Wisdom Teeth

“They have to come out,” Dr. Reynolds informed us. “I’ll give you the name of a good oral surgeon.”

Two boys, eight wisdom teeth.

We met with the oral surgeon and scheduled the procedures. They would go to the hospital to have the teeth extracted under anesthesia. I don’t think they do that so much anymore, but that’s how they did it then.

Brave boys, 14 and 17, both over six feet tall, and ready to face whatever it was they had to face.

The first indication we had that this was going to be another adventure was while my daughter and I were observing the anesthetist.

Keep in mind that these were big boys, and not very knockout-able.

“Can you feel it?” the doctor asked. He was from India and had a definite accent.

“Can you feel it? Can you feel it now?”

“Can you feel it? Can you feel it yet?”

He continued to increase the anesthesia after each question. These boys were not giving up.

“Can you feel it now? Can you feel it?”

My older son finally started to drift off, but the younger one persisted.

“Can you feel it yet?”

“Nope.” Then he immediately conked out.

“I guess he felt it,” I remarked to my daughter.

They wheeled them into the Operating Room. In a little while, they wheeled them back out. We waited until they were awake enough to walk, then we put them in the car and headed for home.

I decided to set up their recovery room in the den on a queen-sized sleeper sofa. That way my daughter and I could keep a close eye on them. Oh, they were pitiful as they lay there side by side.

The nurses had wrapped them up in ice bags which wound under their chins, around their swollen jaws and tied neatly on the tops of their heads. They looked like cartoon characters!

We took pictures to capture the moment for posterity. They were not pleased. But you simply could not look at them without laughing.

For the most part things went well, and they healed from their surgeries, but then came the day when I stopped laughing.

I was opening the mail and received two bills (two boys, two bills) from the anesthesiologist. I was visibly aggrieved.

“What’s wrong?” my daughter asked.

“I can feel it. I can feel it now.”

“My mouth shall speak of wisdom; and the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding.”  — Psalm 49:3                          

                                                                                                                                                            

                            

Refrigerator

Wouldn’t you know it? It was Sunday afternoon, and the refrigerator stopped working. Rattle-rumble-gurgle-splut! It was gone.

“Now what, Lord? Help!!” I pleaded.

“Call Janice,” the Lord whispered in my heart.

So I called Janice.

“So glad you called,” Janice remarked after I explained our latest plight. “We have an extra refrigerator in our garage. We were wondering what to do with it. If you can get some guys to load it, you can get it today.”

I did, they did, and the party was on. After church we invited people over for an “All-You-Can-Eat-Whatever-Thawed-Out” supper. There were a few hot dogs, a couple of hamburger patties, homemade soups, assorted vegetables and bread. Quite a feast from a broken-down refrigerator!

“Form your purpose by asking for counsel, then carry it out using all the help you can get. ”   — Proverbs 20:18 (The Message)

The Third Commandment

I was recently reunited with a dear childhood friend. We e-chatted back and forth with treasured memories. I soon learned that her remember-er is different from mine.

For instance, I remember getting in trouble for crossing the highway to play with a friend. She remembers getting in trouble for crossing the highway to throw rocks at that little boy, whose name she says was Lars. I say it was Sven.

Play with the boy, stone the boy; Lars, Sven. Things get lost in Memoryland after 58 years, but one memory remains unshakeable. My friend Anne shared the word of God with me, and it left an indelible impression on my life.

We were sitting on the floor in her bedroom playing something and listening to a red vinyl record of the marches of John Phillip Sousa.

I do not remember exactly what I said, but all of a sudden my diminutive friend, who couldn’t have been more than 8 years old, exclaimed, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain!”

Where did that come from? I had never heard anyone use the Word of God in a regular conversation before. At first I was offended (I think the Word of God does that), and I felt upbraided. Then I felt conviction (I think the Word of God does that, too) and a sense of having done something really wrong. But I didn’t want to run away and hide under the bed or anything.

Then I was curious. How did she know that, and how did she know how to use it in the right context? Not even my mother had ever said anything like that to me. How could a kid do that? It was direct and powerful, and it was right.

When I recovered from the shock of what had just happened, I think I replied something like, “Oh, OK.” But I pondered it for years. It had depth of impact. It was simple, but profoundly complex.

