Monday, October 31, 2011

Just because... doesn't mean....

      I've thought about my own life and one memory in particular keeps coming back to me; why, I'm not sure.  All I know is that it can't be denied that as a young adult, I struggled with jealousy, with a feeling that God had denied me something  fundamental - a father's love.  (Later, I realized that this was not God's doing but for a while, I held this against Him.)
    I wasn't even aware of this deep resentment until I  entered my twenties, started working full-time, and also joined a large single-adult class at church.  For the first time, I found myself in the company of a few girls whom I instinctively disliked.  It took me a while to realize that they had all come from stable families within the church, were attractive and confident, and all of them, without exception, had great relationships with their dads.  Ironically, instead of rejoicing with them, I felt envious.
   To make matters worse, I commuted one summer to my graduate classes with a girl who had everything - a loving family, money, beauty (she did modeling on the side), and a sweet personality.  I really liked this girl from our undergraduate days but this particular summer, I was acutely aware (as I had never been in the dorm) of how different our lives were.
   For me, this angst over what I didn't have, seemed to focus on cars, oddly enough. I bought my first car with money I borrowed from my great aunt.  $900.00.  I bought it at a used car lot and I remember to this day reading a sign in the office that said, "A used car warranty is about as good as a dead cockroach."  I didn't know what a used-car warranty was so the sign meant nothing to me at the time - it just caught my attention because of the reference to cockroaches!   I paid cash for the vehicle and before I got the car home, the horn started honking, on it's own volition. Without stopping.
   So I had to drive it right back where they tinkered with it and assured me the problem was fixed.
   It was.
   But others weren't.
   During my days of commuting to graduate school, I had 5 (yes, five!) flat tires, an engine to "throw a rod" whatever that means - all I know is I cried for days and put the tab on two of my mom's credit cards which I eventually paid off - and the door handle also fell off. On the driver's side.  While I was at UCA.  So I had to go to a gas station and get them to somehow tie my door shut so I could make it back to Little Rock. Oh, and I almost forgot the fact that the heater went out in the middle of winter (sleeping bags work pretty good!) and reverse also eventually went out.  Maybe the reverse thing was on my second used car.. I forget. All I know is that someone commented on the fact that I always parked as if I were going to rob a place, instead of parking normally.  That's what driving without reverse does for you - it teaches you to park across parking spaces, always making sure there is room to drive forward!
  Going back to the summer when I commuted with my friend, M., to summer school, we rode in her car for obvious reasons!!!  She had a sports car - a convertible -  and when she drove with the top down,  heads turned.  With her blonde hair piled high on her head, dark shades on her classically beautiful face and wearing  strapless sundresses (which were all the rage back then), men noticed not just the MGB Roadster but also the driver, something that did not happen when I drove my pale blue Volkswagen Bug down the highways of life:)
    By the time M. and I started commuting, I was totally fed up with all the times my car had stranded me along the highway and landed me with big repair bills.  Then one day, her car began to choke and sputter.  She managed to pull the roadster off the freeway and onto the parking lot of a truck stop.  The event is etched in my mind still.  She parked the car, cool as a cucumber, and walked into this male domain, head held high, confident, looking like a million dollars while I trailed in her wake, nervous as all get-out, wondering what on earth we would do.  My only consolation was that if any of the rough men around us tried to attack anyone, it wouldn't be me:)
   We went straight to a pay phone, M. still looking like a movie star on a set  just taking a work break as she dialed someone. Then to my total surprise, her confident expression completely crumbled and in a little-girl voice that I had never heard her use before, she wailed, "Daddy!  My car just broke down and I don't know what to do!"
   This was followed by head-nodding and several "Yes, DAddy..."s. Then "Thanks, Daddy!" and a click of the receiver, followed by a resumption of the confident woman-about-town demeanor that allowed us to thread our way safely back to her car outside.
   Within minutes a tow truck pulled up and hitched up her vehicle. Then we were told that even though it was against the rules, her dad had arranged for us to ride in the cab of the tow truck, something that clearly made the driver very happy...
   He took us straight to a car dealership where a manager promptly handed my friend the keys to a top-of-the-line rental car.  Bottom line: we made it back to Little Rock in plenty of time for her to get ready for her date.
   I, who was dateless at the time and fatherless and cramming hard for my upcoming Master's exam, hit a low point.
   Where was my dad to call when my car broke down?
   Who had ever called in a tow truck for me or arranged a rental for me in just the snap of a finger?
    I didn't like the answers to those questions so I tabled them for a while.
   Summer morphed into Fall and I entered my second full year of Bible Study Fellowship.  My new leader was about my age, beautiful, married, expecting her first child and.... she wore a heart necklace that her father had given her on Valentine's Day.   As soon as my brain ascertained all these facts, I felt a wall going up in my heart; I knew I was putting up barriers between myself and her. And that she was not at fault.
   Still, there it was.
   So when I went home that night and had my prayer time, I told God that He would either have to get me a new leader or change my heart because as it was, I could not learn under this young woman's leadership; it just wasn't possible.  As you can see, I was really ignorant back then. Now, I would just say, "Okay, God.   Go ahead and change my heart...Just get it over with...." because I've learned that  He's really more into heart attitude than what I like or don't like...
   At any rate,  I started on my lesson and as I was looking up a cross-reference, I came across this verse:
    "so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love,"
    The phrase, "rooted and grounded in love"  stood out like a neon sign.
    I just kept staring at it; thinking about it. Finally got on my knees to pray about it.
    And that's when God flashed this message across my small little mind:
    "Do you think that just because you can't call me up on the telephone when your car breaks down, that I am any less of a Father to you than M.'s father is to her? Or than your group leader's father is to her?"
    This was followed by a question.  "Will you allow me to make you rooted and grounded in my love?"
    Those questions, and the assurance of His love that they gave,  stayed with me for years.
    How well I've allowed His love to seep into my heart, I don't know.
    But I do know two things happened not too long after that momentous heart-to-heart with my Abba.
    Without realizing it, I came to love my Bible study leader.  So much so that when she had to drop out of leadership because of all the demands of new motherhood, I had trouble accepting her absence and never quit wishing she would come back, even if only for the last week.  Clearly, God had done a work in my heart. She had a loving dad. I did too....:)
   The other event:  my car (what else?) broke down!
   I took it to this shop where the mechanics were skilled  but very worldly.  And as I was driving up to the shop, prepared to wait for who-knew-how-long for them to fix it so that I could get another whopping bill, who should I see leaving but another leader from BSF?   This Godly lady rolled down her window and shouted a greeting to me, asking me what I was doing there.  I told her that my car had broken down again and I had just spent $200.00 on it a month earlier and now I was probably looking at another big repair bill.
   This lady was bubbly and happy and faith-filled and to my surprise, she just leaned out of her car window and cheerily announced, "Well, we'll just pray and ask God to let this be a small, inexpensive repair job!!"  Behind her, I could see this jaded mechanic staring at us and as she talked, I could see the sardonic look on his face.  I thought, "Great!  Now that guy will probably add another hundred to my bill just to show that prayer doesn't work!!"
    I had to leave the car overnight so I called a friend to come and get me.
    The next day I went back to pick it up.  Total charge: $5.75.
     I thought I hadn't heard them right.
     But I had.  Out of all the previous car repair bills I had ever had, none had been cheaper than a hundred dollars.
    Just because I didn't have a dad that I could call up on a pay phone when my car broke down... didn't mean that I didn't have a dad....
    Psalm 68:5  "A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, is God in His holy habitation.  God makes a home for the lonely..."

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Unwritten blog...

