Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Heavenly

"Mama, I know what I'm giving you for your Christmas present that I never got to give you," my daughter Amy said over the phone awhile back. "A panini!" she said.  A panini?  I wasn't sure what it was, though I figured it was some kind of sandwich maker, since I'd seen these sandwiches on the menu at different restaurants.

We saw Amy and our granddaughters at our son's house in Houston for Easter. After an incredible week-end, and as we were taking our leave, Amy pressed something into my hand.  "Here is $50 for you to buy a panini press," she said.  "I'm sorry it took so long."  That was the least of my worries, because I know what a busy life she leads, with a demanding job and three emerging young adults in her house. College, proms, cars and all manner of needs and activities vie for her attention.

As soon as  we got home from our trip, we set out to buy a panini press.  I had no idea where to  get one, but we found one at a department store in another city.  It was marked $99.00, though.  However, the sign said, "Reduced: $69.00." We decided to take it, and at the register we were given other discounts, so the total was something like $54.00!  Perfect!  When I told our daughter about it, she said that it was a fancier one than she had!

Now we are enjoying the new appliance.  We find ourselves shopping for it, getting tempting cold cuts and experimenting with special breads.  Her father loves the pressed, toasted sandwiches with the grill marks on them. I found out "panini" is the Italian word for "pressed bread."

I thought about Jesus in the garden of Gethsamane.  The word, "Gethsamane" means place of the olive press.  Jesus went there on the night He was betrayed.  It was among the old olive trees on the night of His passion that he prayed while His disciples slept. Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsamane and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder," Matthew 26:36.

It was as if Jesus were being pressed in the olive press, because his agony was so intense that the Bible says in Luke 22:44, "And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground."

Knowing that bread is "the staff of life," for people, Jesus called himself "the bread of life."  John 6:35, "And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst."

During the feast of Passover, the Jews ate unleavened bread called Matzah bread.  It was baked flat and with tiny holes pierced into it for even baking.  The holes were in lines, and when the bread baked, ridges arose and were browned intermittently, making the bread looked striped. The stripes and piercing of Jesus are are seen in this representation.

The heavy top that presses down  on our panini grill marks our bread with stripes.  I don't think I'll ever look at the grill marks the same way, remembering how our Bread of Life came down from heaven and gave His all for our salvation.  Thank you, Amy, for the gift given at Easter, the day of His resurrection!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

New Season

What is it about spring that makes you want to refresh, clean out, and clear out clutter around the house? One day I took a look at my house and knew some changes had to be made.  "Howard," I called, "Would you help me move  some of this stuff to the basement?"  Out went an extra rocker, a bedroom table, and a couple of chairs.

I had already begun to downsize my kitchen by moving a serving cart to the laundry room where it conveniently holds supplies.  Just a few changes really helped and opened up space. We stored winter clothes and relieved closet space.

Then I looked at the screened front porch.  "We need a new porch rug," my husband had been saying, to which I would reply, "Why? It would just get dirty!"  With my husband's farm-work hobby/job, he tracks a lot of dirt!

Yesterday was a beautiful, gorgeous Saturday, so nice after the leaden skies and unseasonably cool days lately.  "Let's go to Stillwater!" I suggested.  We love to go there for an outing, have lunch, and browse the discount stores.  "We could probably find a porch rug at Ross," I said tantalizingly.

Giving the area a perfunctory glance before looking in the clothing departments, I was disappointed that the space normally displaying rugs was bare.  Later, I looked further and saw a few small rugs in another aisle.  There was one possibility in the right size, though, so I called my husband to come see. He was tired and wanted to go home by then, but he finally agreed to look.  He was a little doubtful, but the price was right, so we bought it.

What a difference it makes to our porch!  The colors on the patterned rug blend with the furniture, and everything looks so bright and cheerful!  I rearranged by putting the garden wagon on the front patio to hold flowers, necessitating a few more helpful changes.  We were tired, in a good way, and we sat and lingered long and appreciatively over the improvements.

Change is necessary sometimes, even in our lives, and especially our spiritual lives.  We embarked on a change a couple of months ago to discontinue our cable service.  It was expensive, and really didn't have much on that was edifying.  I realize I am a lot less stressed without the constant alarming news riveting me to the screen.  I can find out what's happening in a calmer state by reading the daily newspaper, not to mention the internet.

