Bean Soup

It is winter. Soup is wonderful in the winter so I started soaking my great northern beans last night in preparation of my homemade bean soup. When I set it to cooking this morning my mouth began to water thinking about how tasty it would be. It was with relief that I saw on the plastic bag full of beans that there is absolutely no sodium in great northern beans. I did not add any either.

Those beans also sent me on a trip down memory lane. One of the products my dad planted on our family farm each year was great northern beans. Dad was the only person who paid much attention to the beans until they were harvested. I’d see those heavy 100# bags of beans in the grain bins and groan.

I was a child, it seems, a hundred years ago, living on a small farm in a tightly-knit community. My mom traded eggs from our chickens and those dry bean. She took them to the back of the store for the storekeeper to tally and then picked items like coffee, sugar, peanut butter, and flour. When she approached the lady at the big cash register, the amount of money for the eggs and beans paid for the groceries and usually Mom had some cash to stash away for a time when the hens were not laying as well. Honest, that was in the 1950’s, not in Little House on the Prairie.

Those beans were the unwelcome sight to me as after supper the dishes were washed and out in the dining room dad had already a big heap of dry beans for us to sort. We didn’t sit and watch television. Nope. I sat there at the table with my parents and grandfather and sorted out the small sticks, pod pieces and, even a stone sometimes, and broken beans. Mom weighed them and put the good beans into a separate pile for selling. We also ate our own product on a regular basis during the winter.

That memory is a precious one to me now. Since those days I have found Christ as my personal Savior and studied His Word. Esau sold his birthright—a big deal—for a bowl of bean soup. Esau thought he might die of hunger anyhow, so he gave up his coveted position of the oldest in the family for a bowl of soup. What is it that we all too hastily give up for a fleeting pleasure rather than wait for God’s best gifts?

I’ll be eating bean soup once a day now for about five days and thinking about foolish Esau. I’ll also think of the times I passed up a golden opportunity for something far less. My own mess of pottage.

Steps

My posts have been slow coming, but not because I have forgotten this place. God keeps speaking, I keep listening, but I do not always keep writing!

After seen days of unuttered grief, Job sits alone. Hearing of his great loss, Bildad, Eliphaz, and Zophar agree to mourn with Job. He is barely recognizable when they approach him Consolation seems to evade them and for seven days and nights they sit speechless with the suffering Job. I have found myself in that place of having nothing to say but to only be present when there is a great loss in a friend’s life. Presence matters.

Finally, after seven long days and nights, Job speaks. One at a time these loyal men try to find something to say that might help. Their words are feeble. By chapter 14 of Job, I find that Job now speaks in defense and some understanding and it is difficult to tell at this point if Job is responding to the friends, or is talking to God. You and I do the same thing. We walk around talking to ourselves and then launch into discussion with God. We say things such as “Why?” and “I don’t understand,” or “Please. . .”

In verse 5, Job acknowledges that it is God who created him and after that is when I cannot discern if he is talking to Zophar or to God. Verse 16 reveals a wonderful truth: someone is numbering his steps. Is it his friends who are watching him? If so, then he must guard those steps. Job knew that. Do we know that? Our example counts just as much as Job’s example counted.

Job did not have the Psalms at his disposal because he lived perhaps hundreds of years before David was born. We have the benefit of being able to turn to Psalm 37 and see in verse 23 that the “steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.” God’s eye was upon Job, His eye was on David, and His eye is upon me.

It’s been nearly a year since I took a misstep and my tooth went right through my lip. In the aftermath I thought of those words about our steps. Job’s words made me think of them again this morning. The children’s song reminds us “Oh be careful little feet where you go. . .”

I hope you find joy walking with the Lord. Yesterday I heard someone on the radio say, “If only we would just live in God’s presence instead of always trying to impress Him.” Just walk with the Good Shepherd and be calm in His presence. Job so walked and sat in the presence of God that it is difficult to discern whether he was talking with Zophar, or with God. Oh that my communication with God were that sweet!

Feathers for Worms

“But we can’t afford it. You must think that money grows on trees!” Mr. Isaac Barnswallow was speaking.

