Wednesday, May 23, 2018

House Rules and Vacation Pictures

Last week, JD had his big 8th grade field trip. When I was a kid this meant something like we were loaded on a bus to drive to see a community theater play and were home by the time school was out. What this means here is that kids go to Savannah for three days on charter buses. Since Nix had also been on this trip it meant that Rocky and I were the only ones in the house who hadn't ever been to Savannah. We decided that this was not right, and made arrangements to pick up JD in Savannah instead of him riding the middle school bus home.
Nix had just freshly finished her first year of college, and was still in that mode of meeting with friends, job hunting, and general unwinding, so she opted to stay home alone with the cat. Since this was the first time she had been left at the house overnight, I felt it was important to leave her with a few house rules. She mostly followed them all.


While in Savannah, I got a chance to play with my camera a bit.
I took typical touristy pictures.



And, I took pictures of random things that just pleased me.

Savannah is a beautiful town full of history and character that you don't find in many places in the South. I think I could spend a week just walking around, sitting in parks, and soaking in the beauty of it all.
Although the trip itself was an overall wonderful experience, it just wouldn't be "us" if things didn't go wrong. JD came home with a sinus infection and a weird rash from some sort of mystery botanical irritant, and we all have sunburns because the weatherman was wrong, which gave us unexpected time to enjoy the beach. Thankfully, our hotel was close to Walmart because, in spite of being on vacation, I still managed to need something from there every single day. There is just no escaping it.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Another week, another sign

I hadn't planned on posting again this week, but life has been full of things I didn't plan lately, so I am just going to run with it while the mood is striking.
Last week I talked about a rather amusing literal sign on the wall pointing to my post from the week before that. This week I had a different type of sign. 
The group of us meeting to consider starting a new church were all asked to write down a couple of reasons why we did or did not want to start a church. Then, we were going to discuss those tonight, and get a better idea of what we were talking about. Our family sat down and came up with a good list, and then I condensed it into one statement to share with the group. I went in tonight assuming that either I would read that statement or Rocky would, but something kind of amazing happened that changed that.
Our main speaker stood up with opening remarks (if we were a church this would be our pastor, and by remarks I really mean sermon). I marked a couple of things off our list because he covered those points. As people came forward to share what God had laid on their hearts this week, one right after another checked off the rest of our list. In a room of a hundred people, not once was a point raised that made someone stand up and disagree. I don't know how many church meetings you have been to, but in my experience this is a rare event. 
Although no official declarations will be made until after we meet next week, I feel less like this will be a group starting a new church, and much more like us joining a church that God started long before we were aware of it. 
The only thing on my list not shared was a word that has been turning over in my head all week. Sanctuary. It is a word that has gone out of vogue and shelved for the crime of being too churchy. I think for a long time it was used as a name for a room where the choir sung, the preacher talked, and people tired to sleep upright in pews without getting caught. What sanctuary actually means is a sacred place of refuge in a consecrated building set apart for holy worship. Could there be any better word to describe what I am looking for? 
Another definition is a holy place of asylum, which tickles me because the pastor said that the one thing we needed most to succeed (other than God, of course) was to be committed. Committed to an asylum sounds about right for my family.  
The one thing Rocky did add to the open discussion was our family's list of personal costs. These are things that we have to expect will be required of us, and things we need to decide as a family if we are ready for. After talking them out we realized that it is a simple list of basic requirements that are at the same time a tremendous responsibility that we can't commit to only halfway. It is a good list to check yourself with regardless of where you worship.
  • We have to tithe without fail
  • We will have to prioritize attendance
  • Serving will not be optional
  • Our prayer lives and Bible study will need to be solid
  • We will have to be okay with trial and error
  • We need to be ready to open our home. 
  The list seemed almost too easy until I started thinking about the number of times we have slack on one or completely failed at another. Now it seems daunting. Daunting, but totally worth it because it challenges us to be where we should have already been anyway. 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Be careful what you wish for

This post will not make a whole lot of sense if you didn't read my last one. To sum up, I talked about rocks and church and a craving I have for simplicity and honesty. This week I found myself sitting in a room with a group of people where the topic was how many of us were feeling that same pull. I want to be completely clear that this meeting was not my idea in any way. I did not suggest it, organize it, or set the tone at all. I was merely one of the people who showed up. It turns out that just as Rocky and I were getting uncomfortable where we were, several others were also feeling called into some sort of action. Those of the group that are of the organizing sort, got us all in the same room.
I am not typically one for looking for signs, but I couldn't help but laugh when I looked around this room and saw this.

