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robin

“Mommy, that boy over there looks like the alien.”

“Mia, that’s not nice.  What alien?!”

“You, know, the alien guy from that show.  The guy who died.”

“Oh.  You mean Robin Williams.  Mork?”

“Yeah.”

Needless to say, my little girls like to watch reruns with Grandma.  

Even my children have not escaped grieving the death of a man the vast majority of we wanna-be mourners never knew.  

A man we never knew.

What did we know, though?  We knew he was talented.  We knew he was famous.  And rich.  And, perhaps, handsome.  We knew he was well-received, admired, and quite popular for several generations.  We knew that most of what he did was decent, clean, humorous, and done with excellence.  We knew we liked his work.  We knew we liked his many accomplishments.  We knew we liked him.  We really, really liked him.

Nevertheless, we did not know this man.  We never ate with him.  We did not converse.  He never called us when he won, or, when he lost.  He never asked for our help or for our children’s names.  We never spent the day hiking or picnicking or celebrating one another’s birthdays.  We did not know his address, his favorite meal, or his pets’ names.  We did not know his joy, his pain, his sins, or his struggles.  So why do we feel so attached to him and to his family’s loss?  

Well, we liked him.  We really, really liked him.  Dare I say, because we liked him so very much, we wanted to know him.  We really, really wanted to.  We wished we could have.  We’re sad that we didn’t.  I mean, he’s the kind of guy that a person would want to have around; a good guy.  This man was a high quality individual and his life’s work proved it so.  There was so much about him that was interesting; intriguing; noteworthy; brilliant; distinct.  However, none of that changes the fact that we never met this man, and, this side of eternity, we now never will.

I cannot help but wonder how many of us have the very same fictitious relationship with another extraordinary man.  A man who is also talented, remarkably rich, internationally famous, and universally well-received and admired.  Yes, many of us have this false sense of familiarity with a man who has been quite famously, and infamously, popular for generation upon generation.  We know all about how very decent, clean, excellent and exceptional his accomplishments are.  We simply love his stellar work, and, by golly, we surely do like him a whole lot.  Nevertheless, we do not know this man either.  We never eat with him.  Better yet, we never stop eating just so we can spend some time with him.  We don’t converse with him.  We don’t call him when we win, although we may often blame him when we lose.  We don’t answer when he asks us to help and we fail to remind our children of his Great Name.  We never spend the day hiking or picnicking or celebrating with him.  If we’re honest, we do not know very much about who he really is or what he is really like at all.

His name is Jesus Christ.

We may like him.  We may even really, really like him.  There is so much about him that seems interesting; intriguing; noteworthy; brilliant; distinct.  We have convinced ourselves that we know him quite well.  After all, we can quote plenty of his original lines verbatim.  We want to know him.  We wish we could.  We’re sad that we don’t.  Still, for many of us, none of that changes the fact that we have never met this man.  The only difference is, when this side of eternity hands us over, we all surely will.  

Seek him now while he may be found, friends.  He wants to know you, real-ly.

 

redeemed

In a low valley somewhere between the “Lord show mercies” and the “God please forgive me’s,” my threadbare faith became.  It became not better or worse, rather, it became what it was always meant to be.  So necessary that I could not loosen my white knuckle grip upon his pierced feet; so constant that I could not live without prayer for even one single moment.  It did not become more or less real; for it always was so.  It simply became.  No longer full of doubt; no longer man-dependent;  no longer heartless knowledge;  no longer duty driven.  No.  In that dark valley, somewhere between the “Lord show mercy’s” and the “God please forgive me’s,” my threadbare faith became a brazen blanket bleeding brand new hope.  

Change is no longer forever tomorrow’s promise used to pacify my conscience.  On the contrary, it is now a certainty grounded by the felt gratitude towards the one who did indeed have mercy and forgive me.  It’s assurance is fortified by the bitter residue left by its ugly predecessors – failure, shame, and pain.  

The scars left when one chooses to do things “the hard way” are not easily forgotten.  No.  But they do serve their purpose.  Never again will the little girl touch the stove to see if it really is hot.  Never again will she drag her soft finger along the edge of a razor blade to prove whether or not it really is sharp.  She has undoubtedly proven herself wrong.  She has unwittingly made herself an utter fool.  She holds hands with humiliation as she wakes and as she lies down.  That girl is forever changed.  She knows what she has done.  She has surely learned her lesson well.

