John 14:1-3 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
Whens, Wheres, and Whys
I went along for a ride to a  junkyard the other day.
 Along for a ride to a junkyard, I was bored, what can I say?
There were parts to be picked up I was told.
Was it a carburetor, alternator, or radiator waiting to be sold?
 Can't remember,  some type of ator for sure I  recall.
As long as it wasn't an alligator I was in it for the long haul.
We rode past horses, cows, and silos.
Big curves and shaky bridges,  ups-downs, highs-lows.
We finally came to the turn of the chosen destination.
By now what this place would be like had stirred my imagination.
There was a looooong bumpy gravel road lined with trees and bushes.
There was a fence surrounding an old school bus and a drink box that once held
Orange Crushes.
Amidst this mess of rusty clutter,
Was a fine horse with a coat almost the color of butter.
We passed another curve, twenty more  bumps, and shakes,
Then my husband announced, "We're here, this is the place."
I was asked did I want to get out or sit in the car.
I said, "I think I will just sit and rest-we have come so far."
I began to look around and behold all my eyes did see.
There was junk for sale and some for free.
There was junk of every shape and size to behold.
There was junk for the meek and for the bold.
Any junk ever wanted was here I believed.
Even if you didn't need it was here I perceived.
I was sitting by a  pile of things that most likely once clinked, or clunked.
There was part of a car hood and part of a trunk.
There was a  huge tire bearing the words, 'all-season radial tire'
Its season now clearly forgotten, as it rested in the mud and mire.
Beside this pile of a little of everything under the sun,
Something caught my attention and it began to run.
Yes, there was a fresh breath of life among all the useless trash.
A little brown pup appeared from behind a flywheel in a flash.
He jumped and leaped high in the air.
He certainly didn't seem to have a single care.
There was a bigger, older dog lying beneath a shade tree.
The little pup jumped across and said, "Come  play with me."
The older dog said, " No I am taking a nap and don't want to play,
Why are you so happy, this is just another boring day."
The little dog gave one more spin around the big dog's head,
And giving up finally said,  "Alright it's your choice,  just stay in bed."
He stuck his little black nose up and sniffed around.
He noticed someone new was there from town.
He came over as if to see who had entered into his domain.
I leaned out the window and asked,  "What's your name?"
He looked at me with big kind brown eyes.
He looked as if he was gentle and wise.
He reminded of the dog of Taco Bell fame,
But this dog not so famous probably didn't even have a name.
He stood and put his front paws up on the car door.
I gave him a chip and he asked for some more.
I told him I had dogs in my world where I came from
I told him I would bring them to visit the next time I could come. 
We had a conversation about his life and mine.
I told him I supposed this was all part of God's design;
For him to live here in his small little world,
For him to be content to jump, spin, and whirl.
The big dog, on the other hand, seemed to have a miserable life.
He seemed to be depressed full of bitterness and strife.
The little dog suddenly ran behind an old pick up without a bed.
The old dog moved a little and raised up his head.
On the place where the bed of the truck once sat,
A  bird perched and began to sing about this and that.
The little pup and old one too,
Listened to the birds sing about what they should do.
He sang a song about the world beyond the junk where he had flown;
He sang of all the beauty he had been shown.
He told them there was more to life than sitting amidst the junk.
He told them he knew a place where cars still had tires and trunks.
The little dog just smiled and walked away.
He said, "Tomorrow will be a brighter day."
The old dog, on the other hand, said he knew all too well,
Of life on the other side beyond this junk, beyond the veil.
He had lived there once a long time ago.
That place was the only place of happiness he would ever know;
A place of  highways and stores and vets at malls,
A place where he once slept cozy inside the painted walls.
The bird sang maybe another note or two.
Then  flying away, told the pup, " You just don't have a clue,
Of all, you are missing  in the great big world where I am free,
I might fly back this way one day, we'll see."
I watched the bird fly away and I wiped tears from my eyes.
I began to think of whens, wheres, and whys.
Some are satisfied to be in the little world where they are at.
Others never happy, complain about every little this and that.
They remember and long for the way things used to be.
