Suzy & Spice

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Archive for the ‘God’ Category

Thankfulness, Day 8

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on November 21, 2010

Today I am thankful for a little girl whose name I do not know.

I was very, very tired in church this morning. I remember thinking at one point, after the announcements were over and we had prayed and our worship leader had us stand again (we stand during every song): “Do we really have to stand AGAIN?”

I was so tired.

And then, along about the third song, I heard a sweet little voice behind me, singing loud and clear, those words of praise on the big screen in front of us (we sing choruses at Fellowship Batesville, and the words are projected on the big screen).

When I heard that voice, everything changed. My heart melted, and the weariness went away. My body was still tired, but my spirit wasn’t.

I didn’t want to turn around and stare, but I wanted to know who belonged to that sweet, sweet voice.

After a break in which the kids are dismissed to their classrooms, I turned around. She was small, maybe 5 years old. How had she known those big words? Either she could read them or she has heard the songs enough times to know them by heart, but even I didn’t know the next song we had sung, and she had sung along to it, too.

When church was over, I wanted to catch her mom and ask the little girl’s name and age, but Mom was already gone when I turned around.

Next Sunday I’ll make a point to find her. I’d like to introduce myself and tell her and her mom how she blessed me today.

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Thankfulness, Day 6

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on November 19, 2010

Today I’m thankful for two things: The Cinnamon Stick and music. Tonight those two things came together in a fun-filled, family friendly evening.

The Cinnamon Stick is a new coffeehouse and sandwich shop in downtown Batesville (a couple of doors down from the Melba Theater) that features local bands and all kinds of neat stuff. Tonight the bulk of the worship band from our church (Fellowship Bible Church of Batesville) played and sang. They did some Beatles, a few other oldies and some worship songs. Sean Roulier on a jazzed-up, Jars of Clay version of “It is Well (With My Soul)” was surprisingly enjoyable! (I say surprisingly because that old hymn is one of my top 2 or 3 favorites, largely because of the story behind it, and I was afraid I wouldn’t like “Sean’s version” – I have never heard Jars of Clay’s rendition, but Sean’s mom says it’s great.)

Randell, Tommy, Angela, Sean and Becky

Last night at the Stick, the Fellowship kids had karaoke night (check out our pastor’s rendition of “Ghostbusters” on my Facebook page), played board games and shot some pool. (I wasn’t there, but I have seen the videos.)

Bruce and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE music and are especially fond of supporting locally owned businesses. And when great food is involved … well, what more could you ask for?

You must go to The Cinnamon Stick. Immediately. Next time you need an iced coffee, instead of McDonald’s, stir up some friends and visit the Stick. Try the Loaded Baked Potato Soup and a hot tea or latte. Bliss!

The Cinnamon Stick is open on Saturdays. I may be there when they open tomorrow. Got to start trying their hot teas – one by one.

Won’t you join me?

Come on downtown and support your local coffeehouse. The Cinnamon stick is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday and 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Posted in Batesville, friends, fun, giving thanks, God, inspiration, music | Leave a Comment »

The Lord is her Shepherd

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on November 9, 2010

Have you ever seen anything sweeter than this 2-year-old reciting the 23rd Psalm? Some adults can’t even recite this passage!

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Book review: ‘Your Money God’s Way’ by Amie Streater

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on November 1, 2010

In the 16 years I have been reading about personal finance (specifically, debt-free living), I have read a lot of books, studies, articles and scriptures on the topic and have gathered a ton of tips and advice.

And after the umpteenth book, I’ve been tempted to conclude, “You’ve read one get-out-of-debt-book, you’ve read them all.”

Amie Streater’s “Your Money God’s Way: Overcoming the 7 Money Myths that Keep Christians Broke” is different. But in a surprising way.

She uses words like “stupid,” “annoying” and “creeped out.” The woman doesn’t pull any punches. She tells it like it is.

And, while I am guilty of being brutally blunt at times (not as much as I used to, praise God), this woman takes the prize.

But once you get over the shock of reading sentences such as, “That’s the stupidest thing I have ever heard!” you grow to appreciate her candor.

She’s the Dr. Phil of Christian debt counseling.

And, yes, she is a Christian counselor – an “associate pastor for financial stewardship” who has met with countless individuals and couples who have screwed up their lives with bad money decisions.

