It's Chili Time in Tennessee!

...I actually received email about our Atchley Family Tradition this past week. A couple of friends had checked the weather report, and wanted to make sure I knew that the temps were forecasted to dip down into the 40's tonight.

Here at Mayhem Cottage (not really, but it felt like it this week) we stop eating chili when the weather warms, come springtime. And we do not allow so much as a bite of the stuff to pass our lips before the following autumn - we wait for the first night the temperatures get down into the 40's. It's become a tenant of our faith.

You should believe as well. You should try it.

Full Disclosure: my daughter Sarah broke down and made chili last week. Note: there was not a forty-something degree forecast involved. She jumped the gun. It's her favorite food in the whole world. Still...I bet she wishes now she'd saved herself.

If I've told her once, I've told her three times: when you give into temptation, it cheapens the whole experience. I bet her next bowl of chili won't feel quite so special. Kids! Even if they are adults. Who are married. And moved out on their own. They should still listen to their mothers.

Signing off now...your homegirl is enjoying the fireplace in my bedroom, and an extra blanket at the moment, and I've blogs to surf before I sleep...and blogs to surf before I sleep.

"Exposing Major Blindspots of Homeschoolers" ...or, The Major Blindspots of Legalistic Parents, I Would Add

Exposing Major Blind Spots of Homeschoolers by Reb Bradley

In the last couple of years, I have heard from multitudes of troubled homeschool parents around the country, a good many of whom were leaders. These parents have graduated their first batch of kids, only to discover that their children didn't turn out the way they thought they would. Many of these children were model homeschoolers while growing up, but sometime after their 18th birthday they began to reveal that they didn't hold to their parents' values.

Some of these young people grew up and left home in defiance of their parents. Others got married against their parents' wishes, and still others got involved with drugs, alcohol, and immorality. I have even heard of several exemplary young men who no longer even believe in God. My own adult children have gone through struggles I never guessed they would face.

Most of these parents remain stunned by their children's choices, because they were fully confident their approach to parenting was going to prevent any such rebellion.

After several years of examining what went wrong in our own home and in the homes of so many conscientious parents, God has opened our eyes to a number of critical blind spots common to homeschoolers and other family-minded people.

1. Having Self-Centered Dreams

The reason that our dreams for our children are so vulnerable to crashing is because they are our dreams, imposed on our own children. As homeschool parents we make great sacrifices and invest a great deal to influence how our children turn out. The problem is that love for children can be lost in love for personal success as a parent. Our concern for ourselves ends up overshadowing our love for our children.

When my oldest son was 18 he developed habits of disrespectful communication and I had to ask him to leave my home for a season. Needless to say, my wife and I were devastated by the discipline we imposed. In the first month he was gone we wept each day for him. We were grieved that he was now unprotected from the junk from which we had worked so hard to shelter him, but more than that, I was heartbroken that my dreams for him and our family would no longer come true. I remember speaking the words to him - "Son, you've ruined my dreams." You see, I had a dream for my family and it involved adult children who lived at home humbly under parental authority, and who would one day leave home to marry, after following my carefully orchestrated courtship process. But now, my son had gone and "messed up" my perfect dream. Nothing is wrong with dreaming of good things for your children, but the truth was, my dream for my son was mostly about me.

In hindsight, what was particularly grievous was that I was more worried about the failure of my dream of "success" than the fact that my son and I had a broken relationship. Although he did come back and was restored to us 4 months later, it still took me years to realize that I had contributed to the damaged relationship.

It is only natural for parents to have high hopes and dreams for their children. However, when we begin to see our children as a reflection or validation of us, we become the center of our dreams, and the children become our source of significance. When that happens in our home it affects the way we relate with our children, and subtly breaks down relationship.

2. Raising Family as an Idol

When we allow the success of our family to determine our security or sense of wellbeing we are seeking from it something God intends us to receive from Him. I am describing idolatry. If homeschoolers are not careful, family can easily become an idol.

At times in their history the Israelites worshipped idols. They didn't always forsake worship of the living God - they merely served other gods with Him. Sometimes they simply made an idol of something good. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees because they elevated issues of holiness higher than the very God who declared them holy (Mat 12:1-8; 23:24). An idol is anything other than God in which we seek security and fulfillment. It may be something biblical or good, but if it has the power to determine our wellbeing, we have elevated it higher than God meant for us. As those who are devoted to our families, and therefore invest a great deal of time, energy, and heart, it is easy to elevate the family too high.

A great problem with idolatry is that idols require sacrifice, and we end up sacrificing relationship with our children for the idol of the family. When we elevate the image of the family, we effectively trade our children's hearts for our reputation.

3. Emphasizing Outward Form

Preoccupation with results often leads to emphasis on outward form. When we are preoccupied with achieving results it is natural to admire the results others seem to have achieved with their children. We like the way the pastor's kids sit reverently in the front pew and take notes of their father's sermon, so we go home and begin to teach our children to sit reverently and to take notes. What we don't know is that the pastor's kids conduct themselves with reverence and attentiveness not because he "cleaned the outside of the cup" and simply drilled them to do so -- he lived a genuine love for Jesus that was contagious, and watched as the fruit was born (Matt 23:26). Parents are destined for disappointment when they admire fruit in others and seek to emulate merely that expression of fruit in their own children. Fruit is born from the inside -- not applied to the outside.

Imagine that the fruit you desired was the edible variety, so you went out into your yard and planted an apple tree. Just suppose that one day, while you were waiting for the apples to begin growing on your tree, you caught a glimpse of a neighbor's apple tree. You noticed in admiration that its branches were laden with big, luscious apples. What would you do? Would you run to the produce market to buy some apples, then go home, and in the dead of night, tie them onto your tree? If you did, the sight of your tree might really impress your neighbors. But that is not what you would do. You would likely go to the neighbor and ask how he cared for and fertilized his tree to produce such fruit. It is the same with our children - luscious fruit will be born from what we put into them - not from what we tie onto them. As a matter of fact, in no time, the fruit that we put onto our children will rot and fall off.

In the homeschool community I have observed that there can be a great emphasis on outward appearance, whether it is dressing for excellence, modesty, grooming, respectful manners, music style, or an attitude of sober reverence in worship. Some even take their children down a country path of humble fashions, raising food, and making bread. Nothing is wrong with any of these things, but we must be careful - we can model for our children outward changes and easily fall into molding their behavior and/or appearance, while missing their hearts. In some circles emphasis on the outward is epidemic.

A friend of mine, a homeschool mom, just passed away of cancer. In the week before she died, I asked her if she had any regrets in her life. She told me she wished she had baked less bread - she said if she had it to do over again she would buy bread and spend more time with her children. She had invested time and energy in pursuing the "path" because she thought it was part of the spiritual homeschool package.

Let us not forget that Jesus came against the Pharisees for their preoccupation with what they felt were legitimate expressions of spirituality. They measured holiness by what was avoided and by what would be seen by others (Mat 6:1-2, 5, 16; 23:5-6, 23-28; John 7:24). The Pharisees were earnest in their religion, but they were preoccupied with outward expressions of holiness rather than hearts of humility and love (Micah 6:8) that would bear genuine fruit. I find it fascinating that in the gospels there is not one mention of Jesus coming against immodesty, even though among his followers were prostitutes and the like. Jesus emphasized cleaning up the inside while the Pharisees were the ones preoccupied with cleaning up the outside. We must ask ourselves: Which are we more like - Jesus or the Pharisees? Even now do we justify ourselves, insisting we emphasize cleaning up both the inside and the outside?

