Friday, May 29, 2015

Work while we can

I am well aware of the darkness that is gathering over our nation and our world.  I just don't want to talk about it today.  None of my close Texas friends are floating out to sea and I am thankful. I want to talk about things that may make you smile.

In our first church out of seminary, Ray Stedman, our pastor/teacher had a great sense of humor.  (He renamed Euodia and Syntyche "Odius" and "Soon Touchy".)  Three years later in our first pastorate in our church in Bakersfield, California, Ted and Milt teamed up to give us at least one belly laugh on Sunday morning, never flagging from the seriousness of teaching the whole counsel of God. Jesus had to have had a sense of humor. Look who He chose to disciple: a conglomerate of cultures, colors, biases and personalities.  His expectation? Respect each other but never compromise the Truth of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is still expecting us to do the same. Tricky, isn't it?

I had a brilliant, witty friend Diana, who went to Heaven three weeks before Ted left on June 12th five years ago.  Diana and I planned for decades to write a book entitled: "Don't Miss the Ironies". We never got to do that.  I sure did need Diana in all of our pastorates but she and Herb ran off to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia for the next eighteen years to make a million or so bucks. Diana and I stayed connected, even on the day a scud missile hit practically in their back yard.  Miraculously, I reached her by phone almost immediately after seeing the explosion on TV.  "Are you all right?" "Yes, I think so. Let me check out my body parts!" That courageous woman formed her own company, employed nearly 60 Muslim men,  won their trust and respect and shared Jesus with those who were open to hear.

One time when we lived in Houston Diana somehow finagled Ted's and my being invited to teach a marriage seminar for employees who had formed a church on the Aramco compound. A few days before we were to leave we received the word that I,  being woman would not be allowed in the country. I was disappointed and being temporarily controlled by the wrong spirit, said to Ted: "If you really love me you won't go either."  He went.  Being well-practiced in ways to get my Irish under control,  I ordered four yards of dirt to be delivered in order to re-landscape our back yard.  Do you have any idea how much four yards of dirt is?  I nearly fainted when the dump truck unloaded a pile that reached to the top of the telephone pole!  The temperature hovered around a hundred and so did the humidity.  I grabbed the handlebars of the newly purchased wheelbarrow that had taken me four hours to assemble and began the staggering task of hauling dirt from our front yard to the back. When Ted got home ten days later I had worked off my mad and our back yard was in great shape. My back wasn't.

Is there a message here? Uh....when mad, refuse to stir up more trouble,  stay in scripture, and go to work doing what God equips us to do. "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."  Ephesians 2:10..

I dunno if I can find an old hymn that sums up what I just said. Oh, yes, here's one:

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.

Work, for the night is coming; work through the sunny noon.
Fill the brightest hours with labor; rest comes sure and soon.
Give every flying minute something to keep in store;
Work, for the night is coming when man works no more.

There's another verse about working at night, but I'll skip that.  I'm done by 5 o'clock!

Love,  Jo

Friday, May 22, 2015

No super-saint

I took my eyes off of Jesus and got scared and nearly sank into depression at times lately. Satan, using the world and my flesh knows exactly how to get me distracted.  From scripture study I know that God judges nations whose leadership refuses to fall on their faces, craving His mercy, forgiveness and guidance.  I often go into fretting mode, thinking of what is ahead for this nation, then after wallowing around in that muck and mire, remember to pray and trust Him.  ...then there is the other hook the evil one uses to lure me into "seeing through a glass even more darkly": an unresolved personal relationship with someone whose respect I desire.  God is so patient with me as I am on the home stretch of my race.  He, the Author and Finisher of my Faith is insisting that I "throw off all that hinders and fix my eyes only upon Him".

I am so blessed. very blessed.  There are my family and friends that I love and pray for who prayerfully and financially support me.  There are all of you who call, text and Email to tell me what the Lord is doing in and through your lives.  I have many hours alone that make me vulnerable to over thinking, and over analyzing situations. My personality is one that easily slips into melancholy...the precursor to depression.  I have started singing the old hymns toward the end of the day and disciplining myself to memorize scripture when my flesh wants to watch television or Netflix. I did not realize as a younger woman that I would need to be even more disciplined toward the end of my life.

             "What have I to dread? What have I to fear? Leaning on the Everlasting Arms." 

