Thursday, February 7, 2019

My Diamond Jubilee


According to Wikipedia, “A 75th birthday or anniversary is commonly known as a Diamond Jubilee.

“How did I reach three-quarters of a century old?” If I had been born in any other period of time, I would not have lived to celebrate this time of my life.  It’s been a long and at times difficult journey to get this far.  Health issues plagued me most of my life culminating in a successful liver transplant in 1998. The medical technology of the 20th century and the generous gift of a donor organ saved my life. Three have been health problems since then, but nothing of that magnitude. You can read about my second chance at life in my memoir, Born Three Times: A New Life, A New Liver, A New Love.

Since this is my diamond jubilee, I decided to research those precious stones. Diamonds are the hardest substance on earth.  They are formed within the earth’s mantle and brought to the surface by deep source volcanic eruptions.  The impact of asteroids and meteorites on the planet can also produce diamonds. Much of the world’s diamond mining comes from Africa. South Africa and Angola are sources of diamonds, but they are also mined in Canada, Russia, and Australia. The only diamond mine in the US is found near Murfreesboro, Arkansas. Diamond mining can be very labor intensive and environmentally harmful, leaving massive scars on the earth’s surface.

“As you can imagine, the journey a rough diamond undergoes from its violent formation process to being mounted on an exquisite setting is long indeed and passes through many different channels.”  (Beyond 4Cs-The real insights to mining diamonds) "The round diamond is the undisputed king of brilliant cuts. With 57 carefully placed facets, every round diamond that is polished from a rough crystal has the potential to becoming a jewelry masterpiece.” Carat, cut, and clarity determine the price of each precious gem.

A Jubilee was significant in Old Testament times.  During Jubilee years, it was mandated that lands be given a year’s rest so that the earth could rejuvenate.  Healthier and better crops would grow in future plantings.  Also during a Jubilee year, the slaves and indentured servants were set free from their bondage and given a second chance at life. 

I see many parallels to my life’s journey. Like the diamond, I have been cut and polished and been given the opportunity to enjoy an abundant life here and eternal life after death.  After all, it is said that “Diamonds are forever.”  And like the Israelite slaves, I’ve been given a second chance at life.  

At our wedding Charles and I played the song, “Grow Old Along with Me, the Best is Yet to Be.” 
  That has proven to be true in both of our lives.


 

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Jumping to Conclusions



I recently watched an old movie with Paul Newman and JoAnne Woodward.  In The Long Hot Summer, Newman’s character was falsely accused of being an arsonist.  Almost the whole town jumped to the conclusion that he was guilty and tried to run him out of town.

A quote from Pinterest reads as follows:

“Snap judgments often lead to regrets from those
whose only exercise is jumping to conclusions."

Two events in Washington, DC have captivated the news in recent days. The ever-present cable news networks and social media took these false stories and inflamed public opinion.

The first accused the President of telling his lawyer to lie to Congress.  With no documentation to back up the claim, much of the news media had the President convicted of an impeachable offense.  The accusation was later walked back when the Special Counsel who investigates such crimes said it wasn’t true.

Next on a demonstration-filled weekend in the nation’s Capital, teenage boys from a Catholic school in Kentucky were accused of racism against Native Americans. The accusation was based on a cherry-picked video.  When the full video was released, it was revealed the boys did not instigate a confrontation, but were themselves victimized by epithets from a Black Hebrew Israelite group. 

These two incidents of the media defaming people and making snap judgments, made me question if the Bible had something to say to me on the subject.  Yes, I confess; As a Christian, I’ve been guilty of jumping to conclusions myself.  Four truths "jumped" out at me.


Appearances Can be Deceiving - See the situation from all sides and from another’s point of view.
John 7:24  “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

Be Slow to Judge - It’s better to be discerning and deliberate in our thinking than to pay the price of false judgment.
Proverbs 25:7-8  “What you have seen with your eyes, do not bring hastily to court,  for what will you do in the end if your neighbor puts you to shame?"

Grow in Wisdom - Senior adults should use their life experiences to help resolve difficult situations and relationships.
Job 12:12  “Is not wisdom found among the aged?  Does not long life bring understanding?”

Remember your Weakness – Look inward and not outward before jumping to conclusions.

