Thursday, June 13, 2019

Weekend Wit 24

You can choose to make life beautiful, but you might have to be the one to....

Plan it
Say it
Share it
Forgive it

It takes choice, action and courage.

 Integrity always trumps reputation.

A lie is like cancer, it destroys things that are good and right but in the end all lies and liars will become undone. Truth will win in the end.

Popular culture is a poor source to choose as the foundation for your decisions.

We are at a crossroad, we must earnestly build strong moral men and women.

We are given grace in our lives but we often mistakenly think that we are getting the good that we deserve or that we have earned.   We develop arrogance instead of gratitude.  Arrogance won't help you in the day of evil.

Sometimes we are given the choice between "having it our way" or having the relationship.  Eventually we need the relationship more than we needed "having our way".

Divorce should be rare and reserved for those terrible, extreme situations.  It is not a solution to relational conflict. Every relationship has conflict.  Most of us are emotional dwarfs when we marry.  It takes a life of sacrificially choosing to love your spouse to change that.

Things are always better in the morning light.

The older I get the more I realize that I need to dig in and believe that the Scripture is true.

The same kind of sin that infects me, also infects everyone around me.  I shouldn't be surprised when I am sinned against.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Over Sized Hearts

Mother's Day is upon us once more.  Is there any other holiday that brings out a range of emotions than this day?  Some folks struggle because their mom is gone.  Others struggle because Mom was never there for them to start with.  Some deal with the guilt of disappointing their mom because of life choices.  Some mothers deal with the guilt of not being good moms.  Then there are the precious women who want so badly to be able to conceive and bear a child.  I sometimes think the holiday should be banned altogether, but there are many mothers out there who do deserve recognition. My sisters are such women.

 If there was ever a fiery soul as a teenager it was my oldest sister. She loved fashion, hairstyles and makeup and I never would have pegged her as the next Joan of Arc.  She has always been a caring person but motherhood gave her the opportunity to show just how sacrificial and dogged determined that a woman can be. Her marriage ended after about ten years leaving her as the soul supporter and caregiver for her kids.  She worked all kinds of crazy hours in order to provide for them.  She had to finagle money, time and energy in order to keep life and limb.  My sister refused any kind of government support because she didn't want her kids to grow up thinking that was the way to live.  When all of her kids were grown, she went back to school and become an over the road truck driver.  Over the years I have witnessed a woman who loves her kids and grandsons ferociously but that compassion has spilled out to others that she encounters as well.  The chick who was so concerned about appearance doesn't care what anyone thinks about her. The sacrifices of motherhood have morphed her into quite a genuine person.

My other sister  took care of our dad for years.  After she and her husband had raised their son she became our dad's surrogate parent as he aged. Mama had died years before and he lived alone.  She was the closest in proximity to him and she naturally became the one who invited him to every holiday and who dropped everything when he needed help.  She has always worked in the corporate world where she had a lot of responsibility.  She never let that keep her from solidly taking care of Daddy.  For years she had to deal with all kinds of issues with him.  She was the heroine in every way.  As he became more and more feeble he looked to my sister to be his strength and protection.  When someone tried to deal dishonestly with Daddy, they experienced her wrath.  She went to bat for Daddy with doctors, health care workers and administrators. She took him to countless doctor's appointments and spent hours working on the details of his life. She was also the one who sat with him and colored or read kid books to him when his mind became too feeble for adulting.  She spent a lot of money, time and energy taking care of him and giving him dignity in his last years.  She loved Daddy in a way in which  I am almost envious.  Her heart was devoted to him because she had invested the treasure of her life into him.  When he passed away, she was the one who was hurt the most. That is the way genuine love works.

My other sister is really my husband's sister.  This sweet, kind and generous woman has given of herself to her kids, her husband and now her grand kids in a way that is almost unbelievable.  She has dealt with chronic long term illness, hospitalization, many sleepless nights, emergency room visits and a lot of questions that have taken faith to wait for the answers. Years ago when my husband and I were in financial pinch she found a way to tangibly help us in our dire straits.  None of the things that she has been through have produced bitterness and anger, instead she has a gentle spirit who looks at the best in most people and keeps a buoyant happy spirit.

