Archive for August, 2010

Calling all Biography Lovers.

COMMENTS NOW CLOSED SO THAT WE CAN DO OUR DRAWING. THANK YOU SO MUCH!

Happy Tuesday, friends!

We are going to do a fun little giveaway today!

For the last several evenings I’ve been reading Eric Metaxas’ biography on Dietrich Bonhoeffer until the wee hours of the night. I was going back and forth between reading Metaxas’ biography (Thomas Nelson, 2010) and Eberhard Bethge’s (Revised Ed. Augsburg Fortress Press, 2000). Bethge’s book obviously has the advantage insofar as he was Bonhoeffer’s close friend and he also married Bonhoeffer’s niece, Renate. In the end, I decided to go with Metaxas’ biography because I heard great things about it from a good friend, and, well, it is 591 pages and not 1049. Seemed like reason enough to me.

For those of you who are not familiar, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Christian theologian who was executed for his involvement in a conspiracy to assassinate Adolf Hitler. Among his writings are well-known books such as The Cost of Discipleship and Life Together.  He was murdered on April 9, 1945, evidently under Hitler’s direct command. I thought that I knew quite a bit about Bonhoeffer since I have studied some of his theology in the past, but now I realize that I knew so very little about this extraordinary man. Did you know that his older brother worked on splitting the atom with Albert Einstein? At age 23? Crazy, huh? Metaxas, in my opinion, is a particularly meaningful person to have written this Bonhoeffer biography as he is half-German. His grandfather was one of many unwilling soldiers who nevertheless lost his life in the war. Metaxas’ own background plays a poignant role in the intimacy with which he tells his subject’s story.

I’m not typically a biography reader, but this one may convert me. Since I am a little over halfway through with this book, I’m already thinking about the next one I may want to read. I asked my Mom, the biography enthusiast, what her favorite one is and she said one of her “many favorites” is A Chance to Die, Elisabeth Elliot’s biography about the life and legacy of Amy Carmichael.

So, what about you?!

Are you a biography reader?

Tell us what your favorite biography is, along with your first and last name and you will have a chance to win your choice of either Eric Metaxas’ book, Bonhoeffer: Pastor Martyr, Prophet, Spy:


OR,  Elisabeth Elliot’s book, A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael:

We’ll do a random drawing and report *ten* winners on Thursday afternoon, along with further instructions.

Now, talk to me.

What is your favorite biography?

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Living Proof Live – Richmond, VA

LPL Richmond VA from Rich Kalonick on Vimeo.

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Colorado Road Trip

Some dear family friends blessed us with the chance to stay in their condo in Vail, Colorado, last week. Mountains? Cooler air? A place to relax? Yes, please!

The drive took two days there and two days back, so we had lots of quality time and adventures. I got to know parts of Texas I’d never seen before, like the plains and the panhandle. If there was ever any doubt, I now know that I’m a city girl through and through. All the wide open spaces with no buildings for as far as the eye could see made me very nervous! It was beautiful though. We spent the first night in Amarillo and ate at The Big Texan, which is an experience I’ll never forget. The next day we drove up through New Mexico and got to see the Capulin Volcano, which was very intriguing to Jackson. He wanted to know where the lava was. The drive from New Mexico into Vail was like going from glory to glory. The mountains got bigger and bigger until we were finally driving right through them in tunnels because there was no way around them. The scenery was incredible. We celebrated big time when we finally got to the condo in Vail and saw the lovely creek behind it. It was perfect!

The best thing about our time in Colorado was being able to play outside with the kids in the cool air. Vail is filled with really neat playgrounds and we tried to visit all of them at least once. One day we drove through Independence Pass and got to see the Continental Divide. It was cold up there, y’all! And glorious! We had lunch in Aspen and I promise you I’ve never fallen more in love with any town.

We headed home on Sunday and just happened to be driving right by New Life Church in Colorado Springs right before their service was starting. At the last second, we exited the freeway and headed that way! It ended up being the perfect thing to do. The kids loved getting to play in their classes and Curtis and I enjoyed having some time to worship the Lord together. Even though we didn’t know anyone there personally, we had the same Father, Son and Holy Spirit and it felt like family. I love that about the body of Christ. I even saw a lady carrying the Esther DVD set and wondered if she was a Siesta!

