Please Mr Postman, Is There a Letter For Me?

Letter

Recently I was doing some clean-up on my computer getting rid of files that I no longer use.  I found a file that I created several years ago when I wrote down some memories of my life growing up to share with some of my grandchildren.  In that file I found a letter I sent to them encouraging them to love God’s Word and let its principles guide their life.

As I grow nearer to the end of my life, I have even more conviction that what I wrote them several years ago is still true today.

Here’s what I wrote.  Hope that my readers will take a moment and think about how they view the Word of God.

“I’m amazed at how we say we love God, but we seldom read His Word.  When I was engaged to Lonnie (their grandfather, my first husband who is now deceased), he was in Vietnam.  I wrote him almost every day.  He was not as good at writing (fighting for his life n the jungles of Vietnam might account for that), but usually wrote once a week.  My place of employment was five blocks from the apartment where I lived with my mother.  Every day at lunchtime I would walk home to see if I had a letter.”

Please Mr Postman, Is there a letter for me?

“Mail was delivered in our block around noon.  Some days the mailman would be there about the time I got home.  Other days if he had a lot of mail he would not make it to my apartment by noon.  Since Lonnie only wrote about once a week and sometimes the mail was held up getting out of the jungle, I might not get a letter for a couple of weeks.  Still, every day I walked home on the CHANCE that the mailman would have made it to my house, on the CHANCE that there would be a letter from Lonnie.”

Please Mr Postman, Say you have a letter for me!

If there was not a letter, I would walk back to work so sad.  When I had a letter, I would open it immediately and read every word before I returned to work.  Then, on break, I would get it out and read it again.  As soon as I got home from work, I would read it again.  Why were these letters to important to me?  Because they were from the one I loved.

Well, God’s Word is a love letter to us and when we fall in love with God, we will want to know His Word.”

The Psalmist said,

Thy Word is a light to my path and a lamp to my feet.

My dear grandchildren, I encourage you to devour the Word of God.  Read it over and over and over again.  Read the same portion in different versions.  Memorize it.  Take notes as you read.  Mark verses that stand out.  Wear it out.  A person whose Bible is falling apart from use will never fall apart from the cares, temptations, and difficulties of life.

We do not need or want to be legalistic about it.  If we read a chapter a day just because that’s what good Christians do, we have gained nothing.  There may be days when we find it hard to find the time to study the Word, but we should never be so busy that days and days go by and we fail to get into God’s Word.  I hope you will learn to not only read the Word on a consistent basis, but learn to really STUDY it.  There is a difference between reading and studying the Word and we need to do both.  If you don’t know what I mean, check out the Bible bookstore.  There are several good books out there to help you learn to study God’s Word.”

Mr. Postman, Thanks for the letter!

 

Big Things in a Small Town

DSCF0070

This week my husband and I, along with our youngest daughter and our youngest granddaughter, took a final road trip before summer ends and everyone heads back to school.  We had seen pictures of this town and it looked interesting, but we were not sure if it would be worth the trip (four hours one way).

It was!  If you are looking for something unique, let me recommend a visit to Casey, Illinois.

This small town has the biggest golf tee, the biggest wind chimes, the biggest rocking chair, to name only a few of the “big” items in the town.  There are also items that, while not the biggest, are certainly big, like an ear of corn and a bicycle.

All these “big” attractions started when Jim Bolin saw that small towns all over Central Illinois are slowly dying and he came up with the idea to create some offbeat and fun attractions that would entice travelers to make the journey to Casey.

What was really special to me is that all of the big items have a verse from the Bible written on or near it that has something to do with the object.  For example, the wind chimes has a fish, the sign of the early Christian church, and the Star of David, which refers to the Jewish religion.

20953842_10154936914738364_3948523530521990227_n

The scripture there is from Romans 1:16 which says

For I was not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God that brings salvation, to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.

DSCF0053

One of my favorites was the big rocking chair.  It weighs 46, 200 pounds and took over two years to complete.  In order to make it in the Guinness Book of Records, the chair had to actually rock.  It took ten of Bolin’s employees to move the chair and get it rocking.

Bolin suggested to the owner of the Yarn Studio that they built giant knitting needles and a crochet hook.  After she agreed and the needles and hook came to her store, she had to actually knit something with them in order to be recognized by Guinness.  She made a 10 x 10 square with the tools.  She said it felt like she was on a rowing machine and was a real workout.  Having the big tools in her shop has increased her business.  She has added a second room and also added home decor, jewelry and baby items to the inventory she sells.  The scripture near the knitting needles is from Psalm 139:13

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

DSCF0096

My husband and I loved the big shoes.

