Monthly Archives: April 2022

One Fearful Day

God answers prayers before we know to ask of Him. That’s what happened to us one fearful day.

It didn’t start out fearfully. It was a normal day for Charles at Cairo Animal Hospital and for me finishing a chapter in the book I was writing. It was a regular school day for our two boys. Our grandson, Charles Douglas (I call him Charles D), lived with us then and his friend, Jesse, was spending a couple of weeks with us while his parents were out of town. Charles D’s room was upstairs, a room we’d restored to reveal hand hewn logs of our pre-Civil War house. Jesse’s was across the hall adjacent to attic space above our dining room.

I looked out at our beautiful sunny back yard as I considered the story I was writing. Then I glanced at the time, 11:30. Where had the morning gone? But Charles wouldn’t be home for almost an hour. I could finish this chapter, I thought, and be done in time to prepare him a nice lunch. I dived back into my story, lost to everything else.

The sound of Charles’s truck pulling into the carport startled me. He was never home before 12:15, most often 12:30 or after. And here it was only 11:55.

I scurried to the kitchen to slap sandwiches together thinking he must have an after-lunch appointment so I’d better be quick. But he shrugged when I asked why he was home so early. He didn’t know. It just worked out that way, he said.

We were about to sit down at the dining table when I said something smelled peculiar. Charles, humoring my sensitivity to smells, said he’d go check outside. He was sure neighbors must be burning trash.

Charles rushed back in and headed for the stairs. Smoke was billowing from every vent in our roof, he said. I called 911.

By the time firemen arrived, there was a glowing ceiling tile above where I would have been sitting, and as they sawed into the ceiling (this was a solid old house with thick boards above the celo-tex) to get to the fire, flames licked out. Outside, standing with neighbors, family, even our pastor, who had come to see about us, we watched fearfully as our house was invaded by flames, smoke, and lots of water from the firemen’s hose.

But our house was saved!

Though our recent renovation of the downstairs–new carpet, drapes and painted walls–was all ruined, our house was intact. The firemen said the fire started because of faulty wiring. It had probably been a hazard for several weeks, could have started anytime–while we were asleep, while Jesse was asleep in that room only feet away from the flames. One fireman told us that within thirty more minutes the fire would have engulfed our old house and been impossible to squelch. That’s when I understood why Charles had come home early. God knew we needed to come to our table at that exact time.

As the four of us huddled in a motel room that night we were very thankful we were all safe and our house could be cleaned and repaired. The only complaint the boys had was that they’d been at school and missed all the excitement.

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Of Iris, Herbs, and a Broken Shovel

The white iris, fondly called by my mother “flags,” are blooming like a little group of angels beside our largest maple tree. Under its shade also are the purple iris which have opened their sweet faces for their once-a-year show. There are violets peering over grass blades and tiny pink oxalis blooming stubbornly amongst border grass along the driveway.

The mulberry tree is in full leaf with berries barely showing, pale droops amongst the leaves. Soon the tree will be alive with squirrels and birds feasting greedily even before the fruit is fully ripe. The crepe myrtles Charles trimmed back in February are sprouting nicely and jasmine vine on the mailbox pine tree, trimmed to the ground, is more vigorous than ever. I look forward to seeing little yellow blooms smiling at us when we go for the mail.

Pruning is a good thing. A fresh start is good for everything (and everyone) if done under the Master’s care.

The knockout roses in front of the house were beautiful when they were beautiful but they didn’t like their place very much. One by one they died or at least became scraggly. At one end of the row they were shaded by a magnolia tree and those bushes were never happy. So we took them up and planted Florida Sunshine shrubs. The guys at the nursery assured us they would thrive in sun or shade.

Plants (and people) are so different in the way they adapt to sunshine and shadow.

Day lilies are starting to bloom. It’s always so exciting to see the various colors and patterns unfold as the buds open. I wish they bloomed for more than one day, but the good thing is there are several buds on each stalk so for the blooming season there are always beauties, new every morning.

Another thing new every morning–His faithfulness!

Thomas Obadiah Chisholm wrote a hymn about God’s faithfulness:

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father There is no shadow of turning with Thee. Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not. As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be. Great is Thy faithfulness, Great is Thy faithfulness, Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided. Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.

