CHILI AND FRIENDSHIPS

I was making chili the other night and besides being grateful that no native Texan would be eating my Northern-based chili, I thought about music.  I kept tasting the mix and as I did, I caught the different tones, notes if you will.

There was plenty of soprano—piquancy—because of all the tomatoes.  (Texas chili shuns tomatoes)  Alto range was covered by the molasses and the cumin.  Alto seems to me round and warm, sweet but not too sweet.  Tenor, the heat—chilies, jalapeno…somehow tenor snaps the eyes open and makes one pay attention.

What my chili lacked, I decided, was bass, darkness…base!  It needed something.  There was enough meat, but I think I didn’t brown it hard, dark enough.

I added some soy sauce, but that made it too salty.  Worcestershire sauce which helped some but I never got it quite right.

Chili, like watermelons and sermons get judged at our house:  Was it good?  Great?  So-so? The best one this year? This chili was barely ho hum.

Memorable chili, like everything else, needs to be perfectly balanced.

Friendships are like that.  In our careless use of the term friend, we say we have many, but great friendships come along only once or twice in a lifetime.

While the relationship will not be free of tension—indeed if it were it would not be perfectly balanced, it will have a solid bass.  At least one aspect of the friendship will be rock-solid, stable. And from that place, or note, the other components will bring themselves into relative pitch.

Friendship components which I believe need to be nearly equal for a pleasing harmony include intellectual, spiritual, and philosophical, in terms of passion and rationally developed positions.

Friends may disagree—be poles apart—if they can respect the perceptions of the other.

This is from a journal entry from November 12, 1993

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MOURNING IS COMPLICATED

mourningThe thing about morning chores—bed-making, kitchen cleaning, mundane matters for sure—is that my mind is left free to roam over the rolling pastures of long-ago memories, people I’ve known, questions I have and random intentions.  If I were a better Christian I would use that time to pray for people and to simply praise God for all the goodness He’s shown me over the years.  Sometimes I do that, but this morning was one of those other times, and my thoughts turned to mourning.

One constant truth in life is change. And so this morning, five days after my birthday, I realize I’m mourning even though no one in my immediate family has died.  Believe me, I’m overwhelmingly grateful. I know I have been blessed beyond measure to still have my husband and all my children are alive.  But no, our son-in-law died, and we still grieve losing him.

Still there have been other losses–profound losses, and some losses you never get over. I’m 77 years old, and I still miss my mother. I think of Mom at some point of every day.  I just wrote a short story about a mother who sang hymns as she worked around the house.  It was based on Mom.  I know the words to old hymns because I heard them from Mom.

Not all losses are people. My health comes to mind. I remember when I took great pride in being able to tear through a volume of work that would have taken someone else a whole day.  I know my health problems are my own fault, but that doesn’t help.  In fact, that’s another thing I grieve—I used to be able to recover quickly. Yes, when I was younger–let’s face it, I miss my youth.  Those days when the kids were young…I remember lots of laughter then.

As I think of friends who have recently said final goodbyes to their husbands, I recognize, however much I sympathize with them, I don’t understand, not really.  And here’s my conclusion:  Mourning is solitary. Nobody else can do it for you.

Jesus walked that lonesome valley

He had to walk it by himself.

Oh, nobody else could walk it for him

He had to walk it by himself.

I pray I will remember that little chorus, and comfort myself.  However lonely I feel, while it is true nobody else can walk my valley for me, still, Jesus is cheering me on and will embrace me at the end, saying “Well done!” I know, with Jesus we are never alone, but I stand by my statement: Mourning is solitary.

HAAALP! WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!

In silly, juvenile moments, when some thrilling little disaster seems imminent, like tipping over the highest peak of a roller coaster, we scream with glee, “Haaalp, we’re all gonna die.”  Of course it’s a stupid thing to say, but during such events, we’re not looking for well-reasoned responses.

The truth?  We are all going to die.

LIFE, God-breathed life is a divine mystery. It can be miserable, nearly intolerable, with no observable value, and yet we cling to it with all our diminishing might.

LIFE, God-infused life can be glorious, a wonder of Son-washed glory, and yet we take it for granted, fully expecting it to go on indefinitely. We waste precious hours doing no one any good.

One phrase in our wedding song was something to the effect that at the end of our lives we would go together still.  I love that idea and for years I prayed my husband and I would go to Heaven at the same time.

We were in the ER at Memorial Hospital in Savannah, Georgia.  Himself was having an emergency angiogram and I was waiting in the room designated for just that—waiting. I’d been told the process would take a half hour or forty-five minutes. I waited.

On the other side of the small room a woman about my age engaged me in conversation. She was quite familiar with angiograms and heart-related issues.  We agreed open-heart surgery was a wonderful, life-saving procedure, but men often exhibit changes in personality afterward. I asked her how her husband was doing now, and she cheered me up with the flat statement, “He died.”

