Monthly Archives: January 2019

The Battle Is Not Yours

“…and many others fell slain, because the battle was God’s.” I Chronicles 5:22a (NIV)

I don’t intend to take small phrases out of context and “spiritualize” them, making of them something God didn’t purpose. But this whole story of the Reubenites and others battling the Hagrites indicates this battle was God’s and that’s why the 44,760 men won, not because they were able bodied and could handle shield and sword better than the enemy. And Gideon won his battle with such a few men because that battle, too, was God’s, not Gideon’s.

Once, when several of us on a pastor search committee were becoming very discouraged because of unusual obstacles thrown into our path, one wise member reminded us gently that “the battle is God’s.” It certainly took the heat off of the conflict on that particular day to know that we alone were not the ones to make the decision.

Since then, I have often been reminded when a “battle” rages between good and evil, or gray and white, that, indeed, “the battle is God’s.”

But, back to that battle in I Chronicles…those men did wield the shield and sword as they were told, didn’t they? They followed instructions, they did what they were trained to do. So ours is not to turn aside from conflict (which is a part of life I distinctly dislike!), nor to shirk our duty saying flippantly that “it’s up to the Lord.” No, we’re to do our part which may mean getting into some pretty sticky situations, speaking up when we’d far rather keep quiet, or staying silent when we’d love to speak up. And it means a lot of praying. Because how can we follow the battle plan if we don’t know what it is?

When I watch my grandchildren, William, Thomas and Mattie, playing basketball, I’m so proud of their understanding and execution of their coaches’ instructions. William is playing on the 9th grade team at his school in Birmingham and doing so well. Often, I think, it’s total concentration to instructions, as much as skill, that earns a player a “well done,” the thrill of achieving a three-pointer or blocking one from the other side. Each player has to trust that his coach has a plan and that “the battle is his.”

Are we in battle mode right now? For the right as we see it in our country? For the good of our children? For the world to hear of the Saviour? To keep a clean neighborhood? To make our schools safe? To protect everyone and give honor where honor is due, including respecting the Blue? For freedom of speech? And religion? And even in private battles, such as losing our Christmas fat or prioritizing our schedules?

Be ready to handle your shield and sword (or pen, or voice, or chocolate cake!) with confidence in His battle plan.

Almighty Commander in Chief, I trust You with the battles in my life. Please help me to be prepared for whatever is to come.

 

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Katrina (not the hurricane)

I first met Katrina when she was about ten years old. She had shiny red hair and green eyes full of intelligence. She came with her parents to our church where I was teaching children’s Bible study. I was struck by Katrina’s openness to talking to adults and by her affectionate nature.

Katrina was one of those children who noticed others’ pain and wanted to do something about it. She befriended the friendless, whether a child too shy to participate, or a newcomer, a neighbor down the street.  She would be the one to share her lunch if someone had come without.

When I visited in her home, I was always met by the family pet, a black lab who was overwhelming in her affection. Katrina “rescued” me several times, but she thought it was funny that I, a veterinarian’s wife, should be so awkward in fending off her giant “teddy bear” of a dog.

Katrina was a bookworm. She absolutely loved books. It was so encouraging to me, an author, when she told me, her face so alive with enthusiasm, that she liked my books. But Katrina didn’t read all the time. She enjoyed games with other children, the more challenging the better. She played flute in the band seventh through twelfth grades and took piano lessons for years.

From time to time I had the opportunity to glance at some of Katrina’s school work or extra projects she created on her own. I recognized she had talent in expressing herself on paper and I enjoyed encouraging her to write. I was sure she’d be a writer someday.

She graduated from high school with honors and received several scholarships as she continued her education in college. After she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree she went right ahead to work on a Master’s degree. Finishing her education, Katrina soon moved into a successful career and quickly earned the respect of other professionals as well as those she served.

Life was truly wonderful.

But let’s go back a few years.

