I Stood For Him

The ER was uncharacteristically empty.  Perhaps four or five waiting to be seen for various maladies. My dad and I were guests because he fell backwards in a handicapped van and hit his head on the way to church.

We shared a cup of hospital coffee as the TV advertised a NASCAR race. I listened to the prayer and prayed silently.

I heard the National Anthem begin. I coughed. I glanced at my dad from my peripheral vision. He was bent over in his wheelchair like he always was lately.

I stood, grabbing my coffee as not to attract as much attention. Kind of like I just felt like standing and drinking coffee.

Truth is, I had to stand.

I stood because when I was in elementary school, he would occasionally sit in the back seat with my sister and me while traveling on our cheap 3-week vacation. We would playfully annoy him until, finally he would punch us in the leg to give us a charley horse. We’d squeal with painful delight.

I stood because when I was 17-years-old and ran into another car while in an ice storm, my dad only asked if I was OK when I called.  He then sat quietly in the back seat of the police cruiser while the officer took the information.

I stood because he and my mom stayed married for almost 60 years and because he served our country in WWII for 7 years.

I stood because he had no legs.

All through my life, Dad stood for me.

When I was little, he held my hand when we walked. He seemed larger-than-life, my perfect father. When I was in middle school, I noticed that he was sometimes wrong, and I was embarrassed when he wore The Salvation Army officer’s uniform, proudly, especially when he picked me up at school. In high school, he couldn’t do anything right and knew nothing about the real world.

When I’d moved out of my house the week I turned eighteen, to a different city an hours drive away, my parents ‘surprised’ me at my apartment. They found literature that confirmed I’d had pre-marital sex. My strong mother, who never cried, cried. My dad called me a name. I told them I wasn’t sure that I had the same values that they had.

A few weeks later, when my world fell apart, I showed up at a Salvation Army Camp, unannounced. Dad was attending Men’s Camp. He didn’t know I was coming. He saw me from the dining hall, and held his arms out wide. I ran to them.

He did the mountain of paperwork to enroll me at a small methodist college in Kentucky. He believed that being there was God’s will for my life. I didn’t quite fit the ‘southern bell’ stereotype and had trouble adjusting.

I was almost expelled my sophomore year because for a joke, my friend and I left an index card note on the desk of the head librarian who I’d worked for, which stated: “There is a bomb hidden in the library. Set to go off at 11PM! This is no idle threat! I have to, I will, I must, I have.”

Trouble is, I forgot to wait for my old boss to get the note, and laugh with him. Next night, the library closed early. The bomb squad was waiting outside.

Dad thought that maybe I might need a lawyer, as he and his friend joked that I was the new Patty Hearst. Instead, I received disciplinary probation and was allowed to stay.

He stood when I made it through college, a little wiser, a little humbler. I moved to Florida, got married to a professional fisherman who stumbled through asking Dad for my hand. My dad, Major Ramon Wert married us. He also did the pre-marital counseling. His advice to Tom, “Don’t let her boss you around, and,” he added, “cut your toenails.”

He and mom were assigned to the Evansville, Indiana Salvation Army City Command. Dad ran into some problems of his own. Stress problems, health problems. I flew to see him when his world fell apart.

Mom and Dad retired early and moved three miles away from me in a mobile home park on Tampa Bay. My daughter was barely walking. A few years later, my son was born, and we spent lots of time with Grandma and Grandpa. They were precious years.

Six years ago, Mom and Dad moved in with my family of four. Over the course of those years, Dad lost both legs to diabetes. I didn’t know that day in the emergency room, that Dad only had a few months to live. I couldn’t remember the young, strong, compassionate man from years past. He’d become my responsibility.

I was tired of standing.

But I stood that day while we listened to the NASCAR race, while waiting in an almost vacant emergency room.

As Veteran’s Day approaches, I remember my father, an 8-year veteran that always stood when he heard The National Anthem, and I miss him. He stood with me when I was young, I stood with him when he was old, and now, I stand alone.

At his funeral four months later, Ray’s family and friends met to commemorate his life. The Salvation Army tags death as, ‘Promotion to Glory.’ And so it was for him.

I listened as one after another spoke of the man I’d forgotten. He played hooky at The Salvation Army School for Officer’s Training to go fishing. He took boys with absent fathers fishing and hunting. He visited people to share the love of Jesus even when they threatened his life.

My brother-in-law, Randy spoke eloquently for our family. “I’ve never known Ray’s three daughters to agree on anything. But yesterday, as we spoke of Dad’s life, they all agreed that if he were here, he’d say, ‘See, I told you I was sick.’”