It was obviously something that required extensive and detailed study or knowledge, but it came from the mouth of a babe. It was emotionally intense, pointing the way to a place remote from me and inaccessible.

I’m telling you. I pondered it for years. And then I decided to test it.

I was thirteen and defiant. I was the master of my fate. I was thirteen and scared to death. But with typical teenage bravado, I decided to challenge Anne’s admonition and let fly with some sort of sacrilegious verbiage. Then I waited.

It was not long before I felt the effects of that outburst. Sparing you the gory details, I will say that I fell into a cycle of sin and sadness that lasted for years. And I knew it had begun when I shook my rebellious tongue at the Almighty.

Not satisfied with two proofs of purchase, I challenged God and His Word yet again as a young married woman — again on purpose — with the same sad and sinful result.

Finally I began to catch His drift. Taking His name in vain was a thing not to be done. God is real. God’s Word is real. There are consequences for breaking the commandments.

Later I learned that if you have broken one of the commandments, you have broken them all. That’s when I knew I was in BIG trouble. I started looking for that remote and inaccessible place, and He drew me closer and closer. It was not so remote after all and was easily accessible. You just had to say the right words.

“Lord, forgive me.”

Thank you, Anne. You can remember our growing up years any way you want to, but this is how I remember you.

“But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David,’ they were indignant.

“Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.

“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’?” — Matthew 21:15-16 NIV)

Let Freedom Ring!

“Come on, Mom,” my son-in-law urged. “I won’t burn anything down.”

“You say that now,” I countered, “but I’m not so sure. Besides, isn’t it illegal to shoot off fireworks in the city?”

“Mom, it will be fine. I know what I’m doing. Do you have one of those flame throwers?”

This otherwise sane young man had a thing about fireworks. Fourth of July, New Year’s Eve, birth of a child, sunshine on a Saturday – it didn’t matter. A great excuse or no excuse at all – it was always a great night for fireworks!

We had the optimum site for it – high on a hill with a large asphalt area free of things that could catch on fire. So the rest of us set up the lawn chairs while he set up the show. I grabbed a bucket and sat next to the outside spigot, water hose in hand, just in case.

He was right. It was beautiful. People saw the display and drove up the ridge to join us. It was quite festive. When it was all over, it was still not all over. He dragged out the sparklers to delight and terrify small children and grandmas. We got through it with no injuries and even had a bit of fun.

It’s not all about the fireworks, you know. The Fourth of July has great significance for Americans. Men and women pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor that we might live in a free society. But before the birth of a nation, there was a re-birth in the spirit of man.

During the Great Awakening of the mid-eighteenth century hearts were changed. The young Patrick Henry and many in his family received Jesus. Rich and poor, young and old, slave and free, master and servant – stood together in the freedom of Christ Jesus. People were born again. As a result, there was a clear break from government-mandated religiosity. Perhaps the next logical step was a clear break from a tyrannical king.

I saw a living history re-enactment of the reading of the Declaration of Independence at the Capitol in Williamsburg, Virginia. It was thrilling to re-live that special moment in time, to sense the excitement and the danger and the great sacrifice that our founding fathers must have experienced. The battlefield at Yorktown reminds us of the tragedy turned to triumph when Cornwallis surrendered to General Washington in 1781, cementing the freedom of our young nation.

My son-in-law was right. Fireworks offer just the right setting to capture the excitement, the danger, and the sacrifice of 1776. There is great cause for elaborate, loud, and light-up-the-sky celebration.

Now that he is in a foreign country, I miss his zeal for the pyrotechnics. But wouldn’t you know it? (Well, God did.) The country where he and my daughter are living today is noted for its grand fireworks celebrations – YEAR ‘ROUND!!!!

 “ … and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” — 2 Corinthians 3:17b (KJV)

Consuelo Lopez

He lifted his paws and placed them pleadingly on the glass door of the church. He was very handsome and very hungry – a gray and white kitten with no tags and a compelling cry. How could I deny him?

When I took him home, my son said, “Can we call him Guillermo?”

“Guillermo. Yes, that’s perfect,” I agreed.

