The Art of Jonathan Howe

My daughter Sarah is dating Knoxville-area artist Jonathan Howe. It is no prejudice on my part to urge you, if you want a fine-art portrait of someone you love, done with skill and insight, contact Jonathan Howe. He's just that good, to be honest. If Sarah weren't dating him, I'd be sharing his beautiful art with you.

If you want to commission a work of fine art for your home, or as a gift to someone important to you - contact Jonathan. His art is award winning, and can even be seen in one of our area's government buildings.

Meet Sarah's Jonathan ~

(lovingly known in our home as "Kashi Boy",
because of his fondness for all food natural and organic)

And see just one example of his brilliant work ~

To see more, please visit his website at

When God Speaks

2009, so far, has been one of the most blessed years I have ever experienced. I have seen God move in powerful ways!

This year will also be characterized in my memory as a year of keen testing. At least a half dozen times, since January, I have basically said (in the words of Jeremiah) "I will speak no more in His name!" And I am not the sort to say things like that lightly. In fact, I never in my life even considered keeping spiritual things to myself until this year! Falling silent had never crossed my mind...

My husband said something the other day that gave me considerable pause. He remarked that the Pharisees took even the words of Jesus, and scrutinized them in the most literal sense possible, torturing and misinterpreting both the intent and the meaning of them. That same spirit still has the same agenda, and will attempt to intimidate a son or daughter of God, using that person's own words against them! This was eye opening revelation to me!

If you have ever had your own words interpreted with an unrelenting, literal exactitude (and thereby had your own words MISinterpreted), if you have experienced being analyzed to the hilt, word-by-word, without an ounce of compassion, and then your own words thrown back at have encountered an age-old tactic. It can be intimidating. The religious leaders did exactly this to Jesus. He disregarded their intimidation.

After Tim said those things, I confessed to him how very close I had come in recent months to making what would have been a fatal choice to stop writing about the cease effusing to everyone who listens, about the work of grace that has mightily changed my life, and has restored me, even in this season, from a very dark place.

To write, for me, is not some way to react to opposition. Rather, to write is to communicate where I stand regardless of who agrees or disagrees. Writing is how I process, nothing more, nothing less. I write whether anyone reads or they don't read. Those who write for a hobby or a living will know exactly what I mean. I don't truly know what I think about "it" until I write about "it", whatever "it" may be.

But to have fallen silent would have been a reaction. Had I shut up, then I would have been reacting! I would have also ceased being the woman I have always been. Which choice would have been a "fleshly" reaction to the pressure? To continue writing? Or to stop? To continue to write would have been to remain consistent with my own gifting and with who I have been, almost since birth. This line of sanctified logic is how I ultimately discerned that the enemy had been trying to intimidate me into silence...a silence that almost seemed wise. It certainly would have been easy.

But, by the grace of God, sometime this past early-summer, I chose to not react to the pressure. I chose to remain consistent, and to continue being bold and courageous - consciously choosing to pay whatever price must be paid to remain faithful to my own passionate convictions, which are the result of hours and years of careful study. I chose to support my husband's word ministry with my own brand and style of word ministry, and continue to echo the truths of the gospel he is so passionate about.

It occured to me that to boldly and vocally support the church leadership I serve under has always been a chief characteristic of mine. I have been a part of two churches in my life - the church that sent us out, and the church my husband and I currently serve. I don't just say that I don't hop churches....I have actually never hopped a single church. Not one. I supported the pastor of the church that sent us out to plant, and I was unrelenting about it. I supported him publicly, and made my disagreements with him fully and faithfully private. Back in those days, when there was any friction, no one had a clue but Tim and I. And we never left over a single disagreement, and some of them were momentous. I understood my pastor's responsibilities and burdens. I was always vocal in "backing his plays". I felt it was important. If you think it was easy....well, you just don't know a thing! To leave would have been the easiest thing in the world. But we stayed. I stayed.

Why change now? Just because my husband happens to be the pastor this time, does not make things any different. I support leadership. That is how I roll. To suddenly become just another jaded church member, full of (educated and respectable) complaint and criticism, because my husband is now the pastor, and I don't want to look like I'm being self serving....well, that would have been nothing short of the fear of man.

Once I put it in the light - once I told my Tim how very close I had come to quitting altogether, how close I had come to not speaking anymore about the gospel or the grace of God or the profound things God has been doing in soon as I relayed these things to Tim, I heard the still small voice of God, clear as clear can be, say to me, "Pick up your Francis Roberts book. I have something to say to you."

