Tuesday, December 27, 2011

San Francisco Dec 27, 2011

What a delight to be in San Francisco!
I wrote that sentence yesterday and got no further. Amazing what adding another little one to the mix does to free time –

Yesterday we praised the Lord with others who love him, shared gifts, devoured a delicious meal with a sister who has no family in the area, watched kids go bazooka over new toys, and enjoyed a nice nap. Perfect day.

Eden is so funny. She thinks she can run really fast; instead she mostly jumps up and down, pacifier bobbling along with fat cheeks and booty, not going much of anywhere. Then she looks at us to see if we properly appreciate her feat. She expects clapping and hooraw. Which she gets.

While walking this morning Jim and I encountered a blue-eyed gentleman bent with age, wearing a sporty cap and holding on to a cane. He stopped, motioned up at Jim and spoke in broken English. I managed to figure out that he was asking about Jim’s height. I replied in feet and inches. He talked on, waving his arms and cane – the only word I caught was “centimeters.” We inched on slowly, nodding and smiling since we don’t know the metric system. As we walked past him, I believe he wished us a happy new year and we heartily returned the sentiment.

Next day: Naomi and Conrad played hours and hours yesterday with new Christmas toys, meshing them all into one glorious family. Dora, two cubs from the Lion King movie, a tiny weird creature from another movie and miscellaneous older others had a grand time together. Kind of like the church family, isn’t it? I’m not callin’ anybody weird – just making an analogy.

Airiel – bless her heart as we often say in the South. She’s so pregnant. We’re hoping that Julianna will see fit to appear before this year is out, but these Woodell women have an agenda of their own most of the time. We ought to know something or other by this Friday-

I hate that I can’t be with my extended family today at my sister-in-law’s funeral – I’m so glad our two daughters and older son will attend. That makes me feel as if I’m there in spirit. She’ll be buried beside my brother in the little cemetery right beside our trailer – I’ll visit with her when we get down to Monticello again.

Airiel and I made our annual trip together to Costco for a month’s supply of stuff. We whizzed through that place (just before it became a bonafide madhouse) in just less than an hour. I was half leaning on and half pushing the overflowing BIG cart, with A. pulling from the front. Our checker pleaded piteously for help with this “big order” but failed to get anyone until the very end. Another young guy finally came to his aid, looked at Airiel (pushing her good-sized tummy), then at me (white-headed, o-l-l-d to him) and asked, “How long did it take you guys to do this?” I said nonchalantly, “Oh, not quite an hour.” He mumbled something. We felt powerful.

Enough for today. Little heads and bodies will soon begin appearing down the stairs, singing out, “Good morning, Granmama, good morning, Pa-pa!” And Eden will tumble down a little later, saying emphatically, “Bite, bite!”

God bless and bless.

Sunday, December 25, 2011


The Christmas season is homecoming time for a lot of people – either driving across town or to another state, or perhaps flying several hours to loved ones. We did the latter to spend the holidays with our youngest son and his family – not exactly a “homecoming” in the ordinary sense, but I sure feel at home anyway!

My sister-in-law experienced her own homecoming this holiday season. She flew to her final home a few days ago – one she didn’t finance or decorate, and one she won’t have to clean or continually fix up. Her mansion was lovingly constructed by none other than the Master and Creator of the universe, Jesus Christ himself. She must be joyful beyond our human comprehension!

My first memory of Emma Leen was when I was a five-year-old, watching solemnly as she and my older brother were married in our living room. Or maybe they married somewhere else, and stood around in our living room for a few minutes before leaving for a honeymoon. Memories from that far back are rather dim nowadays.

They lived with our family for a short time when I was 6 or 7 – incredible that we stuffed five adults and one little kid into a two-bedroom house around 700 square feet. And that’s probably a generous guess.

As the years passed, they frequently lived out of state as Thomas pipelined in several different places. To hear that they were traveling home to visit was better than Christmas as far as I was concerned! I missed them so much.

Emma was a superb cook – ordinary food, nothing gourmet – but turned out luscious pies, cornbread, dressing, fried chicken, etc., as well as wonderful produce from Thomas’s yearly garden. I used to love sitting at the tiny table in her kitchen, listening to her tell about the kids, grans, neighbors and so on, all the while cooking, never missing a beat. She didn’t use a timer, but just knew when something or other was done baking, frying, or stewing.

Her sewing machines must have buzzed over a million miles in the years she busily clothed her family and many others. Dresses, blouses, shorts, wedding/bridesmaids’ dresses, jackets, even training bloomers for the babies churned out in a never-ending stream. And that’s a miniscule description of the items she fashioned with her foot on the treadle of her Singer. I remember receiving a red dress with matching scarf after I was married and we were living on a skinny income. I wore it for years.

So many snap-shot memories over the years: Emma emptying out the ice cube trays into a huge bowl and crunching every single one – nightly - when pregnant with her third baby. Putting a generous dollop of butter into the middle of fluffy mashed potatoes piled high in a bowl; building a quilt box all by herself; eternally changing furniture around (maybe that’s where I got the affliction); and smothering her kids and grandkids with kisses. She even gave one of them a booty kiss when he or she was fresh of the bath – I, a kid myself watching, made gagging sounds. She laughed. Once when they were visiting our house in winter, my dad stoked up the fire in the stove by sloshing a little gasoline in the door. Toddler Tommy happened to be standing nearby as the flames whooshed out; Emma promptly fainted, sure that her baby was sizzled. He wasn’t hurt, thank the Lord. My daddy got a tongue-lashing from my mother, by the way.

She should have been a nurse. Well, in a way, she was anyway – Emma had a natural skill for ministering to anyone who was ill, or who experienced any kind of upset. She simply knew what to do. And did it. Emma’s many attributes shone brightly - she used her talents very well indeed.

Yeah, she was flawed, just as the rest of us are. If we all were perfect we wouldn’t desperately need God’s grace, now would we?

Farewell, my sis-in-law, I’ll see you again.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


I know I can be a little slow on the uptake sometimes and I guess this is one of those occurrences. I’ve been studying in 1 Corinthians off and on for several weeks, and God (I sure hope it’s the Lord and not some other source!) just emphasized a truth in my heart that I must share.

