Friday, September 30, 2016

Passings

Scrolling through the channels yesterday, my attention was drawn to an arresting tableau in a beautiful building.  I at first thought it a funeral for Shimon Peres, the Israeli prime minister, but I saw it was a church when elaborately clothed clergy circulated on and around the platform. The sight of somber people making their way up the aisle to the altar puzzled me, until I realized it was a communion service.  While most received it, I wondered why some put their arms across their chest, and went on.  I found out later that is what non-Catholics do to receive a blessing instead.

As I viewed the sad assembly, it became apparent  that it was  the funeral of Jose' Fernandez, the acclaimed baseball player who was killed in a boating accident a few days ago. Since I had never seen a Catholic funeral, I was mesmerized and kept watching.

Several speakers came up one by one to give remarks about the departed young man. Emotion was heavy in the room, from the family to the speakers themselves, some of whom wept openly.  One ended his remarks by telling of an incident a couple of years ago when Jose' had been in a pensive mood, dwelling on the disaster of 9/11.  He couldn't get the horrific scene of people jumping out of buildings off his mind, wondering what it was like for them falling to the ground.

The speaker said Jose' hadn't talked about it in a good year and a half, until about six months ago when he said, "I think I know what happened when they faced the end. An angel caught them before they ever hit the earth and took them home to God."  He seemed at peace with the subject then. His friend then said, "That is what I believe happened to Jose'."

Another speaker, through tears, recalled that his star pitcher had come to him awhile back, all happy and smiling, and said, "I bought my mother a house!  I can't believe it!  I'm just a boy from Cuba, and I bought my mother a house in the United States of America!"

When I heard that the athlete was talking about the angels rescuing the 9/11 jumpers, I thought of the old TV show, Quantum Leap. Things would be going along as usual, when the main character was suddenly swept into a new place which he knew nothing about and where he knew no one, with no memory of his former environment!  That is how quickly one can leave this earth.

Thankfully, Someone has "bought" us a house, a home in heaven.  Just as someone may have thought, "No good can come out of Cuba," so someone has said, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Jesus started out in people's eyes as an ordinary lad in a small, non-descript village, only to become the Savior of the world. Our heavenly home and our residency has been paid for by His precious blood when He died on the cross.

"For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building  of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." 2 Corinthians 5:1

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

People and Places

"I'll go out to the to the parking lot and get you one!" the kind stranger said as my husband was struggling to get the handicap cart to start. We had unplugged it, and it had started initially, but evidently it wasn't fully charged. "I saw one just outside," he continued as he left for the door.

It was the same quaint-looking, little man we had seen as we were getting out of the car.  He wore a flat top straw hat with a wide, flat brim and farm clothing.  We thought he might be Amish.  Howard thanked him for bringing the cart.  We were picking up a prescription, and after browsing the store while we waited, we ran into the man and his wife as we were exiting the store. The top of her long, grey hair was pulled back to let the rest fall around her shoulders.

"Are you Amish?" Howard asked after thanking them again, to which the man replied, "No, just a blood-washed, born-again child of God!" 

"Then you know the Master!" my loquacious spouse exclaimed, followed by the response, "Not only that, I know the most High God!"

What wonderful people we are meeting in Georgia! The church services were amazing and packed to the brim both Sundays we were there! Coming home from town today we stopped with our grandson for a bite to eat.  "Would you like fries?" the cashier asked as she took the order for hamburgers.  Howard hesitated, then she said, "Oh, I'll just bring you some to the table so you can see if you like them."  Plenty were piled on each plate, and they were the probably the best we'd ever eaten, and so were the burgers!

Saturday we had accompanied our RN daughter on an errand to her hospital in a nearby town. She showed us around her everyday environment, and I must say we were transported back to Howard's hospital experiences a few months ago! Afterwards, we found a store she had heard about, Ollie's Bargain Outlet.  What fun! Carrying top brands of all kinds of new merchandise, the stickers showed reductions for as much as 90 per cent! Howard bought Bibles, and I found Christian children's books  to include with the one I was sending our little grandson in Texas!

