Monday, January 10, 2011

Hank, tell me now, why do you blog?

For years, I've written anecdotes in journals, mostly reactions to current events and reactions to passages I read. The earliest event I remember recording in my grade school diary was the assassination of Dr.Martin Luther King. More recently, I wrote about 9-11 and Obama's election. It's kinda old-fashioned now, but I still write letters - Christmas family newsletters and letters intended to encourage.  Lately, most of my writing has religious overtones - maybe I'm just trying to be more aware of God's handiwork.

Occasionally I attach some of my ramblings and send out in emails to friends and family.  The reply from one particular friend stuck with me - "You should write a blog."

Thanks, Carolyn Lease.  I'm writing a blog.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Deep Thoughts

What do you think about when you attend a funeral?

Sadness? Loneliness? Guilt? Relief? Memories of good times spent with your departed loved one? God? Questions about after death?

Dallas – Ft. Worth National Cemetery hosted various groups of people today gathered to honor ones who recently passed. Under a bright blue sky, under a brilliant glare of sun, under the canopy of a stone pavilion we listened to Taps, to scripture, to words from a daughter describing a man we all knew from our own personal contexts.

I was thinking about confirmation of my faith. Random phrases from The Apostles’ Creed kept running through my head. I have recited the words countless times in church with no real meaning attached. Today I said it in my heart and understood. I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth – how could one not believe when you view the surrounding sights? And in Jesus Christ his only son our Lord – who is our model for love and compassion; the communion of saints – our loved ones who have passed on before us are in the presence of God and joining his will for us to follow our given paths; the forgiveness of sins – we all are given the gift of grace; and the life everlasting – our spirits do not end. Amen.

Seasons of Life

To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven. A time to be born, a time to die…a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance… Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

This was a week to experience both joy and sorrow.

We had Mike Hyde’s memorial service on Wed., supporting each other with happy memories and wondering about possible regrets – what would he have done differently with his life if he had a do over? What should I do differently with the rest of my life?
This is a link to the Rev. Billy Graham's comments on "do overs".

Saturday night was an exuberant gathering in The Back Porch party room to celebrate James Wilkinson turning 50. We laughed and cheered to his smooth moves and his funny gifts. While watching him dance with his mother, Peggy & I committed our hopes to live to dance with our sons on their 50th birthdays. My own desires for chair dancing were curbed by the unexpected event of spraining my foot earlier in the day while coaching at a math competition. Math is such a dangerous sport! I partied mostly from a seat at a table with my foot propped up in a chair while admiring the women who could participate in the world while wearing spiked high heels – ah, their glamor is my fantasy but really not me.


Jan. 2011

I love finding attractive cards and gifts at after Christmas sales. Buying my cards at the local Hallmark store last year was a traditional shopping event. Being a child of the 60’s and a young woman of the 70’s explains why I was drawn to the boxes with the dove of peace and the Beatles’ quote, “Let it be”. Opening the packed up holiday decorations gives me a pleasant surprise when I see “the stuff” I had bought a year earlier to prepare for the next season.

We are now in the season of Epiphany –here are notes of explanation from Wikipedia:

• Epiphany (holiday), a Christian holiday on January 6 celebrating the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus

• Epiphany (feeling), a sudden realization of great truth

- I was blessed with a little glimpse of God’s personal message. How does God “speak” to us? I’ve written about this before and find if often in my thoughts. One of the precious pastors at my church says that He repeats himself and keeps nagging us until we finally “get it”. We find these messages of truth through The Bible, through other people, through reading books, through music, through art, and through Christmas cards?!

In the last year I have been involved in several service opportunities through the church that lead me to get to know an incredible woman who has graciously opened up her heart to share her wealth of experiences with me. Along with sharing daily life concerns, she also gives me books to read. The one she shared in December was Showing Mary by Renita J. Weems, sending me off as we said goodbye from Starbucks’ parking lot with the encouraging words, “You will get it.” Oh my – I read the story of Mary from Luke 1 with brand new understanding. In Luke 1:38 Mary says to the angel Gabriel “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” In Renita’s Chapter 1 she expounds on Mary’s willingness to serve God and paraphrases her words to say “Let it be.” This a quote from Showing Mary that speaks to me: How many times have we said no, wanted to say no, came close to saying no, did say no to an invitation based solely on the fact that we didn’t want to be inconvenienced, ridiculed, or burdened?...Every time you resist God’s invitation to do something new, you miss God’s opportunity to be renewed. Reading this book gave me an epiphany – I realized the message of the Beatle’s song that I sang along to for so many years – Mother Mary comes to me speaking words of wisdom, “Let it be.”

I told Darrell my story of how “Let it Be” had become a spiritual message for me to continue to be open to experiences that God brings to me and to not shy away from fear of too much involvement or fear of critical judgments. Guess what?! He had been given this same theme as a personal spiritual message. One of his closest friends passed away in December and he had worried about how to let his friend go and how much to get personally involved in his family affairs – the message he was given was “Let it be.”

Let us celebrate Epiphany and resolve to answer God’s personal call by reciting Mary’s words of wisdom, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be to me as you say.”

Christmas Letter

December 2010

We are “recognizing the grace that has been given to us.” Galatians 2:9

Darrell and I have a good life - we are blessed and we are thankful. In retirement, Darrell is active in supplying adapted bicycles to people with disabilities through the local AMBUCS organization, golfing, hunting, taking care of his mother and taking care of me. Nearing retirement, I am trying to maintain my stamina to spend my days with 13 year olds teaching math while also finding my energy by service in the community. Along with Darrell, I volunteer at city events through the Sister-City Committee to provide support for the girls’ home in Grapevine’s connection with Paras, Mexico. Last weekend we had the pleasure of running the hot chocolate concession at the Polar Express activities – what joy to see & talk to all the families with young children wearing their jammies acting out one of their favorite books! I have also found a calling to serve in my church through the Stephens Ministry and Project Read. What we find through experiencing these events is blessing beyond our expectations – every time!

As you can probably tell as you “read between the lines”, we love living in Grapevine. There are lots of fun activities such as Grapefest, Main St. Days, Friday night fireworks through the summer, the vintage train, the farmers market, the flea market, the historic district, the botanical gardens, the lake…but what we like best is the spirit of the people. People here always seem to be doing something to help others when there is a need. We are repeatedly witnesses to acts of kindness and generosity.

Although we are completely content at home, we do love to travel whenever we can. Our top two destinations are Austin TX (home of Jonathan & Erica) and Carbondale/Redstone CO (home of Travis & Chelsea). Our summer trip to CO this year included a tour of beautiful places in Utah – Arches National Park, Monument Valley, Glen Canyon National Park and a houseboat weekend on Lake Powell. Darrell makes lots of trips to “The Ranch” in Throckmorton TX which has been in his family for nearly 100 years and I go, too, a couple times a year for some campfire comfort.

Fun is always found in supporting our sports teams - go Mavericks! When one is down (Dallas Cowboys, Longhorn football), another gives us surprises (TX Rangers, TCU Horn Frogs)!

We send you our love. We are blessed to have you in our circle of family and friends.

Memories of Uncle Robert

I’m sure I saw him sometime or other at Mamaw & Papaw’s house in my early years but my first vivid memory of Uncle Robert was from a road trip to Birmingham AL. My mom & dad drove the miles with Mamaw, Papaw, me and Gail. We stayed at their pretty white brick house and they had an ice cream party for all the children neighbors to come over and play with their nieces. One night they took us out to dinner at an Asian restaurant and they served us there by spinning a bowl upside down on a plate. I think that was the one and only time in his life that Pack Fisher ate Japanese food.

Later when I was in high school, Gail and I took a trip by ourselves to visit Robert and Patty in Chicago. We flew from Love Field to O’Hare. Dinner at their home was served on individual small plates rather than the family style that we were accustomed to at our house. While they were at work we amused ourselves at their house & then caught the train into the city from Clarendon Hills. Aunt Patty met us at the station in Chicago & took us to meet the people she worked with in a lab of a hospital. We went to Marshall Fields, her favorite department store and up to the observation deck of the John Hancock building. I have had episodes in my life that disagreed with being high above the earth – this was one of those times. Felt really queasy…Uncle Robert joined up with us for dinner at a restaurant called The Magic Pan which specialized in crepes. Although I’m sure it was a fine place – the top floor of a skyscraper had left me with no appetite. (I’ve been back to the Hancock top floors twice since then; both times with Jonathan & Erica – no problems – even had the brunch.) During this visit, they made sure again to give us time with kids our own age. Some of their friends had teenagers and a pool and we went to their house one afternoon. We went to church with them and Sunday brunch at the Marshall Field’s nearest to their neighborhood. Aunt Patty let us taste her champagne. Altogether they were wonderful hosts!

In 1986 Darrell & the boys & I were living in Greencastle Indiana for Darrell’s job assignment with IBM. My mom & dad were coming to spend some time with us around Easter and we invited Robert & Patty to join us for the weekend. Travis was a baby & Jonathan was a first grader & they entertained everyone. I remember going to church together. We were members there at First Presbyterian.

After we moved back to the dfw area in Texas we would see them when they came on TX visits and would keep in touch by phone and holiday cards. I remember one phone conversation with him during his time of living on his own after Patty passed away. I have been a longtime admirer of former president Jimmy Carter. I mentioned to Uncle Robert that he and Carter shared the same birth year and our conversation went suddenly silent – then he gathered his words to go on a little rant about how Carter’s policies had nearly ruined the steel industry during the 70’s. Ok - I learned to avoid topics that might incite political opinions.

When he moved to TX to go to an assisted living facility, he came to our house for Thanksgiving. He was very quiet and somewhat confused about the people and his surroundings. At that time, he wasn’t the same man I had known.

All in all, the pastor who led his memorial service gave an accurate description of his personality and character – loyal, frugal, responsible, and cooperative. I wanted to say something about love, but I was too emotional at the time to speak out. I know he must have been a loving husband because Aunt Patty always so adored him. She would make comments like, “Isn’t Bob cute? Isn’t Bob smart? Isn’t Bob funny?” He was so conservative and reserved and she was so not; they were an odd couple but obviously in love with each other. They were good role models to me of love in marriage. I know he must have been devastated when he lost her to breast cancer. He lived on bravely for many years alone but I know he must have had some deep sadness and loneliness. It is comforting to know they have been reunited in heaven where pain and sorrow ends.

Son of a friend in the NFL

Hello Anthony,

Was this letter stacked up with all your other fan mail? Requests for autographs? We want you to know we are so proud of you for attaining this goal of playing in the NFL. Your family and friends must be sharing in your happiness – your father would have been elated! We have commented so many times recently that Tom would have been so conflicted over your recent events because, like us, he was a committed Dallas Cowboys fan and a Redskins hater – did you know he used to call them “The Deadskins”? We also know that he would be delighting in telling everyone, “That’s my son!”

When we watched you play for the Desperados we happened to be sitting directly in front of the opponents’ owner, Ron Jaworski. We had never liked him in his playing years because the Eagles had always been a big Cowboys rival – but we chatted a lot during the game, admired his Super Bowl ring and actually started liking the man. He said to tell you that you had great potential – He knew something was special about you back then!

During preseason we read postings on the Redskins website – a writer there described you as hard working and humble. Those are great character traits to always carry with you. Remember to also carry the traits from your father that we’ve mentioned before, his positive attitude and his generosity. When he passed away, we kept his last voice mail message on our answering machine until that machine stopped working because they were encouraging words. He said, “Hello Greens. This is Armstrong. Tell me something good!”

We will enjoy watching you play. Although we can never cheer for the “Deadskins”, we will always cheer for you! Go Cowboys!

Peace, Love and Blessings,

Susan and Darrell Green (ironic that a famous Wash. Player has the same name!)

The Well Again Sept. 2010

Attended “The Well” tonight with 4 sweet guests: Lori Bland, Karin Stateler, Heather Foote and Kaylan Locker. Diverse age groups were covered in our friendships – 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. Saw 2 surprise friends there – Pam Jones and Debbie Weidenhamer – unexpected treat and a reminder to give them blessings for being such special people. What a refreshment to listen to Cindy Ryan speak from her heart and her experiences. I need to write so I will remember…

1. God loves us - personally, intensely, like a parent loves a child; this love never goes away

2. Be still and God will find me – take time out from busyness and distractions; don’t rush; wait for God’s timing and direction

3. “Follow me.” – Jesus Just follow Christ. How will I know what to do and where to go? I will know; his message will be repeated to me through his word, through sermons and readings, through other people

4. God will provide – I don’t need to worry about how I will do what tasks he sets before me – he will provide what is needed; always has, always will

Good to know; good to be reminded.

Ordered the book, The Sacred Echo, as an e-book for my iPhone. We’ll see what happens next.

Aug. 2010 Reflections on the Summer

This has been a hot, happy summer. Our 3 ½ week vacation trip through TX, NM, CO, UT and AZ (added to our lazy days at home in Grapevine) was a wonder of sights, sounds, relaxing with family and friends and meeting some interesting new people along the way. Sights = animals in the wild – bear, elk, deer, pronghorns. Sounds = live music performances by Hayes Carl, Bowling for Soup, Tejas Brothers, Monte Montgomery, Michael Martin Murphy and Bill Hearne. Sights = snow topped mountains, waterfalls, views from the Continental Divide, rock formations at Arches National Park UT, Monument Valley AZ, Valley of the Gods UT and Natural Bridge National Monument UT, canyons and cliffs at Lake Powell UT, stars and planets over the sky at the lake, rivers rushing over rocks. Sights = Native American art and jewelry, paintings of Georgia O’Keefe, adobe churches where worship has continued for over 400 years.

While moving through our daily life at home we both spent time doing our small parts for local charities. Darrell kept up with orders of Amtrikes (adaptive bicycles for special needs children) and fundraising for his chapter of Ambucs. One outreach program at our church is Project Read where we provide books for families who come to the locations that provide free lunches for children during the summer. I worked with a group who gave out books at the GRACE/Scribner location each week. Through this project, God let me see his work in a very personal way. One of the moms that I had come to know as a “regular” came to me on one very windless 100+ temperature day and asked if I could help her get an air conditioner. I was surprised and was thinking “no way I can do this!“, but I had her write down all her contact information and told her I would see what I could do. In my vague memory I pictured an air conditioner that we once had at Darrell’s hunting cabin – what became of that unit? I stopped by the church office & left a note with the secretary asking for help for an air conditioner for this family & she said she would pass it on to one of the pastors. When I got home that afternoon I questioned Darrell about that AC from his cabin & he said that he had given it to his friend Curt several years ago to put into his garage/workshop. Later that evening we were settled in watching TV and Darrell had a phone call from Curt. He was calling to ask us what we wanted to do with the AC we had given him because he had bought a new larger unit. Well, we knew exactly what we were supposed to do with it! God surely has a plan to take care of all of us! So he delivered the AC to us & we delivered it to the woman with the request. I saw her again last week and she was so thankful that her children now had a cool place to sleep. That was one of the best events of the summer.

How to Hear God Speaking to You

My church has a women’s program called “The Well”. It is a quarterly dinner with a program of some type of spiritual focus. I went as a new member guest several months ago. It was OK, but a little too rah-rah cheerleader type meeting – that’s not my personal style. This time the speaker was our associate pastor, a woman who I admire for her humor, grounding in reality and wisdom about spiritual concepts. I knew from listening to her preach and reading her free lance columns in the local newspaper that I could trust her program to be inspiring so I decided to go & invite a few friends. I just threw out an email invitation and was surprised that so many said yes. I brought 2 tables of people and prayed that I would not regret dragging them with me. Actually they all came with enthusiasm while I was the one who was skeptical. This is the scripture that I found to send to Cindy, our pastor, in my thank you note to her. Philemon 1:7 "...the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you." Not meaning that I consider my friends and myself to be saints - you understand.

One thing that really stuck with me from her “talk” was her explanation of how you discern God speaking to you - repetition of a theme. Oh, so that's it! I'm a fairly smart person and I try to listen to God but I never thought of myself as a slow learner who needs a lot of repetition for understanding to sink in...I started to think about observation, awareness and here's my short story. I had recently read a book, Speaking the Truth in Love, and was superficially impressed with a chapter about showing appreciation. Then in the next few days, the principal of my school sent out an email about a change in the school schedule one day to teach a lesson to middle schoolers about gratitude. Well, I was not thrilled to have that unexpected responsibility thrown at me - can't I just teach them about math like I was hired to do? And then when the copies of little gratitude feathers showed up in my mailroom box and they looked like little penises I knew I really could not in good faith hand those out to 8th graders. I am balking at this noble idea! Then I came to The Well and heard the singer presenting this concept of gratitude - enough already? Then Cindy told the story about her Mamaw holding her face and telling her that she that she was “rich,rich,rich” in love from her family, friends and God’s blessings. I went home to find my husband asleep in his chair with a football game going on in background of his dreams. Since he was not in the mood for a conversation, I opened my computer to email & Facebook. He had sent me an email while I was gone with a clip from the old Dean Martin TV show. Guess what I saw - John Wayne saying that what he wanted for his daughter was for her to be grateful, to learn The Lord's Prayer and the Psalms. Ok, God, it took awhile, but I do now get your message. I need to show gratitude. BTW, when I left school yesterday, I stopped by my principal's office to share this story & guess what she was doing? Changing the little penis designs to cutouts that really looked like feathers and stewing over how to gracefully do a penis recall on Monday without offending the original designer. I was so appreciative!

Also my friends who came were all touched in specific, personal ways - you wouldn't believe the wisdom they were posting & sharing on Facebook! One is only 29 yrs. old & when the topic of Cindy’s message turned to Aging, I turned to her and said to be patient & bear with us older ones - she said that this was the exact topic she needed because of her upcoming 30th birthday and her worries of what she is expected to do with her life. Another told me about her worries about her changing relationship with her aging mother. And so on, and so on. We all agreed that we had received an "emotional massage" at the Thurs. meeting. I was glad to share those hours with a few good friends and a whole room of other women receiving words of truth and encouragement.

So if you’re ever wondering how to know what God is personally saying to you, be observant; make yourself aware of repetitive themes that keep coming up in your every day life – sooner or later you will get it!

God Cares About Details of Our Lives

(this was written in Aug. 2009)

This summer I did a book study/Bible study with several teacher friends, He Still Moves Stones by Max Lucado. My favorite chapter was about Jesus’ first miracle. Strangely, He didn’t start out with raising people from the dead or giving sight to the blind, choosing rather to simply help out a friend who was in a bind. To save a friend from the embarrassment of running out of wine at his wedding, Jesus rescued him by changing water into wine – not just any wine – the finest wine. The message of that chapter was that He will do the same for us today. We don’t have to limit our prayers to grand events like wiping out disease or achieving peace between warring nations. It’s ok to make requests for our own personal needs – great or small.

Sunday afternoon it was time to say goodbye to a wonderful weekend in Chicago spent with Darrell, Jonathan & Erica. It was also time to say goodbye to a wonderful summer and get my butt back home to return to the teacher start of school the next day. Darrell, Jonathan & Erica were driving back to Springfield after they dropped me off at the airport. As we neared O’Hare it was just starting to rain – perfect timing – no rain on our baseball game at Wrigley Field, no rain on our viewing of the Air Show or the fireworks, no rain on our boat tour & walks through the city. As I waited at my gate for the plane, the rain turned into a pounding storm & my flight was delayed. A little nagging thought was “Will I make my connection?” There came a dreaded announcement that my flight was canceled and all other flights to my destination were oversold. “Call our 800# and see what they can do to help you rebook your travel plans.” Eek, my nagging thoughts changed to momentary panic. I was by myself looking at spending the night at the airport. No, no, no! My first call gave me all the times for flights the next morning and I was telling the lady how that would not do because I had to be back at work at 7:45 am – how silly, like that would change a schedule for American Airlines, what was I thinking?

Then I started praying & it was not even a nice prayer – more like, “Please God Get Me out of O’Hare and Back Home Soon!” Guess what He did! My next call was answered by a lady who said she could help me. She told me to start walking down the terminal to a certain gate number and she would have me on the list by the time I got there for a direct flight out to DFW leaving in a half hour. I had not even given her my name & I asked her if she needed more information (I’m a doubter) and she said she had all my info in front of her. I asked if I needed her to stay on the phone with me (I’m still a doubter) & she said no just hang up and walk on. When I got to the gate where she had sent me there were lots of people waiting in line & some were shouting their complaints. While I waited in line I watched the list of names scrolling on the screen for the 52 people who were on standby. (I’m even more of a doubter now.) When I had my turn to talk to an agent I gave her my old boarding pass & told her I was sent there. She punched a few keys on her computer and a new boarding pass was in my hand for a direct flight to DFW that was scheduled to put me home 2 hours before my original flight with a connection. Remember the old Monkees song, Now I’m A Believer? God worked a small miracle for me & I am so grateful. I just had to pass on this wonderful story – what a blessing to be helped out of a bind!