I find I am reading more, giving time to Bible study preparation, and enjoying wholesome, Christian videos.  Listening to Christian music on the radio (I never was a radio listener) while I do my housework is uplifting and spiritually edifying. I have more time for prayer and meditation without the distraction of television viewing.

Spring cleaning can be a good thing!  It can add a spring to your step (my husband's favorite expression), and spiritually, give you springtime in your soul!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Marry Me!

We are having a wedding in the family in June.  One of our grandsons is getting married!  The excitement has been building over the last few months of the couple's engagement.  Stephen and Kaitlin (names changed for privacy) are making their plans long-distance.  They can't be together yet, since she  has to finish college.

It is fun to keep up with the progress of the wedding plans via Facebook.  Weddings seem to be more complicated nowadays.  A venue must be decided on, wedding party chosen, and a million details that seem to fall to the bride.  Early on, Kaitlin showed off a pretty, hand-crafted wedding planner journal. Then her little flower girl was announced.  A little later, news was that she had found her wedding gown!

Meanwhile, she can't stop talking about her groom-to-be.  Pictures of him float on internet with words singing his praises. His good looks, personality, kindness and thoughtfulness are extolled.  (Of course, I agree with them!)  Everything reminds Kaitlin of Stephen.  She found a guitar pick of his in her car and marveled over it, remembering his strumming and singing.

I can't help but think about the church's role as the bride of Christ, our soon-coming Bridegroom!  We should be as my  future granddaughter-in-law: Can't stop talking about Him.  Telling of  the Lord's goodness.  Finding daily reminders of him in our lives through answered prayer, the beauty of creation, or little things that make us know He is thinking of us!

Meanwhile, Jesus is preparing a place for us, just as it is Stephen's role to secure an apartment for them in the distant city where they will live.  When I asked my daughter how he would know if Kaitlin likes the home he selects, she said he would send her pictures.  Jesus has sent us word pictures about our heavenly home.  We are told there are streets of gold, a beautiful river, a place of joy and gladness. Most important of all, He says, "Where I am, there ye may be also."

Kaitlin has an engagement ring.  This is her promise of a wedding.  Jesus gives us "the earnest of our inheritance," Ephesians 1:14. Verse 13 says, "In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with the holy Spirit of promise."

When the time comes that the new couple will want to buy a house, earnest money, or a deposit, may be called for, insuring that they will follow through on the purchase.  The Holy Spirit Jesus gave us is our "earnest money" on our new home in heaven!

A couple of days ago I read Kaitlin's post on Facebook that "The cake has been ordered!" It made me wonder if "the cake has been ordered" in heaven, with the angels getting it ready for the marriage supper of the Lamb!  The invitations have been sent, just as the young couple's invitations will be sent, and I plan to be there for both weddings!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Vive la Difference!

"Oh good!" I said, "The pansies have started blooming again."  The recent cool, rainy weather had brought out the little plants whose blossoms like tiny faces were bobbing in the gentle wind.  It's funny how different plants have their preferences.  My zinnias and marigolds love the sun, but not too much water. Others, like coleus, hostas and impatiens prefer shade.

It seems God created plants with different personalities just like he created people with different personalities and preferences!  And some love different seasons just as we do!  When the weather starts to get hot, my pansies wilt away.  But while we are between seasons, the different flowers co-exist in a lovely profusion of colors in the containers.

Our new Bible study is on Women of the Bible. Last night the selection was Eve, the mother of all living. This week we will concentrate on Rebekah.  It is obvious in her life that she had different strengths at different times of her life.  Early on, she was physically strong as evidenced by her drawing water for the 10 camels of Isaac's servant.  She was courageous in her willingness to leave her family to become Isaac's bride.

Later, she became deceitful as she helped her favorite son, Jacob, trick his brother out of his inheritance. From a woman of great faith, she became a woman who took it upon herself to determine the destinies of her sons. She was a woman of mixed strengths and weaknesses, like most of us.

Rebekah sided with the son who liked to stay around the house doing domestic things.  While Abraham favored the son who was an outdoorsman.  Despite the ensuing conflict, the brothers reunited peaceably later on.  There is room for all types of personalities in God's creation.

As a younger woman, I was shy and uncertain.  But I found strengths I didn't know I had in raising six children (who had their own differences in personality).  Now I am much more confident and don't feel at all as I did previously.

