God Loves His Girls

Today, I enjoyed an early morning drive with The Preacher in his new truck.

Today, I was given a purse that cost half what he paid for his truck.

A. Purse.

Today, I enjoyed time with girlfriends, eating cupcakes and salad with strawberries.

Today, I spent some time with a friend who is a missionary to Cambodia.

Today, I'm having a hard time resolving what seems to be two different aspects of the same, good God. I serve a God who often asks me to do hard things - to live sacrificially. I serve a God who requires me to not just understand the gospel, not just espouse the gospel, not just preach the gospel, but also to "live of the gospel", meaning to apply it to my ordinary, real-world relationships. This is often a hard thing to do. Cheap, this life isn't. It has cost me in profound ways. The law would be a far easier thing to live by - and no, law and Good News are not synonymous, though the same God is Author of them both.

I serve a God who asks my friends to do hard things, like live in Cambodia. He also requires them to apply the gospel to their ordinary, real-world relationships, and on top of that, they worry about their child's exposure to rat dander...and spiders as big as your hand can and do bite them. I haven't come near to that, in my service to God. My friends are the real deal, and I am the faux deal. (And it is okay for me to believe that. I'm not having a crisis, I simply esteem my friends - in a very honest way - as being better than myself.)

And I serve a God who happens to know that I love me a pretty, well made purse. I mean, I reckon He knows, since there is nothing knowable that He doesn't know in absolute perfection of wisdom. So He puts it on someones heart to gift me with a handbag that cost more than half what The Preacher paid for his truck.

Oh, but wait. The Preacher was very nearly given his truck. His truck is worth easily four times what the price was (car lots would charge six or seven times what he paid)...which takes me back to resolving the side of God that often asks Tim and I to do hard things, with the side of Him that blesses His boys with trucks, and gives His girls Eric Javits purses. You see...herein lies the rub: sometimes The Preacher and I obey God to the exact detail, and sometimes we don't. And yet He turns and blesses us with unearned, undeserved extravagance that defies our logic.

This is my exact purse, down to the color. Google Eric Javits and Neiman Marcus. Warning: sit down and spit out your coffee before you check the price. And make sure your theology can handle the fact that God often asks His girls to do the Actually Hard Thing (versus the Imagined Hard Thing, or the Self Imposed Hard Thing)...and He loves His girls so much, He sometimes gives them extravagantly expensive, and lavishly pretty purses for no real reason.

These are not easy issues to resolve, trust me.

You have been forewarned.

What The Preacher is Up To

He was up at 5, and then by 7:30 this morning, this is what my camera saw:

He's detailing his new truck. He is putting the Barbie Jeep up for sale, as this deal is way, way too sweet for him to pass up. Our neighbor, because he loves Tim, is letting his truck go for less than a song.

More like half a song.

It's in great shape, one owner.

I have one happy preacher on my hands, because his new ride may not cost him a penny out-of-pocket.

He told me, months ago, "God is about to give me a truck. I need one. I've been asking Him for one."

I should listen to him more often.

Kitchen Riches From My Gardens

...kitchen windowsill...and the cherry tomatoes are not even in yet. When they are, I will be overrun. Hundreds, it seems, hang ripening.

...one of my gardens - this one has green peppers, tall beautiful basil, and (believe it or not) daylilies and gladioli, all jumbled together. And it looks amazing. I am totally into pottagers, with their mixture of vegetable, herb, flower and fencing, with pathways. I'm working my way into that. I really like this photo, with its tiny perspective.

This garden has tomatoes, pole beans, squash, cucumbers, cantaloupe and sunflowers!

Another part of the same garden spot. Please ignore the orange hammock, still hanging. It was a souvenir my daughter Sarah brought back from Cambodia a few years ago. It lost its place when our tree was taken out by the storms awhile back. It still hangs from its other anchor, with nothing to hook up to. I've been meaning to cut it down - it would take all of five minutes. Honestly, I pay no attention to it, and only notice it now, "screaming" at me in this picture.

Some of you just won't understand, but I've felt poignant today. Always, long about mid-August, I begin to notice a difference in the light. I know that sounds crazy - it is still "high summer". But I see it...the light is ever-so-subtle in its shifting and changing. It heralds a coming fall season.

And again, I am sad. I think of a line from an old Gladys Taber book, "Stay a little, summer, do not go..."

