Monday, August 25, 2014

Drummer Boy

It was Anniversary Sunday at the church of our daughter's family where we are visiting. The pastor was emphasizing the mission of the church, which is helping people live a Christ-centered life through loving God, making friends, serving others and sharing the Story. He showed video clips of members in ministry, such as handing out lunch bags to needy kids, a children's project of raising money for a water well in Cuba, and other outreaches.

In the last video clip, a woman told of coming to the church several years earlier when she had just had a new baby. He was born premature with several problems and later was diagnosed with autism. The church had encouraged and supported her during the difficult times, and one day when the boy was older she approached the drummer in the orchestra and asked if he would teach her son to play drums. "His one-word answer was 'Absolutely!'" she said. The interview also included words from this professional musician and how he had worked with the boy.

Then the camera was turned on a handsome young man, now 18, in live action as he played the drums during a praise song. I was astounded! Such energized, flying drumsticks, almost a blur in their speed, I had never seen! With an enthusiasm that could have only been from the Lord's anointing, he played wildly, yet with precise accuracy in perfect synchronization with the music track of the song. Tears began to well in my eyes as the song lifted us in a crescendo praise undergirded by the brilliant, lofty, rapid-fire tempo of the drums.

One of the clips the pastor showed was of an individual who had found Christ through one of the church's home groups. She emphasized the kindness and love shown her that influenced her to take Jesus as her Savior. He told of a well-known pastor who had recommended a home group for a woman who seemingly was disappointed in people. She found them judgmental, critical and unsympathetic to her problems and status in life. After attending the home fellowship group for awhile, she wrote to her pastor, telling how the group had welcomed her and didn't look down on her.

Her pastor was so pleased, he made a phone call of encouragement to her. "Oh, yes," she said, "I forgot to tell you, I asked Jesus into my heart two days ago," to which he asked in pleased surprise, "Tell me, was it the doctrine of the church, or the good teaching you received there, or what made you decide to become a Christian?"

"No," she said, it was just a bunch of folks showing Jesus to me."

That's what the man was doing who taught the autistic boy to play the drums. Now the young man plays in the worship band every Sunday. There was no doubt he was playing his best for Jesus that morning, in his own way showing Jesus to us!



Friday, August 22, 2014

Generations

"I remember how I used to enjoy taking your mother clothes shopping when she was your age," I said to my 17-year-old granddaughter, Corrin. "Everything looked perfect on her." We were browsing in a store and Corrin found several things she liked and put them in the cart. Earlier, we had decided to get out of the house and asked if she wanted to go. She is recuperating from some surgical procedures and, like most young people, can't be held back long.

"Yes," she said, "but I will drive, and you and Pa Pa can go with me!" Our first stop was to pick up her final paycheck from a summer life-guard job. My, how time flies. It seems only yesterday we were carting her 4-year-old self and big brother and little sister around in the back seat of our car. We baby-sat them while their mother worked, and I can still hear her piping up from the backseat, "Pa Pa, if you expect me to keep riding with you, you're going to have to get a new car!"

Now her brother is away at college. Although Corrin seemed to be splurging on herself, she stopped at a men's clothing store on the way home and came out with a gift-wrapped package for his 20th birthday next week.

We had lunched at her favorite steak and shake place where I was looking forward to the tempting ice cream treat in tall, fluted, old-fashioned soda-shop glasses. "Why are our shakes in styrofoam cups?" I asked the waitress when she brought them. She said they had been so busy they had run out of clean glasses! They were good, but not quite the same!

Her younger sister Rachel is now the taller sister, with long, straight, shiny blonde hair, contrasting with Corrin's long, straight, shiny dark hair. Rachel comes in each day worn out from after-school cross-country running. Yesterday their route took them up a mountain, and Rachel reported, "My friend almost stepped on a snake! It reared up and snapped at her!"

