The Art of Jonathan Howe

My daughter Sarah is dating Knoxville-area artist Jonathan Howe. It is no prejudice on my part to urge you, if you want a fine-art portrait of someone you love, done with skill and insight, contact Jonathan Howe. He's just that good, to be honest. If Sarah weren't dating him, I'd be sharing his beautiful art with you.

If you want to commission a work of fine art for your home, or as a gift to someone important to you - contact Jonathan. His art is award winning, and can even be seen in one of our area's government buildings.

Meet Sarah's Jonathan ~

(lovingly known in our home as "Kashi Boy",
because of his fondness for all food natural and organic)

And see just one example of his brilliant work ~

To see more, please visit his website at

When God Speaks

2009, so far, has been one of the most blessed years I have ever experienced. I have seen God move in powerful ways!

This year will also be characterized in my memory as a year of keen testing. At least a half dozen times, since January, I have basically said (in the words of Jeremiah) "I will speak no more in His name!" And I am not the sort to say things like that lightly. In fact, I never in my life even considered keeping spiritual things to myself until this year! Falling silent had never crossed my mind...

My husband said something the other day that gave me considerable pause. He remarked that the Pharisees took even the words of Jesus, and scrutinized them in the most literal sense possible, torturing and misinterpreting both the intent and the meaning of them. That same spirit still has the same agenda, and will attempt to intimidate a son or daughter of God, using that person's own words against them! This was eye opening revelation to me!

If you have ever had your own words interpreted with an unrelenting, literal exactitude (and thereby had your own words MISinterpreted), if you have experienced being analyzed to the hilt, word-by-word, without an ounce of compassion, and then your own words thrown back at have encountered an age-old tactic. It can be intimidating. The religious leaders did exactly this to Jesus. He disregarded their intimidation.

After Tim said those things, I confessed to him how very close I had come in recent months to making what would have been a fatal choice to stop writing about the cease effusing to everyone who listens, about the work of grace that has mightily changed my life, and has restored me, even in this season, from a very dark place.

To write, for me, is not some way to react to opposition. Rather, to write is to communicate where I stand regardless of who agrees or disagrees. Writing is how I process, nothing more, nothing less. I write whether anyone reads or they don't read. Those who write for a hobby or a living will know exactly what I mean. I don't truly know what I think about "it" until I write about "it", whatever "it" may be.

But to have fallen silent would have been a reaction. Had I shut up, then I would have been reacting! I would have also ceased being the woman I have always been. Which choice would have been a "fleshly" reaction to the pressure? To continue writing? Or to stop? To continue to write would have been to remain consistent with my own gifting and with who I have been, almost since birth. This line of sanctified logic is how I ultimately discerned that the enemy had been trying to intimidate me into silence...a silence that almost seemed wise. It certainly would have been easy.

But, by the grace of God, sometime this past early-summer, I chose to not react to the pressure. I chose to remain consistent, and to continue being bold and courageous - consciously choosing to pay whatever price must be paid to remain faithful to my own passionate convictions, which are the result of hours and years of careful study. I chose to support my husband's word ministry with my own brand and style of word ministry, and continue to echo the truths of the gospel he is so passionate about.

It occured to me that to boldly and vocally support the church leadership I serve under has always been a chief characteristic of mine. I have been a part of two churches in my life - the church that sent us out, and the church my husband and I currently serve. I don't just say that I don't hop churches....I have actually never hopped a single church. Not one. I supported the pastor of the church that sent us out to plant, and I was unrelenting about it. I supported him publicly, and made my disagreements with him fully and faithfully private. Back in those days, when there was any friction, no one had a clue but Tim and I. And we never left over a single disagreement, and some of them were momentous. I understood my pastor's responsibilities and burdens. I was always vocal in "backing his plays". I felt it was important. If you think it was easy....well, you just don't know a thing! To leave would have been the easiest thing in the world. But we stayed. I stayed.

Why change now? Just because my husband happens to be the pastor this time, does not make things any different. I support leadership. That is how I roll. To suddenly become just another jaded church member, full of (educated and respectable) complaint and criticism, because my husband is now the pastor, and I don't want to look like I'm being self serving....well, that would have been nothing short of the fear of man.

