Thursday, December 31, 2009

Bookstore Gift Card

For a book loveer, nothing quite matches the anxious excitement of having a gift card to spend at a book store.

Surrounded by books one has heard discussed, reviewed, and posted on "best" lists prompts a confusion of choice:  Which one now?  Which one can't I miss?  Which one should I just wait for in paperback? Which one is worth the money I'm spending and is a keeper for my shelves?

Shall I choose the new Grafton, the new Grisham, the new Conroy?  Or the sequel to THREE CUPS OF TEA?  Oh, and there's the Andrew Jackson biography I've been wanting to read and Kearn's  A TEAM OF RIVALS.  And look at all those books on sale!

What a delicious dilemma...

I chose Robert Hicks' A SEPARATE COUNTRY about John Bell Hood. (After all, I am a Texan!)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sensual Christmas

Christmas is an extraordinarily sensual holiday:

Hearing the whoops, screams, squeals and AWESOME's that accompany the receiving of gifts; hearing the treasured, familiar hymns about angels, bells, and Baby Jesus; hearing the happy sounds of love and fellowship around the tree and table; hearing the hooves of eitht tiny reindeer on the roof and a "ho-ho-ho" going up the chimney (courtesy of Clement Moore); hearing the silence of a still winter's night wrapped in white; hearing children sing "Happy Birthday, Jesus" in the church Christmas program; hearing Maddie read the Christmas story from Luke and Ella read "The Night Before Christmas".

Tasting apple cider, turkey and dressing, pecan pie, eggnog, candy canes, fudge and cranberry sauce; tasting familiar (cheese balls) and unfamiliar hors d'oeuvres (bacon-wrapped water chestnuts); tasting decorated sugar cookies and fruit cake.

Smelling cookies and gingerbread baking, evergreen trees and wreaths, Christmas candles; smelling Aunt Flora's perfume as she squeezes the breath out of you; smelling the potpourri simmering on the stove; smelling the crisp winter air full of wood smoke, fallen leaves and the promise of snow.

Touching the green waxy sprigs of evergreen as the ornaments are placed on the tree; touching and shaking the shiny gifts around the tree; touching the white cotton as you arrange the Dickens Village on the kitchen bar; touching the icy snow as you hurl your first snowball.

Seeing the first Christmas decoration go up in the mall, seeing the dripping white icicle lights on neighborhood houses and faux deer on the lawns; seeing the glow of Christmas lights through living room windows; seeing children seated on Santa's lap reciting their lists; seeing the first wobbly rides on new bikes.

And finally gathering in all the beauty, warmth and love of Christmas in one large package that  almost overwhelms the heart.

Perhaps that is why I hate letting go of Christmas each year.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Bikes and Bread

The patchy, gray light of dawn streamed through the windows as I crept soundlessly through the kitchen, past my parents' bedroom to the living room door.  I could see in the shadows that shapes had changed in the room overnight.

Just as my brothers peeked around another living room door, the voice of my mother startled us, " What are doing? It's too early to get up.  Go back to bed."  Well, it was 5:00 a.m., but we went, knowing we could get up when we smelled cinnamon rolls cooking.

Later as we attacked the living room doors, we saw in all their glory our first bikes.  Mine was blue and chrome, my brother Mike's was red and shiny, and our baby brother Rob had a new tricycle.  What a glorious morning!

After cinnamon rolls, we had to travel to Abilene to our uncle's house for Christmas dinner.  The new bikes were loaded in the back of the truck, and we five crowded into the truk cab for the forty mile trip.

My uncle lived downwind from Mrs. Baird's Bakery on the south side of Abilene.  By the time we arrived there, a cold wind was blowing small snowflakes through the trees surrounding his house.  Nevertheless, my brother and I clamored for our first bike-riding lesson.  And so it was that my dad took hold of my bike seat, and my uncle held Mike's as we rolled down the small hill in front of Uncle Bud's house..

The street was full of the smell of baking bread as we parted the snowflakes with our shouts of joy and pain.  After several tries, Mike and I were riding alone toward the bakery with Rob trailing behind on his trike.  My dad and uncle were running behind yelling, "Slow down! Slow down!"

Almost every Christmas since that  9th one, I look back at the taste of freedom my first bike brought, remembering the steadying hand of my father and the smell of baking bread.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I got my fruitcake over the weekend.  I buy one for myself for Christmas every year.  Yes, I know, that fruit
cake is an aquired taste, and that some people would rather throw them than eat them.  They have obviously never eaten one from the Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, Texas---it is the only place to buy fruitcake.

Moist, full of nuts and candied fruit, topped with pecan halves--it is a delight!  I have a piece with breakfast coffee each morning---yum.....

Now on to find a mincemeat pie to fulfill that craving.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


I've been wrapping stocking gifts tonight.  They are easier--no bows to put on--and one can use all those ends of wrapping paper which have come out of wrapping larger gifts.  Our family has always enjoyed gathering small gifts for stockings.  The gifts might range from chewing gum, to hair barrettes, to a set of batteries (one can never have enough  AA batteries ).

When I was growing up, I remember stockings were really old socks.  There would always be an apple, an orange, and various nuts.  We spent hours out on the porch trying to break those exotic inch-long nuts with the name I can't use here. They are correctly called Brazil nuts. They were very good, if one could ever get into them.  Then there were the almonds, pecans, and  hazelnuts--also hard to crack  Sometimes there was even money in the toe of the stocking--a quarter usually.  How times have changed.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Wrapping, wrapping

I have said many times on this blog that I love Christmas, and I do.  However, I don't like to wrap packages--just call me fumblefingers--if the paper can tear while I cut it; it will.  If the tape can get tangled; it will; if the paper can be cut too small; it will.

Oh, yes, I know about sacks--but they are much more expensive than wrapping paper, and a tree decorated with only sacks just doesn't look right.

What I do like is opening the wrapping on Christmas Day--one far outweighs the other.  So, on to more wrapping.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving to Christmas progression

Thanksgiving was delightful.  We spent the day at the Byron Williamsons eating, watching the Cowboys, and enjoying the children (large and small).  Our lives are so entwined with the
Williamsons here, in Abilene and at ACU that they are like other special friends in our lives--there in thick and thin, joy and sorrow.

Now comes the unpacking of Christmas--why does it take so long?  Answer:  I have too much stuff to put on the tree and to put out in the house, yet I love it all:  the ornaments, old and new, shiny, and lusterless,  and those that have a story; I love the mantle things that go in the same place each year--the Santas that Pat Phillips gave me along with the glass deer that the Lorenzes and we gifted each other; the Santa's workshop display that the Austin Faculty gave Sam; the singing animations that sit on the coffee table every year which are played over and over by the grandchildren. 

I love the angels, the bears and the mice that sit in the kitchen window--cheap little sets that Sam bought from a school catalog, but which have held up really well.  Then there is the Fisher Price manger scene on the tea table in the bedroom arranged and rearranged each time the kids come.  Plus, I have to get out my collection of "The Night Before Christmas " books to put in the basket by the fireplace.  And on and on...

Monday, November 23, 2009


Yesterday was my 47th wedding anniversary--of course, I have been a widow for 18 years--but the day still comes to mind as a milestone.

It was Thanksgiving, and we had the rehearsal dinner at the home of the Powells--serving turkey and all the trimmings to the guests.  Sam's mom and sister did the cooking.  It was our way of saving money and a time for real celebration with the family. 

Our wedding day dawned beautiful.  The ceremony took place without a hitch.  Rodney did a good job officiating, the singers sang our chosen selections well.  The wedding reception was in the Nelson Parlor.  Sam and I left in suits (his wedding suit, a charcoal gray which I still have in a closet and I in a pink, melon job)  Contrastng it with weddings today, it seems alwfully old-fashioned, but we loved it.  And we took off in our blue Chevy to Brownwood for our first night.  Then on to San Antonio for the rest of the honeymoon--staying in places like Buck's Courts and Holiday Inn.  Maybe that is why I enjoy the Marriot so much now!
Brandon asked me one time why my wedding pictures were in black and white--seems almost another era.