“But we just must keep up with the other Barnswallows,” answered Rebekah; Mrs. Isaac Barnswallow, that is.

“All of the other Barnswallows are lining their nests with down,” and wit that she pulled her handkerchief out from under her wing and started to cry.

“All right, all right,” said her husband, “I will see what I can do, but feathers are very expensive this year.”

Mr. Barnswallow was smart when it came to business matters so he made a plan. He was also very industrious. “The early bird gets the worm” was his motto. So the next morning by the time the other birds came to the barnyard to dig for breakfast worms, he had already collected a supply and had opened a little restaurant under an oak tree in the corner of the barnyard.

On the outside was an attractive sign, “Swallow at Barnswallows.” Mr. Barnswallow stood in the door and called to the passing birds, “Worms for feathers; get your breakfast here. Why take the time to dig for your breakfast. My worms are guaranteed to be slick and boneless.”

“How much are your worms?” asked Speedy Skylark as he paused in front of the door. Speedy’s real name was Joseph, but since he was so fast and quick on the wing, his school mates had named him Speedy. However, Speedy was anything but quick around the house; in fact he was lazy—so lazy that he hated to dig for morning worms.

“Two for a feather,” answered Mr. Barnswallow. “How many will you have?”

“I’ll take four please,” answered Speedy. Turning he plucked two feathers, one from each wing, and handed them to Mr. Barnswallow. He gobbled down his four worms and hurried away to school.

“Two feathers don’t matter,” he said to himself. “It is so much easier to trade feathers for worms than to dig for them. I’m so glad Mr. Barn swallow has opened a restaurant.”

Of course Speedy did not eat there every morning. Sometimes he dug his own breakfast. But there were quite a few mornings when he roosted late or felt lazy. At such times he would rush over to Mr. Barnswallow’s and exchange two or three more feathers for worms. However, after a month or so, he did not have many feathers left. Still Speedy did not think it mattered very much—at least that is what he thought until yesterday.

Yesterday was the day of the big Wing Meet, with birds from all over Skyland County gathered from the race. The Wington School was in first place with 256 points up to the very last race which was the 100 yard flash. Speedy had been selected to represent the Wington School in this particular race because he had won it the year before. It was generally agreed that no bird was more swift and quick on the wing that Speedy.

“Ready,” said the referee, “on your limb, Go!”

Speedy darted forward with all his might, expecting to be in front all the way. To his amazement, three other birds were ahead from the start. Half way to the goal, two others passed him. That left only Pete Buzzard behind. Pete was considered graceful on the wing, but the slowest bird in all of Skyland County. Just short of the finish line, Pete soared past Speedy, leaving him seventh and last in the race and throwing the Wington School from first place to third in total points.

“What was the matter?” said Bald Eagle, the coach to Speedy after the Meet. Speedy could only hang his head. Deep in his heart he knew what was the matter.

That night he could not sleep for worrying. then there came to him what he thought was a wonderful idea. The next morning he was up bright and early and out digging worms, even before Mr. Barnswallow arrived. When Mr. Barnswallow did appear, Speedy rushed up to him.

“Look, Mr. Barnswallow,” he said. “I have a box full of worms. How many feathers will you trade me for these? Please, Sir, I want my feathers back.”

“Trade you feathers for worms?” said Mr. Barnswallow. “Why you silly little bird. My business is to trade worms for feathers, not feathers for worms.” With that he turned and walked away chuckling. Speedy was alone and broken hearted.

Speedy trudged home with the box full of worms and told his mother the whole story. “I am so sorry, Mother What shall I do? Will my feathers grow out again? Will I ever be able to fly fast again?”

“I do not know,” Mrs. Skylark answered slowly. “We can only wait and see. You must remember that God has given us some things which He expects us to guard and keep at all times. If we fail to do that, and allow them to get away from us, we can never buy the back again at any price.”

Poor Speedy! Mr. Barn swallow was right. What a silly little bird to trade his beautiful, wonderful feathers that God had given him, for worms!

