Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Change Your Clocks

Just a quick note for everyone. Make sure you remember to set your clocks back on Wednesday night before you go to sleep unless you are planning on staying up until midnight to do it. We will be adding a leap second to the end of the year if you hadn't already heard. You will be getting to places too early if you don't heed the advice. This is quite possibly my last advice for you until 2009. I hope everyone had a great Christmas and want all of you to have a wonderful and blessed New Year.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

And Love Me, I Pray

This entry was originally published Dec. 24, 2007 and is the sequel to "Close By Me Forever."
And Love Me, I Pray
It had been nearly five years since Stephanie had seen these streets. The last fifty-eight months had been a constant struggle, full of pain, prayers and progress. Just weeks after her encounter with Farrah, Amed and her family, she had been a victim of the same type of violence as that family. However, almost no memory of that time in her life remained. After this long period of recovery, she had been encouraged to travel with her new husband, Vince, to the country where she had previously served in the military.
The neighborhood looked vaguely familiar as they traveled by taxi. But, something was very different. Beautiful flowers were in hanging planters on street signs. Families strolled along the clean streets and the buildings had that freshly remodeled look. She almost wondered if they were in the correct location. Suddenly, her gaze was directed to a specific location ahead on the right.
“Vince, I need to get out here,” she said.
The taxi driver was asked to pull over to the side of the street. As Vince helped Stephanie out of the car, a strange sense of peace seemed to envelop her. Then, they saw the small building just a few yards from the street, nearly hidden in the dusk. A sign at the front of the property, written in English, asked the question, “What Is Christmas?”. At the sight of those words, a bit of Stephanie’s memory which had been seemingly non-existent for nearly five years came to life.
She had been to numerous specialists in the states over the previous months. They had helped her adjust to living in a wheel chair, but no one could seem to help her recover from the memory loss that she had encountered. She had received occasional letters from someone she could not recall knowing. They were always signed by someone named Farrah, and she knew they came from the country where she had served. Something would not allow her to respond to the letters, although the person seemed to think that Stephanie had been some type of heroine in her eyes.
Then, her doctors, almost as a last resort, had encouraged her to travel to this foreign country and here she was on Christmas Day.When they had arrived at the airport, it was almost as if she and Vince were royalty. The officials, and for that matter, everyone they came in contact with, seemed to be in awe of the Americans. It gave Stephanie great pride to know that she had done her part to liberate this country.
The last few days had been a breath of fresh air to her, and she had begun to regain some of her memory from years ago. Could she take that final step tonight?
She seemed to be drawn to the little building. As they approached, it became obvious that it was a small church. Stephanie became aware that their taxi driver had joined them as Vince pushed her wheel chair up the walk to the front door. Their driver opened the door and Vince pushed Stephanie’s chair into the small foyer. As they entered, the small congregation began singing a beautiful Christmas tune. It was unmistakably “Silent Night”. The words were sung in the native language, but it had been a long time since Stephanie had heard a song so beautifully sung.
They found a place to listen from the back of the room. When the song was finished, the preacher made his way to the podium.The preacher had the full attention of everyone in the room that evening. He spoke in English from his wheel chair, and that fact alone was enough to keep Stephanie’s eyes glued to him.
There were huge amounts of her memory returning as the preacher spoke on the topic “What Is Christmas?”. Yes, she remembered relating this same story in this same country to a little girl and then to a family and that family had a father who had no legs! The preacher had finished speaking, and now he announced that his daughter would be singing the final song for the evening.
When beautiful, dark-haired, seventeen-year-old Farrah, in a flowing white gown, entered from a side room, the journey was complete for Stephanie. As Farrah’s mother played the small organ, Farrah sang the three verses of “Away In A Manger”, in English, just as she had been taught five years ago. When Farrah was partly through verse two, her eyes locked onto a person sitting in the back. The audience watched as Farrah walked slowly to the person, never missing a note in her beautiful rendition of this well-loved carol.She reached Stephanie as she sang the last words of verse three, “and love me, I pray Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care And take us to Heaven To live with Thee there.”
There were no dry eyes in the little sanctuary that evening. The two were lost in each other’s embrace for what seemed like hours. Farrah’s father dismissed the service, making a statement that they had all found out a little more of what Christmas really means this evening, or something to that effect, as emotions had overcome him, also.
Much later that evening, as Stephanie and Vince visited Farrah and her family in their modest home, they were told that the little church where they worshipped was built on the site from which the grenade had been launched that had changed Farrah’s family’s life forever. Oh, it had caused pain, but it also had brought them to a place where they could minister to others in their neighborhood.
“Come and see my room,” Farrah begged Stephanie.
Stephanie allowed herself to be pushed down the hallway. At the first door on the right, Farrah opened the door. Stephanie looked into a small, neat room. She noticed the walls were full of pictures. Smiling boys. A singing group. Pictures of their quaint little neighborhood. The little church where her father was pastor. Then, her gaze was drawn upward. On the ceiling, directly above Farrah’s bed, was a picture of a little girl in a hospital bed. Beside the bed was an American soldier. The two were holding hands.
Closing the bedroom door behind her, Farrah spoke, “Every night, before I go to sleep, I look at that picture. I have prayed for you every night that I can remember, and, now, you’re here! Will you sing that song for me again?”
In the living room, the rest of the family and Vince could only listen in awe as two angelic voices joined together to sing the song that had helped to change lives in that part of the country over the last few years.As the last notes of the song were being voiced, Farrah pushed Stephanie back into the living room. When they finished, Farrah’s father announced loudly, “It is officially CHRISTMAS!”

