Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas in Ogbomosho Part 3

By: Peter Gilliland

There was a special progression of events that unfolded on Christmas morning which could not be altered. It was the way Christmas is supposed to happen.

As we made our way onto the porch in the pre-dawn damp darkness of the Harmattan mist, coming closer and closer was one of the most beautiful sounds in all the world. Then we could see them. Along the path near the house approached a line of angelic figures, all in white, carrying candles and singing Christmas carols. They were the nurses and nursing students, plus several missionaries. This was their present to us and others. Sometimes the carols were in English, sometimes in Yoruba, and Bill William's flute sang through the mist between the voices with a sound that, to this day, I have never heard equaled for the thrill it produced in me.

Slowly, but all too quickly, the singers-in-white circled our house and then moved on. They never stayed long enough, but it was OK for them to leave, because it meant that we could move on to the next thing. After all, there was a precise order to the way Christmas unfolded.
By the time the singers left, Daddy had the lights on. Electricity was very important to a Christmas morning (Christmas trees don't really look as nice by lamp light). Usually, the station light plant was working, but if not, Daddy would have our small generator cranked up. We could not go downstairs until Daddy said we could.

Then the word was given, and we rushed down the big front outside stairway into the dining room door – then into the living room. What would be under the tree? Had Santa Claus come?

Santa was remarkable in his ability always to come through for us. Besides the wrapped presents under the tree, there would be other marvelous things that had mysteriously appeared in the night. My sister and I would descend upon them with delightedly selfish tunnel-vision, while Mother urged us to slow down, and Daddy busied himself tuning in the BBC with its all-day Christmas music that crackled over the short-wave radio.

The two contenders for Best Christmas Ever are '51 and '59.

In '51 Santa brought me one of those wonderful huge English Raleigh tricycles and a wooden "Tommy" gun with a handle-and-ratchet I could turn to produce a rat-tat-tat sound. That tricycle was the beginning of my independence, and I could go anywhere on the compound (at least until the bush dogs around the hospital chased me home).

In '59 there was a full-size bicycle and a Daisy Model 25 BB-gun by the tree. I would love to know how many miles I put on that bike. I wore the BB-gun out completely in two-and-a-half years. I could ride that bike without holding on and shoot my BB-gun and hit every tree along one side of Teak Boulevard while going as fast as I could pedal.

There were always other people to share Christmas with us, too. Martha Tanner came some years, and the Seats and Griffins and Browns. They always made Christmas more special, and having them with us spoiled me. I still do not think it is really Christmas unless we can share our table with non-family.

After the first rush at the Christmas tree, and the presents had been summarily dealt with, we would have a big breakfast, with special goodies and then play with the new toys. Christmas mornings seemed to pass in a blur, and I have very few clear memories of them. I might go to check on what other kids had received, but that was usually anti-climactic, because for the most part, since our parents all shopped at the same stores in Lagos, we all got pretty much the same basic presents. The only opportunities for envy came with special items sent from the States, and I don't remember too many of those.

Sometime during the morning, all the various Nigerian friends would come by all dressed in their fanciest clothes. They often had wives and children in tow.

One Christmas, the old “peanut woman,” who sold peanuts around the compound and the town from a calabash on her head, came by. The once-brightly-painted calabash was faded and scratched and the colors were hardly recognizable. Daddy took her calabash and repainted its designs in fresh, bright, good-quality paints – and a new Christmas tradition was born.

Lunch time. A lingering excitement. Then the grownups went off for their naps, and I would be alone in the living room. This was the only day of the year I didn’t have to take a nap after lunch. But by this time, it would be too hot to go outside, so I would sit in the semi-darkness of the now-unlit living room and look at my gifts.

Sometimes, there was a sense of disappointment, because I was already getting bored with my new toys. I remember marveling that one could so anticipate Christmas, and it be SO wonderful and exciting, and then it could leave one feeling so deflated – and there was nothing special left to look forward to for a very long time. It took me years to realize that the real delight is mostly in the anticipation and preparation and the doing-for-others, not in the getting.

Eventually bath time came, and supper, and a quite evening, and off to bed, knowing that when I awoke, it would be a whole year 'til next Christmas.

Memories are remarkably personal things, and not necessarily "accurate" in the strict historical sense. But they are ours, and they give us our perspective on the present.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christmas in Ogbomosho Part 2

By: Peter Gilliland

Aahhh! Christmas in Ogbomosho. To this day, I am convinced that THAT is where REAL CHRISTMAS happened, especially during the 1950s and early '60s.

Christmas there was not just a day, but a season. The best season.

We lived on a very large mission station, and celebrations were a Big Deal. There were parties; a station party, at the Seminary, or sometimes at the guest house. And it was wonderful.

And there was the Christmas Pageant. One year, my sister, Diana, was Joseph, because she was the biggest kid. Linda Goldie was Mary. I think Pat & Jim and Jonathon were the Wise Guys. John and Bill Carey and I were shepherds.

Then later, John and BC and I aged into Wise Guys. We sang "We Three Kings," and my verse was "Born a King on Bethlehem's plain, gold I bring...."

One year we did something like "The Littlest Shepherd," and Kenny was Him.

For weeks ahead of time we had rehearsals. Aunt Jane was usually the one tasked with making us into thespians. And it was wonderful.

Sometime in November we made a pilgrimage to Lagos to buy presents. We stayed at "the Hostel" and shopped at Kingsway and UTC and Chelarams and Leventis. Kingsway had a black Father Christmas, and I had my picture made sitting on his knee. In the afternoons we would go to Victoria Beach for a couple of hours, and I was delighted and terrified (and sometimes almost drowned) by the tremendous breakers. Then back at the Hostel there would be a quarter inch of sand in the bathtub after my bath. And it was wonderful.

