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IMG_6058Viv Walden

Hope. One syllable. 4 letters.

It seems like as I grow older I see sorrow all around me. Let’s face it. This world is filled with broken people.

Parents see their children walking headlong away from God.  Their shoulders sag with the weight of it all.

A wife loses her husband in what was supposed to be the happy, relaxed retirement years. She is lonely, sad and overwhelmed.

A family faces the death of a beloved child. Cancer has taken another and we are left bereft. Children see their parents grow old and feeble – and sometimes feeble minded as well. It is not easy. We live in a fallen world. Hard and sad things happen

. I wish I could grab handfuls of hope and give them out – like bouquets from an endless meadow. Or pass around blankets of hope for people to wrap themselves in so they could be warmed and comforted.

But hope isn’t something you can hold in your hand. You hold it in your heart. And it is not something that warms your body; it warms your spirit and keeps you alive.

Hope helps you breathe. It helps you get through the day, through all the days. And the place to find HOPE is in the word of God. CS Lewis says it wonderfully. ” Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise. “At present we are on the outside… the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure.

But all the pages of the New Testament are rustling with the rumor that it will not always be so. Someday, God willing, we shall get ‘in’… We will put on glory… that greater glory of which Nature is only the first sketch.”

So if you are looking for true hope that sustains, supports, keeps, encourages and is forward looking, open those ‘leaves’ of the New Testament and find the breaths, whispers, and shouts of hope. This God breathed book beckons to all who are weary and heavy laden. And it shouts, Yes, God is real!  Come, know Him and let Him show you a hope-filled present and a glorious future.

Grandfather’s Woodsboonies

IMG_6597There is a woodsboonie on my kitchen counter, sitting saucily atop the Christmas cactus. Grandfather has given me the heads’ up about woodsboonies.  He was well acquainted with them when he was a boy. So when I saw one here in our kitchen I knew what we were up against. Here is what Gramps told me about the dreaded rapscallions.

“When I was a boy the woodsboonies were characters I played with. To tell the truth, I never saw one, except in my mind. In my imagination they looked like cute, little, funny Irish elves. You’ve seen them working in Santa’s workshop. But I never got anything from them for Christmas; they only brought trouble. If I got caught using Dad’s tools or if I spilled paint, it was the woodsboonies who did it. Unfortunately, they never got my punishment.

They were my imaginary friends …. .no names, just woodsboonies…

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Life with Grandfather

Viv Walden

IMG_5688I call my father in law Grandfather – or Gramps, for short. Today my dear husband took Gramps to the doctor in Bangor while I stayed home and, like a good Maine woman, stacked a cord of wood, did laundry, cleaned the house and baked a cake. All things which I enjoy, by the way.

Going to the doctor, in this case, is not a trip across town.  It takes close to two hours to get from our picturesque town of Greenville (population 1400) to Bangor. So it is somewhat of an event.

Actually, life with Grandfather is an event and today was no different.

He came home from the doctor happy as a lark. As he recounted the day’s events I shook my head.

In the doctor’s office he met the receptionist who was pretty, young, blonde and kind. He found out her name was Deborah.That was enough to get him going. ” Well”, he said,”the first white woman in Greenville was named Deborah. She was my great great great grandmother. She came to Greenville as a widow with three children to take care of her father, Nathaniel Haskell.

Well, she lived there among the Indians and settlers and all. One day an Indian came to the door and demanded some meat to eat. ‘I’ll go ask my father’, she said.  She went upstairs to the small room up there, put her feet in her father’s shoes and stomped around the room, speaking in a deep voice at times.

Then she took off the shoes, came downstairs and told the Indian, ‘Father says, no meat today – and git!’”

So Gramps had a good time telling the receptionist this story and a few others. As he left, he looked back at her, smiled and said, ‘Thank you, Deborah, you have done my testosterone so much good.’  Everyone in the place burst into laughter and Gramps came home a happy man.

Another day in life with Grandfather.

