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.   

Friday, June 22, 2018

Timestamps and Lightening Bugs

My grandma lived with us as I was growing up.  She had thin gray hair that she plaited and pulled back in a little bun.  She never wore slacks or shorts.  Mostly she wore simple cotton dresses with a floral print pattern.  Grandma was mild by the time I knew her.  In her younger days she was a fiery soul with the characteristic red hair to go with it.

Grandma had five children and eleven grandchildren and several great grandchildren at this point in time.  She was what tied our family together.  As long as she lived the family still got together for special occasions. She was a hard working woman who was quietly loved and respected by everyone in the family and possibly a little bit feared.   One of the ways we honored her was to celebrate her birthday each June 18th.

I don't remember Grandma opening presents although Grandma is holding a gift in the picture.  I don't ever remember having a birthday cake and or us warbling out "Happy Birthday".  We celebrated like all common folks around the world, we had a cookout. The Pontiacs, Dodges, and Chevrolets would begin edging up in the yard laden down with food, aunts, uncles and cousins.  Seldom did a family member not show up to one of these events. The women would be attired in light weight cotton dresses and sensible shoes and the men in short sleeved button shirts and slicked down hair.  Everyone was always so tidy and neat in those days.

To me it was the very best family gathering. The simple charcoal grills would be filled with burgers and hot dogs.  My aunts brought the potato salad, slaw, watermelon, chili, chips, jello salads and  cakes.  It was absolutely delicious food.  There is no restaurant that can rival homemade food made with love by a bunch of Southern experienced cooks.  Those women accidentally made good food.  If they walked into the kitchen to wipe the counter down, they might end up frying a pan of chicken or baking a pie.  They knew 72 ways to turn jello into a heavenly concoction.  The desserts were all homemade specialties and they didn't skimp on the ingredients.  It was a matter of pride to bring a good dessert and take home an empty dish.  Most of us have diabetes now because we grew up with those kind of good cooks.

Aluminum lawn chairs with nylon webbing were pulled from the trunks and arranged in a circle.  It was hot outside but that didn't matter.  We weren't  as wimpy then as we are today.  Few of us had air conditioned houses. The women fanned and gossiped in what shade could be found while the men tended the grills.  The boy cousins played baseball or went down in the woods and declared their manliness by bending sapling trees to the ground.  The girl cousins stood around and awkwardly gawked or played kick ball in the front yard.

The evening would slowly slip away as the lightening bugs came out. We sat around with sticky watermelon juice on our faces and hands  and slapped mosquitoes.  No one wanted the day to end. The adults  sat and talked as though they hadn't seen each other in years. The rhythm and sounds of the night began to fill the air and  finally it was too dark to see anymore.  The cars would be loaded back with the folding chairs and coolers.  Chevrolets, Dodges and Pontiacs would ease back on down the road puffing exhaust.  Soon only the flicker of the taillights were visible.

Our bellies were full and our minds were buzzing with all of the events of the day.  Another birthday for Grandma came and went.  In my child's mind, I didn't know that there was a time stamp on this event.  One day Grandma was too frail and the family too fractured and scattered to carry on the June 18th cookout. The adults had been right to linger in the night air because they knew somehow how precious it was to just be together.   The images of  the glowing  charcoal embers dying and the faint flicker of  the fireflies and the soft voices of my long gone relatives still brings a comfort to my heart and mind.

Everything is timestamped.  What we have right now is not better or worse than the past or the future.  It is just what we have now.  We need to linger over the good that God has given us today.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Dear Son

Dear Son,

It is still surreal seeing you hold your little girl, but  it fills my heart with joy.   It is your very first time to celebrate Father's Day as a new dad.  My heart still thinks of you as my child even though my mind is fully aware that you are a married man with a family of your own.  I remember once when you were a teen and we were in the car.  We did a lot of talking in the car those days.  You often would tell me things that were important to you.  Once you said that you wanted to get a good education so they you would be able to support a wife and a family. I was so amazed that you had thought in those terms.  You planned even then the kind of life that you wanted.  Having your own family was part of your dream.

You have that now son.  You have a beautiful wife and a sweet little girl.  I know that the job of mom is terribly important but so is the role of dad. We have downplayed  "dad" for so long in our culture that many have forgotten what it actually means. A home without dad is like a home without a bedrock.  Dad you are the mainline of defense.  You are the one standing on the wall. 

You come from a long line of men who took their role as dad seriously.  They were all fallible men but they still stayed true to their calling to be a dad.  You have watched your own dad stay true to his call. 

