Friday, May 31, 2013

I have a stack of Ted's devotionals that he wrote when we were in our first pastorate for fifteen years at Fruitvale Community Church in Bakersfield, California.  Now I am finally ready to share with you some of the treasures from the mind and heart of my dear husband who pastored so many. Next week I will begin to include excerpts from his daily writings. Meanwhile, you may listen to Ted's actual voice broadcasting some of his devotionals on or in iTunes. He went Home to Heaven before he could finish broadcasting all he wrote so I will be inserting snippets from the rest of his thoughts in the coming months in this blog. Of course my perspective will intrude into his. ...but then it always has. Why stop now?

We began our first pastorate in 1959 at Fruitvale Community with a handful of humble people who believed God for great things. After predictable adjustments in a new pastorate, the era of the "Jesus Movement" set in.  Teenagers and adults were coming to Christ all over our city and from coast to coast. Since most of our people were new Christians, we were short on disciplers, but we had learned through three years of the best possible training in discipleship under Ray Stedman to "turn people loose with what they know." This mode of thinking was so freeing after years of conditioning that "Only the professionally trained should be trusted to teach the Bible". ...not unlike the papacy.

We have not experienced such a dramatic visitation from the Wind of the Spirit since the 60's and 70's and are we ever ready!  I think if that doesn't happen, Ed Underwood, one of our "Jesus Movement 'boys' ", now the beloved, seasoned pastor of Church of the Open Door in Glendora, California will be hauled into prison for disturbing the peace with his escalating pleadings to the Lord for another Jesus Movement.  He hears our cry, dear Ed.

There may not be a visible revival such as we experienced in the 60's and early 70's, but our Lord is gathering a Harvest around this world.  I have been cautious about believing the stunning reports about the many that are coming to Christ.  ...but then the Lord will press into my awareness evidences I cannot doubt. Technology is taking the Gospel into places never before reached with the Truth of the love of Christ. It is becoming increasingly evident that Satan has stepped up his  program of terrorizing fear. At the same time it is evident that the Spirit of God has stepped up His program of freeing love. I met a former Muslim just this past weekend. ...and just when the Lord knew my heart needed encouraging.

Most of us evangelicals believe that He is coming in the clouds to take us Home, but I cannot forget what those two angels in Acts 1:11 clearly told us: "Don't stand and gaze up into Heaven; go about our Father's business of redemption before He comes to fetch us Home."  The Holy Spirit had been given to believers and Jesus had ascended into a shekinah glory cloud. such as had filled the Tabernacle. When Jesus was born into this world, He was wrapped in swaddling clothes. When He left this earth He was wrapped in glory clouds. In this beautiful way,  He returned to the Father's Right Hand. We will be greeted like royalty, which is what He declares that we are. Sinners, true, but redeemed sinners, clothed in His righteousness. 

Ted used to say, and as I write this, a chill is going up and down my back: "Somewhere on this planet, the last one that will join the family of the Redeemed will say 'Yes' to Christ and the Lord will say: "I'm wrappin' it up!  Come on HOME!' "

Yes, come, Lord Jesus, but there are some others I know who do not know You yet, and I so want them to...

"Come to the water, stand by my side
I know you are thirsty, you won't be denied
I felt every teardrop when in darkness you cried,
And I strove to remind you that for those tears I died."

Jesus, I give You my heart and my soul
I know that without God I'd never be whole
Savior, You opened all the right doors
and I thank You and praise You from earth's humble shores
Take me, I'm Yours.

...and Jesus said, "Come to the water, stand by my side
I know you are thirsty, you won't be denied
I felt every teardrop when in darkness you cried,
And I strove to remind you that for those tears I died."



Friday, May 24, 2013

A quiet anchor

Verna went Home on Mother's Day.  She was 92. When Ted and I came here in May of 1984, Verna was here to meet us, along with a small group of people who wanted to build a church on property they had bought some time before. There were several former contractors in the group of retired folk. Each had their idea about how the church should be designed, how to go about making it look their way, how to pay for it, and get the drift.  So, my husband put it to them this way: "...tell you what. I know a lot of people in Bakersfield, since Jo and I ministered there before going to Houston. I will look around and find a builder/superintendent that I probably know, bring him up here to be Chief, and you and I will sign on to be Indians. What do ya' think?"  ...and a handful of hard working Indians fell in line behind John, the Chief and Bear Valley Community Church was on its way.