I know that some react strongly to these assertions, so let me emphasize that I do want my wife and daughters to adorn themselves modestly. God did address it once in the New Testament (1Tim 2:9), but we must ask ourselves, is it possible that we have elevated modesty, or other issues of outward form, higher than Jesus did? If he only mentioned modesty once in the epistles and never mentioned it in his earthly ministry, but instead emphasized the importance of a changed heart bearing outward fruit, should we not follow his example and concentrate on reaching our children's hearts? Because He did address it in the first epistle to Timothy, let us teach our children the value of keeping private that which should be, but let us be careful of thinking that just because they look moral on the outside that they have God's values on the inside. Concurrently, let us also be careful of measuring everyone else's enlightenment by what we have decided is modest, spiritual, or holy.

4. Tending to Judge

In setting standards for our family, each of us must work through a process of evaluation and analysis to decide what is safe, wise, or permissible. Once we become convinced of our personal standards, not uncommonly, it follows that we believe they should apply to others as well.

The Pharisees belittled others who didn't hold to their standards. We have gone their way when we judge others. It is easy to miss this area of pride because we may not express our judgments "arrogantly"; we may instead wrap them in compassionate-sounding words. Arrogance wrapped in concerned tones is deceiving.

Pride is so deceptive that we won't know our judgments are even judgments. We will think we are just making observations and feeling pity, when in fact, we are looking down on others from our lofty place of confident enlightenment. It is a high view of ourselves that allows us to condescend to and belittle others in our mind. And if you already knew all this, be careful - pride will even cause us to be amazed that others didn't see what was so obvious to us.

Typically, when we belittle others who don't measure up to our standards, we will also imagine others are judging us. Consequently, we will find ourselves frequently being defensive. We assume that others will think lowly of us for some perceived inadequacy, so we offer unsolicited explanations and clarifications for us or our children. For example, let's say we walked past a TV at Sears and saw something of interest - when we tell others what we saw, we are careful to clarify that we saw it at Sears and weren't watching a TV at home. If we live under fear of judgment, not only will we tend to be on the defensive, but whenever we are in a public setting where our children might be "watched," we will put pressure on them.

When pride is working its work in us, we sincerely believe our personal opinions reflect God's utmost priorities and standards. What we believe to be our "enlightened" perspective becomes a filter by which we gauge others' spirituality, and therefore limits our options for fellowship. We develop a very narrow definition of what we call "likeminded" people, based on the outworkings of our values and opinions. Now we are on a path to exclusivity when we will no longer associate with those who will be with us in eternity. Is it possible we have lost sight of fellowship based on love and devotion to Jesus, and have substituted personal standards and a narrow view of Christian liberty?

There are several serious consequences of raising children in a home marked by pride and judgment. Children may grow up also judging others. Or, they may hide their real values, acting as though they embrace our values, when, in fact, they are simply seeking to avoid discipline and lectures at home. Or, they may see the shallowness of our legalistic faith that consists primarily of "avoid this, wear that, attend this," and not be attracted to it in the least.

5. Depending on Formulas

Homeschool parents often take a formulaic approach to parenting. Committed to achieving results with our children, we look for formulas and principles to ensure our success. Knowing the Bible is full of the wisdom and promises of God, we look to it for its self-working principles and promised methods. Yet, there's a problem with that. We are commanded to trust in God, not in formulas (John 14:1; Ps 37:5; 62:8). There is a monumental difference.

Trust in formulas is really dependence upon ourselves to carry out a procedure correctly. But anyone who really understands the grace of the gospel knows that we cannot take personal credit for any spiritual accomplishments. We are totally God's workmanship (Eph 2:10; Phil 2:13; 1:6) and everything good in our lives is a gift from Him (James 1:17). We can do absolutely nothing by ourselves for which we can take credit (Eph 2:8-9; Gal 6:14; Rom 4:2; 1 Cor 1:28-31; 2 Cor 11:30). Yet many of us lean toward a formulaic mentality, because our fallen natures are drawn toward self-reliance. We want to feel that by our own efforts (works) we have achieved something that will make us acceptable to God - by nature we are legalistic.

God doesn't want us to trust in principles, methods, or formulas, no matter how "biblical" they seem. God wants us to trust in HIM!

6. Over-Dependence on Authority and Control.
Fruitful training of children and roses require a goal, a plan, and diligence in labor. However, the difference is that roses have no mind of their own and only grow as they are allowed. Children are people--self-determining individuals--and they ultimately choose how they will respond to parental influence.

No amount of parental control or restriction will guarantee that a child will turn out exactly as directed. Obviously, our training increases the likelihood our children will cling to the faith when they reach maturity, or turn back to Christ if they do enter a season of rebellion, but our training does not guarantee the desired outcome.

I know that some will struggle with the assertion that parents do not have total control over the outcome of their parenting, because of Proverbs 22:6. And I would have struggled too, ten years ago, but upon examination of the passage in question, I am convinced that it is a verse meant as an admonition of wisdom, not as a promise and guarantee of outcome. Like many of the sayings in Proverbs it is written as a statement of probability and not as a promise.

Solomon set for us a great example of balanced parenting - he admonished his young adult children and gave them commandments, but he knew that for them to honor his commands he needed their hearts. That's why he said, "My son, give me your heart and let your eyes keep to my ways" (Prov 23:26). The apostle Paul knew how much he needed the hearts of those he exhorted, and therefore told them "... although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, 9 yet I appeal to you on the basis of love..." (Phile 1:8-9).

If we are to have significant influence of our teenage children we must have their hearts. Winning their hearts means gaining the opportunity to influence who they are, not just what they do.

7. Over-Reliance Upon Sheltering

An over-dependence on control in a family is often accompanied by an over-reliance on sheltering of children. It is not uncommon for homeschool parents to feel that since they filter whatever their children see and hear, they will control the results in their lives. That was me for many years. I remember saying to people, "I am controlling the influences in my children's lives, so I am going to control the outcome." I was absolutely certain that my children would be exempted from significant temptation and from developing particular bad habits because I was controlling what touched their lives.

In the last five years I have heard countless reports of highly sheltered homeschool children who grew up and abandoned their parents' values. Some of these children were never allowed out of their parents' sight and were not permitted to be in any kind of group setting, even with other "like-minded" kids, yet they still managed to develop an appetite for the world's pleasures. While I've seen sheltered children grow up and turn away from their parents' standards, conversely, I've known some Christian young people who went to public school, watched TV, attended youth groups, and dated, yet they walk in purity, have respectful, loving relationships with their parents, and now enjoy good marriages. Their parents broke the all the "rules of sheltering," yet these kids grew up close to their families and resilient in their walks with Christ.

