Thursday, March 8, 2018

Salt in the Sugar Bowl on Easter

In 1582 in France, when Pope Gregory XIII changed the Christian calendar from the Julian calendar, which was implemented by Julius Caesar, to his Gregorian calendar, it changed the date of the new year from April 1 to January 1.  This is the time when people began being called "April fools." So, if you missed the memo or the email, not only were you deemed a fool for not celebrating the new year on the correct date, but you would have tricks played on you for the sake of a good laugh at your foolishness.  I am afraid I have been the victim of many April 1 pranks. Maybe you have had your sugar bowl filled with salt, your cereal switched or your hopes set high on some fabulous news only to learn what you heard was untrue.  Usually these pranks leave a mouth curled and a heart broken if pushed too far.  However, I admit it can be quite entertaining to watch someone leap 3 feet out of bed because they think they have overslept and to scream April Fool's right before they land- not that I have ever done this.  Whether or not I have a great scheme up my sleeve this year, 2018 is a little different.

April 1 is Easter. The date of Easter is different each year because the calendar date revolves around the March equinox. Jesus' resurrection was during the time of Jewish Passover, which was celebrated during the first full moon of the vernal equinox. In order for me to explain or understand further, I will have to go back to school and retake Astronomy. The "C" in my college Astronomy class is not getting me very far. So, I will trust my desk calendar when it says Easter will be celebrated on a fool's day this year.

The resurrection is the climax of my faith. My entire belief system rests on this one event. Without the resurrection, without a Living God, Christianity is not set apart. The calendar coinciding a holiday such as April Fool's Day on the same day the church universal celebrates Easter has really offended me. I am thinking that we could work around this equinox thing just this time and give Easter its proper place. However, as I mull over the merging of these two days the more I see a connection. I mean Easter is the ultimate example of things not being as they seem.

The story of the resurrection in the gospels leaves much to the imagination. We can only imagine how Jesus left that tomb. I would hope that he jumped and danced and shouted and with buoyancy and unbridled excitement as he yelled "death, where is your victory?" (In my head it's bit more irreverent with Jesus turning his head and saying "Peace Out-Watcha' think of this" but I didn't say that out loud.)
To those who led him to the cross and nailed his hands and feet, this is the greatest GOTCHA ever.  Even more so, imagine how foolish the disciples felt when they saw Jesus walk into the room and they realized they had not understood or believed him when he predicted his resurrection. "Then they will hand him over to the Romans to be mocked, flogged with a whip and crucified. But on the third day he will be raised from the dead (Matthew 20:19).

It seems we can all be a fool at times. Doesn't scripture teach that when a person denies the truth of who Christ is and what He did on the cross, he is like a fool? But Paul also writes to his brothers and sisters in Christ in Corinth that they are deceiving themselves when they buy into the ways of the world. He says in order to be wise the world must be foolishness. If the world's standards are the measure for our wisdom...then, my friend, be a fool (1 Corinthians 3).  All throughout Proverbs the writer contrasts wisdom with foolishness, the wise and the fool. "The fear of the Lord is the foundation of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline" Proverbs 1:7.

What could have been seen as the darkest day in history is actually the inauguration of the brightest. When the world saw death, Christ became Life. What seemed to be the end of the story was actually the beginning. When Jesus willingly put his arms across the splintered wooded beams, it made him a fool in the eyes of the people, but, in the words from the famous sermon by S.M. Lockridge "It's Friday...but Sunday's a Comin." Despite the gnawing in my gut over my sacred Easter day being bombarded with April Fool's hilarity as they did in the 16th century, I am reminded of the words of Paul in I Corinthians 1:18, "The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it's the very power of God."

The Power of God...If Easter and April Fool's Day "had a battle" (the words of my 6 year old son), Easter would win hands down!

And...if I were you... I would check your sugar bowl before you fix your coffee on Easter morning. Who knows, the Easter Bunny just might play a few tricks himself!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Don't Skip Thanksgiving...

The transition from hot summer days to cool autumn mornings and nights is magical. I always look forward to a couple months of pumpkins, apples being baked into tasty treats, and waking the fireplace from its summer slumber. November brings Thanksgiving, which is a grand holiday tradition in my family. We look forward to Thanksgiving all year long. We prepare for days for all the cousins to barrel through our door, eat too much and sit by the fire. My husband's grandmother-our Mamanon- taught me that a cousin is a "first friend" a " forever friend." I have worked to instill this into my own children.