I didn't see my husband alone for three years.  The church office was upstairs in our home.  All the meetings except for Sunday morning were here, and the church folk often found themselves in our living room with people from other places in the world.  In retrospect (...and don't we see 20/20 "in retrospect"?) those dear people deserved a pastor and wife who were totally committed to just them. ...but that wasn't Ted and me. It never had been. Call it a "worldview",  for that's the "in" word these days,  or call it anything you want. We were not going to pastor just one congregation after  working with "the church at large" in Bakersfield, Houston and around the world.  ...which reminds me of an old World War I song (...and no, I wasn't born yet): "How Ya' Gonna Keep 'em Down on the Farm after They've Seen Paree?"

The building and the church were rockin' along, but not rockin' along very smoothly. As we girls know, we smell stuff smoldering before it actually takes fire!  That's why we are the moms and dads aren't. I sensed that when the last brick went into that beautiful building, we would be on our way outta there. ...and sure enough, my instincts were right on.  Here's an irony: After all these years I am back there in a class on Sunday morning, listening to Mike Loehrer,  one of the pastors teach. He's a Dallas Seminary grad, as was Ted, and there is something about those guys...They feed you Greek and Hebrew and you don't even blanche!

...but back to Verna. She was the spiritual glue that had held this little gathering together before we showed up from Houston. She knew scripture and she lived by accompanying grace. Having worked for years for Moody Bible Institute Science Films, she also knew how to hold her own against evolutionists and anybody else that disbelieved the authenticity of the Word of God, the Deity of Christ and dozens of other pesky apostate gnats that were swarming around us as the church building was going up, brick by brick.  Since only one church is legally allowed in our closed-gate community,  people from all religions and no religions came to "hear the new parson". It was not easy to deal with it all. All of you in full time ministry understand how messey it can get in churches and missions.

Ted and Verna were friends;  they were equals in biblical knowledge and equals in commitment to believing and teaching the whole counsel of God.  I had a dickens of a time adjusting to life here after having lived in five cities and a couple of towns.  I never really liked the city ("You can take the girl out of the country but you can't take the country out of the girl.")  but when the city lights across a couple of mountain ranges were all I could see, I missed the city! ...but Verna's weekly Bible class kept me reasonably decent to get along with as the people poured into my home day and night during the three years the church was being built. After a year and a half, our precious daughter Dee and husband Brent moved up here on the mountain after Brent left the oilpatch and went to work in aerospace at Edwards Air Force Base. Our kids are mountain kids so before long, Doug showed up from Houston when his building business went belly-up as oil prices bottomed out.  The Bear Valley pot was definitely sweetened by the arrival of two of our kids. Soon there were ten of us.  Those were the finest of years.  Jeff and lovely Houstonian, Carla married and settled in Sacramento. They and their two girls  made many a trek down Highway 99 to be with the ten of us. Ted and I were out of the visible church and into ministries that took us to many countries and into countless lives.The best times of our family life were spent right here. ...for a quarter of a century. ...and then the whittling down began. It is inevitable for all families. an accordion: expanding, then wheezing down.

... back to you, Verna. Verna used to cajol me into staying after Bible study years ago and playing Dixieland on her old piano.  She would tap her toes to beat the band and we would sing along and laugh.  She made me promise that I would play Dixieland for her Memorial. ...but then a few years ago, she lost her sight completely, and her loving family moved her to Bellflower to care for her.

If Jesus doesn't zap us into the clouds together, what I want at my Memorial is an old fashioned Singalong.  Maybe if it's summertime, whoever comes can bring their lawn chair and sit under our  Family Oak up on the hill where Ted's headstone reads:  "To God Be the Glory".  My headstone will finish the phrase:  "Great Things He Hath Done".  That pretty much wraps up our lives together for sixty years.  All who want to can sing:

"This world is not my home; I'm just a passin' through;
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.
The angels beckon me from Heaven's open door,
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore."

Love, Jo

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Ashleigh: Jewish Philosopher

Years ago my family discovered Ashleigh Brilliant's "Pot Shot cards" which he eventually published in book form. When son Jeff, Ted and I shared an office in Houston, we put those books on the waiting room table. From our offices we could hear people chuckling and guffawing while they waited their turn to come in for counseling, affording us with a slight hope that maybe the counselee would come through our office door with a smile on their face instead of a scowl.

