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

Friday, October 31, 2008

There's Always More

There are a number of things I love about my soon to be son-in-law – one being our ability to banter back and forth about spiritual matters. One such occasion arose this week while waiting on our nachos and quesadillas at a local Mexican restaurant. The topic at hand was this: when does the Holy Spirit take up resident in a person; AND, is that filling complete or is it a process.

Some say that the Spirit enters the believer immediately upon reception of Christ as Savior. Others would argue that He doesn’t come until what’s known as a believer’s baptism. Some would agree that He enters the believer at conversion but comes with more fullness at a later date. And then there are those of the mindset that the Spirit indwells even the non-believer, constantly wooing that one to Christ. I don’t think the subject could be labeled a spine issue, but rather more a matter of the rib. My husband and my daughter are of the mindset, “What does it matter?” Todd and I think more in terms of, “It’s fun to think about it.” Which of the two has more faith, I dare not question.

My opinion is that the Holy Spirit is given without measure upon our receiving of Christ, and that all measurements are set up on our end of the equation determined by the degree to which we submit ourselves to Him. However, my question still remains: even given without measure, can the presence of the Lord still increase in us?

Isaiah may have tapped into this when he wrote, “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of His robe filled the temple.” The Hebrew word for “filled” is written in such a way here that it could actually be read “was filling” the temple. In other words, God’s presence kept coming.

Bill Johnson makes a profound statement to me in his book, “Face to Face with God.” He writes, “Those who seem to have the greatest measure of God’s presence on their lives tend to be the hungriest for more. There’s always more to hunger for!” The truth is that we might not agree on when or how much when it comes to the Holy Spirit; but one thing is for certain. There’s always more: more to hunger for; more of His presence to experience! The real question is this. Do we just live in the mediocrity of the theory? Or do we do something about it and live in the intended experiece? It’s really just a matter of choice.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Facebooking It

I joined the world of Facebook a few weeks ago. After all, I have a blog, so why not a Facebook page? I really wasn’t positive what I was getting into, and quite frankly, I’m still not sure. In fact, I recently asked one of my daughter-in-loves, “What’s the point of this?” Her answer: “To stay in touch.” She told me that young people don’t IM or email anymore, and that if she wants to get a word out to her youth, she puts it on Facebook. But she’s a youth minister; I am not. For young couples looking to announce their engagement, I've also been told that it's not "official" until it appears on Facebook. On the other hand, if a young man wants to know the status of that young woman, he just goes to Facebook. There's as much information about a person to be gained as that person is willing to share.

But if I’ve learned anything having a page, I’ve learned what it means to “network.” I’m not sure I really understood that until now. When I become a “friend” with someone else, it immediately sends me a list (with pictures) of their “friends” that I just might know. It’s pretty cool, I must admit. Just recently, a young couple here in town got married. They knew each other in Mississippi when they were in grammar school, found each other a decade+ later on Facebook, through other "friends," and got reacquainted – to the point of marriage! Now that’s some networking.

I hear other stories like that, but so far I haven’t really “found” anybody that was missing. Every one with whom I’ve become a “friend,” I already knew where they were, to whom they were married, and even how many children they had. No big surprises. Of course, the issue may be with my ineptitude at knowing how to search for these long lost “friends.”

I laughed with one friend at church the other evening when he suggested that actually knowing his facebook “friends” was inconsequential. He just clicks “accept” when he gets a friend request. I thought it funny – until I, too, received a request from someone I didn’t know. I probably tend to be a little more selective; but that’s just me. I never have had a large number of friends – even while growing up. Today, I could count on one hand who my truly close friends are, and even that list spans a 30-year period.

Facebook is fine. If used correctly, there’s nothing “horrible” or “evil” about it. However, I do suggest that all parents with children who have Facebook pages get their own page as well and insist that child be their “friend.” But here’s my problem with facebook. Relationship. Thus far, of the 40+ who have accepted my request to be my “friend” or whose request I have accepted, I’ve probably only truly connected by corresponding with about 5 of them. For the rest of them, we’re just listed as “friends” on each other’s pages. Yes, I can go to their page and see what they’re up to just as they can mine. But Webster defines a friend as “a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard; a person who gives assistance.” It lists synonyms as “comrade, chum, confidant; backer, advocate.” I don’t find any of that on Facebook. A way of keeping up with people’s lives? Absolutely. Fun? Yes. Addictive? For some. But relationship? No.