DSCF0094

Tourists toss money in the shoe for luck and it is collected and used to buy food for the local food pantry.

Bolin has opened up his work shop so people can come and watch as they make these big items.  We saw a couple that are still in the process of completion – the largest baseball bat and the largest gavel.

DSCF0071

DSCF0072

Our granddaughter loved the biggest mailbox.  It is actually a functioning mailbox.  Visitors can drop mail at the top in a tube and it raises the flag on the mailbox while placing the mail in a ground level container where the postal service can pick it up.DSCF0087

My husband and I had fun sitting the giant bird-cage and proclaiming that we are truly “love birds.”

20953265_10154936920198364_7638607860722472838_n (2)

If you are looking for a place to spend a fun day, check out Casey, Illinois.  While you are there, check out the candy store and for a great place to eat, visit The Farm Restaurant.

The God Who Sees Me – Part 3

Hagar_finds_refuge_51-15

Studying the names of God, I continue to reflect on the name Hagar, the Egyptian Slave of Abraham and Sarah, gave to God in her encounter with Him.  It was a moment of great despair and hopelessness for her.  Despair and hopelessness until she realized that God saw her and cared about her.

As I continue to think about this concept that God sees us, I continue to be reminded of times in my own life when things seemed hopeless, but then God reminded me that I was not alone, that He saw me and He cared.  I shared the first two times in my life – at ages 14 and 33 – when God revealed Himself to me so vividly in The God Who Sees Me – Part 1 and The God Who Sees Me – Part 2

Perhaps the greatest time God showed up for me was when I was fighting for my life in a battle with an aggressive cancer.  After a mastectomy, the surgeon apologized to me because he said he had to cut a lot more nerves under my arm than he wanted to, including the main nerve running through my underarm down my side.  He had found so many lymph nodes full of cancer and he wanted to make sure he got all of them so he cut away more than he preferred to do.  He said I would have more pain than normal, but he felt trying to save my life was more important than inflicting some pain.  I totally agreed with him.  I wanted to live.  If that meant some pain, so be it.

Meeting the cancer doctor for the first time he told me my cancer was a very aggressive type and far advanced.  The type of cancer they found would also not respond to any further treatment after chemotherapy and radiation.  His first words to me will never be forgotten.  He said:

The odds are not in your favor!

After undergoing 16 chemotherapy treatments with three different powerful drugs, I began a radiation treatment which would include 35 sessions radiating not only the chest area where the cancer had been removed, but my underarm, the left side of my neck and the left side of my upper back.  Because so many lymph nodes had been cancerous, the doctors wanted to radiate all the lymph nodes in that area of my body to make sure any cancer cells left were destroyed.

Starting the first radiation treatment I was already exhausted from almost nine months of chemotherapy.  Several hours on two different days were spent in the radiation department as they worked to set up the computer to deliver the radiation to all four parts of my body.  They had to be careful to avoid my heart and my lung as the cancer had been on my left side.  Then the day arrived to begin treatment.

As I entered the room where the treatment would be given, I saw a sign on the door “Danger!  Radiation!”.  The technicians helped me on the table, working to get my body placed in the exact position needed so the radiation rays would reach the right places.  They then left the room and the heavy door slammed shut.  I lay on the table in a very painful position and watched the big x-ray machine begin to descend toward my chest.  Feeling so frightened, I never felt so alone.

As tears ran down my cheeks, I cried out to God telling Him I felt so alone.  At that precise moment, the elevator music they had been playing stopped and a song from my childhood came over the sound system.

Yes, Jesus loves me!  The Bible tells me so!

The song was so comforting reminding me that I was not alone.  When the treatment was finished I thanked the technicians for playing that song.  They did not know what I was talking about.  The music they were playing was canned music already programmed and that song was not on the program.  They also said they did not hear that song.

But I heard it.  The God Who Sees Me – the God who saw Hagar – was there.  He saw me, heard my cry, He cared.

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
 You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
 You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
 Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
 You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

 Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

 

The God Who Sees Me – Part 2

Hagar_finds_refuge_51-15

In our small group Bible Study we have been looking at the names of God in the Bible.  One of those names is El-Roi, “the God who sees me.”  I wrote about the basis for that name recently in The God Who Sees Me – Part 1.

