After almost 40 years I’m back in my desert. It isn’t Gallup, but Belen is close enough. For most of their married life Rachael and Michael have had the goal of moving to the desert. This month it is finally happening.
Notah transported me and my belongings and Maggie as well as Cole. Rachael’s cat, The General, my bearded dragon, and Turdley, Rachael’s turtle. And we made the trip in three days leaving Rachael and Michael’s house at nine-thirty Friday morning and arriving at Notah’s house about one or two o’clock on Sunday
The house I’m supposed to live in isn’t quite ready yet so I’m at Notah and Kerra’s.
Today is the first real ‘summer’ day I’ve seen since I’ve been here. I sat outside with Maggie and Sayde while they inspected the courtyard. The sun is shining down from a clear blue sky. The heat is familiar, baking and all pervasive. There is barely a breeze moving the leaves of the desert locust trees in their yard but from somewhere far off I catch random whiffs–the faint fragrance of tamarisk trees. They are an invasive species introduced as ornamentals in the late 1800’s. They are pretty and their fragrance in bloom is heavenly.
Ranchers and farmers call them salt cedar and dig them out as often as possible. I love smelling them though. I wish I could figure out some way to grow them without having them take over every bit of underground water and leave a deposit of salts.
Maggie was confused over the bare ground and spotty vegetation. She always used grass as her potty and wasn’t sure she should pee on plain old dirt. Now she has figured it out. She’s back to her old ways of trotting out and finding a perfect spot. Once that is accomplished she explores. Jack is the occupant of the courtyard. He has his goodies buried all around and he’s very protective if them. If Maggie gets too close he hustles after her.
I enjoy sitting out there watching them.
Summer time in the desert. A great place to be.
I read this morning from II Timothy the second chapter. Paul writes to Timothy: “…I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.” It made me think of the testimony my parents and grandparents left behind them–the unfeigned faith that dwelt in them. And I’m tremendously grateful for it.
I know my grandma and grandpa must have done other things and told me other stories, but I have a few indelible memories of them. I remember my grandpa sitting in the living room in a rocking chair with a tattered Bible on the table right beside him. There were things in his life that looking back as an adult I might criticize, but that picture has stayed with me. I remember sitting beside my grandma in church service while she held her bible and followed the message and I sorted through her purse. I must have been four or five.
I hardly remember my father’s father at all. He died when I was in kindergarten. But I remember my Ma and Pappy. They raised my dad from the time he was tiny because his mother had tuberculosis and died not too long after he was born. Pop Bear hired Edith and Wesley Dodge, Ma and Pappy, to care for my dad. Ma Dodge was a Nazarene minister in a day when there were very few women preachers. My only memory of her is in ‘modest apparel and sobriety.’ She and Pappy always had a Bible on the table between them. They read it and they lived by it. Because they lived far out in the country and traveling was a production for them they weren’t in church services very often, sometimes going to a little mission Ma had founded in town. Usually they read and prayed at their kitchen table. They listened to religious programs on the radio, laying their hands on the square box when the preacher prayed.
Ma had sugar diabetes and eventually developed gangrene in her foot. She wouldn’t see a doctor but died at our home after several weeks of suffering. Some people might see that as a failure on God’s part, but I saw it as an example of her devotion to Him and His blessing. He took her home to her reward. It was what she had prepared for her whole life.
Pappy lived with us for several years until Mom wasn’t able to care for him. (He wasn’t sick, but my mother began with the early stages of Alzheimer’s) For the last months or years of his life he lived in a home. I remember his example of patience and long suffering better than anything else. He would sit on his bed and read his bible for hours and if we said something to him he would look up with the Bible closed around his forefinger to mark his place.
My mom and dad raised me in the Church. They were always working for the Lord. As a young woman, my mother lived with sister Grace Henry who was pastor of the congregation in New Philadelphia. Ohio. She helped sister Henry in her home and led the youth group in the church. That’s where she met my father.
I have a collection of stories they told us about the early years of their marriage—work in the church, visits to other congregations, trips to camp meeting, funny stories of the hazards of a young marriage. If I look through the collections of photographs today, I can find dozens of photos of them at camp meeting, including many pictures of the early ministry of the Church, but also photos of men and women I grew up with, men and women I knew them as examples in godliness.
My mother had several little books of children’s stories. The one I remember best was one where the illustrations were all in silhouettes. She read to us from them all the time. Later she and dad bought a set of Christian story books called ‘The Children’s Hour.’ There were two sets of five or six volume swith real life stories of children living for the Lord. I still have them. I read them to my kids. But I don’t have any grandchildren now to read them. When my grandkids were old enough to listen, they were 2000 miles away. I used some of them as lessons for Children’s Church, but now they are on the shelf. Maybe I can pass them on to one of nieces or nephews…..