Forty-five minutes went by, then an hour.  I reminded the Lord I had asked for us to go to Heaven at the same time.  Immediately I sensed His rebuke. Psalm 31:15 popped up in my mind.  “My times are in your hands.” I felt as though He was saying, “The length of your days is MY business. You don’t get a vote.”

Another half-hour passed during which I contemplated what I would do if Himself died during the angiogram.  I could not imagine driving the 1300 miles home with his body in the car, having to cross state lines and all.  Our intention is for us to be cremated, so I would arrange for that in Savannah. Or is there a law about having cremains in your car?

I would just have to call our son to fly out and drive our car back.

Just then a solemn-looking fellow in a suit, surely a Chaplain, came down the hall.  Here we go, I thought.

He went on by without glancing in my direction.

That which I greatly feared did not come upon me.  Himself was fine and life went on, but I have a new understanding about my final days.  It’s HIS business and He has done well by me for a lot of years. Psalm 31 again.  I will trust in you, Lord.

It’s too late for either of us to die young or tragically. Naturally I would prefer to shuffle off this mortal coil with a certain amount of grace and dignity, but I can’t depend on it.  Mostly I’d like to go before it’s a relief to anyone, but I don’t have a choice there, either.

I do know where I’m going, and I know who will lead me there.  “All the way my Savior leads me; what have I to ask beside?”

FLIP THE SCRIPT – First edition

 

morning prayerWindows in my study face east.  Perfect for morning devotions. Even very early, light from the street filters through Venetian blinds. Squinting my eyes, I can imagine the window frames form a cross.  An interesting focal point even though I know the Cross of consequence stood on a knoll in Israel, not in a quiet, air-conditioned, newly dusted house in Temple, Texas.

 

Growing up as the daughter of Christ-following parents and learning my Catechism in a church with solid Biblical foundations, the necessity for daily devotions is practically part of my DNA.

 

I don’t wish to imply great piety on my part—my motivation to excel in Catechism classes was my determination to do better than my best friend, Mary, whose Dad was the pastor.

 

Still, tightly woven into my brain waves is the conviction I should have daily devotions.

 

Should.  There’s that word again.

 

Lately a phrase runs through my mind:  “Flip the script.” Especially as concerns “should.”

 

This season of life affords me the freedom to take as much “quiet time” as I want.  As I flip the script, I move from getting the obligation of devotions over with so I can go on to whatever else it is I want to do, to settling in my plumb-wore-out easy chair, contemplating what the Cross has done for me.

 

For me!  The Creator of the Universe, the One who bared his holy arm and called into being the earth, the skies, the seas and all that in them dwell, Almighty God is making Himself known to me!  I almost can’t stand it.

 

As I sit there, His love, His fathomless billows of love wash over me, swamp me, and in my Spirit, I sense His chuckle. I know, it seems impossible, but I believe it amuses Him to sweep me off my feet, to remind me of how His ways, His “shoulds” are all for my good.

 

Here’s the bonus:  When I do take time for morning devotions, when I do what I should, my whole day goes better.  Seriously, everything in my day goes better.  Isn’t that interesting?

 

 

 

SWEET HOUR OF PRAYER

 

“Sweet hour of prayer…that calls me from a world of care…” so goes the old hymn running through my old head this morning.

 

The reason I say “old head” is because I’ve been at this a long time.  I never did not know Jesus is real, and I have always known my day goes better when I begin with prayer.  Yet prayer is more than running down my litany of wants and needs. I am more aware every day that prayer is a conversation with Earthmaker who is daily making Himself known to me.

This morning my cranial computer is spinning with so many disparate thoughts:

Is the restaurant I suggested for meeting with out-of-town friends the best choice?  I love the food, but the place is not set up for leisurely conversation.

And they are coming to our home later—I need to spruce up the place.

As I look forward to their visit, I think of questions I want to ask.

They were in church with us last night.

Oh, the teaching was wonderful and I need time to process it.

What a blessing to have their friendship which brings to mind all the love we received from the men and women at church…

 

You see, Father?  I need you for so many reasons.  Help me remember what I need to remember. Thank you for forgiveness, thank you for…I need you, oh, I need you…another hymn clicks in. Here in your presence, Lord, I am undone…there’s music on my inner CD.

 

Flip the script.  What do you want from me, today?

 

I think I hear Him say, be aware.

 

Last night the message was BE READY.  I believe I do live in readiness, and I want to please the Lord in my everyday life.  And so He says, be aware.

 

Noises in the kitchen make me aware my day is beginning.  It’s time to set about today’s duties, to do the mundane tasks of running a home—dusting, sweeping…and in everything give thanks for this is the will of God concerning me. In everything give thanks, being aware He is with me, leading, guiding, protecting, and giving wisdom and insight.

