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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Growing Up Preacher Boys

The congregation with which our family worships each Sunday morning has had the rare privilege of growing up a number of preacher boys over the years.

There was the well-meaning fellow who, for the life of him, could NOT end a sermon. Every time he seemed to be winding down, he'd go off on some rabbit trail that deserved a full 40-minute sermon. From there he would take off on another--and at least one more--before finally pronouncing the benediction.

At the opposite end of the spectrum was the nice guy who made everyone pretty happy when he couldn't fill his sermon time, which happened nearly every Sunday for quite a while.  On top of that, he was fairly quiet-spoken, which made staying awake a real challenge for the parishioners.

Another colorful fellow knew how to give LOTS of attention to his first two points and nowhere equal time to the final three!  The further he moved through the sermon, the faster he talked!

The most entertaining preacher boy was the one with a plethora of "uhs" sprinkled throughout his sermons:  139 "uhs" in one 40-minute sermon!

If I could introduce them all to Howie Hendricks, I would.

When it comes to excellence, it is hard to top a favorite teacher of Marlin Wismer--the gifted pastor/teacher who drew me to our church in the first place 25 1/2 years ago: Howard Hendricks, affectionately called "Howie," who went home to Glory this past year. Stay tuned for a passionate and masterful presentation (with nary an "uh") that demonstrates how God can teach a man (totally unchurched in his early youth and reared in a broken home) to teach His Word.  The glasses and hair are totally outdated in this presentation, but the content and delivery, timeless.

Howie's part begins at 7:40 in the video.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Early to Bed, Early to Rise

This evening I took some ice cream from Goodrich (Swiss Chocolate Almond) to my 92 (almost 93) year-old mother.  When I entered her tidy apartment at GracePointe it was dark--even though it was still light outside.

"Mom," I called quietly, "are you already in bed?"
"Yes," she replied.
"Vange and I brought you some ice cream.  Why don't you get up and eat it with us?  It's too early to go to bed; it's still light outside."
"Okay," she replied.
"Do you want to eat yours propped up in bed--or shall we go to your table?"
"I don't know.  What shall I do?"
"Let's go to your table, okay?  Here, I'll help you get up."

Once her bathrobe and shoes were on, we shuffled to Mom's kitchen table and turned the dimmer switch on for some light.  Vange and I chatted about the day--what we studied in school and what Vange and Nate played in phys ed class.  Mom listened while she ate, but didn't say much.  Someone had visited her today, but she couldn't remember who.  Dinner was good, but he couldn't remember what she had eaten.  Someone was supposed to spend the night with her, she thought, but couldn't recall just who that was.  After ice cream, I asked Mom if she wanted to go back to bed or to sit together in her living room for a while.
"I don't know.  What shall I do?"
"Why don't we sit together a while in your living room."
"Okay."

As we sat together, I noted that Mom's socks seemed quite tight on her swollen ankles.
"Mom, your socks look awfully tight on your ankles.  Shall I take them off?"
"I don't know.  What shall I do?"
"Here, let me take them off and look for some that aren't so tight."
"Okay."

 I rummaged through her sock drawer looking for some of those thick socks with the gripper soles.  Couldn't locate any, so I settled for a pair that looked slightly stretched-out.  As I put the better pair on her feet, I noticed how very cold her feet were.  It surprised me.  As we sat in her living room a while and flipped through the TV channels, nothing really caught our attention.  By 8 p.m., Mom seemed pretty tired.

"Mom, when Vange and I leave now, do you want to stay here on your couch and have your nurse put you to bed or do you want me to put you to bed?"

Without saying a word, she pointed to me.

Back we shuffled to her bed, where I gently guided her to sit so that I could remove her shoes for her.  After a few lifts and shifts, she seemed comfortable.  I placed my hand on her shoulder--the same one where I used to rest my weary, sweaty head as a toddler--and I prayed for her.  I asked the Lord to care for her as she had cared for me--and to hold her through the night in his Everlasting arms.  With a kiss on her forehead, I bid her good-night as I bowed slowly from her darkened room.

As Vange and I trundled home down "O" Street, I silently thanked God for the opportunity to tuck my mother in bed.

