Sunday, April 27, 2008

Stories About My Grandpa

It was truly a joy yesterday as we celebrated my Grandpa's 90th birthday. He was feeling great, looking well, and sharp as a tack mentally, greeting the 40+ family members and more than 25 guests with smiles and hugs.

As we shared a family meal last night after the birthday festivities were over, some funny stories surfaced about Grandpa. Just a couple of weeks ago, arrangements had been made by my uncle in Arkansas (where Grandpa lives) for the airline to provide an escort for Grandpa to get from the plane to the baggage claim area where he was to meet my aunt. Grandpa's health has been suspect off and on over the last few years, so when he was wheeled up in a wheelchair, my aunt hugged him and ask him to point out his bags, expecting that she would grab them as they came by. When he pointed out one bag, Aunt Debbie reached for it, not realizing she was mistaken. Grandpa recognized her error, leaped from the chair, dove for the correct bag, handily lifted it from the conveyor belt, tossed it back to Aunt Debbie, and returned to the wheelchair. Aunt Debbie said the expressions on the faces of those around her clearly revealed that they'd seen a miracle! They certainly didn't expect to see an elderly man in a wheelchair exhibit such spunk!

After this story last night, requests were made for other anecdotes, at which point Grandpa rose. We all thought he was going to tell a story on himself. Instead, with great earnestness and seriousness of expression, he said, "I've had a wonderful time with all of you, and I've enjoyed seeing your faces and visiting with you immensely. But this party is digressing, so I think it's time for you to all go home!"

Before he could usher us out the door, though, another story had to be told. My aunt described the faithful leadership of Grandpa to lead his family in devotions and reading of Scripture as they grew up. Even Grandpa himself told me when he was here last Monday how they'd regularly worshiped together as family. On one particular night, after a long day of working in the garden, Grandpa had one child read from the Bible and then asked another child to read from the devotional guide. Grandpa traditionally closed the time in prayer. When it came Grandpa's turn, Grandma and all eight kids instinctively bowed their heads, waiting for him to address the Lord. Instead, what they heard from his spot on the couch was a long, loud snore!

It was at this point in the evening last night that Grandpa reminded us he'd recently made out his will and could certainly go home and change it.

Not shared yesterday (that should have been) was the Christmas when he and Grandma offered their bed to Uncle Dale and Aunt Dorothy, and they would in turn sleep in the guest room. While Grandpa and Uncle Dale played a late-night game of Risk, Grandma and Aunt Dorothy went to their beds. When the men finished their game, Uncle Dale stayed up to continue playing with some other night-owls, but Grandpa called it quits to go to bed. He got to the room, quietly removed his socks and shoes, pulled off his trousers and shirt, and softly crawled into bed. Rolling over to gently kiss Grandma good night, he found my Aunt Dorothy lying there with him instead! What Grandpa didn't know was that the women had changed their minds about the sleeping arrangements. Grandma was back in their bedroom and my aunt and uncle were to sleep in the guest room after all! Grandpa never again got dressed as quickly as he did that night.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Welcome to Our Worship

Darin and I were blessed to have my Grandpa visiting over the last couple of days, and we had a wonderful time. He joined us for worship on Sunday morning and was very complimentary of the friendliness of our church family toward him. I was so thankful and proud!

We spent the time he was here playing dominoes (something I clearly inherited from him!), playing and going for walks with Dodger, sorting through rotten eggs, talking about meaningful events throughout the years, attending the opening of Charlie and Jennifer's BBQ, and eating molasses cookies (Grandma's recipe, of course).

The most wonderful thing of all happened the last night he was here, though. Darin and I welcomed Grandpa into our worship time that we share each evening. The devotional thought we read was about finding God's plans for us through scripture. The activity at the end of the page suggested that we each think of a time when God's word gave us a clear direction. Grandpa began: He recalled the numerous times in 5 states and more than 50 years, when as a pastor, he and Grandma sought the Lord's purpose for their lives and place of ministry. He said that there was never a time when he or Grandma doubted that God had led them to each particular church. Sometimes, he said, they took a pay cut, but they knew God's calling was specifically for that place in time, so they acted in obedience (with 8 kids, I might add). Even when things got hard, struggles came, or obstacles or people rose up in opposition to what he believed the Lord's leadership was, he never doubted that God meant for them to be at each of those churches, in each of those places.

