"Language, as well as the faculty of speech, was the immediate gift of God." ~ Noah Webster



Sunday, August 13, 2017

When Opportunity Presents

It had been some time since my husband and I had made a trip to Costco to buy groceries. We usually go weekly, but life gets busy and we hadn't gone in a few weeks. We were out of just about everything. We also had some fairly large items to pick up, so when we arrived we grabbed two carts to contain all that we needed.

After pretty much filling up both carts and then checking out, we headed toward the door where the store always has an employee look at each and every receipt before letting anyone leave. "It is to make sure no one is charged twice for an item," they tell us. There are probably multiple reasons; but most importantly, it is probably to make sure everyone HAS a receipt.

This time, there was a young man with a somber look on his face checking the receipts. I don't know what came over me. I had no plans to do anything silly. But as I handed him my receipt, I said to him in as serious a tone as I could muster, "That man behind me is going to try to tell you he is with me, but he is NOT."

"OK" was his only reply and the look on his face was as solemn as it was when I walked up to him.

I didn't think it would go this way. I thought I would simply put a smile on the young man's face who seemed entirely too intense and grim. But when he believed me, what could I do but travel the path I had started and he had then directed.

I continued out the door, desperately trying to contain my laughter. At this point I didn't want him to catch on. This was turning into a prank that was simply taking a direction all its own. Now the joke was on my husband. He was going to get questioned!

I walked several more paces making sure I was out of the way of customers entering and leaving the store. I turned around just in time to see my husband desperately pointing at me trying to explain to the clerk that he WAS with me. "Jan, Jan!" he excitedly called my name. 

I burst out laughing...doubled over with laughter, now at what had just taken place. I had not expected this to be carried this far.

The young man looked at me with shock on his face. When he saw me doubled over barely able to control my laughter, he knew immediately what had happened. "Oh YOU!" was all he uttered but with distinct exclamation and maybe a little disgust. My husband simply shook his head.

I was laughing so hard I couldn't do anything but continue on my way to the car. I couldn't have explained anything, anyway. Opportunity had opened the door. I simply walked through and did what the reaction of those involved directed. I mean really...what else could I do?

 

 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Bare-Naked

Bare-naked Eyes

"What is that on your eyes?" he asked me. And I can still see the quizzical look on his face as he said it. I remember even better the twinkle in his own eyes when he saw he had stumped me.

I don't remember how old I was, but I remember the moment like it was yesterday...well almost yesterday. Perhaps, I was about 15 or 16. We were standing in my grandpa's kitchen, and I had just started wearing mascara. His comment was intended to show his disapproval of my wearing make-up, but in a teasing, non-judgmental way. That was my grandpa. He loved to tease. And Grandpa was an old-fashioned holiness preacher. He was a man of strong convictions, but I don't remember him ever making me feel chastised, or judged for trying to cover my bare-naked eyes. Nor did I ever feel he judged me for anything else, for that matter.

"Get in a church that preaches holiness, Jan." he had told me one day. I also remember those words with eternal clarity. It was something he believed deeply. I recall taking them lightly; I wanted a church that focused on grace. But I never forgot his words. And as I grew in the Lord, as well as matured in age, I came to understand both grace and holiness were equally important and that they went hand-in-hand. (2 Timothy 1:9)

Now all these years later...well actually decades; four or five decades, probably....his words are more important than ever. Why? Because all these years later, the church has changed - and it has changed dramatically.

Grandpa knew something then, that I, as a youngster, had no inkling. And that is this:

Obedience is our safety net. Holiness ensures steadfastness and assurance. And both promote growth - individually and as a church. (1 Thessalonians 4:1-9) A sound church should teach both, because Scripture does.

Slip-Sliding Away                                                                        

"What one generation accepts in moderation, the next excuses in excess."  I don't remember who said it. I put that quote on my refrigerator more than 20 years ago. I recognized it as something that was being manifested at the time. It seems it has played out 10 times over, since then.

Now - two or 3 generations later, (depending on ones scale) - we have slipped into acceptance of things my grandparents' generation and even my parents' generation would never understand to be Christian. Drinking was frowned upon by most Christians back then; living together out of wedlock was considered sin. The movies and television sit-com's on the mainstream channels today would leave my grandpa with his mouth hanging open, and tears in my grandma's eyes. Homosexuality was correctly placed under Ephesians 5:12. Swearing? Well if one did it, one certainly didn't do it in church, or even in front of others. Now, it is considered hip even if it is a pastor from the pulpit or a Christian author in their writings. People laugh at it while professing it is all ok, because they just happen to love Jesus more than anyone else. Well, and you know; love covers a multitude of sin. (Please note sarcasm and my apologies for it.)

