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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Reflections on Change

    One thing we can be sure of in life is change. From the earliest of our days on this journey, change poses a challenge. While “Life 101” is focused on how the change affected four-year-old Sojourner, we can be sure that the other members of the family were being challenged, too! It’s like that with change; it doesn’t happen in a vacuum nor does it isolate itself to only matter to a single entity. For Sojourner’s mother, for example, while she would have one less child who needs attention or has innumerable questions throughout her day, she also lost the “helper.”  I reckon you have figured out that this mother’s day became a bit busier without the older sister to help keep Sojourner occupied and just plain keep track of the toddler now running all over the place.
Not only that, but she had a few more tasks to accomplish each weekday morning plus a few more things to remember… make a sack lunch not just breakfast, remember to give Donna milk money, sign the note the teacher sent home yesterday, field trip permission and money due tomorrow, etc. Seems like little Sojourner was not the only one who could be crying over this change!
    I wondered what the Bible had to say about “change”, even just searching for the simple word and not concerning myself with the concept of change. Nevertheless, whatever change occurred, peoples lives were affected. The New International Version of the Holy Bible records the word change seventy-one times in the 1984 publication.  In Genesis Laban kept changing the wages he required of Jacob in order to have permission to marry Rachel. There are lots of changes in Exodus when God was changing natural elements to create the plagues in the land of Egypt (such as the water in the Nile changed to blood); whereas, over in the Gospel of John we read of Jesus turning the water into wine for the wedding feast. There is mention of doing something to change   situations in II. Samuel and Daniel. There are passages that talk about the change of a person, such as his attitude or his mind. In I. Samuel 10 the prophet Samuel is talking to King Saul when he says that the Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon him (Saul)… and he will be changed into another person. He was changed as Saul left Samuel. Of course while we, humans, do change our minds a lot and many such changes are recorded amongst the Bible characters, we can read of when God, Himself, changed the mind of a person. Remember in Daniel when God changed the mind of King Nebuchadnezzar and he went stark raving mad for a time? He had everything going for him, except that he forgot to credit God for his success. God “changed” the mind of the king to that of an animal until such time as he recognized the lordship of Almighty God. Then, of course, he was restored to his right mind!
     If one is seeking with his whole heart to find and obey the will of God in his personal and professional life, it is very comforting to know that God never changes! Never means never! We may recall the verse in Hebrews 13:8 that says “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” and we are likely to think that this is the only reference to God never changing. However not only the concept of God’s unchanging Person, Mind and Ways are throughout the Bible passages but the actual phrase that God never changes is written many places (I. Samuel 15, Psalm 55 and 110, Malachi, Hebrews and James). There may be things in your life as you journey on this earth that will include a need to respond to change, but you will never have to respond to a change in God. He will always be the same, He will always expect the same from you, and He will always treat you the same way. We can believe Him! You can take that to the bank, as the saying goes. Society may change what it considers “normal” or “acceptable” for each era or generation but God has never changed His expectations of us. His instructions are written in the Bible; they are not open to change. He wants us to succeed and to do that we must just follow His instructions/ordinances. God understands that we are not perfect and He has made a way for us to be forgiven when we fail to keep His laws. The more we grow in our understanding of God, the more we will see just how much He wants us to do well with all the changes that come throughout our sojourn in this earthly life. He is our greatest Fan!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Life 101: Change, Scene 2

     Initially the days my sister was away at school were very long days for me. I missed her terribly and watched the hands of the clock each afternoon in anticipation of her return. Each day, from that very first painful parting, Donna came home full of things to teach me that she had learned in school that day. My sister was a natural-born teacher. How I looked forward to hearing all about her day at the big mysterious building called, East Elementary School.
     “Guess what you get to do?” Donna asked me one afternoon about a month into her new academic experience. Of course, I had not a clue and figured it was something new she would be showing me that she had learned to make in school. On Friday’s she had Art Class and since she did not have to return to school the next day, it must be Friday, right?
     “You get to come to school with me one day next week!” Donna went on, excitedly giving me all the details of the Sibling Visitation Day. I would get to sit at the desk with her and use her pencils and crayons. Maybe, they would even have finger-painting, though she did not know, for sure, that this would happen, but maybe? It was scheduled to be a half-day for the students so the siblings were to accompany the student to class, everyone returning home at Noon. We would get a tour of the school that included the cafeteria but there would be no lunches served that day.
     It is impossible to measure the excitement and nervousness I felt when, at last, Sibling Visitation Day arrived! Proudly I walked next to my sister, the seasoned academic! The seven blocks went fast as we waved to folks all along the way and I told them I was going to school with my sister. I was so happy to get to see the inside of the building that had claimed so much of my sister’s day since summer ended.
     We waited with the other children in the line that formed at the large double doors outside the designated section of the building. We could not just stand in any line either; my sister knew which one was hers and we must wait in that one with the children in her class and the visiting siblings. At last the time came when a noisy bell clanged and those doors opened to allow us entrance into those hallowed halls of learning. Single file we headed for my sister’s classroom. Fall temperatures meant a jacket for each child so we had to wait our turn at the opening to the cloakroom at the back of the classroom. I could not reach the coat hooks but my sister took my jacket and put it on the hook with hers. She told me that when they had to wear boots, they would need to put them in this room right under their coats so they could find them easily. I was glad that my sister was there because I did not think I could find my own jacket when it was time to leave for home.
     Next, Donna directed me to her little two-chair desk. Not only her name and her deskmate’s name were on the cards taped to the tabletop, but my name was on a card, too! Another little chair had been placed near hers. My tummy felt like the Butterfly Olympics must be in full swing in there! Her deskmate probably had a sibling with her on the other side of the little flat top desk but I just don’t remember them now.
     “Time for the Pledge of Allegiance,” the teacher said. The sound of chairs scraping the tile floor was heard all over the room as first graders pushed back their chairs and tried to explain to their guests that they must stand and put their hand over their hearts like this. All of the class and their guests now faced the bright red, white and blue American flag, right hand over the place on their little chest where they imagined their heart to be. In unison, the teacher led the young voices in reciting the “Pledge of Allegiance” to the flag of the United States of America. Donna had not told me they did this but that was probably because she figured I would not be able to learn the Pledge yet. Besides, we didn’t have a flag standing in any corner of our house to which we could salute anyway.
     For one entire morning, our older siblings let us follow their lessons, sometimes even getting to try to write a letter or number ourselves. Each time a workbook was slipped out of the little compartment just under the table top, our eager eyes anticipated what might be inside the book! School seemed like so many surprises! The morning culminated in the most fun event yet: finger-painting! I had never before seen such a thing! My mother would never have let us put our hands in all that brightly colored paint and move it around on a large piece of paper! It was such a messy, brilliantly delightful, bit of fun! The paper had not dried by the time the morning ended, and our smocks had been hung up to dry.  Our student sibling would have to bring it home to us the next day.
     Walking home with my sister, I became aware of a strong sense of wonder and peace in my little heart. I had been afraid of that large school building and just could not imagine what it must be like for my beloved sister inside those walls. Yes, I missed her a lot when she had to go to school; but, on the other hand, I could see that she was having a good time learning the things she was trying to share with me each day when she came home. Now, I would be able to picture her sitting at her desk, learning from those colorful workbooks that had her own name on each cover.
     As for me, well, the absence of having someone pedal the trike while I stood on the back, rather forced me to make the effort to learn to do it myself. Once I had managed that feat, I was a liberated youngster, riding my trike all around the block as often as I could. It felt so good to pump those legs and feel the trike go faster and faster down the sidewalk. I began to imagine the time when my little sister would be strong enough to stand on the back bar of the trike, gripping my shoulders while I pedaled.
     Conclusion? Uh, well, there were, definitely, some good things that came out of the shockingly unexpected major change in my young life that late August day! Thus began a lifelong journey to find the positive in every change that occurs throughout this sojourn on earth. Be assured, without a single doubt, that our understanding God knows that change may be hard for us but that it is necessary for us to grow!

