From Pasture to Park

You could hardly imagine now that a large portion of Southern Terrace Park in Cairo was a pasture only a few years ago. Somehow seeing it now I’m nostalgic but also very glad to see the old place in such healthy pleasurable use. It’s a little like the joy one can receive from making a quilt of favorite fabrics of another year, another time.

Our pasture at various times over the years was populated with young calves, a paralyzed cow, a very mischievous horse, numerous goats and sheep. And a mule. I can’t leave Raleigh out. He was without doubt the stubbornest mule in all kingdom come. Our back fence neighbors at one time owned a pot bellied pig. Our pasture became his escape. The pasture was not big but when chasing down a 20 pound pig it seemed to stretch.

It wasn’t just a pasture. Twenty or so pecan trees dropped their nuts into the grass every year. Many a day we spent on our knees picking up pecans or later picking up nuts with a clever tool. I’d never had pecan trees before and was always thrilled to spy the nuts forming in the trees by the end of summer. We learned certain trees were much more productive but some others had the very best nuts. It was really a letdown when we dragged our laden bags in at the market and learned they would bring so little we might as well take them home and have plenty of pies. Pecan pie was always a favorite dessert and, too, we loved sharing the nuts.

Whether mending fences, building a new one, rounding up sheep for shearing, herding goats up for a round of shots, trying to teach Raleigh to gee-haw, or nursing that paralyzed cow, our family spent a lot of time in that pasture. Some years in the fall we had a bonfire late on an afternoon and sat on hay bales telling stories while we waited for the fire to make good marshmallow roasting coals. Our son remembers helping his Dad on Saturday afternoons hauling limbs while listening to the UGA game on the truck radio. He also remembers shooting at squirrels down in the little woods where an old railroad bed made an interesting shelf. He laughs and says he never actually hit a squirrel, though now he really enjoys deer hunting.

Now the pecan trees are gone. A few oak trees have been saved around the edges for which I’m very glad. The railroad bed has disappeared after much bulldozing. Where there used to be a sluggish swamp during heavy rains and a thick patch of woods now there is a retaining pond. A very nice wide paved walking/biking trail winds all the way around what was our pasture as well as what was already a recreational park. The trail is one mile long and is very nicely situated where many people can enjoy it.

As the park was under development it was very ugly. The trees were toppled, clay clogged roots reaching for the sky. Every time we rode by more work had been done to change the landscape. There was nothing but mud and house-size piles of trees, stumps, and debris. It was no longer the peaceful place for goats and sheep to graze. Far on the other side of all the work I could see our old house and I imagined it saying something like “How could those people go off and leave me to deal with this?” The old barn is still there, too, owned by the couple who bought our house. Two goats graze in a small pasture, remnant of a farm of long ago.

On a sunny Sunday afternoon we took our first walk in the completed park. Even with a rollator I was able to complete the whole mile. There was another family enjoying a Sunday afternoon stroll. The basketball court our son used to play on is renewed and there’s a nice picnic pavilion with bathrooms. In time the city may plant small elm trees in the park. As we walked and paused to take pictures we were happy to see such a good place for families to come and play and exercise. But when I close my eyes I immediately see the old place as it used to be, sheep running to the feed trough, lambs gamboling in the spring, Charles happily mowing.


Filed under Uncategorized

The Amazing Shrew

Recently Fox’s “The Five” during their “One more thing” segment asked their audience to identify a very strange little creature. Very small with a funny pig-like nose almost as big as it was, it was really cute. When we were told it was a shrew I had to laugh. It didn’t look anything like the one shrew I once knew, the tiny shrew who taught me a big lesson.

I was a student at Young Harris College in the north Georgia mountains in 1963. My dormitory, East Appleby, accommodated two to a room with a bath down the hall. There were some strict rules, such as lights out at 11:00, no moving in the halls except at break time, and absolutely no food in the rooms. We had good meals in the dining hall (at least I thought so) but it was such a long time from supper to lights out. And we were always hungry. Whoever could bring nice cookies or brownies back after a weekend at home hoarded them in her dresser. We convinced ourselves it was a wise and smart thing to store up any food we could and share it with very close friends. How could that be wrong?