(Francis Roberts book "Come Away My Beloved" - such a dear old classic!)

I opened it up directly...directly and this, entitled "Speak The Truth" ~

"I say to you, don't be intimidated by anyone, but speak forth my Word, even as I give it to you. You have written freely and fearlessly. Now speak in the same way. Your spoken word must be brought into conformity with the work I have done within you. This, you need for your own personal sense of unity. This you need for your own strength.

You are not trying to please me, but trying to please men. They will detect the inconsistency, for in one way or another, the truth will break through. If you cannot bring yourself to speak the truth without apology, then speak nothing.

Let the life and witness of Jesus be your guide. If you are willing to emulate His honesty, I will come to your aid and give you wisdom, so that your answers may be not only true, but forceful. For you wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against an unseen opposition of satanic forces. These may at times be arrayed against you even through your dearest friends, and you may have to reply even as Jesus did to Peter on one occasion.

Set not out on a mission to convert the world to your convictions, but rather hold your convictions inviolable against the forces of opposition. I will be with you, and will keep your mouth. Trust Me."

Could it be more clear? God still speaks, in the moment, to His children! May we each one be faithful to take what we "hear in secret" and proclaim it from our own "housetop"!

Of Judgment Seat and Knitting Needles

"For we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ", the Bible says. Quite recently, I have heard of this Scripture being quoted with all the appropriate accompanying Ominous Overtone. The Quoter was obviously inferring that all sorts of outward behaviors would be brought under individual by one by one.

But the Quoter neglected to engage their mind. This person neglected both proper deductive reasoning, as well as the entire redemptive tone of the gospel.

First of all, it is the judgment seat of Christ that we must all appear before. We do not appear before the judgment seat of the law. According to the law, we are all silent and guilty before God. Before the judgment seat of Christ, we are ultimately each evaluated according to whether or not we are sons of God, through Christ Jesus.

Because outside of Christ, no deed done in the body can be evaluated as good - and, once "in Christ", every deed done in the body is evaluated by the standard of love. After all, you can give your body to be burned, and speak with tongues of angels, have all knowlege, or give all your goods away to people needier than you, and all of it be for nought. No reward in it for you at all..."it profits nothing" - I Cor. 13.

And so yes, knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men to put their trust in Christ. They must appear before His judgment seat. Knowing this, we persuade men to receive Christ Jesus. To those who receive Him, to them He gives power to become the sons of God, even to those who believe on His name.

Then, as sons of God, it becomes easy for us to long to be absent from the body and present with the Lord, so that we can appear before His judgment seat and receive our reward for service. We ourselves are sons of God, and of this we are deeply and firmly assured. This is the ultimate inferred context of the judgment seat of Christ, as the concept appears in II Cor. 5.

The other place, in Scripture, that the concept of the judgment seat of Christ occurs is in Romans 14. In this passage, the clear context is one of how we treat our brethren - whether we treat them with sincere respect, or with condescending judgment. "Who do you think you are, you who harshly criticizes a brother? We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ."

Our job is to receive one another, as Christ received us. (Greek: accept - draw near to one's heart) The position of Judge is already occupied by Another, One Whose ways are not our ways, and Whose thoughts are so much higher! Our job is to make life in the community of Christ as much a joy for one another as we can. After all - we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.

Romans 14, a portion of it, in The Message:

So where does that leave you when you criticize a brother? And where does that leave you when you condescend to a sister? I’d say it leaves you looking pretty silly—or worse. Eventually, we’re all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgment, facing God. Your critical and condescending ways aren’t going to improve your position there one bit. Read it for yourself in Scripture: "As I live and breathe," God says, "every knee will bow before me; Every tongue will tell the honest truth that I and only I am God." So tend to your knitting. You’ve got your hands full just taking care of your own life before God. Forget about deciding what’s right for each other. Here’s what you need to be concerned about: that you don’t get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is.

So let us lose the Ominous Overtone we tend to adopt when taking Scripture out of context, and let us take up our knitting needles and get to work blessing one another.

The Power of God Unto Salvation

"It is impossible to get from preoccupation with behavior to the gospel. The gospel is not a message about doing things. It is a message about being a new creature. It speaks to people as broken, fallen sinners who are in need of a new heart. God has given His Son to make us new creatures. God does open-heart surgery, not a face-lift. He produces change from inside out. He rejects the man who fasts twice a week and accepts the sinner who cries for mercy."