You may be wondering how on earth we survived 4 days in the car with a four-year-old and a one-year-old. We couldn’t have done it without these things:

-Psalty CD’s
-A DVD player
-Candy blocks and necklaces
-Lots of snacks
-Sticker books
-La Quinta Inn
-My Blackberry (for my sanity)
-Mommy hiding in the back row of the Suburban behind the whining toddler. It took us a while to figure this one out.
-The grace of God!

Here are some of the pictures we took. If you click on a thumbnail it will enlarge once. Click again and it will be full size.

Thank you for blessing us, Weir family!

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Heading Out to Richmond! 20 Comp Tickets!

Hey, you darling things! I am writing you (for the zillionth time) from IAH, about to jump on a flight to Richmond for our Living Proof Live this weekend! I’m going in a day early again because the flight tomorrow was too late to trust. I wish so much I didn’t have to hop on here this fast after AJ’s tremendous post yesterday but we better not wait any longer to post Siesta Scholarship giveaway tickets to this weekend’s event. Please go back and read it if you haven’t had the chance. I cannot express to you how proud I am of her and how much I support her decision to pull back for a little while. It really isn’t true that we can have it all – unless our all is Jesus. We are so overwhelmed, aren’t we, sisters? Sometimes we just have to sit back and regroup. It’s a wonderful thing to find a little extra sanity and peace in the middle of the dizzy spin of Planet Earth. God may supply it to us in all sorts of surprising and creative ways but He hears our cries and desires to lighten our heavy load.

Are any of you Siestas heading to Richmond? I am so excited to see what God wants to accomplish. Pray for me as I pray for you! May He Himself sanctify us through and through and be so pleased with our praise and our pursuit! We have 20 available tickets for anybody who wants to go but can’t afford the expense. Call Living Proof Ministries at 1-888-700-1999 and talk to either Kimberly or Susan and they will fix you up.

I really do love you dearly. I’ll catch up with you very soon! No time to edit or proofread so forgive me if this is a mess!

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Jones Family Update

Howdy, Siestas! I feel like I should introduce myself again because it’s been so long since I’ve written. Our summer was b-u-s-y but wonderful. Curtis preached at a Bible study gathering called Metro and at a few churches in our area, I led the Ruth study with some blogging girlfriends, we hosted out of town family members, went to Galveston a couple of times, and did lots of swimming and playing with the kids. Tomorrow Jackson and Annabeth will start pre-k and mother’s day out, so I suppose summer is coming to an end for us. Our normal Wednesday church schedule picks back up tonight and I can’t wait to see all the fellowship supper crowd. We have been missing everyone! Jackson gets to join the kids choir as of tonight. I think he is going to love it.

I have a little story to tell you that will explain my recent absence here on the blog. One day in June I was trying to get some work done and I went into the dining room (away from the kids) so I could concentrate. A few minutes later Jackson came running over to me and said, “Annabeth is on the TV!” What in the world? I ran in the living room to find my 16-month-old walking on the console behind the flatscreen and about to dive off into a pile of toys. Needless to say, I was horrified. I brought my laptop back in the living room and tried to finish whatever I was doing. A few minutes later I looked down and saw Annabeth sitting on our golden retriever’s back. All she needed was a saddle and she had her own little pony. I was horrified again! Beckham is a very patient dog and he loves the kids, but that was not okay. I was bit in the face by our family dog as a child and I know better than to trust any animal completely. This happened three feet away from me and I didn’t see it because of my computer screen.

I knew my days of working at home were coming to an end. I either needed to return to the office or stop working. Not only was it becoming unsafe for my children, but I constantly felt frustrated and discouraged as an employee and as a mother. I’m sure many of you can relate to how I was feeling. It was maddening because the world tells women we can have it all – career, romance, family, friends, leisure, and a peaceful home  – but the truth is we are all making sacrifices in one or more of these areas in order to carry the others. I felt like my entire family was revolving around me and my needs, when what my soul really longed for was to have the time and energy to serve them.

After many conversations with Curtis, a long heart-to-heart with my mom, and lots of prayers shot up to God in desperate moments, we decided that I would take a step back from my job at LPM for the next year. I have 12 months left with my son before he begins kindergarten and I want to make the most of that time. Next fall we will reevaluate our situation.

