Sunday, December 20, 2015

Come, Lord Jesus

Long ago, Israel wanted you to come, to fight against their enemies and make their nation rule.

Since you returned to Heaven, all Christians have wanted you to come, to destroy what is evil and establish a home where there is eternal beauty; no sorrow; no death.

But today, Lord Jesus, I ask you to come to one person.

Come to the lady who lost her husband this year, and blanket her with your comfort.

To the man who is depressed, surprise him in the morning with a spark of promise.

Touch the child who is homeless, and bring someone who is willing to help.

Whisper to the woman who is lonely, and show her that you will walk by her side.

For him who has lost his job, give him the energy to try again.

To her whose family is divided, waken her with possibilities she could never have imagined.

To him whose health is failing, give your strength for breathing and walking through the pain.

For the woman who can’t pay her bills, help her to have enough.

For the man who believes nothing real is good, open his eyes to a sight of wonder.

To the child who’s disabled, bring a sense of being necessary.

Today, Lord Jesus, come and bring us hope.

Revelation 22: 20 He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Hope School Reunion

This article was printed, in part, in the Summer/Fall 2015 issue of DIALOGUE Magazine, which publishes information of interest to people who are blind and visually impaired.

The weekend we decided to visit my mother just happened to be the same time they were having the Hope School reunion.

The old one-room schoolhouse, now a community center, stands less than two miles up the road from the farm where I grew up. The school was formed in the mid 1800s, starting in the home of some of the students. It closed in 1955.

My mother attended the school up to eighth grade. My Aunt Alice, who later married my father’s brother, was my mother’s teacher for at least three grades. My grandmother on my mother’s side was one of the high school students the only year high school was offered, in 1926.

My mother still lives on the farm where I grew up, so Sunday morning, my husband Murray, my son Ping-Hwei, Mom, and I load up and make the less than five minute drive to the school house to help set up.

I sit and knit as Mom and the other ladies from the quilting group, who meet weekly at the school house, start getting things ready for the potluck lunch. Outside, others set up tables and chairs. It’s a beautiful early October day.

Mom tells me one of the other ladies in the quilting group remembers me taking notes in Braille at church when I was young. “I sometimes had a hard time staying awake,” she tells me. “So I just watched you. I wondered ‘How can she do that?’”

I don’t remember taking notes at church. I think I hope I used the slate and stylus. Surely I didn’t take a Braille writer there and clunk on it while the minister preached.

“Kathy Brinkmann, I haven’t seen you in over forty-five years.” My cousin Daniel comes in and puts an arm around my shoulders. “And I don’t look any better, and neither do you.”

It’s not been forty-five years, but we haven’t seen each other much in the 35 years since I left for college.

I hear Uncle Steven outside and decide to go out and sit with him. “I’ll probably be the oldest one here today,” he tells me.

Steven will be eighty-three on Valentine’s Day. He has a great deal of trouble with his legs, from strokes and diabetes. He still drives a tractor though, which his wife—my Aunt Ruth—and sisters—Mom included—wish he didn’t.

Daniel comes to sit by us, and Steven tells him about a truck he wants to buy. “I probably don’t need to buy it though, do I?” he asks Daniel.

A big part of today is fundraising to keep the schoolhouse running as a community center. Quilts are being auctioned off, made by the ladies’ quilting group to help support the center. I hear several people encouraging others to bid, “to support the ladies.” Murray tells me, “It’s kind of circular."

Daniel says to Steven, “I’m going to spend a lot of money today, and have it all billed to you. You ever heard of a rich uncle?”

Steven laughs. “It’s not me.”

Daniel drives a delivery van to the next state every night. He starts to tell a story about an afternoon recently when he was trying to take a nap, and a guy from work calls him.

Julia, Daniel’s wife, stops by us to say hi to Steven.

“Julia,” Steven tells her, “I’ve got nine cats in my barn right now. When this is done today, I want you all to stop by and get them.”