(Haven’t we all screwed up royally in one way or another?)

Streater’s style may be blunt, but she offers solutions. She points out our “counterfeit convictions” and counters them with biblical wisdom, citing scripture to back up her advice. Many of those verses talk of God’s grace and his abundant love for us. He doesn’t want us to “live in chaos, frustration, lack, and debt,” she concludes.

And Streater doesn’t just talk the talk. She has walked the walk and lived to tell about it.

After all, God uses the fears and foibles we have overcome (with His help) to lead others to the light.

This book gives light. You’ll profit by reading it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted in books, debt-proof living, frugal living, God, money, reading, religion | 1 Comment »

Give thanks

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on October 14, 2010

Friends,

I wasn’t planning to post tonight, but I ended up online and just had to take two minutes to say this:

Wherever you are in your journey, whatever circumstances you’re in  – whether difficult, easy or somewhere in between – take a moment to stop and thank God for your life.

Life is precious. Be grateful for every breath you take.

“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Philippians 4:11-12

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Raise your hand if you love Jesus

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on September 12, 2010

“Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” – Psalm 95:6

God wants us to worship … HIM.

He talked about it countless times in scripture.

Type the word “worship” in the search box at BibleGateway.com, and you’ll get 250 hits. A quick scan of those results reveals verses on worship from Genesis (Abraham and Isaac) to the last chapter of Revelation (John and “the angel”).

In Exodus, God told Pharoah several times, “Let my people go, so that they may worship me.” Because Pharoah wasn’t listening to God’s messenger Moses, God had to step in and show Pharoah that He meant business. (Remember the 10 plagues? Not pretty.) God finally got His point across, and the people went. (How long it took them to reach the Promised Land is another story.)

The Israelites worshipped. And they complained. He blessed them. And they complained.

Just like the Israelites, we don’t always get it right. Yet God blesses. This side of heaven, our worship will never be perfect, just as no other aspect of our lives will be perfect.

Yet God blesses.

Even though our worship isn’t perfect, God still wants it, and when we do it, we grow closer to Him. (That’s His real purpose, after all.)

But what does it mean to worship?

I’m no theologian, but I know that worship should be about God and not us.

I’ve been particularly convicted lately about how I worship on Sunday mornings, during the “worship” part of the service.

Bruce and I moved to Batesville in May, and we visited two churches back and forth for a few weeks before settling on Fellowship Bible Church of Batesville.

Doctrinally, the churches are the same. The music styles are the same. The people are the same.

But we couldn’t help comparing – both by contrasting the music at the two churches and by comparing those two to the music at our church in North Little Rock, Fellowship North.

By the world’s standards, the music at Fellowship North is superior. We got used to professional-sounding instrumentals, vocals and performances. The music at the other Batesville church is more like that of FN. Not that the music at our new church is bad; it just isn’t as “full” – robust, maybe? We do “enjoy” it.

I was talking to our new pastor today about this topic. I haven’t been able to explain the difference in “music quality” among these three churches except to theorize: Maybe it’s because of stronger voices (and more voices) on FN’s worship team. Maybe it’s that FN has more instruments. Maybe it’s the acoustics (FN meets in a “church building,” while Fellowship Batesville meets in a converted movie theater and the other church meets in a former retail or warehouse space – I forget which). Today I thought of another thing: The worship leaders at FN tend to be a little more “dynamic,” more emotional, more showy – although showy is not quite the right or fair word. Demonstrative, maybe?

One day a few months ago, our three worship leaders at FN used part of the service to explain where they were coming from. Each one of them – Josh, Dena and Russell – expressed a desire to use their talents to glorify God and lead the congregation to worship Him, as opposed to having themselves or the “team” be at the center of the spotlight.

Yet I tend to worship the voices, the huge talent – not the God that created them. When I catch myself doing that, I remind myself that He is the source of their talents and that they wouldn’t be there if not for His gracious gifts.

But I still find myself doing it. I am emotionally connected to music. I love all kinds, from country to opera. In a “worship service” – which should be any service where Christ followers gather – it’s hard not to focus on the music when the music is lovely and moving and full of godly sounding words.