And personally, it seems to me "selfishness" - lovers of self - abounds today; not only in the world, but in the church. We claim how much we love Jesus and are doing for the church while bragging up our ministry, or our calling. Maybe we really are called, (sometimes we are only following a trend) but I am pretty sure we are not called to place the focus on us.

Now days, the popular thought is basically act like the world, so we don't scare the world away. We are thought to be selfish if we don't consider others feelings before our own desires that we might have for our church. It is all about not condemning anyone. In all honesty, we are seeing a bit of manipulation of the old adage, "When in Rome do as the Romans do."  Well yeah, that is probably wise...sometimes...in the world. (no sarcasm; perhaps a little attitude)

We certainly don't want to cast any judgment. You know: "Judge not, lest you be judged." (Matthew 7:1-3) But with no regard to "Live holy even as I am holy." 1 Peter 1: 15-17

New Mantra, Same Faith?

The new mantra is "missional living" speaking about how we must reach the lost. Well that is certainly true! That's a good thing! But it also always has been! And honestly, I believe there is an air of arrogance, that makes one feel like this new generation believes they are the only ones who have ever witnessed, or cared about missions and know how to live it. They obviously are not. And I would like to make clear, this is not an attack on the idea of missional living as it has been espoused in recent years. Yes, I do have disagreements with the social justice aspects of this movement, but my comments here are in regard to the fact that many promoting this lifestyle seem to think it is something brand new and no one has ever lived this way before. Quite simply, that is offensive to the saints of old and those who have always tried to fulfill the Great Commission without this new modern title, or any title at all for that matter. Simply google and read Wikipeida's definition of "missional living" then look at the names at the bottom of the article. Almost everyone of those names (the ones I recognize) are people that I would not only never support, but aggressively warn against. Though some of them have already fallen and lost their position, they have had a huge impact on the direction of the church today.

Where I believe the new generations error, is in their belief that we cannot reach unbelievers if we alienate them by our expectations of holiness. Preaching any do's and don'ts today is frowned upon even if it is to the church to try to promote spiritual growth!

But the truth is, the lost want to see something different from those who profess Christ. Even unbelievers do not want to see Christians act like the world. They do not want Christians to have the same actions as the world; to behave and think in the same way. To say differently, is a new message within Christian circles, not the old, timeless one. Through the decades, I have been around enough to observe that fact. I have discerned feelings and witnessed enough to people to understand holiness is attractive to them, and expected. Living life as they do, is not.

And more, there is an attempt within certain segments of the church to change the meaning of the verses about holiness. Or we oversimplify it by "cheapening grace" - as my dad used to say. " As one example, Richard Stearns attacks conservative Christians throughout his book The Hole in Our Gospel while changing the meaning of Biblical holiness. We love to say: "God's holiness is our holiness. In Christ, we are already holy." And that is absolutely true, thanks to His great sacrifice, but some have carried grace so far, that there is no notable change in attitude or behavior. We are Christians. We bare His name; but sometimes we try to carry that name while dragging it through the mud. Why would we want to do that? We are to be holy, for His  names sake. (Psalm 23:3; Psalm 143:11)

Where is Reverence?

So did I learn from Grandpa? Oh my goodness! His words are life to me. And that is due to the fact he was faithful to the One whom he served. Holiness? Grandpa lived it and he lived it without judgment, or making anyone uncomfortable.  It can be done. We don't need to live like the world in order to draw others into the Kingdom. My grandparents did it and they did it well. My parents did it. Is it a generational thing? Well again, that's where this quote comes into play. "What one generation accepts in moderation, the next excuses in excess."  We, Christian, are in decline, whether anyone wants to admit it, or not.    

Feeling a little bare-naked here. When we address something like this, we will be scrutinized by many. And before anyone judges me for judging, do I live a life of holiness? I struggle. Pretty sure we all do and we all always have. But I have a much better understanding today, of what my grandpa meant when he said "Get in a church that preaches holiness, Jan." Sometimes now I feel like it is too late; sometimes it feels like there aren't any, although I do feel like I have found a good balance in my home church.

