Caribbean Contemplations

Here on our porch in South Georgia with birds singing and the nearest seashore more than two hours away, it’s hard to believe we actually sailed across the Caribbean last week. But memories are lingering of a wide blue sea that stretched to the sky with no shoreline in sight, no tall buildings, no sailboats, most of the time not even a bird. The night sky was black, pricked with stars. We were lulled to sleep by the gentle, yet constant roll and throb of the ship making its way across the undulating waves.

Our ship was the Miracle, a vessel of the Carnival line. We were traveling from Port Tampa Bay to Grand Cayman Island to Roatan Isle in Honduras’s Mahogany Bay to Belize and, finally, Cozumel Island on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. And then back to Tampa Bay!

Life on the ship was like no other experience. We had been on a couple of cruises before but each one is so different. With 2,300 passengers aboard, it seemed like a small town afloat. Nine hundred employees were constantly serving us in dining areas, in staterooms, on decks and giving us talented entertainment each night. We found ourselves in a fairyland. Everywhere we went these beautiful people from the Philippines, from India, from Indonesia and France and England knew our names and greeted us like well loved friends.

IMG_0275

Charles on our balcony

 

Our stateroom was very pleasant and comfortable and even had a balcony. We often sat there to read or just talk and watch the waves. One day, far out at sea, I saw a small white bird flying. I tried to point him out to Charles who convinced me it couldn’t be a bird. Okay, we both have cataracts so I suppose we can see things that aren’t there, as well as missing things that are. But then I spied the little bird again, flying close above the whitecaps. I was really worried about that bird. Where would it ever rest? Why was it all alone? Charles sized up the situation thus: “He’ll be a nice bite for some hungry fish.”

Whole days at sea were fun. There was a wonderful sea day brunch in the main dining room. There was time to visit the library, the chapel, the putt-putt golf course, walk the decks in a strong wind, warm up at the coffee shop, study pictures in the art gallery and still have time for sitting on the balcony and even taking a nap. We also enjoyed conversations with many people, some gospel conversations, as we call them. We had prayed ahead of time for opportunities to share news of our Savior, and God opened many windows.

The excursions we chose were not at all what our children and grandchildren would have gone for. We didn’t go snorkeling or scuba diving though Belize and Cozumel are famous for their beautiful coral reefs. We didn’t choose to swim with the dolphins. My granddaughter says, “What’s wrong with you? I would have loved that!” “I don’t swim that well,” I told her to which she said, “But the dolphins would carry you.” “Yes, but where?” I asked her. We didn’t go zip lining as we knew our son would do. In fact, a couple of ladies our age were going zip lining for the first time ever. But we chose activities that wouldn’t throw us into having back surgery. We did mind expanding treks through the forest and along the seashore, took opportunities to study plants of the islands and see the beautiful birds. And we did have adventures!

In Grand Cayman we climbed down into a semi-submarine to visit a coral reef. We could view coral like an undersea garden–fantastic formations in wonderful colors, tunnels, mountains, groves of soft and hard coral with fish enjoying every twist and turn. The fish came right to our windows. We saw two old shipwrecks also. Later, on Grand Cayman I held a plate-size young sea turtle at the turtle center.

Our bus waddled through a narrow street of one tiny village in Honduras where people in tattered clothes smiled expectantly only inches away. We wandered with our guide in the Cerambula Gardens smelling allspice and cinnamon leaves, identi-fying a royal palm, and tasting fresh fruit. Our bus climbed high on rough roads till we could see far out, the blue waters of the Caribbean framed by mahogany trees, flowering ginger and other lush growth. We arrived at a small chocolate factory where the delightful scents almost overpowered us.

In Belize we rode with four others on a high powered air boat. We skimmed across a shallow lake at a hair pulling high speed, then stopped suddenly in a tunnel of mysterious, non-negotiable swamp growth where our very funny guide helped us identify some of the birds.

We both have chosen our excursion to Mayan ruins outside of Cozumel as our favorite. We had an excellent guide who lectured us most interestingly on the forty minute ride from the city to the ruins, as well as throughout our discovery of this 1,000 year old religious compound. Jorge, our guide, is himself 50% Mayan, his mother being full Mayan, his father Mexican. He is passionate about letting visitors know all they can about his people. For instance, the ruins are called Tulum, so named by a man from New Jersey. Tulum, he said, means “stinky place.” But Jorge says the Mayans call it Zommer (hope I got that right, Jorge!) which means sunrise. This is the first place in Mexico to receive the sunrise each day.

