Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Leaving and arriving

I have been thinking about our leaving Otter for several days. Today in Ladies Meeting, Bernie Arnold said that we all ought to be excited about arriving. She is well into her 70's, is a fixture at Otter and the wife of the late revered worship leader Buddy.

I esteem her for her positive attitude--a person as admired as she could very well turn the tide against the move. So far, I have heard nothing but good comments from all who have visited our new building. We are moving on up and the Lord is blessing the arrival, and he will bless what transpires there.

P. S. It will be the first building I have worshipped in with a spire.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Challenger

Twenty years ago this week I sat in my library surrounded by 100 fourth graders anxious to watch the lift off of the space shuttle Challenger.

We had studied the event all week in the classrooms and the library using materials sent us by NASA. We knew what each astronaut looked like, what they liked to eat, how many kids they had, etc. We were especially interested in Christa McAuliffe, the teacher who would be on board. We had done research on other space shuttles and the space program generally; answered math and science questions related to the event and some kids had built their own models of the space shuttles which were prominently displayed in the library.

And so we sat watching (along with Christa McAuliffe's class) as the shuttle blew up 73 seconds after lift off. The teachers and I looked at each other in disbelief as children began to cry realizing the drastic impact of the tragedy. Finally, we turned the TV off and one of the teachers led a prayer (only in Abilene!). Of course we sent home letters letting parents know that their children had watched the horrid scene. I am sure that many of the children will never forget that day.

If there can be a good memory of such a thing, my favorite memory is the ending of Pres. Reagan's speech to the American people in which he said the astronauts had
"slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God." O that we still had such eloquent leaders.

Lord, bless the families of those who were killed 20 years ago and help them to know that their sacrifice has inspired millions of us with memories of that day.

Saturday, January 28, 2006


Yesterday was the 250th birthday of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. A certified genius, he managed to go through several fortunes in his lifetime as he wrote the 600 pieces he left at his death at age 35. He was buried in a pauper's grave.

Where would our culture be without him, Handel, Beethoven and others? I don't know how close to his life it was, but I enjoyed the movie Amadeus. I do wish there were contemporary movies about Handel and Beethoven. Their lives seem to be the stuff of movies too.

This afternoon, heat some tea, sit awhile and enjoy some Mozart. Happy Birthday!

Friday, January 27, 2006

The End of the Spear

I am usually somewhat cynical when paying money to see a "religious" movie. I have found them usually lightweight, poorly photogaphed and acted, and a waste of my time and money.

A movie now playing in regular theaters is just the opposite of all the above--The Eye of the Spear. I highly recommend this story about the unfortunate missionaries who went to Ecuador in the 1950's and were killed by one of the native tribes in the rain forest.

One thing that struck me as I watched is how much better we prepare missionaries today. We would never think of sending out missionaries to an unfamiliar place without language training. One of the reasons for the missionaries'deaths was that they could not understand what the Indians were saying, nor tell them why they had come to the rain forest. The missionaries had been there for awhile, and one of the missionaries had a sister who knew and spoke the language, yet the men who landed in the Ecuadorian jungle could not communicate. What a tragedy.

I remember reading the Life Magazine account of their deaths. And of course, Elisabeth Elliott's book about the event Through Gates of Splendor has become a classic.

Please go and support the movie--half of the monies made will go toward helping indegenous peoples. It ranked 8 on the attendance list last week. I saw buses of people from churches in Nashville at my theater.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Find us Faithful

Sorry, I have been without a computer for a week. Back again thanks to a repairman.

My last post caused some activity! So glad to know there other folks in my boat.

Perhaps we are feeling nostalgic at Otter these days because of the move, but as we sang Find Us Faithful two Sundays ago, the words really hit me. Since then, I have been reviewing the great cloud of witnesses who are part of my story: William Samuel and Mary Herndon (great-grandparents), Lizzie Belle Tucker(grandmother), Hazel Pauline Brandon (mother)--all Church of Christ members from the 1880's forward. And then there were my Primitive Baptist relatives Emma and Joseph Brandon(grandparents) and Ollis Elton Brandon (father). I have no evidence that William Samuel ever met Barton W. Stone or any of his followers, but somewhere along the way in the South, he was introduced to the church (probably by his mother-in-law) and eventually planted a small church in West Texas (Anson). His daughter, my grandmother reared children in the church while she attended Northside and Central churches in Abilene, Tx. hearing such preachers as Frank Pack. My mom was in integral part of the church in Hamlin, Texas where I was baptized at the age of 12.

