Grace - It's a Good Thing, Part II

Yes, in Galatians 4, Paul is basically saying, "What is good for the goose is good for the...other goose." Something like that. He says that the legalists "zealously affect you", but not for good. Not for a good reason, not with a right motive.

But, he says, it is good for the heart to be zealously affected in a good thing, always! Paul, a master of sarcasm, is doing a "back atcha, Pharisee". The more the pseudo law-lovers try to zealously affect God's people, the more Paul is going to zealously affect them.

It isn't a bad thing, at all, to be zealously affected. It isn't necessarily wrong for someone to try to zealously influence you. It depends on 1. What you are being affected for, or what you are being affected about, and 2. The motive of the person influencing you.

Paul's Great Goal was Grace. The legalists Great Goal was Performance.

And so it is today. The scary thing is, you do get to choose what you will be zealously affected by.

Reread Galatians, if you get the chance.

Grace...It's a Good Thing

Legalists "zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them. But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing..."

The gist of this passage out of Galatians 4 is that self righteous people are always zealous and sincere, and their top priority is to influence you away from the gospel-preachers, to separate you from a gospel-centered church. The Message puts it this way:

"Those heretical teachers go to great lengths to flatter you, but their motives are rotten. They want to shut you out of the free world of God’s grace so that you will always depend on them for approval and direction, making them feel important."

You will be wined and dined, you will be invited to the parties, you will get the friend requests on Facebook, you will be the friend of the Pharisee, so long as you allow yourself to be affected by them. Because their goal is to separate you from the teachers they disagree with. They will flatter you with their friendship, but the motive is to "exclude you", which in the Greek means to separate you out for themselves. If you are in the grace-camp, a Pharisee will target you to hang with them, to make them feel validated and important. A Pharisee craves admiration like a pig craves the mud. They have to have followers, and they will look you up years later (lucky you!), they will call you with an invitation when they never even really liked you, all because they are searching near and far for yet another person to join them. And because they don't want you hanging out with the likes of Paul...

It's lonely at the top. These high achievers don't have the means for emotional continuity in friendship, because all us low achieving little people have such glaring flaws. No wonder we talk so much about grace, we need it...take one look at us and our children, after all. We haven't achieved much, other than a middle class income and true friendships. We drive cars that aren't new, and our goals don't go much beyond loving God and loving people. We got nothing to show for all this grace-talk other than righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

A little law mighta' dun us good.

Ah, well. Legends in Their Own Minds always end up, in the words of Peter Pan to Captain Hook, "Old. Alone. Done for."

Give me the low place, any day. I will choose the least important seat. The one with all my rowdy friends close by. The seat with all those prodigal sons and daughters. I'll sit there, thankyouverymuch. Who knows? At the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, I just might be the one told, "Come up here and sit."

Wouldn't that be fine?

I agree with Paul - it is good to be zealously affected in a good thing. I do not plan on shutting up, not in this life, about the finished work of Christ. Gentle Reader, I am out to zealously affect you in a good thing...a very good thing. The Word of His Grace.

It will be good for you to be zealously affected. It will be health to your very bones.

Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. (II Timothy 1: 13, 14)

White Bean Soup Tutorial

Gather your ingredients: white beans (I used the "quick soak" method - which is to bring your beans to a boil, let them boil for two minutes, then turn off the heat, cover them, and forget about them for an hour or so...) 2 stalks of celery, some onion, some garlic (I'm out of fresh, so I used the jar), some diced tomatoes, some tahini, barley, red wine vinegar, chicken broth, and fresh spinach.

sweat out the celery and onion in about a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the garlic after a minute or two, because you never. ever. want to burn the garlic. Amen.

Add the diced tomato...stir...enjoy the smells. Yum!

Add your white beans, broth, one tablespoon of tahini, a splash of red wine vinegar, two or three cups of water, and a half-cup of barley...cover and simmer on low heat for a couple of hours, while you play with this:

shameless grandbaby plug, I know.
(Actually, I didn't get to hold him hardly at all today.)

