The Spirit’s Work from the Valley of Vision

O God the Holy Spirit, Thou who proceeds from the Father and the Son, have mercy on me.

When you did first hover over chaos, order came to birth, beauty robed the world, fruitfulness sprang forth.

Move, I pray thee, upon my disordered heart;

Take away the infirmities of unruly desires and hateful lusts;

Lift the mists and darkness of unbelief;

Brighten my soul with the pure light of truth;

Make it fragrant as the garden of paradise, rich with every goodly fruit, beautiful with heavenly grace, radiant with rays of divine light.

Fulfill in me the glory of your divine offices;

Be my comforter, light, guide, sanctifier;

Take the things of Christ and show them to my soul;

Through thee may I daily learn more of his love, grace, compassion, faithfulness, beauty;

Lead me to the cross and show me his wounds, the hateful nature of evil, the power of Satan;

May I there see my sins as the nails that transfixed him, the cords that bound him, the thorns that tore him, the sword that pierced him.

Help me to find in his death the reality and immensity of his love.

Open for me the wondrous volumes of truth in his, ‘It is finished.’

Increase my faith in the clear knowledge of atonement achieved, satisfaction made, guilt done away, my debt paid, my sins forgiven, my person redeemed, my soul saved, hell vanquished, heaven opened, eternity made mine.

O Holy Spirit, deepen in me these saving lessons.

Write them upon my heart, that my walk be sin-loathing, sin-fleeing, Christ-loving;

And suffer no devil’s device to beguile or deceive me.

Valley of Vision, pages 56-57

I first read this prayer on March 13, 2010 with my beloved. I still know in part, Thomas R now knows in full. He no longer has to imagine. My imagination would only lead me astray. But my prayer this day is to wrap myself in this prayer. Counting on the Holy Spirit to see it to fruition in my life. And in yours. Especially those He lets me walk with in this journey of grace and truth. May we walk well until that day we too will look full in His Wonderful Face. I do imagine my beloved will be there in that moment.

June 1, 1934 to June 24, 2020

The condition of a king’s heart


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In the Spring of 1998, I took an Old Testament course with Dr. Ralph Davis. Fifty percent of our final grade was to write a paper answering this question:

From a study of 1 & 2 Kings, what do you think is the dominant message of the book?

My summary statement included this:

The condition of a king’s heart was the gauge by which you could measure the nation.

Before you go giving me credit, I recall my mother’s voice ringing in my head. It was she who gave it to me. I remember calling her and asking the question to her. She said, “so as the king goes, goes also the nation.” I changed it up a bit to make it my own, but really, it came from her wisdom and decades of studying the Word of God. It’s a beautiful thing to have a mother who knows the Word of God so well. I think she nailed it. For that is indeed a major theme ringing throughout all of the Old Testament.

Fast forward 22 years . . . regarding the upcoming election . . .

I think today my mother would say “vote your values.” I know this because she calls me every other day telling me to go to some website and listen, watch or read their latest encouragement to do just that: vote your values. But I have a problem with that because my values cannot be measured by the Democrat or Republican party. The core values that each of these parties’ tout when railing against the other party, does not line up with what is in my heart and mind.


I am truly concerned about what humans have done to the planet, and I think the consequences are proving to be devastating.

I am truly concerned that good healthcare is not affordable for me at the age of 60.

I am truly concerned that I turn a blind eye to the thousands of people walking through Mexico to try and get to the United States.

I am truly concerned that over a hundred years after the civil war, African Americans still feel like they don’t matter.

Gosh, it sounds like I may be a liberal!

However, with the exception of voting for Ross Perot in 1992, I have voted republican in every presidential election since 1983.

To say vote your values doesn’t help me decide.

At the top of my values list is

to live all of my life in the presence of God,

seeking to look like Jesus in every encounter,

and praying that I can be useable for Kingdom advancing activities.

Sunday through Saturday.

You see, before the age of 22, I was a Sunday only Christian.

