Friday, February 29, 2008

Our Wild Ride

UP: We went to an evening revival service at another church. Monty Hale from the South Carolina Baptist Convention was the guest speaker. Very powerful message about being led by God, or more accurately, letting yourself be led by God. Joshua 3 was his text. Go and stand in the water. Go. And then see what happens! Wow. I couldn't wait to jump in.

DOWN: I'd been uncertain about some things that had been on my mind all day long and it was weighing heavy on me.

UP: My friend Ginger showed up for the women's Bible study group that meets at my house. She felt led to miss her sign language class to come. She brought such words of encouragement that I found myself being lifted higher and higher.

DOWN: An influence that Satan has used in my husband Scott's life and ministry to bring discouragment and defeat for the last 10 years showed up in full force. Unexpectedly, of course.

UP: We went back to the revival. The ladies group I sing with was providing the music and Monty Hale delivered another moving sermon. Text was Acts 2. He described the tongues of fire from the Holy Spirit like eating jalapenos. It causes your eyes to water and makes you want to say out loud to everyone around just how hot and powerful it really is. I think he ate jalapenos for dinner before he came because he was speaking my language and it was obvious he was on fire!

DOWN: Satan brought a reminder of Scott's discouragment and defeat back around. Not in full force this time, but just enough presence to say, "Hey, I'm still here."

UP: For the first time in 10 years Scott and I both told Satan that he's going to have to find another avenue to defeat us 'cause this one he's been using just isn't going to work any more. We finally gave it up and gave God the glory.

HIGHER UP: Late in the day, Scott recevied a phone call that brought some unexpected and encouraging news regarding his ministry. Even if it's only temporary, it was still good news for today. See what God does when you let Him lead?!

DOWN: We got an early morning phone call. Our church had been broken into overnight. Scott needed to get there as soon as possible to identify things missing from his office. His nice, new computer that he uses to do all things creative and muisc-related was gone. Vandalism, theft, and attempted arson. It gave us all a creepy second-guessing feeling all day long.

UP: My father-in-law went home this morning after a 10-day visit so Scott and I got to enjoy a quiet night on the couch with a $6 frozen pizza (well, I did COOK it before we ate it) and a free movie rental (Movie Gallery had left us a voice mail stating that we hadn't been there in a while so they were offering us a free movie to entice us to come back). After being spent emotionally all week, it was nice to just have a cheap, stay at home date.

DOWN: When we stopped by the grocery store to buy the pizza, we also bought a cherry pie (for Scott) and vanilla frozen yogurt (for me). In the process of getting it together, I dropped my discontinued lilac color Fiesta pie baker dish. It broke into several jagged pieces. I know it's just a thing, but it still made me sad.

UP: At least the pie wasn't in the dish when I dropped it.

DOWN: It's 4 AM Saturday and I'm still awake.

UP: Waiting to see..........................

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Prasie Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Ants, badgers, locusts, and lizards

I’ve been a little confused about something lately. I guess confused is not really the right word. Unsettled or maybe just uninformed. It’s not really a major life issue, but it’s been nagging me a little. Well, OK, a lot. I needed wisdom in making a decision about something where the choices weren’t really clear.

I went to the scriptures. I didn’t really know where to start because it’s not like any of the biblical characters I knew had ever faced the specific problem that has been bugging me. So, I started by looking up references for “wisdom.” Do you know what God calls the wisest of the wise?

Ants, badgers, locusts, and lizards. Eeeeeeuuuuuuu. Just eeeuuu. Nothing warm and cuddly about that, is there? And, yet, in Proverbs 30 they’re named the wisest of the wise.

In the landscaping just outside my office there are huge mounds of ants. Mostly likely they’re fire ants. My husband calls me a home wrecker because I like to lightly press my footprint in the dirt mounds and then watch the little creatures as they immediately scurry to protect and rebuild. I absolutely hate, however, to get bitten by one. It itches fiercely for about a week.

God says ants are wise because, even as frail as they are, they are able to store up enough food for the winter.

I haven’t really had any personal experience with badgers or marmots. The closest I’ve come is Punxsatawney Phil on Groundhog Day. He’s known for coming out from his cozy home and for heading back into it if it looks like winter is not yet over. Back in the early 90s there was a movie made about that whole event, also titled Groundhog Day. The theme of the movie was about being stuck in a rut until you learn that real change begins within.

God says badgers are wise because they build rock-solid homes even though they’re vulnerable animals.

