Does Your Father Sing?

Yes, it is true, I have been away a long time again from this blog. There have been personal challenges, but at least I have spent much time thinking about blogging. I have missed being here and I have missed all of you who stop by and leave thoughts and messages.

Despite the fact that I do not have a food recipe to share, I would like to share some thoughts with you about an experience I had last night. It is a recipe, of sorts, for happiness.

I am, by nature, as well as by teaching, a person of faith. I have absolutely no doubts that there is a God and I offer him all of my heart willingly.

I often find myself singing around the house. I sing a lot – to my grandkids, to the dog, to myself –  and make up silly songs that make me laugh. My voice is mostly not very good. I hit far more wrong notes than I do right notes. I’ve never had a strong singing voice; it’s rather whimpy and my vocal range is maybe an octave in an alto range. Nevertheless, I like to sing. It’s good for the soul.

After a long and trying week, I was spending some quiet time alone in my little craft corner working on some homemade cards. I get a lot of thinking done when I am creating and often I review the happenings of the day or week or month or whatever. 🙂

As I said, it had been a difficult week, but I was finding solace in working with inks and paints and paper. Before I knew it, I was singing as I created. I was doing my usual thing, making up words and tunes as bits of thoughts ambled through my mind. When I go on a singing jag, I often end up on a familiar tune.

Last night I ended up singing “Israel, Israel, God is Calling”. The tune is familiar to most Christians as “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”. The original music was written by Charles Crozat Converse; the lyrics to “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” were written by Joseph M. Scrivens. In the early Mormon church, other lyrics were written by Richard Smyth and set to Converse’s music. Although the messages in the two sets of lyrics are quite different from each other, I love them both.

I sat at my desk singing away – “Israel, Israel, God is calling, Calling thee from lands of woe…..” and then the second verse, “Israel, Israel, God is speaking. Hear your great Deliverer’s voice ……”….. and then I sort of, kind of forgot the words. I rummaged around in my brain, but could only come up with fragments from the various verses.

Momentarily distracted by something I was inking, I found myself starting the song over. This time however, without thinking, I sang, “Israel, Israel, God is singing….” And then I stopped and sat back in my chair. Those words do not exist in the song. Actually, I have never, ever heard a hymn which talks about God singing.

Angels sing and people sing and King David sang (and danced), but what about God? I tried to envision a picture in my mind of God singing and suddenly there were tears streaming down my face. It made perfect sense to me that God sings. He created heaven and earth and all that is in them. He created those who create and gave them the abilities to glorify Him through their creations. If man sings, then certainly God sings. He would not give mankind the power to do something that he, himself, cannot do.

Heralding Jesus Christ

I wonder what songs he sings? What are the lyrics? What is the music like?  When we hear music that truly resonates with us to our very souls and moves us to tears, is it God who is singing to us through mortal man?

Can you hear your Father singing? What does he sound like in your mind?

Happy Easter, one and all. I testify that Jesus Christ lived, died, resurrected and lives with his Father in the heavens above. He is with us every day if we allow it, especially in the rough times during our earthly sojourn. I love Him and am deeply and steadfastly grateful for his immense gifts to mankind.

Addendum 1/4/2017 — A reader, Laura, left a comment today in which she included a verse from Zephaniah 3:17. “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”  This verse fills my heart with joy! Thank you, Laura.

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Just in case you are interested, here are two versions of Israel, Israel, God is Calling. The first version is from, of course :), the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and their performance is particularly beautiful. I really like the arrangement. The second version is quite different from the first one. It is strong and powerful and even has drums in it. The introduction is spoken by a strong Polynesian voice, but I am not certain which language — Samoan maybe? The speaker then sings the song in English. Both renditions are amazingly stirring and I love them equally.

  1. Mormon Tabernacle Choir (Israel, Israel, God is Calling in traditional choir format) — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OiuuSQPsW_I
  2. Unknown vocalist and performers — maybe Samoan? (stirring and powerful, accented with Polynesian drums!) — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AlNEeC_3Ruk

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Sunday Food for Thought–The Bread of Life

I am that bread of life. 49 Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50 This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. 52 The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? 53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. 54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 56 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. 58 This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever. John 6:48-58 (KJV)

In a post from a couple of months ago I told the story about my daughter, Tricia, and an injury she sustained to the little finger on her left hand. She had caught her finger in a metal door and it was severed just above the first joint. Because of the nature of the injury, the severed portion could not be saved.