I returned one Sunday afternoon with a foil wrapped package of delicious oatmeal cookies. I hid them jubilantly and carefully in my top drawer right behind my socks. My mother had put walnuts in those cookies and they were so good! My roommate and I each ate one that night taking great joy in the nutty treats.

The first sign I saw that something was going wrong was a few days later when I discovered a strange hole in one of my socks. Day by day I found new holes in my socks, a nice sweater, and finally my evening dress I was to wear to my very first big dance. Scrounging in my drawer for the destructive culprit I found many crumbs. That did it! We ate the last cookies that night, I cleaned out my drawer, and hoped whatever it was would stop eating my clothes.

About 9:30 my roommate and I were diligently studying when she suddenly began to scream, jumped up on her bed pointing frantically at one corner. I saw only a fast flash of gray somewhere near my dresser. I tried to find the little fellow, not being sure what I would do with it. Opening both our closets and every drawer revealed nothing alive. I finally persuaded my roommate to go to bed and thought I would stay awake to catch the culprit. I went to sleep and woke to something rustling but by the time I started toward the sound it stopped.

The next night I started out the door to go to the shower and felt a whoosh as something ran between my legs. I saw this tiny bit of fur flashing down the hall between girls who burst into hysteria. There was no catching the rodent who ran into another room and totally disappeared. Shrieks and total drama broke out as the hall filled with pajama clad girls, some curious, some terrified. We tried until lights out (and even after!) to find the intruder but finally went to bed, careful to inspect our beds and check our shoes.

There were no more signs of the tiny creature for two or three days. Then one morning everyone was wakened by the most terrifying cry of anguish and horror. We spilled into the hall and found girls crowding into a certain room, the one in which the rodent had last been seen. We pushed and nudged each other trying to see what the uproar was about. There stood Meg, occupant of the room, in front of her dresser, crying and shaking. Eventually we all were able to see the tiny rodent’s dead body floating in a glass of water.

Of course our housemother came to see what was going on. I suddenly felt very conspicuous as everyone pointed fingers at me declaring my cookies had attracted the varmint. For some reason the housemother didn’t give me any demerits. But I was humiliated. I didn’t tell on the other treat hoarders because that would have meant no more cookies. But we were all much more careful after that. We made sure we put cookies in a tight tin.

That little shrew looked nothing like those I saw on television. He was skinny as a finger and didn’t have that very big nose. Maybe he wasn’t even a shrew. But whatever he was he sure taught me a lesson I never forgot: Never think your sins won’t find you out. By the way, it was pretty hard mending that evening dress!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Story of a Love Song

I love Valentine’s Day. I love sharing valentines–silly, mushy, and beautiful ones. Love receiving them, too! I love chocolates, flowers, and sweet stories. And, of course, I love my own special Valentine of 57 years! But the greatest Lover of all is our Savior.

Recently I was reminded of the beautiful song, “The Love of God.” I can hear my mother’s voice in my head when I hum the tune, as well as other voices, like my oldest brother’s who sang it so beautifully. I became intrigued with tracking down who wrote this song, under what circumstances, and found an interesting story.

I had to piece the story together as different Google sources recorded various authors and circumstances with dates back to 1000. (I do complain about social media taking over to the point people don’t read books as much anymore. But I’m thankful for the ease in which I can do a surface research on something like this song and even hear it sung by different artists on YouTube with a touch of my finger.)

Frederick M. Lehman is credited with writing two of the three verses of “The Love of God.” He was born in Germany in 1868. His family emigrated to America when he was four years old. At the age of eleven he was “saved by grace.” He tells his story in some of his many writings, how one morning walking a country lane he became so aware of Heaven it was like a “cornucopia of glory” descending on him. “The weight of conviction was gone and the paeans of joy and praise” fell from his lips.