Paul begins this letter by naming these brothers and sisters the church of God, those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints. He thanks God for extending grace to the Corinthian church, confirming they have been enriched in all speech and all knowledge, not lacking in any spiritual gift, and promises that Jesus will sustain them to the end, and they will be guiltless in the day of the Lord.

What strikes me first about Paul’s opening words is the absolute lack of any comments about good works of the Corinthians. The apostle’s every thought is focused on the grace, the generosity, the faithfulness and power of God and Jesus Christ, his Son. Paul assures these saints that they will be saved – Jesus “will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And their salvation is sure because the God who called them into fellowship with his Son is faithful - period.

Paul must have said these things because the Corinthians were a strongly spiritual body of believers, right? Let’s check that out.

Only a couple of verses later Paul calls these same Christians to account for quarreling – wrangling and disputing over who is following the right preacher.

After reminding them in chapter 2 that they have received the Spirit who is from God, Paul issues another rebuke in 3: 2-3: “I could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh (worldly-NIV), as infants in Christ… While there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?” And so it goes. In chapter 4 Paul says they’re arrogant. Not only arrogant, but comfortable with the sexual immorality of one of their own (5:1, 6). Christians were warring against Christians in lawsuits before unbelievers – chapter 6 – and confusion flourished regarding many other matters as evidenced in the rest of the letter. Wow.

I’m afraid if I’d lived in that time, and heard about this church’s goings-on, I would have condemned the whole lot. Forget them, there is no way they’re saved with all that garbage going on.

However, how did Paul, acting through the Holy Spirit, look at these brothers and sisters? Did he write them off as a lost cause? Did he shake the dust off his feet and go to others who wouldn’t be so ornery? Did he take back everything he’d said about them in the beginning of his letter?

Paul was not a pushover; at times he demanded swift action in hopes of ultimately rescuing a wayward brother (1Cor. 5:5, 11, 13). He did not portray God as a tolerant old grandfather, willing to put up with anything. For instance, the apostle specified stern measures in the case of brothers and/or sisters practicing sexual immorality, greed, idolatry, drunkenness or defrauding (swindling). Not for revenge – but to induce them to return to the God of all mercy. That’s the opposite of writing them off – that’s loving enough to do whatever it takes. Just exactly what God always does for us.

Ours is a Father who overflows with grace and love – and pours a magnificent amount of that grace into us bumbling humans busy making a mess of a goodly number of things. Paul’s message to them and to us is not that we better shape up enough to be paragons of virtue by tomorrow, or at least by next Friday - or else. Instead he was intensely conscious of his role as one who wrestled those early disciples back to the cross again and again – to keep them faithful! “Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm” (2Cor 1:24).
What peace and rest come when I get even a glimmer of this truth: “It is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2Cor. 1:21-22). The seal of God on a person carries a lot more power than I ever before realized. One has to work awfully hard to leave God’s grace.

Paul stressed once more in 1Cor. 1:30 that God “is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord” (emphasis mine).

What joy is ours when we realize, even a tiny bit, the love and mercy of God! What joy this understanding kindles in our souls! What renewed vigor to please the One who died for us! How wonderful this grace is.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

O That Prayer!

I was dripping, blowing and talking funny because of allergies last Saturday, so didn’t get to give a scheduled devo at the Romance church’s Ladies Day. Sad face. I love those sisters and frankly, also love the delightful, homemade, holiday goodies I know from experience they would enjoy together. Anyway, I decided to post it here; nothing I can do, however, about the missed bon-bons, iced sugar cookies and the like.

I will always remember something Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family said years ago about prayer. He attributed his accomplishments in ministry (and the ministry itself) to the power of prayer. Most particularly, he credited the prayers of his great-grandfather, a godly man who consistently entreated blessings from the Lord not only for his sons and daughters, but also for his descendents in generations to come. What a testimony!

We can do the same!

What wonders would come to pass in our families 30, 40 or a hundred years from now if we began taking the time to regularly ask our God for stalwart warriors for him to arise from our sons and daughters many times removed? Godly seed. Calebs, and Gideons, and Davids, and replicas of the Lord Jesus Christ. How exciting would that be?!

Do it! Begin a prayer journal now, today. Birth a record that will be a testimony, a witness, for generations after you who will thank God for your foresight – and your faith. You don’t have to write dissertations in a journal; simply jot down the recipient’s name and a word or two about your requests for him or her.

I need a prayer group badly right now –I’m praying the Lord will bring that to reality with sisters in our present church family. I can’t wait to see what the Savior will do when we turn many hearts upward to him regularly. Have you ever been part of a group who raised their voices in praise, petition, and thanksgiving repeatedly and frequently? O, how God blesses those of us who cry out to him!

Confirms in our own minds that we are not self-sufficient.

Is an action that is a sacrifice of praise to the Father – Heb 13:15.

Confirms that we are not merely hearers of the Word, but do apply it – Jas 1:23.

Produces a peace understood by no human being, but which will guard our hearts and minds – Phl 4:6,7.

An action that helps conquer the weakness that lives in our human nature – Mt 26:41.

A weapon that helps in removing fear in those who preach about Jesus – Eph 6:19.

A weapon of the Spirit readily available anywhere, anytime, anyplace.

The avenue by which we can ask for more of the divine Spirit who dwells within us – Lk 11:13.

What’s not to love about prayer?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Parakeets and Prayer

I want to talk about prayer.

But first, let me tell you about my grandma, a petite lady who stood about 4’11” in her shoes. She was widowed, and lived alone in an impossibly small trailer, one of those silver ones with rounded ends. Really, though, it fit her to a “t” since she was tiny as well. Because she was lonely she acquired a parakeet which she named Billy; she loved that bird fiercely. Soon she bragged to everyone about his ability to say a few words. Nobody took her very seriously – just murmured “um-m-m” in reply. I remember my uncle (in whose yard she lived) laughing about her claims to others in his cigarette-growly voice.

One July 4th several of us were lounging on this particular uncle’s front porch when Grandma came across the yard, swinging Billy’s cage in one hand. Uncle growled something about bird/talk/uh! that hopefully his little mother-in-law didn’t hear. She hung Billy’s cage on a prominent nail on the eave in front of us and settled in a chair. We resumed visiting.