Ashleigh was a professor at Stanford University for many years. One day he got sick of listening to his own droning voice and decided there had to be a way to make a living that was more fun. he moved to Santa Barbara, walked the beaches, smelled the ocean, and let his mind sift through conclusions he had drawn over the years about life.  Surely there could be a way to financially benefit from a lifetime of philosophizing, he thought.  His pragmatic, pithy Jewishness kicked in and he began to condense his thoughts into seventeen words or less, then sketched a picture that illustrated his point. Next he submitted a few cards to a publisher and to his delight,  he was on his way to enjoying the end of his life by walking along the beautiful coastal beaches ... and thinking. What a concept!

One time I called Ashleigh to obtain permission to use a couple of his sayings on a brochure Ted and I needed for something or other.  A woman's voice came on the line and stated, "Hello, this is Mrs. Ashleigh Brilliant!"  Surprised, I responded:  "I didn't know there is a Mrs. Ashleigh Brilliant" to which she replied: "Who do you think does all the work?" 

I have shot my wad, so to speak, and need a break this summer to fill up my think tank...but, as Ashleigh says: "I don't want to go hunting for more knowledge. I want it to come and grab me!"  So many of you have pressed on me to write a book. I don't wanna, and here's a "Brilliant" reason: "More books have resulted from somebody's need to write than anybody's need to read."  Corralling my thoughts for this blog on a Saturday morning stirs my creative juices quite enough. ...I think. Since "There is nothing new under the sun", what could I say that hasn't already been said in every language known to man? ...but I'm thinking. ...and praying. ...and writing if and when the Spirit moves me. Nobody needs another autobiography, it seems to me, but maybe, just maybe I can leave some tools for teaching about absolutes to a generation that doesn't know there are any!

Two years ago yesterday morning, second son Jeff whom I thought was in his office in Sacramento, walked into my bedroom announcing in a broken voice: "Mom, Doug died in the night." I will never, ever get over the shock of those terrible words. Jeff had sped the five plus hours down the highway to be with the family and together they decided to wait until morning to tell me that my son Doug was gone from this earth. We had known but two weeks that the cancer had probably been in Doug's body for several years. That night, it hit the only vital organ left to hit: his heart. ...and he was taken immediately to Heaven. He died on the floor of his own living room, curled up in the fetal position from the piercing pain. Eleven months before, he had been with his dad when Ted took his last breath and entered Heaven.  I will never recover from losing both of my men so close together. Thank you for your graciousness in letting me tell you, once more, about the agony that simply will not go away.

This Ashleigh'ism helps:   "What keeps me going is the thought that somewhere ahead is the next time I'll see you." 

Summer agenda: 1) some much needed exercise  (walking and water aerobics) to shed the poundage that glued itself to me while the snow was flying and my body was yelling at me:  "Don't make me go out there!" 2) a couple of Gospel sing-alongs on my front deck or under the family oak up on the hill; 3) boning up on escatology in Daniel, Ezekiel and Revelation or wherever "things to come" show up in scripture; 4) enjoying not teaching three consecutive days in a row; 5) finding my kitchen again and actually cooking; 5) and I don't know what else.

Titles of some of Ashley's books: (Available through Woodbridge Press)

"All I Want is a Warm bed and a Kind Word and Unlimited Power"
"Appreciate Me Now and Avoid the Rush"
"We've Been Through So Much Together and Most of It Was Your Fault."
"I Have Abandoned My Search for Truth and Am Now Looking for a Good Fantasy"
"I Feel Much Better Now That I've Given Up Hope"
"I Want to Reach Your Mind. Where Is It Currently Located?"
"I Have Nothing Definite to Apologize For: I'm Just Sorry About Everything in General"
"I Try to Take One Day At a Time But Sometimes Several Days Attack Me At Once"
"Be a Good Neighbor, and Leave Me Alone."
...and this was Ted's favorite: "I May Not be Totally Perfect but Parts of Me Are Excellent!"
He sent to Ashleigh for a T shirt with that phrase printed on the front of it. He and Daughter Dee were in Disneyland together and some kid asked Ted: "O.K., what parts are 'excellent' ?" Ted put his arm around our daughter, and replied, "This part is 'excellent'! " ...and she is!

Verses for today:  Psalm 73:25, 26
Whom have I in Heaven but You?
I desire You more than anything on earth
My health will fail and my spirit will grow weak
but God remains the strength of my heart.
He is mine forever.