Frederick was to become a prolific writer of sacred songs, a pastor, a businessman, and a founder of the Nazarene Publishing House. His pastorates were in Iowa, Indiana, and Missouri. His business venture in Pasadena, California suffered a drastic decline and he lost everything. He resorted to manual labor packing oranges and lemons into wooden crates. A Sunday evening sermon on the love of God moved him deeply and, sitting on a lemon crate the next morning, he wrote on a scrap of paper the first lines to the song “The Love of God.” That night he sat at his piano and began composing music to fit those lyrics. In the end, he’d written two stanzas but by the standards of that day’s hymn writing he needed three. He could not think of words for a third stanza.

Later, he discovered words on a bookmark someone had given him that finished the hymn. At the bottom of the bookmark an anonymous writer told how these words had been found on the wall of a prison cell. No one knows much about that prisoner, why he was incarcerated, whether the words were his originally. After his death painters found his words on the wall and were so impressed they copied them before they applied paint.

That’s not the end of the story. Years after Lehman published the song, a man named Alfred B. Smith found more information on the development of that third stanza. According to his research, around the year 1000 those lines “Could we with ink the oceans fill and were the skies of parchment made…” were written in Hebrew by Meir Ben Isaac Nehoria, a Jewish Rabbi. God preserved his words so that hundreds of years later they were found scribbled in English on that prison cell wall. The painters preserved the words which later were printed on a bookmark that landed in the hands of Lehman who, through God’s guidance, added them to the song he’d already written so we have today all three stanzas.

I’d love for you to read these timeless words from a pastor/songwriter, a Rabbi, a prisoner, and, most importantly, preserved for you on this Valentine’s Day.

The love of God is greater far

than tongue or pen can ever tell;

It goes beyond the highest star,

And reaches to the lowest hell;

The guilty pair, bowed down with care,

God gave His Son to win;

His erring child He reconciled,

And pardoned from his sin.


Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!

How measureless and strong!

It shall forevermore endure–

The saints’ and angels’ song.

When ancient time shall pass away,

And human thrones and kingdoms fall;

When those who here refuse to pray

On rocks and hills and mountains call;

God’s love so sure, shall still endure,

All measureless and strong;

Grace will resound the whole earth round–

The saints’ and angels’ song.

Could we with ink the oceans fill,

And were the skies of parchment made;

Were ev’ry stalk on earth a quill,

And ev’ryone a scribe by trade;

To write the love of God above

Would drain the ocean dry;

Nor could the scroll contain the whole,

Though stretched from sky to sky.


Filed under Uncategorized

Cherry Shadow

While news of blizzards in the north filled the weather channel last week our temperature highs were in the sixties with the lows a pleasant thirty-five to forty. The groundhog saw his shadow and predicts six more weeks of winter. But not in South Georgia. Here, spring has already arrived, at least temporarily.

The Indonesian cherry tree and the Japanese magnolia, mingling branches beside our driveway, were so beautiful it was like heaven come down. By the way, the Indonesian cherry may also be called a black cherry and the Japanese magnolia may be a saucer magnolia. But we were introduced to them by these geographical names. I like to think of them as a link to neighbors in Asia. Whatever they are called, they are wonderful trees, pretty and graceful the whole year, whether bare branches in winter, bursting shades of pink in spring, or lacy and green in summertime.

Walking by the trees one day I was struck by their beauty, not only blossoms on the branches, but blossoms strewn thick on driveway and ground around the trees. It seemed thy had very generously laid out a red carpet for me. Observing the graceful shadow of the cherry tree on its own pink and red ground cover, I snapped a picture.

