Sister to Sister: Oasis!

 

There are small oases in the desert for Christians in America throughout any year’s months of  the drought of truth in our land. But there is one huge oasis every August and we have just traveled to the streams which are at Polishing the Pulpit. Our strength is renewed. We are emboldened and better prepared to stand for truth and to share it in love with those around us who are thirsty, too. And we more acutely long for heaven. 

The Wilderness Resort is quiet now. My husband and I are preparing to leave this morning. The folks at the front desk are talking about how wonderful the week was. They’re not Christians, but they are quick to tell us that this is their best week of the year. God’s people have shined a light in this place.  We are determined to individually trim our wicks and refuel our lamps to shine brighter all over this great country. 

Here are a few of my personal highlights from the week. I know you have them, too, if you were here:

  1. The eclipse. I sang “There is Sunshine in my Soul Today” with a small group of sisters while the light was still bright and then “How Great Thou Art” when it was hidden. We praised Him in prayer and begged Him to help us never to let anything get between us and the light that is His Son. I will never forget those moments.

  2. The chance to talk about the mothering lives of Millennial Moms in a small group setting with all those babies and sweet children—souls fresh from God—all over the floor and the pews. That was an epic opportunity for me. In that room was a very strong current that will flow into future generations for Him; not because I was teaching, but because they are already so doggedly determined to bring up generations for Him.

  3. The late night prayers with Glenn after long days with brethren. These reminded me of the enormous blessing that God has given me in this man. We talked over some serious eternity-affecting problems with people all through our days at PTP. But at night, this man of God, just laid them with me, at the feet of the One who already inhabits eternity (Is. 57:15). These times breathed into my spiritual muscles the ability to go do this again the next day. They gave me the real hope that we can overcome obstacles and make progress collectively toward heaven. 

  4. Being real, I have to say that the grandchildren were a definite highlight. I got to show my family in the Lord my new Colleyanna, in her pink bonnet and her long green and pink prairie dress. I got to have a sweet almost-three year old sleeping in the bed beside our bed almost every night. Glenn and I had bedtime Bible time and prayers with him at hours that were way too late for him to be awake. But it’s once a year and it’s a mammy’s paradise, in that respect. It’s the realization that my life is headed toward a sunset and a new light is arising. It’s profound in the spiritual context of PTP.

  5. The truth emanating from that conference center. It was everywhere and it does affect every faithful church, every mission point, every youth group, every area where the gospel is going. This is not because this is any kind of headquarters for His church. That’s not in the plan. But the beauty of this gathering is just that. Individuals are hearing about PTP and taking vacation times as families and the Word is going forth in mighty ways directed by the Providence of God and through the zeal of individual Christians who take it home and just keep on influencing others who teach others, who talk to others, who show Him to others. It’s how PTP has grown from 3 people, only a few years ago, to 4800 in these relatively few years. It is amazing and I believe it is arguably the one most powerful gospel-spreading gathering since the apostolic age when Pentecost occurred. I know that’s a big statement and I do not know all about all historical events of His people, but I cannot conceive of a gathering that could be more influential, certainly in modern times. (My personal favorite of the lessons I heard? The Sunday morning lesson by his great servant, Dan Winkler. Let’s be done with cheap substitutes and offer him the best perfume! But I also really loved some of those in Deep Creek about “Milk that Tastes Like Meat.”) 

In a land of spiritual famine, we have the sustenance. We have the Bread and Water of Life. The synergy of PTP is the right blessing, though, to remind us of just what we have in His truth. May we, in the harder times, throughout this year, remind ourselves that we are not alone! There will be another gathering on a hilltop in Sevierville next year, Lord willing. And there will one day be a gathering on the mountain of Zion for His faithful—a gathering from which we will never pack up and leave!

Sister to Sister: A Shepherd’s Plea

One  of  my favorite holiday gifts this year was from my brother-in-law, Scotty Sparks. This gift originated with my grandfather, a shepherd in the church for many years in Jacksonville, Alabama. It’s a letter he’d thought about a lot and typed out to send to members of his congregation who had gone astray. Following his death in 1982, the letter ended up in my mother’s hands. She eventually gave it to Scotty at some point in the late 1980’s and, as you will see from Scotty’s note to me, he used it as an outline from which to preach the gospel. Every plea in the letter is just as pertinent to people who walk away from the Lord today as it was to wayward members of the body when it was first penned. I know my “Daddy Duncan” wrote this from a heart of grief at the lost condition of some soul that was under his care. Perhaps he sent it to several. Perhaps, he also preached from this outline.

