Category Archives: Church

Waiting for the Light

imagesMy dear friend Jean brought her family to the children’s Christmas Ever service a few years ago.  When the time came for the children’s sermon, Jean stood with her five-year-old great-granddaughter Mercy and accompanied her to the chancel area,  They settled on the choir bench together.  After a few seconds. Mercy decided she didn’t want to stay and ran off the platform and back to the rest of her family, leaving Jean alone.

Jean was much too poised to show embarrassment.  In fact, I doubt that she was embarrassed , this spectacular and faithful ninety-year-old woman on the platform with all the young parents and small children.  She sat calmly, listening to the minister.  It must have been one of the longest children’s sermon in the history of children’s sermons, nearly fifteen minutes long.  And through all that, with the very young children rolling around the floor and the older ones getting bored, Jean sat peacefully and confidently, waiting for the end of the story, for the announcement of the birth of the Savior.  images

As we plow through the commotion that is Advent for most of us, I think of Jean and wish I were more like her, preparing calmly for that moment when we welcome the long awaited king, sitting patiently and unbothered by the chaos around us as we await the baby Jesus who becomes the one who took on the sins of the world.   I pray that some day I will possess as deep a faith in the coming Savior,  her certainty that the Lord has come and comes now and will come.

Oh, Lord, fill me with quiet when there is noise outside and within, with calm during the clamor of the world. Let me know that when I’m alone, you are with me.  When I am unable to find you, you find me if I will sit quietly and listen.  Amen

The medicine is worse than the disease

imagesIf you’ve read my Facebook posts, you know I’ve been sick for two weeks.  I thought it was allergies until I woke up with a cough that hurt my entire body and a voice like a dying  buffalo.  Another hint I’m really sick is that I wake up in the middle of the night hearing a very soft, “Meow, meow,” and realize the sound is coming not from a cat but my lungs.  Finally went to the doctor who gave me a strong antibiotic, a steroid pack, codeine-laced cough syrup and several inhalers.  I think she was worried about me.

And for two weeks, I suffered not only the breathing/coughing problems but also the side effects of the drugs.

I don’t take steroids because I experience ‘roid rage.   Terrible, terrible ‘roid rage.  I’ll be chatting with a friends and, suddenly and without warning, flames come out of my mouth.   This time, I’ve stayed home and talked to as few people as possible because I do like to keep my friends and I don’t want anyone to gossip about the vicious woman in apartment 514.

With the antibiotic, I discovered two side effects after I looked them up last week: imagesconfusion and extreme drowsiness.  Not a surprise.  I was so confused and sleepy, I was barely able to google the side effects.   Add to that the cough syrup with copious amounts of codeine and I might as well stay in bed so I wouldn’t hurt myself or others.   In my confusion, I forgot the time change and arrived at church an hour early Sunday–just in time for Sunday school.   About the drowsiness:  Saturday I sat down to a full day of college football and slept through entires halves.  Once I slept through most of a game and woke up to see teams in uniforms I didn’t recognize.

DSCN0445One of my favorite times of the day is after breakfast when I sit on the sofa, drink coffee and watch the news with one cat on my lap and the other next to me.  The three of us slept all morning.   I tried editing a book and kept falling asleep on the pages.    When a writer falls asleep while reading her own novel–well, not a good sign.

And the confusion!   I looked for an early voting place and never found it.  I called about an electric bill which I don’t owe and never understood the explanation.    I worried I’d entered the zone of elderly confusion but, having taken the lat of the antibiotic on Saturday, I discover the fog has cleared.

I’ve lost two weeks but am well.  Thank goodness.  Excuse me.  I think I’m going to take a little nap now.

My life by tote bags

toteIn an earlier blog, I mentioned my problems with organization, how I use baskets and notebooks and colors to keep track of all my stuff and what I should be doing.   In THE MATCHMAKERS OF BUTTERNUT CREEK, Gussie uses different totes for the various sections of her life.  Yes, I took that from my life.  I had one tote for school–a very large one–another for church, and many others for volunteer activities.

Today, I mostly use my totes for shopping and realize anyone looking at them would learn a great deal about my life.   One is from an anniversary of the founding of my college sorority at Kansas State.  Whenever I carry that, I make sure my hair looks good, my shirt is clean, and my shoes don’t look too ugly.  I do that because living here in Austin, I fear a young collegiate Theta will see me and think, “I didn’t think alums looked that bad.”

I have another with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) logo on it.  This is a communion chalice on a St. Andrews Cross.  That cross is on its side and looks like the letter X which causes people to ask me if I’m a member of the temperance league.