Brokenness is her advantage; grief her teacher.  The only place she has left to go is the only place she has ever needed to be – the arms of her savior.  And after all, she is safe.  She is new, and no matter what happens from here, she trusts him.  She knows beyond the shadow of a doubt that her very life is in his hands – for better; for worse, for richer; for poorer, in sickness; in health, in joy; in sorrow, and death will never part them.  

When she thinks about how he sought her, she marvels.  She cannot doubt his great love for her.  From the “I love Jesus” cardboard sign in her childhood bedroom to the “God is love” Sunday school project which hung in her Pappy’s kitchen.  From the countless sermons she had the privilege to hear to the overwhelming provision of proper people in her life.  From his consistency to his constancy to his forgiveness.  She stands amazed.  Though she still asks her portion daily, she trusts fully in his great mercy.  She knows just who she is in him despite her failures.  She knows he has done everything necessary for her salvation.   She is free.  

Regret, accusation, guilt, and self-inflicted condemnation may try to break in upon her at times but, as with the wild wind and roaring waves, his love quiets them all with a mere word.  

To her surprise, it was not her perfection, but her imperfection and subsequent repentance covered by his perfection that eradicated her doubts.  It was not her obedience, but her willful disobedience covered by his perfect obedience that consumed her fears.  She understands what she could not comprehend before – brokenness is the prerequisite of reconciliation.  Yes, reconciliation, by very nature, has a prerequisite of brokenness.  One does not seek to fix what they believe is intact.  That burn was necessary to prove her broken.  That cut was imperative to reveal her need.  

But the end of a matter is better than it’s beginning, and patience is better than pride.  (Ecclesiastes 7:8)

Her conclusion?  She must wait.  We are called to absorb often a great amount of pain in exchange for true and lasting change within ourselves and others.  Jesus did as much and was guiltless.  How much more we who are guilty!

As she writes on the very last page of her ragged should-have-been-finished-months-ago-but-she-got-detoured-by-sin notebook, she knows that this is not the end for her.  The gospel works.  She is covered by grace.  She lives by faith.  She trusts in God.  She waits in hope.  She is living proof that even the least of these – those with absolutely no claim and nothing to bring – can be redeemed.  Dare I say, they are the only ones who ever were.  

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living!
 Wait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage;
    wait for the Lord! ~Psalm 27:13-14

 

 

 

cowgirl

Gentleness.

I fold my fairly drawn from a baseball hat piece of paper back up and place it in my Bible.  My husband’s newly instituted family devotion time is already proving its potential to keep me honest about my own failures. Not only that, but I’ve got a five-year old who, if I didn’t know better, could most definitely pass as the Holy Spirit incarnate.

Without reservation, every time Mommy begins to lose her patience, her temper, or even so much as her tender tone, Miss Maylee rearranges her five-year old face indignantly and asks, “Mommy, are you forgetting your gentleness?!”

“Yes.  And your sisters are forgetting their love and kindness towards each other.”

Little wonder why Daddy drew patience.  Even the Lord must lie lenient on a businessman picked to preside over a five female filled household.

We were doing a lesson on what the Bible terms “the fruit of the Spirit.”  These nine character traits are tangible evidence of God the Holy Spirit working in and out of the lives of believers.

Daddy drew patience; Mia, self-control; Addie, love; Maylee, kindness; Mom, peace; me, gentleness.

Ah, gentleness, how you elude me.  I’ll be the first to admit that this has certainly never been my strong suit.  If it were literal fruit I’m sure my gentleness might resemble more of a raisin than a grape.  For a first-class faulting finding, fact feeding, wanna-be fighter, the closest I ever come to gentleness is just being quiet.  If you don’t have anything nice to say…right.  But what is gentleness, really?

One definition describes gentleness as, “The value and quality of one’s character.  The quality of gentleness is colloquially understood to be that of kindness, consideration, and amiability.  Aristotle used it in a technical sense as the virtue that strikes the man with regard to anger: being too quick to anger is a vice, but so is being detached in a situation where anger is appropriate.  Justified and properly focused anger is named mildness or gentleness.” ~Jan Garrett

I’m an extremist.  Too quick to anger or too quiet where proper anger is appropriate.  Yep.  Sounds about right.  That’s Lori in a nutshell.