****Reflections on Change … Coming Tomorrow

Monday, November 28, 2011

Life 101: Change

     At four years old, life was pretty good at 524 Elm Avenue and, of course, I had no idea that it would ever change. My six-year-old sister had known how to tie her shoes for a long time so she helped me with mine. That speeded things up a bit for me every morning because my mother was very busy getting the baby ready for the day. I was never allowed to go outside without my shoes. For me, outside was where life happened and inside was where we had to go to eat and sleep so we could stay well enough to go outside!  My older sister taught me a lot of other things, too. She was helping me learn how to color inside the lines and that green was a good color for grass but not so much for the face of the lady on my coloring page. I had a little sister who, finally could walk and play ball with me, kind of. At fifteen months, she was not all that coordinated but, at least, she was interested in chasing the big ball I threw to her. I figured that she would get better with practice. Then, one late summer morning, change invaded my little cocoon of happiness.
     I had already been playing outside when Daddy came to join me, camera in hand. As he checked on lighting and angles, my sister came out of the house all dressed in a new outfit and brown/white saddle shoes. Since I had only my usual play clothes on, this was a puzzle to me. Why was she dressed like that? My questions were not answered right away but I did not care because Daddy told her to fetch the tricycle and sit on it. I was told to stand on the back of the trike and hold on to her shoulders. I loved to ride the trike with my sister. Daddy filmed us as she rode with me on the sidewalk in front of our home. I hung on and Donna turned and smiled at Daddy and his camera as she pedaled. My father had placed wooden squares on the pedals of the tricycle so that my shorter legs could reach them, too. My sister had been trying to teach me how to ride it myself. I much preferred to be on the trike with her, though, so this was a super start to the day. Little did I know just why Daddy had chosen this particular morning to film his little darlings!
     Daddy signaled that we should ride over to the steps where he was waiting with several of our little Golden storybooks in his hands. Oh boy, I thought. This was really a great morning! Daddy was going to read to us now. Instead, however, he handed Donna the storybooks and hoisted up his heavy movie camera. Well, okay, more filming first; then he will read, I figured. Daddy directed Donna to bend her arm and hold the colorful books on the camera side. Of course, I was right beside her, gazing at our familiar storybooks with hopeful expectation.
     “Go ahead and walk now, smiling at the camera,” Daddy told my sister. I ran to catch up to her until my father’s voice stopped me in my tracks.
     “No, just Donna this time. Move away from her now; Daddy just wants to film Donna on her way to school.” What? How can it be that Daddy is telling me to move away? He never tells me to move away and is usually trying to coax me into the picture and do the smile-thing! What can this mean? I ran into the house to find my mother.
     “Mama, Daddy told me to move away,” I said to my mother who was seated at her vanity table, applying the final touches to her makeup. “He won’t let me be in the picture.” Tears were streaming down my cheeks. “Tell him to let me be in the picture, Mama, pleeease! I want to be in the picture, too!” Sobs just wracked my little body as my shoulders shook.
     “Its okay, Honey. Daddy just wants to take some pictures of Donna because it is her first day of school. That’s all; it’s not that he doesn’t want you to be in the pictures. Just not this one.” Mother’s words of consolation fell on deaf ears, however.
     “But I want to be in this picture, too, Make him let me be in the picture, Mama.” My mother reached out her arms and wrapped them around my sorrow-filled little self. Perhaps, she knew that it had nothing to do with having one more photo or one more minute of film taken of me; but, in fact, it had everything to do with change. For the first time ever in my life, my father was filming an event with my sister that did not include me. Why? What could it mean? Oh, there had been plenty of photo shoots that were a major struggle for my photographer father because I did not want my picture taken as opposed to my older sister who was a photographer’s dream child… posing ever so perfectly with that smile on demand! Not me, ha! The year before this traumatic event in my life, my father and mother had just totally given up on me and took the portrait photo of their three-year-old grimacing and crying. I had been dressed in my Sunday best, cute little bonnet tied with a ribbon under my chin and bitter tears streaming down my face while I protested loudly “But, I don’t want my picture taken.” This day was different somehow. I could not verbalize it; I just knew something was wrong with the morning.
     Of course, I had known about school and we passed the elementary school just about every time we drove our car anywhere. Since no one in our family went to school, it didn’t really matter much that there was a school seven blocks from our house. Now, all that had changed. My older sister had reached that magic age and it was her very first day of school. I cried for a long time after she left that morning. Life would never be the same in our house again. Who would tie my shoes for me so I could run outside before breakfast? Who would help me color the pages or play with the Old Maid cards? And, what about the trike; who would help me learn to pedal it myself if my sister had to be in school all day? No question about it: I could not see any good coming out of this change!

****Life 101:Change, Scene 2… Coming Tomorrow

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Special Thanksgiving/An Old-Fashion Thanksgiving: Answers to Questions

Question1: Have you ever gone back to see how the people are doing in that city since your time there?

Answer: There has never been an opportunity to return, though we have been able to learn a couple of things about the people with whom we had worked while there. The pastor and his family moved to work in Hawaii not long after this event. Though we had tried a couple of years later to contact another couple who had been instrumental in assisting us with all kinds of things, we could just never connect. We finally learned that they had moved. By the time we could try to find them in the Sacramento area, they had moved again to somewhere in Idaho. We were never able to connect with any of the disaster victims with whom we had had contact but had learned via the grapevine that some had left the area as soon as they were back on their feet again and others had been able to rebuild and find other jobs. Many of the businesses never recovered. We see the reports of such disasters for such a short time on the television news but forget that, for the people who lived through these things, it was a much longer struggle.

