Oh, how he laughed and loved!

“I miss them, too, Dear,” I heard my Beloved say out of the blue this morning. He was busy getting shoes out of his closet in the bathroom.  I was checking emails. “Who do you miss, Love?” I asked. “My Grandma, my mother, Dad. I miss them all a lot.”  Yeah. Sometimes it just hits us unannounced.

That’s what happened yesterday as I was driving to the doctor to get the bandage off my knee from surgery two days prior.  What made me suddenly tear up and think of Dad?  Then it came to me. I had been missing him lately. No, it’s not anywhere close to his birthday or the anniversary of when he passed away. So I decided to think about what I remembered about him.  Dad was a relational being. He was certainly not interested in things. Dad loved people.  A country boy from East Texas, he was  happy coming home to a decent homemade meal, pulling on a simple brown jumpsuit and reading a book.   Whenever he went out, he would engage the waitress, the checker, the yard man, any and everyone in a brief conversation, complete with a smile and a warm handshake. In that brief encounter, Dad would have learned where the person was from, whether he liked his job or not, and quite possibly if the person did attend or was a church member somewhere. “Where do you worship?” Dad would ask, with a broad smile and genuine interest. “Well, then, could I interest you in reading the book of John in the Bible? You got a Bible, by the way? It’s the perfect book for getting started in your relationship with the Lord.”

2004-0612-037NUsually, folks have someone in their family they have a gripe about. Dad never had an unkind word for anyone in his large extended family,  or even in his wife’s family! Not one. Truth be told, he made it his choice to get along  with whomever he came in contact . It didn’t matter, he once told me, whether the person liked him or not. What mattered, he said, was that that person was treated with the utmost respect. Life is too short to be ugly with one another, he was known to say. Besides, I may need them to be nice back to me some time in the future, he said with his ever-widening  grin.

Years ago, Dad and I had an occasion to travel on a trip together. He began to relate the story of how the Lord brought him into a right relationship with Him. He was in the Air Force in WWII, stationed over in England, and he wasn’t walking close with his Lord.  That all changed after his close encounter with death, in which his plane was seriously shot up and he had to make a decision as to whether to keep flying or command all of his crew and he to bail out. Unsure at that very moment as to what to do, he saw in the front windshield of the cockpit of his plane in large letters the word “JUMP”. He commanded his crew to jump out and he and all of his crew’s lives were spared. Following that harrowing experience, he decided to get into reading the Bible more diligently. He began reading the Proverbs and over the course of his early years, he decided to live as best as he knew how from the teachings of the Proverbs.  I believe he did. For instance, he never bought anything except a house on credit. He never borrowed from someone he could not pay back as soon as possible. He paid cash for every vehicle he purchased in his life.

Over the course of time Dad grew to appreciate  the long term value of prayer. He and mom were in various prayer groups connected to their church through the years. Many years ago, about the time his family began having annual reunions, he made a list of family folks who asked Dad to pray for a child or other family member to trust in Jesus as their personal Savior, or who just needed some prayer. His list of family members grew as others learned of his dedication to praying for the family. Oh, how he loved his family. Every single one of them. Many of them received a phone call or letter at least once a month, as they lived all over the world. I believe some of our family are children of the Lord because of his continuous prayers.

I miss Dad’s jokes. I miss Dad’s glorious laugh and good – natured humor; his honesty; his counsel; our sharing of books and current events. I loved coming over and plopping on the couch and just visiting with my mom and dad. For hours. I loved their counsel and their advice. Their love for one another.  Once Dad  knew deep down that Mom was going to be fine at the retirement community they moved in to only a few months before his health took a nose dive, he  began to slip away into eternity. Though his last couple of years were quite hard for him and the rest of us, I don’t doubt for a moment that the Lord was using every ounce of the love Dad had for everyone who came by to see him for His Lord’s eternal glory. He just loved. People. I don’t always do so well with some folks. I get terribly impatient when corrected or when someone is late or hasn’t responded in a reasonable amount of time to my email or phone message. But lately, I’ve been remembering my dad and how patient he was with everyone and what a high value he put on his relationship with folks and I’ve grown a bit more patient and less critical, most of the time. Remembering Dad I want to treat others with as much love and respect as he did.  In honor of him. Love you, Dad. Always.

out of the silence……..

chldren dancing ten I have this friend who called me while I was on the way to the library to pick up yet another audio book. My friend whom I really don’t know as intimately as I would like called out of the blue. She said, “So I saw your email and it seems you’re in a bind. I want to help you.” Out of the silence. I had not heard from anyone else. I had emailed one or two others. I had sought the counsel of two. “Just run with it,” one of them said. “It’ll all work out,” said another. I wanted it to work out. My way. The way of all my friends coming over and my NOT having to attend the meeting. NOT having to even call in on a phone conference.

It got complicated. While on the phone to my friend my phone, on its own, with its own plan, calls the head of the board and he  says, “Would you please send out an email to all the board calling for a face to face meeting this weekend.” A face to face. At the same time as the gathering of friends in my home. My heart sags. Why all on the same night? Yes, I could say, and it would be quite true, I have a prior commitment. But this guy has stirred the waters this week. And so has God. Yep. God brought a whole family of children to Children’s Church this Sunday. And……they’ve been raised in a church from wherever they came from. One of the little girls, the one in fifth grade, knew “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” And kept going for a few more verses. She had heard of some of the books of the Bible. She knew some church songs. This was so encouraging since all of our kids haven’t been to a church unless they have been to our fledgling little Children’s Church that meets each week at 3:00 in the afternoon.IMG_0996

My friend texted me, after I lost her call to the Board member guy, that she was going out for dinner. Would I call later? Later came. “I insist on having the ladies come to my house that night,” she said. I caved. yes. Thank you. I really need to be at this Board meeting. Too much going on for me to hear later second hand. Thank you. How does one thank someone so gracious? Flowers? A card? Both? Nothing? I told her I cherished her friendship. And I do. And not because of this. But because this for her is the norm. Giving. Calling and asking how she can help. And meaning it. She’s Christ Jesus in the flesh. Her hands are open wide and her smile is broad.  You shine for your Lord, Precious Friend. Thank you!

