“Fake News” Destroys Garden

Sunday Chronicles #47 June 25, 2017

Dear Friends,

Greetings from Springfield, MO where, after a rambunctious wind/rain storm on Friday with tree limbs down and power outages, today we are enjoying nearly perfect weather: sunshine, cool breezes, low 80’s for temps, birds singing. Wish you were here!

I drove (!) to chapel today. There’s nothing quite like being among God’s people in worship. A scheduled missionary speaker was unable to come; however, the man who spoke in his place certainly was no disappointment. Matt Hufman is an A/G minister and a journalist. His topic was “What Is Truth?” with a tag line: Politics, Fake News and the Gospel. He defined “fake news” as a mixture of fact and opinion. Although I took notes, he packed so much into his 25-minute sermon, that I ordered a CD. Later I will post the main points for those who are interested. In the meantime, continue to pray for our nation’s leaders.

Hufman pointed out that fake news is not a new phenomenon. It started in the Garden of Eden when Satan used lies and half-truths to entice Eve to disobey God. Then Hufman moved on to John 18:33-38 where Jesus is being questioned by Pilate. Pilate realized that the charges against Jesus were false, but he condemned Jesus to satisfy the Jewish leaders and keep “peace.”

Now to my recent experience with “fake” news: on June 9 I was in a fragile emotional state. Melinda and I were going to visit Nelson’s grave and also to select a headstone. I wanted to do it, but at the same time I dreaded doing it. It seemed to make Nelson’s death even more final. That morning as I dressed, I heard an unusual noise, but finally decided it was coming from the other side of the duplex. Perhaps my new neighbors were rearranging furniture.

Later when I looked out my back door, I was shocked. Nelson’s container garden, which had occupied our back patio, was gone–completely destroyed. The 9 large round containers had been emptied (I had planted okra in two of them only a few days before.) Two others held onions and rhubarb which had survived the winter. Nelson had a small fence around the garden to keep deer or other animals from feasting on his plants. That was rolled up; the stakes and concrete blocks he had used were stacked to one side. I realized that the noise I had heard earlier was the grounds crew taking down the garden. I couldn’t imagine why; we had permission to have the garden, and Nelson had obeyed the rules. Usually, the workers ring the doorbell and explain what they plan to do. But no one had spoken to me at all.

I was hurt, angry, and totally upset. I did what I usually do in those situations: I cried. It seemed another link with Nelson had been taken away. Finally, when I got my emotions in check, I called the maintenance office and asked who had given the order for the garden to be taken down. A supervisor came to talk to me. Another supervisor had been told that I was going to move (fake news!) and he had given the order. The new supervisor asked what he could do to make it right. I said I would think about it over the weekend and talk with him the next week. Before he left, he said he was working in this area one day when I was baking, and he inhaled the wonderful smell of cinnamon rolls. (I think he was trying to say something to make me feel better.) I told him that when I baked again, I would send his crew cinnamon rolls. This week I made cinnamon rolls. I called the grounds supervisor and asked how many men he had working that day. He said 6; so I sent two pans of cinnamon rolls for them; five more pans went to neighbors and visitors. Now I need to bake again.

At my request, the crew replaced the soil in 4 of the containers, and Melinda planted two of those with okra which is up. This week I hope to plant the other two. It still isn’t the same as what Nelson had, but as I’m sure he’d say, “Mama, it’s not the end of the world!”

Don’t be fooled by fake news this week; let the Holy Spirit guide you. He will show you how to bring the truth of God’s Word to counter the lies of the enemy. Thank you for sharing in my journey through the Valley of Baca. Your prayers and love sustain me…jwb

I Had A “Visible” Father

Sunday Chronicles #46, June 18, 2017  Father’s Day

Dear Friends,

Greetings from Springfield, MO on a cool, cloudy Father’s Day Sunday. I “attended” Maranatha Chapel via TV. Fred Chilton was the morning speaker. He spoke about the lack of “visible” fathers in many homes today…fathers who put work, sports, or other activities first in their lives even if they are living in the home. I have long believed and stated that many of the problems our nation is dealing with today have their roots in the fact that a high percentage of children are being raised in homes without a father. The home was the first institution God ordained, and His plan was for children to be raised in the care of both a mother and a father. Things that God designed for good, Satan has worked non-stop to destroy. Many youth in our schools and churches today have blighted hearts because they have never known the sacrificial love of a father. Perhaps some of you are praying for/dealing with children who are experiencing the lack of a father’s love. Let the love of the Heavenly Father guide you as you minister to them and their mothers who struggle to fill in for absent fathers.

