Sunday, March 29, 2015

Dust in the Wind

From dust you came, to dust you shall return.  This thought popped irreverently into my mind when I came home to neglected housework.  I sighed, and thought how I hated dusting.  Then I opened the front door, leaving the glass storm door closed.  The sun shone in brightly, and I saw dust on the chair rungs under a table.

Hm, that should be easy with the feather duster, I thought.  But I could see dust particles flying around in the beam of light when I wielded the duster.  So much for that. (I heard of a boy who was sent to retrieve something from under the bed, and he came back saying, "There's so much dust under there, I can't tell if someone is coming or going!")

There is a humorous poem by Rose Milligan that expresses my sentiments exactly:

                                         Dust if You Must

Dust if you must, but wouldn't it be better
To paint a picture or write a letter,
Bake a cake or plant a seed,
Ponder the difference between want and need?

Dust if you must, but there's not much time,
With rivers to swim and mountains to climb,
Music to hear and books to read,
Friends to cherish and life to lead.

Dust if you must, but the world's out there,
With sun in your eyes, the wind in your hair,
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain,
This day will not come around again.

Dust if you must, but bear in mind,
Old age will come, and it's not kind,
And when you go--and go you must--
You, yourself, will make more dust.
               ~~~~~~~~~

When Jesus was teaching about judging others in Matthew 7:3, He said, "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? (4) Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and behold, a beam in in thine own eye?"

This always reminds me of a dust mote in someone's eye, such as a mote that is visible in a beam of sunlight.  It seems as if the beam of sunlight is also in the beholder's eye so that he cannot see to remove the offending particle from his brother's eye.

Jesus has the solution when He says in verse 5, "Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then thou shalt see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye."

I may be more of a Mary than a Martha, whom Jesus told to get out of the kitchen.  Sometimes there are just more important things to do than cook and dust!



Saturday, March 28, 2015

Ancestry

Thanks to genealogy research by a couple of nieces, we have recently learned we are distant relatives of Abraham Lincoln!  Who knew?  It seems my father's 6th great-grandparents are the same people as Lincoln's 4th great-grandparents! That makes me--not his first, nor second cousin, but 8th (or was it 9th) cousin!

Nice information, but useless except to our own ego!  It reminds me of scriptures in the Bible where the Jews were proud of their relationship to another Abraham.  John the Baptist said to them in Luke 3:8, "Bring forth therefore fruit worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham."

We cannot be "grandfathered" in to the kingdom of God!  The "grandfather clause" is used to mean that an old rule may continue to apply to existing situations, but the new rule will apply to future situations. The New Testament and the saving power of Jesus is the new rule!

We have heard the saying, "God does not have any grandchildren."  And it's true! He desires a personal, next-of-kin relationship with each one of us!  I have many grandchildren, from ages 16 months to 28 years.  They have all been raised, or are being raised, to know the Lord, as we raised our children.  They cannot say, "Well, my dad (or grandfather) is a preacher, so that makes me a Christian!" Nor would any of them say, or think to say, that!

My mother was a very devout Christian.  All her grandchildren loved her dearly, and several talk about her getting them to church as youngsters.  She nurtured and implanted them with the Word of God, and most of them give honor to her for pointing them to Jesus.  But they had to make their own decision to serve Him.  Grandma could not do that for them.

Abraham Lincoln was our tallest president, at 6' 4". When I found out about the distant kinship, I remarked, "Maybe that's where our oldest son gets his height!  Or my dad, for that matter!"  They (and others in our family) do have the same tall, lanky build as our 16th president!  But that is a matter of speculation. What really matters is that we trust and serve the great I AM! Jesus said in John 8:58, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am."

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Color Purple

"We need some flowers on our porch," my husband said, referring, I think, to an empty, yellow floral can on a table.  I reminded him that the seasonal flowers I had stored in the basement were misplaced when he reorganized everything down there. I had searched in vain, but was unwilling to unpack all those unidentified boxes!

"Well, we could use those," I  said, pointing to our flowering quince bush, loaded with pink blossoms. We were sitting in the back yard, so I went over and broke off a frond.  Funny, it wasn't nearly so full-looking by itself.  I gathered a few more, some of which sent petals showering to the ground. All together, though, they made a nice bouquet and brightened up the porch corner.

Each day when I step out the front door, I notice that my irises are fat with buds, some about ready to burst into bloom!  I can't wait for their lovely, velvety purple to blanket the iris bed.  They are a cheerful greeting each morning and a warm welcome at the steps when I come home.

I'm seeing purple everywhere this spring! Many fields and lawns locally are covered with a purple mass that just says Spring!  It looks like what we called Sweet William when I was a child. The curious, blooming plant known as henbit is actually a member of the mint family.  Although many consider them weeds, they are tolerated and enjoyed until mowers eliminate them or they are overtaken by grass.

The plant's photogenic appeal caused me to try to capture the fields of lavender that lay like spilled purple paint spreading over the landscape, but my phone pictures didn't adequately portray their beauty. However, a good shot of them appeared in last night's paper!  I guess I need a news camera!  Last fall I took a picture of a field of sunflowers, and not long ago a picture of same appeared in the newspaper showing that someone had won a photo contest with a look-alike photo of the field!  ("My" sunsets or sunrises, courtesy of a newsman's camera, often appear in the paper!)

I even saw a Purple Martin flitting in and out of a bird apartment house yesterday!  They are not actually purple, but perhaps their black sheen appears purple, or even a purple/black in mature males.