Reading that story led me to think of times in my life when I experienced that same sense that God had seen me.   Times of my own fear or suffering when God ministered to me in a clear way that let me know He saw me.  He knew my distress and He gave me assurance that He was with me and would help me in this time of difficulty.

The first time was when I was 14 years old and grieving over the father who walked out on me and my mother and left us to get by the best we could.  That story is told in The God Who Sees Me – Part 1

Almost 20 years later, God again assured me that He was the God who sees me.  While working at the University of Missouri Extension office in Perryville, Missouri, I anticipated the daily call from my oldest daughter.  My two daughters would ride the bus each day from school to our home in the country.  Their father who worked the midnight shift would be getting up and waiting to greet them.  Although he was always there to meet them, I still had my daughter call me just to let me know they were home and see how their day had gone.

When the phone rang at work, I picked it up happily awaiting my daughter’s voice.  But as soon as she began speaking, I knew something terrible had happened, something that would change our lives forever.  I will always remember that little girl’s voice saying

Mommy, I think Daddy is dead!

My two daughters – only 6 and 11 – had come home to find their father laying in the driveway underneath our car.  He had been working on the muffler and the jack had apparently slipped and crushed him.  He had always been very careful when he worked on the car and to this day I do not understand why he raised the car with the jack and did not use anything to stabilize the car or the jack.  It was not like him to be so careless.  I always remind my family to be careful because it only takes one moment of carelessness to bring disaster.

Hanging onto the phone, I felt my heart would stop!  It was hard to believe it was really true but the moments that followed showed me it was true.  At 33 I was a widow with two little girls to raise.  All kinds of questions flooded my mind.

  • How would I get through the days, the years to come without my best friend?
  • How would I help my daughters cope with not only their father’s death but the horror of finding him crushed beneath the car?
  • How would I be able financially to take care of them with the loss of my husband’s salary?
  • Who would be there to take care of them when they got home from school since I would be working?
  • How would I pay for the funeral?
  • Should we stay in Missouri or move back to be close to family?  Could I make it on my own far from family’s support?

On and on the questions raced through my mind as I tried to grasp what had happened.  It still seemed like a bad dream.  Surely I would wake up soon and be in my own bed with my husband beside me and I would laugh at it all.

But it was not a dream.  For the next few days I was numb.  Planning the funeral, trying to comfort my daughters, trying to find answers to all those questions, slowly the sense of being in a dream began to leave and reality hit me hard.

Blessed to have family and friends who loved me and supported me, still the time came when everyone went home and back to their lives and I was left with my daughters to face the future alone.  This realization came to me the first night after everyone had left.  I fixed supper for the three of us and started to place the dishes and silverware on the table for us.  Turning from the table to get the food from the stove, I realized I had put four plates and four setting of silverware on the table.  With tears streaming down my face, I picked up the extra plate and silverware and returned them to the cabinet.  In the future, we would only need three sets of dishes.

I did what I had always done in times of despair.  I cried out to the Lord telling Him I did not see how I could make it through the months and years ahead, how alone I felt.

Instantly a verse of scripture came to my mind.

Lo, I am with you always…

While I know in this instance Jesus was speaking to His disciples – and through them to the church, I also realized this scripture had come to my mind by no coincidence.  God saw me – this young widow living in the middle of the country – and He cared.  He assured me I was not alone and that I would make it because He was with me.  He was the “God who sees me.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daddy Will Carry It For Me!

20139941_10154856209983364_8308308366402613337_n

My daughter recently spent several weeks in Sierra Leone tutoring the child of a missionary family that was returning to the states for a year and wanted to make sure their daughter was prepared for school in the USA.  My six-year-old granddaughter accompanied her mother on this trip.

It was a great opportunity for my young granddaughter to experience another culture, to try new foods and see how life is so different in other countries.  Hopefully, it has given her a better appreciation for the blessing of being born in the USA.

When she returns to school this fall and the teacher asks everyone what they did this summer, I doubt anyone will be able to top her story.  “I spent weeks in Africa.”  While there she kept a journal and my husband and I have enjoyed listening to her as she showed us the pictures she drew and read to us the comments she made in the journal.  Some of her comments we can read and some have to be “interpreted” as her spelling and printing are still in a “learning” process.