At our Bible study, we discussed Eve's temptation, and how our temptations may change with age.  One class member said she was not tempted by things that used to tempt her. I no longer yearn for a luxurious home, but am content with an ordinary home that I can make comfortable by my own personal touches and imagination.

Just as the flowers blend together beautifully, so those of like precious faith, though different in many aspects, can combine to present a beautiful picture of the body of Christ.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Little is Much

On our way home from an Easter trip to Texas, we stopped at the famed Collin Street Bakery.  Howard was determined to buy one of their delicious fruitcakes.  It wasn't for us, though.  At our Wednesday night Bible study, cookies are usually served, and he had the idea to take a fruitcake to share.

Since many people don't like fruitcake, I was wondering if it would be appreciated.  Our pastor is from Texas, though, so I was happy to hear him say, "If you folks don't eat some of this fruitcake, you don't know what you're missing!"  They did like it, and we still had some to take home.

I was reading the little brochure that was packaged inside the fruitcake container and learned that the popular cake, called "DeLuxe," had its beginning in 1896 when a baker from Germany, who had brought his old-world skills and traditions with him, had a bakery in the bottom of a Texas hotel.  When guests, including Will Rogers, John Ringling and the like tasted the trademark cake, they had the cakes mailed to family and friends back home.  The cakes are still being mailed world wide today, especially at Christmas.

This reminded me of how small beginnings can lead to something very large.  Zechariah 4:10 says, "For who hath  despised the day of small things?"  Although he was referring to rebuilding the temple, it is a principle and example throughout the Bible.  When Sanballat heard that the wall of Jerusalem was being rebuilt by the efforts of Nehemiah and the help he had enlisted, he became very angry. The Bible says in Nehmiah 4: 1 that "he was wroth...and mocked the Jews."  In the next verse, he is saying, "What do these feeble Jews?"  Nevertheless, the work was completed!

When Jesus was teaching about the kingdom of God, He  made a comparison by saying, "It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth: But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it." Mark 4:31-32.

This parable has come to pass in our day, as we see the Word of God, first spread by the early Christians, spreading all over the world.  David writes in Psalm 34:8, "O taste and see that the Lord is good."  As people realize God is a good God, they understand this and embrace Him.  The bakers of long ago have passed down the recipes, baking methods and traditions that go into the cake known as "DeLuxe." Best by Taste Test used to be a slogan for a brand of bread, I think. It seems to fit here! The Lord is good!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Son Light

"Oh, look how beautiful!" I exclaimed.  We were in the garden department at Lowe's and had come upon a shipment of gorgeous, maroon-red coleus.  The large leaves waved majestically in the breeze of the open-air space.  "Let's get some!" I suggested to my husband.  He agreed and we put a couple of pots in our cart.

I had second thoughts, though, as I read the care instructions on the plastic plant marker sticking out of the pot.  Shade only, it said, no sun. I knew they were a shade plant, but the only place I had for flowers was sunny.  If I placed them near a tree in the back yard, they would be too far away for me to enjoy.  Reluctantly, we put them back.

Howard was almost to the car, but I lingered over plants displayed outside the store.  Some pretty zinnias in bright colors caught my eye.  I've always loved zinnias, ever since my mother grew them around her vegetable gardens. These were reasonably priced, too, in six-packs for less than $2.00.  I took all four packs, calling to my husband that I had found something.

I knew they would be about $8.00, and I had a ten in my purse.  I was surprised when the clerk handed me my change, which was something like $7.79!  Puzzled, I glanced at the receipt, when the cashier said, "These were marked down."  They were only 50 cents each!  I got the lot of them for $2.00! Thank you, Lord!

We put the flowers in planters when we got home, and I was pleased to read on their tags, Sun at least six hours a day.  Then, Little water after established.  This was my kind of flower!  They should do well on the front patio.

In our Bible studies, emphasis has been put on the fact that to grow in the Lord, we need to spend time reading His word and spending time with Him.  Just as the zinnias need full sun for several hours a day to grow, we need the sunlight of His presence to grow!  It might be easier to sit contented in the shade, like the coleus. But just as they would be too far away for me to enjoy, in neglecting our time with Him we might find ourselves distanced from the joy of a close relationship with the Son!

