#37 Camp

Scavenger Hunt find: A Shopping Cart in the Woods

Scavenger Hunt find: A Shopping Cart in the Woods

If you could have any vocation on the planet what would it be?

That was the question my husband and I were contemplating just before I graduated from seminary. He assured me that wherever God called me, he would follow too. Just as I had followed him to his beloved state of North Carolina over a decade ago when he graduated from seminary, he was ready to go anywhere the Lord called—preferably near an ocean.

So, in the presence of my husband, and out of the overflow of my heart, I blurted out, “I’d run a camp.” Knowing me all to well, Tom said, “You couldn’t run a camp – you like the city too much.” Again, without much thought, I said, “Then, I’d run an urban camp.”

That conversation took place over 10 years ago. A conversation that God took notice of – a conversation that went into my heart as a pipe-dream desire. And yes, several years after it was flippantly verbalized in the parking lot of the Red Lobster restaurant – my ultimate vocation became a reality.

Now mind you, in His mercy, God indeed put his own spin on the desire of my heart to run a camp. For what He gave me was Brookstone Camp in Charlotte. The camp runs for six weeks in the summer, led by one of my heroes in the faith, Kristy Davis. Kristy could run a camp full time. And after one week of running and planning a camp with a team of friends, I realized quickly, one week was as much as I could handle. But what a week! It’s the best week of my year.

The children are gracious and wild and loving and moldable. What’s not to love about that!? Every night during that week my heart is filled to overflowing.

We sing and we dance,

we listen to godly men speak the truth about God into their lives,

we make joy boxes and write character words on stones,

we teach them how to say Jesus loves you in other languages and to sign the twenty-third Psalm,

we have tea parties and etiquette lessons over scones,

and end the three hours over cheese sticks and cookies while having whole group Bible trivia.

And that’s just some of the things we’ve done over the past three camps we’ve been blessed to participate in.

brookstone

The Little Girls in the Craft Room they decorated

Our week this year is July 20.

Not even a whole week.

Monday through Thursday.

Not even a whole day. 1:00 to 4:00.

I need help. While I love doing this, God did not equip me with all the skills to run a camp. It takes dancers (thank you Kim!), and preachers (thank you Matt!), and story tellers (thank you Aynn & Kristy!), and crafty ones (thank you Wendy!) and organized ones (thank you Julia!) and silly ones and athletes and those who simply love children and love to serve God in the most delightful way.

I need prayer. Even if camp is not your thing – or you are too far away to trek to Charlotte for four days – prayer is essential to pulling off a Christ-centered Fun Camp.

Would love it if you’d consider joining us for a day or more.

The team from year one on Purple Day: Salvation

The team from year one on Purple Day: Salvation

#36 Mother’s Day

It’s Mother’s Day.Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 11.00.34 AM

I wish you all a happy day.

You who have the hardest vocation on the planet.

The vocation that never stops.

The vocation that always gives.

The vocation that puts everyone else first.

The vocation that has the greatest blessings

and the hardest sorrows.

But there is one mom in particular that is on my heart at this moment, and it is my own.

She’s truly something.

Other worldly something.

Because all that thrills her soul is her heavenly Father.

She talks about Him continuously.

She has no greater pleasures than seeking Him first and making Him known.

She cares deeply for all her children.

Yes, four children before 23.

All born in New Orleans.

And then there are the hundreds of other children that didn’t come from her body.

She cares deeply for them too. Rachel, Coley, Kammy, Buddy, Kathy, Bob … You know who you are.

Here’s what I love about her:

She believes.

Her faith is rock solid in Jesus Christ, which produces an overflowing joy emanating from her at all times. And if she’s not talking about Father, you can be sure she’s thinking about him.

She’s Polyana. She only believes in what is pure and lovely and true.

She’s also Walt Disney (the early years).

She’s imperfect—never needing anyone around her to be perfect either. Growing up, her expectations were never very high for her very imperfect children – which really takes the pressure off of all who are around her. You can be yourself, and it is good enough.

