Category Archives: the Church

God Is Not Threatened When We Leave the Church

{An Abstraction on Lipstick}

 

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It happened standing in Wal-Mart with my daughters. I was buying a lipstick and rubbed the pretty coral color that I fell in love with onto my lips. I didn’t notice the brand–that smell. That’s when the memories came flooding in. Memories of being the focus of ridicule at a school in a whole new state, the memories of the poems left on my desk that said “She wears socks with her clogs in winter. She’s in a bubble and thinks no one can reach her, because her Daddy’s a preacher,” and they giggled at me as I turned red and crumbled up the loose-leaf paper taken from one of their cute binders. But there are darker ones.

Dark memories of a 21 year old youth pastor, who came into the sanctuary when I was playing piano and put his lips on me, held me from behind. He befriended my father, came over to the house, and when we went downstairs to play ping-pong, he forced me to sit on his lap.

And the hits seemed to keep coming. I became chronically ill after having my fourth child. And there were people in the church who wanted to pray for me one Sunday. I made it known that I didn’t want it, that I felt uncomfortable with such a spotlight on me. They assured me it was fine, and it was in the midst of this prayer circle that I was told there wasn’t grace for this sickness, this depression, this anxiety, and that God was asking me to please come back home, to come back to where grace abounded for me.

I recoiled at this. Because I knew that God had not left me and I had not left him and the last thing I needed was for someone in the church to tell me that my illness was because I had done something wrong. The insinuation was that it was a direct result of my having left God. But I knew then, and I know now– that none can pluck me from His hand. It’s not possible.

I did feel very far away from God, and what I needed at that moment in my life was for someone to gently remind me that God was still with me and loved me beyond imagination.

That day left me aching, a hole wide-open in my soul, cold bitter wind blowing through. It left me confused about prayer, and unable to utter any words toward heaven. Prayer had been a means, as far as I could see, to hurt others. And I became bitter and maybe I let my words sting, too, because all I could see was people who wanted to hurt me.

I could tell you more stories–I have lots of them. I could tell you about a time my husband and I were asked by the pastor to be elders  because he was leaving and the church needed someone to help run things in his absence. We hesitated, but we loved our pastor, so we agreed. A short time later, we found out that the leadership of the church had sorely treated our pastor, and was the cause of him leaving. Our hearts were broken. We resigned, left the church, and never looked back. But we won’t talk more of that.

What I want to tell you is that because of a lifetime of those memories, my husband and I have chosen to take a time for healing……

{to read the rest of this post, please come on over to Outside the City Gate— I’m over there today, and I have more to share with you….}

{concrete words link-up is below}

 

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Photo credit: Church and steeple: Cindee Snider Re 

Holding hands: Kelli Woodford

Okay, time for #concretewords! ***Will you do this with me, friends? Let’s explore the practice of Awakening to God–this still ties into listening–writing out our story with words that show, not just tell. We’ll connect on twitter and facebook with the hashtag, #concretewords,  #listeningtoyourlife and also #awakeningtoGod if you like. Do me a favor and use these on social media and share with friends–invite them? Writing alone is no fun–but writing in community? Well, THAT is the stuff!

What this link-up is about: We “write out spirit” by practicing writing about the invisible using concrete words. In case you are going “what in the world is a concrete word?!“–this just means (using the prompt to inspire) write out what’s around us–concrete words make the senses come alive, gives place. In every story, there is always an above and beneath, a beside, something tucked away, aromas in the air, something calling in the trees or from the street, notes in our pocket, rocks in our shoes, sand between our toes. Go here to see Amber’s take on this. It was very helpful to me–I think it will be beneficial for you, too.


                                                         A few simple guidelines:

1. Be sure you link up the  URL to your                                                                       Concrete Words post and not just your                                                                      blog home page URL.
2. Put a link to this post on your blog so                                                                    that others can find their way back here.
3. Try to visit one or two others and                                                                               encourage their efforts.
4. If you don’t know how to do these steps,

please email me for help.

 

Today’s prompt is lipstick. GO!


{**Since I’m posting this mid-week, this link-up will run until next Monday afternoon 2 pm CST, giving you plenty of time to write and link up. Sometime between now and then, I will read your stories and try to highlight one of them on social media! Next week, the prompt will be balloon .}

 

 

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Of Things Unseen {An Abstraction on the Cup}

I cannot say how pleased I am to have Kelli Woodford, my dear friend, here today to guest-write for Concrete Words. Her quiet, searching heart stirs me deep. I hope her words move you as much as they do me. And please, be sure to show her some lovin’ for her words here. 





The styrofoam is warm in my hands. It imprints on my fingertips, a liquid story of contents unseen. 

Steam rises like prayers, fogging out the world as I draw the cup close, closer to my lips. I inhale the fluid decadence. Wishing I could ingest it just as slowly, as tangibly, as it escapes–wafting upward, upward. Always the scent lingering somewhere on the edges of time. I close my eyes. 

A chair skids loud across the flecked tile floor. It wakes me from my drifting. 

To the left, three men sit at a table set for four. One is slick bald. He looks like a preacher to me. Oh, not a preacher-comb-the-hair-over, wear-a-tie, King-Jimmy-in-hand preacher, but one of these cool guy preachers. The kind that sport those trendy, dark-rimmed glasses and the baldness without looking older than 40. 

I run the top of my middle finger along the rim of my cup. Circling, circling. My coffee is still too hot to drink, but I’ve nothing to do but sit with it and with my imagination. A mind at play among the rising fog. 

