Sunday, August 31, 2014

Ten Scriptures...

Well, due to popular demand…okay, due to the request of like, three people, I'm sharing the content of my "final Sunday School lesson" for my teen girls. After teaching junior high and high school girls at First Wisner for 29 years, it is time to pass the torch. For my last lesson, I shared 10 Bible verses/passages that have shaped, challenged, inspired and influenced me. It was hard to choose only 10, so I tried to also consider which ones might encourage the girls I lead. It's not an exhaustive survey of the Bible -- only one Old Testament scripture is referenced, for example, when there are many (in the book of Isaiah alone!) that I could've included, but here's what I shared:

Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts. (Isaiah 26:8 NIV)

“Renown” is defined as the condition of being known or talked about by many people; fame. It’s widely considered to be the chief aim of many in your generation. This verse may not mean much to anyone else, but it has been a “theme” verse of mine since the first year I taught Bible study at Cross Camp. Pride, the desire for approval and admiration – these have been strongholds and things that trip me up, consume me – influence my choices; and I finally came face to face with it and (began) the process of surrendering lowercase “me” and magnifying uppercase HIM. Other translations use the words “glorify you” “remember you” “we desire your fame and reputation to grow…” I also love the picture of desiring His name. Just His name. So powerful. (Even at the ripe old age of 52, it’s still a process – daily, moment-to-moment, but how about we link arms and work to make HIM famous?)

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2 NLT)

I also love the Message translation of these verses:
Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.”
So simple – so clear – and so profound. “Watch” Him – how? By studying his Word. Then do what He does. Like He does it. The amplified version adds “esteeming and delighting in each other” to “live a life of love.” Putting others first – happily. That only happens from a place of security – of knowing you are beloved. And you are. And of course, there’s a reference to “pleasing aroma” or fragrance, which leads to my next favorite:

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. 
(2 Corinthians 2:14)

Anyone who’s been with me very long knows this is a favorite of mine. I love that it starts with thanks (key to joy!) and highlights our mission – we’re supposed to spread the fragrance of the knowledge of Him! When people are close to us, they should be able to inhale deeply an aroma of grace, love, joy, peace. Y’all. We need to smell like JESUS! Love it! (spritz of Grace, anyone?)

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 
(2 Corinthians 9:8)

If you’ve ever requested prayer in a challenging season, there’s a good chance I’ve sent you this verse and/or prayed it for you. I call it my “go-to” verse for almost every situation. I mean, look at it – what a promise! God is able. We could just sit on that for a few days. He. Is. Able. He is not some weak, lowercase god, wringing his hands, wondering what to do. He knows. And He is able. Then it gets specific – He can make ALL grace abound to you. Look at all the “alls” – all grace…all things…all grace…all times…all you need…and then every good work. That seems to cover it – what can he supply? Just all. And then for any time, any need – every good work. Whether it’s a job, school, sports, relationships, whatever – it’s good work you’re up to and He is willing and able to make grace abound to you! Marinate in that for a while!

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. 
(Colossians 4:6 NIV)

Does this really need much explanation? I am a person of many words…much conversation. Be honest – you are too. I shudder to think of some of the “conversations” I’ve had even this week that were not close to being “full of grace.” Ugh. The Message brings this point: “The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out.” Now we’ve enjoyed some sarcasm and joking around in here, but just imagine how relationships; how the very atmosphere around us could change if our conversation was gracious, seasoned just-right? (Notice, it is “seasoned” – we’re not talking boring, bland conversation – flavorful, tasty! I love that we're not called to "bland.")

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. 
(Romans 12:9-10 NLT)

How great is this? How real? Anybody who doesn’t think the Word of God is practical just hasn’t read it. Don’t pretend, people. Really love. Don’t fake it, our friend The Message says. Hate the stuff God hates – hang on tight to the good. Love each other – with affection. We’re not just enduring each other! And again – honor each other. How about that for a competition – see who can show the most honor to another – “outdo” one another in showing preference. "You first – no, YOU!" This is a worthy goal!

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” 
(Matthew 11:28-30 MSG)

These are what we call “red letter words” – Jesus the Christ said this while walking around on earth. So pay attention. What He’s saying is – walk along side Me and it will go well with you. I found this so encouraging as it relates to calling and ministry. When I’m doing the work He calls me to, it isn’t burdensome or ill-fitting. That's not to say it's always easy…but it feels right. I can work AND be refreshed and renewed at the same time because He’s called me to it and is actually sharing the load. Unforced rhythms of grace *sigh.* God’s Word is just gorgeous.

