Saturday, September 11, 2010

This is the Beginning

Tonight is the night before two very important events. One is deeply solemn and grave while the other is jovial and exciting. I hope that the inclusion of two such vastly different examples is not offensive as that was not my intention in any way.

I am writing this on the eve of the true opening game of Alabama Football for tomorrow we meet a real foe: Penn State. If you know me at all, you have a deep understanding of what it is to be an Alabama fan. I am a pure bred, die-hard Alabama fan. I come from a long line of Alabama tradition on both my mother’s and father’s side…that is what makes me pure bred. We bleed crimson and white. From an early age we were taught "Rammer Jammer", to tell Auburn jokes and that an elephant says “Roll Tide.”

While most are aware of the thirteen national championships, twenty-two SEC championships and more titles than any other school in the country, Alabama Crimson Tide Football has been no stranger to controversy, down turns and disappointments. Since Coach Gene Stallings left us in 1996, the team has ridden a roller coaster of wins, losses, probations and vacated games. Last year, the team finally came out of the metaphorical tunnel and saw the light with another National Championship under our (relatively) new coach Nick Saban.

It is with this controversy in mind that I now offer advice from Alabama’s greatest coach. Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant was arguably the greatest coach to have ever lived. During his twenty-five year tenure as Alabama's head coach he collected six national championships and thirteen conference championships. Upon his retirement in 1982 he held the record for most wins as head coach in collegiate football history. When fans remember the great man, his gentle southern drawl that offered such great wisdom is second only in memory to his hounds tooth hat.

Coach Bryant was often known to carry a poem in his pocket. The following seemed particularly poignant:

This is the beginning of a new day.
God has given me this day to use as I will.
I can waste it or use it for good.
What I do today is very important because I am exchanging a day of my life for it.
When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever.
Leaving something in its place I have traded for it.
I want it to be a gain, not loss - good, not evil.
Success, not failure in order that I shall not forget the price I paid for it.



Another, far more grievous event is being remembered tomorrow as it is the ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Everyone over the age of 14 remembers that day vividly. We remember it as a day of despair and agony. I was in New York last weekend with a friend and we toured Ground Zero. One of the tour guides made the remark that Ground Zero was “construction out of destruction.” He was right. What happened that day was destruction. But today we see a stronger, more unified nation and city. This country has endured numerous tests of strength and character and each time we have resurfaced stronger. What better testament to living life to the fullest than our nation’s resilience?

I include this in this post to remind each of you that destruction is often needed before construction can happen. All the things that are going right in my life now could not have happened if it had not been for the destruction of my marriage. I don’t believe that there is any one thing, or even a twelve step plan that will lead you to “divorce recovery.” I believe that we pave that road ourselves in personal ways that suit each of us best. But I do know it is a conscience decision to be happy and that each of us – divorced, single or married for 39 years – make that decision on a daily basis. Sometimes, you have to create new ways to find that happiness. But at some point, you have to view the divorce as a beginning rather than an ending. This is the opportunity that God has presented to you to recreate yourselves into something greater than anyone or even yourself have ever envisioned. Just when the nation assumes there is no room for another championship title, or the world expects the defeated nation to collapse, force yourself to reinvent that passion and drive that will create in you a winner. God truly has given you this day and He wants you to live it to the fullest. He says so in John 10:10

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

I want to share what has been happening in my personal life. This is something that I have been hesitant to do too frequently because I don’t want to come across as tooting my own horn (although if I were going to toot it would be to the tune of “Yea! Alabama!”) In January when I began this blog, I was at a pretty low place. I felt as though I had little to offer and had nothing to which I could look forward. When my friend suggested that I write the blog I was so depressed that I felt like I had nothing to put on paper of any interest. Now, with almost 1,000 views, I am seeing this whole blog thing a little differently. Actually, I am looking at the bulk of my life differently. I genuinely “want it to be a gain, not loss - good, not evil. Success, not failure in order that I shall not forget the price I paid for it.”

The price for a day is expensive and I have frivolously wasted too many on junk. It was one of the friends who encouraged me to start the blog who was also praying hard for me at the same time. She wasn’t just praying for the blog but she was praying for my personal physical and mental health. She was praying that I would stop wasting my days on junk. Some of the things in the pile of junk were my eating and exercising habits. I am extremely overweight. I have struggled with my weight my entire life. Through the power of prayer, God has given me a whole new take on those aspects of my life. I am happy to report that I have lost almost fifty pounds. This is just the tip of the ice berg; just wait for later posts when I write that I have lost one hundred or even two hundred pounds…I promise they are coming. I view the outdoors differently. I even want to go CAMPING with my daughter. I know! It IS a whole new me! I am breaking out of the confines that I boxed myself into for a better and greater me; for a better and greater future for my daughter and me and for a better and greater offering to my God. I am not going to waste one more day.

The current Alabama football coach Nick Saban said after winning the 2009 BCS National Championship, “I want everybody here to know, this is not the end. This is the beginning.” Dream big; work hard. And, don’t allow the thief to kill and destroy, use that thief to rebuild and form a new beginning for yourself.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A glass of Water

Let me begin by saying that I am working on two original posts that will be better than all the rest combined...hopefully. I want to let them marinate a little longer so that they will be to their full flavor before I post them. Because of that, it has been a while since I posted. During the down time I thought I would post something that is not original to me. One of my closest friends (and cousin's wife) sent me an e-mail forward today. I typically hate those things and immediately hit DELETE! Being that it came from this particular friend, I knew it had to be good because she dislikes forwards equally. I have added a couple of verses at the end. Enjoy!

Stress
A lecturer, when explaining stress management to an audience, raised a glass of water and asked, "How heavy is this glass of water?" Answers called out ranged from 20g to 500g. The lecturer replied, "The absolute weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long you try to hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for a day, you'll have to call an ambulance. In each case, it's the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes."

He continued, "And that's the way it is with stress management. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, the burden will become increasingly heavy:and we won't be able to carry on. As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again. When we're refreshed, we can carry on with the burden. So, before you return home tonight, put the burden of work down: don't carry it home. You can pick it up tomorrow. Whatever burdens you're carrying now, let them down for a moment if you can."

So, my friend, put down anything that may be a burden to you right now. Don't pick it up again until after you've rested a while.


Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.
Psalm 55:22

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Matthew 11:28-30

So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Matthew 6:34

An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.
Proverbs 12:25

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Restore the Gulf

As some of you already know, I am from the Gulf Coast of Alabama. The current crisis with the oil spill has deeply saddened me for my home. Today, I found a non-profit that has started a petition to give the American population a voice to express to our government that we do care about the impact oil has on our land, our lives and our neighbors. I encourage you to take part.


Sign the Petition to Restore the Gulf

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Beauty in the World

I am extremely close friends with two ladies whom I met the first week of our freshman year at Samford University. As our friendship has developed and strengthened, I have realized how extraordinarily grateful I am for the two of them. I have relied heavily on them throughout the separation, divorce and just every day life. Every so often, the three of us reconvene to have what we call “Roomy Weekends.” Because we are all young and still live on relatively meager salaries, this typically happens at one of our homes. After a particularly stressful few weeks, I must confess that I was looking forward to this particular “roomy weekend” more than ever. It was made even better by the fact that one of the roomies lives minutes from the Gulf of Mexico in Venice, Florida. So, the toddler and I loaded up the car and headed south.

