Monday, January 30, 2012

Thursday, January 26, 2012

He's a Keeper

Twenty five years is a long time. There are lots of memories made, inside jokes, and any number of stories---good, bad, and ugly. I decided to make a photo book of our years together. Brian, however, out-creatived me.

First he made a reservation at a new restaurant in East Cobb. He secured the chef's table and made sure they knew it was a special anniversary.

Then he presented me with a pillar candle holder filled with frosted marbles and dark chocolate kisses. That was good, but THEN...

 Mixed in the kisses were 25 strips of silver cardstock, each printed with a memory, an inside joke, or just something he thinks about when he considers our marriage.

Husbands, take note. MAJOR props. EPIC win.

 The restaurant provided two delightful desserts: a maple pote de creme with cinnamon biscotti and a pineapple upside-down cake with macadamia nut ice cream and nut brittle. Both were served with a fabulous sweet dessert wine with hints of honey.
We finished the evening at rehearsal for the Georgia Symphony Orchestra Chorus. We took a cake and some of our original wedding napkins to share. Everyone enjoyed celebrating with us.

On to the next 25. Brian has that long to top his ultra-creative silver anniversary gift!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Twenty Five Years

I thought only old people had silver anniversaries. I was mistaken. YOUNG people do too!!  We were just REALLY young then!!!

I am working on a book of our first 25 years married. Now that today has passed, I will start sharing some of the pages as I go. I had hoped to have it finished, but...

Here is the first page:

I started the project last September, but, as my projects usually do, it expanded. Maybe I'll have it done before Carrie's wedding. We shall see.....

Sunday, January 22, 2012

What's in a Name?

So, the Southern Baptist Convention is considering a name change. To that I say, "It's about time!" The Southern Baptist name rings of old, stodgy, and stale religion. Southern Baptist will always be stained by years of shameful racism. Southern Baptists make up a large part of the maligned right-wing, conservative, dogmatic, intolerant "moral majority." Whether the perception is correct doesn't matter. Perception IS reality in our current culture.

Having been a member of a vibrant, Bible-teaching, people-loving church that happens to be affiliated with the SBC (Southern Baptist Convention) for seven years now has taught me that even the most stubborn Southerner, if he truly wants to please God, will become able to adapt and change. Eventually. With much prodding. One of the things that attracted our family to our current church home was the "ten core values" printed for all to read, posted on walls, and repeated by the Pastor. (And recently, administered in pop-quiz form to all church employees---even the lowly part-time baristas like me!) Most were familiar, as I grew up in an American Baptist (mercy) church, and have attended a number of non-denominational churches that had solid Bible teaching. However, one stood out as unique: We believe in an unchanging message and are committed to ever-changing methodologies. WOW. Not "we will never deviate from the master plan set in place 50 years ago" or "but we've always done it this way." That was refreshing to read as a core value of the church. We have seen that worked out, too, as the church has added contemporary music to some of its services and has fully embraced technology in reaching a younger seeking population.

Churches that do not adapt, die. Churches that forget their first love in making those adaptations destroy. It's a delicate balance that even the best-intentioned churches don't always achieve, but it follows the Biblical model of Paul who met people where they were and modified his approach without minimizing his authority.

The SBC as a group has recently committed to a new focus on reaching the lost and discipling them. This is a change of past years when the focus was on maintaining church order and condemning those who attacked it. Once internally centered, the SBC is making an effort to reach  outward with its time, personnel, and money. It's an exciting change, and one that I think pleases the Father. There is a long journey ahead, but the paradigm shift has begun, and a new enthusiasm should begin to emerge.

It makes sense, then, that the Southern Baptist Convention considers a name change. Saul became Paul. Abram became Abraham. Jacob became Israel. Each name change signified a new role, a new character, and a new vision. The SBC has a new vision and is developing a new character AND a new role. A new name will allow the old perceptions to be put aside so that the new ideals can prosper.

It's about time.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

My word for 2012

I have read a number of blogs and challenges in the the last few days about choosing a single word to represent the hopes and wishes and goals for the new year. I certainly like that idea far better than resolutions that are made and broken within days. I stopped making resolutions years ago. Last year I did an art piece at called it "The Year of Being Content." For the most part, that concept did work itself out in my daily life. Even thought I was busy, I didn't wish for more than I had, I was grateful for most days, and content with the experiences I shared with my friends and family.