Since it is almost Easter, I think of another color purple: The purple robe that was put on Jesus during His scourging before the crucifixion.  His tormentors were mocking the idea that He was a king, so they placed a crown of thorns on his head and put a robe on him that was the color of royalty. That much they had right, though, because He is Royalty.  I often wondered what the purple cloth meant that is hung on a cross during Easter and Lent season until I realized it is a symbol of royalty.

When Jesus was comforting His disciples before he went away, He said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father." John 14:12.

This is often interpreted to mean greater in magnitude. There are millions of Christ-followers in the world today, and the world is being reached in greater magnitude that it was when Jesus was physically on the earth. Like my bouquet of flowers and each frond that looked spindly by itself, bunched together they were a thing of beauty and inspiration, the petals falling to the ground like words of the gospel showering the earth.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Heart of Gold

The still-bare branches of the trees showcase the antics of playful squirrels as they leap from branch to branch and tree to tree. I was noticing them while we sat in the back yard late this afternoon. It was a little before sunset, and the golden glow of the sky set them off in sharp silhouette for our viewing pleasure.

Seeing the squirrels reminded me of something that happened when I was little.  My sister's boyfriend, whom she would later marry, loved to go hunting in the woods in back of and around our country house. I'm not sure how it happened, but it seems he found a nest of baby squirrels, gave them to my brothers, and showed them how to feed and raise the foundlings.

When the squirrels got a little bigger, the outdoorsman made a cage for them by nailing an apple crate to a tree, putting screen wire over it and giving them things like stale biscuits and cornbread to eat.  As a five-year-old, I remember the chickens clucking around under the tree and pecking at the crumbs that fell. The squirrels became tame, but one night a storm came and blew their cage down.  The resident dogs chased them off, and in the process, injured the leg of one of the squirrels.

Mama had a soft spot for animals, wild or tame, so she rescued and cared for the lame squirrel.  It stayed around the house a long time, until finally it began to venture into the woods and she gave it up as gone wild again.

One day Mama heard kids' voices yelling from the blackjack woods and went to investigate.  She found a couple of schoolboys throwing rocks up into a tree.  "What are you boys doing?" she demanded. They replied that they were throwing rocks at a squirrel.

"Wait!" Mama said.  "I think you may be throwing rocks at my pet squirrel."  The boys laughed and ridiculed her, saying, "I think we already hit it with a rock and hurt its leg."

"No! It has a little crooked leg where some dogs got hold of it once," she explained.  The boys looked skeptical and said, "Prove it to us that it's your pet!"

"Here, let me call him," Mama said.  "Here, Squirrely, Squirrely, Squirrely," she called, while the boys laughed.  Just then, the squirrel's head popped up over a tree branch, looking steadily at her for a minute, then it ran down the tree toward her feet!

"See, I told you!" my mother exclaimed. The boys apologized and said they meant no harm to her pet.  As she walked away, in her words, "The squirrel took off for home as hard as it could go!"

Mama didn't just have a soft spot for animals, she also loved people.  Friend or stranger alike didn't leave her house until they had been properly fed.  If someone pleaded that they weren't hungry, her command was, "Eat to keep from getting hungry!" She could always make room for one more at the table or find a bed for one to lay a weary head.

When she was old and widowed and my large family would descend on her in the middle of the night, exhausted from our 500-mile drive from Mississippi, Mama would magically produce mounds of pillows, comforters and blankets, spreading sofas and pallets for the kids and a dreamland of a bed for us.

We drifted off thinking of morning when we knew the aroma of bacon and coffee would wake us, and we would find her sitting at the table with her open Bible, ready to slip a couple dozen eggs into the waiting sea of bacon grease in her huge iron skillet.  She would share not only her golden biscuits, but also the Bread of Life as we lingered late into the morning at her table.  We were safe at home!





Saturday, March 21, 2015

Song in my Heart

"I am blessed, I am blessed, every day that I live, I am blessed.  When I wake up in the morning, and  I lay my head to rest, I am blessed, I am blessed."  One of our favorite choruses.

I was singing and humming  it absent-mindedly the other morning, and I heard myself sing, "I am healed, I am healed, every day that I live, I am healed.  When I wake up in the morning, and I lay my head to rest, I am healed, I am healed."

Hm, that sounds good, I thought.  Then the words, "I am loved, I am loved, every day that I live, I am loved.  When  I wake up in the morning, and I lay my head to rest, I am loved, I am loved," came out of my mouth.

This was fun! And encouraging, too! So I went on: "I am saved, I am saved, every day that I live, I am saved.  When I wake up in the morning, and I lay my head to rest, I am saved, I am saved!"

"I'm a blessing, I'm a blessing, every day that I live, I'm a blessing.  When I wake up in the morning, and I lay my head to rest, I'm a blessing, I'm a blessing!"  If I believe it, I will be one!

What else?  "I'm content, I'm content, every day that I live, I'm content.  When I wake up in the morning, and I lay my head to rest, I'm content, I'm content."

Positive confession is good for the soul, so I added, "I am glad, I am glad, every day that I live, I am glad.  When I wake up in the morning, and I lay my head to rest, I am glad, I am glad!"

Reinforcing what is true, I sing, "I'm forgiven, I'm forgiven, every day that I live, I'm forgiven.  When I wake up in the morning, and I lay my head to rest, I'm forgiven, I'm forgiven."

