HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS

Thomas Wolf said, “You can’t go home again.”  In fact he wrote a whole book about it.  I must confess I have not read the book but I believe I understand, in essence, what he is saying.  He is saying, “You cannot recreate the memories of your past.  You can almost always return to the place, but eventually, you can never return to home—the actuality.  It is gone as gone can be.”

Yet, I did go home last week.  I packed my car and drove to Northern California— where I lived and worked for more than forty years.  I was anxious to see my “forever” friends—to hug them and laugh and eat with them.   I enjoyed the familiarity of the church events, but I have been gone for seven years, and things are not really the same.  I did not drive past the apartment, where I had lived for eighteen years, or the house where Cecil lived for so long before we married.  Maybe California is not my home after all.

Then I remembered how, when I lived in California, I used to go “home” to Arizona for Christmas and other special days.  I was raised there, and for a while, my Mom was still there.

One day, my sister asked, “Why do you call Arizona home?  You have lived somewhere else far longer than you ever lived here.”

True.  I had lived in Arizona the first twenty-eight years of my life.  Since then I have wandered the world.  During my years as an evangelist, I had no place to call home.  I just stayed wherever.  Being the nest builder that I am and making attachments easily, I believe I could have been happy almost anywhere.

Now, I live in Arizona again, but did I really come home?

My California friends said, “When are you coming back home?  We miss you.  You belong here.”

My Arizona friends said, “Why go to California?  You have everything you need here.”

Then there is Europe where I lived for years.  I had a lovely home, wonderful friends, and challenging work that made my heart glad.  My memories of that time are marvelous, and there is a huge longing in my heart to return there one more time.

In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy said, “There’s no place like home.”

That’s true, I guess, but though I have strong attachments to the various places I have lived, and life in those places has contributed to who I am, neither Arizona, nor California or Europe is really home to me.

Pliny the Elder (23 – 79 AD) is credited with coining the phrase “Home is where the heart is.”  He was a Roman naval commander who spent his life leaving for extended periods of time.  He yearned for a place he wanted to return to.

Many have tried to define the word “Home.”

It is a place where you feel in control and properly oriented in space and time.

Home is where one is most emotionally attached.

Home is a place that is predictable and secure.

Robert Frost said, “Home is the place that, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”

However, whatever home is, I have decided it is not a place out there that you can return to.  It is something inside me—something I carry around with me.  It has much to do with the condition of my heart.

We used to sing and old song that said—

“This world is not my home.

I’m just passing through.

My treasures are laid up

Somewhere beyond the blue…

And I can’t feel at home

In this world anymore.”

 

In John 14:2-3, Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you, and…I will come again and receive you to myself that where I am you may be also.”

Again, in Colossians 3:2-4, we are told to “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth…for your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is your life appears, you will appear with Him in glory.”

I don’t think I will ever feel really at home anywhere until I am at home with Him in glory.  He is my heart.  He is my home.

THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

 

 

SAYING “I’M SORRY”

I’ve had to apologize multiple times the last few weeks.

My sister is now safe and well taken care of, but I am embroiled in all the legal loose ends trying to settle every issue concerning her life and property.

don’t know much about the legal system, and that leaves me feeling vulnerable and uncertain.  I don’t like that feeling   It puts me in a bad mood.

Sometimes this bad mood extends beyond the legal difficulties and spills over into everyday situations.  I was rude to my hair dresser last week.  All day long people had been telling me “no.”  Her “no” was one too many.  I did apologize, but she was not impressed with my humility.

At the tax office, I waited knowing I would be late for my next appointment, while the accountant, with whom we had dealt for years, made sure my check had cleared.

“It’s okay,” she said.  “It went through.”

“I could have told you that,” I muttered, as I hurried out the door.  I have been honest and forthright all my life.  It really irks me to be treated any other way.

When I called the local utility company, I had all the information needed to arrange for my sister’s final payment.  However, I was told that I could not take care of it over the phone.  Finally, in frustration, I said, “Honey, I’m not trying to steal anything.  I’m trying to make sure you get your money.”

As required, I did go to the office.  A sweet lady said to me, “I see you tried to take care of this by phone.”

“Yes,” I replied.  “I’m afraid I wasn’t very kind.  I’m sorry.”

“Oh, it’s all here on the record,” she said.

