Gifts and Giving

Our granddaughter Chrissa is registered at several stores for wedding gifts. That’s expected when you announce your wedding and send out invitations. What a nice practice—for the new couple is starting out with needs for their home and lifestyle. It’s the way of American weddings. I don’t know of customs in other countries, but our custom is nice and practical. So the bride and groom pick out items at the stores and form a registry. Family and friends present these gifts at bridal showers or on their wedding day. Online gifting also provides easy access. Gifts can even be sent to their new home. How efficient is that!

I get to see and hear all this happening since we live in the Coker/Gearhart home in Indianapolis. Chrissa is home, having closed out her ministry in the Dominican Republic to start a new life in North Carolina with Léo Silva who works there at a Christian camp called Rockfish. The wedding ceremony will be held in our church here so that is a gift of location. The marriage of a daughter is different than that of a son. My experience came with Becky and now she is having the joy of planning and preparation.

What I will wear at the wedding is no longer a question. A lady in the church has offered me her grandma-of-the-bride dress. At first I wondered if I could fit into the dress and would it be too much to accept. But I tried it on (a perfect fit in size and length) and the family agreed on the look—so it’s mine to wear. What a gift! And this doll of a lady doesn’t even know me. She and her family are good friends of the Gearharts. What a blessing! I’ve been given a gift of love. And that’s what a wedding is all about.



Faded Memory

This memory lodged in the back of my head with not many details. Yet it would pop up and haunt me for years. I could describe the setting and a few characters, but not the reason for the activity. It wasn’t until after Daddy had died that I asked Mother if the image was actually an event that happened. For I thought it must likely be my imagination associated with something fearful.

Setting: a room with little furniture. A dark couch and coffee table set against the wall on the left of my scene. Straight ahead was a little table. Nothing on the top of either table. Between these and in the distance a door opened and three men walked in. Were they invited or did someone greet them? I recognized my dad between the other two men. Nothing else happened.

What was it all about? Something significant? A memory or a dream? Was I the one viewing the scene? Did I have reason for that lingering fear? Where was Mother?

Mother had the key to these questions, but it look me years (too many years) before I asked for answers. Yes, it was a true event. And Mother was there and knew what happened.

The men had brought Daddy home from the office and he would soon be admitted to the hospital with a nervous breakdown. I don’t remember how long he stayed. What I do know is that he had an obsession about cleanliness – either before or after the hospital stay. He would constantly ask Mother to “wash Ann’s hands.”

I can still see the original memory, but now I place details within the setting. Reasons for the event make sense, but it’s a faded picture hanging sideways in my memory bank. And no fear lingers.


Habits: Why Do They Accumulate?

This train of thought started when my daughter said, “I leave the dishes in the drain until they dry.” She said that after I started drying the dishes after supper. Why not? It’s habit. So how did this become a habit?

Speaking of drying dishes I remember an incident many years ago. My brother, ten years younger than me, came to visit us in Mississippi. Mother had told him to “help Ann.” So he thought to dry the dishes after meals would suffice. After a couple of days, as he was drying dishes and to impress me, he said, “If I were not here to dry dishes, you would have to do it yourself.” I replied, much to his chagrin, “No, I would just leave them in the dish drain until they dried by themselves.” The next day he got up from the table after lunch and began to follow Bill outdoors. Bill asked, “Aren’t you going to help Ann?” Tom said, as you have probably guessed, “No, I’m going to dry the dishes the way she does.” Out he went with Bill.

Why then do I dry dishes now? It’s because of Bill. After we both retired he started washing dishes. It was to get them ready to put in the dishwasher. Sooner than later I put an end to that process. Why clean dishes in preparation for the dishwasher? Only to have them sanitized?

So Bill washed the dishes and put them in the dish drain. I would busy myself with clearing and wiping the table, then putting leftovers away. Dishes piled up in the drain. Not good. Bill does not know how to stack higher than the back slats or a first layer. He wants dishes dried so he can add a pot or pan that doesn’t fit neatly in the drain. So I began to dry dishes, even to stack them on the counter before putting them away. I had to keep up with my favorite dishwasher.

Now that we are here together in our three-generation home, I love what Emily says: “Grandpa is the best dishwasher I’ve even known.” That’s because he takes it as his mission. When he had the flu last week his only complaint was that we would not let him wash or dry dishes. How’s that for an ingrained and thoughtful habit?


Tribute to Billy Graham

Others have written great tributes to Billy Graham, but I want to add my personal remarks. I heard Billy Graham several times during his crusades in New Orleans, Mobile, and Lexington. In one of those crusades I sang in the choir led by Cliff Barrows.

For the one held in Lexington, KY, I helped as a spiritual contact for children who went forward at the close of Graham’s evangelistic message. As I saw a child leave his seat, I would follow him to the front and talk with him about a decision to follow Christ. We would pray and then I would give him a booklet (provided by BGEA) about how to live out his faith. I would also direct him to a church in his neighborhood. During that crusade I had the privilege of praying with four children. With their permission, I sent a follow-up letter of encouragement. Years later I tried to contact each one to ask how that decision had changed their lives. I received a reply from one young man who gave witness to his Christian life.

But my most memorable connection with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and for which I am most grateful happens to be the time when my dad went forward during one of his crusades in New Orleans, LA. Before that, Dad attended church and served as treasurer. After that, Dad became a true believer and gave witness to a changed life. My mother, three siblings, and I saw that change at home. We began family devotions with Dad reading the Bible and praying. His was an attitude change in regard to being a faithful servant to his family and church. Because of his influence on my dad, I am forever indebted to Billy Graham and his consistent message of biblical truth.


Needs and Helps

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8).

