THE FINAL EASTER PARADE

 

When I was in the fifth grade, I actually marched in a parade, fat little kid that I was, and played the snare drum.  It was a rodeo parade.  I can’t imagine it!  If you know me, you know that I am the furthest possible from being a cowgirl.  That’s why, I guess, I have tried to blot it out of my memory.  I have no recollection of the snare drum before or since that parade, but I guess I was a member of our drum and bugle corp.  It’s weird what kids will do!

Parades can be fun and exciting and spectacular.  I usually watch a few minutes of the Rose Bowl Parade each year, but it is beyond me to sit on the sofa or stand on a street corner for hours and watch nine million beautiful floats passing by.  Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade is amazing, but a dozen oversized cartoon balloons are enough to last me for a good while.

It’s the unusual, maybe “once in a lifetime” parade that I best remember.

At Christmas time, in Lodi, where I used to live, fire engines festooned with colored lights, holiday music blaring, drove down our residential streets tossing goodies to adults and children alike who gathered on the sidewalks to shout “Merry Christmas.” What a dazzling parade.

As a child, I remember seeing thousands of American Soldiers marching in triumph down New York’s Fifth Avenue, following the end of World War II.  The confetti and ticker tape filled the air, as people welcomed them home.  Now, that was a parade!

Of course, Easter processions or parades, often including special dress, have been part of Christian culture since earliest beginnings.

The Bible records two such processions during the first Holy Week.  On what is now called Palm Sunday, Jesus, seated on a donkey, rode into Jerusalem as an adoring throng waved palm branches and shouted, “Hosanna…blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”

On Friday, a few days later, this same Jesus, carrying his cross, led another parade up Calvary’s Mountain.

Authorities attribute the introduction of new Easter clothes and personal finery to the Roman Emperor, Constantine, who ordered his subjects to dress in their finest and parade in honor of Christ’s resurrection.

From 1870 through the 1950s, New York’s Easter Parade was the main cultural expression of Easter in our country.  By the 1880s the Easter Parade had become a vast spectacle of fashion and religious observance.  It was actually an after-church cultural event for the well-to-do.  Decked out in new and fashionable clothing, they would stroll down Fifth Avenue from their own church to others to see the impressive decorations and to be seen by their fellow strollers.  People from the poorer and middle classes would observe the parade to learn the latest trends in fashion.  It was not unusual for a million or more people to turn out for this parade.

By the mid 20th century, the parade’s religious aspects had faded and it was mostly seen as a demonstration of American riches.  What had begun in 1870 as a parade of refinement and religious display had become an ostentatious frolic.

Sadly, for most people today, Easter has little to do with Jesus Christ and His resurrection.  The Easter Bunny and chocolate eggs have stolen the show.

I will never walk down Fifth Avenue on Easter Sunday dressed in my finest, but I will, once again one day, participate in a parade.  It will be the parade to end all parades.

Revelation 19:11 – 16 speaks of this parade.  John, the writer, tells us, “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse.  And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True.  And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.  And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:  KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”

One day, we don’t know when Jesus is coming back to this sad sinful world.  He will be the Grand Marshall of the grandest parade.  He will ascend from heaven on a white horse followed by the redeemed of all ages.  Those, who have loved and served Him, will be dressed in fine white garments also riding upon white horses.

I would like to think this will take place on some future Easter Sunday, but regardless of the day, our KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS, the one who was born for us, died for us, and was resurrected for us, will once again take control of this world wiping out all evil setting up His Kingdom where He will rule and reign forever.

That’s what Easter is all about—our Resurrected Christ, faithful and True, coming again.

MAY YOUR EASTER BE BLESSED!

 REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday Momma

Age is just a number, right?  At least, that’s what I have always declared.  I love birthdays, that of mine or anyone else.  Birthdays are a celebration of life and anticipation of another year, no matter what it brings.

I had an attractive friend who cried the whole day on her fortieth birthday.  She looked in the mirror and said, “Blah!  Forty!”  She salted her scrambled eggs with her tears, and wailed, “Forty!” She even wept at the party her friends threw for her.  For Sandy, turning forty was a tragedy.  I wanted to remind her that she was only one day older than yesterday.  I don’t think there is a way to skip from thirty-nine to forty-one.  There is no alternative to becoming forty.  It is forty or nothing.