Tedd Tripp

Of Books, and Their Highlights

“Faith is not built by preaching introspectively (constantly challenging people to question whether they have faith); faith is not built by preaching moralistically (which has exactly the opposite effect of focusing attention on the self rather than on Christ, in whom our faith is placed); faith is not built by joining the culture wars and taking potshots at what is wrong with our culture. Faith is built by careful, thorough exposition of the person, character, and work of Christ….

We feed on Christ himself, and we do so not by some physical eating of his body, but through faith in the Christ proclaimed in Word and sacrament. These four alternatives [moralism, how-to, introspection, and social gospel] have left much of the church malnourished. People know what they ought to do, but they are dispirited and lethargic, without the vision, drive, or impetus to live with and for Christ. And the reason for this dispirited condition is that the pulpit is largely silent about Christ. He is mentioned only as an afterthought or appendage to a sermon; in many churches, He is never proclaimed as the central point of a sermon, and surely not on a regular, weekly basis.”

—T. David Gordon, Why Johnny Can’t Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messengers
pp. 75—76, 88—89.

Relationships - Worth Fighting For, nothing...has matured me more deeply, or built more character into me, or frustrated me more than the relationships God strategically places in my life. There is no greater discipline, no greater depth of maturity, no better means of achieving Godly character, than the commitment to simply love one's family, and the people of God in one's local church. Obviously, family is a far greater covenant relationship than local church, but we can never escape the fact that these two proving-grounds test us and try us to the breaking the point where everything in us screams, "I Quit!"

....but we stay. We refuse to come down from our cross, but rather die there.

Love to the point of having to be patient. Love when it is difficult to be kind. Love in spite of people's track record. Love, when I have the sense that, one day, I might not be loved in return. Love anyway.

Love people who are less sophisticated than I. Love people who know less than I. Love people who are far more sophisticated than I. Love people who know more than I.

Love people who think they know more than I.

Love people who offend me. Love people who hurt me deeply. Love people who disagree with me on doctrinal incidentals. Love people who disagree with me on gut-level fundamentals. Love the sinner, love the saint. Love my neighbor as myself.

It takes work to achieve a college degree. It takes work to pay off a house. It takes work to plant a church. It takes work to raise children. Anything worth a great deal, costs a great deal.

Love is worth fighting for. Why do we think that right relationships, particularly in our marriages and with our parents or our children, do not require long and strenuous effort, at times?

Love is the basis of the finest sort of spiritual maturity and character development.

The Finer Things in Life

I have pretty much always had my own ideas of what constitutes wealth. My daughter Sarah has been to Cambodia twice, and will eventually be going again for a long-term commitment. Which, come to think of it, is one of my concepts of wealth. All four of my children, in this season, are on the same page with their parents in faith, philosophy, and family affection. They each one express their unity with us in diverse ways ~ ways their father and I wouldn't necessarily adopt as our own mode of expressing our love for God and each other. It is quite cool, actually.

I worshipped side by side with my oldest son this past Sunday, hands raised to the Lord of Glory. One daughter's ambition in life is to be an anchor and support for the local church, and she is an anointed worship leader. The other daughter's ambition is to take the gospel of grace to the nations. The youngest son thought nothing of joining me in a loud chorus of The Newsboys version of "In Christ Alone" yesterday, in the car. Our first week of school has been Tim and I are deeply in love with each other, still. That, gentle reader, is riches galore. A mission accomplished. Many goals achieved. I don't know what tomorrow holds, but Jesus said not to think about it anyway. Today, much of what I have dreamed of is already mine.

To be able to say that for a day in one's life, much less a season or perhaps a lifetime....well, "rich" doesn't come close to describing this lifestyle.

The currency of true riches often looks like this:

today's offerings from the garden

picked today...

hydrangeas, picked today...

son-in-law, and youngest son, today (son-in-law takes time to sow into the life of youngest son)

random schoolbooks...

world map - many destinations still undiscovered by an Atchley...we'll get to them eventually.

added a picture of the third newest couple today...

I'm wealthy in some ways money can buy. Compared to believers in Cambodia, I am fabulously rich. And I am wealthy in all ways money cannot buy. Health, joy, grace, Christ, family, green beans freshly picked, and the fellowship of like minded believers - it all adds up to riches untold.