Monday, June 30, 2008

We don't get out much, but we sure do love it when we do

Highlights from our anniversary trip to the big city:

1. When we first entered our third floor hotel room, Scott went to the window and opened the curtains. He proclaimed that we had indeed arrived in heaven. I went to the window to see what on earth led him to such a revelation. Right there in perfect sight from our hotel window was the biggest Best Buy store sign ever.

2. Right next door to our hotel was a Sweet Tomatoes restaurant. Now I know it’s not fancy schmancy dining, but oh how I love salad. Especially when there is celery and purple cabbage. It’s very hard to find a salad or a salad bar that offers celery these days. Yum, yum, crunch, crunch. I love celery. Thank you Sweet Tomatoes. I made Scott eat there before we walked over to Best Buy. We have a great give and take relationship, you know.

3. All the Queen Anne’s lace growing wild on the interstate byways. Beautiful. We don’t have that around here and I miss it.

4. In the small, rural town we live in, the closest thing we get to anyone with a foreign accent is the local Mexican restaurant. Being in the big city and almost always within earshot of a language or accent other than our every day Southern English made me feel a little more connected to the rest of the world. It was as if, for a couple of days anyway, I was not secluded in the little town that is two weeks from everywhere.

5. The Apple computer store and all the smart little children who work there. Amazing. Children, mere children! And smart ones too. Aren’t there child labor laws or something out there? Just kidding….but I wouldn’t be surprised, though, if they didn’t even pay these kids. They seemed to love it so much they would do probably do it for free. Oh, child, teach me to be like you!

There was so much more, but those are the top 5.

Twenty-two years down, now working on #23 and wherever that takes us.

You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.
Deuteronomy 28:3

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Yes, bliss and blisters

My husband and I are leaving tomorrow (Thursday) for a little weekend mini vacation. Our wedding anniversary is Saturday. Twenty-two years. Wow. I keep telling him that’s longer than I’ve ever done anything else in my entire life.

This past weekend I was looking at some pictures from those early years. I said out loud, “We look so-o-o-o-o young!” And then I began thinking to myself, being so young, how in the world did we know what we were doing?

Truth is, I don’t think we really had a clue.

But God knew. God knew we would get to this point of twenty-two years full of wedded bliss and blisters. It has taken both toughness and tenderness to hold us together.

Yes, God knew. And He is probably smiling right now about what He knows about the next twenty two years. I can hardly wait. :-)

See y’all next week.

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Philippians 2:1-2

Monday, June 23, 2008

You just never know

Today has been an odd day. Just odd.

It started with a wake up call from the local police just before 1 AM. There had been another break-in at the church and they needed someone with keys to the buildings to go down there and help them out. Or in, actually. Which, when you think about it is kind of silly, after a break-IN. This is the second break-in this year.

Anyway. We spent the next couple of hours down at the church assessing damage and waiting until the police were finished with all their fingerprint dust and cotton swabs.

The damage was some broken glass. The loot they absconded with was the Yamaha Motif keyboard from the sanctuary.

When we first arrived on the scene one officer had three young men in the back seat of his patrol car. Our first impression was that these were the burglars. After a few minutes, the officer and the three ‘suspects’ stepped from the car. The officer spoke in a tone of voice that was not very convincing and seemed to offer a bit of doubt when he said the three young guys claimed they witnessed someone else running from the church toting the keyboard so they started chasing him down. The other guy got away, these three guys called the police, so they say.

I got the impression that the policemen thought it might be some sort smoke and mirrors ruse to intentionally mislead the investigation because, maybe not so coincidentally, a warrant had been issued just a couple of days ago for the arrest of a young man partly responsible for the previous break in back in February. And, it seems these three guys have a close association with that original perpetrator.

Now, I don’t really know any of these young men or who their associates are. I was just listening to what the police officers were saying to them and to each other. I suppose the DNA and fingerprints they collected will shed some light on the truth. But wouldn’t it be interesting if it is true. I mean, if the guys that the police are suspicious of really do turn out to be heroes. Why would we be surprised? What is about us that makes us want to believe the worst instead of the best?