Soon, in a lull in the conversation an unusual voice called out: “Bill’s a pretty bird – squaw-k-k-k – Bill’s a pretty bird!!” Uncle almost fell off his chair. My little grandma jumped up as if she were 12 years old and crowed, “I told you he could talk, I told you he could talk!!!” She didn’t settle down for 15 minutes; Billy, meanwhile, preened and cleaned, and never said another word the rest of the afternoon.

Now back to prayer.

We Christians sometimes view the power of prayer as grandma’s relatives regarded her claims about Billy’s vocabulary – with a few grains of salty reality. Yes, prayer helps - it does good things often, it’s fine to fall back on, but we are inclined to consider those a little simple-minded who urge reliance on prayer above and beyond all else, at all times and in all places and situations.

We tend instead to put a lot of trust in our personal skills, or determination, or innate savvy, and/or intellect to deal successfully with just about anything life throws at us. Yes, we look to prayer, but only after other attempts go south. Then – and only then will we consider it God’s turn to see what he can do.

Perhaps if I would turn to the Lord immediately, before I did another thing or consulted anyone else, any action I did take would be wonderfully wiser and more effective than measures enacted out of my human wisdom. After all the Lord does say, “Without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Monday, October 17, 2011

What did you say?

I realized recently that I had been mispronouncing a word all my life – well, since I could say fairly big words, anyway. Insolent. Not hard to see it isn’t “insolet,” is it? May be Word 101, but I managed to roll it off my tongue as insolet for more years than I want to add up.

One of my daughters-in-law brought another mispronouncement to my attention not long after she joined our tribe. As I described a certain sunny color to her, she observed, “Do you know you’re saying ‘yella’ instead of ‘yellow’? Well, no, I hadn’t noticed. As I began to monitor myself a little more closely, I caught several other mistakes in substituting lazy southern vernacular, such as: “pilla” (pillow), “fella” instead of fellow, “mirra” for mirror, and “wood jew” for would you. However, to justify myself a teeny bit, I hasten to point out that I do not drawl out “Loseziana” when referring to our southern neighbor, nor dollah for dollar (as Mississippians tend to do), or substitute “bidness” for business.

I suppose you’d call these lapses in correct English usage, “blind spots”: being unaware of errors. Such gaffes are fairly innocuous. Committing them likely will launch no wars, garner any jail time, or make us fatter (that happens only if we have to eat those words). If the possibility that you may be word-ignert keeps you awake at night, get a dictionary and start fixing the problem.

Other blind spots related to speech can be infinitely more serious. Many of us seem to pay little mind to Jesus’ teachings about our verbal communication. We sometimes cast questionable utterances in the “cute” category and spit them out anyway. “White” lies? Gossip? Words that soil our mouths, and dirty the air when allowed to escape? Words that flatter instead of “speaking the truth in love”? Sarcastic, demeaning words? Words designed to pacify instead of being a call to God’s truth? Oh man.

Do you say “Missoura” and “Miama”; how about “vi-eeʹ-na” sausages rather than Vienna sausages? Doesn’t really matter because minor mispronunciations – though annoying to others at times - don’t determine your destiny. Nor do they make or break relationships (if so, you’re probably better off without them), and neither do they bring a frown to the Lord’s brow.

Not so lying, vulgarity, gossip, malicious sarcasm, and cowardly language; these soul-shrinking, spirit-sickening blights delight the prince of darkness, as we betray the Holy One who lives within.

“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ, in God…” Col: 3:3

Friday, October 14, 2011

Morning Musings

It Ain’t Like It Used To Be

Just thinking of how different my life is now that our nest is empty.

I can mix different kinds of dry cereal together at my pleasure. When I used to attempt that with children in the house, the general consensus was “B-l-e-c-h! What have you done to the Cheerios?” And they stayed suspicious of me for several weeks, eyeing the contents of their bowls like a hawk. I was merely trying to eliminate some of the cereal box clutter – but you would have thought they suspected me of felonious activity.

My washer is not fearful anymore that its galvanized sides will burst wide open with a ton of whatever happened to be piled on the bedroom floor. Poor thing, it soon started to gulp and shake whenever one of the kids approached it. I had to do some intense recovery therapy before it would open up even to me.

Nowadays I don’t ever leave a clean kitchen and return to find a room so bizarrely different that I have to back up outside to check the address. But in the old days I might find: bread sacks blaring open, knife covered in mayo resting atop random pieces of cheese (also dotting the floor), juice left out after creating a sticky spill, cabinet doors gaping, drawers pulled out, and trails of crumbs exposing the sinner. Regarding the open drawers and cabinets, I once accused Jim of a genetic defect he’d passed along to our kids: he could use his arm to pull objects toward himself, but was incapable of pushing anything closed. He denied it, said it was my overactive imagination.

I gave up trying to turn my teen sons’ bedrooms into replicas of magazine pictures. Pretty sheet sets and handsome spreads were useless. The top sheets lived on the floor (violating my mother’s rule that one never, never sleeps next to the spread or comforter – Why? You’d ruin it). That dictate of polite society got stowed away just like those top sheets and my druthers.

Yes, life is different nowadays for sure. All the beds stay made up, the towels remain on the holders, scissors don’t disappear, both sheets adorn all the beds, and closets don’t smell like somebody’s tennis shoes contracted a disease, died, and rotted in them.

If I could, would I go back in time to picky eaters, offended appliances, bizarrely messy kitchens (and other rooms), various interesting odors, and home décor- challenged offspring?

In a heartbeat.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Rock This House!

Another one of those Encounters with God! I rose very early one recent Saturday, threw on clothes, gulped breakfast, brushed teeth, and with Bible and notebook in hand headed toward Ash Flat, AR. About midway I picked up two delightful teen girls, Lindsay and Jaycie.

What could be going on in Ash Flat, AR, that would cause teen girls to roll out of bed early on a Saturday?! Or for that matter a woman of age? We were about to find out.

Ash Flat is a small town - we're talking small. It's just on the other side of Evening Shade (remember that one?), settled in among the hills. The Church of Christ there - also small in number - has stepped out of the proverbial box, gone beyond expectations, and allowed the Lord to extend their horizons regarding "Ladies' Day."

