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Sunday, September 25, 2011

One Thing I Learned From the ACFW Conference, 2011


I wrote a blog post last year in which I mentioned I ate lunch with Carol Johnson (along with some others). I didn’t mean to. I was looking for a place of refuge and didn’t notice who was sitting at the table. What a great experience!

This year I sat down for the first breakfast of the conference. Guess who was seated at the table? Carol Johnson.

She noticed me before I noticed her.

“Don't I know you?” she asked.

I reminded her of the dinner we had with James Scott Bell, Tim Downs, and Dan Walsh, among others.

Her eyes lit up. She asked about my work and gave me some advice.

I’m struggling for the words to describe our meeting. Soothing, calming, encouraging, warm, and inspiring all come to mind.

She is such a gracious lady.

Definitions of gracious:

1. Characterized by kindness and warm courtesy.

2. Characterized by tact and propriety

3. Of a merciful or compassionate nature.

4. Characterized by charm or beauty; graceful.

5. Characterized by elegance and good taste. (thefreedictionary.com)

All true of Carol Johnson.

One thing I learned at the ACFW Conference this year? Be gracious.
A lesson for all.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Illness: Fight or Die?

I have a question in two parts.
Part 1--
If you were diagnosed with an illness and were given less than a fifteen percent chance of survival, would you accept treatment, hoping to beat the disease, or would you refuse treatment?
Part 2--
What Biblical basis, if any, could you provide to support your decision?

Just Stop It!

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does. James 1:22-25

We are to do what the Bible tells us. Many of us sit on the pew every Sunday and leave services, forgetting what we have just heard. We need to stop it. You’ve probably seen this video:

 

So, what are some of the things the Bible tells us to do? Romans 12 gives us a good starting place. Consider these:

1. Let love be without hypocrisy.

2. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.

3. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;

4. not lagging behind in diligence,

5. fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;

6. rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation,

7. devoted to prayer,

8. contributing to the needs of the saints,

9. practicing hospitality.

10. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

11. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

12. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly.

13. Do not be wise in your own estimation.

14. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.

15. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

16. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.”

17. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:9-20

Stop just sitting on the pew, letting God’s word wash off you like water off a duck’s back. Instead start doing what the Bible teaches us.

And we “will be blessed in what (we do)”!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Home Is Where the Heart Is

Carl and I are doing a little remodeling job in our home. Today we make a trip to the local building supply store to pick out a decorative plank. It’s for the kitchen wall, a place we will hang a few pots and pans. As we examine the spruce planks, Carl and I admire the grain of the wood.

“Look at this one with all the knots,” Carl says. He runs his hand flat along the board and then stands it upright.

I take a step back. “Oh, I like that one.” I move closer to touch some of the knots.

Carl tells the sales rep I like rustic boards. He does too, but he doesn’t say it.

“Do you want to look through any more?” I ask.

“No, I already picked out the best one.” He grins at me. “I always pick out the best.

“Of course you do. You picked out me.”

And we laugh.

“We’ll take this one,” I say.

The sales rep looks from Carl to me. “Do y’all always agree so easily?”

“Not always,” Carl says.

I raise my eyebrows in mock anger. “What do you mean? We never disagree about anything! How dare you say that!”

Carl laughs. “We always get along, but we don’t always agree. We talk things over when we don’t.”

The sales rep says, “And you get the last word. ‘Yes, dear.’”

Carl and the rep share a look of commiseration, and I wonder how many times over the years the rep has seen spouses squabbling.

Carl says, “It’s true the man is the head of the house, but the woman is the neck and the neck controls the head.”

More laughter from the two men. I don’t laugh, because I have seen it so many times. Women browbeating their husbands, and husbands withdrawing and letting their wives take charge.

Carl places the board in the van so that it lies upright between our two seats, dividing us. And I ache, knowing some spouses would let such a small thing as this plank divide them.

Not us. I touch the plank and admire the knots, knots that sometimes weaken a board. But not always. Sometimes the fibers grow around the knot and simply add more beauty.

And I know rugged planks and remodeled kitchens do not make a home.

And I know a plank will never divide us.

For home is where the heart is. And my heart is right here, in this moment with Carl.

Where it will always be.

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Fear of Creativity?

I ran across something interesting today, something I have touched on in previous posts. ICR reported:

In a report scheduled to be published in the journal Psychological Science, Cornell University psychologist Jack Goncalo and two colleagues showed the results of two studies that compared what participants openly said about their views on creativity with how they reacted to novel ideas. The first experiment confirmed that participants showed "an implicit bias against creativity." . . . Apparently, people tend to be governed by a deep-seated desire to maintain a sense of certainty. New ideas can trigger discomfort, since they introduce unfamiliar possibilities. . . Further, the feelings of uncertainty can arise from fear of failure, "perceptions of risk, social rejection when expressing the idea to others, and uncertainty about when their idea will reach completion." Study Says People Subconsciously Resist Creative Ideas

This article is not aimed toward writers yet we can certainly apply it to any creative activity. Interesting, eh?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Chandler Brooks: Wasn’t That a Kick?

Auburn struggled in the first football game of the season against Utah State. Later, I was watching one of those post-game television shows. Actually, my husband and son were watching it, and my eyes were glazed over. Not only do they have to watch the football games, they also have to watch shows about the football games.

kickerNevertheless, a segment came on about one of the kickers, Chandler Brooks, that piqued my interest. Brooks said he has practiced the onside kick for the past three years. Three years!  This was his first opportunity to execute the kick during a game.

