Wednesday, September 18, 2013

For Young Mothers Everywhere

I remember being a young Mom who felt like she wasn't accomplishing enough when "all" she did was hang out with her children. When the house was a mess and supper was sandwiches and the laundry wasn't folded and and and ... I remember. On those days, I would sometimes go back my "Favorite Quotes" binder to remind myself that what the world called success and how I had prayerfully decided to define that term would always be at odds with one another.
Here's one of those reminders (a gift from my mother-in-law).


I Took His Hand and Followed
Author unknown

My dishes went unwashed today,

            I didn’t make the bed.
            I took his hand and followed
            Where his eager footsteps led.

            Oh, yes, we went adventuring,
            My little son and I …
            Exploring all the great outdoors
            Beneath the summer sky.

            We waded in a crystal stream,
            We wandered through a wood.
            My kitchen wasn’t swept today,
            But life was gay and good.

            We found a cool, sun-dappled glade
            And now my small son knows
            How Mother Bunny hides her nest,
            Where jack-in-the-pulpit grows.

            We watched a robin feed her young,
            We climbed a sunlit hill …
            Saw cloud-sheep scamper through the sky,
            We plucked a daffodil.

            That my house was neglected,
            That I didn’t brush the stairs,
            In twenty years, no one on earth
            Will know, or even care.

            But that I’ve helped my little boy
            To noble manhood grow,
            In twenty years, the whole wide world

            May look and see and know.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Poem for those who Grieve



Cocoons
by Stephanie Grace Whitson

A lifeless shell (to earthly eyes)
Can open, freeing its surprise
To dance on a garden leaf.

Gossamer wings gently hesitate
To fly. And then, as wind abates,
It flutters toward the sky.

Out of sight, it yet exists,
And, dancing on, its wings persist
To unseen garden leaves.

No less alive, though out of sight,
It testifies to each man’s plight;
A common destiny.

For each of us must leave behind
A lifeless shell. And earthly-minded
Men can think, “Life’s done.”

It isn’t true. Although unseen,
We flutter on to gardens green
With joy, alive in Christ.

Alive in Christ, whose dead cocoon,
Though buried in a garden tomb
Arose to give new life.

Here’s hope for all in facing death:
A lifeless shell (to earthly eyes)
Precedes the birth of butterflies.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

9/11

I was at home alone. My husband had died the previous February, and so learning to be alone was part of my new job description. Not one to watch much television, I had gotten in the habit of having it on "in the background" ... just so there'd be noise in the house. So now I share the collective memory. Those images live alongside my memory of the day JFK died.

But I have one more personal memory that lingers of 9/11. My daughter crying for all those people "who have to feel like we do ... because they lost their Daddy."

Contemplating and remembering today has turned my thoughts toward heaven, thanks in part to author friend Randy Alcorn's morning e-mail, which shared a list of quotes on heaven.

My husband once told someone who was expressing sympathy at the concept of his "terminal" condition, "You're terminal too, you know. It's just that I'm more aware of it than you." He'd already turned his heart toward heaven.

So today, in remembrance, I thought I'd do the same. The verse below was one of my mother's favorites. She died in 1996, and when my husband entered hospice care early in 2001, our nurse shared it with me. Both versions said "author unknown."

If you are grieving a loss, today, I hope it brings you comfort.

I am standing on the shore. A ship at my side spreads her sail to the breeze and starts for the ocean. She is an object of beauty and I stand and watch until she hangs like a speck of cloud where the sea and sky meet. Then, someone at my side says, "There! She's gone."

Gone where? Gone from my sight is all. She is still as large in mast, hull, and spar as she was when she left my side. Just as able to bear her load to the place of destination. Her diminished size is in me, not in her.

Just at the moment when someone at my side says, "There! She's gone!" there are other eyes watching her coming and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, "Here she comes!"

... And that is dying.

I'll post another poem tomorrow, one I wrote back in the 1980s.


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Proverbs 31 and a Perpetual Sense of Failure


If you are like me, there are days when you read Proverbs 31 with a sinking
sensation. "I don't do that." "I need to do better at that." "I don't do that." "I've never done that." "Okay ... I try that, but I'm not very good at it." 