Since then, there has never been a President of the United States who has prevented me from practicing my values. While I can’t see into the future–neither can you–I strongly think that whoever makes it to the White House will not prevent me from living for Jesus during the next four years. Often it is in the midst of severe trial and tribulation that the Gospel is advanced even more so than in times of peace for the Church of God. I was reminded recently that “God’s messianic plan is still in place and there is nothing you or I (nor the next President) can do to thwart it.” I added that parentheses part.

But I must say this. I hate bullies and I hate arrogance. Throughout my reading of the Old Testament during the past four months, I see bullies and pride. Without repentance, their downfall is sure, yet not always swift. I think most Americans would agree that one of our candidates exudes this more than the other. And, I truly am tired of being told that character doesn’t matter. I think it matters greatly. It’s something I value greatly. So perhaps I am voting my values in 2020.

if you love something let it go

Pandemic of 2020. Day ~ 23 for me.

In talking with my continual texting buddies,

my aunt Karen and cousin Greer,

I thought of a project this day.

We are all looking for ways to motivate each other as we self-isolate,

in the hope of boosting our emotional well being.

The mission for the day–

which I believe they accepted–

was to find 5 things in their house that they loved

but were willing to part with. They are semi-hoarders! my opinion.

But mostly–the reason for the project–

we all need to practice gratitude.

I’m a firm believer that a heart of gratitude has the power to enhance our EQ.


in going through my house,

snapping shots of my material blessings–

stuff I was willing to separate from–

I also found some things I was not willing to part with.

I think the things I’m not willing to get rid of

say more about me than those I am willing to give up.

I found nine things I love, and were not willing to part with,

at least not today.

I’m not willing to part with this picture of my mom. I think she was 60 when it was taken. She’s now 79 and was delivered from cancer last year. Hard year but she survived. I’m glad. I’m not ready for my mom to go be with Jesus, even though I think she would go tomorrow if He called her home.

I’m also not ready to part with this purse even though I don’t use it much at the moment. My sister bought it for me. She buys me lots and lots of presents. Her love language is gifts. Mine is time. So we combine the two, shopping together. I get to be a recipient of her love language. Lucky her, she gets my time.

I love rings. I collect them. Have loads. These are the ones I’m not willing to part from. Except for the graduation ring and a couple I got from my dad all before I was 21, the rest came from my beloved. Some he picked out, others he just paid for.

Seltzer. Sparkling Water. Soda. One of my newest intimates, Cathy, brought by some deer park seltzer this week and left them on my porch. She was being careful. But more importantly, she was being thoughtful. This reminds me that things aren’t all that important in the scheme of things. People are. Intimates are. And this year in my new small group, I’ve found a few intimates that I’m planning to grow old with.

Books. Can’t live without books. This one I bought for my husband and haven’t finished it. So you can’t have it. Yet.

Fage. 0% Fat. Greek Yogurt. Zero Points. While I wouldn’t want to live without it, what I really don’t want to live without is my WW program, more specifically my WW buds. Jennifer, Gracie, Peggy, Frances, + a dozen more – along with one of my BFFs Cheryl, who I started with over 2 years ago … I do believe it works becuase we have a dynamite leader, Joan. What community. They have kept me accountable and fill me with joy on Wednesday mornings. Another group I can’t wait to grow old with, and thin.

Air Fryer. It’s really Tom’s. Wasn’t that nice of me to buy it for him on his 85th birthday? I think so. I don’t think he’s fond of it. But I am. It grills chicken that is really good. Gracie recommended it. And also a good product to keep me healthy and on program.

Moonlight. I just think this thing is cool. It was cheap. Bought it on Amazon. So if you like it, just go get your own.

Prada Candy. Myra gave me this in 2019. She’s another intimate, a friend I’ve loved mostly from afar until this year, when she agreed to join our small group. It smells fabulous. It feels like it is my personal alabaster jar that I would gladly use on my Savior should He recline at my table.

