Of Fathers and Sons

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Cole had asked to stay with us a couple of weeks ago when their entire family were here; however it wasn’t a good time, but last Monday was. Jerry and I trekked down to Temecula which is roughly halfway between here and San Diego where we met Andrew and Shawnna who delivered two boys to us: Brady and Cole. I don’t believe any of us had thought about this week as being the one that would lead up to Father’s Day, but a better week could not have been chosen. I’ve watched the interaction of Jerry with these two grandboys, and I’ve thought of leadership and heritage and godliness and progeny and transfer of mantles and of undeserved family blessings. Image

In the kitchen I made pancakes and eggs and tacos and poured orange juice by the gallon and fried chicken in a big skillet. We filled ice chests and these gentlemen in training carried down the heavy things and loaded in the folding chairs and took them from the car when we reached the picnic area at the lake and set them up for us.

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They climbed trees and poked at crawdads and didn’t catch even one. They threw sticks into the water, and when their cousin Nathaniel had been doing lawn work for Bill next door, they both helped him finish his job, and at the end when they had earned no money, I gave them each five dollars. Ambitious, hard working Brady earned seven more dollars from me because the $5.00 job I had assigned was bigger than I thought and because he worked so hard.

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The entire family were away from their home several weeks during the school year, so the boys came to us Monday with online and contract makeup work assignments. Cole works studiously. He also is quite an artist, so down at the lake I let him use my camera, and with his excellent eye, he fashioned a fine portrait of his pappy.

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Blessed. Here is a father who has a heart after God, who has led his family into righteous living, who worked long and hard to dress the bodies of his children and to give us nice houses and good food and days of fun and who read scripture to us and prayed for us . . . and who does to this day.

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And now are the sterling grandsons who weep in the presence of God, who say thank you Granny after every meal and who say thank you Granny and Pappy for taking us to the lake . . . and who take their dishes to the sink . . . and upon whom, perhaps, the end of the world will come.

Shoes. Feet. Paths to follow.

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So . . . yesterday Pappy took his boys down the hill to Big Five.

ImageFor there remain long, treacherous, happy, rocky, important paths ahead. And one’s feet must be shod . . .

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Kathy Hodgson At Rest

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ImageBy honored men she had been carried to the earth.

ImageThe sun beat down on those who had now gone as far with dear Kathy Hodgson as was possible. “This is the day she lived for,” her treasured cousin spoke as we huddled and whispered and moved about.

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Elusive. As absurd to think of holding the tail of a wind as to hope to find words to soothe the grief.

ImageA small mark, a tiny plot. Impossible to encase such a life.

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ImageColleagues and friends. Some have traveled from far points across the country because they loved her.

ImageAnd so it is finished. Except that only now has life begun for her. Mysterious. Sure.

And for us life continues to move, steadily, unstoppable. And one day, we too, will be finished.

A Surprise, Glorious Visit

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The message came by email: “Surprise. Short notice. We’re be at your place by three or four o’clock in the morning,” or something to that effect.

“Jerry,” I called across the room, “Andrew and Shawnna are coming in tonight!”

We were ecstatic. Before I went to bed I walked upstairs, arranged bedding on couches, and pallets on floors, swished out the guest bathrooms, and turned on lamps in the bedrooms.Image

“Don’t wait up for us, of course,” Andrew had said. “I have a garage door opener and we’ll let ourselves in.”

4:00 AM Arrived eight humans, one goldfish splashing about in his/her bowl, and one basset hound, whose name is Charley, and who drools like you can’t believe, and who is the sweetest, most affectionate dog, and who travels drugged up because of his extreme tendency toward car sickness.

ImageCome daylight, no one was up early, of course, so while the house lay quiet, I stirred around and snapped pictures of my dear ones laid out here and there.

Image“I heard you taking our  pictures, Granny,” Chloe said later in the day.

ImageCole was gone.

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Ella and Chloe had the floor of the game room.

I fried bacon, whipped up biscuits and gravy, and some of them ate at the bar, while others carried their loaded plates to the back deck where Pappy was drinking coffee.

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Chloe wrapped Winston in a doll blanket and carried him about as a baby. He didn’t like it.

Speaking of Winston: At 4:00 am, before either Jerry or I heard them, Winston bolted up in the bed (Yes, we now sleep with him,) and began barking. Such a good watchdog, guarding the castle and all that. However…..by the time the family of seven had traipsed in, bearing a friend with them, and lugging in suitcases, and afore mentioned goldfish and basset hound, the place was in such an uproar with chaos reigning, that Winston yelped, ducked low and crawled under our bed, still barking out commands. :)

So much for guarding the castle.