Just before serving, wilt as much spinach as you'd like. Season with coarse salt and fresh ground pepper.

Merry Midwinter - 5 Tips For Beating Doldrums

A dusting of snow around our little pond...

Doldrums: a period of stagnation or slump

It is a proven fact that this is the time of year people suffer most from mild to moderate depression. It can manifest as a few days of doldrums, or as a chronic malaise. But pretty much everyone experiences the "bleak midwinter blahs". We long for sun and spring.

I won't claim to have found a cure-all for midwinter malaise, but the tips you find here today are hard-won. They come from a knowledge that is first-hand and not book-read. I didn't google "midwinter malaise" - much like I didn't google "grace" or "George MacDonald" or "how to have a great marriage".

1. exercise - proven to be as effective as antidepressants.

2. produce - get something done. Pick one thing, and do it thoroughly and well. The sense of accomplishment will spill over into the next thing, and the next...and so on. Accomplishment begets accomplishment. A body in motion tends to remain in motion, a body at rest tends to remain at rest. Get something done.

3. coffee - this will seem unhealthy to some, but evidence suggests that it is actually healthy to have that cuppa Joe in the morning. It is full of antioxidants, and the caffeine does, in fact, make you sharper and more energetic. Just don't overdo it, and you'll be fine. Go on...have a cup of coffee when you feel the lethargy trying to set in on you. Mostly, simply enjoy your coffee. Preferably with a good book and the smallest bite of something sweet. My coffee breaks are akin to a proper southern woman's "tea time". It is my few minutes to breathe deeply, savor, look out the window and wonder at the world.

4. Get outside. Embrace the cold of winter. (Embrace the humid-heat of summer, too, but that is another post for another season....) I'm telling you, few things feel better than coming into a cozy warm house when you've been outside in the cold. Bundle up and get outside, get some sunshine on those retinas...15-30 minutes, studies show. My own experience leans closer to 30 minutes. It does not matter if it is a cloudy day. You still need to be outside, where the daylight is, however cloudy it might be, for at least 15 minutes. Adjust your perspective to be an Attitude of Gratitude for the seasons, the weather, the cold, the warm house you will go back to. This works!

5. Lastly, two tips straight from the Bible. (I know - I said "5 Tips". I have twin girls. I never could resist a two-for-one deal.)

Ointment and perfume delight the heart, And the sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by hearty counsel. Proverbs 27:9

5a. essential oils. This isn't woo-woo, new age silliness. This is tried and true Biblical remedy. Orange oil works wonders for me in winter, as does peppermint. Simply put a drop or two in the palm of your hand, rub your hands together, put your hands near your face, and breathe deeply. Really. Breathe. I often huff lavender at night. And a couple drops of eucalyptus oil is fantastic in the floor of your shower, just before you turn on the hot water. One of the best purchases I made, was a couple of small vials of essential oil (it has to be the real deal) in a roll-on application. I carry these in my purse, and roll one into the palms of my hands when I'm sitting in traffic, and then I just breathe it in. Makes me happy. It rejoices my heart. It'll make you happy. Promise.

5b. Good girlfriends. The older I get, the more I value my girlfriends. Especially the ones that make me laugh. And give me little presents. The ones who need me, yet are not "needy". The ones who can handle a season of silence, yet will answer my email in a flash if they but glimpse that my heart might be aching. The ones I can count on to stick and stay, no matter how much I show my butt. If you have walked this earth and collected one True Girl Friend thus far, you are blessed and to be envied. Every woman proclaims her own goodness, but a faithful woman who can find? (Proverbs, tweaked to the female pronoun.)

Spend some time with a fun and funny girl. If she's a pretty girl, even better. I so love me a pretty girl - in the nicest sort of way. I got me some gorgeous home-girls. Some with blue eyes, some with brown...some who are plus-size, some who are size two - but they are all cute as can be, otherwise I wouldn't like 'em as much.

My daughters are pretty and witty. I have no idea where they got it.

(Big Barney Fife snifffffff)

We give each other space, and get all up in each other's business. They are my best girlfriends, too.

