Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Eulogy for my Mother-in-Law

For Imogene

Pro 31:1; 10-31 The words of King Lemuel, the oracle which his mother taught him:

An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her, And he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good and not evil All the days of her life.

She looks for wool and flax And works with her hands in delight.
She is like merchant ships; She brings her food from afar.
She rises also while it is still night And gives food to her household And portions to her maidens.

She considers a field and buys it; From her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She girds herself with strength And makes her arms strong.
She senses that her gain is good; Her lamp does not go out at night.
She stretches out her hands to the distaff, And her hands grasp the spindle.

She extends her hand to the poor, And she stretches out her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid of the snow for her household, For all her household are clothed with scarlet.

She makes coverings for herself; Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Her husband is known in the gates, When he sits among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them, And supplies belts to the tradesmen.
Strength and dignity are her clothing, And she smiles at the future.

She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household, And does not eat the bread of idleness.

Her children rise up and bless her; Her husband also, and he praises her, saying:
"Many daughters have done nobly, But you excel them all."
Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.
Give her the product of her hands, And let her works praise her in the gates.

I didn’t write this, but I wish I had…

To “His” Mother

“Mother-in-Law” they say, and yet,
Somehow, I simply can’t forget
T’was you who watched his baby ways
who taught him his first hymn of praise
who smiled at him with loving pride
when he first toddled by your side.

“Mother-in-law”, but oh, t’was you,
who taught him to be kind and true.
When he was tired, almost asleep,
T’was to your arms he used to creep.
And when he bruised his tiny knee,
T’was you who kissed it tenderly.

“Mother-in-law” they say, and yet,
Somehow I never shall forget,
how very much I owe
to you, who taught him how to grow.
You trained your son to look above,
you made of him, the man I love.
And so, I think of that today.
Ah, then with thankful heart I’ll say

To “Our” Mother.

I’ve been thinking in the past few weeks, that how our Churches have grown, there are hardly any left who remember Imogene “as she was…”

Not many remember this woman who was a “world class” cook; a maker of dolls and baby quilts, a birthday cake baker, a barber, a school bus driver (one of the first in Knox County) and a woman who loved children - her own, everybody else’s as well.

There aren’t many left who saw her raise her children in church, and take preachers home for Sunday dinner, Sunday, after Sunday, after Sunday… There are few now who’ve tasted her scrumptious Italian Crème Cakes or Jam Cakes or melt in your mouth pastries…

Ah, but those of us who do have stories to tell… For 30+ years I’ve written poems that included her presence, and told tales that regaled her importance in my growth as a wife and mother. She cared for us, and gave herself to care for others. When Brenda Carroll was our pastor she once said, “As long as Imogene has someone to care for, she’ll be fine…” And she was. Losing her ability to care for others was, I think, one of the hardest things she ever had to endure.

And, losing her, so slowly, over so long a period of time has been one of the hardest things we’ve ever had to endure.

The scripture said, “An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.”
And she was.

It said, “She looks well to the ways of her household, And does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and bless her.”
And they do.

And then it says, "Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.”
And she is.

The Choir of Heaven sounds just a little sweeter tonight…

Sunday, April 16, 2006

My Mother-in-law's Obituary

Lydia Imogene (Chesney) Newman, age 86 of Kodak, went home to her Lord, April 14, 2006. She was preceded in death by her parents, John and Molly Chesney, sister Anna Vee Paul, and brothers Ed, Hascal, and Nathanial Chesney.

She is survived by her husband of nearly 65 years, Robert (Bob) Newman, as well as daughter Mary Ann Dunn and husband Lamar, sons Robert, Jr. (Bobby) and Joe and wife Betty. She had 8 grandchildren and 9 great-grandchildren, and several nieces and nephews.

She was a devoted wife, mother and grandmother until Alzheimer’s robbed her of her joy in the mid 90’s. She was a member of Bethel United Methodist Church, and loved singing in the church and cooking Sunday dinner for the various pastors over the years.

She was among the first female school bus drivers in Knox County in the early 60’s and was well loved by everyone who rode her bus.

The last 4 years of her life were spent at Ridgeview Terrace in Rutledge, where the nursing staff took her and Bob as well, into their hearts. They were greatly appreciated.

To honor her love of cooking and serving, in lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Bethel United Methodist Church Building Fund for use in the “Schoolhouse” fellowship hall/kitchen. The mailing address is Bethel UMC c/o Elaine Boyens, 7607 Thorngrove Pike, Knoxville, TN 37914.

