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Tough Love and Jesus

“But what would Jesus do?” the man challenged.

In recent days I spoke with a parent who many times past the first has taken the “tough love” approach with his young adult child. He grieved as we spoke, was quiet and pale. I tried to console him by validating his actions, “You did the right thing, though.” I know this man well, am privy to all the sordid, long-lasting actions; know of his love and kindness and care of his now adult child. He has been more than fair, long-suffering, loving and supportive.

He stared at me. “Did I? I’m not sure.”

Seems that at the last encounter with his child, someone else was there, and that person castigated the father for not continually taking back into his home his adult child. It does not matter what actions have taken place; the blatant disrespect does not count, nor does the lying, drunkenness, disregard for others, disappearance for months on end, laziness, lack of dependability…“None of it matters,” in essence said the man. “This is your child, and no matter what he does, you should always provide a place for him.”

The man concluded his argument by looking straight into the father’s eyes and saying, “What would Jesus do?”

And now the hurting father looked into my eyes and said, “I’m not sure I’m doing the right thing. What would Jesus do?”

What would Jesus do? How would He respond? What steps would He take?

The Bible gives us at least two hints.

One.        He left the safe flock of sheep, went into the night, and brought home the wandering one.

Two.     He plaited a whip and drove from the temple the money changers who were disrespecting God’s house, who were making it a den of thieves.

Since my conversation with the troubled father a day or so ago, I have thought much about this subject, and, trying to be objective and fair have considered: “What would Jesus do?”

I believe He would do as did my friend, for He is a loving, kind Father. But He is not a wimp, and although His teachings include “turning the other cheek,” and “giving away a coat,” it also encompasses driving cheats from the temple, and saying to the rich young ruler. Give away your riches, or you can’t walk with me. And when the young man could not make that dedication, he walked away–sorrowfully, yes–but he walked away. Nowhere in scripture do we find that Jesus ran after the young man, saying, Oh now I’ve changed my mind. If you find my sayings too hard, just ignore what I previously said. Just do what you can. Come on now and walk with me.

It’s a grievous subject, one that causes deep inside weeping as I write. I know we have spoken of this before, but today it weighs heavily on me.

What do you think? What would Jesus do?

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“Tell the Gang Hello”

Jerry had to go to his doctor’s (in California)  for a routine check-up, so Wednesday night after church here in Lake Havasu we drove to Crestline and spent a couple of days in our home there. I went down to Redlands with him on Friday and while he was with his doctor I popped over to WalMart and to Berean Bible Book Store.

Anticipating that a gaggle of family members will find their way to our house for Thanksgiving, I filled my WalMart basket to the brim–paper towels, tp, laundry detergent, apple juice, soft drinks, cocoa, yeast, canned goods….and the like. Only one person was behind me in the checkout line–a gentleman in a wheelchair. My checker was a somber, slow lady, looking over my purchases, then, in a sauntering way, reaching here and there for an item that would fit nicely into the bag she was filling. Once from the corner of my eye, I saw the gentleman behind me back up his chair, as though to change lines, then, I suppose having a change of mind, pulled it back in line behind me. I smiled at him.

Finally there was a space on the counter behind my groceries, and there the gentleman placed three small items. “Yours is easier than mine,” I said to him.

“Yes, I’m buying only for myself. Looks like you have quite a gang there.”

“I do,” I responded. I thought to tell him there really is only Jerry and me, that we live up in Crestline, and that mostly these days we are in Lake Havasu, but that we have a large family and I’m hoping many of them will come for Thanksgiving, and about the week I just had with some of the grandkids…but I didn’t say anything. Just stood there thinking. Thinking of my great family…and wondering about the gentleman in the wheel chair. Did he have family? Children? Live nearby? Spend Thanksgiving together? A rather lonely air accompanied him.

I paid the clerk, took the receipt she handed me, and before I placed my hand on my basket to push it away, I turned to the gentleman. “Hope you have a good day.”

His face brightened. Then he spoke. “Tell the gang hello for me. Tell them hello”

Brought up short, I paused for a minute, then responded. “I will. I will tell them.”

