Joyful Christmas Boxes

Some big Operation Christmas Child news is breaking: Alex Nsengimana of Rwanda, a shoebox recipient who is now grown, is coming to Cairo First Baptist Church October 19, tomorrow, to speak to those who are packing boxes, those who are curious about this huge project, and anyone who wants to see what God can do with a simple shoebox.

We’re packing Christmas boxes for children we’ll never know living in places of which we may know nothing. Individuals, churches, Sunday school classes, mission groups, all over the world are involved in this far-reaching cause. We’re packing toys, hygiene items, notebooks, socks, tee shirts, Bibles, knowing that the Lord will bless the child who opens each box. We pray for these children but we very seldom see their faces and then, as in the case of Alex, only years afterward.

If you’ve been packing boxes every year, you may have heard some of the marvelous accounts of how these boxes affected the children who received them. It is particularly meaningful to hear from one of those recipients themselves. Alex Nsengimana is one of those. He is from Rwanda and experienced firsthand the travesties of tribal unrest where genocide claimed the lives of his caregivers. He received a Christmas box from Operation Christmas Child one year after arriving at the orphanage which was his home for several years. That shoebox gift sowed seeds of hope and love that he desperately needed. Now he lives in the U.S. and he will be coming to Cairo First Baptist Church to share what that gift meant to him and how it changed his life. I’m so excited about this opportunity and want to pass along the invitation to you to come tomorrow, Tuesday, October 19 at 12:00 noon. First Baptist is located at 505 N. Broad Street. Bring your own lunch and spend an hour with Alex and many who love to pack those boxes!

How did we gain this wonderful privilege of sharing with children around the world who may have nothing for Christmas other than this colorful box?

In our church, in the 1990’s, one dear mission-minded lady named Helen King introduced us to this opportunity. She came back from a women’s meeting ecstatic about this ministry. It was a new cause at the time and our church took on Helen’s enthusiasm and went to work. On a designated Sunday we trooped down the aisle carrying our shoeboxes of varying designs and sizes to lay at the altar for the prayer of blessing. It was such fun involving our children and youth in this wonderful project and seeing them proudly present their boxes at the altar. We’ve “done” shoeboxes ever since, though now our church purchases the number of uniform boxes we think we can fill instead of our using “real” shoeboxes. These are a lot prettier and made to stand the rigors of shipping. This year our church will be the receiving place for all the boxes from surrounding churches, a job faithfully filled by Eastside for many years. Gary and Rhonda Keve will receive the boxes from all churches and then pack them in large boxes of fifteen each to carry to Valdosta. Rhonda said one church is planning to bring 300 boxes so she and Gary would really like some help on those days. Call First Baptist at 229-377-2233 for more information.

But how did the shoebox story really begin? In 1990 David Cooke and his wife Gill started a move to give gifts to children in Romania. In the summer of 1993 Franklin Graham of Samaritans Purse, received a call from an Englishman who asked if Franklin could provide gifts for children in war-torn Bosnia who would otherwise have no Christmas. He had learned of the idea that volunteers could fill shoeboxes with simple gifts and wanted Franklin to implement the endeavor. Franklin responded positively to the request but was so busy with other concerns connected with Samaritans Purse (rescue missions, feeding the hungry, etc.) he forgot about the Englishman’s plea. At Thanksgiving the man called back to see what Franklin had done about his idea. Franklin was chagrined at having forgotten but instead of throwing up his hands at the impossibility of collecting hundreds of shoebox gifts on such short notice he called a pastor friend and asked him to see what he could do. The response was overwhelming. The pastor called a few weeks later asking when Franklin could come get the shoeboxes that stacked high in the hallways of his church. That was the beginning of the worldwide distribution of gifts through Operation Christmas Child. This year, with participation of local churches around the world, 188 million boxes have been delivered in 170 countries. Thousands of children have become Christ followers as a direct result of those boxes and the following discipleship course they’re invited to.