My home-girls rejoice my heart. They are just the thing on a frosty winter email from one, a brief chat with another, catching a movie with yet another, its all good.

Grandbabies and Knitting...

What do you say we enjoy a little bit of pleasant randomness to start our weekend?

I went shopping at Pottery Barn over the holidays, and was so inspired by their hand-knit, plush yarn pillows...So. Instead of paying $60 - $75 for one, I made a pillow of my own for about $12. I worked on it while we waited around the house for labor to start. I worked on it in the hospital while Hannah was in labor, and worked on it here and there in those first days back home, when we all were up every few hours around the clock, and my hands needed something productive to do. Finally, tonight, I finished it.

I cast off the last, long side of this rectangular lumbar pillow, stitched three sides together with matching embroidery thread, turned the pillow out, stuffed it generously, and stitched the short end closed. Done and done! I love how it turned soft and full of texture.

I happened to look over across the bed and saw Poppy and the Grandson chillaxin' together...that little hand just lightly touching Poppy's lips...breathing those sweet, deep belly breaths. Tim can feel baby's breathing belly on his breathing chest, and the affect is pure bliss.

Nighty-night Poppy and baby well. Saturday is going to be a fun day! Mommy and Daddy have plans to get you out and about, and you will love it...I think Grandaddy is going to take me out to breakfast in the morning. So here's a kiss on that little nose, and I'll tell you "goodnight" now!

Have a grace-filled weekend, friends.

To Know Him in the Now

Now is the time.

All your sins, past and future, are forgiven through the cross of Christ. You are free. You are free from guilt over your yesterdays, and free from anxiety over your tomorrows. This is only possible because God always inhabits the Eternal Now. It is well said that He is the great I Am, not the great I Was, nor the great I Will Be.

"Now" is always the acceptable, and in fact the only available time to receive the grace of God. (The Bible says, "Behold now is the day of salvation", which means the very same thing...)

This applies to me, though I first came to know His salvation 38 years ago. "NOW" is still the only possible opportunity I have to work out my salvation - now is the time to fear and tremble, lest I be found trying to add to His gift of righteousness. Now is the only possible opportunity I have to labor to enter His rest. Now is the only possible opportunity I have to practice His presence, to savor His sweetness, to taste of His goodness, and boast in His ability.

The only real obedience is now obedience. Planned obedience doesn't count, and past obedience counts even less. Past obedience doesn't accrue in some imaginary balance scale, the weight of which absolves me from present devotion.

I either love my brother now, or it is as though I never have and never will. (You know...your brother...your sister...the ones with names and phone numbers and addresses and children and burdens and joys and hurts and fears and they offended you and you can't quite get over it and now is your only acceptable time to make it right, to live in love again.)

I either practice His presence now, or He is only real to me in my memory, not in this moment.

Grace is not reserved for those weeks and months after I first believed. Grace is more for the present moment, a throne to which I now run with my actual life, not with my version of the story. God only deals in reality, He doesn't deal with my spin on reality.

I either hunger for Him now, or I am not hungry at all, with no guarantee of an appetite tomorrow. My heart is either tender now, or it is hard. Past tenderheartedness is not insurance in the event of future callouses. Past fire doesn't make up for present lukewarmness.

Who you are who you are. You are not who you used to be, and you are not who you intend to be.

Does your "now" find you falling short? If so, you have just become human, because it is our "now" that forever finds us out. When we stop living in the land of memory and good intention, we always find ourselves in a time of need. Oh, how we need the grace of God.

"I need Thee, Oh I need Thee! Every hour I need Thee!"

Whatever you need to do to change your mind, to make things right, to take joy, to be unjaded and uncritical, to fully obey, to fully love, to fully forgive, to draw those you love straight to your it.


Now is all there is.

Typical Tuesdays...

It's a classic-jazz sort of Tuesday...

and a give-the-baby-his-bath sort of Tuesday...

Got to have the blackmail pictures...

Have you ever seen a baby with his own spa-tub??