This anomaly started about two years ago. I just began, inexplicably, to love summer. I guess summer is the true "Season of Harvest"...it is when the harvest becomes real and exciting. You have to understand, I've always been an autumn girl, and always loathed summer. No more. Tho' the heat has been awful, we here have gotten enough rain.

I am sure if I lived in some of the drought stricken areas of Texas, Oklahoma, and other places, I would not feel the same way.

But I live in east Tennessee, and so...

"No one can believe God is not good when the August gardens are in their heyday." ~Gladys Taber, from the wonderful book "The Book of Stillmeadow"

An Idea for Your Spent Sunflowers

I always buy or cut (when I have my own plentiful supply) several bouquets of sunflowers for my girls' birthday, to decorate the house. Their birthday was a week ago today, and so the bouquets are spent...

So I tied some twine around them, and hung them on a tree in our back garden...

...to attract the goldfinches.

And it works!

...and looks so beautiful.

Try it. I think you'll love the look of it, and will love seeing the goldfinches in your garden.

Weak Is The New Strong

ingredients for bruschetta - one of summer's gifts of wealth...each ingredient, simple but powerfully healthy for you. I include it because anyone can grow the ingredients for little-t0-no cost, and yet the health benefits are pure riches...and I love it so much, I am making it fit in with the idea of this post...and because it is my blog. And because I am quite proud of my photography, here.

The Bible never said, "Let the strong say 'I am strong'. " That sounds like a simplistic, even silly statement. But it is a profound thought. The Word of God says, "Let the weak say 'I am strong'."

Oh yeah...and "Let the poor say, 'I am rich.' "

How boring is it, when the rich say, "I am rich"? So passe. So unoriginal. So unsurprising. So obnoxious, even, when the rich find ways to let you know it. All the rich are supposed to do - Biblically speaking - is to share their riches. And maintain a humble heart.

But when the poor declare "I AM RICH".....well "wooo-weee, shut my mouth and slap your grandmaw"...because the whole, wide, watching world gets to decide whether the poor man does indeed enjoy riches money can't buy, or whether he is crazy. (Sorry, lines from country music songs, completely unrelated to what I'm talking about, keep popping up in my head. Have compassion on me...after all, YOU could be in my head, instead of me.)

We underestimate ourselves and others when we base that estimate on unbiblical notions of what is weak and what is strong. Some of you have lost dear friends because of an inaccurate assessment regarding what God sees as weak and what He sees as strong. He will surprise you, if you ask His opinion on strength and weakness, and if you ask Him with a tender heart.

I will rather boast in my weaknesses, so that the strength of Christ can be well-seen in me.

(More) Ordinary, Yet Extraordinary Time

My liturgical friends are now observing a season they call "Ordinary Time". It is a sort of "time between times". In the liturgical year (the Protestant-version observance of which I do see some merit, if you insist on the Gifts of the Spirit to also be in full operation) there are two seasons called "Ordinary Time". The first is the short season, loosely speaking, between Christmas and Easter.

The second span of Ordinary Time lies in the months between Pentecost and Advent. That is the time we are now in, this first week of August.

There couldn't be a more fitting name for the weeks between June and November. August is so ordinary and so "middle" - hot and humid here in the south, and there is no football yet. (Football is my liturgy. Proud Southern Protestant am I. Every big game, a feast.) The days can seem to melt one into the other, in an endless molten mush of 90+ degree days.

But tucked into August is fresh corn on the cob, Kentucky Wonder pole beans, lots of tomatoes, sunflowers, sunsets, cicadas, country music, flip flops, and cut-off blue jeans. August does have its own liturgy (liturgy simply means "the work, or response, of the people") it has its own continuity, and we do well when we respond with appreciation and enthusiasm, specific to August's finery.

I have a very special reason to respond in praise and thanksgiving - an anniversary of the spirit. It deserves to be canonized in the Atchley annals of history, and given its own feast.

Two years ago, this first week in August, my Preacher and I were dealing with some stuff. Nasty stuff. So, two years ago, because of this nasty stuff, I began to experience the then all too familiar symptoms of a migraine. I would get them almost every month or so. I mentioned this to The Preacher, without even expecting a response. By then, these headaches were like a storm brewing...it was obvious to me what was coming. I would sort of see the clouds gathering and make the observation.

He laid his hand on the back of my head, while I was standing in our bathroom, and prayed a simple prayer. I cannot begin to tell you how ordinary this prayer was, in that season of "ordinary time", two years ago. I can tell you that I expected nothing. Whatever conclusion that might make you draw about me, it is no-nevermind to me. But you need to know that I didn't expect a thing to happen. I sure didn't expect what happened next.

