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There’s something Southern in my soul

Something in my heart that’s hard to hold
Something in my mind that travels back
To days when I was just a child
When my adventures were dreamed aloud
And my travels were through time and space

 

Rain falling on a tin roof
Kites soaring against a brilliant blue sky
Mud pies baking in the sun
Trees with vines for a Tarzan swing
Something Southern in my soul

Bicycle pumping up the hills
Roller skates with a key
Saturday movies with Lash LaRue
Howdy Dowdy to you, too
Something Southern in my soul

Vienna sausage straight from the can
Pinto beans and cornbread
Light bread and sweet milk
Tomatoes warmed in the summer sun
Something Southern in my soul

Watch out for rattlesnakes and copperheads
You’ll catch your death of polio
Bloody Bones and Bull Moose will get you
Hell, fire, and brimstone
Something Southern in my soul

Cardboard sleds on dirt hills
Train whistles through the pines
Kudzu vining down embankments
Molasses sticking to outing gowns
Something Southern in my soul

Turnips greens with pepper vinegar
Sweet tea with plenty of ice
Watermelon dripping from my chin
Saturday bath night once again
Something Southern in my soul

Rain crows calling in the distance
Sweet potato pies and blackberry cobblers
Honeysuckle vines dripping with nectar
Apples and oranges, nuts and candy at Christmas
Baked ham with crisscrosses and pineapple slices
Something Southern in my soul

Poke salad and collard greens
Black-eyed peas and fried okra
Muscadines and scuppernongs
Fried chicken and the pulley-bone
Something Southern in my soul

Men in white shirts and suspenders
Women with their parasols in the sun
Children going barefoot
Preachers preaching and making the rules
Something Southern in my soul

Coca Cola, Moon Pie, Goo-Goo
Telephone booths and taxi stands
Trailways buses and L&N trains
Walking the rails over the river
Something Southern in my soul

Red porch swing and metal chairs
Morning glory vines climbing the porch
Concord grape vines and making jelly
Feather mattresses in the summer heat
Peach blossoms floating to the ground
Something Southern in my soul

Wringer washers and clotheslines
Frozen jeans standing stiff at attention
Petticoats, crinolines, and bloomers
Hardhat, khakis, and a carpenter’s apron
Something Southern in my soul

Something Southern in my soul
Has captured my memories and won’t let go
Something Southern in my soul

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Having an abundant supply of something that you may want or need is not always a blessing.   I have often told the story of why I allowed my membership to Sam’s Club to expire. Upon at least two occasions when we lived in Milwaukee, Ken came home with bargains that he just couldn’t resist. The first was a gallon can of chocolate pudding. He said he bought it for me. I explained to him that the gallon container was what institutions such as public schools used in the cafeteria. It was never meant to feed an individual who liked chocolate. Due to its quantity and method of packaging, the contents would start to separate once it was opened. You would still have some pudding, but you would also have liquid as the contents deteriorated. If this gallon of pudding couldn’t be consumed in one meal, it would soon go to waste.  Even I wasn’t up to that challenge.

 

On another such solo venture to Sam’s, Ken brought home a half gallon bottle of soy sauce. I must insert here that I do not cook Chinese food, and we do not get Chinese take out. It remained in our refrigerator for several years until we moved to Alabama. Thinking that it may have turned to sakè, I poured it down our sink in Milwaukee. I am sure there were some fish in Lake Michigan that were swimming in circles once it hit their water.

 

This morning, I awakened thinking about people who work so hard to get ahead, and a lot of things that they accumulate are not truly blessings. They are just things. I thought about the Israelites in the Wilderness who were given instructions on how to gather and use the manna that God provided on a daily basis. If they got too greedy and collected more than they needed, it turned into a putrid mess. However, God instructed them to collect a double portion on the day before the Sabbath, and it remained edible for the Sabbath when  no manna would be provided.

 

A bargain is not a bargain if you don’t need the thing that is on sale. Life is not life if you go through life thinking that the one who dies with the most toys is the winner. A twofer is not always a wonderful find.

 

Matthew 6: 19-21 (KJV)
19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

 

 

 

Blue Skies

“My blood pressure is lower than a kite.”

Sometimes my husband gets his idioms mixed up. I think the saying is “lower than a snake’s belly.” Then, of course, he may not have had the same success that I had flying a kite when I was a child.

When I was young and lived on Chisolm Avenue in Bridgeport, the Purdy family owned the whole city block across from us. Their house sat on a hill on the southeast corner of the block. For many years, it was the only house on their block. Across from our house and down from theirs was a very low area that filled in with water in the spring, and my parents called it the “Milly Pond.” Of course, since they called it that, I still call it that today.

When spring came, I had the most fun catching tadpoles in a Mason jar at the Milly Pond. I would keep them and watch their development. They were so interesting because you could see through their skin and see their intestines. At least, that’s what I think I was seeing. None of them ever made it to the frog stage in my Mason jar. I guess at some point they needed to have somewhere to come out of the water. When the water in the Milly Pond receded, Mr. and Mrs. Purdy (“Sister” Purdy to my mom), planted a garden in the higher part of the Milly Pond. It seemed to be rich soil, and I remember that they grew cabbages and made their own kraut. I don’t remember that they ever shared.

Then came summer! On those long, hot, beautiful days of summer when the skies were bright blue and the clouds were brighter still, I would go across the street to the Purdy’s property and climb the hill toward the southwest corner in the high grass that my father always called “Johnson grass.” I would carry my ten cent store-bought kite with me. Attached to it would be a tail made of various bright fabric scraps that my mother had allowed me to use.

After wading through the Johnson grass, being careful as I walked to look for snakes, I would reach a spot not quite at the top of the hill, turn around, and catch a breeze in the kite by holding it up in the air. I wouldn’t even have to run to get it to rise. I would slowly let the string out from the spool and watch the kite rise higher and higher. Sometimes, it would dip when it reached a pocket of calmer air; sometimes it would almost make a figure eight as winds buffered it from different directions, and it tried to dive. On more than one occasion, I lost a kite because I had allowed it to go to the end of my string, and I could not reel it back in. By that time, it was so high in the sky that I just watched it drift away like a bird that had won its freedom.

Sometimes, on a rare occasion, a nearby persimmon tree ate my kite. I forgave it, though, because I loved to eat its fruit. I learned early in life the true meaning of another idiom–“pucker up.” For those of you who have ever tried eating a persimmon before its time, you know what I am talking about.

Skies were more blue when I was a kid. Clouds were more white. Times were simpler, and I still enjoy the simple things in life. Beautiful memories are free . . .

 

John 3:16-17 (KJV)

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

 

I don’t remember the time when I memorized John 3:16, but it must have been early in my life. It seems that all Southern Baptists were required to know that Scripture verse from toddlerhood, if not from birth. I am sure I was required to memorize it to get some prize at Sunday school or VBS very early in my Christian crawl.

I was really never good at memorizing. One of my two memories of kindergarten at the Church of Christ in my little town of Bridgeport is that of having to sit on a little stool in the corner because I did not know my Bible verse for the day or week. Our elementary school did not have kindergarten. If my memory serves me right, my mother paid fifty cents a week to send me to kindergarten at the Church of Christ. My other memory of going to kindergarten was equally spiritually derelict. I had gotten dressed evidently by myself and had forgotten to take off the bottoms of my shorty pajamas. When I leaned over to play in the sandbox at recess, someone saw my pj’s and began to laugh at me. I was a very shy kid, and the laughter still stings in my memory these six decades later.

I don’t actually remember when I memorized John 3:17 either, but it was in adulthood by my own choice. I couldn’t see telling people that God loves them (John 3:16) without telling them that Jesus wasn’t sent here to condemn them but to save them (John 3:17). People who don’t love God have no concept of a God that loves them, but due to the words and actions of many Christians, they picture God as someone who is ready to condemn them and snuff them out for anything that we as Christians perceive as sin in their lives.

As I lay in bed last night thinking about John 3:17, I thought of how many Jews were not willing to accept Jesus as the Messiah in the New Testament. They would have a big problem with John 3:16-17 because they weren’t expecting the Jesus that God sent to earth. They were expecting a Messiah who would be more like the Jesus that we are expecting to return in the clouds triumphantly.

During Jesus’ time, Israel was under Roman rule, but thanks to Julius Caesar’s proclamation over 40 years before the birth of Christ, Jews were allowed to practice their religion and have their own court system with the Pharisees and Sadducees. They were ruled by Rome, but within their own community, they ruled themselves.

We see evidence of how the Romans ruled in the New Testament. Roman soldiers could compel the citizens of Israel to walk a mile with them to carry all of their goods and equipment. Thus, we see Jesus telling the people if someone asks you to walk a mile with them, walk two. When Jesus was carrying His cross down the Via Dolorosa, we see the Roman soldiers pull “A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus” out of the crowd to carry the cross. To me, just the fact that Simon’s name and family members were known means that they didn’t just pick a man from the crowd to do their will–they chose a known person to carry the cross. All had to obey the Romans. And, in the end, we see the Roman soldiers at the barbaric crucifixion.

Even though the Jews wanted Jesus to die, they also wanted to be removed from Roman rule, and thus they were looking for a Messiah not at all like Jesus who rode the colt of a donkey triumphantly into Jerusalem. They wanted a king on a stallion in full armor with an army to conquer the Romans. They wanted the legacy of Saul and David—a fighting man. Instead, God sent them a teacher, a healer, and a lover of people. They did not receive the only begotten Son of God who came not to condemn them but to give them eternal life. Just like we put God in a box by trying to define Who and What He is, the Jews of the New Testament put Jesus in a tomb because He did not fit their description of a Messiah.

Jesus came to seek and to save when He came to earth as a newborn babe. When He comes again, He will be coming to rule and to reign.

 

 


 

 

Moma’s Hands

408001_3383135777948_1601767203_nMoma’s hands
gathered wood and built a fire
washed clothes in a big kettle of water
scrubbed work clothes and play clothes alike
on a rippled scrubbing board

Moma’s hands
picked cotton until her fingers bled
canned garden vegetables to feed the family
ironed homemade clothes with an iron warmed by the fire
turned flour sacks into dresses

Moma’s hands
diapered the six of us
cooked pinto beans and cornbread to keep us going
protected us from danger
corrected us with a switch

Moma’s hands
wiped away our tears
soothed our fevered brow
pushed us out the door
pulled us back to love us more

Moma’s hands
grew old and crippled
wrote poetry about Jesus
embroidered gifts for her children
folded nightly in prayer

Moma’s hands
though gnarled and crippled
are always in my memory
representing
Moma’s heart.

In 1997, Ken took me on a 13-day Insight bus tour of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. He knew that I had always wanted to see the land of my ancestors, so off we went. Let me state this right up front. Ken, by his own admission is high strung. Some would say “tightly wound.” I have told friends that he is a cross between Barney Fife and Mr. Monk. For me to have been an English major and for him to have been in the newspaper business for all of his career, we often have, like is spoken of in Cool Hand Luke, “a failure to communicate.”

Our bus tour had begun in England and continued through Scotland and had come down the west coast of England to board a ferry to Ireland. It seemed that Insight must have had an agreement with the many woolen mills everywhere we went. We would stop at woolen mills for restroom breaks, to buy snacks, and to shop. I discovered right away that I would not be taking a kilt that Zach had requested back to him. They cost something like $400, and then you needed all the other stuff to be an official kilt wearer. I understand that all that was not needed was underwear.

On 7/17/97, there should have been enough 7’s in the date to bring us good luck. We were in Ireland. We should have experienced at least the luck of tBlarney Castlehe Irish, but we had a major failure to communicate. Our tour took us to County Cork and to the Blarney Castle. Before we got out to tour the grounds and parts of the castle, our guide told us that if we wanted to kiss he Blarney Stone that we needed to be aware that we had to lean out of a window on our back while someone held our feet to keep us from falling. I immediately decided I would not be kissing the Blarney Stone. I did not want to be interred on Irish soil at that early time in my life, and I know Ken would have had me buried right there in County Cork.

The Blarney Stone

As I sat on the wooden wheel, I spotted some tiny white flowers growing high up on the castle.

I was walking around the grounds taking photos. The day was sunny at times and then very cloudy. Ken decided he was going to go kiss the Blarney Stone. There were some large wooden spools or as called them “wooden wheels” that were near the spot where he disappeared out of view. I told him I would meet him there at the WOODEN WHEEL because they said the it might take him an hour to get through the line to kiss the stone. I sat down on one of the spools to wait for him. I waited, and I waited, and I waited. An hour had gone by, and there was no Ken. I began to see others from our bus walking by, and I would ask them if they had seen my husband. No one had. Finally, someone told me he was in the WOOLEN MILL hunting for me.

It turns out that Ken had decided he didn’t want to wait in line for an hour. He had left the line and had gone to find me at the woolen mill instead of at the wooden wheel. When I made it to the woolen mill and found him, to say that he was fuming is to put it mildly.  He declared that I told him that I would meet him there. And, I stated that I told him I would wait at the wooden wheel. That was almost 17 years ago. For 17 years now, when we have had a disagreement about something that has been miscommunicated, I look at him and simply say, “Wooden wheel!”

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I love watching the birds at my bird feeders.  Just watching them reminds me of several Bible verses.

Matthew 6:26 ~ Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

Matthew 10: 29-31 ~ Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.

Luke 6:38 ~ Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your lap. For with the same measure that you measure it shall be measured to you again.

What does that last verse have to do with the first two?  I look at the birds eating freely of the seeds that I have provided for them.  They are being taken care of by the Father through me.  He has given me a caring heart, and they are benefitting from that.  When winter comes, they won’t be able to find food so much in nature, but the food will still be there in the feeders.  If they don’t migrate farther south during the winter, they will keep returning to their source in my backyard to gain sustenance.

It is the same with us as humans.  God has promised to provide for His children.  But, He has also told us to care for and love one another.  We are even supposed to heap coals of kindness upon the heads of our enemies.  When we give, God uses others to bless us.  He doesn’t appear in our presence and hand us a check like Michael Anthony did in the old “Millionaire” TV show from the 50s, but he does use others to be His hands and to share the blessings that He has given unto them.  In Luke 6:38, the verse says “shall men give into your lap.”  In the original KJV, it says that men will give into your bosom.

That verse paints a picture to me of a bushel basket of money, packed as tightly in the basket as possible but running over so much that I have to hold the basket against my chest to keep the bills from flying away in the wind.  You may say that God has never used others to bless you in that fashion.  But not all blessings come in the form of money.  When you give of yourself to help others, that blessing comes back to you.  When you befriend the friendless, that blessing comes back to you.  When you care for the elderly and the young, that blessing comes back to you.  When you feed His sparrows, that blessing comes back to you.

If you want God’s abundant blessings, then you need to become a giver.  The birds at my feeders give me so much pleasure in just quietly watching them that I will keep giving.  The feeling that it gives me to help others gives me so much satisfaction that I will keep giving.  God just keeps packing His goodness down into that bushel basket that it doesn’t matter to me what is in it for me.  I know that what I do must be what is in it for Him.