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

Heartthoughts: 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!