Wednesday, May 28, 2008


My, my, my. It has been too long since I chatted with you last. I promise to do better now that things should be slowing down a bit, but they have been busy up 'till now. A week long trip to NYC with my friend Vicki and her family, a family wedding in Durham, North Carolina, and our short but entirely fabulous, God-driven, 3-day trip to Rome, Italy, with Jacob and Jessie.
By the way, I simply must mention that Jacob graduated Magna cum Laude on May 10th from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in "multidisciplinary studies," which is a smorgasbord of science credits. I am as proud of him as a parent could possibly be.
God has an interesting way of redeeming things. I have always regretted that I was such a pitifully poor student from kindergarten on and completely pissed away my college experience, so I am grateful that two of my three kids are excelling beyond my wildest hopes. This is obviously their father's side of the gene pool...
Before we left for Italy I was over at Kristen and Tara's and picked up a book that was lying on a counter in the kitchen.
I know I mention them a lot in this blog and it has nothing to do with the fact that they actually read the darn thing. It's just because once we began circling in each other's orbit, the sheer gravitational pull of our spiritual passions and purposes has kept us circling ever closer to one another.
They became roommates about a year or so ago, but because I already have one, I only get to visit once a week.
Anyway, on one such visit I picked up a book and flipped through it as I was waiting for them to stop flitting around so we could get down to business. And there is always business, but the business is always fun because we are actively helping each other pursue the call of God on our lives in practical ways. Like them setting up this blog and posting the three two-minute video clips of me on You Tube. Ha! That cracks me up! I'm on You Tube! The goal is to help provide a broader scale of opportunities to speak words of life, love, hope, help, truth and comfort to hurting Christians.
I readily admit I have been the greater recipient of these get togethers thus far, but one thing I did learn in kindergarten all those many long year ago was to share so their turn to reap what they are sowing is coming soon.
But back to the book. It's titled, "Hidden in Plain Sight: the Secret of More," by Mark Buchanan. I had never heard of him before and, quite frankly, the subtitle, to my mind, made it stink of the "prosperity gospel."
Nothing could have been further from the truth. It is a very readable exposition of the seven virtues outlined in 2 Peter 1:5-7 I'll save you the trouble of looking it up and type it out for you. "Now for this very reason also, (The reason being, is explained in vss.3-4, 'seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and order that you may become partakers of the divine nature...') applying all diligence in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge; and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, Christian love."
Simple enough, right?
Too bad it's not simple, because in verse 8 and 10 God makes an extraordinary promise. He says, "For if these qualities are yours and increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." But verse 10 is even more astonishing. It declares, "For as long as you practice these things you will never stumble."
Did I read that right? I'll never stumble? Really? Then I'm doing something wrong, because I stumble all the time! And yet God Himself has given me a seven dose prescription for never stumbling! This is mind-boggling. We are cautioned against making absolute statements like "always" and "never" and yet God makes the most incredible absolute statement of them all! He states quite clearly, "YOU WILL NEVER STUMBLE!"
Wow. Who is the God who sees me?
"The heavens cannot contain Him. The whole earth is full of His glory." He is a God who reveals Himself. "In Scripture, we meet the God of revelation. In worship, and prayer we meet God in Spirit and in Truth. In creation, we meet Him through His handiwork."
Psalm 34:8 rightly says, "Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!"
He is leading and protecting me. He is telling me the way I need to go if I want to ensure that I never stumble. Incredible. Astonishing. Thrilling.
I gave the book back last night and quite honestly, from this point on I don't recall where his thoughts end and mine begin, or are mixed together with his, but none-the-less, I want to share them with you. Where I am sure it's Mark Buchanan talking I will put it in quotes.
"The knowledge of God is the most important knowledge of all." Knowledge about Him--of Him. "You can know, like the teacher in Ecclesiastes, all there is to know, and find it all meaningless. But to know 'the One in whom you have believed' is saving knowledge." The pearl of great price. The hidden treasure for which a man will sell everything to buy the field. The thing every human being yearns for on the most primitive level and only realizes he's found once he's actually grabbed a hold of it.
He talks about each one of the seven attributes and why they build on each other. I was especially zeroed in on self-control since that is, right now at least, my weakest link in the chain and the one which affects all the others.
He writes, "Self-control is a trained capacity to think clearly about what matters most. It is a disciplined attentiveness to what God has done and is doing. A heightened sensitivity to spiritual reality, including a shrewd awareness of how the devil seeks to play havoc with us. It's about paying attention."
"The purpose of self-control is to make us holy as God is holy."
Now there's a concept.
Holy as God is holy. And never stumbling in the process. I just can't get over that!
One last disjointed thought: "The practice of dying to yourself is most often worked out in the mundane more than the heroic. It's often the retort or self-vindication you don't speak. The key is to take you complaints to God before you take them to anyone else."
Hosea 6:3 says, "So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; and He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth."
Come to me, Lord. Rain on me. Rain--no, don't just rain, drench me in faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and Christian love.
Help me to cultivate and increase in these attributes so that I will never stumble and will be fully equipped to faithfully fulfill Your call on my life. Amen.