Their conversation is too low for me to make out, and I’m glad I don’t hear it. I think I’d rather invent it. Bits and pieces, that’s all we know, I wonder if he’s saying. As a preacher, I have a responsibility to proclaim what I believe, but God help me if I don’t spend just as much time with my hand clapped over my mouth, aghast at what great folly it is to ever speak with absolute certainty about God Almighty. He is not a tame Lion. No, no…

My imagination runs wild with the hope of what it would be to hear a preacher admit his finite understanding of God. To say what he knows as freely and gently as if whispered over a casket–instead of boisterous and aggressive, as if a little too used to the amplification of a microphone and stage lights. To give respect to the Mystery of all that defies explanation, instead of putting Eternity in a systematic box. But I know it’s just my experience talking. He’s leaning forward now, toward the others. Whatever he’s saying, it’s clear that he means it with all his heart. 

Velvet fingers, mine, stir serendipity into the coffee, sugar melting, sweet and silent. 

And I sense an opening. It’s deep in me. 

Something creaks as mercies widen, unseen changes afoot. 

I raise my cup and lock eyes with the dark-rimmed stranger over yawning styrofoam. His lips and mine receive the contents poured into our respective open spaces. The misty prayers that rise with this touch to my face are less selfish somehow, and more generous. I see his nerves. They play the surface of his face like a guitar solo. He doesn’t see me, I know now. He is looking at them, at himself. He feels the weight of this responsibility. For he holds something heavier in his hand than the cup from which he sips. 

And he deserves, not my contempt, but my compassion. It might not be wine of the covenant, but I feel the solidarity of our drink in tandem. I feel the words spoken in my narrowed places, now more open that empathy has done her work:

Take, drink, this is my blood, shed for you … do this in remembrance. 

I whisper back, the echoes of another prayer uttered long ago, 

and the sound ricochets inside my cup, which now runneth over. 

That we may be one, Lord Jesus, 

that we may be one. 



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ABOUT KELLI WOODFORD
Kelli hopes never to recover from the mighty mercy she has been shown. Although her life is now filled with more diapers than she’d like to count, she carves time out to write about finding God in the simple and the frustrating at Chronicles of Grace. 



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Gratitude: {1109-1118}…
yellow and purple irises blooming in the yard :: how grown up my 12-year-old is–her intuition and quiet nature that are a gift to me :: my little one lying in bed with me in early morning and nuzzling up against my face with her cheek :: shafts of light across the couch :: beauty of early morning sun :: a cozy blanket and warm coffee :: my bible :: the comforting sound of clean, running water :: the cute sneezes of a certain 3-year-old

{This post shared with Ann, Laura, and Michelle} 

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***Dear readers, I had a conversation with the ever-sweet Amber Haines, and her handing over Concrete Words to me is meant to be a permanent deal. sixinthesticks will now be it’s home for good. Amber has said she can no longer do it on her blog. She has asked me to take it and run with it, change it up, make it my own. I hope those of you who have been with Amber the whole time will be along for this wild, fun ride! I’ve never had so much fun with writing!! 
     
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What this link-up is about: We “write out spirit” by practicing writing about the invisible using concrete words. In case you are going “what in the world is a concrete word?!“–this just means (using the prompt to inspire) write out what’s around us–concrete words make the senses come alive, gives place. In every story, there is always an above and beneath, a beside, something tucked away, aromas in the air, something calling in the trees or from the street, notes in our pocket, rocks in our shoes, sand between our toes. Go here to see Amber’s take on this. It was very helpful to me–I think it will be beneficial for you, too.

A few simple guidelines:       1. Be sure you link up the URL to your Concrete Words
                                             post and not just your blog home page URL.
                                         2. Put a link to this post on your blog so that others
                                             can find their way back here.
                                         3. Try to visit one or two others and encourage their efforts
                                         4. Please write along with us, using concrete words–
                                             Please no entries with how-to’s, advertising, or
                                             sponsored posts
                                         5. We connect on twitter with the hashtag #concretewords–
                                               please share so others can join!

Today’s prompt is the Cup

**Starting next week, Concrete Words will be going live every Sunday evening, sometime between 7 and 10 pm. I cannot promise an exact time, as my weekends are very spontaneous and I’m a little bit of a roving rebel.
The prompt next week is the Afternoon.{I’ll highlight a beautiful post on Friday (and announce it on social media), so come back here to see whose post is highlighted and encourage them!}


Beholding Glory::Kingdom Come Here on Earth {Blessed Are Those Who Mourn}

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                                                                               photo credit

There is a way for us to behold glory, and it looks like reaching across the table and just crying with someone who’s hurting, not saying much.

Sometimes all you can say, your arms around them, is this sucks.

I understand what it means to be angry at God–I’ve been there–it’s okay.

Because really, that’s what God wants to say to them if He could, audibly, but He wants to use us.

Jumping into someone’s life and offering advice is a sacred thing. They’re making room for you in their secret places, their inner chambers, their heart of hearts, letting you see all their dirt and grime, the dust on the furniture, the stack of food-crusted dishes in the sink. And the last thing they want you to do is point it out, or to look embarrassed when they make apologies. It’s best to just give some serious disclosure —girl, look, you don’t even want to see my dishes right now–they are way worse.

There is a way to behold glory and it’s not in pretending we are righteous. It’s not in our walls and our thick layers that protect and our fears that keep others at a distance.

See, I have this huge dream to behold glory, to see Kingdom come here on earth. It’s a scary dream really, because I’ve been burned enough to put my faith right out.

But that’s the thing about hope–it’s stronger than fear. It just keeps enduring, keeps flickering back on and won’t be snuffed out. Satan hates this, I think.

There is a way to behold  glory and this dream is that The Church will trust God to save the millions, and stop marching forward with our crusade in haste, leaving the wounded and the weak in faith falling to the sides in our wake. I hope that we will love well the few right around us, that we will make the time to reach across tables, across pews, across airplane aisles and checkout counters, really see the people behind the eyes we are looking into.

I don’t like conquests just for conquest’s sake, and I don’t think God does either.