Isn't it just like the Enemy of our Souls to take one of the most beautiful tributes ever written and use it to create a perpetual sense of failure?

Some friends and I have been discussing the woman who inspired Proverbs 31 (you can read about her here: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Proverbs%2031&version=AMP

To be quite honest, there are days when we are tempted not to like her very much. She's just too perfect.
                                                                                                               

The phrase that always gets me first is "rising before dawn." I've never been able to establish that supposedly perfect and ideal routine. I cannot count the number of times I have promised myself that I will get up at 5:00 a.m., read the Bible, pray, work out, and have a piping hot breakfast ready for the family when they awaken.

I fail. Failed. Have failed. Will fail. Failure. That's me. 


It seems to me that the Enemy too often takes my honest belief that the Bible is literal truth and twists it into something that, instead of producing good fruit, produces an unholy sense of abject failure ... a temptation to "just give up, already, you're never going to get a gold star."

I've spent the last few years trying to find a balance in my faith walk that doesn't leave me feeling like a perpetual failure God is about to whack over the head. 

I think this passage provided a lyrical way of saying a good woman works hard. If I don't "rise before dawn," it doesn't necessarily mean I'm doomed to be a failure in God's eyes (and honestly I have felt that way). 

I think it's okay to envision the actual woman who inspired Proverbs 31 being just as amazed as I am when I read about her today. I envision tears rolling down her cheeks as she looks at her son, the author, and says ... "Really? You see me that way?" Sort of the ancient version of me when I read one of "those" Mother's Day cards. You know the ones I mean.

Now ... don't take this too far. I'm NOT saying I give up and I won't even strive for the mark. God's Word is powerful and it accomplishes what it was meant to accomplish. Proverbs 31 is the ideal. I should strive for the mark. But sometimes I should also give myself a break, already. A perpetual sense of failure isn't what it's about. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

When the future looks scary

Some people I love very much are facing some scary health-related times, and this morning I prayed for them and then came in to read my devotional and because it lead me to some other thoughts, I'm posting here instead of on my Facebook page.

What is the hardest thing you've ever had to give up? For me personally, it was the future. Giving up my dreams of life with a guy named Bob, because Bob had non-Hodgkins lymphoma--not the curable kind. Somewhere in my readings about the life of Amy Carmichael, I read about a convert to Christianity from her ministry who shared the mental image of taking whatever we have no words for and envisioning it in the palms of our hands and then holding those hands up to God as a silent offering. 

At some point in the 5 1/2 years of the cancer journey with a man I called my "best-beloved," God enabled me to do that. To hold up the broken pieces of life as I knew it to God and to say "yes." All I could manage at the time was to refuse bitterness about those broken dreams. 

And so, this morning, if you are facing scary times and what feels like a life-shattering reality, my prayer for you is that God will enable you to hold up those broken pieces. 

Here is the excerpt from Streams in the Desert that spoke to me this morning:

 Because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son... I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven; …because thou hast obeyed my voice (Genesis 22:16-18).
And from that day to this, men have been learning that when, at God's voice, they surrender up to Him the one thing above all else that was dearest to their very hearts, that same thing is returned to them by Him a thousand times over. Abraham gives up his one and only son, at God's call, and with this disappear all his hopes for the boy's life and manhood, and for a noble family bearing his name. But the boy is restored, the family becomes as the stars and sands in number, and out of it, in the fullness of time, appears Jesus Christ.
That is just the way God meets every real sacrifice of every child of His. We surrender all and accept poverty; and He sends wealth. We renounce a rich field of service; He sends us a richer one than we had dared to dream of. We give up all our cherished hopes, and die unto self; He sends us the life more abundant, and tingling joy.And the crown of it all is our Jesus Christ …We sometimes seem to forget … that the only way to the resurrection life and the ascension mount is the way of the garden, the cross, and the grave.
_________________________________________
We don't often get to "see" the results of our fearful offering up of lost things, but in the case of my greatest fear, God did allow me to receive a very specific blessing. Apparently I shared the "broken pieces" analogy with one of my children, and about four years ago it came back to me in a song. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3LkrlFdY85k
Humbling. Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow.
And now ... now I have new things to place in the palms of my hands and lift up to the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. 
Life. It never gets easier, does it.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Spool Furniture