I have never minded growing older, believing that age has to do with attitude and mind and heart.  However, though I don’t mind being older, I’ve discovered I do mind feeling older.  All of a sudden, my body can no longer keep up with mind, my wishes, and desires.  I am mad!  I feel betrayed!  I had such marvelous plans for this season of life.  Those plans are no longer feasible, at least for the moment.

My Mom was a feisty little thing always on the go.  With a twinkle in her eye and laughter in her voice, she announced that she was going to live to be one hundred.   She didn’t, but the days she did live, she lived with purpose and joy setting an example for those of us who loved her.  I have an image of Mama indelibly stamp on my heart.  She sits on the side of her bed, early in the morning, dressed in her soft pink robe, her white hair mussed from sleep, her Bible open her lap.  What an example!

Mama lived with me the last few months of her life.  She was fragile, but she had a mind of her own.  I tried my best to take good care of her making sure that she was clean and comfortable and had nutritious meals, but if she didn’t want it, she didn’t want it.  She hated oatmeal, sometimes hiding it in a paper towel in her robe pocket.  She detested the handful of pills that were forced upon her each day, and shower water pelting down on her was worse than death.

Finally, her little body just wore out.  When it was clear that she was dying, with broken heart, I reminded her of her promise to live to be one-hundred.  She squeezed my hand and said, “That’s one promise I cannot keep.”

Tomorrow, March 23rd, will have been my Mother’s 118th birthday.  She was born in 1900 to Mary Ballentine and John Fullerton, in Whitewright, Texas.  She was the eighth in a family of nine children.  They named her Maggie Lou.  She would forever detest her name saying, she would rather be called “Doggie.”

After her death, we took Mama home to Arizona and buried her between Daddy and our brother, Henry.  At the end of the service, after family and friends had paid their respects, my four siblings and I stood by the coffin to say our last “good-byes.”

“Happy Birthday, Mama,” Lincoln said tenderly.

It was March 23rd, Mama’s eighty-ninth birthday, and though we sorrowed and the tears flowed, I suspect, for Mama, it was the happiest of birthdays.  No more pills, no more showers, no more oatmeal, and best of all, after a journey spanning almost a century, she was finally home.

So, what do I do?  Do I give up, because my body betrays me?  Do I lie on the sofa all day with novel in hand munching on bonbons?  At the age of eighty-two, I suppose I have the right.

Still, I have never lived like that.  I can’t begin now.  Surely God has a plan for the rest of my days, and He does.

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV), “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

My future may not be as I imagined it, but God, our creator, has not run out of ideas, and His are so much better than mine.

At this point, I have no idea what the future holds, but I’m kind of excited.  I will not be idle.  Will there be rough patches?  I am certain of it!  How will I handle the bad times?

Deuteronomy 33:25 says, “…As your days, so shall your strength be.”

2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”

These scriptures assure me God will give me supernatural strength for whatever comes my way, both the good and the bad.  I am weak, but He is strong.

Therefore, I am looking forward to growing older, celebrating more birthdays, and living out God’s good plan with hope for the future.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MAMA!

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

I WISH I MAY, I WISH I MIGHT

 

Star light, Star bright,

The first star I see tonight;

I wish I may, I wish I might

Have the wish I wish tonight.

 

This little ditty is believed to be of late 19th century American origin.  However, the superstition of hoping for wishes granted when seeing a shooting star or falling star may date back to the ancient world.

The words allude to the fantasy that, if you wish upon a star, your wish will surely come true.   In fact, in Walt Disney’s “Pinocchio,” Jiminy Cricket says so.

“When you wish upon a star,

Makes no difference who you are.

Anything your heart desires

Will come to you.”

Now, we know, in our rational moments, this is fantasy.  Even the words, “I wish I may, I wish I might—express a growing sense of doubt and pathos.  Still, many of us spend half our life wishing for something more or something better or something not quite so bad.

My little sister used to sit on the end of her cotton sack between two rows of cotton, in the scorching Arizona heat, and wish the wind would blow.  Most often, it did not.

