Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Coupons and Maturity

Don’t you wish you could download a coupon off some internet site for a stronger, more beautiful and vibrant spirit? How convenient to redeem a heavenly coupon at a godly corner market for instant spiritual growth!

Alas, it doesn’t work that way.

Yes, I can use a coupon to purchase shampoo that promises “thicker, fuller hair” (and probably for my dog’s hair too), but it doesn’t fluff up my heart one bit.

The Psalms state many truths so eloquently, and they don’t fail us now:
“Send out your light and your truth; let them guide me. Let them lead me to your holy mountain, to the place where you live” (43:3). Isn’t that where we long to live – with God?

Who is this Light the psalmist mentions? Who is this Truth? Jesus, of course! He blazed the way so that we can be “dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed” (1 Pet 2:24).

How are we to live for what is right? How are we to know what is right?

Peter lays it out in his 2nd letter, chapter 1:5-7, 10b: “Make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love … Do these things and you will never fall away.”

Do we add these to our new nature under our own steam? Hardly.
“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen” (Eph 3:20-21).

My grown-up grans are awesome. They are productive, God-fearing and loving people. Still, I can’t hold any one of them on my lap, and not one has snuggled in between Jim and me at night lately. I haven’t pretended to eat chocolate dirt pudding with the 27 year old in quite a while. You see what I’m saying?

Our younger four are still open to that stuff. VERY open. I love it – I want it to last forever! But I know so well that it’s contrary to God’s intentions for them to stay little. I know too that we eventually would grieve over their lack of maturity – it’s unnatural. So it is with us, folks.

“You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong” (Heb 5:12-14).

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Last night

I had organized a group of people to attend a special event at a local university. They were riding in the same car, chauffeured by a young guy I had hired for the occasion. Two children, excited about being included, chattered with the amused adults. Two little girls, children of one of the women, stayed behind with me.

Sometime later my cell phone buzzed. One of the children, an eight year old girl, with cracking voice told me she was lost. After piecing together her muddled story I decided that she had gotten separated from the group, gave up searching in the building and slipped outside, hoping to find them there.

Why are you still outside? I immediately wondered, but didn’t ask because she added in a tremulous voice, “Scary-looking men are out here, and they’re looking at me. What am I going to do?” She erupted into sobs.

My blood pressure veered skyward. “Get back inside right now,” I ordered.

“I can’t” she wailed, “The door is locked!”

I thought my heart was going to thump its way right out of my chest. I couldn’t think; my brain was befuddled.

I needed to alert the chauffeur – didn't have his cell number. My frustration centered on him. Why had he not kept up with the child? I should never have used him – he’s completely irresponsible!

I raced around, trying various numbers, getting nowhere. Minutes passed. Suddenly one of the little girls quietly asked, “Do you have an altar?”

Surely I misheard her. “Have a what?” I turned to look at her. Why would she ask a totally unrelated question like that in this time of upheaval? Didn’t she see I was frantic?

Her curly head bent over a coloring book, she repeated, “An altar. You know, to pray.”

Shame slowly seeped through my being. To pray hadn’t even entered my consciousness. We, a humbled grown-up and two cherubs, retired to our knees and sought the face of God.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the dream I had last night.

Thank you, Lord.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Psalm of Spring

O Lord, our Lord, how great,
How excellent you are!

At your bidding, the pear tree
gowns herself in soft, snowy sweetness.

You beckon, and the jonquils
rise from the chilled earth,
their laughing, sunny faces turning
upward to you.

At your gentle command, tiny
lavender-hued violets
leap up with joy, carpeting the
barren ground.

Summoned by your voice, the sleeping
forsythia awakes
to adorn her graceful limbs with
exquisite golden array.
She shouts the glory of you,
her maker!

You tenderly whisper to the dogwood;
he obediently heralds his rebirth
with waxen, delicate flow'r.

Herb, grass, shrub, pinewood, silent
meadow -
slumbering soil -
all resurrect at your behest
to praise your holy, holy name!

O Lord, our Lord,
How great, how excellent you are!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Doin’ Nuthin’

Once, while in my getaway nest, it occurred to me I needed to get busy and do something worthwhile. After all, didn’t I somehow have to pay for this time alone? Nothing is free, you know.

It wasn't acceptable to do nothing. “Nothing,” as defined by some such as: reading a book for entertainment, leafing through magazines, or steeping in a bathtub of warm water. Napping. Playing around with watercolors. Grazing in a discount store, or, literally doing nothing. Sitting quietly, thinking. When I do such things, this vague feeling always slips in that I’m probably lollygagging – and that’s an activity that’s a little iffy for God’s disciple. That troublesome feeling makes me rebuke my un-industrious self: “Get busy! Get yourself in gear!! (I could almost hear a whip cracking.)

Good grief!