My mother always hosted a carol sing at our house. Most of the station crowded in to sing Christmas carols, while my father and a few other non-singing men retreated to the kitchen to fry up donuts. And we always sang "The Twelve Days of Christmas." And it was wonderful.

There was lots of good food; cakes, cookies and pies in quantities not seen through the rest of the year. And there was Mrs. Jester's fruitcake. And it was wonderful.

There was excitement in the air, a marvelous anticipation, and parents hid things from children, and children were forbidden to enter certain rooms. And it was wonderful! 

The days were hot and dry and the nights were cool and you could imagine winter. It seemed that Christmas would never actually arrive because time passed so slowly. And it was wonderful.

And the Christmas decorations came out. For years, we had a casuarina tree – or branch – for a Christmas tree. Daddy strung the lights, and Mother and Diana attached the decorations, and I was "shooed" away from the tree because I was not trusted to place ornaments properly.

The tree lights were the old fat-bulb kind. If one bulb was bad, the whole string hung in darkness while Daddy changed one bulb after another to find the offender, and then the lights would come on in delightful, colorful glory. There were a few of the candle-shaped lights that were supposed to bubble, but after a few years they did well just to light up. In later years there was tinsel to hang on the tree, and plastic icicles, and even lights that did not all go out if one failed.

Then came the years of artificial trees. They were more perfect and modern and from America and they looked more like the pictures in the Saturday Evening Post, but somehow -- they never seemed quite as "right" as the casuarina branches -- and the only smell they had was of musty staleness.

Sometimes I just sat in the living room and looked at the tree, and at the presents that began to accumulate under the tree (but which we couldn’t touch), and I would dream delightful dreams of anticipation and wonder what was in those packages.

And it seemed that Christmas would never actually arrive.

And it was wonderful.

Finally, after weeks of anticipation and delighted, seemingly unending, frustration, The Day Before Christmas arrived.The excitement was unbearable. Nothing really happened that day, and the boring suspense was terrible.

I knew that some families cheated and opened their presents – or at least one present – on Christmas Eve, but I knew that such behavior wasn't really proper, and that wasn't how WE did Christmas. No, we waited – and suffered – until THE Day.

The Night Before Christmas was not just a poem to me. It was the LONGEST night of the year. I tried hard to sleep (I knew Santa Clause couldn't come until I was asleep). I listened carefully for reindeer (I had been assured that Santa could handle the fact that we had neither chimney nor snow). And my mind danced in unquenchable excitement as I anticipated the delights to come with the next daylight. Eventually, sleep would sneak in behind the drumming from the town and overpower me when I wasn't looking.

Suddenly, it was The Morning, and Christmas was HERE! Mother would wake me and bundle me into my robe and slippers, and we would step out onto our upstairs porch to begin CHRISTMAS!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Christmas in Ogbomosho
Ogbomosho, Nigeria is the town I grew up in. Christmases there were so special. Nigeria is a country on the coast of West Africa just beneath the Sahara Desert. Christmas in Nigeria comes in the middle of the dry season in a special part of the dry season known as Harmattan.

Wikipedia defines Harmattan like this: The Harmattan is a dry and dusty West African trade wind. It blows south from the Sahara into the Gulf of Guinea between the end of November and the middle of March. Humidity can drop to as low as 15 percent. In some countries in West Africa, the heavy amount of dust in the air can severely limit visibility and block the sun for several days, comparable to a heavy fog.

And against this backdrop, we celebrated Christmas. My father used to say he liked the fact that Christmas came in the middle of Harmattan. In America everything was stark, cold, and dreary with the trees bare and the air full of winter’s chill and in the middle of this otherwise dreary time, Christians celebrate the birth of the Savior with ornamented and brightly lit Christmas trees, gifts, good food, and Christmas cheer. Likewise in Nigeria, when the world is dry and dusty, all the leaves and grass are a dreary brown, Christians are celebrating the joyous birth of their Savior with songs and good cheer. The celebration in both countries injects cheer in an otherwise dreary season and proves that our joy over Christ is not based on our circumstances.

I loved the Christmases of my childhood! They were unique and wonderful. A missionary kid friend of mine, Peter Gilliland, has written a short memoir about his childhood memories of Christmas in Ogbomosho which I will post in two parts over the next few weeks. His memories are so similar to mine since we were both blessed to spend our childhoods in the 50’s and 60’s in the same wonderful town – Ogbomosho, Nigeria or as the Nigerians write it, Ogbomoso. (Their “s” is pronounced like an “sh”.)

On a humorous note, when I was a baby, I had very thin wispy blonde hair. During the Harmattan season the static electricity from the dry blowing air caused my hair to stand on end most of the time and my family fondly called me “Harriet the Harmattan cat” because my hair looked like the hair on the back of cats when they arch in fear or anger.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Two Edged Sword

God is still God!

“And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, ‘The Lord He is God; the Lord He is God!”              
                                                              1st Kings 18:39 NAS

            The story of God sending fire from heaven in response to Elijah’s prayer illustrates God’s miraculous and amazing power. However, an understanding of the beliefs and customs at the time of the miracle yields an even greater appreciation of God’s power.