She’s fun.  Four children in your early twenties—living in the projects with a husband who shipped out for months at a time, doesn’t sound like fun. And for her it must not have been. But for us kids? Well, we had a ball. Beignets, Mardi Gras, Halloween, snowballs, Christmas, Easter, ice cream trucks, playing in the streets, building forts out of blankets in our rooms, playing playing playing – we had fun every day of our lives – and every night ended with prayers in bed. Amazing that we found time to go to church twice on Sunday and Wednesday nights. For much of my childhood, my mom was the church pianist. So while she played the piano at choir practice, we ran wild throughout God’s house.

God’s grace to my mother has not been without effect. We really didn’t have much – in the way of worldly possessions – those early years – but God never let my mother out of his sights. And His grace to her has produced a woman after God’s own heart. She works for free for her favorite Christian retreat center, she still plays the piano at her church, she runs the community Bible study in her town – and she still has hundreds of children. And that’s just only a few of the things she is STILL doing in her mid-seventies.

Ma, I love you. You have been a fun, godly, passionate mother. I’m very thankful that the Lord gave me you as my mother. Eternity will be a blast with you and Jesus.

#35 Not getting what we want

Tags

,

It’s January. January 23rd to be exact. And I still haven’t gotten with “the program.” I think my last year’s theme of Rest didn’t cease on December 31 and I am still in rest mode. Yet it is time to move on to another life theme. Because, I realize that God indeed gave me rest for my body and soul, refreshment for my mind and heart, and I now feel quite rejuvenated.

Just last week, I almost bought a new home. The word new may be a bit misleading. The home was built in 1966 and it looked like nothing had been done to the home since the ‘80s. Yes, it was a complete fixer upper – but thankfully my husband and my God had better sense than I did – and I didn’t get what I thought was a desire of my heart. One week later – my BFF reminded me that we should be extremely thankful when God doesn’t give us what we think we want in the moment.

But, oddly enough, the desire to pack up all our belongings and move two blocks down the street to fix up a fixer upper was attractive to me – making me realize it’s time to lean into 2015.

That was the first lesson – rest over, get moving!

I came away from that experience with other lessons, not to mention a renewed gratitude for the cozy home the Lord did give us 21 years ago.

Another lesson from this fun adventure was that I sensed the Lord was telling me: you CAN have that house if you want it, BUT I don’t want you to have it. You see, the house was auctioned off – and my generous husband was the highest bidder – however, the highest bid was not enough for the sellers. We were given the sole opportunity to offer more but that is when we both realized that God was in the midst of our decision and His answer was NO.

[My husband came to the realization that I was looking at too much Property Brothers.]

Having this sole opportunity also made me think that God often says, ok, you can have what you want – but you’re not going to want it later. It was another one of those lessons that He has shown me over and over again in my life: His ways truly are higher than mine.

So, one week later, sitting in my cozy, closed-concept livingroom that was remodeled, floor to ceiling, 4 short years ago, I am experiencing shalom. The kind of shalom I get from realizing that God is watching over me, protecting me from all sorts of things that would seek to rob me of my shalom.

Thank you Holy God.  The nearness of You is my strength.

 

 

#34 Three Things to Dwell on in 2015

Ely from 142 ft upWhat if

every day

in 2015

we were to dwell on three things?

God’s ways,

eternity,

and advancing the kingdom of God.

I hope you will stay with me while I break these down.

God’s ways

I don’t even have to get out of bed for this first one. And yet, it’s often the first place I go during my GodTime. Dwelling on God’s ways brings me into His presence. Simply being grateful for the way He does things – the way life unfolds – the beauty of order and perfection – the knowledge that He hasn’t left me or forsaken me – not for one minute. That sort of dwelling. Selfishly, I tend to spend much of my time reflecting on His ways in my life – looking back and seeing his hand – oh how I love that. It’s one of those personal proofs for God’s existence.   Remembering is one of the greatest gifts given to man – and it would be so satisfying to dwell there momentarily each and every day. I think it would change our attitude – change our countenance – change our nature – rejuvenate our mind … the benefits are endless.

