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The Arrow of Affliction

It seems that bad news is all around me.  When the phone rings I think it is bad news automatically.  So life goes.  But it has caused me to think about our human response when struck by an arrow of affliction.  I don’t mean the little irritating dart, but an arrow plunged deeply into the core of our being.

Some dear friends with whom I attend church, recently received the kind of news that breaks a heart….news of impending death due to a cancer for which no hope of a cure was given…..news of just months to live.  Most of us who have lived any length of time, have gotten news that turned our whole world upside down.  And, as is always the case, we can respond in several ways.  I heard that this person who had been handed his death sentence, was continuing to walk daily, and his attitude was good, and from all outward appearance, things were as they should be.

I love that kind of spunk! It underscores a philosophy of mine about life.  I don’t recall where I heard it or read it but it goes like this: “Don’t seek more days in your life, but more life in your days”.  In other words, forget quantity, and pursue quality.  If we will look beyond the pain, we’ll find incredible perspective…..maybe not immediately, or tomorrow, or next week.  But we will find it if we pursue it.

The apostle Paul as recorded throughout the New Testament, learned to glory in his weakness  2 Cor. 12:10 records that he discovered a contentment, even a joy, in the midst of “distresses…persecutions…difficulties.”  In weakness, he found inner strength.

I never tire of the story of Joseph.  Take a few minutes and read Genesis 50.  After being horribly mistreated by his brothers, who sold him into slavery, then being falsely accused by Mrs. Potiphar and placed in a dungeon for years, Joseph never got bitter.  I think he had good reason to be bitter, don’t you? But in the end, he told his brothers “God turned into good what you meant for evil”.  What an incredible perspective regarding life’s arrows!

Life’s arrows may not change our direction.  But they will deepen our character.  Again, as always, it is our choice as to how we handle what is dealt to us.

Whatever the arrow that has struck us–terminal illness, physical pain, unfair treatment, false accusations, marital problems, scarring from an accident, the death of a child–we have a choice to make.  We can lick our wounds (which is a waste of time) or we can spend all our time wondering why it has happened to us, or we can let our anger and anguish fester.  The result of that is bitterness which takes root deep in our being and spreads to all those around us.  Bitterness is something we all have to be aware of, and ask the Lord to help us remove.

“Life’s arrows are nothing more than momentary setbacks that help us regroup, renew, and reload.”  If we could only see our lives and the arrows that come our way from God’s perspective!  If we could only remember that life is brief, and if we have placed our faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, we have eternity waiting for us in a place where there is no sorrow, no sickness, no tear shall dim the eye.

So, what are you waiting for?

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RAMBLIN’ ROSE

I feel like ramblin’ today.  Don’t know where it will take me, but I will start with yesterday.  It was just an ordinary day.  My body was aching when I finally managed to roll out of bed and get it moving in the general direction of the bathroom.  The new rug on the bathroom floor felt soft and welcoming to my bare feet.  Ordinarily, I wouldn’t look at my reflection in the mirror first thing. But on this ordinary day I did look.  It took my breath away for a moment as I studied the dark circles under my eyes and the wrinkles, oh my, the wrinkles.  It was me alright.  The coffee pot was calling my name and as I walked toward the kitchen, there was a familiar cold nose and tongue licking at my feet with every step.  It was Abby, my adopted long-haired dachshund. She always managed to stay beside me and not in front of me for which I am thankful.  She demands a lot of attention and love, but she gives a lot of love back.  Of course Doodlebug, my blue Chihuahua, was not far behind, and both were expecting their daily bacon treats. Next came the opening of the blinds so I could look out at the bird feeders in my yard.  Ordinarily, there would be dozens of cardinals and blue birds.  Yesterday there were none because I  hadn’t filled the feeders.  That might explain their absence.

As soon as the coffee was ready, I took it to my rocking chair on the porch.  Both dogs were close on my heels.  I wondered if they would like coffee. It was so peaceful as I gently rocked and listened to the sound of the breeze in the pine trees.  On a list of my favorite things, the sound of the wind in the pines would have to be right there near the top.  And does anything smell as good as the morning after a spring rain.  I saw on the rain gauge that we had gotten 1/2 inch last night and remembered how lovely it was to listen to the sound of it falling on my tin roof as I drifted off to sleep.

Now that I am talking about my favorite things, I also enjoy the smell of bed sheets which have hung outside on a line.  They seem to capture all the good smells of the outdoors. Of course, who does that anymore?   And I love the smell and feel of freshly turned soil,  and the way a baby smells after a bath.  I could listen to Clair de Lune every day, and it once was my desire to learn to play the piano just so I could play Clair de Lune.  The smell of bacon drives me wild, but it is one of those foods on which I tend to gorge.  A few more favorite things are a freshly brewed glass of ice tea, fried green tomatoes, a comfortable pair of old jeans, the sound and smell of the ocean slapping the rocks, the smell of coffee brewing (though I prefer the smell more than the taste), and how about a good conversation with someone who is also a good listener.

