Saturday, February 28, 2015

Snow on Snow on Snow

These words from the hymn, In the Bleak Midwinter, came to mind as I looked out the window this morning.  After an all-day snow yesterday, it is snowing again this morning, just as it is in many parts of the country.  A few weeks ago, everyone around here was asking, "Where is the snow?" I was wondering, too! We'd only had one light snow since our first one in November.  Now that February is almost off the calendar, nature seems to have shifted into high gear to give us the much-needed moisture for coming crops.

I remembered reading in the Old Farmers' Almanac that we were to have an unusually cool and wet winter, with heavy snowfalls, especially in the northeast.  The prediction was that people may see deep snow until June!  And I did see that frozen Niagara Falls may not thaw completely until June! Now I wonder if they hit the nail on the head!  I surely hope they are not that accurate!

Back to the hymn.  It was written by Christina Rossetti, based on a poem she had written. The first verse depicts the view, now questioned, that Jesus was born in the cold, snowy winter:
               ~~~~~~~~~~~~
In the bleak mid-winter, Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, Water like a stone.
Snow on snow on snow on snow
In the bleak mid-winter, O so long ago.
                ~~~~~~~~~~~~

The second verse deals not only with Jesus birth, but with His second coming.

               ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him,  Nor earth contain.
Heaven and Earth will flee away, When He comes to reign.
In the bleak mid-winter, A stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.
              ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The truth of Jesus's  return gives us hope even in the most dismal, disagreeable weather or circumstances in which we find ourselves.  Certainly conditions we live in now point to His soon return.  The most important thing we can do is reflected in the last stanza of the carol.

             ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What can I give Him, Poor as I am.
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb.
If I were a wise man, I would do my part.
Yet what can I give Him: Give my heart.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Sign Language

Was that my phone? It sounded different! Then I found it lying on my iPad, on which I saw my own face!  Someone was trying to FaceTime me.  Then baby Isaac's smiling face filled the screen!  I had said just this morning that I wished they would FaceTime us, forgetting  it was our son Jamie's day off and that it might be a possibility.

Isaac was animatedly jabbering baby talk as if he were trying to talk to us!  He knows us because we were there last week, and from seeing us on FaceTime this way.  I heard Jamie telling him to say, "Please," about something and saw Isaac rub his hand across his left chest.  "He's giving the sign language word for "please," Jamie explained.

I remembered when we were there they had said the baby-sitter had been teaching him baby sign language, but I hadn't seen him do it much.  I know Isaac is smart enough to talk, but until he does, this is a handy way to communicate.  I remember when his father was little, his "sign language" was to point, then give an affirmative "um," if  we understood, and a negative "um" if we got it wrong! Jamie talked in his own good time, and I'm sure our little grandson, who is 15 months, will, too.

In the Bible, we are told of another who could not speak and had to use sign language. This was also related to a baby. When the priest Zacharias was told by the angel Gabriel that his aged wife Elizabeth would bear a son, he did not believe it. " And behold, thou shalt  be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season," Luke 1:20.

(22) "And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless." When the baby was born, the people wanted him to be called by his father's name, but Elizabeth said his name was John (later known as John the Baptist).

(62) "And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called. (63) And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John...(64) And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God."

John came to prepare the way for Jesus and to point people to Him.  There are signs everywhere today that point to Jesus coming again.  Jesus said in Matthew 16:2-3, "...When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather, for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather today: for the sky is red and lowring.  O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?"

Genesis 1:15 tells us the sun and the moon are for signs and seasons.  Today we have the signs of the four blood moons and their proximity to Jewish feast days that seem to bear significance.  Let us not fail to read the signs!

Thrifty is Nifty!

"Do you want chili for lunch?" I asked Howard as he came in at a frigid noon hour.  He readily agreed, and I got out ground meat to brown, then an unwelcome thought surfaced.  I wasn't sure I had chili seasoning!  I had already done a mental checklist for the other ingredients: canned tomatoes, leftover beans, as well as canned black beans. Sure enough, there was no chili seasoning.

"I will run and get some," my husband offered.  Though the store was only two blocks away, I hated for him to go back out in the cold.

"Do you think I could use this?" I asked doubtfully, holding up a packet of  taco seasoning. I read the ingredients and saw that it had chili seasoning in it.

He told me to go ahead, and as I tasted, experimented, added tomato sauce and the other things, it seemed pretty flavorful.  He ate it and loved it!  Even said it was better than usual!