I dream that we will reach out with a hug when that someone walks in the door a little tear-eyed on a Sunday morning.

I dream of bringing groceries by to the family that lost an income, not because the pastor announced the event in the pulpit, and we think our name may be printed in the bulletin, but because they whispered it to us, they trusted us, and we quietly showed up, Jesus at their door.

I dream of personal, one-on-one, left-hand-not-knowing-what-the-right-hand-is-doing kind of ministry.

I dream of a time when we don’t call it ministry. We just call it Love.

Compassion doesn’t mean feeling sorry for someone–it means entering into suffering with them. This is what Jesus meant when he said Blessed are those who mourn.

Because last I checked, I sin everyday and God said none of us is righteous, not one.



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We are still using a grading system for our sins, for their sins, his sin, her sin, this group’s sin, that group’s sin, and just like the Pharisees we have so many unspoken rules.

Because of this, doors have been slammed shut in my face, too.

We think we have come so far. Yet, we deceive ourselves to think that we really have no sin, that we are not in a perpetual state of sinner-saved-by grace, a hopeless state of constant sinning, if not for the cross and grace of one very scandalously loving God.

We could ask ourselves this revolutionary question: How do we know they don’t go to sleep every night, sobbing, asking God to forgive them, to change them too, the ones we push away?

So I dream and I dream big. I dream of a time when all the walls will come down and we will love fierce. A time when we won’t be cowardly afraid of what’s thought of us if we invite that pregnant, unwed friend to church and sit next to them, or have coffee with a gay friend, or invite that family from across the tracks over for hashbrown casserole.

I have hope, and this hope swells inside my chest til I believe it will explode and this is the question I’m asking: Shouldn’t we plead for all?

To tell them God is for them, that He loves them. Period. And if they trust us enough, maybe we get a chance to share the gospel.

I dream of a day when we don’t draw a line and throw words of hate back from our side, but instead, walk over to the picketers and boycotters and get to know them, share a meal together.
Because really, we are filthy rags and our love of self stinks.

So I dream of a better day when maybe pastors wear t-shirts and jeans, and church can be anywhere people are gathered in the name of love, and the red carpet is laid out for all, like our Father does for us, for those who come looking for love a little dirty and maybe their appearance a little different than ours.

I don’t dream of great exploits in God; I don’t dream of being a hero.

I do dream of beholding glory. I do dream of Kingdom come here on earth.

I dream of changing one stranger at a time with our genuine care, and I dream of a church, rising up out of the ash of their own bridges burned and beginning to build a crossway of Love.

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{This post shared with BibleDude.net, Michelle DeRusha, Jennifer Lee for #TellHisStory, Imperfect Prose, Shelly and Duane for #Wonderstruck}



Bending {Patron Saints and Spiritual Midwives}

I open wire gate, walk through tiny garden and white azaeleas toward the kitchen. Her soft, croaky voice, with it’s high notes, weathered with time, wafts out the screen door as she instructs the children that have already flown inside to her, ahead of me.

This is not the home of my childhood that I remember, but she cooks for us here and makes her days here, and so it will do.

Dumplings and chicken piled high in the pot, the steam rising, she’s slightly bent over the counter in the tightly spaced kitchen, beautiful white hair slightly coifed from church that morning, rolling dough out in flour, the dough that my grandfather said she rolled way too thin. Less meat, more dumplins, he tells her. This would become the center of discussion and debate at the table.

“Ah! You are making chicken and dumplings!” She nods–I see the twinkle of pride in her eyes. She knows it’s my favorite and I had asked for it weeks ago when I was sick but she couldn’t come because she was too.

I set about the hard task of putting myself right into the work, a hard thing to do when you are used to your Granny always waiting on you, for all those years, and she never asked, really always discouraged help.

But I can’t bear sitting while she bends and breaks, so I plant myself right in her way and throw the soft unbaked bread on white powder and roll it out with 50 year old wood, careful of the sink water two inches away from floured paper.

The old wood, full of family history–it feels perfect in my hands and I watch the way the thick stuff flattens and smooths. We work side-by-side, Sunday afternoon sun streaming in through screen door, hitting our backs, and she willingly waits for the dough, throws it into boiling broth while I do the bending and smoothing.

She and I strain pears, that good juice running down the drain making no sense to me, and I call the girls in for them to pile the grainy sweetness on plate with mayo and cheese. The pears, they shine in the Sabbath sun. We do the most important and holiest of work and teach them a poor man’s {or hurried woman’s} Southern dessert.

I go to the hall closet in search of some stain remover for baby’s dress, and I see a woman’s tireless work, how she chooses to walk out her days, always working, serving, never giving up and there they are, staring out at me–clean, plush towels lined up neatly row after row, her bottles of cleaning supplies tucked in here and there. She has touched deep places of influence in me she will never know anything of.

In the kitchen, we cluck and cackle and over sweet tea–has the sugar been added?–where the children will eat, girls, set the table, ice for glasses, and I take Granddaddy’s tea to his chair. The kids will have the little table in the kitchen.

Granny steps to the living room, and addresses Granddaddy: “What do you want now?!” We laugh at their old-couple squabble and we all gather around with trays and talk important matters, including whether the dumplings should have been thicker, and our stomachs are nourished with flavors of the South, that soul food warm all the way down.

Granny gets enough of Granddaddy’s complaining and in her feisty way, tells him she was aimin for healthier.

After the plates are cleaned, Husband needs a t-shirt for football with the church men, and Granddaddy says look in the second drawer. Underneath several bottles of cologne for a man who enjoys smelling good, I open drawer and pick up soft, worn t-shirts one by one, reminded of when I was a little girl, needing a t-shirt for staying over-night. They all say XL, and I know that will not fit my man.