Only a few days later, the scene is very different. The blossoms have faded and leaves are budding, another stage of beauty. Though Japanese magnolias down at our corner and along the street are just at their peak, the one I walk by every day has only sparse blooms left. Some petals are still drifting down when a cool breeze picks up. The glorious carpet is mostly brown and dirty looking red, damaged by time and weather and foot traffic. Around on the other side of the circle driveway, snowdrops are blooming, tiny delicate white bells amongst a tangle of winter brown lantana branches. Camellias are ready for Valentine’s Day in pink and red and white. On the pine tree by the mailbox a jasmine vine that could not be coaxed to bloom at all last year has now come alive with a wealth of gold flowers, new ones every morning.

How amazing is it that every season, night and day, sunshine and shadow, shows forth such beauty! I look at that picture I took a few short days ago and enjoy again that cherry tree shadow across the blanketed ground. That show has faded now but new wonders are opening up, like the white iris (Mamma liked to call them flags) and azaleas and soon tiny violets in the grass. A flock of robins arrived yesterday and had a wonderful party on the lawn, circling the rim of the bird bath, and chirping from high branches. Today no sign of robins. Instead, finches and cardinals flash bright colors from feeder to shrubbery. Almost every day there is something new opening up, flying in, adding different colors. Our yard reminds me of the constantly changing patterns in a kaleidoscope.

March may be blustery, cold, and wet. But today, February 8, the sun is bright and our cats are lounging on warm pavement.

The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord. Psalms 33:5


Filed under Uncategorized

Wish I Was a Buzzard

We joined the line of cars waiting for dismissal bell at our great granddaughter’s school. We idly watched as some school personnel with satchels or bundles left the building after a hard day’s teaching. Then our eyes were riveted on the sky above. Buzzards were circling, almost as if they were playing tag celebrating with children and teachers that the school day was done. As if on cue, two buzzards lit in the very tops of two dead pine trees. Each of them spread their wings until they appeared as a cross on the top of the trees, their wingspread about four feet. We watched, mesmerized, waiting for them to fold their wings down, to fluff their feathers, or take flight. They sat just that way, still as statues, for a good five minutes.

Charli came across the parking lot lugging her saxophone and book bag. She climbed in the back seat bubbling as usual with news of her day. We drove away just as I noticed the buzzards lifting to the skies.

Since then I have thought several times about those buzzards, some of the humblest of God’s creatures, how they put on an unusual drama for us that day. Buzzards aren’t usually romanticized. Garbage disposals, they lead a pretty mundane life. What did it mean, two buzzards in the shape of crosses on the tip top of two dead trees?

I was reminded of a children’s picture book that was a favorite of Dixie Franklin’s when she was our children’s kindergarten teacher. One year I taught nursery school in our church’s daycare program. My room was next to “Miss Dixie’s” so we often shared how the day had gone. One day after the last child had left, she wiped her brow as she laughed and said, “Oh, Lord, wish I was a buzzard!” Then she told me about the book she’d read to the children that day, how they had caught on to the charming repetition and repeated lines with her.

On a whim, remembering those buzzards, I ordered the little book, happy to learn it is still in print.

Oh, Lord, I Wish I Was a Buzzard is a simple sweet story by Polly Greenberg, whimsically illustrated by Aliki. A father and two children are picking cotton all day every day. The father tells his children if they work hard he might give them a sucker at the end of the week. All day every day they pick, and pick, and pick and the sun is so hot. The little girl looks up and sees a buzzard circling, circling, and says, “Oh, Lord, I wish I was a buzzard.” She sees a snake coiled up cool as could be under a bush and says, “Oh, Lord, wish I was a snake.” She sees a dog, a partridge and a butterfly and, in the hot, hot sun, picking, picking, she says “Oh, Lord, wish I was—–” At the end of the week the father gives each child a sucker and they all head home, happy.

It’s a slice-of-life little story with no astounding point. Of course the reader can infer whatever point they see, such as hard work brings rewards, or it’s best to be who you are instead of longing for something different. But couldn’t the story be intended simply to help children enjoy reading? And what about the buzzards we saw? Maybe the buzzards we saw on the trees were just for entertainment, not there to offer any big lesson. Maybe they were cooling their wings or showing off to the other buzzards.

