My Little Honey Pot

(Deep down, he's smiling. On the surface, home boy don't like the "lid" to his honey pot to be on toppa his head...)

There's nothing but pure sweetness in THIS honey pot.

Happy Hello-ween, y'all.

(That's what we do around here - Hello-ween. Fellow Harvester Wendy Cantrell, over at Hope Springs Blog, coined that phrase to describe what our church likes to do on Hello-ween, which is to stay home and meet our neighbors! So far, we've had one lone, tiny pirate come to our door...only to be roundly and loudly "attacked" by my daughter Sarah's itty bitty maltipoo, Amber.

This house is an epic fail for Hello-ween up to this point, but it is only 8 PM, so we shall see...)

Off to watch Terra Something-Or-Other on th' Tee Vee with my grown children...the Preacher comes home from Cambodia day after tomorrow!

Our Son is Coming Home Wednesday...

...and we take delight in him...

"Pick Yourself Up"

Nothing's impossible, I have found
For when my chin is on the ground
I pick myself up, dust myself off, start all over again!

Don't lose your confidence, if you slip
Be grateful for a pleasant trip
And pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again

Work like a soul inspired till the battle of the day is won.
You may be sick and tired, but you'll be a man, my son!
Don't you remember the famous men who had to fall to rise again?
They picked themselves up, dust themselves off, and started all over again!

Jet Ski Afternoon

Found this picture on my smartphone today. It makes me miss my Preacher. I snapped this last month - on a late afternoon when we decided to rent a jet ski! Note: it was not wasn't a cold day, but it wasn't warm, either. Silly couple that we are, we chose to do it anyway.

And. We. Loved. It. We got there almost at closing time - we were the last ones allowed to rent a jet ski that day. We tooled around for two hours, going up and down the Tennessee river.

I saluted Neyland Stadium as we jetted by it, because hope springs eternal in a Volunteer heart. Heaven knows, I need optimism. Two words:

Tusca-dang-loosa Ala-daggum-bama.

Such a great evening, this was. The best of all my favorite things - sunshine, river, downtown in my hometown, high speeds, and having to hold on tight to my Pastor.

Mexican Restaurant Man

My Preacher and I have a favorite Mexican restaurant.

We go to it alot. I'm just sayin'. We like it, and if I have to buy bigger pants in the future, I will blame that on La Fiesta.

On the outside wall of the restaurant is a mural. This mural has always been there, I see it each and every time I pass through the hallowed double glass doors. Last week, there was a small difference. Some person with a sense of humor did something...and I swear, I think of my small but happy band of readers when I see things like this, and I always grab the smartphone because I have to share it with you:

I hope you feel blessed and enriched by your visit to this blog today.

That is all.

A Water Tower Cozy - Stop The Madness!

I was in a craft store recently, browsing through a knitting magazine. I ran across a photo that so disturbed me, I brazenly grabbed my Droid and took a picture of the picture. I thought of all of you gentle readers, and felt you simply had to see...

This photo says it is not a fake. Someone, somewhere (God bless them) took the time to knit a water tower cozy - I assume by machine.

Stop the madness!

I refer you to my recent post "Top 5 Indicators You Might Have Too Much Time on Your Hands"...

...and I amend it, as of this moment, to "Top 6 Indicators". Number 6 is "When you find yourself with the slightest urge to knit a water tower cozy."

Facing Our Fear - Women Equipped to Love and Lead

We Girls So Rock!

Women feel the most inadequate in our relationships with other women, I think. Mothers and daughters, daughters and mothers, sisters, girlfriends...we women feel and fear our own falling short, we sense that we are not adequate for one another.

I look across the landscape of the body of Christ, and the topography is littered with the baggage of female friendship gone horribly wrong, and with the broken pieces of the hearts of mothers and daughters. It is time that judgment begin in the house of God, and that is not what you think.

Have you not heard? The house of God is the only safe place for judgment - because Christ carried our griefs and sorrows, He sits now on a throne of grace, beckoning to us to run to Him in our time of need. We can get our needs met by His satisfyingly durable lovingkindness, and then turn and freely give what we have freely received to our mothers, daughters, sisters and friends.

