Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas, The Only Solution

We live in a culture where we have values but we don't acknowledge that there is a primary source for values.  We have breathed in the idea that values are just derived from the majority agreeing and when the majority changes its collective mind then the value changes.  Right and wrong are not really like that.  Truth has been built into our universe and there are moral laws just as there are physical laws.  If society collectively decides that jumping from tall buildings will not hurt that does not make it so.  We are in crisis because we have gone our own way and declared that many things are good and right when in reality those things are destroying us and our souls.

The great social experiments have failed and are failing causing great destruction and harm.  But instead of being able to acknowledge the causation, we lay blame.  If we are liberal, then we blame the conservatives.  If we are young then we blame those that are aged.  If we are poor, we blame the rich.  The middle class blames everyone.

We are all more alike than we care to acknowledge.  Everyone has gone his own way.  We all have turned from our Creator.  When it comes down to it, we as a culture have turned away from truth and mocked the very idea that truth exists.  We have chosen our own way and we are languishing in our brokenness. The solution to our problems will not and cannot come from the Republicans, Democrats or any other group.  Jesus made it clear that He did not have an affiliation with any man made group.  In fact, He said  He was not entrusting Himself to any man because He knew what was in man.

My question is how many more people have to die?  How many more children have to live in highly dysfunctional situations?  How many more have to live with addiction and perversion?  How much more hurt and hopelessness do we have to have before we are broken and humble enough to recognize that there is a God and He has revealed Himself through Jesus?   There is an outside source of knowledge that tells us the right way to go.  It is the Bible and there lies true truth!!!

Jesus came as baby, that is what we are celebrating at Christmas.  He lived a perfect life and fought a war at the cross to deliver us from our sinful selfish selves. The Prince of Peace has come and He is now offering terms of peace.  It is total surrender!  All that I am has to be given over to all that He is!  Surrender, the true King is good and He is able!!!  He offers wholeness and new life where the Spirit of God will breath new life into anyone who comes by faith in Jesus Christ and repentance.  It is the only solution to our problems.  Jesus said, "You must be born again!"

Saturday, December 20, 2014

My Soul Feeling Its Worth


Christmas is almost upon us and each year I am always behind in the preparations. My daughter in law helped me put the tree up and add some decorations.  I have bought some gifts but overall I am still so unprepared by the cultures expectations.  As a woman, I think I should have already baked 14 different kinds of cookies, delivered poinsettias to the elderly, prepared homemade eggnog, addressed Christmas cards with a letter telling all of our exploits from the year, taken family Christmas pictures dressed in holiday colors and hand made small ornaments for every person that I work with. Seriously, ain't nobody got time for that!!!!

Real life in real time is still happening. In the last month my husband has been roofing our house.  That means that I am now personally acquainted with the Home Depot employees.  We both have been going to work and all of our other activities do not stop just because a holiday is looming on the horizon.

I think that Christmas can be depressing for many people because the season has been elevated to a standard where we think everything must be perfect, beautiful and have a touch of the miraculous. We can be so busy trying to make this a reality that we totally miss the point of Christmas.

My epiphany came several years ago while I was shopping in a Dollar General during the holiday season.  I live in a small town that is home to many folks who are just trying to make it.  On a gray cold day as twilight slipped into night the store was filled with people buying cheap toys and trinkets. In the middle of this fray the lyrics to O Holy Night played in the background.

 O holy night, the stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of the dear Savior’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 soul rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

I can tell you that there were a lot of weary souls in the Dollar General that day,  but most of them didn't have the ears to hear.  Our Savior has come.  Savior, as in the "one who saves."  The light has dawned; hope and help have arrived. That is the message of Christmas.  God came in the flesh to redeem a broken world.  It is a sin filled world and because of our sin we continue to break and corrupt and destroy.  Stop blaming God, it is the personal sin of people that causes 99 percent of the suffering that we experience.  The God of the universe humbled Himself and came as the Christ child to live among us and to live the perfect life we couldn't live and to die in our places to free us from the curse of sin.

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

I can celebrate Christmas but it has nothing to do with my effort to create the perfect holiday environment but everything to do with the curse of sin being broken where I can now live as a whole person.  I can love, laugh, forgive, and be filled with peace and joy.  I can become who I was intended to be.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMSrZYA9gv0


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Sanctuary

I am the art teacher in a small church based school.  The church has been in the community for probably 75 years or more.  It is a conglomeration of an older and newer building merged into one facility and has lots of interesting twists and turns. I had a few minutes before I was supposed to be in the basement working with the first graders.  My chosen route led me  past the open sanctuary doors and I slipped inside.  The light streamed through the stained glass windows in the quietness of those few moments.  This is a precious place where the elements of communion have been served, vows of marriage have been uttered,  the gospel has gone forth, praises sung to our great God, the Word of God  read and where many tears of sorrow have followed a casket down the aisle.  It is a holy place.

In the book of Exodus in the Old Testament, God instructed the children of Israel to make a sanctuary so that He could be in their midst.

Let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.

The instructions were given and the tabernacle was constructed.  God dwelt among His people in that holy place if they followed the stringent regulations and restrictions for meeting with Him.

 As the time drew near, more and more of God's prophets spoke of the coming of a special One.

Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall give birth to a son.  They shall call his name Immanuel"; which is, being interpreted, "God with us."


Jesus came into the world as a baby. He fulfilled all of the prophesies foretold about Him in the scripture.  He lived a perfect sinless life and then He willing laid down His life to become our sin bearer.  God was satisfied that the price for our sin had been paid and Jesus was raised from the dead proving we could now be restored back into relationship with our Maker.




Jesus went back to be with His Father, but He did not leave us without a Helper.  The Spirit was sent to dwell in those who had been restored in their relationship with God the Father.  A restoration that comes about by faith in the person and work of Jesus the Christ and repentance demonstrated by a turning from our old way of life.  Now we are that dwelling place!!!  We are the temple of God.

Or don't you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in, which you have from God?

Our church buildings are set aside for the purposes of preaching, praying and sacred duties. They are true sanctuaries where we can turn away temporarily from the struggles of the world and have moments of worship and comfort in the presence of Jesus and the fellowship of His people.  This is a true blessing which we should not neglect.

 But even more so because the Spirit dwells in us, our lives should be a place where others can experience something of that sanctuary.  Out of us should flow rivers of living water that refresh and encourage those around us whether they are in the faith or not.  Joy, courage, peace, genuine love, compassion, forgiveness, hope, hospitality, and kindness should characterize our natures. People should believe that we are pulling for them and have their best interest at heart.

So often Christians are viewed as being mean spirited and critical. As the days grow longer and harder in a world that is more and more given over to evil, may all that are in the faith become that place of beauty, peace and rest.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxB9VH3cCN4

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Glimpse





I awoke on November 1st to an inch of snow and no power.  I live in the South and it has been a hundred years since snow has come this early in the season. My husband built a fire in the fireplace and we lit candles. I fried some eggs in a cast iron skillet and David headed off to work.




 This was to be a full day and my time was premium.  We were hosting a bonfire that evening for our son's 25th birthday.  I had food that needed to go into the oven that was now dysfunctional without a source of power.