She says, “I don’t need nine more cats.”

“Seven then.”


“How about if you take the mother?” Steven says. “It would really help me if you’d take the mother.”

“No, I just got my fifth cat. I don’t need any more cats.”

Daniel says, “I was just starting to tell them that story, but you go ahead. You can tell it better than me.”

Julia says she was hanging clothes not too long ago, and her phone rang in her pocket. “It was a number I didn’t know, and I usually don’t answer if I don’t know who it is, but I did this time.”

It was a guy from Daniel’s company. “I think ‘Why would he be calling me?’”

The caller, Chuck, told her that at a business on the road nearby, they had a kitten outside, in a box with a lid, and they were going to be closing for the day soon.

“He kept saying that, that there was a lid on the box. I told him, ‘Daniel will be mad,’ and he said, ‘Yeah, he’s mad at me.’”

So she drove to the business he’d mentioned, and there were two guys standing outside, and she asked, “Do you have a cat here?” One of the men said, “Wait a minute,” and turned toward the door.

“A minute later, a lady came out carrying a box with the sweetest little gray and white kitten. She said ‘I gave it a bath.’ Well, it was all clean and fixed up, and it was so cute, so I took it home. And while I was getting supper ready, I was planning my defense.

“When Daniel got up, I said, ‘You’re going to be mad.’ He said, ‘I know all about it.’ It turns out Chuck had called him while he was trying to sleep to get my phone number. He knew all about me getting a cat.”

What an excellent story.

Somebody comes up behind me and squeezes my shoulders, then sits in the chair beside me. “You’re wearing those funny orange shoes again.” My brother Rodney.

“Murray got them for me.” I smile at my brother. “He knows orange is my favorite color.”

I understand they’re neon orange.

Steven tells us about when he was in the Korean War, about how he and two other local guys went in together. “We were separated during the War, then we met up again on the ship home. And we all had made it.”

He says there was a protest when they got back to the United States. “People were throwing eggs and tomatoes at us. We thought we’d probably be better off just turning around and going back to Korea.”
I’ve been working on knitting a sash for a bathrobe. It’s like a fat cord, snaking out of a tiny knitting loom. Several people ask me what I’m working on when they stop by. After watching me for a while, Steven says, “Kathy, I’m just amazed.”

At one time, I would have been irritated by someone thinking it’s “amazing”, just because I’m blind, that I can do something fairly normal. Not today. Maybe I’m getting old. Now, I just think how nice it’s been to sit and talk with my uncle.

Murray and I walk around and talk to more people. A lady I don’t know asks, “Are you Lila Mae Brinkmann’s daughter?” When Murray tells Jake we live in Cleveland, he says, “Oh, the Cleveland Browns.” I say, “No, the only sports team Murray cares about is the St. Louis Cardinals.” Jake says, “Well, that’s good.”

I don’t really remember Jake, but I remember his dad, George. George used to come by our place to buy eggs from Mom. I always stood around when he came, with my hand out, because he would give my brothers and me a dime when he paid for the eggs.

My cousin Melissa, an active member of the quilting group, had a stroke two weeks ago. Mom told me Melissa has been giving directions from her hospital bed about things that needed to be done to get ready for the reunion. She has made arrangements to be called when a certain quilt comes up on the auction, because she wants to bid on it.

Randy, a local minister, called out to everyone, “I’m going to call Melissa now. I want everybody to get as close as you can, and when I say to, you all yell ‘Hi, Melissa, we love you.’”

Besides the quilts, there are a variety of items on silent auction—tools, restaurant gift certificates, crocheted hot pads (Mom made those), bookmarks made by counted cross-stitch, coolers and lunch boxes. Murray tells me that one restaurant certificate for five dollars has a bid of twenty-five dollars written down for it.

There’s also what looks like a toy tractor to me, but Mom says it’s a replica of a tractor from the early 1950s. Murray says it’s for old farmers to set out in their homes to get attention. I want it for my desk, because I grew up on a farm.

