Wednesday, October 13, 2010

So, Bloom Already!

I don't know how it is for you, but for me the lessons I learn are often repeated or confirmed several ways in a short period of time. I'll read something in my Bible, or hear it from a trusted friend, or feel the Spirit is telling me something, and then I'll hear or see something similar soon thereafter.

A week or so ago I was in a class taught by a man I admire for his wisdom and his gentleness. He related some advice he and his wife got from a doctor when they were going through some hard times and were trying to decide whether to leave the church and the fellowship where they were, or to stay and work things out from within. This doctor told them, "Bloom where you are planted." It sounds so simple. In fact, it sounds like a cliché. But remember that a cliché starts as a truth. It only becomes cliché when it is overused. And even then there are times when it is true.

Those simple words meant the world to this man and his wife. That phrase guided them through that part of their lives, and obviously still have an effect on them over 30 years later. And when he spoke those words, they seemed to have special impact for me. Recently some things have popped up which have made me question how I was serving God, my church, and my community. It has been a stressful and somewhat disheartening time for me and for my wife. We've run into some situations that gave us doubts about people we had trusted for a long time. Things were done that should not have been. Other things that should have been done were left undone. It has been a struggle for us to know how to react, what to do, what to say. We even began to consider leaving the church where we have worshipped and served for over 30 years.

So the simple phrase, "Bloom where you are planted" meant a lot to me.

The day after that class, I was talking to a friend who told me he was planning to hire someone to do what I do. In the current job market, I was naturally intrigued by that. This friend's company is booming while many other companies are fading. I feel sure I could get that job and do well in it. Almost immediately after hearing this, though, I also heard a quiet voice inside say, "Bloom where you are planted."

Then came the dream. Now I am not one to attribute great meaning to my dreams. In general, dreams are just random thoughts caused by your brain re-booting. In fact, I am one of those people who seldom remember my dreams. I'm sure that I have dreamed something each night, but I almost never have even the vaguest glimmer of what the dream was about. If I do remember anything it is usually something like, "Let's see. There was a puppy, a big noise, and the smell of cucumbers."

This time I not only knew the basic outline of the dream, but I could remember great numbers of details. In the dream, I went to a specific city (Chicago, for reasons that aren't clear to me) and went through a days-long interview and testing process for a job. At the end of that time, the hiring team came to me and offered me the job for substantially more than I make now (or probably will ever make). In addition, they told me that none of the others were ever really under consideration. They were just there for form. And I turned the job down, not because there was anything bad about it (okay, I really don't have any desire to live in Chicago), but because I wanted to stay where I was. Again, "Bloom where you are planted."

Okay, God. I get the message. But then come the questions. Is this really where I was planted? What does that mean? What part of my life is it about?

I can't tell you that I know the answers to those questions. I can tell you some of the ways I plan to listen for the answers.

I'll read. Both in scripture and in other books by authors whose work I trust. It may not happen to you, but I'm pretty sure God keeps sneaking stuff into my Bible. I'll read a passage for years, and then one day something will jump out at me that I've never noticed before. A similar thing often happens when reading other books, frequently books that aren't on spiritual subjects. Sometimes it's a work of fiction. But some dialogue, some scene, some phrase will hit me with a force that far outweighs simple words. I've learned to listen in those times.

I'll listen to God. I don't expect a big, booming voice speaking to me from the sky, nor do I expect to see a disembodied hand writing on the wall (although that happened once). I'll pray some more, and when I pray I'll try to be open. Just last night I was praying, asking for wisdom to give to some brothers of mine, when I heard, "Let them give to you." That was exactly what I needed at the time.

Which brings up another thing I'll do. I'll listen to Godly brothers and sisters. God puts us into community for a reason. I can't tell you how many times a person I respect and love has shown me something that was clear to them, but not to me. And I've done the same thing for them.

And I'll listen to my heart. I know, I know. "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" That's Jeremiah 17:9. You know what Jeremiah 17:10 says? "I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve." We've misused that first verse to tell people that they can never trust their hearts. Yet God told us, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." (Ezekiel 36:26) God gives us desires and puts them into our hearts. Could Mother Theresa have ministered to the poor in India all those years if her heart wasn't in it? Could Paul have endured shipwreck, beatings, hunger, hardship, and pain without his heart? No. Remember that the Pharisees were experts in the law, very good at outward righteousness. But Jesus condemned them because of their hearts.

I don't have all the answers yet. But whatever they are, I'm going to bloom in the best way I know how. I might be a blooming idiot, but that has never stopped me before.

Are you blooming?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Stand by Your . . . Stand

I hunt deer. To some of you that is akin to confessing that I drink the blood of babies under a full moon. To others, it's more of a "so what" kind of thing. Others think, "Cool. When can I get some venison?"

All of you can keep reading. No deer (or babies) were harmed in the making of this story. It isn't a hunting story. It's more of a pre-hunting preparation story.

As part of my preparation this year, I bought a hunting stand. It's a tripod stand, three long legs leading to a platform with a seat. The legs are braced to each other and one has ladder rungs on it so you can climb to the platform. The whole idea is to get up higher so you can see over brush, short mesquite trees, and folds in the land. The place where I hunt is small, and most of it is covered with heavy oak forest. But there is one place where I can see for 150 yards in a couple of directions, if I can get a little height. Hence the stand. I love it when a plan comes together.

My first check came after I picked the thing up at the local Bass Pro Shop and got it home. It was a heavy, tightly packed box, and when I opened it, it looked like a giant green erector set. Okay. I liked erector sets when I was a kid. I can do this.

Since it was 107 degrees outside that day, and since my mother didn't raise any fools (except maybe my brother), I brought the first parts of the stand inside to assemble them on the living room tile. Of course, I first had to find the parts I wanted, which always seemed to be under the ones I would need later. And naturally, the bolts supplied were of four different sizes, in one bag, most of them only identifiable with a ruler or by comparing them with each other. Did I mention there were about a hundred bolts?

I laid out the first three pieces, the platform out on the floor, and began to attach them to each other. Immediately I ran into trouble. One of the sections was welded badly. Oh, it's strong enough, but there was no way the supplied bolts were going to stretch from there to there. Well, that's no problem for a handy guy like me. I just happened to have a couple of longer bolts in the garage. Back on track.

After several trips back to the truck where I had the rest of the pieces, I managed to get the platform, the seat, and the safety rail assembled. I knew I wouldn't be able to attach the legs, or even assemble them completely, because the whole thing had to be transported in my pickup to the ranch. After I got the legs partly assembled (short enough to fit in the pickup), I was done for the moment. When my son got home I got him to help me carry the assembled platform outside.

Well, almost. You see, no matter which way we turned the thing, there was no way it would fit through the door. From assembly to disassembly in four, or five, or maybe fifteen easy steps. Eventually we got the parts out into the back yard, where my dog was sure to mark them. What the heck, it has to stand up to the weather for years anyway.

