All posts by dscales24

I am a wife, mother, and grandmother who enjoys sharing life experiences through writing short, lighthearted articles. These are intended to entertain, inspire, motivate, and inform my readers. I hope to receive responses in which readers tell me if they relate to the articles and share with me ideas that my writings generated in them.

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

When I was born in 1952, my parents named me Debra Gay.

I asked my mother why I was named as I was. Her explanation included the mention of Deborah Kerr, the actress. Mom had a friend named Gay, who, as her name suggests, was a joyful woman.

Thus, I became Debra Gay.

I meet Debras, Deborahs, Debbies, and Debs all the time.

A delivery woman last week visited with me on my driveway. Her nametag read Deb, so we discussed the popularity of that name among women of our age.

She said, “I never met a Deb I didn’t like.”

A clerk I encountered in a department store wore a Deborah nametag. When she saw my name on my credit card, she said, “Hmmm. My mother said when she decided to give me my name, she was ‘at least going to spell it right.'”

How was I supposed to respond to a comment like that?

My sister-in-law is named Lavana. She likes her name because it is unique. No one, upon hearing her name, ever asks, “Lavana who?”

I grew up in Northern Arkansas. There, women whose names ended in the letter a, often had their names pronounced as if they ended in the letters ie.

My paternal grandmother was Eva, so she was Evie. I knew an Elda (Eldie), an Ida (Idie), a Laura (Laurie), a Letta (Lettie), and an Alta (Altie).

Some people had common names, but because those people were significant to my family and me, we did not need then, nor do we need now, to use last names when speaking of them.

This is true of Duane.

Duane was a second or third cousin, or a second cousin once removed, or some such.

My siblings and I have known several Duanes, but, to us, that name always denotes the One and Only Duane.

Duane and his sister, Judy Ann, sometimes stayed with their grandparents, who lived across the road from us. (Their grandmother was Altie.)

When they weren’t living with their grandparents, they lived in Kansas with one or the other of their separated parents.

Duane was a hero to me.

I won’t say he could walk on water, but he could run barefoot on our rocky dirt road faster and more effortlessly than anyone else I knew.

Duane was also brave.

One day he swallowed a pokeberry, when all of us knew those purple berries were deadly. Their only purpose, as far as we knew, was to decorate the tops of mudpies or to force-feed to enemies. As if we had enemies.

But Duane survived the ingestion of that deadly pokeberry. Much to our surprise and relief, he did not drop dead.

Duane also used more colorful language than my parents allowed their children to use.

He introduced me to words like gnarly, squirrelly, and raunchy.

After an ice storm, I heard him say, “This road is slicker than snot on a glass doorknob.”

Wow!

Duane was also born in 1952. I am writing this on October 16, the 68th anniversary of his birth.

But no one is celebrating.

Duane died in a car accident before he reached even his 30th birthday.

I miss Duane and love him still.

What’s in a name?

A lot.

This picture was taken in our front yard around 1960. I am standing on the left, next to Duane. My sister Pam is next in line, standing beside Judy Ann.

NATIVE LANGUAGE

John 8:44 records this about the devil: When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

English is both my native and my only language.

But any language can be used for good or evil. People can bless or curse in English. They can encourage or discourage; build up or tear down; heal or wound.

Language can be used to brighten or darken a listener’s day.

James 3:10 reads: Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.

Earlier in his book, James wrote it is easier to control powerful horses or to command great ships than to tame one’s own tongue. This small organ is capable, he writes, of igniting great fires.

Paul instructed in Col 4:6: Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Satan’s native language is not a language at all in the way you and I think of the term. He delivers his messages in German, French, and Portuguese, as well as in English.

Because his aims, according to John 10:10, are to steal, kill, and destroy, his native language is deceit.

God’s aims are to bless, heal, and deliver. His native language is love.

I communicate in English, but my language is defined by what is in my heart.

CRUSH THE HEAD

This week I read a story about a couple who were doing cleanup around some property they had bought. In the cleaning process, the wife encountered a rattlesnake.

