Birthday Ponderings…

 

Eighty-one years ago, today, December 28, 1935, I was born in Fort Cobb, Oklahoma.

Daddy took my older siblings through the snow, to stay with the Baggets, and brought the doctor back home to help with my birth.

My mother named me Fayrene after some Hollywood Starlet, of whom she had read.  I don’t know where Ruth came from, but there I was, Fayrene Ruth Clark—fat, little bald-headed baby.  My six year old brother, Paul, wanted to name me Patsy, after his little black bulldog.  Somehow I am glad my mother insisted on Fayrene.

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I am alone today, having just put that same brother on a flight back to Fort Worth.  So, this is a day for reflecting.  I have done a lot of that in the last little while, and after much consideration, I have come to this conclusion:  I HAVE LIVED AN EXTRODINARY LIFE!

Oh, measured by many standards, that would not be so.  However, I am measuring by my standard, and my standard says, considering everything, I have lived and am living an incredible life.

Born into a humble, God fearing home, with church the center of my universe, was the greatest thing that could have ever happened to me.  I laughingly say that I have been in church every time the doors were open since I was two weeks old.  My parents never found a good   excuse for staying home.  We went to church without question.  I was an adult before I realized I had a choice.  By then it was too late for me.  I was hooked!

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I could have been born in Syria, where women have no rights.  Now how would this determined, strong-willed girl survive such a culture?  Or perhaps I could have begun my life in Afghanistan or India, where the state would have determined my religion.  Think about being buried in the frozen north of Siberia, where the name of Jesus is just now being shared.  No! Thank God I was born in America.

In church and Sunday school, I learned that God loved me, and I fell in love with Him giving my heart and life to Him at the age of five.  It was there that I learned to serve singing in the choir, teaching Sunday school, and leading the youth group.  It was there where I answered God’s call to ministry.

Oh, the Blessings!  Chosen by God to serve Him in far off places, I have traveled much of the world.  I think I was born with the wander lust, and God made it all right for me to roam far afield, always with His purpose.  I think of precious souls in places like Tajikistan, Poland and France, South Africa and India, Turkey and Spain.  What a privilege to have touched lives and seen them transformed by the power of the Gospel.

I am thinking of my parents today—parents who loved God and loved me.  They had a limited education, rarely traveled far from home, and eked out a living working tirelessly to provide for our needs.

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In contrast, I have earned an advanced degree, traveled the world, live in a home that is paid for, and, in my retirement years, I don’t worry about paying my bills.  From my perspective, that is pretty incredible.

As a young adult, I dreamed about being important—of mingling with the beautiful people—of making a name for myself.  I longed to be recognized—to be lauded.  Did I ever become important?  Did I ever make a name for myself?  No!  Somehow that desire diminished over the years, as I became more concerned with pleasing God and doing His will.  Oh, I am sure that I am important to my family, and I know, for a brief time, I was extremely important to my sweet Cecil, but to this world……….?

I have stood before royal palaces from Agra to London, from Copenhagen to Madrid, from Istanbul to Monaco.  I have waved to the king of Belgium, watched the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and wandered the gardens at Windsor Castle.  I am fascinated by the idea of royalty.  I love the pomp and ceremony.  I have followed the life of Queen Elizabeth II since she was a girl, and well remember her coronation.  I love reading about Prince William and Kate and the babies.

Now, in these moments of reflection I am reminded that I am a child of THE KING OF KINGS.   Revelation 1:5 says that Jesus Christ is, “…the ruler over the kings of the earth…”

John 1:12 tells me, “…as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become the children of God…”

 In 1 John 2:1, He calls me His little child, and Isaiah 9:6 tells me that the child, who was born to be my King, is also my everlasting Father.

WOW!!!  Now that’s incredible!  Fayrene Ruth Clark Reese, who once longed to be important, is a member of royalty!

Happy birthday to me !!!

The sun will come out tomorrow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Unto Us…

 

Christmas, 1975, was difficult for me.  I was a rookie missionary in Belgium away from my family for the first time.  When I thought about Christmas alone, I wanted to lie down and die, but I didn’t.  I made the best of things.