I remember well some of the Operation Christmas Child stories I’ve read (“Operation Christmas Child: A Story of Simple Gifts” by Donna Lee Toney is available online) and a very few I’ve heard in person. Each one is so precious and brings ready tears to my eyes. Once, in First Baptist Church, Atlanta, we heard a young woman give her account. She said her box had changed her life forever in that through it she had come to know Christ. The one item that she treasured the most, other than the Good News, was a toothbrush. She had grown up in an orphanage where she and maybe twelve other girls shared one toothbrush. It was a marvelous thing to have her own toothbrush.

Go to your church, almost any church, I think, and pick up a Christmas box with instructions. Then put on your shopping shoes and head to the store. Dollar General, Dollar Tree, Wal Mart, wherever you like to go. Depending on what store you shop, you can generously fill a Christmas box for about $20. I learned that once Operation Christmas Child delivers boxes through the help of their local churches, that village or area will not receive boxes again. There are so many villages, so many children! Because of that, I have paid more careful attention to packing a box that contains good long lasting toys and other items.

Start “packing” for Christmas!

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Celebrating Columbus

I can hear our young voices now and those of generations of other voices chanting “In fourteen hundred and ninety two Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” words of the poet Jean Marzollo. I was not aware, as a young student, of the poet’s name, but I was very aware of Christopher Columbus. To me, he was a shining hero who left safety and home to seek a path to the east by going west. He was brave, adventurous, and determined. In my family we honored Columbus on October 12 as we did George Washington on his birthday, February 22, and Lincoln on February 12. We knew he was an Italian who relocated to Portugal and then Spain, that he believed the world was round when so many still thought it was flat, that he obtained sponsorship from Queen Isabella to explore the possibility of a newer, safer trade route to the Orient. We knew that, even though Eric the Red of the Vikings, really discovered North America first, Columbus was in the forefront of explorers first setting foot on our continent.

As an adult I learned some more interesting things about my hero, Columbus. For instance, he was a praying man. He kept a journal (I guess he called it a log) and in it are indications of his spiritual journey as he, still a young man, set out in the ships Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria for unknown territory. A couple of his quotes from his journal: “No one should be afraid to take on any enterprise in the name of our Savior if it is right and if the purpose is purely for His holy service” and “He has bestowed the marine arts upon me in abundance.”

Six or seven years ago a replica of one of the three Columbus ships docked at St. Marks in Florida and some of us were able to go down and see it, even go on it and explore its very confined deck. The replica ship, so authentic in every detail (the galley, the captain’s quarters, the deck, sails and ropes) had been on tour for months, even years, docking in many ports in South and Central America as well as the shores of North America. Charles and I enjoyed so much investigating the ship, reading plaques, sharing the time with our granddaughter Amanda and two of her children.

When the “Cancel Culture” wave began I simply could not believe it. It’s bad enough for the critics to dredge up lies about living officials, but to tell lies about Columbus whom many American countries have honored for 500 years? Maybe you, too, have been shocked at the massive move to cancel our history, our culture, including the demolishing of statues of founding fathers, other historical heroes–and even Christopher Columbus. Why? What have “they” found for which to blame my hero Christopher Columbus?

A recent article by Matthew White in American Family Association Journal lists some of the myths (used information from WallBuilders with permission) that have spread and developed on Christopher along with established truths to counteract those myths. For instance, one myth or lie is that Columbus “greedily sought gold so he could get rich.” The historical fact that refutes that is that “Columbus primarily sought gold in order to provide for the needs of the church, both for evangelism and to fund a crusade to retake Jerusalem from Muslim invaders.” Columbus is accused of selling native women into sex slavery when, in fact, he fought against both the native practice of sexual exploitation as well as sex trafficking by Spanish rebels. He actually liberated women of several villages who had been forced into servitude. Critics have even accused Columbus of being “a senile fool who had more luck than brains” as an explorer of the New World. Matthew White states “In addition to being largely self-taught, Columbus was one of the best navigators the world has ever seen. For nearly 400 years scientists and seamen both acknowledged this fact.”

