Playing Dominoes

I spent Thanksgiving out of town.  It was only about an hour away but I spent two nights away.  It was a sweet Thanksgiving without stress or struggle.  Katie and I ate Cornish hens instead of turkey.  No fussing about but special.  About three or four years ago, Katie and I took a trip to Tennessee to meet with my daughter and family at a cabin in the Smokey Mountains.

At that time, I took along some games for us to play with the grandchildren.  I grew up playing dominoes and still have the set that once belonged to my father.  It is antique so it is very special.  No television meant playing cards, dominoes, checkers, and reading the comic strips in the Sunday paper.  I learned on that trip that Katie did not know how to play dominoes.  So, I took my modern set with me to her house. Katie and I are friends from over 30 years and both retired teachers.  She lives on a 40-acre wooded place with a creek; she writes books in which the main characters are cats, and she is owned by three felines, one of which is the “star” of *Yellow Cat Tales.

Now, Katie plays dominoes and plays well.  We played “first man out” while she learned, then started taking score and using some strategy.  We just had fun and neither of us is a boastful winner or a sore loser.  One game we just kept going until every domino was used.

In the modern sets, the numbers have representative colors which makes it much more difficult to cheat.  My father would cheat with the old black and white set because I was, as a child, not observant enough and an eight spot was close enough to a nine.  My mother would walk by and see him cheating and give him a whack and scold him for cheating with a child!  She was right.  Dad would just grin.  It did teach me to be more observant.

Close enough is not good enough.  Neither is it right for the Christian walk.  Yet, I can say, I see CINOs far too often.  A CINO is a Christian in Name Only.  Let’s not do that.  Let’s not cut corners.  Let’s not pretend that God is deaf and blind.  Let’s walk the talk.  Just as in dominoes, the spots need to match.

 

*You can find the books:  Yellow Cat Tales, or Inspirational Cat Tales by typing in the title, or author name which is Kay Gibson.  I am unashamedly promoting her work.  There is another book on the way sometime this year.  The books are printed in a 16-point font for easy reading.

Thankful for the Thorns

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Sandra felt as low as the heels of her Birkenstocks as she pushed against a November gust and the florist shop door. Her life had been easy, like a spring breeze. Then, in the fourth month of her second pregnancy, a minor automobile accident stole her ease. During this Thanksgiving week she would have delivered a son. She grieved over her loss. As if that weren’t enough, her husband’s company threatened a transfer. Then her sister, whose holiday visit she coveted, called saying she could not come. What’s worse, Sandra’s friend infuriated her by suggesting her grief was a God-given path to maturity that would allow her to empathize with others who suffer. “Had she lost a child? No – she has no idea what I’m feeling,” Sandra shuddered. Thanksgiving? “Thankful for what?” she wondered. For a careless driver whose truck was hardly scratched when he rear-ended her? For an airbag that saved her life but took that of her child?

“Good afternoon, can I help you?” The flower shop clerk’s approach startled her. “Sorry,” said Jenny, “I just didn’t want you to think I was ignoring you.” “I . . . . I need an arrangement.” “For Thanksgiving?” Sandra nodded. “Do you want beautiful but ordinary, or would you like to challenge the day with a customer favorite I call the ‘Thanksgiving Special’?” Jenny saw Sandra’s curiosity and continued. “I’m convinced that flowers tell stories, that each arrangement insinuates a particular feeling. Are you looking for something that conveys gratitude this Thanksgiving?” “Not exactly!” Sandra blurted. “Sorry, but in the last five months, everything that could go wrong has.”

Sandra regretted her outburst but was surprised when Jenny said, “I have the perfect arrangement for you.” The door’s small bell suddenly rang. “Barbara, hi!” Jenny said. She politely excused herself from Sandra and walked toward a small workroom. She quickly reappeared carrying a massive arrangement of green bows, and long-stemmed thorny roses. Only, the ends of the rose stems were neatly snipped, no flowers. “Want this in a box?” Jenny asked. Sandra watched for Barbara’s response. Was this a joke? Who would want rose stems and no flowers! She waited for laughter, for someone to notice the absence of flowers atop the thorny stems, but neither woman did. “Yes, please. It’s exquisite.” said Barbara. “You’d think after three years of getting the special, I’d not be so moved by its significance, but it’s happening again. My family will love this one. Thanks.”

