Monday, April 30, 2012

How's your name doing?


As you can see, I’ve had this book for a very long time. It’s been well loved (Also couldn't help show off the little nest with eggs our granddaughter made for us).

The book lists names, their literal meanings, and suggests character qualities and scriptures that might align with these characteristics. We used it to help select our children’s names, and I’ve turned to it repeatedly to gather information to make gifts for others. Sometimes, I’ve consulted it to help develop fictional characters.

Long ago, someone wrote, “A good name is more desirable than great riches…” (Proverbs 22:1). I’ve been thinking about what it means to have a good name. And how in this culture, a good name can quickly slide into disfavor. As a pastor’s wife, I feel I’ve lived the last decades of my life in a fish bowl. I’ve had other people besides family live with me many times from durations lasting from a few days to a year. It often seemed that everything we said and everything we did was on parade for the world to see.

In this new season of our lives, even with the nest empty, it really still seems that way, because now I’m posting on the internet every few days. So, in doing some research a few days ago, actually looking up a word definition, just clicking away, I was confronted with something that offered me an opportunity to post a link on my Facebook page. I was one click away from that happening. It was a link to an apparently ugly article that put a spin on the innocuous word I was researching.

I’m telling you, it scared me. I could just see my Facebook wall with my name and a link to what promised to be a crass article. The Message says, “A sterling reputation is better than striking it rich…” (Proverbs 22:1). It’s important to guard our names, our reputations, because a good name can’t be bought.

Luke 12:3 says, “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.” I believe God calls us to live our lives so that at any moment, if all were to be laid bare, we’d having nothing of which to be ashamed.

It’s definitely a challenge.

But one worth taking.

So, be careful out there. Be watchful of the ways the enemy of our souls is always on the prowl trying to trip us, to steal our good name. And if you’re in ministry, as Bible teacher Beth Moore says, you “move into the cross hairs.”

There’s a message in counseling that says, “Secrets keep you sick.” They do. So if you’re feeling shame over some indiscretion, it’s best to find a trusted spiritual confidant or pastor and confess. Let God cleanse you for the road ahead.

What is in a name?

Unger’s Bible Dictionary says that for the Hebrews, names, “generally expressed some personal characteristic, some incident connected with the birth, some hope or wish or prayer of the parent; and henceforth the child embodied it, and for the parents sake felt it like a personal vow, and made his life an effort to realize it.”

For the Hebrews, a name was more than just how we distinguish one person from another.

The literal meaning of my name means “dweller at the beaver meadow.” The character quality assigned is “persistent one.” My parents didn’t know that when they named me.  I found it in this little book I’ve had for so long. In my life, I've encountered some really difficult circumstances, and I've at times struggled not to give up. But, I remember what my name means. It helps me to keep going. Someone once said about me that I reminded them of the Energizer Bunny. That’s okay with me.

I feel my Heavenly Father assigned my name to me for a reason, and for His sake, I want to be that persistent one He’s named me to be.

If you don’t know about your own name, there are still a few of these books available used through online sources.


May God bring much encouragement to you through this research.  And may you guard that good name He’s given you.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Couple of Fishy Stories


 My daughter loves all things fish.
But last fall, she went off to  school and left her finned friends for me to feed.




I’m not a big fan of “cold-blooded aquatic vertebrates” (Mr. Webster’s definition).

I just knew either I’d kill them or some of my furry associates would. I’ve caught the felines with their mitts in the tank several times. Last spring while my daughter was still here, several fish mysteriously disappeared. I hate to name names, but I’m pretty sure it was a lovely ragdoll, Isabelle, who had a snack.

Nine months after my daughter left, I’m happy to report that all fish are still alive. What’s weird is I thought there were only four fish in the tank, but last week I saw one more.

I thought someone had a baby, but my daughter said it’d be a near impossibility to have an egg survive the filter or a live hatch to avoid being eaten. I don’t know about that. All I know is the fish number five. Maybe one of them has been living under a rock for eight months. In any event, I’m thankful I kept those guys alive, and maybe even brought another one along.

So, I’m telling my husband yesterday about the mystery fish as he’s returning from several days in a wilderness area, and he cranks up with his own fish story.

It’s not so much about the fish he caught. It wasn’t especially big—just a three pound bass.

His friend, Billy, caught and released an even bigger one, though,  that weighed around six pounds.

For a time Billy, a world-class sportsman, refused to let Jerry take a turn paddling the boat. Jerry was amazed that Billy only watched as Jerry cast his lure out into Beaver Pond.