I search and in the back, in shadows, a card with cute purses on the front sticks out between folds–I know immediately it was the card I gave him years ago. My heart hammers a little harder as I hold it up, open it, and I am so touched that he has kept it safely tucked away in his drawerthe place all men keep things close to their hearts.

The greatness of these two people stands above me, looming, but I try to tell them in scrawled words–loops and crosses a little unsure and timid but knowing what is in the heart to say–how I sit and think sometimes of the beauty of how they live out the gospel in their livesthat they may never have been missionaries, or involved in some limelight ministry, but their family has been their mission field–how they never stop giving even after they’ve given all–they have fleshed out Matt 5:38-42–how they have brought glory to God, our very realest purpose, and I tell them this is the greatest compliment you could ever be paid.

“You have heard it said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” –Matthew 5:38-42

Husband finds me standing at the drawer, asks if I found anything. He sees the tears brimming, wants to know what this is about. I show him the card and he says, “Who is this from?” He watches my eyes, looks into me. Nothing gets his attention like the wet pouring down his wife’s cheeks.

A little shyly–“Me.” I pick up a bottle of cologne and inhale, and try to remember.

He reads the first few lines and skims it over, smiling. He reads the date, “2007…” his voice a little unsteady. I wonder if he is remembering the year that we had Isabella, when we were still at our old church with our beloved Pastor and his wife, when we were married to a church body, before spiritual devastation happened, when life was very, very good and God’s graces flowed abundantly. Like babes, we ignorantly lapped it up, not fully knowing what we had.

I reach up into the closet shelf where a soft blue t-shirt, something close to cadet blue, peeks out and I look at the tag, oh, a Large, this will have to do.

I walk into the living room, right up to the man and hand him the card, tell him it made me cry to find it there, to read it, bend down and take his face in my hands and tell him he is a wonderful Granddaddy, my body bent over and my heart bent over in all this weeping reality, all this gospel light, all this love.

Instead of looking at me and acknowledging, he makes some remark about how not everybody thinks he’s so great. But I know it’s hit it’s mark–right there in the softness of his heart the arrow pierced–I can see that little bit of twinkle in his eye, the smile dancing in the corner, that he won’t let have center-stage.

He avoids my eyes, but I know he hears me. These are the only words he ever wanted to hear in the whole of his life.

I lay down in the dark coolness of their room with baby girl next to me, and she fidgits some, but like me, her body soon gives way to Granny’s high thread-count sheets, shadow’s cool of blankets piled high atop us.

I lie there thinking as I drift off, how many graces God has given, how He has bent low and heard me, listened to my heart’s cry, that mighty God himself would bend over, heart exploding for me, this is extravagant grace that I can hardly imagine or fully allow.

But in spite of me, His arrow has hit it’s mark and I gush over and out and I can do nothing but fling arms open wide to all this love.

**edited re-post from the archives

Shared with Sarah Bessey at her International Women’s Day synchroblog, where we’re writing about Patron Saints and Spiritual Midwives…

Related: A Beautiful Tapestry Not Of My Own Making {Patron Saints and Spiritual Midwives}…“I have sat on summer and fall afternoons on her screened in wrap-around front porch, us swinging on her oak swing, Mississippi breeze blowing gently, as her voice so shaky and slow, told me of her husband, an alcoholic, and how he beat her. She told me of how the kids would run outside and play up under the house so they wouldn’t have to be around…” Click here to read more…

The Real Christ In A Cruel World {In Which I Say What I Really Feel About the Church}


                                                                                                                            

Oh my soul aches in a cruel world where children are shot while learning ABC’s, blood splattered across the chalkboard, soaking their beautiful wide-ruled blue lined pages, their little feet barely reaching the floor, so much light this world lost when their innocent souls left, so much work their brilliant minds could have done, so much ache left in the aftermath.

 My heart is crushed in a backwards reality where gays are shunned as yesterday’s trash, and pastors who seek fame and distort truth are glorified. But Jesus drew a line in the sand for a harlot, no better than trash to those religious leaders, and dared them to cast the first stone. And the truth distorters? He called them vipers.

 I’m weary because when I was not a girl, not yet a woman, I stood in the church foyer of my daddy’s church and was called a whore by a woman I loved because I attended the one party I was invited to, in a friendless town, and a boy tried to take advantage of me that night, called to me in whispers from the hallway in the dark, luring me like a sex predator lures an innocent child. Rumors flew and what’s a preacher’s daughter to do? We’re supposed to be perfect.

 I quake with loneliness because I feel the isolation of those who are not welcome in my southern white churches. I’d like to stand on top of the podium and declare that Jesus wants all the sick, all the hurting, every color, all of his brothers and sisters, all of God’s children and the same breath that’s in me, God breathed into them.

 A cold wind blows through my soul because when I was 19 years old, a woman secretly recorded a conversation she and her husband had with my parents in her home, and she worked hard against them, carrying her banner of what she perceived as justice until she turned everyone away from the church, calling all the members away unto herself, and my dad had no one to support him, and the last member left in the pews–one sweet, but very feisty old widow woman–she brought us cans from the food pantry. I was paranoid and convinced there were cameras in my bedroom and the nightmares came every night. We were literally starved out–physically and spiritually–and we left the church and left the town, our hearts in our stomachs, our spirits grieved and hearts hard and for me the hellish dreams continued for years, every. single. night.

 I shudder at witnessing the guts and gore of pastors leaving even now. I squinch my eyes up because I do not want to watch as respected leaders whom we loved and whom loved us hate their pastor in their hearts as they hand out food to the poor, and teach sweet, impressionable children as they spew words of malice out behind their shepherd’s back, toil and sweat toward his demise, and ultimately the devastation of his household. I do not want to know about their schemes in the dark, their hellish pranks and private meetings, do not want to behold such horrors, all vivid bloody gore to me.