Oh, dear Paul.  He suffered.  Had he not, we would not have God's Words through him, through David, through other chosen writers of scripture who lived in the reality that on this earth  "You will have tribulation, but be of good cheer.  I have overcome the world."

Well, this was another of those impressive,  highly intellectual, doctrinally-stuffed blogs with life-changing truths. There are plenty of theologians who write those, but I am not one of  'em.

Right now, it is time to hit the road with Bootsie, my Walking Cat.   Puss'n? He is stretched out full length on my bed, upside down, feet in air. ...all sixteen pounds of him. This winter's fat will still be on him come next winter.

"Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?  It is God Who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus Who died--more than that,  Who was raised to life--Who is at the right hand of God, and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble, or hardships or persecution, or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, neither angels, nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God, that is in Christ Jesus our Lord". Romans 8:31-39.

Love,  Jo

Friday, May 15, 2015

Grace, Grace and more Grace

Yesterday I communicated with a friend in Phoenix who has been a warrior for the Gospel for years. She is at least ten years younger than I am, and may be seeing Jesus before I do. My heart is breaking and yet I know that the depth of her relationship with Jesus here on earth is preparing her to fall into His arms  when it is His time to take her Home to be with Him forever. Countless people she has led to Christ are waiting to greet her. I really believe that, but the One she most wants to see is Jesus.

I kinda want to hang around to see if God is going to cut this nation some more grace before things get really ugly.  I have quit obsessing over some things I can't change. Ol' St. Francis of Assissi got that one nailed a long time ago: "Lord, grant me strength to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference."

Counselling/mentoring/parenting/discipleship are pretty much all the same thing.  Ted left, so that leaves me being a single parent to people who haven't had Christian parenting.  I can't help some of them.  Their accumulated messes are too much for me and I don't even know where to start.

O.K., for the fun stuff:  Last Saturday night about twenty music-loving Bear Valley residents came to the patio outside the Mulligan Room despite the cold to hear me entertain from my keyboard.  I can remember tunes and words of probably a thousand ditties, but when I need to come up with a scripture and where to find it in the Word I can go totally blank!   One of the teenage guy employees at the Mulligan pulled three older women up out of their chairs to dance to "Mack the Knife".  Picture three seventy-year-old Rockettes and a big ol'  rolly-polly teenager, kicking up their legs in sync to the beat. It was a hoot!  Then there was one ninety-year-old woman who joined in singing songs she has known since she was a girl.  A younger family grabbed my Singalong books and kept peppering me with requests as they belted out "Bill Bailey" and "Ain't She Sweet" and other upbeat Dixieland tunes.  ...then another family of three came and just wanted to listen and eat their dinner so I played mellow music, reminiscent of an era when "romantic" was popular.  It may be too soon to make a case for this, but it seems that not everyone wants to hear music that's ramped up to the decibel of a 757 screaming jet!

Would you pray for relationships with lost people to be built, as has happened all my life, through the music He has given connection with the world:  in it but not of it.

O.K. that's it this week.  If you are still reading this blog, I find that utterly amazing.  ...another evidence of His grace.

                                           OLD ONE....Sing it if you remember it!    

Sing the wondrous love of Jesus; sing His mercy and His grace.
In the mansions bright and blessed. He's prepared for us a place.

While we walk this pilgrim pathway, clouds will overspread the sky.
But when traveling days are over, not a shadow or a sigh.

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

Friday, May 8, 2015

Is that all there is?

Farm life was hard. Everyone worked around the clock six days a week. On Sundays Dad and my brothers didn't go to the fields, but the livestock and chores still had to be tended to. Farmers didn't take vacations but we did go on overnight fishing trips to the Cottonwood River,  about forty miles from our farm.  Oh, how I loved those fishing trips! That river was on land owned by a family that were relatives, but at the time, I didn't realize they were "relatives".  Sometimes they came to visit on Sundays but then a lot of people did that.  I think a whiff of my mother's fried chicken drew people from miles around.  Now, join me for a nice surprise:  I received a letter from one of the two daughters of the family who owned the land around the river where we fished. One of them had found my blog on the web! To my delight,  after all these many years, I find that these two are my second cousins!  I had two first cousins but I didn't like them very much because they were city kids who didn't fish, hunt or ride their horse to see the neighbors.