            The people at that time in history believed the different gods they worshipped had territories. Elijah was a prophet of Jehovah – the God of the Jews. There were many other gods that the people worshipped as well. Baal was one of these other gods. The miracle of Jehovah sending fire from heaven when Baal was not able to occurred in Baal’s territory. As amazing as this miracle may seem to us, if it had happened in Jehovah’s territory, the people at that time would not have thought it to be so spectacular because Jehovah was supposed to be able to perform miracles in His territory. But, in Baal’s territory, Baal should have more power; he should have been able to send the fire – not Jehovah. Yet, Baal couldn’t send the fire. Why? – because Jehovah is the true God. He can work anywhere. God is still God, even in Baal’s territory!

            This truth is the reason believers can walk bravely ahead even in dangerous situations. Believers can, for instance, serve as missionaries in countries where Christ is not worshipped and Christians are persecuted because God is still God, even there.

            Do we have territories in our lives where Christ is not Lord? Is our workplace a seemingly hostile environment? What about certain relationships in our lives? I take comfort in remembering that God is still God in these places and situations. Yes, God is still God – even in Baal’s territory!




Friday, October 26, 2012

A Cheery Countenance

Today's post is a memoir written by a fellow MK, Ron Wasson.

The Child Was Happy

Growing up in Nigeria, parents had little choices as where to buy “Western” toys for their children. They were simply hard to come by. But every so often, when parents ventured to the city for supplies, they would stock up on toys to be used throughout the year for the upcoming birthdays, Christmas or other special occasions where a toy would brighten up a child. One toy that was among the favorites for children was the Matchbox cars that were made in England. They were called Matchbox because they came in a box the size of a small matchbox that would slide open just like a real matchbox to reveal the priceless treasure inside. The child was happy. 

Each toy was made of metal and with exact precision to its larger counterpart but to a much smaller scale. There were not just cars, but trucks, trains, cranes, motorcycles, buses, police cars, ambulances, anything that was manufactured on the larger scale was reproduced on the smaller scale and with much detail. With so many different models to choose from, collecting became a hobby and each child longed for a new and different toy to collect. At times, a child would end up with two of a kind or one he/she no longer wanted so trading became a very common practice. The child was happy.

But what made the Matchbox toys so popular was that because of the size, the child (and parent) could take it anywhere and be used to entertain the child, much to the delight of parents. Have an antsy child who could not sit still during the long church service? Then pull out one of his favorites and let his imagination take over. (only one toy at a time as two or more would cause a major distraction!) The child was happy.

As for the child, the outdoors was the perfect environment for playing with the toys. Grass, rocks, dirt, mud, cement patio; whatever the condition was there was a toy made for the occasion. Countless of hours were spent playing outside with the toys.

Sometimes, other children would join and together the state of affairs would expand to the limits of each child’s imagination. Of course, this also meant a few would get lost never to be found again until perhaps a hard rain storm washed it to an area more visible and to be later found by a delighted little child. It didn’t even matter if by this time it had already begin to show signs of rust and discoloration or the wheels didn’t roll. It was once lost and now it was found. The child could now relate to the hymns that were sung in church about being lost and then found. That’s all that mattered. Life was easier to understand when the Matchbox toy was shared with it. And when the child couldn’t play outdoors, the Matchbox toys were just as easily adaptable for indoors where the hard floors, carpet, furniture, beds, etc. all provided a whole different environment for the child to unleash his/her imagination. Nothing better to entice a child to take rest time in the afternoon then to allow him/her to play quietly with one of the favorites until sleep conquered the imagination and the dreams took over. The child was happy.

I remember one Christmas; my parents struggled to find toys for us. It was during the civil war and imports to Nigeria were slowed if not stopped altogether. But with a little imagination and creativeness, a miniature outdoor world was transformed onto a piece of plywood. There were painted roads, little houses, trees, rocks, grass, even a lake (small mirror glued to the board). This tiny world was created with whatever was available and put together with abundant love and imagination but to us, it all was just like the real outdoors. It didn’t even matter that new Matchbox toys were not included, as we already had our own. All that was missing were children to bring to life this miniature world. It didn’t take too long before fantasy and imagination burst forth onto the special little world. The child was happy.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Confessions of a Prayer Warrior

Protection from Sorcery!

Today’s blog is a true story written by Paul Daniels, a friend of mine. Paul teaches French at the Christian school where my son attends and is one of my son’s teachers this year. This story comes out of Paul’s years as a missionary to Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) Paul writes:

            When we finally did head north, each of us stayed with Jula families for three days. I stayed with Moussa and his wife who manage a small grocery. Amanda Bryan stayed with his cousin Sarata, a teacher. Thanks to them, we experienced Jula life first-hand as they went about the family businesses of making pottery, blacksmithing and trading in the market.

            One day Sarata took us to visit her friend Faché, a “charleton”. A quack?  Since he was a family friend, I thought perhaps “charleton” had a different meaning in Africa. I asked what he did and he showed us some shells. Oh he makes jewelry. I thought.

            Faché invited us into his hut and threw the shells on the ground. Great!  An African game! He only spoke Jula so Sarata translated into French and then I translated into English for Amanda. He looked at the shells and said Haji (another cousin) would go to college and Amanda’s first child would be a girl. Then it dawned on me, Whoa!  He’s telling our fortunes! These shells aren’t jewelry but charms for casting spells!

            I started praying for Faché. I asked God to make it abundantly clear that I belonged to no one but Him and Him alone. No piddly evil spirit was going to have power over me! 

            Sarata’s prediction was she would marry some day. Duh? He’s as vague as horoscopes! This guy is so fake! Or so I thought.

