Wednesday, May 31, 2006

All good things....

I hate it when good things come to an end: Christmas, summer vacations in New Braunfels, classes you enjoyed, etc.

I watched some of the Today show today as Katie Couric exited after 15 years. I have always enjoyed her and will miss her--she enlivened the show with her personality and was always very real in her interviews. I don't know that I can see her doing the NEWS on CBS, but I will try to watch. I still miss Tom Brokaw in NBC.

15 years ago Sam was very ill , but still alive(he died in the fall), Brandon was a junior at ACU and a Sing Song host, I was still teaching at Dyess Elementary School. How time does fly.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


As we have become a nation of inhabitants of cocoons (predicted by Alvin Toffler in Future Shock) we have become very good at self-distancing--removed, apart, wary.
And as a result, we immediately size up people we see or meet as we observe their clothing, hair length, facial hair, weight, and age. We often make snap judgements about them even though we do not know them.

And in doing that, we often miss opportunities to make friends with someone who would benefit our life or at least broaden our horizons. Christ touched many people who were considered untouchables. He talked to the marginal, the outsiders, and those the Jews would not even approach (the Samaritan woman).

I believe it would benefit all Americans and Christians if they would be a little less self-distanced and more welcoming as Christ was.

Monday, May 29, 2006


I asked last night when our country became an unwelcoming country. When did we start to decide that we didn't want anybody else to come in? Did it happen suddenly and I missed it, or has it just happened gradually as our greed and hospitality capabilites hardened into isolationism?

We had no real answers, but I could broaden the discussion to include those churches who have hardened into the 50's mold and no longer welcome anyone who is different from they in skin or beliefs. Those churches who are no longer afire with evangelism as we were in the 60's when we sent a large group to the New York area called Exodus. Some of my best friends were involved in that. Christian Chronicle has a special section on the group this month. The mission was not wholly successful; however, there are small churches still there as a result. Dwain Evens is quoted as sayinng that not only did we expect them to become Christians, but we expected them to become Texans--in other words, the church did not integrate into the culture, but expected those there to take over the southern culture. Thankfully our missionaries today know different.

One of the great successes of the Exodus is the Stamford, Conn. group. A group which not many churches of Christ would fellowship because they practice open fellowship (fully open) to women. I think it to be a success and wish they would send missionaries to us.

Saturday, May 27, 2006


We are talking about hospitality as a spiritual discipline tomorrow night at small group. I read somewhere that the excuse most people give for not practicing hospitality is that they do not want to clean house. Wonder if that is true?

Then I got to thinking about the things I disliked about cleaning house. I am a neat freak who believes in keeping things picked up so that the task is not so daunting at the end of the week. There are, however, things I dislike about "cleaning house." My most dreaded task is changing linens and making the beds. I guess Sam spoiled me in the years of our marriage--I didn't have to make up the bed one time. Sam, one of the classic night owls, was always the last in bed and the last one up, and he made up the bed every day.

I used to tell my English students that learning grammar was a lot like cleaning the bathtub--nobody likes to do it, but it is necessary. Personally, I always take a shower, so that the chore of cleaning the bathtub is not frequent.

Come think of it, the satisfaction of having a clean, wonderful smelling house with everything shining far outweighs any disadvantages of cleaning. Just as the joys of hospitality far outweigh the tasks necessary to get ready.

Friday, May 26, 2006


Here it is the Memorial Day weekend and there are no good movies to see, IMHO. Where are the blockbusters that in yesteryear led off the summer season. Are movies losing out to IPODs, etc.? All I wish for is a good entertaining movie without monsters , good popcorn and a coke. Guess I will have to go to the video store and rent one.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


I thought I had seen everything about the DiVinci Code, but this takes the cake: On the front of one of those magazines at the grocery store check out==Lose weight on the Divinci Code diet. My aren't we anxious to cash in on the craze?

Owen, you would love meeting Gary Paulsen. I have heard him speak several times--he is a character. If you can find it, read Wintersong and Nightjohn.

Kay Wilson, thanks for the letter--a real letter! Yes, those orange books were the Childhood of Young Americans series. They were probably the most read and beloved of all the biographies on the children's shelf. I actually remember when third grade teachers always had a biography unit and assigned their kids to read one.

On the librarian's dialogue place, The Little House Series seems to be the series that won the most hearts. And for poetry--Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses--once available in a Little Golden book for 19 cents.


I thought I had seen everything about the DiVinci Code, but this takes the cake: On the front of one of those magazines at the grocery store check out==Lose weight on the Divinci Code diet. My aren't we anxious to cash in on the craze?

