Monday, June 19, 2017

A Word Fitly Spoken

I noticed my husband had a troubled look on his face when he came back from picking up a few things at the grocery store. 

"What's wrong?" I asked. "Is everything alright?"

With downcast eyes he said, "I think I failed God."

When I asked what happened, he began. "I had checked out and was standing in front of the news stand looking at the newspaper, when the manager came up and said, 'If you're looking for good news, you won't find it there. Not there, not anywhere! Not in any newspaper!"

Howard said he was taken aback, and replied, "Yes, America has problems."

"But I should have witnessed to him and told him the good news of the gospel!" my conscientious husband exclaimed. I could tell he was feeling bad.

"Let me read you something," I said. It was a Father's Day message from our daughter, Julie, that he hadn't yet seen:

"Father's Day honors and celebrates our precious dads. My dad turned 79 a few days ago. My husband expressed in his sermon this morning that Dad should write a book. You see, Dad's positivity is contagious. His songs are positive. His hello's to strangers are encouraging. Phone conversations are uplifting. Sermons that he shares are pointing in the right direction. Remember the little song, "Smile awhile and give your face a rest"?  The song depicts his life's attitude. Dad, thanks for your winning words and bright light to those you meet. I know where it comes from. It comes from God's Word. We are more than conquerors through Him. My interpretation of all this? Of your life's work? If we are in the Light (Jesus) we are winners! I love you, Dad."

His face crumpled a little as her father tried to suppress a tear. "That makes me feel better," he said quietly. I think God will give him another chance to talk to the grocer!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Rise and Shine!

"Get some Ballard biscuits," my husband directed me when we were in the grocery store awhile back. We never buy canned biscuits, but somehow Howard had a longing for the biscuits he remembered as a child from his dad's grocery store. He calls any canned biscuits Ballard biscuits, which are probably not even marketed by that name anymore.

We always buy too many groceries, it seems, and, tired from unloading the bags, I put the cold things away and shoved some canned goods still in the bag onto a lower cabinet shelf.  Several days later, I decided to use the biscuits for breakfast.  I couldn't find them! They were not in the refrigerator nor anywhere else. I even looked in the car, in case they had fallen out. They never showed up, and that was weeks ago.

A couple of days ago I was retrieving a can of tomato sauce for stuffed peppers I was making for supper. Something felt odd in the bag,  kind of squishy. My lost biscuits! The can had popped open, and a couple were loose in the bag, but some had stayed in the can.  I was about to discard them, when I saw they felt oddly fresh, puffy and not discolored.  Howard told me to bake them, and they tasted fine!

Later I thought about the lesson on leaven in the Bible.  Usually, leaven (yeast, or baking powder) has a negative connotation, but in Matthew 13:33, Jesus says, "...The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole lump was leavened."  Seemingly, that would point to the spread of the gospel around the world, such as we see now!

The can of biscuits was hidden away in the dark until it came to light and gave us bread to eat! Psalm 119:11 reads, "Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee." We need to hide the word in our heart! As we remember, meditate and think on the word, it will grow us stronger! Scripture speaks of "the hidden man of the heart," I Peter 2:4, and Romans 7:22 says, "For I delight in the law of God after the inward man."

The next time he sent me back to the refrigerated area for biscuits, I grabbed two of the small cans for Howard. I have to feed the outward man, too!

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Masked Bandit!

"Where are your guineas?" I exclaimed in alarm when I looked into the cage of the young birds.  Howard rushed to see for himself, but they were gone! He had treasured these fowl! Two had died when we first got them several weeks ago, but the four remaining were healthy and growing with  careful feeding and attention every day.  Small feathers scattered on the barn floor told the story.

Twice lately a huge raccoon had been discovered in the barn when our grandson went to shut the chickens in for the night. It was seen hiding in the rafters!  Evidently the predator crept in just before dusk when the chickens went in to roost! There was evidence of a struggle when both white feathers and red feathers were discovered on the floor.  Our white rooster had put up a victory fight, but the scanty remains of the red hen testified to her demise!

I felt so bad for my husband. He had doted on the guineas! Farm life can be so discouraging. I would have given up long ago, but my patient spouse is persistent. The quote "Hope springs eternal within the human breast" certainly fits him. He is already planning to get more guineas!

Several renegade guineas visit the farmyard regularly as it is.  Sometimes only a few, and at other times a huge flock of them! We like them, not only for their zany appearance, but because they kill and/or eat pests like ticks, snakes, and other undesirables.  Besides that, their clacking noise makes them a good "watch-dog!"

The raccoon reminds me of what the Bible says about the devil in  1 Peter 5:8. "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour." Like the wily 'coon, Satan wears a mask. The Bible tells us he transforms himself into an angel of light. (2 Corinthians 11:14.) He can appear in many disguises to tempt and trap his prey.

The way my husband never gives up on nurturing and raising a flock of chickens makes me think of how God never gives up on us, His flock. Howard is ready to get his shotgun and go after the marauder. Jesus is pictured as the Good Shepherd who rescues the sheep with his rod and staff.

We are told in scripture that church leaders have responsibility to watch over our souls. (Hebrews 13:17). Maybe if  we ever raise guineas to maturity, they will suffice as "watch-dogs" and scare away the intruders! Howard would be a happy man!


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

New Life!

From the time we saw a chipped place in the egg, we were excited! We'd waited the required 21 days for the chicks to start hatching in an incubator bought for this purpose. Then when the chick was obviously coming out, we squealed with delight! Our joy knew no bounds when the wobbly, still wet, little creature actually stood awkwardly on its own two feet!

You'd have thought we were new parents!  All laughing, talking and exclaiming on "our" accomplishment.  But the miracle of life was worth celebrating! How could an egg yolk develop blood cells and veins, a heart beat, and much more that would turn into a chicken?

Our glee reminded me of the Bible verse that says the angels in heaven rejoice when a sinner repents and is born into the kingdom (Luke 15:10). He has new life!  How we all cherish the new life when a baby is born into the household! It seems everyone is in a daze of joy and celebration for days to come.

Lately it seems many have finished their earthly life and have gone to heaven.  The Bible tells us we will  know as we are known up there.  What joy it will be to see people young and healthy again! Here on earth we often lose track of friends and people we used to know. But it's a small world and getting smaller all the time!

We were surprised during a recent revival that we knew the pastor the evangelist referred to in his sermon. In fact, our son married his daughter! At first, I thought we  had made a mistake, but he exclaimed, "Mark and Rhonda? Of course I know them. I've held two revivals for them!" He had known them from Alabama before they married!

Once our son, Trevor, was conducting a seminar in Atlanta, when a participant asked if Howard and Thelma were his parents!  He had never met her, nor she him! It's a small world!  In visiting our son  Mark's church in Austin, we were startled when a man said he knew our son, Jamie, who lives in Houston!

At the Herb Festival recently, a smiling woman remarked to Howard, "I know you! You're the one who looks like my dad!" Sure enough, at an estate sale a  few months ago we were approached by a stranger who wanted to take Howard's picture! "My mom noticed the resemblance," she had explained, "and wanted to get a picture.  You look just like him! Your mustache, and even your hat is like the one he wore!"

I can only imagine the reunions to come in Heaven, where there may even be cuddly rabbits and downy chicks, all bursting with new life! After all, the Life-giver will be there!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Planes, Trains and Automobiles!

We had gone to our son Greg's house this morning to see him off before he left  to board a plane in Stillwater for a work assignment on the West Coast.  Then we remembered this was the day an Amtrak train was to make a stop in town on a trial run for possible train service here!

After Greg left, we headed back to town to be among those who would greet the uncommon sight of a passenger train scheduled to stop here  at 10 o'clock.   Since we  had a few moments to spare, my husband opted to stop for coffee at Sacred Grounds, a new coffee shop occupying an old railroad depot, all beautifully redone.  The line at the drive-through was too slow, though, so we hurried on to get to the designated area for the Amtrak stop. We would get coffee on the way home!

