Saturday, April 27, 2013

Grace greater than our sin

I don't get David.  Talk about mood swings! If he'd been a woman we could blame it on PMS.  He, like Eli and Samuel before him, was a lousy father. He knew better than to multiply horses, but he sure broke God's rules when it came to women. What a mess he created for himself.  ...and he paid. ...and so did his kids...and grandkids... and the generations after. We always pay when we disobey God.  We who have believed and received God's requirement for payment of our past, present and future sin also know that there are consequences when we "know to do right and don't do it". I love my Reality Wednesday Bible study women. Honesty is a requirement. is repentance. is commitment to love and pray for one another when we know we have messed up. I could
probably take a stab at phoneying perfection.    ...but they all know me too well.

...which reminds me of a joke: It was Sunday morning. An irritated mom went to her son's room and yelled at him: "Get outta bed! You'll be late for church!"  "No,  Mom! Those people don't like me and I don't like them either. why do I have to go?"  Exasperated Mom: "O.K., here are two reasons: You're 47 years old and you're the pastor of the church!"

My kids' dad was the pastor of several churches.  My kids have long since flown the coop: one, as you know, flew all the way to Heaven. Ted and I were twenty-one when we married. Doug was born when we were twenty-two. What were we thinking? That little guy was subjected to our inexperience as people, married people and we certainly knew nothing about parenting.  When Doug was about eleven years old, his daddy was reading him the story of Abraham and Isaac. In a quiet little voice, Doug said, "Daddy, I feel like Isaac." Ted's heart broke. No wonder Doug followed us to Houston, and then to Bear Valley.  In the last several years of both their lives, they shared an office in the hangar they owned together. Doug was still longing to have access to his dad without having to plow through a bunch of people to get to him. He wasn't a whiner. He covered up the pain he was enduring by being the "entertainer" wherever he went.  He screwed up plenty of times. ...just like David and he, like the rest of us,  paid for his wrong choices. Ted's death was terrible for us all, but for Doug? He was with his dad when Ted opened his eyes for the first time in weeks, saw Jesus, took two big breaths and left this earth. Doug wouldn't come to our home after his Dad went to Heaven. ... except for one time. He came through the garage door, walked all the way back to our bedroom where Ted had been confined to a hospital bed for eleven months, and marched back out the door with nary a word spoken. Eleven months later he followed his dad to Heaven.

If I couldn't experience God's grace about all of our screw-ups as parents, I would shoot myself. A few months ago son Jeff asked me what I would do different about my life? I replied: "I would never agree to going into the pastorate. The sacrifice was too great for our marriage and the family". ...then  the next Sunday I ate my words as I sat midst thousands of people from River Lakes Church, the church we pioneered in the 60's and early 70's. One by one, those who came to Christ during our years in that ministry are slipping away into Heaven. On Sundays I attend a class at Bear Valley Church where Ted pastored in the 80's. I look around in wonder at the fruit that continues to ripen and reproduce there.  In October I will return to Texas, our ministry from 1975 to 1984,  and be freshly astonished at the fruit that continues to produce new fruit., if given the choice again, would I willingly go into the ministry? I try in vain to figure it all out. I think David was trying to make sense out of everything that puzzled him as he wrote the Psalms. Now, there's a conundrum for you: a warrior who killed thousands with no conscience and yet wrote and sweetly sang like a little boy.

Last night I played at the Apple Shed. One elderly couple were the only ones having dinner when I started to entertain at 5 P.M.. When I asked them what they would like me to play for them, the gentleman, almost apologetically asked: "Do you know any Christian songs?" I chuckled to myself, and for the next thirty minutes went from old favorite hymns to foot stomping gospel.  I had a wonderful time all evening. The requests ranged from Johnny Cash's "Walk the Line",  to show tunes to, of all things a little boy asking if I knew "Nearer my God to Thee". Like many others in our little community,  this boy is taking violin lessons from Gayel Pitchford, learning to play that old hymn.  Gayel gets her beloved God-music into her students.   I'll wager that hundreds of  Tehachapi string-playing kids know "Amazing Grace". Gayel is a tough but tender Christian woman who came here after retirement as HR head over thousands of people, as well as serving as Captain on a naval ship. She started the Symphony Orchestra and continues to be Concertmaster all these years later. Gayel also plays a mean fiddle, and as I write I am determining to reconnect with Guy, Maria and her and play some old time fiddle ditties. I miss 'em.

Well, I'm done. Two of my Thursday Bible study boys are cutting my grass and yanking out some sprawling bushes for me today.  It's fun having two boys working side by side again, stopping to laugh and talk, which is what they are doing down below my window right now,  and it's fun cooking for two boys with huge appetites. ...for one day, anyway.