We are looking forward to going there again next weekend when our college granddaughter will be able to go with us. Plans are that we will also visit an antique mall there.  Then a trip to see our oldest daughter for a few days in Tennessee! That will wind up our month of vacation. It will be good to get home again and resume our regular routine, but we are so and blessed and thankful for this respite away after a spring and summer of relative confinement during Howard's recuperation. The Lord is good!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Making the Mark

The lamp on her bedside desk revealed something I hadn't seen before, since my husband was the one who slept on that side. She is away at college, so we are staying in our granddaughter's room while visiting her family.  I sat down there to dab some polish on my nails this morning when I noticed it. She had carved her name into the wood of this childhood furniture!  The black paint that had changed it from the original maple camouflaged the inscription, but it was plain as day under the light!  Corrin had left her mark!

Now this bundle-of-energy grandchild is making her mark at college! If she is not studying, cooking,  excelling at sports or hanging with friends, she is thinking of ways to add more to the walls of her living quarters she shares with three other girls.

Corrin has lots of friends, especially those in her sorority.  Her godly dedication is well known among them.  She has a circle of influence--a footprint, you might say. We all leave a footprint, or impression that others observe about us. We are making our mark, whether we realize it or not.

"Even a child is known by his doings, whether it be pure, or whether it be right." Proverbs 20:11.  The Bible also says, "A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor than silver or gold." Proverbs 22:1.

No doubt "Rinnie," as she is affectionately called by her parents, was much younger when she marred or "autographed" her desk. Although she has always had a daring, adventurous bent, it is obvious that she is growing up.  Proverbs 22:4 says, "The reward for humility and favor of the Lord is riches and honor and life."

Just as the light revealed the scar on the desk, the Light of Jesus shines on our mistakes and bad decisions, forgiving them when we repent. Then we are free to share the Good News of salvation with others. "Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but  on a candlestick, and it giveth light unto all that are in the house." Matthew 5:15. And whether in our own "house" or on the college campus, may the mark that we leave be for Jesus!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Act Now!

That is so cute! I mused to myself as I browsed in the housewares section of a store in Georgia where we are visiting.  I love mason jars as vases, and this one was bigger than the usual pint ones, with the stems of several floppy daisies anchored in a fixative at the bottom. Hmm, maybe I would look a little more, I thought, as several things caught my eye, and I didn't want to accumulate too much on this trip.

Exploring further in the quaint little town, my husband and I located the Christian bookstore/coffee shop we had been to before on our visits. The clearance table with an assortment of items attracted me, and I picked up a couple of small novelties with a Christian motif.  Then I saw a glass cutting board with an artistic coffee mug design and scripture quote on it.  Although I have cutting boards, this would be perfect in my kitchen, what with the coffee theme I have going on.  A little pricey, though, so I would think about it.

A few days later, my daughter and I were in the first store, and I wanted to show her the little vase of flowers.  It was gone!  We looked on several shelves, to no avail.  Nothing else appealed to me. So we left with nothing but the disappointment I was feeling.  Oh well, I didn't give it much more thought.

Then yesterday, Howard and I went back into the bookstore to get a book for our grandson, who will be three in November.  (I had recently seen a video of him "reading" a book--upside down and in French--with animated gestures and expression.)  Since he likes to pray at the table, this was a darling little book about prayer I had seen on our previous visit.  Passing by the clearance table, I felt a twinge of disappointment that the cutting board wasn't there.  The owner said they'd sold it the day before!

"Mama, you'll just have to get what you like when it's there!" my daughter exclaimed about my missing-out scenarios. I agreed. Later I thought about how altar calls are given in church and many people feel drawn to respond, but they think, Not right now, some other time. But the Bible says,   "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found; call ye upon him while he is near." Isaiah 55:6.

Verses 7-ll implore the unrighteous to return to the Lord, reminding man that "My thoughts are not your thoughts," and that His ways are higher than our ways.  That His word will not return void, but will accomplish the purpose for which He has sent it.

