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Joy of Friendship

Being here in Indianapolis means we are away from long-time friends made in Vigo and Clay counties. Compound that with the fact that I don’t like to drive the Interstate any more. So we are dependent on friends to visit us. One pastor/friend promised that the next visit he would bring his wife and take Bill and me out to lunch. He kept that promise last week. After a tour around our house for Jan, we sat and visited for a while. Our daughter suggested Cheddars for lunch and so I guided Paul as he drove. I’m getting used to the south part of town so I was confident in my directions. As we chatted over lunch we noticed that all our selections satisfied what each person ordered. That’s not always the case at a restaurant. On the return trip I noticed that Paul had his GPS on and it confirmed my different route back to the house.

That same week my BFF came to spend time with us. The weather was cool and rainy, but Donna Dene ventured out simply to keep in touch. We sat in the sunroom and made good use of blankets and lit candles. As it was a good day for soup, I prepared French Market Bean Soup, a recipe from Sonya, another Clay county friend. Bill joined us for supper, and then it was time for our guest to return home before it got too dark.

Of course personal face-to-face visits are not the only way we stay connected with friends. We recently got a postcard from a friend in Oregon. Diana updated us on their health issues and ministry plans. Last week we also received an early Christmas letter with a photo from the Frosts, a family we knew at our former church but who had moved to Iowa. I sent return notes to these friends.

Then yesterday I received a phone call from a member of the last church where we served (as volunteers). Mary Ellen updated me on the folks at FLCC and reported that she had sent the new issue of the Wesleyan devotional to us. We chatted nearly 45 minutes.

All these blessings of friendship have prepared me for Thanksgiving. I am grateful for friends in the past and I’m working on developing new friendships in our new community – mostly at church, for I’ve not ventured out to meet neighbors.

An added bonus to these out-of-town connections made me feel at home, like the house was mine, ours. We’ve concentrated on saying that around here. It’s not yours or theirs but our kitchen and our great room. But the true feeling of ours came when we could entertain our guests in our home. Thanks be to God from whom all blessings flow.

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I Talk Too Much

Now this is not a question or an attempt to get a response from those who connect with me here. It’s a personal evaluate on why I think I talk too much. And this takes me to places previously untraveled. In asking questions of family and friends I truly want to know more about them, sometimes more than they are willing to reveal. In that attempt and in order to soften the interrogation I start to talk about myself. That’s where it goes wrong. Maybe.

Silence is not something dear to me, especially in the car or at the dinner table. Just the other day I rode in the back seat of our daughter’s van on the way to a doctor’s appointment. No conversation ensued from the front seat, so I started something. Printed on the outside of one of Becky’s shopping bags I found some trivial questions. The front seat had to supply answers. They had not asked for conversation. I had to do so. Then one Sunday at dinner I interjected my thoughts about our Sunday school and worship service. Earlier my son-in-law had asked for my opinion, but I had more to say. And, of course, I asked for their observations. This also interrupted their talk about the Colts’ game coming from the TV in the next room. But the younger generation seems to give time for their granny, and I’m grateful.

Conversation should be give and take, making room for everyone present to participate. That’s another reason for this blog called Connections. Feedback is desired, but so far it’s too often a one-way street. I’ve now contradicted my opening statement. I do want response. I do want to connect with my readers, to know if I’m hitting any targets of interest, or at least aiming at them. I want to talk (to write), but not too much.

 

Slippery Slope

Eric Cohen and William Kristol, in an article published several years ago in The Weekly Standard (“Cloning, Stem Cells, and Beyond”), observe that “at present, we are in the midst of a debate on embryonic research, human cloning, and stem cells. But the choices and advances that have placed these dilemmas before us did not happen overnight. They happened step by step, one innovation after the next. The dilemmas themselves were always there, if perhaps not always quite as pressing as they now seem.”

When we allowed the development of “test tube” embryos for in-vitro fertilization, we allowed the development of extra embryos in case one was not good enough to use or didn’t take. Now we have a very large number of embryos which have been frozen. What is to be done with them? The greater problem we now face is that if embryonic stem cell research is successful, it is questionable whether politicians and/or the general public will want to refuse the next step, that of killing embryos for their stem cells in order to alleviate the suffering of the sick or injured.

However vast the majority may be who oppose cloning for developing usable body parts, the issue is far from dead. Some will argue that if we are going to discard (kill) these embryos anyway, why not use them for the healing of others? The door is open and the battle is before us. Our peril is that what works and “helps people” will trump ethics.

All of this spoke to me about decisions that I have made that involved compromise rather than principle. Each time it has risen up to bite me. Rationalizing spares us from making the hard choice now and creates for us a more difficult choice in the future. Doesn’t evil always gain the advantage when we venture onto slippery slopes?

William B. Coker, Sr.

October — Pastor Appreciation

If it started as a Hallmark promo, I don’t care. It’s a good idea to set aside time and say thanks to our pastors. Having been on the receiving end, I appreciate being appreciated. Bill was the pastor, not me, but the thanks from churches we served went to both of us. Even after Bill retired and became a volunteer associate pastor, the church included both of us in the thank offering.