Have you seen the vintage shelving & etc. that's made of wooden spools? I tend to think it must be from the depression era (use it up, make it last, make it do, do without), although I don't really know, and looking around a bit on the internet I've seen some pieces that are called "nineteenth century," so perhaps my recently acquired treasure is older than I thought it was.

I have yearned from some little something made from spools over the years ... probably because I love old sewing stuff in general. Mostly I love the tactile connection to the woman who used the stuff. Which is why I litter my office with things like tatting shuttles (don't tat), needles for filet crochet (don't crochet), pin cushions (how many does one woman really need), and assorted other sewing gadgetry that is easy to store but still evocative of another time. I even have a metal box of attachments for a New Home sewing machine. But I don't have a New Home sewing machine. Go figure.

At any rate, this past month I took my annual pilgrimage to Nashville with my best road-dog friend. We made all the usual stops at this quilt shop and that flea market, and the corner shelf/what-not joined the other treasures in our over-full rented SUV. Now it sits right here to the left of my desk. And it makes me smile. Over 100 wooden sewing spools ... put to very good use ... at least I think so. Recyling isn't new!




Here's a spool lamp: http://www.laurelleaffarm.com/viewitem.htm?itemNumber=u2825#.Ud3URPm7KAg

and a table:

http://branfordhouseantiques.com/cgi-bin/p/awtp-product.cgi?d=branford-house-antiques&item=53839

and a chair that looks more like a throne:

http://www2.ljworld.com/photos/2009/sep/27/178088/



I remember using very large spools as step-stools when my children were little ... but I don't know what they were orignally used for (wire of some kind, I suppose) or where they went. Now that I have grandchildren, a little step-up would come in handy, and those things were untippable!

What example of recycling do you treasure?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Name This Character

Names are my nemesis.

I can find faces. I spent a lovely couple of hours yesterday finding faces and "auditioning" them on the toile-covered board in my office.

 ... but names. ARRRGHHH. 

The fact that I've already used so many names in past books complicates things immensely. 

So many of the women's names I like have already been "taken." 





So here's "her" photo. The clothing is wrong, by the way. It's only 1861 in the book and this is probably more 1890s, but that face---perfect. 

This is my leading lady. 

Do you see Jenny, Lydia, Madaline (I suppose she would be called Maddie?), Rosalie,or some other name I haven't considered?

By the way, I collect names from historical documents and tombstones, just to make sure it's a name that was in use. 

In this case it would have to have been in use in 1843 when my leading lady was born. 

It isn't a contest, but I'd appreciate your input. And if I choose the name you suggested, I promise to thank you when I write the acknowledgements ... and I'll send you a free book when it's available next spring (this book doesn't release until spring of 2014). Well, there you go ... maybe it is a contest, after all.

Blessings!






Sunday, May 19, 2013

Ta dah

Hope you had fun hunting and found lots of new authors you want to try out. 

While you were hunting, I was working toward the final page of the final edit of next spring's book, with short breaks to have the car towed to the repair shop, to motorcycle my way to our son's for a cook-out, and to pull what seemed like three million dandelions. That's probably an exaggeration, but I do have some fairly impressive blisters ... and yes, I wore gloves!

Here's the prettiest part of the gardening saga ... a fairy garden created by my four-year-old grand-daughter, in the top of my Mother's cherished bird bath. I think Mother would approve.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt Stop #3

 THE HUNT CONCLUDES AT MIDNIGHT TONIGHT  (SUNDAY, MAY 19) MOUNTAIN TIME. TO BE ELIGIBLE FOR ANY OF THE 3 GRAND PRIZES, YOU MUST ENTER BEFORE THEN. IF YOU ARE JUST JOINING US, DON'T WORRY. IT DOESN'T TAKE ALL THAT LONG TO GATHER ALL THE CLUES. 