I would be remiss to talk about my favorite things, and not to mention those things I dislike.  I don’t like being around a braggart or a show-off. I don’t like for a person to be friendly one day, and not know me the next.  I despise that “we the people” have allowed a few politicians to corrupt the moral structure of our country and to treat our Constitution with such disregard and disrespect.   I don’t like artichokes or licorice, and can’t understand how folks here in the south can eat chitterlings (hog intestines).  In the same vein, I enjoy chicken livers and if you stop to think about the function of the liver, well….Yuk.  I don’t like bad manners or disobedient children and fully realize that both are more than likely the result of lazy parents.  I dislike eating out with someone who is either talking on their cell phone or texting.  I find both to be rude.  I dislike the way that racism is blamed for things which have nothing to do with racism.  I learned that you should choose your socks by their color and your friends by their character. I hate being around someone who has nothing good to say and lastly (only because there is not room enough or time enough to continue in this vein) I hate being around someone who can talk about nothing except how perfect their kids or grandkids are.

If you have never tried writing down the things you like and dislike, you should try it.  You might learn something about yourself like I just did.

We are getting another one of those wonderful showers, and some thunder.  It’s time to make a cup of fresh coffee. Mind you, I like the smell of coffee much better than the taste.  Most coffee I fix, sits until it is cold and then I throw it out.  Coffee is such a social drink.  Have you ever thought about that?  I would much rather drink it WITH someone.

I have enjoyed ramblin’ and I hope you enjoyed it too.  Till the next time…

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ANGEL UNAWARE? – Chapter 2

It started at a small church in Malden, Massachusetts.  Someone in the pew in front of us turned and commented about how well we sang together. They must have been desperate for choir members, because the following Sunday we were in the choir.  The folks knew nothing about us.  We could have been serial killers for all they knew.  But they took us under their wing, and loved us dearly.  Not a Sunday went by that we weren’t invited to someone’s home for dinner.  We had to take a bus from our apartment to church each Sunday, and with snow on the ground and falling almost every day, this became a problem.  So one of the men in the church who owned a car dealership, delivered a Volkswagen bug to our apartment one Saturday morning.  He told us to pay what we could, when we could.  How’s that for the deal of a lifetime? One distinct advantage to a VW bug was the location of the engine.  Being in the back instead of the front, it gave us good traction on the snowy roads.  On Sundays when hardly anyone else could make it to church, we were able to navigate to this little church which had won our hearts.  And it didn’t take too long to pay it off.  Of course this was before cars started costing as much as a house.

This is where I learned to enjoy what they called a New England Boiled Dinner.  It’s one big stew pot in which you place a corn beef brisket, lots of potatoes, carrots, onions, cabbage and the kitchen sink.  All you need to do when it’s finished is eat it.  And of course we lived too far away to travel home and then come back for the night service.  So we were always offered a bedroom where we could take a nap after lunch.  Everyone took naps. I believe it was a requirement for being a church member. The parsonage was right across the street from the church, so all we had to do was walk across the street.

One thing led to another by word of mouth only,  and before we knew it, we were being asked to sing in surrounding churches.  Most were so small that they didn’t have sound systems or even piano players, so we purchased our own sound system eventually, and traded our “bug” for a van. I was working in downtown Boston as a legal secretary and my husband was a printer/lithographer.  By the way, this is not the sailor husband, in case you’re having trouble staying up.   We were getting invitations to sing in the neighboring state of New Hampshire, and the love offerings were really good,  so we quit our jobs and headed out into the unknown.

One of the problems was my husband’s allergies, particularly to cats. It seemed that every home where we stayed the night, had (you guessed it) a cat.  So the next logical step was to get a motor home so that we could sleep cat-free.  Of course the motor home was very used and had some problems which we didn’t find out about until we were on a deserted highway in the middle of nowhere. We were able to make it to a rest area and my husband, though he was an electronic genius, was no mechanic.  We were sitting inside the motor home enjoying a cold drink and trying to figure out what to do next when out of nowhere, a little man in a funny yellow hat appeared and knocked on the door.  We didn’t hear him drive up and were startled by his sudden appearance.  He asked what the problem was and my husband told him we had no idea.  He looked around under the hood and then went to his truck and returned with exactly what was needed to replace a severed fuel line.  What are the chances of a little man in the middle of nowhere having exactly what was needed to repair the vehicle and get us back on the road.  We were so amazed that we couldn’t thank him enough.  He wouldn’t take money nor anything  to drink and was gone as quickly as he had appeared.  What really got us to scratching our heads is that we looked both ways down this long straight stretch of road, and we saw nothing of this man’s truck.  As far as the eye could see, there was nothing but asphalt.

