Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Red Cannon Fire and a White Petticoat
By Brenda Black

Continental Army Private Joseph Martin recorded an interesting scene in his journal for June 28, 1778. Author Esther Pavao repeats his words in an article published by

“A woman whose husband belonged to the artillery and who was then attached to a piece in the engagement, attended with her husband at the piece for the whole time. While in the act of reaching a cartridge and having one of her feet as far before the other as she could step, a cannon shot from the enemy passed directly between her legs without doing any other damage than carrying away all the lower part of her petticoat. Looking at it with apparent unconcern, she observed that it was lucky it did not pass a little higher, for in that case it might have carried away something else, and continued her occupation.”

Meet Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley, better known in history books as "Molly Pitcher." She gained the title that late June day at the Battle of Monmouth where Mary Hays carried water from a spring to the thirsty soldiers under heavy fire from the British. All through the day, amid choking smoke, groaning troops and frightening battle, the private's young wife carried water in a pitcher back and forth to her husband and his fellow artillery gunners. When her husband collapsed from either heat stroke or injury and was carried off the battlefield, Mary Hays took his place at his cannon.

It was not uncommon for women to be near the heat of battle. Many wives of enlisted men joined a group of camp followers led by Martha Washington. They took care of the troops, washed clothes, made food, and helped care for the sick or injured soldiers. But Mary's bravery and composure with fire-hot cannons blazing, earned her a special thanks from General George Washington. And a hundred years later, a marker graces her grave, commemorating her exemplary service.

Young Mrs. Hays knew in her early 20's what it takes a lifetime for most to comprehend. Love, loyalty and a level head can keep you going when war rages all around. Mary surely loved the man she married to take such risks and to have been so frequently near him in battle that she knew how to operate his weapon. Her devotion to her husband mirrored that of her unfettered care for all of her patriot brothers. What an amazing young woman! Add to her qualities wit and wisdom so ingrained that not even a cannon ball could knock her off her game.

Though Mary was motivated by love, mobilized by loyalty and empowered with level-headed thinking, there had to be another big “L” present in that trench 235 years ago. The credit for Mary's petticoat junction with a cannon ball has to go to the Lord Himself! Together, I'd say that cool blue water, red hot determination and pure white God protection kept the military bride and a host of young patriots alive for another day.

This holiday weekend, when you hear the tummy-rumbling bang of fireworks, think back to a day when a young woman faced the enemy fearlessly and helped make it possible for you to enjoy such entertainment in freedom. Never forget how great the bravery of those who fought for liberty. Always remember that certain battles are worth the risk and to take arms for the cause of others is a noble task. And one more thing: Thank God for all your “near misses.” For most certainly, the Lord has spared you time and again from the fire of the enemy.

 “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” (Proverbs 29:25)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Trip to 50

By Brenda Black

June 21 is my birthday. I'll save you from doing the math. I'm 50. I've been asked how it feels to be so old. I answer, “Not a whole lot different from the day before.” Now ask me what I think about a young couple raising a family in the early 60's, providing a safe and happy childhood in the midst of
racial rioting, a controversial war and the assassination of a president. Well, that amazes me!

In the weeks just prior to my birth, civil rights activists were shamed, hosed and slain. The Vietnam war was in full swing with my parents watching nightly news broadcasts highlighting the demonstrations of the day and tallying the death toll. When I turned two months old, my mom would have been rocking and feeding and singing lullabies while Civil rights leader Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. lead the

“March on Washington.” Just shy of three months of age, my parents would hear about an explosion which struck the 16th Street Baptist Church, killing four girls in Birmingham, AL. I wonder if they thought about their little girls growing up in a world so violent. And it only seemed to get worse.

I was five months and one day old when Lee Harvey Oswald shot President John F. Kennedy.

Racial tension, riots, earthquakes, hurricanes, war and murder. Yet, I remember none of that in my formative years. While King bellowed “I have a dream,” I was living one under the wise and loving protection of positive parenting.

My memories are not tainted with hateful prejudice. I was taught to get along with everyone. My nights were not filled with fear; I went to sleep feeling safe and secure.

Oh the pressure they must have felt! The anxious thoughts of what tomorrow would hold for their young and growing family surely bore down on them. But they never expressed such angst. Once I began logging memories, I remember only a wonderful childhood filled with life and love and great experiences.

We carved our own way in the world as a family not consumed by politics, prejudice or pain. In the midst of the worldly chaos, my folks were filling my life with better things. Like supper together, a move to the country, good old fashion chores, family vacations, fishing, horseback riding, and their unfettered determination to give us what we needed and help us appreciate it when we got what we wanted. Instead of filling our minds with worry, we practiced joyful living.
Shaw family vacation. I'm the little squirt in the middle.

Gloria Gaither tells the story behind a song she wrote in 1971. By then, I was still an innocent child, but second grade wise and more aware of world events. It was yet another volatile time in history. Gaither says the lyrics to “Because He Lives” came out of a deep sense of fear about the future for her young family. The second verse expresses her faith that God is still in control no matter the circumstances.

“How sweet to hold a newborn baby, And feel the pride and joy he gives; But greater still the calm assurance: This child can face uncertain days because He Lives!”

The chorus is timeless for every generation who faces “uncertain days.”

“Because He lives, I can face tomorrow, Because He lives, all fear is gone; Because I know He holds the future, And life is worth the living, Just because He lives!”

At five months or at 50 years, no matter what in the world is happening, each trip around the sun is worth the living because He lives.