My feelings of pride in my hero Christopher Columbus were reignited as I read that he, even as a teenager, began taking many trading and expeditionary voyages (even as far north as Iceland) learning the Atlantic wind systems and currents. He had a dream early on to set sail to a new land. Here’s what he wrote: “Our Lord opened to my understanding (I could sense His hand upon me) so it became clear to me that it (the voyage) was feasible…All those who heard about my enterprise rejected it with laughter, scoffing at me…Who doubts that this illumination was from the Holy Spirit? I attest that He with marvelous rays of light, consoled me through the holy and sacred Scriptures…they inflame me with a sense of great urgency…”

When I went to get the mail yesterday I realized it was a holiday, Columbus Day, so no mail. I spoke out loud to the cats and the birds as I ambled back to the house, celebrating the fact that my hero is still honored on this day. In some states the holiday has been renamed “Indigenous Peoples Day,” but millions still celebrate Columbus with school holidays. It is, in fact, still a national holiday. Columbus landed on a Bahamian island October 12, 1492. He made three more voyages across the Atlantic and, though he went home in chains once because of accusations by an enemy, he was fully exonerated. He certainly was not perfect. None of our past heroes nor the present ones are. But look at the impact he made on his world as well as our world in his few short years. He died at age 55.

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More Paws, More Smiles, Some Tears


Just after I published last week’s blog another paw smile arrived in the form of a two-week-old baby squirrel. When my two young grands and I piled out of the car after school there was a scrap of gray fur huddled against a wall of our carport. I thought he was dead, that one of the cats had wounded him and them left him for us as a gift. They have been known to do that. But when Charli picked him up, he went from lethargy to full speed climbing in her hair, around her neck and dipping into her shirt for a warm cozy spot. Of course giggles and squeals erupted from all three of us.

Granddaddy brought home a syringe from the office for feeding the little guy warm milk. The children squabbled over who would feed him but Charli won because, as she put it, she had picked him up first. She named him Cuddles because he loved to nestle against her neck. But later, after he was installed as the newest baby in the Evans household, Daddy Jared renamed him Scrappy. His claws were too sharp for a Cuddles, he said.

Scrappy gave hours of pleasure to the Evans family, especially Charli who faithfully fed her little charge. Sunday afternoon, after the Wednesday adoption, I asked how Scrappy was doing. Charli reported that he wasn’t eating that day. Within a couple of hours Scrappy died while Charli held him and talked to him. With crocodile tears tracing down her cheeks Charli assisted big sister Candi in burying the baby. Today, three days later, Charli and brother Kaison said mournfully they miss Scrappy so much. I asked Charli if she would rather not have had Scrappy and she quickly replied that she wouldn’t trade the time with Scrappy for a million dollars. “I gave him a good life,” she said sagely.

One Very Blessed Hen

When I told my sister, Suzanne, about this latest wildlife adventure, she remembered some of her times helping little orphaned wild babies, like the possum that grew up in their house, and others. But one of the most memorable, she told me, was the chicken. The chicken! I didn’t remember that story. She said she was on her way from her to house to our mother’s when she came upon a chicken flapping and writhing on the pavement. She stopped and picked it up and took it to Mamma’s yard where she placed it under a shady tree to die in peace. But it didn’t die. She eventually took it home and nurtured it back to health. It was crippled but it hopped around her yard for months, even years, happy as a prisoner set free, which it was. She’s sure the hen had fallen from a loaded chicken truck to what seemed certain death but was rescued to a new life.

One Not So Golden Goose

Suzanne’s story reminded me of our goose refugee. Many years ago Charles came home from the animal hospital with a one-legged goose. Owners didn’t want her but he thought maybe we could give her a good life. Which we did. Charles sank an empty paint can into the ground making a ground-level watering trough for the poor thing and we all rallied around the odd goose in our already interesting menagerie. Then, one day, we came home to find the goose upside down in her watering trough, cold and dead. She’s fallen in and, with only one leg, couldn’t get herself out. A sad ending to our not so golden goose!

One Special Cow

Some of our little animal friends are with us such a short time but they add much joy to our lives and we hope we’ve given them a good life, even if brief. But some pets stay around for a very long time. Such was the case with my friend Cheryl Gravenstein’s mother’s cow. A cow is not usually considered a pet but this one was. Cheryl said when her mother was born someone gave her a heifer as a birth gift. She grew up taking care of that heifer. When she married she took her cow with her and added more cows to keep that one company. Cheryl remembers milking, feeding the cows, and herding them back in when they broke out of their fence. I asked her how old the “birth cow” was when she died, but I don’t remember what Cheryl said.