"Howard, I wrote a new song!" I called to my husband.  He made me sing it for him, then he set about adding verses, strumming it on the guitar as we sang, "I am thankful," "I am His," "I am rich," "I'm satisfied," "I am happy," and many more verses.

We felt positively uplifted!  We plan to sing it with the senior's group, and even at a nursing home service.  Try it, and add your own verses to magnify the Lord.  You'll like it, I promise!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Bad Hair Day

I had just finished brushing my hair into place after my shampoo and drying routine.  I looked at the soft bristles of my new brush and noticed with resignation the several strands of hair glistening in the bright bathroom light. I suppose it's to be expected that hair would thin at my age, but that doesn't make it any easier to accept, especially since I'd grown up with and had exceptionally thick hair most of my adult life.  

Stylists used to like to thin my hair a little, but they haven't done that in a long time.  I've read that it's normal to lose up to 100 hairs a day, and I didn't count that many in my brush; but if it's only a cycle, I'm ready for that cycle to stop!  Thank goodness for hair products that volumize and thicken, and hairsprays that add body!

The Bible says a woman's hair is her glory, so surely God understands our feeling about our hair!  We are even told that the hairs of our head are numbered!

"Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye  not, therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows," Matthew 10:29-31.

That seems hard to understand, but today's science has taught us that each single strand of hair is coded (numbered?) with a genetic code!  If an unidentified body of a person falls to the ground and is found, God has seen to it that it can be known by its DNA, located in hair or any of the millions of cells in the body.

As if hair fall is not distressing enough, especially to the feminine psyche, it is accompanied by that other dreaded harbinger of age--graying! Most women do not go gentle into that phase, fighting it tooth and nail with hair color products. Alas that they never achieve the results of the ads, which picture cascading, shimmering hair reminiscent of the locks of Solomon's dearest.  He clumsily describes the beautiful sight of flocks of goats descending from the mountain, their shiny coats no doubt reflecting the sunlight in undulating waves.

"Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold thou art fair; thou hast doves eyes within thy locks: thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from mount Gilead," Song of Solomon 4:1.

Gray or white hair, among men or women,  is spoken of as a mark of honor in the Old Testament.  May we who have lived long enough to be in this category learn to say with the psalmist in Psalm 71:17-18, "O God, thou has taught me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works.  Now also when I am old and greyheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength to this generation, and thy power to everyone that is to come."  That is our responsibility!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Lifesaver

March 18.  Always in my memory as my brother Bob's birthday.  I kidded him that now we are almost the same age, as he is 74 to my 75 (which will change soon!)  Growing up, I often heard our mother tell that when Bobby was a baby, he couldn't tolerate milk.  He was Mama's 7th child, and as far as I know, she had successfully nursed all her infants into fat and healthy babies.  Nursing did not work for my little brother, though, and despite following the doctor's instructions with different formulas, this baby was not thriving.

Until someone suggested they try him on goat's milk.  My parents didn't have a goat, but they bought one for Bobby.  The milk agreed with him, and soon he was a rosy, happy baby and the picture of contentment. I can still see a picture that used to be in Mama's box of photographs of a toddler in a little dress that baby boys wore then, reaching up to touch the nose of the nanny.  It was captioned in our mother's dear familiar script, "Bobby and his little goat."

As an adult, I have had lots of allergies, one of them being milk, as I was once told by an allergist. We were living in Mississippi,  and she told us of a place that sold fresh goat milk.  We found the country store  in an out-lying area and would go there once a week for a gallon of the delicious, cold milk. When we moved away after hurricane Katrina, I forgot about buying buying goat milk.  Until recently. Now I regularly get a quart at the grocery store, which seems to agree with my digestion.

In Old Testament times, lambs and goats were sacrificed by the priest in Jewish religious rituals.  "And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the Lord's lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering. But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness." Leviticus 16:9-10.

This was before Jesus, the Lamb of God, gave His life to take away our sin.  The scapegoat, running free in the wilderness, symbolized the carrying, or taking away of sins.  Unlike the priests of that day who needed their sins forgiven, Jesus is our High Priest who knew no sin.

By accepting Jesus's sacrifice for our sins, we are like the scapegoat, having been spared from punishment and our lives saved by the death of Jesus.  Our mother always said that that long-ago goat saved her baby's life.  When we accept Jesus as our Saviour, our lives are saved for all eternity. As the song says, "There's a new name written down in glory, and it's mine." We have a brand-new birthday for which a party is held in heaven!

"I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons which need no repentance...Likewise I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth," Luke 15:7, 10.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Taking Note

"Would you like to get something to eat?" our friends called as we started to the car after prayer meeting last night."  Well, sure, we hadn't had supper so it sounded good. Saying we would meet the two other couples at the ice cream store, we followed them out the long church driveway.  We had hardly got started, though, when flashing red-and blue-lights pulled us over!

What could be wrong?  Howard got out his ID and had it ready as the officer approached.  "Nothing major," the genial cop assured us, "but you've got a headlight out."  What? We hadn't known that, as it seemed to be giving light.  He checked the driver's license and asked for proof of insurance. Ah, that, I knew we had, because my dutiful husband always stressed to me to keep it handy in the car.  But he was fumbling with his wallets (he has two), and rifling through the glove compartment, finally pulling out papers from the visor.  That was an expired copy, though.