We once drove through a swarm of locusts at night. Actually, they were cicadas. Cicadas are similar to locusts, kind of like flying grasshoppers. We were driving down a swampy road at night and the cicadas were everywhere. By the time we got home the windshield and front end of our car was covered in brown dusty bug guts. Covered. I mean, covered. In the next day’s daylight it was very apparent that we had been under attack.

God says locusts are wise because they can strip a field like an army regiment even though there is no leader in the swarm.

My cat, Marbles, loves to play with lizards. She loves how they run and wiggle. When she discovers one, she’ll chase it until runs into the little cracks under the columns on my front porch. I also have a bristly boot cleaner just outside the front door that the lizards like to weave themselves under. It makes Marbles crazy when the lizards get away from her like that. She’ll paw at the cracks - - she knows it's under there somewhere. She will sit and stare waiting for it to resurface.

God says lizards are wise because even though they’re easy to catch, they can sneak past vigilant palace guards.

I got so distracted by all the ants, badgers, locusts, and lizards that I forgot what my problem was in the first place. I suddenly became concerned about having enough food for the winter, securing a rock solid home, being able to work with everyone in the group to achieve a common purpose, and striving to avoid the people with spears and guns. If ants, badgers, locusts, and lizards can do it, I guess I can too. Whatever it is.

There are four small creatures, wisest of the wise... Proverbs 30

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Am I Really That Old?

A couple of weeks ago I must have been in either a nostalgic mood or just needing a little change. I took a ring from my jewelry box that I rarely wear. It‘s a silver spoon ring. My Aunt Mary gave it to me when I was about 10 years old. I think she gave each of my sisters one too. Spoon rings were really popular back then. At 10 years old, the ring fit my index finger. Now it fits my ring finger.

The day I wore the ring, one of my friends noticed and commented on it. She was very interested in the silverware pattern used to make the ring because it was the same as her mother’s silverware. As I began to tell my friend the origin of my ring I said something about “this old thing” and commented that I’d had it over 30 years.

Am I old enough to have held on to something for THIRTY years?!

Oh, my. I don’t feel that old.

But as I get older, I realize that as we age, life begins to be defined more by what we can’t do than by what we can do. Even though I’m only in my 40s, there are some things I just can’t do like I used to be able to do.

My parents are in their 80s. They have been very blessed by God to be in the position that they’re in at this time in their lives. They live close to family. They have a new house and no mortgage. They have their ailments but they’re in relatively good health. Still, I’m sure they have days when they think about how in the world they will manage if things change. They probably think about what they will do if they can’t take care of themselves any more. When and if that happens, I’ll do what I can for them. Even then, I won’t be able to do it like I want to. I won’t be able to meet every need they’ll have.

Even though I’m only in my 40s, I think about that for myself as well. Who will be there to care for me when I just can’t care for myself anymore? Just what will I do? How will I manage? I’ve always been strong; how am I going to cope with weakness? Will it humble me in ways that will leave me embarrassed or ashamed?

I have no idea what all the many things will be that I’ll no longer be able to do in 40 or 50 years, if I live that long. I have no idea if there will be anyone I know or love surrounding me then. There is no guarantee. Except one.

Jesus will be there. Whatever is left undone, he will complete.

Whatever I can’t do for my mom and dad, He will finish.

Whatever I can’t do for myself, He will fill up the space.

My trust is in Him.

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and rescue you. Isaiah 46:4

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Us As Biscuits

Something I read or heard recently stirred my brain to think of a particular word. I could remember a little bit of what the word meant. I had the concept and the idea of it; I just couldn’t remember the word itself. It drives me crazy when that happens.

So, I went searching. It didn't take long to find it: Anthropomorphism. It’s a sophisticated, intellectual sounding word, isn’t it? Right up there with onomatopoeia (another word I came across in my searching; you know what it is, you just can’t remember what it’s called).

Anthropomorphism is when you assign human characteristics to something that is not human. Like the mouth of the river or the angry storm clouds. Cartoon animals that talk are also an example. Some of the definitions I found went further in the explanation to say that it is often associated with a deity. In other words, we don’t really know what God looks like so we describe and understand Him in our own familiar human terms. I haven't ever visibly seen God's hands but I can relate how He's touched my life with them.

I was glad to have the mystery solved of the word that was temporarily lost from my vocabulary, but then I had another mental dilemma. What is the opposite of anthropomorphism? What do you call it when we describe humans as something inanimate or non-human? I do it all the time. I call my husband Honey. If someone’s afraid to do something I call them Chicken. There are also Weasels, Bull Dogs, Baby Dolls, Sweetie Pies, it goes on and on.

So, how did I ever get on this subject in the first place? Well, let me show you….
This is a Valentine card my husband gave me.