I can never do justice to my sisters in explaining the ways that they have dug their heels in and stood in difficult circumstances. I can tell you why my sisters are so special.  One day each of them became mothers and when they did they no longer counted their own lives as gain but day by day gave them away to their children. They found that genuine love is filled with action, determination and sometimes just being bone tired.  They found that kind of sacrificial love brought about ridicule and scorn from those who didn't live in the reality of their lives.  In the process a transformation took place where there hearts grew too big for their bodies.

If you too have one of those mothers in your life who have laid down their lives and now possess one of those huge hearts,  I hope that you find a way to honor her.  I hope you hug her and take some time to express some thoughtful words to her.  She is a giant. She should be deeply honored and respected. I hope you have eyes to see that.

Happy Mother's Day Linda, Gail and Donna!!!! I love you all and appreciate your faith, your love and your example all of these years.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Wolf Kahn Art Lesson for Kids

I found a Wolf Kahn art lesson here.  I decided that I would try something similar with the 4th graders.  They used chalk for the background and I cut up strips of different sized cardboard for them to dip in tempura paint to make the tree trunks and then they dabbed paint on for the tree tops.  We viewed a short video clip about Wolf Kahn like this one here.  I talked a bit about his life and his art before we started.  This is a sampling of the kids work.  Each one is pretty magical in my opinion.


" Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were powerful; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.…" 

I certainly can relate to these verses. The older I get the more I see myself in a clearer light. I am a little bit of nothing. The scripture describes that as being a vapor.  We all arrive on the scene and we are only here for a mere breath.

We all have to some degree physical imperfections, some more than others. I suppose given enough time, money and surgeries we could work on making them better but there is absolutely nothing that will stop the process of age and decay in our bodies.

Intellectually I am a midget compared to the brightest minds in the world. I might could revel in my IQ score on those little ridiculous Facebook quizzes. I can and have foolishly compared my intellectual abilities with the next person at the checkout but in reality sometimes a seven year old understands things that I have missed all of my life.  We are all intellectual midgets compared to the One who made the universe and keeps it all going.

I have been given some talents and abilities.  I try to use them to make life better for myself and for those around me.  At the end of the day, it is doubtful that the uniqueness of me will be remembered much past my own family.  I will become a name and two dates in a genealogy and nothing much more than that.

 I am certainly not of noble birth in this life.  I was born into a modest home of parents who were just common country people.  Even after years of living out in the world, I still find that my accent and mispronunciation of words leak out in my imperfect speech. My mannerism and mode of life is such that it would take years of work to make me understand and practice proper protocol in polite company.

I think that many of us are always looking to discover something in which to hide behind in this life because we all know deep inside that we are inadequate.  I don't think very many of us are truly confident in our physical appearance, our performance or even in our progress in this life.  It is because we were destined to be something far greater than what we presently are. Now we are bound and reduced much like the characters in Beauty and the Beast.  Before the Fall of man every single person would have been noble, perfect and powerful.  The most noble among us in this life is still a shadow of what was intended.

In our fallen condition, "the humbling" of a broken humanity is the only hope that we will ever look up and agree with God that, "yes" we need a Savior.  I need Him to give me eternal life in the future but I also need Him to infuse life into me today.

I am presently today not what I will be, but even on my lowest days of brokenness and humility I can revel that my present condition is a direct result of His mercy and grace in my life.

It seems that in our culture, that we spend a lot of time judging each other and pointing fingers.  Tearing each other down is a national past time.  I am just as judgmental as the next person.  On some days though I get a glimpse of myself in the proverbial mirror and I know that in reality that I am naked and laid bare and that I desperately need to be covered just like the rest of humanity.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Weekend Wit 23

If you want to know the answer to life, it is love.

Your happiness is found in your ability to be content.
Your contentment is found in being grateful for the things that you already have.

