Acting Right

by R Shoemate (initially published in roughly 1996)

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.

Ours is an age of nostalgia.  One of the definitions of the word in my Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, which incidentally, as I “look back”, was purchased with my last six dollars when I started college in 1952, is: “any wistful or excessively sentimental, sometimes morbid yearning for return to or of some past period of irrecoverable condition.

I confess I seem to be afflicted by the condition from time to time, not that I really yearn that much for the “good ol’ days.  In many ways they were hard times, but we didn’t know it then.  Our family lived on a farm on the plains of West Texas during the years of World War 2.  Not only were these “ancient times” before TV, for our family they were times before electricity and running water and the bathroom was a little separated building fifty yards downwind, at the end of a path.  It was in this outhouse we kept our outdated Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward catalogs.

Our house was somewhat lighted by the old coal oil lamps, which offered poor light even when the wicks were kept trimmed and the globe cleaned.  We carried water in the three-gallon buckets from the windmill a hundred yards to the north.  Several trips were necessary, especially on Saturdays when we always bathed in a number three wash tub, whether we needed it or not.  It was mine and my brother Edwin’s chore to make those trips back and forth to the windmill.  In addition we helped milk the cows by hand, slopped the hogs, fed the chickens, and cleaned the chicken house (how I hated that chore).

My brother and I rode the school bus to a two-room school house several miles away. School was taught by Mr. and Mrs. Horn; she taught grades one through four and Mr. Horn taught grades five through eight.  Each class room had about twenty-five students, each grade lined up in a row of desks. We were taught the basic subjects like math, spelling, reading, geography.  Somehow we survived without the extra-curricular activities deemed so necessary in today’s educational systems.  Consequently, not being distracted by the “extra-curricular”, we learned the basics.  By the way, neither Mr. or Mrs. Horn had the benefit of aides, unless you consider that students took turns bringing in fuel for the old coal-burning stoves, and sweeping up each day after classes.  There were never those days of no-school for our teachers to have “planning conferences” and such.  And, there were a lot of other modern technology and techniques which were unheard of in our country school.  Our parents paid no fees for participation in athletics.  The older kids played softball at recess time and the younger ones played on the see-saw and merry-go-round.

At the end of Word War 2 our family moved to California and my brother and I attended a big, modern school.  I began my freshman year in high school there and discovered that in spite of the dreadful deprivation in my educational experiences in that little two-room school house back in Texas, I was ahead of other students in the basic subjects.  I adapted quickly to the extra-curriculars.

This is no appeal to return to the “good ol’ days”, but it does seem at times we’ve neglected the main thing in preference for the incidental.  Someone has said, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”  The problem is that a lot of folk have forgotten what is really the main thing.

Our school teacher’s tasks today would be much easier if more of the “main things” were taught at home.  Like respect for authority!  And simple politeness and manners!  What about honesty, integrity and responsibility?  If more parents cleaned up their speech, we would hear less filthy and foul speech from the kids.  If we showed more respect, and deserved more of the same because of our example, we would eliminate many of the problems assailing our society today.  Whatever discipline problems are encountered at school and elsewhere, it’s because so few parents have neither the gumption or the courage to discipline their own children.

A case in point is a memory I cherish of carrying water from that old windmill years ago as an adolescent.  It was a Friday night and neighbors were giving me a ride to a social event at school.  I was wearing my brand new pair of khaki pants and brogan shoes (no $100.00 Nike Airs).  My hair was slicked down with Fitchs’s Hair Oil, and I was ready to go when my Dad said, “Royce, are the water buckets full?  You’re not going until you get your chores done.”

I was mad.  I grabbed the buckets and started off in a huff to the windmill, spilling water all over the sides of my new khakis.  In my haste and anger half the water had sloshed out as I plopped the buckets down on the table just inside the kitchen door.  Had I noticed my Dad standing nearby I would have been more careful because I was about to be taught a lesson which would last for fifty years.  He walked over, picked up one bucket of water, held the screen door open with one foot, and threw the water out the back door.  He did the same with the second bucket and then handed me the empty buckets and said, “Now, go get the water, and this time ACT RIGHT!”