By mid-afternoon they were gone. Sweet, quick, surprise visit.

 

Sir Winston and His Manhood

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I didn’t tell him about it, but I believe he sensed anyway that something was different about today. I had given himImagea bath last night, but he gets dirty so easily, especially since he loves to dig in the black dirt, so I scooped him up, set him on a bar stool, and with his own cloth, I washed his small body, his four spotted paws, his head, ears, and specially around his eyes.  As he often does when I wash his face, he laid into my chest. Today, he lifted his little face, and with his telling brown eyes, he looked hard into mine. I could have wept. A couple of hours ago, we drove Winston to his vet. Today, he will be neutered.

ImageHe looked worried as I snapped his picture after I washed him.

ImageI left him in the care of the sweet people at Rimforest Animal Hospital. I’m awaiting a call to hear that his surgery is finished. I’m sad.

5:45 Monday, May 19 Winston has been home a couple of hours and is doing well. He’s a little groggy and can’t have food until 8:00, although I have given him a little water, and it has caused him no problems.

 

Winston and the Book Shelves

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“Where’s Winston?”

“I don’t know. Around here somewhere. I hear him.”

I heard him also and decided to investigate. Found him in the dining room eating . . . a book. From the time he was small he has been fascinated by books, paper, and pens. Chews and eats them all.

ImageHe had climbed onto a hassock, cleared half a shelf of books, knocked them to the floor,  and with his sharp white teeth had destroyed an expensive, old book. I scolded him, cleaned up the mess, rearranged all the books, and got out the vacuum cleaner to finish the job. He lay silently and watched my activities, offering up the distinct look of a chastened soul, which look, I have come to believe, may be contaminated with a hefty portion of hypocrisy.

Later in the day, again I could not find him. Neither could Jerry. We looked everywhere, including the floor-level shelf in the dining room that he had claimed as a tiny pup for a sleeping place, and from which long ago I had cleared all books. He was not there. I called him loudly. Nothing. We began the search again, looking under things and again outside.  I lingered in the dining room when I went there another time. Something out of place caught my eye.

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A dark object had wedged himself behind the books on the shelf. The same shelf. The one he had cleared out earlier in the day.

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“Winston, why didn’t you answer me? What are you doing in that book shelf?”

He opened his sleepy eyes a bit wider, but said not a word.

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The rascal. As I rearranged the books before I lifted him off the shelf, he drifted off to sleep again.

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I suppose I should be impressed with owning such an intellectual pup, but to tell the truth, I sometimes wish he preferred one of his balls or a chew toy over books, pens and papers.

 

A Walk at Lake Gregory

Image This is one of my favorite places down at the lake and I can’t calculate the times I have lifted my camera and snapped my shutter for another picture. When I walked there a couple of days ago, a duck couple swam lazily, the elegant male lounging about in the center where I could easily photograph him, while his busy little lady was dipping and tucking, many times only her brown tail feathers visible, as she gathered lunch

ImageSpring flowers have shot through the warming earth, shafts of color that tell the new season.Image

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This was only the second day I had walked Winston very far around the lake and I had expected him to bark at the ducks, but he didn’t; merely starred at them as they paddled about, then flew high, and skidded again into the cold water.ImageImageI thought of my grandchildren as I walked, and a lacy throw of sadness fell about me–not too heavy–but there, for they’re much older now, and situations have changed, and I don’t have them up here as much as in years before.

The grounds around the lake were filled with picnicking families, and a couple of ball games were in progress. Once I heard behind me a little voice say, “Granny,” and even though on some level I knew that call was not for me, I turned, a miniscule flash of hope thinking maybe some of them have made a surprise visit, but the child was not mine.

A foursome ran by Winston and me, three eight or nine year old little girls followed by a boy about the same age, who couldn’t quite keep up. He yelled–seemingly to save his pride. “I’m not running as fast as I can.” I grinned. Winston tugged on his leash. He too wanted to run through this glorious spring day.

Winston didn’t want to leave when we arrived back at the car; instead lay as an unmoving lump on the pavement, so I gave in, and walked a short distance away into a wooded area near a parking lot. I sat down on a large rock. Winston lay beside me, and we watched the people as they parked their cars and pulled fishing poles, picnic hampers, and balls and bats from their vehicles.