Protecting from temptations and corrupting influences is part of raising children. Every parent shelters to one degree or another. All parents shelter - they just draw their lines in different places.Protecting our children is not only a natural response of paternal love, but fulfills the commands of God. The Scriptures are clear that we are to make no provision for our flesh (Rom 13:14) and are to avoid all corrupting influences (2 Cor 6:17-7:1). It warns us that bad company corrupts good morals (1 Cor 15:33) and that those who spend too much time with bad people may learn their ways (Prov 22:24-25) and suffer for it (Prov 13:20). Just as our Father in heaven will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear (1 Cor 10:13), we rightly keep our children out of situations they will lack the moral strength to handle. Young children are weak and we are to protect the weak (1 Thes 5:12).

God understood the vulnerability of human nature when he gave the Israelites instructions before they entered the Promised Land. He told them to chase out the idol-worshipping Pagans in the land, lest His people associate with them and be drawn into idolatry (Ex 23:32-33; Num 33:51-56; Josh 23:7-13). The Israelites disregarded God's protective warning and allowed some Pagans to remain in the land. Subsequently, each successive generation of young people was lost to idolatry. God instructed them to shelter their families, but their neglect of His warnings brought pain to their children and to their grandchildren for many generations.

However, we are imbalanced when sheltering from harm is the predominant expression of our parenting. Sheltering is a critical part of parenting, but if parents keep it their primary focus, the children will grow up ill equipped to handle the temptations in the world.A child isolated from disease may appear to be of the greatest health to his parents, but the health of the human body is only proven by how it withstands an attack. A weak constitution succumbs to every germ and virus - a strong one fights them off. Our spiritual and moral health is developed and proved in the same way.

If we isolate our kids from the world until they are adults they may appear to us to be spiritually minded and strong in character. However, it is how they ultimately engage the world that proves their spiritual resilience. This is because sheltering does not transform the human heart - it merely preserves it, temporarily.

It is true that a boxer trains without an opponent until his coach decides he is ready for an actual fight. And it is true that a farmer might raise plants in a greenhouse until they are mature enough to be transplanted and face the various elements of nature. So also, we keep our children away from bad influences when they are young and need to grow unhindered in character and spiritual wisdom. The problem is that sheltering without significant preparation to engage the world fails to equip them. In fact, it may insure that they will fall in their first solo encounters.

Growing up isolated from temptation can develop a child who appears spiritually strong, but the appearance is not reality. When I was in college I moved to northern California to live for a summer in a Christian commune. I was somewhat isolated from the world and surrounded by an amazing support system of my fellow "Jesus people." I remember feeling so full of faith, so committed to holiness, and so in love with God that summer. However, the "spirituality" I felt and the level of holiness I achieved was not real and could not endure testing. At the end of summer I returned to college in Southern California and discovered that I had not developed true spiritual muscles - when faced with temptation I fell flat on my face every time. The communal environment, isolated from significant temptation, had not prepared me for the battle I would face in the world. Valid spiritual growth required that I face temptation and develop the capacity to resist it, which eventually I did. My isolation from temptation had left me like a boxer who had shadow boxed, trained rigorously, and looked good in his trunks, but had never faced a sparring partner, let alone a true opponent.

I believe that a primary reason we over-rely on sheltering is because it is easy. It requires no planning or expenditure of energy. It takes minimal immediate brainpower. we simply assess that something might be harmful and say to our children, "No." I don't know if I would go so far as to call it lazy parenting, but I will say that investing in our children takes a lot more work and a lot more time.

8. Not Passing On a Pure Faith

We've all heard it said that faith is caught and not taught. The Galatian church polluted their faith by seeking to make themselves acceptable to God with what they did or didn't do" (Gal 3:3). In the same way, we may have started off years ago with a simple, undefiled faith, but the more we got caught up in all the "works" of intense parenting, the more we moved away from a simple faith contagious to our children. It is critical for our sake, let alone for our children, that we enjoy a life-giving faith in Christ with no religious trappings added to it.

As I look back, I see that with my older children I was too concerned with how they were perceived by others. I saw their behavior as a reflection on me, and I wanted to look good. They, therefore, sensed in me a measure of pretentiousness--not the genuineness of faith that would have drawn them to me or to the Jesus I spoke about. My sincere concern for their character was overshadowed by my concern for my reputation. I have discovered that, like me, multitudes of parents want their children's hearts but live a faith that fails to completely attract them.

9. Not Cultivating a Loving Relationship With Our Children

Relationships between parents and teens are weakest in control-oriented homes. Bev and I treated our children as if they were "projects." The more they became projects, the less we had significant relationship. The less we had relationship, the more we lost their hearts. Without their hearts, the less we were able to influence them or their values. We regularly spent hour coaching and admonishing them during the teen years, not realizing that without their hearts, the best we could do was make more rules and devise new consequences. The consequences affected the outside, but not the inside.

Our Story
When my oldest son was almost 16 we let him get his first job washing dishes at a restaurant managed by a Christian friend of ours. As diehard shelterers we wrestled with whether or not our son was ready to enter the world's workforce. We knew we couldn't shelter him forever, and so finally concluded that he should be old enough to send into the world two nights a week. What we didn't realize was that he would be working with drug-using, tattooed, partiers, and our Christian friend was never scheduled to work our son's shift.

Within a month it became apparent that our son's new work associates were having an effect on him. He came home one evening and asked, "Dad, can I dye my hair blue?" After my wife was finally able to peal me off the ceiling, I laid into him, reminding him whose son he was, and that I would not have people at church telling their children not to be like the pastor's son. I explained that just because he wanted to use washable dye, it didn't make me any happier. (Note that my intense reaction had to do with "outward appearances" and the impact on me.)

Of course, my wife and I immediately began to evaluate whether we had made a mistake by letting him take the job. After an intense discussion we decided to coach him more carefully and let him keep his job.

Two months later he came home from work and asked me if he could pierce his ear. Again, my wife had to peal me off the ceiling. He thought it might be okay since he wanted a cross earring -- like I was supposed to be happy, because it would be a "sanctified" piercing. If that wasn't enough, he also wanted to get a tattoo! But it was going to be okay, because it would be a Christian tattoo!

As I was looking back on this experience several years later, something my son said shortly after he started his job kept coming back to me. When I picked him up the second night of work, he got in the car with a big smile on his face and said "They like me!" As I dwelt on that comment, it suddenly came clear to me - my son had finally met someone who liked him for who he was. Few others in his entire life had shown him much acceptance, especially not his mother and I. It is no exaggeration - in our efforts to shape and improve him, all we did was find fault with everything he did. We loved him dearly, but he constantly heard from us that what he did (who he was) wasn't good enough. He craved our approval, but we couldn't be pleased. Years later, I realized he had given up trying to please us when he was 14, and from then on he was just patronizing us.

The reason our son wanted to adorn himself like his work associates, was because they accepted him for who he was. He wanted to fit in with those who made him feel significant. He wanted to be like those who gave him a sense of identity. The problem wasn't one that could be solved by extended sheltering - he could have been sheltered until he was 30 and he still would have been vulnerable. The problem was that we had sent our son into the world insecure in who he was. He went into the world with a hole in his heart that God had wanted to fill through his parents.