Later as several men sat talking, Billy said something unusual happened earlier. He said, “Usually when you catch a big fish, the person with you throws their lure in the exact spot where you caught yours. Often, there’s another large one in the same area.” He paused. “Jerry didn’t do that. He just watched as I reeled mine in and enjoyed the moment with me.”

Wouldn’t it be a wonderful if we could always remember to do what these guys did? To just rejoice with those who rejoice, instead of trying to outdo. Competition can be a good thing, but it can also cause us to lose sight of what’s important. We’re so often afraid someone else’s success will take something away from us.

I love how Eugene Peterson translates Romans 12: 9, 10, and 15 in the Message, “Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it…Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle… Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down…Make friends with nobodies; don’t’ be the great somebody.”

Sometimes, I struggle with being too competitive, so I'm putting this on my to-do list this week: Practice playing second fiddle.

And as I do, I’ll be peeking in at the aquarium.

I have to say those fish are starting to grow on me.

Did I really just say that?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

If something seems dead: a hibiscus and being a friend to sinners


Last year I bought a hibiscus while in coastal Florida and brought it home. I loved the color of the big full blooms and enjoyed them all spring and summer. In the fall, as frost threatened, I put it in the backyard studio intending to water it over the winter, so it’d come back in the spring.

But…I forgot to water, and when I finally checked on it, the barren branches screamed neglect.

Dead.

A couple of weeks ago, I was at a family member’s house and saw a hibiscus on their patio leafing out.

“In the garage all winter,” I was told. “Maybe watered it twice.”

Oh, if I’d only remembered to water and mourned the loss of the plant, knowing it’d be unlikely to find one like it locally.

I went home and took my lost cause plant out of the studio intending to throw it on the leaf pile near the road and reuse the pot. As I did, I remembered what my gardening neighbor Mell used to say. “Don’t give up on a plant,” he’d advised. “Just hang on to it, give it water, and sometimes they come back.”

I suppose he’d learn over a lifetime that often when things seem dead, that given time and nurture, they could still revive.

Well, I did what Mell said. I soaked the plant and put the scraggly thing out in the sun.

I’ve checked on it several times over the past two weeks. Nothing but brown branches, but at least Lucy hadn’t made a chew toy out of it. This morning, again, at first I saw no sign of life.

Sigh.

Then, as I bent closer, down near the roots, a few tiny little leaves sprouted.



I wanted to have a parade. I hadn’t killed the hibiscus after all. My neighbor Mell had been right.

I was so happy I even made Jerry go out and look at it.

For my sake, he feigned rejoicing. I think I’ve mentioned before that he’s not big on gardening.

But as I’ve reflected on my hibiscus, I thought of some words by Andrew Murray that I underlined in With Christ in the School of Prayer.

“Instead of being hopeless or judging or giving up those who fall, let us pray for our circle, ‘Father! Keep them in Thy Name;’ “Sanctify them through Thy truth.’ Prayer in the Name of Jesus availeth much; ‘What ye will shall be done unto you.’”

As the water and sun were to my plant, hope, prayer, and God’s word are to those who appear to be dead to the life in Christ.

Given nurture and time, God’s work becomes evident.

I’ve been listening to a song over and over from Casting Crowns. Can’t share the lyrics because of copyright issues, but listen here to “Jesus, Friend of Sinners.”

At one point in my life, I was for sure a lost cause. In fact, because of the way I was living, someone close to me once said, “I can’t help you anymore.”

But somehow, a few did persevere in prayer. And God redeemed my life.

All these years later, I’m sad to say there are times, when I look at someone’s life and wonder if there’s hope. And the words out of my mouth just cause more hurt.

I don’t want to ever forget what God has done for me. I want to be a friend to sinners even in the direst circumstances.

God’s all about raising the dead. Let’s pray for his heart and his eyes to see the people around us. God, help us be a friend to sinners.

I’m going out to stare at my hibiscus. There’s just something amazing about seeing dead things come back to life.

"It wasn't so long ago that you wire mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn't know the first thing about living tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience...It's a wonder God didn't lose his temper... Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ" (Ephesians 2:1-5 The Message).

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Celebrating


Had a great time today signing books at Genuine Georgia, in downtown Greensboro at the Southland Jubilee Event.

I’d barely unloaded my books and sat down when I saw Darrell Huckaby striding towards me. Such a great surprise to see him. He was also signing books a ways down the street.



Darrell, a much-loved syndicated columnist, recently returned from M.D. Anderson where he’s receiving medical care for prostate cancer. The cancer has spread and Darrell’s headed towards some experimental treatment at M.D. Anderson to try to beat this nasty disease. Please join me in praying for Darrell that this treatment will work.