Eternity

I love thinking about eternity. I tend to make dates with friends to snow ski most afternoons in the new earth – it’s one of my favorite ways to picture eternity. However, I am sure that my own ponderings about heaven are not nearly as glorious as what it will truly be like. Saints – far more mature than I could ever hope to be – tell me this often, especially when I insist they ski with me at least every now and then.

But there’s something about setting your mind on things above that puts our earthly lives in a better light. So my head goes to questions such as:

What sorts of things could we do daily that would have eternal value?

 I come up with one word: Kindness.  

Practically speaking, wouldn’t it be great to write at least one encouraging note—everyday—in 2015? In this age of internet – this act of kindness is practically effortless!

And last, Advancing the kingdom.  

I love the notion of advancing the kingdom – I also love knowing that God delights in using his daughters to do it. Not that he doesn’t delight also in his sons – but I think some women have a mentality that God uses the men for the big stuff – and us women just get to clean and cook so as to free up our men to do the really important things. With all the modern conveniences this world affords to middle aged women with no children, cooking and cleaning can be done in a fraction of the time compared with just a few decades ago. Microwaves, restaurants, freezers, wrinkle-free shirts … these are a few of my favorite things. Because! they free us women up to advance the kingdom. Kingdom advancing activities are limitless.

When I think about such things, my head always goes back to my twenties when I asked the Lord to use me.

Here’s the story:

One week, while working on staff at Central Church in St. Louis, the Minister of Pastoral Care was on vacation. I forgot that little tidbit of information one morning as I asked the Lord to use me in his service. Of course I was thinking something big and important – something manly perhaps – just kidding – sorta – but anyway, Don Fortson, Sr. was on vacation.

Now, I, as the Assistant to the Pastors, received all of Don’s calls that week.

Can I just tell you, this was not the week I had in mind when I asked God to use me.

The kingdom advancing activities he called me to didn’t feel very kingdom advancing. The first activity I was called to was taking cookies to an elderly shut-in man. His name was Clyde and surely he is in eternity now. He called the church – as a parishioner in good standing – and wanted the pastoral care minister to bring him cookies. So I did. He was grateful and kind. I hope to look him up in eternity.

Then there was Joy. She was not a parishioner – but she lived a couple blocks from the church and called asking if someone could take her to pay her light bill and buy a refrigerator. Joy and I had a yearlong relationship of carting her around St. Louis. I still snicker as I recall her squeezing out the door of her apartment so as not to let me see anything inside. I still wonder what was in there.

And then the last gift that week was Cindy. Her mother called our church telling us that Cindy was on her way to St. Louis to attend Washington University – a California girl with enough money, so it seemed, to fly here but with little else. She had no place to stay, no transportation and knew no one. Cindy was delightful. The Lord was very very good to her and we found her a place in a Campus Crusade dorm near Wash U that was perfect. I sure hope she is advancing the kingdom and remembering how lavish God was to her 27 years ago.

I’ve said it before, but it is worth mentioning again. We never know how the Lord is going to use us to advance his kingdom. But I think he uses us in ways that mature our godly character – and make us look more like Jesus.

So these are the three things I wish for myself and my sisters this new year – dwelling and lingering in places that are far too wonderful to comprehend. Never forget this one thing dear friends, He is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.  So let’s get asking!  (cf. Ephesians 3:20)

#33 Trials: Light and momentary struggles

Tags

,

Ever since I married the man of my dreams, returned to my Redeemer, Jesus Christ, and allowed his Holy Spirit to invade my entire being (most days I hope!) – I’ll have to say, I’ve led a rosy life. I’m in year 32 if you’re wondering.

That’s not to say it hasn’t come without trials.  And at the time of this writing—I waited to publish this—I am smack in the middle of one of them. It’s bad. Very bad. At least that is how I see it. And it has me questioning myself – and God – with questions like:

Can I really hold up and represent Christ in this trial? … and glorify God? … and have everything that comes out of my mouth be pleasing and loving?

No! I can’t hold up.  I’m not representing Christ well at all.  What is coming out of my heart and mouth is not pleasing or loving.  The “trial” (that’s what I’m calling it) has gotten to me greatly.

