Monday, August 7, 2017

Holy connections

After missing church two Sundays in a row, I was ready to be back in a pew.

God provided me a cool affirmation that what I called worship last Sunday really was! That's when I spent the morning exploring Ausable Chasm in upstate New York with my husband. I took several moments along the trails and with the splendor of the water falls and beautiful canyon walls and trees as a background to pray and sing praises, including "Holy, Holy, Holy," "How Great Thou Art" and "Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow," a contemporary setting of the Doxology.

My heart rejoiced when I returned to church Sunday and one of the hymns was "Holy, Holy, Holy." And of course we sang our upbeat arrangement of the Doxology.

Not that I really needed affirmation that last Sunday's time was worship, I still enjoyed how God pulled it all together when I returned to church in Oklahoma.

This week:

Last week:

Monday, July 31, 2017

Worshipping God in the splendor of nature!

I really hate to miss church on Sunday, and this is the second week in a row I have. But one of my devotionals talked about worshipping God in the beauty of holiness and the splendor of nature. Ausable Chasm near Lake Champlain in upstate New York was a majestic cathedral. Amen!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Grace. Period.

I think I may have written this before. It's worth revisiting. 

It started with me thinking about missing last week's blog deadline by nearly a full week. As I was finally putting something together to post, I thought to myself that since the next deadline had not arrived, maybe I could say I was in a grace period. 

Which made me think of God's amazing grace. 

And that was sufficient. 

(I drafted that Sunday. I posted the "late something" that night, and planned to post this Monday, which would have put me back on schedule. Instead, it's Wednesday and I'm just now posting. And, thanks to God's great grace covering me, it is still sufficient.)

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Close to my heart

A scary thing happened to me on Interstate 81 north of Syracuse, New York, on the way to Massena via Waddington. About five hours into the day's drive, I realized something was missing from my ring finger. 

And my heart sank. 

I understand tradition holds that I wear my wedding band inside my engagement ring, so it is closer to my heart. 

I also know that the one I'm wedding banded to prefers the ring with the diamond go inside. This became apparent from a couple of close calls over the years as the diamond engagement ring slipped off my finger, always to be found, but once not until a vacuum cleaner had sucked the stone from the setting. 

Sometime after that, still many, many years ago, I found a way to honor tradition and my husband by finding an inexpensive but meaningful ring to wear outside the marital pair. For many years, I wore that little cat ring that I got on a trip we took to Las Vegas. 

I don't remember when or why I quit wearing it. I think maybe I had decided it looked tacky. I also thought I could trust myself to be aware if cold weather or other circumstances would temporarily increase the risk of my rings slipping off, so I could take precautions. 

But here I was at 2 p.m. in upstate New York, 1,500 miles from home, looking at a left hand lacking a diamond engagement ring. 

Had I forgotten to put it on in the morning at the Riviera in Erie, Pa.? That was possible -- but it seemed unlikely I would have gone that long without noticing it was missing. 

I thought back through the day and became nervous. We had only stopped once. That was at a service plaza along the I-70 toll road between Buffalo and Syracuse. But which one? I looked at an online map but couldn't figure out where we had stopped. I knew I had used the rest room and also bought a couple of fresh peaches. But the recollection that bothered me most was that I had taken off a pair of gloves as I was walking to the building. That seemed the most likely opportunity for the ring to have slipped off, with too much noise and distraction for me to notice. The thought made me feel sick. 

There was one other possibility, and that was that the ring had slipped off as I stretched out my fingers to reach for something in my purse or one of the snack bags in the back seat of the Tundra. 

I'm always hesitant to pray for material things but that didn't stop me as I tried to look through things as Gene drove.

I'm praying. Yes, Lord, I am. Above all, please help Gene not be too upset with me.

For His sake as much as mine, I hope and, yes, pray that we will find it in the truck, either in the front or in my bag. 

If not in the hotel or the truck, it would have to be at that travel plaza, because that's the only place we stopped. 

If we don't find it, please help Gene, and also me, be OK without me having it. Help me respond in a way that glorifies You, Lord, whether we find it or not. 

I didn't find it as we continued on from I-81 to a couple of smaller highways and onto New York 37. But through the power of prayer, I was able to avoid panicking by hanging on to faith that the ring might turn up in a more thorough search when we stopped. 

Finally we did stop, about 3:45 p.m. at a convenience store in Waddington. While Gene went inside the store, I quickly opened the door to the back seat of the truck and started looking. And it wasn't long until I found a thin gold band with a sparkling diamond. 

Thank You, God!!!

I can't express how relieved I was. When Gene came out of the store, I ran to hug him, and he easily guessed what I'd found. Even his comment that he guessed that meant he wouldn't be buying me a new ring didn't deter my joy. 

Now, each morning when I put my rings on, the diamond is closest to my heart. As with so many things in our nearly 35-year marriage, Gene and I know the reasons, and that's more important to us than traditions or etiquette. (But I'm also looking for a new ring to wear outside my bridal pair, and if I find one, I can go back to the perfect blend of tradition and, for me, practicality!)