The woman screamed and backed herself against the house. The husband ran to her and decapitated the snake with a hoe. Both people then went inside the house to calm down.

Later, the husband went outside to remove the two pieces of the snake from the yard. The hoe was lying where he left it, near the head of the snake.

I was shocked at what happened next.

As the man bent to pick up the hoe, the snake’s head leapt forward and bit him severely. (Research has informed me snakes retain reflexes after death.)

The wife rushed her husband to the hospital, and he survived, though his hand suffered permanent damage. He almost died.

Reflecting upon that story, I thought of the prophecy concerning Jesus and Satan in Genesis 3:15. God is speaking to the serpent when He says: And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.

Satan, the serpent, did strike the heel of Jesus, but Jesus crushed his head by dying and rising again to save you and me.

Satan threatens and torments us now, but his poisonous head has been crushed by the only One powerful enough to do so.

Those of us who are in Christ are delivered from the serpent’s death-inducing bite.

IN MY BOOK

Being a grammarian, I evaluate newscasters, billboard advertisers, menu writers, and others who are paid to speak or write for a public audience.

This is because professionals should perform their crafts with precision.

Just as I would not pay for work done by a sloppy housepainter or eat food prepared by a bad restaurant cook, I refuse to read material produced by bad writers.

That is, I would like to refuse to read it, but I find that impossible. It appears everywhere.

In my book, people who write badly should not be paid to write.

THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK

Many of us have mistakenly said to a parent or grandparent, “What a beautiful little girl you have!” Then, to our embarrassment, we are informed the child is a boy.

This is an easy enough mistake to avoid. Say simply, “What a beautiful little one (baby, child, kiddo, etc.) you have!”

Think also before addressing senior citizens with child-appropriate titles like “sweetheart, dearie, or honey.” Among my friends, the consensus is we dislike these titles.

One woman said when someone calls her a “cutesy” name, she feels labeled as helpless or stupid. She hears expressed something like this: “Here you go, honey. Now, go play with your doll.”

The young person who does this may be trying to show kindness or respect. Instead, the older person feels patronized.

Treat all adults, whatever their ages, as adults. Period.

BOOK RECOMMENDATION

I recently listened to (via Audible.com) a book I highly recommend: A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, by W. Phillip Keller. This is an old book, first published by Zondervan in 1970.

The author was born in Kenya to missionary parents and spent many years tending sheep. In this book, he astutely compares Christians, Christ’s beloved flock, to real sheep.

Passages in Psalm took on new and clear meaning for me as I read through the chapters.

In Chapter Four, He Leads Me Beside Quiet Waters, the author writes:

When sheep are thirsty, they become restless and set out in search of water. If not led to the good water supplies of clean, pure water, they will often end up drinking from the polluted potholes where they pick up such internal parasites as nematodes, liver flukes, or other disease germs.

And in precisely the same manner, Christ, our Good Shepherd, made it clear that thirsty souls of men and women can only be fully satisfied when their capacity and thirst for spiritual life is fully quenched by drawing on himself.

Over and over I saw myself in the behavior of rebellious ewes who failed to recognize their need for their shepherd’s guidance, deliverance, and provision.

Do yourself a favor and read it. The book is not boring or tedious. Instead, it will richly feed (and water) you with a clear explanation of David’s words in Psalm 23.

 

 

 

 

 

 

WRONG (AGAIN)!

I am a fan of James Taylor’s music.

I cannot say I am a fan of James Taylor, the man. I don’t know him personally.

To belabor the point, I can’t even say I’m a fan of all his music. I never listen to the last song, Steamroller, on his Greatest Hits CD. It contains vulgar lyrics.

But since first hearing Fire and Rain in the early 70s, I’ve been a fan.

Every time I heard that song, I pictured a young James, one with hair.

I saw him standing in the rain looking upon the smoking remains of a crashed plane. In that plane, his lover, Suzanne (a stewardess) had died.

“Suzanne, the plans they made put an end to you,” James sang.

For 50 years I have been certain this was the theme of Fire and Rain: James’s true love killed in a plane crash.

