Friday, July 31, 2015

Our Reasonable Faith

It's happened in my presence twice in the past few weeks. 1) An older woman sitting next to me at a concert ignored the "deer-in-the-headlights" look of a young person to whom she was downloading her life story. 2)  I watched another older lady corner a pastor and proceed to blabber on, and on, and on. He had no way of escape. I did, so I slithered away from both scenes, muttering: "Oh, dear Lord, help me listen more and talk less".  The benefit for you who read this blog is that you can blip me out by the tap of a finger.

I do a great deal of listening, actually. Not only do I listen to a great many people He brings through my door or through the many ways we communicate now but I also listen to teachers/apologists on National Religious Broadcasting (Channel 378, coast to coast).   I respect their speakers and writers who give me the privilege of thinking my way to a truth.  NRB provides such resource people as Kay Arthur (Precepts for Life),  Apologist Ravi Zacharias ("Let My People Think"),  Irish John Lennox, mathematician, philosopher and apologist at Oxford University in the UK,  Frank Turk, ("I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist"),  Chuck Colson (deceased but still speaking on NRB), witty apologist/writer Eric Metaxas ("Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy") and host of "Socrates in the City" that features the finest of speakers,  and a few others who coax my mind out of moth-balls.

Currently I am reading two books: "The Mystery of the Shimitah",  sequel to "The Harbinger"  by Jonathan Cahn, and "James, a Reader's Companion" authored by my pastor friend, Mike Loehrer. This latest book of his equips us as did his "Egoless Elders" to be alert to what causes divisions in churches.  Mike inserts powerful Biblical insights into his imaginative tale-telling. Such is his book, "Porch Talk with Gramps", a fine resource for parents, grandparents, or anybody that has influence with kids. Who better than Mike, a father of ten and grandfather to...Oh, well, i've lost count.

It is disturbing to hear that 75% of our kids who have been brought up in church lose their faith during their first year in secular colleges and universities. Most of the women and men God sends me to disciple have influence with young people who are examining their faith. Today the Holy Spirit will help the Thursday Girls reason their way to a belief of their own as we study the Book of Hebrews.

Tony, my son Doug's former foreman came to fix a propane gas leak yesterday,  charging me a quarter of the first plumber's estimate. We widows have to be discerning without being cynical. ...but then, who doesn't?  My house is getting old.  My personal plumbing is wearing out too.

My goal this summer: exercise in the water to regain some strength in my muscles. I am off to water aerobics where I am rebuilding relationships with people I knew years ago. A major bonus: fresh news and marketing opportunities, much as the women at the wells exchanged every morning. Next Saturday night, the 8th, I will return to entertain outside at the Mulligan Room. Several women from the class showed up with their families last month. If the Lord reminds you to do so, pray for me to: "Be wise toward outsiders, making the most of every opportunity, letting my conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that I may know how to answer everyone."  The presupposition is that I will have built a relationship that invites questions.

Remember Stuart Hamblen who came to Christ through one of Billy's early Crusades in Los Angeles?  He wrote "This Ole' House" and "I Believe".  Here is another of his songs.

                        UNTIL THEN

My heart can sing when I pause to remember
A heartache here is but a stepping stone.
Along a trail that's winding always upward,
This troubled world is not my final home.

The things of earth will dim and lose their value
If we recall,  they're borrowed for awhile.
And things of earth that cause the heart to tremble.
Remembered there will only bring a smile.


Love, Jo

Friday, July 24, 2015

Affordable Class

My self-appointed job description from the time I was a little girl was to bring some happiness into my mother's harsh life as a farmer's wife.  Hoping she had escaped the drudgery of farm life by marrying my town-dwelling Irish dad, it was disappointing for her to return to the farm to care for her widowed mother when her father died soon after her marriage. Kentucky-born Grandfather Blair was an educated man who sacrificially provided for a vocal music education for his only daughter, Zema. When she returned to the farm after her training and the winning of singing contests my mother saddled up a horse and became a circuit-riding music teacher.  Grandfather Harlan had helped to pioneer a mission which ultimately became First Methodist Church of Wilsey, Kansas where my mother directed the choir as well as soloing for special events. My mother did not, however have a personal relationship with Jesus until years later, even though her parents did and she served in the church.  I had whiffed the sweet aroma of Jesus in the merciful behavior of my grandmother, but I did not know His Name until five years after she left for Heaven.