Everyone has problems.  Some problems are pretty obvious.  The community around us offers sympathy and empathy but many issues are matters of the soul and often there is no one who knows.  Those issues are left to fester in the dark where it makes the sufferer often angry, depressed or bitter.  It is in the light that those issues can be healed.  I am not suggesting that we bare are all to the world but finding someone to tell our deepest and darkest hurts is a necessary step to wholeness.

The world is going to beat you down, home should be the place where we are built back up and pampered. 

The things in our world that seem so very negative in the end are sometimes the very things that turn our lives around and put us on the right path.

Whatever your problems, they are common to man.  Someone else has already fought the same battle that you are fighting.  That means it is not an impossible task.  

Saturday, December 22, 2018

The Christmas Poke

I have plenty to do before Christmas arrives at my door.  My house needs to be cleaned and I am still mulling over the food that I plan on serving.  I bought a bag of oranges today because in my world, Christmas is not possible without having a bag of oranges.  After my bowl of soup at supper I peeled one of my Christmas oranges.  That first taste brought back all kinds of Christmas memories.

Every year at church we would have a Christmas program featuring the little kids and then some kind of Christmas drama that highlighted the true meaning of Christmas.  The church would be completely packed for this event with everyone decked out in their red and green Christmas finery.  The little kids usually flubbed their lines but were adorably cute.  The Christmas drama was a small town attempt at theater with a bunch of men dressed in their bathrobes playing shepherds.  It didn't matter, it was always something that I  anticipated except for the year I was actually in the Christmas play, then it was terrifying.

After the play was over everyone from the young to the elderly went to the doors of the fellowship hall where the deacons and other volunteers passed out Christmas pokes. The Christmas poke was a brown paper sack with one large apple, an orange, a pack of Juicy Fruit gum, a Mounds Bar, an Almond Joy, a box of raisins, and an assortment of nuts still in the shell. I stood there a shivering disheveled, tired little girl in the cold eager to get my bag of goodies. It was honestly one highlight of the Christmases of my childhood.  We then would all pile back into our car clutching our bags eager to open up our pokes to examine the contents.

I don't know the reason why the Christmas poke tradition was started.  Maybe it was an attempt to make sure that everyone got a little something at Christmas.  I know that I loved mine.  It seems ridiculous now in our world where sweets and treats flow freely that a bag with a couple of candy bars and some fruit would be that enticing to a child.  In those days treats were pretty rare for most children.  We seldom had oranges and store bought apples except at Christmas time.

Fifty years later it still fills my heart with pleasure to think about the "Christmas Poke".   I am sure that many of those who packed the bags and distributed them worked pretty hard and they gave up valuable time in order to serve. Even small acts of kindness, generosity, and thoughtfulness that are done in the name of Jesus are powerful. They have lasting impact on the hearts and souls of those who have been ministered to.  I feel pretty sure that those who handed the bags out to me as a child are probably pretty old, but more than likely they have already departed this world.  I hope they received a special reward for those "Christmas pokes".

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

In a world that is eager to hate and ridicule, we can't give up my dear brothers and sisters.  It is not that we are powerless as a church, but that we often think that the tasks we have been given to do couldn't possibly have any impact.  Nothing is further from the truth.  The Spirit still wants to lead His people sometimes through an act of generosity or a kind word.  We are to be a living sacrifice, laying our lives down daily in small and large ways for those in our influence and in our charge.   I hope that this Christmas and the days after that you will work to change the world one metaphorical "Christmas poke" at a time. There are still tired, cold disheveled little girls shivering in the dark hoping for some kindness.  That little girl may be disguised as your neighbor who was yelling obscenities from her yard or that coworker with the mean streak or that dude who wants to ride on your rear end every single morning on your ride to work.

