Posts Tagged ‘Inspiration’

The Lady in Apartment 218

Mom in apron As was her custom each day following work, the lady drove home, checked her mail box, took the elevator to her second floor apartment, and put on her apron to begin her supper meal. While the vegetables were steaming she changed from her work shoes to her walking shoes, poured herself a glass of ice water and sat down to read another chapter from her favorite book. She always seemed to feel more relaxed and refreshed when she followed this accustomed routine after a day of work.

Nightly Routine…
Gaining energy from the steamed vegetable dinner, she placed the pan over to the side of the stove, took off the well-worn apron and laid it across the back of the chair in the living room. She ran a brush through her silver-white hair, and left the apartment for her evening walk. Hers was a simple life, and generally followed this familiar routine. This night however, would not be quite like any night before, and would certainly not be like any ordinary night ever again.

She greeted many friends as she left the building to begin her walk. She seemed to be happy, and to be feeling a great deal of satisfaction with her life just as it was. This had not always been the case with the lady, but because of recent events, she had somehow made peace with those events that could not be changed, and seemed full of confidence about the future. The list on her bulletin board above her sewing machine reflected that confidence in the many projects she had outlined for herself. She had drawn a line through the projects which she had already completed: cut out brown suit, sketch faces on canvas for portrait, sew purse, – and there in the apartment were the cut out pattern pieces waiting to be stitched, the sketch awaiting paint, and the completed designer purse. The other projects were listed, but not yet begun.

Perhaps…perhaps as she began her walk that evening these many projects were on her mind. Glendora last pixShe was always such an industrious lady. She could have been thinking of the cake she took to the sick family down the hall, or of the bread she routinely made for the elderly lady who lived next door. She could have been thinking of the patients she had visited in the hospital the day before or maybe of the events in the chapter from the book she had just been reading. Maybe she was thinking about the home she had always dreamed about. Maybe she thought about her children or her grandchildren, or her husband of nearly forty-eight years.

There is no way to know for sure the thoughts the lady may have entertained as she strolled through the neighborhood. The neighbors of the lady in apartment 218 never again saw her. She never returned to her apartment. She never again spoke with any family member. In fact, she only spoke to about four people the entire evening, and they were strangers. They had never met her before, they knew nothing about her before their brief encounter, and then she was gone, leaving them to ponder only those few moments they had shared.

The invisible door into eternity…
Within just a few hours of the lady leaving the apartment for her walk, she stepped through an invisible door in the universe. No one could see exactly how she did it, they were merely spectators, but they were certain she did indeed step through. She mentioned something to one of the strangers who was standing close by. She said, “I’m in terrible pain . . . but it’s okay, I’m going home tonight”, and then she stepped through the door. One moment she was with them, and then with a sigh, she was gone. The strangers stood by the lady, not completely sure about what they had witnessed. They had seen this happen on numerous occasions, but it was somehow different with this lady. They talked of it at length that night, and again on many occasions since.

Ah, but the lady . . . let us continue her story…

As the lady stepped through the invisible door something wonderful happened. She immediately noticed that the terrible pain in her head had ceased. The pulverized pelvis and leg bones were once again strong, and bearing her weight as she walked. The cuts to her cheek and lips were somehow totally healed. Her arm and hand were pain free, the bruises all Zilpha Pearl for tributegone. Gone was the arthritis that had been her companion for many years. The confusion in her heart at leaving her children and family was changed into understanding. For one moment she had a distant memory of a car crashing into her body as she walked, and then she looked up and saw her mother coming to greet her. The tears that had streamed down her face just moments before were now being wiped away.

She felt comfort, love, compassion, tenderness, and joy unspeakable and full of glory. She realized that she had come to the City to which she had never been before. This beauty surrounding her was that which just a short time ago she had been reading about from her favorite Book. As far as her eyes could see the lady saw only beauty. She saw streets of gold. She saw gates with gems, sparkling in the brightness . . . a brightness comparable to nothing she had ever known. As the lady looked around her new surroundings a wonderful excitement began to fill her with anticipation.