Who conveyed to me this guilt-soaked concept that doing nothing occasionally is an abomination? An abomination to whom? Perhaps to those who see incessant bustling as “next to godliness”?
My parents didn’t teach me that perpetual “productive” motion is a fruit of the Spirit. As a kid mom and dad allowed me to explore, pretend, devour books, or simply hang out in trees - thoroughly delighting in my world. Oh, I had chores – work was essential in our family, but, thank the Lord, my parents also were good with “do-nothing” time.

Maybe if I work at it hard enough (huh?), I can shush that nagging voice that snips at me when I do “nothing important.” You know what? In “doing nothing” I just might glean some inexpensive ideas to help young women on limited budgets (is that mentoring?). The watercolor dabbling may morph into illustrations for the book on contentment for my grans. (It did.)That nap could sweeten my disposition by the time hubby comes home –yea! That fictional novel convicted me with its message on forgiveness.

Best of all, doing nothing, being still and quiet with my God may bring me into an intimate relationship with him I would never have otherwise experienced.

Perhaps “doing nothing” isn’t so bad after all.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Way back in the dark ages Jim and I, along with two very small children, drove inland every weekend from Charleston, SC, to a tiny town named for a state senator. Jim, a machinist’s mate on a submarine, aimed to be a minister, and longed to get some preaching experience in and around his final two years in the Navy. So, God arranged for us to fellowship with the church family in Barnwell.

Forty or 50 generally showed up for Sunday morning worship in the small, red-brick building on Dunbarton Boulevard. A friendly and hospitable group, I believe we saw the inside of every home in that little church family during those two years.

The Green family never failed to fill the second pew from the front on the right side: four beautiful daughters and their equally attractive mother, Gladys. She, Mary Francis, Anna Sue, Kay and Sharon carried the song service as their voices blended in graceful harmony. Song-leader husband and dad, Johnny, gazed proudly down at his little chorus as he directed.

Johnny hailed from Tennessee; Gladys was a dyed-in-the-wool native of South Carolina. You had to hear her accent to believe it – a typical greeting to a newcomer would sound like this: “Hello, Am’m Gla-a-dis Gree--en. So happy to meetchu-u-u!” I loved it, and her. Only about a third of their offspring still lived under their roof; two married sons and a daughter completed the family. Sitting at the kitchen table once, watching her stir a pot, I asked her if she had gathered lots of recipes over the years. She looked at me in disbelief and replied, “Honey, I just try to keep stomachs filled up, I don’t have time to try re-s-s-ipes!”

We loved visiting them in their miniscule three-bedroom home, filled with teen girls applying make-up, carefully spraying bouffant hairdos, giggling, talking on the phone to boys, and listening to mama’s admonitions about life. They lavished attention on our Ginger, age two– she loved it, of course.
We dropped in unexpectedly on the Hammet family one Saturday afternoon. Homer, Dip and their two children welcomed us with delight and insisted we share their meal. Peas, rice and hoe cake -- what a feast!!
Dip had cooked since before she could remember. She learned to make biscuits (a necessity for every South Carolina cook) when she was five or six, standing on a cardboard box to reach the counter-top. With her mother’s apron tied around her a couple of times and drooping to her feet, she mixed and rolled and cut out every morning until she arrived at perfection (much to her daddy’s relief). Her mother left very early every day to clean houses; Dip’s dad had a problem with drinking and didn’t work often. However, working or not, he “had to have biscuits” for breakfast so his little girl stepped in.

Because Dip’s adult responsibilities began when she was so young, I wasn’t wildly surprised to learn that she married at age 12. Her military husband left immediately for England for three years’ duty. During that absence Dip matured to the ripe old age of 15 and began life as a married woman. I never heard her groan or complain about her experiences; she wasn’t bitter toward her dad or mom, and loved Homer and her children deeply. She especially loved her Savior and enjoyed the church family.

Another family seemed to have a revolving door policy: they welcomed anyone, anytime, for any reason. Young people constantly dropped in because they knew Claude and Shirley really liked, and even enjoyed them. Shirley could bake biscuits that would do any South Carolinian proud, even if she was a Georgia cracker!! She looked Hispanic with dark hair and skin, and remained reed slim though mother to five boys. Shirley’s parenting was mostly carefree: she didn’t worry overmuch about waxy ears or little boys making themselves dirty. Hugs and kisses abounded, however, and she had been known to weep with a pre-teen son over a broken romance.

Claude was a metallurgist at the near-by Savannah River Plant. His expression of sternness belied his dry wit and humor, which he used on everyone. Some men carry with them an air of calm authority, and Claude was one of those. Despite the outward appearance, though, he was a bucket of panicky goo if one of his boys met with an accident or was in pain for any reason. Several of the church’s teen girls vowed quite openly in Shirley’s presence that if she died, they were going to marry Claude. How they planned to narrow the group down to one was never discussed.