When Sue, Katrina’s mom, became pregnant in 1983, she and her husband already were happily raising twins, aged eleven. Sue remembers clearly the day when she, in the teacher’s lounge at her school, received “The Call.” She had been to the doctor for a pregnancy test and the nurse called to tell her she was indeed pregnant. Sue was initially ecstatic. But the nurse’s next words were “When do you want to schedule your abortion?”

Sue was dumbfounded. “What? No! No abortion. I want this baby.”

The nurse reasoned with her that her twins would soon be teenagers and she should think of them. Besides, the nurse said, her age (she was 37) would make a pregnancy dangerous. Sue insisted she wanted the baby.

The family began making plans for and looking forward to the birth of a baby in the spring.

Things were fairly normal until Sue went into her fifth month of pregnancy. She was still teaching and feeling good about her baby. One day at work she realized a filing cabinet was turning over and jumped quickly to get out of the way. Whether or not that quick move caused damage, Sue went into labor four days later. The doctors were able to stop the contractions. But they discovered a serious problem: the placenta had a hole in it. This would not only harm the baby but would endanger Sue’s life as well.

The doctor gravely informed Sue and her husband that he must abort the baby. The baby, he said, if it survived, would be brain damaged, might have missing limbs, would at best be mongoloid, all this due to the lack of oxygen and nutrients from Sue.

Sue and her husband said with no reservations that there would be no abortion.

These parents continued to say, “This is our baby. We will receive whatever God has for us, no matter what.”

Sue’s hemoglobin dropped so dangerously low the doctor said he would have to operate. He promised to try to save the baby. As she was rolled into surgery, Sue says she was praying, “Jesus, I love this baby but I know you love it more.”

Sue’s hemoglobin was life threateningly low when she was rolled into surgery. But, amazingly, just before the doctor began the Caesarian he ordered one more check of her hemoglobin and it had, for no apparent reason, risen to 16. He yelled to the whole surgery team to stop at once.

For the next three months Sue stayed in bed for all but bathroom visits. The twins and her husband rallied around her. Church members brought meals every day, cleaned house, took the twins to birthday parties–and prayed.

One day Sue felt especially drawn to a certain Bible verse. In Luke 1:66 she read, “What then is this child going to be?” As the weeks crawled by, she whispered to herself, “What then is this child going to be?” The verse referred to John the Baptist but the question became Sue’s. In her heart she knew God had plans for her baby.

At eight months Sue woke one morning realizing her baby who had been so active, “all over the place,” was not moving at all. In the hospital she was prepped for surgery. Friends, coworkers, family were all praying.

Katrina was born in April, 1984, a beautiful baby girl weighing four pounds. She had to stay in the hospital for nineteen days and reach a hefty five pounds before she could go home to her eager family.

We know her today as a highly successful young woman who is making a huge difference in her world, active in church and community, happy in her career, dedicated to helping others. She still loves books, has achieved rewards in her field and, yes, she’s writing some too.

“What then is this child going to be?” Her parents would have received and loved whomever God had sent to them. And God gave them Katrina.

 

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Dr. Carr, a Riding Shotgun Entry

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My own veterinarian at work, many years after Dr. Carr’s time

Dr. Carr was a retired veterinarian by the time we knew him in the 1970’s. He was a stout cheery grumbler. He used to live behind and down the road from Eastside School on the edge of town and he had some pigs out back. Dr. Maddox sent Charles to deliver pigs one day. Charles had to grovel and squirm in the mud with the sow to help her out, kind of a wrestling match which he did win. When he was done he told Dr. Carr the bill was $12. Dr. Carr grumbled heartily. “These young vets really charge high,” he said. He’d thought his bill would be $7, maybe $8.

Later, when Dr. Carr owned a farm out the other side of town he invited us to come fishing in his pond. We always vaccinated his dog for free while we were there. We also enjoyed going to his town house across from the hospital where he’d cultivated a very nice little blueberry orchard. He used a kind of cheese cloth netting to keep the birds from eating the berries. Our family, particularly the kids and I, picked berries many times and took him a pie.

