Saturday, July 27, 2013

God is economical

Summer vacations from school were four months long when I was a little girl growing up.  We farm kids were needed for the work that would supply food for the table in the other seasons.  I don't know what town kids did in the summer;  our lives didn't intersect until school started again after Labor Day.  I had no way of knowing then that the solitary life I led after my brothers left the farm when I was seven years old was preparing me for the life God had designed for me.

I had questions but did not know who to ask.  How did the corn kernels and wheat seeds that looked dead as a doornail when planted, pop up through the topsoil in a few days, alive and reaching for the sun?  Years later I read in John 12:24 and 25: "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds."

How did most newborn animals instinctively know, with a minimum of nudging,  where to find their mother's milk faucet as soon as they were born?  Later, after coming to know Christ, I read in II Peter 2:2 and 3: "Like newborn babies crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good."  Human babies cannot find that "faucet" without help from an adult. It's called "discipleship".

Sometimes when Grandma and Mother didn't need me to snap beans or peel vegetables and fruit for canning,  I would wrestle a bridle, bit  and saddle onto our mare Patsy,  and away we would trot down a dusty road to visit people.  One family of five I loved consisted of a married couple, Clair and Julie, who cared for their deaf, dumb (unable to speak)  and blind aunt and father, and their mother who was deaf, dumb, but not totally blind, and could read and write.  This family communicated by making words at lightening speed with their fingers,  "feeling" those words on another's arms and hands. This family had no phone, so always my visit came as a surprise.  As I walked up to the screen door,  the Mother recognized me, threw her hands in the air with excitement,  drew in her breath in  gulps, ran to open the door,  took down a slate and chalk that always hung on a nail by the kitchen door and began to write  ...furiously. ...and I wrote back. We were friends.

Another family, the Smiths,  had a daughter, Patty, who was unable to walk, control her hands or body or speak words. When I came through their kitchen door, she too made happy, gasping sounds. She was a lonely little girl, but could not help herself out of her loneliness. Her parents carried her by throwing her over their shoulder for they could not afford a wheelchair. I played on the floor with Patty, making up stories about her few toys. Patty died when she was in her teens.

Why are these memories so vivid in my mind?  God, even then, was breaking my heart for the helpless.  My Ted and I were going to be in many countries besides our own throughout our sixty years in ministry. Our last trip to poverty-stricken countries in Southeast Asia tore at my heart so deeply that I determined never to invest in the lives of people who are drowning in doctrine, but still want more with no intention of sharing their riches with the poor in spirit.

As I write,  my own family is scattered all the way from Haiti on a mission trip,  to the Eastern slopes of the Sierras,  camping, fishing and hiking and the rest of them are on a high mountain trek on the western side of the Sierras. Who knows what Ted and Doug are doing in Heaven? A friend of mine asked me yesterday if I feel "left out".  Absolutely not! We introduced our three children to the wonders of the mountains from the time they were young. They watched their dad and me head off to foreign mission fields more than once. Now I can enjoy the fact that all are on the move and I can live here midst the nature I love, study, read, teach and write. I am not unable to speak; I am not crippled; I am aging but I am not helpless. Others around me are, and that's where my heart is. It all began with Clair, Julie, their "handicapped" relatives and Patty Smith.

I have been immersed in Isaiah and other prophets for weeks now. ... searching for answers to questions that have divided evangelicals since the church began at Pentecost.  God's best days are ahead!  Maybe that's all we need to know, after all.

                                                           RESCUE THE PERISHING

Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter
Feelings lie buried that grace can restore
Touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness
Chords that are broken will vibrate once more




Saturday, July 20, 2013


I know that we live in a nation that is being judged, but right now I need to rest from thinking about it.  I know that most of you who still hang in here and read my blog know that the solution is for our nation's leadership to turn to God in repentance, read, believe and act upon God's Word.  I ask my Lord daily: Father, what else can I do? Right now, He is telling me to "Rest".  REST?

At the beginning of the summer,  parts of my body that I did not know existed began to signal that I needed to take time out and listen.  I grasped the Hand that was reaching out to me, obeyed as He made me lie down in a green pasture and then led me alongside a quiet stream of water.  Before long,  I sensed that my soul was being restored and listened as He gently spoke His righteous ways into me for His Namesake.  I listened to His reminder that the "shadow of death" is ever near but so is He.  I confessed that I forget that his "rod and His staff" are His Comfort tools to protect and not harm me. ...and then, right in my line of vision appeared a table, overflowing with everything I need. It was there all the time. The minions of Satan were clawing around the edges of the tableland in a futile attempt to gain access to all of God's bounty that belongs only to us, God's children, but His rod (His Word) was bopping them on the head.  I became aware of His gentle hands swathing my head with the oil of His Spirit,  warding off the pesky gnats and flies the enemy was sending to distract me from seeing clearly the "table set before me".  Then I began to remember with a clear mind that His goodness and mercy have always followed me and they always will.  ...and that soon I will be in His house with Him.  Forever.

