Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Hill Meets Tuff Hill

 It might have been an otherwise unremarkable Tuesday morning—except for the change in staff plans that brought Antoinette Tuff to work on an unscheduled day and placed her right behind the front desk of a Georgia elementary school.

Placed her right in line with a young man armed with an AK-47 rifle and “nothing to live for.”

For the past week Antoinette Tuff has been hailed as a hero, and rightly so. Her unflappable courage, compassion, and authority while talking down a distraught gunman (you can listen to her 911 call) at a Georgia elementary school have garnered the attention of the media, as well as the White House.

Some hold her up as an anti-gun model. Some want to know if they can teach the leadership skills she used—she called him by name, related her own troubles, extended compassion and hope all  while keeping calm and composed.

And some, like me, see the power an ordinary woman, seasoned by life, trained in vocational skills, and “anchored in the Lord” has for such a time as this. She said her pastor had been talking about being anchored in the Lord and that is what she clung to as she employed all the skills and training she’d had for hostile situations.

Listening to her 911 call, you’d never know she was more scared than she’d ever been in her life. It seemed to me, a signature touch of the Lord that when she asked the man’s name. He told her  Michael Hill. She said, “I'm a Hill too!” Her mother’s name was Hill.

Hill meets Tuff Hill, and for that he can be thankful.

Antoinette Tuff is a reminder for me that it’s so easy to just react in any confrontation (not necessarily with gunman!). An eye for an eye sort of response. And yet, anchored in the Lord, we have the power and the skill to “see through” the situation and to respond with kindness and compassion.

Her story is also an example for me of how any day, any ordinary day, might just be the one the Lord chooses to use us for such a time as this.

Blessings on this National Just Because Day! May the fleeting days of August be sweet.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

First Day of School Fears (Mom's That Is!)

Here's a back-to-school repost for some mom out there in need of assurance as her child heads off to school. (Doesn't matter whether it's to kindergarten or college--we cry and worry nonetheless!)  My daughter is long out of school but I always think back to that first day when I see the crossing guards at their posts.

Our daughter, the only girl of five kids, was a Velcro child. For years she stuck so close to me we moved as a unit.I decided she needed to go to pre-school a few mornings a week to introduce her to the world beyond my pant legs.

Like a hound on a fox hunt, I searched out every kiddie program for miles around. I sat in on show-and-tell circles, surveyed classrooms for any potential dangers in the five-year-old world, and questioned teachers about their lesson plans. Finally I found the perfect program, made especially so because of the teacher.

Although the program was held in a church which we were not members of, and the classes were rapidly filling, the director assured me my daughter would be placed in that particular teacher's class.

First school day arrived. My little one donned her backpack and I donned my brave face. Before we got out of the car, I rolled up her sleeve and planted a rosy lipstick kiss on her arm.

"If you get scared, just peek under your sleeve and know I love you," I said.

As we approached the classroom, the director intercepted us and pointed to another room, which she said was my daughter's.

"Oh, no," I protested. "I was told we would have this teacher. She's the reason we are here."

Unmoved, the director said Mrs. First Choice Teacher's room was full, but that Mrs. Unknown was also a wonderful teacher. I could feel the panic bubbling up, but not wanting to get testy in front of nervous little children, I handed my daughter over to Mrs. Unknown Teacher, blew  a kiss, then raced to my car where I promptly burst into tears.

I fretted all morning. "Lord, I spent weeks looking for the perfect situation and now, at the last minute it changes! How could you let that happen to us?"

Finally in between my complaints, I realized the story of Joseph had been playing in the background of my mind. I paused to pay attention. Peace settled over me as the reminder that in spite of all the unfair, downright bad things that happened to Joseph, things he had no control over, God had his back. What was intended for evil, God intended for good.

When I met my daughter at her classroom door, I expected to find her either in tears or on the verge of them. Instead, a happy child laden with crayon drawings greeted me.

"How was it?" I asked.

"Good," she said. "I like my teacher. She has warm hands."

Warm hands. God knew my daughter needed warm hands far more than the most progressive way to learn ABC.

Blessings, parents of off-to-schoolers. Remember He loves your little (and big) ones more than you do!


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The shadow of the spiritual all around us

A book I go to when I am feeling tedious or soggy-brained from days of rain is Warren Wiersbe’s Preaching and Teaching with Imagination. So after standing on the back deck in the wee hours of morning (three in a row)searching for meteorites that were supposedly streaking across the sky at a rate of fifty per hour, somewhere above the cloud cover that veiled them from me, I was in need of some Wiersbe inspiration.