 I grieve for the dark-skinned women who came to my door, those sweet women, donned in their Sunday best. They are so dignified and humble, and loving, and they stand in the cold to talk to me. I grieve not because maybe they’re a cult as I was taught growing up–it’s just the opposite. I grieve because I have this painful, wonderful, awful revelation that my whole life I’ve been wrong and I’ve missed it. The church has missed it. These women stood on my stoop, the numbing cold not bothering their warm hearts as they continued to encourage me, long after I’d told them I felt we had found a church home. They told me it was commendable, what I was doing with my girls, teaching them at home, teaching them the scriptures, instilling values in them. I felt admiration from these women. They commended me. ME. It had been such a hard, questioning week and I told them that, how I was glad they came because I needed to hear that, and their beautiful eyes lit up. They told of how they visit some people who tell them if they hadn’t come that day, they would’ve committed suicide. “I admire you,” I said, “for doing what you do. It’s a brave thing, to get out and reach out the way you do.” They offered me books for the girls and I gave them some money for the ink, even though I knew that I wouldn’t agree with the theology in the pages and we might not read it. That didn’t matter. It would have been like saying no to a hot plate a a sweet ‘lil ‘ole widow neighbor cooked as a gift because stroganoff isn’t my favorite. And Jesus shocked them all when he said that the first shall be last and the last shall be first and no one ever expected that the despised and foolish things of the world would confound the wise and sometimes I find that my doubt is turned right inside out and I am on the other end, the “wise” one being schooled by these “foolish” ‘lil ‘ole women the world has looked down upon.

I shiver as arctic gales sweep right through me, and it’s sweeping right through the church. Do you feel it? And I weep and I dry my tears and tell myself to be strong, to not let my heart get smashed again. I take a good long look at the world, through red-brimmed eyes and with tears that won’t even fall anymore, my hard heart sees all the missed opportunities the church has had, that I have had. I see the poor that Mother Theresa consecrated her life to, I see the millions of children starving and dying in the dumps. I see the millions of babies that have been killed in America in the past thirty years by abortion, I see a gay community that feels hated by the church, I see depressed women wasting away in beds, never stepping outside their doors, afraid and quaking, from a life of abuse and they make it known that no one is welcome and I have been all of these and then some because I’m a sinner and I’m in need too.

And I’ve come to despise change because of what change did to my family when I was young and what it still does to those who give their lives. I don’t know how to continue believing, when I, being a thirty-something, in a deep depression, reached out to women in the church, and shared my secret in hopes they’d gather ’round and shore me up, and I was shunned instead, my leper sores glaringly ugly in the church lights.

Shunned like the gays, shunned like the druggies, shunned like my black sisters and brothers, shunned like Jesus.

Oh, for all that is holy, grace is not just for me, the me who grew up in church, the preacher’s daughter, it’s not just for the straights, the whites, the upper class, the lovable ones, the ones who do life the “right” way. Oh can you see it, friend? Can I?

Jesus came for the sick. Let’s be about our Father’s business.

And when my dark-skinned friend comes back to drop off that church invitation as she promised, I’m going to invite her into my heated living room, and with a glory hallelujah in my heart, have hot tea with her on my couch and talk with her like I would any of the other women in my circle, and I will tell her I’m a Christian, and do not intend to convert, but that I hope we can still be sisters in this kingdom work.

Only God knows her heart.

Only God knows mine. He wants all of us, friends, all of us sinners.

There’s no need to fear.

Let’s open our hearts, you and I.

And be about His work.

** painting by my husband, Eddie


**Shaking in my boots, being vulnerable about some of my deepest secrets, the hurting places, hitting publish here, friends. Oh my, I love writing, and my it is sometimes so hard to hit that button. Here goes–I hope it blesses?

Linking up with…

True Worship & Fearing Change: An Abstraction on Table {Day 12}

An abstraction on a Table: A prompt by Amber Haines….

Beautiful wood that is so old, it’s called antique, which sounds such fragile a word. Of course, its purpose was a place to serve meals, but to a kid, it can be a fort, a castle, or the carpet underneath a forest floor, legs rising tall as trees. All of us grandchildren used to play under its delicately routed and carved legs and underbelly.

It cast such dark shadows that hid me and no one could find me. Underneath there, I was a queen or a damsel in distress, tracing the curved lines and crevices in hopes of escape from my soft-carpeted prison.

From underneath my hiding place, I could spot, just dimly lit in soft, heavy-curtained afternoon light up on the buffet table, the old iridescent blue set of bowls, one holding old-fashioned candies of all flavors. Absolutely fascinating and irresistible to a child. It was my sole mission to play underneath the table long enough so that my Granny wouldn’t notice when I snuck quickly out, tip-toed to the blue bowl to grab a candy.

All of the precious memories of Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, and Sunday dinners were made here.

The best memories were the Sundays when Granny had Chicken and Dumplins or blackberry cobbler waiting on me, my favorites.

Years and years later, after this little girl had grown up, the table became a sort of gift from my grandparents, who had no place to put it in their new apartment.

They had given up their home to a son, and it was eventually sold, a sad time for us all as the memories went with it.

Now the table sits in my high-ceilinged home, not on carpet, but on old, brightly polished pine floors. It’s a deep mahogany and makes the mood dark. It needs a fresh coat of white paint, slapped on heavy and thick with love, which would make the whole room lovely.

Then some of those grooves, crevices, the caving-in places I tried to escape as a child will fade into the background, and the past will be the past.

But then I worry about change–it’s been the way it is for so long. My heart stops a bit to think of the eternal consequence of marring such a priceless item with paint.

Now, where it sits, it’s a place of gathering, it seems to magnetically draw us all together.