I headed into town to check on my mother in law.  Because of my time constraints, I had planned on skipping this weekly Saturday event but I altered my plans with my change in circumstances.  I stopped to get a strongly needed cup of coffee for me and a couple of ham biscuits for her.  I loved my ride in as I drove past rolled snow topped bales of hay dotting fields, wooded areas, farms and streams. The short lived snow highlighted the fall leaves and energized my soul. The dark bank of clouds were supplanted by a sultry bright blue that held promise of a precipitation free day.

 I spent a little time visiting with mother in law. I was able to finish the last of my shopping for the bonfire and head home in time to have lunch with my husband. By this time the power was back on and I was back in business.

We finished the preparation for the evening and soon guests began to arrive bringing their young energy and life.  The oldest in this group was only in their early 30's.  My husband and son headed out back to light the bonfire.  We had been piling it up for days and it was ready to ignite.  As the couples arrived the guys naturally gravitated to the fire while the gals headed inside to the warmth of the house.  The fire was ready and we carried out the food.
There was plenty of silliness and good nature-rd jokes.  Matt and Jon sang anything that came into their heads. Baby Josiah added a definite touch to the evening as he was lulled to sleep as his dad, Nick rocked his car seat with his foot. It was a great evening of fire, chicken wings, chili and hot dogs, hot apple cider, cheese cake and laughter. Family and friends are the best gifts that this world has to offer.  Blessed is the person who places a premium value on them.

There is beauty and abundance in life if you have the eyes to see them.  Sometimes they are in the smallest of vignettes like a six month old child being rocked to sleep by a bonfire, maybe a fleeting snow shower on brightly adorned fall leaves, or a cup of hot cider on a windy chilly night.  It might be something more significant like being able to spend some moments with the 82 year old matriarch of your family or the joy of being included in your grown son's birthday celebration and relish that same pleasure in his eyes that birthdays brought him in years gone by.

The world can be a cruel and ugly place. It seems that we look through a broken mirror and all of life seems marred and distorted by sin.   But as followers and believers in the One who is the perfection of beauty, that is not where we are to focus our minds.  Through the work of the Spirit we are able see past the contortion and glimpse the winsome things.


 Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think about these things.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Soul Quietness

I snapped the last of my garden green beans as the last remnant of dusk faded into night.  Blues, pinks and purple gave way to the inky gray black of last light. I had dirt on my hands from the earth yielding back some of its riches. My husband puttered with an ongoing raised bed project.  Our dog rooted her way between the yard and the woods sniffing and thoroughly enjoying the freedom to run unfettered.  There were no immediate troubles that required our thought or attention.

 As I sat there soaking in the ambiance, all seemed right with the world.  I know full well that the world is a mess and has always been a mess since Adam.  But I am thankful for those moments when my mind and spirit can be refreshed.  It is though nature seems to be one of the places that I can turn to for solace that restores my soul.  After all, the natural world that we live in is not at odds with its Creator.  The Creation was subjected to a curse because of man's rebellion. Creation is standing on tippy toes longing for the day that the curse is broken.

The older I get, the more I long for that day as well.  Weariness from the evil in the world can drape a heavy cloak.  In a normal week I hear reports like the untimely death of a coworker's brother, the struggles of a teenage child, the hospitalization of a family member and if those things were not enough, we add  all of the local crazy news to all of the international crazy news. We have  Ebola, ISIS, a deeply divided political terrain, and a multitude of scandals.  We have our own personal internal skirmishes with evil as well.

I understand why people drink or engage in other potentially harmful behaviors. Sometimes, folks just want a little relief.  How do we put it all into perspective and cope with the troubles around us without creating more problems with having addictive behavior added to our list?

That is where we have to start with truth.  I must believe that God tells me the truth about the world and the future.  I must also believe that He is good.  If I don't have this bedrock to lean into then I am going to be adrift on a sea of my own emotions.

 We all need a sense of stability to feel like our world is not spinning out of control.  I need to believe that God is ultimately in control.  

I have to continually have my mind renewed by spending time in the word of God.  I cannot always change my circumstances but I can change how I think about those circumstances.  I need an outside source to help me do that.  The scripture is the only trustworthy outside source that I know.

I can set aside time to pray and lay all of those things that are troubling me at the foot of the cross. The scripture says to "cast all of our care on Him"!!! Amazing how a few minutes of prayer can change the landscape of my emotions.

We can turn off the noise and go sit in God's big sanctuary.  It is called the outdoors.  It has an ever changing back drop called the sky.  The wind, the sun, the birds, the flowers all testify of His brilliance and His order.  It always does me good to go breathe some of His free air especially if it is away from the hustle and bustle of man's cacophony.


I can only handle the troubles of this world for short bursts before I have to lay it all back down and look upward in humble dependence.


    But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
    like a weaned child with its mother
    like a weaned child is my soul within me.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSvfAOB0DOI

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Israel Installment 3

Dina, our bus driver took, the bus up some pretty steep roads to a seemingly nondescript stop outside of a Druze village on Mt. Carmel. We hiked a rocky trail covered in a kind of thistle with a beautiful purple bloom. We passed by a house with a car that had been cut in half. They must have been some of our Israeli relatives because David and Joshua did the same thing in our back yard. When we reached a spring, we stopped for a time of instruction and then began the descent down toward the valley. At first we just walked on a wooded trail that was progressively getting more rocky stopping for a bathroom break before the "real" trail started. While waiting for those to finish up, Beni spent some time teaching any musically inclined how to use an acorn as a whistle.

The trail turned out to be a dry stream bed that will flood and flow during the rainy part of the year. Near the beginning of trail we passed several old wrecked and rusted vehicles that someone had dumped down from the top of the ravine. We also passed a bloated baby boar that must have lost its footing.

Beni told some of the history of this trail. The period of time after WWll and before Israel was a nation, Great Britain controlled Palestine. The British limited the number of immigrants to the land, but still they came as I believe God called them.

Some of the illegals were housed in the detention camp, Atlit. Yitzhak Rabin, who later became the 5th prime minister of Israel planned a raid to free 200 people being held. The people were supposed to escape to Nasal Oren. The plans went awry and the British surrounded the kibbutz. People from the nearby Haifa came out and surrounded the soldiers. The confusion of the milling people allowed all of the former detainees to sneak through the crowd to hike down this very trail, Nahal Yagur in order to escape to another kibbutz. This trail has many technical aspects and at times was very challenging. I can imagine that the detainees were a mixed lot of people including women and children; making the escape down this trail a miracle.

Our day on the trail was only beginning as we followed the all rock trail at a steady descent often slowing way down to get our herd of people down the rocky declines that were worn smooth by the water. Numerous spots we had to climb down one by one. Gordon and Joshua often chose the less traveled way to get down. Some places had pretty decent hand holds and places for your feet and others were much trickier. One place had metal bars as hand holds to help maneuver down the curved 20 feet. We tediously worked our way down a multitude of dry waterfall areas. I spent a lot of the day sliding my walking poles ahead of me and coming down on my rear end; my slick pants were a great asset. It was a day that some us had to put our pride to the side as we wriggled, slid, bumped and jumped our way. Even though we walked just a few miles this day, it took us around six hours to get everyone down.