"Do we have anything sweet?" he asked hopefully, upon finishing a bowl of the Chili-O? Taco-lili? I told him I was thinking of making a cake, but I didn't have enough butter.  A half-recipe of Texas Sheet Cake would have been nice, and it stirs up in a jiffy. I knew the recipe by heart: 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, soda, and salt, plus 1 stick butter melted with 2 tbs cocoa, and buttermilk, 1 egg, water and vanilla.  Then melted butter and cocoa for the frosting, a bit of milk and vanilla, and powdered sugar.

Wait a minute! I thought.  I had sour cream! I could stretch the butter with that.  It worked! I didn't even have to use buttermilk (milk + vinegar), because the sour cream would work with the soda! With the added sour cream,  I had enough butter to make the delicious chocolate frosting, and the cream sufficed for the milk, too!  My husband was a happy camper, and didn't mind the substitutions at all! He remained at the table in the warm kitchen with his iPad until the cake was finished.

I like being frugal! This was brought home to me the other day when our daughter-in-law Rhonda and son Mark took us to a home store near their house.  We had a few hours until her turkey roast was ready, and it was something to do on our only afternoon there. I loved the store!  Scads of lovely home decor, from  flowers to furniture, covered the giant warehouse-like floor space.  And best of all, it was reasonable!  Not that I needed anything, although the art work was amazing, and the graphics and old-fashioned signs were tempting, even though I have no available wall space.

A nice throw pillow for 50% off took my eye, but I was able to resist other stuff, until I yelled, "At last! Something I can afford!" as I held up a bundle of 24 colorful dish cloths! And at only $4.99! Just what I needed, since I prefer to wash dishes by hand. My present ones had seen better days, the name, dish rags, befitting them perfectly. I couldn't believe how happy my practical bargain made me feel!

Although creation and nature are lavish in beauty and bounty, surely God doesn't want us to be wasteful.  In John 6:12, after Jesus performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes, the scripture says, "When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost (wasted)."

So I guess when I save my leftovers, I am in good company!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Neither Snow, nor Rain, nor Gloom of Night...

Whoosh! I love the sound of a picture being sent via iPhone to Facebook! Then the word, Delivered, assures me that the message has been received.  How I hate the words, Not Delivered, when it fails to send!

The whooshing noise as the image is snatched from the phone  and thrown into space reminds me of prayers going up to God. Then the ping from my phone is like a heavenly response, or a message sent to me.

In Bible days, priests burned incense in their religious ceremonies. the rising smoke symbolic of prayers going up to heaven. Revelation 8:3 reads, "And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar 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."  The following verse says that an angel took the censer, filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth, causing thunder and lightning and an earthquake!  Wow! Our prayers must be powerful! The imagery prompts Max Lucado to say that when saints pray, we create an explosion of power!

As believers, we don't have to wonder whether our prayers have been received.  I Peter 3:12 says, "For the eyes of the Lord are ever over the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers;". However, the rest of the verse carries a warning: "but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil."

Our prayers are even more instantaneous than the internet capabilities.  And prayer communication is certainly more reliable than US Mail.  I had intended to send our small grandchildren Valentines recently, then one day I realized it was only two days until Valentine Day!  I hurried to town and selected cute cards for them, knowing that mail usually gets to their home in Houston in two days.

We did a couple errands before making it to the mailing center, where the mail goes out at three o'clock.  I hurried in a few minutes past three and asked if the mail had gone out.  At Christmas, they ran a little late and I was able to catch them just in time to mail packages. Not this time.  The postal lady shook her head at my hopes and tried to call the main post office to see if theirs had gone out, which she thought probably had.  We rushed there anyway, and the postman said he would carry them immediately to the truck that was loading and that they would get there by  Valentine Day on Saturday.

When I asked their father Saturday if the children had received their cards, he said he hadn't checked but would call me later, which he did, and no cards!  I fought tears of frustration at myself, for I knew they had had a party and valentines at school, and by the time  they got mine, they would be meaningless.  Besides which, I realized Monday was Presidents Day, and no mail would be delivered.

When we visited them this week, I asked about the cards.  Anne-Marie thought she remembered one, but wasn't sure.  Maddie knew nothing about them.  Turns out she was asleep when they got them from the mailbox, and hadn't seen hers.  Of course, one-year-old Isaac was clueless. At least my disappointment was overshadowed by the joy of seeing the kids! (And later I did hear their mother remind them of the crisp, new dollar bills that we sent with the cards.)

