Monday, July 18, 2016

Be a lug nut in a dark world

It was nearly midnight when the phone rang. It startled us both out of a peaceful sleep. Any time the phone rings at that hour, a bit of panic creeps up and forms a lump in my throat. It’s amazing how many what-if thoughts can go through your mind in the short amount of time it takes to fumble around in the dark to find the phone and hit the right button to answer it.

Thankfully, this time it wasn’t any kind of emergency. The caller probably didn’t have any idea what time it was. He just needed to talk to my husband. The caller didn’t say anything that Scott hadn’t heard before. This same conversation happens about once a week. This was just the first time we’d been woken up from a deep sleep for it.

A few nights ago we heard a knock on our front door followed by the doorbell ringing. It was about 10:30 PM. We had not gone to bed yet, but I already had on my pajamas. Scott was still dressed. We looked at each other for a minute, then he went to the door and opened it. It had happened before, so we were pretty certain about who was standing on the other side of the door. This visitor comes by every now and then, and is usually in need of something. We’ve provided sandwiches, toiletries, prayer, and sometimes just conversation.

This has been one of those weeks when those kind of interruptions came one after the other. Scott found himself facing several people in need. The needs ranged from getting someone a tank of gas for an emergency trip to planning a funeral. Scott willingly engaged in all of them.

After a couple of days, he was beginning to feel the tug from the things that were actually on his calendar that needed to be accomplished before Friday. His to-do list was still undone and now he had less time to do it. If he had passed those disruptions off to someone else, or just said no, he might have been finished with his work. He chose to keep them and say yes.

As far as I know everyone he faced this week was grateful for his help. I think he realized it too. He and I were talking about doing the small things for others when, in his witty way, he said, “Without the lug nuts, the wheels won’t stay on the bus and we’re not going anywhere.”

I think he just called himself a lug nut. He was simplifying the message that the little, seemingly insignificant things are important and that having needs met really matters most to those in need. The route the bus is scheduled to take doesn’t really matter if there are no lug nuts to hold the wheels in place.

A day or two after the lug nut conversation and a few more interruptions later, he wearily asked me why people in need seem to be drawn to him. He questioned whether he was just a sucker and a softie.

Without hesitation I responded to his question, “They are drawn to the light in you.”

I think that’s the way God designed it and why we need each other.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

When a city on hill looks out beyond the hill, it doesn’t see it’s own light. It sees the darkness. In the same way, sometimes it’s difficult to see the light in ourselves. So, how do we know we’re not just suckers and softies who can’t say no? People who need us to hold them up and help keep them on the road will be drawn to us.

When they show up at your door, be the best lug nut you can be. It’s a dark world out there.

The was originally published July 13, 2016 on

Monday, July 4, 2016

Tell It Like You're Running Out of Time

I had the same ringtone on my phone for as long as I’ve had my phone, but I finally bought a new one a couple of weeks ago. Now when someone calls me I hear, “…the room where it happened, the room where it happened, the room where it happened…”  It just tickles me every time I hear it. I start singing along, tapping my feet, almost forgetting to hit the accept button and say hello.

The song that ringtone is made from comes from the current smash Broadway show Hamilton, An American Musical. It’s about the life of Alexander Hamilton. I’m not sure how I first heard about this musical, but I have gotten drawn in to all the hype surrounding it. I am taking it all in: YouTube videos, critic reviews, blog posts, Twitter feeds, whatever I can get my hands on that has anything to do with this musical. Did you see the Tony Awards a couple of weeks ago? There is a LOT of hype out there, and apparently it’s created the largest history class ever. Scores of people from teenagers to grandparents are learning the lyrics and the historic details.

Much of the music is hip hop. Before Hamilton, An American Musical, there were no hip hop songs on any of my playlists. I bought the 2-disc CD set. Now, because I’ve memorized some of the lyrics, I think I can rap.

I bought the 800-page book written by Ron Chernow that it was based on. I’ve never read an 800-page book of any kind just for fun, much less a history book. I’m still in the process of reading, but I haven’t given up on it yet. It’s fascinating.

What I knew of Alexander Hamilton before Hamilton, An American Musical, was limited. I knew he was considered a founding father, had something to do with the Constitution, and his face is on our ten-dollar bill.

