Monthly Archives: February 2011

Strainers and Sieves

I was reading a friend’s post this morning and thinking about how poorly we see ourselves, at least  until God opens our eyes to what is often so obvious to others. I guess selective sight is just as epidemic as selective hearing.

I thought about my friend who has recently seen herself  better and obeyed the nag to come clean on some of where she really is, by choice and not so.  There was nothing that she shared that I wasn’t in the same boat as her. Some of the selfishness and stubbornness which my friend and I both exhibit has already been brought  to my attention, many times before. In lots of ways. I am thinking about the mechanisms God has used to bring things to light.  There were systems and people and the occasional and necessary switchin‘. In the south, a peach or other switch growing variety of tree was often ceremonially planted in the yard. We southerners know more about deterrence than any cold war leaders could have ever dreamed to have understood.

One of my mentors helped his students to develop systems of thought and evaluation, questions to ask ourselves and phrases to avoid  to help us continually lean into growth. I love how he taught us to take slippery, slimy words from our vocabulary, because they inhibited the growth of integrity: our ability to keep our word. We were taught that when communicating to others, we should avoid phrases like “about 10:00 o’clock” or “near lunchtime,” or “I’ll get most of it.” We were encouraged to be specific in our promises. Such made us more accountable to what we said we would do. Slipperiness, hedging, misrepresenting and lying are all trust destroyers and therefore, relationship destroyers. Under his leadership, we students worked hard to drive those types of assurances from our lips and from our thinking. Our mentor well explained: a person’s time is their most valuable commodity, to waste or abuse it is unthinkable if trust is the goal of your relationship.

Another system my mother has well-drilled into me, and I am drilling into my children, is valuing another’s efforts toward or with you. It is the simple act of expressing thanks, always. I have long been encouraged to make sure people know that I notice and appreciate their presence and actions. This mantra of Mama, “Did you say thank you?” rings in my head after nearly every exchange. And yes, she does still ask me if I did so.

Another good sieve to pass our lives through is people: people who love us enough to tell us the truth when we need it. Just like I would rarely be wise to go on stage without a quick check over by a colleague, I should not dare to go through life unobserved and unstudied and unassisted. I use to be a personal assistant, I’ve actually had one – I had no salary when I worked with our restaurants, but I did have an assistant. It was the best thing ever. She kept me informed and where I was supposed to be and looking how I should and she thought ahead for me so I could better be where I was. It was a great gift and luxury. And if I ever sell a book, forget a new car or clothes, I’m getting an assistant again.

My assistants were never suck ups. I needed them to be honest with me, about what I was communicating to our staff, with the realities of what those who worked with us seemed to believe or even resent. I needed truth, as best she saw it. I needed a mirror that truly represented what others saw of me. I paid those assistants, who were real friends to me in what they did, well. I likewise receive with utter delight faithful friends who are willing to wound me with truth, out of love. The truth is very expensive, a friend that will speak it, as best they understand it, is a priceless thing. A friend will hold your gaze when you try to squirm. A friend will ask a tough question. That friend can be an invaluable sieve to pass our life through.

And then there is that occasional, but highly effective means of God to highlight and then remove the lesser things in our lives. When our kids were little, spankings were always framed as events to help one remember the right way to do something. God has brought some events or hard knocks my way at times to get my attention and arrest my action, then and there. It was not fun, but again, the message was clear and quickly rendered, “This is not acceptable action or conversation or attitude. This right here, will not continue.”  It worked with our kids and it works with me. Sometimes, it takes a swat to get my attention. It is love, it is for my good. It does help me remember in the next opportunity to not do the same, to reconsider what hurt might come around the corner in the wake of the things that I am considering doing, being, believing.

My friend who got me thinking on all of this has very good strainers and sieves in her life. I have adopted several of hers in hopes of gaining the same integrity and insight into myself and the same health and trust in my relationships. People who are highly trusted and in vibrant growing relationships have these kinds of systems and people and an appreciation for a good swift kick, well-timed, when it comes their way.

What kind of systems and regular relational conversations do you have to keep growing and gaining  your person? Growing up, did you have a peach tree or something akin?


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The day of demarcation has come.