God loves us even more than we love our children and grandchildren, and we are told in Philippians 4:6, "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

(7)"And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."

And we can be sure our prayers are delivered!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Weather Window

Our trip to see our Texas kids was going smoothly on a beautiful, sunshiny, travel-perfect day.  We would stay overnight with son Trevor's family before heading on to Houston the next day. However, rain was in the forecast, and we considered keeping on driving while it was still sunny, and stopping at Trevor's on the way back, but we decided against it.

After a lovely evening and meal, and a big breakfast spread the next morning, we were on our way to see our fast-growing, youngest grandchildren, ages 5, 7, and 15 months.  It wasn't long till we were seeing overcast skies with puffy, grey, moisture-laden clouds. Still, the weather was mild and the drive was pleasant.  We only ran into sporadic showers when we were almost there.

An activity-packed couple of days followed, filled with shopping, eating out, church (at which  we got to see our son baptize a family of five), and loving on the grandchildren. We even had the fun of baby-sitting one-year-old Isaac while the rest of the family took in an open-air, stadium service of the famed evangelist, Reinhard Bonnke.  The threat of rain, the specter of climbing to stadium seating, and the chance to spend time with our little grandson kept us at home.

With weather reports forecasting snow on Tuesday for Dallas, instead of heading back to Trevor's on Monday to spend the night, we opted to accept son Mark's invitation to go through Austin and stop off there.  It's a good thing we did, too, for Dallas received snow and ice that night. Mark and Rhonda gave us the royal treatment with good food, a mini-shopping spree, movie night at home, and home-cooked breakfast before we left.

We had dodged the weather bullet so far, but as we approached Ft. Worth, the overhead digital signs warned: Icy Conditions Exist. Exercise Caution. The roads weren't too bad, though, and I kept a running temperature check on my iPhone.  Although they were below freezing, we didn't see much evidence of ice until the metro area.  Then the big trucks splashed and spattered our windshield with dirty snow water, and slabs of snow flying off cars and trucks exploded into the air at regular intervals. Pot holes and construction made driving difficult.

Heaving sighs of relief and thanking God for navigating through the obstacles, we were glad to get into Oklahoma.  Roads were clear and it was smooth sailing the rest of the way. We had elected to keep driving rather than stay overnight at Trevor's again, since more snow was expected and one of their sons had come down with the flu.

This morning Trevor calls with the news that schools and work for them have been cancelled for the third day, with snow coming down steadily outside.  We were so glad we didn't miss our window of opportunity to see our sons.  I couldn't help but think of the scripture in the Bible about another window of opportunity.  Isaiah 55:6 says, "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found; call ye upon him while he is near."

Again, David says in Psalm 32:5, about acknowledging his sin, "...I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah. (6) For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found; surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him."  May no one miss their window of opportunity.




Traveling On

Rough Road Ahead, the sign read.  In a few moments I knew what it meant.  The highway was in bad repair and felt like a washboard.  Seemingly, it was being readied for resurfacing. Presently I saw a sign in big red letters saying Follow Detour.  We were on a trip and were going through some road construction areas.

Pretty soon, we were notified of Trucks Entering Highway.  This route was like a maze.  We had come this way to avoid the traffic of going through the city, but keeping up with all the ins and outs, exits and redefined lanes was a challenge.  We could never have done it without our GPS.

Wouldn't it be nice, I thought, if the road of life had signs like this warning us of what lay ahead? Maybe we could fortify ourselves to be ready for the rough road coming up--a financial back-set or a relationship break-down.  Or if we had a heads-up about the detour in our plans that was about to happen: unexpected illness, a job lay-off or other circumstances beyond our control that made us shelve hopes and dreams indefinitely.

What about the trucks entering life's highway?  Some loaded with garbage that we could do without. Others carrying junk that simply weighs us down.  Trucks with no clue posted on the side as to what they were hauling, the contents a mystery waiting to change our lives, for better or for worse. Trucks we don't see coming that broadside us and knock us off course.

Finally, though, we would break through to a wide expanse.  Traffic flowing smoothly, a chance to look around and enjoy the scenery.  Even though it is winter, the farther south we drove, we began to see green grass and trees shrouded in a green mist of budding leaves! It made me think of the encouraging words of Psalm 18:19: "He brought me forth into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me."