For us, it was a testimony of trust in our faithful God. He said the Lord always provided for every need they had. Darin said he felt that same kind of assurance in coming to FBC. That it was truly in God's purpose and plan, and the Lord has certainly provided for us. Not just financially, but through the love of old friends and many supportive and encouraging new church members.

As we held hands together and prayed, myself centered between two of my three favorite men, I couldn't help but cry tears of thanksgiving. I knew the Lord was present and welcomed among us.

Thankfully, when we weren't playing dominoes he was able to get some rest in preparation for our big family birthday party this Saturday. It's not every day you celebrate 90 years!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Puppy Love

This is the puppy we've already fallen in love with. Look at those big round eyes. Irresistible? You bet. This is Dodger. We're still getting to know one another, but boy, it's been fun. He's becoming more comfortable with each day (we've had him since last Friday), and we're enjoying playing with him, cuddling with him and cleaning up his number ones and number twos. I'm including that last part to help me convince myself.

It didn't work.

Still, he's so sweet-tempered and happy, that at least I don't mind it quite as much as I might otherwise.

Look for continued coverage on the developments of our puppy love. He's going to be the mascot for Darin's T-ball team (the Dodgers) this summer. I have a feeling a lot of cute photos are in the foreseeable future.

A Conversation with God

I'm grateful, but always humbled, when the Lord speaks loud and clear through his Word. It happened again this morning. I was reading in 2 Timothy 3 expecting to find a comforting word from Paul to his pastor friend and son in the faith. It started out that way. He began in verse 1 saying, "Realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come." Sounds encouraging enough, right? I can take that and apply it to my life, knowing that the struggles I face are to be expected and are not a surprise to God.

Then this dialogue with the Lord began:

God, through Paul continued, warning me, "Men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power."

"Yeah, there's a lot of that going on today, Lord. Those people need to confess their sin and change their behaviors by allowing the Holy Spirit to live and breathe through them in truth and authenticity," I replied.

"Avoid such men as these," God continued.

"You bet I will," I thought.

Watch carefully, because there are some "weak women" who are captivated by leaders [rather than the Christ those leaders claim to serve].

"You go, Paul," I thought. "I know so many women who are so agog about Bible study leaders like Beth Moore or Ann Lotz, that they miss the Jesus those women are serving. They're just groupies, not disciples."

Those weak women are "weighed down with sins..."

"Those poor women, in bondage to deceiving, dangerous behaviors," I lamented.

In their weakness, they are "
led on by various impulses." You can substitute the words 'emotions' or 'desires' here for the word "impulses," because they don't use reason or make Spirit-led, biblically based decisions.

"Oh...well...I guess I kinda do that sometimes; make decisions and say things based on how I feel. Does that really categorize me as a weak woman, Lord? Ouch. This was going so nicely."

Also, they are "always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth."

"Wait, do you mean all those journals and sermon notes piled in the closet? All those things I've learned from Godly instructors and personal Bible study but still fail to apply and implement in my life? Me? A weak woman?"

If the shoe fits... [that's not in 2 Timothy]

"Ok, so what do I do, now?"

Know that Christ was "crucified because of weakness, yet he lives because of the power of God. For though you also are weak... live with Him because of the power of God directed toward you" (2 Corinthians 13:4). Don't try to fix your weakness on your own. Let my power flow through you as it only can when you have a clean slate with me through confessed sin and repentance. And remember, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Ok, Lord. Here we go again. A fresh start for a new day.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Remnant That Remains

I was reminded today of God's amazing character of faithfulness, promise, mercy, grace and hope for the future. He clearly hates death and final endings that destroy relationships. For example, in Genesis, fed up with the sinfulness of the world, he brought a cleansing flood to wipe out the face of creation on earth. Yet, he was unwilling to surrender hope for relationship with his creation, so he preserved life with Noah's family and the animals on the ark.

