Wednesday, September 29, 2010


All of us acquire tiny sample containers of various products. One of my small jars contained hand lotion. After I used up all the sample of lotion, I washed the small jar and put vitamin capsules in it to carry in my purse. The first time I swallowed those vitamins, they tasted worse than usual, until I realized that the taste of hand lotion had permeated the vitamins. The container had so absorbed the perfume of its contents, it was a part of it...making my vitamins taste like perfume.

We are all just clay containers, absorbing whatever is instilled within us. I wonder just what we taste like to a world that needs the nourishment of heavenly vitamins. Our grandchildren preferred fruity tasting vitamins when they were younger. Perhaps the taste of" love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control "(Galatians 5:22) might be just what the doctor orders and "against such things there is no law".

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Lessons learned from an Old English sheepdog, extraordinaire

You know the saying that when God closes one (or two or three) doors He opens another. After our terribly bad luck with dogs for a few years, our Good Shepherd knew the time was right for another try at raising a dog.

A dear couple in our Sunday School class in Woodruff owned the momma Sheepdog that mothered three gorgeous pups. Late on Christmas Eve after they had come over to share in Santa gifts and the boys nestled all snug in their beds the Armours presented us with the cutest eight week old red ribbon bedecked Old English sheepdog pup I have ever seen. Our hearts melted.

Sir Oliver Cromwell V graced our home for a little more than nine years. His endearing way of waking me in the mornings would be to just plop his head on the bed breathing in my face until I woke up. The old country farm house that we occupied in Woodruff during our coaching days grew dramatically cold during the winter months which gave Oliver the perfect opportunity to cover both our little boys with furry warmth at night.

We never told Oliver that he was anything but a regular ole dog thus when he sired several litters of very well bred Old English sheep dog pups, his blood line displayed itself beautifully. In fact, Oliver had one blue eye and one brown one, but his pups always had blue eyes. Dennis loves to tell the story of the day we took Oliver to meet one of his 'brides to be'. He had been wandering around in the pasture and generally being a dirty dog. We should have at least bathed and groomed him but this opportunity sort of popped up out of the blue. When we drove up in the yard and out came the bride, Penelope, we knew we were in trouble. Gorgeous, groomed, polished, cleaned up for the wedding and here's this "Guess who's coming to dinner?" dog, jumping out the window. It was a Kodak moment or in today's cyber lingo, an LOL moment for sure. Penelope's parents were not ecstatic and I don't think the couple ever made it to the honeymoon. Absolutely her loss.

Oliver demonstrated his intelligence in so many ways but his gentleness, humility and love for children stands out. Every sheep dog needs something to shepherd, so ours chose to herd up all the cows in the pasture behind our house much to the displeasure of their owner. He just couldn't help it. We called him from the pasture and he would stop and look at us...then look at those cows, hesitate a moment and then the call of the wild took over. He never hurt them only herded them.

The German shepherd across the street liked to play with Oliver. They played beautifully together as long as they romped in Major's yard, but as soon as Major came in our yard, it changed the whole complexion of things. . Major fled the scene. To be as gentle spirited as he was, he did not like other dogs in the yard

Oliver accompanied us to Greer and then to our first pastorate in Calhoun Falls, SC. The town loved him but he became known as our prodigal due to his wandering into far places where he had no business. Our first Sunday in town, Mr. Johnny Burton told the congregation:"If the new preacher and his family are half as friendly as their dog, I believe we'll get along just fine." Mrs. Mable Cobb, our dear neighbor was terrified of dogs until she met Oliver. He would wander into her wash house out back and stand there listening to Miss Gussie as she carried on a one-sided conversation. Oliver became personally acquainted with the black and white patrol cars in town. They brought him home a few times from his wanderings. Once Officer Dixon told Dennis: "Preacher, if I'm gonna be haulin this dog around in my car you're gonna have to give him a bath." Sheepdogs require a lot of grooming so we decided to have him sheared yearly. He loved it and pranced around for days showing off his 'new do'.

The report has it that Oliver presented himself at the bank window one day. Whether he made a deposit or withdrawal no one said. He also loved to meet folks coming out of the local Fast Fare hoping to con them out of their snack food. The people in our small town befriended our sheepdog but the canines never figured out exactly what to do with him. He wasn't popular with his peers. Another German shepherd episode took place when a neighbor dog came into our carport. He didn't do it again and our shaggy dog whupped him good.

When chastised our Oggie could hang his head lower than a whale's belly in the bottom of the ocean. We felt so guilty disciplining him and truly he needed very little except for his tendency to wander. He had a habit of coming to our kitchen door each morning for his piece of toast, preferably buttered. One morning he actually brought his bowl and just stood there until we filled it.

In his last year we realized that Oliver's eyesight and hearing deteriorated greatly. During a thunderstorm he became disoriented and disappeared for two days. We were frantic until Mrs. Claude Simpson came by to tell us there was a dog in her shed that looked like ours. He was so terrified that we could barely coax him to come out.