So of course I must go to my knees, fall on my face (figuratively of course) and say, I can do none of those things unless God gives me the grace and His Spirit and wisdom to do them. It is times like these—when smack in the middle of the experience—that I realize I can do nothing apart from Christ. It is times like these that peaceful and loving and intelligent words escape me.

And oh how I’d like to say the perfect thing to silence the enemy. But I never seem to get those kinds of words when face to face with the enemy.  Yes, in the moment, I now see my trial as my enemy.

In my head when I am alone, several verses in Scripture come to mind – but then I have to sort them all out–with the help of the Holy Spirit–as to which one best applies to the situation at the moment.

Am I to dust the dust off my shoes and make a run for it? (cf. Luke 9:5)

Am I to ask for powerful words that will cut like a knife into a hardened heart? (cf. Matthew 12:34)

Am I to love the other deeply and let that love cover a multitude of sins? (cf. 1 Peter 4:8)

Am I to turn the other cheek? (cf. Matthew 5:39)

Funny how I can justify what I’m thinking and feeling in the moment with several passages from Scripture. But I’m still left in a miserable state and wondering the best plan for the current trial that has rendered me a complete mess.  The passages like “turn the other cheek” and “love one another deeply” are far from what my heart is feeling.  I’m definitely in imprecatory Psalm mode.

So, perhaps in times like these it is a powerful thing to pray while opening the Word of God with a desperate heart – and let the Word flow over me like a balm in Gilead. Yesterday I went to James – because I really wanted wisdom – God assured me that He gives it lavishly – and yet by that evening wisdom went out the window – So this morning I went to Ephesians 4 – and verses 2 & 3 seemed perfect for my trial and helped my soul.

Be completely humble and gentle, be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.

But I don’t feel humble or gentle or patient and have no love for the other.

But I’m not alone in my trial.

My husband – of course is the only calm in this storm at the moment. Can I just tell you how fabulous he is under certain pressures not his own?

And then I called my mom.  That had its soothing moments as well.  She prayed multiple times throughout the conversation, and then as our conversation was about to end she expressed her delight in me in such a way that it had me in a puddle of tears – even now as I write there is this puddle – I must stop – tears are not the thing at the moment – don’t let the enemy see you cry, right?

Yet in this moment, something mystical and otherworldly is happening in my soul. My tears of anger and hurt and disappointment have now turned to tears of gratitude and comfort. Through my dear personal saints and because of God’s love for me, I am able to bear up under the trial. Shalom invaded my heart even though the trial went on.  But it indeed was one of those momentary trials.  And I have to wonder, did it achieve for me a glory that outweighed the trial?  While I don’t see it yet – I sure hope that is indeed the case.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

P.S.  This particular trial is now over—I’ve had at least two others since I wrote this one—and I am obviously in perpetual student mode, never mastering any trial—self-inflicted or other-inflicted—and I find even then it’s hard to know what I’ve brought on myself because I have a very unguarded heart.  This also has me wondering – is my heart too vulnerable? – and is there such a thing as being too vulnerable?  Perhaps that’s a chapter in itself.  But if you’re looking for a bottom line from me, this is what I think in the moment—the moment I actually will publish this publicly for the whole world to see if they so choose … our trials really are temporary—at least mine are—and I don’t think I’m atypical.  And God is there—and He provides his word and his children as the necessary tools to get us past any and all of them.  And here’s the thing—they really do produce fruit—perhaps we can’t see it in the moment—but it’s coming—wait for it!  And also, remember this—this is the lesson I’m taking away from it—I need to learn how to deal with messy relationships in a godly fashion.  I’m still a long way off, but perhaps I’m not nearly as pitiful as I was 32 The Endyears ago, just starting out on the journey of grace.  Oh that reminds me, others need this grace from me that I lavish on myself.  And one other thing, there are no formulas.  Stink.

#32 Might or Maybe

drumWhat drum do I want to beat this morning? I’m not sure – but I really want to beat one. Something that will silence all the other drums – or at least be so loud that it will drown out all the other drums – and clanging cymbals – and tinkling and dripping, annoying thoughts and nonsense that can render me ineffective and unproductive.