That's what I hope for the little book on prayer for Isaac.  That it will encourage his young desire to pray and accomplish the purpose of my sending it!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A Loaf of Bread, a Jug of Wine and Thou

The picnic spread out on the rustic table looked scrumptious. Our resourceful daughter had laid out crusty sandwiches, chips, cheese (the soft kind in foil wedges), tiny individual packs of peanut butter, and a tantalizing, moist loaf of apple bread she had made this morning, still warm from the oven, all to be washed down by bottle of sparkling apple juice she produced!

The lake behind us sparkled, too, as fish jumped and the sun shone through the branches of the tall pines. We were at Red Top Mountain, her family's favorite get-away and popular recreation area. It was quiet today, though, with only an occasional walker strolling down the path, or a lone long-boarder gliding silently on the smooth water, propelled by the slender pole he held.

Amy is a picnic buff, and as such makes memorable fare.  It was her day off, and when she suggested a picnic, it sounded wonderful!  Just getting up and down the mountain was an experience for us flatlanders.  "You won't get carsick, will you, Mom?" she asked, "the roads are pretty curvy."

Well, they were a little steep, too, but the views were worth it.  Cabins nestled cozily in the pines, a front-porch sitter behind a railing, towel drying in the morning sun and flapping in the breeze, children tentatively picking their way through the trees.  "This is where I had our kids gather huge acorns I shellacked," she said.  I had seen some in a decorative bowl at her house in an attractive arrangement.

Being out in God's creation like this brings new appreciation and awe of His majesty.  I think of Jesus at the Last Supper, when He broke the bread and served wine as a remembrance of His broken body and shed blood. Since walking was the main way people traveled back then, I can imagine Jesus and his followers stopping under the shade of trees and maybe near a stream for a midday lunch or evening meal, probably produced from hampers or bundles carried, or perhaps a supper of fish caught in the stream.  I'm sure conversation flowed freely as friends gathered close, even as did talk at our picnic table.  A type of communion.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Captain, My Captain

We saw the movie, Sully, last night, the story of Chelsea "Sully" Sullenberger, the airline captain who landed his plane in the Hudson river a few years ago. I didn't know what to expect, other than the story of the courageous landing and the survival of everyone on board.  So I was surprised to find an entirely different slant on the story.  Maybe I had missed a lot in the newspapers, but I never thought of him as anything but a hero.

Although the public loved him, the National Transportation Safety Board was not quite so enthusiastic. In fact, the captain was shocked when he was called before them for an investigation.  They argued that he could have made it to the airport and landed safely, according to their flight simulators, which re-enacted the event. It was three days before the matter was settled. But I won't ruin the movie with any more details, other than to say the NTSB seemed more concerned that they had lost a plane than the fact that 155 passengers were saved.

It reminded me of another movie, Moby Dick, based on the book by the same name written by Hermann Melville.  Melville got his inspiration from the accounts of  a real life whaler whose whaling boat was destroyed by a giant whale.  In the movie, the whaler was brought up for charges of destroying the boat, although it was not his fault.

Thoughts occurred to me of a parallel between these events and the ministry of Jesus. When Jesus healed the sick and raised the dead, he was wildly heralded by the people.  He was a hero, worthy of being king! But the authorities didn't like it; they didn't care that he came to save the people from their sins.  Their only concern was that he was going to destroy their religious system! Jesus too, was brought up before officials in a kind of "kangaroo court."

It wasn't until three days after his crucifixion when He rose from the dead that He began to be recognized as Saviour!   Ephesians 4:9 says that Jesus descended into the lower parts of the earth. Coincidentally, Captain Sullenberger was in a pit of (emotional) darkness for three days.

When the movie was over, the actors portrayed as the people saved on the flight were shown--happy, well, and celebratory.  They looked nothing like the drenched, terrified passengers they represented who almost went to a watery grave. By the same token, the redeemed who die on earth--maybe from debilitating sickness, old age, or in another traumatic way--will look nothing like that in heaven!