My Dad was a man who loved his family.  He was honest and hard working.  He taught his two boys, by word and example to “act right”.  Until more parents start doing the same our society’s problems will continue growing.

(Articles published by my father back in the ’90s to a local newspaper, yet timely today)

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Dear Mom

Dear Mom,

There were so many times that you gave without thinking of anything in return. There were numerous years that you suffered silently and never spoke a word about offenses against you.

It’s at this time of year that I understand now how you gave of yourself. I wish you were still here with me. While family members have abandoned me you loved me fully without judgement .

Thank you, God for saving me and caring for all my needs. You correct me lovingly. You sustain me and protect me.

Father, care for my family and cause them never to depart from You for You are their salvation and sustenance. Thank you for comforting us and providing for our every need.

Show me your purpose for my life for I long to dwell in your presence more every day yet you have called me here to linger on this earth a while longer.

Father I pray earnestly for our nation to return to you for your glory. May your will be done on earth. Let us not fear evil for you have conquered all!  Your will prevails forever.

Thank you for the gift of a Godly mother and may I be accused one day of being a Godly mother. Keep my children within your hand and build a hedge of protection around them and preserve them unto yourself.

Thank you for sending your son for our salvation. All glory and honor are yours.

Return my heart and life to your presence one day in your great timing.

 

I Had a Strange But Interesting Dream Last Night

Usually, I don’t recall my dreams in their entirety.  They are usually weird– make no sense or may be related to something I remember from my past.

This morning, however, I recalled a vivid dream that at first made no sense, but the more I thought about it, the more profound it became.

In my dream, I and my husband lived in Ireland (not where I live now).  My husband was the pastor of an ancient church with hand-built stone walls and beautiful woodworking.  We also happened to live somehow in this church.

What was strange was that although the main floor of the church — although in some state of disrepair — was quite beautiful and very meaningful and seemed repairable.   However, the attic of the church was this strange, maze of passages where I saw men taking brand new insulation and using a staple gun, was tacking the brand new insulation to old, decrepit, pest infested insulation that had been rained on and full of mouse feces and spider webs.  In this maze were strange and sudden rooms that had shelves that hung from the walls as beds and somehow these beds were provided by the church to people such as homeless or runaway children as shelter.  They too,  were broken down with no mattresses and spider webs everywhere.

Strangely, I had an Irish brogue and I kept pleading with the people there at the church to stop putting new insulation on top of the decaying ruins.  I kept telling them that they needed to get rid of ALL of the insulation and everything except the structurally intact foundation and walls of the church — and then to restore from there, but alas they kept coming in with brand new insulation — with those insane staple guns. Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang — the noise of the staple guns rang throughout the entire church from top to bottom.

I tried pleading with the people to preserve the heritage and history of their church, for it was along a path that was known of famous people to travel and that many well known people had been positively affected by the church over the course of hundreds of years.  My husband, forlorn, was walking in a garden outside the church and I followed him trying to encourage him to stay the course and yet he was downtrodden that none of his words had any effect.

Here is what God has told me through this dream.  Our churches, although having a rich history of positively impacting lives, has strangely lost sight of the pure foundation of the Church (and yes,  capitalization of the word church is important here).

Having grown up as the daughter of a pastor, I have seen over the years how not only the churches of my denomination have been decayed by the idea that this program or that program would bring more people into the church (brand new insulation on top of decaying).  The role of the church is not marketing — it’s saving of souls.  The role of the church is LIVING a life that is more like Christ.

Revelations speaks of the church who lost their first love — Christ.  I believe there are many, many such churches today.  Instead of tearing our churches apart until we get to the viable, clean foundation, we have chosen to take that brand new insulation and staple gun and “bang, bang, bang, bang, bang” that good insulation to rotting, horrific filth.

When will God’s people learn that we need to tear out the rotting, disgusting filth and go back to our firm foundation upon which we can restore?  Isn’t that what God wants us to do?  I know that it is.

