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whitehall114

My Annual Ghost story, part of it passed down from Cousin Nancy, mixed with a story from my newspaper days. Pull your chair up to the fire, set your hot apple cider on the table, wrap the quilt around your shoulders. You wouldn’t want an unthinking draft to create a chill:

“One need not be a chamber to be haunted,
One need not be a house;
The brain has corridors surpassing
Material place”
~ Emily Dickenson

The October day blustered its way to a stormy evening.  It was hard to tell what element bullied more – the wind or the rain spitting at anything in its way.  Baschum Sluckert slid down the wet oak tree, answering the coded call of Snuff Sparks.

Soggy leaves muffled their footsteps as they maneuvered through blackness down Boonesborough Road to the dilapidated manor house – their courage looking less promising with each wet step.

What could cause two 12-year-old boys to wander about on not just a forsaken, chilled night but All Souls’ night? A time it was whispered that all restless souls of evil character roamed free by the devil’s own decree until the saints sent them packing back to the netherworld the following sunrise?

Only a dare, of course.

Adley Bancroft, with his overly large head and punishing fists, had taunted them in nursery rhyme sneer that they weren’t men – they were just girls in boy pants needing their mamas to kiss their booboos and hold their hands.

Baschum and Snuff mustered up enough courage to be baited – and here they were. On their way to the abandoned Clay mansion up the road.  Back in their grandpa’s day, it had been a real showplace housing Cassius Clay, the notorious Lion of White Hall. Why, he had wrestled in political arenas from Russia to Kentucky.  He’d even wrestled the women folk in his home who wanted the right to vote.  So word said, he’d kicked them out, like an annoying cat.

Cassius Marcellus Clay

Adley’s ma and pa used the house now to strip tobacco in November and store hay through the winter.  Adley’s ma had found a statue, stuffed in a piano topped with salt licks for storage. The statue was a bust of old Cassius himself – and that’s what Adley had taunted them into taking. Not just taking it, though.  That would be too easy.  They had to stay until sunrise.

Not a soul would be there.  Adley promised.  At least, not a living one, he had snickered.

Snuff, breaking the quiet as they walked up the lane to the house, adjusted his back sack carrying a blanket and some marshmallows.  He asked “D’you believe in ghosts, Baschum?”

“’Course not,” Baschum answered, his courage insulted.  Sluckerts don’t get scared – he’d been taught that all this life.  At least, not the smart ones. “Besides, no ghost’s gonna bother me, even if’n that old Cassius himself steps out on that porch packin’ a rifle.  No misty piece of air’s gonna best me.”

“Adley said he locked his 14-year-old wife into his tie room, so she wouldn’t run away,” Snuff said.

“Don’t listen to nothing Adley says, Snuff.  Hes just tryin’ to get your dander in an uproar.”

“Adley said she jumped out of the window and some man on a horse carried her away.  Otherwise, she would’ve starved in that room.”

“She wouldn’t have, Snuff,” Baschum said, sticking his sweaty palms deeper into the pockets of his overalls, trying to stare down the white full moon.  The moon had an unfair advantage; it never blinked.  Sighing, he gave up, turning to see Snuff pointing frantically to the house.

“What’s th-that?” Snuff’s whispered.

A light blazed in an oval window, then vanished.

“That’s the room he kept her in Baschum. Adley said so,” Snuff reasoned.

“Now don’t let Adley go putting that fear in your head.  He don’t know beans with his head in the bag.  It was probably just him tryin’ to scare us,” Baschum calmly assured Snuff, albeit in a voice an octave higher.

Tugging Snuff’s arm, they moved up the brick sidewalk to the porch.  Rattling the door knob, the door opened easily. Earlier that day, they had gathered kindling for a fire in the hearth and cased the house to dispel any unwonted fears.

‘Anybody home?” Baschum called warily.  Black silence answered.  “C’mon, Snuff.”

‘Two hours later they were wrapped in blankets, roasting marshmallows in the front parlor.

“See.  There’s nothin’ to be frightened of Snuff.  Nothin’ here but us chickens,” Baschum laughed, his giggles rolling to echo beyond the parlor.

Suddenly, Baschum stopped laughing.

Chills shimmied up Baschum’s spine as the door beyond them creaked like leather.  His heart juggled up his throat.  Something rubbed against his back.

“Meow,” a cat trilled, stopping to sit by Snuff.

In disgust, Baschum spit into the fire.  Snuff spit.  The cat spit, too.

The cat looked at Snuff.  Snuff looked at Baschum, and Baschum looked at the cat.