In the last days, I have considered what my word might be for 2012. Within the last 24 hours, two different sources led me to consider the word "dissipate" as the opposite of what I wanted to do. One sermon preached by John Wesley (1703-1791) complimented a sermon by John Herring (Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, 8 January 2012) and by the end of the day, I knew my word for 2012: connected.

When my friend, Bryan Black, chose "Do less, Be more" as his status on Facebook the other day, my first thought was about Martha and Mary, sisters of Lazarus. Luke 10 tells how Jesus stopped to teach at their house near Jerusalem. Martha, being the good hostess, worked to prepare food fitting for a rabbi and for those who traveled with him. Mary, however, sat at his feet, listening to his teachings. (Dr. Herring aptly noted that a woman seated in the same room as a rabbi was not standard behavior for women of that day. That Jesus allowed her to sit there was an example of how he elevated the status of women.) Martha, whose intentions were good, complained that Mary was not doing her fair share of the work.  Jesus rebuked her saying that Mary had chosen the better thing. 

This brought me back to Bryan's status and the link he shared with me to Wesley's sermon on dissipation:

6. And even as much serving dissipated the thoughts of Martha, and distracted her from attending to her Lord's words, so a thousand things which daily occur are apt to dissipate our thoughts, and distract us from attending to His voice who is continually speaking to our hearts: I mean, to all that listen to his voice. We are encompassed on all sides with persons and things that tend to draw us from our centre. Indeed, every creature, if we are not continually on our guard, will draw us from our Creator. The whole visible world, all we see, hear, or touch, all the objects either of our senses or understanding, have a tendency to dissipate our thoughts from the invisible world; and to distract our minds from attending to Him who is both the Author and End of our being.

I can so relate to Martha. She wasn't doing anything wrong, but in pursuing the good, she missed the best. Her focus was pulled out of connection with Jesus, and scattered by all the tasks set before her, tasks expected of her by her society and culture. How often to I get carried away by the tasks before me? Do I keep myself from being connected to my Lord and to true fellowship with my brothers and sisters by a routine that is busy at best and chaotic at worst?

The natural man often fills his days with good things: humanitarian endeavors, goodness to family, loyalty to friends, and other admirable qualities. But in the midst of all that, he is still alienated from God. That tendency toward dissipation is only mastered by the Holy Spirit's leading to sit at the Master's feet and listen. To be still and know God is counter to everything our current culture demands. 

10. But so far as any one yields to this temptation, so far he is dissipated. The original word properly signifies to disperse, or scatter. So the sun dissipates, that is, scatters, the clouds; the wind dissipates, or scatters, the dust; and, by an easy metaphor, our thoughts are said to be dissipated, when they are irregularly scattered up and down. In like manner, our desires are dissipated, when they are unhinged from God, their proper centre, and scattered to and fro among the poor, perishing, unsatisfying things of the world. And, indeed, it may be said of every man that is a stranger to the grace of God, that all his passions are dissipated, --

"Unhinged from God." Isn't that just the perfect phrase for most of Christendom today? Unhinged, disconnected, scattered.... We DO the right things. We SAY the right things. We show up to church. We may even tithe. (Okay, probably not. Statistics show that fewer than ten percent of American Christians actually tithe.) In any case, even those of us who call Jesus "Lord" find that we are mostly unhinged from God on a regular basis. We love the experience of connection during events and retreats, but when the mundane reality of life re-establishes itself,  we are quickly scattered once again. It's not that we don't care, but that we, like Martha, get busy with doing and forget about being. Being quiet with God. Being still.

12. Hence we may easily learn what is the proper, direct meaning of that common expression, -- a dissipated man. He is a man that is separated from God; that is disunited from his centre, whether this be occasioned by hurry of business, by seeking honour or preferment, or by fondness for diversions, for silly pleasures, so called, or for any trifle under the sun. The vulgar, it is true, commonly confine this character to those who are violently attached to women, gaming, drinking; to dancing, balls, races, or the poor, childish diversion of "running foxes and hares out of breath." But it equally belongs to the serious fool who forgets God by a close attention to any worldly employment, suppose it were of the most elegant or the most important kind. A man may be as much dissipated from God by the study of the mathematics or astronomy, as by fondness for cards or hounds. Whoever is habitually inattentive to the presence and will of his Creator, he is a dissipated man.

