been Rebecca's pastor in New Orleans! We remembered him as the handsome young bridegroom of the beautiful daughter of these friends at their wedding years ago. Since then, they had become leaders of a large church and had several children. How remarkable that we met someone with this connection on our visit to Houston!

During the service, time was given for a missionary to speak about his work in Honduras. He gave a heart-rending account of the poverty-stricken conditions and the youth for whom he is providing a school, a home, and hope for the future.

"They have no money, scarce food and no where to live," we were told. "They have never even brushed their teeth." But this outreach is not only giving them an education, but bringing them the good news of the gospel. The missionary asked prayer for the endeavor, and prayer for a health condition he has as well.

My husband was especially touched, and after service we met the missionary and talked with him, finding out his name and making a contribution to the ministry. He even gave us his e-mail address, so we can correspond and keep abreast of the work. One more way to make a difference! Who knew that our trip to Houston would stretch all the way to Central America!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Over the Moon

My trip to Houston has brought me to new heights. Last night we visited our daughter-in-law's office which is on the 62nd floor of her building! I didn't realize how high it was until I started asking my son after we were already getting on the elevator. He said he hadn't told me because he was afraid I wouldn't go, since I don't like heights.

Although the view from her office was amazing, and the family pictures on her wall were heartwarming, I was glad to get my feet back on good old terra firma. "Mom, come here and look," Jamie called me from around the corner at the base of the building. "Look how high you were," he said as he pointed toward the top of the shining structure, but my head would hardly tilt back far enough to see the top! I didn't realize I had been that high!

Every day has been a new adventure on this vacation. Yesterday I went along as Jamie, kids in tow, including baby, took his father to a guitar center, where Howard strummed on and fantasized over several of the beautiful instruments. The next order of the day was to go to a place for lunch called the "Pot Belly." Somehow it wasn't exactly where our host remembered it, but we did pass a store I love, to which we would return after we had found and eaten at the "Pot Belly."

Each excursion starts with baby Isaac, four months, calmly looking around in his car seat until he realizes where he is, then a frown creases his brow and little spurts of discontentment are heard. I distract him by rattling a tin of breath mints, which works for a few minutes, then a suspicious look comes over his countenance. Immediately his cherubic face crumples into a full-fledged temper fit admirable in its length and fury. He hates the instrument of torture he is strapped into and forced to endure until the car stops, when he again becomes his angelic self.

Yesterday I walked around the backyard with my little granddaughters who wanted to show me some purple flowers they had discovered in the grass. The tiny blossoms had disappeared, but we found some that were yellow, as well as white clover blooms on slender stems. They picked a handful, and we tried to make a garland of them for Maddie's hair. Alas, our efforts at weaving failed, but I did manage to stick a few of them in a fat braid I plaited in the 4-year-old's gorgeous, titian tresses. When they fell out, the miniature bouquet made a sweet accent in a 3-ounce paper cup on the kitchen table.

They were still there this morning when we were served a breakfast of golden french toast topped with the freshest strawberries and vanilla-laced mounds of whipped cream cheese, accompanied by strips of crisp, oven-baked bacon. Did I mention I am at new heights?

Monday, March 10, 2014

On Track

"Excuse me, sir," I said to the conductor as he passed our seats, "Is 'Texas Chief' the name of the train we get on at Ft. Worth?" I wasn't sure if I remembered the name right, and the ticket info from the computer didn't specify. Changing trains was the only thing I had dreaded about the trip, because we always had to get our luggage, pull it the considerable distance into the station, wait for the train, then hurry and drag it out again when our connection came.

"No, it's the 'Texas Eagle,'" he clarified. "And it's probably already there. It will be the silver train right beside this one." I asked if there would be anything between us, meaning if we had to cross another track. "Nothing but about 15 feet of concrete," he said.

"Praise the Lord!" I said to my husband. This was surely an answer to prayer for my anxieties! And it was so simple! We got on and waited in comfort until we resumed the last leg of our journey. What if I hadn't asked the question? I wondered. We might have gone inside the station for a lot of needless work!

