BEAUTY FROM ASHES

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.… to comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve in Zion- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair…” Is 61: 1-3

For three years we have held to the promise and hope of “beauty from ashes”. Sometimes our grip slipped a bit and we were afraid we’d let go, but we held on. It has been a bumpy ride at times; some days it seemed we couldn’t stop crying, just couldn’t make another step. It’s still that way, but those times seen to happen less frequently, and the duration is shorter.

We still miss Carter terribly and long to see him, hold him and watch him play. His memory will never leave us nor do we want it to. So today we will pay tribute to Carter and honor his life. We’ll remember how precious he was and I think Robin and I will be in Clam Bayou at 3:08 this afternoon to drop some flowers in the water.

But I will also breathe a prayer of gratitude for living long enough to see the fulfillment of His “beauty from ashes” promise.

Phoenix

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O.W. CHAMBERS AND O.W. REED

Olen Wesley Chambers (my paternal grandfather, also known as “Big Daddy”) was born May 13, 1906.  Olivia Walker Reed was born May 13, 2020.  It’s interesting to me that my grandfather and my granddaughter have the same birthday, separated by 114 years, and the same initials.

When I think about Big Daddy and all the changes he saw in his lifetime I’m amazed.  He lived through the Great Depression with a family to feed and care for.  Daddy was born in 1929 so technically he lived through the depression also, but probably doesn’t remember too much about it since he was so young.  But most all of the conveniences we take for granted came about during Big Daddy’s lifetime.  The telephone was invented in the late 1800s but wasn’t common in many houses until much later; same is true for electricity.  Cell phones were not even a dream on the horizon and now kids have their own phones.  Social media, the internet, even the computer, not even in Big Daddy’s field of view or imagination.  He knew farming, plowing with mules, hard work and long days.  I remember when Big Mama and Big Daddy enclosed their back porch and put a washer and dryer there.  Until that point Big Mama did the laundry in the basement with an old washing machine similar to this:

1930s washing machine

Then she hung the clothes outside on a line to dry.  Even Mama hung clothes outside to dry for many years and I can’t recall exactly when she got an “inside dryer”.

Thinking about all of the changes in Big Daddy’s life makes me wonder what little Olivia will see during her lifetime.  Technology is developing so rapidly I can’t even conceive what she will experience and see.

I remember my employer building and furnishing an entire room with seating for around 20 people for video-teleconferencing.  It cost a lot of money and in its day was pretty sophisticated.  Now, as we’ve learned from the COVID-19 pandemic anyone with a computer can host a meeting on Zoom (or a similar platform) and the App is free.

So, no, my imagination just won’t carry me far enough to dream things this baby girl will see in the next 100 years or so.  But it’s exciting to think about it.

*NOTE:  After posting the above, I learned of the death of Ravi Zacharias yesterday .  In my opinion, Ravi was one of the century’s most prominent Christian apologists and I would put him right beside Chuck Colson and C. S. Lewis.  I never had the opportunity to hear him speak, but I’ve watched him on You Tube many times and have a couple of his books.  He was remarkable, and somehow, the world seems a little empty today. Rest in peace, Ravi.

MAY 19, 1982

Thirty-eight years ago today our first child was born. It was a long day of labor for Robin to finally end with a C-section late that night. I don’t have access to old photos or I would put her baby picture in the post. But here she is now, with her new baby, Olivia.

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Their birthdays are just six days apart so we’ll celebrate May birthdays. We seem to have birthdays in clumps in our family. July, December and now May have multiple birthdays in each month. We’re going to their house later this morning and Robin is going to make fresh biscuits for Katie’s breakfast (her favorite food). It is a rare treat for us to be with Katie on her birthday so today will be very special. We are unashamedly proud of our daughters, their husbands and children.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, KATIE!! I love you very much!!

 

ANSWERED PRAYERS

In his 1991 number 1 hit “Unanswered Prayers”, Garth Brooks sang “some of God’s greatest gifts are answered prayers”.  And while I agree with the statement and premise of the song, ANSWERED PRAYERS are great gifts from God as well.  Olivia Walker Reed was born this morning at 3:12 am EST at the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.  She was 8 lbs and 13 oz, 21 inches long and Mother and Daughter are both doing fine at this time.

She arrived in a hurry; Katie had been having contractions throughout the night, but apparently early this morning woke Joshua when her water broke.  She was carried to the hospital by ambulance and Olivia was born in the ER.  They didn’t have time to get to Labor and Delivery and Joshua didn’t make it in time to be there when she was born.  But as he said the important thing is she is here and healthy and Katie is fine.

I don’t know how many people have been praying for this day to come, but I know it is a BIG number and I know how grateful and happy we are.  Now if we could just get our hands on her…..  But that day will come soon; for now, we are just thankful!