This was a day when many people offered encouragement, support and genuine acts of kindness. Each technically challenging spot offered new opportunities to come along side and spur each person to victory. Many of my brothers offered steady hands for a safer descent. Often someone would stay at a technically hard spot just to offer moral support or to give directions on the best way to get down Kerry was distressed over losing her camera on the trail so Jon and Jon Michael heroically with a smiles on their faces hiked back up to retrieve it. For some the fruit of the Spirit was exhibited as they waited at each difficult spot for the entire group to catch up.

I am so amazed at the body of Christ and how we have been granted the ability to each be personally better by giving ourselves away. It really isn't logical. If the athletic among us had hiked the trail hard and finished in a couple of hours, it would have been a hollow victory compared to the riches of helping each person have success that day. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 16:25  I know the verse has much greater meaning than helping someone on a trail.  But I think that the daily giving our lives away is a great ongoing struggle for some of us.

We finished hiking the wadi and came to a place where the trail led out of the wooded area. We hiked another 30 minutes or so back up a rocky trail through a meadow of grasses, shrubs and thistles. At this point we could look back and see Mt. Carmel in the distance and the place near the top that we started our descent. It was an astonishing sight to see the tiny spot where we started and to know that we had conquered the trail that day as well as some of our own insecurities in and through His grace.


Our flight to Israel from Atlanta was close to 12 hours long. David and I were on the inside seats next to the window. Never having flown for such a long distance, I was obsessive about checking the status of the flight. I got a little concerned when the hours until arrival stayed at 7 no matter the elapsed time. Sleeplessness, the drone of the engine, the veiled light of the cabin, and the cramped space we were sharing with a multitude of other souls kept me slightly on the verge of breaking into a melody of kindergarten songs. I did finally sleep, but only for a few restless hours. About the time that I hung my head from exhaustion and the drool was running down my face the interior lights of plane would go on and the flight attendants would begin cheerily serving the prepackaged food. How many of us really enjoyed the sweet potato salsa wrap or wanted to eat this at 5:00 am?

The sun was finally up and people began stirring around. At this point I once again had to disturb Eden who was sitting on the aisle seat. David and I made the necessary trip to the airplane bathroom that was degenerating quickly. There was more sticky,unidentified liquid on the floor and more errant tissue strewn about the very small space.

We had introduced ourselves to Eden at some point on the flight. He turned out to be an atheist, secular Jewish young man. He was polite and pleasant even after learning that we were enthusiastic Christians on our way to visit Israel for the very first time. He let us know that religion was the cause of most problems in the world. From the dialogue, he stated, "We (Jewish people) have 613 laws to keep, you only have 10." My husband explained that Jesus had reduced it to 2. We need to love God and others. My heart hurt knowing that the striving to keep the law on his own had probably been one of the things that forced Eden to give up and say that he couldn't be a good Jew. It also puts him in a good position to come to Jesus. We only come to Jesus when we realize that in and of ourselves that we are not good enough and will never be good enough. We have to have Jesus' righteousness, not our own. "Now it is clear that no one is justified before God by the law, because the righteous will live by faith .....Before faith came, we were confined under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith was revealed. The law, then, was our guardian until Christ, so that we could be justified by faith." The book of Galatians speaks clearly of the freedom and the power that Jesus came to give us.

So does God sometimes confine us in places because He has divine appointments with those others who are so confined? Praying for Eden and the thousands of other Jewish Edens that are becoming ripe unto the harvest.
Israel - Installment 1
June 25, 2010
It has been less than a week since returning from Israel. I think that it will take a lot of time to put everything into perspective. Israel in June is a dry, rocky, dusty land that has a shortage of ice and toilet paper. Lesson 1- My comfort is not the number one priority on this trip. I did not count my water consumption in glasses but in liters each day. I learned that I could drink hot or warm water to stay hydrated even when I longed to have a tall glass of ice water.  Lesson 2- Take every opportunity to use the bathroom facilities. Toilet paper seems to be optional in many of the public bathrooms. I've used nasty public bathrooms, stalls that had only a hole in the floor, composting toilets, port a potties, in the woods, and trail side by a large rock  while 38 people where waiting for me to walk back out of the brush. Please refer back to lesson number 1. Lesson 3 When one is tired enough sleep will happen in whatever circumstances. I prefer my bed at home, with my own pillows and my husband cozily snuggled next to me. I don't like light or noise when I sleep. I have slept in small single beds with the lights still on and people talking all around me, on the ground, sitting upright in a bus with an incredibly creative driver at the wheel, in an airplane with my head lying on the fold out tray, and in a unbelievably hot Bedouin tent in the desert. Lesson 4 - Eat when you are able. The fresh fruit smoothies, the breads, and the fruit were really terrific. But, I will be happy never to eat another power bar.

I think too much of my creature comforts and I believe that having them reduced was not a bad thing. I was still very well taken care of.

Israel doesn't look like home. People don't speak English as their first language. Most signs are in Hebrew. There are no subdivisions or vinyl siding. The trees are all short. It is hilly and rocky. Pocketed in the semi arid land are groves of bananas, dates, and olives. Pomegranite trees, flowers, and other lush vegetation are found throughout the Northern region. The land unbelievably so produces beyond its capacity. The land has an inviting beauty in places that made me want to stay or at least come again to walk the hills. Other places where so hot and barren that I found it hard to believe that people chose to live there. All hostels, hotels, grocery stores had armed guards. Gates where shut at night at the places we stayed. I saw people carrying semi-automatic weapons.

The people have lived through many years of having enemies who try to push them into the sea. It has made them very resilient, but yet resolved to live a good life. They are out in the streets, in parks, hiking trails, participating in life. They do not seem to be afraid. Most people know of someone who has been injured or killed because of the conflicts that the country faces. They are purposeful people who seem to be super naturally empowered to overcome whatever obstacles.





Saturday, September 27, 2014

Lessons from the Chickens


Last night as it neared dusk the chickens started their roosting process.  Two would hop in and settle down and then one would hop back down.  It was a back and forth shuffle until everyone was in the coop except one of the hens.  She was spending every last minute she could eating before retiring for the night.  Finally she wanted to roost as well.  She rounded the coop and the door was open.  She ended up behind the door so she turned around and went the other direction around the coop.  My husband was standing on that side of the chicken run and when she saw him she turned directions again coming back to the other side.  She did this at least seven times.  Each time defeated in her efforts to find the opening in the coop so she could join the others.  She clucked softly as she went back and forth.  But the surprising part was the rooster.  He began clucking loudly as though he were calling her into the safety of the coop.  As my husband moved back, she hopped onto the feeder and got a better view of  things.  The next time she rounded the coop she went in.  Mister Rooster immediately stopped clucking and the whole coop grew silent.

Another of our little hens has an injured leg and she limps.  All of the other hens, but especially Miss Plymouth Rock, spend a lot of her time purposefully attacking Little Miss Rhode Island Red.  They chase her away from treats and peck her whenever they get the opportunity.  Miss Rhode Island often freezes  when the other hens are near her.  I think she is trying to become invisible so that they don't peck at her.  Sometimes she dodges the others like she is in a game of tag.  It makes us sad to see her picked on but understand that is the way of chickens to have a pecking order.