Here’s what Rick Warren says in The Purpose Driven Life:

“Today many equate being emotionally moved by music as being moved by the Spirit, but these are not the same. Real worship happens when your spirit responds to God, not to some musical tone. In fact, some sentimental, introspective songs hinder worship because they take the spotlight off God and focus on our feelings. Your biggest distraction in worship is yourself – your interests and your worries over what others think about you.”

Which brings up another point: “What others think about you.”

I didn’t grow up in a church of raising-your-hands-in-worship. It’s hard – even after attending a church for 16 years (FN) where no one looks at you funny if you do – to convince yourself that God won’t think it’s odd at all if you lift your hands to worship Him. The Bible tells of many methods used to worship the Creator – dancing, singing, praying, playing instruments, giving offerings …

At Fellowship North, a church where I felt more at home than at any church before it, I witnessed the raising of hands in worship almost every Sunday. The upraised hands were few on some Sundays, but they were present. Some occasions led to more hand-raising than others, but the point is it was normal.

On any given Sunday, I might have a conversation with myself (and sometimes with God) that included one or more of these phrases:

“God, I want to raise my hands.” (“Just do it.”)
“People would see me.” (“So?”)
“It would feel funny.” (“Only the first couple of times.”)
“People would think I’m weird.” (“Isn’t my opinion the only one that really matters?”)
“I want to raise my hands in worship, but it just isn’t me. I wasn’t raised that way.” (“I’m raising you different now.”)
“Someday I’ll do it.” (“I can wait.”)

God is so patient with His kids.

A few days ago I discovered that my new pastor had a blog when he was in seminary. He hasn’t posted since 2007, but, as I told him, truth doesn’t really have a time limit (I’m very profound sometimes). His words from 2004 spoke to me six years later. Click here to read what John Mark wrote about Sunday morning worship (scroll to Nov. 25, then back up to Nov. 29).

I read those posts just a few days ago, and this morning my “worship” was a little more God centered than Me centered.

Progress.

One manifestation of that: I raised my right hand … maybe halfway (I had my eyes closed, so I couldn’t tell for sure).

Did I feel self-conscious? Yes, a little bit, I have to admit. But mostly not. I mostly cared what God thought of me, not what others might be thinking. Fellowship Batesville is smaller, so I don’t think there are as many hand-raisers as FN has.

Maybe we can change that. I’m not saying that every member of every church has to be a hand-raiser. But for someone who thought she wasn’t a hand-raiser to be becoming a hand-raiser, it’s something I’ll want to ruminate about. How many people in our churches don’t lift their hands to God, not because they’re not-hand-raisers but because they’re afraid someone will think they’re weird? Or fanatical? Or – horrors – charismatic?

When we care more about what God thinks about us than what other people think about us, we’re inching closer to Kingdom thinking.

Anybody want to high-five me on that?

Posted in God, inspiration, music, religion | Leave a Comment »

Saving the world is not just for liberals

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on February 28, 2010

Here’s a mostly balanced op-ed piece from Nicholas D. Kristof of The New York Times. I say “mostly balanced” because I don’t think we should blame the Vatican’s “hostility to condoms” for the growth of AIDS. That’s just my opinion.

Learning from the sin of Sodom

For most of the last century, save-the-worlders were primarily Democrats and liberals. In contrast, many Republicans and religious conservatives denounced government aid programs, with Senator Jesse Helms calling them “money down a rat hole.”

Over the last decade, however, that divide has dissolved, in ways that many Americans haven’t noticed or appreciated. Evangelicals have become the new internationalists, pushing successfully for new American programs against AIDS and malaria and doing superb work on issues from human trafficking in India to mass rape in Congo.

A pop quiz: What’s the largest U.S.-based international relief and development organization?

It’s not Save the Children, and it’s not CARE — both terrific secular organizations. Rather, it’s World Vision, a Seattle-based Christian organization (with strong evangelical roots) whose budget has roughly tripled over the last decade.

World Vision now has 40,000 staff members in nearly 100 countries. That’s more staff members than CARE, Save the Children and the worldwide operations of the U.S. Agency for International Development — combined.

A growing number of conservative Christians are explicitly and self-critically acknowledging that to be “pro-life” must mean more than opposing abortion. The head of World Vision in the United States, Richard Stearns, begins his fascinating book, “The Hole in Our Gospel,” with an account of a visit a decade ago to Uganda, where he met a 13-year-old AIDS orphan who was raising his younger brothers by himself.