MAY YOUR LORD'S DAY BE BLESSED.

Welcome to the 2013 Summer Scavenger Hunt! This hunt has 32 stops and runs from May 17 through May 19. Making the loop will take you through unique content from 31 different authors. If you complete the loop, and fill out the Rafflecopter form at Stop #32, you'll be in the running for an iPad Mini (loaded with all our books), or one of two runner-up prizes---all 31 of our new releases in paperback. Some authors are also offering additional prizes as part of their posts, so be sure to read each post thoroughly to be in the running for all that are available. The contest is open internationally.

If you've JUST discovered the hunt, I recommend you begin at the beginning, Stop #1, found at LisaBergren.com. But you can also begin here, and keep on rolling. Just be aware that you have to have the COMPLETED phrase in order. One word is part of each stop’s post, so if you do the stops in order, you’ll have the phrase just right. You’ll need that if you receive an e-mail notification from Lisa Bergren that says that you won. If Lisa doesn't hear back from you with the correct phrase within the time limit, she’ll move on to the next winner Rafflecopter draws. Ready? Here we go...

Whispers on the Prairie by Vickie McDonough

I was on deadline for a new book and wrote the following scene before doing the research. My heroine has asthma, so I needed to check with several people who have asthma and a doctor to see if what happens in this scene is plausible. After talking with them, I realize my scene wouldn’t work and deleted it. You’re the first people to see this scene from Call of the Prairie, which is a Christian fiction historical romance, and the second book in my Pioneer Promises series. The first book, Whispers on the Prairie, releases July 1st. My heroine, Sophie, has received some disturbing news, which resulted in her having a severe asthma attack, but back in 1873, there were no inhalers or known treatments for the ailment.

            Josh tilted Miss Davenport’s head back, hoping the action would allow more air into her lungs. He lifted her fully into his arms, amazed at how light she was. Though he had no trouble holding her, he eased down onto the corner of his desk. Sophie’s body jerked as she fought for each wheezy breath. This was his fault. He should have waited a day or two or a week. Shouldn’t have put such pressure on her so soon after the funeral.
            Josh cradled Sophie against his chest, despising himself for causing her distress. “Show me how to help her, Lord. What can I do?”
            Her chest shook with each ragged breath. She needed more air. Josh could only think of one way to accomplish such a fete. Dare he? Could it make things any worse?
            His idea was absurd—certainly not the act of a gentleman—and yet he felt God prompting him. He inhaled a large breath, and before he could talk himself out of it, he leaned down and blew into Sophie’s mouth. The warm, softness of her lips sent waves of awareness charging through him, but the rise of her chest told him his idea had worked. He glanced out his office door, making sure no one would witness his scandalous actions, then took another deep breath, and blew in, this time covering her whole mouth with his. Again, her chest rose, and if he wasn’t mistaken, her wheezing had decreased slightly.
            Joy mingled with a new sensation—the realization that he’d grown to care for this prickly woman. He wasn’t in love with her, but he certainly didn’t want anything to happen to her. He’d never met a woman like her. It was as if she had no awareness of her limitations. He brushed her soft hair away from her eyes and gave her a gentle shake. “Sophie, wake up.”
            Quick footsteps rushed down the boardwalk and past his window. He bent down, giving her one last breath, ending with the briefest of kisses. Straightening quickly, lest he be caught, he watched for Doctor Walton. Seconds later, the man hurried through the door, medical bag in hand.
            “What happened?”
            “She couldn’t catch her breath. Started wheezing and holding her throat then passed out. I managed to catch her.”
            “You did, huh?” Though Doc Walton’s eyes held concern, the corner’s of his lifted. “Let’s get her home. I can’t examine her here.”
            Josh followed him out the door, carrying Sophie. She had to be all right. He couldn’t stand the thought that he’d brought on this fit. He glanced at Franklin and Samuels. “Hold down the fort. Don’t know when I’ll be back.”
            He wasn’t leaving her until he knew she’d be all right. Her breathing was still labored but not as badly as before, and she was starting to rouse. Perhaps his breathing for her had helped. The doc opened the door to Maude’s house and stepped back. “Put her on the sofa.”
            Josh did as ordered, although his arms felt empty at her loss. He crossed them and moved out of the way. Doc Walton pulled out his stethoscope and listened to Sophie’s chest.
            She moaned, lifting a hand halfway to her face, then dropping it to her side. Josh brushed his hand across his mouth, remembering the incredible softness of her lips. She’d be furious if she knew what he’d done.



