Outside My Comfort Zone

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Go camping? Me? This was way out of my comfort zone and my Leisure and Recreation professor had just announced a part of our course work would be an overnight camping trip. If we absolutely, positively felt we could not make the camping trip, there was an alternative.  I leaned in to hear his every word. The alternative would be a lengthy and very detailed paper on a subject of his choosing. He promised it wouldn’t be easy, even for those who enjoyed writing.

Camping had never called my name and I knew I had not called out to it. I didn’t like the possibility of snakes that I imagined hanging from every tree. How was I going to get out of this? I wasn’t into roughing it in the woods and especially with people I barely knew.

Right after class, I meandered through the rows of empty chairs to my teacher and jumped right into making my case for why I should be excused. My reasons sounded lame, even to me.

Memphis State University (now Univ of Memphis) Rec and Leisure Professor. Corky was what he went by, can’t recall his last name.

He was a young guy with a PhD behind his name and I was a mid-forties adult just now finishing up what I should have completed long ago–my undergraduate degree. Friendly and polite he was—and unyielding. It looked like I had better start rounding up a tent and bedroll.

We would be camping at Fort Pillow. Though Fort Pillow is a state park, all that came to mind was the state prison bearing that name. This wasn’t getting better. I would be hanging out with snakes and prisoners.

A friend, quite amused at my plight, loaned me his tent. I found my daughter’s old sleeping bag and tossed it in the trunk of the car, alongside the tent. Next went my cooler, and, as instructed, “a minimum of personal needs.”

Setting up our tents

When I made the second turnoff to Fort Pillow Camp Grounds, I caught a view of the prison looming strong and fierce.  I told myself should anyone escape, they would not be looking to share our camping experience but getting far away from the prison. That gave me some comfort.

When I got to the spot our professor had chosen for us, I was wide-eyed with unexpected glee; there were bathroom and shower facilities in easy walking distance! Things were looking up.

That night, as we sat around a campfire and listened to a student strum his guitar, I felt myself beginning to relax. This camping thing wasn’t so bad. Nothing like I had expected, in fact. Neither a snake nor prisoner had appeared so far.

Much to my amazement, I slept well on the hard ground and the occasional night sounds didn’t spook me. I awoke to chirping birds and the smell of coffee and feeling more relaxed than I had in a while. A peek outside my tent showed a fellow student cooking breakfast. I set off toward the restroom facilities for a nice hot shower and the offer of fresh coffee on return. I felt my every resistance to camping beating a hasty retreat. I had stepped outside my comfort zone and lo and behold, look what happened! I discovered I could really get used to this. (As long as bathroom facilities were close by, of course.)

Enjoying the good life

Our Fort Pillow camping trip turned out to be a great adventure for the experienced (there were some) and the greenhorns (fewer of these). It was so successful, in fact, that someone suggested we do it once more before the end of semester. The teacher agreed and off we went into the woods one more time. Camping had turned strangers in a classroom to friends around a campfire sharing stories, songs, and food. And the one who suggested we return for another night of camping? You guessed it. It was me.

Helen Keller said “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” And I especially love what writer Rachel Cohn said: “The reward is in the risk.”  What about you? Are you staying safe in your comfort zone or “daring adventure”?  If I were doing life over, I would definitely take more risks.

Korkey’s Krew ’87. We posted notes for Corky. Mine said “I’m a believer now!” (I am front row, center.)

My note bottom, left

 

Those Cotton Fields Back Home!

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A while back, I mentioned to a friend that I picked cotton in my “growing up” years. My friend was surprised and her reaction was like others I have experienced through the years. I understand that thinking, as you rarely see pictures of white people laboring in cotton fields, though I’m at a loss as to why that is since it was common for northerners to stop alongside the road to get pictures of this southern curiosity. At my friend’s encouragement to tell the story, this blog is about the many fall days I spent in dry and dusty cotton fields. My thanks go to lifetime friend and fellow cotton picker Larry Darby for keeping me honest in the telling of the story.

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A field ripe for picking. Courtesy of Morguefile.

