“I’m A Card Keeper”

When you are number nine of ten children you learn to accept a lot of things as fact. One fact is that you will only be able to find one or two of your baby pictures. And, if you’re lucky, when your aunts die, your cousins may mail some of your family photos back to you—usually the pictures your mother sent, but now they haven’t a clue who’s who in them (and could actually care less)! The only thing they recognize in the picture is the old Buick Century your daddy drove, because back then, everybody took pictures standing in front of the family car. It was just an unwritten “Kodak Moment” rule: People, car, stand by car, take picture, mail it to distant relatives.

Another fact I learned early that has stuck with me through the years is that since I was the ninth child, birthday parties were not big blowouts. As I recall, they eventually evolved into blowing out one candle atop a cupcake lit with daddy’s Zippo lighter, and a couple of bucks to spend on candy. That is, until my first fancy birthday card—a store-bought birthday card with Superman on the front! My sister Betty Faye had started to work for Woolworth’s Five and Dime, and had bought me that birthday card and some comic books. The comics were great, but the card was awesome. I read it over and over, then read it again and again, and then hid it in my cigar treasure box.

Card Keeper, Card Reader

However, I was addicted. I not only became a card keeper, but also a card reader. In my younger years, I’d find myself in front of the Lloyd’s Drugstore card rack, reading and thinking how a few wonderful words could make my heart spring to life, when only moments before it may have been flatlined with failure and disappointment.

A real “keeper card” doesn’t have to be bodacious, and should be worded in such a way that the person reading it doesn’t need you to underline a single word, because it would distract from the others. I’ve watched in bewilderment as men approach the special occasion card rack displaying hundreds of beautiful cards, then halfheartedly pick, pay for, and intend to present a card to someone they love, when they’re not even sure what it says!

I’m a card keeper. I still have the cards Mollie gave me when we were first married. I have cards my baby sister sent me years ago for my birthday. I have a mountainous collection of refrigerator “I Love You Papa” cards from my children and grandchildren—because I know they meant it. I’m a card keeper.

Today’s e-cards are nice, but there’s just something special about waking up on Valentine morning in the same house as the one you love, and there on the kitchen counter is a card—a “keeper card” that you can pick up in your hands and allow those written words to filter through your fingers into your heart.

It’s a lot like opening up an old Bible that has become so much a part of you, and reading John 3:16 aloud to yourself: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Now there’s a Valentine “I Love You” line! And it’s a keeper because I know our Heavenly Father means it.

Why don’t you send Him an “I Love You Prayer Card?”

I’m sure He’ll keep it!  

  Pastor Hal Steenson

“Things Don’t Change As Much As We Do”

I parked my car, got out and started up the sidewalk toward the front porch of my childhood home. I wondered if I had made a wrong turn and ended up at the wrong address. Nope, the address was on the mailbox, 1226 North Street. This was a not mistake. This was the old home place where I had grown up. Although I hadn’t seen the old house for years, my childhood feelings and visions overtook my adult practicality and I was captured by the phantoms of my little boy memories.

Drifting off in thought to the long, slick concrete front porch, painted green, I recalled how we flooded it with millions of gallons of water from our make-believe firehouse hose. We would then back up to Mr. Marshall’s fence and run for the polished porch, hit it on our knees and slide at speeds in excess of one hundred miles per hour. As we slid we prayed that our slide path would line up with the kid catcher, so he could stop us from falling into the bottomless pit at the end of the porch. You see, if you fell off the porch’s end, there were thousands of poisonous snakes waiting to put their juice in you. But if you did go over the edge, you would be dead until you counted backwards from one-hundred to one. So we slid as much as we wanted to until Daddy came home from work and turned off the little green garden hose.

Next, my time machine imagination landed at the base of our gigantic oak tree in the front yard. The one that held our tree house, at least a thousand discarded tire swings, and multiple hand sawn swing boards–those evil swings that had deliberately broken several fragile little bones. Wow, what a tree it was! It was higher than the power poles, the television antennas and the Empire State Building. Our entire gang was not able to hold hands and circle that monster oak. We’d even watched bald eagles perching in the top branches of that majestic tree.

However, my most colorful thoughts were of the roof of that old house from which I used to fly. That’s right, fly. When I was a little boy, I could fly. All it took was one of mother’s big bath towels tied around my neck and instantly I became Superman. I would shimmy up the vent pipe on the side of the house and up onto the roof. Then from the side of the house, I would make my way to the launching pad at the front of the house. From there I would kick off into the clear blue sky, wind in my face, flying faster than a speeding bullet, cape blowing in the wind and outrunning every locomotive. I would sail for hours on end before finally floating to the ground. Landing in fine form with my cape still attached, I was always met by Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen waiting to interview their hero.

All of a sudden, I hit the hard ground of reality. I opened my eyes to discover a quaint little house that could surely not be the citadel of my childhood. I felt like Gulliver staring in awe at the Lilliputians. The house had shrunk; the huge oak tree had shriveled into a less than majestic maple. As I stepped up to my Superman launching pad roofline, I realized I could reach it standing flatfooted. Well at least the super slide front porch still seemed as large as ever, but what about the drop off at the porch’s end—the bottomless pit with all the snakes? It, too, had disappeared and was now only about a foot and a half from the top of the porch to the ground.

I now had to confront the truth. None of these things had changed, only me; I was the one that had changed. I had outgrown the imaginations of my Metropolis. Nevertheless, I dare say that all those things were as real to me in my childhood as are my dreams, goals, desires and my commitment to Christ today. Although I had changed, I knew in my heart there would never be an occasion where I would be disillusioned by a God that never changes. Malachi 3:6 “For I am the LORD, I change not;”

I encourage you to be a dreamer for God and to be a visionary for the cause of Christ. Your dreams of today may be your accomplishments for the Kingdom of God tomorrow. My childhood recollections appeared to have decreased in size because I had increased in stature; however, it happens the opposite way for those committed to Christ. The smaller we become, the bigger the Lord lives in us.

John 3:30 “He must increase, but I must decrease

  Pastor Hal Steenson