On that same light note, you'll be jealous of what is coming to me in the mail, any day now. Get a load of this:
What fabulous joy! An adjective dictionary...and not just any ol' adjective dictionary. This one is the highly selective dictionary of GOLDEN adjectives, for the extraordinarily literate. Hallelujah-wahoojah, I get to torment all my gentle readers with a fresh, frothy, garish, and flashy use of juicy descriptives.
I will use adjectives On Purpose. Always a mistake amateur writers make, and I plan to make that mistake at least once before I die. (That mistake, and a few others I shan't elaborate on just yet...it'd make for far too much shock and awe, after those posts on "extremes".)
Stay tuned. It is going to get.....
...oh, heck. I wish I had that dictionary right now.
I could live out any extreme I wanted - being sick of extremes in the body of Christ is not an issue of sour grapes for me. ("Sour grapes" is found in an Aesop's Fable...) There isn't much I don't have access to, other than a trip to the moon. I have a credit card with enough of a line of credit, I could go anywhere, or have any cosmetic procedure I wanted. I could sell a thing or two and do the same. I have a good laptop computer, now. It never crashes. I could spend a lotttt of time on this baby.
I have friends - dear and near friends. I can create and receive text messages. Those two facts alone could send me soaring into the World of Extremes, and those two facts alone account for a terrible lack of creative soul in people today - and I cannot let it happen to me. I'd die a slow death, spending multiplied moments typing with my thumbs and answering my cell phone.
I promise, you aren't really having a creative thought, when you're doing all that! You aren't tending a garden, writing an essay, or paying attention to a child. I'd almost say you are not living, but that would be a bit extreme, wouldn't it?
I have a Facebook page. I could sit for part of every day and peruse others days and others lives, or I could live my own day, and have my own life. A Facebook page not oft updated equals a life well lived. A blog that sits silent now and then, means the writer is a balanced human being. A blog that sits silent for weeks at a time means the writer probably shouldn't have started one in the first place.
I have a twelve pack of diet Coke at my beck and call, even as I type this. However, I might drink two today. I have good relationships with the up-and-coming generation. I could call any college kid in my church, and many outside my church, and be having lunch with someone in two hours flat. But I don't feel needy to prove how hip I am. The fact that these kids love me (yes, if you are almost thirty, you are still a "kid" to me - and I never thought I'd hear myself say that!), and the fact that they are willing to hang out at my house now and then fills me with enough satisfaction to be content. I don't have to be the older lady they roll their eyes at, secretly.
"Content" seems to be the watchword. It was the subject of the sermon in Harvest Church yesterday.
So, though I have the means to be extreme, and access to all the tools of extremity, all the friends, all the technology - somehow I manage to be content with limiting my access to all if it, taking what time and energy is left over, and investing it in being a whole, balanced woman.
"Balance" is a Biblical concept. Hear, once again, wise Old Solomon:
It is good that you grasp the one and do not let the other slip from your hand. For the one who fears God will end up with both of them. (Ec.7, again!)
God said it, not me. By avoiding extremes, I will end up with the best of both worlds.
I feel I already have.
Wait! Come back! (Those who've known me, lo' these many years, usually find a way to slip out the door every time I say that...)
Seriously. Today, I'm pondering - not the 7 zillion dollar Government Bail Out, not the election, not even the gas shortage in the southeastern US - I've been pondering the seemingly differing subjects of personal style, and avoiding extremes. Personal style. Avoiding extremes.
Amazingly, one chapter in Ecclesiastes kinda sorta addresses both concepts, a fact which I find most satisfactory. Those Biblical "Wisdom Books" absolutely send me. I find so much food for thought in Proverbs or Ecclesiastes, my brain burps, because I'm always trying to feed it too much at one time.
Which brings me to the subject of extremes. There's a pitiful thing in Christendom, and it is people who conceal their lack of substance by masquerading as "being radical". Extremes are quasi-Christian, actually. They resemble the authentic Christian life, but are entirely human in their origin. To tend towards extremes is to live in a very dangerous place, according to the wisdom of Solomon:
Don’t be excessively righteous, and don’t be overly wise. Why should you destroy yourself? Don’t be excessively wicked...why should you die before your time? (Ec. 7)
Extremes manifest in ordinary life, and are quite easy to discern, if you remain alert. They are seen in the tendency to believe that if a little bit of something is good, a whole lot of it is better. If enjoying a friendship is good, why then ten text messages and a phone call or two a day is better. If spending a couple of hours in fellowship is good, then hanging out almost every day must be better. Staying for dinner - good. Staying for ten hours - better! If being friends is good, why, let's be BFF's.