I confess I was really nervous to talk to my mom about this. It can be complicated when family members work together. But in my heart I kept hearing my mom say, “No amount of success in ministry can make up for failure at home.” My mom has kept to that after all these years and I’ve benefitted from it in countless ways. Now it was time for me to decide on my own. Would I choose what was best for my family? I could not have imagined how graciously my mom  would respond to my cries for help. She was 100% mom and 0% boss in that moment. She told me that when she’d kept the kids the weekend before, she’d sensed that this was coming.

Once Curtis, Mom and I were on the same page, I felt a flood of relief and joy. For about three hours. Then the seriousness of walking away from my job of 8 years came crashing over me. Satan told me the disgusting lie that I wouldn’t be important anymore. As if I should need to be important anyway! I was pretty emotional – swinging from extreme happiness and relief to sadness – for a few weeks. In fact, during that time I wrote two other versions of this post that I deemed too melodramatic to publish.

It’s been two months since the decision was made and a little less time since I handed over my administrative responsibilities to my co-worker, Kimberly McMahon/KMac. She is an awesome lady and I’m very thankful for the gifts God has given her.

Our family is definitely enjoying the harvest from this change. I feel a lot more peace. And that’s a pretty big deal! My relationship with Jackson has improved dramatically. He needed me to say yes more. I’ve been cooking, which my husband appreciates. I will say, though, that motherhood is hard any way you slice it! Can I get an amen? Did this make my life perfect? Uh, no. Did I magically become Supermom? I wish. But do I like motherhood more? Yes. Definitely.

Mom has invited me to keep writing here whenever I have something to share and I look forward to doing that. I will finally have some alone time now that Annabeth is starting mother’s day out and Jackson will be inPre-K. Praise the Lord!

I know that many of you reading this are desperate for your situation – whatever that may be – to change. Please know that when you cry out to the Lord, He hears you! He knows what you are going through. He is your Shepherd and He cares for you. Pray, pray, pray. First Peter 5:7-8 says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (NIV) I am asking God to show you His love, power and care right now.

Siestas, thank you for loving my family and for supporting us. We love you very much.

Sincerely,

Amanda

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This Wild World of Women

Good morning, Dear Siestas! I so hope you’ve experienced God’s presence and sustaining power this week and that maybe you get a day off tomorrow like I do. Melissa flew in yesterday so I have that darling thing studying about 10 feet from me this very second. Her man flies in tonight and they’ll be with us for the next week. She does have her own office but, living so far apart, when she’s in town we always work in my office. Believe it or not, we really do get a lot accomplished and feed off of each other’s research. Last time she was here, we spent the whole time outlining the study (and the Book of) James. Right now, she’s sitting over there translating the Book from Greek into English on her own. Needless to say, I’m not doing that but I am glad she is. I’m doing other things to get myself as familiar with it as possible and it is already clear to me that I’m about to have a major spiritual overhaul. I hear the sound of a heavenly jackhammer in the distance. By mid-September, God willing, I hope to start Week One, Day One. He has already begun preparing both of us by testing just how willing we are to count tribulation a joy. (That’s the trouble with Bible study. God has a particular affinity for seeing us actually apply the Scriptures we’re learning. If we don’t, He finally just quits attending the study. I don’t mean to say He’d ever leave His children but I do think He can withdraw a sense of His Presence and anointing in our corporate midst if we never let His Word get to our hearts and real lives.)

The reason I’m writing you this morning is because I had an experience a little while ago that really touched my heart. Every summer about this time, the city coordinators for all the LifeWay women’s events for the next year meet for several days of training in Nashville. This gathering is not only for the city coordinators for the Living Proof Live events. It also includes those taught by Priscilla (who I love), Kay (who I love), Vicki Courtney (who I love – my word, we grew up in ministry together although I’m admittedly several years her senior), Angela Thomas (who I don’t know as well personally but love), and Angie Smith (who I know and love mainly through her blog, her book, and through Melissa who went to India with her for Compassion International last year). When the LifeWay event team first began these trainings, Travis and we teachers each greeted them by speaker phone as they met together in one conference room. Nowadays we get to join them by Skype, meaning, to state the obvious, we get to actually see each other.