Sandra stared. “Why so normal a conversation about so strange an arrangement?” she wondered. “Ah,” said Sandra, pointing. “That lady just left with, ah . . . ” “Yes?” “Well, she had no flowers!” “Yep. That’s the Special. I call it the “Thanksgiving Thorns Bouquet.” “But, why do people pay for that?” In spite of herself she chuckled. “Do you really want to know?” “I couldn’t leave this shop without knowing. I’d think about nothing else!” “That might be good,” said Jenny.

“Well,” she continued, “Barbara came into the shop three years ago feeling very much like you feel today. She thought she had very little to be thankful for. She had lost her father to cancer, the family business was failing, her son was into drugs, and she faced major surgery.” “Ouch!” said Sandra. “That same year, I lost my husband. I assumed complete responsibility for the shop and for the first time, spent the holidays alone. I had no children, no husband, no family nearby, and too great a debt to allow any travel.” “What did you do?” “I learned to be thankful for thorns.” Sandra’s eyebrows lifted. “Thorns?”

“I’m a Christian, Sandra. I’ve always thanked God for good things in life and I never thought to ask Him why good things happened to me. But, when bad stuff hit, did I ever ask! It took time to learn that dark times are important. I always enjoyed the flowers of life but it took thorns to show me the beauty of God’s comfort. You know, the Bible says that God comforts us when we’re afflicted and from His consolation we learn to comfort others.” Sandra gasped. “A friend read that passage to me and I was furious! I guess the truth is, I don’t want comfort. I’ve lost a baby and I’m angry with God.” She started to ask Jenny to “go on” when the door’s bell diverted their attention.

“Hey, Phil!” shouted Jenny as a balding, rotund man entered the shop. She softly touched Sandra’s arm and moved to welcome him. He tucked her under his side for a warm hug. “I’m here for twelve thorny long-stemmed stems!” Phil laughed, heartily. “I figured as much,” said Jenny. “I’ve got them ready.” She lifted a tissue-wrapped arrangement from the refrigerated cabinet. “Beautiful,” said Phil. “My wife will love them.” Sandra could not resist asking, “These are for your wife?” Phil saw that Sandra’s curiosity matched his when he first heard of a Thorn Bouquet. “Do you mind me asking, Why thorns?” “In fact, I’m glad you asked,” He said. “Four years ago my wife and I nearly divorced. After forty years, we were in a real mess, but we slogged through, problem by rotten problem. We rescued our marriage – our love, really. Last year, at Thanksgiving, I stopped in here for flowers. I must have mentioned surviving a tough process because Jenny told me that for a long time she kept a vase of rose stems — stems! — As a reminder of what she learned from ‘thorny’ times. That was good enough for me. I took home stems. My wife and I decided to label each one for a specific thorny situation and give thanks for what the problem taught us. I’m pretty sure this stem review is becoming a tradition.” Phil paid Jenny, thanked her again and as he left, said to Sandra, “I highly recommend the Special!”

“I don’t know if I can be thankful for the thorns in my life, ” Sandra said to Jenny. “Well, my experience says that thorns make roses more precious. We treasure God’s providential care more during trouble than at any other time. Remember, Sandra, Jesus wore a crown of thorns so that we might know His love. Do not resent thorns.” Tears rolled down Sandra’s cheeks. For the first time since the accident she loosened her grip on resentment. “I’ll take twelve long-stemmed thorns, please.” “I hoped you would, ” Jenny said. “I’ll have them ready in a minute. Then, every time you see them, remember to appreciate both good and hard times. We grow through both.” “Thank you. What do I owe you?” “Nothing. Nothing but a pledge to work toward healing your heart. The first year’s arrangement is always on me.”

Jenny handed a card to Sandra. “I’ll attach a card like this to your arrangement but maybe you’d like to read it first. Go ahead, read it.” My God, I have never thanked Thee for my thorn! I have thanked Thee a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my thorn. Teach me the glory of the cross I bear, teach me the value of my thorns. Show me that I have climbed to Thee by the path of pain. Show me that my tears have made my rainbow.

I have had this story in my file for quite some time and do not remember the place of origin and the author was not given.  If you have that information, please let me know.

 

Fun and Games

For more than a week now I have had a notion swirling around in my head.  As Thanksgiving Day approaches, I usually organize some games for the day to entertain my grandchildren.  It started several seasons ago with an essay contest and has kept going each year. There are no electronics required; in fact, electronics are highly discouraged.

