Friday, July 29, 2011

Forever Love

Book Contest: A few more days to enter the drawing for A Still and Quiet Soul: Embracing Contentment, to be held on July 31. Read Amazon user reviews here


In a tattered box at a garage sale, they lay, waiting to reveal century old secrets. Thumbing through a stack of miscellaneous items, I found two yellowed letters. Postmarked on November 17 and 18, 1908, two-cent stamps had provided passage from South Fairlee, Vermont to Bradford, Vermont.

                Later at home, I read the correspondence from “Ed” to “Miss Abbie B. Avery.” In Ed’s exquisite penmanship, his salutations were, “To My One True Love” and “My Dearest One.” I pieced portions of their romance together from his letters.

                Apparently, their affection had been concealed from friends and families because Ed addressed Abbie’s fears that the postmaster would become suspicious about their frequent letters. Ed wrote advising Abbie not to fret because soon they could announce their love to neighbors and friends.  Abbie kept an engagement ring hidden, too. The gold band a bit too large, Ed planned to have it cut down by a jeweler.

                Mixed in with Ed’s romantic musings were notations about everyday life, his coon dog, chopping wood, and a job “examination in N. Y. on December 8th 9 A. M.” He was hoping to land the job and fund their new household. If he didn’t, Ed had alternate plans. He wanted Abbie as his wife.

                Ed informed her about a “sad errand,” singing a solo at his friend Frank’s funeral. Frank’s widow once said about her marriage, “I should prefer to be with Frank in the wilderness than in a palace with anyone else.”

                July’s the month when I tend to think more about courtship, romance, and marriage. My grandson Adam, at age four, had just learned about weddings and marriage, and he told us that one day he would marry a girl and “have true love.”

                True love. David and my wedding anniversary is today, July 29, forty-four years. We plan to take a few trips in the fall when the weather in our region of the country isn’t so hot and humid. I’ve often said, it should be against the law in south Texas to issue marriage licenses during July and August because later in life because later anniversaries come in the midst of heat waves. Odd, though, the weather wasn’t a factor in July of 1967 when we dove into matrimony. The war in Vietnam loomed. Dave had already been drafted. We had no doubt that he would find himself in that war torn country. Within a few months Uncle Sam confirmed our doubts.

                A favorite excerpt about weather and love comes from Ogden Nash’s Summer Serenade: “When shirt is wet and throat is dry, Look my darling, that’s July . . . Shall we postpone our love for weather: If we must melt, let’s melt together!”

                Perhaps Ed and Abbie married on a chilly day, near Christmas. In one closing he wrote, “I am enjoying life greatly . . . before long we shall both be happy . . . The hour of darkness approaches, and I will say good night, my love. Yours forever, Ed.”

                A forever love for Ed and Abbie — I hope it was so. I hope so for you, too.   

                Index card verse for week 30: “So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth” (Malachi 2:15).

Monday, July 25, 2011

Joy Advertises Jesus

Book Give Away at end of July, comment or reply to enter for drawing of A Still and Quiet Soul: Embracing Contentment.

A rural Arkansas church had a “penny march” where Preacher Bill Hyatt witnessed the joy of a young boy and sent me this story: Youngsters saved for weeks to contribute their copper coins to God, and on the appointed day, a four-year-old boy in the habit of coming to church with his grandmother “brought a pint jar FULL of pennies.” Children gave their donations immediately after Sunday school, and their pennies pinged into a specially built small church building. The congregation watched as this boy’s turn came and he meticulously deposited the pennies.

            At first, he only dropped in one penny at a time, and then a few at a time. “He would put in a few pennies and then do a little dance.” Bill Hyatt said, “I told the folk just to let him take all the time he wanted because he was getting joy out of his giving!”

            Another joy-story comes from Amy Hollingsworth’s The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers. She had the blessing of hearing a bell choir made up of people with physical impairments. The director used color-coded cards to signal the players. It was not a perfect concert, but pure joy to witness.

During the bell rendition of “Amazing Grace,” one short man in the back, color code maroon, “shook his bell so vigorously, I thought the tongue of the bell would dislodge and go flying.” The choirs’ enthusiasm and their offering to the Lord brought tears to Ms. Hollingsworth’s eyes. 

