Quote of the Weekend

Unborn

Torn from the sleeping safety of the womb

Where do you go?

Having lived not here,

Having lived not there,

But torn, unborn.

Not in heaven,

Not in hell,

But born on the other side of a Door.

Opening beyond our own,

Just beyond the edge of sight,

Beyond my reaching fingers.

Where do you go?

Where do you go to live?

Beyond the Doors.

– Unborn, by Abby Jones

(The opening poem to my Work-in-Progress Icicle Rain. I’m working on a parallel world where aborted children go to live out the lives that were taken from them. It’s a Steam Punk, Western Fairytale. The Oregon Curiosity Shop on Esty  can give you a visual on the Steam Punk side of things.)

Special Agents: The Mysterious Case of the Monsters under the Bed (Part 9)

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Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Rachel stirred the maple syrup on her plate with her fork. Lauren shoveled a second helping of pancakes in her mouth, one-handed. Debriefing with Casey was hungry work and they hadn’t eaten since dinner last night. Each time Lauren opened her mouth for another bit the strange siren started up. A soft white latticework covered the outside corners of her eyes and her hair had a definite white tinge to it like someone had dusted it with snow. They were mostly alone in the cafeteria. Normally the big space sitting empty would bother Rachel, but this morning she was glad no one was around. She could just see all the other Agents and Support Crews staring at Lauren out of the corner of their eyes and whispering about her. Better to be alone.

“Any super powers yet?”

Lauren shook her head and shrugged.

Rachel sighed. “I want to do something. I’m sick of sitting around waiting to find out what’s going on.”

Lauren nodded in agreement. She took a last bite, filled the room with a siren, shut her mouth, and pulled out her tablet. Rachel watched over her shoulder shivering in the cold room. It would be only a few more minutes before it filled with the daytime crews coming in and the nighttime crews leaving. Lauren tugged her sleeve and pointed at her tablet.

“Good idea, Lauren. Let’s do our own investigation. Where is Peter?”

Lauren typed and Rachel shook her head. “We’re not asking Janice. She’ll never help us.”

Lauren bit her lower lip then smiled. She pulled up a schismatic of the Agency and pointed to the block of rooms where they debriefed the agents after missions.

“You think he’s still in one of them? No, you’re right, it’s a good place to start,” Rachel said before Lauren could shrug. “Let’s go.”

They found Peter behind door number 5 doodling on a napkin. A plate of donuts and an empty mug that looked like its contents had once been hot chocolate sat beside him.

“Hey!” he jumped up as they came in. “I asked to see you hours ago and they said I could—”

He stopped when he got a clear view of Lauren.

“Wow.”

“She doesn’t have any super powers yet,” Rachel said. “And she can’t talk.”

“Why can’t she talk?” Peter asked.

Lauren opened her mouth and filled the small room with the haunting siren sound.

“Oh. I see.”

“Look,” Rachel said. “We know you already talked with Casey, but can we ask you some questions?”

“Sure,” Peter said. He climbed back in his chair. Lauren picked up one of the donuts and shoved it in her mouth muffling the siren. “I told Casey—”

Lauren stopped him with a donut-squelched blast from her mouth.

“Don’t tell us,” Rachel said. “We want to ask our own questions.”

Peter nodded.

Lauren grabbed her tablet and opened a note taking app. She pointed to the first question.

“You know the tree house in your back yard?” Rachel said after reading from the tablet.

“Obviously.”

“Tell us about it. Any special qualities? How much time do you spend there?”

Peter furrowed his brows. “Agent Casey didn’t ask me any questions like that.”

“Of course not,” Rachel said. “He’s a grown-up. Sometimes they get busy and forget to look up.”

“I play in the House, that’s what we call it, every day, pretty much.”

“Do you play in it when you get home from school?”

“When I get done with school. I’m home-schooled.”

Lauren beamed.

“Us too,” Rachel said. “Why do you play up there?”

“Well,” Peter said guardedly. “It’s not like I’m playing house with my baby sister even though we call it the House.”

Lauren shook her head.

“We have a fort,” Rachel said. “We use it as base when we play capture the flag. Sometimes we spend the night in it. It’s also where we keep some of our Agency stuff cause our Mom doesn’t come up there very often.”

“Right!” Peter said. “The House has a mail box, or well, it’s a mail tube. My Dad built it. It connects to Roger’s tree house. We can send messages back and forth. I keep a lot of paper in the tree house. His house connects to Susie’s and hers connects to Ben. The lines go through the whole neighborhood until they get back to mine.”

“All the kids are connected?” Rachel asked after a nudge from Lauren.

“All but one.”

“Who?” Rachel said.

“Rick Bunker. He’s in house 1307.”

Lauren pulled up an aerial view of the neighborhood. She held it up to Peter and handed him her stylus.