My aunt was just explaining meditation to me. Not sure I want to beat that drum – but she does. And then there is this “already and not yet” drum. I think we live too much in the not yet, and not enough in the already.

Living well …

in the already and not yet.

That’s the drum I want to beat this morning. And not just this morning – if I were to beat this drum every day of my life, then perhaps I’d actually live well every day of my life. Jesus said, “I came that they might have life and might have it abundantly.”

The verb there (have) is subjunctive – which means to me that I am to put “might” in front of the verb every time it is a subjunctive one. Because I really don’t have any idea what subjunctive means other than simply that: it might or may be so. Often it is accompanied with an “if” – if you do this, I might do that. That sorta thing. And here’s the rub – I want to believe Jesus came so that I would have life to the fullest. No might or maybe about it! But the truth is there is a might or maybe in there. And just because Jesus came to bring me this abundant life – doesn’t necessarily mean I will walk in it every day of my life – or even most days. And truth be known – when I look around at all these Christians I rub elbows with on a daily basis – after all, I do work at a seminary – aren’t we uber-Christians?! – truth be known, I don’t see a ton of abundant living going on. Some of us seem very weighed down by trials and slaves to so many things that render us ineffective and unproductive for anyone’s use.

They promise them freedom while they themselves are slaves of depravity. For a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.

That’s 2Peter. That scares me. Am I free or am I slave to something other than God. Am I living in the already, yet being a slave to way too many things in the not yet that have mastered me in this life? Yes, every day, there is at least one addiction to something that I have to battle. Tara Barthel just reminded me (not personally) that the battle is won yet we’re still in the battle. Dr. May (he’s dead – so perhaps he’s fully already and no more not yet) reminds me that our addictions are what drive us to Jesus – so am I to be thankful for these addictions in some weird way even though they keep me from living well? – yet they also keep me near the Cross which I so desperately need. Oh the humanity.

It’s hard! It’s just plain hard to live well and abundantly and joyfully and thankfully when we are enslaved and struggle and are brought trial after trial. BUT! That is no excuse – ok, it’s an excuse – but it’s not a good enough excuse to keep us from LIVING in the ALREADY more so than in the NOT YET. Quit acting totally depraved and falling back on your flesh – quit letting your flesh win – ok, you realize I’m talking to myself here. But I’m hoping to encourage my heart and yours. Perhaps we should crank up the country music station and listen to something like “Live like you were dying.” Perhaps we should repent from our selfish, self-absorbed, self-focused self, and start living with eternity in our sights. Perhaps it’s time to be brighter lights than we were yesterday – and saltier than we were last year – and LIVE in the knowledge that Jesus came so that we MIGHT have life abundantly. Grace and Peace be YOURS in abundance says the Word of God (nothing subjunctive in that verse!). So wipe that attitude off your face and dance – or do something that will express gratitude to the One who called you out of the darkness and into His marvelous light. Live in the LIGHT dear sisters – and brothers.

#31 Voting Day

Tags

The messianic program is in place and your circumstances hasn’t stopped it. (source forgotten)

Oh Lord, what a lovely find this morning – and oh how true – especially on a day where many believe that our future lies in the results of our voting today. Do they really? If so, then this is a serious indictment on all who believe in the sovereignty of You. You know what You are doing – and it does seem like You are giving Americans as much rope as they want in order to hang themselves on it – but still – we are yours – You are eternal – life is abundant and You will never leave us or forsake us – never means never. Ah, Lord, I want to be a part of your messianic program – in whatever way you deem best. And at 54 I still don’t really know what you deem from one day to the next – today I think I will clean out the kitchen at the seminary – and enjoy working alongside my enjoyable co-workers. See! – even in the mist of all the messiness this world brings – you bring beautiful things – I must find that quote. Found it.

Who can make trouble when you send me peace. (from Streams in the Dessert)

Oh Lord, can I really get my head around how truly incredible you are and your ways being so high – yet the attention to every detail of my life is noticed by You.

