Fan of Holiness?

I’m honored to participate in our pastor’s current sermon series, “#1 Fan?” as a guest writer. Here is the seventh installment — you can find the others by clicking here.

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To journey toward holiness is to walk where the sidewalk never ends. And the path is littered with altars along the way — altars of remembrance and altars of sacrifice.

“Here…on the left…this is where God remembered me and met me and parted the sea for me.”

“Over here, on the right…this is where I laid down my Isaac. There was no thicket, there was no ram.”

 “And up here just a little bit…this is where God got a hold of me and blinded me. And it took awhile for the scales to be removed, but then I was able to see.”

These little altars are mile markers of progress on a path that will take a lifetime to travel.

As you walk along the path, you are showered with grace. Grace falling like snow into blankets of insulation. Grace falling like rain bringing water to a thirsty soul. Grace shining like the sun and illuminating His glory. Grace falling like fall leaves, where the slightest hint of the wind brings leaves to submission and piles them high where it’s all you can do not to just JUMP in without concern for bugs or spiders or slithering enemies.

Grace.

Holiness is unattainable without it — yet it is given, not demanded. We cannot demand the snow insulate the earth. We cannot demand the rain hydrate the soil. We cannot demand the sun illuminate our face. And we cannot demand the wind to shake loose the dry leaves from its branch.

For the leaves only fall when the Spirit blows through them. And their fall is gentle and silent, not loud and demanding.

Grace does not give permission to remain unholy.

Grace does not give permission to remain unholy.

Instead, grace is the bumper along the path of holiness…that path where the sidewalk never ends…that path littered with altars…grace is piles of fallen leaves and banks of snow and pools of rain, guard rails that keep you from falling over the edge.

When unholiness beckons and summons you like the enemy of Wisdom, go to your altars. The altars of remembrance and the altars of sacrifice…stop on your unending sidewalk and visit them. Remember the things the Lord has done for you — the miracles He performed, the rams He provided and the sight He restored. Lay back on them like they were lush, green pastures and use them to restore your soul.

And after you have waited on the Lord and renewed your strength, get back up again and continue walking forward toward holiness. Soak in the Spirit as it blows grace all around you, assured it will guard you should you stumble.

“The ways of right-living people glow with light; the longer they live, the brighter they shine. But the road of wrongdoing gets darker and darker — travelers can’t see a thing; they fall flat on their faces.” (Proverbs 4:18-19, The Message)

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Feeling a Bit Listy (And, Just Maybe, A Little Listless)

So a dear friend of mine emailed me last week and so graciously and gently said she loved the new format of my Thanksdays but really misses the lists. And you know, I kinda miss them too. So just for Schtefanya, today’s post is going to be a random collection of thoughts in list format.

You are soooooo welcome.

In no order whatsoever or any semblance of logic, here is a list simply for lists’ sake:

1. I Heart October. I love you, October. You bring hopes and dreams of pumpkins and spices like clove and candles and boots and velour lounge pants that my husband calls “Canastas.” You make me want to change all my throw pillows to orange and yellow colors to pop off the shades of gray (but just three, not 50) and strangely I get the urge to bake which makes my family apprehensively happy. And by a stroke of heavenly intervention, all the UGA football games area way this month so we get to spend Saturdays with Greg. So thank you for all the joy you bring. You’re a good month, you.

2. My Girl. All y’all out there that see us face to face have no idea the wild and crazy and kooky side that Jaana has, but I assure you, her meek and mild and timid demeanor is just. an. act. Take this picture, for example. This weekend she proceeded to pose in this exact succession (with my sunglasses, no less) while saying, “Take another picture of me.” Meek? Timid? Mild? Um, NO. (And no, I have no idea what’s going on with the LL Cool Sleeve.)

3. The Season for Old Music. Listen, I could come up with a million rationalizations for this, but there is no real reason other than I love channeling my inner new-wave-punk girl. Because, admittedly, I always revert to my 80’s-new-wave-my-mom-didn’t-let-me-get-the-assymetrical-haircut-phase-of-life each fall. The first cloudy fall day and I’m suddenly a total sucker for Crowded House, Erasure, OMD, Depesche Mode, Yaz and The Cure. My kids die a little inside each time I play something that’s highly synthesized with men singing like sopranos…but to me, it’s just like heaven. (See how I did that?)

4. Fryes. I have really, really good taste (not counting my love of “Cotton-Eyed Joe,” natch). Because I have been devouring boots online since September 1 and have become obsessed with these.

Then I noticed the price tag. Man I’m good.

(And do not be fooled — the “Similar Items” are not similar in the least.)

5. Current Food Habit. My favorite snack/lunch right now is Ingles Rotisserie Chicken Salad with Crunchmaster Multi-Seed Crackers, original flavor. (It would be Publix Savory Tarragon Chicken Salad, but it’s hours to the closest Publix.) Please don’t talk to me about the amount of mayonnaise in chicken salad, for ignorance is indeed bliss.

6. Simple Raises. Paxton is totally and completely potty-trained now, with maybe one accident every other week (compared to Jaana who wasn’t potty-trained until 3 1/2 years old). (#MomShame) So we just got a small monthly raise not having to buy diapers all the time. I’ll take what I can get to finance my coffee habits, peeps.

7. Revolution. I need to talk about this new show. Because just as Lost got a wee bit too cuckoo for me (talking to you, Dharma), I was completely turned off after just the pilot episode of Revolution. Why? Because after no power of any kind for FIFTEEN YEARS, you mean to tell me little miss young adult thang can have strappy Frye ankle boots, skinny jeans and midriff-baring tops?!! I think not. 

