Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Remember the Day When We....

Funny how our minds work. The way that days and events are filed away in the cerebral SIM card and come spilling out years later. Like the day my uncle married and my sister and I helped him wash his car. Why was that so remarkable that over 50 years later I can still pull it up and see it clearly? One Thanksgiving my brother was performing magic tricks with my mother's gorgeous blue-gray dinner napkins and caught one on fire waving it over the candlestick. The parental fireworks following said inferno were understandably memorable but I love the mental picture of Jack waving that napkin over the flame.

I wonder if the little Beilmans will remember our adventures from last week. Spike and I had enough fun with them to last a lifetime.
We picnicked on the Blue Ridge Parkway just over the Virginia line on our way to Cana and some pretty fine cherry picking.

We loved the sign that read, "If the ladder shifts, hold on and go with the ladder."  We figured that meant that hopefully the ladder would get hung up on a lower branch thereby keeping you from falling more than 25 or 30 feet.
For nimble-footed Jack, the most productive route was up the trunk itself. Who needs a ladder when you're nearly 10?
Or 37?
Peter and Emily devised their own sure fire system. I wonder if she'll remember this when she's 58? By then I'll be 108. But I'll WANT to remember this.
The object was not only to pick a bucket-full of cherries, but to change the color of one's skin simultaneously. Success.
"Dad, remember when we went to Virginia to pick cherries and my hands stayed red for three weeks?"
Or will they remember wandering the labyrinth of gardens at Reynolda, the R.J.R. Reynolds estate in Winston-Salem?
With cabbages as big as a basketball.
Zinnias that were so hot pink they almost burned your eyes to look at them.
Sunflowers that bloom each with their own bumble bee. Perfect.
And two little girls who mimic the sculptured lion fountains in the garden.
Yes, it was a roaring good time. Sweet as......a cherry!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Grandparenting: When You Come, Bring the Books

Here's today's grandparenting project. Let's all paint a tabletop for the grandchildren! Just kidding.  This one by Hieronymus Bosch entitled "Tabletop of the Seven Deadly Sins" would be a real crowd pleaser winning you Favorite Granny of the Year status I'm sure. Next time you're in Madrid, check it out at the Prado. "Others try to paint man as he appears on the outside, while Bosch alone had the audacity to paint him as he is on the inside." (King Philip II of Spain's librarian.)
One thing I've done intentionally as far as grandparenting goes is to choose toys and books for my house that the children don't have at home. No problem with this one for sure. No Prado-like masterpieces here.

Shirley Cate already has quite a library at home. Here she is with her stash. We may get her a summer internship at the Library of Congress. She likes Paul's words to Timothy, "When you come, bring the books!" Shirley Cate has been known to cry when her mama reaches the end of her favorite word book. Really. I can relate to that. A friend gave me Charlotte's Web for my eighth birthday and I was so tickled to have it. My mom said, "What will you do with it once you've read it?" Why, I'll hold it. And read it again. And look for my favorite sentences. Read slowly so it lasts longer. And cry when I've finished it just because it's over. Shirley Cate, I feel your pain, girl.
I really do have a project for you especially in light of the fact that Father's Day is closing in on us. Here's your gift idea. Since you don't want to duplicate books that the children have, make one of your own to give to their grandaddy to read when they are at your house. I'm not talking about the next great American novel, just a story that has something to do with your family, home, pets, etc. Believe me, it's fun. Let the children help you. And don't worry about having your art work rejected by the next jury.
Did I just hear someone cry, "But what will I write about?" Listen up because this is probably the only time you'll hear me say this. Be reckless with your thoughts. Has your pet ever run away from home? Where did he go and whom did he meet on his adventure? Does Junior like cupcakes? Take an imaginary shopping trip with Junior until at long last he finds cupcakes at the cupcake store.

The front door at my house. But it's not just any front door. Behind the artificial flowers you'll find a beautiful little home.
See? This is good fodder for a story. "Where do you live, Little Bird? We live in a nest in a basket behind a garden." (It's plastic, but the bird doesn't know and neither will Junior.)
Then think of all the other little creatures you can visit...the baby ducks that live in the pond, the baby bear that lives in the den, the baby fox that lives under the shed, etc. etc. Ask them all where they live and let them show you. And if drawing isn't your bag, take photos and stick them in a little scrap book with Junior. Or have Junior illustrate the story. Here's how I did mine for Spike.
It all began with a true story. We have LOTS of animal activity in our yard and garage. For several years we had a possum that we named Perkins who helped himself nightly to Cannibal and Jezebel's high-cost super-tasty cat food. No wonder Perkins had such a beautiful fur coat. Good thing since the rest of him was none too pretty. Anyway, one night we came home and there was Perkins sitting on the edge of the five gallon bucket full of pecans that Coach Rugg had given us. Dastardly possum! But he became a Father's Day story for Spike and no one else has this particular book in their library.

Wouldn't you know we found possum puppets not long after. You never know when a pair of good possum puppets will come in handy. Add a nice little dedication page to Grandaddy.

In our story Perkins the Possum and his son Po'boy were looking for a nice place to live and the plot of the book is their objective analysis of Pop's house as such a home.
After all, there certainly are a lot of pecans available for Perkins and Po'boy. The illustrations are a combo of photos of places around our house and yard along with paintings done with a Dollar Tree set of watercolors. If you find illustrations that someone else has done and you like them, imitate them. Do you think Renoir thought up all those paintings by himself?
Include little photos of your grandpeeps since it will make them so happy to see themselves on the pages of this special story. Remember now, reckless imagination. Go take photos out in your tomato bed or
...on the front porch with Cannibal and Jezebel. These two could care less about having their likeness in the book, but Pop and the grandpeeps thought it a smashing idea.

You don't have but a week, so you'd better quit hanging around and get to work. And please, send me your book reports. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

For Sale: One Darkness of the Soul

Our Sunday night congregation is once again in the Psalms with Dr. Duncan. Those are particularly sweet times of worship and study where afterward many linger in fellowship as the doors are closed on the market day of the soul. As we dove into the fifth book of the Psalms, # 107 this past Sunday, Dr. Duncan reminded us of this:  " You know it’s interesting, five hundred years ago, had trouble surrounded people influenced by Christendom, I think their instinct would have been to say, “What have we done wrong that these troubles have happened to us?”  In our day and time, if troubles encompass you, the problem becomes God’s.  'God, how could You allow this to happen to me?  This calls into question Your very existence.' We live in a day of entitlement and presumption.  We presume that we are entitled to constant blessing and so we assume it and do not thank God for it." So the Psalms are of particular benefit to the believer in trial for several reasons:
*They reveal the anatomy of all parts of the human soul.
*They reveal the location of my heart's home.
*They validate the depth of the pain of suffering that can be present in even the most mature of believers.
*They prompt the heart of the believer toward gratitude which is the seedbed of Christian joy.
*They remind us of God's covenant faithfulness.
*They provide a rich model for prayer.
*They place a song in the heart of the downcast believer.
*They instruct believers in the worship of God.
*They give us strength for today and hope for tomorrow by reorienting our focus from ourselves to the Almighty God.
Of course, this list is not exhaustive.  If it were up to me, I wouldn't mind just staying in that beautiful sanctuary on North State Street. But eventually we all have to head out the door back to the trials that plague us. Economic downturns, serious illness, flooding on one side of the highway and drought on the other, loss of employment, relationship fracture, deep personal disappointment, loss of a loved one or dear friend. And it's just Thursday.
The psalmist knows our plight. From Psalm 77, a song of Asaph:
"I cried out to God with my voice--to God with my voice; and He gave ear to me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; my hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing; my soul refused to be comforted. I remember God and was troubled; I complained and my spirit was overwhelmed. ...Will the Lord cast off forever? And will He be favorable no more? Has His mercy ceased forever? Has His promise failed forevermore? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies?"
This picture is not the response of a Christ-follower to dark providence. The Christian faith is not a head in the sand, life ignoring, or pie in the sky kind of faith. It is first a faith of objective reality. Trouble comes to God's people as surely as it does to everyone. "Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?" Wise man, that Job. Asaph, too, says it like it is. I am troubled, perplexed, weary, and seemingly alone. But he cries out with his voice to his God who gives ear to his plea. What comfort in having a God who hears and who listens.
"I call to remembrance my song in the night; I meditate within my heart, and my spirit makes diligent search." vs. 6. This is how the anatomy of the soul is revealed. Meditation or chewing on the reality of the content of our heart and soul as compared to the nature and character of God is a tremendous lesson in humility. "What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you visit him?" Ps. 8:4. Ours is a faith of humble objectivity revealed to us in the psalms.
Ours is also a faith of page turning. What? Verse 9 is the last on the page of my bible. "Has He shut up His tender mercies?" That would be a terrible place to stop and yet that is what we often do. We pour out the long list of pain and sorrow and choose to remain in our despondency rather than "turn the page" and look up to the top of the next and look up in remembrance of the faithfulness of God.
"And I said, 'This is my anguish; BUT I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High. I will remember the works of the Lord, I will remember Your wonders of old. Remembering the past is instruction for the present. God has never failed or left his people. What is Asaph remembering? Exodus 14. The Red Sea. Charging Egyptians behind and a dry path through roaring waters in front. Remember? The way to glory was through deep and troubled waters.
"I will meditate on all your work and talk of your deeds. Who is so great a God as our God? You are the God who does wonders; you have declared your strength among the people and you have with your arm redeemed your people. Your way was in the sea. Your path was in the great waters."
"I will meditate on your work. Your way is in the sanctuary; Who is so great a God as our God? You are a God who does wonders; You have declared your strength among your people. You have with your arm redeemed your people." Have you noticed? Where is the I? It has now been replaced with You and Your. Your way is perfect. Your choices are right. You have done more than right by me. You work wonders. You are working wonders. Again, we gain strength for today and hope for tomorrow by having a reorientation of focus from self to Savior.
This leads me all the way back to Dr. Duncan's comment on the sense of entitlement that runs rampant in the world, even the world of believers. God's word tells me that He does all things well. All that is for my good and His glory. He can do no other since He acts only according to His nature. But He does not OWE me that good. He does not OWE me any explanation for why He chooses to do what He does. He does not owe me any life of ease any more than He does not repay me with evil according to all that I have done. It is God's merciful lovingkindness that has redeemed me and sustains me through every providence, light or dark, pleasurable or painful, that is working for me a future weight of glory. Each and every darkness of my heart and soul is no longer up for sale. They have been bought at Calvary by Jesus Christ. If He chose to never bless me again that which  I have already received in Him is more than I deserve and more than I ever could have dreamed or imagined. "It is enough that Jesus died and that He died for me."

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Grandparenting: Which Would You Rather?

When the little grandpeeps and I are in the car we have a grand time. Once Spike and I played the DVD player for them but only once. Car time is listening, thinking, talking time. Yes, we play old school games like My Grandfather Has a Grocery Store and I Spy, but we play other games and have great conversations, too.

Not long ago I had the two little bubbas in the back seat.
Three year old Benj piped up, "Hey Charlie. When you're driving the car all you do is follow the way the road goes and then you get to go where you're going. That's what I do when I drive the car. Hey Charlie. Want to smell my breath?"
"No, Benjamin. Nobody wants to smell your breath."
"Uh huh! Momma wants to smell my breath all the time. And if you drive the way the road goes that's how you get where you're going. That's how I drive."
Sometimes we say the catechism questions. But not ALL the time. The answers can be frightening while in the car. Just ask Meg.

"Grammy, if God is everywhere does that mean He's in the front seat or the back seat?"
"He's in the front seat AND the back seat of EVERY car ALL the time."
"Ohhhhh." Followed by a long period of awestruck silence.

You remember Jack of Eiffel Tower Museum fame.
When I'm in Winston-Salem Jack and I pick out houses for Pop and me just pretending we would buy one. "That looks like a good one, Grammy. It has a big driveway that'll hold all of the cars." Or, "There's one! No, that won't work. The yard's too little." It's good to get them thinking...."That one's perfect! I could stop at your house when I get off the bus from school." Or, "I don't think there are enough bedrooms in that house where everyone could be there at the same time." Atta boy, Jack. He knows his grammy is all about everyone being home at the same time. 
But our very favorite game is "Would You Rather."
The game goes something like this:
Which would you rather? Ice cream or cupcake? (Let's say Charlotte chooses cupcake.)
Which would you rather? Cupcake or peaches?
Which would you rather? Peaches or corn?
Which would you rather? Corn or popcorn?
Popcorn or a movie?
A movie or a book?
Narnia or Desperaux?
Desperaux or Ratatouille?
Ratatouille or Cinderella?
Going to the ball or going to the beach?

You get it. It's fun to watch how their little minds work. How hard is it to make a choice? Can you match up similar groups, categories, or make a logical leap to another? Now it's your turn to give me some choices. Read a book or cook supper.
That one's easy.