JFK was killed on our first anniversary--doesn't seem that long ago......

Monday, November 16, 2009

Swift Transition

   There is an old song with the words, "Time is filled with swift transition."  This weekend, I really believe it.  My baby turned 40 years old!  He was once a crying, red-haired baby in a crib at Hendrick Memorial Hospital in Abilene.  Born about 6:00 on November 15, he was a joy from the beginning.  Now he is a handsome red-haired robust, chariasmatic man full of fun and life.  I knew him when he would  eat  only raw oatmeal (straight from the packet) and sugar for breakfast.  Now he loves Mexican food, Sheryl's pasta salad and my lasagna.  I knew him when he raised a champion Hampshire pig named Wilbur; now he is raising (rearing) three beautiful children named Maddie, Ella and Sam.  I knew him when he was the drum major of the local Wylie High School Band--we followed him everywhere and loved it.  Now he is the drum major for many cruise ship performers who come to Nashville to be trained for performing on the sea.
   I knew him when he sang to his father from the Sing-Song stage at ACU; now he tells his children "Poppy" stories, and they can't wait to meet Poppy in heaven.  I knew him when he came into Moody Coliseum to tell me that he wasn't going to graduate school, but rather had auditioned at Six Flags Over Texas and was going to perform there.  Now he trains others to perform.  I knew him when he dyed his hair, wore a spangled vest without a shirt and sang  as the major male perfomer on a Norwegian cruise ship; now he enjoys wearing fancy shirts in the Nashville tradition--I can no longer go to the Ralph Lauren section in Dillards and buy him a shirt. I knew him when he traveled and performed in several ACU groups and recruited for the school.  Now he travels and leads the Zoe Group as they inspire and lead thousands of people to worship.
    Some of these transitions  held joy and pain, but for me they were  mostly times of great fun, joy and praise.  I am so proud to be the mother of Brandon Scott Thomas, and I await more days of transition and exultation as I continue to watch him grow in the Lord.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Swift Sells Out

Anyone who watched the first Taylor Swift number on the CMA Awards last night knew immediately that she is striving to project a new image.  I think it is very sad and an appalling commentary on our society when a young girl has to sexualize her image just to sell her music.  Swift was just fine before--after all--she did win the Award!

I hope her fans rise up and protest!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Where is October?

Today is the 3rd of November!  Where did October go?  I don't remember it passing so fast last year--Sadly, the leaves on the trees here are dropping like confetti on a parade.  The wind expected this afternoon will finish some of them off.  We have had glorious color thanks to all the rain--You can't see anything in Vermont and Maine to equal Tennessee in the fall.  I love it!

I had more trick or treaters than ever before--so many beautiful little princesses and tough Spider Men.  It was refreshing to see moms and dads sheparding their little ones from house to house--and some young couples making it a fun night together.

I am loving teaching the ladies' class on Tuesdays.  I am trying to persuade them to write their spiritual autobiographies. One of the things I love about teaching is looking out at the listeners and seeing that some of them are connecting with what I say.  That look is priceless to a teacher.  I was amazed to see how the hymn "Find Us Faithful" has fit so well with our study.  It and Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing ("here I raise my Ebeneezer" [raise my memories])have become our theme songs for the series. I'm going to try Precious Memories next week--I don't know how well it will do considering that we connnect it with funerals.

I attended a precious funeral yesterday--the mother of our Doug Sanders.  Her name was Ladye Frank Sanders--don't you love it?
Instead of flowers, she asked that her casket be covered with a beautiful old quilt made for her by her great-grandmother and specified that the quilt be left for Mrs. Sanders' first great-grandchild to carry on the tradition.  Love traditions like that!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Tender Tennessee Christmas

It was a joy on Monday night to attend a taping of a Christmas show featuring Amy Grant.  It made me want to get out my Christmas CD's early (I usually get them out Nov. 1 anyway).  Taped for the Armed Forces Network and to be played for military people all over the world during the holiday, the show was geared to them naturally. 

The Air Force Strings and the Air Force Band was there, as well as Take 6.  Amy's duo of Breath of God with Take 6 was "breath-taking".  There was Winter Wonderland, Jingle Bells, and other good ones as well as an unexpected duet with conga drums and a bagpipe.  Different.

Thanks Babe for the ticket--what fun!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Trunk or treat

One of the more pleasant things about the up-coming holiday is the new tradition of trunk or treat.  You simply back up your car in the church parking lot, install candy, and the children come in droves.

Last night Otter hosted one of the biggest of its history on Franklin Road.  So many cute little Cinderellas and super-heroes running around.  Of course, Sheryl made the kids' costumes--different and unique.  Maddie was Bat Woman, Sam was a proud Shark Boy and Ella was a very cute and stylish car hop.  Sheryl, however, was the hit of the evening dressed like Luci Arnez--red hair, big lips and all. I did not even know her at first.  What fun!

I decided to add oranges to my selections this year--they were cheap at Publix and they were a big hit as an alternative to all that chocolate.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Eighteen years ago last night just before midnight, a large group of people, Brandon and I were sitting on the fifth floor of Hendrick Memorial Hospital listening to the last breath of my huband Sam.  He had fought a valiant 8year fight with prostate cancer, and it had won.  

Although the mood was somber, we couldn't help but tell some Sam Thomas stories.  Sam was a notorious prankster. After he became a principal,  there was the story about his interview with a prospective, newly graduated teacher.  Seems she had slipped her shoes off during the interview, and he had somehow manuevered to get them under his desk.  When the interview was over, the woman realized she couldn't find her shoes.  She was embarrased to ask, so just started walking toward the door barefoot, until Sam confessed and rescued her.  She got the job.

His favorite thing to do was to put plastic bugs or snakes in the mail boxes of unsuspecting teachers (it didn't take long for them to catch on).  The teachers could always look for candy in their mailboxes on Monday and many times there would be a personal note of encouragement, as well.

He loved stealing lunches of his teaching buddies and putting paper in the sandwich and then returning the lunch to its proper place.  If we had guests for dinner, a large ugly plastic fly would find its way to the bottom of the ice tea glass, or a plastic piece of cheese would be placed among the other pieces.   I couldn't do much about his propensity for fun--I loved it.

Even after all these years, I miss his sense of fun and his warmth.  Love you, Sam!

Monday, October 12, 2009

This and that

It has been a long time since I last blogged--got bogged down in company, conferences and everyday life.
The Zoe Conference was the first weekend of this month--excellent as always--except for the main speaker whom I shall not name--He reminded me of the "evangelists" who would visit my home church every summer equipped with a huge easel of flip charts showing everything from the items in the tabernacle to the placement of hell, paradise and gehenna.  I think the same thought as I did then--Who cares???  Relevancy has taken over in our hearts and minds and the symbolic meaning of items in the tabernacle simply do not cut it when persons are faced with economic disaster, death, and addiction. Mike Cope, Randy Harris, and others did a fine job of inspiring us.  It was wonderful to praise again with the Zoe Group.

If you don't have the new Zoe CD, go to the Zoe website and order one--it is one of the best! 
I enjoyed having Sally Gary for a few days during the conference.  We adopted her when she was Brandon's teacher at Wylie High School.

The most unpleasant thing that has happened to me recently has been bank fraud--someone went into my account on Oct. 2 and Oct. 9 and got all but $3.00.  So if you do not check your bank account frequently, this is a word to the wise.  The Bank of America assures me the money will be back in my account soon--I have changed banks.

Fall has come to us,  and the weather couldn't be more wonderful--60 degrees with the leaves already turning and falling.  Gorgeous!

Right now, I am spending a lot of time getting ready to teach Ladies' Bible Class beginning the 27th. I will be giving them a shortened version of my seminar on Writing Your Spiritual Autobiography.  I am downplaying the term "writing" and using instead "compiling".  People begin to back away from you when writing is mentioned.  Harks back to those days when we received our essays back covered with red chicken scratching , and terms like "Awkward", "Wrong tense", and  'Incomplete sentence".

