Friday, October 30, 2015


By the time I was eight years old both of my brothers had left the farm and were off on their own race through life. My mother's strength was sapped by the dying of my grandma. My dad's life as a farmer was brutally demanding. I was on my own. Boys were pushing for my attention from the time I was a little girl. I liked the attention but was confused and disgusted at the same time. I told no one, but made a decision to excel in everything I did. I still fight a war within, competing with myself for excellence.  My favorite subject was English, but my teacher was weird, so I stayed away from her. I know now that she was a lesbian.  The town girls formed cliques with a closed membership. I didn't "belong".  I developed insomnia during high school.

After graduation I felt stuck on a farm with exhausted parents. My kind, quiet grandma was gone. I felt so ashamed after she died because I had resented her illness that took all of my mother's energy. Guilt about my feelings had much to do with my coming to Christ five years after Grandma died. I did not know where she went, for it was never discussed. I believe that she will be waiting in Heaven at the Gate.  I walked the country roads and pastures around our farm, cried and felt hopeless.  Finally my dad gave me $200 to attend a business school in the small city of Salina. I lived for a few months in a home with a young couple and their child. The husband attempted to come onto me when his pregnant wife wasn't looking. I fled and told no one.  I moved to another home where I had a room but did not feel welcome in the rest of the house. I got a job in a radio station that trained announcers from other parts of the country. I dated these older fellows. I did not know Jesus yet, but He protected me. Besides, we had a moral code then that checked me from crossing a line. (Whatever happened to that "line"?)  All this time I was "longing to belong". I graduated in a year and landed a secretarial job in the athletic department of  Kansas State College. Just as in elementary and high school, I still felt that I was on the outside, looking in at the kids who "belonged".  It's a terrible feeling, and probably the reason I look to the periphery of gatherings, leave the clusters of people and head for the one person who stands alone.

Go with me, if you will, back to my mother who had fled from the farm and the church and married my witty, handsome, dancing dad.  Grandfather Harlan died. My town-born dad took over the farm. My mother was miserable. My dad began to drink. I signed on to make my mother happy. Does any of this story strike a familiar chord with anybody out there?

...back for a moment to one part of my childhood that was wonderful. My parents, my brothers and I were all natural dancers, played an instrument and sang. My brother Bob,  a drummer and I played swing, jazz and the blues. We sang around the piano as Mother played all the popular tunes of the day. She could not, however "play by ear".  Every tune I ever heard somehow gets lodged in my head and comes out through my fingers.  "Stick to the notes!" Mother would call from the kitchen. I managed to "stick to the notes" all the years I played in our outstanding Symphony Orchestra. Our Maestro would tolerate no messing around with the hallowed Classics.

This story really is going somewhere. Years later, after becoming a Christian and being invited by a young Billy Graham to become a student at Northwestern Bible College in Minneapolis, Minnesota the dour-faced registrar required that I sign an agreement not to dance, declaring that "It is a sexual activity that God would never condone!"  I sure hope she's wrong about that!  I can hardly wait to dance in Heaven.  Yippee!

My boyfriend Ted joined me in Bible College after mustering out of the Navy and becoming a Christian. I lined him up to room with the good lookin', zoot-suiter, talented school quartet who travelled and recruited students for a school that was financially in trouble. After one night with them my new Christian boyfriend quietly told me, "I will be finding another place to room." "Why?" "Uhhh,  I knocked every one of those guys up against the wall during the night. They're homosexuals!"  I didn't know what that meant so Ted explained it to me, insisting that we not "make waves", which was my husband's preferred modus operandi. There were times when I made enough "waves" for both of us and this was one of those times.  I burst into the office of the Dean and shot off my yet-unbridled Irish tongue. The Dean went into shock, fearful that if this news leaked out the remaining supporters of the school would withdraw their contributions.  He didn't want to deal with it,  but called the fellows in,  hoping they would tell him it wasn't true. It was. Before the day was over they were expelled. Ted and I, in training to become workers for Christ had just been introduced to the inevitable cost when biblical integrity is uncompromised. It would not be the last time during our many years in ministry. I doubt if Billy Graham ever heard a word about it.  I hope not. The dear young man had just launched his Crusades that continue through Satellite to reach millions of lost people around the world. He is nearly blind, waiting in his North Carolina mountain home for his summons to Heaven .

