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‟In case someone needs to get in touch with you.” That’s all Harvey said, but my eyes moistened as I connected with events of February first of the same year. This one sentence brought up a remembrance, although not uppermost in my mind.

In February we had vacationed with friends in Florida. Desperate to reach us and frustrated with our answering machine, our youngest son phoned his sister and asked, ‟Where’s Mom and Dad?” Securing the phone number from her, he called us early that Sunday morning. The wife of our middle son had died during the night. We had little time for it to sink in, for we needed to change our flight schedule, return home to Indiana, and then drive to Lexington, Kentucky, where my husband would conduct the funeral service for our daughter-in-law, dead at age thirty-four, cause unknown.

‟You never know,” Harvey concluded our brief lesson on keeping the ship-to-shore radio tuned up to high volume. My thoughts snapped back to the present. We were again on vacation for a few days and again enjoying the generosity of friends.

Harvey, manager of the floating grocery at the Patoka Lake Marina, didn’t have to emphasize the importance of availability. This time we had given our location and phone contacts to all four children, just in case.

black rotary telephone on white surface

L’chaim — “To Life”

If you have ever watched Fiddler on the Roof, you remember the scene where Tevya goes with Lazar Wolf to celebrate the proposed engagement of his eldest daughter. Their toast is L’chaim, ‟to life.” In recent weeks I’ve wanted to join the chorus to celebrate life, but my emotions have included bewilderment, sadness, and even anger.

Bewilderment: because of the illogical thinking on the part of legislators who have considered and voted for the Reproductive Health Act in New York and similar acts in other states. Anger: because of people applauding such statements as ‟the most aggressive women’s equality platform in the nation” (Gov. Andrew Cuomo). How can sane, logical thought be equated with such travesty? Sadness: because of the future prospects this ‟health act” will foster.

Not only does this legislature provide legal abortions up until the due date of a baby’s birth, but it removes all protection of a fetus (no homicide charges), and those performing the abortion do not have to be physicians. With this new law, abortion is considered ‟health care.” Inconceivable!father-forgive.jpg

Dr. Omar Hamada, OB/GYN who has delivered 2500 babies, said in an interview on Fox News: ‟There is not a single fetal or maternal condition that requires a third-trimester abortion. Not one. Delivery, yes. Abortion, no.” This new state law could be labeled as convenience or recreational.

Just a few facts about the extent of abortion in America: More than 58.5 million unborn human persons have lost their lives to abortion since 1973 when the Supreme Court legalized abortion. 2900 babies die every day from abortion; that’s one human being who dies every 30 seconds. African-Americans account for thirty percent (30 %) of all abortions in the United States.

When asking where is our sense of what’s right and moral, we have to rely on what we know. Only one question needs to be asked: What is it? We know that abortion kills something. What? Abortion takes the life of an innocent human being. Perhaps this travesty will awaken more people to the truth of abortion. We are not protecting women’s rights; for ‟it” is not her body. She is only giving the natural place for her baby to develop.

In making pro-life presentations, I have often closed with a Scripture passage that concerned the conquest of the Promised Land. The Lord said, ‟I will not drive them out before you in a single year, that the land may not become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. I will drive them out before you little by little, until you become fruitful and take possession of the land” (Exodus 23:29-30).

God has enabled the pro-life cause to be fruitful only because He is in charge of the conquest. It has been 46 years since the Supreme Court decision of Roe vs. Wade that legalized abortion. Even with these new set-backs, we have witnessed one victory after another, little by little. We are going to possess the land because God is the sovereign Author of Life. ‟To Life!”

What James teaches me about writing

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I sit down at the keyboard with words at my fingertips, yet they don’t appear in any appealing order on the page. Even though I truly enjoy the struggle of writing, the process often seems too hard to handle. Wanting to write I too often feel trapped in how to do it. It’s a personal entrapment with seemingly no release. How do I break the cycle of large desire and little progress?

Surprisingly I find help from James, the half-brother of Jesus and who later became the leader of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15:13). His epistle gives me the process of being set free to write.

First, I make up my mind. “Submit yourselves, then, to God” (James 4:7). It’s a commitment of setting my will to do what I desire – deciding what to accept and what to resist. Making the decision to write, I set my mind in that direction.

This mental discipline is how I understand that the problem can be resolved. Indecision is the great enemy in any pursuit. The choice is mine to make, for nothing is more disruptive in life than indecision. As on a battlefield, breaking through the lines is necessary in order to pursue victory. The fight is actually a submission to the commander’s strategy in order to win the battle.