Funeral Services will be held Monday, April 17, 2006 in the Evergreen Chapel at 8:00pm with Rev. Jimmy Sherrod officiating. Family and friends will meet at Sherwood Memorial Gardens at 10:45am for an 11:00am entombment service. The grandsons will be pallbearers.

The family will receive friends Monday night from 6:00-8:00pm.

40 Days of Prayer (days 31-34 1/2)

*****Day 31
April 5, 2006

Note: Since my last “prayer time” my Mother-in-law, who is in the later stages of Alzheimer’s has gone into the hospital and is now under Hospice care. Caring for my Father-in-law and staying some days and some nights has hindered my “on my knees” prayer time…

Oh Father, this changes the focus of everything, doesn’t it? It changes from the struggle of my call to the struggle of the moment. Who was it - John Lennon? - Who said, “Life happens while you’re making other plans”. My calling now is to care for Imogene and Bob and Joe (my husband.) For the moment the “urgent” must take the place of the overall “important.” But, who knows? The “important” may just find its place in the “urgent…”

Father, give us guidance in dealing with the struggle of “siblings.” It was so much easier, in many regards, to be an only child. My decisions were my decisions. Now, every decision must be “cleared” with the whole family. And if there is a disagreement, it must be worked out and “compromised.” Lord, give us wisdom to know when to stand adamant and when to finding a middle ground. May everything we do be to bring honor and glory to Your name, and to meet Imogene’s needs on this final leg of her journey.

Father God, give us comfort in this time of pain. Lord, it’s just not fair! Alzheimer’s is so cruel. It not only robbed us all of Imogene’s “being” within her presence, but it has robbed her children of the “luxury” of grieving. She has “left us” so gradually, that the real grieving process never had a time of its own. And now, who is this woman within this frail body? Is that really “mother?” How does one grieve for something that left a long time ago - and just when did it leave, anyway?

Help us Lord. Give us physical strength, give us wisdom, and give us comfort.

In Jesus’ name - Amen.

Day 34 ½ …
April 9, 2006

How does one have a “Day 34 ½?” I am praying this day on Sunday. Normally, this would not be one of the “days of lent” but my “days” are so jumbled at this point, that I have to look to the calendar and count to see what “day of lent” it really is.

Father, hear my cry. On my way to the hospital this morning, I take time to stop by Church before anyone arrives and kneel at the altar. I am so tired Lord, that I turn and just lean against the railing. I am physically and mentally exhausted.

Again, I find myself asking, “How does one pray for someone to die?” That is about the most difficult prayer I’ve ever had to pray - and this makes twice with in 4 months I’ve had to pray it…

Father, how much longer can this frail woman live? We begin second guessing ourselves, “Are we doing the right thing?” “Is she really not just starving to death?” “GOD! How can we not feed her?” But God, how can we feed her…?”

Lord, Easter is coming up. There are services planned, and other’s lives and “schedules” to be considered… And I am so tired…

But Father, I surrender all to You. (And it hits me.) There is a huge difference in “surrender” and “defeat” isn’t there? If I am “defeated” I have never given up, I have simply been “out maneuvered” “out-gunned” or “over-taken” - pretty much against my will…

But, if I “surrender” then “I” have made the choice. “I” have submitted to another’s will. And that, Lord, is what I’m doing. I am submitting to Your will. I trust and believe that You have a divine plan, and that You are in total control - not only of our lives, but Imogene’s life, and death, as well.

And so, I surrender all…

In Jesus’ name - Amen.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

40 Days of Prayer (day 26)

Day 26
March 30, 2006

Is it Satan’s mocking or God’s admonition? “Who do you think you are to think that you have a ‘word’ for anyone?” “Don’t ‘presume’ to think that you speak for God!” “What makes you think that you ‘understand’ anything in the Bible at all?” “People coming to you for Spiritual advice - Pshaw - it’s just an ‘ego trip’, that’s all!” “Yeah, who do you think you are…?”

God, I’m afraid. Who DO I think I am to be teaching Your Word? What DOES make me think I can write or say anything…? God! What if I’m wrong? What if I give the wrong advice? What if I interpret Your Word wrong? I have before, You know…

God, I want to throw off this mantle. I want to throw off this weight of responsibility. I just want to study Your word for my own self. I just want to know all the stories, all the history, all the nuances of Your Word, but God, I don’t want the responsibility of someone else’s Soul!