I believe the "Flaw in The Law" can be summed up in this story. "Lists" of No No's invite ridiculous inconsistencies. The list that we Northwestern students were pressed to endorse gave license to whatever wasn't on The List.  Yes, God gave us a "list" of Ten Laws, knowing that none of us could keep them. He had a Plan that trumped The Law:  HIS SACRIFICIAL LOVE ON THE CROSS.   What a comfort and admonition is the scripture: "It is the kindness of God that brings us to repentance." 

Christians can be so constipated about giving life-giving words to one another. Jesus certainly showered us with lots of 'em. Who or what is blocking you from hearing them?   Hebrews 12:1 tells us to "cut 'em off" so we can "finish (unhampered) the race that is set before us".

                            OLD HYMN: WONDERFUL WORDS OF LIFE

Sing them over again to me; WONDERFUL WORDS OF LIFE
Let me more of their beauty see: WONDERFUL WORDS of LIFE!
Words of life and beauty teach me faith and duty.


Sweetly echos the Gospel call;
Offer pardon and peace to all;


Love, Jo

Friday, October 23, 2015


On an icy cold Kansas morning I was sleeping soundly when Blair, the older of my two brothers shook me awake. "Come on, Tiny. Let's GO!" He had promised that I could go duck hunting with him if I didn't lag behind or whimper about the cold. The rules were the same when he let me go fishing or varmint hunting with him. More than anybody in the world I wanted to please my brother (s) so I jumped out of bed, pulled on "long johns", snow boots, snow suit, yanked my wool cap over my ears and away we went...down a dirt road for several miles to a pond. We flattened ourselves on the ground behind the dam and waited. Blair fetched his duck call from his pocket, in case he had to lure down any ducks that were migrating south for the winter.  On this particular morning we heard loud quacking coming from the north.  In a perfect V shape, here they came, plummeted down, skimmed over the pond, put on their brakes and glided to a smooth stop...not a bit unlike the giant jets that have propelled my husband and me to many places in our world.

I feel a memory coming on. We were in New York with friends, and had visited Ellis Island on the 9th of September, 2001. We docked within a few blocks of the Twin Towers and returned to White Plains where we were staying in the home of another dear friend. On the morning of the 11th, rather than returning to New York City we decided to travel west to Niagara Falls. On the way I flipped on the radio. We could not absorb what we were hearing. One of the Towers had been hit and was falling, story by story.  On the right side of the highway was a truck stop with dozens of trucks parked in the lot. We joined them just in time to watch on TV as the second tower was hit and began to crash to the ground. We sat in stunned horror.  After a very long time we decided to travel on to the Falls, only to find that it had been closed down, lest Al Qaeda strike this major supply of water for the entire East Coast.

A few days later we were allowed to go back into the City that was nearly devoid of tourists. Smoke was still pouring from the site. One Broadway show, "The Music Man" was playing so we joined half an audience to watch the actors put on a stellar performance,  ending with an enormous American flag dropping to the floor at the back of the stage.  We stood to our feet, weeping and singing "God Bless America", backed up by the magnificent "Seventy-Six Trombone" band.  I will never, ever forget it.  Five days later we were on the first plane allowed to fly out of Kennedy International. After a nearly silent flight across our nation we landed in LAX.  When our 747 glided to an uneventful smooth stop, a packed plane-load of people stood to our feet and shouted!  Those are moments one does not forget!

