Where are those pastor's wives...those women? I pray I am counted in their small but powerful ranks - those who stake their entire claim on the Pauline gospel of Jesus Christ. Those who have actually studied the whole counsel of God, and discovered "He who was from the beginning". Those who put no confidence in the flesh. Those pastor's wives whom truth has set free. Those who actually swim upstream, not because they are disagreeable or divisive, but rather because they refuse to water down the gospel. Where are those women?
Sorry to be over-quoting here , but CS Lewis spoke of pride as being the "unsmiling concentration upon self, which is the mark of hell."
Those words...unsmiling concentration upon self...have been lingering in my mind for days, now. Legalism and religion produce exactly this sort of unsmiling self absorption, and I've finally figured out that this is what bothers me about some people.
I have little fondness for those women who dread looking foolish or inappropriate, above all other kinds of dread. This is the gal who is perpetually aware of what she may look like to others. This pride is conscious of image. This sort of person isn't capable of even the moderate strength of "violence"...she is educated past her talent to be normal...too self aware to raise her voice to anyone, much less trounce them. None of that indecorous moderate strength for that sort of woman. Supreme strength? Forget the supreme strength of joy - it might manifest as a holy levity, and pride has no sense of humor.
If the proud ever do laugh, it is a second-hand emotion, not originating from their own heart, but rather it comes to them predigested. Pride is a consumer, not a producer, of humor.
I have done my share of laughing the last month or two, as certain realities about my world and myself have set in, and I make the choice to see things the way they really are. Some of the cackling is likely tinged in the barest sarcasm - which is indeed the lowest form of humor. 'Tis still humor. But most of my giggling is genuine, and medicinal, and in the company of a few dear friends. We guffaw. We have learned this past week, in the immortal words of my father: "No fools, no fun."
I have fun making a fool of myself. I'll become even more undignified than this! Others try to be all educated-dy and serious, self contained, smartened up, tense from reading dead guys, and they end up having their greatest fear come upon them - looking foolish. Not on purpose like me, mind you. Oh nonono. Never do they look foolish on purpose. Their antics are religiously intense, they know they are in a class by themselves.
I do. I laugh at my own imaginative take on what life must be like to have "unsmiling concentration upon self."
Some say I laugh too loud. I say it is the sound of joyful shouting, heard in the tents of the righteous.
If a loud laugh isn't a sound of joyful shouting, you tell me...what would you call it?
Note - GK Chesterton is not permitted to reply to the question. We already know what he'd call it:
the view right outside the window of this vacation hideaway.
maryland crab cakes. bacon-ey salad with ranch dressing. cheesecake. the strength and vitality to walk it all off.
mango scented soy candles. an indulgent husband who buys them for me.
simple pleasures. the fact that soy candles make me more happy than some women can be with diamonds.
palm-sized slices of sunshine, still clinging to rain-soaked trees. the random chirp of a few, hardy crickets, persevering in song as the November sun sets.
long evenings spent reading GK Chesterton. my beautifully embossed, antique copy of "Weight of Glory" by CS Lewis - one I have owned for many, many years now. short evenings spent reading Gladys Taber. reading Wind in the Willows to children.
lamplight - pink light bulbs, to be precise. (nothing makes a room more beautiful than a pink light bulb under any color or style of lampshade.) generous dollops of red in a home's decorating scheme. toile, in restrained amounts. fresh flowers. antique furniture. the matted-and-framed photo of a loch in Scotland - a gift from a well-loved, wee Scotsman.
copper cookware. the fact that my copper pots shine like mad, with a half a lemon and some salt and elbow grease.
the thought that I planted over 50 spring-flowering bulbs into 2 gigantic planters on my back porch, this past week, before leaving for vacation.
dahlias. my canary, who sings like a dream. my parrotlet, who imitates him.
yo yo ma and his cello, eric clapton and his guitar. handel....and his Messiah.
shooting stars, church life, the way I can make him laugh.