If making your acquaintence is nice, I say we up the ante, and you be my long lost sister, 'kay??
If having a Facebook page is good, then spending forty-five minutes every other day "keeping up with friends" and pasting little buttons on a bulletin board, and writing lots of messages on lots of walls, and having lots of contacts is better. If using my spiritual gifts is good, then camping out on them must be better. If doing "it" once is good, then running "it" into the ground must be even better.
If God has called me to be a writer, then I ought to be writing down everything. If He has called me to prophesy, then I'll come up with "a word" for almost every corporate gathering. One mission trip is not enough, I must go on five trips. If I am good at administrating my small sphere of influence, shouldn't I be critiquing everyone's leadership style? If exhibiting passion is inspiring, then an emotional melt-down might bring revival!
You heard me. I find extremes to be boring. Because they are, literally, everywhere. Mega-churches, IMAX theatres, Big Gulp drinks, Hummers, collagen lips, boob jobs, loud music and loud personalities are a dime a dozen these days. Much like an experienced grade-school teacher will softly read a storybook to a roomful of squirming, noisy children, understated elegance is now what attracts attention.
Which brings me to the subject of personal style. Whether we're talking in terms of a woman's wardrobe, her home decor, her talents, or her personality...personal style can never be bought or imitated. It is precisely when a writer strains to write Great Literature, he begins to write trash. When anything poses as Art with a capital "A", it becomes Pretension with a capital "P". When a Christian strains to lead, she becomes irritating with a capital "I".
My sister has this gorgeous head of hair. I was not so blessed. You either have great hair, or you don't. If you don't, you could buy a wig...but I'd be reduced to admiring the talents of the wigmaker, and not your hair. So if you don't have great hair, how about drawing out those deep brown eyes? Or your smile? If you don't have a voluptuous figure, for heaven's sake, don't go out and buy one. You won't look quite right. Find a way to enjoy being lithe and graceful with the figure you were given.
If you are forty-something, please, for the love, stop wearing outfits designed for a twenty-something. Trust me....it isn't "you, only better".
Style is organic to the person. It is as much a part of the person as their eye color or their voice-print. It cannot be manufactured, it can only be highlighted or honed. Problem is, many women have spent so much time copying Sister Someone Else, they don't know who they are! In the Christian life, you can only work out what God has worked in. In matters of personal style, copying someone else is the equivalent of shopping at Rooms-To-Go. Takes no imagination.
Ecclesiastes kinda sorta tells us this, when it says:
Wisdom is as good as an inheritance, and an advantage to those who see the sun. For wisdom is protection as money is protection, and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of its owner.
Don't you love it? "Wisdom is as good as money."
Having personal style is as good as being rich enough to afford a designer house, designer wardrobe, and surgical enhancements. In fact, the woman with style is at a distinct advantage. Both style and riches can lend you some measure of influence, but while you can run out of money, you can't run out of good taste.
Solomon would advise us: avoid excess, and always remember....the most important things in a woman's life cannot be bought or imitated.
Sarah, and some of the children from the Heritage House orphanage...
I ran across a quote in my art book/slash/ calendar. The quote yanked a huge grin out of me, which was a necessary and medicinal thing, seeing as my youngest son and I had a bit of a row over his grammar lessons this morning.
This lovely book is entitled The Year in Art, and each day features a painting to the right of the two page spread, and a quote to the left. Today's painting is Breakfast Piece, by Floris Van Dyck:
The quote is GK Chesterton (wouldn't you know it?) :
"The poets are mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese."
My friend Justin (my daughter Hannah's long-time boyfriend, Godly man, high achiever, and - Tim and I speculate - her future spouse...no pressure, Justin...) has the soul of a warrior-poet, and is also an avid cheese lover. I trust he shall remedy this situation forthwith.