Monday, May 12, 2008


My seventy-nine year old neighbor died suddenly Saturday. She was at the flea market with her daughter, suffered a massive stroke, was rushed to the hospital and died a few hours later.
We'd been good neighbors to one another for eighteen years; polite, egg borrowing, mail gathering, house watching neighbors. We'd chat if we both took our trash to the curb or picked up our newspapers at the same time. She never wanted to be a bother and I tried not to bother her unless I needed that egg or my phone line was down and I needed to use hers.
After her husband died from the effects of Alzheimer's a couple of years ago Jay was good about helping her with heavy lifting and I took her food occasionally if I had extra and thought she might like what I'd made.
But I never invited her to church and I never shared Jesus with her. Oh, I talked about Him. She knew we were regular church goers. After Jordan died I told her I knew he was with the Lord and she said she thought her husband Bill must be too, because he was "a good man." I didn't dispute the fact, but I didn't press the matter either, asking her, "What is good?" Nor did I tell her, "There is none good but God alone." Or explain the truth that, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." I never shared with her how she could be assured she would be with the Lord when she died.
And as I was trying to have my prayer time today, I knew that I had done her a grave disservice. I had neglected to "Love my neighbor as myself." My literal neighbor. I stood silent and mute as she walked in darkness. I kept a bushel basket over my light.
I was sick at heart as I felt the Lord's deep grief over my neglect and I know that I will have to give an account to Him one day. I can only stand even more ashamed than I am right now when He asks me why I never told Shirley about the salvation I hold to be more valuable than life itself.

When I was in NYC this past week, we had VIP passes to "Good Morning America." I was really interested in seeing the studio and seeing how a television show is put together. We had no idea who was scheduled to appear, we just showed up at the appointed date and time.
Turns out Clay Aiken was there, having just come out with a new CD and wrapping up his run in the Broadway production of "Spamalot."
We were scrunched in, standing shoulder to shoulder with pushing hordes of ardent, swooning "Claymates." Who knew this odd subset of society existed?
They were mostly middle-aged or older--old enough to be his mother or grandmother--and certainly old enough to have more important things to do with their lives and time than follow this young man around. At least it seemed to me they should.
I couldn't get over their idol worship. No pun intended. They talked about him as if they knew him, as if they had just had spam and eggs with him that morning.
At one point someone on the set held up a set of keys and asked if they belonged to anyone in the crowd. The woman next to me said, "They're probably Clay's!" She wasn't quite blushing, but I had the distinct impression that she knew more about him than his mother. I looked at her with a mildly bemused expression and said, "Does he lose things?" She became as animated as a Disney cartoon and said, "Oh, yes, he loses things all the time."
All I could think was, how does she know this and why does she care?
It reminded me of when we were in Memphis last year for part of our vacation and went to visit Graceland. Unbeknownst to us, it was "Elvis week." Not only was it Elvis week, we had inadvertently gone on the actual 30th anniversary of the day he died!
I can't even describe the scene. There were elaborate and homemade funeral sprays lining the long walkway up to the house and surrounding his grave. They seemed endless and they came from all over the world. The crowd was enormous; there were people everywhere. The place was packed, the lines were long, the ticket booth overrun, the parking lot jammed with tour buses.
There were men of all shapes and sizes dressed in white jumpsuits with giant gold buckles and black pompadours and woman with wrinkles, bouffants and bad make-up wearing Elvis buttons and t-shirts that said, "Number One Fan!"
A lot of people said they come every year, that it is especially beautiful at Christmas. Excuse me? I wasn't getting it.
The entire experience was surreal and quite frankly, depressing. The guy had been dead for thirty years and people were holding vigil at his grave praying to his spirit and waiting for him to come back from the dead. I'm not making any of this up.
It was shocking and bizarre and the entire experience made me realize with a clarity I had never had before that people are created to worship. And if they don't worship "in spirit and in truth" they will worship in misguided deception. And whether they worship an ideology, a movement, themselves or someone else, make no mistake. They will worship something. I wanted to shout to these people that there was only One who had died and come out of the grave.