He wrote a column before he set off on his journey to Texas mentioning that because of the trip, he was really going to miss his usual spring break trip to Jekyll Island. I sent him a copy of my book, Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees, set on St. Simons Island and told him even if he didn’t feel like reading it on his trip to Texas, he could just look at the cover picture of the marshes taken one island over from Jekyll.  


Today he shared with me a copy of his Southern cookbook, Second Helpings. He couldn’t have given it to a more grateful recipient or anyone who needs it more. I'm desperate for tried and true recipes--ones that don’t have twenty ingredients. It could possibly change my life. Thanks a million, Darrell.

I was especially surprised to see my dear friends Harriet and Vicki today. I loved speaking with them as well as Paul and Elaine, and many other friends old and new.


Many thanks to Cynthia and her wonderful staff at Genuine Georgia. Loved her store filled with art created in studios across the state and showcased in the most wonderful way.


On the way to my car at the end of the day, I ran into this critter going for a stroll. She’s smacking her lips on a piece of my funnel cake that her owner said she might enjoy. He was right. She did. But one bite was all that pig was going to get. That funnel cake was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten.


The other night my husband asked me to go out to dinner. “We’re celebrating,” he said.

“What are we celebrating?” I asked.

“We’re just celebrating.”

Today was a good day just to celebrate. To rejoice again in breathing out and breathing in. To thank God for the beauty of his creation.  

Eugene Peterson translates Psalm 66:5 this way, “Take a good look at God’s wonders—they’ll take your breath away.”

Oh, yes. If we take the time to think about the smallest bit of matter, the vastness of the universe, or anything in between, we’ll be left breathless.

And I’m just trying to catch mine right now after my wonderful day in Greensboro.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Fred Birchmore, an Adventurer


“Adventurer Fred Birchmore dies at 100,” read the newspaper headlines on Monday morning. Birchmore, a local legend also has an international following, as he is one of the few people who have ever bicycled around the world. The bicycle he used on the trek now resides in the Smithsonian museum. He’s also known for the feat of walking down the steps of the Washington Monument on his hands.

A Smithsonian Magazine article about him notes that Birchmore had an encounter with Adolf Hitler on his mid-thirties world trek, and that Birchmore received skating lessons from Sonja Henje also on that journey. Really, he did so much for so long; you just have to read his books, Around the World on a Bicycle, Tales of a Happy Wanderer, Miracles in My Life, and the many magazine articles about him to begin to get a picture of the breadth of his adventures.

Fred Birchmore and I were only acquaintances. My husband, Jerry, knew him better and for a much longer time. But every member of our family has heard his stories as we ran into him at the YMCA where he’s been working out for ninety years.

I would say though, that Fred Birchmore and I had a moment about a dozen years ago. The Birchmore family had been long time attendees of the Poplar Springs Camp Meeting where Jerry was asked to preach several summers. We enjoyed the Birchmore’s hospitality as well as Fred’s wonderful stories during our visits with them at the camp meeting.

One afternoon I came out of our tent and took a seat on the porch (tents are primitive earthen floored wooden structures which house attendees during the week). I tried to be as still as possible as temperatures that day approached one hundred degrees. I’d been out on the porch for some time when I caught movement out of my peripheral vision. It was Fred coming out of a handstand next to a tree. I hadn’t even seen him until then. He looked at me and said, “I used to be able to do that for hours.” He was almost ninety years old at the time.

I was speechless.

Some of the definitions Mr. Webster assigns to the word adventure are “a hazardous undertaking, an unusual or suspenseful experience, to venture or dare, to take risks.”

John Eldredge often refers to life as “the great adventure.” But I don’t think he means it in a self-actualizing kind of way. I think he means to travel with God IS the great adventure. Often God calls us out of our comfort zones to take what appear to be risks to us. But not to Him.

Fred Birchmore was an active member of his church until his death. At twenty-eight years old, he concludes his 1939 account of his world tour return in “Around the World on a Bicycle” this way:

“In my wanderings I had missed the familiar sight which had always confronted me when I looked out of my window. Now as I looked upward at the majestic Methodist church steeple glistening in the golden sunlight of the early morning, I knew I was home.

Memories of the last sermon I had heard in the old church still lingered in my mind and heart. After portraying Paul’s journey through life the preacher had closed with a quotation from that great apostle’s last words as he reached the end of the trail; ‘I have fought a good fight;’ I have finished my course; I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord a righteous judge shall give me at that day’ (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

…With one last look at that supreme symbol of security and stability for which my restless soul had been searching, I turned over and slept the peaceful, dreamless sleep of the weary.”