Nothing is quite the same, with these middle grandchildren of mine growing up! They date, drive, get jobs and college brochures, and I am thankful for the few moments they squeeze out for us, seemingly listening intently to Pa Pa's stories and my reminiscing until their attention darts elsewhere in their busy lives.

Our shopping trip not only reminded me of clothes buying with their mom at that age, it also reminded me of myself as a teen, standing in front of a store dressing room mirror in awe that everything I tried on was perfect. The years have gone by, and though not everything has been perfect, sometimes I think it is pretty close to it!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Road Trip

"Howard, I'm afraid for you to do that!" I protested. He was about to follow the example of other drivers that had pulled off the road, driven down into the grassy slope of the neutral ground, and up to the west-bound lane of the intersection, going the opposite direction to escape our traffic tie-up.

We had already seen a passenger from the car ahead of us get out and talk to the trucker in the next lane. Then Howard approached him and had a conversation before getting back into our car. The trucker had given them directions, and just as we were about to follow suit, I shouted, "Wait! The traffic is moving!"

Thank God! We'd been sitting there probably 20 minutes. Now the traffic clog dissipated quickly. We felt for those who were on the alternate road, probably bogged down with cars. "I think God prevented us from pulling off," Howard said, and I agreed. What if we'd gotten stuck, trying to maneuver up the opposite slope? Our 10-year-old car may not have had the spunk of the newer ones that succeeded in their attempt.

This had happened to us once before on this very road, and we'd had to detour and spend the night before getting back on our route. "I think this is the "Bermuda Triangle" of the highway!" I exclaimed of this busy, truck-packed approach to Memphis. Passing the endless, mostly truck-filled line stalled on the other side caused me to remark, "We are a nation of trucks." They looked like a long train, interspersed by the occasional automobile.

Even though we had a GPS, we had to acknowledge it was God who was getting us safely through this 700+ mile trip. Our first nightmare was navigating through Tulsa, which would have been fine, except we missed one marker on a detour route through the city. We found ourselves driving through a residential neighborhood as we searched for our route. Howard stopped and asked directions of a man at a service station, who evidently had misunderstood, telling us I-40 was just 5 miles ahead. Turned out it was I-44. Thankfully, we got proper directions from the next informant and breathed a sigh of relief when the city was behind us.

The Lord guided us safely through the multi-lane Nashville traffic, and the rest of our trip was uneventful, leaving us to admire the beautiful mountains all around us. I am only now discovering that some things are coming up missing. I must have left my good sandals at the motel. I wore tennis shoes for the trip, but got out the sandals to avoid walking barefoot on the motel carpet.

Getting hungry yesterday, I looked for a couple of bananas I had put in a zip-lock bag to bring, but evidently I left them home on the counter. And where were my spare reading glasses? And now my favorite comb is missing. Travel is so distracting! But these are minor details when we consider the big picture, our safe arrival and seeing loved ones!

Road trips are a lot like life. There are obstacles and inconveniences along the way, but somehow or through Somebody we get through the struggles, and with a sense of achievement and thanksgiving. He'll be there to guide us to the end of the way!

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Wait

"Where is God?" my frustrated daughter texted on our phone. We had been praying with her about a situation, and she was desperate for results. It all started a year-and-a-half ago when her 15-year-old daughter was injured in a four-wheeler accident. God mercifully spared our granddaughter's life in an accident that could have been fatal.

Doctors fixed what could be fixed, but her front teeth could not be replaced until bone grafts and surgery to repair damage to the upper bone were performed. Corrin had had one bone graft already, but after long months of waiting, she had the disappointing news that it had failed. Meanwhile, our little beauty retained her appearance by wearing a "flipper," a temporary arrangement that enabled her to eat and smile her beautiful smile.

Now it was time to go back for another procedure. Recalling the hassles she had had with her insurance company the first time, although they finally agreed to pay, Amy was skeptical that they would cover the second time for the do-over. They do not cover implants, so they did not want to cover the prep work either, although it was vital to her bite with or without implants. Checking almost daily the week before surgery, she got a different answer almost every day: Yes, it was covered. No, it was not. They weren't sure.