So on this day of elections, I thank you that I am at peace – and that you calm my anxious heart always and completely. May you do likewise for all my sisters and brothers.  In the mighty and all powerful name of Jesus, Amen.

#30 Happy Ever After

Tags

, , ,

I’m a fan of “happy ever after” endings – in movies – in novels – and especially in real life. I’m not so sure Hollywood shares that passion, for it seems that lately much of what comes out of Hollywood doesn’t have that happy ever after ending I crave. It is no longer a forgone conclusion that the girl will get the guy. Or that the girl even wants the guy!

And novels. Take The Kite Runner or A Thousand Splendid Suns – talk about gut wrenching stories! And only the slightest glimmer of hope at the end – after most of my favorite characters have already succumbed to some tragic ending.

Are happy ever after endings becoming a thing of the past? Lately even my dreams are ending horribly. There’s this apocalyptic nightmare thing going on far too regularly for my polyanna mentality.

Perhaps Hollywood—and novelists—and my dreams—are simply reflecting much of this world’s reality. Life isn’t ending well for many. Take stories from just these past few weeks: Robin Williams, so depressed, he resorted to suicide – his wife leaving the house without checking in on him spoke volumes. Or Joan Rivers – having a minor routine procedure in a doctor’s office – something went wrong and she’s gone from this world as her career was still soaring at 81. Or the two reporters who were beheaded by terrorists. And that’s just the stuff that makes it to the nightly News.

Makes me want to pine away with Anne Murray, “sure could use a little good news today.” Or at least have it all end well.

And what about all the other unhappy endings in our own families? The ones that hit us personally? Often these are the moments when we start shaking our finger at God and screaming things toward the ceilings of our bedrooms like, Where are you?! Don’t you see I’m hurting?! Are you there?! Are you powerful?! Are you good?!

I’ve been there. Powerful emotions from decades ago can still flood my memory. But thankfully that is where they end—in my memory. They no longer have any hold on my heart or mind.

Is it crazy to think that I’m becoming ‘ok’ with tragedy?

Like the death of my younger brother twenty years ago. At 31 he was body surfacing in Hawaii. And that’s the last time anyone saw him. They never found his body, because the water was so shark infested they suspended the search assuming the worst. The week following his memorial service – I was still waking up and feeling overwhelming sadness. But I was also waking up to my alarm clock set on 106.9 – a Christian radio station – where they were playing a song called “He is with Jesus.”  The most tender, bittersweet, soul-warming song. Perfect for that moment. I had never heard it before. But there it was, several times, during that period of mourning. Mornings I was too afraid to open my eyes because they were filled with tears I was trying to keep in.

Can we ever be assured that things will end well for us? Even if—and when—there are periods during our lifetime where we are afflicted or victimized or scandalized or humiliated or abandoned? Is there some sort of assurance that no matter what happens we still get to have that happy ever after ending?

Here’s a passage in the Bible that gives me a hopeful YES to that question:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long, we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. [Romans 8:35ff]

You see, I think the answers to all our finger pointing and wondering whether or not God is good is beautifully reconciled at some point in our lives because of our conversion.

The conversion I speak of is when the Creator of the Universe becomes our Heavenly Father and regenerates our souls. When that light-bulb-in-the-soul goes off and the scales fall from our eyes – and we begin to see things from a heavenly perspective. This of course is completely supernatural and other-worldly in my opinion. I believe it all starts with a prayer such as “Lord Help.” Or, “Lord, come and find me.” Or, “Lord, if you’re real would you please let me know.” (That 3rd one sounds like Anne Rice’s prayer).

Augustine said, “unless you believe you will not understand.” Once you believe, you begin to understand that all things do work for the good of those who love God – eventually.

And I think all our questions start to change when our lives are overtaken with the realization that God is good, and God does love me and, does care for me, and all the messes I’ve made before and since, and will still make, somehow become redeemable in God’s economy. Jesus is proof of that.

While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. [Romans 5:8]

The reason why I know that Steven is with Jesus is not because I heard it on the radio, or because he was a good guy – because surely he was messy too. But I know he’s with Jesus because he trusted in Him for his salvation.