            Then Faché came to me and threw down his shells. Nothing but a blank look on his face. He threw the shells down a second time. Again, nothing. He repeated this several more times. Then he asked Sarata “Does this guy work with pastors?” All she knew was I was a teacher who had brought some students to learn African life. She did not know I was a missionary.  I told her yes that my brother was a pastor and I helped out at my home church.  That was all. No fortune for me! Faché was unable to tell my fortune. God made it clear I belonged to Him! 

            After this, I asked Faché how he could do this since he was Muslim and the Koran says there is only one God, Allah. He explained that Allah is distant, unapproachable and therefore unconcerned with our daily problems while the spirits are here with us and want to be involved in daily life! It gave me the chance to explain that Jesus taught that God wants to be involved in our daily lives and I could pray directly to God through Jesus. Later that day, Haji and I (who speaks French) talked even more about the need to trust God in caring for us and not “magic charms” and sorcery.   


Monday, September 17, 2012

Through My Kitchen Window

My blog What He has done for my Soul is honored to receive The Reader Appreciation Award. I want to thank Tracy Crump and Marylane Wade Koch of Write Life Workshops for the nomination.

Tracy and Marylane are two writers who team up to help other writers. They offer workshops and webinars to assist others in reaching their writing goals. Their website is: They have a monthly newsletter called The Write Life which I contribute to regularly. Each month I contribute a 100 word “Strange and Interesting Bible Fact” section to their newsletter.

There are a few guidelines for accepting this award: 1. Acknowledge the giver of the award and provide a link to his or her blog site. 2. Copy and paste the award to your blog. 3. Pass the award to up to ten bloggers. 4. Notify your selected bloggers that you have nominated them.

It is my privilege to nominate the following bloggers for The Reader Appreciation Award.

Linda Jeffreys

Grief has overtaken you for a while. Death has destroyed your security. Life is changing like an earthquake. You can’t find God in this black hole.

Comfort and Joy is encouragement and hope for ordinary people who need the power of God to overcome death. Linda learned about grief as an unwilling student in a life shaken by sudden death as well as devastating illness. She leads classes in grief, and shares how she received healing after facing loss due to suicide, heart attack, and a malignant brain tumor. Comfort and Joy shows you how to navigate the overwhelming new feelings and responsibilities that accompany trauma, death and loss. More importantly, you will see and hear Linda’s heart as you walk through her grief experience. She will show you how to receive healing beyond grief and loss from Jesus Christ, the only One who has conquered death.
The book is available from the website Please join Linda at her blog:

Jayne Garrison

Jayne Garrison is the second daughter of Stanley and Jane Ray who served as missionaries to Nigeria in the 50’s and early 60’s. She writes to bring comfort to hurting parents, but sometimes looks back on her African years through the eyes of a child through short vignettes that she shares with family and friends. Her book Tragedy’s Ark, A Book of Comfort for Disheartened Parents can be purchased from Amazon.Com and is available in traditional or e-book format. Read her blog at and visit her book at Amazon.Com.





Thursday, September 6, 2012

Those Who Fear God

Have you ever heard someone refer to another person as “godly”? Perhaps you have heard someone say, “My pastor is such a godly man!” or “The leader of our Bible study is one of the godliest people I know!”  What does it mean to be godly?  The term conjures up the impression of someone who is somehow above others in his or her relationship with God – a Christian that is perhaps a little closer to perfect than the rest of us; a little higher up on the ladder towards heaven than most. Yes, we use this term but is it Biblical? 

There are only a very few times in scripture where a person is spoken of as “godly” and the term “Godliness” is found more often. But “God-fearing” is mentioned with greater frequency than either of these other two terms.

In other words, the concept of being Godly is only occasionally spoken of as something to be achieved in one’s lifetime – as a noun, if you will.  Sometimes it is used as an adjective or adverb to describe something, such as “godly sincerity” or “godly sorrow”.  Most often, however, the concept is presented as a verb or an action; something we do.  This can be seen when the words God and fear are linked. The scriptures tell us to fear God as in to revere or worship God. They also shed light on what God thinks of those who fear Him. Confused?  Hopefully, it will become clearer after taking a closer look at the terms.

The word Godly only shows up in the King James Version of the Bible fifteen times.  Several of these verses use it as a descriptive word.  One example of this is 2nd Corinthians 1:12 which refers to a godly sincerity. It is interesting to consider what Paul does not say in these verses.  He does not talk about godly people. Rather Paul speaks of the people conducted themselves in a godly manor with godly sincerity. 

One of the verses that uses the term godly is a call for action.  Psalms 32:6 says, “Let everyone who is godly pray.” Another time, the term brings with it the warning that all who desire to live godly in Jesus Christ will be persecuted.” Yet even these verses seem to describe a manor in which to live, not an achievement to accomplish.

Only once do I find the tern used exclusively to describe a person or group of people.  This instance is found in Psalms 4:3, “But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for Himself.” What a beautiful verse! But even this verse opens the door to a discussion about the total depravity of man – a discussion I will forgo at this point, except to say that I believe it is God who declares us godly. We are godly because has declared our sins forgiven and us covered by the blood of His Son, Jesus. We are godly because God deems us so, not because of any works of our own. 

The terms fear and God together, on the other hand, show up 135 times in the King James Version of the Bible. If you do a word search on these two words you will be amazed at what you find! There are so many times people are told to fear God or are commended as one who fears God. And there are numerous promises too! God loves for His people to fear or revere Him and He lavishes His blessings on those who do.




Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Quotable Susan

On Scripture:

   “For the word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than a two-edged sword” Hebrews 4:12

“Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think.  All nonsense questions are unanswerable.  How many hours are in a mile?  Is yellow round or square?  Probably half the questions we ask –half our great theological and metaphysical problems are like that.”