Halloween Past

  • By Karen Casepumpkin-04

    I’ll say it right up front: this writing is not about the philosophical or biblical arguments for or against the celebration of Halloween. I’m not going to address that issue at all. But it was in reading several different folks’ thoughtful writings on that topic that my thoughts took a turn toward Halloween past. And I’m not referring here to the origins of the celebration of Halloween. As the Ghost of Christmas past said to Ebenezer Scrooge, “Not long past – your past.” Only in this case, of course, it’s my past.

    I grew up attending a little church in the foothills of the Catskill mountains of Upstate New York. (And yes, “Upstate” is supposed to be capitalized!) Our church was small, only reaching three digits during VBS week. But we knew how to have fun. And my church had a Halloween party. I don’t think there was any concept of “redeeming” Halloween in anyone’s mind at that time. I’m not sure whether they thought of it as a church outreach, or just wanted the local kids to have a safe place to come that night, but they always had a party. How we looked forward to it! It had everything that could possibly be called “good” at such a gathering, and truth to tell nothing that I can recall of the bad. No ghoulish outfits were allowed, and no one wore them. I wore my dad’s WW2 Army uniform one year, with my hair stuffed up under the cap, and some mascared sideburns. My friend Cathy Hardman showed up one year wearing a striped baseball uniform, and when she smiled, she had a blacked out front tooth. Cool! There were hobos and scarecrows aplenty, and even the grown ups got involved.

    We had bobbing for apples and relay races. Howard Schrumpf, one of the church men, could always be counted on to come up with some really fun games. And he did gospel magic, too, with ropes and things. He was really good! Some years we had hayrides, and there was always hot cider and donuts in the back room of the church.

    My favorite Halloween memory is the time my dad decided to go as an old hag. A new string mop served as his hair, and I have no idea where he got the very generously sized clothes. What fun we had stuffing his chest and his backside with pillows! We had to stop and rest a couple of times, like when his “bottom” pillow fell out of his skirt, and we were too weak with laughter for a moment to help him put it back. He won the “Hardest to Guess” costume award that night – no one figured out who he was. (It helped that he had remained silent the whole evening, using sign language for whatever he wanted.) My wonderful daddy left me with many precious memories, and his night as an old hag definitely ranks right up there with the best. All these years later, it still brings a chuckle.

    Yes, Halloween past – my Halloween past. It wasn’t a bad place to be!

Heavenly Takeaway

IMG_3875by Viv Walden

When I was in Australia I learned that when you order ‘takeout’ or ‘to go’ food, you call it takeaway. I like this – it seems like I am taking it away to enjoy rather than having my meal ‘to go’ which (in my mind) implies something hurried. Anyway, I have been looking for ‘takeaways’ in other aspects of life. It could be from a sermon in church or a song I listen to or a conversation with a friend. I want to carry something with me (albeit in my mind) to savor. I want to marvel, rejoice, skip a little or do a happy dance no one can see except me and God.

My takeaway from last Sunday’s message is this. You are not the only one praying.  And a good thing it is for I fear I am no champion pray-er.

I am sure that at times there are other people praying for me. Surely there is a group of old fashioned ‘prayer warriors’ with my name on their list. I am reasonably certain they bring me before the ‘throne of God’ faithfully. And I think my kids ask God to help Mom and Dad on a somewhat regular basis. And maybe my sisters and brothers pray for me now and then.

But

I am talking about someone praying 24-7. ALL THE TIME. When I’m up. When I’m down. When I can hardly survive the pain of life and when  all is good and I am happy.

My dear husband and I spoke about this just yesterday, both of us with tears in our eyes.  It is a comfort that helped him find peace when our daughter died and it is a truth we both count on. And it is this- Jesus, our high priest, prays for us!  He never gets tired. He never stops. As the Bible says, He always lives to make intercession for us.

I say it to myself, Jesus prays for me. It is overwhelming. It is humbling and reassuring and truly divine.