For some reason, as I’m reflecting on it, a lump is welling in my throat. It’s an odd thing for a sanguine to be called into the seclusion that writing demands. It is so often the women we serve that God uses to really inspire and motivate me to go beyond a private devotional life with Him. It’s running into someone at Starbucks or on the paper goods’ aisle in Kroger. It’s crossing paths with someone at the airport. It’s opening our Bibles together in tandem on Tuesday nights. It’s staff prayer time on Mondays at noon. It’s church on Sundays. It’s community that God most often uses to keep me stirred up to serve and hang in there with ministry. That’s why I have pictures on my desk and nearby bookshelves of small groups of women that are never any further than an eye-shot from what’s going on at my computer. Here are just four of them that I glance at all the time.

Each of those pictures mean something specific to me. For instance, the third frame from the left depicts a group of women who bonded together over the loss of dearly loved children. Can you imagine? They came together in a support system not only to relate through their loss but to agree to do everything they could to glorify God in the grief process and beyond. I still hear from them from time to time. The frame on the far right depicts a small group of women soldiers in Iraq who do the Bible studies together. As I study, I often glance up at the pictures in my office and ask myself, “Would you have the courage to say those words to them, too? Would these truths also apply to them in their pain? In their circumstances? In their danger? Because, if not, don’t say it at all. If God’s promises don’t apply to them, too, or if you have no regard for the seriousness of their estate, then shut the book and go home.”

Oh, that we’d never forget – Oh, Lord, that I’d never forget – that we don’t serve the page. We serve people. We serve the Author. There is no such thing as ministry without community. We can’t love God and despise people.1 John 4:20-21 cries out with conviction, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And He has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

None of us need to hear that echoed more often than those of us who are vulnerable to constant offense in ministry. If we don’t think God is harder on us who presume to teach, we’ve missed James 3:1. If we’re going to be worth our salt in ministry, we better be willing to ask ourselves hard questions constantly. We must be intolerant of our own cold-heartedness and cynicism. But that’s really not what I came on here to say.

I came on here to say that it’s an unspeakable privilege to get to be part of a large community of women – far, far beyond Siestaville – spread abroad in our  generations who love the Word because they love the Savior. It’s not about teachers. It’s not about denominations. It’s about a move of the Spirit on the hearts of so many who have come to love Christ all the more because His words became spirit and life to them. It’s a miracle really. A true wonder. We are different because of Jesus. We are different because we believed His Word. When we quit being different, we quit being disciples.

Anyway, I have a new picture today. While we were on Skype for our conference call this morning, I told them I’d give anything to have those faces in a frame right in front of me this year. And so they clicked a picture that very second and, thanks to technology, I already have it. Here’s a small group of women willing to believe God to do something eternal, something life-altering, in their cities in 2011 and, yes, even use them to do it.

And there are so many others out there across this globe who are willing to believe that their weaknesses are not strong enough to keep God from using them.

For some reason, I am amazed by that again today.

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Greetings From Jury Duty

Greetings, Dear Siestas!

I’m writing you from the jury assembly room of Harris County in Downtown Houston. I am blessed indeed to have an assistant who told me a few days ago she’d be happy to come pick me up and take me. I hope it goes without saying that I would not have asked her. I am fully capable of coming to jury duty by myself but, for a sanguine, it is a whole lot more fun this way. What’s in it for Michelle? Well, for starters, I think she smelled adventure and, to us, adventure is worth inconvenience. Her job is also considerably less lively if I’m not in the office so here we are and we have already gotten tickled enough to pay for the trip. One of the best parts was that she face-booked that she was at jury duty and someone who didn’t know we worked together told her I had jury duty today, too, and we could hook up.

There are several hundred prospective jurors here and, for the first little while, we amused ourselves by playing like this was a dating service and it was our job to match people. For a long time no one said a word (which made matches particularly challenging since I could not discern their personality-types) but now people are beginning to get to know each other because we’re all so nervous that we’re bonding. The atmosphere became more relaxed once we’d all taken the oath. Hawk felt the need to take the oath with us for fear people would think she was protesting by protecting her right not to make any promises. She, like me, is a rule keeper by nature. But not nearly the rule keeper my darling Amanda is. She saw that we were tweeting from in here and tweeted back with, “Are y’all going to get kicked out for tweeting?” It made me so happy. To be fair, I’m sure she was laughing when she asked because she would have known I would have thought it sounded just like her. I let her know that, as of yet, the bailiff had not told us that tweeting was strictly prohibited in the jury assembly room in the State of Texas and to take our tweeting outside.