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Camping Out at Granny and Pappy’s

Jerry picked me up at the Ontario Doubletree in the early afternoon of Saturday; crouching down and trying to hide was Nathaniel, Rebecca’s son.

“Hey, what’s this?”

He grinned and said, “I’m going home with you, Granny. Pappy said.”

“What about school, Nate?”

“Spring-break, Granny.”

And so he’s here in Lake Havasu with us. He’s a 12-year-old bruiser now, wearing size 12 shoes. Yep, size 12. He brought a sleeping bag and his pillow with him, and on Saturday and Sunday evenings, he flipped out the sleeper-couch in the motor home, threw down his bedding and slept well.

He and Chloe, Andrew and Shawnna’s eldest, text a lot, and once on Monday, she told Nathaniel that Gentry,  Andrew and Shawnna’s second-oldest, was coming with his dad. Work has been scarce for Andrew in San Diego, and at times he has been forced to travel out of town to have work. Mike has lots of work here in Lake Havasu, so Andrew was scheduled to come in on Monday and work the rest of the week for Mike. Now, Nathaniel was telling me that Gentry also is coming…Recall that we live in a motorhome.

Come to find out, Gentry’s coming was supposed to be a secret from us, and a few hours before Andrew arrived Jerry called and asked him, “Are you alone?”

“Me and the desert,” was the reply.

But when we opened the door around 9:30 Monday night, right behind Andrew was  11-year-old Gentry. Happy semi-surprise. Soon though, it was bedtime. Hmmm…. Worked out fine this way: Andrew sleeps on the couch; sleeping sideways on the floor with lots of cover is Gentry, lengthways on the floor in his bag, sleeps Nathaniel. Looks like this in the mornings when they have stashed their things in the driving area of the rig.


Rebecca is coming tomorrow for our anniversary services which begin Friday evening.

She is NOT sleeping at our place, though. Enough is enough; she’s planning to beg a bed from her brother, Michael. 🙂

Several years ago when I was visiting with my friends, the Flowers, and we were having a discussion about families, he mentioned how he loved visiting with his children. “I’d rather sleep on the floor at my kid’s house, than have to stay in a motel when we visit them.” I’ve never forgotten his saying that, and generally speaking, I concur, knowing too that sometimes there just is not enough room and other arrangements must be made.

Come to think of it, Rebecca could probably stretch out on the dash. It’s nice and padded, and then, too, the kitchen floor has enough room to throw down another sleeping bag.


My devotional blog is here.

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“Unconscionable,” Says Octuplet’s Grandmother

“To have them all is unconscionable to me. She really has no idea what she’s doing to her children and to me.”

So says the mother of Nadya Suleman, the woman who last week gave birth to octuplets, and whom, it has been learned, already had six children. According to her mother, Suleman contributes no money to the support of her six children. They live in a disheveled three-bedroom home. All the children were conceived through invitro fertilization with the aid of a sperm donor; there is no father present.

“I’m really angry about that,” Angela Suleman said of the doctor’s decision to perform the procedure.

“She already has six beautiful children, why would she do this?” Angela Suleman said in videotaped interview. “I’m struggling to look after her six. We had to put in bunk beds, feed them in shifts and there’s children’s clothing piled all over the house.”


This is an outrageous situation. Although I am cautious concerning government intrusion into private lives, I’m convinced these children are at risk, and, likely, a case can be made that they are being mistreated. Babies are charming and appealing: They are not dolls, though, to be bought and fondled, then when their newness wears off, shuttled aside while a new one (or eight) is grown. These are little people with feelings and emotions and cavernous needs. Think of those eight tiny ones lying in the hospital at this moment, their infinitesimal purple bodies poked with needles and insulted by tubes. And…according to her mother…Suleman cannot even care for the six she already had, when, seemingly because of her obsession with having babies, she had live embryos implanted into her body.

What doctor would have engaged in such an action as this? How did she afford these services? Is this medical malpractice? Is it any of my business?

I say it is my business…because of the children; the six she had already, and the eight she has added to her life. It should not happen again. God help these children, the mother and the grandparents.

Video of Nadya Suleman and the octuplets here.

