The Colored Water Fountain: A Tale of Innocence

Vintage reads

 

For three months in 1961 while my father trained to fly the F-101 at Maxwell Air Force Base, I spent a portion of second grade in Montgomery, Alabama, a city that made international news with its race riots earlier in the year.

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Keep in mind I was a protected, naïve child of the North. I knew nothing of Martin Luther King, Jr., of civil rights marches, or even of any resentment that whites and blacks had for each other. Back then, the word, “African-American,” hadn’t yet been invented. Instead, the politically correct term in the northern states was “negro,” and the southern states held to the traditional “colored.”

Once Dad had finished his training and was assigned to a base in Niagara Falls, it was time to buy airline tickets to send us to our new destination. While waiting at the ticket counter—forever—in my seven-year-old mind, I spied two, side-by-side water fountains. Each sat under a label attached to the wall. WHITE and COLORED. Intriguing.

I approached them, not particularly thirsty. WHITE sounded boring. It must be regular water. They should’ve labeled it CLEAR. But COLORED. What would colored water look like? I skipped over to the colored fountain and turned the handle to find out.

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A shriek from the ticket counter pierced through the hubbub of the busy airport, stopping everyone in their tracks, including mine. “Little girl, little girl, get away from there!”

How many other little girls might be here? I hadn’t seen any.

Mom was at my side as I pivoted in search of her. “Linda. You can read. Why did you go to the colored fountain?”

Why was I in trouble? Why had a stranger screamed at me? My lip started to tremble. “I wanted to see the rainbow water.”

A negro lady close to me in the crowd that had gathered, smothered a giggle. Mom smiled. Taking my hand, she led me back to the counter. After explaining what had happened, my dad laughed out loud. The ticket lady didn’t think it was funny.

While Daddy finished the transaction, Mom gave me my first lesson in race relations as they existed in our country. “Linda, we’ve been in Alabama for a few months, now. Didn’t you notice the negroes are called ‘coloreds’ here?”

I shook my head. I had never paid attention to anything except my home and my classroom.

Mom sighed. “Down here everything is separate for negroes and whites. So we’re supposed to use the white water fountain, and they use the colored fountain.”

It didn’t make sense to me that people had to use different water fountains because their skin color was different, but I didn’t question it. Besides, I was more upset that the colored water didn’t look any different from the white water.

At seven, kids accept what is, even when they know it’s not fair. Give them another five years. They’ll either perpetuate the mores of their culture, or they’ll rebel and work to create something new.

You’re certainly welcome to comment on the personal story I’ve shared with you, but my purpose is to set you up for the next time I post. I want to share three books that portray the prejudice within our American heritage, then move on to the prejudice tearing apart our country today. How can we heal the rift?

rift

Dave Burnell, Creative Commons

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A Different Kind of Trust

 

I stabbed the unsterilized pin into my thumb, then squeezed it until I was rewarded with a small blob of blood. With a scrunched face and a small squeal, my girlfriend followed suit.

We triumphantly held up our bloodied thumbs, then pressed them together. We were blood sisters forever!

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As an adult, I cringe at the memory of the unsterilized pin and the possible exchange of viruses or whatever else we could have contracted that day. But we were only eight and we’d seen a similar blood ceremony in a movie. That day, however, was the start of a long sisterhood and a close bond that lasted through making forts behind sofas to giggling about boyfriends in high school. We trusted each other implicitly and would never have knowingly hurt each other. We would have sacrificed a hundred date nights than to have stood idly by watching pain enter each other’s lives.

I’ve since discovered even more of a trusting and protective relationship between my husband and I. Our soul aim within our relationship is to try and make each other happy and secure.

But yesterday I was reminded of the most important relationship of my life. I strode into my friend’s hospital room, and was greeted by the radiant smile of my sister in God. She had been in and out of the hospital for years with infections due to circulatory problems. Last year after a few toes had been amputated on her left foot, she lost her whole foot and ankle. Now she is facing more amputations on her right foot. But through it all, her faith remains strong. Of course there were tears, especially when she told me about her son who hadn’t visited for two years. God promised that there would be problems in this life, but He also promised He would never abandon us, and would always walk through trials with us.