One of the most common lines you’ll hear when discussing Facebook is this: “I have _(number)_ of friends.” And some of those numbers are even in the thousands. Never in all of history have we been more connected. But, honestly, have we ever been lonelier?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Two Prints; One Story

Two pictures hang in my bathroom. One is a botanical with the word Beauty stamped on it. It was created and given to me by my dear friend Vicki whose own giftings far exceed her own awareness.

The second hangs on the opposite wall and it bears the image of a woman desperately hanging unto a cross rising out of a torrent sea – with what appears to be pieces of a lifeboat drifting in the water. When I saw it a number of years ago in an antique shop, I knew immediately it was meant for me. Two prints; two stories.

Or are they one?

At times, each print has ministered to me. My bathroom was created in such a way that it hosts 3 full wall mirrors – and so there’s a lot of opportunity for reflection (no pun intended). Not only has the beauty print often reminded me of God’s beauty which surrounds me daily, but my own desire to be beautiful. On the other hand, the print of the woman reminds me of my desperate need, often feeling like that woman. Two pictures on two walls facing each other. Two different stories but both speaking of longing.

There’s a point in the room where both prints are viewable to the eye at the same time. It’s through the reflection in the mirror. It’s at this viewpoint that I believe they tell one story. Len Sweet writes, “Every one lives the simultaneous reality of saint and sinner. I am beautiful, and the ugliness is me.” Is that not so true? I am beautiful to God because I am His creation. But in this world in which I live, I am often a complete mess, and the Christ, through the cross, is my only hope for beauty. He is my only hope at all.

I often struggle with the dichotomy of beauty versus desperation, but seeing the prints side by side as I so often do now, I’m coming to know a God who loves and cares for me in all the walks of life – through the highs and lows, whether my hormones are raging or holiness is the habit of the day. Two prints. One story.

Could it be that when we truly are desperate, desperate for Jesus, that we really do reflect His beauty?

Upon that cross of Jesus mine eye at times can see
The very dying form of One Who suffered there for me;
And from my stricken heart with tears two wonders I confess;
The wonders of redeeming love and my unworthiness.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


I had an interesting answer to a question I asked this week. The question was fairly normal for a piano teacher to ask her student: “How are you coming along with Jack and the Beanstalk?” Her answer gave me a blog entry. “Tolerable,” she said. Tolerable? I had to chuckle. Having taught thousands of hours of piano lessons over the course of some 30 years, I had never received such an answer as Genna gave me. Tolerable.

Tolerable. I just couldn’t get that word out of my mind. Ever since that lesson, I’ve been asking myself this question: is my relationship with Christ, like Genna’s performance of Jack and the Beanstalk, just tolerable; fairly good – not bad? Am I satisfied with just being tolerable, a partial transformation to the image of Christ, or do I want to become a mature manifestation of God’s Son? Do I truly want to know Him face to face? Do I want to embrace Him in all of His fullness?

A fellow blogger recently asked what our first memory verse was. I responded with Gal. 2:20. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but He who lives within me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the One who loved me and gave Himself for me. As I wrote that, I realized that I may have put it in my head but not necessarily in my heart. Have I really been crucified with Christ? Have I associated myself with His death? Have I truly given all in order to obtain all, for the degree of knowing Him directly corresponds to my willingness to yield to His transforming power? Is His life being manifested in me, or am I merely tolerable.

Obviously, to pursue anything more than tolerable is costly. But to lose everything to obtain all of Him – have you ever known a better deal? Some things really are priceless.

Thanks, Genna, for the lesson.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

For the Joy Set Before Us

I had an experience Friday night that I think will stick with me for awhile. Sandy and I were doing our normal loitering and eating at the fair when I found out that my brother was also there alone with his 4 children (ages 10,8,5, and 3) and a friend of the oldest. I immediately went into sister mode and we went to find them on the midway in the Kiddie section. Upon getting there, I realized why I stay away from the section: it’s too loud and there are too many people, especially on a weekend like that. Of course, the kiddie section is tame compared to the rest of the midway. The older two children, Lanier and her friend, rode several of the rides while Louis, Sandy and I kept watch. At that point, my job was to keep the non-riding children from putting their mouths on the railings, and to keep myself positioned between them and the lake.