Freeing

birds flying free  There’s a freedom I really haven’t experienced in so very long until about 2 months ago. That’s when I finally decided to stand up to those dark, long-held grudges and anger toward some relatives. Down on my knees at the foot of my red recliner I cried and asked the Lord to forgive me for holding on so long and not forgiving and moving on to love unconditionally. I asked Him to  take away all that junk in my dark soul and then almost immediately,  like years of wax built up in my ears, finally being pulled out I heard the sound! Oh the sound of relief!  Of music! Truly! Of freedom, as the flight of the birds winging gracefully over the highways. Far above and out of reach of the chaos.

I know the freedom now  and what it means to just LET IT GO! I got on my bicycle and rode down the track – my get-a-way retreat. And my heart soared for love of my precious family who so long ago “meant well” when one sweet relative asked me if there was anything she could do for me when I came home from having given birth to our first-born. Came home with empty arms as he was so early. Well, I stammered, running through my muddled mind, “some diapers”? After all, I hadn’t thought to purchase diapers six weeks early. “Well, you can get those at the store,” was her not so warm reply. Well, then. Yes, I thought. So, what were you thinking to do for me, then? I mean, okay. I’ll go to the store. Thanks for your offer “to help.” And never again, did I ask her for help. But I had held on to the hurt……and other things from time to time. Those memories are now scattered in the air.

The proof. Thanksgiving Day at my brother and sister-in-law’s lovely home on the other side of town. The usual family. The usual spread of delicious home-made dishes atop the usual lovely table decor. Gone, though, was the usual grudge and inner resistance to totally love from the depths of my soul. The love for my family – all of them – this year was deeply genuine. I love them. Each of them and harbor absolutely no animosity, jealousy, ugly guilt. Nothing. Is this then, truly the love of Jesus from me to them? Oh, how light and joyous I felt all day and into the evening. Was it the letting go? It was. It was also the confessing and leaving that hurt right at my Savior’s feet. Sigh. Yes.flying birds

But there was still some deep down pain inside coming from something or someone else. My precious cousin and college girlfriend. There was that time when we were close. Weren’t we? I mean, I remember each of them on an occasion saying, “Best friends forever!” Being the Amelia Bedelia minded, I took that literally. Forever. Always. But, like mine, their lives are so busy in their far away towns with their own families.

Why have I held on to the expectation that they write???? That they call and just say hello? I don’t know!! Is it because it’s not a two-way street? And I’m tired of always initiating?  Do I particularly enjoy this feeling of gravel in the pit of my stomach? This “I’m owning this relationship and you’re not and I want you to and it’s painful and still why don’t you write. Was it something I said? I feel so INSECURE about our , well, is this still a relationship? Has it truly gone sour?”

I stood in the middle of my den and out loud proclaimed, “I let you go, sweet cousin. I let you go, sweet girlfriend from so long ago.” Go. Be free. And I will too. You who are so very far away from me and seem to choose to be. You who have so much on your plate. Always have. Always will. but no where on your plate is there room for me. It’s all okay now.  I let you go and I will clean out my belly of hurt, emptiness over a lost whatever this was and like you, move on. Oh, I’m still here. In the same house I’ve lived in for the past 18 years. Going nowhere soon. You have my address and phone. But you no longer have my heart. If you never bother to call it’s okay. If you don’t ever text or email, no problem. May the Lord continue to take good care of you and your family. Love you. Bye.

I do have some very precious friends right here in front of me and I know now that the enemy of my soul has been successful in making me feel less content, less fulfilled because two very precious folks are not in the forefront of my life right now.  Their presence in my life was rich and I am grateful for what we had. But now I choose to focus on the friends I have here. In my life right now. I choose to encourage them. Love on them. Treasure them as they are but having held too tightly before, I know now to always, always hold my friends loosely. With air to breathe. With freedom to come and go and be real and up close and far away and to know that from me, it’s okay.

bird in handRecently, in prayer group, some were discussing some long-ago friends who had been a part of the group (long before we came in) and had moved on. But there had been some small degree of dissension.  You know, one quipped, we can be Believers and not all agree on everything and it will be okay! Consider Paul and Barnabus; Paul and John Mark, I responded. Not even the early Christians got along with one another! We’re all human, she returned. And we’re going to have some strife and struggles along the way or, we’re going to move away from some friendships and that’s okay, too. We’ll all sit at the feet of our Savior one day! And then, it won’t matter anymore if we got along on the earth or not!

Holding tightly to anything will bring hurt and a stabbing pain. Open the hand and the joy will be everlasting! Because of the first Love. His love. Deep inside, wanting to be free and expressive. Loving this flight! I believe it’s time to take another ride down the track by the gully!

May you go out with JOY and be led forth in His PEACE!

In the stillness, there is peace

In the stillness of the early morning

In my red recliner

A steaming cup of tea with cream

My red throw to cuddle

My Bible on my lap

And my Journal with pen sitting beside me

IMG_1020And time.

For reading. Sipping. Praying. Thinking.

The absolute best part of my day.

To hear Him.

To respond in my heart and on paper.

So very grateful.

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.