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On The Second Night of Christmas

“Granny, we’re not cold.”

And so it seems they were not, even though much of the day was sliced with knife-edged wind, intermittent rain, and then finally in the evening two inches more of snow. The black trash bag full of dsc_0014boots of all sizes and sorts had been taken from the basement to thedsc_0016 garage, and each child was responsible for finding a pair to fit his feet, and to scurry up suitable jackets and snowpants. I had intended to go out for a while and take pictures, but it was so cold and blustery, that the extent of my snow adventure was to take a few steps onto the front deck, so that I could snap a frame or two of the youngsters playing in the front yard.

“It’s freezing out here,” I complained as, with my camera, I turned back to the house. And because of my wimpiness, I didn’t get any good pictures of them in the snow.

It really was miserable, and I was shocked that they stayed out in it for the better part of an hour, finally coming in and stripping off their soaking clothes. Shawnna, dsc_0025busy mom that she is, spent a great part of her day drying clothes, and handing out fresh things. Brady gave me a hand at the chopping for turkey tetrazzini…sans pants!

We have a snowsuit that would fit baby Ella, but she has a terrible cold, so she stayed inside, spending much of the day on Pappy’s lap. dsc_0032The green? She’s a budding artist, and is quite taken with markers–found a green one somewhere and painted her face.

Andrew had gone early in the morning to work with Adam at Wrightwood, and as he left San Bernardino to come back up the hill in the evening, he stopped to pick up Nathaniel, as Rebecca isn’t coming up until today, and the cousins here were frantic to have him up here NOW!

We were waiting dinner for them, and it was past 6:00 o’clock when Andrew and Nathaniel finally arrived. “That was the scarriest trip I have ever had in my entire life,” Andrew said. “We had thick heavy fog all the way up the mountain. Couldn’t even see the middle line, a complete white-out.”

“Granny, I was holding onto the dash, shaking, I was so scared,” Nathaniel chimed in.

Not long after dinner when we had cleared up the kitchen again, we heard noises from outside, and when we opened the glass door to see better, we saw coming down sleet and icy rain, mixed with snow. Finally it was just snow, adding to the sparkling, pristine mounds we have already.

Ipods are the talk of the big dsc_0037boys around here…and the little ones, too, I suppose. Before bedtime, they were gathered about one of the computers as Andrew helped them with some downloading.

In cycles, we all went to bed; first Ella Claire, then Pappy, then Brady and Cole, then about 10:30 the big ones were marched off to their sleeping places, and only left were Andrew, Shawnna and me. We didn’t linger long, though. One by one, I turned off the lights, then found the way to my bed in our darkened bedroom. For awhile I listened to the wind, envisioning what I could not hear; slanting snow blowing into the tall oak limbs, and a glorious accumulating, that come morning, would no doubt rest in the extended arms of the fragrant pines.

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On The First Night of Christmas

“Jerry, I’ll probably talk myself out of it, but I’m considering making cinnamon rolls.”

“You what?”

“I’m thinking of making cinnamon rolls.”

It was around 6:00 Sunday evening. Jerry and I sat before a blazing fire in our home in Crestline.

The day had started early, and with a fast pace we had moved; through loading all the wrapped presents and other paraphernalia from the motor home into the car, the Sunday morning church service, good-byes and Merry Christmases to all there, then another stop at Walmart for the final stash of milk and meat that we would need in Crestline. The roads were a mess, neighbors had told us, so I wasn’t counting on making any quick trips down to the store once we got home.

We probably weren’t 50 miles out of Havasu when we started seeing snow. First it was visible on the distant mountain peaks, then shortly there were patches beside the road, and by the time we were 50 miles east of Barstow on Highway 40, there was massive snow everywhere, finally coming right up to the freeway edge. I have never seen such wide-spread snow in that high desert area.


No one could have a better neighbor than we do in Ken McDaniel, who lives directly across from us. After the second recent snow, he cleared our driveway, knowing we would be arriving.

“Shirley, it is so thick, and its been so cold, that the bottom layer is ice, and I wasn’t able to get it completely cleared,” he warned a few days ago as we spoke on the phone.