_______________________________
**NOTE:
Story first published as “The Skylark” by G. H. Charnley, published by Allenson and Co., London, England and used by permission in Birdlife in Wington, by J. Calvin Reid, published by Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI in 1948. Now out of print.
After a search on Amazon.com I found old copies available but at collector’s rate. (range from 25.00 to 86.00) It may be that someone could put it back into print and if so, that needs to be checked first before passing this story on to someone else.

Limited and Limitless

Don’t you love to get a coupon that has the words, “No Expiration Date” on it? Although it is rare to find such a coupon, I love to get one and hold on to it! After all, coupon clipping can become a tedious job of filing into categories, and then also by the ones that are going to expire first. I had a slot in the front of my coupon holder that was titled, “Soon to Expire” for just that reason.

Handicaps bring with them limited ability. Perhaps ability is limited in mobility, or vision, or even speaking. Even emotional stability has limitations. A busy mother or employee sighs and mumbled to himself, “I cannot do this anymore,” and just wants to quit.

In contrast to our human, finite abilities, we can turn to the pages of God’s Word and find the limitless qualities of God. Power to open the Red Sea, power to give sight to blind eyes, power to encourage a faltering heart—those are just three of countless ways God cares for His own. All we need to do is open our hearts to see the possibilities!

This morning I had the pleasure of teaching my local group at the Senior Center about Hagar. I love the passage where Hagar has run away from Sarah. Hagar sits weeping and bewildered when a messenger from God speaks to her. She recognizes that it is God giving her a message of hope. This is Abraham’s God. Questioningly she speaks, “Thou God seest me?” Then as if a light broke through her senses, Hagar understood that not only did God see her, now she was seeing God. This God of Abraham could be her God!

It is good for us to remember that we cannot put God in a box and expect Him to work in only a certain way. God has limitless ways to prove His unconditional love, mercy, grace, peace, joy—well, the list is almost limitless! All of what we can possibly think, and then so much more is at our disposal if we will just look into God’s Word in faith that we will find Him there. God is watching, listening, reaching out to us whether we are rejoicing or in anguish.

You will find the account of Hagar in Genesis 16, and again in chapter 21. It is more than a story; it is an account of how God reached out to a lonely, frustrated servant girl.

Final Justice at Adobe Wells–a book review

Final Justice at Adobe Wells
by Stephen Bly
Crossway Books, ©1993, 232 pages (Large type edition)
Genre: Old West Western Fiction.

“Coffee in a tin cup is either too hot or too cold. The secret, in Brannon’s mind, was to let the heat warm your hands and the steam soothe your face until the exact moment the brew was barely cool enough to be drunk. Then it took about three quick gulps to empty the cup. He sat cross-legged by the fire, debating whether the perfect moment for gulping the coffee had come, when. . .”

This excerpt comes early in chapter two. Bly has a way of deftly wordsmithing scenes that makes the reader comfortable. I needed that comfort after chapter one where the book goes into an immediate train robbery—that gives a mild introduction to the rest of the book! Final Justice at Adobe Wells is book five of a seven book series written by Stephen Bly. Bly came to my attention when I first worked in a Christian bookstore. Customers recommended his works to me and after reading one book, I was hooked. Stuart Brannon appears periodically in other books that Bly crafted and then, wrote a whole series with Stuart Brannon as the fictional Arizona territory legend.

Unlike most western themed books where there are whisky guzzling, tobacco spitting, and cussing lead characters, Brannon is a refreshing tough guy who is clean from such habits. Not one word of profanity can be found in these books, yet the bad guys are extremely bad and meet justice at the hands of Brannon and his side kick, Edwin Fletcher. Fletcher is a dignified Englishman. He might be a gentleman in every respect, but he does know how to handle himself in a fist fight or shoot out.

A touch of romance enters this book as in others in this series, but no woman can ever seem to meet the wonderful qualities of Brannan’s wife, Lisa, who died in childbirth. Until this book, Brannon’s heart is never stirred. But, I won’t spoil the book by telling you too much as to spoil the ending.