And then we all stood for the playing of The National Anthem.

Marital Bliss?

The waitress arrived at our checkerboard-sized table to take our order.

“We are celebrating a very special occasion. My husband and I have had 27 years of marital

bliss….”

“Don’t say it Pauline, it’s getting old,” Tom mumbles into his water glass.

I couldn’t help myself, “27 out of  35 ain’t bad!” Then I through my head back and laughed heartily. A few seconds passed while I regained my composure.

“You know, Pauline, you are the only one who laughs at it,” Tom added.

My daughter and her husband smiled politely. Who knew thirty-five years ago we’d be sitting in a French bistro, in Bethesda, Maryland, celebrating our anniversary with our almost thirty-year-old daughter and her husband.

“Hey Tom, Sarah and David both got the same tattoo on their wrist in honor or their first anniversary. How about we get a tattoo together tonight?”

My spouse shook his head. “Not me. I don’t want someone using a needle on my body. Although after 35 years, it’s probably safe to have PAULINE tattooed on my arm.”

I couldn’t stop laughing. In fact, as I write this, it makes me chuckle.

The thing about marriage is—it isn’t safe. You open your heart, home, and bank account to someone, with no idea what the future holds.

For us, the future held ups and downs financially, owning a business, raising teenagers, caring for aging parents, watching them die, and becoming grandparents. Recently, it included changing careers, moving to the country, starting a farm, and finding jobs that paid actual money.

It seems as if nothing we have done is safe. I’m kind of glad about that. Taking risks can make life tense, but it also makes it interesting. And challenging.

The fact is, almost anything worth doing is risky. Like having kids. Who knows how they will turn out? My daughter and her husband are buying a house—that’s risky. They could just rent an apartment their whole lives and depend on the landlord to fix anything.

How about driving on US 19 in Pinellas County, Florida? You definitely take your life in your hands when you pull out there. My children think it’s risky riding with me. Maybe they’re right.

Life is a risk and needs to be lived.

One thing I know isn’t risky. It is a sure bet—the gospel.

1 Corinthians 15: 1-5 states:

“Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the
Scriptures…”

People spend billions of dollars on insurance for stuff that will get old or obsolete or rust or die. But the gospel is free and eternal and good.

The best, even.

So the gospel isn’t risky, marriage is. Tattoo’s are—but I still want one.

Maybe on our 50th.

The Joy of it All

“Your place looks amazing!” I gawked as I entered my daughter’s Atlanta, Mid-Town apartment. The transformation was almost supernatural. Sarah had explained to me about a book titled, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but I was skeptical.

To put it in farming terms, let’s just say Sarah wasn’t ever the cleanest hen in the coop. Neither am I.

So when I entered the immaculate apartment, sparsely furnished, with a place for everything, (which wasn’t much) I couldn’t believe it.

Sarah explained. “I read it to David, and together we went through everything in our apartment. I’ve cut my wardrobe in half since I was only wearing half, and our important papers all fit in one bin. I don’t hold on to anything that doesn’t bring me joy.”

“Well, I’m impressed,” I said making my way out to the car. “Let me get my stuff and put it away.” I was to babysit my grandson for a few days while Sarah and David celebrated their anniversary.

“Hey Mom,” she hesitated. “Could you make sure everything is neat and clean when you leave?” She grinned.

“I’ve heard those words before.” I unpacked my toiletries. I always left a few of them at her apartment for my convenience.

“Where’s my toothbrush.”

“Um, I think I threw it out.”

“Okay, do you have an extra?”

She scampered away and came back with a clean one. “And where are my slippers?” I asked while looking under the cabinet where I always kept them.

“They didn’t bring me joy,” she said sheepishly.

I stopped. “You threw them away?” I paused for effect. “It’s a good thing I didn’t read this book while you were a teenager.”

We both smiled, because we are mother and daughter, yes. But now, we’re also friends.

Even though she did throw my slippers away.

Jesus Has a Big Front Porch

Our voices echoed across mountains and dipped into valleys. Corn and beans dotted the sides of the peaks in a zig-zag pattern since they’d been planted by hand.

Savior, You can move the mountains, my God is mighty to save, He is mighty to save,

Forever, author of salvation, He rose and conquered the grave, yes, He conquered the grave.

Tom and I sat among about 35 travelers singing to our God in the setting on Honduran mountains. We’d been there for about 3 days, traveled to isolated villages to share the message of Jesus Christ, and now we shared, “Porch Time.”

That was my favorite time of the day. The team gathered together, talked about the day, shared their testimonies, prayed, and praised God with song.