Owen, you would love meeting Gary Paulsen. I have heard him speak several times--he is a character. If you can find it, read Wintersong and Nightjohn.

Kay Wilson, thanks for the letter--a real letter! Yes, those orange books were the Childhood of Young Americans series. They were probably the most read and beloved of all the biographies on the children's shelf. I actually remember when third grade teachers always had a biography unit and assigned their kids to read one.

On the librarian's dialogue place, The Little House Series seems to be the series that won the most hearts. And for poetry--Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses--once available in a Little Golden book for 19 cents.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Favorite books again

Now, what books changed your life as an adult?

I used to read a lot of fiction, but now hardly any at all, except for those our book club reads. Now my favorite genre is religious and inspirational books. Perhaps the life-changing book many years ago was Gary Smalley's The Blessing. And as I read more and more in the genre, Madeline L'Engle became a favorite as well as Eugene Peterson. Currently I am reading a lot of Tennessee Civil WAr history. I have just ordered Daryl Tippins' new book and am looking forward to opening it.

What about you?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

What children's book changed your life?

The CCBC--a librarian's dialogue group--is asking this question this week, and I thought it would be interesting to see what I got.

As I have written before, we had no books in my home, no library in my schools or in the town until I got to high school, so my early reading life was a slim affair. I do remember someone giving me Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, and since it was the only book I had, of course, I remember it fondly. The determination of the Beauty despite all odds inspired me--I know that some thought it sappy, but I loved it. Then later in a box of handed-down clothing came another book The Harvester by Gene Stratton Porter.
It is the story of an eccentric herbologist who finds a woman in the forest, nurses her back to health and falls in love with her. Again, another sappy book as all of Porter's were, but in middle school it was all I had. My art teacher in 6th grade visited New Orleans and came back with a book Dinner at Antoine's by Frances Parkinson Keyes. She gave a long review and read some of it to us. It grabbed my imagination. 6 years later my senior class went to New Orleans on our senior trip and I got to eat at Antoine's--Oysters Rockefeller. It was green and yucky as I remember. I think I read all of Keyes' books later.

When I reached high school, I caught up with all the Nancy Drew books (yes, they were all in my high school library) and began my life-long love affair with mystery novels. And that is really all I can remember.

So, from childhood to grade 12 what books absorbed you? We will ask about adulthood next.

Monday, May 22, 2006

What's happened

I have just gotten back from a family wedding in Plano--some musings on the past few days:

We took the girls to the road show of Annie last Thursday night. They were so excited!!!The production was very good--just a little long. On the way to the theater, I told Brandon I though we should do valet parking. Maddie, picturing me in a pink tutu I am sure, said in a very shocked voice, " Nonnie is going to do ballet?" It is a very funny picture.

The wedding was beautiful and emotional as they all are. Mary Morse, my grandniece married a young man from England (The Isle of Man, actually)who works for FC Dallas, a professional soccer club. Mary has been in soccer all her life and coaches soccer at a school in Plano. I was very impressed with Prestonwood Baptist Church where they got married in the chapel--very much a complex. Their book store is better than any in Abilene. They are in a fund-raising campaign to raise 600 Million dollars and are almost there. While sitting in their opulent family waiting room (The Fireside Room) I couldn't help but think of Room at the Inn and the homeless. The church had staff members who helped direct the wedding. It was an easy way to have a wedding, and they were very nice. Chris's family came---his uncle Howard was a character whose English this Southerner found very hard to understand.

We all went to church together yesterday to New Heritage Church in Allen, Tx. It is a break-off from Pitman Creek in Plano. This "people of Christ" (not Church of Christ) is fairly small, casual, and intimate.Somewhat similar to the emergant church we went to the previous Sunday. Communion was place on two long tables in the middle of the horseshoe arranged room, and we all went up to partake. Instrumental music (with my nephew Jeremy using his gift with drums) with contemporary songs carried the day. The minister, Terry Cartwright dialogued with the youth minister about today's culture and how Christians fit in for the sermon.
I enjoyed it. Plus there were coffee and doughnuts right there in the "sanctuary".

Dallas is booming and moving far north into suburbs. We ate Mexican food twice--Yea!
Brandon got to spend time with his college roommates, and I got to enjoy a getaway. So it was a good weekend.