The plan was to take the parts to the ranch and put it all up the next weekend. It was even supposed to be a cool day. That, of course, didn't work out because of some family emergency. So it was a not-so-cool Saturday morning when I headed out early to the ranch. Early because it's cooler then. Not cool enough, but every bit helps.

Once at the site it was clear that my original location wouldn't work. It was not level enough in front of the trees to put up the stand, unless I wanted to dig deep holes for two of the three legs. Did I mention that our ranch is mostly rock covered by a thin dusting of soil? That was out.

Still, I found a relatively level spot and began to put the legs together and attach them. It was then that I realized they had not given me even one extra nut or bolt in the package. Did you ever try to find a black 5/16 inch lock nut in high grass?

The instructions also forgot to mention that you really need two grown men and a bull elephant to put the whole thing together. And it's certain that in the process both of the men and perhaps the elephant will be reduced to tears. But maybe elephants are tougher than that. My experience with them is limited.

I'd pick up a leg, balancing it in the middle, and attempt to slide it into a socket that was just a bit larger than the leg itself. Ever try to guide a 15-foot steel leg from seven-and-a-half feet away? Eventually, I would get it inserted, then go to see that the holes didn't quite line up. Okay. Pick up the end of the leg and ever so gently, slide it forward. Set it down and check. Too far. Go back and tug on it. Set it down and check. Too far. Try again. And again.

Then it comes time to insert the braces. Hmmm . . . gravity seems to be working against me. This is where the elephant would have been handy. Brace against the upper leg, strain, groan, guide the brace into place . . . don't let it buckle! Do it again to insert the bolts. Okay, one down, five to go. And of course, they get harder as you go.

Dripping sweat, hands numb, back throbbing, I finally got it all together. Surprisingly, setting it upright wasn't that hard. Take that, elephants! Drive the hold down stakes which, in a brilliant display of poor engineering, are blunt, hollow tubes. Two go in with only mild battering. The third is apparently dead center on a large rock about three inches below the ground. You know what, two are probably enough.

There it is. Sturdy. High. Positioned so I can see a long way. Unfortunately, it's kind of exposed. In the military, they tell you not to silhouette yourself against a skyline. That's exactly what I've done. And my camouflage isn't going to do much against the sky.

I think I'm going to dress like a cloud.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Foretaste of Fall

We've been dealing with 100+ degree days here in North Texas. We had 17 in a row, then one day when it was only 99 degrees, then another run of 100+ Toward the latter part of that we've been running at 106 – 108. Just brutal. You step outside and you're instantly soaked with sweat, and don't even think about getting into a closed car without letting it air out a bit. And my motorcycle riding has been even more curtailed. When I did ride, the mornings were only uncomfortable. The afternoon ride home was a trial that left me feeling like a half-chewed piece of jerky.

And then came the change. A cold front came through, with the promise of highs in the lower 90s, and morning lows that actually seemed like morning. We even had an overcast day with occasional light sprinkles of rain and a high that didn't get out of the lower 80s.

That afternoon, as I rode through a wooded suburban neighborhood, the smell of fall rolled over me, the smell of cool air on damp leaves. I breathed it in deeply, smiling, and thanking God for the change.

Fall! I love it. It is by far my favorite season. Some in the northern lands may long for spring, may pine for the end of the snow and the first sight of a crocus. But after a long Texas summer of 100+ degree days, 85 degree nights, air conditioners struggling to keep up and all that, I long for fall. Just to have the temps stay below 90 for a few days is a wonderfully luxury, and that smell of damp leaves really brings it home.

Of course, the leaves are not even close to changing color yet. More likely some of the trees were experiencing heat stress. Still, that will come, and if we don't have spectacular New England autumns here, at least we do get to see some color change and smell that blessed fragrance.

I grew up in Wichita, Kansas. While that's not a town known for its vast forests, still we had lots of leaves falling in autumn, and as kids we piled them up and dove into them with abandon. And of course our autumn was much earlier there than it is here in Cowtown.

Fall has other pleasant memories for me. For most of my life it has been the season of hunting. We start with the doves, when it's really not fall yet, and progress on to waterfowl, quail, pheasant, and deer. Great times sitting around a fire talking about whatever, sitting still in the dawn as the world wakes up around me, watching squirrels chase one another, hearing coyotes yodeling in the near distance, seeing the clueless armadillos puttering along and digging for grubs. Wood ducks swooshing overhead with a sound like swooping jet planes, crows calling, dogs barking in the distance . . .

The sights, sounds, and smells of fall are my favorites. So come to us quickly, fall. We're waiting.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I Saw Church

It has been five years since I wrote this, five years since the events that precipitated it. The anniversary brought it back to me, and I thought it was worth sharing.
Yesterday I saw church. Not a church. Certainly not what most people think of as a church, a building with a steeple. Not even the worship gathering that Christians commonly think of as “church”. No, I saw THE church. In action.

The location was unusual. It was in the lobby of a hospital. We tend in this nation to forget that the vast majority of our hospitals were built and funded by churches. But that fact made the location oddly appropriate. Jesus made it even more appropriate. In the book of Matthew, Jesus said he came to the sick, not the healthy. That’s why we were there – for the sick.

One was physically sick. Badly injured, unable to speak, move, or even breathe for himself, our brother, Daniel Roberts, lay in a bed in ICU, clinging to life. The rest of us were there because we were heart sick. We were heart sick for Daniel, for his parents, Ron and Mary, for his sisters, Domecia, Lydia, Lynae, and Victoria. We were heart sick for ourselves. We were heart sick for each other.

We were there because we are church.

Daniel was injured on Sunday afternoon. He suffered a massive head trauma and apparently had at least one stroke. On Sunday evening, we began to learn of his condition, and the church started to gather. At first it was just a few, a trickle. Then, as word spread, the trickle grew into a rivulet, a stream, a flood. Twice, as the response grew, the hospital staff moved the group to larger areas. And still it grew. It became much more than a gathering. It became a vigil.

It became church.

Some brought food. Some brought blankets and pillows and sleeping bags. Some brought gifts and books and games. All brought love, and prayers, and hope. Here is a group of pre-teen girls gathered around young Victoria Roberts, offering comfort as friends, peers, sisters. Here is a gathering of Daniel’s friends, sharing remembrances and stories from his life, from his recent mission trip to Valles, Mexico. There are some men and women with kids of their own Daniel’s age, praying together for healing, for life, for peace, for understanding. Everywhere are hugs, encouragement, reports of Daniel’s condition, comfort, tears, even laughter. For Daniel loves laughter, and generates it wherever he goes.