There is lots to be learned from nature.  I believe God has woven truth into our world if we will take time to be still and comprehend the lessons.   I would rather be someone who encourages others to find the right path and to get to a place of comfort and safety than someone who pecks the broken and the injured.  Truth be told, I have done a little of both but I would like the roosters actions to characterize who I am.

But if you bite and devour one another, be careful that you don’t consume one another.
... encourage the faint-hearted, support the weak, be patient toward all.



Saturday, September 20, 2014

Camping in the Rain

The work week was over and our church family had planned the yearly camping trip to Jocasse.  It doesn't matter whether the weekend is in September or in June, it normally rains.  No, rain is the wrong word.  It normally is a belly gusher.  In years past we have packed it out in the middle of the night because our tent was leaking so badly.  But still we keep on planning trips and signing up to go.
 
This year we were on campsite 12  by the water with our son and daughter in law.  They went up on Friday night and our plans were to join them on Saturday morning.  I spent Friday evening making food.  Saturday morning my husband and I loaded the car with the tent, cooler, tarp, backpacks and stopped at the store to pick up steaks to grill that evening.

As we got closer to Jocasse errant drops of rain splattered on the windshield.  No matter, it was just a few drops.  As we pulled into the ranger station to pick up our parking tag, there was a steady drizzle.  Surely it would stop and the clouds would blow away.  We hauled all of our things into the "walk in" camping area.  After being there less than 45 minutes the bottom fell out.  We unfolded the tarp and draped it over our belongings that were perched on  the picnic table.  I sat under the tarp with my son eating chicken  enchilada soup that we had warmed over Jon and Sarah's camp fire that was near us.

  As the rain and torrential rivulets of water made there final way to the lake, we surveyed the damage.  Our son and daughter in law had a soaked tent floor.  The rain had flooded into the tent because the packed tent sand pad was blocked by debris.  Josh's arms were covered in poison ivy and Rachel had a ton of school work to do, so they decided  all in all that it was better to go home  than take the chance that the bedding would dry out before night fall.

So here we were disappointed that they had left; we were still unpacked in a wet campsite.  We unpacked anyway and set up our tent. Josh, Darren, and my husband had already raised and roped the tarp over  the picnic table so that we could keep that area somewhat dry.  The sky cleared beautifully.  It was still warm and so David and I went swimming in the lake.  It was lovely.  The water was warm and the mountain view was gorgeous and peaceful.

We left the water around dusk and built a fire to warm us up and to cook our supper.  We decided to skip the steaks so I cut up cooked potatoes and red peppers to fry in olive oil in a dutch oven.  After they browned, I added "already cooked" bacon and sausage and then some beaten eggs.  It was delicious and filling.

We took our chairs to the Lopez campsite to join the rest of our group.  We sang and talked.  The kids played made up games.  Isaiah, from my Sunday school class came over to greet me with excitement.  Jayden asked her mother what I was doing there.  I guess I am not supposed to be anywhere else besides class on Sunday morning.

Close to midnight we went back to our tent.  The winds whipped our tarp and the hydroelectric turbines pumped the water back from Keowee into Jocasse to be reused.  The sound of the waves and wind lulled me asleep.  The tarp drove David crazy.  Around 2 he finally got up to tie the tarp down.  I stuck my head out to  view the beauty and wonder of night over the lake.  It looks and feels magical. Shortly after this the rain started again.  It didn't stop this time.  We stayed dry in our tent though and woke early the next morning.

 The temperature dropped throughout the morning as we packed the car.  We left our tarp up and the Gallier's came over with their bagels and cheerios to eat at a dry table.  They have four blonde haired beauties all under the age of 8.  They were a joy to watch and interact with.

At 9:30  we met as a group once again to have a morning service.  A young couple from our group was being baptized that morning.  David, one of our pastors spoke and then the father of the young woman being baptized spoke.  He told about the supposed coincidences that brought them to this juncture. I stood chilled by the rain and wind and watched a couple in their twenties who are parents of two young girls step into the water. Going into the water symbolizes  death to the old life of sin and selfishness. The coming out  of the water symbolizing rebirth to a new and different life that is ruled by God's Spirit.  Tears came to my eyes witnessing these holy moments. The thoughts came to me, "I would have missed this if I had left because of the rain."

My plans were to spend time with Rachel and Josh. My plans didn't pan out  When the rains came on Saturday and our children left, it would have been easy to pack up and leave too.  I am so glad that we didn't. There would have been a lot that we would have missed. God is good and so often His plans for us are not the same plans we have for ourselves.  It can be jobs, relationships, or health. "You fill in the blank!"  We have all had a lot of vitamin disappointment.  It can be a bitter pill to swallow, but sometimes it is the very disappointment that leads us to a greater more meaningful fuller purpose. So in the midst of your disappointment, "Persevere!" because the tendrils of hope desire to capture you and drive the despair away.

A person plans his course,
but the Lord directs his steps.

Trust in Yahweh with all your heart, and don’t lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Creation Balm for the Soul

I woke up dragging this morning, not wanting to do anything but click on my laptop.  But waiting in the garden were beans to be picked and I had fall bedding plants that needed to go in the ground and the chicken coop needed to be cleaned out
.

 Responsibility won over the tired weariness of the week.  After spending that time outdoors with my garden and my chickens, I found myself less burdened by my week and physically more energetic.  I do grow physically weary but recognize that a lot of my heaviness comes from the serious issues of the world around me.  We are all so tuned in with our smartphones. ipads, laptops etc.  Things that happen 6000 miles away are instantly known in the far corners of Anytown, USA.  If you are like me and need a little help coping with the crazy of the world, I recommend these two articles as an antidote.

http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/the-antidepressant-of-wonder
http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/10-resolutions-for-mental-health

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Chicken on the Lam



Several weeks ago we took care of our neighbor's chickens.  He offered to give us his flock because of his health issues.  We ended up splitting the flock with him and a couple of days ago we became  owners of one rooster and five hens.  The first day was idyllic as we sat in the backyard with our neighbor talking until dark and watching the chickens peck and make their little chicken clucking whispery sounds.  It was so peaceful.

The next day after work my husband and I decided that we would clip wings so that our little array of chickens could forage in the fenced area of our yard.  In the process of clipping wings we discovered that our fence was not chicken proof.  Four of the girls escaped through the slats of the fence.  

It was on then.  For the next hour and half we chased chickens.  One girl ran back into the fenced area and I was able to chase her into the chicken run.  She promptly collapsed by the coop, not wanting to move.  Mr. Rooster crowed and clucked his disapproval at us allowing his little harem an escape route.  Girl number two we chased  into some tall, thick grass in the field next to us.  She crouched down into the grass seeming to disappear.  We snagged her squawking figure and put her back into the pen.