“What sickened me most was this question: where was the Church?” he writes. “Where were the followers of Jesus Christ in the midst of perhaps the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time? Surely the Church should have been caring for these ‘orphans and widows in their distress.’ (James 1:27). [Read the entire verse here.] Shouldn’t the pulpits across America have flamed with exhortations to rush to the front lines of compassion?

“How have we missed it so tragically, when even rock stars and Hollywood actors seem to understand?”

Mr. Stearns argues that evangelicals were often so focused on sexual morality and a personal relationship with God that they ignored the needy. He writes laceratingly about “a Church that had the wealth to build great sanctuaries but lacked the will to build schools, hospitals, and clinics.”

In one striking passage, Mr. Stearns quotes the prophet Ezekiel as saying that the great sin of the people of Sodom wasn’t so much that they were promiscuous or gay as that they were “arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” (Ezekiel 16:49.) [Read the entire verse here.]

Hmm. Imagine if sodomy laws could be used to punish the stingy, unconcerned rich!

The American view of evangelicals is still shaped by preening television blowhards and hypocrites who seem obsessed with gays and fetuses. One study cited in the book found that even among churchgoers ages 16 to 29, the descriptions most associated with Christianity were “antihomosexual,” “judgmental,” “too involved in politics,” and “hypocritical.”

Some conservative Christians reinforced the worst view of themselves by inspiring Ugandan homophobes who backed a bill that would punish gays with life imprisonment or execution. Ditto for the Vatican, whose hostility to condoms contributes to the AIDS epidemic. But there’s more to the picture: I’ve also seen many Catholic nuns and priests heroically caring for AIDS patients — even quietly handing out condoms.

One of the most inspiring figures I’ve met while covering Congo’s brutal civil war is a determined Polish nun in the terrifying hinterland, feeding orphans, standing up to drunken soldiers and comforting survivors — all in a war zone. I came back and decided: I want to grow up and become a Polish nun.

Some Americans assume that religious groups offer aid to entice converts. That’s incorrect. Today, groups like World Vision ban the use of aid to lure anyone into a religious conversation.

Some liberals are pushing to end the longtime practice (it’s a myth that this started with President George W. Bush) of channeling American aid through faith-based organizations. That change would be a catastrophe. In Haiti, more than half of food distributions go through religious groups like World Vision that have indispensible networks on the ground. We mustn’t make Haitians the casualties in our cultural wars.

A root problem is a liberal snobbishness toward faith-based organizations. Those doing the sneering typically give away far less money than evangelicals. They’re also less likely to spend vacations volunteering at, say, a school or a clinic in Rwanda.

If secular liberals can give up some of their snootiness, and if evangelicals can retire some of their sanctimony, then we all might succeed together in making greater progress against common enemies of humanity, like illiteracy, human trafficking and maternal mortality.

Posted in God, religion, volunteering | Leave a Comment »

Capers in Cambridge

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on January 18, 2010

A year ago, I wrote about reconnecting with Lynn, a friend I grew up with. Reconnecting is a sweet pleasure, and I’m grateful for blogs and social sites (even though I don’t use the latter) for allowing me to renew friendships.

Last week I reconnected with Dianne, one of my college roommates. The only e-mail address I had for her was one at her husband’s work, so we never really e-mailed each other, and because of the magic of cyberspace I have become terrible at letter writing (even my handwriting has deteriorated), so we hadn’t kept in close contact. Dianne’s Christmas letter contained an e-mail address just for her (and a note that they were going to spend four months in England), so I e-mailed her with a brief update. I also made a brief reference to her in my Jan. 10 post.

Tonight I logged on and had an e-mail from Dianne, along with a link to her new blog, Capers in Cambridge. Check it out.

Dianne is probably the funnest person I’ve ever met. She is always looking for an adventure – not so much for adventure’s sake but so that she can expand herself: her mind, her understanding of people, her empathy and her ability to serve God by serving people. This also makes her one of the kindest (maybe the kindest) people I’ve ever known. She’s also really smart, funny, literate and well traveled, so you will gain by getting to know her and her family. Check out her blog. I’m adding Capers in Cambridge to my blogroll at right.