...back to the pond in Kansas. My brother knew ducks. He studied ducks. He had no patience with anyone who didn't. He knew those ducks were hungry and would soon waddle out of the pond into the nearby cornfield for breakfast. Now, dear readers, no respectable hunter ever shoots a "sitting duck". (Remember that when someone shoots you when you are just paddling around, minding your own business.)  My brother knew when it was time to wait and when it was time to shoot.  Getting "trigger happy" doth not produce a duck dinner. This lesson would serve me well during our many years in the pastorates. I never shot anybody,  but I came dangerously close a few times.  When the ducks headed for the cornfield Blair rose to his full six foot three inches and ...Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! Six ducks fell to the ground. He rarely missed.  Later he went to work as an exhibition shooter for Remington Rand.

Grandma always cleaned the fish and game. She plucked the feathers off of those ducks in minutes, depositing the downier ones in sacks that would later be stuffed into muslin pillow slips and mattress covers. (Remember John Denver's "Grandma's Feather Bed"?)  Years later I became so tired of mattresses that I actually bought a feather bed. Naw...phony feathers...not hand-plucked by my Grandma.

Blair not only knew ducks, he also knew fish, and became a well-known fishing guide for the rich and famous who flew in to Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas for a weekend of sports fishing.  He was often featured on a Kansas City TV sports show. When he learned that a new recreational fishing lake was being excavated from the land in any of those states he made an appointment with the Corps of Engineers and studied the varying gradations of the ground that would soon be covered with water. He knew what kind of fish hung out in each depth. There's a lesson hangin' around in there. You'll figure it out. 

Hunters and fishermen are a breed all their own. Maybe that's why I get such a kick out of "Duck Dynasty", whereas some of my friends think they're a bunch of hicks. Well, I have known some mighty smart hicks.  My brother Blair was obsessed about hunting and fishing. I admired his commitment to become the best in his trade, but I so needed brothers to teach me how to live. ...and die, for I didn't know how to do either.  I borrowed other people's brothers who knew Jesus and introduced me to Him.   I followed Him, and He became my "Magnificent Obsession".

You will meet my family-of-origin in Heaven. Each had to come to the end of themselves to allow Him to come in. It was especially tough for my two tall, handsome, confident, independent tough brothers to admit that they needed a Savior. Once they were convinced that my Ted was not some sissified "city feller" he had a powerful influence for Christ in their lives.  I would need the discernment I gained from dealing with my prideful brothers for the calling the Lord placed upon our lives. As a Chinese friend of mine says: "God is very economical. He uses everything !"  ...and indeed, He does!

                    OLD HYMN:   UNDER HIS WINGS

Under His wings I am safely abiding.
Though the night deepens and tempests are wild.
Still I can trust Him; I know He will keep me.
He has redeemed me, and I am His child.

Under His wings, what a refuge in sorrow.
How the heart yearningly turns to His rest.
Often when earth has no balm for my healing,
There I find comfort and there I am blest.

Under His wings, Oh what precious enjoyment.
There will I hide 'til life's trials are o'er.
Sheltered, protected, no evil can harm me.
Resting in Jesus, I'm safe evermore.


Love,  Jo

Friday, October 16, 2015

Lessons from the deaf, mute and blind

Our shopping lists were very short when I was a little girl growing up on a remote farm in Kansas. Flour, sugar, salt, coffee, baking soda and powder, seeds to plant,  grains to feed the chickens and livestock, parts and belts for machinery, and kerosene for lamps and lanterns in case the electricity went off. ...Essentials. We purchased no yeast for making the loaves of bread baked each week. All farm wives used "starter", a pure culture made from fermented cream. As I sit here writing I can almost catch a whiff of the baking bread that greeted me when I came in our kitchen door from the long, usually freezing walk from my one-room country school.  We planted and raised all of our own meat, dairy products, fruits and vegetables.  All other necessities were ordered from the Sears Roebuck or Montgomery Ward catalogs, which I have mentioned served an important purpose in their retirement years, in the North Pole, ... our name for our unheated outdoor two-holer toilet, located 'way past the wash house and the vegetable garden.  Some of you may be hung up on that "two -holer" image. Son Doug, always the creative sentimentalist confiscated that seat after the farm was abandoned, took it to his beautiful country home in Texas,  hung it,  and behind the holes, planted vines that cascaded down the wall to the floor. Remembering that "conversation piece" warms my heart, for my parent's decisions were made in that privy, from which comes the word private.

