"What He ordains for us each moment is what is most holy, best, and most divine for us." Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Taking My Cue from a Brewmaster

As has become the custom on the 2nd Friday night of each month, my husband and I went downtown this past weekend to Food Truck Friday. As one would guess, food trucks line Carroll and Washington Streets as a local band plays and residents engage in a fair-like atmosphere of standing in lines and/or visiting with family and friends. There’s even snow cones and a bouncy house for the kids. 

On this particular evening, Eagle Creek out of Statesboro was having a tap takeover at our local Bodega Brew — a hot spot for coffee, wine and beer along with a short list of menu items. Ever since our oldest son Charles became a brewmaster a couple of years ago, we have tried to support the local industry of craft brewers. We met the young brewmaster named Zack and tried his Tea Party Red Amber. It smelled of herbal sweet tea, but with a medium feel, it tasted of rich, malty caramel, finishing dry with a subtle tea note. And I liked it. [I know my son is quite pleased that I actually know what all that meant. He has taught me well.] 

We also made the connection that Zack and our son had met earlier this year at the Macon Beer Festival. But before we left, he said, “Tell Charles if he’s interested, let’s do a collaborative.” Now a collaborative is when two breweries meet and “collaborate” on a new beer. In other words, they create a recipe, get together and brew. Makes sense, huh.

My husband and I moved back out into the street, leaving the air-conditioning for what had become a very pleasant 88 degrees, thanks to the earlier rain, and found our way to the Piedmont Brewery “food” truck. There we met the owner/brewer Brian Whitley, a friend of our son. What a treat to engage with him and hear again the camaraderie that exists between brewers. They had already collaborated on a delicious hibiscus and mango Belgium Wit, appropriately called, “Syncopated Strangers.” Great for a hot summer afternoon. As we parted company, Brian headed to Bodega to greet Zack ... and to buy one of his beers.

But even before all of this, I had already begun to notice the fellowship between brewers. When one has a tap takeover at a particular brew pub or taproom, the others show up in support — and often help out. Or when one brewer runs into a problem with a particular brewing process, he will call another for advice, and it is given liberally.

Yes, I walked back to my vehicle Friday night marveling again at this fraternity — this sodality. When I was able, I texted Charles and told him I had just met Zack and Brian, and his response was, “Awesome guys! It still amazes me how much community there is in this industry.” 

You might be interested to know that before our son became a brewmaster, he was a youth pastor — for 13 years. When he tells people that, their eyes often get wide. But he follows it with, “I do the same thing I used to do ... just in a different arena: I still try to create an experience of oneness.”

Maybe these guys have discovered something that the church is still trying to figure out.

“And I ask not only for these disciples, 
but also for all those who will one day believe in Me through their message.
I pray for them all to be joined together as one
even as you and I, Father, are joined together as one.
I pray for them to become one with Us
so that the world will recognize that You sent Me.
For the very glory You have given to Me I have given them
so that they will be joined together as one
and experience the same unity that We enjoy.
John 17:20-22

Just an ordinary moment... 


Thursday, July 12, 2018

What Does Your Joyometer Read?

Part of my husband’s early morning routine is to walk out and greet our 10 year old red heeler named Rusti. Her little nub of a tail shakes so hard, you would think it’s 3 feet long — and in her mind, it probably is. She follows him inside, staying close to his heels, because that’s what heelers do, and she proceeds to greet me with the largest smile a canine can produce. She’s a happy dog. It shows in her face, her body, and her ... “tail”. 

She exhibits joy.

In one of the last sessions with my Tuesday morning Bible study ladies, I posed the question, “On a scale of 1-10, what does your joy-ometer read?” Most said about a 7 or 8, but without a blink of an eye, one of the women said, “Over the top!” And she was right. If there is anyone who exudes joy, it’s Liz. Even with the history of being abandoned as an infant, of having several bouts with cancer and of losing a husband, she bubbles joy. You can see it in her eyes, you can hear it in her voice, you can read it in her writings. Even her body language, the way she uses her hands, the way she worships, shouts, “Joy!”

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. It is a product of any one who has God’s Spirit resident within them. It is not something we should have to “conjure up” or force ourselves to be. Joy is a natural outflow of abiding in Him.

Then what’s the problem? 