Posted in friends, fun, God, humor | Leave a Comment »

Random thoughts 09/12/09

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on September 12, 2009

I got e-mail from my cousin Teri tonight, and she mentioned that she still checks my blog for news occasionally. I’m surprised anyone still checks, because I haven’t been posting much lately, mainly because I don’t have a lot of time to devote to one particular subject.

I’ve had a lot of ideas but none that could be summed up briefly in a post that wouldn’t put you to sleep. So tonight I’m just going to share snippets of what’s been going on in and around me lately:

  • My good friend Lynn’s husband, Doug, died this week. He was only 41 and left behind a wonderful wife and two kids, Doug and Jake. They’re still in shock; pray for them. (Lynn’s mom died last year, so this must be doubly devastating for her.) Lynn and Doug would have celebrated 19 years of marriage next month. Bruce and I had only just met Doug six months ago, when Jacob was in the state spelling bee (he took 7th place). Bruce had met Lynn only once – at Dad’s funeral in 1997. But when we got together for lunch after the spelling bee, we all hit it off, especially Bruce and the kids. The boys are very smart, and it was obvious their dad was very proud of them.
  • Two couples from my church family lost sons this week. One died in a car wreck, and I’m not sure about the other, as that family had begun attending Fellowship in Little Rock and I had lost track of them. Losing a child comes with its own special kind of pain – pain that I can’t even imagine. Pray for the Holaways and the Carltons. Another friend from church lost a sister. Pray for the Palmers.
  • My high school typing teacher, Mrs. Seibert, died this morning. She was a unique character and well loved by her students. If you were on her good side on a particular day, you were a “dumplin’,” but if you messed up you were a “donkey.” No matter which name she called you, you knew it was a term of endearment. I can still hear the way she said it, in that throaty voice with a Southern twang. Click here to read a tale one former BHS student told about Mrs. Seibert last year. (You’ll have to scroll down a bit to find his March 12, 2008, post.)
  • We had to pony up $2,100 on car repairs this week, and the guy who fixed it recommended another repair that will cost at least a few hundred more. ARRGH! On the bright side, this was the first major repair we’ve had to have done on this car, which is eight years old (we’ve owned it for three). And a repair bill sure beats monthly car payments.
  • I haven’t posted about this because life was too hectic at the time, but I started working on a second degree this summer. My hope is to get a bachelor’s degree, or at least an associate’s, in business (so I can find a job in Batesville and we can be near my mom, brother and lots of other family). I took Accounting I at the local community college, and I enrolled in Accounting II but had to withdraw the first week of classes because …
  • In early August I started experiencing some heart problems related to my October 2008 diagnosis of mitral valve prolapse. They strapped a bunch of electrodes on me for 24 hours of EKG monitoring, but that didn’t tell them enough, so now I have a monitor that I keep with me for 30 days and record any “event” that I deem significant. Fortunately (or unfortunately, if you consider that they charged me more than $900 for it the minute it was in my possession), I stopped having the major pounding episodes within 24 hours of getting the 30-day monitor. I still have a couple of weeks to go, but the worries have stopped. All my “episodes” the past two weeks have been mild – no worse than the usual ones I’ve been having for a long time. I think most of the recent symptoms were stress related, partly because …
  • Bruce has been fighting a urinary tract infection and prostatitis for the past couple of months. We spent a few hours in the ER on July 3 (because it was a Friday before a holiday weekend and all his doctors’ offices were closed) after his temperature hit 103. He’s been taking antibiotics and another new drug (new to us) ever since. He’s been having to give blood and urine samples every couple of weeks.
  • One of Bruce’s maintenance meds, Cimzia, may soon become a thing of the past for us. We had been getting it at no charge because after he lost his job our income plummeted and we were considered a charity case. Now that he has started drawing Social Security, the drug company may drop us from the program. But even though our income has gone up a bit, we won’t be able to afford the once-a-month injections, which cost $1,800 (yes, $1,800 for one shot in the stomach once a month!).