Much of what I am today goes back to my father’s teaching and example. He grew up without a father because his father died when he was 6 years old. After my dad received the Holy Spirit and was called to ministry, he was blessed to be mentored by early Pentecostal leaders such as A.E. Humbard and E.N. Bell. These men of God became father-figures in his life and helped form his ministry. The winter I was 8 years old my dad started taking a reading course, prescribed by the Assemblies of God, to become an ordained minister. The books were small paperbacks on subjects such as “Studying the Doctrines of the Bible.” Each chapter ended with questions to make sure the reader understood and could apply the principles the chapter taught. My dad’s formal education had ended at about the 5th grade, but he had never stopped learning.

I was the only child at home and loved anything with printed words. Our home had very little reading material, and I spent several summers between the ages of 4 and 8 studying the Sears/Roebuck catalog and Smith’s Bible Dictionary –two of the few books we had with pictures. When Dad started the reading course, I was soon “helping” him with his studies. At that time he was pastoring a small church and also driving a school bus to provide for us and the church. He read the chapters during the day while I was at school. After he finished his afternoon bus route and we had supper, we tackled the questions. I looked up the Bible references and read them aloud; then we discussed how best to answer the question. When we had worked out wording for the answer, Dad carefully wrote it in the space provided. During this time we did not have a dictionary. If we needed to use a word we didn’t know how to spell, we thought of a Bible verse that contained that word and copied it. If the word was not a Biblical word, we resorted to the Sears/Roebuck catalog. My summer study paid off in that I could usually think of places to find words we needed! Years later I was chosen to participate in a panel of successful students at a college I was attending. One of the questions was “How did you learn to read?” My answer: “By studying the King James Bible, Sears/Roebuck Catalog, and Smith’s Bible Dictionary.” You should have seen the shock on the judges’ faces!

In my teen years when I did something that I knew some people in the churches my dad pastored considered wrong– such as slapping a deacon’s son for pulling my hair or saving my money and buying myself a plaid taffeta dress that rustled when I walked (Worldly!), or going on outings with the Methodist youth group—I weighed my actions against how much pain they would cause Dad. When I did something I knew he’d have to answer for, I immediately told him what I’d done and why. If he thought I was wrong, he would talk to me about my actions. But whether he felt I was right or wrong, he defended me before the critics. I often hide behind the door and listened. He would tell them he would deal with the situation, that they were raising their children and he would raise his, and he stood his ground so strongly that most of them never wanted to face him again. He was certainly a “visible” father.

My thanks and deep appreciation to all of you have been “visible” friends during the time of my learning to live without Nelson. I still experience a deep sadness because he is not here with me, but I am doing better at thanking God for the good memories. I appreciate your prayers for my physical needs. My strength still runs out before the end of the day. I try to adjust my “to-do” list accordingly, but my mind races ahead of my body. In case you find it out somewhere, please send it home! I want to resume more writing, and I need it. I send my love and prayers for each of you. “Thanks” seems inadequate for all your caring. jwb

The Shepherd Prepares the Table

Sunday Chronicles #44, June 11, 2017

Sunny skies and bright sunshine in Springfield, MO today along with humid heat. Welcome to summer! And thank God for fans and AC! Do we realize how blessed (or perhaps I should say spoiled) we are? Today I was remembering a summer in the mid-1940s when my Dad pastored a church in McCurtain, OK. The parsonage had a tin roof, and we had no fans, no cooler of any kind. In the afternoon, the inside of the house was like an oven. No trees nearby and the only cooling device was to draw water from the well to pour on the porch and hang wet sheets on the screen doors. Now we call those the “good old days”? Not so much!

I intended to drive to chapel today, but when as I got ready, I was overcome with weakness and realized my body wasn’t going to cooperate with my mind. Maranatha now broadcast the chapel services on Ch. 84, so I attended here at home. Chaplain Paddock preached a powerful message from Rom. 8:1-4, “No Condemnation.” He emphasized the price Jesus paid to set us free “from the law of sin and death.” Our Savior gave His life blood to buy our freedom from the curse of sin.  The service ended with communion.

This afternoon I meditated again on Psalm 23. I focused on the first part of V. 5: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” In the past, I have thought that verse referred to God’s provision for David when he was on the run from those who desired to kill him. I still think that’s one possible interpretation. But I found another meaning in reading how Philip Keller, a writer who had many years experience as a shepherd, prepared the pasture to be a safe place for his sheep.

