Random Musings...

Another New Year's Eve.

2009 was a mixture of "the best of times, the worst of times". I'm a better woman for having experienced the extremes. Poised to open the door to 2010, this door is quite beautiful in my imagination. It is barely cracked open, welcoming the future. It is a vintage door with peeling paint, unpretentious, and unlike any door you could find in a design catalog or on the internet or hanging on the front of any McMansion...

...something like this, but my New Year's door is surrounded by urns of the most fragrant flowers, and all this beauty hints as to what lies beyond this door - a fresh, new year. My friend Joe Ewen says, "get ready for the double portion."

Yes, and amen. Goodbye, old...hello, new!

Can't leave 2009 behind without sharing a few more images of Christmas at Our Cottage:

fragrance...great for all of the winter season! (a few slices of orange, some cinnamon sticks, some whole cloves, simmer in water. Done.)

Just a few of our cherished Christmas cards received...need more creative ideas on how to display them next year!

A gift that arrived, via post, from dear friends...

newly-weds and almost-weds, playing a board game Christmas Day...

The beginnings of our Christmas Eve snack table...(see the Red Velvet Cake? I was inordinately proud of it. From scratch, it was!)

The origins of said Red Velvet Cake...

Well. My Tennessee Volunteers have just begun their bowl game, so it is time for me to sign off. Thank you for coming along with me, on a very bumpy but very satisfying 2009 ride. I wish you good health, increased joy, some of what money can buy, and every sort of riches money cannot buy in your 2010.

Let's venture forth and make the very, very most of it, shall we?

I Long to Know My Need More Fully!

"Grace substitutes a full, childlike and delighted acceptance of our need, a joy in total dependence. We become 'jolly beggars'."

C.S. Lewis

...he said, and I quote...

Nothing we have heard at Harvest Church over the course of the entire year of 2009 is new. But a few felt it was somehow new - that Tim made it up himself (accessing that massive stash of sunglasses and Kool-Aid he keeps in his office). This reveals only the fact that the pure gospel has been so little preached in our generation. Most of us have grown up on a spiritual diet of topical this, that, and the other thing; all of it good, none of it the best. And it shows.

Not a bit of the controversy we've experienced is new, either. John Wesley, a die hard proponent of methodical good works and "Christian perfection" (and much of whose thoughts and writing I respect and enjoy) was regarded by many a solid, well educated man of God as being unbalanced and uninformed. "Jolly beggar", Wesley was not. Wesley "scurrilously" (to use an exact word from an original source document - a letter to Wesley himself from a man whom Wesley misrepresented) misunderstood and misrepresented the doctrines of Calvanism and grace. Wesley ended up parting company with several very good men who loved him.


The saddest thing is that I can prove to you that Wesley himself was confused, and at times deeply contradicted himself. He owns up to what he himself calls a "conversion" which took place after years of his own human effort to serve Christ. The passion and peace that passes human understanding of a few Moravians stole his heart, and brought him to a better understanding of the true Christian foundation of faith. Wesley in his own words often reveals mistaken ideas of Christian "perfection". Yet he longed, himself, to be what C.S. Lewis later called "...a jolly beggar".
Nevertheless, let no one diminish Wesley's remarkable contribution to the faith! Simply do not read his writing until you have had a firm foundation of the gospel of Christ laid in your life, and you will gain much from him.

I've known these things for years and years - it is to my regret that I didn't teach them sooner. (Yeah...a true disciple takes responsibility for her own actions, or lack thereof.)

Here are a couple of quotes from one of Wesley's contemporaries (and a man who himself had foibles and faults. Hmmmmm. What do you make of that??) ~

"I will venture to assert that not one grain of Arminianism ever attended a saint [with him] into heaven... They may be compared to Paul, when he went from Jerusalem to Damascus, and the grace of God struck him down: he fell a free-willer; but he rose a free-gracer."

"The Pelagian hopes to get to heaven by a moral life and a good use of his natural powers. The Arminian by a jumble of grace and free-will, humus works, and the merits of Christ. The Deist by an interested observance of the social virtues. Thus merit-mongers, of every denomination, agree in making any thing the basis of their hope, rather than that foundation which God's own hand hath laid in Zion. But what saith Scripture? It avers, again and again, that Jesus alone is our hope: to the exclusion of all others, and to the utter annihilation of human deservings."

- Augustus Montague Toplady

Anyone who would part company with a friend, with a brother or sister in Christ, calling them a heretic or a cult or anything long those lines, over these same old issues that Wesley, Toplady, Whitfield, and others argued over...well, that person has not been well taught in church history. The one who does not know history is doomed to repeat its mistakes. It need never be so.

"Grace Always Embraces..."

I truly want to share with you today from the Precious Pen of Ann Voskamp, over at "a holy experience" (see link to the left)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009
When You Can't Figure Out What the Answer Should Be

Snow falls outside the window, whispers.

I lie on her bed, listening to white. In the grey, night changes into a sweater of day and branches of the bare lilac slips on lace.