I want to teach the stories of the Bible. I want to share the wonder of Your Word. I want to show how Your Hand is active in the lives of men and women, but then Lord, I want to leave the rest of it up to them! I just want to teach the “generic Word of God…” I don’t want to carry the weight of any implications they might derive from what I’ve taught…

I thought I understood James’ words “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.” I gave some lofty “lip service” to “oh what a responsibility we have…” but then, someone came to me with a question - seeking understanding, clarification of something that was said. Then, another person asked for help with direction... My children seek my advice… Complete strangers ask me to “tell the story in simplified terms - explain what it means!…”

GOD! I don’t want this anymore…

Lord, my understanding has become a ball and chain around my ankle that I must drag with me every step of my way. I don’t want this responsibility, this liability any more. What if I’m wrong…? What if it’s not an understanding after all? What if it’s simply a delusion? What if I’m wrong…?

Or, what if I’m making something out of nothing? What if I’m exaggerating my own importance? What if I’m over dramatizing the situation? What if I’m only flattering myself…?

God … Abba, My Father, I’m afraid… Send someone to me - give me a word…

If this is what You want me to do, Lord. You’re going to have to show me if it’s “real” and then, how to do it. Lord, I don’t even know, what I don’t know… I don’t know how to begin searching for answers, because I don’t even know what the questions are. Father, put someone in my path. If You would have me be a teacher, then send me one…

I submit myself to You.

In Jesus’ name - Amen

Thursday, April 13, 2006

40 Days of Prayer (days 21-23)

***Day 21
March 25, 2006

God, everything I have touched, heard, picked up or read recently has had to do with Abraham.

I was waiting on friends for lunch; flipped on the radio and heard, (concerning Abraham) “It’s better to go into the unknown with God, than to stay in the ‘known’ without Him…”

I tuned on the TV; there was R.C. Sproul teaching about the call of Abraham… “The Blessedness of Being a Blessing…”

I went to a professional BB forum online, and lo and behold there was a thread about prayer where someone asked “And what about Abraham? Why did God put the poor guy through that?”

Father, what are You teaching me through Abraham…?

Day 22
March 27, 2006

Father, I spent more time “chasing rabbits” this morning than in prayer - but that’s not necessarily a bad thing (maybe.) I love reading Your Word, and every time I think “I’m just going to look at this one scripture real quick…” the next thing I know, I’ve “chased that rabbit” all over the Testaments, through the Epistles, and back to the Prophets again.

I love it! But, when my time is limited, I find that prayer is usually what takes the back seat… and for that, I’m sorry.

Father, I am so humbled. I have been asked about specific scriptures - “what is this saying…” and I pray for wisdom in teaching and leading to Your Word. You have blessed me with not only the desire to know Your Word, but also with very good resources and now, with the time to study as well.

I am so humbled…

Day 23

March 28, 2006

Father, as I kneel this morning I am struck with the question of just what to pray about. My mind goes in a thousand different directions thinking, “this” or “that” or “what about the other…”

The problem with knowing I am going to have a “set apart” time for prayer is that I start thinking about what I’m going to pray. What subjects, which individuals, whose requests?

And so, I make myself be “still” and listen for You. I listen for the direction You want to take me.

As I am still I hear the sounds of “life” around me - the washer, the dryer, vehicles… And I wonder, how do we serve in the midst of “life?” We know that we were created to worship You, but how much do we really worship You? How much does the “world” - that is, all of Your creation, worship You?

It is spring. The birds are building nests and preparing for “life” but they continue to sing in the midst of “work.” They have just come through the winter, but in the midst of winter, they still sang. What a lesson we could learn.

Oh Father, how much do we worship? My cry for 30 years has been “how can I serve You?” My plea has been that You would just show me what You would have me do - that You would just open the doors. Father I only want to be what You would have me be, and to do what You would have me do.

How can I serve You? Have I been, and just didn’t realize it?

Lord, I pray for balance - for boldness in prayer with unanswered prayer. That when I kneel before the Throne of Grace that I may be bold in my petitions knowing that You are the God of the Impossible! And, may I understand and submit to the times when the prayer simply goes unanswered. When I face that “dark night of the soul” may I cling to my faith when I cry (with the father of the demon possessed child) “Lord I believe, help Thou my unbelief…”

May I know Your grace is sufficient for me: for Your strength is made perfect in my weakness.

