Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Simple Sally Said

I’ve recently started realizing that I’m a little leftward-leaning toward the simple side of thinking.

Like, what I mean is that I don’t exactly have the deep thoughts I’ve been thinking myself to have all these years.  Or maybe I’m, like, halfway between here and there, but I don’t have the skill set and vernacular that enables other folks to 1)complete that journey; and/or,  2)take others along for the ride, journalistically speaking.

And sometimes, even, it’s not just that I can’t have, complete, or convey a thought.  Sometimes I really just don’t know what the heck is going on.

Here’s an example:

I read something the other day that referenced the “evangelical Christian” versus the “mainline Christian,”1 and I was like, what does that even mean?  I mean, I know what "evangelical" means because I just looked it up.  Seriously, just last week. Because simple, like I said.  And I was, like, oh, wow, I believe all of that so I guess it turns out I’m one of those!

But in order to say anything about any of this to any of you, I had to explore the "mainline" definition as well.  Well, let me tell you!  I definitely don’t know what the heck is going on.

And I could have spent some more time. I could have read some more stuff, referenced some more stuff.  And then I could have given you here an extrapolation based entirely on my own sagacity.  However, some of the first material that I read, well, it was sufficient for my intendment.

Let’s just say that guy #22 puts me in the mainline.

So I am essentially at odds with myself.

But I already knew that.

Daily now I’m struggling with things both inward and outward.  There are days when, honest-to-God, I wonder and wish that I should just go.  There are other days when I have no question about my place and means of service.  I’d be alright if somebody would just tell me plainly what to do.  I like the narration feature!

(I know, I know.  I oughta be off the narration by now.  Anyhow.)

This struggle ~ it’s breaking off bits of my heart, making me jaggedy, mean and difficult to be around sometimes.  I don’t like change, but I like even less the idea of staying the same.

This morning, Andy Stanley asked me, “What if we didn't...”  I don’t remember the rest of the question, but it wasn't lost on me.3

I wonder what kind of Christian he is.

This Christian versus that Christian thing...
What if we don’t get it together, come together, overcome?

What if we do?  What if we drop the versus and just be God’s people?
God, help us that it could be that simple!4


Here’s another example.  A friend recently told me that I can grow garlic from the cloves I buy at the grocery store.  I spent nearly one whole minute trying to figure out how on earth they’d grow after soaking in that jar of whatever that stuff is.


On the matter of Lent and the subject of quitting ... this article just kept coming up, and so I finally gave in, and as far as I could comprehend, I should just quit writing.  But I just quit reading the article instead.

Benediction By Katherine Willis Pershey; I quite like this piece.
2 Can't reference this material because, while it was helpful, it was quite biased, and some of it in ways that I'm not sure would offend more one way or the other.
3 Especially since I heard this at my own church two days ago.  To note, my church has recently changed its name.
4 To be as honest as I can muster, there's a voice in my head right now saying that some Christians need to be shaken or pinched.  I'm not sure if that makes me evangelical, mainline, or human. God, help us indeed.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Cure For Classic Narcissism

What I, personally, would have scripted to begin with the ushering in of the season, actually began with an episode of Backstrom (I’ll skip all the details, disclaimers, blah, blah, etc.) and ended with a letter from the pope.1,2

It was supposed to start with Ash Wednesday, my quitting.  

I just honestly didn’t know what it was I would quit. 

See, I think the last time I fasted for Lent, it was from coffee, but I wound up feeling so much better physically that there was no sense of sacrifice.  I’d only benefited from the process in such a way that it left me feeling more remorseful than clarified, and so I was pretty sure the practice just wasn’t for me, and the years have passed, and my observance of the season has become a lesser and lesser thing.

I can’t remember if last year I even remembered the start of Lent. 

There have probably been other little things iggling at my conscience, but it was after watching that one episode, at the very second that I thought, “who wrote this?” when I heard myself asking it with an air of elite-est ownership, as if I were the only person on the planet who knew anything at all about this kind of suffering or that or whatever ... that I knew.   I’ve turned way too deeply inward.

I’ve wallowed in this for three days now, trying to write every sentence perfectly.