...and proud of it.

giving his Mimi "the look"...

...and it will be a get-in-the-Anatomy/Physiology-lessons, spaghetti dinner, clean-the-laundry-room sort of Tuesday. A watch the birds at the back feeders, sip on diet Coke, go to my son's basketball game tonight, reflect-on-my-blessings sort of Tuesday.

He's been smiling at me. Yeah. Babygrandson has been smiling at his Mimi.


Underlined Bits

The following is an excerpt from the book Spiritual Rhythm, Being With Jesus Every Season of Your Soul, by Mark Buchanan...a book recommended by Ann Voskamp, and after reading it, I'm on my second reading....I highly recommend this book. It put many of my own recent heart experiences into words for me - it resonated deeply, and gave form and substance to what before were only the thoughts in my mind...this is the gift all good writers give to the world!

"Often our pursuits are trivial. They might masquerade as great dreams, but it's by their fruit that you know them. We gain things that perish only to lose things meant to endure, things we were to guard with all our hearts:

we get a big house, but estranged children; we win the applause of strangers, but lose our friends; we acquire wealth and status, but grow cold toward God; we acquire much and spend much, but give little and - really - get little. The Bible tells us to seek the Lord. It tells us to seek peace and pursue it. It tells us to seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

We can know all this, and even do it, but lose our way along the way and end up chasing things we'll never catch, or if we do, wish we hadn't."

Quick, Easy, Feeds a Crowd...

This is a go-to recipe, here at the cottage. I am sure it, or something like it, is out there somewhere, in some official form, as a recipe. But this one, I made up myself. It is a perennial Atchley favorite, and couldn't be easier.

First, gather your ingredients, and take a picture of them, because you are a goober-blogger-geek:

2 or 3 large green peppers (I used 3); some red onion; a whole box of penne pasta; a sliced kielbasa; olive oil; a cup, give or take 2 or 3 cups, of Parmesan cheese (in other words, as much or as little as you want); and don't forget a bit of coarse salt and fresh cracked pepper. No table salt, please, because I am a salt snob. And a pepper snob. And a purse snob, but that's another post for another day. I buy most all my purses at Goodwill, and the only rule is that they had to have retailed for over $200 at one time.

gotta have the real's all in the parm...oh no. I am a parmesan snob, too! (Not really. I use the already grated, in the bag stuff, when I absolutely have to.)

make sure your cutting board is at least ten years old, a gift from your oldest son, and that it shows lots of "love". Because I am a cutting board snob. If there is no patina, there is no dinner.

Put your penne pasta on to boil. Cook it up according to package directions. While that is cooking away, heat up some olive oil, in your cast iron skillet. Cast iron is best, big and heavy, because I am a skillet snob. Get the oil screamin' hot, but not smokin'...

(see the pasta boiling? I wish to the moon that was a copper stock pot you see there, because I am such a copper pot snob. All my pots except my big stock pot, are copper. Alas, 6 or 8 quart copper stock pots don't come easily, because they are not found at thrift stores)

Toss in your green peppers and onion, and stir around for a minute or two. Find your newest, turquoiseyest utensil, because I am a utensil snob.

...some fresh ground pepper...

Toss in the kielbasa, and stir some more...careful now! Cast iron gets hottttt...keep it movin', girls, keep it movin'...

Toss in your cooked penne, your Parmesan, add another splash of olive oil, and break out the plates. Your tongue is going to beat your face to death trying to get to this. It is that good.

Word for 2011

Finally, I've composed my thoughts. There's been a word rolling around in my spirit in the latter part of 2010, and I knew it would be my word for the following year. It would be the word that would characterize my hours and my days. I didn't choose it, I believe "it" chose me.

The word?


Sow - [soh],verb

1. to scatter (seed) over land, earth, etc., for future growth; plant.
2. to plant seed for: to sow a crop.
3. to scatter seed over (land, earth, etc.) for the purpose of growth.
4. to implant, introduce, or promulgate; seek to propagate or extend; disseminate
5. to strew or sprinkle with anything.