Being a dad in the world we live in can often seem to be very under appreciated but I believe the absentee father is the number one factor in so much of the dysfunction in our world.

 I love how you have taken an active role in taking care of your daughter from day one.  It will give so much stability to Baby Girl. 

You will fight giants every single day as a dad.  Just going to work to pay the bills and put a roof over everyone's head can be a daunting task.  There may not be a lot of time to embrace the things that you once had time to enjoy. It is a new day and what you are giving your time and energy to is worth more than any hobby or pursuit.

Happy Father's Day Son!!!  I am so proud of you.   

Friday, April 27, 2018

Dear Sweet Daughter

Dear Sweet Daughter,

You married my son several years ago and you two are such a good combination together.  Now you have become a mom as well.  I know it has been tough the last few weeks with all of the unexpected things that have transpired, as well as the lack of sleep, and the betrayal of your own body as you recover from the arduous process of childbirth.

I wanted to tell you welcome to motherhood. It is the secret club that once one has been initiated causes a complete paradigm shift.  There are certainly biological changes but I think the real change is when a mom looks at that helpless little one and considers her own life as inferior to the care  and nurture of the one in her charge.  I believe it is called laying down your life or perhaps becoming a living sacrifice.   I read once that to be a mother is to forever wear your heart on the outside of  your body.

 Many will tell you that your career will fulfill you.  A career is only means to take care of yourself and your family.  Hopefully, it will also serve others in society, but being a mom is a high and holy calling.  The saying that "the one who rocks the cradle, rules the world" is true.  Mom, you have quite the opportunity and dare I say privilege to do just that.  She will probably spend more waking hours with you than anyone else in the universe for the first 15 + years of her life.  Your words, your touch, your protection and your insight will be her guiding star.  She will want you and her daddy more than any others.

I wanted to share some of the things that ministered to me as a young woman.  The first one is from Titus.  I wrote this out and carried it around in the back pocket of my blue jeans for a really long time until it became frayed and worn.

... urge the younger women to love their husbands and children,  to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. (NIV)

The idea that we must be taught to love our husbands may not be such a  foreign idea to many women but to have to be taught to love our children seems somehow unnatural.  I can't tell you how many times though that the words about being self controlled or pure or kind or busy or even subject to the oversight of my own husband gave me real guidance in what it meant to actually love my child and my husband.  It provoked me to "keep on" even when I was tired or distraught or even hormonal.  It  prevented me from taking the wrong action many times.  We are all sinful and frail.  Many times those words cut like a knife into me.  The knife didn't harm, it was for the surgery of my soul to bring about health and life.  Many days will be hard, but remember a good night's sleep and little perspective is a gift that God gives us.  His mercies are always new every single morning.

Another verse that I kept on the refrigerator for years was

 The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.

I read that verse hundreds of times.  It did a work in my heart and mind.  It made me desperate to not be a foolish woman and bring about the destruction of the best gifts I had ever been given.  I wanted to build up my house.  I wanted to bring security, peace, stability and comfort to those in my charge.  By nature I have a sharp tongue and can be irritatingly unkind if provoked.  I still have to battle those enemies so that I do not tear down my own house even after all of these years.  Because of our fallen nature, we all have our own special enemies that we must keep under control lest they break out and destroy our homes.  I made many mistakes and I sinned against my family on many occasions but I can still look back and see the restraining work of God in my life.

Years ago we went to a little store front church.  I picked up a pamphlet on motherhood  written by the famous Elisabeth Eliot. I wonder sometimes if that was the main reason that we attended that little church.  It had a huge impact on me. I found a link to it the other day and I hope that it is ministers to you as well.

Never let anyone degrade your calling to be a mother.  Those days that your pants don't fit or you haven't had the energy to put on makeup will come.  Don't compare yourself to a college girl who has had two hours to groom herself and has never made a baby in her womb. You may not always feel beautiful on the outside but let me tell you God will be doing a work of beauty on the inside and your husband will see it.  His eyes are the only eyes that matter.  Motherhood is a hugely important trust given to you by God and He will not leave you or forsake you in it.  The Holy Spirit will guide you and give you the insight that you need.

 I appreciate you.  I look forward to seeing how God works in your life  as you mother Baby Girl.  I want you to succeed in every way possible.  I am cheering you on sweet lady.

With much love,

Your Mother by Choice

Thursday, March 29, 2018

On This Night...

What it was like on this night?