You just never know about people.

Which brings me to another oddity in my day. It takes me less than five minutes to drive from my office to my house. On my way home from work today, I was driving in a residential area just a few blocks from my house. Right there in the yard of a little, old house were five or six large turkey vultures having a picnic. It’s not a sight you usually see in the neighborhood. I was a little stunned when I first saw it and it took a minute to register, so I had driven past it before I was able to see what they were feasting on. I thought to myself, “I gotta get a picture of this. No one will believe that I actually saw this just around the corner and down the street from my house.” Plus, I was still a little curious about what kind of dead animal was so close to home.

I drove on home and pulled in my driveway fully intending to run in the house, get my camera, and return to the scene. Before I made it to my front door, I began to think about how suspicious I would look driving by taking photos of someone else’s house with a dead animal in the front yard and other live animals feeding on it. Who does that kind of thing?! Certainly it might even warrant a frightened neighbor calling the police. And what if it the same officers that showed up at the church break-in came to question me about my drive-by photo shooting? I’m sure he would have some doubts about me too.

You just never know about people.

I didn't go back for the picture. I always want other people to think the best about me. I should offer them the same courtesy.

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Matthew 22:36-40

Friday, June 20, 2008


Have you ever wanted to be somebody else? I mean, at least, be like somebody else in certain ways?

You see them and you know they have something inside that inspires you.

You see them and and it makes you want to be a better person because of it.

You see them and just know there is something you can learn from them.

You see them and you want whatever it is that makes them do what they do.

This is what I saw this week at Vacation Bible School.

I want what he has.

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. Isaiah 11:6

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Money, money, money, money

My office is in a bank building. I don’t work for a bank; we just lease office space on the second floor of their building. We are the only other tenants in the building. I pass through the bank lobby a good bit and interact with the bank employees often.

Yesterday after lunch with my husband, he dropped me off in the bank parking lot. As I walked around his car toward the building I noticed some folded money on the sidewalk. I picked it up and saw it was one twenty dollar bill and one ten dollar bill. A few steps away there was another ten dollar bill. Scott, leaning out of the driver’s side car window of his car, pointed to yet another ten dollar bill a few more feet beyond where we I was standing. Fifty dollars.

Everything costs more and more every day. Every month we squeeze a little harder just to keep the bills paid. Fifty dollars would not even fill up my car with gas. My last trip to Walgreens cost $93. We ate at Wendy’s for lunch that day and for just the two of us the bill was $16. At Wendy’s!! We sure could use an extra $50.

Scott looked at me and said, “Do the right thing.”

He knew what I was thinking. He knew I wanted to put that money in my pocket. He knew we could really use a little extra cash right now.

I went inside the building and up the elevator to my office. Then I made a trip to the bathroom. The whole time I was thinking about the money. Something about actually holding it in my hand made me want to be possessive about it. As difficult as it was, I took the money back downstairs to the bank told one of the employees about finding it outside. She said she would put it in an envelope and hold it in the vault in case someone came back claiming they had lost $50 somewhere between the teller line and their car.

I don’t know who dropped the money. I don’t know if that was their last $50. Or maybe it was someone who didn’t really need the money and is not even aware that they dropped it. I don’t really know for sure that the bank employee actually put it in the vault. And if she did, how long will it stay there and what will they do with it when they find it six months from now and wonder where it came from?

What I do know is that it was not mine.

Those four words, “do the right thing,” reminded me that blessings from God don’t usually come at the expense of others. To claim something as mine that isn’t really mine would be stealing. It would be stealing not only the money, but someone else’s joy and blessing too.

I was tempted, but it wasn’t mine to keep.