Once I put it in the light - once I told my Tim how very close I had come to quitting altogether, how close I had come to not speaking anymore about the gospel or the grace of God or the profound things God has been doing in soon as I relayed these things to Tim, I heard the still small voice of God, clear as clear can be, say to me, "Pick up your Francis Roberts book. I have something to say to you."

(Francis Roberts book "Come Away My Beloved" - such a dear old classic!)

I opened it up directly...directly and this, entitled "Speak The Truth" ~

"I say to you, don't be intimidated by anyone, but speak forth my Word, even as I give it to you. You have written freely and fearlessly. Now speak in the same way. Your spoken word must be brought into conformity with the work I have done within you. This, you need for your own personal sense of unity. This you need for your own strength.

You are not trying to please me, but trying to please men. They will detect the inconsistency, for in one way or another, the truth will break through. If you cannot bring yourself to speak the truth without apology, then speak nothing.

Let the life and witness of Jesus be your guide. If you are willing to emulate His honesty, I will come to your aid and give you wisdom, so that your answers may be not only true, but forceful. For you wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against an unseen opposition of satanic forces. These may at times be arrayed against you even through your dearest friends, and you may have to reply even as Jesus did to Peter on one occasion.

Set not out on a mission to convert the world to your convictions, but rather hold your convictions inviolable against the forces of opposition. I will be with you, and will keep your mouth. Trust Me."

Could it be more clear? God still speaks, in the moment, to His children! May we each one be faithful to take what we "hear in secret" and proclaim it from our own "housetop"!

Of Judgment Seat and Knitting Needles

"For we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ", the Bible says. Quite recently, I have heard of this Scripture being quoted with all the appropriate accompanying Ominous Overtone. The Quoter was obviously inferring that all sorts of outward behaviors would be brought under individual by one by one.

But the Quoter neglected to engage their mind. This person neglected both proper deductive reasoning, as well as the entire redemptive tone of the gospel.

First of all, it is the judgment seat of Christ that we must all appear before. We do not appear before the judgment seat of the law. According to the law, we are all silent and guilty before God. Before the judgment seat of Christ, we are ultimately each evaluated according to whether or not we are sons of God, through Christ Jesus.

Because outside of Christ, no deed done in the body can be evaluated as good - and, once "in Christ", every deed done in the body is evaluated by the standard of love. After all, you can give your body to be burned, and speak with tongues of angels, have all knowlege, or give all your goods away to people needier than you, and all of it be for nought. No reward in it for you at all..."it profits nothing" - I Cor. 13.

And so yes, knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men to put their trust in Christ. They must appear before His judgment seat. Knowing this, we persuade men to receive Christ Jesus. To those who receive Him, to them He gives power to become the sons of God, even to those who believe on His name.

Then, as sons of God, it becomes easy for us to long to be absent from the body and present with the Lord, so that we can appear before His judgment seat and receive our reward for service. We ourselves are sons of God, and of this we are deeply and firmly assured. This is the ultimate inferred context of the judgment seat of Christ, as the concept appears in II Cor. 5.

The other place, in Scripture, that the concept of the judgment seat of Christ occurs is in Romans 14. In this passage, the clear context is one of how we treat our brethren - whether we treat them with sincere respect, or with condescending judgment. "Who do you think you are, you who harshly criticizes a brother? We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ."

Our job is to receive one another, as Christ received us. (Greek: accept - draw near to one's heart) The position of Judge is already occupied by Another, One Whose ways are not our ways, and Whose thoughts are so much higher! Our job is to make life in the community of Christ as much a joy for one another as we can. After all - we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.

Romans 14, a portion of it, in The Message:

So where does that leave you when you criticize a brother? And where does that leave you when you condescend to a sister? I’d say it leaves you looking pretty silly—or worse. Eventually, we’re all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgment, facing God. Your critical and condescending ways aren’t going to improve your position there one bit. Read it for yourself in Scripture: "As I live and breathe," God says, "every knee will bow before me; Every tongue will tell the honest truth that I and only I am God." So tend to your knitting. You’ve got your hands full just taking care of your own life before God. Forget about deciding what’s right for each other. Here’s what you need to be concerned about: that you don’t get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is.