The day of demarcation has come. I started this blog on my birthday last year. I hoped to build some stamina, clear my voice and entice a few editors to correct some of my habits. I hoped for a random number of reads, realizing that I was no way near ready for a public reveal of any variety.

I eclipsed those goals in December and began listening, looking for a new, more rigorous training regimen. Here’s what has come to light. In March, five fabulous women from Birmingham and I will begin to write in a common blog format. We will examine some things for which our hearts share a regard.

I am excited to relay that our ages span the scope of “womanhood.” There are young guns and forty somethings and even a few wiser women. We have different church backgrounds and preferences, though we are bound together by our love for Christ and His grace toward us. We all moonlight at real jobs, but at our core, we are all writers, story-tellers, crafters of tales.

I will continue to post and provide venue for young, upcoming writers in this blog. But, I am so pleased to be entering this new and more public place of sharing my thoughts. I thank you for your partnership so far. Your return to read here, again and again, has helped give me confidence to swim some deeper waters.

Our first gathering is tonight!

I’ll link everything up come March.


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Asses and Idiots, part II

Hope you liked my story about my friend’s dog.  She is an exceptional dog, probably my favorite in the whole wide world.

I want to talk about idiots today. I am defining idiots as those who are used of God to work grace into us, but are completely oblivious to their partnership in such.

We all have  people who God uses to encourage us, strengthen us, give us example and bring us to gratefulness…who never know that they do so, who never purpose directly to do such, but who are used to move us on along in the river of God, nonetheless.

We also all have people who grate on our last nerve, call out the worst in us, remind us of all the things undone in us. We all have this experience with others and most of us can see how it gives us opportunity to exercise patience and forgiveness and to better address our own weaknesses and grating habits.

But, what I want to address today are idiots, unknowing ones, who are idiots, stupid acting jerks. Don’t tell me you’ve never encountered this variety of human life form. We all have. That boss or teacher or kid behind us that kicked our seat every day for a year, laughing when we turned to address him and the teacher called us down. Some of us live with people who are constantly angry and offensive and even blaming of others for every difficulty in their lives. (Some of us have been that person ourselves.) Some of us tolerate abusive speech and abusive actions. Some of us suffer insufferable fools daily and try to navigate our lives around those who seem, as yet, inescapable.

Idiots are awful, a sure sign of the falleness of this world. Idiots also seem to be everywhere. There seems no shortage of them. I want to talk about what I am learning, slowly, that we must do when we encounter them, if we are to keep growing in grace, to keep gaining ourselves. I want to remind us, especially myself,  what we can learn and gain, even  in such circumstances.

First, we can learn what we do not want to be. We can carefully analyze what it is that so offends and devalues our person, we can make sure we eradicate such mentalities in ourselves that we might freely share.

Second, we can examine what underlying lies and wounding probably fuel the festering we encounter and we can endeavor to carefully check our own foundational thoughts and presuppositions in light of such. And, armed with such insight, we can pray more compassionately and effectively for those who seem enemies.

Third, we can ask God to work and keep current His work of wholeness and healing in our lives. We can keep ourselves in humility and the careful examination of trusted persons and the Holy Spirit. We can purpose to live and interrelate in freedom, in grace, in humility….in the rule of love.

I think this must be pursued primarily in quiet and stillness and a readiness of heart. For me, that readiness means the place where I cannot go on as before, where my ability to lead “my” life is, well, broken, and I truly realize it. It can be correctly assumed that at some level,  my life’s messiness activates my genius discernment.

There are lots of broken places in me, places that do not well serve me, that burn energy and make noise but don’t really accomplish the task they were made to do. This year has been about letting the Holy Spirit reveal those places in me, specifically, and my letting Him do the work necessary to remove and replace parts that are no longer able to do as they were designed to do. It hasn’t been  all butterflies and daisies. It has been a little scary, okay, a lot. Truth’s breaking of long forged and known mentalities disorients to the point of pain. It leaves us unacclimated and unsure as to our “identity.” As I wrote this, I saw a ring being cut off of a finger. I thought about how my Mama had to have one cut off for a surgery. The ring still fit her finger, but could not be slid over her joint. It didn’t hurt to wear it, but efforts at its removal did. The swolleness of her arthritic joints – the weren’t always that way, she hadn’t been born with joints like that, the ring slid on and off appropriately when my father bought it for her, but now, life and its wear and tear had deformed that joint and its working. Sometimes those joints are aggravated, worn down and then  suffer chronic inflammation. Sometimes a trauma of force or an inappropriate twisting damages a joint. I have experienced many kinds of joint injury to my fingers. I’ve broken my fingers many times, in many ways. I’ve even had others break them, accidentally, I presume. But, my Mama’s ring had to go for healing in another area to occur.  It had to be cut off, and though it wasn’t as terrible as she or I imagined, it hurt a bit as well.