That is literally a sign talking about the types of rocks. And, what is at the top?  Obsidian! It has been less than a week since I said that I wanted to take the fire I had burning and form some obsidian. What are the odds? I seriously do not get superstitious. I am not at all implying that God hung that poster in that room to speak directly to me as a way to say I was on the right path. I am pretty sure that a teacher hung it because it ties in with the class lessons and is a good teaching tool. What I am saying is that it made me smile. It reminded me of why I was there. Seeing it calmed me, and I am thankful for little things that surprise you like that. 
As a result of the meeting, I have made a commitment to pray about the road ahead. A commitment to spend the next two weeks really searching for God's direction for our family, and what we are called to do. To be specific, are we led to create a new church? Scary words. If God is not in it but we try anyway, then we are doomed to fail before we begin. If God is in it and we decline, then we will not be satisfied anywhere else. I can not say for certain what will happen, but when I step back and look at all the parts that were moved into place in just this one week, I am excited to see what God is going to do with two.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

What kind of rock?

This week our pastor preached a sermon about what an ideal New Testament described church would look like. He wasn't wrong at any point, but I don't think I got the message he meant to give. My brain took a left turn. The scripture he started with was from Matthew 16:18, which says in part, "upon this rock I will build my church". For those of you who knew me as a kid, you might remember that I was a bit of a rock nerd. I still enjoy a good gem and mineral show. Rock identification was my "sport". So, when the statement of "upon this rock" comes up, my brain defaults to "What kind of rock is it?" What kind of rock is your church built on? Is it a sedimentary rock made up of layers of a bunch of things that settled together? Weak, with lines of division?  Is it a metamorphic rock that has changed under the pressures and influence of the world? Or, is it more like the igneous rock, forged in the fire of a volcano to bring about something hard and new from ashes?
This is not even close to what the sermon was on, but because my brain took this turn, I began to think through how we "do" church. What the modern church looks like verses what the Bible calls the church to be. I thought through some of the churches of the Bible that were doing things the wrong way as well as the ones that were doing it right, which lead me to some hard thinking that I am still pondering over. I think my goal in writing this out is to see if anyone else has wrestled with this, and where you came out, or to give comfort to anyone who struggles now to know you aren't alone.
So, here goes.
What if we are doing church wrong?
What if instead of bringing people in so the pastor can tell them about Jesus, we equipped our church members to go out and witness to people themselves?
What if instead of telling people they should serve, we expected everyone to serve? If you have been in church long at all you have probably heard the 80/20 rule. There are 20% of the people doing 80% of the work. Why? Shouldn't membership come with an expectation of contribution? And that is both financial and service. Every other club requires dues and service hours. Why are we okay giving that to the Beta Club but not to God?
What if instead of handing people a standardized aptitude test with spiritual buzzwords to "find your spiritual gift" Buzzfeed style, we actually encouraged and instructed people on recognizing where God has blessed them with talent?
What if instead of worship wars (that is where you fight over music), everyone picked their top ten favorite songs that inspire them to a meaningful worship of God? Then, even when you were forced to sing a song that annoyed you, you would know that one of your church family was getting to enjoy one of their favorite songs making it harder to be upset if you truly love your family.
What if instead of trying to make a production out of church we just came in,  sat down, and studied God's word in a way that compelled us to mature?
What if we stopped treating children like they wouldn't understand what the grownups are talking about, and invited them into the service to worship and learn beside their family? After all, what's harder to understand, the book of Psalms or Shakespeare? We make kids read the bard in school, but don't require them to read the poetry of David because it might not seem relevant to them? You underestimate your child and the thirst for the knowledge that is found in real Bible study.
What if we stopped trying to be relevant and were just boldly honest? Honest about the good, honest about the bad, and unflinchingly honest about what God wants us to be.
What if instead of being hypocrites we told the truth? Instead of fake smiles and pretty words when life gets hard we told our church family that marriage is hard or money is tight or that I struggle with a specific sin every single day of my life.
What if instead of events and parties and socials we had prayer meetings and outreach and mentoring where no one brought food? That's right, I said without food!
I have attended some great churches, but if I am being honest, I have never been to that church.
I am in no way saying there is anything wrong with food or fun or even buzzword heavy programs (well, maybe that last one is a little wrong), but what I am saying is that all of that needs to take a back seat to cultivating maturity, discernment, and service among the people who commit to being part of the body of Christ.
What am I going to do with this fire that was lit in me? I hope I can help turn a little ash into obsidian.   

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

New Craft!

Normally I post about the horrors that have fallen on my family for Valentine's Day, but I thought I'd go a different direction this year. I was in Hobby Lobby yesterday picking up a specific doohickey for a specific project, but somehow found myself in the jewelry making section where I discovered a sudden need to make Nix a Valentine's Day present.
I wanted to make tags for a necklace, and I wanted the tags to have a couple of key words from Bible verses. The thought was that when Nix gets fidgety and starts to play with the necklace, the words will trigger the memory of the whole verse, which will then calm her spirit and ease the stress.
First up is "Be Still" Psalm 46:10
"Be still, and know that I am GOD"
I paired it with a compass because I know that one of my biggest struggles in seeking God's direction is just being still and waiting for God to set the path.

Next up is "By Grace" Ephesians 2:8
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of GOD"
This one is just a good standard reminder. We have been given a gift of salvation. We can't be good enough to deserve it, or bad enough to lose it once we accept it. It has a cross charm with it to be reminded of what giving that gift cost God. 