Every Tuesday my mailbox is filled with myriads of thin, anemic catalogs that quickly find their way into the garbage, for I remember the real catalogs the postman used to leave at our front door—thick, heavy tomes filled with treasures from Montgomery Ward, J.C. Penney, and Sears & Roebuck.  They came in the spring and in the fall, and at Christmas time. That was the glorious one.

With catalog before me, I lay, for hours, on my belly in the floor leafing through these beautiful, colorful treasure troves.  

There was something for everyone—clothing, shoes, furniture, appliances, fabric, kitchen wares, tools, and one cannot forget the toys.  No one was left out.

Is it any wonder these catalogs became known as “Wish books?

Christmas catalogs were the most anticipated.  They came with shiny covers and bright colors. I could spend hours dreaming my way through those pages.  There was every kind of gift and goody—chocolate and hard candies—toys, decorations, and special Christmas clothing.

I was aware, as I looked and dreamed, that I was never going to have all those heart fluttering things, but—still I wished.  I knew on Christmas morning there would be something, for My Mama also looked at the catalog, and she listened to my dreams. So there was HOPE!

HOPE!  I love that word.

“Wish” and “Hope” are words often used in our vocabulary, but they couldn’t be further apart in meaning.  

“Wish” is a sad little word often accompanied with a sigh. It means to want or desire something unattainable.  “Wish I hadn’t said that.” “Wish I could do it over.” “Wish I hadn’t eaten so much.” “Wish I could win the lottery,” etc.  Still, wishing on nine billion stars will not bring it to pass.

Now, “Hope” is a hopeful word.  There’s no better way to say it.  “Hope” explains itself. It means to cherish a desire with expectation of fulfillment, or long for with expectation of obtainment.

“Hope” may also refer to someone or something on which hopes are centered.

In Psalm 71:5, David said, “…You are my hope, O Lord, God.”

The Apostle Paul told his readers, in Romans 5:3-5, “…we glory in tribulation because it produces…hope.  Now hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts…”

If you are hoping in Christ, if He is your hope, no matter how difficult life becomes, hope doesn’t disappear, it does not disappoint because He is still there.  He has promised never to leave you, and he won’t.

In this life, we don’t always obtain all the things we hope for.  Life may not be turning out exactly the way you pictured it. However, you and I, as followers of Christ, have a secret.  We know that this earthly life is just the beginning. For there is life after this world, as we know it, has ceased to be.  That is our HOPE! We know this hope will be fulfilled because God’s word gives us that assurance. Our hope will not disappoint us.

Titus tells us, in 2:3, that he himself is, “Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

HE IS OUR HOPE!

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

THERE IS A BALM

For millennia, Scientist and Charlatans have offered us remedies for every human ailment-from leeches and bloodletting to present day miracle drugs.Medicine shows were common in the United States in the nineteenth century, especially in the Old West.  “Dr So and So” usually sold patent medicines or “miracle elixirs” sometimes referred to as snake oil, which, it was claimed, had the ability to cure any disease, smooth wrinkles, remove stains, prolong life or cure any number of common ailments.  Alcohol, opium, and cocaine were typical ingredients.  It is easy to understand why people, with no other resources, often fell for this hype.

Every day I see commercials touting the benefits of one drug or another.  Possible side effects are always included-headaches, sore toe, blurred vision, etc., and, “Oh yes!  You might die.”

By the time My Mom came to live with me, at the age of eighty-seven, she possessed a plethora of medications that were “absolutely essential” to her continued health. Each morning I placed her pills beside her breakfast plate. She hated those pills!

While she finished eating, I occupied myself cleaning up the kitchen reminding her repeatedly to take her medication. Coming back to the table, I asked, “Did you take your pills?”

“Yes,” she always replied.

Each night, after I helped her prepare for bed, we prayed together.

One night, she said to me, “I am so miserable.  I lied to you this morning.”  I told you I took all my pills, but I didn’t take those “nasty little Lasix.”

Those “nasty little Lasix” kept her running to the potty all day long.  She figured whatever benefit she was receiving from the medication wasn’t worth the hassle.

I consider myself to be reasonably healthy.  However, I do have an issue with arthritis, and there is the pacemaker, which must be checked bi-monthly because I am totally dependent upon it.  My heart goes into A fib time to time, and so on…        My pantry looks like a pharmacy.  Morning and evening I have a fist full of pills to swallow.  I don’t really mind that so much, but something does concern me.  How do multiple pills designed to do multiple tasks find their way to the proper place once they slide down my throat?  For example:  How does that little yellow rectangle find its way to my thyroid, and how does the white football arrive at the seat of my cholesterol problem?

