Last week was a long week. See the post for Friday below. I had the stories in my head, but could not get them on paper. This should catch you up.
Monday: A Herd of Camels
The servant hurried to meet her and said, “Please give me a little water from your jar.” “Drink, my lord,” she said, and quickly lowered the jar to her hands and gave him a drink. After she had given him a drink, she said, “I’ll draw water for your camels too, until they have finished drinking.” So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough, ran back to the well to draw more water, and drew enough for all his camels. Genesis 24:17-20 (NIV)
When I was a teenager, I traveled with my parents to the Middle East. Along the dusty road through the Israeli desert, our tour bus stopped to see a herd of camels. We all got out of the bus, and the camel driver offered to give us rides. Though covered in robes and a turban, the man was clearly short and squat. He rolled along the ground more than he walked as his sandal covered feet kicked up the dust. It had been a long time if ever that the old man had taken a bath. He had a rough beard which framed a mouth full of teeth stained green. I started to get back on the bus, but everyone seemed to be having a lot of fun as they each took a turn upon the lumbering beast. I held back, not wanting to mix with the smelly animal or his owner. Encouraged by the others, I finally took my turn for a picture. I was surprised by how tall the camel was. From his back, you could see a long way across the horizon. His gait reminded me of being upon a boat as I swayed back and forth. When he knelt down so I could dismount, I jerked forward with a sharp jolt. Before the camel driver would let me go, he insisted upon having his picture taken with me. He put his arm around my shoulders and demanded a kiss. I was appalled though everyone else in the group thought it funny. He addressed my father through the interpreter offering ten camels if I would become his wife. My father stammered something about my worth being higher than that as embarrassed I scurried back to the bus. I expect the whole thing was staged for the American tourists, but my father never forgot the proposal. When I started dating the boy who would become my husband, my father made sure that he knew I was worth at least ten camels. My husband took on the challenge and presented me with camels, not real, but fabric, glass, clay or wood. It was not long before I had many more than ten to display. I think about those camels whenever I hear the story of Rebekah and her willingness to provide water to all of Abraham’s servant’s camels. That was a lot of water for one young girl to draw from the well and carry to fill the troughs for so many thirsty beasts. Our Sunday School teacher calls her act of compassion the Rebekah principle. Not only did she offer water to one weary traveler, but to his entire herd as well. She could have stopped with giving water to just the man, but went the extra step. How often do we only do what we have to do instead of surprising someone by doing more than what is asked? Jesus calls us be servants. The next time someone is in need, remember Rebekah and the camels.
Tuesday: I Spy
For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him to serve you. Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. 2 Corinthians 3:4-6 (NIV)
In college, I studied Biblical Archaeology and Medieval History in Israel. It was the best way to learn. Our wonderful professors taught lessons I still remember today. While I might have been book smart, I was not very wise in the ways of the world. I did two very stupid things on that trip. One was to leave the group without telling anyone, catch a cab with a driver who spoke no English and travel unannounced to visit family friends who lived two hours away. They were shocked upon my arrival, scolded me and promptly drove me back to my hotel. The other dumb thing I did was with a group of other equally clueless students. While in Israel, a Star Wars movie had just been released. All over Jerusalem were movie posters in Hebrew. They were plastered to the sides of buildings, and one night, a group of four boys and I decided that we were going out to take one. It was bad enough that we were leaving the hotel after curfew, not one of our school’s making, but that the city government had set. But, we also dressed up like spies in trench coats with ski masks pulled low over our foreheads. As we skulked around corners, darting into doorways and racing across streets, we laughed and played like kids at a game of spy. I was left at one corner as lookout while the boys cut the poster off a wall. Just as they finished and we started to return, we heard a voice behind us asking what we were doing. When we turned to look, there were three Israeli soldiers with guns pointed at us. After being interrogated on the street corner, they finally believed our story, and ordered us back to our hotel. Before we left, one soldier pulled my hat off my head, pointed his flashlight in my face, and studied my features for what seemed like a very long time. Then, they followed us back to our hotel to make sure we did as we were told. Later, we discovered that a group of terrorists had been using American female college students as their lookouts. We had no clue how much danger we had been in while we played our silly game. Three times this week, I was asked to be something that I am not, and I had to refuse. The requests were not illegal, some might argue they were not immoral, but I felt uncomfortable none the less. It helps me to remember that it does not matter if people see the real me, but it does matter that they see Christ in me. That is a standard I cannot violate. Unlike that naive girl darting through the streets of a foreign country pretending to be a spy, I cannot afford to do something that would reflect poorly on the one I serve. The situation is just a serious. People are watching, and this is one test I cannot fail.