And for me, that is one happy ever after story … all because Steven’s soul was converted and he became one of God’s most treasured possessions for all eternity.

#29 Come Home

Screen Shot 2014-02-27 at 8.34.09 AMSoftly and tenderly Jesus is calling,calling for you and for me.  See, on the portals He’s waiting and watching, watching for you and for me.

Come home, come home, you who are weary, come home; Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, calling, O sinner, come home!

I love this old hymn. We sang it often in my little Southern Baptist church in the suburbs of New Orleans.

Perhaps you grew up singing it too? It was one of those familiar end-of-the-service-hymns that just did an emotional number on your soul – a hymn chosen in hope – hope that if anyone in the congregation who hadn’t yet felt the call of Jesus on them, this would surely do it. And felt it I did, over and over. I probably hold some sort of world-record for walking more church aisles than any of my Presbyterian sisters. I was easily convinced that I was still a wretched sinner.  Especially during the yearly revival. And, any previous aisle walking and sincerity often evaporated into thin air along this intrepid path to holiness.

And this was all before I was 12.

I lived with enough guilt as a child to assuage even my siblings’ guilt. I would sometimes confess to things I didn’t do because I thought – you never know – maybe I did do it – after all I was a known sleepwalker. I still remember the time my mother tried to convince me that I really wasn’t the culprit to an in-house-robbery-job.

But something must have happened to my heart during my teen years – I don’t think it was instant or intentional – but it happened none the less – where my guilt no longer bothered me – and the world looked much more loving and forgiving than my Atlanta church. So I chose the world. Happily, I chose the world. And they chose me back.

Now at this point you may think God quit calling. Perhaps you only get one or two shots at it, and if you reject him, then surely he has rejected you too. And then there are those really “big” sins, the ones too heinous in God’s sight to really forgive – so you eventually assume that you have crossed some proverbial line that brings you into the category of non-redeemable.

Screen Shot 2014-08-23 at 9.11.09 AMBut, then Jesus – the one who walked this planet 2000+ years ago – kept calling. He proved himself to truly be the Good Shepherd who doesn’t give up on the lost sheep – the Father of thousands of prodigal daughters (and sons) – rejoicing greatly when His call on a prodigal FINALLY becomes effective.

Sometimes I think it just sounds too good to really be true. Jesus calling all sinners, come home. Is he really?  Calling humans who seem to be doing just fine without his involvement and interaction? Calling a world that often times can seem so devoid of any sort of unified belief in the Triune God of the Bible?

I suppose it depends on your vantage point as to how you would answer that question (or questions). But as I sit in my private sanctuary and commune with an audience of One, reflecting on my own calling – that I like to refer to as my rescue – reflecting on the hardness and lostness of my own soul back at 22 years of age – I don’t think my story is all that exclusive to me – I think there are millions of prodigals out there wondering if the God of the universe could really love them knowing the depths of their depravity.

Wonder no longer. Amazingly and miraculously he continues to watch and wait and rescue and deliver and redeem. Over and over again. He never stops.

I know its true. It happened to me.

Where can I go from your Spirit?

Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there, if I make my bed in the depths, you are there (Psalm 139:7-8)

Save

#28 Part Three: On Being a Theologian

Tags

,

At this point you may be thinking I’m starting to sound like Paul, because that’s what I’m thinking – with this litany of semi-accomplishments – you know, like he did in Philippians 3:

Though I myself have reasons for such confidence … circumcised on the 8th day, etc., etc.

 A litany of sorts to secure my spot in the theologian world.

And oh how easy it can be to grow confident in your own eyes — whether it be with big titles, great theological works, journal articles, knowledge of ancient languages, or people who will actually listen to what you have to say — I don’t need to re-read humpty dumpty to know that pride truly does come before a great fall. But like Paul, I have an Achilles heel – more like several of them.