   I can't really write my blog today and I'll explain why...
   Last night our church had a festival with games and rides for families. We probably had several thousand people enjoying the fun, eating the traditional corn dogs on a chilly, perfect October night.  How could you not experience some pleasure just watching so many families, milling around, having fun with their kids - worries, for the most part, temporarily set aside.
   This morning there was a private event for kids who are in foster care and/or awaiting adoption.  Compared to the crowds last night, this group was miniscule.   Most of the kids were wearing some type of costume and they came in all ages and sizes and personality flavors.   The little teen-insies as my husband would call the toddlers - were not sure what all the fuss was about but loved  the candy and the adults clapping for them, even when they misunderstood the point of the games and invented their own rules :)  Like as in when a three-year-old   was told to walk between the plastic cones and try to keep his ping pong ball balanced on his spoon. The child looked at the adult, looked at the ball on the spoon, looked back at the adult and then just firmly put his little hand on the ball and walked right past all the cones in a straight line, made it to the finish line and then looked at the adults again like, "Is that it??'  But when he got to choose a wooden glider  out of a bag, his face broke out into smiles... as if to say, "These adults get thrilled over the craziest stuff but, dude, this glider thing is cool!"
   The older kids were sometimes more aloof - as one person commented to me, many had been in the system for a while and had experienced some major disappointments along the way; so they had learned to keep their distance. But even these kids, once they were going full tilt on some of the rides, were shouting for joy and just having a great time.
  And then there were the teens who volunteered to help with the whole event.  Adolescent girls  painting butterflies and happy faces on little cheeks or showing older kids how to string their own necklaces or bracelets.  While some of these young volunteers just "buddied" with a foster child, walking with them and making sure they got to do the things they wanted to do.  It was just neat to see a 16-year-old girl, all smiles, holding a couple of small children by the hand and jumping with them as they went from square to square for the "cake walk" or to hear the teen-ager say, "Okay!!! That was great!! Now what should we do?? Do you wanna get your face painted?"  and you could tell they were loving working with these priceless kids.
   Kids helping kids, if you will.
   But I can't really write this blog...
   Because the only way to really "write" this blog is to capture the joy on the foster kids' faces this morning.. and that is something I simply can't do with a keyboard.
   So glad I got to see those precious faces...
   Hoping and praying they all get good, loving homes.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Screen door on a sub????

     I read somewhere that when it comes to good works most faiths are on pretty much the same page.  In other words, most religions call for right living - telling the truth, being kind to others, taking food to the sick, giving to the poor,  etc.
    This morning as I did  my lesson in There is a Season by Laurie Cole, once again, she took me on a mind-bender of sorts.   Just as she changed my perspective about reasons to be joyful a few days ago, today she also changed my mind about what it means to do good works.
    First, she established the fact that good works are not enough to get you into Heaven.  That concept doesn't always make sense to me and I'm indebted to Max Lucado for this illustration, which did make sense to me:
    Suppose several people lined up and competed to see who could reach the moon by jumping. Maybe person 1 jumps 3 feet into the air.  Maybe person 2 jumps 4 feet into the air. And maybe person 3 (that would be me...) jumps 1 foot into the air!  Person 2 is the winner!!!
    The goal was  to reach the moon and none of them, not even person 2, made it.
    Same thing with trying to be good enough to reach God, to be "even" with Him on the standing of good works: total veracity, totally unmixed motives for every deed, totally pure love... you get the idea.  It's just a standard that we humans, no matter how "good" we are, can't reach. It's like jumping for the moon... 
    So God reaches down to us in love, offers us the gift of salvation through His Son, we accept,  and now we coast.. right?
    Because we've already achieved our goal of getting a reservation in Heaven, right?
    Ummm. no. We still have a life to live and that does include "good works". ("Faith without works, Baby, it just ain't happenin' " :)  
    These are some things that I learned from Laurie Cole's study about living the "good" life:
     1.  Luke 10:38- 42.  Sitting at the feet of Jesus and learning from Him.  Wow! Can that be a "good work?"  Apparently so!   But how hard is that in our society today? At first I was stunned to see this labeled as  a "good work". Then when I thought about how busy everyone is today, I realized it may be the hardest "good work" of all - just to sit and soak at His feet and enjoy His company. 
   2.  Luke 6:27-35.  This "good work" blew me away. I figured it was just a command and I knew full-well I have always had trouble doing  it.  But I never considered it a good work.  It is simply to love your enemies, to do good to those who hurt you, to bless those who have done you harm.  Why is this a good work?  Because it identifies you with your Heavenly Father, who blesses the wicked every day with sunshine, rain, the breath of life... not because they deserve it but because of who He is.
  3.   Matt. 5:13-16.  Another thing I learned,  genuinely good works are like a spotlight  illuminating Christ, not drawing others into our limelight but rather  into His. So if my "good works" result in drawing an adoring fan club around me (hasn't happened yet but still....:), then my works (no matter how they look to others), um, aren't so good...
  4.  James 2:14-16.  Good works do involve meeting the needs of others.  I can't just wish someone a happy life, knowing that they are sick, hungry, etc.  That's not the way of Christ and it can't be my way either.  
   So give to the poor, help the sick, bust out the traditional "do-good" list. But at the top, put time alone with Jesus. And right below that put, lovin' on my enemies...'cause that's what He would be doing... And throughout the day, check ever so often to see who is being spotlighted by the things that are being said and done.



Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Far more privileged than I realize..

     There are a lot of books out there and many of them are not worth reading.
     And, of course, there are a lot more programs out there that are not worth listening to or watching.
     But it's always been my choice as to what I watch or listen to or read.  Apparently I am far more privileged than  I realize.
     Last week, I learned  that Iranian police are now having to go into homes to hunt for.. not drugs or weapons but ... satellite dishes.  They've already confiscated satellite dishes on the outside of apartments and now they are doing legal search and seizures for ones inside apartments.  Like I'm wondering how well that would go over here in the U.S.???
    Why did the Iranian government just pass a law prohibiting inside satellite dishes?  Apparently many Iranians are becoming followers of Christ via satellite television programs.  I guess the government's reasoning is that if they can't keep people from turning to Christ, they can cut off their source of information about Him.
   They can't, of course.
   But they can make things more difficult.
   To my mind, it seems that the government is running scared.. of a television program? Or maybe to be more precise, of a book....
   And that's sad.
   However, there is another side to this issue.  In Ancient Rome, when Christians were being hunted and persecuted by the authorities, Tertullian wrote: "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church", meaning that the more the Christians were persecuted, the more Christianity grew.   In modern times, a Russian communist, Yaroslavsky, complained  that Christianity is like a nail, adding: "The harder you strike it, the deeper it goes."   When I was doing graduate work at the University of Arkansas in the 1980's, my professor on China and Russia told us flat out  that there were no Christians in China, absolutely none at all... He went on to emphasize that there were a few believers  in Russia but zilch in the land of Chairman Mao.  We now know that at the very time when my professor was announcing that Christianity had been eradicated in China, there were actually thousands of believers in that repressive country.
     Maybe the biggest problem with the current  Iranian government is not the fact that they are frightened by a book, but that they are ignorant of history.
    There is something deep within man, placed there by God Himself, that makes human beings want to search for Him.  And every government has the responsibility to see that their citizens have the freedom to do that. Ironically, it seems the more repressive a government is, the better freedom looks to its citizens. And whenever the search for freedom and truth comes up, sooner or later the seeker comes across this quote: "and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free."  The one who made that promise is Christ. (John 8:32)
     And that's why Iranians are turning to Him and that's why removing satellite dishes may slow the process but it won't stop it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I can....