I hadn’t given much thought to angels before this happened, but we both believed that an angel was sent by God in order to get us going to our next booking.  I think sometimes we just aren’t looking and therefore we don’t see the angels that are all around us.  Not long after this happened, I read Billy Graham’s book “Angels, Angels, Angels” and it was a real eye-opener. After reading this book, I am definitely convinced that this little man was an angel unaware.

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PUT ON YOUR BIG GIRL PANTIES – Chapter 1

Falling was the easy part.  The landing was the killer.  Don’t know why I got on the step stool in the first place.  I know I am too old and too fat for such a feat.  I also knew that my yard help would be coming later and he could have taken care of this little problem of changing a light bulb for me.  But waiting was out of the question.  What if he couldn’t come, and this didn’t get done today. The world might come to an end and I would have a burned out light bulb.   I laid in the floor for several seconds before moving.  I was frightened that perhaps I had broken a bone or hurt myself in some other way. Finally after what seemed hours, I was able to pull myself up with the use of a nearby chair.  No bones were broken and the light bulb was changed eventually–but not by me.

They say when you are in danger of dying, your whole life passes in front of you. Of course I wasn’t in danger of dying as I laid in the floor, but for some unknown reason, my mind went back to a time and place from another lifetime. Events I hadn’t thought of in years were suddenly coming into view as though it was yesterday. I was barely 17. It was 1964 and I had the world by the tail.  I was madly in love with a sailor and I quit school between my junior and senior year to marry him.  He was leaving for overseas, and  waiting till he got back was out of the question.  No, I wasn’t pregnant.  I was just young and foolish.  I was certain that mother and daddy were stupid and they just didn’t want me to have any fun. So 3 weeks after the wedding, I got on an airplane, leaving my family and friends and everything familiar to me, and headed to San Francisco.  I had never been away from home, never been on an airplane, and just knew the plane would surely crash.  Now back in those days, in addition to a meal, the airline gave a complimentary pack of 3 cigarettes.  And being all of 17 and all grown up I smoked all 3 of those Viceroy cigarettes.  Of course, I didn’t inhale.  I think I have heard that somewhere before.

Finally I was in San Francisco and in the arms of my new husband.  We didn’t have too many weeks until it was time for him to ship out.  He had found us a cute cottage in Alameda where he was stationed at the Naval Air Station.  We had discussed how he would buy our china and crystal while he was in the Philippines, and he would need to keep most of his paycheck.  It ended up that my check would be $9.83 per month for the each of the 3 month stints. He would be gone 3 months, home 3 months, gone 3 months, and so on. It was 1964 and things were definitely cheaper then but each payday there were certain nonedible things I had to have (like toilet paper and sanitary napkins) so stretching a dollar far enough to buy food as well, took on a new and very real meaning to a girl who had never done without anything her whole life.  If it  hadn’t been for my next door neighbor, Lyda Drummond, I would have gone to bed hungry lots of nights.  Strange how you remember certain smells or sounds years afterward.  I remember the delicious smells coming from Lyda’s kitchen across the small patch of  grass between our cottages, and sitting in a chair listening to my stomach growling. I especially loved the smell of bread baking in her oven every Wednesday.  Then she’d call out  “Have you eaten yet, sweetie? The bread is hot. All it needs is eating”. I think Someone with a very keen eye was watching over me during this time, and taking very good care of me.

I had promised mother that I would finish high school, so while my husband was overseas, every day I walked about half a mile from the cottage to Encinal High School.  I was the only married student in a school of about 250, if my memory serves me right. Sometimes for lunch, my sandwich was bread only because I had already run out of  peanut butter which was and still is a staple, and one of the first items I would buy with my $9.83.  My only friend at school would make a comment about my meager lunch, and my pride would tell her that I had eaten a big breakfast or that I was kinda sick at my stomach. I think the students were told not to have anything to do with me.  I have pondered it over the years and probably the administration was afraid that I would discuss intimate details of being married, and they didn’t want the students exposed to such talk.  When the other girls were in gym class I had study hall, except for the swimming part.  You had to know how to swim in order to graduate.  But a teacher was always lingering nearby during P.E.

I had more than the required number of credits which transferred from my high school in New Mexico so was able to graduate mid-term.  On a cold January day, I was called  to the Principal’s office where he handed me my High School diploma…..no cap, no gown, no pictures, no family to hug and congratulate me.  Just a piece of paper and a  lonely walk back to an empty cottage where I fell across the bed and wept.