I recently read James Taylor’s short autobiography, Break Shot, in which he writes about the first 21 years of his life.  He tells of writing Fire and Rain. He does not mention a stewardess or a plane crash.

Apparently, those elements are not part of the Fire and Rain story.

As they say, “I would have sworn . . . .”

But, I was wrong.

On August 27th of this year, my dad, if he were still living, would have marked his 90th birthday.

In addition to Dad, several other of my relatives were born near the end of August.

My siblings and I sent group texts to one another on Dad’s birthdate. I mentioned in one of the texts that our Grandpa Stephens had been born on August 26.

“No,” typed my brother, Sam. “Grandpa’s birthday was August 25.”

“You may be right,” I typed.

Then our detail-oriented sister, Pam, informed us we were both wrong. Grandpa Stephens’ birthdate was August 28. She sent a photo of his tombstone as proof.

Wrong again.

I thought I could spray Windex on our flat screen TV and clean the smudges.

Wrong!

I spent half an hour cleaning off the Windex plus the original smudges.

I believed I could get a walk finished before the rain hit. Wrong. . . and wet.

Never does a day go by that I am not wrong about something.

If I am not careful, I get down on myself, call myself derogatory names, and doubt my ability to say or to do anything right.

At such times I must remind myself this is a ploy of Satan. His purpose, according to John 10:10 is to “steal, kill, and destroy.”

Why would I let him call the shots, tell me who I am, and what I can do?

He is not my master.

Christ is my Master.

That same verse in the book of John tells me Jesus came so that I “may have life, and have it to the full.”

About these facts, I am not wrong.

Don’t become discouraged with your tendency to be mistaken about small matters.

Just make sure you are right in your choice of a Master.

PLAN F

I have a part-time job teaching English online to non-native English speakers.

My company connects me with students who want to learn English or want to improve their English skills.

I work on a platform that enables my students and me to see and speak with each other in real time.

During our lessons, I didn’t want my online students to be distracted by the bookshelves and cluttered tabletops of my home office. Therefore, with Dan’s help, I constructed a backdrop.

Now, my students see only me in front of this flowery board.

I showed it to a friend, who said she thought it was attractive.

“Well, it’s my Plan F backdrop,”  I said.

She understood what I meant.

“I know all about Plan F,” she said. “It’s where I live much of my life.”

Isn’t it the truth?

No one starts with Plan F, of course. We all start with Plan A, the one we hope will work because we consider it to be the best plan.

When Plan A fails, as it usually does, we move to Plan B. When Plan B fails, we move to Plan C, and so on.

Plan F is where I stopped working on my backdrop because, though it was not as good as Plan A, it was acceptable. Had it not been, I would have moved on to Plan G or decided my students could tolerate looking at my messy office background.

I have been fortunate in my life. Some of my Plan A’s have succeeded. My husband and I just celebrated our 47th wedding anniversary.

Many of my Plan A’s, however, have failed.

The recipe was a flop. Rabbits ate my first crop of lettuce. Editors rejected my submitted manuscript. My printer ink cartridge wouldn’t slide into place on my first three tries to insert it.

The Bible is full of examples of people who lived in the land of Plan F.

I think first of the woman Jesus met at a well in Samaria.

[Jesus] told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

 “I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

The Samaritan woman was living with Plan F.

King David slept with the wife of a soldier who was away fighting the king’s battle. The woman became pregnant.

David was in trouble.

Plan A: David brought the man home for a break from military life, thinking the man would sleep with his wife. The baby the woman carried would then be thought to be her husband’s child.

But the man didn’t visit his wife during his furlough.

Plan B: David gave instructions for the man to be put at the front of the battle line so he would be killed. Then David would marry his widow and pass off the pregnancy as a legitimate one.

Plans C-D-E, etc.: Dealing with guilt. Experiencing the condemnation of a prophet. Suffering the death of a child. Moving to repentance.

Other Bible characters didn’t succeed with Plan A: Jacob, Moses, Naomi, Elijah, and the Apostle Paul, for examples.