There were hordes of people! It was a beautiful morning, sunny and cool, and it seemed everyone was smiling and in a good mood.  After all, we wanted to make a good showing that reflected our hope that they would add that convenience locally!  Howard and I often use the train to travel to visit our kids in Texas, but we have to board in Oklahoma City. Or Norman, our preferred station.

It wasn't hard to visualize how fun it would be to ride to Wichita, Fort Worth, Austin or San Antonio from right here at home! And no driving! I guess many people felt that way, judging from the turn-out!

On our last train excursion, I was enthralled by a voice coming over the PA system as every place of interest we passed, no matter how small, was described in glowing, enthusiastic terms! The voice, obviously of a conductor who could have been in show business, rose and fell in dramatic expression, making a scene out the window impossible to ignore!

At  last  the train came into view, with cell-phones held high by many eager to record this rarity with their camera feature.  Dignitaries who rode the train stepped out to greet us, and some held their own phone/camera out the window to take pictures of us taking pictures of them!

The stop was brief, and as the locomotive lumbered past, our mayor, one of the honored guests, leaned out the window of a passenger car giving a smiling "thumbs up" with both hands, obviously pleased at the attendance!

People have sometimes used trains as a metaphor for the trip to heaven. Kids used to sing of the "Happy Day Express" in children's church. "This Train," as in "This train is bound for glory, this train.." is an old, traditional gospel song.  The happy crowd waving, applauding and greeting the much-anticipated arrival this morning made me think of the joy of His people when Jesus returns for us! Arms will be lifted heavenward as we meet Him in the air! (I Thessalonians 4:17.) And no words will suffice to describe the beauty! And Jesus will be smiling, obviously pleased at the attendance!


Monday, June 5, 2017

To Be or not To Be?

That was the question.  Would it rain and spoil the scheduled church picnic on Sunday, or would the forecast be wrong? The rain had miraculously missed Saturday's Herb Festival, which we finally attended once it appeared it wasn't going to pour.

I  worked the rest of Saturday preparing picnic fare: a chocolate sheet cake, large potato salad, and home-fried chicken. Howard had cut up two fryers the night before, since he is the butcher in the family, having grown up in his dad's meat market/grocery store. (Some of the pieces seemed a little undefinable, though--he may have lost his touch since then.)

With such a lot of chicken, I got out my largest frying pan.  For some reason, it was taking forever for the grease to get hot enough.  Finally, it began to bubble, but when I put in the pieces, it would stop.  I was getting frustrated, turning and trying to brown the chicken.  Maybe there is something wrong with the burner eye, I thought, even pushing the pan to cover parts of the other burners.  That helped a  little.

When I replaced the huge skillet with two normal-size ones, the chicken got done and was presentable, at least. Howard  had mercy on me and cleaned up the mess. The rain began in earnest at bedtime,  and I heard it pelting down every time I woke up. Surely there would be no picnic, but every time I checked the internet church page, there was no cancellation.

We were  just ready to  load the food in the van and leave for church,  when I checked again.  The picnic had been cancelled! I was a little relieved.  On the way home from church, I called our son and grandson, who were glad to come over and help us eat the bounty! We had a wonderful afternoon of visiting and fellowship.

Later that evening, our son in Houston helped the grandkids Face-Time with us!  What a joy! 3-year-old Isaac explained that his new haircut was "broke" since the gel put in by the hairdresser had worn off!  He had to demonstrate a train set on the floor, making it go with a controller he held in his hand.  Big sister Anne-Marie treated us to "Jingle Bells" she performed on a recorder, then "Mary Had a Little Lamb" picked out on the piano.  Smiling, pajama-clad Maddie made a brief appearance, then Isaac re-appeared wearing a Spider-Man cape and mask, informing us that Spider-Man had "powers" in his hand.

All in all, it turned out "To Be" a very good day!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

In the Garden

"You know those plants are loaded with strawberries," my son Greg pointed out after checking on our tiny  garden. What? I had no idea! Every time I'd looked at them, all I could see were leaves! Well, under the leaves were hidden fresh, juicy berries, which we happily collected.

"Shall I pull the onions?" I asked of my husband. The (dried out) bulbs we had planted rather late had yielded only a few green onions, which were getting too large now.  He agreed, so I tugged at the long, green stems and was surprised that the roots had the purple sheen of red onions! They should be delicious!

"Look! The potato plants are blooming!" I announced at seeing tiny blossoms on our thriving plants, the only thing that was growing  thick and vigorously.  I wondered why they had blossoms, and what that meant.  I was pretty sure  it wasn't time to dig them  up, but I looked up info on raising potatoes.

Sure enough, the article I read said many people think the buds are indicators of harvest time, but they are only making seeds to ensure future crops! Well, we didn't start ours from seed, only from seed potatoes, which we cut into sections, making sure there was an "eye" in each cube, from which a root sprouts.  I found out that when it is time to dig up the potatoes, the vines will dry out, turn brown and wither. 

I couldn't help but see spiritual lessons and draw comparisons from all this new life in the garden. The surprise of strawberries under the leaves and the purple of the onions pulled from the soil reminded me that we never know what is inside a person, beneath the veneer and public front we see on the outside. When we get to know them, we are often surprised by the talents, wisdom and abilities God has instilled in them.

As Christians, we need to produce and sow seeds of the gospel into our own and the next generation. Who knows when a root of understanding and belief will sprout as their "eye" is opened to the Truth?  How rewarding to see a "crop" of new "potatoes" for the Kingdom! Our generation will someday wither away, like the potato vine, having done our job, but our "seed" can go on until the Harvest!




Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Food for Thought!

Yesterday at our Senior Ladies' Breakfast, someone mentioned bread, and I asked them if they had heard of Dave's "Killer" Bread.  They were all ears, so I told them how much my husband and I like this healthy bread, especially the "White Bread Made Right." The funny part is that the baker learned to make it in prison!

I also gave them a tip for some green beans that we like.  It  just so happened that while we were at our son's house eating Easter dinner, I commented on how tasty the green beans were that my daughter-in-law served. "How did you make them?" I asked, to which she replied, "Oh, they're from a can at Walmart!"

She gave me the name, Glory Seasoned Green Beans, and I wasted no time in stocking up on them! The ladies were incredulous, especially when I told them I had taken a crock-pot full of them to a church dinner, and they were all eaten!

Later in the afternoon, we attended services for a friend we had known well at a former church. She had requested that her funeral be a time of celebration and praise. Many warm and amusing remembrances were given by her sister and a former pastor, as they reflected not only on her exemplary life, but also on her fun personality and sense of  derring-do!

One story was about the time when they lived close to a mountain in Colorado, and the older sister, age 10, suggested to the then-five-year-old telling about it, that they climb the mountain behind their house. It was rough and slippery, but after awhile, it was getting late, and big sis decided it was time to go home, despite the fear of crumbling rocks under their feet.

At  some point, they thought they detected a faint cry in the distance. They recognized the voice of their mother, who never stopped calling their names. They knew they were headed in the right direction by the sound of her voice.  She had been worried out of her mind and was so glad to welcome the scruffy girls safely home!

Her point was that Jesus knows us and is calling our name.  He won't give up on us if we will heed Him.

I thought of the tasty bread and the food I was so eager to share about.  Jesus called himself the Bread of Life.  When the disciples asked Him to eat in John 4:31, Jesus told  them He had food to eat that they knew nothing about. John 4:32. He said that His food was to do the will of His Father, verse 34.

May we be as eager to share the Bread of Life as we are to share about earthly food, and to think of our work in telling others about Jesus as our food! And if we listen for and  follow His voice, we will be going in the right direction!




Monday, May 22, 2017

School's Out!

Wow! Three graduations in the family in a week's time! Our grandson Adam graduated college, our granddaughter Rachel graduated high school, and our great-grandson Gavin graduated kindergarten! We are so proud of them all!