Please see Justin's blog, "Equipped For Battle", when you have time to go lolly-blogging. You'll find his link under "My Favorite Blogs".
PS. Yes, I am a Christian. Yes, I am referring to sex. God thought of it first.
And we nod our head in agreement...until we are seemingly unsuccessful. Then, we wonder what went wrong, what did we do wrong, and where is God in all this? Dark discouragement threatens our spiritual health, as we examine every aspect of our existence, searching for solutions to this problem - for an explanation for this unexpected turn of events.
After all, if we do our part, isn't God obligated to do His? Underneath all the Christian-speak about trusting in God, isn't life a pretty predictable series of acts of obedience, followed by the goal of good results? Sure, we may encounter temporary set-backs, even a catastrophe here and there, but shouldn't the end result turn out to be the one for which we aim? What is trusting in God for, if not to grant success to us when we are obedient to Him?
To put it succinctly: no. Trusting in the Lord pleases Him. That is the goal. The goal, ultimately, is simply to one day hear, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."
It is hard to stare perceived failure in the eye. It can be devastating to look back on years of work, even decades of obedience to God, with little to show for it, to the eyes of watching men.
But I have a word for you, wherever you are. Whether you have been faithful in the ministry, only to see hardship - or worked your heart out for years in your own business, only to see it go under - whether you have been honest and upright in a relationship, only to be mistreated, or circumspect with your finances, only to see hard times; whether you have been obedient to raise your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, only for them to demand all you had to give, and leave you and your God - whether you have diligently poured out your best years to your local church, only to be betrayed....what if I told you that your obedience-for-the-sake-of-obedience is beautiful in the eyes of the Lord? What if God Himself told you that?
He has already told you, when He told Isaiah. Listen to Isaiah's broken heart:
Then I said, I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain... (Is. 49:4)
"All this work, for nothing. I've exhausted myself to no avail. Decades of faithfully prophesying the word of the Lord - and no revival. No results."
..yet surely my judgment is with the LORD, and my reward with my God.
Here comes the best part, the healing part ~
And now, saith the LORD that formed me from the womb to be his servant...Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, and my God shall be my strength.
And thus saith the Lord to you. "Yet." Oh, yet! Not just "yet", but "yet surely." Yet surely as He knows your name, you are beautiful in the eyes of your Father, and He promises to strengthen you.
Life is not a predictable series of acts of obedience followed by sure and immediate and perfect results. Sometimes, we do all we know to do, and "Israel is not gathered". Cry your tears, beloved, and then dry them, because outward success was never to be your goal.
Your goal is to be glorious...honourable...distinguished...important and successful in the eyes of the Lord.
And yet you shall be.
Swallowed up. Robed in His righteousness. Infused with His essence. Covered by His person. My former self removed and replaced. My new personality braided with His. Twined with Christ. Criss-crossed and woven, I in Him, Him in me, I in Him...
My future, integrated and assimilated into the purposes of God. No longer am I the one living. Buried with Christ, raised up in Him. My self, concealed and diminished. My life, indistinguishable from His, hidden away with Christ, in God.
I've often feared losing God's favor, as if favor were somehow obtained by human might and power. I doubt I am the only one who has ever worried that I have fallen out of Divine favor. Favor must be obtained, yes. To "obtain favor of the Lord" is Biblical. But I obtain favor from the Lord when I apprehend Christ and appropriate His righteousness.
To be in Christ is the only foundation for obtaining favor with God.
God's right hand is the only place of favor and blessing. "Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore." (Ps. 16:11)
Christ is forever the One seated at God's right hand. "But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God..." (Heb. 10:12)
My life is hidden in Him. Thus, I too am seated at that coveted place. "(God) hath raised us up together with Christ, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus..." (Eph. 2:6)
I'm not seated "with" Christ. I am seated "in" Him. Not by works of righteousness which I have done, but only by mercy do I obtain favor. Whatever pleasures are at the Father's right hand, whatever favor there is that flows to Him in whom the Father is well pleased, whatever approval is lavished upon the Son, whatever love bestowed from the Father's heart to Jesus; it all now belongs to me as well.
I in Him, Him in me, I in Him...
Then again, I'm a little prejudiced. He's "my" baby bird.
linking to Ann at A Holy Experience...