"I'll just run it on the computer," the policeman said, but Howard assured him he could find it.  Finally, the man checked the computer and came back with the news that all was in order. (Howard had found it by that time.) A warning ticket and no fine sent us on our way.  We were met with quizzical looks and laughter on our explanation of the delay, with stories swapped with the others about like experiences.

Earlier that afternoon, when the temperature was near 80, my husband switched on the car AC and got nothing!  What next?  Why did it choose today to go out?  He pulled out some kind of schematic of fuse locations and said he would work on it tomorrow.  Help us, Lord!  Well, He did, because cool air blasted us after church!

I got to thinking about the striking parallels of these events with spiritual scenarios.  Suppose we were trying to get into heaven, and the angel could not find our names written in the Book of Life?  No proof of insurance with Jesus as the underwriter? Thank God, our names our recorded there.  And any record of wrongs has been cleared by a divine "delete" button on God's computer.

Jesus told a story of the ten virgins on the way to a wedding feast, when the lights of five had gone out. They were not admitted to the wedding supper.  Their oil had "expired." We must keep our light burning bright, with an up-to-date testimony.  Such things may not be possible, but will our friends and loved ones be looking for us and wondering what happened, as our friends did who waited at the ice cream shop?

The Bible teaches that we are to keep ourselves unspotted from the world, James 1:27.   A difficult thing to do with all the contaminants and pollution of today's society.  A few days ago, Howard was spray-painting some of our porch furniture, and I guess I got a little too close, for soon I had an irritated throat, which seems to have evolved into a bronchitis.  We were outside, but the breeze was blowing, and I remember getting a whiff of the paint fumes and hoping I wouldn't be affected.  I was.

Like our working AC in the car, the pure, cooling breezes of the Holy Spirit can only refresh, renewing us from the heat of the day and strengthening us against the enemy, whose destination plans for us are anything but cool!

Revelation 19:7-9 tells of the marriage supper of the lamb, and the saints' white robes of righteousness, the wedding garment.  Fellowship and food among friends here is good, but that is a feast I do not want to miss!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Preparation

Most people get to leave their environment and go to work, but housewives work in their environment! Sometimes I jump right in to my housework while still in my pajamas and house shoes. I did that today, determined to get something done early. Pretty soon, though, I was tiring, so I decided to put on my shoes.  What a difference!  I had a new boost of energy with the support for my feet.

I slipped on some jeans, but didn't bother with the belt.  That was not comfortable, either, but a belt cinched in seemed to give me more resolve!  I dusted, straightened, picked up and used my robot-duster on the bare floors.  (My helpful husband had vacuumed before he left.)

The words from Ephesians 6 came to mind as I thought about Paul's teaching on putting on the whole armor of God.   Verse 15 says we are to have our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. Before that, we read, "Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness," Ephesians 6:14.

I don my apron, putting on my shield of faith that I can persevere over these chores! I will quench all these fiery darts of distraction that sway me from my goal of a clean house!   I turn on the Christian radio station and hear spiritual songs which lift my spirit,  and a word from a preacher--the Word of God!

Putting away magazines and throwing out newspapers, I resist the urge to dwell on the latest headlines, the principalities, powers and rulers of darkness of this world. I gather the various Bibles left open into some kind of organization, thanking God for His Word which fills my mind--the sword of the Spirit.

Some say that all this preparation of putting on the armor of God is to get ready for the real battle in verse 18, the battle of prayer: "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints."

After this work-out,  I was refreshed by a shower and my view of chores.   My husband came into a clean house with a tasty lunch I had prepared, creating an atmosphere conducive to harmony in the home, even as Paul concludes the book of Ephesians with words of peace, love, faith and grace.  The real goal of housekeeping!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Porch Season

First thing in the morning after my husband left, I took a beautiful red apple from a bowl, put some chicken tenders on to simmer, and chopped the apple and celery for a chicken salad lunch. Howard called about 11:45 to say he was on his way home.  I started to set the table, then a thought occurred to me: Why not eat on the porch?  It was a beautiful day, if not too cool, but when I went to check, it was perfect!

Quickly I unfolded a small, slatted table and chairs and brushed them off.  I grabbed some paper plates, then remembered the new dishcloths that would work as table mats. We could use our rustic, country jar mugs bought recently.  So casual that  I left the chicken salad in the mixing bowl.  When we had begun to eat, I said, "I should take a picture of this! But I need a prettier bowl!" Putting the remaining salad into a smaller bowl, I told Howard to wait while I took the pic.  He enjoyed getting all the "likes" on his photo!

Now that spring is almost here, we are anticipating more times of relaxation on our front porch. The winter seemed to go on forever, making us appreciate the recently-warm days even more.  I was thinking of a time a porch was mentioned in the Bible, only this time it was not spring. "And it was at Jerusalem, the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. And Jesus walked the temple in Solomon's porch," John 10:22-23.

I could just see Jesus wrapping his robe more tightly about Him in the winter chill as He strode along. Jesus knew his time was short.  He had just come through a season of popularity.  His miracles, his teachings, and the belief that he was a deliverer of the people had even made them parade him as a king, making a cloak-strewn path for him to trod. What a joyous time of good will He had experienced.  But now He was in a time of winter.  The populace had turned against him. Crucifixion loomed on the horizon.