Gavin is the little boy, who, in  trying to figure life out, after asking the blessing over the food at the table one day, asked his father, "Dad, do pray over your food at work?" Our grandson told him that he prays a silent prayer over his lunch. That night, Gavin announced, "I said a silent prayer over my lunch at school  today!"

A few days later, his dad found out some older boys at school were rough with Gavin on the playground. He was ready to go confront the boys, but Gavin protested, "No, Daddy, we have to walk in love!" He had paid attention to his grandfather's sermon that Sunday!

I remember baby-sitting Rachel in her kindergarten days. Her favorite after-school activity was to play school, with herself as the teacher and me as the pupil! Her pencil rapped authoritatively if I did not do things  the way her teacher taught her! Now she is an accomplished young woman, ready to face the world.

Since Gavin lives in Tennessee, and Rachel in Georgia, we were only able to attend Adam's graduation, at OSU in Stillwater. He proudly wore  the stole and chain around his neck, symbols of honor, as he received his degree in Chemical Engineering. They grow up so fast.

A graduation of another kind took place a few days ago, and we will say our final good-byes on Tuesday to a friend who has already left for heaven. Her graduation robe was white, and her award of honor a crown, I'm sure one with many stars. May that be our goal someday, when we finish our schooling here on earth!


Friday, May 12, 2017

Stormy Weather

"Oh! It's going off again!" the cashier said with a worried look, "I was afraid of that!"

"What is going off?" I asked quizzically as we paid for our purchases, to which she responded, "The tornado warning siren!"

Just then I heard it! We had come to Stillwater for some shopping with our son (he wanted to buy me something for Mother's Day). We'd had lunch  and he'd made a quick stop at a music store, but now the rain was pelting down and the air was filled with the eerie whistles! Our trip would be cut short as we hurried to the car.

A mechanical, monotonous voice was blasting from the car radio with ominous warnings: Debris would be everywhere. People and animals outside would be injured. Roofs and houses would be destroyed.

Shortly after we got into the car, the phone rang with the report from our grandson, Adam (who had stayed home) that he had received a message from his college that all OSU students were to take cover!

Announcements were broadcast that school buses loaded with children were returning to schools. The bus-riders would shelter in place at their schools.

Then live reports from storm chasers pin-pointed the location of the almost certain tornado. It was near the small town of Perkins, only a few miles behind us! Thankfully Greg was driving! The reports were of expected baseball-size hail! I could just imagine it coming through the wide windshield of our van!

Tense prayers were going up from us for our safety. About halfway home, the rain slowed a bit, the weather reports were relaxed somewhat, and we breathed a collective sigh of relief! By the time we got home, though the street gutter vents were spewing out water like water spouts and rivulets ran down the road, we only dodged a few raindrops getting into the house!

Thank God, He is a shelter in the time of storm! Isaiah 25:4.  Today the sun is shining beautifully in a rain-washed sky as the grass and flowers sparkle with moisture from heaven. A glorious day!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Forgetting to Remember

"What are you guys doing here?" I heard my son's voice and saw him looking down from the SUV beside us a few weeks ago.  Well, we were actually getting something inside the store for his daughter's birthday! "We'll see you there soon," he called as they went on to the party location. 

We didn't see their car as we pulled up, so we waited patiently, then decided to go in. We were sitting on a bench by the door when the hostess asked,  "Would you like a booth?" to which I replied, "No, we're waiting for family."

After a few minutes I said to Howard, "They did say Pizza Inn, didn't they?" He said he thought so, so we settled down to wait. Just then the phone rang. 

"Where are you guys?" Our son queried. 

"We're at Pizza Inn!" I exclaimed. "Where are you?"  Then I heard him say, "We're at Pizza  Hut! I told you!"

After I insisted he'd said Pizza Inn, we drove the short distance to Pizza Hut.  We found them waiting to cut the cake with several others around the table for our granddaughter's 8th birthday celebration. Later I looked at my phone and found the text that did indeed say Pizza Hut!

I've got to quit speed-reading and scanning print! Twice recently we showed up for church events that I was sure were on particular nights, only to find we were the only ones there! Although I get the church bulletin, they often get misplaced or don't make it home with me!

The aforementioned incidents pale in comparison to scenarios the past couple of days. Our visit to son Mark's home in Austin was expanded to include visiting son Jamie's family in Houston.  The guys met halfway to alleviate the distance to transfer their parents, the procedure being repeated when we would go back to Mark's to catch the train. 

"We have extra time," Jamie said as we prepared to meet Mark at Brenham, to which I said, "Well, we could visit the Blue Bell creamery near there." Little Isaac heard us mention ice cream, and he was excited.  I was enjoying the scenery and the puffy white clouds floating past the car window when a horrible thought hit me.

"I made a mistake!" I announced ominously from the back seat. "I left my phone plugged into Jamie's wall!"

"Well, we won't be getting ice cream," our son announced as he resolutely turned the car around, prompting a little voice to protest, "I want ice cream!" It's a good thing we left early, I thought. Isaac's daddy consoled his son by promising ice cream at the Dairy Queen where we would meet up with Mark for lunch.

Up bright and early getting our things together to catch the train the next morning, I discovered we had left medical equipment of Howard's at Jamie's! Jamie would have to mail it!  Thankfully, it was nothing urgent. 

We were almost to the train station, even a little early, when Mark's phone rang with the news that I had left my computer! How could that be? I remembered packing it in its special carrying bag! We turned around to go to meet grandson Grant who would relay the computer to us. But as time was running short, Mark called Grant to squelch those plans, as we might not get to the train on time.

Mark said he could mail the computer, but just then the phone rang with Grant saying he would meet us with it at the train station!  Miraculously, he made it  just in time to hand the computer bag out the window. I knew I had put it in the bag! "It was sitting on the chair!" Grant exclaimed.

We sat down on the train with a sigh of relief. We had made it, with the help of our  family who had loaded and carried our luggage back and forth numerous times. And just 3 hours until we would meet son Trevor, who would take us out to eat during our Ft. Worth layover, after which grandson Adam would meet us in Oklahoma to drive us home! Thank you, God, who works things out when we mess up, and thank You for dutiful, caring loved ones who help when we forget!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

He is Risen!

"We're having the children's bell choir again, since the Summers Six were not here earlier," our son Mark announced laughingly as the children lined up in front of the congregation. I laughed, too, since he is the eldest of our six kids. Turns out this family's name is spelled Sommers, but the coincidence is amazing. We had four boys and 2 girls, while they had four girls and 2 boys!

Mark drew his sermon from I Corinthians 15:13-14, where Paul puts forth the dichotomy of what it would be like if there is no resurrection. "If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been  raised, our preaching is dead, and so is your faith."

"Why then have Easter?" Pastor Mark asked, "Why drag everyone from bed, get the kids ready, look for lost  shoes, and go to all the trouble?" (Later, he laughed again, after learning that was indeed the case when the Sommers family was late because of their small son's missing shoe!)

His father and I do not often get to hear our son preach, and we were bursting with parental pride and gratefulness to God at his eloquent and heartfelt message. Our spirits agreed with the several people who greeted us after church with nothing but fervent appreciation and love for their pastor and his wife.

And it's no wonder, as what we saw from them that morning was nothing short of amazing. The church is a satellite church from a larger campus that for the past year has been using the facilities of an elementary school for services. This entails literally taking a church from a box (truck) and setting it up every Sunday morning!  Teams of dedicated members busily and efficiently set up chairs in the cafeteria-turned-sanctuary, partition off children's classes and a nursery, place musical instruments on the platform, and dozens of other feats, including turning it back into a lunchroom, unfolding tables to leave it as they found it!

"Please stay on the canvas when we take communion," Mark advised. It seems the school doesn't appreciate any grape juice dripped on the carpet. "Just receive the elements there and return to your seats," he instructed. A large canvas had been taped down at the back of the room for that purpose.