I had the pleasure of attending the Fayette County Fair with my husband, along with Little Miss Holy Spirit, and her sisters, Little Miss No Self Control and Little Miss Lack of Love.  They were climbing up a knotted rope to get to a slide.  When Little Miss Holy Spirit got to the “tippy top” (as she calls it), she decided it was the perfect time to readjust her getting-too-small-had-to-wear-them-sister’s-hand-me-down-cowgirl-boots.  Mister Growing in Patience and I watched helplessly as she nearly fell backward down onto the five climbing children behind her and metal platform below.  No casualties, though.  Thankfully, we were spared a trip to the ER by mere virtue of her fortunate ballerina balancing act.  Mister Growing in Patience got quite mad at my poor shoe choice and I did what I always do in these kind of awkward moments – as the five-year olds say, “I B-ed quiet.”

It got me to thinking…

Maybe this gentleness gig  isn’t an either/or kind of choice.  Maybe it isn’t an either flip out or say nothing kind of prerogative.  Maybe, just maybe, it’s supposed to be more like pray about what makes us angry, find a focused way to deal with it and take appropriate, albeit affectionate, action.  Balance.

All of the Christian life, practically, is about balance.  Balance.  So, I don’t know about you, but I’m putting on a pair of boots – I mean fruits – that actually fit before I try to walk the line.

” But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” ~Galatians 5:22

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jmHNfWRw-qg

cross

“I’ve been a victim of a selfish kind of love…” ~Michael Jackson

Have you ever wondered if you are part of the problem?  I have.  I was.  Listen carefully.

Fayette County.  What do you think of when you hear those words?

Fascinating history; purple mountains capped with snow in the winter, every hue in autumn, unique wildlife, and beautiful greenery in the spring and summer; opportunities to serve the less fortunate; faces who need my encouragement; great talent; natural wonders; friends; beautiful people.

I could go on.  I bet you could, too.  I know you could, in fact, because I see you shake your head.  I hear you almost everywhere I go.  You say other things, though – the things I used to say.

Obesity; welfare; ignorance; entitlement; drugs; crime; ugliness; deceit; poverty; teen pregnancy; domestic abuse; violence; fatherless children; deadbeat dads; strife; junkies; homelessness; discontentment; complaining; child abuse; hopelessness; despair; depression; wastefulness; trash; lazy people; unworthiness; bitterness; resentment.

Is there more to the story than we see?  Why, of all the places on this vast universe Our Creator could have put us, did he chose this one?  There is a reason, readers, and it is not to give us a superiority or and inferiority complex.

“Who am I to be blind pretending not to see their need?” ~Michael Jackson

In my opinion, there is exactly one problem in Fayette County.  One.  Yes, this one trumps them all.  It knows no color or class.  It infiltrates them all.  It is a problem I have had my entire life.  I am a native, after all.  That problem is properly termed “entitlement.”

Entitle: verb 1. to give (a person or thing) a title, right, or claim to something; furnish with grounds for laying claim.

Claim: verb 1. to demand by or as by virtue of a right; demand as a right or as due: to claim an estate by inheritance. 2. to assert and demand the recognition of (a right, title, possession, etc.); assert one’s right to: to claim payment for services. 3. to assert or maintain as a fact. 4. to require as due or fitting.

When a person believes she deserves more, better, faster, newer, nicer, than what she has already been so graciously given, she stalls out.   Whether that already is a dry crust of bread or a meal fit for a king, it really makes no difference.  One who cannot be content with little will scarcely ever be content with much.  Her attitude shifts with every whim.  There can be no gratitude.  No thanks can be given in exchange for good things.  That person is ever discontent.  Her glass is always half empty.  She never stops to think that she is the one who drank the other half and failed to appreciate it.  She never sees the amazing gifts that have been placed in her hands.  She is greedy.  She is spoiled.  She sees blessings as burdens.  She sees opportunities as intruders.

Oh!  How dark our lives become when we fail to look for what’s right in the world!  We cannot deny what is wrong, but we can use our positivity to help change it.  Or, we can complain.  We can grumble.  We can blameshift.  We can look down upon.  We can shake our heads and we can hate.

Fayette County, it is a choice.  No one and nothing can make you bitter, unhappy, dissatisfied, or disgusted.  Those attitudes are choices.  I know because I had them all.  They belong to the entitled.

I don’t know about you, but I want to play for the other team – the one known as “Thankful.”