“I don’t like this none,” Snuff whispered, his blue eyes wide as a meat dish.

“It’s just a cat,” Baschum said, bravado filling his voice.

“A black cat,” Snuff reminded in a hoarse whisper.

Baschum boldly picked up the cat, walked to the front door by the stairs, and threw the cat out.

Shutting the door, he turned around to the sound of furniture scraping across the upstairs floor and what-knots falling.

“It’s just Adley?” Snuff asked, hopefully.

Baschum didn’t say anything, just sat back down, pulling his blanket tight about.  The only thing upstairs that afternoon had been hay.

When nothing else happened, both boys stretched out, falling into a chilly doze.  Quiet – a heavy quiet resounded within.  The fire crackled comfortingly.

Snuff sleepily opened his eyes – to look directly into a pair of yellow-green eyes.  Hypnotic yellow-green eyes.

Frantic blue eyes turned to Baschum.  “I thought you put him out,” Snuff asked, nervousness edging his voice.  The cat just sat there, across from him, staring.

“I did.”

Baschum looked at the cat.  The cat looked at Snuff, and Snuff looked at Baschum.

The cat turned to the fire – and spit into the burning embers, causing it to hiss.

Baschum grabbed the cat, stomped to the door, opened it and tossed the cat into the spitting, blustery wind of the night.

Bang!

A door slammed within the bowels of the house.  Snuff lurched for the poker by the hearth as Baschum turned to look up the stairs.

Violin music wafted softly from the darkness above.

“C’mon Snuff.  We’re gonna give Adley the what for.”

whitehall300b_edited-1Moving quietly, they climbed the stairs.  At the landing, they listened at each door, trying to catch Adley. A pounding, thump, thump, thumping drew them to a room they had noticed early that afternoon.  A room trimmed in blue.

“One, two, three,” Baschum whispered before both boys slammed open the door.  No Adley. Just emptiness and a violin without strings.

“He must’ left somehow,” Baschum reasoned, not quite believing it himself.

Shoulder to shoulder in fright they walked back downstairs, practically holding their breath.

“Let’s just get that bust and leave,” Snuff offered. “I’ve had enough of this place.”

Sniffing, Baschum agreed. “It’s in what used to be the dining room.  At least that’s what Adley said.”

Walking carefully, quietly, they moved through the house until they came to a room used for stripping tobacco.

In a corner was a chipped, dusty bust of Cassius Clay.

Picking it up, they headed back to the parlor.

Looking into the room, they saw a little boy peering vacantly into the fire.  They blinked. And he was gone.

“I don’t like this Baschum.  I say let’s get out of here,” Snuff said shakily.

 Rolling up their blankets, they started to leave when out of the corner of their eye, they watched a black cat move to sit in front of the fire. “Mmmmerrrrrrr,” the cat growled looking at them, seeming to tell them to get out. Then the cat turned, spitting into the fire.

Screaming, Baschum and Snuff took off running, Snuff carrying the bust.

As they ran down the driveway, they saw a light flicker in the tie closet window above.  Horse’s hooves clopped, gaining speed as it neared.

Snuff dropped the bust.  A piercing keening sound echoed behind them as the head severed from the base, rolling to land by the gates.

Reaching, searching in pitch black night, Baschum grabbed what he could and ran. By Jove, he was not going to let Adley and the others think he had failed.  The base was better than nothing, and he just did not have the time nor the courage left for both.

whitehall1014Baschum and Snuff? They never returned. Not even years later when the great mansion was renovated, and its polished doors opened to tourists.

There is a bust of Cassius clay, the notorious Lion of White Hall, having been knocked off its base and reset.

Ghosts?  Even today it is whispered that footsteps can be heard on the staircase, doors mysteriously slam and a light appears in the tie closet of Cassius Clay.

A great ambassador who fought for the emancipation of slaves, he was also the father of Laura Clay who fought for women’s rights alongside Susan B. Anthony.  She was the first woman ever to be nominated by a political party (1920 Democratic National Convention) for president of the United States.

I collected information on White Hall State Shrine in 1984 for a Haunted House Series written for The Richmond Daily Register.  The Lion of White Hall was written shortly after.

The black cats were handed down from “Cousin Nancy,” my grandmother’s paternal aunt, Nancy Wills Chenault.  When Cousin Nancy came to visit (the last time was when I was 6 years old), everybody waited with great anticipation for her storytelling.  They would turn off the lights, light a fire in the big fireplace – and settle in.  I only remember 3 black cats spitting in the fire.  3 black cats without a story – is just a story waiting to be told.  I hope Cousin Nancy would like the home I found for them. 