When it is time to take the sheep to the highlands for summer grazing, the shepherd goes ahead and selects the pasture. These summer pastures on often on a “mesa,” a table-like flat place on top of a hill or mountain. Before he moves the sheep through the ravines and up to the highlands, the shepherd makes trips to the selected place, taking supplies he will need and preparing the pasture. He makes sure the grass is tender and checks the water supply, cleaning out springs or brush as needed. He walks or crawls very slowly over the pasture, pulling any poisonous weeds and destroying thorn bushes. He checks for snake holes in the ground and pours oil in them. He looks for signs of wild animals who might attack the sheep so he knows how to guard his flock. When his work is done, he has “prepared the table”: he has contained the enemies of poisonous plants, thorns, snakes, and predators. And to think that God “prepares a table” for us. In addition to making sure our need for food and water is met, he uproots our poisonous attitudes, removes the thorns that would prick us, and defeats the enemy that would destroy the soul.

On Friday Melinda took me to Nelson’s grave. I have no words to describe my heartache. I know that Nelson is with the Lord, and I take comfort in that, but the pain of separation overwhelms me. Melinda and I chose a small permanent marker for the grave and had both his name and mine placed on it in preparation for the time when I join him. Thank you for holding my hands while I learn to lean more on the Good Shepherd and draw comfort from His tender care. Your prayers, visits, cards, e-mails, — all the kind things you do – help more than I can tell.

My love and prayers are with you….Peace, jwb

Pentecost Sunday — Celebrating the Gift of the Holy Spirit

Pentecost Sunday, June 4, 2017

Dear Praying Saints,

Your prayers for me to gain strength are being answered. I need my energy level to improve, so please keep praying. Today I drove my old Lincoln to the chapel and walked, with my canes, from a parking place to the door. After the service, an older man asked how I got there. I replied, “I drove!” He was shocked. I happen to know that he’s past 90 and he still drives. So are old women not supposed to drive?

Did your church celebrate Pentecost Sunday today? I hope so! My dad received the infilling of the Holy Spirit and a call into ministry in 1912. That summer an evangelist who had experienced his Pentecost at a Bible school in Kansas in 1906-07 came walking, carrying his suitcase, into the rural community in north Arkansas where my Grandmother Wells was raising her family. Her husband, James Evert Wells, died of typhoid fever in 1901, leaving seven children. By 1912 the three older children were ontheir own, but Grandmother and four younger children, all teens, attended the revival. It made a tremendous impact on their lives and the lives of their descendants. My granddaughter Elizabeth, a 15-year-old, is on a missions trip to Costa Rica with a church group this week. Pray that she will have opportunity to show Jesus’ love there.

My dad talked about that revival as long as he lived. It went on in various venues, such as one-room schoolhouses and brush arbors, for about three years. People facing death were healed, some saw visions of heaven, and old feuds were settled. Men who had been drunkards and cursed their wives and children, beat their livestock and stole from their neighbors, were changed into men who made things right and lived clean lives. Sounds carry far in those hills, and my dad said that at any hour of the night he could go outside and hear someone praying. My prayer is “Lord, do it again.”

Chaplain Paddock’s text today was Eph 5:18: “Be not drunk with wine…but be filled with the Spirit.” After the resurrection, when Jesus was about to return to Heaven, He instructed His disciples to stay in Jerusalem until they received the Holy Spirit. Acts 2 records those events. The disciples thought the infilling of the Spirit was only for the Jews, but Acts 10 tells how God used a reluctant Peter to minister to a Roman officer and his family and how the Holy Spirit was poured out on them. Then we have Acts 2:39, telling us that the Holy Spirit is for “as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Our nation,with its racial, political, and economic divisions, needs an outpouring of God’s power to bring healing to our souls.

Marcae Robertson spoke briefly in our service today. She and husband Nick have served as missionaries to India for more than 20 years. Now they have been brought back to Minneapolis to work among  Islamic immigrants. The world is coming to us. Can we, through the power of the Holy Spirit, show the love of our Savior to them?

…On a personal note, I am coping better with being alone, but still face times, and probably always will, when I miss Nelson intensely. One night this week a storm knocked out power for about 5 hours. The house was eerily quiet and dark, no refrig motors running, no lights anywhere. How I wished Nelson were here to say, “Don’t worry, Mama. It’ll be alright.” But when earthly voices are stilled, then the Good Shepherd reminds us that we are never alone. May He be very near you this coming week…jwb

 

What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do

Sunday Chronicles #43, May 28, 2017

After Springfield residents endured high winds, hard rain and pounding hail Saturday afternoon and evening, Sunday morning brought sunshine and cooler temperatures — a welcome change! Can we dare hope that spring is here to stay?