IMG_0331

Brenda and Charles hiking a cliff trail at Mayan ruins

 

We sat with the same folks each night in the formal dining room. It was fun getting to know Jay and Winnie Luckett from North Carolina and Edward and Madeline Noriega from Tampa. We all six enjoyed talking with our servers each night as we tried to choose the best appetizers and entrees–and desserts! The atmosphere was always charged with holiday spirit as we shared what we had done that day and what the next plan included. We shared pictures of our families on the last night and exchanged e-mails like happy campers.

IMG_0349

Our new friends the Lucketts to our right and the Noriegas to our left

 

The morning we approached Tampa coming back, I awoke to different sounds, ship whistles, a train in the distance, and, yes, water lapping the shore. Water lapping the shore was such a sweet and comfortable sound like Grandma sipping tea. I sat up quickly to look out. Sure enough, lights glistened on the shoreline. We stood on our balcony watching the drama of our ship’s docking.

Contemplations of the Caribbean–a thousand different shades of green and blue water, bright flowers, lovely dark faces, nimble fingers weaving palm fronds into baskets, sounds of music and dancing, throb and lull of the ship as it carried us safely through the nights, strangers who quickly became friends…..

My summary: God is good all the time and everywhere. In the words of Robert Louis Stevenson (but not as a requiem!) “Home is the sailor home from the sea, and the hunter home from the hill.”

 

Leave a comment

Filed under travel

Skeins of Love

IMG_0197

My visit with Skeins of Love

I’ve been quite envious for years of my two sisters who are part of a lively knitting group in Clarkesville, Georgia. They meet once a week and chat as they knit scarves, shawls, hats and more. But the other day I was in the area with the right time frame and was able to drop in on them.

Both my sisters, Jackie and Suzanne, were there, as well as my dear niece Freida whom I seldom see. And there were several more ladies, knitting needles or crochet hooks clicking away. I met KK, Edith, Yvonne, Cheryl, and Carol Ann.

This group, Skeins of Love, meets in the Ministries Building of Clarkesville First United Methodist Church. They have a large open area where they with their knitting bags can circle up and see each others’ faces as they talk, as well as observe each others’ progress on their projects. Adjacent to this area is a nicely stocked supply room. It looked just like a little yarn store with cubbies for skeins of yarn in various colors and weights. But at this “shop” knitters don’t have to pay for supplies, although some do bring their own. The church and many donors keep them stocked in yarn, needles, all they need. Suzanne thoughtfully chose yarn for her next project, a prayer shawl. “It’s always fun,” she says, “to pick the color you want to work with, and live with, for a while.”

IMG_0202

A peek into the supply room

 

Also, in the supply room, was a bulletin board covered with thank you notes from many of the recipients of scarves, shawls, hats, etc. from this busy bunch. They literally send them to all corners of the globe as they learn of needs, although most go to folks in the general area. Blankets and scarves were sent to soldiers in Afghanistan. They knit hats for cancer patients, blankets for babies, scarves for cold people everywhere. They send shipments of knitted pieces to veterans’ homes, to orphanages, to hospitals, to homeless shelters, and hand deliver to many nearby, including individuals who just need the hug of a prayer shawl.

One lady told me she makes four-inch squares with a cross or a heart design in the middle. “For patients,” she said, “just to feel of and find comfort.” She knows how much something small can help because she was a cancer patient herself not long ago.

Another lady remembered an instance when someone wrote that they had found a blanket such a help. This recipient had rolled the blanket up tight and used it for a pillow. That information inspired some of the knitters to start making pillow covers of various designs. The pillows themselves are sewn by one or two who, in addition to their work in the group, also like to sew. Like Yvonne, for example.

Yvonne enjoys sewing simple, useful bags, as well as pillows. My interest was piqued as to what other endeavors the rest of the ladies apply themselves to. I went around the circle and found a treasure trove of talent. Edith, for instance, writes poetry and songs. Two of the knitters are artists and have expressed themselves through their paintings for years. At least two of the members volunteer at the local Soup Kitchen. Suzanne and her husband raise and can some eight hundred quarts of vegetables each year for their large, burgeoning family. Nearly all have grandchildren who become subjects of stories told in the circle. Several are members of the church where Skeins of Love meets. Some are from other churches.