“Can you draw the connections?” Rachel asked. “And show us Rick’s house.”

“Sure.” Peter picked his house out and drew a thick yellow line between the different homes of the kids. Last, he circled one house left outside the network before handing it back to Lauren. “We had to string a line over to Beth’s house and then to Nan’s before going back to Jake’s to bypass Rick’s house. His parents threw a fit when Ben’s Dad explained what the line was for. They made him cut it down and re-wire it. My Dad helped him.”

“Why were they so upset?” Rachel said.

“Something about an invasion of privacy.”

Lauren typed on her tablet and held it up to Peter. He read it and smiled. “Thanks, I think the Network’s pretty cool too.”

“What else do you do in the House?” Rachel said.

“Well, it’s cool cause it’s up so high. I can see a long ways off, if I look out the side. There aren’t any trees blocking the way.”

“Can you see into Rick’s yard?” Rachel asked just as Lauren started typing. Lauren gave her a high-five of agreement.

Peter shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “Look, I try not to see into his yard, but it’s right there. Dad said not to pry. He said respect their wishes. But it was right there.”

“What was?”

“The Strangers.”

…To Be Continued…

Tree house with a view.

Tree house with a view.

The Journey

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We’ve all heard the quote that it’s the journey that’s important, not the destination, right? I think there is a ring of truth to this idea. I’ve read Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Jane Eyre several times each. They’re my comfort reads. They’re books I go back to in the winter when I need to be reminded that spring will come again. I know how they end. I know about the Gray Havens. I know about Harry’s children, and I know about Jane and Mr. Rochester’s children. I know how the story ends. I’m not reading the book for the ending. I’m reading it for the beloved journey to the end. I’m reading it to let Théoden ride again. I’m reading it to play Quidditch in my mind. I’m reading it to watch a girl do the right thing when it’s the hardest thing. Over and over I read these books because the journey is more significant than the destination.

As a Christian, the destination is of primary importance to us. The destination is where we finally see hope fulfilled. We see. We see Christ, not by faith, but with our eyes. We will hear his voice with our ears. We will touch him with our fingers. We will finally see our great elder brother, our husband, our captain, our mighty King. Our destination is truly a mighty one.

But, at the moment of salvation we are not suddenly made perfect. We aren’t whisked away to paradise. We aren’t taken from this world. We aren’t even taken out of our sinful flesh. We are left to toil, suffer, and ultimately to die. For we are humans are we not? We are mankind even as Christians. We are left in the world God made for us until we die.

The Holy Spirit puts this time, this journey, to good use. He uses it to sanctify us and make us more like Christ. That is the point. The good in Romans is not good as in happiness and comfort, but good as in “conforming us to the image of Christ”. We are constantly being melted down. We are being weaned off this world, trained—like soldiers in basic training—to live by faith, lay up our treasure in heaven, love the brethren, and grow in grace and understanding. We are not magically righteous. We are made righteous.

For us the Journey is important.

My husband put it this way when he was preaching on theology the other night: The theological logic is as filled with blessing as the theological truth.

The journey is filled with blessing just as much as the Destination.

We may not understand why God decided not to just rapture us out at the moment of regeneration. We may not understand why God decided not to make us perfect at our first breath of faith, but we can rest in His Word. The journey is important.

Romans 8: 18-30: (ESV)

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because[the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

There is a journey here, a path to follow from predestined to glorified, from suffering to being conformed to the image of Christ. And just like the stories I love, I know the destination. I know where the journey ends. That gives me hope in the journey, but it also gives me the ability to focus on the journey.

The first time you read Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, or Jane Eyre every fiber in your being is focused on the destination. But when you know the destination, your focus is on the journey. I know how the story ends. Knowing the end frees you to focus on the growth of the characters. You can see Frodo fail. You can soak in Neville’s courage. You can analyze the conversations between Jane and Mr. Rochester. You can focus on the journey because you know the end.

Life is the same for a Christian. (Oh the wonderful beauty of God’s wisdom, and the lesser yet still amazing beauty of stories.) You know the end, if you have faith in Christ, which frees you to focus on the journey here on earth. You can focus on the war against sin, your fellow saints, the means of grace, truth, love, and the beauty of the bride of Christ—His Church. You know where you’re going and you know how you’re going to get there. Focus on the journey.

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Quote of the Weekend

Chapter 5: Paragraph 5. The most wise, righteous, and gracious God does often times leave for a season His own children to manifold temptations and the corruptions of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon Himself; and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for other just and holy ends.15  So that whatsoever befalls any of His elect is by His appointment, for His glory, and their good.16
15 2 Chron. 32:25,26,31; 2 Cor. 12:7-9
16 Rom. 8:28

 

(If you’ve every sinned, cough, cough, this is an encouraging truth.)