(...and FYI, when the Bible says, "And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?" it is speaking of the afflictions and persecutions of this life, not of our position before God. Context, context! Salvation cannot be at the same time sure and unsure, secured by Christ, but subject to our inadequacy.)

Out there, in a world bereft of grace, you are written off for your inadequacy. At the throne of grace, you can find healing for every relationship. For what offense have you forsaken a friend? With what imperfection do you charge a mother? What daughter can bear up under the weight of propping up a mother's fragile sense of self? We must stop needing other daughters of Eve to be for us what only Christ can be.

Let us run to Him!

Every broken relationship, healed. Every loose thread, woven back into the tapestry. Every bond, strengthened. Every inadequacy, swallowed up in the vast overflowing overadequacy of the Finished Work of Christ.

Where you have fallen short in relationship, Christ can stand tall, as He stands strong to meet needs in others you cannot fill. Where others have fallen short towards you, Christ can stand tall, becoming your need-meeter. We can forgive others for their inadequacy, and we can forgive ourselves of the same.

Who can say she has been a perfectly adequate friend...sister...mother...daughter? That is much like saying, "Who can say she is without sin?"

Inadequacy is our lot in life until we are fully and finally changed to be just like Jesus. But the enemy of our soul has somehow made us fear facing up to the fact that we wound and are wounded. We hide in the bushes from each other because we are inadequate, fallen flesh, not yet glorified.

Come out, come out, wherever you are!

Come forgive, and be forgiven. Come begin again. Or again/again/again/again. If my mercies are new every morning, then yours are too. Who am I to withhold them from you?

When women naturally and freely nurture one another, releasing one another from our falling short, cheering one another on in this difficult journey of life, one in which even we the righteous are "scarcely saved" out of persecution and trouble...

...well, I think it will make an unbelieving, not-at-all saved watching world want to escape their judgment, and come be judged in The Father's House.

If God has declared me righteous, who can be against me? Certainly not you.

Face just cannot be against me. I cannot be against you.

Looks like we are stuck with being for each other.

I'm so glad.

Underlined Bits - Oswald Chambers

"This is the will of God, even your sanctification." 1Thessalonians 4:3

It is not a question of whether God is willing to sanctify me; is it my will? Am I willing to let God do in me all that has been made possible by the atonement? Am I willing to let Jesus be made sanctification to me, and to let the life of Jesus be manifested in my mortal flesh?

Beware of saying—Oh, I am longing to be sanctified. You are not, stop longing and make it a matter of transaction—"Nothing in my hands I bring." Receive Jesus Christ to be made sanctification to you in implicit faith, and the great marvel of the atonement of Jesus will be made real in you.

All that Jesus made possible is made mine by the free loving gift of God on the ground of what he performed, my attitude as a saved and sanctified soul is that of profound humble holiness (there is no such thing as proud holiness), a holiness based on agonizing repentance and a sense of unspeakable shame and degradation; and also on the amazing realization that the love of God commended itself to me in that while I cared nothing about him, he completed everything for my salvation and sanctification. {#Romans 5:8} No wonder Paul says nothing is "able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Sanctification makes me one with Jesus Christ, and in him one with God, and it is done only through the superb atonement of Christ. Never put the effect as the cause. The effect in me is obedience and service and prayer, and is the outcome of speechless thanks and adoration for the marvelous sanctification wrought out in me because of the atonement.

These words (from the devotional "My Utmost For His Highest", by Oswald Chambers) sound so much like the messages we've been hearing at Harvest of late. A Gospel-foundation has been faithfully and firmly laid, and thus, the outworking of the Gospel is being made evident in lives!

"Evidence". Our behavior isn't the reason we are righteous. It is evidence of having believed and gratefully accepted the fact that we have been made righteous.

Here is the thing about grace, and churches that "do the hard thing" and preach and teach a pure, New Covenant grace - these churches have the same sin and struggling people that legalistic churches do. But these struggling ones feel safe enough, in an atmosphere of true Gospel, to come out into the light, so that they can be restored. If you have ever "restored" anything, you know it takes time.

Law drives sin underground. Make no mistake. In a law-driven home or church, sin is there. Hidden. Grace will eradicate sin by creating a safe place for people to learn how to live in identification with Righteousness, without fear of being shamed.