As the doctors work over Daniel, reports come in. There is hope! He is responding a little, and breathing on his own occasionally. Thanksgiving, joy, praise, all ring out in the lobby. Those passing by stare at the crowd. Some smile and nod. Some frown. Some are puzzled. People come in and receive all the latest updates. People leave to return to jobs and homes, to get a little rest or take care of a little business. But most return. The composition of the group changes, but still it grows. Lydia and Lynae Roberts arrive from Ruidoso, where they have been on their mission trip. They are welcomed with hugs and tears, and go to see their brother.

On Monday evening, Ron and Mary Roberts come downstairs and motion for everyone to gather around them. The news is grim. Tests say that Daniel is no longer getting blood flow to his brain. Another test will be done in a couple of hours to confirm.

His voice breaking, Ron says, “We couldn’t have done this without you. We’re going to donate Daniel’s organs. Daniel has a new body now.”

“We’re going to throw one great party,” says Mary. Then, “We would like you to go up in twos to say goodbye to our boy.”

Tears flowed anew as the church gathered around Ron and Mary. In truth they dealt out as much comfort as they received. The two young men who were with Daniel when he was injured cried out, sobbing. Mary Roberts went and spoke to each of them, offering her love, her comfort. All around the room were those comforting and receiving comfort.

Some felt the battle had not yet been lost and encouraged us to further prayer on Daniel’s behalf. Regardless of our feelings, we all clung together and prayed. We prayed for healing. For comfort. For peace. For God’s will. Soon voices began to lift quiet songs of praise. Song followed on song, scripture on scripture, prayer on prayer. People lined up to go upstairs and spend a few moments with Daniel. As they came back down, those waiting held them and loved them.

Monday night Daniel leapt into the arms of Jesus. He got a new body and a crown. He left behind many people who love him still. We miss his smile, his easy laugh, his quirky humor. The tears we cry are for ourselves, for each other, for his family. They’re real tears nonetheless. But Daniel cries no more. He looks down on us and smiles.

For he sees church.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Prayer for Michigan Senate

This is the prayer that was offered for the opening session of the Michigan Senate June 15, 2010. It was delivered by Patrick Mead, the preaching minister at Rochester Church of Christ, a very dynamic church in the suburban Detroit area. This is a prayer that all legislative bodies should hear and heed.

Dear Lord and Father of Mankind, we approach you this day and ask you for guidance. We remember that you promised to give your servant, Solomon, anything he asked for and he earned your approval by asking not for riches or power or fame but for wisdom.

Father, we ask you for wisdom for our State has entered troubling times. Good, decent, hard working people have found themselves out of a job and unable to find another one. People are losing their homes. Pensions have evaporated and a spirit of fear has entered our hearts. Our prayer is that You will guide the decisions made in this chamber in such a way as to bring peace, freedom, and security to our families and our State.

Father, turn our hearts from the petty and mundane to matters profound and wise. Let us not look first to our own careers and our own position but, rather, let us examine the matters placed before us to see what is right, what is good, what is decent, what is honest, and what is honorable. And when we find what is honorable, help us to have the courage to choose that path regardless of any pressures placed on us by our own weak hearts or by the machinations of others.

We are mindful of the fact that we are all here today because of the blood of others. Others wore the uniform of this nation and gave up families, homes, loved ones, safety, career, and riches in order to serve a higher calling. We honor them and we thank you for them, Father. Help us to never forget that their tribe continues to this day. To this day, good and faithful men and women are in the field, under fire, under harsh conditions, serving people they will never meet. Bless them. Protect them. Bring them home soon in victory and honor. Bring them home soon whole and healthy.

Let those in this chamber never forget the sacrifices that have allowed them to be here. I pray that they will never use the people they serve in a dishonorable way. Never let them climb for position on the backs of those they are supposed to serve. Never let them gain power and influence by using the money and labor of others for their own purposes. Let them treat the people they serve, their labor, and their hard earned money and goods as sacred things; a sacred trust to be treated gently and with much care and prayer.

Let us see their faces. Let us feel their beating hearts. Let us feel the sweat on their faces. And let us deal with them and with our state in a way that allows us to stand before you one day without fear, certain that we have loved the least among us, that we have served all with pure motives, and that our hearts are pure before you. Bless this house and bless the State of Michigan, we pray.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

If you would like to hear more of Patrick Mead's teaching, you can find the Rochester Church website here.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters

I have not posted anything here for a long time, and I thought it would be good to get back into form with a book review.

Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters
by Meg Meeker, M.D.

I am always looking for something to help me be a better father to my three kids. There are lots of good books out there, and lots that aren't so good. However, it seems as if I have found more books about raising sons than I have about raising daughters. Partly, I think this is because of a recognized need in our culture. Boys in our culture are caught in a trap. There has been little to help them understand what manhood is, and even less to help them attain that. So there have been some great books written to address that need. On the other hand, because I work in a men's ministry, I see the results of this lack of training, upbringing and focus for boys.

But I recently realized that my daughter was nearly grown, and while I have put a lot of effort into helping her grow, I needed to do more. So I began to search for information. Dr. Meeker's book came to the top of the stack, and I'm glad it did.

Dr. Meeker is a pediatrician, and has seen thousands of girls from birth to late teens in her practice. She has an extensive background of doctor-patient experience to draw upon, and she has a secret for you. You, Dad, are the most important person in your daughter's life.

Our daughters are literally assaulted by a society that tells them they can never be thin enough, popular enough, or well-dressed enough. From the time they can walk they are supposed to be sexy. From the time they start school, they are told they must please boys, must measure themselves against sex-pot actresses and singers, must live up to the world's standard of beauty or they aren't worth anything. They are assaulted daily, and their chief defense against that is how their fathers see them, speak to them, teach them, and treat them.

Dr. Meeker pulls no punches. She tells stories of girls whose fathers have crippled them emotionally, and who seek affirmation in hook-up sex, drugs, and alcohol. She also tells stories of girls whose fathers have armored them against such things by their own love. Some have gone to the wall for their daughters, and their daughters thrive because of it. She tells stories of fathers who didn't do everything right, but when the crisis came, they stood up for their daughters and drew them back from the brink of death. There are stories here to make you weep and stories to make you cheer. And they are all true.

In addition, Dr. Meeker sets forth statistics and studies that show how important fathers are to their daughters, and just the kind of stresses and pain our daughters face. There are many facts and stories here about eating disorders, which are literally causing our daughters to waste away before our eyes. Naturally, as a pediatrician, Meeker has seen many such cases. She also has treated many teen girls for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and she give absolutely frightening statistics about our daughters (and our sons, but the daughters are the focus here).

Depression ranks as one of the major health issues for teen girls, and Dr. Meeker has seen and treated much of it. She says that she has come to view depression in girls as another STD, because it is always linked to sexual activity.

Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters is not just a listing of the woes and troubles that face our daughters, though. Meeker details positive, active ways you can strengthen your daughters, lift them up, and ensure that they succeed in life, in love, and in spirit. While Meeker is obviously Christian and writes from that viewpoint, this isn't a preachy book. She does stress the need for faith in your life and your daughter's, but she doesn’t specify any specific faith. She sees faith as one of the major factors in your daughter's health. As such, those who don't want to read a "Christian" book on raising their daughters will find this book eminently readable and applicable to their lives.

Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters. Get it, read it, use it. Your daughters will thank you.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Gospel According to Puddleglum

Anyone who knows me well, knows I am a reader. That's a bit like saying Michael Jordan could play a little basketball, or Imelda Marcos liked to shop for shoes. I read pretty much constantly. My wife is the same way, and our kids have inherited the disease to varying extents. We live in a library that grows like a jungle, slowly enveloping all the horizontal surfaces in our home. Every once in a while we chop it back, but I think the jungle is winning.

More specifically, I love to read stories. I'm not immune to the virtues of good non-fiction, and I always try to keep a non-fiction book going. But fiction really speaks to me. In fact, I am convinced that the Holy Spirit speaks to me through the stories I read. Not all of them, certainly, but many, many times I have learned Biblical truths when reading a fictional story. I can remember one such incident several years ago when I was reading one of the books in Stephen Lawhead's Arthurian cycle. There was an incident in the book of demon possession and spiritual warfare that was more real to me than anything I had ever read in another book or seen in any film. It struck something deep within me, and gave me a fuller appreciation of spiritual warfare than I ever had before. Suddenly it was undeniably real.

That happened again, recently, although not in quite so dramatic a fashion. Considering what I was reading, it really shouldn't have been that surprising. I was reading C. S. Lewis's The Silver Chair, part of The Chronicles of Narnia. Those books were an attempt to put the truths of the gospel into a children's fantasy setting, and Lewis succeeded admirably, in my opinion. They are very approachable books for children, yet continue to delight adults (such as myself). In addition, they do present God's truths in a novel way.

The Silver Chair is the story of Eustace Scrubb and Jill Pole, two children from our world, who travel with Puddleglum, a Narnian Marsh Wiggle, on a quest to find and rescue Prince Rillian. Puddleglum, for me, is the most memorable character, and the hero of the story. He is a dour, pessimistic grumbler who sticks tirelessly to his duty, and manages somehow to find good in every bad situation, all the while supposing that things will get much, much worse. When it rains, Puddleglum is certain it will soon turn to sleet, but thinks how much more grateful they'll be then for the rain. He muses that the wood will probably be too wet to make a fire, and is pleasantly surprised when it burns quite well. To Puddleglum, no silver lining is without its dark cloud. The children call him a "wet blanket", and they wish he'd stop grumbling and looking for the worst all the time. In the end, they come to realize that he really is a happy person, and one of the bravest they have ever met.

But what really struck me from the story was how God uses the good and the bad to make things work out. Aslan, the great lion who is a stand-in for Jesus in The Chronicles of Narnia, gives the children four signs that will help them on their mission to rescue Rillian. The first is that Eustace will meet an old friend in Narnia, and must speak to him to get help. They muff that one almost immediately, and they must go forward in secrecy and without help they would otherwise have had. Consequently, as they set out on their difficult journey, they devote themselves to remembering and repeating the signs nightly.

But as their journey becomes long and difficult, they cease remembering the signs, caught up as they are in fighting the elements and their own weariness. At one point Jill says, "Oh, bother the signs!" In that moment she is more interested in finding warmth and comfort than in remembering the purpose for which they have come. Consequently they miss the ancient city of the giants, though they are actually struggling through its ruins at the time. That, in turn, causes them to miss the third sign, and after that they find themselves in a very tight place, indeed, where they must struggle for their own survival, not just to complete their quest.

And yet . . . in spite of missing the first three of the four signs, they find a way to get back on track, and move toward the goal. It is hard, and dangerous, and looks as if they will fail and likely die in the attempt. But their way becomes clear.

Then it struck me. How like us, and how like God! God put Adam and Eve in the Garden, and told them to guard it. But it’s not long before Adam and Eve are in a relationship with the serpent, close enough that he is able to convince them God is holding out on them. And so enters death. The first sign muffed. But even before he drives them from the Garden, God announces the way things will be made right, through the sacrifice of his own son, indeed of himself.

And we continue that pattern today. Who of us could honestly say we have done everything right, and have always chosen God over ourselves, over our own pleasure, over our fears? Not a one. And yet . . . in spite of muffing sign after sign after sign, he still makes a way. We get another chance to get back on track, to continue on the quest, to do the right thing.

And then, in The Silver Chair, Puddleglum and the children hear the last sign. The madman is tied into the Silver Chair, where he comes to his senses and begs them to free him in the name of Aslan. All prudence, all good sense, all care for their own safety tell them to ignore his pleas. But Puddleglum says it best:

“But then, supposing this was the real Sign? . . . They had muffed three already; they daren’t muff the fourth.

“Oh, if only we knew!” said Jill.

“I think we do know,” said Puddleglum.

“Do you mean you think everything will come right if we do untie him?” said Scrubb.

“I don’t know about that,” said Puddleglum. “You see, Aslan didn’t tell Pole what would happen. He only told her what to do. That fellow will be the death of us once he’s up, I shouldn’t wonder. But that doesn’t let us off following the Sign.”

Here Puddleglum shows us our only course. We cannot change the past. We cannot make a future where our sins did not happen. We’ve muffed a lot of signs. But when God makes a new way, when we see the next sign, when we come to the next choice, nothing must stop us from choosing right.

There is such freedom in that! No matter what kind of mess I’ve made of my life, I can still choose right. I can still declare my allegiance. I can still fight on God’s side. It’s not up to me to determine what the cost will be. It is only up to me to obey.

That’s good news, the Gospel according to Puddleglum. Thanks, Puddleglum. And thank you, God, for giving us stories that point us back to you. Wherever they may be found.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

And if Not . . .

A friend posted a blog recently that I really got a lot out of and agreed with. Except for one thing. He's younger than I am (isn't everyone?), and he posted on Matthew 7:1 ("Do not judge, or you, too will be judged.") He repeated the idea that this was now the best-known Bible verse among college students, whereas 20 or 30 years ago it would have been John 3:16 ("For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.")

I believe that is correct. John 3:16 used to be the best known verse, and now Matthew 7:1 is better known. Where I had to differ with my friend was the reason he gave for that. His thought was that his generation had seen so much religious intolerance, from the 9/11 terrorism, to crazy street preachers calling out against things they didn’t like and putting Jesus' name on it.

Hey, there is a ton of religious intolerance in the world. And there are lots of folks who have decided that the things they particularly dislike are the things God dislikes, and they love to share their opinions with you as if they are Holy Writ. I'll agree with that.