The day following the injury, a surgeon did his best to repair the finger; closing some of the tears and reattaching a small portion of the nail bed. There was not enough skin left to completely close all of the wounds, leaving portions of muscle tissue exposed. The surgeon told Tricia that the chance of infection and the possibility of further amputation was great.

For seven weeks the surgeon, the physical therapist (who also did wound care), and Tricia worked to save the finger. At first it looked as though the finger would recover, but at the five week mark it became apparent that the nail bed was dying and that the portions of the finger without skin were also dying. Surgery was scheduled for further amputation.

We were all heartsick.We had prayed faithfully. Tricia and Tim (Tricia’s husband) had felt so positive that Tricia’s finger would be saved. We had felt comforted that all would be well, yet Tricia’s finger was obviously not healing. “What does the Lord want me to learn?” Tricia asked. “What am I supposed to get out of all of this? Why did this have to happen? This is so stupid, so random!”

Three weeks ago Tricia went to the hospital for her surgery. The surgeon had told her that the procedure he had planned would take about an hour. Tricia was at peace. She had worked through her anxieties and her fears and was ready for the fact that more of her finger would be removed. “I wish we would have just taken it off seven weeks ago instead of going through all of this drama,” she had said. “I would have been seven weeks into my recovery, but instead I am starting over.”

Twelve minutes into the surgery, the surgeon came running out of the O.R. and excitedly told Tim that Tricia’s finger was recovering. “If it was my finger, I’d keep it,” he said. Tim was confused and frustrated. He told the doctor to take off the finger, that he and Tricia were tired of playing around with the situation, and that Tricia was prepared to lose her finger.

The surgeon struggled through his excitement to try and explain to Tim that Tricia’s finger was repairing itself. Skin was growing over the exposed muscle tissue. The nail bed had recovered and a new fingernail was growing. The wounds were miraculously healing! What had been dead was now living again.

 Tricia's finger 008
Tricia's finger 014
Tricia's finger 015

The physical therapist who had also performed the wound care on Tricia’s finger has written “Miracle” across her chart. Word has spread around Tricia’s neighborhood about her growing a new finger. Our family stands in wonder and awe and humble gratitude to a Father in Heaven who has so generously bestowed a healing blessing upon one of his daughters.

When Christ was on the earth he performed many miracles. Some people believed in his miracles, others openly denied their truth. It is the same today; some say that miracles no longer exist. Tricia’s finger, to me, is tangible proof that miracles still happen and my faith in Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World, says that he was source of this miracle in our family.

I think that Tricia’s finger is the perfect symbol for this Easter season; the perfect reminder of the power of the Savior. Something that was dead is now living again.

If you would like to read Tricia’s story here are some links to her blog posts. Each post has a link to more graphic, but amazing, pictures of the finger injuries. Being mindful of the disturbing nature of the some of the pics, Tricia does not show them on the actual blog posts that she is writing, but has back links to them where she has stored them at the back of her blog:

Matt's 30th b-dayAs I was recently reflecting on the events in the lives of my family over the past year, other miracles came to my mind. I thought about my son, Matt, and all of the obstacles that he has over-come in his life. He has been able to conquer alcohol, drugs, and tobacco. Enormous challenges. He has embraced our faith and religion. He is faithful in his service to the Savior. He prays and reads his scriptures and listens carefully to the inspiration that he gets from the Lord in the choices that he is making in his life. Walls and barriers as strong as any prison walls have crumbled and Matt is free in so many ways. We are so grateful to a merciful God who loved Matt enough to provide the miracle of forgiveness and the gift of life. In his own way, Matt has experienced a resurrection from the path of death on which he traveled. He has positive plans for his life and works so hard every day to make of his life one which will take him in positive, accomplished directions. We love you, Matt. We are so proud of you.

KatieThis is Katie. Her life, too, represents a miracle. Katie has dyslexia. She was finally diagnosed when she was just beginning the fourth grade. At that time she was reading on a first grade, first month level. Her writing was mostly illegible. A genius at math, however, she could barely read a word. In the sixth grade a miracle occurred…Katie’s reading skills increased dramatically. We had bought her the three Harry Potter books that were out at the time. Katie tried to read them. Then she tried to read them again. Pretty soon she was reading them continuously. Her mind opened and reading pathways were built in her brain. Her school work improved and she soon was on grade level with her reading.