Two down and two to go.  Chicken number three was a Plymouth Rock.  She gave us fits. Most of the time she stayed under a hedge that runs the length of our property.  My husband got on one side and I got on the other.  As the "Capture the Chicken" game wore into early evening, both my husband I became more aggressive.  We dove into the brush, crawled under the bushes on our bellies trying to capture little "Miss Elusive".  Sometimes she would leave the brush and feast unhurriedly on the grass.  Whenever we approached her she would skittle back under cover.  Close to dark, a chicken hawk flew into view.  Chicken number four made her  presence known by making noise in the woods.  I went looking for her as my husband continued to try and capture "Miss Elusive".  She headed for the fence and hubby was able to grab her and get her back safe inside the pen.  Chicken number four was ready to roost but not ready for me to put my hands on her.  She clucked and squawked her way back and forth in and out of the woods.  She tried to roost again.  I lunged for her coming away with only a hand of tail feathers.  I never saw her again that evening.  We tried to look with flashlights but to no avail.  We secured the chickens in the pen and  headed inside with bug bites, scratches and dirt covering our legs and feet.  

The next morning we checked the chickens who were clucking peacefully eating their morning mash.  As it got lighter chicken number four emerged running, flapping and squawking from the woods.  She ran for the neighbors fence where his dog stood sentinel.  She made one last leap and squawk.  I headed round the house as quickly as I could to find my last chicken on the lam.  She had disappeared once again.  

I am a lot like that fugitive chicken.  I spend the night roosting in the scary woods filled with shadows and real enemies that want to destroy me instead of safe in the arms of my Caretaker.  I squawk, run and lose my tail feathers fighting against the will of the One who knows the best for me.  I don't know the fate of my little stubborn Rhode Island Red.  I still look for her each day with my chances of finding her slimmer all the time.
"Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?"

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Love Story

Everyone loves a good love story and Jose and Meri had just that.  Meri was a beautiful young woman from the wrong side of the tracks.  Her momma had been married and divorced six or seven times depending on if you counted  the time she was only married  for a week.  Jose saw Meri the first time at the Jack in the Box. She got a job there as a cashier because the manager Bart was partial to young attractive female employees even though his personality made most women queasy.   Meri was vivacious, flirty and talkative.  Jose was a good looking slim Hispanic man who was trying to work his way through college.  He was smart and hardworking.  He had a good future.  Then he met Meri.

 His friends tried to discourage him but Jose was totally smitten.  He asked Meri out on a date.  She reluctantly agreed to meet him at Applebee's for lunch.  Jose was so nervous and excited.  He dressed carefully and showed up twenty minutes early.  Meri showed up thirty minutes late looking like she had overslept.  She ate quickly in between texting and answering phone calls from someone named PJ.  The lunch date was over in less than forty minutes.  Most guys would have gotten the message.  Not Jose, he totally persisted in trying to win Meri's heart.

 Meri's  mom moved in with Gus a guy she met on the bus going to her job at a debt collection agency and that bit of news Meri left without a home.  She stayed with her friend Lindy until her boyfriend got back from his construction job down in Florida.  She had more troubles when that little strip on the test showed positve.  PJ had knocked her up and when she told him they had a terrible fight. A couple of days later she heard from PJ's buddy that he had moved to the beach to live with a stripper.

 Meri, was contemplating all kinds of dark thoughts when she looked up at the register to find Jose and his dark eyes beaming at her.  He took her out to eat after her shift. He opened the car door for her and held her arm as they crossed the street to go to Panera Bread.  She was hurt and confused by the rejection that just seemed a part of her life and just a little unnerved and flattered by the "knight in  shining armor" guy that was sitting across the table.  He found her a place to stay with his cousin and showed up every evening to take her out to dinner.  By the end of the fourth week, he gave her a small box with a chip diamond ring and got down on one knee and asked if she would marry him.  Meri said yes not because she loved Jose but because she didn't have anywhere to turn to for help. She knew that Jose's cousin was getting ready to move back to Atlanta. It was family tradition, her mom married at least three of her husbands when the threat of eviction was hanging over them.

They were married by a justice of the peace that weekend.  She wore a white sequined party dress that she often wore when she went out dancing.  Jose was an attentive husband even though he worked long hours and went to school. She didn't understand Jose.  He was sweet but not exciting.   Meri, was bored.  She had no interest in keeping house and less interest in Jose.  Jose was happier than he had ever been.  When Meri announced she was pregnant, Jose was ecstatic. His cousin and his mom were suspicious.  She had lost her job when her mid section started expanding and Bart wanted to hire the bleached blonde chain smoking girl that sat on the balcony in her bikini next door to him. Meri sat around watching day time television and trying to hang with the loser friends she had left.  PJ would text her occasionally and it would make her crazy but still give her hope that he would drive back and get her.  Then life would be perfect.  She never really figured Jose into the equation.

The baby was born prematurely which really raised the eyebrows of Jose's hardworking Catholic family.  It was a little boy.  Jose insisted that his named should be Mario.  Meri had a fit.  "Why should you name the baby?"  She almost said that he had nothing to do with it.  She caught herself.  Jose's mom and sister often took the baby after they saw the way Meri neglected tending to him.  Jose was still blinded by his love for Meri.   He made excuses and he really was terribly busy.  He grocery shopped, cleaned house, worked, and went to school. He just did what needed to be done without really questioning.

Meri took one look at her flabby post pregnancy tummy and she begun to diet and exercise.  She meet Nate out on the track one spring afternoon.  It wasn't long before he began inviting her back to his place.  She was pregnant again with Nate's child.  She paid a little attention to Jose just to cover for the little pregnancy issue. Jose finally thought his wife now loved him.  In a few weeks Meri announced she was pregnant.  More family eye rolling and gossip followed especially since Jose's uncle who had multiple contracts for apartment maintenance saw Meri walking arm in arm with Nate going into his apartment on Clover Street. Nate faded out of the picture when he realized that Meri was carrying his child.

Jose worked even harder.  He graduated with honors and soon had a job as a computer tech.  His salary was just enough to keep them afloat.  Meri had baby number two, a sweet little blonde headed girl.  Jose's dad commented on how no one in the family was blonde trying to get Jose's attention.  It didn't work.  By now Mario and Marie stayed with Jose's mom every day and Jose would pick them up and bathe them when he got home.  Meri paid little attention to anyone but herself.  She demanded money to have her hair colored and for new clothes.  Jose gave her what he could.  He couldn't understand her lack of affection for the children but he more than made up for it.  They were his light and joy.  He was tired from all his responsibilities but still persisted in  futile attempts to make Meri happy.

Jose friends tried to talk to him about Meri.  He defended her, but he already knew that Meri didn't love him and had never loved him.  For whatever reason he looked into her eyes and saw the person that he knew she could be.  His family had pretty much told him that Meri was an adulteress.  He knew she had been unfaithful.  He heard the phone conversations and had read her texts to numerous men.  And now she was pregnant again. There was no possible way that it was his.  Soon after this little boy was born Meri left.  His mom and sister were angry with Meri. Angry that Jose had three children to support, but their hearts were big and they loved the children in spite of Meri.

Several years went by and Mario was in second grade.  On the way to PTA Jose stopped to get gas at the QT and caught a glimpse of Meri  hanging onto the arm of some guy that had to be twenty years older than she was.  He heard stories several years later that she had a pimp now and that the cops had busted her for prostitution.  No one understood but Jose was heartbroken over Meri.  His family tried to get him to divorce her for abandonment, but he just never would talk about it.  The kids were growing up without their mom. None of them remembered her although Mario would claim that he did.  Jose bought a small house in an older neighborhood and attended a local church.  Life was hard as a single dad but he took things in stride.  His family had only disgust for Meri.  They tried to match make Jose with several nice Hispanic women.  He was always polite but adamant.  He was still married.