Although the Last Supper was the scene of the first communion, now known as Maundy Thursday, and Jesus died on Good  Friday and rose on Easter Sunday, we took the bread and juice in remembrance that morning, being careful not to spill the representation of the blood, which was spilled so freely for us at Calvary. 

As Paul said in I Corinthians 15:20, "But Christ has indeed been  raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep." He is risen!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Pitcher Pictures

While eating breakfast this morning, my eyes fell on a collection of pitchers I have on the bottom shelf of a serving cart. I love pitchers! Pitchers and bowls! And teapots! I never seem to get enough of them. Looking at the graceful shape (well, most of them, I also have rustic pitchers) and smooth curve of the pouring lip is soothing and pleasurable to me. I guess my addiction hails back to when I was little and my favorite Christmas present was always a tea set!

Not only are they nice to look at, they bring back memories of when and where I got each one, and the story behind or in them! One of my favorites is a heavy, crockery pitcher I bought at an estate sale several years ago. I loved the red barn painted on the front, and always kept that side turned outward to go with the red accents of my kitchen. One day I decided to turn it around, and it dawned on me that the scene painted on the back was like looking at our former home in Mississippi!

The farmhouse was so similar I couldn't get over it! It was blue, which our house was after we'd had it redone. The gable end faced the front, from which a porch with a railing extended to the side just like our house! There was a light post near the drive, and a fence along the front by the road, same as ours. Even a tree at the same corner of the house as the one our children played under. What sweet memories flooded my thoughts!

I also like the pitcher engraved with the scripture, "I was thirsty, and you offered me drink," Matthew 25:35. I used to keep it in a bowl with the words, "O taste and see that the Lord is good, "Psalm 34:8, etched just below the rim.

One pot isn't exactly a pitcher, but a lovely, ceramic coffee pot that used to sit at the bottom of a drip coffee maker. On it is a raised, painted scene of sailboats on blue water with puffy clouds overhead. It is very old, and was part of a collection from my husband's mother. How surprised I was one day when I saw one just like it in an artistic display on a magazine cover!

In John 7:37-38, an account is given of the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, when golden pitchers would be used by priests to pour out water on the altar as an offering to God. Jesus was there and witnessed the ceremony. The Bible says, "Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water."

In verse 39, John explains, (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit is available for us today, pouring out upon all who thirst for Him!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Voices

"Julie, I thought I heard your mama's mama's voice!" my son-in-law Steve exclaimed as he came out from a convenience store to where our daughter was waiting in the car. They were in Tennessee, near the area where my mother lived until she was 12 years old, before her family moved to Texas. "I could have sworn I was listening to your Grandma!"

He had overheard a conversation which obviously reflected the dialect of the Tennessee mountains! My mom did have a unique way of speaking, especially if she was telling a story. She was good at that. Her masterful tale-telling in her country vernacular kept any listener enthralled, as often as not inducing side-splitting laughter in those paying rapt attention, hanging on every word. I can still hear her dramatic, drawn-out descriptions and the way she prefaced her remarks by saying, "Now listen at this!"

Of course, Mama's voice was at its best when she was telling of the goodness of God. When a family member might have a seemingly insurmountable problem, the spunky red-head would often remind them emphatically, "God is the biggest!" Her favorite Bible verse was "In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy path," Proverbs 3:6. And acknowledge Him she did!

Mama was a prayer warrior. As such, her voice was often heard from her bedroom lifted in praise and supplication to her Lord for her large family.

We attended a funeral a couple of weeks ago, after my husband had exclaimed over seeing the obituary in the newspaper of a long-ago friend. We hadn't seen her in more than 50 years, since we had lived away so long, but old memories run deep. We hardly recognized her family members we met there, but talk flowed easily of the old good times. Howard recalled when the departed had worked at his father's grocery store/meat market; and I approached a middle-aged lady playing with her grandchild who I remembered as a three-year-old my mother-in-law used to baby-sit while her mother worked at said store.

Howard recalled laughingly how he could still hear his father's voice advising him to always refer to the chickens in the meat-case as "Arkansas fryers." And to stress to the customers that the hamburger "had just enough fat and just enough lean" in it, plus the fact that "bone-in roasts and chops taste best!"

My mother's voice still reverberates in the hearts of loved ones left behind, and has guided many in life choices. But I would love to go to her home place in Tennessee and hear those endearing local voices for myself!



Monday, March 20, 2017

Plumb Drained!

The house was quiet. Howard had gone to do chores at the farm, and I was resting after a busy morning. Still tired from a non-stop week running around with our visiting son and family, I fell asleep on the sofa. I had put in a load of clothes to wash and went to check on them when I woke up.

What in the world! There was water at my feet in the kitchen! The floor was flooded, and I could see the double sink had overflowed! Oh, no! My husband had been plunging a sluggish sink and garbage disposal, but nothing like this had happened! The wash room was also flooded, with sopping wet throw rugs squishing beneath my feet!

I met Howard at the door with the unhappy surprise. We didn't know a plumber! Our son recommended the "Drain Doctor." When he got here and assessed the problem, he returned with a huge tire! I could see why when he pulled out a plumber's snake he carried coiled inside it. Just a push of a button on the motorized device, and within 20 minutes our drains were working again. Apparently, the washing machine shared the same plumbing as the kitchen sink. Whew! What a relief! Now life could go on!

"What stopped it up?" we asked, although I suspected my husband had lost a dish cloth down it when he did dishes one day recently.

"Just food," the wise "doctor," (who looked to be only a kid) answered. Well, I realized guiltily, I was rather careless about putting large amounts of leftovers down it when we'd had company, even baked potato and sweet potato skins.

Sometimes it seems like our spiritual life is "clogged up" as we get overloaded living life and are too busy to make time for God. Maybe it's nothing major, just the ordinary challenges, problems and stresses that consume our day.

It is easy to give excuses or to say it was so-and-so's fault for our lack of time or opportunity to attend to our "clogged" spiritual life. Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden found excuses for their disobedience and played the blame game. Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the devil, the serpent.

We notice in the Bible that Jesus often took time to pray. During His temptation in the wilderness, he stopped Satan in his tracks by using the Word. "It is written..." prefaced His defense as He refuted the enemy. When flooded with life's problems, we can take comfort in these words: "When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him," Isaiah 59;19.

The Bible calls Satan a snake as it reads, "And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years." Revelation 20:2.

When we were kids, my brothers and I referred to a dragonfly on the water as a "snake doctor." Although the "Drain Doctor" used a "snake" to fix our problem, it is Doctor Jesus, the Great Physician, who is our ever present help in time of need!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Picture That!

"Excuse me, but would you mind if I take your picture?" a stranger asked Howard today! We were browsing at an estate sale and were taken by surprise by her request. "You look just like my late father-in-law," she explained, "and my mother-in-law wondered if you minded," she continued as a smiling older woman appeared at her elbow.

"We noticed when you first came in that you look so much like him," they marveled. "He even wore a hat like yours," the widow remarked fondly, "And a mustache," she finished. Of course, my husband was glad to comply. Then they heard me say something to him, calling him by name, and the older lady said, "Howard! Our last name is Howard!"

"Is this okay?" the younger woman asked Mrs. Howard, showing her the image on the phone screen. Then she snapped another shot, to her mother-in-law's satisfaction. They thanked us profusely, and we continued to browse, with a warm glow of "What just happened?" making us smile.

It reminded me of the time when we were riding on a train to see family, and a large group of older men came into the observation car where we were, and sat down. I couldn't take my eyes off one of them. He looked amazingly like an older version of Howard! The same chin, nose, and demeanor. It was uncanny! I didn't take a picture, though maybe I should have!

Thankfully, my spouse is friendly and likable, and nearly always outgoing to strangers, so he rather enjoyed the incident. But what if he had been cross and unapproachable? I doubt they would have wanted his picture! Even though we didn't know the people, it seemed we had a kindred spirit.

