Sunday, July 27, 2014

Vacation Bible School

When I was a kiddie, summer meant  VBS at my home church. It was a 2-week affair, daily from 9 until noon. Mom would load up the station wagon with her own plus a few neighborhood kids and we would drive to First Baptist Church in Lincoln Park. Mom drifted off to help while the kids found their places in their various classes.

It was carefully planned and I can still recall the schedule: 9:00 Opening. All the kids and teachers met in the sanctuary. Then at 9:15, we would dismiss to our various age-appropriate classes. Once there, we'd get a story plus a memory verse; we were encouraged to memorize for the next day for a prize. We'd practice that verse until about 9:45 when we moved to crafts.

Over the years, I discovered all sorts of things you can make with Popsicle sticks, string, and clay. The craft projects would spread over the entire 2 weeks, being ready to take home on the second Thursday.

There was game time outside; there was a real missionary who told his/her story throughout the week. We took a daily offering for this missionary.

And, of course, there was snack time. My church was big on some sort of red fruit juice (Hawaiian Punch?) Whatever it was, we never got it at home so that made Bible School even more special. Plus there were real, made-by-a-mom oatmeal cookies.

By 11:30, the entire group moved back into the sanctuary to decompress and recall what we had learned, and once again, we recited the memory verse and the Bible School song, and then we were sent on our way until the next morning. Second Thursday night was the program for the parents. And we repeated it on Sunday for the home folks.

Mom continued the schedule: we would load up the car and drive home. Then, it was tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.

Bible School filled the first two weeks of summer vacation. Every year. Did I memorize some scripture? Sure. For a bright, shining moment, I could recite and win the prize. Was I able to recite those verses in the months that followed? Well, no, not so much.

So had I 'hidden the word' in my heart? I guess that could be up for discussion. What I DO know is that any such training...any effort to learn the promises of not wasted. Somehow, somewhere in those brain ganglia, the Spirit planted seeds. And when the need came, those seeds had sprouted and taken root.

That's the way it goes when it comes to teaching children the truths of scripture and the promises of God.

This week, it was my privilege to serve at a local VBS. I asked to be a helper, to be used wherever they could use me: it landed me in the 6 - 8 year-old class with a gifted teacher and another helper. This VBS was for one week, from 6 until 8:30.

From the director to her teachers and helpers, you could see their sense of purpose. They knew that they were doing God's work with these little ones. I was also reminded that where many an adult finds it tough to memorize scripture, brains young and agile can soak like a sponge. How great is it that this little group soaked up such truths as  "God will supply all my needs."

The memory verses were set to music and fleshed out with videos. The kiddos smiled as they sang and worked the motions. And they learned.

The church's pastor was 1/3 of the skit team, playing an important role in teaching about character. What I did not know, until today, is that the pastor had to summon a lot of strength for the week. Monday night, after he had locked up the church, he took a different route home only to be stopped by some sort of traffic blockage. It took little time for him to see that there had been an accident up ahead. He told us that he donned his CHAPLAIN vest, left his car and walked up the road. He came upon a tragic scene.

A 10-year-old boy, riding his bike, had be struck by a car and lay in the road. The boy had been near his home: his mother had heard the crunch and had run to the a scene. She was kneeling by her son who was drifting in and out. She was telling him to stay with her. She was praying. He closed his eyes and left her and us.

And God had purposed that our pastor be on the scene to be large for these people.

A tale told over and over: no alcohol, no rain, no reason: a young life ended right there by the side of the road. The boy was a believer. His family is active in a local church, as is the driver. And we're all left with why oh why oh why?

It's probably impossible to find a reason. As one friend said, "It's hard to realize that this was God's plan for this boy. That he was not going to graduate from high school. That he was not going to go to church this morning." And we are left wounded, bruised and aching.

I'll leave it for the nonbeliever to find his answer. For those of us to whom God is real, it's times like this that we much cling to the truths of scripture, to those things that we know are true. God is good. God loves us (him). God has a plan and it is perfect.

That doesn't erase the pain. Or the very human longing for a different plan. It WILL bring peace eventually as we await reunion.  Our God will supply all our needs.  Phillippians 4:19.

Please pray for the family of Kurt Allen Engler.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Other Big C

 One of God’s champions was on deck at the home church and sent out a request for people to prayer for him as he prepared his message. I signed up. Frankly, this is an easy one, both for me and for God: the guy is gifted when it comes to presenting God’s word. I knew he’d be great and God would be pleased.

Then, smarty-pants here sent him a text:  showing up Sunday to see how God has answered my prayers.  It’s a drive that takes about 90 minutes; I miss my church family and long to worship with them in that warm, familiar place so I took my seat…next to his wife…and was led to God’s dais through great music and worship. Then, my friend took his place and brought the message.