He dreams of me. He dreams of biscuits. He makes me laugh everyday because he is Nuts.

A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?
Ecclesiastes 2:24-25

Saturday, February 16, 2008


This weekend I had the privilege to pray with a sweet couple who have spent over 4 decades as missionaries in a foreign country. They have been back in the States for a couple of months.

On the field, they were living and working on the eastern edge of a country that's half way around the world from where I am. It's close to the border of two other countries, and a third country not too far beyond. While all of these countries are close neighbors in proximity, they're not really on friendly terms with each other.

The work these friends participate in involves people of several nationalities. Their work, after all, is about people. So many people there are looking for freedom from a long list of things. Being in bondage to a stronghold is tough enough when it's partly of our own making. Having one forced on you by government is one I can hardly fathom. That's the kind of governments they're surrounded by over there.

Borders are patrolled by armed guards. Those guards and their guns are there to keep people from fleeing. Not just to keep people out, but to keep people in.

Some women are forced to have abortions, even at gunpoint.

Sharing your faith in Jesus in public is against the law. I'm not sure what the penalty is if you're caught doing that, but I think probably threats at gunpoint are involved.

Only once in my life have I had a gun pointed at my head. My perpetrator was using a gun to break the law, not enforce it. By the grace of God I survived that incident without any serious physical harm, but I will never forget it. I will never forget that as my life was threatened all I could think about was getting out of that situation.

There are probably times when that thought is foremost on the minds of the people in those countries too.

As of next month, this couple will be officially retired as missionaries. They will no longer have to report to the professional organization that has supported and sponsored them all these years. Not only will they be free from that responsibility, but they will also be free from any of the financial support (which was most likely modest) they have been used to for much of their lives.

They have found a way to take advantage of their new freedoms. In just a couple of days, they will be going back to that foreign country. On their own. Without that umbrella of professional support. They will, however, have the prayer support of people like me who often take our freedoms for granted. There are still people over there that need help finding the freedom only Jesus can give them.

Oh, there is so much work to be done.
Please help me pray for them.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

Friday, February 15, 2008

What do YOU think?

I have to think through everything I do and say. And, I admit, I OVER think everything. It must be very frustrating to have an even slightly indepth conversation with me because I have to pause and formulate my thoughts between phrases and ideas. I know that thinking before you speak is a good idea, but I think AS I speak. I just think I think about it way too much.

And the overthinking spills into other areas of my life. I am not an impulsive shopper. I have to think long and hard about a product before I buy it. If it costs more than $25 there is usually some trauma involved.

It took me over a year to finally make up my mind to buy an iPod. Since it cost more than $25, it was a major purchase in my economy. We had been to Best Buy countless times to look at them. The night I finally gave in, my husband followed me for at least 30 minutes as I circled around and around the iPod counter. Just looking. And thinking.

As it got closer to store closing time, I decided that it was now or never. It was something I wanted. I had the money. It shouldn't be this hard. I would free myself of this stress and just buy the thing. I sought out the salesman who had been periodically sweeping by my orbit. He was very knowledgeable and skilled. A little excitment began to bubble up in me as he unlocked the case where the iPods were stored. He asked me what color I wanted. Color?! Wait a minute, I have to think about that. The bubbles of excitement began to quickly deflate. Not wanting to lose another brain cell over a little MP3 player, I chose the color they had on display. I didn't want to know what the other options were. Then, he began explaining all the accessories I would need. Adapters, docks, speakers, chargers, cases, covers. The bubbles became a soapy slime sickening my stomach. We left the store with the bare minimum and it took me a couple of days to recover before I could actually begin to enjoy my iPod.

I knew I wanted an iPod before I ever went in the store. I had already made up my mind. If I had just boldly stepped up to the counter without any hovering and made my choice I then could have gotten excited about all the possibilities after that. I could have this color, or that, or this arm band, or those speakers, oh, and look at this dock, isn't it cool?!

I spend so much time second guessing and trying to convince myself even after I know what to do that I miss out on all kinds opportunities for joy.

And it happened again today. A relatively new acquaintance called me today to say he was moving away. I've only had contact with him a handful of times but from our first meeting I felt like he was one I was supposed to share Jesus with. I cracked that door a little on that first meeting but I never stepped through it again. On the phone today I had the opportunity but I didn't take it. I thought too much about what to say rather than just spitting it out. I missed my chance. I can only pray that I wasn't this man's last chance to hear about God's love.

Sweet Jesus, please forgive me.