She cups into me. She's listening too. Her and I, we often lie together in the early and plan.

"Mmmmm..." I murmur into her nest of curls.

"Mama... today... could I..." she turns and those eyelashes, gold whispers, brush my cheek. Her hands embrace my face and her breath falls warm, desperate.

"Oh, I just know..." Her eyes, dark stars, entreat. "I just know you are going to say No."

In her eyes, I can see mine and I am known for no.

No, you can't and no, that's not a good idea and no, put that away. For no, we aren't going and no, let's not and no, not now. (Oh, sweet child... and to think when they first laid you in my arms, you were all my yeses!)

She can't know of the all the other ones I only speak to myself, about myself, for myself. No, you can't be that -- no, you can't do that -- no good, no chance, no hope. (Oh, to be gentle with self. Grace always embraces...)

Or the ones I try to veil, the ones I shamefully stomp at God? No, I don't want this! No, I'm not doing that! No, don't change this, no, leave that alone, no, don't muck this up, no, no, no! (Oh, but You said yes to me before time began, yes to me in Christ with the arms nailed wide...)

What we speak to others, is what we speak to ourselves, is what we speak to God.

I have wrecked whole decades with that two letter "no" that falls from the end of my tongue, steady drip of a faulty tap. With two-letters of the heavy iron, I've crushed child-dreams... my dreams... God-dreams. What that one word hasn't broken. We walk wounded and I can't think how God bears the scars.

True, it's the mantra of national campaigns, "Just say No." It's what is suggested you learn to say in an effort to simplify your life in the face of constant demands on time: "Learn to say No." Well and good.

But I look straight into her, mirroring straight into me, and I know this is the year: I am done with "no".

The Babe in the manger's but a few days old, He who gave Himself His own name, for He knew, He knew: Emmanuel, "God with Us." The Babe has a name, name that breathes the wonder-hope. But the new year about to birth, it still needs christening.

With the palm of her hand resting on my cheek, it comes to me, what I'll name my new year:

This is the year of Yes.

When 2009 came swaddled in January, I had looked upon it and it named itself like a child often does: The year named itself Communion. My hours, my days, my heart, they needed not more things, more stuff, more consumption. I needed communion. After 365 days, I yearn for more -- not more consumption, but more communion.

And Yes is my 2010 answer to His invitation to come into Communion.

Yes, as in:

"Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure." Luke 10:21

"Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." John 21:16

"For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ." 2 Corinthians 1:20

Yes, let this moment be just as You intend it! Yes, Your will be done not mine! Yes -- You propose, ask for my life and an eternity to love-- and I say Yes!

This is the year of yes, to look in the mirror and say, "Yes, He made you this way and it is very good! Yes, you can try! Yes, be creative! Yes, laugh and yes, give it a whirl, and yes, it's really okay, don't be afraid!"

This is the year of yes, to kneel down and peer into eager faces and say, "Yes, you can, yes, that's an ingenious idea, yes, make that, yes, yes, yes!"

Does No ever really need to be said? Isn't there always something else to say yes to?

Yes, honor, yes, love God with your whole heart, yes, submit to one another, yes, say YES to Love and Christ and Grace, and Now and YES!

Every commanded 'shalt not' ultimately asks us say Yes to God.

Could I try?

I don't tuck a stray curl behind her ear. I hold it. I hold a whisp of curl and she peers into me and I laugh and we rub noses.

Snow falls and I whisper with winter and the good gifts coming down from Father, "Yes! I say Yes!"

She squeezes my face tight. "Really, Mama?"

"Yes, we will find something to say yes to!"

She giggles glee.

We slip out of bed and into a fresh new year.

Into the year of Yes.

Transitional Decorating...

I said I'd post pictures. I got our Christmas decorations put away, and dragged some winter branches home from the house of a neighbor who had to trim back a damaged dogwood tree. I haven't cut paper snowflakes, but I did find some pretty snowflakes half price (50 cents for four of them!), to hang from these beautiful bare branches ~

I am in love with mercury glass lately. I found some mercury glass birds for two dollars each ~

(no, I don't iron my tablecloths. ::sigh:: I should.)

And some mercury glass candles for two dollars each (price tags still on them. I was so excited to share these with you, I didn't take time to take the tags off!) ~

(That's an amaryllis blooming there, in the middle, and a mosiac glass maple leaf tray at the far end...)
This should take me through January and February. I so heart seasonal decorating!

My Reality...

But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts.

1 Thessalonians 2:4

C.H. Spurgeon

He who forgets the humming of the bees among the heather, the cooing of the wood-pigeons in the forest, the song of birds in the woods, the rippling of rills among the rushes, and the sighing of the wind among the pines, needs not wonder if his heart forgets to sing and his soul grows heavy. A day's breathing of fresh air upon the hills, or a few hours ramble in the beech woods' umbrageous calm, would sweep the cobwebs out of the brain of scores of our toiling ministers who are now but half alive. A mouthful of sea air, or a stiff walk in the wind's face, would not give grace to the soul, but it would yield oxygen to the body, which is next best.