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Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Past

  'Whose woods these are I think I know

His house is in the village though

He will not see me stopping here

  To watch his woods fill up with snow'

I was admiring the snow glistening in the sunlight this morning, laying a thin white blanket over the frozen ground when I saw these words hanging on the walls of my memories like pictures framed up in my young days of childhood.  Robert Frost was one of the first poems my father and I memorized together.  I can see him sitting on the couch and me leaning in close toward his lap, careful not to crowd him - we three kids clamoring for his attention.  Dad opened the world of poetry to me, and considered it important to bring the joy of writing words that carried strong emotion or simple thoughts clinging together in stories and adventures.  We traveled on roads filled with characters cajoling one another, or enjoyed beauty lingering as a backdrop to Mother Nature’s symphony of colorful sunsets, cascading waterfalls, or winter on mountains tops before spring flowers peeked out from snowcapped crests. After a while, my imagination knew no limits and wandered down the streets of possibility.

     I remember riding the train downtown with dad and visiting his studio where he worked as a commercial artist.  I can still see the trail of his cigar smoke as he puffed and drew a line, or dabbed a stroke of color on his painting.  Mom worked as a secretary at the studio when they met.  She made him a very happy man, because the only thing I noticed in the photos on their wedding day was a smile that filled half his face – nothing but smiles in every picture that day. 

     Presents from dad were special, because he worked many days past dinner and brought work home too.  So when he took time to shop, well, it was a real treasure.  He shared his art with us, and that’s when my modeling career began while posing for a Louis Lamoure book cover, or holding up my cardboard box of laundry detergent with a look of cleaning determination.  Modeling began and ended at 2933 West 183rd street which was home for more than 50 Christmas’ for me!  One year we had the most perfect Christmas tree when we chopped down a pretty little evergreen from our front yard to make room for a turn-a-round in the drive way.  It was just the right height for our living room and full of beautiful branches.  Maybe that was the year we began using garland instead of tinsel.

Monday, December 17, 2012

    The season of Christmas is one of the best times of the year to reminisce and review the wonder and magic of time spent with family and friends.  There are so many friends God has brought across my path that have added moments of great joy and assurance that I really never walk alone in my life’s journey.  One such friend was Valeda, whom I met when I moved to Anderson 3 years ago and had the privilege of spending time together, on what would be her last Christmas eve – she was 98 years old. I was so inspired by her life’s story that night that I wrote these words to remember her life.

  I think I can hear the blades of her sleigh cutting through crusty, hard, cold snow, clinging to the silence in the moonlight.  The cold is pressing in, fighting it’s way past her muffler, wool scarf, boots and blanket she had wrapped up in that beautiful night.  The bright gleam of moonlight was blazing a trail past the woods and up the glen.  Oh how she adored those sleigh rides.                      

     “Nothing compares to that experience,” she mused.  I could see her breath hanging in the crisp, cold air as they sped along listening to the clip-clop of horse’s hooves. 

     “Could you hear that sound on the snow?” I asked Valeda.  

     “Oh yes!” she said, as she looked beyond me to the scene in her mind hanging on the walls of her memory like pictures framed in the early years of her childhood.

     “I slept on a hay mattress, and you wouldn’t think it so, but it was warm, or at least that’s how I remember it,” she said.

     I think I could almost feel her hay mattress, the smell of straw filling my mind with her summers on the farm, pulling weeds, or picking turnips, parsnips and potatoes. Their meals consisted of all  they harvested from their garden and some of this produce was traded with their neighbors who had cows, goats and sheep for milk and meat. I tried to remember that blend of herbs she was so fond of cooking… what was it? A blend of dandelion leaves, burdock and something else?  I can’t remember, but she did.  I think she tasted the blend of those wilted leaves in bacon grease; the thought of smelling that aroma brought her back into the kitchen where her mother hung clothes to dry by the heat of the fire.

     Valeda turned her head to catch the birds chirping in her memories, acknowledging she hears their singing with raised eyebrows and a wide contagious smile.  She loved to hear birds singing their melodies and opened her windows in the summer to feel warm breezes against her face. It brought comfort to her just like the strands of memories that weaved a colorful and vivid tapestry of her life. Most anything could stir up a memory, sometimes as far back as a small child, remembering a Christmas when she was 3 years old, sitting on her mother’s lap while she read, The Little Red Hen.  

     Her life was an inspiration to me.  She loved all of us who had the privilege of spending time with her in her home and we loved her as she shared her thoughts and feelings, composing every emotion of the day.  They were significant and detailed musings about her life growing up on a farm, her perspective on all kinds of issues at home and abroad, and the intense love and adoration she had for her family.  I loved her stubbornness because it proved to be an incredible asset for her as she talked herself out of being discouraged while she was bed-ridden those last few months of her life.  Her faith was remarkably strong and I was privileged to call her friend.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Is This Revival?!