A Texas Cousins Adventure: Fall is Coming, We Hope

Texas Cousins (Picture stolen from Liz)

Texas Cousins
(Picture stolen from Liz)

“It’s HOT!” said Aunt Abby.

“No it isn’t!” shouted Bruce with that sparkle in his eye that said he disagreed to tease.

Aunt Abby scooped him up and tickled him until he screamed.

Joshua laughed and laughed. “Tickle me, tickle me.”

From the front steps of the Grammie’s porch, Jules and Constance watched while they blew big, beautiful bubbles.

“Aunt Abby. Aunt Abby,” Ellie said tugging on Aunt Abby’s jeans. “Tell us a story.”

“Yes!” said Imogene dancing through Grammie’s pumpkin patch.

“NOOOOO!” squealed Bruce almost unable to speak through his giggles.

“Yes!” said Jude unsure of what he wanted but knowing it was the most fun to disagree with Bruce!

“Oh no! Bruce and Jude disagree!” Aunt Abby said theatrically with her hand to her heart.

The seven cousins stopped every busy thing they were doing and stared at her.

“What?” Aunt Abby said.

“You’re silly,” said Bruce.

“So are you!” said Aunt Abby.

Once everyone who wanted to be tickled was tickled and even a few who didn’t, Aunt Abby herded them all inside for some cold water and a story.


Once upon a time, there was a drought over the land. It seemed like summer would never end. It seemed like the long hot days that bleached the sky white and trapped every Texan inside would continue forever. Seven cousins sat on the back porch looked out over the brown grass, the giant grasshoppers, and the wilted trees. Jules, the oldest, sighed.

“I wish it wasn’t so hot.”

“Me too,” said Constance, the second oldest. “It’s too hot to even go find bugs and things.”

“No it isn’t,” said Bruce who couldn’t believe there was ever a time when it wasn’t a good idea to go find bugs. His baby brother, Jude, completely agreed.

“I don’t think it’s too hot to go find bugs,” Jude said.

“Me either,” said Joshua, Constance’s little brother.

“Let’s go bug hunting then!” said Ellie. “It can be an Adventure! Adventures are the best!”

Imogene leapt up ready to go. The sun glinted in her red hair. “I’ll go with you!”

The giant scramble off the front porch didn’t result in any injuries, but did produce quite a few yells and screams and laughter.

Out into the grasshopper infested yard, the children ran wild. The hot sun beat down on their fair skin. Jules wiped the sweat out of her eyes as Bruce charged up with a three-inch grasshopper wiggling in his fingers.

“Look! I got one!”

“Me too!” said Joshua.

Constance, Imogene, Ellie, and Jude danced and dashed after their intended prey but the grasshoppers stayed a few hoops away from the cousins.

“Gross, Bruce!” Jules said.

“I don’t say that,” Jules hissed. “That’s what Aunt Liz always says.”

“I know,” Aunt Abby said. “But since this is a story about all of you and not about Aunt Liz, you get to say what she always says.”

“I guess that’s okay,” Jules said.

“Good,” said Aunt Abby.

Imogene stopped chasing her grasshopper and stepped under Grammie’s tree.

“My skin is warm,” she said holding out her arm for Constance to inspect.

“It’s a sunburn,” Constance whispered.

“My eyes hurt,” Jude said squinting up at the bright sky.

“Don’t look at the sun!” Jules said. “It will make you go blind.”

All the cousins immediately looked down at their toes and only peeked up at the sky.

“It’s too hot to chase bugs,” Ellie said, her face red and warm.

Bruce brushed his hair back out of his face. It stuck out heavy with sweat.

“We should go in,” he said. “It’s just too hot.”

“Look!” Imogene shouted. “A butterfly!”

A huge orange and black butterfly fluttered by the seven cousins. It headed back towards Grandpa and Grammie’s shaded porch. The seven children chased after it. Just as they came up on the porch, the butterfly twisted in the air and flew back out in the yard. Grammie came out the door with a bucket full of ice.

“Look Grammie,” Constance said pointing. “It’s a butterfly.”

“It’s a monarch butterfly,” Grammie said. “Do you know what that means?”

Seven serious cousins shook their heads.

“It means fall’s coming.

“Fall?” Imogene said.

“Yes, and after fall, after pumpkins, leaves, and cold east winds, comes Christmas!”

All seven cousins cheered!

“Christmas is the best,” shouted Jules.

“Yes it is,” Grammie said. “Now, who wants to play in the pool?”

“Me!” A chorus went up. Grammie turned on the hose, filled the pool, and added the bucket of ice to keep everyone cool.


“The End!” said Aunt Abby.

“Is it true?” asked Constance.

“What?”

“That fall’s coming?”

“I hope so,” Aunt Abby said. “And I did see a Monarch butterfly the other day.”

“No,” Constance said. “Not today. Maybe fall can come tomorrow.”