What I’ve learned about him since is that he was an orphan born in the Caribbean who made his way to America by way of a scholarship because of something he wrote. Once on American soil, he wanted to do other great and noble things, and he did, but it was his writing that seemed to make a difference in the lives around him and in the life of our country. A current that flows through the musical is that he writes like he’s running out of time because no one is promised tomorrow. Get as much done today as you can.

A couple of years ago I heard a music publisher speaking to a crowd of musicians. He told them, “If you’ve been given a platform of any kind, say something.” It was one of those moments that marked me. It’s still fresh in my ears.

I guess that’s why Hamilton has resonated with me so strongly. Hamilton took every advantage he had to say something; his writings are proof. You and I are some of the benefactors of his words. He died when he was 49. That left a lot of tomorrows he never got.

None of us are promised tomorrow. “People are like grass; their beauty is like a flower in the field. The grass withers and the flower fades. But the word of the Lord remains forever.” (1 Peter 1:24-24 NLT).

I think we’ve all been given a platform of some kind, maybe not as a founding father or as a stage musician, but there is someone standing near us that needs to hear words that remain forever.

If we share the words of the Lord on the platforms God’s given us, we may not be promised tomorrow but those words are. Not only will they remain forever, but they will accomplish what He intended when he gave us the platform in the first place.

Say it. Write it. Don’t throw away your shot. Tell it like you’re running out of time.

This was originally published July 3, 2016 on

Monday, June 27, 2016

He knows me better than anyone else

Last month I attended a week-long conference out of town. I called home one evening to check in with my husband. He told me there was a message on our answering machine for me. He wouldn’t relay the message; he said I needed to actually hear it. He hit the playback button.

I heard, “Hello, this is Nancy Davis…,” in a voice that wasn’t mine.

Someone else named Nancy Davis was speaking.

Several weeks earlier I’d ordered a shirt from an online retailer. I received an email notification of its shipment and monitored the tracking online until it showed that it had been delivered to my post office box. I checked my box for several days but it never showed up there.

What I didn’t know at the time was that the package had mistakenly been put in the wrong post office box. The person that received it thought it was something her sister had ordered and shipped to her. She thought that because her sister, who lives in North Carolina, is also named Nancy Davis. Once the sisters were finally able to get together and investigate the mysterious package, they realized it didn’t belong to either one them. So, the North Carolina Nancy Davis set out to find the Nancy Davis with a post office box in Walterboro, South Carolina, which she did. That’s how I, Nancy Davis, came to have a voice mail message from another Nancy Davis.

Neither my first name nor my last name are that uncommon.

As a matter of fact, just today I received a couple of emails that confused me. The subject of the emails was baseball, for which I have no affection for or affiliation with, so I replied to the sender for clarification.  Finally, he realized he was sending them to the wrong Nancy. He obviously had more than one Nancy in his address book.

The combination of my first and last name is not so uncommon either. If you google it, you’ll get pages and pages of entries about Nancy Reagan. Her name was Nancy Davis before she married Ronald.

The Nancy Davis that received my shirt by mistake probably looked at it and laughed thinking she’d never wear such a thing. I didn’t have any need to know where the fields were in the upcoming baseball tournament, but there was another Nancy who did. As for Nancy Davis Reagan, well, there aren’t many who could compare with her. We all have the same name but you have to go a little further to tell the difference.

If the North Carolina Nancy Davis, Nancy Davis Reagan, and I were all in the same room and someone yelled out, “Nancy Davis,” none of us would know for sure which one of us they were calling.

The only way I might know for sure they were looking for me is if I recognized the voice that was speaking.

There is a voice that calls our names and knows exactly which one we are. That voice that belongs to the one who created us says, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” Can you hear it? Do you recognize it?

In that same chapter of scripture (Isaiah 43), the voice that remembers and calls my name says that for his own sake he will blot out my sins and forget them forever. He remembers my name. He can pick me out from all the other Nancy Davises in the world. He knows me better than anyone else and yet will never remind himself of my sins. Who else can do that? No other name but Jesus. 

This was originally published June 26, 2016 on

Monday, June 20, 2016

God's strength keeps me from growing weary

I’m in cycle where I seem to be annoying other people just by showing up. I haven’t intentionally tried to provoke anyone, but it somehow I have managed to stir up humanity without much effort.