Harlan's widow, Grandma Etta Blair taught my dad how to farm while tending to the chores and gardens.  My mother ventured outside only when necessary. the outhouse, the wash house and the chicken house where she raised chickens in order to buy items from the Sears Roebuck catalog that brought a little bit of class to our plain farm home.  That catalog, when outdated was relegated to the outhouse where it served quite a different purpose. On the wall of one of my upstairs bedrooms hangs a yellow and blue porcelain light fixture, probably purchased from a catalog with Mother's hard-earned egg money. A Houston friend Emailed me recently and gave me a warm compliment:  "Jo, you can decorate a home on a dime!" Yep. ...and guess where I learned how to do it!  Mother made school clothes for me on her treadle Singer sewing machine. One time she actually bought me a pretty green skirt. Attempting to get warm as I dressed for school I backed up to our coal/wood-burning stove and scorched not only the skirt but my backside.  My mother was too mad to even sympathize about my burned behind.

After years of ever-so-appropriate church services during our training for ministry in Minneapolis and Dallas, California's Peninsula Bible Church gatherings appealed to the Irish in me that was hungry for light-heartedness.  The church was brimming with new believers who were being discipled by men and women with no seminary education. (!)  Ed Stirm, one of the five men who pioneered the fellowship, owner of a steel company and a former trumpet player with a dance band and I teamed up to entertain the people as they streamed into the Sunday evening service.  I am slightly hesitant to tell you this, but oh, well, here goes: One night D. Parsons, a new Christian slid in beside me on the piano bench and said: "Jo, you're the best thing that's happened here since the uplift bra!" This man, fresh out of the world had not been sanitized yet.  I knew that, and I nearly fell off the piano bench, laughing.  ...back to Ed Stirm: though his and Margaret's home covered a city block in Menlo Park Margaret designed and sewed many of her own clothes and was also a self-taught artist.  On the bedroom of one of my guest rooms is her beautiful painting of a rose-filled Victorian-era white pitcher.  From my mother I learned that it doesn't take much money to both dress stylishly and decorate our homes with a little bit of class.  From Margaret I learned that one can have wealth and choose to live frugally. This woman who could well afford to shop at I Magnin helped me perfect my dress-sewing skills. One day she invited my mother and me to tea. When we walked into the foyer of her home, there sat an antique potty-chair filled with cascading ferns. My mother's disdain for potty chairs nearly erupted, but I grabbed her by the arm and held on until her moment of shocked disbelief subsided. what's the message this week?  Dig around and you may find one or two in here somewhere. Eventually my mother came to personally know Jesus.  My dad came to Him first. ... at 75.   He knew he was a sinner because my mother told him so, but she was never quite certain that she was. ...but she's there and I know it. So are my brothers and their wives and one of their kids. So is one of my kids (the one who inherited the most Irish) and I am getting mighty eager to see his dad and him at The Gate.  My son Jeff and I talked about that on the phone the other day. "Mom, I still have things to do."  "I know, Son. Apparently, so do I."  As our Lord rightfully judges this nation for our blatant immorality this is no time to be declared outdated and relegated to an outhouse!


Life here is grand with friends I love so well
Comfort I get from God's own Word.
But when my soul needs manna from above
Where could I go but to the Lord?


Love, Jo

Friday, July 17, 2015

Angels Unawares

...might as well get up.  I've been lying on my deck bed,  gazing up at God's amazing handiwork, watching the Redeye planes coming out of LAX heading for who knows where, glad that I am not on one,  spotting a satellite or two orbiting around the earth.  ...but higher than anything man has invented is our God Who keeps His vast Creation running in perfect order. Everything was running smoothly before Adam and Eve messed it all up; consequently we are in a battle daily with the world, the flesh and the devil who don't seem to comprehend that they've already lost the war.

There are some mighty fine folk in Heaven, and I am getting more excited about meeting them as the years rack up.  Meanwhile, I am taking better care of Jesus' temple than I did during the winter when I spent too much time indoors.  I chuckle about the time Ted went somewhere for a pastor's something or other and while he was gone I took my savings from teaching kids piano lessons and bought a little Aljo camper that surprised my husband when he arrived at home and the Aljo occupied his parking spot. As soon as I could wrestle my family loose from the church and their sports our little trailer was hitched to our car and we headed for the mountains to the north of Bakersfield. Momma was secretly praying for a place to permanently park that trailer so our family could make a quick getaway between weddings, funerals, meetings and sports events. The Lord answered my prayer at about 5,000 feet where I spotted a farmhouse with a cement slab beside the garage and a little pond that I suspected held catfish, waiting to be caught for our supper.  I went up to the door of the house and knocked, an older couple came to see who was knockin' at their door,  and I asked:   "Would you consider letting us pay rent to park our camper on the slab next to your garage so my family can get out of the city for an overnight now and then?"  The wife turned to the husband and I beckoned to mine, who as usual was embarrassed by his wife's boldness.  The couple asked if we could pay $5 a month and that's all we could afford so we struck a deal.