Here’s the things I love–or have at one time–that i would part with

The shirt. haven’t worn it in 10 years. But i love it.

The perfume. It’s old. Myra says its past its prime. I still love it. But you can have it. I have two bottles.

Stuffed animal. My Christmas present to myself this year. Love it. You can have it.

The rings. I could part with these. Because I love to give my family and intimates rings. Aunt Karen has one of my favs now, and I don’t think I’m getting it back. That’s ok. When she comes this year – Lord willing – I will let her pick from this group. Not the other.

This is me at 60. Just like my mom did when she was 60, I now have my own professional photo in my final third. I framed one for Tom. Not sure why I bought this many. But I was trying to support the work of the photographer who took these and made me look better than I really do. Vain? Perhaps.

Bracelet. I think I bought this out of guilt. I put it on. And forgot I had it on. Then my sister, and my St. Louis BFFs and I walked out of the Portland Maine shop. My sister realized I still had it on my arm. “Did you buy that?” Yikes. So we went back to the store–my friend acting like he was making a citizen’s arrest. They were so gracious, and then I bought it. I like it. You can have it.

This purse. Greer, you can have it. You are the one who loved it so much and convinced me to buy it, with my sister’s money. I like it. But if you want it, it’s yours. Or maybe I should offer it first to my sister.

Folks: Practice gratitude. Give stuff away. Give yourself away. Give one another grace. Share the Hope that is in you. And find new ways, on some days, to be creative with your time. On those days you just feel like being a sloth and taking advantage of your favorite iPad apps, give yourself grace. That’s how I’m going to practice this here pandemic.


#39 Uprooting Anger by Robert D. Jones, 2005.

Happy Anniversary to me!

And Thomas R.

Of course.

On this day, 36 years ago, we got married at Mount Paran Church of God in Atlanta. I was blessed that day and still am. Who knew my heart would finally get it right?

Tom asked me to read this book. I don’t think it’s because he thinks I’m an angry woman. I don’t think I’m an angry woman. But then again, I’ve had my moments. I trust they are fewer the older I get.

This blog is for him. I think he wanted me to read the book because he wanted my take on it.

Here it is: Great book.

Love where the author goes in regard to the root of anger, and what to do about it.

Spoiler alert: Lots and lots of repentance is necessary. And just when you think your anger may be the so-called righteous type – the author thinks we’re probably kidding ourselves there.

Here are some of my favorite take-aways from the book …

Anger is something we do, not something we have.

Anger is complex. It comprises the whole person and encompasses our whole package of beliefs, feelings, actions and desires. (p 15)

Anger’s causal core lies in our active hearts (16).

… our anger arises from our value systems. It expresses our beliefs and motives. (17)

… nearly all human anger is sinful. (21)

Christlike anger is not all-encompassing and myopic but channeled to sober, earnest ends. Godly strains of mourning, comfort, joy, praise, and action balance it. (30)

What does cultivating Godly anger involve? Refocus your heart on God and his kingdom, rights, and concerns. Repent of your self-centered desires. Meditate on God’s actions and attributes. (43)

Anger, as God-playing, is of the worst moral evil. To repent of anger is to acknowledge God’s rightful and sole place as King over your entire world. (164)

One final thought from me: I love how the author relates self-control & patience (both fruits of the Spirit that I struggle with) to the issue of sinful anger. God help me.

OK, another final thought: You know how some folks say it is ok to be angry with God. This guy says, NO it is not. He says: “the root problem beneath our anger against God, is that we accuse him of injustice.”

A few chapters/verses in Scripture on the topic of anger: James 4; 1 Peter 2:11; Galatians 5:16-26; Proverbs 15:1, 18; 29:11; 16:32; 25:28; 12:18.

#37 and 38


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#37 Things that Matter by Charles Krauthammer, 2013.

I bought this for my husband when it first came out. Charles Krauthammer was the one voice on Fox News that didn’t annoy me. When he passed away over a year ago, I downloaded the audible version, because he was the narrator. Now that he has passed on to eternity, I wonder if the things of this world–those that mattered to him most–still matter to him now?

