Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Heart Thoughts from Helen

Heart Thoughts on 2009

"I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last!" (Rev. 1:11 KJV)

Once again we have reached the first of a new year...the last of the old.

Wouldn't it be wonderful to have angels come to clean up the Christmas clutter? It's not so much fun to pick up as it is to open up. After the gifts and celebration dies down, emotions play about the decorations like our eight grandchildren with their gifts.

God did indeed define 2009 with many emotions, activities and changes. We retired from a wonderful pastorate in McCormick, South Carolina to return to the upstate, where our marriage began almost forty two years ago. Emotions ran rampant as we left dear friends in a dear place after eleven years of ministry.

February 1, my dear friend, Diane Martin, went home to be the Lord. That same day we celebrated and grieved our last Sunday in McCormick. The day was fraught with emotion. God's grace truly is sufficient.

Shortly after our move back to Greer I was hospitalized for nine long days resulting in surgery. I hadn't really recuperated from shoulder surgery in November of 2008 so this unexpected problem caused a much longer recovery time than expected.

"The Lord will go before you!" (Isaiah 53:12). The troops moving at the head of an army are called the VANGUARD. The Lord was my vanguard; the first to see the New Year and to prepare the way for us the remainder of this year.

"The God of Israel will be your rear guard!" (Isaiah 52:12b)

Alpha and Omega. Vanguard and rear guard.

I'm glad to say that the rest of this year has been less eventful than the first. I have fully recovered and am doing well at present.

Since both our son's family's live within six miles of us, we enjoy spending time with them and the grandchildren. We have never lived this close to our whole family before.

My mother who celebrated her ninety-third birthday in April continues to live at National Health Care in Sumter close to my brother, sister and her family. We see her as often as possible. Her mind is still alert even though her body doesn't like to cooperate.

Philippians 1:6 tells us: "He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus."

We trust that the Alpha and the Omega continues to perfect in us what He began many years ago.

And this last thing from Amy Carmichael:

"He who begins finishes. He, who leads us on, follows behind to deal in love with our poor attempts. He gathers up the things that we have dropped...our fallen resolutions, our mistakes...He makes His blessed pardon to flow over our sins till they are utterly washed away. And He turns to fight the Enemy, who would pursue after us, to destroy us from behind."

As God defined 2009, I pray He will reign again in 2010.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Heart Thoughts and Merry Christmas from Helen - December 23, 2009


In a marred and mundane manger
A tiny baby lay
"Call His Name, 'Jesus', whispered the daddy.
Mother Mary pondered within her heart.
Tracing with her fingers his fragile face, nose and ears,
"What child is this, O Blessed Lord?"
She breathed deeply the smells of the cave.
How perfectly woven in her womb He'd been formed
Mysteriously planted by God's Holy Spirit,' twas said.
Laid in a manger, The Creator, in miniature...born.
The Savior swaddled, sleeping in sweet hay
Mighty God in a manger lay.
A manger chosen of the Almighty
To enfold the Son of God.
A manger, roughened in by man made tools
Now smoothed by the years, licked clean by beasts of the field

A Manger, I would choose to be
In the scene so simply sanctified.
Enfolding Emmanuel, Rocking the Rock of Ages
Surrounding my Savior, yet indwelt by Him.
"Abide in me" I'd say. "And I in you" is His omnipresent reply.
"Rest here, little one as long as you can
There are world's to save in earth's short span.
This Master in miniature mouths a smile.
He knows the future,
Even past and present;
Eternal "I AM", wrapped in cloths snuggled in a manger.

What is a Manger, I ask the Almighty.
A Manger contains food for animals to eat;
A box, a trough, fashioned by hand.
"All we like sheep gather at this manger to feed our deepest need.
Manger in a cave, carved in a wall stall
Manger in a cave, holding the Master of mankind
Yet indwelling that manger,
Would you be a stranger?

Indwelt by the Baby of Bethlehem
I would submitted be
How else can I understand
Unless He lives in me?
Come, Lord Jesus, Bread of Life
Come to be born again this night.
Bethlehem...House of Bread. ... Land of Strife.
But a manger that holds the Very Bread of Life
Thank you for Your sustaining might
Thank you for the symbolism so clear to me tonight.
Babe in Manger
I am in You and You are in me:
what a mystery!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Heart Thoughts from Helen - December 17, 2009

"Mary Did You Know?"

