Long, Lovely Lashes

Why do we girls glue on fake fingernails, put on high heels, or wear anything sounding so weird and awful as "Spanx"? Why do we bleach or highlight our hair, or wear those widget-gadget bras, or, for crying out loud, bleach our upper lip?

Okay. I'll give us the last one. Any gal who needs to bleach her upper lip probably should do so, before the sun gets too high in the sky. But all the other stuff we do makes me wonder mightily at what ails us. At the risk of being the pot that calls all the kettles black, I will confess to one thing: my real hair color is Paula Deen silver. No lie. My first gray hair popped out when I was fifteen years old, and now, at a young forty-two, I am silver-white. I've worn it silver, and I've worn it brunette. I like it both ways, actually.

Beyond that, though, I've pretty much sworn off of being a mute, helpless slave to false, air-brushed magazine images. I don't even fall for the picture of the girl on the front of the hair color box anymore. It is all a clever lie, far as I'm concerned. My hair never looks like the girl's on the box.

I have had my own acquaintance with deep bondage. I've had those moments when something just came over me - when I leave the house, and come home looking shocking, with either a very sudden tan, or unnaturally perfect fingernails. I remember that time, more than ten years ago, when I stepped into my bathroom, and an hour later, stepped out with Miss Piggy Eyelashes...

I got glue in my eyes, and actually glued the first few lashes on upside down. (I will nev-er get the hang of doing anything whilst looking in a mirror!) The whole process of pulling the upside down eyelashes back off was quite painful, causing those little tears that spring to one's eyes when something smarts horribly. Hence, the super glue became somewhat liquefied, and seeped into my eyes.

In a daze, I steadied my hand on the sink, where a few of Tim's whiskers lay, unbeknownst to me. When I retrieved that hand to firmly (and I do mean firmly) press a lash down, I ended up with Tim's whiskers and one three inch long hair of my very own, super glued to my eyelid.

Folks, you can't make this stuff up.

Finally, one exhausting hour later, I was done, or so I thought. I casually walked through my house...and my children stopped one by one to gape and stare. It was then I thought that the lashes might be a teensy weensy bit too long. So back into the bathroom I went, to cut them down with my tiny hair cutting scissors. Not an easy task, especially when looking into a mirror.

Tim came home, and I proudly batted my eyes all evening long. I would get close to his face and look deeply into his brown eyes, just to see if he would notice anything unusual. Well, he didn't notice the eyelashes ("Yipee! They must look real!") but he did think, quite understandably, but mistakenly, that I was urgently burning with love for him.

In truth, I was exhausted from the physical and emotional eyelash battle of the day, so I fell asleep early, while trying to read a book in bed. My head was buried face first, deep in my pillow, where Tim found me. He rolled me over, kissing my face tenderly. I tried to respond...

...but couldn't get one eye open. I am not even lying to you.

I casually turned my face away, and manually ripped my eye back open, then turned back to deliver my kisses. He stopped cold, stock still. He peered. He drew very close, and, as though reaching for a loathsome spider, took his thumb and forefinger and plucked this hairy foreign object from my cheek. He looked it over intently, wondering what it could possibly be. Slowly, a horrified expression covered his face, when he found many such hairy things all over my pillow.

"Confess ye your faults one to another..." I had to confess, I had no choice. Then came a long lecture about how he hates anything false on me. Other women can wear the wonderbras, the corsets, the padded bottoms on the underwear, but not his wife, he declared. Other women can surgically enhance themselves, but not me, he proclaimed. I am allowed to primp and pouf, adorn and make-up myself, hair-spray and dress myself to a wildly reasonable degree, but no more of this silly fake stuff.

Meekly, I repented from my moment of craziness. What else could a girl with gooey, strange looking eyes do? And when I am in a more reasonable frame of mind, I can see that Tim's right about me. God made me exactly as I am, and He knew what He was doing. Insecurity tends to make a woman wildly UNattractive, anyway.

As I said in the beginning, I think I am more or less permanently released from utter bondage. A little super glue in the eyes would teach any fool. Please remind me of this fact the next time I'm in the drug store looking at the cellulite creams, the body bronzers, the clip-on hair pieces, the...

Spiritual Construction

There are several Biblical references to my ability to build things I cannot see, using tools that are spiritual, not natural. I can "build Him a throne", in a manner of speaking, with my praises. I also am building some sort of spiritual edifice - a certain quality of spiritual endeavor made manifest - and it is being built right now, while I am alive and able. This thing I'm constructing is the ultimate creative outlet, and will be unveiled and tested in both time and eternity. This life is my one chance to love Him with my decisions and my days, this is my time to choose to depend on the grace of God. This is when it counts! In Heaven, it will all be a foregone conclusion. Everyone there will love Him, the food will be great, and the devil cast down. It is now that I am building with either gold, silver, and precious stones, or wood, hay and stubble. Every person's work will be made manifest, of what sort it is. (And the "work" is to believe Him!)

But my real point today, is that I have just discovered an unbelievable fact - one I've never read anywhere, in any book. The fear of the Lord creates a spiritual storehouse. My fear of the Lord, choice by choice, day by day, is building for me a storehouse, with my name over it, for my future use in any time of need.

Isaiah 33:6 says, "And He will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge..."

No matter how much you give away, it is a fact that such gracious abundance calls for storage! We need "room enough to receive", if only to be able to then give it away. In fact, when God is pouring out upon us, there often doesn't seem to BE room to receive. Things held in storage, whether it be grain in time of famine, or cash in times of recession, what is stored up can make for a certain stability in uncertain times. Isaiah 33: 6 tells me that the Lord will be the stability of my times, He will be to me an abundance of knowledge and wisdom and salvation.

All this abundance must be received and contained somehow. It has a spiritual "container". Let me, if you'll indulge me, tell you exactly what the container is. The rest of the verse in Isaiah 33: 6 reveals it:

"...and the fear of the Lord is Zion's treasure."

"Treasure" here, means a literal treasury, a bank account, a savings of all good things, a magazine of weapons, an armoury of ammunition, garners of supplies of every sort. The Bible says the fear of the Lord itself IS the laying-up place...it IS the treasury. When I choose the fear of the Lord, it "builds" the container into which certain things are laid up for me, lovingly set back, happily stored away in anticipation of future need. My fear of the Lord, which can be manifested in my life in a thousand different ways, creates and constructs and contains the very storehouse of resources that will give steady supply and stability to my times when all other supplies begin to run out.

O fear the LORD, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him. The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing.

He hath given meat unto them that fear him: he will ever be mindful of his covenant.

Oh how great is your goodness, which you have laid up for those that fear thee; which you have wrought for them that trust in you before the sons of men!

All the grace God could lavish upon me would mean but little, if I didn't have a way to receive it. All the provision I could be given might go to waste if I didn't have a way to contain and organize it and make it useful. God wants to be the stability of my times, and my times are very unstable right now, were it not for God's abundance to me. I would quickly become emotionally and financially and spiritually bankrupt without a means of receiving and containing the answers to my many needs.

There is no overflow without there first being a container. Without a "cup" to pour into, without a treasury to lay supplies into, all provision becomes so much more stuff in the street.

This is precisely why the Lord says, in Psalms 34:11 ~

Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the LORD.

This fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, indeed! FIRST, the Bible says, build your barns, and sow your fields, and THEN build your house. The fear of the Lord is the barn, into which you'll store your grain, seeds of all sorts, your plows and rakes and fertilizer - all that pertains to your harvest must have a place to be kept safely until the moment of its use. The fear of the Lord is the storage-place of believers.

Do I Amaze the Lord?

Today's blog will, of necessity, be stupendously short, but enormously thought provoking.

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel” (Luke 7, v. 9).

Only twice in the gospels was Jesus said to be amazed: In Luke 7, because of the centurion's belief. In Nazareth, because of unbelief (Mark 6:6).

How do I amaze the Lord? Do I amaze Him?


I am a terrible multi-tasker. The real tragedy is that I still try. Every day. Many times a day, and with dubious results at best, or death-defying results, at worst. (For me to talk on a cell phone and try to drive is the definition of tempting God...)

Take today, for instance. I have a candle-drawer, in my foyer. I was given a beautiful, antique oak dresser some years back, and I use it in my entry-way. I have drawers for the family's cell phone accoutrement's, a drawer for gloves or hats, and a drawer full of various candles and essential oils - these for ambiance in lighting and scenting our home.

Having just sprinkled a few drops of "balsam" oil around our fireplace this morning, I was on my way to put the tiny bottle back in the candle-drawer, when I spied a "poodle present". Need I elaborate? Our oldest poodle does not have the best control of his urges these days, and he sometimes leaves a "present" on the rug. So I took a detour, to get a tissue and disinfectant spray. I gathered said present (very dry, thankfully) in a tissue, and sprayed the area. Then, I tucked the spray under my arm, and left the room with poodle-poop wrapped in tissue in one hand, essential oil in the other, and disinfectant under my arm.

Alarms should sound, every time I try.

I was "multi-tasking" again, and someone should stop me, or a siren ought to blast, yanking my attention to the task(s) at hand.

It wasn't until I reached my final destination, the cleaning-closet, to return the spray, that I began to question the order of events. With some degree of consternation, I realized that, yet again, my memory was quite fuzzy. Did I? Nnnnnnno. I couldn't have. But...what if? Sure enough, upon investigation, I found tissue-wrapped poop in the candle-drawer, and a little bottle of essential oil in the trash can.

Reminds me of the night I set my toes aflame.

It is my habit to unwind, each night. I am a prisoner of my routines, have been for years. Tim was deep in study, in another room, and I was more or less alone. My children were all small, and fast asleep. I decided to light a candle on my dressing-table, before crawling in bed with a book. I picked up the long-nosed lighter that is always close at hand (candle-aficionado that I am) and only then noticed that the red polish on my toes was chipped in one place.

"Can't have that" my brain thought to itself. Church was next morning, and I was going to wear some cute sandals.

So I detoured (oh, those detours!) to my bathroom, raised and planted my left foot on the back of the toilet, where all my nail-polishes sat in a tiny tray...

...and promptly lit my big toe. Yup. The lighter was still in my right hand. I was trying to multi-task, and as I've already told you, that is a big, big mistake. As the flame barely touched the toenail, I yelped in utter disbelief and surprise.

I don't do these things because I'm stupid. Really! Actually, it is because I have a bit of a high IQ. (Really!) I'm always too busy contemplating soteriology or sovereignty or pneumatology or how I next want to have my hair cut, to pay a whole lot of attention to what I'm physically doing. My life is lived all in my head, and it is getting crowded up there. Lotsa big thoughts, all elbowing for room.

So please - if ever you come to visit me, and you find poop in unexpected places...do extend me the benefit of the doubt. I won't have done it on purpose.

If You Love Me...

John 14:15 ~ If ye love me, keep my commandments.

What a gorgeous piece of Holy Reasoning! If you love Jesus, you will keep His commandments. His commandments are that you love Him, and love your neighbor as yourself. In simple terms: "If you love Him, you will love Him. If you love Him, you will love others."

Romans 13:8 ~ for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.

Galatians 5:14 ~ For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

To love him, and to love others fulfills the law. Please hear me, saints! Law fulfilled, not broken. Law completed, not destroyed. No righteousness of my own - it is God's love for me, and my love for God and others that constitutes compliance and fulfillment.

Synonyms for 'fulfilled' : accomplish, achieve, answer, be just the ticket, carry out, comply with, conclude, conform, discharge, do, effect, effectuate, execute, fill, fill the bill, finish, hit the bull’s-eye, implement, keep, make it, make the grade, meet, obey, observe, perfect, perform, please, realize, render, satisfy, score*, suffice, suit

Christ's love for me fulfilled (executed, finished, met, satisfied) the requirements of the law on my behalf. I stand complete in Him! Then, as my own act of love, I keep His commandments - which are simply to love. My sincere love for God and for others fulfills (answers, discharges, concludes) the requirements of the law.

If I love Him, I will live differently. That isn't legalism, it is love. If I love you, I won't lie to you. I won't cheat you. If I love Him, I do those things that are pleasing in His sight. Love is the driving force, and I love Him because He first loved me.

And now, according to I Cor. 13, there abides three core motivators of the human spirit: faith, hope, and love, "these three".

I accept my righteousness as a gift of grace through faith. Faith.

So many believers stop there. The grace-through-faith message is, for them, the end. But wait! There is also hope! Oh, dear one, Christ in me, the hope of glory! Hope. Romans 8:24 says, "For we are saved by hope..."

But saints. Thus saith the Lord: "The greatest of these is love."

Let us not stop at the doctrine of grace-through-faith, with no hope for real-time, this-lifetime deliverance and freedom. Give me hope! However...let us not stop at faith and hope, as stunning as it is for a believer to be able to believe and to have hope! Let us get past the limiting perspective of mere "legalism or not legalism." Let us fulfill our destiny, grow up, and bear much fruit in our relationship with the Father, and with each other. Let's be moved by the greatest motivator of all time and eternity: LOVE.

Some call it 'abstinence'. I say that love doesn't behave itself unseemly. Some call it 'sanctification'. I say that love doesn't rejoice in iniquity, it rejoices in the truth. Some call it 'the tithe'. I say that love does not seek its own. Some call it 'commitment to the local church'. I say that love suffers long, and is kind.

Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commandments."

Impaired or Repaired Judgment?

Beloved, unless you are deaf, dumb, and blind, you are living - right now, this very moment - under the influence of something.

Do your fears influence you?

Is it a person?

A past failure? A past success?

Does the news influence your emotions? Rush Limbaugh? Hannity?

Do your own opinions and thoughts influence you?

Does God's word influence you?

You are being influenced (changed, altered, guided and affected) today. Who or what is the power behind what is already happening to you? Identify it, because every influence you allow is either further impairing your judgment, or it is repairing your judgement. I say this, because we are fallen human beings, born with impaired judgment. We are ever in need of repair in this area, and we are ever either seeing more and more damage done, or we are taking steps to repair our thought processes. There is no neutral ground, where our minds are neither impaired nor repaired.

If you have been "driving" with impaired judgment, stop. Just stop. Turn around, and begin to repair your sense of direction and discernment with the Word of God.

Something is influencing you today, dear one. What influences you, will change, alter, guide and affect you. In short, your influences control your life and your day and your destiny. Identifying who or what is controlling your mind is more than half the battle.

No Trumpets, No Scrolls...

Some days are silently life changing. I'm having another one of those silent, yet life-altering, fork-in-the-road sort of days. Never, does a scroll drop from heaven, written in flourishing, heavenly script, "Heads up! Things will never be the same again! This is a Very Important Moment!" Never do trumpets play...not even in your head.

You simply have to become wise enough to "number your days, so that you can apply your heart to wisdom", as the Psalm says. You must discern the moment.

Today, ever so quietly, our balding and cheerful postman delivered a large box.

Hannah's first choice of wedding gown. This one will be the first one she will ever try on. We hope it is "the one"; we'll see. It lies there, on her bed, waiting to change her whole life...and mine.

Today, ever so quietly, I have taken down the Christmas decorations. For the very first time ever, Hannah's go into a separate box, a simple box, nothing fancy, lovingly tied up by yours truly with plaid Christmas ribbon. Those trinkets will hang on her tree, next Christmas, in her first apartment, with her new husband. This was accomplished silently, no words from me, alone in my livingroom, with soft jazz music playing in the background, while I drank a Slimfast milkshake - I'm not dieting, but rather just needed quick nourishment that I didn't have to prepare first. Quiet activity. Life changing, nonetheless.

Today, ever so quietly, I walked into my bedroom, carrying a load of laundry, and caught my son making copies of his transcripts, SAT scores, and immunization records. I had no idea. With no prodding, no hinting, no cajoling, he is preparing for his future.  He is seizing the day, having prayed for the mind of God.  Quietly, with no input from his parents, no manipulation from mom; with no gabbing or fanfare or an ounce of insecurity on his part....confidently and almost noiselessly, he took yet another step towards becoming a man. I wasn't expecting it. Life changing stuff, it is.

There was a time, in my young motherhood, when I would have grabbed up a telephone and spoiled the silence. I would have vented these emotions. I would have been far too overwhelmed, even wonderfully and positively overwhelmed, with so many milestones in a day. Now, in the twilight of my mothering years, I have learned to value the quiet, transforming moment, and to meet that moment, and honor it with a quiet heart of my own.

And tomorrow is another day. No telling what it will hold.

"In quietness and confidence shall be my strength...."


Kids ate the "Engagement Chicken", and said it was perfect. I suppose it just may get some woman the right man, but boy howdy, do I ever already have mine!

We arrived at "Amerigo's" last night, and since it was ever-so-slightly misting, Tim elected to drop me off at the door, while he went to park our old mini-van. A mother/daughter duo beat me inside, and so the three of us were standing there, waiting for our tables. I smiled at both of them, and nodded their way. It is a southern-girl habit. You absolutely must be hospitable to strangers.

Tim came in the large double doors, looked briefly around for me, and when he spotted me, his face softened into a smile, as always. Then, he drew me to him and planted a kiss on my temple, as always. I mean it. This is a routine that is taken for granted by this wife.

Instantly, the mother-daughter duo sighed. The daughter coo'ed, "That is sooooo sweet!" I looked at them both, and I guess my expression was quizzical, I don't know. But the daughter said, rather emphatically, "I just never see a man kiss his woman like that anymore. I love it. It was sweet." She seemed almost defensive.

I was quick to smile at her (again) and say, "It is sweet. I'm blessed."

But secretly, I felt a little intruded upon. I already live in a "glass house", and thus am sensitive to it. That sense was to continue until mother and daughter finally finished their dinners and left!

They were seated behind my husband's shoulder, at an angle. He could not see them, but I could see them. They watched his every move, whispering and nudging each other. When Tim would slide his hands across the table and place them on mine, one of those women would roll her eyes in delight. His cell phone began to shake on the table (he always tries to remember to put his cell phone on "vibrate" in restaurants) he looked at the screen, making sure it was not our youngest son, and then turned it off, never answering it. That is what he does when we are out. This sent the mother at the next table over the moon. I could easily tell she was impressed that my man didn't take that phone call.

By this time, Tim could do no wrong. I do believe the mother began fanning herself, as Tim asked me what I wanted from the menu, relayed my order to the waiter, then took my hand and kissed it. Then, he would simply listen to me, when I said whatever it was I said. None of this is "big stuff" to us, but these women at the adjacent table were solid gone.

It wasn't till I got home, later, that the Holy Spirit began to guide my thoughts and speak to me. I realized, for the very first time, that when the Bible says that Christ is coming for a bride "without spot or wrinkle or any such thing" - it means she has so received the care and attention of the Bridegroom, that she has been transformed by it. I was loved into being my very best self, at dinner last night. I could feel the tension melt from my face and shoulders. A genuine smile would tug at the corners of my mouth.

That isn't the first time this phenomenon has taken place. I've been loved into loveliness over and over again. In fact, I am and always will be at my very best, when I am most aware of Tim's delight in me. When I make him laugh, it is as though a switch was flipped on, and I become the funniest woman, ever. I keep it coming, and he ends up undone with laughter. It is his obvious delight in me that drives me to some semblance of self-discipline, in watching my weight. It is his admiration for me that drives my unapologetic ownership of drawers-full of potions and creams for hair and face and body. He loves me into a state of no wrinkles and no spots.

If he didn't delight in me, just as I am, I'd not even care. As much.

Imagine the love of the Creator. Imagine us, the object of His affections! We will truly be without spot or wrinkle, by the time we finally, and fully receive His love for us.

I'm not one to parade my blessings. But the final point can't be made without revealing that...he went to the grocery store for me, early this morning. As my eyes were opening, and my feet finding my slippers, he was already working to bless me, and I never even asked. (He doesn't always do this - in fact, this is out of the ordinary. I am telling you, the Lord has been showing me Himself, as "my husband".)

And he walked back through the door with bags of provisions, and a dozen red roses. No reason for the roses, other than the fact that I am wholly cared for.

The mother and daughter from the restaurant last night would have fainted dead away by now.

I have always been able to see God as my father. To see Him as "husband" is another level for me, indeed! I know I risk treading a fine line, and many who have gone before me have crossed it - but it is important to get the revelation of Christ, the bridegroom! I am blessed to be married to the sort of man who makes the concept live, right before my eyes.

I have been released from my old husband (the law), to be joined to a new husband, just as it says in Romans 7: 4, " Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God."

This morning, I was reminded of a line from the movie, "Diary of a Mad Black Woman". The prospective husband looked into the eyes of the woman he loved and said, "I don't want you to worry about anything, ever again. All I want you to do is wake up, every morning. Just wake up, and know that I will take it from there."

I watched this movie with my daughters, just two days ago. We all got teary eyed, and felt foolish. But if we will be ruthlessly vulnerable, we will admit it is what we girls all long for: a man who will take full responsibility, and love us unconditionally, without us having to do one thing but respond to such powerful grace.

Then! Then I experienced all of it, in some small way, last night and this morning. And I am hearing echoes of a Divine Romance!

I no longer have to perform at a certain level to be wholly loved. I don't have to be ashamed of my wrinkles and spots, and drive myself to be rid of them in my own strength, using my own methods! In fact, it is the love of my Husband that gently presses out every wrinkle, caresses away the spots, drives away the shame, and makes me a radiant bride.

May others see this in the church, and envy it. May they sit and stare at the bride, and her relationship with her Bridegroom. And may they sigh with longing to be thus fully known, yet fully loved.

Engagement Chicken?!

"Engagement Chicken" - (cherries not part of the recipe. I've just been snackin' on 'em.)

I'm making "Engagement Chicken" just now. I'm hoping my Tim will be smitten all over again, and propose.


Seriously, this recipe is huge, here in the US, and single girls by the dozens are swearing by it, saying it'll get you the man you want. (Go on and google it - you'll see!)

I already have the man I want, but I also want to keep him interested. So "Engagement Chicken" it is. I have to be honest, however. I have my own recipe for roasted chicken - a Rosemary Roasted Chicken - complete with fresh snipped rosemary from my herb garden. Tim loves it very much, and I am zealously suspect of any roasted chicken recipe in which you do not rub olive oil all over the outside of said bird.

Nevertheless, here is the recipe for the famed "Engagement Chicken". Easy, easy - that is partly why I am giving it a try:

Preparing the Engagement Chicken Recipe
1 whole chicken
2 medium size lemons
1/2 cup lemon juice
sea salt
ground black pepper

Recipe Preparation:
First you will want to preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Make sure that you wash the whole chicken inside and out with water and remove all the gibbets. Let the chicken drain out cavity down in a colander until it reaches room temperature. This process can take 10-15 minutes. Next you will want to pour lemon juice over the entire whole chicken which is in and outside of it. Next, go ahead and season it with the salt and pepper to your liking. Next prick the lemon 3 times with a sharp fork and place deep inside the cavity.

The next step is to place the chicken breast side down on the rack in a roasting pan, and then lower the heat to 350 degrees. The oven rack should be placed in the upper part of the oven. Cook the chicken and bake it uncovered for 15 minutes. Next remove the bird from the oven and flip it over and cook for about 35-40 minutes longer. You will want to check the thermometer inserted in the thigh so it reads at least 180 degrees or juices should run if pricked with a sharp object. Finally once the engagement chicken is done cooking, let it cool for about 5 minutes and then serve with the juices.


Tim called just now. I forgot...it is DATE NIGHT.

::whoooooot whoooooot::

He is taking me out to "Amerigo's" for Italian. It is time to use up some holiday gift cards! The chicken's in the oven - but the kids can have it.

I'm off to attempt Great Hair and a Well-Accessorized Outfit, with a smidge of eyeliner and some dangle-y earrings. I'll keep him interested that-a-ways, at least for now. Engagement Chicken be hanged, I'm having Caesar salad and something decadent in the way of grilled red meat, this night.

Ain't God good?

More Underlined Bits...

It is that time of year. Time to, once again, go through the few books that have utterly shaped my life. (My Bible is a given - read daily. I read two chapters in the Old Testament, one Psalm, the Proverbs chapter that corresponds to the day of the month, and one New Testament chapter every day...well, 90% of all my days. This has been my habit for many years now, and nothing has served me more than this daily reading, that almost always turns to meditation, and then prayer.)

Other than God's word, there are only a handful of books that have shaped me. You must bear in mind (please) that I am a voracious reader, who easily completes a small to average-length book every week, sometimes more than one. Therefore, it is saying something for me, who has read probably many hundreds of books in my adult life, to be able to so easily identify the books that have forged my spiritual shape , as the anvil shapes red-hot iron.

You and I are different. (I have such a firm grasp of the obvious!) So I never expect that the same book that deeply affects me will do the same for you. You and I are two very different souls, with different histories, and different rates of growth in grace. But, once in awhile, I do get asked which books have influenced me most - and I always want to know the same about my own spiritual leaders and heroes and heroines...incidentally, I do have a few. Everyone oughtta have a few men and women in the faith, past and present, to whom they look for inspiration. We are all a product of our input, and what we most admire, we tend to become. I am careful about who I admire - as are you, I am sure, if you are wise.

I am even more careful about the books I allow to shape me.

Once again (I mentioned this in a previous post) the best books are re-read. You read the best books more than once. In all subsequent readings, you always underline. Then you annotate. You digest and doodle and date the pages. Your best books then become a sort of journal, where your spiritual growth is chronicled.

Some underlined bits from Watchman Nee's "The Release of the Spirit":

"Our mental strength is limited. If we exhaust it on the things of the flesh, we shall find ourselves mentally inadequate for the things of the Spirit."

"Before your outward man (Note: in Nee's context, this means our will, emotions, the "self") is broken, you are occupied with your own things. You walk in your own way. You love your own people. If God wants to use your love, in loving the brethren, He must first break your outward man. Your love is thereby enlarged."

"All that comes to us is allowed by God. To us as Christians, nothing is accidental."

"You cannot use your independent mind or personal feelings to discern people."

"Whatever is left untouched in us, will be untouched in others. We cannot help others in areas which we ourselves have not learned the lessons before God."

"The more we spare ourselves, the less will be our usefulness. If we have spared something in ourselves, we cannot touch it in others. Our spirit is released according to the degree of our brokenness. The one who has accepted the most discipline is the one who best can serve."

"Wherever we save ourselves, it is at that very place where we become spiritually useless."

"You may learn ten years' lessons in one year, or you may take twenty or thirty years to learn one year's lessons. Any delay in learning means a delay in serving."

While I would not hand this book to anyone struggling with legalism, it nevertheless is a work that has utterly undone me, over and over, with unfailingly positive results. As I read, and each time I read, the fear of the Lord settles fresh upon my spirit, I trust my "natural self" less and less, I trust God's breaking in my life more and more...and life springs forth.

With all gentleness and as much meekness as I have learned of Christ up to this point in my journey, I ask you: In what areas do you permit yourself to have your own opinion? Do you pick and choose your obedience to God's Word and ways? Can you pinpoint an area in which you are constantly "preserving" or "saving" yourself? Are there situations in which you consistently say, "I can't do this"? And then you truly do not do it? Do you indulge your own weaknesses?

We all do it, dear one. But marvel not, and make no mistake: God is after that very thing. And He is relentless. You can experience ten years' growth in a year, in that very area. Or you can take twenty years to grow, when it could have taken but one. Grace says the choice is yours to make. The Father will love you all the same. But God will order your circumstances, and bring you back and back and back again until you decrease, and He increases - until you are less "yourself" and more like Him - until you stop sparing yourself the pain, and you choose to lose your life, that you might find it.

If this leaves you feeling a little undone...join me in allowing it. You are utterly secure, and your obedience to God doesn't make Him love or accept you more. But your obedience does release the Spirit of God to burst forth from your broken vessel, and the fragrance of Christ permeates your atmosphere, and the lives of others are blessed. Isn't that what love is all about? Oh beloved! It is NOT about us. It is about HIM. Let's let the breaking of our outer man happen.

"He being dead, yet speaketh." Thank you, Mr. Watchman Nee.

Surprised by Joy ~

Yes, two blogs in one day. I'm inspired. That's why.

Surely the devil and his minions conspire against a man and his wife taking a long drive whilst singing James Taylor tunes. At sunset. It makes for joy, and joy infuses a spirit with strength for the coming year.

I'm a big fan of C.S. Lewis' "Screwtape Letters". In these "letters", we get insight into the wiles of the devil, and all the various and incredibly prosaic ways in which he seeks to devour us. And the biggest way he seeks to destroy us, is to steal our simple pleasures. I think long walks, long drives to nowhere in particular, soul-healing music, and kissing your spouse, are a few things the devil fears most - if a believer indulges long in these, he or she may find joy in the journey, and thus become wildly strong in the Lord.

I watched the sun set on the very first day of 2009. And I watched it while taking a long drive to nowhere in particular with my Dearest One, both of us singing "How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You" alongside our digital troubadour, James Taylor.

We came home feeling so refreshed. So strengthened. We came home, convinced that we are so deeply and profoundly creatures of spirit. And we didn't even try to be spiritual.

A C.S. Lewis quote: "Many things--such as loving, going to sleep, or behaving unaffectedly--are done worst when we try hardest to do them."

Three things that are the most important to our quality of life - sleep, love, and healthy, Godly choices - are best done without trying to do them. This reminds me of what Oswald Chambers said, "All true holiness is unconscious holiness."

In 2009, I want to let the music play. I want to take long walks and long drives, with no particular agenda. I want to kiss my husband and love my family without guile and affected affection. I want to be a non-manipulator of my loved ones and my circumstances.

I want God's life to live large in me, unhindered by my puny efforts. I want to live in grace - that place, where all the best things are best accomplished when I don't even try hard.

This is my anti-resolution New Year's Resolution.

Happy New Year!

A brand, spanking-new year. (Anyone know the history behind the expression "spanking new"? I'd be interested to hear it. Ahem.)

I've been relaxing, as is my New Year's Day practice. I'm watching football games, and cooking up what I hope will be the most delicious pot of white bean soup.

Making it up as I went along, I was rinsing and sorting the beans, rough-chopping some sundried tomatoes, red onion, and garlic. I debated with myself as to whether I wanted to add what is left of my home-made chicken broth...but it is frozen solid in my freezer. I opted not to, saving that good, good broth for another soup for another day. I'm thinking I'll add some fresh rosemary towards the end of cooking - just a bit, for extra flavor. Rosemary smells just like Christmas. While I am at it, I might even make a fresh arrangement with lots of rosemary, branches from my sweet olive bush, and some red berries. It is that sort of day.

As I was dreaming up this particular white-bean-soup-recipe, I decided to google "white bean soup". It is downright lovely, sometimes, what one can discover, just googling and lolly-blogging about. In the interests of gracious generosity (every good blog should be shared with others!) I ran across this gem:


Do pay them a visit. Of course, I'll be leaving an encouraging comment. Gracious bloggers always do.

If you are at all a soup lover, you won't be disappointed by this blog. Trying their white bean and Italian sausage soup is on my list of fun things to do next week. Seeing the fresh spinach resting on the top, absolutely sold me. I just gotta try that recipe. (Yes, they photograph their cooking experiments - how fun is that?)

Have a prosperous New Year, to all my new friends. I'm thinking of Chris...Jamie (how I have come to love you!)...Dan...Senora Smith...Jul...Lydia Joy...Caryn in New York...and more. Happy New Year to my old friends - Donna Jean, Kim Neve, Donna Conner, and so many more who visit me here on my blog from time to time.

Most of all, a happy and prosperous New Year to my church family - of whom my own dear parents are now, as of one month ago, new members. My life can't get much more blessed and full and complete. I can die a happy woman.

Well, I can die happy after we find my other twin daughter a fi - i - ne (hear the southern drawl) man of God.

Of course, her heavenly Father will do the finding. I'm just kidding when I say "we'll have to find him".

I do know this: nothing short of an on-fire, brutally handsome, leader-of-a-man, who is already about the business of the Kingdom of God, who knows exactly what he wants and pursues it, will make that daughter of mine happy. She deserves nothing short of the best...he's out there somewhere! How exciting! Will 2009 be the year? (She's so gonna kill me.) She's in no hurry; she's fiesty and happy and picky and can afford to be picky. I'm the one who needs to know that I can die happy...just in case. Nobody is guaranteed to be on planet earth, this time next year.

And no one should get married until they find the one whom they can fulfill their divine destiny better WITH that person, than without them. No one should get married until the time is right - when what needs to be done in God's kingdom requires the talents and gifts of BOTH to accomplish. Marriage is so much more than sanctified sex, or a comfortable, expected, and socially acceptable arrangement.
No one should get married until they find the one who can make them laugh; until they find the one who is so very easy to be with. The one who leaves happiness in his or her wake. Few things are more important.
But that's another blog for another day. I'll let this one be about soup and the New Year.