 

Here are Scotty’s words prefacing the letter he gave me for Christmas:

This is a copy of a letter written by your grandfather, John Duncan, while he served as an elder at Jacksonville. I do not know the year. Your mother, Johnnia, gave it to me while I was at FHU to have as a resource. (She was always giving me good books or material.) I eventually developed this into a sermon. I hope you will overlook my “boxing in” the points. As a college student with a low inventory of sermons and an even lower inventory of dimes for the copier, I simply used the original letter for my notes. Perhaps the precious knowledge that your grandfather’s deep love for souls demonstrated in the words of this document and preached several years after his death to encourage people he would never meet on this side of heaven will compensate for the defacement. 

And here is my grandfather’s letter. If you have walked away from faithfulness, will you think about his words?

Dear brother in Christ,

I am writing this letter not to censure or criticize your any way, but that I may exhort you and cause you to think of what it means to live in a lost condition.

One of the most solemn questions that could be asked of a lost person is:

“What if you should die in your lost condition?”…Terrible thing to think about….Judgment. One day we will have to stand before the great white throne and give an account unto God for the way we live here. We need to read often Luke, the sixteenth chapter, beginning with verse 19; the story of the rich man and Lazarus, and also the other passages of the Scriptures that teach what an awful place hell is.

Another question just as solemn is:

“What if you should live in your lost condition?” At first, that question doesn’t sound to be very solemn at all, but let’s think seriously about what we are doing when we are living in a lost condition.

First of all, we lend support to the forces of Satan against the Lord; fighting, whether we mean to or not, with Satan against the Lord’s cause, because there is no such thing as being neutral in the conflict between Christ and the devil. Christ, himself, said, “He that is not with me is against me.”

Secondly, we will influence others to be lost. not intentionally, of course, but inevitably. As God uses His children to lead others to salvation, the devil uses all others to lead people into sin and to keep each other in sin. Wicked men and women are used to lure some into evil, but some people will not be tempted by them, so, to reach these, Satan must use good and upright people. For example, wives may keep their husbands from being saved; husbands may lead wives to hell; parents may cause their children to be lost; or children may even do the same for their parents. 

Thirdly, we will live a life less abundant than God intended for man. Jesus came to give life more abundantly (John 10:10). A more abundant life includes many things…for example, forgiveness, hope of eternal life versus no hope, hence no fear of death versus a fear of dying; fellowship with Christ versus no fellowship…and many others.

Fourthly, our hearts will become harder (Heb. 3:13). “But exhort one another daily, while it is called today, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” …Hebrews 3: 7,8… “Wherefore as the Holy Ghost saith, “To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness…” …I Timothy 4:2…”Your conscience will become seared as with a hot iron.”

Fifthly, we will die in our lost condition. It is a mistake–a lie of the devil–to think that we might live in a lost condition  and die in a saved condition. In Numbers 23:10, Balaam wanted to die the death of the righteous, but he had refused to live the life of the righteous. And, if we die in this lost condition, we will be lost eternally. 

In conclusion, if we knew we would die tomorrow, we would want to be Christians, but if we knew we would live to be 110, we should still want to live each day for the Lord. There is one thing worse than dying in a lost condition–and that is living in a lost condition. 

 

My grandfather, to me, was that great friend who took us hiking in the woods in the fall and  fishing in the summer. He was that friend with whom we watched Bonanza on Sunday nights after worship. He was  the friend who went to town on my birthday to buy me the wonderful very hard plastic horse that I  still treasure and the silver necklace with the tiny blue bauble. He is the man who had such a credit rating in this small town that I could go in almost any store in town and pick up whatever he sent me for and simply say, “Put this on John Duncan’s bill.” He could build anything in that garage and he would take me to work with him and let me play on a giant old adding machine on his desk. He taught me to skip rocks and to bait hooks. He was the quintessential grandfather.