Monday, July 10, 2017

Easily entertained

I'm pretty easily entertained. It doesn't take much to catch my attention. And it doesn't take much to distract me.

This is on my mind because of advice I received when I told a friend that I was having a hard time not obsessing over a food I had bought but did not want to eat all at once.

This little story starts on July 4th, although the stage was set during visits to Braum's stores in recent weeks. After a leisurely Independence Day that included the neighborhood parade in the morning and watching patriotic programs on television in the evening, my husband said he was ready for ice cream.

A lot of years we have gone to Braum's for ice cream before going to watch the city fireworks display in Norman. Although we had decided not to go to the park this year to watch, I couldn't deny that ice cream sounded good.

Unfortunately, I knew that Braum's in my recent visits had not had my preferred no-sugar-added treat (Diet Peanut Cluster Fudge Frozen Yogurt) available for hand-packed cups or cones. Still, I agreed to go, hoping maybe they had stocked up. When we got there, they had not. I asked if they could open a package from the freezer case and give me a scoop, but of course they said they could not. The no- sugar-added vanilla bean flavor, even with nuts added, just doesn't satisfy me.

So, I decided to do something I had not done in a long time. I asked for a serving cup, and then I bought a full-size container of my fudgy, nutty favorite. Quite aware of my past tendency to not leave such a product alone in the home freezer until it was all gone, I knew this was risky. But through 12-step work and other disciplines, some things that used to be problems no longer are. I hoped that might be the case with this.

I drove as my husband ate his strawberry shortcake sundae while I looked for a place to park with a view of the city fireworks. We found a place to park, but it was soon apparent the display had already ended. While we were parked, I scooped some of my frozen yogurt into my  cup, and I quickly knew it was going to be hard for me to stop with just a small serving. But I put the lid on the container, switched places with Gene so he could drive while I ate, and we went to watch the plethora of fireworks visible on the horizon on the northwest edge of town.

When we got home, it was time for me to put away the ice cream. But first, I ate a little more. Then I went to bed.

The next morning, among my first thoughts was the ice cream. Uh-oh. This may have been a mistake. I knew I could measure some out, but I also knew a little might make me want more. Fortunately, I was able to get through breakfast and to my noon 12-step meeting without indulging. There, I mentioned my little experiment to a trusted friend. She reminded me that thinking about eating wasn't the same thing as eating. And she offered this suggestion: Don't entertain those thoughts. When the thought comes, it's OK to note it, then just wave it on by. The way I pictured it was like this: The thought can come to the door, but I'm not going to invite it in and throw it a party.

I wish I could say that was the end of the obsession. Instead, I confess I ate some ice cream as an afternoon snack, and then I ate some with supper. Even though I decided at that point to put it in the bottom  and back of the freezer, I was pretty sure the next step would be to discard what was left.

However, an interesting thing happened. I didn't eat any when I got home from choir practice, and while I thought about it the next  morning, I shifted the context to another little experiment. And I haven't eaten any since.

Besides choosing not to "entertain" thoughts of eating what I didn't need, another factor that has helped me to abstain is realizing that eating more than an occasional treat makes me feel physically uncomfortable. Realizing that and having that realization guide my behavior is nothing short of a miracle, and I am grateful.

Later in the week, I used the "entertaining" principle to keep my focus in a situation where I feared my curiosity would outweigh my desire to be compassionate. And it worked again.

There's still a possibility I'll discard what's left of the ice cream. I'm such an all-or-nothing person, I know that if I reopen the container, I might not want to stop again. But I'm not even going to entertain  that thought right now!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Patriotism and praise punctuates 4th of July Weekend event

A resounding prelude of brass, woodwinds and strings, soon joined by some 150 voices in a choir and then a few thousand throughout the sanctuary singing "America the Beautiful," launched a 4th of July Weekend celebration of praise and patriotism at Crossings Community Church in Oklahoma City.

While soul-stirring music bookended the two-hour presentation Sunday, the emotional highlight was when the orchestra played songs of the various branches of the armed forces, and an estimated 450 men and women who are serving or have served flooded the aisles in a stream of red, white and blue to come forward and each receive special a Medal of Gratitude. A prolonged, thunderous ovation accompanied them.

Medal of Honor recipient Sammy L. Davis's brief but powerful remarks regarding his service in Vietnam, helped punctuate the bravery and sacrifices of those who have served in the U.S. military to safeguard the nation's freedom and values. He ended with a harmonica solo of "Shenandoah" that conveyed a heartfelt message beyond words.

The hosts were musicians and worship leaders from Crossings Community Church in Oklahoma City, led by Larry Harrison, who came on board as pastor of worship ministries last August. The connectedness of Crossings' leaders to the community, music and ministry far and wide was on display all evening.

