Saturday, December 27, 2008

Greetings from Memphis.

Good morning (very early, it’s about 1:00 am). We had a wonderful trip to Memphis with only one stop at Wal-Mart. I forgot my toothbrush. I, who remind everyone to pack their toothbrushes; forgot mine. Oh well! Geni drove from Sulpher Springs nearly all the way across Arkansas. She did a super job. Bruce drove the last hour and a half or so.

We were greeted warmly by Dale, Gayle, Teague and Taryn. Tomorrow we will celebrate Gayle’s 50th birthday. She says no more after this one!! We will also get to meet Teague’s girlfriend, Chloe. I am in hopes of a brief visit to Graceland and a photo op in front of the music gates as well as a trip to a souvenir shop while we are in the area.

Isaiah 61:10 says, “The Lord makes me very happy; all that I am rejoices in my God. He has covered me with clothes of salvation and wrapped me with a coat of goodness, like a bridegroom dressed for his wedding like a bride dressed in jewels.” Ladies do you remember how it felt to be a bride? Gentlemen, do you remember how it felt to be a groom? I remember how it felt to be a bride. I remember waiting for Daddy in the bride’s room. I remember hearing the music and my heart beginning to race. I remember thinking that in just a few moments I would belong to Bruce forever; until death do us part. I remember feeling beautiful in the wedding dress designed by me and fashioned by my beloved Mamo. I remember Daddy placing my hand in Bruce’s hand and knowing that this was the right relationship and, even though being a bit nervous, I was at peace because I was with one with whom I would spend the rest of my earthly life. Bruce chose me and I chose him and we, for almost 28 years (in just a few more days) choose each other again each day. I remember the feeling of total happiness and joy.

Who brings happiness and joy to the heart of God? Who does God find as beautiful? Who has captured the heart of God? He did not choose His creation to bring joy to Himself. He did not create angels to be happy about. God’s heart is captured by each of us. He finds beauty in us when He finds the life of His Son being lived each day. He rejoices in the creation of new life in Christ when someone turns away from sin and chooses a life with Christ in their heart. God’s heart is happy and the angels rejoice when we are clothed by His grace in the robe of righteousness and we wear the crown of victory - when we surrender ourselves to the love and faithfulness of Christ our Lord.

My friends, walk down the aisle and meet Jesus. Clothe yourself in the contrite heart of one who has received salvation. God will clothe you the robe of righteousness and in His goodness. Jesus is waiting to take your hand and place it into the hand of the Father. God chooses us first. Let us choose Him every day.

Take joy in the journey dear friends. Love you all, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas Day to you all! May the birth of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ bring you great joy today and in the days to come.

I was the first one up this morning. I prepared a fresh coffee cake, scrambled eggs and sausage and then awakened the family. We opened our gifts, ate and readied ourselves for the trip to Mom and Dad’s.

Our day was spent with Mom, Dad, Ken, Sheena and the girls and my Uncle Gene and Aunt Imogene (when I was little I always thought that was so cool how they did that with their names.) We had a delicious lunch and a wonderful time together. After lunch we played bingo. It has become our tradition to play games after Christmas lunch and we had a great time. I must admit that there was a conspicuous absence of Casey. My heart missed him so much today.

John 1: 14 says, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” There were times today in which I felt I was just going through the motions of “doing” Christmas. I always love being with my family. I love seeing my parents, brother and his family and extended family. I love my own family so much and treasure every moment I am allowed to spend with them. I love the cooking. I love the wrapping. I love the music and the movies. And yet this year my heart was sad.

God did not “do” Christmas. He became Christmas. He became the Word made flesh and then he dwelt among us. He did not arrive in this world in a fancy hospital, or even a nice warm home, but in a lowly manger. Born in lowly surroundings and visited by humble shepherds. Jesus, His mother and father were not surrounded by royalty or the rich, but were visited by a bunch of shepherds. And God knew that even on this most blessed and sacred of nights that all roads now lead to the cross.

I praise God that He did not and does not go through the motions of loving us. God does not “do” love. God is love. God sent this precious child so that we could sing tidings of great joy. For unto us was born a savior, a savior who would bring light into the hearts of those who were walking in darkness.

Everyone experiences loss at some time or another. I am assured that God is with us in our sorrows and in our joys. God, through His Son, Jesus, surrounds us with His love and tender mercies all of the time. I miss Casey sometimes so much that it almost takes my skin off. But I know that the same God in whom Casey sees face to face is the same God who loves us enough to send Jesus to show how much He loves us.