     Joy has never been a characteristic of my life.  I have joked for years that my spiritual gift or expertise could be found in the fine art of  whining.  A close second would be worrying.  This week in my women's Bible study, There is a Season by Laurie Cole, the lesson was on rejoicing and I was stunned to find some of the reasons for rejoicing that are listed in the Bible; so much so that Saturday night I sat down and started typing up a list.  And that's what I want to share today - not necessarily for someone else's benefit but for my own - this list is something that needs to be ingrained on my heart and mind every day.

   According to Luke10:20, I can rejoice in the fact that my name is written in Heaven - in other words, my reservation there is secure.   I thought about how antsy I was before our trip to Israel, trying to confirm my reservation before the computer would let me, clutching my passports and tickets through airport lines both going and coming, checking my itinerary  frequently to make sure everything was a go.  But somehow, it has never occurred to me to rejoice over the fact that my name is written in Heaven, which surely is a more important list than any passport office generates.

  According to I Peter 1:1-8, I have a lot of other things to rejoice about.  
  1)  I have a living hope.  Because Christ has been raised from the dead, I know I will be also.
  2)  I have an inheritance waiting for me, one that can never perish, fade away or be corrupted. (And Matthew 6:19-21 says that this inheritance can't be stolen either.)  Some day I'm going to inherit riches that are beyond the fluctuation of the stock-market, the job market, the crime market, you name it...  This is no small thing.
 3). Peter even writes about a joy that is so great, it can't even be fully expressed here on earth - an amazing rush of joy that comes just because we know and love Christ.  Paul echoes this sentiment in Philippians where he urges us to rejoice in the Lord always!  There is deep joy in knowing that we love someone; how much more joy when that someone is the Lord Jesus Christ?

According to Romans 12:12,15,  I can also rejoice, not only in the hope that I have in Christ, but I am set free by His grace to rejoice with those who are rejoicing - something that sounds easy but isn't always.  Maybe you got the car, the house, the vacation trip that I've always really wanted.  In Christ, I can be content with my circumstances and joyful over yours. 

According to James 1:2-4, I can also  consider trials as a reason to rejoice.   Ummmm.. that's a hard one.  But James goes on to say that trials produce endurance.  And so, as near as I can tell, James is saying that trials are like pumping iron.. spiritually.. They build us up in our faith and knowing that, even though trials are not pleasant, we can still rejoice in them.

According to Matt. 5:11-12, I can rejoice, not inspite of, but because of... people insulting me, persecuting me, and even telling vicious lies about me...  However, there's a catch: this is only true if these things come my way because I am serving Christ, if they are happening for His sake.  Does that mean that I need to go out and try to get people to insult me for my Christian faith?  Hardly...  Does it mean that these things are good in and of themselves? I don't think so.  The rest of the verse goes on to say that we can rejoice in these things because it means that we will receive rewards in Heaven...  Does this mean I want you to insult me?  Ummm, no... But it does mean that even in something as negative as the things listed above, I can find reason to rejoice.

And then according to I Peter 4:13, we can rejoice to the degree that we share in Christ's sufferings and again, the idea is that when Christ returns  there will be a commensurate reward in Heaven for us.

Why are so many negative things listed as reasons for rejoicing?
Maybe because no one has to tell us to rejoice over positives?
Maybe to take away our excuses for being grumpy and unhappy?
I don't know. What I do know is that when I first started compiling this list in my workbook, I was filled with hope. My mindset of a thousand years - I can't rejoice unless circumstances are just so  - that mindset slipped a little as it dawned on me that if I can rejoice when being insulted or even persecuted, then...
        the bottom line is -
                  being an ordinary person 
                                surrounded by fairly nice people, 
                                                                     I can  rejoice!

Monday, October 24, 2011

    No words of wisdom today....
    Not sure I had any yesterday or the day before...:)
    But I do love to write...  Obviously...
    And I do love to read...
    And it's been a few days since I tried to palm a book off on anyone who happens onto this blog...
    Soooooooooo...... here goes ;)
    As part of a  women's Bible study that I'm doing right now, I had to review my life and categorize different times in my life as "winter", "summer", "fall", "spring";  I could also categorize stormy periods in my life.  We could use clip art from our workbook or draw our own symbols to put with abbreviated descriptions of each period in our life.  Since Ah'm re-tared  with all this free time on my hands..(ha!) - I decided to draw my own symbols as I summarized my misspent youth and adulthood...:)
   For  the first years of my life, I wrote down that I was born into a dysfunctional family and then was saved at eight years of age. Above this, I drew a rather primitive image of a shepherd holding a rather identity-conflicted sheep... Actually the animal looked more like a woolly dog...  And I guess that would be me...
   But, I digress...
   The rest of the "seasons" of my life  had simpler symbols - a couple of one-dimensional flowers served  for "spring", a sun with rays coming from it for "Summer", a few leaves stood for  "fall" and some dark, heavy clouds symbolized  "winter" which, in this study, is synonymous with hard times of testing and suffering.
 As I looked back over my time line, I was surprised to see that stormy "wintery" periods cropped up routinely - almost every other season was turbulent.  One season in particular, 1994 - 1995, was so bad that I just ditched the clouds imagery and instead drew a tornado reaching from the sky to the ground!
  During that two-year period, a loved one went through a traumatic divorce, my husband's company announced they would pull out of the North American continent by Dec. 1995 (which they did), my mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and then my dad showed up a month later, also terminally ill.  They both died within three months of each other - Sept. and Dec. of '95.  I was working full-time during much of this period and had a son who was three when it started and five when it ended while I was hitting the big four-oh somewhere in all the middle of that. Not an easy time.
   Before my mom was diagnosed with cancer in June of 1995, we had already had a tough couple of  years wondering about Phil's work and also dealing with all the viruses David managed to  pick up in daycare.  At times, it seemed like  he routinely brought home a new virus every month, like clockwork. Certainly by May of '95, we  had gone through stomach viruses, bronchitus, flu, pink eye, strep.. you name it.  Holidays just meant it was easier to get David to the  pediatric clinic :) with the exception of Christmas where everything was closed and you had to make a trip to Children's.  (Loved the Christmas decorations there!!)
   At any rate, in the spring of '95 I was just barely hanging on, hoping summer break would be calm.   But as it happened,  the first week in June I had to take mom to the hospital and within two more   weeks we were making preparations to move her into our bedroom so that Hospice could put a hospital bed in it for her.  At that point, I knew it was not going to be a good summer; however, I had no idea exactly how un-good it was actually going to be..  One month after mom came to live with us, a retired couple, friends of my dad,  brought him  down here in a motor home.   He  looked like a survivor of Dachau  because he had refused to have a feeding tube put in some months earlier and had been slowly starving to death ever since. He had walked out of my life about 22 years earlier - over 6 feet tall and healthy -and now he was returning  weighing about 90 pounds, unable to keep saliva from dripping from his mouth and unable to speak.  To say it was a shock to have him back in our lives would be an understatement.
   Not only was it traumatic, but since my parents hadn't had anything to do with each other since their divorce some  25 years earlier, it was complicated,  tricky  to say the least.
   Just before my mom was diagnosed, back when I just  thought things were bad :), I was lying in bed with strep throat reading a copy of the In Touch Magazine by Dr. Charles Stanley. In this particular issue,  I noticed an ad for a book by Ruth Myers called Thirty One Days of Praise: Enjoying God Anew.  Of course, that was all I needed and as soon as I was well, I went out and bought a copy.
  I still have that copy, dog-eared and taped together, and every so often, I get it out and use it again to jump-start my devotionals.  One of the reasons I hang onto my first copy is because of the notes I've made in the margin.
  For example, on day 17 I had written: 6-25-95- U.A.M.S.  Getting ready to take mom home to die.  Then, at the bottom of the page I had written:  In May I prayed this would be a restful summer and I planned to use the rest time to meditate on this book.  Now my plans are reversed - they are to meditate on this book so that I will be able to rest.
  As you can imagine, this book has a special place in my heart and when I allow time to really absorb the praise passages in it, it never fails to help me get some needed perspective.  The woman who wrote it was no stranger to trouble, having buried her first husband on the mission field while he was in his early thirties.  So it's a very positive book born out of sorrow and therefore a great help when the storm winds are blowing.
  If you have a tornado or a tsunamai brewing in your life, you can't beat it.  By the same token, if you have a beautiful fall day and time to enjoy it, it will just make the day that much better.  Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall - it's a good devotional companion to have in all the seasons of life.