However long we have them, let’s treasure our creatures large and small.

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Paws for a Smile

My son sent me the above picture last week. It made me smile, so I thought it might also give you a welcome reprieve from all the heavy seriousness of our national and international problems. A smile relaxes your face. You can feel yourself getting younger! It is healthy and it is free. God’s creatures large and small are really good at bringing out a smile even when we’re feeling dismal.

Will was at Blue Ridge Animal Clinic in Montgomery troubleshooting dental equipment. As a sales rep for Covetrus Veterinary Supply, Will calls on veterinarians in central and southern Alabama. He was deep into solving a problem when this cat casually climbed up on his shoulder as if to help him find a solution. One of the techs snapped the picture. Miss Kitty, the tech told Will, owns that particular area in the clinic and anyone who lights there is subject to her climbing all over them. This hairless Siamese with her long tail, dressed in a tu-tu, is at home in her surroundings and expects everyone else to be also. Will took time to play with her and said her hairless skin really felt odd.

Calf on the Loose

This week’s news from the Cairo Animal Hospital includes the escape of a 150-pound calf. Apparently dead set on avoiding his impending surgery, the calf suddenly rebelled and squeezed through an incredibly narrow opening to run with the speed of an antelope across Highway 84, over to Tired Creek Country Club, through parking lots and well kept yards. Numerous people called in to report seeing him before he was finally caught several days later. Can you imagine glancing out your kitchen window and seeing a cow eating your lilies?

Sam and the Turtle

This tale is about our Irish setter named Sam. Unlike the Irish setter Blake who later took his place in our household, Sam was quite reliable, knew his boundaries, and was an excellent companion for me on my three-mile walks. He did investigate a lot of territory along the way, probably running six miles for my three. He liked to swim across every pond and he liked to give turtles a scenic ride. The first time he picked up a box turtle in a neighbor’s yard I tried to take it from him but he was very possessive and loped on ahead of me. I thought he would lay the turtle down somewhere but he carried it the whole way. The amazing thing was that he deposited that turtle in exactly the same place he had found him. That was only the first turtle who received a free Sam trip!

Persimmons and Possums

This time of year I think about wild persimmons and possums. Ripe persimmons are a beautiful orangey peach color, or maybe the color of a flamingo. When they drop from high limbs they plunk into the grass and look like tiny pumpkins with black fringed hats. Ripe persimmons (don’t by any circumstances pluck one from the tree before it’s ripe!) are squishy, full of seeds, sweet and wonderful. Possums like them too.

Fall was a good time to catch a possum to fatten under an overturned tub for what some thought made a delicious dinner. My brothers went to the meadow one night hunting for a possum. We heard the dogs barking and knew they had one treed but the wait was long. We all got sleepy and went to bed before the boys returned.

Next morning Mamma was mystified by an empty burlap sack with an odd hole hanging on the milk pail hook above the flour bin. When the boys came down for breakfast they were eager to check on their possum. But there was no possum, much to their dismay. Their dismay hardly compared to Mamma’s consternation. We looked everywhere for that possum to no avail. Mamma herself found him a couple of days later when a hissing growl arrested her hand as she reached into the dark interior of a potato barrel.

Recently when I picked up the kids from school, Charli was anything but her usual merry self. She said though her sniffles that she had had a very bad day. I asked what had made it so bad and she said that a friend had thoroughly annoyed her and that her teacher had “yelled at us all day.” I suggested that maybe she could turn a bad day into a good day. Her reply: “I can’t change my friend or my teacher.” To which I said, “You can change you.” Then as I heard more sniffles from the back, I said, “Let’s go home and see if we can turn this bad day into a good day.”

I had no idea what we might do until I remembered seeing so many butterflies in our yard hovering over lantana and impatiens, flitting everywhere. “You could probably catch a butterfly,” I said, knowing that, even with our butterfly nets, it’s quite tricky to do that.