Merry Christmas, my dear friends. I love you all.

Take joy in the journey. Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

PS We are leaving for Memphis, Tennessee in the morning and will be back on Monday. We are going to visit Bruce’s brother, Dale, and his family. Pray travel mercy for us. Geni will be travelling with us and Travis will remain here as he has to work. We will miss Travis on this trip. My next writings will be from Memphis. Have a great week. Take care as you hit the mall and Wal-Mart for the great sales and returns.

Love you, Gaylene.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.
Happy Christmas Eve! Has your day been as busy as mine? We made two trips to Wal-Mart. I finished the cooking and am ready to place it into ice chests and take it to Mom and Dad’s tomorrow. All the packages are wrapped and under the tree and placed in the stockings. I must admit that looking over at the mantle and seeing four stockings hanging makes me sad, sad, only because there are not five. But I give thanks that there are four. I am remembering to count my blessings. Bruce, Geni and Travis are my blessings. The stocking that are hanging are the ones we used in Casey’s room in Houston last Christmas.

We went to 8:00 worship tonight at Advent. Bruce played handbells at the end of the service and Geni and Travis were with us. It was a wonderful service. Lots of families and very excited children begging to go home and get to bed “uncharacteristically early” to await Santa’s arrival.

The opening song was O Come, All Ye Faithful. That song always gives me lump in my throat, but tonight it brought me to tears as we sang the third verse. I have sung that song a gozillion times, but tonight the third verse rang out; “Sing choirs of angels, sing in exultation, Sing, all ye citizens of heaven above.” Casey is singing in heaven tonight as one of its newest citizens. He is singing gory to God, glory in the highest. Geni with tears in her eyes whispered to me, “Mom, we are singing to Casey because He is in heaven with Jesus having Christmas.” Casey is in the highest place there is. He sings at the feet of the Father with that voice that was so excellent here on earth and now that voice is heavenly.

The story from Luke the second chapter is the traditional Christmas story we have all grown up hearing. I love hearing it every year. In case you need to look up the verses, it is Luke 2:1-20. Tonight Pastor Joel preached tonight on miracles. The birth of Jesus was a miracle. Mary was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and became pregnant with the Son of God. Angels spoke with Joseph and told him to stay with Mary for the child she was carrying was one so special that not only was Mary chosen to bear and mother this child, God had chosen him, Joseph to be the earthly father of Jesus. But then a revelation came to me. (Realizing I am probably the last one to think about this.) Jesus was born of a miracle and He also died and resurrected as a miracle. Jesus came into this world the natural way babies are delivered, but He was not conceived in a natural way. Jesus, when it came time to die, died a horrible death. His body took all of the punishment this world could dole out until His body could no longer take the punishment, but then a miracle happened. He was resurrected by the will of His heavenly Father. Jesus came into this world by the will of the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit and left this world in the same fashion. In Spirit He came and in Spirit He returned.

The best miracle of all is how much God loves us. He loves us so much, that after Jesus went to heaven to spend eternity with the Father, God sent back the love of Jesus to all of us in the transforming, loving power of the Holy Spirit so we can have the love of Jesus with us forever. I find it totally miraculous that it all started with a tiny baby in a manger and a God who loves us to much that He wants to live with us always. I wish you all Merry Christmas. May the babe of Bethlehem be born once again in our hearts this Christmas.

Take joy in the journey friends. Love you, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Christmas Eve, Eve!! Can you believe tomorrow is Christmas Eve? I am preparing the turkey for our family Christmas dinner this year. I found a new recipe that calls for onions, carrots, celery, apples, oranges, lemons, a variety of herbs and some garlic. You rest the turkey on the fruit and vegetables in the roasting pan and stuff the cavity with the fruit and vegetables. Then you make an herbed butter and rub in on the meat of the turkey not on the skin. I then poured a bottle of white wine in the pan and it is OMG good. Last year we ate the lunch prepared by the volunteers at MD Anderson Hospital.

Deb Koplen update: She had a chemotherapy treatment yesterday. It is her second treatment. She will have scans in about three weeks to see where she stands in terms of the cancer. She has been moved to Kindred Rehab Hospital. She is in Rm. 301 B. Geni and Travis went to the hospital and gathered all of the decorations from her room and took them to her new room across the street. They stayed and decorated the room. Miss Deb now has her pictures of Miss Chips, her beloved dog and all of her other homey fashions. The room looks really awesome. Go by and see her and the room if you get a minute. She loves visitors and a tall caramel macchiato from Starbucks if you happen to be in the neighborhood.