Oh, God was and is so good to us.  To this day our kids are mountain kids. It wouldn't be Heaven for our Doug if he doesn't have a mountain to climb. His mansion must be a showplace because that's what he built here on earth: mansions. His brother and sister also inherited my mountain-loving genes. Dear Ted could have lived in an igloo at the North Pole and been perfectly content.  God not only prepared an unoccupied cement slab in the mountains but He provided ranches in Redding and Mariposa, California where we could take my family and my parents who had moved from Kansas to be with us.  He provided three ranch getaways near Bakersfield.  One had a fishing pond that my aging dad and I could enjoy together. We set lines at night, much as we had on the Cottonwood River in Kansas when I was a kid,  and we hauled in some big 'uns. I remember well one time when I was scheduled to speak for a women's luncheon at Bakersfield's Stockdale Country Club. The rest of the family left the Poso Creek ranch in the early morning to go back to the city.  My dad and I stayed on to harvest the night's catch, one of which was a huge catfish that broke the line when I tried to hoist him onto the bank. I went in after him, sinking in mud up to my knees, but I got him. I was due at the Country Club in exactly two hours. I drove pell mell back to our house in town, showered the mud off,  threw on something suitable and made it to the club on time. I did not tell those ladies about my muddy morning.  I have no idea what I talked about.  Those were the days when I was speaking for a great many women's meetings and conferences here and there. Years later, as I was flying back into Houston from a week of speaking, exhausted from the counselling that inevitably surfaces the still small voice of the Holy Spirit visited me:  "You have the best husband in the world to partner with. Spend the rest of your life alongside Him in ministry and you will see how I will strengthen couples to make an impact on this world!" ...and that's what we did from that time until the Lord took my Ted Home.

I entertained from my keyboard on the patio outside the Mulligan Room on the second Saturday night. A bunch of people I know in Bear Valley and other places showed up who love the singable songs of yesteryear. ...then on Sunday Gideon, the dear Messianic Jewish man I invited home with me from the Apple Shed a year or so ago and his lovely Christian wife, Alta, a Navajo Indian from that tribe's largest-of-all reservations in Arizona, Utah and New Mexico came for an overnight and a morning together. How I love that couple!   I wonder who's coming for dinner next. My dining table is set for six.

The Thursday girls are studying Hebrews now. In all my years I have never had a newly reborn mother and her newly reborn grown daughter together in a Bible study.There are no words to tell you how thrilling that is.

Now it is time to read Sarah Young's "Jesus Calling" (Boy Howdy, does that woman ever take us straight to God's Great Heart!), have some breakfast, brush out the shedding hair from Pussn'Boots. don my swim suit and head for the pool where Marti will lead us through aerobics that will strengthen and sooth our aching bodies.

Hebrews 13:2: Do not forget to entertain strangers for by so doing some people have entertained angels unawares!"  Amen and Amen!

Love,  Jo

Friday, July 10, 2015

By and By

I really tried to sleep inside in my own bedroom last night, but then the swirl of the day's conversations began to roll around in my mind and I knew I couldn't let them go unless I crawled under the covers on my deck bed, looked up at our allotment of God's vast Creation and gained His perspective that often eludes me at the end of the day. I awoke with a start to the squeal of a fawn as he raced down the hill below me,  destined to be breakfast for the critter that chased him. I covered up my head, not wanting to hear the little fawn's death shriek.  So is life in the mountains. So is life in the city.

The last phone call before I retreated to my bed on the deck was from last week's guest, my dear friend, Harriet who was reporting in before proceeding to CRU'S bi-yearly conference in Fort Collins, Colorado.  She had stopped off in Northern California after leaving here for a few days of visiting with a friend who had discipled her many years ago at Oregon State. At the 4th of July celebration in Bridgeport, the two of them led a 96-year-old woman to Jesus. They shared the Good News of the Gospel with several others who received Christ. These will never die like the little fawn, but will be whisked immediately into Heaven when they take their last breath.

Rejoice, rejoice, Oh Christian. 
Lift up your voice and SING eternal Hallelujahs to Jesus Christ, our King.