 My husband had a vision of heaven when he was in a state of altered consciousness coming out of the anesthesia after heart surgery a few months ago.  He was in awe at the joy and happiness of the saints he saw descending as from a cloud into heaven.  From the way he described the scene, they were "walking and leaping and praising God," like the crippled man who had asked alms from Peter and John and was healed. Acts 3:6.

The people on the airplane trusted and obeyed their captain, and no one was lost. We must trust the "Captain of our salvation" to bring us safely home! "For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings." Hebrews 2:10.


Friday, September 16, 2016

Heirlooms

Putting silverware in the drawer this morning at my daughter's house, my eyes fell on a table knife that brought back memories.  It was a pistol-handled knife that was part of a set I had ordered in the mail many years ago. For some reason, the primitive-looking set appealed to me, maybe reminding me of pilgrims or something.  The forks were three-pronged, prompting a visiting child to say one day, "Why are we eating with meat forks?" I don't remember what happened to the rest of the hardy stainless flatware, but at least Amy has a souvenir of her childhood.

I see other objects around her house that used to be mine, but since my house is largely running over with "stuff," I occasionally pass things on to my daughters.  An attractive pair of plaster (or chalk) busts of a young girl and boy sit atop a display case in her living room.  On seeing them when we come here, a wave of nostalgia washes over me. I remember when they presided from the top shelf of our bookcase wall in Mississippi.  They are even in the background of a family portrait.

Wall art of graceful southern belles at the piano and playing the violin in an antebellum setting hangs in our bedroom here. I bought it a neighbor's garage sale some forty years ago and gave it to Amy when we moved to Wichita in 1995.  Once a friend saw it in her house and convinced Amy it was valuable. She said it was a print of a famous painting and worth a lot of money. "Look, it even has the print number, 24-30 on the back!" she exclaimed, "It means number 24 in a printing of 30."  Turned out it was the dimensions of the picture, 24"x 30".  The appraiser admired the pretty frame, though.

None of these items are valuable, except for the memories they evoke of a time when I was a busy housewife and mother to our brood of six. We are widely scattered now, thanks to almost everyone relocating after hurricane Katrina. Families were God's idea.  "He puts the solitary in families..." Psalm 68:6.  Paul says in Ephesians 3:14-15, "For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named."

We have family in heaven that we will see again someday. I'm so thankful that all our family members on earth, as Christians, are named by His Name.  I love to be with my family and reminisce over old possessions, and after I'm gone, they can have all the keepsakes they want!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Georgia on My Mind

"Mama, would you water my plants for me today?" my daughter asked as she prepared to leave for work.  Of course I would!  We were enjoying our stay at their house after they had driven 16 hours to come and get us, and then 16 hours to take us home with them.  Amy also set out a three-pot crockpot arrangement for me to put meat in for tonight's dinner. 

I set the crockpot indicators on low as daughter had instructed before Howard and I left for an outing in a nearby town.  We had a great afternoon, my getting to look in some favorite stores while my bookworm husband perused reading material at Barnes and Noble.  That was after a southern lunch at Bojangles, which specializes in fried chicken and biscuits.

Hurrying to get home later to water those plants, I was relieved to see we were there before our high school senior granddaughter got home. I put a couple items in the fridge that we had picked up, and went to check the crockpots. Funny I didn't smell anything, but even more incredible was when I removed the lids to find them empty! I hadn't put the meat in!  Mercy me!  I quickly threw everything in, including all the seasonings Amy had set out, and turned the pots to high!  Thankfully, pork chops cook quickly, but I'll probably have to finish them on the stove!

Being away from home is a mixed blessing. We love it, but we have to learn the complications of another household, such as the TV remote system, the kitchen range (they bought a new one), the laundry equipment,  even the quirks of the  AC in the automobile we are so generously given to drive. But the important thing is being with family!