So let us lose the Ominous Overtone we tend to adopt when taking Scripture out of context, and let us take up our knitting needles and get to work blessing one another.

The Power of God Unto Salvation

"It is impossible to get from preoccupation with behavior to the gospel. The gospel is not a message about doing things. It is a message about being a new creature. It speaks to people as broken, fallen sinners who are in need of a new heart. God has given His Son to make us new creatures. God does open-heart surgery, not a face-lift. He produces change from inside out. He rejects the man who fasts twice a week and accepts the sinner who cries for mercy."

Tedd Tripp

Of Books, and Their Highlights

“Faith is not built by preaching introspectively (constantly challenging people to question whether they have faith); faith is not built by preaching moralistically (which has exactly the opposite effect of focusing attention on the self rather than on Christ, in whom our faith is placed); faith is not built by joining the culture wars and taking potshots at what is wrong with our culture. Faith is built by careful, thorough exposition of the person, character, and work of Christ….

We feed on Christ himself, and we do so not by some physical eating of his body, but through faith in the Christ proclaimed in Word and sacrament. These four alternatives [moralism, how-to, introspection, and social gospel] have left much of the church malnourished. People know what they ought to do, but they are dispirited and lethargic, without the vision, drive, or impetus to live with and for Christ. And the reason for this dispirited condition is that the pulpit is largely silent about Christ. He is mentioned only as an afterthought or appendage to a sermon; in many churches, He is never proclaimed as the central point of a sermon, and surely not on a regular, weekly basis.”

—T. David Gordon, Why Johnny Can’t Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messengers
pp. 75—76, 88—89.

Relationships - Worth Fighting For, nothing...has matured me more deeply, or built more character into me, or frustrated me more than the relationships God strategically places in my life. There is no greater discipline, no greater depth of maturity, no better means of achieving Godly character, than the commitment to simply love one's family, and the people of God in one's local church. Obviously, family is a far greater covenant relationship than local church, but we can never escape the fact that these two proving-grounds test us and try us to the breaking the point where everything in us screams, "I Quit!"

....but we stay. We refuse to come down from our cross, but rather die there.

Love to the point of having to be patient. Love when it is difficult to be kind. Love in spite of people's track record. Love, when I have the sense that, one day, I might not be loved in return. Love anyway.

Love people who are less sophisticated than I. Love people who know less than I. Love people who are far more sophisticated than I. Love people who know more than I.

Love people who think they know more than I.

Love people who offend me. Love people who hurt me deeply. Love people who disagree with me on doctrinal incidentals. Love people who disagree with me on gut-level fundamentals. Love the sinner, love the saint. Love my neighbor as myself.

It takes work to achieve a college degree. It takes work to pay off a house. It takes work to plant a church. It takes work to raise children. Anything worth a great deal, costs a great deal.

Love is worth fighting for. Why do we think that right relationships, particularly in our marriages and with our parents or our children, do not require long and strenuous effort, at times?

Love is the basis of the finest sort of spiritual maturity and character development.

The Finer Things in Life

I have pretty much always had my own ideas of what constitutes wealth. My daughter Sarah has been to Cambodia twice, and will eventually be going again for a long-term commitment. Which, come to think of it, is one of my concepts of wealth. All four of my children, in this season, are on the same page with their parents in faith, philosophy, and family affection. They each one express their unity with us in diverse ways ~ ways their father and I wouldn't necessarily adopt as our own mode of expressing our love for God and each other. It is quite cool, actually.

I worshipped side by side with my oldest son this past Sunday, hands raised to the Lord of Glory. One daughter's ambition in life is to be an anchor and support for the local church, and she is an anointed worship leader. The other daughter's ambition is to take the gospel of grace to the nations. The youngest son thought nothing of joining me in a loud chorus of The Newsboys version of "In Christ Alone" yesterday, in the car. Our first week of school has been Tim and I are deeply in love with each other, still. That, gentle reader, is riches galore. A mission accomplished. Many goals achieved. I don't know what tomorrow holds, but Jesus said not to think about it anyway. Today, much of what I have dreamed of is already mine.