Much of what matters to him in this book, does not matter to me. He loves politics, and analyzing current events all the way back to the Carter and Reagan eras. What memories. He uses words that I’ve never heard of–or if I have–they never stuck. Like hegemony. After hearing it more than a dozen times, I finally decided to look it up.

Here’s what matters to me:

Living life in light of my calling as a child of God. Which, to me, means making the most of my final third, by working on my character, seeking the Lord daily, and finding him in every moment. And figuring out how to be an instrument of His in the lives of those He calls me too.

I’ll have to say, I often don’t know who it is that He calls me to. And there are times that I feel I am in willful disobedience to his voice.

You didn’t really say that did you?

And then I go about my day, doing what I want to do. The voice of my ole professor rings in my head often when I reflect on my pitifulness:

You need work.

John W. P. Oliver

#38 Christ Changing Lives by Rod Culbertson, 2018.

This latest read was dropped in my mailbox by the author. Now that’s service! It was one of the few books (perhaps only) of his that I’ve read after it was published. All the rest were read before as I searched for typos and awkward sentences as one of his editors. It was nice to read one of his books where I found no typos, and perhaps only one or two awkward sentences – but that’s just me. He’s clear and comprehensive.

The timing of this book was most appropriate for this week. Yesterday, in our staff-reflecting/planning/dreaming-day, I learned of my pastors plans to radically change the way our church does discipleship. Seeing as how that word–discipleship–is part of my vocational title–my brain was engaged–and Rod’s book will surely be a rich resource in adding my voice to the conversation. Already this morning I texted all three of my pastors with a series recommendation from the book. Never heard of it, but perhaps it will be instrumental in this new endeavor, that I pray will bring our parishioners into a closer walk with the Lord.

On another note … Rod had me eating my words about my last week’s book, Sharing Christ by Bright. He was a Campus Crusade for Christ volunteer in college many years ago, and seems to love Cru‘s methods of evangelism. Not only does he like them, he testifies to the fruit of them! This is the lesson for me: it takes a village with lots of methods. Just because it doesn’t resonate with me, doesn’t mean that it isn’t a powerful tool in the evangelism tool box.

#35 and 36


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#35 Sharing Christ by Bill Bright, 2004

#36 Called out of Darkness by Anne Rice, 2005 Audible

We are often guilty of presenting the gospel with an attitude that says, “Uh . . . you wouldn’t want to receive the greatest Gift available to mankind would you?

Bright, page 56

That makes me giggle.

But oh how I struggle to share my faith with strangers. I’ve tried it a few times — many years ago — and it never went well. Perhaps that’s why I’m not a big fan of those — if you were to die tonight — questions. Or the Roman Road. Romans still confounds me in most spots.

I thought by picking up this book and reading it — cover to cover — it was short — I would get empowered to be like Bill. Sadly, it didn’t do that. But I am most thankful for those like him who can do this naturally and freely – and have beautiful outcomes as a result.

Because there is nothing more beautiful in all the world to me and surely to Jesus than to have a prodigal child return to him.

My next book, Called out of Darkness, was just that. I can’t help but be attracted to Anne Rice’s story of redemption. I meet her in 1998 at my grandfather’s funeral. She was gentle and kind — and at the height of her career with her Vampire books. I did seem to remember that she was an avowed atheist. So when I heard her interview on CBS’s Sunday morning a few years after meeting her, I was beside myself with glee. She was sharing her return-to-God story, and I loved it when she said, “Read my book and you’ll be convinced that Jesus is Lord!” Reminds me of Romans 10:9! Anne Rice just told the whole world that Jesus is Lord on national television!

My own story has some parallel’s to Anne’s but they are indeed a stretch. She, growing up a Roman Catholic. Me, a Southern Baptist. Both in New Orleans. Both turning our backs on the Church and Jesus in our teens.

