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

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Community

My husband questioned the grin playing across my lips. "I just love Starbucks," I replied. We were waiting on his tall decaf 3-shot Americano and my grande non-fat decaf latte with 1 Splenda and light foam, but moments earlier, while I was still waiting on the cashier to accept my gift card, I couldn't help but overhear the customer at the adjacent register ordering his drink. I noticed immediately that he was a novice. After all, he didn't know it was a "grande" and not a "grand." And I was just plum embarrassed for him as he tried to place his order. "Can you make that caramel ...." and then there was this long pause. I nearly slipped close and whispered in his ear, "Macchiato," in order to redeem him from any further humiliation. But after he stuttered "caramel" a few more times, the barista caught on and said it for me: "Caramel Macchiato." He wanted to know if she could make it decaf. Yes, a plebe.

Satisfied that the gentleman and his friend would be okay, I turned my attention to the people lining the walls like assorted toys tucked on a shelf after a long day's play. First there was a middle age couple enjoying an evening out. They spoke quietly, leaned in close, and even tasted one another's drinks. Definitely empty nesters rediscovering each other.

Next to them were 2 young girls sitting shoulder to shoulder and giggling while watching the screen on the laptop in front of them.

As my eyes progressed leftward, I witnessed 2 young college guys holding up the north wall. They were as different as night and day sitting there; one was large and black, the other small and white. And whereas their distance and lack of eye contact spoke one thing, their constant conversation said another.

Around the corner from that odd couple sat a mother and son. She was decked in a black overcoat and he was sporting his letter jacket. She seemed delighted to be sharing such a moment and was giving him her full attention across the table; he seemed almost embarrassed to be caught. Thinking about how I love to sit and talk in a coffee shop with my now adult boys -- and they with me, I wonder how long before that young man finds out it's really not so bad to have coffee with his mom.

My eyes made it on to the final group gathered in this java hut: 4 young men lining the window. Since my back was mostly to them during my wait, I didn't have quite the study advantage. But as the barista called my name and I jacketed my cup, I turned and got a quick peek as I headed for the door. Nothing really out of the norm for a coffee shop. Except maybe that male #4 was sitting there in a stocking cap and shorts and it was freezing outside. But I think what amazed me most were his .... shoes, for lack of a better work. They were more like metal slippers with casings for each toe -- like a glove. The texture reminded me of a knight's armor. Looked awfully painful to me and even more odd with the shorts. But I just smiled even larger, reiterated my original thought: "I just love Starbucks," gave a confident nod to the two original plebes, and exited this eclectic community of coffee drinkers.

Community. A science dictionary would define such as "a group of organisms or populations living and interacting with one another in a particular environment." The legal dictionary lists it as "people who live in a particular place or region and usually are linked by some common interests." We might use words such a society, association, kinship, league and even brotherhood to define this word community.

As I sat in church last week celebrating Christmas Eve communion with "my folks," I was struck by community. It was a sure place of kinship, association and brother/sisterhood. Common interest brought us together. The king's horses couldn't separate us. But that's really no surprise. After all, we had gathered to worship a God who is communal. He is a plurality of oneness. As is written in the introduction to Common Prayer, "God has lived in community from eternity as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God as Trinity is the core reality of the universe, and that means that the core of reality is community." We are made in the image of community: whether we experience it within the walls of our worship centers or in a coffee shop.

Just an ordinary moment...

Friday, December 17, 2010

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Way

My husband and I took a little road trip on Saturday. He had business which to attend and I had a mission. When one normally thinks of a business trip, one might imagine nice khakis and a dress shirt for the man and a cute sweater and nice slacks for the woman. But I'm married to a forester and this was my attire.
The walking stick was for picture purposes only. It was HIS stick.

He assured me the trip to the water was only about as far as our house to the neighbor's across the street. Which isn't far. What he forgot to mention was what we'd be walking through to get there.
Yes, that's my dear husband blazing the trail for me. And he kept assuring me there WAS a trail. Now tell me, do YOU see a trail???

He also gave me some pointers. Like "Try not to breathe." Why?
Meet Mr. Ragweed. And this was a smaller bush! The only reason I took this picture is because it was actually in a clearing and I thought it looked pretty. The rest of the journey, I was actually pushing it out of my way just to get through. (If you look closely in the previous snapshot, you can see its bounty.)

Another time he suggested I keep my eyes looking up because I might see a deer. A deer? I'm sorry, but I was going to have to wait and just hope one crossed the road while we were in the truck on the way out. At the present, I was too concerned with snakes and briars. Speaking of which, one should never wear expensive jeans to the woods -- nor new turtleneck sweaters. While he had donned Carharts, I had gone for "cute." And cute doesn't cut it in the thicket. Forgive me if I don't mention the blood. I had really hoped not to draw any, but those briars were unforgiving.

I'm a novice rock collector, and at one point in our trek, we came across these small boulders. I felt it best not to ask if I could take them home with me. If we had found a puppy, there wouldn't have been any question. He would have just followed us back to the truck. These babies would have had to be toted.

Finally, we came upon a clearing and our destination could be seen in the distance!
Yes! I had run the race! I had fought the good fight! I had won the prize! "But wait. Why are we turning? The water is in that direction and isn't the water our purpose and intent?"

"Yes, but we can't get down at that point. The hill is too steep. We have to go over there where the footing is better," he said, pointing in the distance. And thus, we continued our journey.

But finally, we made it, and Lord, have mercy, right there where we came out on the landing, my soul had found a resting place!
And so my husband did what he came to do ... survey;
and I did what I came to do ... find mussel shells.
We walked the shoreline filling my bag with shells and acorns, and all too quickly, it was time to go. The only difference now was that we'd be walking UP hill instead of down. And so we did.
My husband pointed out this tree to me saying, "If I didn't know better, I'd think that was one hellacious hog that did that."
HOG??? I've got to ward off snakes, briars, and now wild hogs? But noticing the bulge in my eyes, he quickly and wisely retorted, "Or just a massive deer."

I certainly didn't remember walking through this burn pile earlier...
It's because we didn't. We had taken a different route "home." And, yes, we walked right through it, being very careful because "the footing isn't sure."

And then, lo and behold, I saw it! Rising in the distance like a mirage in the desert...
The truck! This walk from "our house to the neighbor's" had taken almost 3o minutes, my "cute" had worn off and the very chilly weather had turned near hot under all those layers. But I had done it and the victory lap was ready to be taken.

As I was bending over unlacing my boots, my dear man of some 31+ years said, "What are you doing?" I said, "I'm taking off my boots and putting on my tennis shoes."

"But we're not through. This is just the first track. There's another one."

I slowly raised myself and turned around. Eye-balling him, I said, "You ARE kidding, aren't you?" No, I'm afraid he wasn't....

The truth of the story is this: while I was following my husband through that dense thicket, I thought how fortunate I was that I didn't have to be afraid. Yes, I kid about snakes and hogs, but the walking stick he carried was a ready-made weapon and he could and would wield it in a heartbeat to anything or anyone who he perceived as a threat. And maybe I watch too much NCIS, but I also was made acutely aware that day that I never need to be afraid when I'm in his presence in a desolate place, because he would never physically harm me or leave me. But I think what struck me the most on this particular morning turned early afternoon was the way we moved through the brush. Not once did I know where I was or in what direction I was moving. My husband was my only way in and he was my only way out. Without him, I would have been utterly and hopelessly lost. But I was completely confident in him.