One by one friends she had longed to see, missed terribly, and grieved because of their absence from her life began to come and welcome her Home. Perhaps just for a fleeting moment the lady felt sadness about leaving her family so abruptly, but then she remembered that they too knew the Way and would someday meet her just inside the Middle Eastern gate.

New Sights and Sounds…

Suddenly the lady noticed something else new, which was no great surprise, for all things in the City were new. She was hearing the sound of running water. Ah, yes, the river, the streams of which will make glad the City . . . of course she could hear. Why was she so surprised at this simple event? Her hearing had been restored and for the first time in many years she was able to hear all the everyday sounds. She listened intently for a moment. She heard the leaves fluttering as the breeze blew gently through the tree of life. She heard singing, and laughter, and praising, and then she heard the Voice she had waited sixty-eight years to hear. The Voice that had spoken to her when she was a young girl and had called her to a life of service was a familiar one. This Voice had directed her paths through the many mazes of life, and had often called her back from her willfulness of going her own way. This was not the voice of a stranger. This was the Voice that had said to her in recent years and especially in recent days, “come unto me all ye who are weary, and I will give you rest.” Yes, she recognized this Voice. She turned and as she did she looked into the most blessed face she had ever seen. She saw there in those eyes what she had desired more than anything in her life.

The lady in apartment 218 had finally come Home.The hills

In honor and memory of my Mother  on Mothers Day, 2014
Glendora Faye Singleton Oldham
September 14, 1927 – September 22, 1995

…she taught me to trust God and lift my eyes unto
the hills, from whence comes my help…” 

Thanks, Mom….you did a great job. I miss you.

 

 

 

 

 

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Making the Ordinary; Extraordinary

October in Seaside, Oregon

October in Seaside, Oregon

February is my birth month, and in the words of my Mom, “I’ve done a ‘heap of livin’. From her I learned to be highly motivated; always working on a new project, and to never quit.  From my dad I learned to approach each day as if it were an adventure. Most days, living an adventure is the way I would characterize these past sixty-three years.

The word adventure is a main-stay of my vocabulary.  To my ninety-four-old mother-in-law, I propose, “Let’s have an Adventure.”  To my grandchildren, “You wanna’ go on an Adventure?” To my husband, “I need an Adventure!”  The Bible says, “this is the day the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.”  I tend to think of this verse as an invitation to have an adventure.

Some adventures are exciting, some not so much.  Just as “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder”, so is adventure to those who choose to approach the ordinary in an extraordinary manner.  An extraordinary adventure I launched just before my fiftieth birthday, was the return to  full-time college student status after a thirty-year absence.  This adventure, though exciting, held ingredients of fear, insecurity, and a great amount of anxiety.  Of that experience I wrote in my journal the following observations.

 January 1999
Panic attack.   I can’t do this!  I don’t know what all these other people know!
As I take my place in the classroom full of strangers, I tenaciously look around, noticing telltale signs that they too are uncomfortable. Seeing fixed smiles, nervous twitches, tapping feet, I wonder – facade of security?   Anxious about this experience?  Are they feeling the same first day anxiety I feel?  Perhaps all of us are insecure in some particular area of life.

The Students –
One student, though smiling, continually picks at an almost invisible blemish on his face.  Another student seems to be anxious that his embarrassing tremors might begin at an inopportune time.  Is the boy seated in front of me thinking about his poor writing skills, wondering if he will feel foolish in front of his peers?  The girl across the room appears to be thinking only of the rejection I observed only moments ago when in the hall  her boyfriend broke-up their relationship. A quiet young man seated in the corner seems to be feeling inadequate about his physique as his gaze darts back and forth to the body builder seated beside him. One student appears ill-at-ease because she alone represents her race. The foreign exchange student sits tall, pensive, and quiet.  Is she worrying about her faulty English skills?

The Teacher –
The teacher approaches the classroom with first day jitters – experienced though he may be, he knows each new class evolves a little differently than the one before. There’s that unknown element as he faces the new class.  Is he concerned at all whether we, his students, will like him?  Is he as prepared as he hopes to be as he prepares to present his lecture? And the students . . . we all sit here wondering about the teacher.  Will he be clear in his method?  Will he be fair? Will he be interesting?