 

Return to thy rest, o my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.”  (Psalm 116:7)  Or to put it another way, God is so good!  (Another chorus there)

 

 

 

 

 

THINK ABOUT THE LORD

 

Bits and pieces of an old chorus—I remember part of the melody—let’s see:  “Think about the Lord.  Think about His goodness.  Think about the…la, la, la…He’s brought you through.  For as high as the heavens above, so great is the Savior’s love to us…”

 

Anyway, as I was praying this Good Friday morning, I said to the Lord, “One of the many things I love about you is your consistency.  You are always good.  You are always faithful.  You are always loving and forgiving, merciful, gracious, and most of all, you are always there. Or should I say, you are always here.

 

Another chorus, from a Psalm “He’s my rock, He’s my fortress, in Him will I trust.”

 

On the other hand, think about people, even those you love.

Sister A. is so much fun—when she’s not whiny.  Brother B. is an interesting person, but he tends to be a little bit, shall we say, disingenuous in his business dealings. Brother C. is charming in his own way but his sense of humor tends toward the risqué.  We love Sister D. but her enjoyment of poor health and the detailing of it is a bit wearing sometimes. Brother E. is a wonderful Christian, but has hygiene issues. We love how Sister F. finds our conversation fascinating but then we discover her true gift is in the area of eliciting personal information and disseminating it.  Only to her most trusted confidants, you understand.

 

It is how it is with us of Adam’s race.  Someone else writing this could reveal how my good qualities attract, yet there are these annoying, and yes, inconsistent attributes.

 

Only God is always good, faithful, kind, gracious, merciful, forgiving and blessedly present.

 

In His plan, by rubbing shoulders with brother and sisters A through Z, we become more like Him.  We need each other.  Like a great big puzzle, we fit together and comprise the whole CHURCH.

 

It’s Friday, but Sunday is coming!  See you in church.

A Single Word

Most of the time I am really quite holy

and wholly committed to live in Christ.

Then there are days when a stray word,

like a spark hitting dry prairie

starts a fire of introspection

and wishing maybe some of the reward

wouldn’t have to wait.

So I gave myself a pity party.

No one else attended.

Some Days are Diamonds…

Yesterday had pretty much been a lousy, rotten, miserable, horrible, awful, terrible no-good day.

First, somebody at Scott & White has spread my phone number around, and evidently, something about me is causing every department to desire my attendance in their department.  I think it has something to do with all the new buildings there.  They are probably going to have me evaluate each unit—sort of like a mystery shopper without the mystery.

After last Christmas, I decided I would get a jump on this year’s Christmas greetings, thereby not needing to send out address change mail.  I carefully updated the Excel spreadsheet with the most recent known addresses plus check marks indicating that we had received greetings from that individual.  Then while stores were pushing bins of $1.50 a box Christmas cards, I bought four or six such boxes.  Stored and packed said boxes and the address list in the same box.

Yesterday morning we finally finished the Christmas letter, compassionately omitting any mention of our doctor-going tendencies.

No cards.  Not anywhere. I could “see” the boxes on the shelf in my study, and yet they were not there.  I am forced to conclude that the movers swiped them, which is particularly disappointing as only church people and family were involved in the move.

I had just made that discovery when the phone rang with yet another doctor’s nurse requesting my attendance.

No time to process that, it was time to leave for the CT scan.

When we got home, the searching continued but was interrupted by another physician’s invitation.

I thought that just about made the perfectly rotten day, but wait:

Giving up, I flopped into my comfy chair, preparing to watch Tony, Gibbs, and Ducky on “NCIS.”  Are you ready? My favorite show was replaced by “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”  In November.  I was tired of that story for as long as I can remember.

Mercifully, daughter Susan called, and with the help of Himself, talked me down.

Then I remembered:  Thanksgiving is coming and one of the kindest, most generous people in church invited us for the noon meal.  Two friends made “just visiting” dates with me for the weekend.  One sent me an email.  I quote from Be Thankful for Those Who Love You. – God  (from Godspeaks)

By neglecting simple reminders of God’s love, we complicate our lives. We forget the warmth of a hug can help a bad day, the laugh of our children brings joy to our hearts, the phone call from a long distance friend brings a smile to our face, and a conversation with God can soothe our soul.

We run through life striving for the world’s trophies, somehow forgetting the prizes God has bestowed on us along the way: a best friend, a sister or brother, an aunt or uncle, a mom or dad. A grandparent, a child, a husband, a wife.

Instead, we need to run through life looking to the road ahead and being thankful for those who run beside us. Their love is what fuels us. They are the ones who get us to the finish line.

Today, the 27th day of Thanksgiving, I thank God for those who love me-even when I don’t deserve it—Himself, our children and grandchildren, people who invite us for Thanksgiving dinner, and of course, God Himself, who loved me first and is making Himself known to me.