As we drove into our driveway there, right in front of us, was a beautiful monarch. Charli, inspired, quickly grabbed a net and immediately caught, not the monarch, but another black and blue beauty. We put it in a fruit jar with holes in the lid and admired it, even taking its picture. We identified it as a spicebush swallowtail. When Charli let it fly all her dismal feelings went with it. I was so thankful the Lord sent that swallowtail our way!

I hope we brought a smile to your face with these snippets about a cat, a calf, a dog and turtle, a possum, and a butterfly. I always contend that God must surely have a sense of humor because He made such amazing creatures. And He gave us a sense of humor too to buoy us over the turbulent waves.

Genesis 1:21, 24, 25: And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth…and every winged fowl after his kind…cattle and creeping thing, and beast of the earth…and God saw that it was good.

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The Woman at the Wake

When my father died in 1959 it was the custom in our neck of the woods to hold a wake for the deceased. Somebody was designated to sit up all night, never to leave the coffin unattended. As was often the case back then, my father’s coffin was in our living room from the time the mortician finished his job until the funeral two days later. All that time someone, usually family members, would be expected to stay close by, taking turns, two or three at a time talking quietly, maybe making coffee in the middle of the night.

As a sixteen-year-old I didn’t really question why we did this. It was simply the way things were done. It was no problem for us since our family was so big and, in fact, it was an honor to be part of a group who “sat up” with my Dad. It was a way of showing him respect even though he was gone from his body.

As I said, our family was large, not only Mom and Dad’s own ten children but the extended family of relatives some of whom we young ones didn’t even know. Neighbors were in and out of the house bringing gorgeous casseroles, cakes, stuffed eggs and salads. We never seemed to be alone which was sometimes frustrating to me. I hungered for the intimacy of our very own family. It didn’t seem right to cry in front of people I hardly knew.

With so many people coming and going, no one at first noticed this one little wiry woman who simply sat quietly with her hands in her lap except for occasions when food was set on the table. Though others came and went she stayed in the corner she’d chosen from the beginning. We began to question each other about which relative this might be. She was very solemn, speaking only when spoken to. All day and night she kept her vigil, always partaking of cake or anything that was available, otherwise just sitting there.

Mamma realized we were puzzling about the identity of this woman. She, who was wise from many years of wakes and funerals, already knew who the stranger was. It seemed she had been talking to her when none of us noticed.

Mamma told us this woman was a mourner, no relation to any of us, not a member of our church, not a neighbor, just a self-appointed mourner. In fact, she lived ten or fifteen miles away in an abandoned cabin. Mamma didn’t know how she’d gotten to our house.

“Be kind to her,” Mamma told us. “She has little to eat at home and she goes to wakes to help people mourn and to get food.”

As I remember it, the little woman left before the funeral. I was too caught up in my grief to notice her slip away and start her long walk back to her cabin.

We have sometimes laughed about the interesting little woman at the wake. Did she have her ear to the ground to learn whenever there was a death and head towards the wake? Was this all she did, help people mourn so she could enjoy the abundance of food?

I’ve always remembered, along with the curiosity about the little woman, Mamma’s words about her. “Be kind to her,” she said. Even in her grief, it was of paramount importance to Mamma that we practice hospitality.

Use hospitality one to another without grudging. I Peter 4:9

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Water Angel

The sun shone brightly, a beautiful afternoon in Fort Meade, Maryland. A perfect afternoon for a swim. I couldn’t wait. I was visiting my older sister, Jackie, and her husband, Fred, a second lieutenant in the army. At thirteen, I was all long legs, a bundle of shyness but eager to take in everything. This visit had been full of adventure already–a tour of Washington, a boat ride on the Potomac River to enjoy a concert at Watergate (before it was famous), a trip to Fred’s home in Virginia. And now this. Swimming in the officers’ pool.

“A little different from our old muddy pond at home in Georgia, isn’t it?” my sister stated rather than asked. We were standing at the deep end of the Olympic size pool considering our next move.

“It’s so full of people,” I said, a little anxious.

“We’ll just be two more,” said Jackie. “Come on, let’s swim to the other end!”