But it's not new to this generation. It's not even particularly prevalent in this generation, compared with many others. Let's not forget that Islam conquered all of the Middle East, and a good portion of Europe in the name of Jihad. So that's not new. Let's also not forget that the Crusaders killed virtually everyone in the city of Jerusalem—Muslim, Christian, and Jew—in the First Crusade. You can argue that these were actually political wars covered over with religious trappings. I think you'd be right to argue that. But the point is, intolerance, even violent intolerance isn't anything new.

Just about every generation has seen religious intolerance, and a good many of them believed it was worse in their time that in was in times past. The same thing goes for legalism. It has been here since the beginning, and this generation has it easy when it comes to legalism.

So, what explains the popularity of Matthew 7:1 vs. John 3:16 today?

There is likely not any one reason. But I can think of two factors that are a big part of that.

The first is our society's emphasis on personal freedom and expression. Freedom has come to mean freedom to do anything without worrying about consequences or what the neighbors (or God) might think. Tolerance has been held up as the highest virtue, with a definition of tolerance that our forefathers would never have considered. In the past, tolerance has implied that one idea could be superior to another. One tolerates what one does not agree with. Now, it has come to mean celebration of all ideas as equal.

We have made an idol of personal freedom. And it is not the generation that is now in college that has done this. It is my generation and the generation of my father. In some respects it might be viewed as the pendulum swing away from legalism and strict societal controls on behavior. You can make a case for that. But whatever the reason, the current young adult generation did not create it. They are simply having to live with the consequences.

As a bit of a side note, my friend's blog points out that the young adult generation does judge one another. And they do it on a performance criteria, which is the direct opposite of how God sees us. It is a very good post, and you can read it. The direct link isn't working, so you'll have to go to, click the Archive link, and look for "Do Not Judge."

But the reason Matthew 7:1 is well known is that we have made a society where people do not want to be judged and cannot even bear the thought that someone might think ill of them. That's not really new, either.

As for why John 3:16 got knocked out of the top spot, I think you have to look at how the Bible has been taken out of Western culture. In past generations, the Bible was considered to be a foundational book for education. You found quoted verses in newspapers, magazines, literature, radio, television, theater. It was simply part of our culture. It is only in the past 50 years or so that it has been slowly removed from our culture. I'm not going to go into the why and how of this right now. Chuck Colson, in one of his Breakpoint commentaries gives an example of how ingrained the Bible was in Western culture not so long ago, and how that has changed:

June 1940: Hitler's armies are poised to destroy the cornered British Army, stranded on the beaches at Dunkirk. As the British people anxiously await word of their fate, a three-word message is transmitted from the besieged army: "And if not . . ."

The British public instantly recognizes the message: It's a reference to the biblical story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego standing before King Nebuchadnezzer's fiery furnace. "Our God is able to save us . . . and if not, we will remain faithful to him anyway."
The message galvanized the British people, and thousands crossed the English Channel in small boats to rescue their army.

Fast forward sixty-one years to January 22, 2001: President Bush delivers his Inaugural Address. Afterward, Dick Meyer of CBS News confesses "there were a few phrases in the speech I just didn't get. One was, 'When we see that wounded traveler on the road to Jericho, we will not pass to the other side.'"

"I hope there's not a quiz," Meyer concludes.

What a difference a generation makes. For centuries, biblical references were the common coinage of Western speech. As Dunkirk demonstrates, people were so steeped in the Scriptures they immediately recognized a cryptic biblical allusion. But today that memory has been erased.

There, in a nutshell, is the reason and the problem. Our nation no longer knows the Bible. Or we choose only to know what helps us feel good about our lifestyles. There truly is "nothing new under the sun." And we "reap what we sow."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Lost, then Found

Those of you who know me even moderately well know I'm a Lost fan. I actually came to the series late, sometime in the second season. But my son had the DVDs of the first season, and we borrowed them from him. We were almost immediately hooked. Side note: The DVDs of past seasons are a great way to watch the show. No week-long (or longer) breaks, no writer's strike, watch at your own pace, go back to see things you missed, etc.

Okay, side note over. Lost is one of the few network television shows my family watches. It actually has good writing, which is something I absolutely demand. It has great characterization, interesting plot and plot twists, cleverness, and a story about people. There are time travel paradoxes, which are like old home week to this long-time science fiction fan. Lost also has some great themes that echo Christianity.

Warning: Spoilers ahead. If you haven't seen Episode 7 of Season 6, Dr. Linus, you are going to see things here you might not want to see yet. You've been warned.

The biggest of those themes are redemption and forgiveness. I am certainly not the first to write about that, and won't be the last. But this whole show could be sub-titled Island of Second Chances. Because everyone there gets a second chance. And a third, and a fourth . . . Locke gets his legs back. Charlie gets to kick his habit. Kate escapes the law. Sawyer goes from con-man to protector, to leader. Even the Others get a second chance. Some make terrible choices with their second chance. Every one of them blows it at least once, even Hurley. But they get to pick up and try again.

Since the time shifts started and we began to see the flash sideways scenes, we've seen even more second chances. And they're wrapped up with redemption and forgiveness. But I was truly struck by redemption and forgiveness in this latest episode. And the best examples are those that take place for Benjamin Linus, the most despicable character in the show.

Ben is Machiavellian to the max. He has lied to and used everyone he met. He even killed his own father (with glee, I might add) when the Others wiped out the Darma Initiative. Most recently, he has killed Jacob at the instigation of the man in black (masquerading as John Locke). He also let the mercenaries kill his own adopted daughter rather than give himself up to them. Ben is rotten to the core. He's the slime that scum wipe off their feet.

But . . . in the flash sideways he becomes another man. He still has that Machiavellian spirit inside him. He uses knowledge of his Principal's indiscretion in a bid to gain the Principal's position. But when it comes to a choice between that and helping his favorite student (who was his daughter in the other timeline), he chooses to help the student. He makes the sacrificial choice. He saves his daughter, at a great cost to himself. Anyone see a Biblical echo in that?

And in the "real" timeline (what is "real" in Lost?), we see an even greater act, one of incredible forgiveness. Ilana, who has come to the island to bring several "candidates" to Jacob, and to protect them, finds out that Ben is the one who killed Jacob, who was the only father she ever had. She is one fierce lady, and bent on revenge. She shackles Ben to a tree and forces him to dig his own grave. When the hole is getting deep, the Man in Black frees Ben and tells him there is a rifle leaning against a tree inside the jungle. As he runs to get it, Ilana gives chase. But he gets there first and forces her to drop her own weapon. Yet he doesn't shoot her. He admits killing Jacob, and doing many of the other heinous things he has done. But he doesn't want to shoot her. He wants only to get away and join the Man in Black on the other island.