That He loved me first.
quiet moments, busy days, isaac's gigantic smile. sarah's musical laugh, hannah's nose that wrinkles when she smiles, josiah's acoustic guitar playing.
adjectives, back roads, the smell of pine needles and the ocean air.
being convinced that I am deeply loved, cameo jewelry, the color orange, and trying new things.
friends in north carolina. having a professional mathematician in the family. having a professional artist almost in the family. being married to a pastor. having a father who has finally retired. a mother who sits by me in church - two trophies of grace we are, sitting side by side.
a sister who is even funnier than I. a brother who is a war veteran, though younger than I.
choosing to carry no baggage in life, red toenail polish, the way my husband weeps as he prepares a message. (every pastor should. does yours? do you know him well enough to say?)
puppy bellies, the winter sky, cicero's thoughts on growing old, palladian windows, old cantilever barns.
being well educated, so that I am not compelled to be a competitive, conspicuous consumer.
being able to afford it, but still not buy it. marriage. funky socks. lycra. baths. cardamom. whole nutmeg.
the fact I can still blow him a kiss and make him forget what he was about to say...
The location is unspecified, not because we think we are rock stars, but because it is more fun to say it that way. Very honeymoonish, no? I can tell you this: there will be hot tubbing. There will be views. Plenty of water in the vicinity. There will be a bit of Christmas shopping. There will be a woman, somewhere in the south, clonking around in her western boots, having the most wonderful time of the year.
So if this blog is quiet for a few days, you know why.
Of all the Bible teaching I've done, my series (taught in 2007) on Perspective impacted me the most. Art reflects life, and life informs art. In the same way a painter or photographer has to subtract and edit and reframe in order to capture a "moment", so our heart must choose its perspective. Call it perspective. Call it worldview. Call it "attitude determines altitude". Call it theology. Call it what you will, perspective is the mechanism by which you choose what to give attention to, and how you will give attention to it.
Your life, my life, is the sum total of what we choose to give our attention to. We all eat, sleep, dream, work, travel, maintenance our belongings, love, and relate to others in this life. The moments that become our memories are those moments we gave attention to, for right or wrong reasons, whether from a negative or a positive perspective.
Our very concept of God is based on our choice of attention, whether to focus on the God of grace, who has been from the beginning, or to focus on an idol, an image of our own construction.
We interpret Scripture through our heart's perspective. This should sober us deeply.
Just as any artist has to make that critical decision about what to frame up, what to see, what to subtract (the ability to edit is what separates the true artist from the merely talented) we too choose our perspective. Subtract too much, and a room or a book or a life becomes thin and stark, lacking warmth, lacking honesty. Subtract too little, and the beautiful and important get lost in detail. Perspective colors, perfumes, and defines our moments, and thus our days, and thus our life.
The renewal of our mind, the alignment of our hearts with the truth, and the resultant perspective from which we function is of such momentous importance, I could not possibly over emphasize it. We absolutely must take every thought captive to the obedience of the life and finished work of Christ.
Salvation is complete. Redemption is finished. There is only one thing not finished. The renewal of your mind and mine is the unfinished work. It must become our daily pursuit. Sanctification (experiential, not positional) flows from the renewed mind. Only the gospel of the finished work of Christ has the power to literally renew, remake, and remold the mind - no power of self, no level of education, no form of human accomplishment can renew a mind. Only the gospel of the grace of God found in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, has this mysterious power.
I have experienced more renewal of my mind in one year, this year, than I have my whole Christian experience. This is wholly due to the steady, unrelenting, settled teaching and preaching of the gospel in my church, as opposed to the topical or scatter shot method. It is one thing to know about grace, it is another thing to linger over the reality of it until I see transformation. Sadly, in most churches, we see the gospel treated as though it were good only for getting someone saved and after that we all must work hard at Christianized self modification.
