Thursday, February 23, 2017

Taking Me Out of the Picture

I rejoiced when adult coloring books became popular.  It satisfied both my obsession with office supplies (in this case, colored pencils) and my structured need to color inside the lines.

Precept upon Precept studies appeal to me for the same reason.  If you are not familiar with those, they use inductive Bible study by marking Scripture to examine it in context as well as to peel apart the layers to get deeper.  I enjoy sitting down with the observation sheets (the Scripture printed double-spaced so you can mark it up) and using my colored pencils to mark key words and phrases.

Our Sunday school class is starting the Precept study on Philippians and I find that I cannot wait to sit down and study every day.  Which is strange because sometimes I have to pretty well chain myself to the table to do Bible study.  And I was wondering, “What is the difference?”

Unfortunately, I figured it out and, as usual, I came out looking not so good.  I love doing the Precept study because so much of it depends on me.  It’s true I get basically nowhere without the help of the Holy Spirit, but there are “steps” I can take to move me forward.  When I sit down to simply read and study the Bible, I am hanging out there…totally dependent on God and His Spirit to guide me, give me understanding, and speak to me. 

And I find myself in the same old predicament.  Is there nothing I can do?  No way to “earn” this?  Because isn’t that the tough part for us all?  The whole setting pride aside to admit we have nothing to offer God but a relationship of love and trust.  And He always comes through for us, doesn’t He?  Why can’t I trust Him enough to believe He will speak to me through His Word?

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure…My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.  Ephesians 1:7-9; Colossians 2:2-3

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Strength in Weakness

Our church presents a live Nativity drive-through coming up this weekend.  And I am pleased and excited about that.  For the most part.  But, honestly, do you know how many things could go wrong with it?  It could be so cloudy that the solar lights for the path don’t work.  Half the cast could get sick.  It could rain.  We might get mobbed with way too many cars.  No one might show up.  We might run out of cookies. 

I sound like a joyful soul, do I not?  Jesus has instructed me on this.  Matthew 6:25 is pretty clear…“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?”  And if he has addressed the basics, I can assume he has the rest covered as well. 

And Paul assures me that all I have to do is ask.  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  (Philippians 4:6) 

And worry does not plague me in a major way, never has.  But here’s how it works.  I’m loading the dishwasher, writing out Christmas cards, fixing supper.  And there’s this little butterfly of a thought flitting its way through my brain, just out of reach – kind of like when I wake up and try to grab hold of my dream. 

It dances just out of sight, thumbs in ears and tongue stuck out.  “You can never do this.  Think of what could go wrong.  Why on earth would you even try something like this?”  And, if I’m not careful, the butterfly grows to eagle size and my spirit just sinks under the weight.

But if I can reach out and catch that wisp of a thought the instant it first frolics across my vision, I can grab it and listen.  “You CANNOT do this.”  And at that point, I can control it.  All I have to do is smile and agree with it!  “You are so right!  We don’t stand a chance.  But here’s the deal.  This is God’s show and he’s in charge of the details.”

I don’t know if the weather will be good – looks like it at this point.  I see sun forecast for the solar lamps.  The power is working.  The cast seems healthy.  But mainly, I don’t have to worry.  I can be excited, anticipatory, and joyful because God is not relying on us – we're leaning on him.  I hope you’ll join us on Saturday or Sunday night, December 3rd and 4th, between 5:30 and 7:30 PM to usher in the Christmas season at our Emmanuel Baptist Church Live Nativity!

2 Corinthians 12:9

And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  

Monday, October 10, 2016

Matthew and Me

First let’s address the elephant in the room.  Just because I did not see his eye, does not mean that Matthew and I don’t have a relationship.  Loss of power and electricity is an inconvenience; but when he messes with good people trying to farm and he rips up 100-year-old trees by the roots, it gets personal.

To his credit, though, he did teach me some lessons.