"Why?" Ilana asks.

Ben says, "Because he's the only one who will have me!"

After a moment's pause, Ilana says, "I'll have you," then turns, picks up her rifle, and walks back toward the beach.

Ben is absolutely speechless, beyond stunned. (So am I.) We see that perhaps for the first time in his life he has experienced real forgiveness, real acceptance. He simply cannot process it, not yet. He walks back to the beach, sets down the rifle and offers to help Sun fix her shelter.

How many of us have been through that "I'll have you" moment? Certainly all of us who have faced our sin squarely and fallen on the grace of God. You see, redemption is real. Forgiveness is available. New life happens.

John Newton, the ex-slaver said it pretty well in Amazing Grace. "I once was lost, but now I'm found." All it takes is to realize your predicament, lower your weapon, and follow.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Made to Compete

As I write this, the 2010 Winter Olympics are underway in Vancouver. Top athletes from around the world are sliding, sledding, skating, swooshing, and shooting for the honor of a gold, silver, or bronze medal, and the pride of their nations. People who have never strapped on a pair or skis or seen a bobsled are cheering on their nation's athletes, shouting victoriously when they win, and falling into a funk when they lose. At this point, The USA is ahead in the medal count, followed pretty closely by Germany. This gives great joy to Americans, and spurs Germans on in the race.

We do this every four years (every two years when you realize that the summer Olympics are on an offset schedule). We'll sit up late at night to see the results of the Men's Giant Slalom or the Ice Dancing competition. We talk about it at work. We write e-mails to our friends. We gently (and not-so-gently) tease our friends from other countries. We'll hold Olympics parties, and we'll hold our breaths when an athlete takes a hard fall or crashes in a turn.

Ever wonder why? For that matter, did you ever wonder why grown men (and women) cry when their college football team wins a national championship or the NBA team they love gets knocked out of the playoffs? Sometimes it's not even the local NBA team or the college they attended. Why do NASCAR fans wear their favorite driver's number like a badge of honor? In all likelihood they've never met the guy and they sure have nothing to do with how many races he wins or loses.

I'm not ragging on sports fans here. Far from it. There is something in athletic competition that thrills us, something that drives us to choose sides and defend that choice in the face of all odds. Just a little over a month ago, we saw the New Orleans Saints win their first Super Bowl. Ever. Before this year they had gone 42 years without a playoff win. People who have never even been to Louisiana and couldn't locate New Orleans on a map walk around shouting "Who Dat?" The Saints' rise out of the watery devastation of Katrina inspired a nation. Who can forget that joyous celebration, that picture of Drew Brees holding up his little son, the boy's tender ears protected by headphones?

It's as if we were made to compete, or to take sides. Let me be a little more definite about that. We were made to take sides. It's in our blood, our genes. It's in our souls.

I don't mean that we are all supposed to be athletes, or that those of us who aren't (and believe me, I'm not) are less important than those who are. What I mean is that we were born into a cosmos at war, and from the beginning we were meant to take part in that war.

In Genesis, when God placed Adam and Eve in the garden he told them to "care for the garden." Actually, the word we translate "care for" is the same word that is used later, after the fall, when God set the Cherubim to "guard" the garden, keeping Adam, Eve, and their offspring out. Our original job on this earth was to guard creation. We were put here to be on God's side. We have always been intended to be God's allies in the battle against Satan and those with him, the third of the angels who followed him in rebellion against God.

We came into a world at war, and it is reflected by our love of competition. It's also reflected in the way we admire courage and despise cowardice. Think of it. Cowardice is the one vice that is universally hated. Even those who are cowards (and we all fall into that category at one time or another) hate the idea of cowardice. It's the one sin that doesn't even generate the least bit of pleasure.

But we admire courage, even among our enemies.

We all have a competitive nature. It is stronger in some than in others, and it takes many different forms. But it is something that is within all of us.

Now, it's easy to be over-competitive, or to use our innate competitive drive for the wrong thing. I mean, some people are actually Philadelphia Eagles fans.

Okay, that was a bad example. But we can and do twist our natural competitiveness into evil shapes. Remember that all of the angels were originally created to serve God. Yet a full third of them rebelled. So you have things such as the mayhem of soccer hooligans, and fans at football games throwing batteries at the opposing players, and men who twist their competitiveness into cheating, or bullying, or brutality. There is plenty of that in the world.

But the impulse, the original competitiveness, is a good thing. Without it there would be no striving for excellence, no courage, no sacrifice, no initiative.

So, cheer on your favorite athletes. You're exercising a small portion of your calling. But guard against the darkness that lurks in the shadows. Ask yourself, "Am I building someone up, or tearing someone else down?" The answer will help you (and me) stay on track. Even if you like the Eagles.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Look! There with the baby! It’s Super Mom!

We have had our new foster baby Ariana for a week now. She’s just 12 days old, and perfect in every way. Except she doesn’t sleep. At all. Okay, that’s wrong. She sleeps a lot, but never more than an hour, maybe two at a time. Those of you who have had newborns know all about that. Cry, eat, poop, sleep for an hour. Repeat until oblivion. It is hard taking care of a newborn.

And my wife hasn’t stopped smiling since this beautiful little girl came into our home. She sleeps, when she sleeps, in a recliner or on the couch. Usually with Ariana in her arms. She changes innumerable diapers, washes and fills formula bottles, keeps Ariana clean and well-dressed, takes her to doctors and the adoption agency, shows her off to everyone she meets, and still has the energy to smile and be the wife to me and mother to Rachel that should make her the envy of the entire world.

She is Super Mom! I am in awe. This is a woman who has raised three of her own children, but still has such a heart for infants that she is willing to sacrifice her time, her energy, her sleep for a new child. And she wants to keep doing this. We had two whole weeks between letting Rodie go to his new family and the call notifying us about Ariana. And Shan absolutely jumped at the chance to care for her. She has been looking forward to this for a long time, and she is giving Ariana the best care that anyone could ever hope for. Rachel is also on cloud nine, and I can see the kind of mother she is going to be one day. It makes me swell with pride. I am just the third string in this game. I love little ones, and I pitch in where I can, which translates to I get to hold Ariana when Shan and Rachel have to do something else.

So, here’s to Super Mom. And to Super Sissy. Children will bless your names for generations to come.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Why Didn't I See That Before?

I think I've said before that God sneaks things into my Bible all the time. He's really good at it, too (as if God would be bad at anything). What happens is this: I'll be reading a passage I've read a dozen or two times before, or listening to such a passage, and—wham!--something jumps out at me, something I've never before seen or considered. Usually it's a kind of an "Aha!" moment. Sometimes, though, it's a "Duh!" moment.

I know, I know. The words were always there. Right. Got it. It's the understanding of the words that wasn’t there before. But it's usually so obvious that it seems like it's new stuff.