I guess that’s enough depressing news. What’s something cheerful I can tell you? Um …

  • I’ve been baking again. That makes me happy! 🙂 (I have to tell you, I feel a little guilty about the happy thoughts, in light of all the sad news around me this week.)
  • Bruce’s birthday is Tuesday (9/15). He’ll be 50! Mom, J.T. and I pitched in and got him a 12-string guitar. He’d been wanting one for a long time, and we gave it to him early. He’s been so happy playing that thing; he has played it just about every day since he got it. And I found the perfect T-shirt to go with it. It has a little stick man playing the guitar and smiling hugely, and it says “Life is good.” The shirt came in just one color: green, which is Bruce’s fave. And the skinny little stick man looks just like him!
  • On the recommendation of my cousin Pam, I checked out a great book from the library: “Lasagna Gardening for Small Spaces.” It’s the sequel to “Lasagna Gardening: A New Layering System for Bountiful Gardens.” It has made me start thinking about growing plants (both flowers and vegetables) that I’ve never grown before. I went to the local garden center first thing this morning and just walked around and took notes, then I went to the library and checked out some gardening encyclopedias and I came home and started doing some Internet research. Oh, but before that I bought a couple of pretty pots and a couple of new mums. I bought a pretty little pot and a little bronze-colored mum for the kitchen, and it looks so sweet in there, because …
  • We got new kitchen counter tops this summer. Yes, after 10 years of looking at those 1972 green counter tops that we had been planning to replace ever since we bought the house, we finally had the money to do it, because …
  • We refinanced the mortgage and used a little bit of the equity to make a few home improvements. We not only replaced the counter tops, we bought paint. Bruce is painting the kitchen cabinets white (before-and-after photos to come, but not until it’s all finished and beautiful), and we painted the laundry room, because …
  • We got new linoleum downstairs in the laundry room, spare bathroom and hallway. Maybe I’ll post before-and-after pictures of the laundry room when I’m not so tired. It looks great down there, too. The old flooring was also from 1972 (gold and dirty). The laundry room was yellow, and now it’s blue (my favorite color) and white, and it looks so clean and bright. I replaced the really old curtains with a nice, crisp white pair. I love it!
  • Our women’s group at church is starting a new Beth Moore Bible study on Monday. I’m so excited, because it’s about my favorite book of the Bible: Esther. The last Beth Moore study I got to participate in was on Daniel, and it was awesome! I can’t wait to dive into “Esther: It’s Tough Being a Woman.”

And that is where I’m going to end this post – on a happy, positive note. Because, despite all the hard things that have happened this year, I know I can still put my trust in the One who said, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

God is good.

Posted in baking, Crohn's disease, flowers, friends, God, health, home, medical, music, reading | Leave a Comment »

Happy Father’s Day

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on June 21, 2009

As I was microwaving my cup of coffee this morning (a pot will last me several days), I was thinking about the phrase, “can’t live without,” as in “I can’t live without caffeine.” (I was imagining how much better my heart health would be without it, and remembering how hard it has been to give up caffeine in the past. But I’ve done it, and survived.)

I’m sure that in my past I’ve uttered sentences that included such a phrase. “I can’t live without chocolate,” for instance. But really I can’t think of a thing that I absolutely cannot live without.

I lost my dad – my hero – 11 years ago. When he was in bad health and we knew we wouldn’t have him for many more years, I thought about his future death a lot. I wasn’t sure I would be able to go on without him. He and I were very close.

But I did. I survived. And I’ve made a new life – even a good life – without him.

As painful as it is, you go on.

While I can’t say now that I consciously think about him every single day, he is definitely with me every day. In my decisions, in my character, in my work ethic, in my aptitudes, in some of my physical attributes – even, unfortunately, in some of my less-than-admirable traits. I inherited a lot from dad, the good, the bad and the ugly (including his toes, his nose and his inability to tolerate stupidity, one of the traits I’ve worked hardest to overcome!).

We have the same sense of humor, something I hadn’t thought much about until recently. Yeah, we could always make each other laugh (as well as make each other smile). But as I was making up a new word the other day (Bruce and I do that a lot), it occurred to me: Dad used to do that. He’d create a phrase (“That’s too big enough”) or mispronounce a word to make you giggle (“burple” for purple). He did it naturally. I never thought of my dad as a “goofy” guy, but he certainly could be goofy.

Kids loved him, and he loved kids. He had phrases for them, too: “curtain-climbing rug rats” or “tricycle motors,” for instance. You knew when he called your kid a rug rat that he meant it in the most endearing way. At church, he often had someone else’s child sitting in his lap during the service. Or at family gatherings, he’d pick up a kid and talk to him like he was an adult. No baby talk like the women do. Not that he tried to talk politics with them or anything – he was definitely silly with them.