Saturday, May 11, 2013

Colonel Blair, pioneer

My Kentucky born grandfather, Colonel Harlan Blair, was not famous for his chicken. He deserved to be called "Colonel",  however, for coming to Kansas as a widower,  teaching in a country school, homesteading 160 acres, and beginning a Methodist mission. I have not met him yet. ...but I will in Heaven. My grandfather had only one child with his first wife who died in childbirth.  He met my grandmother, a student of his in Kansas,  twenty years his junior. They married and had but one child: my mother. When Jesus made Himself real to me at nineteen, the first one I told was my mother. I thought she would be thrilled. She wasn't. Many years later,  the reason for her reaction was revealed to me. She had turned away from the church when an evangelist tried to force her to the altar and "repent of her sins".  Who could blame her for fleeing?

My mother's life on the farm where she was forced to live after my grandfather died, leaving her  mother a widow, was so hard.  Dad was not a farmer when she married him and suddenly,  he was getting up at 4 in the morning, harnessing four horses and heading for the gumbo fields. There were no luxuries; not even hot water or a bathroom. Kansas winds were relentless, blowing dust through the cracks in the aging farmhouse, making life miserable for a meticulous housekeeper like my mother. Everybody's days began before sunup. Wash day was particularly hard, for water was pumped from the well by hand, poured by the bucketful into round tubs on the woodburning stove and brought to a boiling hot temperature. The wringer washing machine and homemade lye soap were ready to do their work on dirt that can only be described as "filth".  A twelve hour back-breaking day was on its way.  My mother's linens as they hung on the lines were sparkling white from the lye soap, bluing in the rinse water and the blistering Kansas sun. the summertime.  In the winter, everything froze on the line, had to be brought into the house and hung on lines strung from wall to wall next to the "central heat" which was one huge wood and coal-burning stove in the "center" of the dining room. The rest of the week was somewhat less grueling, but never easy.

I believe that my timid grandmother, who died when I was fourteen,  was a Christian.  Harlan, I have learned from his obituary and other evidence, was the bold one. When my grandmother's parents would not give Grandfather permission to marry her because of their age difference, he put her in his buggy and they eloped! When he died, Grandmother was destined to live in a household with my parents where God was never mentioned. How hard it must have been for her. I believe it was my grandmother who prayed for my parents, my brothers and me to come to Christ. When I was fourteen, after her death, it was as if someone reached up and turned the light switch off and darkness set in.  My brothers were long gone into their own worlds and I was left,  a lonely teenager, on a farm with emotionally separated parents. Five years after my grandmother's death, I heard the Gospel clearly, and responded to the love of Jesus. I had little credibility as the youngest by ten years in the family. As my mother had fled from the church years before, I fled from the darkness in my home.

I felt so guilty for leaving my parents on that old farm.  My Ted came to Christ, we married, schooling took us to Minneapolis and Dallas and then into ministry in Palo Alto, California, with our beloved mentor, Ray Stedman. Always beneath everything that was going on for the Kingdom of God was His quiet Voice saying to me: "You must get your parents off that farm and to Jesus".  ...and so we did. My dear, kind Ted and I moved my parents from a primitive farm in Kansas to Palo Alto, California, where the Silicone Valley was on the cusp of becoming world famous.  In the midst of the exciting, worldly activity were beautiful Christians who swept my parents into their arms and into Heaven. One of the many joys of my life was watching my Mother and my Dad fall in love with Jesus. ... and California. My dad, though seasick every time, fished  'way out in the ocean for striped bass. He fished from the rocks of Santa Cruz, the waves crashing at his feet.  For fifteen years, my parents' lives were dramatically changed. We showed them every nook and cranny of our wondrous California. They were like "kids in a candy store".  How they would love where we have lived for nearly thirty years in Bear Valley. Yesterday, as I sat in their granddaughter Dee's jacuzzi, looking out over Bear Valley far below, I thought of how good their worn out bodies would have felt with the jets and hot water bringing release from the physical pain they both suffered. 

 I long to see Jesus.  ...but I also long to see my precious Ted and my son, Doug, my mother and dad, my brothers, their wives, one of their children, my grandmother Etta who prayed for me and my Grandfather Harlan who was the beckoning voice of Christ to me, even though I have yet to meet him.  I am still working, because my parents built that into me, but the Spirit of God is reminding me daily:  "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, mind your own business and work with your hands". Oh, there is "quiet".  Plenty of it! Deciding "what is my business and what is not" is a challenge. "Working with my hands"? That's what I am doing now, as I write.