Whether believer or unbeliever, those young people who are least tempted to follow the crowd are those who are secure in themselves and don't need the approval of others. The Bible calls insecurity the fear of man - it is allowing other's opinions of us to affect our values and choices.

The Solution

In the Bible we see that people obeyed God for two reasons - fear and love. King David sang of his love for God (Ps 18:1; 116:1; 119:159) and he also sang of the fear of God (Ps 2:11; 22:25; 33:8). God wants His followers to be drawn to Him out of love (Jer 31:3), and that's why it is His kindness that leads us to repentance (Rom 2:4). But He also wants us to be kept on the path by fear of His authority (Luke 12:5; 1 Pet 2:17). That's why He told the Israelites He wanted both their fear and their love; "And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul" (Deut 10:12). With our children, it should be the same.

Those who have the most power to influence our hearts are those to whom we are drawn: those who succeed with our values (which is what a hero is), those who can benefit us, those who make us feel valuable, and those who have earned our respect.

If our children grow up motivated only by fear of consequence, they will eventually get away with what they can whenever we are not around (Eph 6:6). If we have their hearts they will seek to honor us whether we are present or not, and their hearts will remain open to our influence.

I refer you to the apostle Paul who modeled this approach to leadership perfectly, "Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I appeal to you on the basis of love..." (Phile 1:8-9a). Paul's pattern with the churches suggests he understood that appeals to love were more powerful than commands and threats.


I am convinced that the most contagious parenting is living a heartfelt faith before your children. Fruitful interaction is not about what you do to your young people, but who you are with them. It's about having a real faith in God, and expressing it in a real relationship with a real person--not about methods and self-working principles. God intends that the side-effect of loving Jesus and enjoying the grace of the gospel will be that all people--including our children--will be touched by the Savior in us. I pray in Jesus' name that as you read these words you will experience the grace of God in a fresh and new way.

Reb Bradley is a writer and national conference speaker. Read the complete article from which this excerpt was taken here. Visit to order Reb's CD set Influencing Children's Hearts.

Grandsons Are Among Life's Best Blessings

A slice of life from the cottage today...

I don't really need to say more, do I?

Nah. I didn't think so.

Morning and Evening

...sounds like a CH Spurgeon devotional, but it's not. Well, it is - there is a devotional by that title - but this is my blog post, "Morning and Evening", and my post is way less interesting and epically less inspiring than the devotional. Do get the devotional. It'll ground you in grace. Definitely not the writings of a dead moralist.

This is morning, here at my cottage...

Timothy, making a "time to help Poppy and Mimi wake up" potta coffee with Poppy...

::waves hand:: "You only see cute baby and precious do not see popcorn ceilings. You do not see popcorn ceilings."

The jammies slay me. They juuuuust slay me.

And now...evening, here at my cottage...

Tonight's dinner...recipe here...added zucchini to it this evening, for obvious reasons. (Doesn't everyone have zucchini right about now?)

I love this cast iron enamel dutch oven so much...he's an eight-quart big guy.

He is orange, and the color orange and I are good friends these days. Mr. Cast Iron Enamel Dutch Oven and I might even be something more like "more than friends". He's so hot.


It was an Acker Bilk kind of evening...old, old record, from the 50's. In your imagination, hear that fun, scratchy sound of the vintage record player and it's equally vintage record...soft saxophone music, wafting in the air.

Love this perspective. Something about this shot brings you right into my kitchen, looking into the dining room. Do you mind setting the table for us? Cloth napkins are in the drawer, behind you.

Keep Reading!

For heaven's sake, just keep reading. Taking a verse or two by itself is the equivelant of the spiritual "sound bite". It gets taken out of context more often than not. The real meaning is missed.

Philippians 2:12 is a good example. The last portion of it reads, " out your salvation with fear and trembling."

First of all, read evvvvvverything that comes before (Paul declaring the utter awesomeness of Jesus, "Christ Alone". Then, Paul speaks to the fact that these Philippians had eagerly received Paul's gospel of Christ Alone, while in his presence, and he hopes all the more in his absence... )

and now, for heaven's sake, keep reading.

"For it is God which works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure."

Could it be that to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling" means that you dare not touch the Glory? That you enter more and more and more and more into the realization that it is all Him, nothing of yourself?

Um, the correct answer here would be "Yes".

Keep reading. Always, keep reading. Resist the siren song of the Spiritual Sound Bite. Legalists tend to read whole passages of the Old Testament, and then they sound bite the New Testament. Just a heads up.

Books I Want

I've decided to start a new blog post category: "Books I Want"

Because there are so many. So many books, so little time. Which means this topic will supply me with an endless variety of blog posts.

This one is available on Kindle, but...ahem...I've already bought one Kindle book this week, a Seth Godin classic, and that is all I allow myself. Oh wait. Make that two, but one was only $2, so it doesn't count, really, in the budget.

"Letting Go of the Try Hard Life". Me, too, Emily. Me too. You might be the BFF I haven't met yet. I let go too...and the funny thing is, I am accomplishing more than ever.

A quote from this book, as supplied by the lovely Ann Voskamp, who made me aware of this book on her blog...

It was important for me to get to a place where I saw myself as a prodigal, because the weak recognize their need so much more quickly than the strong….

We already have the love and acceptance of our Father, so why do we try so hard to earn it?”

Oh. If ever a sentence or two succinctly expresses the grace journey that evolved in my life, about three years ago, the above words express it. I was brought so gloriously, painfully to the end of myself. Some, very dear to me, didn't understand. At all. Why?

This is a place most women are afraid to linger, this "end of myself". When you get to that place, aren't you supposed to pull yourself out?

Well...I lingered. I lingered with tenacity. Tears. Developing a passion for Christ Alone.

And was forever changed.

This author sounds like a kindred spirit.

Happy Fall

Ministry That Mends - Angelic Ministries of Knoxville Tennessee

It started out a rainy, dreary Wednesday today. I awoke to a crick in my neck, and a steady drizzle outside my window, and got my day started as best I could under such trying circumstances. At about 9 o'clock, I picked up my cell phone for the first time. (I turn my cell phone off at night, and don't turn it on the next day until I am good and ready...if I remember to at all. Don't judge. It's how I roll.)

I saw I had a message waiting for me from my friend Lynne B, so I listened. She was proposing that we meet up in...uh...thirty minutes.

Actually, she left the message last night, but my phone was already off by then. Don't judge her's how she rolls. Do you sense a theme here? Let folks roll how they roll.

My rainy Wednesday was about to get a major infusion of Spiritual Sunshine. The planets must be lining up today, because all systems were actually "go" for me to run right out my front door and drive to Angelic Ministries of Knoxville, to help do some volunteer work. I couldn't believe it. I'm usually never that available on that short a notice...we're talkin' less than half an hour.

About twenty minutes and twelve seconds later, I was there. And I even had time to ingest a steaming hot cup of legal stimulant on the way. I know, right? You have one plan for your morning, and BOOM, you find yourself driving through a bad part of town, to a worse part of town, before you can even say "What The Heck?"

Well. If you're me.

So. I spent some time helping to mend broken people wasn't hard to do. Two or three hours of my time was all it took, going to the building that houses Angelic Ministries of Knoxville, shadowing and assisting my friend Lynne B, who volunteers there regularly.

