Thursday, November 30, 2006

Christmas in Hamlin

Hooray--tomorrow is December! I have been thinking recently of a Christmas celebration at home in Hamlin when I was about 12. My mom's relatives had come from Abilene--that rarely happened because we always met in Abilene at my Granny Tucker's house.

My dad and uncles Bud and Tuck were playing 42 (a Texas domino game) in the living room on a card table. The demolished tree was in the background. There wonderful smells coming from the kitchen of turkey and cornbread dressing. There my aunts, grandmother and mom were putting the finishing touches on the meal. Trudy was beating the whipping cream for our traditional fruit salad. Lynette was tearing lettuce for the green salad (lettuce, tomatoes, Miracle Whip--no bags or fancy dressing back then). Jean was stirring the giblet gravy and Mom and Granny were monitoring the rolls and sweet potatoes in the oven.

On the table were the centerpieces of the dessert selections: My grandmother's 3 layer pecan cake with praline frosting and pecan halves in rows all over the cake and my mother's fresh coconut cake (we had earlier broken the coconut with a hammer and saved the coconut milk for the frosting). There were here and there tins of homemade candy: fudge, date loaf, soft peanut candy (a speciality of my mom) and ribbons of hard candy available only this time of year. And of course, the required chocolate and coconut cream pies were there too.

My cousins, brothers and I were running amuck outside playing hide and seek, kick the can and cowboys and Indians. We traded out running inside to check the food.

When the time came, the adults ate at the kitchen table (we had no dining room) and the kids ate at the card table, joyfully plowing over each other for a portion of all the food which also included green beans, mashed potatoes and a ham one of the aunts had brought.

It was a small celebration and one that I didn't appreciated at the time. Now I remember it fondly as a sweet time in a calm 1950's world.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Today (Nov. 29) is the birthday of three of the finest authors in children's literature: Louisa May Alcott, Madeleine L'Engle and C. S. Lewis. All were ground-breakers.

Alcott, writing about her family, was one of the first women writers to write realisticly in the age of Elsie Dinsmore and proper Victorian literature. L'Engle wrote in that new genre science fiction with a Christian view. Her Wrinkle in Time was turned down by numerous publishers. C. S. Lewis, author of the Narnia Chronicles, again used the Christian view in fantasy--he surprised his scholarly colleagues with "these little stories."

They were all a great gift to children and adult readers alike. One of my favorite movies is Little Women. L"Engle is my favorite spiritual writer on level with Eugene Peterson. Lewis (who also wrote science fiction Christianly) challenges me every time I pick up one of his books.

Thanks you God for the gift of writing you bestow to entertain, inspire and challenge us.

Monday, November 27, 2006


Tim spoke yesterday of the hope found in the early verses of Rom. 5. After the sermon a man (not a member of Otter) came forward who, as he sat on the front pew, exhibited all the characteristics of a lack of hope; sobbing, shoulders bent, a face painful to look at. I do pray as the week goes on that men at Otter can take hold of him and help him to see the hope he has in Jesus.

Cicero said famously, "Where's there's life, there's hope." ( think Bob Hope used the quotation on occasion too.) I like C. S. Lewis's "Hope is a continual looking forward to the eternal world."

P. O. W.'s have written books about their experiences in the camps and one of the ideas that seems to shine is that those with hope survived; those who gave up did not.

Does hope really " spring eternal in the human breast"? I don't know because I am a great believer in hope and looking forward. I think it was unfortunate that I heard so many sermons on condemnation and hell and the just rewards of sin when I was growing up. There was no room for grace and hope there. Now I have come to believe that a large reason for the cross was to give us hope because of salvation and to make us happy pilgrims blessed by God rather than dour-faced cynics waiting for the ax to fall.

So, "sing on, ye joyful pilgrims while here on earth we stay...."

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Christmas Hymns

The season is upon us. One station here is already playing Christmas tunes all day==and I love it! I never tire of these old tunes.

One of my favorites is Joy To The World with words by Isaac Watts and melody by George F. Handel.

When Watts came along, English churches were still mostly singing the Psalms of David. Watts found that limiting and invented "English hymns." He did not, however, neglect David's psalms. In 1719 he published a unique hymnal in which he translated, interpreted and paraphrased the Psalms through the eyes of New Testament faith. The hymnal was called The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament. His archrival Thomas Bradbury was critical of the hymns and called them "whims" instead of hymns, and accused Watts of thinking he was King David.