I did just learn on the loud speaker that we will indeed get kicked out for smoking within 25 feet of the outside door so I’m definitely going to refrain.

Things have drastically improved since my last visit here. They now have free wifi (aptly called “jurywifi”) which is obviously how I’m corresponding with you. They also have a little snack bar where an unfortunate incident took place a moment ago. I excused myself to go to the ladies’ room for the second time and, on my way in there, smelled coffee. GOOD coffee. Like Starbucks coffee. I thought I was having a sensory hallucination until I came out of the restroom and, lo and behold, there was a little table with three coffee canisters. AND YES, with Starbucks, for the love! I leapt to it like a gazelle, pumped out my coffee with a big smile on my willing face. Then I looked up and saw a cash register. I hadn’t brought my purse because I left it with Hawk. All the sudden I was dumb-fuzzled and didn’t know what to do. I’d already poured it. So I jetted off from it like I’d committed a felony and ran back to the assembly room with guilt all over my face. I think I may have also been having a hot flash. Anyway, as far as I know, my cup is still sitting there all by itself under the Starbucks House Blend thermos. Getting cold. I feel robbed of my rights. Hawk suggested she could give me money to go back and pay for it but I am too shamed.

I have never gotten chosen for a jury before. Perhaps you find that surprising. I certainly want to be a good citizen so I’m willing as long as I can still get to Richmond next weekend. Of course, I’d rather study during my work hours and go to my regular job and, goodness knows I want to be with Melissa and Colin who come on Thursday, but I’m certainly here to do my civil duty if asked. (I’m being silly with you but I really do believe in the jury system and certainly would want a good jury should I need one. Should they find out that I poured coffee I did not pay for.) I will get paid $6 today if I serve then it goes to $40 the second day forward.

So, here I am waiting to see if I get chosen. If this is like the softball team in junior high, I’m in for a long wait. Hawk just told me that today is the 90th anniversary of the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote. And ultimately to serve on juries. So this is a great day to wear my big hair proud in this room.

While I’m waiting, have any of you Siestas done jury duty? Anything interesting happen? Any interesting cases? You know, I originally wanted to be a lawyer so I find all of this interesting anyway. So, do tell, Siestas.

PS. Hawk just went to get me some coffee. I’m so happy that I’m going to give her the $6 I make today.

PSS. She just got back with my cup of coffee and, yes, she said my previous cup was still there. Right under the House Blend.She poured me a new one though. It just hit me that my fingerprints are still on the other one.

Here is me writing to you:

And here is me saying what’s really important on this Wednesday: The Lord on high is mighty. He is for us and not against us. And, though He is lofty, He looks upon the humble and contrite heart with favor. Thank You, Lord, for a community where we can be serious and silly and maybe all on the same day.

PSSS. They just released all Bible teachers with big blond hair! Headed back to LPM but keep those jury experiences coming!

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Another Monday Hello!

Good Monday morning, my darling Siestas! I pray you had a weekend full of the grace and truth of Jesus Christ! I am sitting here in my sweaty work out clothes, not quite ready to jump in the shower and hit the pavement to work. I usually keep my adorable namesake on Monday mornings while AJ has some alone time with Jackson in an activity class they attend together. The class for today was canceled so I don’t have a single toddler in my den saying “Bibby? Bibby? Bibby?” every few seconds. Those words are music to my ears so it’s way too quiet around here this morning. I’m usually pretty lazy about getting into work mode on a Monday because I’m babysitting but this time I’m holding back a bit because my physical body feels like God has borrowed it for a quick marathon in Lexington.

There is not enough I can say about our Lexington group. They were just fantastic. We received some hard words from Jeremiah this weekend but those of us willing to open ourselves up to them also got to stick our heads in the fountain of Living Waters (Jeremiah 2). I will not forget that gathering for a very long time.I got to Lexington a day early because the Friday flight landed too late to take the risk. My hotel room looked out over the very center where we’d meet the next day. This was the sunset Thursday evening over that place. I stood at the window and praised God for it and asked for it to be a sign of His goodness to us and a deposit on the full measure of what He wanted to accomplish the next two days.