Friday, December 14, 2018

I Found Christmas

Christmas is almost upon us.   At school the Christmas program is past and the kids are anxiously awaiting Christmas. The other day a couple of the four year old boys were racing around their room singing Santa Claus is coming to town at the top of their little happy lungs. The halls are a blur of red and green decorated with every version of the sacred and secular view of Christmas.  At home the tree is held together with strands of gold beads and winking at me with its little multicolored lights. The Christmas cookies are iced with pink, red, white and green frosting.  UPS is running night and day to keep up with package deliveries.  Christmas parties are in full swing and Christmas music is everywhere.  Hallmark Christmas movies are clogging up the airways.

I understand why kids are excited about Christmas.  They will have two weeks off from school, stockings full of goodies, and presents under the tree.  Parents, teachers, the community and the church work hard every year to create a Christmas experience.  The kids are always on the receiving end of that kind of production.

 By now some of the adults are just longing for the peace and quiet of January. At this time of the year those who have plenty of resources might feel a little angst at just how much Christmas will cost them this year.  Others are feeling a real panic as they try to buy things that meet societal expectations.  I remember years ago on a bitterly cold day,  Mama dressed in her old black long coat and hat standing in an old department store downtown near Christmas time as the cashier rang up her meager purchases. She carefully counted out the remainder of her money in her lean wallet down to the last pennies.  It was painful to watch.  There are many around us who are feeling that very same pressure that my mom felt so many years ago.

I buy gifts, I decorate and I participate in events but for me those things never really do have a lot of significance.  I am not trying to be a killjoy but Santa and Elf on the Shelf are just fun things for the kids the same way that a Hallmark Christmas romance is a fantasy for a billion women on the planet or that person trying to create the perfect family holiday complete with food, presents, and decorations.
Because I have tasted of the reality of the true Christmas I struggle with finding my joy in the shadow of it.

For years I listened to Christmas carols and just enjoyed the familiarity and the sentimentality of the songs.  At some point in my life my eyes were opened and I laid hold of what Christmas is for the Christian.  In those very carols lay the true meaning of Christmas.  The fear of death, the pain of suffering,  the reality of violence and hatred all mar our experience as humans, but God sent us His very own Son right in the middle of the mess to rescue us.  The God Man, Jesus, showed up at just the right time in history to save a humanity bound for thousands of years  under the curse, horror and weight of sin.  I am sorry but sentimentality can never compete with this kind of reality. I have included below some of the carols that speak so eloquently of the arrival of our Savior.  Merry Christmas friends.  I hope that you will never be able to hear the carols again without the words piercing your heart and sparking a joy that is not possible to extinguish.

Mild he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Risen with healing in his wings,
Light and life to all he brings,
Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!
Hail, the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Heaven-born Prince of Peace
Hail the Son of Righteousness
Light and life to all He brings
Risen with healing in His wings
Mild He lay His glory by
Born that man no more may die

Come Desire of Nations come,
Fix in us thy humble home.
Rise, the woman's conquering Seed,
Bruise in us the serpent's head.
Adam's likeness now efface
Stamp thine image in its place

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessing flow
far as the curse is found,
far as the curse is found,
far as, far as the curse is found.

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O holy night, O night divine!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Harvest of Righteousness

We have had lots of rain the last few days and the temperature has dropped considerably. It was quite brisk feeling when I left work.  I kept the heater humming in the car as I drove home past trees alight with fall color. This time of the year our chickens are often already in the coop by the time I pull in. I left my work paraphernalia in the car and walked out back to find  the chickens looking kind of bleary eyed on their perch with their feathers fluffed out against the cold.   I shut the big door leaving them to roost. I stopped by the vegetable garden to see what I could add to our supper fare. The frost has already done a lot of damage but I dug up several big sweet potatoes that I could see peeking from the ground and found the last two eggplant hanging onto the  wilted plants.  I picked a fat hand full of mustard greens and hurried into the house shutting out the dreary damp of the last remnants of the day.

My husband started a blazing fire in the fireplace and I put on a pot of coffee.  In a few minutes my garden treasures were washed.  The greens I cut up  putting them to boil on the back of the stove.   I cut one of the sweet potatoes in half and put the pieces in a baking dish.  I sliced the eggplant and dredged it in egg and flour and fried them.  It wasn't long before we had a country feast of fresh vegetables in the middle of November.  