Find Whispers on the Prairie at your favorite local bookstores or online. Online sellers include: 

Amazon 

http://www.amazon.com/Whispers-Prairie-Pioneer-Promises-1/dp/1603748415/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1366069680&sr=1-1&keywords=whispers+on+the+prairie

Barnes and Noble 

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/whispers-on-the-prairie-vickie-mcdonough/1114863036?ean=9781603748414




AND NOW, YOUR NEXT STEPS 

Write down this clue: one’s 
Have it written down? Great! 
Now head on over to www.vickiemcdonough.com, which is Stop #4 for the next clue! 
Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Bess Streeter Aldrich

The story starts like most stories about discovering a favorite storyteller. I'd never heard of her.

It was the 1970s, and as a new member of an intimidatingly large (to me) church in a new town, I was doing what new church people do when
they want to make friends. Volunteering for everything.

On this particular occasion, I was in the church kitchen helping with a chili supper, and expressing amazement at the unlikely (to me) pairing of chili and cinnamon rolls. Whoever heard of such a thing? I'm from Southern Illinois, where cornbread is what goes with chili. Well, the cinnamon roll thing was the first in a very long line of lessons about what it means to be a Nebraskan. Ha.

As the women in the kitchen chatted, I mentioned that I love to read. A little white-haired lady looked over and said, "Well, then. You should read my neighbor's books."


"What's your neighbor's name?"

"Bess Streeter Aldrich."


Ahem. You can imagine what I thought. A prophet is never thought much of in his own country, and a neighbor isn't exactly the writer we all long to meet ... right?

Wrong.

I began with A Lantern in Her Hand and went on to all the others I could find. I smiled and laughed and wept and loved them all, mostly because Mrs. Aldrich had a way of infusing her stories with hope and faith, and that spoke to me.

In the 1990s, when my husband was diagnosed with a terminal form of non-Hodgkins' lymphoma, I was encouraged by Mrs. Aldrich's personal story. It included losing her husband (heart attack) and raising her children on her writing income.

It was the next century before I finally visited the Aldrich home in Elmwood, Nebraska, saw the desk where she wrote, the wicker furniture in the entryway (made at the wicker furniture factory at the Nebraska State Penitentiary back in the day). Ate cookies in her kitchen. Walked the stairs she trod.

The story goes that Mrs. Aldrich was walking toward the main street of town one day when a strange car pulled over and asked if the pedestrian happened to know where "that writer" lived. Mrs. Aldrich said something to the effect of "that writer is no one special."

I disagree. Hope resonates in her books. And doesn't the world need more of that

Here's a fun place to find Aldrich titles: www.abebooks.com
And if you're ever in Nebraska ... http://www.bessstreeteraldrich.org/house_tour.html


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Artichoke Annie's Antique Mall in Missouri

Whoever she is, Annie gets a "thumbs up" from me for creating a great antique mall on Interstate 70 near Columbia, MO. I had a wonderful hour there today browsing, and it will become a regular stop on my journey when I'm headed east to visit family in Southern Illinois and Nashville.

Today's jaunt yielded a leather-bound copy of the 1868 Arthur's Magazine, which is filled with the kind of information a historical fiction writer loves to find--fashion plates, homemaking advice, recipes, poetry, needlework patterns, etc. etc. There really is nothing like reading a magazine like this to familiarize oneself with a given era. How they talked, what they called things, what they were thinking about, what they were wearing and, in the case of a quick perusal of this volume in the car today, a homemade treatment for "chapped hands."