Today it happened again. I was listening to Luke. I have the Gospels on my MP3 player and try to listen to that every day while driving. Not only do I get immersed in the words of Jesus, but I find it helps me drive with more of the spirit of Christ. Which is a good thing for all those people around me. Anyway, there I was, driving along, listening to Luke 16, when I came to the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. You know the parable. Lazarus died and was with Abraham. Then the rich man died and was in torment. So he calls out to Abraham and asks him to send Lazarus to bring him just a drop of water. Abraham says that is impossible—the rich man had his good things in life, and Lazarus had only bad things. And besides that, a great chasm separated them.

Now, before we go further, we need a little bit about what a parable is. A parable is a teaching designed to make a point. The point is typically made at the end. But the circumstances of the parable aren't necessarily true, in the sense that the rich man was a specific person that Jesus or his listeners knew. He's a character in a story. For that matter, a lot has been written about heaven and hell from this parable. That really doesn't hold a lot of water, it seems to me. Remember, the point is at the end. All the stuff about the rich man, Lazarus, anf the chasm is part of the setup.

Anyway, on to the "Aha" moment. The rich man then asks Abraham to send Lazarus to his house to warn his brothers about what awaits them. We'll pick it up there:

"He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'

"Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.'

" 'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'

"He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.' "

At that point, the thought came to me, "Even if someone rises from the dead. Like Jesus did."

How many times have I read that same parable, and missed that it was talking about the resurrection of Jesus? This may not be as big a revelation to you as it was to me. Maybe you've thought of this before, but I can honestly say I have never heard anyone teach on that parable and bring up that point. It's always about how Lazarus cannot go back and warn the brothers. Or it's about how the rich should treat the poor (it is, but that's an issue that Jesus covered elsewhere, too). Mainly, the takeaways I've heard from this parable are about fire insurance. You know, "Do the right thing so you don't end up in hell."

I am just beginning to see the implications of this new understanding. Here are a couple.

Jesus here proclaims once and for all his endorsement of the Old Testament (Moses and the prophets).

If you can't accept the story of God that is told by Moses and the prophets, you're not going to accept the resurrection.

That last point is huge. We in the church, especially the evangelical church, have focused largely on the New Testament to the neglect of the Old. After all, the New Testament is about Jesus! It's about the church! It's the New Testament.

And without the Old Testament, it doesn't have any foundation. We've been guilty of forgetting that Jesus was a Jewish rabbi. That was his culture and the culture of his followers. He kept the law. Perfectly. That meant everything from the sacrifice offered for his birth as a firstborn son, to his circumcision, to celebrating the Passover—all of it. It was his perfect sinlessness that made his death the sacrifice that frees us from sin. Without the law, without Moses and the prophet who foretold him, it would not have been possible.

We've also been guilty of thinking of splitting God into the Old Testament God and the New Testament God. We think of the New Testament as the time when God became a Christian. Or we think of God as the mean old man, and Jesus as the nice young fellow who goes around hugging lambs and makes God be nice to us.

In reality, Jesus was there from the beginning. John makes that clear. And if you read your Old Testament and look, you can find him. He is there as "the commander of the Lord's armies", or as "the angel of the Lord." But that's a tale for another time. This tale is about how God continues to sneak stuff into my Bible.

I think they call that the Holy Spirit. And without that, a Bible is just ink on paper.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

And Away We Go Again

We heard yesterday that we will have another foster child sometime this week—a newborn girl. This is really what we have wanted to do, so we are very thankful to have the chance to foster her. We'll likely have her a month or more.

And who needs sleep, anyway? It's overrated. Right?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Goodbye, Little Buddy Revisited

A short video of our foster son's time with us.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Goodbye, Little Buddy

Many times in this world, someone comes into your life for while, and he brightens your world. That has been my story lately. Yesterday we said goodbye to our foster son Rodie. (That's not his real name, but it's what we usually called him.) It was a very bittersweet moment. He really was a bright light to us. Such a beautiful smile, so loving, so needy, and so much fun. He was a handful at times, and almost always demanded a great deal of attention. But that was to be expected. He is, after all, a small child, one who missed out on some of the development he should have had before he came to us.

But he gave us much more than he took. He always ran to greet me when I came in, sometimes with his hands held up, asking to be hugged, sometimes with a toy to show me, but always with a huge grin on his face. He loved to show me his cars, and even learned to share them with me, especially if I was doing something else and wasn’t paying attention to him. He loved to be read to, and I have to say those were some of the sweetest moments. I have re-learned the joys of Green Eggs and Ham, Go, Dog, Go!, and children’s Bible stories as they can only be known through the insistent, repetitive delight of a child. I have memorized most of One Fish, Two Fish and tangled my tongue repeatedly over Fox in Socks. (By the way, I hope you know that Dr. Seuss was a towering genius.)

I’ve changed many diapers, and Shan has changed many, many more. She really bore the burden of caring for Rodie. My daughter Rachel and I have simply been the second string. I’ve spent many meals trying to get Rodie to eat, and telling him over and over to chew and swallow (he has a habit of just holding food in his mouth, probably because he had only soft foods and had never learned to chew before coming to us). I’ve taken the dog food up repeatedly to stop him picking it out of the bowl to dribble on the ground for our smallest dog.

I’ve also laughed and smiled as he threw the ball for the dogs and wrestled joyfully with them, squealing and shouting. I’ve tried my best to puzzle out the things he says, and watched with delight as he learned to speak, going from four words when he came to us, to full sentences when he left. Watching him has been like watching a video on fast forward. He learned so much in his time with us.

One of his favorite games was to stand on the bed and be pushed over backwards. In fact, we could just point at him, and he’d fall over, squealing with delight.

I have also seen him meet and start to fall in love with his adoptive parents. They are marvelous, loving people, who are already making a great home for him. He’ll have a big brother who has been praying for a little brother or sister for a couple of years, and who has been showing off his picture at school.

Yesterday was bittersweet, with the sweet outweighing the bitter. Perhaps that is because we have always known we would only be temporary parents, a waypoint on his journey to a new life. Perhaps it’s because we know that what is ahead of him is love, attention, learning, and joy. It helps that we know we’ll get updates on him periodically.

I think, though, the thing that helps the most is knowing we did good things for him. Having him with us was joyous (and tiring), but knowing we did something for him is the best reward we could have.

After everyone was gone yesterday, we went to see The Blind Side. In case you don’t know, it’s the story of Michael Oher, who was picked up off the street and nurtured by the Tuohy family. Oher was a huge young man with great athletic skills, and has since been selected in the first round of the NFL draft by the Baltimore Ravens. It is a marvelous movie, with a great message, but his story of neglect and redemption might not have been the best movie for us to see the same day we turned R over to his new family. I shed tears like a fountain all through the movie. The fact that so, so many children are essentially thrown away really hit home with me.

