Friday, December 20, 2013

Duck Dynasty and the Phil Robertson Dilemma

My facebook feed is one Phil Robertson post after the other, and fact is: my facebook feed says more about me--my particular circle of friends, my interests--than it does about society. (Everyone's facebook feed is unique.)

Many of my facebook friends love Phil Robertson and Duck Dynasty (if you don't, I beg your patience just a moment longer), and no surprise. I've lived in the south most of my life, and many of my people are camo-wearing Baptists. The Robertsons are reality stars to whom my people can relate, and many of them are riled up over Phil's suspension.

They're posting about the First Amendment. They're criticizing writer Drew Magary, GQ, and A&E. They're wondering why it seems like people in the LGBT community can say whatever they like without consequence. They're wondering why it seems like Pat Robertson (of The 700 Club) can say whatever he likes without consequence. They're wondering all sorts of things, and I had to walk away because my head hurt. I felt like a bunch of people were yelling in there.

Here's what I think. Again, wherever you stand, I beg your patience. I think--just like every other Christian I've ever met, including myself--Phil is a sloppy servant of Jesus. Jesus has used Phil, anyway, and will likely continue to do so. Phil will be able to reach people whom others can't.

Phil may have just rendered himself useless in terms of reaching unsaved African Americans and unsaved people in the LGBT community. At least, if I were African American or of a non-heterosexual orientation, I can assure you: it would be over between Phil and me.

I can almost hear some of you saying: "But Phil was just speaking to his experience in Pre-Civil-Rights-Era Louisiana." Okay, but Phil's experience was pret-ty durn limited to have made such a blanket (ignorant) statement about an entire group of people to which he doesn't even belong.

And I can almost hear some of you saying: "But Phil was just speaking out about sin, and a sin is a sin." Okay, but what I know for sure is that--even if a sin is a sin to God--a sin is not a sin in society, or among people. People are comfortable comparing one sin to another (homosexuality and bestiality, for example) so long as they're guilty of neither, but are you personally willing to place yourself in the same category as a baby rapist because you experienced a fleeting moment of jealousy over your sister's new purse? Be fair.

Perhaps you're thinking: "But Phil wasn't comparing. He was just listing sin." Okay, but I can see easily how people in the LGBT community would perceive differently. Can't you?

Regardless of Phil's intentions--and I'm willing, personally, to give him the benefit of the doubt--he was sloppy. He allowed the interview. He said what he said. And you know what? People will and should be held accountable for what they say and how they say it. Phil's neither dead nor in prison. He has a lot of money, a loving family, a huge fan base, and (regardless of his sloppiness) the love of the Lord. Phil's First Amendment rights don't guarantee his permanent reign as a reality star, but you know what? He'll be okay.

And I'll tell you something else: if Phil loves the Lord as much as he says he does, he doesn't want his predicament to detract from your celebration of Jesus's birth. Get Phil off your pedestal and put Jesus up there; He won't let you down. A human will, and every time.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

10 Suggestions for a Would-be Blogger

The new year's coming with all its possibilities, and if you're like me, you want to challenge yourself a bit and try something new. If you've ever considered blogging, this list of suggestions is for you, although frankly I have only three years of personal experience (and a very small blog) from which to write. My recommendations:

  • Go for it.
  • Know why you're going for it. I'm not talking about "niche" so much as purpose. For example, my purpose has always been to write things down for my children. Knowing my purpose helps me decide what to blog. It also helps me on those days that I'm discouraged, for whatever reason, with my blogging. On those days, I ask myself: am I still writing things down for my kids? And I am, so there's really no good reason to be discouraged. I'm doing what I set out to do. 
  • You may be shocked to hear this from someone who's studied and taught English, but it's not about the grammar. Grammar's important, yes, but perfect grammar can actually feel stiff and tiresome, and I'll choose an engaging storyteller over a grammarian, any day of the week and twice on Sunday.
  • Write whatever you want, but expect push-back, and be prepared to stand behind your words. The blogosphere, facebook, and the world in general would be better if people would buck up or shut up. You have freedom of speech, and so does everyone else. If the only words you want uttered are your own, find a quiet corner and talk to yourself. Don't enter the conversation, and for goodness' sake, don't start it.
  • Have you ever studied group dynamics? I've actually taught it (although I wasn't necessarily qualified to do so), and it's nearly always awkward to join an existing group, even a Christian one. The Christian blogosphere is fraught with cliques, pow-wows, and "better/holier than thou" attitudes. Try not to let it get to you. You'll make real friends over time, if you want them.
  • Don't compare yourself to anyone else. A wise man (either Dwight Edwards or Theodore Roosevelt) once said that comparison is the thief of joy. In my experience, yes. Every time.
  • Google is your friend. I've learned many things about blogging by using Google.
  • Back up your blog. (Google to learn how. See?) I recommend printing your blog, also, if your content is personal. Your family will treasure those words some day, even if you don't. I use Blog2Print for this.
  • If a large following is important to you, know that it'll probably take a good while and a lot of work to get it. This form of success is about more than the writing only; it's about promotion, reciprocity, and many other things.
  • If you decide to give blogging a try, please let me know so I can cheer you on. I prefer reading small blogs because relationship matters to me, and those with large blogs have only but so much time for it.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Bethlehem Walk. And Advent.

