Wednesday, January 26, 2011


There comes a time when we must rest.

Physically, we have no problem understanding this. Surely, we have all been to the place where the effort of putting one foot in front of the other seemed impossible, when we fall asleep as soon as we sit down. So tired that we can feel every bone with their individual aches. Rest is the only thing that will help us, restore us.

By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all His work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done. Genesis 2:2-3.

Emotionally, it's a little harder. The things that drain us emotionally--stress related to family, finances, whatever--is not so easily shut off, lingering with us during what should be our restful times. What should I do? How can I manage that? Will I ever get this done? These questions and others torment us even during our sleep.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30.

Then, there is spiritual rest. The rest that requires us to let go.

All adopted children of God have a burden to fix it, to make things better, to bring in wandering sheep before they are lost forever. It's our job, and we should do it with enthusiastically, passionately, even fanatically. We can't do it continually without resting, without renewing our spirit and our physical health.

Jesus, the Savior, the Word made flesh, had to rest. He knew what a few hours of sitting by the lake or walking in the mountains could do.

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Matthew 13:1

After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Matthew 14:23

Then I heard a voice from heaven say, "Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." "Yes," says the Spirit, "they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them." Revelation 14:13

It's okay. Let it go.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Celebrate Saturday: Trees

And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground--trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:9

Then the trees of the forest will sing, they will sing for joy before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. I Chronicles 16:33

He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. Psalm 1:3

The trees of the LORD are well watered, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted. There the birds make their nests; the stork has its home in the pine trees. Psalm 104:16-17

I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. Ecclesiastes 2:5-6

Be not afraid, O wild animals, for the open pastures are becoming green. The trees are bearing their fruit; the fig tree and the vine yield their riches. Joel 2:22

We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. Acts 10:39-40

Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Revelation 22:14

Friday, January 14, 2011

Folklife Friday: When the Winter Grows Long

I'm tired of winter already, and it is just a few weeks old.

Apparently, the sweltering days of July and August thins our blood or something similar. We just can't stand the cold.

Many years, we have no snow at all. We have had two significant snowfalls already, and the dreaded February isn't here yet. Of course, February may have seventy degree days and tornadoes. We never know. North Alabama weather may be weird, but it is never boring.

Before the technological age, people relied on the Farmer's Almanac and signs to forecast the weather. They had about the same accuracy that digital radar and 24-hour forecasting has today.
Have you heard these?

'If the first week in August is unusually warm,
the coming winter will be snowy and long.'
Has the first week in August ever been cool? Not in my lifetime.

'For every fog in August, there will be a snowfall in Winter.'
I remember my Mom counting the fogs, but I can't remember if it worked.

'Onion skins very thin, mild winter coming in; onion skins thick and tough, coming winter cold and rough.'
Not relevant, since most of our onions come from faraway places.

'If there's thunder during Christmas week, the winter will be anything but meek.'
There was a horrendous thunderstorm here on New Year's eve. That explains everything.

Some more dire warnings of a tough winter:
corn husks are thick and tight...
apple skins are tough...
birds migrate early...
squirrels tails are very bushy...
berries and nuts are plentiful...
bees build their nests high in the trees.

My winter days are spent looking at seed catalogs and thinking about the bulbs and seeds asleep under the snow. Spring always comes.

As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease. Genesis 8:22

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Happy Birthday, Litter Lee

In loving memory of Mary Lynn Stricklin Horton
January 12, 1937-December 2, 1990

She was the same kind of different as me.

My half-sister, Mary Lynn, was my oldest sibling. Her mom died from complications of measles/pneumonia when Mary was about four, and her brother was two.

Before too long, my dad and mom were married, my mom a new bride with an instant family.

My parents lives, like those of everyone we knew, consisted of growing cotton and corn and children.

Their world was very small, immobile, static for generations.

An aunt and uncle had moved to Michigan searching for a better life and had seemingly found it. When the aunt became pregnant, Mary traveled there to help her during the pregnancy. Mary saw how big the world was. She returned home when she was no longer needed. She was never content there again.

There was not a lot of opportunity for social interaction with anyone who was not a relative. People visiting from outside the area always seemed different and exciting. When Mary was sixteen, a neighboring family had visitors from far away Arizona. The visitors had a son, just the right age, and when they returned to Arizona a few days later, Mary went with them as a new bride.

Any marriage based not on love but as a ticket out of town doesn't have much chance for survival. Mary was soon home again. My parents were angry when she eloped. The anger lingered after Mary came home in defeat. She was soon looking for a way out, a new beginning.

We had relatives in northern Indiana, part of the post-World War II migration from the south to the north. Mary, older than her years, went there looking for work. I was very young at the time and was thrilled when she wrote home and said she had found a job as a waitress. In my frame of reference, any job that didn't consist of dirt and heat and aching backs was definitely glamorous and highly desirable.

One year, while she was there at Christmas time, we received a huge box in the mail from Mary with presents for everyone. Mine was a black wallet, and inside, she had placed a one dollar bill, and it was all mine! I can't think any other gift I have received in my life that was as exciting as that one.

Mary spent her life searching. She moved from job to job, from husbands and lovers, never staying anywhere for long, never finding her peace.

I had a child when I was a child of nineteen. Mary came to stay with Hub and me, helping, teaching me to cook and take care of the house. She never had children of her own and sort of adopted our first born son as her grandchild. He would follow her every step. He loved her immensely. When he started to talk, he couldn't quite manage her name. He called her "Aunt Litter Lee".

She became more settled after that, and soon found her soul mate, the first real love of her life.

Soon after they married, she found her greatest love, finally listening when Jesus invited her into the greatest family of all. Her restless spirit was replaced with a gentleness that is rarely seen.

Mary was happy and content for a little while, but unfortunately, her struggle wasn't over.

It all came so fast; the phone call, tears, a lump in her breast, a willingness to fight. The surgery, the chemicals, the waning of a strong body. The enemy consumed the bones, took the energy, but not the spirit.

On a cold December day, first born son, barely a man, so young to learn hard lessons, stood and eulogized his beloved Aunt Litter Lee. She was 53 years old when the battle ended. There is no way to measure the impact of her brief time on this earth.

The Word lets us glimpse into heaven, the perfect place, where we will never hear words like cancer. I think when its my time to cross, that Mary will be there, in front of the crowd to welcome me. We'll hug and giggle, and I'll tell her how hard it was with her gone, and we'll make up the lost time.

We always had a joint birthday celebration; hers is today and mine is tomorrow. I have already had more birthdays than she did, but I never forget hers, these twenty years that we have lived in different places. Happy Birthday, Dear Sis!

For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. Revelation 7:17

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Snow Days

We have snow.

Not our usual look quick or it will be gone snow. Not the occasional dusting of grass. Not the snowfall where there wasn't enough to make even a wimpy snowman. A REAL snow!!

Our last comparable snowfall was in 1988, when my sons were teenagers. I remember it well.

A couple of years ago, Hub and I bought a sled at an auction. First born granddaughter, almost fifteen, just shook her head and said, "The only way we will ever get to use that is to put wheels on it." It has been hanging in the garage, gathering spiderwebs, until now!

All schools were closed yesterday and today, and the county schools may be closed all week. Our county cannot invest in snow equipment that might be used once a decade, so the snow just has to melt on its own in most places. That's okay. We love it!

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Psalm 51:7

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Making a list, checking it twice

It's a new year. Four days old; still an infant.

2011. A number that seemed liked science fiction when I was a child.

It came, like it always does, whether we are ready for it or not.

Almost all of us use the new year as a starting point for our lives that are going to be so different from now on. It is an unavoidable reminder that time marches on and we really should quit putting off the things we want to do.

Like teaching a child something that only you walking at dawn when it is taking time to listen. Like feeling sand between our toes and the sun on our backs. Like wiping away a friend's tears or mingling them with your own.

Instead of planning things we intend to do, perhaps we should list things we refuse to do. For instance, I refuse to let 2011 end without finishing some projects, taking that trip, growing those heirloom tomatoes.

Making goals and writing them down has always been helpful for me. Lists keep us on track and are a constant reminder that something needs doing. It always makes me foolishly happy when I finish a goal and can mark it off the list.

After all, if you don't know where you are going, how will you know when you get there?

Where there is no vision, the people perish....Proverbs 29:18

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Pass the Peas, Please

For as long as I remember, I have always eaten black-eyed peas on New Year's Day. It is just what we do 'round here.

Tradition is important. It's where we came from, even if it doesn't always make sense.

What your dinner consists of may be different from mine, depending on the area of the country you are from. Almost all of them will include black eyed peas. The ubiquitous symbol for good luck, there are many pots boiling right now, hopefully seasoned with a little hog jowl.

This tradition can be traced back to the Civil War. Sherman's troops, stealing and looting every farmhouse and homestead, thought themselves too superior to eat black eyed peas. These peas were first grown as a feed crop for animals and slaves, so the men in blue left the peas in the field. I'm sure the women and children and old men were grateful for anything to eat after their beef and chicken and fruit were stolen.

Some put a penny or dime in their pot of black eyed peas. Tradition has it that the person who gets it in their serving will be the luckiest during the new year. Of course, they could swallow it and choke and croak, which doesn't seem all that lucky to me. To be safe, a person should eat at least 365 peas, one for each day of the new year.

Greens insure prosperity and can be anything from turnip greens, collards, or cabbage. Each bite of greens is said to be equal to $1000.

Corn bread represents good fortune because it looks like gold. Besides, who would want peas and turnip greens without corn bread?

I don't believe in luck. I prefer tried and true promises from God like 'you reap what you sow' and 'there shall be showers of blessings'. Much more reliable than a penny in the peas.

Matthew 5:1-12