  • There’s no one I’d rather be marooned with without water or power than Steve Horn.  After 46 years, we are completely in sync.  He indulges me and I spoil him.
  • We don’t really need a generator.  They put out a lot of noise and candles are romantic (for one night).
  • I had forgotten what a pleasure it is to put physical pen to paper.
  • If you take down the birds’ feeders during a hurricane wind, they will flock to feed and sing when you hang them up again.  You can even sit right next to the window and they will look in at you with grateful eyes.
  • Cosmetics and hair products are fun, but not entirely necessary.  However, let me paint you a picture.  Think the original Batman with Jack Nicholson and the newscasters four days in with no make-up or toiletries.
  • Sitting beside an open window at dusk with the birds fluttering and chirping and a cool October breeze can be all you really need.
  • Never take the dump for granted.
  • I say technology is not that important to me.  I don’t watch much tv.  I check Facebook constantly; but I don’t spend that much extended time on there.  I use my phone mainly to text.  But when I have no technology, I go a little crazy.  It is my security blanket.
  • I say I am a hermit and that is pretty much true.  But when I’ve been isolated, I need to be in the middle of people.  Strangers are fine. 

In closing, I’ve decided I do need a generator.  I miss my hair dryer.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Southern Turtles

I’ve come full circle in so many ways since moving back to the South.  Take turtles, for instance.  I grew up in Arkansas where turtles always ambled across the streets and highways.  I had forgotten them until I took a trip home to visit my relatives and my in-laws.  I was following Steve’s folks home from dinner when I lagged behind because I stopped to pick up a turtle and move him across the street.  
We didn't see many turtles in northern Virginia.  They’re either very smart or very dead.  One look at a road there will tell them it isn’t safe.  The dangers are obvious and many.  The swamps and woods offer the best protection.  
In South Carolina turtles generally approach the edge of the road and see a clear way, though I’m fairly sure they don’t check both directions.  They step out, slowly…always…and begin the long journey to the other side.  
Dangers approach without warning on rural Carolina roads.  Cars that are coming are coming fast.  And yet the turtle has rarely calculated his odds before stepping out.  Either I help him across, the next driver swerves or the turtle is airborne.  (I prefer not to address the other scenario.)
We often sidestep sin rather easily by avoiding the road with the vehicles flying by.  The signs flash a warning.  To go that way is obviously dangerous; it’s easy to bypass.  It’s when the highway seems most clear, when we are drifting along without any concern or thought of wrong – considering ourselves flawless and smug about the fact – that we are most likely to get hit.
It’s when I’m feeling pious and holy that I’m most likely to lash out in impatience or say something snippy.  When my guard is down, my pride is usually up.  Doors to gossip, judging, and hypocrisy slide open.  And wham!  My mouth gets me in trouble.  Did I say that out loud?  I look at someone in the store and form a wayward opinion.   I treat someone in a shabby way.  Bottom line…I find that I’m not at all that person I thought I was.  My mom was right when she told me to look both ways.
Romans 7:15, 17-20, 24; 8:1-2
I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.  I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it…What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

Monday, May 2, 2016

I Know He Was Praying

Super-creepy, yet kind of sweet.  We became well-acquainted on the short trip.  I hopped in the car and started moving slowly down the narrow streets of our community.  I was headed into town to work in Vacation Bible School and I was running a little late.  As I slowed to make the last turn, I looked left and then right and then at my driver’s side mirror.  There he sat.
I’m not crazy about bugs; but I’m not totally freaked out by them either.  I prepared myself to encounter them when I made the decision to move to a warm southern climate.  So when I saw the dignified little praying mantis sitting on the top of my mirror, I just smiled at him and he smiled back.  I sat at the stop sign for a moment to give him time to hop down.  He declined.
So I made my turn and increased my speed to twenty-five.  His little praying hands unclasped and started clutching for something to hold onto.  I slowed down to give him one more chance to bail.  He declined.
I left the plantation and revved my speed up to thirty-five.  His feelers were flapping in the wind and I’m pretty sure that’s when the praying started.  I had a hard time driving and watching him at the same time.  If I had cared about him as much as I led him to believe, I would have stopped the car and helped him down.  But I was late for VBS.
So I turned out onto the highway and upped the pace to fifty-five.  Head down and battling the wind, he discovered that he could go under the lip of the mirror and hunker down a little.  His legs managed to stay put but every part of his body was shuddering against the wind.  Please understand,  I felt terrible guilt.  But I was late for VBS.
I pulled into the parking lot and stopped the car.  I said a little prayer and apology for my new friend.  I knew he was dead and I was not looking forward to removing his frail little form.  
To my complete delight, one long leg tentatively swung up onto the top of the mirror.  Slowly he pulled himself back up on top.  Then he began to groom himself!  Now I don’t know what he was smoothing down – whether feathers, or scales, or gills.  But he had something there to flatten out.  Then he took each long leg in turn and stretched it as far as it would go to be sure everything was still working.
Then he once again settled in to pray and I left to go fix beanie weenies with a clear conscience and my own short prayer of thanks.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Feed Your Children Well