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

National Parks

This is the way television is supposed to be:  On P. B. S, this week is showing Ken Burns' new epic about the history of the National Parks. 

It is gorgeous and fascinating--I didn't know there were so many problems with creating them and keeping them pristine.  Watch if you get a chance--I will miss a couple of them because of the Zoe Conference, but they will be rerun I am sure.

One thing I like about Burns' work is that the writers he uses are not afraid to mention or credit God.

There is still time to make the Zoe Conference--we really need the money generated by this conference--as with many non-profits, we are hurting.  The new CD is one of the best (and if things continue to decline, it may be the last one).  So come on to Nashville and join us.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Mary's Song

Josh is preaching on the messes that God has taken and rehabbed.  Last week it was Tamar--this week it was Mary.  We are often so focused on the glory of the birth of Jesus, we forget the hardship and mess that was involved.  There are two awe-inspiring messages from the passages in Matthew and Luke:

One is the great step of faith taken by Joseph, a righteous man, who did not stumble into self-absorption, but took instead the word of the angel and obeyed.  And of course the faith of Mary who accepted her assignment with her answer to the angel, "May it be to me as you have said."

It was refreshing to hear Julie Carrothers, a teenaged girl, read Mary's song in Matthew 1:46-55.  As one listens to the text, full of glory and praise to God, one cannot help but hear those words of the Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene song "Mary, Did You Know":

"Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
   Did you  know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
        Tlhis child that you delivered will soon deliver you.

Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with His hand?
    Did you know that your baby boy had walked where angels trod?
        When you kiss your little baby, you've kissed the face of God.

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
     Did you know that your baby boy is heaven's perfect lamb?
          This sleeping child you're holding is The Great I Am."

As a peasant teenaged Jewish girl looking for a Messiah, she probably did not know the answers.  But she did what all mothers do--pondered them in her heart.

Jane Kenyon asks in a poem for which I cannot find a reference. "Did she know that the baby  she held would one day be dripping blood on the hem of her garment?"

Mary--such an interesting character in God's story.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Rudeness and Disrespect

I know I am beginning to sound like a crusty elderly woman--however, the crassness and rudeness of our world sometimes shocks me.

How to build a campaign chest of one million dollars:  Interrupt the President of the United States' speech on the floor of the House and call him a liar.  Shame on you Rep. Wilson.  Won't your children and grandchildren be proud of you!

How to continue to crash a career:  Interrupt an Awards show, take the microphone out of the hand of the winner of the best video (Taylor Swift) and rant that Beyonce's video was better.
Goodby Kanye West and good riddance.  Kudos to Beyonce's class act when she called Taylor to the stage for "her moment".  You don't mess with Taylor Swift in this town.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Talk, Talk, Talk

The recent uproar about Pres. Obama's speech to school children was fueled by talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh, etc.  Nashville has its share of those--Infamously, Phil Valentine.

The classical station in Nashville has recently decided to drop a lot of its classical programming in the daytime and substitute talk shows of various kinds.

If I had my way, all talk-show hosts would be fired and their shows dropped from programming.  Yes, I do believe in free speech--Yes, I do believe that people have the right to express what they believe even when I do not agree with it.  But thinking people surely see  that the process has gotten out of hand--in fact, out of control.

I don't know what can be done about it--except to say that if one chooses to listen to this type of program, listen with educated ears and open minds.  Whether conservative or liberal, there must be a civil balance from which important topics can be discussed with cool heads.

I guess this is pie-in-the-sky thinking.  But one can only wish.

Friday, September 11, 2009


Our family went to see Wicked this week.  Spectacular!  Magic on the stage I have not seen since Le Miz.
The actresses in the major roles were excellent--in fact, the "Bad Witch" recently had the role on Broadway.
I had not expected to find so much humor in the play and loved it. The set was absolutely marvelous and intricately formed.And of course, the music was at times uplifting and at times sad--as it was planned to be.

I can't help but wonder what L. Frank Baum would think of his little book as interpreted in stage and film.
By the way, it was interesting how Wicked incorporated Wizard of O into the play.

There were good teaching opportunities for teaching the kiddies about not making fun of people because of their physical appearance too.  And the idea that good most often triumphs over bad.

Thank you God for the talents with which you have gifted writers, actors and musicians for our pleasure.

Monday, September 07, 2009

A New Beginning

It was a wonderful Sunday in the neighborhood. David Rubio and Josh Graves began their ministry at Otter Creek as our preaching team. Their series for the next month is "Following Jesus" and I believe we will be taught that following Him is a way of life and not a training in following rules. What a relief! And what a challenge! Josh and David will teaching the morning class together and then will trade out on the sermons. I look forward to each one. The meshing of their personalities will be a blessing to all of us who sit and listen.

Friday, September 04, 2009

It Seemed Like a Simple Thing

It seemed like such a simple thing when the President and his advisors planned to speak a word to the students of a new year in school....

Then here in the South and other places, all hell broke loose! People went on TV and spouted that HE would NOT speak to their children, HE doesn't share my ideals?, It is all a political ploy, ad nauseam (sp?).

And all that was planned was to say do good work, make goals, your education is important, etc.

What is so wrong with that? I gave that same speech at the beginning of every school year.

I weep over our divisiveness and ignorance.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Conservative or Liberal

Next Sunday Otter Creek will be entering a new phase in the work in the world with two new ministers: Josh Graves and David Rubio. In getting the congregation ready for that transition today, Lee Camp burst forth with an electrifying sermon on the theme of "Neither a Conserative, nor a Liberal Church.

Lee was passionate, direct and convicting. He invoked men and women from the past who stepped outside comfort zones like Dorothy Day and Dietrich Bonhoeffer and men from our fellowship who did the same--David Lipscomb and F. D. Syrgley. Lee encouraged the church to be neither conservative (leaving things undone that should be done), nor liberal (tolerant of too much). Stopping as he usually does on helping the poor and the weak, he went on to challenge the church to cooperate with others who were doing the work of the Lord in the world. He said that we could do that without losing any of our cherished ideals. Citing David Lipscomb's work with the Catholic nuns in plague in early Nashville, he admonished us to work with Catholics, Presbyterians, and EVEN Jews. (There has been some flack about our sharing service to the homeless with a Jewish congregation).

A download of the sermon can be found on the Otter Creek website, thanks to Phil Wilson. For a longer look at the mind of Lee C. Camp, read MERE DISCIPLESHIP, RADICAL CHRISTIANITY IN A REBELLIOUS WORLD.

I am hoping this sermon is an omen of great things to come in the future of Otter and am excited to be there.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Pictures, pictures!

I have spent the last few days putting photos in albums. Not my favorite job.

Along the way I have been wondering what will happen to all of them in the future? We have many VHS videos (Sam was often said to have a camcorder permanently attached to his left hand), a few DVDs, album after album of regular pictures--a few historic, but many chronicaling (sp.?) our lives together. I do not want to get rid of them in my lifetime (although I did throw away many slides when I left Abilene). I am sure Sam would have protested that.

So, wither go all the pictures--will my grandchildren want them? I do wish I had pictures of my grand parents and greatgrand parents. But again comes the question, what would I do with them?

Because theirs was an oral society, the people of God told their story over and over orally so their children would not forget what God had done for them. Perhaps all these pictures will serve that purpose too.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

This Thing is Personal

For those of you who prefer to think of God as some white-haired Charlton Heston sitting on a golden throne directing traffic, ponder this:

This whole thing called Christianity is very personal, and above all God seeks a relationship with us.

Psalm 139:13-14: "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made."

Isaiah 43:1"But now, this is what the Lord says--he who created you...he who formed you...I have summoned you by name, you are mine."

Jeremiah 1:5 (speaking to Jeremiah) "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were borm, I set you apart...."