“…Sailing over seas uncharted to a port that none has ever seen.” C.S. Lewis in his Prologue to The Quest

Like Birchmore, we will find the cross the only source of security and stability for our uncharted journey.

Fred Birchmore has finished the course. He’s probably cycling heaven about now taking in the sights.

But nothing would have brought him more joy than for us to live our lives in such a way with God that we might also be called adventurers when we reach the end of the trail.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Snakes, Soccer, Surreys, and Saddles


If you’re going to do any convalescing in this house, you’d better learn to do it in a car.

This past weekend, so many wonderful things were happening, I just wouldn’t be left behind. First off, we joined our wildlife biologist son, Aaron, at the university for a gathering where I ran into a couple of my dearest friends again…



Yes, Miss Soft Shell Turtle and Mr. Rat Snake and several other critters were there in all their splendor. I learned years ago, that if I wanted to be in my son’s world, I’d better learn to like all things slick, slithering, and scaly. The wildlife and I exchanged pleasantries and parted amicably.

Next off, my son had been invited to play soccer with a university club team as they scrimmaged the semi pro Silverbacks in Atlanta. Was I going to miss this? No way. I grabbed my barf bag and water bottle and off we went. Glad I did. Aaron had a good bit of playing time for a guy who wasn’t officially on the team, and I didn’t even have to use the barf bag.



I still had one more thing I wanted to do on Saturday, The Disciples in Song Concert, a benefit for a seminary in Venezuela. But even I had to admit defeat around seven o’clock. We didn't attend the concert but headed home where I stumbled over our threshold, exhausted, but content.

On Sunday, after church, I practiced with the Symphony Chorus as we’re readying for the Spring Pops concert. We’re singing Rodgers and Hammerstein for goodness sakes. I figured the healing benefits of the music outweighed any risks. You just can’t help but smile singing this song. “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine…” Proverbs 17:22 says.

At a wrap up for our church’s Relay for Life Sunday night, I received the prestigious “Lucy Award” for my outstanding contributions to the assembly line of pork loin sandwiches.

(Do I have to spell this out? Think Lucy in the candy factory episode. If you haven’t ever seen it, I don’t know what to say, but see a bit here.)

I get my stitches out today, and I’m humming along with Gene Autry as he sings this tune. Although, I think I'm already riding high in the saddle.

By God’s grace, I am blessed. After I left the operating room a week ago, I’ve only had four Tylenol and no prescription painkillers. Almost unheard of and only by his great mercy.

So thanks for your prayers. This is my sixth surgery and the first where I’m not waiting on a pathology report. There are those however, who are in the thick of the battle like my friend Jane. And so, as grateful as I am, I’m burdened today as she fights this enemy of cancer with such courage. Would you join me in prayer for her?

Father, we come as your children asking that you would stretch forth your hand to heal our sister. Shield her body from the toxicity of the treatment, and we pray it would be used only for good effect. Encourage her heart. Strengthen her body, soul, mind and spirit. In Jesus Name.

Please continue to lift Jane in your prayers in this ongoing battle.

My biggest problem is remembering I can’t lift over ten pounds for a month. Nearly impossible, but if that’s all I have to be concerned with as a twelve year cancer survivor, that’s great.

I’m off now. Can’t decide whether to hitch up the horse, take a ride in the surrey, or call Mr. Rat Snake and Miss Soft Shell Turtle and see if they want to have lunch. Come to think of it, Lucy might want to come, too.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Weights, Wings, and Eagle's Nests


Had surgery a couple of days ago. Doing well. Thanks so much for your prayers.


Just a few thoughts from  A.B. Simpson in  Streams in the Desert:


“It is not enough to have an impelling force—we need just as much a repelling force, and so He holds us back by the testing ordeals of life, by the pressure of temptation and trial, by the things that seem against us, but really are furthering our way and establishing our goings.


Let us thank Him for both, let us take the weights as well as the wings, and thus divinely impelled, let us press on with faith and patience in our high and heavenly calling.”

"They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint" (Isaiah 40:31).
A couple of different angles of an Eagle's nest taken recently in the South Carolina low country.


Live feed of an Eagle's nest in Oklahoma.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Resurrected Now



"In Jesus there are no sunsets; they are all sunrises. He is the bright and morning star’—not the evening star. He heralds the dawn—not the dark.