Learning how to trust God through trials takes me back to another story, this time, from my teen years. I worked at a stable in exchange for riding lessons. One horrible night, I smelled smoke in the hallway of the barn. While a few people raced to battle the blaze in the feed room, others ran to evacuate the horses.

One horse refused to budge from his stall. There was smoke funnelling down the hallway and all his senses told him that his stall was the only secure place. I hauled at his halter, but when a thousand pound animal sets its feet against a hundred pound girl, there is no contest. It was only when I covered his eyes with my sweater that he allowed me to lead him through the smoke. When he arrived with the rest of the horses outside the smoky barn and I took off his blindfold, he immediately settled down.

Similarly, we have to relinquish control and walk ahead by blind faith alone at times of trials. When there is pain in our lives, we have to trust that God has a master plan for it all. If we could see our lives from beginning to end, we wouldn’t receive gifts like faith, and hope.

My friends earn my trust by not hurting me or allowing pain to enter my life. However trusting God is a different kind of trust. God isn’t interested in protecting me from all pain – he has a much bigger goal in mind. As a parent, I do understand that to shelter my kids from pain is to not allow them to grow stronger as adults. And unfortunately pain is often God’s tool to increase my faith in Him. Like the blindfolded horse that had to relinquish control to walk through the smoke, I too have to trust that His plan is the best, even if it hurts.

After all, this world isn’t our home, and God isn’t in the business of making us comfortable and happy here. If nothing else, pain is a reminder that I’m not meant to handle life’s trials alone.

Here is my gift to you! If you haven’t heard Laura Story’s song Blessings, you are in for a treat. Have a listen!

 

 

 

How to Come Down from a Conference High

Tim, Lisa, Kathrese, & I just returned from Realm Makers. Next month a couple of others will be attending the ACFW conference. ‘Tis the (conference) season. So what do you do when you get home to come down from the conference high?

If you’re lucky, your firstborn will start football and junior high while your second born starts the “big kids'” elementary school. Bonus if it’s the junction of first of the month (status reports) and critical project milestones. Nothing like the outside world to pierce your enthusiasm like an arrow through a hot air balloon.

Even if your week is a bit nuts and especially if you have time to ease back in, do a few things to keep the spirit alive.

1. Post pictures on social media

You get to see the conference all over again. Also it allows you to tag people while your memory is fresh. This helps keep you in the loop.

2. Post highlights on social media

Same reason and purpose as above. If time is limited, set specific times or do this when you have down time.

3. Blog about it

Yes, everyone and their mascots will be writing them too. You may not get many views but then again you might. If nothing else, you have a record of your time there.

4. Make a to do list

Did you have appointments? If so, follow up with the materials each person requested. If the person you met with wasn’t interested, send a thank you anyway. They took their time to meet with you. It never hurts to be gracious.

Gather the business cards you received and enter them into your contacts list. Correspond with anyone who might not have your information. Organize your class notes.

You’re all rejuvenated and ready to write. Set goals and get to work. That’s why you spent the money to go.

Now I’m off to fill out permission slips and emergency contact forms.

YOUR Chance To Interview Todd Burpo!

 

Heaven's For Real

Every now and then, a book falls into your hands when you most need it. About five years ago, the book that gave my family hope and renewed our faith was a little book called Heaven Is For Real. For those who haven’t read it or seen the movie, the story recounts the experiences that Colton, a four-year-old boy, relates from visits, which he said he made to heaven during a near-death experience. He came back talking about things about their family, that his parents never told him, and little by little, his pastor father began to realize his little boy’s ramblings were the real thing.

Heaven Is For Real was the only book that my mom (in her 90’s) read voraciously from start to finish in a couple of sittings: a feat that truly spoke of her need for hope.

And here’s why…

Murray

Five years ago, my brother Murray had to stay home from work for a whole week with severe leg and foot pain. (It’s just a bit of plantar fasciitis, he told me) While I was helping him prepare meals, he also complained of difficulty swallowing. I dragged him to his doctor, and wasn’t surprised when Murray was quickly admitted to hospital.