But all those people moved forward and found success, redemption, or new passions with Plan B or C or D or . . . Z, or Plan A2, B2, C2.

Life is hard. Everyone has missed the mark on a first try.

Aren’t we blessed that our God is not a scorekeeper?

His children don’t receive demerits when they move from Plan A to Plan B.

They don’t become second-class citizens in His kingdom because of do-overs.

They don’t receive a grade of F when they move to Plan F.

In the game of life, we all strike out, miss the basket, jump the gun, step out of bounds, and commit fouls, but our Coach cheers us on.

He doesn’t give up on us.

It was to redeem us from our failure at Plan A that Jesus came to earth in the first place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I WISH I HAD WRITTEN THAT

I haven’t written much lately, but I have come across two pieces on Facebook that I wish I had written.

I am sharing them below. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

My friend, Marilyn Hiser, reposted the first piece, which was untitled on Facebook.

Astrid Tonche

Have you ever noticed how in the scriptures men are always going up into the mountains to commune with the Lord?

Yet in the scriptures we hardly ever hear of women going to the mountains.

But we know why—right?

Because the women were too busy keeping life going; they couldn’t abandon babies, meals, homes, fires, gardens, and a thousand responsibilities to make the climb into the mountains!

I was talking to a friend the other day, saying that as a modern woman I feel like I’m never “free” enough from my responsibilities, never in a quiet enough space I want with God.

Her response floored me. “That is why God comes to women. Men have to climb the mountain to meet God, but God comes to women wherever they are.”

I have been pondering on her words for weeks and have searched my scriptures to see that what she said is true.

God does indeed come to women where they are, when they are doing their ordinary, everyday work.

He meets them at the wells where they draw water for their families, in their homes, in their kitchens, in their gardens.

He comes to them as they sit beside sickbeds, as they give birth, care for the elderly, and perform necessary mourning and burial rites.

Even at the empty tomb, Mary was the first to witness Christ’s resurrection. She was there because she was doing the womanly chore of properly preparing Christ’s body for burial.

In these seemingly mundane and ordinary tasks, these women of the scriptures found themselves face to face with divinity.

So if, like me, you ever start to bemoan the fact that you don’t have as much time to spend in the mountains with God as you would like, remember: God comes to women.

He knows where we are and the burdens we carry. He sees us, and if we open our eyes and our hearts, we will see Him, even in the most ordinary places and in the most ordinary things.

He lives. And he’s using a time such as this to speak to women around the world.

THE HISTORY OF APRONS

I don’t think most kids today know what an apron is.

The principle use of Mom’s or Grandma’s apron was to protect the dress underneath because she only had a few.

It was also because it was easier to wash aprons than dresses, and aprons used less material. But along with that, it served as a potholder for removing hot pans from the oven.

It was wonderful for drying children’s tears, and on occasion was even used for cleaning out dirty ears.

From the chicken coop, the apron was used for carrying eggs, fussy chicks, and sometimes half-hatched eggs to be finished in the warming oven.

When company came, those aprons were ideal hiding places for shy kids. And when the weather was cold, she wrapped it around her arms.

Those big old aprons wiped many a perspiring brow, bent over the hot wood stove.

Chips and kindling wood were brought into the kitchen in that apron.

From the garden, it carried all sorts of vegetables. After the peas had been shelled, it carried out the hulls.

In the fall, the apron was used to bring in apples that had fallen from the trees.

When unexpected company drove up the road, it was surprising how much furniture that old apron could dust in a matter of seconds.

When dinner was ready, she walked out onto the porch, waved her apron, and the men folk knew it was time to come in from the fields to dinner.

It will be a long time before someone invents something that will replace that ‘old-time apron’ that served so many purposes.

 

Santa’s Clauset

@santasclausetinknox

I’VE LOST MY WHAT?

Like many people, I spend lots of time looking for things I’ve misplaced.

This isn’t a new problem for me, but it has gotten worse as I’ve grown older. Added to the age factor is the reality that I have more things to keep track of today than ever before.

