Friday, April 28, 2017

"I'm not totally perfect

...but parts of  me are excellent!'' Ted had a yellow T shirt  imprinted with that silly saying. We were in Disneyland with our daughter. A little kid came up to him and boldly asked: "What parts are excellent?"  Her daddy put his arm around our Dee and answered: "This part of me is excellent!" Our daughter Dee lives a couple of thousand feet above me on this mountain with Brent, an in-and-out senior-in -college daughter, a cream-colored humongous Pyrenees with a curly tail and a frisky black Lab. I am blessed.

Last week Shari and Lee were here from Cincinnati.  Sunday Gideon, my dear Messianic Jewish friend from Arizona was here for the day. As I write it is 4:30 in the morning. Sleeping upstairs is Connie from Rockport, Texas. I had not seen her for thirty-somc years. I am blessed.

The Lord has given me a Christian handyman who is replacing my deck that was guaranteed to last forever, but didn't. He brings two young men with him to help. One came to Christ a couple of weeks ago. A. and I met in Ephesians 1 last Friday. Some of you who read this are chuckling.  I met with you in Ephesians 1, maybe decades ago. The Lord still sends lost younger people to me. They need to know that Somebody has loved them from before the foundation of the world. Today when A. comes we will jump into the Book of  John so he will know Who this Somebody is. I am blessed.

Grace, grace, God's grace.
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within.
Grace, grace; God's grace.
Grace that is greater than all our sin.

Love,  Jo

Friday, April 21, 2017

Drama, Trauma and Fruit

I would like to tell you more about our ten years in Houston. Ted and I were on a call-in show on KHCB radio, the traditional Christian station.. That exposure opened up many ministries, one of which was in a church whose leadership did not believe in biblical inerrancy or  that Christ is God-in-the-flesh. I called my friend: "Billie, I may be in deep doo doo if I accept this invitation. Do you want to help me?" She did, and here's what happened: I was drawn to the Book of Ecclesiastes which I had never really studied, ...a fact which makes it all-the-more amazing that in  the weeks that followed, the whole bloomin' class came to Christ. Billie and I hot-footed it to our side of town as most of those women left that church, went down the street and joined the Baptists!

Ted and I met Charlie and Ann, ..the consummate hospitable Texas couple. They had adopted four children, moved from the swanky part of Houston (and there are many "swanky parts") and moved to their ranch in Tomball. Jessie, their black Christian handyman told Charlie about Jesus and Charlie came to Christ.  He thought it would be a good thing to take his kids to Sunday School but there wasn't one he bought a Bible and taught them himself.  Ann came to Christ. They opened their hearts and home to students from the University of Texas and Texas A&M. The 6T Ranch Retreat became the happenin' place for college students. C&A weren't sure they were running their ministry right, so flew to L'Abri in Switzerland to see how Francis and Edith ran their place. One day on a drive in the surrounding Alps, there was Francis, dressed in his knickers and walking along the road. They offered him a ride, he accepted and crawled into  the back seat of  their rented Fiat. Ann turned around and blurted out: "Dr. Schaeffer, What is wrong with me? Sometimes I feel so insecure".  This Ravi Zacharias of a generation ago replied: "My dear Mad-a-a-am  (rolling his "r's), " all of us feel 'insecure'. That's why we run to the Word of God!" Charlie and Ann Towery spent a chunk o' change to travel half -way around the world to ask a question and discover that they were running the 6T in Tomball, Texas exactly as they were meant to. Each of us runs our "retreat" according to His individual direction.  Take the Shattucks, for instance. They stopped by Round Top when Ted and I were speaking for a Marriage Retreat. Later, Bill and Jinny came here to our retreat, returned to Houston, then moved to North Carolina,  built their magnificent Whispering Pines Retreat on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and welcome pastors and wives who need counselling and encouragement. I am so proud of them. Pastors so desperately need a place of safety and recovery.