Yesterday we got to visit our college granddaughter and see her new digs: a campus townhouse she shares with three other girls.  Their decorating skills were amazing, we noted as she proudly gave us the grand tour.  Little bouquets of dried flowers and seed pods in mason jars were grouped on end tables and shelves, a vine wreath with a burlap bow nestled cozily on a wall near verses and sayings in beautiful script, while artsy-craftsy signage was scattered tastefully throughout. The resourceful co-eds had fashioned a handy storage piece by attaching circular clamps to a wooden base to hold mason jars, which held toothbrushes, shampoo, and other necessities in the bathroom.

A trip to the grocery store was necessary, as granddaughter needed baking supplies to use in their kitchen.  Corrin loves to cook, even though she has a hotline to mom with questions of  measurements, techniques and ingredients. Needless to say, her table is a popular place! She texted pics to us later of the banana bread she had made. If it was as good as the Bananas Foster she served us there, it was amazing!

My capable, servant-hearted granddaughter reminds me of the busy hostess Martha in the Bible, but she has the spiritual hunger of a Mary as well.  She had a Bible study to go to that night and a meeting later with her "accountability partner." After my kitchen fiasco, I have no trouble believing that this petite little dynamo is a better "Martha" than me, and maybe a better "Mary" too! But that's okay! Don't we always want our kids (and grandkids) to be more than us?

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Good Old Days

And I thought my kitchen was inconvenient!  After all, I had to walk across the room from the sink to range and fridge!  But a letter written by my mother recently surfaced telling what their Tennessee farm life was like a hundred years ago!

Here is how they prepared breakfast:  First, the children had to go to the spring for water and for milk and butter that their mother kept in a box anchored in the ice cold water that sluiced around them.  Next, my future Mama and her siblings ran through their orchard to pick up apples the wind had blown down in the night.  Grandpa liked fried apples for breakfast.  Then Grandma made a foray to the smoke house to slice off a lean chunk of ham to go with the eggs the children had scooted under the house to gather from the nest a hen had hid out. They also picked up a few duck eggs floating in the stream!

I'm sure they all had a ravenous appetite after all that exercise.  And they still had to go to school, to which  my eight-year-old Mama rode her horse.  She wrote about the nice saddle and bridle she had for Dudley, as she had named him.  I recall stories she used to tell about riding him to her Uncle Robert's country store where she would buy things they couldn't raise themselves, such as tea, sugar, coffee, etc. 

This wasn't in her letter, but I remember her saying once she was sent to the store, and her eyes fell on a new pack of crayolas lying on the counter.  The colorful, waxy-smelling crayons  were so tempting, and she felt her hand reach for them and put them in her pocket!  When Grandma discovered them, she sent the crestfallen, but repentant little red-head straight back to return them.  I can't imagine the devout mother I knew doing such a thing, but that was before she knew the Lord.

A hilarious part of the 14-page letter relates an even younger experience at age 4 when she had been at a relative's house and heard a man using interesting words she had never heard before, not knowing they were curse words.  Later Grandma heard her skipping on the porch and making a sing-song of the bad words to the kittens she was holding and cussing roundly!

The love for her country home came through loud and clear as she described the interesting activities that were really work that kept the kids occupied: Taking sticks to knock off the fat worms on their Papa's tobacco crop; knocking the fodder off their sugar cane and later enjoying sopping the molasses from the big pot where it was boiled at the molasses mill; jumping up and down on the dried beans that had climbed the corn stalks so Grandma could winnow them by tossing up in the air for the wind to blow away the chaff, not to mention rocking baby brothers and sisters, whom she believed came in the trunk of the doctor's car!

 Incidents of sadness and tragedy too, were intermingled in Mama's memories, but they were dimmed and softened by the happy times she related, as I'm sure the joys of heaven now eclipse and surpass her amazing life on earth! 