So that is my unspeakably wonderful, heavenly takeaway from last Sunday.  It has encouraged me all week.

Running with CS Lewis – Distractions, Begone!

IMG_5892by Viv Walden

I sat at a table a while ago with several friends, included among them CS Lewis (via his book of, course, though it seemed like he was there in the flesh). We were reading through the Screwtape Letters, a discipline I had neglected until this time.

And I have been rudely awakened from a stupor I vaguely knew I was in. Here it is. In chapter 1, Lewis mentions the distractions of this life. He talks about the ‘daily press, radio, television and other such weapons’ used to keep people from thinking too much. (Distraction, thy name is media.) Oh, CS, I think, how ahead of your time you were. But really, daily news? Now it is news almost before it happens, and often wrongly reported in the haste to be the first to get the story out. And ‘other such weapons’…….. We are inundated with all types of media fighting for the attention of our minds! Look here, read that, watch this.

What a distracted life I have been living. Often I breakfast with facebook, lunch with youtube and have dinner with the Drudge report.

Or if I am tired of the computer I pick up a book. Nothing heavy, nothing that means anything because I am tired and I ‘need’ to veg.

Thus I have wasted way too much time NOT thinking because, I tell myself, thinking is too painful or too much of an effort and I need to relax.

Really? Is it? Do I?

Clearheaded plain old fashioned thinking is a good thing. Remember when people talked about their daily quiet time and what they meant was a time set aside to read the Bible, think , and pray?  Maybe it sounds outdated. Often worthwhile things do.

So yesterday when I was running and thinking about these things a song I have not heard in years popped into my mind. Perhaps God had something to do with that. I tried to remember the tune and all the words. First comes one line – sung thrice. Be still and know that I am God.

I kept thinking- now what is the fourth line of this verse?  I sang it over quite a few times trying in vain to remember.  And then the tune and the words found their way from a dim memory into a clear (though somewhat off key) song. I sang it quietly.

 Be still and know that I am God.

Be still and know that I am God.

The third line is sung with a decisive ending- the tune itself lets you know this is the end of the verse.

 Be still and know that I AM GOD.

What relief and rest for this weary and way too distracted soul. Our part is to be still and know – His part is to be God.  Distractions, begone. I am pushing you aside to your rightful place.  Today I will purposely face my worries and pain and concerns. Then I’ll just be still – and know and trust He who is God. IMG_5856

This Woman

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by Karen E. Case

It’s hard to believe it’s less than two weeks now until my daughter turns into a vision of loveliness, I do my best not to let my makeup run, and my husband has to answer that fateful question, “Who gives this woman to be married to this man?”

This woman? Who is “this woman?” That’s our little girl he’s talking about. The one who weighed five and a half pounds at birth. Definitely a member of the “small but mighty” brigade. The memories flow by. The toddler who would fix a fierce eye on a mommy eager to give a helping hand, and gruffly exclaim, “Do it meZULF!!!” Singing rounds and learning harmony at bedtime, until her daddy’s voice would call from the living room, “Aren’t you done singing yet? That child needs to go to sleep!” The “daddy dates” she looked forward to so eagerly.

How hard it was not to be too proud of her cute performance in a Christmas play as a 5th grader, and how much harder it was not to be too proud of her command performance at the age of 16, before 3,000 people at James Madison University. And the trip to Texas the next year, all expenses paid, so she could perform at a Christmas banquet. And then on to college and and all its chances to bask in her reflected glory. (Reflected glory is a natural side of effect of having an actor as a child.)

This woman? Still “small but mighty,” still with a bit of a spunky, independent spirit, still dramatic in more ways than one. And one other thing has remained. At about seven, she once brought us a glass of cold water while we were working in the yard, overjoyed to be able to do something that Jesus had commanded. She still has the desire to do what Jesus says. And happily – wonderfully – her fiance James has that same desire. And because of that, tears notwithstanding, we peacefully and joyfully give this woman.