Mario was in middle school, Marie was in the third grade and little Francisco was in first grade.  Things had settled into a routine. Jose had gotten a promotion at work and there was an opportunity for him to relocate in Charlotte.  His family hated the idea of them moving but maybe it would be good for all of them to have a fresh start where no one knew about Meri.

One of Jose's last responsibilities for his job before relocating to  Charlotte was to deliver some papers for a client that was on the other side of town.  He cut through a bad section of town to save some time and as he cruised a long he saw a woman on the side of the road.  She was homeless, pushing a shopping cart, dirty, dazed and almost starved to death.  In an instant Jose pulled the car over.  It was Meri.  He gently  took her arm and led her to his car. He took her to a hotel to clean her up and brought food from a local restaurant.  Every day he went to care for her needs.  It was days before she was aware enough to know who Jose was. He went shopping for new clothes and took her to have her hair cut. In her desperate situation where she knew she was totally helpless, Jose showed up and rescued her.  This time she did love him.  Not with the passion of a young woman, but deeply for his acceptance, gentleness and care. When she was no longer young, desirable or beautiful Jose loved her with a genuineness that melted away the years of self centered love that she had learned from her mom.  Eventually, he brought her home to see her kids.  It took years to integrate Meri back into the family.  By the time the kids graduated from high school they called her mom and did have affection for her.  Jose beamed each time he introduced his wife who now had remarkable humility and sweetness.

If Jose had been my brother or my son or my friend, I would have totally been against his showing any mercy to  Meri. In and of myself I am not all that kind, forgiving or understanding.  But maybe some of you have caught on that this story is totally made up.  I am not sure any of us would have had the ability to respond the same way Jose did to Meri in the story.  But in another way the story isn't made up.  Hosea is an Old Testament book that tells the true story of Hosea and his wife Gomer. Unfaithful  Gomer became a prostitute and a slave.  Hosea bought her back and took her home to be his wife.  

But the story is real in another way.  This is the story of all of us.  We have a Father who is our Creator.  He has loved us from the beginning, but time after time we have been a Meri or a Gomer.  We have rejected God's care and love for us and just flat out rejected God not wanting to have anything to do with Him.  So our Father God came and found us when we were dirty, unloved,  and messed up.  He sent His one and only Son who He loved and treasured to buy us back by dying on a cross in our place and taking the death penalty for our sin.  So Jesus died in our place and made a way for God to restore the broken relationship.  For all of those who have ears to hear, God makes an offer.  It is come to Me, take my yoke, you will find rest for your souls.

Never doubt the love that God has for each of us.  He demonstrated it at the cross.  "For while we were helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly."  




Monday, August 18, 2014

Memories, Chickens and Hope

When I left home over thirty years ago, I couldn't wait to live my life the way I wanted.  Home represented everything that I really didn't think I wanted to be.  Now that both of my parents have passed away and the home place has a for sale sign hanging in the front yard by the black walnut tree where we used to play soccer, badminton, and red rover I oddly find myself trying to recreate things from my childhood.  The pictures from the past are precious and the memories are so real that the very sights, sounds and emotions still reverberate in my heart.

Oddly enough chickens are one of my memories.  We had laying hens and Daddy bought biddies every year at the FCX.  He had an egg route where I tagged along with him to deliver fresh eggs to the folks living in the fancy gingerbread trim houses in town.  Chickens were just a part of life.  Grandma used a hatchet on a stump to make the start of the fried chicken meal.  Fried eggs for breakfast and feather pillows were just an accepted part of country living.

I have investigated owning chickens for many years and even mentioned it to my neighbor across the road who has a mixed lot of  Plymouth Rock and Road Island Reds girls and 2 roosters.  A couple of days ago my husband and I were headed down the road walking our dog, Maggie.  My neighbor stopped his Mini Cooper beside us to let us know that he was going to have surgery the next morning on his upper back.  In the course of the conversation he offered to give us his chickens.  He is tired of the whole business.  I understand that his multiple health issues have interfered. We were non committal but decided that we would feed his flock and gather the eggs while we considered the prospect of becoming owners of live stock.

The next evening I grabbed a maroon basket from my kitchen excited with the prospect of gathering eggs like I did as a little girl and to check out the flock that might become mine.  While my husband got the chicken feed, I pulled the hose over to give the girls some fresh water.  My memories and my neighbor's chicken management were in conflict.  My dad had nest boxes up on the wall in a part of his barn with a fenced yard that his girls could scratch and look for worms and insects.  My neighbor has a fenced 10 by 10 area with two dog houses for nesting boxes. We have had torrential rains in the last week so every thing was ripe and slick.  The stench was overpowering.  I had to crawl into the back of the fenced area and stick my hand into the back of the igloo dog houses to recover manure covered eggs. I was wearing shorts and sandals. In order to get into the igloo, I had to get on my hands and knees.  I crawled out with a clutch of manure covered eggs. By the time I cleaned the eggs, I was over my chicken ownership dreams.  I spent a restless night thinking about the chickens, their poor environment and those eggs.

Reality has a funny way of interfering with our rose colored memories or in my case rose colored chickens. So maybe these chickens are teaching me that it's really not possible or desirable to go back in time.   That is the sweet part of the past.  It is past!!!!  We can learn from the past,  but it doesn't have to define who we are today or control the future.  For some the past was the best part of our lives, but trying to hold onto it is like trying to partake of old  manna. Stale food can't give us the nourishment that we need right now. Some of us want to totally forget the past because of the pain inflicted on us by the circumstances we have lived through.  Most of us just have a mixed lot of good and bad memories, but  if we choose to view the past through the lens of God's sovereign work in our lives and place our faith in His character then hope will characterize our present experiences. I better put my boots on, I think it about time to go gather those eggs again.






Thursday, July 31, 2014

Enemies

About eight or nine years ago my husband felt that we as a family should host a child from the country of Belarus for the summer.  The Chernobyl  disaster impacted Belarus, so many organizations sought to give the children a respite from the nuclear fallout by finding host families to take the children during a six week period in the summer.  Several families in our church had participated the year before and so we were somewhat familiar with the program.

We began our preparations into this endeavor.  Finally the day came that we received a packet of information on the child that we were to host.  He was 9 years old.  A boy with two younger siblings.  His name was Anatoly but  later we found out that his nickname was "Tolik".  We prayed more earnestly and wrote a letter introducing us to this young man and his family.

The day finally arrived and we headed for Charlotte with other families that were hosting with our group. The children traveled with a chaperone/translator.  Svetlana was our group's chaperone.  We waited and waited and then the kids began filtering down the long hallway into the arms of other families that had previously hosted them.  By this time the children had been traveling well over 30 hours.  Tolik had traveled by car to catch a train to catch a plane and then fly to Germany where there was layover.  Then they had landed in Washington Dulles and caught another plane to Charlotte.  That kind of travel is exhausting even for adults.  I can't image the physical and emotional overload for children traveling to a new country to be separated from their families for six weeks.  Finally a young blond boy emerged with a bag slung over his shoulder.  Josh, our son was there with me.  My husband had worked that day.  I was enthusiastic and hovering over this young man.  He was looking at me wryly but taking things in stride.