My week was almost as turbulent as Saturday’s weather. Early in the week friends Lois and Richard Fortune came from Omaha, AR with a truck and trailer. They filled the truck bed and trailer with tools, old lawn mowers, and assorted junk from our garage. There’s still much more to go, but now we can actually get my Lincoln in the garage! After Saturday’s weather prediction for large hail, daughter Melinda got the car in the garage. I wasn’t sure she could get out of the car once she had it inside, but she did! In other news, one of Jon’s friends found a buyer for Nelson’s Big Red SUV. On Friday we closed the deal, and the new owner drove Big Red away. I admit I cried a little. In my head I knew it was the right thing to sell, but in my heart it was the loss of one more link to Nelson. Putting together a home is joyful with promise; tearing apart a home is painful with closures.

Our speaker at Maranatha Chapel today was Roger Perkin. He and his wife Faith are residents here. His subject was “What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do,” and his text was from 2nd Chron. 20:12, “…We do not know what to do, but out eyes are upon you.” He read most of Ch. 20 which tells the story of a huge army, composed of warriors from several nations, coming against tiny Judah. King Jehoshaphat did not have the necessary forces to defeat them, so in his distress he called a nationwide prayer meeting and God sent a message by a prophet: “Do not be afraid or discouraged by this vast army. For the battle is not yours but God’s.”

The next morning as Judah’s soldiers went to battle, Jehoshaphat appointed singers to go in front, singing praises to God. As they sang, God sent confusion in the enemy’s camp, and the warriors turned on each other. When Jehoshaphat’s army got to the battle site, they saw nothing but dead bodies! They spent 3 days gathering up valuable loot, and a 4th day praising God. Then they returned to Jerusalem and entered the temple with harps, lutes, and trumpets for another praise service!

So what should you do when you don’t know what to do? (1) Take your problem to God: “Casting call your care on Him, for He cares for you” I Peter 5:7. (2) Listen for God’s instructions and follow them. (3) Praise…lots of it! Give God praise for who He is and what He will do. I’ve tried this formula, and if you are faithful in praise when you don’t see any answer, you will find God is faithful to do His part. This principle is displayed in the story of Dimitri, a Russian Christian who served 17 years in a horrible Soviet prison. Yet each morning he stood in his cell and sang a song of praise to God. His story is in the book “The Insanity of God” by Nik Ripken. It begins near the end of Ch. 18 and spills over into Ch. 19. I recommend it.

On a personal note, I am slowly gaining strength and the dizzy spells are not as often or as severe. Tuesday, I am to see one of the heart doctors at Mercy Hospital…I have no idea why! I am still wearing the monitor they put on me May 6; I can take it off and mail it in on June 6. Some specialist, somewhere will read it and inform Mercy doctors of the results. Dealing with the medical world can make one dizzy!

Next Friday, June 2, will mark 3 months since Nelson’s death. I can’t really say the grief is any less, only deeper inside. I am still meditating on Ps. 23 and hope to share more with you in the future. I am greatly indebted to each of you for your prayers, helps of all kinds, and encouraging me to keep writing. I’m still waiting to understand why I’m here. I start each morning with praise and a quest for wisdom in making decisions for the future…..Peace, jwb

Higher Ground

Sunday Chronicles, #42, May 21, 2017

 

Treasured Friends,

After a stormy week, it’s a beautiful Sunday evening here in Springfield, MO. As an addendum to last week’s letter, I am pleased to tell you that the 4 O’Clocks are up and growing well. In a few weeks they will be sending their special fragrance into the evening air. My mother would be pleased.

The chapel speaker here at MV this morning was Assistant Chaplain Sophia Garcia. She spoke from the first few verses of Gal. 6 where Paul admonishes believers to be gentle and loving in their interaction with each other and to bear one another’s burdens. Various translations render the wording slightly different, but the thought is clear: The “law of Christ” is that we seek to be God’s hands extended in love to each other. Paul expressed a similar thought in Eph. 4:1-3. Over the years I have been blessed by each of you doing just that: holding me up in love and prayer when I face difficult circumstances. It is my joy to reach out to you in the same way, praying that the Good Shepherd will hold you close as you walk with Him.

 

This week Jon was here Thursday and Friday. He’s worked at getting a buyer for Big Red and has a prospect who is interested and will let him know this week. Jon also worked at clearing out Nelson’s closet. I know it had to be done, and I can’t stand up long enough to do that kind of thing, but seeing the familiar clothes being loaded to go to a Teen Challenge Thrift Store seemed like saying good-by to Nelson again. Tears hovered in the corners of my eyes.