When the roomies are together, we always laugh, relax and laugh some more. The laughter and camaraderie are always refreshing but this time we had the beautiful beach to add to the relaxing vibe. What could be better? The last night, after spending days frolicking in the ocean and sand, we decided to head to the jetties to watch the sunset. (And, yes, I would say that we frolicked.) That evening, as the toddler climbed and played on the rocks, a pod of dolphins came close by. We watched the dolphins play in the water. We watched the waves splash and lap at the huge rocks of the jetty. (See the pictures, below.) It seemed as though we were surrounded by God’s beauty. It was the perfect ending to a perfect weekend. I began to think, “why can’t I feel this way at home?” “Why can’t I experience this peace, this beauty where I live?”

The next day, on the long eight hour drive which seemed to be taking so much longer than the trip down had, I started thinking again about the beauty we had experienced the night before. I was actually day dreaming about how nice it would be to live in some exotic beach. I have always dreamed of living in touristy areas. I want to live in places where everyone wants to visit for the natural beauty. I want to be one of the locals. Somewhere around mile 342 of the 489 we had to cover, it dawned on me that I too have lived in some incredibly beautiful places. I was born near the Gulf Coast and Mobile Bay. I learned to ride my bicycle on the levees of the Mississippi River near Sorrento, Louisiana. I have enjoyed the Sipsey River Swamps near Fayette, Alabama. I went to college near beautiful Oak Mountain. When I was married I lived just steps from the Talladega National Forest. Here, in Georgia I am a few miles from a view so lovely; that President F.D. Roosevelt made it is his home.

All this thinking as I drove, (everyone else was asleep, what else did I have to do but drive and think?) led me to another thought -- each of the three roomies currently live in really beautiful places. One enjoys the beach while the other enjoys cliffs, mountains and Tennessee River in Knoxville.

While I still want to move to some exotic local, I realized that God has supplied us with beauty every where we turn. Think about it. This vast planet is covered with a plethora of different natural scenes – all very different but all very beautiful. Those who are fortunate enough to call the American West home boast the sandstone cliffs of the Grand Canyon. Asians enjoy the snow capped peaks of the Himalayas. Irish enjoy the rolling hills and emerald green. Even in arid Kenya, one can find it. All of these scenes demonstrate the beauty of God’s face. We don’t have to go anywhere to see Him or His beauty.

By this point, I am sure you are asking yourself, “Okay, Shannon, what does all this nature talk have to do with me?” So here it is. If God took the time to make certain that we could see his beauty at every turn in the river, every crest of the ocean and every peak of the mountain, why wouldn’t he take care to do so in our lives and our beings? It only stands to reason that He intended us to see His presence at every person turn in the river. Regardless of what that turn may be, there is definitely some bit of His beauty present. That bend may be an easy one to visualize God like the birth of a child. Other times, the river speeds up and we aren’t as able to see Him because of the treachery that awaits – like a divorce. Regardless of what kind of turn you come across on the river, His beauty is still present.

The one difference, for me at least, in the beauty discovered on vacation and the beauty that presents itself in everyday life is that while on vacation it is easy to find. I was relaxed and calm. We sat still on those rocks for some time. At home, in the midst of life, it is difficult to recognize the ever present beauty of God. It is here that I believe Psalm 46:10 is especially pertinent: “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” We must find ways to actually sit still and be calm even at home, in order to recognize the beauty that He offers.

Let’s take that one step further. What if God didn’t only want us to see His beauty in the world that He created but also in the beings He created? I think that is exactly what God intended. Genesis 1: 26-27 (taken from the God’s Word translation) says, “Then God said, ‘Let us make humans in our image, in our likeness. Let them rule the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the domestic animals all over the earth, and all the animals that crawl on the earth.’ So God created humans in his image. In the image of God he created them. He created them male and female.”

Psalm 139:14 (New International Version) says “ I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” So, we are fearfully and wonderfully made. We are His works of beauty just as those waves and mountains. Human beings are living, moving testaments to the beauty of God. Not only does that mean that we are full of God’s beauty (how is that for a confidence booster?) but it also means that the ex-spouse is made is the image and beauty of God. Just like the previous river analogy, it may be difficult to see the beauty in that person because of the treachery that awaits around the river bend, but it is still there. You just have to be still and look for it.


One last thing: I built a new playlist of “beachy” songs the night before we left. While I was downloading a few new songs, I stumbled across Macy Gray’s new album titled “Sellout.” One of the tracts is titled “Beauty in the World.” Ironically, it is very befitting this post and it was kind of the theme song for the weekend. Enjoy.




Credits:
Photo 1 was taken by a photographer. The roomy’s work can be seen at: www.artistic-avenues.com/blog/

Photos 2 and 3 were taken (rather poorly) by me.

Photo 4 is of Mobile Bay, Mobile Alabama and can be found at www.citydata.com

Photo 5 is of Peavine Falls at Oak Mountain State Park near Pelham, Alabama. The picture can be found at www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/face/Multimedia.jsp?id=m-2898

Photo 6 is of Knoxville, Tennessee and can be found at http://farm1.static.flickr.com/52/181880150_59cd990393.jpg

Photo 7 is of the Grand Canyon and can be found at www.nps.gov

Photo 8 is of the Himalayan Mountains as seen from Nepal. It came from: http://www.esp8.netfirms.com/images/01.Himalayas.jpg

Photo 9 is of Ireland near County Kerry. The image came from http://www.southwestwalksireland.com/hiking-vacation-traditional-ireland.html

Photo 10 is of Mount Kenya in the distance from http://tourwaysinternational.com/twiindex/specials_kenya.htm

Photo 11 is the view from atop Pine Mountain in the Roosevelt State Park near Pine Mountain, Georgia.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A little miracle in the middle of the Mundane

Over the past week, it seems as though everything has gone wrong, maybe not completely wrong but at least a little wrong. A lot of the frustration has been with the toddler who has been acting like…well, she has been acting like a toddler. Last night, my parents came and took the toddler to spend the night with them. Insert sigh of relief; I was going to enjoy a few minutes of toddler-less life. Actually, instead of relaxing, I was hoping to get some class work done. I sat down at my computer but had the most difficult time concentrating because my child had left my house in such a wreck. I got up and started a little cleaning.

I straightened the house, scoured the bathrooms and the kitchen, swept and vacuumed. I was in the last room with the vacuum when I heard this loud crack and something went flying across the dining room. I had sucked up a gorilla paper clamp. Needless to say, the vacuum stopped dead in its tracks. I was so frustrated. I tinkered. I turned it back on. Nothing. I tinkered some more. I turned it back on. Nothing. On the third try, sitting in the middle of the dining room floor with my head in my hands, I prayed. I know it sounds silly to pray about a vacuum but I was that fed up. Low and behold! The third try, that bad boy started right up. It was sucking up stuff way better than it had before. I was able to finish the house cleaning and because my mind was free and clear I was able to get a good bit of homework finished. I even had a little time to watch television before going to bed. It turned out to be a relaxing evening after all.

I woke early this morning to cut the grass. I was hoping to be finished before it got too hot, which in central Georgia means before the sun comes up. I walked out the back door a little before 7:00am. I saw a yard strewn with toys, shoes, gloves, limbs. Ugh, this was going to take forever. By the time I finished picking up everything it was 7:30. I put in my iPod earbuds and was ready to kick it around the yard with my little red mower. I cranked it and made one ten foot pass and it died. It was out of gas. To be perfectly honest, I used profanity this time. I have to explain that my little mower is new to me and I had not yet purchased a can because I was using my dad’s. I didn’t want to wake him that early so I went to the gas station to buy a can and some gas. Do you know how much the gas station sells their cans for? It is highway robbery! So, I went to Dollar General and waited for them to open. Then I went back to the gas station. When I finally got back home and got the mower gassed up it was well after 8:00 and getting hot. I pulled the choke and got nothing. You have got to be kidding me! I try again… more profanity. Then, I turn to Him and simply say, “I have faith that you can and will make this mower run.” I even promised God that if He would start that mower, that I would post to the blog about it. Sure enough, He was faithful to start the mower, so I am faithfully posting about it.