8. Umbrella Invention. You know what all cars need to have as a standard feature? A plastic tube-like umbrella holder next to the driver’s seat by the door. Because if you’re like me and live in a temperate rain forest without a carport or garage, you use the umbrella frequently. And I’d much rather have an umbrella tube by the door than having sections of the umbrella hanging out of the door while I drive. So Honda, Volvo and BMW — if you could get on that and give me credit in the form of a surprise royalty check, that’d be AWESOME.

9. Christmas is in 12 Weeks. Just thought I’d freak us all out a wee bit.

10. You Know What Feels Amazing? Putting on sneakers after 5 hours wearing 4” heels, that’s what. Literally my feet exhaled. Them dogs weren’t barkin’ — they was sighin’. Fo’ reals, yo.

And that, my friends, concludes the list. Schtefanya, I hope you enjoyed it. (Grin.)

Any random/happy/thankful thoughts y’all want to share?

p.s. (in)courage has launched some pretty amazing community groups today, as a way to connect women to each other in real life. This is the first time they’ve done this, and there are groups for any and every season of life you might be in. If you’re dying for some community and fellowship with women who get where you are, please check out the groups and plug in where God leads you. He is all over this and is going to do a mighty work through this effort! Check it out here.

 

 

Five Minute Friday #26 – GRASP

I link up with Lisa-Jo on Fridays for a writing flash mob…throwing caution to the wind and gathering to share what a few minutes of free writing can buy.

Today’s topic: GRASP

GO.

I see the trees turning colors — minute by minute, hour by hour they change and become yellower and orangier and in about a week they’ll be in full glory casting a perpetual sunkissed-glow that feels like it lasts for approximately one minute.

I walked through these trees one day, feeling the warmth of the glow and in front of me one leaf fell. A sweet, yellow leaf gently fell from the half-green, half-yellow tree and billowed softly to the ground without a sound onto the graveyard of leaves lining the road that rustle and float with every passing car.

And I thought about that tree and how it had lost a leaf, a vital part of itself. Was it sad? Did it try to grasp onto that one yellow leaf for dear life, desperate to hold on to something since it had already lost so much? As it finally lost its grip and as the leaf fell did the tree silently cry?

There are days I feel like my leaves are falling everywhere and it’s painful and I’m trying to hold on with everything in me. Leaves of dreams and leaves of wishes and even branches full of habits falling softly and gently to the ground and I stand there with silent tears watching them fall. And I know it has to happen because without it there wouldn’t be the joy of new life and new dreams and new wishes and new habits.

It doesn’t make the pain of losing leaves any easier. But how can I stay mad when the Leaf Maker is the one directing the score? He is the Creator of not just the leaves but of the tree too, and His ways just aren’t mine.

So I watch that tree and I see her precious leaf fall with barely a whisper. And I whisper to her, “I know, me too.”  And as I walk away I look to the sky and see a hawk flying high above, alone in the sky. And I stand and watch him fly sweeping circles getting higher and higher, and realize that in the three solid minutes I stood there, that hawk only flapped its wings once. It soared effortlessly the entire time riding on the currents of the wind, climbing and climbing. And I realize I can’t climb while weighed down with unnecessary leaves. I can’t soar when my wings are continually flapping — desperate to do it on my own. Instead, I have to let go what I wasn’t meant to carry and let the currents of His wind carry me.

I have to grasp the Leaf Maker, not the leaf.

STOP.

Running (Thanksday #79)

The breakfasts were ready and the lunches were packed and the backpacks sat by the front door ready to go. I kissed little heads goodbye and kissed the scruffy cheek goodbye and left to gather up my manna for today and run.

The weather was crisp and breeze was cool and the leaves have already started turning colors a little bit here in the mountains. And I jogged along, my breathing shallow and loud and I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. No music, no distractions. I didn’t look even once at my phone to see what my pace was or what time it was or how much distance I had covered. For the first time, I decided to just enjoy it. And I discovered that the birds chirp louder before 10 am and the cicadas are still here singing their songs and the dew stays wet longer on the left side of this particular road and if someone were to hear me run they’d worry I’m about to collapse. And there was some blue sky and some gray clouds and I noticed too that the leaves that have started changing color are brightest against the gray sky, not the blue.

And that’s what I made out of my manna today: It’s the backdrop of gray and rain and discouragement and disappointment that makes the colors of our true character shine the brightest, not the sunny days when everything looks wonderful.

What I love most about running isn’t the actual exercise but everything else that goes with it. The time totally alone and to myself and the fresh air and the sunshine. With each pounding step I take, my thoughts shake to the surface of my brain and escape into the air, and the ridiculous and mundane thoughts get skimmed off and the good stuff sticks around and takes root. The stuff God shows me and the stuff I learn about myself and the stuff I see in His creation — that’s the stuff that sticks.

Today marked three weeks of starting running again, and while I’m so very, very far from the half-marathon training runs I used to do, I noticed the past few runs have been smoother. I’m getting stronger and a little bit faster and I’m running more than I’m walking. And today was the first time I got to the top of the big hill and didn’t have to stop to catch my breath…I was able to just keep moving on. And for the past few runs, it’s actually felt really, really good to run and I’ve felt like I could go on forever. That’s what I like to call “progress.”

I’m thankful for legs that are strong enough to carry me for two-mile runs. I’m thankful for a husband who’s willing and supportive and does what he can to make it possible for me to pursue the things that excite me, like running. I’m thankful to live in a gorgeous part of the country where it looks and feels like fall in the fall, and that each week I get to see the progression of the season a little more at a time, up close and personal. And I’m thankful that God speaks to me when I’m there.

What are you thankful for this week?