–verb (used without object)
6. to sow seed, as for the production of a crop.

Legalism is the counterfeit to spiritual sowing. God cannot and will not bless the works of my flesh. He cannot be pleased with any works of righteousness I could ever do. But when I sow, believing in a righteousness outside myself, I will reap some 30, some 60, and some 100 fold. You see, grace provides seed for the sower. My seed is a gift. I didn't earn a single seed. The ability to sow is a gift.

But I have to sow.

I will sow, in 2011, with intention. I will sow in several specific areas, and into a few specific people. I will sow in faith in the finished work of Christ.

I heard it said recently that where I am today, good or bad, is a result of decisions I made 20 years ago; and where I will be 20 years from now will be because of the choices I make today. Sowing. Reaping.

That being the case, I am excited about my next 20 years, because the revelation of the grace of God is so very strong on my life right now, in a way it wasn't 20 years ago.

Right now, were I to sow with what I myself am able to accomplish ("sow to the flesh") I will reap corruption in 20 years. But if I sow to the Spirit ("Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord"), I reap life...pressed down, shaken together, and running over.

You reap what you sow, more than you sowed, later than you sowed it. All sowing is an investment into the future. It is never God's will that I build and someone else inhabit. It is never God's best that I plant, and someone else eat. I want to sow into relationships, into my health, into the Kingdom, and also be there when the seeds sprout, and then throw a party when one seed becomes a hundred pieces of fruit, and each one of those pieces of fruit contains yet a hundred more seeds!

Call me foolish, but I am absolutely convinced that I will reap a blessing that is all out of proportion to every single seed I sow in 2011. I shall not sow sparingly.

Our friend Joe Ewen said that adversity is a precursor to opportunity, and persecution is the herald of the hundred-fold return.

Thank you, persecutors! Seriously. I mean sur-russly. Thank you, thank you. Bless you! Come by my house anytime in the coming year, so that I can share the bounty with you - because it is by your hand and your mouth that I have been so unfairly advantaged! When the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you, life becomes enchanting and incredible.

Since that be the case, I best get to sowing, because every single thing I plant is going to produce a massive bumper-crop, to the glory of God.

My Boyfriend...

My man...a picture I snapped with my phone, while we were having dinner, after strolling the riverfront in Savannah.

Cute, or what?

This man can calm me down and fire me up. Rein me in and set me loose. He can make me happy as a clam and mad as hokey pokey, and it is all just a day at the office for him. I love...and I do mean love...his passion for the gospel, preached carefully, passionately, and properly.

And in a day and time that seems to be dominated by men who hide behind sarcasm and live under the law (the law is for sissies...only real men live by grace through faith) untaught Christian men, yoking everyone they know under heavy burdens, not lifting a finger themselves to help bear them...

...amongst self aware, religious men, cold and dead, my man glows like a happy hearth-fire. His courage to preach a New Testament, Pauline gospel is the thing I love the most about him.

Well...and those eyes. And those hands. And the way he plays the guitar, and the way he plays the drums, and the way he can fix cars...

...and the way he can soothe crying grandbabies. Now that's hot - holla!

No, it isn't our anniversary. Or his birthday. Or anything in particular. I just think he's a home-girl's best thang. My boo.

And he will read this, and look at me very...very...quizzically.

Road Trip - Savannah

A bit of lunch...

An over 110-year-old building...and cute traveling companion, who lets me eat where-evertheheck I want...

Celebrating my roots (both Scottish and Presbyterian...)

Celebrating a good, good day in Savannah.

I love the perspective a road trip gives me. There is a certain lightness to facing life with only one very small suitcase and a GPS. We are letting serendipity rule, going where we want, when we want, the way we want.

This is how we roll. No agendas, no schedule to keep, no one to feel like we have to please...just me n' my boo.

Today, we strolled Forsythe Park, visited a Revolutionary war cemetary, saw the statue of John Wesley - my favorite Arminian, Godblesshim. We navigated the cobbled street on the river, where I ate some good ol' Low Country Shrimp N' Grits.