Even though it is becoming spring, it seems as if we as Christians are in a time of winter.  Every day new condemnation comes to us in media, government, and much public opinion.  Our freedoms are being threatened if not taken away.  We are barely allowed to speak of our beliefs. It is not popular to be a Christian; some even say we are not a Christian nation.

The porch Jesus used in the Bible was called a portico.  A portico is an entrance to a building, often a long hallway with columns.  This is what Jesus walked that day.  Jesus knew that at the end of his earthly walk, He would enter the portico of Heaven. But first, He would arise from the dead in a joyous Easter spring!

Winter is past, and in just a few weeks we will celebrate Easter. But it will be nothing like the glorious sunrise of the day we enter the portals of heaven, the dark, chilling gloom of troubled times behind us.  We are about to step onto the porch!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Tidings of Spring

"For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land." Song of Solomon 2:11-12.

What a wonderful day to be in the country! I had taken up my husband's invitation to go watch him paint the fence on our son's farm. After a few "you missed a spot" comments, the bright blue sky, the floating white clouds and the fresh breeze pulled me away for a stroll down toward the stream. Gazing down into the ravine at the ledge of rocks, the green of cedar and the sculptured, yet bare trees, I went back for my camera phone.

How exhilarating!  My quest for picturesque photo ops led me further until I was on a virtual hike! The dried reeds I pushed aside didn't bother me as I traipsed through the thatch of matted grass down the valley and up the slope, past weathered sheds and out-buildings perched above shelves of rock.  The lake rested just out of sight above the levee, and I just had to see it!

It was a little steep, but there were a couple of worn trails curving up to the top, courtesy of thirsty cows, and I was glad I negotiated one of them when I saw the beautiful expanse of water mirroring the blue of the sky.   The lake lay calm and serene, minus the ducks and geese that had glided its surface only a few weeks before.  I looked for the resident blue heron, a huge bird whose flutters startle when its grey shadow erupts from nowhere into flight.

The beautiful weather made me forget about yesterday's cold, grey rain.  Now the land was only refreshed and renewed by it.  At home, I saw my first robin the other morning, perched beside a yellow, lily-like shoot blooming solitary in the grass.  From my kitchen window, I see that the buds on the flowering quince are pink and fat, some unfurling fragile petals. They will soon become a cloud of color for my viewing pleasure, as I stand at the sink at my tasks.

Just as we tire of winter and dismal days,  our outlook can be clouded by the grey rain of bad news and world conditions. Just as we long for and welcome our earthly Spring, we long for and expectantly wait for the words from our Lord, "Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away," Solomon 2:10.

"Behold, he standeth behind our wall, He looketh forth at the windows, Shewing himself through the lattice." Solomon 2:9.

What a beautiful picture!





Monday, March 9, 2015

Daybreak

I looked at the time when I awoke after a fitful night's sleep.  We had gone to bed early enough, but late by the Daylight Savings Time that had gone into effect yesterday.  Now it was 7:48, almost eight o'clock, and I wanted to attend a Ladies' Bible Study at the church at 9:00.  Since I like to eat breakfast,  I made oatmeal, sliced some strawberries and banana and grabbed a few blueberries.  My husband had arisen earlier and made his breakfast; now he was sound asleep.

Stepping over throw pillows and dislodged bedding, I located shoes and clothes and headed for the shower.  Our only bathroom is small, and when I laid my towel on a bench holding my favorite soap dish (not your regular soap dish, but a 12-inch, graceful, ceramic bathtub), I heard a crash.  My soap dish!  In a dozen pieces!  What a start to the morning!

Then Howard rushed me out of the bathroom, so my hair and makeup were done in stages, but I finally grabbed purse, keys and phone and got out of the house.  I saw a roadside clock on the way showing straight-up nine.  Well, it was little more than a 10-minute drive, so I wouldn't be too late.

Hm, that's strange, I thought.  This time change must have gotten to a lot of people, for only a couple of cars were parked at the church.  No one was in the meeting room, but I saw a light and thought I heard voices at the end of the corridor.  I called hello, and a woman came out of the kitchen.  "We're getting the coffee ready," she said.  When I wondered where everyone was, she said, "It doesn't start till 9:30."  9:30!  The bulletin had said nine, but turned out that was a printing error!

The study was on I and II Thessalonians, Children of the DAY, a video series by Beth Moore. What a treat that was!  And really only the introduction  of the first of 9 sessions!  Her animated, rapid-fire enthusiasm and skillful delving into word meanings, let alone the art of bringing Bible personalities to life and sharing personal examples from her own life, resulted in renewed appetite for the scriptures in her listeners.

But one of the best parts was meeting many ladies I didn't know and who didn't know me.  Some didn't even know I went there, since the church is large and it's hard to meet people on the other side of the church at greeting time.  I had brushed shoulders with some at other activities, but this was a chance to get to know them better.  I enjoyed showing pictures of grandchildren on my phone, and admiring theirs.  Prayer needs were shared and prayed over, giving insight and understanding of the concerns of our neighbors.

The lesson dealt with the famous parting of the ways of Paul and Barnabas, and how God used that to spread the gospel in different areas.  Beth Moore introduced the possibility that sometimes change is necessary to accomplish God's will and to open new doors of opportunity that might never have surfaced otherwise. Perhaps that will happen for me.  We have been in a season of change recently and are open to what God might have for us!  I can't wait until next week, when all the wrinkles will have been ironed out and I will be there at the right time!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Walking the Walk

"Are we going to have  a foot-washing?" I  whispered to my husband when I saw the altar lined with hundreds of small, folded towels this morning.  I had recently seen pictures of a Kids' Church service at our granddaughter's church in Texas, where they are preparing for Easter by acting out scenes of the night when Jesus was betrayed and He washed the disciple's feet.  The children were "washing" one another's feet with wet-wipes. Turns out our towels were "service" towels and handed out to the congregation.