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Close By Me Forever

This was originally published Dec. 14, 2007. It is the first of two related stories. I will post the sequel soon.

Close By Me Forever
It was December 24, but in this war-torn country it was hard to think of it as anything out of the ordinary. However, this night was destined to be anything but ordinary. Specialist Stephanie Rose found herself on patrol in a dangerous part of the city. Earlier this very day she had walked these streets and given candy to eager young children. Now that darkness had fallen, it seemed that it had become a completely new world. She thought she detected some movement several yards in front of her. She began moving in that direction, while speaking quietly into her radio, asking her fellow soldiers for back-up.
Twelve-year-old Farrah and her six-year-old brother, Amed were riding with their father in the family car. It was only a short drive to the little shop where they were going to purchase a small gift for Farrah’s mother, whose birthday was tomorrow. She peered out the window and saw an American soldier on foot patrol. She was still half-frightened due to the constant barrage of anti-Americanism that she encountered at their mosque and from other acquaintances. Still, sometimes she saw the soldiers giving candy and small gifts to children. Her father had told her to stay away from the foreigners, so she obeyed. In the next instant, her world was changed forever. She saw the flash of an explosion and then a rocket propelled grenade slammed into the driver’s side of their car. The door was peeled away as if a giant can opener had been used. Her father took the brunt of the blast, but both she and Amed were badly injured.
Specialist Rose was an instant too late in bringing her M16 to her shoulder. She saw the so-called “freedom fighter” - how she hated that label - launch his grenade, a split second before she fired the bullets that would prevent him from any more of his murderous activity. But, the damage had been done for that evening. She was the first to the scene and seeing the driver, she quickly went to the two small ones in the car that she knew she would be able to help.
Many times during training, they had been warned not to become personally involved in the tragedies that they were sure to encounter. But, tonight Stephanie was breaking all the rules. She had ridden in the Humvee with the injured children back to her fortified camp. She had personally helped the medics transport the two children into the hospital. Now, it was almost midnight, an hour past the end of her shift. She found herself by the bedside of a twelve-year-old girl whose name she did not know.
Farrah lay quietly in this strange bed surrounded by American soldiers and medical personnel. She was frightened, yet something told her that she was safe. Then, she heard a quiet melody being sung by someone sitting in the shadows beside her bed. She had studied English since she was six, but she had never heard such beautiful words sung so sweetly.
“Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay Close by me forever and love me, I pray Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care And take us to Heaven to live with Thee there.”
She stirred and the person sitting there leaned over her bed. The soldier looked to her like an angel, and she asked her for her name. The reply came, “My name is Stephanie. What is yours?”
“Farrah. You are the one who helped me out of our car, aren’t you? Will you stay with me forever? My daddy was in the car with us…” Her words trailed off.
Stephanie spoke, “I know someone who can be with you forever, Farrah.” And in the next few minutes, Specialist Stephanie Rose was able to lead a precious little girl to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. So much for not getting personally involved , she thought.
“Will you sing that song again for me?” asked Farrah.
“Away in a manger no crib for a bed The little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head The stars in the sky looked down where He lay The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay The cattle are lowing, the Baby awakes But little Lord Jesus no crying He makes I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky And stay by my bedside ‘til morning is nigh Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay Close by me forever and love me, I pray Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care And take us to Heaven to live with Thee there.”
Farrah lay back in her bed and whispered, “I wish my daddy could have heard that song. Do you suppose I will see my daddy in Heaven?”
Stephanie had no answer for Farrah, so she just encouraged her to rest for now. It seemed that only a few minutes had passed when Stephanie awoke abruptly. It was 7:00 A.M.! She heard noises at the door. There were people coming into the room. Farrah awakened to see an American doctor at her bedside. Behind him was her mother, smiling at her.
Farrah asked, “Why are you smiling? I lost my father and maybe Amed last night. I have something now that I so wish I could tell my father…” Sobs came from her small frame as the grief poured out of her.
The doctor spoke, “Farrah, I have a surprise for you.” He motioned to someone at the doorway and the next thing that Farrah saw filled her with joy that she did not think she would be able to contain. It was her Father! Sure, it didn’t look much like him. He was in a wheel chair, and it looked as if his legs were gone. Bandages covered much of his head, but there was no mistaking, it was him! And, behind him was a nurse holding Amed.
Her world had come back to close to normal now. She said, “Oh, Father, I have something to tell you and I have found a professional singer who will sing for you and she will give you a story that will change everything…”
The doctor interrupted, “Farrah, we will have time for that later. For now, you need some more rest and so does your father.”The room had quieted down. She looked at Specialist Stephanie Rose, the tough, young soldier who was not allowed to get personally involved and who now had tears streaming down her face as the night’s memories flooded across her.
Farrah turned toward her and asked, “Why are you crying? Aren’t you happy, too?”
Stephanie could only nod. Then, she found her voice. “Merry Christmas, Farrah.”
“What is Christmas?” queried Farrah.
“Oh, no, now I’m going to be here all day,” Stephanie said with a smile. When Farrah grinned back at her, it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas!
LJL 2007