Luke 6:37 “Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

I conclude with a word to the wise from author, Scottie Waves:
“Stay open-mined. Things aren’t always what they seem to be.”







Monday, January 7, 2019

Joy in the Journey


Three hundred and fifty-eight days remain in 2019.  Where did 2018 go? It is definitely true that the older I get the faster time flies by. Having the flu for ten days after the frenzy of Christmas has left me worn out and struggling to get back to normal.  January is usually my busiest and happiest time of the year.  Even though the days are short and dreary, I am energized to get my life and possessions back in order. 

Not so this year.  Even though I retired from the office at the end of August, much of my time has been spent fighting one infection after the other. In 2019, I definitely need to find better health and Joy in the Journey.

Where should we look for joy?

Not on the news.  I want to cry when I read about heathen or pagan worship services being held on the USS John C. Stennis in the carrier chapel. Why would they want to meet for worship when they don’t believe in any god?  And who would have ever thought that the number one cause of death in this world in 2018 would be abortion.  Not a disease like cancer with 8.2 million deaths or heart disease (5 million) but a cause of death chosen by 42 million people last year.  This is a heartbreaking statistic, until I look at the adopted children in our church. Those birth mothers chose to carry their babies to term and give joy to the adoptive parents who now love them and care for them each day.

Not in Hollywood where during the Golden Globes actor Christian Bale credited Satan with inspiring his role in the movie, Vice. It seems as if the God-hating world gets all the publicity these days. 
  
Joy comes from the inside out. It is like a well of water that needs to be drawn to the surface. Christian author, CS Lewis said “Joy is the serious business of heaven.” Christianity is often portrayed as a religion of rules that deprive the follower of joy.  The good news of Christianity is that when we are in a right relationship with God through Jesus, we receive the gift of JOY. We just recently celebrated Christmas and sang “Joy to the World.”

Now that Christmas is over, I don’t want to leave my gift of Joy in the box or on the shelf.  My New Year’s resolution is to incorporate more joy into my daily routine and find reasons to share that joy with others.

Another author wisely wrote: “Focus on the journey, not the destination.  Joy is found not in finishing an activity, but in doing it.” (Greg Anderson)
 
Here’s to finding joy during each day of 2019.

Monday, December 10, 2018

A Messy Christmas


Have yourself a messy little Christmas…  No, I didn’t make a typo, but did an intentional rewrite of the first line of the Sam Smith song. 

The first Christmas was not all neat and pretty like my beautiful Thomas Kinkade Nativity display.  For Mary and Joseph it was noisy, stressful, and painful.  Traveling the 70 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem (Joseph’s tribal village) to register for the Roman ordered census was not an easy feat.  The several day trip with the heavily pregnant Mary riding on a donkey must have been an ordeal. As Joseph walked beside her he was confronted with guiding them along a treacherous and rugged uphill and downhill path. In the late fall and early winter, the weather would have been very cold and rainy with no roadside inns to protect them from the harsh conditions. They also faced the possibility of wild animals, bandits, and robbers looking for easy prey.

The hope for a comfortable room at the inn at the end of the long journey did not materialize. Instead, they found themselves in a stable that housed noisy, smelly animals. The cold, quiet night was interrupted by Mary’s cries during her painful labor as she delivered her first born son.  Joseph had to lend a helping hand before the parents and baby fell into an exhausted sleep. 

Their rest was soon interrupted by a heavenly choir, angels, and a visit from neighboring shepherds who were the first to witness the newborn babe. What a glorious and not so silent night it must have been. 

When King Herod learned of the birth of the King of the Jews from the wise men, Joseph & Mary fled with the infant to Egypt to escape the mandate by the King that all boys under the age of two were to be slaughtered. There was definitely no peace on earth for Jesus or anyone else in Judea during that traumatic time.  

It seems every year the month of December brings messy challenges to those of us who hope to experience a Norman Rockwell or Hallmark Christmas. Weather problems delay travel and can cause cancellations of long-awaited reunions. A White Christmas can mean a disaster here in Georgia with roads too treacherous for travel.  We spent most of the past weekend driving around in rainy, cold weather to fulfill some planned commitments. We were glad for a warm house at the end of the day.

Nasty viruses and the flu come to call more easily this time of year.  All the hugs and well wishes can mean more colds and bronchitis.  Eating right and lots of sleep can help, but it is no guarantee we will escape. 