Sunday, October 23, 2011

Still learning.. :)

     I remember when...
     Actually, now that I'm almost sixty - the sad truth is that I .... don't always :)
     When I was in undergraduate school, I had a professor who made us memorize phrases from poetry and prose.  We used to groan about Dr. Nolte's classes; now, however, I am  grateful for the way Dr. Nolte held our noses to the grindstone and in doing so, gave me a deeper love for the written word.      In graduate school, I continued memorizing on my own, falling in love in particular with passages from Shakespeare's Richard II.  
     It was while I was in graduate school that I got my first car... My very first new vehicle: a red Subaru with front-wheel drive!!!  I researched that vehicle upside down and inside out  via Consumer Reports before I ever even looked at it in the flesh.. or in the metal, I guess I should say.
   And then, shortly after I drove it home, someone keyed it.
  For real... My brand new car had a fairly deep scratch mark across  the passenger door.
  I was livid.
  Add to that the fact that I absolutely hated my boss.
 And then throw some family problems into the mix and the result was chronic anger on my part.
 Then I went to a weekend conference where the leaders were Tim and Beverly LaHaye.  (This was waaaayyy before the Left Behind series).  I don't remember much about that conference except that we were encouraged to memorize Scripture as a way of getting a handle on negative thought patterns.  Since I often spent my daily commute from LR to Conway thinking about what I'd like to do to my boss (who was making my job super hard) not to mention what I'd like  to do to  the unknown guy who vandalized my brand new car, you could say I was having a little problem with angry thoughts....
  So I bought LaHaye's book on how to study the Bible and began to memorize the verses in his Scripture memory program:  three verses a week.  It was easy to do since I was commuting an hour every day and had an econo box of a car that had no radio. (Yes, they used to make them like that back then...)
  Then my brother got into Navigators at his base in California and so one holiday, when he was home on furlough, we decided to memorize the Navigator's basic sixty pack.  Actually, we made it a competition - the one who could say all sixty with the least mistakes would be the winner. The "loser" would have to treat the winner to a meal at their restaurant of choice.  Because I had memorized most of the Nav. Sixty already, it was super easy for me to win that competition and I enjoyed my steak dinner thoroughly!  However, after that, my brother who is more disciplined than I am, left me behind in the dust, going on to memorize hundreds of verses while he jogged five miles every day. (Go figure...!)
  The point of all this - and there is a point, I promise - is that I'm once again trying to memorize verses after a long hiatus.  And as I've worked on Scripture, I've found it's easier to go back to the translation I was using in my twenties, even though that translation (NASB 1977 edition) is more stilted.  On top of that, I'm finding that verses I haven't memorized in years, haven't even thought about, are  coming back with very little review time. And, in addition, I'm finding that running Scripture through my mind is helping me in a multitude of ways - but especially in helping me to remain calm and focused on God when I'm tempted to rant, rave, and/or pull my hair.
   As I go back and look at verses that were once a daily part of my life, two memories stand out.
   First, I dated a non-Christian for 4 years and by the fourth year, we were talking marriage.  However, the issue of religion was a stumbling block to our union.  One day he commented on how much nicer (!) I had been  - how I had changed and was so much more comfortable with myself and others. I asked him when he first noticed this change; he thought about it and replied that it dated back 12 months. I asked him if he was sure about the time frame and he said he was.  So then I put on my thinking cap and realized that I had started memorizing Scripture one year earlier! When I told him that, he immediately regretted saying that and joked that maybe the change had occurred in the last six weeks and he'd just made a mistake.  But the damage was done ;) and I wouldn't let him forget what he'd said!

   Then came a summer when I didn't take summer school and no longer had the long drive-time in which to memorize so I quit working on memory verses. One day about mid-summer,  my mom told me that I had been hard to get along with for about six weeks - that she'd seen a definite change in my attitude and wanted to know what was going on.  I thought about it and realized that was exactly when I had quit memorizing Scripture!
  As I've gotten out my old Bible, started memorizing again, and had these memories come back, I realize that I would have been a lot better wife, mom, friend, and colleague if I'd worked on Scripture memory over the last few years of teaching, when the stress was really getting to me big-time.
  Now, I'm just grateful to re-discover the peace that comes from running the wisdom of the Bible through my mind on a daily basis.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Birthday comin' up!!!

     When I was growing up, we loved Christmas.  It was my job to put out the nativity set, something I tried to do with care but even so, one year  I accidentally broke one of the figures - decapitated the poor thing actually:(     Thank goodness for dad's who knew how to use glue!  At any rate, I loved everything about Christmas - the presents (of course!), the special program that we kids performed in church, stringing popcorn at my grandparent's house (yes, we really did that!), and having Santa appear at my grandmother's little country church (yep, may be a little convoluted theology there somewhere) after an evening service.  (By the way, he always gave each of us kids a sack with an orange and an apple and some candy canes in it and we thought that was wonderful!! Anything from Santa was special!  Now I guess he has to bring Ipods...)
     At any rate, as I was growing up, I learned that our family had a rule:  however much our parents spent on Christmas presents, that same total amount went into the foreign missions Christmas offering.  I don't know that I understood that rule when I was young but when I was older, I realized it was good thing.
   Then, when I was a mom with a young child of my own, I heard about celebrating Jesus' birthday with a cake and a party so that little ones could get the idea of what Christmas is really all about.  And I liked that idea as well.
   From those two strands we eventually got the idea  of giving Jesus a present each year, a sort of family project done out of love for Him.  Over the years, we have taken on  various things. Sometimes it is a one-time gift.  Sometimes it is a gift that keeps on giving, a monthly commitment.
    In the past, we have collected items for Shoe Box gifts to be sent to children around the world via Samaritan's Purse - that's always been a favorite.  We've also done Angel Tree and enjoyed picking out presents for a  child whose parent was in prison. Sometimes we've done the local, Toys for Tots program.  Twice we have made up little baggies with a Christmas letter or note and some candy, cookies, etc. and taken them around the neighborhood as a way of getting to know the people around us. (Since we sort of live in the 'hood... this takes a little  faith at times =/)   And then  once, some years ago, we committed to sponsoring a child through World Vision.  Only as we looked through the photos, they were all so precious that we ended up choosing two kids to sponsor instead of one.
  This year our church did something unusual.  They passed out envelopes with varying amounts of money in them. Each family got one envelope with either 2.00, 5.00, or 10.00.  And with it came instructions:  to prayerfully consider where God would have us invest His money. We were not to give it back to the church but were to look for ways to spend it where He would want us to.
   Somehow, our family cheated and we ended up with  two envelopes. ..=/ (Actually I was in the pre-school area so they gave me one and Phil was in the worship service so they gave him one also).  At any rate, we ended up with 15.00.
  In the past, we've always looked at our Christmas gift for Jesus as sort of "We're going to take our money and do something nice for God..."  Or at least, that is often in the back of my mind, followed by the tempting thought, "Look how good we are! I bet everyone doesn't do this..." Ugh... rotten attitude, I know....
  The point of the "money"  sermon was that if we belong to Christ, then all our money belongs to Him as well.  Everything we have is His; we're just stewards of it. I'd heard that before but seeing the 15.00 sitting on a shelf day after day while we prayerfully considered how to invest this money - somehow that made it real to me.  Instead of feeling smug about what we might do with it, I felt a timidity, almost a heavy responsibility about making sure we didn't misuse His money.
  One night while surfing Face Book :), I came across a picture of a young kindergarten girl coloring a picture to send to her sponsor. The caption explained what she was doing and then said, "Who will it be?"  The little Haitian girl was coloring a picture for a sponsor even though she didn't have one...  I kept looking at the picture. Phil looked at it and so did David.  And we all began to feel that  this was where God's money should go - that we could apply it towards our first month's sponsorship.
  We checked out the website, Hosean Ministries, and found that 30.00 a month buys school supplies, material for a school uniform, medical care, and a hot meal every day.  So we e-mailed the ministry saying that we'd like to sponsor a child. I really wanted the little girl in the picture but we just decided to leave it up to the ministry to match us with a child, saying that we'd prefer to sponsor a child who had no sponsor if that was possible.
  The answer came back that they had something like a 1,000 kids in their school and that they could easily place 200 kids with sponsors that very day if they had them.  These  kids didn't have any financial support other than what their families, who are  impoverished, can provide.
  So we arranged to become a  sponsor and joy of joys!  We were matched with the little girl in the FB picture, Lucknise!
   Since she's in Haiti, we feel that we can keep in touch with her more easily than if she were across the ocean in Asia or Africa. And it might even be that someday we could meet her; she's that close relatively speaking.
  In the book, Heaven is For Real, Colton Burpo kept asking  his parents, after his near-death experience, "Do you know that Jesus reee-lly loves children???"   His dad said that  for months  Colton would remind  them of this several times a day,  until finally his dad had to tell him to stop, that they'd gotten the message already and he'd done his job!
   Thinking about the other kids at Hosean Ministry who need sponsorship.... Knowing that since Jesus reeee-lly  loves children, sponsoring a child must surely be a present that brings joy to His heart. Believing/hoping  that we did the right thing with His money this year in honor of His Son's birthday.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Real Deal....