Joy to the World is Watts interpretation of Psalm 98, "Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth.

"Joy is the serious business of heaven." C. S. Lewis

Friday, November 24, 2006


The days before holidays are called "eves", what are the days after called? Someone needs to coin a word.

We had a wonderful day yesterday--great food, fellowship (I lost at cards as usual), and memorable actions of the kids. They are growing so fast, I am mourning the maturing of their babyhood.

I am thankful for so many things--God and his wonderous gift, the seasons of the year, my Tennessee residency, my relative health (I am at least able to walk, talk and think), my family and friends and for these little things which someone invented to make my life easier:

toilet paper
paper towels
plastic storage containers
Ziplock bags
the Swiffer mop
automatic coffee pots,
polyester and all its blends which have rendered ironing passe
etc, etc.

Can you think of anything else?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


On this day 44 years ago, Sam Thomas entered my life permanently--that is to say, we were married in the College Church Chapel on November 22, 1962.

We had 30 wonderful years together before he died--Years that held much laughter, many celebrations, the birth of a son, the changing of jobs, building a house in the country together, and enjoying life in the Son.

On our first anniversary, the superintendent of schools interrupted my class to say that school would be getting out early because of the death of Pres. Kennedy. Needless to say, we didn't do much celebrating of the anniversary that weekend. We were glued to the television set because of the tragedy.

Life contains so much good and bad it is not a wonder that Ecclesiastes found it Vanity, Vanity.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

..."that all of them may be one"...

Have you ever wondered what church will look like?

hip-hop...suit and tie
jeans will do.
Warm brown-
twinkling hazel-cool green-
ocean blue.
Stained glass...storefront.
raised hands,
folded hands, shouts,
quiet meditation.*

*From the Operation Andrew Group promotional brochure, 2006

No comment needed.

Monday, November 20, 2006


What does that mean? It was a word we heard often last night at the Ryman. Of course it means "concerned with establishing unity among churches and religions".

Ecumenical is not a word we hear often in my fellowship.But it is a word worthy of use. Last night at the Ryman, these folks participated in person : a Nazarene minister, the mayor of Nashville, the Otter Creek worship team, Temple Baptist worship team (black), the minister of the 4th Ave. Church of Christ, George Rowe, rising Christian singer, Jason Curry(chaplain of the Fisk University Chapel), and two other black pastors. On tape were an Hispanic minister, a Messianic Jewish rabbi, and a Native American Christian (who surprisingly appeared on the stage in person after his testimony and played Amazing Grace on his Native American flute.)

I was sitting beside a striking black woman dressed to the nines with a lovely turban around her head. She was so unlike me--tall, thin, stylishly clad. As we held hands for the prayer, I was struck by the fact that her hands were not like my smooth teacher hands, but rather were dry, calloused and spoke loudly of hard work.

It was a night of unity when no one cared that drums and keyboards accompanied the singing, when no cared (at least I didn't) as the black men and women in the crowd responded to the minister giving the message with shouts of Yes and Amen and lots of hand clapping. No cared what colors were represented or which of the 25 sponsoring churches were represented on the pew we were sitting on.

It was a great night and Brandon and the Otter Creek worship team helped make it so.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Banned books

I got a letter from a friend which was stamped (she is fond of stamps) "I read banned books."

It took me back to the days when I did a censorship unit in my children's lit class at ACU. I searched the internet to see which books were banned last year. It was surprising that the list has really not changed very much in the six years I have been retired. Judy Blume's Forever is still there as is The Chocolate War and Catcher in the Rye. A somewhat new addition is Pilkey's Captain Underpants series. Harry Potter was not on the list this year.

That was fun unit to teach and an eye-opening one for the students. It is not a happy moment in class when an angry parent waving a book interrupts class and yells that you are teaching obscene books (or that you have obscene books in your library).
Moments such as those help you sort out values and your belief in the right to read.

What banned book have you read lately?

Thursday, November 16, 2006


I am a fan of crossword puzzles. Each morning, after finishing my chores, I grab the paper and try to work the puzzle of the day and check to see what I got wrong on the previous day's puzzle.

I think it keeps my brain waves going, improves my vocabulary, and it just feels good when the word going horizontally fits in with the word going vertically--like an "aha" moment.