A lot has changed in 50 years.  If I had it to do over again, would I do it?  Probably so.

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I CAN’T HEAR YOU

……maybe that’s because you don’t know how to listen.  That’s right.  Being a good listener is not a gift–it is a learned and practiced discipline.  Think about it for a moment.  How many people (either in your past or those you know now) do you consider to be a good listener? Are you a good listener?

Several years ago, I attended a day-long seminar.  The topic was singular–“Mirroring”.  I had never heard of it, but I promise it was a mesmerizing topic and once the basics are mastered, it is life-altering. It goes something like this: 2 people are in disagreement about something.  There seems to be no common ground.  So they agree on the rules for “Mirroring” and have at it.

#1.  They select who speaks first.

#2.  They cannot interrupt under any circumstances until the person is finished speaking.

#3.  While they are speaking, you must LISTEN.  You must not be thinking ahead to when it is your turn to speak and what you are going to say.

#4.  When the first one is finished speaking, they will say so.

#5.  Then you mirror back to them what they said.  That’s why it is important to listen to them.  You ask them, “Did I hear you correctly?”

#6.  They will say yes or no.  If you misunderstood something that they said, they will correct you.

#7.  Then it is your turn to speak.  This same procedure is followed for you.

#8.  Now that you have both spoken what is on your mind, and both are clear in what the other one has said, it is now time to give something to the other person.

For you to understand what I mean, I give the following scenario: A husband and wife are constantly bickering.  The husband would like for the wife to keep a cleaner house and the wife would like the husband to turn off the television and help her around the house.  Sound familiar?  They go through the “Mirroring” process as stated above and then comes the part that makes this whole thing so amazing.

The wife knows after the husband listed his grievances (laundry always piled up and clothes left in the dryer, dishes never done at night so that the kitchen would be clean in the morning, bed never made and the new comforter always on the floor for the dog’s bed) that she needs to give him something–after all, it is part of the “Mirroring”.  She knows that everything he said is true, and decides to give him the easiest for her–a bed made every morning, complete with comforter and pillows, and she’ll even buy Rover his own bed. So she tells him,

#9.  Right now, the only thing I can give you is to make the bed every morning. And you mean it.  It is like a contract between you.

Now it’s the husband’s turn.  He knows how addicted he is to “Cops” and that he is in total control of the remote.  He also knows that he was raised that the woman is responsible for the house and the man is responsible for everything outside the house (the yard, maintenance, etc.)  He also knows that she has a full time job, too, and so he realizes how selfish he has been.  So he tells her,

#10.  Right now, the only thing I can give you is my help with cleaning the kitchen after supper every night. And he has to mean it.

Now each person has given the other something. This was concerning a husband/wife relationship, but the same principle works with other relationships as well…parent/child, co-workers, best friends and so on and so forth.

Of course, you won’t explain “Mirroring” to everybody with whom you interact throughout your life.  But I think it’s a great thing to practice good listening on every person who comes across your path.  We look at people, but we never see them really. Do we? We go to work or go to church with folks week after week, and year after year, but do we know anything about them?  Do we know what their favorite food is, or how many grandchildren they have, or what they did before they retired?  Or when is the last time you took the time to just sit and listen to them talk.  People enjoy talking about themselves, but many finally lapse into silence because long ago they discovered a wife, a friend, a child, a parent, a teacher, a pastor who just didn’t seem to care enough to listen to them.  How I wish I had listened, really listened, and maybe even took notes when my grandparents would tell stories about “The Old Days”.

For what my opinion is worth, I think the problem is that we are too busy with less important things, while letting the really important things slip through our fingers.  We couldn’t wait to graduate high school, and then couldn’t wait to leave home and be on our own.  Couldn’t wait to have our own family and buy our own home.  Time just couldn’t fly fast enough to suit us.  Then we are sitting in a rocking chair holding a grandbaby and we wonder where all the years have gone. What could we, should we have done better?  I think what will matter at the end is how we have treated people.  My regrets don’t concern material possessions, the gain or loss of them.  My regrets concern my selfishness when it came to those closest to me.  You say it is water under the bridge, and that’s true.  But on this cold, dreary winter day, as I sip a cup of hot apple cider, my heart hurts a little bit that my youth was wasted on such selfish endeavors.

Tomorrow is a new day with new opportunities to see those God has placed in my life, and to listen (really listen) to them.  God forgives, and I am so glad He does.

 

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THE PERSON IN THE MIRROR

Nothing will upset my stomach more than a raw onion.  But do you think for one minute that it stops me from eating one on a juicy hamburger?  And I sure suffer the consequences.   I was given cause to consider the “onion” while dealing with grief in the death of my son.  A book was placed in my hands which compared grief to an onion, with all its layers.  You peel one layer, and then there’s another and another, and when you think you’ve peeled it completely, there’s that thin membrane.