When my brother and I were probably five, six, seven… about there, my mother took over the youth group in our congregation. While she directed the youth, my dad took Buster and me to a small Sunday school classroom and entertained us with bible stories that he illustrated on a chalkboard with colored chalk as he went along. Later he gave the same presentations in children’s church.
I never realized the heritage I had until the last few years. And Paul’s words to Timothy brought it back to mind this morning. There are many blessings in life. God bestows them on the just and the unjust, but this unfeigned faith that was passed to me through my parents and my grandparents is the greatest blessing. I’m thankful for it.
A friend of mine was asking about all the things I’ve done because I seemed to know so much about so many ‘Old-fashioned’ tasks. Here’s how I know.
Well, I grew up with my Ma and Pappy and their old fashioned farm. All they had was electricity, they got their water from a pump in the kitchen, they used an out house for toileting and took baths in wash pans. Pappy milked and cared for the milk by hand and hauled coal from back on the hill with a sledge and his team of work horses…I can remember “Fred” the other one died before I was old enough to know his name. But Fred lived until I was probably six or eight.
Ma cooked and baked on a coal/wood stove. It was larger than most of the ones in my stories. Mrs. Casey has one like it. Ma’s stove had a reservoir beside the oven where the water was always hot (not boiling, but hot enough for washing dishes etc.) It even had a thermostat on the front of the oven, but it wasn’t very dependable. Ma tested the heat by putting her hand in the oven space. Somehow she knew by how it felt.
Listening to the song Peace Like a River, I thought of the peace that has pervaded my life. I thank the Lord for a peace that is able to take us through all manner of hard places, sorrow, pain, and yes, joy. It is so total.
Of course it doesn’t just pour over us willy–nilly. It results from dedication to God, a complete dedication, not one that reserves little bits of our own way and our self. It doesn’t come when we only dedicate a part of our heart to God. It doesn’t happen when we come to the Lord just wanting to miss hell. It doesn’t come because we have suffered a terrible heartache or loss or pain and we turn to God to get out from under it. We don’t find that Peace because we have made some serious financial or social mistake and we are hoping God can fix it for us. It doesn’t come when we only want to be accepted in the congregation where we are attending. It doesn’t come because our parents expect us to be Christians. When we come to God for those reason we will never find his peace.
We only find that peace when we commit our heart, life, being to Him. I’m not sure when that realization came to me. Surely before my husband died. Maybe it was during the time I spent on the mission. I know I experienced God’s Peace before that, but the realization that His Peace would stay with me regardless of circumstances must have become an actuality during that time.
When Louie died, I experienced God’s Peace beyond any human understanding. The word ‘devastation’ is the closest I could ever come to describing my feelings then. I looked ahead in my life and only focused on one bright spot at the end of a long black tunnel, the bright spot where heaven would reunite us. But I had two very young children. I couldn’t go for a lot of years yet. So I fell down into the vast billows of God’s Peace.
I’ve said many times it was as though God covered me over with a Huge Comforter of His Love. He brought me through those first days and weeks of loss and a few times in the middle of the night it seemed He would lift just a tiny corner of His Comforter and say, “here, this is what it would be like without Me.” And the waves of desolation would crash around me until He tucked me in again like a Father does his child. I thanked him then and I’ve thanked Him many times since during times of awful heartache and during years of pain with my knees and through three surgeries. That peace has always remained.
Lean back, close your eyes and listen to the song again. If you don’t know what that peace is in your own life, search your heart and root out those little bits of self you’ve been holding on to.
I thought of a song tonight and I went to youtube to find a copy of it. Peace Like a River. I remember sitting in the old sanctuary of the Tuscarawas Avenue Church of God building. There was a men’s quartet that often sang and this was one of the songs I remember. Peace Like a River.
I was sitting here thinking of how much kids today are missing. Oh, I know they have video games and the internet and all kinds of technology that we didn’t have as kids, but neither do they have to make their own games.
For all of my childhood and teen years, we owned two farms side by side. I don’t remember how many acres any more but it was a good sized chunk of property. Each one had a house and barn. Ma and Pappy, the couple who had helped raise Dad, lived on the lower one. A couple different families rented the upper one—the McKnights for quite a few years, and later, the Sellards. Both of them had several kids. The McKnights had all boys, three I believe. The Sellards had a girl my age and four or five boys.
We spent a lot of time on the farm. One of my favorite places to play was outside the barn of the upper farm. The barn had all kinds of neat stuff stored there, as well as a big farm wagon, tractor from time to time and hay in the mows. (This was long enough ago that the hay wasn’t baled like it is now, but was hauled into the barn on big flat wagons piled high with loose hay. It was transferred to the mow by means of giant forks that dropped down on to the big loads then lifted clumps of hay into the mow.)