Second, I make my move. I do the hard work of writing. “Come near,” beckons James (4:8a). I write. It’s like dating. Once one decides to date, that person must engage another person in the dating process. The problem is in the will, but after submitting to the desire, something has to be done. Often while I’m at other tasks my mind engages my current writing assignment. I think of appropriate phrases for a devotional or how to couple an article in bookends, returning the closing to the beginning. Unless I sit and write, the work will not be accomplished. It will stay in my head and perhaps get lost.

As with my spiritual life, I submit and draw near to God. Everything in life is subordinate to God and His will. I break bad habits and choose the good ones: doing what is right because it’s right; not doing what’s wrong because it is wrong. I move toward the good and resist what is not. It’s not in my own strength, but by the power of the Holy Spirit. I draw near and resist what is not good for me. I wash my hands of bad actions and purify my heart of wrongful attitudes so as not to be double-minded (James 4:8).

I apply that to the writing process. What hinders my writing? It’s no secret. I know the answer. So I resist that obstacle and submit to those practices that do enhance the process. I put aside the time; I make time available. I turn off distractions — social media, telephone calls, even thoughts of what’s next on my agenda for the day. Jerry Jenkins advises that even the internal editing process must be halted until later. I choose the best over the good and make my move to write.

Finally, I break the cycle of indecision. My writing progress is enhanced by a concrete disposition. It’s like exchanging vows in marriage: my husband and I chose to commit to each other and we keep that contract sacred. We are disposed to be with each other. So it is with my writing. I am disposed to write. It doesn’t define me as a person, but writing is my work, my chosen and desired vocation. Often the process makes me move against the flow while other things beg for my attention. I decide daily what I do, how much I write (whether that’s counting words or pages) or what amount of time I give to it.

Because God’s Word is a creative activity, I purpose to live in the hope that what I write is worthwhile, that it will enrich someone else’s life and give purpose to my life. My writing is my ministry. I live and write in the truth that God has shown me in His Word: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 8:10). Now my words flow, because God’s Word dwells in me and ignites my writing.

[First published in The Christian Communicator, Nov/Dec 2018 issue, then as a member blog post for the Heartland Christian Writers Group website, Jan 2019.]

Life-long Friends

Recently my grandson Stephen left the house saying, ‟I’m going to hang out with some friends.” Since he’s lived in Indianapolis since conception, he’s known many of his friends his whole life.

I’ve had the advantage of moving a lot, but that means a disadvantage of not having life-long friends. In my childhood and teen years our family rented houses; and when the owner put the house up for sale, we moved. In big cities such as New Orleans and Mobile, that meant new schools and neighbors. After I married Bill I never saw my school friends again. His first pastorate was in North Biloxi, MS, and then when he started seminary we lived in Kentucky. We claimed friends in our churches, but we moved frequently because of change of appointment.

We’ve bounced from Kentucky to Indiana, back to Kentucky and then to Indiana again. This afforded friends in the academics and in churches. We stay connected with many friends, if not frequently, at least with cards and letters at Christmas, and also on Facebook. I have moved away from friends all my life, yet I still claim some friends as life-long. Some students Bill taught at D’Iberville High School in Mississippi still connect. We have attended several of their reunions, and they even sent a group greeting card for our 60th anniversary.

We’re grateful for those friends who make it a priority to keep in touch, who email and come visit. Some of our friends have moved away from us to other parts of the U.S. or around the world, and we’ve visited a few in Florida and other countries. Then some friends have moved further on — to Heaven. We miss them, and one day we will see them there.

summitt beth & me.faith conf

My new best friend in Indy is Beth, and we connect because of a Christian writers group that meets at her church. So God continues to make friendships real and meaningful.

The New Year — Replacement Value

2018-2019

As I’ve closed out one year and opened another I mentally go back and forth, looking over the year past and anticipating the new year. It’s like finishing up a package of a product when I have a replacement on hand. As long as there is no new package I make the present one last longer. When a replace­ment is available I’m ready to finish the old and get into the new, knowing it’s not the end of the product. I don’t have to be stingy; I have more.

I realize my days are numbered with no promise of another day, much less another year. But I plan each day on assump­tions of time and grace available for the future, whatever allotment that may be. Now that the new year has begun and I’ve used up the old year, I’m ready (really?) for what happens in the new year, to make the best use of it for Godʼs glory.

As I look back it’s been a good year, with joys and disappointments, lessons learned and re-learned, accomplishments and failures, goodbyes and welcomes, even with sins revealed and forgiven, many a glaring ‟ought toˮ and not as many a promised ‟next time.ˮ I’ve seen others in new light – my husband’s thankful spirit oft expressed; my family’s love and tolerance for parents, siblings and children; my friendsʼ encouragement through some rough times and acceptance when I’m in the wrong; the change in church due to our move.