As I read in Isaiah 6:9-13 today, I was once again struck by God's love for a happy ending. He's told Isaiah a depressing, disturbing message: that the hearts of the people will be hardened, they will be blind and deaf to God's work, needing, but not receiving healing. They will be exiled from their homes and all they know and love will be made into a wasteland. I'm sure just about the time Isaiah was thinking, "Lord, do you have any good news?" he was awed by God's final statement,
"The country will look like pine and oak forest with every tree cut down—every tree a stump, a huge field of stumps.
But there's a holy seed in those stumps."
Even with a message of destruction, God offers a hopeful, happy ending. Amazing. After all that humanity has done to deserve annihilation, he offers mercy - hope for a future for the remnant that remains. God is truly in the life-giving, life-preserving line of work.

What stumps in your field hold a seed of promise?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Lord's Prayer

My sister and my friend Misty connected me with this video. I think the Lord's smiling each time he sees it! I bet you will, too.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

My Fine Edjumakation

I graduated from Waco High. That speaks volumes to anyone else who grew up in the Waco area. Each morning, Vice-Principal Jacobs came over the p.a. system, sharing with us the daily announcements, always closing with a reminder to us as students to be grateful for the fine "edjumakation" we were receiving. I'm not kidding. He really said, "edjumakation." It was a running joke every day I attended school. Even teachers laughed with us behind the poor man's back. (By the way, my sister can do an outstanding impersonation of the man.)

I really showed my fine "edjumakation" tonight. I was talking with a friend after church about how Satan, knowing full well our insecurities, picks on them, harps on them, even dances all over them to accomplish his purpose of weakening the Kingdom of God. I was so excited about our conversation, and enjoying our mutual fellowship so much that I made a slight, okay, huge, error. In all sincerity, I told her that I hoped one day Darin and I would be as effective in ministry as Ananias and Sapphira. I'll save you the trouble of looking up these two. They were struck down dead by God for lying to the church (Acts 5). So, to my friend and anyone else who might have overheard: I don't want us to be them. What I meant to say was I hoped we were as effective in ministry as Aquila and Priscilla (not Elvis' wife, but the people in Acts 18 - especially verses 25 and 26).

Chalk it up to my fine Waco High edjumakation.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Christianity or Chaos

I saw a quote today from British writer and satirist Evelyn Waugh with an attached photo that looked like a man's physique. So, I went to the wonderful world of Wikipedia and learned that Evelyn was a man! (His first wife was also Evelyn - how's that for confusing?!)

Although his quote was interesting, it was his biography that captured my attention. Born in 1903, Waugh was a proclaimed agnostic through his late twenties, but converted to Catholicism in September 1930. As a writer, his conversion was discussed (even maligned) in the public press, so in response to the gossip, Waugh printed an article entitled, "Converted to Rome: Why It Has Happened to Me." Waugh explained that his faith was not about ritual or submission to the views of others, but rather, he felt he'd made a choice between Christianity or chaos. In his opinion, materialization destroyed or at least damaged what created Western Civilization in the first place. The increasing need for "stuff" made no room for the God who created the world. "It is no longer possible ... ," he wrote, "to accept the benefits of civilization and at the same time deny the supernatural basis upon which it is based."

I wonder how many believers, particularly in the U.S. and especially in the so-called "Bible Belt" have made so much room for the things in life (objects, people or activities) that they have no room left for a vibrant, active relationship with God. As a result, their lives are in chaos, because they have so many things to balance and maintain. I think that's why Jesus said to seek his kingdom first, then he'd add everything else - he knows how much we can carry - a light and easy burden (Matthew 11:28-30).

My friend Larry reminded his Bible study class on Sunday that if they don't have time for relationship with and service for God, they are too busy. God is not a God of chaos, but Satan revels in it. He loves to see us weighted down and pulled in every direction. What "other" things need to be purged from my life? How would civilization itself change if Christ-followers truly believed that God is enough to satisfy all our hearts really desire?

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Life in Louisiana

I'm visiting my wonderful sister, Jennifer, and her family this weekend while Darin attends a conference at New Orleans Seminary. They live just south of Baton Rouge, LA, so it will be right on the way for him to pick me up as we head home for Frankston tonight.