The bound volume includes some charming, frame-worthy ink drawings (although as long as I own the book those drawings will remain in place) and music ... one called the "Patchwork Polka." Since I'm such a quilt fanatic, I took that as a "sign" that this volume was calling me to come over and give it a home. It is, after all, fairly amazing that I found it amongst all the other things I loved but couldn't afford.

I also purchased a gorgeous post card of the Pont Neuf in Paris ... have no idea when it was printed (no date), but there are horses and buggies and not a motorized vehicle in site, so ... old enough for me ;-).

What did I leave behind? The oldest typewriter I've ever seen (dated 1890-something) and a beautifully quilted Mennonite quilt that was an Irish chain on one size and bars on the back ... "that" green, "that" yellow, and double pink. If money were no object, it would have come to live in Nebraska.

But I am content. I had a great time browsing the old stuff ... and now I'm really more excited than ever about the upcoming annual jaunt to the flea market in Walnut, Iowa.


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Be Ye Humble

I don't know that I'm on a trajectory here with "Be Ye" posts, but I just learned something new about myself, and it could definitely fall under the heading "Be Ye Humble." What did I learn? I am not Superwoman. 

When life raises challenges, I am the woman who says "I can do it!" I run faster, work harder, sleep less ... and when I was younger, I crashed less often. Looking back on my life as a young mother, I realize what my son said when he described me as a "tank." He meant I accomplished a lot. And he's right. Of course he wasn't privy to the "woman in a puddle" moments when I collapsed in tears because I couldn't keep up with the home-based business and organic gardening and four children and home schooling and homemaking and writing books and being a church elder's wife and ... you get the idea. 

Well, folks, that was then and this is now and wow is it humbling to realize that you are no longer a tank. You're more of a motorized golf cart, just trying to get over the green ... and hoping someone else is maintaining the lawn. 

How does this relate to writing? Well, I just had to humble myself before my new editor and ask for a couple more weeks to finish the re-write. I HATE DOING THAT!!!! The fact that I wasn't being a slacker and that the necessity was due to a true family emergency didn't make it any better. I still hate doing that. I am, after all, the woman who accomplishes much. 

At any rate, I realized something about myself. A Superwoman complex can be nothing more than pride disguised as a virtue. Ouch. I realized that humbling myself and realizing my limitations wasn't sinful. In my case, humbling myself and realizing my limitations was necessary. 

I am of the "I am woman, hear me roar" generation. 
Well ... I am woman, hear me whimper is more like it these days.
And that's OK.
The limitations aren't because I'm lazy. 
They aren't because I don't work hard.
They aren't because I'm a failure.
They are because ... I am who I am in 2013.

I think realizing that is going to be freeing after I think about it a little while longer.
Then again, I live with imaginary friends, so accepting reality may take me a bit longer than the average bear. 

On the journey ... 
Steph

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Be Ye Thankful

Parenting is hard, and as I've matured and my children have grown and begun their own families, I've realized that potty training wasn't, after all, the hardest thing I would ever do. Being Mom to five grown kids is hard, too, because the dynamic is different and I don't always know how to do this part of parenting. 

That's the disclaimer, because I'm about to mention something that made me sad this morning. I'm staying at a hotel that I love, and there's a breakfast buffet that is "to die for" in my opinion.
A wonderful array of choices that I have thought in the past would please every palate. 


Not so. At least not one child's. I was getting my second cup of coffee when I witnessed a very frustrated father leading an equally frustrated eight-year-old boy from place to place, repeating, "What about this?" "Oh, that looks good. Want some X?" "How about I make you a waffle?" "Look here ... all these cereals to choose from." And so on. 

The problem was, the boy wanted a doughnut. Period. And there were only pastries, croissants, bagels, cinnamon rolls, white bread, wheat bread, and English muffins being offered this morning. No doughnuts.