     Another strong man has bitten the dust in the Middle East - a sad ending to a terrible life.  Terrible in the sense that Gadhafi had the power to do good but instead used it for self aggrandizement, for evil.  News stories have reported that Gadhafi styled himself as the King of Kings in Africa.  This made me think of the first Gulf War and how a little known dictator (to the Western world at least) was claiming that if the UN attacked him, they would find themselves in the Mother of All Wars. After Hussein was totally defeated, this led to a spate of sarcastic comments that started with... "The  mother of all...(fill in the blank)."
    When Jesus first came on the scene to begin his public ministry, John the Baptist proclaimed him to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world  (John 1:29). For centuries, the Jewish people had offered lambs as sacrificial atonement for their sins.  On the day of Yom Kippur (or "the great day of expiation" as the NJB calls it), a goat was symbolically laden with the sins of the Jewish people and sent outside the city to die.
   Like a sacrificial animal, Jesus was slain. When He said "It is finished", it was.   God's punishment for wrongdoing  had been diverted to His beloved son.  We've all felt the weight of sin (unless we are just so far gone that we can't feel for anyone but ourselves).  Anger raging within, guilt threatening to crush us, shame for something we did, didn't do, or said, as well as the endless need at times to justify ourselves because deep down we know we are wrong. (The last one is my personal favorite...:(  All of these things and more, the Lamb of God took upon Himself on the cross.
  Years ago I heard a preacher explain it by telling this story:  a man worked for a railroad company and his job was to raise and lower the tracks where they spanned a river bridge.  This man operated huge gears and levers. One day he allowed his young son to accompany him to work.  Just when it was time for the father to lower the railroad bridge for an oncoming train, he saw that his son had slipped and fallen onto the gears that would have to grind together in order to lower the bridge.  As his son cried out for help, the father realized that if he stopped the machinery, all the people on the train would plunge off the upraised bridge and perish. If he didn't, however, his son would die a horrible death.
   In anguish, he made the decision to let his own son die.
   While the people on the train passed safely over the bridge, unaware of the sacrifice that had been made.
   Jesus didn't come boasting about how He was the King of Kings but instead, He predicted His death and announced that He had come to lay down His life voluntarily for all of us train riders.  (John 10:28) And then He did that, laying down His life in our place.
   Hebrews 13:12-14 says:  "Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate... let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach.  For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come."  (NASB)
  The writer of Hebrews was saying that like the scape goat offered on Yom Kippur, Jesus was also laden with our sins and exiled to certain death, sent outside the  city proper to be executed on a hill.  But unlike the goat, Jesus wasn't symbolically burdened with sin. Instead, He carried the real thing.  II Cor. 5:21 says that "... He who knew no sin" was actually  made "to be sin on our behalf..."  (NASB)  And the purpose of all this?  So that we could be covered in His righteousness.
   I started off by talking about hyperbole and about how Gadhafi declared that he was King of Kings in Africa, a  pretty empty boast in light of the news coverage this week.
   On the other hand, Jesus wasn't into empty boasting.  He said He would be executed on a cross for the sins of mankind... and He was.  Jesus also said He would come again, not as a sacrificial lamb but as the sky-splitting, earth-shaking Son of God in all His glory.  Or as Rev. 17:14 puts it:  the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings...In other words, the real deal.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The going exchange rate...

     I'm acutely aware today that I don't have any wisdom so I thought this might, conversely, be a good time to write my blog... It's when I think that I'm really smart that I'm likely to write really stupid things:)  (Nothing reveals ignorance like arrogance I guess..)
   At any rate, one of the blessings of retirement is having time to meditate on Scripture. I remember once reading that a prominent Christian psychologist said  he kept his own head straight by spending 2 to 3 hours every day focusing on the Word before listening to his patients.   At the time I thought, "Well, that's fine for you but .. um... it's never going to work for  me on my schedule!"
   And having the attention span of a gnat, even in retirement I still can't spend several hours a day doing Scripture stuff . But I can at least spend a little more time with the Word than I did when I was working.  And more and more, I can see why the psychologist leaned so heavily on the Bible at the start of each day.  It pays.
   Today I was looking at II Cor. 12:7-9.  In this passage, Paul said that Satan had sent a messenger to buffet him, a thorn in the flesh.  I thought about that:  something bad enough that he considered it to be direct from the pit of hell, something that "buffeted" him, something that he asked God three times to take away from him.  The previous chapter, II Cor. 11,  describes a ton of problems that Paul encountered in his life: shipwrecks, beatings, long journeys through dangerous territories, both in rural areas and in cities.  Not to mention hard work, long hours, sleep deprivation, times of hunger and thirst.  And add to that list, the pressure of feeling responsible for fledgling churches as well as "dangers from false brethren."  Which I guess means he knew what it was like to have a spiritual knife or two sticking out of his back from people who pretended to be believers but really weren't.    Yet I don't get the feeling that any of these traumatic things are the specific "thorn in the flesh" that Paul writes about in chapter 12.  I get the feeling that chapter 12 is about something worse, if that's possible; something constant rather than a problem that comes and goes.
  Basically,  the  word "buffet" makes me think of a car being beaten  from side to side by a strong wind.  So I'm thinking that Paul didn't have an attack  from Satan here or there but  instead he had something coming at him all the time, worrying  him, and, if it came from hell, maybe it wouldn't  be too much to say, tormenting him.
   But then he goes on to talk about how when he is weak, he is strong.  I don't know that I ever really understood that - I used to wonder, "Why does God want us to be weak?  Why do we have to be face down in the dirt so to speak in order to be strong?"  But then I saw that the New Jerusalem Bible translates 12:9 as "... 'My grace is enough for you: for power is at full stretch in weakness.' "  (My italics.)  And suddenly it made sense to me.
   If I think of myself as a container (Bear with me here! And I know I would be the super size, not the economy size :) and I'm "full of myself" - not necessarily in a bad way (I could also use phrases like " I was at the top of my game this week!"  or "I just aced that test!"  or "Life is tough but I'm tougher; I'm handling it!"  and simply be telling the  truth) - at any rate, when I'm on top of things or at my strongest, my container is mostly full of.. me. But when my own strength has been depleted, my container is mostly empty. And that means there is room  for His power to stretch out in my heart.
   For this reason, Paul goes on to say that he is grateful (in the NASB it reads "content") when weaknesses, insults, distresses, and even persecutions  come his way because of his work for Christ.  Why?  Because when he's going under, he waves the white flag of surrender and at that point,  God's power sweeps in and takes over.
   Which is really not a bad exchange when you think about it.
    My weakness for His strength.
   "but he has answered me, 'My grace is enough for you: for power is at full stretch in weakness."


