Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Water of Grace

I am still pondering the symbol of grace as wave after wave--see my blog with that title. Many of the songs we sang Sunday spoke of grace with all its descriptives: healing grace, saving grace, bold grace, amazing grace, etc.

As I have been thinking about this, I have gone to two of my favorite books : Kathleen Norris's
Amazing Grace, A Vocabulary of Faith and Max Lucado's In the Grip of Grace.

There are still many Christians around who "seem intent on putting the vastness of God into small boxes of their own devising," says Norris. Their vocabularies are full of words like heresy, damnation, evil, wickedness, hell-fire, lostness. Very scary words.

In Romans, Paul is not about those words,. His statement sums it up in Romans 5:8: "But God shows his great love for us in this way: Christ died for us while we were still sinners." Lucado goes on to tell the story of David and Mephibosheth in II Samuel. After David had fought the battle that made him king, he scorned the tradition of exterminating the heirs of the former king Saul. Instead, he took Saul's grandson and Jonathan's son into his home and invited him to his table. As God invites us always sinful sons and daughters to his table.

David writes in Ps. 103: 8-1: " (God) is slow in anger, abounding in love.... as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us."

This is not a passive love where God just sits waiting for us to call; instead he pursues us as David writes in Ps. 139: 9-10: ...if I settle on the far side of the sea (again the water metaphor), even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast." The next few verses speak of times when we go into darkness to hide, God pursues us and shines his light through our darkness.

Lucado responds: "Vagabonds and ragamuffins all, he saw us before we were born. And He loves what he sees. Flooded with emotion. Overcome by pride, the Starmaker turns to us one by one, and says, 'You are my child. I love you dearly. "

"Can anything separate us from the love of God?" Romans 8:35. God's resounding reply as he placed Himself in the womb of a young Jewish girl, is "No, I am the way back from everywhere you may go."

What a promise!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman

It's time to get serious. I guess one knows when aging comes because your favorite movie stars start dying. But Paul Newman!!!!! Still handsome at 80--and married 50 years to his lovely wife. A life full of accolades and tears with the death of his son from drugs. He gave millions away in his son's name for the benefit of others. My favorite quote: When asked if he had ever cheated on his wife Joanne, he said, "I have steak at home, why should I go looking for hamburger?" He and his wife lived a very circumspect life far away from Hollywood in Connecticut.

I used to have a poster of him in my office, when I had one. Those eyes and that smile--mmmm. Brad Pitt doesn't even come close. I loved him in Butch Cassidy and The Sting and many others. I shall miss watching him.

Sam and Other Happenings of the Day

Yesterday I sat with Sam briefly before he went to school. Sam is a story teller like his Poppy--he was full of his experience with the first fire drill at the school. I heard about it in detail. He was quite impressed with the whole thing. They watched an "Arthur" movie about fire and fire drills, then marched out one by one to the playground and waited silently until the all clear bell sounded. Brings back memories of corraling 5th and 6th graders at Dyess across from the school in an 80-mile an hour wind praying for that bell to blow.

Again, the weather is Chamber of Commerce perfect and there are some leaves flying--I don't know if they have let go because it's fall or because of the lack of rain.

In a restaurant I watched a black family do what all good families do as they eat--teach the children manners (there was a two-year-old boy and a younger girl--so precious.) and converse. Both the mother and father had flash cards to play with the boy-- counting cards with various animals and insects on them. I complimented them as I left, and the mother said that they had gotten the cards at a meeting for the parents of autistic children (they have another son who is stricken), but the two year old was just eating up the learning with them. I said a little prayer for those who are researching autism as I left.

Then Doris and I want to see Richard Gere that afternoon--Nights at Rodanthe. The reviews have been mediocre. We enjoyed it--guess we are suckers for romance movies. This one harked back to the old Cary Grant--Deborah Karr flicks. The photography was beautiful of Cape Hatterus and the ocean. Reviews called it treacly, and it was , but we liked it. Diane Lane is beautiful at 48 and of course Richard is beautiful at any age. (now 50, I think).