I still don't go anywhere without my mascara. I cannot stand to have anyone see me with my bare-naked eyes. But maybe it is not out of selfishness; maybe it isn't even out of vanity. Just maybe I am actually thinking of others. Because I sure wouldn't want to scare the world away with bare-naked eyes. :-) (Please note attempt at humor.) Now maybe this is an example of why we shouldn't judge. We really don't know why someone does something, do we? We really don't know what is in someone's heart. But we are to discern; we are to correct and build each other up. (2 Timothy 4:2 amid a myriad of other verses)

Peter 1:13-17 (KJV)

13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:

15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;

16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

17 And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:

And really for all the questions, disputes and wonderings about holiness and why we are to be holy, it is really very simple:  "Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. Sometimes we don't need to ask why. Sometimes, we don't get to. That is an important lesson for all of us to learn, because sometimes there are a whole lot of questions and wondering this side of heaven that we don't get to know the answer. Sometimes we should just obey...because it is written. And that is where trust comes in to play.

And finally, "...pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:" (i.e. reverence, respect). Sometimes, I am afraid we have forgotten that part.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Alan Jackon Style

I had the opportunity to defend someone's reputation the other day. I thought about ignoring the situation...it wasn't really that important...but I just couldn't let it go. I really did try.

It was probably even silly...truly not that important...but it just isn't in my nature to hear something inaccurate about someone and say nothing. I have to speak the truth, or at least I must cite that part which I know is right.

So like I said, the situation was silly. I will even tell you who it was regarding. It was Alan Jackson. My favorite country music singer. Well yeah, I'm going to defend him! He's my favorite!  ;-) I would have done it regardless of who it was, however. At least I hope I would have. I hate things to spread that are not true. Especially if it is about someone's character.

It was an inaccurate Facebook post about something he did. It had a little bit of truth; that is usually the case. It makes things more believable to include a bit of truth. Several years ago, he had walked off the stage at the country music awards. Someone was trying to say it was political. It wasn't. Someone tried to say he is a liberal. But truth is he chooses to not make his politics known. He has often said that he doesn't feel his fans should have to be subjected to anything other than his music. I appreciate and respect that.

If you are interested, this is a great clip about why he walked off stage. He was defending a friend. And I LOVE that. It is far too rare.
 


He explains further here:


 

So pretty cool, huh? Definitely worth defending, in my opinion. I had known the story since the day it took place. I was so moved by it, I never forgot it. Someone defending someone, simply because it is the right thing to do.

Why don't we do that? Why do we just ignore falsehoods...thinking they will just go away? They won't. They will live in someone's mind. Sometimes the inaccuracies will even grow and become something worse.

But anyway, I had to defend the truth in this case. I remember when I responded on Facebook with the truth. I included the above videos to back up what I said. It made me feel so good. It was such a little, unimportant thing in the grand scheme of things and certainly in Alan Jackson's life, LOL but it made me feel so doggone good! I felt like I had defended a friend. Like I had done something right. I had spoken truth. Taking a stand for truth and the defense of someone's reputation warmed my heart...a warm, fuzzy feeling that made the effort worth it.

Later, when I went back to Facebook the people involved in the inaccurate post thanked me profusely for sharing them the real story. I was rewarded with their heartfelt thanks...on such a silly issue. Yes, this is what I always want to do. Defend truth...I like that warm, fuzzy feeling of success.

Enter another battle. Something like that occurred again today. I had to defend someone's character. Someone's integrity. There was a false report and it was brought to my attention as if it were truth. I was flabbergasted. I knew this person better than that. And this was highly out of character. I listened to the report, not really knowing what to do. I pondered. I prayed. I pondered some more. This just wasn't right. I made another phone call. And then pondered and prayed some more. And yes, I asked God, "Why in the heck am I involved in this?"

A few hours later, I knew the answer. I knew what had happened. And it came over me with a wave of peace that ended with one of those, "I knew that I knew, that I knew " kind of moments. The truth had hit my heart. God had spoken to me when I finally became quiet and had some time to reflect. It was one of those times where there is no question, but that it is God. I now knew what had happened. I should have known the answer immediately, but I had gotten caught up in the seed that wasn't true. Maybe I had even watered it a bit.

But when I knew the truth, I couldn't make the phone call fast enough in order to defend this person's character. I shared what I knew was truth. Much to my surprise, I encountered push back from the person on the other end of the line; a defensive attitude. What in the heck? I didn't expect that; I expected relief on all sides. But instead, a mild argument ensued. I held my ground. I had to; I had no choice, did I? God had spoken. Integrity and reputation were at stake and I was right. There had been an error that had to be corrected. A horrible misunderstanding. Belief by misinterpretation. I was not going to let that go without explanation.