On Friday evening the God-filled weekend began with local speakers, storytelling, drama, music and snacks! Although I wasn't there on Friday, I believe a potter highlighted the session by throwing a pot, applying a spiritual lesson while doing so. About 600 filled the fellowship hall!

The keynote speaker for the weekend, Jennifer Rothschild, has been featured on Dr. Phil, ABC’s Good Morning America, and the Billy Graham Television Special, and on other national TV and radio programs including Hour of Power, Life Today, Family Life Radio, TBN, and others. Her life story and message has been the cover story of numerous national publications including Today’s Christian Woman, Virtue magazine, Becoming Family magazine, HomeLife magazine, and others. She has authored six books, including Self Talk, Soul Talk, and Lessons I Learned in the Dark; you see, Jennifer has been blind since the age of 15.

Another young woman, her traveling companion, assisted Jennifer to the stage, then returned to her seat. We would never have guessed this lovely lady could not see if we hadn't already known. She was poised, graceful, looking out on us as if she had faultless vision. I did not detect a smidgen of self-pity; only intense thankfulness to God for his blessings on her life. She is a fan of Jesus Christ!

We were so blessed also by the worship sessions led by the praise team of the Ash Flat church. Composed of 8 or 10 men and women, they helped us lift the roof with songs of adoration for our Lord.

Lindsay, Jaycie and I left with our hearts full! (Our tummies too, a delicious feast was spread for us.)

Here's few excerpts from Jennifer's lesson:

Speculation and assumption never lead to faith in the Lord.

Sometimes God calms the storm; sometimes he calms my heart in the midst of the storm.

We are sometimes delivered through trials - not out of them.

REST versus RESIST: the only letter not found in REST is "I."

Jesus' response to unanswered prayer was commitment. When God didn't deliver him from the cross, he set his face to obey the Father. So should be our response to unanswered prayer.

The Ash Flat church hopes to have Max Lucado for next summer's Rock This House. Check their website for updates, and make your plans to attend!!!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Mixed Bag of Thoughts

God calls me to be completely satisfied by Him – not by any outward circumstances. If I have to live in a certain location, possess specific objects, or participate in this or that activity before I am content, then would God alone really be sufficient if everything else vanished?

Shouldn’t I be able to “be at home” anywhere – in any kind of situation because the God I love is with me?

I want to constantly examine myself and adjust my mind lest I grow so attached to my routine, home, possessions, way of life, health, even my loved ones, that I would be unable to function if any one or all of these were taken away. I’m not talking of normal sorrow or disappointment, but to be so crushed and bereft that I would conclude my life was over.


Lord, open my eyes to my subconscious idols. Don’t have to search very much before one pops to mind: wanting to call the shots when I “sacrifice.” I’m prone to cautiously outline (silently) just how this “sacrifice” will be implemented: how long, how far, how many and how much. All wrapped up in a neat little selfish package.

Synonyms for sacrifice are to give up, forgo, forfeit, let go … surrender!? Surrender means to “lay down your arms.” Could that have any meaning here? Boy, does it ever! When I assemble my arsenal of conditions to insure that I won’t be trapped into more than I want to do, I just took up arms. One who has surrendered to the lordship of Jesus Christ has no need for protective weapons. He isn’t the enemy!

O Lord, empower me to fully rest in you, trust in you, and abandon my will to yours.


Jesus was eager to celebrate the Passover with his disciples even though Judas would certainly be present, and even though the Lord knew Peter would betray him and all the others would run away in a very short time. He not only spent the evening “rubbing elbows” with them, he washed their feet.

What about us? Do we ever avoid fellowshipping certain people because we think they’ve behaved badly toward us or those we love? How arrogant!! Do we think we’re too good to be offended? Or that God has appointed us to activate the shunning of one who has treated a friend badly? If so then we must consider ourselves better than Jesus. Also, who knows how God will choose to work out his purposes through our association with that person – in both our lives.

Is my heart and spirit so in tune with my Lord, so intertwined with his heart, that I am eager to be with others, all others, especially my brothers and sisters in the Savior?


“Prayer is the first act of war when under attack.” – Beth Moore

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Weekend to Remember


Jim and I recently enjoyed a retreat. We traveled to Nashville, TN, to the Hermitage area thinking we’d be staying with a dear long-time friend, Ruby. However, we were unable to do so because of a death in her late husband’s family, and instead were invited to Ruby’s brother and sister-in-law’s home.

Even though Paul and JoAnn Odum live only minutes from a sizable shopping center, we felt as if we’d ventured deep into the countryside when we arrived. The foliage grew lushly and trees dipped over the narrow highway from both sides of the road, shading our drive.

Their red-brick house sat at the crest of a hill reached by a gently curving driveway. After parking in front of their home, we climbed steps that led still further upward. Borders of pink roses and nandina bushes flanked both sides of the walkway, the roses perfuming the air as we walked between them. The outdoor staircase ended at a welcoming porch adorned with granny rockers; they seemed almost to beckon us to plump down and “set a spell.” We resisted somehow and tapped on the door.

In moments Paul greeted us with a smile and with blue eyes twinkling, ushered us into the living room. JoAnn soon joined us from her work in the yard, and we began our most pleasurable weekend with the Odums.

Paul and JoAnn bought their place in 1993. The original dwelling was a log house, and after consideration, they decided to preserve it. Now that wonderful piece of history is imbedded within the additions they made, resulting in a supremely comfortable, beautiful home which they delight in, and generously use to delight others.

We feasted on meaty burgers for supper, grilled for us by Paul and JoAnn’s son, John, and eaten in a little gazebo-shaped dining area of the porch. Stuffed, we sipped homemade grape juice and talked till after dark. The tree frogs tried to outdo each other, gurping loudly from nearby trees while we became better acquainted, fellowshipping in the Lord.

We were privileged – and I was excited - to sleep upstairs in the loft. We ascended by way of a narrow staircase (installed by the previous owner) and rejoiced that we didn’t have to access our night's lodging as the first proprietors had - by clambering up a ladder by the fireplace. The loft. Right out of yesteryear! How many feet have tread upon that pine floor laid so long ago - how many conversations have the walls been privy to over the years? And the roof: how many weary folks have been lulled to sleep as rain tap, tapped on it?!). The Odums have stashed a spacious, modern bathroom at the back of the loft room, which made our stay absolutely perfect. I loved this loft from by-gone days, but love modern conveniences also; I do not grieve the demise of the outhouse associated with that era.