My Christmas experiences, that first year in Belgium, have furnished me with sweet, funny, and ridiculous stories, with which I have entertained people for over forty years.

A couple of weeks before Christmas I received a telephone call from one of our Belgian pastors, who knew of my ministry to children.

“Sister Faye,” he said, “We would like to invite you to our church on Saturday afternoon before Christmas.  We have asked a group of Gypsy children to be our guests.  Our own children will present a Christmas program, and, afterward, we will give gifts to all the Gypsy kids.”

Of course, I accepted the invitation—I was anxious to go.

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When I arrived at the little storefront church, I was amazed at what I saw.  The platform was piled high with wonderful gifts—baby dolls and toy trucks, basketballs and roller skates—almost anything a child could desire.  There were also great bags of sweets—candies and cookies and other pastry.

The pastor had explained to me that he had gone to merchants and explained the need.  He had also shared the needs with patisseries and sweet shops.  Everyone had been generous with his donations.

The Gypsy kids came.  They came with their Moms and Dads, their Grandmas and Grandpas, Aunts and Uncles and Cousins.  They filled every crook and cranny in that little sanctuary.

The church kids presented a great program.  Then pastor walked to the platform.  He explained very meticulously how this thing was going to work.

He said, in French, “We have a gift and sweets for all the children.   There is enough for everyone.  So, we will come one row at a time.  When row one is finished, then row two will come, and so on.  Do you understand?”

“ Oui, oui,”  they shouted with one accord.

“D’accord,” said the pastor.  “Row one may come.”

At his word, the whole Gypsy congregation, kids, moms and dads, and every other relative rushed the platform nearly mowing down the pastor.

“Non, non!  Attendez, attendez,” he cried.  “Vous n’avez pas compris.”  (You did not understand.)   “Go back to your seats.”

Back to their seats they went, and we started all over.

“Now,” said the pastor, “Let’s try again.  Row one must come first.”

Again, the whole audience broke and ran for the platform.  After several tries, the pastor just gave up.  His Gypsy guests helped themselves to the gifts and the sweets, and walked out the door without a “Thank you” or backward glance.

The pastor was bewildered—divested.  He had worked so hard.  I was truly sorry for him, and I was truly sorry for those beautiful black eyed kids.  I think I understood.  They were marginalized, unaccepted by society, living in squalor, with hardly enough to keep body and soul together.  All of life they had been left out, living on the edge.

Suddenly there was all this beautiful, shiny, new stuff meant for them.  So, breaking all the rules, they claimed it.  Someone had finally included them.

Most of us have felt left out, unnoticed, unappreciated at one time or another.  We ask, “Why not me?  Why do the good things always happen to someone else?  Why don’t I win the lottery?”

Great News!  You have not been left out.  You have been personally included in the greatest “give-away” of all time.

“For unto US, you and me, a child is born, unto US, you and me, a Son is given…and His name shall be called WONDERFUL, COUNSELOR, MIGHTY GOD, EVERLASTING FATHER, PRINCE OF PEACE.”

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This child, who is born to us, is wonderful in every way—in His birth, His teaching, His deeds, His death, and His resurrection.  Wonderful to us!

Do you lack wisdom?  He is our counselor.  We never go wrong when we follow His counsel.

His is our Mighty God—our Hero God—able to do exceedingly more than we can ever imagine.

Being alone as I am, I sometimes feel the need for a protector.  This child, who was born to me, has become my Everlasting Father—my absolute, eternal protector.  He will never cease to protect, never desert or grow weary.

He is the Prince of Peace.  In the middle of this nutty, out of control world, He keeps me in perfect peace.

This Christmas I am seized by the wonder of Christ.  I am gripped by the fact that He is mine—that he was born for me.  His love, His forgiveness His life, and all that includes, is God’s gift to me.  I have not been left out.

Just like those needy Gypsy children, you may claim God’s bright, shiny, wonderful gifts for yourself.  YOU HAVE NOT BEEN LEFT OUT!