Of course it was great. Well-organized, skillfully delivered. And, BOOM. A kernel just for me. That’s the OTHER Big C:  Conviction. For those of you who walk with God, it does not surprise that He tugs, nudges, smacks or flattens His children to get their attention. These days, with fewer distractions, I get the nudges most often.

Morgan’s text was I Cor. 5. Flipping through that mental file, I remembed that the Corinthian church had some major problems and Paul wrote this letter to address those problems. There’s a lot about how the church should handle members who practice various sins. The book is a 1st century National Enquirer except it was not widely published. It was in-house. And that’s where the nudge came

Morgan directed us to I Cor. 5:10  in the context of dealing with practicing sin within the fellowship….10 “But I wasn’t talking about the immoral people in the outside world by any means – or the greedy, or the swindlers, or people who worship false gods – otherwise, you would have to leave the world entirely.”

And then, he reminded us that there’s a lot of acrimony these days for Christians in the wider culture and suggested that we dial it back with the judgment statements outside of the club.

So that brought me some clarity about a situation I had found myself in a few weeks ago:
I got in a tussle with some folks on Facebook that left me sad and unsettled; I needed to find a way to avoid another incident.

Ok: Facebook….it means different things to different people. In my case, I’m able to connect with folks of so many backgrounds. There are my retired-teacher friends who are scattering farther away; there are former students from several key graduating classes…late 70’s,  mid-80’s, late ‘80’s and then recent graduates who invite me into their families and lives. Then there are my DMZ pals and others who found me through this blog or through Mike’s illness.

Some wax political. Some want me to follow some links to other’s positions. Some just want to enjoy life. And, like many, I bet, I got into the habit of ‘liking’ and posting, without too much thought.

I’m guessing some PhD candidate will study social media and its effect on discourse: what I know for sure is that a long lament of mine….that schools were moving away from literature study to embrace math and science…has implications here. We don’t take time to mull the metaphor…to stop, think, consider a word or phrase. And in social media-ville, many just put it out there without stepping back for a few thoughtful moments.

In the years before I retired, we had several incidents of kids getting off the school bus in the morning, ready to fight because of something someone had posted. I noticed that some posters complain about how mean their chosen ‘friends’ are on line. I see that quite a few of my younger friends are closing down their Facebook page. For me, mostly, it’s a place to stay connected and it’s harmless.

However, a few weeks ago, a friend posted something about ‘free will’ and ‘Christianity’ and that we are free to live as we choose.  Oh. I should have let it go but I did not. I thought I was gentle and I thought I sent a private message. Neither, it seems, was true. What followed was the slings and arrows that come to those who disagree. I should have just stopped reading but it was a little like a traffic accident…..and when someone took a direct shot at me (Obviously, Lynne has not read the book of Mark), I just HAD to defend myself.

I stepped away, beaten and sad that there are some young people out there who have been wounded by judgmental believers.

The Big C for me: step back from such forums and just become a positive poster. A little candle of God’s love without the doctrine.  So, from now on, as Morgan suggested, I will tell stories about what God has done for me and for friends. God is alive, we know. We all have stories about how He demonstrates His love and care. In my case, that’s what I’m supposed to write about.

Saturday, July 12, 2014


The Kokomo house is now on the market. I spent about nine months sorting and choosing, saving and tossing an accumulation of stuff from 40 years in that city.

At the lake, I'm almost finished finding walls and shelves for my lovelies; I've identified cubbies for storage of important papers and collectibles.

I was never much of a  saver; I found that paper could pile up to unmanageable heights so I got skilled in dealing with paper when it appears and then dealing or discarding.

However, I have saved a few special things that have meaning mostly to me. Whenever is was away overnight, I knew I would find something in my suitcase. A note from the hub. These were usually scrawled in long hand, on any scrap of paper he could find.

Here's one.  I have a few.
Lucky lady, me.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

A Gift from a Friend

 This past year has been filled with adventure, purposeful work and much joy. Plus, every so often, here comes an unexpected gift from a friend.

**Mike's and my friend Linda asked me, almost a year ago, if she could make me a quilt. Why sure.

But wait. Did I have some piece of clothing of Mike's that she could incorporate? Actually, I did. Anybody who saw Mike professionally probably saw, if they were undistracted, his familiar blue and white striped shirt. It was his favorite part of his lawyer costume and he had several so the laundress could keep his closet stocked without missing any sleep.

At the time that Linda asked, I was in the middle of the initial purge from the homestead. Most of the casual summer wear had found its way to various donation locations as, well, it was summer and why not get the T-shirts to those who could enjoy them?

In the main closet, I found one of these dress shirts so I handed it to the quilter.

Over the past months, I've received quilt updates, some with technical quilter language that, frankly, I didn't understand but I DID know that much work and care was happening across town and then to a quilter buddy's house where some much more technical equipment resides.