To the credit of the person I was talking with, listening took over. This person could sense the truth, too, when all the facts were presented. But her own reputation was at stake. She had believed a falsehood and ran with it - maybe even planted and watered and watered some more. Surely she couldn't have made that kind of mistake. But she had. This wasn't going down easy. Mistakes hurt the ego. Sometimes truth hits hard. Sometimes conversations are tough. I only realized what was happening (that she was feeling corrected or exposed) near the end of our conversation. I understood fully, when she finally took a deep breath and told me how the situation would be resolved. I knew then, she saw it and believed me. But that was rough...for all involved.

I believe that is why defending truth is so rare. Sometimes defending truth ends in confrontation. Sometimes it is terribly uncomfortable and someone else's purported "truth" gets all messy. It usually comes back on them. I did want to be gentle, when I finally understood what she was fighting against. But truth is truth. It matters. 

And sometimes it isn't about silly little Alan Jackson stories. Sometimes it is far bigger, far more important. Sometimes it is about someone's life and integrity and where they might go from here. Sometimes there is no other choice but to preserve and protect. I hope I always have the strength I need to do that. That is my choice. Sometimes it doesn't end in a warm, fuzzy feeling, though...some times it ends in a feeling that is akin to climbing out of the foxhole - exhausted and beat up, from a battle that somehow became mine whether I wanted it to or not.

We've got choices to make. Not too easy sometimes; but I guess if it is Alan Jackson style, I am ok with that. ;-)

 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Norman Rockwell Moments

I lost my mama. I am not ready to write about that just yet; but I can't let it go unstated, or ignored either. I will try to write a post about her soon. It is hard to write about perfection and make it believable. She was close enough to perfect, for me.

The sorrow runs deep.

But we must move on. We have no choice. It is the right thing to do.

My summer days are mostly lacking. It has been a struggle. There have been a couple good days, by God's good grace.

I will try to write about one of these better days. Below is an account of my dealings and activities for a mid-week, summer day...i.e. today.

I wake to wind. I like to sleep with my window open in summer, but the wind was strong this morning. I looked at the clock...5 something. Too early...I cover my head to shut out the morning light and go back to sleep.

6 something. It is time to get up, whether I feel like it or not.                

I let out my old man beagle for his morning potty, and start the coffee. While the coffee brews, I go out and feed the ponies. We were able to get our hay in early this year, due to all the nice rain enabling good growth. We asked a neighbor to cut for us this year, as our cutter is out of service. He was gracious enough to do it for us, though he told me a few years ago he didn't want to do it anymore. He is the best! He relented at my desperate plea. For his sake, we had him cut it high, as we didn't want to worry about him hitting any rocks. We have very rocky ground out here. Since it was cut high, it left some nice green length for the horses to graze. Additional rain, is going to keep it green a bit longer this year. That doesn't usually happen either. Yay for hay!!

Anyway, back to feeding the horses. I gave the horses all about half a flake, just to get something on their tummies. I like to start them slow on the fresh, green grass when they aren't used to it. Having something of their normal diet first, helps them from gorging more than they should on the good stuff.

While they eat, I come in for coffee that is now ready, and my daily reading.        

Refreshed with Bible and brew, it is time to think about what my day will entail. I usually have an idea, but not today. I had no plans to go to town today, but I can sense as my morning thought process begins to develop, that that is probably going to change.

It is time to let the horses out to pasture and when I am done, I come in and work on my book business. I have sorely neglected it while my mom was sick and the site I deal with, actually deactivated me. I finally got a chance to check on it last night, and I saw they were still charging me fees, though I had been inactive since April. I was surprised to see they would do this when they were the ones to deactivate me! Yikes. I sent a letter last night explaining my situation and my unintended neglect in hopes they would help me out a bit. I received the reply this morning and it was favorable, so I got busy updating my site. That felt good.

After working for about an hour on my books, it is time to let the horses back in. They always come agreeably with a little temptation of grain. Juliee is the smart one, though. She has lived this cycle for a few years now. She knows she might get a bit of grain, but then the fresh green grass will be cut off. Not a fair trade and she is smart enough to know that. She is the last one in, and I have to coax her a bit. So far, I haven't needed the halter. She eventually relents; the temptation too great.                            
Our Babies
Si, Juliee, Loco Lobo, and Misty

Next on my list -  bills and update checkbook! That has been sorely neglected through this time, as well. Another thing that felt really good to get done.