"Someday, Vange, you may be tucking me in," I mused.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Mentor Remembered

We all have people in our lives who are just comforting to know.  We don't have to see these individuals very often--and when we do, we can pick up right where we left off.  These low-maintenance associations need not be mistakenly labeled "low-impact."  In fact, the mere presence of these people is a comfort to my very soul.  I love just knowing they are there.

One such loved and admired confidante of mine was laid to rest today in Aurora, Nebraska.  I did not attend her burial, but I did make it a point to be present at her funeral.  As always, I learned wonderful tidbits about her life that made her the memorable woman she was to me and to so many others.  Of course, the reasons she was memorable to me were not the same reasons she was memorable to her children, or her grandchildren, or her sister Charlene.

No, Beth was special to me because she was my first boss and mentor as I entered the workforce upon my college graduation.  She loved me--and she never stopped loving me.  At the same time, she allowed me to make mistakes and to learn from them.  Never once did she chide me for my overly eager attempts at being creative in my writing.  Instead, she would ask a very simple question, "Janet, what are you trying to say in this piece."  Once I had stated my intent, she would kindly hand my copy back to me and say, "Now go back to your desk and write what you just told me."  I don't remember that she ever wrote anything for me; she always let me slog away until the display ad, back cover copy, bio, or whatever my assignment happened to be, met the incredibly high standard she set for me.

As I flitted back and forth to Ecuador and the Texas/Mexico border, Beth never lost track of me.  When I got married she was there.  Fifteen months later, she fussed over my baby girl and  held her as though she were the proud grandma.  More children on my part--more fussing on hers!  She helped me land the most intriguing and enjoyable freelance job I ever wrote:  Ten chapters on the life of Marj Saint Van Der Puy.  Beth could just as easily taken the job herself.

Now that Beth is no longer there, I find myself regretting that I didn't visit her one more time as she struggled with irreversible health problems--and, not that long ago, called on the phone to see how I was doing.

Well Beth, I will miss you.  And as I finger the kernels on my plate in two days I'll breathe a prayer of thanksgiving for you and your profound influence on my life.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The summer of 1987 I was living in South Texas--McAllen to be exact.  It's a town situated south of Edinburg and west of Pharr.  "The Valley," as we called it, was kind of a cozy place to live with a slower pace of life and very religious people all around.  In fact, at public school football games the school hymn for each school was played before every game--and a prayer was offered over the intercom by a member of the home team.  That year the star quarterback for McAllen had GARZA stamped across the back of his jersey.  So did about five others!  Keeping them separate took some doing, especially when I heard the announcer say, "Garza is dropping back to pass--no, it's a lateral to Garza who passes it to Garza, who--SCORES!"  (You get the idea...)


On July 3, a Friday, I was given the day off in recognition of the weekend holiday:  Independence Day.  While listening to the radio that afternoon in my comfy apartment on Gardenia Avenue, I realized that listeners were invited to call in and tell of any unusual July 4 celebrations they might have experienced.  Without hesitating I called in and got put on queue.  Finally, my turn came and I told all about celebrating July 4 at the American Embassy in Quito, Ecuador.  I mentioned the bluegrass band that performed, the greased telephone poles with coveted gifts at the top (blue jeans, disposable diapers, CASH, M&Ms and lots of other hard-to-get-in-Ecuador things).  It was fun to see the men (I don't think any women felt liberated enough yet) try to climb those slippery telephone poles.  Finally, in desperation, the LDSers began to stand on one another's shoulders until one was high enough to reach the goods and cut the ropes that held them dangling from the poles.  It was a little like a piñata breaking open--only the "candy" was a lot larger!


When my turn was over and I had hung up the phone, one of the announcers hosting the show asked her co-host if he thought the Ecuadorians had any idea what the Americans were celebrating.


I wanted to scream--no I did scream--at the radio.  You unlearned American, of course the Ecuadorians understand freedom!  What do you think the conquistador thing was all about?


In 1814, a young punk (only 19 years old) named Antonio José de Sucre joined the battle for independence from Spain.  Four years later, at 23, he was promoted to colonel.  Finally, at 26, he was promoted to brigadier general--and he became Bolivar's chief of staff.  His first assignment was to liberate Quito, which he did handily on May 24, 1822.  Shortly thereafter he accepted the presidency of the Province of Quito.  They even named the country's money after him!