My dad grew up poor, so his teeth were bad and he had to get dentures when he was in his 30s. Once, when my cousin Gary was 2 or 3, he was sitting in Dad’s lap, facing him, and Dad pulled out his top plate. Gary was fascinated with that, so Dad told Gary to take out his own teeth. Gary kept trying, but it just didn’t work! That was one of Dad’s favorite memories of Gary.

My cousins Teri and Tanya lived next door to us for a few years. They called Uncle Benny their “fix-it man.” Any time something broke, no matter what it was, they’d bring it to Uncle Benny because they knew he could fix anything.

He could even fix a broken heart.

Many times when I suffered a severe trial of life, the only salve was having my dad’s big, strong arms around me. He may not always be able to change the circumstances – and sometimes he knew he shouldn’t even try – but having his arms around me always comforted me. With Dad, I knew I was loved unconditionally. It’s how I can at least try to fathom the love God the Father has for me: I first experienced it with my earthly father.

And, just as my heavenly Father is always with me and in me, Dad is in me. (Of course, not in the same way, but an earthly father’s love was created in the Heavenly Father’s love.)

Dad is so much a part of who I am.

When I’m out pulling weeds or mowing the lawn, planting flowers or just standing in the yard admiring the greenness of the grass and trees and the chirping of the birds – Dad is with me.

In fact, I think of him most when I’m outside doing something like that. He loved the outdoors, and I feel so close to him when I’m out there reveling in God’s creation. I even use his big leather work gloves and some of his tools. When I bought my first little house, he bought me my very own toolbox – and a coffee pot (although I’ll admit the coffee pot was mostly for him; I had not acquired the coffee habit yet. And he would cringe to know that I keep my brewed coffee in the fridge and microwave a cup each morning. But I can’t tell you the times I’ve sipped a morning cup of coffee and wished we were out on the deck together watching the sun rise and the squirrels frolic).

He showed me how to do little things around the house and how to take care of my car, although he was always there when the job was too big for me. When I lived in California after college, he couldn’t be there in person, but he could tell me how not to get cheated by the professionals. After I moved here, he would get in his pickup and drive to me to fix whatever he could. And I think he enjoyed letting me be a part of it, even when I was more hindrance than help. Mostly I got to hand him the tools or hold the flashlight. But I loved doing that for him, and with him.

When Dad was fixing my car or something in the house, I’d never know how much physical pain he was in. Oh, I knew he was in pain, but I never knew how bad it was until later, when he was back home and Mom would tell me how much it took out of him.

Dads just do that for their kids.

Often – very often – I wish I could ask his advice. When my brother, JT, wonders how to solve a problem, he often asks himself, “What would Dad do?” I wonder the same thing in so many situations.

My dad was really smart. He didn’t have a college degree, but he didn’t need one. He probably got the equivalent of a master’s just by being a voracious reader. And his doctorate was from the School of Hard Knocks. He was good at figuring things out, and he’d figure out a lot of things just by reading a good instruction manual.

But Dad wasn’t just smart, he was wise, and what we most benefited from was his daily use of the original Owner’s Manual – the Bible.

His favorite book was James, and one of the passages that describes him best is from James 2, verses 14-16:

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well” — but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?

Dad would give you his shirt if you needed it, but what I remember most is the endless hours he gave up for people who needed his time and expertise, especially farmers. He was a mechanic by trade, having a reputation as one of the best around in many categories. He would drive miles and miles to help someone whose tractor wouldn’t start in the snowy weather or whose hay baler had malfunctioned in the middle of harvest (I once rode with him to Jackson, Tenn., to deliver a piece of equipment). He knew these things were a part of a family’s livelihood, and he took them seriously.

Yeah, we waited dinners for him a lot of the time – or gave up and ate without him. He was out of the house by 7 most mornings and often not home until 7 or 8 in the evening. And, yes, we sometimes complained that he was giving to others the time he should have been giving to us.

But in the giving to others, he did give to us.

He gave us – me – a legacy that will last my whole life. And I would never want to live without that.

Other posts that include my dad:

Happy birthday, Dad (July 11, 2008)

The power of a flower (June 14, 2008)

Daddy’s girl (Dec. 23, 2008)

Our fathers (March 28, 2008)

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