As I chatted with each one and looked at their varied work, each piece unique as the knitters themselves, I was excited about the immeasurable difference these ladies are making in the lives of others. A knitter knows that simply to knit is wonderful therapy. Knitting, or crocheting, or quilting along with friends is even better, a healing, soul-satisfying thing. And then to be able to send those finished pieces out far and near is wonderful indeed.

Skeins of Love has been active for seven or eight years, though no one seemed to be positive how long they’ve been knitting together. Marilyn, their leader, was absent that day. The knitters do occasionally go by church bus to deliver things to a nursing home. And they might enjoy lunching together on rare occasions. But most of the time they can be found on Thursday mornings stitching away at the church.

I expressed my sorrow that I don’t have a knitting group near me. One lady responded, “Why don’t you start one?”

Good question.

Someone said it was time for prayers. Suzanne prayed a dear plea for the Lord to bless the knitters, the work of their hands, and the folks who will receive the scarves and shawls.

Before I left, we all sang one of Edith’s songs, a beautiful song to lift one’s spirits and point us to the Great Creator.

God the Father knows all about knitting: For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139:13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under knitting, prayer

Everything’s New

IMG_0242Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. I Peter 1:3-4

When Charles and I were students at the University of Georgia our campus minister invited a Rabbi to come to the Baptist Student Center a few days before Easter. The Rabbi and our campus minister, Brother Dick Houston, presented a combination Passover meal and Lord’s Supper, correlating the two. There were bitter herbs to taste with explanations of their meanings. There was meat from an unblemished lamb. Then there were wine (or grape juice) and unleavened bread with a graphic explanation of how Jesus came to fulfill the prophecies of old and became the perfect Unblemished Lamb to pay for our sins.

I don’t remember what all the herbs were and certainly not all the words, but I remember being so thankful that Jesus died for us, that we no longer need stumble along offering strange sacrifices that we hope will “work,” but instead can know without a shadow of doubt that we are “begotten again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

These verses from I Peter tell me five things to help me celebrate Easter:

  • We can bless God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, by worshipping Him.
  • He has saved us according to his abundant mercy.
  • He has begotten us “again,” re-created us who already were made in His image.
  • We now have a lively hope, not an insecure possibility, a “lively” hope.
  • Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, we too can live.

Springtime is full of symbolism pointing to the new life in Christ. Flowers are bright and beautiful, sprung from the brown cold earth. Trees are budding. Grass is so bright and green. Birds are full of song, starting new families. I’m reminded of a friend years ago who, every Easter, very deliberately bought new clothes, “from the skin out,” as she put it, to represent her new life in Christ.

Eggs, little chicks, baby bunnies, all are examples of new life. As Easter Sunday approaches, I’m thinking about the dozens of eggs we’ve colored over the years and the hidings of eggs in jonquil bunches, beside tree trunks, perched on forked limbs, disguised in a ruffle of leaves. I remember the squeals of the children as they race to find the eggs, how some children focus completely on good hiding places and methodically fill their baskets, while others watch fellow hunters to see where they’re finding them and pass right by some real beautiful specimens.

And always there’s at least one lost egg. Invariably. We hiders make mental notes and all but swear that this year none shall be left unfound. But it always happens. We just recently found half a plastic egg in the back yard.

And now it’s almost time to hide them again!

I like to color with crayons at least a few eggs with symbols of the true meaning of Easter on them, a cross, a fish, a Bible verse. Not only is it a joyful exercise for my soul, but it takes me back to the old, old days when crayons were all we had, no food coloring or “magic” sheets, no plastic eggs.

Easter is the most joyful celebration of the whole year. Our church’s music last Sunday, under the able direction of Cameron Crapps, set the stage for us to worship with bursting hearts. I can hear some of the phrases singing in my head: “I will rise again…” “That’s when love broke through…” “Let the grave be opened.”

When Christ’s love is allowed to take over, Everything is New!

Happy, blessed Easter!