...back to the farm.  I spent the lonely evenings stalking rabbits and squirrels. A whistle brought my shepherd dog running, I reached for my rifle and we hunted until dark. This morning, as I singed the backend of a bobcat who was salivating for a morning snack named Pussn'Boots,  I chuckled. Some things haven't changed. As I trek with my walking cat, Bootsie, down my long dirt driveway in the evenings, I think: "I've been here before". ...but when I come back through my garage and into my lovely home, a hot shower awaits me. I never forget to praise Him for a bathroom,  hot water, two furnaces for the cold winters and lovely pleasant summers that require no air conditioning, a gleaming washer and dryer that do all the work for me. ...and then I praise Him that for the last semester of my parents' lives they had a bathroom, hot water, a pleasant climate and no back-breaking work.

For some years every once in awhile I throw a singin' party for the community. I need to do that again this summer. One night, probably five years ago,  when son Doug was in attendance, He requested this one: "Peace in the Valley".  This is for you, my dear son, Doug, on Mother's Day.

I am tired and weary but I must roll on 'til the Lord comes to call me away
Where the morning is bright and the Lamb is the Light
And the night is as fair as the day


All the words you requested that night have come true for you. You have met your Lord, your great-grandparents, and knowing you, you have met thousands of others.


(Mom) Jo

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Dads, lead!

Many years ago for reasons God did not explain to me I spoke for many women's conferences. On a return flight to Houston from one such conference I made a decision: Women speakers were in abundance across this nation. Some of them I knew. Few had a husband partner in ministry. I did. The question I faced was this: What good does it do for me to speak to thousands of women who go home to husbands who won't take spiritual leadership? I quit travelling and speaking,  rejoined my man and we went to work together to fight for marriages, including our own.  God took away two pastorates so we could battle side by side to pull marriages out of the fire. The hidden weapon of Satan? Kids being raised by mothers alone, which weakens the kids and ultimately, the nation.  Ted and I had accumulated some messey attitudes in our own marriage by this time, so God went to work to clean us up. It wasn't fun, but we couldn't salvage marriages until our own was a credible example of the Ephesians 5:21-32 marriage to Christ that awaits us in Heaven.

On Thursday a woman friend of mine and I were the token women prayers for the National Day of Prayer at the noontime prayer meeting in front of our local City Hall.  Never before had a woman been asked to participate in this corporate plea to God to give mercy to our nation that has strayed so far from the covenant with God our early leaders agreed to in our beginnings.  The pastors and leaders of our community prayed for our government, education system, military, businesses, churches and one pastor prayed for our families. My assigned prayer subject was for the Media, a potentially powerful influence for Christ about which I am passionate.

Never has the world been nearer God's final judgment and never has the world had the media resources that we have today to disable Satan's weapons and make the Gospel known. Nobody can cite any statistics about the numbers of Muslims coming to Christ, but it's happening...not only in the deserts, but throughout the 10/40 window that circles the earth where most Muslims live. I have to chuckle when I think of the  Bedouins out on the deserts of the Middle East with a TV  antennae sticking out of the top of their tent/home. ...Talk about God's arm "not being shortened".  Not only Muslims are being reached but millions of others are hearing the Gospel by way of radio, TV, the internet and written material.

Praying for the Media was a thrilling assignment for me.  I was given only three minutes to spill out my passion and those three minutes went lickety split.  I started to say the "Amen" and realized in an nanosecond that nobody had prayed for dads to step up to the plate and lead their kids to Christ-like living! Avoiding looking at the organizer of this event who had every right to glare at me for going overtime, at the speed of sound I read this verse from Ephesians 6:4: "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."  My ending prayer went something like this:  "Dear Father, wake up the dads in this nation and tell them to do their job!" ...then I sat down, refusing to look or talk to anyone, made a fast exit to my truck and sped home in time to meet with the fatherless teenagers that would be coming through my door for Bible study at 3 o'clock.  My topic that day: "What it takes to become a Man's Man".  Their dads should be telling them, but it's rarely happening with the kids God brings me. I'll give 'em God's Truth and pray that some man will step up to the plate and take it from there.
                                                    HYMN OF THE WEEK: RISE UP O MEN OF GOD

Rise up, O men of God! Have done with lesser things
Give heart and mind and soul and strength to serve the King of Kings

Rise up, O men of God! The Church for you doth wait
Her strength unequal to her task; Rise up, and make her great!

Lift high the cross of Christ! Tread where His feet have trod
As brothers of the Son of man, Rise up, O men of God!

Love, Jo