Let me take you back to the 1950s and early ’60s to a rural community, my hometown of Medina, Tennessee. Every year in mid-September our school closed for four to six weeks (depending on the need) to help the farmers get their cotton crops in. Mechanical cotton pickers were yet to be had by our farmers–too expensive. I don’t recall the age I began picking cotton, but young enough that my first sack was homemade since the bought ones were too big for me. Some went to the fields at eight years, maybe younger. We were of a practical era and did what needed to be done.

Cousins Judy Gardner (Petty), 10, and Wanda Coleman (King), 8, on the Gardner farm in Medina. My thanks to Judy for the pictures and Wanda for confessing they were posing more than picking that day–thus the big smiles. I knew I could not remember ever looking that happy in a cotton field.

There were a lot of fields, so we didn’t necessarily see many of our friends during the cotton picking season. If you could get with friends, it definitely made the long days go faster. Farmers would come in to get us town people around 6:30-7 AM and bring us home about 5 PM. We rode in the back of the farmer’s truck, equipped with sideboards for taking the picked cotton to the gin.

There was nothing about picking cotton that I liked, and I especially disliked picking the tall, leafy bottom cotton. I think we all hated it. If bottom cotton was the first field of the day, we despised it even more for its heavy dew that had us wetted down in no time. The wet cotton was sticky and harder to gather, and if it was a frosty morning, the dew would make our hands icy cold and less nimble. The only upside to wet cotton was the extra weight it gave (we were paid by weight). And then there were the creatures that could hide better in the tall, leafy cotton: huge black and yellow garden spiders, stinging worms, and the occasional spread adder snake. I learned to pay attention to where I put my hands.

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A field heavy with cotton and the dry, low kind we preferred picking. Courtesy of Morguefile.

Our pay was $2.50-$3.00 per one hundred pounds. The higher amount was end of season for the second picking. It seemed like everyone was better than I at picking cotton. Up until my senior year, I picked about 150 pounds a day. That last year I determined to do better and finished most days with a little over 200 pounds. The boys tended to out pick the girls and there were women in the fields who could brag of 300-350 pounds a day. Now that was moving!

Girls wore jeans, long sleeve shirts, and something on our heads if our mothers could talk us into it. To protect our hands, we wore brown jersey gloves with the fingertips cut out. You had to be able to feel the cotton to pluck it cleanly from the boll. The women wore bonnets and some wore a dress over their jeans. It wasn’t common then for older women to wear pants.

Those first days in the field were brutal with cuts and scratches around the unprotected part of our fingers and also our ankles if rigid limbs crawled under the legs of our jeans. A hot soapy bath at end of day was bittersweet. It felt so good to the aching body but stung scratched fingers and ankles with a fury.

I eventually graduated to a standard cotton sack. They had brown plastic beads of rubber on the bottom to help prevent the bottom of the sack from wearing through. In one bottom inside corner of the sack a green cotton boll would be secured with wire on the outside. The wire included a loop for help in hanging sacks on the scale.

Everyone’s cotton was weighed at the same time for efficiency.  While at the scale getting our sacks weighed, we took long drinks of ice water in gallon jugs kept in the cab of the farmer’s truck. Cold water never tasted better.

The highlight of the day (other than quittin’ time!) was lunch. We sat on our cotton sacks in the shade, if we could find any, and ate sandwiches out of brown paper bags. Sometimes we spread the sandwiches and homemade pickles in a sharing manner. Larry says that was the first “country buffet.” Most of us had iced tea to drink that we brought to the field in quart jars wrapped in newspaper to keep the ice from melting. Lunch was about a 30 minute break and back to the fields we went.

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Representing Medina in the Humboldt, TN Strawberry Festival in early May. Just six months before, all four of us were in cotton fields. L-R: Larry Darby, Dorothy Jones, me, Linda Piercey

I complained a lot to my parents about picking cotton. Mother never understood my distaste for it because she grew up working in the fields and loved it. But, then, anything outside and to do with the earth, Mother loved. Daddy’s reply was “You don’t have to pick cotton, but you don’t have to have any new clothes either.” What I earned picking cotton bought my winter clothes. I remember well my last day in a cotton field and singing the Hallelujah Chorus all the way home.

There seemed to be a kind of unspoken fraternity with those of us who picked cotton. We understood the language of hard work and respected one another for being part of it. We might moan about those days, but even then we knew they were good for us. We bent our backs and crawled on our knees as we picked. We threw sacks packed with cotton over our shoulders and carried them to the scale. If I couldn’t toss the sack over my shoulder, I dropped the strap to my waist and dragged it in.