Part of restoration is to teach about what sort of life best brings glory to God, for the grace we have been so lavishly given! When someone messed up, Paul put it this way, in the New Covenant:

"You have not so learned Christ..."

Random Beauty and Cuteness and Personal Opinions

Oh, those wood counters! Simple and beautiful. Warm and unpretentious. Please don't take me the wrong way when I say that granite is so "last decade"....we all have things in our home we'd like to update or change, so if you already have granite countertops, it's cool. And if you just love granite, it's cool. Really. I don't. So please be cool with me, too, like I'm cool with you. If granite is your choice, I'm all for it. But, if you are just now renovating your kitchen, consider something other than. Designers the world over are saying that granite is one of those things that has been "done to death" - granite and that ubiquitous "great room design" in the center of the house...the one that now sort of reminds you of the gym in your local school. What were we all thinking, right?

There are so many other warmer and more interesting materials for your kitchen - investigate!

And if you ever are able to get your hands on a French bottle drying rack for a decent price - jump on the opportunity. I love mine. (This picture is not mine, not my kitchen, but I do have wood counters and a French bottle drying rack...)

Really study the simplicity of this party. The photo tells a story. This would be so easy to replicate, and looks so beautiful. Any bridal or baby shower...any birthday for any, so appropriate!

I also love the story that this photo tells. Confession: we now drink from Mason jars. I fell for the whole idea of it...I downright swoon over the grainsack tablecloth thing, and Mason jar glasses. We love it. I want those jar tags, for when we are feeding a dozen people...which will probably be this week, knowing the way my life goes.

I could not resist tossing this photo in...because I love you. I know for a fact that this little guy (or girl) in his or her Halloween costume - cute little lobster in a pot - has absolutely made your day.

You're welcome.

Leadership 101 - 5 Indicators You Might Have Too Much Time On Your Hands

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you... (I Thessalonians)

Doesn't that seem almost counter-intuitive? To "make it your ambition to lead a quiet life"?

How can ambition and quiet be related? Our flesh resists this. Aren't we supposed to want to be "world changers"?

The answer to that question is "Absolutely. Yes." But how we go about changing the world, as Christians, is a reflection of the upside-down Kingdom we are part of...that Kingdom where the weak are strong, and foolish things confound the wise. We change the world by being ambitious about being quietly busy. We can change the world by diffusing our own lives of all drama - and that takes a lot of work, of the "minding our own business" sort.

Read that last sentence again....please.

"Busy" has gotten a bad rap by all the quasi-spiritual whackos, who make doing very little seem like a worthy goal. They love to accuse the rest of us of substituting busy-ness for spirituality. But that is a false one has to choose between being busy and being meditative and reflective and thoughtful and spiritual. We are all to be very busy, working with our own hands - and very prayerful and meditative. I think the life of Jesus is the perfect example of busy, full days, and also rest and reflection.

My Preacher and I have over 20 years of pastoral ministry under our belt now. By far, we encounter more issues out of men and women who have too much time on their hands, than from those who stay busy in a healthy sense.

5 Signs That You Might Have Too Much Time On Your Hands

1. When others are under your scrutiny.

My husband has been taken to task over some of the silliest things, when he preaches a message. He has made some pretty big snafu's...but those get forgiven. He asks for forgiveness when he becomes aware of a large mistake. No, he has been taken to task by excruciatingly literal people, who strain at the nuance and meaning of a single sentence, a sub-topic of an aside. Those guys? Too much time on their hands.

If you find yourself analyzing others, you have too much time on your hands. If you or your teen know things about others you shouldn't need to find other uses of your time. If there is more than a fraction of a small amount of discussion about the lives of others - your world is too small. If you find yourself offended more than once or twice a have too much time on your hands.

2. An over attention to appearance.

Girlfriend, if you find yourself consistently late to church, or church functions, or work, because you are working with your hairstyle, or your have too much time on your hands. If you are aware of how you walk or talk, or how you might look when you gesture...if you practice in front of a have too much time on your hands. You need a different, more productive hobby.