She jumped in and I was right behind her.

It definitely wasn’t like our muddy Georgia pond. Almost immediately I was in trouble. Someone splashed water right in my face and I strangled. Instinctively, I tried to touch the bottom, to stand up, but of course I couldn’t. I tried to swim faster to get out of the crowd but the crowd was everywhere. I panicked. My flailing arms and legs turned to pudding. I gave a gasping call for help as I went under.

Rather than the beautiful bright afternoon, it was dark to me down in the water. I was desperate to breathe but couldn’t find my way up. I heard someone yelling “Help!” It seemed as if it was my voice but of course I couldn’t yell. I couldn’t even breathe. It was Jackie.

I surfaced but only for one panicky moment. It was when I went under the third time that Jackie took hold of me. I gripped arms and legs around her until she couldn’t move. We were both drowning surrounded by happy splashing swimmers who didn’t notice these two girls locked in each others’ arms.

It was so dark. And so deep. For months, it seemed, we were fighting to surface, our lungs ready to burst. Then, we felt it. The bottom of the pool, the grainy hard concrete floor of the pool. There were voices in the distance, happy voices, everyone still splashing and playing tricks on each other.

In a stupor we found ourselves with feet still on the bottom but with heads above water. We couldn’t even speak as we staggered and stumbled to the edge of the pool, then stood there so weak we couldn’t pull ourselves up the steps.

What had just happened? We had been drowning somewhere in the middle of the deep end of an Olympic size pool. Jackie, with absolutely no training in lifesaving measures, had allowed me to take a death grip on her so she, too, was immobilized.

Yet here we were. Neither of us had felt an extra hand on us but both of us knew there was no way we had walked out of that pool without help. The lifeguard was sitting beside his chair playing cards with some giggling girls. God had sent a water angel to save us that day and we have never forgotten.

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Blakely’s Fears

When we adopted Blakely, our second beautiful Irish setter (the first one having recently died), he was fifteen months old, lively and gangly and bright. What we didn’t know until we got home with him was that he was full of fear. Blakely was afraid of white men, big sticks, any loud noise, and especially storms. We quickly learned Blakely would run from anything that threatened him, even if it was an innocent mop being shaken. Charles made him a nice pen to keep him safe. He dug out from under it. We set it on a concrete slab. He leaped over the high sides. Finally, we laid down radio wire around our huge yard and we thought that was going to do it.

Storms were his biggest fear and he could detect one long before we saw a dark cloud or heard a rumble of thunder. If Blakely was indoors he hid behind a toilet, under a bed, or in a closet. It was a sure sign a storm was coming when he started rooting for a safe place. He was known to be quite destructive during his panics. He might chew a plastic trash holder to bits, shred a rolled-up sleeping bag, and cause irreparable damage to rugs, window screens, fresh folded laundry and dryer lint hoses.

If we were gone when a storm came and Blakely was outside he would leap over the high sides of his pen and run. That was the way Blakely faced his fears. He ran. We found him several miles from home sometimes, sometimes in a neighbor’s dark shed. Even though he normally would stop short of that radio fence whose buzz hurt his ears, when he was afraid, he ran right over it.

Once, after Blakely had been gone about three days and we’d almost lost hope of seeing him again, we heard him barking. Running out, we saw our big red dog standing just beyond his radio fence line pleading for reentry. I went to him and, with my hand on his collar, he stepped across the dreaded buzz. As we fondled and fussed over him we found all four of his feet almost raw from his fearsome run. After a big meal and more petting he settled in his favorite porch corner and looked at me as if to say “I’ll never do that again.” But we both knew he would.

I’ve often thought, when remembering our dear old Blakely, how we are so much like him. We let fears take the joy out of our lives. We lean on our own ability to run or otherwise overcome, then, finally, we return whimpering to our Master to take us back in. And, just as we always welcomed Blakely home, so does our forgiving God open His arms to us.

Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. Psalms 89:33

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Immeasurable Treasure

Last week I wrote about treasure that is marred, yet still a treasure. I wrote that we who belong to Him are treasures in God’s eyes, no matter how flawed. We are the apple of His eye (Zechariah 2:8), the sheep of His pasture (Psalms 100:3), the hidden shafts in His quiver (Isaiah 49:2), and even His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20).