Those days played a huge part of establishing my work ethic for life, and for that, I am grateful. Let me say, however, I’m not interested in any of the cotton décor so often found in gift shops. Clearly, those who find it “charming” know nothing of its original setting. Stick some branches in a vase or hang a wreath on the front door? You’ve got to be kidding me!

My thanks to the Davenport and Maddox families of Medina for this priceless photo from 1915. Notice the gloves on the two girls at right and how the fingertips are cut away.

How To Make Your Devotions Come Alive

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I grew up in a Southern Baptist home. On Sundays, we checked off our offering envelopes with the following: Sunday School Attendance, Bible Brought, Lesson Studied, Giving, Daily Bible Reading, and Worship Attendance.  Growing up I was expected to do these six things every week to provide a solid spiritual foundation, but it was not until my twenties that I experienced my first “wow” moment with devotion, and it was through the Living Bible.

The Living Bible, first published in 1971, introduced me anew to scripture. When I got mine, I determined to read it through and wasn’t far into Genesis when I began seeing things I didn’t remember reading in the King James Version (KJV). So I would go back to the KJV to be sure this new Bible wasn’t adding things. Each time I checked, the same truth was there, just more clearly spoken in the paraphrased Bible. This new understanding enlivened my devotions. I was eager to learn from this plain-speaking Bible. All this to say, choose a Bible that is right for you, and consider changing translations from time to time. My devotions are always energized by a new translation.

By nature, I am a curious individual and want the details. I keep a concordance, map, and commentary nearby for when I read scripture. A concordance helps to find scriptures easily and most Bibles have them in back. A map brings a visual to the time and place in scripture. A commentary gives information by those who have spent their lives studying and expounding on scripture. You may not use them every day, but if something comes to you in while reading your Bible that you want to understand better, having resources right at hand will enable that. I am presently using Matthew Henry’s Complete Bible Commentary, a favorite of Charles Spurgeon and George Whitefield, with Whitefield saying he read it through six times, the last time on his knees.

Create an environment that welcomes the Lord. I like to begin with worship music. Sometimes I sing along, other times I close my eyes and sit in silence as it penetrates my soul.  If you have trouble with random thoughts intruding on your quiet time, keep a pad and pen nearby for writing them down for later, then get back to the Lord. Welcome His presence by being 100% His!

Inspiration from The Word for Today, the devotional magazine our church graciously provides, will help you get in stride with the Lord as you begin your quiet time. A year-long devotional book I cherish and read over and over is Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest. A clergy favorite, one pastor was quoted as saying it was his second most important book–right after the Bible.

Along with those you know to pray for, ask the Holy Spirit’s guidance for any others. When I ask Him who I should pray for, almost always someone unexpected comes to mind.  I trust that prompting even if I never know why. When in prayer, allow God time to speak to you. Someone wrote that most of us rush into prayer, pour out all our needs and wants, then turn and hurry into our day without giving God time to speak to us.

Set aside occasional devotions where you ask God for nothing. Praise Him for the God you know Him to be and thank Him for how He has blessed you. Turn any petition that begins to form on your lips into words of how you trust Him to love and take care of you. If your child came to you in this manner, would it not delight you? Our Father yearns for this, too. Do this and be prepared for an infilling of joy and peace.

Learn about the lives of great servants of the Lord. Did you know George Mueller built five orphanages and cared for over 10,000 orphans on faith alone, trusting God to send the money or food they needed each day? Did you know Mother Teresa came from a well-to-do home and gave it all up to minister to the poor and dying? Did you know that her first patient was a man she found dying on the steps of a hospital and that she gathered him into her arms and refused to leave until the hospital took him in? The life stories of people of great faith will take you up the mountains of praise and worship and encourage you in your own relationship with God.

Keep a journal nearby. Record prayers God has answered and include the details, for it’s in the details that we see God’s hand. When we know His personal interventions, it builds our confidence in trusting Him more.

Devotions come alive when we come hungry, come expecting, and come grateful. If you let these things be the hallmark of your time with God, you will never be disappointed.

“Spend plenty of time with God, let other things go, but don’t neglect Him.”