Question 2: When was the Old-Fashion Thanksgiving, Sojourner? You did not tell us how old you were but a home in the States without running water… well, it sounds like hundreds of years ago!

Answer: The time period of this story was the mid-1950’s. I did not specify my own age because this same story was, pretty much, repeated every Thanksgiving of my youth, even after I had left the Sears and Roebucks “pillows” behind and moved from those single-digit ages into larger numbers.  My grandparents did not have running water in their farmhouse until Grandpa was about to retire. They had a nice mobile home moved onto their property and it was a very modern home for them… though Grandma still made her own bread and had a garden for their vegetables. Other farmhouses of this time period did have running water, though not all of them.

Question 3: Did your grandparents not have a dog? I mean, what working farm does not have a dog and maybe a cat to keep the mice away from the barn? Or did you not really care about dogs and cats when you were little so you never mentioned them in the story?

Answer: Ah, yes, the domestic animals… well I was trying to keep the story from running into too many pages!  in fact my grandfather always had a dog! My first remembrance was a collie named, Bob, who was so gentle that he let my older sister sit on him and have their photo taken! He was a great ranch dog, too, but so good with us kids! He also had a cocker spaniel, I think he was, named Tuffy. He outlived Bob by a long ways and was such fun. A great rounder up of the cows and playmate for children! Cats? Now that was another matter! At one point my grandfather was feeding 104 cats! He just never met a cat that he didn’t want to take care of! Most of the time there were far fewer cats, though, but always more than one would have thought should be “needed”. Nevertheless, the cows provided enough milk for the cats/kittens to keep themselves plenty happy. Grandpa knew the names of all the cats and did they ever come running from all over when they saw him!

****Life 101...Coming Monday

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The First Thanksgiving Day

     So what’s the holiday all about? I thought that, perhaps, our readers from the nine or ten countries not celebrating Thanksgiving Day today might like to know a bit about it so I checked online to find some tidbits, other than the traditional foods which have already been mentioned in the two previous pieces. Ha! There are as many stories as there are websites! You can even see some video clips of the food, if you are interested! So, for a more complete listing, just google first+thanksgiving and you will have your entertainment for today!
     It should be noted that the early pilgrims were coming to America because of religious persecution in England. Their usual days of Thanksgiving were fasting and not feasting but the day we celebrate “Thanksgiving Day”, the fourth Thursday of every November, is, as you have seen, certainly a day of feasting and giving thanks with loved ones. The first Thanksgiving meal was more likely roasted deer, not turkey, though they did eat cranberries.
     The pilgrims from the ship the Mayflower celebrated the first Thanksgiving Day in 1621 so it has been a long time, though the official American declaration of it as a National Holiday did not really happen until 1941, which meant everyone could have the day off work with pay. President Abraham Lincoln did say it should be a celebrated holiday in something like 1863 and a dear lady, Sarah Josepha Hale worked tirelessly for forty years in her crusade to get Thanksgiving to be a recognized national holiday. (Sarah was a very influential person in the media of her day, as well as being the author of the children’s poem, “Mary Had a Little Lamb”.) Finally, Congress agreed and since 1941 the fourth Thursday in November has been the recognized national holiday, Thanksgiving.

     One story that came from the San Antonio Express news is a new one for me so I thought I would pass it along to you on this day we are giving thanks for all that God has done for us. The story also serves to remind us that not all of the European travelers who journeyed to the new land that would be called America came for religious reasons; some were there for the hope of financial gain only.
     From the San Antonio Express news:

On Sept. 6, 1620, the Pilgrims left England, setting sail for America. They eventually arrived in Plymouth. They lived on the Mayflower all through the winter, going back and forth to build houses and barns in the area.
The Pilgrims finally moved ashore in March and, on March 16, a miracle happened. An Indian named Samoset walked into their colony without threat or fear and welcomed them. In their journal, the Pilgrims wrote: “He told us the place where we now live is called Patuxet, and that about four years ago, all the inhabitants died of an extraordinary plague.”
Samoset also told them about another Indian named Tisquantam who spoke better English and could help establish relations with the Indians. Tisquantum and Chief Massosoit met them a week later and the two groups negotiated a peace and trading treaty. Tisquantum soon became an essential member of Plymouth colony. He helped them negotiate peace with other Indian leaders. Tisquantum was their guide, teaching them to grow corn by using local fish as fertilizer.
All of what you just read is amazing. Why? Because Tisquantum (Squanto), the last surviving member of the Patuxet tribe, had been kidnapped by a greedy Englishman and taken back to Europe. He eventually learned English and escaped to England.
Tisquantum's people were outraged at the kidnapping of Squanto and other Indians. And so they had been attacking other English settlers. Tisquantum returned in order to negotiate peace only to find out that his tribe had been wiped out by a plague. And then, when more Englishmen returned to settle the now-empty land of his people, his response was to help them!
What an answer to prayer for the Pilgrims, who wondered how they would survive: God sent them an English-speaking Indian who worshipped the Christian God.
These Pilgrims eventually celebrated with the Indians Squanto helped make peace with, what we now call “The First Thanksgiving.”
You never know when God may use your hardship to answer the prayer of someone else.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
I love this example of both God’s provision for those settlers who were innocent of this dear Indian man’s tragic situation and of the true forgiveness the Indian man demonstrated towards the English settlers!
And to all of you fellow Americans living in or outside the USA:

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

An Old-Fashion Thanksgiving Day

     Bouncing up and down on the back seat of the two-door white, Ford Fairlane, my sisters and I talked all at the same time about what goodies Grandma would be putting on the kitchen table. Talk was directed toward the meal only since reaching the gate to their farmhouse, however. Before making this turn, the inside of the vehicle was filled with the sounds of “Over the River and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go,” and other such tunes of the season. “Finally, my father moved to retrieve mother’s contributions to the holiday meal while she opened her door, tipped her seat forward and we piled out, hitting the frozen ground at a dead run.
     “Grandma! Grandpa! We’re here! Grandpa! Grandma!” their three little darlings called to them as the small girls all tried to reach the handle of the side door. Of course their farm house had a front door, but that was only used when going out to fetch water at the pump; otherwise, it was the side door that welcomed hungry little visitors inside out of the November chill.
     Once open the smells from that narrow section of their two-part kitchen enveloped us. Is there anything so inviting as the smell of fresh bread just out of the oven? Well, unless it might be the luscious aroma of those apple, pumpkin and mince meat pies atop that back counter that were cooling; or, perhaps, the absolutely heart-stopping savory scent of that roasting turkey. Soon Grandpa would come along to pull the giant, golden bird out of the belly of that wood stove and he and Daddy would head over to the table to carve it up for Thanksgiving Dinner.
     Shooting through that outside door, we knew better than to throw our arms around Grandma if she was bending over the hot stove to baste the turkey or standing up by the shiny, black behemoth, lifting the heavy round, metal flat lid to add more wood; but, as we ran inside, she stopped what she was doing and came over to us. Wrapping our little arms around the familiar aproned body, we wished her a hearty, “Happy Thanksgiving,” squeezing with all our might. As we grew older and taller the placement of those arms around the apron ascended but on this occasion, my lifted arms were still well below the waistband tie. I was on one side and my younger sister claimed a leg on the other side. My older sister always, patiently, waited her turn. If I happened to be positioned more to the back than the front, my upward glance would focus on that wonderful looping white braid Grandma always wrapped around the top of her head, best seen from the back if one was as short as I was. In later years, I would spend the night and see that mysterious coil unwound, freeing it to cascade loosely over her shoulders and down nearly to her waist. But, at this point in my young life, it was still a mystery to me as to what it might look like should it ever be unbound from the tightly braided loops. Should I have moved myself slightly forward as I hugged my Grandma, looking up would let me see a huge smile of brightly whitened teeth. All were completely uniform and perfect because they were not really Grandma’s first set of teeth. Sometimes she only used half of her teeth, usually the top half, but it was a holiday so she had both halves smiling today.
     “Grandpa,” she called into the other room where he and Daddy had just started talking about farm stuff. “Look who is here now, will you? And, please get some wash water before we sit down.” Instantly loosening our grip on Grandma, we turned to see Grandpa standing in the doorway with his comfortably familiar red flannel shirt, his faded long-johns peeking out of the end of his sleeves and open collar.  His arms were ready for us. His smile said, “Here I am,” without moving his lips or making a sound. How wonderful it felt hugging my Grandpa. Like my father, he smelled something of Old Spice aftershave and another special scent I never could identify. It was just “grandpa” and I loved the smell! Standing back up he stepped down into the recessed section of the kitchen where one could find the woodstove, cream separator, and other evidences that this was a very busy room on any day in the life of an old-fashion farm. Grandpa patted our heads as he crossed in front of each of us and over to the storeroom to fetch his water bucket, lying next to the big metal wash basins in the corner.
     “I will go with you, “I let Grandpa know as I grabbed the hand which did not have the bucket. I did not need my mitten on that hand because Grandpa’s large hand swallowed up mine. It was so warm in his grip.
     “Not this time, Punkin, “came my father’s reply, “You need to get washed up for dinner, yourself.” At this point, my mother finished taking off my jacket and pulled me into the little storeroom where she had just washed my sister’s hands. I stood by the smaller basins, already filled with water and let her rub on the soap, while I watched both of my sisters drying their hands on one large towel stretched out  between them. There was no running water in Grandma and Grandpa’s little house. We used basins of water to wash everything… hands, dishes, laundry and later when I stayed overnight here I even took a bath in the basin!
     It was not long before the food was on the table and everyone began finding their chairs at the familiar old table in the other half of the farm kitchen. Grandpa and I were last to find our places at the table, though Daddy had not yet taken his seat. It was easy to find my chair; it was the one with the two thick Sears and Roebucks catalogues on it. I stood by the chair, arms out away from my sides, and let Daddy lift me over and down. Finally, the chair was pushed closer to the table and I squirmed only a little until I felt settled on my mealtime perch. All eyes turned to look at me, as I was asked to thank the Lord for His bountiful provision and the Lord’s blessing over the meal.
     Though I was only a small child, I took this charge very seriously as I surveyed the contents of this food-laden Thanksgiving dinner table. The colors, the variety of different dishes that we all loved so much, as well as those scrumptious smells mingled with an awareness that the table had been set with Grandma’s finest plates and silverware. How could we feel anything but blessed and very special to be sitting here?
     The table was loaded with sweet potatoes with marshmallows melted atop the orange vegetable that also held a sweet glaze under that marshmallow, a mountain of homemade mashed potatoes next to a large gravy bowl of rich brown turkey gravy, and next to them was a second serving dish with a mountain of bread dressing (lightly smelling of sage). There was also green beans in a mushroom sauce with crunchy onion rings from the can on top (my favorite) and, probably, green peas and carrots somewhere, too. Grandma’s dinner rolls were always freshly baked, soft and chewy treats with melting butter lathered on top of the open roll. (Nope, nobody even talked about fat grams and cholesterol in those days.)  I was not a cranberry fan as far as tastebuds go, but I did love the bright red color in the dish on the table. Next I would notice the glass bowls of black olives and another of green olives with little red stuff in it, which I usually took out before eating the green olive. Celery sticks were filled with cream cheese or an orange Cheez-Whiz I liked a lot, though sometimes there was also celery filled with peanut butter—now that was fun for a kid! Grandma made her own pickles, too, so there were plates or dishes with dill pickles, sweet pickles and bread and butter pickles. Of course, the large platter filled with slices of turkey meat held center stage; both dark and white meat filled the plate. The drumsticks did not adorn the platter for long, once lifted for serving the family.
     It was an added blessing that the Lord had given me only one sister who also liked the turkey drumstick, since the turkey only had two to give! The large instrument of much joy took up a sizeable place on my plate, thereby decreasing the area left for more adult things such as vegetables. I loved the drumstick because I could hold it in my hands, as much as for the taste of the meat. Of course, I was never able to finish it at that meal so it always went home with us.
     If one of us kids needed to use the restroom, all of us were asked to “try to go” because Grandma and Grandpa did not have any restroom inside the house. It was out back, across the little wooden bridge over the creek behind the house. It was a two-seater, which was good if the weather was especially cold. I guess the adult who took us figured one trip out there in the cold air was enough.
     At last the adults finished their long discourses at the table and declared that they now had room in their tummies for some dessert. Out came the smaller plates, clean forks and all the pies! I loved pumpkin pie just as it was, no whipping cream on it. The adults all had dark black coffee with their meal. The kids, like always, drank milk. In those days it was never thought that we would drink anything other than milk with our meals. Grandpa’s milk was different, though; it had come from his very own cows, not Safeway. The same could be said for much of what Grandma had prepared because they raised pigs, beef, and chickens and she always cultivated an enormously gigantic vegetable garden from where her yearlong vegetables would come.
     When the leftovers had been packed up and the little girls back on the bench behind their parents, the car backed out. Swinging around in front of the house, we waited until Daddy finished his three-point turn and our grandparents were, once again in view. We had turned around so we could see them out the back window. Kneeling on the seat, there was a bit less vigor to those waves; we were three tired little girls. 
     Now, you might think the Thanksgiving Day is all over at this point and the family is heading home, right? Well, almost over; just one more thing left for young Sojourner and her little sister. Back at home, baths were given and pajamas now covered those little holiday celebrants. However, before the “Goodnights” were spoken, out came that leftover turkey drumstick for just a few more tiny bites. It was as good cold as hot. Better to take a few bites now than to just dream of doing it, right? Oh, what a wonderful, wonderful day!