The Class –
I begin to realize we all have insecurities of one sort or another.  We each possess some wonderful strengths and feel high levels of confidence . . . each in different areas. I begin to feel less vulnerable, more energized, and am discovering a growing confidence with this thought.  This is the day the Lord has given me to return to college…to rejoice, and to have an adventure, and to be glad in it.  From my individual strengths and weaknesses, I will boldly approach this new learning experience with an adventuresome spirit.  We as individual students will tackle the assignments with an enormous amount of energy and we will all grow into a group.  We will succeed and we will learn.  All our unique insecurities will pale against the brilliance of the accomplishment of learning and new academic achievements. We will gain strength as we each recognize our individual frailties and move beyond our own insecurities.  We will recognize that we are all unified in purpose, we are learners in life; we are pilgrims.  We are masters simply because we have dared to take the risks of simply being students. We have embraced learning as an adventure.

Have you ever experienced a time when you almost missed an adventure simply because you lacked confidence or felt insecure?  Whether your calendar for today is booked with routine, mundane, or stressful activity, how about making it an adventure?   Who knows, the ordinary just might become extraordinary.

What’s in Your Cup?

untitled
A CUP / A VESSEL / A CONTAINER
Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing to gather together with friends during a frightening storm and sing away your fear like the actors in The Sound of Music?  “I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel – so sad.”  It seems a little simplistic, but actually God has a lot to say about our thought processes.” He is concerned about our feelings of fear, insecurity, apprehensions, and anxious moments. As I ponder these thoughts, many Bible passages I learned as a child are spilling out of my data memory bank like an over-flowing cup. “Whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, of any virtue, praiseworthy…think on these things (Phil4:8). “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). II Corinthians 10:5, asks us to “cast down imaginations and bring every thought unto the obedience of Christ.” My husband often makes the statement, “what we see and hear influences what we think about, and what we think about influences what we believe, and what we believe determines how we behave.”  It seems that our mind-set, whether negative or positive, will effect what overflows from the cup of our lives.

In Psalm 23:5, the writer states simply, “my cup runs over.” I think on the word cup, and perceive it to be a vessel – something used to contain something. A cup can contain pressures, depression, joy, sorrow, worry, anxiety, hope….endless possibilities.  When my youngest daughter was about two or so, she had taken a small cup and filled it with “treasures”.  To me it looked like a bunch of little scraps of paper, but she told me these were her “twesures, and her doe-ing to teep dem.” (“treasures and she was going to keep them”in case anyone needs an interpreter) If I were to take a cup and fill it with my own treasures, it might look just as strange to the person who discovered what I had in that cup.

WHAT I WOULD PUT IN MY CUP
I’d possibly add to my cup a set of praying hands to remind me that Jesus wept in the garden asking God the Father to “let this cup pass from me, nevertheless, not my will but thine be done”  Out of that very bitter cup – overflowing with pain and the anguish of sin being placed upon His shoulders, came forth an overflowing cup of salvation. I’d place a cross in my cup to remind me that the cross gives me the gift of abundant life. The cross brought Jesus pain and sorrow – but gave to us eternal life.  Sometimes I will have a cup of sorrow and pain, but II Corinthians 4:7-9 helps define our existence.  “we have this treasure in earthen vessels…we are troubled on every side, yet not distressed, we are perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not forsaken, cast down, but not destroyed…that the life of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.” I believe I’d want an anchor – the symbol of hope inside my cup. I want to remember that God is in the cup with me and He can turn my sorrow into gladness.

In 1982, my three-year-old nephew was diagnosed with leukemia.  On one occasion when we were driving him to the hospital for a painful bone aspiration and treatment, his voice suddenly burst into song, “Ding dong bell, there’s gladness in my well, who put it there? God.”  Often during times of discouragement when I’ve felt my cup overrunning with sorrow, I have heard that sweet trusting voice in my memory, and remembered that God can change heartbreak into gladness.  How?  God can put it there.