I long for the day when our churches return to their first love.  I long for the day when we allow Christ to be our soldier and conqueror for us.  He has promised us that.  I long for that day.

When People Had Faith…

As a pastor’s daughter, we moved around quite a bit when my father would be called to pastor another church. Never desiring to pastor a large church, my father preferred to minister to smaller communities and smaller churches.

As was the custom of the day, we lived right next door to the church in the parsonage. That situation came with both good and bad experiences as you might imagine.  Dad was almost always at the church working on something while we were growing up and while that sounds like a bad thing, it was also a good thing.  Frequently, we could just walk next door to call him to a meal or ask him a question.  I’m sure those little disturbances for such mundane things got tiresome after a while, but he never let on.

I happen to be the middle child — too young for my older sisters, but too old for my baby brother.  I learned to amuse myself at a very young age with very few toys; pastors don’t make a lot of money, so toys were few but the ones we had were cherished.

Children today wouldn’t know what to do with themselves in those same circumstances.  We played games like hide and seek, or tag or we would find empty aluminum pie pans and make “mud pies”.  Literally — they were pies made of mud.  We would cut pictures of models out of the Montgomery Wards catalog and play paper dolls.  When our granddaddy visited, he would sometimes bring us “real” paper dolls that came in what looked like a sturdy paperback coloring book.  They were the fancy ones where you punched out the figures and other pages contained clothes for the dolls that were held onto the dolls with bent over tabs.

Believe it or not, we had hours and hours of fun with these simple things.  Children used their imaginations to make playhouses or cars or whatever could be dreamed up, out of cardboard boxes.

One dusty hot Texas summer with the locusts humming constantly in the mesquite trees I was playing outside by myself.  I decided it was high time that we had a real sandbox to play in.

Dad was home for lunch when I ran into the house to present my request to him.  “Dad, do you think you could build me a sandbox?”, I asked.

Dad shifted his attention to me and as adults so often do (including myself now), he casually agreed that he would build me a sandbox.

Having received a positive answer to my request, I skipped happily outside to play.  I began gathering up toys and sticks and old pots.  I ran in and out of the house over and over again taking new objects outside.  This caused a great deal of curiosity on the part of my mother, who called to me on one of my trips into the house to ask “what in the world are you doing?”

I said, “I’m gathering up all my toys and shovels and a pail and pots for the sandbox that daddy is building me.”

Knowing that my dad was busy on his own tasks and my sandbox was not on his schedule for that day, she called over to the church.

“Did you tell your daughter that you were going to build her a sandbox today?”, she asked.

“Yes, I told her I would build her a sandbox”, he replied.

“Well, I think she thinks that you meant to build it today”, she informed him.

My dad told me that as he sat in his office at the church, it dawned on him that God was using this experience to show him how Christians should approach God.  We petition God with our requests and as Christians, we should have the faith of a simple child that when we ask Him, we already are waiting in anticipation for His answer to our prayers — believing that if we ask anything in His name, knowing that if it is within His will, all we need to do is to excitedly wait for Him to give it.

That very afternoon, my dad stopped what he was doing and built me that sandbox.  He told me that because I had believed that I had already received it, He felt compelled to fulfill that request that day.

As I’ve said before, God is not a genie to petition idle wishes from Him, nor has God ever said in the Bible that “if we only believe that it is God’s desire for us to be prosperous”.  That kind of thinking is prosperity theology and does not align with what the Bible teaches.

When we truly do have needs, if we ask Him and it is in accordance with His will for us, we can know that He will give it to us.

Back several years ago, I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  Having had a grandmother and several other friends I knew who died of pancreatic cancer, the news of this diagnosis to me was an immediate death sentence.

After several courses of chemo and radiation, my family assembled together to Biblically lay their hands on me and pray for me.  My brother came away knowing that God was going to save me.  I can’t say that I had the same amount of faith as he did.

Shortly, I met with my doctors who gave me the sad news that they believed due to a recent CT scan that showed abnormalities on my liver that the cancer had spread and that there was nothing more they could do for me.  I had zero chance of survival and my chances for having a life-saving whipple procedure were gone.