If you got a chance to catch the previous post, Rich has outdone himself by adding some video to the LPL picture-recaps. I watched it a few minutes ago and nearly cried. By the way, Rich’s beautiful, smart wife Gretchen, and their six month-old Polly were there this weekend. Polly is the cutest little thing. I’m just crazy about that family. Rich’s two girls may or may not have been the final shot in the video. Don’t call him shameless.I got a little Polly time myself. Go right ahead and call me shameless.

Well, I guess I was being prideful because I can’t get this picture to turn the right way. Laughing so hard. It’s saving straight up but it won’t insert straight up. I don’t care. I’m leaving it. Trying to compose myself as I keep looking myself in the eye, sideways.

I got home around 8:00 PM or so Saturday then woke up the next morning to a wonderful Sunday. My son-in-law Curtis was preaching in all our services in Pastor Gregg’s absence and I do dearly love to sit under CJ’s great teaching. Our terrific Pastor will return from his one-month summer sabbatical next Sunday and CJ will start teaching the Wednesday “Mid-link” Bible study again with the new Fall semester. It was an especially great day because our whole section was back in our corner of the sanctuary, all worshiping together with such unspeakable joy. In a church the size of mine (the sanctuary holds 3300 people), you have to go out of your way to plug in and feel like a part of things. You’re not likely to feel a close connection with the whole group but you can get to know a significant, life-changing part of it in a Bible study (Sunday school) class or something similar.

A bunch of us have been worshiping in the same general section of the sanctuary for years and, as I’ve told you before, our ages range all the way from young children to great grandparents. It’s a pretty broad section so there are many whose names are unknown to me but their familiar presence is so precious to me. The summer means travel so it’s been several months since it was full to the brim with this close community of folks. We all hugged and hugged yesterday and much of the time during praise and worship, I could not get the songs out of my mouth for the lump in my throat. And then my son-in-law got up and brought us a great word while I sat beside my firstborn, a young wife and mother pursuing God in the glad and chaotic mix of toddlerhood and preschool. My church is so dear to me. A good, sound local body of believers is absolutely crucial as we take this pilgrimage of faith together. It is God’s way. We were meant to do this together.

Right before the service, my sweet sister in Christ, Allison, came up to me with a big hug and a gift. I love Allison. I love her for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that we’ve made it through some differences. She has been in my classes for years and not necessarily always liked them or agreed with them. For starters, she is a King James gal and I use a number of different translations. One of us is single and the other married with kids and grandkids, so our lives also just tend to play out on separate planets at times it seems. Satan would liked to have caused some really hard feelings between us a couple of times because neither of us is very shy about expressing opinions but he simply did not prevail. And each of us would give glory to Jesus Christ alone for that. Each of us is weak in our natural selves but we genuinely love each other. Yesterday she said, “I made something for you” and placed in my hands five of the most beautiful greeting cards you have ever seen in your life. What makes them so special is that she paints the designs herself. Allison is tremendously gifted. She painted a picture of my best dog buddy of 18 years, Sunny, and it will be on my wall till I’m old and…(did I nearly say gray???). Here are a couple of the cards:

Aren’t they gorgeous? Now, do you want to hear the best part? She said with a sheepish grin, “There is a verse inside each one.” I said, “Oh, Allison, I love them! Yes, I’m so glad to have them! I will use them judiciously and for very special occasions!” Then she said, “And they’re in King James.” And we both bent over laughing. I love that girl. She’s fought a lot of obstacles in the power of Christ’s Spirit to live in the light of freedom. So has her friend Beth.

Because I know you’re going to ask to see it:

That makes me want to cry. I said good bye to that faithful friend two years ago and then I got my new little buddy, Star, a month later. To brighten the mood again, I’ll show you another gift I got recently. It’s sitting right by my kitchen sink this very moment. THIS, my dear Siestas, is one reason why you’ve gotta love women’s ministry:

The Scripture written on it is the main verse from “So Long Insecurity.” It’s Proverbs 31:25 in case you need to remember today that Christ has clothed you in strength and dignity.