As I drove up to the building - again I tell you - in a part of town that isn't exactly upscale, I passed a man who was...ah..."relieving himself", right there in a little nook area of the outer brick wall, his back turned towards the highway.

Somehow, I knew right away that if helping people who actually need it is good for the soul, I was about to get a really happy soul today.

I parked my car, hid my purse, locked up, and headed inside. I was introduced briefly, and within five minutes, I had my first "client". That is what Angelic calls the people they minister to. Actually, Lynne ended up with two clients, sisters who came together, and I pretended one client was hers, and one was mine.

I was there to look and learn and help wherever needed...and bring all of you with me, via pictures. (Please do pour yourself a tall cuppa something - there's more than one or two pictures here...)

Angelic takes people in crisis situations, people who have been referred to them by other reputable agencies or churches, not off the street, and volunteers take them with a shopping buggy through the huge warehouse of donated items, and help them pick out what they need to get re-established. And I do mean whatever they need.

If Angelic Ministries has it to give. Which brings me to the first sight I was confronted with...

The toiletry shelves. Empty. Do you even know how expensive toiletries are? Very little along those lines could be given out by Angelic Ministries today, because toiletry donations are down. It just wasn't there to give.

If the next picture does not hurt your heart, not much will move you, ever...

What about this one:

The weather turned cooler recently. So for fun last weekend,I went out and got my grandbaby a new pair of shoes to keep his sweet feet warm (and to make him weep violently, but that's another story...home boy don't like shoes.)

What about the sweet feet of the babies who come here? With many, if not most, of the families that are helped through Angelic Ministries, there are babies and children involved. The sisters we helped this morning had two or three at home. Babies. They also have school aged children.

Here is a sign from God, if anyone needs a sign:

...and when they say they need men's pants...

...they really mean it. There were no men's pants at all...only shorts. If you were a man, who came to Angelic Ministries today, and you needed a pair of pants for your new job, the job that will help get you back on your feet - you better be a size 40 waist, because if you were anything less, there was nothing there.

Speaking of being back on your feet...

Almost nothing for you in that department, either. Angelic Ministries needs donations, friends!

We took our two sisters to pick out some linens. Towels, anyone?

It's a good thing there are a (very) few, (very) thin towels on these shelves. The two women we worked with were able to get some for each family member.

I'll leave you with just a few more images...

Those toiletry shelves haunt me to this moment...

Nope. Nothing on this shelf either. Such a basic, human-female need.

The school supplies.

The image that most lingers most with me, though, is that of two clients I saw who weren't even "my" clients. I saw a young Hispanic couple there with their baby, scanning those toiletry shelves. I'm a good judge of character, and the faces I saw were open. This was the sweetest, cleanest looking little family you'd ever want to see. They simply were in serious need.

And they had a baby. What growing baby couldn't use a pair of shoes this autumn?

And the man might could have used an extra pair of decent pants.

And they were standing in front of those darn toiletry shelves.

You might think that in the light of the stark needs, and those empty shelves, that I left feeling depressed. Nah. Our two sisters went home with a literal truck load of blessing - a twin bed, a queen sized bed, all bed linens, dishes, pots and pans, food for the whole family, baby clothes, baby food, a baby car seat, and I think even a small desk.

Needs are being met, and there are more needs that need to be met. (Say that ten times fast!) And I serve a God who is the Need Meeter. I'm praying that He'll use this small blog post to do something Big...a loaves and fishes kind of thing. God can take my small contribution, bless and break it, and do Amazing Things.

If you can help, and you live here in Knoxville, I have a name and number to hook you up with. If you want to help, and you live far, far away (I have tons of blog readers who live in other countries!) please email me, and let's see what creative brilliance we can come up with.

If you own or know of a business that could donate toiletries, email me right now. Don't wait.

Those empty toiletry shelves bug me.

Grandson's Nine Month Photos

You can't keep him still. Can you see how his eyes glow with interest, as he systematically pulls all my yarn out?

This is "our boy"...our grandson, saying, "GO VOLS! TOUCHDOWN, TENNESSEE!" Or, he might be saying, "Praise the Lord." He gets the two confused.

Thinking Right About People

(image from Tiffany Kirchner Dixon's blog)

I really, really want to enjoy the journey of life. For the love of chocolate and red wine, I just want to take joy.

I have a low tolerance for negativity. I have an even lower tolerance for negative talk about people. Ask my family. We aren't perfect, but on the average day, we just don't do it. We don't speak negatively of others. Once in awhile, this is because I can't take it, and after about two minutes of it I have to change the subject or interject something positive and redeeming. And I mean it. Let's not even think about picking up where we left off, and go back to criticizing. I'll get mad.

That. ain't. pretty.

This isn't because I am virtuous. I tend to push the limits of virtue in some areas of my life. I hate gossip simply because I have had a belly-full-enough of negative yah-yah to last a lifetime, and I am totally sick of it, I do not care how true it is, or how important it is that I should know this or that about so-and-so.

This might not be a virtue at all. This might be a survival mechanism I have developed. But for pity's sake, why say something bad about someone else?

Think about it. Ask yourself the same question I ask myself: What good can this possibly do? Truly. What good at all does it do to mentally or verbally criticize? Of what redeeming value is gossip?

That's all gossip is...a negative little chat about something or someone's shortcomings. Sometimes the chat takes place between your ears, between you, yourself, and you. Or it might take place between you and another person. In person or in writing. (We forget that a private Facebook message is still gossip, even though we didn't SAY it!) It might be veiled, it might be blatant, but the intention is always the same: to point out a perceived fault. Or a church's perceived faults. Or the short comings of the Adult Sunday School program, which always by implication leads to someONE'S failures, as you see it.

And sometimes you are exactly right.

Oh, yes, you might be right about precisely where the falling short line lies...and you do us all a smelly pile of good by talking about it. You rocket scientist, you! It takes a keen mind to decipher what is wrong with this world, doesn't it? You better not die, because we need you around forever and ever, amen, because all us mortals? Why, we'd never know there was a problem without your astute observations. At the very least, we'd miss out on all the petty fun of listening to you talk.

There. Now that you understand where I am coming from...

Seriously. How do we shift from negative yah-yah, to positive speech, seasoned with salt? By thinking right thoughts about others.

Because pointing out all the dings and scratches in your neighbor's car does not improve the innate quality of your car.

His car? Your car?

It is what it is, friend. Put your mind on higher things, why don't you? All this car-speak is metaphor, of course.

Do not let your mind dwell on such trivial matters as the shortcomings of others. The plans and purposes of God for your life transcend such things. Grasp this!

When you think negatively about someone, you end up speaking negatively about them. When you speak negatively about them, you diminish yourself and them. But when you speak only what is good for the use of building others up, you and they are increased.

Their faults? Your faults?

They are what they are. The real question is how much do you value relationships?

Your brain is a filing cabinet. You can't help but notice things you don't like, and you can't help but file that away.

But you don't have to pull it back out and refer to it constantly. You really can let the negative files gather dust, and choose to pull out what is good, and refer only to that.

You can, you can! Yes, you can!