Another tote has this written on it:  “My  hero can kick your hero’s . . .”  Well, I’ll allow you to fill that in so I won’t insult any readers.   I have totes with Romance Writers of America conference themes and one with the symbol of one of my publishers, all of which might tip people off that I’m a writer.

Many years ago, my dear mother-in-law gave me a tote with “Cats and Books” on it.  That pretty well fills in my other interests:  pets and reading.

What’s your favorite tote?  What does it tell people about you?

Magical Thinking, Basketball, and Louisville, Kentucky

doomWe sports fans are superstitious.  I’m absolutely certain if I wear my OCTAGON OF DOOM T-shirt Kansas State will win all home basketball games.   I didn’t wear it Saturday and we lost.

My husband believed that if he held our buff cocker spaniel in a certain way, the University of Louisville Cardinals would win.  That was in 1980 when we DID win our first national championship. buff cocker Guess it did work all.

But what this is really is called “magical thinking”, the idea that if I do things exactly this way, I have control over the situation.  It’s magic!

I’m guilty of this which is why, when my sister-in-law Diane called last Wednesday  and said “I’m afraid if I don’t go to the Ash Wednesday services tonight, Uof L will lose the game,”  I believed her.  Yes, the Cards were playing SMU on Ash Wednesday and she feared God would punish her team if she didn’t go to the service.    I didn’t go to services because I don’t drive at night so this was ALL up to Diane.   She hadn’t decided yet if she’d leave as soon as she got the ash cross on her forehead–the Episcopalians have a name for that act but I belong to a far less liturgical church and don’t know what the word is–or stay for the entire service.

Neither of us believe God cares  who wins a basketball game.   We know a final score is is a petty concern in a world filled with hunger and disease,  earthquakes and tsunamis.  And, yet, maybe, just maybe, we shouldn’t tempt fate.  That’s superstition not faith.

So, yes, I know God doesn’t guide a basketball through a hoop or cause a turnover.  But when SMU went up 26-12, I leaped to my feet, grabbed a phone, and called to tell her that I blamed her for the lopsided score if she hadn’t gone to the service.

Connecticut v LouisvilleShe wasn’t home.   I left a message.  As I hung up, UofL went on a run and never looked back.  We won easily.   She called me after the game was over and took credit for the win because she’d gone to the entire service   Thank you, Diane!

Do you have a superstition which guarantees your team wins?  Or at least makes you feel as if you have some control?

I never know what day it is

keep calm and what day is itSadly,  I never know what day it is.

I worked for many years in the mental health field.  One of the ways mental health workers use to see if a patient is oriented in time is to ask him/her what day it is.  I’d have flunked that because I might be within two or three days of the week but never knew the exact date.  I always feared if I ever were placed in a mental institution, I’d be kept until, somehow, I chanced to hit the day correctly.

Before I retired, I knew I worked Monday through Friday.  Therefore, if I was at work, it had to be one of those days.  I knew I went to church on Sunday.  Check.

But now that I’m retired, I don’t have anything constant in a week What day is it asked Poohexcept for Sunday.  My writers’ group used to meet on the second Tuesday.  Now, with our present meeting place and conflicts with scheduling, the date hops around.  Fortunately, the person I ride with knows when we meet and reminds me.  Thanks, Kristin!

Yesterday (which was Tuesday), I asked our associate minister when I could make a call on a member.  She said Tuesday and Thursdays are hard for her to make hospital calls.  So I told her, “I’ll make the call tomorrow,” which did not help her schedule at all.    Fortunately, she understands the tangle my brain can be.  I’m making the visit tomorrow–which is, I believe, Thursday.

I’ve set Tuesday as my main blog day but didn’t post yesterday because–you guessed it–I thought yesterday was Monday.  So here is the blog, a day late but here.

What do you forget?  I like to know.  It makes me feel I’m not alone.

Do you know the difference between a clarinet and a trombone?

A friend  of mine plays an instrument in a brass ensemble.  I have no lots of musical instrumentsidea what she plays but she does it very well.    Due to the efforts of my fifth grade teacher to have us learn the differences between musical instruments, I can recognize many:  all percussions and strings.  It helped  that  I played the viola for two really uncomfortable years during which I never one got the rhythm correct and usually played violawhen everyone else observed a rest.  

But while that teacher struggled to show us how they looked she didn’t do anything  to teach us how they sounded.  That would have been hard way back when she would have had to use 78 records and a record player.  Hard to pause those.