These last three are prayers I’m praying, believing and claiming over the lives of every girl I’ve taught!

For I am sure of this very thing, that the one who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. 
(Philippians 1:6 NET)

Yes. He began the good work in you. That is real. That is true. And there may be times when you doubt yourself but He doesn’t doubt you. He isn’t wringing His hands wondering how you’re going to turn out. (Unlike us earthly parents!) He started it with every intention of finishing it and He is able. Isn’t that a relief? He’s not letting you go. You might as well cooperate!

I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return.
(Philippians 1:9-10 NLT)

Love. Overflowing. That’s kind of the point. As your love of God deepens and increases, it naturally will overflow into every other area of your life. You’ll not only love much, but well. Ah. You’re going to be leaking Jesus all over the place! And along with that, your understanding, discernment – the ability to determine what is right and important and valuable – will increase. Which is good, because your need to know where to focus your life and love and attention – this is increasingly more important with every passing moment!

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV)

So much to love in these verses…He has glorious riches – He wants to apply them to your life – to strengthen you…with power…through His Spirit…in your inner being! That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith!

From that place of being deeply rooted and established in His love – we have supernatural power to grasp, to understand, His love for us    
• how wide - it covers the all of our own experience and reaches out to the whole world
-  • long - it continues the length of our lives
-  • high - it rises to the heights of our celebration and joy
-  • deep - it reaches to the depths of discouragement, sadness

He loves you. He didn’t have to make you. He didn’t. He wanted to make you. You are his idea. His very good idea. He thought you up, He delights in you – you make Him laugh! He loves you AND He likes you.

So from that place of being rooted in love – we’re free from fear, from the need to compare ourselves to others, free to love others and share God's love with the world!

And then the last part – again – He is ABLE to do…immeasurably more – super-abundantly, above and beyond, beyond-beyond what we can imagine. And His power is at work IN us…to Him be the glory.

And God’s people said: AMEN!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Love Does

Well, I'm not exactly blazing through my book stack so far this year, but I did finish book three in my "Empty Shelf Challenge" -- Love Does by Bob Goff.

This book is…delightful. And whimsical. In fact, whimsy is kind of the aim of the book, a defining characteristic of Bob Goff personally and my new favorite word. 

Bob is an accomplished human being - a successful lawyer, college professor, global activist on behalf of children, a family man. He's also a gigantic goofball who just happens to take the Bible as something more than a book to be "studied." It's a guide to doing. (He even rebelled against his weekly men's "Bible Study" and reinvented the group into a "Bible Doing.") 

His stories are funny, inspiring and wonderful. A lot of what I read tends to be oriented to women, but this is a book for everyone. Yes, amazing things seem to happen to Bob (and he has a gift for telling the stories of his life), but he challenges us to find the amazing all around us -- to take every opportunity to do love -- go big -- take chances. I'd really love to hang out with him sometime -- and I just might. He includes his cell number at the end of the book and encourages readers to give him a call. Can you even? 

So, if you need some inspiration -- and a healthy dose of whimsy -- get this book!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Bread & Wine

It took me a little while, but I finished the second book of my "Empty Shelf Challenge" -- and it was wonderful! Bread & Wine - A Love Letter to Life Around the Table by Shauna Niequist.

And here's the thing -- it won't stay on that shelf long, because it's got recipes! So far, I've made the bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese and -- I don't want to overstate this, but -- they were possibly life-changing! She is so rapturous in her description of risotto that it's on my "must-try" list. Honestly, every time a chapter ended in a recipe, I grabbed my phone to add ingredients to my perpetual grocery list.

This is her third book - I read Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet last year and loved them both. She writes beautiful, essay-like chapters - each one offering an honest glimpse into her life and inspiring the reader to savor, well, food, of course, but more importantly, friendship and family - the people we gather around our tables. She connects tastes and smells to most of her best memories and demonstrates her love for her people by feeding them (and she's not even southern!).

A few choice morsels I'm lingering over:

On perfectionism inhibiting hospitality -- 
"…but it isn't about perfection, and it isn't about performance. You'll miss the richest moments in life -- the sacred moments when we feel God's grace and presence through the actual faces and hands of the people we love -- if you're too scared or too ashamed to open the door…" 

On Christmas - and chaos in general --
"I prayed for new eyes to see, for a way outside myself and my tense, swirling chaos. As I slowed down and listened, three words laid themselves on my worn-out spirit like a blanket: present over perfect…Either I can be here, fully here, my imperfect, messy, tired, but wholly present self, or I can miss it -- this moment, this conversation, this time around the table, whatever it is -- because I'm trying and failing to be perfect…this season I'm not trying for perfect. I'm just trying to show up, every time, with honesty and attentiveness."