As I contemplated all of this it came to me that freedom in every culture basically looks the same:


First, there's a power struggle.  Without that, there's no need for freedom.
Then, most often, some sort of war or fighting breaks out between the two entities seeking power.
Finally there's bloodshed.  Eventually someone has to die in order for the other person to be totally free.


If that isn't a perfect description of one's life in Christ, I don't know what is.  The only problem is that I don't always choose to remain free.  I'm so easily drawn back into the fray, living as though Christ never shed His blood or conquered the enemy.  Sometimes I even lose sight of who the real enemy is.


If you struggle sometimes as I do, take these words to heart and have a truly marvelous independence day.


"Yes, I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."


Happy July 4th!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Making Bible Study Practical

Years ago, when our older two college-age children were 3 and 4 years old, we visited a close family friend in Minnesota and at her church we heard about a wonderful way to study scripture by asking nine very practical questions about any Scripture passage.  They are:

1.  Is there a sin to confess?
2.  Is there an attitude to change?
3.  Is there a command to obey?
4.  Is there an example to follow?
5.  Is there a promise to claim?
6.  Is there an error to avoid?
7.  Is there a truth to believe?
8.  Is there something to thank God for?
9.  Is there a prayer to pray?

I turned them into a little chart that makes it simple to note the various categories as you're reading and meditating.  I've found this very helpful and I hope you will too.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Thank You, Father John

On rising from your bed say; "In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, I begin this new day, when I awake I am still with Thee; and I shall be satisfied when I awake with Thy righteousness, and with Thy whole image."

While washing say: "Purge me from the sins of the night, and I shall be clean. Wash Thou me, and I shall be whiter than snow."

When putting on your clean linen, say: "Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and clothe me with the fine linen, which is the righteousness of the saints."

When you break your fast, think of the length of Christ's fast, and in His Name eat your morning meal with gladness of heart. Drinking water, or tea, or sweet mead, think of the true quenchings of the thirst of the heart.

If you wish to walk or drive, or go in a boat somewhere, first pray to the Lord to keep this your going out and coming in.

If you see and hear a storm, think of the sea of passions in your own and in other men's hearts.

If you are a scholar or an official, or an officer, or a painter, or a manufacturer, or a mechanic, remember that the science of sciences to you is to be a new creature in Christ Jesus.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Lessons from Liz

Just yesterday, Nate, Evangeline and I finished reading aloud the life of Queen Elizabeth I, written in 1849 by Jacob Abbott. [You can read the same piece online at: http://www.mainlesson.com/display.php?author=abbott&book=elizabeth&story=_contents .] To boil Queen Bess's life down to a sentence or two would accomplish nothing. So, I'm going to expand on some of the situations that impressed me greatly.

One of the first, was that of her plight as a motherless child. Although in a place of safety, she lacked most of the bare necessities of life, as addressed in this letter by her governess, Lady Bryan:

My Lord:

When your lordship was last here, it pleased you to say that I should not be mistrustful of the King's Grace, nor of your Lordship, which word was of great comfort to me, and emboldeneth me now to speak my poor mind.

Now so it is, my Lord, that my Lady Elizabeth is put from the degree she was afore, and what degree she is at now. I know not but by hearsay. Therefore I know not how to order her, nor myself, nor none of hers that I have the rule of—that is, her women and her grooms. But I beseech you to be good, my Lord, to her and to all hers, and to let her have some rayment; for she has neither gown, nor kirtle, nor manner of linen, nor foresmocks, nor kerchiefs, nor sleeves, nor rails, nor bodystichets, nor mufflers, nor biggins. All these her Grace's wants I have driven off as long as I can, by my troth, but I can not any longer. Beseeching you, my Lord, that you will see that her Grace may have that is needful for her, and that I may know from you in writing, how I shall order myself towards her, and whatever is the King's Grace's pleasure and yours, in every thing, that I shall do.


It's hard to imagine a true princess lacking anything, let alone something as simple as a smock. Providentially, God placed Lady Bryan in her life to intercede on her behalf. Before Elizabeth was even conscious enough to realize her base needs, someone was imploring the King, her very father, on her behalf. Wait, that's what Jesus does for me!

He intercedes, not to an indifferent, self-indulgent and indolent, father, but to "the Father of Lights."

What more do I need?