Thursday, April 23, 2015

Encounter with Bears

In my first novel in my Alaskan Waters series, Till the Storm Passes By, the protagonist, Evie, encounters bears. Both black and brown bears are plentiful in Alaska. My worst nightmares growing up there involved fleeing from bears, probably because a boy my age was mauled by a bear and blinded for life.

Or, maybe it was because when I was four years old, my mother told me to play with a bear! Don't get me wrong. She was a good, loving mother. But strange things could happen in Alaska, especially in 1950.

We lived about a quarter of a mile outside the city limits of Juneau, Alaska's capital city. That morning I was standing at the railing on our open porch that ran along the front of the house to the entry door at the second floor. The house faced a steep bank in front. The back of the house rose three stories straight up from the beach. A long flight of wooden stairs at one end connected with the porch from the highway above and continued down the steep bank along the side of the house to the beach below.

Black bear  courtesy
When a huge, black animal lumbered up from the beach and out from under the porch, I was petrified. I'd always been afraid of big dogs, but this was the biggest "dog" I'd ever seen. Wide-eyed, rooted in place, my heart pounding, I watched as its gigantic head swiveled over its shoulder. With stained fangs bared, it glared up at me with bloodshot eyes, A menacing growl rumbled from its throat.

Petrified, unable to move, I followed it with my eyes as it turned and climbed the hill to the road where it finally disappeared into the woods beyond. Only then could I run screaming into the kitchen. "Mommy! Mommy! There's a big, black dog out there without any tail, and it growled at me!"

She was doing dishes. Glancing at me over her shoulder, she said, "Oh, go on out and play with it. It won't hurt you."

Just then, two teenagers from the nearest house burst in carrying rifles. Breathless, they asked, "Did you see the bear in your yard?"

"Oh, no! I just told AnnaLee to go out and play with it!"

That was one time my mother was happy I disobeyed!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Bible Alphabet Verses

Last week I shared how my mother taught me Bible verses for each letter of the alphabet when I was a child. I learned verses from the King James version. Today, I am sharing that list of verses from the New King James Version. You can develop a list of your own using other translations if you prefer.

As you teach, be sure to explain any difficult words. An ordinary English dictionary is all you need to do this. And try to apply the verses whenever you are in a situation where they might apply. For example, if you catch your child trying to cover up a wrongdoing, quote Numbers 32:23, "Be sure your sins will find you out." Tell him the about the person who said the words and the story that is the setting for the verse. In these ways you are reinforcing the learning experience, and he learns that the Bible applies to his everyday life. You are training up your child "in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6).

Here is my family's list of Bible Alphabet verses:

A--Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. Matthew 7:7.

B--Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you. Ephesians 4:32.

C--Casting all your care upon Him; for He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:5:7.

D--Delight yourself also in the Lord, and he shall give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4.

E--Even a child is known by his deeds, by whether what he does is pure and right. Proverbs 20:11.

F--For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16.

G--Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. Mark 16:15.

H--Honor your father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise. Ephesians 6:2.

I--I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13.

J--Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6.

K--Know that the Lord, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Psalm 100:3.

L--Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14.

M--My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19.

N--No man can serve two masters...You cannot serve God and mammon. Matthew 6:24.

O--Owe no man anything except to love one another: for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. Romans 13:8.

P--Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. Ephesians 6:11.

Q--Quench not the Spirit. 1 Thessalonians 5:19.*

R--Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth. Ecclesiastes 12:1.

S--Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Matthew 6:33.

T--Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5, 6.

U--Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain that build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. Psalm 127:1.

V--Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. John 6:47.*

W--Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in you. Psalm 56:3.

X--Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. John 3:3.*

Y--You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Acts 1:8.

Z--Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house. Luke 19:5.

*To keep the beginning letter, these verses are from the King James Version.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Bible Alphabet

"A," said my mother.

"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and the door shall be opened unto you. Matthew 7:7," I responded.

"B," said my mother.

"Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. Galatians 6:7," I answered.

I was four years old, and my mother was teaching me something even more lasting than the alphabet--the Word of God.

She made it a game we played while doing the dishes or riding in the car. Her mother, noticing how easily her three-year-olds learned nursery rhymes, had taught them these Bible alphabet verses. Now my mother was teaching them to me. What better heritage could she pass on?

I didn't always completely understand the meaning of the verses I was learning, although she explained them simply. But I was learning to enjoy memorizing God's Word. And she would recite them to us in appropriate situations. As I grew older, the understanding came.

How thankful I have been for that early training. Of all the Bible verses I have memorized, the ones I learned in early childhood have stuck with me the best.

Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would bring all things to our remembrance (John 14:26), but we must first store His Word in our memories. Over the years, as I have preached, taught Bible classes, written church school curriculum, or spoken to someone about the Lord, these Scriptures have come to my mind at just the right time, just as Jesus promised.

I have read several accounts of Americans held as prisoners of war in Vietnam. Many of them told how they kept their sanity during those endless hours in solitary confinement by recalling all the Scripture verses they had memorized. They even rigged up a system of coded communication so they could share those verses with others. Together, they compiled large portions of the Scriptures.

In America, Bibles are so readily available that we often take them for granted. I often wonder if persecution came, how much of the Bible could we reconstruct by what we have memorized?

The trend in education has been away from memorization, but I think Christian parents and Sunday school teachers need to reconsider. The Psalmist wrote, "Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee" (Psalm 119:11). He recognized the value of memorizing Scripture.

In Deuteronomy 6:5-7, God commanded His people to hold His words in their hearts and to teach them diligently to their children and grandchildren as they went about their everyday activities. We can select verses that are age-appropriate to our children's particular stage of spiritual development, or ones that deal with the problems they are facing in their life at the time.

Above all, learning verses should be an enjoyable experience, one we share with our children. We can make simple puzzles or invent games to help their memorization. Attitudes learned in early childhood will stay with them all through their lives. What better attitude can we develop in them than a love for God's Word and a desire to hide it in their hearts?

Next week, I will give you a list of the verses I learned to the alphabet as a child.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Easter I Learned about Sharing

Portions of Till the Storm Passes By, Book One in my Alaskan Waters trilogy, were inspired by my years growing up in a children's home.

 Shortly after my sister was born and I was four years old, my parents were asked to take over the operation of the Bethel Beach Children's Home in Juneau, Alaska, when the matron retired. My dad worked for Alaska Coastal Airlines as boss of cargo to support our family and the home. My mother cared for as many as thirteen children, nine of them under five. Two were babies in cribs. Often, she had no help.

Our family & the children at the Bethel Beach Home c. 1951
On the positive side, we never lacked for playmates. We loved to play in the sandbox in the huge yard surrounded by woods on three sides and the beach on the other. Dressed in bathrobes, old clothes, and mop tops, we organized silly parades down the curved gravel driveway. In the winter, we snuggled into our snowsuits and made snow angels, built snow forts, and had snowball fights.

Whenever I wanted to play school, I had a ready group to instruct. I was usually the teacher. I'd set up my mother's Sunday school flannel board and recite the Bible stories using her flannel-graph figures.

And many hands made light work where chores were concerned. Every morning before going to school, we children made our own beds and dust mopped the floors of that big old house while Mother made breakfast.

Growing up in a children's home, though, was often a challenge to me as a young child. My parents were the houseparents. One-on-one time with them was scarce. I was old enough to remember when I didn't have to share them with so many. I missed it. One time, I asked Mother to set my hair so it would look extra special for school photographs the next day, but she didn't have time. I learned to set and style my own hair very young.

Somehow my parents were able to feed us well, but candy and desserts were rare and strictly rationed. We looked forward to special occasions when we received treats: trick or treating at Halloween, the Christmas program at church where we each received a stocking-shaped net bag containing an orange (fresh fruit was a treat in Alaska in the early fifties), a few chocolates, some hard candy, and an assortment of nuts, and my favorite, Easter baskets full of dyed hard-boiled eggs, candy eggs, jelly beans, and chocolate bunnies. Each of us had our own basket of candy to eat as quickly or as slowly as we chose. That was heaven to my sweet tooth.

One Easter Sunday afternoon, a new child came to live in the home unexpectedly. There was no basket prepared for that child. All the candy had been precisely divided among us children. Back then, stores were closed on Sundays.

So, Mother gathered us children around her and explained the situation. She asked each of us to give up a few pieces of our candy to the new child. "I'm not forcing you to do it," she said. "The decision is yours. I want you do to it because you want to."

Without hesitation, my little sister quickly offered up some of her candy. So did the others. But I struggled within myself. I wanted to make the child happy, but I didn't want to give up any of my candy. I also felt ashamed of myself. I knew the words of Jesus: "to give is better than to receive." Finally, I added some of my candy to the pile.

That week, an unexpected package arrived from my Philadelphia grandparents. They had sent us several one-pound fruit and creme chocolate covered eggs--special Easter eggs for which Philadelphia was noted. That Easter I learned that you can't out give God.