By God's rich and unsurpassed grace, I walk in the "mystery of the Gospel" Paul refers to in Ephesians. I am saved. I know the truth. I know in Whom I have believed. I posses, in my spiritual hands, the pearl of great price.
But I dishonor God if I hold on to it and don't make every effort to share it with those in my sphere of influence.
In John 14:15 the Lord says, "If you love Me, you will keep my commandments." He confirms this Scripture in 1 John 4:20-21 where he reminds us, "If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he can see, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also."
I am deeply convicted of how empty my proclamations of love for God sound to Him if I am not doing every thing I can--setting aside my discomfort and my schedule and dying to my flesh--in order to reach the lost with the hope of the Gospel. If I "hate" my neighbor by not proclaiming the gift of salvation that alone offers the fulfillment every person seeks and the eternal destiny we all desire. I pray that each of us who names the name of Christ will proclaim that name to everyone we come in contact with.
I don't want anymore missed opportunities. "Help me Lord, to speak boldly for You, to reach those You love with an everlasting love and died to set free from the bondage of sin."

Thursday, May 1, 2008


MAY-DAY! MAY-DAY! Or, if you prefer, happy May 1st. It's been a very long time since I've swung around a Maypole. The one on the Cassidy school grounds was much too close to the lake and if you lost your grip at the wrong time, well, you went swimming. In your uniform.
I'm sorry, is it just me or did we celebrate Christmas just last month? It seems so to me and here we are writing May 1 on our checks already. What happened to February? Or March or April for that matter? My life is flashing before my eyes in 24-hour increments. It wouldn't be so bad except I'm not sure how many of them I have left.
It's very motivating. I'm starting to care less about finally getting my basement fixed up (but it's going to happen!) than I am about accomplishing all God has in mind for me to further His kingdom.
To that end I am attending a Kay Arthur seminar in OKC this weekend to help me learn to study the Bible with a more in-depth approach. The goal is two-fold. The first is to enhance my personal study time. I love the Bible study I am in but I am virtually salivating for better ways to dig the nuggets of wisdom and truth out of God's living, breathing word. Secondly, I want the effect of goal one to have a positive influence on my teaching.
We (my friend Ana and I) will return on Saturday night and then I am flying out way too early on Sunday morning to spend a week in NYC with my friend Vicki. Her husband has to be there for a week of training and since I fly free she asked if I wanted to come play in the big city with her while her husband worked. Did I? Hello! Ummm. Affirmative.
All of this to say I might be out of pocket for a while. I don't know if I will have the time or opportunity to write in NYC. I will if I can. If not, I will jot down my thoughts and write them out when I get home.
Meanwhile, I want to encourage each of you to spend a few minutes every day in purposeful prayer. It might be sitting silently in His presence. It might be pouring out your heart in petition or confession. It might be praying Scripture over yourself or someone you love. Whatever. Just make an appointment with your Heavenly Father. Then keep it.