–J. Oswald Sanders, missionary, evangelist, author

Decorated with Love

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One of my favorite pictures of my mother, Louise Spencer Luffman. In her late 20s.

My mother was a keeper of all things. Not like a hoarder; our house was always clean and orderly. Everything in drawers was neatly folded and things on closet shelves were boxed and labeled. When Mother died and we cleaned out the house, I found a little notebook where she had recorded the contents of every room—probably done in those last years at home when she looked for ways to fill her days.

I remember a conversation Mother and I had once about several bud vases she kept on a shelf in the living room. I told her she could buy those vases for $1 each and I didn’t think anyone meant for her to keep them on display, but her response was that someone had cared enough about her to give her flowers and she was going to keep the bud vases right where they were.

Growing up, when I would clean my room, I would sometimes go through things that I thought were entirely worn out and take them outside for “throw away.” Mother would go behind me and rummage through everything and bring much of it back inside. When I later married and had a little girl, Mother would bring her my old costume jewelry that she had salvaged and my daughter loved it.

As I aged and matured in my understanding, I came to see Mother’s collecting in a different way. I realized the memories that were attached to things of her past. I especially loved Mother’s albums of many photographs kept through the years. A day came when she would tell me that I should take any of them I might like—that she didn’t need them anymore.

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A very early picture of my parents. They married at 15 and 18. I’ve wondered if it was made the day they married.

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Me with my snowman when we lived on Church Street.

She would also say of her many keepsakes “If you see anything you want, just take it.” Sometimes she would mention a particular item and tell me something about it and then ask if I would like to have it. Her stories and her mementos became precious to me, more valuable than I could ever explain.

Much of what Mother gave me is in my kitchen. There are also some things of my grandmother’s there. I enjoy telling friends about the pieces that live in my kitchen and one friend said she loved my house because of all the stories belonging to each piece. Still another friend said something I will always cherish: “You decorate with love.” I had never thought of it like that, but she is right. I have adorned my kitchen with things that make me happy, things of fond memory. My highchair with its many coats of paint, a piece Mother loomed when she was 18 and I had framed, my grandmother’s buttermilk pitcher that Papa bought for 50 cents, my mother’s grease crock for keeping the bacon drippings, a framed copy of my grandmother’s recipe for chicken and dumplings—a dish she was known for far and wide.

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Mother’s loomed piece in center made when she was 18, two crocheted pieces above and below.

No place in my house feels as comfortable to me as my kitchen. Like my mother and grandmother, I love to cook and bake and that accounts for part of the comfort. However, I know it is also because I feel a special warmth standing in the midst of family memories. I’m grateful for a mother who kept things and then shared them with me.  Every cherished memento says “I love you.”

Pecan Waffle with a Side of Kindness

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I’ve had some serious issues with my eyes since July and have been seen several times a month by an eye specialist for close watch and treatment. A few days ago, returning home from an appointment that went especially well, I felt a little celebrating was in order. The day was cold and damp and a pecan waffle and cup of coffee seemed perfect.

For a pecan waffle, I needed a Waffle House, and though I would pass two on my way home, I felt I was to go to one in particular. I couldn’t make sense of it, but it was as if some happy little experience awaited me there.  

They weren’t busy at 2 in the afternoon, so I had picking choice of where to sit and I slid into a booth near where the food was being prepared. A waitress quickly appeared and said, “This is not my station, but I can get you some coffee until Doris can get here.” Soon, Doris came and asked for my order. “Pecan waffle,” I said. She nodded, turned, and repeated the order to the cook. Then, turning back to me, she said, “Do you want just a plain waffle?” Odd, I thought, but repeated I wanted a pecan waffle. Doris turned again toward the cook and said “She wants a pecan waffle.” “Yes, I have it,” the cook said. No hint of frustration in his voice, just kindness. I could not miss the kindness.

While I waited, someone I assumed to be a manager appeared and Doris went up to him to tell him something she needed in the way of a uniform. He told her yes, he had ordered it for her. Again, there was noticeable kindness in his voice. 

Something is going on with this waitress and the staff, I said to myself. They are taking care of her! There must be some manner of concern for Doris and they have decided to help her however they can. Memory was obviously a problem, but it wasn’t annoying anyone. Maybe she had a sick husband or mother or child that she was caring for and needed this job. Maybe she was the one sick or in a serious financial situation. Whatever it was, it was a beautiful thing to see Doris’s co-workers and supervisor walking with her through it all. When I paid, Doris said “I enjoyed waiting on you.” Oh, Doris, I mused, you have no idea how much I have enjoyed your waiting on me!

Now, that’s it. The end of my little side trip to the Waffle House. The reason I wanted to tell you about it is because we are in a seriously angry place in our nation and I loved seeing people helping people. No ego problems, no complaining, no tongue wagging about Doris’s memory. Just people doing what they could to help, for whatever the reason. I needed this little smile maker and heart booster because I am weary with the out-of-control behavior I see daily on television. I am tired of posturing by politicians who have been too long on the job. Their intention is to impress, but my reaction is disappointment. I am sick of seeing out-of-control adults, and even more, their encouraging young people to act out the same way. This is far more than angry, inappropriate words; it is deliberate damage to properties that don’t belong to them and injury to people who don’t agree.

I’m just too old to ever understand this. I grew up in a time when you respected authority or paid the consequences. My voting in elections has never been strictly one party or the other; I’ve been independent. Sometimes my candidate has won, sometimes not, but once it was over, I accepted it. Yes, I’ve been on the side of an election where the winner left a bad taste in my mouth and fear in my heart, but I didn’t let those feelings rule me, I ruled my feelings. There’s a little matter of what God has to say, as well: “Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong” (Romans 13:1-3 NLT).

 

What I witnessed in a Waffle House on a cold afternoon was a gift from the Lord. Had I not gone in expecting something good to happen, I might have missed it; but I went in with an expectation of blessing and I sure received it. The pecan waffle was great and the sane and caring behavior of people even better.

 

 (Doris is not the real name of the waitress.)

My Samantha

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It hurt to watch her confusion. She was in a corner of the room trying to find her way out, turning first to the left and then the right. Not able to bear it any longer, I went to her and helped her find her way. Samantha is my 15 year old Siamese and she is going blind.

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Always with Richard.

We got Samantha when she was just four weeks old and weighed one pound and she was, from the beginning, my husband’s cat. She bonded so with Richard that she took every step he did and when his truck pulled out of the driveway, she would stand at the kitchen window and cry. Needless to say, Samantha grieved hard when Richard died.

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Samantha, kindly posing for a good shot in December 2016

In August of 2016, I noticed a significant change in Samantha’s vision. One day she had some minor near vision problems, and the next day (it seemed) she was walking into furniture and walls. Samantha’s vet saw the cataracts but couldn’t explain why the change was so sudden. I was frightened for Samantha, concerned she might injure herself. I was told to keep everything just as she remembered it; no rearranging of furniture or putting anything new in her pathway.

I was encouraged when my daughter told me of a friend’s cat who was blind and had lived a number of years with quality of life. I began speaking to Samantha when I neared so I wouldn’t frighten her. If I find her unsure about a direction, I talk her to the place. If she is unsure about her aim for my lap, I lift her to me. It seems there are times she can see a little more than others and I haven’t figured that out yet.  It doesn’t seem to be connected with lighting.

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Chloe gets her picture made, too.

At first, Chloe was puzzled by it all. Samantha would jump from my lap into Chloe’s space unintentionally and Chloe would think it was a call to play. When she responded in play and Samantha would run from her, Chloe was perplexed. It didn’t take long, though, for Chloe to understand there was something new going on with the cat she had shared space with for nine years, and she began to make adjustments for her, just as I did. One temptation I have to constantly fight is to do too much for Samantha. I know she needs to do as much as she can for herself.

I am trying hard to keep the balance of affection between Samantha and Chloe.I croon my love for both of them and tell Chloe how much I appreciate her helping me care for Samantha. I’m one who believes animals understand a lot of what you say and intuitively know the rest.

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Sharing some sunshine on the patio this past summer.

I hold to quality of life for animals, as does our vet. At 15 years of age, I won’t put Samantha through surgery. Neither will I shut her off in a room for safety sake. Right now she still finds her litter box and makes sure to cover well like the lady she has always been. She can find her food and water and reminds me when it’s time for a mid-afternoon treat.

Samantha, Chloe, and I will walk this journey together and when there is no longer quality of life for Samantha, I will let her go with the dignity and respect she deserves. There will be no way to avoid the heartache of giving her up. For now, we will make our time together as good as it can possibly be for the three of us. We will build memories. And give lots of love.

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My Samantha, winter of 2016

Mary’s Time with Elizabeth

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Every Christmas, I linger over the story of Mary and Elizabeth in Luke’s gospel. I believe it was a rich time spiritually and I hunger for details. We know that the baby Elizabeth was carrying leaped in her womb at the sound of Mary’s voice. And we know that Mary sang a beautiful praise to the Lord (Luke 1:46-55). Beyond that, little is known so I ponder a bit on some probabilities.

It was right after Gabriel told Mary she would bear the son of God, that she departed for the home of her relative, Elizabeth, who lived in the hill country of Judea. Tradition has it the town was Ana Karim, a one hundred mile journey. Perhaps Joseph, Mary’s betrothed, arranged for her safe travel by caravan.

Mary could surely think of nothing else on her journey but the child who would come from her womb. She would bear the long awaited Messiah!  It sounded far-fetched, but Elizabeth would understand. For Elizabeth, like Mary, was experiencing an impossible pregnancy. Aged and far beyond childbearing years, Elizabeth was in her sixth month, Gabriel had said. Elizabeth would be excited for Mary. How good it would be to talk with her kinswoman about their visits from God’s messenger.

Young Mary would take over the household duties. I can hear her encouraging the elderly Elizabeth to rest. The house had been silent for six months—the time Zechariah had been mute due to his unbelief that Elizabeth would bear a child.  Mary would provide Elizabeth with much needed conversation; I think of the talks they must have had. Sobering talks, for sure, but I also think there was lots of laughter.  Don’t we always laugh when we are happy? And how could they not be happy?

I imagine Elizabeth’s husband, a priest, to be in constant worship. I see Zechariah on his face before God for long stretches of time. I see him, even in his inability to speak, leading Mary and Elizabeth in worship. Messianic prophesy was unfolding before Zechariah’s very eyes, prophetic scriptures he knew by heart. He was a part, for the son born to him would prepare the way for the Messiah. How many time, do you suppose Zechariah wrote to Mary “Tell me again what Gabriel said.” I see his face filling with awe and his soundless mouth forming words of thanksgiving each time Mary gave the report. Though silence had been imposed on Zechariah, it would not have stolen his joy.

In the home of Elizabeth and Zechariah, Mary gave. But we must not miss that it was also a time when she received. Elizabeth, by years and as the wife of a priest, would have given Mary exceptional advice, sharing knowledge and wisdom. Mary would have gone home a different woman, one better prepared for the role she had been designated to play.

Mary said in her song to the Lord (Luke 146-56) that He had been mindful of the humble state of his servant. I believe the time Mary spent with Elizabeth was part of the Lord’s being mindful of Mary. God always takes care of anything, even the things we don’t sometimes realize are by His hand and plan.

When You’ve Prayed All You KnowTo Pray

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I wrote this almost six years ago on what to do when we have prayed everything we know to pray. I post it again today for a friend who is feeling that way.

JESUS

Jesus.  Jesus.  Jesus.
Sometimes that is the only prayer I have – and it is enough.
When I’m waiting for an answer that doesn’t come and I know no more prayers to pray, I utter His name — Jesus.
When the night is long and I can’t sleep, I whisper — Jesus.
When I’ve lost my way, I cry out to the One who has not lost me.  I pray — Jesus.
When I’m tired and I can’t see rest ahead, when all strength is gone, I breathe His name — Jesus.
When I am in pain, I remember the One who can heal, and I plead — Jesus.
If I’m afraid, I bear in mind that I have a Shield whose name is — Jesus.
He is my Savior and my Lord, my Shelter and my Comforter.
He gives me sanctuary under His wing and supplies me with restoration and peace.
He is the Holy Lamb of God, the One who comes with compassion and new hope.
He is my Faithful Friend and the Radiant Light on this earth’s journey.
He is the Way of all righteous, the ever-abiding Truth, and the Life of love and joy.
He is the Mighty and Eternal God

Behavior Speaks Louder Than Words

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Now it was time to wait. I had come to receive treatment for a newly diagnosed eye condition. I was alone and with nothing to distract, I began watching and listening to the people around me.