I may never use Kyoto in a sentence, but because of today's crossword, I know that it is the Temple city of Japan. And when does one ever get to use "abash" in a sentence? Someday maybe. I don't know how people without a reading background work the puzzles. So many of the clues are literary and historical. I like that.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Happy Birthday, BST

Today is my son's birthday. I celebrate it too because it was one of the four or five or seven happiest days of my life.

Arriving early in the morning, he was, as are all babies, beautiful in new birth--although he was not pink and plump,as his children were, he was truly a wonderful gift from God. "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming from the father of the heavenly lights." James 1:17. Brandon has been a light in our lives. Always sunny, always laughing and smiling (well, mostly always), he stole our hearts for his pocket very quickly. I still remember Sam's face when he picked him up for the first time--bliss.

I remember the first time I looked in his crib as he slept--I felt such a strong protective urge--I am sure it was similar to a mother bear. And I still have it!
Don't nobody mess with my boy or you'll have to face Miss Judy.

His artifacts still lie in some of my drawers and in boxes in the garage: the little coat my mother made him when he was six, the Lincoln logs, his cowboy gun and holster, one of his blankets, his baseball bat, the silver dollars my uncle gave him when he was born, his graduation tassels...all reminders of good days past. But then here and there are the things of today--his pictures with his children and wife, the Zoe recordings, the huge picture of himself that he gave me in 1996, and my cell phone with his home and office number immediately available. What a joy to be so close to him now! Thank you God for his life and for his presence and for the future you have chosen for him.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Fallen again

Sorry, Texas. I will have to admit that I have fallen in love with Tennessee in the fall. The only word that comes close is gorgeous.

I think fall is past its prime here (there were "flurries" south of here over the weekend.) That does not negate the beauty. There are still enough orange, red and yellow trees lurking among those who have lost their leaves.

The Bradford pear trees get the award for being the most creative in changing colors. Some change from the inside out; some from the outside in; some one branch at a time, etc. I heard someone say on the radio this week that fall was "God's art project." There is one tree on Concord Road on which God took a huge paintbrush, dipped it in burnt sienna and painted only one side of the tree, leaving the other side green. Wow! You, the great Creator, make me, your creation, want to be more creative.

A prayer from the St. Hilda Community:

God whose body is all creation,
may we come to know you in all the earth
and feel you in our blood;
so will no part of us, or the world,
be lost to your transforming grace.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Queen

Doris Colvett and I went to see The Queen yesterday. I highly recommend it--it is informative, entertaining and shows Helen Mirren as the wonderful actress she is. I expect she will receive at least an Oscar nomination for it. The movie was not kind to the royal family--I would be interested to know their reaction to it. The queen came off as one more caring and interested in dogs and stags than the fact that Diana had just died. Charles was portrayed as rather wimpy. Phillip's portrayal by James Cromwell (another good job) was surprising--he was shown as much more agressive than I had believed. At one point Charles says that the British public has a much different picture of Diana than the one the royal family saw. I would like the real story of all that association.

I remembered the events of that weekend very vividly--that was the weekend I had come down with a terrible pain in my stomach and was waiting for a colonoscopy the next Monday which would show that I had a cancerous growth in the colon. So I watched the TV events all weekend from the bed.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Four best days

As a corollary to "the good old days discussion", Sandy Collins asked, "What were the four best days of your life?"

I have been thinking about that all week. My four are:

My wedding day to Sam Thomas 44 years ago at the College Church Chapel in Abilene, Texas. I did not really know until later what a catch I had made.

The day of Brandon's birth, November 15, 1969. Every mother knows what I am talking about. (more about him next week on his birthday)

April 14, 1989 when I was named by the Texas Library Assn. the outstanding children's librarian of the year in Texas. TLA was in Houston that year. The Abilene superintendent of schools had Sam and Brandon flow in for the ceremonies as a surprise--what fun to be recognized by one's peers and family for a lifetime of work!

The wedding day of Brandon and Sheryl. I already knew what a treasure she is and to know that Brandon would spend his life with her made me so blubberly happy. Sam and I had prayed for Sheryl, and He blessed us.

I will have to add a fifth day: The birth of Madeline Gail Thomas five years ago. The births of Ella and Sam were special too, but I have run out of days. What a joy to be a grandmother to such beautiful children.

Thanks you God for these days and others when your blessing poured out like honey on my head.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The good old days

Ecc. 7:10 says, "Do not say, 'Why were the old days better than these?' For it is not wise to ask such questions.

Nevertheless on Sunday we discussed the "good old days". What were they for you?