Lord, my prayer:

To hear You more clearly.
To love You more dearly.
To serve You more nearly.

In Jesus’ name. Amen

Sunday, April 09, 2006

40 Days of Prayer (days 19-20)

***Day 19
March 23, 2006

Father, as I kneel this morning, I am almost without words. Yesterday’s prayer was so intense, so all-consuming, that it, even unspoken, continued on throughout the day and into the night. And I wonder this morning, did Jesus pray intensely - every day? We know that His prayer times were lengthy and passionate, but did they take place every day, or only at those times that we read of His “getting away”? I rather seem to think of His “intense” prayers coming at certain times, and His “conversing” with You came daily - and even continually.

And so, my prayer this morning is not as intense, but still coming from the same depth of heart…

After attending Bible study twice yesterday, I am led to pray for our churches. (Explanation: We are a part of a 3-point charge or circuit.) I pray for the individuals within these three churches - they are so different. The churches themselves are different and the people are different. The atmosphere of each of the Bible studies is different - each going off in their own special and distinct way.

I pray for (names), visualizing each face and each persons’ families and situations. I lift up where each of them “come from” - their backgrounds and the particular “baggage” each brings. And “baggage” is not always a “bad” thing, for our “baggage” carries our belongings - both good and bad; our memories, both good and bad, and our possessions, both good and bad. And I lift these up to You.

I pray, Father, for these churches. Those seemingly “sheep without shepherds” and those seemingly “shepherds without sheep.” There’s something wrong with this picture. What would You have us do about this, Lord? Where do we (Joe and I) need to be? I came from one of them, he came from another of them, and we’re equally at home in either of them - where would You have us be? And what would You have us do?

Father, I pray for one this morning who has suffered the loss of her husband. She is elderly herself, but a strong woman. As the youngest in a huge family, with many (many) brothers and sisters, she has endured many a loss in her life - even losing another husband which left her with a young child to raise alone. But it still hurts - I know it must. I have not carried the load she has carried, but I know it must still hurt, each and every time.

Father, what would You have us do for her? How can we best fill her needs? There are all the “things” we do - the food, the flowers, the memorial gifts, the visitation and support at the graveside. But how can we best fill her needs? Father, we pray for “strength sufficient for the day” and even beyond. And open our eyes, Lord, that we may see where You would have us serve.

I come again, boldly, bringing petitions from days past - family, children, husband, personal direction, the sickness of strangers, and the pains of my own heart. I pray for healing Lord, I pray for definite answers, and I pray for bold and blazing directives. And above all, I pray that Your Kingdom may come upon the earth. That Your kingdom may come, and Your Will may be done, on earth as it is in heaven, I pray saying, “Maybe today, Lord, maybe today…”


***Day 20
March 24, 2006

I begin my prayers today, not on my knees as I have been “called” to do this Lenten season, but in the kitchen preparing food for the family that I prayed for yesterday. And I pray…

Father I lift up this family. As I (and many others) are preparing food, may this “tending to their bodies” be a tending to their souls as well. It is at times such as these Father, that bring out our “Martha” tendencies. I’m sure, in thinking of her, that she would have been the one to take food to the needy - that was her calling; her gift. And it is our “calling” as well.

Paul taught us so much about giving, Lord. He went about spreading the Gospel, but he also taught that by giving, we become brothers and sisters. He saw how giving creates a bond between believers - how it makes us “one” with each other.

And God, I know how it feels to be “given to.” I’ve carried food to families all my life, but it wasn’t until the death of my Mother, and then my Dad, that opened my eyes to what really takes place.

If one is ever on the receiving end of this type of care, then they know what it really means. It’s so much more than the food; it’s the sharing with the soul that eases the pain; it’s the division of the weight that makes it lighter to carry. And it’s the love of the neighbor that teaches Divine Love.

God, as we take the food today, may we be share Your Love by meeting the physical needs of this family. This is our calling…

May we serve, in Jesus’ name - Amen.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

40 Days of Prayer (days 17-18)

Note: I wish I had started posting this at the beginning of Lent, but I didn't realize how it would grow, or be used in my journey, so I'm entering a day, or a few days' worth each day (depending on length) until I get caught up to the present day.