They begrudge others happiness and don't like others who are free.
Some of us have to put up with a whole lot of junk,
 But we can survive if we have the strength and the spunk,
To realize one day there is a place we will go where we will be truly free,
A place of beauty designed for you and for me.
It's a choice we must each make while we are here,
To be full of sadness, or be full of cheer.
Jesus said He has gone to prepare for us a place,
A place that is waiting at the end of this long race,
A place full of everything we could ever imagine, hope, or dream,
A place where there is no clutter or junk to be seen,
A place where we will jump, spin, and whirl,
A place that is better than any place in this small world.
Through the Rainbow
A couple of weeks ago an afternoon thunderstorm made an appearance in the western sky. The thunder boomed and the lightning flashed. The wind blew and the trees bowed down.   My husband and I were just driving along when the storm appeared out of nowhere.  We continued to drive and drove through the thunder, lightning, wind, and rain, and finally drove through to the other side of the storm.  On the other side of the storm the sun made an appearance just as quickly as the storm had earlier and we hardly even noticed.  Up ahead in the sky was a rainbow.  We continued driving and the rainbow seemed closer and closer. It seemed to be shining down on the edge of the road up ahead. Suddenly the end of the rainbow was right there on the road and we drove through it. I looked back and asked my husband, "Did you see that it was the end of the rainbow and  we just drove through it?"  He said yes he had seen the end of the rainbow shining down on the road also.
It happened so quickly we didn't fully experience all the amazement of the amazing experience. It is as if we were so preoccupied thinking about the storm that we didn't fully appreciate the beauty that followed. The rainbow kind of snuck up on us.
 Even though I had heard of the end of the rainbow all my life, and had chased them when I was young, I guess I had forgotten the childhood fascination. I remember when I was a child every time I saw a rainbow I would dream of being able to follow it all the way to the end.   I guess this late in my life I  wasn't expecting to see the end of the rainbow and certainly didn't expect to drive right through one. I guess I wasn't even looking for the end of the rainbow anymore.
Scientist explain the joy, beauty, and excitement right out of rainbows. They say rainbows are only optical illusions. Well,  I believe the rainbow is God's creation, a reminder of His promise. If they are only illusions, they are illusions created by God full of childhood dreams and beauty.
As I lay in the bed trying to sleep the night after I had driven through a rainbow I couldn't sleep.  I thought of rainbows and storms, joy and turmoil.
In life storms have a way of suddenly appearing. The storms we face in life are not illusions, they are all too real. They roar and flash and bring us to our knees.  We wonder will they ever end. Then suddenly just as quickly as they appeared, they disappear and sometime we don't even notice they are gone. 
We sometimes get so used to the storm we don't even notice that it is over. We haven't looked for rainbows in so long, we don't even realize when we are right in the middle of one.
Today be sure to be on the outlook for God's rainbows, God's promises. Don't miss the thrill of being right in the middle of the joy of life.  Life is a beautiful gift from God.
God brings us through our storms. He puts joy, beauty, and excitement in our lives. Don't be so caught up driving in the storm that you miss the rainbow on the road.
Leroy and Mary's 
Leroy and Mary once had a store, or at least an old county store once had a sign with Leroy and Mary's name on it. The faded sign is still on the top of the building: Leroy and Mary's Grocery. Also, there is a big closed sign in the window. The sign sits beside other faded signs: 2 Liters 79 cents,  Marlboros $1.39, come inside its KOOL. The empty store sits quietly deteriorating, perhaps waiting on Leroy and Mary, or someone to come in where it probably isn't too cool anymore.  I don't know what happened to them.  I don't think I ever even met them, although thinking back, I may have an October day long ago.
Leroy and Mary's sits kind of in between two counties.  Even though it is considered to be in Monroe, the county of my husband's home when we first met, back in the day it had a phone number for Lee County, the county of my home then and now. This, of course, was the pre-cell phone era and this is the place my husband would stop and make a call and tell me he was on his way from Monroe to Lee County to pick me up. I suppose I have Leroy and Mary to thank for keeping our lines of communication open back then, and also for brightening a very sad day for me long ago.