He was physically and emotionally spent when he finally arrived at our home.  He came in and used the bathroom and then fell into the bed.  He hadn't had time to familiarize himself at all with his surroundings. Some time in the early morning around four we heard a scream.  The lights went on and we found Tolik in the corner of the hallway covering his head, crouching and screaming Mama.  Our evil cat Midnight had him cornered and was growling at him.  Tolik woke up and being the strong spirited and brave young man, he tried to find his way to the bathroom without turning on the lights.  As he entered the hallway our cat's eyes glinted in the dark and she began a menacing growl.  He had no idea what kind of animal was in this  American home.

Being true to his nature, Tolik immediately recovered and began pulling presents for us out of his shoulder bag.  His English was broken and our Russian was horrible, but we managed.  Then he was ready to call his mama to let her know that he had arrived safely and was in his host home.

From that morning on Tolik had a personal vendetta against our cat Midnight which played itself out in many ways.  He hated our cat with good reason.  She has many schizophrenic tendencies.  Midnight's mama was a feral cat and the daddy was a long haired with a bad disposition.  Even as a small kitten she had a terrible attitude of hissing and spitting.  She would often climb the back of the couch so she could throw her little body with her outstretched claws into my scalp.

 After Tolik had been with us for several weeks we bought matching nerf guns for he and Josh to battle.  As soon as Tolik walked in the house he had his nerf gun poised for action and began calling "Midnight" in his high pitched boyish tone.  He never missed an opportunity to pay her back for the inhospitable way she had treated him his very first night.

When I think about Tolik,  I see a brave, resilient, strong, adventurous young man; and someone who recognized his enemies but wasn't cowed by them.  His response to Midnight was very enlightening.  Tolik may have been shocked and overwhelmed the very first night he was introduced to Midnight but that didn't stop him from fully embracing his experience with us.  He fought back and became the antagonist.  Midnight had picked the wrong Russian kid and she lived to regret it the whole summer.

 It is easy to be passive or to even run from our enemies whether they are people at work, our struggles with our health, family issues, or personal inadequacies.  The scriptures teach us that we are to love those people who make themselves our enemies but that doesn't mean that we are to be intimidated by them or let them control the situation.  We all  have a true enemy that hates us because we are made in the image of God and this foe seeks to kill, steal and destroy.  He comes like a roaring lion sometimes when we least expect it.  Just like Tolik in the dark and in the corner, things in our lives can seem to come out of nowhere. Our struggles are real but we have to arm ourselves and  engage in the right way to fight.

"Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might.  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world’s rulers of the darkness of this age, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.  Therefore put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand.  Stand therefore, having the utility belt of truth buckled around your waist, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,  and having fitted your feet with the preparation of the Good News of peace;  above all, taking up the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word[a] of God;  with all prayer and requests, praying at all times in the Spirit, and being watchful to this end in all perseverance and requests for all the saints:"
Midnight - She looks so sweet!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Siren's Call from Eden


 I am probably at my most happiest when I am working in the garden.  We planted a garden every single year and so I grew up with dirt.   I don't relate well to people who are most comfortable being indoors. I suspect that they are some kind of sophisticated droid that operates best in a climate controlled low humidity environment.  I can spend a Sunday afternoon all shut up with the AC going and by the early evening I think my soul is drying up and I need to return to the sanctuary of the the earth and the outside air. Our parents original home design was a garden and we are made from the dirt. True children of Adam and Eve, wittingly or unwittingly are still trying to return to Eden.  

Some city dwellers become so Eden deprived that the only way to revive their souls is to spend the entire weekend on the trail hiking or out on a boat or the beach.  They are starved for their natural dwellings and sometimes unbeknownst to them they are actually searching the horizon or looking around the bend  to see if that "Special Someone" is there and willing to meet them.  

We weren't in that garden alone.  Adam and Eve knew their Creator.  The relationship with God was lost because of the rebellion of Adam who was the representative for us all.  So now we go about our business trying to deal with life on our own terms.  We refuse to accept our creature like state and we scream that there is no God, but all the while our souls are crying and longing for that broken relationship to be restored.  We can be so much like angry and hurt children that lash out but all the while it is because we are powerless to fix the mess.

The thing is - God through His Son Jesus came looking for us.  He calls Himself a shepherd and He searches for his sheep.  He wants to the restore the relationship and He sent Jesus to pay the death penalty for our sins.  I know that this message is very offensive to many, but for some with the ears to hear, it will be what puts them on the path of restored life.  Do you know that feeling of gnawing lonesomeness that you can have when you step out into the quietness of nature?   Someone is willing to meet you there and commune with you in the most secret parts of your heart.

 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!  For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

New International Version (NIV)


    









Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Daddy Drives a Fireball

After my mom passed away daddy got it into his head that he wanted to come down to SC and get an old car that had belonged to our sister.  He convinced his buddy Mr. Purvis to go down with him and drive daddy's car back.  On the way down Daddy got to talking and Mr. Purvis eased his eyes over to the speedometer to see that daddy was going better than 80.  Daddy would get quiet and the speedometer would  ratchet back to within the bounds of the law.  Mr. Purvis would start to breath again. The scenario repeated itself over and again so that the whole trip down the speedometer became a measure of how much and how loud Daddy talked.    The car they were going to pick up was a white 1976 Maverick with pin striping on the sides.  It was a loud running car even when it was new.  The car had been through it and had been setting out for quite awhile.  Someone had rolled all of the windows down, there was no antifreeze in the radiator because it leaked badly, and all of the tires had gone flat.  Daddy when he made up his mind had dogged determination and he came to get that car.   They put pepper in the radiator to stop up the leak and somehow got some old tires to get them back home.  The muffler was pretty much gone so now it was really loud.  Daddy put his little flat driving cap on and away they went.   Mr. Purvis was behind Daddy and noticed that the tail pipe was glowing cherry red.  A gasoline leak  eased its way down to the tail pipe and then Daddy was driving along with a fireball on the back of that old Maverick.  Daddy  unaware that anything was amiss was hunched down in that front seat like he was a teenager driving his first sports car.  Mr. Purvis pulled up by him and put the passenger window down trying to get Daddy's attention to pull off the road. Daddy looked over at him with a big smile on his face and hollared back to Mr. Purvis, "Yeah, its running real good ain't it!" and took off.    Mr. Purvis bless his heart finally got Daddy stopped.  Somehow they got things temporarily taken care of and they were back on the road.  It wouldn't  last long and Daddy would be driving a fireball again.  They made in home about 3 am on Sunday morning.  Mr. Purvis' wife refused to come get him and take him home at such an hour so he had to wake up his son in law who was more eager to please him than Mrs. Purvis obviously was.  The next day both of them characteristically were back at church on time that morning.  Daddy told me Mr. Purvis, "You know, I almost brought the Maverick this morning..."  Mr. Purvis just walked away.  He didn't want to see or hear anymore about that Maverick.

Daddy's Proper Motivation

Daddy was a procrastinator his whole life. If he didn't see the need or there wasn't enough immediate pressure then he wasn't going to do it. He was a hard working man but he had some quirks about doing certain things. For something to be done Ralph needed the proper motivation.   When they moved into their house in the 50's there wasn't an inside bathroom. Mama flat out refused to use an outhouse for the rest of her life. Mama and her temper were enough proper motivation, so they installed a bathroom.