Or as it says in Psalm 66:12, "Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water, but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place."

Thank God for our heavenly GPS--God's Positioning System! It may have felt like men were riding over our heads in their fast cars zipping in and out. But even though we don't know the future, just as our auto GPS was always one step ahead of us, alerting us when to keep left, or exit right, God's GPS guides us faithfully though life's journey. There is Light at the end of the tunnel! And there were welcoming loved ones waiting to meet us at the end of our trip!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Cutting Edge

"Ouch!" I yelped.  A little pressure on my finger I had cut a few days ago told me it was still sore.  My husband had had our kitchen knives sharpened, and this was the second time I cut myself! Not bad, not too much worse than a paper cut, really, and it was painless when it happened, thanks to the precision sharpening.  But despite band-aids and antibiotic ointment the first one was slow in healing, and now this one still bothers me.  Dishwashing doesn't help, especially when a knife has slipped into the sink!

It's funny how such an insignificant injury on the tip of a finger can affect one's whole outlook! Like they say, the worst (illness, injury) is the one that happens to you! The whole body is connected.

As it says in Paul's teaching on unity in I Corinthians 12:14, "For the body is not one member, but many. (15) If the foot shall say, because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? (16) And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? (17) If the whole body were an eye, where the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?"

He goes on to say that all members of the body of Christ, or the church, are dependent on each other. "And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you," (21). Verse 26 says, "And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it."

We all have our part to do, and He gives us different gifts and abilities. "There is one body, and one Spirit...One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all who is above all, and through all, and in you all," Ephesians 4:4-6.

Paul tells us that God gave us apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers "For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ," Ephesians 4:11, that we "...may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love," Ephesians 4:15-16.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made, and born to serve the Lord! And the only sharp thing I really need is the Sword of the Spirit!




Sunday, February 15, 2015

Tell All

I wonder if anybody read what I wrote? I wondered as I clicked on Facebook.  Checking the site is something I find myself doing frequently after I post something.  Then a thought occurred to me. What if Jesus is checking out His Facebook (the Bible) to see if anyone read what He wrote? Do our words have more significance than His? One might think so, by the way we avid fans spend time on our computers, iPads, iPhones or Tablets.

But it is always such a rush to get "likes" or positive comments, especially to pictures.  After all, our FB friends are usually complimentary. And we want others to appreciate our darling grandchildren, tots, graduates, brides, pets and achievements.  Not to mention our "selfies."  Of course, there are the heartfelt prayer requests that are shared, many that bring tears and prayers.  Or promises to pray. But it is easy to forget our promise when there is so much news to catch up on.

 I read recently a study proposing that social media might cause depression in some.  If their lives do not have the excitement, possessions,  and/or fun that they read about in others, they may feel dull in comparison and feel they are missing out.  I suppose there is some value to that line of thought. Naturally, we mostly write about what we are proud of, or find interesting or entertaining, although some will air their dirty laundry or issue subliminal, vague hints at or about someone they are mad at.  

One thing about the Bible: It tells it like it is.  It does not whitewash the truth and gloss over the frailties and sins of its characters.  We see the good, the bad, and the ugly in unvarnished reality. But we also see the plan of redemption throughout its pages. We can  be sure that Jesus loves our children, our families and our friends, even more than we do.  I heard once the saying, and I believe it's true, that if something is important to you, it is important to God.

The Lord sees every prayer request we post, and reads every prayer we offer in response.  He gets glory from every shared testimony and answer to prayer.  But to build our faith, our knowledge, our fellowship with Him, we can't neglect His Word.  It is His letter to us!  Our E-(Evangel) mail! His Text for our lives! 

We have distractions today that are  far more complicated than those of early-day Christians.  They gathered at the well  to hear the news, or saw some Roman soldier tearing through with a decree. We are blessed with leisure, convenience and luxury they could never know, even the very rich or royal. But with it comes the temptation to neglect our spirits and eternal soul.  

Thank God for the discoveries and inventions we have.  I personally believe they were made possible by Him to facilitate spreading the gospel.  The Bible says that in the last days knowledge will be increased. (Note that it does not say wisdom.) Certainly knowledge and information have grown exponentially, with the world at our fingertips or in our pocket cell phone. But no knowledge surpasses the Word of God.  I think I will go read what He wrote! I'm sure it won't leave me depressed!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

My Funny Valentine

"Oh, look!" I said as we went into our town's premier supermarket yesterday, "They have tulips!" Actually, they had all kinds of flowers at the entry and in their floral department.  Heart-shaped balloons floated above potted plants of azaleas, tulips and other gorgeous arrangements in a sea of color.  It was Valentine time!