The last call my husband ever made to me from Leroy and Mary's was October 26th, 1976.  That is the day he came from Monroe to Lee County, picked me up in an old 65 Mustang and we eloped to Alabama. This is not a story about that day, but a story about what happened a few days later down the road.
On the third day of my marriage, I was very homesick. I missed my home which I had looked so forward to leaving a few days earlier.  I missed my mother and my sister who I had left behind.  I cried and my husband didn't know how to handle tears very well. The only comfort he could offer was bravely offering to face death and take me to see my mother. I didn't think this was a very good idea on that particular day. I knew my mother, and I knew more time must pass before she would welcome us with open arms. I did, however,  get up the courage to make a call home. The closest phone I was told was a few miles up the road at Leroy and Mary's Grocery. 
I remember walking in on the hardwood floor. I remember just what the store looked like. There was a drink box at the front with a bottle opener on the outside. The register had a lever on the side to open the cash drawer. There was a case with hoop cheese and whole bologna waiting to be sliced.  Jars of penny candy lined the counter. Behind the counter was an older man, perhaps Leroy I suppose,  smiling as I walked in.  He spoke to my husband, I guess he recognized him from all the phone calls of days past.  I bought some penny green apple candy, a bag of 15 cent Ruffle potato chips and a 25 cent Dr. Pepper and then I asked could I please use the phone. 
The man said yes, and asked a lady, I suppose Mary, sitting on a stool behind the bologna case, to let me come back and use the phone. To make the end of this long story from that day in my life short, I did call from Leroy and Mary's and got to talk to my mother and sister. We all cried sad and happy tears and all was well as I rode away from Leroy and Mary's Grocery in Monroe County. 
Sometimes when I see empty buildings that were once this, or once that, I get kind of sad remembering what was, that is no more.  But then I think those empty buildings probably each fulfilled their purpose. Each empty building probably contains a happy story for someone who passes by and remembers what happened to them there long ago. 
Today as  I think of Leroy and Mary, people I never knew, who fulfilled their purpose in my life I think of all the people who pass through our lives every single day. There are so many who we may never know, yet they each are important and fulfill a specific purpose in our lives. 
Be watchful. Be loving and kind to all. You may be the only person who can do the one thing that needs to be done for another on a particular day that they will remember thirty years or so later.  They may never know your name but they will remember all the small details and  the part you played in the stories they will tell. You can help turn  sad days to happy ones, and sad stories to happy stories.  Fulfill your purpose.
Ephesians 4:32 And be ye kind one to another...
Rest and Remain
Roses are beautiful resting quietly on the vine,
Red, yellow, and pink beauty and some the color of wine.
The fragrance so sweet permeates the morning air.
The petals so soft I seem to hear call for my loving care.
I quitely approach the bush that is covered with morning dew.
I reach my hand in the direction of a rose not having a clue,
That the blossoms have no fear of someone coming in for the kill.
They sit resting,  waiting, bravely, quietly still.
The roses standing so stoically in middle of the bush,
Seem to wait my approach with a standstill hush.
They know they have built in protection keeping them from harm.
They know there is no cause for sadness, fear, or alarm.
Each blossom is protected by God's design perfected.
As I reach for a rose the thorns on the stem are detected.
As my finger is pricked I quickly pull my hand away.
The blossom's beauty remains on the bush yet another day.
Oh I would that man were more like the rose;
Displaying sweet smelling savor and beauty that shows.
Men of all color come from the True Vine.
We His branches should stand strong and shine.
When adversity and danger come in for the kill,
We have a great Protector, a Defender, A Shield.
When the enemy attacks,  we become frazzled not having a clue.
With our faces covered in tears,  we say,
"I don't know what to do."
We each are of a design perfected by God above.
He equips us with His Spirit and surrounds us with His love.
As the attacker approaches and he thinks our days are  nearly done,
He is reminded we are covered with the blood of God's own  Son.
Pricked by God's awesome power he quickly pulls away.
We remain on the Vine  resting, standing firm  awaiting that great day,
That the Lord shall appear from Heaven with a shout,
Erasing all sadness, tears, fears and doubts.