   -C. S. Lewis from his book “A Grief observed”

“God Himself has condescended to teach me the way.  He has written it down in a book. Oh! Give me that book!  At any price give me the book of God. Let me be a man of one book!”
 -John Wesley

“The Bible is alive; it speaks to me. It has feet; it runs after me. It has hands; it lays hold of me.”
 -Martin Luther

“The most valuable thing we have on earth is not the Hope Diamond or the Mona Lisa, but the Bible you hold in your hand. Blood stained by martyrs and sweat stained by theologians and scholars.”

  -Hayes Winkler

“If you don’t have God’s words rolling around in your head, you will start to believe your own words and that’s dangerous.”

  -Tom Schriener (pastor of Clifton Baptist Church)

“Never forget whether you understand it or not, the Bible is pure truth; given by God, preserved by God, and has no errors in the original language and texts.”

-Kay Arthur

“I will take God at His word and trust Him to prove it to me.”

 -Jim Elliott (as recorded by Elizabeth Elliott in “Through Gates of Splendor”)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Through My Kitchen Window

This past week I wrote an obituary. I have written many different types of pieces in my life as a writer but this was the first obituary I ever wrote. You see this past week my mother in law passed away at the age of 82. Her name was Margaret Conant Michael and my husband, John was the second of her four children. As I wrote the information down about her life, it occurred to me that the facts don’t really tell the whole story of a person. How do you convey a life in a few short words that run in the obituary column of a newspaper?

Sure, I mentioned her honors; she was a Trustee Emerita of Brown University and a recipient of the prestigious Brown Bear Award. She served on the President’s Advisory Board of World Vision, and was a member of the international women’s business organization known as the Committee of 200. And I told that after her husband’s tragic death in a plane crash in 1972, she became the sole owner and president of Michael-Walters Industries, Inc., a successful small business providing lubricants to the coal industry which she and her husband David started in 1964. And I told that she was active in her church teaching Sunday School and getting enthusiastically involved in the youth ministry when her children were teens.

But that just doesn’t really tell her story. It doesn’t show the love she had for her late husband whom she met during Freshman week at Brown University when they were both Freshmen. He was a Christian young man who fell in love with her but did not want to marry an unbeliever so he shared his faith with her and took her to a Billy Graham crusade where she accepted Christ. He was a man whom she loved till the day she died even though she was widowed at the tender age of 42 and lived another 40 years without him.

It doesn’t tell how she kept the family together and bravely ran her husband’s business in his absence, keeping her head high and her spirits up. It doesn’t tell her faith which was a rock to her in difficult times. It doesn’t tell how every year she used to sprinkle candy and nuts in a line from the Christmas stockings to the front door and just outside and would then tell her children that she walked in on Santa startling him so he ran out the door as fast as he could dropping the goodies behind in his hurry. Or how she led the family in a small parade beating pots and pans around her house at the stroke of midnight on New Years Eve every year, or how her eyes twinkled when she sang silly songs which she loved to sing even in her old age in the nursing home.

No, a short obituary just doesn’t get the story of a life told really. So those of us who remember keep her story alive in our hearts.

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” Psalms 116:5

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Two Edged Sword

The “Better Than” Book

Hebrews is the “Better Than” Book. This New Testament book points the way to a better life. In it you will find references to things that are better many, many times. Some examples are:

Christ is:

better than angels – 1:4
worthy of more glory than Moses – 3:3
the builder of the house (the creator) and as such has more honor than the creation - 3:4
a great High Priest (4:4) which is better then men’s high priests – 5:1-2

Men swear by things that are better then themselves, but God swears by Himself. Why? Because He is better than everything else. 6:13-16

It tells of:
a better covenant enacted on better promises – 8:6
a greater more perfect tabernacle – 9:11
a better possession – 10:34
a kingdom which cannot be shaken (a better kingdom) – 12:28
and a better city – 11:10 & 13:14

What could be better than that?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Cheery Countenance

Today's post is by guest blogger Jane Ray Garrison, author of the "Tragedy's Ark"

Firecrackers and Mother’s Blue Dress

            Fireworks were a big deal in Nigeria. Every Christmas the stores offered a wide assortment of beautifully boxed Japanese explosives. Like sushi, their presentation – before being ignited was part of the experience. Picture a sturdily constructed red box with brightly wrapped objects of interesting shapes and sizes artfully arranged within its borders, and you will understand why many of the missionary kids, including our brother Chris, loved to receive fireworks as Christmas gifts. Of course, if we were going to celebrate the fourth of July, American style, such boxes had to be saved a long time, making the eventual show all the more spectacular.

One year, the hospital side of the Ogbomosho mission’s Fourth of July party was to be held at Rose Cottage, the home of nurse, Amanda Tinkle, whose huge body frame was matched only by her love for children. Hot dogs, marshmallows and a softball game would culminate with a grand fireworks display conducted in the center of the cottage’s roundabout. 

Rose Cottage was one of the few early mission housed left standing even in those days. Typical to its time, the steps leading up to its screened-in-porch were accented on either side by wide concrete banisters. The mothers would sit on the screened-in porch in rattan chairs, the smaller children would sit on the steps, but the older children would stand on the banisters feeling powerful and quite grown-up. The men were naturally in the roundabout hovering over the various colorful packages that each had come equipped to explode. 