Sometimes, I think, God gives us a laugh just because we need it.


Filed under Uncategorized

Buttermilk and Cornbread

Most of my children make a sour face at the very mention of buttermilk. Some people give me the impression they would rather die of thirst and/or hunger before they would take even a sip of buttermilk.

But to those of us raised on buttermilk and cornbread, those two were a mainstay, a delight, and even now they’re a tasty treat. So when someone asked me recently what exactly buttermilk is I was happy to explain, probably more fully than they wanted!

Basically, buttermilk is a byproduct of the production of butter. The process involves the fermentation of whole milk to the point that it clabbers. Then it’s a matter of moving, shaking, churning the milk until butter forms. This can be done with milk in a large jar as we did in nursery school, allowing each child a chance to shake. Or the process might be implemented in a glass churn with a crank. I guess the commercial process uses a huge vat or cylinder. But the most interesting way to make buttermilk is with a simple old crockery churn.

Mamma’s method of making buttermilk when we had a milk cow was to let each day’s supply of milk set until the cream rose. She would skim that cream off and save it for churning day. On churning day she put whole milk soured to a clabber in the churn, added the reserved cream, and let it all warm to room temperature sitting by the wood stove. The milk needs to be warm enough that butter will form but not too warm or the butter will not hold together. Mamma knew just when it was right. The churn had a wooden disc top with a hole in it so a rod with paddle at the bottom could move up and down. Once the milk was ready Mamma assigned a child to churn if she needed to be doing something else. In about an hour the paddle hitting the milk changed its sound. Mamma would lift the lid to see if butter had formed. If it wasn’t ready, then churning resumed until yellow islands of butter floated in the milk. Mamma scooped out the butter, rinsed it in cold water, packed it in a mold to make beautiful cakes of butter. She took pride in the perfect cakes with a flower imprint on the top. Naturally, the milk left in the churn is buttermilk.

Buttermilk purchased from the store is apt to taste pretty horrible compared to the fresh lively taste of home churned buttermilk. But often we find brands that are really good. The taste takes me back to Mamma’s kitchen, the churn sitting by the warm stove, the cat nearby hoping for a splattered drop. It seems Mamma’s weekly churning day often coincided with her wheat bread baking day so we could have hot bread and fresh butter.

But sometimes when she didn’t have time for the long process of making yeast bread Mamma made quick thin cornbread in shallow iron pans on top of the stove. The smell of that bread cooking could bring us out of our books or in from chores in a hurry.

One of the very good things about buttermilk and cornbread is how tasty they are together as leftovers. I can see us now, a line of hungry children sitting on a long bench. Mamma and one of the older girls would pour buttermilk (or sweet milk sometimes) into peanut butter mugs (remember those glass mugs?) and give one to each of us along with a generous piece of cornbread. We had the option of crumbling the bread into our mugs and eating with a spoon or eating/drinking them separately. I always took the crumbling option. It was filling and so good. That was our supper.

Buttermilk is a fantastic ingredient in many recipes. For instance, I don’t think I can make cornbread without buttermilk. As I said, not all commercially made buttermilk is really good. But it does just fine for cooking. You can even make a form of buttermilk instantly if you’re out of the real thing. Pour a cup of sweet milk, add a teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice and voila! you have buttermilk for your cornbread baking.

Buttermilk, paired usually with a teaspoon of soda, makes for other delicious bakery products like muffins, coffee cake, pancakes, biscuits and more. There’s even a good recipe for buttermilk pie. It’s one of those desperation recipes that turn out surprisingly delicious.

I always get a sour look when I recommend buttermilk or yogurt to a kid with mouth ulcers. I only know it heals because I’ve tried it. Then again, I just like buttermilk. I’d far rather have my sister Suzanne’s freshly churned buttermilk but I’m happy with com-mercial also. Cornbread (made with buttermilk) makes it even better!

I confess we don’t now usually have cornbread crumbled in buttermilk. But last night we did and it was ever so good! Whether beans and squash, meatloaf and potatoes, or buttermilk and cornbread, it’s good to give thanks to God, our provider.