*****Day 17

March 21, 2006

The problem with my knowing that God works in history is that I am always “looking” for it. As I am praying for a definite answer for the direction of my business, of my service, and of my life, I “look” for God answering…

I heard a program on the radio that spoke of God’s leading (speaking of Abraham’s call) and the man said, “It’s better to go into the unknown with God, than to stay in the “known” without Him…” And it gave me chills…

As I was listening to that, I was waiting on a couple of friends of mine as we were going to have lunch together. Was God working in this? Was there going to be a bigger reason for us to be together than just a friendly lunch? I don’t believe in coincidence. What was to be the outcome of this lunch? Was there to be an outcome to this lunch? Or was I looking for something that wasn’t there. Why can’t I just sit back and let God do His work? I’m sure He’ll tell me when the time is right…

Ah, now by e-mail from a friend of mine, an opportunity presents itself for my business! What does this mean? But wait, there’s no money to take advantage of this opportunity… and I am back to the first “square” of my “bold prayer.”

Father, I will faithfully go into the “unknown” with You… As I remember, You only told Abraham to “go to a land which I will show you…” You didn’t tell him where it was until he got there. And so, is this “opportunity” really an opportunity, or is it a deterrent? I will “wait upon the Lord” to show me the way…

*** Day 18
March 22, 2006

As I come to my knees this morning, I have just learned of a sick child. Oh God! A child with cancer. God! I pray for her mother, and father and family, but especially God, for her mother.

No matter what we are facing, we always know that “there are others worse off than you are”; “worse off than we are”. So God, how long must that mantra go until we finally get to the very worst case - to that place where one could say, “NO! There is no one worse off! This is the very worst case!”

How does that person pray, Lord? There has to be someone at that place, doesn’t there? How do they pray? Do… they pray, Lord?

But I am brought back to this child. How do I pray boldly? Do I pray for healing? Do I actually pray for the “laws of nature” to be “controlled”? Of course I do! God of creation IS the God of the laws of nature - You are not controlled by anything. It is Yours to will and to please, and so I pray - heal this child.

I have seen within our own lives the “laws of nature” suspended. Oh, there was always an “explanation” as far as the “world” was concerned, but we knew, didn’t we God? We knew it was You. Healed eyes, healed body, healed child, and many, many healed “situations…” You alone God were/are the healer. And so I pray - heal this child.

There is another “child”, a young man - an adult, but still, his mother’s child. I pray for him - and others. I can’t truly pray “heal everyone” as there were those, even among those who saw Jesus, who were not healed… but all who “called upon the name of the Lord” were. And so I pray, boldly, in faith - heal this child.

I pray for other individuals. I pray what I don’t know how to pray for (names and names and names…) I do not know how you would have me pray for them, but I lift them up and may the Holy Spirit carry these groanings to the ear of Christ and may He whisper them to You. Christ - our Great High Priest who has Your ear, always. May He mold my words…

Father, I come back again to my own prayer - my own pleadings. “Show me Thy Way!”

God, I have prayed at times in the past when confronted with similar questions, “whatever would be Your will - increase my desire in [this] direction or decrease my desire in [that] direction, that my path may be directed.

And now, Lord, I hardly want to read any other thing than Your word. I have this huge stack of business magazines and books that I really need to be reading, that I need to be studying, but each time I sit down to read, I only want to study Your word! What are You trying to say to me Lord!? What?!

You brought to my mind once, “Reviving Bible Studies” - a way to have a “revival” within a “Bible Study” format. But Lord, I don’t know how to write lessons. I know how to write a sermon. I know how to prepare a talk, I could even prepare a series of sermons, but to put them into “lesson” or “study” form, I don’t know how. I look at our Sunday School lessons and think, “I could do better than that!” But who’s going to give me, without a degree, an opportunity to write lessons? It seems totally ridiculous.

But, until a few months ago, it would have seemed ridiculous to think that I (a female) would be speaking in a Baptist Church, to both men and women! And not only have I, but I’ve done it twice, within 3 weeks! And one of those was in a pulpit! How wild is that!?

So Lord, “Show me Thy Way!”

Lord, I’ve already committed to a very serious (and expensive) advertisement coming out soon. And shows, I’ve got a couple of new and (again) very expensive shows lined up - were these just impetuous actions or answers to unprayed prayers?

Lord! “Show me Thy Way!”