After he endured several days of procedures, I arrived to the hospital one day to find curtains drawn around his bed. Then a doctor backed out, saying, “Sorry. I wish I had better news.”

Dread washed over me. I deflated into a chair by his bed and took Murray’s hand. Seeing his tears instantly made me cry.

Fear and disbelief lined his face. “It’s cancer! They think it started in my esophagus and has spread to my liver. My legs are sore because I have clots in the veins!” He gripped my hand as if it were the only thing keeping him from falling into a chasm.

Anxiety clenched my stomach.

Details of those moments are etched in my memory: the terror in his eyes, the steady beep of his monitor, and tears dripping off his chin making dark spots on his blue hospital gown.

We cried and clung to each other. I prayed for strength for Murray. But we both knew that he didn’t have much more time on earth. However, we weren’t prepared that he would only have about three weeks to live.

Murray was literally ripped from our lives. We had no time to adapt or comprehend what just happened to our normally boisterous, larger-than-life brother.

We desperately needed to be reminded that we would be seeing him again. And the book Heaven Is For Real was given to me by a friend.

Of course, as a Christian, I knew about heaven and read about it in the bible. But here was a timely and solid example of how God was reminding me that we would indeed see Murray again. My mom was too overwhelmed and confused at 93 to understand completely what Murray had or why he could have gone so quickly. It’s just not right or natural that a mother should be burying a child.

 

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When the Heaven Is For Real movie came out, my mom and I went three times. And she would have gone again, (that little Colton was such a great actor) if she had her way.

About a month ago, I stumbled on the Heaven Is For Real website, and pressed the contact button before I knew it. What could I lose? Imagine my surprise when they got back in touch with me granting me an interview with Todd Burpo, the pastor and author of the book!

So…

I thought I would open it up to you, as to the questions I would ask in the interview. What would you like me to ask Todd about his life, his experiences, his family, how the movie came to be, etc? In my next blog, I will have been able to interview Todd Burpo with your questions (and a few of my own of course).

 

 

To 13-Year-Old Me

I see you’re feeling pretty sorry for yourself. You think it’s the worst year of your life, and I don’t blame you. You’ve taken some awfully hard punches in 1968. It’ll be another four decades before life knocks you to the mats, and you’re almost down for the count.

Let me assure you. You and Jesus make it through the eighth grade. He never leaves your side. But if you could know now, what I know from the future, the next couple years could be a little easier. Here’s what I’ve learned.

credit to chaoticsoulzzz.wordpress.com

credit to chaoticsoulzzz.wordpress.com

  1. Forget boys. Really. They’ll still be around in a few years, and you’ll be a lot better able to handle whatever they throw at you, be it a baseball or a slick slide from your waist up and across your chest. Invest in a couple of good girlfriends instead. If you have to choose between a heart-fluttering jaunt around the bay with Surfer Joe or keeping your girls’ day out date with Laurie Lee, stick with Laurie. She’ll be there long after Joe motors off into the sunset with someone else. shutterstock_119402656-480x320
  2. Forget the In Group. I know you think they’re your ticket to a great social life, but you don’t even like big parties. You hate to talk about the latest fashions, the coolest rock stars. Why do you want that kind of social life? Could it be the boys? See Lesson #1.

    publicdomainpictures.net

    publicdomainpictures.net

At least, you figure some things out by senior year in high school, and you enjoy choosing some good friends. I’m telling you: you could have had that blessing a lot sooner.

  1. Use the talents God gave you. Now. You don’t have to wait until after college and make one of your gifts a career. People have started to tell you that you have a great singing voice. You’ve even sung solos. Enjoy those times. Work at getting even better.

    hsdiploma.com

    hsdiploma.com

You’ve known you wanted to be a teacher since you were four. What about helping out with the nursery class at Sunday school? Or, here’s a daring thought. What if you offered babysitting services to the unwed mother down block? Teen moms must be even lonelier than you.

You know how you enjoy writing? Surprise! You publish several magazine articles during years when you’re not teaching. And after you retire? You write FULL TIME. How cool is that?