Guillermo wasn’t long for our household. He had other worlds to conquer. He ran away, returned, ran away, returned and finally ran away. Adios, el gato!

Wait a minute. Is that Guillermo? No, it couldn’t be! If it is, he hasn’t grown. I sat at my desk in the church office watching a very handsome and very hungry gray and white kitten with no tags paw at the glass door.

A friend of mine was there encouraging me to go get the pretty kitty and take him home with me. Even if it wasn’t Guillermo, it might be a cousin. I hemmed and hawed for a bit before deciding to adopt him.

When we got home, my children noticed right away that Guillermo was not a boy. I prefer male pets. They seem to be less trouble. I don’t remember ever having a female pet before. I had two black and white kittens once, Pearl and MOP (Mother of Pearl), but they turned out to be boys. Mildred, the black cat, was actually Milton. We had dogs: Moose, Boots, Hesse, Virginia Wolf (also a boy and part wolf), Gerd von Birkelbach, Jonathan Swift and a few more.

My granny always had boy dogs on the farm. They were always collies, and she always named them “Boy.” That simplified things. “Here, Boy!” We never knew if she got a new dog. There was always a collie, and it was always named Boy, but not necessarily the same Boy.

Now we had a girl cat. I named her (no, not “Girl”). This was a special cat. She needed a special name.

She was as friendly as an aloof animal can be. Her coat was beautiful – sleek, but with just the right amount of fluff. Her carriage was stately, elegant. She had incomparably precise white markings, distinctively adorning her paws and forehead. She had no bad habits — like unexpectedly rubbing against your legs and giving you the creeps, or clawing furniture, or using the indoors instead of the outdoors for her “necessaries.” She had no cry. I thought she might be mute, but I never really questioned it because I liked her silence. It added to her mystery. As cats go, she was an odd bird. I named her Consuelo Lopez.

For you TV trivia people, you are correct! Although I didn’t realize it at the time, that was the name of the nurse on Marcus Welby, M.D.

Conseulo Lopez.

She was a tramp, you know. Not the nurse, the cat. Oh, yes. She would leap onto the sill of the picture window and adopt an artful pose as the “toms” gathered on the front porch to screech her name.

“Consueeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelo! We loooooooooooooooooove you!”

In her best Mae West impression, she answered with a slight upward move of her chin and an inaudible, but resoundingly welcoming, “Hello, boys.”

Night after night after night.

Her first litter came forth with the help of my younger son, her birthing coach. He tried to get her to imitate his breathing/hissing through the teeth method, “Hee! Hoo! Hee! Hoo! Push! Push!”

Her mouth open wide, teeth bared, she offered only silent screams. It was the most moving thing I had ever witnessed.

Five healthy kittens later, she cleaned them up, as well as the entire “delivery room,” and was content to rest and nurse her newborns. She left them only for food and necessaries.

As they grew, we tried to contain them. You are familiar with the term “herding cats.” Well, that was our impossible assignment, although our first attempts were not only successful, but entertaining.

Using cardboard boxes, we built a cat condo. It had upstairs and downstairs, peek-a-boo windows, and wall-to-wall newspaper carpet. As the kittens grew, so did the condo. We added rooms and redecorated, but never in time to keep up with their growing demands.

When my older son came home from college, he exclaimed, “They’re demon cats! Mom, they’re hanging from the drapes, and they poop everywhere!”

It was time to clean house. We turned them out, reclaimed our den, and began to watch the miracle of motherhood at its best.

Consuelo was the consummate cat mother. Her skills at training her progeny were unmatched. The kittens and I watched as she hid behind the planter on my deck, paws anxious with expectancy, eyeing her victim, waiting until just the right moment. Then she would spring from her hiding place and pounce on the prey with proficiency.
“Prrrrrrr, pfffttt!” she commanded (which is cat-speak for, “OK, kids, it’s your turn. Go out there and catch a bug for Mama!”).

Consuelo was no longer silent. She had something worthwhile to say to worthwhile creatures (humans obviously didn’t qualify), and she was saying it.

After the hunting lesson, she would bark another command, “Meow! Click-click!” and the kittens would line up behind her in single file. They followed her like General George Patton into the War Room for more instructions.