Award-winning Christian recording artist Sandi Patty is now the artist-in-residence at Crossings, where her husband, Don Peslis, is pastor of chapel worship and they have been members more than eight years. Patty sang several selections from her enduring career that fit the occasion, including the soaring rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" that catapulted her from gospel recording star to national sensation after she performed it July 4, 1986, in New York City at the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty.

Also featured was the Alabama-based male vocal quintet Veritas, with stunningly beautiful performances of "Amazing Grace," "Bring Him Home" and "The Lord's Prayer."

A video message from U.S. Senator James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, highlighted the theme "God Bless America -- America Bless God." The theme also was articulated in a song co-written and performed by Harrison.

For the finale, Patty and the orchestra began with the less-familiar first verse of "God Bless America," with the choir, all the guest singers and everyone in the sanctuary joining in for the tradition lyrics, in an aural explosion of patriotism and praise. 

Below are the lyrics to "America Bless God," which I found online in the linked post from 2004. It said it could be shared freely.

America Bless God

by Larry Harrison & Joel Mott 

From the mountains of majesty

to the amber waves of grain

I see the blessing of your hand

and recall a familiar refrain

We sing God bless America

won't you come and bless us once again

But your heart longs to hear

a nation fall on its knees and say

America Bless God

all across the fruited plains

America Bless God

lift your voice and praise his holy name

For he's been good, he's been faithful

by his hand our nation stands

So won't you sing all across this land

America bless God

America bless God

Monday, June 26, 2017

Girls' gadabout, Part 1

This will be another of those blog posts that I consider a work in progress. It's not my favorite thing, but sometimes it's a necessary step to finding my better way. I started writing this June 10. I came back to it at least twice but was never pleased with how it was going. But I want to share the story and pictures. So here I am again. My new realization is that I can do this in parts. So, here goes to Part 1:

This past year my oldest sister and I both found ourselves unexpectedly among the ranks of the unemployed, Becky after a career in public school education and me after 35 years as a journalist. One of the things we talked about doing was taking a road trip, with her coming to Oklahoma for us to cruise in my convertible.

A few weeks ago she called and asked if the first week of June would work. It looked fine on my calendar, but so often that changes at the last minute. Still, we penciled it in. We had no set plans, but one idea we had considered was driving to Pawhuska to visit The Mercantile -- the restaurant, bakery and store opened less than a year ago by The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, in her hometown.

Becky rode the train up from Gainesville, Texas, to Norman on June 4, a Sunday evening. The train arrives after 9 p.m., so I knew all I would do is meet her at the station and bring her to my house that night.

We didn't have firm plans for the next day, but I was grateful that Becky is laid-back enough that I could let her stay at the house with Gene while I went to my Monday morning prayer time at church. I thought we would leave pretty soon after lunch to go to Oklahoma City's Bricktown entertainment district, but humidity made the outside air seem pretty unbearable by 1 p.m. So we were content to stay in the house and visit most of the afternoon.

Trying to think of something cool to do, we came up with going to see a movie, and "Wonder Woman" was a perfect choice for two sisters on a girls' gadabout (as another sister aptly labeled our adventures). With me being a former longtime journalist and her a former history teacher, we agreed not to overthink the movie and instead just be entertained. And we were. (We wanted to take a picture in front of the "Wonder Woman" poster but couldn't find one, so we just got the theater in the background.)

Afterward it had cooled enough that we could enjoy a stroll along the Bricktown Canal to find something to eat and decide what was next. Before we had gotten too far, it was time to head to the Mustang convertible. I wanted to show Becky some of the development of downtown, including where I used to work, the Myriad Gardens and where the Stage Center, where she remembered watching me perform in the Oklahoma City Gridiron Show, once stood. As we rode in the now-pleasant evening air, she reminded me that she had never been to the Oklahoma City Memorial. Although it was getting late, we stopped to spend some time at the beautiful yet heartrending tribute to the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building that claimed 168 lives, including 19 children. She and I agree she must come back, hopefully with her husband and-or some of her kids and grandkids, when she can spend more time there. (If you want to know more about the Oklahoma City Memorial and Museum, go to

In the three photos above, the Gates of Time (9:01 and 9:03), flank the Field of Empty Chairs that represent the 168 people who died as a result of the bombing.

Above, The Survivor Tree, an American Elm, bore witness to the violence of April 19, 1995, and withstood the full force of the attack. Years later, it continues to stand as a living symbol of resilience.

By now, it was past 9 p.m., and we knew we wanted to get an early start Tuesday for the 2½-hour drive to Pawhuska, not knowing how much time we would need to explore the Pioneer Woman's Merc as well as the Lodge where she films her cooking show for The Food Network. So we headed back to the Mustang for a top-down cruise back to Norman, but this time I insisted on trying to get a picture before we headed onto the highway. Unfortunately, the light wasn't good, and my phone won't let me use flash on a selfie. (We "staged" the other two photos the next morning, when cooler heads prevailed and we opted not to drive all the way to Pawhuska -- or even just out of Norman  -- with the ragtop down.)