This next week has another “remembering” day for me: May 25. In 1956, the year we married, it was a Friday. Somewhere on FB is our picture on that day. Nelson sang “I Love You Truly” as my dad walked me down the aisle to meet him, I stopped midway and sang “Whither Thou Goest, I Will Go.” We didn’t know then much about “Life with its sorrows, life with its tear,” but we kept those vows during the good times and the bad. Now I walk on, missing the man who loved me truly.

To continue last week’s thought from Psalm 23, the shepherd leads his flock down into the ravines and then up the other side to higher ground where green pastures await. Going down and then climbing up again is a strenuous journey. But the Psalmist writes, “I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

Spiritually, I’ve longed and prayed for “higher ground.” I’ve sung: “Lord, plant my feet on higher ground…” without thinking about the route to get there, assuming that God would by His great strength pick me up and make me some spiritual giant. But when I look back, I realize that I’ve only reached “higher ground” by going through the ravines of life. It’s in the hard places that we learn to trust and not be afraid. We grow spiritually, not when everything is going smoothly, but when the fog of life becomes so thick we can’t see our way and have to depend entirely on the Shepherd’s leading.

So we go forward into another week, fearing no evil, accepting the protection of the Shepherd’s rod and staff and fulfilling the law of Christ, as we help each other over the rough places and upward to higher ground. Thank you for your love and prayers, for being God’s hand extended to me and to each other. Peace, jwb

 

Walking Through the Valley

Sunday Chronicles # 41, May 14, 2017

 

Dear Readers,

What a beautiful Sunday for Mother’s Day in Springfield, MO today!

My mother has been enjoying the beauties of Heaven for 25 years now, but in the yard of her last home in Morris, OK, the flowers she planted come out each spring and raise happy faces toward the sky. My nephew cares for them. Last spring I visited in May and brought back several 4-O’clock seedlings, and planted them outside our back window. That’s probably not their “official” name, but they bloom in the late afternoon and give off a lovely fragrance. They seed themselves, so once started, they come back each year. I’ve been watching for them, hoping the heavy rains/flooding haven’t washed them away.

 

In my childhood, we lived in small towns and rural communities where my dad pastored churches. When we moved, as soon as the house was in order, Mama took her hoe and began on the yard. She never had money to spend on plants, but she kept seed and traded with other flower lovers. If we lived in the same town for more than a year, her yard became a show place. As I got older, I wondered why she didn’t get discouraged, having to leave one yard and start over on another, but I think that the flowers spoke to her of God. Also, she made many friends when people stopped to admire her plants. I inherited her love for flowers but not her ability to make them grow and flourish. Perhaps I’m not willing to work as hard!

 

For me, this has been another week of medical appointments without getting any answers. I am slowly gaining the strength I lost during the hospital stay. Truth is, in old people, any kind of physical improvement is slow, and my impatience kicks in. Several dizzy spells early today caused me to stay home and tune in to Maranatha Chapel on Ch. 84, as I did last week. Today, the picture came through, but no sound. Some sort of technical glitz I assume.

 

Thank God the Holy Spirit is not subject to technology. This week, for comfort, I returned to my study of Psalm 23. Part of V. 4 “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death….” spoke to me in way I had not thought of previously. Nelson’s death cast a shadow of loss and loneliness over my life, but note that the verse says “walk through.” If I keep walking with the Good Shepherd, I will come out of the shadow!

 

I also found another nugget of comfort. In the semi-arid areas of Israel, when summer heat sets in, steams dwindle and the grass becomes dry and stiff. To provide his flock with tender, nourishing food, the shepherd must take them to higher ground for the summer. To get there, he leads them down into deep ravines, and then up the other side into the mountains. I remember being on a tour bus on a very narrow, winding road near Jericho and looking down, down, down into one of those ravines. The trail going down was steep, winding around and over rocks. Remember the shepherd leads his sheep. He doesn’t drive them from behind as we drive cattle. He’s out front! He has his rod and staff for help and protection from enemies. He has traveled this path before, and he knows the rough spots. All the sheep have to do is follow. They don’t have to worry about where they are going or the way to get there. They just walk through the valley, following the shepherd until they climb up into the green pastures on the other side. I do not know what my future holds, but if I follow the Good Shepherd, He will bring me to the place of His choosing, whether in this world, or the next.

 

There’s more, but I’ll leave that for later. Thank you for walking with me, for your prayers, encouragement, and all the kind and gracious things you do for me. I am indeed a debtor! jwb