You probably think this is silly to be telling you or God about my mundane madness. But it appears that God wants us to talk to Him about all this mundane-ness. He wants to be a continual part of our lives -- every hour, every minute, every second. 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 says “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” The whole verse 17 is devoted to “pray[ing] continually.” Another verse, Philippians 4: 6-7 says "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" I emphasize the part that says “in EVERYTHING, by prayer…present your requests to God.”

I am not saying that God will always fix the vacuum or lawn mower, but I am saying that He wants to hear about it. And, sometimes in the middle of that mundane madness a listening ear is all you need to turn the madness into a little miracle.



On a side note: I have been hearing from a lot of people who are going through or have recently gone through a divorce. To God be the Glory! It turns out that this blog is reaching people – even people I have never met! (And I thought my mother was my only reader. :) ) I want this blog to offer support to those who are hurting from divorce. Until I can figure out how to do it more efficiently, I want to encourage those of you who are willing to share your stories to do so in the comments section. Let me, and others hear about your experience, talk with you and pray with you about it.

One last thing: Several of my friends and I have started another blog that follows our efforts at weight loss and creating a healthier lifestyle. I would love for you to pay it a visit at manchestermoms.blogspot.com

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Sunday Evening crowd at our church is a small and unique group. Because of this, Sunday evening takes on an atmosphere of a Bible study rather than a formal worship service. Our pastor has recently begun a series titled What’s so Amazing About Grace? This past week’s mail-out contained a segment that I wanted to pass along to you. It was written by Lewis Smedes:

“When we forgive someone, we do not forget the hurtful act, as if forgetting came along with the forgiveness package, the way strings come with a violin… Forgiving, in fact, may be a dangerous way to escape the inner surgery of the heart that we call forgiving…

Once we have forgiven, however, we get a new freedom to forget. This time (after forgiveness happens) forgetting is a sign of health; it is not a trick to avoid spiritual surgery. We can forget because we have been healed. Be even if it is easier to forget after we forgive, we should not make forgetting a test of our forgiving. The test of forgiving lies with healing the lingering pain of the past, not with forgetting that the past ever happened.

…Can you stop your memory on a dime, put it in reverse, and spin it in another direction the way you can reverse direction on a tape recorder? We cannot forget on command. So we just have to let the forgetting happen as it will; we shouldn’t rush it, and we certainly should not doubt the genuineness of our forgiving if we happen to remember. The really important thins is that we have the power to forgive what we still do remember.”

Over the past few weeks, during this study, I have had some thoughts about this forgiveness. I wonder why some people seem to be able to forgive the most atrocious acts with seemingly no difficulty at all while other people face years of anger and turmoil because of wrongs done them in the distant past. Several posts ago, March 18th to be exact, I mentioned that I don’t know how to reach the point of offering our enemies forgiveness.

Now, however, I think I am figuring it out. In Matthew chapter 18 one may find the "Parable of the Unmerciful Servant." Most every church go-er will immediately recognize this passage as being the “seventy times seven passage.” It is through this parable Jesus suggests that we forgive our brother seventy times seven times for a grand total of 490 times. (Yes, I used a calculator and no, I am not ashamed.) The same church go-er has heard many a sermon on how that seventy times seven does not actually mean 490 times but as many times as it takes even into the thousands. Having heard about 490 of such sermons myself, I have always thought that meant to continue to forgive that many different offenses. Essentially, our brother (or sister) could commit 490 heinous acts against us, but we are charged to forgive each and every last one. But, what if, we look at this passage a little differently? What if we tried to forgive just one offense that many times? What if God recognized that we are human and we will struggle to forgive and will darn near fail at forgetting major offenses? What if God meant to tell us through this parable that every time we remember that offense, or every time we become angry again, or every time we fail at forgiving and forgetting we should sit down, say a prayer and forgive the offense all over again. Perhaps, the intention was to provide a plan of offering that forgiveness even if it takes us 490 tries.

The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matthew 21 – 35)

21Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?"

22Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.[f]

23"Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.

24As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents[g] was brought to him.

25Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

26"The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.'

27The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

28"But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii.[h] He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded.

29"His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.'

30"But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.

32"Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.

33Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' 34In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

35"This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."



The painting is Lute Player by the Italian Baroque painter Orazio Gentileschi. He was a follower of Caravaggio and a teacher. His best pupil (and my personal favorite painter) was his daughter Artemisia. She is historically considered the first female painter.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Let it be revisited...

Every time I write a post, I sit down at the computer and pray for two things. First, that God will give me the words to type so that this will be of Him and not me. And second, that if this is truly what He wants me to be doing he will provide confirmation. The confirmation has been overwhelming. Not only has this been an excellent outlet to release emotional frustrations for me, but I have received so many encouraging words from readers, that it seems that this is actually worth while. At the very least, I am thrilled to have readers that are not listed as my next of kin on medical forms.

This morning, I received a comment from a friend on last night’s post. She suggested that I take a listen to Kris Allen’s version of “Let It Be.” Not being an American Idol fan, I had never heard of Kris Allen (my apologies). It is well done and worth a listen. But, while watching, what struck me were the images of Haiti in the background. I think that this just brings the idea of turmoil in our lives back to the forefront. However, this time the turmoil is not internal but external.

So often we focus on the negatives within our own lives. I am the first to admit guilt. After all, I am the one who has spent the last six months writing blog posts about getting over those negatives. But when we turn to look at the turmoil in other’s lives, that which is internal seems rather microscopic.I mean, I was not personally affected by an earthquake on January 13th, or even on February 28 in Chili. I am not busy trying to figure out how to get out of the tent and into sturdier living arrangements before the flood season and hurricanes arrive. I did not have to jump ten stories off a burning oil rig in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. Nor, has my lively hood been affected by the oil spill.My home was not destroyed by the Yazoo, Mississippi tornado or the Nashville, Tennessee floods. Some of these tragedies seem so distant because they occurred on foreign soil. But, some of these happened very close to home, perhaps even affecting loved ones. The point is, that regardless of our situation, I am willing to bet that you can always find someone more desperate than yourself. When you view that turmoil from an external point of view, it diminishes the internal anguish.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow stated, “If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.”Now, obviously, I am not saying the victims of the disasters I have listed are enemies. But, you can list a few people who you might think of as enemies. Have you ever considered the hardship they have faced within their lives? Is it possible that some of that hardship could have influenced the situation that began your anger toward them? Have you ever examined the life of that ex-spouse and realized that rather than you being the one in need of empathy, compassion or perhaps even pity, it is actually them?

For me, this focus on the external is causing a great need to go help someone else. For several weeks, I have been feeling this need. It started with going to volunteer with the clean up in Gulf Shores. I am currently Google-ing mission trips to Haiti. We will see where this leads. Perhaps, this is something that you may consider. While we can’t be personally responsible for the turmoil – we do need to “let it be”. We can offer support in various forms to those who suffer far more than we do.

Citations:
The comment and Kris Allen suggestion were made by Lucia Craven via Facebook.

The picture of the Haitian Tent City may be found at Grassrooty.com. Grassrooty is a non-profit organization with the intention of collecting tents for use by earthquake victims.