That night things were going as expected, with the pajama-clad youngsters hitting each other with sparklers while our mothers chatted amicably. Every now and then, a loud cry would erupt from the little one’s cluster, and we would see the corresponding mom glare at the other child’s mother before quickly jerking her own child away from the duel. But mostly, our attention was focused on the roundabout and the beautiful sprays of green, red, and blue that shot across the sky with lightening speed. We looked in awe when one father held a Roman candle high above his head, and shrieked with delight when another dad lit a string of firecrackers. But the bottle rockets were the undisputed favorite of all! For these, our mother left the shelter of the screened-in porch and with two small children on either side, snuggled down on steps for a full, bigger-than-life view of the entertainment…and this is where I can’t remember. I can’t remember if it was Daddy or some other man who set the rocket in the glass coke bottle and lit it before quickly stepping out of the way.

But something went dreadfully wrong. Instead of shooting up into the sky, the shower of colorful sparks headed right into the small audience sitting on the higher spot. I pressed my body against the screen, hoping that it would bear my weight and that I wouldn’t fall backwards into something like the flowerpot. However, from my vantage point, I could see that not everyone was so lucky. In fact, I could tell that our mother, in her favorite blue dress, was a target just waiting to be hit. Sure enough, before I could even assimilate this information, her dress was ignited into brilliant golden flames that lapped and swirled amongst the ample folds of the garment’s full cut. Before anyone knew what was happening, all “so many hundred” pounds of Aunt Tink were on top of our mom rolling her over and over on the graveled driveway. Mother yelling all the time; “Leave me alone! Leave me alone!”

The near catastrophe called a halt to the fireworks display and we were soon all heading for home – Mother with a giant hole in her dress, the rest of us with downtrodden spirits and un-ignited fireworks under our arms. Sensing the gloom, I felt honor bound to do something to make things better. So, as we walked up our driveway, I sided up to Mother and put my arm around her. 

“Momma,” I said, “Aren’t you grateful for Aunt Tink’s saving your life?” You don’t seem happy.”  

Mother looked away. “Humph,” she said. “Amanda Tinkle didn’t save my life. She just rolled me around in the gravel.”

I didn’t reply. Even then, I knew this was just a show of spunk – a part of my mother, who had fiery red hair and a temper to match. At this point, there would be no convincing her of the peril she had just escaped. Instead, I rubbed a scuffed place on her elbow and silently wondered if she would ever know how glad I was that Aunt Tink did save her life!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Those Who Fear God

It's Father's day again. I had a story I was going to post about my father but it has been sold to an anthology so I am not at liberty to post it. You can read this story in "Life Lessons From Dads" published by Integrity Press. My story is titled, "Someone Special" - a name derived from a famous quote by Anne Geddes that says, "Any man can be a father but it takes someone special to be a dad."

So instead today I will tell you about another someone special, my mother's father.  

Ellis Charles Blankenship was born, lived, and died in rural North Carolina. He was a big man, nearly 6'2" with a strong and powerful body. He grew up poor and spent his life working in a textile mill and on his farm. Because he milked cows every morning and every evening of his life, he had a special small muscle near his elbow that he could flex by squeezing his fist together as if he was milking a cow. I have never known anyone else in my life who had this muscle. I and his other grandchildren would beg him to show us this unique muscle which we didn't have. Becasue of a lifetime of physical labor, he was strong even as an old man. Once when I was a teenager, my sister talked him into arm wrestling her 18 year old football player boyfriend...and Grandaddy won!

Grandaddy worked hard all of his life. He had to drop out of school after only the 3rd grade in order to work in the mills to help bring in some money for his family. Because of this he could barely read and write but he read well enough to read his Bible everyday.

Grandaddy supported himself, 4 children, a wife, and 2 old maid aunts with his farm and the little bit of income he earned from the mills. My mom grew up poor but they had food to eat, fresh milk to drink, and a house he had built with his own hands. He was a good man. He loved his family and his God.

I can still see his sky blue eyes twinkling at me as he smiled. Though he has been gone from this world for many years now, I am still thankful for the legacy he left well as the tall strong body I inherited from his gene pool. Grandaddy, I'll see you again someday and we will worship together around the throme of the God you taught your daughter about...and she in turn taught me.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Life as I Knew it - Part 2


Mr. Paul, alias Heinz

When we left Nigeria, we gave Mr. Paul to the Hart Family. Like us, they had a houseful of kids and we knew they would enjoy a talking parrot. They renamed Mr. Paul, giving him the name of Heinz (as in Heinz 57) because he could say such a variety of things.

Before they left Nigeria, the Harts sent Heinz back to states in the care of their grandfather until they could arrive. He took the bird to a local bar on his shoulder where Heinz entertained the patrons by talking and even drinking beer from his mug!

This is one of the stories of Heinz’s life in America written by Russell Hart.

Do parrots really have a personality? Shortly after returning to the States, my Grandmother bought my sister Vicki a miniature silver poodle for her birthday. We called the poodle Pete. Not long after the dog’s arrival in our home, the Parrot / Heinz/ Mr. Mrs. Paul, developed the ability to call the dog. And when I say developed the ability, I mean he could call the dog and sound like anyone of the six of us he chose. We each had a different way of calling Pete. We found it quite amazing that he learned so quickly just by listening as we went about our normal daily activities. This was not something anyone deliberately taught him.

We soon noticed that every time Heinz called the dog, Pete was ALWAYS at the other end of the house, usually in my sister’s room. Heinz/ Mr. Paul’s cage was in the back corner of the dining room, at the other end of the house. What makes this noteworthy is the layout and design of the house. The moment Pete would hear the call he would pop up and run as fast as his miniature legs would allow. Pete had great traction for a quick run through the carpeted bedroom, hallway and living room and the carpet's traction also helped greatly to maintain full speed on Pete's sharp left turn to enter the kitchen. However the kitchen and dining room were tile. The dining room was located immediately to the right of the kitchen requiring a sharp right turn into the dinning room.