But to others, he was more. He did not, to my knowledge, have even a high school education, but he did important things. He faithfully raised two children of his own and three stepsons whose father left them at a young age. He was the progenitor of seven faithful preachers and of six women who married faithful preachers; of three elders in the Lord’s church and of four women who are wives of elders in the kingdom. 

Once, as a child, I enquired about why my grandmother all of a sudden had a lady coming every now and then, to help her do housekeeping chores. I had never seen a maid before and, though my grandmother was kind of ill by then, she was the hardest-working woman I knew. “Well,” she said, “…this lady needed some food and some help with her light bill, so your grandfather told me to try and think of some jobs she could do, so he could help her back on her feet.” I didn’t think so much about that then, but I have thought a little more about it as an adult. It’s a pretty good thing when you can help people without enabling indolence.

The congregation where he worshipped and served is now 99 years old. Next year, as it celebrates its 100th birthday, it will rejoice in the fact that its publication “House to House/Heart to Heart” reaches millions of people around the world annually with the gospel. The congregation will reach thousands who attend its Polishing the Pulpit conferences around our country. Of course, none of this is his doing. It is the doing of our great God who has used lots and lots of ordinary people through the years to keep the work that began with a gospel meeting in the year 1918 by Brother C.H. Woodruff alive in Him for the next 100 years. Each man in Christ is just one little link in a chain of events and lives and opportunities: one chapter in a book that will find its last chapter around the throne. But still, I’m glad for His tiny little part and I’m glad he was my friend.

As I write, I am sitting in the large Houston Cole library (pictured) on the campus of Jacksonville State University. It is one–the last, in fact–of several buildings that my grandfather helped construct on this campus. His secular job was to direct the maintenance operations for this university during several decades of the twentieth century. He was proud of its buildings and grounds and fiercely dedicated to a work ethic and the management of a team of hardworking men. He did not own his own home, but lived in university housing. (That’s me on the porch of that university house with a surprise from under their tree circa 1963.) He did not own his own car, but drove a university truck. His large and productive garden, where I learned how to grow things and what happened to people who didn’t like to work, was planted on university soil. He typed the letter that I am holding on a university typewriter and directed his team from a little university office. His sons would gather in a particular spot in one of the dorms that was acoustically wonderful and sing hymns. I even have a recording of one of those hymn-sings, and those young men were incredibly good for a country quartet. (I doubt that the dorms at JSU are often used for hymn-singing today.)

Now, I know that I am not unique in being able to reminisce about godly influences in my early years. I know that there are congregations all over this world that warm by fires that have been stoked through the years by faithful, yet very ordinary people. I know that my grandfather never once thought about the fact that I might someday sit and reminisce, from this chair, in a building constructed from a blueprint he once held in his hands. But here I am. In the same way, you and I do not know where and how our influence may live in the ensuing decades. But there will be a time and place in which someone will be thinking about me. I will be, to the world, an insignificant name on a grave marker. But to someone, I might be able to make an eternal difference. I hope I can do that for the little souls in my family, Ezra and Colleyanna, and I hope that difference will be for heaven.

My grandfather did not own much as he traversed a tiny little area on this planet. But he owns a mansion now. It would do a lot of people I know an eternally important good if they would heed the words transcribed above from a simple twentieth century shepherd. Can I help you live in a saved condition?

To Honor Annie

10011689_10152669580002586_1383661133_oThis weekend, friends in Salem, Virginia laid to rest the body of one of the dearest friends I’ll know in this lifetime, Annie Shrader. It was just about this time of year, twenty-nine Octobers ago, when I came to know her. I was moving to a state in which I’d never lived, to a house I’d never seen, to work with a church of people I did not know.  When I arrived at that empty house, on that crisp October morning, there were wreaths on the doors, donuts on the mantel, coffee in the kitchen and leaves and pumpkins in festive corners. The empty house was not so empty, after all. There was already warmth and there were telling signs of the deep fellowship we would enjoy with God’s people in Salem.  And it was Annie’s doing.