Life-altering events take place in my family one after another, and often two and three events at a time. It has been this way for several years. I feel quite experienced and seasoned to be able to say, "I'm used to it by now".
At least I hope I am.
But the fact that I am becoming an old hand at fielding major milestones does not lessen the bittersweetness, and in no way reduces the joy....or the workload...involved.
Last night, we finally had our oldest son's high school graduation party. He graduated last May, but in deference to others in our small fellowship who were graduating, and still more who were planning major celebrations for other reasons, we elected to postpone his event. As usual, God blesses those who wait on Him. Josiah was generously rewarded for having waited to experience his own "big day".
The party was a success. There were moments it seemed you couldn't stir the crowd with a stick. Almost everyone invited was able to attend. They came - without appeals, without pressure, without even having to "RSVP". We placed no expectations on anyone. We quietly sent Josiah's graduation announcement, and a small invitation inside that to an "open house". Anyone who could drop by on the evening of September 5th would be welcomed. No ceremonial pretense, no putting anyone on the spot.
It was what he wanted - very indicative of his laid back personality.
People respond to grace. Yes, to me, it all vividly illustrates the grace message. "Ho, anyone who is thirsty, come to the waters..." God doesn't need a head count. He doesn't exert pressure on people to come. He never begs, never invites out of any neediness He feels.
Simultaneously, my daughter Sarah is preparing for her second mission trip to Cambodia. She leaves in two days. Huge events...coming at my mother's heart fast and hard...at the same time.
Ah, September! Did I say it is typically a quiet month for me?
I AM rather used to it, now. I don't feel the least overwhelmed. I simply feel profoundly grateful for being given this gift of a busy life. It keeps me well outside my limits, and almost daily brings me to the end of me, myself, and I.
None of these 'big milestones' have even been a topic of my personal conversations of recent weeks. This is not at all because I have "tried" not to talk about them. Rather, I can say for a fact that God gives quiet faith. Quietness and confidence. There was a time when I thought I might never actually feel the peace of God in my life. Most things felt like "too much". I was consistently overwhelmed by ordinary life. (As though any life spent home educating four children, living by faith for a long season, and married to a husband in full time ministry can be AT ALL "ordinary".)
So I boast in the Lord. Major milestones....hurling at me at top speed....and a heart that is still.
How great is our God!
Sarah - I pray for you daily. Godspeed, dear daugther!
Josiah....congratulations, my boy. WE DID IT!
I am "one of those". A Tennessee Football Fan(atic). It goes all the way back to childhood, as I'd observe my typically reserved father burst into cheers and choruses of Rocky Top. The voice of John Ward, all time greatest sportscaster, permeated my autumn Saturdays, as I was growing up. My parents didn't have the time or money for season tickets. We almost never went in person to Neyland Stadium. But we were devoted from afar, glued to a radio or television, rarely missing a single game. I felt like crying when Ward finally retired, only a few years ago.
Certain phrases can only be appreciated by a Vol fan. Words like, "GIVE HIM SIX!" and "It's football time in Tennessee!"
Or, "the second Saturday in October...". Google those words, I dare you. They've found their way into Wickipedia - the saying has become our gift to pop culture. The generations-long rivalry between the Volunteers and the Crimson Tide is the stuff of history. Here, grandfathers tell their grandsons glowing tales of conquest and victory. Somehow, the defeats get lost to the annals of time.
Everything changes on a game day Saturday, here in Knoxville. You can feel a change in the air. The atmosphere becomes electric. The ethos of a whole city becomes that of grit and spit and celebration, while heartily singing hymns of the stadium. Orange flags are unfurled from every vehicle, and the game is broadcast over the loudspeaker of every grocery store. You can't live here and not be affected by it. East Tennesse would not be the place it is without its football.
I'm proud to say that the next generation are die-hards. My children now "holler n' yell", wear orange and white, and rearrange their lives so as not to miss watching important games on television. Even today, my husband and I are gleefully planning a trip to the store for plenty of chips, salsa, sodas, and whatever we think would be fitting for the first game of the season - whatever can be eaten "blindly", with both eyes on the football, awaiting the first snap from the center.
It has been a long, long time since we last saw a good game.
...and the tradition continues.....