We joined Search Ministries for a couple of years and conducted many discussions on Life and God around the sprawling city of Houston. Sometimes we drove out to "The Barn" on a Sunday night to sing without instruments with a bunch of maverick Church of Christ folk. Their harmonies thrill the soul  There we met Buddy who had a dream about launching a radio station for young people that played only contemporary Christian music. He did it. I listened, and called him."You need something to break the sameness. How about letting me do an interview show?" I carted my little tape recorder around Houston and recorded the testimonies of many fascinating people.  A couple of young women drug runners heard my broadcast and called in. One lived two lives,  playing in a performing Christian band while using her cover as a UPS employee to deliver drugs. The other led only one life. She was the live-in girlfriend of the leader of the whole drug running outfit. She would never allow me to meet her, even sfter she came to Christ when she called me from a phone booth. "Who is this Jesus Christ you are talking about? I have never heard His Name!"  I told her to go buy a Bible and call me back. She did. In about twenty minutes. She came to Christ. "Let me come and get you. Where are you?" "No, Mrs. Stone, they will kill you,  You will never meet me. I will call you at the same time each week." And she did. For weeks. We studied scripture. Then one day, after not hearing from her the other girl (the one leading two lives) called: "Her boyfriend caught her reading the Bible. She was terrified and tried to call you, couldn't get you and called me. I heard the gunshot. She's dead!" I never met the young enslaved woman face-to-face.  I don't even know her real name. "Aw, come on, Jo, that didn't happen." Yes, it did.

...and then came Gratia.. Twice, her husband Jack, was the Commander on the Columbia. We went to Canaveral to watch him lift off, then sped back to Mission Control in Houston to watch him come in. All around us was the whole launch crew. Jack was still  up in space. At the consoles in front of us sat Steve, another Christian astronaut.. "What are you doing, Jack?" "I'm opening my Bible to have devotions with my crew"." What are you reading?" "Proverbs 3:5 and 6!" The media does not report such heaven-news. Long after Jack was formally out of the Space Program he continued to speak to dignitaries around the world and returns to the Cape a couple of times a year to lead tour groups.

Now, about Jack's wife, Gratia: She would call.  "Jo, I have this idea! I have a group of teenagers I want you to speak to."  I showed up and walked into a crowd!  Another time she invited wives of former astronauts for a weekend in Galveston. She had us lead discussions about Life and God for teenagers. About eight years ago her ideas lured us back to Ann Arbor where they lived at the time.  She had lined us up to speak for street kids, Chinese students, faculty and other students on the campus of one of the Big Ten. Gratia probably never will run out of "ideas".

... back to Kingwood where we lived for a year and a half. I continued an every morning interview program on KSBJ. Ted was meeting with commuting business men in early morning Bible studies as we both continued to meet and teach small groups around the city. A dear attorney named Bill Lange helped us launch Family Life Resources, my continuing non-profit ministry. The people who had rented our home in Spring Branch trashed it.  Our family labored to restore it so we could move back in, but the night before the move an  arsonist broke in and threw a lighted match in a bucket of varnish. Sticky, oily black soot covered every inch of our hard work. No, I didn't strike the match but the thought did cross my mind. Insurance paid. I had our contractor knock out every wall possible to open our once closed-in home to the beautiful forest that surrounded us. Oil prices were abysmally low and had forced foreclosures all around us. We put our newly remodeled, open  home on the market and it sold to the first people who came. My sacrificing husbnd brought me back to the dry, mountain air of Caifornia.

     A not-so old-hymn by John Peterson, slightly tweeked

Step by step along each day.
I will tell the saints and angels when I lay my burdens down:

Love,  Jo

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Because He lives

...I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives, all fear is gone.
Because I know, I know Who holds the future
And life is worth the living just because He lives.

I am in the winter of my life. I cannot imagine how anyone gets out of bed in the morning if they are not assured that eternity with Christ awaits them.