****The First Thanksgiving Day… Coming Tomorrow

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Scene 2: Showers of Blessings

     Even before we received any information on just how to make a complete Thanksgiving Day dinner a possibility for our families, an amazing call came into the office. After my, “Community Church. This is Dannie; how may I help you?” I cannot be totally sure of the exact wording here, but it went something like this:
     “Hello, you don’t know me,” came the very excited female voice, whose joyous chatter continued without me asking just who she might be, “I know friends of yours in Cameron Park (near Sacramento) and they told me about your relief work. I am so thrilled to know someone who knows someone who is actually where the people are who need help! I wondered if my family might be able to help.” There was the briefest of pauses on the line so I jumped right in.
     “Tell me what you had in mind; we can always use more help!”
     “Well, my husband and I have been talking about how we, as a family, might help the victims of the earthquake and I didn’t just want to give money somewhere. We have two children and I thought it would be a good experience for them if they could be a part of the help.”
     “I am very interested in getting children involved in helping others, too. What did you have in mind for your family?” Of course, I had all kinds of things flipping through the mental files in my mind to be ready with a quick response just in case I would need to provide a family or situation for them off the top of my head.
     “We just want to help in any way we can,” she responded, “you just tell us what we can do.”
     “I know just the area,” I said. “They are so appreciative of everything we do for them and they have a lot of little children over there. It would be perfect for your children to help some of these kids. “I described some of the families in our most-needy area to the delightful lady, who seemed to just hang on every word. There were seven children, four single mothers or grandmothers and an elderly couple in a makeshift shelter across the street from the apartments that used to house them. They had not been allowed back in to get their warm clothing and the nights were cold, as were an increasing number of the mornings, in fact. Some of the days warmed up to sixty degrees (fifteen Celsius) but then the night temperatures now dropped to twenty  (minus seven Celsius)… Brrrr! When we visited our families each morning, it was the cold that they talked about most. Plus, the rain had started to fall so it was a damp cold that feels like it penetrates to the bones. Would she like to have her family help one of these families?
     “We want to help all of them!” declared the lady with exuberant enthusiasm.
     Over the next days there were more phone calls with the excited donor so we were increasingly hopeful that the help would really come. Sometimes people indicated a desire and a plan was made but then… nothing. We, as well as the victims of the disaster, had become acquainted with unfulfilled promises but this was looking good so far! We would see when the time came. In the meantime, our work amongst the city’s disaster victims continued with the daily family visits, collections of goods from warehouses around town, and food sacks/cases of water being delivered wherever needed.
     Then, the special showers of blessings began! The week of thanksgiving we learned that if we would give the number of Thanksgiving Day dinners we would need to feed our families to a local grocery store, they would be provided… complete with roasted turkey, mashed potatoes/gravy, dressing, veggies,, dinner rolls and an apple pie! My, but, I enjoyed giving thanks for this great blessing! And, if the family had more members than one complete 12-lb turkey dinner would feed, we could even give them two dinners to be sure everyone ate well this one special day. Don’t ya just love that?
     Next we learned that part of our Sacramento family was motoring on down to have Thanksgiving Day holiday with us! What a blessing that would be, just for us! If we cannot be with my own family, this family, definitely, was the one with whom I wanted to share the holiday! We had planned to finish our hot meal deliveries to our disaster families and be back at the church in time to share one of these turkey dinners with our Sacramento family. They should be arriving about the time we finished, if all went to plan.
     Well, it was long before the day of cell phones and they arrived much earlier than we had been able to finish deliveries. Nevertheless, they patiently waited for us. No chance they had not found the right church… the corner of the parking lot had a mountain of wrapped cases of clean water and there were two white igloo-style round fiberglass structures that some disaster preparedness group had assembled, one  between the church and office/Sunday School buildings and one on the other side of the church . No way one could miss this church!
     At last, it was our time to return thanks, while sitting around the wonderful aromas teasing our senses. You may well picture the turkey, mashed potatoes, etc. spread out on the table for the tasty holiday meal, but don’t include that formal dining room table, linen tablecloth of Grandma’s with the family China and best crystal glassware/silver flatware placed in the proper location at each place setting!! Our adult bodies were nestled closely around the Sunday School table of the five-year-old classroom, table and folding chairs appropriate for the age group. Our knees were seriously flexed either against the table or alongside, if the adult had turned the little chair to sit sidewise against the table, because our knees stuck up much too high to go under it! All utensils for eating this meal were of the lowest grade metal or plastic and napkins were paper, no tablecloth. Nevertheless, it was a marvelous time of giving thanks for wonderful family and friends… as well as  a God Who loved us enough to see that, not only could we provide the traditional meal for the families we were helping but that we, too, could have the blessing of sharing the meal with our own loved ones! What a fantastic surprise!
     Included in the showers of blessings for this special Thanksgiving weekend was delivering the warm coats, hats and shoes/boots to the families mentioned above! How amazingly wonderful it was to be able to share this day with our Sacramento friends who enjoyed helping the little ones try on their new coats, shoes/boots and hats! Warm clothing was also presented to the adults who had, for months, been living with the children in this shelter of canvas, plywood, and cardboard. All of us rejoiced at the wonderful blessings of this special 1989 Thanksgiving Day weekend!