“Oh,” Aunt Abby said. “Okay. Maybe tomorrow. But today is still summer.”

“Yes!”

“Then fall,” Aunt Abby said.

“Then Christmas,” Imogene, Jules, Constance, Ellie, Joshua, Jude, and Bruce all said at once.

“Then Christmas,” Aunt Abby agreed.

And the seven little cousins did just like their make-believe selves and hurried out to play in the pool singing Jingle Bells all the way.

The End

Just a few Notes:

1) I’ve been on vacation and realized half way through writing this short story that this post was supposed to be about the Secret Agents. My sincere apologies to anyone I left hanging who has patiently waited for the next part and now must wait for another week. I’m very sorry.

2) A very very happy birthday to my baby sister Liz who is not only one of my truest and dearest friends in the world, but also one of the most beautiful mothers I’ve ever had the privilege to know. Love you! This Christmas story is for you.

Imogene with a friend looking a bit like she aims to misbehave.

Imogene with a friend looking a bit like she aims to misbehave.

This is Jules and her Jaguar. Behind her is the picture of a dragon that I drew for her sparking this story.

This is Jules and her Jaguar. Behind her is the picture of a dragon that I drew for her sparking this story.

Constance and Joshua!

Constance and Joshua!

One of my favorite faces!

One of my favorite faces!

Jude, our littlest man!

Jude, our littlest man!

Bruce showing off some muscles!

Bruce showing off some muscles!

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My muses! I hope at Christmas to get me with all seven of the cousins!

Writing Journal: Replacing Vampires

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As many of you know, and some of you don’t, I was once really into Goth stuff. Fishnets, trench coats, and black, black, black filled the closet of my early twenties. I loved all things fairies and vampires even more. For you moms out there, I eventually grew up and out and normal, except for the vampire part. There is hope.

My first two series—When Skies are Gray, and the Marriage of a Hunter—centered on vampires. (Please think Stoker, not Twilight.) I love them for their ability to communicate sin’s hold on our flesh even after we’re saved. I love them because they never overcome the thirst. I also love them because, done well, they are scary and interesting. (Think Vampire Hunter D and ‘Salem’s Lot not Sookie Stackhouse, or Antia Blake.) I like them for the moral dilemmas they present as arch villains, saved monsters, and half-breed anti-heroes. (Think Buffy, Angel, and Blade not Vampire Academy.)

But for all my love, last year I left them behind. I didn’t want to. I did a little kicking and screaming. But now I’m glad I did. It was time to excise them from my writing just like my gothic clothing removed from my closet, and my fairies taken down from the walls. Not because there was anything sinful or inherently evil about any of that, but because it was time to grow up. It was time to grow up and write something lasting for children.

As I started writing this blog post, I held my sleeping three-month-old nephew in one hand and typed with the other. It’s not quite the hunt-and-peck method employed by my grandfather, because I can almost type in the dark, but it’s not far off either. As my role at church changes from served to servant, my life becomes home-centric instead of career centric, and as my nieces and nephews grow up, my husband has encouraged me to think about what I want to teach them and what I want to share with my church. (It’s kinda like Metallica in their wild youth compared to the tame nature of their concerts now. They got kids in their life.)

Do I want my nephews and nieces to know monsters can be saved? YES! The dear little ones need salvation even now! Each of them will face their own monsterness some day, by God’s grace, and they need to know there is cleansing and salvation. Do I want to showcase that in the overused, abused vampire setting? Maybe not. Maybe I want to challenge myself as a writer to move beyond serial killers and vampires to more subtle evil, more subtle monsters cause that’s more like real life. Real life isn’t often serial killers and being stalked by beautiful people who want to drink your blood. The very reason they seem so shocking to us is their rarity.

But, they will meet self-focused people who will only be interested in what they can get out of them. They will meet themselves someday, in a dark alley, and they will wonder what happened to the innocent child who thought naps were to be avoided. They will face the choice to do what is right, or do what is easy. They will face the lies of this world—that they can see—and the truths of heaven and hell—that they can’t see. They will have to decided to be courageous or cowardly, and in those moments, I want to give them something they can hold on to, like I was given.

I don’t want to write books that I have to hide until they’re eighteen. I want books I can give then at eight. I don’t want to give them books with only butterflies and puppies, but books that are good at their heart because their focus is on the heroes and not the villains. I want to write books that show the beauty of a saved monster, not just the harshness of it.

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Coming to this realization is, in many ways, what growing up is all about.

With this in mind, I am dissecting my love of vampires and creating something new for my fairy tale world. I want a creature linked to the soul, cursed by their own selfishness, forced to renew themselves by what they once were, and ultimately savable. But I don’t want them to be blood and lust based. I don’t want them  to be stories with only sexual desire at their center. Our world is so full of that already. We’re completely unaware of how soaked and tainted we are by it. (If you don’t agree, walk through a mall and focus on how much lust is used as the main selling point.) The stain goes so deep. I want to take what I love about vampires and use that to create villains that are the perfect foil for my heroes.