Hebrews 8: 11 says, “…for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest.” I spent a portion of my theology paper identifying who God was. As Christmas Eve is upon us I can identify God in the person of Jesus Christ; God in the flesh. Emanuel, God with us. And to whom did God announce the birth of His Son? He announced the blessed birth to a bunch of shepherds. Simple shepherds, doing their job, “keeping watch over their flocks by night”. Shepherds and sheep don’t get a holiday. And the angel chorus announced to them that a savior was born in Bethlehem. And then who else got the pronouncement? The kings from the east who followed the star also came to the Christ child. The lowly to the great come to know Christ.

I think most of us fall somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. I am not a shepherd and I am not a king/queen. But I am Gaylene, child of God and daughter of the King of Love. God came to reconcile all the world unto Himself. He came for the lowly and the great and all in between. So if we are children of God that makes us brother to Christ. We are a part of quite a family!

God came to earth in the body of Christ so that all could know Him. Scripture does not say He came for some or a few or just the ones in a certain geographical area, but He came for ALL so that we might know Him. So tomorrow as you are preparing for the joy of Christmas, remember why and Whom we celebrate this wonderful season. When you look upon the gifts under your tree, remember Whom we adore, Whom we worship and Who came for ALL; Christ the Lord.

Take joy in the Christmas journey. See you in worship tomorrow night. Love you all, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.
Happy Monday! On the first day of Christmas break my true love brought to me…a cup of coffee in bed. I spent the first hour or so of my holiday break sipping coffee quietly in our bed and watching Matlock. The kids were asleep and Bruce had to go to Tyler. So I had a few moments of quiet time to myself. Those moments were short lived, but very enjoyable.

I spent the next part of my day visiting our friend Deb Koplen. She is having her second chemotherapy treatment today. I took her a caramel macchiato form Starbucks and to my surprise her beautiful red locks had been shaved off and she was proudly sporting a new “do.” I scouted around and found her a turban like head cap and she looked simply smashing. Deb seems to be back to her bossy order giving self and it was nice to have her back after being so confused for so long. Her confusion reminded me so much of the times when Casey had chemo brain and had hallucinations. He always told me (after reassuring me he never took acid) that these hallucinations were what he thought acid trips must be like. He said the dreams were really awful. The doc has written orders for her to go to Kindred Rehab Hospital across the street. I think the decision is insurance driven. Anyway she still is in need of our prayers and visits. I will let you know when the move takes place.

I finished up Christmas shopping today. I also(figuratively) hit some brick walls today. It was an emotional day and I had to just keep walking forward and keeping my task in front of me. Between the mall and Target I cratered. As I was driving I asked God to heal my broken heart and help me find some joy somewhere. I began to count my blessings and by the time I got to Target, I was better. Not healed, but better. Travis invited two of his good friends over for dinner tonight. It was fun to have both Geni and Travis and their friends around the table tonight. It brought the joy I was seeking to my heart. Tomorrow I plan to roast a turkey for Thursday lunch, wrap gifts and go shopping with Geni and Travis.

Luke 1: 49 says, “For the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is His name.” I debated as to whether to share this moment with you tonight, but here goes. As I was leaving the hospital I stopped by the nurses’ station for a moment and looked down at the other end of the counter. There I saw a young man probably in his mid-twenties with short blond hair, husky build, wearing glasses, about 5’10-11’ and smiling. I called to Wendy, the charge nurse, to “come here!!”She quickly got up and I asked her to look at the young man. Her response was “Oh my gosh!” I then asked Penny, another nurse, to do the same and I thought she was going to faint. This young man was an ambulance driver there to pick up a patient and take them to radiation. He could have been Casey’s twin. It was such an emotional experience for me and it affected me for the remainder of the day.

