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A Moment Seized

How stories are developed:

  • Woman                                                                        Boy
  • in late 30’s                                                           about 10 years old
  • light clothing                                                      dark clothes
  • arms folded tight above waistline                arms straight and limp
  • looking down, head to side                             looking up
  • talking                                                                   listening
  • questioning or scolding                                   waiting to answer
  • authority figure                                                  minor/submissive
  • not flailing but calm                                         not defiant
  • seizing the moment                                          sensing importance

Saturday in April 1999

A fleeting scene made an impression begging to be described, cherished, tucked away for future use. Driving in Mobile, Alabama, I saw a woman and a boy on the sidewalk of Sage Avenue. Details are such that they lend themselves to a story:

Maybe the woman was the boy’s mother, but she could have been a neighbor or a sitter. Their stance spoke of a moment seized to teach a lesson, to question behavior and give opportunity for an answer. While she was the authority figure, the boy was not defiant. She kept her temper, making it possible for him to keep his dignity. If the boy had been caught in disobedience, he certainly did not display any stubborn will, but waited either to explain himself, give an answer, or even to accept the due punishment. Her folded arms and his limp arms placed the two in a representative stance of adult with minor, mother and child. They both knew the importance of this encounter. Why the confrontation I could only guess, but the fleeting scene captured my attention as I drove away, and I can still see it now. The desire to weave a story around it remains yet to be done.

Cool Cat to the Rescue

As the weather gets colder and we hear threats of snow and ice coming our way, I look back at when . . .

“Tom, do you remember the time I did a donut on ice when driving you to high school?”

“Yes, I remember it well,” Tom replied in an email.

What I don’t recall is why I had to drive Tom to school that day after an overnight rain when the temperature dropped. We had gone over the hill on US 68 almost to the grocery store at the Y. The rain had drained down the hill and frozen at the bottom where it levels off. I lost control of the big car we called a boat, a green Mercury Marquis. The next thing I knew we were facing the opposite way and in the lane on the other side of the Y. I froze at the wheel.

Tom simply said, “Cool, Mom, you did a 360.” He also acted cool, settling me down, ready to act according to his directions. We had spun around in a circle, a bit crooked in the road. Thankfully, no other cars were nearby. Tom talked calmly as he told me to turn around and get back to the stop sign at the Y. Heading the right way we continued on route, arriving at school without any other incident. Leaving the car he spoke softly to me before I headed back home.

From that time on, Tom has been my “cool cat.” If I’m ever in a jam, needing to get control of myself or a car or some undue circumstance, I would like Tom to be there beside me. He has a calming quality about him that helps people get back on track.

This quality of cool he also exhibited as a team player in sports. Once when his dad and I arrived at a ball game, one of the guys in the stands asked if Tom was present. “Yes. Why?”

“Well, when he’s here the rest of the players don’t get upset over the little stuff.” Even Tom’s friends and team members knew him as cool.

Advent: His Coming

During Advent each year I choose a study, such as reading the Gospel of Luke or a book such as The Manger Is Empty by Walter Wangerin, Jr. This Advent I wanted to read from Isaiah. I found this list of the Servant Songs with additional references. Some scholars debate about whether these reference Christ or Israel, but they present a beautiful way to get ready for Christmas. Join me.

Servant Songs in Isaiah        

  1. The Lord’s Chosen Servants: Isaiah 42:1-4
  2. The Servant of the Lord: Isaiah 49:1-9
  3. The Servant’s Obedience: Isaiah 50:4-11
  4. The Wounded Servant: Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12
  5. “Light to the nations” – Israel or Jesus?
  6. When Simeon saw Jesus: “Your salvation…” Luke 2:30-32
  7. “Light” – Isaiah 2:5
  8. Israel – Isaiah 10:17
  9. “Know not the Light” – Job 24:16; Psa. 27:1
  10. “The Lord is my light” – Psa. 43:3; Prov. 6:23
  11. “Named” before birth – God choosing name & purpose – Jeremiah 1:5                        John – Luke 1:13      Jesus – Luke 1:31
  12. “That they may know” – Deut. 4:35; I Kings 8:60
  13. “Declare My glory among the nations” – Isa. 66:19
  14. “Bow down” – Isaiah 49:7
  15. “At the name of Jesus, every knee will bow” – Phil. 2:9-11
  16. “To Me” – Isaiah 45:23
  17. “Crushed” (cf. NASB & NIV) – cf. Isa. 42:4 and 53:5, 10

Rainy Day

The screen on my window is covered with rain. I wonder. Why do we associate rain with sadness and sunshine with happiness? Why is one a gloomy day and the other a pleasant, hoped-for day?

Both rain and sunshine are gifts and both are needed for nurture of the earth. Both give us cause to thank God. Yet I confess: I’m not happy now looking out at the wet leaves and hearing the sloshy roadside noises. I am, however, satisfied that I have a warm, dry home in which to live and view this rainy day.

It’s that way with life in general. I attach “don’t want it like this” to those unsuspected turns of events that are unwelcome at best. But when things go “my way,” I am more pleasant to be around. Both ups and downs contribute to my personal growth and should promote a thankful attitude. I know this but need reminders – such as this rainy, gloomy day that sent me to my desk to write this reflection. Thank You, Lord God, Creator of the universe and my tiny viewpoint.

 

Decorating Eclectic Style

The décor in our home is what some would call mix and match, but the fancy term is eclectic. That means it’s selected from various sources. My sources came from other people, not selected by me but placed in various rooms. The style has developed over the years as I have put things together for a décor that appeals to me. If you go on a quick tour of our home you will see items given to us and then placed to form our preferred style.