My phone is the item I lose most often.

For Christmas, both my kids bought me a Tile, which is a small square of plastic that has a button I can press and make my phone ring. I press the button, follow the sound of the ringtone, and find my phone, every time.

If I lose one Tile, I have a replacement on hand—somewhere.

This week I have worked in our yard a lot because the weather has been nice, and the flower beds needed tending.

As I moved from one flower bed to another, I often failed to take with me one of my pieces of equipment. Usually, it was the metal, wooden-handled dandelion digger-outer.

I estimate I have spent two hours this week looking for that tool. I don’t want to leave it where Dan will mow over it and sling it into a window, or worse, into a neighbor or into me.

Since the item poses potential danger if left lying around, I cannot rest until I find the thing. I was outside looking for it in the rain yesterday.

This week, I suffered a new loss that caused me great angst. Let me explain.

I use WordPress to create the blog posts you read, this one you are now reading, in fact. My posts usually contain some photos or other images I have retrieved from my camera or downloaded from a website.

After I retrieve these images, I place them inside my Media Library on my WordPress site. I have dozens of images in my WordPress Media Library.

While perusing the Web this week, I came across an article that began like this: You probably have dozens of images in your WordPress Media Library that are taking up space on your computer.

Now, because I’m impulsive and because I knew the article would include technical terms I wouldn’t understand, I read no further but immediately acted.

I went to my WordPress Media Library and started deleting images.

“Boy, I’m freeing up lots of space in my computer,” I thought.

Well, and this is beyond my scope of understanding, images I had previously used from my Media Library and put into blog posts (but was now deleting from my library) began disappearing from those posts.

Possibly my latest blog post, when you opened it (Hardy-Har-Har), contained wide blank spaces or even random question marks in the middle of wide blank spaces.

I had put images there.

The images had been stored in my Media Library. When I deleted them from my library, they disappeared from wherever I had used them in posts.

It reminds me of the movie Back to the Future when Marty McFly, living in the past, began taking actions that would lead to his family members never being born. He carried a family photo that he looked at off and on. Parts of his family members in the photo were fading away because of the things he was doing in his present, which was not the real present but the past.

I called my tech friend, Brian, who explained that I had probably “linked” not “embedded” those images from my library into my blog posts. Whatever that means.

When I deleted the images from the library, magic fingers (Brian did not use the term “magic fingers.”) reached out from my library to all my posts that contained those linked images and deleted them.

HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?

People of my age and station in life know how this blunder made me feel. They understand the thought process I then followed.

“What business do I have trying to have a blog? I’m too old and too stupid. I should never post another article! URGHHH!”

Yet, here I am, posting another article. Hope springs eternal.

I can relate to the bumper sticker that reads: Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.

In order to end this article (containing images, I hope), on a happy note, please allow me to say I have also found some items which brought me great joy this week.

I had not previously used and mislaid these items. In fact, I can take no credit for having them at my disposal.

I found a pink dogwood tree and a white dogwood tree, visible through the window of my home office. I found purple lilac clusters hanging from bushes, and young redbirds fliting about learning to use their baby wings. I found lush green grass and new leaves and a glowing sun.

God, who never loses anything, placed these items in my world for my enjoyment.

The wonder I experienced from finding these things far outweighs the frustration I felt from losing other things.

Unlike people and things, God is reliable, all the time.

HARDY-HAR-HAR

This shelter-in place confinement has affected all of us.

I now have a deeper appreciation for the freedom to come and go at will. On any given day two months ago, I may have zipped to the library, post office, and grocery store, and then suggested to Dan that we go out for supper.

Not so today.

My thinking patterns have changed.

I have spent more time pondering how awful it would be to lose a family member or friend.

Also, I have reflected on hard times experienced by people of past generations: the wars, droughts, depressions, and plagues they endured.

Compared to their sufferings, I have been only mildly inconvenienced.

I have thought more about some good things in life that still exist: the sunshine, the arrival of spring blossoms, and, as I will emphasize in this article, laughter.

I grew up with family members who had a sense of humor. I am glad they did.