For thousands of years, people searched for God, yet were never able to come close enough to truly know Him. And then one day, the Word of God -- His very thought -- became flesh. And in the midst of our searching and our doubts and our fears and our just plain "lost-ness," we hear Him say, "I am the Way." He didn't say, "I am a way." Nor did He say, "I'll show you the way." He didn't hand us a creed as a roadmap, nor did He did say He had the answer. No, He simply said, "I am the Way," and He meant it. In a world where so many ways beckon and so many voices clamor for our attention and allegiance, I'm grateful for a Savior who is THE Way; One who will never harm me nor lead me astray. And One who will get me safely home to my Father.

Just an ordinary moment...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Waiting...

Before my sister-in-law and her family left this week to return home from their visit with us, they brought in presents for our family that would be opened on Christmas morning. As I took the gifts to an appropriate holding station, it was everything I could do not to shift the paper around in the bags and take a peek as to their contents. No doubt there was a conflicting twinge of frustration laced with eager anticipation.

Waiting. It's not something I do easily or that comes naturally to me, though I've had ample opportunity of late to hone my skills. I've been waiting on cakes to cook and cakes to cool. Waiting on family to arrive. Waiting on the phone to ring for a long anticipated call. And may I just say that waiting in line at the bank drive-in last week nearly put me over the edge. Of late, there have also been the true "waiting room" experiences -- in doctor's offices, in hospitals, and in labs. And of course, my most on-going waiting involves the upcoming birth of my first grandbaby. Waiting. It's a way of life. But I know I'm not alone in it. I read recently that people feel wronged if they have to wait for more than 24 hours to receive a reply from an email. No doubt, we have become accustomed to immediacy, and we just plain don't like to wait.

Having made the proper arrangements last night, I woke this morning to my Advent wreath and its 4 candles (3 purple and 1 pink) on my coffee table awaiting their first light of the season. Given to my inability to wait, it almost seems ludicrous that I would still engage in such an activity. But I find it necessary -- almost like waiting to open those gifts from my sister-in-law. If nothing else, Advent evokes anticipation. But in a world that demands for Christmas to come earlier and earlier every year, what do we do with such a season as Advent? Do we just abandon it altogether? Or do we relearn how to wait, finding meaning in the act?

I've discovered that pregnancy is a great teacher for waiting. For one thing, waiting is not just about passing time. Not only are there the necessary outward preparations of buying baby furniture and stocking the drawers with tiny items, but there are the more inward workings. Each week my sweet daughter-in-love sends not only a picture of her developing tummy but an update as to what's going on inside with our "Little Hoot." Every week, our little love is developing or growing something new that is absolutely essential for his/her life. outside the womb. And I don't care how impatient I am, the last thing I want is for that baby of ours to come early. The waiting is an absolutely invaluable part of the process. It is not passive like I've often assumed. It is a nurturing time, priceless in its own right. Advent does the same thing. You can surely agree that there's no busier season of the year than the one that stretches from Thanksgiving to Christmas. But Advent does not demand passivity but activity: a vigilant internal waiting that, as we wait, forms new life in us.

I'm convinced that Advent is not a cultural dinosaur. It is an event to be cherished and re-learned if necessary. And quite frankly, it is not so much a season as it is a way of life. Of stopping, of entering into a deeper place with God, of being present, and yes, of anticipating. Without it, our journey is impoverished.

And so this morning, as the rest of the congregation sings "Joy to the World," my heart will be crying out, "Come, Thou long expected Jesus. I'm anticipating ... and waiting."

Just an ordinary moment....

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Just One Thing More....

I never make it through a Thanksgiving Day without remembering a particular incident that occurred some 12 years ago. In fact, I pray I never forget it. Here is my journal entrance dated 7/10/98...

I glanced around the room and thought to myself, "How sad." Though she lives in a huge antebellum home, her world exists within the confines of this small, square space. I had already noticed that when I drove up to the side of the house and got out of my car that the black shudders were barely hanging on their hinges, weeds had all but overtaken the yard and the house and that the steps were rotting. When I knocked, she didn't approach and let me in. I just opened the door and called her name. She heard and gave me entrance. This particular day, the curtains were drawn, lights were off; just a few rays filtered through whatever slits in the drapes they could find. It took a moment for my eyes to adjust. Attached to her small room was an even smaller kitchen/porch that had been added for convenience, I'm sure. A caretaker comes once a day to cook a meal for her and see to her needs. A portable toilet sat directly next to her bed. Sitting slightly angled to one other, we occupied the only chairs available. Two little bowls of candy, one with peppermint and the other with chocolate, rested on the small, round table that separated us. She confessed that cheese straws were kept hidden under her chair for really special guests. Her television set with a Bible and a magnifying glass tucked up under its stand completed the circle and seemed to make up the 3rd guest at our little party.

And so we visited. To be 96 years old, her mind is really quite sharp. She reminded me much of my own grandfather with her ability to remember details. She said she was watching the Braves tonight, able to call many of their names, but that there were several shows on CNN she enjoyed, too.

Because her eyesight is now so poor, she admitted to me that she cheats when she reads her Bible. "Cheat? How do you cheat when you read your Bible?" I questioned. "Oh, that's easy," she said. "I just 'read' the passages I know by heart. " I asked which ones that might be and she named Psalms 1, 23, and 100.

She talked about her family -- past and present. Both her dad and her husband died when they were 51 years old and she has lived as a widow for 45 years now. She has also lived in this same house all of her 96 years -- except, of course, when she went to Wesleyan College some 80 years prior. And though a staunch Baptist, she was quite proud of the fact that she is a direct descendant of Susannah Ansley Wesley! Quite a heritage, I must admit.

Living right across the street from the local United Methodist Church, she loves hearing the carillon bells chiming. She told me that one particular day, "Count Your Many Blessings" rang through the air, and so she decided, "Well, I'll do just that. I'll count my blessings -- I'll name them 'one by one'." And then she added, "However, I have so many, that by the time I got to 87, I was tired and just quit counting."

What a humbling moment for me as I sat there with this nanogenarian (and, yes, that's a real word -- I looked it up). Here is a woman whose entire existence is all within a 20 foot radius; whose only contact with the world is through a house phone, who cannot even walk outside and get her morning paper, and SHE tells ME she had to quit counting her blessings when she got to 87 because she just had so many.

O God, have mercy and forgive me for my murmuring and my complaining. Forgive me for my ingratitude and thanklessness. You have indeed given me so much! I ask for just one thing more: a grateful heart.

Just an ordinary moment...

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Gift of Presence

I found myself in an unusual place last week. All normal activity had stopped and I was temporarily deferred in a hospital waiting room while a loved one was having surgery. I've sat in such spaces on numerous occasions, but never in this role. I've been a daughter, a sister, a friend, even a Sunday School teacher; but last Friday, I was a wife. And what was suppose to be a two hour procedure ended up being more than five. Thankfully, the OR nurses were good about keeping me informed -- that "everything's going well but that it would be awhile yet."

In the meantime, family and friends came, sat, and waited with me. My own sweet daughter was there from the time they rolled her daddy out of the room until they rolled him back in almost eight hours later. But each person who came, regardless of how long they stayed, offered me what I knew in my head but not yet in experience: the gift of presence. Every last one of them had put aside all other activity of the morning, and just come to "be" with me. No one brought an agenda. All came empty handed. Their presence was enough.