Then again, maybe it was exactly the right movie to see yesterday.

Every last one of us has the opportunity to help a child. It might be your own child. It might be a foster child, or a kid you coach, or one you never see who benefits from the money you donate. The need is great, but the joy is greater.

May you all have the joy of helping a child.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Virginia (Ginny) Rose Gill Manly

This is a tribute to a marvelous woman. My aunt Ginny passed away in the early morning hours of Dec. 29th. She had fought a battle with aggressive cancer, and while her body lost the battle, her spirit won. In the months of her illness, she never lost her spirit or her good will.

Ginny was a very special lady. She is more than my aunt. She's in many ways my second mother. She was definitely a mother to my sister. You see, after our parents died, we both went to live with another aunt and uncle. They were wonderful people, but each of us, my sister and I, developed bonds with other relatives. I saw that my uncle David, my father's brother, was so much like my father. I boldly wrote to him and asked if I could live with him. My sister Alison had already fallen in love with Ginny, and she made it known that was who she wanted to live with. We split up to live in different cities, but we both made the right decision.

Later, when I was married, I came to the DFW area largely because Ginny was here. She had that kind of appeal. She was always a grandmother to my children, and we treated each other like mother and son. I'm glad for that.

For her memorial, four of us; Ginny's son Tom, my sister Alison, my cousin Tim, and I, wrote short memories of her. None of us trusted ourselves to read them, but we were able to write and let Rusty Peterman, the attending minister read them for us. I'm reproducing them below. The four different views say things I could not say on my own.

First, from Tom, Ginny's son:
Coming up with something to say about Mom is difficult. I could tell you stories about her taking me to the ER about a dozen times, or about being grounded for attempting stunts that would lead to an ER visit. How she would do ANYTHING to help someone, or how she could read your mind and say just the right thing to make you feel better.

Most of you know this already. You know her because she is an open book. A loving, fun, faithful book. She cares for everyone she meets and you know your important to her by the way she absorbs every word you say, every gesture you make.

She was a great Mom. I always knew where I stood with her. I could rely on her and trust her. She would support me even when she was unhappy with me.

And happy she was. Ever the smile and laugh, she would find humor in anything, even if you didn't yet find it funny. Even when she was hurting from the cancer, she would laugh at my bad puns and jokes. My humor definitely came from her. Though I consider it a blessing from her, some don't quite see it that way for some reason.

She cared for everyone she met. She made you feel important to her with the way she hung on every word you said. Little kids would seek her out because of her smile, laughter and attention. No one ever distrusted her.

In the last days, I've had a lot of time to spend with Jim. He shares a strong love with my Mom. Repeatedly, he said how kind and forgiving she was and how she was always supportive of him. My sympathies pour out to him as I know he is loosing so much.

I grew up going to Church, learning the Bible and singing. I always knew I lived in a faithful home. That foundation is still firmly under my feet. When I strayed, I always knew I could return home to the foundation she built with Gods guidance. She is a true believer, ever faithful, true follower of God. I know she is now with God, but I selfishly wish she could still be healthy and whole with us.

Next, from my sister Alison:
Most of you know that Ginny was my Aunt, the youngest sister of my Father. You also know that my parents were killed in a car accident when I was very young. When Ginny became my guardian, my life changed in many ways. I had to adjust to being in a new family, and in every way she made that adjustment easier for me. She told me many times that I was the daughter she always wished for. It was not long before I called her "Mother" as she was completely in my heart as my mother. Every year on December 5 we would celebrate the day we became mother and daughter. She would tell me "Happy Anniversary" and we would relate little stories to each other about how happy we were to have each other.

No one in the world has been or ever will be just like Mother. She always listened...always cared and even when she did not agree with what I was doing in my life, she was always there for me. She did not judge, but counseled. She was the most faithful person I have ever known, both in her spiritual life and in her faith in the people she loved.

When I was asked to give one word that described her, the very first word that came in to my mind was "Mother." She gave me so much, and I will selfishly miss her terribly. The last thing I told her was "Thank you for being my mother."

Now from her nephew, Tim:
I remember Ginny from my earliest days. She was a teenager when I was born, and she was frequently my babysitter. When I was grade school age, I thought she was the coolest aunt anybody could have. She was hilariously funny, and she drove cool cars - well, except for the red Mercury. That was definitely a mom-mobile.

When I was in college, Ginny and I discovered that we were really kindred spirits. She once told me, "I love your sense of humor. It's just like mine - warped!" It was about that time that the two of us began a long running contest to see who could give the other the meanest - and funniest - birthday cards. I'm not sure who won; it doesn't matter because we both enjoyed the game.

Ginny was the queen of the one-liners - unfortunately, they were often a day late. Once when she was working as a spotter for a bike race at the ranch, a rider broke down right in front of her and yelled, "Hey lady, I've got problems. Can I get a screwdriver?" She later told me, "Just as he got the bike restarted, it occurred to me to answer, 'No - but could I fix you a Bloody Mary' "

Most of all, what I remember Ginny for what happened the day I arrived home from Germany and the Army. She introduced me to a girl in a blue sweater vest. Five months later, I married her. Thanks, Ginny - Jan & I are forever indebted to you.

Finally, my words:
The other day when we talked to Rusty about Ginny’s memorial, he asked us to think of single word descriptions of Ginny. For me, the first word that came to was “laughter.” Ginny was always ready to laugh. For a cut-up and clown like me, that was a very welcome quality. She was quick to laugh at a joke, a story, or herself. I really have a hard time remembering Ginny when she wasn’t smiling. She was always glad to see me, and especially glad to see my children. My kids always called her Nana, at her insistence.

Alison always called her “mother,” for good reason. Truly, Ginny was a mother to me as well, although I never called her that. When Shan and I moved here in 1977, Ginny welcomed us into her home and into her heart. Truthfully, she was a big factor in our decision to move here. We immediately began to come to Richland Hills because she was here. She became a mother to both Shan and myself, and she was definitely a grandmother to our kids.

Ginny was also a kindred soul. Shan and I (and Brian, Duncan, and Rachel) have always been avid readers, or if you prefer, book addicts. Ginny was just as addicted as we were. Shan told me early in our marriage that she knew Ginny was a kindred spirit when she learned that Ginny also read the shampoo bottles and toothpaste tubes in the bathroom. Ginny and Shan even had much the same taste in reading, and passed books back and forth so much at church that I felt like a Bookmobile.

Ginny had a sweet, sweet spirit. She put up with the kids (and me) surprising and scaring her at every opportunity, and even encouraged it. She loved to bring joy to children, and she brought joy to me through my entire life. I suspect at this moment she is laughing with Jesus. In fact, I’m sure of it.

Farewell, Ginny. We miss you, but we will see you again.