Men, young and old, were streaming out of the store with bouquets, boxes of chocolates and cards. I had to smile at their serious, stolid expressions, as if they were here on an unaccustomed mission they dare not ignore.

"I would like some of those tulips," I suggested to Howard.  He said okay, but he had planned to get me some chocolates.  "I would rather have the flowers," I said.  After he put them in the basket, I remembered once I had received a pot of red tulips with balloons for Secretary's Day when I worked as our office secretary at church. They were so pretty and seemed to light up the house.

"A balloon would be nice, too!" I prompted my husband.  I guess he had already considered that, because he said they were expensive here.  "Well, there's the dollar store," I said.  He told me they were out when he was there yesterday, but I felt sure they would have some.  On pulling up in front of the store, I saw a woman coming out with a beautiful, inflated red heart floating by a ribbon grasped in her hand.

"See, she has a Valentine balloon; they must have them," I pointed out.  He wanted me to go in with him, but  I said, "I'm not going to pick out my own balloon!" Then as he trudged toward the store, I called mercilessly, "A red heart! Two of them!"

My dear husband has a penchant for getting something different than what he is sent for.  I am nearly always surprised at what he comes up with.  But when I saw him emerging from the store with a bright red balloon, I was relieved, even though the other one was a black-and-white zebra stripe, like the stripes on the pajamas I'd gotten a teen granddaughter for Christmas!

"Those are so pretty," I told him, "But what's with the stripes?"  He said he thought I would like them.  I tied the balloons to the flower pot when we got home, then I gasped in amazement when I noticed that the red balloon wasn't a heart at all, but a giant red star!  Stars and stripes! How funny! Well, since I didn't notice it at first, I guess he didn't, either.

Lest I  create a wrong impression, my husband is very generous, especially when he is reminded.  I did just have a salon visit, and he's taking me to the church Valentine banquet where I'll be wearing a new outfit.  Men are men, and thank God for them!  But they are comical sometimes, as evidenced by a snapshot my son took at 7:45 this morning and shared on Facebook.  A half-dozen or more guys were clustered in front of a greeting card rack, all with heads down as if praying, contemplating that all-important card.  Today is Valentines Day, and I guess he had just thought of it, himself!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Rose by any other Name...

"Oh, I forgot my Bible!" I said as we drove off from the Bible study.  Actually, it wasn't even my Bible, but the one I picked up at home because of its convenient size and the fact that it had index tabs on every book.  (Not that I needed the tabs, but they might be handy, and I didn't see my own favorite Bible just then.)

"I'm so embarrassed I left it," I went on.  Well, it was embossed in gold letters  with someone else's name, because Howard had bought it at a garage sale! This group was very serious in their conscientious study and note-taking and might wonder why that name was on my Bible!  I have never been a good note-taker,  so I rarely take notes, but I didn't want to further reinforce an appearance of carelessness.

When we returned to our hosts' house for this week's session, the first thing I saw was the Bible lying right where I left it. "Oh, is that your Bible?" someone asked.  I laughed and claimed it. I told them what I had heard  Martha Stewart say on a program once about collecting old, monogrammed silverware at antique shops, garage and estate sales. "I just tell people it belonged to my Aunt Mary or Cousin Louise, when they notice the initials," she smiled.  (I didn't do that, though.)

A little later, after a time of worship and singing several scripture choruses, I asked my friend, who plays the piano  and sings beautifully and leads us, if she arranged the music  and scriptures in an original work, or if the songs were established  pieces.  I complimented her when she said that she did write some of them.  When someone else added their  appreciative comments of her talents, she said, "Well, my name means a song!" Her name is Carol.

Howard chimed in and said, "I wish we had named our kids biblical names! I think they carry a special significance." (I reminded  him that two of ours do have biblical names: Mark and Benjamin. Come to think of it, they are both ministers, but so is our daughter, Julie!)

Someone mentioned how God changed names in the Bible--Abram to Abraham; Sarai to Sarah; Jacob to Israel and Simon to Peter.  "God will give you a new name," a  man said, to which someone asked, "What is it?" Of course, the answer is that no one knows, as recorded in Revelation 2:17: "...To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it."