Thankful.  Thankful to whom?  God.  The gospel.  Restoration.  Redemption.  Yes, redemption.  Even for a county the whole world hates.  Even for a girl who hated the whole world.

Then sings my soul! My Savior, God, to Thee!  How great Thou art!

Are you part of the problem?  I was.  And I am here to say I am so, so sorry.  I need to ask your forgiveness.  I live in a beautiful place with beautiful people who need exactly what God, in his infinite grace, just so happened to give specifically to me – a beautiful smile.  I’m never going to stop using it, Fayette County, because I love you and I love your people.  I pray the Lord will use me to give you and your children hope.

Please don’t shake your head at me.  Remember that once upon a time the God of the Universe lived in a throw away town that everyone loved to hate, too.

Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 45Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip. ~John 1:44-46

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iW8UsJvC4rM

berries

I examine the underside of my forearm post berry-picking.  Ragged.

Even with long sleeves and snake boots, the brambles always seem to get the best of me.

Black raspberries sprawl out among the weeds for as far as I can see.  A grateful host to this favored member of the rose family, my backyard delicately draws me day after day.

I consider the thorns.  Moreover, I consider the consistent nature of my treasures.  I must trespass through the timber to track them, but they always turn up right on time.  I pluck the bushes bare of black ones only to find today’s unready reds respectfully ripe tomorrow.

I think of Eden.   Why do we not see paradise when it stretches in front of us?  I think of manna.  How can we desire more; different; better when we’ve been given the very best?  But we do.  We invite the thorns in our self-centered discontent.  We forfeit perfect provision in exchange for poison.

Still, he gives.  He gives the thorns.  Grace.  He gives the wounds in proper portion.  The roses will come, but now they must wait.  He measures out the pound of cure where prevention has not preceded.  He appropriates the pain in order to position the pandering passions of the perpetually imprisioned.

Only a deliberately forgetful father could manage to land a self-consumed exile in a place where both pleasure and pain penetrate in perfected partnership straight to the most permanent places.

The rose family.  How could I have not known?  Everything worth anything is protected; difficult; laborious; risk-bearing.  A wise man once told me I would never obtain a rose without first climbing over the thorns.

Careful.  I must be more careful.  Painful pricks ever remind me.  Regret.  Somehow an armful of scratches seems a small price to pay for a basketful of blackberries.  I think of Eve.  Somehow a body full of brokenness seems just as small a price for an unblemished bride.

Could it be?  Could a world full of the fall’s frailties really be so small a price?  Could the grand schematic really include both the roses and the thorns on purpose?

It could.  And it really is ok.  Funny thing about schematics…I never could read them right.  Daddy was an engineer.  He always knew just what they meant.  Sometimes he even wrote them.  I am assured in my recollections just how true it is that my divine daddy is still the director of this debonair display.

I examine the underside of my forearm post berry-picking.  Ragged.

Even with long sleeves and snake boots, the brambles always seem to get the best of me.  But I heard the pastor say that one cannot carry an old rugged cross withoug winning some sharp splinters in the process.  It really is ok.  I love berries.  They remind me of my daddy and my father.

  Following love always demands sacrifice, but it is so small a price for such a grand reward.  I know there is a barracade of thorns.  Reach for the rose anyway.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZcqWyyHlCDA

speeding

Dense fog covers the highway.  Slow down.  I remember yesterday’s warning and I stop speeding.  For the remainder of my trip I think of him.

Grace.  The man in uniform extended grace as unexpected as his presence.  No ticket was issued.  No points were affixed.  Despite my best attempts to let luck run out, life number nine was not the end.

I live speeding.  I’ve been stopped at least half a dozen times in the past year.  I have no excuse.  Generally, I don’t even have a reason.  The tickets don’t faze me.  But today I am changed.  Today I was overcome with gratitude when I turned onto that foggy 25 mph road where I was stopped the day before.

I thought about what I would say if I was stopped again and it grieved me.  Then, a miracle for the girl who married a drag racing mad man.  I slowed down.  I drove 25 mph for the several mile stretch through town.  During what had always felt like a total waste of time, I looked around.  I gave thanks.  I appreciated my surroundings and the laws that seek to protect them.

It was grace that slowed me down.  It was grace that corrected my hellbent rebellion.  It is grace that makes me stop and think about the goodness of the law.  It is grace that grieves me when I find myself breaking it again.