When people pass away, sometimes it is hard to remember them exactly after awhile, and we even begin to forget the sound of their voice as time goes on. But the Bible tells us that in Heaven, we will know loved ones, friends and acquaintances. I Corinthians 13:12 reads, "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 also I am known." A picture that no camera on earth can equal!

Friday, March 17, 2017

"Oh Misery, Misery, Mumble and Moan, Someone (Re-)invented the Telephone!"

"Hi, Mark," I said cheerily when our eldest son's name lit up the screen of my iPhone. I was startled to hear a woman's voice say, "I don't know whose phone this is. It was left out in front of my shop!"

I said Mark was my son, and rapid-fire info filled my ear when the voice said, "He is in Kemah! Do you know who he is with, so you can tell him where his phone is?" I drew a blank. I'd had no idea he was at this resort area a good way from their home in Austin. But with this being the week of Spring Break, it was possible they were taking a holiday.

Hanging up the phone with the promise of trying to reach somebody, I dialed his wife's number. No answer. Repeated calls were futile as well. I didn't have either of his sons' phone numbers, and I couldn't think of anyone who might be with him.

After much frantic wracking of my brain, I decided to call the lady on Mark's phone again and suggest she contact other numbers on his phone. I pushed Mark's name, and the phone rang. He answered! "Hi, Mom," he said, "I lost my phone. We are at Kemah, and I didn't know where I had left it! I retraced my steps and just found it!"

The details were sketchy, and Mark was in a hurry, so it was all a little fuzzy to me. I gathered that my daughter-in-law was shopping somewhere, and when I said I had tried to call her, his response was "Rhonda's phone is dead." So that was it. I was just glad he found his phone!

Sometimes the new technology can leave us stranded and feeling helpless. I could always find my phone when it was attached to the wall, but now, not so much! My youngest son and family were here from Texas for a few days of their
Spring Break. They visited the Marland Mansion, and I saw a photo of their 8-year-old posing holding an old-fashioned receiver with a long cord attached to a rotary dial phone on the wall. She seemed to get a big kick out of it!

It used to be that people had to go through a priest to talk to God. But when Jesus died on the cross, the heavy veil that hung in the temple was rent in two, giving us direct access to the Father! Hebrews 10:19-20 tells us, "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, (20) By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh."

I am so glad that Jesus always has a listening ear for His children! And His phone is never dead!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Feathers 'n' Fur

We have chickens in three different pens, divided by little chickens, teen-age chickens, and big, grown up chickens. I sometimes wait in the car listening to the radio while my husband feeds them, plus the goats and cats. But today I was struck with an impulse to go see the "baby" chickens I hadn't seen for awhile. I was astounded at how they'd grown! They are getting all feathered out, with the distinctive colors of the Araucana breed.

Then I thought I'd look in on the oldest chickens, and as I peered through their chicken-wire enclosure inside the barn, I saw something in the corner that definitely wasn't chickens! As my eyes adjusted to the dim area, a shaft of sunlight shone on a wriggling, grey mass in the corner. Kittens! Newborn kittens were huddled together on the hay-strewn floor, guarded over by a recently-delivered mama cat!

My first thought was that the bossy rooster in residence might attack them and kill them! He had almost pulverized a mid-size pullet that Howard had placed in there one day. "Howard! We've got to get them out of there!" I yelled to my husband, who was as surprised as I was at my discovery.

Though Mama Cat was nervously guarding them, I managed to get her out and usher her to the cat food we had put out. Then, keeping an eye out for Rooster, I gathered the squirming little bundle and placed it on straw in a far corner of the barn. Then I picked up their mother and put her with the babies. What's this? She was giving them tentative pokes with her paw, like a cat with a mouse. Not the Mama! She was still at the feeding dish! I retrieved the right cat, and was relieved to see her nuzzling them as they responded by lifting little heads.

It dawned on me what was going on when I saw a little head go into the mother's mouth! She ran with the kitten, pausing once to get a firmer grip, while the kit dangled helplessly from her jaws! Then the unbelievable happened when I saw her scale the wooden lower half of the wall, expertly climb the chicken-wire enclosure to where it ended near the top of the barn, than dive over and land on the floor of her original chosen nursery locale! All the while holding baby!

So there we left her with the rest of her brood, while the hens and roosters warily kept their distance! Like they say, You can't fight Mother Nature!

After watching this panorama of events, I reflected on the marvel of Creation. How God put the right instincts into all the creatures, great and small. The nurturing, protective qualities inborn in them could only come from their Creator. Seeing the cat's climbing feat, I thought of the old song we used to sing in church that goes: "I can run through a troop and leap over a wall...Hallelujah, hallelujah!" It is from a psalm of David thanking God for his protection and power. "For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God I have leaped over a wall," Psalm 18:29.

Two more farm cats look ready to deliver, so we will have plenty of little mousers coming on, and I'm sure, many more antics on the horizon!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Who Are You Wearing?

Politicians were asked this surprise question by a reporter as they entered to hear President Trump's speech a couple of nights ago. They were taken aback, but knowing it was the stock inquiry to Hollywood celebrities as to whose designer clothing they were wearing, most responded with an amused chuckle, smile or quizzical frown.

I couldn't help but think about how most people are concerned about their appearance and want to project the right image of who they are. Some prefer to be casual (most, nowadays) in their dress, but many are more comfortable in looking right for the occasion, whether for church, business or even work-outs at the gym.

But back to the question of "Who are you wearing?" As a Christian, I want to reflect Christ in my walk of life and follow the directives of scripture. I Timothy 2:9 tells women to dress in modest apparel, that is, not elaborately and without ostentation.

I Peter 3:3-4 advises it's not our hair-do, or gold jewelry or what we wear, "But let it be the hidden man of the heart...even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price." Verse 5:5 goes on to say that one is to "be clothed with humility."

In another analogy to apparel in the prophecy of the Messiah, Isaiah 61:3 reads, "To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called the trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified."

Verse 61:10 says, "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels."

More instructions are given in Ephesians 6:13 and following to take on the whole armour of God, putting on the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness. Our feet are to be shod with the gospel of peace. Then we are to take up the shield of faith, wear the helmet of salvation and carry the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God.

If we abide by these principles, the question might truly be not what you're wearing, but Who are you wearing? I want to wear Jesus!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Tea Time

"Zacchaeus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he; He climbed up in a sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see. And as the Savior passed that way, he looked up in the tree; and he said, 'Zacchaeus, you come down, for I'm going to your house for tea!'" So goes the song children have sung for generations in Sunday School or children's ministries.

That always made me wonder: Did Jesus really drink tea? Did they have it then? An old saying says he did, for the hymn, "Isn't he wonderful?" has been misinterpreted to have Him saying, "Isn't tea wonderful?"

Seriously, though, I have always loved iced tea. I can still remember the wonderful iced tea of my childhood, even way back when ice delivered by the ice man was chipped with an ice pick into cooling chunks, frosting the outside of the glass, mason jar, or tin can we drank from. Later, of course, we had the magic of cubes from the ice tray, popped out by a lever, from the freezer part of the refrigerator.

Then, ages later, tea seemed to have lost that delicious, exotic flavor. I had become a purchaser of pre-packaged, family-size tea bags. The only places I found tea that tasted authentic was in two particular restaurants. Until a week ago. My husband and I decided to buy tea in the bulk, that is, loose tea leaves, that we could brew and strain into a pitcher.

The difference is amazing! It tastes like tea! It costs more, but it is worth every penny! We are so glad we switched!

Have you ever felt that your Christian walk has become stale and tasteless? Do you long for the time when it was new and exhilarating? Are you tired of pre-packaged church services, with a predictable pattern and allotted time slot?

Gone are the days when services were apt to last far into the night, with kids sleepy and drowsing in the car on the way home, but still able and ready for school the next day. How about the revivals that lasted at least two weeks, and some even six weeks! Times have changed. With all our technology that is supposed to make life easier and ourselves more efficient, we seem to have less time than ever.