In front of the barn there was about a ten or fifteen foot space before the road started. On either side were high shaggy weeds and grass. The center of it was a ‘driveway.’ The ground there was pulverized into a fine sandy dust by trucks and tractors going into the barn and traffic on the road. It made wonderful mud pies!
I would carry the cook top from an old iron stove out of the barn. It wasn’t very big, maybe two feet long and a foot wide-heavy; ‘drag’ might be a better word than ‘carry.’ There were a couple battered pans in the barn and I used those and some old fashioned coffee cans to ‘cook.’ My cooking utensils were long skinny sticks and a broken spatula. I called it a ‘pancake turner.’ There were no pretty plastic play pans or dishes. There was no Barbie cook stove or cute little picnic table. There wasn’t even any fake fruit or realistic looking muffins or slices of bread.
I would scoop the fine dust into a flat coffee can mixing bowl and stir up my ‘batter/dough.’ I could pat out little round discs and ‘bake’ them on the old flat cook top. Or I could press it into lids or other little round containers and turn it out on the cook top. Those were ‘cakes.’ I could also make ‘pudding’ by thinning the wet sandy dust to a ‘pudding’ consistency. And to make ‘stew?’ Just add a few broken corncobs!
I served them to various invisible guests on big dock leaf plates and broken pieces of slate. It was just me and my imagination! I had to stay constantly focused or my ‘dinner party’ would disappear into a pile of trash.
Nobody worried that the bread, cakes and stew were full of pulverized cow and horse manure. Nobody worried I was going to be kidnapped by a stranger driving by. Nobody worried that I was sitting in the dirt getting my clothes dirty. Nobody worried I was getting sunburned and might end up with cancer in thirty years. Nobody was concerned about where I was. Dad would look around the corner of the barn or drive past on the tractor once in a while, but he wasn’t particularly worried about me. He knew where I was and that I would be there until he drug me away.
The best thing was that when it was time to ‘clean up’ there was very little work involved. All I had to do was drag the cook top back inside the doors and throw the old pans after it. (Actually Dad usually found it quicker to pick the cook top up and take it inside himself! It was heavy enough that it took me a while to drag it back in.) The cans and lids and cut-out can lids just got shoved aside and left where they were. Nobody worried about keeping the place neat or ‘what will the neighbors think.’ Everybody’s barn looked like that.
I worked in day care for 20 years. With all the play dishes and stoves and tables and baby beds the kids would only play for a few minutes then walk away bored. I played all afternoon with no pretty toys, just dirt and junk.
Those times in the sun and dust with mud to my elbows are some of the happiest memories of my child hood
When we speak of righteous living many say, “No one is good but God. We can’t claim to be good or righteous” And in the natural man that is true. However, when we are saved, we begin a life of righteousness. Satan has worked an evil deception on many loving and sincere children of God. He has made them feel so unworthy that they are not able to even attempt to live a victorious Christian life. They are confronted with petty sins that they have no strength to overcome. Satan tells them they are no good. When they do struggle to a small victory, Satan raises up and tells them again that they can’t hope to continue overcoming because they are no good, unworthy. So they struggle on through life, loving the Savior, but never understanding the fullness of what He has come to give them.
The account of the Prodigal Son beautifully illustrates the Father’s actions in our life when we turn from our sinful life. The son returned and said, “I’ve sinned and I’m not worthy to be called thy son.” That describes the sinner’s attitude beflre God. Then we see the Father’s response to that repentence. He raised him up and made him worthy of being His Son. He does the same for us and the stain of unworthiness is wiped away.
The psalmist tells us, Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in Psalm 24:9 When we lift our heads to God’s light and open the doors of our heart, the King of glory does indeed, come in! And when he does, He takes that sinful, unworthy, no good human being and makes a new person of him! No longer unworthy and ‘no good,’ but a child of God! We are told in Revelation that we are made very worthy, priests and kings and instruments of God. (Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Rev. 1: 5-6)
The King of glory, Jesus Christ, comes in and changes the unworthy sinner, making him part of a chosen nation. (… ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light; I Peter 2:9) But satan would like to diminish this experience; He operates through oppression and condemnation. As long as we are feeling useless, worthless, no good, we cannot triumph through Christ. Nor can we be an effective witness for Him. But , thank the Lord, He puts His strength and goodness within us and makes us worthy. He changes us and produces a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light; I Peter 2:9 That doesn’t describe a useless, unworthy, no good individual. We were at one time truly useless and unworthy in our sins, but His saving grace changes us. This experience produces a different people, a people full of love and concern for others, a people full of contentment and joy.
Let us lift our heads against the accusation of Satan and claim our victory through the King of Glory who has come into our life! The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life Psalm 27:1