Finally, after several positive assurances, her parents checked Corrin into the hospital. Surgery was set for 7:30 a.m. About 10 o'clock I called to see how things were going. A very upset daughter told me the insurance had not been approved. Corrin had been prepped for surgery, in her hospital gown and her long hair wrapped and taped in a turban. (They sent me photos.)

"Have faith!" my husband implored as they sat impatiently waiting for word from the insurance company. That is when she texted back with the aforementioned cryptic message. "Sometimes God shows up at 11:59," Howard encouraged her. We prayed again. By this time they had been waiting more than three hours, and the long-suffering surgeon was upset, also.

God had been so faithful throughout the whole ordeal of the past months, even providing for the implants when the time would come. Surely He would come through for them this time. Corrin was well thought of at her high school where she had just become a senior. Several honors and awards had come her way. Now she Face Time'd her classmates with the shots of her in gown and turban, and the whole cafeteria gave a her a shout-out!

Suddenly the phone sounded again. I looked, and read a single word, "Victory!!" followed by "God showed up at 11:59!" The surgery was on!

She went home the next morning, having had to stay overnight because bone was taken from her hip, creating a double surgery. I plan to go down tomorrow to be with her during recuperation. I'm sure we will be praising God all the way!

Try a Little Kindness

The man was old and bent, stooping to laboriously unload groceries from the cart, assisted by his slight, white-haired companion, obviously his wife. The heat was oppressive with temperatures hovering around 100 degrees. I could see them across the lane from my vantage point in the car. I was waiting in the air conditioning for my husband to run in and pick up a prescription.

Mentally urging the couple to hurry their slow, deliberate pace and get out of the blazing sun, I looked up to see the straight, sturdy figure of a younger man waiting by their car as the last bag was unloaded. I wondered what he was doing, then I saw him take their empty cart and roll it toward the distant cart stall on the other side of the traffic lane. The small act of kindness touched my heart.

We had just finished lunch and were doing a few errands before heading home. It seems as sure as we get out of the house, we feel hunger pangs and the tiresome discussion of where to eat comes up. After discounting Howard's suggestions of Chinese, pizza and a few other fast food places, I finally suggest just getting a sandwich at a local family-style restaurant.

As we waited to be seated, I spotted a familiar face in a booth--a former pastor. On the way to a table, we stopped to say hello. Looking up in surprise he greeted us warmly and insisted we sit with him. As she handed us a menu, I overheard the old pastor say to the waitress, "When the ticket comes, give it to me." Wow! What a kind gesture! Especially in a place where the food could be pricey, although my only splurge was sweet potato fries to go with my sandwich.

The two preachers plunged into conversation about the recent 100th anniversary celebration our friend had just attended marking the founding of our church fellowship. We had watched parts of the services that had been recorded for television, so they had much to talk about. The telling of the many friends and acquaintances Pastor saw there from his fifty years in ministry soon led to reminiscences of the past. We followed his stories of God's grace from the early times of picking cotton in a share-cropper up-bringing, to his world travels as a missionary-evangelist.

When we left more than an hour later, we were full not only of food, but of warm, Christian fellowship and the fulfillment of knowing we were listening ears to this faithful saint, lonely since the passing of his wife some 18 months ago. Following the admonition of Romans 12:10, "Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love, in honor preferring one another," was easy.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Throwback Thursday

Last night we were immersed in nostalgia as we attended a drive-in movie! The local Christian radio station had sponsored God's Not Dead, the movie about a college freshman challenging his professor's stance as an atheist. We had already seen the great movie, but we couldn't resist this opportunity to experience this blast from the past, an outdoor theater, besides which, it was free!