We happened to be out of town when we got the phone call from our deacon chairman. Oliver found his way to a teenage carwash at a nearby church where he lay down to enjoy the kids which he loved to do. Unfortunately one of the guys accidentally backed over him in his jeep. The whole town mourned our loss. His picture made the front page obituary when I wrote an article for the local newspaper entitled an "ODE TO OLIVER". So many memories of our version of Disney's shaggy dog pop into mind it's hard to do just one article.

Lessons learned?
  • Love flows from the Gentle giants of the canine species unquestionably; shouldn't ours?
  • Joy unspeakable exudes when you get a 'new do' or a 'do-over'.
  • Peace resides when you abide by house (yard) rules.
  • Patience takes the prize for adults and children
  • Gentleness goes a long way in a world gone mad
  • Humility and longsuffering ...against such there is no law.
  • Faithful friends leave fractured hearts when they find their final way HOME.

Friday, September 10, 2010


One Drop Remaining

“Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?” and she said, “Your maidservant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.” (2 Kings 4:2 NASB)

I wonder …If there were but one drop left in your cup, what would you do with it?
Back in December of 1981, our family of four emptied our house into a moving van and left every familiar face and moved to a small town in rural South Carolina to pastor our first church, while Dennis finished seminary. Since my salary as a nurse ceased and his salary as minister of youth /activities at a large church dropped dramatically, we decided we’d stock up on some food stuffs. We purchased a case of macaroni/cheese, a case of Rice-a-Roni, a case of corned beef hash and I don’t remember what else. It evolved into a joke in our home what was for dinner each night. We had a set routine and it varied very little and the house usually entertained visitors unawares and sometimes unannounced. I wondered what it would be like to live in such uncertain circumstances. We never hungered … physically nor spiritually.

The Shunamite woman came to the prophet Elisha with a story of emptiness.

• First he told her to gather jars from all the neighbors.
• Secondly, she was to pour out what little oil she had into the borrowed jars.

This woman, freshly widowed, fearing for the captivity of her sons to pay her debts, wondered what her decision would cost her. In her emptiness she poured out herself and her oil in obedience to this man of God, trusting.

When she began to pour, miraculously, more and more oil flowed from her jar. The borrowed vessels filled until there were no more. As soon as the supply was full, the flow of oil ceased.

Would you be obedient enough to pour out the last drop in your cup?

What would happen if you did?

What will happen if you don’t?

I wonder…

Friday, September 3, 2010

HEART THOUGHTS... from Helen

…it is hard for you to kick against the goads.” Acts 26:14 NIV

Lessons from the leash

It was summertime in the south. It was hot! It was also the beginning of football season in Woodruff. Dennis prepared to go with the team to football camp in North Carolina. On Saturday we rode to Pickens to a kennel to pick out a collie pup for me and our two young sons.

Instead of a puppy, we came home with a two year old female collie named Cher. She was with pup and we couldn’t have been more pleased with the prospects of raising collie puppies.

On Sunday after church, we connected Cher’s collar to a rope and attached her to the clothes line to give her some running room until we could prepare a bigger space for her outside. We had no idea how she would adjust to her new surroundings so far away from her kennel so some precautions seemed appropriate.

Two little boys and a husband about to leave town for a week kept us busy, so we didn’t check on Cher for a while. When I glanced out of the high kitchen window in our farmhouse kitchen, I noticed she was at the near end of the clothesline close to a bush. Something didn’t look right. I looked again to pay closer attention. Cher, wrapped around the bush, pulled at her leash. I ran out the door and down the steps while calling Dennis’ attention to the problem.

She had bound herself so tightly around the bush, her collar was choking her. Her breath, nearly gone, she fought us as we did our best to loosen the noose around her neck. Panicked, we both pushed and pulled as she slowly choked to death right in front of us. In the hot August afternoon, the sweat and tears flowed freely as we realized we’d lost our brand new expectant dog.

The misery of that steamy August Sunday continued as I dealt with the inevitable fact that Dennis had to leave for football camp that same afternoon. I remember listening to his green Volkswagen crunching out the gravel drive way leaving me alone with my grief and two little boys. The vision of that beautiful collie struggling to loosen herself from the ties that bound her never left me. What killed her left a deep impression on both Dennis and me. We are careful about dog collars and where and how we confine our canines. But there are other lessons to be learned from Cher.
  • Best laid plans of …men and families often run awry (Steinbeck paraphrased)
  • Pulling at restraints can choke
  • If you get caught in a thorny bush …stand still until help comes
  • Don’t fight the hands that seek to free you from your plight
  • Facing grief alone sends you to The Burning Bush that is not consumed…where God speaks.
  • Looking back at unpleasant experiences may lead to holy ground; slip off your shoes.
Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground”. (Exodus 3:5)