Our church has started a campaign to "Get Involved." Posters have been put around the walls listing 39 areas of service available, with invitations open for additional ministries which others may feel drawn to.  Being fairly new to this congregation and involved in only a few activities, we studied the sheets and took some to consider and pray about.  (At my age, it is tempting to leave things to others, while I concentrate on planning trips to see my scattered family and rest between times!)

I do try to practice random deeds of kindness, though, in everyday little events and opportunities. Such as today when our order at the restaurant was a little mixed up, and when I asked for something, our waitress got distracted, even joining in a birthday song at another table while I waited.  When she brought it after a reminder, I controlled my urge to complain, thanking her and saying I knew how busy she was. I'm sure my husband left her a tip.

I was so touched when my daughter wrote about her 12-year-old's desire to do something for homeless people.  She wanted to make a blessing jar filled with snacks, necessities and nice-to-have items for the less fortunate.  This would in be a re-usable, plastic gallon jug.  She made a long list of things to have in it, considering and deliberating over each item and its cost.

This very serious and spiritual child  would not budge from her impressions that these items were what she should include, even though her parents made suggestions.  She did agree that they could share this vision with the church and make it available for donations.  Soon she had her blessing jar full, hand-printed a personal note, copied John 3:16, and wrote out the plan of salvation and encouraging words for the recipient and included them in the jar.

A minister/singer friend of mine from Mississippi, also a Facebook friend, mentioned that when she drove into a McDonald's parking lot recently, she noticed a cat prowling around hungrily.  She was touched with compassion and went in and bought the cat a fish-burger! She said when she retires she plans to have a place for homeless animals.

Given under the guise of joking, I suppose, I was stung the other day by a derisive remark made to me.  I didn't respond, however, willing myself to practice kindness.  Although I stewed over it while trying to sleep that night, I finally felt at peace when I turned it over to the Lord.  The next morning I was amazed to read this scripture shared on Facebook: "No weapon that is formed against thee will prosper; and every tongue that shall rise up against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord."

Although getting involved in the Lord's service at the church is wonderful, we are always called upon to be involved with care, concern, and kindness at a personal level, even figuratively washing someone's feet.   Doubt and discouragement may come in, but if  God is with us, who can be against us?


Friday, March 6, 2015

A Sower Went out to Sow...

"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver," Proverbs 25:11.  Howard came out of the bank smiling.  We had recently opened an account there since our previous bank had relocated to another city.  We had gotten acquainted with the friendly, young accounts manager, and learned she was a believer and had even done missions work.

My husband carries scripture cards he has had printed almost everywhere he goes.  When he concluded his business, he had given the lady one of them.  "You should have heard what she said when she read it!" he exclaimed. "She said, 'You don't know how I needed this today!' and hugged me!"

I looked at the card and saw the words from Psalm 91:10-11, "There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any evil come nigh thy dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways."  Howard said there was much hustling and bustling, arranging of flowers and fluttering about in the bank as employees readied everything for their grand opening later that morning.  I could imagine the tension and pressure the girl was under. No wonder she gave him a hug of  appreciation!

A little later, we were checking out from a store, the cashier keeping up a bright chatter--for our benefit, I could tell.  I was pushing the cart back in place when I noticed Howard handing her one of  the cards. She looked at it, and the empty facade of cheer faded as the worry-lined face softened. "Oh, you don't know how I needed this today!" she murmured.

Then at the counter when I was returning an item at Walmart, we chatted with an acquaintance working there, and Howard gave her the scripture card. She read the words he had printed at the top that say, "Keep this--When the pressure gets on, pull this out and read it--" followed by the verses in Psalms. "I  will!" she exclaimed as we walked away.

"For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither,  but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: 
So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." Isaiah 55:10-11.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Middle

"Daddy, am I still the middle child?" my five-year-old granddaughter asked her father.  I guess she's still getting used to her new status since her baby brother was born 15 months ago. I'm not sure if she thinks it's a favored position or a less desirable one!

There are many studies that show birth order has a big influence on who we are and the effect it has on our personality. Typically, firstborns are leaders, conscientious, and mature, as compared to secondborns who tend to be happy-go-lucky, outgoing and a little rebellious.  All, supposedly, because of the way they are treated by their parents, who are probably up-tight with the first, and relaxed with the second and succeeding children.  And parents may treat the first child like a little adult, while the others are allowed more childlike ways.

Lastborns, as the baby of the family,  are often the favored child, especially as seen in the eyes of their siblings.  My husband was a lastborn, also a third child.  However, there was considerable space between him and his two brothers, so he grew up more like a first or only child, but still with some benefits of the "baby."

Our son, Benjamin (aka Jamie) was the youngest of six.  I, also, was a sixth child.  But I think I felt more like a middle child, in that I felt lost in the shuffle of five older siblings and five younger ones.  In a way, being an older sister to five younger brothers  made me feel like a first child, while being the younger sister of the others, the "baby girl," probably made  me a little dependent.

