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Archive for June, 2009

Testimony of Blessings Found in God’s Word (Part 1)

One of the most important ways of growing as a Christian and becoming what God wants us to be is through the study of God’s Word. As I look back through my life, I see how differently I view God’s Word today than when I was a child. One Christmas I received a book of Bible stories. I was about six years old, and had been in Sunday School all my life. I can remember my daddy reading stories from that book. It is a precious memory. When I was a little older, I don’t remember exactly how old I was, but a man and his wife and daughter came to our little country church to hold Bible School. It was truly Bible School for I don’t remember any other activities, not even refreshments. I do remember we were encouraged to memorize the 23rd Psalm. My brother Sam and I both learned it. We had an opportunity to buy a Bible for 50 cents, which we did.
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At our little Sunday School, the one piece of information that was asked and recorded each week was “How many chapters of the Bible have you read this week?” I didn’t want to say none so I started reading my Bible on the way to church. I learned that the Psalms contained a lot of short chapters so I always read from Psalms, and I could truthfully say how many I had read that week. Maybe two or three, depending on how fast Daddy drove to church. However, even with that shallow type of reading, I was hiding God’s Word in my heart. I specifically remember looking up at the stars one night when I was outside alone and the verse from Psalms came to mind:

“When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou visitest him?”

When I became a senior in high school we moved to the big city of Chickasha, Oklahoma, and we attended the First Baptist Church. (I learned later that George W. Criswell had been their pastor before the current one. I wasn’t too impressed because I didn’t really know who Dr. Criswell was, although I later learned he was the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas.) While I was attending that church I went to Vacation Bible School, and the Intermediate Class I attended was encouraged to memorize the Thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians. I memorized it and learned that it is the Love Chapter; it became an important part of my Christian understanding of love.

In later years we moved to Dallas, Texas, and I taught a group of young intermediate girls. Our department head was Juanita Dance. I learned so much from her. She happened to be the sister of Guy Newman, who had been the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Denison when I attended Denison High School. She challenged the group of teachers in her department to memorize the Sermon on the Mount. That happened to be chapters 5, 6, and 7 of Matthew. I had never tried to memorize that long of a passage, but I accepted the challenge. I learned that I could prop my Bible in the window over my sink, and learn several verses easily while I washed dishes. Mrs. Dance gave me a devotional book on the Sermon on the Mount as a reward.

A few years later, we moved to Richardson and joined the First Baptist Church there. Our boys were getting to be old enough for Royal Ambassadors, so I started helping in Girls’ Auxiliary. Each summer the GAs had a day camp where the girls learned the scriptures related to their steps in becoming a Queen. As I helped them learn those scriptures I memorized the verses I was teaching. I was also attending Sunday School with young adult women and I began to notice a difference in the teachers I had. Some of them, although they were lovely people, evidently taught from the Sunday School book and while they seemed to know the content, I sensed that they didn’t necessarily know the whole story. Now and then a certain teacher would teach our class, and it seemed that her knowledge of the Bible came overflowing out of an abundance of studying God’s Word and knowing it so completely. I felt like that first teacher, like one who knew the Bible on the surface and just what I had heard from sermons and Sunday School books and those few scriptures I had memorized.

To be continued . . .
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The Butterfly

One morning, Hannah led me to a butterfly floating in the cat’s water bowl. “Can we save it?” she asked. “I want to keep it for a pet.” Doubtful as to a successful outcome, I replied, “We’ll see.”

I scooped up the butterfly with a slotted spoon, careful not to to touch it’s water-saturated wings. We watched it for some time, until Hannah’s sharp, four-year-old eyes detected an almost imperceptible quiver of it’s body. “See, it’s alive!” she proclaimed. It trembled again, and I cautiously agreed, “Yes, but I don’t know if it will ever fly again.”

Hannah held the spoon close to her t-shirt. With drooping, useless wings, the butterfly crawled from the spoon, and clung weakly to her shirt. “I’m going to take care of my pet butterfly,” she stated confidently. Throughout the morning, I checked on the pair. “Oh, it’s watching television with me!” Hannah exclaimed. Later, I observed the butterfly, now with properly folded wings, as Hannah read a book, and dressed and swaddled her dolls. The butterfly was well-behaved during lunch.

In the early afternoon, Hannah called out, “Mom, my butterfly wants to fly!” Sure enough, the butterfly, still clinging to her shirt, was methodically pumping it’s wings up and down in a flying motion. I explained that it would be difficult to keep alive in the house, and it needed to be outdoors so that it could find some lunch.

In the front yard, Hannah offered a finger to her pet. It perched there for a several minutes, continuing to try out its wings. Finally, it took off, and began a rather wobbly ascent. We waved, and called out blessings as it flew ever-higher. “Have a good life!” “We love you!” “You’re a special butterfly!”

While still in the midst of bidding good-bye to the winged beauty, I detected a fast-flying mockingbird out of the corner of my right eye. In a matter of seconds, the mockingbird gobbled the butterfly for lunch.

Hannah and I turned to face each other in disbelief. Her upturned face also held a question for me: “How does one respond to a situation like this?” Quickly, I realized that I had been handed an opportunity to teach a life-truth.

As we watched the mockingbird fly to a nearby tree, I explained that God has a plan and a purpose for everything. Long ago, He planned that all living creatures would need to eat lunch, and that the mockingbird needed to eat. We discussed that although it didn’t seem fair that our cat ate beautiful cardinals, and that our dog ate the cute toads in the backyard, God still had a plan, and it was a good plan.

We thanked God that He feeds mockingbirds and people. As we walked back into the house, Hannah and I rejoiced that a butterfly had made itself at home on her shirt for an entire morning.

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FOUND: the following important truths in a cardboard box.

SUNDAY SCHOOL TESTIMONY
Sunday School is the main way that I have to learn more about the Bible, and to become better aquainted with Jesus Christ.

I was blessed as a child to have parents that not only encouraged me to attend church and Sunday School, but also attended themselves.

Later in life, my wife, Charlotte, always helped me to keep my interest in Sunday school.

I enjoy meeting with men and women in my own age group, an hour each week, for a thought-provoking study and discussion of the Bible. It helps us to compare modern-life problems to similar situations that happened thousands of years ago. We find that human nature changes little over time.

My number one goal in life is to stay close to Jesus Christ, my Savior and friend. I find that Sunday school attendance offers me the greatest opportunity to deepen and strengthen that friendship.

When I see Jesus, I want to recognize Him instantly. Through faith and study of the Bible, I know this is possible.

~Sam Young

I found Dad’s testimony about Sunday School last week as I was unpacking a multitude of boxes for my mother in her lovely, new home. In a few short statements, Dad honored all the Sunday school teachers that he ever had, his mother and father, and his wife of 54 years.

I’m glad he wrote it, and took the time to staple it in a Sunday school book. I’m glad that I found it. It’s an important part of my inheritance.

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Home Sweet Home?

mcnielcastle
You’re looking at a picture of Kisimul Castle, the family home of Clan MacNeil since the 11th century. The medieval castle is located on the rocky Island of Barra of Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. The stronghold has never fallen to the enemy due to being surrounded by water.

A co-worker of Mark’s recently went kayaking around the waters and islands of Barra, and took a picture of the castle and surrounding bay for Mark. I like historic buildings, and the scenery is stunning. But I what I really want to know is how they keep it warm in the winter. And do they have Internet? And where is the HEB?

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The Spice Man Lives

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I think of The Spice Man often. I remember him when I reach for my large jar of whole cloves to make an orange pomander. I am reminded of him as I dust a fresh grating of nutmeg on quiche Loraine. I think of him when I see the cinnamon stick tucked in the jar of Pickled Lemons, sitting on my kitchen counter.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Mark navigated a ship that transported liquified natural gas (LNG) from Arun, located on the northern tip of Sumatra Island, Indonesia, to Japan. While the LNG loaded, Mark visited the nearest town, Lhokseumawe, to make telephone calls. One day Mark called to ask if I could use a kilo of cinnamon sticks. While walking down the main street of Lhokseumawe, he had found a store that sold whole spices by the kilo. The price was right—just a few dollars— and I decided that foot-long cinnamon sticks would be useful. Over the years Mark also brought home whole nutmegs, whole cloves, black pepper corns, white pepper corns, and whole, licorice-flavored anise. Each kilo package was neatly wrapped in newspaper.

Dozens of preschoolers have rubbed The Spice Man’s cinnamon quills on sandpaper, and delighted in the pungent fragrance. I have given jars of nutmegs, and nutmeg graters to friends. Andrew and Hannah have studded numerous oranges with cloves. One December, Andrew sold orange pomanders door-to-door in our neighborhood. I could afford to be lavish with the spices that The Spice Man provided at such reasonable prices.

As Mark, once again, prepared for the familiar flight to Japan to join his ship, I reminded him to buy additional packages of spices, and to convey my thanks to The Spice Man.

Several weeks later Mark called from Lhokseumawe. He told me that he had found the spice store closed, and had inquired on the street about The Spice Man’s whereabouts. He learned that the man and his family were Christians from India, and that they had made their home in an apartment behind the spice store. One Sunday morning “a gang of Muslim thugs” had broken into their store, and waited in the apartment for the family to return from the worship service. As The Spice Man and his family entered their home, they were murdered.

Stunned and saddened, I contemplated the violent ending of this precious family. They remain the only people in my life whom I know to have been martyred for following Christ.

My neighbor, The Spice Man, was a blessing to me and my family. I don’t know his name, but Jesus does. It is written in the Book of Life.

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Last Friday afternoon, Hannah and I stopped in Calvert, Texas, for lunch. Calvert’s Main Street is home to a slew of antique shops, and, surprise!, one chocolatier extraordinare—Ken Wilkinson.

As we stepped into an elegant building with the name of CocoaModa, our eyes feasted on a gorgeous display of handmade chocolates.Display Case Delightedly, we accepted samples of a mint truffle and a raspberry truffle, each eating half and trading the other half. Without a doubt, we had discovered a unique Father’s Day gift. We spent the next five minutes contemplating and discussing gelees, candied fruit, and 14 flavors of truffles, before actually choosing an assorted dozen of the exquisite, gourmet confections.

Inspired by two heavenly truffles, Hannah and I will visit Calvert again. We plan to tour The Atelier—the chocolate-making factory located across the street from CocoaModa—and learn about couverture, ganache, and French Valrhona chocolate.

The small town of Calvert, located on Texas Highway 6, is about a two-hour-drive from Austin, Houston or Dallas. If you’re not going to be in the area soon, then visit Cocoamoda’s here. You’ll be inspired by the craftsmanship of a master chocolatier.

Cocoa Moda

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One of my sensory memories from childhood is the smell of hamburgers. After Dad changed clothes from working at Whataburger in Corpus Christi, I would follow him outside to watch him water the grass by hand. He held the hose with his right hand while I held his left hand to my face, smelling the hundreds of hamburgers that he had made that day.

Yesterday was Dad’s first Father’s Day in heaven. I’ve been enjoying looking at this picture of my dad as a young man. No matter what Dad looks like in heaven, if he’s wearing his special “hamburger perfume,” I will be able to find him.

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