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Some things never change!

     When Phil and I were dating, he took me to the Museum of Automobiles on Petit Jean Mountain.  I had been there before - or thought I had  - until I went with Phil. Phil is a detail person and an antique car lover.  In the past, I could cover the whole museum, get a Coke downstairs, visit the lady's room and be ready to head for the car in about an hour...  To my shock, however,  we spent several hours that day making sure that we had eyeballed  every car and every feature of every car. While I was surprised, I really didn't care because I was so thrilled to be with him. He could have been reading the label off a mayonnaise jar to me and I wouldn't have minded.
     And speaking of mayonnaise, on this particular date I had provided some tuna fish sandwiches but Phil said he thought we'd eat them after looking at the cars. At the time I was thinking, "Well, I don't know... I don't have the sandwiches packed in ice and an hour is a long time for them to sit in a hot car..."
     Several hours later,  we finally emerged from the museum and headed to the car.  At that point,  Phil said something about looking forward to eating the sandwiches I had made. I looked at him in disbelief.  About an hour and a half earlier, I had already mentally consigned our lunch to the garbage bin and had been speculating about  where we'd stop to eat on the way home.
     After we got in the car, I realized he wasn't kidding when he said he was going to eat those sandwiches!  I helpfully pointed out that mayonnaise becomes  toxic when it sits in a hot car for several hours.  He told me it would be fine and took a big bite of his.  After several bites, he asked me why I wasn't eating. I told him I was going to watch him for a while and if he didn't show signs of botulism, then I might try the tuna.  He just laughed but I wasn't kidding. Later I thought that was a little heartless of me since he proposed to me on that same day!
   One of the other things I remember about that outing:  while we were slooowwwlly winding through the museum with me hanging on Phil's every word, he turned to me at one point and said, "You're not like my sisters.  After about an hour here, they start complaining about being bored and telling me they want to leave."
   After we had been married for a year or so, we went back to Petit Jean.  This time I packed the tuna sandwiches in ice and took a book... A loooonnnnnggg book:)  After an hour of looking at cars, I was done.  Went downstairs, got a Coke, went back upstairs, told Phil to enjoy the museum,  and assured him that I was fine  and that when he was through, he'd find me in the car happily reading my novel while eating my cold tuna fish sandwich.
     Time and marriage change things!
     These are some of the things that, over the past twenty-five years, have never changed:
     1.  Phil always thanks me for fixing a meal - even if I get it from a fast food place!
     2.  He never fails to brag on me when I start a new project, reach out in some form of ministry, or do something well.
     3.  Whenever I'm upset, he always suggests we go for a walk so that I can talk while he listens.  And he really listens!  (When I'm upset..:)  And when he gives advice, it's always good.
    4.  When Sunday rolls around, he always wants both David and myself in church.  If I am occasionally  thinking about playing 'possum :) and he suspects I just want to sleep in, he doesn't get upset but instead tells me how much of a blessing I'll miss if I don't go and I'll end up going.
   5.   He never questions me about the money I spend.  And when a new  novel  that I really, really, really want has just hit the book stores -he'll take me across town to get it and then take me to Black Angus  to celebrate.
   6.  When I want to do things that are waaay out of his comfort zone, such as say, oh,  letting an international live with us or having twenty people over from various nations  for Thanksgiving in our shoe box of a  house, he takes a big gulp and then jumps in to help make these wild ideas work!
   7.  If we know someone is having trouble, he doesn't hesitate to help whether that means working on a broken car or whether it means giving money once a month while a friend is ill and unable to work or even if it means sending me off for a weekend to spend time with a friend.
   8.  He has always helped with any of the house work that needs to be done - laundry, cooking, cleaning - you name it and he's always been willing to do it without being asked.
   9.  He has never lied to me - or to anyone else that I know of, for that matter.  I can trust him - he's proven that to me over and over again.
  10. He always takes the oldest vehicle that we own and drives that so that I can drive the newest vehicle we have.  And he never complains about it.
  11.  After almost 25 years, he will still periodically thank me for marrying him and he frequently holds my hand when we are together.  (Even though he now knows for sure that I am not any better than his sisters and that I don't enjoy spending an  entire morning in a car museum now that I don't have to go on a date with him in order to be near him :)
   These are just a few of the ways he has consistently shown his love for me and his commitment to me over the years; there's a lot more that I could write about but I think I'll just end this by saying what I should say every day:  I am  blessed.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Thinking It Through...

     I just returned from a four-day trip to the Tennessee/Virginia/Kentucky border and basically, it's a far piece from Little Rock...   I was traveling with a friend and our first stop upon arrival was the hospital where her mother is very sick.  The next two days were wearing on the family; not so much for me as I didn't go to the hospital as often as they did and I actually had time to walk around on their farmland, sit in their swing and read/pray, take pictures, etc.  So in some ways, while it was very hard on the family, at times I felt like I was almost on a retreat.
     A very productive retreat actually...
     All I can think is that  going into ICU to hold the hand of someone who is dying and then sitting  in the adjacent waiting room while other families talk softly or sob openly about things like "cancer", "pneumonia", "staph infection"  -maybe all of that is a   good springboard for quiet times.
    As I roamed through some beautiful countryside, I realized it's one thing to do life when everything is "normal". It's another to "do life" when you're looking around a sterile hospital room, wondering if angels are already gathering to escort the loved one into the presence of God.
    To put it bluntly, no one looks good in a disease-ridden body but at the same time, no one really cares in ICU other than to "scan" their loved ones' features for some sign as to whether the meds are working or not. The things we normally process through our minds, like My hair's a mess  or Um hmm, she's put on weight since I last saw her or Who in their right mind would ever wear a dress like that out in public? - those things seem asinine in the face of death.
   Other things such as:  is this person satisfied with the way they spent their life?  Would they like to have do-overs? What will it be like for them to break free of this realm and enter into eternity?  - those questions quickly morphed into:  am I satisfied with the way I am spending my life?  Are there  things I need to do differently now while I still have time?  What will it be like for me when I break free of this realm and stand before the Living God?
    By the end of the weekend, I realized that a hospital situated in the middle of a beautiful pastoral scene is not a bad place to jumpstart a mini-retreat.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

No way!!!

