Thursday, December 23, 2010

Past, Present, Yet to Come

Christmas past forms us. Christmas present defines us. Christmas yet to come promises us a hope and a future.

The Spirit of Christmas Past came to Scrooge for his welfare; his redemption. The Spirit of Christmas Present showed Scrooge joy within the human heart. The Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come issued a warning to follow the admonition given by the Past to "Take Heed."

Isn't it a beautiful gift to know that the shadows of what might be can be altered by our real actions of the present? In spite of the past, Christmas is always a gift for each day.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Blues

I should be used to it by now, but I'm not. Perhaps being rejected by my own father is something I wont ever really overcome. I almost wish he would truly ignore me rather than send a token Santa card signed "Dad and Pam."  No other words. No wishes for happiness, much less "I'm proud of you" or "I love you."  When that boxed card shows up it casts a pall over my whole day. It's not even a hand-picked card from a WalMart display. It comes in a box of 20 cards and 21 envelopes. The box probably cost $5. Less if it was purchased after the holidays last year. Frankly, I'm pretty sure he doesn't even sign it.

It's not that I want gifts--not for me or for my kids.  He hasn't remembered my birthday in years. I'm okay with that (as much as I can be) because he doesn't even try. But once a year, at Christmas, this ridiculous card comes and unsettles me.

I try---I call on Father's Day (when I can find a number), his birthday, and Thanksgiving. The last call I made lasted all of two or three minutes. He hung up--better things to do. So, tonight, I'm wrapping his gift for Christmas and preparing to mail it. I'm having a hard time feeling joy in it. 

All I feel is hurt. Profoundly hurt.

I did everything I was supposed to do. I went to college, got married, had kids (in that order.) I got good grades. I work hard. I volunteer. I help. I teach. I support my children's dreams. I stayed in church.  Logically, I know that I didn't do anything to deserve his rejection. But there it is. He has rejected me--and my family.

And every Christmas a winking Santa card reminds me of how "unspecial" I am to him.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Compass Points

True North. A compass is designed to point to the magnetic north of the earth, making navigation safe and reasonably reliable. But True North is different. True North cannot be swayed by electromagnetic energy or solar flares or shifts in subterrenean magnetic fields. True North is one place. Static. Stationary. Stable.

When true north is the basis for navigation, it is bound to be more reliable than magnetic north because of its absolute location. Finding true north, however, is more difficult than using a simple compass, and requires newer technology and greater skill.

In a sense, true north is an analogy to Truth. Most people in this world are satisfed with magnetic north because, in most cases, it is sufficient to the task at hand. But by placing faith in a changable direction, ultimately those who choose this route will miss the mark of the actual destination. So it is with heaven. There is a way that seems right: do good things, treat others well, care for the environment, take care of widows and orphans...and hundreds of other worthwhile and beneficial things. However, ultimately this way misses the mark of True North: relationship with God for eternity. True North can only be arrived at one way. True North requires a specific element. While all the earthly "magnetic north" elements are good things, they are not the Perfect thing.

It is Christmastime, and this season reminds those who listen that True North made itself visible in the form of a baby, born to a virgin, heralded by angels, shepherds, kings, and commoners. He grew up fully human, yet fully Deity. He was perfect, not only in action, but in motivation, thought, philosophy, wisdom, and anything of merit. By cruel death and miraculous resurrection, He laid the path for all to reach True North.

To reach True North is the pinnacle of a life. To meet True North is an experience of eternity. There is no shifting, no variation, and no close approximations to True North. It is--and HE is--the one True North.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

God With Us

Matthew 1:22-23

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

God with us. Divinity coexisting with humanity. Unfathomable.

God. The perfect, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent Creator of all things deigned to walk with and in His own creation. For what purpose? Ebenezer Scrooge asked that very question of the Ghost of Christmas Past. The answer Scrooge received is God’s answer to us: “Your welfare...Your reclamation, then. Take heed!”

Take heed, then. If God came to His creation as part of that creation, our need for reclamation must be great. No human can dwell in the presence of His holiness because in our own stubborn willfulness we choose our own way. Even when we recognize our need for redemption (as Scrooge finally did) we are incapable of our own salvation. Only Jesus, the perfect and pure Lamb of God, Immanuel, can redeem us. Only by trusting in His salvation can we rest in the hope of one day being ourselves with God.

God with us. And one day, we with God.

Dickens, Charles, A Christmas Carol, 1843

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Knowing as He is Known

One of my first students at Independent Studies was a senior named John Evans. I was told that he had a rare form of incurable cancer and had already outlived his prognosis. At the time, John's primary interests were outdoor, hunting, fishing, hiking--anything but reading Shakespeare and Dickens. He loved the wilds of Montana and fly fishing in frigid water. Camouflage was his favorite color, and his truck his prize possession. Pain was his constant companion, and he eventually became addicted to the narcotics designed to ease his agony as tumors surrounded his spine.