One being, I think I’m the most non-academic woman in the world – and not just because of my limited time spent in a college classroom – but because I really am very non-academic – I struggle greatly with understanding or retaining most theological & theoretical texts. I’d much rather get my theology from reading a Francine Rivers’ novel than reading Calvin. And, I can’t help but recall the free tutoring I received weekly from my fellow classmate (the brilliant theologian Garnet Slatton). He was great at explaining the answers to the Systematic Theology quizzes. Oh how he could make the complicated simple for such a non-academic student.

Two being, much study wearies my soul. (Now that’s one quip from Qoheleth that I agree with.)  I can spend just so much time in a book before I need people interaction. All the theologians I know personally prefer to spend hours with their writings and books – and could probably go for days without seeing another human. My limit is 3 hours.

Now before utter humiliation completely overtakes my soul, I’ll stop with two.

But here’s the thing, when I truly ponder what a GOOD theologian looks like, I don’t think it is really about the amount of time they spend in the study of theology – but what they LOOK like after they have spent all that time in the study of theology. Hence my justification for Ephesians 5:1 and 1 Corinthians 15:10.

A good theologian will imitate the One they are studying more and more the older they get. And, the grace that God bestows on them will become very effective, hence its results will be quite obvious in even their briefest encounters – my personal example being my very brief but wonderful encounter with Dr. Torrance.  (I also had one of these brief encounters with Dr. Waltke.  Talk about a gracious man!)

And then there are my lengthier encounters with theologians like Carolyn James, who takes me into her heart every time we are together.  Or, Dr. MacKenzie who has been described as a modern day pied piper because theology students just can’t help but follow him all over a seminary campus. I took Dr. MacKenzie to the airport over 13 years ago—before 9/11—when you could still walk your loved ones all the way to the gate – and he finally said, ok, you may go now.  My response was: I don’t want to go!  It’s those people, the ones with whom you can’t help but want to remain in their presence, because I do believe if Jesus were walking this planet today, we’d feel the same way.

Please don’t make me leave you yet.

And then there’s H. Wilbert Norton, Sr. – with more accomplishments in one lifetime than I’ve ever seen in one human, yet at 99 years old, he will still spend much time with me over the phone now that he’s moved hundreds of miles away to a retirement village in Oklahoma. I have a strong feeling the greatest theologian in Dr. Norton’s life is his one hundred year old wife, Coleen.   I’ve often thought that God has kept them alive just because they pray for “us” daily. For some reason, I have the comforting feeling that God hasn’t brought destruction on America all because these two saints are still living in the land.

Yes, these are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight.  And then there are my daily intimates:  my mom who can’t go one minute without bringing her every thought captive to her heavenly Father.  She embodies that verse, “pray continually.”  Or my personal saint, Elsie, whom I go to every time I want to know where some gem is located in Scripture.  She wants to spend eternity sitting at the feet of every Puritan she’s ever read – and yes, I’m sure she’ll be at Jesus’ feet as much as he will allow.  And I’ll stop with one more example — the one that hits closest to home — the man I sleep with every night.  At 80 he is still in great demand for the wisdom he exudes which he lovingly lavishes on anyone who asks.

That, my friends, is how I see it. That’s what a good theologian looks like to me. The embodiment of what I envision Jesus to look like with skin on. Those people whose side you never want to leave because they are infectious. The ones who let God have great effect on their lives and take pleasure in pouring all that effectiveness out on me and others!

You see, I don’t think it has as much to do with how much you know of God and his Word – as what kind of effect all this knowledge has had on you. It’s about who you are becoming. Paul says it so beautifully with his preface to the “Love” chapter in 1 Corinthians 13:

If I speak in the tongues of men and angels but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

These are they—the ones who love well—the saints in the land who I long to emulate the older I get – because I can’t help but think they have done an excellent job of imitating and representing well the God of the Universe. These are they who have not brought the way of truth into disrepute.

So, am I a theologian? Did T. F. Torrance see any of that in me during that brief encounter? I doubt it – but perhaps what he saw was desire – and one month into seminary, perhaps that was enough to bestow on me the title of theologian. I don’t know. But what I suspect is that to really know the answer, I will have to wait until I’m at least 70. In tThe Endhe meantime, I only pray that I am heading in the right direction.

He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it. (Philippians 1:6)