A couple of runs at it were required, but about 3:00 in the afternoon as Jerry adroitly managed the spinning tires, our trusty four-wheel drive Jeep responded properly, and in a few minutes we were inside our garage.

Up the garage stairs all that stuff must be carried: we considered leaving it because we knew some strong youngsters were scheduled to make an appearance in a few hours, but we flexed our muscles, called up resolve, and managed the whole thing ourselves. Finally, our kitchen was mounded with grocery bags, the inside stairs were covered with the wrapped packages, the laundry was propped beside the washer, and Jerry and I wilted into chairs. I brewed a strong pot of coffee, and before I tackled storing all those groceries, and starting the laundry, I sat before one of our glass doors and admired the “winter wonderland” in which we would spend a few days. I believe this is the most snow I’ve seen since we’ve lived here. The last storm alone dropped 18 inches, and atop what had fallen only days before, we have between 3 1/2 and 4 feet of snow. The berms are massive.

Anyway, here it was about 6:00, the groceries were stored, our personal things had been put away, I had started the laundry, and I had this wild idea to make cinnamon rolls.

“Why do you want to make cinnamon rolls now, Shirley? You’re going to wear yourself out.”

“Oh, I was just thinking of Andrew and his dsc_0020family driving up from San Diego and how neat it would be if when they get here around 9:00 or 9:30, hot cinnamon rolls would be waiting for them.”

I didn’t talk myself out of it, and about 9:15 when they roared up the driveway having to make a couple of runs at it as we had, I was just putting the cinnamon rolls in the oven.

Pappy already had on his robe when up the garage stairs Andrew’s five bounded. Chloe was the first to get a hug.

Christmas has begun!


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That’s Not Balderdash

Jerry, bless his heart, sat in the living room, at various times through the evening reading the newspaper, studying the Bible, and playing with the grandkids, while we heathen people circled the table in the dining room roaring with such laughter that sometimes speech was impossible and warm tears were loosed. Balderdash was the culprit, surely the most uproarious game ever invented. Jerry, poor thing, is just not into games that much, somehow missing the crucial gene that sets the body to a quiver as someone calls, “Who’s up for a game of Balderdash or a round of Rook?”

“Guess what time I came to bed,” I said to Jerry this morning.

“It was two or three o’clock, Shirley. I know for I was still awake.”

“It was not! It was only 1:30.”

“Well, I couldn’t sleep. Every time I dozed off, your yelping would wake me up.”

“Sorry…” I weakly apologized. For from such a pure and righteous heart as mine, how could I spit out a sincere sorry for having so much fun on a Thanksgiving evening with my grown children as we circled a table, some so overtaken with glee as to fall from their chairs to the floor, the hours punctuated by nibbles of ham sandwiches, pumpkin pie, and buttered yeast rolls.

A couple of years ago, I wrote of our playing the game Balderdash, that I didn’t have a set of my own, and that I was hoping Santa would deliver on my wish. He did, and since we’ve been home in Crestline this week, I have staggered to bed past the 12:00 witching hour three nights in a row, having engaged in hilarious rounds of this wonderful game.

Unique joy and silvered memories are inextricably linked to family holiday games, where for the day or the evening are laid aside mundane chores, wearisome work schedules, seemingly unsolvable problems, and in their places are set laughter and hope and love.

That’s not balderdash!

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Happy Thanksgiving!

3:45 Thanksgiving Afternoon

I’m thankful:

That after the delicious dinner we just finished eating, my children chased me away, and from my spot here on the couch in our bedroom I hear animated and lively conversation amidst the rattle of pots and pans as they clean the kitchen.

dsc_0050I’m thankful that since Sunday evening when we drove from Lake Havasu we have had 15 family members visiting here in Crestline, that we have so many youngsters and, that, for our Tuesday evening dinner,  Chloe and Nathaniel created beautiful centerpieces for our dining table.


I’m thankful that our bedrooms are all full and that the study floor looks like this:

dsc_0073I’m thankful for wood-chopping and for the boys who carried the pieces up the front stairs and made a fine stack just outside the living room door.

dsc_0086I’m thankful for Sage who wanted to help, but found it too cold, so she watched from the top of the deck.