The vampire world, like the gothic world, once held so much charm for me. But as I see what others are doing with this mythical creature, I’m less inclined to be associated with them. I seem to spend half my time trying to explain to people why I write what I write and then nobody reads it. A few friends did read it, and I got lots of positive reviews on line. I’ve been honored by having people say I’m redeeming vampires for Christ, and that they’re as good as Ann Rice and not at all like that Twilight stuff. But, they weren’t serving my church. They weren’t something I could let stand on their own. I had to support them with lots of caveats. I had to imagine them on a shelf next to books I would never in a million years read. I had to face the fact that I’m in my mid thirties and still writing about vampires. Time to grow up. No. Time to grow. I need to grow. I need to find a way to communicate what I love more clearly, simply, and effectively.

I’ve always tried to avoid the fantasy troupe of taking something we’re all familiar with like elves and having them in my world just with a different name. I’ve always thought that was kinda dumb. Just call them elves. But, I’m about to give it a try, and I hope to do it in a way I don’t find dumb. (I also swore I’d never write YA fantasy…but here we are.) I take heart in the fact that one of my human characters turned into a wolf when he went to the Spirit World, making him the closest I’ll ever get to having a werewolf. And he wasn’t really that. It was more a subtle, sub-conscious thing.

So, as I get finished with my first rough draft of my Fairy Tale, things are moving and growing. Things are twisting and tangling in my mind. I hope to have something that I can love as much as I love vampires, but with less baggage and more purity. I think that’s part of growing up too: respecting purity. I will never under why we have to see the darkness to respect the light, but I’m thankful God is longsuffering and never leaves us or forsakes us.

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My Church is a Failure

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My Church is a failure. We’ve probably lost more members than we’ve ever gained. We don’t have a youth group, children’s church, or an outreach into our community. We don’t raise money to feed the poor, or bus in children from the inner cities. We don’t protest at  abortion centers as a church, or have political candidates in our pulpit. On top of all that, we don’t focus our encouragement on personal devotions, or lots of prayer time in your inner closet. We don’t keep a list of what not to watch and what not to read and what not to wear. Even worse than all that, we encourage young men to give up their careers, money, power, and influence. Why? So they can study an ancient and out of touch document. We encourage young women to pass on the idea of a career and consider their calling as wives, mothers and homemakers. We encourage men to lead and women to submit. We encourage people to give up on their dreams.

Have I made you gasp yet? Do you think I’ve gone and joined a cult?

We want so desperately to live by sight. We just want to be able to see the Kingdom of Christ soooo badly we can taste it. And often, too often, we willingly give up the truth, the gospel, the commands of the gospel in order to see heaven here on earth.

See, we don’t like the way Christ set things up. We want it to be about us. We want to do “great things for Christ”. But that’s never been what Christ called us to do. You want to know what he called us to do? He called us to live quiet lives of service, and service specifically to our church. He didn’t call us to end the ills of this earth. If He had, you’d think Paul would have led a slave revolt instead of telling slaves to obey their masters. You think the apostles would have told women to preach but they told women to be silent, modest, to sit at the feet of other silent modest older women, and to submit to their husbands. Paul had the perfect opportunity to change his world, but he didn’t. Instead, he preached the gospel to sinners.

You want to see heaven here on earth? Okay. Ready for this? Look at the person sitting next to you on the pew. Yes. Them. The ones with the wiggly kids, the gum smackers, the off-key singers, the bad dressers, the questionable movie watcher, the couple with no kids, the couple with way too many kids, the strange, the odd, the nerdy, the geeky, the least of the earth, the greatest of sinners sitting beside you on the pew each Sunday. This is heaven. Heaven is not what you want it to be. Heaven is the True Kingdom finally made sight for us instead of just faith, and your local congregation is your little taste of heaven.

Church is heaven.

2014 ARBCA GA

2014 ARBCA GA

Our church may be a failure in the eyes of the world, or in the eyes of big, modern churches, but Christ has blessed us with elders who encourage us that true Christianity is not found in independent bible study, but in the gathering of the local saints. True Christianity is based on the means of grace: preaching, the Lord’s supper, baptism, and prayer. This is where we are promised blessing if we remain faithful. It’s not about daring and change. It’s about trust, a quiet life, and Christ making us more like himself.

Stop being so worried about whether you missed out on your private Bible time, or the ills of this world, which you can’t change, and start worrying about whether you make it a point to be at church every time the doors are open. Are you a faithful attendee by God’s grace? When you’re there, do you engage others, or do you try to hide as much as possible? Do you pray? Do you engage yourself in the Lord’s Supper? Do you participate in the baptism of new believers? Do you visit sick church members? Do you sacrifice what you want for what the church needs? Do you serve those around you?