PANDEMICS AND CHANGES

I was thinking earlier today about the changes we’ve seen resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.  We’ve had to learn new words and phrases like “new normal”, “social distancing”, “stay-at-home”, “safer at home” …  We’ve had to learn new ways to live and new habits like never leave home without your face-mask and gloves, stand on the “X” in the check-out line, have food delivered or pick it up and take it home.  It’s all about avoiding people instead of socializing and being close to people.  I’ve never seen anything like it in my lifetime, but throughout history there have been other horrible pandemics that the human race has somehow managed to survive.  Three in my lifetime are: 1) 1957 Asian flu which had a second round in 1958 that killed an estimated 1.1 million people worldwide; 2) 1981 HIV/AIDS Believed to have developed from a chimpanzee virus in West Africa in the 1920s the disease moved to Haiti in the 1960s then to New York and San Francisco in the 1970s.  Treatments have been developed to slow the progress but no cure, resulting in 35 million deaths worldwide.  3) 2003 SARS Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome believed to have started in bats and spread to cats and dogs then to humans in China and 26 other countries resulting in 774 deaths.  (Source: history.com).  These and earlier pandemics have altered life in some ways.  Bubonic plague, smallpox, several outbreaks of influenza have brought significant changes in the medical world for vaccines and treatments of the diseases.  I’m sure this one will do the same.

But I wonder about the long-term social aspects of the disease when the worst is over.  Will we still be “social-distancing”, wearing face-masks and gloves?  Since we’ve been in St. Pete now for more than a week Robin and I have not touched or hugged our daughter and son-in-law; we knew when we came that we would have to stop at gas stations, rest areas, restaurants and even though we were masked and gloved anytime we were out of the car we all agreed that the safest thing to do would be “quarantine” for two weeks after arriving here.  For the safety of our family and our new granddaughter it was the right thing to do.  We have visited on their patio always staying a safe distance away.  But it’s hard; I want to hug my children and grandchildren and my Mama and Daddy.

I hope a vaccine can be developed sooner rather than later; some things are just too precious to give up completely forever.

MOTHERS’ DAY 2020

This is a different Mothers’ Day as we anxiously wait for our daughter to deliver her second child. “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her. Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all. Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Giver her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”

This is the conclusion of “The Wife of Noble Character” in Proverbs 31; and while all of the verses are important these seem to be more reflective of a mother being a mother. In our society some mothers do not live up to the high standard of being a mother (dads either, but that’s a different day). It’s such a blessing to see and hear our daughters talk to their mother about “mother things”; all I can do is listen. It is a subject of which I know nothing except through observation. I’ve observed two of my great-grandmothers, my grandmothers, my mother, my wife, my daughters and my mother-in-law, (who treated me as a son) as they set a high bar for motherhood. It’s the only kind of mother I know anything about; and I guess it would be easy to take that blessing for granted. But I hope I NEVER do that! I could even extend that to aunts and cousins in my family. But I’ve heard stories about other kinds of mothers; mothers who can’t live up to the honor of being called “Mother”.

I’m blessed to still have my mother with us; Robin misses hers terribly and would like nothing better than to share the excitement with her of a new great-granddaughter, or as she would call her, “my littlest angel”. Although I won’t get to see Mama this weekend, you can bet I will talk to her. I want to give her (and all the other mothers in my family), “the reward she has earned” and “praise her at the city gate”. HAPPY MOTHERS DAY ladies! I love all of you so much!!

OVER THE RAINBOW (PART 2)

In a post on April 15 I closed with the following line: “’Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue’; I can’t wait”.  Yesterday was our moving day and as you can see below, skies are really blue.  This photo was taken from the patio of our home away from home for a little while.  We haven’t seen Katie and Joshua yet; self-imposed quarantine after our drive down yesterday.  We have discussed a “patio party” where we can visit from a distance and maybe share a meal together.  And we are still daring to dream our dream as we move closer and closer to baby girl’s arrival.  All is well at this time and we are confident it will remain that way.

The move did take its toll, however.  We were determined to drive the distance in a day and not spend the night anywhere.  After we arrived around 9:00 we still had to unload coolers of food and some limited amount of clothes and toiletries.  It was a long and tiring day and Robin has been in bed pretty much all day today.  But she will bounce back after some rest.  But nothing will cure your ailments like the fruition of a three-year dream that is now on the horizon.

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April 21, 1986

My math is a little rusty, but I believe that was 34 years ago; seems like just a few weeks at times. Today is our baby girl’s 34th birthday and that is hard to believe. It is such a great feeling and a real blessing to see your grown children living successful lives. Things were not always easy for Rachel; she worked hard in school and had several obstacles to overcome. She (much like her father) learned many lessons the hard way. I guess that is one reason it is so gratifying to see your adult children living successful and happy lives.

We watch them struggle and overcome those hardships and learn valuable lessons. And we hurt with them and for them when they are going through those experiences. Then we celebrate with them; just like we will do later today. But man! Thirty four years has gone by quickly!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY RACHEL!! I love you so much!

OVER THE RAINBOW

“Somewhere over the rainbow way up high
There’s a land that I heard of once in a lullaby
Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true”

So says the first verse of Judy Garland’s version of “Over the Rainbow”. In the midst of the Covid 19 virus epidemic, I dream of a land where the “skies are blue” and we return to some kind of normal. I doubt that life will ever be the same as it was before this virus claimed the lives of 32,000 people (by the time you read this it will surely be more). So once again, we will be adjusting to a “new normal”. I’ve been hearing that phrase used frequently and I guess that will be the case once we are past the immediate danger phase.

But the song also has a new meaning for our family. We are approximately a month away from welcoming our new rainbow baby girl to the world. “The dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.” We’ve dreamed this dream for over three years and we are so excited, anxious… a mixed bag of emotions. But excited is the one that first comes to mind. Robin and I are preparing to make the trip to St. Pete, trying to get some things done that we’ve neglected for too long, and trying to plan for an extended trip (Will we need this? Should we take that?)

“Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue”; I can’t wait.

IMG_0916Phoenix

THE LOVE OF GOD

Before we were confined to our homes Robin and I had the great privilege of seeing the Gaither Vocal Band with a couple of our friends. It was a great concert and all of us enjoyed it very much. One of the songs they performed was their arrangement of the old hymn “The Love of God”. I had not thought about the song in a while and their arrangement really stayed on my mind for several weeks (it’s actually still there). I was telling Daddy about the song one day and he said you know where that song originated don’t you? I didn’t, so he showed me in a song book. There was a footnote below the song regarding the origin of the third verse; then I wanted to know more about the history of the song. So… from the website nickel-notes.blogspot.com here is a condensed history of the song.

Frederick M. Lehman was a California businessman that lost everything through business reverses. He was forced to spend his working hours in manual labor, working in a Pasadena packing house packing oranges and lemons into wooden crates. Not an ideal environment for writing love songs, but this was the environment the Lord chose to use.
Mr. Lehman was a Christian who rejoiced in his salvation. He was so moved by a Sunday evening sermon on the love of God that he could hardly sleep. The next morning, the thrill of the previous evening had not left him. As he drove to the packing house, the makings of a song began to come together in his head, with God’s love as the theme.
The next day after work he hurried to his old upright piano and began arranging the words and composing a melody to fit them. He soon had finished two stanzas and the melody to go along with them, but now what was he to do? In those days, a song had to have at least three stanzas to be considered complete. He tried and tried to come up with a third stanza, but to no avail. The words just would not fall into place.
It was then that he remembered a poem someone had given him some time before. Hunting around, he found the poem printed on a card, which he had used as a bookmark. As Mr. Lehman read the words, his heart was thrilled by the adequate picture of God’s love they pictured. He then noticed this writing on the bottom of the card:

“These words were found written on a cell wall in a prison some 200 years ago. It is not known why the prisoner was incarcerated; neither is it known if the words were original or if he had heard them somewhere and had decided to put them in a place where he could be reminded of the greatness of God’s love – whatever the circumstances, he wrote them on the wall of his prison cell. In due time, he died and the men who had the job of repainting his cell were impressed by the words. Before their paint brushes had obliterated them, one of the men jotted them down and thus they were preserved.”

Lehman went to the piano and began to voice the words with the melody he had just written. They were a perfect fit. It was a miracle! The song was published – and remains today – with these words as the last stanza.

In later years, the origin of these words became known to Alfred B. Smith, which reveals an even greater miracle in the writing of this song. The original third stanza was written in Hebrew around the year 1000 by Meir Ben Issac Nehoria, a Jewish Rabbi. God, knowing that Lehman was going to write a song, also realized that Lehman would have trouble writing a third stanza and so He chose this Rabbi, who though not accepting Christ as the Messiah did possess the skills to graphically paint a picture of God’s love in words. He would preserve these words and then hundreds of years later He would have them translated by this prisoner into a language that did not as yet exist, namely English.

And to think, He did it in the exact meter to fit Lehman’s melody!

THE LOVE OF GOD

1 The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell.
It goes beyond the highest star
And reaches to the lowest hell.
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled
And pardoned from his sin.

Chorus O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
The saints’ and angels’ song.

2 When hoary time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall;
When men who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call;
God’s love, so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
The saints’ and angels’ song.

3 Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made;
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

Having just celebrated Easter, these words really do drive home the magnitude of God’s love for His creation and mankind.