The picture of the baby is three-day-old premature baby Jessica Thelusma. She rests in a bed made from a cardboard box in the emergency room at the General Hospital in Port-au-Prince. You may find the picture and corresponding article at http://www.time.com/time/picturesoftheweek/0,29409,1989214_2137688,00.html#ixzz0oOPs3BPP

The shrimp boat is taking part in a cleaning operation for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill off the coast of Louisiana. This picture and article can be viewed at http://www.time.com/time/picturesoftheweek/0,29409,1987647,00.html#ixzz0oOQ8sHla

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Let it Be

I am writing this the night before yet another anniversary. Tomorrow will be two years to the day that my ex-husband and I separated. Six months ago, about the time I began this blog, I would have thought that tomorrow would leave me depressed and longing for some kind of hope. To my utter surprise, I am writing this post with a much different attitude. I now have a spirit of peace about me. As I look to the future, I know it is bright for both me and the toddler. Two years later, with a very peculiar change of thought, I can honestly say that I feel blessed to be divorced.

You see, I have had the opportunity to experience true love and then to have lost it. Because of this, I now have a far better understanding of what it takes to make love last. I look forward to the day that I am again blessed with love as I know that I will offer that love a better home. I have the opportunity to go back and make good on the hope, ambitions and dreams that I “gave up” when I married right out of college. My master’s program is going well (I have a 3.5 GPA). Graduation is still sometime away in December of 2011, but there is a light at the end of that tunnel. There are numerous other “blessings” that have come about because of this divorce. My parents are watching the toddler grow on a daily basis rather than being long distance grandparents. I have made new friends and reunited with old ones which has allowed me to feel God’s presence through caring relationships. I have matured mentally, emotionally and spiritually. The list goes on and on.

Most important, though, I have learned that I can do all things through Him who gives me strength. For so long, I had felt as though I could only do things if there was someone else to support me. At first, it was a parent, then friends and finally a husband that I clung to for approval. I now know that the only approval I need is His. With that knowledge, I feel almost invincible. And, truth be told, as long as what I am doing is for Him, I am invincible. No… really… I am. That is what Philippians 4:13 means.

To HIM be the Glory!!

With all that said, when thinking about this post, I kept thinking of a Beatles song. I know, what you are thinking…this is a devotion that is supposed to be related to God and I am using a song by the Beatles. I am well aware the life choices that were / are made by the members of the group and that a lot of those decisions are not in keeping with what one might term a “Christian Lifestyle.” I even know that in an interview John Lennon actually stated that Christianity is dying and that “the Beatles are more popular than Jesus.” I am also aware that they were arguably the best musical group to ever exist and it just so happens that they wrote a song that fits perfectly with today’s post. So here goes…

The year was 1968. Johnson was serving his last year as president. The Tet Offensive began in January. On April 4th, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis. Then on June 5th in Los Angeles, Robert Kennedy was assassinated. The Civil Rights Movement and Anti-War demonstrations had reached a fevered pitch. Students were rioting in France. Greece had just experienced a military coup. Israel and all the surrounding countries were trying to blow one another off the planet. Nixon was narrowly elected president in November. It was a rough year. On a slightly lesser historical note, the Beatles were on the verge of breaking up. The group was weathering public divorces, drug charges and arrests, failed movies, and record deals gone bad. Paul McCartney composed “Let It Be” late in 1968 after having a dream of his late mother, Mary. In the dream his mother, who had died when he was just 14, had advised him to let the turmoil go.


The lyrics to "Let it Be:"
When I find myself in times of trouble, mother Mary comes to me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be.
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree,
there will be an answer, let it be.
For though they may be parted there is still a chance that they will see,
there will be an answer. let it be.

Let it be, let it be, .....

And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light, that shines on me,
shine until tomorrow, let it be.
I wake up to the sound of music, mother Mary comes to me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

Let it be, let it be, .....


McCartney was unable to be responsible for all the turmoil of that year both in the world, his band or his life. Ultimately, at some point, we have to “let it be,” too. At some point, we have to relinquish the turmoil that is in our lives. God knew that Paul McCartney, The Beatles, President Johnson, you and I would be unable to bear the burden of turbulence in our lives. That is why He gave us the following:

"Be still, and know that I am God…” Psalm 46:10

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

“Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.” Psalm 116:7

Psalm 46:10 as translated by me, says, “relax and know that God can take care of all the stuff I can’t.” 1 Peter 5:7 as translated by me states “Don’t worry, be happy ‘cuz God loves you a lot.” (That one should be read with a Jamaican accent.) And Psalm 116:7 says, “no matter what you have experienced, or will experience you can rest and find peace in the goodness that is God.” This all may seem a little simplistic, but for me, the only thing left to do is let it – whatever it is – just let it be.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Power

My father is a member of a men's chorus called the Sons of Jubal. It is an excellent group comprised of Ministers of Music from across the state. On a regular basis, the group receives an e-mail from the director, Jon Duncan, that contains devotions from members of the choir. Daddy passed the devotion on to me and it was particularly poignant so I thought I would pass it on to you. Enjoy.


Devotional by Jon Duncan

In a seminary missions class, Herbert Jackson told how, as a new missionary, he was assigned a car that would not start without a push. After pondering his problem, he devised a plan. He went to the school near his home, got permission to take some children out of class, and had them push his car off. As he made his rounds, he would either park on a hill or leave the engine running. He used this ingenious procedure for two years. Ill health forced the Jackson family to leave, and a new missionary came to that station. When Jackson proudly began to explain his arrangement for getting the car started, the new man began looking under the hood. Before the explanation was complete, the new missionary interrupted, "Why, Dr. Jackson, I believe the only trouble is this loose cable." He gave the cable a twist, stepped into the car, pushed the switch, and to Jackson 's astonishment, the engine roared to life.

For two years needless trouble had become routine. The power was there all the time. Only a loose connection kept Jackson from putting that power to work. In John 15: 4-5 we discover the need to be grafted into the vine. Dependence in the "True Vine" offers strength, power, and life. I can certainly identify with the story above. It is easy to become self-reliant. Ministry is demanding. The task list continues to grow, and we find that loads are more than we can handle. We often look for the "newest and latest" that can help us push a powerless car down the road. It is true that we need such help from time to time. There are times, however, that we are neglectful of simple maintenance. As one who has experienced pushing cars too often, let me encourage a little maintenance check. We may discover a "loose" wire or two. How's your connection to the Vine? Check out the connection. In these times we really need a source of power beyond our own strength. Such power comes from the Vine.



Comments from Shannon:

As a product of the 90's, my first thought upon reading this devotion was the early 90's dance hit by the German-America Techno group call Snap. The song was called "The Power". (Some of you are laughing, but you know you loved it, too.) After hearing and occasionally dancing to this song for two decades, I was surprised to find that it has actual verses, albeit senseless verses. The whole point of the song though, is that this rapper called Turbo B has The Power. The power to do what, I don't know. When comparing this song and the devotion, I am relieved that we don't have to have all the power. It seems that when we, humans in general, try to have the power, we end up pushing a car for two years or like the song -- not making much sense.



Here are a few verses that correspond nicely with Dr. Duncan's devotion. They follow:

"Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:4-5

"Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all." 1 Chronicles 29:12

"Then He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12: 9


Citations:
The devotion is reprinted from Jon Duncan, Sons of Jubal e-mail.

The picture is from "Journey Across Africa" which is a blog written by a Peach Corps Volunteer named Mike. You may find his blog at http://journeyacrossafrica.blogspot.com/2003_12_01_archive.html

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Little Appetizer

A friend gave me several poems and quotes that have been special to me over the past couple of years. I thought this one would be appropriate for passing along. If nothing else, consider this an appetizer while waiting for the impending entrĂ©e of the next post. I am still quite busy with school but am working on my next post. Stay Tuned…

Cratered landscape at the Ouvrage de Thiaumont, in the heart of the fighting at Verdun from February 1916 to December 1916.


Forgiveness by George Roemisch

Forgiveness is the wind-blown bud
which blooms in placid beauty at Verdun.