I highly recommend any of Bly’s books and particularly this one. Here is an upright character who holds more than his own in the Wild West. The pages are action- packed but also hold tender times when the reader knows Brannon has a heart of gold. Try it! I found this book in the large print section of my public library but the books are also available on Amazon.com for Kindle® readers as well for the modest price of $4.99 each.

Book 1 in the series introduces characters that appear throughout the series and is titled Hard Winter at Broken Arrow Crossing. Now, I am reading book six with one more to go. It will be with reluctance that I will leave book 7 because Mr. Bly died while he was writing the book and his wife, an author herself, finished the book for him. It is titled Stuart Brannon’s Final Shot and it may signal a fatal end. Sniff.

The Bag Lady

Here is another document that has been lying dormant in my document file since 2005. I first wrote it for an inspirational column in our local newspaper in Sevier County, TN.

See her, there in the shadows scuffing along with her big tote bag? She is collecting items of interest to her from the trash cans in the alley. Her hair is unkempt under the gaudy hat she loved so much she traded a pair of tennis shoes for it. The once lovely blue sweater is now stretched out of proportion, but it does provide some warmth for her thinning body. Her belly growls in hunger. She has not had a drink of water since she passed the city park four hours ago. Perhaps the bakery will have some burned bread this morning or the kind cook at the hamburger joint will give her a hot breakfast sandwich.

Do you feel sorry for her? Do you think that opportunities passed by her earlier and she failed to take them? Is she a failure? Who loves this little, thinning, ragged looking woman? You do. I know you do. You would wish to take her home, run a hot bath for her, and find some clean clothes for her while you open some soup and make a thickly piled sandwich for her. Your heart tells you that; yet, no one goes looking for her. Except for the grace of God, it could be you.

Should you have the opportunity to help her and not give her Jesus along with food, shelter, and clean clothing, the bag lady will go back to her old ways, and as Jesus predicted to the crowd who saw him cast out an evil spirit. Look at Luke 11:14—28. We can be made better, but still be empty. Unless the empty space is filled with correct desires, we remain empty and longing for better things.

But wait, I say, not so fast there my sister! Do not say with pride that you are better than the bag lady. Are you scrounging in the alleys of life looking to have your starving spirit appeased? You may even be unkempt in demeanor because the true state of your spirit is sad. Dear one, come to Jesus. Drink at His springs; be filled and refreshed; smile at the perplexities of life because your inner being is being restored day by day. Stay at His palace through the Book of Delights and wander no more in want. Jesus is waiting for you whether you are a new believer, or old one. Cast out the bag lady and be the princess God intended you to be.

One Click Away

James 1:19 “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath. . .” Interestingly, when I looked up the Greek word for wrath in this particular verse, it means to rationalize. In other words, here, irrational. A reason for this verse is coming in the following anecdote.

Confession time.

I enjoy playing one game of spider solitaire per day. Generally I am not a card playing person because of its association with gambling. In my curiosity one day I tried this game on my computer and liked the decision making involved and started playing just one game a day lest I become addicted. Then, I started keeping score and competing against myself. In 2014 I played 366 consecutive games in which I won (on the beginner level). So, on January 5 the decision to change to intermediate level became a challenge to me. I lost miserably, again, and again. Since it was no longer fun, I decided to return to the beginner level. A box popped up that gave me the choice of erasing all scores and in my disappointment, I chose “yes.” Regretfully, that also erased all of my high scores and consecutive wins from all previous games! “No, No, No” I silently, solemnly wept. It was a choice that could not be reversed.

So it is with many of the choices we hastily make. I believe the idiom is, “Marry in haste and repent at leisure” or something like that. Many decisions we make in haste or disappointment, anger, or depression have the same outcomes of undeniable regret. We raise our voices in anger, and live in the regret of those moments of unchecked tongue. We might apologize even in remorse, but the angry words have done their damage. It cannot be undone.

Money decisions can be made in haste and the credit card bills come every month to remind us of that poor choice. We look at the envelope bearing the bill and say to ourselves, “I should not have done that.”

So, I am now on game 6 in consecutive wins. I’ll be careful about those check boxes! We are all just one click away from making decisions that can be life changing. Take your time before you speak, spend, or enter a door. One click can equal regret far more life-changing than my innocent computer game.