A definite warmth came upon the back of my head. I even thought it might be the "leftover warmth" of his hand - I was that hell-bent on expecting nothing. But I did make a note that it was a curious thing. Curious-er and curious-er, because that warmth lingered...and lingered a few minutes more.

That migraine never came. And it has never materialized in all these two years since. Not even once.

What does God want to do for you, in this "time between times", this season of Ordinary Time? You serve an extraordinary God.

New Discovery - Evernote

Picture me, if you will, running into Applebee's, finding all of you sitting at "our" table. Then, I ask for a bite of this or that from various plates, because I am on a tight schedule and can't stay to order a whole meal.

(Hmmm...that, in fact, is exactly what my husband is doing, even as I type. He's sitting at Applebee's with a buncha boys from California, Florida, and Tennessee...but he's not staying too-too long. We have to be right back at a conference we're all attending at 8 in the morning...)

But, I have something really cool to show you. So I whip out my smart phone and show you Evernote.

This is a place where you can store anything and everything you want to remember. You can create notebooks under various headings, and you can save images from the internet, you can save links, text, files, voice recordings, and you can even snap a picture of, say, a receipt, and store it in your Evernote account.

You "tag" everything you save, so you can find it fast, later on.

I'm so geek-fierce, I wish I could stare at my geek self.

Oh, oh, and you can save anything on any platform (smart phone, desktop, laptop) and it automatically syncs, so that you can retrieve your information from any other platform, at anytime, anywhere.

This kind of stuff, and tequila makes me crazy. I love it. (Just kidding about the tequila. I have never had a drop of it in my life, I don't believe. I do enjoy the occasional glass of wine, just for full disclosure purposes. I hear tequila makes your clothes fall off, and that is a deterrent for me.)

Last, but not least, I want to pitch something about "good works" at you. I am in a mentoring/discipling relationship with a couple of younger women (and have been, for going on a year now). My daughters are my "natural" disciples, and a couple others have sought me out, following up, acting on what I tell them, not wasting my time, and not asking that I chase them down. I'll be adding, over time, women of various ages, and I want you to know this: I don't believe in meetin' for "sin management." Nor do I believe in meeting for emotionally therapeutic purposes. I don't do emotional drama. But I do believe that the gospel itself is therapeutic, and will, over time, address every emotional issue we have...and we all have them.

I believe in calling forth your destiny as one of the great host of daughters who will proclaim the gospel. See, my theology affects not just my destiny, but it also affects my day, and thus it affects how I feel about you.

The Word became flesh (John 1) because the Word has always, from Genesis up to this very moment, become flesh. It's sorta what the Word does. It can't NOT become flesh. The law was given, but grace came....clothed in flesh. When the gospel is sown into a young woman's heart, it will take on the mantle of good works, done in context with others in a local church.

This has nothing to do with "accountability" sin management groups. That stuff is Chucky Cheese middle school kids-play, compared to the sort of relationships that encourage each other's destiny. How? Not by doing something novel to relieve boredom, but by sticking and staying with people God has placed on your left and right in the local church - inspiring the girl beside you to cease identifying with her sin,stop comparing and competing (women are worse than men for that...) and start identifying with the Finished Work of Christ, and live lives that adorn the Gospel.

Just that. Those two things. True Discipleship...and Evernote. Believe me, one can assist the other, and back again. Evernote could be a potentially wonderful tool for my efforts. I just need the time to surf the learning curve.

Okay, see ya! The Brunette Preacher's wife is blowing this joint...going home (figuratively speaking - remember, in my imagination, we are at Applebee's) and going to bed. Kisses and hugs all around - I love getting to spend time with my home-girls, both IRL (in real life) and via blogs.

Come on by Trinity Chapel this week! I will be there, every day, and would love to meet you, play hooky from a session or two, slip out and have a caramel machiatto together.

Don't forget to check out Evernote, and don't forget that a negative doesn't suddenly become a positive. Sin consciousness and sin management might be temporary tools to help someone struggling to form a new identity - but it is the new identity that will set them free.

The Gospel that radically declares you righteous, grows the good works that adorn the gospel that radically declares you righteous . Synergism, holistic living, abundant living, and easy yokes were God's idea first.

If you have a complaint about what Imasayin' to ya, take it up with Management.

Preach the good news of God's grace first. Use words, if necessary. Use Evernote to keep track of cool things.