Then there was Jean and J. C. Satterfield. This couple adopted at least eight children over the years. As with most parents, they struggled mightily with each one. Either they were waking every few minutes night after night to feed twin preemies, or caring for a severely handicapped toddler, or winning the trust of an abused child, or wrestling with teens, just to mention a few situations. Jean hailed from Utah - blustery, strong-minded, plain-spoken, yet with a golden heart lurking underneath those protective layers. She missed her home and family very much; she never quite acclimated herself to this obscure little town. A former Latter-day Saint, Jean had consented to become a member of her husband’s church. Even so, she remained aloof in many respects and provoked members over the years by questioning set-in-stone tenets. I believe the greatest source of her unrest resulted from the Barnwell church’s prevailing dictates about divorce and remarriage. A youthful Jean had divorced her first husband, eventually marrying J. C. I felt she was never at peace in the Lord, always questioning her salvation because of that early mistake. I so wish I had one more chance to encourage her! How insensitively we treat the wounded ones at times.

Jim and I left Charleston, and thus, Barnwell, in 1967 when he had completed his time with Uncle Sam. We’ve returned infrequently since then, and both rejoiced and grieved to see various changes in the little church family. I wish we had emphasized love and compassion much, much more, and strongly championed the love of Jesus instead of some other issues. But we were very young, and fairly new in the faith … so there you are.

I thank God that he blessed us through the sisters and brothers in Barnwell. I still love them dearly.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Frames and Paintings

I like picture frames. I mean I like to hang picture frames on the wall with no pictures in them. My family stares at them and says, Why’d you do that? I got the idea from a magazine, where I get 99% of my ideas. Whether ornate, simple, made of wood, metal, or ceramic – an arrangement of lowly rectangles artfully arranged on a blank wall is impressive to me.

But really, frames are purposed for better things. The goal of a border-surround is to outline a watercolor or oil creation, a portrait or a print. It should be unobtrusive, never calling attention to itself, but drawing interest to its contents! It’s all about the picture.

You know, one’s outward appearance is similar to a picture frame. Our bodies (and the way we dress or don’t), our eyes, hair, smile, speech, body language – all meld together to constitute a “frame” or enclosure for our inward selves, our spirits. Accordingly, in a spiritual sense my inner woman should be the centerpiece of my whole self, not the visible part of me.

Yeah, I like empty picture borders as d├ęcor. But they’re still empty. They surround air; nothing is there.

Spiritually, I can find myself in a similar situation: mostly frame, surrounding quite a bit of air. If I regularly lavish attention on my outward person and accompanying trappings, but ignore that inner woman,then the real me can be obscured, or fade away.

Just as an appropriate frame showcases a particular picture, so my outward personal appearance can and should speak of God’s beauty living within. If I profess to adore Jesus Christ, but belie that declaration by my sexy, scanty clothing, others will scratch their heads in confusion, wondering which to believe. If my expression invariably is joyless and dark, dare anyone think a joyful, vibrant Jesus-follower resides within that “frame”? If my words cannot be trusted or believed, or slanderously afflict others, or if I am indifferent to pain and suffering around me, it could be that a painting exists, but so faded and dim it’s almost impossible to see.

Just something to think about.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Being Open

Did something impulsive the other day. Walked in my kitchen, surveyed the cabinets and asked my long-suffering husband if he’d remove the doors from some of them for me.

Sure, he said. So he did.

At first the effect of all that nakedness was disconcerting. I felt as though I were peeking in someone’s window. So much openness! Too much, I secretly thought at first. I didn’t share my misgivings with Jim. I really wondered if I could deal with it. After calming down a bit, the second thought was just as unsettling: a little more order was in order. Actually a whole lot more order.

I began prettying up the view. Jumbles were separated and either placed side by side, or relegated to another area. Little-used bowls and glasses moved to a different location; paring down the number of objects so one didn’t get jittery just looking up.

Some reworking: propped saucers upright against the cabinet back so everyone can enjoy their pretty faces; ditto, big platters on the shelf below, and situated black dishes at intervals to “anchor” the display. Surrounding the stove, metal mixing bowls, Pyrex measuring cups and miscellaneous stuff stared back at me. Not suitable for confrontation by the public. So I switched out bowls for glass canisters of flours, sugars (brown and white), an old coke bottle with coarse pepper therein, a lovely tall green bottle of sunflower oil and the wonderful rusty-red hue of Old Bay seasoning making a plain bottle special.

It’s kind of like having a limb removed though. You still think it’s there. I don’t know how many times I’ve tried to close cabinet doors, and grabbed air; I even ducked a couple of times so one of those phantoms wouldn’t deck me.

I’m slowly getting used to my “new” kitchen. Now, however, I see what else must be done because the holes left by hinge nails aren't attractive. I’ll have to sneak up on Jim one of these days and broach that little subject. He thinks his job is done and he’s gloriously free to deer hunt to his heart’s content. Poor guy.