Last night, Jen and I went to her church for a Ladies Craft Night. Each woman brings whatever she may be working on--scrapbook, cross-stitch, etc.--and they laugh and talk as they do their thing. I'm not a "scrapper" (I learned that term last night), nor am I a great cross-stitcher, so I brought my little Mac and worked on the Sunday School lesson I'm writing for BaptistWay. I'm sure I looked like a nerd to those crafty ladies, but they accepted me anyway!

I listened as they swapped stories about people they knew or experiences they had, both usually sparked by a photo of the event or person, and realized how similar the human experience really is, yet how vastly different the culture of those experiences can be.

One lady just got back from her doctor, hoping they'd discover the reason she's put on so much weight lately. They tested her blood, ran stress tests, and examined her thyroid among other things. The conclusion? In her words, "I'm just fat!" Sounds like it could happen anywhere, doesn't it? A woman concerned with her appearance. That's certainly universal.

Another lady told of her two teenage sisters borrowing their mother's new car to go out one Saturday afternoon. Somehow, the sisters ended up allowing two of their guy friends to drive the car while they took another ride altogether. The sisters were hauled home by the police when the guys wrecked Mom's new car and Dad got to the scene before they knew anything about it. Sounds like it could happen anywhere, doesn't it? People trying to get away with something, assuming they won't be caught.

So far, I might as well have been sitting around with people from Frankston or anywhere else in the country, for that matter.

But, then something turned the corner for me. One woman proceeded to begin a story with this statement: "Last weekend, when we were at the Smith's crawfish boil ..." I have no idea what came after that, because it captured my attention so vividly. "What did she just say?" I thought. "Crawfish boil? You can't have those here, we're no where near the coast... Oh, yeah, I'm in southeast Louisiana, of course they can have those here."

On the way back to her house, I told Jen how that last comment caught me off guard. She lived in Texas for a long time, too, so she knows that the equivalent to a Louisiana crawfish boil is a Texas BBQ. (Although now that we live near Lake Palestine, I've actually heard of crawfish boils a little more frequently.) She said, having lived near Baton Rouge these nearly 7 years, that to hear the words "BBQ" come from my mouth almost sounded strange!

I realized yet again, that the human experience, however similar, is placed within the context of the culture where it is lived. I think God must love variety. Consider the seasons, or the vast assortment of natural phenomena. Just as no two people on earth are exactly the same in their physical and emotional makeup, no two places on earth are, either. Therefore, the people who come from those places will be uniquely different in their life experiences, especially as they go off visiting or move and bring those snippets of life with them.

It's funny. God delights in freshness, newness, change and variety, yet we usually seek what is known and familiar, who or what is like ourselves or experience. A few of us, whether by choice or necessity will branch out to new places, or visit with new people, but we tend to roam in familiar circles, nonetheless. I'm sure God knew we'd be that way. That's why he said, "While you are going into all the world, preach the gospel." Like a mother bird pushing her baby out of the nest to fly, God pushes us forward, out of our comfort zones to tell new people about him and minister in new ways. That's what this writing thing is for me, a new way of ministering than I've ever done before. It's stretching me, challenging me, creating a new dependence on God, whether I'm in Texas or Louisiana!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Disgusted and Repulsed

I know I generally try to blog in such a way that there's a spiritual application or lesson the Lord is teaching me, but I have to share what happened last night. Darin and I were having stuffed bell peppers, corn and bread, and I decided a side of sliced peaches would be a great complement to our meal. So, I opened a can, poured it into a couple of bowls, and we sat down for supper.

After he'd finished eating his bowl, and I was nearly finished with mine, I found something rather unusual floating in the syrup. An artificial fingernail. Yeah, you're hungry now, too, aren't you? I managed to not get sick, but it took everything I had in me. It was in great condition, so I guess whoever lost it had just had their nails done. Maybe it hadn't dug in too many flowerbeds before it got in my food. Disgusted and repulsed are the only words to describe how I still feel today. Oh, and speaking of today...April Fool's.