No matter the chaos going on around the home– paper cut-outs being thrown awry, sisters chasing one another–screaming, me fussing at a daughter to just finish the sweeping already, and oh my aching head–when we all sit down at the table, candles lit, and we slide into our familiar places, something just feels right and it’s home.

It feels familiar and yet uncomfortable as children begin to bang, and to argue and to wail, to complain about the food.

High-pitched yelling and wailing is like nails on the chalkboard of my nerves. The banging and the water glass knocking over is more than I can handle. I shift in my seat, look for a way out, want to escape.

But here, in this familiar safe place, we all do the necessary thing. We gather. We are community. Every day, no matter what. We need the safe rhythm, the consistency.

Husband prays for us to love one another better as we hold hands, and this convicts me.

And these, these children and this husband around my table, they are my people, my church.

We are the body broken, and we worship with quieted spirits that want to bolt, and we do the hard work of staying.

We raise glasses to mouths and swallow down water and offer words of love where there has been grating of nerves and this is our true worship.

Linking up with Amber

Also linking up with The Nester, and all the other 31-Dayers.…This ought to be one wild, brave ride…

Do you struggle with fear of change, or fear of the everyday change, the always fluid problems that come our way, like wailing and arguing at the supper table? Please tell me your story? Have you seen God redeem these anxieties? Have you found grace? Your comments so encourage me. I draw strength from your kind words and knowing you were here. My faith walk is seasoned with the right ingredients when you hang around…


This is one post in a series of 31 days of Fear. You can find the entire 31 Day collective here. 

I hope you will come with me on this journey–to get a taste of glorious redemption as I soul-search and look for Jesus smack-dab in the middle of my fears. And Jesus sits with sinners. I won’t have to look very far.

I pray God gives me the strength and the courage to complete 31 days–y’all, it’s going to be hard on this ‘ol gal to write every.single.day. Pray for me?   

Some other 31 Day collectives I’m loving: Shelly @ Redemptions BeautyAmber Haines , and Lisa-Jo

When You Are The Wayward Child {Fear Of Judgement–Day4}

I am the wayward child. I’ve been more the prodigal than the good, obedient one. I still dream of that cigarette, years after putting them down. I drink a glass of wine in the evenings, something some church members would frown upon. I’m not good at prayer, although for many disillusioned years I ardently tried to work it out on my knees, for hours at a time.

I love rock and hip-hop, which makes me an immature Christian at best, on a pathway for hell at worst–I know, because I listened as a child to preachers spew it as they yelled, so much angst inside, so much fear. I was raised by parents who thought that way too. But they feel differently now. They see grace, I think.

All of those things–the type of music I like, my lack of ability to pray well–those are just outward things, mere technicalities that don’t really matter.

God is concerned about my heart.

And my heart has been wayward. It so easily strays, looks in the trash for food, instead of dining at the Master’s table. I’m a lost child, calloused and dirty from surviving these mean streets. 



I peer in, watch through glass windows, wishing I was welcomed out of the cold, into the warmth. But at every turn, it seems I’m met with cold pity and disdain for my dirty ragedness. No one wants to sit with me, dine with me as Jesus did with sinners.

Jesus reclined at the tables of the thief and the pharisee, those so unworthy–he was at home with sinners. 

And how thankful I am for that–because this body of death betrays His spirit within, and I am a wretch. There were times I wanted to die, yet He has made me alive–alive to Him. I cling to Him, the only thing that saves, not my Sunday dress, or my attendance, or even my lack of drink or bars visited.

And he let her wash his feet with expensive perfume, such an intimate act–the despised one, the dirty, filthy whore, the one no one wanted to touch, unless he was an unrighteous man, a man rejected, a man condemned, although Jesus said they had the same sinful thoughts, just by looking at her.

And I, this lost child that can never seem to get it right–I think I understand her just a little.

I wonder if they realize we’re all just beggars at his table? The ones that judge and condemn–do they really know? The ones that look down from their lofty statuses and talk of never having had a drop their whole life–if they believe it’s true–what they preach–why don’t they live it?

The ones that in their Sunday suits, scoff at those “new, immature” Christians who don’t know any better and go into the bars to minister to those who need Jesus? Do they know Jesus when they scoff at something Jesus himself would have done?

Wasn’t Jesus always trying to teach his disciples to exactly mirror him?

They sneer in holy indignation, he will just be dragged down into sin with the rest of themhe hasn’t experienced true Christianity–he’s on a road to hell by going into those joints.

I submit that when we go to those places Jesus himself would have gone, and we touch the dirty and the unforgiven, the prodigals and the railing-against-God-ones, that is when we are close enough to know His holy breath.

I’ve really just ceased having the ability to pretend, pretend that I’m a loving, humble Christian who doesn’t drink and doesn’t ever yell at her kids, and only, and always wears the right-length dress to church.

The great thing about knowing I’m a prodigal, just a beggar at his table? I get to be the one closest to God’s heart, the one he calls a party for, the one he cloaks in his robe, the one to receive his ring and his favor, his embrace. 

And though I’ve squandered the inheritance, he looks at me through eyes of grace, laughs a deep, fatherly laugh at my child-confusion, and tells me Child, you can’t squander it because it never runs out.

And, ah, I break and the wild, raging rivers of self-hatred and self-doubt and condemnation all damned-up breaks free and His grace works, because I never, ever want to disappoint my Father. I want to always, always be in His embrace, here at his table.

We are all–thieves, beggars, whores, pharisees, and agoraphobic moms who shut themselves up in their rooms–we’re all just prodigals trying to find our way home. We’ve only to realize it and embrace it, to let go of our fears and stop judging.

Let’s not cast any stone. Let us help walk one another home.

Gratitude: {#997-1006}

Celebrating 1,000 gifts–I never thought I would finish the race, but I have done it, and don’t plan on ever stopping giving thanks–it helps me rightly see!!!