Isaiah 49:16 "See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands...."

Matthew 10:30-31 "And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."

Psalm 139:16 "...when I was woven together in the depths of the earth, you saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."

We cannot flee from him--He guides us each moment of our lives. Praise our Creator and Lover.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The cycle

The schoolbus stops once more at the entrance to the sub-division; new backpacks glisten; bright never-washed uniforms adorn the kids--the school cycle has begun again.

My three grandchildren were excited to see a new beginning, as I always was way back when I attended Hamlin Elementary School in the 40's. I am still thrilled at the prospect of a blank, waiting composition book and brand-new pencils and pens. Put me in an office supply store this time of year and I am more than likely to come out with a bag full of new pens, legal pads, and 3x5 cards.

Our family lived the school cycle for over 30 years--my husband was an elementary teacher and principal; I was a high school and university teacher; Brandon attended Wylie Schools from grades 1-12, and then on to ACU. It was a good life full of top-notch people, much activity, and it always carried the prospect that we could make a difference in the lives of students.

I am so thankful that I live in a country where most children have the privilege of a free public education regardless of their ethnicity, finances, or gender. My dad was a carpenter who certainly could not have afforded to send his three children to a private school had there been one in our small town. So we all went happily to Hamlin schools; and in spite of our sometime reluctance to learn, occasional poor teaching, and a limited curriculum recieved a good education. I earned a bachelors's and master's degrees and three professional certifications. One brother has a bachelor's (and became a teacher) and the other began college, went to Viet Nam, came back and went to work for a local untility company making more money than his two educated siblings.

Happy school year Maddie, Sam and Ella--you have a lot to look forward to!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Doris Colvett and I took off a weekend recently to drive to Asheville, N. C. to tour the Biltmore Estate. What a drive! North Carolina is beautiful. It is amazing to me that over and over God stuns me with the beauty he created--what a generous hand he had with mountains, mist and trees in N. C. They are called the Smoky Mountains for a reason.

Ashville is a nice little town with lots to see and do. There are many historical points there, as we learned in a trolley ride through the city. And some very nice places to eat. The tops was Deerpoint at the Estate where we tried and loved chilled cantaloupe soup. Hope I can find a recipe. It has fruit, champagne and sour cream in it.

It must have been nice to be the richest man in the world and to be able to buy anything he wanted for his house--George Washington Vanderbilt did just that to the nth degree. His library was stunning and beautifully appointed.

We attended the First Baptist Church on Sunday morning because we wanted to see the inside of the church and because the c of c brethern and sistern did not see fit to advertise where they were--We did not see one single c of c in the city.

The FBC has a beautiful verdigris dome, was finished in 1889, and is gorgeously furnished with white walls and dark woods inside. Surprisingly, women were a large part of the service. One read the bible verse of the day, one led prayer, one did the children's lesson. Women also helped take the contribution. They are appointing about 16 new deacons and 8 of those are women. My, my--changed my view almost entirely of Baptist churches (However, I did not find out if this one was part of the Southern Baptist Convention--probably not. The organist played Vivaldi which was also a surprise.

We also had a very good tour of the home of Thomas Wolfe--author of You Can't Go Home Again. It is a very nice Victorian downtown in which his mother ran a boarding house.

Another beautiful building in town was the Basilica of St. Lawrence.

An area we didn't have time to touch was Biltmore Village--maybe next time. It was a great trip with beautiful scenery, a good friend, and time away.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Jimmy Carter's Decision

I have been pondering Jimmy Carter's decision to leave the Baptist church over the "women's issue." In his resignation essay (published many places--Google it) he calls that particular church's stance "repugnant." He goes on at length to cite all the many woes brought on women all over the world because of misbegotten mistakes by men (my words) in misinterpreting the Bible's view of women.

I have two questions to ask: Why did it take him 60 years to realize the interpretation was wrong? Does it have to do with his daughter Amy? Did his wife never talk to him about it? ???????

And why has it taken so long for other good men who doubt the interpretations to come forward? Perhaps their wives are not interested in such topics; perhaps their wives don't want "to make waves." Perhaps the men don't think it important. I think they will when their granddaughters and nieces begin to leave the church for those more open to the gifts of women. Or when they see bright, young educated professional women refuse to come to the church which refuses to allow women to communicate in prayer, teaching, and speaking to other believers.The time will come when little, scared female rabbits will see their daughters walk (or hop) out the door of the church of Christ. There may come a time when the honored and revered Sunday School teacher will quietly begin to teach her students that in the kingdom where salvation and freedom lie, there are no distinctions between male and female--there is just the place where Jesus loves all of us and expects us to use the gifts he has given us.

I guess I am being hard on wives because I have been in churches where the husbands and men of the congregation are ready to open up and the wives shrink back. Example: A time when the elders and their wives were asked to serve communion to the congregation and some of the wives refused. In congregations where the elders have decided to open up serving communion by women as well as men, some say it is difficult to find women who will serve. Tell me, what is the difference in serving right to left and walking down the aisle to serve?? It's a puzzlement. I know that not all women are convinced they have more to offer than baking cookies and folding bulletins, and that is o. k. with me. There are, however, many who wish for more.

Another question: How is it "diminishing authority" for the woman to stand before a microphone and lead a prayer in the worship? I was almost taken ill when I heard a man recently say how wonderful the prayers of women were at a
regional spiritual conference he attended. He seemed astounded that women could actually voice a prayer to God as well as men.

I am waiting for others to see the repugnance.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Season Firsts

I had a chance to go to the Franklin Farmers' Market last week and got my first real peaches of the season and the first home grown tomatoes--yum!

So that gave me an opportunity to make nachos:

Small round Tostitos
banana peppers (hard to find here--I am growing them)
home-grown tomatoes
shredded cheddar cheese

Cut up peppers and tomatoes on chips and sprinkle with cheese--Place under broiler for a few minutes--keep checking, they burn easily. Enjoy!

Real peaches--just dig in and let the juice roll over your tongue--glorious.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Best Kids' Books Ever #3

This list should better compare with Kristof's. These books are for the middle or slightly older reader:

1. Charlotte's Web by E. B. White, 1952. A must for every kid's reading shelf.

2. Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling, 1998- A magnificent set of imaginative and wordy tomes--wildly loved by most readers.

3. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, 1989. One of the richer Holocaust books for young readers.

4. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Barbara Robinson, 1972. Funny, funny. You will never see another Christmas Pageant without thinking of this book and the Herdman children.

5. Sarah, Plain and Tall, Patricia Maclachlan, 1985. One critic called it a jewel...a perfect novella.

6. The Stinky Cheese Man, Jon Sciezska, 1992. A take off to end all take offs which spurred many other rewrites of fairy tales.

7. Pink and Say, Patricia Pollaco, 1994. A poignant Civil War book about friendship between a young white boy and a black boy who happen to encounter each other.

8. Miss Rumphius, Barbara Cooney, 1982. One of the first environmental children's books--a picture book with a deeper meaning than most.

9. The Watsons Go to Birmingham, Christopher Curtis, 1995. The Watsons leave their eastern city to visit relatives in the South and arrive just in time to witness a terrible tragedy. Sparks of humor enliven the heaviness.

10. The Little House series, Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1932- These books never won major awards except in the hearts of all children who have read them. The single best books for a pioneer series.

Any responses will be welcome--I love making lists.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Best Kids' Books Ever (Picture Books) #2

Any "best" list is immediately open to question. One titled " best books for children" is particularly vulnerable. One has to consider ages, gender, reading interests, and reading ability of the readers covered. Also to be considered is how much the "lister" knows about children and childrens' books. Any two people can put together a list of the best, and those lists would be very different. With all that in mind, here's my list of the best childrens' books ever. Since these are all picture books, it cannot be compared to Kristof's list which contains books for older readers.

1. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, 1963. A misbehaving child, monsters, and a mother's love--great fantasy (and I don't like fantasy) .