So when Tom and I moved to North Carolina–a huge front porch donned the top of our must-have house list. After the construction men finished the 60 x 10 foot structure one young man said, “You should have just built the porch and left off the house.”

“That probably would have been okay with Pauline,” Tom said.

Porches carry cherished memories for me. Memories of friendship and laughter and solace–unhurried times that often feel “realer” than the rest of my busy life.

Thoughts like that ran through my mind as I studied John 14:1-2, Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. (NASB)

I grew up on King James Version where dwelling place is translated mansion. Don’t get me wrong, a mansion sounds great, but I don’t want to live in a mansion by myself. That’s lonely.

No, I want to live in God’s mansion with Him and my Savior and my brothers and sisters in Christ. I want to sit on the porch for hours (although I don’t think we’ll have hours in heaven) and talk and laugh and sing and pray.

On earth, we know our times on the porch have to end because we have other tasks and time is important…here. Not there.

Sometimes, I picture my parents sitting on the porch in heaven with their best friends, the Shiels. Jim Shiels is teasing Dad while Mom and Nellie Shiels sit together chit-chatting about this and that.

When we vacationed with the Shiels at The Salvation Army’s Camp Lake, or Army Lake, we’d sit on the screened porch lit only with the yellow bug light and talk for hours. When we’d get ready to go back home my father would say, “Let’s all join hands and sing.”

Jim would say, “Do we have to, Ramie?” And then he’d laugh and we’d join hands, sing, and then cry. This is what we sang:

Til we meet, til we meet, til we meet at Jesus feet,

God be with us, til we meet again.

I’m sure there’s was a great reunion and frankly, I can’t wait to join them. Cause I think Jesus has the biggest, bestest, porch. Ever.

But for now, I’ll settle for mine.

Come see me, friend.

I can’t paste the YouTube in here, but I’ll past the link. It’s worth the listen…BTW, we’ll be singing this on Sunday at Christ Community Church. Join us will you? Pretend it’s a porch…

 

 

 

A Letter to President Trump

Dear President Trump,

Today is a special day for you and for our nation. I cannot sit down and talk with you so I decided to write you a letter like we are best friends.

I don’t know you, but I am sure you are feeling the weight of the responsibility and great privilege you have been granted.

So like a letter to Santa, I’ll tell you my heart.

About immigration, that’s a hard one. On one hand we need to protect our country and we cannot financially support all the people who would love to live in the US. On the other hand, why were we born here instead of say, Somalia? Not because we were smarter or better, it is just the way it is.

So please be gracious and yet firm. I am asking (Because I wouldn’t dare to tell the President of the United States what to do) that you get a variety of wise counsel. Proverbs 15:22 states;

“Plans fail without advice, but with many counselors they are confirmed.”

For the sake of our country and your integrity invite people into your inner circle who are wise and willing to contradict you. That is wise.

Concerning finance and foreign policy. I’m not really good at balancing my checkbook, so I’m going to have to trust you on that. Foreign policy is tricky I suppose.  Often, things I think are affected by what I eat or if I’m happy, so it’s a good thing for me to be careful since just because I think it, doesn’t make it true.  I will pray that you will be wise in that area.

About welfare. My parents were Salvation Army officers so I was surrounded by all sorts of people. I remember clearly my mother praying before each time we gave away toys at Christmas, “But for the grace of God, go I.”

I believe that. Still, when I see someone on the side of the road with a sign stating “Out of work, need food.” I’m not sure what to do. I don’t always believe them. Sometimes, I’ve gone to a local place and given them money for those people. Other times I can’t make up my mind about that.

Good luck with that.

About morality. Wow. That’s hard. Everyone has a different opinion. I have mine and I think it is truth, but I believe love should be the plumb line on that. Love for all people.

1 Corinthians 13:13 states, “And now these three remain; faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

I couldn’t have said it better, that’s for sure.

America should be like a really big family. And as someone once said, “You can choose your friends, but you’re stuck with your relatives.” So you are stuck with me, President Trump. Treat me like family. And the rest of the country, too.

It seems to me that you don’t care much what people think of you. I care too much. So over the next four years, each day I will pray this for you;

“He has shown you, O mortal what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

You really cannot go wrong with that and I cannot go wrong praying that for you.

So even though we’ve never met, or probably never will meet, you have someone who is praying for you just like I prayed for President Obama, and all the others.

Your friend,

Pauline (You already know my last name because we are friends.)

PS, I’ve never been to Washington so one day I am going to visit.

And I’d like to see the White House.