Bill Johnson says, “How we see God defines how we think and how we live. The way we understand Him is the way we will represent Him.” Could it be that we have an inaccurate view of God? Or maybe that we have forgotten (or maybe never even been told) the truth that God is a joyful God? Who taught us that the Holy Spirit gives to us a spirit of sadness, sour attitude or woe? Heaven forbid. The Spirit does not war against the Father. He is an exact representation. He is the “another” that Jesus said would come. He reveals the Son and the Father beautifully. Among other things, His fruit and His expression is joy.

But I guess we still have a choice to make. We can choose to bow to and emit the chaos of life that surrounds us, or we can commit ourselves to living from the place of joy within and cast the glory of God to a world who needs a fresh revelation of hope. The latter just might be the greatest gift you give to someone today.

So what does your joyometer read? The first place we might want to look is in the mirror. 

Moses came down from Mount Sinai ... 
the Israelites would see the FACE of Moses, 
that it was radiant ...
See Exodus 34:29-35

And as my precious daughter would say, “Don’t pout. It doesn’t look good on you.”

Just an ordinary moment...

Friday, December 22, 2017

It's Okay to Wish Me a Merry Christmas

The recent death of my brother has put many people with whom I come in contact in a bind. They don’t know what to say during this time of grief that has been placed in what should be known as Christmas joy. Some shuffle their feet. Some look to the ground. Some avoid looking me in the eye. And others, well, they just avoid it all together and say nothing at all. I so appreciate their sensitivity to our family’s situation, our loss, but let me just put you at rest: it’s okay to wish me a merry Christmas.

Thomas was diagnosed with a grade 4 glioblastoma in October of 2014. The worst of the worst. But even then, we were not without hope. After all, isn’t hope what you hang on to in dire situations? It was for us. Surgeries pursued. The family was introduced to a new normal that at times even looked like the old normal. Thomas continued practicing dentistry. Leading worship in church. Taking vacations with his family and even running in 5K’s. We held tightly to hope. Hope that Thomas would be completely healed and live to walk his 2 daughter’s down the aisle. Our hope gained fresh ground as MRI’s kept coming back as “stable.” Yes, hope. Until two and half years later when we received the news: “There has been some progression.” And finally the doctor’s pronouncement, “We have exhausted all avenues of treatment.”

What does one do with that? 

Well, you hope. 

What followed was 3 months of rapid decline. Thomas lost his ability to process information or convert what his eyes were seeing. Visiting Angels were called in. Then Hospice. He went from walking, to a wheelchair and then to a bed. And in each stage, he remained so gentle. So kind. So Thomas. And through it all, he remained faithful to the hope he had found in Jesus so long, long ago. His one longing was to glorify His God through it all. And that's exactly what he did.

Hope remained alive in us as well. As the family was gathered around Thomas' bed in those last hours and minutes, we sang everything from “Jesus Loves Me” to “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand” to “Because He Lives.” Yes, hope. We spoke words of blessings. Prayed prayers. Read Scripture. Moments before he took his last gentle breath, his wife Bristol quietly asked the children, “What is our only comfort in life and death?” And together they recited the answer to the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism. It was a very sacred and holy moment as they declared together over their father:

“That I am not my own, but belong — body and soul, in life and in death — to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to Him, Christ, by His Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for Him.”

And thus is the legacy Thomas leaves. To his wife. To his 5 children. To all who knew him. A legacy of hope because his faith was fully in Christ Jesus.

I have said so many times that this has been our greatest sadness to date, but we have never been nor are we now without hope. So, it’s okay to wish me a merry Christmas, for Christmas is when God made good on His promise to send that Savior, Jesus Christ, into the world to be our salvation, our restoration, our deliverance, and ultimately, our hope. 

So to you and yours, merry Christmas and bright hope for tomorrow.

Just an ordinary moment…

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Great Allower

I read the account in John's gospel last week concerning Jesus' healing of the paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda, a pool of mercy, near the Sheep Gate -- aptly named because that's where the sacrificial animals were brought into the Temple. It appears that the man was not the only one at the pool that day, but rather just one of what could have been a hundred or more persons. Each hopeless. Each helpless. Each in need of healing. Which begs the question: Why? Why this man? Why not the one next to him? Why not the whole lot of them? It's a legitimate question. With no legitimate answer. After all, weren't they ALL waiting for the waters to stir? Isn't that why each one was there?

In what appeared to be a moment of clarity that same day, my brother mumbled, "Life. I don't understand. It's not supposed to be this way."

"You're right, Thomas," I said as I leaned over his body and stroked his graying beard as he lay there in bed. "It's not supposed to be this way. And I don't have an answer for you. His ways are mystery to me. Like you, I don't understand. Yet I resolve myself to trust even when I cannot see or do not comprehend."

We are quick to acknowledge God as Loving, Faithful, True, Compassionate, Mighty, Holy, Forgiving -- just the beginning of an endless list of attributes. Yet, among the many things God is, we rarely acknowledge Him, much less worship Him, as the Great Allower. In fact, it just might be the most difficult to name. Truly, it's humanity's biggest complaint with God. Yet didn't Jesus Himself say, "Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to Me?" (Matthew 20:15)

Does that mean I understand this suffering? No. It remains mystery to me. But I'm still going to trust the One who allows it.

Just as you do not know the path of the wind and how bones are formed in the womb of a pregnant woman, so you do not know the activity of God who makes all things.
Ecclesiastes 11:5 (NAS)

Just an ordinary moment...

Sunday, October 8, 2017

A Fair Metaphor

It’s no secret to those that know me and my husband — as well as my brothers and their families — we are fair junkies. I’m not sure what prompted us to such; after all, we didn’t grown up going to such expositions or festivals. In fact, I only went to one fair in my childhood. I was in 6th grade, loved riding the double ferris wheel, and threw up the entire night afterwards. So my attraction to such is really unwarranted. 

But something about the Georgia National Fair caught me when it opened its doors back in 1989. My youngest child was in a stroller and Ray Stevens was the big draw; and I haven’t missed one since. You can even find me each year with a pencil and clip board walking the aisles of cakes, breads or grits as a culinary judge. 

For those first dozen or so years, my husband and I spent a lot of time over on the midway with our children — watching as they rode those rides that are put up what seems like overnight. And then came the years where they were grown-up enough they didn’t need our supervision and so we enjoyed the walking, the eating, the shows, the livestock and the fireworks. But now we have a grandson and it’s all about those rides again when he comes visiting. And what fun it is! 

I spent the best part of Friday night and the most part of yesterday having just that. Fun. I watched racing pigs chase after Oreos, eyed and learned about venomous snakes, fed carrots to a giraffe, ducked into a teepee, nervously watched a dare devil act, saw a real live Transformer morph into a Robo Car and drive away, watched a magic show, walked through the cow barn, was amazed by Pogo Fred as he slithered his body through a child’s tennis racket all the while jumping on an 8 foot pogo stick, and I ate portions of both a red velvet funnel cake and fried chocolate chip cookie dough, not to mention fried cheese. 

But I must admit the highlight of the entire day was watching two of my adult children ride the bumper cars with my grandson and great-nephew — both 6 years-old. I was completely mesmerized by the joy contained in that electric arena -- not just by those I call mine, but by every person who sat behind a wheel or rode as a passenger. The diversity of people was as great as the fish in the sea, and yet they were all involved in an activity that was bringing them such great unity … and joy. The chasing. The eluding. The bumping. The gut wrenching laughter by all participants. 

And as I stood there watching, I couldn’t help but be filled with the same great joy. When my husband approached, I pointed and said, “This is a picture of heaven.” 

The Greek root of the word metaphor means “to carry across” a meaning — to get from one place to another. Richard Rohr writes in his book The Divine Dance, “The paradox is, all metaphors by necessity walk with a limp.” But it’s the only possible language we have when it comes to speaking about God or trying to describe the kingdom ... or heaven in this case. Bumper cars might be a poor metaphor for heaven, but yesterday, for me, it worked. And in the meantime, I got to taste, and maybe even live, a portion of it from a very mundane, earthy position.

There are still 7 days left for fair going this year. There is still lots to do, see, hear and eat. Horse shows, cinnamon rolls and the world’s largest traveling ferris wheel await. But for now, I’m sitting with the bumper cars and my little window into heaven.

The kingdom of heaven is like...

Just an ordinary moment…