Sharon said she'd always wanted to participate in the Bethlehem Walk and asked if we'd go with her. It started, this year, two days after her birthday; it's free; and Cade and I hadn't participated for five years (Jim and the little kids never), so we decided to go for it. The seven of us loaded up in the minivan and headed over as soon as Jim got off work, arriving a good thirty minutes before it started. We got assigned Group #35, nonetheless, and had to wait about 2.5 hours.

Totally worth it.

Incredible how much time and work goes into the Bethlehem Walk, and afterward, we talked about our favorite parts. Charleigh loved the Baby Jesus part, and Clementine the part with the animals "for sale": especially the bunny, she said. All I know is: toward the end, she ran up to me in a panic because she'd lost the shekel with which she'd planned, evidently, to buy a calf after slipping into the town without paying her tax. (Oh, dear.)

I appreciated everything about the Bethlehem Walk, but above all how it brought my last (my only other) Bethlehem-Walk experience back to me. Five years ago, Cade and I participated with Scott and Rachel. That was a much colder night: snowing, in fact, and big, fat lovely flakes. Magical (Is it wrong to use that word in this context?), but Jim had decided against participating because, 200+ pounds ago, he thought it might be a bit much for him. He worried especially about falling on the uneven ground. Cade wasn't yet nine, and I was pregnant with Clementine (2+ months from giving birth to her). Charleigh and Chip were beyond my wildest dreams.

I couldn't help but take a minute to consider, the other night, how the Lord has shown up for me over the past five years. My husband has transformed into an able-bodied man, confident in the legs and feet under him. The young man who was not yet nine is very nearly fourteen, now, and a Black Belt. The daughter with whom I was pregnant is bumping up against five and reading. And I've brought two other children into the world--ages three and one--who spill so much sunshine into my days.

Truth be told, I've already struggled somewhat, this Christmas season. You should see my prayer list: so many of those closest to me on it, and not for piddly crap, either. Huge, scary, yawning issues: life-or-death-type issues, in several cases.

And I may well be the world's worst for fixating on what's wrong. I suspect it's the dark side of my spiritual gift (mercy), but in a heartbeat, I can enter a loved one's pain and despair and have a heck of a time getting out of there. I may be able to acknowledge fully that things are well with my household and me, but I struggle in trusting that wellness, let alone celebrating it. It just feels like something could go wrong at any minute; I mean, look at what's going on with so-and-so, for crying out loud.

But God has been good, so good, to me. And during this season of Advent, I want to express gratitude that I'm not truly waiting for anyone or anything. Jesus has already been born into this world. He's already been born into my heart, too, and--in good and bad times, alike--He reigns there. Within my heart and my home, at least (at last?), this moment is beautiful, and I'm lifting my head, just now, and offering my thanks.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Prayer Meeting of the Blogosphere (18)

Jumping right in, this week:

Heavenly Father, so many people I love are facing serious challenges this holiday season. I come thanking You for placing these people in my life: not because of who I am, but because of who they are. I recognize the heaviness in my spirit as the dark side of a blessing; I wouldn't feel so burdened if I didn't love these people so much. Help me know how to best pray and care for them, Father, and help me to trust that You're working even now on their behalf. Thank You for loving us so much that You sent Your Son Jesus into this broken world, and help us to keep Him (His birth, His death, His resurrection) forefront in our minds, this season. In His name I pray and ask these favors, amen.

Now it's your turn! Would you like to participate in an old-fashioned prayer meeting of the blogosphere? Here are some ideas:

  • You can pray about my prayer request.
  • You can share a prayer request by means of a comment.
  • You can share a prayer request on your personal blog and direct me to your post by means of a comment.
  • You can pray about a participant's prayer request.
  • You can write a prayer about my, your, or someone else's prayer request (in comments hither or yon, on your blog, etc.). If your prayer is somewhere other than this place, please direct me as you can and  will.
  • You can join in praying my or someone else's prayer.
  • You can share an update regarding a prayer request you've made here, in the past. 

Thank you for joining me, Friend. May God bless and keep.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Great Flood of 2013

My head is crammed and crowded with stories bumping against one another, begging to be told, and all I know to do is tell them one at a time, letting go of chronological order and choosing whichever story is rattling hardest at the moment. In this case, the Great Flood of 2013.

My mother-in-law Lorene inspires me for many reasons, not least of which is the devotion of her sons: the sort of devotion one earns over decades of sacrifice and unconditional love. Nothing quite rattles these men like the idea of something's being amiss with Mama, and I guess they'd do about anything to help her out or even just make her smile. Late Thanksgiving night, "anything" involved their buying and installing a new dishwasher.