After a few weeks she implored me to help with the feeding. (She had a way of letting you know what she wanted.) It was time for the troops to start eating solid food. So I complied. She would finish up their meal with a “glass” of mother’s milk.

Eventually, they were weaned. That meant I had to find a new home for them. My daughter and I packed up the adorable fivesome and headed for Foodmax. They were the hit of the day for shoppers who gladly adopted Crusader, Sebastian, Simogne, Priscilla and the calico.

When we came home, Consuelo was distraught. She went to every room of the house calling for her kittens. She ran outside and called them for hours. It was absolutely heart-wrenching. She mourned for days. She was inconsolable.

But it was only a few short weeks until she had another litter. Then another.

When we moved to another city, I was the designated driver for Consuelo and her latest cache of kittens. Nobody else would ride with her.

She was a little tense … panting and hissing things like, “I cannot believe you are dragging me and these little babies halfway across the state. Can you not see that I am stressed out here?!? And what am I supposed to do all day while you go to your new job? Stay at home and take care of these brats? I have a life, too, you know. I’m not just another pretty face. I have a mind, and a darn good one. But, no, it’s always about you. You never think about my needs …”

She really gave me an earful … silently.

One of the first things we did in our new town was to look up a service for spaying cats. My courageous son said he would hold her in the car.

“Get a bath towel to wrap her in,” I cautioned.

“Mom, I think I can control a little cat for two miles,” he said condescendingly.

“OK. No skin off my nose.”

A few seconds out of the driveway, he was begging me for the towel.

Consuelo never took to life without kittens. She caught birds, chased squirrels and tangled with ‘possums and raccoons, but it wasn’t the same. At night when I called her to come in, she never answered me, just dangled a lone paw over the doorway from her perch in the rain gutter. Her zip was gone.

But she continued to mother. She mothered me.

I had lingering pain from a frozen shoulder, and I felt it most at night. Consuelo always knew just the right time to leap onto my bed, walk up my tired arm and rest her head on my shoulder. She would place a paw, with claws open the tiniest little bit, on my cheek as if to say, “If you move, I will dig in. Be still. We both need our beauty sleep.”

The warmth of her little body on my shoulder was better than drugs or a heating pad. She comforted me to sleep with her silent lullaby.

 
 “Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah.
 “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.”  — Psalm 32:7-8 (KJV)

Manning Up

He always got a tie. And a shirt. And a big meal. That was Father’s Day at my house when I was growing up.

My daddy loved a party – whether it was for him or somebody else – he loved a party. And he loved his children. He loved being a father and was really good at it. We tested him often – kind of a performance evaluation. He always passed, usually with an “A.”

Now I enjoy the day with all the fathers in our church. The pastor preaches a rousing sermon calling on the men to be the “priests” of their homes – taking the lead in the spiritual lives of their families. They are given special gifts – inspirational books, pocket knives, coffee mugs, or other manly tokens of appreciation. Then we pray for them.

We beseech all of heaven on their behalf, understanding only a portion of the heavy burdens they bear. Usually a son or a father comes forward to offer his testimony of the love of a father. There is something special about seeing all the men standing together at the altar, thanking God for the blessings afforded them and asking for His guidance and instruction for the things that lie ahead.

Individually these are just guys.

“Hey! Thanks for looking at my car last week. It’s been running great
ever since you did whatever it was you did.”

“Hey! Can you get about four guys and set up tables and chairs in the Fellowship Hall for about fifty people – before service is over?”

“Hey! Debbie said for you to wait here in the foyer. Here! Take this.
She wants you to hang onto her purse until she gets back.”

“Hey! Would you look in the Men’s Room and see if little Justin is
still in there? Ask him if he needs some help.”

“Hey! Sister Wallace needs somebody to carry these things to her car.
Can you guys help her? Oh, and she might need one of you to keep
her from falling in the parking lot. It’s icy out there.”

“Hey, guys! Did you cook all this BBQ? Smells great!”

See? Just guys.

But collectively, well, that’s another thing. They are not just smelly, sweaty, talented, helpful guys. They are men, and they man up. It is a wonderful thing to observe as they gather in unity to behold the Maker of heaven and earth. As they seek the Master of the universe for wisdom and knowledge. As they offer themselves completely, willingly and wholeheartedly as servants of the Most High God.