I’ve been praying for Revival off and on for more than 20 years, as far as I can remember. But sometimes, I’ve experienced a work of God that is very exciting, and I really don’t realize that it has the elements of revival, until I’ve stepped back from the experience and reviewed the moments with a colleague or friend. I suppose I need to ask, what is revival? There is much written about the phenomenon, and there are many reports of revival breaking out in previous centuries on the east coast, reports of meetings where many are healed and delivered in Africa, places in the Middle East have reported enthusiastic experiences by Christians living on the edge, or in persecution or being miraculously  saved from despair and humiliation. Not everything that is happening gets recorded. In John 20:30 it says that Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. So I can safely assume that revival is experiencing something done by Jesus (God, Holy Spirit), and we don’t always hear about it.

Saturday my pastor was asked to talk with a man, 61 years old, who was very sick and during that meeting the man prayed a prayer of salvation, asking God to forgive him of any transgressions and invited Jesus to come and reside with him, in his heart.  Monday, the man left this life and was swept up into the arms of Jesus.  Revival?  Awesome timing!

The next evening, I stopped in and caught the tail end of our evening bible study and we spoke about this timely confession of faith before this man died, and a parishioner in our bible study, with tears in his eyes spoke about something that was recorded in a magazine about what a heavy metal musician said, expressing his viewpoints on dying. It wasn’t very hopeful or full of faith. This parishioner was overwhelmed with compassion for this musician whose music he really loved. He just couldn’t believe this musician spoke so callously about death, even his own death, which occurred in the unforeseen future.  And I said, in Revelation 1:18 it says, “….I was dead, and see I am alive forever and ever; and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” That says to me that the keys give Christ access into Hell (Hades) and if Christ Himself overcame death on the cross, He can go to Hell and save us. Now, this may not line up with theology, but I can’t imagine God ignoring my bible study companion’s heart of compassion filled with love for this musician! Just the thought of this possibility is rather reviving to my heart!!

Today, I’m working on a new project to bring hope into our neighborhood, and I’m feeling rather excited, believing God to do a work of revival in our neck of the woods today!   

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Tribute To My Father

I remember most mornings before school hearing  the music of popular composers and jazz artists blowing their horns;  opera singers belting out chorus and verse of songs, as we sat eating  - the notes and rhythms cascading around the breakfast table.  Music was the background to my morning routine. To this day I’m drawn to these musicians and their creative rush of melody and song.

I remember how much you enjoyed the classics, and we were brought into your world, living in this creative culture of beauty and sound that seemed to help you harness your artistic passion. It is a passion that is full of courageous expression of inward enthusiasms. I wonder just how many illustrations, paintings, drawings and sketches you have brought to life on canvas, or in your sculptured bronze patinas.

Thanks for staying in your creative zone dad, and bringing to us the imaginative energies of your gift that gave me hope to find my own passions in life.

Happy Father’s Day

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

     Crushing the Enemy Part ll
     Abraham believed God. Now the miracle with Abraham happened after he believed. And because he believed God, he acted. I don't think he acted on a presumption, he responded to the dream God gave him. So I ask myself, what is it that God is telling me?
     We live in a neighborhood that is lonely for God. I have a neighbor whose daughter is in the first grade, and attends our Kids Club that meets during the school year. I saw her Grandmother who also lives in our neighborhood on election day and she was concerned that Kids Clubs was ending for the summer.  She also said she liked my sandals! My first thought was to take them off my feet and give them to her, but these were my best pair of flat shoes for the summer and I wore them practically everyday, so I changed my mind and asked her what size she wore. A few hours later I was chatting with those who attend our bible study and talked about Grandma admiring my sandals and asking for a summer program for her grand-daughter. I wanted to teach something, but had so many committments for the summer I couldn't do it every week. 
     "Why don't you do something once a month and have 3 sessions for the summer?"
      I thought, I could do that! Then someone chipped in money for a bible for the grand-daughter and another said her son (who works in a shoe store) could get a pair of sandals the same color as mine in the right size for grandma.
     The pastor gave the bible to the first-grader and I really wanted to tell her how much God loved her more than anyone else could love her and the next morning, I was on my way to my local grocer and there she was sitting on the side of the road waiting for the bus with her bible in hand! So I had a little chat with her and told her what was jangling around in my heart about how much God loves her!

Like Abraham, I'm a beleiver, too!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Crushing the Enemy, Part I

Sunday is the second Sunday of Easter, and one of the scriptures from the Lectionary resource uses 1 John 2:2.  The Message says we have a priest-Friend in the presence of the Father: Jesus Christ...I was considering this word, priest, and the first time priest is mentioned, linked to something holy, as in God, was in Genesis 14. Melchezidek, King of Salem was priest of the High God. In this chapter it also talks about the exploits of Abram, before he had his name changed by God to Abraham. He defeats Kedorlaomer, King of Elam. This was no small feat. King Kedorlaomer was an oppressive King and also had an alliance with King Amraphel, Arioch and Elam and the Tidal King of Goiim. They fought the King of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Bela. But in the thirteenth year, all these that had been attacked, came together and revolted against their attackers. Again, King Kedorlaomer and all those kings allied with him, defeated Repaim, Zuzim, Emim, the Horites,the  Amelekites and the Amorites.