More to my point, God not only wants our relationship to Him to be right, but the outward expression of that relationship must also be right.  We are  like that onion in one way–there are layers involved in our makeup.  Our past is always lurking and it is a layer that Satan often uses to defeat and discourage us.  With it, he tells us that we’re not worthy to teach a class or sing in the choir because of our past.  Then there’s the future, and often it is a layer that causes us to worry and fret.  We borrow it from tomorrow, which belongs only to God.  And then there’s that layer of the “here and now”.   This is the layer that causes us to become so engrossed with our day to day living, we neglect to take care of what is most important–that is our relationship to God.

God will not allow anything to escape His scrutiny.  He will keep bringing us back to the same point over and over again and He never tires of bringing us back to that point until we learn the lesson.  You see, carelessness is an insult to the Holy Spirit.  We should have no carelessness about us–not in the way we worship Him, not even in the way we eat and drink.  But we do have some areas in which we are lazy and careless.  Our problem may be an impulsive nature, or our idle and wandering thinking, or our independent nature and self-interest.  God keeps peeling away the layers as He tries to impress upon us the one thing that is not entirely right in our lives.

I remember once, several years ago, when there was a person I really disliked.  I am not sure exactly why I disliked her, but we clashed on several occasions at work.  She always had to have the last word, and she was always right, of course.  Time passed by and I got a job in the same building, but in another office.  Wouldn’t you know it? She had gotten a job in the same office.  I couldn’t believe it.  How could this have happened?  Well, I’ll tell you what I think about it.  I think I had an unresolved problem (namely, lack of love) which I felt would be solved with a change in the scenery.  But my loving Heavenly Father (who loves me way too much to let me escape His scrutiny), wanted to teach me to love the unlovely.  We’re commanded to love, after all–it is not an option.  So, it seemed like every day, at the coffee pot or at the copy machine or in the elevator this person would be there.  I had to look at her.  It got so bad I hated going to work.  Oswald Chambers has a special place in my heart because one morning while reading his devotional “My Utmost for His Highest”, he (with the Holy Spirit’s guidance) pointed out  what the problem was.  It wasn’t the girl in the elevator–it was the girl in the mirror.  So I picked up a small plant at the florist downstairs in my building and I placed it on her desk.  When she looked up with a shocked expression, I said “Special delivery from heaven.”  Nothing was the same after that.  God gave me a genuine love for that girl, and we became friends.

The Holy Spirit, speaking through James said “Let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:4  We must be careful about the small details, and careful not to say “oh, that will just have to do for now”.  May our prayer always be, “Lord, make me mindful of any thing, no matter how small, that robs me of fellowship with Thee.”

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OH THE COBWEBS!!

It’s 4 A.M. and I am wide awake.  I am not sure why it is that I do all my thinking when I should be sleeping.  Tonight, perhaps it has something to do with a project that I have undertaken, which project has caused me to remark more than once these past days, “I have bitten off more than I can chew”.  Did you ever do that?  Have you ever started something and in the middle of it, you want to throw up your hands and scream at the top of your lungs, “Whose idea was this anyway?”

Well, my project involves cobwebs, lots and lots of cobwebs.  I never knew there could be so many cobwebs.  But it’s too late to turn back now, just because I don’t like spiders and their cobwebs.  After all, I have laid out money to advertise this event toward which I am working desperately.  And, when all is said and done, I’ll be glad I did it….I think.  I am talking about a GARAGE SALE hosted by yours truly.  It is actually my first garage sale.

It was never supposed to be as huge a project as it has turned out to be.  And I haven’t even begun yet.  Already I have filled 11 tables and most of a 35 by 60 foot building called the 404 Auction.  That’s what I do.  I own an auction, and we’re entering the 7th year of being the only thing going on anywhere around here.  Literally.  There is nothing else to do, except go out and eat.  That probably explains why I am not alone in the obese category.  Anyway,  every Tuesday night for the last 7 years, we get together to drink free coffee, eat horribly unhealthy foods (like french fries or tater tots with chili or cheese ladled on top, hamburgers and hotdogs and polish sausage,  nachos, theater popcorn, ice cream) and to socialize.  It gets so loud sometimes, that the auctioneer actually has to call us down like school children.  “Now children.  If you don’t quieten down, I will take away your nachos.”  Seriously, it is a social club for mostly older adults who tire of the Western channel and Fox News on television and they are tired of  looking at each other, so Tuesday night is their night out.