The boy-girl-boy, boy-girl-boy, configuration of my children's births no doubt had some effect on their environment.  The first child followed the typical pattern of oldest child: responsible, serious, mature, while the second one was definitely more laid back.  The close proximity in age of the two middle boys caused a natural alliance of friendship between them.  The last two were almost like only children, being boy and girl with little common interests.  Our daughter was  precise and serious, but the "baby" was laid back and care free, for the most part.

A niece of mine and friend on Facebook keyed in on some references to childhood events I had made in a blog, and soon we were comparing her memories from her late mother, one of my sisters. She was older than me, so many of my thoughts were from the frame of reference of a younger sister.  But as I grew up, my sister related to me as a teen, and finally as a contemporary after we were married. To her children, I am an aunt from an older generation, although they feel more like contemporaries to me.

First, middle or last of a dozen, we are all special to God.  He knew us before we were even conceived, Jeremiah 1:5, "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee." Psalm 139:13-18 speaks of God's oversight and care for us before we were born. These psalms by David say we are fearfully and wonderfully made and that God thinks of us constantly.

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end," Jeremiah 29:11. (Some versions say "to give you a hope and a future.") So whether Maddie is still the middle child or not, she can rest assured she is still in the middle of God's thoughts and plans for her!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Spring Tonic

Why stay in the house and be uninspired on yet another snow day?  How much more fun to sit in McDonald's and have the place practically to ourselves, sitting on the curved seating at a round table in front of flat-screen wall TVs with the latest news and weather?  Weather we could watch out the plate glass windows in a panoramic view of almost-horizontal, north-wind-driven snow? Besides that, the burger and fries lunch was good in the bright, cheery setting, and the apple pies were tasty!

"Ma'am, did you mean to leave your purse over there?" a man asked over my shoulder.  We had moved from a booth to our present seat, and sure enough, there was my purse behind me!

"Oh, thank you!" I exclaimed as he handed it to me.  He must have been the only other customer, and as he left I saw a Dish-TV logos on his shirt. "You have done your good deed for the day!" I called after him.  Thank God for nice people!

The snow was letting up, and Howard said he wasn't ready to go home yet, so we opted to browse in Hobby Lobby.  Talk about inspiring!  Spring was bursting out all over inside with Easter decor in full bloom!  I went one way, taking my time, filling my senses with the colors, novelty, and delight of imaginative merchandise in the all-enveloping background of soft, sweet hymns while my husband headed to office supplies.

I marveled at, deliberated over and considered any number of items, from lovely ceramics, to wall art, to furniture and musical greeting cards before my interest waned and I grew tired.  I found Howard still in office supplies, but he guided me to some things that had caught his eye in the decor area: Filling station signs, a decorative tractor that could be the twin of the one in our son's farm pasture, and a molded acrylic cowboy holding what I thought was a miniature rolling pin.  "Is he a chuck-wagon cook?" I asked, then I laughed when he pointed out it was a bathroom tissue holder!

I still hadn't bought anything, but I selected a miniature Easter display of tiny eggs and flowers in a rustic pail at 40% off. Then I saw a sign that read, 90% off!  A beautiful brocade, fringed pillow that would look perfect on my brown leather sofa!  There were two, but I just took one.  Now I realize two would be better, so I may go back for the other one.  The frigid wind that took our breath away as we stepped outside made us glad to hurry back to our cozy home, so welcoming and pleasant viewed from a new perspective that getting out of the house is sure to bring!


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Sisters

In a blog the other day, I mentioned something that jogged the memory of a niece, reading it in another state.  In a response to her comment I said I recollected the incident she was referring to about her mom, several years older than me, and her then boyfriend, my niece's future dad. I remembered that he had a car and loved to do "donuts" to impress her and us kids.

I didn't tell her about the time on the hot summer day when they and some of the older kids decided to go swimming at the COAL  PITS! A popular, but daring, swimming place with deep, blue water and decidedly more adventurous than the Salty Dog, our more mundane swimming hole, which had a shallow, sandy bottom slanting to deeper water below an embankment great for jumping from.

Being only six years old, I was excluded from the swimming venture, but I begged to go anyway. Finally, when they weren't looking, I got into her boyfriend's car and hid down in the floor of the back seat.  Things were going "swimmingly," me listening to their chatter from the front seat and thinking maybe I should make my presence known.  I popped up, to their surprise and annoyance, and I think it was a half-donut he did to take me home!

My niece also recalled a story my sister had told her of her teen years.  I didn't remember this story, but I could relate.  It seems our mother had made a big supper and invited my future brother-in-law to eat with them.  As I noted in my blog, drinking glasses were scarce in our household, and my sister was embarrassed when she saw that  each place was set with a tin can!  He didn't mind, but she wouldn't come to the table.

I thought of the time when I was a teenager and my brothers invited Howard over to spend the night at our house.  They knew him from school before I met him, but I liked him and had admired him from a distance at church.  I was highly uncomfortable and embarrassed that he was there, and I stayed in my room, not even going to breakfast the next morning because of my curlers!  (He said he kept looking for me and wondering where I was.)  

Howard loved my family dearly, with its houseful of boys and activity,  and I finally got used to his presence.  We've been married nearly 57 years, and my sister was married at least 50 years.  When they were first married and even after her babies came along, she would often take me home with her, cut my hair and give me a perm, buy a pattern and material and make me a dress, or just take me shopping or to a movie. I looked up to my beautiful, talented big sister, and I cherish her memory.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Improvisation

"I love this cereal," my husband said as he was eating a bowl of Cheerios for a bedtime snack last night.  "When I was little, I called them wheels.  I'd tell my dad, 'Bring me home some wheels!'" His dad had a grocery store, so I guess it was no problem.