This week I’d like to turn the telescope around, so to speak, and focus on the immeasurable treasure we have in God and His kingdom.

Jesus told a parable (earthly story with a heavenly meaning) about a man who discovered a plot of land that had something extremely valuable on it. Could have been oil, I guess, or gold maybe. The man went and sold everything he had to buy that plot of land. Jesus said this man’s story portrayed how much the kingdom of God is worth, immeasurable treasure, worth so much a man would give anything for it.

You’ve found treasure before, maybe not digging at your back door the way we did when we found the old saw. But treasure, yes! You found your car fob after frantic hunting, you found your phone underneath your car seat gone stone dead, you found a $100 bill you’d dropped in a WalMart parking lot thinking never to see it again. It is such a thrill to get those things back in your hands. Even if the finder is someone who makes fun of your stupidity in leaving your car fob stuck in a cup of pencils, or your glasses in plain view on the foyer table, you can take the ribbing because you’re so glad to have your object, your treasure, back.

There are unnecessary but precious treasures you find again after many years. For me it was a letter to me from my Dad, the only letter he, who died when I was sixteen, ever wrote me. It had been packed away in a box of teenage keepers to be found so many years later. I was looking at my recipes one day and found a postcard, penny postcard, with a recipe for making cornbread sent me by my mother when I was a new bride in 1966. It might be a picture we’d not seen in forever, or a pair of special earrings, maybe one special earring lost from the other.

Then there are treasures you didn’t know existed but you come upon with a burst of joy: a hand size petoskey stone on the shore of Lake Michigan, a whole beautiful star fish right at your feet as you walk the St.George Island beach, or simply a sunset that makes you exclaim, “Thank you, God!”

Some of the very best treasures are the intangible ones like the sunset. You can’t hold them in your hand but you can hide them in your heart: the hugs of grandchildren (well, children too!), a phone call from a friend at just the right time, a word of encouragement, an answer to prayer, the sight of a bird making a joyful flight.

No matter how precious, for which of these would we sell everything we had in order to possess? It’s a probing question. Would we give anything?

I had a music teacher once who said to me, “Don’t tell me you would give anything to be able to play as I do. Just go ahead and give anything.” St. Paul yearned over the unbelievers around him and said “I would give up my own place in heaven if then you could take my place.” A sign tucked around in various places at our church reads something like “What would you give so others could hear the gospel?”

Immeasurable treasure. The kingdom of God within you. Would you give anything to have that? Yet, it is free! Jesus did give anything, everything, so that we might have this treasure. Our works are good only to express our gratitude to Him and, hopefully, lead others to trust Him. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:” Ephesians 2:8

You are God’s treasure. And He is our immeasurable treasure! “Christ in you the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27. Greater is He who is within you than he that is without.

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Treasure, Nevertheless

A saying by Albertina Walker many of us taped to our mirrors years ago or tacked to our bulletin boards says: “Be patient with me please. God is not finished with me.”

Those words came to me as I was remembering the day Charles and I were digging and came upon a very unusual quarry.

We were digging one spring day in a lily bed near the back door of our 150-year-old log house. The lilies needed dividing and resetting. At first when one of us struck something hard under the surface we thought it was a rock even though Grady County does not claim to be rocky. (I have looked in vain for interesting small rocks to use in children’s crafts.) Still, what else could it be? When we realized that over an area of several feet we were hitting something hard, something level, I began to get excited.

“Maybe it’s a big treasure chest,” I exclaimed, “something buried before the Civil War, maybe silver, ancient relics, maybe even gold medallions!”

We dug harder, striking again and again this very hard, wide something. Surely it was treasure of some kind. Charles wasn’t completely enthusiastic, always approaching everything with a practical viewpoint. Whoever living in south Georgia in the 1850’s would have even possessed silver and gold? But even he began to get curious as we uncovered more and more of a rusty metal surface.