 

I loved those sweet anonymous (at the time) greetings and so did my very young children. It just made for a happy end to a difficult trip and an inviting threshold to a whole new life for our family. It was later that I found out it was Annie who made my home warm that day. And it was later that I learned she was very sick, having had cancer first as a child, and that she would battle it over and over for the rest of her days. My first visit to her home was when our family trick-or-treated at her house that same October. She was confined to her bed that Halloween, but she laughed and laughed at our silly costumes and she made our pictures and kept them on her refrigerator. One year, for Halloween, our family dressed up to impersonate the Shraders.   Halloween became a traditional time of fun with this sweet family and, even after we’d moved to Alabama from Salem, we exchanged silly trick-or-treat cards every year. I’m sad that I will not get those funny cards anymore at the end of October. I will miss them.

So, as I remember Annie, I remember the person in my life who was the most likely candidate for being absorbed with self pity, but the one who was the most caring for those who could use a hand up…the one who brought the most smiles to innocent faces of children…the one who wrote long letters to those who were far from home…the one who took time for the fatherless…the one who made lives that were shattered by sin a little more hopeful. She made those who were left out or eccentric feel included and normal.

Several years ago I wrote the following in which I reminisced about Annie. I’m thinking about her again tonight. It occurs to me that the words I used above, about my new home in Salem can also be used about her new home: “…a happy ending to a difficult trip and an inviting threshold to a whole new life.” She’s pain-free. Her neck and face are not misshapen any more. Her speech is not slurred. I want to see her like I’ve never seen her. I want to see her whole and strong.

 

In honor of the person who never pity partied…In honor of the person who sent me all these Halloween cards that make me smile anew every October when I pull them out and peruse…in honor of Annie:

 

Have you any friends who are party animals? I mean pity party animals?  I do, and I love them, but they are not very much fun.  They always get the raw end of every deal, the short end of every stick, and nobody, but nobody understands their plights. If it’s raining, they’re depressed. If it’s sunny, they’re  sweaty. Either no one pays attention to them or people just won’t leave them alone. They just have perpetual gloom, despair and misery regardless of the circumstances in which they find themselves.
Why do we have pity parties?  Why do we allow the circumstances of this life to impede our progress toward the next?  Let me offer a few reasons. Perhaps these can help us to be prepared for pity party invitations and just RSVP in the negative every time. There is always something better on the agenda!
1. Sometimes we forget that we are not alone. 
Our God is described as the ever present source of strength (Psa. 46:1) and He has promised that he will never leave or forsake us (Heb.13:5). The never of this passage is actually a double negative word adding emphasis to the assurance of His presence.
2. Sometimes we forget that Christians see in 3-D.
Having worked extensively with a group of ladies who are newly converted to Christianity, I have observed that it’s very difficult for them to correct the one-dimensional vision that characterizes worldliness. The focus of their existence has always been on themselves. Every decision has been based on “What’s in it for me?”  This inward obsession is simply and sadly characteristic of our society. To begin to have an upward focus and really care about what God thinks is a challenge for ladies coming out of the world.  Then to develop an outward focus, noticing and responding to the needs of others is just a whole new dimension of vision that the new Christian must really work to maintain. Symptoms of the problem are evident. A new Christians may think the fellowship meals are for her, never stopping to think to prepare food and bring it to an activity. A new Christian may have a different problem she wants you to help resolve each time she sees you at a worship service while she may rarely express interest in the problems of others or take the time to pray for them. She may tell you how busy she is and how little time she has for activities of the church, listing all of her job demands, sports activities and hobbies, never even thinking that those who are faithful and involved have tough schedules every week as well.  She may expect to be visited or called, without once thinking of visiting someone herself.
But these ladies are babies in the faith. We must remember that babies are all about themselves.  All of us who are moms understand that babies are not thoughtful of the needs of others. The focus is definitely inward. But for those of us who have been Christians for years the focus should no longer be one-dimensional. Stopping the self- absorption and becoming absorbed in the Word and in fervent, practical prayer has the ironic effect of self-fulfillment.  Likewise, when we see and minister to the desperate needs of the people around us, we ourselves are lifted up. We begin to be great when we begin to serve (Mt. 23:11).
3. Sometimes we stop walking and have a seat.
Idleness is the devil’s workshop.  Sometimes I see widows who go home from the funeral, close the door and just resolve to never be happy again. Other times I see widows who, for a very long time, have been unable to do much else besides care for an invalid husband. But once the long hours of caretaking are over, these godly women immerse themselves in programs of the church, ministry to the needy and the development of godly friendships.  These widows are some of the happiest Christians I know.
I remember when I was in my thirties (you know a couple of years ago), I had a dear friend named Annie. I was amazed at what Annie could accomplish for the Lord. She visited several nursing homes weekly, carrying little goody baskets to several patients. She had a tiny gift for every single child of the congregation at each holiday. (She was the Dollar Tree Queen!) Her four and five’s classroom was amazing as her husband lugged a big box of visuals and activities every Sunday and Wednesday night. She remembered birthdays and anniversaries and took the time to keep children when their parents were sick or just needed a little time away. She brought computer-made banners to the building for us all to sign so they could be posted in a lonely hospital or dorm room. She prepared welcome signs and goody baskets for the hotel rooms of our visiting preachers and teachers. In short, she was “ready to every good work (Tit. 3:1). I think some people thought Annie was just a great person with lots of spare time to do great stuff for other people. Annie was, in truth, a cancer patient, having already had several surgeries with several more to come. She was raising a child with a disability, caring for a mother-in-law who was in poor health, and struggling with severe back problems. I actually remember her attending our Wednesday night ladies class and lying in the back of the classroom on a table because sitting in a chair was both painful and harmful to her back. Annie simply chose not to stop and sit down when life hurt. She chose to keep walking toward heaven.  It was her choice not to have a pity party!