My mother named me for one of her sisters, and I have always felt the name was too old-fashioned. When I tell someone my name, they usually say, "Oh, that was my--mother's, grandmother's, aunt's --name. " I looked up the name recently and found that the modern form for Thelma is Thea!  I like that much better! A lady at our new church asked my name the other day, saying she had forgotten it, and impulsively I  said, "Thea." (She won't remember it anyway.)  But I guess I'll stick with my old name, at least until God gives me a new one!


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Frogs and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails

"They're alive!  They're alive!" my husband fairly chortled as he came up from the basement.  Just the day before he had put out a distress call to our daughter in Tennessee. "I've had a disaster with my worms! I must have done something wrong, I can only see a few!"

Julie had shared with him details of her husband's worm enterprise, and, after perfunctory instructions, Howard had ordered some from a worm farm that were delivered in the mail. So now I have a bin of creepy crawlers beneath my bedroom!

We found out they eat newspapers, potato skins, tea bags, and all manner of table scraps, with a few exceptions like citrus, meat and other things on a taboo list we pulled up on internet. When Howard gets a new hobby, he goes into it with full-force enthusiasm.  We were scouring stores for peat moss, their recommended habitat, when  gardening season is not even here yet.

Today I accompanied my worm farmer to the basement for the first time since the little wigglers arrived.  He had told me how tiny they were (I think he ordered 1,000), but they have obviously grown wildly, with some almost the size of big, red fishing worms.  But no, we are not going into the bait business.  The idea is to sell the worm castings (products of digestion) as fertilizer.  Supposedly, there is a big market for this.

Worms are often thought of as being a bit detestable, and calling someone a worm is a term of contempt.  However, in the Bible, God calls Jacob (Israel) a worm: "Fear not,  thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the Lord, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel," Isaiah 41:14. Israel is called a worm because she is weak and despised, but God promises His help.

The first verse of the hymn, At the Cross, by Isaac Watts, written in 1707, uses the figurative description of a worthless individual as a worm when it says:

"Alas! and did my Saviour bleed, And did  my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?"

I remember singing that old-fashioned version in church years ago, but the more modern printings read, "Would He devote that sacred head for a sinner such as I?", or "such a one as I."  Evidently, we have grown more "politically correct" in 300 years!

It is ironic that recent scientific research and genetic analysis show there is a similarity between man's make-up and that of the worm!  Of course! We have the same creator!  Actually, this is said to strike a blow to evolutionists, because the genome, or DNA, of the worm (and other species) has not changed in eons, making it impossible for humans to have evolved from anything!  Despite the similarities of our genetic make-up, I'm glad the little creatures living downstairs are not my relatives!

I'm reminded of a poem I wrote when our second son was little:

"What's this? I think, as I remove a box from underneath his bed,
I wonder what's inside as I take off the lid.

"Eek! Wiggly, squiggly, squirmy things! I fling
the box across the room.

"Small boys are easy,
It's just their toys that make me queasy! "

They may be underneath my bedroom, but my husband's "toys" are not underneath my bed!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Heads-Up!

Just as we got into the car to take our son to the airport, his phone rang. "It was the airport," Greg said, "My flight is delayed an hour." Oh well, he said he would just go on and wait the hour.  After we had driven about three-quarters of the way, the phone rang again with the news that the flight had been cancelled!

There wouldn't be another flight until 7:00 that night.  We had gotten up in time to leave by 7:30 a.m. to be there a couple hours early for his flight!  Since he didn't want to hang around the airport all day, we headed back home, but not before getting breakfast at a midway service area.  "We drove a long way to have breakfast at McDonald's! " I quipped.

I had plenty of time to put in the roast and make Sunday dinner when we got home.  Greg had a nap afterwards and we ran an errand, then it was time to go.  I stayed home this time.  When Greg called to see if his father had gotten home alright (he had), he said the plane had been delayed another hour!  He finally got to his destination about the time we went to bed.

I awoke in the grey dawn the next morning to the muffled sounds of our clock's chimes.  Duh, duh, duh duh; duh, duh, duh,duh.  Four sets of them. I counted the musical beats for a total of twelve before it sounded the hour. Then there were six bongs. Six o'clock.  It's almost as if the clock is giving me a heads-up that it is going to sound the hour, I thought.