Give us day by day our daily bread. Luke 11:3


Filed under Uncategorized

The Braided Rug

It’s not a magic carpet like Aladdin’s. But magical moments do occur on this center stage rug.

We arrived at my brother-in-law’s apartment to find him standing with his walker in the midst of chaos. David and my sister Pat, who had died about a year before, were both extremely neat and orderly. So the chaos was unusual. But then everything was unusual. David’s health had gone down sharply and he wanted to downsize. We had offered to help.

The first thing we noticed was the long stretch of rolled up braided rug, so long it was hard to walk around in that small apartment.

“I need to get rid of this rug,” said David coming right to the point. “You think you can take it to Goodwill?”

It was a big rug for that small apartment, a study in greens. I immediately felt sad that we wouldn’t see it there at David’s any longer. It was an important part of the apartment he and Pat had occupied for years. Many family occasions we’d enjoyed in that home with the rug a center of our seating area–birthday parties, 4th of July gatherings, unplanned visits. I could picture so well Pat almost dancing across the rug with arms wide open to welcome us. It had been part of the furnishing in their big beautiful North Carolina house as well, maybe even their West Virginia house. It wasn’t just part of their house, it was part of their home.

Charles and I looked at each other. We’d been looking for the right rug for our living room in the house where we’d recently moved, a rug with shades of green, a touch of red mingled with tan and gold. Just like this one. I’d always held an affection for braided rugs.

“David, would you mind very much if we took this rug home instead of to Goodwill?” I asked.

Somehow we hauled that van home in our modest van.

The rug took on new life.

Three young teenagers from Uganda spent several days with us not long after we laid the rug down. They were part of a group our church helped sponsor called the Daraja Choir. The program took elementary age children for a year, traveling over much of the U.S. performing at churches and staying in homes. They had lessons each morning at the church with their teacher and performed at the church one night. Their leader, Kaws, prompted them to put on a private show for us–on the rug. It was a memorable occasion for all of us, including several of our grandchildren. I can still see the expressive bright faces of those little boys as they danced and sang Christian songs in their language and in ours.

Our little Charli began taking gymnastics lessons. She practiced and put on shows on the rug almost every day. When her cousin Mattie came to visit they both worked out routines based on movements they had learned and a lot of imagination–and energy! There is a favorite area on the back lawn where they also so their tricks. But the rug is more often the chosen stage.

Then Mattie started dance lessons–pop, tap, and ballet. I love it when she shows us her solo for a recital or when she and Charli use the rug for their various, sometimes unbelievable, activities. They can bend themselves into such wild shapes, I think even a pretzel maker couldn’t compete.

We enjoyed hosting a Bible study in our home for six weeks one year. The rug made our circle cozy and casual for sharing.

At Christmas we all gather around the rug by the Christmas tree after dinner. Charles reads the Christmas story, usually from Luke, but this year he read prophecies of the Messiah from Isaiah. This year Charli read “‘Twas The Night Before Christmas” before we began opening gifts. The grandchildren arranged themselves on the rug for digging into their stockings.

The rug gives nice space for working puzzles. It’s a good place for amateur chiropractors to do their cracking. It’s an ideal place, too, to test out a new robot or lie down and read a book, or practice for a school drama.

The rug has had several houses before ours. Like us, it’s no spring chicken and is somewhat faded. It’s not a magic carpet. But it’s seen many a magical moment as the center of our family and friend gatherings. And as a stage for some wonderful performances.

David came to see us a few months after the rug moved to our house. I gleefully pointed out how his rug fitted so nicely in our living room, how appreciative we were for it. David, not a sentimental person, only shrugged and said something like “That’s good.” To him it was just a rug. To me it is a magical center stage.