We had had an unusual beginning to the trip. When we arrived at the station in Norman, I waited with the luggage while Howard went to park the car. Suddenly three tall, imposing men appeared in khaki uniforms bearing the words "Police," on arm and chest and "Homeland Security," emblazoned on a sign worn on the back. One officer's hair was combed to stand up in a peak, adding to his height and Nordic appearance as he stood with arms crossed eyeing the passengers. They were asking random people to see their tickets and aimed a device with a red light at my luggage. It was a bit disconcerting, and I joked that I didn't know that one could not take liquids, as in air travel. They assured me they weren't looking for liquids. When I asked if they had received a threat, one replied, "No, if we had, you wouldn't be getting on the train!" Just increased security necessary in today's world, I concluded.

As usual, we found our fellow travelers interesting, and as usual Howard struck up a conversation with a passenger waiting with us. When he learned she had worked for Metropolitan Life for 35 years, he had to tell her that Phoebe P. Knapp, wife of Metropolitan's founder, wrote the music to Fanny J. Crosby's famous hymn, "Blessed Assurance." The lady was quite engrossed in his descriptive story. When I observed that Snoopy was now the company symbol, she agreed, saying her daughter tells people her mother works for Snoopy.

Even more interesting to me and so astounding that I pointed it out to Howard, was the resemblance of a passenger to my husband! It was like looking at an older version of Howard! Several senior gentlemen, obviously acquainted, were sitting near us in the observation car, gazing out at the passing Texas scenery. I did a double-take at the sight of one of them. He had the same handsome good looks as Howard, though aged, same nose and chin and general demeanor. It was amazing, seeming like a glimpse into the future.

When we got off the train and saw our son standing there, smiling in welcome, I couldn't help noticing a woman waiting and looking at us with the most dazzling smile! Her whole face radiated joy! As she kept smiling so expectantly, I realized she was probably the mother of a young woman who would be getting off behind us, who had spoken to us of her mother living there. It made me think of the happy reunion in heaven someday as loved ones meet us on our arrival. The happiest destination of all!

Monday, March 3, 2014

In the Bleak Mid-Winter

After 24 hours of being confined to the house due to ice, snow and cold, we finally ventured out today into the beautiful snow. We were surprised when we woke up to find there was so much of it! Three or four inches, and then drifted much deeper in places. By then the sun was shining brightly, and even though it was still cold, a little melting was taking place. We enjoyed a ride into the country where farmsteads were nestled cozily in slopes and valleys, snugly blanketed in the snowy white stuff.

Not long ago, the schools were closed here for a "no-snow" day. It seems they had allowed for what they thought were too many snow days, so the kids got a vacation just to use up one of the days. I wonder if they second-guessed themselves today!

Snow days are mixed blessings, and we often fret at our routines being interrupted by inclement weather. But the Bible says in Job 37:6-7,"For he saith to the snow, Be thou on the earth; likewise to the small rain, and to the great rain of his strength. (7) He sealeth up the hand of every man; that all men may know his work."

In other words, when we have to stop our work or routines because of a snow day, we have the opportunity to consider God's work! To rest and stay inside and to contemplate, appreciate, and enjoy God's marvelous work and its mysterious beauty. What a treat for the eye and a renewal for the spirit to behold a changed landscape, pristine in its pureness, every imperfection and eyesore covered in a regal robe of white!

Verse 8 says, "Then the beasts go into dens, and remain in their places." Even the animals have to pause in their activity, whether wild animals hunting food or domestic animals taking shelter in warm, dry barns or stables.

We read in verse 13 the reasons for the rain, storms and snow. "He causeth it to come, whether for correction, or for his land, or for mercy." We know the benefits of snow for the land as it acts as insulation and protection from freezing for the tender roots below. The moisture snow provides for crops is very beneficial since it melts slowly and almost all of it is absorbed, with very little evaporating in the cold temperatures.

How many times have people prayed and pleaded for merciful drops of rain during sustained droughts? And God is perfectly capable of using severe weather for correction of his people if He desires.

Probably those who enjoy snow most are the children. They revel in it, ignoring freezing hands and toes for the delight of tossing the novel stuff into the air, the fun of throwing snowballs, the challenge of building snowmen, the thrill of sledding, or the wonder of lying in it to make snow angels. Job 38:22 asks, "Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow?" Obviously, the little snow angels have!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Rescuer

The topic in Sunday School this morning turned to David as an example of a righteous leader. David sought the Lord to see if he should attack his enemies, the Philistines, and if he did, would he come out victorious? (I Chronicles 14:10.) God told him to come against them at a different place, "against the mulberry trees." Verse 15 says, "And it shall be, when thou shalt hear a sound of going in the tops of the mulberry trees, that then thou shalt go out to battle: for God is gone forth before thee to smite the Philistines."