I want to make sense.

I want to make a difference.

I want to do no harm.

I want to be different.

Pope Francis wrote a letter.

He told me to quit the indifference.

The rest is personal.3

For at least a season.

1 You know, if those two weren’t friends with each other ~ and I don’t know that they wouldn’t be ~  I do know, at the very least, the pope would wash the bad detective’s feet.  

2  It ain't "ended" till He says it's ended.

3. Epitome of sentence with which I've striven.  It hardly makes sense in context.  But I relinquish it now.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Musical Interlude

Got a thing I gotta write, but until I get the nerve to do it, it's like I've got this music in my mind sayin' it's gonna be alright.

So I've just recently discovered T-Swift, and when I say "recently" "discovered", I mean, did y'all know that girl used to sing country music?!  Yeah, see I didn't show up till shake it off.

Woah, hold up.

[elevator music]  (okay, all shook off)

So anyhow, in the interlude (and procrastination) I'm on this ponderation about the contrast/comparison of my musical interests to my Gospel devotions.  

photo swiped from the nets
Swifty's kinda sweet and maybe not much cause for pause; however, she's on the rather innocuous end of my spectrum, I reckon.  So, for the sake of a blog post, I'll do here what I will later - inevitably - refer to as art. And maybe, just maybe, by the end of it all, you'll have heard it the way I hear it.  

Ya' heard?

Everything's changing around me
And I wanna change too
It's one thing I know
It ain't cool being no fool
I feel different today
I don't know what else to say
But I'm-a get my $#!* together
It's now or never

This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out.

I'm sick, sick of waiting in vain
Tired of playing the game
Thinking of making a change
Finally breaking the chains
Every phase, every happening craze
When it's said and done
My head is right back in a haze
I'm ready for the next chapter and page

In my anguish I cried to the LORD, and he answered by setting me free.

People say the light shines once in a lifetime
Is this mid-life kind of crisis a little bit like mine?
I'm thinking not now, but right now
I need some kinda sign that the future is bright now
I [mess] around, do the right thing like Spike now
The quick and the dead--which is my look-a-like now
I'm moving ahead

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Yo, opportunities lost because I blew 'em
On the sunniest days of my life I cried through 'em
Mom's out the picture and Pops, I barely knew him
And I would pray to God, but I'm tired of lying to him
Tired of trying to run from the things inside of us
Got a lot of fam' and a lot of admirers
Who tell me that I should aspire to be changed
But when I think of changing, it's like why even try this $#!*?

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

My mind hazy and my thoughts they get distorted
I know my good and bad deeds both get recorded
You do right so your soul can last
But my role was cast before I even auditioned for it
So I don't really see an end to my vice
It's just false reformation, no end of my strife
Feel the evil overpowering
You can go ahead throw the towel in
'Cause, [homey], that's the end of the fight
When you can only see the tunnel at the end of the lights
Lights out, party's over, it's the end of your life

I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

When I look into the mirror and see my own image
It feels like there's something else far off in the distance

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

Something I wanna see, but something that's resistant
And every day the haunting is growing more persistent

What your corrupt nature wants is contrary to what your spiritual nature wants, and what your spiritual nature wants is contrary to what your corrupt nature wants.

I never noticed it before, but now I can't miss it
And the constant pounding's driving me ballistic
I ran from it for years, but it's still next to me
And it's growing stronger taking even less of me
I can't fight it now; I know it's just destiny
And I just wonder what's gonna happen when it catches me
Will it leave me face down in the Chesapeake
Or will it just start bringing out the best of me?
But is the best of me really just the worst of me?
And if so yesterday could be my anniversary
In sinners' court, it's important to have church with me
I'm trying to get rid of these ghosts that's cursing me

I feel that change is an absolute certainty

'Cause what's going on is a state of emergency

Everything's changing around me
And I wanna change too
It's one thing I know
It ain't cool being no fool

For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

I feel different today
I don't know what else to say
But I'm-a get my $#!* together
It's now or never

It's now or never

Indeed, the "right time" is now. Today is the day of salvation.

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.  