There others who were not relatives; W. L. and Maude Fletcher, Harold and Lottie Bonner (elder couples at Hamlin) Ed and Edna Brown. I can picture them now standing on the shoulders of the highway of my spiritual journey cheering me on. Bless them.

I do pray, Lord, that those who come behind me will find me faithful too.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Myths for the young

Last week, I was in a group of women who were laughing about what they were told as adolescents about the wine in the Bible. We were told that the wine at the wedding in Cana and in other places where Jesus and others drank it, was not fermented and therefore was not alcoholic. Another version was that the wine back then was not AS fermented as the wine today. What about the comment at the wedding about "saving the best for last."

Other myths we were told by youth ministers, elders and various other teachers:

The Church of Christ was founded in AD 33. (The university church actually had that on its cornerstone until just a few years ago). I wonder if Antioch knew it was the first Church of Christ?

Members of the Church of Christ are the only ones going to heaven. (And some of them are not going). This one is really hard to combat in people who have heard it from "Cambellites" all their lives. It was not what one could consider an evangelistic tool.

Women cannot be involved in any phase of leadership in the Church of Christ. And who were Phoebe, Priscilla, and Lydia?

Excuse the indelicacy of the following:

Masturbation brings insanity. No comment.

Dancing will lead to lust, fornication and unwed parenthood. (no comment--except, even square-dancing?) One of the regrets of my life is that I never learned to dance.

The same goes for "mixed bathing"--swimming with members of the opposite sex. A club in Abilene which had many members of the Church of Christ built a wall down the middle of the pool. I never learned to swim either.

The church's name should be The Church of Christ and that must be spelled with a small "c" for church to delineate it from the denominations--church of Christ. An affront to all the English teachers who ever taught that proper names should be capitalized.And oh yes, Church of God, The Redeemed, and other names can be found in that book we all revere.

God does not speak outside the Bible. That effectively shut-up the Holy Spirit in my growing up years. Fortunately, the Spirit is out of the box now.

Miracles ceased when the last apostle died. Why pray?

The Old Testament was of very little value--after all, it had been fulfilled in Christ. I am so sorry I spent all those years skipping the first half of my Bible.

Back to AD 33--we were never told what happened to the church after the 2nd century and where it went. Almost 17 centuries of its history are missing in my knowledge.

The Catholic Church and other denominations are part of the apostacy mentioned in Revelation. And we certainly do not have Churches of Christ which have gone astray? I have so much to learn about the sacraments and practices of others outside my fellowship.

Divorce is the unforgivable sin. Still believed by many.

Alexander Campbell is to be worshipped. He would scream, 'No, no. You have it wrong."

Acappella music is the only type accepted by God. Remember the Psalms don't matter.
Why was Bach created?

The New Testament gives the pattern for acceptable worship. Where?

Christians may not pray "The Lord's Prayer" because it contains the phrase "thy kingdom come." The kingdom has already come. It is the church. That leaves so many kingdom passages unexplainable.

What a sad commentary on my intelligence that I actually took all that in for a while without much questioning. I pray that I am not in position now as an "older woman" who is teaching others that I not perpetuate any similar myths.

God help our ignorance of you and your ways, and bless us as we continue to open our minds and drink of you.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Snowflake man

Some are large; some are small. They are lacy concoctions, full of holes and light. Some have airplanes in them; some have angels. They are the snowflakes my husband Sam cut over several Christmases. I put some of them up in my windows last week.

As I put them up, I remembered how excited students and teachers got as he left the principal's office each December to teach 4th and 5th grade students how to cut snowflakes. The cutting requires very sharp scissors and an artistic bent. I think he found the pattern in a teacher's magazine. They are all different--some are six-sided; some are round; some are octagonal. He put airplanes in one because of Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene.

Brandon and I and some of our friends have some of his flakes framed and hanging on the wall. They are a remembrance of a school administrator who loved to teach children and of a man who loved beauty.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Happy Birthday, Sam

Today would have been Sam's 73rd birthday. He was born in the front bedroom of his parents' home in Groesbeck, Texas, on Friday, the 13th of January, 1933.

I can only imagine wht he would have looked like today. He would probably still be skinny and fit with a little roll above his belt line. There would be no gray in his hair (the Thomas men lost their hair before it grayed). He would be wrinkled (his mother's family wrinkled badly as they aged). I am sure he would have the zest for life he showed before his illness and death.

We would probably be living in Nashville because of Brandon and his family. He would have a little piece of land to grow things on.

He would be the world's most indulgent grandfather. I can hear him saying now, "Hey, let's go get the kids and go to the park." We would wind up at the ice cream place. The little girls (and Sam) who now call him Poppy would have loved every minute of his presence.