I’ve studied the Bible book of Zechariah this past week looking for a verse to pass along to you. Zechariah like the prophet Haggai wrote to encourage the rebuilders of the temple in Jerusalem. Some Jewish captives had been allowed to travel back to the city as a rebuilding team. They also brought back temple treasures stolen by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar.

Imagine the joy these chosen people experienced as they returned to their homeland to rebuild their beloved temple – the place where God promised to meet them. I envision even the adults happily trotting toward Jerusalem – dancing a bit, twirling around because of their joy.

In “Dancing to Zion” Judson Edward’s book about getting a head start on the joy of heaven, he notes a personal goal – to be “true to the Spirit who is rummaging around in my soul.” God-inspired joy is like none other, and the source is not self or accomplishments. In the book of Hebrews, the writer points out Jesus’ joy and quotes a psalm, “God has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy” (1:9). Meaning that Jesus embodied and expressed more joy than any person on earth ever will.

Some trucks have governors on their engines, restricting the amount of fuel, holding them back to a certain speed. I think that Christians sometimes “throttle” expressions of joy. I know I do. What will people think if I keep humming that hymn in the grocery store? Or what will other congregants think if my worship is more outgoing than those around me? I probably should be asking, what will God think if I quench his Spirit of joy.

I’ve been in corporate worship where the congregation remained subdued. But I’ve been in others where each worshiper feels free to clap, lift holy hands, or kneel as the Spirit leads. My hope is that all worshipers will refuse to pass judgment upon fellow worshipers and will simply rejoice that God still moves hearts, and that sometimes adoration is expressed through shouts, hands lifted, and knees bent.

I know that not everyone has the same personalities. Some are more reserved about showing joy in public, and that’s okay. Joy may be expressed in many ways; Choose to let your joy in the Lord shine this week. Our joy advertises Jesus. So, when the Spirit moves you, go ahead do a penny dance, ring a bell, or plaster a great big smile on your face because you above all people are blessed.

Index Verse for Week 29: “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you – righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).

Friday, July 15, 2011

Drifting and God-Mending

Book Give Away--Had a great meeting with a Bible study group in The Woodlands last evening as they started a study of A Still and Quiet Soul: Embracing Contentment. To enter this month's  contest to win a copy, simply leave a comment....Blessings....Cathy

The worn tablecloth looked homey when I first saw it laying on a table at a yard sale. The cloth’s once bright colors of peach, khaki, and complementary blues and yellows had faded from many washes. It felt similar to the softness of a worn but-still-serviceable blouse. The kind that has finally gotten comfortable enough that it’s a favorite and the owner dreads the day it will become threadbare and no longer wearable. The price was right so I draped the tablecloth on my arm and rummaged through other items. I kept my eye out for pie plates.

            Somehow, my pie plates have walked off over the years, all with fresh baked pies warming their interiors. I don’t remember who I gave them to for a treat, but autumn and pie-baking season will be here before we know it. I’m ready for cooler days and a warm oven, instead of hot days when I don’t do much baking.

            Did you notice that I rambled over several topics in the above sentences?  Did you wonder where this article was going? Maybe not if you think I ramble often.

            Better writers only include words that will advance their main point. In the above paragraphs, the blouse, pie plates, weather, and oven statements didn’t really fit the theme of this column. Why did I include them? To show how easily we can get off track, one thing leading to another until we finally float in a direction we never intended.

            A life of purpose has specific goals for behavior and work. That person knows that even recreation and rest have a part in restoring balance and bringing energy to the tougher days. The easy, often traveled road is to meander through days without worthy goals. Billy Wilder said, “You have to have a dream so you can get up in the morning.”

            I think that’s what happened to God’s people in the Old Testament. They forgot their calling to represent God, to be holy, opposite of the profane who surrounded them. They drifted away from their purpose for getting up in the morning: for honoring God, respecting life, and loving their neighbors.

            When Christ followers drift from whim to whim or pleasure to pleasure, their focal point has shifted from God to self. Each day it’s possible to forget our godly goals. That’s when we may stray from our convictions for a brief moment. Harmon Killebrew, an American professional baseball player, recalled a scene from his childhood in the 1940s: “My father used to play with my brother and me in the yard. Mother would come out and say, "You're tearing up the grass."