Right now and for a few more weeks I will forget that all around me the tares are multiplying.  Phone calls and Emails bring reports of the "wheat" that is growing amidst the tares. When He guides me into His September Plan I know already it will be about sowing, watering and reaping.  The only "Who" in the Plan I know about for sure is Jesus.

Recently a couple who are very dear to us came to stay overnight.  A giant male elk appeared in the driveway.  My big male friend became a boy for a few minutes, racing breathlessly into the house to tell his wife and me, "There's a big ol'  elk out there.  Hurry! You don't want to miss this!"  ...and we hurried, and we saw that big ol' elk lazily making his way up the side of the steep hill above my house.  Elk are startling in their enormity.  The deer aren't as startling  ...except when they leap effortlessly over the high wrought iron fence that surrounds my garden pool.  As the streams up above dry up, the deer are "panting after the waterbrook". ...and aren't we all?

                        ...another meaningful old hymn: BRINGING IN THE SHEAVES

Going forth with weeping, sowing for the Master,
Though the loss sustained our spirit often grieves
When our weeping's over, He will bid us welcome
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.




Saturday, July 13, 2013

The unbroken circle

Some years ago, Euphanel and Nick, our Texas buddies, Ted and I hit the Civil War trail in Georgia and ended up in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the scene of the bloodiest battle in the history of our nation.  I did not know it then, but have since learned that my great grandfather, Elmer Sesler, was shot in the back in that battle. He was compensated by the government with 160 acres of undeveloped land in Kansas, packed up his Ohio family in their covered wagon and headed west, bent upon putting the horrors of Gettysburg behind him. 

My Sesler great-grandparents were Godly people. Their daughter, my grandmother Etta, met and married Christian "Colonel" Harlan Blair of Kentucky who also homesteaded 160 acres not far from the Seslers.  Etta and Harlan  parented one daughter: my mother, whom they named "Zema".  Etta and Harlan pioneered the building of a Methodist mission in Wilsey, Kansas, which became in time a white steepled church.  It stands to this day.  My mother, after attending college in Wichita, fled from the  church her parents had pioneered and married my father, Garnett, who had no deep Christian roots.

Because my grandfather Harlan Blair was twenty years older than my Grandmother Etta, he died when she was only 52 years old.  Grandmother Etta could not manage the farm she and her beloved husband had coaxed into productivity. She desperately needed my parents to move in with her and do the work she could not do alone.  In so doing, she suffered the terrible loss of having a Godly man at the head of her home.  Timid by nature, she was reluctant to speak of Jesus in a home that was no longer just her own. ...but my quiet Grandmother lived Jesus. Five years after her death, when I heard the stunning words of the Gospel,  I had already glimpsed the twinkling Light of Christ in my Grandmother.  I  literally ran toward the Light and am still running.  Many years later, when Ted and I brought my parents, Zema and Garnett,  from that same Kansas farm to Palo Alto, California, the love of Jesus drew them into the Holy Family of God. The Circle had not been broken, after all.

...back to the Civil War Trail:  The sleeping serpent of slavery had lay coiled under the table during the deliberations of the Constitutional Convention in 1787. The belief that "all men are created equal" was belied by the fact that slavery was legal in every one of the thirteen colonies.  Knowing that the real war would never get in the books, we four asked our Lord to reveal to us who these people were who fought and killed, marched and sang, wrote home, persevered, deserted, were wounded and died.  Nick had extensively researched information prior to our setting out on our journey.  He walked and talked us through cemeteries, museums and libraries in battleground settlements all along the Trail.  In one bookstore we met a touring pastoral couple from the north of Ireland. When they turned up in a bookstore at our next stop, the Spirit of God put into our minds that a Divine Plan was unfolding that was pressing to trump ours;  therefore it was no surprise when browsing in a bookstore at our next stop, there was the couple from Ireland!  We sought out a quiet restaurant and stepped into the lives of Stephen and Wendy Atkinson.  The love of Christ through Euphanel and Nick drew these two and their four children to their Round Top, Texas Retreat home for a vacation the following summer. That "vacation" led to the Atkinson family's moving to America to join in ministering the Gospel of Christ in our nation.

Now, to Gettysburg:  Nick, Euphanel, Ted and I were silenced as we stood overlooking the battleground that took the lives of 23,000 Northern fighters and 28,000 Southerners. We stood in reverence on the very ground where Lincoln delivered the words that would bring courage to a nation that was divided against itself.  Did my great-grandfather Sesler hear these very words from the lips of President Lincoln?  I will not know until I reach Heaven.