The result of this daily choice to renew my mind in grace, is a transformed perspective that is making moments more vivid and sweet. The pace of my life is speeding up, I am taking on even more work, more responsibilities, making more big plans....yet my experience of life is more and more like a deliciously slow and tranquil holiday. Finally, at age 43, I am beginning to learn how to "number my days". Innately, I am figuring out what to pay attention to, and how to pay attention to it.
Snapshot of a moment: leave in the adorable husband, subtract the annoying habit he has of biting his nails. Simply refuse to characterize him or the moment by what annoys. Pay attention to the gift of being alive and healthy, ignore life's petty inconveniences. Pay attention to the joy of knowing faithful friends. Let the unfaithful ones do whatever it is they do, which will always be centered on themselves. Though they are a mystery to me, I set the puzzle of them aside, because some things I will never understand. Unfaithful people obviously don't need or want my attention - faithful people do need me, however, and I need them. So I move on. I take joy. As the artist in my own life, I edit what I choose to give my precious moments of attention to.
This habit of attention is what slows down the experience of a well lived life. It will enable you to hold a moment of time in your hand, as it were, and let the facets of it dazzle you. Then you enjoy the next moment. Then the next. You don't have to empty your schedule and create a contrived, self absorbed serenity to experience this wonder of a slow, deliberate life. You won't have to think of happy thoughts and grasp for insightful things to say. The grace of God can transform your perspective to the point that you gain the ability to savor, to count your blessings, to number your days, becoming wise enough to know what to pay attention to.
Your life is the sum total of what you give your attention to, and what kind of attention you give it.
Ps 90:12 So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
My boots. Exactly my boots. Butter soft leather.
Michael Kors jeans - $19.99 + tax, which here in Tennessee is the highest in the world, I think.
Western boots - free
Feeling happy, "stylin' and profilin" - priceless
It has also been said that true wealth consists not in having what you want, but wanting what you have. November has rolled around again, tomorrow is my birthday. This always brings out the philosopher in me.
I not only have what I want...I want what I have. I. Am. Content. I have been blessed with fabulous wealth, in the form of people. I have a cup that runs over with more than a few faithful, funny, talented, loving and lovable friends and family members, all who manifest the character of God into my life.
Yesterday, on my way to church, one of these beautiful friends pulled up beside me at a stoplight. We obviously were on our way to different churches, but we have known one another, both up close and from a distance, for two decades or more. She motioned for me to roll down my window. When I did, all she shouted to me was ~
I love you.
Then she said, for no real reason ~
We've hung in there together, haven't we?
I nodded, tears stinging the backs of my eyelids. Happy tears, by the way. I know this woman. She hasn't been reading my blog. She's not the technology type. She hasn't been reading my journals, I'm sure.
But she read me like a book. In an instant, and from a distance, across pavement and rolled down glass, she read my heart of hearts, and reflected back to me what I value most.
"We've hung in there together. We're traveling in the same direction. We hold the same things in high esteem. We've been through some incredibly rough spots, we have both wanted to walk away....but we didn't. "
God blew me a kiss yesterday morning, through that encounter. He communicated His approval of my choices in life. I love relationship. I value honest communication. I despise anything that sows discord amongst spiritual family and blood family. It is more than concept or words on a screen to me. My choices prove it.
Once again/again/again, I ate the fruit of vineyards that Tim and I had labored to plant years ago. I "inhabited" a relationship that my husband and I had labored to build, and then to preserve...when at one time, it would have been easier to leave it, and start over with someone else.
Did I say I am content? Oh...I am so content.
It ain't even officially my birthday yet, but please smile with me over all these tokens of love I'm already receiving!
On Friday, my elderly neighbor brought me the real hydrangea. An hour later, my good friend Mrs. Stimphill (that would be "Stinnet" and "Hemphill" combined) brought the gift bag. In flower language, I learned from a book here at home, the hydrangea means preservation - preservation of love that lasts for ever. Thanks, Lord!