As the youngest child keeps getting older and more able to participate in more mature games, this year I have gathered some word searches and spelling games.  Kamryn (6 years old) and I gave one game a trial run last week.  Today I am going to use a modified version of the game at the retirement home I visit each week.

“This Thanksgiving. . .” is a modified version of the memory game, “I am going on vacation. . .” or making alphabet soup.  Moving from A to Z we will compile a list of things for which we are thankful.  For instance, A on my list has angels.  It could be apples too.  I think you see how it works.  When Kamryn and I played it, we used it as a memory chain.

When Kamryn and I played it, the list was a pleasant mixture of material and spiritual things.  We did not strive for all of one or the other.  Let’s be clear:  Kleenex is a valid item for which we can be thankful! (As I am posting this after my visit to Hickory Creek, I can tell you that U stood for underwear!)

Try it.  Try it just for yourself, or get someone to join you.  You will be pleasantly pleased with the result.

Billy Graham

Today is Billy Graham’s birthday.  He is 98 years old now.  I love it when I hear his children speak of him and call him “Daddy.”  It is such a loving term to call one’s father.

Today I read an article by one of Graham’s grandsons.  It was a sweet tribute to his grandfather and tells a sweet, poignant story of getting to cut into a line of people waiting to see Graham.  A security guard had held the grandson back but when Graham saw the child out of the corner of his eye, he turned, smiled, and held his arm out for the child to come.  That, folks, is what happens in family.  That, folks, is also an act of grace.

What was your first recollection of Billy Graham?  I remember watching, or trying to watch, a citywide crusade on television and my mother made me turn it off.  She may have tried to squelch the Holy Spirit, but she did not succeed.  Soon after that experience, another teenager in high school invited me to attend a Sunday School class.  It was a fall contest to get visitors.  This visitor turned to Christ in repentance the following winter.

Maybe some of you, like me, were turned away from Billy Graham because a certain fundamental group did not like the “easy-believism” tactics of the city crusades.  Graham invited main-line denominations into his crusades and that was criticized too.  Regardless of the criticisms Bev Shea kept singing, Tedd Smith kept playing the piano, and Graham kept preaching.  When I go back to listen to his sermons now, they were doctrinally sound messages.  God blesses His Holy Word.

Billy Graham’s name and message endure.  It is amazing to me how many people have been influenced to follow Christ because of him.  Baseball’s great second baseman for the New York Yankees, Bobby Richardson, is a great example.  On this blog somewhere you will find a book review of his called Impact Player.  Sadly, there could have been so many more than the already thousands, maybe millions who have been influenced.  People, like my mother, who switched the channel and forbid me to watch is just one example of a bad choice.  Fortunately, less than two months before her death, my mother came to know Christ as her personal Savior.  She was a decent person.  She was a sincere person.  She was sincerely wrong.  Someday I’ll write about her conversion story.

Reader, if you do not know the Christ that Billy Graham preached about, find out—now!  Read John chapter 3 and you will see how to be truly born again.  Let our loving, gentle, good Shepherd bring you into His flock. If you have question, please comment.  I can answer.

I noticed that. . .

This afternoon, although it is a comfortable temperature for November 3, I happened to notice that something was flashing on the house thermostat. Due to my low vision, I looked closer, then hauled out the flashlight to get a better look at the white on black, on an LED screen.  Finally, I hunted up my office 3X hand-held magnifying glass, and figured out that is was flashing, “replace batteries.” Since I keep a supply of AA and AAA batteries on hand, I changed the batteries.  Woo Hoo for me!  I didn’t have to put in a phone call to a grandson to come figure out the message.

I said that to say this:  God notices everything.  He sees the sparrow fall, (Luke 12:6) he knows how many steps we take, (Psalm 37:23) and knows the number of hairs on our heads. (Matthew 10:30) In fact, God know the end from the beginning and our days are ordered by His hand. (Psalm 31:15)

It is a pleasure to know I am sustained by God’s hand.  It is also a comfort to know that because the Lord sees everything, He also sees the wickedness and as His child, He will chasten me (Hebrews 12:5-11) to rid me of the evil thoughts and actions in my life.  No chastening is pleasant, but it does bring about the fruit of righteousness.

Jesus, my Good Shepherd, is aware of all of His sheep.