They love the parties, the gifts, the food, and they love to be appreciated. Remember to tell them how much they mean to the family of God. And remember to pray for them. They have a lot on their shoulders. Being a father is a big job.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. ” — Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)

Six Things

I personally believe the Baptists have a “lock” on the best potluck dinners. My Catholic friends would argue that point, but I stand firm. And I have attended a lot of potlucks over the years at a lot of churches. Hands down, the Baptists win.

When you walk into the Fellowship Hall there are at least six (sometimes eight) rows of tables. Each row has wooden signs – most likely handmade by grateful husbands – announcing: Salads, Bread, Vegetables, Entrees, and Desserts. My sister, a modern-day potluck scout, previews each serving line to see which one has the best desserts. Then she lets the rest of us know which line to get in.

The potluck is not just another meal. It is a grand celebration. All of us ladies reserve our absolute best recipes for these occasions when we get to show them off before our brothers and sisters in Christ. And show them off we do!

“Mom, that smells wonderful!” my son exclaimed. “It’s for church, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is.”

“See? I told you,” he whispered to his brother. “I knew she didn’t cook it for us.”

I have found a distinctly gratifying (and positively carnal) pleasure in being recognized for a popular potluck offering.

“Who made the ham biscuits? They’re terrific!”

“Why, that would be me,” I confess with a soupçon of humility mixed with a boatload of pride.

And I enjoy being coaxed to prepare a particular dish by a church member.

“Oh, I hope you will bring your cranberry salad. I always look forward to it at Thanksgiving.”

“Of course. And I’ll make a little extra so you can take some home with you.”

Sometimes the conversation is more like: “Oh, I guess you’ll be making the cranberry thing again this year, huh?”

And that’s a fair assumption. I’m not a particularly good cook. In fact, I only know how to make six things, so I have lots of repeats. I mean, cranberry salad is good at Thanksgiving and Christmas and maybe Valentine’s Day (well, it’s red). I have even stretched it into the Fourth of July.

Of the six things I know how to make, I must say I make each of those six things rather well. The rest of the time I microwave, chop, slice and dice, or purchase ready-made. But for those six things to be appreciated by others, well, it’s more than an ego boost. It’s an affirmation that I have attained a sublime level of culinary achievement that cannot be matched by anyone else – unless their six things are the same as my six things.

Over the years the six things have changed a bit. At one time I made my own lasagna noodles with spinach, baked sourdough bread from a 100-year-old starter, and turned out red velvet cake with mystery icing like a professional.

Eventually my endeavors descended to lows I am almost ashamed to admit. My downward spiral began with creating creative vegetable platters creatively, continued with preparing variations on store-bought items (like filling a round of bread with deli spinach dip), and my final downward plunge — buying a box of frozen éclairs.

Now I’m on a definite upward tick. I’m thinning out the tired dishes, beefing up the tried and true, experimenting with new recipes and waiting for feedback from the potluckers.

Chicken dishes have never been my forte, but I tried a new one with a potato-cheese-sour cream-corn flake-mushroom sauce mixture that almost worked. My doctored-up sweet potato and pecan casserole got raves last month. I’m trying it again this month. Well, maybe it’s too soon. And I introduced my now famous oatmeal cake with cream cheese frosting (or was that buttercream?). I forget.

Never mind. I’ll keep at it. Who knows? By the end of the year I may be able to cook SEVEN things!!

“Blessed are all who fear the LORD, who walk in obedience to him.
You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours.”  — Psalm 128:1-2

 

Forward-Thinking Mother

My first Mother’s Day didn’t go so well. I was pregnant out to here … and very ill. Looking for a lift, I knew that Sunday would bring gifts, cards and pampering. Not realizing the protocol for my special day, my husband (after I hinted strongly, ok, after I browbeat him to a conscious understanding of the importance of the impending event) ran out to Sears and bought me gifts — a mop and a broom. Granted we needed them, but not on that particular day.

Three years later I gladly spent the day tidying up with the mop and broom, singing mother songs to the baby in my womb. “Mommy and Daddy and Bud and Birkelbach and Mommy’s little baby,” I crooned.