Filed under Uncategorized

Images at Dawn

It was dark outside my window at 5:00 in the morning. Charles’s truck was parked at the back but I couldn’t see it. There were lawn chairs, arranged in a friendly circle around a table, but they weren’t visible. I couldn’t see the outline of the barn roof or the loom of the cherry tree or the perky little “See Rock City” bird house. I couldn’t see the basketball goal or the bird bath huddling under a crepe myrtle tree. It was so dark I could hardly even see the sky. My own reflection stared back at me from my window.

I made a cup of coffee and sat down at the breakfast table. Outside that window, too, all was dark. I knew the Japanese magnolia was about to bloom in spite of the recent freeze. The hydrangea with browned blossoms was nearby. I knew that right outside the window a bird bath and feeder waited for the cardinals, titmouse, finches, and mourning doves. But right now, except for a car’s lights passing on the street, it was as if nothing was there.

In short minutes I began to notice the shape of the bird bath. The magnolia laced limbs against the lightening sky. A bird flew in making the bird feeder swing. Another sip of coffee and azaleas appeared, a corner of the carport angled out of the dimness. Heading to the porch, I could now see lawn chairs outside, the basketball goal, the gray driveway circling around azaleas and the mulberry tree.

The sky stained with rose and pearl became brighter and brighter beyond the reeds swaying gently in a breeze like dancers in total sync. Everything came into full color as if a black and white negative had been developed in a darkroom to become a vivid picture.

Everything–bird bath, basketball goal, trees and shrubs–had been there all the time. I knew they were there, but I couldn’t see them. They were all very much there, very real. But I couldn’t see them. Until daylight came.

This thought came to me: if everything were solidly there even though I couldn’t see the images, how much more the Lord is with me at every turn through the darkest nights and most confusing days. He is always working even when I grow impatient and feel as if He’s forgotten me.

Take courage, you who are walking through a dark time. God knows exactly where you are, whether or not you can see Him. He is at work all around us.

If I say surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee. Psalm 139:11-12


Filed under nature, prayer

The Old Ford

Life’s curves and adventures– challenges, bad days, good days–are never flat like a dime. They’re like prisms with many different facets. Those involved each have a different perspective about any particular event. As Charles and I traveled on an afternoon excursion I was reminded of how differently people consider circumstances.

I knew I had been on this road before but I didn’t know where in Habersham County we were. Many curves in the road and glimpses of mountains or views into the forest struck a chord of memory. Then we came upon the ford and I exclaimed with pleasure “I remember this ford!” I asked Charles to stop so I could take a picture. Okay, it’s not really a ford any longer except when the creek swells high. But back before the road was paved the water literally did flow across the road and the car tires splashed as we rode through.

But sometimes, after a heavy rain, the car tires did not splash on through.

On one such occasion my brother John was driving several family members on a ride in the hills. I’m not sure whether we were riding towards a destination or just taking a scenic jaunt. Daddy may have needed to visit someone and allowed the rest of us to tag along. I must have been pretty small so I don’t remember all the details. But I do remember that we became stuck in the mud at the edge of the ford.

When I related the memory to Charles he, being an all-time fixer, wanted to know how we got out. I remember a lot of pushing and grunting and spinning. I don’t think there were any boards to put under the tires, although maybe a log or two were retrieved from the woods. There certainly was no tractor with a chain. The good part about our being stuck was that we kids played in the water the whole time the men worked to budge the car.

It must have been an hour before the car was freed. It was long enough for us to wade and splash and chase each other with water lizards. Mamma must not have been part of that adventure because she would have probably stopped us from getting wet and muddy. The way I remember it, all attention of adults was on getting the car out and we kids were allowed to have a wonderful time playing in the cool water.

As Charles and I drove on up the road and came to the tiny community that calls itself “City of Batesville, unincorporated”, I kept thinking about that day when our car was stuck in the mud. To Daddy and John it was a very unwelcome event. I think it was John’s car and I’m sure he was pretty unhappy about the mess he was in. Daddy would have been anxious to move on. He was not a patient man. But to us kids it was a fantastic, joyous time.