And the payment for sin is death, but the gift that God freely gives is everlasting life found in Christ Jesus our Lord.  

If you confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised him from death, you will be saved.  For it is by our faith that we are put right with God; it is by our confession that we are saved. 

"Look! I have been standing at the door, and I am constantly knocking. If anyone hears me calling him and opens the door, I will come in and fellowship with him and he with me." Jesus

Ya' heard?

Just in case it's not clear, I've cleverly combined Now or Never by The Roots and various Bible Truths.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

These Are The Days

My recent pneumonia wasn’t crap compared to what some folks have been through, but it was a pretty significant deal for me.  I don’t know if I was really just that sick, if I was sick for longer than I realized, or if it was something else entirely. You know, something that would make for a really good conspiracy theory or sci-fi network flick. In any case, I’ve come back from it different.

Or, more specifically, it’s as if I’ve been given Ben Franklin’s super special glasses and I’ve flipped a lens.  I see things differently.  More specifically, I see things more acutely.

And something else ... there’s this one hand on which I feel as if I’m coming back strong.  A little stronger every day.  More aware.  More prepared.  More ready to jam.

And then there’s that other hand.  The one on which I just feel so tired.  The more I see...

tiredyou may recall, was the most notable expression of my ailment.  This last month or so, as I’ve reflected, I'm sure that tired was a large part of my becoming ill. Tired is what nearly completely overtook me.  And now tired is what continues to plague me.

Tired has been a battle, for real, and I’ve really nearly waved the flag, and more than once.  But then, true to form, I heard a word.

“You know, Elijah was a prophet, and after he’d had great success in defeating the prophets of Baal, he went from this high to a real low, and he was just down and out, and he just said, “God, I’m the only one in the nation of Israel still serving You.”  And God challenged that.  He said, “No, you’re not.  There’s thousands that still haven’t bowed to Baal.”  Elijah, the prophet of God, was wrong about why he was feeling so bad, thinking he was the only one.  He was just tired.”1

Okay.  So?...

Get up.    

Get up and what?  
I’m only good at shoes, Man.  

Get. Up.

And so the neo-battle begins.

And this next part needs a heading.

Surprise Twist That Nobody Saw Coming

(And would really be even better if it were narrated ... listen: 
The Surprise Twist That Nobody Saw Coming, doon doon doon)

Not even me.

I'm beating around the mulberry bush.  I dread this part a li'l bit.

Skipping much of my early childhood and getting right to the weird part, (okay, one of the weird parts), I spent some of my formative years in a tee-tiny Southern Baptist church seated in the foothills of Georgia, and during an era that some of the grandest Biblical/political conspiracy theories of all time were being ... can't settle on a word here.

Anyhow, my youth group got training.  It’s like....they told us all this stuff:  the days are coming when the government’s gonna do stuff.  Crazy stuff.  And you’re either gonna go along with it or you’re gonna get persecuted.  And you’re either gonna carry on for Christ or your heart’s gonna go cold.  

These. are. the. days.

That “heart could go cold” bit .... that eventually got to me, pissed me off, drove me away for a time, but now I’m feeling like time’s too precious to even tell about it. All I know is that I held one of my grandbabies the other day and I wondered:  is there any possibility that tired could be equal to cold.

Get. Up. 

I have to shut this thing down with a movie scene* because I just do.  There's probably something that makes more sense, but I couldn't come up with it.

youtube link, Matrix, Get Up Neo

Do I think I’m anything akin to Neo?  Aw, heck no.  (And come on, now!)  But I do see some of the code.  And I am going to get up.  And I’d really like to kick some hmm-hmm now.  Oh, wait.  That makes me quite a bit like Neo...

But in all seriousness, privately, I’m kind of freaked out.

Red pill, blue pill?  Red pill? Blue pill?!!  
Oh, wait.  I already took the red pill.  

God help me.  God help us all.

Days of Elijah

These are the days of Elijah
Declaring the word of the Lord, yeah
And these are the days of Your servant, Moses
Righteousness being restored

These are the days of great trials
Of famine and darkness and sword
Still we are the voice in the desert crying
Prepare ye the way of the Lord!