I like this section of Wesley's sermon. Our church culture tends to look at a word like "dissipation" and equate it with "sins."  If we don't smoke or drink or dance (or go with those who do), we pat ourselves on our Pharisaical backs and applaud our righteousness. However, we (and I am more guilty than most) often become "serious fools" who forget God in all sorts of elegant and laudable pursuits. Working with humanitarian efforts or feeding the poor or teaching the young or caring for a family--these are noble efforts, but if they distract us from relationship with God, they are no less sinful than less honorable activities. Ouch. 

So what is the solution? How do I, in 2012, maintain a commitment to be connected? Wesley, of course, has a brilliant solution:

20. It was from a full conviction of the absolute necessity there is of a Christian's setting the Lord always before him that a set of young gentlemen in Oxford, who, many years ago, used to spend most of their evenings together, in order to assist each other in working out their salvation, placed that question first in their scheme of daily self-examination: "Have I been simple and recollected in all I said or did?" Have I been simple? -- That is, setting the Lord always before me, and doing everything with a single view of pleasing him? --Recollected? -- that is, quickly gathering in my scattered thoughts; recovering my simplicity, if I had been in any wise drawn from it by men, or devils, or my own evil heart? By this means they were preserved from dissipation, and were enabled, each of them, to say, "By the grace of God, this one thing I do: (at least, it is my constant aim) I see God, I love God, I serve God. I glorify him with my body and with my spirit."

To be free from dissipation and to be truly connected requires an active accountability of my days. "Have I been simple?" It's such an easy question to ask, but the implications are profound. My activities are not the problem that leaves me "unhinged." Rather, it is the focus of those activities. Where are my thoughts as I do what I do? Do I work so that HE is glorified? Do I sing that HE is honored? Do I serve my family, my friends, my church for HIS  sake? This must be my constant motivation: HIS glory, HIS renown, HIS fame. In that, there is connection with HIM, and from that, connection with others.

Let this year be one where I am fully connected in my relationship with the Lord, and after that, in my relationships with others, and then (and only then) with the things that I do.

 Quotes taken from John Wesley's Sermon 79 on "Dissipation"

Thursday, January 05, 2012

To End Slavery

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic More than 40,000 college aged students gave (not pledged, GAVE) more then 3 MILLION DOLLARS to end human trafficking in the US and abroad. They stood in line to give. They gave from their hearts, not their excess. They gave joyfully. They gave willfully. The Church needs to take a close look at itself and eliminate the Pharisees who make giving a duty to be trumpeted. The Church needs to rise and sing and give and disciple and love. Just sayin'.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

A New Year

This is the day for making resolutions for change in this coming year. This is the day when the past is put away for good and the future is a bright and clean slate, ready to fill with good things. At least, that's what many people do this day. For me, New Year's Day is not a day for resolutions. The last resolution I made was one to  make no more resolutions in January. It's the only one I've actually kept.

For the next 6-10 weeks the road will be full of people resolved to lose weight or get in shape. The gym will be  packed as well. For the next week or so they will drink more water, make healthier food choices, and exercise every day. The food resolutions might last until the Super Bowl in February, and by March the roads and gym will be home to those who do not resolve, but those who simply DO.

As for putting away the past year, I'm not convinced that's the right thing to do either. Granted, some years are better than others, but every year contains lessons to learn and remember. Every year has moments of satisfaction. Going into a new year hoping for something better doesn't accomplish anything except set up expectations for things outside of personal control.

I prefer to live in the present, neither dwelling on the past nor driven by the future. Each day has enough trouble and enough potential of its own. If I can awaken in the morning and put my feet on the floor, it's already a good day. If I can have a cup of coffee with a satisfying breakfast, I am more blessed than many.  If I can move my body for the sake of health, I am ahead of the game. If I have a job to do, my needs are met. If I have a purpose for each day, then I am rich.

I don't need the turn of the calendar to motivate me to think theses thoughts; they are part of my daily routine. Gratitude should be as natural as breathing for anyone living in this country. We have much to be thankful for.