 

THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW

 

 

MY CHRISTMAS PEARLS

 Pearls are not the status symbol they used to be.  Today you can buy a three strand pearl necklace for $1,000.00 at Tiffany’s

For most of human history, pearls were the ultimate luxury item worn only by royalty.  The Roman General, Vitellus, is said to have bankrolled his military campaign with his mother’s pearl earrings.  Around the world, pearls were a sign of opulence and power.

Until the advent of cultured pearls at the turn of the twentieth century, pearls were extremely rare.  Just one in 10,000 oysters produced a natural pearl.  Pearl diving was dangerous and only added to the gem’s allure.

In the early twentieth century, a fine pearl necklace could be swapped for a Manhattan mansion.  Today it can be swapped for the price of one month’s rent.

By the 1950’s, the average middle-class housewife could have a strand of cultured pearls to call her own.  They were highly fashionable—a sign of elegance, innocence, and femininity.

When I was seventeen, I decided that I had to have a strand of pearls all my own.  Don’t ask me why.  Those creamy, satiny, glowing orbs fascinated me, and there was such a need in my teen-age heart for something beautiful.  So, I had the audacity to ask for pearls for Christmas.  I didn’t want anything else. I just wanted pearls, and not the dime store kind.  I wanted real pearls from the jewelry store.

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I knew my request was unreasonable.  I knew we didn’t have money for such frivolous things, but I asked anyway.  I look back now and realize that my Mom did not scold me for my unreasonable request.  Rather, she looked past all that and into the heart of her girl, who was on the verge of adulthood.  She saw a need—a longing.

On Christmas morning, I opened the lovely box, and a there they were, a modest strand—no more than 5mm in size, and certainly not costing thousands of dollars.  I was thrilled at the sight of those creamy, glowing jewels with the pretty filigree clasp.  I caressed them, ran them through my fingers, and fastened them around my neck.

To this day, I do not know what sacrifice my Mother made in order to give me the desire of my heart.  I do not know what the pearls cost.  They must have been paid for on a lay-away plan or on monthly installments.  Mama was clever knowing how to eke a lot out of a little.  That was her Christmas Sacrifice.

For years, I wore those pearls to church on Sundays and for other special occasions, and then, gradually, I laid them aside and did not wear them at all.

In February 2013, at the age of seventy-seven, I married for the first time.  What would I wear with my beautiful ivory gown?  I went looking for my pearls, the ones Mama gave me sixty years ago.  They were perfect.  As I waited, with my brother, to walk down the aisle that day, I could imagine my Mother, looking over heaven’s balcony rejoicing because I was no longer alone.

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I remembered her Christmas sacrifice for me, and I said, “Look, Mama, I’m wearing your pearls.

Today, I am remembering another Christmas sacrifice—the one God made when He sent His beloved Son, Jesus, the first and most wonderful Christmas gift, to this world.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  John 3:16

Think of the sacrifice Jesus made, when He traded the glories of heaven for nine months of oblivion in the womb of a teen-age Galilean girl, when He laid aside his omnipresence and surrendered Himself to the limits of time and space, and when He put off His kingly robes and gave Himself to the mockery and cruelty of men.  Think of how He subjected Himself to the weight of our sin dying in our place.  Now that is the ultimate Christmas sacrifice!

I love Christmas.  I’ve told you that.  I love the hustle and bustle, the buying and wrapping and baking, and the parties and programs.  I keep reminding myself that this is Jesus’ birthday.  I don’t want to forget the reason for our celebrations.  But, honestly, sometimes He gets lost in the shuffle.  So, some years ago, I made a decision to consciously and sacrificially give a birthday gift to Jesus every year.

This is different from my local giving.  I give an offering to some mission’s project.  This year I sent my offering to “The Reindeer People of Russia,” a nomadic people in the frozen north, who are finally hearing the gospel.  They are receiving for the first time God’s wondrous Christmas gift.

Don’t let the trappings of Christmas bury this gift of all gifts.  Look around you.  Find someone in need, and give a sacrificial gift, in the name of Jesus.