Everywhere I looked something bloomed or produced – fruit trees, grapevines, flowers, garden veggies, strawberries (the berries struggle a bit, but that’s between JoAnn and me). Honestly I can’t begin to remember everything we saw flourishing on both sides, behind, and in front of their home. After the shower the following day I almost could believe we had somehow been transported to a rain forest - the view from the window was lushly and luxuriantly green and moist.

Their creek at the bottom of the hill brings up visions of busy little boys, perhaps pint-sized Huck Finns and Tom Sawyers. Little boys would never, ever want to leave once they built their first dam or fort, or took a dive in the little pool. Or once they explored the woods surrounding this Tennessee Shangri-La for small people. Perhaps the two paddle wheels would capture their imaginations for hours of fun. Paul has worked hard on this enterprise, and has even more plans to implement in the future.

Our Sunday dinner (not a sissy luncheon) was a throwback to my childhood when the preacher came to eat with us: table loaded with everything under the sun, best dishes, lip-smackin’ desserts, and lots of good laughter and conversation. We were thrilled Ruby was able to come, and delighted not only in catching up with her, but also with other old friends we last saw 31 years ago. What a blessing!

What a weekend. What hospitality Paul and JoAnn freely gave to us. Especially so when they had such short notice that a couple they really did not know was going to invade the premises. Now that's graciousness at its finest. Thanks, friends.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Encountering (and colliding) with God

You just never know when God is going to bump into you – and you, him.

A lady learned recently what a beautiful thing it is to collide head-on with the Lord. Over the past several years, she had grown slack in her relationship with him and had not been in fellowship with a church family for a while. It grieved her, but she couldn’t seem to move herself to correct the situation. Shortly after relocating to a different state, she lost her husband. Neighbors who had already connected with her and her husband during his short illness were right there for her with food, comfort, and moral support. She hardly knew them, but they cherished her and her husband as if they all were old friends.

These neighbors invited her - now a new widow - to return with them to their church services (she and her husband had gone with them a time or two previously). She complied, thoroughly enjoying everything. She was drawn in to their weekly ladies Bible class, and also began helping with various other activities. She found a wonderful new friend, a wise older lady, also a member at the church. These activities and friends were life-savers as she confronted the many, many tasks widows sometimes must resolve by themselves, and which can take months, not weeks, to deal with.

Through one avenue at a time, the Lord began speaking to her in her spirit. In studying Jeremiah in ladies class, a burden settled on her: her need to repent of lukewarmness toward Jesus. She made up her mind she would share her burden and her repentance with these sweet women. However, in the service the next Sunday morning, everything seemed to unite to further prick her conscience: the song about heaven, and Amazing Grace – My Chains are Gone; then the sermon on forgiveness particularly moved her. The neighbor shared his handkerchief with her as they both wept.

She hadn’t intended to go forward at the invitation song, but after scribbling a note, she walked down the aisle and handed it to the minister. He read her confession aloud to the congregation. She told them she had not been faithful to the Lord before moving to their community, and felt she had set a bad example for her family, friends and relatives. The note concluded with “I now want to live each day for the Lord. I ask for prayers to set a good example for everyone around me. I now feel so free.”

The preacher asked God to use her repentance to touch many lives. Almost as soon as the words were out of his mouth, the father of four girls (who worked with the youth and taught the high school class) made his way to her and whispered that he was struggling with a lot of problems. In fact, he had decided to walk away and stop coming to church. But because of her open repentance and confession, he, in his words, "won’t do that now" and thanked her. Her response to God's call had enabled another to collide with the Almighty!

I’m sure she floated out of the building that morning!!

Her concluding thought in her email was this: “I am sorry I wasted years being a bad example and not being faithful like I should. I had many excuses too numerous to list why I just couldn't do... what I now am able to do with God's help.”

Praise the Lord for these collisions!! May we all have more of them.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Encountering God Through Grieving with Another

I visited with an old friend recently. We reminisced, caught up on our children’s doings and each other. Like most of us, her life has been checkered with sorrow, including the untimely death of her father of her two daughters.

We were silent for a long moment, thinking of our shared past. She said finally in a resigned voice, “You just don’t know what life’s going to throw at you; you just do what you have to do.”

I replied, “You’ve certainly had your share of suffering, and losing Pat was probably the worst.” Even though he died nearly 20 years ago, and she has been happily remarried for awhile, her blue eyes glistened as big tears welled up and overflowed. In a shaky voice she whispered, “And I still cry over that one.”

The death of one’s mate is not easily “gotten over.” I have not experienced that loss, but I’ve known many women who have. “My husband died” is a phrase stuffed so full of multiple emotions it’s a wonder it doesn’t burst wide open. Which is similar to how some widows feel in the days, months, even years after laying a husband to rest.

We who are on the outside looking in on this life struggle try to comfort and console: we deliver casseroles, pound cake and iced tea; we offer sympathies and clichés. Then after the “proper” amount of time has passed, we’re concerned if the bereaved woman is still grieving. We wonder about her if she wants only to talk of her loss when we visit. We try to involve her in activities and events (potlucks at church, a movie, a trip, a part-time job, etc.) to blot out the pain. If prematurely presented, these things are only a bandage covering the wound for a time. She still sorrows. At this point, after we’ve suffered long with her; after we’ve given all the comfort we can call up; after we’ve offered wise advice, even quoted Scripture, do we now, in a crevice of our minds, think: Okay, it’s time to get on with your life! Enough! I confess I did when I first confronted this type of pain. No more.

Mourning is a complicated process that cannot be shortened by a few well-meaning/chosen words and actions. It cannot be compressed into a Reader’s Digest version. In the days of the movie, "Gone with the Wind," a widow was given a full year to mourn a life turned upside down. Not such a bad idea – no expectations put on her, or early deadlines issued – the widow’s black clothing prescribed how others should treat her as she recovered.