See, none of this is amazing. None of this is pretty, or powerful, or mighty according to how the world judges might. It is lowly. It is humbling. It is even stupid sometimes. I mean grown men who sacrifice time and money to study and teach in obscurity. And even if they are ever ‘well known’, who knows them? A few other stuffy old men? And women? Smart, talented young women who turn their back on art, music, jobs that let them travel, their own destinies for what? To change dirty diapers? To visit sick people they’re not even related to? To submit, obey, and serve their husbands? It’s not very glittery. It’s not very pretty. It’s not popular.

But, it is heaven here on earth.

A careful exegeses of the scripture does not call the Church to change our society. It doesn’t call us to right the wrongs. It calls us to love our fellow church members, to serve them and take care of them, to live quiet lives, and to store up our treasures in heaven, not here. This is not heaven. This is a world under the wrath of God, filled with sinners, out of which Christ is calling his own. Someday, Christ will return and destroy this place with fire. It won’t be pretty. It won’t be nice.

Heaven is on the other side of death, or Christ’s return, and the only place we can find an inkling of it here is in a local church where the word of God is consistently preached by elders called by Christ who hold fast to their confessions of faith. This is our heaven here on earth.

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Quote of the Weekend

“I love baddies, and what would a good story be without a baddy? For each protagonist you need an antagonist….The more powerful and the more evil the baddy is, then the stronger the heroine or the hero is to defeat them.” – Malorie Blackman

(Thank you Linda from I’m all Booked for suggesting this quote! I couldn’t agree more with the concept behind this quote. Don’t fear villains, they only make the heroes stronger. Don’t fear the darkness, it only makes the light brighter.)

A Texas Cousins Adventure: Being Brave

Texas Cousins (Picture stolen from Liz)

Texas Cousins
(Picture stolen from Liz)

A loud squeal of fear rang through Grammie and Grandpa’s house. All the adults came running. A big green monster growled and stalked up the hallway. Seven cousins huddled together. The monster growled and waved its claws.

“I’ll defend you,” Grandpa said jumping in front of the scary monster.

“Me too,” said Grammie drawing an invisible sword. She tossed it to Grandpa and drew another one.

The monster giggled.

“That’s not a monster,” Aunt Abby said.

“It’s not??” the seven cousins said in unison.

“I think it’s Uncle Jason.”

“Daddy!” said Ellie breaking from the huddle of frightened children to hug the green monster around the knees.

“Are you all okay?” Aunt Abby asked kneeling down in front of the kids.

“I was very scared,” said Bruce.

“Me too!” said Jules.

“I wasn’t,” said Joshua.

“Yes you were,” Constance said poking him in the shoulder. A few minutes of bickering ensued.

“Aunt Abby,” Bruce said once Grammie straightened out Joshua and Constance, “I’m not brave. I was scared.”

“Oh Bruce, you being scared doesn’t mean you aren’t brave.”

Uncle Jason pulled off the monster’s scary head. “They’re not mutually exclusive,” he said.

All seven cousins looked up at him and blinked slowly.

Ellie tried out the two big words without coming any closer to understanding them.

“What does that mean?” Jules asked wrinkling her nose.

“It means what Aunt Abby said. Being afraid doesn’t mean you’re not brave.”

“How about I tell you a story about it,” Aunt Abby said.

“Can I be brave in the story?” Bruce said.

“Is it a Once Upon A Time story?” Imogene asked taking Aunt Abby’s hand and leading her to the couch.

“A fairy tale western,” said Jude plopping down beside them.

“No Jude,” Jules said. “It’s just a western.”

“Actually,” Aunt Abby said. “This time it is a fairy tale western. Ready?”

Seven heads nodded.


 

Once upon a time, a chill wind blew over the Texas flatland. It blew through the fingers of the pecan trees and the oaks chasing squirrels. It whistled around noses and ears until they were red and cold. Behind the wind came a white, dense fog. Hobbes, the golden lab, stayed close to the house. Patrolling the property was complicated when it was so windy. Clyde, the donkey, kept his back to the wind. Three pairs of brown cowboy boots sat on the front porch while four pairs of pink, purple, blue, and red cowboy boots covered little painted toes down by the pond.

“Bruce, Joshua, Jude,” Grammie called.

The three boys came tramping through the house with growls, snaps, and stamping feet.

“Ohhh,” Grammie said. “Did a bunch of dinosaurs replace my grandsons?”

The boys roared and showed off their sharp teeth and sharp claws.

“Well, I need my three grand-dinosaur-sons to go outside and find their cousins. The girls went to play at the pond and it’s getting late and dark.”

