Category Archives: Inspirational

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.

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

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A GREAT RESCUE

I grew up in a rural area in the Ozarks.

My siblings and I knew our boundaries, and by today’s standards, they were wide.

I made multiple trips daily up the road to the general store my dad owned.

I walked to my Grandma and Grandpa Stephens’ house, which was about a mile away.

I made treks to the Bill Tyree Branch and to my friend Kay’s house.

Within those wide limits, my parents had placed specific restrictions.

I wasn’t to bother neighbors for a drink of water or the use of their bathrooms.

Since I was the oldest child of four, I was to look out for my younger siblings.

And I was never to go inside the house of Herbert and Peggy (not their real names), an old couple who lived in our community.

Herbert waved and said howdy from their front porch every time I walked past their house.

I helped Peggy pick her strawberries, because her old, bent back hurt.

One day as I walked past their house, Herbert called to me, “Come in for a while. I’ll let you play my organ.”

I loved getting a chance to play an organ.

My Aunt Freddie had one. I had spent hours pushing its knobs and pressing its keys. I had learned to play I Dropped My Dolly in the Dirt.

Aunt Freddie also had a hymnal, and I worked to learn to play Love Lifted Me and other hymns.

Anyway, when Herbert invited me inside to play his organ that day, I went with him.

I sat on the organ bench and played my Dolly song.

I don’t know how my mother knew I was inside that house.

I know only this.

Without knocking, Mom walked through Herbert and Peggy’s  door.

She stepped behind me, and with loving arms, she lifted me off the bench and took me home.

She rescued me from a child-molesting beast.

My mother’s actions reflect the message of the old hymn, Love Lifted Me.

The spiritual application of this story is hard to miss.

Out of great love for His children, God set limits for our protection.

I have crossed God’s boundaries many times and played into the hands of the greatest beast of all.

God knew I would.

So He sent One who, with loving and bloodied arms, would reach out and rescue me.

The old hymn speaks the truth.

 Love Lifted Me.

THAT OLD-TIME RELIGION

When I serve potatoes, I rarely begin with potatoes.

I begin with a box or a bag.

In my freezer are bags of hash brown potatoes and french fried potatoes.

In my pantry are boxes of potatoes au gratin and bags of instant potato flakes.

In my refrigerator sits a container of factory-made mashed potatoes ready to be heated in the microwave.

I do have a five-pound bag of “real” potatoes, a shriveling, budding mass of semi-solid ovals that will probably be thrown out.

That sums up my list of “potato” items.

In my mother’s kitchen, the only “potato” item was a ten-pound bag of raw potatoes, replaced weekly.

More days than not, Mom first scrubbed and peeled, and then fried, mashed, baked, or boiled potatoes. They were a staple in our diet.

But I seek speed and convenience in my relationship with potatoes.

In fact, I seek speed and convenience in almost every area of life.

You probably do too.

We want quick gas station stops and drive-through ATM’s.

We snatch information from Siri or Google to avoid visiting a library and doing research.

We zip in and out of grocery stores to buy foods our parents grew in gardens.

For the ultimate in speed and convenience, we drive up to a window on the side of a building, and someone hands out our dinner in a bag or box.

We’ve got speed and convenience down to an art.

We may even seek a quick and easy relationship with God.

We don’t have time for a relationship nourished with daily prayer and Bible study.

We go to church when we can, and we limit our intake of scripture to what the minister reads aloud each week.

Or we skip the drive and stream a church service online.

We utter our only prayer of the day after we go to bed, and fall asleep in the middle of it.

As for that old-time religion practiced by earlier saints?

Nah.

We don’t have time for that.

—————-

I am adding my usual autumn caution. NEVER drive through a deep pile of leaves.

PRECISELY

Facebook is a repository of both trash and treasures.

Almost every day I find there a golden nugget: a funny story or an inspirational quote that I forward to friends.

Other postings on FB make me cringe. Here is one from www.ign.com.

SUSIE LEE DONE FELL IN LOVE;
SHE PLANNED TO MARRY JOE.
SHE WAS SO HAPPY ‘BOUT IT ALL,
SHE TOLD HER PAPPY SO.