Granddaughter Lexi just called to say she will be by soon with her escort for the Senior Prom tonight. She will be drop-dead gorgeous and I will do what I always do: cry after she leaves. She will be a college student in the fall. Heaven will be wonderful for reasons we cannot imagine. ...but one thing we know: Our loved ones will stay put!
                                     HYMN SUNG WHILE THE TITANIC SANK

Nearer my God to Thee, nearer to Thee
E'en though it be a Cross that raiseth me
Still all my song shall be
Nearer, my God, to Thee

Or if on joyful wing, cleaving the sky
Sun, moon and stars forgot
Upward I fly
Still all my song shall be
Nearer, my God, to Thee

Love, Jo

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Gen. 3:16: Pain in childbirth

...and it never ends. Mothers suffer. Because we suffer, we cannot be trusted not to be a pain-in-the-neck to our adult children.  ...but here's the deal: We older mothers can either gut it up and decide to take responsibility for our own happiness or we can put guilt on our adult kids if they dare to enjoy their lives without us. For a year or so after the double whammy of losing Ted and Doug within a year of each other, I needed a great deal of my remaining childrens' emotional support. I discovered that we could not grieve together. I had heard that but had to experience it to believe it. Each of us is grieving the loss of a different relationship. 

Daughter Dee, son-in-law Brent and I just returned from watching Maddie Jane, Doug's 16-year-old, play in a volleyball tournament. Like her dad was, she is an aggressive competitor. Her oldest brother, Lucas, drove down from Sacramento to see her play and Lance, the younger of her two brothers joined him. ...but their daddy wasn't there. He is in Heaven with his dad and they are both with their eternal Dad. This morning, behind my eyelids were tears for all of us, begging to fall down my cheeks, but I knew I dare not let that happen. I came home and bawled my eyes nearly out of their sockets.   It is terrible to lose a husband and the pain of losing a child is indescribable ...even if that "child" was sixty years old. ...and we moms feel the pain for the rest of our family as well. There is only One who suffers more than we do from the death of our loved ones. ...and He comforts us, reassuring us that they are with Him, waiting for the growing circle to reconnect.

Both Ted and Doug were excellent pilots. I wonder if they are zooming around a galaxy today. ...or maybe Doug was watching his little girl knock that volleyball over the net.  Silly thinking, but we women aren't always rational. We are fragile. ...and yet we are tough. We have to be.

The five of us original Stones were tight. Doug was born ten months to the day after Ted and I were married. There were just the three of us for five years before Jeff was born. The circle opened for him and then tightened up again.  ...then Dee was born five years later. The circle opened for her then tightened up and stayed that way for many years. All of our children married later than their dad and I did and that was good. I believe they are all better parents than we were. Now two of our original five are in Heaven and two are left on the ground. I want to be with them all, and I will be. His time.

Ted was an all-around athlete and so were all three of our kids. Their endless competitive games afforded me a built-in job assignment: The kitchen never closed! All in my family were highly motivated; therefore they provided all the entertainment I needed. I miss it all, but I will not be a victim. I want to be sometimes, but I won't be. Either Christ is my all-in-all, or He is nothing-at-all. From the day He announced Himself to me and moved in to take up His residence, no one else was as important. Yes, being a wife and a mother was my most enjoyable and fulfilling calling, but having all of my children come to know that Heaven is their ultimate Home was my goal. That "goal",  praise His Holy Name, is accomplished. why am I still here? I have remaining children and their wonderful spouses. ... I have six grandchildren to pray for and adore. ...and I do. ...and I have teenagers, dads and mothers to teach. ...and I have a book I am writing nearly ready to be published.  ...and I have an enormous extended family that stretches around the world with whom I stay in contact. ...and I have people to disciple, counsel and encourage all around me.  ...and I have this blog to write. ...and I have people to love into the Kingdom. ... and I have music to dabble around in. ...and then there are my cats: Pussn'Boots. ...and there ya' go. I can't do any of it without the power and might of God's Word entering my soul every day. ...and neither can you.

                          How about this old hymn? WHEN WE ALL GET TO HEAVEN

Sing the wondrous love of Jesus; sing His mercy and His grace
In the mansions bright and blessed, He'll prepare for us a place

Onward to the prize before us! Soon His beauty we'll behold.
Soon the pearly gates will open--We shall tread the streets of gold.


Love, Jo

I do so look forward to being able to talk through everything we couldn't talk about on this earth. Both Ted nor Doug were reluctant communicators. ...especially about subjects that might be interpreted as "sharing their feelings". Oh, my goodness, no.  Jeff, being a counselor/professor by trade, is a communicator at all levels, so we can have a to-the-point two-minute conversation at 7:58 A.M. before he has his first client that is very satisfying. He and his sister have a similar arrangement, so we three stay connected and it's a beautiful thing.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The beat goes on

Indulge me, for after all I am still a family woman.  It has been gut-wrenching to let go of my fulfillment as a homemaker. I don't always like where I am in life and wish that my family was, at the end of the day gathered around my dining table. ...but every once in awhile I get a whiff of the high octane life my family lived and conclude that the life I now live is all I can handle.