I’m grateful for a Father that takes me over and over, for campfires outside with my kids and husband, for warm Ghiardelli hot cocoa, for smores melted over a fire, for beautiful pumpkins and mums, for butternut squash baked with brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter, for cool nights that mean cuddling, for my baby saying some new words–hallelujah!

Watch this video and worship with me, friend or Click here to watch on Youtube 

Linking with sweet Ann and beautiful others…
Ann, Emily , Laura, Jen, & Michelle.

Linking up with The Nester, and all the other 31-Dayers.…This ought to be one wild, brave ride…

Do you struggle with fear of judgement, friend? Does it hold you hostage? What’s your story? How has God redeemed it? Have you found grace? Your comments so encourage me. I draw strength from your kind words and knowing you were here. My faith walk is seasoned with the right ingredients when you hang around…


This is Day 3 of 31 days of Fear. Since I’m starting my Day 1 a little late, my “31 Days” will not have 31 posts. I have chosen to do this one on FEAR, because it seems to be something I keep wrestling with over and over, something that keeps me in chains, pins me down, won’t let me free. I hope you will come with me on this journey–to get a taste of glorious redemption as I soul-search and look for Jesus smack-dab in the middle of my fears. And Jesus sits with sinners. I won’t have to look very far. Couldn’t we all use some freedom from those fear-chains that bind? I pray God gives me the strength and the courage to complete 31 days–y’all, it’s going to be hard on this ‘ol gal to write every.single.day. Pray for me? You can find the entire 31 Day collective here <—hover with mouse to highlight and click 






Friends, If you would so kindly click here and go over to my friend, Jennifer’s site for a giveaway–her sweet daughter, Lydia, is having a jewelry party to raise money for a school playground for children in Haiti. We know these children and families have been affected by much suffering after the earthquake. This jewelry is hand-made by our sisters in Haiti–Jennifer has been there, met them, hung out with them in their homes–and this is Jennifer’s project. By buying one of these beautiful necklaces, you will be helping a Haitian woman work to feed her family, AND you will be helping raise money for children to have a place to play! She is also giving away some jewelry, so hurry on over and share on facebook, twitter, etc for your spot in the giveaway! I’m definitely buying one–I hope you do, too!

On Awakening To Where Church Is

 

In the Deep South on a Sunday morning, Husband and I sitting on porch swing drinking coffee and resting on the Sabbath the best way we know how, the black gentleman neighbor across the street brings something right up to the picket fence. I can tell by his posture he has come over on a mission.


He never goes to church when his son and wife pull out the drive–he stays behind. And on this day, he has spotted us out on the porch.


My husband goes out to meet him, and Mr. Joseph*, smoking his cigar on this fine Sunday morning, he hands a bag of fish over the fence to my husband, and I can hear him telling of the trip and how he caught them.


He doesn’t do it because he thinks we need the food, or because we are poor, or because the church said to get out and knock on doors–he just does it because it’s what’s in his heart.


Just like a couple of weeks before, when his son showed up on our front step with fresh vegetables from the garden, a big sweet grin on his angel-boy face. I know his sweet mama had plenty of family she could have given that fresh summer bounty to, and for some reason, she chose to share it with us.


From my spot on the lazy swing, in mid-July sweltering Mississippi heat–heat so thick and heavy it makes your throat close up and your lungs just pure forget how to work–I can see him waving his cigar and his booming voice talking of all of us going down to the lake together some time to let the kids fish. We can use his boat, he says. Why he came over on a Sunday morning out of the blue to say all of this, I really don’t know. It’s always hard for us humans to believe that someone may just want to be friendly, no strings attached. Life teaches us to be hard.

My mind goes back to a few weeks before that, when the girls and I walked over in the middle of the day just to show them our new kitten, because we know they love kittens and they know we’ve been looking for one for the girls for a couple of years. When I walked across the yard up to where Mr. Joseph was working on a load he had brought home, he looked up at me and eyes wide as saucers, jumped and let out a foul word. He apologized profusely, of course, and kept telling me he thought I was a ghost suddenly upon him. I said to him, well, I am white enough to be a ghost, ain’t I? We had a good laugh about that.

None of us have really talked much, except the time my husband borrowed a post hole digger, and the time that we had no phone and no heat and I went over to ask to use the phone in the cold–and Mrs. Violeta* said Come over and stand in front of my heater and get warm anytime, baby–and then the time we stopped by on Christmas Eve to bring a warm loaf of pumpkin bread wrapped up with love.

Mr. Joseph is still waving that cigar around and talking up a storm, and my husband just keeps nodding, yes sir, and his voice carrying over on the breeze, going on and on about lakes and the best times to fish, it’s like he’s making up for lost time, right there at our picket fence on the Sabbath.

Maybe he is all the church we needed today, because it is where two or three are, and church can be had over a picket fence. Many in the church would never grace my picket fence–I invited and they wouldn’t come, many would never walk over uninvited just to say hello–but they will bang on my door if I don’t attend service, many would never bring food just because–but they will put me on the list to receive help from the food bank, and they would hardly laugh with me right in the yard over a foul word slipped–because Christians don’t laugh, especially about things such as accidental curse words.

And when I was the one in the throes of deep depression and illness, I felt like a leper no one would come near–when I was the “least of these”, where was Jesus with skin on? Where was the church?

And it just hits me so severely and stuns with it’s power of revelation, right there with beads of perspiration forming, that Mr. Joseph–
maybe he is Jesus to us today.
                            

                                                                 *names changed to protect people in the story                                                                             edited re-post from archives 

                                                                              
This post linked up with She Loves Magazine’s Awake: A Synchroblog.