I have more pictures for you, but this lousy internet service at our suite doesn't have the "umph" to download any more pictures...I've tried for the whole first half of the Stanford/Virginia Tech game, to no avail. I'll try again tomorrow, when the destination is...

Charleston, South Carolina!

Sabbath Rest

Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the Sabbath day...(Jer. 17)

this sounds suspiciously like a passage in Hebrews:

For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest...(Heb. 4)

The Sabbath was spoken of as a perpetual covenant. How is it perpetual? Christ is the substance of the Sabbath shadow, and in Him we have a perpetual covenant of rest.

You cannot know rest without the grace and peace that comes to you through the gospel. Paul's words "Grace and Peace to you" were no mere greeting. He knew that grace and peace were prerequisites to rest. You will never have rest, so long as you are burdened by your own insufficiency...or the insufficiency of others.

Without grace and peace, you will always be burdened by someones insufficient ability, insufficient finances, insufficient education, insufficient experience, insufficient humility, insufficient wisdom, insufficient performance.

Isn't that the essence of all burdens? We grow anxious or angry or addled or agitated when we ourselves, or someone else, does not meet an expected standard. When we fall short, through ignorance, willfulness, or inadequacy, there is immediately created a sense of burden.

I can almost promise you that burden-bearing has become second nature to you. You have likely developed a sophisticated, even unconscious network of mechanisms to compensate, carry, and continue beneath a variety of burdens. You likely are living as though some form of burden bearing constitutes normal life.

I can definitely promise you that a burden free life is what God means to be second nature to you. We are commanded to bear no burdens whatsoever on the Sabbath...

...and Jesus is our Sabbath.

Without the "grace and peace" found in the gospel, we operate in a mode of either drawing confidence from ours and others' performance, or we operate in a mode of ever-so-slightly eroded confidence, based on the under-performance of ourselves or others. The more disciplined and accomplished we are, the more confidence we feel.

The more disciplined and accomplished someone else is, the more confidence we feel in them.

The only problem is that, like Paul said, everything we once thought of as asset, is now considered liability. The new sufficiency is Christ's all sufficiency. The new ability is Christ's ability. The new work is to rest.

And if you think resting in the finished work of Christ is easy, then tell me, if you will, why legalists can't do it? I'll tell you why - because it takes doing the real work of God, which is believing on Jesus, whom God hath sent. All other kinds of work comes easy as falling, and fall we always do.

The hard work is found in laying every. single. burden. down.

Every moment.

Every day.


Today is your Sabbath, friend. Today is the time to cease from your own efforts.

I defy you to obey God's Sabbath imperative without a deeper understanding of grace than what you now have. Living by the law is way easier. It is far-and-away easier to live life trying to please God. It is exponentially more difficult to lay burdens down, submit to the gift of righteousness, and put no confidence in the flesh.

We think bearing burdens justifies our own existence. The cooler the burden a man bears, the cooler the man. And some burdens are just plain cool...admit it. Who do you know, who complains about the burden of being in a higher tax bracket, the burden of a successful career, the burden of an estate, the burden of keeping his pool properly maintained?

In our culture, those burdens mean that you are a rock-star.

Well, it is equally cool to bear the burden of fasting, prayer, and early rising. In fact, we can't help but let it slip in "casual conversation", if we regularly bear those burdens. When we fall short in the area of Christian perfection, it feels holy to angst about our imperfections, and go immediately to work on them. Cool packs on our back, they are. Tokens of our ability to out-perform.

In kingdom culture, success is measured by how little you bear, not how much. The Sabbath is a perpetual covenant, and we still have our part of it to remember and keep.

"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy."

Do. No. Work. Bear. No. Burdens.

The burden has already been borne. Sins and sorrows were carried by Christ to the cross. The work has already been done. Christ said, "It is finished." All that remains is rest.

There yet remains a rest for you. Work very hard to enter into it.

Funny - the holiest believers I know are the ones who don't work at being holy. So untorque yourself, friend. Rest may not be cool, but it is necessary to your sanctification.