Earnest Conversation

Precious Friend, name so like mine, and I meet while we can – those sacred days after the cherished-with-family-time of  Christmas and before having to return to work, when time moves more slowly…..so we can linger long over lunch.

I look into her delicate blue eyes surrounded by gentle lines, reminders that she also has slipped past child rearing; and I hear her concerns for American Believers, swept way up into the thick deceitfulness of the culture. We don’t hear about sin and repentance anymore, she sighs. I know, I acknowledge. But they say they are Believers, yet……it’s okay to live together? They say they are Believers, but they are not getting along with their spouse, so the “d-word” is being tossed around like a tennis ball? As if that permanence of separation will solve their problems? Are folks really just saying the “Christian” word but really have no clue as to the covenant relationship that is required because that’s what God means on His end of the bargain?

This morning, the first of January, the first part of reading from the beginning, the Word and there, in the very beginning is the cry to beware of sin. “Sin is crouching at the door,” says the writer of the Holy Word, “and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” We talk about that. We say that it seems that divorce, affairs, questionable ethics, all seem to be accepted by Believers. I tell her that I had just that morning written a letter of encouragement to my church staff mentioning that scripture verse, saying, the enemy does not like what is going on at our church and he will work hard to bring us down. He would begin with the seemingly harmless things. Things that would go unnoticed at first. But slowly, undetected, those behaviors would grow and before long would become issues to be addressed and by then it would be too late. So, I would urge our Godly men and women, to keep the door open, when counseling a person of the opposite sex alone. Be accountable to one another. Lunch with one man and one woman doesn’t look too good – you know what I mean.

I read the geneology of Jesus this morning, I tell her over delicious lunch, and more delightful conversation at our now favorite rendezvous from our familiar neighborhoods. And I found grace throughout. Tamar, then Rahab, though a prostitute, my friend reminds us both, yet she was searching and found the Truth and became a Believer and Worshiper of God; and  Ruth, also a non-Jew; a Gentile, like us. I pause. I stare a long time at the polished wood table then look directly into her soul and quietly say,” but Friend (I softly say her name), I did not find one homosexual. Not one.” She sees me. She sighs. I know, she says. I don’t find a single homosexual named in the Word of God, I say more earnestly. She nods. She knows. God called it an abomination. She’s traveled that perilous road – the one where she said, in love, in the love forged deep in her soul by her Creator Savior, to one of her own, precious child, the road you are on is leading to sin – a deep separation from your Creator/Father. You need to look inside and repent. Turn completely, rethink and respond according to the Word and He will forgive you. Completely. Together we smile at one another’s glowing eyes. We know the story has a happy ending.

Oh, I don’t want to be a coward. I want to be brave for my Lord, she says, again, that earnestness in her tone. This year I want to be able to say out loud that the W ay, the Truth, the Life are in my Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. I want to say it in love. And I know, I tell her, that finally, the responses are not to me; they are to my Lord. He said He would be the stumbling block. Folks hate it when they hear things like “surrender,” “repent,” “live for the Lord, not for self.” Folks balk at anyone challenging them on their independence.   I sigh. Again. Friend, I say to her, looking directly at her intently, and pause. Why is it hard to say it? Because I’m checking on my own self. Am I able to say? How do I know if God and I are in right standing with one another at this very minute? Who am I to say? And then I say, “but if folks are not willing to put the Lord first in their life, then……..” and this was where I paused for more than a second…….”they really don’t love the Father deeply at all. Perhaps they weren’t His all along.”

She hands me a heavy something wrapped securely in tin foil. Your fudge for the year, she says, as we hug and  she hands me her Christmas gift. Keep it in the freezer and it will keep all year. Just eat one at a time.IMG_20140103_201732

By the time I had gotten home  three were gone. Into my tummy. So utterly delicious and addicting!

Volunteering – what’s the payback?

DSC00589Church and Life Group are over; it’s nearly half past noon already.

Beloved and I eat a quick homemade sandwich; I change into some comfortable shoes and jeans.

He retires to the couch and the remote and I return to the car and drive off to afternoon kid’s church; it’s about a 25 or 30 minute drive to the northeast side of town. I’m distracted by the audio book so the time flies by. I turn off the book and say a prayer for the children before turning onto the property. I’m tired but yet, I know. I need to be here.

After sweeping up the dead roaches and the dried out orange peel and clean up the week old “craft papers” in the children’s rooms of the children’s church house, I think through what I will need for small group time later on. Then I  go outside to play with some of the children who have come on their own. We’re waiting for the mostly reliable beat up old  van to return with a load of happy children so we can begin.DSC00598

Our fearless leader is inside, setting up the projector and queing  up the power point. Two other volunteers are working on the snacks in the kitchen. This week it’s “cuties” oranges, peanut butter and grape jelly sandwiches on white and some Oreo cookies and Kool Aid.