4. Sometimes we forget who fills our tank.  Sometimes when I am driving a long distance, I am frustrated because I have to stop and pump gas. I hate to pump gas. I especially hate to pump gas at night. I abhor pumping gas at night when the price of gas is three times what I paid only two years ago. I can get in a bad slump over pumping gas. When I do start feeling frustration at the pump, it only takes me a minute to think about the primary reason this frustration builds. It’s because pumping gas is a pretty rare occurrence for me. See, I have a husband who will go out of his way to pump my gas for me under normal circumstances. It’s only when I travel alone that I am forced to deal with the bite of the chilling air, the smell of gas on my fingers and the pinch of the price gouge.  Naomi in the book of Ruth said, “God hath sent me out full and brought me home again empty.”  It is true that Naomi had experienced devastating losses while she was away from home. But she, like so many of us today, was quick to blame God for the losses while failing to credit Him with the sustenance, strength, and even the lessons that come with trials. She could have used a quick lesson from the book of Job .

And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21)

5. Sometimes we like to broadcast the problems and keep the blessings a big secret.
Listen to Naomi’s homecoming statement in full:

But she said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 
I went out full, and the LORD has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?” (Ruth 1:20,21)

She said, “Don’t call me by my old name. I would like to be called ‘Bitter’.”
She said, “God treated me very bitterly.”
She said, “God emptied me.”
She said, “God testified against me.”
She said, “God afflicted me.”
I believe Naomi had thought ahead about this little speech. I believe she was ready to get a few things off her chest when she got back to her family and friends. Perhaps it was not the first time she had delivered it. But the indictment of the Almighty God, who is the giver of every good and perfect gift (Jas. 1:17), was a pity party theme that borders on blasphemy. (Thankfully, the party was brief and she soon had an outward focus once again.) Broadcasting our problems in a spirit of bitterness serves to feed that spirit. It is a call for reinforcements for all that is negative in our lives.  Sometimes Mom’s words, “If you can’t say something positive, then don’t say anything at all,” make a lot of sense.

*(Much of this material taken from Women of Troubled Times, by Cindy Colley, Publishing Designs, Huntsville, AL.)