Now, I have to go and think about what music to put on my iPod. Or maybe not.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.
Romans 12:3

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

It's NOT the same old story

I have heard the story retold over and over again. I've imagined the scene in my mind thousand times. I heard it frequently and early enough in my young life that very early on I created pictures in my mind to match the story. Even though I made up the images, I memorized the faces. Every time I hear the story, I see the same faces in my mind. And the same setting too, again my own creation.

It plays out exactly the same way every time I hear the story. Scruffy John, dressed in dark colors, baptizes Jesus, who in my mind of course, is dressed in light colors. The sun is high in the sky and reflects in the water. Jesus goes under. The water ripples. God is pleased and sends a dove to light on Jesus. Actually, it was the Holy Spirit that was sent like a dove. But even with that mysterious element, the picture was still clearly etched in my mind.

Until now.

Not that what has played out in my head has been wrong. It's just that now, even after all this time and all those re-runs, I discovered a missing piece that has changed the whole picture for me. I always thought Jesus being baptized as a servant and beginning his official "ministry" here on earth was what pleased God and brought on the Holy Spirit. Yes, but that's not the whole story.

Look for yourself, right there in the third chapter of Luke. Jesus was PRAYING when the Holy Spirit came down on him. Praying. No wonder God was pleased!

Prayer. It's how and why the power of the Holy Spirit comes to earth. Excuse me, please, I have some things I need to go and talk to God about!

When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."
Luke 3:21-22

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Third Time's a Charm

This week is a marker for us.

This second week of February six years ago (2002), my husband looked like this (he looks like a baseball, doesn't he?) :
It started with repeated, nasty sinus infections. Then the headaches. Several appointments and scans later, he was scheduled for sinus surgery and a craniotomy to remove something growing in his head that didn't belong. It was one of those bizarre things. No one could explain any cause or reason. The surgeries seemed to be successful and his recovery went very well.

Then, three years later (2005), again the second week in February, he looked like this. (He looks like an alien in this one):
The growth had returned and he faced another craniotomy. This one was...rough. But afterwards the doctors seemed quite confidant this had solved the problem for good.

So here we are in the second week in February again at the next three year increment. And look at him today. No baseballs or aliens this year. I love those laughing eyes.

We can't help but reflect on this three year marker and thank God that it's different this time.

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.
Isaiah 43:19

Monday, February 11, 2008

It all started with crab legs

Welcome to the maiden voyage of my journey into blog land. Here's how it all started . . .

Several years ago my husband's job led us to move from the big city to a rural area. I grew up in the concrete jungle with traffic and toll roads and anonimity in crowds. When we moved to the country, an hour from anything that resembled a shopping mall and was, as we often quote Everett in the movie O Brother Where Art Thou, "two weeks from everywhere," I spent a lot of time trying to find where I fit in. Years. Literally years. I had five employers in the first five years here. In my non-working hours, I was a regional reporter for a state newspaper. I did some freelance work for the big city job I'd given up when I moved here. I did several different things at church trying to find my place. I worked with the children. I worked with teenagers and handbells - at the same time; I wouldn't recommend it. Nothing seemed to fit. I just couldn't seem to find my place.

Then, my in-laws came for a visit. We went to a favorite seafood resturant with them (which is, of course, about an hour away). I ordered crab legs. I love crab legs but don't often order them because, well, I just can't get past the price. But, this time, they were paying and I took advantage of that. I remember sitting at that round table out on the porch overlooking the river. The four of us were chatting away about all sorts of nothing important. Then the waiter brought the food. Mmmmm, crab legs. I dove in. Eating crab legs takes work and time with all that cracking and picking, you know. It was a good 45 minutes or more later when the plate was empty that I realized I'd been in a crab leg coma. I suddenly became aware that I had not heard a single word of the conversation that continued around the table after the food arrived. I had gotten so lost in my love for crab legs that for a period of time, everything else went dim.

And that's when it hit me. I'd been going about it all wrong. Instead of trying to FIND myself and my place, I should be LOSING myself in something I love. Losing myself to find myself. I finally get it.

It wasn't long after that I began a women's Bible study at my house. And soon, I was lost it in. What a glorious thing. For the last 6 years or so, this Bible study is where I have continually lost myself many times over. And where I've found my place.

But there are times when I don't want to lose myself. I get a little too comfortable with control. And then I lose my way, again. So, I have to keep finding ways to lose myself. Hmmm.

Which is why I've entered blog world. I needed a fresh, new element to get lost in. I'm hoping and praying this writing adventure will enhance my study of scripture, my losing and finding, my life, and maybe even yours too.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. Matthew 16:24-25