Wednesday: Dreaming of Folk School
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 3:20 (NIV)
I had a really stressful week. End of budget year means trying to push contractors to finish jobs so that they can be paid as well as making sure that we have used all the funds given to us properly and wisely. Unfortunately, unlike normal people, we cannot save money from year to year, so if we do not spend it, we will lose it. This year, with the economy as it is, year end also meant making some hard decisions about our budgets for the upcoming year. It meant rearranging accounts to ensure that our most important programs and personnel were covered. It meant telling some people about cut backs to their departments. Reactions ranged from tears to anger, and it was hard to predict how I would be received. In addition, we are getting a new museum ready for its grand opening, planning for three upcoming conferences we will host and preparing for one of our biggest events of the year. Through it all, my staff had personal crisises ranging from moves to deaths of family to difficulties with children to the birth of a new baby. I felt like my heart was on a yo yo all week long. In the midst of it all, I realized that in six months, I will be turning fifty years old. While I am trying not to think about the half century mark, that date is significant because some of my friends and I are planning a trip to the John C. Campbell Folk School. A friend and I went this past March and raved about it so much that several of our other friends want to make a return trip. I could not think of a better birthday gift to myself so we are planning on going then. Despite all the turmoil around me, I knew that I needed to take a minute to call and register. It is a good thing I did because there were only four openings in the class that three of us want so I went ahead and reserved our spots. Funny, though the stress did not lessen, in fact, it got worse, I felt much calmer knowing that in just a few months I would be returning to folk school. There, I can forget about real life for a week, immerse myself in learning a new craft, walk the mountains, eat great food, make new friends and be at peace. It made me think that there is another place that I can look forward to when life gets me down, Heaven. Despite the valleys I must walk through on this earth, someday, I will be in a place where there are no tears or sorrow, only the comfort and joy of being with Jesus. Budgets, decision, problems and death will be a thing of the past. I have my week at folk school to look forward to, but even better; will be stepping from death to life in Heaven.
Thursday: Craving the Light
Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” John 3:20-21 (NIV)
When I came home from work Thursday evening, we had no electricity. I am still not sure what caused the outage as we had not had a storm and I did not see any accidents or poles down. The whole island was dark, and the power company trucks were driving up and down the roads. I guess they did not know what the problem was either. It had been a long day as I stayed late for a volunteer reception. My husband and son were not at home because once again my job had taken precedent over family, and I missed back to school night. I was already aggravated and exhausted by the time I got home. The gate to our driveway is powered by electricity, so I had to park the car, squeeze through an opening in the gate, remove the cover from the mechanism and turn the wheel to slowly open the gate by hand. I got grease all over my hands in the process. By the time I got the horses fed, not only was I dripping wet with sweat, but twilight had dimmed and the inside of the house was very dark. While I fumbled about looking for matches or a lighter to light some candles, my husband arrived home. It did not matter to him that there was no light or air conditioning or even, television. He lay down on the bed in his work clothes to rest and wait until the power company fixed the problem. I, on the other hand, was frantic to find some light so I could see. I searched for something, but my old eyes do not work well in the dark so I was frustrated. I tripped over furniture and almost fell down the stairs. Though my husband directed me from his resting place to spots I could look, it was a fruitless search. No where was there a flashlight or lighter that worked. Still, he did not budge from the bed. I was hot, tired and desperate for a shower. I took it out on my husband and got very angry that he could be so nonchalant about this inconvenience. I lost my temper and screamed into the darkness announcing that I was going to Wal Mart to buy a flashlight. At that moment, the lights came back on as the power company restored our electricity. The bright light glowed in every room, and the air conditioning came back on. I got my shower, calmed down and cooled off. Peace reigned once more. That experience reminded me of the importance of God’s light in our lives. Some people, like my husband, choose to live in the darkness. It did not bother him that he could not see. But, I craved the light. How desperate am I for God’s light to illuminate my life? I prefer to have His truth shine brightly so that everyone can see how much He has done for me.
Friday: Learning Disability
We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete. 1 John 1:3-4 (NIV)
Both of my sons are bright gifted young people, who talked early with extensive vocabularies. They entered kindergarten with high parental expectations. As long as they could get by on verbal skills and charm, our sons did well. When they were expected to put thoughts to paper, they began to flounder. Initially, we were told our first born was lazy. He refused to turn in homework assignments, left test papers blank and could not remember his multiplication tables. As he had always been an obedient child, we were astounded by his difficulties. Why would a seven year old be so rebellious and undisciplined? After we spent a few years alternating between scolding and bribing, a wise teacher suggested we have him tested. It turned out that his brain is wired a little differently than many people. His hands do not always connect to his mind, so anything involving writing or paperwork is very difficult for him to do. It also affected his ability to read and do math. I remember so clearly standing in the school parking lot sobbing because we had just found out that he was not only gifted, but learning disabled. The harsh words I had spoken to him echoed in my ears when I realized what a struggle he went through every day! The image of him being unable to get on paper the knowledge he had in his head broke my heart. Because he was so compliant, he took advantage of the extra help he was given in school, listened to the ways that his teachers suggested he overcome his disability and compensated with a wonderful gift of remembering whatever he hears. A fifth grade teacher finally helped him learn to read and instilled in him a love of books. Today, he is in his senior year of college. When younger son followed his big brother into school five years later, we recognized the same symptoms. Testing came early, and a smaller private school ensured he learned to read. However, he is different from his brother and does not want help. “I can do it on my own” were some of his first words. He had a harder struggle and for a time, we were sure he would drop out of school. Yet, now, he is looking for a college as well, though as is his way, on his own without parental interference. This week, I experienced a little of their difficulties. Exhaustion, fear, rejection, and sorrow combined to give me a brief writing disability. Many nights, I sat at my computer knowing what I wanted to say but unable to get the words on paper. Yet, I continue to try. Why do I write? To proclaim God’s work in one person’s life. To tell how He wants a relationship with each and every one of us. It makes my joy complete to be able to share His faithfulness and love with others. Even when my brain is numb, the stories come. So, I write.