 But there was one little unfinished part in the bathroom that had access to the plumbing under the house. Mama wanted Daddy to take care of it but Daddy didn't really see the need. I guess mama knew she had won a big enough battle just getting the bathroom put in so she didn't push as hard to have that last little piece of finishing work done. I remember as a child splashing around in the tub and getting a whiff of that musty under the house odor coming from that little space.   Everyone just got used to that open space near the bathtub.

The girls grew up and one by one we went to college or married and moved away to our lives. Mama and Daddy had some empty nest years together and really seemed to be doing well, but the bathroom still wasn't fixed. I can imagine Mama probably mentioned it to him a time or two but Ralph just didn't have the proper motivation.

Mama passed away in 1985 and still that bathroom wasn't fixed.   Mama had been gone for more than 15 years and Daddy didn't have the proper motivation to do a lot of housework. In his mind everything was just fine. He made his bed, washed his dishes and his clothes and would mop the entire house when the thought struck him, but that was about it.

 He hated worse than anything to throw away a single card, letter, or bank statement. There were letters telling him to call now to confirm his free trip to County Music Hall of Fame. Advertisements to Hardee's were faded out on his dresser. This paper trail of his life was stacked in every nook and cranny. But it wasn't just paper he hated to throw away, it was everything else. Daddy had lived through the depression and he just had a hard time departing with anything that might have a little good left in it. He had a powder blue leisure suit from 1977 still hanging in his closet and a olive green plastic radio from the sixties that would not play. Falling off of every conceivable space were crafts of glitter pine cones, mice in walnut shells, and birds made out of pipe cleaners that he had made at the senior center in town. Walking into Daddy's house was like walking into some kind of time warp museum amusement park combination. You tried to make some logical connections but there weren't any really so you just had to wait for your brain to idle down and accept the situation.

 One day Daddy saw something slither around the bathroom while he taking his bath. He was pretty sure that he saw a snake. He told me on the phone that he had a snake in the house but I really had my doubts. One day at our house he thought he spotted a snake but it was just a string being blown by the ceiling fan. He had all of that stuff setting around and I thought he was just imagining something.

 He kept on talking about the snake that he was seeing different times in his house. He was becoming a little obsessive about it. One night he called his friend Mr. Purvis up and told him to get over to his house. Mr. Purvis tried to calm him down but Daddy was so worked up he wouldn't even tell Mr. Purvis what was wrong. When Mr. Purvis arrived all Daddy would say was “you can just have it”! It turns out that Daddy was sound asleep in his bed. His house was always cold because he didn't have good insulation and he never would install central heat and air. He used a heating blanket in the years after he didn't have Mama to snuggle with. Daddy felt something nudge against his backside in the bed and his eyes popped open. Then he felt something nudge him again. That snake had crawled in the warm bed with Daddy. Daddy jumped out of the bed hollering and wouldn't go back in his bedroom until Mr. Purvis got there.

 They turned the house upside down but couldn't find any snake. Mr. Purvis thought Daddy had just been dreaming.   He walked in his bedroom a few days later and "saw"a  snake on the back of his easy chair.  This time he called my sister Gail and she tore the house up looking for the phantom snake.  None of us really believed that he saw a snake and really were a little tired of the snake scares.

 But a couple of weeks later Daddy found a snake skin in his underwear drawer. A few nerve wracking days later he went in the living room to check on something and laid across his mantle piece was a five foot long black snake just all stretched out like a decoration. Daddy called around until he found somebody who would come get that snake. A young man who worked at the pet store walked in snatched the snake up and stuck it in a bag.

Daddy had finally found his proper motivation to finish the bathroom!!!!! Mama would have been so proud. I believe she would have caught a snake and brought it in the house years before if she knew it would have given  Ralph the proper motivation.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Simply Good?

kitchen windows
I grew up in the country. We lived in a small white frame house with big popular trees in the front yard. We had blue hydrangeas by the front steps and around the the side of the house. Five acres of land gave us space to have a pasture, barn, cornfield, gardens and a wood lot. Mama, Daddy and my three sisters shared a house with our grandma.

 She was my dad's mother. Grandma was a deeply religious woman with an will of iron, but her hands were soft as well as her demeanor. I was the youngest child so when the other girls were in school, I had special time with Grandma. She often cooked my breakfast when I awoke long after the school bus had whisked the other girls away. The sun streamed through the condensation on the kitchen windows giving the impression that all was safe in the world. Grandma fixed me a soft egg and toast served on the kitchen table covered with a flowered plastic cloth. She would pour steaming coffee from the aluminium percolator that she boiled on top the stove into a china cup with a saucer. She added lots of milk so that I was having more of a poor man's latte. I would pour the coffee from the cup to the saucer to cool it down.

hydrangea from homeplace
 I have no real recollection as to what my day might have looked liked other than the fact that I was expected to entertain myself which I did with antics such as jumping from the door way of one room into the next room just to see how far I could jump. I would flip the rocking chair in my Grandma's bedroom backwards and land on a small settee that she had by the front window. No one ever scolded me for this behavior or told me I was doing something unsafe.

 We didn't have a television in those days but we did have radio. Grandma listened to preachers on the gospel station. I grew up to the rhythm of their voices and the rhythm of the wringer washing machine that was on the back porch. We always had animals about the place. I had a deep gray\blue cat that we called "Gray". This tom was a traveling cat so he showed up and stayed when he was a mind to. We had Rouser the dog who was a big old white and burnt orange collie dog. He was old and good natured. Linda my oldest sister when she was learning to ride a bike and didn't have good brake control rode right over him. He never got upset, just got up and moved. Eventually he went off into the woods and never returned home. I think he was just an old considerate gentleman and knew that it was his time to die and he didn't want to upset his girls.

We had chickens that we would call free range these days. They pecked around the yard and woods and then in the evening were locked back in the chicken coop. I learned to watch my step a little closer after stepping barefoot in warm soft chicken excrement. We had a cow named Betty which my dad milked out by the barn. All in all it seemed a good life for a little girl.

 My parents weren't flighty people who fell out of love and moved on to something else. They stayed the course even through the tediousness of every day life when the dishes had to be done, laundry was never ending and the plant called my dad to working two shifts instead of one.  My grandma never complained about how terrible growing old was or even made a big deal out living with six other people in a five room house where there was no privacy.

 Honestly, we do have so much more now materially but we are so extremely impoverished in other ways. As a child I woke up when I got my sleep out and ate hot food at my own table. I had my mama and my grandma watching over me. I was allowed to be a child. I had the security of both parents living in the house with me. I was given the freedom to explore and I ate lots of organic fresh food. I never had to have the talk about strangers kidnapping me or people using wrong touch with me. Decency was commonplace then not an extraordinary occurrence. Perhaps it is time to reexamine where we missed the turn in our culture because we are obviously lost in our progressive enlightenment. Our culture's evolutionary mindset deceives us into the idea that we are progressing and that there is nothing we can learn from those in the past.

  Yahweh says, “Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, ‘Where is the good way?’ and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.