I am a woman of faith, but I must admit that I have very little faith in the ability of these little pieces of colored chalk to take care of my health issues.  Yet, I follow the doctor’s directions without fail.  I dare not do otherwise.

Fact is, there is no human produced cure-all for our physical needs. You know that!  Sometimes medicine works and sometimes it doesn‘t.  Risk always accompanies any medical procedure.

A certain “Balm of Gilead” is mentioned three times in the Bible as an example of something with healing or soothing powers. This rare, high-quality ointment, used medicinally, was produced in Israel, in the region of Gilead, east of the Jordan River.  Some botanical scholars have concluded that the actual source was a Terebinth tree.

Many medical properties have been attributed to this highly sought after ointment.  As a result, “Balm in Gilead” has come to signify a universal cure in figurative speech.  No wonder it was the most costly product of Palestine.

In Jeremiah 8:22, the prophet mourns for the spiritual condition of the people of Judah.

“Is there no Balm in Gilead, is there no physician there?  Why then is there no recovery for the health of the daughter of my people?”

Jeremiah is saying, “Why doesn’t a doctor come with this healing ointment and bind up the wounds of my people?”

While it is true that there is no cure-all for our physical needs, there is a sure cure for our spiritual wounds.

Just as that fragrant balm drips freely, of its own accord, from the Terebinth, so also does the ointment of God’s grace flow freely from Calvary’s cross.

Jesus, our “great physician,” applies the balm of His grace to our wounded heart and troubled mind and ravished body bringing healing from the inside out.

“There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole. 

  There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin sick soul.”

If you are suffering today, open your heart to Jesus, Your Great Physician, and allow Him to apply his healing grace to your life.

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

 

 

           

DOES GOD TAKE SIDES?

 My niece, Paula, was the daughter I never had.  In every issue, I wanted to be on her side.  Even when she was grown and married with her own children, I looked out for her.  I didn’t like it when the kids were sassy or disobedient toward her.

One day her little daughter said to me, “Aunt Faye, you are always on Mama’s side.”

I didn’t know it was so obvious, but she was right.

We all need an ally.

I remember when I first heard that word, “ally.”  It was during the Second World War, and I was in the third grade.  Even eight-year-olds knew that a terrible conflict was raging in our world.  I was especially aware because I had three big brothers fighting overseas.

My teacher explained to us that our country, The United States of America, had some help fighting the war.  We were not alone.  There were other countries, on our side.  We needed their help to win. Those countries were our allies and we were theirs.  We were a team.

I also remember VE Day, Victory in Europe, and VJ Day, Victory in Japan.  The dark days of war were over.  There was rejoicing in the streets.  We won with our allies.

We all face dark and worrisome times in everyday life.  You may, even now, be confronting a desperate situation.  You feel like you are standing alone—there is no ally in sight.  These past few months have been some of the most difficult of my life, and they are not yet over.  I have dealt with legal problems for which I had no preparation—I have made decisions for which I was ill-equipped.  At times I have felt utterly alone knowing that there was not another human being who really knew what was going on, and yet I had an ALLY.

I HAD AN ALLY!  I turned to Psalm 124.

Psalm 124 is a song of praise written by King David in celebration of his triumphal return to Jerusalem after his son Absalom tried to usurp the throne.

In Psalm 124:1-3, David said, “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, now may Israel say. If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us…they would have swallowed us up alive;”

In the year 1582, this psalm was sung on a remarkable occasion in Edinburgh, Scotland. A Scottish preacher had been wrongfully accused and imprisoned by enemies of the Gospel.  On the day John Durie was set free, he was met outside the prison and welcomed by two hundred of his friends.  The number increased until he found himself thronged by a company of two thousand, who began to sing, as they marched up High Street.  The words of the old song rang out as they solemnly sang, in four parts, all joining in the well-known tune and psalm—“Now Israel may say, if it had not been the Lord who was on our side…”

As they sang, they were deeply moved, and so were all who heard.  It is said that the man who was chiefly responsible for the preacher’s wrongful imprisonment, was more alarmed by the song and the sight of the marching believers than anything he had ever seen in Scotland.