Wisteria keeps trying to take us over, though Charles has been brutally honest with it: no, it is not welcome. Friends we visited in Bromley, England longed for some beautiful purple wisteria. We told them it is terribly invasive, takes over, wraps everything in vines. They still wanted it though I don’t know whether they did plant it or not. I can see why they wanted it. The purple blooms are ravishingly beautiful when drifting high amongst tree branches or low in shrubbery, even controlled with constant care into a “shrub” itself. It is lovely when it’s blooming, looking like Caleb and Joshua’s great clusters of grapes from the Promised Land. But wisteria is so monopolizing.

Things of beauty aren’t always as good as they seem.

We bought herbs at Lowe’s which I was able to plant from my walker, placing them in tubs along the back porch. Already, English thyme, basil, and a cherry tomato plant (couldn’t resist that one!) are thriving. The mint and rosemary at each end of the line are hearty and healthy and interspersed between the herbs are some of Charles’s carefully coaxed amaryllis with buds about to pop open, also a couple of tubs of impatiens lending cheerful color. I can’t wait for the basil and thyme to be big enough we can pluck some for adding flavor to meats and soups.

When Charles went to Stone’s on his day off to purchase some screws he came back with a tray of plants for his own small garden: five sweet potato plants, a beef steak tomato plant, and one eggplant to grow in its own tub. His garden is beside the marten house where, until recently, lemon bushes grew. He dug up the lemon bushes because they were totally fruitless.

It was as he was digging up the lemon tree roots that he bragged on his broken shovel. It had been his dad’s, he said, one of several he has acquired over the years. This one, he said, is particularly good for digging out stubborn roots because the broken blade is jagged like so many sharp teeth and it is excellent for a job like this.

Brokenness does not mean a thing or person cannot be used; maybe it can be used in a different and even better way than before.

I was walking around our circular driveway the day before Easter enjoying a gentle breeze swaying the reeds when it dawned on me. Spring was everywhere but Red, the turtle, had not shown up. Could it really be spring if Red hadn’t shown up? That box turtle has been at this place almost as long as we have, probably longer. We “tagged” him with a red spot on his hard back soon after he showed up at our back door about six years ago. Since then, every month or so during the warm months, Red comes visiting. He loves to eat cat food, doesn’t care much for the green stuff. The children always enjoy his visits, sometimes putting him on the porch where they can play without losing him.

Funny that I thought about Red the day before Easter. Because he came visiting on Easter Sunday heralded with great excitement by Kaison and Charli. They had just found a hiding of a dozen eggs for the second time and were ready for a new diversion. Red stayed on the porch for about an hour, scratching across the floor with his leathery legs and sharp toes, hiding under chairs, eating cat food and even getting in the middle of our family Easter picture.

Iris, daylilies, new gardens, discarded roses and lemon trees, a broken shovel and an old box turtle–and then a picture from our Michigan folk of their fresh new snowfall. Spring is here–in some places!

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Happy Easter!

We say the first Easter was over 2,000 years ago. But the need for a Savior goes back 6,000 years.

Almighty God, full of power, formed the earth, set apart the waters, hung the sun, moon, and stars, and made trees and plants–giant sequoias, small fig trees and even onions. When all was ready for him,
God created man, and then woman. He made them in His own image. He gave them creative spirits, the ability to make choices, the faculties for compassion and wisdom, and a drive to survive. Did I mention He gave this wonderful creation the choice to love his Creator or not?

Man and woman messed up early on. They yielded to the temptation of Satan and the whole beautiful, wonderful world went whacky. But God had a plan even as far back as that first huge sin of Adam and Eve to make it possible for humankind again to be in close relationship with Him. He would send His only Son to be our Redeemer, to give us a chance again to make a choice to love Him–because He first loved us.

The Savior came but most did not recognize Him. Even the religious people, priests and scribes, didn’t believe He was the Son of God, though they had the prophecies handed down through the centuries proclaiming God would send a Messiah. Jesus lived a perfect life, was tempted and did not sin, healed the sick, gave sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf. He raised Lazarus and a young girl from the dead. He called disciples, twelve of them, and gently and forcefully led them and taught them for three years. He spoke to crowds who followed Him wherever He went. But when he finally was arrested because the priests said He was blasphemous claiming to be God, the crowds deserted Him as did most of His followers and friends.