When the sun eased from the sky in the cool of day. 
The table set with preparations of a slaughtered lamb.
The King, His glory cloaked in humanity
offering broken bread and poured out wine.

Those at the table were there to remember. 
But You came with expectation 
Your face set like flint.

The hardest night lay before you, anticipated from all eternity.

What was it like on this night?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Weekend Wit 21

We often care more about what people think than caring about people.

   There is no secret formula for success, but solely the grace of God.

All I have to do today is make a little bit of progress.

The reason marriage is under siege is because it is such an incredibly valuable commodity. An intact healthy marriage helps to produce stable children and an unbeatable support system. We are easily tricked into thinking that it is just too hard or too painful.

The one who loves nature always has a free show.

If I could harness the clever persistence of a squirrel and the enthusiasm of a dog, I would  be able to conquer the world.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Everyone Needs a Good Daddy

Spring time is showing up in my neck of the woods.  Years ago when I was still a girl living in rural North Carolina, spring signaled the time of the year that Daddy started the garden.  He would go out to the old shed that housed his ancient Allis Chalmers tractor that he had inherited from his own dad.  The tractor didn't have an electrical starter so Daddy put the hand crank into the slot in the front of the tractor and turned it over repeatedly  until the tractor jolted back into life.  It always seemed to be a minor miracle when it finally started running.

It was an awful lot of work to just get the fields ready to plant and it wasn't done in a day.   Daddy would come home from the cotton mill after the first shift was over and eat supper.  He would then go out to work in the field until dusk.  Daddy never ever complained about it.  He just did it.  He knew that was how we were going to make it.  As long as we had land, Daddy knew he could feed us.

When Daddy went out in the field to plow he wore an old straw hat to keep the sun off his head,  men's khaki work pants and an old cotton shirt with a frayed collar and sleeves.   Daddy never walked or talked fast but he always got things accomplished.  It seems that old tractor fit his personality.  The tractor wasn't attired in the new or shiny anymore either.  It was  just slow and consistent just like he was.

In the spring he would attach his large disk cultivator to the Allis Chalmers and  steer that slow moving tractor down to the field and begin slicing into the fallow ground.  Around the cultivator went cutting deeply into the red clay and turning the dirt over in big chunks. The ground released a musty wholesome smell that I still crave,  it was the aroma of life.

He often started cultivating in the early spring before the weather turned hot.  The air would be warm but still have a cool undercurrent.  He steered around the lone persimmon tree that grew in the lower field creating a circular pattern. The tractor chugged along and the thick growing tall dark cedars stood watch at the back of the field while birds and rabbits played in the brown and green grasses that grew in the meadow.  The brambly woods, the tall uncut grasses and the sky seemed to form an enormous backdrop against that one man and the sweat of his brow.

 After he cultivated the field, he would change implements.  This time he hooked the disk harrow to the tractor.  The harrow had several rows of smaller rusty looking disks that sliced the soil into smaller clods.  It made a distinctive clanging sound as it bounced across the cultivated field.    Finally, he went back with the row plow and cut rows so that he could begin planting.

Every time he changed the implements was an opportunity for something to go wrong.    He would bring the tractor out of the field and drive it up by the barn.  It was just him, his perseverance and a race against the sun to get his work accomplished.  My sisters and I would often hang about as he worked.  It never seemed to get on his nerves.  I am not sure he even realized we were there.

Daddy's dogged perseverance was not evident to most people.  He didn't stand out as a man's man or even as a go-getter but he stayed in the race day after day.  He never gave up even when the odds seemed to be against him.  He didn't have a lot of education.  He never had a high paying job but he showed tremendous character in how he stayed the course. Mama and Daddy paid their house and property off in fourteen years.  They might carry a balance at the doctors or the drug store but they always were careful to pay off the small debts they did incur. With my grandma living with us, there were seven mouths to feed.  Daddy was the only one who was gainfully employed.  In my mind, what my parents did was amazingly incredible.

Daddy didn't have time for television. He didn't go to movies.  He didn't keep up with sports.  He didn't have time to drink, gamble, smoke or time for any other vice. He never visited a foreign country and he seldom went on vacation.  Daddy worked, he visited family with a fervor and he went to church almost every time the doors were open.  He signed up to be a husband and a father and that is what he did.  In an age where we don't think fathers are important, I know that is plain hogwash.  I had one and our culture would be a whole lot better if we had more men like my daddy.

My sister Gail and Daddy... He lived to be almost 96 years.  My sister took loving care of him as he got to
the place in life where he couldn't live alone anymore.