I think nothing is more magical than a garden.  Most of what we ate tonight took a really small investment of money and time.  I don't use pesticides and the only fertilizer is the grass clippings that I pile up around my plants to control the weeds and to keep the soil moisture more even.  For the most part, it is free organic food from a small plot of ground next to our house.  It is a quite beneficial and profitable enterprise.

A garden in magical in other ways.  A garden can teach a lot of life lessons, like you reap what you sow.  Hmmm!!! I think I have heard that somewhere else.  I planted sweet potatoes, mustard greens and eggplant.  Today that was exactly what I got from the garden.  I didn't go out there and find corn and asparagus.  I didn't plant corn and asparagus.  We are funny that we think sowing and reaping only has to do with gardens, but it has to do with everything in life.  

I'd love to say that I had truly grasp this life lesson but I know it isn't true.  I am still prone to foolishness and stupidity.  I still somehow think that my words and actions are immune to morphing into something greater that I can control or handle.

The whole reaping and sowing thing has some very positive connotations as well.  If we sow generosity, kindness, forgiveness, fortitude that is what we will reap.  These are the kinds of things in which our world is in desperate need.

Seeds are pretty small and insignificant looking dried up little things.  Even small unkindness can grow into something ugly, convoluted and thorny, just as our daily pitifully small offering of right living has the potential to change the lives of those that we rub shoulders with.  We don't need to despair of small beginnings.   A harvest of righteousness will come if we persevere.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Tired Garden

Soggy grass before the morning has her moorings

Lingering sticky strands of gossamer stretched taunt

Purple iridescent morning glories

Barely dripping leaves

Composted dirt frosted with a thousand tomato green seedlings

Okra lurched tenaciously grasping her goliath pods.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Weekend Wit 22

Abject misery brings about more positive change than being rescued.  A rescue depends on the fortitude and perseverance of the rescuer.  Misery, on the other hand, as a constant companion is a great catalyst to get us over the hump. Often we find that we possess the resources that we needed all along.

About 99.99% of the things we ponder in the night never come to pass.

Jesus wants to guide His children.  I didn't redeem myself and I certainly don't have the ability to lead myself.  The reason that we don't know what to do is that we haven't bothered to ask Him.

I believe marriage is one means by which God sanctifies His children.  Spouses were not meant to sit in judgment of each other but to come along side to help heal each other.

I am just as broken as the guy with the moped leaned against the road sign smoking a cigarette holding a sign that says he will work for food.

Life is full of troubles therefore we can say that it is also fraught with much opportunity to call out to the One who made us and who is all powerful, good and kind.

Many of our troubles stem from something that we have done, something we are presently doing or something that we are not handling properly by trusting God.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Songs of the Redeemed

I grew up in a rural area with plain simple honest country people.  We went to a mid sized church a couple of towns over from us.  The church was vibrant and full of the same kind of hardworking people as my parents.

On Sunday morning the church was packed out. Every possible parking space was filled by eleven on Sunday morning. If you happened to be late, then one of the ushers would have to add some seating at the back of the church or you might happen to squeeze into a spot in the balcony. The preaching in our country church was fiery, the congregation was loudly interactive and the choir rocked.

That choir was filled with fifty men and women who worked in the cotton mill during the week but on Sunday they knew how to belt it out.  Little women with polyester suits, cotton dresses, pump heels and tightly permed curls put on a performance that many outside of that realm would not have thought possible.  Anyone could sing in the choir.  What they lacked in skill, they made up for it in gusto.

The whole church was electric when those men and women sang. The choir always had a few men who sang bass and a few that could hit the high notes. There were lots of very vocal altos in the women's section.  The congregation often sang right along with them.  Whatever the troubles or sorrows of the week, for those few moments heaven truly came down and we weren't feeling any pain.

Sunday mornings were limited to about an hour for the worship service probably because most people had a roast in the oven.  Sunday night church was different.  We were independent Baptist and you weren't very spiritual if you didn't have a night service.  Only about half of our congregation must have been spiritually minded.  It was a lot more relaxed and there was always extra room in the auditorium but the choir was still packed out.