Forgiveness is the tiny slate-gray sparrow
which has built its nest of twigs and string
among the shards of glass upon
the wall of shame.

Forgiveness is the child who
laughs in merry ecstasy
beneath the toothed fence that
closes in Da Nang.

Forgiveness is the fragrance of the violet
which still clings fast to the
heel that crushed it.

Forgiveness is the broken dream
which hides itself within the corner of the mind
oft called forgetfulness so that
it will not bring pain to the dreamer.

Forgiveness is the reed
which stands up straight and green
when nature’s mighty rampage halts, full spent.

Forgiveness is a God who will not leave us
after all we’ve done.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Bad fruit and Why I am Slow

I want to start this post by apologizing. When I began this blog, I had hoped to post at least once a week. As you have read, my posts are quite long and they require of me a good amount of time researching and writing. As most of my readers know me personally, you realize that I am a both a graduate student and stay-at-home mom; uninterrupted time at the computer is precious and recently that time has been devoted to my studies. While posting to the blog has been less frequent it has certainly not been forgotten.

I have a long list of posts that I intend to write as time allows, but one thing that constantly plagues me as I write these posts is the story of Cain and Abel. Years ago, when I was still a member of my father’s children’s choir, he told his choir the story from Genesis chapter four. He told of how the two brothers presented God with their offerings and explained that Cain brought God an offering of fruits and vegetables that were wilted and not fit to be eaten but Abel brought God an offering of the prized sheep from his flocks. God was pleased with Abel and displeased with Cain. My father then explained that everything we do is presented to God as an offering so everything we do should be done to the very best of our ability. Daddy was probably telling the group of fourth graders that we needed to sing better or behave better but that has stuck with me ever sense. I say all of that to explain why I want each of my posts to be the very best they can be. I am offering this blog to God for His service, so I am going to postpone posting for another couple weeks, so that it will hopefully be my very best offering and be pleasing to Him.

In the mean time, I am going to leave you with a little tid-bit from some of my quiet time that may be meaningful. I invite any readers (hopefully, I have readers other than my mother) to comment if you have inspirational words, scriptures or even web links -- whatever you feel like sharing is welcome. I monitor the comments, so it may take a couple of days for it to post, but I promise to get to it.


The following is from Come Away My Beloved. It is a sort of follow up to the previous post on hatred. It tells of the dangers of allowing unhealthy emotions destroy not only our relationship with God but also our physical well-being. As you read, imagine that God is speaking the words directly to you. Because these words are all scriptural God has in essence already spoken them to you. Not only will it provide a sense of peace, but it allows better understand on how God does speak.

Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously… Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 2Corinthians 9:6 and 10

How can I give you healing for your body while there is anxiety in your mind? So long as there is disease in your thoughts, there will be disease in your body. You need many things, but one thing in particular you must develop for your own preservation, and that is an absolute confidence in My loving care.

It is written, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Only when your mind is at rest can your body build health. Worry is an actively destructive force. Anxiety produces tension, and tension is the road to pain. Fear is devastating to the physical well-being of the body. Anger throw poison into the system that no antibiotic can ever counteract.

“Be sure your sin will find you out,” the Bible states (Numbers 32:23). One of the most common ways that hidden sin is revealed is through the maladies of the body. Resentments and ill will bring about more arthritis than is caused by wrong diet. More asthma is caused by repressed fury than by pollen or cat fur.

There was no illness in the body of Jesus because there was no sin in His soul. There was weariness as a natural result of labor and sacrificial service, but there was no undue fatigue and exhaustion brought on by anxiety.

Ten minutes of unbridled temper can waste enough strength to do a half day of wholesome work. Your physical energy is a gift from God, entrusted to you to be employed for His glory. It is a sin to take His gift and dissipate it through the trap doors of the disposition’s evil emotions.

Do not condemn others for jeopardizing their health by harmful habits and wasting their energies on vain pursuits while you undermine your health by unworthy emotions. You waste time by entertaining such things as self-pity and remorse and evil surmising when you might be keeping your mind in an attitude of praise and faith. Your mind could be constructively employed, but instead you allow this to be a period of destructive action.

You cannot risk giving your thoughts free reign. They will never choose the right path until you bridle them and control them by your own disciplined will. You are master of your own house. You do not have to invite into your mind the foul birds of evil thoughts and allow them to nest there and bring forth their young.

Whatsoever you sow in your secret thought life, that you will reap. Sow love and kindness, and you shall be rewarded openly. Sow charity and forgiveness, and you shall reap in kind. Sow generosity and gratitude, and you shall never feel poor. Sow hope, and you shall reap fulfillment. Sow praise, and you shall reap joy and well-being and a strong faith. Sow bountifully, and you shall reap bountifully. Sow! You shall see your seed and be satisfied.

Passage from Come Away My Beloved by Frances J. Roberts, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc.

The painting is "Vanitas still life" by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. He painted this in 1587. Caravaggio was a remarkable Italian Baroque painter who knew all too well the ills caused by emotions.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Jonah's Hatred: A Whale of a Tale

As promised a few weeks ago, this is the second post in the series on hatred. See February 25 post if another look or first look is needed. This post focuses more directly on the hatred directed toward others. I have been thinking about, praying over and researching this post for several weeks now. With many different directions to take on the idea of hatred, it has been difficult to narrow the focus down to one single path. Possibly, this is because I have a great deal of trouble dealing with my own hatred toward others, and not just toward the ex. Everyone knows we should not hate. Children are taught from a very early age to not “hate.” They are taught to strongly dislike, but not to go as far as actual hatred. As adults, we realize that there is really little difference in the terms “strongly dislike” and “hate” although we don’t always realize the detrimental effects that hatred can have on our own personal lives.

Typically, a devotion on hatred would provide external reasons as to the importance in not hating. It would explain that we should love both our brother and our enemy just the same for reasons that are supported with Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. It would not, however, tell us why this principle is so important to us or our well-being. Just like my toddler who asks “why” to every statement directed at her, I want to know why it is so important that I not hate my enemy – or even my ex-husband.

The thought of toddlers brings up an excellent illustration. My three year old is obsessed with Veggie Tales. She has the theme song memorized and is very willing to recite the storyline of any number of Veggie Tale lessons. The Easter Bunny is even getting on board with Veggie Tales this year as her entire basket will be nothing but Veggie Friends and DVDs. (Shhh, that is a secret.) As a mother, I like the animated stories almost as much as the three year old does. They are short, teach a valuable moral or Biblical lesson and most of all they are interesting to both children and adults. What’s not to love?

The toddler’s current veggie favorite is Jonah and the Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything. In this tale, we see the story of Jonah, played by Archibald Asparagus, in a different light than you may remember as a child. Jonah is still the star of the show; he still receives a message from God to preach to the Ninevites. Jonah runs from God, gets on a ship where he is thrown overboard by the Pirates in order to stop a terrible storm and yes, the whale still swallows Jonah and spits him back on the shore three days later. Jonah, smelling awfully fishy, goes to Nineveh to deliver the message just as God asked him. With a terrible attitude Jonah tells the king, played by a large butternut squash, that if the king and his people do not start behaving in a more pleasing manner God will destroy the city and all those who live there. The king decrees that the immoral and criminal behavior will cease in hopes that God will spare them. But, Jonah, who is looking forward to witnessing God’s wrath on his enemies, goes outside the city to await the impending “fireworks.”