Anne’s journey back to God is beautifully compelling. I listened to it, and now want to read it. The audible is fabulous. The narrator’s voice draws you into the story in the best kind of way. Can’t recommend it enough.

As to my own story, I do get to share it often … one-on-one and to groups. But it is always in the context of my church. I’ve shared it with drug addicts in Mississippi, and most recently shared the unabridged version to our mom’s group. I also get to share a shortened version every time we have an Inquirer’s Class at my church. But in the past couple weeks, I have felt convicted that I didn’t get to share my story with two people who took their own lives recently — one probably accidentally – and one intentionally. Both of these books has helped to aid me in my own struggle with sharing Christ.

#33 and 34



#33 Letters to the Church by Francis Chan, 2018.

Audible. Fabulous. Really should get this one in a hard copy. I love this guy’s zeal for Jesus. It is appealing — at least to me. Makes me wonder if a non-believer were to listen to him, would they think the same thing? Perhaps I should explore this by asking someone who doesn’t follow Jesus to have a listen. But I encourage anyone who loves Jesus to read or listen to it! So very good.

#34 This Momentary Marriage by John Piper, 2009.

This is one of my husband’s favorite reads lately. He’s even reading it again. Funny how books that he enjoys don’t really do all that much for me. But, when he loves something so much, and wants me to read it, I go for it. I think that is one of the reasons he married me. When he dated a woman he liked, he would ask her to read his favorite book. Thirty-six years ago, it was The Road Less Traveled. I read it. I may have been his only girlfriend that did, and that impressed him.

My overall favorite take-away from the book is that marriage done well, is to reflect Jesus’s love for His Church. How many marriages do you know that do this? You don’t have to answer that. But perhaps you should ask yourself this, if you are married: Does your marriage do this?

While I am sure that Tom and I fall way short of looking like Jesus and his bride–especially me–there are some key elements in our marriage that have made it a joyful journey.

Perhaps the most crucial is that we give each other lots of grace.

I remember the time (about 5 years ago) when I insisted on moving our dining room table on my own.

He insisted I get help before I did it.

After he left the room, I did it anyway — and sure enough, I broke one of the legs on his beloved table. I anticipated a very angry husband. And he was. But before he let me know how much he hated what I did, he said, “Sugar, I really love you, but …” I can’t remember what came after the but, because his “I really do love you” prompted me to burst into tears at the kindness and mercy that my husband gave me. No matter how bad I made a mess of things, and I can really mess up, I always get grace and kindness.

Another favorite thing about our marriage is that we are a team. I could probably count on one hand the times Tom has pulled the “I’m the head” card. He values my brain, and if he can’t convince me that his ideas are the best, usually he will say, “but we’ll do it your way.” He gives in quite easily because, not only does he want to please me, he actually thinks my way may be better. Like when we bought our house 25 years ago. He didn’t really like it, but he knew I did, so we bought it. We both realize now, that this was the best house for us. It took some work, but 25 years later, it has grown into my dream home.


We both want the other to flourish, even it if it at the other’s expense.

Two examples come to mind:

When Tom told me that Luder Whitlock invited him to be a seminary student at the age of 55, I was all in. And when he was 56, it became a reality. For four years we lived on a secretary’s salary in Mississippi.

When I broached the idea of having my own pottery studio, which meant he’d have to get rid of his boat and lawnmower and everything else that filled his garage, he wasn’t all that thrilled but said ok. Three years later, and dozens of kiln firings, he still gushes with delight and encouragement every time I bring in my warmed, glazed pieces.

While this book didn’t do much for me personally, I’m glad Tom loves it. And perhaps all the kindness and tenderness he’s been showing me in abundance lately has been in part due to this book.

#31 and 32

#32 From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya by Ruth A. Tucker, 1983.