Dr. Carr loved a good story as much as anyone. He told Charles once about a time when he was a practicing vet and went out two or three miles from town to treat a cow which, unfortunately, died the next day. The client named Ernest sent word that his cow died and if Dr. C wanted pay he’d better come skin the hide. Dr. C sent word back that he wanted cash for his visit, the hide wouldn’t do. Ernest’s final word was to come get the hide, worth $5, or have nothing. Dr. Carr went out and skinned the cow.

Mrs. Carr was a sweet, dear lady, small and spry as I remember her. She went to our church, was active in missions groups, always greeted us with great interest. Dr. Carr would drop her off and then go himself to another church. After she died, Dr. Carr was perhaps a little more on the grumbly side, but he certainly didn’t turn into a hermit. He enjoyed his farm and spent a lot of time there. He’d “tinker” with his cows, then drown a worm or a dozen before riding back into town with his faithful white bulldog beside him on his truck seat. The Carrs had one son who lived with his wife a couple hundred miles away. I believe they tried to get Dr. Carr to move over with them but he didn’t want to leave his farm.

One day he was mowing around his pond when the mower toppled into the water trapping him underneath. He managed to get out alive but saw that he’d lost all but one finger and a thumb on each hand. It was a long ways across the highway to where men were harvesting pecans. He called and called to no avail and started praying hard. The men couldn’t hear him because of the roar of the pecan harvester. When he heard the machinery stop, Dr. Carr called again, and soon was on his way to the hospital.

We visited him a few days later. He was sitting up in bed doing something very odd with his bandaged hands. Charles asked him what he was doing. Dr. Carr said calmly, “Practicing for my next fishing day.”

Even now, so many years later, I think of Dr. Carr whenever I pass his farm or his little house in town. I can see his teasing grin and hear him chuckle in his cheerful grumbly kind of way.

 

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Winter Beauty

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Indonesian cherry tree in “deep midwinter.”

Despite chilly breezes that make the wind chimes tinkle, and despite the fact that the porch is too cool for pleasant sitting–despite the calendar reminding us it’s January, the Indonesian cherry tree is in full bud. One day there was only a hint of pink along the gray branches. Two days later magenta buds like French knots were embroidered against a blue sky. Today it is coming into its glory and its neighbor the Japanese magnolia is starting to bud too.

January in Southwest Georgia can be cold and wet, and one may even see snowflakes swirl every few years. I like cold weather. I like hearing wind moaning around the corner of the house at night. I like getting cold and warming by a cozy fire. I like wearing sweaters and scarves and jackets.

But bright flowers, buds on the trees, the scent of green, a clear blue sky–yes, I like all of these too!

The camellias bloomed all through Christmas. Some of them are “going back” (a funny expression: back to where!) but others are still cheerfully bright–varying shades of pink, vibrant red, and ruffled white. Sunflower plants are growing under a bird feeder in what is supposed to be our mint bed. Pansies, which usually do best in cooler weather, are smiling somewhat feebly, but still smiling. The “yesterday, today, tomorrow” plant has a new look every day, whether more yesterdays, todays, or tomorrows. Even the roses are blooming, although sparingly. It’s time to prune them but it goes against the grain to prune anything while it’s blooming. Much to my surprise, I found one hibiscus bloom hiding from the cold on the backside of a bush.

I thought I should report there are no ground flowers, no bluets or tiny nameless yellow flowers, no violets. But when I walked around the yard (excuse me, Brits, the garden), I found four violets. There were four white violets crowded close to each other as if for company. On each one, amongst other petals, was one marked by fine brush strokes of purple.

We can look at all these lovely blooms and shudder to think how brown they may be in a few days when a frost hits. But I see them as brave and willing to take a risk in order to bring beauty in the “deep midwinter.”

We are mourning this week with a family whose wife and mother died of Parkinson’s. It is an emotional wintertime for them. I pray they will find comfort in seeing camellias blooming. The girls’ mother took such joy in the beauty of camellias and loved to share them with others. As her pastor said, she didn’t want to be defined by Parkinson’s but rather by her love of the Lord and her love of sharing.

Winter, wherever it finds you, like all the seasons, can be beautiful.

Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. Psalm 16:11

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