My dad came home one day with a big, round object in his coat pocket.

“You kids will never guess what I brought home with me,” he said.

He let us glimpse a part of the object in his pocket.

“It’s a monkey!” he said.

We kids stared in amazement! It WAS a monkey in Dad’s pocket!

Well, no, it was not a monkey. It was a coconut.

Monkeys were not abundant in north Arkansas.

But notice how much a coconut looks like a monkey when only a portion of its hairy, face-like surface is revealed.

My siblings and I still laugh about that little snippet of memory from our childhoods.

Our mother was quick-witted, could turn a phrase and never hesitated to laugh, even at herself.

One day she and my adult sister were shopping at Walmart.

The two of them gabbed and laughed as they dropped things into their separate carts.

Then, as Mom bent to place a new item into her cart, she stopped short.

It was not HER cart she was pushing.

At some point she had abandoned her cart and had begun pushing a cart loaded with dozens of pairs of white, canvas tennis shoes marked down for quick sale!

She and my sister laughed then and continued to laugh every time they retold that story.

That same sister, Pam, tells another funny story.

She one day noticed a bad smell in the bathroom of her and her husband Jim’s house. (This “bathroom” story is not going where you think it is.)

“What’s that awful smell, Jim?” she asked.

Her husband said he didn’t know.

“Smells like a dead animal,” he said.

“EEEEK!” screamed my sister

I can picture her now, grabbing a dishtowel and holding it over her nose.

“You go in the bathroom and shut the door,” Pam said to Jim, her voice muffled by the towel. “I’m not going back in there. Take your phone and call me when you find what it is.”

Jim had been in the bathroom for a while when he reported back. “Something dead is inside the wall,” he said through his phone.

“EEEEK!” screamed Pam, through the phone that she held beneath the towel.

“I’m going to have to cut into the wall,” Jim said.

“EEEEK!” screamed my sister.

Pam heard sawing and hammering noises coming from the bathroom as she paced the floor a safe distance away. In a few minutes, she heard this.

“What in the world?!” Jim said into the phone.

“What? What? What is it?” Pam asked.

“It’s a nest of dead baby mice,” Jim said.

“EEEEK!” screamed Pam.

“I guess the mother mouse escaped but left her babies to die inside the wall,” Jim said.

“Oh, no!” Pam cried. “That’s so sad.”

My sister, the damsel in distress, did everything but put the back of her hand to her forehead and swoon while her knight in shining armor rescued her from a nest of dead baby mice.

My brother-in-law, an unsung hero.

My other sister, Joni, is a riot. She says and does funny things all the time.

I would not have said Joni and I look alike, but apparently; we do.

One day she and I were shopping together in a clothing store.

I saw Joni approaching me. I held up a dress to show her and began commenting on it.

Suddenly, there was Joni standing at my side. She put her hand on my back.

“Stop walking, Debbie,” she said. “See that woman you’re talking to, the woman you thought was me coming toward you? That woman is you. You’re about to walk into a mirror.”

I must not leave out my brother, who claims he never gets more than an “honorable mention” in my stories, because he is the only male sibling.

He is the best brother ever, and a great storyteller.

On the day he got his first pair of bifocals, his eye doctor said to him, “Now, Sam, it’s going to take you a while to get used to these bifocals. If you’re not careful, you’ll fall.”

Sam listened.

“Stairs are especially tricky,” warned the optician. “Walk around here in the office for a few minutes before you leave to head home.”

Sam thought the doctor underestimated his (Sam’s) skill at adapting. He walked a few paces in the office, felt confident, said, “I’m good,” and left.

Then, wearing his new glasses, he strode out the door and walked onto the sidewalk.

He stepped down off the curb, and in his words, “almost removed my kneecap and the front bumper of my truck in just one step.”

We all need to laugh.