3. An over attention to your child's offenses or drama.

All kids and teenagers and even college kids are going to encounter offense and/or drama. The best thing we can do for them is encourage them to get too busy to be so self focused. If we find that we become absorbed into the world of our child - we, as parents, must get a life. We have too much time on our hands.

If you find yourself joining in the gossip of your teenager - you better volunteer at a soup kitchen, get a part time job, do something. You have too much time on your hands.

If our sons or daughters keep having personal drama, I promise you....they have too much time on their hands. Take that to the bank. And get them productively in, right now.

4. Buying "things".

When people have too much time on their hands, they go on buying sprees, and find ways to spiritualize or justify it. "This outfit is for church!" (and you already have five good outfits - I'm guilty!) "This is so we can do more hospitality!" (and you don't do all that much with what you have right now) "God wants me to have this flock of Nubian Goats, so we can be self sufficient!" (what does He want you to give up?) If you find yourself doing a lot of shopping, online or in your car - you'd save a lot of money and time by planting a garden, or offering to clean a part of your church's building, or even ironing your twenty shirts.

Buying isn't wrong. Buying out of boredom or discontent isn't healthy, though. If you find you are often plotting and researching your next have too much time on your hands.

5. Over-involvement in the lives of others.

There is a level of involvement with others that is healthy. Then, there is a level of involvement that is unhealthy - it is the direct result of boredom and discontent with our own life as God has given it. There is a level of involvement that becomes downright self serving. If "loving someone else" is meeting your own need for significance - watch out! You have too much time on your hands. It will backfire on you every. single. time.

If you find yourself consistently wanting to "write your name" on someone be the important person in their do everything, or almost everything for them...finding reasons to drop in on them, or call them, or otherwise have a need to know what they are up to on most days....girlfriend, you have wayway too much time on your hands. You should not have enough time for unhealthy attachments. Not even to your kids.

And if you are a man, and you are that involved in the life of any woman other than your matter how much you try to spiritualize it, you should be punched. I'm not even kidding.

In closing, it is time that we become highly ambitious to have no time left over for Trivial Pursuit. If we do that one thing - get busy minding our own business, getting all the drama out of our lives, and out of the lives of our kids - being highly motivated to work with our own hands - finding ways to be productively busy - we will, almost by default, start changing the world.

I think it was Thomas Jefferson that said, "It is amazing what can be done, when one is always doing!"

Further Proof

Google runs what is called an N-gram. It compiles the many hundreds of thousands of books written over many years - in this case, from the 1800's on up to present day - and analyzes how many times a particular word or words were written about in all the books published within a given time period.

The graph you see up there shows a surge of books containing the words "gospel" (in red) and "grace" (in blue) in the 1800's. Then, the mention of those words experienced a pretty dramatic drop off, followed by a near flat-line in modern times.

Friends, we and our parents and their parents before them, have lived through a dearth of gospel and grace. And that completely explains the condition of the church today.

But do you see the very end of this graph? That is what Tim and I are a part of! That is what you can be a part of, should you so choose! Do you see the little "uptick" at the end? I have said it before...Tim and I have long sensed that what we are preaching and teaching and standing for is of historic proportions for the modern church. "A great door of opportunity has opened to me, but there are many adversaries", in the words of Paul the Apostle.

Many, many others join us in that prophetic analysis. There is about to be a tsunami of New Covenant gospel, and a resurgence of the grace doctrines, as the church begins to experience a massive return to "first things".

THAT is what "returning to the old paths" will look like.

And I have even proved it to you via an impartial graph.

(many thanks to Jonathan Trentham for showing us Google N-gram searches...)

Leadership 101

I'm going to ambitiously say that this post is the first in a series. How often I'll post on leadership (weekly? monthly?) depends on the time available to me, and on the timing of all the other wonderful, enticing ideas I have perculating in my mind to share with you.

But if you want to do a thing - you have to begin it. Just begin it. And so, I begin.

Leadership 101 - Take Your Concerns UP the "Ladder", Not Across the Ladder, and Not Down!

This is just good business - and it works like a charm for church business. If there is some sort of problem, don't vent, question, or otherwise seek to inform anyone who is "under you", for lack of a better way of putting it. Also, do not vent, question, or otherwise seek to inform anyone who is equal to you in the structure of accountability.