I think it was this event that perhaps caused me when I was so upset between the mall and Target, to count my blessings. I began by thanking God for His Son. I gave thanks for the blessing of Jesus and the cross and not only covering my sins, but covering my sorrows and blessing me with great joy even when I have trouble finding joy, too. I gave thanks for the family who raised me; who loved me with unconditional love so that I would always feel secure in not only the love of a family, but to have a glimpse of what God’s love is like and to be able to always count on that love no matter what life throws at me. It was the love of God in my family expressed daily throughout my life as a young person and now as I am older and have a family of my own that taught me to love the family God gave me to raise with that same love. I gave thanks for Bruce and the courage he displays each day as he works with people and their homes and how he prays before each home he enters that he will be able to help them and that it will be a peaceful equitable experience. I gave thanks for Geni and Travis and the joy they bring to me. How I give thanks each time they come home or even walk into a room. They will never understand the depth of love and pride I take in each of them until they have children of their own. I am so proud of each of them and they are becoming the most amazing young adults as each one is beginning to find their way in this world. I pray they each look to God for guidance and ask Him for direction in their lives. By now I arrived at Target, wiped my eyes and braved the cold.

Do you suppose these are questions Mary pondered in her heart? Do you suppose Mary had any clue as to the fate of her Son? Do you suppose as she held her Son in those first few hours that she and the child that she delivered would also deliver her and the world? Those last words are from a song written by Mark Lowry called, Mary Did You Know? In the verse from Luke, the words are from Mary. She glorifies God as she is an unwed pregnant mother who courageously follows God’s will for her life and for the life she carries. In her despair over the situation she counts her blessings even when it is hard.

Count your blessings my friends. Hug your babies no matter how old they are and visit someone who cannot be at home for Christmas. Love you all so much, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Blessed Sunday to you all! I hope your time in worship today was anointed. Today Pastor Joel preached a wonderful sermon. The Praise Team sang a beautiful Chinese Carol titled “Who Would Send a Baby?” And we spent the evening decorating the Christmas tree. We located the ornaments and as they were being hung we each talked about our favorites. We remembered who gave them to us or where and the circumstances in which they came into our possession. There are all of the ornaments the kids made growing up in school that have their names and dates on the back. Great memories and the new ornaments of Elvis, a snowman that Travis received from Carter Blood Care for successfully donating his first pint of blood and a coffee cup ornament were added to the collection. Our tree never has a theme or looks very organized. We were married on New Year’s Day 1981. There was a bridal luncheon given for me and the gift was a Christmas ornament from each guest. That is how our collection got started. We have ornaments from Harry Potter and Hagrid to Elvis to angels and snowmen. Tomorrow we will get down the stockings and the tree skirt and the tree will be complete except for presents under the tree and they will appear soon. The crèche is on the mantle and we are getting closer to being ready for Christmas.

Luke 1:27 says, ‘For nothing will be impossible with God.” As we get closer to Christmas my thoughts often find their way to Mary. Ladies, can you imagine being Mary. First, she is really young and engaged to a man older than her. Then she is met by an angel who tells her she will be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and she will bear the Son of God. And then she has to tell her family this completely remarkable story.

In those times town’s people would ostracize or even kill those women who had babies out of wedlock. But Mary, after she collected herself and “got her bearings,” proclaims the greatness of God and surrenders to His will. The angel tells her to believe that nothing is impossible with God. Another angel tells a group of shepherds to “fear not” they were bringing good tidings of a great joy that a baby had been born in a stable in Bethlehem.

Mary did not conceive Jesus by the ordinary way, but in an extraordinary way. But Jesus was born in a stable, not a hospital, or a hotel room or even at home with her mother to help. It was just she and Joseph and God in that stable to bring that precious life into the world. I am reminded of a story about a young couple who were expecting their first child. It happened to be a pastor and his wife. He was determined not to be in the delivery room when the time came. He lost that battle and as he watched his wife struggle after hours of labor to bring their child into the world it suddenly occurred to him that here was a woman who was laying down her life so that another might have life. Do you suppose he thought at that moment after the pain a bleeding had stopped that he thought about the words of the Eucharist that say, “this is my body given for you?”

And 2000 years ago a young couple in a far less attractive place delivered their first child. Joseph under ordinary circumstances would not have been with Mary at the point of delivery, she would have been attended by her mother and a mid-wife. But this was no ordinary birth; Joseph did attend his wife and helped to bring Jesus into the world. And as Joseph watched his very young wife struggle through labor pains and finally deliver this precious child, do you suppose he thought, here is one who is laying down her life that another might have life? Did he think of his wife, “This is my body given for you?”

The life of Jesus, Mary and Joseph would never be easy. Our lives are seldom easy, but when difficult situations arise God tells us in His Word that all things are possible with God. Claim the promise of God. As Pastor Joel told the children today during Children’s time, “If God broke His promises then He wouldn’t be God.” Have unwavering hope in God for all things are possible with God.

Take joy in the journey my dear friends. Love you all, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.