And so on this dark and chilly November morning, I pull my warm legs from under the covers and place my feet on a cold floor. And with nothing more than a cup of hot Scotland black tea with a little cream and sugar warming my hands, I offer to Him my presence. Nothing more -- for the presence IS the gift.

Just an ordinary moment...

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Linger and Listen

I set the metronome to 88. The piece was in cut time (meaning there would be two beats per "click"). Immediately my student began trying to match the notes on the music to the beat of the small time-keeping device. I placed my hands on her hands to stop her, and said, "Listen for the beat." Once again, she jumped in; and once again, I stopped her mechanical approach of trying to make her hands align with the tick-tock of the metronome.

This time I said, "Don't play yet. Just listen to the beat. Let it become a part of you inside here," tapping my hand on my chest. I instructed her to let the music flow, not from her head to hands, but from her head to her hands through the beat inside." Thus she did. And thus was her success.

It's strange how God can use such a simple illustration to bring home a truth in my own life. For how many times have I done the same thing: just jumped into the hustle and bustle of the day, expecting full well to produce some kind of music in my life because I had the mechanics right? But the Lord says to me, "Linger in my Presence and hear My heartbeat." And so I rein in my impulses to jump into the day's activity, and I listen. And from there, when my beat melds with His, and the two become one, the true music begins.

For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:10).

Just an ordinary moment...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Journey of Faith

I took my mom and dad on a little road trip last week as they had yet to see my son and his wife's home up in Kennesaw nor my cousin's place in Cumming. Considering the temperament of Atlanta traffic, the trip up was quite uneventful -- for which I was very grateful. And though I had on my GPS, it really wasn't needed. I knew the roads and the exits about like the back of my hand.

We had a great visit with the "kids." After a tour of their home, some lunch, and a few "ahs" of delight over the new baby furniture, they took us on a little excursion which consisted of a trip to the top of Kennesaw Mountain, a visit to their church where she works, and a stop at their favorite coffee shop, The Daily Grind.
Mom finally found a chair that's her size! It was in the nursery!!!

By then, it was time to hit the road again heading northeast -- in Atlanta on a Friday at 4:00. Not smart. But I called my cousin and she gave me some "easier" directions than what my GPS was instructing -- ones that would keep me off the REALLY busy highways. I followed them precisely and delivered mom and dad to cousin Billy's front door. [One thing that helped to make this portion of the trip more palatable was my new smart phone. Just the day before, I had downloaded Pandora radio and was able to tune in to Glenn Miller radio. Mom knew every song!]

We had a grand time with Billy and Michele in their beautiful home. Not to mention a great place for the grandchildren, Billy also has quite the man cave -- complete with a HUGE screen TV and a pool table. Gracing the walls are pictures and plaques of Billy's wrestling career that his wife Michele insists be displayed -- much to Billy's opposition. I especially enjoyed seeing the pictures of him when he wrestled for GA Tech back in the 60's. More recently, there's a plaque recognizing his induction into the National Wrestlers Hall of Fame. But you won't find a more gentle, humble and Godly man on earth. That's why he's my "FC" (favorite cousin).
I failed to get a picture while we were there -- so here's one from a family wedding a few weeks ago.

After a lot of great eating due to Michele's talents, a relaxing evening with dear family, and a good night's sleep to top it all off, Mom and Dad and I headed south -- but not before setting the GPS to 77 West Paces Ferry Road. But this time, I had absolutely no clue as how to get from point A to point B, and if ever I was dependent upon my navigational device, it was then. Completely dependent. At one point, a red truck pulled in front of us which blocked my view of everything but his tailgate. My daddy made the comment, "That's bad. Now you can't see where you are going." Truth is, though I didn't tell him, it really didn't matter, because I didn't know where I was going. I knew the destination point, but how to get there? It was only by listening to that voice instructing me where and when to turn that I pulled into the parking lot of Whole Foods. And the way I was praising Jesus, one would have thought I'd just entered the gates of heaven itself.

It was Mom and Dad's first trip to Whole Foods, one I thought was important for them to experience -- for more reasons than one. And I was right. They loved it. Mom more the food; Dad the people. We weren't in Kansas anymore, for sure. We even had lunch there! (I do regret not getting pictures.) But before heading home, I set my GPS one more time and headed to Fort McPherson, the place where my dad spent his first year in the army before being shipped out to Japan during the Korean War. This time the trip was a little more taxing. Traffic kept us backed up for a good 30 minutes as we attempted to exit onto the ramp, and then when we got to the destination, we found the gate had been blockaded and we could find no other entry. And so I did what no male but every female would do, I stopped a gentleman walking home from the grocery store and asked him for help. He sent me back the way I came, and said, "You're only two minutes from there."

After a few minutes of sitting inside the gates of the fort with Dad reminiscing a little bit -- after all, it has been almost 60 years since his dad and my mom dropped him off at those gates ...
This is what he looked like. Handsome, huh!

... we headed south one more time; the trip returned to its uneventful status and by God's grace, we arrived home safe and sound.

I've thought several times since then how that little road trip parallels life's journey. On some portions of the stretch, I know exactly where I'm going; no road map is really needed. It's almost as if God lets me see what's ahead. At other times, I need a little help along the way -- someone to counsel and guide me. Another to point me in the right direction. But on the particular leg I find myself these days, it's more like that stretch of GA 400. I can't see what's ahead. All I can do is listen to the Voice that says, "This is the way; walk ye in it." And then trust.

As I was up in the guest bedroom getting ready to come home Saturday morning, a Michael Card song came on the radio and I quickly committed the chorus to memory. As we were traveling down 400, I asked my dad to jot down the words for me because they suddenly became very real.

To hear with my heart
To see with my soul
To be guided by a hand I cannot hold
To trust in a way that I cannot see
That's what faith must be

Just an ordinary moment...

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Fair Lesson in Evangelism

I took my annual trip to the fair last week with 3 of my girlfriends. We've been doing this day for a good 8 or 9 years now, and it's become a priority for all of us. Just a day to which we look forward. Basically, it's more of a progressive meal down the midway, and our first stop is always the fried cheese.
Traci had not made it yet; obviously we didn't wait on her to eat.

For lunch, which took place about 20 minutes after the fried cheese, we had a fried pork tenderloin sandwich, fried vegetables, and a corndog. Split 3 ways, of course. Kim wanted to go ahead and get a cinnamon roll but we said that it might be a good idea to wait on that for the time being.

But amidst all the talking and catching up, we were able to take in some attractions, too. The petting zoo, for one.
And the Tams concert.
Here's Traci adding a little color to the Slide.

The original "Tam" who played at my college dance in the 1978 is now 75 years old. His son carries on the legacy.

It was an absolutely beautiful day to ride the ferris wheel.
And, of course, there was the Sea Lion show.

Yes, these are real sea lions. And they stunk.

Somewhere in there we also ate soft ice cream on a cone, and before leaving, shared a funnel cake while watching the water ski show.