On Where Church Is {And Gratitude in Pictures}

 




In the Deep South on a Sunday morning, Husband and I sitting on porch swing drinking coffee and resting on the Sabbath the best way we know how, the black gentleman neighbor across the street brings something right up to the picket fence. I can tell by his posture he has come over on a mission.

He never goes to church when his son and wife pull out the drive–he stays behind. And on this day, he has spotted us out on the porch.

My husband goes out to meet him, and Mr. James, smoking his cigar on this fine Sunday morning, he hands a bag of fish over the fence to my husband, and I can hear him telling of the trip and how he caught them.

He doesn’t do it because he thinks we need the food, or because we are poor, or because the church said to get out and knock on doors–he just does it because it’s what’s in his heart.

Just like a couple of weeks before, when his son showed up on our front step with fresh vegetables from the garden, a big sweet grin on his angel-boy face. I know his sweet mama had plenty of family she could have given that fresh summer bounty to, and for some reason, she chose to share it with us.

From my spot on the lazy swing, in mid-July sweltering Mississippi heat–heat so thick and heavy it makes your throat close up and your lungs just pure forget how to work–I can see him waving his cigar and his booming voice talking of all of us going down to the lake together some time to let the kids fish. We can use his boat, he says. Why he came over on a Sunday morning out of the blue to say all of this, I really don’t know. It’s always hard for us humans to believe that someone may just want to be friendly, no strings attached. Life teaches us to be hard.

My mind goes back to a few weeks before that, when the girls and I walked over in the middle of the day just to show them our new kitten, because we know they love kittens and they know we’ve been looking for one for the girls for a couple of years. When I walked across the yard up to where Mr. James was working on a load he had brought home, he looked up at me and eyes wide as saucers, jumped and let out a foul word. He apologized profusely, of course, and kept telling me he thought I was a ghost suddenly upon him. One minute I wasn’t there, and the next I was right up on him, he said. I said to him, well, I am white enough to be a ghost, aren’t I? We had a good laugh about that.

They haven’t talked much, except the time my husband borrowed a post hole digger, and the time that we had no phone and no heat and I went over to ask to use the phone in the cold–and Mrs. Viola said Come over and stand in front of my heater and get warm anytime, baby–and then the time we stopped by on Christmas Eve to bring a warm loaf of pumpkin bread wrapped up with love.

Mr. James is still waving that cigar around and talking up a storm, and my husband just keeps nodding, yes sir, and his voice carrying over on the breeze, going on and on about lakes and the best times to fish, it’s like he’s making up for lost time, right there at our picket fence on the Sabbath.

Maybe he is all the church we needed today, because it is where two or three are, and church can be had over a picket fence. Many in the church would never grace my picket fence–I invited and they wouldn’t come, many would never walk over uninvited just to say hello–but they will bang on my door if I don’t attend service, many would never bring food just because–but they will put me on the list to receive help from the food bank, and they would hardly laugh with me right in the yard over a foul word slipped–because Christians don’t laugh, especially about things such as accidental curse words.

And when I was the one in the throes of deep depression and illness, I felt like a leper no one would come near–when I was the “least of these”, where was Jesus with skin on? Where was the church?

And it just hits me so severely and stuns with it’s power of revelation, right there with beads of perspiration forming, that Mr. James–

maybe he is Jesus to us today.

 

















Gratitude in Pictures and Lazy Summer Days all running together…{#931-955}…:

 
The pure light of the two of them together…

 
Sisters laughing….the laughter in a home being medicine…

 
Older sister spinning little sister and the way she adores her…
 
 
Mid-summer backyard fun…

 
 
 
Littlest sitting with her big sister for protection…

 
My babies trying their hands at sparklers, their curious, joyous faces lighting my life….
 
 
How she will always take anything from Mama’s hand…

 
The perfect summer treat–ice cream in a cone {with raspberries and blueberries and dipped in baker’s melting candy and red crystals!}
 
Letting the ice cream run down because we can…
 
 
Taking in the wonder of nature…

 
That I can remember her like this…
 
 
Watching them play in the rain…

 
 
 
Old friends visiting….
 
 
 
The goodness of God’s bounty offered us every day…
 
 
Light caught on wood…

 
The wonder of color…how it captivates me…
 
 
Thank you notes written to Daddy for working so hard for us, an idea I got here, from Alicia, who I like to call friend–so thankful for her encouragement {that could be 2 thank-you’s!}…and it couldn’t have come at a better time for this Husband working 7 day weeks, the days so long…
 
 
Family in the backyard when Husband is home unusually early, the makings for popcorn popped on the grill, and pizza
 
 
Hearing their laughter, squeals; Hard Eucharisteo: calming their yells and crying…
 
 
How she carries her hippo and blanket with her everywhere she goes…
 
 
Caramel popcorn popped the old-fashioned way, the beauty of creating… 
 
 
Fudge adds the sweet finish…
 
Please come back tomorrow for the recipe for my Old-fashioned caramel-fudge popcorn! And maybe a story in the works….
 

**Friends,
your comments mean so much to me–they soul-drench me in grace and minister to me. And your prayers mean even more. I am not able to answer each comment–I am probably wrestling a mountain of laundry, or baby girl who apparently thinks freedom means clothes-free; cleaning up potty-training messes or apple cores lost in the recesses of un-folded clothes, reading a good book with my kids in the hammock, {or dancing to hip-hop with them while they roll their eyes}, out running, having a glass of wine with Husband, or lying in a warm bath just trying to breathe, friend! I hope you understand? Thank you in advance for grace. If you are reading this, you are awesome and I already love you! Head here to get to know me better and to read why during this season of life, I am just quietly writing, and not visiting via social media as much…. if time permits, I will come by your place and leave some encouragement for you!

** Thank you for so, so much grace, friends. My heart cannot express in mere words, my gratefulness.

Still counting and joining in community with sweet Ann and others…


 

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