I see new challenges ahead for the coming year – for myself and our family. I pray that I keep my focus on the eternal and my priorities well-balanced. Goals must be suited to time and abili­ties.

Personal commitments and goals will only be realized as I seek to walk each day with Jesus, redeeming the time, wisely using a schedule for tasks, making myself accountable to God and others. Family and other commitments could get reshuffled according to othersʼ schedules, but I can keep my priorities in line and adjust to others’ needs. ‟Being availableˮ remains my job description as I allow God to order my days, even if that simply means to stop what I’m doing to prepare lunch when Bill is ready.

Calvin and Hobbes, Bill Watterson’s comic characters, reflected once on the new year. Hobbes asked Calvin, ‟Are you making any resolutions for the new year?ˮ To which Calvin responded, ‟Yeah, I’m resolving just to wing it and see what happens.ˮ Hobbes replied with sarcasm, ‟So you’re staying the course?ˮ Calvin concluded, ‟I stick to my strengths.ˮ Yes, resolutions will turn into accomplishments when I stick to my strengths.

Christmas Future

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Will we celebrate Christmas in heaven? Why not? Isn’t heaven the best place to celebrate Christ? For as a tiny human, He entered our world. Now He reigns in heaven.

I asked this question at the dinner table, and the response went to the name of Christ that we mention most at Christmas time: Immanuel, God with us. In heaven we will be in God’s presence; we will know Him as He knows us. On earth, God is with us. In heaven, we will be with God forever. Would that not prescribe our praise to Him for all He has done? He came to earth as the most vulnerable of all creatures, a tiny human baby, a zygote beginning in His mother’s womb. He lived and walked this planet with His disciples: healing, teaching, loving, and finally sacrificing His life for us all. Then He rose from the grave, triumphant in glory as He returned to be with the Father.

I’ve read someplace that Christ in heaven is still incarnate, still in the flesh. We will see Him. We will walk and talk with Him. He is and will be our Friend forever. I think Scripture supports this. Consider these verses in Revelation:

‟Look! He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, including those who pierced Him. And all the families of the earth will mourn over Him. This is certain. Amen” (1:7).

‟Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last, the Living One. I was dead, but look—I am alive forever and ever” (1:17b, 18a).

‟Then I saw heaven opened, and there was a white horse. Its rider is called Faithful and True . . . He wore a robe stained with blood, and His name is the Word of God” (19:11, 13).

‟Look! God’s dwelling is with humanity, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God” (21:3).

Christmas Present

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Christmas is definitely different now from my time as a child and when Bill and I had our children at home, even from when our adult children came to visit with their children. As the grandchildren grew in number and age, Bill told our children that they needed to form traditions of their own and not have to spend the holidays with us every year. We loved having them visit, but their own family time was important. That changed over the years, for some came for a day or even every other year, alternating with Thanksgiving. For a while we exchanged gifts. Then because we lived away from our kids and grandkids, not knowing their sizes and interests, we would send money. Now that our grandkids are all adults and we have a dozen great-grandkids, the checks go only to the greats. They all seem to understand.

Some of our traditions have lasted with the change of times spent together. We still like to sing Christmas carols around the piano, drink eggnog (out of pink Hebron glasses) and eat cookies. Because our churches have added Christmas Eve services, that has changed our timing. We still like the habit of making omelets on Christmas morning. I make Christmas cards, recycling old cards. And as to gift-giving, Bill and I would agree not to buy for each other, but he or I would break that promise. I remember one Christmas morning Bill and I sat on our front porch, sang a carol or two, read the Christmas story from the Bible, and prayed. Back in the house we took a photo in front of our decorated tree (“nearly natural Ficus tree”).

Last year we had our first Christmas in Indianapolis with the Gearhart family. Their traditions included filled stocking hung by the fireplace, exchanging gifts, taking turns opening those gifts, and having a delicious breakfast together. The Gearhart boys were home last year with their wives. Chrissa and Léo visited his family in Brazil. This year the boys spend Christmas with their wives’ families. We will have our celebration Saturday evening, opening gifts and eating appetizers and sweets. Becky is the gift-giver extraordinaire. She knows whose names we drew, supplies gift ideas, and even orders gifts for us to wrap. We will attend the family-style Christmas Eve service at the church. Becky & Paul, Chrissa & Léo will travel to Illinois to be with Paul’s mother for Christmas Day. Bill and I are “home alone,” but we like each other enough to enjoy that time together.