On Sunday nights, it was all about the music. Elmer, our choir director was a tall older man with broad shoulders and a crew cut.  I doubt seriously he had any musical training but his heart was certainly in it.  He worked hard trying to introduce some of the newer songs of the day into the music of the church while still keeping the older songs that were loved.   Billie sat to the right of the stage with her tight curls and beaded ear bobs pounding out songs on a Baby Grand while her husband Arnold conquered the drums.  He was pretty versatile as he also played the electric guitar. Arnold was a dapper grey haired man probably in his early 50's with a bit of style. He often wore an Arnold Palmer green men's blazer with winged tipped loafers. We also had a trumpet player and a bass guitar player on Sunday nights.  It was quite the little loud rocking band.

I don't know how many songs were typical on a Sunday night but I think we were all sung out by the time the preacher stepped up to the pulpit to preach.  Singing released something in our spirits.  Maybe it was the angst of our fallen selves or maybe the stress of trying to live in a broken world.  Maybe we were created to sing praises to our King and for a few minutes in our week, all was right with the world.  I can tell you that as a child I loved to sing along.  I doubt seriously I understood every song or that every song was theologically sound.

I have long left the independent Baptists and have been in numerous congregations with different styles of worship, but I can tell you that most of God's people find great pleasure and comfort in the singing of worship filled songs.  For those few moments when those Called Out ones gather and our voices are raised, something happens.  It is not just emotion.  Something happens where we are collectively somehow connected to heaven.  In my present church the people on stage don't resemble Elmer, Arnold or Billie and the music is quite diverse from the music of my childhood.  True worship of our great King transcends time, place and style.  It is an amazing thing when God's people lift their hearts and voices in worship. It is a glimpse of what is to come.  I am longing for the day when an innumerable choir lifts its' voice in praise to the only One who is worthy.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Home and a Deeper Longing

Black-eyed Suzy, Rose of Sharon, Hydrangea and  Sweet William grew with rampant abandon in a yard with old
plantings of forgotten unnamed shrubs that was scattered with hard barren patches of thin wispy grass.  The foundation of brick had cracks from 50 years of nestling into the soil on which the old house had been planted so many years before.   The hard wood floors were worn slick and smooth.  The slightest wind caused the windows panes to rattle and draw in the outside air.  The glazing had long dried brittle and much of it had pulled away from the windows in big chunks. An ancient ornate screen door that had long rusted still clung to the front entry. White baseboards and glass doorknobs gave to the little house a bit of charm and dignity.

It was home.  It was that place of complete security that at times could feel so safe that it stifled. Families didn't move from places like that.  Our roots went so deep into the soil that even when we grew up we drug the roots unseen behind us. 

Mama died in 1985 and Daddy lived the next 30 years a widower. After Mama died, it seemed almost impossible to reclaim that idea that "home" still existed.  Daddy did the best he could but we all knew that it would never be the same.  For years I was undone by how home had deserted us when Mama died.  Inadvertently I have been on a covert mission to recreate home. I have lived long enough to know that this desire and longing will never be fully satisfied in the here and now.  Home making is a worthy goal but at best it is always just semi permanent camping and squatting on real estate that we can never really own.

Not a single thing has the ability to last in this present world.  We live in a world that decay and destruction begins to reek havoc from the moment of conception.  We want to embrace the "Circle of Life" idea and be the lion standing on the hill majestic and beautiful as the sun fades into the west but it leaves us cold and hollow.

 The Gospel is in diverse opposition to the "Circle of Life".  The Gospel proclaims that we do not have to embrace death and destruction but we can embrace life and hope, our life does not have to end.   I have longings of places, things and ideas that I have never experienced. God has placed that eternity in our hearts.   This body of destruction groans and longs to be set free from the bondage of decay.  One day I will have a home where righteousness dwells and it will never be snatched away by death or loss of any kind.