2. The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter, 1902. Yes, this is old and British; however, it is the best-selling children's book of all time. A mischievous rabbit escapes all kinds of dangers only to be stopped by camomile tea and a stern mother.

3. Goodnight, Moon, Margaret Wise Brown, 1967. A perfect bedtime story with rhyming words and bright colors.

4. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Bill Martin, 1967. Rollicking, rhyming, responsive fun.

5. Llama, Llama Red Pajama, Anna Dewdney, 2005. A newer and funnier entry into the bedtime story list.

6. Lily's Purple Plastic Purse, Kevin Henkes, 1996. Wonderful picture of a vibrant, young school girl and a terrific teacher.

7. Koala Lou, Mem Fox, 1988. An outback tale of familial love.

8. The Snowy Day, Ezra Jack Keats, 1962. One of the first books featuring an African American child--satisfying and
beautifully illustrated.

9. The Cat in the Hat, Dr. Seuss, 1957. I am not a fan of Seuss, but he singlehandedly changed the world of the
easy reader genre with this one and buried Dick, Jane, Sally, Puff and Spot.

10. Strega Nona, Tomie DePaola, 1975. a magical cooking pot and poor listening skills bring chaos.

So there it is. I will probably want to change it tomorrow. Later is a list that would compare to Kristof's.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Best Kids" Books Ever #1

On July 8, Nicholas D. Kristof, an op-ed columnist with the New York Times wrote about the best kids" books ever. The books he listed are interesting.

#1 Charlotte's Web--a story of friendship by E. B. White who enjoyed writing about the animals on his farm. It is a must have for a child's library.

#2 The Hardy Boys series--not one I would include, but definitely on a list of "books for boys which most motivated reading ". Captain Underpants and the series of books by Jon Scieszka do the same thing today.

#3 Wind in the Willows--(A British classic, as many on his list were) Although a classic (a book which stays in print for 50+ years), I have never liked the book and find it boring.

#4. Freddy the Pig series (again a British series). About a lazy pig detective. I can't imagine a child reading it today unless it were the only book available.

#5. The Alex Rider series--A thriller series I have never hard of.

#7. Harry Potter series--What can one say here? Highly motivating reading, terrifically imaginative. Must read.

#8. Gentle Ben--friendship between a boy and a bear in the Alaskan wilderness. Dated and probably out of print.

#9. Anne of Green Gables--strong girl character. Although well-written, not read by many girls today. (Again British--or Canadian)

#10. LIttle Lord Fauntleroy--Huh?

#11, On to Oregon--pioneers--written 90 years ago. Another unknown to me.

#12. The Prince and the Pauper. What modern child would pick this up?

#13. Lad, A Dog. A very good dog story, but dated.

So you see this retired children's librarian and former university children's literature teacher thinks his list is too dated and too British. Go Charlotte's Web and Harry Potter! More later.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Barbara Brown Taylor

Dr. Taylor's address to the Christian Scholars" Conference had a wonderful title: The Power of Narrtive in the Age of Twitter. She perfectly described this age of technological communication as "one with minimal nutritional value in a house with nothing to eat."

We must all choose what we want to give our time to in such an age and discern what has meaning and what does not. The stories we choose to give our lives to should:
1. honor people not like us
2. let us argue with them
3. level with us about the cost of love
4. not lie about the messiness of life
5. teach us to care.
The list certainly caused me to think about what I have spent the last few days giving myself to.

She said that she had purposefully chosen the Bible as one of her narratives (stories).

She ended powerfully in saying that we should ask ourselves as we go about "bearing the Word in our flesh" if the stories we encounter are too small for our soul's use.

Thursday, July 09, 2009


Yes, I was one of the millions who spent two hours Tuesday watching the funeral of Michael Jackson. It was a worthwhile experience in showing me just how judgmental I am. As the speakers continually pointed upward to where Jackson was, I could not help but think---- no--look at the sins, the sins.

And as I observed the funeral of Steve McNair and heard again about the good things he has done in the community, I could not help but think--wait a minute--he was shot by his mistress!

And then the Spirit whispered to me, Jesus would have taken the broken, childlike body of Michael Jackson in his arms in comfort and sorrow. He would have taken the huge, smiling body of Steve McNair into his arms and said, Well done; you have performed many acts of service for me.

Who am I to think that I have the right to judge these men to hell? I certainly do not--thank God. He, He, the Creator and the giver of gifts to these two men(and he only) will judge them....

God bless their families and their losses.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Madeline Gail Thomas

Maddie is eight years old!!! Her party was fun yesterday as I watched her and her buddies swim, decorate flip-flops and enjoy cake and ice cream.

But I sat in a haze of amazement that she is already eight. She had her bright red hair in a long pig-tail, standing in a bluegreen knit dress, freckled on her forehead, nose and cheeks--looking for all the world like she had just stepped out of a Norman Rockwell painting--what a girl. And besides that she is smart,sweet, loves reading and writing, and is an artist. What more could a grandmother ask? I could eat her up! Grandmothering is such a wonderful task when the grandchildren are like Maddie, Ella, and Sam. I am thankful to God that I am still here and live in Nashville to watch them grow so fast.

Saturday, July 04, 2009


Women in black swim suits lying like beached whales on lounge chairs, super-model wanna-bes (sp?), sporting tiny bikinis parading up and down the beach, daddies and children building sand castles and fortifications against the rolling waves----yes, this is the beach at Sandestin, Florida.

Pictures in my memory box: Maddie "digging in China" in the wet sand, Sam helping Dad build a moat around a castle, Ella's screams of delight as she rode the waves in on a boogy board, Sheryl patiently positioning Ella over and over in the rolling surf for the best ride, Brandon bent over their sand castle molding forts----and, Sam's face as the Black Bart pirate ship glided silently past the Harry T's restaurant window, Ella's joy as she bungee jumped, Maddie running in and out of the fountain on Grand Blvd. like a water sprite----and, me, sitting in my canopied chair far enough out on the beach so that the waves came washing in on my legs and feet..

What a grand five days!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Literature Potpourri

Dear Reader and lover of literature,

If you are anywhere near Nashville from Thursday to Saturday 25-27th, you should attend the Christian Scholars' Conference at Lipscomb.

On Thursday, Hubert Locke, a Holocaust scholar and writer will speak at 12:00 on The Power of Narrative. Then at 4:00 Barbara Brown Taylor, one of my favorite religious writers today will speak again on "The Power of Narrative." At 7:30 Tokens, a Garrison Keillor type show, will be presented in the the Alumni Auditorium.

Friday will bring Billy Collins, an American poet, speaking on "Poetry and the Power of Narrative."

Saturday Marilynne Robinson will end with "The Power of Narrative". She is the Pulitzer winner and author of Gilead and Home.

Strong, strong program with literally over a hundred papers and panels intervening the speeches.

Collins has written a wonderful poem that I liked to use with my college students:

Introduction to Poetry

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Broadway Musicals II

If you love Broadway music as I do, you are in for a treat if you Google you Sound of Music Central Station Antwerp--- Everytime I hear Julie Andrews, I am always amazed at her diction and clear-as-a-bell voice.

Talk about a reality show--this one lifted my heart today.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Mind of a Teacher

Does the mind of a teacher ever stop? Are there times when the synapses just turn off and nothing rolls around in the head?

In my case, the answer is no. When I encounter someone with a problem or a question which can be met with literature, music or quotation, I can usually think of one that will fit--even if the answer is Alice is Wonderland. These days, however, I cannot usually think of all the title, all of the song, who wrote the book or who said what. I do know there is an answer lurking out there somewhere.

For example, before this morning's sermon by Michael Easeley at Fellowship Bible, a woman read Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken. The sermon was on Psalm 1, and the poem fit very aptly there, as it fits several theological contexts which my mind started racing toward as the poem was being read--Abraham and Mary of Bethany, etc.