The Drive-In had been closed for many years, but volunteers had refurbished and readied it for this special finale, a four-night showing of the film as a ministry outreach to the community. And did they turn out! I think every slot of the 500-car lot was filled! Even though the movie wouldn't start until dark, we got there early to get a parking space. People were milling around in the pre-dusk, groups of teens eagerly striding along and parents with kids in tow heading to refreshment stands and portable restroom facilities.

In the hum of conviviality and snatches of conversation floating on the breeze through our open car windows, I was transported to my childhood when Daddy would drive the old pick-up truck loaded with us kids to the Drive-In for a Saturday night treat. We scattered to seating areas around the projection booth or lolled on blankets and chairs as folks were doing tonight. I remember the warm intimacy of leaning close to the speakers attached to our car windows and feeling magically connected to the romantic figures on the screen. (Now we listened through our FM station on our car radio.)

That morning we had gone to a fellowship gathering for seniors (not high school!) at the church and got to know some very interesting people. I brought my Scrabble game and Howard brought his guitar. He was in his element, strumming and mesmerizing the group with his song and patter routine. The words on his guitar strap, ONE OF THEM, were echoed in the song by that name, smoothly interspersed with stories of those who were One of Them, kept his audience smiling and praising the Lord.

After snacks and conversation, several white-haired oldsters headed for a round table for their regular session of Mexican Train, their favorite domino game. Some looked on warily as I set up my huge Scrabble board, a deluxe edition with one-inch tiles on a revolving base. A perky lady of about 90 tore herself away and joined Howard and me at our table, as did an 80-something gentleman. ("He's smart!" the lady whispered.)

They were both smart, tying to win the game! Occasionally I glanced at another table where two women bent over a jigsaw puzzle, an ongoing project that would be rolled up later and continued next week. When finished, it would be framed and added to others as artwork on the wall. Puzzles were a favorite activity and Christmas present when I was growing up! I still like them, but hadn't done one in years.

We were late getting home from the "last picture show," since dark didn't come until nine o'clock, putting us home at way past my bedtime. (I reminded myself of Mama, who always fell asleep at the drive-in movie, exhausted from her day as a busy farm wife.) I could hardly keep my eyes open as the hour grew late--something we must do in these last days, reaching out to the lost, even as we draw strength from our fellow travelers in the faith.



Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Joy Like a River

I was baptized at age 13 in the waters of a creek flowing from a low-water bridge near our rural home in Oklahoma. Yesterday as we drove by that area, I noticed a sign there saying SHOOFLY CREEK. Maybe that's what it's called, since a shoofly can be a tributary of a river, which in this case would be the Chickaskia River which meanders its way through northern Oklahoma. Anyway, now I can say I was baptized in Shoofly creek!

I love old-fashioned baptisms in country bodies of water. Recently our daughter and son-in-law conducted a baptism at a lake and also had Sunday service there, followed by a picnic fellowship meal. They said it was a wonderful, spiritual time outside in God's creation.

Jesus did much of his teaching out of doors. He taught by lakes and on mountains, using their natural amplification to make himself heard. He was baptized by John in the river Jordan. Visitors to the Holy Land often make getting baptized in the Jordan a priority, while some are baptized in the Dead Sea.

I recently read a story about Paul Harvey, telling of a life-changing experience in his life. He said he had been a Christian for many years, but had never been baptized. Then one day he was vacationing in a mountain area and came upon a primitive church. The minister preached a simple, yet compelling message, closing with an invitation of baptism to any of the few gathered there who had not been baptized. Paul said he felt himself being drawn to the front, stepping into the baptismal waters and receiving such joy that he had never before experienced. He said the new-found joy stayed with him from then on.

In a country song sung by Randy Travis, he sings of a small boy's baptism, saying he saw no angels, just a few saints on the shore, but he felt like a newborn baby, being cradled in the arms of the Lord. It reminded me of our preacher son-in-law's baptism service. I saw pictures of those being baptized, but not of "the few saints on the shore," but I knew they were there, sharing the joy of those who had had a country baptism!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Detour

Returning from Wichita today, Howard said, "I want to get off the interstate and go through Wellington." O-kay, since he had mentioned that many times on previous trips but never turned off, I didn't protest. He wanted to look up old friends of ours he had heard lived there.