It's time for a switch! Time to put Jesus first in our lives! He is ready. "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me," Revelation 3:20. Spend time with him, and it will be more invigorating than the best cup of tea in town!

Bon appetite!

"Do you want to get a rotisserie chicken?" I asked my husband Saturday as we passed the deli-counter in Walmart, to which he ventured, "Will we have it for dinner tomorrow?" I had already planned Crock-Pot Lasagna for Sunday, so we would keep it till later.

The chicken was delicious when I heated it in the oven on Monday! Of course, there was plenty left, although it was a rather small bird, I realized. We had sandwiches from it a couple of times, and finally I found enough meat on it to make a chicken salad. With chopped celery, apples and grapes added, it made wonderful chicken salad sandwiches.

Late the next afternoon, Howard was hungry, so I warmed some of the left-over lasagna for him before he went to do his farm chores (recreation) of feeding chickens, cats and goats. "I want to make chicken soup for supper," I said, knowing he would want something light later.

"Well, you might be mad at me," my husband confessed, "I ate some off the chicken today." Oh well, stewing the carcass would still yield plenty of flavor, I hoped.

After adding carrots, celery, onion and rice to the pot of bubbling broth, I tasted it and found it rather bland. If only I had some chicken bouillon, I thought, but no amount of searching revealed it in the cupboard, validating my memory of using the last cube on something else.

The last of the meat fell easily from the bones as I removed them from the pot. Giving the cupboard a one last once-over, I couldn't believe it when my hand touched a small packet at the back of the shelf. I squinted at the blurry print on the foil square to read "Chicken Flavor"! Thank you, Lord, I breathed!

The soup was yummy and just enough! Howard even left a little in his bowl. I felt like the widow in the Bible (II Kings 4) whose oil did not run out! God is our provider!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Brand New!

Taking a zip-lock bag from the drawer this morning, I thought how there was no such thing when I was growing up, wrapping wax paper around school-lunch sandwiches for me and four of my brothers. In fact, a fragment of memory popped into my head of an old country ditty that went: "There'll never be anything new again, there'll never be anything new..." The gist of the song was that everything that could be invented had already been invented!

How wrong that song was! With the onslaught of products available today, from the latest gadget to the most current cell phone and smart TV, we can hardly keep up with the newest thing on the market. The discoveries of science, space and archaeology reveal something new to us on a regular basis.

The Bible tells us God's mercies are new every morning! "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness," Lamentations 3:22-23.

Obviously, God likes new things! Psalm 33:3 instructs us, "Sing unto him a new song; play skillfully with a loud noise."

I got a new dress yesterday. Do I already have dresses? Yes, but I like something new sometimes! It is refreshing to the spirit. (I also needed long pants, but I gave up after seeing the selections. I think I'll leave the new modern style to the younger set. Some new things are better left alone!)

Every day God gives us a new sunrise and a new sunset. I don't see the sunrise as often as the sunset, but they are both a show of artistic beauty, like no one on earth can paint. In heaven, believers will receive a new name (Revelation 2:17), and someday God will create a new heaven and a new earth!

"For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind," Isaiah 65:17. He is the God of the new!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Night Out

"You knew her?" my husband asked in surprise when a name came up in conversation at our table. We were at a Valentine banquet for a youth fundraiser last night. I, too, was astounded at this jaw-dropping comment. I hadn't seen the person in question for over 50 years, when she came by to see our newborn daughter.

This friend had been my Sunday School teacher when I was 13 years old, new at the small church in a nearby town and still grief-stricken after the tragic loss of a young sibling. I adored her, this classy young woman who was exuberant about her faith and whose lovely voice melted hearts as she sang solos in the services.

She had a heart for youth, and even directed our wedding several years later. Of course, I chose her to sing our wedding song, "Always." Eons later, we heard this lady was working at the same college in Texas where our son, Trevor, was in school. Word got back to us that she had remarked, "You mean the red-haired boy is Howard and Thelma's son?" I remember writing her a letter of reminiscence and getting a warm response. A few years later, we were shocked and saddened to hear of her untimely passing.

"Yes!" our table mate exclaimed. "We were like sisters!" What a blast from the past! Apparently they were friends for the many years we were moving around the country, from Oklahoma to Kansas and then to New Orleans and south Mississippi where we raised our children.

To think we had been attending this church nearly three years and hadn't stumbled on to this bit of information! Well, it is a big church, and it's been a little hard to get to know people, other than those in our Berean Sunday School class. In fact, I was feeling a little isolated at the banquet, until I was surprised at being called to participate in a Pictionary game on a white board down front. They couldn't guess my picture, but at least it got me out of my seat and lifted my spirits!

We had been handed a ticket for a drawing when we arrived, then when the time came, I searched my purse diligently for the ticket. It was nowhere to be found! Not in any of the compartments, either. Oh well, just my "luck," I thought. The drawings went on, and suddenly I spotted a ticket across the table where I had originally sat down! At the same time, I heard a number being called and I realized it was the number on my ticket! I got a beautiful gift bag filled with sparkly tissue and a couple of presents!

I was having fun after all! And being filled in about our friend of long ago left me with a warm glow of familiarity and closeness that stayed with me all the way home. What will heaven be like, catching up with everyone!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Farm Friends and Foes

It has long been the practice of the farm critters we feed to run excitedly toward the fence when they see our small sedan drive up. Sometimes Howard honks the horn to get their attention, and they materialize from shed, pasture and pond like long-lost friends.

We are also visited regularly by a flock of renegade guineas which roam pasture and woods at will, then disappear like a grey cloud or magicians sleight of hand. My husband, who admires guineas tremendously and has a hunger to own some, has been trying to contain them in the barn lot where they endure the goat's ire to snatch kernels of corn he has scattered.

But the semi-wild guineas always keep a safe, invisible barrier between us and their flighty selves, never wanting very close contact with humans. Which is why I was flabbergasted today when we drove toward the barn lot. The usually wary fowl swarmed toward us, a puddle of grey spreading over the landscape like spilled asphalt.

"Look! They think we're their mother!" I exclaimed to my driver-husband. I could imagine this little silver-grey car floating bouncily down the slope toward them looking like a huge, grey, mother goose (ok, guinea)and provider of food! (I know that new-hatched ducklings and geese will bond with the first thing they see, be it human or goose flesh!)

They must be getting more tame, because although the goat rushed them repeatedly, tossing her horns and chasing them relentlessly, the guineas managed to dodge her thrusts and keep on eating her corn. I was even enlisted to stand by the shed door and be ready to close in any stray clackers, should they fall for my husband's ploy of scattered grain that led temptingly into confinement.

I was also drafted to go look for the goats earlier, as they had been nowhere to be seen when we first arrived. Unlocking the gate to the pen, I went through the back gate and onto the grassy hillside, calling for them. (How does one call a goat? "Here, goat-y," I yelled.) I was getting worried that they had disappeared, when I caught a glimpse of Mama Goat, running from the direction of the pond.

Then I couldn't believe my eyes, for bounding along like a frolicking kid (which she is) I saw the "baby" goat bouncing speedily behind her mother. This is the little goat who has been having trouble walking because of hoof problems! They had been trimmed by the vet, and again by my husband and son, while our grandson held her. Still, she lies around a lot. She must be better, I realized!

Duties (or Howard's labor of love) complete, we headed home, me refreshed from the fresh air and mild exercise, and my husband busily plotting ahead of buying cat food to bait a trap for catching a marauder that got in and stole a chicken the other night, with nothing left but a few feathers.

Who knows what tomorrow holds? God, of course, and He will enable us to handle it!

Monday, February 6, 2017

A Step Up!

It never fails! As sure as I get rid of something, it isn't long before I find myself needing the very thing I had no use for formerly! Well, not this time. I had bought a bed stair some years ago at an estate sale and had used it for various purposes: book shelf, step ladder, plant stand, etc., but never to climb up to bed. Our bed was low enough to get into easily.