Trying to help people I’ve had questions. At the onset I must admit that my husband, Bill, is more generous than I am when it comes to helping those in need. In particular we gave aid (financial and material) to three women over a stretch of about ten years. I tried to understand but repeated Jesus’ words: “You will always have the poor with you” (Matt. 26:11). Their requests didn’t seem to end, and frankly I contended that we had better use of our money. I admit that my reluctance to help these women, needy as they were, rested in my fear for our own future.

Some irrelevant questions came to the surface: Does she deserve it? Will she appreciate it? I also knew the answers didn’t matter when it came to deciding about helping them.

Helps and Needs

Needs are transitory (tending to pass away). Help is temporary (lasting for a limited time). Yet the relevant questions remain about compassionate concern, ability and willingness to help. We have no lack of opportunity to help people, and often we argue against compassion and for discernment. Both are necessary. We can all look back on times when we were needy and someone helped.

Working at the Crisis Pregnancy Center in Brazil, IN, we offered supplies to clients yet asked ourselves, “How can another visit bring any lasting good?” We doubted whether we could lift a girl out of her present state as we questioned our temporary help. I received help from something George MacDonald wrote:

“Some [people] are so pitiful over their poor neighbor, [for] they shall have the poor with them always, they will do for him nothing at all: ‘Where is the use?’ they say. . . . While the rich giver is saying, poor fellow, he will be just as bad next month or sooner!’. . . Help in such soil is a quick seed and of rapid growth. . . .  Everything in this world is but temporary: why should temporary help be undervalued?. . . Is help help or is it not?  If it be help then it is divine, and comes from God our Savior” (emphases mine). –from his novel Castle Warlock

I close with a quote from A. W. Tozer: “Find something to do for God and your fellow man.  Refuse to rust out.  Make yourself available to the one who is helping you grow in Christ and do anything you are asked to do. . . . Learn to obey.”  –The Knowledge of the Holy




Family and friends gathered Monday for what the bulletin titled: “A Service of Witness to the Resurrection and in Memory of Robert Dean Wood” (1928 – 2018). Bill and I attended because we had known Bob and Gene during our years in Wilmore, KY, and Greenwood, IN. At the start of the service Bob’s older daughter held up the letter her dad sent his four children – a detailed plan for his funeral service. Bob indicated not only what hymns should be included, but how they should be sung – with reverence for the majesty of God. We began with “Holy, Holy, Holy” and concluded with Charles Wesley’s “And Can It Be” accompanied on the organ in grand style.

Several people gave tribute to Bob, telling stories as well as giving thanks for his life. On the way to and from church I related to Bill two of my memories. Bob was my boss at both Good News magazine and One Mission Society, then known simply as OMS.

At Good News my office was located directly across the hall from Bob. I noticed how neat he kept his desk, not like the stack of mail and to-do projects piled on my desk. I asked Bob for his secret. I knew the executive director gave him projects, and he also received mail. Bob had one simple rule for whatever reached his desk. He would handle it once. When he read a letter and it needed an answer, he wrote it at once. If a project needed research, he filed it or started collecting data. If a circular had no significance, he tossed it in the ’round file.’ Bob did not put something aside for later consideration; he handled it promptly. That made good sense and I’ve tried to mimic his system, but not always successfully.

In Greenwood where we four worked for OMS, Bill would occasionally be called out of town to represent the mission. That gave Bob, Gene and me an opportunity to have a liver and onion dinner together with mashed potatoes and gravy. Liver is the one item of food that Bill will not eat, but the Woods and I loved it. We would trade off on whose home would host the liver dinner.

After we moved away from each other, we did not connect as we would have enjoyed. Only at Christmas we caught up with our lives by reading each other’s annual letters. No need to express regret; that’s the way life happens. During visitation before the memorial service we greeted three of the Woods’ children who had all attended Asbury College (along with at least one other relative) and who had “Doctor Coker” as their professor for Basic Christian Beliefs. That class served as Bill’s trademark, for what he taught then has formed the lives of this family and more.

It’s time to . . .

It’s time to write a blog. Have you noticed how many times you say, “It’s time to . . .”? It’s time to get up . . . time to eat . . . time to read my Bible and pray (don’t forget that!). I could go on and on: it’s time to brush my teeth . . . time to exercise (getting back to that now) . . . time to eat again . . . and again . . . time to feed the puppy (new addition to the family) . . . and time to let the pup outside . . . and time to go to bed. Then I start the process over again the next day.

Time is important and essential to daily habits. It’s not a bad thing to regulate my time. I need that clock at times to discipline me. Without a time keeper, I’d not keep up with what’s next in my day. Now sometimes I don’t need a clock to tell me it’s time for lunch. I feel the rumbles in my tummy, as Pooh Bear would say. And often (perhaps it’s old age) I don’t need someone to say it’s time to go to bed. But too often these days I need to be nudged out of bed in the morning.

When we went to Hyderabad, India, to help with reconstruction, the leaders at the camp found out that our group included two preachers. They decided it’s time for an evangelistic service. They pitched a tent and moved chairs inside along with a platform. I don’t know how word got around and into the village, but somehow people knew and began to gather for the preaching, some of them bringing their home-made musical instruments. It wasn’t a matter of looking at a clock and knowing it’s time; it just happened. And as to quitting time, that’s whenever they wanted it. This was no ordinary one-hour service.

So while we judge most of what we do by the clock – when it’s time to do this or that, we can include in our daily habits a time to be quiet, listen, converse, and enjoy life – each other, nature, and how God has designed a regular schedule into His creation: “And God saw that it was good. Evening came and then morning: the third day” (Gen. 1:12, 13). Take time to thank God for time.