Today while finishing the book of Romans, some verses spoke of how I view our pastors:

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (15:13). “You are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another” (v. 14), “serving as a priest of God’s good news” (v. 16). “Therefore I rejoice over you” (16:19b).

We were blessed as church members when Bill was a professor. Pastor David A. Seamands held a high standard of preaching the Truth. Then at the last church before moving to Indianapolis, we had the privilege of hearing Pastor Dan Willis, committed to the sure foundation of God’s Word. Now we attend (not members) Southport Presbyterian Church and we’re grateful that Pastors Rob Hock and Glen Massey preach with conviction the Gospel of Truth.

In this note of appreciation I cannot leave out my favorite pastor/preacher/teacher – my husband Bill. His sermons always included teaching and were always founded on the truth of God’s Word. His delivery only matched his message in presenting the Truth. When I listen to Steve Green sing “We Have Seen God’s Glory,” (Gary Driskell/Mike Hudson) that to me is a testimony of what I sense when Bill preaches. I have been so blessed and privileged to have sat under Bill’s ministry.

 

Life and Death

Thomas, Bill, John.TH,IN2006

My favorite photo of the Coker boys: Thomas, Bill, and John — Terre Haute, IN — 2006

We got the call after supper last night. Bill’s older brother Thomas died around 4 p.m. California time. He had spent almost two weeks in the hospital due to complications with his lungs, progressing to his heart, bowels, and kidneys. Dismissed to his home with Hospice care, he prepared to die. His wife and two daughters gathered and kept watch. Until the night before his death his mind was good, talking and relating to his family. Listening to music (so much a part of his life), Thomas passed quietly from this world into the next. He was 89 years old, living the longest of any of his family. He was the eldest of four children of Tom and Wilmoth Coker.

Sister (Mary Elizabeth) died first in Texas at age 47 from a heart attack. Then Dad Coker died in Mississippi at age 79, followed by Mom at age 78 at our home in Kentucky. Bill’s younger brother John Calvin died in Louisiana at age 75, kidney failure due to diabetes.

Bill is now the only survivor of the Tom and Wilmoth (Billie) Coker clan, their third child. He is 82 years old as of June and with no siblings. Nothing, not even death, “will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39).

A note of thanksgiving: I thank God for the Coker heritage, the faith of over three generations, and I celebrate their love for God and family. I have been blessed to be part of the Coker family and enjoy this godly heritage. And I am grateful for my three siblings, all living (in three different states).

 

I shall not want

The  move caught up with me in unexpected ways. I put my thoughts into words and gave myself permission to grieve and also take action. The first indication came a few weeks ago during worship service while singing a new chorus “I shall not want.” Several lines into the song I read “Deliver me from fear of being lonely.” Tears began to form. What? I’m with family every day. Why the fear? Why the feeling of loneliness?

Over the next days I identified the cause. I missed other family members and my friends left in Terre Haute and Brazil, IN. I also knew that I had to depend on their coming to see me. I could not make the trip there. But the action I could take would be to connect in other ways – writing and phoning. Then we received a surprise call and visit from a dear friend who spent several hours with us. He did not come to Indy because he had an appointment; his purpose was to come and see us.

A text message today brought a request for prayer support. Connection came here not only from a true friend but also with my God as I took time to pray as she gave her gift back to God in music ministry. What sweet communion I had in prayer – not only for my friend but reminding me that I needed to spend more time in prayer, to be more consistent in fellowship with my True Friend.

Also this morning in worship we sang again that same chorus. This time a sweet closure came with the closing: “When I taste Your goodness, I shall not want.” There is where I belong and where God meets me and brings pleasure. Thanks be to God.

School Lunches

In her book Bird by Bird Anne Lamott wrote that she believes good writing is telling the truth. She suggests we write about our being, our beginning, our childhood. As an example, write about school lunches. For Lamott it was brown-bag lunches and through this she got an idea of who she was and “if her family were okay.” Only store-bought white bread was acceptable for the “centerpiece,” the sandwich made with bologna and wilted lettuce and mustard. The sandwich should be wrapped in waxed paper with hospital-squared corners.

My memory about school lunches only applies to high school. I bought the hot meals in the cafeteria. The menus were limited. According to the day of the week we could guess what we’d have. Fish, usually from frozen sticks, was served on Fridays, the Catholic influence in New Orleans. And we generally had red beans and rice one day a week. Mother would hope that day was not when she planned the same. Accompanying the beans we had chunks of French bread, buttered.

And we had some kind of dessert on the divided plates. The boys always ate their dessert first. Maybe it would be ice-cream cups and that would make sense. Sometimes it would be pudding or cookies or cobbler. I thought the boys’ habit was not proper, but I wanted to do the same.

It was not so much what we ate but what lunch period was all about. For me, high school lunch time meant being with friends. At Murphy High School in Mobile, AL, we sat around and talked to find out about each other. I’m sure we also talked about those not sitting with us.

During lunch hour at Murphy the clubs met, so we would rush through the meal in order to attend a club meeting. Even there we made associations with who was “okay,” who was popular and accepted and belonged. We tested who we were and who we would become.