On the dining room table is a large vase crafted by art students at Asbury University. It was a gift to Bill, then academic dean, in appreciation for his support of the new pottery kiln in the art department. A florist designed the artificial arrangement in the vase. His shop was next to where our daughter worked in Greenwood, Indiana. She requested the arrangement for us. Included in this room are objects we’ve either bought or had given to us and they represent countries we’ve visited. Russia and Taiwan are two. There’s also a friend’s painting of a Chinese scene. She taught me that art is not to be placed according to the color of a room.

Now the kitchen has a sunflower (mostly) theme, and our granddaughter has helped decorate with her gifts ­– ceramic flour and sugar canisters, a framed cross-stitch verse, and a vividly painted pitcher from Mexico – all with sunflowers. There are also two spoon rests of sunflowers. During the Christmas season I bring out gifts from family and friends – a small framed snowman, a stuffed cloth snowman with twig arms, and a change of Christmas kitchen linens from my mother.

In the center of the coffee table in the living room is a colorful Mardi Gras glass bowl filled with potpourri. The bowl belonged to my mother-in-law, so you could say it is part of our inheritance. On the bottom shelf of a table by the window is a pair of high-top black and brown shoes obtained from an old store in Mississippi. Bill’s father saw them and said he used to wear that style when a boy. So it’s a reminder of the past. While the shoes don’t necessarily fit in with the rest of the items on that shelf – large books and a decorative plate, they have been on display in every house where we’ve lived.

Now come into our bedroom. Above the bed is a framed photo of a boat on Mobile Bay. The photographer is my brother and the scene takes me back home whenever I view it. Other wall hangings include a photo collection of trees in the parking lot at World Gospel Church. That framed photo and a cross-stich of an old sewing machine were gifts from the former custodian of that church. The latest picture we hung is another cross-stitch worked by our neighbor to the west of our home. It’s the Twenty-third Psalm.

            Over the years these deco items in our home have been reminders to pray for the gift-givers. I rejoice that we have their contributions to my eclectic home décor, but mostly I am thankful for their interaction within our lives.

New Name

I’ve noticed lately that I have a new name: Ms. Ann.

“Hi, Ms. Ann. It’s good to see you.” That recent greeting came from a friend who attends Silver Sneakers at the YMCA. But several church friends have been addressing me as Ms. (pronounced Miz.) Ann for quite some time. This time I paid attention and it got me to thinking of my other names.

My great-granddaughter who lives in Ireland calls us her great-grandpa and granny who live-in-the-woods. Yes, we have woods near our home, so Abigail makes this sweet distinction between us and her other great-grandparents. Our grandchildren call me Granny. I chose this because their grandpa started calling the grandkids by animal names and they wanted a name for me. Granny Goat seems to fit, and for a while one grandson called me Goat, much to the chagrin of guests.

To our children I am Mom or Madre (from two who took Spanish in high school). Just as my siblings differed on what each of us called our mother – I chose Mother while others used Mama, Mom, and Mommy.

When I married I became Mrs. Coker, and like many engaged girls, I wrote that name over and again on scraps of paper: Mrs. William B. Coker, Mrs. W.B. Coker, and Ann Coker. My new name brought joy. At our first pastorate in Mississippi people called me Sister Coker while their pastor was Brother Coker. It came out as Bruder Coker from the children. After we moved to Kentucky and then to Indiana, my name became Mrs. Coker or simply Ann.

My given name is after my grandmother who was Frances Ann. I’m glad my parents turned it around and named me Ann Frances. I‘ve never been fond of Frances, probably because my school friends teased me about it. My younger sisters are the only ones who get away with calling me Annie. If I had named myself, I would have chosen Anna. It has more class.

All this talk of a new name connected me to Scripture, for Zion “will be called by a new name” (Isaiah 62:2, NIV), and “to the one who is victorious . . . [Christ] will give that person a white stone with a new name written on it” (Revelation 2:17). But my favorite reference is: “I have summoned you by name; you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1), for God knows my name. I am His beloved, “precious and honored” in His sight because of His personal love for me (v. 4).

When we get down to the bottom line, my name is nothing (although it’s personal and meaningful) compared to His “great name” (Joshua 7:9). My allegiance to His name connects me with His power and love. It’s His great name that I proclaim and exalt. All of life is meant to honor and glorify His name. Amen.

 

Get Help

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

The billboard posted a brief message, easy to read as I drove slowly on a busy street: “Too much hot sun or a burn on the thumb? Check it out and come get profession­al care.”

The city’s new health center was advertising for business. The written message highlighted something specific – summer’s hazards – and the thought of pain could lead readers to identify their own need. You would think, however, that if people were hurting they would not need a billboard to convince them to get help.

What about our spiritual needs, hurts, and pains brought about by sin? How often do people seek the true cure, Jesus the great physician? We tend to over­look the cause or look in wrong places for the cure. Sooner or later the sin will find us out (Numbers 32:23) and show us up for what we are – sinners in need of redemption.

The good news is that Jesus came “to call . . . sinners” (Matthew 9:13). We will not be free of sin until we come to Jesus (Romans 5:8). But we may first need to see an advertisement about the remedy.

We who have received the everlasting remedy can be that advertisement. When we share our own success story of spiri­tual health, we invite others to “check it out and come get Profes­sional Care.”

How well do we advertise the real Cure for sin?