So what about the "ordinary moment"? It actually happened while we were taking a "break." I had plopped myself down on a bench outside the facilities to guard the water bottles while the other girls were doing their "breaking." And there I saw it. I took a couple of pictures, but out of respect decided not to post them. Truly, what I saw should have blessed me; rather it turned my stomach. It was a tent turned tabernacle; and outside were a young man and a woman "enticing" young people to come in and hear a story -- "It only takes 5 minutes" -- and after doing so, receive a free gift. Of course, the story was the story of salvation given in 5 easy steps. The free gift was a sucker. Please don't get me wrong. I esteem highly all those whose desire was to see people come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus. What disturbed me so was the tactic. That young man standing outside the doors was more like a hawker peddling his goods, yelling mainly to unsupervised children and teenagers as they passed by. In fact, it reminded me even more of the "carnies" on the midway enticing fair-goers to toss a ring over a bottle or shoot a basketball through an undersized hoop all for a worthless trinket. It just didn't set well with me.

I sat and watched for quite awhile, even urging my girlfriends to sit a moment and take in what was happening. Most often what we saw were young people leaving the tent no different than when they went in; maybe just more eager to head to their next venture -- with sucker in hand. I made the comment to my friends that I wasn't sure this was the correct way to go about evangelism; however, if just one life was truly changed, then it was worth it. And so we moved on. And we came upon this:As we passed by this tent, an older gentle sitting just inside the awning and out of the sun said, "May I fill up that bottle for you with some ice water?" I thanked him and told him that would be nice. He filled it up just as he offered; we chatted a minute, and then in a very gentle voice he said, "I just have one question for you. Do you know the Living Water?"

"Yes, sir, I do."

As my friends and I departed the tent and headed toward the sea lions, I looked at them and said, "He got it right, girls." That was the Spirit of Jesus.

Just an ordinary moment...



Thursday, October 7, 2010

Let's Do the Twist

There are few events to which the people of Perry look more forward than the Georgia National Fair which is held right here in our beautiful little city. All year, the community sign on Sam Nunn Blvd. counts down the weeks -- and then the days, until if finally reads, "Have fun at the fair!" And tonight was Sneak-a-Peak when everybody from Perry shows up. Everybody.

Twenty-eight of us from my own family -- amidst the thousands of people -- seemed to find each other in the crowd.

For the first hour, we moved and grooved to a local group called The Grapevine. And finally, at 8:30, the main attraction took center stage: Chubby Checker.

The legend himself.

When I had originally heard that Checker was to play the Fair's Sneak-a-Peek, I was thrilled. When I shared with my 22 year old daughter that "Chubby Checker is going to be this year's Sneak-a-Peek performer," she just looked at me quizzically and said, "Who?" So just thinking she didn't hear me, I reiterated, "Chubby Checker." And then, Lord have mercy, she said, "Who is that?" "WHO IS CHUBBY CHECKER???" Where, oh, where did I go wrong? For a moment I seriously thought I had failed miserably as a parent and considered turning in my mother button; but when I said, "You know, the Twist," praise God, she at least said, "Oh, yeah."

And so Checker began his show -- and for the next hour and fifteen minutes, it was American Bandstand all over again.
Our special cousin Lynn loves 60's music -- and Chubby Checker. She came all the way from Jacksonville, FL.

Granddaddy and granddaughter snuggle and wait.


My brother and his granddaughter take it in. (And he can still shake a leg.)


Yet another brother and his boy who was actually "dancing" on his daddy's shoulders.

From the youngest to the oldest, people just couldn't stand still. Babies jumped in their granddaddy's arms, youngsters bounced on their daddy's shoulders, teenagers acted as if they themselves had lived the 60s, and the 60+ year-olds danced knowing they really had. Even the most reserved could be seen shaking a little knee or swaying a might in the hips. And our friend standing behind me who is a few years my senior sang every single word to every single song! After all, it was Chubby Checker, the originator of the Twist. The Twist: the only single to top the Billboard Hot 100 twice. The Twist: voted the number one song for the entire decade of the '60s. The Twist: the first rock song to ever win a Grammy. The Twist: named the biggest chart hit of all time by Billboard magazine. The Twist: the grandfather of all the other "solo" dances (such as the Jerk, the Pony, the Watusi, the Mashed Potato, the Monkey, the Funky Chicken).

The performance was non-stop with Checker moving from one song to another with hardly a breath -- certainly no break in the music, when there finally came a crescendo to the evening and the moment for which we had all been anticipating: "Come on, baby, let's do the twist...." And for the next 20 minutes, we did just that. I have to say that in all my 21 years now of attending the Georgia National Fair, this was the most exhilarating and exciting time I've ever known: actually Twisting with Chubby Checker himself. My husband, my brothers, their wives and children and their children; my parents, my cousins, friends from church and friends from the community and, yes, even the governor himself with his family -- we threw caution and certainly all cares to the wind -- and we danced.

Oh, yes, we Twisted!

As the final note waned and the crowd continued applauding and celebrating the legend before us, I experienced a very uncanny and mysterious moment -- a sacred moment, if you will. I realized the gift the Lord gave to the world through this man at a time when our nation was experiencing such turmoil some 50 years ago. And the same was true tonight. It was a moment of coming together as family -- as community ... of forgetting heartaches ... of laying aside fears ... and just dancing.

And so amidst the accolades and ovations of the crowd, and with the same sincerity of gratitude when experiencing a beautiful autumn sunset, I lifted my eyes and raised my hand to heaven and thanked God for Chubby Checker.

And then the fireworks began.

Just an ordinary moment...

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sunday School Appreciation

Today on the way home from church, I witnessed a couple of children playing out in a neighbor's yard -- children I knew who had not been to church or Sunday School this morning (or any other time this week, for that matter). And it really broke my heart. It also reminded me of a question in my Bible study this week. The author put it this way: "Historically, have you seen God more as someone searching you out and eagerly awaiting an opportunity to give you a second chance or hiding from you?" And then, "What teachings or experiences have helped to shape your view in this regard?"

So what does that have to do with the children romping in the yard? Everything. I am who I am today because my parents thought it not only necessary but absolutely crucial to my spiritual upbringing that I be in Sunday School each week -- not for the attendance pin (my dad saw to it that I always missed at least one Sunday a year as not to receive it, because he didn't want a pin to be my goal) but because they knew the truths I learned there were foundational. And whereas I can't ever remember opposing that conviction, I'm so grateful they saw it as an important part of their parenting. Yes, I cut my teeth on the back of those little Sunday School chairs. I folded my hands in prayer and sang "Into my heart, into my heart, come into my heart, Lord Jesus..." each week. (And He did!) I learned that "Yes, Jesus loves me" as well as "all the little children of the world." Week after week, year after year, I viewed Jesus as a framed Shepherd -- a good Shepherd -- who seeks out that lost sheep and with joy brings him home resting over His shoulders. Experiences that helped me shape my view of a God who does not hide from me, but rather searches me out.

I am so thankful for those teachers who fed me the milk of His Word. "Little Nina," Mr. Boone (with his little bow-tie), Mrs. Hicks, and the list stretches on. If it weren't for them, and their saying "Yes" to serve in such a lowly but mighty way, I wonder where I would be today? Would I be struggling with issues of truth? Would I be questioning God's existence? Would I be following who knows what religion -- or just picking and choosing the part of each that works best for me?

Thanks also to you, Mom and Dad, for loving the four of us children enough to see that we were where we needed to be each Sunday morning. That you didn't take your parenting lightly when it came to that demand. That you knew Sunday School was an essential part of training us in righteousness. That we are who we are today because of the foundational truths that were implanted in us then.