Remember, regardless of where you live and what is going on in your life—THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW

A CHRISTMAS HOPE FULFILLED

I just finished decorating my Christmas tree.  The lights are shining, carols are playing softly, the poinsettias pillows are on the sofa, and the wreath is on the door.

Ornaments, scratched and marred, from my childhood, hang proudly with the hodgepodge of other things I have collected over the years.   I have never cottoned to theme trees with burlap bows and big red balls, and such.  I just like my stuff.

There’s the little gold angel, with my name on it, given to me my first year as a missionary in Belgium, and the Teddy Bear, dressed as Santa, made by my niece ages ago.  The last ornament my mother bought for her last Christmas on this earth is displayed prominently on the front of the tree. So many memories!

Decorating is more difficult than it used to be.  I’m no longer allowed to climb ladders, but it is Christmas, so you do what you have to do.

This will be my eighty-first Christmas.  Can I remember the best one?  Oh, Yes!

Christmas, 1945, I was almost ten, and WW II, the “War to end all Wars” was finally over.  My heart still swells at the memory of the joy and relief that filled our home.

My three big brothers served in the Navy.  Jack was on a tanker, the USS Kankakee, in the Pacific.  Henry was on a battleship, also in the Pacific, and Lincoln the youngest was a Yeoman stationed at the Naval Base in San Pedro, California.

We were proud of my brothers, but we were also concerned listening to every newscast, waiting anxiously for their little V-Mail letters.  The letters were always censored leaving only bits and pieces of the original text.

The war was especially hard on Mothers.  Mama had sent her first three babies off to fight the enemy, and she was determined that they would come back safely.  So—she prayed.  She hoped, and she prayed without ceasing.  She prayed that her boys would return whole and healthy as she had sent them away.

Thank God!  They did return.  Jack came back to the States on a naval hospital ship, in a full body cast, but he would recover.  Henry was back on American soil, and Lincoln was just a hop, skip, and a jump away.  We were grateful!

Then it was Christmas.  My Mom had cleaned the house from stem to stern and cooked everything her boys could possibly want hoping that they would all be home.

She bustled around putting last-minute touches to the Christmas meal trying her best to be cheerful, but I could see the sorrow in her eyes and feel the sadness in her heart, for there would still be an empty place at our table.  Henry was Stateside, but he had not yet been mustered out of the navy.

The eight of us sat around the big table, and just as my Daddy bowed his head to ask the blessing, I heard the screen door open.

There he was!  My big brother Henry was home for Christmas.  I can never forget my Mother’s joy as she laughed and cried, and danced and shouted, and nearly squeezed the life out of her firstborn.

Hope fulfilled!  What a joyous thing!

Mama clung tenaciously to her hope throughout the war.  When I think about it, I realize that her hope was not in the well-built craft, in which my brothers plied the Pacific.  Nor was her hope in the capable commanding officer or the impeccable training the boys received.  She did not hope that the enemy would perform poorly, and she did not trust the United States Government to keep her boys safe.

She had but one source of hope.

With King David, Psalm 71:5, Mama said, “You are my hope, O Lord God…” and again in Psalm 5:3, “My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord…and I shall look up.”

Mama looked up into the face of her HOPE morning, noon and night her trust never failing.

We make the mistake of placing our hope in people and things.  Invariably, people disappoint, and things lack the ability to fulfill our dreams.

In Proverbs 13:12, King Solomon said, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.”

I don’t know what you are hoping for this Christmas, but I must remind you—He is our hope.

That little baby, who rested in the feeding trough, and grew up to be our risen Savior, Jesus, He is our HOPE.

Psalm 146:5, “Happy is he…whose hope is in the Lord his God.”

My prayer for you is that you will enjoy a wonderfully blessed Christmas with Jesus at the center of your celebration.

Thank you all for reading my blog this year.  The gift of your time has blessed and encouraged me.

MERRY CHRISTMAS and GOD BLESS!  Remember—

The sun will come out tomorrow