The Thursday girls have scattered as people do in the summertime, but the two Kiwi's from New Zealand were here yesterday,  plus our youngest one,  a guard on the maximum side of the nearby prison.  Four little boys, ... one an African American, two Hawaiians (all adopted) plus another thirteen year-old with both Indian (as in India)  and American blood coursing through his veins were armed with non-lethal weapons, pinging the woodpeckers who love the taste of my house.  We women began a study of Hebrews. Who can adequately teach Hebrews? Not me. He will.

I listen to many stories. Everyone has one that deserves to be heard.  I so look forward to the Judgment Seat when our entire stories, including our motives will be revealed. The powerful little chunk of Proverbs 3:5 and 6 that tells me to give up attempting to connect all the dots of my life is "...lean not to your own understanding."

Meanwhile, here's an old hymn to encourage our hearts: "We Will Understand it Better By and By".

We are tossed and driven on this restless sea of time;
Somber skies and howling tempests oft succeed a bright sunshine.
In that land of perfect days when the mists are rolled away
We will understand it better by and by.


Love,  Jo

Friday, July 3, 2015

His Eye is on the Sparrow

Early this morning my house guests from Texas and Northern California and I watched from my deck as one by one a dozen beautiful hot air balloons rose into the morning sky in celebration of America's Independence Day.  For thirty-one years I have delighted in the sight, but seeing it through the eyes of first-time observers always causes me to experience fresh wonder.  Every time someone new comes to my home on this mountain and draws in a breath of  fresh, clean air, blinks in awe at a sunrise or sunset, looks up like a child at unfiltered blue sky, walks through my house and looks out a window at a different view from every room,  my mind goes back to the miracle sent by the Lord that allowed us to buy this family and ministry home.  Life can snatch away the awe of past miracles and we must not forget.  We must not.

The tree house our sons built for the grandchildren still rests in the branches of the giant oak below the deck. Sometimes I think I hear the laughter of the five L's and one M.  as they swing in a giant ark below the tree house. On the walls of that high-in-the-sky little house are written with felt pen the names of all of them.  In the evenings the tears sometimes stream down my face as I think I hear their screams of excitement as they race from the top floor of this three and a half story house all the way to the floor below, playing "Ghosts in the Graveyard". ...a game we adults never could figure out. ...and then there was the time two of the "L's" came screeching down the hill: "We saw a mountain lion.  We know it was a mountain lion!" ...and maybe it was.

Right now I am thinking about the time a visiting couple from Hawaii came downstairs in the morning saying, "We really enjoyed sleeping in your sleigh". Ted and I hurried up the stairs to discover the queen-size bed was squashed to the floor in the middle. a dead give away that six pairs of kid-feet had bungee-jumped from the balcony in that room and landed on the bed below.  Every slat was broken. Fun! ...and then there was the time that oldest grandson and a buddy couldn't resist poking out the skylight above that balcony. Dad Doug was on it in a heartbeat and that grandson had to install that skylight himself. This ol' house holds many memories for those grand kids, their parents and their grandmother.

Yesterday my two guests and I climbed to the Family Oak above the house where the weddings of both sons took place and five of the six grandchildren were dedicated to Jesus by their Grandfather. The view is spectacular! Ted and I often sat in the double swing that hung from that ancient oak and prayed for this valley.  Now there is a strong witness for Jesus:  the result of the prayers and sacrifice of many saints.

My guest from Austin, Texas, Harriet is the prayer coordinator for BRIDGES,  the branch of CRU (Campus Crusade for Christ) whose mission is to reach and disciple for our Lord Jesus Christ the million foreign students who continue to pour into our American universities. The goal: ten million new disciples for Christ by the year 2020. Will you join in prayer?

Newest personal challenge: attempting to be smart enough to figure out my new smart phone. My flip top died when I dropped it. Tomorrow night I won't be playing with my beloved Tehachapi Symphony Orchestra at the football field but a friend, whose husband is in Afghanistan and I will be sitting on the grass with many others,  thrilling to their glorious patriotic music and watching the spectacular fireworks that break out as the sun goes down.  How many more such celebrations will there be?  We do not know, but God does.

                              I KNOW WHO HOLDS TOMORROW

I don't know about tomorrow; I just live from day to day.
I don't borrow from its sunshine, for its skies may turn to grey.
I don't worry o'er the future  (That's not entirely true.)
For I know what Jesus said, and today I'll walk beside Him
For He knows what lies ahead.

I don't know about tomorrow; it may bring me poverty.
But the One Who feeds the sparrows is the One Who stands by me.
And the path that is my portion may be through the flame or flood
But His Presence goes before me and I'm covered by His blood.


Love,  Jo