One day my husband told Katie that she needed to move past reading Harry Potter. Katie was very upset, but my husband assured her that there were other good books to read…and he handed her The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Yeah…she went from reading J. K. Rowling to reading J. R. R. Tolkien.  Soon Katie was reading above grade level. In December 2010 Katie graduated a year early from Brigham Young University with a bachelor’s degree in English. She had the privilege of having had three scholarships while she attended school there. All of the scholarships were academic scholarships. No one ever knew about Katie’s dyslexia; she kept it to herself. Her dyslexia is still with her and still manifests in her spelling. When she takes tests, she is often slower than others because it takes her longer to interpret what she is being asked. She has to be very careful. Yet, all through high school and college, she never asked for special testing conditions for test taking; conditions that would have surely been granted had anyone known of her challenges. She is a living, breathing, walking miracle; a testament of a loving Heavenly Father and a merciful Savior who knows her personally and helps her daily.

So, you see, there are many miracles in my family. We love the Lord. We recognize that Jesus Christ is our Savior, that he walks beside us and is ever so mindful of each of us as individuals. He gave his life for us–for mankind everywhere–and he took it up again. Today we celebrate the resurrected Christ, he who raised himself from the dead, he who lives, he who gives life to everything and to everyone.

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Sunday Evening Food for Thought: Seek and Ye Shall Find

“Have you been calling my name?” she asked weakly when I entered her room.

“No,” I responded.  “It wasn’t me.  Did you hear someone call your name?”

“Yes.  I thought it was you…from behind the curtains,” she said as her gaze slid from my face to the curtains hanging over the windows beside her bed.  “I know that I heard my name.  Someone called me.  It sounded like you.”

“It wasn’t me, Lila,” I said softly.

She looked confused and frustrated.  “But I heard you calling my name.  I heard you behind those curtains.  What is on the other side of those curtains?  Is that where your desk is?”

I pulled back the curtains to show her that there were only windows and a view to the outside.  She furrowed her brow as she concentrated, trying to make sense of what had been happening.  As I let the curtains fall back into place, Lila looked at them again, this time relaxed.  “I heard someone calling my name from behind the curtains………..and there is such beautiful music,” she whispered.

A few days later when Lila was actively dying, her niece was sitting by her bedside.  The niece looked at me and said, “You know, she is a brilliant woman.  She has a massive library; she has read so much.  You wouldn’t believe everything she has seen and done.  She doesn’t have any other family; she never got married and most everyone else is dead.  I’m about all that’s left.”

We talked about Lila for a few more minutes and then with an almost exasperated shrug the niece said, “I don’t even know what religion she is.  She has changed religions and beliefs so many times.  I don’t know what she believes will happen.  Does she think she will come back as an ant or something?  I mean, I just don’t know!”

“I don’t know what she believes, either, but I can tell you that she is at peace and that there is beautiful music where she is going.”  I related the story from the few nights previous, trying to bring some comfort to Lila’s niece.

“Oh!  I am so happy.  I have been so worried for her.  Thank you for telling me that story!”

I left Lila’s room soon afterwards, reassuring the niece that I would return a little later to check on things.  I felt grateful for the interaction that I had had with Lila earlier in the week and that I could share it with her niece.

As a nurse, I have watched people come face to face with their beliefs at dark moments in their lives.  Some people are completely at peace; others are nearly overcome with fear, and yet still others wrestle with what they believe, afraid of making a commitment in one direction or another as if they first need to consult an odds broker.

My own religious beliefs provide me with much peace that life will continue after the death of my mortal body.  I am not alone in my beliefs in the continuance of life after death and a resurrection at some point in the future, a rejoining of body and spirit.  I also believe that when I die, I will be rejoined with my loved ones who have died before me.  It is a sweet thought that I will be able to see my dad and my granny and that I will be able to finally ‘meet’ my paternal grandmother, who died long before I was born.

Throughout much of my adult life I have been interested in learning about my family of generations long past.  A clinical term for studying one’s past is called genealogy.  I prefer the softer and more welcoming term, family history.

None of us stand alone in our existence.  We all came from somewhere.  We have parents and grandparents and great grandparents and so on, back to the time of Adam and Eve.  Sobering thought, really.  To think about the generations who have lived on this planet, lived out their lives in whatever circumstances existed at the time, making it possible for you to be here right now.