I am happiest when I am thinking such things and trying to make the fireworks in my brain continue to burn.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Those who read my blog know that I am a big fan of Broadway musicals. They have taught me, brought me comfort and entertain me even today.

Last Saturday, I snagged some tickets to Wicked which will open in Nashville on Sept. 2. I have been listening to the sound track trying to sort out the story. It carries some of the wittiest lyrics I have heard in a long time. From making up words (rejoicify) to the Wizard carrying Wonderful as part of his name, the songs are poignant, thoughtful, fun, and, well, musical.

I have ordered the book so I can read it before I go--and I may even read the Wizard of Oz too.
I'll bet Frank Baum never figured his little books would spawn music and millions.

But, think back to all the musicals you have seen on stage or in the movies--Remember that song in South Pacific which says that prejudice is not inborn, it has to be taught? Certainly a profound and true statement. "The hills are alive with the sound of music" brought beauty to mountains I had never seen. Even some of the lyrics of Oklahoma are thought-provoking: Poor Jud is Daid (Dead) comes to mind. And for Les Mis--what can one say about those songs? "Bring Him Home" has to be one of the saddest songs ever written. And on, and on.
West Side Story also helped me open my eyes to the prejudice felt by the Latinos in NYC.
Mamma Mia helped me appreciate Abba more. So you see, musicals have helped form me and my philosophy.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Happy Birthday, Sam

Samuel Scott Thomas is 4 years old today! What a short 4 years it has been. I am so charmed by my favorite grandson (my only grandson!)--he is so different from his sisters, and yet so like them. His hair is red, his disposition is sunny, and his conversation is articulate. He likes Spiderman, the Power Rangers, and watching videos. His is temperament is sweet like his sisters, and he loves music like Maddie and is compassionate like Ella.

His birth has given us an added spark and joy in watching him become a typical boy -- rambunctious, inquisitive, and in some minor cases destructive (just to see how things tick).
He likes throwing things, riding his bike, jumping on the trampolene, and singing. May God bless his life as he grows in the knowledge of Jesus and his love.

I love you buddy boy. Happy birthday. Love, Nonnie

Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Comfort of Old Friends

I have had a wonderful two days--old friends from Abilene, Dave and Ann Jones came through on their way to Lawrenceberg and spent the night.

Dave was one of my friends in college, a friend of Sam later, and our next-door neighbor when we lived in our Potosi house. Sam performed his and Ann's marriage.

We thought we were going to take a cruise on the General Jackson on Tuesday, but turns out it doesn't sail on Tues. So I took them to the Factory to eat and shop in Franklin, and we kind of toured my end of Nashville and saw monster houses , and I took them to Otter's new building.

It is so relaxing to be with friends who know your history and every quirk, and you can just slide into conversations as if you had seen each other only yesterday. I got caught up on all the school and church gossip from Abilene and on what all our other friends are doing.

Wed. was a perfect day for the sail, and we really enjoyed it. Serendipities abounded--At our table at lunch were the parents of friends in Abilene and a couple from Fresno who recognized me from my picture on Brandon's blog. Just proves that one must be good all the time!

Now I am lonesome.

Sunday, May 31, 2009


Rudy Kalis (the sports man on channel 4) spoke yesterday at the Wayne Reed Volunteer Appreciation Dinner. His topic was "Leaving a Legacy." In describing his immigrant father and the legacy he left, Kalis said that now that he was in his 60's, he had been thinking about what he himself was leaving for his children and grandchildren. Kalis is a German immigrant, a poor scholar in school, a stutterer who hated making speeches, who now is a veteran broadcaster famous for his coverage of Tennessee sports.

After the kids spent the night on Friday, I got to thinking what my legacy for them would be--will Sam remember only the tea parties in which his tea was thick with sugar cubes; will Ella just remember playing restaurant with me; will Maddie only remember my sitting patiently ( and proudly) while she read me five books for her summer reading journal? Or will they remember that I talked to them about how God loves them even more than I do? Or that I told them lots of stories about Brandon's, Poppy's and my lives together before they were born. Or that I had the presence of mind to save some of Brandon's old toys and books for them to play with and share? Will they remember all the people in the pictures around my home about whom I have told them like Nanny and Abubba (Ronnie and Darla, our dear friends in Abilene)? Will they remember all the books I read to them and my obsession for good books?
Will they remember the times I have pointed the beauty of God's creation to them?
I wish I could live long enough to know what I have brought to their lives--but the future will tell.

"Now I am telling the world your wonders; I'll keep at it until I'm old and gray. God, don't walk off and leave me until I get out the news of your strong right arm to this world...." Psalm 71:17
"The Message"

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day

Anyone ever heard of John McRae? He was the Canadian poet who wrote one of the most famous poems about war, "In Flanders Fields". Flanders is a region on the coast of Europe, partly in France, partly in Belgium. Thousands of Allied soldiers are buried there. The poem was published in 1915. McRae served in both the Boer War and World War I.

His poem inspired "Poppy Day" in which artificial poppies were sold on Armistice Day for charitable causes involving servicemen and women. Remember Poppy Day? I do.

This is a good way to remember the sacrifices given by millions of our relatives and forefathers and foremothers:

"In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row upon row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard among the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, and saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe;
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

One cannot read this, nor think about Memorial Day without pain--sorry about all the millions who have died in the name of agression and power. Such a sad commentary on our humanity.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The gift of music

Brandon's listing of Team Hoyt on YouTube with Sheryl singing "Redeemer" has been rolling around in my head this week. (See and call up Team Hoyt)

Team Hoyt is such a powerful story and a powerful video, how is that the addition of a hymn (albeit sung by a beautiful voice) could make the video even better? What exactly is it about music that enhances almost every endeavor? Why are Psalms filled with music, and even heaven is overflowing with it? (See Revelation) Why do our eyes fill when we hear favorite, memory-inducing music? And why do our hearts soar with a spectacular rendition of a great tune?

I don't know--music is a form of language and communication that cuts across all cultures, barriers, and ages. History is filled with songs taken into battle, sung on the firing line, and used in comfort in dungeons and prisons (See Paul and Silas). Even God and Jesus sang (See Zephaniah and Matthew). There is nothing more heart-moving and soul-stirring than listening to a body of people blending their voices together in praise of God. I saw it work again last Sunday night at Woodmont as Brandon led praise. Music is both an encouragement and a celebration.

Martin Luther said, "Next to the word of God, music deserves the highest praise. The gift of language combined with the gift of song was given to man that he should proclaim the Word of God through music."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Review of a review

In a previous blog this month, I panned Dating Jesus by Susan Campbell.

I will have to admit, however, that she made the the whole book worth its cost in the last chapter called "Jesus Haunts Me, This I Know."

Some statements:

(As she reiterates the story of the woman with the issue of blood and ponders the status of gays and women in Christianity)"Her faith healed her. That is what blindsided me--she felt unworthy, but her faith healed her. That, and the notion that there's a whole army of us, regardless of our orientation, who have been made to understand that we don't fit in and aren't entirely wanted, that we are somehow unclean, unworthy....And I knew as a woman, my church did not think me quite worthy of the entirety of God's saving grace. Don't tell me that God had in mind for me a special role. We all know there's no such thing as separate, but equal."

(I dated the wrong Jesus). " The real one wouldn't have worried if I spoke out in Sunday school. He might have expected it--demanded it, even. He tended to gravitate to mouthy women who were willing to buck convention and pick up and follow him, social mores be damned. They saw in him something they saw in absolutely nothing else in their lives, and so they followed."

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Where have our dreams gone?

Thoughts on reading about the repair of the Hubble Telescope:

Where have all our dreams gone?

In the past, they sailed us to Plymouth Rock, walked us through the wilderness with Daniel Boone, led us down the trail with Lewis and Clark. They ran with us to California and Alaska seeking gold, floated us with Alan Shepard in that first run into space, and landed us on the moon with Neil Armstrong.

Today the space shuttle is on its last run with no plans to replace it. Have we reached and gotten weary of the last frontier? What impossible dreams do our grandchildren have to look forward to?