Jesus says that he came to give me life…not just eternal life, but life ABUBNDANT, joyous, and full! Regardless of my present circumstances He desires joy for me. I want a bottle of bubbles in my cup to remind me of the little song, “It’s bubbling, it’s bubbling, it’s bubbling in my soul, there’s singing, and laughing, since Jesus made me whole.  Folks don’t understand it and I can’t keep it quiet, it’s bubbling bubbling bubbling bubbling bubbling day and night.”  A “Pollyanna smile” is not the ultimate goal.  Life has hard stuff that we must walk through – dying parents, disease, separations, divorce, broken bodies, misunderstandings….stuff that fills our cups with sorrow.  I’m so glad that God gives me some mind- altering promises in Romans 12:2.  “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds…”  I have sought various methods of renewing my mind.  Sometimes it’s in  reading scripture, talking to Christian friends, listening to children talk about their joys, or by simply remembering a life journey. Vance Havner, an old time preacher, says that often we get so busy with life and heavy issues, that we lose the wonder of living.  Sometimes, I do lose the wonder, and I plod along with an ol’ empty, dirty cup.

WHEN THE CUP IS FULL OF SORROW
Nearly 20 years ago I had an event in my life that suddenly filled my cup with sorrow, bitterness, darkness, and doubt.  Through this dark time, I discovered that by renewing my mind, following God’s plans for my thinking processes, my bitter cup was being replaced with an overflowing cup. God was giving me an abundant overflowing joyous cup of His presence.  I learned to drink deeply from the abundant life cup, and to treasure each day.  I began to jot down memories from my earliest childhood – the good memories that were in my cup.  In other words, I began to find the wonder in living once again.

As you read this today, why not take a moment to check out the ingredients in your cup.  Is it overflowing with heartache and despair? Do you find anger, bitterness, resentments, and hurt feelings in the dregs at the bottom?  Does the cup need repair, and cleansing?  Is it full of joy and the abundance of zest for life?  Why not take hold of God’s wonderful formula, and fill your mind with those things that will cause your cup to overflow and spill out upon the lives of all those around you as you begin this new week? I’d love to hear how this post encouraged you to “renew your mind” and transform your day.

One More Mountain

One More Mountain

 I sat on the front row of the balcony overlooking the crowded auditorium.  When the participants in the center section stood, I eased forward to the edge of my chair, holding my breath, as if by doing so I could prolong the moment.  “Sheldon Hale.”  An involuntary shout escaped my lips and I applauded triumphantly.   It had taken him seventeen years to complete his Master of Divinity degree, and I wanted him to hear my joyful exultation.  Suddenly shy and embarrassed, I realized that I alone was standing while all others were sitting quietly, watching the ceremony.   I sat and glanced at the card my Mother-in-law had handed me a few moments earlier.  On the front cover were the words, “Son, you finally made it . . . .”   Inside the message was completed, “. . . but I always knew you would.”

Nine years later it was my turn to finish at Murray State University, what I had begun at Western Kentucky University nearly thirty years earlier; my degree.  Those intervening years had been chock full with rich and rewarding pursuits.  Our three children were grown,  I had sewed wedding gowns for both my daughters, was enjoying the grandchildren as they came along, had parented twenty-five precious foster children and already taught first grade for twenty-four years.  My role as Pastor’s wife had taken me down intricately complex paths as I juggled children’s choirs, speaking engagements, and many church responsibilities. Sometimes my brain seemed about to explode with overload of data intake, and I wondered if I were about to lose my memory.

One day on the campus of MurrayStateUniversity, I lost my car in the middle of a parking lot located roughly a mile from the nearest building on campus.  As I stood searching not only the parking lot, but also my memory, I felt like a little girl I had once taught in first grade.

She had come into my classroom that first day, knowing nothing about my class rules and routines.  By the end of the day I had taught her, “a place for everything, and everything in its place.”  The next morning she tearfully approached my desk, and between broken sobs, explained to me that she had forgotten where to put some of her things.