As I have learned about my ancestors I have sometimes felt a palpable relationship with some of them.  Once I found a document written in 1813 which talked about my 5th great grandfather.  He was a German immigrant and shoemaker.  He once gave two cows to the local Revolutionary War army for food.  He later became a Lutheran minister in South Carolina and was completely abandoned by his congregation because he preached his sermons in German and the people were bored.  Apparently his children also abandoned the Lutheran religion because I have read old Baptist church records which list his sons as members of their church.  It’s an interesting thing to think about how lonely he must have been to not only lose the friendship of his neighbors, but to also lose his children.

My mother visited her brothers in South Carolina several years ago.  I made her promise that she would get me a little bag of dirt from the site where the old Lutheran church used to stand where my 5th great grandfather preached.  It was something tangible that I could keep and see and touch, that would make John Henry Graff more real to me.  I still have that little plastic bag of soil.  I call it sacred soil, not because a religious event was purported to have happened on the site from which it came, but because it represents a place where someone who loved his family, his country and his God, and who I believe loves me, once lived. I hope to meet him some day.

I am so grateful for the preservation of documents which have allowed me to trace my ancestry.  These documents have brought my past to life for me.  Whenever I see a name, a signature or a photo of a past ancestor I feel such gratitude that someone made the effort to preserve it.

Because the past means so much to me, I participate in the preservation of historical documents…from the comfort of my home and the use of my lap top computer.  I help to transcribe old documents such as marriage, birth and death records; census records; war documents; and various other types of documents which list names and dates and places of those who have lived.

I view a digitized image of an original document, interpret the information written on the document and then upload my transcription.  It is amazing to me how much I love to connect in some small way to other peoples’ lives and how much can be gleaned from reading something as simple as a marriage certificate.  Because of the work that I, and thousands of other people around the globe are doing, millions of people can find out more about their past.

So what does all of this have to do with Lila?  Simply this:  Lila lived and she died and she learned firsthand that there is a place with beautiful music where someone knows her name.

Just like Lila, we live, and we will die.  We struggle to have meaning in our lives and we hope to be remembered.  John Henry Graff was lost to time with his living descendants the only apparent evidence that he had ever lived—except that somewhere at some time someone preserved documents that said that he had been a real person.

If you would like to participate in preserving historical documents, follow this link to Worldwide Indexing.

If you would like to start researching your own family history, Family Search is a good FREE place to start!  From the home page you can click on a link that will take you millions of indexed records such as United States census records spanning the years from 1790-1940; birth, death and marriage records from many places around the world; military registration records from WWI and WWII and other wars; Social Security Death Index; and so much  moreIf you would like to build your own family tree, you can start doing that as well on Family Search. To build your family tree, you will need to register. No problem. Just click the “Family Tree” button and then in the upper right hand corner of the page click “Create Account”. Once you have an account (free, free, free!) you can upload pictures and stories about your family.  You do NOT have to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.(Mormons)

One last thing…if you have any question regarding family history, I would be more than happy to answer your questions. Email me at tsgcookin (at) gmail (dot) com.

Sunday Evening Food for Thought: The Towers

Tower 1 under construction in 1970--“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
Tower 1 under construction in 1970

I had planned to post Part 2 of my first Sunday Evening Food for Thought, but then I remembered that this Sunday is September 11th.  That dayThat day that we all sat around the television, horrified.  That day when my teenage daughter’s best friend came over to my house crying and afraid.  That day when I almost went to my children’s schools and brought them home, not because I believed they were in danger, but just because they were the most important thing in my life.  That day when America shed the last of its innocence.