    How many times have I heard, "No way is that gonna happen?"
    More to the point, how many times have I (or anyone else for that matter) been at an impasse where humanly speaking, we could not see our way out.   There literally was "no way" for things to change, improve, or  to go from being horrible to being wonderful.
   Maybe there is nothing more frustrating than to know that things could be really good again if only... that financial break would happen, that person would quit acting like a jerk,  that impossible dream would suddenly come true.
   God can do the impossible. Why He doesn't always do the impossible, is beyond my realm of knowledge.  All I know is that I have seen Him make a way when there seemed to be no way. And that is why this song, although not in my top 10, still means a lot to me.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

That would be me...:)

       I bought a biography yesterday...  I'm sure all my friends are totally shocked to hear that.... ;)  This blog is not primarily about the biography however, because I'm not completely  sure what to make of the whole thing.   What I am sure of   is  the fact that the  author mentions two songs which helped bring him out of a very confused, self-destructive life style. Music that I guess you could say eventually helped lead him into the light of Christ's love.  In the whole book -just two songs were mentioned as having a powerful impact on him when he was at his absolute worst - which was, by any standards, very, very bad.
     To my amazement, one song was Dennis Jernigan's You Are My All in All - one of the songs that I had just mentioned in my blog yesterday!! And probably the only song I've ever hunted literally for months to find on a CD.  The author heard this song one time and it haunted him for months and even years afterward.  I found that interesting.
     The other song mentioned in the book was one that I planned to write about yesterday. But, being a single-track person, once I listened to the Jernigan song, I could never "sing" enough of my other selection in order to get enough of the lyrics to track it down on Youtube, if that makes sense. Every time I tried to mentally "sing" snatches of the second song, I'd end up singing You Are My All in All  or You Are My Hiding Place.  So I gave it up and I didn't really think it  mattered anyway  because I had more than enough to write about yesterday as it was. Too much really.
    Then as I'm reading in this new biography tonight, what do I see but the mention of the other song that I wanted to write about yesterday.  Only two songs in the whole book and both of them were in the top ten for my blog list!!!   So I've linked a video of it here: Shout to the Lord.
     Why was this particular song important to me?
     When our Russian daughter lived with us, sometimes we would go to the Oasis Retreat Center together.  I'd take my Bible and often a hymnal as well.  But Yana was a music major and knew so many songs by heart; she  just loved to sing.  (I remember one Christmas  when we took cookies to people in the neighborhood and she  linked her arm in mine and said, "Let's sing!"  So we caroled together and as we approached one neighbor's house with a container of homemade soup [he was diabetic], he said that we woke him from his nap and it sounded like angels were singing at his door... Well, maybe like one angel was singing at his door; two?  No way!!)  
   At any rate,  one Thanksgiving morning we were at the Oasis,  it was drizzling rain,  the skies were a leaden grey.  But it was a holiday so once again, Yana took my arm as we walked the trails and said, "Let's sing!" And sing we did!  Our very  favorite song was Shout to the Lord. And that's why, all these years later,  I wanted to include it in my blog - for two years, during the time that she lived with us, we sang that song together many times and in that way, made it a part of our lives.   
    At the beginning of this blog, I talked about a biography where the author mentioned these two specific songs and how they helped him.  This is the bottom line: the author was writing about coming out of Satanism. Twenty years of it.   During those years, he says that he infiltrated various churches, trying to twist Scripture to sow confusion, trying to seduce women, just doing whatever to reap havoc. His favorite strategy was to visit small group Bible studies.  On the other hand, the one thing he could not stand and tried to avoid whenever possible, was the music part of a worship service; he avoided praise and worship music like the plague.
   Then he was finally saved and he said he played praise and worship songs almost 24/7, couldn't get enough of them!
   I don't know how to judge this person's writing, feel it's true but am not convinced it's good to wallow in such a graphic account of cruelty and inhumanity.  Am definitely not ready to recommend it yet.
  What I do know is that  tonight I dug out some of my old praise and worship CD's and will probably buy some new ones in the near future.
   I figure if a Satan worshiper doesn't like it; then that's good enough for me.
   So if you pass a dirty white Malibu with a senior citizen mamma in it jammin' to cranked-up worship and praise songs - that would be me..:)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Ten on the Tenth...Mentally hijacked????

     I woke up this morning thinking of various things I could do for "Ten on the Tenth".
     But I'm not doing any of them...:)  Somehow on the way to the store, my thoughts got hijacked and this is the result:  songs that have meant a lot to me over the years.

    1.  Okay, this will really show just how old I am!  When I was a child, I loved a Tennessee Ernie Ford song about Noah and the ark.   It had a refrain that went: "Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord and he landed high and dry!"  My mom had a lot of recordings  of Ford's music and many years later, as an adult, I discovered His work on CD and still bust the songs out ever so often.  I can never hear any of them without thinking about how much I loved them as a child.  (Although "gopher wood" painted a whole different picture in my mind when I was young than it does now!!!)

   2.  In the third grade to my surprise, my school teacher, Mrs. McKinney,  showed us a scratchy film about a famous composer and I was the only student in the class who recognized the music playing in the background!!   I couldn't believe the other kids didn't know it. And I was equally shocked that the teacher would make a big deal about it because  my mom played it all the time at our house!!!  When I got home and told my mom  about the film, she just looked at me and said, "Cathy Liz, Handel's Messiah is really  pretty famous..."  Live and learn...

   3.  When I was a teen, I loved the songs in The Sound of Music and probably sang "I am 15 going on 16" a thousand times - off-key every time, of course.  I was thirteen when I first began to sing it around the house and I remember thinking it would be forever until I could be 16 and dance around a gazebo. It didn't take that long to turn 16 but Cabot was a little short on gazebos and I never learned to dance...

  4.  When I was in high school  I had a friend, also named Kathy, and she could play the piano. We would get to church a little early on Wed. nights so  she could  pound out the tune, "The House of the Rising Sun" while we both belted out  the words to "Amazing Grace".. Well,  most of the time.. I will admit that sometimes we hollered out the original lyrics to that tune which was unfortunate. Especially when we got caught and our surreptitious singing sessions came to an end!  Still  like the tune, though,  and actually try to sing it once in a while. I guess once a hippie, always a hippie... :)

5.   My first three years out of college, I worked in the Hendrix Library and each Thanksgiving week, the staff and students would file into the Hendrix chapel for a short service.  It was there that I first sang the words, "Now Thank we all our God with hearts and hands and voices..."  I've loved it ever since but it wasn't until many years later, when I was teaching world history, that I realized this song was written during the Thirty Years War by a pastor who ended up doing about about  50 funerals a day, including the funeral of his own wife.  For years, when I taught  the Thirty Years War, which was pretty gruesome, I would end the lesson by reading the words to this hymn.  I kept waiting for someone to scream "separation of church and state!!"  but no one ever did.  I wondered if the war itself was so gross  that the kids were glad to leave class on a positive note.  Probably though, they were just glad to leave class ... :)

6. In my mid-twenties, I learned to love the hymn, "In Heavenly Love Abiding."  At that time, I was a discussion leader in  BSF   and each week the leaders would have a training session on Sat. morning.   We'd sing a few songs from booklets which  contained some out-of-print hymns.  BSF had gotten legal permission to reprint those  songs  but for limited use only.  So they asked us not to photocopy any of the songs and in May, when the study ended, we turned the booklets back in to the class secretary.   "In Heavenly Love Abiding", however,  had became so precious to me  that I copied the words by hand (hoping that wouldn't count as a copy right violation!)  and then memorized them so that I could sing the song during the summer months when BSF didn't meet.  Honestly, there were days when I just leaned on that hymn; I don't think I'm exaggerating  to say that I sang it almost daily for over a year while my family went through some really tough times. Still one of my favorites and I think it will be to my last breath!

7.  Another special song, "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee", is always associated in my mind with my wedding day and for good reason: this was the song that I marched down the aisle to!  I think my mom wanted me to have the traditional wedding march but since I had grown up hearing  my grandmother sing, "Here comes the bride, big, fat and wide!" there was no way I was going to use that one.  At any rate, Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee was the perfect song for that day, now almost 25 years ago.   I've always been glad that I chose it.