After graduation (and earning his Eagle Scout rank), John went to rehab to kick the addiction. About that same time, John got serious about his faith. Really serious. Profoundly serious.

For the next two years, John studied his Bible with the same passion he once took hunting and fishing. He started seminary courses, and spoke to everyone he could about the purpose of praise and of life as a believer in Jesus. His pain didn't lessen; it intensified. His bones became brittle, and he withered away as flesh dissolved.

As his body broke down, John's spirit grew. He became a mighty warrior in prayer and praise. Early morning musings led him closer to God, and he tottered between earth and heaven. He told his parents that his greatest longing was to wash up on the shores of heaven, unrecognizable to even the angels, but known to Jesus still. 

In daily life, John saw angels as easily as humans, and grew frustrated that no one else did. He led worship services from his bed, and remarked, "Church is not about where we meet or who plays the instrument or who speaks- it is about meeting God in His holy place."

One of his Facebook statuses in early November was, "Rounding third, focused on home." He told his family to be prepared. And he praised God.

This morning, John knelt to pray, as was his habit. He called for his mother and told her, "I get to go." The phrase that usually means a trip or vacation or event, John called up to announce his time in this world would end. Within just a couple of hours, with his family with him, John went to be with Jesus.

1 Corinthians 13:12 says, "For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." Today, John moved from the shadowy realm of this mirrored world to full understanding and true living.

For several days I have had an old song by Billy Sprague running in and out of my conscious mind. The chorus says,
                   Tender hearts,
                    Bow your heads for those who weep
                    But be glad for the one who sleeps
                    In the Lord.
                    He's been rescued from the deep
                    Like Ishmael upon the sea....

                   Only "Time's brief masquerade
                    Stands between the living
                    And the ones who Heaven's gate.

John is no longer torn between two worlds, but he has joined that great cloud of witnessess of Hebrews 12. His life is part of the great hall of faith, and his joy is complete.

Well done, my friend. Well Done.

For the One Who Sleeps, Words and Music by Billy Luz Sprague  from the recording Torn Between Two Worlds, 1989

Sunday, November 07, 2010

The Lord is My Banner

World Run Day

Could not have asked for better weather today. 58 degrees, sunny, beautiful. Perfect day to run 8 miles (or run/walk) along the Chattahoochie River with a friend in honor of World Run Day.



Could have used a better camera, but this little one was easier to carry!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Rounding third...focused on Home

Grief is a strange and horrible thing. To watch someone you love suffer well makes it worse. A young man I know is dying of cancer. He was diagnosed as a boy, and has grown into a man with an uncertain future. Yet, now, as the pain becomes unbearable and the cancer takes over his body, he remains fixated on Heaven and on praising God in ALL things.

His sister knows that his time on this earth grows shorter with every moment. She wonders every time she speaks with him if it will be the last time. She hates to leave the house for fear he will be gone when she returns. Yet, she is confused why God allows him to continue suffering. Why, if he has finished his earthly work, is he allowed to linger in unspeakable pain?

His mother has watched his progress from diagnosis through treatments to testimony and now to dying. Her faith is evident, and she chooses praise and trust in God's perfect will, but at the same time her heart is shredded by the suffering of her son.  She knows intellectually that God loves him even more than she can. She understands that God knows the pain of watching a child suffer unto death. She recognizes that God loves each of us more than we can imagine. But she is a human mother who wants to make the path smooth for her child, and she is helpless to ease his physical pain.

How does one justify the love of God with the seemingly unnecessary suffering of a believer and his family?

C.S. Lewis learned about suffering and grief and pain watching his beloved wife die of bone cancer. He wrote of that misery,
         "Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery's shadow or reflection: the fact   that you don't merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief."     (Lewis, A Grief Observed)

Lewis never lost his faith in a loving God, but he, in all his intellectual genius, couldn't answer the "why" question either. He compared grief to fear, and scorned those who tried to put a "religious" face on suffering. There really is nothing worse than the mindless cliches' about a "better place" or a "reason for everything." They may be accurate cliches' but they don't ease the heartache of the sufferer--or those who suffer around and with him.

I don't understand the mind of God--how could I? I can't make sense of this kind of suffering, either--for the young man physically and for his family emotionally.  I can't see the good God promises to work out for those who love Him, as this family truly does.  All I can do is be inspired and motivated by their stubborn praise, knowing that God is sovereign and that HE knows the reasons.

"Where, except in the present, can the Eternal be met?"
(Lewis, Christian Reflections)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I am teaching a creative writing class, so I decided to participate in this assignment with them. The assignment is to write for ten minutes about coffee. Go.

My tongue recoils at the earthiness of the brew, but my nose is so enraptured by the fragrance that I cannot put down the cup. It smells of mysterious mountains in far away lands, shrouded in fingerling mists of grey. It invokes a vision of rich red earth and low green foilage, heavy with deep red berries.