Maybe we want so badly for the veil of sorrow to lift because we are terrifically uncomfortable and nervous when faced with the grief of another. True, it’s soggy, sad, and frankly, not much fun. Perhaps a popular statement is in order here: It’s not about me - it's not about us. It’s about the woman who's suffered the loss of her mate. It's the supreme act of love to grieve with that widow, offering no platitudes and not attempting to cut short the tears. To listen heartfully every time as she remembers, agonizes, and/or worries about the future. It’s part of the healing process. Include her in your life, invite her to accompany you to whatever, but if she declines, accept it graciously. And continue to include and invite (not badgering) until she’s ready to accept.

It’s not about me, or us; it’s about her.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Chosen

I wasn’t chosen.

Now that could be a happy or sad occasion. If, as a kid, I wasn’t picked to be a part of a softball team I was sad indeed. However, if the teacher passed over me and chose some other unfortunate individual for an oral book report, I went limp with relief. And so it went. Chosen for this; not chosen for that. Happy – sad. In other words, life.

My latest chosen/not chosen episode took place in a far loftier atmosphere than an arid, weedy ball field – a judicial building in our small town.

We, the chosen jury pool, dutiful citizens all, huddled together one rainy, cold Monday morning in the Wilbur D. Mills Court House. Yawning, shivering, some of us slightly moist, we each answered “Here” as our names were called by a smiling circuit clerk. May I say all the court officials were super courteous? They were, from the cheerful bailiff who greeted us at the court room door, to the just-mentioned pleasant circuit clerk, to the gentlemanly lawyers, to the soft-spoken judge with an appropriate twitch of humor. Don’t know about the court reporter, she had her hands full and didn’t any pay attention to us. (It occurred to me that our bailiff would outperform Judge Judy’s somber officer any day of the week.)

At the beginning of this adventure, I asked the Lord to do with me as He wanted. Before you admire me too abundantly, I also added a post script that He knew I did not want to do this, but YWBD (your will be done, for those of you unfamiliar with church talk). Plus I felt a little guilty not wanting to participate in the process since I am an American citizen. Still didn’t want to do it, though.

As the dreary morning wore on, 18 potential jurors and alternates moved to front row seats as each was chosen. One of them, a long-time acquaintance, threw me a glance that really looked like a sigh as she rose from her seat. When the final alternate was seated, I exhaled a small whoosh of relief – I hadn’t been chosen! However, underneath the relief, a tiny sprig of disappointment wriggled (to my surprise). I stepped on it immediately and breathed: Thank you, Lord, for sparing me.

Oh, but it wasn’t over yet: one of the selected asked to speak to the judge. He recounted his tale of woe which concerned his mother-in-law. No, not the things he disliked about her, if any; he was supposed to transport her to the airport that afternoon smack in the middle of the trial. His Honor opined that he surely didn’t want to be party to anyone getting in trouble with his mother-in-law and dismissed him from duty.

We, the leftovers, tightened those muscles so recently relaxed and waited with bated breath to see who the next offering might be. Lord I meant what I said: YWBD. But please don’t let them chose me!!

Me! It was me - I mean, it was I! I was chosen as the replacement! Okay, Lord, I’m good with this. I scrubbed past the once-again-relieved fellow waiters to take my place with the selected few.

After 30 minutes or so of both defense and prosecuting attorneys questioning us about prejudices, opinions, etc., it was time to select the final 12 and an alternate. Lord, you know the routine: YWBD. But…!

Many minutes later, just before the clerk called out the name of the 12th juror, I wondered how God would finish this up. Didn’t have long to wait; yep, I would be one of the 12. I was number 12, as a matter of fact. As I sat down in the box, a friend sent me a slightly evil grin from his seat of “unchosenness,” relishing my fate.

In spite of this seemingly done deal, the Lord wasn’t quite done. Just as I settled in and began to feel important and elite and even kind of biblical (Jesus chose 12, didn’t He?), the clerk corrected, “My mistake - Mrs. Woodell is supposed to be the alternate for this jury, not one of the 12.” I changed seats with the lady next to me. I’m still good with this, Lord, even though I’m not biblical anymore. I’m demoted. YWBD.

But the Lord wasn’t done, even yet. After lots of paper shuffling, a little conferring with the attorneys and a word to the judge, Ms. Clerk said, “My bad – Mrs. Woodell isn’t supposed to be the alternate.” Then she spoke these words alight with sunbeams and garlands of roses and cotton candy: “Mrs. Woodell, you are excused from jury duty; you are free to go.”

This time I was the evil grinner as I exited the box.

And don’t try to tell me that God doesn’t have a sense of humor.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


If any man thirst …

Drinking water isn’t an option. A nurse recently called my attention to the scarcity of H2O in my body. She looked at the results of a urinalysis and exclaimed with passion, “You must drink more water!!” I guess it’s true that just because you don’t detect or recognize the signs of thirst doesn’t mean your body isn’t dry.

So it is spiritually. Thousands of people don’t have a detectable yearning for spiritual water, but that doesn’t mean their souls aren’t as parched as my yard in August. If someone does become aware of a soulful emptiness, chances are he or she will try to assuage it with a placebo. You know what a placebo is – a sugar pill or some other totally ineffective “remedy” for what’s ailing you. It’s not the real thing. Sadly, a vast part of our world relies on magic potions instead of the only Cure.

Christians use placebos too. I’ve done it, and may again if I’m not alert to Satan’s deceptions. Those in the world, and we who claim the Lord both may seek exciting diversions/recreations, gather possessions, be completely absorbed in our families, become some of “holic,” or perhaps pursue the perfect romantic relationship - anything to quiet that ache within.

Many Christians may spurn the above tactics, but have a go at self-medication with perfect church attendance, communion, singing in a prescribed manner, or refraining from becoming overly chummy with those outside their “boundaries.” The less-conservative might depend on the weekly spirited praise and worship service as an antidote for their thirst, or close fellowship of like-minded brothers and sisters, or an outside-the-box benevolent or evangelistic mission.

Most of the activities mentioned are A-Okay. Who could argue against a dynamic worship assembly? The Lord’s Supper is a powerful part of Jesus Christ. Who doesn’t want (and need) wonderful fellowship? Nothing wrong with buying a couch. Falling in love will never perish from the earth. We certainly must relieve the misery of the poor. And didn’t Jesus say something fairly important about seeking the lost?