I have told you about Clair Anderson's family in prior blogs but today I feel compelled to tell you more about this unique family of five that lived several miles from our farm. ...too far for my young legs to make it both ways before dark.  I saddled up our ornery mare, Patsy, and away we went down a dirt road to Helmick, a tiny little train station settlement that had been abandoned by all except this remarkable family.

Clair was the sole provider for his wife, her mother, father and a maiden aunt. All but his wife Julie were deaf, mute and totally blind, except for Julie's mother whose sight was fast dimming. The couple had no children of their own, lest the sightless, soundless genes be passed down to the next generation.  The worn linoleum-covered floors in this old farmhouse were spotlessly clean. Each member's clothing, starched and ironed with flat irons heated on the wood-fed cast iron stove had been scrubbed with homemade lye soap on a wash board in tubs filled with water from a well of spring water, drawn up hand-over-hand by buckets attached to a rope.

When we moved here to Bear Valley thirty-one years ago a neighbor who was raised in these mountains warned us not to set sprinklers beneath our ancient oaks. Her valid reason: "These mighty oaks have done the hard work of pressing down and down to drink from the deep springs buried in our mountains. If given the opportunity the roots will take the line of least resistance and come to the surface to drink. When the blizzards and winds come they will topple over because their roots will be weakened". ...kind of reminds us of our nation, doesn't it? ...and what was the offer Jesus gave the Woman at the Well  who had drunk dirty surface water all of her life?

Everyone in Clair and Julie's family went silently about their work,  pausing to communicate by a language transmitted through their fingers to one another's hands and arms, as they nodded and smiled.  Oh, that all of us humans could understand one another's hearts and meanings in such a way, and stop yelling at each other!

By the time I was born even farmers had a telephone.. ...the type that hung on the wall with a crank on the side that we turned but once to reach a live woman we called "Central". We gave her the name of the person we wanted to reach and she rang them with either two, three or four rings on their party line. I don't recall that we had a phone book for "Central" knew everybody and their particular "ring" within a radius of twenty or thirty miles. She was kind to all of long as we called before dark and after sun-up. We knew it was bad manners to pick up the phone when someone else's ring was heard on our party line,  but many a farm family learned how to ever-so-carefully pick up the receiver and listen in.  Who needed Face book?

...back to the Helmick family: When Patsy and I galloped up to the home of my friends,  Julie's mother became excited, grabbed the slate off the kitchen wall,  grasped a piece of chalk and began to write. We wrote to each other and laughed,  she from deep in her throat. ...not an unpleasant sound at all. This lady was my friend, and I was the granddaughter she would never have. I usually lingered, counting on my ride home being a hair-flyin',  rein-yankin'  race toward the barn once Patsy knew we were headed that way.

My dear friends of the 21st century, I like to hear your voices, but I welcome your loving Emails and texts. I know if I refuse to keep up with technology I will never hear from most of you, including my grandchildren. I do have a land phone: 661-821-1214.  Right now I am learning to use my new 10 inch "Samsung Tablet". Granddaughter Lexi and I are going to begin to play cards together. ... she in her Bay Area college and me on my mountain. ... and I must make more use of Skype so I can see faces and hear voices.  I watch Netflix as well as TV,  choose to listen on my cell and Tablet to scripture and great teachers of the Word. I think of how terribly lonely widows, widowers and parents have been down through the centuries as their loved ones have left.   Many families continued to live too close to one another. Abe and his nephew Lot figured that out, but Abe and Sarah sure did mess up. The Arabs are still getting even with Abe for booting out Hagar and Ishmael.

To me, one of the funniest scenarios in scripture is in John 9. Do you ever wonder if the blind man that Jesus healed didn't wish he could go back and be blind again so he wouldn't have to view the scene that unfolded right before his eyes when the absurd Pharisees and his own parents tried to steal the joy from his beautiful miracle? One of the great advantages of being my age is that I don't have to hang around people who try to take the joy out of my miracles. Soon I shall see Him face-to-face, in all His Glory! Until then,  dear Lord, ...