In haste, we can become irrational.

The Destination

The cold, wet weather has kept me indoors this weekend so in an effort to find something productive, I have been doing some PC cleaning. Here is something I first wrote in 1998 for an inspiration column in the local newpaper. Yes, it is still hanging out in my document file! Right now, however, I am moving it into theshepherdspresence folder. I changed the date to a more current one but the reflexion is the same. We live in changing times, but my God is an Unchanging God.

The Destination

“Oh the weather outside is frightful. . .” say the familiar lyrics of a winter song. and then goes on to assure that the “. . .fire is so delightful. . .” Frankly, I would rather stay by the fire, wouldn’t you? Sometimes, however, the fire is only a wish. The only way to a destination is through the inclement conditions.

So it was for me on my trip from Tennessee to Indiana to spend Christmas with my daughter and her family. The only way was through freezing rain and ice-slicked roads. I made some interesting observations along the way. First, I followed a truck for a long distance. He was sure to have a CB radio and would know what lay ahead. Alas, he took an exit ramp and I was forced to follow my own inclinations. It was then that I noticed the sky. The solid gray began to break up in places and I was sure that blue sky and sunshine had to be over the next incline. Finally just beyond Lexington the sun broke through and dry roads lay ahead.

So it is as we travel through a difficulty. Employment loss, illness, obstinate children, or broken relationships all have a likeness to the “frightful weather.” We must keep our eyes on the leader who knows the future. God knows what lies ahead and the Word of God is a sure roadmap. What we have committed to memory from the Bible will give us a sure sense of direction. The clouds will break away. The sun will shine again.

As we approach 2015, let’s watch the things around us and be quick to see the hand of God in everything. The year may lead through peril—in fact none of us is exempt from difficulty—but it helps to remember that the sun will shine again. It is a combination of frightful weather and delightful fires that makes our lives interesting. David prayed in Psalm 27:11 “teach me Thy ways, and lead me in a plain path. . .”

Today

“. . . teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”

Sunday is always a special day to me. Christmas is also a special day. Therefore, whenever we have Christmas, it always seems as if it should be Sunday. This morning I had to look at the calendar to be correct on what day of the week this is!

Schedules demand that we be cognizant of time. Yet, there is a freedom in not having a clock or calendar. There were two summers in my life when our little family did not have the financial freedom to afford a travel vacation. Instead the children and I went to a campground about twenty miles from our house and spent the week. My husband came and spent evenings with us and went back to work in the mornings. I purposefully did not take a clock with me. We ate when we were hungry, played in the lake and beach on the campground, and in general were guided by only sunrises and sunsets. That was way before the time of cell phones. Those two vacations stand out in my mind as being extremely enjoyable. By the way, that was tent camping; it was not a luxury RV. It doesn’t take much to entertain me!

Whatever it is we do with our time, it is of utmost importance that we use the time wisely. Make time to spend with God in the pages of His Word. Communicate with others in such a way that it is good for them, yet a pleasure. Work a little on a special project, and read at least a few pages of something to either educate or entertain.

Time is a precious gift. Happy New Year!

A Cup of Christmas Tea

This past week I heard about a dear, sweet aunt of mine. Aunt Esther is an aunt by marriage, sister to my father-in-law. This year she turned 100 years old. It has been two years since any news of her had passed my way so I began to ask around in the family and found that since age 98 her mind has been slipping. I’d so love to visit her and have a cup of tea!

Thoughts of that reminded me of this poem, “A Cup of Christmas Tea” and being a bit lazy today, decided to have someone read it to me instead of the other way around. Maybe you would like to hear it too. It is about six minutes in length. My local public library has the book for loan, so you may be able to find it in print that way, or visit your favorite online bookstore.

I have grandchildren visiting me this Christmas and I am very aware that to the teenagers, I might be a bit like the great aunt in the poem. It is my goal to have them leave thinking a bit differently.

Here’s the link to the poem. I hope it works. If not, just go to YouTube and type in the title of the poem. I liked the one by Pat Flemming best.

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