The last two days have provided me with that "whiff". At 1 A.M. Friday morning, Son #2, Jeff and wife, Carla plus a boyfriend of a granddaughter, blew in from Sacramento for a few hours of sleep, then we loaded up early in the morning and sped to Glendora in Southern California where we picked up Granddaughter #1 who flew in from Sacramento, bought a video camera,  a floral arrangement, food for a reception, jazzy new dress for granddaughter #1,  arriving  in time at Azusa Pacific University to set up the camera, greet friends and settle in for the Senior (solo) Recital of Granddaughter #2, Lauren Elizabeth Stone.

You high level music lovers will appreciate Lauren's choices for her recital.

1)Andre' Messagers' Solo de Concours
2)Bach's Etude Double in D minor
3)Penderecki's Three Miniatures: Allegro, Andante Cantabile and Allegro ma non troppo
4)Three Gershwin Preludes: Allegro ben ritmato e deciso; Andante con moto e poco rubato; Agittato.
5) Brahms' Allegro, Adagio, Andantino grazioso-Trio and another Allegro.

Lauren, my focused, intense,  amazing granddaughter may have inherited my musical genes, but she has opted to pay the price required for gaining the highest honors possible as a musician. Last month she was offered a full scholarship in the Masters music program from Azusa. Now here's the knock- your- socks -off decision she made:  She turned it down! On the 29th of this month she will begin serving as the Director of AmeriCorps in Salt Lake City. (Look it up on the web if you want.) For years, we have observed this girl/woman reaching out to serve people who do not have shelter, food or health care. I am so overwhelmed with what I believe is Godly pride (...but who can know these things for sure?) for this granddaughter.

Another joy gift last night and this morning was this: Our dear Jesus Movement kids of the past, now pastor and wife of the Church of the Open Door in Glendora,  Ed and Judy Underwood, joined us for Lauren's recital and dinner. In the 70's they came to Christ along with throngs of other teenagers when Ted pastored Fruitvale/River Lakes Church in Bakersfield. Ted married these two, then Ed joined our two sons in the Forest Service in the High Sierras. They separated for college;  Ed served in the military in Germany, entered and graduated from  Dallas Seminary, joined us in ministry when we were in Houston, then pastored a couple of churches before accepting the challenging pastorate of Church of the Open Door, the church pastored by Talbot, Torrey and McGee that started Biola University and Talbot Seminary. Ed and Judy have been there sixteen years. I am so proud of them. This morning at breakfast it was delightful to listen to Ed and my Jeff go after God-subjects. Both are scholars, but more importantly they are bonded brothers-in-Christ.

Last night after dinner in a noisy restaurant,  I was delighted to escape with Ed and Judy to quietness and bed at their home while the celebrators documented the end of an era for Lauren.  This morning, Jeff, Carla and one of the boyfriends, Burke, drove me home, and Dee and Brent came down from the top of the mountain where they live to laugh and be family around my dining table for a half hour or so. Now they are all gone and I want to just lie down and die. ...but I won't. Being a victim in this family is not cool. They just might throw me in a rest home and to me, that would be a fate worse than anything I can think of. ... unless I develop dementia or Alzheimers and don't have a clue where I am...

Now what's ahead for me after I allow myself an hour or so of feeling sorry for myself, feast upon the shrimp I defrosted (the ones my cats didn't sneak out of the sink),  bask in the memory of a day and a half with the next and the next generation of my family and rejoice, knowing that they walk with Jesus and that one day we will all be together at His Banquet Table that will stretch for a bazillion miles into Infinity. ...then I will get some sleep in my cozy bed and tomorrow, enjoy Mike Loehrer's Sunday School class at the church Ted and I pioneered nearly thirty years ago. I can almost sense my Ted standing in the shadows.

I am so glad to have this blog to write. I needed to be doing something productive lest I let my bloomin' feelings take over!

                                                OLD  HYMN TIME: HIS WAY WITH THEE

Would you live for Jesus, and be always pure and good?
Would you walk with Him within the narrow road?
Would you have Him hear your burden, carry all your load
Let Him have His way with thee.



Saturday, April 6, 2013

How did we get here?

Question: How did our nation arrive at the same place as Israel did in the last chapter of Judges? "In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes." Judges 21:2.

Answer: We arrived here in the same way every nation arrives here:  First comes religious apostasy in the church; then moral awfulness in the home, and finally political anarchy in the state.