  • Remember Dick Van Dyke falling over an ottoman at the opening of his show?
  • How about Carol Burnett in her spoof of Gone with the Wind prancing elegantly down the stairs wearing a dress made of green curtains, with the curtain rods extending through the armholes?
  • Tim Conway, the clumsy dentist who accidentally injected his hand with numbing medicine as he worked on Harvey Korman’s teeth.
  • All the fabulous one-liners exchanged between Hawkeye Pierce and B. J. Hunnicutt on M*A*S*H, one of the funniest (and most serious) shows ever on television.
  • Victor Borge and his hilarious piano stunts.

I will leave you with a classic: Abbott and Costello’s Who’s On First?

Enjoy the laughs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTcRRaXV-fg

Closer Through Distancing

A truth many of us have seen demonstrated in our lives is this: Anything God intends for good, Satan can make bad. Anything Satan intends for bad, God can make good.

This coronavirus plague is certainly badness at its worst. Yet, God has brought blessings from it.

People are checking on neighbors they barely know. Out of their abundance, folks are sharing with people who have needs.

Simple waves from porches hold special warmth for their recipients.

I find myself writing long, newsy emails to friends who received no more than smiley faces and virtual hugs from me before the virus.

Distancing has drawn us closer.

We need each other. We always have, but this sheltering-in-place has made that need more evident.

Maybe God is using the badness of this virus to bring some of His goodness out in us.

Listen and respond as God’s Spirit urges you during this unique time. Now, more than ever before, be the hands and feet of Jesus.

Allow this forced distancing to draw you closer to others.

MY SHADE AT MY RIGHT HAND

Scriptures speak of God as our friend, provider, helper, refuge, and strength.

God is all those things, and more.

A few days ago, I was surprised when I read this verse in Psalm 121:5.

The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand.

I was unaccustomed to God’s being referred to as a shade.

In the Bible, references to God as a “shade” or “shadow” may indicate His role as our defender.

He certainly is that.

But the discovery of this verse has caused me to think of God as the cooling shade provided by a big tree.

Summers in the South are hot.

I grew up in a house that had no air-conditioning. Its rooms were cooled only by air that sifted through our window screens. Hot and dusty, that air rarely stirred the curtains.

We craved shade.

Soon after we moved into that house, Dad planted a row of silver maple trees along the west edge of the yard. They were tall and spindly, but they shaded that side of the house.

On the east side grew a big black walnut tree. (The tree wasn’t black. It produced “black walnuts.”)

Another tree also grew at the east edge of our yard.

I only recently learned the name of that tree.

With help provided by relatives in Arkansas and articles on the Internet, I now know it was a Chinese sumac, also called tree-of-heaven.

This tree put off a unique scent, not pleasant or unpleasant. Some say the scent resembles the odor of burning nuts. I wouldn’t describe it that way, but I would recognize the aroma in a single whiff if I smelled it again.

My family members took tasks outside to work in the shade of the tree-of-heaven.

Under that tree, we shelled our peas, snapped our beans, and husked our corn.

When we were small, we napped there on handsewn quilts. We splashed in cool water Mom poured into a big washtub, so she could watch us as she hung out laundry.

When we were older, we did our homework on the cool concrete front porch that was shaded by that tree.

My brother had a seat in the tree where he sat and read for hours.

My sisters and I hula-hooped beneath the tree and made necklaces from the white clover that grew in our yard.

In its shade, my siblings, friends, and I played games like red rover, freeze tag, and ante-over.

Good memories, all associated with shade.

Sometimes, my life gets hot.

This heat does not come from the sun, but from people and circumstances.

Someone says something hurtful. I break a cherished keepsake. My well-made plan goes awry. I learn of yet another friend who has been diagnosed with cancer.

Sometimes the heat is kindled within me by regretted past mistakes or future scary possibilities.

Inwardly, I break into a panicky sweat.

I look for an escape from this heat.

Like a cool shade, God offers me a tranquil space.

In the shade of my Tree-of-Heaven, I pour out my troubles.

He asks me to trust Him and reminds me I am loved beyond measure. He gives me a glimpse into what Heaven will be like when I enter His eternal bliss.

And I am cooled by assurances no human can give me.

Make time today to rest in the peaceful shade of God’s presence.