Bud, my firstborn, and Birkelbach, the dachshund, loved hearing their names set to music. As we added babies and changed pets, I added lyrics and changed the music.

When the children started school, Mother’s Day assumed perhaps its highest ranking position. This was the time of unparalleled devotion to Mom, lavish displays of affection and gratitude, boastings of, “My mom’s prettier than your mom,” and, “My mom’s cookies are better than your mom’s.” In the land of macaroni necklaces I reigned supreme. I was Queen. I was invincible. I was a perfect 10.

The children were at their creative best. They made elaborate construction paper cards with hyperbolic sentiments printed in crayon with great care. If I had been a forward-thinking mother, I would have kept those cards close to me at all times – especially when the little cherubs became teenagers.

“Mom, you never let me do anything. You are so mean. Do you even care that I am the only one not going?”

“Read this,” Forward-thinking Mother would have said, holding out a card in his first grade printing.

“You R the bestest mom forevr! XOXOXO”

Or, “How come I have to do all the work around here? Nobody else’s mom makes them do slave labor.”

Forward-thinking Mother would have reached into her stash and handed him the coupon from third grade: “Good for helping you do anything you want me to do. Your loving son. XOXOXO”

Or, “You let them (the siblings) get away with murder! Why don’t they ever get grounded?”

Once again Forward-thinking Mother would have produced the note he penned at ten: “Dearest Mom, I know I’m not always good, but you always love me special. XOXOXO”

See what I mean? Forward-thinking Mother has her act together. Forward-thinking Mother has all the bases covered. Forward-thinking Mother is cookin’ with gas. Forward-thinking Mother lives on a Hollywood set just past Bailey’s Savings & Loan. But I can dream.

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother—which is the first commandment with a promise— that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” — Ephesians 6:1-3

Cake

It was a simple act. My elderly neighbor had eye surgery, so I baked a small cake and took it to her. I was a new Christian and a bit unsteady on my born-again legs, but I did know how to bake.

She was very grateful for the gesture. I felt simply radiant playing Lady Bountiful, spreading good will, happiness and sweet treats in my path. Giving has its reward, but pride in giving is not especially pleasant to look at, and I don’t think there is any reward involved.

Nevertheless, being quite pleased with my Christian charity, I skipped merrily home.

A few days later I called to ask if I could retrieve my empty plate of Sweet Treat Christian Charity. When I arrived, my neighbor was glad to see me, healing nicely, but distant.

“That’s OK,” I thought. “Old people are usually a little off anyway.”

It’s amazing how we view people who have lived longer than we have. They’re eccentric, too cautious, too talkative, too withdrawn. They smell funny. Their houses are too neat. They don’t hear well; they don’t see well; they walk too slow.

She seems so fragile. If I give her a hug, I might break a bone. He’s cantankerous; he’s grumpy. He only wants to talk about things that happened 50 years ago. She remembers every detail of her childhood, but she can’t remember what she ate for breakfast.

Now that I have a little age on me, I look at it quite differently. I laugh heartily out loud to myself in the grocery store. I treasure the moments of my life. Too eccentric? I don’t like to drive alone at night in the rain. Too cautious? Or just wise? I can talk and talk and talk. I can be still and be still and be still.

Old people smell funny for a variety of reasons. Things leak. The perfume we have worn for years is the scent we like. Mixed with disinfectant and foot powder, it’s not quite as alluring, though. We don’t notice the smells so much anymore. And did I mention … things leak?

Well, of course our houses are neat. Our kids took most of the furniture when they got married. Life is different when the three rowdy kids, the long-haired dog and the useless cat don’t live there anymore.

Hey, I hear what I want to hear. I see just fine — since my cataract surgeries, before dark, with my glasses, large print books and over-sized flat screen TV mounted on the wall. And I pace myself. What’s the hurry? I can get downstairs in one piece if I take the steps one at a time. Stop and smell the roses already!!
You won’t break my bones. Hug me! I’m human, and I love to be hugged. Kids know that. They’re not afraid to show some affection. That’s what makes us grumpy and cantankerous. We don’t get nearly enough hugs.