PAPPY TOLD HER, “SUSIE GAL,
YOU’LL HAVE TO FIND ANOTHER.
I’D JUST AS-SOON YO’ MA DON’T KNOW,
BUT JOE IS YO’ HALF BROTHER.”

SO SUSIE PUT ASIDE HER JOE                                                                        AND PLANNED TO MARRY WILL,
BUT AFTER TELLING PAPPY THIS,                                                                    HE SAID, “THERE’S TROUBLE STILL.

YOU CAN’T MARRY WILL, MY GAL,                                                             AND PLEASE DON’T TELL YO MOTHER.
BUT WILL AND JOE, AND SEVERAL MO’                                                           I KNOW IS YO’ HALF BROTHER.”

BUT MAMA KNEW AND SAID, “MY CHILD,
JUST DO WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY.
MARRY WILL OR MARRY JOE.
YOU AIN’T NO KIN TO PAPPY.”

I did not cringe because I am a Holier-Than-Thou who finds no humor in silly rhymes.

I still laugh at Ray Stevens’ funny song, I’m My Own Grandpa.

This poem made me cringe because I was raised in the Ozarks, a place where, as in parts of Kentucky, West Virginia, etc., residents are termed rednecks or hillbillies.

Crude poems like this one are assumed to have come from such people: lazy, unintelligent, ill-mannered, cousin-marrying hill folk.

At one time I was embarrassed because I grew up in the Ozark Mountains.

Today I am embarrassed that anyone bears an ugly label because of where he grew up.

My ancestors were countrified, yes. But they were hard-working, intelligent, trustworthy people for whom I offer no apologies.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my paternal grandmother, Eva (Crotts) James.

Today I am writing about my maternal grandmother, Gracie (Shoemate) Stephens.

Just as my Grandma James’ life was a study in strength, my Grandma Stephens’ life was a study in precision.

Grandma Stephens sewed the straightest stitches in the county. Whether done by hand or by machine, her work was flawless.

Grandma made clothes without using “store-bought” patterns. She looked at a pretty dress worn by another woman, did some calculating, and made dresses like it for herself and her daughters.

When she was a little girl, Grandma was given a threaded needle to practice sewing, but the thread had no knot at the end. Every seam she sewed could easily be pulled out of the fabric.

When her stitches became even and her seams were straight, she knotted her thread and quilted with the adult women.

She showed the same precision in everything she did.

She made flowers from crepe paper and tissue to decorate family graves on Memorial Day.

The silky-smooth chocolate gravy she made had her 16 grandkids licking their plates.

Her cornbread dressing is a family legend. (I have that recipe in Grandma’s handwriting.)

Grandma would have needed to stand on her toes to measure five feet tall.

But she was a giant to me.

She had a keen intellect, was an avid reader, and held firm political views.

In fact, Grandma and Grandpa often disagreed politically.

On election day, Grandpa dutifully walked a mile down a dusty dirt road to the voting site to cast his vote.

An hour or so later, Grandma often traveled the same road and voted for Grandpa’s candidate’s opponent.

We teased them, saying they could accomplish the same thing by just staying home on election day.

As you can see, it is hard for me to write about Grandma without also writing about Grandpa.

My grandparents had seven daughters. No sons.

Five of the girls grew to be loving mothers themselves. One of them was my own mother, of course, and the other four my sweet aunts.

Grandma and Grandpa buried two baby girls, each dying of infections that are easily cured today by antibiotics.

My grandparents were churchgoers.

Their big, red-edged King James Bible had its chapters marked with Roman numerals.

I had to work hard to find chapter 62 of Isaiah in that Bible.

Grandma and Grandpa had access to a traveling library.

A librarian left books on loan at the general store. Then, after a few weeks, she picked up those books and replaced them with others.

Grandpa read every Zane Grey novel the little library offered, and Grandma read novels by Christian authors like Grace Livingston Hill.

They didn’t have much formal education, but they learned from their reading.

If Grandma heard someone say of a topic, “I could care less,” she said, “No, dear, you couldn’t care less.”

(Her habit of correcting grammar alone made Grandma a hero in my book.)

She detested steamy romance shows on television.

TV couples depicted sharing a passionate kiss looked to her “like two people fighting over a piece of meat.”