Maybe it's the particular season I'm in, but those words were balm to me. To hear someone say that saying "no" can be an act of faith, that I am more than what I "do" and that I'm called to live with intention, hope and love in the present. And it is enough.

Ah. (Now, on to the grocery store! Anyone know where they keep the risotto?)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Empty shelf challenge...

Just for fun, I decided to jump in on Jon Acuff's Empty Shelf Challenge
The idea is simple - clear out a bookshelf in your home and fill it in 2014. Participants are also encouraged to share opinions/reviews/recommendations during the year. So, here's my (teeny-tiny) empty shelf.

And here is my (teeny-tiny) empty shelf with my first finished book of the year -- 
by Brene' Brown.

I actually began reading this book last year but was interrupted by some study responsibilities and, well, life. But I loved it and when I picked it back up I started over (highlighter in hand, of course) and I highly recommend it. The title comes from this quote by Teddy Roosevelt: 

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

Brown is a research professor who has spent over a decade studying shame, courage and vulnerability. While that description may not make you instantly want to pick up this work - trust me, it's worth it. She kind of burst into prominence with this TED talk which completely endeared her to me and made me want to read her book. It's the kind of work filled with the kind of ideas that I wish I'd have been exposed to when I was younger -- as a young mother, particularly. (The parenting applications are powerful). But, even at 52, I'm still learning, turning the ideas over in my head, chewing on what it all means.

A few things that struck me --
-- The concept of "foreboding joy." Ohmigosh. I thought it was just me! It's the paradoxical experience of intense joy paired with (a usually irrational) fear that the other shoe is about to drop and it can all be taken away. Foreboding joy is an attempt to minimize vulnerability, to beat it to the punch by preparing for something awful. But it doesn't work. We just miss the joy. I loved the alternative - soften into the joy, lean in and let the quake of vulnerability work as an invitation to gratitude. Gratitude - joy. This is a theme I love and must practice. 

-- Another quote that resonated with me is this one:
"Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It's a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity." Hmmm.

-- I used the distinction between guilt and shame while teaching at camp this summer. Guilt can be helpful as a tool for correction and improvement - shame never is. Guilt says, "I did something stupid." Shame says, "I am stupid." 

There's so much more, of course, to this book. The concept of embracing imperfection and vulnerability, to live "wholeheartedly" and courageously engage with others -- it's beautiful. Great, constructive insight and practical tools for leaders, church folks, teachers - basically anyone involved in any kind of relationship. So, all of us. There's much to dig into.

I want to share her beautiful parenting manifesto and leadership manifesto (in case you parents and leaders aren't convinced yet). Both are available on her website, along with more information about Brown and her work.

(On a semi-related note, before I picked the book back up, I chose "open" as my one word for 2014. Pretty vulnerable, now that I think about it.)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Crafting at the farm...

I've read about "craft weekends" and always thought they sounded like such a fun getaway -- getting out of town with some friends, some hot glue guns and a Pinterest board full of ideas! 

Enter Tami -- she's been working on her childhood home on the family farm in Red River Parish (Loggy Bayou, to be precise!). The 50-year-old house has some areas that have been completely re-done (a gorgeous bathroom, for example), while other areas have been kept lovingly intact -- including the turquoise kitchen and a blue-and-white tiled bathroom. Her dream is to honor the memory of her gregarious dad (Mr. Ralph) and her mom, a well-known cook and gracious hostess (Miss Aline). The house is filled with history and a sense of warmth, comfort and family is immediately evident. Tami invited a few friends (Lisa, Ginger and I) to the farm for a trial-run craft weekend (in the middle of the week) and we loaded up bolts of burlap, spray paint, fabric scraps and glue guns and headed for the hills!

Here are a few of the crafts we completed, in between yummy meals prepared by our hostess and lots of good conversation. (Prepare for a photo/link onslaught!)

First up: a variety of boxes (mostly diaper boxes) were spray-painted black and...

Covered in burlap! (Also embellished with more scraps and fabric flowers -- more on fabric flowers to come!) They can be used to store anything - most of these were going to be used for magazines in their respective homes. Burlap was cut and attached with hot glue. The original idea came from this post and here's another tutorial.