Take your concerns UP the ladder of your structure of authority. Better yet, take them to God, and let Him speak to you. Then leave them there.

Always. Always. Always up, not across, not down. To do otherwise is irresponsible at best, and could do irrepairable harm at worst. No leader is exempt from a huge snafu in this area...we each one would do well to take heed to ourselves in this area.

Those below you don't need to take up your offense. They simply don't need to be aware of what isn't their job to solve anyway. Those equal to you don't need your negativity. Your "yadda yadda" and your negative mood is usually temporary, right? (If it is continual, we have a problem of a whole other nature!) Your peers don't need the downer that comes with having to filter, absorb, or in any way feel responsible for your "concerns".

Take that stuff up the chain of command. Take it to someone who can either actually help solve the problem, offer you a perspective you were unaware of, or call you out about your attitude.

Are you actually looking to solve the problem? Are you truly open to a perspective you may not have been seeing up to this point? Or do you just want the cheap affirmation that comes with getting others to share your opinion? If you are of the latter mindset, you really shouldn't even lead a parade, much less an office, a church group, or any part of an organization.

Leaders lead. And great leaders lead in very direct, very positive, very effective ways. Leaders lead for the good of the whole, not for themselves.

The Sun Sets on Another Day in Paradise

...where The Preacher fished...and fished...

...and then we got hungry. So we went to a restaurant that was a mere walk away from where we were sitting. I had grits from heaven with my seafood.

And then the sun went down.

I think, for today, we are planning to just press "repeat". Without the golf part, though. The Preacher wasn't happy with his game. I was very happy. I was sitting in the golf cart, getting sun on my legs, taking in the gorgeous scenery...palm trees, lagoons, glimpses of ocean, birds singing like the garden of Eden. I was soaking in the early morning, listening to Francis Chan's book "Crazy Love" on Audible, via Kindle, watching my Preacher throw a golf club to the ground once in awhile. I didn't mind the club tossing, because once he walked back to the cart where I was, he always had his happy face back on. He was genuinely and touchingly thrilled to have me with him, for those hours. I think my presence was the problem, in fact. He was so content to have me with him, he didn't care so much about his game. But then, that other part of him that DID care about his game would rise up in frustration, only to be quickly pushed aside whenever I would smile at him, and talk like I knew how to play: "This one's a double dog leg, Babe. Placement is critical...I'd tee up to the left. You'll be downwind here, and the greens are narrow and fast." (Which was silly talk...but it kept him entertained.)

(Did you know that Kindle can "play" all your books?)

We Wish You Were Here!

...grabbed a shot of this sailboat...from the boat we were we were passing by.

It is almost 11pm, and we've only been back at our condo for a couple of hours. We've had such a great day - long, happy, lots of walking, shopping at a yarn shop that has been featured in magazines, lots of beautiful architecture, and lots of eating. The mixture of clouds and sun was perfect, making the temperatures hover in the low 80's, with the ever-present ocean breeze.

And I just got out of our hot tub, located in our own private sunroom, with its floors and walls lined in knotty pine, and its ceiling of glass.

Tomorrow looks like golf for my Preacher - 9 holes, since we are doing this on a budget. Then, it is rear-ends in chairs, chairs in sand, looking out over the ocean waves - sunglasses, magazines, and diet Coke for me, a fishing pole and a cooler of stinky shrimp bait for the Preacher...

for the whooooooooole afternoon.

Till the sun goes down, baby!

Where I Am, Day 3

....beach in front of me...hundreds of these beauties beside idea of heaven on earth.

How To Find Me On The Internet

(Image by Emily Ley)

After a bit of research, I'm delighted to discover that, lately in the past few months, others are locating my blog by Googling this:

Sheila Atchley Grace

More than a few times, in an effort to locate my blog, others are Googling my name and one precious and powerful word - Grace.

Can I tell you? When you make grace the standard, you will ultimately live at a higher plane than the law could ever take you. You will out-do the legalistas. You end up out-performing the performers.

Every. Single. Time.

So yes, I'm blessed to say you can find me by Googling or Binging my name....and then the word "grace".