Coincidentally, the past few weeks’ lessons in Sunday school have discussed the same story of Jonah, minus the vegetables. After learning a little more about the circumstances between the Israelites and the Ninevites during the time of Jonah, it became easier to understand why Jonah did not wish to share his God with the people of Nineveh. Some research offered a even more insight. From the time of Hellenistic Greeks, the city had been a pagan center of worship. By Jonah’s time, around 793 B.C., the city was being built into a great and powerful capitol of Assyria. With their location on the Tigris River, the Assyrians had cut off trade routes in an effort to control the economic and political affairs of Israel. It sounds similar to an Old Testament version of the Cold War. Jeroboam II became king of Israel in 786 B.C. and was able to recover some of the land lost to the Assyrians. During the reign of Jeroboam, Israel prospered due to the peaceful relationships with the Assyrians but the Assyrians were still very much feared and hated. The Israelite’s attitude toward the Assyrians might have been similar to the attitude of my grandfathers toward Germany even long after the tensions caused by World War II had died down. Further, it didn’t help that a few generations before Jonah came onto the scene, the prophet Amos had foretold of the Israelites being taken captive by the Assyrians. And sure enough, around 722 B.C the Assyrians conquered the ten tribes of Northern Israel and scattered them all over the Middle East. According to archeological findings, the walls of the palace were carved with battle scenes, images of impaled Israelites and depictions of parading soldiers presenting the spoils of war to the king; it was gruesome overtaking of the Israelites. A century later in 625, the two remaining tribes of Judah fell to a power struggle between the Assyrians, Egyptians and Mesopotamians. Only the lower classes were allowed to remain at this time; the professionals or skilled tradesmen were forced to relocate. This was the end of any type of Israel until 1948 A.D. which is modern Israel as we know it today.

With that history lesson under our belts, it is easy to understand Jonah’s hatred toward the Ninevites. In Jonah’s mind there was nothing about the people of Nineveh that should allow them the favor of God’s second chance. So, as the story continues, Jonah goes out to the edge of the city and waits. He waits and waits and waits – in the blazing hot sun. God felt sorry for pitiful Jonah in the hot sun, so He made a vine grow to shade the cocky preacher. Jonah was very pleased with his vine, but the next day a worm eats the vine and God caused the sun to be even harsher. Jonah becomes faint, becomes terribly enraged that the vine is gone, and wishes that he could die. This is how the conversation went according to the book of Jonah:

God: "Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?"

Jonah: "I do. I am angry enough to die."

God: "You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left... Should I not be concerned about that great city?"

And that is where it ends. Seriously, the whole book of Jonah, the entire story is finished with those words. We don’t know anymore. We are left with an image of a once great man sitting in the desert to rot. Jonah allowed his hatred of the Ninevites to rot his soul, his very being. This hatred had turned him into a bitter old man, from whom we never hear again.

As with almost everything God requires of His followers, He does so with good reason. God tells us to forgive, essentially let go of our hatred, in order that we don’t allow that very hatred to consume us. By not offering forgiveness to our enemies or our ex-spouse or whomever, we allow that hate, and by extension the enemy to mentally, emotionally and spiritually kill us. In the case of Jonah, it seems that his hatred did not stop at killing his soul but physically killed him in that scorching hot desert.

I don’t pretend to know exactly how we are to reach a point where we can offer our enemies forgiveness. I think that is something that has to be done very carefully after spending many hours on your knees in therapy with our Savior. And, I believe that God offers us some suggestions to offering forgiveness, some of which I will discuss next week. In the mean time I leave you with a prayer from Christian Word Ministries. Let this lead you to God’s lap and in turn allow God to lead you to that place of forgiveness – not just for the sake of your enemy, not just because God has told you to, but for your own personal healing.

Prayer to Help Against Anger

Lord Jesus I truly regret my sin of anger, I come to You in humility and lowliness of mind. I acknowledge my sin of anger and I repent, I turn from that way to walk in Your chosen paths of Righteousness. I ask You to forgive me and cleanse me of all unrighteousness, pride, self-centeredness, hate, rage, bitterness, resentment, strife, contention, taking offense, giving offense, misplaced hostility, indifference and all forms of anger in my life.

Lord Jesus, Your Word says that Your anointing destroys all yokes of bondage (Isaiah 10:27) so I ask You now to cause Your anointing to break and destroy any yokes and strongholds of pride, self-centeredness, hate, rage, bitterness, resentment, strife, contention, taking offense, giving offense, misplaced hostility, indifference, and all forms of anger in my life along with all of their works, roots, fruits, tentacles and links that are in my life, the lives of anyone that I have prayed for today according to John 14:14, in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen!

I ask You Lord to force out all spirits of pride, self-centeredness, hate, rage, bitterness, resentment, strife, contention, taking offense, giving offense, misplaced hostility, indifference, control, and anger from me and any replacements of evil spirits trying to come back from the Abyss, bound till they are judged and thrown into the Lake of Fire. Lord Jesus fill me in all these areas that were set free with Your Love and Your Holy Spirit. Amen.








The story of Jonah and the Pirates who Don’t Do Anything comes from the Big Idea, Inc feature film titled Jonah: A Veggie Tales Movie.

Dates and historical information directly associated with Jonah, Jeroboam II and the Israelites are taken from The Greenleaf Guide to Old Testament History: History for the Thoughtful Child by Rob and Cyndy Shearer, published by Greenleaf Press. All other dates and historical information are taken from from A History of the Ancient World by Chester G. Starr, published by Oxford University Press.

“Prayer to Help Against Anger” is used by permission, Christian Word Ministries, Lexington, Kentucky.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Red Bud Blooms: God's Faithfulness

I am a news junky, but I am a snobby news junky. I love national news. I really enjoy “breaking news,” especially when the breaking news isn’t quite as newsworthy as the news guys thought it would be; think of the tsunami watch that we all ogled last Saturday. However, I loathe local news. Regardless of what city the new is local, it is awful. Because of this hatred for local news, I never know what the weather is doing until I walk out the front door.

Because of this lack of knowledge of the daily forecast, I was prepared for a chilly start to what I thought would be an otherwise beautiful Sunday. After an extraordinarily frustrating weekend, I was rather looking forward to sunshine glimmering through the windows of the church yesterday morning when I walked out the front door to a cloudy, overcast sky. It looked like the making of yet another one of those days that have been the norm this winter. My spirit sank. I was looking forward to sunshine and warmer temperatures that were nowhere to be seen. I began the drive to church literally dreading the cold and wet that were sure to follow. Even the bare trees on the mountain side seemed gloomier with their limbs drooping in the morning dew. They too had been looking forward to a taste of spring.

Then, out of the gray dreariness they appeared on the corner across the street from the church – three bright pink red bud trees. They were glorious! There are few things prettier than the early blooms of a red bud, but these were even better set against such a pale backdrop. Immediately, my soul was lifted and I felt rejuvenated. I sat at the traffic signal and said a prayer of thanks to a God that has expressed His personal beauty in the nature around us. I immediately began to think about this post. So much so that I drove back to the church that evening with my camera just to take a picture of the three trees.

To me the trees served as an example of God faithfulness to provide. In this case, after a particularly arduous winter, we crave those pleasant breezes through our hair and the warm sunshine on our cheeks. Likewise, after the long, dry, southern summer we find ourselves anticipating the cooler air and long shadows of fall. In addition to the agricultural necessity of the changing of the seasons, it is God’s way of reminding us that just at the moment we become weary, He will provide the refreshing breeze our soul so desperately needs.

Of course, the first verse that comes to mind is Ecclesiastes 3:1-8: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.” Side note: This, in turn, made me think of The Byrds song, "Turn, Turn, Turn". (And yes, the pun was intended.) The song is surprisingly verbatim for the verses.