Here's a close-up of some of the fabric flower embellishments! These turned out to be surprisingly simple and fun to make. The felt flowers could NOT be easier. A circle of felt is cut into a spiral and rolled and hot glued! (Most of these were made using a cd as a template!)
The "pouf" flowers were also simple and so pretty! Fabric can be cut in circles or a simple flower shape (templates here) then folded and glued to a circle and either finished with a pouf, button or even vintage costume jewelry!

 The top two flowers were made with fabric scraps from my daughter Jess (thanks!). I added a pin-back to a couple of them and a barrette to another. The bottom flower shows layers of fabric (burlap scraps and some fabric from Blessings All Around). So cute! Here are a few of the other collections of completed flowers...
In addition to felt rolled flowers and poufs, there is a rolled rose pictured in the photo at top left (black gingham) and a dahlia (gold flower in the photo at bottom left) which involved multiple pieces and hot glue burns -- but worth it! 

We also had a couple of scarf options -- Ginger and Lisa were looking for a light-weight scarf and crafted these from cascading squares:

I found a large remnant at Blessings All Around for pennies and it was enough to put together an infinity scarf (which I kept calling an "eternity" scarf) for each of us - we embellished them with more of our fabric flowers! (forgive the poor selfie!)


Another fun project -- we spray painted bottles with chalkboard paint. Easy, fun and versatile. I'm tempted to spray chalkboard paint on everything in my house now! 

Also -- book page pumpkins! We tore some pages from some thrifted books and mod-podged them to these pumpkins ($1 each at Wal-Mart.) Messy, but cute! 

I already had a kind of black-and-white theme on my fall mantel -- here's my chalkboard bottle and book page pumpkins at home:

Here are a few other random crafts...including dollar store vases wrapped in pretty scrapbook paper with a decorative punch pattern (insert a tea light or votive and...voila!); a crepe-paper-wrapped mason jar jack-o-lantern; burlap table runners and placemats; "mercury glass" jars (a semi-craft-fail!) and layered cookie mix and "fireside coffee" mix for gift-giving! 

Overall -- I'd say craft weekend (in the middle of the week) was a success! Here are a few parting pics of our beautiful setting - and our farm hostess with the mostest!

Thanks, Tami, for the hospitality! Here's to many more gatherings at the farm - filled with laughter, good food and wonderful stories!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Scripture memory review!

I've fallen a bit behind on my memory work, but I've been doing some review today and decided to attempt to type all of my 2013 scriptures from memory (eek!). I've noticed a theme of hope and love running through the verses I've chosen this year. Just reviewing them, rewriting them (however imperfectly), has blessed me -- maybe someone else needs these words today?
Okay - here goes!

Above all, love each other deeply, 
because love covers over a multitude of sins.
Cheerfully share your home with those 
who need a meal or a place to stay.
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another 
as good stewards of God's varied grace.
1 Peter 4:8-10

May the words of my mouth 
and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, 
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer!
Psalm 19:14

Oh that we might know the Lord! 
Let us press on to know him. 
He will respond as surely as the arrival of the dawn 
or the coming of rains in early spring. 
Hosea 6:3

All your children will be taught by the Lord 
and great will be their peace. 
Isaiah 54:13

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, 
firm and secure. 
Hebrews 6:19a

Our Father in heaven, reveal who you are.
Set the world right. 
Do what's best -- as above, so below.
Matthew 6:19

(so far so good -- even references! yay!)

Don't just pretend to love others -- really love them. 
Hate what is wrong, cling tightly to what is good. 
Love each other with genuine affection 
and take delight in honoring each other. 
Romans 12:9-10

I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light 
so that you can understand the confident hope 
he has given to those he called - his holy people 
who are his rich and glorious inheritance.
Ephesians 1:18

(words in bold I missed!)

When anxiety was great within me, 
your consolation brought me joy.
Psalm 94:19

(missed the reference on this one)

Trust in the Lord and do good.
Dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord 
and He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord
Trust in him and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light 
and your justice as the noonday.
Psalm 37:3-6

But this I call to mind, therefore I have hope:
The Lord's loyal kindness never ceases;
His compassions never end. 
They are fresh every morning. 
Your faithfulness is abundant!
Lamentations 3:21-23

Live a life filled with love,
following the example of Christ.
He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, 
a pleasing aroma to God.
Ephesians 5:2

I pray that God, the source of all hope,
will infuse your lives with an abundance of joy and peace 
in the midst of your faith 
so that your hope will overflow 
through the power of the Holy Spirit. 
Romans 15:13

Phew -- getting there. And this was after hand-writing them a time or two to review.  Praying that these will be more than words -- that God would use them to transform my mind and heart! What are you memorizing these days?