I returned home and began to put my affairs in order.  A few months later, I met with my oncologist for another CT scan.  I just knew that he was going to tell me that it had spread further more rapidly than anticipated.  However, that’s not what happened at all.

Shaking his head in disbelief, he informed me that the chemo and radiation had reduced the size of my tumor and that the abnormalities on the liver were gone!  While I was waiting in the patient room, my husband heard the doctor on the phone to my surgeon telling him the news and that I should be reconsidered for the whipple procedure.

Within a week I was in another state talking to the surgeon about when I wanted to have the surgery and within another week — on Mother’s Day, I had the 8 hour surgery.

All post operation reports showed that the surgeon removed a good portion of dead tissue and when she sent it to pathology, no cancer was found!  Not wanting to do surgery on a patient who didn’t have cancer, she sent the pathology reports three times and requested my original diagnostic findings showing that I did have cancer.  Again, the reports came back negative, but the original findings show that I did have cancer.

God does still perform miracles and He performed one for me — complete with factual proof!

I am ashamed to say, that my simple faith as a child in expecting the sandbox, was not the faith that I displayed in my cancer episode.  Why God chose to save me in this way, I will not know until that day when I see Him.

I long for THAT day!

… When School Children Were Allowed to Pray

I long for the days when school children were allowed to pray without persecution and retaliation from hate groups.

When I was a child, we were allowed not only to pray privately, but our teachers prayed aloud with us and for us.  We were allowed to read our Bibles and to say, “bless you” when someone sneezed.

Our class as well as every class voluntarily said the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag with pride and a lump in our throats.  We were a thankful nation then.  We were a courteous and respectful nation.  Every citizen knew that if he disagreed with someone else’s perspective — well, we disagreed and went to play out on the playground together.

Sure, our world was far from perfect then, and crime, injustice and immorality reared its ugly head at one time or another in all of us.  The difference was that crime, injustice and immorality were for the most part — dealt with, and not ignored, re-labeled and swept under the rug.  Lying was lying. Stealing was stealing.  Murder was murder — no matter how young or old.  There was no re-labeling of these words so that they appeared “nicer” or more acceptable.  Sin was just plain old ugly sin.

There was no need for laws to tell us what a family was, no laws forcing people to go against their morals in order to accommodate sin.

Churches stood for truth and real love and concern.  They focused on the words of the Bible as a guideline for truth, kindness and love.  Churches were inclusive, not exclusive.  They were not filled with marketing techniques instead — the word of God.  They didn’t sell coffee, pastries, books, CD’s and put on sell-out concerts with ear-bursting loud music and the latest in high-tech lighting and effects.

No man is truly good of himself.  Give a man a little power and authority and before long, he becomes a greedy, selfish, hateful and sinful person.  Our nation doesn’t need more laws or more government or more money, jobs or trade.  Our nation needs God desperately!  Without Him, we are purely evil all the day long.

I long for the day when Christ comes for His true church — for all of those who truly love Him and accept His free gift of love, forgiveness and reconciliation to Himself.  John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever will believe on Him will not perish, but have everlasting life”.

Friend, when God said, “whosoever will”, He included you too.  His gift is free, but requires you to turn to Him.  Church member — maybe you thought that you belonged to God, but if you are not longing to practice what God teaches in the Bible, you need to ask yourself whether you ever were God’s child or if you have strayed.  If you have strayed, then time is short and you must know that the signs everywhere are all pointing to a world coming to destruction and calamity.

We need to be waiting for Him to take control of this mess of a world we live in.  Will you be ready or will it be too late?  God tells us that none know when He is coming except for the Father Himself and it will be sudden and unexpected.  When that happens, it will be too late to take advantage of God’s free gift of salvation.

There are those reading these words to whom God is speaking.  He wants you to know that He loves you.  Only He can save you.  If you seek Him, He will show Himself to you.  Revelation 3:20 “ Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”

I long for the day…