Come worship with us at Cairo First Baptist Church Easter Sunday at 10:30. You will be glad you did!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Hollow Tail–a riding shotgun story

Instructions for treating a cow with hollow tail were not given at UGA School of Veterinary Medicine. However, it was certainly addressed as a condition a veterinarian might hear about along with such things as hollow horn, troughitis, and Miss-a-Meal Colic in horses. All humor aside, farmers had through the ages had to figure out their own remedies for whatever ailed their creatures. For the most part, Charles learned to ease around these “old farmers’ tales” with gentle suggestions that this or that new methods had been discovered and would work much better. But there did come a time when Charles perceived the importance of seeking aid from a self-appointed hollow tail expert. The memory of that occasion came back to him as he read the obituaries recently.

Charles reads the obituaries both in Thomasville Times daily and in the weekly Cairo Messenger. There are two reasons for this practice.

He became committed to reading the obituaries regularly because of a “raking over” by a client one day. Ever the cheerful one, Charles arrived at the Tyus farm to treat a cow, hailing Mrs. Tyus with a wave and “Good morning!” Opening his black bag and chatting as he did, he asked, “Where’s Mr. Tyus today? Gone into town maybe?” Whereupon Mrs. Tyus began to weep. “Doc, don’t you know? He died last week.” She then proceeded to let him know she thought it was pretty shabby of him not to keep up with things any better than that.

Charles determined he would try never to be so unfeeling again.

The second reason he keeps up with obituaries is to try to know who is kin to whom. His longtime partner, Gene Maddox, somehow always knew the relationships of everyone in Grady County and beyond. He could readily list a person’s cousins, ex-wife and relatives, along with ancestors and occupations. The knowledge of all branches of families was a great source of help when he left veterinary medicine to go into politics. But Charles, too, wanted to be able to keep up with family connections. Studying survivor lists in the obituaries helps a lot.

So when he read that an old friend and client had died he listed for me his survivors as well as those relatives already deceased. And right quick when he read Babe’s name, he remembered the hollow tail scene.

The cow was down,  Jersey heifer, expected to become the family’s milk cow. “A cow down” is a medical condition with various causes and remedies. When a call comes to treat a cow that is down, the possibilities range from grass tetany in the spring to pneumonia to malnutrition to mysteries galore, including poison and other dire causes. Of course a common problem is related to calf delivery but that wasn’t the case with this one.

Charles had already given this “down cow” the shots he perceived she needed, including IV calcium. But he couldn’t offer much hope for survival. She was pretty low and not showing good signs of response. Babe wandered up to join the onlookers just as Doc said the chances weren’t good for this little cow.

“Looky here, Robert,” said Babe to the owner, “we could do a hollow tail job, you know. Iffen Doc’s through, of course.”

Charles, grabbing a good opportunity by the horns, said “Sounds like a good idea, Mr. Babe. (The nickname “Babe” had stuck with this fellow from childhood, but his gray hair demanded of Charles the respect of “Mr.”) “Why don’t I stay on and watch?”

This was where Mr. Babe began hedging. “Well, now, I don’t know about that, Doc. I ain’t done one in many a year.”

Charles looked at Robert, the owner. “What do you think? Want him to try it?”

Robert looked a little dubious but Mr. Babe was his neighbor. So he nodded.

Mr. Babe stuck his hands in his pockets and shuffled in the grass. “Don’t even have my knife with me.”

“No problem,” said Charles. “You can use mine. I have a nice sharp scalpel.”

Mr. Babe had turned very shy. “Guess I’d better not,” he said. Then, brightening with a new idea, he said, “Why don’t you do it, Doc?”

“Well, I don’t know.” Charles looked around at the gathering of neighbors now watching expectantly. He saw Robert grin and give him a nod. “Ok, then, if you’ll give me step by step directions, we’ll just kind of do it together. So, I guess, Miss Eleanor, we’re going to need some salt and pepper. Right, Mr. Babe?”

This request was to let Mr. Babe know Doc wasn’t completely ignorant when it came to hollow tail.

Mr. Babe’s shoulders visibly relaxed. “That’s right, Doc,” he agreed.

So that’s how it was that Charles palpated the tail, located the area at the end of the bone and the beginning of the twitch. Mr. Babe agreed he’d gotten the right spot.

By then Miss Eleanor arrived with salt and pepper.

“Now you got to make the cut, Doc,” instructed Mr. Babe.

“You sure you don’t want to do it, Mr. Babe? No? Well, is it all right if I trim the hair away?”

Mr. Babe nodded.

“All right if I smear some alcohol on the spot?”

Another nod.

“Okay, here goes.”