Bruce, Joshua, and Jude stared out the window at the gray sky, the fog, and the cold wind dashing through the fog.

“Grammie?” Bruce said. “Can we stay inside? It looks scary out there.”

“No,” Grammie said. “It’s just the weather. Besides you wouldn’t want to leave Jules, Ellie, Constance, and Imogene out there all on their own.”

“Yes we would,” Bruce said.

“That’s not good,” Grammie said.

“But we’re scared,” Joshua said.

“Well, you’ll have to be brave,” Grammie said.

“But we’re scared,” said Jude.

“Do you know what being brave means?” asked Grammie.

“It means not being scared,” Bruce said.

“Are we in this story?” Jules said from beside Constance.

“Is this a boy story?” Constance said.

“No, you’ll come in later,” said Aunt Abby. “And besides, sometimes girls have to be even braver than boys.”

“We do?” said Ellie.

“Why?” said Imogene.

“Because we’re usually afraid of more stuff,” Aunt Abby said with a smile. “The more stuff you’re afraid of the braver you have to be.”

“No Bruce,” Grammie said. “It means doing what you have to do even though you’re scared.”

Three sets of blue eyes looked up at her.

“So, even though you’re scared, the brave thing to do is go out and call the girls in for dinner.”

The three boys dropped their snarls and dinosaur growls. They glanced at the front door leading out into the foggy fall weather. Bruce swallowed. Jude took his hand. Joshua sighed.

“Go on boys,” Grammie said. “Go like dinosaurs. Maybe then you won’t be as scared.”

The boys tried to growl as they made their way to the front door. The wind almost whipped it out of their hands as they opened it to go outside. Hobbes greeted them with a wagging tail. The boys petted his head, scratched his ears, and Joshua gave him a big hug. They slipped on their boots and started out into the yard. The wind snatched at their hair and twisted their sweaters. The fog hid the other pasture on the other side of the road. It hid the neighbor’s house. It hid the pond.

Hobbes whined.

“Come on boy,” Joshua said patting his leg to encourage the lab to follow them.

Hobbes wigged his tail but didn’t come down.

“Maybe he’s scared,” Jude said.

“Hobbes,” Bruce said, “it’s okay to be scared. Being brave doesn’t mean you’re not scared.”

The golden dog cocked his head at the blond-haired boy. He barked in agreement and came down to them. They headed out towards the pond feeling less scared with Hobbes. As they trekked through the pasture, Clyde joined them with a swish of his tail. The pond seemed so far away. It was so far away they couldn’t see it through the fog. But Hobbes and Clyde made sure they didn’t get lost.

Out of the swirling, wet, whiteness they heard a scream.

The boys stopped in their tracks.

Hobbes hair stood on end.

Clyde stamped on small hoof.

“Ellie!” Jules screamed through the fog. “Don’t go in the pond.”

Another splash.

“Imogene!” Constance yelled.

Hobbes barked and trotted off into the white mist. Clyde followed him.

“Hurry!” hissed Bruce.

The three boys ran after the dog and the donkey afraid of being left in the fog and trying to be brave.

Jules stood on the edge of the pond staring down into it. Constance, her hands muddy and full of sticks and rocks was a little deeper down. The boys hurried up beside Jules. Deep down in the pond, Ellie and Imogene waded. The water sloshed over their boots kicked up by the chilly wind.

“It’s cold!” Imogene shrieked. Her red hair glowed in the foggy darkness of the fall evening.

“I’m gonna tell Grammie. You’re not supposed to get wet,” Jules said.

“You’re going to get too cold,” Constance said.

Ellie and Imogene started back towards the bank. They tried to pull their boots up out of the water.

“Help!” Imogene said. “I’m stuck.”

“Me too!” said Ellie

Everyone ran down to the edge of the water but couldn’t reach Ellie and Imogene.

“We need a big stick,” said Jules.

Constance held out the stick in her hand.

“No,” Joshua said. “That’s not big enough.”

Hobbes ran up with a log in his mouth.

“Good dog,” Joshua said patting him on the head.

The three boys and two girls held out the log to Imogene and Ellie. They caught hold of it and with a mighty tug were jerked free of the cold pond. After much splashing and a vain attempt to wash their hands, boots, and faces of mud, the seven cousins headed back to the house with Hobbes and Clyde.

Grammie jumped as the seven muddy and cold children stamped in the door.

“I should take you back outside and hose all y’all off,” Grandpa said.

“It’s too cold, Grandpa,” Jules said.

Grammie carried them all to the bathroom where she cleaned them up while Grandpa wiped up the mud. Dinner was a little later than usual.

“We did it, Grammie,” Bruce said as they ate.

“What?” Grammie said.

“We were very brave even though we were scared,” he said.

“We went all the way out to the pond,” Jude said.