Unlike the zinnias, though, we still need plenty of the water of the Word even when we are well-established believers.  May we tend the garden of our heart as carefully as we tend our flowers!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Old Friends

"I want to sit in a different place this morning," my husband said as we left our classroom to go to the sanctuary after Sunday School.  A friend from class had said her dad was going to be there and told us where they would be sitting.  Howard remembered her father from when they were growing up and couldn't wait to see him.

"I remember when I sold your dad a basketball goal for  two dollars and a banty hen!" Howard told her. He was in the same class as a younger brother, but he knew the older boy, too. Howard said he often played basketball with them at their house after school. Both boys were very tall and quite talented at basketball in high school.  The older one went on to become a basketball star in college, with the hometown folks eagerly following him on the sports pages of the newspaper.

"I see him," Howard whispered to me as we sat down in the sanctuary and he pointed out an old gentleman several rows away.  When the service was dismissed, he hurried to the next aisle to greet his long lost friend.

"How was it?" I asked as my husband rejoined me in the foyer.  I was surprised at his crestfallen look and to hear him say, "He didn't remember me!"

"What?  Not even the banty chicken deal?" I asked incredulously. "When he carried it to your house and carried the goal all those blocks home?" Well, they had been only about 9 and 11 years old!  But my husband has a remarkable memory.  However, this wasn't the first time someone from the past didn't remember him, and it was a little disconcerting.  When we first came back to this area several years ago, we were met with blank stares when we had to tell some old friends our name at a church reunion. Nothing we said rang a bell!

When we had searched for a seat "somewhere else," the only place we could find was almost on the back row.  As we settled in, I saw a familiar figure right in front of us. A friend who had moved away a few years ago!  I couldn't help but hug her and ask about their new baby, who was in the nursery.  Later, I got a glimpse of him.  He had evidently joined his mother when I wasn't noticing, and  I got a peek as his baby needs necessitated a return nursery visit.

Maybe we should sit in a different place more often! It's so easy to get into a routine, but by doing so I miss seeing many others in the large congregation.  People may or may not forget us, but I Corinthians 13:12 says, "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as I am known."

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Consider the Lilies

"Would you like a lily?" my pastor's wife asked after church last night.  "We have a few left." Apparently they were giving away the potted plants that had graced the altar for Sunday's Easter service. We had been out of town, so I was surprised at the still-beautiful plants and happily accepted one. I love the look it adds to my porch in the wicker basket where I placed it.

Easter lilies are always associated with Christ's resurrection, although we have no proof that they were anywhere near the tomb.  Jesus did speak of the lovely flower though, when He said in Matthew 6:28-29, "And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these."

Although it is nice to get new, spring clothes for Easter, especially for the children, Jesus tells us not to be anxious or worried about clothing. I loved buying something new for our kids to wear on Easter when they were home, and I especially liked getting new white shoes for the baby in the high-top style that was a given then.

Previously, in verse 25, as Jesus teaches in relation to anxiety, he says, "Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what shall ye eat, or what shall ye drink; nor yet for your body, what shall ye put on.  Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?"

In the sad commentary of today's thinking, some people do not want to keep their unborn child because of inconvenience or money problems.  But Jesus plainly tells us that life is more than food and clothes. He obviously valued life for itself, no matter what the circumstances. (I'm sure there were many poor people then who considered children their greatest gift. They would think the poorest among us rich by their standards.)

Who knows what contributions the lost children could have added to our society?  No doubt they carried genes for art, music, science, and any number of traits useful for the good of man. Now there is doubt that there will even be enough tax-payers in the future to support our economy and way of life.

But rather than worry about all these things, Jesus tells us in verse 33, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."

I was told I could plant my Easter lily, and it would grow back next year.  Lilies are grown from bulbs, and although the bulbs are buried, in the spring they burst forth with new life.  Just as Jesus was "buried" in the tomb, He arose in a glorious resurrection, giving us the hope and certainty that when we die as Christians, we will rise to a glorious new life!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Safe Arrival!

Yesterday was April 1st. April Fool's Day!  And it seemed the joke was on us!  I had been busily preparing for our Easter trip to see family in Texas.  Plans were that we would pick up our son Greg from the airport where he would return from a two-month stint of work in Chicago. He would go with us and drive his sporty red car on our trip.