Open my eyes that I may see visions of Truth Thou hast for me.
Place in my hands the wonderful key that shall unclasp and set me free.

Open my ears that I may hear voices of Truth Thou sendeth clear.
And while the wavenotes fall on my ear, everything false will disappear.

Open my mouth and let me bear gladly the warm Truth everywhere;
Open my heart, and let me prepare love for your children that I can share.


Love,  Jo

Friday, October 9, 2015


The moon was a mere slit in the eastern sky as I awoke at 4 A.M. this morning. There were no birds up yet, but somewhere down the mountain I heard the bark of a dog. After taking in the wonder of God's stars above I went inside to fetch my cell phone, turn on the audio to the Psalms, crawl back under my warm electric blanket to listen and ponder: Why did the Lord choose musicians to write the Psalms (songs)?  Talk about your mood swings! Those fellows certainly didn't "take captive every thought" before spilling out what they were thinking and feeling.  Good!

I think that life for me, with my sensitive musician's personality would have been easier if Ted Stone hadn't been a pastor. ...but I had signed up for Romans 12:1&2,  so there ya' go. Dear Ted. ... with no mood swings and a wife whose feelings flitted, fluttered and flapped (Check out last week's blog.) around a circle as large as the rope swing's arc below my deck. One time when we had a bunch of couples here for overnight, Ted jumped on that swing (hot-dawgin'),  and for some reason, fell off. He got to his feet, looked at his hand,  two fingers were sticking straight up and all he said was: "Oh, I think I hurt myself ."  Son Jeff tells about the time when the lid of the car trunk came down on his dad's head and cut a bloody gash. All Ted muttered was, "Oh, that hurt!" Jeff's response: "That's IT?" Yep, that was "IT". ...all the way to the end of his life. ...Steady Teddy.

Early on in ministry I learned that the wife of a pastor had better bite our tongues until they bleed, take sleeping pills when we're too mad or scared to sleep,  put on a happy face when our hearts are breaking and do our best to hide our tears so our kids won't hate church and Jesus. Would I do it all again?  You bet! Scarcely a day goes by that I don't hear from some of those wonderful people who are scattered around this world. ...bearing fruit and more fruit.  ...and right here on this mountain, those He brings to me to disciple are doing the same! ...movin' on out into the community.

I end every blog with the words of an old hymn...and here is the reason:  I led worship for most of the years we were in the pastorate, choosing music that related to Ted's messages. I was so intent upon setting the right tone for his teaching that I couldn't concentrate on what he was saying. At the same time my eyes were roving over the audience to see who needed to be invited for Sunday dinner and who seemed troubled and needed to be contacted as soon as possible. My beloved Father was and still is gently teaching me to let go of trying to please everybody,  bury my perfectionist expections and simply "float" on God's thermals like the eagles and red-tailed hawks. After all, they awaken with "new strength every morning".

                      OLD HYMN:  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 bear your burden, carry all your load?
Let Him have His way with thee.

Would you in His Kingdom find a place of constant rest?
Would you prove Him true in providential test?
Would you in His service labor always at your best?
Let Him have His way with thee.


Love,  Jo

Friday, October 2, 2015


Thursday afternoon I heard some loud squawking down below my deck,  I  rushed to see what was going on and couldn't believe my eyes.  Hanging on the fence was a dead doe, head caught in the top wire of our barbed wire fence and all around her was a flock of enormous California condors, pecking her flesh and innards into shreds.  It was not a pretty sight. In fact it was downright horrifying! There were thirteen of them, probably weighing in at about twenty-five or thirty pounds each with a wing spread of five or six feet. I called our community firemen whose station is right below my house and within minutes three uniformed firemen came roaring up my driveway in two fully equipped fire trucks. As they got their first glimpse of the situation they were as stunned as I, for  none of us had ever seen a scene like this in Bear Valley.