Last is "But God" 2 Chronicles 20:15
"Do not be afraid or dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God's."
I bet you were expecting something different there. The phrase "but God" is actually used closed to 50 times in the Bible. Over and over we see men making bad plans, but God stepping in to fix it. We see people intending harm, but God showing up for protection. We see the world falling, but God sending His Son. The phrase "but God" shows love, mercy, protection, grace, guidance, strength, life, and resurrection! It is paired with an anchor because life will toss us about, but God is our anchor.
  
I recently heard someone say that obtaining craft supplies and using them are two different skills. This is definitely the case here. A few years ago I bought a cheap set of metal letter presses from Harbor Freight with the idea of trying this at some point, but just never did. Seeing a set of tag blanks on clearance reminded me of them, and set me on a mission to get it done. I am very pleased with the results. If you want to do it "the right way", craft stores have a small section of proper tools and kits to make it all come out perfect and even, Since I am not perfect or even, I think I will stick to my cheap tools for now.



For those of you who are dying to know, yes a family member did have to visit the hospital today, but for a pretty basic test and nothing too scary, I did have a stomach issue hit me during the middle of the concert I took Rocky to, but I survived without having to leave early, and the flu has been in our house, but seems to be clear now. The day isn't over, so I am not prepared to let my guard down just yet.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Chasing Peace


Hear my cry, O God;
Attend to my prayer.
From the end of the earth I will cry to You,
When my heart is overwhelmed;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For You have been a shelter for me,
A strong tower from the enemy.
I will abide in Your tabernacle forever;
I will trust in the shelter of Your wings.
Psalm 61: 1-4

If you have followed along in what I have now affectionately termed "Adventures of a Wholesome College Girl", you know that Nix has had an impressively weird college life. Who gets flooded out of their dorm because a guy down the hall sets fire to his bed with a vape pen? My daughter, that's who. That hasn't even been the half of it. Really, if she were less wholesome I could turn it into a script and sell it to the CW.
This being the first week of classes for the new semester, she was determined to start it off in a much better place. Then life happened. It wasn't anything horrible or even all that dramatic, but it was enough to give her trouble sleeping and the fear that her life was doomed to be one complicated mess after another. 
Last night, I was talking with her, and it dawned on me that what has really happened is that her peace has been taken from her. Peace is one of those wonderful things that is promised to come from living a godly life. Not easy, not simple, not free from pain, but peace in the midst of the bad. We needed to stop looking at it problem by problem, and start looking for time to be at peace. That is when I said one of those things that I can't take credit for. It just came out of my mouth when I needed it to. "Honey, peace isn't going to just happen. You are going to have to chase after it, and grab it. It is there, but you won't finding it mired in the what if's and second guessing." 
To be honest, I almost had to sit down and cry because I realized that I have not been chasing peace either. Here we are letting the mac truck of trouble run us over time and again without bothering to stand up and get out of the road. 
This morning I sat down with the intention of finding a word about peace. Very quickly I was taken to this beautiful psalm. I sent it to Nix right away, and then set to work turning it into a picture to meditate on. 
One of the words that stands out to me is "abide". I wish we still used it. It is so much stronger of a word than something like stay or live. It is a word that reminds me that I can be filled with the Spirit of God at all times, and part of that means being filled with peace. It is a cool deep breath that soothes my soul. I know I am going to have to make a daily effort to chase down peace, but I look forward to the change in me that will bring.

Isn't it funny how ministering to someone else's needs can lead you to the place you didn't realize you needed so badly? God can be really interesting in His methods sometimes. 

Monday, January 01, 2018

The Legend of the Christmas Corn Dog

This was a bit of an unusual Christmas for our family, to say the least. My grandmother, Rixie the 2nd, has been in bad health requiring a few trips to the hospital since October. Thankfully, she is on the mend now, but Christmas was done in shifts this year. Between the hospital visits, my mother, Rixie the 3rd, had a reoccurring sinus infection. It is safe to say that Christmas decorating was the very last thing on the minds of my parents.
When we got into town we had two main missions. For me to restore a touch of normal to the house through cooking and doing laundry, and to get the house decorated for Christmas. I took advantage of my cousins' well timed visit, and got them to help us with the tree. When it came time to add the tree topper, there was an odd addition to the star's box. It looked like a wooden corn dog. We looked at it, scratched our heads for a minute, but went on with the job.
The star had a springy sort of bottom that did not want to balance on top of the tree. As soon as I got it somewhat secured, it would start to lean. It was getting really frustrating, and then a long buried memory came flooding to the front of my brain.


Bring me the Christmas Corn Dog!


Years ago my father had noticed a hole in the top of the tree just the right size to slide a dowel into. He turned a piece of wood to match the size and length of the spring on the star.


It slide right in, and blended in perfectly. I put the star on, where it stood perfectly level and steady all through Christmas.

Leave it to our family to come up with something both confusing and ingenious all at the same time.