You can imagine how folks took it when we announced that we were taking off  the month of July  for repairs and vacation.  Like I said, this is the only show in town.  Oh the moaning and groaning we heard.  Let me hasten to say that this was not an easy decision on our part.  We look forward to meeting old friends each week and making new friends,  laughing and catching up on the latest gossip, and then there’s  all that free coffee and junk food and all those great bargains!

So while my husband took off on on a much deserved vacation to Massachusetts, mainly  for the birth of his second great grandchild, I rolled up my sleeves and called someone with a young, strong back to come and help.  Six hours later, he had unloaded the contents of the garage into the auction building.  I am amazed at how much stuff was brought into the building.    I am talking about stuff that I don’t know where it came from, and I don’t even know what some of it is.  If you don’t know what it is, how do you know what  to charge for it?  And  to think that there will be even more stuff brought from my house tomorrow to be added to the “Twilight Zone”.   A friend came a couple of days to do what she could to help me, and her word for the day was “overwhelming”.  We began taking some of the books out and dusting off the cobwebs, and then I took a serious look and counted 10 big boxes of books.  There was no way I was going to waste another second dusting off cobwebs from books that I knew were not going to sell.  So I called our local library and found out that they weren’t even able to sell books at their recent sale.  So, my dear Facebook friend, if you’d like to come and pick them up, you can have them,  containers and cobwebs included!

I am guilty,  as are many of our auction patrons, of buying something because it’s such a “good deal”.  I don’t need it, I don’t really want it, and at the end of the night I ask myself, “why did you buy this?”  And somewhere in the back of some cabinet, I probably already have one.  I don’t know why I buy things I don’t need or really want, or why I hang on to clothes that no longer fit and went out of style years ago, but I do  know that when I die, I will take nothing with me from this world.  And my son whom I adore, will have the awful job of disposing of all of “mama’s junk”.

I also know that one garage sale is not nearly enough to dispose of everything.  So, there will be another one in the early fall.  I will keep you posted.  Meanwhile, perhaps we all need to take an inventory of our lives and brush away some of those cobwebs that have collected.  The words of a famous  James Reeves song keep echoing in my head tonight:

How long has it been since you talked with the Lord, and told Him your heart’s hidden secrets,

How long since you prayed, how long since you stayed on your knees till the light shone through.

How long has it been since your mind felt at ease, how long since your heart knew no burden,

Can you call Him your Friend, how long has it been since you knew that He cared for you.

How long has it been since you knelt by your bed and prayed to the Lord up in Heaven,

How long since you knew that He’d answer you, and would keep you the long night through.

How long has it been since you woke with the dawn, and felt that the day is worth living.

Can you call Him your Friend, how long has it been, since you knew that He cared for you.

It doesn’t take long for a spider to spin one of his webs.  And it doesn’t take long to get out of fellowship with the Lord, does it?  We let all the cares and concerns of this ol’ world bury us under a weight of worry.  We hide our real feelings behind a smile, while all the time our heart is aching.  He is standing by, watching and waiting for us to come to Him so He can take our burdens from us, and brush away the cobwebs.  It seems to be our tendency to accumulate unnecessary goods.  By the same token, we accumulate  excess baggage when we don’t allow Him to do what He does best….to shoulder our burdens and give us peace and rest.

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YOUR TREASURE, YOUR HEART

Novelist Stephen King demonstrates a more accurate view of giving than many Christians.  He writes: “a couple of years ago I found out what “you can’t take it with you” means.  I found out while I was lying in a ditch at the side of a country road, covered with mud and blood and with the tibia of my right leg poking out the side of my jeans like a branch of a tree taken down in a thunder-storm.  I had a MasterCard in my wallet, but when you’re lying in a ditch with broken glass in your hair, no one accepts MasterCard…We come in naked and broke.  We may be dressed when we go out, but we’re just as broke.  All the money you earn, all the stocks you buy, all the mutual funds you trade–all of that is mostly smoke and mirrors.  So I want you to consider making your life one long gift to others.  And why not?  All you have is on loan, anyway.  All that lasts is what you pass on.”

This begs the questions: what am I passing on…to friends, family, acquaintances.  What will they remember about me?  Will their lives be better, richer because they knew me?  Did I pass on something of value to them?  Will anything I have done on this earth count for eternity?  Now there’s a question to consider.  Or have I lived selfishly, thinking only about myself?  Have I pushed people away, treating them as an interruption?  Have I hurt others by my unkind words or deeds?

Once the dirt is thrown on the coffin, it’s too late to make changes.  And more and more, young people are dying all around us.  People get up and go about their daily routine, and a massive heart attack kills them instantly.  No chance for good byes or I’m sorry or I love you.  Or how about please forgive me.  As terrifying as the last few minutes of their lives were, I am sure there were people in Moore, Oklahoma who were wishing for one last chance to say good bye.