I couldn't help but think about the times we live in.  Surely no one doubts that these are very momentous days.  Every day alarming new developments point to the loss of our freedoms and a change in our country and world.  It is apparent to many that the time of Jesus's second coming is drawing near.

Matthew 25 gives the story Jesus told of the ten virgins who went out to meet the bridegroom.  The story is presented in the tradition of wedding ceremonies of that time, in which the bridegroom is coming to take the bride to his home for more festivities after already having had religious ceremonies at her home.  No one knows just when he will appear, and the young women grow weary and fall asleep.  When the cry goes out at midnight that the groom is coming, five of them find their lamps have gone out and they do not have time to get more oil.  The other five go into the wedding feast without them.

Jesus uses this as an illustration of his second coming.  Verse 13 says, "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh."  In other verses, Jesus encourages faithfulness when He warns of thinking "...My lord delayeth his coming," Matthew 24:48, and again in Luke 12:45-46, "But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken, (46) The Lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers."

We did not know the flight was going to be delayed.  Greg did not take his luggage from the car at home, however.  He was ready to go at a moment's notice.  Even as he waited at the airport, luggage checked and ticket in hand, there was more delay.  The flight did come, however, and he was ready! Our heads-up was given when Jesus said, "And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh," Luke 21:28.







Sunday, February 8, 2015

Hook Shot!

I was never much of a sports fan, but after going to one of our 9-year-old granddaughter's basketball games, I was hooked! That game led to another, and another, and another since she was in a tournament. Her team  won the play-offs, so I figured I'd get some rest.  Not! Another tournament.  It seemed her team could do no wrong, with only one loss in their season.  I went to the first game of the day yesterday, which they took handily.  Alas, they lost the play-off that afternoon by one point!

The little basketball champ took it hard, but that's what games are all about: winning and losing.  As I watched the energy-charged activity and fierce competition of the kids on their opposing teams, it reminded me of the battle between good and evil on the earth. As believers try to spread the gospel, they are often thwarted by the enemy.  Just as it seemed the ball (the Word of God for these purposes), was about to go into the net, even circling on the hoop, it inexplicably went astray, only to be captured by the opposing team.

Then the battle was on!  A member of the opposition dribbled and shot it to one of their players.  She fumbled it, recovered, but a believer wrested it from her clutched arms, even wrestling it to the floor. A fellow teammate caught the ball, artfully dodged the flailing, intervening arms, and delivered it to one who scored! A soul had received and accepted the gospel!

The Bible says in Ephesians 6:12, "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."

Picture a missionary in a godless place.  He has run up against resistance, even encountering a dangerous situation.  Somewhere back home a Christian feels the urgency to pray for the missionary, falls to his knees and intercedes on his behalf.  Later, it is revealed that his prayer coincided with the exact time of the missionary's need.   He had a team player that intercepted the ball and put it through the hoop!    

In sports, the participants have to play by rules.  Oftentimes, I saw a player get fouled.  The referee noticed immediately.  God has given the Devil legal rights to this earth (actually, Adam gave it to him when he sinned in the Garden of Eden.)  But the Christian has been empowered to stand against the enemy by the presence of the Holy Spirit! He is our divine Coach, Counseler and Comforter, just as the girls' basketball coach advised, corrected them and comforted those who had a bump or scrape!

The little players on our granddaughter's team were ever-vigilant in guarding and blocking  the opponents' moves or at the ready with upthrust arms to receive the ball.  They darted around almost like guardian angels on duty!

The Bible is full of instruction on supporting our fellow-believers.  Moses received help when Aaron and Hur held up his arms in a time of battle (Exodus 17:12).  Hebrews  10:24-25 admonishes us, "And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:  Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more as ye see the day approaching."  Now that is teamwork!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

With a Grateful Heart

"Where did you get your valentines?" I asked a friend in the church hallway last night.  She was carrying a load of large, shiny red hearts, looped over her arm by their white ribbons covered with heart stickers.

"The Missionettes made them for me," she explained, "I take them to the nursing home patients to put on their doorknobs."  I took a closer look and saw they were artfully designed with scrapbooking embellishments of small, wooden hearts, cute sayings, and original drawings by the girls.

What a good project, I thought--helping the children to be thoughtful in service and ministry to others, as well as fostering creativity, self-expression and fun!

