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).