Then the evening ended with the debate. I thought the oft-described as "eloquent" Obama was slightly off his game and missed several opportunities to jibe McCain. McCain impressed with his tales of world travels, meetings with heads of state, and his general knowledge of foreign diplomacy. I think he won this one. Both were somewhat tongue-tied when it came to what they would do with the financial crisis. That does not bode well. But it was fun to watch them together for the first time and to compare.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Freedom from Fear

In these topsy-turvy days of failed economic programs, no gas, little faith in government, and general maliase, I found this prayer/meditation by Walter Brueggemann helpful:

Salvation Oracles
There is a long list of threats around us:
falling markets,
others unlike us in all their variety,
the list goes on and we know it well.
And in the midst of threat of every kind,
you appear among us in your full power,
in your full fidelity,
in your amazing compassion.
You speak among us the one word that could matter:
"Do not fear."
And we in our several fearfulnesses, are jarred by your utterance.
On a good day, we know that your sovereign word is true.
So give us good days by your rule,
free enough to rejoice,
open enough to change,
trusting enough to move out of new obedience
grace enough to be forgiven and then to forgive.
We live by your word. Speak it to us through the night,
that we may have many good days through your gift.
Isaiah 43:1-5
From Prayers for a Privileged People

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Transformation and Not Information

Rhonda Lowry is teaching our current "ladies" Bible class on Tuesday morning. She is rocking our world with new thoughts, insights and challenges.

The first two sessions were on reading the Word. She quoted Ellen Davis, an Old Testament scholar, "The greatest scandal in the North American church is our shallow reading of scripture." Addressed to those of us who believe we have generally deeply studied the scripture more than most folks--the statement was a challenge. Then Rhonda took us to the story of the Samaritan woman in John 4 and proceeded to show us how we have endowed that story with things that are not there. We have read it mostly for information and not for transformation. A deep reading of scripture should bring transformation. Some of the questions my community has failed to ask as we read are what is it really saying there on the paper? and then what is it saying to me? and what am I going to do about it?

The mind-set that we can read and get the biblical perspective by ourselves without the help of The Holy Spirit is so wrong and so comes out of our rational, modern, background. This is a linear, scientific approach which says that all things can be proven. (Remember proof texts?) We believe that the words will speak to us if we have enough commentaries to tell what they mean, or if we listen to learned men enough explain it to us. We seek to grasp the text, instead of it grasping us. This is "front porch" studying--eventually we have to leave the porch and go into the house. Reading deeply is our responsibility and ours alone. God speaks to us with each word--the words are not sterile--but should and can be fresh with new eyes.

This approach means that "scripture study is an art form". It says different things to different people and different things to us at different times depending on what the Holy Spirit is wanting us to see. We are to receive rather than achieve. Oh yes, it is so comforting to have everything figured out--but that is not what God intended us to do with his thunderously emotive and challenging words.

Rhonda also said and I agree so much that ministers need to have an astonishing experience in scripture before they speak.

Haven't you ever had the experience of seeing new insights in a passage that you had missed despite numerous readings? There is something thrilling about that adventure--Neurons in our brain connect and synapses pop when new meanings appear "out of nowhere" birthed by our deep study and the aid of the Comforter.

Our old mantra of "the Bible says what it means and means what it says" or the phrase "the silence of the scripture" seem somehow dead when one reads the Bible as a LIVING word rather than a constitution or text book.

With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can learn to read the Bible for what it really says and inclucate the insights we gain into our transforming.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Wave after wave

I enjoyed the Fellowship Bible experience yesterday. There were so many things that were good: The worship was excellent and reverent with new and familiar hymns. The penny-whistle player was very good, especially in his trio with two children playing violin in a beautiful Irish tune. (Imagine having children to help lead worship!)

The teaching was stimulating and full of new insights. It was based on John 15 and the word Abide contained in those verses. Actually, the word is Remain in my version--I circled the word--it appears 9 times in verses 1-8. Power Point featured only the word "Abide" on two huge screens--it sat there and sank in as Jeff taught. His major point was that God wants us "to become" by abiding in Him--not in "doing", not in actions, not in only good works. It spoke to my soul--especially the teacher's comparison of life to surfing: If one misses a wave, or crashes and burns, there is always another wave--wave after wave of God's grace catches us and allows us to try again.

Then there was communion. I liked the way it was done. Served by both men and women, the bread and the wine were passed at the same time, with communicants being told to hold each one until all were served. With the large crowd, it took a while, so I sat there for several minutes holding the host bread and cup looking at it and feeling it--the roughness of the bread, the sparkling lights glowing in the wine. Then the minister said a few deep words about each element as we all ate the bread together and then drank the wine together. There was no hurry, no rushing the communion trays down the row, no gobbling the elements in a quick flick of the wrist--just abiding in his love and our communion.

So, the experience was good--not even counting getting to sit and worship with Brandon and Sheryl.

Thank you God for your waves of grace and love this day.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

No Gas

There is no gas in Nashville today--as of late last night, 85% of all Nashville and surrounding area stations were empty. That is because the gas pipeline that supplies our gasoline ends at Nashville and because of Hurricane Ike, the pipeline is down to a tiny drip of gas.

It is interesting to observe what has happened--when stations had gasoline, cars lined up, even blocking major highways in the quest to fill up. Tempers flared as some oafs cut in line or filled up 10 gasoline cans after topping off their car.

Today the traffic is way down on Nashville streets; people are actually walking down the sidewalks. Brandon and Sheryl took the kids on a "jog" from their house to Nipper's Corner (with a stroller for Sam if he tired). There are lots of bikes on the road. It is, by the way, an absolutely wonderful day here. Although cloudy, the temp is high sixties with a slight breeze.

This is an occasion to thank God for all our easy blessings that we so take for granted and to use those original blessings--our bodies. Thank you God for gasoline and my car which allow me to come and go as I desire.

Friday, September 19, 2008

New Every Morning

Occasionally, the grandchildren will ask me, "Nonnie, why can't you run?" And I have to think about when I quit running.

As a child, I was fairly active (I have two younger brothers and had to keep up with them). I ran, I rode bikes, I dug caves, I played "kick the can", I walked stilts, and generally lived the life of a young girl of the 40's and 50's. When I went to school, we played Red Rover on the playground, played jacks in the corners of the porches, and swung the swings so high we felt we could reach the sky. (My knees still bear the scars of bike accidents and falls from the swings).

However, later in school, I began to hate organized P. E., times in the gym with volleyball and basketball, and running laps on the track. I was already more sedentary, loving to read and study instead of flailing and jumping. So I guess that it is where it really began. But when I was a young mother, I could have run a 9.3 to keep Brandon out of danger--so there was still hope.

After having cancer, I have since been afflicted with one of the lesser-know side-effects of chemo--an affliction with the legs which disallows running, and brings very slow walking. My legs seem to become sticks of wood as I walk and stand, so it is not really fun to do either for a long period of time. And that, readers, is why I can't run with my grand-children.

Now the question, when did my body take on the look of a female DoughBoy? I flee that one. And wake each morning with the happy idea that God's mercy and blessings are new every morning--that's enough for me.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Texas and other things

Everytime I read my Texas Monthly, I miss Texas. I miss the vastness, the country-friendliness of the people, the big cowboy hats, the big hair, the spread of the blue sky, the diversity of the state (from forest to desert), the Friday night lights, the small-town newspapers, the church pot-lucks, the gorgeous scenery just down the road from everywhere, the state high-way system, the goofiness of the Texas Legislature and governor (Tennessee comes in second here), the
frontier mentality that almost anything is possible, the ranches and cows down every country lane, the bluebonnets and firewheels, the blooming crepe myrtles in Abilene, the West Texas Fair, the strong UT enthusiasm, (that's University of TEXAS), cosmopolitan Dallas, friendly Fort Worth, the sense that there is still a frontier to be forged, and that important things can be done in our lifetime, the Texas emphasis on wind energy, the good schools that still make things happen with all kinds of students, schools where few riots, guns, and violence appear, (especially in West Texas), and the Texas go-for-broke attitude toward problems.