Monday, September 5, 2016

Serendipity

"Happy accident or pleasant surprise." That's what serendipity means.  Yesterday I was remembering a bowl I like to use for potato salad for a large group.  We were having a church dinner, and that bowl would be perfect, I thought.  Seldom used, the beautiful clear, cut-glass bowl was stored in cabinets above the refrigerator. I got a stepstool and pulled the cabinet knobs.  Nothing! It wouldn't budge! With consternation, I could see the doors were painted shut from a kitchen paint job we'd had done several months ago!

It would have been just the right size, looking large with its wide brim but having a medium bowl size, since the potato salad didn't yield quite as much as I wanted. Now I would have to look for another bowl, and most of mine were large or small, or not attractive. Then I thought of a bowl that might work! A heavy, crockery bowl that would suit, not too big and not too little.  And carved into the rim in graceful script were the words, "Oh taste and see that the Lord is good." Psalm 34:8. I guess the potato salad was good, too, for there was none left.

The day before, we went to the store for a few things I needed for the food I wanted to take to the dinner.  Howard has "graduated" from his walker to a footed cane, but I held his arm as we started to walk up the sloping lot toward the supermarket, since all the handicapped spaces were taken. 

Just then we heard a voice calling, "Would like this basket?" We turned to see a young woman with a couple of kids hanging on about to return her cart to the store.  We gladly accepted! Howard gratefully placed his cane into it and pushed it into the store, where he could ride in a motorized cart.

"That was a blessing!" I said as we walked away.  Not a happy accident, but a God-initiated divine appointment! The lady was there just at the right time with the right support we needed!  It is a common occurrence in the parking lot that someone will offer a basket rather than return it, for which we usually refund their quarter they have deposited. That may have been what she was doing, not realizing that we would not need it for our few purchases, since they would go in the basket of Howard's handicapped cart. But God knew we needed it now for my husband to hold on to!

We were quite rattled by the Saturday morning surprise when our house shook and the air rumbled! Afterward, I looked for anything dislodged in the house, since Howard said he heard something fall.  The only thing I found was a decorative plate lying down on its stand in the bookcase. A pleasant surprise, but not serendipity.  Nor were any of the other happenings only happy accidents, but proof that God is good! Taste and see!

Friday, September 2, 2016

King of the Road

Oh happy day! The doctor has released my husband to drive!  That means I don't  have to be the sole driver anymore!  As we were riding along yesterday out to the country, I caught myself relishing the views out the window.  The clouds were so beautiful! The expanse of sky was so vast! I felt such an exhilaration and freedom as I was able to take my eyes from the road and enjoy the landscape passing by.

In town, I could look at the new shopping center going up and read the names of the stores! I could see the tomato man with his truck set up beside the road selling produce, jams and jellies, and fresh peaches! I could look at the bank clock until the temperature reading came on!

Then it occurred to me that when we move over and let Jesus be our driver in life,  the one in control, it brings a peace and contentment to our souls!  Why fret over something we can't manage or change, when we can turn it over to the Lord and relax and enjoy the scenery?  No longer do I grimly try to second-guess what the cars (or situations) approaching me will do.  Jesus knows what's going to happen in our (to us uncertain) future; He can see what's beyond the curve and take care of it!

I had been fretting over a deep scratch on my arm from a barbed-wire fence in our son's pasture. Probably should have had stitches, I fussed.  But each day, the wound dried up a little more, with a protective "nature's Band-Aid" forming in the scratch.  Finally, the unsightly scab began to crumble, then I worried about the scar.  Surprisingly, little by little, the mark began to fill in with fresh new growth as my miraculous body healed itself!

"I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are they works; and that my soul knoweth quite well." Psalm 139:14.

The same God who directs our paths also planned the intricacies of our mortal bodies! I used to think that when a wound or sore became red and inflamed, it meant infection. But it is because an army of  red blood cells is rushing to the rescue, bringing circulation and healing! I don't have to worry about the process, because God has already provided for our eventualities and accidents.

"Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you." I Peter 5:7. What a liberating thought that is! Why toss and turn and lose sleep when we can leave our worries to God? As someone once said, "He will be up all night anyway."  I might even be able to nap on trips when my husband is driving!