Well, that’s my Monday morning hello! Good grief! You’ve made me late for work! I’ll leave you with this verse…from Allison…in the King James.

I love all of you dearly.

PS. Melissa, that was a fabulous post on Friday. Absolutely fabulous.

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LPL Lexington Recap

LPL Lexington KY from Rich Kalonick on Vimeo.

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A World of Pure Imagination

Greetings, Blogworld.

Happy Friday!

I’ve been tucked away in my little condo way too much lately. I’ve been inundated with work and personal study, both of which I thoroughly enjoy, but both of which tend to keep me indoors for long periods of time. And let’s be honest- who really wants to go outside right now? Dear inhabitants of the Pacific Northwest, in case you didn’t know, that was a rhetorical question.

It has been insanely hot in Atlanta. I’ve sworn heretofore that Atlanta has been dubbed “Hotlanta” because it happens to be where a bunch of beautiful people live, but now, after enduring my third consecutive August in Atlanta, I’m pretty sure that was naïve or just plain wrong.  Please take a sister’s word for it: Atlanta is called “Hotlanta” because, well, it is hot as heck-fire. I have a smile across my face right now because I’m thinking about my friend who recently moved to Kuwait. Yep, Kuwait. I just glanced at the weather report for Kuwait tomorrow and it looks like it is predicted to be a balmy 118. She would rebuke me for grumbling about a good ole classic 100 degrees but I would quickly retort: “It’s the humidity that makes it unendurable.” She wouldn’t be impressed though, and well, I don’t really blame her. So let’s put it this way: relatively speaking, the heat has been pretty nasty around here. I ran into my neighbor earlier today and she told me she has gained several pounds this month because she refuses to leave her house. We both shook our heads and carried on for a good while in mutual astonishment until finally there was nothing left to do but to prophesy about the glory days to come: autumn in Georgia. By the way, “autumn” sounds way more glamorous than “fall”, right? Autumn in Georgia covers a multitude of summer sins. Some folks get annoyed when people small talk about the weather, but I get a kick out of it. I like that the weather is something that everyone has something to say about, no matter how bashful the person may be or what season it is. The weather is just good neutral common ground, you know? Also, you can get really good and worked up over the weather and you won’t hurt anyone else’s feelings. It’s kinda fun.

But back to my recent case of condo fever. Several months ago I explained to my Mom that I think I am equal parts homebody and wanderlust. She laughed at me, not with me, and explained that I’m more like 99% wanderlust. “Your boots were made for walking, sweetheart.” That’s how she put it. She may be right. A perusing of a world atlas can be sacramental to me. When Colin and I were first dating he told me that he wanted to have an entire wall of his house dedicated to a huge world map. Although I was slightly horrified by the aesthetic ramifications of a big map mural, I had never loved him more.

I love to travel. To see a new place and to experience a new culture. But there is this little thing called adulthood. And responsibility. For some weird reason our landlord keeps demanding that we pay rent every month. Plus, there are events like weddings and family reunions that stack up and demand a big percentage of that small slice of vacation time each of us are allotted.

I’ve had the travel itch lately without the practical availability to travel. I’m like a bird in a cage. I know there is a fabulous destination out there with my name and respective 50-degree weather attached to it, but I just can’t make it happen right now. The very idea that there are people walking around places like Tuscany or Madrid, well, it makes me feel like I’m missing out on something that might have been. I mean, for crying out loud, somewhere over the rainbow, there are people mounted on the Alps eating Swiss fondue.

The most serious symptom of my condo fever has been chronic daydreaming. I can’t remember a time period of my life when I daydreamt this much since my fifth grade teacher taught us long division. Back then, I used to drift off and imagine Willowbrook Mall was my own personal closet. I would roam to and fro throughout this gigantic shopping mall, from Limited Too to Gadzooks, to pick out my new outfit for school. Don’t ask me how Limited Too and Gadzooks were able to coexist in my daydream because I’m not sure. But they were.