"The Messiah will lead you out of exile and bring you through the gates of your cities of captivity, back to your own land. Our King will go before you-the Lord leads on." (Micah 2:13)

One of my favorite Christmas songs is Mark Lowery's, MARY DID YOU KNOW? It always starts more questions in my heart about that little family so long ago. So, this is my addition to the song. Neither intrusion plagiarism nor impunity intended. Just my own wonderings and heart thoughts.

Mary, did you know that your baby boy would take you from Nazareth to Bethlehem to Egypt and then back to Nazareth...on a donkey?

Joseph, did you know that the baby boy born to the love of your life would demand that you not only care for but share them with the world?

Shepherds in the field, did you know that the baby boy born in your sheep's barn would not only lie in their manger but would Himself be a Shepherd and then the Lamb of God Himself to take away your sin?

Sons of David, did you know that the baby boy born in Bethlehem, the House of Bread would feed you as the Bread of Life and lead you out of bondage...if you only believe?

Angels, did you grieve to see Him leave Heaven's portals as King of Glory to be a weak and helpless thing?

Wise Men, then and now, did you know that the Christ shines light from the cradle to the grave, granting wisdom to the simple, knowledge to the ignorant?

Christians worldwide, do you know that the time draws nigh when Baby Jesus, born in a sheep stall, grew up in stature and in favor with God and man was crucified, buried, resurrected and is waiting for Word from the Father to come and take His Bride Home? He's waiting to come again as He said.

Jesus, did you know that we long for your soon coming? Of course You do. Maranatha, Alleluia.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Heart Thoughts from Helen - December 9, 2009

"Turning Loose of Things Left Behind"

December of 1981: Two weeks before Christmas our family pulled out of the drive way of our house next to the church where Dennis served as minister of youth and activities. It was time to move to our new church as the pastor's family. We sold our home the year before so that we could be freed up to go out 'not knowing', as did Abraham and Sarah.

"It's a small house and a small church, but we can do it." Words uttered by Dennis echoed in my mind. There were moments when I believed that and other moments when I wasn't so sure.

Moving and changing schools for our boys two weeks before Christmas created challenges not dealt with prior to that experience. At first I thought, "This won't be too hard. We've moved before." But it was hard. I will never forget leaving them at John C. Calhoun Elementary School that chilly December day. David was twelve; Todd, nine.

Another challenge included downsizing into that small dwelling next to the church. How do you pastor a church, anyway? What is the role of the pastor's wife? Will the boys find good Christian friends and adapt to a new school? How would we afford Christmas? All of these questions kept me in a quandary.

We loaded the van and two cars. The boys went with Dennis and I followed, loaded to the hilt. As I glanced behind me, there sat Oliver, our Old English sheepdog, panting at me from his perch amid the odds and ends in the back seat of the car. I found to my horror that my fingers, white knuckled, gripped the steering wheel as tightly as I gripped the 'things' I thought I had yielded to the Lord long ago.

"Release my fingers, Lord, from this death grip on all the stuff I'm leaving behind: my job, my home, my friends, my church, my former life. Help me to release my grasp. It's only seventy-five miles." I prayed.

The Lord did help me to let go just as He's helped me to let go so many times since that Christmas twenty eight years ago.

Mary and Joseph left everything behind, also, as they traveled on their traumatic trip so long ago. Not only did they leave everything behind, but Jesus left all when He came from heaven's glory to earth's simple stable, on that silent holy night. How tightly did Mary's fingers grasp the mane of the donkey as she travailed through the night? Did her white knuckled fingers cling to Joseph's as she labored in the smelly straw of that stable? How her hands must have gently trembled as she swaddled her newborn. Oh how those precious tiny fingers tightly grasped His mother's as she cared for her baby boy.

Philippians 2 5-6..."Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient....."

To what are you grasping tightly this Christmas?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Heart Thoughts from Helen - December 2, 2009

"Left Overs"

"Gather up now the fragments---the broken pieces that are left over---so that nothing may be lost and wasted." (John 6:12) The Amplified Bible

What to do with 'leftovers'? There's left over turkey, gravy, dressing, cranberry sauce, left over sweet potato soufflé, left over squash casserole, green beans, a few leftover 'Nanny rolls'. As I looked in the fridge after my daughter-in-laws so graciously cleaned the kitchen, I discovered a multitude of plastic bowls. Some containers had fitted lids while aluminum foil covered the ones that had no findable lid. (You all have plastic containers in your cabinets that the lids have gone the way of socks in the dryer, haven't you?) My goodness, what bountiful leftovers!!! The left over cakes and pies were gobbled while watching Carolina beat Clemson on TV, the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

The Food Network will, I'm sure, share many recipes for Thanksgiving leftovers. Personally I just like a good old turkey sandwich slathered with cranberry sauce on a homemade roll.