At 3:00 the children with their loud “in-your-face-ness” come clamoring in the small house and take their seats, still reading their cell phones (how do they afford a phone???). Silence your phones, Ladies, we hear, and put them away. Reluctantly they slip them into their back pocket and sigh. The little ones crawl into the laps of their big sisters/aunts/cousins/neighbors and stare at the Pastor.

The Fearless Leader Pastor asks one of the older youth  to lead us in  the Lord’s Prayer. Then the pastor asks some to read from the Bible – Exodus 1. “I wanna read!” one cries out. “Where is it???? What page is it on?” I turn toward the excited young person and hand her my Bible. “Right here,” I point and then say, “You read.”OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And she does. She’s interested. “Who’s Moses?” she inquires in her excited loud voice. Pastor tells her. And all the others who are there, listening. And then. My heart stirs. The room has gone quiet as several are hearing for the first time in their lives about a man whom God used to move a nation out of slavery.

On another week, I witness 4 young teen ladies lead us all in the singing and the scripture reading and then I know why I am there Sunday afternoon after another. To witness transforming lives. To witness young people who are hearing those Bible stories that I have taken for granted for the very first time and some get it! And some are hearing about the God who made them is the same God who loves them and it’s the same God who sent His only Son to die for them because He loves them enough to keep them from going to hell.

That’s the payback. And all I can do is bow my head and say, thank you for allowing me to be a small part in the lives of these “unchurched” young people as they hear the gospel of grace for the very first time.

Amazing Grace…..how very sweet the sound!

Looking closely

Collections. We all have them of various sorts – dolls, figurines, antiques, china, etc.  I collect Nativity scenes. Well, not intentionally. Years ago, Mother gave me our first nativity scene, the one she bought when I was a baby that she placed under the Christmas tree every year. Then, when I returned to teaching, she gave it to me to bring to my classroom and show the children around Christmas time. Ooooh, the children would gasp when they saw it the first time. I have one like this under our tree, some would say. More would say, what is that, as they would pick up one of the characters and look at it more closely.

About 18 years ago,  Mother and Daddy were on another cruise that took them to Russia. Mother found several stackable dolls and gave me a stackable doll nativity set. Oh, how I loved this quaint little set with all the small pieces. I would also take it to school to show the children, a little more cautious with it since it had such tiny pieces. The baby Jesus was noIMG_20131223_142038 bigger than a child’s finger!

On yet another trip to Israel, she brought home an olive wood carved nativity set that she used for awhile then passed on to me several years ago.

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My son Philip gave me a beautiful nativity set for Christmas a few yeas ago and it sits on our coffee table in the den in front of everyone.

 

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This year, I brought the old well-worn nativity set home from school for good. As I unfolded each piece from its sixty year old tissue paper and place it in the little stable, I held the pieces in my hand a little longer, staring at their faces. I hadn’t ever taken the time to do that – at least, not in a very long while. I got my camera and began taking pictures of the nativity scene on the mantle – up close pictures and after they were downloaded on the computer their faces were even more clear and almost alive.

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I picked up Mary and held her for a long time. Dressed simply, as a young peasant girl, her eyes barely open, as if looking down at the baby in the manger. What was she thinking? Her long fingered hands draped across her chest. Can it be, she’s thinking, that this is truly the son of God, as told me by that angel  nine months ago? Oh, Jehovah, what a responsibility. I will need you to help me raise him. Look at how tiny he is! Yes, look. Take a long look at the faces of the figurines in the nativity set. What are they each thinking – this moment in time when a baby is born in a rude old stable in a crowded little obscure town to poor traveling peasants from a long ways away, on this untimely journey just to obey the foreign government. Because of an angel, a dream, a star, the folks in the stable got it. They each knew – Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and later the Wise Men had all been forewarned that they were about to witness a miracle, the fulfilling of a long awaited prophecy – the coming Messiah, who would save His people. So, perhaps what each were thinking was, “I am part of an historical event! How will God use a baby to save His people?” Joseph, now the protector of this baby – not his, was to get his directives from yet another dream; the shepherds were so excited that they told their families; the Wise Men received direction from a dream, and Mary. Mary kept all these events in her heart. She marveled at how God was moving in her midst, as she kept trusting.    IMG_20131223_155431

May we ponder, be alert for His directives in our lives, and trust. Keep trusting in this blessed Savior – the Lord Jesus Christ.  Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Now, go out with Joy and be led forth in His peace.

Those Thanksgivings We Remember

new orleans trip 011 Sometimes the school district declared a week long Thanksgiving Holiday. Other times, in their desire to keep kids in school even when they and the teachers were mentally tasting the turkey and playing in the leaves, they’d make us all miserable by having us come to school on Monday and Tuesday of the week of Thanksgiving! I’m sure some kid learned something and maybe one or two teachers were happier in their classroom than at home in their footies! Not me. We looked forward to that week long holiday at the end of November as a time to GET AWAY! Yep. Well, of course, we didn’t go out of town EVERY year at Thanksgiving. We enjoyed many a meal around the family table with Grandpa and Memom, my brother and his family. (Oh, I’m speaking of those Thanksgivings of recent past as parents of our own kids who enjoyed some years with just our own foursome family off somewhere in the hinterlands.) As a child, yes, Thanksgiving was a sacred time at home around the table of our parents and the holy of holiest football games – the tea-sippers of Texas vs the Aggies. Dad was usually seen wearing his traditional orange polo and slacks. Mom would beam at him. After all, she was the one who not only bought the shirt but laid it out for Dad to wear that morning! She always claimed he was color-blind.