**** An Old-Fashion Thanksgiving Day… Coming Tomorrow

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Special Thanksgiving

     “What was that?” I thought as I tried to rouse myself from the deep fog of sleep. The ground beneath my mat trembled again and my senses were on full alert as I grabbed for the pile of my clothing right next to my pillow. “Get up!” I called to my colleague sleeping on the mat not far from me. “It’s a tremor, get up!” In just a matter of seconds our nightgown-clad bodies were out the door of the Sunday School room and headed for the front door, shoes (socks inside) and daytime clothing in hand. We would wait to get fully dressed until we were sure it was necessary, well, except for the jackets which went on soon after crossing the threshold. It was November and chilly in the middle of the night, even in California.
     A few minutes later we were able to determine that it was safe to return to our sleeping mats; it was only an aftershock and nothing more. Back on the floor of the Sunday School room, stretched out, clothing again near my head, I prayed for the children of this city. If this was hard for me, as an adult, how much worse was it for the children? I knew that some of “our kids” wouldn’t get any more sleep that night because of the fear. Kids were funny that way, really. Some went about their days as though nothing had changed in their lives and they slept well at night wherever their little bodies were laid down. Other kids found every move of the ground, be it from more aftershocks or from a large semi-truck passing by, a terror to them; fear was written on their faces. Even when it was safe to go inside, they refused and many a mother or father had to pull the sleeping gear outside to lie down with their terrified child. The majority of the children were somewhere in-between these two extremes. It was the nights that were the worst for them. They were a bit skittish during the days and startled easily with any sudden sound, even a quiet one; but, for the most part, it was just sleeping at night that was a major problem. They could sometimes go to sleep easily from the exhaustion of the day but would rarely stay asleep, waking with nightmares off and on throughout the night.
     An earthquake is a great equalizer, let me tell you. Whatever socio-economic level, whatever educational achievement, or powerful influence the person may have had, when the home they were living in slipped off its foundation and they could not find all of their family members, the response was the same …fear. Fear in the night, for sure, as the ground continued to experience tremors nightly.  We all feared we would be too sound asleep to wake up in time to get out of a falling structure. For many there was also fear in the daytime because it was necessary for families to be separated as they tried to return to their pre-quake routine as much as possible.   When family members were spread out all over, they worried about what would happen if another quake hit and they could not find everyone. These concerns were real.  
     You might think that nearly two months should be long enough to get over it, right? Remember that the day the earthquake hit there was every indication that the whole twenty-four hours would end as it had begun, like any other day. There had been no warning that would prepare people as happens in a hurricane and they can decide to leave or stay. It was just suddenly upon them. On the first day of this horrible event that would change the lives of so many, finding loved ones was one of their chief concerns. In that initial chaos that followed the nearly instantaneous felling of trees, homes shifting off foundations and business buildings crumbling, family members had been  scattered all over the city. Not knowing if they were okay or needing help that was not coming was a major worry. It was so difficult to find to which shelter each family member had been herded. Kids playing with friends after school were in one area, parents working in offices or businesses around town were sent to other shelters near them and the elderly family members… what had happened to them—they had been at home! Were they okay? If their home had been hit they would be in yet another shelter.
     However, it had been close to two months now so things had pretty much stabilized and people were back in something resembling a routine. Kids were back in school, though some classes were held in churches and other buildings if the foundations of the classrooms were no longer safe for the children. Several businesses were a total loss so, if the adults in the family worked in one of those, he or she might still be standing in another long line to try to get some temporary, but immediate, employment in any field. There were no longer soup kitchens to feed the earthquake victims but trying to find food for the family was still difficult for many, as was finding clean water to drink.
     No, I did not live in this city so near the epicenter of the 1989 earthquake that collapsed the highway overpasses near the Bay area. My missionary colleague and I were in the States at the time it happened… in Sacramento. Our hostess was mowing her back lawn and I was waiting for the start of the World Series baseball game. Though some in the city had felt some kind of movement, we had not. We responded to a need for help and our Sacramento friends drove us to this hard-hit city to volunteer for this relief effort. It turned out to be an incredible experience. Many of the memories of those ten weeks working with relief victims are so fresh in my mind, still, that it is as though it happened last week instead of twenty-two years ago! We were given the keys to the church’s fifteen-passenger van to use in our work.  However, only the two front buckets seats were still in place since all the benches had been removed to make room for food and wrapped cases of clean water. Our job was to find the people who needed help and pass out the food and water. We got to know so many dear people of all ages and ethnic groups during those weeks.
     Each man, woman and child quickly expressed their thanks to us and there was no doubt that they were truly grateful for the help. When our calendar let us know that Thanksgiving Day in America would soon be upon us, I longed to have a chance for each family to enjoy the traditional Thanksgiving Day dinner. The relief effort was winding down and some of our families no longer needed assistance. We were happy for them, of course, but what about the others who were still living under make-shift shelters? Or, the family who crawled through broken mayonnaise jars and all kinds of other yuck splashed all over their kitchen floor to get out of the falling house?  To compound their loss even more, the breadwinner’s place of business was one of those totally destroyed in the quake. All of them were still living in the garage with a small kerosene two-burner cook stove… could they have a turkey dinner with all the trimmings? I, myself, just love turkey and this meal, in particular, is one of my favorite holiday meals. It would be such a morale booster if we could get all of these families, still living under adverse conditions, a turkey dinner… not to mention it would provide one more step along that path back to “normal” life!  The fourth Thursday in November in America was always a time for celebrating blessings and returning thanks… yes, there had been losses and sadness; but, if there could be that tasty and graphic reminder that life was getting sorted out and next year would be better? How great would that be!

****Scene 2: Showers of Blessings… coming tomorrow

Friday, November 18, 2011

Psalm 23: Reflections Concluded

Verse 4(NIV): “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” 

     I always find it so much better to have someone with me when I am going through something hard, don’t you? Long ago when I was just a college freshman, I was given a little book that had these words written inside on a beautifully illustrated page: “The test of friendship is when you can spend one hour in the presence of another, without either of you saying a single word, and not be bored.” It is not necessarily what a person says that makes you feel good! Sometimes, in fact, we just want someone there with us when there is simply nothing at all that can be said! I remember the second day of my blindness, my colleague came in and sat on the edge of my bed. No words were spoken by either of us. I just sat up and we cried together for awhile. There never was a word spoken; yet, it was clear what was being said, “I’m with you and I know it is hard.”
     Maybe you are thinking, “Nice for you, Sojourner, but my colleagues would just stay away from me. I don’t have anyone who would walk through the valley with me.”  Oh, dear Reader, but you do! David is telling us that we don’t need to be afraid because the Shepherd is walking with us through that dark valley; we are never alone!
     The sheep know that the Shepherd carries his rod and his staff with Him and that is a great comfort to the sheep. He carries them when they are going through dark valleys and he carries them when they are walking through green pastures; the rod and staff are always with Him just as His eyes are always on us. They represent weapons to protect the sheep, as well as instruments to discipline the sheep if the Shepherd sees that they are going in the wrong direction. The sheep are not afraid of the rod and staff; in fact, they find them a comfort! Are we finding it a comfort to know that God is always with us, whether we are doing something that will honor His name or something that will bring tears to His eyes? I know that, for me, the awareness that “God was watching” has kept me from doing some things I was tempted to do! That knowledge is a comfort to me… God will never leave you nor forsake you, the Bible says; and, never means never.