Family issues seem to predominate this time of year.  Work hours, distance, and finances often keep our family from enjoying a stress free holiday. It seems impossible to make a plan and stick to it.

Yes, things can get messy, but after writing about the difficulties of the first Christmas, I am much more thankful for all the blessings I enjoy. I will be grateful for all the beautiful messy things that Christmas brings my way.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

No Rose without a Thorn


My twenty-year old granddaughter, Rose Davis, is my guest blogger today.  A French proverb states there is “No rose without a thorn.” Her story about the thorn in her life that caused her to bloom into a delightful young woman is well worth sharing with my readers. Here is her bio and her story.

Rose Davis is a Christian, a dancer, a social media influencer, a student, and a granddaughter. She has a dream to make a difference by increasing access to dance for low income communities. She dedicates her time to her studies in Sociology and Communications at the University of Toronto in Mississauga, Canada and curating lattes at Starbucks. Rose also manages a creative team for her church’s young adult ministry. Her biggest venture is PinkBalletShoes—an Instagram account with over 290,000 followers—where she creates a culture about dance through the medium of photography. To follow her, check out her website: www.pinkballetshoes.com

Rose wants you to know:
“I love what I do and I am happy to share a little piece of my life with you!”

I see my life as a collection of stories. Every moment, every heart break, every joyous occasion, every piece of mundane living as a collection of stories to create this one beautifully written piece. The thing about stories is there is this chronological order that must be followed in the midst of chaos to understand the outcome.

I see my life in seasons. Every season carrying high and low moments, that work together to teach me something I otherwise might not learn. The thing about seasons is they are always changing, reflecting wondrous and repetitious things we have seen before.

My whole life I grew up in church. I was your typical Christian kid memorizing Bible verses, earning KidzCash for prizes, and proudly knowing every lyric to the Veggie Tales’ songs. My reality was living in that four-wall-built structure. Beyond that there was no meaning for me. I challenged the thought of God by questioning His very existence. To me He wasn’t real, but I so wanted Him to be.

Then chaos hit and I thought my life was over. I was moved out of my home and  found myself trudging through a barren land in a foreign country. I experienced loneliness to the point where I felt so low that suicide was an option. “God, why would you do this to me?” I questioned. “Take me out of here,” I pleaded. The only response was absolute nothingness. I’d heard of God being real to others, so why wasn’t He real to me? I was hurting. I was broken. I needed God to be real.

“Where are you God?”


“Where are you God?”

He was nowhere, until He met me in worship. From nothing into something, His presence hit me and I began to weep. He was close like a Father, holding me tight. I knew He was real. His voice began to comfort me with answers of “I’m right here, I’m right here.” He restored my knowledge of His presence.

In the broken, in the hurting, in the barren, God exposed my loneliness. He revealed how absent I had been from Him. Growing up Christian was only an introduction to Christ. God had to teach me to encounter Him, to embrace Him as He embraced me, and to cry out so He could replace my pain with joy.

I was in a story of doubt—in a season of loneliness—where God brought me understanding by His closeness. He taught me to allow myself to embrace and be embraced.



Tuesday, October 23, 2018

My Visit to The Big Dipper

My view (without the lines)

It’s hard to clearly see the night sky in the suburbs of metro Atlanta. The view is dulled by the proliferation of lights that define our modern era. Charles and I often go outside to get a glimpse of the moon and the stars, but come away disappointed by the lack of darkness. It makes him long for the wide open skies of the West and other underpopulated areas.

Much to my surprise, I got to view the Big Dipper almost “up close and personal.” At least it seemed that way. We left for France just as the sun was setting in Atlanta and didn’t see daylight until we landed in Paris 8.5 hours later.  After our tasteless dinner on the plane, we attempted to settle down for a long sleep so we would be alert in the a.m.  We put on our eye masks and ear plugs and tried to dose off.  I was in the window seat and couldn’t get comfortable no matter how hard I tried. Charles, as usual, was out like a light.

I knew the plane was flying the Great Circle Route along the northeastern seacoast before turning East over the Atlantic to Europe. After about four hours of flying, I lifted my window shade hoping to see the lights of Nova Scotia or Greenland far down below. Much to my amazement, the bent handle and bowl of the Big Dipper was on display right outside my window. It seemed close enough to touch. I watched the celestial show for over an hour until our plane changed course.