This was the other book I picked up from my preaching professor’s office. Someone told me it was fabulous. In many places it is. I’ve been reading it for two months, finally skimming a couple sections like the ones on aviation and radio. But I was always afraid I was going to miss something special. I especially enjoyed the section about women on the mission field, and a biographers take on Amy Carmichael’s character:

Sherwood Eddy … was deeply impressed by the beauty of her character; and character according to Eddy, was the key to successful world evangelism. Here is the point where many a missionary breaks down. Every normal missionary sails with high purposes but as a very imperfect Christian… His character is his weakest point … It was just here that Amy Carmichael was a blessing to all who came into intimate contact with her radiant life … Amy Carmichael was the most Christlike character I ever met, and her life was the most fragrant, the most joyfully sacrificial, that I ever knew.

Tucker, 239.

Amy is one of those Christians I long to spend eternity getting to know up close and personal. It was her biography that I picked to read in my first semester of seminary–Missions class–with one of my favorite missionaries, the late Dr. Will Norton. And it was her story I chose as my illustration in my first sermon for Dr. John Oliver. Little did I know that he had the same appreciation for this beloved saint. I think the mutual Amy affinity was the beginning of my wonderful friendship with him.

#31 The Magnolia Story by Chip & Joanna Gaines, 2016.


So adorable.

I love them.

They too have a Christ-like character worth emulating.

#29 and 30

#29 Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Bradberry & Greaves, 2009. Audible.

This book comes with an online self/social awareness inventory. I took it back in July of last year and was disappointed with my score. After all, sometimes I think all I have going for me is my emotional well being. But the inventory said differently. Then I listened to the book – and finally finished it last week and retook the test. There is some improvement. Not much.

Here are a few of the questions they ask:

Are you confident in your abilities?

Do you admit your shortcomings?

Do you understand your emotions as they happen?

Do you recognize the impact your behavior has upon others?

Do you realize when others influence your emotional state?

Do you play a part in creating the difficult circumstances you encounter?

That’s how I did. I went from below average to average. And surely that’s because I put my best emotional foot forward, and instead of marking usually, in my second shot at emotional intelligence, I changed my response to almost always.

If this is something that interests you, do what i did; download the book with your audible credits, and get a free shot at their online test – once before the book, once after the book. I don’t think it was because I listened to the book that my score went up slightly. It was because I tried to be over-confident in my evaluation.

#30 Jesus, Justice, & Gender Roles by Kathy Keller, 2012

Little book. It’s about the case for gender roles in ministry. If you’re in a denomination where they don’t ordain women to positions of pastor or elder, then you visit this issue every now and then. I don’t like visiting this issue. So, I’m not going to here. But I will say a couple things, in bullet form that I believe with all my heart.

  • God loves women, and He delights greatly in using them to advance his Kingdom.
  • God created men and women to have dominion over the earth.
  • The fall of humankind still has consequences, and it ain’t pretty at times.
  • It is a beautiful thing to be a part of a church where the pastoral staff and elders value women and enjoy partnering with them to build his Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

#28 Holy Week


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#28 A Violent Grace by Michael Card, 2000.

Michael Card is one of my favorite singer/songwriters. I’ve also often called him my favorite theologian as well. His book about the crucifixion brought a solemness to my soul as I read.

A time to mourn and a time to rejoice. This week surely should include elements of both. These two songs of Michael’s are some of my favorites. May our Holy Week be filled with embracing and remembering the Cross.

Violent yet beautiful quotes from the book:

Of all Jesus’ supporters, only weeping women are left.

If we take the name Christian, we, too, must be recognized by our scars. The visible proofs of crucifixion–not our accomplishments, degrees, possessions, or wealth–will become our identifying marks.

He suffered to serve … The crucified life begins in servanthood … I must warn you that, when we take them as chosen marks of our life, humility and obedience to Christ threaten to change us completely. They will do violence to the old, selfish, superficially promising pursuits that we have mistaken for life. … Out of the beautiful violence of His life will flow a river of grace that will change our world. … Until we allow ourselves to be embraced by this costly grace, we can never know what it means to be completely accepted.