But...if you haven't noticed during your Thanksgiving grocery shopping at the local super center, the Christmas aisles have already choked out the pumpkins and scarecrows. However, this is right on schedule because the Thanksgiving decor was already on display in July. You can't blink your eyes too many times or you may forget what month it actually is. You may already have your house decorated for Christmas (confession: I do too). The advent season is a beautiful time of year to proclaim the birth of our Savior; however, I have found myself silently screaming in the aisles, “What about giving thanks?”  “We can’t skip Thanksgiving!”

Our culture is driven by the holidays marked on our calendars. As Christians we fall victim to this as well and must be intentional to celebrate the birth of Christ, his death and resurrection and give thanks to God throughout the entire year. Years ago, I began to see this holiday driven mindset as a means and opportunity to share the Gospel of Christ with everyone around me.  Thanksgiving, for example, opens the door to tell others what I am most thankful for boldly and unapologetically. Often, people ask me what I have to be thankful for and they begin the conversation. Our friends and neighbors are hungry at Thanksgiving, not for turkey and dressing, but for a peace and purpose that only God can give.  In the midst of the suffering, hurt, and darkness that surrounds us, Christians can be a light that says, I am thankful. What an opportunity and calling we have to take advantage of those moments when we can proclaim God’s goodness and provision with friends, family, strangers and cousins! 

Psalm 107:8
” Let us give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for man.”

Psalm 118:21
“I will give you thanks for You answered me; You have become my salvation.”

I Chronicles 16:34
“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.”

Psalm 68:19
“Thanks be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.”

These verses show us the many reasons we have to be thankful to God. I invite you to reflect on the ways God has showed His love, carried your burdens, saved you, done wonderful deeds and showed you His goodness.  This year, I appeal to you, Don’t Skip Thanksgiving. Take the time and opportunities God gives you and be a witness to His goodness in all of life, whether that be in triumphs or tragedies.  Paul tells us in I Thessalonians 5:18 “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” When we are asked to share what we are thankful for this year, I pray we will use that moment to mirror the image of Christ and be a witness to what a heart of thankfulness looks like.  
Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, May 22, 2017

17 Broken Shells

My wedding anniversary is on May 20. This year we celebrate 17 years of fun, love and survival!  For the past several years our tradition is to go to Tybee Island for the day on our anniversary.....and sit!  We are beach lovers and soak up every minute. However, for almost 12 years now our beach trips consist of wagons, toys, buckets, diaper bags, Capri suns, goldfish, sand castles, boogie boards and every other kid paraphernalia you can buy to take to the beach. Remember John Candy from the movie Summer Rental- that's Tony every summer!

 One day a year we get to sit together with our toes in the ocean and talk, read and sleep and not once do we have to yell stop throwing sand at your sister or brother! I'm telling you its magical. We also walk away at the end of the day with a shell for each year. This year the mission was to collect 17 new shells to add to the collection.  As we looked for the perfect shells to mark each year of this journey, we realized we were not finding very many perfect shells. It seemed like every shell we picked up was broken.  These treasures from the sea had been tossed and turned in the tides and thrown to shore as only half or a part of what it once was.  As we collected our broken bounty the theologian in both of us couldn't resist preaching the illustration that was unfolding in our sandy hands. Broken...what a perfect word to describe our last year. The last year we have seen so much brokenness. Broken people, broken bodies, broken families, broken relationships, broken marriages, broken churches, broken communities, broken leaders, broken trust...brokenness is everywhere. For us, our home was literally broken.

Before we began our shell search I had been reading a new book by Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way. Out of the ten books I wanted to read on the beach that day, this one made its way to the top of the beach bag. I suppose I have been wrestling with my search for understanding brokenness long before picking up a busted conk shell. When the weight of brokenness is surrounding me, I want to know why. I want to know who or what is to blame so that I can fix it and stop the breaking. It might be a life changing circumstance or it might be that one individual day that falls apart with every move I make or conversation that is spoken. Regardless, feeling the brokenness is at times too much to bear. Seeing others in their brokenness is even more painful than feeling my own. Out my bedroom doors the hand crafted, glass green house my father built many moons ago is still a pile of rubble 7 months later.  I continually search for God's purpose in the shards of glass.
Ann Voskamp says, "There's a brokenness that's not about blame. There's brokenness that makes a canvas for God's light. There's brokenness that makes windows straight into souls. Brokenness happens in a soul so the power of God can happen in a soul."  

The creator of the world and humanity did not form us for brokenness. It was not intended for nature and man to experience the great losses we do each day. Yet, in God's great mercy, this parasite that attaches itself to every man and beast and creates deep wounds to the mind, body and spirit is still used by God to be a light of goodness and glory. Doesn't our brokenness point us to the One that is whole? Don't you think when we accept our own brokenness and other's brokenness we then find wholeness?

"Maybe the deepest wounds birth deepest wisdom. We are made in the image of God. And wasn't God's heart made to be broken too? Wounds can be openings to the beauty in us. And our weaknesses can be a container for God's glory." Ann Voskamp

I naively stroll the beach on the edge of the water thinking I might find that huge, perfect conk shell. Maybe this will be the moment the tide brings one my way. Until then, my toes dig up the broken pieces of oysters and clams. I am not disappointed. I am not running away from the brokenness under my feet. I simply embrace it and wait to see what God will make out of this broken mess. With each non-perfect shell Tony and I collected this year, I am gently reminded that all these halves and parts and this brokenness is what makes our marriage perfect. All the brokenness leads me to the One that is perfect.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Strawberries with a side of Joy please...

I am that mom that packs fruit of all kinds in my children's lunchboxes even though I am positive they will not eat it. They each have about two fruit choices that stand a chance of being eaten when not being coaxed after each bite. Why would I do something so foolish or wasteful you ask?  In some insane way it helps soothe my need for the kids to eat healthy, whole food, non-processed, non-GMO, non-hydrogenated, whole grain, organic, and everything else free foods. Basically, it makes me feel like that trendy mom on the cover of parenting magazines handing out kale smoothies for her children's after school snack. Occasionally, I face the truth and accept that my children can be picky. Often the pickiness is for no other reason than they do not want to work at trying something new or it leaves a bad taste in their mouth. Girl one says "watermelon." Girl two says "strawberries." Baby boy says "what do you have in chocolate?"

Today, I concluded a three month study on the Fruit of the Spirit in Marriage. This group of women, lovingly called REJOICE, has encouraged, enlightened, and challenged me each time we have met together. I am very thankful for each of them.  For weeks now I have invested my reading and thoughts on the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. One would think I  should now have some answers to life and faith in regards to the subject, but like always I find myself asking more questions and wanting to study more. In the past 17 years of marriage and 4 years of dating I have read countless books on marriage and relationships. Each has its benefits and practical wisdom. However, my heart longs to understand what it means to have "Holy Matrimony." A marriage that is set apart, unique, and not ordinary. I have learned that what happens as we desire and search for the meaning of holiness is we find ourselves in the vineyard of the Fruit of the Spirit. I think that often we try to grasp an understanding of peace, patience, goodness, self control, gentleness, and faithfulness by trying to juggle apples, oranges, grapes, and blueberries.  We separate them into separate fruits and then choose the ones we will allow the Holy Spirit to work within us. "Yes, I will have the goodness and peace, but I'm allergic to kindness and self control has a bitter taste."  God packs them in our lunches but we refuse to eat them.

Imagine if we, as God's holy, chosen people let the Holy Spirit change and transform us, thus changing our marriage relationships. If self control was part of our character think how much better we would handle conflict. If gentleness was growing within our bones I am sure we would not speak harshly or hurtfully. What if we allowed patience to come and rest within us so that God could show us his power. Imagine our marriages if kindness and mercy were our default, not selfishness and ungratefulness. Paul says it is The Fruit, not many fruits. We do not have the luxury of picking the ones we like and refusing the ones that are hard to swallow. How can I possess joy in all seasons and circumstances in my marriage yet lack patience? It is not possible. I imagine a whole new fruit. One that only the Holy Spirit could produce.  One that has the sweetness of a Georgia peach, the texture of a Gala apple, and the tang of a mango. The fruit that looks like "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control." This fruit is perfect for everybody.  This girl says, "I want that one!"

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Living Water

My family is one of millions impacted by Hurricane Matthew this past week. Although we may have a tree through our house, a cracked chimney, more trees down than we can count and the lingering effects of power and water outage for 5 days, we are safe, provided for and loved. We have a cloud of witnesses that have reached out and cared for our children, washed our clothes, fed us, housed us, removed trees from our house and greenhouse and roads. We are thankful! We have also seen how hard the men and women in our communities work to rebuild and restore. In the midst and aftermath of storms, we are able to focus and see how God reveals his grace and mercy without end... daily.  His grace and goodness surrounds me and is surrounding those who are suffering in almost unimaginable and far greater ways. For those who are hurting and perishing, we pray. 

As I try to wrap my brain around the last few days, I constantly come back to WATER. It is probably safe to say that the loss of electricity, modern conveniences and darkness is quite challenging to my normal routine; however, nothing impacted me as greatly as the loss of water. Forget the shower, I just wanted to wash my hands and flush the potty.  I became the great water hoarder, and scavaged for water bottles and buckets and ways to refill them constantly. A family of 6 with 4 pets consumes a lot of water! I remembered my Daddy always having bottles saved at the back of our shelter for a "storm" and wished I had listened to his warnings. My filled bathtubs were just not cutting it. My panic, anxiety and nervousness of living without water was alarming to me. I had moments of extreme restlessness that what my family needed more than anything was not available and out of my control. I thought of Hagar in the wilderness with her son Ishmael, crying because they would die without water.  To say I desired, yearned, or longed for water to flow out of my faucets is an understatement.

In the midst of my search for water, I kept thinking of the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. Jesus told her the water that she drew from the well that day would not satisfy her. He said, 

"Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the 
water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become 
in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

Every time I told myself the water would be back on in a few days and everything will be fine, God reminded me I would be thirsty again. I would ache again. I would panic again. My physical body will always search and long for flowing water. I drink. I thirst. I drink again. I thirst again.  But Jesus tells me the searching and longing in my soul, the needs within the deepest parts of who I am can be quenched. In Isaiah 55:1-3, the prophet says, "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters, and you who have no money, come and buy and eat."  He tells me to come and my thirst will satisfied.  The psalmist in Psalm 63 states, 

"You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; 
I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, 
in a dry and parched land where there is no water."

If we truly understood who God is, his love, his goodness, his faithfulness, his forgiveness, his GRACE, we would earnestly seek him with our whole beings as though we were searching for water in a dry and parched land.  What holds us back from seeking God wholeheartedly? Only through Christ can we be satisfied. We will only find contentment and peace in this fallen world through Him. Without the promises of God and understanding his character from Scripture, how could I ever make sense of massive destruction and death caused by a hurricane? 

 Because of the damage from my not-friend Matthew, it seems I will be able to remodel my living room. It will be great when its finished. I will be happy and satisfied, but it won't be long before I will want more. I know myself too well. I am never really satisfied. For many reasons, I always want MORE ....when I should want MORE of GOD.  I am praying that my thirst for him will grow stronger and more fervent each day. I want to ache for Him as I do physical water. 

Jesus told the woman at the well, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you LIVING WATER."  Living water brings peace beyond human understanding. Living water brings Life! Life to the fullest-Life that is everlasting- Life that goes beyond the surface-Life that overflows and springs forth the goodness of God into our life and the lives of others. The gift of God is there for all of us. Take and Drink.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Are you a safe place?

Every couple has a love song. They at least have a song they remember being popular at some point of their relationship they would play over and over. If you don't have a song, maybe you should be like Taylor swift and grab a pen and an old napkin and write down your song!  Tony and I have always had songs, from Keith Green in highschool, Harrod and Funck in college and A-LOT of Jimmy Buffet. Months ago I was introduced to the music of Andrew Peterson. I could not rave about him enough.  He is a brilliant poet. His songs are real and beautiful.  So, we have a new song. One that speaks more to where we are now in our relationship and life.
My One Safe Place
You're my oasis
The eye of the hurricane
One look at your face is
All I need to remember my name
So I run away home
Yes, I run away home to you

I was an orphan
Caught in a thunderstorm
You opened the door and welcomed me
Into your arms
So I run away home
Yes, I run away home to you

I believe in the love of the Father and
I believe in the power of grace
I believe that He brought us together and
You are my one safe place

You are a fortress
I am under siege
You're a light in the forest
I am a lost boy out in the trees
So I run away home
Yes, I run away home to 

Don't be scared, it's alright
It's a weight you were not meant to shoulder
But you bear so much light
And it's brighter each day we get older
And I know that you're  broken too
But you are a sacrament God has spoken through
He's spoken through you

I am my beloved's
My beloved is mine
And the banner that hovers over us
Is older than time
So I run away home....

You are my one safe place

Every day we are bombarded with people and circumstances that either exhaust us or cause emotional and mental turmoil. We are tired, torn, and stressed. After our long days at work, completing daily household chores, taking care of babies or being with kids at school and practices, running errands, making hard phone calls, dealing with conflict and tragedies, we just want to go home. It is a safe place. At least it should be. 
Unfortunately, marriages and homes often reflect the world more than a safe place.  After 16 years of marriage, raising 3 children, 3 moves, job changes, losing two fathers, and a whole lot more life, we have done it all. We have screamed, wept, laughed, yelled, loved, encouraged, and also been the source of each others greatest grief.  How many times have I waited for him to walk in the door, so that I could explode....
when he was looking for that safe place to run home to?  Imagine if daily we intentionally made sure that we were a safe place for our spouse to run to when everything around them is either crumbling or exhausting. And, what if we loved our spouse in this way without expecting anything in return?

The marriage relationship is the closest relationship we have in this life to Christ's relationship with the church. Christ's love for the church, for each of us as believers, is not because of what we do, but because of his Grace. Oh, how our marriages need grace poured into them.  Oh, how we need to be a refuge and sanctuary for our husbands and wives. We are the arms, feet, and hands of Christ to our most loved and cherished one. We ache to be comforted, healed, and held by the arms of our spouse; yet, instead of creating a safe place we lash out and push away. We find ourselves being no different from the world we are desperately trying to escape. God's love has no limit or condition and pours freely no matter what we have done or said. He is our refuge and strength (Psalm 46:1).  This should be what is exemplified in our marriages.  I pray for myself and for you that we will be a safe place to run home to.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

What's a musing???

The word sacred has changed for me over the years. For a long time the adjective was limited to the tangible parts of the church I could see, touch, smell, hear and taste. I knew the taste of grape juice and the crunch of my mouse size cracker meant something holy. I knew that when I walked into a church I was supposed to slow down, be respectful and attentive.  I knew when I watched someone be immersed backward into a small pool of water or when an infant had water trickling down its cheeks, God was there. The sacraments and the church are set apart and I understood that they are deserving of respect and honor because they are dedicated to the service and worship of God. It was undeniable that in the sacred places God would move and speak. I would look for God there. I would wait and listen and pray. God found me there.

In less than two weeks I will be attending my 20 year high school reunion. The cliche' phrase "I can't believe it's been that long" rings true. It also marks 20 years since God called me to be set apart. I was to be a part of these sacred rituals and symbols and work inside those sacred walls. I knew that ministry would be my tagline. Oh, how I wrestled with wanting to be like my friends with goals in the field of education, law, medicine and business. I dreaded the questions everyone asked about what I wanted to do for a living. I didn't have clear answers that teachers and parents like to hear. My income was uncertain.  I felt like Abram in Genesis 12. God tells Abram "to go." God called him to go, but did not show him where or what he would encounter. God gave no further details except for a promise. He gave a promise of land, descendants and blessings for all people.  My call to ministry felt like this. I knew God had promised me good things, but other than that the only thing I knew to do was "GO."

It was during those first few years of sorting out this call to ministry that my understanding of sacred places and moments shifted. I knew God spoke there, but where was "there?"  Could sacredness be found outside of what I knew as ordained places and times? Could it be that my life, my experiences, my surroundings, my people were all sacred places filled with moments where God speaks? When faith becomes more than religious verbiage and intellectual acknowledgment, it becomes a way of life.  Life then becomes sacred. I agree with Frederick Buechner when he says,
 "I think of my life and of the lives of everyone who has ever lived, or will ever live, 
as not just journeys through time but as sacred journeys."  
I am living a sacred journey, a life that is set apart and where a Holy God speaks to me in every way imaginable. My sacred journey has taken me thus far into the trenches of 16 years of marriage, mothering two girls and one boy and doing ministry in four different denominations in two states.  I use the word Musing...well, because the alliteration is fun, but because it means reflection, meditative, thoughtful, contemplative.  When I stop and reflect on my daily activities, I see the sacred. I see my children laughing and fighting, I hear rain and voices of loved ones, I taste the sweetness of a fresh baked pound cake, as well as the bitterness of medicine.  I feel the pain of heartbreak but have experienced a love story that no words could adequately describe. I smell stinky feet and dirty dishes, as well as fresh towels and strong coffee.  God is here with me in all these things...and with you too.