Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Bears

I was so sorry to read that Stan Berenstain, co-creator with his wife Jan of the Berenstain Bears, died yesterday at 82 of cancer.

Their 200 books over a period of 40 years gave children much enjoyment and parents ammunition for knotty family problems. I particularly liked the BB Go On Vacation, and The BB Mind Their Manners.

Last year they exhibited their life's work at the National Center for Children's Literature in Abilene. It was one of our most successful events. Their son Michael, who has helped them on the newest books, came and gave a delightful gallery talk about the long career of his parents.

Thanks for sharing your gift with children for over 40 years.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Walk the line

I finally got in to see Walk the Line about Johnny Cash. It was a very good movie with a few slow moments; however, I am glad I went. I never thought of Jouquin Phoenix (what kind of name is that?)as a good actor, but he became Johnny Cash before the movie was over. I didn't know that Cash started out with Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis at the beginning of the rock and roll movement. The music and the devotion of Johnny's June Carter (played well by Nashville's Reese Witherspoon) are worth the price of admission.

The movie is also a commentary about the importance of good fathering. Cash's father was a violent drunk who constantly compared him to his older brother who was killed in an accident. Even in adulthood fame, his father could find nothing good to say to him or about Johnny. I am so glad that Brandon and his father had a wonderful relationship. Sam was such an encourager and lover of his son. I am sorry he did not live to see the model Brandon has become and to see the benefits of all those performances we attended.

Thank you God for being our father and for all the good fathers I have known.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Unpacking Christmas

Last year I arrived in Nashville too late to decorate for Christmas. I have spent this day looking for Christmas among all the boxes in the garage AND trying to figure out how to fit what I have into a new house.

Nevertheless, the opening of each box brings priceless memories. I finally have a mantle with a lip on which to hang the sequined balls done by Claranell Murray, a teacher at Bowie in Abilene. She gave us one each year covered painstakingly with sequins with Brandon's school picture highlighted in the middle. On the back were sequins noting the year. She did the first one 31 years ago. They are a beautiful treasure.

I ordered Sam a stocking to add to the others. Naturally it doesn't match, but that's o. k. Our family is big about stocking gifts. We enjoy opening them almost as much as the larger gifts. The package may contain paper clips, but it is still fun to wrap and open it.

Back to the boxes! I think I am going to have help putting up the tree tonight.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Christmas music

I do love Christmas music! I start playing it about Nov. 1 and end after New Year's. Thankfully there is a station here in Nashville which began playing Christmas music on Nov. 22 all day every day until Christmas.

I usually buy at least two new albums every Christmas. My favorite this year is Point of Grace's Winterwonderland. It is short--only 10 songs, but they are all good including a new one Let There Be Light featuring John David Webster. Among my all-time favorites are any of Amy Grant's and any album featuring the Morman Tabernacle Choir.

How about you--what are your favorites?

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The day after

I thought I might take in a movie the day after Thanksgiving. After all, everybody else would be shopping on Black Friday--Wrong!

The line at the movie was out the door and while waiting, I missed showings of two of the movies I wanted to see: Rent and Walk the Line. So I was forced to go to Pride and Prejudice.

P & P will go down as one of my favorite movies of the year. Beautifully videogaphed, great acting, true to the novel, romantic--Wow! I highly recommend it.
I do love good movies.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Thanksgiving, 2005

Over Old Hickory, down Nolensville Road to Nonnie's house we go....A few recollections of yesterday, saved for Maddie, Ella and Sam:

From the sound of the first band in the Macy's Parade, to the last bite of turkey, the day was picture-perfect--family, friends and good food. Sheryl brought green bean casserole, a new sweet potato dish (Yummy!) and a pumpkin cheesecake. Brandon made his orange jello favorite salad. Here there was turkey, regular and smoked, gravy, cornbread dressing (thanks to the Roeders for the hint to cook the celery and onions in the cornbread), fruit salad (apples, oranges and whipped cream in great-grandmother Granny Tucker's 100-year old bowl), hot pineapple casserole (a new dish), cranberry sauce,
hash brown casserole, olives and Sister Schubert rolls (which I forgot to cook). And
there was pumpkin pie with whipped cream, pumpkin cheesecake and coffee with Bailey's for dessert. A new hit for the girls were the Clementine oranges--lots of Vitamin C dispensed!

Maddie and Ella brought suitcases readied for taking naps at Nonnie's for the first time. Sam slept on his blue blanket. After lunch, with pallets on the study floor, and Sam in the bedroom, they bedded down for a Thanksgiving nap. The adults, Kiki and Kyle, Nonnie, Mommy and Daddy played cards.

Reading books, playing with Nonnie's toys and watching the "Muffet" Christmas movie were also part of the day.

It was dark when everyone left--I had to sit in my chair and smile over the day when my best and brightest came to visit.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Christmas movies

Joining the demise of singable Broadway musicals has come the Christmas movie. I don't when it began, I just know I miss them.