The catch, or hitch in our get-a-long occurs when we try to substitute any of these for the intimate relationship the Lord God longs to have with each of us. No stand-in for this will ever, ever work. I can’t have a meaningful relationship with a cracker and sip of grape juice; same thing goes for the newest and liveliest song. Intimate companionship with others will alleviate my thirst until they have to go home.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want a spiritual sugar pill – I want the Lord!! I don’t want anything that surrounds my God in the way of spiritual trimmings; I want the Center of those accessories!!! The Rock of my salvation. I don’t want the salvation alone – I long for the Source of that salvation. No Gator-ade for me; only the Living Water.

Pray for steadfastness in pursuit of the Savior Himself; pray for a stronger thirst, and pray that none of us settles for a sugar pill.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Encountering God

God is also in the down-to-earth, everyday goings-on of life. I'm so glad!! I realized I was experiencing his presence not long ago while in the midst of a home church meeting. Part of the group is made up of one family: mom, dad, their son, his wife and their baby, and two grown daughters with their respective families.

The Lord has blessed the three young couples with four little boys among them, ages about 4 years to 5 months. Lively, sunny-natured little guys who adore each other, they have a ball at gran and grandad's home. As we grown-ups attacked the food, the three older youngsters giggled with delight (that special joy only close boy cousins share), chasing each other in and around the taller people. Mamas and daddies monitored their speeds and slowed them down when necessary. Every now and then a couple of the men wondered about the activity at their kneecaps; when they looked down, they beheld short fellows in pajamas karate-chopping their patellas. All in fun, no harm done.

The three mamas, dads and the grandparents worked together as a team, corraling and caring for the bundles of energy. I heard, "Do you want me to fix his plate?" or "I can give him his bottle." Kisses and hugs were bestowed randomly and often. If by chance one of the boys fell victim to an owie, comforters were johnny on the spot.

The 18-month old took time out from frolicking to make a sudden stop in front of his grandmother - he mumbled some request in a strange language. She understood it! Turning to his mother, she asked, "Is it okay to give him this?" (Respect. Granmom did not want to ignore parental rules, or even preferences.) Mom nodded okay, and her son flashed a grin that dazzled all close by.

The 5 month old spent the evening being cradled and smooched on by mom, aunts, grandmom and granddad. Anytime relief was needed, many willing hands reached out to aid the baby's mommy. He was content with every one of his adoring relatives!

Correction - sometimes hard to give in a crowd - was handled firmly, and with respect to the children. I didn't hear ridicule, sarcasm, harsh, screaming voices or inappropriate language erupting.

Even though the great-grandparents weren't there this evening, I can't leave them out! They're very much involved in the lives of their children, grandchildren, and great-grans. The two of them gladly help out in times of need, and know their little great-grans well from frequent contact with them. Once at another get-together, I saw one of the granddaughters lean over, kiss her grandmother on the cheek and whisper her thanks for their wonderful help when she was sick. Great-grandmother also teaches their Sunday School class weekly.

I know these families aren't perfect. They suffer stress, anxieties, misunderstandings and other problems just like we all do. They even make mistakes!

However, the point is not whether they do everything right; the point is that God has been invited to live among them. He binds them together in love. And the Lord's influence was so obvious that night as they loved on those kids, on each other, and on those of us who were privileged to watch God in their midst.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Bark and Babies

Frustrated that squirrels were systematically chewing all the bark off her Japanese maples, a lady wrote to an expert for help. "What's going on?" she asked. "The pests don't even eat the bark; they spit it on the ground. They're killing my trees!!"

The expert, in a calm voice that came through the newsprint, soothed the tree owner, assuring her the damage is most likely superficial even though the maples may look seriously wounded. Then she surmised - only a theory, mind you - that expectant female squirrels are the culprits, and, they are gnawing the bark off to relieve their labor pains. Well!

The more I considered this sad situation, the more I pitied those poor lady squirrels. They don't have the benefit of Lamaze instruction. They don't enjoy the option of screaming for an epidural - "AND I MEAN RIGHT NOW!!!!" They can't even grovel for any of that fake pain-reliever, Demerol. And those cowardly daddy squirrels who could be coaching have probably holed up somewhere, smoking cigars until it's all over. These ladies have to go natural-baby-squirrel-birth all the way. So they attack trees.

Now before you laugh out loud, just think for a moment. If you've delivered a baby, don't you remember certain stages of that experience when you might well have chewed some bark had it been handy? Actually ripped it right off a tree?! Then spat it on the ground and dared anyone to say anything? It might be immensely satisfying to add this component to the baby-delivery saga. Maybe we ought to request a few potted trees in the labor and delivery unit.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

That Unruly Tongue

If there's one thing my mom and dad would not tolerate, it was bad language. Perhaps they'd been warned by their respective parents that if they wanted to die early in life then just say some naughty words aloud. Whether or not my grandparents' took that perspective I can't say; I know my mother and father did. Especially anathema in our home was dragging God's name through the mouth lightly. "My Lord!" was a commonly heard expression with some, but it better not slip past any lips in our house!

I never heard my dad use one curse word, unless you count "Dast it!!!" That seldom-used expression exploded from him only when something or other was tromping on his last nerve - accompanied by purplish face and clenched teeth. Usually an ornery car was to blame. My mother let one "bathroom" word slip one time when she was extremely provoked (on purpose) by my father. Something to do with him pretending to run into a tree as we motored into the church parking lot.

My folks' aversion to smutty and irreverent talk did not prevent me from indulging in that sort of talk when I was a teen. Some sort of statement to my world, I suppose, about how I was not under anyone's thumb - certainly not my parents'. I was a grown-up, sophisticated lady, er, girl, with her very own potty mouth. I still blush with shame remembering my stupidity.

Eventually, praise God, the stupidity receded somewhat. When I married, I trashed the expletitives, even developed an outright aversion to them. I suppose I thought that since I now considered myself an adult, I ought to act like one. I was free!! Later a more compelling reason harnessed my tongue: if I claimed to be washed in the blood of the Lamb then shouldn't I behave as though I were washed in the blood of the Lamb?