Verse 5 (NIV): “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”

     The sheep know that their shepherd sees to their needs all the time, even when things are stressful and it seems that enemies are all around. My, I don’t think I would want to eat under those circumstances but it is a sign that the sheep are not afraid. If the Shepherd is preparing the table for them, it is safe to eat no matter what the sheep may think about things. I can see that this would indicate a serious trust of their Shepherd and certainly does speak of a profoundly close relationship with Him! Hmmm, maybe I need to take another look at just why I can’t eat in the middle of a trial? Do I really trust the Shepherd? 
     The Shepherd anoints the heads of the sheep. Have you ever had something on your scalp that made it itch like crazy? I know that when we made a trip into the deep wilderness area of the country where we serve as missionaries, there were tiny flies that burrowed down each shaft of the hair. Once they reached the scalp, it itched until I thought I would go nuts! Well, the sheep have mite-like critters that do the same to them. To help the sheep get rid of these pests, the Shepherd anoints their heads with oil/ pours oil over their heads. What a relief that was when the critters were gone so it must be a real comfort to the sheep that the Shepherd cares about this irritant bothering them. He sees that it is taken care of, though it does not affect his own head. He cares! And, in fact, it is a blessing as Sheep David writes, “My cup overflows with blessings.” (NLT)

Verse 6(NIV): “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

 The NLT records the first line as, “Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me…”, though, perhaps, we are more familiar with the version that says “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me….” Whether the ”mercy” should be translated “love” or “unfailing love”; whether it “follows me” or “pursues me” is a non-issue to me. The point is this: Our wonderful understanding God is there! He will see that we have what we need to live here on this planet, He will protect us and direct us and, yes, even discipline us so that we are children whose behavior brings honor to His name. And, when our sojourn is finished, we will dwell in the House of the Lord forever! No more pesky beasts irritating our scalp; no more worrying about this or that; no more dropping into a crevasse and needing the Shepherds staff to loop around and bring me out of the trouble… no more! Nothing!  Nada (Spanish)! Rien (French)! Nichts (German)! Nothing! It is finished at that point and, if we have accepted His forgiveness and His Lordship over us, then, we will just enjoy a full and wonderful, trouble-free life in the House of the Lord forever… and forever is forever! Amen!

****A Special Thanksgiving… Coming Monday

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Psalm 23: Reflections for Today

John 10:14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”(NIV)

     Since the Good Shepherd has that “omniscient” thing going for Him, it is not hard to imagine that He knows His sheep, since he knows all that there is to know. But, the verse said that the sheep know Him, too! My question is what is it that the sheep know about the Shepherd?
     One of the most well-known “sheep” in the Bible is David—shepherd boy, musician, composer, friend of the King’s son, fugitive and, at last, king himself! I figured I would find my answer recorded in David’s psalm 23.
     In the Bible I used when I worked on memorizing the Twenty-Third Psalm to earn a pretty bookmark with the same passage of Scripture at age 8, verse 1 said, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” In today’s world that may be misunderstood as the sheep may think it gives them a free pass to all their wants! Present-day translations give us a more accurate picture of just what the sheep say about their Shepherd’s provision:

New Living Translation (NLT):   “The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.”
Or, The New International Version (NIV): “The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.”

     The sheep, David, states that the Shepherd provides all that he needs; he isn’t missing anything. He does not say that he has everything that he wants or has seen on television or U-Tube. He has what he needs.
     Recently my colleague helped move an African family with eight children and four adults living in one house. It, quite literally, took only three trips with the Toyota and one push-cart for the larger items to move them! One afternoon’s work, if you can imagine!
     Likewise, two months ago my sisters helped my elderly mother move from her two-bedroom, two-bathroom condominium to a small one-bedroom, and one-bathroom apartment in a retirement center. Of course not all of the things in her condo would be moving as there just wasn’t the space. My older sister commented to me after the move, “We really don’t need all that much to live.” She is right! We don’t need it to live; we just want it! Okay, but the sheep are saying here that the Good Shepherd sees that they lack nothing that they need.

Verse 2: “He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.”(NLT)

     If the sheep lie down in green pastures, they know that when they are hungry, there is good food right there for them. Sheep are skittish creatures and not all that fond of water, in general. The Good Shepherd leads them by the peaceful waters so they don’t need to worry; if they are thirsty, the water is safe.

Verse 3 “He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.”(NIV)

     The NLT says “He renews my strength”: but refreshing my soul is sooo much more than just strength! “Soul” refers to our emotions and our mind. Who doesn’t need a bit of refreshing of their emotions and mind every now and then, eh? David, the sheep, says that the Good Shepherd does that! That is precisely why the Shepherd urges us to spend time with Him daily. If we can meet with Him first thing in the morning, we can be refreshed and strengthened before that first wave of “life” hits us!
     In addition the Good Shepherd guides the sheep and their response to His guidance brings honor to His name. You know, like when you made your parents proud of you because you returned that extra bit of change the clerk at the store gave you by mistake? Your parents had taught you that to have something that does not belong to you is wrong; they were guiding you along the right path. Returning the money that really wasn’t yours, brought honor to their name.
     When we were getting things together to bring over to Africa, K-Mart had a folding table and four folding chairs on sale. While there we picked up a number of other items, too. As is often the case on really good “Sale Days”, there was a ton of people in the check-out lines. Finally we were out the door and on the way to my parents’ home. Once there, however, we noticed that the harried checker had forgotten to charge us the $59.95 for the table and chairs. It was too late to go back to K-Mart right then but we returned with the receipt the next morning. At the Customer Service counter the lady waiting on us just could not believe that we had come back to pay for the table and chairs. In fact, she was so astounded that she called to the other lady working at the counter to tell her about us. Can I tell you, truthfully, that I was embarrassed when she did this? I hated the spotlight she was putting on us. She said she had never seen anything like that in all her time working in retail sales and asked us why we came back since no one would have known the difference.
     “It was the right thing to do since we took the table and chairs; we should pay for them.” She was shaking her head as she took our money so I was thinking she probably considered us to be the dumbest bricks in the load but, oh well, God knew since He was watching! Then as we were turning to leave she smiled and said, “Thank you. Thank you very much for coming back,” and I knew she meant it. I also knew that in this incident we had brought honor to Father God by following His guidance along the right path!

****Psalm 23: Reflections Concluded … Coming Tomorrow

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Recognize the Voice?