When did they fade--those dreams that took us to the stars? Did we lose our courage for dreaming amid the jungles of Viet Nam, in the caves of Afganistan, on the streets of Iraq?

Langston Hughes wrote, "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." I don't want that to be my legacy--I am praying for our leaders to begin to dream again--soon.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Dating Jesus

I am reading Dating Jesus, a Story of Fundamentalism, Feminism, and the American Girl by Susan Campbell.

I expected the read to be an ironic, sometimes amusing look at the times of my life as a girl growing up in the Church of Christ as Campbell did in small-town Missouri. Although many of her experiences ring true, reading the book has been painful, almost torturous. Although Phyllis Tickle recommends the book on the blurb, Campbell does not write nearly as well as Tickle.

Perhaps it is because she feels compelled to go into lengthy histories of fundamentalism, Title IX, feminism, etc. The book could have been written by any number of my acquaintences in the little church in which I was reared and at A. C. U. where I attended college. Many of them, as Campbell, long ago left the church. I do like some of her chapter titles--the last one is "Jesus Haunts Me, This I Know".

She does proclaim, "I still love Jesus."

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day

A note to my son on my 39th Mother's Day:

Dear Babe,

I am so glad you were born, and I am your mother. I remember how excited Dad and I were when we knew you were coming and the joy we felt when we first saw you. Since that day in 1969, you have been the zip in my step, the sugar in my day and the joy in my heart. There is hardly an hour in the day that I do not think and pray for you and your family. What a blessing you are to me now and you were to Dad while he lived.

As your mother, I have feet of clay and give far too much advice and not enough good modeling, but I have tried my best to help you become a sweet man of God, a lover of family, and a true and honest citizen of the world. So far, I have succeeded, thanks to God's blessings and the help of so many others. So, blessings on this day from your mother, and thank you for the gifts this day has brought.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

The Dawn of a New Day

Announcement was made at Otter today that Josh Graves and David Rubio would be our new ministers using a team approach to the pulpit and ministry. Otter once again is on the cutting edge of a new approach to ministry in this day's culture. Josh and David have very different approaches to preaching and have different personalities which, when blended together, will make the ministry so strong!. I predict that Otter Creek will explode in population, grace and teaching, service to others and will begin to reach out to the community in ways we have never dreamed of. I am so excited about the coming days as we try to live out the Lord's will in a new day, and a new time, letting the wind of the Holy Spirit blow over us and in us.

Please bless us God.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What I am Reading Now

This is my 1,000 post--it is only natural that it be about books.

"Any woman/man with a moderate income can afford to buy more books than he/she can read in a lifetime." Henry Holt

I am proving the truth of this quotation--my shelves are full of books that either I haven't read or that I have read part of, or that I intended to read the week I bought them. So why do I continue to buy more books? Ask a sage somewhere...

There is a surge of interest in the Kindle machine that Amazon sells on which one can read many books published for $9.99. Then what? One has to crank up the machine again when searching weeks later for that wonderful quote? Pay $9.99 again? Hold a cold machine in bed while one is reading the latest mystery? Not I--the heft and smell and feel of a book is important for this reader. I don't want to read the words on a screen--I want to place a bookmark between the pages to come back to tomorrow. I want to underline the passages I want to remember. I want to loan the book to a friend who will benefit from its information.
No Kindle for me, thanks.

I just finished reading John Grisham's latest The Associate. It was a page-turner reminiscent of The Firm. I think Grisham has set up his readers for a sequel to this one. I am now reading
Marylynn Robinson's Home. It is much better than Gilead, I think. She writes long sentences and without chapter stops--a packed story. Every paragraph has an ache in it. I am looking forward to hearing her speak at the Christian Scholar's Conference at Lipscomb.

Happy Reading, dear readers!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I caught a glimpse of the back of my hands today and remembered my grandmother--Granny Tucker.

I remember sitting in her lap holding her hand, tracing the very noticeable veins, rubbing the age marks and freckles and pinching the loose, parchment-like skin. And now my hands look like hers! Life is amazing!

I am so glad my hands have been spared the hard work hers did while she was young--working much like a slave in her household of a sick mother, a father whose life was spent in the fields, and her 13 siblings, ten of whom were brothers. She got up early, cooked breakfast so all could get to the field at dawn, then cleaned, washed, ironed and cooked lunch--which she took out to those in the field. When there, she had to stay and work like the others pulling cotton, chopping weeds, etc. She was dismissed early to cook supper after which she fell into bed exhausted. It obviously never occurred to her wealthy father to hire any "house help"--After all, Lizzie was there.

But it made her tough and independent and gave her strength when her rogue husband left her alone with three children in the middle of the depression. And I am better for having known of her struggles and her endurance.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Hard Times

"In the desert, the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, 'If only we had died by the Lord's hand in Egypt. There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.'" Exodus 16:2-3 Hard times indeed!

Picture Scarlet O'Hara standing in the dead garden at Tara and screaming, "I will never go hungry again!" Hard times.

Or see Charles Dickens as a young lad trudging through the London streets to "Warren's blacking warehouse, back to the rats, the rotting wood and the black paste." (DICKENS by Peter Ackroyd). These hard times Dickens made into several novels.

Or look at Ma and Pa Ingalls staring out the broken window as hail destroys the best crop they ever had. Hard times.

Anybody out there experiencing hard times?

'Tis said that hard times always bring us back to basics. I remember doing without sugar in WWII because coupons were scarce. (I still drink all my liquids without sugar--yes, even iced tea).

I got to thinking this morning about what I would NOT want to give up in hard times now. What ordinary element that I have grown used to would I miss the most?

Besides the obvious food, water, toilet paper,etc--I think the item I would miss the most would be paper towels. Oh I know that is not thinking green--but I would hate cleaning up messes with cloth rags and then having to wash them, dry and fold them, and put them away.

The ubiquitous roll of paper towel is always ready to help, always absorbent and easily disposed of. So today--Hooray for Viva and Bounty, my old rough and ready friends.

Apologies to the Israelites, Scarlet, the Ingalls and Dickens who truly experienced hard times and Thank You to God for providing all my current needs.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Maddie Reads!

When I entered her home last night, Maddie immediately brought me some of the books she is reading: Junie B. Jones and The Little House Series (Easy Reader series). Sheryl says that she goes to sleep with books on her bed every night, and she had been found reading under the covers after lights out. It is such joy to see reading take hold in children. I think that is why first grade teachers love their jobs so much! As has been often said, it seems that a light goes on somewhere and it all comes together in the brain.

Ella is following close behind--she read the Very Hungry Caterpillar to me last night and said that she loved all the books of Eric Carle.

But of course, all this might not have happened had Sheryl and Brandon been "too busy" to read aloud to them virtually every night from birth. Such a good beginning!

May they enjoy reading all their lives and find in it the joy and comfort and learning I find.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Prowling Through History

The Later Day Saints at Otter spent Saturday prowling around some of the points touching history of the Church of Christ. Someone has said, "If you don't know your history, you are like a leaf that doesn't know it is part of a tree." I have enjoyed learning more about the background of the church I grew up in for the last few years.

We went to Adairville, Ky, Russellville, Ky, and a Shaker Village just out side of Russellville.
We first saw the Red River Meeting House where The Second Great Awakening began. (The first Great Awakening occurred in New England under preachers like Jonathan Edwards). As people moved west, religion took second place to survival. The Second Aw. had as its goal to AWAKEN religion on the Western frontier. And it began in Logan County , Ky led by a Presbyterian preacher named James McGready. It was very charismatic, drew thousands of people and was also the beginning of the Cumberland Presbyterian movement; the Christian Church and Disciples of Christ also trace back to that event.