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

Thursday, June 12, 2008

c - h - U - R - c - h

We’re getting ready for Vacation Bible School next week. The majority of our preparation time includes weeks of basically dreading it. Once we get into it and get involved with all the kids, it always turns out to be fun. The kids have a way of helping you believe it really is a summer vacation kind of week. God bless those children.

It’s just knowing ahead of time how totally exhausted you’re going to be by the end of the week that causes all the dread beforehand. All that singing and hand motions and dance steps and repeating them over and over and over - - I grow weary just thinking about it.

VBS was something I always enjoyed as a little girl. It was a big event at our small church. If I looked through some of the boxes in the attic I would probably find some of those crafts I made all those years ago. VBS is one of the happy memories of my young church-going life.

I have a lot of church memories because I have always loved going to church. Even when I became a teenager and it wasn’t so ‘cool’ anymore, I still went. There were a lot of Wednesday nights when I was the only young person there. Still, I enjoyed it. I don’t think my teenage friends understood my affection for it back then. Honestly, I don’t think I understood it either.

I feel certain that some of my getting-older-every-day-friends today still don’t understand it. I think they probably see my devotion to it as a byproduct of being married to a minister. Truth is, I loved church long before I got a husband. I think my love for church is why God allowed a minister fall in love with me.

I know a building isn’t a church. I believe it is the people who are the church. Still, I think I’ve always loved it when the people who ARE the church, meet together in a building that we CALL the church.

I know you can DO church anywhere. I know you can BE the church anywhere (at home, the ball field, the beach, etc.) and let’s hope that we are actually doing that. But how many of those “anywhere” places do we go to with the purpose and highest priority being to worship and praise our God? Usually we go with our main goal being something like resting or playing or swimming or being with other people or just getting away from it all. We can look for things to praise God for while all the other is going on, but then the worship becomes secondary. All those are good things, but I think it’s important to have a place where believer’s can get together for the sole purpose and priority of worshipping God.

Just over eleven years ago, we moved here when my husband accepted the position as Minister of Music at First Baptist Church. At first, we both resisted the invitation for him to consider the position. There was absolutely nothing in the world to draw us here.

We had no friends or family here or anywhere nearby. There was no job for me, much less any career option, where I could use what I had been trained and educated to do. We didn’t even have a fondness for this part of the country.

There was no allure. Except the call of God.

Yes, we had a choice, and like I said, we resisted at first. Eventually we saw that if we truly wanted to follow His leading, anything else really was not an option.

I left everything I knew and loved and was good at to come to a place where some people still don’t know my name, even after 11 years. I traded everything I had for the precious freedom of being in His will of serving and ministering in this church. I have no regrets.

I do not need any acknowledgment or recognition for any sacrifice of what WAS my former life. I do, however, want my life and actions to be an indicator of just how much I love this church. I want to see it follow hard after Jesus. I want to see the Holy Spirit move in it like He never has before. I want to see the Lord God Almighty praised loud and clear.

There is no one who cares more about seeing this church grow and flourish than me.

Well, maybe there is one. The One. The One and Only.

I pray often to be made more like Jesus and I think I’m beginning to finally seen a tiny resemblance. I can only pray that others can see it too.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. Revelation 21:1-3

Monday, June 9, 2008

I got Dad's red hair but not his green thumb

I have an empty flower bed around my front porch. I have never really been able to get things to grow there.

It was a brand new house with only minimal landscaping when we moved in. My dad came and handled the maiden planting in that flower bed. He planted Mexican heather which did very well that first year. It even came back the second spring and still looked good, although not quite as full as the first year.

The third year I replanted some new Mexican heather that didn’t even make it through that summer. Subsequent years after that I tried lantana, impatiens, caladiums, nothing seemed to thrive. So, I gave up. For a few years, I just had dirt. I put two huge ferns in planters (again, thanks to my dad) on the front porch to detract attention from the dirt bed. That has actually worked out OK. I get lots of comments on my giant ferns.