Two little boys raced up the incline where we sat and ran past us. In a minute I felt a gentle poke on my shoulder. When I turned I was looking into the face of a six-year-old or so boy. He pointed to the parking lot where a bright red bike sat. “That’s a dirt bike.”

“Sure is. Can you ride a dirt bike?”

“Yes, mine is blue and orange.”

“Where’s your mom,” I asked him. “I want to take your picture.”

“No pictures.” He yelped and grinned and raced down the hill to his family.

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Winston and I sat a while longer, then we walked to the car, and I drove the few minutes it takes to reach our home. Winston napped the rest of the afternoon.

 

 

 

 

Of Golgotha and The Resurrection

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ImageWe walked up the hill, the famed one, or should it be called the infamous one?, the hill whose name had whipped by my ears since childhood, and over whose thought I had cried, and I had colored little pictures in Sunday school classes, and cut yellow paper crosses and made scenes with stones and twigs, and jelly beans lay about. Earlier we had passed the sign, and almost by the minute I lifted my camera and snapped the shutter, as though if I weren’t eager enough or ready enough the moment would pass . . . and I would not get it all. . . and I would be left empty.

ImageIt is not a hill far away as the hymns of earlier day had told me, so without too much effort, and without trudging very far, I climbed the last little bit, mounted a cement patio area, and when the leader of the group ahead of me was finished, we finally stood to face Golgotha. The skull was there.

ImageNearby a woman hung laundry on a line. Below tour buses were lined in an orderly way.

ImageAnd in the garden among ancient olive trees we stood and looked across the Kidron Valley just as Jesus had done, and one day He had wept over the city and said He wanted to take care of the people, wanted to protect them as a mama does her babies, but you don’t seem to want me to do that, He lamented. And soon they ordered Him from their cities, and called Him a devil . . .and He ached for them. And wept.

It is such an ordinary place. It is not heavenly. It is not mystic. And in such an atmosphere Jesus prayed that night in the garden, and blood ran, and His disciples fled.

And when I looked at Golgotha that morning a few weeks ago I thought of my dear friend Johnny Hodges who clinched his ancient watery eyes and threw his head back when he told me that he wept when he first saw the hallowed spot, and he had said to his wife, “Elaine, this is the place. This is where Jesus bought my salvation.” I did not have that response. I looked at the old wall and understood when our guide said that Golgotha is just outside the gates and thus the location would agree with scripture, that this surely is close to the very spot of the crucifixion, but there were lines of tour buses and vendors waiting to press their gadgets into our hot hands  and “buy your tickets” and “take a number for your turn” . . .and so I looked, but I did not see.

I have seen before. I see now, though a vast body of water and land separate me from the Holy spot, for I see with my soul and with my spirit. Carved into my being that day was a fresh understanding that Jesus endured the garden and the cross and the scourging and the thorny crown in all its ugliness and it was such an ordinary day, ordinary lives, dust on the roads, thirst in parched throats. It was not glorious. No tensil, nor flicker lights, nor cute nativity sets, nor glittering pendants about one’s neck. And yet . . . in the garden angels tended that Holy Man, a cloak of black snuffed out the brilliant sky, that thick curtain in the temple ripped in half, and beneath it all the earth wrenched and cracked in agony.

untitled (127 of 342)And then we gathered and Brother Walls served us, and I kept my cup and Jerry’s.

untitled (123 of 342)We sang great hymns of the church. We sang of the blood, the running great stream of blood.

untitled (128 of 342)And with my family and friends, I cried . . . and remembered . . . and felt.

untitled (109 of 342)We saw tombs and entered them and studied their style.

untitled (111 of 342)And at the tomb on that Easter morning as women went to minister to the body of their friend, they “found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed there about, behold two men stood by them in shining garments: And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen . . .”

 

 

 

 

Honor to Whom. . .

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Since I was a friend of his, Holly had said more than once to me, “I need to meet him. I want to thank him and remind him of how he has influenced my life,” or words to that effect. Then when she heard that he and other dear friends would be at our home on Tuesday, she asked, “Do you think it would be okay if Patrick and I come up and talk with them?”

The situation was this: Quarterly, we three couples–friends for most of our adult lives–rotate to our homes where we share dinner, and a breakfast the following morning: Stevensons, Hodges, and Buxtons. Holly and Patrick Garrett, our young friends who pastor a church in Yucaipa, CA., had not met either the Stevensons or the Hodges. It was in particular Johnny Hodges that Holly wanted to meet.