From the Archives: A Bird in a Basket

images-1This past Saturday I spoke at a ladies seminar in the state of California. It was a great day–rewarding in lots of ways for me. It was a stormy weekend in my home state of Alabama, while sunny and calm in California. Sometimes it’s just a little serendipity when I get to slip away from the storms (in my mind and in the sky) and enjoy a space of calmness. I actually got to sit on a tiny sunny townhouse patio and visit with a sister I’d never met before. Two small birds live in a basket on that patio and I stood about two feet from Mr. or Mrs. Bird (not sure which) and clicked his/her photo. (I really wish I had brought along my Canon rather than just my cell phone.) I’m told that those birds come back each year and have begun to feel so comfortable in that basket that sits among some artificial flowers on a plant stand, that they don’t even bother to stir when people walk all around them. Before the evening was over, we had five people within a very few feet of the nest and no panic in the nest whatsoever. My host told me that one of that family of birds plucked one of those artificial flowers one year, took it around to her front yard and used it in the building of it’s own nest in a front yard tree.My host, Mrs. Maggie, knows a lot about the birds that feather that nest each year. But she cannot be sure it is the same birds year after year. She pays close attention to their patterns of nest-sitting. She knows that it is both a male and female that exchange places sitting, for she looks through her kitchen window (only a few inches away) and sees them swapping places. She knows that baby birds are born there each spring because there are a few fleeting days between the hatching and the flying when she enjoys watching them grow. All she has to do is keep putting the basket out for them year after year and they check-in as if they know their upscale room is reserved.

But did you ever think about how that God, from somewhere as far away as heaven and yet closer than that kitchen window does know whether it’s the same birds year after year? He knows whether or not the original nest sitters have survived the winter. In fact, he will know the exact moment that the bird in my photograph falls never to fly again.

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father (Matthew 10:29).

The passage goes on to ask the rhetorical question: “Aren’t you more valuable than many sparrows?” God knows and cares about the nest home of those birds and its inhabitants. He knows about my home and its inhabitants, too. He knows that one day, like the sparrow I too, will fall. But I am of more value than many sparrows and I, who have never before taken wing will, on that “glad morning when this life is o’er, fly away.” Praise the God Who cares for the tiny bird in the basket, but cares infinitely more for me.

Sister to Sister: Dear Sweet Baby G2…

Dear Sweet Baby G2, 

You are a girl! My first grand-daughter! If I have another grand-daughter someday, I will not love you more, but I will always love you first. As we stood there for what seemed like about a forever in front of that tarp waiting for your brother to come out from behind with pink or blue cotton candy, I thought a bit about the historic moments in our family. Wasn’t it just yesterday that your Uncle Caleb danced around that hospital hallway looking through that nursery glass at your mother. That was a historic moment. 1391807_10151633143906384_1011208804_nThat little seven o’clock  pause in the party while we waited for the news about your gender was surely one of those moments, too. The color of cotton candy would tell us much about, not just the colors of clothes or the kinds of games we would play, but whether we would teach you to submit or to lead and whether you would be a provider or a gentle nurturer. That moment held the key to whether your dad would take you on your first hunt or your first date. It was a big moment.13002601_900378543529_1447357954307643429_o

I’m glad that in this year of your birth, when so much about gender is so mixed up by our liberal culture, that you have parents who draw sharp distinctions between the genders. You will be blessed to learn to cook and sew and take care of babies. You will be encouraged to be a keeper at home by your mom, who is one of the best keepers I know. You will grow up beside your brother, Ezra, who will learn first to protect you and later, to transfer his guardianship to his own family. He will learn to defend your honor and to show tender affection to his mother, while preparing to lead his own bride and, ultimately, the bride of Christ. He will get the sharpest picture of all of this from your dad.13002506_900365614439_5034103055690569568_o You’re blessed to get to be Ezra’s sister. He patted his mother’s tummy and said “baby” earlier this week, but he doesn’t have a clue about what you are about to do to his little world. That dynamic will be fun to watch!

I can’t wait to braid your hair, tie your ribbons, sew your dresses and read Cinderella and Goldilocks to you. I’m already getting out the tiny, now vintage, dresses your mother wore and washing the pink blankets. I’ve bought you a couple of things to wear, including a girly Alabama Crimson Tide  outfit and a pair of pantaloons with a “G” on the bottom. You are making for fun times on ebay and in the consignment stores. Your papa said “Oh dear. This girl thing means you are going to double your shopping addiction.”  He is one smart mathematician, your papa (and he was a very good sport playing “chubby baby” with pink marshmallows at your gender party!)13064624_900366308049_8267571567100253079_o But I will try to be good. After all, I have to show you how to be a smart and frugal shopper! 