Every time I had gone to our daughter's house in Georgia and saw our granddaughter's very high bed, I would tell myself to bring that bed stair to Rachel. But invariably, our car is packed too full, or I just forget to try to get it loaded, or we fly or ride with someone.

Then a couple of years ago I came upon an irresistible bargain in an antique, iron bed with beautifully scrolled metal work headboard and footboard. We loved it. But when it was time to go to bed, I couldn't get into it! Our mattress and foundation on the iron rails made it too high! My tall husband had no problem though. He easily sat on the bed and comfortably swung his legs over onto it. That's when I remembered the bed stair! The two steps leading up were just what I needed! Now I don't know what I would do without it!

Today we were on the walking track at Cann Gardens, and we kept meeting a couple of teenagers who were also walking. Sometimes they would overtake us, or we would see them coming from behind at a distance, their walking speed much faster than these two senior citizens! On a bench at one of our frequent resting places, we spoke to them as they were passing in front of us. "What does your shirt say?" my husband asked the boy.

"Oh, I'm on the basketball team at our Christian homeschool, and this is our shirt," he explained, turning around so we could read the message on the back. It was a scripture from Matthew, and Howard asked what church he attended, to which the boy replied it was non-denominational. We chatted briefly with the friendly pair (no, they weren't boyfriend/girlfriend they assured us, just walking buddies.)

"Everyone needs a walking partner," I said, and as they went on Howard called, "Keep walking!"

This reminded me of a song, "Walking Up the King's Highway," sung often by the late Jesse Dixon. The words go something like "If you're not walking, start while I'm talking, Walking up the King's highway... It's the highway to heaven, None can walk up there, But the pure in heart, Walking up the King's highway." No one could sing it with the enthusiasm of the irrepressible Jesse Dixon.

That in turn made think of Jacob's vision of the stairway going up to heaven, commonly known as Jacob's ladder, where angels ascended and descended while Jacob wrestled all night with one. Well, my bed stair may not lead to heaven, but the bed feels heavenly when I ascend it!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Cat's Meow!

"I like your wrap," I said to a friend taking her seat near me at our women's Bible study Wednesday night. She was wearing a long, blue-and-white knitted poncho on this getting-cold night.

"Thank you!" the diminutive lady with the curly white hair responded, "It's only the third time I've worn it, and I got it while I was in college!" Thinking I might not have heard her right, after the meeting I said that college was a long time ago!

"No!" she said, "We went to college at 30 and 40 years old, after we had kids!" Well, still a long time ago, I thought, since she was in her late 70's at least! But you would never know it, judging from her active lifestyle! This energetic dynamo seems to be everywhere, whether reading to day care children, manning the phone in the church office, helping in a nursing home, or serving in the kitchen, to name a few, but always ready with a hug and greeting to one and all at church!

I already knew that my friend had taught school in Alaska for 20 years, and that most of her 5 children still live there. She had regaled my husband and me with stories of living in days of darkness and the challenges of the long, arctic winters. "You just get used to it," she shrugs nonchalantly.

What an interesting life! I have always wanted to go to Alaska, and we've had other friends who have lived there. The world is such a varied and marvelous creation! Acts 17:26 tells us, "And have made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation."

Perhaps God has decided where we would live! Our sprightly widowed friend, whose given name is Kitty, says the children she reads to call her "Miss Kitty," "As in Matt Dillon's 'Gun Smoke,'" she says. Well, I don't know if she carried a gun in Alaska in case of bears, but in my book, Kitty is the Cat's Meow!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Gift of Gab

We had been wanting to try out a new place in town, which is actually a pie shop, but they serve light lunches, as well. It was a tiny, intimate space with a couple of shabby-chic breakfast sets, a table that also served as a counter, and a tall table for two. The kind attendant let us move from the counter-table to a regular one when it was vacated by another patron.

While we enjoyed bowls of delicious taco soup, my talkative husband managed to start a conversation with the helpful waitress. "You remind me of someone who went to my church when I was a kid," he ventured. Turns out she actually was from our home town a short distance away, although no kin to the aforementioned.

Howard asked how she came to work there, and the hospitable hostess revealed that she loved to bake, something she had learned from her grandmother. "My grandmother lives in a tiny house in Blackwell," she offered, giving her grandmother's address, to which my husband exclaimed, "Why, I grew up in the house just across the street from there! In fact, my father used to own that house!"

I remembered the house well, which the then-resident (a little white-haired lady herself) back in the fifties had turned into a little house-store where she sold day-old bread, donuts and pastries. The fond memories were as pleasant as the food and conversation!

God has given my husband the gift of communication, as was evidenced yesterday when we called on a visitor to our church. Searching for the address, we saw a car pull out of the drive of the house we were hunting, but a man was near the garage doing some yard work. Howard confidently strode toward him, introducing himself and was soon intent in conversation. I waited in the car, since it was obviously the wife who had driven away. From their smiles and my spouse's expansive gestures, I could tell they were having a nice visit.

"That was a great call!" Howard exclaimed as he got back in the car, glowing with pleasure. They had had a good talk about the Lord, and my husband was able to explain and answer the man's questions about church. It was so rewarding to both of us that Howard was able to use his gifts in service for the Lord! Maybe he'll even get back to preaching some day!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Fired Up!

Multi-tasking as I cooked breakfast, stirring grits and having put leftover homemade pizza (delicious with all that sausage on top) in the oven, I was suddenly aware that smoke was pouring from the stove! I had been preparing some oven-fried bacon, and quickly yanked open the oven door. A kitchen towel lying on the oven door was on fire, one I recognized as one of a set my son got me for Christmas that I displayed on the oven bar.

How did that happen, I wondered! Then I noticed that half of the towel wasn't burnt, for it had hung outside the door while the other was caught inside without my knowing it! I shouldn't have set the oven on broil to hasten the bacon, I realized!

Smothering the flames with the unburnt end of the towel, I put the smoking wad on the enclosed back porch and went to rescue the bacon. Between calling my husband to get up and checking on the eggs frying in the skillet, I was too distracted to notice (my sense of smell is AWOL right now) that the kitchen was smoky again. I flung open the back door to a porch filled with smoke! The smoldering towel had re-ignited! This time I threw it on the back step and poured water on it! Thankfully, the ceiling fan cleared the air!

A few weeks ago, our church was having a "Ministry Fair," similar to a job fair, I guess, but it was to offer opportunities for people to get involved in areas of service in the church. My husband and I signed up for "Visitation Ministry." Yesterday the leader of the group called and asked us to call on one of the visitors from last Sunday. We are looking forward to meeting them and are glad to reach out in this way.

There are many ways of evangelizing, and verses in Jude 20-23 has admonitions concerning this. "But ye beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh."

Other places in the Bible speaks of pulling them from the fire as a brand from the burning, Amos 4:11, Zechariah 3:2. The burning towel I pulled out reminded me of this. May we be an effective witness!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Happy Birthday!

With three granddaughters' birthdays coming in January, all within 10 days of each other, I planned to shop for cards early in the month. But the weeks flew by, and I forgot! Just in time, I remembered, and set out in a hurry to get one for the granddaughter who lives locally. Her birthday was on the 21st.

I scrutinized the cards in the card shop, looking for one that had a big "25" on it, as she was reaching her 25th birthday. As her grandfather browsed, I picked up and put back several cards, trying to find just the right one. They had numerical birthdays for children and seniors, but none for my purposes. Not even age-appropriate ones that said "Granddaughter."

Finally I selected a lovely card, with sentiments of her accomplishments, bright future, and so on inside. (She had just received her teaching degree and had started a job teaching 4th grade.) Now to get it mailed! I didn't remember her house number, so we had passed by for a visual sighting earlier. I didn't have anything to write it down on, but I assured my husband I would remember it. Not! Another trip by her house refreshed my memory!