This weekend was the same one Charles Lindbergh finished his flight to Paris, and I thought how far we have come since that event. 2 hours from Dallas to Nashville.
A huge "airbus" was debuted this week too. Lindbergh would be amazed.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

I have company

For about the next six weeks, Matt Maxwell will be taking up residency in my guest bedroom. Hooray! He is working on an internship with Randy Brewer. Matt have many talents with videoing, producing other art, etc.

He is one in a line of several young men who have kept me company from time to time: Stephen Bailey and Jason McArthur did too years ago.

I told Matt I was paying it forward. When I was in school at ACU and had to stay in Abilene and work during the summer, my friend Marylyn Fletcher and her family graciously kept me comfortably. I still appreciate it so much. Money was very tight then and they saved my job and my next year's college in that gracious token of friendship.

I am looking forward to sharing Nashville with Matt.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Small things

What are some of the small things we can offer as encouragement?

1. Live a positive life in word and in deed. "For every critical comment we receive, it takes nine affirming comments to even out the negative effect in our lives." Jim Burns That means we have to overcompensate. And we have to watch what we say to others, even in jest.

2. Read all the biblical passages about Barnabas. He was an encourager.

3. Stock on up on greeting and note cards AND SEND THEM. I have a friend who sits down every Sunday afternoon with the church bulletin and sends cards or notes to all those who are listed. Yes, it takes stamps and cards. Do without Cokes or lattes for a month and you can finance it.

4. Pass out hugs--I truly believe that hugging is a spiritual gift. Watch for those who look sad or isolated; for those you know who have had a bad week, for those whose speech betrays their lonliness. Widows, widowers, and the elderly are ripe candidates for hugs. Doering in her book The Power of Encouragement calls hugs "touches kindly spoken." Jesus touched people no one else wanted to.

5. Short phone calls to check on those who need to hear a kind voice. Takes only five minutes and spreads sunshine on the other end of the line.

6. Take someone out to eat. It doesn't have to be Mortons. It can be McDonalds.
What counts is the companionship. One of the best ways to deepen a friendship is by eating together. Someone once said, "Hospitality is not just the meal or the bread, it is the message of the value of the person's worth you give her." Hospitality is one of those disciplines listed by Richard Foster and others.

7. Tend the garden of your own heart. Strive to read and listen to positive messages--change radio stations if you have to. As you listen to the news each night (which is always a downer) list all the people you can pray for. This doesn't mean you have to be a Pollyanna--just a Christian.

Start with the people you love and branch waaay out.

Monday, May 15, 2006


Maddie ran into the kitchen yesterday morning shortly after I arrived and said, "Wow, Nonnie you look beautiful!" That made my day, indeed my week.

The minister at the Mosaic Church where we went yesterday spoke on the importance of community and encouragement. (See BST's Sunday blog).

Encouragement is one of my favorite topics and one in which I believe mightly. One of the downsides of retirement is that one no longer works in a community environment where encouragement and affirmation flow (or should). Teachers, parents, principals, etc. keep each other going with affirmation.

One of my favorite books is The Power of Encouragement by Jeanne Doering. I think it is now out of print. In chapter 1, she tells about beginning a Barnabas Committee with other students while in college. Their goal was to encourage the faculty with notes, small gifts of candy, apples, etc. I like Peterson's take in Romans 12 in The Message: "Bless your enemies; no cursing under breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they're; share tears with they're down. Get along with each other...." If the church could only learn the lesson of encouragement. Isn't it amazing how much easier it is to be negative than to be positive?

Encouragement means "to draw alongside." It is much more than passing out "warm fuzzies" (although that is important too.) It means being caretakers of one another. The minister said yesterday said that we should be involved with others so closely that we know when they need encouragement, and they know when we do. Maybe we need more sermons on the "one another" passages. Another Peterson passage from Hebrews 10, "Let us see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out.... and I. Thess. 5 "So speak encouraging words to one another . Build up hope so you will all be together in this. no one left out, no one left behind."

It is in the small things, actions and words that we give grace to one another--Do something today.

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Code

Since people are waiting with bated breath (whatever that means) for the movie of the DiVinci Code, I must comment.

At Otter we are watching the DVD Discussing the DaVinci Code by Lee Strobel and Garry Poole. I missed the first one, but joined in on Wed. night. and was impressed with the content. Strobel spent quite a bit of time in this second installment interviewing Scot McKnight, well-known Jesus scholar and author of The Jesus Creed which our small group just finished reading. The topic of the second installement was "Can We Trust the Four Gospels?"