The audience was quiet as the inch long cut was made. Charles commented to all that he saw the hollow and Mr. Babe grunted his assent. Then there was a shifting and a sigh from the crowd as Doc sprinkled the wound with salt and pepper.

“Okay if I wrap it in gauze?” asked Charles, well aware that usually the wound would be wrapped in a piece of sheeting or whatever was available.

Mr. Babe nodded, then said, “That’d be good.”

“Okay, then,” said Charles when the deed was done. He stood up, scratching his neck. “We’ll see how she does, Mr. Robert. Thanks for your help, Mr. Babe.”

They shook hands with each other and with the owner and Charles told Robert he hoped all went well. “Call me if you need me,” he said as always.

Several weeks went by.

Charles happened on Mr. Babe at one of the country stores. In those days, the 1970’s, the country stores were lively on many crossroads throughout the county, ready for the farmers and others who needed their soda break, some conversation, a gas refill and even a few groceries. Charles often stopped at whichever one was along his way mid-morning or afternoon, whether Hollingsworth Store, Portavint’s, Powe’s at Pine Level or Ward’s at Pine Park. He could use a lift after a hard calf delivery and he greatly enjoyed dropping in on neighborly conversations.

That day he asked Mr. Babe how the hollow tail had done.

Mr. Babe shifted in his chair and then hung his head. “Doc, she died. First one I ever lost.”

Charles laid a hand on Mr. Babe’s shoulder. “Well, it wasn’t the first I lost and probably won’t be the last. We do the best we can but we can’t win them all.”

IMG_0216

Old country store now closed at Calvary, Georgia

Leave a comment

Filed under veterinary stories

One Little Shoe

IMG_0168We were going camping with our two young teenage children. So we went to Sears to buy a new tent. It was when we unfolded the tent in our rec room that we found the shoe.

The tent had been folded tightly to fit into its bag. All the way inside was this little, and I mean very little, blue tennis shoe. It was a well-worn blue shoe. The sole was worn almost through. The four of us caught our breaths when we saw it. It was as if suddenly before us we could see the family who had worked making this tent. A family in Korea whose living, probably, depended on what they made from creating tents to be shipped to America.

At least one member of that family we could very well visualize. A small dark-haired child playing about as his/her parents worked. The little one could walk. This shoe appeared to have walked and run, pivoted, danced, whirled all about. In fact, it was so well worn it might have been worn by more than one child. It might have been the hand-me-down from an older sibling who, by then, was also helping make the tent.

What should I do with this little shoe? I laid it down and became involved in packing for vacation.

We did go camping. We made a lot of memories. Some might not have seemed like the ones you’d want to save,  like: “Are we almost there?” “There’s something black and white eating our eggs.” “Wake up. I think we’re floating.” But there were the swimming times, the discoveries of star fish and hermit crabs and even baby octopus. And there were stories in the dark and castles in the sand and throwing Frisbees and eating ice cream. Lots of laughter and teasing.

When we got home, there, on top of the television was the little blue shoe.

Should I just throw it away? It could not return to its owner who probably now had outgrown it anyway. And what good could one little shoe be to us? Even if we’d had a child that small.

But my heart was drawn toward this little child in Korea who had lost his shoe. I couldn’t throw it away. It kind of drifted from one spot to another, atop the bookcase, on a low table, on the mantel, here and there. I decided I would pray for the child who’d worn that shoe. I wasn’t very consistent but over the years I continued to stop every now and then, handle the little shoe and say a prayer.

When we moved four years ago I again had to make a decision whether or not to save the little blue shoe. I couldn’t discard it so here it is perched in front of some books in our den. Our children are grown with children of their own. That little child is grown, I hope, with children, too. I’ll never know what his life has been like, what kinds of troubles he’s faced, what dreams she had and whether they’ve come true or been forgotten. And he or she will never know that in America someone was praying for them. I pray that the one who wore that shoe now knows Jesus and is walking in His steps.

I know you’re expecting some kind of touching end to this story and I don’t have one. It isn’t ended yet. I still have the shoe and I’m still praying.

Watching the Korean children perform so beautifully during the Olympics, my eyes went to the corner where the little blue shoe sat, empty and still. I could just imagine a little child, the owner of that shoe, growing up–dancing, singing, skating, flying across the ice.

God knows all about the owner of the little blue tennis shoe.

 

2 Comments

Filed under prayer

An Iron Kettle

image000000I was at an estate sale when I saw it. It wasn’t one of the things I bought but I wanted to. Just because of all the warm memories.