Just at the start of installation, Jim got slightly too aggressive with a water pipe under the sink, and it busted, hot water spraying into the kitchen like what sprays from a fire hydrant in a cartoon. There was much hooping and hollering and racing to and from Lorene's bedroom closet (in which the hot water heater hadn't been touched or even spotted for many years) and the water main out at the road (which hadn't been messed with, most likely, for a decade or more).

My sister-in-law Jill, our teenagers, and I were very much at a loss as to what to do, but Lorene waded through the lake of her kitchen and started casting bathroom towels into the water. The effect was very much like casting a few Cheerios into a bowl of milk (and a gigantic bowl, at that), but having no better idea, Cade and I (baby on my hip) waded through the kitchen, too, and back the hall, where the water was flirting with the edge of the carpet.

The girls were asleep mere feet behind us, and most all the stuff we'd brought was in those back bedrooms, so Cade and I set about trying to create a barrier of sheets and towels between the linoleum and carpet. I was just asking Jill to call 9-1-1 when the sound of spraying water stopped.

Jim proceeded to use a carpet shampooer to suck up water, Jill emptying the canister into the kitchen sink every few minutes, and (at this point in the story, early on Black Friday) Terry and my older niece Jasmine ran out to K-Mart to buy a Shop-Vac.

Later, after things had slowed down somewhat, I said to Terry: "It was crazy to be standing where Cade and I were standing when the water stopped. It stopped just as it started to flood the carpet."

Terry nodded. "It was wild what happened at the main, too. Jim and I had both tried to turn the valve several times, and it wouldn't budge. And then suddenly, it just gave."

The guys were concerned initially that water had poured down a vent in the kitchen floor, but interestingly, the vent is built up such that the water circumvented it entirely; the shaft was bone dry. Water hadn't flowed into the carpeted living room, either; it had stayed almost precisely on the linoleum of the kitchen and hallway. Lorene pulled up the edge of the carpet in the hall and set a fan there for a few days. Amazing how little the damage considering the quantity of water that poured into that trailer.

Much later, after Jim and Terry had replaced the broken pipe and installed the dishwasher, they discovered that one of the shut-off valves under the kitchen sink was leaking. Yes, their mama agreed, it had been leaking off and on for some time. The guys bought and installed new valves under the sink. They bought, too, a tool to turn the valve on the main.

I wonder what would've happened had there been a serious leak when Lorene was alone and know in my heart that the Great Flood of 2013 was providential in more than one respect.

Jim's Mom and Chip, the Day before the Great Flood

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Rock

While in Tennessee, I called my childhood friend on the phone. "Hey," I said.

"Hey," he said. I told him what I wanted to see, and he reminded me of the whereabouts but said he wasn't sure what, if anything, remained of it. When I conveyed the information to my dad, he said (of my friend): "That's who you need to call to take you in there."

"He can't, Dad," I said. "He's in the hospital. He's been in the hospital for over a month."

"I wish your brother could take you in there," Dad said. (My brother was--is--in Baltimore preparing for another surgery.) Dad sighed. He'd talked me out of taking the girls, already, and knew I wouldn't be dissuaded further.

"We'll drive over that way, but it's not like it used to be," Dad said, and later: "You see that real people live here, now, but I don't want to disappoint you. I'm not opposed to knocking on this man's door and asking for permission."

I nodded. "Ask him exactly where it is, too."

Dad glanced at me. "I know exactly where it is, based upon the sun," he said, "but go on and ask him yourself." And--having learned a long time ago to ask for what I want--I opened the truck door without hesitation. The man stepped out of his house to greet me well before I reached his door. I extended my hand; told him my name and my dad's name; told him what I was after.

"Of course," he said. "You're more than welcome. I'll take you there, myself." So we walked together (the man, Dad, Cade, and I), the man answering my questions on the way and after we'd arrived, too, as Cade and I explored and I photographed. He'd made the area so much better (cleaner and more easily accessible), but the thing was just how I remembered, and the creek below, too, flowing through mountain laurel.

Most everything seems smaller when you're older, but this didn't, and--especially in seeing my young teen there (his face so like mine used to be)--I slid back more than two decades despite a pull in my left knee. When we finished, I thanked the man: told him he'd blessed me, that I'd show the photos to my friend in the hospital, that I'll return soon with my daughters. He was glad for all of it.

My dad--having never seen it before--was glad, too. "I'm glad you pestered me about it," he said. "I'm glad I didn't miss the adventure."

I wish I could say what I feel but haven't words, really: so many things I miss from my days of play in that place: my horse and my friend's horse (both dead and in the ground); my friend's health; my brother's health; so many of our playmates lost to themselves, me, or all of us. And though in good health, myself, I feel threatened because my witnesses (the witnesses to so much of what I hold dear) are in jeopardy.