While she did well during her stay in Africa, as she and her mother began the journey back home, her excitement at the thought of seeing her daddy grew with each passing hour on the flight.  Because they were limited in the amount of luggage they could take, my granddaughter had her backpack filled to the brim with necessary items such as sunscreen and insect repellant but also with those items we Americans count as necessary such as an iPad.   The backpack became heavy as she carried it through the airport at each of their layovers.  But my granddaughter knew relief was in sight.  When they left Africa and she put the backpack on she told her mother with great confidence:

When I get home, Daddy will carry it for me.

After I calmed down from the excitement of knowing my daughter and granddaughter were back home safe and sound, I looked at the picture of my granddaughter with her daddy riding down the escalator at the airport.  My son-in-love had her backpack on his back and she was walking free of any burden.  Just as she knew, her daddy was carrying the load for her.

I began thinking of the confidence she had in her daddy.  How did she know he would carry the backpack for her?  Clearly in her six years of life she has found her daddy to be a faithful father.  He has always been there to pick her up when she fell as she learned to walk.  He has always been there to pick her up and swing her over his head and then safely put her down.  He has always been there to sooth her tears when something upset her.  He has always been there taking her to the zoo, to the park, playing games with her.  He has proven to her that he loves her, that he will take care of her and she has confidence in his ability to do just that.

Then I thought of my heavenly father.  How many times has He carried my load for me when it became too much for me?  When my earthly father deserted me, He was there.  When my first husband was accidentally killed, He was there.  When I was told that my cancer was very advanced and very aggressive and “the odds were not in my favor” He was there.  And just in the day-to-day cares of this life, He has always been there.

So I have to ask myself why is it when stressful times come, that I sometimes forget that? How sad it would have been if my granddaughter thought when she saw her daddy that he would refuse to carry her backpack but leave her to continue carrying the burden although she was exhausted from jet lag.

I keep looking at this picture of the two of them as they ride down the escalator with my granddaughter free of the load just comfortably riding down as her daddy manages the suit cases and has the backpack on his back.  He is not ashamed to wear a “My Pony” backpack.  He is not worried about someone laughing at a grown man with a child’s backpack.  His only thought is to help his daughter and to relieve her of her burden.

So Jesus went to the cross for me.  He was not afraid to bear the shame of the crucifixion.  His only thought was to help me (and the whole world) and relieve me of the burden of my sin.

So when problems come in the future, I will go back to this picture and I will say:

My Daddy will carry it for me!

 

 

The God Who Sees Me – Part 1

Hagar_finds_refuge_51-15

In the book of Genesis we are told of the story of Hagar, the maid of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.  When Sarah was not able to conceive, she gave her maid to Abraham in hopes that she would be able to bear a son who would then be considered Abraham and Sarah’s legal offspring.  This was often the custom in the ancient world – their version of our surrogate mother today.

After Hagar conceived it appears there was conflict between the two women.  No doubt Sarah felt jealous and perhaps afraid that Abraham would begin to love Hagar more for giving him a son.  The Bible indicates that Hagar may have also become a little arrogant because she had been able to do for her master while his wife had not been able to do.

In any event when Sarah began to treat Hagar harshly, Hagar fled into the desert. There, huddled by a stream of water, no doubt feeling all alone and wondering what would become of her and the child she carried, Hagar was visited by the Angel of the Lord.  From the promises the visitor made to Hagar and from her response, it is clear that this was none other than God Himself.

God instructed Hagar to return to Sarah and Abraham and submit to them.  He assured her that she was going to have a son and that this son’s descendants would be too numerous to count.  She was instructed by God to name her son Ishmael which means “God that hears.”  Hagar clearly realized who her visitor was and she called Him El-Roi, “the God who sees me.”

I have often read this story, even taught it in Sunday School, but recently as I read it, the name of God seemed to jump out to me off the pages of my Bible.

The God Who Sees Me

In the midst of her fear and suffering Hagar recognized that God saw her.  I began to think of times in my life when I experienced that same sense.  Times of my own fear or suffering when God ministered to me in a clear way that let me know He saw me.  He knew my distress and He gave me assurance that He was with me and would help me in this time of difficulty.

I sat down and began to make a list of those times when God let me know without any doubt that He saw me and He was there.

Does Jesus Care?