David obeyed, winning the battle against the Philistines. Verse 17 gives the results: "And the fame of David went into all the lands; and the Lord brought the fear of him upon all the nations."

The ensuing discussion prompted my husband to mention how God has helped the Jewish people even in modern times. He cited an instance in 1948 in which they were fighting a battle completely unarmed, except for hoes, rakes, and makeshift weapons. All appeared to be lost, when a swarm of bees appeared out of nowhere, stinging and discomfiting the enemy, resulting in victory for Israel.

This reminded me of something that happened to my godly mother, a widow living on her own. One day walking along a grassy patch on the way to milk her cow, she stumbled upon a nest of yellow-jackets in the ground. Furious at having their nest disturbed, the vicious, stinging insects began to swarm around her. Terrified, and having no way to defend herself, Mama called out to God. Suddenly a large dog appeared as if from nowhere and began trotting off in the opposite direction. The bee-like insects swarmed after him as he led them away and Mama reached her porch unharmed.

My mother was always quick to give the glory to God for being, in her words, "an ever-present help in time of need." On one of the last trips she took with my father, they experienced tire trouble on their way from Texas to visit us in Mississippi. Daddy was not strong enough to remove the lug nuts on the car he had struggled to jack up on the side of the busy interstate highway. In the rush of passing cars, semi-trucks and exhaust fumes, Mama began to pray, "Lord, send somebody to help us!"

Just then the whine of an engine alerted her to a giant semi pulling up behind them. The agile driver swung to the ground, smiling and coming toward them. "Oh, I was just asking for God to send help," Mama exclaimed, to which the friendly stranger replied in a Cajun accent, "Ask and you shall receive!" He had the tire off and replaced in no time, and they were on their way. Mama just knew he was an angel.

Not only does God honor obedience in righteous leaders, he also honors the faith of his humblest servants, whether they hear a rustling in the mulberry trees, the whine of a truck or the welcome sound of loping paws of an old, yellow dog. He is an ever-present Help in time of need!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

What Next?

"Ooh, that looks like rockets flying!" I exclaimed as I looked up to see fresh-cut french fries shooting every which way.  "Or more like Spud-nik," I joked.  Our daughter-in-law was trying out a food slicing tool and had put in a very large potato. She pressed the long lever fastened to a cast iron push-block with all her might, forcing the potato through the small squares of the cutting blade. That's when it exploded onto the floor. It was funny, but I don't think they got my joke, not having lived in the days of Sputnik.

We had told them we would come out, but we decided to stop by the grocery store first.  There we ran into friends from our former church who said there would be a gathering at Braum's to have ice cream for the pastor's birthday and invited us to drop by.  It was for two o'clock, and it was already one, but at the next store we ran in and got a birthday card and started the short distance home to put away the groceries.  Not having had lunch and famished by this time, we grabbed a burger and got back just in time for the celebration.

Seeing friends and catching up was fun, as was this brief visit with our kids.  The weather was turning iffy and we were under a winter weather advisory, so home seemed like the best place to be. I occupied myself with making a pumpkin pie while Howard practiced a song he is to lead in church tomorrow.

He had planned to go to the Saturday night singing and asked me to fix a quick bite before he left. I hastily warmed up some leftovers, and with the pie, we had a satisfying supper. Glancing out the window, I noticed a coating on the car windshield and told Howard it looked like ice.  He wasn't worried, though, and continued to get ready.

About that time the phone rang.  It was our  kids.  "Dad, we were in Walmart for only about 10 minutes, and when we came out, our windshield was covered with ice.  Be careful if you drive." Howard went out to check the car, and they called again.  "It's getting slippery out there," they cautioned him.  I'm glad he decided to stay home.

We're making sure the phone is charged and checking our supply of candles in case we need them. Snow, ice and single-digit temperatures are predicted for tomorrow, making me wonder about church in the morning.  Just so it warms up by the weekend, when we're scheduled to visit family down south and celebrate our granddaughter's birthday.  Those are the only kind of candles I want to think about now!