I’m thankful for wrestling in the living room, for youth and strength.

dsc_0143I’m thankful for God, for Jerry and for the rest of my family, including these little ones who last night piled all their toys on Pappy’s lap.


And for you, my friends,  I wish much joy and happiness.

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Some Books I Know

That I can recall, the first episode of my life concerning books is when I was three years old, and I suspect I wouldn’t remember that except for the dead horse that lay near the gate. It was gray. We had gone to visit friends who lived in the country around Springfield, and the sight of that huge animal must have shocked me, so that it forms my earliest memory. (I was surprised to read somewhere a few days ago that a gentleman has faint memories of his birth, and when I mentioned that fact to Andrew he spoke of knowing someone who has a similar memory…an interesting topic for another time.)

Anyway, there was the amazing dead horse near the gate of our friend’s home, and later in the day, I crawled under their front porch–a high porch–and there I found an old book. I hauled it out, and of our hosts who were sitting with my parents on the porch, I asked if I could have the book. My dad protested, and there followed the first course in social graces that I can recall, “Shirley, you don’t ask people to give you things.”

I couldn’t read at three, I know that, but what has developed into an enthusiasm and attachment to the printed page must have begun early in my life…and continues…and around me at all times are lots of books. Usually books bring me pleasure, but through the years they have also been sources of grief, such as times when I turned them in late at the library and must pay a fine.

“Once, I lost a book and was scared of the library for a while, that is, until I got the money together to pay for the mysteriously vanished tome. I don’t know if I thought the librarian would send a policeman to my door or that someone would snatch me off the bus one Saturday in order to extract the price of that book. What a relief when I had paid the debt and again could stride up the central steps and check out more books.” From my book, Road Tales.

My favorite childhood book was The Boxcar Children, and I cannot tell you how many times I read that account of a family of orphans who settled into a boxcar to live. The illustrations were vivid black and white cuts, but I suspect I would have seen them had there been no pictures, for in my mind, they were alive. I walked with them as they prowled about a dump to get dishes and pots and pans, and as sickness befell them. Many years ago, when we were still pastoring in Rialto, I found and bought an old copy of that book, but alas, I took it to our school there, and somehow it never returned home. That saddens me, for I wish I had that copy back.

My second favorite was actually a group of books, biographies of great Americans: scientists, inventors, social workers. I have three old ones at home in Crestline, and one day I will take a picture and show them to you. I loved those books, and as I write here I remember learning of Jane Addams through that series. I even recall the opening pages that told of her being a small girl sweeping the porch and the wind kept blowing leaves to the spot she had cleared. You may know she formed the Hull House in Chicago.

A few weeks ago I saw in a thrift store a sign that read: All Books 10 cents each. My heart thumped, my hands were eager, but my mind put the skids on my plans to fill a basket: Remember, you live in a motor home. Okay, okay, I snarled at the sensible section of my brain, and came home with just a small stack.

Some years back, I made an attempt at counting the books in our home, and came up with a number around 3000. We probably don’t have that many now, for I’ve earnestly tried to downsize lots of things. When we first moved into our Rialto home, we had beautiful library shelves built in what was designed to be the living room, but which we called the “piano room,” for in there we had a grand piano, a couch, a desk, and hundreds of books. When Jerry retired from pastoring, we put our things in storage for four years and traveled extensively in our motor home. After that, we purchased our Crestline home, which didn’t have enough shelves for our books, but we’ve installed shelves since then. From the time we took our things from storage, I’ve been culling our books, but I must confess there are still boxes of them in the basement.

Why then did I come from the thrift store with these?

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School Supplies

In Springfield, Mo. where I grew up, our school started in September, right after Labor Day, if I recall correctly, and since our family never had an abundance of money, I suspect it was probably not August when we bought our school supplies, but more likely, it was the days just before the opening bell that we went to the store to buy these treasured items. That jaunt was one of the highlights of my year, for I loved school and everything that went with it, and I recall my delight when I became the owner of such precious items. It’s probably accurate to say a kind of euphoria overtook me at these times.