I left the office realizing that the spoken word is never completely erased.  It will hang around somewhere in the universe forever.  In fact scientists tell us that every word ever spoken throughout time still hangs in the atmosphere, and one day, they will be able to retrieve those words, and we will hear, for example, the voice of Abraham Lincoln as he delivered the Gettysburg Address.

Now, that is amazing.  That is exciting.  Less exciting is the prospect that someone, centuries from now, might be able to hear the hateful words I have spouted during this stressful time.

I can make all kinds of excuses for my bad behavior.  I have been dealing with my sister’s situation for months.  I am weary down to the bone.  This is not working.  That is not working.  I am stressed out!

None of these excuses suffice, however, and saying “I’m sorry” is not enough for the sharp words have already wounded—they have already offended.

Saying “I’m sorry” is difficult for many, because it is an admission of wrong doing.  Others wave off an offense with a casual “Sorry” without any real remorse.

When I apologize, I do mean it, but at the same time I am aware that the hurt has not necessarily been expunged.

In Psalm 19:14, King David prays, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.”

This must be my first consideration.  What does God think about this?  Is this acceptable to Him?

My words are the product of my thoughts.  Those stinging barbs are birthed by my thoughts long before they are given voice.  I must guard my thoughts.

Philippians 4:8 instructs us, “…whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

I guarantee you.  If you fill your mind with those wondrous things, there will be little space for anything else.

David ends his prayer in Psalm 19:14, by addressing God as his strength and his Redeemer.

He is our strength.  There is no way, on my own, to measure up to God’s requirements, but He is my strength.  I can do all things through Him.  He is my Redeemer.  He has bought me with the price of His own Son.  My greatest desire is to honor him by what I think, the words I speak and the things I do.

The apostle Paul tells us to think like Jesus thinks.  Remember—

The sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

RESURRECTION MORNING

We were always awake and out of bed before the sun came up on Easter morning.  With great anticipation, we donned our new frilly spring dresses and white slippers.  Sometimes there was even a pretty little Easter bonnet.  It was chilly on that late March or April morning, but no one wanted to cover a new dress with sweater or coat.

At the church, we joined a long line of cars making their way out Apache Trail to the butte ten miles east of town.  Arriving in the early dawn, we trudged to the top.  Someone carried a guitar or lugged an accordion.  Looking east toward the Superstition Mountains we viewed with awe the bright crest of the sun as it inched its way up over the hills.

Then the music began.  “Up from the grave, He arose…He arose!  He arose!  Hallelujah! Christ arose.”  Even as a child, I felt my heart swell with joy as we lifted our voices in song after song.

“He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today.

He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.

He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!

You ask me how I know He lives?

He lives within my heart.”

Why in the world would anyone want to trudge to the top of a hill in the dark of a chilly morning?  Couldn’t we sing and pray at church?  No need to get up so early.  No need to expend such energy—

TRUE!  However, I think we just wanted to get as near to heaven as we could on that special day, and we wanted to be there very early as the sun arose for that was when the women came to Jesus’ tomb and found it empty.  On top of that butte, we felt the kiss of heaven as we rejoiced at the truth that Jesus is alive, indeed.  We called them “SUNRISE SERVICES,” those early morning EASTER events.

Our Pastor read the resurrection story from Mark 16:1 – 8, pausing briefly as he read verse 6.  “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.  HE IS RISEN!  He is not here.  See the place where they laid Him.”

After prayer, we skipped excitedly down the hill.  We were on our way to Easter breakfast.  A room was reserved for us at the “Feed Bag,” a favorite restaurant in town.  We ate pancakes and eggs.  We exclaimed over the glory of the sunrise and talked about the sweetness of the service.  We laughed and complimented each other on the beauty of our Easter finery.  Then we went to church.

What, more church?  Oh, yes! Easter had just begun.  There would be more singing, more praying, more preaching and more rejoicing.  This was a day of celebration—celebration of the resurrection—celebration of new life—new life in Christ Jesus. Not only was Jesus alive never to die again, but we also were alive, for because Jesus died and rose again, I too, had received the gift of eternal life.

Oh, and don’t forget.  There was a Sunday evening service as well.

From this long expanse of years, I am not trying to spiritualize everything that happened on Easter Sunday, but I must tell you truthfully I do not remember the excitement of Easter baskets and egg hunts, though I love the thought.  I know we colored eggs on Saturday afternoon, and I am sure there was a chocolate bunny or two, yet those things do not occupy a large space in my catalogue of memories.  It’s those early morning events to which my mind always returns at this time of the year.