At this point, in Israel, the people cried out for a king to bring some order into the chaos created when everyone did what was "right in his own eyes". God gave them a king, but "sent leanness to their souls".

You know where our world is headed. ...for the anti-Christ who will fool many by presenting himself as the one who can bring order out of the chaos created by man who is "doing that which is right in his own eyes".  Is the anti-Christ on the planet now?  I don't know. All I do know is that I am one mid-80 widow left living in the day of "moral awfulness", heading at breakneck speed into total political anarchy.

The only way the Lord could get Ted and me to Houston, Texas and Bear Valley Springs, California was by way of a pastorate. Around us in both places was "moral awfulness". The leadership in both churches was burdened about other matters; so the Lord rather abruptly escorted us out of both churches and we went to work fighting for marriages and families.

We received many couples over the next years into our hearts and into our home. Not many marriages bit the dust, but a few were beyond repair. I still hurt over the ones who separated, leaving their children to repeat the pattern set by their parents: giving up on marriage all together; becoming  a homosexual; cohabiting without that "silly piece of paper", or worse yet, marrying with the back-up plan of acceptable divorce if the marriage ran into trouble.

Since Ted is in Heaven, the burden my Lord has given me is at the level of prevention rather than repair. For this reason, He sends me teenagers who have not yet married, some of whom are already sexually involved because they honestly do not know that there is any other way to have a relationship than by way of sex.  Most of their parents have been married several times and are now sleeping with someone they probably won't marry. the bedroom right next to theirs. How is a teenager supposed to deal with that?

Thursday, God brought teenage boys to my living room for Bible study. All come from a home with a mother and dad. ...a very different gathering than the Tuesday group of mostly girls. In that class, only one has a mother and dad in the home. Both sets of these beautiful teenagers deserve to have clear warning about the "iceberg syndrome".  The iceberg that hit the Titanic was mostly hidden beneath the water line. That is a perfect illustration of the reason marriages fail. The damage that has been done to the souls of young people is hidden beneath the water line. If sex has been the driving force in the relationship, neither the girl nor the boy is aware of the soul damage they have brought on themselves.  If emotional, physical, spiritual or sexual abuse has been hidden, the pain of all of that will surface in marriage.

Soul damage not addressed enough in pre-marriage counseling. That's what this book is addressing: soul damage. My teenage students and my Wednesday class of women are listening as I read what I am writing to them, preparing for publication in book form and on my website. What a welcome help they are. In l975 when I wrote my first book on this subject entitled "Four Ways to Choose a Husband" I did not have access to these teenagers or young mothers.

Writing comes easily, but I must be careful to let Him do the thinking and the writing.  The illustrations come from real life, including Ted's and mine. It took us sixty years for our marriage to become reasonably healthy. When God knew our marriage was as good as it was going to get, He took Ted home and left me here to teach and write about all that we learned about God through our struggles to come to "Oneness" in our marriage.  Had Ted been the one left, he would never have written one word about any of the above. Living and ministering as a godly man was his gift. Do I ever miss my "godly man"! Now Jesus is my teammate at the plow that is breaking ground with teenagers. I love my Teammate. ...but I miss my Ted. ...especially around 5 o'clock and into the evening. You might want to remember that about widows and widowers.

Tonight, I will juice for all its worth a break from the work He has assigned me as I bring a few hours of fun to some couples and families who will come to dine at the Apple Shed restaurant and get me in the bargain at the old piano. I get to pull up out my music box of memories whatever they want me to play for them. Some will remember the song they loved when they were romancing, some will sing, one man may whistle, a few may get up and dance. ...and I will have fun. Ted was so much fun and so was Doug. I know very well that they are having a peck of wonderful fun right now in Heaven.

I must remember to notice spring. In a couple of days the oak trees that surround me will break out into a fresh crop of bright green leaves. The daffodils will bloom all over my hillside, the lilacs will soon follow and the cherry tree will blossom. During all of this display of color, possibly another snowstorm will hit, but our plants and trees up here on this mountain are tough. They will survive.

Am I that hardy? Apparently.  I am so much better at keeping my workaholic personality under God's control than I was. I may be here for some more years. I just don't want my children to have to take care of their remaining parent in a hospital bed. Lord, just take me with the rest of your kids into the cloud, or let me quietly go to sleep.  Please.

But even though I remember to play better than I used to, my bent is to work. ...but I try to remember to "Whistle while I work".

Here's an old hymn for this week: Work for the Night is Coming

Work for the night is coming; work through the morning hours
Work while the dew is sparkling; Work 'mid the springing flowers
Work when the day grows brighter; work in the glowing sun
Work, for the night is coming when man's work is done.

Love, Jo