Surrounded by hundreds of cars, I became that little girl.  This very morning I had parked a small white car somewhere in this massive asphalt jungle, and now I was unable to sort through my mind and remember where exactly it was that I put it.  I felt afraid, confused, and insecure.  It was good that no one offered me any sympathetic words of consolation.  I feel certain that the gathering fears would have become liquid and streamed down the furrows of worry that etched my face.

My frustration had started that morning when I arrived on campus wearing heels and feeling very professional.  I got into the line that I thought was the path toward my goal.  Forty-five minutes later the person at the desk told me I was supposed to first “go to that line over there.”  Okay, I thought, no problem.  So I moved my satchel over to the next line and waited patiently for the fifteen people ahead of me to finish their business.  When I described to the pseudo-friendly person at the counter what I needed, she informed me that I must go to the desk in the basement.  I’m generally a flexible person, so I gathered up my things and trekked to the basement.  The line there was about ten people long, so I waited, patiently.  Yes, I really did.   Ah, finally it was my turn and I could even sit in a chair while I related my “problem” to the receptionist.

“Oh no,” she said. “You can’t do that here.  You need to go to the Registrar’s office up on first floor.”

“But upstairs sent me here,” I reply.

“I’m sorry, but they were in error.  You simply must go there before I can help you.”

Back on first floor I ask a lady behind the counter where I should go to speak with someone about a registration question.  She points out the direction, and I arrive there just in time to hear a student receive the bad news.  “You can’t graduate this spring because your paper work is not in order.”   As I see the tears accumulate around the inner edges of her eyelids, I ache.  Just as I begin to feel empathy for that student, the bearer of the bad news turns to me.  “May I help you?”

I explain the problem.  Even before I finish, she informs me that her office has no authority in this matter.  “Go to the basement.  They’ll take care of you.”

“I was already there.”

“Well, I’m really sorry . . .” (which I am beginning to seriously doubt), “. . . but that is the only place that can help you.”

One more time I return to the basement.  This time the line is all the way out the door.  Never mind all the manners I have learned over the years.  Gently pushing my way through the crowd, I tower over the secretary in a bit of an obnoxious way.  Finally she looks up and asks, “Yes, what is it?”

“They say that I must see you to get this problem resolved.”

“Let me see the paper you have.  Hmm, yes, just a minute.  I just need to sign this form and you’re home free.”

 Home free.  That would be nice about now.  Home.  Free.  Free of all this nonsense.  Finally I have all my necessary paperwork complete and the first day of classes arrives.  Never being one to do things the simple way, I schedule for twenty-five hours.  My commute is over eighteen hours a week, and I have a bit of a life outside school time.   Did I mention that I am also teaching full-time?  At the conclusion of the first day I know I am in over my head, so I drop one class.

Now we are in the full swing of things.  Homework is beginning to mount higher and higher, as are the stack of dirty dishes and dirty laundry at home.  Each evening as I face my computer to sort through my accumulation of notes, I find that a little invisible demon sits upon my shoulder.  He begins his nightly negative message recital.  “You can’t do that,” he whispers. “You know how difficult learning has always been for you,” he taunts.  “You’ll make horrible grades,” he jeers.

I reach out across time and grab hold of a fleeting memory that bobs upon the many waters of a lifetime of experiences.   My memory settles on the story of the Little Engine that thought he could.  “I think I can . . .  I think I can . . . .”   I’m claiming the strength God promises me in Philippians 1:21. I’ll need something beyond my own ability.  My stamina isn’t what it was when I was twenty years old.  As Minnie Pearl always said, “My get up and go has got up and went.”

My feet ache as if the bones are protruding through the bottom of my heels.  My calf muscles are tight. Fire burns my lungs as I gulp down icy air. Surely passers-by can hear my heartbeat as the blood races through my veins.  My back is as effective after an hour and a half of sitting in a lecture as a rusty bicycle chain. Each link is so rigidly fixed and inflexible that I dread having to sit again in the next class period.

There are visible spasms as the muscles play chase up and down my arm from the elbow to the wrist.  Semi-permanent indentations mark my fingers where I’ve held too tightly to my pen while taking notes.  My elbow craves an ace bandage, an application of HEET, and perhaps a full day of grace without carrying a twenty-four-pound bag of books.  Am I complaining? You betcha’!  Do I want to quit?  Absolutely not!  I’ve come too far to quit!  Oh sure, there are always things to complain about, but in the end those things are small potatoes compared to the goal I have in my sights.