Pete, now at full speed, would attempt this turn only to slide across the tile floor for a distance of about 15 feet only to slam into the cabinets. This at least slowed Pete down enough to make the turn into the dining room which he had slid past.

However, no one (not even the person who Pete thinks called him) was ever there. Just the bird in the back corner turning circles in his cage. Sometimes the person who Pete thought called him was my sister who was in the room with Pete when he thought he heard her call from the dining room. (dumb dog )

This went on for years. The dog was fooled each and every time, which was usually several times a day. Until one day when sadly, Pete was run over by a car in front of the house and died. From that day forward Heinz never called Pete ever again. NOT ONCE. (Note: Heinz lived another 20 years after Pete's death )

So I pose this question: Was Heinz just repeating the sound of us calling the dog. (which he likely would have continued if in fact he was just copying us) or.....was he messing with the dog on purpose for his own entertainment?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Life as I Knew It

Mr. Paul

Mr. Paul was a talking parrot that hung in a cage on our front porch in Ogbomosho. He was a gift from some other missionaries who were leaving the country. Mr. Paul was loads of fun! He was quite good at talking and had a very large vocabulary. I have so many funny stories from our time with him!

There was the day two Nigerian seminary students came to visit with my dad. Daddy was busy finishing a letter in the breezeway adjacent to the living room. He greeted the men at the front door, invited them in asking them to sit on the couch and wait for a few minutes while he finished typing the letter. My father could see the living room and the two men from his desk in the breezeway through a screened window that served as a partition between the two. But the two men were not aware of my father’s whereabouts as they sat quietly waiting. The room was silent until suddenly Mr. Paul whose cage was just on the other side of the screened living room window, said in a loud, deep voice that sounded like my father, “Let us pray!” The two men stood to attention immediately first bowing their heads and then slowly looking around.

And many, many times, Mr. Paul caused someone to make an unnecessary trip to the front door. He knew how to make the sound of a person’s feet walking, then scuffing on the mat as if they were being wiped, then the sound of someone knocking on the door, finished by the word, “Ago?” This was the Yoruba word for “Is anyone home?”  It was the customary call we made when approaching a door. Back in those days, we did not have doorbells and no one kept their homes locked so we simply yelled our inquiry as we approached the door in order to let someone know they had a visitor. Day after day after day, some member of my family went to our front door to find no one there. Often it was me who made this useless trip.

But the opposite of this happened when Mr. Paul called our gardener in what sounded like my mother’s voice. Many times, “Baba” stopped his work to come ask my mother what she needed. For a while my mother was very confused by this development but then finally, it dawned on her; Baba was not going crazy and neither was she – it was the parrot.

One of the phrases we taught Mr. Paul was, “Read your Bible, Mr. Paul” along with the usual, “Hello” “How are you?”, “I’m fine, thank you”, and others. My dad tried to teach Mr. Paul to say “Super cala fragi listic expe alla docious” But all he managed to learn was “Superca” - which he said often.

“Superca! Read your Bible Mr. Paul, superca!”

Our windows were usually open with only a screen between him & us. We could hear his constant talk all over the house… If I close my eyes, I can still hear him talking!

When we came back to the states we left Mr. Paul safely in the hands of another missionary family who kept him for many years. A few years ago I saw one of the members of that family and he told me that they had brought Mr. Paul back to the states with them when they returned. Mr. Paul lived for about 30 more years with this family. But he also told me a little secret about Mr. Paul. At one point in his life…he laid an egg.  So I guess he was not MR Paul after all!  I suppose MS Paul would have been more appropriate.

 “And God made the beasts of the earth after their kind…and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:25

Friday, May 4, 2012

Through My Kitchen Window

I’m a Perfect Mother

            I’m a perfect mother! Well…not really. In fact, there are times I feel like a terrible mom. But every now and then, once in a while - like a streak of warm sunshine streaming down on me, it feels like I did something right. My grandmother, who was also my namesake, recorded such a moment in her journal many years ago.

            “Maa” kept a small hand written collection of original poems in a journal she titled “Gathered Fragments”. The name was derived from a Bible verse. The sixth chapter of the gospel of John tells of Jesus feeding 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fishes.  After the people had eaten, Jesus instructed His disciples, “Gather up the fragments, that nothing be lost.”  (John 6:12, NAS)

            There are many beautiful original poems in “Gathered Fragments”. I am especially fond of one particular poem that “Maa” wrote. It is a very short poem. She was inspired to write this little jingle by a comment my father made when he was nine years old. In her handwritten entry, my grandmother wrote:

            “Keith, my biddy #3 came to me today explaining his views on women. Gesturing as he spoke, he said, ‘Maa, I don’t like women who are short and fat…and I don’t like them t-a-l-l and thin either!  I like them just like you!!’  This was flattering to say the least as I am a bit on the short, fat side.”

            My grandmother was only four feet and eleven inches tall.  She was in fact, a bit rounded in her figure.  Her child’s unabashed adoration prompted her to write this poem:

                                       I posses a perfect figure
                                                And I never do grow old.
                                      Ah! My face is quite the fairest
                                               And I’m worth my weight in gold.

                                      Queens may sit in royal splendor
                                                With their nations at their feet.
                                        Movie stars may have their glamour
                                                And their conquest be complete.