Dining Room Mini Makeover

Hints were hinted at, on yesterday's blog post. Here is what Hannah and I were up to:

...cutting and that our old chairs could do justice to....

...a pair of oak corner cabinets! I was so excited to get them...

I enjoyed arranging the shelves - Hannah loved styling them, too. (Notice: I "arrange", she "styles".)

Love the ticking fabric, made into ruffles on the bottoms of the slipcovers!I think I managed to eke out two of them, Hannah sewed the rest. Also,notice the tablerunner. I designed it - choosing the fabrics, and telling Hannah what I wanted - she sewed it. Ticking with a graphic orange-and-cream colored print trim. Mitered corners, no less. Homegirl's got mad skillz.

Just playing with the soft focus in post-edit. Please excuse. I can't decide if it looks artistic or crap.

The final thing this room needs is a Jonathan Howe original, and a rug to give more texture, and warm up the floor. This floor is a battered old oak, and I love to have it so. We could refinish it whenever we want - we have access to all the tools, and The Preacher has the know-how. But I don't want shiny, perfect floors. So I'm not wanting a rug to cover them up...I just want to soften and add texture and brighten the overall feel of this room.

I took a ton of shots of the tablesetting - in RAW instead of JPEG. I think either my card totally rejected shooting in RAW (not me...the files)
or I did something when I uploaded to my laptop. Either way, the pictures have vanished.

Maybe I'll try again? I haven't put the dishes back away yet.

October Blessings

(Image from the blog "A Holy Experience")

...Hannah and I have been up sewing all evening long. Both sewing machines, going strong. Hannah is faster and better than I am.

Hint: the dining room is changing!

Can't wait to show you!

PS. Enjoy the October nature on it to enlarge it. These nature calendars have always brought me such joy!

The Exquisite Writing of Hal Borland

"We who live in a land of seasonal change...have Autumn on our doorstep. Even now the sun rises east and sets west, so far as the eye can see, and one hears regret that another Summer is gone.

In a sense, this is so; and yet no season, nor even any year, either stands alone or vanishes completely. Summer is rooted in Spring, and Autumn is essentially Summer's maturity. The apple now reddened on the tree was a fragile blossom, a delight to the eye and a host to the bee, only a few months ago. The honey in the comb was pollen when June was at its height, and rains of April and hot July nights now come to ripeness in the cornfields. Even before the leaves come swirling down, buds are on the bough for another Summer's shade.

Summer ends, and Autumn comes, and he who would have it otherwise would have high tide always and a full moon every night: and thus he would never know the rhythms that are at the heart of life. There is a time of sprouting, a time of growth, and a time of harvest, and all are a part of the greater whole. There comes the time now to savor the harvest, to pause and know another year not yet brought to full finality.

The rhythm of life and thought and change will be close around us now, and the restless energy of Summer...distilled into the stout brandy of another season. Change is ours to know and accept and build upon, even as the skies of Autumn clear and the leaves begin to fall. Fallen leaves open wider horizons to the seeing eye."

(Hal Borland, excerpt from the beautiful book Sundial of the Seasons)

May I add?

No season stands alone, nor does any choice we make. To have a harvest season, you first have to sow. Then you have to nurture the seed sown. Then you have to stay with it....stay with it...stay with it..."dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness".

Then. Then. Only then. Comes harvest.

If at any point you choose not to nurture the seeds of relationship, if you are harsh towards that living, growing thing called relationship, if you pluck up that which was planted, if you leave it...

...sorry, but no harvest.

Choose carefully. It matters. Tomorrow matters today. Today, I savor the fruit of weathering past winters, blizzards and frosts, rainy seasons, blasts of heat, and perfect seasons...all of it distilled into the fruit of sweet relationship.

You can't make wine without a harvest first. (And the Holy Spirit is a "latter rain" New Covenant reality...He is a Harvest Wine, as typified in Scripture!) You can't have a harvest without cultivating faithfulness. Plant first. Then cultivate continuity. Then comes the Harvest...then comes the wine....then comes the celebration. Real celebration, satisfying in a deep down durable sense.

You have to stick and stay through all parts of the process.