My friend was just retiring after 23 years of conducting a weekly nursing home service in a local facility.  My husband and I had attended the service once and saw the love and dedication she had put into it.  She had asked Howard to play the guitar and sing for them that day.

We had just come out of our Wednesday night Bible study on prayer.  This was the final session of a four-week series, and tonight's subject was "Thankfulness."  Jesus was our pattern for thankfulness, as He was always giving thanks to the Father.  He obviously considered gratitude an important quality, for when He healed the 10 lepers and only one returned to thank him, He said in Luke 17:17-18, "Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger."

There is no doubt God takes ingratitude seriously, for when the Israelites complained of the manna and wanted  meat, He sent quail. Then Numbers 11:33 says, "But while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord smote the people with a very great plague."

Their complaining and  lack of thankfulness, despite the parting of the Red Sea, water coming from a rock, and many other miracles they saw, resulted in their wandering in the wilderness for forty years!

Our lesson made me think about being thankful, even for the little things I take for granted.  At breakfast I not only thanked God for the food, but for those who produced it--the chickens that laid the eggs, the cows that gave the milk, the farmers who harvested the wheat for my toast and the workers who processed it. I thanked God for our warm house, the electric lights and even Benjamin Franklin!

I know the residents of the nursing home will be thankful for the gifts of the children, who are learning thankfulness themselves, besides the joy of giving!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Guardian Angels

Throughout my childhood, through raising children, and having grandchildren, our bunch has surely kept the guardian angels busy.  My daughter tells of a time she was talking on the phone at their rural home in Mississippi, while her little  2-year-old girl played in the next room.  As Amy talked, she was vaguely aware of honking horns from the busy road, from which their house sat back some seventy-five feet at the end of a long driveway. "What could be going on?" she wondered, when suddenly there was a knock at the door.

"Lady, is this your baby?" a flustered stranger asked, with little Rachel under his arm. "She has been walking along the road in front of your house and cars are stopping to avoid hitting her!" Our daughter was dumbfounded and overcome with relief, realizing what might have been!  Apparently our little granddaughter had found the screen door unlocked, pushed it open and went for a stroll, unbeknownst to her mother!

Several years earlier, when my oldest daughter was raising small children, it was her turn to praise God for His protection.  They had a cabin on some river-front property they owned, and one day Bethany, about three years old, somehow wandered off without her parents' knowledge.  I don't remember if someone brought her home, or our daughter found her.  But she was discovered a long way from their cabin where she would have to have pass within inches of a surface-level, unprotected swimming pool and several other camps scattered along the winding, up-hill lane.  When noticed, she was running alongside a large dog.  There was no doubt that it had kept her from danger. Sometimes it seems God lets animals have wings.

My own parents could testify of many hair-raising experiences with us children, but I remember one incident from when I was about five.  (This is not when I was run over by our horses!) Mama and Daddy had gone to town, leaving my teen-age sisters to baby sit the younger children.  It was a beautiful summer day, and the girls had put a quilt on the ground for the baby to play on, and we were all sitting around on it in the shade of a big tree, idly plucking little flowers from the grass and talking.

Well, I was mostly listening to their chatter, when I saw our four-year-old brother get up and walk toward Daddy's pickup truck.  I can still see him in his little overalls, the strap tied through a button-hole where the fastener was missing, ambling along in his familiar walk.  He climbed up in the truck.  I thought nothing about it, and I don't know if my older sisters even noticed.  A while later, though, Bobby climbed down, and a few minutes after that, we  noticed smoke curling up from the cab and out the windows.

They ran for the neighbor's house, and a man came running with a fire extinguisher.  But by that time, flames were licking through the windows and smoke was pouring out.  It was too late to save the truck. It was a charred ruin by the time Mama and Daddy got home.

Evidently, Bobby found some matches, struck them, and maybe burned his finger, dropping one onto some papers on the seat which caught on fire.  He didn't tell us what had happened, we could only surmise.  But, Praise God, he got out of the truck in time!  Anything could have happened!  He might have been unable to open the door in fear and panic (which he showed no sign of, though!).

Our quiet little brother kept mum about the incident, never even acknowledging his part in it.  Finally, Daddy bought another truck.  When he brought it home, Bobby looked up at it admiringly and said, "Daddy, I'm not gonna burn this one up!"  I'm sure Daddy picked him up and held him close, thankful he was safe, but the rest of us teased him about it for a long time.  Just another example of God's protection.