Friday, December 31, 2010

A Friday Five for the New Year

I'm hosting the Friday Five today over at Rev Gal Blog Pals. I'm not a big fan of New Year's resolutions, but it does seem a good time for some reflection and planning. For the last few days I keep thinking of Psalm 90:12 So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Among other things, that seems to say that reflection is in order if we want to learn and grow.

For some of us, this has been an incredibly difficult year; for others it has been a year of many joys. For all of us, there have been challenges and questions and there have been blessings and--maybe even an answer or two! As we say our goodbyes to 2010 and look towards 2011, share with us five blessings from 2010 along with five hopes or dreams for 2011.

1. All of us were relatively healthy in 2010. Since I live with two people who have daily struggles with chronic disease, this is a blessing! I hope and pray for continued blessings of health for my family. Boring answer, but the first one that comes to mind!

2. I am blessed to have my daughter's family nearby. When I married, it wasn't long before I moved to the opposite coast, and then it was moving hither and yon for a long time. We never lived near our families--I know, I know--this can be a blessing. But in our case, there was a void. I was sad that our children never knew what an extended family could be like, because we saw family very seldom. It is a great joy to be able to drop in for coffee, to see our beautiful granddaughter, Trinity, on a regular basis, to know our son-in-law. It has been a difficult year for them financially and we all are unsure what our futures hold when it comes to employment, ministry, etc. but whatever comes, I hope it comes in such a way that we don't live far apart!

3. I finally started writing in earnest. Not just talking about it, actually doing it. The bad part is that I have been unable to focus much on it, especially lately. So I hope to do better about taking this endeavor seriously in 2011.

4. I was blessed to be employed. So many people in our area are really struggling financially. I know what a good thing it has been to work, to have a place to go, to contribute something worthwhile, to meet people I would not have met otherwise. My deep longing is clearer direction about whether I should continue to hope and look for ministry opportunities--or whether I should just seek to be content as I am. This has been a deep struggle for me this past year, and I want to have a right attitude about it all.

5. I am deeply grateful for continued blessings that, once upon a time, were doubtful. These are many, but a few are: vision, my husband and family, a house, friends, thoughts, songs, dreams. For the New Year I want to be more mindful of these things, to make each day, each moment, count. I have so much...thanks be to God!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Prison Christmas 2010

I've written before about our prison Christmas services. If you are interested, just click on the prison link below and you can see more about visits there.

This year, Father Joe was there, as usual, to do the Catholic Mass. I sat in the back to listen, as I usually do, to some of the Catholic service. He has a wonderful voice and it was enjoyable listening to the scriptures from Isaiah. I was cheered by the enthusiasm of one of the inmates who sat near the front and gave the usual responses during the liturgy with great enthusasm. His joy might have surprised some of my Evangelical bretheren who assume that memorized responses are necessarily devoid of feeling. Sometimes, no doubut--but not always. At one point Father Joe told the assembled inmates, "I keep coming here every year because it is the highlight of my Christmas." Father Joe is 71 and tends to a very large parish not far away. He looked tired.

The Christmas decor at the prison chapel was relatively tasteful this year. (Such is not always the case--some who have read here before may recall my writing about how one year the drum kit on the platform was festooned with flashing strings of lights.) Men arrived dressed in the usual ugly greenish brown t shirts, some in grey sweatshirts, drab green baggy pants, green coats with the initials of the prison stenciled on the back. No "gay apparel" here.

Some sport long beards and long stringy hair. Some have neat cornrows in their hair. There is the young-looking, smiling black man who told me recently he will be getting out soon. I was surprised to hear he has children. He seems too young for that. He'll be in a halfway house for six months instead of going home. He's grateful for that because he is afraid to "lose focus and slip back." There is a stooped old man, bald, wrinkled, and watched out for by many of the others. I don't know why he's here but I think he's been "inside" for a long time. He has a gentle manner and handshake. Every time I see him I wonder if there is anyone left who hopes for him to come home. There is the skillful guitar player, the singer, the smiling Hispanic guy. Some seem somber but many are smiling broadly and the handshakes and thanks for "sharing your Christmas Day here with us," are real.