Say, behold He comes, riding on the clouds
Shining like the sun, at the trumpet's call
Lift your voice, (it's) the year of Jubilee
Out of Zion's hill, salvation comes

And these are the days of Ezekiel
The dry bones becoming as flesh
And these are the days of Your servant, David
Rebuilding the temple of praise

And these are the days of the harvest
The fields are all white in the world
And we are the laborers that are in Your vineyard
Declaring the Word of the Lord

Say, behold He comes, riding on the clouds
Shining like the sun at the trumpet's call
Lift your voice, (it's) the year of Jubilee
Out of Zion's hill, salvation comes

Behold He comes, riding on the clouds
Shining like the sun at the trumpet's call
Lift your voice, (it's) the year of Jubilee
Out of Zion's hill, salvation comes

There's no God like Jehovah!

Transformed message series, Emotional Health, Reverend Rurel Ausley

Friday, January 23, 2015

Hammer Down

I learned this early and I learned it well.

Never show your weapon until you're fully prepared to use it; then don't stop using it til you're done.

Thank God we had a relatively quiet, simple, and fairly joyful Christmas morning with the family.  With each passing year, but particularly with hindsight on '14, I am increasingly grateful for the times we spend together.

This season, without exception, has been rife with revelation.

Again, it's as I look back that I can see how this was coming on.  What seemed like an ordinary cough, what seemed like my usual tired finally revealed itself to be an actual case of pneumonia.  Within hours of the family traveling on after breakfast, I developed such an acute pain in my chest that I couldn't hold a glass of water.

Hindsight.  Thank You, God, for getting me through Christmas.

But I'm not really here to tell you about my ailment, except that this has been one of the weirdest spans of time I've known.

And I wasn't the only one ailing during this span.  My youngest g'babe had respiratory syncytial virus, not always awful, but often enough.  My oldest g'babe had the actual flu.  My daughter continued to languish in the deep thick of addiction and mental misery, so much that I can say no more than that for the triggering affects  ... hers, mine, possibly yours ...

And I really was so sick ~ not like cold or flu or even what I thought would be pneumonia sick.  I was just more out of it, exhausted, done kind of sick.

(This is fixin' to be some really depressing ___ for a minute, but I've found no other way to share all of this.  Commit or get off here, I reckon.)

There was some point in the midst of all of this at which I was overcome by a certain sense and an urge to scribble some things down, but like everything else including my worries, I was just too tired to lift any of it up.  There was some quality of the light in the room on this particular evening that invoked passage and I began my review.  Was I done?

(Sorry, folks.  I told you.)

I'm really not meaning to be dramatic, as I know that certain of my offspring would claim.

(Okay, maybe it's a tad dramatic, but I promise I've dumbed this down as much as possible.  It is what it is and still the truth.)

And the plain truth is:
I was wondering:
were any one of us to go within those moments:
had I said all that I'd needed to say?

We never know, any of us, when our time will come to leave this place.  I think that most of us, while we know not to take our time for granted, we're not as practiced at the practice of not actually taking it for granted.

So time's come now to hammer down.  The thing I'm trying to say is that I've spent some time wondering... if I were to go or if any of you were to go, would I be leaving anything unsaid?

And I've concluded that whenever my time should come ~ or yours ~ I do hope we both know that I have, in fact, used my weapon til the very end.  I will have, in fact, completed my work.

See, it was my daddy who taught me about the use of weapons, and he, being so expert, so adept with guns and such, was loath to commit actual violence ... but words.  Oh, to use our words.

I don't always say the right things, but God help me, I've tried, and I'll try right up til the end.  Just like Daddy taught me.

Dear God, may the words that come out of my mouth serve the purpose you have assigned to me.  (And God help us all when I get it wrong.)

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Trigger Happy

My blogger dashboard includes at least a dozen drafts ~ some published works, later unpublished for various reasons; some begun works, never finished.  This piece is something I've been trying to produce since Christmas Day.  I've written, re-written, edited, re-edited, stacked paragraph upon paragraph of explanation, never attaining a lick of clarity.  Hopefully, what follows will not include any of the garbled mess I've constructed thus far and will just make the point.  It's time to just pull the trigger on this one.


We've had a dialed-down version of Christmas pretty much since our kids have been grown enough to splinter off and form even more places that must be visited for the holidays. They and the grandbabies come for breakfast on Christmas morning between the santa stuff in their own homes and the forty gazillion other places they'll have to visit on Christmas Day.

That's it.
Just breakfast.
A couple of humble gifts for the g'babes.
Not a lotta hullabaloo.



This year I caught myself in a peculiar pattern that I now realize I've been practicing for some time.  While my Christmas morning breakfast menu is simple and everything I need is here for days in advance, I almost invariably go bonkers on Christmas Eve and decide to make a whole slew of extra vittles1, having neither the time nor ingredients that I need.

No longer quiet.

No longer simple.

Now, this is the point at which all previous attempts to convey my thought have gone awry.  I think that here is where simple is really going to count so I'll skip all the textbook analyses and postulations.  Rather, I'll just tell you what I know to be true.

And you know this too:  I talk about myself a lot ... but I feel kind of at the center of it all, you know?  Like, I'm the source and axis of everybody's drama, sadness, neurosis, etc. ~ the supreme matriarch of a supremely dysfunctional family.

But I would like so much for things to be different.  I would like so much to bless my family, to BE a blessing to my family.  Maybe it's an extremely absurd effort, but I see the utterly absurd truth of it right there in the cranberry bliss bars.

There's something more to this pattern, though, and its genesis can be found in one of Melody Beattie's daily meditations, Holiday Triggers.

It was clearest to me this Christmas Eve when I gave the batter bowl to the g'boy.

Having grown up in a single Momma home, I had my share of (resultant) childhood troubles.2   To some, it may seem an ordinary thing, but for me, a batter bowl and beaters is an extravagant and lavish gift. When my momma handed those things over to my sister and me, it was, well, joy unspeakable! Delight, security, peace, love.  Otherwise, indescribable.  All of this and more, in those moments, dwelled there among the three of us.

I'm reminded of it every time I bake.

And therein lies my real goal, my honest-to-God-I-just-know-it motivation for wigging out right before my family gathers.

For all that's been wrong in the past ~ the childhood troubles, the bad days, the crappy years ~ I'd like so much to replace the [textbook analyses] with something that might trigger happy memories.  We've had a few of those too, after all.

I pray that all of you have happy triggers, and that if you don't, you find the will to make some.

1   I grew up country.  Do not correct me!
2   This is a necessary relational statement.
2a Her single Momma troubles deserve another post entirely.

Can't fail to share this post by Jen Hatmaker, a really good resource for anybody whose family struggles with big event days.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Say Something Nice

It's Monday morning so, you know, I'm supposed to be working.

However, I came to my desk with a draft in mind ~ several, in fact ~ the first and most pressing one being on the subject of encouragement.  I had this whole thing to say about how, here, at the Christmas season especially, we oughta go out of our way to say kind words to one another, encourage one another, build and hold one another up.

However, again... when I got to my desk, there was an envelope propped here, something the man left  for me after rifling through the mail.  It's something mass-mailed from a local entity, but someone hand-wrote a note on the envelope ~ a personal note just for me, to encourage me regarding this very thing you're reading.  (And signed it.  This wasn't my man trying to keep me going.  :) )

Ummmm...I'm not crying or anything.  That would be way too super girly, but can I just tell you that my eye sockets are swelling and I might find it difficult to speak at the moment?!

So obviously, this thing just changed course just a bit!  Rather than share now what I think might be a great gift idea, I'm straight up telling you something that I know to be true:  encouraging words are a gift to the soul.

So consider for a moment how regularly you hear complaints/negativity versus encouragement (regardless of the target.)  How regularly do you share one or the other with those around you?  How easy is it to affect someone's entire day with your words?  Why not say something nice?

Complaining and grumbling:  that's ordinary, everyday material.
Let's put that aside and gift one another with something extraordinary.
T'is the season, now especially!
Pour out tidings of joy, I say!
Good tidings of great joy!