To be able to say that for a day in one's life, much less a season or perhaps a lifetime....well, "rich" doesn't come close to describing this lifestyle.

The currency of true riches often looks like this:

today's offerings from the garden

picked today...

hydrangeas, picked today...

son-in-law, and youngest son, today (son-in-law takes time to sow into the life of youngest son)

random schoolbooks...

world map - many destinations still undiscovered by an Atchley...we'll get to them eventually.

added a picture of the third newest couple today...

I'm wealthy in some ways money can buy. Compared to believers in Cambodia, I am fabulously rich. And I am wealthy in all ways money cannot buy. Health, joy, grace, Christ, family, green beans freshly picked, and the fellowship of like minded believers - it all adds up to riches untold.

Piper's Happy Confession - AND Mine, Too!

I have utmost respect for the character and theological mind and poetic passion of John Piper. So you can imagine my delight in discovering that he and I have been on the same page! Below is from his pen, entitled, "My Happy Confession":

This is my confession:

I was born into a believing family through no merit of my own at all.

I was given a mind to think and a heart to feel through no merit of my own at all.

I was brought into the hearing of the gospel through no merit of my own at all.

My rebellion was subdued, my hardness removed, my blindness overcome, and my deadness awakened through no merit of my own at all.

Thus I became a believer in Christ through no merit of my own at all.

And so I am an heir of God with Christ through no merit of my own at all.

Now when I put forward effort to please the Lord who bought me, this is to me no merit at all, because is not I, but the grace of God that is with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10)
...God is working in me that which is pleasing in his sight. (
Hebrews 13:21)
...he fulfills every resolve for good by his power. (
2 Thessalonians 1:11)
And therefore there is no ground for boasting in myself, but only in God’s mighty grace.
Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord. (
1 Corinthians 1:31)

In the words of the Psalmist, "my soul boasts in God. The humble will hear it and be glad!" Thank you, Mr. Piper. I hear this, and I am greatly gladdened in my soul.

Christian Perfection

Some people have whack-job ideas of "Christian perfection". I'm all for John Wesley, John Owen, William Law, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, so long as you have a foundation in Romans 5, Romans 8, all of Ephesians, all of Galatians, all of I, actually, all of the New Testament. Get your foundation of the gospel of grace well-laid, and then the writings of the dead guys won't mess with your mind.

I wholeheartedly agree with the writer of Hebrews 6, "Let us grow up into maturity, and get beyond just merely having our doctrine straight." (Note: maturity, or "perfection", comes after foundational doctrines are laid.) In Hebrews 6, the writer pleads, "People, let's get on with it."

"Leaving the doctrines of Christ" does not mean leaving them behind. Rather, it means getting on with the program, and building the beautiful edifice. It means putting something on that Christ-foundation. Putting something on that foundation means you and I, being built together as living stones, the result of which will be maturity, i.e. "perfection".

Burning question: what is Christian maturity?

Short answer: right relationships.

Long answer: the law never brought anyone or anything to maturity. Hebrews 7:19. But the New Covenant ("the bringing of a better hope") did. What sort of lifestyle is becoming a New Covenant son or daughter of God?

"Above all these things, put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness." Col. 3:14

"Whoever says 'I know Him', but keeps not His commandments, is a liar and the truth is not in him. Whoever keeps His word, in him truly is the love of God perfected, and by this we know we are in Him." I John 2: 4,5

Next, I John 3: 23 unlocks all of I John, and once-and-for-all clarifies this thing called Christian perfection:

"This is his commandment: That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. The man who keeps these commandments, dwells in Him, and He in him..."

Love. Right relationships. This is the essence of "perfection". In other words, it separates the men from the boys.

Purposefully Ignorant

I was telling someone not long ago that I have to be the dumbest pastor's wife that ever was. I'm not theologically ignorant. I'm not intellectually sloppy. I took a for-real IQ test last year, and my IQ is equivalent to that of anyone with a Master's degree. So I am not that kind of stupid.