A little history lesson wouldn’t hurt, you know. Listen to an old person. The stories he can tell are the best. And I have it on good authority that if you’re really old, you can remember them any way you want on any given day. Who’s left to dispute it?

Well, back to the story.

I stood in my neighbor’s foyer, dish in hand, making very small talk, when the Lord spoke to my heart, “Pray for her.”

“I will, Lord. Just as soon as I get home. The children and I will pray for her. Good idea.”

“Pray for her now.”

“But, Lord, I’m new at this. I wouldn’t know what to say. Besides, I don’t even know if she’s a Christian. I wouldn’t know what to say. What would I say? What would she say? It’s probably better to wait until later. I really wouldn’t know what to say.”

“Pray now.”

“OK!” I screamed silently as I slammed the dish down on her lovely table.

I took her hands in mine and said, “I’d like to have a word of prayer before I leave.”

She led me to the couch, and we sat facing each other as I tried to think of what to say. I said something I know, but I don’t know what it was.

Finally came the “Amen!” In the South we say AY-Men! So be it. Now you can go stickin’ a fork in it ‘cause it’s done. And it was done. I was done. I had started to sweat a bit and was anxious to take my leave.

This dear, fragile lady looked at me with tears in her eyes.

“Thank you,” she gushed, then added, “My sister lives in Florida. We talk on the phone a lot, but I don’t get to see her. She said she has somebody who comes and prays with her, but I’ve never had anyone who would do that with me. Thank you.”

 
“Come and learn a lesson about how to obey me.”  — Jeremiah 35:13 (NLT)

Resurrection Sunday

“Yeah, I like Easter. That’s when our Savior died, and we get lots of chocolate,” said the four-year-old boy eating a marshmallow bunny. With modern commercialization it’s easy for kids to be confused about the true meaning of the holy days.

To many of us Easter was one of the two times during the year when you really “ought to” go to church. That meant a new dress, maybe a hat and new shoes, too. My daddy always made sure the women of the family had a spring corsage to set off the new outfit. Then there was the bunny thing with baskets, egg hunts and “lots of chocolate.”

We often attended the community sunrise service on Jamestown Island in Virginia when I was a little girl. What a beautiful setting! An old rugged cross (to my young eyes it looked as tall as a building) with the rising sun sparkling on the James River in the background. I fully expected Jesus to come walking out of the clouds, arms extended in welcome.

And the songs with lyrics like – “Up from the grave He arose,” “He lives!,” and “Christ the Lord is risen today.” They were so jubilant, so filled with hope and the promise of a new day coming.

As an adult I was in the Handbell Choir. We played outdoors on the hillside at the church sunrise service. At the 11 o’clock service we were situated in the balcony. To those seated below it sounded like bells ringing out from heaven with the good news of Christ’s return.

Our Easter dinner usually included ham, mashed potatoes, green beans, hot rolls and coconut cake. Of course, the kids never ate much. They were already stuffed with chocolate, candy eggs, jelly beans and Peeps. And spent the whole day running around with a sugar high!

One year my daughter and I were without transportation on Easter Sunday. A man at our church dropped off his construction truck for our use. Dressed in our finest finery we decided to throw a clean sheet over the cracked, torn and grimy seats of the truck. Then we climbed in and took off for church! We arrived on time and emerged from the vehicle looking as if we had just stepped out of the Vogue-mobile instead of the twenty-year-old rattletrap with the rusted-out panels and a truckbed full of shingles and tar paper. We laughed and laughed and laughed.

When my daughter was eleven, she asked a friend to spend the night. Sunny was her name. I was taken with her sunny personality and her curiosity about everything. She was very bright. Since it was springtime I decided to ask her about Easter. I wanted to know what she knew.

“Uh, the Easter bunny? And candy and stuff?” she answered.

“Would you like to know the real reason we celebrate this holiday?” I continued.

“Well, sure. Tell me.” So I did.

She couldn’t believe she had never heard this before. I couldn’t believe it either. She was amazed that Jesus died in such a horrible way. She was amazed that He died that she might live. She was amazed that He didn’t stay dead, and that He is alive today! At Kid’s Camp two months later she gave her heart and life to Him in gratitude for what He did for her.

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ ” — John 11:25-26 (NIV)