Finally we exposed the very edges of this curious object, not smooth edges, no old lock or hinges, not a square box but a circular object about 4″ across. The edges all around were spiky with sharp teeth. “An old circular saw blade,” Charles said with a touch of awe in his voice.

After we’d wrestled the thing out of its place we discovered an open boxed-in cavity underneath and could only surmise it was a grease trap for this old house whose kitchen had been converted and even moved more than once. The saw blade had been “recycled” as a cover for the grease trap. “Smart thinking,” remarked Charles who then began to speculate about how old the blade might be and its life before burial. He leaned it up against the rugged wall of an old shed left over from farm days and showed it off proudly to everyone who showed interest.

I was disappointed our discovery wasn’t hidden treasure but I began to catch Charles’s enthusiasm for the historical value of the rusty artifice.

When we moved across town there was no doubt we would bring the saw blade with us. Charles leaned it against a big pine tree where it receives curious looks and we can tell our fragmented story.

Not a chest full of gold medallions. But a treasure nevertheless. It reminds me often that I, even rusty and rough around the edges, am treasured by my Master who sought me and bought me. That goes for you too. Think of yourself today as a treasure.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. 2 Corinthians 4:7

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Long Afternoon

That title–Long Afternoon–may not have any appeal to someone experiencing medical difficulties, hospitalizations, longtime care of patients. But north Georgia artist John Kollock made it very appealing in his book “Long Afternoon,” (Copple House, 1978) as well as in his painting by that name. John had a rare and delightful talent for bringing the past to life both in words and in the rich mountain scenes he painted or depicted in his pen and ink drawings. In “Long Afternoon” are scenes that take one back to the days when the afternoons melted from bright sunlight on a barnyard to evening shadows in a peaceful valley, from a grist mill to a quaint small steepled church. Of course life in those slower paced days were not just fun and games. There was the gardening to tend to every day. There were long afternoons behind a stubborn mule and a plow; there was the horrid time for little boys when they had to be scrubbed from head to toe in a tin tub. But there were weddings, quilting bees, and Sunday dinners–and swinging from a high limb into a cool creek.

I remember my own long afternoons roaming the woods with brothers and sisters when our most serious thoughts concerned lunch and suppertime.

There were long afternoons of building dams in the creek, freezing our toes, then climbing a bank to warm on soft moss. There were long afternoons of hunting birds’ nests, following rabbit trails, climbing trees to see out yonder. There were long afternoons of reading, of singing arias from a stump, of building a village with stones and clay. There were long afternoons when the sun shone past supper and the fireflies came out while there was still time to play.

You may, as I do, wish for our children and grandchildren those “long afternoons,” times of totally free play, of building, and reading, singing and just being children. And, yes, we wish for them some hardships, like picking squash or cutting okra, something they can tell their own children about someday. As everyone says, times are different now. But there is still time for children to play, just in a different dimension. I see them tumbling with each other in the grass emitting giggles and squeals of laughter just before a fierce fight. I see them climbing trees, studying butterflies, planting a peach seed to see if it will grow, sitting down with cats climbing their arms and necks as if they were mountains, and just relaxing in a porch swing with not a care in the world.

It may not be a book your child is glued to in that porch swing. Probably it’s his cell phone with games and videos galore. He may not be free to climb in and out of creeks, lie on his back in the broom straw interpreting the clouds. But wherever children are, they will find a way to play.

We want so much to protect our children, all our children not just those kin to us, to give them the building blocks they will need for the rest of their lives, to instill in them a love of God and country. We try to pull them away from electronics and give them a craft to do, or send them into the sunshine to run off their energy. These, too, are things we can do: we can listen to them, cheer them on, and, mainly, love them real good. But we cannot give them the long afternoons of our youth. What we can give them, at least some of the time, is the long afternoons of their youth, here and now–a game of Uno here, a conversation about fossils there, a session on riddles, and answers to questions like “If God knew Adam and Eve were going to sin why did He make them?”

There are still moments that add up to Long Afternoons, not the ones such as illustrated by John Kollock. But I thought of John when I came upon Kaison lying tummy-down in the porch swing, one foot kicked up in his utter enjoyment of the moment. I wish you were here, John, to draw this picture of a Long Afternoon.


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