            Dad would reply, "We're not raising grass. We're raising boys."

            When I brought my new used tablecloth home, I imagined it spread over a table on our long front porch. I envisioned a homemade picnic of fried chicken, yeast rolls, baked beans, potato salad, and pickles. And accompanying that meal were fresh sliced tomatoes, lemon meringue pie, and a pitcher of iced tea. However, when I unfolded the tablecloth, it had a huge patch in the center. Still serviceable, it just didn’t quite measure up to my original image of the perfect, old soft picnic cloth.

            God can enable us to live all he dreamed for us. But we sometimes drift, our fabric fades, and we lose sight of our original purpose. The beauty of our Creator is his willingness to forgive, remake, renew, and repurpose drifters. Longtime drifters or momentary drifters, when we stray, God loves to put lives back together, but not with a shabby patch that looks make-do. God-mending is perfect, as he weaves in his spirit and a new radiance.

            If life’s been threadbare, if you’ve drifted, embrace the words God spoke through the prophet Zephaniah.

            Index Card Verse for Week 28: “[D]o not let your hands hang limp. The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing” (3:16-17).

            Contact Cathy at

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Who Would Hide You?

A Book Contest will run from now until the end of July. Want to enter to win a copy of A Still and Quiet Soul: Embracing Contentment? Just leave a comment here or contact me by email and I'll add your name to the stash of hopefuls.

And a favor, please, pass along word about this newest book. Available at Amazon or ACU Press/ Leafwood Publishers.

And now.....for Friday's newspaper column: "Who Would Hide You?"

In Joseph Heller’s novel, “Good as Gold,” two men discuss friendship. One recalls the story of a Jewish man, who lived in Germany during his childhood. He and his family escaped the terror of Hitler because of courageous folks who hid them. During the conversation, one man asks the other longtime coworker, “Would you hide me?”

If you ask a friend that question, you cut through shallow skin and into heart muscle to find an answer. While researching for this article, I phoned my longtime friend Doris Allen and told her that story. I didn’t phone to ask her the question. I called to thank her. I knew how she’d answer if I asked.

Heller’s fictional story grew out of real, horrific happenings. The Hebrew word “olah” means “burnt sacrifice.” Later, Greek words “holo” (whole) and “caustos” (burned) combined to form the word “holocaust,” a term used to describe the systematic murder of Jews by Nazi Germany.

David Katz wrote about his family and being separated from his parents. Fleeing on foot at age 13, David walked, mostly by moonlight, a five month journey to occupied France. In hiding and disguise for several years, he found his first real bed and good night’s rest in the home of a Catholic priest. When the Gestapo prowled, the priest hid David inside an attic wall.

Other Jews escaped through underground networks, shielded in outhouses, forests, behind false walls, and in haylofts. During this time, plenty of folk turned their neighbors in for harboring Jews. Indoctrinated German children even turned in their own parents for sheltering Jews.

Julian Bilecki, a thin teenager in Poland, and his family hid up to 23 refugees for several years in an underground bunker. In the winter, members of the rescue family jumped from tree to tree bringing food to the bunker to avoid leaving traceable footprints in the snow.

Finally safe in the United States, many of the bunker survivors sent gifts to the Bileckis, who remained poor. Eventually, the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous flew Julian Bilecki and his son to the United States to reunite with some of the people the Belecki family had helped to save.

Mrs. Grau Schnitzer, who was nine-years-old when sheltered, met him at the airport and spoke to him in Russian and Ukranian, “God should be praised for this moment, and thanks for all your goodness.”

Pettiness pales when deep inquiries about life surfaces. How would you answer these questions?

Who would I hide?

Who would hide me?

Index Card Verse for Week 27: “And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

Friday, July 01, 2011

Buy a Cup of Coffee as Thanks

Book Winner: Joyce, who sent an email. I'll contact you for your mailing address.