So, yes, I can tell you when a cello is being played and differentiate that from other strings.  I recognize various drums, a triangle, the glockenspiel and a piano.  But the  horns—woodwinds or brass, well, I don’t have the slightest idea.  I can listen to and enjoy a piece but don’t expect me to know what section carried the melody.  I don’t know. 

My friend plays in a musical ensemble at church—I’m thankful that we have very talented musicians who share their gifts with us.  music in church After their lovely special music one Sunday, I thanked the musicians, then said to my friend, “What instrument do you play?”  She laughed and laughed and said, “Oh, Jane, you’re so funny.”

I hadn’t realized my remark had been amusing.   Embarrassed, I asked no more, just laughed and pretended I knew exactly what instrument she was playing and how it sounded. 

The point is that  people who know stuff believe other people know bankthe same stuff.   This leads to great miscommunication.  When I attempted to take over the automatic pay at the bank after George died, I was talking with a customer service rep who was talking to an IT person,  After three hours, the IT person realized I didn’t know anything about automatic bill paying and neither did the really nice customer service guy.  What I needed to know was that the information on the auto-pay couldn’t be switched from George’s account to mine, that I had to start all over.  He told the customer service guy who didn’t understand this.  Then the customer service guy told me but we both thought this sounded stupid and duplicated payments.  It wasn’t until I went to the bank and threatened to close all my accounts (one checking, one money market, and three CDs.  They didn’t want to lose me), did we put all of our misunderstanding together so that I could finally stop $750 from disappearing from the account each month to pay bills I wanted to change. 

And oh my, do I know that this is happening in our country.  We talk past each other.  We may agree on more than we think—we just don’t know that.   Or we believe the other people hold our same beliefs.  I just learned that a conservative didn’t realize that having a mortgage means he has borrowed money and live in debt.  If we come to a debt or deficit discussion with such different understandings, how can we ever hope to find that common ground?  How can people discuss if one groups believes abortion is murder and the other believes women have the right to chose what is best for her?  Again, we talk past each other.  We assume.   We know what we know but may not know that YOU don’t know what I know.  

Which leads us to the problems caused by not knowing the difference between a clarinet and a trombone. 

You put cheese in the brownies?

George and I spent many years sponsoring church youth groups.  At the church in Big Spring, TX, the kids–from fourth to seventh grade–loved my brownies, homemade and fudgy.  One Sunday, I didn’t have time to whip up a batch from scratch so I pulled out a mix.  To make it special, I cut up cream cheese into little chunks and stirred them in.  After I pulled them out of the oven, I took a deep breath.  They looked and smelled wonderful.  No one could figure out they were from a mix.

When I set the plate before the group, each took a brownie and studied it.  In unison they said, “What are those white things?”  I said, “Cream cheese.”  Again, as one, they looked at me in horror and asked, “You put cheese in brownies?”

They didn’t find this addition in the least bit special.  When I cleaned up the plates, each had a pile of tiny chunks of cream cheese.

Do you have a favorite story about young people and/or favorite recipes?  I’d love to hear them.

A friend remembers George

Carol Sue Barnett is the sister of George’s long-time friend Wayne.  Here she shares her thoughts about George, Wayne, and their friendship.  That’s a young Wayne Barnett to the left.

Jane is correct that my older brother Wayne Barnett is a fine man, but I’d like to add that his friendship with George immeasurably contributed to Wayne’s accomplishments, as a student and as a minister.

Our parents raised us in the church, as they had been raised. On both sides, church had been an integral part of family life for generations. They were Disciples, Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians, but few lacked any church affiliation. Our Grandfather Barnett’s maternal grandfather had been an itinerant Baptist preacher. Upon Granddaddy Barnett’s parents’ marriage in 1859, his mother adopted his father’s church and became a Disciple (Christian Church, Disciples of Christ), the church in which we were raised.

To my knowledge, Wayne is the family’s first formally trained and ordained minister. (Our younger sister Sally Barnett McClain is the second.) I remember well Wayne’s teenaged announcement that when he grew up he wanted to be either a test pilot or a minister. This didn’t make much sense then, but now it does: both professions are all consuming and life threatening. Wayne’s myopia precluded his first choice. But his vision was sufficiently far-sighted for the ministry.

And that’s where George comes in. Wayne, not an exceptional student in high school—he was popular and busy with social activities, and he put in long hours on the family farm—has always credited George with teaching him to study. Once Wayne started spending hours each day with George, away from the farm’s demands, his analytical processes matured, and his grades improved.