Not only that, but from an address he had procured, he was convinced they lived in the house where his grandparents had lived when he was growing up. I sat in the car while he knocked at the door of the modest bungalow where, as a teenager, I had gone with him and his family on several Sunday afternoon visits.

No one answered his knock, but that didn't deter my determined husband. He knocked at the next house with no response, then at two houses across the street. At the last house, someone finally came to the door, and I could hear an animated conversation going on on the porch.

"Did he know where they live?" I asked as Howard got back in the car, to which he answered, "No, but he remembered Grandma and Grandpa. He has lived there since 1946." Howard was intent on re-discovering the neighborhood he remembered so well from his childhood.

"Oh, look," he exclaimed, "there's the park my brother and I used to walk to when we came to visit. But the Ferris wheel is gone!" he marveled. Well, it had been some 65 years ago! "And this is the street where my mom and grandmother would walk with us to town," he continued as we drove down the quiet street. That would have been many blocks, I realized. "And that was the neighborhood store I always went to with Grandpa!" he pointed out in pleased surprise at what was now expanded into a construction company.

Howard reminisced that his grandfather used to drive a city bus. "I would go with him and ride the entire route," he remembered, describing the passengers for me. I could just see him as a small boy absorbing all the new sights and sounds. He told me that there used to be a bus from his home in Oklahoma to Wellington, and for 65 cents he would ride the 35 miles with his mother to see her mom. "Sometimes we would stay overnight and go back the next day," he went on.

"And there's the street where one of my dad's sisters and her husband lived," he said with a note of excitement. "Aunt Rosie baked bread, and would put it in a wagon and pull it along the streets and sell it for 10 cents a loaf. She saved enough dimes to buy a house!" he recalled with wonder. "My uncle worked for a florist, and there it is!" he fairly chortled.

We finally found the way out of town by a back road, and were soon wending our way home on a two-lane highway. "I remember this when my dad would drive us up here on this road," Howard said, "He always drove 35 miles an hour." I think the long, tiresome trip was made more attractive by the thoughts of the ice-cream cone he would get at the local creamery where he would stroll with his grandfather.

Howard may not have located our friends, but by the time we left Wellington, we felt as if we'd had a family visit!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Fall in the Air?

A late Sunday afternoon walk in the Gardens yesterday. The flowers are taking on an autumnal look with the profusion of orange zinnias, colorful chrysanthemums, purple coneflowers and sunflowers with their dark, protruding centers. The cooler air and crystal skies after rain felt fall-like, too, with the breezes from the north. How refreshing!

The lowering sun beamed hot, though, out of the shade of trees and arbors. Butterflies hovered and bumble bees buzzed over the now-overgrown flowering bushes, sipping nectar and spreading pollen, God's crop dusters.

"Oh, look! A hummingbird!" I exclaimed at sighting the whir of blurred wings on the little bird as it darted among honeysuckles and morning glories. It was gone by the time I got there, just as the fleeting ones glimpsed in my yard have been lately. In their rush, they seem to sense time is flying and summer is ending.

Howard has brought his walking stick, as he calls it. "Are your knees bothering you?" I ask, but he says no, he just likes to walk with it. Actually, it is a stout, hand-carved, cane that usually stands by our fireplace. It is called a story stick, because of the tiny carvings of symbols of Bible stories that cover it. Noah's ark is there, Jonah's whale stands out in bas relief, and a dozen other vignettes run down its length.