I bought an old hymnal, an edger with dried clay on its blade, a tiny Hispanic doll made of woven straw from Ecuador, several tiny memo pads with colorful bird pictures, and a marble topped foyer table. I didn’t know where I would put that heavy black kettle and I left it there amongst various other iron pieces–corn stick pans, irons, a waffle iron, several skillets, etc.

That iron kettle had so many stories to tell, I’m just sure. It was larger than the one I remember, probably held a whole gallon of water. The spout was generous, the handle a little crooked from some escapade. I could imagine mornings of long ago when that kettle stayed on the back burner all day long, ready for producing hot water. The iron was a bit ashy looking as if it had only recently come out of hiding in this modernized electrically equipped house. Some restorative measures might have made it perkier.

But then a big iron kettle like that isn’t intended to be perky.

Mamma’s iron kettle was almost a part of her wood burning stove. If there was a fire in the stove, the kettle was humming, steam issuing from its spout. Whether it was time to prepare a dishpan for after-supper clean up, or make a pot of tea, or hand wash some laundry, the water was ready. But there were times when the need for hot water was more dramatic.

I’m guessing that kettle supplied the hot water for the births of eleven babies my mother delivered at home. I don’t personally remember those times, although the eleventh birth brought me my dear little sister and I do remember the occasion very well. Not from the perspective of the kettle but from the perspective of a three-year-old wanting Mamma to tuck her in bed and not understanding why that night was so different from others. The doctor and my Dad were very kind to me that night when they finally let me see my Mamma with an incredibly small pink wiggly bundle beside her.

Then there were the times Daddy prepared to drive the old Packard and it wouldn’t crank up. There was a hasty call for hot water and someone would take it on the run to pour in the cold radiator. Sometimes a push-off was required also before the motor “turned over.” I’m told my older brother Charlie, when he was a little tyke, lined himself up with the rest to push the Packard. But when the rest let go as the car picked up speed, Charlie was still holding tightly to the bumper, his little feet flying over the ground. Big sister Pat ran to rescue him!

When Mamma opened a little block of yeast for making bread she’d reach for the kettle and pour hot water over it in a bowl to dissolve it. If Daddy had lumbago Mamma would send someone to fill the hot water bottle to apply to his back. On cold mornings when Mamma gave us kids a quart of cocoa to take to our woodland schoolhouse, she’d heat the jar first by pouring hot water over it in a pan–so it wouldn’t crack when the hot cocoa came in contact with the glass.

If Mamma or one of the girls needed hot water fast and the kettle had gotten low, they’d take a griddle off the stove and set it aside, then set the kettle right next to the flame. Soon the water would be boiling. I can remember, too, the white enamel pan with a red rim we used for what we called “spit” baths, or just to wash our hands and faces. Mamma declared war on dirty faces. She said she hoped her mother had dirty faces to wash in heaven or she wouldn’t be happy. I think she hoped that would be true for her too because she sure liked to make our faces clean.

When Daddy killed a chicken for Mamma to dress, she depended on a good full kettle of hot water for scalding the chicken in the de-feathering process. If I hated the killing of the chicken in the first place, I also hated the smell of scalded skin and hot feathers. I was amazed recently to hear one of the grandchildren talking proudly about how she’d helped de-feather some quail.

When brothers brought in the milk morning and evening, the girls would strain the milk and then wash the milk buckets, ending with scalding them good with water from the black kettle.

I’ve seen my handsome father shaving in the kitchen with a straight razor and, of course, water from that kettle.

Amazing, isn’t it, how many pictures you can see in your mind prompted by one simple object. Now I wonder if I should have bought that black kettle. I can just see its face drooping a bit when I finally turned away after considering it for the second or third time. I hope someone else finds it who can give it another life.

Hey, I saw this Bible reference on the Piggly Wiggly sign this week: Romans 15:13. I looked it up. Here it is: “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.”

That’s my prayer for you!

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

My Friend Billy Graham

How could I be so brash as to claim Billy Graham was my friend? I never talked to him, even on the phone. I never received a personal note or letter. I never shared a cup of coffee or glass of water with him. I never shook his hand.