  1. Kick self-pity out of your life. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Your dad’s at war, your sister’s in and out of doctors’ offices, your mom needs your support, and your friends faded into nonexistence just because you moved away for four months. Will it help to learn your dad survives, your sister grows up to be a teacher just like you, your mom was a lot stronger than you gave her credit for, and new people were quite willing to be your friend? But you blew it. The self-pity blinded you. So don’t blow it.

    hdwalls.xyz

    hdwalls.xyz

You asked Jesus into your life when you were ten, and your current Sunday School teacher makes a lot of sense as he shares his faith in class. Listen to him, and copy him.  If you’re looking at Jesus instead of your poor little self, YOU WILL HAVE JOY!

  1. This is a question, not a lesson learned. While you have a great sense of rhythm, a nice smile, and a voice that projects across the basketball court, you are one of the most uncoordinated people I know. Do you really want to be a cheerleader in high school, or do you just hope Quarterback Kevin will notice you?  See Lesson #1. Again.13 yr Linda

The Best Pain

“No Mike.” I smiled at my older brother. “You don’t toss away your daily devotionals at the end of the year. You merely turn back to the first page again.”

Mike has had about 35 years of debilitating health issues, including deteriorating liver, liver transplant, stroke and more recently, constant seizures. Even though his faith has remained strong, Mike has become like a confused child again. But nonetheless, he is my spiritual inspiration and the reason I kick my own butt when I feel life gets tough.

I showed him my devotionals that had a few pencilled stars beside the text where I’d found some particularly appropriate points or scriptures. I explained that each year different things popped out at me depending on what I was going through.

“Oh… whoops!” He grinned at his own dog-eared leather-bound books that had parts completely highlighted and underlined, with notes written in pen in the margins.

“No worries, Mike. You can still use them. And here’s another I think you’ll enjoy! Merry Christmas!”

His devotion to his devotionals was inspiring. Every day he started out communing with God. No matter what he was doing or what day it was, he still made the time.

My devotionals had a conspicuously reduced number of pencilled stars from about November on to the beginning of January. Even though Christmas was the time I should be drawing closer to Jesus, I seemed to drift from my routine of pulling Him into my day.

But here I am once again, humbled, and seeking strength and guidance for upcoming projects and family issues for 2016. As much as I hate to admit, most of my growth doesn’t come from when I’m on the mountain tops where everything is going well, it’s in the valleys where I’m struggling.

My brother’s constant health issues have been the reason for his spiritual walk. He knows he can’t do it alone, and he knows God is between him and his problems.

Of course, this morning I put a star on my devotional that reminded me that my path will be of multiple failures and stresses along with some hopeful successes. But each failure is followed by a spiritual growth spurt and my increased reliance on Him.

So, the best pain? That’s easy, it’s when I am overwhelmed and at a loss of where to turn next. And I find Him there waiting for me as always. In addition, I seek out quiet places, turn on music, jump in my hot tub, go for a walk, and just rest in His grace.

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Can you tell me what you do when life dumps on you?

 

 

The Greatest Story

Remember when you first learned about the baby Jesus?
Remember learning how angels suddenly appeared to the shepherds and scared them half to death as they sang about a wonderful baby born to be a king?

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Remember hearing of other kings who came from far away to bow down to this baby?
As a little kid, I shivered in awe at the thought of God coming to earth as a baby. I wished I had been a shepherd who had seen the sky filled with angels and heard songs more beautiful than the most fabulous choirs from the Metropolitan Opera.
I wondered why only three kings followed a star that was so obviously different from what the heavens had displayed for centuries.

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I grew up. I learned what the Christmas story was truly about. Jesus’s birth was only the beginning of a greater story. I was challenged to become a follower of Christ, to witness of His love to others, to attend church and Sunday school, and to organize church programs for the purpose of outreach.
Can you see how our childhood wonder devolves into grown-up responsibilities? I don’t deny that outreach and church and sharing the love of Christ is vital to a Christian for spiritual growth and for spreading the Gospel, but never allow the “ought-to’s” of Christendom to obscure the “want-to’s” of worshiping the Holy Babe in the manger and setting aside all other chores in order to sit at the feet of Jesus.
Keep that childlike wonder

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as you gaze upon the King of kings, Lord of Lords, wonderful Counselor, and Prince of Peace.