“Hobbes helped us rescue Ellie and Imogene,” Joshua said.

“You’re all very brave little children,” Grammie said. “I love you very much.”

“Boo!” said Grandpa.

The seven cousins jumped.

“Got you!” said Grandpa.


 

“The end,” said Aunt Abby. “Now do you understand that being brave doesn’t mean you’re not scared? It means you do what you have to do anyway?”

“I was very brave,” Bruce said.

“Me too!” shouted Joshua.

“I jumped in the pond!” Ellie said with delight.

“Me too!” said Imogene.

The End

Jules and her Daddy, Jason!

Jules and her Daddy, Jason!

Imogene testing out her first lemon.

Imogene testing out her first lemon.

Bruce showing off some muscles!

Bruce showing off some muscles!

Jude, our littlest man!

Jude, our littlest man!

One of my favorite faces!

One of my favorite faces!

Constance and Joshua!

Constance and Joshua!

Do I have to have a gentle and quiet spirit to be a Christian?

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WordPress keeps its bloggers abreast of their stats, followers, and which searches led readers to their blog. We even get a little map of the world with bright colors showing us which countries our readers come from.

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Just fyi…these are not my stats. 🙂

Several months ago someone googled: Do I have to have a gentle and quiet spirit to be a Christian? This question led them to me and I’ve been pondering it for a while now. (I wonder if the lady who searched Google for information was surprised to come across a blog with posts about soldiers and action flicks? Not very gentle and quiet, huh?)

My pondering, which included talking about it with my husband, focused on the fact that much like Christianity the answer is yes and no. No, you don’t have to be gentle and quiet to be a Christian. To be a Christian you have to be a sinner in need of grace and you have to have faith in Christ and his work. That’s it. Those are the basic requirements. You will never in this life be a perfect Christian lady, but, thank the good Lord, perfection isn’t required for salvation! Thankfully, we live under grace and not law.

As a sinner who deserves death, but has been clothed in the blood of the Son, accepted, and adopted, do you not now wish to live for the one who saved you? Are you not motivated by His love to do whatever he asks? He died for you, giving all, and enduring the wrath of God in your place. Will you not die to yourself for Him?

Now, a misunderstanding of what gentle and quiet means may inspire part of this question. Gentle is defined as kind, amiable, not severe, rough, or violent. Are you severe, rough, or violent? Do you use your strength to lift up or destroy? Would you like to live with a man who is gentle or rough? Would you rather be a violent woman or a gentle one? Does this definition mention guns, trucks, tomboys or any other “unfeminine” thing? No. A gentle spirit is a woman in control of herself who doesn’t use her tongue to destroy her husband or anyone else. She is gentle.

Quiet means . . . well quiet. Not loud. Does this mean women have to talk in subdued voices all the time? Let’s look at the context of the verse. The context is instructing Christian women who are free in the Lord but married to an unbeliever who is possibly abusive. Does Christ say dig in your heels and fight? No. He says a gentle and quiet spirit. (I’m not trying to say don’t get help. If you find yourself in an abusive relationship, get help. If your husband breaks the law, call the police. But, don’t respond in harsh yelling.) This means be kind to the ones who are unkind and quiet to those who are loud. Don’t nag.

You know what nagging is? It’s worry. When you’re worried, when I’m worried, I get loud. I nag. And I can be verbally ungentle, especially to my husband. How do we know it stems from worry? Cause we’re told not to fear anything fearful and to be like Sarah who had plenty of reasons to fear.

Unattractive.

Unattractive.

Can you see how this pours forth from a heart that the Lord has changed? If you’re afraid because your husband is talking harshly to you, your gut response is going to be to fight back. Yell back. Push back. Instead, trusting in Christ who has already secured your soul, you respond with a kind word. You take your fear in prayer to Him and rest in Him instead of nagging your husband. Maybe your husband isn’t diligent and you fear him losing his job, or paying the taxes, or taking care of you. Don’t nag. Do him good, be gentle, and be quiet. This is a work of the Lord and completely counter to your gut reactions. This takes incredible strength, courage, and trust.

Do you have to have a gentle and quiet spirit to be a Christian? No. God has saved many loud, obnoxious, and mean women. But, all true Christian women should prayerfully strive to be gentle (self-control laced with kindness) and quiet (non-nagging, quit worrying, stop trying to be in control).

Pray that God will help us understand this and see the ways we fail. Pray that when we fail, He will remind us of his grace and the work of Christ. It’s not pleasant to see our failures, but it is very sanctifying. We all need to seek out wise older women in our church and talk with our elders and pastors.

God has richly supplied all our needs through His Word and His Church, use them. Don’t spurn His gifts by ‘going it alone’.

Trust Christ—who died for you, endured torture, lived in perfection when you couldn’t—when you’re afraid, worried, or just concerned. Remember Sarah.

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