Gathering up the pieces of the past, I recall when our oldest son, David, was a toddler, my husband, Dennis, coached in Woodruff. Following one Thanksgiving feast we stopped by our pastor friend's house while walking off the 'glut'. Preacher Morrow offered us 'a bite to eat'. We were stuffed to the gills but David asked in typical toddler talk, "Wanna gobble-gobble sandwich"'. That Thanksgiving fragment has not been wasted through the years. Our dear friend, Bobby Morrow recalls David's gobble-gobble sandwich fondly. "Don't let anything be wasted".

Our now, forty-year old son, David, doesn't remember that day but writes of gathered fragments of his own three boys quite often. Gathering up the pieces of their childhood will fill many baskets.

As Thanksgiving Day waned, 'gobble-gobble sandwich' son and wife Lisa gathered up some of the Thanksgiving leftovers along with their sons late in the evening and headed home. Our youngest son, Todd, his wife, Joice and their five children plus Joice's Mom, Becky, garnered their leftovers as they headed home. We shared our leftovers. And of course we cooked the turkey carcass and made 'gobble gobble' vegetable soup plus a lot of cornbread which came in handy on game day when the crowd reconvened....

Jesus prepared for the five thousand by the seashore from one little boy's contribution. He anticipated the leftovers, giving instructions for them following the meal. "Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted." John 6:12. After He had given thanks, He distributed to the disciples five small barley loaves and two small fish which fed five thousand and ended up with twelve baskets of leftovers.

What 'leftovers' do you have from Thanksgiving? Do they fall into the culinary category or the memory mixture? Do you have some broken pieces left over? You may have twelve baskets full. Jesus instructs us to 'gather them up and don't let any of them be wasted."

How will you deal with your leftovers?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Heart Thoughts by Helen - November 25, 2009

“At this she bowed down with her face to the ground. She exclaimed, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me---? Ruth 2:10

“What are you doing for Thanksgiving?”
I asked the teenager at the grocery store check out line.
I have asked several people in recent days about their plans for the holiday.

“I’m going to my grandmother’s and I can’t wait
So I asked the young man what made going to grandmother’s so special.

“She’s the best cook ever!” I suppose you’d call that ‘comfort food’ if your grandchildren can’t wait. That’s the same answer I received from others. I can’t help but smile because I’m the grandmother now and guess where our sons and son’s wives and eight grandkids and maybe an extra or two are coming!!!

Growing up in the low country of South Carolina, I remember going out to my granddaddy’s farm on Thanksgiving after the devouring of the feast. My siblings and cousins and I would go out to the pecan trees which lined the lane to the barn and pick up pecans. Finding those mottled brown nuggets under the multicolored leaves was like mining for gold and the end result was just as good for me. If I recall correctly at times we got down on our hands and knees to search for the bounty. We’d get two in our hands and squeeze with all our might to crack them and pick out the marvelous meat inside. The trick is not to get any of the shell along with the meat, because everybody knows that just turns your mouth inside out. That also reminds me of a t-shirt I saw with a squirrel on it that said, “My family tree has a lot of nuts.” Perhaps that could be said of your family also.

What will our grandchildren remember about coming to our house for Thanksgiving? Will it be the bountiful food or playing ball in the back yard or shooting caroms or laughing at remembered family antics (the nutty things) or watching football?

Since this is the first time we’ve hosted Thanksgiving in our new home since retirement, I want it to be a special Thanksgiving. A spiritual marker, if you will. I don’t want to get so caught up in the cooking, serving, cleaning up that I can’t enjoy the fellowship of my family and share my thankful heart. I want my family to share their ‘thanksgiving’ also. And somewhere along the way, when they’re older maybe their memoirs will relate Thanksgivings at our house and they will say: “I’m going to Nana and Poppy’s for Thanksgiving and I can’t wait”. I want to fall on my face like Ruth and exclaim:

“Why have I found such favor in your eyes?” O Lord our Heavenly Father, I am so thankful for your bountiful gifts to us even if some of them come in packages that look brown and mottled and we have to work hard to get at the good parts. I think every day will be Thanksgiving when we get to heaven!