"I never ate them as a child," I reflected.  "All we had was Post Toasties (corn flakes) or  Mother's Oats." Actually, it was mostly oats, that and cornmeal mush, because corn flakes were gone in one setting with eight of us kids slurping them down.

Howard had poured the cereal from one of his new containers we had bought on our trip.  We had accompanied Jamie's family on a trip to Sam's, and since there is no Sam's in our small town, we always enjoy gazing at the merchandise there.  He had spotted a pack of three nice storage containers with pour-spout lids. When we got home, he purchased new cereal for them and lined them up neatly on the top shelf.

Must be our age, but more and more we find ourselves nostalgic about the past.  When we saw a Mason-jar-like drinking set at Sam's, he insisted we get that, too!  It was cute, with striped straws sticking out of the colored lids and a Velcro burlap strip lettered with catchy sayings around the jar. As kids, my siblings and I drank from Mason jars, which we broke regularly, then it was Mama's vegetable tin cans that didn't break! (No doubt the forerunners of the  colorful aluminum tumblers popular in the fifties!)

An old saying of leaner times was, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." What with our being semi-confined with snow for several days, I find myself practicing that a bit.  Making cookies would be a pleasant way to fill an afternoon, I mused, but I lacked a few ingredients, like butter.  I had found a partial bag of miniature chocolate chips, left over from the chocolate chip pancakes I had made for grandchildren once.

Throwing caution to the wind, I poured the last of my biscuit mix into a bowl, worked in a little Country Crock spread, added an egg, sugar, a bit of milk, soda and the chocolate chips, then dropped spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet. (I forgot vanilla, which I did have.) Amazingly, the cookies were delicious! Brown, crispy and sweet, with tiny bursts of chocolate!

"I guess we can call these 'bookies,'" I quipped to my munching husband.  Then I said they reminded me of tea cakes, to which he said "tea biscuits," which is what they called tea cakes in Mississippi.  Whatever we called them, they got eaten, and, thankfully, I finally did get to the store for butter and other things! Thankfully, because we got several inches of snow yesterday, which is frozen today.

Looking out the window, remarking how snowy it is, I thought of the poem by Robert Frost, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. In it, he talks about "the sweep of easy wind and downy flake," a scene evoking relaxation in the comfort of a cozy house with tea cakes on a plate, a Mason jar on a tray, and enough memories to keep us warm!








There all the Time

"Howard!" I exclaimed to my husband.  "This GPS is so old it won't pick up Mark's address!"  I knew we should have had it updated long before this, but there was no time to think about that now. We were on the--up until now--pleasant drive from our son Jamie's house and headed to a suburb of Austin.  We had come this way many times, but always with someone else!

Well, I thought I would just program in a random address in their town that the  GPS would accept and figure it out from there.  When I told Mark that over the phone, he said he'd never heard of the road the GPS gave us, and attempted to give us directions. He said to stay on our route until we came to I-35, which was where a toll road began (at least that's what I thought he said), then go north.

"There it is!" I pointed out when I saw the interstate sign.  But was that going north or south?  I saw the arrow pointing north, so we took that approach, but it became obvious we were going south when downtown Austin came into view with huge buildings and congested traffic. Another frantic call to Mark, whose cryptic reply was, "Take the nearest exit and turn around." Okay.  But how far to go?

Mark told us the name of an exit that was near their area.  We were to get off there and he would tell us where his wife Rhonda would meet us and lead us to their house.  Despairing of finding the exit after miles of driving, Howard pulled off and asked a trucker where it was.  "There is no such exit," he pronounced.  We said we were actually trying to find their little town, which he said was about 15 miles farther!

Before we took off, another call to our son.  Mark said, "You must go to the exit I told you.  It's only two exits more."  This time we spotted it.  "Rhonda will meet you at the H-E-B that is about...let's see...five stoplights away," he assured us.  I counted off five stoplights, then we drove probably another five miles.

"We must have passed it," I wailed.  So hubby pulls off and asks a lady coming off a side street if there was an H-E-B (supermarket) near there.  She said it was just down the road.  We found it and called Rhonda, who had gone into the store to pick up something for lunch. She said she could see us out the window, to just sit tight.  Howard couldn't be still, however, getting out into the frigid gale with a question to bundled-up customers hurrying against the wind to their cars.

Losing sight of our daughter-in-law's car  only a few times, we followed her home.  After lunch with her and our grandson, we rested until Mark came home an hour or so later, and had a wonderful evening and a restful night.  The next morning as we were getting ready to go home on a break between snow and ice predictions, Mark mentioned that we probably have a GPS on our iPhone.  He located and pointed out the icon labeled Navigation.  We had never noticed it before!

We didn't need it on our trip home, because our old GPS worked fine for that.  But we tried it out anyway when we neared home.  We just called Siri, the automated voice that dirccted us precisely from a visual map along every mile and every turn we needed to make!  What a life-saver!  It could have prevented all our mix-ups!  And to think we had it all the time!

That's just like the Lord, I thought.  Ready and waiting for us to call on Him in time of trouble, and even with us when we are not aware of His presence.  Well, He certainly was with us on this trip! Our true Navigator through life! He was there all the time.