Love,  Jo

Friday, April 7, 2017

Moment by Moment

O.K., I took us to Southeast, East Asia and Houston, Texas last week. Let's go back to Houston. I want to talk about another part of my personal journey-to-deeper-faith in that city.  After three years in a pastorate with walls we were thrust out into the church-without walls. It was hard for me to adjust to having no structure, but then I don't adjust very fast to anything. Psalm 37:3 carried me through the first trial.  The evil one taunted me with this thought: "You no longer have a salary. You will be sitting on a corner with a tin cup" God gave me:  "Trust in the Lord and do good. So shall you dwell in th land and verily thou shalt be fed". We had one more kid to get through college. An elder and his wife from the church we just left asked us to dinner: "We will pay Dee's tuition." Oooooh!

Ted was free and flyin' high with the eagles. I, however spent some time in the chicken coop, still worrying and scrambling for personal promises from the Lord.  He had brought to Himself three fabulous women just as we were leaving the church-with walls: ... two Judy's and a Kathy. I was about to learn more about the ministry of personal discipleship without the church-with-walls to support me. Last week I told you about the encouragement I received from four men in ministry as I spoke for a conference out here in California. The Lord was working in me to trust only Him, and not to put my faith in ever-changing institutions. Christ never changes. He is the same, yesterday, today and forever.

Remember,  we had met the District Attorney of the county, he came to Christ and later joined Chuck Colson's Prison Fellowship ministry. Before leaving the visible church the Lord had brought into our lives a new Christian couple. Nick was a CPA/ part owner of a cross-country flat-bed trailer company. His beautiful wife was a well-known interior designer.  We had no idea what a major part they would play in our lives and ministry for the rest of our days on this earth. These two bought a few acres 'way west of Houston. On the acreage were a white farmhouse, an old barn and a "tank"...the Texas word for a pond or small lake.

Two young women who had been in our church came to our office. Willa was a nurse and Shari was a Delta Airline stewardess. "Ted, we have so many friends that may never go to church. If we can find a place to meet  would you come and teach us on Sunday morning?"  Of course he would. These gutsy young women found a Shakey's Pizza Parlor that was closed on Sundays, but open to us. Ted became the Pizza Pastor. Young singles came to Christ. Shari invited her stewardess friends to luncheons and asked me to come and share Christ with them. She owned a house that filled up with new Christians and some who were on their way. Both Shari and Willa continue to serve the Lord with their whole hearts...Shari, married to Lee in Cincinnati and Willa, on a farm outside Houston where she welcomes all who come.

Somehow we were invited to minister to Louisiana Tech students in Monroe (Yep, the stomping grounds of the Duck Dynasty family). Those people are a kick! They took us to a rodeo and rented a houseboat on a Sunday afternoon and we went cruisin' down the Quachita (That's Watch-i-taw)) River. When the students graduated from Louisiana (That's Looooziana") Tech  they came to Houston. One was Rae Lynn. She heads up something or other at Texas A&M. Amazing woman! What do you do with country kids on a weekend in a big city? Well, you foist them on your friends that just bought a place in the country 'way west of Houston.

The Pizza Parlor new Christians joined the Louisiana Tech grads at Euphanel and Nick's. They slept on the floor or in the barn. That bothered Nick. "Jo and Ted, if you're going to bring these kids here we've got to have a place for them to sleep. I can't even get to my own bathroom without stepping over bodies!" ...and Round Top Retreat was born. Look it up on the web. Each year thousands of folk come to these magnificent homes, gardens and grounds. Every room is decorated to perfection with old Texas antiques. Nick and Euphanel's love for Christ, their giftedness, hard, hard work and trust in our Lord welcome all with love and grace. At Round Top Retreat people find Christ,  rest, restoration, encouragement and purpose.

When I was a little girl on the farm I watched my dad, day after day guide a team of four horses up and down the furrows of the field. In the corral was a stallion. My dad would never have tried to hitch him up to a plow,  The Lord was introducing us to stallions! I will tell you about more of them next week.

There's an old song that I love.  Here it is:

         Moment by Moment.

Never a trial that He is not there,
Never a burden that He doth not bear.
Never a sorrow that He doth not share,
Moment by moment, I'm under His care.

Moment by moment, I'm kept in His love.
Moment by moment, I've life from above.
Looking to Jesus 'til glory doth shine;.
Moment by moment, O Lord,  I am Thine.

Love,  Jo