I feel as though, at any moment, the best parts of who I am might slip away. I'm tired and frightened, beat down and sore. I want to be an emotional rock, and I'm not. I'm just heavy.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Prayer Meeting of the Blogosphere (17)

A day late, a dollar short: this is so often me, but welcome to the seventeenth, old-fashioned prayer meeting of the blogosphere.

Today, I'm going to pray over the season:

Heavenly Father, I want to thank you for these past few days with my family. Help us to never take for granted those occasions when we can gather together. I missed my brother, this Thanksgiving, and ask Your hand upon him as he prepares for another surgery. Please, Lord, may it be the last of its kind and bring an end to his pain. Continue to watch over his wife and children, and help us to trust You and experience Your peace. Father, I lift up to You those for whom these holidays are difficult because of loss or pain or grief. May we cast a little light into their darkness, Lord; open our eyes to how we might bless. In Jesus's name I pray, amen.

Now it's your turn! Would you like to participate in an old-fashioned prayer meeting of the blogosphere? Here are some ideas:

  • You can pray about my prayer request.
  • You can share a prayer request by means of a comment.
  • You can share a prayer request on your personal blog and direct me to your post by means of a comment.
  • You can pray about a participant's prayer request.
  • You can write a prayer about my, your, or someone else's prayer request (in comments hither or yon, on your blog, etc.). If your prayer is somewhere other than this place, please direct me as you can and  will.
  • You can join in praying my or someone else's prayer.
  • You can share an update regarding a prayer request you've made here, in the past. 

God love you, Friend. I hope to hear from you.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thoughts on Feminism

Oh, the ongoing uproar on the subject of feminism.

First, my story: I was raised in a household in which my dad functioned as head. I followed his rules for the most part, and I was motivated to do so because I loved and respected him and didn't want to disappoint him, but also because I didn't want to suffer the consequences of disobeying or embarrassing him: i.e., he had a long, black belt. All of the above is true for the years we were and the years we were not a church-going family.

I've always found myself attracted to men like my dad: broad-shouldered with a commanding presence. My ex-husband doesn't fall into that category at all, and I'd tell you I don't know how I ended up with him, but that would be a lie because, in fact, I do and just don't want to get into it right now. 

At any rate, my ex-husband had been raised primarily by his divorced mother, who was and is a strong and God-fearing woman, and my ex-husband seemed perfectly comfortable and content with the idea of a true and equal partnership between us. 

Problem was, I didn't know how to function within that sort of construct. I couldn't be trusted. I ran amok. He wasn't a saint, either, and our marriage fell apart.

So, now: Jim. Jim is much more like dear old Dad than my ex-husband. I consider him the head of the household, and under his leadership, I walk much more closely with the Lord than ever before. I feel fairly comfortable with the way our marriage works, although we've had to hash a lot of it out, and some of it with a professional. 

Jim holds the purse strings for real and will absolutely put his foot down in other areas, as well, but I can honestly say: I've never come to Jim regarding a Jesus calling that he hasn't backed me 100%. (I take that back: he's still not on board with the idea of our adopting a baby girl from China, but I trust that--if it's a true calling--he'll get there.) One of my favorite things about Jim is his desire to delight me. He reads and supports my writing; he surprised me with my camera and supports all my dabbling in the realm of photography; he supported me through my season of excessive cookie baking; and probably most importantly, he supports my every effort to do God's work.

Now, who's to say how screwed up I am or my marriage is, and why should anyone care, really, so long as I love the Lord and do His long as I love and please the husband God's given long as we're happy together (or working on it)?

And when the rubber meets the road, the feminists and non-feminists alike pluck my nerves because everyone's trying to convince everyone else of something, and I don't give much of a big, fat hairy crap about any of it.

Who am I to say whether or not some chick's been called to preach? I grew up in an Independent Fundamental Missionary Baptist church, and a female preacher works for me to about the same extent as a female gynecologist, which is to say, hello, not at all, but I'll readily admit: 1) I'm probably totally screwed up; 2) I have zero interest in messing with God's anointed; 3) a female preacher may well work beautifully for someone else; and 4) I don't know how to get around Galations 3:28. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Please, Lord, don't ever call me to preach because my sad, little zit of a brain would just pop.

In terms of our marriages, though, Lord have mercy! Why must we feel the need to tell one another how to be married? I say: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths (Proverbs 3:5-6, KJV, again: I told you: Independent Fundamental Missionary Baptist upbringing).

If anyone cares...if anyone's best advice for your marriage is simply this: make it your God-centered marriage. Get down on your hands and knees. Get up in the Word. Pray. Pray with your spouse! If the Lord's truly calling you to speak into other people's marriages, that's one thing, but be sure. Be careful! I suspect that most of you would do well to concentrate on your own person and your own marriage because...well,'re nothing but a hot mess like the rest of us, and you're not changing anyone's mind about anything, anyway.