And his work paid off. Against Utah State, his onside kick helped Auburn come from behind to win.

Brooks didn’t fret or quit the team because he didn’t get the chance to play for the past three years. He simply went to work to be the best onside kicker he could be and carved out a niche for himself. A niche that helped lead his team to victory.

As Christians we can learn a lesson from this. We may not be the best Sunday School teacher, or the best at writing, or the best scholar. Yet we can carve out our own niche and work hard within it.

We need to take inventory and find one small thing we can improve, something to help us in our service to God. Think of Dorcas. Acts 9:39 says: All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them.

Dorcas didn’t have to be great at all things or many things to be remembered. She was remembered for her tunic-making skills, something some might find insignificant. Not so to her friends.

Nothing is insignificant when used for God’s glory.

Sharing of the tunics helped strengthen the bond between Dorcas and the other women. And isn’t it possible sharing tunics with others could have led someone to Christ?

Our victory may not come today or tomorrow. And we may wonder why we even bother honing our skill. But one day we may be called upon to execute that which we have so diligently practiced.

victoryAnd that may lead others to ultimate victory!

Wouldn’t that be a kick?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Coming Home

Back in 1971 I crossed my college campus while loud speakers blared a song across the quad. As I walked to class that day, I heard Country Roads for the first time. 

It was one of those everyday moments holding more than just the everyday. A yearning welled up inside of me and spilled over into tears that slid down my cheeks. Take me home? What home?

My father was a career soldier and I lived many places in my childhood. I was born in Nuremburg, Germany and also lived in Texas, Louisiana, New Jersey, France, Georgia and Alabama. My father retired from the army when I entered the tenth grade and we moved to Columbus, Georgia. We lived there two years and then moved to Phenix City, Alabama for my senior year of high school. And then it was off to college. I never lived long enough in one place to consider it home. I had friends scattered across the country, but no close friends. Even my grandmother, aunts, uncles, and cousins were relative strangers to me.

That day on campus I wondered, how could a road take me home when I feel as if I had no home?

The closest thing I had to a “real home” was my aunt’s farm where my grandmother lived. Several generations of both sides of my family were farmers in south Alabama.

My roots were there, on a farm, in the country, in south Alabama. Yet it really wasn’t my home, never a place I had lived, only a place I visited. But I yearned for such a home as that—a place filled with friends, family and fellowship.

A few years later, after I first heard the song, I graduated from college and returned to Phenix City to find a job and to mend a broken heart. There, I found Christ and a wonderful church family. Yet, I still felt restless. I never felt it was my home, so I decided to make another move—this time to Montgomery, Alabama.

I received a job offer from a Christian school in Montgomery and was making plans to buy a home. And, then, my father died. I turned down the job offer to stay with my mother in Phenix City.

And, yet, I fretted. I wanted something else. Before my father died, he had bought 50 acres of land in the country, in south Alabama. I told my mother we could have a house built and move there. She agreed.

A year later the house was built. I had traveled down several times to apply for a teaching job, but no one was hiring. One superintendent told me if I had a job teaching I should keep it (in other words, stay in Phenix City). The state was struggling financially and unemployment rates were in the double digits.

My mother and I did something unwise. 032

We moved anyway. We moved to our country home where the sun rose over the pond and reflected the beauty of God’s creation.

She was fifty-six and I was twenty-six. We both looked for jobs. No one was hiring. She turned fifty-seven and I turned twenty-seven.

“We’ve got to leave—go somewhere we can find jobs,” she said.

“Wait. Just wait a little longer.” I didn’t want to leave. I had found my home.

The days ticked by and she became more insistent. Across the road from us was a gas station/country store. One day she stopped to buy gas and told the woman running the store we were leaving.

The woman told her son-in-law. Her son-in-law told his single brother. “You missed your chance. I told you to call her. Now it’s too late.”

His brother Carl thought, well, she’ll soon be leaving anyway, why not call? He called and asked to come over to meet me. I said sure. He did.

My mother and I stayed.

I married Carl two month after we met.

And, I often sing those words I heard  forty years ago when I come home today, to my home, to the home God gave me, to the place I belong.

It’s great to be home. Hubby with granddaughter

                                                     Carl with our granddaughter

Part of the:  Check the sidebar for more great stories and thoughts on “Coming Home.”

Monday, September 5, 2011

Why My Christian Life Stinks (Sometimes)

 

Why is my Christian life often deflated, and weak? These words may sound familiar to you. I wrote this about my writing last weeks. However, we can apply this to other areas of our lives. Why is our Christian life often what it should not be?

Fear is the short answer.

No fear. Sometimes I overthink things. I hesitate to say the words that are true to me. The fear of offending makes me try too hard to please. By trying to please men instead of God, my words are empty, or simply left unsaid.

I hold in the words, words of healing, of love, of encouragement, afraid my words will be rejected or misunderstood.

How do we gain enough courage to speak when our words are needed?

We’ve all heard this--Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.

When we reach that point, when we have nothing left to lose, when we have been stripped of all but our essential self, when we speak our words to please God, when we no longer fear because our greatest fears have become reality, that’s the point at which we begin to do God’s work.

Thankfully, we don’t  have to fail on epic proportions.  We need only strip away our pride, our envy, our timidity and simply lean on God’s guidance.

Surrender all! And then we will have nothing left to lose and will be free to speak without fear.

God is our refuge and strength,
   a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
   though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
   though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Psalm 46:1-3

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