While it’s TODAY, act as if it is your last day on earth.  It might be.

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Head ’em up, move ’em out – Chapter 1

English: Old Western Replica of a Chuck Wagon ...

English: Old Western Replica of a Chuck Wagon Built in The Ozarks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We  spend much more time than we should, watching the Western Channel on television.  We have found that most of the western movies are clean, meaning little or no foul language or explicit sexual scenes, so it is our choice of movie channels.  Some of the movies bear watching more than one time.  An example would be Open Range with Kevin Costner; and another one would be the John Wayne classic, True Grit.  Having been brought up in New Mexico, and becoming an avid fan of Louis L’Amour western books at an early age, it is no wonder that I am intrigued by the Old West.  Add to that the fact that as children, my sister and I spent summers with our  grandparents in Texas, listening to them talk “old days” and their adventures in a bygone time.  Grandpa even talked about riding with Pancho Villa.  How I wish I had listened more closely.  I regret that their stories, which remain only vaguely in my memory, died with them.   There is, however, a book written about  my grandfather on my daddy’s side of the family.  One can tell by the title of the book  (Mean As Hell) that he was rather notorious.  The author of the book is Dee Harkey and is available through Amazon if you are interested.   My grandfather’s name was Barney Kemp Riggs.

So here goes.  Where this journey will take us, I am not sure.  That’s the exciting part of writing or painting a picture or doing anything creative.  It takes on a life of its own as you go along and winds along paths you never imagined, and finally there’s a finished project.  The completion is not the best part though–it’s all about the journey.

I’ll start with the cook on a cattle drive.  If you watch “Rawhide” every day like we do, you’d know that Wishbone is the name of the grouchy cook on “Rawhide”.  A cowboy on a trail drive earned between $15 to $20 a month, the Trail Boss would make $35 per month, and the cook on a chuck wagon earned twice as much as the ranch hands.  He certainly earned every dollar.  He had to get up at 3 a.m. with a kerosene lantern perched atop the chuck box, in order to cook breakfast for the crew.  The Boss would let him know where he wanted him to have the wagon for dinner (for the cowboy, dinner is the noon meal and supper is the evening meal), and the cook would pack up everything, hitch up the 2 or 4 horse team, drive to the next camp area and prepare dinner and supper for the men.  Sometimes he had to change camp twice a day; at other times, they camped several days in one place.  It all depended on how many calves had to be branded and how long the work would take.  Of course, the Cook got to bed later than the crew, because he had to clean up the dishes.  If you watch Rawhide, you know that “Mushy” helped Wishbone with kitchen duties.  But not all Cooks had helpers.  Usually the horse wrangler or some of the cowboys helped the cook get wood and water.

The outfit that had the best cook, usually got the top hands.  The cook was often grouchy (with his hours, who wouldn’t be?) and sometimes he’d quit in the middle of work.  When that happened, the cowboy who could make the best biscuits was drafted to cook.  Since wood wasn’t plentiful on the Plains, sometimes the cook had to carry it along, either on the hoodlum wagon which carried the cowboys’ bedrolls, or in a cowhide, called a “possum belly” which was tied to the underside of the chuck wagon.  Cow chips were also used as fuel for the fire.    “Prairie Coal” otherwise known as cow patties or ‘brown rounds’ became one of the most readily available fuel sources. If there was only a small crew (8 or less), the bedrolls were carried on the chuck wagon itself.

The cook built his cook fire about ten feet from the work table of the chuck box.  The space between the work table and the cook fire was the cook’s private domain, and woe to the unknowing greenhorn who invaded it without being invited to do so.  Coffee was always available, but again, courtesy demanded the cook’s invitation before a hand could help himself.  At mealtime, the hands rode up to the wagon from the downwind side (why do you think this might have been the case?), hobbled their horses at least 30 yards away (only the boss might bring his horse closer-and then only from downwind), washed up at the basin near the wagon and waited for the cook’s “Come an’ get it!” call.  The eatin’ irons (plates, cups, forks and spoons) were taken from drawers in the chuck box.  Cowboys carried their own pocket knives.   The men sat on the ground to eat and when finished, they put their dirty dishes in a washtub, referred to as the “roundup pan”.  Drinking water was strapped to the side of the wagon.

The traveling pantry or Cowboy kitchen carried all the food staples needed for the long drive: flour, brown sugar, cornmeal, coffee (in the bean), beans, lard, salt fatback, sometimes dried fruit when it was available, salt and pepper.   A firkin or quarter-size covered barrel of sourdough started for making biscuits was included, as was a full-size water barrel which held 2 days water supply for the 10-15 cowboys.  The coffee pot was on duty 24 hours a day.  The chuck wagon had to be very carefully stocked since re-supply places were few and far between.  Beef was fresh and plentiful on the hoof and they wasted nothing.  The chuck wagon also contained a coffee grinder, a meat grinder,  lantern, medicine, a Bible, a wind-up alarm clock, and whiskey.