Now understand.  I am not adverse to the myriad of Easter symbols we have adopted over the years.  I love the fluffy yellow chicks, the beautiful flowers, the cuddly bunnies and the colorful eggs.  However, for the most part these symbols find their roots in paganism, but I have chosen to accept them as symbols of new life and that is what Easter is all about.

Did you know, centuries ago, we celebrated New Year’s Day on March 25, Annunciation Day—the day Angel Gabriel announced to a teenage Galilean girl that she would bear the Christ Child?  That’s the day Jesus became an embryo in Mary’s womb.  That’s the day the promise of new life kindled hope in a darkened world.  No wonder we called it a New Year.

So enjoy your eggs and chocolate bunnies, but remember, the greatest and truest symbol of Easter is an empty tomb, for Jesus is not there.  He has ascended to the Father, and from that throne on high, He still extends the gift of eternal life to those who will receive Him.

THAT’S WHAT EASTER IS ALL ABOUT!!!

THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                    

WHO AM I?

 When I finished my Masters Degree in Education, I forged ahead determined to earn a Doctorate in Counseling.  I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in the classroom with eight and nine year olds.  I smile, when I look back on my years as an elementary teacher, for I realize that those years were probably one of the funnest most carefree times of my life.

In any case, I took the first step toward my doctorate enrolling in two classes.  I do not remember one of the courses, but the other I shall never forget.  “Analysis of the Individual” was my undoing.  Oh, the course was interesting enough, but it was also extremely troubling to me.  I lay awake, night after night trying to analyze myself—trying to figure out “who is this gal, whom people call Fayrene.”  I had no clear cut feeling of self or an image of who I really was.  I was an American.  I was my parents’ daughter, my brother’s sibling, an alto in the choir, part of a church family, and a student at the university. I was defined by my relationship with others.  I was almost sure there ought to be something more.

I completed the six hours of study.  I acquired a lot of information.  I learned about Aggression, Anxiety disorders, Defense mechanisms, Co-dependency, Denial, and Depression, but I still didn’t understand me.  So, I threw up my hands and quit.  How in the world could I hope to help other people, if I couldn’t even figure out who “I am?”  Somehow I think that this world would heave a sigh of relief, knowing that I gave up.

As it turns out, I didn’t really need a Doctor’s Degree. God had other things in mind for me, and as I submitted to His will, I began, bit by bit, to find out “Who I am.”

As I followed in Christ’s footsteps, as I read His word and listened to His voice, as I obeyed Him, as I served Him, the image of the real Fayrene Clark-Reese began to emerge.  However, I must tell you that after eighty-one years, that image is not yet complete.  For I firmly believe that every day I live, until He calls me home, I will understand more clearly who I am in Him.

This traumatic time with my sister has revealed to me some things I did not know about myself.  I think I am kinder and more patient than I imagined, and there is a tenderness I didn’t know I had.  I have been accused of being co-dependent, and to a degree, I believe that is true.  I have taken care of my sister so long trying my best to meet every demand, and now that someone else is caring for her, there is a void in my life.  Yes, I am relieved!  No more calls in the middle of the night, no more need to find a plumber or an electrician, no more defending myself for whatever imagined offense.  However, I discover that I need to be needed, and I am not sure that strangers can care for her as well as I can, but I have also made a happier, healthier discovery.  I am certainly willing to give them a chance.  Maybe I’m not so far gone as one might think.

In these eighty-one years, I have learned a lot of things about me.  Let me tell you who I am.

I am independent, opinionated, and outspoken.  I am fairly intelligent and not bad looking.   I am a good organizer, and I love being in charge of things.  I am a self-starter—no one has to beg me to do what needs to be done.  I don’t mind hard work.

Communication is one of my gifts—teaching and preaching is a joy.  I love being on stage.  The bigger the audience the better I am,

I love people. I love beautiful things. I love travel. I love dogs.  I love my family, I love to sing, and I love being alone on Saturday without a thing to do.

I am an optimist.  I usually look on the sunny side of life.

This is my personal opinion about me, but God’s standard about who I am reigns supreme.  Listen to what HE says about me.

I am His adopted child—loved and forgiven.  I am a new creature in Christ Jesus.  I am the apple of His eye.  I am fearfully and wonderfully made—His handiwork—His masterpiece.