"Hallelujah, my tongue problem has been dealt with!" That's what I thought all those years ago. Ha!! I had only imagined my tongue was at last well-behaved. The Lord let me know quickly that He also had something against g-o-s-s-i-p (which I was still committing). And saying hateful words to my husband. And hurtful things to my children. And illegal use of sarcasm to slyly disparage another person. And judgmental slurs from my superior self's mouth about those not as perfect as I. Not to mention putting a stained glass slant on my words at times (even when I didn't feel that way) so as to sound properly spiritual to others. Oh, me.

Is it a revelation to you that my struggle to allow the Holy Spirit to taste and approve my words before I let them dribble or explode from behind my teeth is still going on? I think not, because you're a people too. I'm resigned that my training process may continue for awhile. Maybe even until my dying day. I fervently pray, however, that the Spirit will grow stronger and more masterful; that my tongue daily become less connected to me, and more attached to Him. I believe that will happen.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


This poem was published in our Sunday morning bulletin - perhaps its sentiments will make us be more sensitive to the lonely in our midst:

Loneliness is like a piano without keys,
Like a violin without strings,
Like a sanctuary without a congregation
Or a choir where no one sings.
Loneliness is like a blade of grass
Growing through a crack in cement.
Loneliness is like a camp ground
Without a single tent.
Loneliness is like a mocking bird
That cannot sing a song.
Loneliness is a feeling
That one does not belong,
Like a pansy in a corn field
Hidden where no one can see.
I know all there is to know about loneliness
Because it lives inside of me. -Unknown

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Man of My Dreams

I want to share someone else's Encounter with God with you today - one of those special persons who is very dear to my heart.

I grew up in a world where honesty was relative - relative to how you were feeling at the moment, or relative to each situation. I learned that I could get what I wanted many times by "bending the truth": by leading people to believe certain things about me that were not true. I so wanted to control the perception of others toward me; I longed for them to love me and to rescue me from what I considered an awful existence.

Because I was the oldest child, I had quite a few responsibilities, one of which was taking care of my younger siblings until my mom got home from work. During those years, I remember craving more one-on-one time with my mother - more attention from her in general. Soon I found that if I made up things, she noticed me!

I began with small untruths, but the stories grew as I matured. By the time I was in high school I really had mastered the art of deception. It was as natural to me as breathing.

The day I turned 18 I acquired a boyfriend (ten years older) who believed all the nonsense I told him about my life and family. I concocted tales that I thought would make him continue to love me - after all, I thought, there's no way he would love the real me - who on earth could? I was an awful person. I dreamed of him as my knight in shining armor, galloping in on a white horse to save the day ... by taking me to his castle far, far away from my real life.

A few years later God got ahold of me and I became a Christian. Still, something was missing. I thought, "These church people are great, but if they got to know the real me they would not want me around." So I continued to search for the man who would fix everything - my functional savior.

One day I was reading my Bible and came across scriptures about Jesus standing at the door, and about God giving me the desires of my heart. They only made me angry. “I’ve committed my life to you” (but not completely) “and you are not giving me the desire of my heart. Why, God? Why?”

Since God really speaks to me through songs, I cried out in my anger and sadness, writing a song to him filled with my frustrations:

Who am I waiting for, and who am I searching for?
Who’s the one to come to fill my needs?
Who am I waiting for and who should be at my door?
Where is the man of my dreams?

I’ve been letting you lead my life
From every thought to every deed,
Now I ask you, Father, can you please tell me
Is there someone out there for me?

I wrote the song in my journal, and would cry often about how God must not love me – he must know the real me. If he really loved me, he would give me what I want when I want it. I would like to say that only seconds passed before I realized how foolish that belief was, but it was over a year.

By this time I was no longer dating, and had begun pouring myself into God’s word. Then one day as I read, God beautifully finished my song:

Quietly I sit reading your word,
I know you can hear me.
And finally, today,
Deep in my heart I can hear you whisper and say:

“My child,
I am the One you’re waiting for; I am the One you’re searching for,
I am the One who died to meet your needs,
I am the One you’re waiting for,
I am standing at your door,
I AM the Man of your dreams.”

I finally got it! And I finally received what I longed for so much – One who would come and rescue me! I had been too consumed with ME to see him.

Two years later God brought a man into my life who loved the Lord just as much as I did, and, who loved the REAL me. So I married him.

Monday, January 3, 2011


I want to borrow someone else’s Encounter with God - it will lift your spirit!

A couple and their helpers traveled to Mississippi and set up their large fireworks tent for holiday revelers several miles from Jackson. Several competitors’ tents also dotted the lot, each of varying sizes. This husband and wife speculated that afternoon about everyday matters: the amount of money they would take home from the stacks of Roman candles, rockets, plain old firecrackers, sparklers, and other novelty items, if they would make enough to pay the helpers well, and noted the number of cars clustered around the other tents comparing them with the number who had chosen their wares. They didn’t suspect they would encounter the Lord and his mercy in such a spectacular way on this Mississippi afternoon.

As they and their workers tended to business, a fearsome tornado roared down upon them! They fled the tent, all five of their little group, jumping into a pick-up truck; the wife curled in the floor of the vehicle, arms cradling her belly, trying to protect the child within her.

The storm picked up the canvas tent as we might snatch up a dish cloth, and tangled it in a power line. One bundle of fireworks sped through the air past the frightened crew in the truck (every one of whom was praying aloud); all watched the storm grab $50,000 worth of fireworks and hurl them into the skies - to vanish. Even if they’d been concerned anymore about being bested in sales, it was a moot point. No tents remained to compete.

The truck and its occupants were unhurt.

As they crawled from the truck cab, the thoughts they’d entertained earlier had vanished like the fireworks and the tornado. No longer were they concerned about whether their supply of pyrotechnics would sell and how many would sell, and how much profit they’d take home. Only praises for their God filled them!

Later they returned to the motel to find another blessing: a generator to power lights and other conveniences. But the best was yet to come.

A man with a saxophone appeared in the midst of the devastation, and proceeded to play How Great Thou Art. The husband, in relating the story later, proclaimed it “The most wonderful worship service I’ve ever been in!” Another worshipful Encounter with God when he used music to feed the soul.

One last grace note: The wife’s purse with about $800 in it flew away with the fireworks - but God allowed them to find it.