Since we needed something from the supermarket in which a postal station is housed, we headed there to drop off the card. I couldn't believe my eyes when I read "Post Office is Closed for Repairs. Sorry for the inconvenience"! What? Now we would barely have time to get to the main P.O.!

A few days later, I got cards for the younger girls. One was turning 18 on the 29th and the other 14 on the 31st. The previous card had required extra postage, so I took the soon-to-be 18-year-old's card to the main post office to see if one stamp was sufficient.

Guess what! There were 12 people ahead of me! Some went fast, then a lady with a shopping bag in her hand and carrying a couple of packages under her arm began her mailing. After the first two packages, she endlessly retrieved many other parcels from her bag, each requiring measuring, weighing, calculating, and stamping. The other window was occupied by a woman apparently filling out some form of application that lasted FOREVER! At last I found out I did need extra postage. I would place the youngest granddaughter's card on my mailbox at home!

Birthdays! Kids love them, and we love the kids, so we remember them! I got to thinking about our spiritual birthdays. Some people remember exactly where and when they took Jesus into their heart and were saved. Others, like me, cannot pin-point the date. There is a song that says something like, "I remember the time...I can take you to the place...when the Lord saved me..."

Well, the time for me was when the time was right, at age 13, and the place was at the place of my need! I heard someone say that just because you can't remember when you were born, it doesn't change the fact that you were born!

Thankfully, God doesn't forget our "birthday." He writes it down in the Lamb's book of Life. And if we think mailing cards is a lot of trouble, think what Jesus went through to provide our salvation and make our spiritual birthday possible! The angels already had our party, but one still awaits us!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Who Knew?

Getting ready to leave the house, I reached for my go-to accessory, a long strand of varied beads and shapes, but instead my hand fell on a necklace I hadn't worn in ages. Impulsively, I put the chain with the dangling hearts around my neck. One of the hearts was of scrolled metal design, and the smaller one was graced with a red bead inset. Somehow I'd always overlooked it in my jewelry cabinet drawer.

We had gathered with others at our friends' house for a Bible study. When the leader announced his teaching topic, it was on the heart! Maybe this is why I obeyed the impulse to wear the necklace, I thought. After all, it wasn't my favorite piece, and not nearly as pretty as the other one! But as the lesson unfolded, I learned many truths about the heart, especially the heart of God.

The Bible refers to David being a man after God's own heart. "And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfill all my will." Acts 13:22. In other words, David would do what God wanted him to do!

Wednesday nights at church we have a fellowship dinner before our several sessions. We had gotten there early, so I had my choice of which table to join. We chatted with those at the table, then one couple got up to leave to make their places available to others coming in. I saw a friend enter and repositioned the chair next to me, thinking she would sit there. But when I turned around, she had passed our table and went to join other friends. I squelched my feelings, then someone else sat down that I was able to visit with.

Later, my friend did sit by me in our Bible Study. Ironically, the lesson was on overcoming feelings of being left out and not nurturing feelings of rejection! Later, in prayer time, this friend prayed for me and my sinus headache!

It's amazing how God goes ahead of us and prepares the way for us, at the same time teaching us a lesson on trust!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

It's Bubbling!

Wow! This dishwashing liquid is lasting a long time, I thought. I had noticed a few days before that the contents had barely gone down, and now, it was still nearly full! This after my husband had done dishes a couple of times as well, and he is known to use nearly half a bottle at a time!

Then on closer inspection, I held the bottle up to the light. It was nearly empty! Scrutinizing the bottle, I saw that it had a dark-blue plastic coating coming to about an inch from the top, camouflaging the true level of the blue detergent! Soon it would be time for a new bottle!

This made me think of Christians and the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 5:18b tells us to be filled with the Spirit! I have heard many preachers say this means to continually be filled, or "be being filled." We leak! Even as the dishwashing liquid disappears, we often find ourselves "used up," or running on empty, so to speak.

Oh, we may look good on the outside, with our cloak of righteousness camouflaging the emptiness we may feel within. We go to church, give money, volunteer services or any number of things, ignoring the shallowness of our spirit! The Bible gives us the answer when it says:

"And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; (19) Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord," Ephesians 5:18-19.

These verses show how to encourage ourselves in the Lord, even as David did in the Bible, I Samuel 30:6. David often encouraged himself when he reflected on God's goodness to him. Ephesians 5:20 gives us the key: "Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."

When our testimony is held up to the light, may it show a fullness of the Spirit!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Labels

The shiny, plastic cup caught my eye in a Wal-Mart display bin. A new measuring cup! Just what I needed! The markers had worn off my old one, and the graduated cups I'd been using were a hassle. I happily added it to my basket.

There was only one problem with the new cup. A stubborn label was firmly attached to the side and resisted coming off in the dishwater! I soaked it, put the cup aside, and finally managed to get the tenacious sticker off in subsequent washings. I hate labels! They can ruin the surface of glass on a picture frame and so many other things!

The trouble with labels is that they stick! What can really hurt is when a label becomes attached to some person. Kids often grow up with a label applied, maybe in jest, or maybe fondly, but often cruelly. "She is the pretty one." "He is the smart one." "Fatty!" "Slow Learner." "Lazy." "Dummy." "Tiny." "Shorty." The list is endless.

Then there are labels associated with politics or political correctness. "Racist!" "Bigot!" "Sexist!" Terms tossed about carelessly and hatefully. No one wants to be labeled those things!

Growing up with seven brothers, I often heard the mean labels they threw at each other in their hard joshing, mostly about physical characteristics they would outgrow or that would become inconsequential as adults. Then as I began to develop as a young teen, I was the target of their labels which were embarrassing to a sensitive girl-child!

Even Jesus was labeled! In Mark 3:21 he was labeled "beside himself" (crazy) by friends (and family). In the next verse, the scribes inferred he was possessed by Beelzebub (prince of devils).

But Pilate put a sign over Jesus's cross saying, JESUS OF NAZARETH, KING OF THE JEWS. (When the chief priests protested, saying "Write not, The King of the Jews, but that he said, I am king of the Jews," Pilate replied, "What I have written, I have written.")

Matthew 27:54 says, "Now when the centurion and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God." The right label at last!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Right Mix!

Why doesn't this have any taste? I asked myself as I sampled the mixture of cocoa, water and butter to be added to the batter of the chocolate sheet cake I was making. Well, it would only be a half recipe, since the two of us couldn't eat a whole cake. On second glance, I saw that that was a lot of water in the pan. I had been mentally dividing the ingredients by half, but I must have put in a whole cup of water instead of a half-cup! Seemed it needed salt, too, but the recipe hadn't called for salt.

Then it hit me! Not only was it watery and too thin, I had used unsalted butter! I had completely forgotten that the new carton of butter I opened was the unsalted variety that I had bought last week because it was on sale! Apparently, salt in the butter would have been sufficient! Not wanting to waste the butter and cocoa, I poured half of the blend out, reducing the liquid. I had no idea how the cake would turn out. The frosting tasted flat, too, as I spread it on the cake, so I impulsively topped it with a light sprinkling of salt. (Reminded me of the salted caramel so popular now.)

The cake was okay, considering my sense of taste is absent lately, anyway. But I thought about the verse in the Bible that says believers are the salt of the earth. Matthew 5:13, "Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is henceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under the foot of men." I guess when the salt loses its savor, or taste, it is kind of like Christians who have lost their enthusiasm, zeal, or passion for spreading the gospel.

Jesus is also quoted in Matthew 5:14 as saying, "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. (15) 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. (16) Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."

In the parable of the sower, Jesus illustrated obstacles to faith. He talks about seed falling on stony ground, among thorns, and even eaten by birds. He notes how the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches chokes and causes the word to be unfruitful.

But in Matthew 13:23, He says, "But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth much fruit, and bringeth forth some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty."

May we not be flavorless like unsalted butter, but salt and light to the world! And a little sprinkling of salt never hurts!