Ok, well then! Moving right along! Already a few accomplishments  behind me, and it is just a bit past 9:00 am. I decide to shower and head in to see my dad. But I have time, so I will move slowly. I make a left-over pork sandwich for breakfast, and have more coffee. I catch a bit of the news.  I LOVE the news. At this time it is time for the girls on Fox - "Outnumbered" I think it is called. Not too much of that, just a bit of an update to stay informed.

After a hot, rejuvenating shower, make-up and hair, (yes, I feed the horses in my jammies) I am ready to head out. By this time, I guess it is a bit before 11:00 and I realize Dad will already be at lunch by the time I arrive.

He is sitting with a woman and her daughter, and we have a nice visit. Two more ladies arrive to give us a full table. I have a small salad and coffee. Just a little something in order to eat with Dad and make him feel better to not eat alone. The facility is very gracious. There is no charge for guests for drinks and small house salads, or even soup.

We go back to Dad's room and visit a bit. I clean a bit and talk to him about a future outing that I have in mind. He is delighted. After a few tears at lunch, my idea has good timing. Bless my daddy.

I head for home, pleased that I had decided to come in for a visit. The drive home is leisurely and a time to reflect alone, and yes...mourn. My showers and my drives are my important times alone.

It is about 2:30 when I arrive at my home. I decide on the ride home, I will make a rhubarb pie as soon as I get there. It takes me no time at all to get out and start picking rhubarb. There may not be many more pies, this summer. My rhubarb has been a bit scant.

As the pie is baking, I decide to go check my garden and water some plants. I weed a bit, but not aggressively. A thorough job will be left for tomorrow. It feels good to water, and at the same time, I fill the horses trough.

I guess it is about 4:00 now, and I decide to ask my husband if he wants to take a drive to return two bales of hay that we had borrowed from my cousins. We ran out one weekend with no place to purchase. More good neighbors! Even if they are family! "Sure", my husband says, he is up for a drive and visit. We note there is a storm headed in now, but I ask him to weigh the bales before we go, as we didn't get a chance to do it the other day when we baled and brought in the hay.

I love doing this. Yes, weighing the hay! We have my grandpa's hay scale, that my dad passed on to us and it is an absolute thrill to pull it out and use it each year. I really should have taken a picture as we weighed...but dang that storm; and we wanted to get the hay over to cousin before rain. 
 
WOOHOO! 75 pound bales this year! That is a good bale for us! We couldn't be more pleased.

My husband bought himself a little side by side, 4 wheeler, this year. So we place the bales on the back of it and head down the road to cousins...probably only a quarter of a mile away. These are the things that make me love where I live. For a moment, it feels like a scene from Norman Rockwell. This is how life should be. A rare, fleeting moment these days, but this is how I want it to be. And I can't get it out of my head that this is how it should be...EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

We arrive before they are home for work, but their son, J, has also just arrived. Their plan is to go get hay. We have a nice visit with him, but we all soon realize, the storm is going to prevent them from going on the excursion they had planned.

We leave the borrowed hay with J and head home without seeing my cousin this time. The wind is picking up, just as we arrive home. The lawn chairs are being blown around. I decide to keep the horses in for their feeding, instead of letting them out to pasture. The wind and rain that is now present is just too strong. Pretty sure, the babies were ok with that. ;-) Only one refuses to go in a stall in bad weather. Si - our daughter-in-law's silly gelding. But oh what a sweetie! My Juliee heads for her stall at the first sign of rain and watches intently as she waits for me to deliver. SWEETHEART. Baby girl. I love her.

I come in and make coffee - I have warm, rhubarb pie in mind. But first, a tuna sandwich and left over beans from last night. Hubby is on his own. I don't usually eat dinner. But this is what I want for tonight. I am out of Special K, my norm. Coffee and dinner; then a second cup with the rhubarb pie. I enjoy the storm as I eat and watch a bit of the local news.

Maybe I can blog a bit.......but the sorrow runs deep...too deep to write about just yet...so this post is all I can do...unimportant ramblings.
 
Someday, I will be ready to write about the important things...But this is today. Today, I try to hold on to the fleeting moments, and Norman Rockwell scenes; breathing in comfort through superficial actions, and moments of distraction. Today was mostly that: distracting - one of the good days, by God's good grace.