The Circle enlarges.  In my hands is a note from one of my precious granddaughters. Tears press against my eyelids as I read the lovely sentences she writes that speak to my Grandmother heart.  I will share with you only one phrase, for these words exalt Jesus and not me:  "...and I know it's all His work."  Those words will give me courage to continue my widow's journey, much as did my Grandmother Etta, until I join hands with the saints in the enormous unbroken Circle that surrounds the Throne of God.

                                                WILL THE CIRCLE BE UNBROKEN

There are loved ones in the glory whose dear forms you often miss
When you close your earthly story, will you join them in their bliss?

In the joyous days of childhood oft they told of wondrous love
Pointed to the dying Saviour; now they dwell with Him above

You can picture happy gatherings 'round the fireside long ago
And you think of tearful partings when they left you here below



Saturday, July 6, 2013


It is 6:45 A.M. on Friday morning, July 5.  Daughter Dee, son Jeff and daughter-in-law Carla are far up the Tehachapi Mountain Park trail well on their way to the summit that overlooks land extending all the way to the Grapevine, the gateway to the Los Angeles basin. I am languishing at the foot of the trail,  in a comfortable camp armchair designed for grandmothers who languish.  Through the trees, perhaps a quarter mile away,  I hear a daddy chopping wood for his family's breakfast campfire. I don't hear any childrens' chatter;  they are probably still hunkered down deep into their sleeping bags, anticipating the first whiff of sizzling bacon.  I am not jealous of this family scene; rather I am grateful that I am not scurrying around to build memories by producing a breakfast under primitive conditions.

At the top of the redwoods far above me,  woodpeckers are sounding their first rat-a-tat-tat.  Down on the forest floor, a few feet in front of me,  a squirrel is frisking around on a frantic search for a possible tidbit dropped by yesterday's camper.  All of these sounds are exaggerated by the total silence that is unique to the deep forest. Memories of countless hiking and camping trips are flooding my mother-mind. ...and I am wholly at peace.

Yesterday some of my family gathered below our house at the soccer field for a pancake breakfast prepared by a local service club. We laughed and chatted with friends who dropped by and watched the launching of a half-dozen hot-air balloons carrying their passengers into the blue skies above. Stomachs satisfied, we lined up alongside the road to watch the parade pass by. It was grand!

Next we trooped with the crowd to the nearby lake,  lined with booths displaying the crafts created by local residents over the long,  colder-than-usual winter that lasted until about two weeks ago. We found our place under the cool shade of the trees beside pretty little Cub Lake, sang our beloved national anthem, listened to the band and feasted on tri-tip sandwiches and bowls of something or other. The guys took a snooze on the grass. The girls made their way through the streams of shoppers. I napped.  Before long, we went to our respective homes.   Later some of us joined the crowd at the rodeo and some of us joined the rest of Tehachapi on the football field to listen to our Tehachapi Symphony Orchestra.  This is the first year in many that I have not played with my fellow musicians. Now, let's see:  Why did I decide it was time to draw this part of my life to a close?  I can't quite remember.  ...then the finale:  the traditional fireworks display viewed by the combined rodeo and concert crowds. Yesterday,  Friday, the hike, a long nap, and last night dinner at Dee's with four of the grandchildren showing up!  Joy!

I am going to end this blog with some mother/grandmother thoughts. Many of you know that we have suffered nearly unbearably from the double Home goings of our beloved Ted and Doug. Only this time did I sense for me,  an unexplainable  "closure".  Late last night Jeff and I climbed the winding steps to the Family Oak above our home.  We stood by the night lights that illuminate Ted's headstone and bowed our heads in prayer and gratitude for the rich spiritual legacy he left us. The nine-hundred year-old oak under which we stood  has observed parts of the history of three generations of Stones.  Both sons were married and five of the six grandchildren were committed to Christ Jesus by their parents under its giant limbs. Many days have been spent beneath its shade, watching the grandchildren pretending to be the Lion King as they balanced precariously on the top of "Pride Rock". 

Down below our house Uncle Doug, Jeff and Brent built a tree house high in another giant oak. Below a rope swing was hung from a high branch, inviting each child to wrap their legs around it and circle wildly in a huge arc. Now the swing hangs still and the tree house waits perhaps for the next generation to climb up into it and sign their names on the wall below those of the generation of cousins before.

Now it is Saturday morning.  I have just watched Jeff and Carla wind their way down my driveway on their way back to their lives as servants of the living Christ in Sacramento.  I will wrap up this blog, take a nap,  then head into town to the Apple Shed and entertain probably a holiday crowd at the Apple Shed.  For a brief time, I have been able to lay aside the worries about America's future.  Perhaps in upcoming blogs,  I will take the fork in the road that leads back to writing my stories that so many of you say you enjoy.  All of you can read, think and PRAY!  Perhaps you don't need me to philosophize or warn.  Perhaps I will just float, reminiscing,  into Heaven.  After all, my Savior went on ahead to prepare a place for me.  Meanwhile,

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never sound retreat
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat
O, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! Be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.