Grandma was one of those people who didn’t realize how funny her stories about herself were until her listener(s) laughed out loud after hearing them.

One story was about the day she tried to ignite her gas oven’s pilot light with a match.

I can picture her now, stooped low in front of her oven, waving a lighted match under the appliance in search of its pilot light.

The next second, her tiny body landed about five feet behind where it had started, seated on its bum in the next room.

Another one of Grandma’s funny stories is documented by a photo.

A black snake had been stealing eggs from the henhouse.

Grandma tied a fishhook to the end of fishing line, pushed it inside an empty eggshell, and put the eggshell into a hen’s nest.

Mr. Snake bit, and he was caught.

Here Grandma displays her trophy. (This picture is blurry because the snake was swaying, and because the photo is a copy of a copy.)

When Grandma and Grandpa’s girls were little, their house burned. The family was not at home. The only things that survived the fire were a few pieces of furniture and the clothes drying on the line.

A neighbor drove a flatbed truck through the countryside and collected donations of clothes and household items so the family could get back on its feet.

Mom wore to school dresses she had seen classmates wear, but there was no shame in that.

Times were hard.

Grandma and Grandpa planted a big garden every summer. Vegetables were canned or frozen.

Fruit was sliced into pieces and dried on flattened flour sacks on the roofs of the tool shed and smokehouse.

Grandpa worked for years at a sawmill. He came home each evening toting the empty gallon jar he had used to carry drinking water. His blue work shirt was whitened all over by sweat stains.

His lunch he carried to work in a lard bucket: two sandwiches made of biscuits and ham leftover from breakfast.

Not every man was willing to do the hard work required to provide for his family.

Grandpa described such a man this way. “Let’s just say if he had a third hand, he would have needed another pocket to put it in.”

The wives and children of these lazy men benefited from the food and firewood Grandpa took to their houses so they could eat and stay warm.

Grandma was a seamstress and Grandpa was a whittler. They were both masters of their crafts.

I have samples of their work: quilts made by Grandma; and a cedar spoon, fork and knife whittled by Grandpa.

I remember Grandpa smelling of cedar, Lava hand soap, and Old Spice aftershave.

I sat often in Grandma’s kitchen with my eyes closed, identifying by scent the spices in her spice drawer.

Grandma made wonderful meals, but she was no short-order cook. Family and guests ate what was put on the table.

If someone complained about not liking the food, Grandma remained seated and pointed to a jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread on a kitchen cabinet top.

In a conversation with relatives recently, I heard one of them remark that Grandma was not especially affectionate.

That statement stopped me cold.

“What?” I thought. “Grandma wasn’t affectionate?”

But upon reflection, I now realize Grandpa was the hugger, the one who swept grandbabies up in his arms and kissed their slobbery, chubby faces.

It was Grandpa who, every weekend I was home from college, came by to see me on Saturday morning, often rousing me out of bed at 10:00 o’clock.

Mom, my baby sister, and I lived with my grandparents when Dad was serving overseas in the Air Force.

Our presence stretched the seams of their little house because my mom’s three younger sisters were still living at home.

There Grandpa existed as the only male among seven squawking, high-strung females.

I remember standing beside their huge brown radio each morning, listening either to a man quoting cotton and soybean prices or to Elvis Presley singing Blue Suede Shoes, depending upon which adult had chosen the station.

I stood by that radio because it sat near the window through which I could look out and yell to my teenage aunts, “The school bus is coming!”

Grandpa spent half his earnings on Bobby pins, saddle oxfords, and face cream for the big girls, and storybooks and crayons for my little sister and me.

But on the day the three of us moved out because Dad had left the military and bought us a house, Grandpa said to Mom, “The only reason I’m letting you take these two little girls away from here is because they belong to you.”

He would have kept us forever.

And Grandma would have too. With fewer hugs and kisses maybe, but with no less love.

A friend who lived near me said she locked herself inside the family car whenever her grandfather visited, so he “couldn’t get at her.”

What did that mean? I wondered when I was a little girl.

Today I know exactly what that meant, and I am beyond furious.

Life isn’t fair.

Why was I born into a wonderful family who treasured me, and she had a grandpa who was a piece of scum and a family who tolerated his vileness?

