You Can Fail a Test

The Scripture, both old covenant and new, is full of references to waging war and being tested, both of which imply you can lose, and you can fail. It is not at all antithetical to grace to come to a realization that you have either fought and lost, or been tested and failed. In fact, it is in the light of loss or failure that the grace of God will begin, maybe for the first time, to make sense to you!

Where can you wage war and lose? In the battle for the mind. When you choose to believe the lie of the enemy; when you choose to believe your own understanding - you lose. Please allow me to emphasize that, because the gravity of it needs to be grasped: You. Lose.

If the truth, and only the truth sets you free, then non-truth is precisely what puts you in bondage. There is no middle ground. I know believers who to this moment are in bondage to their own understanding. Renewing the mind is a life long process, but having the humility to own up to that is half the battle. (There's that word again....battle.) My old Sunday school teacher, Len Sisson, was dead-on when he taught all us teenagers about "the battleground of the mind."

Where can you be tested and fail? You can fail in holding unswervingly to the prophetic word of the Lord, through confirmed prophetically gifted brothers and sisters in the church, words publicly ministered, not "a voice in your head."

(I emphasize the prophetic word because, for the purposes of this blog entry, to hold unswervingly to Scripture is, to use an old geometry proof term, a "given".  It is the prophetic word we often struggle with.)

There are times and seasons when God speaks a "now word" into our lives...a word of destiny, a word of hope, in short - a word of prophecy. Yes, we take these words and we hold them up to the bright light of Scripture, and make sure they do not violate God's character and nature. In that way, we do test prophetic words.

But ultimately, the prophetic word tests us. And tests imply that it is possible to fail.

Ps 105:19 Until the time that his word came to pass, The word of the LORD tested him.

There are things Tim and I have heard the Lord on - planting Harvest Church was one of them. We've also received direction from the Lord, clear prophetic direction, in other areas.

One thing you do not do is shrink back, once the word of the Lord comes. Never, never, never question "hath God said?" once you have committed yourself to what you knew to be the word of the Lord - to do that will set for you the mother of all traps. If you are in any level of spiritual leadership (a new covenant form of a "vow" - you bear a certain level of responsibility to and for others), that is a holy, precious calling, not to be entered into lightly, and you dare not lose faith in what God has said. You persevere.

I'm not being flippant with my term for Deity when I say, "By God, you stick and stay with it."

Pr 20:25 It is a snare for a man to devote rashly something as holy, And afterward to reconsider his vows.
Oh sure, circumstances will scream at you that you "missed it". People will act in ways that seem to contradict what God said. Your mind will attempt to assert its own understanding, and you will be sorely, sorely tempted to lean on it, because the word of the Lord (now a memory) does not feel as solid as it once felt to you.

Can I implore you? I will gladly be reduced to shameless begging if I must: don't shrink back from the prophetic word of the Lord. Paul told Timothy that it is by those very words he was to wage war. Once God speaks in this special way, that very word exists as your test.

I call to your memory Abraham, Joseph, David, Peter, Paul, John....all these and more who received a word that tested them, not them testing the word.

Even under grace, not everyone passes their test. Some do fail. Even then, if they but acknowledge that they didn't pass the test, they can be sooner rather than later healed and restored - in order to be tested once more. God will bring His word to them again - often the same word that tested them before - God will require that they return to it, as though it were the lost axe head, and recover it and labor with it.

To deny that we can be tested is to deny both the Scripture, and the prophetic word of the Lord.

Have you received a clear word, a few months or a few years ago, as to God's will and destiny for your life? That is the very word that has tested you.

Pass or fail?

In the battleground of the mind, your enemy's agenda is to convince you of his lies, and to get you leaning to your own understanding. Only the truth sets free, and only by truth can you wage war - not your opinion of the truth, but rather truth itself.

Win or lose?

A Typical Day - In Pictures

Actually, this is a typical half-day, in pictures.

Life is sweet these days, albeit busy and noisy. Temperatures here are dipping down into the 40's for the first time since early April...which means we Atchleys make some smokin' chili. We stop eating chili when springs starts, and we don't have it again until the the first evening that forecasted lows are predicted to be in the 40's. Our particular version of chili simmers on the stove even now. What is your family's favorite version of chili? I'm truly interested in hearing it!

Ordinary days are but encores of the miraculous. I can find a thousand things to be thankful for, in one typical, ordinary day. Knowing the grace of God, functioning in the revelation of the gift of righteousness, I cannot help but walk in newness of life!

Bocelli wakes me up, singing...

Coffee, tea, scones, and sausage for breakfast (my favorite meal of the day!)

Classes at home...

A nook, in my kitchen, where I read my cookbooks...

Set out the ingredients to make a home made apple pie...

The "baking drawer"...(that is whole nutmeg, in the little steel "pinch" cup)

Isaac, who is actually a good cook, made the apple pie all by himself!

The pie, assembled and almost ready to bake - waiting for the crumble topping.

Sarah, in her brother's room, getting a drum lesson. Cute!

My Current Motto ~

Live in Such a Way as to Intrigue....

(to intrigue: to be challenging; disturbingly provocative.)

Yyyyyyyep. ::Big Barney Fife Sniff::

...I am living up to my current motto quite nicely these days.

"Practitioner of Contentment" ~ OR, "How Sheila Got Her Groove Back"

I guess if there were to be any initials after my name, it would be "PC" ~ Practitioner of Contentment.

There really is no other phrase that has so consistently, over decades, defined my essence. I am typically happy, and cannot abide the cynical person. When life hands me dirt, I'll make a mud mask and come out with a better complexion than ever. When life hands me lemons, I'll stick 'em in my bra. Ahem. (Nah...)

So you can imagine when, quite suddenly, in the past three years or so, I discovered in my own thinking all the dreaded cynicism I have always disliked in others. Upon a brief but very prayerful investigation, I had a massive revelation: I was a compensatory optimist.


Good for me, for all the mud masks and lemon enhancement. It was far better for me than giving into the pessimism that was forever sitting there, lurking and sulking in the corner of my soul, bound and gagged while I worked so very hard to compensate for its existence. But no one...can compensate forever. At some point, things have to get painfully honest.

I first thought it was hormones. No...hormones only have the power to unmask a woman's inner demons. They bring just enough physical vulnerability to render you unable to hide what's really there. When, oh when, will we understand as His beautiful women, that this isn't a bad thing? We finally get to deal with our stuff - if we are wise.

I thought it was emptying nest, and all that. No. Transition happens.

I thought it was the stress of raising teenage boys. That was a red herring, for sure.

I had been working all these years to be optimistic, to compensate for that innate pessimist, sitting all tied up and fuming in her chair in the corner of my consciousness. Simple as that. And a pessimist's image of herself and her world is completely connected to her image of her God. My concept of God, with all my book learning, was off. All it took was an overwhelming dose of real life, and the influence of a few cynics, to reveal the weakness in my own understanding.  That sulky pessimist wriggled out of her ropes, tore off the gag I'd so carefully kept on her mouth, and she got up out of her chair and wreaked havoc in my head.

I tried to ignore her. She wouldn't go away. I wrestled her to the floor, and put her in a headlock, but she never tapped out. I sent her back to her chair, and quoted Scripture at her, but still she was there...larger than life.

She represented a belief structure. She is what I thought about God. "See, God has this low-level frustration towards you", she would say. And I'd send her back to her chair, and put the gag back on her. She'd always get loose, now and then. When others would testify in church of the work of God in their life, she'd sniff, "Wonder how long that'll last??" I'd stuff a lemon down her throat to shut her up. When I'd get caught up in wonder at anything, when my faith would begin to take flight, she was quick to pull the wings off the butterfly, and remind me of all things Real.

Worms. Never. Change.

She assured me that when I sinned, I was opening up myself to all sorts of Bad Things - nevermind the finished work of Christ. She swore that when I behaved, and only when I behaved, I was in His favor. She implied that it all depended on me, and how well I could compensate for my flaws. She withdrew from anyone and anything that challenged her control.

She smiled primly, all tied up in her chair, when I chose all the Right Things. She flexed her firm muscles in high self esteem when I jogged, did all my crunches, and ate organic food. She whispered to me that my body is a temple, after all. She particularly enjoyed it when I studied the doctrines of grace from her perspective. Man, did she know her Bible. Problem was, every time she showed me a passage, every time she quoted a verse, she was wearing this silly veil on her head. Consequently, in seeing I didn't perceive, and for all my hearing I didn't understand.

This arrangement worked for a very long time. Until I became too weary to compensate for her existence, and too tired to always be fighting with her, repeatedly returning her to the chair in the corner of my mind. It was either kill her or let her reign, with all her cynicism and unbelief.

I am happy to say that the word of God is alive and powerful, and sharper than any sword. It is able to divide and discern, and it discerned me. It discerned me openly. All things were suddenly naked and open in the eyes of Him with Whom I had to do.

And it was....allright. God....loves me. He turned His back on Christ at the cross so that I could look straight into His glory all the days of my life. Jesus bore my sins, He carried my sickness, and the punishment to obtain my peace was all...all...upon Jesus.

That chair, in the corner of my consciousness? Empty. That innate pessimist? Gone.

I'm yet a Practitioner of Contentment. I'm still making mud masks and playing with lemons. The only difference is that I'm not compensating for anything anymore. I am what and who I am, and "by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me is not in vain."

Stella got her groove back one way, Sheila got her groove back by grace through faith.

I Sing, Because I'm Happy!

There is no denying...we serve a "happy God". I want you to take a deep breath, right now. Let your neck and shoulders relax. Your God is in a good mood.

Most of us know what it feels like to be in a somewhat manipulative relationship. There are people who try to use their emotions to control the emotional atmosphere of others. Have you ever known someone who, if they feel unhappy, they seem to radiate a soul-curdling negativity into the very air around them? I'm able to overlook this in anyone once in awhile...we all become hurt or angry now and then, and sometimes we simply can't hide our heartbreak, or un-invite a guest who happens to be arriving at a bad time. But when I encounter someone who, time and again, shrouds the people around her with her own gray, depressive cloak...well, I know I have encountered someone who does not understand the grace of God.

I'm one who is very sensitive to the spiritual condition of others. I can detect the emotional "temperature" of a room and of a person, usually within moments. In the past I have unwisely accepted the responsibility for it. If there was tension in a room full of people, I felt responsible to say something funny to deflect it. If someone felt angry or depressed, I took up the job of improving their mood. This is fine, as I said, once in awhile. It is part of our ministry, one to another, in the body of Christ.

But now if, more than a few times, I walk in a door, or get around someone, and sense manipulative despair....I have no option but to speak of the gospel of the grace of God with that person. I can be patient for as long as necessary, if the gospel is willingly heard, received, and the dear one takes it and applies it not just to her destiny, but to her day. I will walk with her, because I understand that some things are a long process...renewing the mind with the good news of the grace of God in Christ Jesus is absolutely a process, and no one can skip it or short circuit it.

But if the good news of grace is not received, if it is in fact rejected (some reject it, if you can believe it!) I am bound to ignore the manipulation from that point on. I will not wear any one's shroud. I will not have my soul infected by any one's need, consciously or unconsciously, to have emotional power over others. I have spent far too long dealing with symptoms that were in fact not my own, but that of the sickness of another. No more. It is great to be discerning and sensitive and walk with others in their pain, if one is also wise and walking with prepared feet, ready to share good news. I hope to become wiser as I get older.

This is why it is so comforting and empowering and utterly blessed to be a friend of God. I am telling you, He is always in a good mood - always confident that what He has promised or begun, He is able to perform and complete. I come into His presence, and unlike a friendship with an emotionally controlling person, I leave with a full heart-tank. His good mood rubs off on me every time. There are such pleasures and rivers of joy that come with just being with the Lord. I long, with every part of me, to be a carrier of Him. I want Christ in me to minister to you, so that when you are around me, if you can at all receive grace, you feel hopeful and happy, filled and whole.

How do I know that an emotionally unstable and manipulative person needs grace? Because grace says I have been given the gift of righteousness, and the Scripture is clear:

The work of righteousness will be peace, And the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever. (Is. 32)

The gospel of grace gives me a hope that is an anchor to my soul, keeping me from being blown about by every wind of doctrine. Emotions that run all over the map are a sure indication that somewhere I am not submitting my reality to the reality of the finished work of Christ. (We all experience being a bit blown about...we just don't all impart our unbelief and negativity to those around us, hindering their appropriation of the power of God unto salvation that is available only to those who believe.)

Relax, dear one. God has been in a good mood for a long time, and His equilibrium is unaffected by your issues. What a friend...consistent and faithful and full of grace!

The Refreshing Signs of a Gracious Woman

Pr 11:16 "A gracious woman gets honor, as violent men get riches."

This sentence draws an analogy that should stop you in your tracks.

Grace-ious: full of grace. A woman of grace gets a well-deserved respect, as violent men get riches!
Not too many generations ago, "gracious" was literally defined as "godly". The word has since been watered down to mean something more akin to "mousy", in my opinion. Today, most define the concept of "gracious" as being sort of Southern Genteel, and even secretly condescending. In our time, a person who considers herself to be above others, a person who thinks she is better (better looking, better educated, better manners, better breeding, better income, better everything) is thought to be gracious if she is nevertheless nice to all the peasants of the planet.

Such a diluted definition, and nothing that could ever be analogous to violent men getting riches. Violent men are a force to be reckoned with. So is the woman of true grace.

A gracious woman obtains respect because her very grace-filled nature is such a transforming force, everyone in her wake cannot help but hold her in high esteem. She not only obtains their respect...she keeps it. This is beyond difficult, this preserving of respect. Most beauty decreases upon further examination. Only true beauty increases, the more you get to know it. I have met lots of women who seemed Godly, but the more I got to know them, the greater their net negative affect on my life.

With long exposure to one particular woman years ago, for example, I found myself treating my husband with the same coolness and critical spirit with which she treated her husband. I had to pull back from the relationship for a season, to re-orient my heart to grace. Some women have influenced me to be more and more focused on petty physical ailments, because that is what they were focused on - petty things like normal fatigue, dizziness, or aches and pains. I had to consciously deal with this, and choose for myself a more dismissive attitude towards the small stuff. Some women exude unhappiness, and the depression that haunts the un-gracious woman begins to rub off on me.

I have known some women, however, who the more I got to know them, the more I myself began to become (or at least wanted to become!) almost as gracious as they. These are the women who are stunning. They are refreshing to know. They are forces to be reckoned with. They "gain my respect, as violent men gain riches".

Here are a few of the symptoms of a grace-filled person:

Intelligent: as opposed to merely educated or just clever. The legalist is clever, in a cold sort of way. The sparkling intelligence of a woman of grace is entirely different. The gracious woman has studied hard, studied long, and she does the necessary work to be able to communicate what she has learned. She sets her table, figuratively speaking. She has "killed her beasts, mingled her wine", and she invites you and I to "come to the feast". She then treats us as honored guests, as friends having much to contribute, not putting emphasis on her own considerable intellectual work.

Warm: a woman of grace has undeniable warmth. Her emotions are governed by a passionate God, as opposed to the legalist who is "cool, calm, and collected" only because she is too proud to let her hair down. The gracious woman runs warm, and even white hot, but not out of control, and she is never cold. The opposite of love is not is cool indifference. A gracious woman stands out like an inviting hearth-fire amongst her self-aware, emotionally cold peers.

Generous: such generosity of spirit! A grace-girl has open hands and open heart. She gives the gift of her smile, the gift of her approval, the gift of her friendship, the gift of her money, the gift of sharing her possessions with you with not one string attached. You do not feel as if you are weighed in her balances and found wanting. You don't have to agree with her. You don't have to admire her for it. You don't have to walk on eggshells in exchange for her favor. You won't be expected to meet an unspoken obligation to her in the future. You see, the grace-girl is filthy rich in spirit. She can afford to lavish you with gifts and gifts and gifts that flow from her wealthy heart, and she is not the least bit poorer for the giving. Because her identity is that of undiminished resource in the gospel. The grace of Christ Jesus causes her to abound in every good word and work.

Wit: this is an unexpected symptom of a gracious person. It is the unintended consequence of the joy of the Lord that permeates the day of a grace-girl. A gracious woman can be hilarious. I've known a few who crack me up so bad, I feel good, and all healed-up on the inside.

Others: a gracious woman thinks of others. When you are with her, she doesn't talk only about herself. The topic of conversation is usually either about you, or ideas that have the potential to be incredibly interesting. The conversation is not stilted or strained, rather it flows from a sincere interest in others, and an unquenchable enthusiasm for God Himself. Some gracious women are natural introverts. Yet they have managed, somehow, to not make an idol of their personality. They can and do get outside themselves, and they will often make you feel as though you are the most important person in the room, when you talk to them.

Imperfect: this is perhaps the biggest trait of a gracious woman. She has flaws...physical flaws, personality quirks, and even big, honking spiritual imperfection. She takes it all in stride, and her world is not rocked when she discovers she has been wrong. After all, she was born wrong, born in sin, and it comes as no surprise to her that she will be wrong a time or two again at some point in her life. Or at some point in the next five minutes. Big deal. She'll fix it, and move on.

Consistent: a gracious woman stays in relationship. She can be depended on to be there, at least in spirit, and to love you to the end. You have to be the one to leave a gracious woman's friendship behind - a gracious woman will not leave you. She won't run after you if you leave, and thereby force herself on you, she won't compromise her deepest convictions, but she is committed to unity in the midst of diversity and she will stick with you often to her own hurt. She will receive you back in an instant, should you wish to resume a right relationship, and you won't have to meet a long checklist of qualifications to be reinstated. In fact, she will treat you as though you never left her to start with. Its rather humbling to be thus loved, though she isn't trying to humble you.

Christian: a gracious woman is one who has trusted entirely in the grace of God, and not in her own performance. Strangely, she usually out-performs everyone else. Her hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and gift of righteousness. The message of the gospel motivates her and perfumes her thoughts, and infuses her relationships.

There is no other way to be grace-ious.

A toast..."To all the gracious women in my life!"

We Are Family...

"I got all my sisters with me!
We are family!
Get up everybody - SING"

A snapshot from our women's meeting this morning....I am telling you, no lie, there is not a better group of women you could ever get to know and love than this bunch right here. I am crazy about every single one of them, each one for a different reason.

There's a bunch more, not in this photo...I wish all our Harvest women could have been there today - if you couldn't be there, know that you were missed greatly.

Oh, how we laughed. (Could it have been the CAKE??)

The Sad Signs of Legalism

Legalism masquerades as zeal for God. It substitutes the application of Biblical principle, as being righteousness itself. Every Christian is susceptible to the seductive sickness of self righteousness - since I have battled this sickness in my own life, and encountered it in the lives of others, I've learned to discern a few of its symptoms:

Clever: a legalist is often quite bright. And she always, always sounds right, but there is always, always something wrong with her arguments - they lack depth and they lack a genuine care and concern for people as they are. A legalist loves people insofar as she thinks they "should be". She loves her idea of Christian maturity, without loving her flawed brother, sister, friend, mother, or husband.

Comparison - a legalist will compare herself to others, and compare people with people. She is habitually measuring herself and her spouse, and everyone else.

Coldness - a legalist is incapable of sustained personal warmth in relationships. To be warm is to be pliable. To be cold is to be rigid. A legalist is rigid, and therefore ultimately an emotionally cold person. It may take six months, or it may take years and years, but if you "cross" a legalist in any significant way, you'll discover that her warmth quickly fades, and a cool demeanor replaces it.

Conversation - a legalist's primary topic of conversation is herself (or himself...but since I myself was once a legalist, and still struggle with the tendency, I use the female pronoun). So long as you remain in her fan club, and make it "all about her", you will have her as your friend. A legalist's second favorite topic of conversation is "this person or that person"(see the first symptom of legalism: comparison). Remember - great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people. Since the legalist is ego-centric, her world is a small one. She will primarily discuss herself, her problems, her life, her job or her children....and she will then discuss certain people. If you attempt to steer the relationship to a broader horizon, and engage her in an honest discussion of great ideas, she will withdraw (see the second symptom of legalism: coldness).

Cutting Ties: a legalist will cut ties with you, eventually. Wherever legalism exists, you will find a string of broken relationships. You will encounter the slow, progressive separation from even a significant relationship, if she perceives that the relationship is not in her control....which brings me to the next symptom:

Control: A legalist cannot help but manipulate. She doesn't mean to, and may not even consciously try to. But she does it. She will attempt to control you by giving or withholding her approval. Giving or withholding her attention or affection. Giving or withholding gifts - because if you cut the "string attached" to the gift, the giving will cease. Giving or withholding love itself. A legalist will begin to act irrationally whenever someone close to her actually lives in a revelation of their gift of righteousness. Why? Because when you begin to believe the gospel, a legalist loses her leverage in the relationship.

Cloying: a legalist is a cloying person. She's happy only when she feels you are admiring her, or her possessions, her ability, or her status. She will assist you time and time again, she will help you more than you need to be helped, so long as you admire her for it. She will take what otherwise would be healthy and pleasant, and she will cling and cloy the joy right out of the experience or the relationship. Every relationship starts well, but almost none stay well. Since most legalists are insecure, they end up maxing everyone else out - no one can prop up their damaged ego consistently enough.

Conditional Contentment: most legalists are ever-so-slightly depressed people. (Ask me how I know!) Their contentment depends on being better than most everyone else ("I thank thee Oh Lord, that I am not like this tax collector..."), and since there is always someone who has a better home life, or house, a better marriage, car, or has more talent than they do, a legalist consequently suffers from constant, low-level unhappiness. Her contentment is conditional, and relative to her ability to control circumstances, or to feel superior. Thus, you don't find a legalistic woman laughing freely and often.
Christian - most legalists are Christians. The very recipients of such amazing grace, often do not know just how amazing it really is. You have to know that you need grace, to understand grace. You run to a throne of grace in time of need. Most Christians are chronically un-needy. These un-needy believers are also unaware that they are miserable, poor, blind and naked, and ever in great need of great grace. Subconsciously, a legalist relegates grace to be the solution for non-Christians, the unfortunate, uneducated or immoral. Meanwhile, the proud need grace the most, and yet perceive their need the least.

Jesus is Coming...

As I was out and about today, I ran across something that stopped me in my tracks and made me laugh out loud. That would be nothing new, except I was quite struck with the thought that what I saw sums up many-a-Christian's life:

I laughed, and in so doing made the usual spectacle of myself. ::perky sniff:: Ask me if I care. Then, I sighed, as instantly, my eyes fell on one more phrase, and the truth I saw in it nearly took my breath away, and overwhelmed me with gratitude to Jesus Christ:

(Hebrews 10)..."we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all....this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down at the right hand of God; From henceforth waiting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified."

Ah, yes. He did it right the first time.

Dare Devil Me!

I'll try anything once. Then I'll do it again, if I like it. Here's proof, from my day at my sister's lake house, this past Saturday ~

Me, just before take-off, happily trusting evil brother in law to drive gently...

Me, upon my dramatic return to dock. Please take note of the evil smile on his face, as compared to the terror on my own. But the fun was worth the brief anxiety that I could die.

Poetry by Ruth Bell Graham

One of my heroines in the faith is Ruth Bell Graham, "Billy's wife". She represents to me so much of what I aspire to be - she and I, when she was alive, shared the some of the same theological leanings, and love of all things Scottish.

She, too, experienced a season when her family loved a prodigal - Franklin Graham, who as you know, has long since returned to his senses and serves his God legendarily well....almost as well as his father.

Our family went through a season when the path of one of our members seemed to be bent away from God. We each one grieved in our own way, as months and months went by. As of today, in this season, those days seem to be behind us, and our hearts greatly magnify the Lord. Every member of the family is walking with God - at differing levels of maturity, to be sure, but with steady intent. May it ever be so! Again I declare, before the outcome can be confirmed: grace will accomplish what the law could never do. My faith, also a gift from God, declares it to be so.

And so it is.

Ruth Bell Graham wrote volumes of poetry. She wrote verse after verse, as a way of processing her joys and her sorrows. I find that much of what she wrote moves me to tears...this wise woman walked the same road I am now walking. She knew the strain of ministry. She struggled with anger and depression and an almost empty nest and a prodigal son. She also knew the singing joys of hearth and home and mountain. She knew the serene satisfaction of a good, sturdy supper prepared with her own two hands, and a table lavished with pinecones for decoration, and roast chicken, and candlelight - even though only she and two of her children would be home to partake, that night.

Here are just two of her poems, from a little gem of mine entitled "Ruth Bell Graham's Collected Poems":

"It is a fearful thing to fall
into Your hands, O living God!"
Yet I must trust him to You,
praying your staff and rod
will comfort him in need
as well as break
in love the wayward leg. And yet I plead
"Deal gently with the young man
...for my sake."


Moses' wanderings weren't
all for naught:
wandering, he learned the
wilderness firsthand:
and later through this
Devastation brought
his brethren from bondage to
the Promised Land.

If ever you run across a copy of "Sitting By My Laughing Fire", be sure to snatch it up, if not for yourself, for someone else, as a gift. It, too, is full of Ruth's vivid poetry. Do you know the mother of a wayward son or daughter? Get her a little volume of Ruth's poems. She will bless you again and again for the gift.

Oh, The Eyes of "Grace"

Her name is "Hannah Grace". Hannah means "grace"....thus her name literally means, "Grace, grace!"

You have to love that.

And look at those eyes. We were all doing nothing but hanging out for awhile at my house today, for no reason other than the kids needed to burn off some energy in the yard...and we enjoy one another's company, Kelly and I and kids. We chatted about things joyful and things painful, we talked of life in community, and how we both define the concept of "love" in the body of Christ. We wondered, 'How do others define it? When they say, "Love you"...exactly what is their definition?'

The Biblical standard is indeed high. How do you manifest the faithful love of God in your relationships?

::grunt, wheeze:: Holding her like this is harder than it used to be.
Pastor Tim and Hannah Grace

Big brother David (who rode around the yard this evening, with pastor Tim, on Tim's huge orange riding mower - oh, happy day! David asked him for the keys to it, so he could "turn on the headlights, pweeeeeze!"...pastor Tim had to say no. )
Big sister Lydia (Kelly in the background)

Absolutely, achingly adorable, no??

The So-Called Problem Passages

Concerning the doctrines of grace, there isn't time tonight, as I blog, to list all the so-called "problem passages" - passages that would seem to imply that we are not saved by grace alone, after all.

I should sit up as late as necessary and share my thoughts on some of these passages, after all, I brought the subject up, didn't I? But I'm suddenly sleepy, and as I scrunched under the covers with my laptop just now, my comfy pajamas came alive with an incredible amount of static cling, and that puts me in a peckish mood. I sit here, looking shrink-wrapped in a pair of old lady pajamas. That is not the way one wishes to look when expounding on the profound. I absolutely don't have a solution to the problem, so I'll make this post short, lest my laptop and I somehow arc electrically. I'm afraid if that happens, it could stop my heart - the static in my jammies is that bad.

Suffice it to say, every passage of Scripture must pass through the cross. All of human history passes through the cross, and so do the problem passages. Jesus said it this way, to the teachers of the law:

Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.

Jesus, full of grace and truth, is the One about whom all Scripture testifies. To interpret any passage from any other foundation, is bad exegesis at best, dangerous at worst. Hebrews says it this way:

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son...

Friends, unless you are a stark raving antinomian, determined to hate the law of God, there never has been and never will be a single passage that contradicts the blessed works of righteousness that flow from our identity with Christ. Unless you are a grumpy exacting legalist, determined to hate the idea of your eternal security, there will never be a passage that contradicts the beautiful grace of God.

All Scripture is given by God, and God has summed all things up in Christ. There are no problems with passages, only problems with thinking. Search the them you think you have life, and they testify - Old Testament and New Testament - of Jesus Himself!

The Best Song

...this is, in my opinion, the best song Keith Green ever wrote. (Thanks, Maria, for posting this on your Facebook!)

Please scroll down and hit the "pause" button on the blog music player - the music you are hearing is not one-sixteenth as good as the music you are about to hear!


My favorite month of the year is here! It is the one, possibly the only, month of the year where there are no major holidays, no birthdays in the immediate family, no iron-clad obligations. I so savor September.

Football season starts. That, all by itself, is reason to celebrate, if you live in my house. Break out the orange sweatshirts and buy a honking big bag of chips and a gallon of the hottest salsa you can find, baby! Hope springs eternal in the heart of a Volunteer.

Autumn, my favorite season, begins in three weeks. Autumn is my life seems to burgeon inside my heart, blossoming forth into fresh creativity and passion as the leaves turn "lipstick-kissed red". (I will never say that without thinking of my dear New Jersey friend and pastor's wife, Donna-Jean. I stole the phrase from her - she is a fellow writer - and she generously let me have it. I've also borrowed a few great concepts from her amazing character sketches of women in the Scriptures...)

I fell in love with my Tim in the autumn of '85, and married the following autumn. Our Hannah got engaged last autumn. Incredible things always seem to happen to me when days get shorter and trees blaze. It so rocks to be me, in September. And October. And November.

I wondered how I'd feel, this year, as September drew near. Would I feel that old familiar sense of tranquil nostalgia? Would I feel the freshness? After all, the transitions in my life the last four months have been 9.6 on the Richter scale. How quickly can a woman recover her equilibrium?

Pret-ty fast, apparently. The ol' joy tank is full. As August passed languidly along, the living was easy, and I sensed that, not only would I be my usual Serene September Self, I am feeling better than I have in a few years. This soul of mine so boasts in God!

My September began today in a most fitting temps, an adorable and affectionate husband who has lately lost at least fifteen pounds. He caught my eye as he prepared for his work, and I had to put my arms around him, sneaking up from behind, and plant a kiss on his cheek. I love me some Tim. He has the most cheerful compassionate eyes.

I then luxuriated in the gift of several hours alone to myself, since our youngest son spent the day with the youngest son of our dear friends the Medleys - friends who are also in full time ministry.

The dinner table was full this evening, all four children plus a boyfriend gathered around the table! (The only one missing was son-in-love Justin...we won't see as much of him until he obtains his Master's degree. He's always either at work or in class. ) See what I mean? The whole family, having dinner together, is beyond rare, now that two of my four children are on their own. There is only one explanation: September Sweetness.

God made September just for me, maybe. Let's dance!