This child wasn't throwing a fit, but he wasn't going to accept a substitute, either. I pondered the situation as I came back up to my room where I've been working for the past couple of days doing my best to finish, really finish, a re-write. And I came to this conclusion: Thankfulness is something I need. If they don't have a doughnut on the menu, and I really really wanted a doughnut ... well ... I can still be thankful for what they do have, because there is abundance if I will open my eyes and see it

Now, what does the photograph I've uploaded have to do with doughnuts and thankfulness? Those kids have a pailful of pies. Just not the edible kind. They've been out on the Dakota prairie collecting cow pies to fuel their mother's cookstove, and that cookstove will do double-duty this winter by keeping the family from freezing to death. And they are smiling. 

Of course I'm making a leap to say they are happy to be doing it and that they model thankfulness. Maybe not. But seeing that photo makes me thankful this morning. 

When life gets hard, I often think about the people I write about. The women who had to strain snakes and frogs out of the well water before they could make their morning coffee. The ones who had to pump the water and heat it over an outdoor fire before they could do laundry. The ones who might never see or hear from the folks back home again after leaving to head west. And here I sit in my air-conditioned, centrally-heated hotel room with my internet live and my coffee maker and ... well. You get the idea. 

Thankfulness. The world needs more of it. I need more of it. 

It's Sunday. 
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow. 
Praise Him all creatures here below. 
Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts, 
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Easter


Human History's Crowning Event

Next weekend we'll be commemorating the single most important event in all of human history. A first century itinerant teacher's death. But don't forget the rest of that bit of history. Jesus wasn't just a great teacher. He also created the known universe. He was the only One who could solve my sin problem, and He did it ... and then He proved it by leaving the empty tomb. Imagine. Climbing out of one's own grave. The ultimate "it is finished." 

I've spent a great part of my adult life trying to wrap my brain around that concept and I just can't do it. Faith has to step in at some point, because it just isn't humanly comprehensible. Which is OK by me. Who needs a God they can explain.

Jason Gray's "A Way to See in the Dark" makes me think of  the apostles gathered in a dark place. Hiding away ... and wishing they could see a way through the darkness that descended with Jesus--their hope--lay in a tomb. Thought I'd share that song with you as part of this unconventional post.


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In one of my former lives I was a secretary at the University of Nebraska (back in the day we were still called secretaries). One of my bosses was a devout Roman Catholic whose wife wrote an award-winning column for the local newspaper. I'd like to share her 1986 column about Easter. It isn't intended to spoil the fun ... fun is great ("He gives us all good things to richly enjoy"). But it's also a challenge to remember the primary purpose for this season we celebrate every spring. Mrs. Costello was the mother of a tribe of kids, and I hear her challenging herself with these words. To remember the primary purpose. Wisdom from over a quarter of a century ago by one Mary Costello:
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Two thousand years ago, an itinerant preacher was hanged as a common criminal. He died on some trumped-up charges, probably because he was different. Mainly, the problem was he didn't fit in with those in authority, and they were afraid of him. He was going around the countryside doing some strange things and stirring up trouble. So they thought they'd better get rid of him--as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

And that's how we continue to commemorate his death--as quickly and efficiently as possible. "Oh, yes. Good Friday. I remember that. But I have to work."

This man, who was  God, died for us. To redeem us, and to bring us to his father. And we remember his death with pink stuffed bunnies and chocolate eggs.

He was tortured, hung on a cross with nails in his hands and feet. He was beat with a whip and tortured with a helmet of nails pushed into his scalp. I'll try to remember that between commercials on "Miami Vice" Friday night.

His mother placed him in the tomb and arranged the clothes around him with her own hands. Well, some businesses do close at noon on Good Friday.

After three days in the tomb, the preacher rose from the dead. It was the most magnificent, glorious miracle in the history of mankind. To celebrate that event, I'll get all the kids new shoes.

It was an event that changed the course of history, for all time. It was the focal point, the turning point of man's existence. "Church on Easter. Yes, that would be nice. All the little girls in their bonnets and pink sweaters. But we'll probably just sleep in--haven't had a Sunday off in ages."