One of my favorites is the old "Holiday Inn" movie in which Bing Crosby first sings "White Christmas." Now that is way back--World War II inspired many such movies which some would call cloying today. Where are the movies inspired by the Iraq conflicts? Please, not "Jarhead."

Then there is the warm Christmas scene in "Auntie Mame" which brought us "We Need a Little Christmas." I do like "Meet Me in St. Louis" and Judy Garland's "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" in it. As I remember, "Little Women" also had a memorable Christmas scene.

I have grown weary of "It's a Wonderful Life." What is your favorite Christmas scene or movie?

Father, thank you for your son--the reason for all the gifts and warm feelings.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


43 years ago today I married Sam Thomas, a tall, gangling auburn-haired teacher from Pasadena, Texas. I was 24, and he was 29. His family had long given up his marrying anyone. But fortunately, we were introduced by mutual friends,and after a rocky beginning, made it to the altar. My long-time friend Rodney Spaulding performed the ceremony at the University Church chapel in Abilene.

Our rehearsal dinner was rather unorthodox--Sam's family hosted a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at the home of friends in Abilene, Raborn and Velma Powell. That way the families really got to know each other over turkey and pumpkin pie.

The next day was beautiful. Over 300 friends watched as Sam and I exchanged vows which we wrote to each other. Neither of us knew much about married life--we were green and idealistic, but gradually worked through the eccentricities of each other and began to enjoy it. We moved into a new apartment near ACU and with one car and began to live the lives of teachers--lots of time planning, programs almost every night ( I was teaching in Eula nearby and had duties selling concessions at the basketball games twice a week), and church at Minter Lane on the weekend.

The 29 years we spent together before his death were full of fun, laughter, tears, ups and downs--but were very blessed by God. Thank you God for Sam Thomas and our married time together.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Baby sitting

I got to baby-sit for a whole day with the girls while Brandon, Sheryl and Sam are gone to Texas.

Is there anything quite as delightful as the giggles of little girls playing hide and seek while they wait to be found? I took a very large "bag of tricks" to the house to make the day move along. By 10:00 am we had colored in all the coloring books, played with Flown (kind of a new Play-Doh), they had painted my fingernails, and finished the bag of tricks including the "fruities."

Fortunately Sheryl and Kinsey Wilson came over to play about that time, and we made the day successfully.

I do love being in Nashville!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Just say no to guilt

Word was on Tuesday morning when our study of the semester was complete that several women (including many young mothers) were feeling guilty because of their inability to live up to the challenges in Elizabeth George's A Woman After God's Own Heart.

I believe guilt is highly overrated as a Christian virtue. It takes prisoners of all ages and backgrounds. It grinds down those on the cusp of spiritual growth. It wearies those who still believe that "doing" is better than "being." Of course, there are behaviors and attitudes worthy of guilt--outrageous sins and omissions which should not characterize God's children.

However, to suffer depression of spirit because one cannot "do" enough (how much is enough?) is an egregious negation of the price Christ paid for our salvation.

Women often have a more sensitive approach to "serving" God, and they pass this down to their children.

Young mothers, you are to be hailed, not condemned for your vitally important roles as mothers and caregivers--there are days in which you barely manage to survive, muchless "serve" God by ministering to the sick or attending church. There is NOTHING more important and worthy than rearing your children and giving them a heart for God.

"Impress (these commandments) on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."
Deut. 8:7

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are!" I John 3:1

"Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him." Romans 12: 1
The Message

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Happy Birthday, Babe

36 years ago today, Nov. 15, 1969, a baby boy came to stay at our house and changed our lives forever. After being married for 7 years, we were more than ready for a baby. He looked much like Baby Sam, but was a little less laid back. He had the red hair of Maddie, but it gradually faded to a softer red. He had the exuberant personality of Ella which never faded.

Sam and I were both exorbitantly proud parents--faithful to attend every function at school, church, ball park and stadium. Brandon Scott Thomas was bright, so we didn't have to nag much about grades or accomplishments. He had very good moral friends, so we didn't have to worry about bad escapades (at least he didn't get caught). When we recorded his singing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star at age 2, we did not know he would grow into his gift for song and worship. When we let him audition for a place in the ACU musical Music Man at age eight, we didn't know he would spend his life producing recordings, Christmas and Easter musicals. When he decided to major in communication, we did not know that his gifts for communicating would greatly outweigh his education. When we took him to church everytime the doors were open, we did not know that he would be such a wonderful man of God and a passionate lover of Jesus. When we gave him his first little red "sports" car, we did not know that he would eventually be driving a white van with three children's car seats attached. As we watched him associate with girls and date virtually every pretty girl in ACU, we did not know that he would eventually find the perfect mate, a beautiful woman who also loves God, parents perfectly, and sings as well--Sheryl Rathbun.