What I Want You to Know about My Sordid Past

Photo by My Anjelina (Anjie Kay)

I read a Forbes article, the other day, on our biggest regrets. I relate really well to #21, about failing to live in a health-conscious sort of way, also to #23, about failing to visit a friend before his or her death.

#12, though, about failing to save a marriage, isn't among my personal regrets.

My life would have been easier had it not included divorce. That was a painful, little chapter, although not as painful as the marriage that preceded it, okay? I in nowise mean to write ill of my ex-husband, either; it was just a poor match of immature people.

The hardest thing about divorce, for me, was experiencing the hurt and disappointment of others. Our son was very young (four) and has always seemed to handle the situation well, but I knew I was letting my parents and grandma down. One aunt seemed particularly sad, which made me sad.

My parents are still married; my grandparents were married until parted by death; even my little brother and his wife are still married: sixteen years, now, in fact. I just never pictured myself the divorced one in the family. So there's that.

At the time of my divorce, I didn't (couldn't? wouldn't?) see or accept my responsibility for it. Many years after the fact, after I'd rededicated my life to Christ and remarried, I came to see and accept just how responsible I was--more responsible, in fact, than my ex-husband--and ask God's forgiveness for specific failures on my part. It was a painful process.

My life would be easier, today, if I were not divorced. First of all, there's the sharing thing. My ex-husband and I share custody of our son, and we share beautifully. Still hard. My family doesn't feel complete without my oldest darling in the mix, and he's very often gone. When I'm missing him, I know I'm experiencing a natural consequence of my failure and sin. I've been forgiven, yes, but consequences remain.

Another painful consequence comes in the form of other people's judgment of me as a divorced person. I can't even say how much is real vs. imagined, and in the end, it doesn't matter. What matters is that I allow the enemy to mess with my head over it. For example, when I feel as though my words are being dismissed by another Christian, my go-to thought place is: oh, (s)he doesn't respect my words because I'm divorced. That hurts, and every time.

My greatest regrets revolve around my being unkind to others, including my ex-husband. But you understand, surely: I can't regret marrying or lying down with either of my husbands without regretting one or more of my children. I would do any of it, all of it--in the same sinful ways, if necessary--all over again to get my four children exactly as they are: each so much of the best of his or her dad. I have produced the first (and, so far, only) male heir for two different families: beautiful, strong boys; how can I not hold my head up high?

Don't pity me for any reason (history, situation, or mentality).

And here's another thing I want to get off my chest, a truth so precious to me: I am not jealous of you. I would not trade places with you for a second or even entertain the thought. It makes no nevermind to me who you are or what you have or how perfectly or righteously you've acquired it. 

God bless you, Friend, and I mean that with sincerity. I don't think I'm better than you by any stretch of the imagination, but I'll take it: I'll take my life, my story, my testimony, my children, my consequences.

I'll take my own, personal and extravagant redemption through the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Without hesitation, I will.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

You Could Be My

I seem to be telling the adventure in backwards order, so: an acorn-shaped gazebo in Silver Spring, Maryland. I'd read about it and asked Andrea if we could check it out. Given that nap time had come and gone by the time we pulled up (the girls scrapping and acting a fool in the seat behind us), Andrea turned on her hazards, and I hopped out of her Exhibition, alone.

The above isn't the best photo, I realize, but the sun was bright, and the gazebo sits just under a large tree. As I walked quickly around the gazebo, I saw just past and below it what looked like a fireplace or some such, and--given the plaque beside--I  went to investigate.

The plaque says (among other things) that this is the Silver Spring from which the community derives its name: that Francis Preston Blair and his daughter Elizabeth discovered it from horseback in 1840, Mr. Blair naming it Silver Spring based upon the appearance of "rays of sun on mica sand particles in the water."

For a spring, it looked dry as a bone to me, but I've been singing bits and pieces of the Fleetwood Mac song in my head, ever since. I looked up its history, last night, and learned: Stevie Nicks wrote the song after driving under a freeway sign that said Silver Spring, Maryland. "'You could be my silver springs...' that's just a whole symbolic thing of what you could have been to me," she explained, once.

I think about my own man: so overwhelmed and tired, lately. The night the little kids and I returned from Maryland, he participated in another mock trial for extra cash, and he's making more repairs on the bitty house, this weekend. We have catching up to do, yet, with bills, Christmas presents to buy. And I know he's worried about his mom: some scary things with her health, lately.

I don't always know what to do or say; in fact, today, he told me to stop talking. But I think about that bone-dry-looking spring and--upon considering what its name symbolizes to Stevie Nicks--decide not to dwell on what Jim could be (or is) to me, right now, but instead, on what I can be to him. I undress and tuck myself in against the prominent bones rising from his chest. I run my hands over his warm body but say not a word.

I would be your only dream...
Your shinin' autumn...ocean crashin'...

Friday, November 22, 2013

Prayer Meeting of the Blogosphere (16)

Welcome to the sixteenth, old-fashioned prayer meeting of the blogosphere. This week, I have a story to tell you.

My cousin-sister Andrea has a friend of nigh about thirty years named Strawberry. He lives in New Jersey but passes through Baltimore every so often, and when he does, she likes to drive up from Petersburg to visit him. She mentioned recently that she was about to make the trip to Baltimore and asked if the little kids and I would like to ride along and keep her company, and yes: I'm always up for an adventure, especially a cheapy one. I have plenty to tell you about the trip, but the part I want to tell you, now, has to do with the Prayer Stop in Silver Spring, Maryland. Here's a photo of it:

The Prayer Stop had been on my list of things to see for some time. As it turns out, Pastor Dennis--the very man who built the Prayer Stop--was there when we stopped. He isn't always, he explained, but he'd been painting and cleaning. I went inside, and he closed the door behind me and proceeded to share his testimony and the story of the Prayer Stop. 

He'd lost himself to alcoholism, his said, and then he lost his wife and job and freedom. In 1999, sitting in jail, he remembered the Lord's Prayer and prayed it from his heart, and shortly thereafter he got out of jail and accepted Christ. About two years later, the Lord gave him a vision for the Prayer Stop. Pastor Dennis had a hard time finding somewhere to build the Prayer Stop, but at last a Buddhist said he wouldn't mind having it in his front yard.

In the past decade or so, thousands of people have received salvation and healing while or after visiting the Prayer Stop. "There's no condemnation here," Pastor Dennis explained, "because I pretty much did it all before the Lord delivered me." I cried, listening to him, and then I filled out a card with my prayer requests. Pastor Dennis prayed with me, read scripture to me, and hugged me goodbye. The experience has inspired my prayer for this week's meeting:

Heavenly Father, thank You for being a big God capable of working out of the smallest places. Help me remember Pastor Dennis and the ministry of the Prayer Stop. Help me not to get too big for my britches but, instead, to be concerned only with Your will for my life. Make of me--if nothing else--a willing vessel: a living Prayer Stop. I pray the same for my brothers and sisters reading here, and I ask Your continued blessings and protection over Pastor Dennis and all those who do Your great work in humble ways. Help us not to despise small beginnings, Lord. In Jesus's name I pray and ask these favors, amen.

Now it's your turn! Would you like to participate in an old-fashioned prayer meeting of the blogosphere? Here are some ideas:

  • You can pray about my prayer request.
  • You can share a prayer request by means of a comment.
  • You can share a prayer request on your personal blog and direct me to your post by means of a comment.
  • You can pray about a participant's prayer request.
  • You can write a prayer about my, your, or someone else's prayer request (in comments hither or yon, on your blog, etc.). If your prayer is somewhere other than this place, please direct me as you can and  will.
  • You can join in praying my or someone else's prayer.
  • You can share an update regarding a prayer request you've made here, in the past. 

May God bless and keep you until we meet again.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Tug

The post below appeared first a year ago, on Emily Wierenga's blog. I published a teaser in this space and intended to paste the rest of the post in with the teaser, later, as I do always before having my posts printed and bound; however, I forgot in this instance. I'm publishing the entire post, now, so as to insure its inclusion in my next blog book. My friend Dot Samuel of Psalms of Samuel in Watercolor painted the two images below as a visual prompt for this specific project; I include them with gratitude.

Baby Chip celebrated his first birthday November 2nd. I remain keenly aware that, daily, God is writing the story of his life.


They counted to three and, working together, swung me from bed to table. Strange to witness their strain when I felt nearly weightless; I am a pendulum, I thought, tugged by time. I am floating; I have become a boat on water, or perhaps I am the water itself. On command, I spread my arms wide, and I won't lie: I thought of Christ crucified and wondered--as my doctor flayed me open like a fish--if I were about to die.

I felt no pain in the slicing: only a great tug, and my doctor lifted out the baby I could not touch. Later (after they'd swung me back to bed), someone handed that child to me. He latched with ferocity onto my breast and tugged out everything I had, and for the first time I believed the whispers I'd heard for years: a baby boy, and neither of you will die in getting him here.

And then relief leaked out of my eyes, but shame, too, because I'd made Doubting Thomas look good. Hearing and seeing hadn't satisfied; I needed to feel this son at my breast. I'd been pulling him toward me--out of dreams, out of the star-filled pocket of the Lord--for so long: I needed to know that boy had given up a more impressive Milky Way for the one what courses through my body.

He brought with him new eyes, because now I see it everywhere: the tug. I see the tension between beings, and there's no need to (be a) jerk, but every relationship involves tie and tug. The way one spouse offers up flesh to the other: I'm still here; don't turn your eyes toward another. The wildly creative ways in which a child of any age interrupts his or her parents' conversations, screen time, alone time: prove that no one and nothing is more important than I. The way even the restless dog carries a rope, a ball, to its master's feet: play with me.

And beautiful, isn't it?, the way a (wo)man of God pulls at the hem of His garment: see mehear me. The way the Father responds in reaching down and lifting up: seek me, serve me.

I hold close this child for whom I prayed and ask God to help me take myself less seriously. Make me a pendulum, I ask. Make me a boat on water. Make me the water itself. Help me to float, to die to myself. Help me to pick up the ball, to keep it rolling. Help me to show You, and them, how very much love I have in my heart. Give me tug, Lord, on these ties: just the perfect amount of tension that You, and they, should feel me ever on the other end.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Prayer Meeting of the Blogosphere (15)

Every time I host a prayer meeting of the blogosphere, I wonder if it will be my last. I wonder often: who am I to host a prayer meeting? Because I know the truth, and the truth is that, as ever, I'm a hot piggy mess.
  • I didn't make it out of my pajamas all day.
  • I didn't comb my hair, either.
  • I'm going to have to rewash what's in the washing machine.
  • I can barely see the floor of the playroom.
  • Or the floor of the girls' bedroom.
  • I'm having at least one issue with 4/4 children, right now, including this one, who keeps climbing up on the dining booth:

Kitchen floor isn't looking so great, either.

But--insecurities and all--here I am. In the same "Chicks with Brains" pajama pants I've been wearing all day. And what I want you to know is this: I'm not concerned with my brains, or yours, but with our hearts. If you're here reading this, I want you to know: I love you. I may not agree with you, but I love you. And if you're a mama like I am, I want you to know that I know.

I know you're at a loss, sometimes, when it comes to your kid. I know you don't know how to persuade him or her to stay in bed, take a nap, sleep through the night, eat the healthy dinner, complete homework, step away from the screen, step away from the compromising situation (whatever it is).

I know you're worried about how this person--this person you grew into being--will turn out. Will (s)he be healthy in every respect? Safe? Morally sound? Jesus-loving? Well educated? Will (s)he find the right job? The right spouse? All the right answers?

You're wondering if you're appropriately engaged. You're wondering if you're overlooking something or over-thinking it. Are you dropping the ball? Are you too controlling? Are you taking enough time for yourself or not enough? You can hardly say.

I know. I know because you tell me, but I also know because I'm just like you. We need one another, and we need the Lord. We need Him to center and ground us: to direct and lead us. To fill us with His wisdom and love and patience and strength. I invite you to pray with me:

Heavenly Father, I need You. I'm overwhelmed by the responsibility of mothering this person whom I want to become his or her best self. Guide me. Open my eyes, hands, mind, and heart to the best way: to Your way, Father. I long for my husband and children to rise up and call me blessed and for my husband to praise me as in Proverbs 31. I can't see the way to there, from here, and I need Your help. I'm asking for it. Forgive me for my sins and shortcomings, Lord, and help me to be more and better, tomorrow: for my family and for every bit of Your kingdom. In Jesus's name I pray and ask these favors, amen.

Now it's your turn! Would you like to participate in an old-fashioned prayer meeting of the blogosphere? Here are some ideas:

  • You can pray about my prayer request.
  • You can share a prayer request by means of a comment.
  • You can share a prayer request on your personal blog and direct me to your post by means of a comment.
  • You can pray about a participant's prayer request.
  • You can write a prayer about my, your, or someone else's prayer request (in comments hither or yon, on your blog, etc.). If your prayer is somewhere other than this place, please direct me as you can and  will.
  • You can join in praying my or someone else's prayer.
  • You can share an update regarding a prayer request you've made here, in the past. 

I'm here for you, Friends.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Love Wins

Oh, Man. My head is swimming with all the things I haven't said and need to say; in fact, I just interrupted my own blogging to make a list of things I want to write. But the thing I want to write most has to do with my own rebellion, a time during which I fell out of fellowship with God, and how He drew me back to Himself.

I should preface the whole thing by saying: I can hardly stand for someone to tell me what to do. I love a good story. I'm fascinated by facts and passionate about scripture. If the spirit's right, I don't mind a hint or suggestion. Sometimes (again, if the spirit's right), I can tolerate unsolicited advice.

But I'm very sensitive to approach. The minute someone tells me what I must do or must think, I shut down. I despise feeling patronized, judged, or labeled. I can get stuck for a long time over a feeling and have been known to argue with people in my mind for years.

Having said all that, there was a point in time after my divorce that I longed to reconnect with God. I was entrenched in sin, though, and unprepared to follow all of God's commandments (which I knew well, having been raised in the church) in any sort of wholehearted manner. I knew I needed ministry. I also knew I wasn't ready for a return to the traditional church. I wanted to ease back in: to feel accepted for (or despite) who and where I was.

I found a church that met my needs and--in that no-pressure environment--started talking and listening to God again. It took awhile, but over time, I managed (through the power of the Holy Spirit) to start untangling myself from the most binding of my sin problems. Some years after that, I felt relatively free of that sin problem and ready to return to the traditional church.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to photograph one of my dearest friends and her family. I'd wondered if I'd become emotional, photographing them, but truth is: they're an exceedingly playful bunch, and I was far too entertained for tears. As I studied images of my friend later, though, I was overcome thinking about our eleven-year friendship.

As I've written before, Christy's been mature, responsible, and settled over the course of our entire relationship, but I floundered spiritually for much of it. She loved me, anyway, and more than that: she did life with me. It made all the difference. It made every difference.

She'll read this and want to downplay what I'm saying, but I'm asking her to hear me. I'm asking you to hear me. Love won me. Not clever, intellectual, or even scriptural arguments. Not admonition, shaming, judgment, correction, or reproof. Love. The love of that one friend--coupled with the acceptance I found in a non-traditional church--won me back to Jesus.

I'm asking you: think of me before you bash a non-traditional church and its acceptance of those on the fringe. Before you talk about how dangerous it is to consort with those who walk openly in sin, think of me. Think of how one Christian was brave enough to walk with me through darkness and how one church was bold enough to fling wide its doors and say: "Come to Jesus where you are." And consider: because of this bravery and boldness, in the end, I'm probably pretty close to exactly where you think I should be.

I know I can't be the only rebel out there.

My Beautiful Christy and Her Family

Friday, November 8, 2013

Prayer Meeting of the Blogosphere (14)

Welcome to the fourteenth, old-fashioned prayer meeting of the blogosphere. Last week was crazy town for me, and I didn't post. Missed it. Missed you! How are you?

I feel like I've written about this before, but let's talk about those times we pray our hearts out, but God doesn't answer in the ways we hope. Let's talk about disappointment and how difficult it can be to trust God with concerns He doesn't handle the way we'd like.

I entered the prayer request of some friends, today, which is to say: I covered their request in prayer throughout the day. I felt very much with them: heavy, tired, even a little anxious. When the report came in at day's end, it wasn't as positive as I'd hoped. I feel disappointed and want to turn that feeling over to God.

Heavenly Father, forgive me for feeling disappointed when my prayers aren't answered in the way I hope. Help me trust in Your promise to work all things to the good of those who love You and have been called according to Your purpose. Help me to believe: Your ways are better than mine because You see the big picture in a way I can't even fathom. Give me peace, Father, regarding all the things I can't control. 

I pray this same peace for my brothers and sisters reading here. Thank You for them. I ask that each of them will feel Your presence in this little space. I thank You for it.

Help us navigate this life, Lord, with all its up and downs, ins and outs. And I pray a special prayer for those in my life who are battling cancer. You know who they are.

In Your Son's perfect name I pray and ask these favors, amen.

Now it's your turn! Would you like to participate in an old-fashioned prayer meeting of the blogosphere? Here are some ideas:

  • You can pray about my prayer request.
  • You can share a prayer request by means of a comment.
  • You can share a prayer request on your personal blog and direct me to your post by means of a comment.
  • You can pray about a participant's prayer request.
  • You can write a prayer about my, your, or someone else's prayer request (in comments hither or yon, on your blog, etc.). If your prayer is somewhere other than this place, please direct me as you can and  will.
  • You can join in praying my or someone else's prayer.
  • You can share an update regarding a prayer request you've made here, in the past. 

Thank you, Friends, and may God bless until we meet again.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Falling off the Edge of the Blogosphere

Erin and Mira drove from Chicago and stayed for nigh about a week. Their visit intersected with that of my parents, who drove from East Tennessee to celebrate Chip's first birthday. Jim and I threw a party, of course. During this same period of time, we took our former tenants to court (winning judgment against them) and started working with our tenant-to-be. I was on the hustle even with house guests: taking and editing photos to help the family stay afloat. And I don't even want to talk about our four days without Internet.

So here I am, having taken (quite by accident) my longest blog break in the history of my blogging, which in four days, will be three years.

I have so very much to say and intend to say it all, but for now, I'm just going to share some favorite photos from the last couple weeks (so hard to narrow them down!) so as to catch up in a sloppy sort of way.

Charleigh's First Experience on the Podium

Charleigh: Leaves in the Yard

Chip: Acorn in the Yard. I love everything about this photo, including his mismatched socks and Christmas jacket (prior to halloween), but especially the wonder on his face.

Clementine with a Kitty from Rachel's Barn

Clementine: Corn Kernels at  Chesterfield Berry Farm

Charleigh and Mira: Hay Ride at Chesterfield Berry Farm

Chip at Chesterfield Berry Farm

Clementine Painting Her Pumpkin (and painting it some more!)

Clementine as Snow White in the Yard

Mira as Alice in Wonderland in the Yard

Charleigh at Maymont

Charleigh, Mira, and Clementine at Maymont

Mira, Clementine, and Charleigh after Trick-or-Treating

Chip Covered in Smash Cake (Jim in Background)