I think for me some of them were probably those days in the early 70's when we were settling into a new house in the country with a new little red-haired boy. Sam was a new principal and I was the librarian at Madison Middle School. We had all sorts of new challenges and happiness. I would say, however, that each minute I live since 1997 when I had cancer is good and treasured for its moments.

In these political and war-weary days, we must say with the person who prayed this prayer: "Lord, forgive us for our narrowness of vision which sees only the clouds and misses the rainbow.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A prayer for my son

This is for Brandon, who like Alexander, has had a very good, very bad day:

The hands of the Father uphold you,
The hands of the Saviour enfold you,
The hands of the Spirit surround you,
And the blessing of God Almighty,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Uphold you evermore.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Books reading or to read

Our book club is reading The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls this month. It has what may be the best first line of the year: "I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the party, when I looked out the window and saw my Mom rooting through the dumpster."

The book is about a very dysfunctional family and brings to mind some relatives in my past. I am really liking it.

In class yesterday, a member recommended Thomas Friedman's The Earth is Flat. Anyone out there read it?

Reading continues to be my most favorite thing to do when I am not playing with the kids. My wish list at Amazon is always full.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


I am so glad that the American Association of Pediatrics recently announced that children get as much or more from unstructured play as from organized activities.
Some organized activities are o. k., but today's children are too tightly structured in their daily activities. Even school recess is almost gone.

As I watch Sam play peekaboo, Ella play with her baby dolls, and Maddie color or draw, I see the efficacy and timelessness of play. Maddie has recently asked me knock knock jokes, showed me some basic magic tricks, and wondered if I know how to play Go Fish. She is picking up on some of those games and rituals that have been around for a long time. She may be soon asking for a ball and jacks. Thankfully her princess phase has not overshawdowed her learning old games that every generation passes on.

How about you? Have you forgotten how to play amid all those structured things you HAVE to do? Want to play some jacks?

Friday, November 03, 2006

Geography lesson

I got to keep the girls last night while Sheryl and Sam ran an errand. I have a lighted globe in my living room and Maddie wanted to look at it. The conversation went something like this:

Where do we live? Tennessee, as I point to the state.
Where is Daddy tonight? Texas (at ACU judging Film Fest)
Where do MeMaw and PawPaw live? Arkansas
Where does Rainey (Bailey) live? Texas
Where do Aunt Gail and Uncle Chris live? Minnesota
Where do Ahbaba and Nannie live? Texas
What is that? Africa
What is that? Russia

Nonnie, I have to go potty. When I come back, show me where God lives.

Hmmm...Where is Melanie Brown (Children's Minister) when you need her?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A full week

Where has the week gone? Here it is Thursday and I haven't blogged since last Friday!

Trunk or treat last Sunday was a wonderful time of congregational community. To see those little kids dressed and acting as their character gave me hope for the imagination of the future generation. And of course, the Thomases were deserving of the first prize for costumes thanks to the master of all costumes Sheryl.

Then the Lion King on Tuesday night. There are not words to describe the thrill I got watching Maddie's face as the animals came down the theater aisle. I couldn't see Ella, but Maddie's little face was struck with wonder. What a joy to be here and be able to take them to things like that! The show (I had seen it at Bass Hall in Ft. Worth two years ago) was better here--maybe because I had children seated near me. The girls were perfect through the whole thing. What a gift from God Julie Taymore (the show's designer) has. I can't imagine how she came up the idea of animal puppets. The performers were excellent--my favorite was Zazu, but Rafiki was a close second. If you have any pennies in a bank somewhere--don't miss seeing this when it comes to your town.

Last night at Vespers at Otter, we celebrated All Saints' Day by remembering some Otter Creek saints of the past. Sandy did a wonderful tribute to the Ruckers and Phil Wilson's prayer listed many others, including his grandparents. One of the stations gave me the opportunity to remember the saints in my life. We were to write the name of a saint on a piece of paper, put it on the communion table and then have communion with them (Communion with the saints). I wrote theese names: Bess Walton and John Elkins. Both are departed saints from Minter Lane in Abilene. Had the paper been larger I would have written Laura Smith, Dama Hambleton, Rosalee Hughes, and Jewell Hunter (Also from Minter) and Sam Thomas, my mother Pauline Brandon, and my grandmother Lizzie Belle Tucker and so many others.
It was a wonderful exercise in memory and love. Remember it next year for your church.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith...." Hebrews 12:1