But the little ones finally did become antsy and so Louis promised that they could ride the merry-go-round – which was on the other side of the amusement park! And so off we went. Louis put the 3 year old in the stroller, with the 5 year old holding on to the handle, the older girls held hands and stayed between Louis and me, I held tightly to the 8 year old, and Sandy pulled up the rear – all very intentional placement.

The deeper we got into that pit, the more my skin began to crawl and the sicker I got. Very literally. At one point, there were huge tears in my eyes and I thought, “I’m going to lose it at any moment now.” (What idiot cries at a fair? Me!) From every side someone was calling out to us trying to pitch their wares, sell their toys. Some would even have the audacity to try and put a ball or dart in our hand. Every now and then the older girls would begin to pull away as they looked at all the “side shows,” and I would quickly call them back. And each time there was a loud noise, Leah would react by squeezing my hand tighter. All I could think about was what a perfect picture of the world it was: things/people constantly vying for our attention; trying to pull us away from our charted course. Always offering something more exciting or better. Even as I thought it, Louis turned around and yelled, “This is Babylon!” The only way to make it through unscathed or untouched was to keep our eyes straight ahead on the one leading the way – in this case, my brother.

When we finally reached our destination, I heaved a great sigh of relief and probably offered a quick prayer of thanksgiving, and then I was the fortunate one who got to climb on the back of a horse and ride that old-fashioned merry-go-round with the three smaller ones – and I had a blast! I laughed my head off as the littlest one waved to his daddy and Uncle Sandy time and time again, and then preceded to kick and ride that bronco into the sunset.

We ended the evening with corndogs, fried cheese, pecan pie, and cotton candy while Lee Greenwood sang “I’m proud to be an American” and fireworks exploded in the night sky.

The trip was hard – but the ride and the feast and the lights were worth it!

Hanging out with the cow.

Flying high with Dumbo.

Keep your mouths off the railing!

Patiently waiting my turn.

My turn!

There's a clown in every family.

Let's get this show on the road.

I know there was a corndog on this stick.

Say "Cheese!"

Hey, kids, Mom's not here. Who wants cotton candy or pecan pie for supper?

Going out with a bang.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

I Know It Sounds Crazy

Francis Chan writes, “True faith is loving a person after he has hurt you;” but to do so in today’s society warrants a “crazy” sign to be hung around our neck. Isn’t that what happened to the Amish when they forgave the man who walked into their children’s school and killed their daughters in 2006? “True love makes you stand out,” Chan continues. Indeed it does, mainly because it's so rare, I think.

I don’t know about you but my first response when someone has done something hurtful to me or someone I love is retaliation. My human nature is to make them pay for the pain; to give them a taste of their own medicine. But this crazy kind of love to which Jesus calls us doesn’t leave room for that. There’s no place for bitterness or revenge or resentment; only forgiveness.

Luke records Christ as saying, “If you love those who love, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. … But love your enemies, do good to them… Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High.” In other words, we never look more like our heavenly Father – in fact He even calls us His son (or daughter) – than when we purely love someone who doesn’t love us back. That's a crazy love.

In The Magnificent Defeat, Frederick Buechner wrote, “The love for equals is a human thing – of friend for friend, brother for brother. It is to love what is loving and lovely. The world smiles. The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing – the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely. This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world. The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing – to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice, the love of the poor for the rich, of the black man for the white man. The world is always bewildered by its saints. And then there is the love for the enemy – love for the one who does not love you but mocks, threatens, and inflicts pain. The tortured’s love for the torturer. This is God’s love. It conquers the world.” Those are large words. It’s an even larger challenge.

Could it be that our faith is never more real or more true than when we truly forgive and, in essence, truly love?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Happy Birthday, Daddy!

I spent the day with my parents at the fair celebrating Daddy's 78th birthday, and I do believe a good time was had by all.