Happy Birthday Sam Thomas. I miss you.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Let Us Be You

To cap the last 7 blogs about sins, I want to add this cap. Two talented members at Otter wrote it, and it on the newest Zoe recording. This is what we all should be in 2006.

Let Us Be You

Words and music by Clarissa Cox and Michael Lusk

Live in our hearts, fill this body.
Stir our spirits, help us serve!

Walk with our feet to the hurting.

Reach with our hands, touch this city Lord,
let our mouths speak your truth!

Use our blessings to bring justice.

Let us be You, revive your church!
Let us be You on this earth.

Let us be you when a wounded soul cries out for hope,
let us be you when the lonely need to know they're not alone.

Just as your stars pierce through the night,
let us forever shine your light!

Let us be you on this earth.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The last deadly sin

This last one can be found at the foreground of all the others I have discussed. It is self-absorption.

Since when did we (or I) become the most important person in the universe? The one whose busyness says look how important and valuable I am. The one too busy or important to bend to the poor. The one who excuses all sins and lies lightly; the one whose body must be perfect to match my mind. The one whose consumption of sex and other addictions embody my desires to feed my ego. The one whose race is the only one blessed by God. When did this happen?

Have you ever had the experience of talking to someone whose eyes are looking over your shoulder for someone more interesting than you? That's self-absorption.
Do you have friends or relatives who are imprisoned by technology (cell phones and e-mails)and are so afraid they will miss a call or message, they check the things obsessively? That's self-absorption. Have you ever heard anyone at church yell that any deviation from the norm is sin? Everything has to meet his guidelines. That's self-absorption.

Do you know anyone who is so self-absorbed she can't share her life with anyone else? There is no time for church, social activities or even just plain fun. All that matters is her agenda.

The seventh deadly sin will kill us slowly and painfully. As we fade out of the consciousness of those who are tired of our agendas and self-absorption, our life will be one of depression and loneliness.

Father, deliver me from these seven deadly sins and others which surround them. I want to fade into you and to become lost in your grace and your love.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The poor are with you always

The neglect of the poor in New Orleans stood out in bold relief against the suffering
in Hurricane Katrina.

Many who are not poor--who make the average salary in the U. S. of $47, 635 or more simply cannot imagine being poor, starving, or being homeless. I can at least emphasize. When my family first moved to Hamlin in the early 40's, we actually lived on the "wrong side of the tracks." Later we rented old, decaying apartments in the town. The only house my parents ever owned was a dilapidated farm house moved in from the country. With his carpentry skills, my father brought it back to life and remodeled it for a family of five.

My family didn't have a car until I was in high school. My dad had a truck and hauled things for a living. My family never took a vacation or took a trip very far out of Hamlin, because we five all had to sit in the cab of the truck. My first trip out of the state was on a debate trip in college.

My first job as an adolexcent was at the "variety store," and it paid 12 1/2 cents an hour. I worked my way through college at Foremost Dairies supplemented by various scholarships.

Sam and I had only one car in early marriage. My first paycheck for teaching averaged out about 36 cents a day. However, I have never felt poor, starving or homeless.

When I go to schools in the projects in Nashville and see the babies (K-1) coming to school in light sweaters and flip flops, I know how blessed I was and am.

Our country and churches can no longer ignore the poor around us. We do that now at the peril of our souls. One of my favorite passages in Isaiah 58:7-8 (the kind of fasting I like is this): "Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter--when you see the naked, to clothe him and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood. Then your light will breeak forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard."

Sunday, January 08, 2006

To tell the truth

Again, another scandal in Washington. Another man confessing bribes, lies and fraud.
Lying seems to be pandemic there.

But isn't it a temptation everywhere else too? In misleding ads, in silky smooth rhetoric, in promises made to children, in promises made to spouses, in promises made by companies to workers, in promises made by self-aggrandizing evangelists (Joel Osteen), in the sale of cars out of Katrina by dealers anxious to make a buck, in government's promises to care for the elderly, ill and homeless (Tenn Care), in all who promise more than can be delivered.

Paul urged Timothy in I Tim. 4:12 to "set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity."

May that be our charge in the New Year too.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Brokeback view of sex

All the hoopla about Brokeback Mountain is suspicious. I was glad to hear Gene Shalit of the Today Show say it was overrated. Because its subject is homosexual
"love," those who wish to appear cool and "with it" are jumping on the bandwagon for the movie, calling it a human love story for all time (like Romeo and Juliet?). Bah, Humbug!