The first taste is always a surprise of heat and bitterness, but the resulting vision takes me back to Kishwa Tembo and the Mount Kenya Safari Club, where two college girls saw first hand the land of coffee and elephants. Funny how those are the two strongest memories I have of that adventure. Coffee, poured strong and fresh, and elephants,, who seemed to be in hiding until one day when we could hardly escape them.

The second swallow is less sentimental. The brew is now tempered and the flavor turns from bitter to bold. The boldness touches my mind and tells it to wake up and get moving, for the challenges of the day require undivided attention. It is the second swallow that cues my mental list-maker to sort and filter all the information stacked in my brain from the night hours.

By the third gulp, my attention moves to the list, anad less to the coffee. By the time the cup is 3/4 empty, I forget the mountains and the mist and lock into the mundane. The second cup is pure habit, with no romance about it.

Funny how quickly the mind moves from majesty to mundane. There must be a way to capture the magic of those first moments and use that energy to make even the dullest task seem special.

My list beckons...I'll have to consider that thought with tomorrow's first cup.

Monday, October 18, 2010


Today I allowed myself a rare luxury: mental rest. I ran the errands on my list and then settled into my backyard hammock with a book. (The Hunger Games-well-developed characters, predictable story, and large print. It just doesn't get more relaxing than that.)

The sky was blue with a few wipsy white clouds floating by. The squirrels chattered as they chased each other through crunchy fallen leaves. Hawks screeched and dove for some small prey. And I observed the best of autumn from the vantage point of a comfortable hammock, enjoying stolen moments of blissful mental rest.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Autumn bookmarks

I figured I needed to sit somewhere OTHER than my computer to create for a bit. One of my yahoo groups had a bookmark swap, so I settled in to make one bookmark. Of course, once I started cutting paper and stamping...

I found in a drawer a tool I haven't used in at least a couple of years. It's an old Sizzix paddle punch, something I thought I couldn't live without, but found over time that buying the paddle dies was a pain. One I got my Silhouette, all other punches and dies went by the wayside.

Today, however, I pulled out the old tool, and found that it made a nice addition to the bookmark design:

(Stamps from The Angel Company)

Romania 12-13

Romania 10-11

Monday, September 27, 2010

Romania 2010--reflection

Meet my friends, Doru and Ioana Jecu from Draganesti, Romania. Doru's English is about as good as my Romanian, but somehow I connected with this couple in the span of only two days.

They are among the 80 or so people who came up to the Pace Center in Sibiu for a retreat and introduction to The Purpose Driven Life.  Draganesti is a village of staunch Orthodoxy--along with 85% unemployment. Many villagers never travel more than 50 miles from home. The retreat was a special event for everyone--pastors, missionaries, and attendees. God is preparing a mighty work in Draganesti, and I am certain that Doru and Ioana will be among the firstfruits. I smile whenever I think of them. Ioana is a bit shy, but so sweet. Doru is a bundle of energy, and full of spunk. He isn't afraid to challenge the teacher, so it's important to be quick when he starts talking.

Still, I left the retreat feeling like Doru's heart was beginning to soften as he SAW the acts of believers for himself. Ioana will follow her husband's lead--or she will become the praying wife who wins him without a word. The pastor of the little church in Draganesti wrote this note to the Global Missions team at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church (who sponsored the retreat):

Thank you for everyting that you have done for us at Selimbar, Sibiu. We had a good time there and we can say that we have received positive feedback from the families which were there. Not only that our souls were fed by the word of God but we also got to know each other better. Because of the distance, only 2-3 families will not be able to come in Draganesti to study "The Purpose Driven Life".

Some realised that they want to follow the command of Jesus of being baptised. Others said they have never seen so many believers - reffering to the church in Alba Iulia. One of the men said that when Stephanie prayed for him, he felt something special inside.

For others, the hosts in Alba Iulia were a good example, providing a spiritual environment. The sermons, testimonies, songs developed deeper understanding of God.

We were all impressed by your dedicated heart. There were many women who said nobody has done what you did, washing their feet and hand massage.

In other words, it was awesome!
Thank you and God bless,
Costea Raul -" Spreading the Gospel in Oltenia"
str. Nicolae Titulescu, bl D14, ap 11, etj 4
Draganesti- Olt
jud. Olt - Romania

So, pray for the church at Draganesti. And pray for Doru and Ioana, my friends who have so much potential to infuse a village with the energy of the Spirit!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Forever a Trumpet Chick

She may not be in the high school band this year, but she still uses her gift to play in the Johnson Ferry Orchestra--and we are so pleased! This evening was a Pops concert at East Cobb Park with music from folk hymns to Lord of the Rings. GREAT music...and so proud of my girl!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Corinne is a SENIOR?!?!?

Class of 2011--and ready to take on the world.

(Digital Papers from Dahlia Company Designs. Layout Sketch from my friend, Tiare!)