Daddy was 1 year old when this car came off the production line!

We saw old friends (Ed McMinn).

We saw crazy friends (Barney Fife).

We saw Fair friends (Leon Jacobs).

And we ended the day with dinner at The Swanson.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Parade

For more than 20 years now, my family has met in its normal location to watch the local parade each October. It used to be associated with Farm City Days held each year in Perry; but since 1989, it has been the Fair Parade. But even before either of those, I vividly remember Perry’s Christmas parades. In fact, the last and only parade I can ever remember riding in was when I was in about the first grade and Jeannie Hunt Sexton and I rode on top of a mail bag – her dad was the local postmaster. Now that I think about it, maybe that bag contained all the letters to Santa. I never asked. As Jeannie did the Beverly Hillbilly wave, I promptly taught her how to wave like a beauty queen, hand cupped and slowing moving back and forth. I knew so much back then.

I loved a parade when I was younger. I love parades today. My heart always swells with pride as the local bands march by. I wave to the beauty queens in my own beauty queen style, I rush for the candy, and I stand and hoop and holler when a military branch passes by. But this past Saturday I got a different view. I was actually in the parade and I haven’t done anything so exhilarating and fun in such a long time.

Marynan was put in charge of having a float for SAPP’S Physical Therapy which meant the rest of us got involved. For one, my vehicle found its home in the driveway for those days of decorating while the float remained safely tucked away in our garage. Sandy had to put a shine to his truck since he was doing the pulling. And we all showed up early Saturday morning to load the added equipment onto the trailer – two pieces of exercise equipment.

I had originally planned to ride shotgun in the cab, and then I thought, no, I’d really like to walk the route. But when we got to SAPP’S and they needed an extra “leg” to ride the stationary bike, I jumped on it. Literally. And I was so glad I did. If I thought watching a parade was fun, there was no comparison when it came to actually participating in it. To watch the faces of the children on the side of the road; to have them shout and wave to us; even to see the adults engaging brought much greater joy than just standing on the sidelines and watching a parade pass by. If I said it once during that 3 mile trek, I said it a dozen times, “This is so much fun!”

The thing about watching a parade is that the scenery doesn’t change – and really neither do the people. And when it’s over and done, you get back in your car and ride home. But this time, I actually made a journey from here to there – and the ride home was one of excitement as I remained on the back of that trailer—still sitting on that exercise bike – with my hair blowing in the wind and every sensory fully alive. And for a moment, I forgot all else.

And so in this ordinary moment, I couldn’t help but think that’s the way it is with our spiritual walk. God asks us to engage, to participate, to be totally present in this parade of life: not just bystanders who wait for the free candy.

Friday, October 3, 2008

In the Beginning

When asked what my favorite book of the Bible is, I usually respond with whichever one I’m reading or studying at the time. However, I do have a few that make the list of choice favorites. For example, I truly love the book of Esther. I have taught it on a number of occasions, and with each teaching, it becomes richer and more meaningful to me. Of the Gospels, I think I'm partial to the one written by the disciple Jesus loved: John. And lately, having just taught a large portion of Romans, it just doesn’t get any better than that one. In fact, if we could keep only one book of the entire 66, I think that's the one it should be, for Paul really sums it up for us. But definitely among my top favorites is the very first book – Genesis.

I love Genesis. After four days of pretty strenuous reading this week, I concluded the book yesterday and it was just as fascinating and spell binding to me as any other time I’ve read it. I rarely finish the book and not find myself in tears; it just invokes such emotion in me.

Genesis is about conception. After 11 chapters of establishing some basic elements of creation, salvation, and judgment, God conceives a people. He begins with a single yet willing individual, Abraham, and out of that one, the embryonic people of God begin to grow in the womb. And over time, that embryo develops and begins taking shape, birthing a nation through whom God can and will reveal Himself.

I never cease to be amazed at the individuals God chose for such a responsibility. The people are real. The sin is prolific. The heartaches are many. But God is faithful to His covenant and the presence of life is kicking and robust.

Actually, not a whole lot has changed in 4000 years. Maybe that’s why I cry so profusely when I reach the end of the book.

Have you got a favorite?