When Jesus was on trial Pilate asked Him where He was from. Jesus didn’t answer. Pilate urged Him, telling Him that he, Pilate, had the power to free Him or condemn Him. Then Jesus replied that Pilate had no power except what was given him by the Father. Jesus had already told His followers, “…I lay down my life that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down myself. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it again.” (John 10:17-18)

To me, one of the most stunning events of that dark crucifixion day is when the huge, massively heavy curtain in the temple, the one that separated the people from the “Holy of Holies,” was split down the middle from top to bottom. God split that curtain at the time Jesus drew His last breath. Because of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice man could be forgiven of their sins and could talk directly to Him without a priest–as Adam and Eve had done before they sinned.

But the very most stunning event was when the disciples and several women first found the tomb empty and then saw Jesus, nail scarred hands and all, alive and later eating fish with them. Those forty days Jesus spent with His followers (disciples and 500 or more others) after the resurrection until His ascension back to the Father–those days must have been powerful and sweet. Jesus was alive! The timid could be brave. The hopeless could have great hope. The sorrowful could now be filled with joy.

Jesus is alive! And because He lives, so can we!

A favorite hymn by Bill Gaither says: “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know He holds the future, And life is worth a living just because He lives.”

A very happy Easter to each of you!

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Palm Branches

I love to see little children waving palm branches as they enter the sanctuary on Palm Sunday. They are so happy, so innocent, so believing. As they walk in joyous abandon to the front of the church and lay their branches on the altar I’m reminded of that day so long ago when Jesus entered Jerusalem.

The week before Passover when Jesus entered Jerusalem the street was lined with people of a myriad of emotions. Some were jubilant because they thought this man riding on a donkey was finally going to take his place as King of the Jews and bring freedom from the oppressive Roman government. Some were simply jubilant just to be with Jesus, like the children, the disciples, hundreds who had heard this rabbi teach and seen him heal and restore life. There were the radicals looking for a chance to stir up trouble. There were the Pharisees and Sadducees who could not see the Truth and ignored the fact that their hatred of Jesus was anything but godly. Controlled by Satan, they had nothing but conniving and evil intentions in their hearts. The emotions of Jesus are overwhelming to contemplate. At the same time the crowd was shouting “Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord” (John 12:13) He was weeping over Jerusalem whom He would have gathered as chickens under her wings, “and ye would not.” (Matthew 23:37) Jesus knew what kind of a week was ahead of Him. Yet He was not wholly sorrowful that day. He took time to rejoice.

Sometimes the children sing “Hosanna” as they flock into our church on Palm Sunday. Good teachers have told them about the day Jesus rode the donkey into Jerusalem, about how the people shouted and waved their palm branches, then laid them in the road for Jesus to ride over. Some even laid down their coats for the donkey to cross. A few times during the years we lived at “The Lane of Palms” we contributed palm branches for this festivity. It was a very happy thing to do, to be part of the celebration in that way and to see our own children waving branches.

Such a happy day Palm Sunday is! Yet it has a shadow over it. It is only a few days until Good Friday when we will remember sadly the torture and darkness and sorrow Jesus and His followers went through. Though the people on that day before Passover didn’t know what would happen that week, we do know what happened. We know that Jesus became sin for our sakes, that He fulfilled every prophesy of the Old Testament for the redeeming Messiah. We know He became a Man of Sorrows, not just for the disciples who loved Him, not just for the women who learned of Him, not just the little children singing His praises, but for us, for each and every one of us. He died for the soldiers who drove the nails in His hands and feet. He died for the priests who condemned Him. He died for Judas and Peter who betrayed and denied Him.

Our young Kaison viewing the film “The Son of God” (his choice to watch) asked sorrowfully, “Why were the people so mean? Why didn’t they understand who He was?”

We could only explain, “As so many people today, they simply did not believe.”

We love to celebrate. Palm Sunday is a happy, joyful day. The palm branches speak of life and joy and good things. But there is a shadow over the day. In a few short days we will be remembering Good Friday and the wrenching pain and sorrow of the cross. And then–on the third day–the most joyful, sacred celebration of all–Easter Sunday! We can pull out all the stops in praising Him on that day! The shadow of the cross will be overcome by the open, empty tomb!

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