The first moment for me was when I was 14 years old.  My father had recently walked out on my mother and me, leaving to live with another woman.  My heart was broken as my father had been the one I looked up to and wanted to be like.  Unable to cope with her husband’s desertion, my mother became the child and I became the adult.  Instead of her trying to comfort me, I was called on to give her comfort.  Over and over she would repeat to me stories of the early days of their marriage long before I was born and would tell me terrible things about my father.  Things I did not want and should not have had to hear.

One day feeling so alone I sat down at the piano and began to play a song we sometimes sang at church.  As I played that song, it was a cry from my heart to God.  The words of the song spoke exactly what I felt.

Does Jesus care when my heart is pained
Too deeply for mirth or song,
As the burdens press,
And the cares distress,
And the way grows weary and long?

Does Jesus care when I’ve said “goodbye”
To the dearest on earth to me,
And my sad heart aches
Till it nearly breaks,
Is it ought to Him? Does He see?

After crying out to God through these words, I began to sing the chorus.  I was not sure if the words of that chorus were true,  Did God really see me?  A young girl living in a run-down small house in a tiny town.  What was I compared to the rest of the world?  Did He care?  As the tears ran down my face, I sang these words.

O yes, He cares, I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary,
The long night dreary,
I know my Savior cares.

What I am about to say I know some will not believe or will say it was just the fancy of a young girl.  But to me it was so real, I will never doubt it.  As I sang the words of that chorus I felt a strong presence beside me.  Such a sense of peace came over me and I knew that the God who saw Hagar had seen me.  Afraid to turn and look for fear I would really see Him standing there and feeling how unworthy I was, I never turned.  But to this day, I know this was a moment when the Creator of the universe showed up to tell a young girl that He cared.

I have had other times of distress and problems but I have never doubted that God cares about me and that He sees me.

Have you had moments in your life when God “showed up” and let you know He was there?  If so, I would love to hear about them.

 

Little Country Church

DSCF0242

Little church in the country

Growing up my earliest memories of church took place at Zion Methodist Church.  This country church is just east of the town of Mt. Vernon, Illinois where I was born many, many years ago.  My mother and father made a commitment to serve the Lord in this little church when I was just a few months old.  Although I was obviously too young to remember anything about this event, I heard my father tell the story so many times I feel as if I do remember it.

The Story Goes

My parents were not followers of Christ and enjoyed going to the movies on Sunday nights.  My oldest sister, who was nine years old, started attending church with my aunt and uncle.  Although only a young girl she understood the simple salvation message the minister preached and made a commitment to God.  After that she began begging my parents to attend church with her.  One evening to just shut her up they agreed to pass up the movies and go to church with her.

Adam, where art thou?

My father sat through the worship, but about halfway through the sermon, his cigarette habit called to him.  At least that was the reason he was giving for leaving in the middle of the service.  Later he admitted he was feeling God speaking to his heart and he knew if he did not get out of the building, he would have to surrender his life to God.

He got up and started to the center aisle when the minister reached the point in his message where he said,

And God said, Adam, where art thou?

My father often spoke of this moment with great feeling.  He said his ears heard “Adam where art thou?” but his heart heard “Hal, where art thou?”

Decision time

At that moment he knew he had to make a decision.  Would he turn to his right and walk out of the church and silence the voice of God speaking to his heart?  Would he turn to his left and walk down to the altar and surrender his heart and life to Jesus Christ?

I am so thankful he made that turn to his left and said yes to the call of God.  I spent the first six years of my life every Sunday morning at the church.  My Sunday School teacher was the same one my father had when he was a young boy and attended that church with his mother.

fanspotbelly stove

The church was heated by a pot belly stove in the center aisle.  In the summer there was no air conditioning, but we used paper fans.  Most of the fans had advertising from a local funeral home.

Because I was very young, I would often fall asleep in the Sunday evening services.  One evening my family started home, my folks in the front seat and my siblings in the back.  About half way home they realized I was not in the car.  My parents had thought I was sitting on my older sister’s lap in the back seat as I often did that.  My siblings thought I was layig down on my mother’s lap in the front.  They quickly turned around and headed back to the church.  Thankfully I was still asleep in one of the pews.  I cannot imagine how frightened I would have been if I had awoke and found myself alone in the darkened church.

Such are my memories of this little country church.  On a recent trip down memory lane I asked my husband to take me to the church and let me get a picture.  Standing in front of the church – all the memories that came flooding my heart and mind.  My parents are now gone, my aunt and uncle also.  But I will always treasure that little church where I first heard the words:

“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”