8.  We went to a wonderful church for 15 years.  (Really, I don't think we've ever gone to a church that wasn't wonderful - we've been blessed).  The first time I visited Grace Church, I went alone because Phil was sick.  I remember the sermon well - it was  a dramatic dialogue telling the story of Hosea and Gomer, very well-done. But even more memorable than the sermon, was a haunting little chorus that the congregation sang, "You Are My Hiding Place."  I went back for a second visit largely because of that song - I just wanted to hear it again!  And the rest, as they say, is history!

9.  While we were at Grace, the congregation sang another chorus and I fell in love with it. But I didn't know the name of it!  So for 6 months, whenever I was in a Christian book store, I would listen to CD's trying to find it.  Finally, I even called our worship pastor and his wife gave me what she thought was the title but I still couldn't find it.  One day I went into a Christian book store and I mentioned the opening words to a young clerk, as I had mentioned it to others. Immediately this girl recognized the lyrics and took me to the very CD that I wanted. Joy!!  The song was "You Are My All in All"  and that CD was the first of many Dennis Jernigan recordings that I bought. If you haven't heard his testimony, it is amazing!

10.  Now that we are at Geyer Springs, there are many songs that I love - I can't possibly narrow it down to just one.  Some of the songs the choir sings are new to me and at times I try to scribble the lyrics down on the bulletin so that I can find the song later.    Once I was sitting in the balcony with my Beth Moore study book on Revelation in my book bag and suddenly I realized we were actually singing Scripture from my current Bible study lesson!   When I got home, I asked my son if he could help me get the song off Itunes even though I didn't know the title. When I told him the lyrics, he looked at me like, "Duhhhh, Mom..." and said, "Um, the title is the... "Revelation Song..."   Who would have thought??...  But perhaps my favorite hymn is the Keith and Kristen Getty song, "May This Journey Bring a Blessing..."  And my favorite chorus is: There is a Fountain!  But then, I don't know because there's...

Ummm,  Obviously  this topic for me should be entitled  "Hundred on the Hundreth" instead of Ten on the Tenth!  At any rate, today I'm thankful for music and how God has used it in my life, unable to carry a tune though I may be...:) And now, I think I need to go sing something..  while the house is still  empty...:)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sometimes it's just a great thing to cry...

     Sometimes it's just a great thing to .. cry:)
     I don't know if men understand this but I think most women do.
     Last night was a Sister Chick night and we did all the things that women love to do:  we ate, we laughed, we solved some of the problems of our world, then we ate some more, laughed some more and  cried a bit.  What could have been more perfect???
      This morning I was thinking about the fellowship that we shared the evening before and this phrase came to mind:  accepted and accepting.  With this particular group of friends, I've always felt accepted - even when I knew good and well that I was being whiny and selfish. And even when we share our deepest joys and pains - no, especially when we share our deepest joys and pains - I've never had a problem accepting any of these special friends.
     In fact, the more I learn about them, the more I learn from them and  the more I respect them as well as love them.  None of us have traveled a straight path following the Christ; we've all made mistakes, encountered detours, had our noses rubbed in the pavement of life at times, and gone through moments of anguish.  In other words, like everyone else, we live in the real world.
    But unlike a lot of people, none of my friends ever let life totally get the best of them. Maybe we've all had times when we came perilously close to being overwhelmed by circumstances  but each of us, somehow, managed  to hang on to faith, to hope and all of us have stories of how we've seen Jesus, our Savior, come through for us in remarkable ways.
  Really, if you ever get the chance to meet these special ladies and if you are  ever privileged enough to hear their stories, you will be encouraged and uplifted.
  I am blessed.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

     Life can present some fast learning curves...
     Many years ago, I had an irate parent come in for a conference. To my surprise, this woman began to insult me personally, berate my assignments, and threaten to go over my head. I was young and didn't know what to do - the parent wouldn't give me time to talk and was practically shouting - so I got up and walked to an administrator's office. When we got there, I was totally floored to look back and see a sweet smile on her face whereas she had been so belligerent just minutes before.  I was even  more shocked to see her settle daintily into one of the chairs in the assistant principal's office - previously she had reminded me of a steam roller - while crossing one  shapely leg over another.  Then, while I tried not to let my lower jaw drop, she leaned forward so that even  more of her physical charms were showing.
      However worse was yet to come.  She started off by saying that she had come to school to find out how to help her child but instead, I had just been rude to her. Then she teared up and  hesitantly mentioned that I had also insulted  her child's intelligence and proceeded to quote things I had never even thought, let alone said.   She ended with a wide-eyed appeal to the administrator, asking  if he might be able to help her work through this dilemma for the sake of her child, who struggled with self-esteem issues?       Fortunately, the administrator wasn't taken in by anything she said or did.  The conference itself was polite; he made sure I had a chance to suggest things to help the child; and then indicated to the parent that the conference was over.  She kept up the  sweetness-and-light  act to the very  end, leaving a faint scent of perfume behind her in the office as well as  a very bad taste in my mouth...   

I think most people would agree that the type of blatant lying that this woman did was very wrong.   Other types of deception are not as clear-cut to us, maybe.   

In my thirties, it was my time to lie.   I did volunteer work at a pro-life pregnancy clinic for one week - sort of a temporary fill-in.   The clinic had been built right next to an abortion clinic and had almost the exact same name.  The hope was that women seeking an abortion would go into the pro-life clinic by mistake and receive counseling that would persuade them to keep their unborn child.   
      I didn't believe in abortion at that time but was uncomfortable with the deception behind the name and location of the pro-life clinic.  However, I knew the people involved in the clinic were basically good, moral citizens.  One day a lady called wanting to know how to get to our clinic. When she asked me directly if we did abortions, I told her that we didn't.  She was confused, clearly thinking she had called the abortion clinic.  I apologized but told her we offered alternatives to abortion, mainly setting up the pregnant woman with sponsors during the pregnancy and aiding them in putting their babies up for adoption if they chose to do that. She was very nice but said she was really trying to reach the abortion clinic.  I was nice too - I figured she was in a tough place and I wasn't trying to make things worse for her.  When she asked if I could give her directions to the abortion clinic, I told her I was sorry but that  it was against our policy to do that. She said she understood and thanked me for my time. I wished her well and we ended the conversation  on an amiable note.   While I was talking, however,  I could see that the other volunteer in the office was not so amiable.  As soon as I hung up, the other woman  lit into me, having discerned from my side of the conversation that I could have promised the woman an abortion and given her directions to our clinic  but that I hadn't.  We got into a heated discussion with her telling me she would have said anything to get that woman into our office and to possibly save the life of the baby.  

   I understood her concern  but my problem was the Bible.  I had been memorizing II Cor. 4:1-2 at the time and it plainly said, "Therefore, since we have received this ministry, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God."

   As we argued, I began to verbalize the unease that I felt about the whole set-up, finally blurting out: do you think Christ would have set up a shop right next to the Pharisees' meeting place and given it an almost identical name??? That He would have done anything, including deception and outright lying, in order to lure people into His headquarters??? I mean, after all, He was trying to save souls, wasn't He????
  Um, wrong thing to say!  If I thought the lady was mad before, I hadn't seen anything yet!! It wasn't until later that  I realized my question sent her into the ozone  because she  couldn't answer it and at the same time hang onto her solid belief in lying for the sake of a cause. It was my last day to volunteer at the clinic, by mutual agreement.
 Life is complex and full of learning-curves.  Whether it's okay to lie or not sometimes, or maybe not exactly right to lie but not all that bad either... who can always tell? 
   I sure can't.  All I know is that I don't like to be lied to, even for a good cause. And that the Bible says we are to treat others the way we ourselves want to be treated.