A telling question which came out of the discussion was "Why are people so ready to believe Dan Brown, not a historian, not a researcher, not a scholar whose book is so rife with errors that many books have been written on the subject and not to believe the Bibilical account?" Maybe, someone said, that those who do believe the biblical account do not represent it well. Others weighed in with this reason: we all have such an obvious ignorance of church history that we are taken in by reported "facts" which are, in fact, fantasy. A recent article in the Tenessean recounted this reason too--and said perhaps, that churches might think about offering church history in classes. My particular fellowship doesn't even know much about its own church history, muchless history of the church generally. Others said the culture is in a suspious mode right now of all cultural icons--church, government, education, etc. and this is just a carry over. And of course, the recent cover-ups by the Roman Catholics don't help.

Why do you think people believe Dan Brown?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Language development

One of the best things about living in Nashville is watching the grandchildren grow and develop more closely. I especially enjoy their evolving language development.

I like hearing Ella talk about something that happened a "yong, youg, yong, yong time ago."

Maddie is always pulling a funny. The other day she said as she hung my purse on her arm and affected that walk I do to get myself going after sitting for a while and getting stiff (it looks like a side-to-side penguin walk), "I'm walking like a Nonny."

Sam is still the strong silent type, although he has said "Ella" some.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Commander In Chief

In yet another dumb move, ABC decided to cancel Commander in Chief. It too was a casualty of the either arrogance or ignorance of network executives in that they moved it around so much, pulled it for several weeks, and then expected viewers to watch it again, etc.

I enjoyed it when I could find it--Geena Davis was very good as the first woman president (perhaps a far, far away fantasy) and the writing was faily interesting.
Now my choices for viewing have dwindled to the many CSI copies, or the Law and Order franchise. This is choice?

By the way, if a time should come soon when a woman is nominated, who would you like to see nominated at the first woman president?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

West Wing II

Another episode in the series I liked was an early one. Early in the campaign, Bartlett was dragging his feet, surly and not even remembering the names of his staff members. Then Josh's father dies on the night Bartlett wins, and Bartlett goes to the airport, confesses his bad attitude, and offers to go home for the funeral with Josh.

I appreciate the spunk and independence of Bartlett's wife even in her post as First Lady. I enjoyed the created glimpses into Bartlett's early life with a pompous ogre of a father. It was fun to watch the camaraderie of the staff. C. J. Cregg as the president's spokesperson was a model of an articulate, compassionate, strong woman.

Are there other episodes you would like to recount?

Monday, May 08, 2006

Requiem for West Wing

I am mourning the decision to pull West Wing from TV. The show was my favorite before the stupid producers fired Aaron Sorkin (the man who created the show). WW seemed to lose its way and its heart after the firing. The writing has been less literary and more "with it" since then. It was refreshing to hear a President quote great writers and philosophers and the Bible occasionally.

I guess another reason I liked the show is that there were (pure fantasy, I know) politicians in power who cared about helping people and bringing back honest government. The fact that the party in power was Democratic was even sweeter.

Had the producers kept Sorkin and eschewed moving the show around to every night in the week (so that viewers did not form the habit of watching), perhaps the show might be back next year.

The actors whom I had never seen before WW (except Martin Sheen) became household words and folks I loved to watch. Who can forget Sheen's secretary who died in an automobile crash, or Charlie who fell in love with President's daughter or Leo, the crusty, intelligent advisor to the President. And the night that the twins Huck and Mollie were born--but probably my favorite and the one many people I know prize was the episode at the secretary's funeral when the President cried out to God in sorrow in the cathedral.

Yes, I will miss it.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

With the Girls

I spent a few hours with Ella and Maddie yesterday. Some of the things we did:

We ate Pop Tarts for breakfast.
Watched a Dora the Explorer video. I am amazed how much Spanish the girls are learning from Dora! Really more than I learned in my two years of college Spanish with a terrible teacher.

Played Duck, Duck, Goose. They had to teach me. Ella always wanted to be the "Ducker" as she called it.

Played "I Spy with my Little Eye" (Maddie's title)

They performed a piano recital for me and sang as they played. They would set up one of Brandon's worship piano books on the stand, and play and sing. What a treat. Maddie kept wanting me to play--a skill I never acquired.

Early morning just after Maddie got up, we were looking at a book and I was answering Maddie's questions about it and she said, "Nonnie, you are a great knower--you know so many things!"

Great Knower--I like that--sounds kind of like a librarian, doesn't it?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Faithfulness of God

Phil Wilson asked me to post the talk I made last night at Vespers on my blog. So, at the risk of ego tripping, here it is.