Ken preached a sermon that included the story of the man and the birds. The late Paul Harvey didn't know who wrote it, but he shared it every year at Christmas. Here it is:

The Man and the Birds

The man to whom I'm going to introduce you was not a Scrooge. He was a kind decent, mostly good man. Generous to his family, upright in his dealings with other men. But he just didn't believe all that incarnation stuff which the churches proclaim at Christmas Time. It just didn't make sense and he was too honest to pretend otherwise. He just couldn't swallow the Jesus Story, about God coming to Earth as a man. "I'm truly sorry to distress you," he told his wife, "but I'm not going with you to church this Christmas Eve." He said he'd feel like a hypocrite. That he'd much rather just stay at home, but that he would wait up for them.
And so he stayed and they went to the midnight service.

Shortly after the family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier and then went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper.

Minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound...then another, and then another. Sort of a thump or a thud...At first he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against his living room window, but when he went to the front door to investigate he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They'd been caught in the storm and, in a desperate search for shelter, had tried to fly through his large landscape window.

Well, he couldn't let the poor creatures lie there and freeze, so he remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony. That would provide a warm shelter, if he could direct the birds to it. Quickly he put on a coat, galoshes, tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on a light, but the birds did not come in.

He figured food would entice them in. So he hurried back to the house, fetched bread crumbs, sprinkled them on the snow, making a trail to the yellow-lighted, wide open doorway of the stable. But to his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs, and continued to flap around helplessly in the snow.

He tried catching them. He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around them waving his arms. Instead, they scattered in every direction--except into the warm, lighted barn.

And then, he realized that they were afraid of him.

"To them," he reasoned, "I am a strange and terrifying creature. If only I could think of some way to let them know that they can trust me. That I am not trying to hurt them, but to help them. But how?"

Any move he made tended to frighten them, confuse them. They just would not follow. They would not be led or shooed because they feared him. "If only I could be a bird," he thought to himself, "and mingle with them and speak their language. Then I could tell them not to be afraid. Then I could show them the way to the safe, the safe warm barn. But I would have to be one of them so they could see, and hear and understand."

At that moment the church bells began to ring. The sound reached his ears above the sounds of the wind. And he stood there listening to the bells -- listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. And he sank to his knees in the snow.

The choir sang a medley of Christmas songs and I led the men in a couple more carols. Nothing extraordinary this year, but I found myself wondering why it was that for me, like Father Joe, going to prison is a highlight of Christmas.

I think I finally understand why. There are no crazy schedules to keep, no shopping, no gift giving or receiving, no commercials, no Santa, not much of anything except a rather dingy chapel, Christmas songs, scripture--and the "least of these." For many inmates there is no reason to celebrate and they spend the day in bed. The prison chapel, however, is joyful, peaceful, and bright in an unhappy, negative and dark place. It is Christmas, stripped bare of the trappings and exposed in all its stark, spare, difficult, grace-filled wonder. "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us."

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas 2010

This year I was acutely aware of Christmas past. I remembered good and bad childhood holidays, the year Ken was in the hospital, the year we had to move (in a show storm) right before Christmas, the year we took the kids to an almost empty hotel (all those Christmas decorations just for us). I missed my mother and my sister and my brother-in-law Larry, and others. I thought of many loved ones who are no longer on this earth. I guess it's a sign I'm getting old.

I am very grateful this year that we had both our children with us. We don't get to see Josh much, and we all wish that when we do see him it was for a longer time--still we weren't sure he was going to be able to make it at all and he did. We had fun.

The snow is deep this year, and it was almost story-like to arrive at Kris and Daryl's little farm in the country (looking like a Christmas card!), nice to have Trinity welcome us joyfully, "Merry Christmas everyone! Hurry, come in!"

Trinity, the Greeter of the DayKris and Me With Breads

The warm kitchen was inviting, the table set with Christmas red and white. We enjoyed three kinds of special bread, and sipped our coffee as Trinity and Kris distributed gifts. Trinity made gift giving and receiving all the more delightful--she was so sweet, thanking us all for her presents, and happily telling us what she bought us before we could open the package. Later we had brunch and then Ken and I dashed off to prison as Josh and Trinity went out to make snow angels.


Today Ken and Kevin and Kris and Trinity and I went to see "Voyage of the Dawn Treader" (one of the Narnia films--by far they best). I got the Senior Citizen discount. Not sure how to feel about that. Now I'm looking forward to a week off.

I am acutely,sometimes uncomfortably aware, how quickly things can change. I wonder what will happen this year. Kevin's kidneys are not functioning well (yet another complication of diabetes combined with other things) and so he's going to see a specialist in a couple of weeks. We all know, however, that a long and healthy life is not in his future. I know he's a little scared. It is a matter of when and what...but today he said, "It sure has been a delightful couple of days hasn't it?" And yes, it has.

I am thankful for a year when many of those I love most were nearby. I know it will not always be so.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Blogging Through 2010

This was interesting last year, so decided to do it again. The idea is to go back through 2010 and post the first sentence that I blogged each month. I eliminated the Friday Fives, and the Finding Little Big Foot Chapters, and here is what I got:

January: I've been looking at a few pictures from Haiti this morning, and I listened to a NPR report from a woman working there with World Vision.

February: Thirty nine years ago today, I walked down the aisle at the Rosewood Wedding Chapel in Burbank, California.

March: Every Tuesday I drive to the prison where my husband, Ken, is chaplain.

April: I suspect Fred Phelps is in for a big shock one of these days...

May: The 59th Annual National Day of Prayer is today.

June: Last weekend we were reenacting at the season's first "Rendezvous" camp, and Trinity came along.

July: If you look in my sidebar you will see 17 posts under the heading "Egalitarian Marriage" and 33 under "The Gender Debate."

August: Last night I watched the National Geographic channel's decomentary Witness: Katrina.

September: The kitchen/fellowship area of our church [set for "dinner with the carnys"] smelled wonderful last night.

October: October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

November: Yesterday I went shopping (and I'm not a person who loves to shop).

December: On the night presbyters laid their hands on my shoulders and prayed, the night I was "officially" a minister, something happened.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Past Friday Five

For today's Friday Five over at RevGalBlogPals, Jan asks us to share five Christmas memories. I have been remembering many things, and I'd love to share all happy memories, but (let's face it) sometimes Christmas can be difficult. So my memories are a mix, just like this time of year often is. These are the first five memories that came to mind.

1. Our family lived in Los Angeles, CA and the relatives lived in a small Texas town. We sometimes travelled there for Christmas. Money was never abundant, so it wasn't often that this happened. It was always a very exciting time for us to make the trip, and the arrival at our grandfather's lovely red brick home was so exciting--especially if we actually got snow. It was a big, warm, loving family with lots of aunts and uncles and cousins, and on Christmas Eve everyone gathered together at the big house in town. One year my cousin, Grady, and I went out to some woods somewhere or other and gathered a bunch of mistletoe. We had lots of fun plotting and giggling and putting it up in various doorways and interesting spots, but we thought we were being so smart and sneaky to hang a sprig of it on the ceiling above Papa's recliner. Of course, when our grandfather arrived home he acted very surprised and confused as to why everyone was kissing him. I, being about 8 or 9, really thought we had fooled him. My happiest Christmas memories are of various doings with the family in Texas.

2. My father, who had always been a very healthy and vibrant person, was in a coma from an aneurysm. It was Christmas time. My sister, Paulette, arrived from Indiana. I arrived from Wisconsin. Darlaine, our eldest sis, already lived in California, and it had been a long time since the three of us had been together. It was good, in a strange way, to be there together. It was a long, difficult week, first at a small hospital in Hemet and later at a large one in La Jolla. The hospital was decked out for the season (and La Jolla is a wealthy area so it was all beautiful). Christmas carols were playing, the rest of the family were elsewhere, and Paulette and I were mostly struggling to hold back tears. We left the ICU area and went for a walk around the hospital's main floor and lobby. On the walls were oil paintings of many wealthy benefactors of Scripp's Medical Center. We looked at each one and tried to imagine what it was like to be them. We got to giggling nearly hysterically, and Paulette made some very rude comments about the various people depicted on the walls. Such a silly thing, but a very vivid memory of finding something to laugh about, walking hand in hand at the hospital and waiting to hear if our dad was going to live or die. (He passed away on Dec. 20th.)

3. One Christmas when I was a child I was snooping for presents. I found a Betty Crocker bake set on my parents' closet shelf. Excited, because I'd been longing for one, I showed Paulette. She scoffed, saying, "That's just an empty box. Daddy has been gathering empty boxes to put stuff in to wrap. You can't tell by the box, silly." I was not convinced, so somehow she got me out of the closet and into the kitchen, and a few minutes later she showed up with the box, saying to our mother, "She thinks this is her present." She opened the lid, announcing, "See, nothing in there." Only thing was, she had emptied the entire box of its contents, little boxes of various mixes and tiny spoons, measuring cups and so on...but she had forgotten one thing. I can still see it, my sister standing there being a smarty and throwing off the lid and...oops! One red mixing bowl still in the box. Ha! She had already convinced me, but that mixing bowl had me wondering all the way up to Christmas.

4. Then there was the Christmas that my mom (a lovely person, but one with some serious spiritual/emotional/mental issues that often made our family life difficult if not outright bizarre) spent the entire season secluded in her room. I decorated the tree, wrapped the presents, decorated the house as best I could....not a happy time. She did come out for a short while to open presents. My husband-to-be (though I did not know it yet) was there. My mother, poor thing, was so anxious to return to her seclusion that she all but flung the presents at us in her hurry. Ken was trying hard to pretend not to notice that something was very strange. I was trying not to cry. My dad was seething with barely-contained frustration and fury. The evening ended with Ken leaving early, and me listening to an all-too familiar argument from my parents' room. I covered my head with my pillow and cried, knowing life as I knew it was disintegrating and wondering where God was. I was about to enter a pretty confused period of life when I wondered if anything I believed was true. Not a happy memory, but I can say that through it all I know (now) that God was at work. God's faithfulness transcends the frailty of humanity. I am very grateful for that!

5. The first year with Trinity was such fun...a laughing little baby who was entranced with the lights. And last year with little Trinity was so enjoyable. She was not quite three, and she had so much fun that it would have been impossible not to laugh and enjoy the day (not that it wasn't quite nice to be with each other!). She welcomed us at her front door with a flourish (she is quite dramatic) and escorted us to the tree. Having a little kid around, once again, at Christmas was so delightful. This year she is very excited to be in her first Christmas program ever! Praise God for children!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Thoughts on a Cold Morning

The view outside is white. And more white. The temperature is hovering around zero degrees F. We do have hopes that it is going to warm up to the 20s today, but for now it feels good to be sipping coffee, still in my flannel pajamas, and contemplating a day off in which I'm going to do some baking.

It has been a strange kind of Christmas season. Not a bad one, all things considered. More about that in a future post --but just different.

Last year I think I was just enjoying the freedom that not being a pastor brought me during the holidays, but I realized this year just how much of my Christmas focus was formerly determined by things pastors do.

I have always thought of Christmas in two rather distinct ways. I mean, the shopping, cookies or other baking, even the pleasure of lights and snowy landscapes are not really connected to thoughts of Jesus Christ and his birth. That doesn't mean that can't be very enjoyable, but the other part of Christmas, the part where I spend time in contemplation of spiritual things is a different thing altogethe, and it seems difficult this year.

Other years it happened as part of preparing for the season. At church, the month before Christmas Day was devoted to themes related to Jesus' birth and the events around it. I always tried to make Advent services coordinated--liturgical church traditions are better at this than we Evangelical types--but I worked hard at making the music, scripture readings, other special things like a poem or worship dance or drama, blend with the sermon so that the whole service led us together in a particular direction.

A few years ago I wrote (with help from my daughter) a daily devotional booklet, "Christmas at the Oasis" which spanned the time from the beginning of Advent through the week after New Years. I posted those here as well. We had to be finished with the whole thing in plenty of time to get it to the printer and distributed for the first Sunday in Advent. It was a wonderful spiritual exercise. I don't know how meaningful it was for those in my congregation or others who received the booklet, but it was good for me to plan it, write it, and find the artwork that went with the devotion for the day!

I'm realizing that it is almost Christmas and I am missing the focus of time spent thinking, writing, planning and so on. I don't know what next year will bring, but I have decided I must be a lot more "on purpose" about planning my holidays to include some sort of spiritual discipline.

How about you? Is it a season of peace, joy, hope and love...or is it something else this year? Do you have any special habits or practices that help bring the important things into focus?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Please Pray With Me for "Questing Parson"

Some of you may know my long-time blogger friend and colleague, Questing Parson. His wife recently had surgery and last night she passed away from related issues. Here is Parson's trubute to her. Would you say a prayer for him today?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Jingle Bell Rock Friday Five

RevGalBlogPal friend, Mary Beth, posted the Friday Five today.