Ping-Hwei bids on it for me, but somebody else wins it, paying fifty dollars.

We leave before the auction starts, to start back for Cleveland. But I am smiling.

Growing up, I often did not feel much a part of this community. Being disabled, I carried a large chip on my shoulder. I convinced myself people never really accepted me as one of them. As normal. I wonder now if I didn’t hold myself apart, deny myself this community.

Today was a treasure. I thank God for giving me another chance to share time with these delightful, fascinating people. And it is my hope that I’ll have more opportunities in the future.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Hero Number 1

We’re studying the book of John, looking at some familiar stories. As we talked about the man in chapter 9 who was born blind, I said, “He’s great. He’s one of my heroes.”

Now I don’t know if I’d ever realized that before, but the more I thought about it, I knew it was true. I think I’m going to start a Hero List, so the man in John 9 is Hero number 1, not because he’s the most important, but because he’s the first.

Mark, who leads the Bible study, said, “When this man encountered Jesus, his life was transformed.”

That is so true. Not only because he gained his sight, though that is glorious. But look even closer at this man.

He was a beggar, very low in the ranking of society. But as the day moved along, his life took on amazing changes. The disciples wondered who sinned to cause this man to be blind. Once healed, no one rejoiced with him in the fantastic miracle which had happened to him. Some who knew him before didn’t even believe it was him. His parents refused to support him, fearing they would be kicked out of the synagogue.

And the religious leaders were mad because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath. They were trying to talk Jesus down anyway, so this just gave them another excuse. They repeatedly questioned the man who was healed, trying to get him not to give the credit to Jesus. But he began to transform in front of everyone’s eyes.

One thing we know about this man from the beginning is that he was willing to “give it a try.” Did he know about Jesus before this? Regardless, here somebody spits and rubs mud on his eyes. Strange, but he is willing to follow directions and go to the pool and wash.

At first, he just explains what happened. Verse 11” He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.” Simple facts.

When asked where Jesus is, he admits, “I don’t know.” But after having to explain his story again and again; after the crowd argues and his parents refuse to be a part of his miracle; after the leaders do nothing but blast Jesus as a sinner—our hero shows boldness, and I’m guessing frustration and impatience, by challenging the leaders: Verse 27: He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”

And when they insult him and Jesus, he shows remarkable bravery and insight: Verses 30-33: The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

The picture I get is as if the leaders spit at the man. They convict him as a sinner and throw him out of the synagogue.

But Jesus finds him and offers him a whole new opportunity. And this man, rejected by so many, shows a beautiful faith and acceptance. Verses 35-38: Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.” Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

New Life Goals

Another encouragement I received from the book THE CIRCLE MAKER was making life goals. Of course I’ve heard of that before, but I’ve never thought much about it. Now, with the whole idea of a new beginning, I’d like to try making some goals.

Don’t worry. I won’t share all of them, since a lot may be about housekeeping stuff. But this morning, I believe God answered one of my prayers with the idea of making this goal public. If I tell it to other people, I’m more likely to push myself a little harder.

I want to get up at 6:00 a.m. No, I’m not looking to deprive myself of sleep. I’m always in bed by ten at night, much earlier many days.

When I worked outside the home, I got up at 4:15 so I could get to work early and get things done while it was quiet. 4:15 is ridiculous, and I’m not trying to do that.

As a farm wife with small children to get ready for school, my mom always got up at 5:00. She’s been retired from farm work for many years now, and her youngest child is forty-seven. She still gets up at 5:00. I’m not thinking that way either.

But 6:00 would be nice. I could say good-by to all the kids before they leave for work or school—Ping-Hwei leaves before 6:30—and I could do my Bible reading and prayer time while the house is still quiet. This is not an unreasonable goal. But when my alarm goes off … Staying in bed a little—a lot—longer is way too inviting.

So I’m making my goal public, and hopefully that will encourage me when my alarm goes off.