"You know, I still don't know what some of these pictures mean," Howard says as he lays the cane across his lap when we stop to sit in the shade of a gazebo. We run our fingers over the numbers 2 and 5, beside a loaf and fish, and easily recognize that one, as well as a tomb with a door and stone beside it. One was mystifying--a stone with a zig-zag on it like a lightning bolt. (The sheet of paper with the key to each symbol has been lost.) Thinking about it later, I wondered if it was the rock that Moses was instructed to strike to get water for the children of Israel--the one he struck twice in disobedience that brought punishment.

In the fifteen years since I was given the story stick by a minister's wife (it was carved by a missionary who sold them for $100 each), I have answered many questions and had the chance to share many Bible stories with my grandchildren who are curious about the images.

Once, a six-year-old granddaughter asked what the open book carved into it was. I told her it was the Book of Life, where names of people who love Jesus have been written. "Is your name there?" she asked. When I told her it was, she said, "Well, I want my name there," giving me the opportunity to lead her in asking Jesus into her heart!

We finished our walk, picking up a few fat acorns (I didn't know a tree I thought was holly had acorns!) and interesting seed balls from a cypress (they have designs on them!). We will place the story stick back by the fireplace, which before long will be a warm gathering place and a perfect spot for a story!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Growth Chart

"There was a crooked, little old man who found something...something... as he walked along," my son said in sing-song to his daughter during supper last night. I picked up the ditty and finished for him, "There was a crooked man who walked a crooked mile, and found a crooked six-pence upon a crooked stile. He bought a crooked cat which caught a crooked mouse, and they all lived together in a little crooked house."

Just then our other granddaughter joined in by doing finger plays to "Here is the church house, and here is the steeple, Open up the door and look at all the people!" and "Here is mother's silverware, here is mother's table, Here is sister's looking glass, and here is baby's cradle," as she looked knowingly at me, since I had taught the rhymes to her. It's always been fun for me to show my grandchildren little amusements like this that never fail to fascinate. I guess that's what grandmothers do.

I'm surprised at how quickly they catch on and remember, especially Kate, who is nine. Earlier this summer, I attempted to teach making folded-paper boats to a children's class at church, coinciding with a lesson about Jesus and boats. A couple weeks later, I asked Kate if she remembered that, and it turns out she not only remembered, but had been making the origami boats for kids in her class at school!

Not long ago they brought a balloon pump and balloons over. "Can you make balloon animals?" I asked Kate. I was amazed as she began inflating the tubular balloons, twisting and fashioning them into dogs, giraffes, and other creatures as well as an adult!

I had been baby-sitting them for the day, and while they preferred watching television, we were able to pry them away from it for a trip to town and a promise to eat at McDonald's. Other errands brought many impatient omg's and rolled eyes by 7-year-old Beth, however. After more TV back in the cool air conditioning and my failed efforts at tempting them with going to the splash pad, I turned off the set and brought out my giant Scrabble board. Although met with, "I don't like Scrabble!" and "I don't know how to play!" frowns, before long my idea caught hold and they were engrossed in the game.

Soon they were laughing and figuring out words. "Is 'snot' a word?" Beth asked with a grin. We found a place for it. I looked over her letters to help a little later, finding it difficult and wondering if 'gad' was a word. "How about 'g-o-d'? she asked. Of course, God! She placed the letters with a look of triumph. Beth insisted on keeping score, carefully recording them on the columnar pad. I have noticed she has an affinity for numbers.

Nothing is more fascinating to me than watching gifts and interests develop in our grandchildren. We spent a little time with teen grandsons Kyle and Brad in Texas recently and enjoyed watching them hone their skills in golf. Patient and self-scrutinizing, they each emptied a bucket of golf balls, knocking them over a pond while we tried to follow the soaring trajectories. They apply the same dedication to practicing their musical instruments for band. Kyle is also passionate about gliding and film making.

From our grown-up grandchildren who are already making their way in the world, all the way down to baby Isaac, who is perfecting his crawling and standing skills, they are all a blessing. The Bible says children are a heritage of the Lord, and that goes for grandchildren, too!