Our culture's warped view of sexuality is taking over music, movies, young adult books, TV and advertisements. The most casual observer of the human body must know that the gay approach to "love" is warped. I am not judging or condemning those who are trapped in that lifestyle. In fact, I often feel drawn to their sweetness, gentleness and artistry (not sterotyping, just writing about those I know).

There are other warped views of sexuality in our culture I won't go into. In summary, our very large addictive consumption of the tales of sex served up in the various media mentioned is also a deadly sin. I just wish I could wash it all away.

Come to think of it, that is exactly what Jesus does. Come, Lord Jesus!

Friday, January 06, 2006


One needs only to sit in a waiting room somewhere to find out that racism is alive and well in our culture. Waiting for my car last week, I got an earful from several others waiting.

No, we no longer have water fountains and bus seats marked "For Whites Only," but we still have unreasonably priced real estate which forces the poor (both whites and others) to live segregated, dangerous lives. Nashville downtown is full of "projects
where many shootings occur.

No, we don't have schools set aside for use by whites only, but fees and entrance exams rule out others who could attend.The lottery for places in magnet schools in Nashville was yesterday. There were 3,500 applicants. I will tell you later how many got in.

No, we don't have segretated lunch counters, but the salaries paid to many of other races prohibit them from eating out.

No, our churches are not segregated any more. How many folks of other races do you have in your pews? Last Sunday at Otter, I saw 5 in a crowd of 800.

If I hear anyone say again in my hearing, "The Hispanics are taking our jobs,"I may give a very unChristian response.

I am consciously guarding my life and thoughts this year to banish racism there.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Altogether lovely

The second deadly sin of our culture is body worship. A new "spa" opens every day in Nashville promising health, beauty and skin clear of wrinkles. Men and women pay thousands of dollars for eye lifts, nose straightening, chin augmentation, and various other fixes. These are not bad things in themselves. I had eye lifts myself when my eyesight was diminished. I recently saw a woman on TV who had suffered through 13 operations in one year hoping to regain her lost youth--that's excessive!

Young girls and older ones too fall into eating disorders trying to get as skinny as the newest teen model. Boys take sterioids to pass, punt and kick farther. And on and on it goes.

If we wish to be altogether lovely (S of S 5:16), then we would best emulate Christ in our inner being, and stop trying to turn back time.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Busy Bees

I will attack my deadly sins one at a time for the next few blogs. Not preaching, just musing.

Busyness--a recent book called busyness a draining, ungodly sin akin to idolitry. So true. It wreaks havoc in homes by robbing families of family time and God time; it creates a frenzied, harried pace in life; it really says loudly that "No one can do this but me."

We wear busyness like a badge of honor expecting a reward for getting 42 things done in an hour. We excuse all manner of more important things like worship on Sunday because of a soccer game or visiting and giving love and care to relatives because of "pressing commitments." We miss family dinner time where communication thrives to take children to violin, archery or etiquette lessons. We have no quiet time with God because we are hooked on e-mails and cell phones. Our times are in God's hands; and the time we live is so short, one would think that we would learn what is important in this life. Alas, many do not.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Sins and Resolutions

One cannot read ancient literature without running into them--even Chaucer mentioned them: The Seven Deadly Sins.

First posited by a Green monastic theologian, they have been changed some over the centuries and have become these: Pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed and sloth.

Ghandi made his list which fits our culture somewhat better and is more philosophical: wealth without work
pleasure without conscience
science without humanity
knowledge without character
politics without principle
commerce without morality
worship without sacrifice

I thought I would bring these even closer to home in our vernacular:

body worship
warped sexualtiy
neglect of the poor
self absorption

Any and all of these could damage ones' spirituality, and thus I think resolutions to avoid all on these lists would be a beginning to a new year.

Monday, January 02, 2006


In the past two weeks, I have seen the two Broadway musicals now at the movies--Rent and The Producers.

Where are Rogers and Hammerstein and Andrew Lloyd Webber when you need them?

Besides being very adult in content, neither musical contains one single singable song.

I don't often say this, but--Oh for the good old days when one left the theater bouyantly humming one of the feel-good songs?

Have all the lyicists and music makers lost their muse? I look forward to the day when it comes back.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Good things in 2005

2005 was a good year. These are some good things that happened to me last year:

1. The birth of another Sam
2. Being closer to my family
3. Taking the girls to Peter Pan
4. Seeing the Rockettes with the girls and watching their faces
5. Being led in worship by BST every Sunday
6. Friday visits by the girls
7. Meeting new friends like Lynn Mott, Marge Roeder and Linda Giddens
8. Being closer to good bookstores
9. Being closer to good movie theaters
10. Being free of many volunteer obligations