However, the current state in my life is Tennessee which is where my son and his family live, and I would not give that up for another stay in Texas. Too precious!

Yea and hallelujah! Otter finally has a new worship minister. It only been 9 months since Brandon months. One could have a baby in that time! Murray Sanderson and his family are moving here in October. A very good choice.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Good Book

Our book club, The Church Chicks, just finished Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. We all loved it, and it elicited so much discussion yesterday. Set in the Middle Ages, it is the story of Tom the Builder, whose dream is to build a cathedral and Philip, a monk who hires Tom and encourages him through many trials. It is a long book, but it is a page turner full of twists and turns worth of Follett. It is not for the squeamish with so many historical details about how the people lived--definitely not your Hollywood version. I am so glad I live in a cleaner time and am not sleeping on the floor in straw teeming with lice, vermin, and rats. There are some sex scenes--not too obscene, but maybe a bit much for those used to reading Christian fiction. He has a sequel World Without End which we will probably read next summer.

I teamed it with the John Newbery book this year: Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village. A beautiful books of 19 monologues for middle school reader's theater. Written by Laura Amy Schlitz, a librarian who wrote it for use in her school which was doing a school-wide project on the Middle Ages. I love it when good books come together.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Done with her

I was impressed that McCain chose Palin for his VP. She seemed to have all the credentials and fell into the place of a political maverick. Then, as it will these days, all "hell" broke loose as
"investigative" (reporters looking for a Pulitzer) journalists began digging all sorts of trash up about her and her family.

I admire Obama's comment on the pregnancy of her daughter--that it was family business--and had no place in the campaign.

Then on a library list-serve, Jim Elliott reported from a New York Times story which said that when she was mayor of that small town 8,000 pop., she inquired of the town librarian what it would take to get some books taken off the library shelves that some townspeople objected to because of the language. The librarian was aghast and fought it tooth and toenail. Palin fired her( for "not giving the mayor her full support"), but recanted when many of the townspeople objected. Palin said about inquiries to the librarian, "They were rhetorical." Banning books as mayor???? Will she then, working with Homeland Security, work to ban books on a national scale? O. K. That does it for me.

Monday, September 01, 2008


I could count on one hand the most wonderful vacations I have had. It's not that I don't like to travel, it is just that I have not had much opportunity to do it.

The first was about 25 years ago when Sam and I climbed into a mini-van with his nephew Sam and wife Jan, Brandon and cousin Josh and took a long road trip to Las Vegas. Stopping at the Grand Canyon, Painted Desert, etc.........What beautiful country!

When Brandon was entertaining on the cruise lines, my sister-in-law and I joined him for one of the cruises to the Virgin Islands. So many wonderful memories.

Then when Maddie was two, Brandon, Sheryl and I took her to Maui for several days of soaking in the lovely surroundings--no words to express the beauty and fun.

And this weekend a very different and shorter vacation as The Thomas family and I went to Atlanta to the American Girl Store. The excitement of the girls was unmatched with any I had seen previously--and the store--well, you would just have to and see it. We returned to Nashville with two members of the family, Elizabeth and Samantha and loads of new memories to file away.

As far as I know, my parents never left the state of Texas in their lifetime, except for the time my dad traveled to Kansas and South Dakota to work; they never traveled much because of finances. Sam and I took them up to East Texas to Dad's old home-place and then we took them to Big Bend. I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunities to visit other places and cultures. I just wish I had done more when Sam was alive. If you are able, and have a living spouse, don't wait until later to take trips and have fun together--do it now.