I pulled my car into a space on the street clearly white-line marked as legal parking space. A little later I was confronted about my choice of parking spaces and was asked to move my car anywhere other than the lawful space it was in.

I made a phone call to follow up on a matter that hadn’t been crossed off my to-do list yet. I simply wanted to check the status of the unfinished task, but the receiver took the call as criticism for tardiness, which it wasn’t.

I overheard grumbling coming from another room. She was talking out loud to herself and it was obvious that she was not happy with the way I had done something. I had moved some things around because of a safety issue, but apparently the rearrangement caused her some inconvenience.

I got in my car and headed out to get a sandwich for lunch. Apparently the dude in the truck behind me thought my careful and cautious driving, including using a turn signal, was offensive enough to warrant him screaming obscenities at me as I turned off the roadway.

At the end of the day, the gravity of all that unintended offense weighs me down. I try to do the right thing. On days when it seems like the assaults come back to back, what I really want to do is scream back at someone who screams at me. It would be so easy to spew a bunch of words to justify myself or my actions. If someone expressed an opinion about my shortcomings it probably wouldn’t take me long to react and return the favor. It’s hard to stand up when there’s so much gravity pulling you down. It’s a lot easier to sink to that level than to rise above it.

Many world religions, including Christianity, embrace the spiritual principle of reaping what you sow. Eastern religions call it karma. Even people who aren’t religious believe it. The essence of it is that your current actions affect your future. It’s an ageless, universal concept with scores of human examples proving its validity. It’s a simple idea. If we want a good future, we do good things now. Simple, yes, but not easy. Sometimes it’s really hard to do good.

In Galatians 6 of the New Testament Paul states it plainly, “For whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” Two verses later he continues, “Let us not grow weary of doing good.” I’m with you, Paul, but exactly how do we not grow weary?

I found the answer in the Old Testament. Isaiah said:

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

I don’t want to be the person that screams at people or incites their anger. I would rather be the person that brings good news. That’s hard to do sometimes. It took an Old Testament prophet to remind me that I cannot do God’s work without God’s help. It is God’s strength that keeps me from growing weary and enables me to take a stand in the world we’re living in. That’s exactly the encouragement I need to start sowing like my future depends on it.   

This was originally published June 19, 2015 on

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Fight the Violence with one simple thing - Love

Pop! Pop! Pop, pop, pop!  I stood in my living room and heard the loud blasts outside. My husband was standing in the front yard with a rake in his hand. I stepped out on the front porch as a car sped by within a few feet from where he was standing. The windows of the small sedan were down. The passenger in the car was shouting profanities out into the street. I didn’t see it but I knew the smoking gun was in his hand.

It was a drive-by shooting targeting a house just a few doors down from ours. Property was the only thing damaged by the bullets that day. It had happened before. That was four years ago. Reports of similar stories still make the local news.

I know profiling is controversial, but if you were profiling me, my detail sheet would look something like this:  Female, Caucasian, middle-aged, married to a minister, modest wardrobe, goes to work Monday through Friday, attends church every Sunday under the tallest Baptist steeple in town, spends her money at Walmart and BiLo, leisure time includes sitting on the front porch reading books with a half priced soda or slush from Happy Hour at Sonic. I’m not exactly a poster child for street gang recruitment.

That’s my life in this small, rural, South Carolina Lowcountry town. It’s hard to reconcile the fact that there are only two or three houses that separate my life from some that involve violence and gunfire, but the truth is both extremes are present on the street where I live.
I used to think my situation was unique. My sense of that was upended a year ago on Wednesday, June 17, 2015 when nine people were shot and killed inside Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church. Violence invaded a sanctuary of peace. It didn’t happen on the street where I live, but it was close to home in more ways than distance alone.

Two weeks after the Emanuel AME Church tragedy, I backed my car out of our driveway just before nine o’clock in the morning. I noticed three police cars parked a few yards down the street. Later I learned that a gunman had entered a nearby house and opened fire on a couple asleep in bed. They both sustained several gunshot wounds but survived. I had slept peacefully while gunshots were their alarm.

The ground I walk on every day also dirtied the feet of soldiers as far back as the Revolutionary War. There have been countless pairs of dusty shoes trudging across this same soil waging wars both big and small. The fight is always about wanting what we do not have or keeping what we do have. The details of the conflict may change, but the enemy is always the same. As a Christian I know that the real enemy is the spiritual forces of evil. I know the real fight is not against flesh and blood. But, there are often flesh and blood casualties. I’ve always wondered about that word, casualties. There is nothing casual about it when people die. When life is taken away by force, it is serious. It’s the kind of seriousness that should motivate us to fight the injustice.