The thing is this: if we needed it so desperately as children then -- some 50 years ago, how much more do children need it now in this generation? O Lord, have mercy.

Just an ordinary moment...


Friday, October 1, 2010

Poetic Worship

Poetically challenged. That describes me perfectly. Unless it has the lilt of a nursery rhyme, I've never been able to read it well, understand it, or certainly not write it. But Wednesday morning, I came across two poems in my early morning reading that spoke to me in a way uncommon to my poetic ability -- or lack thereof. So much so, that I returned yesterday morning to it and then again this morning.

Both poems were written by Gerard Manley Hopkins who was born in 1844 in Essex into a High Anglican family but later converted to Roman Catholicism when in college. He became a member of the Society of Jesus -- known at the Jesuits, where he involved himself in a life of intense prayer and spiritual discipline. Much to the world's loss, Hopkins died at a young age in 1889 of typhoid, but not before, as my friend Len related to me, he "destroyed a lot of his writings as proof of his 'commitment' to the Catholic church." How sad.

Personally, I'm so grateful these two made the cut. Read them out loud ... and worship.

GOD'S GRANDEUR

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs --
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.


PIED BEAUTY

Glory be to God for dappled things --
For skies of couple-colour as a brindled cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscapes plotted and pieced-fold, fallow, and plough;
All all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

Now couple that with a heavy dose of Psalm 84 and it just doesn't get much better.

Just an ordinary moment...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Harvest Moon Blessing

Last night marked something that hasn't occurred since Sept. 23, 1991 and won't happen again until 2029 -- a Super Harvest Moon. For the first time in almost 20 years, autumn began on the night of a full moon. As the sun sank in the west, bringing to close a very hot summer, the full Harvest Moon rose in the east, heralding the beginning of fall.

Just as it implies, the Harvest Moon is an agrarian term. Before electricity, farmers depended on the brightness of the moon to extend their workday beyond sunset. It also obviously gave lovers a chance to "spoon" a little longer as evidenced by the words to that old song -- the one which I've hummed all day:

Shine on, shine on harvest moon, up in the sky.
I ain't had no lovin' since January, February, June or July.
Snow time ain't no time to stay out-doors and spoon,
So shine on, shine on harvest moon, for me and my gal.

But something about the moon has always wooed me. I can remember as a very small girl reciting with both my mother and grandmother as we sat in the swing on that extended front porch those words that still warm my heart today:

I see the moon; the moon sees me;
The moon sees the one that I want to see.
God bless the moon; God bless me;
God bless the one that I want to see.


Yes, that's it. The moon gives me connection. In some strange way, it ties me with those who have gone before me. That beacon that shines through my window even now as I sit here in my "garden enclosed" was the same source of light that surely gave comfort to my great-great-grandfather as he walked home from Virginia to Georgia when the Civil War finally ended. And no telling how many times my grandmother watched it rise as she sat in her rocker on that front porch of her farm house after a hard day of labor. But even long before that, this same moon lit Abraham's path as he walked from Ur to that land yet to be seen. It's the same moon which inspired the shepherd David to sing and the one which cast a glow upon a bather as an older David walked on his rooftop. And no doubt, it was this same moon that lit up the face of Jesus -- by, for and through whom it was created -- as He cried out to His Father, "Take this cup from Me."

But tonight I am drawn back to the present and to those upon whom its light is cast this warm September evening. I disengage the alarm system and walk out into the middle of the yard where this Harvest Moon slips its rays between the branches of the oak and the pine. But this time I don't sing. I just softly recite the prayerful wish:

I see the moon; the moon sees me;
The moon sees the one that I want to see.
God bless the moon; God bless me;
God bless the one that I want to see.

Receive your blessing, dear reader.

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever ... who by His understanding made the heavens; His love endures forever .... the moon and stars to govern the night; His love endures forever... Psalm 136:1,5,9

Just an ordinary moment...

Early Morning Prayer

I awoke early this morning and saw my husband off to work while it was still dark outside. Instead of turning on my little lamp in my "garden enclosed," I opened a window and sat in the dark with my Parisian Lights black tea warming my hands. It was a special time of just Him and me. No book was open on my lap; no music; not even any birds at this moment. Just the sound of a cicada yearning to free itself.

Somewhere in the process of just "being," I began to lift the names of those who had been brought to my attention lately -- those who needed or had asked for prayer. Debra and her mother ... Christi ... Ken ... Kathy .... Erin ... a little boy named Jay who has an inoperable brain tumor and his dad who is about to be deployed ... Dawn's mother ... Tonya ... Don ... Debbie ... Janice ... a particular couple ... Julie and Mike, and the list continued with an almost overwhelming length and need.

But as I sat there in the darkness, calling out names and pausing with each, I was reminded of something I asked the ladies in Bible study to do last week. As they sat around in their small groups, I had them share what their particular life-story was telling others about God. For example, one lady said that she hoped her life-story was reading, "God is faithful." But then a funny thing happened: other ladies at the table began sharing what THEY saw in way of God by that person's life. In other words, how the Lord was manifesting Himself through that woman. And without fail, every revealed characteristic of God resulted from a place where that person is being or had been broken. That every revelation proceeded from and was due to some type of hardship. How odd.

But you know, I'm so grateful I serve a God of redemption, and that He does not allow anything to come into our lives that cannot be redeemed for His glory. That He takes our mistakes, our losses, our sicknesses, our dysfunctions, our pain, yes, even our messes and turns them into something beautiful: bread by which a broken world can be fed. Indeed, it is in the breaking that we are given and that He is revealed.

So, yes, Lord. Come and minister to each of these whose names have been called out before Your throne this morning. Touch their source of need and answer as only You can. Do Your complete work. And in a way that is so far beyond our comprehension, shine Your everlasting light through their brokenness and reveal Your Son in and through their lives.

How appropriate that as I had finished my prayer, the room was no longer black and the earth was no longer silent. The sun had broken the darkness and the song of nature had begun. Praise the Son of Righteousness who awakens the dawn and rises with healing on His wings.

Just an ordinary moment...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Smitten

As I mentioned in my last entry, I've been in somewhat of a writer's slump -- but not because of lack of things to write. In fact, I could have filled page upon page of the workings of both my inward and outward life happenings. But there is one particular occurrence that bears its worth on paper.

So, .... tap tap tap ... "Begin."

About 6 weeks ago, my son and his wife called to say they were coming for a short overnight visit. Kristin had just returned from her mission trip to Scotland -- the land of my husband's forefathers -- and she had brought home some special gifts to us. Our favors included wonderful Scottish candy, shortbread cookies, a book on the origins of the MacLennan clan and their place in Scotland's history, and a wonderful tartan plaid throw from the Lamont side. Yes, like I said, my husband is Scottish through and through.

Kristin then opened her laptop and began showing us pictures of her recent trip. She moved through them so swiftly, I thought, "She must have hundreds of them to be going so fast." I particularly remember the number of churches and steeples she was showing us. And then about the 20th picture in, this frame popped up.
In case you can't make this out, it's a picture of a sonogram which reads, "Your first grandbaby."

You could have knocked me over with a feather. I don't think I've ever been more shocked in my life. On more than one occasion when our married children have called us to meet them or just shown up with their spouses, I've thought, "I wonder if they've got some 'news' for us." But this time it had not even crossed my mind. Not once. And so here I stood looking at a picture of my first grandbaby; and let me just go on record as saying, I was smitten. Enamored. Besotted. Captivated. Crazy about. Completely undone by that raspberry size fetus growing within the confines of its mother's womb. That little thing that already had lips and a nose and eyelids. Legs and arms. A heart beat that was pumping fast and a brain that was developing at rapid speed. Yes, this was nothing short of our baby, a seed from God planted in the earth. And you can bet that before they left the next evening, I had placed my hands on that only slightly protruding belly and blessed that precious little thing growing inside of its mother.

Smitten. I'd never used that word before and suddenly it became everything to me. When I would tell someone, "I'm going to be a grandmother!" it was only natural for me to add, "And I'm already so smitten." And I am. Absolutely captivated by this new love in my life. One that I can hardly wait to meet face to face and cradle in my arms.

Up until now, the word "smite" has held negative connotations. We think of God smiting the enemy. Or as Webster's dictionary uses it: "His sword has smitten thousands." And I was actually beginning to wonder if I were using the word correctly. And then I read a passage from Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola's book entitled Jesus Manifesto that caused me to think differently. It read, "The need today is for the scales to fall from our eyes so that we may see the infinite greatness of our Lord ... This, of course, necessitates that those who have been smitten by Christ themselves impart that same sterling vision of Him to others."

Six weeks after learning the news, I'm still telling people, "I'm going to be a grandmother!" That news is not fading; it's not becoming old to me. My enthusiasm is only growing with the baby's development. And I have a feeling when the next one becomes pregnant, the news will be just as fresh and just as exciting -- and probably even more so as then I will know the full extent of the joy.

But here lies the conviction: "those who have been smitten by Christ..." Sweet and Viola go on to say, "Once our eyes are opened to see the incredible richness and captivating beauty of Jesus, either our other pursuits will take a backseat, or we will discover them anew and afresh 'in the light of His glory and grace.' Like Paul, we will be 'apprehended; -- ambushed and arrested by Christ."

Yes, I have been "ambushed" and "arrested" lately by our Little Hoot. But nothing should or can compare to the "spellbinding apprehension" that is ours when the Divine places His Seed in us and the mystery of the Gospel is revealed in us. Even becoming a grandmother should pale.

Just an ordinary moment...
"Little Hoot" at 12 weeks.

Two babies on the way. Robert and Chad are first cousins, the best of buds, and only 12 hours apart themselves. Kristin is due in March and Jadie in January.

Me and my girls -- a little weathered by the rain, but still smiling and celebrating new life. Yes, how appropriate: pink symbolizes a heart of flesh and childlike faith. O Lord, may it be...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tap Tap

Hello, my blogger friends. I think this has got to be the longest blogger silence period for me yet. There's so much going on in my life and in my head, but somehow nothing seems to make it to paper. I heard Sue Monk Kidd speak Monday night at Wesleyan College and she talked briefly about writer's slump, relating how a famous choreographer was having her own period of "nothing." Sue (as if I know her personally) said that the choreographer placed herself on a stage and then tapped her foot very lightly -- just one time. And then she tapped it harder. And then she tapped softly. Then hard again. And then as if her foot was a separate entity, she pointed at it and demanded, "Begin!" And thus she began "writing" again.

And so here I sit, not on a stage but in front of a keyboard and screen, trying to start anew. Tap .... TAP TAP ..... tap tap tap ..... "Begin!" [pause]

Tap tap tap .... TAP TAP TAP ... "BEGIN!!!" [lengthy pause]

Oh, well. Maybe soon. Please don't give up on me.

Just an ordinary moment...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Come to the Table

Someone asked me a couple of weeks ago if my husband and I still sit at the table to eat each evening now that all the kids are gone. My answer: "Yes, ma'am; and with placemats." You see, when my husband and I bought our current home some 11 years ago, one of the features I loved the most was the space it had to not only host my large breakfast room table left to me by my grandfather that spreads out to seat 10, but also the beautiful dining room table and chairs I inherited from my great aunt some 26 years ago -- not to mention the trestle table my brother built for us when we married and is now a focal point on my sun porch. No doubt, my love for entertaining and having people put their feet under my table was inherited from my mother. But I think that's only a portion of it. What is it about a table that brings us back again and again?

I think, for one, the table represents acceptance. That was never more evident than in the biblical account of David and Mephibosheth, the son of David's covenant friend Jonathan and the grandson of Saul. After King Saul died, the new king, David, summoned lame Mephibosheth to come and dine at his own kingly buffet -- to pull those lame feet under his royal dining table. Mephibosheth, one who should have been either killed or stripped of every royal right, was instead marked as "Accepted!" characterized by being invited to the table. When we invite people to place their feet under our table, we are virtually saying, "I accept you."

But the table also represents intimacy. The "breaking of bread" together extends much further than just sharing some food. The food, the drinks, the words, the stories -- are they not all intimate ways in which we give our lives to each other? I remember one occasion when I invited a widower -- a greeter at Wal-Mart -- to come and have supper with us. My husband, children and I sat around the table for hours as he told stories of when he served on a battleship in WWII. I've never seen one so emotionally distressed and lonely from a loss come so alive as he remembered and shared his life with us.

On another occasion, I invited a group of 6 brothers who were performing at the GA National Fair to come have a little southern lunch with me and my brothers. They came not only from somewhat of a different culture but also from a very different religious background. And before it was over, the feet under the tables totaled 32, but a better time had never been had.
The guests have been as diversified as the stories. Church folks, family members, revival speakers, out of town visitors, hurricane evacuees, and like I said, even a Wal-Mart greeter. At one time or another, we've used all the tables -- even a card table draped with lace and set for 4, placed in front of a warm fire on a cold winter night.

You see, when we eat together, we become vulnerable to one another. Weapons are not worn at the table. It is a place of unity and peace. Or should be. The supper meal can also be the most dreaded part of the day because of the silence that so starkly contrasts the intimacy of the table. It can be almost unbearable; the silence deafening. But a really peaceful and joyful meal? Ah, now that belongs to the greatest moments of life. And I've shared many of them.

While I know it's not the correct response, I now understand why a person's decline to a dinner invitation has often wounded me. It's more than just a meal at stake. It's more than just a desire to eat together. Whether it's two or twenty-two, sharing a meal, putting one's feet under the table with another, is the most intimate expression of our deepest desire to give ourselves to each other and to BE the bread, not just break it.

Just an ordinary moment...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Wasp Spray in the Hand of a Pastor

As I walked into the sanctuary this past Sunday to prepare the piano and myself for worship, I noticed a small wasp nest up in the corner of the portico, and with it, its inhabitants buzzing around their home. I quickly opened and closed the door and went in. There I found the pastor standing at his pulpit chatting with one of his parishioners. I excused my interruption and said, "Before I forget it, I wanted to let you know that there's a wasp nest just outside the door." The pastor asked for the exact whereabouts and then proceeded to the designated area. A moment later, while I was going over some of my pieces at the keyboard, he came back through the worship area with a can in his hand headed again to the covered porch. He was gone for just a moment, but as he re-entered and made his way to his study for some last minute preparation and prayer, I wondered if he truly knew the spiritual significance of what he had just done.

In the physical sense, this pastor had, in a way, just fought to protect the well-being of his people -- especially the young children who would be running in and out. Quite literally, those wasps were nasty little creatures that could become very easily provoked when messed with. But the unassuming and meek manner with which the pastor walked back through the sanctuary revealed to me a depth of servitude that spoke about more than just a routine spraying to rid the doors of the sanctuary from pests.

I thought about all the times this man has bowed to pray for a parishioner who is in the pit of despair. Or the accounts he has bent over a hospital bed and taken the hand of someone who's dying, offering to them a prayer and a word of hope. Or of the times he has fallen to his knees and begged God to intercede in a loved one's life. I wondered of the moments he has pointed a can of spray at the enemy of someone's soul and said, "You will not have this one!" I speculated of the countless times he has gathered the people within his charge in his spiritual arms and asked God to protect them.

Yes, as he casually walked back to his office with his can of wasp spray, I saw a man mighty in the Lord who attends to this particular community of faith and goes to battle daily to protect those in his care.

Just an ordinary moment...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Little Trim

I went out on my deck last week with my kitchen scissors in hand to cut some dry branches off a few of my potted tomato plants. On more than one occasion, a vine from the Confederate Jasmine that sweeps around the outside of the deck had poked its way through the trellis and wrapped itself around the neck of one my little budding greeneries. I would carefully remove the creeper and then with a quick snip of the wrist, dissect that particular spike from its source. One by one ... snip, snip, snip -- until I had made my way down the row of my vegetable "garden." But for some strange reason, I couldn't stop. I moved on around to the outside of the deck and kept "trimming" until I had cut the entire length of the Jasmine -- WITH MY SCISSORS! My right hand was not only bloody from rubbing places raw, it cramped for days.

Now what you must understand here, if you have not already deduced from the first paragraph, is that I am not a natural when it comes to gardening and have even less skills when it comes to landscaping. That is my husband's job. He does, has always done, and will always do the keeping and pruning of the yard. And he does it very well. I esteem him so highly in that. So, when I stepped back and looked at what I had done in this moment of insanity, all I could think was, "He's going to kill me." It wasn't like buying a new pair of shoes and bringing them home and sticking them in the closet so he won't know. I had "manicured" the shrubbery for crying out loud! And may I say it again? WITH MY SCISSORS! He was going to notice.

So after my morning of horticulture, I cleaned up a bit and went to pick my husband up for lunch. We had a delightful time at my friend's new restaurant that's just opened up in town. And rightly so, knowing it could quite possibly be my last meal. So on the way home, I casually asked, "Have you ever had a bad haircut?" He quickly remembered back to a time when we lived in Vidalia and he went to the barbershop downtown. He put on his cap to come home and the thing came way down over his ears. Seems the barber got to talking and forgot to quit cutting until the associate next to him leaned over and whispered something in his ear. Yes, we laughed about it again and both agreed that bad haircuts have a way of growing out, thus there's really no use to get upset over them.

I paused a moment in the conversation and then I said, "I trimmed the jasmine today." No other words or comments were needed. He would know the rest of the story.

A box of multiple sized Band-Aids -- $2.89
A pair of kitchen shears -- $9.99
A trip to the chiropractor -- $40.00
A word fitly spoken (Prov. 25:11) -- PRICELESS

Just an ordinary moment ...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Two Missionaries -- One Mission

Missionary #1: Kristin
Kristin is married to my son Robert. In fact, the way they were introduced was by the Rev. Bill Strickland, her pastor at the time, as he pointed at Robert and said, "There's your man." Of course, he was speaking of the male chaperon she needed to accompany her and her youth group to Costa Rica that year and not the man she would marry. However, as God would have it, Bill was more prophetic than he knew and my son ended up fulfilling both of those positions.

But missions had been on Kristin's heart way before Robert entered the picture. As a youth pastor, she has ministered on numerous occasions with sometimes lengthy stays in Costa Rica and has led teams to Guatemala, Honduras, and Mississippi post Katrina, just to name a few. And today as I write, she and a team from her church in Marietta, GA are in Scotland holding a youth camp. They are not only spending long hours of the days and evenings with these teens through worship, fun and fellowship, they are praying mightily that these young men and women would encounter Jesus and grow in their love for Him; that they would be awakened and revival would come to their very spiritually dark land. Just this morning, I was able to tune into their midst through a live feed and actually watch Kristin on the other side of the world share her personal testimony with these campers and beckon them to a love relationship with Jesus that is real. A relationship she knows only too well herself; one that defines her as His beloved and He as hers. How proud I was and am of this little tiger who doesn't even stand five feet tall except when she's wearing her "big girl shoes" (meaning high heals). God knows that she's huge in the kingdom.

Missionary #2: Adrianne
Adrianne is married to our oldest child Charles. I was just plum tickled when they started dating because I was sure Charles would never get a woman after I witnessed him making her pay for her own cappuccino at a local coffee shop. He kept assuring me it wasn't a date. And she did confide later that she was still "attached" to another and that this was a just a "ministry" meeting. Yeah, right. Let's just say I couldn't enjoy my own non-fat decaf 2 pump sugar free caramel macchiato for the less than intelligent move on my son's part. But all's well that ends well, and here we are 3 years into a marriage. And what a treasure she is.

As far as I know, Adrianne has never left the country; but her role as missionary is not defined by acquired air miles or passport stamps. She ministers daily as an administrative assistant to the pastor of a vibrant church in Macon, GA. Nights often find her hosting a ladies' Bible study or holding a girls' small group in her home when she's not attending her husband's youth group meetings -- generally just filling the role of a young youth pastor's wife.

But lately Adrianne has added yet another role to her resume: that of caring for her mother who was diagnosed earlier this year with stage 4 cancer. Being an only child and her mother's only caretaker during this time, Adrianne has stepped in with a vigor and call that equals the work and duty of any missionary on any foreign soil. Each day after work, she drives the 20 miles home and then another 15 to cook and take care of her mom, seeing her in bed and settled before she returns home to her own chores and bed. To me she exemplifies John 15:13 which says, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friend."

I could not be more proud of my two daughters-in-love. Servants in the Lord's eyes and champions in mine. Two missionaries. Yet one mission: to be the hands, the feet and the heart of Jesus. He and I sure do love these girls.

Now tell me, where is God performing His miracle mission with you?

Just an ordinary moment...

Friday, July 9, 2010

Second Chances

Like anybody else, I have pockets of remembrances. Vivid images that remain planted in my brain of past childhood experiences. Some good; some not so good. One such "not so good" memory is that of my standing in the hall in grammar school and laughing at a classmate. But I wasn't the only one. The entire class had joined in on this particular occasion. Laughing. Making fun of someone who was totally humiliated and embarrassed by a situation that was common to him yet beyond his control. I don't know why that particular image has stuck with me, but in the last couple of years, it has not only planted itself there, it has haunted me. And so I began conversing with the Lord about it. I begged Him to forgive me for such disgusting and insensitive behavior and asked Him to heal in this man now in his early 50's any wounds that may still be causing him pain or discomfort. And then I added, "And, Lord, if You should see fit for this individual and my paths to cross again, I promise You I will make a personal apology to him." Seeing that I had not even seen nor heard of this classmate in over 40 years, I really didn't expect that last portion of my prayer to materialize. In fact, I assumed it was quite a safe prayer to pray. I thought God would surely take care of the situation in an "internal" manner. So you can imagine my surprise when some time later, this man's name popped up in my facebook sidebar as someone I might know. I think my first thought was, "Well, darn it."

And so I sent a friend request thinking he probably wouldn't even remember who I was. It didn't take long to receive the acceptance of friendship, and there I sat. What in heaven's name do I do now? Well, I figured if God had fulfilled His part, I ought to own up to mine. And so I wrote one of the strangest letters I think I've ever scripted and asked for forgiveness from this one whom I had surely offended some four decades ago with my heartless behavior. I prayed for mercy -- both for me and him, hoping I wasn't opening any old wounds -- and I hit the "send" button.

Time passed to the point that I actually forgot I had even written the note, until about 2 weeks later when I received a very gracious response from this one whom I had abused. His reply was evidence that God had surely done the work in this classmate's life way before He did the work in mine. The Lord not only gave my friend a second chance, He gave me one as well. I could not have been more grateful.

Why all this about second chances? Because I need another one.

Present day. Last week my husband and I took a little day trip and ended up visiting a Farmer's Market in a small community on a square. While most farmers and artisans were beginning to take down their tents and pack up to go home, one remained with all his wares in place. As I was looking at his goods, he engaged me in conversation about his material. When I looked up at him, I became immediately aware that this man was very different from me. Without going into detail, just know that my mind was racing and turning a thousand different ways, not knowing exactly what to make of the situation nor how to respond. And so I carried on politely before walking away.

What makes me so stinking mad about all of this is the later realization of my own depravity. God revealed to me my heart; and it was ugly. I walked away having labeled this man a freak, because I looked upon the outward, when what he really is on the inside is a precious child of God crying out for identity -- "Who am I?" This was indeed one of those moments that Bruce Wilkinson writes about in You Were Born for This. I had prayed "Send me, Lord" and then walked away from the very miracle mission He had for me. And by doing so, I missed out on being a conduit of God's incredible grace and magnificent love.

So here's the deal. In our short exchange under that tent, I discovered that this talented and creative craftsman is moving within 2 miles of my own home. So I'm asking God for a second chance. For if He can orchestrate and bridge a 40 year lapse, certainly He can arrange yet another divine appointment within a much shorter period of both time and space. And until then, you can bet my eyes will be wide open in anticipation and expectation.

O God, give me a second chance to be a living link between heaven and earth!

Just an ordinary moment...

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Ambassadors

Normally when I travel to North Carolina with my husband on his business trips, I take lots of books, and except for the occasional midday walk to town for lunch, I stay cloistered in my hotel room overlooking the marina doing what I love doing -- reading and watching the boats come and go. And so once again, my man loaded my portable "book case" into the back of his truck and we were off. And the first day, I did just that.

This particular trip, I took such as Francine Rivers' The Atonement Child, Bruce Wilkinson's You Were Born for This, and Sybil MacBeth's Praying in Color ... to name a few. I also had my new sketchbook and a host of magazines for journaling.

It's what I love doing. I also love eating. And so on my first day alone, off I went for lunch; but on this particular outing, I was in for a greater blessing than reading or eating. God was about to treat me with His own flesh and blood.

Meet Russell and Dorry. Russell is one of the first people I ever met -- literally -- when I went to New Bern, NC some 5 years ago. At the time, he was the bellman at the Sheraton (now Hilton) when we checked in. He's a retired accountant who never meets a stranger and can even be found walking the neighbor's dog at night on the grounds of the hotel. He's also the one who suggested I try Stanly Hall Cafe this particular trip and their chocolate grits. (I'm forever indebted for that one, Russell!)

He and Dorry own Bear Essentials down on Middle Street, which, yes, runs smack dab through the middle of downtown. I never miss the opportunity to visit the shop. One knows right away upon entering that it's a special place. Herbal teas and organic chocolates are just the beginning of this sensory experience as the smell of essential oils from the candles and natural bath products send the olfactory nerve into a heaven all its own. But it's Doree's calming countenance and soft voice that puts it over the edge and makes anyone's day slow down and cause them to experience the moment. And whether I leave empty handed or with a bag slung over my arm, I always leave feeling refreshed after having visited with this woman.

Meet Emily.
Carved into the building just behind Bear Essentials is Etched in Time Designs. Having just located to their new location downtown, this was my first visit with this vivacious lady and her joy-filled husband Joe. After looking at a few of their items, I commented, "Y'all must be Methodist!" It was then that Joe popped his head around the door from the back room and looked to see who would make such a brash statement. Sure enough, he's a retired United Methodist minister now serving the community at Bridgeton UMC just across the river.

What an absolute delight it was spending time with this precious couple and hearing their stories. No doubt, there was a kindred spirit an immediate bond that can come only from the indwelling Holy Spirit who binds us together. I just love that about the Body and I'm always so grateful for such opportunities to meet siblings in Christ -- and this was no exception. When I went back the following morning for a picture, Joe was unavailable. He was teaching Bible study. But Emily and I had a few more good laughs, and I'm already looking forward to my next trip back and throwing my arms around both of them.

Meet Patti.
Every time I've been to New Bern, I've wanted to check out The Next Chapter Bookstore, but always hit at an inopportune time -- until now. And what a treat it was. I was the only customer in this used bookstore for a period, and so I just pulled up a stool and made myself at home. But as much as I enjoyed looking through the mass assortment of books, the thrill was meeting this beautiful northern transplant and just chatting -- for an hour and a half! We determined quite quickly that the War of Northern Aggression was over and I was able to admit my gratitude that my side actually lost. Patti and I share a love for learning and for books. She told me about the ones she was reading right now and I told her of mine -- and we each wrote the other's down. I found a sweet spirit in this lady and am looking forward to more hours of communion.

Yes, it was a delightful day of new relationships founded and old ones renewed. It was an afternoon of restoration and joy. It was a day when the Lord brought His children across each others paths to nourish and sustain and, quite frankly, to bring healing to a weary traveler.

And so I bless each of you: Russell, Dorry, Joe, Emily and Patti. Each of you in your own right is an ambassador and you greeted well this stranger to your land. I pray that the Lord's favor would be upon you and that everything that you put your hand to He would establish and cause to succeed. May you know His great love for you and may you walk in a greater awareness of His presence with you, for each of you is the apple of His eye and His desire is for you. Thank you for welcoming this sojourner into your life on such a hot and muggy June afternoon and allowing the Lord to use you to bring restoration to this body, soul and spirit.

And to the rest of my readers, you, too, are ambassadors, and I exhort you to pay attention to the people who come across your path this week. After all, it just might be a God-thing. In fact, I have every suspicion it will be nothing less.

Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel,
for which I am an ambassador...

(Eph. 6:19-20)

Just an ordinary moment...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Pleasures Forevermore

You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11).

This was a portion of my morning devotional as I sat overlooking the Trent River and Neuse River basin before heading out for a morning walk around town and a subsequent lunch at Stanly Hall Cafe. As I had meditated on the "pleasures forevermore," I thought of some of the more "spiritual" pleasures and joys. But just let me say that the Lord had chocolate grits in His right hand this day. Yes, you read that correctly.


As I live and breathe, chocolate grits with a dollop of chocolate mascarpone topped with real whipped cream and sprinkled with cocoa! Oh, indeed, as verse 9 of the same chapter reads, "my heart was glad and my tongue rejoiced!" In fact, that little muscle just about slapped me silly it was so happy.

And if this is just the temporary pleasures He doles out, can we even begin to imagine the "forevermores"?

Oh, the joy of living with God! May you, too, be so blessed!!!

Just an ordinary moment...