Archives

To the fathers

To the fathers who make a life-long commitment to the mother of their children and don’t walk away when it gets hard,

To the fathers who rock crying babies at night so mommas can get a little sleep,

To the fathers who change diapers, change their work schedule, and change their ways for their children,

To the fathers who run along side kids on bikes without training wheels, who shout encouragement, and then keep on encouraging with each new challenge.

To the fathers who help with math and science in the evenings and who teach life by their actions more than their words,

To the fathers who show their boys how to treat women with respect by doing the same for their wives,

To the fathers who show their daughters how precious and beautiful they are and that they are worth waiting for,

To the fathers who protect and fight for and provide for their families,

To the fathers who pray for their children, take them to church, and read the Bible in front of them,

To the fathers who are faithful to their children’s mother and treat her like a lady,

To the fathers who offer grace when their kids mess up,

To the fathers who are not ashamed to cry or think it is unmanly to be vulnerable,

To the fathers who make mistakes, fall down, ask for forgiveness, and pray to be more like Jesus every day,

To the fathers who love and care for other men’s children like their own,

To the fathers who become grandfathers, stooped and aging, yet still stand tall in spirit,

To the fathers on Father’s Day and every day.

We need you to be strong. We need you to be faithful. We need you to be men.

We need you to show us our Heavenly Father.

three men

gramps and ethan~ story tellin'

gramps and travis

100_0229

Revised and re-posted from June 2015

 

 

So this is life?

009The call came early, before the first pot of coffee was emptied.  “Your dad is on the way to the emergency room.”

I ask a few questions, assume auto pilot to get myself dressed and to the hospital.  It will be the first time Dad has ever been in the hospital.  Ever.  It must be bad for him to submit to an ambulance, to poking and prodding, to needles and hospital beds.

Blood is drawn from small veins.  Tape attaches to paper-thin skin.  IV needles invade his body in too many places.  He looks uncomfortable yet submissive and compliant.  He cries out in pain, grimaces. And is there a gentle procedure in a hospital?

News travels.  Channels of information run quickly to family and friends.  Facebook posts prayer requests.  Responses simply say “praying.”  And praying is always more than just a simple response.

People come to sit with my step-mother and me, to share our angst, to whisper silent prayers.  To tell their stories of my father.  Stories that reveal a compassionate heart, a tender concern, a promise made to pray and a promise kept.  And lives are changed by the power of the almighty God my father serves.

Tests reveal infection.  Pneumonia.  Internal problems.  The heart beats regularly, not strong but true and faithful.

Dad is frail and thin, a mere wisp of the man he was when I was a child.

He was a builder by trade and craft, a carpenter, like Jesus, with strong muscular chest and arms.  I felt safe with him.  He was always busy building.  Houses, churches, businesses, play houses for his little girl, dog houses for her pets.

When he was in the prime of his life, the Lord called him to build people.  He exchanged his nail apron for a towel and wash basin, the garb of a servant.  He visited, counseled, encouraged, taught, and built up the kingdom.  His materials were the eternal kind, not the wood and stubble used to build the kingdoms of this world.

010

He lies still, breathing regularly but not full and deep.  He has few teeth now and his mouth hangs slightly open.  His hairs are white and fine, barely covering his scalp. His face is sunken, showing the outline of the skull, fine wrinkles on skin that covers but just barely.

I stand in the doorway gazing at the ravages of sickness, the strong hold of a sin-cursed world on these earthly bodies to the very end, even those who are sanctuaries to the very presence of the Almighty.

And I ask myself, so this is life?  Is this how a life ends?

He was once a sturdy man, strong and capable, working long hours and toiling hard.  It seems he has always taken care of others.  He marched off to war to help defend his country.  He stayed at the task until it was done no matter the cost to himself.    Now he can barely lift his hand.  Unable to speak clearly, unable to chew food, unable to hear the conversation, unable to hold a glass of water to his parched lips.

024

I’ve seen this happen before.  I’ve watched this same struggle as other loved ones came to stand at Jordan’s stormy banks, casting a wishful eye to the other side.

So this is life?

The days of sitting in the hospital give me time, time to think and remember.  Time to hear how my Dad’s life and prayers and teaching the Word and loving people are living on.  His life, the one lived for his Lord, is not lying in a hospital bed languishing between white sheets.  It was cast upon the waters of service, and it has not returned void.

The breath of life may be slipping away in the body that holds my dad’s spirit and soul.  But the life he lived in Christ lives on in me.  In others.

I hear it from their own lips, the fruit of his labors bearing fruit in their own lives.  Prison ministry.  Wisdom to raise a child in the fear and admonition of the Lord.  Deliverance from an addiction to pornography.  Marriages salvaged.  Demons cast out.  Broken hearts mended.  Encouragement to keep pressing on.  Proclaiming the Lord’s return and people get ready!

Jesus said, “. . . whoever loses his life because of Me will find it.”  Dad wore himself out in his servant’s role.

And I see that THIS IS LIFE!  This is how to live.

It is not in gaining the world but in giving oneself away.  This is life!  Proclaiming to any who will listen the goodness of God and the salvation He provided.  This is life!  To visit the widows and care for the orphans and the lonely and the unlovable.  This is life!  The way it was meant to be lived and used up and wasted away for the sake of the Gospel.

This is a man who spent himself on others.  Even now in mere whispers, he  prays for those visiting him in his shadowy hospital room.

In the stillness of the evening, I hear him say it softly.  “Praise You God.  Praise You God.”  The Father knows this man’s voice.  He has heard it countless times as he  daily knelt by his chair to pray, as he prayer-walked every night for how many years (?) as long as he was able.  His voice has called out my name in prayer countless times, and I see that I have been left an amazing heritage.

A life lived this way has no fear of what is left of it or how it will end or what lies beyond when he breathes his last.  His times are in His Father’s hand.

So this is life and the way it should be lived?  Yes, it is!  Of this I am sure.

In honor of fathers

It took me a while to understand and to appreciate the fact that men are not like women.  If I had known it when I first married Sweet William, I think it would have made both of our lives easier.

But I love it that they are different.

As I think of Father’s Day and the men in my life, I am thankful.  So many have left their mark on me, have changed my life for the better, have shown me the face of God.

There are the pastor and choir director who encouraged this shy young musician to use her gifts in spite of her fear.  There is the uncle who gave me money to help buy my first car and sent me on a trip to New York City free of charge.  There  are the ministers who preach the Word that cut like a sword and healed the wound and helped me grow.  There are the deacons who take their role seriously, who visit the sick and shepherd the flock.  There are the teachers who challenge me to think deeply, to question what I believe, and help me confirm what “thus saith the Lord” really means. 

Men are focused.  I love it that they can stay on one task and not veer off until it is complete, unlike me whose brain scatters from one thing to another to another until I wonder how anything gets accomplished.

Men are protective.  I remember when my very young grandson, Ethan, was pretending to be in a battle.  He looked at me standing there at the kitchen sink and said, “Don’t worry.  I’ll save you.”  His DNA is infused with a warrior spirit to fight for and take care of those he loves.

Men are courageous.  It isn’t that they are unafraid.  It is that they are willing to go check on that noise in the dark or to tread foreign soil for freedom’s sake.

Men are tender.  I’ve seen them cry over a sad movie, trying to hide their sniffles.  The tough exterior is just a covering for a soft heart where gentleness resides.

Men are strong.  They exert their strength to lift heavy loads, to trudge off to work every day, to go the extra mile, to be there for their friends and families.

I come from a long line of good men.

My grandfather Charles Lockard was a minister of the gospel who paved the way for me disregarding the persecution.  Yet he was one of the gentlest souls I ever knew. 

My dad, John Rayhill, is a man who knows how to take care of the women in his life.  He prides himself that he never let my mother take out the garbage.  That was his job.  He was always busy with something but he was never too busy to stop for me or one of the neighbor kids who needed a bike tire pumped up or something repaired.

My husband, Bill Wright, is my hero.  He was a good provider until his health took him down.  He fought for our marriage when everyone else gave up on it.  He has endured so much pain and too many surgeries with courage.  He still tries to look on the bright side, and he makes the effort to be kind to the hospital staff and learn their names, making him their favorite patient. 

My son, Travis Wright, is funny and fearless.  He has an infectious joy that draws people to him.   He has been my Son of Consolation through many tough years.  He is a faithful husband and a playful dad.  He bravely left his hometown and moved his family to Oklahoma to pursue his dream (though I have not yet gotten over it). 