You may have figured out that I am still extraordinarily proud of my son. I love his passion for God and music. I love his exuberance, enthusiasm, panache, and charisma. Yes, I love his hair "do," I love the way he loves his wife and children. I love his care and concern for his friends and family. I love the way he lives--to the hilt in everything he does.

Thank you Babe for being my son this birthday.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The glory of friends

WE had a wonderful weekend with our friends the Lorenzes. We showed off Nashville in all its fall beauty to them with great times of food and discussion in between.
They loved playing with the kids and we loved just being with them. We did get in a trip to the Opyrland Hotel and the Country Music Hall of Fame too with a tour of downtown Nashville.

The Lorenzes are the kind of houseguests who leave the rooms they used in better shape than when they came. Neatniks! My favorite kind of people. What a joy to be with friends who know what you are going to say before it comes out of your mouth and with whom we can practice what we call "memory by committee." There will never any other friends who have done so much for us, who love us so unqualifiedly, and who bless us so much. Thanks to Robyn and Paul and Brooke and Brady for sending them here.


I received an e-mail today from my freshman roommate at ACU Lawana Benningfield Willhelm. What a long time ago 1957 feels. I was a different person then and the world was a different, more noble, less complex place. At least in Abilene, Texas.
We had a lot of fun in Chambers Hall with Miss Ditto. One of the best memories is the lingerie style show in the big hall after curfew. In those days, I think it was ll:00 p.m. We were all much smaller women then!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

It's a Wonderful Day in the Neighborhood

Driving around Nashville this morning: huge lawns covered in a carpet of gold, orange, red and yellow leaves--beautiful! My car was peppered by falling leaves--like being hit by yellow, brown, ruby and orange raindrops. Otter Creek Chruch being guarded by twin maples, one yellow, one red--gorgeous. Paint splatters on the hills in all the aforementioned colors. The Bradford pear trees on Old Hickory Blvd. turning themselves inside out from green to red.


Our friends, Ronnie and Darla Lorenz are coming to visit Thursday. I just hope the leaves will remain on the trees until they come. One can't describe them--words are not adequate, you just need to see the panorama of beauty created by God.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Relating to God and his words

We are spending time in my Sunday class talking about relating more closely to the words and stories in the Bible. Last week we did a bit of imagination as we read one of the stories of the gospels. This week is lectio divina (spiritual reading) and next week will be the importance of study (Foster actually calls it a discipline).

What I have tried to stress is the difference between just reading the words with getting deeply into the words and ideas so that they can bond our relationship with God. William of St. Therry said that the difference between attentive reading and mere reading is the same in warm friendship and a passing acquaintance.

Yes, I know Chris (Fajita) Re: his blog about knowing God outside the Word--there are many ways to know God outside the word. I think I agree with Calvin who said that it is in the Word where God is truly and vividly descibed to us.

Madeline L'Engle has a wonderful story in her book The Rock That is Higher; Story as Truth which will illustrate:

After dinner at house parties which L'Engle attended, people would ofen give recitations, sing songs or otherwise entertain the other guests. One year a famous actor was among the guests. When it came his time to perform, he recited the 23rd Psalm. His rendition was magnificent and there was much applause. At the end of the evening, someone noticed a little old great aunt dozing in the corner. She was deaf as a post and had missed most of what was going on, but she was urged to get up and recite something. In those days people used to memorize a lot of poetry! So she stood up and in her old, quivery voice, she started, "The Lord is my shepherd....and went on to the end of the psalm. When she finished, there were tears in many eyes. Later one of the guests approached the famous actor. "You recited that psalm absolutely superbly. It was incomparable. So why were we so moved by the little old lady?" The actor replied, "I know the psalm. She knows the shepherd."

Thursday, November 03, 2005

All Saints Day

Where did this week go????

Last night at Vespers, we celebrated All Saints Day which was actually Tuesday--a day to celebrate and honor that great cloud of witnesses who came before us in the faith.

I have been thinking about it all day and about the great cloud of witnesses who came before me,who upheld the name of Jesus and didn't throw in the towel and give up.

How can I not honor: Paul, Peter and John, Mary, Phoebe, St. Benedict, Martin Luther, John Wesley and Susanna, his wonderful mother, Alexander Campbell, St. Scholastica, Teresa of Avila, Mother Teresa, L. O. Sanderson, Fanny Crosby, Anne Hutchinson, Laura Smith, Evelyn Underhill, Corrie ten Boom, Billy Sunday, John Newton, Barton W. Stone, Lottie Bonner, Maude Fletcher, W. L. Fletcher Jr., John Elkins, Amber Yadon, William Samuel Herndon, Pauline Brandon, Lizzie Belle Herndon Tucker, Sam Thomas and hundreds of others who paved the way for me.

No they were not all members of the Church of Christ, they were not all learned scholars, some had agendas, some fell flat on their faces, but got up, some were wrong about many things--but they did not quit. They kept pushing Jesus and His Way on those surrounding them.

Thank you God for this great crowd. I still hear their voices urging me on.