The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House (book review)

The Residence:  Inside the Private World of the White House is authored by Kate Andersen Brower, is 309 pages long (not counting photo pages) and is published by Harper Collins, copyright 2015.  I saw an excerpt by the author in a newspaper column recently and it was just the nibble I needed to borrow the book from my local library.  I usually do not go to the trouble to read a regular-sized print book with a hand-held magnifier, but I didn’t even feel it was an impediment to my reading this book.  Yes, that’s how pleasurable it was to read.

Brower takes the reader inside the White House, not as much for satiating the curiosity of the readers about how the President’s family is cared for, as much as to enter into the lives of those who work in the White House.  That is, chefs, butlers, maids, and other assorted employees.  I found it fascinating how the employees of the White House coordinate events with ease and dignity.  Many of them work as White House staff for twenty and thirty years before stepping down. For some of them, it is even generational.  Politics do not enter into the work they do although, they sometimes make jokes about republicans and democrats among themselves.

Brower covers events such as the Inauguration moves.  One family moves out and another moves all in one huge coordinated effort.  The crowds listening to the address and swearing in have no idea of the behind the scenes work it take to move swiftly, efficiently, and completely in such a short period of time.  Since the book covers the period of time from Robert F. Kennedy to the present administration of President Obama, she also covers how very difficult it was for the staff to move Mrs. Kennedy and family out of the White House and Johnson in and do it with grief-stricken hearts.

The characters in the book are ready-made.  She spent hours upon hours in personal interviews with staff, past and present, to cull out stories of love, compassion, grief, terror, and happiness.  Thirty-four characters are listed in the book with stories that are amusing, and sometimes frustrating, and always, confidential.  Seeing teens partying, slumber parties, birthday parties, serving heads of state, moving furniture and decorating Christmas trees is all in a day’s work for them and they take it in stride.

Along the way in the book I learned that the President has to pay for the family food and food for family entertaining.  Someone else cooks it, yes, but they pay that grocery bill.  There were some Presidents who complained when the groceries were a little too expensive and asked the chef to cut the costs.  The First Lady chooses the menu for the week. The President also pays the moving expenses in and out of the White House.  I didn’t know that.

Neither did I know that Nancy Reagan was a perfectionist to the point that the head housekeeper quit.  Lyndon Johnson was such a crank about the shower head and water pressure that the White House plumber had a nervous breakdown while trying his best to please Johnson.  Yes, the Clinton’s fussed with each other and Mrs. Clinton did throw things at her husband.  I also learned that the White House has an official dog man.  Of course, the job is not full-time, but part of his job is to care for family pets.

For more stories, just read the book for yourself.  I predict that this book will stand on library shelves for years and years to come along side other books about the occupants of the White House.  What makes this book special is the recognition of the devoted staff that just takes care of the President and the family during their years of residence in this beautiful building run by the National Park Service.

Tethered

If you have followed this blog for very long, you know that not only did I grow up on an old-fashioned farm with chickens, cows, horses, ducks, geese, pigs, dogs and numerous barn cats, I also have no regrets for being an old-fashioned farm girl.  I should be over 100 years old because I also attended school at a one-room schoolhouse with eight grades in the same room and one teacher.

In the school yard our playground equipment was two teeter totters, as we called them, two swings, a woodshed over which we played “Annie Annie Over” and behind the woodshed was a softball field.   Oh, and for descriptive purposes, in each corner of the yard stood an outhouse. We had a common water bucket and common water dipper from which we all drank.  That’s why we all had the chicken pox at the same time!

All of that aside, when our enrollment dwindled to 13 students, the county closed our school and I now had to get on a big yellow school bus and ride for about an hour through the countryside on our way to the large school in town.  That is where I first played tether ball. Although I have always been height challenged, for some reason, I was a fairly good player.  That ball could fly no further than the rope allowed it to fly.  When the rope was wrapped around the pole, the game was over, and we started all over again.

Oh, that our hearts, my heart, might be tethered closely to Jesus and His Word that we will never fly outside of his will.  We are always in His sight; it is we who tend to walk away from the court and play other games.  Let us ask Jesus to tether our hearts to His.

The Chicken Pox Panic (book review)

The Chicken Pox Panic by Beverly Lewis, Copyright 1993, and published by Bethany House Publishers in Minneapolis, MN has been around for a while.  I knew about the series because I worked in a Christian bookstore for a few years.  Most bookstores sell the book for the age level of 7-8 years old.

This is book two in a series of 22 books about the adventures of children who all live on the same cul de sac called Blossom Hill Lane.  In fact, the front of the book gives a map of the houses on the cul de sac.  The children all seem to be elementary age so they relate well to young readers.