Right now my mind is going back to Kenya,  East Africa when Ted and I watched with horror as several wildebeests and zebras disappeared down the gullets of twenty-foot crocodiles. In the Land Rover next to ours were National Geographic photographers,  taking pictures of the yearly migration of millions of wildebeests and zebras crossing the Mara River that divides Kenya from Tanzania.

 ...back to my front yard: The firemen grabbed their cameras and began to slowly make their way down the hill, not wanting to scare off the birds. The doe was already dead so there was no hurry. Before any of us could catch him, Bootsie,  one of my two cats ran down the hill to within a few feet of those huge birds, sat down and just stared at them. Can you believe that those giant birds panicked, and flew up into the oaks where they watched until my cat decided his mission was accomplished and sauntered back up the hill?  Lesson here: All we have to do when satan comes at us is stare him down and hit him with the Word of God!

The men dragged the carcass on down the hill so the coyotes and other varmints wouldn't come around in the night to scavenge. Now it is the morning after. I slept on my deck last night with no fear because Bootsie, my three-pound watch-cat was curled up right beside me.

Here comes another Bear Valley "first" for our family:  Last Monday night my daughter and her husband were sleeping soundly in their upstairs bedroom. Suddenly they heard a crash in their kitchen down below. Hurrying down the stairs, they found their cookie jar broken to pieces on the floor, cookies scattered everywhere and the cat food feeder empty. Out the broken screened window that he had entered went a bear! Ronni, their terrified dog had disappeared. A neighbor brought her back the next morning. I wonder if Bootsie would have stared him down? Probably not. Bears eat cats. Apparently California condors don't.

Now to explain the title of this week's blog:  "Flit, Flutter, Flap or Float":  I have flitted, fluttered and flapped much too much throughout my lifetime.  Now I am floating. One morning this week as I was hunkered down under my electric blanket on my deck bed (...and yes, I watched the Moon Show, face up.),  I awoke just in time to see the flitting bats calling it a night.  Next the fluttering sparrows woke up.  (Does God really care about those tiny, nondescript little birds?)  Soon they partied down on some branches where they would twitter at each other for the rest of the day. I stretched; Puss'n Boots sensed my stirring and proceeded to march all over my body, attempting to guilt-trip me into getting up to feed them. That didn't work,... so Bootsie crawled under the covers to nestle and purr.  Puss'n? Naw. He considers snuggling to be 'way beneath his "show cat" dignity.  Negative thoughts bombarded my mind so, like the crows,  I flapped  around in those awhile. I can't bring these negative thoughts into captivity unless You help me. Lord.  Next came Hootie, the resident owl,  gliding (floating) over my head on his way to bed.  Then came a red-tailed hawk, hitching a ride on a thermal, floating and watching for a hapless little creature that would be worth a plummet to the ground below.

Today I choose to float. Two dear woman from "down below" are coming.  Before they get here I want to listen to Hebrews 11 on  my smart phone. I like "The Message" even though some Christians look down their doctrinal noses at this folksy translation. I want to think about all the saints He speaks about in that chapter.  Maybe I too will see the shadowy skyline of the Holy City. ...that future City where Christ is King of Kings and Lord of Lords that gives hope to a world that has none.

                                           THE HOLY CITY
Last night I lay a sleeping; there came a dream so fair.
I stood in old Jerusalem beside the temple there.
I heard the children singing and ever as they sang
Methought the voice of angels from Heaven in answer rang.
Methought the voice of angels from Heaven in answer rang.

And then methought my dream was changed, the streets no longer rang.
Hushed were the glad Hosannas the little children sang.
The sun grew dark with mystery, the morn was cold and chill
As the shadow of a Cross arose upon a lonely hill.
As the shadow of a Cross arose upon a lonely hill.

And once again the scene was changed, new earth there seemed to be.
I saw the Holy City beside the tideless sea.
The Light of God was on its streets, the gates were opened wide
That all who would might enter, and would not be denied.
No need of moon or stars by night or sun to shine by day; 
It was the New Jerusalem that would not pass away.
It was the New Jerusalem that would not pass away!


Love,  Jo