And when others pull out their negative files on someone else, and hand them to can do what I typically do...toss it in the circular file labeled T-R-A-S-H/C-A-N, and treat it accordingly. Mark the person who tends to pull only the negative files, and politely refuse the next one.

I understand there are instances where none of this applies. Sometimes we do have the unpleasant task of bringing to someone's attention something that is significant and of negative implication. But only...only...when this is for the greater good. The far. far. far. greater good.

And I understand that the actions of others can create a teachable moment...brief objective and private discussion is necessary, and so you try to keep it as redeeming as possible. I get that.

I understand that ideas must be examined and critiqued.

But people? Co-workers? Fellow church members? Someone you call "friend" to their face?

Come on. We are all smarter than that.

Cut the negativity. It does no good. It adds no joy to the journey.

Are You Teachable?

There is a big difference between being a woman who is eager to learn...

...and a woman willing to be taught.

You can be eager to learn, because your ears prefer customized teaching that suits your strained sensibilities. The Bible calls it "itching ears", and we usually associate itching ears with the craving for teaching that promotes sin or some sort of ungodly ease.

I'm here to tell you, that is a no brainer. I get so weary of Christian women who have a firm grasp of little other than the obvious. Of course, teaching that encourages sin or laziness is so not cool. But I find most Christians instinctively know this. Or maybe I just run in the best circles, and there is a whole world out there, eager to sin and sit around and accumulate stuff instead of reach their generation for Christ. Um...I guess that would be a world that I am not intimately associated with.

What about the teachers who promote performance-based Christianity? The itchiest ears of all are found on those who prefer teachers of law-based, Christian-ized behavior modification. The itchiest ears of all are found on those who love to perform.

Exhibit A: the shelves and shelves of self-help books in bookstores both sacred and secular.

These people heap to themselves teachers, and you can find them on their bookshelves. Every book can be tossed into one of three heaps: the "fiction" heap, or the "writings of dead moralists" heap, or the "Christianized DIY" heap. You don't find much else on the shelves of a legalist.

Itching ears.

Paul told Timothy, "Preach the Word". The whole Bible, Old Testament and New, is given by inspiration of God, to make us mature and equipped for the work we are uniquely called to do.

So I'm asking: What is the central focus of "The Word"? And why does it need to be "rightly divided"? What is the application?

Christ. Everything from Genesis to Revelation and all points between is about Christ. When you read the Pentateuch, look for Jesus. When you read the Psalms and the Wisdom Books, look for the Gospel, for it is there. The very looking for it forces you to rightly divide this Word of Truth. The very effort of looking for the Gospel in all of the Old Testament forces you into a more accurate hermeneutic. When you read prophets major and minor, look for the wisdom hidden from the ages, now revealed: Jesus. He is there.

Paul was exhorting Timothy to preach the word of Christ. You aren't persecuted for living godly. A devout Morman or Muslim can manage that. You are persecuted for living godly in Christ Jesus. When the cross is the only way to salvation, when your godly living is because of His Finished Work, when your good works flow as a direct result of the revelation of your being made righteous...well, that is just weird. And very uncool. And out of step with the current thought in much of mainstream Christianity.

Again - Exhibit A. And the shelves of itchy-eared legalistas.

Which brings me back to the question: are you willing to be taught, or just eager to learn?

Knitting Machine

Have I told you I now own a knitting machine? I do. Own a knitting machine. It is used, but no is a Mac Momma Machine. A Singer 700 (older model) with SPN60 ribber, with every doo-dad and attachment known to machine knit-dom. I have no idea how to use it yet, but I am armed with an instructional video. And tons of moxie.

I plan to get me down to some bidness heah in dis hood, and teach myself yet another skill...and machine knitting is its own skillset, please lemme tell you! It is not...I repeat, not..."cheating". It is as big a learning curve as learning to knit with your hands, maybe moreso. It is not easy, but it is not ridiculously hard, either, I'm told. It just takes a different approach, and (from what I have read) it takes approaching knitting projects in a completely different way than hand-knitting.

For one thing, it takes thinking big. Expanding my knit-and-purl-a-scarf horizons. As in...knitting a cozy for the earth, bay-bee! Or maybe just Tim's truck. Or maybe just designing and executing beautiful king-sized blankets. Or a blue-million intarsia scarves.

A machine is more for someone who wants to branch out into designing. And yes, once you surf the learning curve, the knitting part goes fast.

Here is a picture of a stripped-down model:

You can't buy my knitting machine at Hobby Lobby. This ain't no plastic toy, neither. Oh, and by the way, the one you see (above) isn't my new baby. This one is a picture I found on the internet of a basic machine. This machine does not have the SPN60 rib-knit-bed attached to it. That SPN60 doubles the capacity of what you see above, and opens all sorts of creative doors.

Mine is so big, it gets its own work-table, and came with its own upholstered bench. And I am going to learn this thing. Eventually.

I'm blessed.

Can complete world domination be far behind?

New Covenant Gospel - Immense Implications

In a culture urgently in need of reformation, believers have to bear in mind that we are the change agents. We are the kindling for the fire...

...a thorough study of Western history will reveal that periods of renaissance and reformation follow on the heels of the church's return to first things. Great periods of Renaissance and Revival and Reformation come when the church perseveres in its return to the first things of New Covenant grace (versus any emphasis on the law as our means of righteousness), a Christocentric gospel (versus a program-centered, selfcentric message), and radical love for the community they fellowship with, otherwise known as their very own local church (versus floating from church to church).

When a believer puts all her emphasis on second things, she ends up losing first and second things. When she places all her emphasis on first things, trusting God for the second things, God gives and includes secondary things freely.

Stay with the New Covenant message, preach the Finished Work of Christ, plus nothing. Live a love that is tough...a far different lifestyle than attempting "tough love".

Don't think "tough love". Rather, think "Love is tough." And then get your rear-end out there and love those who are a bit unloveable...the ones that most resemble you. The love of God is rugged. Love is patient. It isn't easily offended. It does not leave. It believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. It never fails. You can't wear it out. You can't make it quit, because it always wins. Love wins because it is tough. Strong. Weathered. With relentlessly kind eyes, and ever open hands, ready to bless. It rejoices in the truth of the fact that all sin has, at the cross, been forgiven - past, present, and future.

Build your life around these first things: New Covenant Message, the Finished Work of Christ - plus nothing; and showing your community a love that is them relentlessly, delight in them without fail, and you will be used of God to bring Reformation to your church, your family, your business community.

History proves it.

Standard of Living

I realized today that I am an odd bird. I know I can lean to the "tad bit eccentric" side of the personality scale. What I mean is, I realized I am odder than even I first thought. (Okay, most of you already knew that, but I am just now catching on.)

I am listening to a business book from (a site I can't recommend highly enough...a bibliophile's symphony of words!), and I heard the phrase "standard of living". My mind instantly thought of Shalom. Not the word "Shalom", but the whole thing...the whole idea of the word...the whole lifestyle of that word as it applies to relationships.

Yes. When I heard the phrase "standard of living", from a book on business, I naturally thought first of my relationships, not of how big my house is, or the level of our income. Weird, I know.