The answer to that question is unknowable.

But I do know this.

I couldn’t care less where a person comes from.

It’s the people a person comes from who make all the difference.

 

 

 

 

 

CAN I BORROW THAT A SEC?

When a friend asks to borrow a tissue, I say, “Here, take one. I don’t want it back.”

While a handkerchief is loaned or borrowed, a tissue is not.

Cautions against borrowing and lending go back centuries.

In Act I, Scene III of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Polonius counsels his son Laertes, “Neither a borrower nor lender be.”

The oft-quoted Benjamin Franklin warned: He that goes a borrowing goes a sorrowing.

But we borrow and lend all kinds of things: cups of sugar, lawnmowers, umbrellas, cars, and money.

Yet, a few things we refuse to lend, even though they may be “lendable.”

My favorite refillable pen, I do not lend.

I have a beautiful old bowl that belonged to my Great-Grandma Shoemate. It is pink and may be Depression glass. Whether it is or isn’t, I won’t lend it.

I own a hardback copy of Praise the Human Season by Don Robertson. It is one of my favorite novels.

My mom “bargained” with a neighbor to buy the book for 25 cents. (The neighbor didn’t want the book for herself but didn’t want to give it away.)

The book cost my mother 25 cents, but it is worth much more than that to me.

In fact, I will lend that book only to people I would be willing to lend $1,000.

And, of course, some things should never be lent or borrowed: identification cards, urine samples, and spouses, for example.

Surely the most unlikely thing to loan is a grave.

Yet, the body of Jesus was placed inside a borrowed tomb.

In the Old Testament, an Israelite was required to make restitution if he borrowed an animal, tool, or other item and then lost or damaged it.

In 2 Kings 6, an account is given of an incident in the life of the prophet Elisha.

He and students of the School of the Prophets were building a new meeting place near the Jordan River.

As one man worked to cut down a tree, the iron axe head he used fell into the water.

“O no, my Lord,” the man cried out. “It was borrowed.”

Had the axe head belonged to the student prophet himself, its loss would have been great. But since it was borrowed, its value was increased.

Under the Old Law, the appropriate response for the borrower of the axe head would have been based upon the following verse.

Exodus 22:14: If a man borrows anything from his neighbor, and it is injured or dies while its owner is not with it, he shall make full restitution.

Some commentators suggest that replacing a borrowed axe head in that day would be equivalent to replacing a borrowed car today.

Many fights, divorces, and lawsuits ensue when adequate restitution is not made.

Restitution is defined as the act of restoring, as in restoration of something to its rightful owner.

Restitution is a common theme in the Bible.

Read Exodus 22 and Leviticus 6 for examples of God’s laws governing restitution under the Old Law.

The New Testament records a beautiful account of restitution in the story of Zacchaeus.

Luke 19:8-9:Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!”

Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”

An article found at www.gotquestions.org  sums up the exchange between Zacchaeus and Jesus this way:

From Zacchaeus’s words, we gather that 1) he had been guilty of defrauding people, 2) he was remorseful over his past actions, and 3) he was committed to making restitution.

From Jesus’ words, we understand that 1) Zacchaeus was saved that day and his sin was forgiven, and 2) the evidence of his salvation was both his public confession (see Romans 10:10) and his relinquishing of all ill-gotten gains.

Zacchaeus repented, and his sincerity was evident in his immediate desire to make restitution. Here was a man who was penitent and contrite, and the proof of his conversion to Christ was his resolve to atone, as much as possible, for past sins.

The same holds true for anyone who truly knows Christ today. Genuine repentance leads to a desire to redress wrongs. When someone becomes a Christian, he will have a desire born of deep conviction to do good, and that includes making restoration whenever possible.

The idea of “whenever possible” is crucially important to remember. There are some crimes and sins for which there is no adequate restitution.

In such instances, a Christian should make some form of restitution that demonstrates repentance, but at the same time, does not need to feel guilty about the inability to make full restitution.

Restitution is to be a result of our salvation—it is not a requirement for salvation. If you have received forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus Christ, all your sins are forgiven, whether you have been able to make restitution for them or not.

That is because grace is neither lent nor borrowed.

It is God’s enduring gift to His undeserving but ever grateful children.