As far as the Church of Christ's involvement, it seems that Barton W. Stone (one of the founders of the Stone-Campbell movement which really began the stream of the Church of Christ) knew James McGready and came down to Logan County to see what all the fuss was about. He took what he saw and heard back to Cane Ridge, Ky where other camp meetings broke out and thus the first Churches of Christ on the Western Frontier were born. The Cane Ridge meeting was more a "communion festival"--where huge tables were set up and people sat around them for a day of communion and fellowship. At any rate, the Holy Spirit showed up and more and more people gathered--some estimate as many as 20,000 came to Cane Ridge. Preaching tents were set up all over the camp grounds at Red River and Cane Ridge and preachers of all kinds came to orate. Some estimate that as many as 2,500 of the communicants at Cane Ridge were Presbyterians. Among those coming were Shakers from the New England states who had heard about the events and came seeking converts.

The Red River Meeting Place is a simple log cabin -- quite unlike Cane Ridge which has been improved by the Disciples tremendously. Surrounding Red River is an extremely old cemetery burying soldiers from the Civil War, the Spanish American War, and even the Battle of Waterloo. Most there are Scotch-Irish charter members of the church founded after the event at Red River. So there Presbyterians, Shakers, Church of Christ, Disciples, etc. all sprang out of the huge event in a remote county of Kentucky. By the way, Lyndon B. Johnson's mother was a native of Logan County and rocks from his grandmother's farm graced the fireplace in one of the reincarnations of the original log cabin. So interesting!!!

Russellville is an old town full of beautiful old homes and history, as well. It was there that group of southern sympathizers decided to go against the state government and secede. Kentucky never pulled out of the union. Just the little band formed at Russellville which set its seat of government eventually at Bowling Green withdrew. It is also the place where the Jesse James Gang pulled off their first bank robbery.

Then out to the Shaker Village Museum at South Union. It was smaller and more compact than another Village in Pleasant Hill which I visited several years ago. Full of artifacts and good pictures, the museum was quite good--the book store and gift shop was larger than Pleasant Hill as well. They do not offer meals or overnight lodging as does Pleasant Hill, but there is a bed and breakfast, Shaker Tavern, nearby. Our guide was excellent. This particular Shaker community died in 1922. Pleasant Hill was closed in 1910.

On the grounds of the Shaker Village is a 9 million dollar Catholic chapel. Quite a startling contrast to the simple Shaker dwellings. The farmer who bought the land when the Village died sold off part of it to Benedictines to be used as a monastery. In early 2000, the spot became the church home of the Fathers of Mercy ministry of the Catholic Church. Their Chapel of Divine Mercy was dedicated in 2008. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen--all red, white and gold inside with the typical arrangement and statues. The Fathers of Mercy are priests trained to be traveling evangelists all over the world. One we met was leaving for Australia today. There are only 42 of them in a setting designed to house at least 100.

It was beautiful day full of interesting places and good fellowship. Gerry Masterson was our tour guide--one of the best!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

No Matter What!

I attended worship Sunday unfortunately at a lifeless community church (not Otter, nor Fellowship). I heard a better sermon from Ella at the lunch table. She was musing on why God loves us and said, "He Loves Us No Matter What-- Period!

Her emphatic words speak to the mysteries of Easter--why would God put his own son to death and why would Jesus agree to die?

I don't expect to fully figure that out until heaven, but I am content with God Loves Us No Matter What Period!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Glory Falls

Today is Good Friday, and I wanted to post this first part of a poem by Maya Angelou entitled
"Glory Falls":

Glory falls around us
as we sob
a dirge of
desolation on the Cross.....

This is the day we like to skip in Passion Week--the day of sadness and horror and pain. We shrink from the sound of the hammer, we close our eyes at the dripping blood covering the hem of Mary's garment, we cover our ears at the moans and even the "sayings"-- yet, glory is shining around the cross as Jesus finishes well obeying his Father and dying for our forgiveness. Shall we stop and sob?

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Favorite movies

I have probably written about this be it. When Josh Graves used a clip from Mr. Holland's Opus in his sermon last Sunday (and made all us teachers cry) I was reminded of some of my favorite movies--Mr. Holland's Opus is definitely on the list.

Others include: Gone With the Wind, Dr. Zhivago, Out of Africa, 84 Charing Cross Road, Little Women, Evita, To Kill a Mockingbird, Chariots of Fire, The Way We Were, and Holiday Inn.

A psychologist might be able to look at that list and deduce something about me--romantic, loves books and musicals, oh, yes.

Josh made the comment that more people are being molded by film today than by religion.
That's a scary thought when one considers the current offerings: Wolverine, Twilight, Hannah Montana, The Haunting in Connecticut, and The Fast and The Furious--Yuck.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Old Songs--Weeping or Joy?

The poet May Sarton has written that she could not listen to music after age 70 because it made her cry. In Psalm 137 the writer says, "By the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our our tormentors demanded songs of joy... and said, 'Sing us one of the songs of Zion.'"

On the other hand, Martin Luther wrote "I am quite of the opinion that next to theology, there is no art which can be compared to music; for it alone, after theology, gives us rest and joy...." A. W. Tozer wrote "Every Christian should have lying beside his Bible a copy of some standard hymnbook. He should read out of one and sing out of the other, and he will be surprised and delighted to discover how much they are alike."

I've been thinking about the two comparisons since I experienced this last week:

Murray Sanderson is teaching a class at 3:30 on Wed. afternoon (Isn't that a great time for those who are retired!). The title of the class is "A Vision for Worship." He often begins the class by having us sing a couple of "old songs"--perhaps because most of us remember singing them when we were younger. As we sang "In the Garden" last Wed., I watched the tears trickle out of the closed eyes of our "Miss Eva", an older long-time Otter Creeker. It really moved me and made me think of May Sarton.

On Saturday, I was pushing little Sam in a stroller through Opry Mills, our huge discount mall, trying to navigate him between the thousands of Easter shoppers. He suddenly burst out at the top of his voice singing "Jesus Loves Me." The crowd parted, people smiled and Nonnie cried.

Wonderful experiences both. Thank you God for music and its affect on our hearts.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Mending Hearts

Last Tuesday night, 9 members of our book club, The Church Chicks, took the church bus to Mending Hearts in downtown Nashville. Mending Hearts is a place of recovery for addicts of all sorts (alcohol, drugs, sex (prostitutes), etc. See info. at Our out-reach minister has a class there twice a month (life skills, how to step out into the world after recovery, etc.) which several of the women are required to attend. His wife, Jean, is a part of our club; so at her suggestion (Thanks! Jean) we each selected 3-5 books for the community bookshelf and took off.

In introduction, Jean explained what our book club was and its benefits (community, learning, just plain fun, etc.) and then reviewed the books she brought. We are hoping that they will want to begin a book club there. Indeed, one of the listeners said she had been a part of a book club in prison and had loved it. Then the rest of us told about our books, dropping in along the way how important reading is (many of our club are retired teachers) and what one can gain from it.

Jean also had us tell a little bit of our backgrounds too. The retired kindergarten and elementary teachers stressed books for children and reading to children. One spoke about how much she enjoyed books on tape and that they had helped her "read" books she may not have ever picked up. Bernie Arnold broke up the meeting with one of her books Mean Women Grown Up( I think that was the title) when she read a little portion which spoke of how mean and conniving women could be. There several Amens from the audience.

When we left, we arranged our books on their almost empty bookshelves--all they had were a few old books people who don't engage with their recipients like to give away. We purposefully did not take "religious" how-to books. We took mysteries, biographies, historical novels, funny books, books about families. Of course, none of the books were trashy drugstore bodice-ripping novels. Many were books we have read in our book club.

As we said goodby, some of them followed us to the bus thanking us over and over again. It was a great night for us, but a sobering one. It was so sad for us to see the hard lives in their faces and to see how young some of them were. We couldn't help but think about our own daughters and their privileged lives. Thank God for Mending Hearts, Doug Sanders, and others who are stepping out of the church building to touch and change people who would probably never step inside the doors.

It was just a small thing, and didn't take much time, but I highly recommend a time of ministry for one of the groups you may be in, dear reader.