So!  Does the Lord take sides?  Absolutely!  He was on John Durie’s side and He is on your side.  HE IS YOUR ALLY!

If you are one of His, God the Father is on your side.  He loves you. You belong to Him.  You are as dear to Him as the apple of his eye.  In turbulent times, He is your peace.  In trials, He is your strong arm.  He supplies your needs, keeps you by His power, and saves you from your enemies.  You have nothing to fear from any quarter.

“If it had not been the Lord who was on our side…”  But He is.  There are no “ifs, ands, or buts about it.  He is on our side.

David ends this psalm by saying in verse 8, “Our help is in the Name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”

He has not fashioned a few little things alone, but out of nothing and with the aid of nothing, He made all that now is.  All heaven and the whole earth are the works of His hands.  If He can do all this, surely He can care for me.  As long as I can see heaven and earth I will not be afraid.  My present help and future hope is in the name of the Lord.

Remember, HE IS YOUR ALLY, and…

 

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.

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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

 

LOVE DOESN’T WANT WHAT IT DOESN’T HAVE

The Apostle Paul, writing to the Hebrews about that peculiar kind of love that Christians have for each other said, “Let brotherly love continue.”

In keeping with Paul’s admonition concerning Christian love, I want to latch onto the coattails of last week’s blog and examine another characteristic of this unique love.

“…love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have…” I Corinthians 13:4.  (The Message)

The New King James says, “…love does not envy…”

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I was amazed to find that the word “envy” encompasses a broad spectrum of negative emotions that crop up in our relationships.

ENVY is that resentful desire for the same thing that someone else enjoys.  Envy also speaks of MALICE—the desire to see another suffer. (It serves him right!)  Then, there is the holding of a GRUDGE—a deep seated resentment toward another, and Jealousy is an intolerance of a rival—suspicious and distrustful.  PIQUE is also implied simply meaning to purposely arouse anger and resentment.

That’s a pretty ugly picture, isn’t it?  We declare that we love one another, and yet we fall easily into these traps of resentment, of jealousy, of suspicion.

When I was a little girl, Mama took me and my sister shopping just before Easter.  We went to the local Woolworth, five and dime store.  There displayed in row after row were the most gorgeous Easter Baskets all dressed up in colored cellophane and big puffy bows.  Mama was there to buy buttons or some such thing not realizing the temptation that awaited us.

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My little sister stopped dead in her tracks in the aisle and said, “I want that one.” Even now it hurts to remember that Mama couldn’t buy it.  When every penny counts, even a little bit is too much.  There was no way to explain that to a child, and the tears flowed freely.

As adults, we sometimes behave in the same way wanting things we cannot have.

When I finished my missionary assignment in Europe and returned to the good old USA, I was determined to buy a house.  I wanted to live like real people.  I guess you could call that “envy.”  I drove up and down the streets near our church—streets lined with beautiful, old custom built homes.  I didn’t hate the people who could afford to live in those houses.  I just wanted what they had.  I wept knowing there was no way I could buy one with my income. The longing was like a physical pain.  Only when I surrendered that desire to the Lord was I able to rent a lovely apartment, and live happily in it for eighteen years.

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“Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.”  I find that really hard in a world where we are constantly bombarded by a plethora of available things.  The shopping networks offer easy pay.  It only costs $11.00 a month for the next @#$%^& months.  I must admit that I am tempted by the advertisements for walk-in bath tubs.  At my age, that would be a sheer pleasure.  Then I read the fine print.  You pay only $50.00 a month for the next nine hundred years.

In my first job as a school teacher back in 1960, I received a salary of $280.00 a month. My rent was $80.00 and I had a $50.00 car payment.  Oh, for the good old days.

One day I answered the door to a pots and pans salesman, who was determined to sell me his wares.  Foolishly, I allowed him in.  He made a beeline for my little kitchen and began to examine my cookware.  My Mom had given me what she could—a cast iron skillet, a couple of mismatched sauce pans, a muffin tin and a cookie sheet.  For some reason this intruder found that hilarious.  Yes, he talked me into buying an expensive set of cookware that came with a free set of “fine” china.  Did I want it?  Yes!  Was it a wise thing to do?  No, and I knew it before I finished signing the contract.