White Christmas was released in 1955 when I was seven years old.  My parents took me to see it and I loved it.  Parts of it.  I thought it was a war movie at first and, even though there was singing in those uniforms, it seemed pretty somber.  But then came the Sisters number with those pretty dresses and that wonderful few seconds of dancing out on the docks.  I was hooked.  
The end of the movie just enchanted me, so much so that I begged my parents to stay and watch it again.  In 1955 you could buy a movie ticket and watch the same show over and over all day long.  My sweet parents agreed.  My mother was not a fan of musicals, so this was a bit of a sacrifice for her. I promptly went to sleep and slept through the entire movie except for the final scene.  My parents woke me up just to see that again. 
Every year since, I have watched that movie, usually while I decorate the tree.  I’ve always suspected it was the basis of my love for snow.  My December wedding was complete with fur muffs for my bridesmaids.  The scene where they throw open those doors to that winter wonderland gets me every time.
As I watched it this year, through tears as usual, I waited for them to reveal the snow to the audience in the inn and to me as well.  And my mouth dropped open as they yelled and waved when a horse-drawn sleigh drove through the scene.  Because that sleigh ride has always been number one on my list of “must do” things before I die.  (A nod to my sweet husband who made that happen for me last January in Colorado.)
So just read and say, “very sweet” if you wish.  But I’m still convinced, sixty years later, that a trip to see a Christmas movie made a huge impact on a seven-year-old.   

Thursday, December 24, 2015


It never goes away, regardless of our age.  That Christmas Eve feeling arrives every year without fail.  Some call it Christmas magic. But I see it as a feeling of expectation…something coming.
Small children experience it all through the holidays.  It may be the presents or family coming from far away to visit.  On Christmas Eve, it shows up as excitement over Santa Claus and stockings.  Or perhaps they’ve heard the story that all animals can speak at midnight.  Eyes and ears are on alert as they scan the skies and listen more closely to pets.
Reality sets in as teens realize that “magic” is not necessarily going to happen.  But the gifts under the tree are real and take on importance…bigger wishes and more expensive.  Maybe a new Christmas outfit calls from the closet in anticipation of Christmas Eve candlelight service or parties.
The anticipation changes for moms and dads, often taking on a dark edge as presents are frantically wrapped and baking and cooking gets into full swing.  The mom is often stressed with too much to do, often self-imposed; and the dad anticipates the very real possibility of an emotional meltdown.
Grandparents wait eagerly to see the excited faces of grandchildren.  Sometimes the anticipation comes in the form of dread of an empty house with family far away.  The emotions will hit but never when we expect.
When I still had kids at home, Christmas Eve was not a fun time to be at our house.  I was that frantic “Martha,” overworked because I expected too much of myself, set a level of perfection to achieve that was really only important to me.  But, amazing, every Christmas around sunset, whether the work was done or not, a peace – yes, with a touch of magic – settled in and the family moved a little closer together.  
In Virginia where it was very cold and sometimes snowing, I would pull on a heavy coat and go stand in the yard late, around midnight.  Just stand and pray, look at the stars, and think about the greatest anticipation of all.  Because that sense of anticipation is about an arrival, for sure.  The coming of Emmanuel, God with Us. 
I’m sure that eagerness was with Mary and Joseph as they waited and wondered what the Son of God would look like – would he have hair?  Would he look at all like Mary?  The shepherds must have felt excited and nervous as they make the trek to Bethlehem.  The wise men had days of expectation and wonder as they traveled.
This Christmas, I have been blessed with a quiet peace and contentment.  I am not with my children and that always tugs at my heart.  But I am convinced that this year God’s plan for me was time to enjoy Steve’s company and to be physically and spiritually renewed.  My prayer for you this Christmas is that, in addition to the cookies, the family and friends, the presents, you will enjoy the presence of Christ and anticipate His coming again.  Go out at midnight and look up at the sky and see if you don’t sense it!
“Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:23)