      “A-A-Al-vi-vi-vin,” rang out throughout our neighborhood as the little boy’s mother called him for supper. Funnily enough, all of the rest of us stopped that repeated check on our acquired marbles and looked at Alvin, who did not look up from his concentrated stare over his next move. Neither did he grab up his marbles and head home.  
     “Hey, Alvin,” 7-year-old Butchy said, “your mother is calling you.” Wow, like that was a bit of news, eh?!
     “Ya, I know,” replied the five-year-old, continuing his stare at the marbles still on the ground.
     “Bu-u-tchy! Suu-uus-sie! Su-u-up-per!” was the next many-syllabled call for the siblings to make their way home. If Butchy and Susie’s father was home, though, one very sharp whistle filled the neighborhood. He turned his hand palm side facing him, put his thumb and index finger together against his lips and blew, just once. Amazing just how fast the duo responded to that one shrill note!
     One of my favorites was Sidney’s dad but, perhaps, that was because I was finally able to produce the sound myself. Both hands were needed for this two-tone, lower octave whistle. Hands clasped as if one had been applauding and just kept the two hands together after the last clap, thumbs side-by-side, though slightly separated,  and distal joint (by the nail) of both thumbs flexed like a mouthpiece for the lips. Blow into the small slit between the knuckles. After making the first sound throw open the lower hand (left, for me) to hear the tone rise, thereby making the second of the two tones of this unique whistle. Sidney’s father repeated this whistle several times, though it usually only took one to get the child moving in that direction!
     Our Mom? Yes, sometimes it was the undulating, multiple syllable shout of our names but often she had already told us that we should be listening for her call. She just stepped out on the porch and yelled, “Supper!” Nothing special about it except that it was, as had been the case for little Lisa, our mother. There was no voice like hers; it was the real deal!
     Alvin ever go home for supper? Oh, yes, when his mother condensed his two-syllable name into one sharp bark, “Alvin, you want a whoo-ooopin’?”
     One very tender example of the child knowing the sound of his father’s voice came when I worked with premature babies in a major medical center. Little Jeremy… and I do mean little… fit in the palm of my hand, legs dangling off the bottom of the hand one leg on each side of the wrist, and head supported on my extended fingers. He had been born two months prematurely and it is those months in which the main thing the baby does is grow and fill out a bit. Well, he did not have time to fill-out before he made his entrance into this world; otherwise, he was fairly healthy. One evening my colleague was going to help me weigh “my babies” so I could spend more time with my overdue charts. I heard Jeremy fussing so stepped into the adjacent room to see what the problem was. I spoke to Jeremy and tried to calm him. He was used to my voice because I had been his nurse since his admission to the unit a few days before but Jeremy just would not be comforted. He wanted off that scale and that was that! Of course it is just impossible to get an accurate weight on a preemie who is squiggling around so “what to do?” Put him back in his isolette and try later? The answer came abruptly as a voice rang out from the area of the scrub sinks.
     “Jeremy, settle down. Daddy’s here.” Soon Daddy was standing right next to the scale and his soothing voice spoke comfort to his newborn son. Literally, from the moment Jeremy heard his father’s voice, his tiny limbs stopped flailing and he tilted his head towards the sound.  Jeremy’s father had spoken to the unborn baby for months and months already so his voice was very familiar to the baby only a few days old.
 When Daddy was standing right next to the scale, he was quiet and relaxed as he listened to his father tell him how much he loved him. Daddy would be spending the night right next to Jeremy’s isolette so the baby had nothing to fear. Daddy was here!

     When I was remembering the above the Scripture verses in John 10 came to mind. This is often labeled “The Good Shepherd”. As I read, I wondered if it might not be true that Father God had made us to focus on just one voice and not listen to every father’s voice. I mean, in the neighborhood, the parents were calling their child to supper and the rest of us knew it. We had not thought of answering the call and expecting to sit at the table of another family. There was only one voice to which we needed to respond. Likewise, there was only one voice we knew would be displeased and discipline us should we disobey. Sidney’s father may have taught me to duplicate the sound of his whistle but we both knew that he would not punish me when I did not come at the sound of his call. In fact, he did not want me to come! When I did something wrong, I had only my own father to give account; no other father would be setting punishment for my misdeeds. Whew, what a comfort that is!
     See what you think:

(John 10:3-5, NIV) “…and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”

     May we recognize the sound of his voice as clearly as we heard that of our own father or mother calling us home from play. Truly, it is the real deal; there is no One like Him!

****Psalm 23:Reflections For Today…Coming Tomorrow

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Oops, Wrong Lap! Scene 2: Discovery and Deliverance

     Lisa pressed in to nuzzle the space just under Sojourner’s chin as the two sat down in Grandpa’s large, gold recliner. Still, the room was totally silent, all the adults afraid to make a sound, especially Sojourner who gently stroked Little Miss Diddle-Diddle’s back.  Finally Grandma took up the conversation where she had left off and it appeared as though things would just resume as before the appearance of the star of the weekend. Everyone relaxed as Lisa relaxed. It was a short-lived, but oh-so-sweet, pause, however.      The first word out of Sojourner’s mouth caused the toddler to stiffen in the arms that held her. Her body went rigid as the beautiful little face glanced ever-so-slightly up at the place from where the sound had just come, above her head. The horror was not apparent in her face but her every action registered the anguish at having made such a mistake. Head quickly turning to the pressed-in, tiny nose smashed against the chest position, Lisa slowly, deliberately began to move. Out stretched the delicate little arms to feel the area just on either side of her head, palms flat against Sojourner’s upper chest. Legs that had been peacefully resting in the adult lap slowly began their move to align themselves with the arms. The toddler’s waist twisted to allow her knees to be braced against Sojourner’s abdomen. Cautiously, Little Miss Diddle-Diddle pushed her right palm and right knee, simultaneously, against the stranger’s body. Then the left palm and left knee dug in and pushed, inch-by-inch until she had slid herself down and off the human mountain that had looked so much like Mommy.

     Once free of Auntie Sojourner’s lap, however, Lisa had not a clue what to do. It was the most pitiful sight, really…. the precious little girl, head still looking down at her feet, frozen stiff before the seated adults, was most likely asking herself “Where is Mommy to rescue me?” None of the adults knew what to do either, as a matter of fact. Then the sound that provided the wonderful relief more pronounced than any Alka-Selzer moment, the opening of the front door! All of us hearkened an ear to the next beautiful words.

     “Hello? Anybody here?” Well, all of those seated jumped up with joy but it was little Lisa’s feet that made it to the front door before anyone else! Now that was the voice of her Mommy! Regardless of how closely the body of her auntie had resembled her Mommy from the height of a fourteen-month-old, no one could match that voice! This was the real deal! Lisa threw her arms up and her face glowed with that recognition as Mommy picked her up to “deliver” the frightened little one from her fears.

****Recognize the Voice?... Coming Tomorrow