Ghosty stories are great fun – at least the old-fashioned kind where it’s all really just a matter of mind over matter – or maybe faith over mind over matter. Often, what instills our fear is trumped-up worry, where things on the outside become stronger than things on the inside. Poor Baschum and Snuff – they were sneaking around, going places they shouldn’t – and the vapors of that behavior created a ghosty story – out of thin air.

Growing up in an over 200 year old house, I finally decided that God wouldn’t allow a ghost to scare me to death – and so everytime I climbed upstairs at night, in the seemingly ancient dark, He walked with me, my shield, my fortress and my deliverer – in the tangible and in the mind over matter.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Dueteronomy 31:6)

Of course, it helps if you’re not sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night trying to steal the bust of the Lion of White Hall in an abandoned house.

 

alley2_edited-2

I admit it. I read book endings first. If I don’t, then I rush through the story, details, the words. When I know the ending, I slow down, savor the details – wait with grace for the story to unfold. . . . because I am assured the ending.

“Don’t pray for God to give you patience,” people say.

I say bring it on.

Patience is the living between right now and Christmas morning,

. . .or between right now and the first slow sip of a chocolate soda, just a hand-reach away or a block away.

It’s everything in-between praying that God’s angels encamp about us during the day, letting others know about the love of Jesus with our words and actions, all the details in the daily, and everyone’s shoes kicked off by the back door, feet standing around the counter, waiting for dinner.

Patience is what I fill my mind with from the beginning of a three mile walk to its end, how I chose to live in every waiting moment – every until

. . . like chosing to wait for that first kiss, the wait from the asking, “Will you marry me,” to the ,”I do”, to the delivery of every child, or the long wait to see a child or loved one on the other side of heaven, to the timer buzzing the chocolate chip muffins are ready, to even a child-growing’s salvation, or for a fever to break .

It’s how we live grace, faith and hope in the journey of a prayer sent to Shaddai; Patience is the wait for a prayer’s fulfillment. How we live that wait changes everything. . .

Patience is not just waiting with grace, but living faith in that wait with grace, thinking, speaking, battling the doubt in our minds to live hope like we believe it.

Patience how we live in the time it takes for God to redeem the big and little happenings in the daily of our lives.

Patience is head-time thinking in in-between moments like walking out the door to walk Sadie, our golden retriever, through the water puddles and wet chill to when we burst through the back door.

Patience is how-to live all the in-between times, the big and little, tough and easy, and the seemingly empty moments that need filling.

“Don’t overlook the obvious here, friends. With God, one day is as good as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day. God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change” (2 Peter 3:9)

SUNDAY STILLNESS

Chronicles of Grace: Unforced Rhythmes    Missional Women Equipping Godly Womencountingmyblessings


treefog2

“Stop. . . Mom. . . we’re not 5 anymore,” said a boy growing up.

Can one really be too old to be excited about a cloud falling from the sky and splatting itself all over your home on a mountain?

I guess 16 is a stuffy age where falling clouds spilling everywhere are replaced with more grown up words like fog.

There’s something about raising children that wrings the stuffiness out of you – and fills it with an appreciation for

. . . .for pulling good things out of the daily like the the relief felt in a thorn pulled from the tender pad of a foot and the more-than-whimsy of things like mists and fogs.

Stuffiness can’t find God in the in the coolness of a milk-box morning, an imperfect parenting moment, a turtle dove calling on a roof ridge, a holy spirit message in a summer storm, the broken rebel’s anger, the steeping of tea leaves, salting chicken soup, the prodigal’s imperfect walk homeward, the routine of dinner dishes – the every day ordinary where an extraordinary God meets us.

He doesn’t just meet us in the parting-of-a-dead-sea-moment or a lame-man-walking moment but in the everyday comfortable and uncomfortable moments of an ordinary man’s ordinary day.

In the ordinary of our day, God spills his grace over us in our imperfect living – like a cloud falling from the sky, spilling over my little mountain.

Driving up the hill homeward into the mist always makes me feel like I’m entering a shield of protection (not when I’m on the interstate, only when I’m homeward bound).

That cloud fallen down reminds me of God’s protection – how He paid the price to offer me that protection.

“I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist. Oh, return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free” (Isaiah 44:22).

In a world where up seems down and right is viewed wrong, I need a place of refuge. He’s created a safe haven, a sanctuary where I can go – and in the midst of all this non-stop pouring rain in saturated Tennessee red clay, I needed that reminder that when I am in Him, I am there.

“Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, For my soul takes refuge in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge Until destruction passes by” (Psalm 57:1)

What a gracious God we have, a real-knight-in-shining armor – who has the power to bestow sanctuary right where we are when we are with Him, who desires to conceal us from the things we were not created for.

“He has made My mouth like a sharp sword, In the shadow of His hand He has concealed Me; And He has also made Me a select arrow, He has hidden Me in His quiver” (Isaiah 49:2).

“A weapon even keener than a sword, smoothed and polished, so as to make it pierce the deeper, and kept hid in God’s quiver until the time came when it could be launched with most effect against the hearts of ungodly men” (Pulpit Commentary).

There’s much more to the ordinary things in the daily and things like clouds falling from the sky to spill over a mountain home – so much more!

Messy Marriage


stormybeach

*edited and revised because I feel the need to say it again.

Radical Christianity doesn’t intercede because sin is so ugly; Radical Christianity intercedes because it knows there is something beautiful to redeem beneath the sin.

Radical Christianity doesn’t beat the sin out; Radical Christianity loves the sin out.

Radical Christianity believes nothing is too big or too broken for our God to restore.

Radical Christianity doesn’t give lip-service to negative-Nancy platitudes; Radical Christianity speaks faith and hope words that empower to stand in the gap, interceding through the Holy Spirit.

Radical Christianity intercedes not just  for our friends, our family, our church. Radical Christianity intercedes for our schools, our cities and our country, regardless of political beliefs.

Reading the news for the past few months leaves me uncomfortable. Uncomfortable in a way I never imagined feeling in America. I’ve felt disquieted before – and have learned that disquieted feeling is a call to prayer, for intercession.

Abraham interceded boldly for Sodom. God has stopped by, talked with Abraham, told him of his plans for S&G. The Great I AM was going to see for himself it it was all true, to walk among the people before he destroyed the two cities.

The men set out for Sodom, but Abraham stood in God’s path, blocking his way” (Genesis 18: 22).

If I’d been a by-stander, I think I would have stepped back – waiting for a lighting bolt or other smiting material. Abraham stood in God’s path – stood – as if Abraham could stop God.

But that’s the kind of relationship they had – they talked to each other, broke bread together, sat under the stars together – Abraham cooked for him.

. . . . and God didn’t smite him because Abraham dared approach the creator of the world so.

Abraham confronted him, ‘Are you serious? Are you planning on getting rid of the good people right along with the bad? What if there are fifty decent people left in the city; will you lump the good with the bad and get rid of the lot? Wouldn’t you spare the city for the sake of those fifty innocents? I can’t believe you’d do that, kill off the good and the bad alike as if there were no difference between them. Doesn’t the Judge of all the Earth judge with justice?'”(Genesis 18: 23-25)

Abraham stood in God’s path and interceded – boldly – and God didn’t say, “How dare you talk to me that way.” Instead, God engaged, encouraged Abraham’s intercession.

I believe right now we need to be interceding the same way, going boldly to God just like Abraham. Jesus bore our sins and died for us so that we could come before God like Abraham.  His death and resurrection grafted us into that family, those promises, that same relationship opportunity.

I believe there are many righteous men and women in our nation. I believe there is a heart for the great I Am .

Abraham didn’t say things like, “Yes, Sodom’s going to Hell in a hand-basket.”  Instead, Abraham begged for Sodom, 50, 40, 30, 20, down to 10 faithful men (Genesis 18: 26-33). He interceded. He ASKED boldly, daringly. Abraham interceded with hope and faith, not finger pointing and sin cataloging. He didn’t bash Sodom as sin-city. Rather, he focused on the righteous man.

When I wrote much of this a few years ago, I asked you to intercede, to pray for our country, for God to move in our country, to save it – for the righteous men and women who pray with you, who minister to you in the grocery store, in the pulpit, in the blogahood – even the righteous boys and girls whom you have taught to pray, to walk in faith, to trust in the great I Am who says “I AM” able to save a country, yes – for even one righteous man.

Today I am asking again.

I do not doubt that we have 1, 50, 100, 1000, 10,000, 100,00 – even 1 million righteous men, women and children in our country.

Let us become interceders for our country like Abraham was for Sodom. Right now, I think we have much hope. Abraham’s story tells us we do.

I pray that you wake up to a faith-filled morning, where God reminds that for 50 righteous, he would save a city

Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.”

and if there weren’t 50 righteous, he would save a city for 45 righteous men and women:

Again he spoke to him and said, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.”

The great I AM, who created the universe, the intricacies of the reproduction system, amoebas, humor, tear ducts, love – He was willing to be talked down to finding only 40 righteous men out of an entire city.

Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.”

How much He must have wanted to save all those men, women and children – Even for only 30 righteous men and women would he save a city.

He said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.”

For 20 righteous men and women, he would save an entire city.

Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it” (Genesis 18: 28-32)

Even for as little as 10 – and He filled me with hope – because our country still has righteous men and women who love the Lord our God with all their hearts and minds and souls.

Abraham didn’t talk God down to “if there were just one righteous man” – maybe he thought he was asking too much, had pushed God too far.

Sometimes we decide what God will do before we even ask. Sometimes fear stops us from saying what we really want to ask.

Abraham didn’t ask if he would save a city for one righteous man. He stopped at 10.

But God was willing to save a city – even one righteous man – just one. Are you willing to be the one when others fail?

“Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem, look around and consider, search through her squares. If you can find but one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city”(Jeremiah 5:1)

Are you willing to stand in the gap on behalf of our country, to build up a protective wall of faith?

“I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none” (Ezekiel 22:30)

50, 40, 30, 20, 10, 1 – don’t despair – for even one faithful man, He would save a city, a country.

Today, let us love the Lord with all our hearts, our souls and our minds – and let us intercede for our nation.

Chronicles of Grace: Unforced Rhythmes Messy Marriage  photo 65f0f5f9-b796-4cfb-977e-fe63b69f9e6d.jpg ”What Equipping Godly Womencountingmyblessings


”What Photobucket

tea1_edited-1
. . . . because sometimes I don’t want
to explain when its inevitable words won’t . . .

because sometimes only ice cream will do
or I let me mind fall into a cool soft pillow just because. . .

because sometimes I need to give. . .
a hug

or maybe because someone needs one and they don’t realize. . . .

fresh chocolate mint leaves in a cup of morning sweet orange spice
because it changes the sensory of my surroundings

because a decision was the right decision in that moment

some dreams won’t let go not matter how hard I try
because they were woven into the very fiber of my soul

and now I have a pair of brown eyes and four paws
who just wants the furrow above her eyes scratched
because a bunch of boys gave me a lot of becauses that
went straight to my heart . . .

because he still says he’ll love me forever, he’ll love me for always

because some moments feel like tears for no apparent reason
and another bursts into graceless feet doing the happy dance

because Grandma Moses said, “Life is what you make it,
always has been,
always will be”

because love, faith and hope won’t allow me to give up

because two of my boys were story-bearers during a discussion at school
of how I had their daddy’s and my wedding band melted together for me to wear
because he worked with equipment and liked having 10 fingers
and I like wearing his ring
and they thought it was cool

and pink, yellow and orange zinnias are
beautiful and resilient

because sometimes it’s something just between me
and that still small voice

“And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire, a still small voice” (1Kings 19:12)

(o.k. – o.k. – I might have taken more than 5 minutes because. . . .it made my heart leap with joy –  and, no, that wasn’t the caffein from the tea! Stop by Kate’s  five minute friday - and bring your five minutes of brave to write on the word. . . . because. . . . )

tea5_edited-2

hands3cWhen brother’s grow up,

this is how they hold hands.

brothershands

fading into grace

fallhydrangea_edited-1As for man, his days are as grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourisheth”  (Psalm 103: 15)

 

One of my son’s was talking about his college classes. His U.S. History teacher he said, “She’s really old – like 50 or 60.”

I arched an eye-brow, “Really old? 50?”

There’s sadistic enjoyment in sometimes helping your children shove their feet in their mouths a little further – just so they realize it’s there. They don’t consider me really, really old – but they really don’t consider me 52. Strong as an ox? indomitable? They think I am. I guess when you’re raising boys to be strong men, they expect their mothers and fathers to be as strong as the standard they set.

Walking through my yard after picking some tomatoes from the garden, watching butterflies on the zinnias that finally bloomed, my eyes fell on my hydrangea blossom – and I thought – I want to grow old like that.

I want to grow old like a blue hydrangea.
Budding green flowerheads in summertime’s morning sun
White tender soul petals emerge, opening
roots reaching for a holy spirit water source
for an unquenchable thirst
in the harshness of a summertime life
day by day as year by year
iron will infuses light baby
to cerulean blue tender still
vibrant, intense full of life blue
for a season, for a span
until petals toughen like paper hide
in an afternoon shade the blossom fades
into grace of more than just
antique greens, grandma rose pinks and dusty blues
its life redeemed into something worth keeping
reedeemed and gathered up before winter’s frost,
stored into darkness to dry for days
as sweet reminders of hope
in the midst of someone else’s winter.

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