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“I’ve changed my mind,” I said.  “I can’t afford this” The salesman reached across the table and picked up the contract.  “Please tear it up,” I pleaded.  He laughed and said, “Your merchandise will arrive within the week.”

When it arrived, I loaded it in the car and took it to the freight office, and sent the pots and “fine” china back to the company C.O.D.—cash on demand.  I knew I couldn’t afford it.

How does wanting things we do not have relate to our Christian love for each other?  I believe our unfulfilled desires rob us of contentment causing resentment, which in turn affects our attitude toward life in general and fellow believers in particular.

In Philippians 4:11, the Apostle Paul says, “…I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.”

 

Remember—the sun will come out tomorrow

 

 

 

 

 

 

           

 

 

THINGS UNEXPECTED

Today the Court awarded me Guardianship and Conservatorship for my little sister—my baby sister.

I had been the baby for two and one-half years when my sister made her appearance.  She was born at home, as were the rest of us, with the doctor in attendance.  In fact, she was born not five miles from where I sit at the moment.

After her birth, when I was first allowed on my Mama’s bed, Mama pulled back the corner of the blanket which swaddled that little package snuggled in her arms, and I saw that tiny creature for the first time.    I was delighted.  Bubbles of joy escaped, as I clapped my little hands crying, “See, I told you I’d get me a rubber baby.”

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“Bottle Tot” dolls were all the rage back in the late thirties.  Made of heavy molded rubber, she cried, drank her bottle, wet her diaper and went to sleep.  You could bathe her with soap and water and powder her with talcum.  Advertisements touted her as a doll that was so much like a real baby that every little girl would think there was a new comer in the home.

I sort of turned the thinking around believing, for a moment, that the real new comer was the dolly I so longed for.  When I discovered that this doll really did cry and wet her diapers, and that she occupied too much of my Mama’s time, my joy evaporated.  “I don’t like her,” I sobbed.  “Just kick her out the window.”

Before long, however, I was madly in love discovering that a real little sister was a better playmate than any toy.  I remember her as a chubby, blue-eyed toddler with a mass of curly hair.  We were little girls together at home, after our siblings were grown and gone.  We played together, and slept together.  Our lives were and are so entwined it is as though we are joined at the hip.

I have always been there for my sister loving her and protecting her.  When I was in second grade and she in kindergarten, at recess I found her, led her around by her chubby little hand and pushed her in the swing.  Her teacher told our mother that she would never learn anything, if I didn’t leave her alone.  Through the years, no matter where around the world I was, in times of need, my sister called.

Now the unexpected, the unplanned, certainly the unwanted has happened.  My sister is no longer able to take care of herself, so it is only right that I become her guardian and assume the responsibilities that implies.

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Now, that’s easy to say, but at the same time, there is a sense of resentment that creeps in, for this is not the way I planned it?  No!  Having worked hard all my life, I thought by now I would be “footloose and fancy-free.” My sister and I would be the two prettiest old women in town having the time of our life traveling the world, doing things, laughing and playing and loving each other.  In fact, I imagined that she would take care of me in my old age.  Alas, that is not to be.

Plans and dreams of a lifetime are often shattered by the unexpected.  A loved one dies, a relationship is shattered, a fortune lost, and we are left forlorn and confused, and sometimes, resentful.

When Cecil and I married on February 9 four years ago, we looked forward to a cloudless future.  That optimistic expectation came to a screeching halt five months later, when he was promoted to heaven.

I have learned that it is not the enormity of the tragedy that determines my future, but rather, my response to that unexpected event.

My sister’s illness and Cecil’s death were certainly not crises for which I was prepared.  However, I have learned that God is never surprised by anything, nor is He unprepared.

When the unexpected comes, God doesn’t say, “Oops, I wonder how that happened?  No!  He says, “I knew all about this before time began.  I am here to comfort and strengthen you.  Take my hand and I will walk you through this and bring you out in triumph better and stronger than you ever were.”

Feeling sorry for myself I can nurse my resentment, or I can turn it over to God and trust Him to accomplish His will, for He does have a purpose in all of this.

Job said, “…He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.” Job 23:10.