For those who have been surrounded by thorns as the rose,
All God's promises on that day will begin to eternally flow.

I Corinthians 13:11
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.
When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me
Twelve and  Still Counting
We are Family
As the baby of the family, two older sisters and a brother twenty two years older than me, I remember looking at family photos as a child and feeling very left out. i would ask my mother, "Where was I  this Christmas or this birthday party?"  She would always tell me that was a long time before I was born.  It was as if this family that I was a part of had an entire lifetime together before I ever came to be.  As I grew older I realized I had a very special part in this family that was already formed before I came along.  I brought new life, a renewing of youth for my parents  I guess who were already in their forties when I came to be.  I guess being ready for grandchildren and having a child of your own instead would kind of make you realize old isn't really that old. My parents probably realized  God wasn't  quite done yet  with the plans He had for their lives.  It was like God said,  "three and still counting." They found they  brought  new life into a family they believed to be  well established, needed nothing more , down for the count, but they added to it  to complete it .   I, for one, am very glad God wasn't done with them.  I am glad He thought the family needed a little something more added.
It's funny how stories repeat themselves from generation to generation. My husband and I raised five children. Just as the first two moved out, and the middle two were entering into high school, and the baby turned twelve; Surprise! My baby came along. He used to look at pictures of the first five kids when he was little and ask, "Where was I?"  I thank God for the sixth child He added to this family eighteen years ago, to which he brought renewed hope and life and joy, to not only his parents, but also to his older siblings who have loved him and appreciated all he added to this family.
No, it's not his birthday this week, nor mine, no one's birthday in this family I have been speaking of, but there is a birthday coming up.  Word of Life Church will be twelve.  Twelve is a such a  special age to be.  Remember? You are on your way to being a teenager, you start to act a little more grown up,  but you still get to enjoy some of the joys of being a kid every once in a while. If no one is looking you can pull out your dolls, (or action figures if you are a boy,) one more time and pretend they are whoever you want them to be, going wherever you want them to go. They may be super heros saving the world or simply be a child sitting peacefully on a creek bank throwing pebbles enjoying God's creation. Then we become teenagers, put away the toys, and begin to use childhood dreams to help us to become who we are supposed to be as adults. We begin to work  to make our dreams become reality. We realize we truly  can be super heros., working to accomplish many things for ourselves and for our Creator, as well as  just sitting peacefully, enjoying all God's creation.
I have heard many stories of the Word of Life Church family of which I have been a part of for eight years.  I hear how they first came to be in a very small building. I hear how God blessed them and they moved to another building just a little larger. I hear of all the things they did together back then.  I look at pictures of faces, many of whom are still with us, some I remember who have moved on, and some that I never knew.  I ask God sometime, "Where was I then?" Why did He not bring me to Word of Life Church when they were in the small building? I would have so loved to have been a part of this family then. I think of all the joy to have actually been a part of the very first service in our home now on Clifff  Gookin.  I missed out on that .   I think of all who are like me who have joined this family later in its life, some recently. I am not the baby of this family. I guess right now I am one of the middle children. I say right now, because  I know more and more children are going to be born , or maybe I should say born again here, and become part of this family.
God is not through with the plans He has for this family.  He is going to continue  to grow  it, renew our youth, our life, our joy, our hope. He does that by constantly bringing in new family members.  We as the older siblings must make them each feel a part of this already established family.  We must realize the babies will add to us many new things that we are in need of.   
Just as twelve is a special to a child, twelve is also a special age to us as a church. Word of Life is soon to be a teenager. We must start acting just a little more grown up now. But of course we still can enjoy the joys of childhood for just a little longer. We can continue to use our imaginations this year to believe we can be whoever we want to be and go wherever we want to go.  But we  must  prepare to put away our toys and work fervently toward the reality of every single dream we have dreamed for this place to come to pass.
Yes, we are an ever changing family. Yes, that is God's plan.  Look at the big picture and know even if you aren't in every single photograph, you are still a very  important part of this family. Working together as a family every dream will come to pass.