His resurrection says to us: "Have hope. I love you. I came to save you; to bring you to heaven with me." So we dig out the little plastic baskets, fill them with green plastic grass and arrange chocolate eggs and jelly beans. Jelly beans have become a great symbol of hope to all Americans. Does that strike you as strange?

To everyone he met, after he rose and left the tomb, he said, "My peace be with you." In memory of that, and to bring peace into my own life, I will spend the entire week before Easter dashing around town, buying candy and eggs and shoes and new stockings to match dresses that will only be worn once, and we will spend Sunday eating too much and fighting over who ate all the marshmallow chicks.

His friends were so happy to see him, they cried. They understood. Between the egg hunt and the ham and scalloped potatoes, if I have a minute, I'll try to remember how they felt.

He lived and died for us, so that we might have life everlasting, but also so that our lives could be filled with hope and peace and joy. In the weeks after Easter--when the world is filled with new life and tiny blue lilac buds, and palest green grass and all the wonders spring brings to us--I'll try to remember his life, and what it has taught me. I hope it's more than pink stuffed bunnies.
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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Got Hope?

Last evening, I was privilege to speak on the topic of hope for a women's supper. The event itself was wonderful and is an ongoing tradition for a local church in which the MEN of the church prepare and serve a formal dinner to the women of the church. How is that for a servant's heart? What a great idea. So much work went into the evening. Tables were adorned beautifully, a live band played background music for the reception, and then the evening included worship music, fabulous food, a moving devotional by a young Mom ... and then everyone had to listen to me for a while. I "hope" that the theme of "hope" came through. As usual, I think I got more of a blessing out of the evening than anyone listening. One of the things I share when I speak on the topic of hope is this poem, and I'm so often asked for copies, that I thought I'd put it here on my blog. It was a gift to me back in the 1990s when my husband Bob was battling cancer, and I honestly cannot tell you how helpful and encouraging it was.

So ... if you are waiting ... may this give you comfort ... and HOPE.


WAIT

Desperately, helplessly, longingly, I cried.
Quietly, patiently, lovingly God replied.
I pled and I wept for a clue to my fate,
and the Master so gently said, “Child, you must wait.”

“Wait? You say, wait!” my indignant reply.
“Lord, I need answers, I need to know why!
Is your hand shortened?  Or have you not heard?
By faith, I have asked, and am claiming your Word.

My future and all to which I can relate
Hangs in the balance, and YOU tell me to WAIT?
I’m needing a ‘yes,’ a go-ahead sign,
Or even a ‘no’ to which I can resign.

And Lord, you promised that if we believe
we need but to ask, and we shall receive,
and Lord, I’ve been asking, and this is my cry:
I’m weary of asking!  I need a reply!”

Then quietly, softly, I learned of my fate
as my Master replied once again, “You must wait.”
So, I slumped in my chair, defeated and taut,
and grumbled to God, “So, I’m waiting – for what?”

He seemed, then, to kneel, and his eyes wept with mine.
And he tenderly said, “I could give you a sign.
I could shake the heavens, and darken the sun.
I could raise the dead, and cause mountains to run.
All you seek, I could give, and pleased you would be.
You would have what you want – but you wouldn’t know me.

You’d not know the depth of my love for each saint.
You’d not know the power that I give to the faint.
You’d not learn to see through the clouds of despair.
You’d not learn to trust just by knowing I’m there.
You’d not know the joy of resting in me
when darkness and silence were all you could see.

You’d never experience that fullness of love
as the peace of my Spirit descends like a dove.
You’d know that I give and I save (for a start),
but you’d not know the depth of the beat of my heart.
the glory of my comfort late into the night,
the faith that I give when you walk without sight,
the depth that’s beyond getting just what you asked
of an infinite God, who makes what you have LAST.

You’d never know, should your pain quickly flee,
What it means that “My grace is sufficient for Thee.”
Yes, your dreams for your loved one overnight would come true.
But, oh, the loss! If I lost what I’m doing in you!

So, be silent, my child, and in time you will see
that the greatest of gifts is to get to know me.
And though oft’ may my answers seem terribly late,
My most precious answer of all is still, “WAIT.”

Author Unknown