The relationship that is the most strained in our lives might be our relationship with our oldest son, the Marine. The relationship we have with him is better than it has been in recent years - we call it "strained" based on our standard of living. We are accustomed to lots of unity and joy in our relationships. We are accustomed to being close with friends and family.

He came all the way home from Camp Le Jeune, of his own volition, to surprise us over the past Labor Day weekend. He just wanted to be home. We weren't expecting him, and sometime after midnight on Friday night/Saturday morning, there he was, standing in our hallway. Sort of a Hallmark moment, only I was on Ambien. Think of the Waltons, only the momma is on drugs come bedtime, and John Boy chews tobacco and can be mean as a snake.

We were happy to see him, and we enjoyed a great weekend together, the whole family. Most families would take that in a heartbeat. We consider the relationship "strained" based on the depth of relationship and unity we are accustomed to having in our family. We are used to a higher standard of living. Because of past hurts and a few as-yet unresolved issues, things aren't quite Shalom....yet.

But dang. We are so rich. Honestly? We are a stinking well-off couple, my preacher and I. Our standard of living is high.

We are so in love. I'm talkin' the sort of love that cheers each others heart significantly, secretly squeezes each others glutes, goes out for walks and ice cream, and a gaze that still meets across a crowded room. Eyes that light up when we see each other...that kind of love. High, high standard of living. Lotsa Shalom.

And we like each one of our kids, and their spouses. In his sweet, funny, open, dinner-table moments, I take such great delight even in that "strained" relationship with my oldest son. I know it won't be strained forever. Strained...not estranged. That's the grace of God, in action.

And we have friends. Such friends, we have! Men and women who serve God with passion and purpose, and who love well, and who lavish grace on one another. My friends show me Jesus, all the time. We have friends new, and friends old. Friends young, and friends old. Friends who are mentors, and friends who are mentees.

Standard of living? Ours is off the charts. We don't eat ribeye steak very often, but we do have lots of grilled chicken - sometimes a bit dry, granted - but we live in good, healthy relationship, even though we had to wage a little war to make the peace.

Almost Undisturbed Shalom.

"Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than an house full of sacrifices with strife." Proverbs 17:1

A Change of Mind - A Daily Reality

These are my actual notes from this past Sunday. As I was taking them, I suddenly was inspired to make it a blog post, so I whipped out my smart phone and snapped the picture. In front of God and all my rowdy friends.

They are so used to me. No one blinked, no one thought it odd at all. I think they all know that anything and everything can and will become Blog Fodder for the Preacher's Wife.

The Finished Work of the Cross? Utter perfection.

My attitude and belief structure? In need of change. Every day.

Repentance simply means to change your mind. When you first came to Christ, you changed your mind in regards to either 1) Your need to be right, or 2) Your need to be wrong. In coming to Christ, you chose to think differently. Through the foolishness of preaching, you were made to realize that to think less of yourself was not realized you weren't to think of yourself at all. You were led to believe that salvation was all about Jesus and not what you did or could do, right or wrong.

You were led to believe that, right? Because that would be the effect of the preaching of the cross. True belief, and true repentance - a change of mindset.

As you received Him, in the same way, you walk with Him. Twenty, thirty, forty years later, if you are a spiritual person, if you are maturing, you will be changing your mind. Your actions will always follow suit.

Another term for all this? "The Renewing of the Mind".

An Impromptu Trip to the Mountains...and an Impromptu Shooting Competition - Pictures, not Animals

Tim gets credit for this one. ::sigh:: He saw this, and locked down on the brakes of his Ford truck. He jumped out the driver's side door with my camera, composed the shot (manual mode, all the way...shutter speed, apperture, zoom, and focus...he set it all!) and shot it. Darn him. The dappled sun was hitting the base of this tree like a spotlight.

...a Flycatcher...I got this shot, but nevermind. It pales in comparison to Tim's moss-on-the-base-of-the-tree shot. I feel a competition coming on. And I will win. He has no right to get better shots with my Nikon and new 55-200 mm lens than I get with my Nikon and 55-200 mm lens.

...fungus...again, spotlighted by dappled sunlight. Again, Tim. Incredible shot. This is exactly how it appeared - glowing. This shot is "SOOC"...that means "straight out of camera", no retouching, no photoshopping. In fact, not a single photo has been Photoshopped.

My mountains...

My beloved Smokies...can you see why they are called the "Smokey" mountains?

Side-lit splendor...golden autumn other time of year has this quality of light.

I got it! I got the shot! When you slllllllow down the shutter speed, you get that lovely sheeting action, when you shoot moving water. Fast shutter speed = seeing water more like the naked eye sees it, sometimes even freezing individual droplets in the picture. Slow shutter speed = that flow-ey, sheeting action. Love!

(Slowing your shutter speed, plus shooting in overcast conditions is not for the faint of heart, however. This shot best not attempted without a tripod...not without tears and swearing. Just kidding about the swearing. And the tears. But I was frustrated. I didn't bring my tripod. I asked Tim to bend over, and I planted my elbows in his back and shot for several minutes. Not kidding. He is so good to me. That man patiently watched me shoot scenes around the Smokey Mountains for three hours, until past dark.

In this shot above, notice how the surrounding, stationary non-water parts of this photo are not tack-sharp. No tripod. Tim's back helped, but next time, I am bringing my tripod.)

So proud of this shot. No tripod. No Tim's back, either. But I managed it. I set the camera to shutter mode, set the speed for a slow shutter, and compensated with apperture. ISO was 800.

Quotable Quote

"Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry."

~Mark Twain

What do you want your husband, children, close friends, and other family members to be able to say about you when you die?

Live that way. Get to it. Now.

You never know?

Fall Decorating

I began the process of putting away most of my summer kitchen today. I plan to pack away the turquoise blue mugs, all the blue glass, and the particularly summer-ish turquoise blue tea towels. Then, I got out my packed-away spice-orange things.

Here is a sneak peek:

The weather here has been a bit fall-ish this week. This makes me feel poignant. I still love September, but I dislike seeing summer go away. So, to cheer myself, I've begun the switch-out to autumn...getting out the harvest wheat sheaves, the pottery and glass in varying shades of ivory and spice pumpkin.

Last year, the palette was white, orange, and brown...with shades of each between. This year, I am sticking with the same palette, but adding a small touch of turquoise, too. I've left out a few of my turquoise summer things, only now instead of there being a strong note of turquoise, it is just the barest of accent color.

I'll post more photos when I'm done. I hope your September is Blessed and Highly Favored... Christ, there is no such thing as not Blessed and Highly Favored.

How God loves us!

Obvious and Simple

"Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are." Romans 3: 19-20, NLT

Simply. "The law simply shows us". We human beings love to complicate the Gospel in an effort to justify our own existence. We want to make our good works the thing that the Gospel is all about, when the Gospel is way more scandalous than that. The Gospel is about blood sacrifice that speaks of a shouted grace, freely given, and vigorously appropriated by those who can see simple things clearly.

Our good works are the cosmetics...the adornment...the accessorizing, if you will, of the One Work that Matters...the finished work of Christ. Look up your Greek in Titus 2, where it says that we are to adorn the Gospel with our good behavior.