So, how does it feel to be 50? It feels like I'm thankful for the good life my parents provided in the midst of civil turmoil. It feels like a blessing to have raised my own children with that same agenda in spite of more wars and worries. It feels like there's hope for tomorrow even though this world has gone crazy. In every generation there will be frightening events, but I choose, as my parents did, to think on what is good and make good memories. Look out 50's!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A License to Cry, A Life to Glorify

By Brenda Black

I know it could be worse. I know I have many reasons to be thankful. But I still want to cry and my heart feels like it is in a vice grip. I find myself sighing out loud and in a mental haze, working to snap out of it. Mostly, I feel a deep sense of responsibility to keep it all together and not blow my witness! No pressure, right? Oh yes, a great deal of it at the moment! Though most of it stems from circumstances way beyond my control, a good portion comes from an imaginary standard self inflicted.

Fear and worry and all those big ugly what if's make me short of breath these days as I try to comprehend a truck load of information headed down a highway toward an uncertain destination. Uncertainty makes me weep or sometimes out and out bawl. I like my world in order and I much prefer a happy outcome – especially for those I love. But sometimes this fix-it gal can't make it better and that's a hard pill to swallow.

When I came clean with my mom the other day about my anxieties and the desire to be faithful rather than fearful, she gave me license to grieve over an unexpected and unwelcome change of circumstances. What a relief. And when a friend phoned to have prayer with me, her thoughtful words trailed off into heartfelt sobs. I told her those tears were worth more than any perfectly uttered phrases. 
They both showed me that it's okay to cry and sigh while I process troubling news. It's okay to be scared or disappointed. I am free to be human and feel what I feel. Whew! I needed to hear that.

To stay in the crisis and continue feeling overwhelmed – well that is another matter. That can be dangerous. To go too far ahead of what actually is can bring unwarranted heartache. A radio personality reminded me of that this week when she warned that living life with fear for tomorrow robs the joyful life of today. She wasn't preaching, but it sure did ring a biblical bell.

Immediately I thought of Psalm 118:24: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

And then one of the tried and true strength verses I find myself leaning upon more with every passing year sounded just like what the doctor ordered. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

I know these things. I believe these things. I practice these things. But sometimes, a kick in the gut can send us reeling and we need permission to recover from the punch. So thankful for a patient and loving God who understands that and for family and friends who embrace you and let you work through it.

I'll go on praising God no matter what comes. He may do something miraculous and I don't want to be looking at my feet with my head hung low when it happens. This day, I will rejoice, because I have much for which to be glad. When fears assail and worry tries to worm its way into my world the next day or the day after that, I'll praise the Lord and encourage others to do the same.

“For the grave cannot praise you, death cannot sing your praise; those who go down to the pit cannot hope for your faithfulness. The living, the living – they praise you as I am doing today.” (Isaiah 38:18-19a)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Worth the Hurt to Find a Cure

By Brenda Black

Prior to last Saturday, I had never noticed how many bricks pave the Butler, MO, square. Sure, I noticed the thumping vibration under car tires every time I drove those roads during the past 30 years. But I hadn't stopped to consider the quantity. When you lap the courthouse 28 times, you begin taking account – of each brick... each step...every puddle and piece of gravel. More than the bricks under my Nikes, I counted the blessings of such a beautiful day for so many beautiful lives.

It was a perfect day. For some a miraculous day. Last Saturday, as I walked in support and to help raise funds for cancer research, dozens more walked as survivors. When my feet ached, I thanked God for feet to walk. When my knees ached, I thought of the pain that cancer patients have endured. When my pony tail flapped in the cool breeze, I thought of all the beautiful women who lost their flowing tresses to cancer treatment. When my hips hollered, “How much more of this?” I thought of the hours that cancer patients spent in sick beds or the hours lost in lives cut short.

With great ease, we can slip into our lives of comfort and quickly forget that others fight for every moment. Though I do not bear the burden of a deadly disease, I live each day in a battle with chronic pain. So the walk I took on Saturday hammered my legs with terrible pain as I padded along, and for the following several days. With rest and care, I'll recuperate and go again. I've gotten used to it.

Still, some ask me how I can keep smiling when I am hurting. It's a choice I tell them. And I truly believe that a happy heart is good medicine and helps significantly. Obviously I am not the only one who chooses joy. As far removed as I am from being able to relate with the fear and horrors of cancer, I can thoroughly appreciate the amazing resilience and positive attitudes of those who choose to live victoriously in spite of that “Big C” wicked enemy!

Two victorious survivors!
Relay for Life events are a testimony of the tenacious, a witness to the winners, a dance for the determined and a celebration for the conquerors. I was blessed to participate with the Bates County Cattlemen and CattleWomen's team. And I was compelled to keep moving over those thousands of bricks by the inspiration of all the every-day heroes represented that day.

To everyone who planned the event, to all the teams who contributed, to every care giver, family member and cancer patient, I say God bless! It was worth the hurt to find a cure.
I wonder if that is what Jesus thought when He hung on the cross. He suffered in anguish, enduring horrific pain to cure all mankind from wicked sin. Even before He willingly went to Calvary, Christ explained in every-day terms the higher purpose, the greater good, the incredible joy that would come on the heels of indescribable hurt.

“'A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.'” (John 16:21-22)

Jesus promised that His pain and the grief of His supporters and followers would one day be met with perfect peace. “'I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.'” (Jn. 16:33)

No matter how sick, tired, or anguished a person becomes, there is hope on the other side of the hurt when Christ bears the pain with us. And He has proven faithful. Jesus Christ proclaimed you worth it and walked a narrow, rocky, lonely, excruciating path to be the ultimate cure. For each one who trusts the Savior, joy will come in full measure. And one day, there will be no sickness or sorrow, but peace and joy and the perfect cure.