Anyway, then Linda and I tried to coordinate the hand off....she's been traveling and, well, I've been flitting about a lot but we found that we were both in the state for the 4th of July.

Linda drove up to the lake and brought me the quilt. What can I say? It's lovely. It's good that it's practical; it's washable...again, so good that my friends understand me; ...and even I can tell that it took a lot of time, labor and love. The segments of shirt are incorporated in a subtle manner and perhaps you'd have to know what you were looking at.

I know. Thank you, my friend.

** OK, all you grammarians/punctuation experts. I THINK is this correct.  If not, I'm confident that I will hear from you shortly so I can correct and NOT be responsible for further destruction of the language.   Thanks

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Wisconsin Roadtrip Redux

I have reasons to be driving in northern Wisconsin. On any map, it looks like just a little hop but that’s no accurate. I’ve logged about 1500 miles in the last week.

My route has taken me away from those interstate highways, with their familiar and comfortable blue signage and understandable clover leaves. This time, I’m navigating on state roads and county roads and seeing a lot of the state. Where my part of Indiana is all flat and corn, here the fields rise in gentle, rolling hills and there’s much green everywhere. Tucked in, here and there, are picturesque farms with red barns and silver silos.

I have a loose agenda so the drive has been a leisurely trek with a few pull-offs just for fun. I arrived in All-Lakes-All-Over-The-Place, where the gas stations sell more bait than junk food. I also found Campfire Giant Roasters, tennis-ball sized marshmallows. I had never seen them before but up here, they tell me, they are a staple. A friend told me that if I saw ‘cheese curds’ for sale, I must get some. “You’ll like them,” she said. And she was right. My further route is along Dirt Road X which winds all over and around the lakes. It’s nice to take my time and not need to rush. I can’t help but remember that last time I drove so much through the Dairy State, Cheese State, Brew State, among others

Way back in the early 90’s, the hub and his dad purchased some sort of teeny airplane. A single seater. Fixed landing gear. And apparently to them, really cool. However, before the ink was dry on the payment check, someone…no one ever manned up here…set it down a little hard and the landing gear punched through the wings. What a mess. Some quick research, I was told, found the only two places in the United States that could mend the wings: waaaaaaaay down in south Texas and ‘just outside of Minneapolis.’  It was further determined that one could crate up the plane and ship it…of course THEN you risked it shifting and becoming unrepairable…or you could drive it yourself to the airport with the skilled technician.

It was then decided that the hub would rent a truck, load up the plane, and drive it. He said, “Don’t worry about it. YOU don’t have to do anything. My brother and I are leaving Friday and will be back Sunday night. YOU don’t have to do anything. I’m just telling you so you’ll know.” And did I mention: YOU don’t have to do anything.

I believe he forgot to run it by his brother. So, when I got home from school, in the driveway was a truck and a foot tapping attorney. “Where have you been?” as I was late. The quick version was that I needed to suit up for a long haul and we needed to get on the road.

Our transport was the smallest diesel you can drive without a special license. The hub announced that he would do all the driving and I was coming along for company. Oh, ok.

We headed north and hit Chicago rush hour on a Friday night, in the rain. Trucks DO get a special lane through the toll booths but it took about 2 hours to drive 40 miles. Once we escaped, we headed to the Wisconsin State Line. When it was time for gas..diesel, we turned into a truck stop fueling place, complete with showers and gambling machines. It was bright and clean and had only one restroom marked TRUCKER. Mike stool guard as I entered and utilized the facility. About midnight, with Mike showing no sign of stopping, I asserted that I would be a much better companion if I had a few hours to sleep so with a grimace on his part, we pulled into a small roadside hotel near Eau Claire.

The next morning we were off again, headed to Minneapolis and “right beyond it.” It was a bright and sunny Saturday and, coincidentally, Tennessee Ernie Ford passed away the day before. So, almost every radio station was playing tribute songs. And, in those days before CDs and MP3, I wanted the radio to break up monotony. Alas, on this rental truck, the radio was stuck in the SEARCH mode, so every 10 seconds, the station would switch and we’d hear another snippet of Ernie. Or polka music. There’s ALWAYS polka music wherever you go.

We drove through Minneapolis and just beyond. We drove some more. And then some more. When we saw the sign for Fargo, North Dakota, 45 miles, Mike announced that we had arrived.

We found the airport where several large Norwegians stepped forward to view our truck’s contents. They did not, by the way, help unload our load. Some low level discussions and some exchanging of cash and we were off on the return trip. We arrived back in Kokomo Sunday night, a bit road weary and in need of a bath.

When repair was completed, Mike and his dad flew up there and both flew back, wingmen once again.

I did not get to enjoy Wisconsin slow scenery on that trip so this time, I’m all about seeing the sights. All over, it's gorgeous and green.