For today's Friday Five: What lifts you up when you are low or troubled? Who helps you remember that you are not alone, it's getting better all the time, etc.? Your five responses can be people you know, people you DON'T know, music, places, foods, scripture, surprises, something you do for someone else. It could be a pair of slippers. It could be a glass of water. Bonus: Do you like the song "Jingle Bell Rock?" If you do, who do you prefer to hear sing it? Bobby Helms, Brenda Lee, Mean Girls, Stephanie Smith, Chubby Checker, Billy Gilman, Brian Setzer, Hilary Duff, Thousand Foot Krutch (I am not making this up), oh, there are so many more! I am currently partial to my friend Marco.

Wow! Okay, I'll take the bonus first. I do like the song Jingle Bell Rock because it reminds me of my two sisters wearing bobby sox, black and white oxfords and poodle skirts with lots of crinoline petticoats beneath. And of course this means I like the Brenda Lee version. It's a dumb song, of course, so why have so many people sung it? Dumb but cherry. Maybe that's the secret.

On to the five things that lift me up when I'm down.

1. Rest. I have finally come to realize that sometimes I am down when I am just in serious need of some down time. So a cup of tea, a book, and SOLITUDE are a key. It isn't that those things make me cheery. They just make cheeriness possible!

2. Music. Nothing cheers me up like music. What type, how loud, etc. all depend on lots of variables, but music is a necessity in my life. Sometimes, it's true, music can make me sad, lonely, or too nostalgic for my own good. Especially since I'm still grieving some multiple losses, so if the goal is to cheer myself up, I need to choose carefully. In a few minutes I'm going to put my "Straight No Chaser" Christmas CD on. They are a great vocal group (thanks to son Josh for giving me the CD a coupld of Christmases back). I'll try to find a version of their song "Christmas Can Can" to post. It always makes me laugh. Especially when they get to the Dredel pat.....and screaming Christmas carols all the way...lalalalalalala....well I found it. Here you go.

3. People. One must not hole up (see number one) for too long. People, especially the positive ones, are good for lifting our spirits.

4. Counting my blessings. Sounds sappy, eh? But it is true. Sometimes I just need to stop and reflect and say thanks to God for the good things in my life.

5. Cooking. I don't know why cooking cheers me up, but it does. Nothing like making a big mess in the kitchen to get me in a better mood!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Happy Birthday to Josh

Thirty-three years ago today, I woke in the wee hours with some definite signs that labor was underway. This was baby number two, so I figured it wouldn't be long before we would welcome our new family member into the world. A while later I was at the hospital and nothing was happening. I paced. I paced some more. Once in a while something significant would begin, but then stop. Hours later, the dreaded Pitocin drip was started. More hours went on. Something was amiss, it seemed, but an x ray showed that the baby inside was not too large, so we waited.

Then things got exciting, but not in a good way. The fetal heart beat was too slow and there were signs that the little one who was on his way was stressed. I was prepped for a C-Section. The doctor was obviously concerned and things were a bit grim. He tried to gently warn me that all was likely not well.

Ken called our church's prayer chain, and before they could get things set for the C-section, Josh entered the world. Unlike his older sister, who entered the world squalling in protest, he only cried briefly. He did manage to send a healthy stream of urine onto the doctor, who laughed and said, "Well, we know his water works are functioning fine." I'm not sure what the doctor had expected, but he was clearly happy to see this healthy child. Josh was a beautiful newborn, with brown hair and the most intense blue eyes I had ever seen. When I held him those large eyes looked up at me. They weren't cloudy, as newborn eyes often are--they were clear and focused. He seemed to be gazing intently at us.

That is how I remember my baby boy most, a beautiful child who quietly watched the world with great intensity, often awake and usually watching the world closely.

He became a shy boy with a sweet disposition, the delight of all of us and the favorite person of his big sis, who was six years older. I can picture them, Josh doing his best to keep up. They were an interesting pair, those two, opposites in many ways (and that is still true). Josh was the cautious one, the saver, the neat kid. He works at night, so the morning person we all used to know has disappeared these days, but Dad and Sis and I all vividly recall how he often woke us up by singing church songs happily in the morning. His favorites were, "I'll Fly Away" and a Pentecostal standard I am sad to say doesn't get sung much anymore, "Not By Might."

He's not shy anymore. But he still cares about people, more than he sometimes wants anyone to know, and he still has a great voice.

Happy Birthday, Josh. I'm so glad you are in the world!

Friday, December 03, 2010

Survival Edition Friday Five

Katheryn shared today's F.F. over at RevGalBlogPals. (The Elf collage is my grandaughter, Trinity, some time back.)

Whether a RevGal or a Pal most of us in this cyber community have enhanced responsibilities during this time of year. We also have traditions - religious and secular - that mark the season for us in a more personal way. For this Friday Five please let us know five of the things that mark the season for you.

1. The thing I miss about not being the pastor of a church during this season is the Advent wreath. Growing up Southern Baptist, and then hopping over to the Assemblies of God. I never heard of Advent. The first time I saw one I was in my late 20s. My husband was invited to speak at a series of classes at a Lutheran Church in the Washington D.C. area. It was a lovely old church building, the sort that appealed to my aesthetic lil soul. I wandered around, admiring the stained glass, pipe organ, lovely carved pews--and suspended from the ceiling over the altar area was an enormous Advent wreath of evergreen boughs and holly and large white candles. It looked so unique, Christmasy--something I had seen in pictures of European churches. I love the symbolism of the Advent wreath, the candles, readings, etc.

2. Christmas it! Especially the glorious, soaring type. I LOVE Handel's "Messiah."

3. Light. The more the merrier.

4. Baking orange nut bread and Jule Kaga. The orange nut bread recipe comes from my mother, and is the most delicious nut bread imaginable. Find it over at The Owl's Kitchen. The other comes from my husband's Norwegian family. Both are musts. I so enjoy Christmas baking, especially if music is playing in the background. And, of course, it's nice to eat them as well.

5. Snow! Growing up in California where it might be 65 balmy degrees on Christmas Day, one thing I do like about Christmas in the upper Midwest is that most of the time we will have a beautiful, white Christmas. I do get very tired of snow by the time April rolls around, but I love it when the dusting of snow on everything is real snow.

And the bonus? Tell us one thing that does absolutely nothing for you.

Santa. I know, the St. Nick story is great. But Santa Claus? Not so much. Bah, humbug. (Except for when he is my sweetie.) Pics of that as soon as I can download them next week.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

A Tale of Two Women

On the night presbyters laid their hands on my shoulders and prayed, the night I was "officially" a minister, something happened. The incident has been playing in my head all day We were holding our district council at a downtown Milwaukee church. I was standing in a line to receive congratulations as people do on such occasions, and the only person near me that I knew was Val, a longtime friend. She and her husband had been our neighbors in "married couples housing" at Trinity. They had taken a pastorate in Wisconsin, like us, and she had just started so speak to me when two women approached.

The first was a small young Hispanic woman. She spoke very softly. "Are you...a preacher?"

"Yes." Smile.

"Really? Like...a minister?"


"I had no idea." The young woman was gazing at me like I was something amazing. She shook my hand, and repeated, "I had no idea. I had no idea."

Her English was heavily accented. She backed away, but she didn't really leave. She just kept watching me. I guess I have not mentioned that I was the only woman receiving any sort of ministerial credentials that night.

The second was a very large and very elderly African American woman. She was not quite "all there" and probably suffering from some sort of dementia. But this dear sister, mostly toothless, ran up to me and wrapped her arms around me and hugged the stuffing out of me. I can still see her face. Then she held me at arms length, and as tears rolled down her cheeks, kept loudly excalaiming, "OH, sister, God bless you!" Then she would shake her head as if she could not believe what was before her eyes. This happened about three times, and I was feeling a little trapped. It seemed she was going to continue to hug me, inspect me and "God bless" me all night. I had thanked her each time, and didn't know what to do. Thankfully, Val, who had stepped away for a moment, saw the problem and gently intervened by coming up to shake my hand. The elderly lady reluctantly stepped back, but she continued to say, "Oh, sister, God bless you" and smile at me till she was out of sight in the crowd.

During all this the other woman stood not far away. When she caught my eye, once again, she shook her head, almost looking bewildered. "Is something wrong?" I asked, growing concerned. She did not really answer, but tears filled her eyes as once more she said, "I had no idea." My husband came up about that time and she too disappeared into the crowd.

What was happening to those two very different women? I think I know. I think both of them had felt a stirring in their spirits to serve God in some sort of preaching ministry. One was old, and her mind, it seemed, was going, but she still knew enough to rejoice to see that a woman was among the group of newly licensed/ordained men. The other was very young, and I have often wondered about her. Why did she seem so stunned? What was happening in her mind and heart? I suspect her English was not good, and even if we had been able to take the time she might not have been able to share with me what was happening. Something tells me she remembers that night too.

Why I am remembering this today? Don't know, but can't stop thinking about it.