This year, I wanted to try again. We made several trips to Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and Lowe's and strolled all around the annuals and perennials looking for something that showed at least a hint of willingness to survive. The only thing I ever came home with was one hanging basket of impatiens that I can move in and out of the sun.

The local Piggly Wiggly grocery store has seasonal plants for sale lined up outside the front of the store. I spied a few pots of plumbago bushes and it brought back some sweet memories.

When I was a little girl, there was a large plumbago bush that grew close to the house. In the summer when it was hot, hot, hot, my sister and I would play with the water hose on the large concrete patio in the back yard. One of our favorite things to do was to turn the water hose on full force and lay it down on the patio. The stream of water from the hose would create a little river flowing the length of the patio. We would pick all the little blue blossoms off the plumbago bush and one by one turn them upside down and place them in the flow of water. They would float gently down the stream (we were probably doing this while singing "row, row, row, your boat..."). At the point where the water stopped moving, the upside down blooms would puddle up in a log jam against the patio wall. We would pick up the blooms and take them back to the mouth of the hose and launch them again. Over and over and over. I don’t know why we found just joy in that, but it still makes me smile to think about it.

It took several trips to the Piggly Wiggly and down memory lane before I bought one of those bushes. It was more of a sentimental purchase than a practical one. When I got it home, I put the pot in the spot where I eventually wanted to plant it in the flower bed. It stayed full of blooms in the pot for a couple of weeks. I finally got it in the ground and was quite pleased with myself. The little blue flowers made me smile and think of the water hose on the patio.

Then, the all blue flowers fell off and the little branches turned brown. Like I said, nothing has ever lived very long in my flowerbed.

Now, however, it’s teeming with life. A long, crooked, mounding burrow leading up to and all around my dying plumbago bush tells me so. A mole. An ugly little mole. I’ve read that they don’t eat plant roots. Well, they may not eat them, but they do something to the plants that makes them whither. My plumbago didn’t shrivel up until that little mole rooted all around it.

I thought my cat, Marbles, would help take care of the pesky mole problem.

Here’s what she thinks about it:

She prefers napping in the shade of the fern over stalking wiggly things in the dirt. She’s definitely not making a mountain out of this molehill.

Maybe I shouldn’t either. As a matter of fact, a nap sounds pretty good right now.

I can only hope my mom and dad feel the same way now that they know it wasn't a mole that stole the blooms from their plumbago bush all those years ago.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. Psalm 103:11-16

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Idol in Me

I never have been a big fan of American Idol. I watch it every now and then, but I am not a regular viewer. I know the latest season just ended and a new idol was crowned. And I know the final two were both named David, but I never heard either one of them sing. What I know about it I learned by reading the internet news headlines. I usually end up reading the back story of the contestants after it’s all over.

I really like to watch the first couple of episodes in each season. The ones BEFORE they get to Hollywood. Those are the episodes that feature people who are trying to see just how much they can get away with, or, they are young people who really are trying to follow their dreams. The latter are the ones I love to watch.

It takes a lot of courage to actually pursue your dreams and I totally admire them for trying. I didn’t have that kind of courage when I was just beginning adult life. I had courage and strength alright, but I didn’t know how to use it for that purpose. As a result, it got all misplaced and I become a champion for things that had nothing to do with my dreams. I worked very hard at trying to find safety and security instead of stepping out into the unknown.

My relationships, my job, my church, they all become the things I sought out to protect me. Idols. Yes, idols, that’s what they were. Things that could do for me what I couldn’t do for myself. Or at least I thought so at the time.

What I’ve since learned it that none of that can give me what I really need. What I really need is to honestly pursue what God put in my heart by using the gifts and talents he gave me.

God bless those kids who learned that so early. I’m sorry, God, that’s it’s taken me so long, but hallelujah, I’m stepping out! Baby steps, but out!

Of what value is an idol, since a man has carved it? Or an image that teaches lies? For he who makes it trusts in his own creation; he makes idols that cannot speak.
Habakkuk 2:18