Not too many years ago, on the day following Thanksgiving,  the four of us packed up the van and loaded our bikes onto the bike rack on the back and headed out for the six long hour drive to New Orleans.  We had also heard it was going to be a cold one the next day. No kidding! The following morning we awoke to 28 degrees of brilliant sunshine! We donned everything we could find: scarves, hats, gloves, sweatshirts, more socks, you name it. We each resembled bulging overstuffed forgotten turkeys. We drove to the public park just outside of town at the foot of the levee and unloaded our bikes. Burrrr! It was quite nippy! What on earth are we doing? We nearly forgot about the cold after we walked our bikes to the top of the levee and saw…….oh what a beautiful sight! The very MIGHTY MISSISSIPPI RIVER flowing right there in front of us! We rode slow – I did, taking in the sights on either side of the asphalt running track atop the levee. It was an amazing glorious bright sunny crisp cold day and we had 12 miles to enjoy it before riding straight into Audubon Park.new orleans trip 038

Once in the park Beloved and I found a park bench on which to sit and view the pond with its fountain in the middle. After resting just a moment or so, we mounted our bikes and headed for the lovely well planned zoo! The elephants were hilarious and delighted all of us onlookers ! We stayed for about 2 hours before getting on our bikes and heading back down the levee. No, it wasn’t as much fun. Okay. We were hungry and we had now seen the Mississippi and the lovely homes and it was time to eat! We spotted a sports bar/café at the foot of the levee midway along the ride so we turned down the hill and parked and ate. Huge delicious hamburgers. Oh how we all enjoyed the rest and the food! When it was time to head for the van, oh my goodness, we had truly over rested! Can one do that? Yes! Those last six miles were the worst.

Eventually we each found the van and loaded the bike on the back and tumbled in ready for a nap at the hotel. I will long remember that delightful trip to New Orleans and the scenic ride atop the levee. The four of us cycling together in a straight line alongside the Mississippi one side and lovely homes on the other.  What is my take away? Watching my sons as they enjoyed one another along the ride, at the sports bar chowing down on their huge hamburgers, laughing and teasing one another. I’ll remember watching them ride around the park together while Beloved and I sat at the park bench, resting. And of course, our reactions to all the “interesting” folks out on Bourbon street that night when we went to hear the New Orleans Jazz Band. And seeing our eldest drive us home that long stretch through Louisania with all our nine million fellow Texans that Sunday evening.  Lasting loving memories. Savored over time.  This Thanksgiving, as we gather around the table with extended family we can recall the Thanksgiving trip to NOLA  and laugh at all the memories as we share them with others. I’m thankful. Thankful to the Lord, for His provision of my husband, two sons, jobs which help fund such a great trip, and the health to enjoy them more.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!new orleans trip 059

That driving rain

Heavy traffic ’cause it’s Houston at 3:50 in the afternoon.

It’s been raining nearly heavily all day. No thunder. No lightening. Just. Rain. Lot’s of it.

We’ve been out since 9:10 a.m., my Beloved and me, on errands, appointments;

Some scheduled and close by; others clear on the other side of town, unfamiliar and a bit stressful.

And I’m on the edge now. Just plain tired. Especially in my hips and left leg. I want to be home. Now.

But there’s 24.6 miles to cover before hitting the couch and putting my legs up on the coffee table, which, being translated, is about 45 minutes.

Here we go. I pull out onto the frontage road and ease left onto the freeway and suddenly the tears want to force their way from the back of my eyes to the front. The very front.

I can’t. Not now. I have to get up on the freeway with all these other fast moving cars in the rain and so ……..I tell myself. Suck it up, Girl. Be tough. You gotta do this so get on up there and move on out! Self talk. Strong talk. Push the anxiety back. Far back. You have a job to do. One more long drive on the road before relaxing.

I focus. I hold back from tailgating and pray. Pray for me. Pray for all the others on the road who are trying to see through the driving wet windshield to the road, the white dashes between the lanes, the headlights and taillights.

Playing the wipers fast, intermittent, off, on. Fast, intermittent, off, on. Over and over again.Turning the radio to classical – no talk. Then turn it down while Beloved is talking to someone. I don’t care who.

Here we go. Heading off the freeway finally. Down the road to our neighborhood and into the driveway. Home.  At last.  Sigh. We walk in and immediately Beloved sits down on the couch. I go in the kitchen and start to finish cleaning up. It’s what we women do, especially when we know a girlfriend is on her way with supper! But I’m home. More relaxed. Can work out that stiff hip and back. Move the legs.  And thank the Lord that we all behaved on that driving rain home

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