Sometimes the healing/wholeness process is like that. You go in for one thing and another thing ends up being addressed, first.

Sometimes, broken places, in my Mama’s case, her back, could not be fused until that ring was cut free. I think of the woundedness in me that needs address. I’ve got quite a few spiritual bones so crushed that fusion seems the likely remedy. Thankfully, my Mama’s surgery has been super successful! That gives me some hope…if man can do that kind of work, I’m pretty sure God can do even better!

God, hasn’t agreed to put me under for that kind of surgery, yet. But, there is little  doubt in me that such an appointment is on my horizon. Right now, he’s cutting me free of other unexpected things that would somehow muddle future healing endeavors. He is cutting away adornments and identities and trophies which I have somehow focused upon as necessary to self.

Why am I including all this in my treatise on Idiots? Well, most of my injury has occurred at the hands of the biggest idiots that I have encountered in this life, the foremost being, myself.

But, I had some help as well.

Idiots are everywhere.

Somehow, somehow, it is coming clear to me that the ground that idiots live and relate upon grows grace well.

Just consider the encounter of an idiot as the fertilizer factor personified.


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Showing theirs

I read yesterday’s post, Asses and Idiots, to our bible class yesterday. Then I asked them to share a similar encounter from their life. They all stared at me, like I had asked the impossible. I knew that they could do it, they always come through with beautiful things to share. They sat a while, I refused to allow  anyone to opt out or do some other task. “Sit still and let your spirit help you to remember,” I reminded them. Soon, pens began to move upon pages. Twenty minutes later, most had finished and were ready for me to call them out. I had a few early volunteers, who of course, had protested earlier as well, but now seemed fairly confident in what they offered.

Bailey, started us off….( remember Bailey is my cute little competitor/cheerleader who “can’t write.” She has lying issues when it come to  her writing. Call her out with me.)

I’ve been struggling with my problems lately. There’s this cat that is always walking around outside of my house. It belongs to the neighbors, but it ran away and they can never catch it to bring it back home. Well, while I was pulling in my driveway, I saw the cat, lying in the road. Someone hit it and left it here. Dead.

This showed me that running away from God or from your problems may feel like the safest thing to do, but you’ll end up running into bigger and worse things, that you’ll end up having to face alone. It’s better to face what you have going on now with help, then running away and having to face them by yourself.

Morgan is a mystical minion of mine. Here is her tale of God’s presence, near.

A couple of years ago, I was having a bad day. I’ve had many, but this day in particular was so bad that I decided to just run outside and cry. I didn’t want anyone to see me or talk to me. At this time, I had a dog. He was a Great Pyrenees named Blizzard. While I was sitting in the middle of my backyard crying, he romped up to me and started pawing at my elbows which were crossed on my knees, helping to bury my face. I looked up,  pushed him away and said through tears, “Go away, Blizzard. I don’t want anybody right now.” He backed up, as He had been pushed off  balance, but then he came right back and looked at me with his sad eyes and licked my arm. I tried to push him off again, but he laid down beside me and waited for me to pull myself together.

Looking back on this, I can see that the incident showed me a glimpse of God’s care and how He wishes we would care for others. He comes to us to offer comfort in times when we think we want to be alone with no help. If we push Him away, He tries again and then rests by our side until we are ready to let Him come close. No pressure, no nagging words, just there.

Mackenzie nails this one. She is a quiet young woman. But she has a great deal to say.