Earlier in the evening, I had phoned Holly and asked if they would be coming up. “Yes,” she replied. “We’re finishing drama practice and will be up in about an hour.” Our scrumptious dinner was over. Jerry had outdone himself on smoked St. Louis style ribs, (that’s another great story in itself), we had eaten dessert and had drunk strong coffee, Johnny had removed his shoes, and we had all slumped about in delicious old-time-Imagefriend conversations when the Garretts arrived. We made the introductions, offered food and drink, then rather quickly, Holly addressed Brother Johnny Hodges.

“I don’t know if you remember all the details,” she began, and then summarized the story. Her parents, Joyce and Richard Pierce, were not serving God, but because of family connections in the church asked Brother Hodges to marry them. Then sometime later when Holly came into the family, the Pierces asked Brother Hodges to dedicate their baby daughter to the Lord. He did so, and during the ceremony he urged them to continue to take little Holly to God’s house. Thus began the conversion of the Pierce family. He became a minister, and years later started a church in Costa Mesa, CA. It was there that Patrick Garrett found God, and where he and Holly fell in love. They married, have two sons of their own, and now pastor a church in Yucaipa.

“I want you to see the fruit of your labor, Brother Hodges,” Holly said as she pointed to Patrick, who was listening intently.

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A sweet presence of God surrounded us on Tuesday night in our living room as this beautiful young lady sincerely honored the man who those long ago years reached out to her parents, and thus “effected” her salvation, and those of her parents, her husband, her children, and those to whom she and Patrick minister today. I admired her for her thoughtfulness and for her sincerity. It was an unforgettable moment.

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Brother Hodges is now 82 years old, declining, and in very poor health. Many do not recall the days of his youth when he was an honored district leader, and was a preacher of rare skill, anointing, and distinction. Holly, too, has no memory of those days, but she has listened to the stories, and has heard their message, and has inculcated its meaning into her very soul. May there be more Holly Garretts in this world. May there be more Johnny Hodges.

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Missing Bacon

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On that first morning in Tiberius, and after our worship service in a boat on the Sea of Galilee we walked off the small sea vessel and climbed a gentle incline to a museum. untitled (86 of 228)

untitled (82 of 228)Along the way I learned that the area we were treading was near the place where the Gadarenes lived, and where that pitiful man, (probably more than one) the demoniac, dwelled among the tombs, and where Jesus healed him, and the devils that had possessed him sprang into a herd of swine, which then ran into the sea and were drowned. The keepers of the pigs were scared out of their wits as they spread the tale about the countryside. What a beautiful story, for Mark 5, verse 15 reads thus: “And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind . . .” What a sad story, though, for verse 17 tells that the people responded by urging Jesus to leave their countryside. Strange. I guess the pig meat was more important to them than the healing of their friend.

untitled (90 of 228)In the museum sat an ancient boat that had been excavated and restored as much as possible. The boat was of the style and age that was used when Jesus sailed with His disciples on the Sea of Galilee. I stared, and tried to imagine the eternal God during those years when He became a man. When He was hungry and tired and when He fished with Peter and John. Amazing.

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untitled (87 of 228)Striking to me during this delightful trip was the ordinariness of this, The Holy Land. Farmers still plow. Mothers still cook meals for their families. Daddies go to work, and children go to school.

untitled (92 of 228)The countryside is quite lacking in quaint beauty or majestic scenery or abundant flora and fauna. Israel is a simple place, but to this day, the eyes of the world focus there. All because of Jesus Christ, the righteous.

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Click on this line to see more pictures that I posted today in Flickr.

 

Random Thoughts on Israel/Italy Trip

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1. ImageAlthough Jerry and I missed all our family, we desperately wanted to see Winston. Rebecca and Nathaniel picked us up at LAX, and waiting in the car was our black and white puppy. We’re all happy again!

2. I quite enjoy utilizing moving sidewalks in airports. Gives me an exhilarating feel of rare accomplishment!

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3. In our hotel in Istanbul a clock was on the floor under the counter in the bathroom. Never seen that before. Someone thought it might also be a scale. Definitely didn’t check that out: too much cheese, butter, and fine breads the past couple of weeks.

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4. I posted more than 100 travel pictures on Flickr today. You might want to check them out. I’ll be posting more daily.

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