The cook or ‘cookie’ as he was known by all was certainly king of this mobile domain.  He not only cooked, but served the crew as barber, banker, doctor, settler of disputes, letter writer, father figure and confessor while serving as the vital morale booster to the group.  The cook was usually an older man, and good ones were hard to find and even harder to keep.  If you complained about the food, the job was yours.    There was very little variation on the menu: beef, bacon (depending on the availability) , sour dough biscuits,  white gravy,  beans and sow belly,  and always coffee.  If the cook were of a mind, and dried fruit was available, he might bake a pie.  The story is told that sometimes he would use the brand of the outfit as a steam vent in the top crust.

Then came the part that I would enjoy–the storytellers gathering around the evening campfire.  There might be a mouth organist (harmonica player) who added their part to the evenings.  Then the crew would retire to their bedrolls for a night’s rest (unless they were on night watch).  Imagine a night sky where there are no lights of any kind to interfere with the twinkling canvas overhead.  I think there’s a lot to be said for the cowboy way.

Next chapter will be about the pioneering women, and all the reasons I am glad I live now, and not back then.  Meanwhile, head ’em up, move ’em out.

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THE ALTAR

Heart of pearls

Once again my sleep has been interrupted.   Using the light on my cell phone, I quietly felt around for my glasses and Bible.  A few nights ago when I was doing this same thing, I knocked over a glass which contained sweet tea.  It wasn’t a small glass, nor had I consumed any of it before going off to sleep.   No, it was a large glass almost full to the top.  I keep promising myself that I will not take a glass of anything but water to bed, and every night I break that promise.  Anyway, without turning on a light which would surely have awakened my husband, I mopped it up as best and as quietly as I could with my husband’s Sunday shirt which was hanging on the chair.  When I put my feet in my clogs, they were also filled with the sweet sticky substance.  Then I  trudged up the stairs to my computer, by way of the bathtub where I gave my feet and shoes a good washing.  I am still prying items from the sticky plastic tablecloth.  Maybe in my lifetime I will remove the tablecloth, and wipe each and every item that is glued down to its surface.  Or not.

Tonight it is the words to a very old hymn that were strumming across my heart strings and interrupting my sleep.  It is a hymn that I have not thought of  in 30 years, and I had to look up some of the lyrics to it.  It is called “Is Your All On The Altar?”

“You have longed for sweet peace, and for faith to increase, and have earnestly, fervently prayed;

But you cannot have rest, or be perfectly blest, until all on the altar is laid.

Is your all on the altar of sacrifice laid? Your heart does the Spirit control?

You can only be blest, and have peace and sweet rest, as you yield Him your body and soul.”

As I think about the word “Altar”, several things come to mind.  Moses, who led God’s children through the wilderness for 40 years, would sprinkle half the blood of a sacrificed animal on the altar to show that the sinner could once again approach God because something had died in his place.  He sprinkled the other half of the blood on the people to show that the penalty for their sin had been paid and they could be reunited with God.  Then Jesus Christ came and died on the cross, shedding His blood for the remission of sin.  He became the final sacrifice, making it unnecessary to ever sacrifice another  animal.

Then there is the altar at the front of our church and most churches.  It’s a place where people can go and kneel to pray during the church service.  Usually,  this occurs during the “invitation” which is extended at the end of the service.  At this time, you are invited to come and conduct business with God, which may include  rededicating  your life, being saved, joining  the church, or just praying  for somebody.  Of course, no man-made altar can save a person.  It is just a place which enables a  soul to make public a decision which has been made in the heart.

That brings me to the “altar” mentioned in the hymn I have referenced.  It is, I think, referring to the heart’s altar–that seat of emotion that resides in these fleshly bodies of ours.  I have often heard the expression, “let your heart be your guide” or “I am heart-broken” or it was a “heart-felt prayer”,  and we could go on and on with examples of how the word is used.  Now we come to the words in our hymn: “Your heart, does the Spirit Control?”  It helps me to picture a “throne” in the center of my heart.  Daily,  I make a choice concerning that throne, like who is going to sit on it  today?   Am I  going to sit on that throne and  act as though I am  in control of my life, my circumstances, my decisions…….as if I am the one who decides that I am going to breathe today.  Luke 12:7 says that “the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

I pray that 2013 will be a year in which I relinquish more and more of my life to Him who loves me unconditionally, who gave His only son to die for my sins, who has gone to prepare a place for me so that where He is, I will also be.

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