This is May 7. Thirty-one years ago today Ted and I drove into Bear Valley to live and build a church. When we awoke the first morning there was a foot of snow on the ground and we were so excited! two little kids again.  I still am!  I love where I live!  I sleep on my deck in the summer. A bed is already waiting there;  however I just heard that we may have snow today.  Oh, well.

I squirreled away enough tips from eight years of playing once a month at the Apple Shed to buy new carpet and some window shades for my home. I dumped buckets of dollar bills on the desk of the secretary at Abbey Carpet Company,  she laughed out loud and started counting! The very next week after my last night at The Shed (The new young owner changed the name.)  the manager at our community golf shop here in Bear Valley asked if I would be willing to play outside on a Saturday night at our Mulligan Room restaurant. You bet! I have dragged my Yamaha Grand Piano keyboard with all of its do-dads out of storage and this Saturday night will begin a new outdoor music adventure if it's warm enough.  I plan to host some Gospel Singalongs this summer on my deck and up under the Family Oak above my house. Wanna come? The view is spectacular! BYOC: Bring your own chair.

As I was sorting through stacks of music this week I found Peggy Lee's "Is That all There Is?" from the 70's. The words could have been written by people we see every day.   Read 'em and weep.

I remember when I was a very little girl our house caught on fire.
I'll never forget the look on my father's face as he gathered me up in his arms 
And raced through the burning building out onto the pavement.
I stood there shivering in my pajamas and watched the whole world go up in flames,
And when it was all over I said to myself: "Is that all there is to a fire?"

When I was twelve years old my father took me to the circus: "The Greatest Show on Earth". 
There were clowns and elephants and dancing bears; and a beautiful lady in pink tights flew high above our heads. And as I sat there watching the marvelous spectacle I had the feeling that something was missing. I don't know what, but when it was over I said to myself: "Is that all there is to the circus?"

And then I fell in love, head over heels in love with the most wonderful boy in the world.
We would take long walks by the river or just sit for hours, gazing into each other's eyes.
We were so very much in love.  Then one day he went away and I thought I'd die, but I didn't. 
And when I didn't I said to myself: "Is that all there is to love?"

I know what you must be saying to yourselves: "If that's the way she feels about it, why doesn't she just end it all?"  Oh, no, not me. I'm in no hurry for that final disappointment 'cause I know just as well as I'm standing here talking to you: When that final moment comes and I'm breathing my last breath, I'll be saying to myself


Bummer. Our Heavenly Father has quite a different message for us,  His kids:  "Though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and even though you do not see Him, you believe in Him and are filled with inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls." I Peter 1:8.

Love, Jo

Friday, May 1, 2015

Advancing Through Adversity

Thirty-one years ago on May 7th of this week, Ted and I drove into Bear Valley, California from Houston, Texas. We came to build a church.  The greatest evidence of my Ted's agape love for Christ and for me was to leave our two grown sons standing in a parking lot in Houston, Texas, waving  to us as our cars and moving van headed west.  They told us later they felt like two little kids whose parents had abandoned them.. Their words to each other: "What are we doing here? Let's GO!"...and they did. God's right time. Daughter Dee had preceded us all back to California a year before.

My Ted's pastoral message title for the Book of Philippians sticks in my brain. We suffered what to many would have seemed like reasons to drop out of ministry altogether during sixty years of full time work for the One Who had lifted us out of the muck and the mire of the world and placed our feet upon Him, the Solid Rock. My Steady Teddy's faith that never faltered was a comfort to all who knew him.

Alone since June of 2010, I am growing in faith of my own.  No longer do I wonder why the Lord took my Ted first.  As I sit down at my computer to write what He wants me to write in this blog, in front of me are individual pictures of the five of us in the Ted Stone family. Four of us relied on our Dad's faith to pull us out of the adversities that are a part of life on this planet. We didn't even know we were doing it, until he was gone.  Doug, alongside his dad's hospital bed for months was the one the Lord chose to see his Dad open his eyes, look up in the corner of our bedroom,  smile, and take his last breath. During the next eleven months Doug suffered unbearable pain from cancer that was invading every major organ of his own body.  He grew in faith during those months, probably more than he ever did throughout his 59 years on this earth. We have all grown in faith of our own. We have learned to rejoice in our insufficiency. 

"I waited patiently for the Lord. He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire. He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a 'hymn of praise' to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord."  Psalm 40:1.   Note that God requires of us only one thing: "waiting patiently".  While we are learning to do that He is doing six things:  What are they?

Love, Jo