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In 1970 my Dad took our family to New York to see the Statue of Liberty.  However, being a Civil Engineer, the most exciting thing about New York City for Dad  was seeing the Twin Towers (World Trade Center) under construction.  He was very animated that Autumn day and took many photos of tower 1.  The above photo is one of two that still remain.
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During his relatively short life of only 53 years, my dad saw much of the world.  He was a veteran of the Korean War, something about which he never spoke.  My mother has said that in the early years of their marriage Dad would wake up in the middle of the night screaming, thinking that he was still in Korea, still fighting a war with no clear end.   After Dad graduated from college, his civil engineering job took him, and us, all over the United States.  In the last 6 years of his life, he worked for Aramco in Saudi Arabia.
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Sometimes I wonder what Dad would have said about the attack on the World Trade Center.  In my mind’s eye I can see him, probably sitting silently staring at the television into the wee hours of the morning, knowing in his heart of hearts what awaited us in the days and years ahead.  He had seen war, he had experienced the mindset of middle eastern culture, and he was well educated in American politics.
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Out of all of the things that have happened since 9/11, there is one leading thought that I have at this time.  That thought centers around what we have done and are doing to each other, as Americans.  In the beginning we banded together in purpose to protect ourselves and our country against a malevolent and deliberate enemy.  It did not take us long to devolve into finger pointing at each other and forgetting to ‘never forget’.
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What is to be the cost of forgetting?  Internal hemorrhaging can cause death just as surely as, and more insidiously than, external wounds.
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So, this Sunday gather together with your family and remember what happened on 9/11.  Tell the story of where you were and how you felt.  Take the time to honor those whose lives were taken and those who willingly gave up their lives in the service of their country and their fellow man.  Enumerate your blessings and offer a prayer of gratitude.  And while you are praying, ask for clarity of thought and courage of spirit to focus on the principles on which this nation was founded.
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“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
My Dad, William Emsy Cook, circa 1951.

All content copyright 2011 by Terri @ that’s some good cookin’

Sunday Evening Food for Thought: I Was a Stranger, Part 1

Some years ago I was shopping downtown at an Eddie Bauer clearance sale.  The sale was being held in a local convention center and as usual was packed with shoppers.  We were given large  “lawn and leaf” style plastic bags to haul around our loot.  I was shopping in that heady atmosphere of finding great deal after great deal and was somewhat heedless about the weight of my bag.  I just kept dragging it around behind me as I shopped, just like everyone else was doing.
Finally I went through the check-out line and was so proud when the cashier rang up my total.  I had gotten a lot of great bargains.  The cashier advised that the clothes be divided between two bags so that I could carry them more easily.  I thought that was probably a good idea.  As I walked out into the lobby of the convention center, I dragged my two bags behind me across the carpet.  I had not yet tried to lift them, but I figured that it wouldn’t be too much of a problem once I hit the street; afterall, I reasoned, I was pretty strong.  The women in my family inherited that ‘gift’ from my grandmother.
Soon enough I came to the doors leading outside.  As I attempted to lift my bags, I knew that I was in trouble.  They were heavy.  Embarrassingly heavy.  I stared at them for a few moments, trying to figure out a way to carry them so that I could get them back to my car.  With a great deal of effort I managed to lift them enough to get down the steps and onto the sidewalk.  At the bottom of the steps I once again set the bags down and stared at them.  Dang, I was in trouble.  It was going to be a long, long block and half journey back to the car.
As I was standing there berating myself for having bought so much, I saw a pair of weathered, brown hands reach down and pick up one of my bags.  I followed the hands across to the smiling face of a pint-sized, elderly Filipino woman.  “I carry it,” she said.  “Where your car?”
I was dumbfounded, but before I could answer she had picked up my bag, slung it across her back, and was heading down the sidewalk.  “You better hurry up.  She gonna keep on going,” I heard a laughing male voice say.  It was then that I noticed a young man who was apparently with the elderly woman.  “Is she going the right way?” he asked still laughing.
“Yes.  Yes, that’s the right way.  But that bag is really heavy.  She shouldn’t be lifting that.  Really.  I can get it,” I said to him, bewildered as I watched the old woman merrily walking down the sidewalk carrying my stupid, heavy garbage bag full of clothes.
The young man reached down and picked up my other bag.  “Come on.  Show us the way to your car.  She does things like this all the time.  She’s strong.  She worked hard in the fields.”
Away we went down the sidewalk, the three of us…a foolish woman, a wise woman, and a young man who was being taught in the ways of wisdom.  The elderly woman never missed a step, never stumbled under the heavy weight of the bag that she carried.  She smiled and sang and her grandson chatted with me as we walked.  When we arrived at my car, they hoisted the bags into the back of the car and waved a cheerful goodbye as I profusely thanked them for their help.  I wanted to give them something to show my gratitude, but they declined.  Some things are just for free.

Note:  This post is the first in a new series of Sunday posts that I am starting.  They will generally be religious in nature, born from my personal thoughts, experiences, and perceptions.