Yet I confidently do claim he was my friend. He was America’s pastor and he had the God-given talent of reaching by television, radio, movies, and the written word into our very homes, sharing the love of God in a personal and compelling way. The man who took the message of Christ’s grace all over the world was never rude or arrogant or unkind, just straightforward and real, as much so to us in our living rooms as to the millions in huge arenas.

I miss him from this planet. But I rejoice with him for being reunited with his Ruth, his friends George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows, and for seeing Jesus face to face. And I can’t imagine his joy as he meets some of the millions who are in heaven because of his messages.

I was eight years old when I first listened to Billy Graham on his radio show “The Hour of Decision.” The year was 1950. My father only listened to a few shows but that was one of them. I guess I knew it wasn’t something a kid of my age should volunteer to listen to so I took it all in from a tiny attic room right over Daddy’s study. I was fascinated by the way Billy Graham talked so fast yet so clearly. I also liked to hear him say “God bless you real good” at the end of the program.

Not long after his show was aired, Billy Graham held a tent revival in Atlanta. Because of rare circumstances, my mother and I accompanied my big brother John to one night of that crusade. I had already made a commitment to the Lord Jesus and knew that I was a redeemed child of God. Maybe that’s why that night was so very special. I remember the smell of the thick sawdust on the floor and how thrilled I was to see Billy Graham, even if he was so far away he was only about an inch high.

As a teenager in the 1950s I was stirred by the occasional messages I heard on television as Billy Graham spoke to phenomenal crowds. We acquired a book about Graham which had black and white pictures of him and his family. I started praying for them. Ruth Graham’s writing was an inspiration to me. I wanted to write like that myself.

Early in my marriage to Charles Graham (no kin to Billy!) he was asked to be chairman of the committee preparing for and presenting a BGEA movie, “Time To Run,” in our small town. That very rich experience gave both of us opportunities we couldn’t have imagined. I was a counselor following the movie for several showings. I counseled a sweet twelve year old girl who gave her life to Jesus. In the years of following up her commitment with visits, a backyard Bible club, and prayer with her family, we built a friendship I cherished. She died of some rare disorder when her son was still quite young.

My church in Cairo, about 1990, provided a bus for a large group of us to go hear Billy Graham at the civic center in Tallahassee. He was no longer the young preacher speaking so fast trying to get all his words in. His hair was white, he leaned on a stool, his words were more measured than before. But there was the same passion, the same zeal, unsquelched after all those years. And the power of God Almighty was present that night as crowds responded to his call for commitment.

I have read several of Billy Graham’s books and gained spiritual strength from each one, “Angels,” “Just As I Am,” and others. But the little paperback “It’s My Turn” by Ruth has given me recently the sweetest peek into the Grahams’ home life. I’ve been reading it in small segments to my Magnolia Place devotional group. Ruth kept the home fires burning, literally, while Billy was away for sometimes weeks at a time. But she sometimes traveled with him. She tells of once when she was counseling at the London Crusade in 1954. She sat down beside an attractive young woman and asked if she could help her. The lady said wistfully, “I just wonder what it would be like to wake up and find yourself married to that man!” Ruth answered her, “You’ve asked the right person. I’ve been doing it for the past eleven years.” Ruth followed up that funny story with her statement of surety that if she could have picked from all the men in the world, she would still have chosen Billy. She said she would rather see a little bit of him than a whole lot of any other man.

But back to Billy’s books. I have his very last book. I’ve read several that he thought might be his last one. But this really is: “Where I Am.” I’ve peeped into it just enough to know from, Franklin’s foreword, that Billy based his title on John 14:3 which is words of Jesus saying, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”

Where I Am. Billy told his son Franklin with resolve, “When I die, tell others that I’ve gone to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ–that’s where I am.

Worldwide Pictures, an arm of BGEA, has done videos of classic crusades by Billy Graham. I just watched one including clips of the London 1954 crusade. Consistently, throughout that crusade, and all his ministry, we could hear Billy preaching “the Bible says,” and emphasizing that the awesome actions, the swelling crowds of converts, was because of God and only Him. And even now as I hold my iPad in my lap and watch the young Billy preaching so passionately, a message comes up on the screen telling the viewer how to find help, how to know he/she is going to heaven. Billy’s gone to heaven, but his ministry is still going on here!

Someone has said that perhaps Billy’s death will bring on a greater revival than ever happened in his life. I think that would take the participation of all God’s people, all of us who claim to be Billy’s friends and, more importantly, friends of his master, Jesus.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized