Remembering Lester

I had a boyfriend in ninth grade whose name was Lester. He was a big, husky kid with a rough and tumble attitude who played a defensive position on the Jr. High Football team; academics were not his strength, and teachers warned my mother to keep an eye on her sweet, studious little girl because of her fascination with this big, bad country boy.

Neither of us was old enough to drive, so our “dates” consisted of holding hands at high school football games, dancing at school dances, and talking for hours on the phone after school. Sometimes he would phone me and play records for me to listen to. His favorite was “Baby, I need your Loving” by Johnny Rivers. Sometimes he would even sing along. At fifteen, I thought it was terribly romantic.

A little rural church held a monthly youth outreach called “Teen Club” and Lester, his cousin, my best friend and I were regular attendees. The youth pastor and his wife were achingly young, fresh out of Bible College and tried their best to connect with us, but we listened in boredom to their sermons and quickly found an excuse to escape from the church basement, board games and lemonade into the night where we could horse around under the streetlight in front of the church. We were rowdy, disinterested, and I suspect, discouraging for the young ministers.

Lester and I did not remain an item for long. We dated on and off during my freshman year, but ran in different circles for the rest of my high school time. Over the years I lost track of these people who were once so important in my life, but recently reconnected with my girlfriend from those Teen Club days. She and I both have a committed relationship now with Jesus Christ, so perhaps some of those seeds were not sown in vain. I don’t know what happened to the boys.

I heard from her last week and she sent me a copy of Lester’s obituary. The article said that he passed away, surrounded by family, in his sleep. It sounds like a long illness, perhaps cancer; the paper didn’t give any details. But it made me remember him, and those days back when I was fifteen.

Ministry has brought me in contact with many teens who remind me of my fifteen year old self. Those youth who come to events with ulterior motives, whose interest is focused on some guy or girl and who have perfected the high art of flirting are found in every church. And I think of that dedicated missionary couple, faithfully sharing the gospel with their unruly, uncaring audience.

I write this as an encouragement to those discouraged, frustrated youth workers. Keep sowing the seed; be faithful. I don’t know if Lester or his cousin ever accepted Jesus, but two of those boisterous teens did, and one grew up to be a pastor. Your job is to faithfully sow the seed; the Holy Spirit’s job is to make the seed grow. Keep sowing because you don’t know which of those seeds will sprout. You are making a difference, even if you cannot see immediate results.

Rest in peace, Lester. I hope some of those faithfully planted seeds helped you find Jesus.

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Catching a whiff of memories

Isn’t it funny how scents can trigger memories?  A summer breeze wafting past my neighbor’s cow barn transports me back to happy childhood summer afternoons playing in my Grandmother’s cow shed.  The smell of fresh tar immediately transports me back to the days my Dad sealed the outside of the basement walls of the house he built when I was four.   And if you open a box of crayons around me, my brain takes me back to the hallways of Flora List Elementary School.  

Today I walked through a classroom here at the church and something I smelled took me back to my Aunt Patty’s farmhouse kitchen!  I spent a week at her house when I was six years old and she made blueberry pancakes for breakfast.  I was startled when that whiff of something in the classroom instantly “took” me there and my mouth began watering, remembering her cooking.  

The sense of smell is an interesting thing that is directly linked to our taste buds.  Hold your nose and you won’t notice the taste of something that has an unpleasant flavor.  Yet, constant exposure to an odor will dull one’s sensitivity to it.  I have talked to people who live in towns with paper mills or oil refineries.  After a while, they don’t even notice the odor.

Just as people who smoke cigarettes don’t notice the odor of nicotine clinging to their clothing, or a pretty perfume seems to lose its scent to the person wearing it, we can easily become immune to the common smells that surround us day to day.  In the Bible days, a shepherd spent his life so close to his sheep that he would begin to smell like them.  I’m sure the shepherd didn’t notice the sheep-smell, but everyone else probably did.  

As Believers in Jesus Christ, we are called to spend so much time with our Lord that we begin to smell like Him.  We may not even notice it, but those who don’t know Him will.  My prayer is that we leave a fragrant scent of Christ’s love where ever we go, so that when people “catch a whiff” it will trigger a pleasant memory and make them hungry for more of Jesus, much as I am now hungry for my Aunt Patty’s home-made blue berry pancakes!

Easter has always been a BIG DEAL for me.  When I was little, and too young to understand the real significance of the day, Easter  meant getting a new outfit and a break from the everyday routine.  There was the traditional hunt for colored eggs, a breakfast of chocolate and jelly beans, going to church, followed by lunch at my Grandmother’s.  The whole family would gather at her rambling country farm house, enjoy a luncheon spread of ham, potato salad, baked beans and pie, then spend the rest of the day flying kites in the pasture.

As a child I never thought about all of the behind the scenes work that Grandma did getting ready  for  Easter.  The house was always clean, the sideboard  loaded with a variety of freshly baked pies, and a big meal of delicious food  made from scratch.  She must have worked long hours in preparation.

I have hosted a number of Easter family gatherings and can certainly appreciate Grandma’s efforts. While my pies may not have been made from scratch as Grandma’s were, I always made sure the house was clean and tried to prepare enough food for whatever size crowd I was expecting.  There was always an air of anticipation and growing excitement as the day drew closer, looking forward to the seeing the people who would be coming.

This year I will not be hosting a gathering with my biological family for the holiday but will be celebrating Easter with my brothers and sisters in Christ.  And, as Grandma or anyone who hosts a family gathering would agree, the days leading up to Easter are filled with activity.  Across the world, there is a flurry of activity as churches are being prepared for the celebration.  Woodwork is polished and dusted, floors buffed, paint retouched, weeds pulled, flowers planted and weeds pulled.  And, like any party held in one’s home, there is a growing anticipation and looking forward to the church family and guests who will be coming to the celebration.

Have a wonderful Easter.  Color and hide those eggs.  Nibble the ears off the chocolate bunnies for breakfast and feast with your family.  Celebrate all of the Easter traditions but never lose sight of the true significance of the day. Resurrection Day, or Easter, is about more than chocolate and candy, family parties, or new clothes.  It is the fulfillment of God’s promise to deliver mankind from the bondage of sin. Jesus’ resurrection, which we celebrate on Easter Sunday, is a forerunner of our own future resurrection.  1 Corinthians 15:20 says that Jesus is the first-fruit of those who have fallen asleep.  As He was resurrected, so can all who belong to Him look forward to our own resurrection someday.

In the days leading to Easter, many of us are  cleaning out the cobwebs and dust and polishing our homes and churches to receive guests for this celebration.  This is also an excellent time to do some spiritual housecleaning and receive Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior if you have never done so.  Romans 10:9 says “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.”    Without the cross and resurrection, Christmas would be a broken promise, but God has prepared a way for sinful man to be reconciled to Him through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Stop living your life by your own rules and embrace the richer, bigger, better life that Jesus paid for with His death.

Easter Preparations

God’s “Suddenly”

A recurring word throughout the Bible is “suddenly.”  When God opens doors, and blasts you through them, it feels very much like  a “suddenly.” 

After three months of Snowbird life, God “suddenly” opened a door with a job offer and I found myself en-route to a new position and life in Tennessee.  We broke camp in Florida and headed north, eager to begin the next chapter of our lives.  

When God opens a door it doesn’t necessarily mean you will have smooth sailing. If the devil can’t close the door, he will try everything he can to slow your progress and distract you.  We almost made it to our destination trouble free, but all that changed about 15 miles out.  We heard a funny noise in the engine and, as my husband and I were speculating on the cause, we “suddenly”  heard a noise resembling gremlins  banging on pots and pans under the hood.  We limped to the nearest exit and started making phone calls. 

After a long evening of waiting for a tow truck, quickly packing a few days’ worth of clothing, unhooking the car from the dolly, and transferring valuables and the cats from the RV, we were on our way again: the RV towed to a shop and us to a pet-friendly hotel.   The repairs were not quick, easy or inexpensive.   Essentially, a belt in the motor broke and the cascading effects caused major damage throughout the engine; repairs took longer than we expected, and cost more than we expected.  My husband kept saying, “We must be doing something right! Look at the opposition.” 

A few nights spent in the hotel did not delay me from starting my new job and beginning the search for a place to live.  Plans were to live in another campground inside the RV until we found an apartment. Living in a campground while working is possible, especially if you don’t mind sharing the showers with 80 new friends, but it makes an apartment feel like a luxury! 

Apartments are few and far between around here, but God came through again.  We spent a day driving around the surrounding communities and happened across a for rent sign.  This unit was not advertised in the paper, and we were fortunate enough to drive by and spot the sign.  A few phone calls later, we did a walk-through and assessed the potential of a year long lease. 

The rooms are big, it is in a safe area, and has quiet neighbors, but the carpet and woodwork felt very 1980’s, and the appliances were horrific.  I struggled  because of the kitchen, but after looking for other options, I figured it was better than living in the RV and signed the lease.  God (and our landlord) surprised us again by blessing us with new, modern appliances, which significantly improve the overall quality of the apartment.

We are leaving our house up north fully furnished for when we list it  and decided to buy a few strategic pieces of furniture for the apartment.  God has faithfully led us to unexpected sales and the place is starting to look like a real home. 

I have experienced a “suddenly.”  Within a week I left Florida, moved to Tennessee, started a new job, found furniture, and moved into an apartment.  We are nearly unpacked and even have some pictures on the walls.  The week has been a whirl-wind, with meeting many new people, learning a new community, apartment hunting, furniture shopping, and the demands of a new job. Some days it has felt as if I am trying to drink from a fire hydrant, but God continues to graciously bless and surprise me.  And I look forward to being at the point where the only thing I have to focus on is my job!