Kosmeo. Yeah...we get our English word "cosmetics" from that Greek word. I need nothing else, in the way of proof text, but there is a lot more than that...however, it is September, it is Labor Day, and I am feeling mellow.

So if you wanna keep believin' that your works are anything more than (beautiful, significant, because all that is truly beautiful is significant) adornments to beautify the message of Scandalous Grace...go right ahead. One of us is wrong, and it isn't me.

Obviously. How about that word? "Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given..." (um, and that would be Old Covenant Hebrew People...)

Unfortunately, that darn veil obscures the obvious for many believers. What should be obvious....ain't. It is satan's Grand Scheme. To obscure the obvious. He's very, very good at it. Every day, I uncover some small (or large) truth he has managed to minimize, distort, or obscure in my understanding. And I get to happily repent and change my mind.

"After all, repentance is a invitation to The Good Life." And, by the way, that is a quote from The Preacher's message in church yesterday. It was - no bull - the best message on repentance I have ever, ever heard. Foundational. In the context of the Gospel. You do not want to miss it. And "obviously", repentance is part of the Gospel, and has always been preached at Harvest Church.

(I know, right? We are so "imbalanced"...)

But it's September. It's Labor Day, and I am feeling really mellow, so I'll save the fullness of all the past weeks and months of Romans study for another post.

Summer's last gasp. I am enjoying it. I am loving these days of simple dinners and detailed desserts, and the four or so pounds I've gained be hanged, I truly do not care...

...of waiting for the green beans I planted late to come in...of grandsons and first football games of the season. Of breakfasts at Burger King with the goal if discipleship and the attainment of so much more. Days of ridin' with my baby in his Ford pickup, listening to a Kenny Chesney tune. Days of takin' the back roads. The long way home. Puttin' a little gravel in our travel.

All my ducklings are in the nest, for today. It is Labor Day, friends. Let us rock it together, shall we? Some things really are so simple and obvious.

Simply Rock This Day. With Obvious Grace.

Octavius Winslow

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Ephesians 6:12

"Let us inquire what is that which Satan desires to assault? It is the work of God in the soul. Against his own kingdom not a weapon is raised. It is his aim and his policy to keep all there undisturbed and peaceful. But against the work of the Holy Spirit in the renewed mind, his artillery is brought to bear; not a part of this work escapes him.

Every grace comes in for its share of malignant attack; but especially the grace of faith. When, for example, a repentant and believing soul approaches Christ with lowliness and hesitancy, and with the tremulous hand of faith attempts to touch the border of His garment, or with a tearful eye looks up to His cross, then comes the assault upon faith in the form of a suggestive doubt of Christ’s power and willingness to save. “Is Jesus able to save me? Has He power to rescue my soul from hell? Can He blot out my transgressions, and redeem my life from destruction? Will He receive a sinner, so vile, so unworthy, so poor as I? Has He compassion, has He love, has He mercy sufficient to meet my case?”

In this way Satan assails the earliest and the feeblest exercises of faith in the soul. Does this page address itself to any such? It is Satan’s great effort to keep you from Jesus. By holding up to your view a false picture of His character, from which everything loving, winning, inviting, and attractive is excluded, by suggesting wrong views of His work, in which everything gloomy, contracted, and repulsive is foisted upon the mind; by assailing the atonement, questioning the compassion, and limiting the grace of Christ, he would persuade you that in that heart which bled on Calvary there is no room for you, and that upon that work which received the Father’s seal there is not breadth sufficient for you to stand.

All his endeavors are directed, and all his assaults are shaped, with a view to keep your soul back from Christ. It is thus he seeks to vent his wrath upon the Savior, and his malignity upon you.

Nor does he less assail the more matured faith of the believer. Not infrequently the sharpest attacks and the fiercest onsets are made, and made successfully, upon the strongest believers. Seizing upon powerful corruptions, taking advantage of dark providences, and sometimes of bright ones, and never allowing any position of influence, any usefulness, gift, or grace, that would give force, success, and brilliance to his exploit, to escape his notice, he is perpetually on the alert to sift and winnow God’s precious wheat.

His implacable hatred of God, the deep revenge he cherishes against Jesus, his malignant opposition to the Holy Spirit, fit him for any dark design and work implicating the holiness and happiness of the believer. Therefore we find that the histories of the most eminent saints of God, as written by the faithful pen of the Holy Spirit, are histories of the severest temptations of faith, in the most of which there was a temporary triumph of the enemy; the giant oak bending before the storm. And even in instances where there was no defeat of faith, there yet was the sharp trial of faith.

The case of Joseph, and that of his illustrious antitype, the Lord Jesus, present examples of this. Fearful was the assault upon the faith of both, sharp the conflict through which both passed, yet both left the battlefield victorious. But still faith was not the less really or severely sifted."


Harvesting the Seeds of the Gospel

Our entire church is beginning to experience a great harvest, on the seeds of the Gospel that have been faithfully sown from the pulpit for over two years running now.

Does that sound like I am giving the credit to my Preacher? If you think so, you still don't get how grace works...nor the apostolic gift. That isn't what I am doing at all.

Paul said, in a teaching about the apostolic gifting, that some plant, and some water. There is a "planting" apostolic man...and there is a "watering" apostolic man.

God alone gives the increase.

However, this is where you get into the concept of the believer's cooperation with grace. Had The Preacher not planted the Gospel seed courageously, in the face of much (and very personal) opposition, there would be no increase today. And had he not faithfully watered, lo' these two years straight, there would be no increase.

Someone else would have had to be brought in to re-plant, plow and re-plant, plow and get the idea. Without the watering, the planting has to be done over and over and over, because seeds die without water.

They just do.

So now...ask me again why my Preacher has stuck with the grace-Gospel like a dog on a bone. Or like a water hose on grace-seed. And heck yes, I am proud of him.

And without the saints eagerly receiving, being good Bereans, and tending the gospel-seed sown and watered in their hearts, there would be no increase.

But God alone gives the increase. Grace, grace.

And if one word could describe what is happening in Harvest Families, it is I-N-C-R-E-A-S-E.

Physically. (better health for many, and out-and-out supernatural healing for some!)

Financially. (Oh. Mah. Weeeeerd. Some serious increase going on. With more on the way.)

Um....."gynecologically". Need I say more? Harvest Church is the proud haven to seven new babies. Count 'em.

Spiritually. Harvest has increased and advanced spiritually by light-years. This means more to me than all the others put together. Because when people are increased, fat and flourishing in spirit, the rest comes in time, and when it comes, it usually stays. Because the roots run so deep into the love of God, you see. The blessing that comes with revelation comes to stay.

To stay.

Do you hear me Baileys? Kears? Howes? Buycks? McConnells? Cooks? Ewings? Jernecjics? Cantrells? Fanchers? Damrons?...and all the many others who have experienced great increase and miraculous blessing recently, some even just this week?

Your God establishes you. He makes your steps sure. He keeps you from falling. Which means you move forward, not backward. Forward, not backward. (Remember that word?)

Your blessings aren't going anywhere. Because you didn't earn them. Be glad you didn't earn them. What you earn, you have to maintain. Your blessings? They came by the grace of God, and remain by the same Power.

But you already know that.

Which brings me back to this post's very first sentence.