Read Rev. 7:9-17, John 10:22-30, and Psalm 100 to which the devotional is tied.

My name is Judy Thomas. I am a retired librarian and university professor. I am 68 years old. I am at an age now where everything hurts and what doesn't hurt, doesn't work. I get winded just watching TV. My mind promises things my body cannot deliver. It takes longer to rest than it took to get tired.

As this age, I can remember candy cigarettes, 78 vinyls, 45 records and 8-track tapes. I can remember when there was only one kind of Coke, and it came in 8 oz. glass bottles. I remember newsreels before movies, roller skate keys, the Edsel, cafes with tableside jukeboxes,little boxes of peanuts with money inside if you were lucky, and ditto machines.

68 is an age in which I have to remind myself that Michaelangelo and Monet were still producing paintings at 90. That Verdi wrote his greatest operas after 90, and John Glenn went back into space at age 75.

I am now at that age when I know better. I can look back at the faithfulness of God in the past and forward to the promise of heaven. I am now closer to heaven than adolescence for sure. And I am confidently looking forward to a place in that great multitude of the Revelation passage about heaven where there are springs of living water.

My great-grandfather was a church planter in the late l800's, I have been one of God's sheep for 56 years, and my son is the worship minister of this church. One of my favorite books is Eugene Peterson's A Long Obedience in the Right Direction. I guess you could say that is what my famiy has practiced for the last 150 years--a long obedience in the same direction. We have seen God's faithfulness through all generations as Psalm 100 says.

That did not guarantee, however, that troubles, toils, and snares did not come:

For the last 16 years of my marriage, my mother-in-law lived with us. She was a very difficult, manipulative, cunning woman who enjoyed her misery and mine. She was what Joyce Landorf Heatherley calls "an irregular person."

In 1976, my mother died of melanoma--too young to really get to know her only grandson. Brandon was six.

In 1990, my dad died unexpectedly of an aneurysm.

In 1991, my husband Sam Thomas died too young of prostate cancer--too soon to see his son graduate, marry, and become a minister.

In 1997, I was diagnosed myself with colon cancer and spent several months in chemotherapy which cured me with God's help, but which left me with side effects that slow me down today.

Yes, there was despair and doubt and crying in those times. But through all the losses, there were so many occasions of God's faithfulness--so much love, so much help and prayer from the church community, so many blessings that I would often want to stand up and burst out in song with "Oh, God, you are my God and I will ever praise you!"

And today despite what is going on in the world: Darfus, children shooting parents, teens shooting other teens, tsunamis, Katrina, suicides and pornography, because of God's faithfulness to me in the past, and the the fact that his faithfulness continues through all generations, I believe he is awake and that his love endures forever and and that no one and nothing can snatch me or you out of his hand. I am covered by his tent. Each step I take, each breath I breathe, I am preserved by God.
And thanks to the resurrection, I look forward to the day in the future when I can stand before the throne and praise my chief Shepherd.

As I close I would like to read a slightly modified prayer by Walter Brueggemann, professor of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary in Georgia entitled

Yours and Not Ours

You in our past: gracious
You were a mouthful on the lips of our grandparents.

The hard part is you in our present.
For after the easy violations we readily acknowledge
then come the darker, hidden ones:
we are aware that our appearance does not match reality;
aware that our walk is well behind talk;
aware that we are enmeshed in cruelty systems
well hidden, but defining;
and we have no great yearning to be hidden from them.
Forgive us for the ways in which we are bewitched,
too settled, at ease in false places.

You in our present: gracious
We in the shadows asking you to do what you have always done;
to be whom you have always been,

that we may do what we have never dared to dream
be whom we have never imagined...
free, unencumbered, unanxious, joyous, obedient...
Yours and not ours.

From Awed to Heaven, Rooted to Earth; Prayers of Walter Brueggemann, Fortress Press, 2003.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A Day at the Zoo

Brandon, Ella, Maddie and I went to the Nashville Zoo today. See pictures on BST's blog.

It was a beautiful day. Brandon got his workout pushing me in a wheelchair (walking that much does me in) and the girls were so excited they were dancing. The Nashville Zoo is beautiful, huge and well-stocked with animals in native habitats. We got to see the new Masai giraffes--the latest addition to the zoo.

I know there are some people who think zoos are terrible places and there is even an anti-zoo organization, but I don't how they could quibble with this one. How can ordinary people like me see those gorgeous animals which God created anywhere else?

I am speaking tonight at Vespers on the faithfulness of God in my life. He has been STEADFAST!