However, after the encounter with the red buds, the order of worship for our Morning Worship service materialized as if it had been planned in tandem with the thoughts of God’s faithfulness to renew our weariness. Different verses and thoughts came into consideration in light of the changing of the seasons. The call to worship was titled, “My Soul Thirsts For You, O God.” The scripture reading for the day was Psalm 63:1-8 which begins, “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.” We went on to sing one of my favorite hymns, “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” which only continued to speak to the evidence given by the changing seasons for God’s provisions with stanzas like:

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Now to the correlation between all the trees and songs and devotions on divorce: I have a friend who is currently in the process of divorcing her adulterous husband. She filed for divorce sometime early last summer and they have not yet reached mediation. She is living in very difficult circumstances while awaiting decisions to be made and they have a long way to go before anything will be finalized. Another friend fought a similarly difficult battle with her spouse for over two years before the judge at last signed the papers. By comparison my personal divorce was short and simple. I filed the first week of August and everything was said and done by October 29th. But even as quick as mine was settled, we continue to work through the difficulties of shared custody. There are great feelings of walking through a “dry and weary land where there is no water.” The bleakness of the winter is endured while longing for the refreshment of spring.

That is the promise God has made and the promise that He reminds us of with the changing of every season. It is the promise that it is just a season through which we are passing. One of the few things I remember my late grandmother saying was “the Bible never says “and it came to stay,’ it always says, ‘and it came to pass.’” She was making gravy over a hot stove during August in Mobile when she said those words. We were miserable HOT and were desperate for the cool breezes October promised. In a similar fashion, divorce is a season of our life that God has promised will pass. Even, in the midst of the dreariness, God continues to prove faithful. Verse 8 of Psalm 63 says, “my soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.” God has promised that there is hope coming and until that red bud tree blooms or the first fall breeze blows through the changing leaves, His right hand is outstretched allowing us to rest.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Fifteen Minutes of Fame

Preface: I am returning to divorce related topics. I hope that this post is the first in a two or three part series. (I sound like your preacher, don’t I?) I want to first state that this post has been by far the most difficult for me to write. I think that is so because this is something that I have not yet overcome. Perhaps, we can work through this together.

Rejection: the Hatred of the World We are approaching the anniversary of my engagement. On March 3, 2003 (the night before my birthday, because he was too excited to wait) my now ex-husband asked me to go for a walk around my college campus. I had given two tours of the campus that day and was tired of walking around it. So, true to form, I responded, “If I am going to walk around this campus again, there had better be a ring in your pocket.” We walked to a statue that is the landmark of campus and he proposed to me. I was completely surprised. I was unbelievably excited. I was rather overwhelmed.

Throughout my life I had had the privilege of watching great marriages progress- namely that of my parents. I saw how important their relationship was to one another, how much they cared for each other. I experienced their efforts at making their relationship successful, even when it was difficult. Occasionally I heard my Mother say what a “good man” my father is, and sometimes heard Daddy refer to my mother as “his treasure”. The night of March 3, 2003, I was overwhelmed that I had found someone who saw in me the potential to have a relationship like that of my parent’s. I was someone’s treasure.

I think that is one of the primary reasons we search for a mate. We long for someone to love and cherish us not because they have to or are supposed to like our parents, but because they choose to. We want to captivate another person in such a way that they pick us out of the 6.7 billion people on the planet as their beloved. The moment that happens, all the years of insecurity disappear. The questions of a lifetime are suddenly answered – I am enough, I am desirable, I am loved…

Conversely, the moment that same person tells you they want a divorce, that lifetime of feelings immediately returns and is exponentially multiplied. That same person who but a brief time ago declared that we were the “one for them” out of the 6.7 billion people on the planet has suddenly changed their mind. Ultimate rejection.

Have you ever heard of someone named Mark Hamill? Maybe Carl Douglas? What about Margaret Hamilton? Not ringing any bells, are they? Mark Hamill stared as Luke Skywalker in Starwars. Carl Douglas is slightly famous for the song Kung Foo Fighting which should immediately conjure an image of a stuffed chipmunk kicking and punching as it sings the song. Margaret Hamilton played the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz. The only thing these have in common is the fact that they each produced an act of celebrity but the rest of their career was not all that noteworthy. It must be terribly disappointing to play one of the greatest characters in one of the best known movies but go onto little else. We jokingly refer to it as their fifteen minutes of fame, but what rejection they must have experienced.

Think about another celebrity: Jesus. Jesus is decidedly one of the most well known people to have ever walked the planet. Today, no one would consider him to have only had “fifteen minutes of fame.” After all, his name and reputation have lasted some 2,000 years. It might be better to compare the celebrity of Jesus to that of struggling artists. He is better known and appreciated for his work after his life than he was during his life. This is true because during the life of Jesus, he was rarely celebrated, rarely desired or treasured.

The one moment of human exaltation Jesus experienced was the day he entered Jerusalem in preparation for Passover. The story taken from Matthew 21 describes:

“Nearly all the people in the crowd threw their garments down on the road, giving him a royal welcome. Others cut branches from the trees and threw them down as a welcome mat. Crowds went ahead and crowds followed, all of them calling out, ‘Hosanna to David's son!’ ‘Blessed is he who comes in God's name!’ ‘Hosanna in highest heaven!’ As he made his entrance into Jerusalem, the whole city was shaken. Unnerved, people were asking, ‘What's going on here? Who is this?’ The parade crowd answered, ‘This is the prophet Jesus, the one from Nazareth in Galilee.’”

We know this event now as Palm Sunday, the week before Easter. In modern terms, one week the city was throwing an impromptu parade in His honor and the next week the same city was executing Him. Talk about fifteen minutes of fame. Talk about rejection.

I often think of my marriage as fifteen minutes of fame. It certainly didn’t last much longer than fifteen minutes. Nor was I note worthy to him for much longer than that. The divorce left me completely rejected. In essence, the one person (out of those 6.7 billion) who was supposed to treasure me for the rest of my life rejected me. Over the past couple of years, my journal entries show my obvious preoccupation with the theme of rejection as they are riddled with verses concerning the concept. Some of the verses are:

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
Isaiah 53:3

“Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the Scriptures: The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes?’”
Matthew 21:42

The most fitting of scriptures seems to be from Jesus’ address to the disciples as they expressed their concerns about rejection. John15:18 says “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” As shown in the stories of Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem and later his brutal and humiliating execution, Jesus was no stranger to rejection. That is the key. In the preface, I stated that we could perhaps work through this together. The pronoun “we”, of coarse was figurative as I was referring to me and whoever happens to read this post that has experienced the same feelings. But, maybe, the “we” should refer to me and Jesus. After all, who better is there to walk with than someone who has experienced the same rejection?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Scratch Spin


Last night, my three year old daughter and I were watching the men’s figure skating competition at the XXI Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. Wearing socks, she decided to test her skills as a figure skater on our hardwood floors. She watched carefully as the skaters performed their routines, paying particular attention to the jumps, then she attempted to recreate each element. She watched as Yevgeny Plushenko performed what I now know is called a “Scratch Spin.” This spin begins with one leg and both arms extended, as the skater brings their arms and free leg closer to their body, the speed of the spin accelerates. Plushenko finished his spin and now the attention was to be turned to the toddler. The toddler spun and spun. The toddler got dizzier and dizzier. The toddler fell down. She looked up at me with her eyes still making circles and asked “why doesn’t he get dizzy and fall down?” I answered that “he finds a focal point and looks at it every time he makes a turn. Keeping your eyes on a solid object will help you focus as you spin.” In the skating world it is called “spotting”.