Saturday: Corn Spoonbread
To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27 (NIV)
I like to cook, but only when I have the time. I also prefer to cook when I have lots of people to enjoy my meal. In fact, I really can’t cook for just a few. When my nest is completely empty, I doubt I will ever cook again. How do you even manage with just two? My friends tease me that I should open a restaurant. I don’t know if it is because I am so efficient or because of my southern upbringing, but all my recipes make giant size portions and if they don’t I will double or quadruple them. I learned to make spaghetti sauce cooking for our church youth group. It makes a huge restaurant size pot full. I can produce enough to feed our family at least twice, freeze several gallons, feed the neighbors and send to someone who is sick. All out of the same batch. I make several casseroles at a time, freezing some for later. I had a lot of cooking to do this weekend and was happy because it was all large quantities. A friend’s mom died so I had volunteered to prepare something for the lunch after the funeral. My office was having a picnic, and I signed up for several dishes for that as well. When I cook, I am never happier than when I have the counter covered with ingredients, several bowls ready for mixing and multiple pans laid out on the counter to be filled. I was working on four batches of a corn casserole that was my grandmother’s recipe. She called it Corn Spoon Bread. It was all poured out into the pans and ready for the oven, when I realized something was not right. The mix appeared too fluffy and light. After a moment of study, I realize, I had left out half the corn. The recipe uses both creamed corn and whole kernel corn, and the whole kernel corn still sat in the drainer in the sink. I poured everything back into the bowl, added the rest of the corn and mixed it up. That looked much better. When it was done, it was Corn Spoon Bread, not just bread with a little bit of corn! It made me think about being a Christian. I am not a Christian without Christ in me. When I give Him authority over my whole life and not just the parts that I want Him to have, then, He leads me in the way I should go and puts the people in my life to which He wants me to show Christ’s love. So many in our world today have no hope. They are sad and lost and joyless. When I let Christ shine, then they can see the rich satisfying life He can give. He is the hope of my glory, and theirs as well. How about you? Can He be seen in your life? Don’t be a halfway Christian. Give Him all of you.
1 can cream corn
1 can whole kernel corn (drained)
1 stick butter or margarine (melted)
2 eggs (beaten)
1 cup sour cream
1 box jiffy corn muffin mix
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Mix all ingredients, but cheese and put in a greased 9 X 13 pan at 350 for 30 minutes. Sprinkle cheese over top and bake another 10-15 minutes until knife inserted in middle comes out clean.
Sunday: These are my church clothes
“And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” Matthew 9:39-42 (NIV)
We belong to a motorcycle ministry at our church. Most of the members ride their bikes to church each Sunday morning. Before, I drove my car with our youngest son while my husband rode his bike. Now that our son has his license, my husband expects me to ride behind him. It is a source of aggravation for me though. I haul a lot of stuff back and forth to church that has to be balanced just right on both sides of the bike. I want to be there early so the whole time he packs, I fidget knowing I will be late. He also likes to take his mug of coffee with him which means that while he drives, I sit on the back holding his drink. This morning, the top was not on all the way and coffee bubbled out of the mug. I held it out away from me to keep it from dripping on me, and it streamed out behind us as we went down the road. Then, there is the problem of deciding what to wear. Dresses are out because I have to swing my leg up and over the bike, but I rarely wear dresses so that does not matter. Most of the other people in our group wear jeans and their motorcycle shirts covered with a black leather vest with the club’s emblem and patches that say things like “These are my church clothes” or “I love my wife.” They look cute, but I am old school and have a hard time wearing jeans to church on Sunday morning. I usually wear nice pants and a shirt. That is okay until I get a bug smashed into my leg. Hair is also a problem. Not only do I arrive with helmet hair, but I have to pull it back to keep it from getting tangled. I finally learned to wear a bandana over my hair and under the helmet. The worst part is deciding what to do about jewelry. If I wear a necklace, the wind pushes it behind me so it hangs down my back. Our full face helmets make it impossible to wear earrings as well. So, usually, when we arrive at church, I spend some time in the bathroom, brushing my hair and putting on my jewelry. Unless, of course, we are running late, and I have to do the announcements. When I get really annoyed about some of the inconveniences of riding, I try to remember these verses about going the extra mile. In doing what it takes to help my husband be a part of this motorcycle ministry, he is using his gifts and interests to be a witness for God. To be honest, I benefit as well because I enjoy the fellowship. After church today, we had a nice ride with the group and went out for lunch, but, when we arrived at the restaurant, I discovered orange bug splatters on my shirt. Oh, well. Those were my church clothes.