II Corinthians 1:3-4.  (The Message)  “All praise to the God…of all healing council!  He comes alongside us when we go through hard times…”

The sun will come out tomorrow!

A JOURNEY BACK IN TIME

My big brother, well, you can’t really call him my “big brother,” because I’m bigger than he is.  Nevertheless, my older brother came from Fort Worth to spend Christmas with me.  Having lost both his wife and oldest daughter in the last eighteen months he needed a change.

Paul and I are good together.  He’s quiet and I never shut-up.  We both like to cook, and being retired ministers, we always have something to talk about.  We spent a lot of time just reminiscing—comparing notes and sharing sweet, good, meaningful times from the past.

We spent hours driving through Mesa, where we were both raised.  Paul was constantly looking for landmarks—something familiar.

“It’s not fair.  It’s just not fair,” he grumbled, as we drove up and down and back and forth.

“What’s not fair?” I asked.

“They changed everything,” he complained.  “Nothing is as it should be.”

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I couldn’t help laughing.  “Do you realize it has been nearly seventy years since you lived here?” I asked.

We looked for the big pink hotel that used to be on the corner of Center and Main Street, for Paul L. Sales, and Valley National Bank, and our High School—all of them gone.

However, my brother did find some landmarks.  He knew where all the irrigation canals were.  When he found them, he figured out where everything else ought to be.

“May’s Store was just on the other side of this canal,” he declared. “They sold fruit and nuts and dates, and June was born about a mile west of that canal, and I used to walk home down this canal bank.”

He also found the great Bottle tree on Brown Road, where we lived when I was three.  The house is not there, but the irrigation ditch still runs by the side of the road.

As we drove down Broadway, Paul said, “O, look!  See that building.  It was behind that building, in a tent revival, where I was saved, when I was ten.  What a blessed landmark!

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Through the years, I have had the privilege of visiting many well known Landmarks scattered across this world.  I have zoomed to the top 1063 ft., wrought iron Eiffel Tower, in Paris, France.  In Agra, India, I sat in the gardens and contemplated the beauty of the Taj Mahal.  I have craned my neck to view the top of the Washington monument, on the National Mall in   D.C., and from a boat, in the middle of the Thames River, I gazed at the London Eye, a giant Ferris wheel, from which you may view all of London and its surrounding areas.

These were memorable experiences.  Yet, I am, somehow, more touched by the canals in Mesa and the remembrance of my brother’s landmark salvation.

Landmarks are exactly what the word implies—an object that marks the boundary of land.  A landmark may also be an object that marks a certain locality, like the Bottle tree, and it can be a structure of unusual historic interest, or an event that marks a turning point in one’s life.

Proverbs 22:28 tells us, “Do not remove the ancient landmark which your fathers have set.”

There is a reason for not moving landmarks.  Landmarks keep things stable, secure and correct.  It keeps confusion away.  It helps people identify what is mine and what is yours.

Physical landmarks are important and even necessary, but personal, spiritual landmarks define our life.  Though the building on Le Baron St. is no longer there, I can still see the five-year-old me kneeling at a tear-stained altar with my Sunday school teacher, as I surrendered my heart to Jesus.  I can take you to the place where God called me into ministry, and I could show you the bedroom, where I struggled night after night with The Lord as He revealed His plan for me and faraway places.

Personal spiritual landmarks are sacred ground.  When times are hard, we can go back in thought, at least, to these landmarks, and reflect with humble gratitude about what God did for us there.  He will reassure, reaffirm and refresh us again with His life-giving presence.

Now, we must consider GOD’S Landmarks put in place before you and I ever existed.

In Jeremiah 6:16, The Lord says to us, “…Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it, then you will find rest for your souls…”

Long ago God set up some landmarks for us.  They have not changed, nor, do they need to be updated, because human needs and nature remain as they were from the beginning.  Those unchangeable landmarks are to be found in His word.  They are in place for our protection.  When He says, “Ask for the old paths—the good way, and walk in it,” He is saying, “Walk in obedience.  Walk according to My Word.”

Today, as a society, we are unhappy, dissatisfied, unfulfilled.  We have tried everything to fill up the empty spaces, but it is not working.  We’ve lost our way because we have ignored the ancient landmarks.  It is time to search out God’s Word—to walk in the old paths where the way is good.  Only then will we find the peace for which we long.

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