I love the exhilaration of learning new things, or of re-learning old things, long forgotten.  There’s nothing more nostalgic in my memory than the sound of chalk hitting the board and the occasional sound of the chalk as it squeaks irritatingly across the surface.  Those noises of an empty classroom coming to life as first one, then two, then a dozen or more students enter, fill not only the room, but fill my memory with the pleasant thoughts of “school days, good ol’ golden rule days.” Learning is about to happen. 

 Though the crisp breeze has pushed, pulled, and tempted me to skip class and to come out and play, I have resisted the urge, and been a serious student.  I attend all my classes, finally find my car, drive home, fix supper, sort the mail, return phone calls, and start my homework.  A lifetime of adult commitments, time schedules, deadlines, and responsibilities has taught me to use my time efficiently, setting priorities and then working within those parameters.   Finally, homework completed, I can fall into bed. There is no time for a late night television show, leisure, or play.  Tomorrow begins the process all over, and the homework load will be just as heavy.  I’ll dream of an afternoon away from the school routine . . . maybe this Sunday afternoon, or then again, maybe next summer.

There is a persistent, irritating sound.  I knock over the nightstand and almost break the alarm clock as I grope in the darkness, reaching for the source of the noise. I realize as I come more fully awake that the phone is ringing.

“Hello?”

 “Mom, did I wake you?”

 “Uh, Son, what time is it?”

 “It’s 10:30.  Are you already in bed?

 “Yeah, I’m bushed.  My classes are about to get the best of me.”

 “Well, I won’t keep you.  Just wanted to let you know I’m proud of you for going back to college.”

 I hang up, feeling refreshed, though tired.  I’m fortunate.  I have a wonderfully supportive cheering squad, my family.  They seem to understand that this is important to me.

 Perhaps someday when I cross the platform and receive my earned degree for the work I’ve completed, my children will send me a card.  I’ll open it, and with tears of joy and satisfaction I’ll read, “Mom, you finally made it  . . . but then, we always knew you would.”

These thoughts were captured almost eighteen years ago.  I finished my goal and walked across the platform to receive my diploma at the age of fifty. My family was all there to celebrate.   I’ve continued teaching first and second grade children until my retirement this year, enjoyed playing with my ten grandchildren, and have decided to be serious about writing my book.  However, technology just keeps changing and I’m already far behind.  Though I finally switched from my Royal typewriter, graduated to a Word Processor, and then into Windows XP, I have discovered I must once again move forward.  Today, I bought Windows 8, and am already feeling a bit apprehensive.

The phone – it’s my youngest daughter.  “Mom, you can do it.” 

“I don’t think so, honey, it’s just too hard and after all, at my age, I don’t think I can learn all this new stuff.”

“Mom, you’re talking like an old person.  This isn’t like you.  You can do anything you set your mind on.”

And so, a new journey begins – again.  New things, new challenges, new mountains to climb….and the thrill of climbing. 

How about you?  Are you reaching out to learn new things?  Are you enjoying the mountains you already climbed?  Look just down the road and you’ll see yet another mountain just begging for you to experience, explore, and enjoy.  Go for it, be a little engine that thinks he can…and start up that mountain. 

 

Apples on a Silver Platter

Bro Bob Norman with Ritchie Hale

Bro Bob Norman with Ritchie Hale

Though most of us would rather not attend funerals; the funeral home is often the place where reunions occur.  This was the case for me last week when I attended the services for a friend, Bro. R.B. Precious friends and family members spent the time catching up with memories of days gone by as we laughed and cried together.  The occassion was to celebrate the life of our friend who had passed away, but in so doing, the gathering had an almost surreal atmosphere of joy mingled with sorrow. Though many of the people who came to visit didn’t know each other, we were all bonded together because of our shared grief of this precious loved one.
 