We would take Greg's car to the airport, so Howard removed its protective cover and got it ready to go by taking it for a fill-up while I got things ready for the trip in the morning.  A little later the phone rang, and my husband's first words said it all: Car trouble!  He was at the Ford agency getting it checked out and wanted me to pick him up.

Well, the car wasn't ready when we had to leave for the airport, so we took our car.  I was conscious of getting too warm  and realized our A/C had stopped working!  I finally had to sit in the back seat to escape the sun that was beating in my window.  We weren't crazy  about driving into Tulsa, anyway, where there were always troublesome detours, much preferring the easy drive to Wichita where we usually picked up our son.

Thankfully, things went relatively smoothly, and the flight was actually early.  Despite our GPS, we managed to get turned around a bit leaving town, but soon got on the right road. It was getting late in the day, so we looked for a place to eat, but before we knew it the city was behind us with no restaurants in sight.  Nearing home, Howard mentioned a place we had heard of but had never visited.  Greg knew the place and pounced on the idea.  It was off the beaten path in a small town I hadn't been through since I was a child and my dad would take that route.

I had heard the restaurant down-played as not fancy, but as having excellent steaks.  I was pleasantly surprised at the rustic, beamed interior with its soaring ceiling, rough-hewn rock walls, huge buffalo hide stretched on a frame in the entry, and western motif.  The steaks Greg treated us to were wonderful, too, eaten at the pine-top table with massive carved legs and mismatched wooden chairs.

On the way home, Greg called the service department about his car, and it turns out they had to order the part, so it wouldn't be ready until at least the next afternoon, spoiling our plans for leaving this morning.  Hopefully, we can leave tomorrow and there will be no more set-backs!  I am so ready to see the little grands again, and our teen granddaughters who will be flying in with our daughter to meet us there!

He is Risen!

The whole time we were at our son Jamie's house for Easter, my husband and son Greg had a chicken documentary showing on the wall screen!  (They are both farmers at heart.)  Finally, I watched one with them, and it turned out to be quite touching.  A bantam hen was constantly in trouble as she tried to mother other hens' chicks, until one day the farmer made her a little house cage where she laid her own nest of eggs.

Soon she was happily clucking and herding her little brood about the farm.  The narrator/videographer caught a specter of danger in the sky as a hawk was zeroing in on the tiny balls of fluff.  At the last minute, Mom hen sheltered them safely, only to take the brunt of the hawk's attack herself.  She lay lifeless and pitiful as the camera zoomed in.  A tiny head popped up from the feathers, then a hand came into view reaching down to touch the mother.  Miraculously, she got up, ruffled her feathers and resumed her job!

We had so looked forward to Easter morning, when the Easter play written and directed by Jamie would be presented at church.  Entering the reception area of the church, we were greeted by a scene from Bible times.  The children, dressed in robes, scarves and head coverings of the day were busily working as bread makers, carpenters (a cross was being readied), craftsmen and merchants.  I gasped as I caught a glimpse of a long, low table where 12 small-size disciples were lined up on either side of "Jesus." In the crush of people, other miniature citizens passed out commemorative square nails tied with a cord of red pushed through a card that read, "Remember the Blood that was shed for you."

We marveled at the play, The Thief, as scenes of a small boy being urged and bullied by a pal into stealing something from a cart were depicted, then glimpses of the shady, but likable character (played by our son) grown into a man struggling  with the temptations of questionable business practices. Then one day his former friend persuaded him to participate in a robbery.  They were caught and dragged off by Roman soldiers.

My heart sank as a realization hit me.  "Howard, I'm afraid he is the thief on the cross," I whispered. The next scene was of three crosses: Jesus, with a cross on either side and our son on one of them!  The thieves blamed each other, then one recognized who Jesus was and begged him with the famous words, "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom," and Jesus' reply, "Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise."

As the believing one wept with thanksgiving to God, I wept too, at the realization of Jesus's sacrifice for us.  At least one person in the congregation went forward for salvation, but I'm sure many repented in their hearts.

The last joyful scene was a video of our son with Jesus in their white robes rejoicing in a beautiful, grassy meadow full of beautiful flowers.  I thought of the little hen who was willing to give her all for the baby chicks who were now running free in their meadow, and the scripture in Matthew 23:37 where Jesus says, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem...how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!"  

The message of the play will not be forgotten.  We have the little square nail to remind us.