Enough of this! And it says the King of Sodom, King of Gomorrah, King of Admah, King of Zeboiim, and King of Bela marched out and drew battle against their enemies in the valley of Siddim - it was against the great oppressor, King Kedorlaomer and his allies: Tidal King of Goiim, Amraphel King of Shinar and Arioch King of Ellasar.

But an interesting thing happened. This Valley of Siddim was full of tar pits, and it says when the Kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, they fell into the tar pits. I wonder why they fled? And all the possessions of Sodom and Gomorrah, all their food and equipment was confiscated or captured by their victors, King Kedorlaomer and his allies.

Now, Abram found out about the fighting and plundering by King Kedorlaomer and his allies from a fugitive who came to Abram with news that his nephew, Lot was taken prisoner. I don't think Abram even considered a diplomatic meeting with the captors to reason with them about the importance of this man, Lot, to Abram. Instead, he counted up those that were born in his household and it was a total of 318 servants - men servants. The Kings of Sodom and Gomorrah with all of their men fled before the King Kedorlaomer and his allies, so, was it a large army of fighters? Even so, Abram got up with his 318 men and chased his captors all the way to Dan. Abram was settled in Hebron which is approximately 120 miles south of Dan. If the 318 men could walk 40 miles per day that would be 3 days to Dan. But how did these men eat, and how/where did they rest? Maybe this is ambitious to think they could travel this far in such a short time, but it is interesting to think about them traveling such a distance, and all the while wondering how they were going to go up against an enemy who was I'm assuming, much bigger than they were. They were coming up against groups of Kings and their Kingdoms.

But Abram was a smart warrior. He split his men into two groups and attacked under the cover of night, chasing their enemy all the way to Hobah, just north of Damascus - about 35 miles. They had traveled more than 150 miles, attacked their enemy and recovered all the plunder, along with his nephew Lot, and his possessions, including the women and people.

When Abram returned, Melchizadek, King of Salem, priest of The High God, blessed him and brought out bread and wine. Melchizadek recognized that God was with Abram. He was a mighty warrior. He conquered all the heathen kings as well as priestly kings. He was completely successful. Not one of Abram's men or allies was lost and the spoils and prisoners recaptured. Bible commentators have said great generals have adopted his tactics - Themistocles of Greece, having persuaded Athens to build a navy which went on to defeat Persia, Belisarius, a Byzantine general who led Imperial armies against Persia, N. Africa and the barbarian tribes encroaching upon Constantinople, Oliver Cromwell, who was convinced that he would be guided to carry out God's purpose, ended war with Portugal, Holland and defeated Spain with his Calvary known as 'ironsides', and even to our own generals, Stonewall, Jackson and Sherman.

Abram has quite a resume if you will an incredible track record, defeating the enemy. But I am constrained to think that there was something to this living in and for the Kingdom of God that is much more precious and stirring to God than the crushing of our enemies.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Pruning, Cutting and Downsizing

As I read John 15, I see 4 points I would like to highlight:

·         Jesus is the vine

·         God is the Farmer

·         Unfruitful branches are cut off

·         Fruitful branches are pruned  so that they will bear more fruit

It always begins with God, more specifically; humanity begins with Christ, who poured out His life so we could get to God. God is the Farmer. A farmer is hoeing and tilling up the ground, preparing it for seed and then caring and tending to what is growing.  The farmer prunes every branch that is producing so that it will bear more fruit and cuts off every branch that doesn’t bear fruit. He tells us how he prunes – nothing is left to our guessing. He says we are already pruned back by the message he has spoken. When we hear, really hear these words, it does something to our hearts. That’s the living action of the Word of God. Pruning and cutting off are the main actions of these few verses, not the being fruitful. Actually it says we are to be more fruitful. The fruit in this chapter is maturity, “maturing as my disciples”. Most of the action is in down-sizing! There is a bon-fire that burns up the deadwood; those branches that are not connected to the vine, to Jesus who is the source of life, which literally is love.

 Verse 5 says, “when you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. I don’t think God wants us to use a ‘how to’ manual to get some fruit growing so we can be fruitful. The fruit just grows out of this relationship in the vine, this wonderful, intimate, organic love affair that matures. I suppose, if you have to have a manual, it would be a manual about having a relationship with eternal love. Not a manual about getting saved, but the everyday, living, breathing, being transformed into the image of God life of a disciple, who is maturing. There is no work on our part to salvation – it was completed on the cross, but the maturing as a disciple is the work in John 15. So get ready for those pruning sheers and enjoy the new look!