I honor the men who stand for God, who take care of their families, who protect their children, who are determined to do the right thing even when it is hard. Men who go to war so I can be safe, who fight fires and keep the peace.  Men who lead with courage and care.  Men who put their lives in harm’s way for the sake of others.

Thank God for fathers who show their boys how to be good men, who treasure their daughters and teach them how a man should treat a woman.  Thank God for fathers who love their wives and stick it out when it would seem easier to walk away.  Thank God for fathers who love and care for other men’s children who have walked away.  Thank God for fathers who discipline with love instead of anger, who set a high standard of living so that their children have a role model worthy of following.  Thank God for fathers who get on their knees and pray every day, who take their children to church instead of just send them.  Thank God for fathers who go to work, for fathers who know how to play, for fathers who teach right from wrong and walk their talk.

I love those men in my life:  my precious going-on-91 Dad, my Sweet William, my son of consolation Travis.  And there is still one more, our little man, Ethan, 10 years old.  He is watching these good men, listening to their words.  He will be influnced by their lives. 

May he follow their footsteps.

 “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.”    –Deuteronomy 4:9

Pulling together

 

“When we all pull together, together, together,

  When we all pull together, how happy we’ll be.”

So says a childhood song I learned in Sunday School.  It proved to be true for me last weekend.

My father, John Rayhill, will be ninety years old at the end of this month, and shouldn’t a ninety year old have a party?  Of course he should.  Being an only child it was up to me to do something. 

The first part of the year, Dad was not in very good health and talked of dying and wrote his obituary.  I really wondered if he would see his ninetieth birthday.  About the middle of the year, his health made an amazing turn for the better as he began to grow stronger day by day.  Thank You, Lord!

I began to think seriously about a birthday party.  I reserved a large meeting room for a weekend in November.

Then my journey took an unexpected turn.  Actually, it was more like dropping off the cliff.  My Sweet William had surgery in the summer, and his recovery took longer than either of us expected.  The wind was knocked out of my sails.  I had a hard time concentrating on most everything and especially plans for a party.

As November drew closer, I became more and more frantic about the event.  By this time, Sweet William had yet another surgery in October, and I was in the midst of caregiving once again.   Adding to my cliff-hanging days was the fact that my son, my only son, and his family had moved to Tulsa in September.  My mind was foggy and my heart was grieving.  But, there was a party to plan.  I honestly did not know how it was going to happen.  

At least I had a room rented.

As the days closed in on me, my cousin-in-law, Linda, came to my rescue.  She offered to help with planning the menu, shopping for the food, and overseeing its preparation.  I felt part of my load lift.

Other family members and friends began to say they would help with this task or that: decorations, preparing the room, taking pictures, clean-up.  I began to realize I was not in this by myself.   

I asked a number of people to tell stories about Dad, and each one willingly agreed.  I could see a program taking form.

The day arrived for the big celebration.  Cousins, cousins-in-law, cousins’ children, (did I mention I am an only child?) and friends began showing up at the rented room.  Tables were soon covered with black and white clothes.  Simple curly ribbons became a festive decoration.  Final food preparation was taking place in the kitchen.  A display of photographs and memorabilia seemed to fall into order.  A piano was carried to the room for songs later on.  Suddenly, it was a party!

I am sure the Lord above wanted Dad to have a birthday celebration.  How else could it have come together so beautifully?  My Dad was greatly pleased with it and enjoyed greeting the crowd of over 100 people who gathered to honor him.  Dad is still talking about it.

Psalm 68:6 says “God sets the lonely in families . . . ”  While I may not be in the category of “lonely,” I am an only child.  So I think I can apply this verse to me.  God set me in an extended family who have been my substitue brothers and sisters.  They have stood beside me when I needed a steady hand, a shoulder to cry on, and someone to lift me up when I could not stand alone.  He has also put friends into my life who have been there in the good, bad, and ugly of my life.  And they decided to stay.  They are like family to me.

These people “pulled together” with me to produce a tribute to my precious father.  I could not have done it without them.

Blessings come in so many ways.  I know the best ones are the people I call my family.

My father’s chair

My dad called and said he was ready to let go of a couple of items, and he thought I might want them.  One is an embroidered picture my mother made as a Christmas present for him in the 1980s.  It says, “Life is fragile.  Handle with prayer.”  It was an appropriate gift for my dad who has been a prayer warrior for years.  His prayer life is an example of what it means to “Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ,” (Galatians 6:2).  The framed embroidered verse had been hanging over a chair in the basement of his and Esther’s home for the past 25 years.  

The other item was the chair over which it hung.  And that surprised me.  The chair came from a branch of the First National Bank in a downtown location when I was in my teens.  The bank was being remodeled by the company where dad worked.  Whenever there was a remodel job and stuff was being thrown out for the newer and more updated, Dad would ask if he could salvage some of it.   He brought home many a piece of so-called junk and found a use for it. 

The chair was such a piece and in decent shape, so he brought it home and put it in his workshop behind our house on Arnoldtown Road.  It became his prayer altar.  Dad went to his shop each evening and had his nightly prayer time.  It was as regular as the sun setting.  He did not miss an evening.   God was calling him to a prayer ministry, and he did not waver from his commitment.

The chair traveled to Shepherdsville in the late 1960s when we moved.  Dad built another house and workshop.   And the chair was placed in the rear of the shop where he prayed regularly.

Dad’s prayer ministry became well-known and quite eventful over the years.  People often came to the house asking for counsel and prayer.  Many times Dad took them to the garage where the person knelt at the chair.  I had my own personal “praying through” experiences at that chair.  I recall weeping there, pouring out my heart, and being aware of the presence of the Almighty.

When Dad remarried after my mother’s death, he took his chair and placed it in the basement of his and Esther’s home.  And the people came there for prayer.

At that chair my dad gathered thousands of prayer requests people gave him over the years.  Stacks of letters in envelopes, slips of paper, pictures of children and loved ones filled the area surrounding the chair that sat in the corner of his basement study with Mother’s embroidered artwork hanging above.

My dad knelt at that chair, too many times to count, calling out my name, Sweet William’s name, the names of my son and daughter-in-love, the names of the grandchildren, our familys’ names and names of people far and near.  Dad loves to recount Revelations 5:8* explaining that there are containers in Heaven holding the prayers of the saints.  He declares that he has filled a lot of those containers on behalf of those he loves and holds dear.

The chair became a sanctuary where dad met with God daily.

So it shocked me when dad asked if I wanted the chair now.  I didn’t expect it to leave the house until dad left this earth and was in the presence of God.  Dad explained that when he and Esther experienced the house fire in 2009, his prayer routine changed out of necessity while the house was being reconstructed.  During the six months when he could not go to his basement office, he changed his prayer habit from the chair to another place.  Now back in their house, he has arranged the many requests he receives at another altar so he can put his hands on them and pray over them each day.

Bill and I went to get the chair and the picture.   There in the basement I moved things out of the way to bring the chair into the center of the room.  It was a holy moment for me.  Memories flooded and my thoughts swirled.  The presence of the Lord seemed to hover near.  It’s not that the chair is of itself holy or some sort of talisman.  But it does represent a man meeting with his God.  A simple man, a sinner saved by grace, a life that was changed to become the image-bearer of Christ.  The influence of his prayers will be told in eternity.  Christ who ever lives to intercede for His children called this man, my father, to a prayer ministry.  And he has been faithful to it. 

The chair is in my home now, sitting in my kitchen.  I don’t really want anyone to casually sit in it.  It’s not that kind of casual chair.  It’s my dad’s prayer chair, the altar where he wept and prayed for many people over the years.  Since relocating it  to my home, I’ve knelt at the chair and I expect I will again. 

The chair is a place where my dad met with God and where God met with my dad.  It represents dad’s legacy, more valuable than any monetary inheritance he will leave me. 

Dad’s prayers follow me.  I am strengthened by them.  God hears my name often throughout the day because my dad prays for me.

I want to leave a legacy for my children and my children’s children by becoming a woman of prayer, by believing God’s promises, and by being faithful to pray without ceasing.   I  have a way to go.  At least I am on the journey.

*Revelations 5:8 – And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.

 

How has prayer affected your life?  Who prayed for you?  Leave your memories here.

A fresh word

 

This is my first week of the new Bible study, No Other Gods, by Kelly Minter.  I admire this young woman who writes Bible studies and is wise beyond her young years.

Today, as I was reading a verse from the study, I had an epiphany.  I know I have read 2 Corinthians many times. Why is this verse is not highlighted, circled or in some way marked as choice tidings like so many other verses in my Bible?  But it wasn’t. It lay there on the page as a fresh Word to be discovered and assimilated.  Perhaps it struck a resonating chord today because of the conversation I had last night with two sweet young friends.

After Little Flock Celebration Choir practice last night, two young women came into my office where I was gathering my coat and bag. They came just to chat with me.  I can’t began to tell you on paper, I mean on computer screen, how very dear these young friends are to me.  At my grandmotherly age, having young women who want to hang around and talk is a treasure I hold close to my heart.

As women will do, we talked here and there and everywhere.  It was one of those conversations that would be hard to keep up with unless you possess the xx chromosomes of femininity.  (Please guys, don’t take offense.  It’s just the way we girls are made.)

The conversation turned to trials and troubles, our own and those of others.  We all have them.  Problems are no respecter of persons or age categories. And we wondered why they come and must be endured?

Don’t you wonder why sometimes?  I certainly have wondered and questioned and felt the frustration of not getting the answer.  I’ve had to settle with knowing my God has His reasons and that one day, in a place far better than I am now, He will explain, or either I will be so overwhelmed and delighted in His presence that I won’t even care to know anymore.

And so I wake this morning to find a nugget of gold in my Bible study.  Second Corinthians 1:9 records Paul’s counsel to the church and to me, and perhaps to you.  Under inspiration from God, he wrote:

Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.  But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God  who rasies the dead.” (NIV, emphasis mine)

An answer to my question has been right there all the time.

I can attest to and confess that I have tried relying on myself quite a number of times, only to realize I was not up to the task.  When I turned to my Father, after attempting and failing, I found He was more than able and His grace quite sufficient.

I am encouraged this morning by the words of a loving God who cares about my quandaries.  He spoke directly into my heart today. I won’t say much more except to give one more companion verse I found while looking for the other one.  I looked in First Corinthians 1:9 before I realized I was in the wrong book.  It is equally good, and for me, follows on the heals of the other one.  It says:

God, Who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.”

Faithful! Oh that word conjures up memories of His faithfulness to me in the past, time after time after time.

Wow, I just want to shout “glory” this morning!  There is a purpose in my trials and troubles.  He has not left me alone to struggle by myself.  He has called me into fellowship with Jesus.  And He is the faithful God who will do what He has promised.

I am filled up with courage today. I hope you are too.

 

Please leave a comment.

Tell me how God has been faithful to you in your trials. I want to rejoice with you.

I’m a living blog!

  

Since starting this blog in September 2010, I often wonder who is reading it. Some people leave comments; others write to me on Facebook about a blog they have read.  Once in a while WordPress.com sends me a message that says, “someone has subscribed to your blog.”  It’s a nice surprise.  I may recognize the email address, but sometimes I don’t.  And again I wonder, who out there in cyberspace is reading my words?

Words. I told you a blog or two ago that I had been thinking a lot about words, the words I write and the words I say. One of my life goals is to speak words that will help others become stronger.

So it was with much interest that I read a devotion from Our Daily Bread sent by email from my sweet friend, Sharon. She usually sends a short inspirational thought each day to her email friends.  But this day she sent the full message.

The Scripture referenced in this devotional was the apostle Paul’s startling message to the Corinthian church.*  He said:

Clearly, you are a letter from Christ . . . This letter is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts.”  (New Living Translation)

There was also a quote by Lewis Bayly, a chaplain to King James I in England.  In his book, The Practice of Piety, he said, “one who hopes to effect any good by his writings will find that he will instruct very few . . . The most powerful means, therefore, of promoting what is good is by example . . . living excellence to those around him.”

Wow!  I had to ponder that for a moment.  Me, a letter to the world. Who is reading, and what are people reading in me? A book of fiction, a mystery, an advice column, the latest gossip news?

Now I’m beginning to realize I am a walking blog, a modern version of a letter, or as they say in King James Version, a living epistle. The words are written and read by people I see every day.

And I pray,

Dear Heavenly Father, may people see the Word that became flesh written on my heart and lived out in my life.     

* 2 Corinthians 3:3

Please leave a comment. Now you know how much I want to know you are out there.