Just before his crucifixion Jesus said, “Love one another.” He was speaking to his disciples in an intimate conversation among their small group. He wasn’t talking to or about people who didn’t believe the good news of the gospel. He was telling them to love each other, their fellow disciples. He knew that after his death and resurrection, they were going to need each other more than ever. It was a warning that the streets where they lived were about to get dangerous and that they were going to need to cling to each other for survival.

In that same conversation with the disciples Jesus went on to explain that loving each other would be what people outside their circle would notice. If others see that their love is genuine, they just might want it for themselves. Sharing love with someone doesn’t diminish how much you have, it multiplies it.

Police reports show that quaint small towns, church sanctuaries, and the street where I live are not immune to today’s violence. They are also not immune to love and compassion. Love is powerful. Showing, sharing, and spreading it is a responsibility I need to take seriously, for the sake of all the potential casualties. 

This was originally posted on 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

She is with Jesus

I am a grown woman. I have been for some time now. I didn’t get a say-so in my female designation. I got what I got even before I took my first breath of air. As far as the grown part, I had help from my parents. They were the ones primarily responsible for influencing my education and character and for pretty much paying my way in this world until I could do it on my own. For the record, even now as a grown woman I still have trouble doing it on my own sometimes. Just as I didn’t get to pick my gender, I also didn’t get to choose my parents.

As grown women, my sisters and I did get to make a choice in caring for our elderly parents. We had been given a lifetime of love and care and wanting to return it back to them was not a difficult decision. Some of the other choices we had to make for them were not as easy. Losing our father five years ago was hard, but we were tasked with doing for Mom what he had been doing for her for sixty years. We had a place to focus our love and attention and we gladly made the choice to do so.

As Mom’s recognition of familiar things began to diminish, we began to surround her with more of more of what we knew for certain were some of her favorite things. A Bible, a hymnal, and the color purple were at the top of that list. Purple sweaters in the closet, a purple wreath on the door, and a cozy, purple blanket on her bed were things that we hoped would comfort her. 

Proverbs 31 is a chapter of scripture that is often referenced as a description of a virtuous woman, one of noble character. Many women’s ministries use this chapter as key to their mission and purpose. It’s jam packed with images of such women.

“Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” (v. 25-26)

“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” (v. 30)

Personally, I have come to love verse 22, “Her clothing is fine linen and purple.”  That is my mother’s wardrobe.

My mother left this world for heaven January 7th this year. She spent the previous week struggling either to stay in this world or trying to get to heaven. My two sisters and I kept vigil watching every breath, but after several days of that we began to sense that maybe our clinging to her was somehow affecting her will to stay in this world.

We were all there as her breathing once again became labored, but this time instead of holding her hand and calling her name, we made the difficult choice to step back. I handed the hymnal to my husband and he began to sing, “When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll…”

We all began to sing but even before we reached the last verse, “And, Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,” she was gone. In that moment three grown women in that room became orphans. Suddenly becoming parentless made me feel lost and clueless about how to carry on without them. We had some more difficult choices to make.

A couple of days later we dressed Mom in a purple suit and said our final goodbyes. I put on a purple dress and hugged family and friends at the church. Because she was all those things Proverbs 31 talks about, even down to her wardrobe, I knew she was with Jesus.

Jesus. One of the last garments he wore on this earth was purple. Chapter 19 of John tells the story of how soldiers put a purple robe on him along with a crown of thorns. The purple roble was a symbol of royalty. The soldiers put it on him to mock him for the claim that he was King of the Jews. But it was true. He is a king and is now seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven.

Not long before this, in Chapter 14 of John, Jesus tells his disciples that he’s going to his father’s house to prepare a place for them. He was letting them know that he would soon be leaving this earth. He was giving them instructions about how to go on without him. He knew it would be hard. He promised them a helper, the Holy Spirit.

Then he says the most comforting thing of all.  “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (v. 18)

“The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend, ‘Even so,’ it is well with my soul.” I will not be an orphan for long.

 This was originally posted May 8, 2016 on , The Press and Standard's website.