Since we’re in a drought, fireworks are on the endangered list this Independence Day. So it’s an excellent idea to find a less flammable way to celebrate our freedoms. Here’s what I did to say thank you to the keepers of this liberty: I bought a cup of coffee for a soldier. Green Bean Coffee Company offers a way to buy a cup of coffee for men or women serving in our armed services through a program called a Cup of Joe for a Joe.

            In 1997, two brothers, Jason and Jon Araghi, opened a gourmet coffee house in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. US Army personnel especially enjoyed the café, and soon the nearby Army base invited the company to open a café on their site. More invitations followed to open cafes on bases, and the next three opened at the Prince Sultan Air Force base, in Al-Kharj KSA. They now have coffee houses for the military in “Afghanistan, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait, Qatar, Djibouti, Africa and domestically at military bases across North America.”

The company got its start with a unique dedication to the troops of the United States military, wanting to provide an environment where “soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines can relax and feel at home.” Green Bean Coffee cafes, offers high quality coffee and tea beverages and baked goods. “Our fifteen-year heritage of supporting those that put their lives at stake in service to our country is firmly rooted and non-negotiable.” A portion of every sale is donated to “charities like TAPS [Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors] and Soldiers Angels that strive to improve the life for disabled armed services members, military families and their children.”

Their motto is “Honor First, Coffee Second.” Two dollars will buy one cup of coffee. I bought five cups of coffee at their internet site . With each gifted cup of coffee the company also delivered my personalized note of thanks for each personnel’s service. I’m sharing their notes of thanks sent to me, but to protect their privacy, I’m not giving their full names or ranks if they gave them. The first cup of Joe went to a soldier serving at Phoenix in Afghanistan: Joe # 1 said, Thank you for the cup of joe it made my day!!”

Joe #2 serving in Bagram South in Afghanistan, wrote “Thank you so much for the free cup of coffee! It’s the little things while over here that help!” Cup of Joe # 3 went to a soldier serving in Ali Al Salem in Kuwait, and Jane # 4 from Sather AB, wrote, “Thanks so much for your support and patriotism! Kristin, USAF Baghdad, Iraq.”  I’m not sharing these to receive any pat on the back because the minute I sent my ten dollars on its way, that was enough for me, but Joe # 5 from Speicher, North in Iraq, wrote:Cathy - thank you so much for the coffee. Your gesture of kindness means so much out here, believe me! Big hugs, you wonderful person! Marcus.”

Find out more about this patriotic company at their site and from their timeline detailing their additional openings on military bases in Asia and Africa. In 2005 Green Beans Coffee introduced their on-line coffee card to allow friends and family to purchase gifts of coffee for loved ones stationed around the world. The program was a success with hundreds of cards purchased online by Americans and corporate sponsors to show their support and appreciation of US and Coalition troops.

At their site, they also post via Twitter and Facebook pictures of military personnel at the coffee shops or even videos of surprise homecomings or marriage proposals. Not only do donations boost the morale of our military personnel, but my heart was touched when I took time to watch a couple of videos linked from YouTube. One showed a first time dad returning home as a surprise and then he got to hold his newborn son for the first time. Another showed a dad surprising his children upon his return stateside, and the final one I watched showed a soldier, upon his return, getting down on one knee to offer a proposal of marriage to the girl he obviously missed and wanted to be his wife. She said, “Yes!”

We non-military in the United States spend our days in the pursuit of happiness and go to sleep at night in a safe country because of the sacrifices of others. We rest because of their laurels. Synonyms for the word “laurels” are glories, successes, honors, and achievements. Our freedoms come at a cost to those who serve. The least they give is great. Some sacrifice their careers in the general work force, others are gone from home for numerous tours of duty, others carry battle scars for life, and finally others pay the ultimate price for God and country with their lives, leaving voids in families which will never be filled.

In July of 1776, the estimated number of people living in our newly independent nation was 2.5 million. Currently in the US, we have about 311,661,907 and these citizens are battling every kind of weather condition on the home front -- tornados, floods, and the south has turned into a dust bowl. Overseas or at home, we all fare better when each of us in our blended American family do our part to make where we live a better place. Consider offering a good will gesture through a cup of coffee, borne in the USA but sent into the world with a great amount of thanks. Happy 4th of July.

Index Card Scripture for Week 26: “But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you” (Jonah 2:9).