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Special Night

This was originally published Dec.3, 2007. Hope you enjoy this re-run.

It was the brightest night that Joshua had ever experienced. The tall, lean youth was sixteen years of age. He was proud to work in the barn behind the inn where he lived. Even now he was thankful for his distant cousin who had taken him in some five years ago. Tonight, with the moonlight streaming in the open window at the end of the barn, he felt that there was something special, magical about this night.
His mind wandered back to his early childhood…Joshua had always been slower than his playmates. His parents called him their “special” gift from God and he always knew he was loved by them. But, there were times when the other kids made fun of him and made life unpleasant for him. When those instances occurred, he could run to his parents who would comfort him and tell him he was special and that God had a special plan for his life. His father would read from the writings of the prophets and tell him that one day a Messiah would come that would save the people from their sins. Joshua could comprehend enough to know that this would be a wonderful time!
Then, one day when he was eleven, his world came crashing down around him. His parents were tragically killed in an accident. He was never told what happened. He only knew that the two people he could truly trust were gone. A distant relative, Zebulon, an innkeeper, was kind enough to allow him to stay with him.
When he grew older, he became the “keeper of the barn”…Tonight, as he finished his chores, he couldn’t shake the feeling about this evening. He heard some folks coming toward the barn. This generally made him upset for he could never speak to strangers without getting his words all tangled and twisted. He quickly climbed into the hayloft and hid as he normally did when strangers came into the barn.
He was distressed to see a man and woman come in the door. The woman appeared to be in discomfort. Still, the feeling about the evening persisted.Unable to climb down the ladder without being seen, Joshua decided to sleep in the hay as he had done before, rather than be humiliated by having to speak to a stranger. Too many times before people had laughed at him when his thoughts and words had become a tangled mess.
He moved in the hay to where he could be comfortable and saw that the man and woman were in one of the stables and it appeared they were staying for the night!Much later, Joshua was awakened from a deep sleep by the sound…of a baby?! Never before had there been a baby in this barn!
He peered down into the stable, and there in the manger was the little child. The moon was now lower in the sky, and its light had flooded the stable. The beams seemed to be shining directly onto the infant’s face.Something happened inside of Joshua at that moment. A voice seemed to speak to him that sounded like his father’s voice. The thoughts in his mind seemed clearer than ever before, and the voice seemed to say, “This is that special one that the prophets foretold.” He climbed quickly down the ladder and made his way to the stable.The man seemed surprised to see him appear, but he did not mind as Joshua made his way toward the baby.
The woman took the child into her arms, and the moonlight bathing the mother and child appeared to be straight from Heaven. Joshua had never approached a stranger before, but he knew there was something different about this family! He asked the woman, “What is the baby’s name?”The answer came in a hushed, reverent tone, “Jesus.”
At the mention of the baby’s name, Joshua felt his thoughts become completely rational, and while he did not voice them, he had the understanding that millions of people still do not have today - the realization that those radiant beams from a holy face brought the dawn of Redeeming Grace!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Victoria's Secret

Now that I have your attention, check out Dudley's Fashion Show. Here are a few of his outfits that Mom has bought him over the years. Here he shows off his OSU T-Shirt, perfect for those fall football afternoons.

Looking great in his all-purpose jacket from that swanky Old Navy store in Sevierville, Tennessee.

Dudley looks stunning in yellow quilted comfort.

Ready for those bitterly cold Ohio winter days, when he goes with Ally to train horses. This is the ultimate in frigid weather protection.

Ideal for an evening out with friends, this knit sweater is the epitome of doggy fashion.

This mini-sweater is perfect for when you don't want that too-modest look.

This pumpkin outfit from Aunt Pam's Pet Paradise is the ultimate in Halloween style and fashion.

Christmas party? Nothing to wear? No problem. Even Santa will be jealous.

Even the Hollywood Hotdogs will sit up and take notice when Dud comes strolling by in this blue number.

Duddles is cheering on his favorite team in this cozy hoodie.