A young lady, who I didn’t recognize, came to me during the evening.  She wanted to tell me what a difference I had made in her life when she was just a teenager.  I was astounded.  I couldn’t even think of her name, or how I had known her until she filled me in on the details and I realized who she was and how our lives had intersected so long ago.  What a joyful reunion.  I had NO IDEA that my life had meant anything to her life.  

As I saw one after another of the friends I had known since my teen years, one in particular , Bro Bob, was such a joy to my heart.  I met him and his wife, Elaine, at a pivotal point during my teen years.  As I stood talking to him, it occurred to me that I may not have ever told them how much they had influenced my life, what they had meant to me as a teen, and how they continue to bless my life as an adult. 
 
Often times we want to say something, but then we don’t.  For whatever reason, we hold back and  the opportunity passes us by.  Here I was standing at a funeral home with a visual at the front of the room that life is brief, and opportunities will not always present themselves “later”.  So why not speak now.  I spoke up then, and I do so here today as a reminder that there are others to whom I owe a word of gratitude. These two dear friends gave of themselves sacrificially to me, a young teenage girl. That gift of love, encouragement, guidance, godly counsel, patience, and acceptance made a difference in my life. That young lady who had spoken to me earlier during the evening said I had made a difference in her life, and in so saying, her words of thanks touched my life.  The gift of gratitude is an on-going, unending gift. She could not have known that just that very day I was feeling a bit like a used-up, “over-the-hill” retiree, wondering what I had done that was in anyway worthwhile. She couldn’t have known that her simple words went to my heart and whispered, “keep at it, it’s worthwhile.”  Her words were like the proverb, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver ” (Proverb 25:11NKJV). 

How about you?  Has there been a time when you have thought of someone who has profoundly touched your life…and you’ve told them so?  Or maybe the opportunity passed you by and you wished you had?  It’s not too late to take action today and share a simple thanks.

A Piece of Driftwood

My Testimony - an original oil painting by Ritchie D. Hale

My Testimony – an original oil painting by Ritchie D. Hale

A  Piece of Driftwood
Hidden, discarded, tossed about, on the far-stretching, blinding sands,
A scene of desolation; not made by human hands.
Beyond the distant edge of sea, the green-blue waters still,
Beyond the heavens sun-lit rays, the tempestuous clouds to burst at will. 

Those restless waters closer by with troubled, white-capped surf,
Rolling endlessly to reach the shore of glistening, sandy, turf. 
A towering pine between the surf and I, – driftwood at its base,
Broken, bleached, and scarred by time – scars that nature can’t erase.

I viewed this gnarled starkness, seeing what God might see,
And knew that what I’d been before, no longer would I be. 
My life had been a raging surf, obtaining changing goals,
Joining each new larger wave, with constant, crashing, thrashing rolls.

My life was once a tempestuous cloud, with darkness and despair,
Which overflowed with ugliness, a life in reckless disrepair.
Most of all my life was like the driftwood by the sea,
Broken, gnarled, and scarred by sin, all hope gone out of me. 

But then I saw the sun-lit rays, and lifted up my face
And knew that God who made the world, could all my sin erase,
The raging surf and tempestuous clouds, and driftwood by the sea,
Had preached a mighty lesson on the plan of God for me, 

I knew that as I left those shores I had a brand new start.
And all that God had taught me there, had really changed my heart.

Written by Ritchie D. Hale 1972©

Just God and Me

Just God and Me

In the woods midst wind-tossed trees,
we feel such closeness,
as in the breeze
The sound of majestic timbers; cedars, Blow ceaselessly;
Just God and me.
The rustling, tarnished, dancing leaves,
Rushing with each new gust of fresh damp breeze
Made us understand, with no words uttered The others’ needs;
Just God and me.
Above my head, trees blowing with the wind
The stately cedars whisper,
while far below I sit in filtered sunlight, basking in the beauty of the moment
 …yes, still… just God and me.
How cherished these quiet times
When leaves rustle, trees whisper, distant birds call
When the sun pierces the forests’ density
… and all this when it touches me,
causes me to thank Him who created it all so I could stop and say,
it’ll always be, just God and me.

Written by Ritchie D. Hale 1978©

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