Some twenty years later my daydreaming hasn’t matured or progressed all that much. I won’t tarry long on this for sake of my own tender ego but I will say, I have eaten lots of freshly picked strawberries on the rolling green hills of the shire with a handful of delightful little hobbits. I also cried the other day when I heard the theme song from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. You know, the song: “Come with me and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination”? Who wouldn’t want to drink from a waterfall flowing with milk chocolate? Or pick the fruit from a tree that renders elephantine gummy bears? And what about red and white polka dotted mushrooms the size of giant patio umbrellas, bulging with buttercream icing?

And you’re thinking, Oh Melissa, you need to get out more. But that is exactly what I’m trying to tell you, dear, I can’t leave the house right now. So in attempt to deal more constructively with reality, I’ve been trying to take note of the beauty around me during the particular season I’m in. I don’t think the drive in me to constantly see something new all the time is all that bad. Sure, it could be bad. But for the most part, if it’s harnessed properly, I think it’s okay. Not to mention, it is kind of part of being human. At least for a lot of us, I think. Having said that, I would like to learn how to discover beauty in a season of repetition. Not a season of suffering or hardship, but just a season that is filled with mostly repetitive tasks. A season when I’m feeling a little domesticated and maybe a little bit too familiar with my surroundings. The whole “wake up, eat, work, eat, go to bed” monotony can be disillusioning over time and sometimes someone needs to look at us and say, “Snap out of it! There is beauty to behold, even in your mundane little world!”

All this typing has made me think of the paragraph from G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy.

“A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore. Heaven may encore the bird who laid an egg.” (See Part IV “The Ethics of Elfland” in Orthodoxy)

If you haven’t read Chesterton before, you need to immediately. Orthodoxy should be required for baptism. I’m kidding, I think. Chesterton was a man of extraordinary brilliance and imagination and even if you think he has lost his mind at times, his writing will make you think differently about the world we inhabit.

But I’m not done talking through my dilemma. I wonder if imagination itself is one key to enjoying and delighting in the mundane. What if, instead of dreaming about how bright the city lights are in Bangkok, or longing for a cool starry night out on a ranch out in Montana, I took notice of the way the sun dances on my old cracked hardwood floors from the hours of 6-8 pm, as if they were its vintage stage? What if, each time I saw a butterfly, I imagined God standing at an easel painting the delicate and intricate patterns displayed on its wings?  Or, what if, instead of being annoyed by the boisterous giggling of two people in my local coffee shop, I thanked God for the gift of laughter and comic relief or imagined the kinds of things that may bring a smile to His face.  I wonder what my life would be like if I used my overactive imagination, not to daydream about far away lands or fantasy peoples, but to make sense of and delight in my own little world and the people I encounter on a daily basis.

I’ll never forget when I first read an excerpt from one of Kyle Lake’s final sermons. For those of you who are not familiar, Kyle Lake was the pastor of University Baptist Church in Waco, TX. He died, far too young, in October of 2005. I did not know Lake personally but I did attend his church on several occasions when I was a Baylor student and had the opportunity to hear him preach. Somewhere along the way I heard that they read the following excerpt from one of his final sermons at his funeral:

“Live. And Live Well. BREATHE. Breathe in and Breathe deeply. Be PRESENT. Do not be past. Do not be future. Be now. On a crystal clear, breezy 70 degree day, roll down the windows and FEEL the wind against your skin. Feel the warmth of the sun. If you run, then allow those first few breaths on a cool Autumn day to FREEZE your lungs and do not just be alarmed, be ALIVE. Get knee-deep in a novel and LOSE track of time. If you bike, pedal HARD… and if you crash then crash well. Feel the SATISFACTION of a job well done—a paper well-written, a project thoroughly completed, a play well-performed. If you must wipe the snot from your 3-year old’s nose, don’t be disgusted if the Kleenex didn’t catch it all… because soon he’ll be wiping his own. If you’ve recently experienced loss, then GRIEVE. And grieve well. At the table with friends and family, LAUGH. If you’re eating and laughing at the same time, then might as well laugh until you puke. And if you eat, then SMELL. The aromas are not impediments to your day. Steak on the grill, coffee beans freshly ground, cookies in the oven. And TASTE. Taste every ounce of flavor. Taste every ounce of friendship. Taste every ounce of Life. Because-it-is-most-definitely-a-Gift.”

Be PRESENT.

I like that.

I want to be present.  In every season.  Even the ordinary ones.

“Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow.” James 1.17

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