All the Way

What a gorgeous day we are having!  Just warm enough, a very light breeze…

Himself and I were having our lunch on the patio.  He had grilled chicken legs on his new Weber grill.  We split a sweet potato, and that constituted our whole meal.

Our house is a little bit higher than the houses on the street behind us, and from where we were sitting, we could see a panorama of peaked grey shingled roofs, all pretty much alike.  Himself commented, “Who would ever have thought we’d gazing out at a scene like this, and be happy about it?’

I’m a country girl, and I remember saying, “Give me elbow room, cried Daniel Boone.” I thought I needed land, and acres of it, and for sure, a unique house—preferably an Arts & Crafts-era bungalow with generous amounts of shining oak.  Here I am in a veritable ghetto of conventionality, and I cannot remember being this content.

Only Himself and I know all the steps that brought us here. We often reminisce about how we became a couple.  First matched up by friends who thought it would be a joke.  I guess we had the last laugh, didn’t we? We look back at the many changes and seasons of our life together, and we can see God’s hand on us, even when we did not recognize it at the time.

There was so much joy along the way.  How we loved being parents!  I am still fully convinced that our children are exceptional, all three of them.  There was joy, but there was sorrow, too, and deep disappointments.  We moved from Iowa to Wisconsin to Texas to Arkansas and back to Texas again, and now we have moved to another place in Texas, into another brand new house. We hope we are finished moving, although every move was an adventure.  If it goes the way we hope it will, we will not have to deal with movers who do not bring enough truck and do not know the way.  We know where we are going, and we know who is leading us there.

When we came back into the house, we saw a clip from George Jones’ funeral. Oh, there was a crowd there, and how they cheered when George’s songs were sung!  I do not know what they will sing at my funeral but I know what I shall sing as I wing my way home:

 All the Way My Saviour Leads Me

Fanny Crosby and Robert Lowry

All the way my Saviour leads me; what have I to ask beside?

Can I doubt His tender mercy, who through life has been my guide?

Heavenly peace, divinest comfort, here by faith in Him to dwell!

For I know what-e’er befall me, Jesus doeth all things well!

For I know what-e’er befall me, Jesus doeth all things well!

All the way my Saviour leads me, cheers each winding path I tread.

Gives me grace for every trial, feeds me with the living bread.

Though my weary steps may falter, and my soul a-thirst may be,

Gushing from the Rock before me, Lo! A spring of joy I see.

Gushing from the Rock before me, Lo! A spring of joy I see.

All the way my Saviour leads me; oh, the fullness of His love!

Perfect rest to me is promised in my Father’s house above.

When my spirit clothed immortal, Wings its flight to realms of day,

This my song through endless ages:  Jesus led me all the way.

This my song through endless ages:  Jesus led me all the way.

An Encouraging Word

Recently a friend, also a writer, emailed some very flattering words about my writing.  I’ll admit it; I soaked in it and re-read it several times. I am still a bit codependent that way.

Her note caused me to go back and read some of my own writings, wondering what she might have especially liked.  As I did, I ran across a couple of poems, and then, my Thirty Days of Thanksgiving, written just this last November.  I thought, that was GOOD.

That day, I was feeling especially flat and uninspired, but as I read, I could objectively see that some of those musings were quite good.  Objectively good.  It was then I came to understand a value in writing even when we do not feel as though it matters. I was encouraged and I needed to be.  Even when what we write does not seem to matter, even when we are not writing to compete or to hone our craft, we can go back and see the fingerprints of God on the hours of our lives.

This is nothing new, of course. We all know keeping a journal is valuable in our walk with God.

All that to say, just do it.  Whatever it is that God gave you to do, do it, even when you do not believe what you do is that worthwhile, or that you are very good at it, do it.  If you are a writer, write some tired old lady and tell her you admire something about her, as my friend wrote me.

I have one friend who loves to bake.  Every week she bakes friendship bread and other delicious confections for her church.

Another friend loves being involved in feeding the homeless, and so she arranged for her life skills class to make sandwiches for our church’s turn at the Salvation Army center.

Himself, my husband of 53 years, celebrates life, creation and interesting people in his photography.  There are photos in his archives that he did not enter in any competition, but when he looks back at them, he sees something really good and special that he didn’t see when he first worked on them.

Keep a record of it—a journal or a diary, so that in a month or two, when you have to look up to see the bottom, you can go back and see He was there, is there, all the time.

Probably my Calvinistic grave clothes try to keep me from enjoying my own work, which is stupid.  Nobody knows better than I do that without the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, I have nothing.  Surely glorifying God includes admiring the beauty He creates out of ashes.

That morning I wrote in my journal, “without Jesus I’m out on a turbulent sea in a leaky canoe, but in Him, I’m like a tree planted by the water; I shall not be moved.”  Truth, that!