He (Jesus) is the principle and power of resurrection. If you have Jesus, you have resurrection. He is resurrecting your mind, your body, your spirit, your hopes, your outlook, your everything. In him you are resurrected now.”—E. Stanley Jones

"Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live" (John 11:25).

Friday, April 6, 2012

Forty Words for Good Friday


Christ  sentenced.
Soldier mocked.
Cross taken.
Nail hammered.
Sins carried.
Love suffered.
Last cry.
Finished.
Heartbeat still.
Messiah
crushed.
Savior
Dead.
Curtain torn.
Earth shaken.
Silent now.
Body wrapped.
Tomb sealed.
Friends wondering.
Enemies Fearing.
Watchmen watching.
First Day
Coming.

"When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities,he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross" (Colossians 2:13:15).

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Prisoner of Hope, Part 2


I didn’t really want to write about this, but my words won’t mean a thing if I’m not honest, so here goes.

To avoid afflicting you with too much information, let’s just say that for several reasons, I’ve been forced to make a decision concerning the aging reconstruction I received when I had breast cancer twelve years ago: whether to redo it or let it go. Either one would require a surgery.

I made what I thought was a rational decision based on the facts. Given that I’m a certain age, and the aggravation of it all, I decided to let it go. It just didn’t matter anymore, so I made an appointment, saw the doctor and scheduled the surgery. Almost immediately I sensed an unsettledness in my spirit, and I had no idea why.

Then I woke up one morning with tears streaming down.

What’s this?

Tears kept coming, and coming. One afternoon, I cried for two hours.

After prayer, discussion with my husband, my sister, and a friend, and then more prayer, I realized a couple of things.

The first is, more than ever over the past three years, I’ve tried not to allow feelings to guide me. It’s because of a heavy concern I don’t share to guard another’s privacy. But in order to get out of bed in the morning and keep marching, I’ve often had to push past the emotions that would drag me down.

So out of habit, when I made my seemingly prudent decision regarding the reconstruction, I did not consult my feelings.

My feelings rebelled. Breast reconstruction is an emotional issue. Whether one has it or doesn’t have it is going to touch the deepest part of a woman. This may sound shallow to some. I once had a health care provider act as if it was no big deal to lose a breast. “At least you’re alive,” she said. Of course, she still had all her body parts.

Secondly, that heavy concern, though I give it to Jesus everyday (and sometimes take it back in the evening), has made me weary. And the reason redoing the reconstruction didn’t matter is I was beginning to give up. Oh, not on a conscious level, but subconsciously I was saying, “What’s the point?”

I didn’t even know what I’d done it until the tears started.

Now, I do.

So, I called the doctor, and I changed my plans. I’m having the whole business redone if for no other reason than to say, and let me write this clearly, “I AM NOT GIVING UP.”

“Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you” (Zechariah 9:12).

I declare myself a prisoner of hope. Caged in to what Mr. Webster calls the “wish for something with expectation of its fulfillment.” The original Hebrew word translated hope in Zechariah means literally a cord and only appears a few more times in the Old Testament, most often in Job. And only once in the Psalms, “For you have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth (Psalm 71:5).

Here from The Message: “You keep me going when times are tough—my bedrock, God, since my childhood.”

Our hope is tethered in God, and sustains us through the decades of life.

On this Holy Week Wednesday, I gladly bind myself in hope and to the one who suffered and died for me.

I am a prisoner of hope, and I am not giving up.

Surgery in a few days.

Monday, April 2, 2012

On Being a Prisoner of Hope


A busy weekend with Relay for Life, Palm Sunday, and a family birthday.






I’ve been painting today, because I don’t have much of a brain to write.

I’m trying to make a hard decision regarding an emotional healthcare issue (more on that later) and clinging to a verse God sent my way again yesterday: “Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you” (Zechariah 9:12). And the same verse from The Message, “Come home, hope-filled prisoners! This very day I’m declaring a double bonus—everything you lost returned twice-over.”

From Mrs. Charles Cowman’s Springs in the Valley, “Hold on! It is not always winter; spring is coming. The birds are yet to sing on the very branch loaded with ice. Only don’t break!”

On this first day of Holy Week, it’s good to remember, “He took the punishment and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed” (Isaiah 53:4 Message).

Because of what Jesus did for us, we don’t live in perpetual winter. Because of Jesus, we have the blessed anticipation of spring. Because of Him, we have hope.

And in these times, when our minds would bend double trying to figure it all out, hope calls us forward into new life.

“Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope…”

What fortress is that?

 “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge” (Psalm 18:2).

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