The author deals with the issue of adoption in a very positive way in this book.  Divorce is an issue that Lewis also deals with in a sensitive way but does deal with the mixture of emotions that children face in a realistic way. There is no anger, but there is disappointment.

This is a chapter book with 11 chapters spread over 60 pages.  The font is a nice size for young readers and the pictures are black and white but few in number.  The plot is a birthday party that goes through the stumbles of setbacks due to chicken pox on Blossom Hill Lane.  The sub plot deals with the little girl who is worried about being adopted.

If you have a young reader in your home that is just now ready for a chapter book, this will be a good start.  It appeals to both boys and girls.  I recommend it for families who want to keep family values intact.

Why did I read it?  I took a test run before handing it off to my own granddaughter.  She loves to read and is wearing out her family with level two and level three books.  This will slow her down when the book is 60 pages—maybe.

 

Is There Not a Cause?

2004 is not all that long ago. I recall the manufactured “scandal” by Dan Rather and CBS over George W. Bush’s military records. That broke in September before his re-election to a second term. These major networks, for some reason are in the pockets of the Democrats. I suppose it is the work of Satan to strike down any good work that people can accomplish in America, don’t you think? That is why today I ask the same question that David asked in I Samuel 17:29.  The cause today is that same as it was then:  to prove that there is a God who who need the glory for victories. It is God’s name that needs to be upheld.

When Milton penned “Paradise Lost” he poetically but firmly relates the idea that Satan targets those whom God loves the most, His children and the holiness they can create by living righteously in the world. Put on your armor today because we are in spiritual warfare and you must never take it for granted that we have guaranteed freedoms outside of the Word of God. Yes, we have a Constitution for which we can battle and we should be battling for it. However, it is my strong opinion that as we battle for the Constitution outside of the parameters of desire to bring glory to God’s might, we are amiss.

When David stood before Goliath, it was not for David’s glory, it is was the Lord’s name to be magnified. In I Samuel 17:45-46 we find the recorded words of David to Goliath and he ends his statement with “that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.” I challenge you to keep that in mind as you pray for America. Do we just want things better for ourselves, or do we want all the earth to know that God still reigns?

 

 

Chasing Away the Darkness

I have been slowly working my way through Philippians in a weekly Bible study group.  The more and longer I think about it, possibly the most significant portion in Philippians is chapter 2, verses 14-17. I am aware that most teachers would favor the earlier verses in the same chapter where we see the humility of Christ.  It is important to be sure, however, in light of our daily drudge through life on this planet, the tall command is verse 14.

“Do all things without murmurings and disputings.  I first noticed that murmuring is in the plural as well as disputing.  Multiple murmuring is getting to the dangerous mark.  Disputing indicates that the undertones of grumbling have now become vocal.  Also notice that it is not a command of choice.  That is, sometimes it is necessary and sometimes it is not necessary.  Whoa!  All and every has the same Greek word.  For emphasis, I’d say, “Do all or every task without murmurings (under your breath,) and disputings (vocal complaint)

The following verses explain the results of living above the reproach of complaint whether it be inward rebellion or outward explosion!  Paul exhorts Believers in Philippi to live harmless and without rebuke.  They can do this only if they live without murmurings and disputings.  When I painstakingly diagramed these verses, which are all one sentence, the words kept retuning to the initial independent thought:  no murmurings, no disputings.  The reason is that they live in a crooked and perverse world.  In that world of dark sin, Paul tells them that if they can live above wickedness, they will be as lights.  To quote him exactly, it is “. . .among whom ye shine as lights in the world.”

Lights.  Plural.  Individual lights can be multiplied.  To illustrate this I took a small flashlight to the study.  (Fire laws prohibit me from using a match which would have worked better.) I carry a small pen light in my car for emergency use.  It doesn’t shine far but it will light the immediate darkness.  It can find a keyhole.  Now vision this:  the battery is dead.  For lack of power, the light cannot shine.  For lack of a disciplined life, the light is rendered useless.

If we are going to shine, let’s stop the murmurings and disputings.  When we follow the associated commands of Romans 12 we will be enabled to shine right where we are in our home, in our neighborhood, in our church, in our community.

Shine fellow Believer.  Together our lights multiply and chase away the darkness of sin that seems so prevalent.  To shine, we must be empowered.  Check that battery!