But, even more important to his chosen profession, Wayne, through caring for George, learned attentiveness and compassion, essential qualifications for a minister’s calling, and they both approached Wayne’s job of getting George around and through his day with two other essential qualifications—good humor and determination. This was poignantly evident in LaDonna and Wayne’s marriage ceremony, at which George officiated. Upon being asked, George demurred, saying he had never before performed a marriage ceremony and that they should choose a minister who wasn’t disabled. LaDonna and Wayne countered that they hadn’t been married before, and that George should be their minister for that milestone. Faced with this challenge, George met it, courageously and eloquently, as he met all that came his way after his accident.

Accompanying our mother, I attended Wayne’s retirement service and celebration in September 2007 at the First Christian Church of Maysville, Kentucky. George and Jane, living in Texas, couldn’t attend, but they were present.  By his constant example, both in school and throughout their careers, George had helped teach Wayne to minister and to enjoy a loving relationship with his congregation and the community he served. On behalf of our family, I offer our gratitude.


This hasn’t been a good year.  The hardest part was the death of my husband.  I still mourn that.   Then, when I was nomnated for a top honor for THE WELCOME COMMITTEE OF BUTTERNUT CREEK and planned to go to the conference in Atlanta to attend the conference and award ceremony, I had a detached retina which meant I couldn’t fly until three days after that ceremony.  A disappointment.

But, in the midst of these months, there were many, many blessings.  Let me count them for you.

1)  I got to spend forty-seven years with the finest, sexiest, most intelligent and delightful man in the world.  Not every second was marvelous but the whole experience changed me and made me a better, happier, more self-confident person.

2)  My friends have been so wonderful.  Church friends, writing friends, long-time friends have written me and supported me, come by when I was hysterical, held my hand, called and sent me flowers.  I have been so very blessed by all of them.

3)  George’s family and best friend dropped everything and came to Texas.  They took care of me, stayed with George, and I will always remember their love and concern and how much their presence meant to George.

4)  I was nominated for a RITA, something I thought would never, never happen.   My career has not be a long series of successes.  In twelve years, ten of my books have been published.  My friend Tracy Wolff writes that many in a week–every one of them great.   Exactly three weeks after George’s funeral, I received the call my book was nominated.   I didn’t even realize that was the day RITA calls were being made.  I didn’t answer the first call because I screen calls and didn’t recognize the number.   I only answered the second call to ask this person not to bother me again.   But the fact remains:  I was nominated for a RITA.  That overwhelmed me and continues to.

5)  I have enough to eat, a nice apartment, a car that runs, and two darling cats that keep my company.   Those facts put me in a small percentage of the world’s population.  Although this feels like a blessing, I’m haunted by those who go to bed hungry, who live in a box or hovel, who have no health care or or future.

6)   For a person my age, I’m fairly healthy.  I try to swim four or five times a week in a pool only steps from my apartment.   I know lots of specialists who watch over my health and keep me running.

7)  And my CARDS won the NCAA basketball championship!

And I know there are more but these are at the top of my list.  Many thanks to all of you who’ve been parts of those blessings.

It is Friday, right?

I have confessed previously my inability to have even the slightest and most hazy idea what day it is.   On Wednesday evening–I knew it was Wednesday because the cleaning crew comes on Wednesday, one of the few markers of time in my world–a local news anchor said, at the end of the broadcast, “Thank goodness tomorrow is Friday. “

If you don’t think that messed me up!  I searched for that morning’s newspaper and figured since the only one I could find was Wednesday’s, the next day would probably be Thursday.  I checked the guide on the cable and dashed through programs for today and tomorrow until I got to SATURDAY–then counted back.   Then I checked on the icons on the Mac screen–further proof the news anchor was wrong.  It gave me a feeling of smug satisfaction.

Not that it really makes any difference.  My daily schedule is get up, read the paper, write, swim, read a novel, watch the news with meals inserted at the right times.   Add church on Sunday.  My most important activity is–according to Maggie and Scooter–petting the cats and spoiling them but because that comes at whatever time they demand, it’s not written in the schedule.

I remember back–oh, so many years ago–when I was young and chanted, “TGIF”, looking ahead to a weekend stretching ahead empty and full of  adventures.    When I got older, the adventures didn’t hold as much appeal and, besides church, I spent six hours on Sundays grading papers and doing lesson plans.   That made weekends not nearly as tantalizing.

All of which leads to these questions:   Do you  cherish your weekends?  Why?  What do you do–or don’t you do–that you look forward to?