Different perspectives make for sparkling rainbow colors from a prism. Let’s be conscious this year of recognizing and respecting those who have an entirely different perspective from our own. And if you are blessed to find a real ford, a stream sparkling in the sunlight as it crosses the road–pause and enjoy it!

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

O Little Town of Bethlehem

But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. Micah 5:2

I knew everything would be different. There would be no stable as I’d always pictured, no shepherds watching sheep on a hillside, no patient donkey, instead honking taxis and tourist attractions. I wanted to picture Bethlehem as the Bible described it, a quiet little town suddenly filled with strangers needing to be counted, frantically seeking a place to lay their heads. But when an unusual opportunity came up that allowed Charles and me to visit the Holy Land we were excited.

In 1996 it was possible to visit Bethlehem on certain days. Our guide, a Christian Palestinian, explained that when there was a terrorist threat (as there often was), no tourists were allowed. But it was clear the day we went to Bethlehem from Jerusalem. Yes, Bethlehem was different but it was fascinating. Not only was it was the birthplace of Jesus but it was also the birthplace of David, the town where Ruth met Boaz in the field. Ruth became the great-great-great (about 14 greats!) grandmother of Jesus. It was Joseph’s ancestral home so he had to go there when Caesar declared a census be taken in Judea. All part of God’s marvelous plan.

We enjoyed buying olive wood nativity sets for family members at a huge store where there were dozens and dozens of nativity sets of all sizes, from Christmas tree ornament, to almost life size. Crafting these nativity sets is the main livelihood for many folks in Bethlehem.

When we visited the place of Jesus’ birth, the actual place, I was overwhelmed with the knowledge of what He did for me, leaving Glory to become a helpless baby. For centuries after His birth, according to our guide, folks eagerly pointed to that stable/cave and told what had happened there. In about the year 500 the Church of the Nativity was built over the place to preserve it for all to visit and, like me, to worship the Lord. There were hundreds of people standing in line to be able to kneel at the very spot marked by a large star on the floor of a recessed “cave.” When I knelt ever so briefly just to touch the tiles it was a very precious moment. That site is said to be the most authentic of all the sacred sites.

It was years after our visit that I read the account of Phillips Brooks’ visit to Bethlehem. It was something like this.

Phillips Brooks was a very famous preacher in the mid 1800’s. He was the one chosen to preach the funeral of Abraham Lincoln in 1865. After that funeral he was so depressed, so hopeless, he could no longer lead his parishioners. He took a sabbatical and traveled to the Holy Land. He rode by horse from Jerusalem to Bethlehem late one afternoon. Contemplating the little town and remembering the supernatural event that took place there, he felt a peace come over him that was unexplainable. He went in a small church where, as he wrote later, his “heart sang.” He knew that, in spite of the horrors of the last few years, God was still in control.

When Phillips returned to his flock he tried to explain to them what it was like walking where Jesus walked. He wanted them to have the peace he experienced. But no matter how hard he tried he could not convey to them the feelings that he had. It was simply too much for words. Three years after his return to his church in Philadelphia he sat at his desk trying to prepare for that year’s Christmas service. Suddenly the words to “O Little Town of Bethlehem” formed in his head and he quickly wrote them down. He rushed to his organist, Lewis Radner, who exclaimed, “This is what you’ve been trying to say!” Radner began trying to write music for the words but he was struggling. On Christmas Eve night he finally went to sleep knowing he would disappoint Phillips because he had no music. In his sleep the tune came to him and when he woke he was able to write it so the church could, that Christmas Day, sing “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”

The little town of Bethlehem is different from the time when Jesus was born. It’s different from the time Phillips Brooks was there. And I’m sure it’s different from the time we walked its streets in 1996. But the story of the birth of the Messiah is the same. Our great God who sent Jesus is the same. And we can find His peace in the streets of Bethlehem or — wherever you are!

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie.

Above they deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.

Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light.

The hopes and fears of all the years

Are met in thee tonight.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized