Saturday, December 31, 2011

Holding to the High Ideal

My mother, a college educated performing artist, had vicarious ambitions for me. Her own dreams had been dashed when, with her new city-born husband, was forced back to the farm from which she had fled years before. Her father died, leaving her widowed mother to manage land and animals alone, which she could not do. From that time on, my mother's
only "performance" was for the funerals of the dying.
Mother had me performing on stage as a singer from the time I was three years old. To this day I am as at home in front of a crowd of people as I am in my own living room, hosting a few. My mother fled from Christ (or perhaps from the legalism of her father's mission church) as a young woman, then married my Irish, fun-loving, dancing, but spiritually lost father. My grandfather and grandmother must have been disappointed in my mother's choice of a charming, but lost husband. Years later, when I was nineteen, it had to have been my grandmother's prayers that opened my heart to Jesus, five years after her death. It wasn't that hard to influence my beloved boyfriend Ted to receive Christ and serve him. (Never underestimate the influence of a determined woman!) Once more my mother was disappointed for she could not see how her ambitions for my musical success could ever be realized if we went into Christian work. ...and Dad? He was worried, wondering how we could financially exist on a preacher's salary. Well, it wasn't easy!
I have not yet met my Kentucky-born grandfather who was known to all as "Colonel Blair", a man greatly respected for his integrity as a Christian man. Widowed himself by the death of his wife in childbirth, he migrated to Kansas with the son she left him, broke the ground on 160 acres of hard Kansas gumbo-land, taught school and established a Methodist mission. My grandfather was a pioneer. (Never try to make a "pioneer" out of a "settler". A settler won't budge!) I am a pioneer. So was Ted. After launching individuals and groups in scripture and being reasonably sure they are recycling what they have learned, both of us are wired to note the new people God brings into our lives and we start over. We had discovered early on that every human being is born cursed by a God-shaped vacuum that only God Himself can fill. Satan comes down the birth canal with each person, whispering: "If there is a God, He doesn't love YOU!" We concluded: "Every follower of Christ has a clearly defined job description: Influence all He brings your way by His unconditional love, showing them that Satan is a liar!"
When in their 70's, Ted and I moved my parents from their Kansas farm to Palo Alto, California, where we were blessed to be in ministry with Ray and Elaine Stedman. My mother was giddy, for at last she was freed from the hard, never-ending dirty work of the farm she had hated all her life. Both of my parents came to know Christ because of the powerful Christ-love displayed to them through the extraordinary believers in Peninsula Bible Church. ...and because of Jesus Who lived and lives in our home.
In Heaven, along with my grandparents, husband Ted, son Doug (Boy! It's been brutally hard to let them both go within a year of each other!) and countless others, perhaps they are waiting for the rest in our family at the Heavenly Gate. ...but it's apparently not time for me to "leave the farm". My "crowds" now number six or maybe ten at a time, but this I have learned: A musician, teacher or conveyor of Truth must not be preoccupied by the size, approval or disapproval of the audience but must seek the approval of only One: Our Master.
All the way my Savior leads me; what have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy, Who through life has been my Guide?
Heavenly peace, divinest comfort, here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate'er befall me, JESUS DOETH ALL THINGS WELL.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas present

Christmases past float through my mind, many of them frantic as I juggled co-partnering several pastorates, directing all the music that makes church and radio broadcasts joyous, making sure three generations of Stones and Flynn's (my parents) were equally gifted on Christmas morning, hosting countless lonely people on Christmas afternoon, painfully aware that my own children were annoyed about sharing the day with a crowd. I think now that Doug, in Heaven, is saying, "Finally! I have my dad to myself.!" He used to quip, "Remember how much fun we had before those other kids were born?" ...but he didn't mean it. He loved his little brother Jeff and his sister, Dee Dee. Our first few decades together as family were wonderful! That's where my memory takes me often rather than to recent years.
As Doug grew up he became an enduring man like his dad, his hero. During his wrestling years he competed against other NCAA champions from California to Slippery Rock, Ohio. Now THAT sport nearly did me in as I watched my firstborn's eyes bulge out, his face turn beet red and every muscle in his body threaten to burst. ...then he would go in for the kill when his opponent's guard was down. I spent many a match pacing outside the gym, agonizing, while Ted sat on the front row of the bleachers completely calm and confident that his boy would win.
At 17, Ted, without a ripple of worry, sent Doug off on a begged-for motorcycle chopper excursion. ...alone. Doug never told us one detail about that trip, but I suspect he slept alongside tatooed thugs with pistols, and that may be the tamest part of his first and only venture with motorcycle gangs, which had been Ted's calculated reason for letting him go in the first place.
In Texas Doug moved on to ultralights which helped to compensate for living on flat ground. Back in California he graduated to the more dangerous sport of hanggliding over the Sierras. Next came paragliding, swishing over our mountain grasslands by day and by moonlight. Next he entered the world of piloting and he had found his final high danger love. He flew over mountains, ocean, chunks of the United States, back and forth from Tehachapi airport to his work in San Diego every work day for seven years, navigating through and around the L.A. airport corridor. While building mansions in and around San Diego, he paraglided over the ocean off the Torrey Pines bluffs. Over the years, he scaled every mountain that loomed in front of him and in fact, four weeks before he died with cancer, he climbed thousands of feet from our valley floor to his castle/home in the air. He skiied and snowboarded in the High Sierras with his family, water skiied and boarded over every lake within hundreds of miles.
There was another gift God gave this colorful man who was Doug Stone. He was a lover of beauty, and made beauty happen with every home he designed and built, including his own. His watercolor creations were outstanding. His art teacher was so regretful that nothing was said at his Memorial about his artistic giftedness. ...but then there was LOTS not said about Doug Stone at his Memorial. Many did not know him as his family and a few others did. Why am I re-hashing Doug's life on this earth the day before Christmas of 2011? ...because I want to. I need to. If you have read this far, I thank you for indulging me.
Did I fret about Doug? ...every day of his life. I should be so grateful that he is safe in the arms of Jesus and most of the time I am. ...but I miss him so. How could a man like that NOT be missed? He and his dad are celebrating Doug's first and Ted's second Christmas in Heaven with their Eternal Heavenly Father. I am comforted thinking about that.
Tomorrow, Christmas Day, I will be with Dee, Brent, Lexi and a mother and daughter who are alone. It will be lovely for I have been advanced from making Christmas wonderful for everyone else to enjoying it myself!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

One in Purpose

Sixty-two years ago today, two 21-year-old kids from Kansas walked down the aisle of Edina, Minnesota Covenant Church and became one in flesh and one-in-purpose forever. Our decision to serve Christ had already cost us both of our birth families who were not then able to understand the depth of meaning to the words of Christ to Nicodemus in John 3: "You must be born again." ... then began a 60-year adventure together that continues to unfold for me without my partner who is with his Bridegroom in Heaven.
Ted Stone was a visionary. Years ago, sons Jeff and Doug bought a little stick figure in a sports store with a football tucked under his left arm, right arm extended out front and both legs pumping toward the goal line.
Our sons replaced the football with a Bible. That was Ted. ...For six decades. I huffed and puffed alongside him, trying to keep up, filling in the blanks that all visionaries seem never to anticipate. Since Ted has been in Heaven, I have been handed the gift of settling into my own stride.
Wednesday was my 83rd birthday. My Jesus and I were starting out our day together as usual in His Word, when this came to me from His Spirit: "Your grandson, Luke, is a re-run of Ted in personality: gentle, kind, persevering, hard working; all at a measured, steady gait." That was my first birthday gift that day.
Then came the next: At noon, a most unusual assortment of women who have been studying with me in Philippians, gathered for an elegant Italian birthday luncheon at Pam's beautiful home. I was so humbled by the honoring. We had an hilarious time. You will meet them all in Heaven.
The day ended with dinner at daughter Dee's home with grandson Luke. I asked him for five minutes alone with him and there I gave him the staggering newsflash I had received early that morning: "Lukie, you are so very like your grandfather Ted in personality." "Really, Grandma?" "Yes, Luke, what an amazing future you have been handed". The nineteen-year-old is probably still traumatized, wondering how he will ever fill those big shoes of the grandpa he loved. He will. He will. .. . in his God-ordained, unique way.
Then came the final gift of the day: a call from son Jeff in Sacramento. "Mom, last night I told my students at William Jessup University, 'Tomorrow my mother will be 83. The next day she will teach teenagers in the Book of John.' They burst out laughing, Mom. Do you know how unusual you are?" "No, I don't", I replied. "I don't hang out with 83-year olds so I don't get what you are saying at all." ...then Jeff said this and I am somewhat hesitant to tell you, "Mom, I am so proud of you. We finished our class with your life verse: 'Even when I am old and gray do not forsake me, O God 'till I declare your power to the next generation; your might to all who are to come.'" (Psalm 71:18) ...and THAT, dear friends, was the icing on my birthday cake.
How long do I have to bring the Word of God to the next generations before I join my Ted and my son, Doug whose sudden homegoing stunned us all last May? I do not know, but when you hear that I have been gathered Home to my Father, rejoice.
...and now I will give in to the anniversary tears that are pressing against my eyelids.

Monday, December 12, 2011


I am fighting enemies on several fronts,knowing full well that I can't whip 'em alone. Several of us are winding up a study on Philippians this week. Let me take you with us to Chapter 4, verse 8. Why? Because in my natural flesh I can't THINK ON THESE THINGS and maybe you need encouragement in doing that as well.
Paul has just given us the formula in verses 4-7 for not being anxious about ANYthing, but in EVERYthing, by prayer with THANKSGIVING, presenting our requests to God, promising that PEACE will follow and our hearts will be GUARDED. Then he says, "Finally, brothers, whatever is...." and here I will break off to say that this list must be set to memory for 1)our flesh would rather lick our wounds than recognize God's activity in our lives. 2) Satan is fighting visciously to keep us from having a grateful heart in the midst of our losses. Let me write the powerful positives God through Paul tells us to THINK on and give you opportunity to ask yourself if you are drawing on the power of God to THINK ON THESE THINGS.
1)What is TRUE? This requires discerning Satan's lies. _________________________________________________________________________
2) What is NOBLE (splendid)?_____________________________________________
3) What is RIGHT? We are being trained to discern between right and wrong. (Hebrews 5:14)______________________________________________________
4)What is PURE? Nothing? You are right. ...except Jesus. Are you fixing your eyes on only Him? ______________________________________________
5)What is LOVELY in your life? _________________________________________
6)What is ADMIRABLE (excellent, praiseworthy)? _______________________________________________________________________

Did I mention that it takes DISCIPLINING our minds in order to "count everything loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord"? Ted used to sing this little key, of course, but I loved it!
Don't forget to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
And don't mess with Mr. in between (whatever in the world THAT meant.)
That's my "hymn" for the week.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Grace that is Greater than All Our Sin


I have had my daily cry, holding Ted’s picture, looking into his warm, loving eyes, and kissing him. Silly, you say?

I cry a lot over many things. As I left the teenagers last night (eight or nine of them) after studying John 19, leaving off with the words, “It is finished!”, I cried all the way home. I cannot fathom, after all these many years of knowing Him, that He willingly gave His life that I might never die. After I have my grieving cry each day over Ted’s not being here with me, the Spirit transports me sometimes into a glimpse of Heaven and I rejoice that Ted is there, and not here on this Satan-saturated Planet. Several times, over Thanksgiving, son Jeff breathed the words, “Dad’s was a life well lived!” Oh, how true. How very true! I look up the hill at my giant oak under which both sons were married and all but one grandchild was dedicated to Christ and now Ted’s headstone and ashes rest, and I choke. There is an enormous buck with gigantic antlers that sometimes is lying on the granite rocks that surround the headstone. I have never seen a more muscular buck in the 26 years we have lived in this haven/home. ...a sign from my Father? Perhaps. He looks straight at me, slowly rising to his feet, taking his time to begin his ascent to higher ground. That was Ted. Slow to speak, seemingly slow to move, unless you looked at the evidence that demands a verdict. many ministries he pioneered, trusting those he discipled to take them to the next level. Many of those he discipled are with Jesus and him in Heaven now, and another he discipled will be gathered into the arms of Jesus very soon and taken there.

Tonight I will play harpsichord and organ for “Messiah”, a two-hour concert that is becoming more challenging for me to play each year. ...but what magnificent music! Surely Handel is in Heaven. Oh, how I hope so. Tomorrow night I play my monthly music at the Apple Shed; Sunday morning, I will help Andy, our dear pastor, close out both services with a congregational hymn which the people seem to welcome, then Sunday afternoon I will speak for a Hospice fund-raiser. That wondrous organization came sweeping in during the last months of Ted’s life here on earth and oh how we needed them for we were growing so tired. We had no idea that Doug was riddled through and through with cancer as he tended to his dad’s needs. Dee was here every day several times, tenderly caring for her Daddy; Brent was here when he could be, weeping as he moved Ted and did the necessary caregiving; Jeff came every other weekend from Sacramento. I don’t know that any of us has recovered, even physically. Doug, in Heaven, gets the best deal. I wonder...Oh, I wonder so much and understand so little.

The Lord sends me a new woman nearly every week to disciple. Most would not fit in a ladie’s church Bible study and I have no explanation for that either. ...but I trust Him, and I love Him, and I don’t want to do anything but serve Him every day of what is left of my life on earth. I will be 83 on December 14. I have a more or less living brother in Kansas who is 92, so don’t plan my memorial service just yet I am so gratefrul for His Great Grace! ...Grace that is greater than all our sin!