It grieves me.  When the mercy of a man who owes you nothing but a forceful demand for retribution shows up on your doorstep, all that’s left to do is take a good, hard look at your own careless, sneaking rebellion in light of his goodness.  One cannot help but grieve.

But I was let go.  No penalty.  I got away with it, right?  I should be laughing.  But, no.  When forgiveness finds us, forgetfulness about our most famous failures is not an option.  No.  There is only one option – slowing down, grieveing over our misconduct, and living a life filled with newfound appriciation for the grandiose gift we were freely given.

Will I ever break the speed limit again?  Chances are I will, albeit unintentionally, still fail at times.  I do know this, though, there scarce will come a day when I drive 60 mph through that particular 25 mph stretch without slowing down and remembering the goodness of that one man’s grace.  His road is safe with me.

Furthermore, when I am struggling to extend grace to those who have offended me, I will ever think of him.

No amount of punishment changes a heart as stubborn as mine.  That’s why Jesus came extending lavish grace.  He knows tickets don’t really faze us.  Bit and bridle may change behavior, but only grace and mercy bind the heart to blithe obedience.  That, my dear readers, is why the gospel works and prisons do not.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WyoVJfADlwo

maleficent


Surprising as it was creative, Angelina Jolie’s new movie Maleficent captured my heart. Expecting a dark story line about a sinister witch, I came out reminding myself never to jump to hasty conclusions about either sketchy or squeaky clean characters until the whole story is told.

Disney hit the mark once again successfully finding a way to make identifying with their main character effortless and natural.  Let’s face it, unless you’re under 16 and going through a Gothic phase, Maleficent is an unlikely role model at first glance.  As a Christian, home schooling mom of three young girls who has never once been tempted to paint my fingernails with jet black polish, making Maleficent my mentor is no small feat.  Nevertheless, Disney managed to do just that.  *Spoiler alert* Here’s how:

Maleficent did do something terribly selfish and wrong as we were schooled by the original Sleeping Beauty  – this much is true.  It is what was done to her before that act that changes one’s heart about who she really is underneath.  An unimaginable evil had been done to her by the only man she’d ever trusted – by the only man she’d ever loved.  He had all of her and he stole the part of herself she held most dear for his own greed.

Maleficent took revenge.  She made sure the pain she had experienced did not pale in comparison to the pain she inflicted.  Still, two wrongs don’t make a right.  Maleficent learns as much after the fact.

When Maleficent was maimed by the one she loved, she was still very strong and powerful, but, she was no longer free.  She allowed the immense pain felt in her heart and the entrapment of her circumstances to turn her whole world black, color her decisions dark, and drive her to do evil.  She was no longer happy or kind or full of joy as she had always been before.  Because of the magnitude of what she suffered, she forgot how to be who she really was – the leader who protected others from evil.

That is the crux of the story.  That is how Disney wins.  Everyone wants to believe they are a good person who, once in a while, does bad things when seriously provoked.  No one wants to believe they are a bad person who is acting out their true character when evil emerges from within.  Unless, of course, they are innately evil in which case they may identify more with the king in this film.

It got me to thinking…are there really good people and bad people?  Is it really that simple?  Many will say, “Yes.”  I believe the answer is, “No.”  There are only changed people and unchanged people.  By the end of the movie, Maleficent was among the changed.  She was as beautiful as she had ever been inside and out, only now she was mature in her beauty and her character.  I guess she had to be an ugly duckling for a moment in time in order to get there.  I guess we all do on our way to forgiveness, grace, and maturity.  One cannot grow in grace if she need never find a reason to extend it.  She cannot learn to forgive if she is not first grievously offended.  One cannot learn selflessness without having to sacrifice.  She cannot fully mature if she is not tested and proven through a whole life of trials, failures, successes, blessing and adversity.  Even Jesus Christ in all his perfection was not fully mature in obedience until he walked through his suffering.

“Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him…” ~Hebrews 5:8-9

Maleficent’s anger and and revenge only lasted a moment.  She was not the monster we all thought she was all these years.  She was simply hurt.  As the old adage goes, hurt people hurt people.  But she learned how to love truly through forgiveness, grace, and mercy…just like non-Gothic stay at home moms who love Jesus and are afraid of witches.  Matter of fact, I believe that is the only way it has ever been done.

Bravo, Disney.  Maleficent was magnificent!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mBcqria2wmg

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