A couple of days ago when I went into our new Super WalMart here in Lake Havasu and passed through the school section, I spied a Pink Pearl eraser tucked in the company of scissors and paper clips and glue. I stopped, fingered the eraser package, and my thoughts flared and carried me to those long-gone days when, with my mother, I stood by such shelves, and made my selections. Pink Pearl was my brand. I bought one on Monday–actually two–for that’s how they were packaged.

Clearly, I think of Big Indian Chief tablets, and though I don’t recall seeing any in stores in recent years, I do find they are still manufactured, at least in limited form. Covers of dark red with an Indian chief in full dress feathers protected the wide-ruled sheets beneath. They weren’t of the spiral ring style, but were glued at the top with a black band. There was a line to write the name of the owner of this fine pad of paper. Maybe I bought other tablets, but I don’t remember any of those, just red Big Chiefs.

School supplies have a unique scent, especially school paste, which emits a savor of peppermint–and to tell the truth–a taste of peppermint. I know, for in our school, we all occasionally took a nip of the white, smooth stuff. Distinctly adding to the school aroma is that of a newly opened box of crayons, pristine and unbroken, their sharp points a flare of blended colors. So careful would we be of our new crayons, and what a sad moment when the first one broke, or became so worn down, we had to peel away the paper covering, and finally they weren’t even kept in their own container, but were dumped helterskelter in the pencil box.

I racked around in my brain this morning, trying to remember my  pencil boxes, but I just couldn’t bring up any images. I bobbed around on the internet, looking at pencil box images, and despite my extended surfing, I did not find a pencil box that seemed familiar.

Until…I recalled cigar boxes. Now, I’m not at all sure where I would have come to possess a cigar box, for neither my dad, and certainly not my mother, smoked cigars, but that’s what I used to store my school supplies; cigar boxes.

I realize now that I love cigar boxes–love the way they look, and the slightly wicked aroma that accompanies them, and the fact that for all my years in elementary school, I stored my school supplies in a cigar box. It’s strange, I have no recollection of how I came to possess such an item…and how about the other kids who also used cigar boxes?  Where did we get them? Maybe we went to the drug store or the grocery store and asked if we could have the empties. I don’t remember.

Once I visited in the home of my friend Barbra Day; she opened a drawer, and several pencils were there.

“Whose pencils are those?” I recall asking her.

Nonchalantly, she replied. “Oh, anybody who wants them.”

I was impressed with that, for in our home, there weren’t pens or pencils just laying around, or a supply stash somewhere. We had our own items, carefully tucked away in our boxes.

The pencils we used gave a strong scent of cedar when we sharpened them at school, and if our lead broke while we were at home, we used a kitchen knife to fashion a point. Often my pencil eraser would wear out before the pencil was used up, and the metal ring that clasped the eraser would dig into the paper where I was attempting to annihilate my errors.

Watercolor sets were furnished by the school, and when they handed to each of us a metal pan with pats of color, and sheets of paper, and little brushes, we budding artists (and non-artists, such as I) enthusiastically began our work. On very special occasions would the teachers bring out the easels, pots of poster paint and big floppy brushes to accommodate our artistic bent. I remember yet how fine it was to dip my brush into a jar of brilliant paint, and blaze it over the eager white paper.

Impossible for me to explain is my fascination with Dorothy Lynch’s (whom I don’t recall seeing since 6th grade in Bailey School) notebook paper. I probably have never mentioned this to a soul until this moment, for it can’t be explained, but there was something about her paper that I liked. It had a certain “tooth,” I guess one would say. It was a little rough–not like newsprint–but not slick like ordinary notebook paper. Strange memory.

There is much to be said for Big Box Stores and WalMart and KMart and Target where one can buy bundles of Bic pens and cartons of yellow pencils and bags of assorted-color plastic paper clips and made in China pencil boxes. There is much to be said for affording the finest watermarked paper and Montblanc pens, and Fahrney Pelikan pens which can be purchased at a discount rate of $1,418.00. There is certainly much to be said for being able to easily buy school supplies for one’s children.

But there also is much to recommend striving, and for the cherishing of materials which is brought about by the understanding of their limited supply.