                                        But adoring eyes behold me
                                                Brightly gazing into mine,
                                         I’m appraised and judged quite perfect
                                                By my little boy of nine.

                                     Written by: Harriet K. Edwards in 1937

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Confessions of a Prayer Warrior

Be Careful what you Pray for
 “…A destruction is determined, overflowing with righteousness." Isaiah 10:22
            A friend of mine was very concerned about her son. She was a very close friend and her children were almost like my own. I loved them dearly and they loved me. I have known them since they were babies.

This particular young man seemed to flounder a bit in his young adult years. He was unhappy at his work and started spending more and more time with the wrong crowd. His new friends and his activities while with them were the main source of my friend’s concerns.

 My friend had called and e-mailed me off and on for several weeks with prayer requests for her son. Yet, even with much prayer being offered, he seemed to be going further and further down the wrong path. Then on a particular Friday, she called me again making a heartfelt plea for prayers that God would intervene in her son’s life. I prayed as she had asked and I knew she was praying too! In addition, I sent e-mails to a couple of close praying friends asking them to pray also.

Sunday came as usual. My family attended church as is our normal routine. Sunday afternoon, I received a very strange phone call. The recorded voice on the other end asked for me by name saying that I had a call from the local corrections center, or in other words, the local jail. I yelled for my husband to pick up the phone’s other extension. I had never received a phone call from jail before. I was confused as to why anyone in jail would know my name or my phone number and wanted my husband to be on the phone with me.

My husband and I listened as a female voice informed me that someone I knew wanted to speak with me and she was helping him place the call. My friend’s son came on the phone. He had spent the night in jail because he had been unable to reach his parents. He said he only had five minutes so he quickly explained that he needed someone to be at the jail at 9:00 the next morning which was a Monday, with money to bail him out. He told me that there was nothing any one could do to get him out until then so he would have to spend another night in jail. I assured him that I would try to reach his mother and step father, but if I couldn’t reach them, either my husband or I would be at the jail in the morning. I promised that he would not be abandoned; someone would be there.

Then I called my friend. She didn’t answer her phone so I left her a carefully worded message. I told her that I had heard from her son and I very much needed to talk to her about it. A few hours later, my friend called me back. As I explained what I knew about the situation, she began to softly cry. She told me that she had been at church all morning and afternoon and had gone to bed early the night before. She said she was going to make some phone calls to his friends and see what else she could find out.

 She called back later with this report. On Saturday night, her son and some of his friends had attempted to visit a club. This club had certain days when they did not serve alcohol and would allow people under the legal drinking age of 21 to attend. Actually her son was 21 but some of the others in his group were not. They thought this was one of the nights when the club would admit them all. As it turned out, this was not one of those nights. Her son decided to enter anyway since he was legal age. However, the man at the door accused him of being underage. He argued belligerently that he was not underage and showed his license as proof. Because he was so belligerent or “talking trash” as my friend put it, the man at the door ran a check on the license. 

The check revealed an unpaid speeding ticket and the police chose to haul him off to jail. He tried to use his one phone call to reach his mother and have bail posted but her line had a block against collect calls so his step father was not able to hear anything on the other end and hung the phone up. But my friend’s son thought his step father had refused to take his call. Because all of this happened on a Saturday night, the young man ended up spending two nights in jail over an unpaid ticket. But the experience stopped him in his tracks and caused him to re-evaluate his life.

My children have always said they were caught every time they attempted to get away with misbehavior of any kind because of my prayers. When parents pray, their children better be on their guard because God is a God who hears prayers. The children of praying parents will be caught every time!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


Matthew 27:3-7 tells the sad story of what happened to Judas after his betrayal of Jesus. As you may remember after betraying Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, Judas felt remorse and tried to give the silver back to the chief priests and elders. In doing this, he threw the silver into the sanctuary of the temple. Then he hung himself. The chief priests bought a potters field with the silver.

What are we to conclude from Judas’ actions? To quote one commentary, “Judas’remorse was not for the sin, as committed against God and Christ; but because it brought a load of present guilt and horror upon his mind, and exposed him to everlasting punishment: it was not such a repentance by which he became wiser and better; but an excruciating, tormenting pain in his mind, by which he became worse; therefore a different word is used here than what commonly is used for true repentance: it was not a godly sorrow for sin, or a sorrow for sin, as committed against God, which works repentance to salvation not to be repented of; but a worldly sorrow, which issues in death, as it did in him. It did not spring from the love of God, as evangelical repentance does, nor proceed in the fear of God, and his goodness; but was no other than a foretaste of that worm that dieth not, and of that fire which cannot be quenched: it was destitute of faith in Christ; he never did believe in him as the rest of the disciples did; see John 6:64, and that mourning which does not arise from looking to Jesus, or is not attended with faith in him, is never genuine. Judas's repentance was without hope of forgiveness, and was nothing else but horror and black despair.”

But there is another reason Judas did what he did with regards to the thirty pieces of silver - it fulfilled scripture. Zechariah 11:13 foretold this when he wrote:

“Then the Lord said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter, that magnificent price at which I was valued by them.’ So I took the thirty shekels of silver and threw to the potter in the house of the Lord.”

And what was this magnificent price at which our Savior was valued? Thirty pieces of silver was the price stated in Exodus 21:33 for the life of a slave. That’s the message of Easter, that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who sits at the right hand of the Father and who has been lifted up above all things on Heaven and on earth, lowered Himself and gave of himself for you and me. His life was valued as that of a slave, His body was broken and His blood spilled out so that unlike Judas, we can believe in Him and know true forgiveness of our sins.