As I’m thinking about you now, cocooned in that safe, dark place, I praise the One who is forming you there. He told Jeremiah that  he knew the plans He had for him before He even formed Jeremiah in the womb (Jeremiah 1:5). Is it not possible that he already has a plan for you…just like he did prior to birth for Jacob, for Moses, for Samuel, for Samson, David, Jeremiah, and John the Baptist? He’s already given you a soul that will live on and on…and on. You will always be younger than I, but you will never outlive me. Our continuum has a starting point, but no ending point.   We are both on a journey that has no end. Your life has begun inside a temple of the Holy Spirit. May your life grow to be a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to our holy God. 

I do not know how many of your years I will get to see. I hope I can watch you learn to walk and talk and read and write. I hope I can go to my mailbox one day and read a letter from you. I hope I can take you fishing and shopping and kite-flying. I want to skip rope and play house and watch Pollyanna and Bedknobs and Broomsticks with you. (Oh, and I Love Lucy, too.) I want to laugh and dance and make teacakes and living room tents with you. I want to push you in my big antique carriage and pull you in that little red wagon. I want to play games and run relays with you. (We like games in our family!)I want to watch you find wonderful trinkets in your Christmas stocking and in your Easter basket. I want to pick flowers and sing with you and Ezra while papa plays the guitar. I hope we get to do all these things and lots more. 12990953_900409955579_6704588746815333140_n

But there is just one thing I really, really HAVE to do with you. See, if I had to choose between doing all these things I’ve dreamed about and sitting around the throne with you, I wouldn’t even have to think about it. I’d choose heaven.You are a princess already and what I want most for you, little girl, is that seat around your Father’s throne. I pray every day that you make it safely into this world. But my most fervent prayer for you is about making it safely to that other world. It will, in this century in which you will live out your days, not always be easy to be a princess in His kingdom. Your world is pretty hostile to princesses in your Father’s kingdom. But it will be worth it. The “way” may be straiter and more narrow as you travel than it is for those who went on ahead of you. The devil is currently busy adding obstacles and constricting that way. But you stay the course. Your papa and I will be waiting.

P.S. Here’s the pink cotton candy: https://www.facebook.com/hannah.giselbach/videos/900363004669/

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Guest Writer: The Beautiful End to a Beautiful Life

oldmanThe following doesn’t need commentary. It’s written by Rene Heard.

Many of you are aware that my dad has been dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease for several years. He forgot how to walk in early February. 

Last night,(Sunday), I texted several of the members of my parents’ congregation and requested whoever had time come by after their evening service and sing a few of my dad’s favorite old hymns with mom and me around his bed. To our delight, about 20 people came. For about an hour, we sang beautiful old hymns – “Sweet By and By”, “Softly and Tenderly”,” Blessed Assurance”, “Never Grow Old”, “Where the Roses Never Fade”, “Standing on the Promises”, “How Great Thou Art” (his favorite hymn in marveling at God’s creation with his science teacher mind) and then ended with “Jesus Loves Me” for the 1 and 3 year old who were present and “My God and I” (one of Daddy’s favorites [as a farmer walking with God in his fields]). I asked the elder who was present to say a prayer at the close of our song time together. During the prayer, as I was holding Daddy’s hand with my right hand and Mama’s with my left, I noticed that his chest stopped moving. I made eye-contact with Kim (one of my friends who was one of Daddy’s high school students). She is now a nurse. She knelt by the bed and started checking for a pulse. He breathed sporadically throughout the remainder of the prayer, then took his last breath after the “amen”. 

It was a beautiful end to a beautiful life. My sweet daddy left this world surrounded by the walls he had built 50 years ago, surrounded by the quilts his mother and mother-in-law had made to keep his family warm, surrounded by friends in the community whom he had taught as high school students, surrounded by the beauty of the voices of young and old singing songs of praise to God and songs of hope for God’s followers. 

Several hours later, as I lay in bed trying to fall asleep, I began to worry that some of the young folks might have been frightened by being in the presence of a person dying. So, this morning, I texted the parents of all the kids who were present. Here is a reply from Carley (age 15) as she and her mom were talking about the events of the evening, “Even though it was sad, I was awed by the calmness. I think it was awesome to be sung with praises to God from this life to the next life. I felt like our singing helped him be calm and not afraid.” 

This week will be an emotional journey as we plan the celebration of his life. Please keep us all in our prayers.