This story is really ironic because yesterday I saw something in my dog’s eyes. When I first got him, I always played with him and everywhere that I went, he went. But then I started to grow up and he grew old on me. I played with him less and less, I caged him more. But, whenever I came around, he would jump up and wag his tail. Yesterday, I noticed that when I walked by his cage, he didn’t even jump up, he just eyed me. That was it, because he knew that he wasn’t going to get out and play with me.

My relationship to my dog is very similar to my relationship with my parents, friends, and family members. The more that I grow up and busy I become, the more I am distant from everyone. So, yesterday I decided to call some of my distant friends to see how they were doing. Now, I have noticed how so very much has changed.

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Asses and Idiots

I think we have all seen ourselves as asses and idiots used of God, in spite of ourselves. Sometimes God really does use dumb (speechless) animals, remember Balaam’s donkey? and  unknowing ones to work deep things in us.

Late Saturday evening, I struggled to sleep. My eyes darted under my eyelids. I could not settle down, be still, rest. My mind raced, though caffeine had been in short supply. God had hinted a bit on my drive up  that He would be coming near to me. As of yet, such hadn’t overwhelmed me in any real way. But, I sensed the sureness of His declaration all the same.

In the wee hours of Sunday morning, I awoke to His whisper, “I am near.” The adorable little dog that had climbed on the bed and laid down a ways from me, a stranger, immediately moved toward me. She settled next to my feet and I felt God smile, NEAR!

An hour or so later, I struggled more and awoke, God’s sound pulsed louder in me, NEAR! The little dog stood up and edged over, she stretched herself out along the curl of my back. God, laughed, NEAR!

Later, nearly morning, He shook my shoulder, NEAR!, the little one clambered up, dug her head beneath my cover, tunneled far under and laid upon me.

It was then that I understood that God’s coming near would also tunnel deep into my covered places.  I was to be confident that He would come to me in such an unknown nearness, that I would know it, recognize it, sense it. He would confirm His word, capitalizing every letter of every word to me with His tangible closeness.


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I watch for the opening eye.

I was talking to several other teachers yesterday about my Bible class, how I have this “ingenious” curriculum, but that I am having to forego it at times and feel my way. I was trying to describe that activity, what the markers that I am using to navigate look like.

When one has done something a long time it becomes “second nature,” one stops thinking about the how of it. One just does it: bike riding, driving a car, fishing, shooting, navigating a stream…

So, I took a minute to slow down and think about what it is that convinces me that the path I am pressing down is “the way.”

Impartation or impregnation is an invisible natural thing, but it does at times show itself in the spiritual, if one knows what to look for. Often, there is an opening of the eyes, a widening, and then a confirming meeting of those eyes with your own. There is reception and recognition. I look for both. If I only shock, I will get the open eye, but not the meeting in vulnerability. Impartation is not about shocking, it’s about arresting what is and replacing it with what resonates as reality.

I can remember such moments with so many students. Moments where we became the same in our need and reception of provision. We were  bound in understanding and the humility of such a great gift.

Yesterday,  a young woman who I have been watching and encouraging a couple of years now, had her eyes opened, WIDE…and then she glanced into mine, I’m done striving. His love has just undone me. I’m ruined for less….

See why I love this job?


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The tables are turned and we are being tested.

The tables are turned and we are being tested this week at school. Accreditation!

Everything looks great, the kids are showing appropriate restraint, except in some discussions we had in class today… But that is good, passion and engagement is always good.

You know, I’m one of those strange people who likes a test, a challenge to what I know. It helps me to access all that is in me, things I’ve forgotten about or stuck in some recess. It seems that I have more and more recesses.  Are recesses brain wrinkles?

Any way, I love to be asked hard questions, to be made to think and consider new angles of perspective, to find connections and associations between facts and realities and understandings.

I so wish I could get that into my students, the joy of a test. A good test should reveal all that you do know. It should help you organize your industry and retention. A good test should not leave you with a grade but an elevated view of the subject and its relevance and importance.

I’m thinking now about the tests I am formulating for this unit of study in each of my classes.

Lord. help me make the test a tool for learning and gaining understanding…Help me make the test as important to the development of minds and hearts as the reading and documentaries and the research projects and the reports and the presentations and my lectures. Lord, help me take time to give them the gift of a great test.

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