I choose not to sweat the small stuff. Heck, I choose not to sweat some of the big stuff. If anyone comes to me, to fill me in on what "people in the church" are saying, I don't hear them. Sure, I "hear" the person talking, but none of it registers. ("..everybody's talkin' at me, but I don't hear a word they're sayin', only the echoes of my mind...woh woh woh woh woh..." remember the old Harry Nilson song? I sometimes call it the leader's anthem.)

I don't care - not like they want me to care. What it is, is I don't feel the need to know. Typically, that phrase "people in the church" means one or two other naysayers, usually including the person who is attempting to inform me.

(And no, this has not happened recently, at all, whatsoever. So this is a perfectly safe thing to say right now...)

I don't burn up the telephone. Ask my family. I am never on the phone. This has been my habit for twenty years. I don't go from house to house "chatting" with people. Not like that. Tim and I fellowship all the time - not because we are needy or bored or lonely or wishing to "feel out" what someone thinks about church matters, but rather because we genuinely enjoy people. Otherwise, I keep my nose in my own business, and work with my hands so that my family has need of nothing it is in my power to give them.

Last night, we had dinner with a couple in our church, and we didn't discuss a single church-related issue. And this couple are "in the know", they are leaders, and yet we didn't care to talk about some of the huge issues we have recently put behind us as a fellowship. Those issues were not even insinuated. We laughed till we cried when we tried to say all our names backwards (our host's name sounded quite Arabic...or was it French?). We discussed everything from artichokes to theology, and it was all genuine and happy and faith-building.

Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss recent events, small minds discuss people. Teeny tiny minds try to say people's names backwards, but that is beside the point.

God always brings my ministry or counseling opportunities to my attention, His way. I do not ever have to seek them out. And heaven knows, I don't need to hear about all the contention. I never know who is thinking about leaving her husband, unless the woman tells me herself. I never know whose nose is bent out of joint, because I am simply not a magnet for that sort of information. I don't draw it to myself. I don't know who is mad at me, because they can try, and they have tried before, to insult me to my face, and I sometimes don't catch on. It goes right over my head. I'm too busy assuming everyone thinks I'm likable and lovable.

And when I do catch on, I've been known to crack up laughing over it. My sense of humor has it's dark side, and yes, I am incorrigible.

Actually, my ignorance is depth, according to the ancient men of faith. Thomas a'Kempis said this:

"My son, in many things it is thy duty to be ignorant, to esteem thyself as dead upon earth, and as one to whom the whole world is crucified. It is thy duty to pass by many things with a deaf ear, and rather to think of those things which belong unto thy peace. It is far more useful to turn away one's eyes from unpleasant things, and to leave everyone to his own opinion, rather than become a slave to someones contentious discourses."

I can have honest discourses all day long - even heated ones. But I've turned a deaf ear to a few discourses in my day, when I saw they were simply contentious. I am no one's slave, and I do not have to listen to it. I have just bowed right out, and said, "I'm done here."

I'd rather iron my underwear or dance to an old James Taylor tune, or discuss soteriology with Timothy over a cold glass of Dr. Pepper.

In my opinion, the greatest minds could do all three at the same time.

Another Summer Gone By...

Well, this week marks the unofficial end of summer. School starts Monday.

Where has the time gone? It does seem like yesterday that I woke up, mid-May, the morning after my daughter's wedding. I said to myself, "Once we get everything cleaned up and put away today, I have the whole summer to rest and recuperate." The weeks stretched out in front of me, rather deliciously.

My life is a dang vapor. I mean, really. The weeks have gone by as though they were two days.

And not only did I not get an opportunity to rest, Tim and I have been tested and tried like never before - physically, relationally, spiritually, you name it! Most pastors would be declaring a year-long sabbatical by now. Not my pastor. He is learning to count it all joy, when he encounters trials of various kinds, and all at the same time. And I do mean trials. Fiery.

The trying of his faith is creating something in him that is mature and complete, lacking nothing. The hard part is that, since he leads and I follow, my faith is also being tried, as gold in the fire. I got no control of him - he is a stark raving gospel preaching madman. What is a girl to do? All I can do is stand and watch him do what he does, support him with my God-given gifts, hitch up my big girl underwear and deal with it.

But you know something weird? Once everything in my life that could be shaken has been, so that what cannot be shaken remains, I lately find that I am strong, and very close to what some might even call "tranquil". Well, as tranquil as a woman with my temperament can get. My whole world has undergone transition, but one thing remains the same: the gospel of Jesus Christ. I can say with utmost integrity that it has not only changed my destiny, it changes my day. On this gospel, I have staked my claim. Here, I have placed my hope. Here, I draw significant, life-fulfilling solace. My friends, this gospel is real.

Some. Things. Simply. Cannot. Be. Shaken.

In the last one week alone, I have watched my oldest son go out sharing the gospel in the streets, prayed with my youngest son as he experienced a fresh move of God in his life, shared Christ myself with a woman in my neighborhood and prayed with her, heard of a man receiving Christ two nights ago, in our downtown Market Square, because a group from our church led him to the Lord; I've received encouragement from as nearby as across town, and as far away as Scotland, I've listened to my mother testify to the power of the grace of God delivering her from a lifetime of condemnation (and she, already a very seasoned, mature saint), I've observed the ministry of my father, as he invests his time and his considerable anointing into my sons, and spent quite a lot of time with my daughters, receiving from them, allowing them to minister to me, and bring the word of the Lord to me!

No wonder the weeks go by so fast. No wonder the enemy is upset.

For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries. (I Cor. 16)

What a summer. What a God. What favor I have been shown, in Christ Jesus!

The Beauty of a Life Lived in Community

Women who are cynical are more likely to die of stress-related illness. The gospel of Christ is the only antidote to stress, cynicism, skepticism, and loneliness. A life lived in community, centered on the truth of the Word of God, is the only well lived life.

If I live to the proportion I care about others, and to the degree I am loved...if I am granted years in my life, in proportion to the life in my years, I am going to live to be an old woman.

These came for me today. From a friend. I mean, a bona-fide sister in Christ who loves me for the long haul. She's already been in relationship with me for longer than we can remember, and I've probably offended her deeply and several times over the years.

We love each other.

Talk about blessing my life and my day! Talk about health to my bones! I could never thank her enough, but she has never demanded that I try. This woman loves Jesus, and she loves me, and lives her life as though loving God and loving her sister were one in the same thing.


Quotable Quote

“Religion is, ‘I obey, therefore I’m accepted’. The Gospel is, ‘I’m accepted through what Jesus Christ has done for me, therefore I obey’. Religion gives you control, that’s why its so popular…

~Tim Keller

We Follow God's Own Fool

"God's Own Fool", by Michael Card

Seems I've imagined Him all of my life
As the wisest of all of mankind
But if God's holy wisdom is foolish to man
He must have seemed out of His mind

Even His family said He was mad
And the priests said a demon's to blame
But, God in the form of this angry young man
Could not have seemed perfectly sane

We in our foolishness thought we were wise
He played the fool and He opened our eyes
We in our weakness believed we were strong
He became helpless to show we were wrong
So we follow God's own Fool
For only the foolish can tell
Believe the unbelievable, come be a fool as well

So come lose your life for a carpenter's son
For a madman who died for a dream
And you'll have the faith His first followers had
And you'll feel the weight of the beam

Surrender the hunger to say you must know
Find the courage to say I believe
For the power of paradox opens your eyes
And blinds those who say they can see

So we follow God's own Fool
For only the foolish can tell
Believe the unbelievable, come be a fool as well


For nearly two years, I've been gathering Scripture, quotes, and ideas on the subject of work.

Work. We all have to do it. Ministry is called "the work of the ministry". Each of us is intimately acquainted with whatever our work is, whether preacher or plumber or home maker. A Christian can exhibit a genuine love for his or her work, because Christianity is incredibly down-to-earth...incarnational...and has involved a healthy day's work since the garden of Eden.

Here is just one of the many things I have gleaned and gathered so far. It is a quote by one of my very favorite poets, Gerard Manley Hopkins. Enjoy!

"It is not only prayer that gives God glory, but work. Smiting an anvil, sawing a beam, white washing a wall, driving horses, sweeping, scouring, everything gives God some glory if, being in His grace you do it. God is so great that all things give Him glory if you mean that they should."

Summer Afternoon...

A love gift, this past Sunday, from nieceKatie

Sunshine on a stem

The other sunflower patch

You take some whole grain pasta...

Some Roma tomatoes and some basil...

Some olive oil and some parmesan...
And you can have dinner in no time flat.

What was it the poet said? Something like, "Summer afternoon...there are no two words more beautiful in the English language." In the waning moments before school begins (I have not looked forward to it!), I've spent my day napping on my porch, with the sound of the pond waterfall relaxing my thoughts into a warm, happy silence. I've picked sunflowers, and enjoyed the advice of an out of state friend, who spoke words encouraging moxie into my spirit.

(Moxie: The ability to face difficulty with spirit and courage. Aggressive energy; initiative. Skill; know-how.)

I've watched goldfinch feeding on my coneflowers, and cooked a delicious, simple dinner, straight out of my garden.

Just when I should, perhaps, be having a string of bad days (neither motherhood nor home schooling nor ministry is never an easy thing) I find myself having strings of good days, like pearls. My soul so boasts in God over it! He does what only He can do.

"I Own That..."

I own it all. I really do. (Please bear with me, it isn't as arrogant as it sounds. I say it that way to get your attention, that's all - this is very Biblical, you'll see if you stick with me...)

If you espouse sovereignty and election...I own that. If you espouse "whosoever will call on the name of the Lord shall be saved", that's mine too. I own that. Are you currently enjoying a book by Finney? I won't call it heresy, because though I don't agree with him down the line, still...I own the concept that faith without works is dead. Are you into Edwards or Spurgeon and their fantastic views on New Covenant? I own that. William Law and the importance of certain disciplines? I own that. Grace alone? I own that. It is all mine. Don't let that make you crazy. I didn't come up with any of it, and neither did you. Nor did Paul or Apollos or Peter. Truth belongs God.

Fact is, I own it all, yet am not owned BY any of it. I can shift emphasis or focus at will, or at the clear leading of the Lord to my spirit. I know many other men and women who own it all, I've eaten dinner with some of them recently. Yet these saints are owned BY no one thing, and it is a clear sign of maturity.

I am not even allowed say, "I am of Christ" because of the ring of exclusivity that idea has to it. Christ has chosen to deposit truth into a beautiful diversity of vessels, and I am to receive from them, giving thanks to God for the gift He has placed within them.

I hate moral and ethical sin, because of the deep, generational affect it can have on a human being. I own the fact that the fear of the Lord is to hate evil. But when a man or woman is sorry for their sin, and willingly embracing a process of restoration, heeding a consensus of Godly input, I am to walk with them in their process. I am to cover them. I also own the truth of love covering a multitude of sin. I own it all.

Free will? I own that. Election? I own that. Can I lose my salvation? No. Can you? Maybe - I have no choice but to let you answer that. Discipline and training? Own it. Dancing in the freedom that is mine? Own it.

Can I tell you the Biblical definition of carnal? It might surprise you. The definition of carnal is to be owned BY a particular emphasis, to the point that you part company with another believer.

We are making the choice to know nothing in this season but Christ and Him crucified. The gospel will be what we are about till the day we die. Everything we teach, everything we live out in secret in the walls of the Atchley home, will be with an eye towards never....ever....being ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We own every aspect of it, bought and paid for by the blood of Christ. Foundational grace is something we will return to, from time to time, as needed.

So I won't take the writings of men and pit them against each other, as though they were plastic army guys in an imaginary war. I won't live as though James and Paul had it out for each other. I won't act as though there were no power in the gospel to completely transform the vilest sinner, nor will I toss out an emphasis on the renewal of the mind, as illustrated in the classic phrase, "a long obedience in one direction."

I own it all. The people of God own it all. Finding common ground is not so difficult for a mature human being, much less a saint.

And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.

Snippets of My Life Lived In Community

Pasta, hot dogs, lots of singing, and Mike looking at Scripture on his i-pod Touch, coming up with a message on the fly, I do believe.

Scott's the big guy with no hair and shades. He's a consummate guitar player. You will never meet a man with a more gentle spirit!

Somewhere around 15 college-age kids on my back porch, worshipping the Lord. We had exactly 1 guitar for every 3.75 people.

It is ten o'clock at night now. The cicadas are outside my bedroom window, their rhythmic song preparing my mind and body for rest. It has been a non stop weekend, yet my strength feels renewed.

I am one who has lived pretty much my entire life in relationship with people in the body of Christ, but never have I been more thankful than this night. I am grateful for men who take time to encourage and pray for my sons, and the sons of others. Men who are willing to spend and be spent for my daughters and the daughters of others. Men whose paths cross only briefly with Harvest Church, yet we...and they...are marked by the touch of Jesus through one another's earthen vessels.

And some of this sweetness....a portion of this miracle....took place in my own back yard today. The walls and floors of this home still ring with songs, laughter, prayers, and a very, very loud game of Catch Phrase. This home has seen a lotttttttt of the ministry of hospitality over the years, and it feels more of a sacrifice now, sometimes, than ever before. There truly are never enough hours in a day, not even when your kids grow up. But I would not trade this kind of sowing for another.

In the past three days alone, within these very walls, not the walls of any church building, I have overheard my husband, spending nearly an hour sharing the gospel with a neighbor. I have had a college kid from another church show up, literally, on my doorstep asking for pastoral counsel, and I served my husband and he ice water as they sat on my front porch and navigated this kid's difficult questions. I have shared a meal with guests, had two spend the night with us, watched an unsaved young man tremble in the presence of God, and sung songs of worship together with others on two separate occasions!

To be honest, this past weekend has not been too out of the ordinary. Around here, that is pretty much how life goes. Living in community is hard work. The rewards, however, are well worth it.

Keep Up To Date on the Latest!

Over and over, every year for the last 18 years, I am asked the same question when it comes time to register one or more of my children with our home schooling umbrella organization:

Are you up to date with the latest Tennessee laws and regulations regarding home education? Have you read the latest?

The law that was in place ten years ago, is not the same today. Ten years ago, I could not have claimed as a defense some statute that would not be made law yet. I'd have lost my case. We home educators have gained some freedoms, and lost some freedoms. An educator has to stay up to speed on the latest.

King David said this: "Great peace have they which love Thy law, and nothing shall offend them."

Every good theologian will define "law" as the most recent edict issued from the mouth of God. David loved the law of the Lord - law being defined as whatever God has said. In David's day, the word of God in enforcement was Mosaic law. Of course David loved it! It was the word of the Lord...there was no further word!

That law is still perfect, converting the soul. We love it. It stands for all time as an illustration of a perfect God, pointing us dramatically to our need for a Savior. We passionately love how this Old Testament law is and was full of types and shadows of Jesus Christ. All of it written to give us insight into the plan and ways of God, "...written for our admonishment, upon whom the end of the worlds have come."

But "God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,has in these last days spoken to us by His Son..."

The manner in which we relate to God has changed radically. The old has been done away with, the new has come. You cannot make your case according to the old way. There is no more "if, then". There is no more "if you obey the law, then you are blessed". Jesus came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it. Synonyms for "fulfill" ~ 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, suffice, suit

It is finished. It has been concluded, down to the last beautiful detail. Over. Done. Complied with and executed, and Christ performed it all. His obedience is the only obedience.

He ushered in what we call the New Testament Age of Grace.

If the man who danced before the Lord in his ephod were alive today, he'd be shouting, "Great peace have they which love Thy New Covenant, and nothing shall offend them!"

Stay educated and up to date on the latest law: the law of love. We will be held entirely accountable to the most recent edict from the throne, found in Scripture.

Ignorance of the law is no excuse.