Today, as I was trying to read the final chapters of the text that was due for tonight’s class, the same toddler was demanding my attention. She was hungry. There was laundry to wash, turn over and fold. The dishes were piling up in the sink. Sheets needed to be changed. There were articles to be summarized and posted. We were late to story-time at the library. There were e-mails to be returned. We had church, choir and Mission Friends. The phone was ringing, things were breaking and the toddler was still hungry. As any mother knows... no, correction… as any modern person knows, life is hectic. It often seems as though life is spinning out of control. The more we do to fix this, the tighter our arms and legs are pulled to our bodies forcing the speed of that spin to accelerate.

When I get stressed, my first reaction is to start making lists. I immediately try to create control out of things that cannot be controlled. The stress level is directly proportional to the length of a given to-do list. At the bottom of today’s list was written, “finish blog post”. I had already begun a different post, but I think (and pray) that God had different intentions. After I had put the toddler down for a nap, washed the dishes and finished my class work, I began thinking about my post. I have been re-reading one of my favorite books of the Bible lately and happened upon the following in Isaiah 26:1-4: “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord is the Rock eternal.” God is our Rock eternal – He is our solid focal point on which to fix our gaze.

As I considered God as the focal point preventing me from dizziness, I was randomly reminded that today is Ash Wednesday. Today is the start of Lent. Lent is traditionally a time of self-reflection and repentance so that we may prepare for Easter and more clearly focus on our Savior and the sacrifice He made for us. Not surprisingly, all that spinning is sin. Anything that distracts our eyes away from God is sinful. During the season of Lent consider refocusing on, or “spotting” on our Savior. I pray that God shows us our sin. I pray that as we recognize our sin he will forgive us of it. I pray that we allow Him to be the solid focal point on which we fix our gaze; He will prove to be the balance to our spinning world.

Psalm 51 is a prayer of repentance that may guide the way to better spotting God. Pay particular attention to verses 7-15.

1-3Generous in love—God, give grace! Huge in mercy—wipe out my bad record.
Scrub away my guilt,
soak out my sins in your laundry.
I know how bad I've been;
my sins are staring me down.

4-6 You're the One I've violated, and you've seen
it all, seen the full extent of my evil.
You have all the facts before you;
whatever you decide about me is fair.
I've been out of step with you for a long time,
in the wrong since before I was born.
What you're after is truth from the inside out.
Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.

7-15 Soak me in your laundry and I'll come out clean,
scrub me and I'll have a snow-white life.
Tune me in to foot-tapping songs,
set these once-broken bones to dancing.
Don't look too close for blemishes,
give me a clean bill of health.
God, make a fresh start in me,
shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.

Don't throw me out with the trash,
or fail to breathe holiness in me.
Bring me back from gray exile,
put a fresh wind in my sails!
Give me a job teaching rebels your ways
so the lost can find their way home.
Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God,
and I'll sing anthems to your life-giving ways.
Unbutton my lips, dear God;
I'll let loose with your praise.

16-17 Going through the motions doesn't please you,
a flawless performance is nothing to you.
I learned God-worship
when my pride was shattered.
Heart-shattered lives ready for love
don't for a moment escape God's notice.

18-19 Make Zion the place you delight in,
repair Jerusalem's broken-down walls.
Then you'll get real worship from us,
acts of worship small and large,
Including all the bulls
they can heave onto your altar!


Side note: I realize that this particular post does not deal specifically with divorce or the ramifications thereof. However, I really felt as though God wanted me to write on this topic today, so I am prayerful that it will minister to someone.

Passage copied from The Message.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dealing with the Depression


Manchester, Georgia is a quaint little town of a little less than 4,000 people. It was founded in 1909 as a railroad community. The railroad is a hard way of life for many families; many families don’t endure. As such, the community and our church have seen a great deal of divorce.

My father has served as Minister of Music at First Baptist Manchester since 2004. My mother is the director of the library at West Georgia Technical College in nearby LaGrange. The move to Manchester was a difficult one in some aspects and positive in others. Daddy had briefly left full time ministry and was returning to the service to which God had called him. Mother was getting a promotion. But the move also meant giving up on dreams. For several years, we wondered why God had allowed the turn of events that brought Mother and Daddy to Manchester

When my ex-husband asked for a divorce, my daughter and I moved to Manchester to be with my parents. Not knowing what the response would be, I was astonished at the outpouring of concern and love that we received. Many within the community, Daddy’s church and Mother’s library offered their prayers and devotions. Parents of divorced children reached out in support of Mother and Daddy. Through the disabling depression of those first few months, the reason God had moved our family to this area became evident. God brought us to a community that has been deeply effected by the ills of divorce. God brought us to the support that can only be provided from those who have traveled this road before.

As the weeks went by, I received encouraging words from every direction. There were days when I could actually feel the power of the prayers that were being said for us. Several people shared pages copied from their personal devotions they felt would be inspirational. As time permits, I hope to pass these along.

I have been blessed to know several God-seeking, God-fearing people throughout my life. The first devotion I want to share was passed on to me by one of these people. Johnnie Freeman worked part time as a library assistant with mother and serves her church as a lay minister. Mrs. Freeman is truly a woman of God – a prayer warrior. Over the course of the summer immediately following my separation, she shared many copied pages of inspiration. The following comes from Come Away My Beloved by Frances J. Roberts. Read as though you can hear God say these words to you. The entire piece is supported by scripture (as noted in the parentheses and brackets), so in essence God has said these words to you.


The Art of Committal
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3

O my child, lay your heart in My hand, and let Me heal it. Yet, let Me gather up your tears, for they are precious to Me (Psalm 56:8). You have not been suffering alone, but I Myself have been near you all along the way. My heart has felt all that you have felt. You do not have a high priest who is not able to sympathize with your suffering, but one who experienced every grief and human emotion common to all people. In the midst of these painful experiences, He did not sin. Therefore, He is one who is able to help you (Hebrews 2:18).

He is one, who having walked the same path Himself, is able to teach you how, in the midst of these human experiences of hurts, frustrations, loneliness and heartache, you may rise above the natural tendencies to fall into the sins of self-pity, self-reproach, depression of spirit, resentment and the like [Hebrews 4: 14-16].

It is not easy. Not only is it not easy, but in the natural, in the flesh, it is impossible. But the same grace I promised to the apostle Paul to help him bear his affliction, the same grace I will give to you (2 Corinthians 12:9).

You may bring the whole of your burden to Me. I will help you as the days go by, and as the trials come and go; and as the learning process continues, I will teach you the spiritual secrets of the art of committal [Matthew 11: 28-30, Psalm 55:22, Nahum 1:7].

For in complete and repeated committal lies the key to victories that can be thus more easily won, less painfully achieved, and more quickly gained, so the valleys become less deep and less dark and more quickly passed through.

“Man is born,” it is written, “to trouble, as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). This is true as surely as rain falls and snow is cold. But it is equally true, and gloriously so, that I have promised to deliver you out of all your troubles [Psalm 34: 4-6 and 17-19].

So will you now take the first step in this committal and give Me your heart?
Make it as tangible a transaction as possible, and visualize your own hand laying the physical organ of your heart in My hands. Say to Me, “Take this, Loving Master and Wonderful Lord, and do with it as pleases You.”

Verses found in the passage:

Psalm 56:8 “You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book?” NKJV

Hebrews 2:18 “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” NKJV

Hebrews 4:14-16 “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” NKJV

2 Corinthians 12:9 “And He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” NKJV

Matthew 11: 28- 30 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." NIV

Psalm 55:22 "Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.” NIV

Nahum 1:7 “The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.” NIV

Psalm 34:4-6 “I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles.” NIV

Psalm 34:17-19 “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all.” NIV

*Verses in parentheses are original to the text and are copied from the New King James Version. Verses in brackets are added by the editor and are copied from the New International Version.

Passage from Come Away My Love by Frances J. Roberts, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.