I am accepted in the beloved.  I am the righteousness of God.  I am beautiful, precious, and complete in Him.

WOW!!!  That’s who I am.

However, God is not yet finished with me.  Nor is He finished with you.  He has a plan and purpose for our future whether here on earth or with Him in eternity.

1 John 3:2.  “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”

That will be our moment of completion.  We will have realized God’s ultimate purpose for our life.  WE WILL BE LIKE HIM!
Until that day, remember—

The sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

LOVE KEEPS GOING TO THE END

It’s easy to write about love, talk about love, and read about love, but the time comes, sooner or later, when we are called upon to demonstrate that love in a tangible way.  Love, sometimes, becomes a backbreaking, emotionally painful, tiring, and tedious job.

On March 1, after forty-five years in the same home, my sister moved to a lovely assisted living residence.  The next day I went back to the house she had vacated.  It was sad and lonely without her, and it was a total disaster—like a war zone.

Having been ill for more than a year the house had been sorely neglected.  Now it was my job to get it ready to put on the market.  I had no idea where to begin, so I decided to begin with her bedroom, where she had not slept in years.  She could no longer manage clothes hangers, consequently, her clothes were in piles on the bed and in the floor—old ones, new ones, dirty ones, and clean ones.  That’s where I began.  For the next two and one half weeks I sorted, gave away, threw away, and packed up forty-five years of my sister’s life.

Finally, on Friday, I picked up the phone and called my brother in Fort Worth.

“Where are you,” I cried.  “She’s your sister, too.  I can’t do this by myself.”

This preacher brother of mine farmed out his puppy, and boarded a plane for Phoenix.  He came with a suitcase full of work clothes.  Every morning he is up before I am, ready to tackle another day of daunting work.  Finally drawers, cupboards and closets are empty, and it is time to clean, and clean we have done.  I had forgotten the color of the kitchen floor and the bathroom fixtures.

You may ask, “Why didn’t you just hire the work done?”

I could have, but, in deference to my sister, I didn’t want anyone to see how she had been living.

alongside

I am proud of us—this 81-year-old sister and 87-year-old brother team.  We are quite a duo, and I have learned something about myself.

One of Webster’s definitions of love is, “unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another.”

In the middle of the night, when sleep eludes me and a million thoughts about what must be done tomorrow invade my mind, I have discovered that I do not resent this backbreaking, sorrowful task that has fallen to my lot.  I am not angry with my sister for making such a mess.  I do not feel sorry for myself, because this responsibility looms so large that I cannot sleep.  I do not find myself whining and complaining about what might have been.

I thought I assumed this difficult task because I had no choice.  However, as I worked alone day after day, I had plenty of time to think, and I rediscovered that I DO LOVE MY SISTER.  I have always loved my sister, but somehow this undertaking demonstrates it in a bigger way than anything I have ever done.   This may be the most unselfish moment in my life.

My baby sister’s blue eyes are faded now.  Her uncontrollable curls are gone and her hair has thinned.  She asks the same questions over and over, and is not sure of the day of the week.  Yesterday we had a pedicure and painted her toenails bright pink.   She kissed me “goodbye,” when I took her back to her pretty room.

I am glad and humbled to love my sister in this manner.

Emily Dickinson said of this kind of backbreaking, emotionally painful, tiring, tedious love, that it is, “The solemnest of industries enacted upon earth.”

Now, I truly know what “LABOR OF LOVE” means.

Last week, while I was working, my sister’s neighbor came to the door.  She is a rather crude, officious woman.  She came declaring her love for my sister.

“My sister was afraid of you,” I said.

“Oh, I know,” she laughed.  That’s what made it so much fun.”

Love is a word that rolls easily off our tongues.  We readily declare our love for each other.  We stand at the altar and vow our fidelity, “Until death do us part,” but when the going gets rough, “love” discovered for what it really is—an emotion without commitment, sometimes evaporates.

Love without commitment is not love at all!  Love that does not endure to the end is not love at all.

John 13:1 tells us that  “…having loved His own who were in the world…” Jesus, “… loved them to the end.”

It was love for you and me that took Jesus to the cross.  He didn’t quit when He was arrested, beaten, and spit upon.  He didn’t quit when he was nailed to the cross.  He loved us to the end.  He loves us still.

THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW