A Blue Christmas - the COLOR Blue

I'm having a bit of a "blue" Christmas, but I'm not at all sad...

This is a little tree I put up in my dining room every Christmas. This year, I was inspired to decorate it differently than I have for at least six years! (I think it is about time for a change, no?) So I added touches of turquoise blue...

...with pops of red. I lovelovelove the red/blue combination. It is so close to the orange/blue combination I also love, and have been decorating with.





I used simple burlap for a tree skirt on this little tree - and leaned my big wooden initial "A" against the wall. This picture doesn't really do it justice - the look is so adorable!






Please excuse the extension cord...ahem. I promise, when I'm ready to share more pictures of my red and turquoise dining room, I'll do better.



My six-foot-three "baby" and I baked our traditional Ginger Snap Christmas Cookies today...just the two of us. We found out yesterday that he'll be looked at by a small college in a state south of us...won't say who yet...not a junior college, either! The assistant coach will be in touch with Tim, if they like what they see. We're praying that his "hooping skills" increase more and more! I snapped this picture today, thinking that this time next year, he could actually be away at _________ college. Who knows?



...the finished product. YUM!




...and he packaged up a dozen, as a gift to his girlfriend. What a sweetheart!

Friends, I pray your Advent Season is blessed and highly favored. My heart is very, very full these days, and I expect the overflow to spill onto these pages. Thank you for spending a little time with me...I love you!

Underlined Bits from Oswald Chambers

"Being justified freely by his grace..." Romans 3:24

The gospel of the grace of God awakens an intense longing in human souls and
an equally intense resentment, because the revelation which it brings is not
palatable. There is a certain pride in man that will give and give, but to
come and accept is another thing. I will give my life to martyrdom, I will
give myself in consecration, I will do anything, but do not humiliate me to
the level of the most hell-deserving sinner and tell me that all I have to
do is to accept the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.


We have to realize that we cannot earn or win anything from God; we must
either receive it as a gift or do without it. The greatest blessing
spiritually is the knowledge that we are destitute; until we get there our
Lord is powerless. He can do nothing for us if we think we are sufficient of
ourselves, we have to enter into his kingdom through the door of
destitution. As long as we are rich, possessed of anything in the way of
pride or independence, God cannot do anything for us. Only when we get
hungry spiritually then can we receive the Holy Spirit. The gift of the
essential nature of God is made effectual in us by the Holy Spirit, he
imparts to us the quickening life of Jesus, which puts "the beyond" within,
and immediately "the beyond" has come within, it rises up to "the above,"
and we are lifted into the domain where Jesus lives. John 3:5

Advent


The season of Advent is upon us...for me, there is a fresh perspective on my personal celebration, as I am also awaiting the birth of a special child. (Oh, grandbaby of mine, do hurry up!)

We wait, because God waits. There has been much said from pulpits, throughout history, about "waiting on God". But think about it - we wait on God, because He waits.

He waits when there is death, pain, sickness, and wandering hearts - when He could say the word, and it all would be made right that very moment. So why does God wait?

When I asked Him, "Lord, why do you wait?" He answered me out of His word:


Therefore the LORD will wait, that He may be gracious to you; And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; Blessed are all those who wait for Him. (Isaiah 30)


Legalistas have such a skewed idea of the justice of God. Through the cross of Christ, the scales have forever been tipped in my favor. Christ, and only Christ, satisfies the justice of God. All the wrath and judgement of God was poured out on Christ, so that I can experience life lived by Unfair Advantage.


Now, God waits so that he can be gracious to me. He is committed to be good to me, BECAUSE He is a God of justice. He made His only begotten Son the sacrifice in my place because He wants so very much to be good to me - in Satan's face.



This Advent season, the Season of the Holy Wait, whatever you are waiting on God for, know that you wait because He waits...and He waits, poised to do you good. He waits in order that His gracious nature, His mercy and favor can be exalted in your life. He is never too late.


Now. Time for me to hit "publish post". The family is calling me...we are going to decorate the tree tonight!


Let the fun (and the waiting) begin! I do so love Advent...

Gratitude...


For getting to literally go "over the river and through the woods" to grandmother's house...Lord, I thank you.


For family who genuinely like and love each other ...Lord, I thank you.


For "faithful friends who are dear to us, gathered near to us once more"...Lord, I thank you.


For opening my dishwasher and seeing baby bottles...Lord, I thank you.


For the fact that my Christmas decorations are almost all up...almost...Lord, I thank you.


For sons grown strong, Lord I thank you. For daughters who are like pillars in the house of their God, Lord I thank you. For a husband who still whistles when I catch his eye, Lord I thank you.


For answering my prayers, Lord I thank you. For all-sufficient grace, I thank you. For tender mercies, I thank you. For strength, both physical and emotional, I thank you. Your gentleness has made me great, I know this, and I thank you.


For my white kitchen, wooden counters, cute new skirts, and Google Sky on my phone, Lord I thank you. For Pandora radio and Christmas music and tartan plaid and the way knitting relaxes me, I thank you.


For people who act so religious, they intimidate the Anti-Christ, Lord I thank you because they make me want to laugh and pick corn on the Sabbath.


For people who act so sinful, they intimidate Christians, Lord I thank you because they make me want to change and have compassion and manifest Christ to them and see them healed.


For all the prodigals who, simply by being who they are, reveal the heart of God and the heart of jaded elder brothers...oh Lord, I thank you.


For orange and clove scented candles, a clean house, and the basketball game I get to go to tomorrow, Lord I thank you. For our newest son-in-love, The Arteest, Lord I thank you. For looking into the "drum cage" on Sunday, and seeing my baby sit where his daddy has so often sat, swaying and bobbing like his daddy, Lord I thank you.


For tender words from Parris Island, for missing my boy so much, Lord I thank you. For love carried on wings for forty-something cents, Lord I thank you. For drill instructors who know potential greatness when they see it, Lord I thank you.


For finally setting in true elders in Harvest Church, men who care, who would never just up and leave, men who will actually obey the word of the Lord to "help us love these people" , I thank you with all my heart. For apostolic oversight and pastors all over the southeast and far north who rejoice with us, Lord I thank you. For men who fly in, just to be there to see a small church set in her elders, Lord I thank you.


For new horizons, and All That Is To Come, I thank you. For architectural drawings detailing a new layout downstairs in our church building, I thank you. For the FIVE new babies on the way, Lord I thank you. For finding out that yet another couple in Harvest is expecting, Lord I thank you.


You are good and Your love endures forever.


No Weapon Formed...


Have you ever had an instance when, all of a sudden, a passage of Scripture takes on "flesh and blood" in your life? All of a sudden, what you've read in Scripture takes on context?


Me, too. About this whole "weapons" thing...


When you walk in a conscious awareness of the unmerited favor of God, He comes to your personal defense. This is because you have made the God of Jacob your refuge by choice, not by default. You have submitted yourself to the righteousness which comes only through Christ Jesus. When you make it all about Jesus, all for Jesus, through, by and to Jesus, you simply live in an unfair advantage. There is no other way of putting it. No weapon formed against you will prosper, and every tongue that speaks against you in judgement, you will, in time, show to be in the wrong.

Not because of any righteousness of your own, but because you are in Christ...no one who criticizes you prospers in their effort because of Christ. Not because you prayed a prayer, not because you attend church, not because you decided to be a better, more self disciplined Christian, not because you perform, but rather, you live in an unfair advantage when you know you can't do anything right! You have believed the report of the Lord, and thus to you is His arm revealed! Your unfair advantage comes by blood. By blood inheritance, you are "unfairly favored" in life, and no one can touch you.

Funny, I woke up some time back with the feeling that something else was going to come to light regarding people we love, who have moved on awhile back. I even dreamed about them recently - an unsettling dream that left me concerned for them. In my dream one of them was sick to the point of death, but keeping up a pretense of being well - all because they wanted to be "right", to be thought of as being well. There was nothing we could do to change that. I woke up sad for them.

Then, that very morning, Tim "just happened" to run into someone else who had left our church years ago - the two of them had an amiable conversation, and he told Tim some things that we found to be...interesting. Of all things, a small part of the conversation was concerning the very ones I dreamed about the night before, and about whom I sensed that more was going to come to light. And more did. Nothing of any consequence in this season, but new information, nevertheless.

Maybe for a moment or two, the old knee-jerk reaction was there. The urge to vindicate oneself resides in every human being. But I realized - "...what they said and did, didn't prosper!"

Then, without my having to choose to feel the right thing, the same concern for them washed over my heart, sweeping away what little debris of self-vindication had collected there. Because of my grace foundation, I know that I am loved and accepted and protected by God. I'm aware of possessing such wealth, that it makes the judgement of another person feel like what a billionaire must feel when the law gives him a hundred dollar speeding ticket.

"I can afford this. Why let it bother me?" I'm way wealthier than the one who is writing the ticket. He can write me all the tickets he wants, and he might even be right, according to the letter of the law. I still get to go home and enjoy my wealth, figuratively speaking, while those who write tickets will go back to doing just that....issuing tickets to others for their infractions. I've chosen a different way of life, and I get to go live it.

So I'll take the ticket. It has no impact on my destiny or my day. "Thanks, officer. And I love you. Come over for dinner sometime!"

Friends, this is what I mean about context. This is what the Scripture means when it says that no weapon formed against you will prosper. It doesn't mean that no one is ever going to form a weapon against you. It means they will! Put that in your Promise Box...there are many, even other believers, who carry weapons and write tickets. They will utilize both.

But it won't prosper. Any weapon, in order to prosper, must "inflict pain" or some level of damage that affects your outcome. If it doesn't inflict at least a little damage, if it doesn't at least alter your outcome a little bit, if it doesn't weaken you, at least....the weapon didn't prosper.

Hear me - no weapon formed against you can prosper, when you have, by conscious belief and choice, placed your faith in the gospel of Christ. You dwell in a Secret Place, where, when a weapon is fired, it doesn't do any lasting damage.


"Tis merely a flesh wound!" I can't tell you how many times I've laughed my behind off at that very movie line. I identify with it - with one exception: When my arm or leg gets chopped off, the blood squirts in a shocking way...but then another arm or leg appears almost instantly. The rest is exactly the same as the movie - I'm still hopping around, talking smack. Now, if I can just learn to keep my mouth shut, I'll be a real leader.


When you understand the unmerited favor you have been given, all because of the obedience of Another, you simply can't be touched.


Another thing that distracts us is the lust of vindication. St.Augustine
prayed-"O Lord, deliver me from this lust of always vindicating myself."
That temper of mind destroys the soul's faith in God. "I must explain
myself; I must get people to understand." Our Lord never explained anything; he left mistakes to correct themselves.

When we discern that people are not going on spiritually and allow the
discernment to turn to criticism, we block our way to God. God never gives us discernment in order that we may criticize, but that we may intercede.


~Oswald Chambers

Lord, cause me to be your version of a Godly woman, not my own version. Make me into a leader after your Own Gracious Heart, who is willing to go to all lengths to love those you've put in my sphere. Help me not to criticize, but rather to pray.

An (Almost) Wordless Saturday

Number Twenty-four is our "baby". To everyone else, he looks like just another high school senior playing basketball, I'm sure.

But his dad and I know what it took for him to wear the Ambassador uniform. He almost didn't. He almost threw it all away. We know this for sure: Prodigals come home by grace alone. The law doesn't welcome weary, sick rebels back - just ask that elder brother. Elder brothers see returning prodigals as being Damaged Goods, and they regard the welcoming father as being foolish and gullible.


We literally put steaks on the grill ("killing our fatted calf") this past summer. And that uniform you see in the above picture? Well, that is his "robe".


We have no idea what the next chapter will hold, in this our personal parable of the Gospel, but we are certain of one thing - the love of God is better than we know, and the grace of God is more than we've experienced.


For now, on this night, she who sowed in tears has reaped in joy.

Gratitude Journal


...for a snow white Maltipoo puppy.

...for friendships that last a lifetime.

...board games...

...for the (finally) long T-shirts! I can't tell you how much I love the latest, long, lean shirt silhouette. Please God, may we never go back to those unflattering "belly shirts".

...massages at Day Spas...

...helping a daughter roast her first turkey...

...for friends with names like "Faith", and friends who live in "Faith", and friends who walk in faith by grace through faith.

...for the gift and the grace of the gift...

...for finances...

...berry cobblers, red lipstick, and the cute little blonde my son is dating.

...being blessed with two daughters who outgrew the silly, giggly "need to be the center of attention" phase by age seventeen, more or less. It was fun while it lasted, but it didn't (and shouldn't) last long. That's why it was fun. Today, they are poised and mature and confident.

...the last lettuce harvest of the year, for a garden being "put to bed for the winter" this week, for western boots, and All Things Handmade...

...40's music, cold nights and warm days, the view outside my own kitchen window.

...being literally surrounded by friends and family this past year. Seriously. How many times did they literally surround me with their love? I finally understand the Scripture, "You surround me with songs of deliverance." The songs are raised by the men and women who are committed to you, in relationship. They sing all around and over your life, and your heart is restored.

...a man who "gets me", who isn't threatened when I say what I am thinking.

...consequently, my daughters each married men who "get" them. After all, they've never known a male-female relationship to be any different. Don't all husbands "get" their wives? Don't all husbands have a wife who flourishes under his oversight and care?

...for books, blogs, and very, very smart phones. What a bold new world I live in.

...for new direction in my life, exciting new opportunities, new projects I'm itching to get started on...

...for the fact that I get to walk past a beautifully decorated nursery about twenty times a day - and each time, I feel the butterflies in my stomach, as I eagerly, joyfully anticipate the birth of a grandson. Born into my home. That, friends, is stinkin', sloppy blessed.

...for pedicures, hair grown out long this winter, and still being able to wear my size 8 Levi's - with spandex, but nevertheless...

...for Ralph Lauren pajamas - cotton, well made, comfortable, bought on clearance. And the knitted socks-of-many-colors I wear with them.

...for my boy, who scored 25+ points in the second half of his game last week, for a win. For living off of tall cups of coffee from Weigels, as we travel to the games. For falling into our beds after midnight, after the game.

...for a granddaddy who took my boy out to lunch today, and God was lavishing His favor upon the boy, based on the spritual riches of his grandaddy.

Gratitude


I know it's cliche, but giving thanks really is transformative.


There's another cliche, and it's the one about "mixed feelings". Not only is it cliche phraseology, it is half-true at best. The real truth is that we feel what we focus on, and we focus on what we feel. What we choose to pay attention to, and how we choose to pay attention to it, is a choice...a choice that will dictate to our hearts how we feel.


The real truth is that we cannot feel truly thankful and unhappy at the same time. If we focus on all the reasons to be grateful, we feel what we focus on. If we focus on the faults of others, or on what we perceive we lack, we feel what we focus on.


You and I can feel our way right out of boredom or discouragement. We can feel our way right out of anger or anxiety. The miracle antidote is the feeling of gratitude. Last year, I began a tradition of sorts...a November gratitude journal.



Here is the second annual Season of Harvest Gratitude Journal ~ because I want to feel what I focus on, and I need to focus on what I feel. The warmth and joy that ensues from giving thanks brightens my November afternoons, and makes me feel tranquil and privileged. I really am a daughter of privilege. My Father has given me an unfair advantage called Grace. There is nothing "balanced" about that.



...I am thankful for orange woolen yarn - it knits into such soft folds of scarf pieces or cowls or those cute fingerless gloves or even a hat.


...for the clicking of those rosewood or bamboo needles, as they obey my hands, as my hands perform the intricate task of knit and purl. I love watching my hands do it, the yarn woven in, out, around, through into something beautiful and useful.


...for half price sales at Hobby Lobby, where I picked up some adorable vintage-looking French-design wrapping paper. The wrapping paper has to speak value to the hand made gift it will soon wrap.



...that he always makes me coffee, first thing in the morning. And it's always sweet and creamy-good.


...for the miracle that is Pandora radio, streaming songs and songs and songs from the 40's right into the palm of my hand - my newest Happy Thing. (I know - I'm always two steps behind with my technology.) That 30's and 40's generation lived in such difficult and uncertain times, yet their music was so happy and positive. "You could be swingin' from a star!"


...for my vintage record player and all the Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby, and Acker Bill records.


...for a certain grandbaby, who is soon to make his grand entrance. Ten years of cheek pinching, for all those times he stopped kicking just when I'd put my hand on his mommy's belly!


...for sons who serve their country.


...for being made righteous.


...the fact that I grow into righteousness, righteousness does not grow in me. I grow into the Unfathomable Gift, as I behold the Giver.


...for daughters who laugh loudly and contagiously, the sound floating up the hallway of a nest that thought it would be empty, but isn't ever.


...for a man who still takes me to the movies. (Megamind is hilarious!)




A Slice of Church Life

Those who follow this blog know that my dear friend, over at Hope Springs, is expecting her fourth baby at forty years old. This past Sunday, Harvest Church joyfully attended her "Forty With the Fourth" party...

This is our Wendy...who is "Forty with the Fourth"...and adored by all at Harvest for her faithful friendship and continuity. This woman honors relationships, remembers details, and treasures all the little traditions that come with church life.


See the little desk? My daughters Hannah and Sarah purchased it at an antique store, painted the bottom that pretty blue color, and painted the top surface of the desk in chalkboard paint. Then they painted Ethan William Cantrell's initials, and glued them on the front. Sarah's husband Jonathan then painted a small Snoopy on the chair...wish you could see it - I forgot to snap a picture.


But I did remember to snap a picture of my gift...crochet baby booties


and a knitted matching scarf - so Ethan and Mommy can match this Christmas. Yup, I made them. ::perky sniff::


The Fancher's house was packed...inside and out.

Everywhere you looked, you saw a woman with child...




Where did all the men go?? Didn't they want to see all the cute baby stuff? Why are our men outside?

Oh well...let's open presents!


There's dad, on the left, with the "Joe Cool Dad" Snoopy shirt on...


Gathering everyone into the room for a time of prayer.


Friends like Joe Cool Daddy Doug and Wendy are worth the stickin' and the stayin'. I would not trade continuity in relationships for anything. You have to remain on your plot of ground to reap the harvest of the seeds you sowed. I feel so privileged by God to have "built houses, and dwelt in them, planted vineyards and eaten the fruit of them." God forbid that I build, and someone else inhabit. How sad if I were to plant, and another eat.

"Dwell in the land and cultivate continuity (faithfulness)...and verily, you shall be fed."


~Proverbs.

Legalism

The law was and is the school-master, ever pointing us to Christ. Legalism mistakes the classroom for graduation. Gentile legalists have taken the law and made it the end instead of the means. They live life, figuratively speaking, chanting their long and short vowel sounds, drilling their math facts, strutting their Geometry theorems...thinking that the Greatest Teacher of All is giving them a straight "A".

When the point of the law was to point us to the One who is not a ordinance, is not a law, is not a rule, but is a person.

The difference between living under the law and living under grace is the difference between being in school all your life, making straight A's...

...and graduating, falling in love, starting a family, and nurturing that family by all means possible. Legalist believers and Grace believers know the same things and do some of the same things - but only the Grace believer , who truly understands grace, is able to take what she knows and apply it to her relationships. Only the grace believer does what she does for the higher and deeper and better reason. Because of relationship.

And relationships are all that matter - loving God and loving the people He has placed in proximity to us in this life.

3-D Ultrasound of Timothy


This just in, this afternoon! Timothy will be here in less than a month, it seems. He could come anytime between next week and next month. Hannah went in today for another ultrasound, and this time it was the newer three dimensional-type...isn't he the cutest thing you ever saw?! He's makin' a "mad face", because the nurse jiggled him around and he didn't like it.


I found myself sitting on my front porch today, the realization dawning on me that it was a God-kissed day. The sun warming my shoulders, the sound of the waterfall that pours into the pond, caught up on all my work, my knitting in my hand, prayers for all of Harvest's new babies on my heart, a letter from my oldest son telling us that God is granting him favor and promotion, partly through his dad, and he knows that.


Tim emailed our son's drill sergeant awhile back - something most parents never do - and told him that we were praying for him, and that he could do "anything he wanted" to our son. (!!)


Drill sergeant, three inches from my son's nose, shouting to Josiah: "Atchley, you are different. I like you. Your dad wrote me and said I could do anything I wanted to you."


Josiah to DI: "That sounds exactly like this recruit's father, SIR!"


...and then he got a promotion, for his intensity and skill. Josiah said, and I quote from his letter, "as usual, God gives me favor through my father."


...and then he asked us to write out Scriptures for him, so that he can streamline his devotions and fit them in with his letter reading time.


Pinch me. All this, and Jesus too. Try and tell me that grace isn't the central theme of the gospel, and thus, the central theme of our lives here on earth...try and tell me that life is about something other than the grace of God, and I'll think you a potential heretic. It is such heresy, to not believe in a God of All Grace, who gives More Grace, and who sits on a throne of Grace, surrounded by a rainbow, one of the symbols of Grace!


This "living of the gospel" thing is the hardest, simplest, profoundest, most wonderful thing I've ever experienced in my life, and ever will experience.


Oh, nothing but the blood of Jesus! Not my good looks or education or work ethic or any such thing...only Jesus, all for Jesus, because of Jesus.

Best Organizational Strategies for The Top Producers - Those Grace-Girls

You can't give a cup of cold water to one of God's children, and not be rewarded. All my grace-girlfriends are big-time producers, and hard workers.

"I outworked them all, yet not I, but the grace of God in me..." the well-known words of the apostle Paul, my all-time hero, other than Jesus...well, and other than my husband. I know that sounds cheesy, even though it is true.

There is something about a life that is animated and empowered by the grace of God. You often work very hard, and get very tired, but it feels like an effortless doing. What it is, actually, is maximum effectiveness with minimum human effort.

This state of being, this effortless doing, is The Art of Living in Grace, and is a harder, artful nuance to achieve than powering one's way through life in a perpetual state of active doing.

I'm by far no expert. But when I'm in the flow of Grace, I know it. I know it, because my days become fluid, like water, and I simply flow. I respond to the topography of my life, moving around obstacles, inhabiting my moments receptively and effortlessly. A lot gets accomplished. A lot.

Here are a very few things I have learned from these seasons of grace, lessons I hope to inhabit until they become INward HABITs ~

~ Just get started. Say yes to the thing. A thing once begun, is half done. Do it. Get started. Now.

~Get rid of clutter. Self explanatory.

~Surround yourself with joyful people. Just because you are in full time ministry, you are not obligated to spend too much time with anyone who is a drain on you. Spend the majority of your time with people who worship a Big God, believe He gives More Grace, and who make you feel like a Special Lady. Everyone else can take a number.

~Don't be available at a moment's notice. It is impossible to maintain a creative spirit if you are overly accessible to everyone.

~Don't waste time talking about your problems with someone who can do nothing about them. Unless you are speaking to a Praying Woman, you are better off casting all your cares upon The One who cares for you.

~Take out your emotional trash several times a day. In my home, our medium-sized kitchen garbage can has to be taken out several times a day. Your emotional well being, particularly in times of stress, is no different. Keep short lists, hold no grudges. Stop several times a day, on the inside, and do a heart-and-body scan. If you sense tension or emotional negativity, speak to your soul! Get that trash out of there, before it stinks up the place! If you find you have to empty the trash cans of your heart several times a day, that just means you are a busy, caring woman, who gets a LOT done, and touches a lot of lives, every day. It's normal.

~Practice the Presence. Our God is a reservoir of relaxation. He is our hiding place...our little cabin in the woods...our cottage on the beach...He is vacation for the spirit, accessible to you twenty-four times a day and more. Run into His presence often.

When it comes to accomplishing things of eternal value, a legalista can't hold a candle to a grace-girl. A grace-girl can do all things through her revelation of Christ - and in direct proportion to her revelation of His great love and greater grace.

This Grace Preaching is Nothing New



In the words of the great Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon:



"I have chosen you out of the world."
-- John 15:19

Here is distinguishing grace and discriminating regard; for some are made the special objects of divine affection. Do not be afraid to dwell upon this high doctrine of election. When your mind is most heavy and depressed, you will find it to be a bottle of richest cordial. Those who doubt the doctrines of grace, or who cast them into the shade, miss the richest clusters of Eshcol; they lose the wines on the lees well refined, the fat things full of marrow. There is no balm in Gilead comparable to it. If the honey in Jonathan's wood when but touched enlightened the eyes, this is honey which will enlighten your heart to love and learn the mysteries of the kingdom of God. Eat, and fear not a surfeit; live upon this choice dainty, and fear not that it will be too delicate a diet. Meat from the King's table will hurt none of his courtiers. Desire to have your mind enlarged, that you may comprehend more and more the eternal, everlasting, discriminating love of God.
When you have mounted as high as election, tarry on its sister mount, the covenant of grace. Covenant engagements are the munitions of stupendous rock behind which we lie entrenched; covenant engagements with the surety, Christ Jesus, are the quiet resting-places of trembling spirits.

"His oath, his covenant, his blood,
Support me in the raging flood;
When every earthly prop gives way,
This still is all my strength and stay."

If Jesus undertook to bring me to glory, and if the Father promised that he would give me to the Son to be a part of the infinite reward of the travail of his soul; then, my soul, till God himself shall be unfaithful, till Jesus shall cease to be the truth, thou art safe. When David danced before the ark, he told Michal that election made him do so. Come, my soul, exult before the God of grace and leap for joy of heart.

Happy Anniversary, Timothy!

The love of my life, at his desk. I snapped this picture just now, so you can see what I see. Cute, cute, cute!



I was shopping the other day, thinking about my man and our upcoming anniversary, and heard an old 80's Styx song...


The headlines read
These are the worst of times
I do believe it's true
I feel so helpless
Like a boat against the tide
I wish the summer wind
Could bring back Paradise

But I know
If the world turned upside down
Baby, I know
You'd always be around
My my

The best of times
Are when I'm alone with you
Some rain, some shine
We'll make this a world for two

When I'm alone with you
Everything's alright
When I'm alone with you
You brighten up the night
When I'm alone with you

That song's been stuck in my head ever since. Never, in my lifetime, have there been such doom and gloom prophecies from the likes of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and preachers and Bible teachers. And I probably agree with them. Our world is in a very precarious place.

But I have the rare luxury of knowing that if it all came crashing down tomorrow, the man I am married to is resourceful, hard working, and most of all, he loves me with fierce passion. Not only that, but he's just easy to be with.

We prefer each other's company. When you have that going for you, nothing seems quite so dire or scary. I'm blessed - God has poured out rich grace upon us.

Happy Anniversary, Papaw! Happy Anniversary, love of my life! Together, I have the mental image of us turning our sails to catch the wind, and those sails billow, taut and strong, as our boat picks up speed and we head straight into the next 24 years, where things get better and better.

"Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be, the last of life for which the first was made..."

Megan and Gabbi Grace's Baby Shower - and the significance of the number four

Here are our FOUR expectant mommies...from left to right, you see our youth pastor's wife Kelly (she is hatching Jeremiah), you see the Queen of the day's festivities Megan (she is hatching Gabriella Grace), my sweet almost-forty friend Wendy (who is hatching Ethan) and my daughter Hannah (who will give birth to Timothy Paul any day now!)


Our Megs, feeding Gabbi Grace. (By the way, that is my mom in the background, to the left...isn't she incredibly young looking?)


I couldn't resist snapping a shot of Megan's decorating style (the shower was held in her home)


Isn't this the prettiest cake set-up you ever saw?


Piles of presents.

Interestingly, Harvest Church is expecting four babies. My dear friend Wendy is turning four-ty (forty), and expecting her fourth. I just turned 44, and have been married 24 years today. (Another post forthcoming...I rarely post twice in one day...)

In Biblical numerology (as opposed to occult numerology, the demonic counterfiet to the God Who Created Meaningful Numbers), the number 4 means...are you ready for this?

....Creation! God set four into His creation (the directions N, S, E and W, the elements of earth, wind, fire, water, the four seasons, etc. etc. there is more, but you don't want me typing out the entire Biblical commentary...)

I didn't know that, when I declared my word for 2010 - "Create". Before I researched the significance of the number four, I heard the Lord, in my prayer time, saying to me, "I am going to hover over you, by my Spirit, and you will be doubly creative."

44 years old. 4 babies coming to our church. 4, 4, 4 popping up everywhere.

Very exciting.

In Which Sheila is Still Shouting "Grace, Grace!"

I saw this sign in front of a detox center for legalist women...not really, but it could be true.

Tim and I love the law of God, as given through Moses. It is the legalist who is anti-law; because she insists on her own understanding of the law, she ends up misunderstanding God's law, misapplying the law, which is, in fact, to be anti-law.

Friends, to truly love the law of God is more than a mere sentiment. It is more than reading the Old Testament and feeling good about it. To truly love God's law, is to invest significant time investigating it, understanding it, and being vigilant to communicate it accurately, and apply it Biblically.

Anything short of that, is sloppy scholarship, anemic passion, and misguided stubborness that masquerades as love for God's law, and that is to be a practicing antinomian, no matter what your creed is.

The law is good when used lawfully, the Bible says. Tim and I are completely passionate about the lawful use of something so precious and potentially powerful as the law. Therefore, we are to be counted amongst those who love God's law. Legalists do not actually love God's law at all - if you are even able to get past all the scholarly sounding rhetoric, you will find that legalists only love their own perceived performance of the law. The parts of the law they have been able to keep make them feel holy. They perceive God's blessings that have been in fact given to them unearned and undeserved - as being contingent upon their own "higher standard"...their own higher level of personal holiness. The law makes a legalist feel better about themselves, and definitely makes them feel better than you.

So tell me. Which person actually loves the law? The legalist? Or the grace-girl? (or grace-guy...whichever.)

See the difference? Hands down, no further discussion, the grace-girl is the one who actually and passionately loves the law of God, because she has carefully studied and zealously guarded the intent of the law, as communicated by God, both old covenant and new.

I use the female gender simply because "I are one" - and because to get the women using the law lawfully, is to get half the church using the law lawfully. Historically, there have been powerful women who have passionately supported the gospel of grace...and "devout" women who have stubbornly opposed the gospel of grace.

There ain't nothin' new under the sun. I've seen it before, with my own eyes. A woman with a firm superiority complex becomes a willing tool of religious spirits, and that woman will oppose all emphasis on grace. (At the very heart of it, this is exactly why Paul and Barnabas were opposed...)


Acts 13 says this, "But the Jews stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region."

Yeah, I want to talk to the women. You better believe I do. Girlfriend, you can choose to be "devout and prominent" or you can be the righteousness of God in Christ - but you can't mix legalism and gospel. Every time you do, you will end up expelling others "from your region" - usually, in our age of propriety, you'll do it by being the one to leave.

Here is the sort of devout woman I want to be:

"Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures...And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas. But the Jews who were not persuaded, becoming envious...attacked." (Acts 17)


Throughout history, for every devout legalista, God has raised up a leading grace-girl. I so want to be the grace-girl. I want to be persuade-able, tender towards the Gospel. I want to be God's woman, not my own version of God's woman.


(Which means, I will actively support the Pauls and Silases in my life, but that's another topic altogether...Jezebel cannot give honor where it is due, and she certainly can't stop controlling the men in her life, and she will ultimately never keep her mouth shut. She's convinced that she knows more.)


Oh my. I think I'll stop now. I've riled enough religion as it is. Few things are scarier than a woman who is devout for all the wrong reasons, who is unpersuade-able, and envious of the powerful women who embrace the grace message of the gospel.


I sort of understand. I'd envy me, too...not that I'm "powerful", but God certainly gives me every good thing I haven't earned and do not deserve.

Birthday Pictures...

Isaac and I were both a little sad on my birthday...






...because we miss Josiah, who is training to be one of "the few, the proud, the Marines", in Parris Island, S.C.


But I did get this gorgeous vintage leather suitcase from Hannah and Justin...


...here is an inside shot. This beauty is in pristine condition. Can you believe this? I'm using it as my sewing box, yarn store-er, craft kit...and I confess to being in love with it. I might date it.



...got these roses from my man...




...a sewing machine, with love, also from my man...the carrying case from Isaac.





...and a spa gift card from Sarah and Jonathan...

As usual, my family spoils me. So I shall turn my frown upside down (though I still miss my oldest boy!) and go get a massage and sew something fabulous.

Underlined Bits - Making a Mere House into a True Haven




This home is dedicated to good will. It grew out of love. The two heads of household were called together by a power higher than they. To it’s decree they are obedient. Every tone of voice, every thought of being is subdued to that service. They desire to be worthy of their high calling, as ministers of that grace.


They know their peace will go unbroken only for a little time. And often they suspect that the time will be more short than even their anxious hope. They cannot permit so much as one hour of that brief unity to be touched by scorn or malice. The world's judgements have lost their sting inside this door.


Those who come seeking to continue the harmony which these two have won are ever welcome. The rich are welcome, so they come simply.

The poor are welcome, for they have already learned friendliness through buffeting. Youth is welcome, for it brings the joy which these two would learn. Age is welcome for it will teach them tenderness.”


Anon, 1919.

It Is My BirthWEEK

Yeah.  That's right.  I don't have birthdays...I have birth WEEKS.  Even birthmonths.  I'll gladly receive well wishes, emails, phone calls, or presents all the way through November 30th.  Thank you.

Had lunch with my mother and sister today - precious time.  They made me feel so very special.

I am, in the inimitable words of my sister, "Quatro-quatro" years old.  And the doctor at the offices where my daughter works thought I was her older sister...

::perky sniff::

And here I am, about to be a grandmother.  Friends, this being a grandmommy thing is sweeter than becoming a mother, because it is without the weight gain.  I am a happy, happy girl.

I have tried and tried to load pictures - my internet connection is being fussy. 

I wanted to show you pictures of my steak dinner, my birthday cake, and my new sewing machine - from my honey.  (And a carrying-case for it, from Isaac...and a gift card to the fabric store from Isaac's girlfriend.  I think she's a keeper!)

And my vintage leather suitcase, from Justin and Hannah.  This thing is gorgeous, in pristine condition.  Right now, it is my sewing "basket"...and I'm feeling quite clever about that.  You should see!

And my spa gift card, from Sarah and Jonathan.  Talk about your need to unwind...I do believe it is time for me to do just that, after the second wedding in one year, after the "Summer of Great Grace" - seeing prodigals return, souls saved, sending a son off to Parris Island, finding out I am going to be a grandmother, going from a near empty nest to a nest that is so full, it needs another addition!  If you had told me, on my last birthday, what I was about to encounter, I would have sworn on a stack of knitting magazines that I didn't have the strength for it.

But, in the words of the great country song, "How Do You Like Me Now?"  Every single thing the enemy of my soul has tried to bring against me, God has countered it with unusual, multi-dimensional blessing.  Every single one of my children are doing fantastic - are in rich relationship with me and their dad - and are drawing near to Jesus.  And together, my man and I are enjoying sweet stuff.

I am living a dream I do not deserve.  His grace is amazing.

I hope to post pictures as soon as I can...thank you, everyone, for the copious greetings via Facebook, e-mail, and telephone.  Being loved is such a miracle!

The Honor Principle

Come on in and sit down with me, this morning.  The sun is shining, my puppy is in a snuggly disposition, and coffee is brewing.  What would you like for breakfast?  I can make you anything from biscuits and gravy, or I can slice you up a fresh pineapple and make you some whole grain toast.  I want to talk to you....about the honor principle.

Are you comfortable?  Is there anything else I can get you?  Oh, wait a minute...(rooting around the large basket by the couch)....here's the softest lap blanket ever.  All tucked in?  Good.  Because I'm going to keep you here for a little while.

::smile::


Honor is a principle, woven all throughout the Scripture, Old Covenant and New.  Just as sowing and reaping is a principle, just as First Fruits is a principle (the New Covenant manifestation of the Old Covenant tithe), just as generosity is a principle - honor is an unalterable, unavoidable principle that many legalists choose to overlook.

Legalists love to believe that their blessings are somehow attached to their performance.  Funny thing, though...the one area they never perform well in, is this area of relationships.  And  relationships are what walking with God is all about.

There is a difference between law and principle.  I can keep the law by obeying the speed limit.  I avoid the curse that comes with breaking the law, but I don't come under any particular supernatural blessing.  And I will never in my lifetime obey the speed limit in all places, at all times.  I live under a curse - knowing that there is a ticket somewhere in my future, if only by accident.

Godly principles contain only blessing.  The law (as contained in the commandments and ordinances) has been replaced by a Better Thing, period.  No "if's, and's, or but's".  Principle remains.  Some attitudes (principles) will always tend towards life, whether you are a Christian or not.  Generosity somehow always tends towards prosperity, for example.

Honor tends towards Great Blessing.  I'm talking about the blessing of true wellness - "it will be well with thee" - Full, Multi-Dimensional, Well-Rounded Blessing  -  as opposed to one or two dimensional blessing, such as mere financial prosperity, without rich relationship, or rich relationships without physical health, etc.

There are three levels of honor:  1.  honor towards those who we know are our superiors, 2.  honor towards those we think are our equals, and 3.  honor towards those we are responsible for...those below us, for lack of a better term.  Some of the greatest theologians in church history have said that a man or woman is defined by the honor they give, not to superiors, not to inferiors, but you and I are defined by the honor we give to those we perceive as being equals.  Even more than the honor we give, we are thoroughly known and tested by who it is we think is our equal.
Most fools will treat an obvious superior with a measure of deference.  Many fools will treat a perceived inferior with pity and generosity.  But all fools will eventually treat their perceived equals with patronizing airs, then with irritation, leading to indifference, and even scorn.

Jesus said that superiors, equals, and inferiors are to receive our honor.  Not all equally, of course, but all are to receive their level of honor.  Jesus said  "And whoever receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward." (there's the superior)  "And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward." (there's your perceived equal)

 "And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple" (there's your inferior), assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward."

So there you have it.  Jesus said this to those under the law.  Before the cross, it was all about the law and the prophets.  After the resurrection, God made it all about the church and the five-fold ministries who equip her.  To carry this honor principle into the New Covenant, it is simple and solid reasoning to say that Jesus would  convey the honor principle like this:

"Whoever receives (meaning "honors") an apostle, prophet, pastor, teacher, or evangelist in the name of (out of respect towards) those ascension gifts, given by Jesus to the church, that person will by no means lose his reward.  This is some big reward we are talking about.

He who receives a righteous man, in the name of that righteous man, will not lose his reward.  In other words, when we give honor to someone equal in terms of responsibilities and abilities - when we recognize his talents and take note of his hard work and service, we are also rewarded. 

Lastly, I cannot even offer a cup of cold water to a young one, as an act of compassion and honor, without there being a sure reward coming to me.

We do okay honoring those beneath us or dependant on us with their cup of water.  We struggle with giving heartfelt honor to those we deem as our equals in intelligence or experience.  We outright balk and often refuse to give honor to those God has placed over us in the faith - whether that be domestic authority, church authority, or job authority.

Without a culture of honor in our churches, however, there is no wellness.  Without a culture of honor, soul-prosperity (as well as other forms of prosperity) is limited at best.    We are rewarded in direct proportion to the honor we give to legitimate authority.  This is a principle.  There is blessing attached to honor, just as reaping is attached to sowing, and the mercy we receive is attached to the mercy we have shown. 

Those women who scoff and doubt that such a principle of honor even exists, those are the very ones who tend to not manifest soul prosperity. (The men don't manifest soul prosperity either...but that is another topic for another day.  Suffice it to say, they are discontented men, grasping at career props and money props and position props to keep them soul-satisfied...because they neither give honor to their wife, nor are they honored by their wife.  They do not give honor to legitimate authority, and thus experience only a limited wellness.)

Return.  Go back.  Start all over, like an innocent child, and begin giving honor where it is due.  If you will honor the people God placed in your life, and honor them in the proper way, at the proper time, with proper sincere honesty, there will be released into your spirit a steady rain of His Spirit...rising waters of mercy and grace, washing you inside and out, and leaving you feeling fresh, washing the cynicism away.  You will experience  the lightness and wholesomeness of an unjaded soul.  You will begin to walk in multi-dimensional, powerful Blessing.  It will be well with you, and you will live long and large upon the earth.

That is how powerful the Honor Principle is.

To not give honor where it is due will not bring down a curse on your life.  That is old covenant thinking.  I can't say this enough:  you are no longer under the law!

But to withhold honor from legitimate authority, to treat authority as common, or worse, to treat anyone as beneath you, is to lose out on a deep reaching, profoundly generation-altering blessing.

I don't want to lose out on that.