For me, flying is a spiritual experience. I feel like I am seeing the world with all its busyness from God’s point of view. The many activities of billions of people seem so insignificant, and yet God loves each and every person so much that he sent his only son, Jesus Christ, to die for all of us. As I look out into space, I’m awestruck by the vastness and perfection of God’s creation. King David reflected on the heavens in his writings:

Psalm 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”

My visit to the Big Dipper ignited my curiosity about the famous constellation. I discovered that the seven stars that make up the handle and bowl are an asterism or cluster of stars inside the constellation Ursa Major or the Great Celestial Bear.

For centuries the Big Dipper has been used as a navigation tool and pointer to Polaris, the North Star. “The Big Dipper was an important part of the Underground Railroad during the Civil War. Slaves escaping from the South were told to "follow the Drinking Gourd" to the North.” (Space.com)

Ursa Major-The Great Bear
According to Bruce McClure of the EarthSky website, “The starry sky serves as a calendar and a story book, as is beautifully illustrated by the Mi’kmaw tale of Celestial Bear. In autumn, the hunters finally catch up with the Bear, and it’s said that the blood from the Bear colors the autumn landscape. In another version of the story, Celestial Bear hits its nose when coming down to Earth, with its bloody nose giving color to autumn leaves. When Celestial Bear {and the Big Dipper} is seen right on the northern horizon on late fall and early winter evenings, it’s a sure sign that the hibernation season is upon us.”

 


Fall has arrived in Georgia with all its glorious colors. Now that I am earthbound, I can look at the beautiful fall trees and remember my visit to the Big Dipper. 

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Vive la France - Part Two




“In my yellow-trimmed bassinet, tucked into the corner of the dining room, I was oblivious to the swirl of history-making world events reported each day on the radio.  D-Day was still four months away. Many men in our small town were soldiers in the Pacific, and an uncle was missing in action somewhere in Europe. Since Dad worked for an industry vital to the war effort, he stayed on the home front.  I never would have been born if my father had been called into military service. My sisters remember ration coupons, victory gardens, and life-altering telegrams from the War Department, as well as dancing in the streets on VE and VJ Day. As for me, I cried, nursed, and slept through it all.”  (Excerpt from my memoir Born Three Times)                                    

June 6, 1944 has been commemorated for over 74 years as the day of the invasion of France and the beginning of the liberation of Europe from Hitler and his murderous regime. Commonly called D-Day, the Allied invasion force stormed fifty miles of the Normandy coast on five different beaches.  The logistics and tremendous sacrifice involved in such a massive operation became apparent to us during our recent visit to the historical site.  Emotions were close to the surface as we looked out over Omaha Beach. The site of the U.S. landing and the white crosses and stars of David that climbed the grassy hill commemorated over 9,400 soldiers and pilots buried there. 

Viking Cruise arranged a special ceremony for us at the site.  As the Stars & Stripes flew in a bright blue sky, we all sang the Star Spangled Banner, followed by a recorded version of taps, and a moment of silence. Then the veterans in the group, including Charles, were recognized. Each of us was given a flower to place on a grave. Charles & I chose to place our flowers on the graves of the fallen from the states where we were born—New York and Tennessee.  We prayed for those whose lives were cut short so that we can be free from tyranny today. 

A breath-taking sculpture stood overlooking the cemetery in honor of those who paid it all. The statue is a representation of a soldier rising from the water with his hand toward heaven.  It is a visual reminder of the brevity of life. 

As we traveled along the beaches, we saw the location of an artificial port build by the Allies. Remnants of the amazing feat of engineering are still visible in the water. In order to supply the thousands of troops, since the Germans controlled all the ports, caissons and piers were floated across the English Channel in order to construct an artificial port at Arromanches, France. Once constructed, tons of material could be loaded onto the beach and trucked inland to supply the fighters.  Those who operated the supply lines are the unsung heroes of the invasion force.

Our last stop on Normandy was to the water’s edge at Omaha Beach.  It was like walking on holy ground as we walked on the sand and looked up at the remaining German bunkers that dotted the hillside.  We left that place thankful and blessed to have lived in a free country bought with the blood of others.

I was reminded of John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.”