Although I started with Wiersbe, a quote he used from Oswald Chambers set me off on another track. Here’s how it went: 

O.C— “Learn to associate ideas worthy of God with all that happens in Nature—the sunrises and the sunsets, the sun and the stars, the changing seasons, and your imagination will never be at the mercy of your impulses, but will always be at the service of God,” along with a reminder from Tozer “to perceive in natural things shadows of things spiritual,” reminded me of the photography and poetry of cyber friend, Richard Havenga over at Walk With Father Nature.

Although not a photographer myself, I love how looking through a lens causes you to see wonder all around.

This shot, "After Rain,  reminded me of the joyous praise in Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poem “Pied Beauty.”—“Glory to God for dappled things.”  (See Richard’s own poetic take on this.)

And how about walking on water, "Upstream"
Or the powerful silence of Swans on a foggy morning:

 Although Richard has many shots that invite praise, one in particular, symbolized a special moment I had had that morning.

Someone I have labored over in prayer for years, through seemingly impassable situations and wrong turns, sat across from me, awash in God’s light of healing and restoration.For the first time in years, I saw a future and a hope where previously I had hung onto it by faith. 

Persevere in prayer. God is ever-faithful. 

Richard sees it this way in "A Wing and a Prayer"
I saw the Spirit 
fly above the mountians
and placed a prayer
upon its wings.

Now I wait 
in patient silence
to accept with grace
what praying brings.

Many thanks to Richard Havenga for permission to use his lovely works. Hop on over to Walk With Father Nature and be blessed

P.S. I wonder where tomorrow's chapter will lead!


Thursday, August 8, 2013

"Marriage...that blessed arrangement that brings us together today"

Marriage. That blessed arrangement that brings us together today. That dream within a dream...

Celebrating thirty-two years with my man today. For a woman who (as a teenager) couldn't commit to a date two days ahead of time in case something better came along, and who (as a young woman) wore the lies of the liberated women's sexual revolution like splats on my tie-dyed T-shirts, this loyal longevity is a feat of the grace and goodness of both God and a good man.

I can't say it has always been a "dream within a dream." As a blended family, we merged with no idea of the work, hurt, and chaotic concerns that accompany wounded people. I, brand new in faith, thought that just being a Christian was enough to make it work.

We've scrapped and scraped and learned late. And have been covered by much grace.

But we have five solid children for whom I am thankful. And have each other to walk with through this next part of the journey.

My favorite hymn, sung thirty-two years ago on this day, To God Be the Glory, is still the theme song of my life.

Bob--always the same--frontward and backward! I have been given much.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Writing a Past You Won't Regret: Death By Living

A review of N. D. Wilson's Death By Living (And no, for those of you who know my penchant for murder mysteries, this is not one!)

You know you are in for a literary feast when the author dedicates his book to “My Lovely, in her eyes the sun is always on the water.” 

A master of imagery, Wilson pitches word pictures at us faster than balls in a batting cage as he challenges us, dares us, to “ride the roaring wave of providence with eager expectation.”Each page of Death By Living exudes the author’s sheer energy for living the life story he’s given and “writing a past he won’t regret.”

Looking square in the face of that day that is waiting for us that will be our last, Wilson reminds us we can’t “throw a diva fit backstage and force the understudy to take our place.” No, but we do have a choice as to how to live the days we're given—all of them—the good, the bad, and the ugly. We can go at them with an attitude that 1.The Lord gives and the Lord takes. Blessed be the name of the Lord or 2. Curse God and die—whining and moping and complaining.

Threaded with stories of his ancestors and their influence in his own life story, (because we are in fact, a sequel, not a standalone) Wilson shows us a life lived to die—empty, spilled out, overflowing with gratitude.

I appreciated the energy, the exuberance and the imagery. Panted a bit trying to keep up with him in places, but truly inspired to take a fresh look at the place I am in my own story.

Wilson is definitely a writer who “shows” more than he “tells,” which is terrific for us visual learners, but it you are the expository sort and learn in a linear way, you may have to concentrate to keep up with the life stories, parenthetical asides and visual feasts that all really do work together to proclaim by grace, we are "water made wine, dust made flesh."

May we "grab a hold, live hard and die grateful." 

Blessed and full-lived weekend, friends,

 ( I received a courtesy copy of this book from the publisher through Booksneeze.)