My eyes moved around the waiting room and took in the canes, walkers, and wheelchairs; the patients accompanied by family or friends. I thanked God that I didn’t need walking aid and was able to drive myself to the clinic. I wondered about each person there. Was theirs a longstanding situation or were they dealing with a new diagnosis as I was?

One lady sitting in a wheelchair across from me seemed asleep, but then she suddenly began saying to the two ladies with her that she wanted to go home. Did she want to go home because she wasn’t feeling well? Was she dreading what she might hear today? Her companions didn’t seem too concerned and barely acknowledged that she had spoken. They appeared to be working from a list of people, calling each one to leave a message of concern and express their love for them. Yet here was this lady right there with them receiving little of their attention. Isn’t it the way with people; we look for some good act to do when there is an immediate need right in front of us?

The staff moved about through hallways and doorways at a fast clip. Each one was focused on the work that was theirs to do. They were professional and friendly, having no side conversations with one another that didn’t involve patient care. Their demonstration of being highly skilled in patient and family interaction was impressive. They had either been hired well or trained well. Most likely, both had occurred.

I’m a people watcher by nature, but I become even more so when I’m in a healthcare environment. For more than 25 years I worked in healthcare and that has made me overly sensitive to staff that isn’t professional. In fact, I was at this very clinic because the first ophthalmologist I saw had a staff that interacted playfully with one another but very little with their patients. The physician was rushed into each room by staff and it felt somewhat like I was on an assembly line. After three visits, I determined to find a better fit. This was my eyesight we were dealing with and I needed the utmost confidence in every player involved with my care.

Did you know that over 90% of communication is considered non-verbal? What a person “hears” involves body language, tonality, and attitude. When I began teaching communication techniques in 1984, Dr. Herbert Benson, a cardiologist and founder of the Mind/Body Medical Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, graded it as over 90% even then. That old adage of “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care” is sound advice.

I left the clinic grateful to have found a physician and staff that care about how they represent themselves to patients.  That lets me and the others I watched in that waiting room relax into their care. We can come with confidence that highly skilled people are taking care of us and that goes a long way in how well we deal with our particular healthcare situations.

What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say. –Ralph Waldo Emerson

A Nation Under God

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This past Election Day, many evangelicals believed that God’s man for this hour in our nation was elected. The numbers keepers tell us 81% of the evangelical vote went for Donald Trump. I am one of those evangelicals.

Conservatives believe that a school day opened with prayer and the pledge to allegiance is a good thing. We see it as putting God first, where He deserves to be. We believe our flag is to be honored and lifted high in respect and gratitude for those who have bravely fought for our freedom. We believe that our nation must come first as we work cooperatively with other nations.

george-washington-kneeling-in-prayer2President George Washington said “It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible.” That belief was still held when Abraham Lincoln said “Unless the great God who assisted (Washington) shall be with me and aid me, I must fail; but if the same Omniscient Mind and Mighty Arm that directed and protected him shall guide and support me, I shall not fail . . . Let us all pray that the God of our fathers may not forsake us now.” No one said it more clearly than President Ronald Reagan when he said “If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a nation gone under.”

A friend called the day after the election and said she imagined I was very happy at the election’s outcome. I replied that what I felt most was relieved; relieved that God was giving us another chance to come back to Him. This mission of many to put God completely out of every public venue is misguided. Every faith is honored and given room today but the faith of Christianity. This is wrong and God will not be mocked. Want some proof of that? Read the stories in the Old Testament of those who did it their way rather than God’s way and see what they went through.

Why would God pick Donald Trump to use? Someone who sometimes speaks crudely and bombastically? I can’t answer that any more than I can explain why God used a drunk (Noah) to build an ark to save humanity. Nor why He used a murderer (Moses) to lead the people of Israel out of bondage. God turned Saul of Tarsus from a man who strongly supported the execution of Christians into Paul, a great missionary and builder of New Testament churches. Maybe God chooses the unlikely to show His great power over all, to demonstrate that the impossible with man is opportunity with God. I can’t explain God’s choices but I can line up and respect them. If I cast my vote incorrectly, time will soon tell. And if I made the right choice, it will be an exciting time for America as we watch God shape and use President-Elect Donald Trump.

“The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation. Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance.” Psalm 33:11-12 (NAS).

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