Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Because sometimes you need a little treat...

Monday, November 24, 2014

Because we all know what happens when we ASSUME...!!

My friend Cam, in his
natural habitat.
A friend from my high school years – who I haven’t seen in AGES (maybe since high school?!) posted the following on Facebook:
Out of sheer curiosity, I just checked my personal Facebook profile; and it revealed that I have 1,520 Friends on here. I am thankful for, and love, each one of you. Of those 1,520 people, I know that MANY have found your peace with the Lord Jesus Christ. Are there any who haven't? Are there any who need someone to speak with you about it? If so, PLEASE message me. There is NOTHING in this world I'd rather do than share the Gospel with you!

To my shame, my first thought was this: "How does HE have more friends on Facebook than I do? I mean, seriously - he has WAY more than my measly 845!" So… moving right along… My second thought was … that – in a very nice, unblustery way, he had said something that I want people to know about me… but I don’t necessarily want to come out and SAY it… probably because I'm afraid I won't sound nice or unblustery. I tend to stick to communicating such things in written form, so folks can choose to click or not to click...

Bryan Berghoef, author of
Pub Theology, in HIS
natural habitat.
Anyway, this guy is a Baptist minister, so people would EXPECT him to say this kind of thing. But I’m just a regular joe – so I tend to assume that people would rather NOT hear about that stuff… that this part of me makes them a little uncomfortable… that they’re mostly hoping it won’t come up. And generally, it doesn’t. I might mention in normal conversation that I was at church this morning… or something like that… nothing purposeful, just informational, doncha know. I guess I shouldn’t assume, though. You know what they say happens when we ASSUME!!! And, honestly, I don’t mind so much being made an ass of, but I don’t want that to happen to YOU…!

Bryan's book
Another thing I’m thinking about is this story told by the pastor at our church, about his own mom. Here is the actual audio of the sermon (if this works...?!) Drag the slider over to 39:20, and you’ll hear the story. The gist of it is, when someone finally told her the gospel when she was in her 20s, she was, like, “Why didn’t anyone TELL me this before???!!!” So while I think the odds are likely that people are thinking “keep it to yourself, Jesus freak”… there could be the off-chance that there is a person out there that is jonesing for the living, loving word of God. 

Yours for the askin'!
And if that person is you – or even if you’re just mildly interested in a spiritually-tinged conversation… then, by all means, pull up a chair! Have a beer! Let’s talk gospel! There’s actually a thing called pub theology where people get together at a bar and have a no-holds barred-discussion about the Almighty. I always wanted to attend or even host one of these things, but, well… not with this crazy schedule of mine! That said, if you want to talk, I’ll MAKE time… with or without the frosty mug. 

Pull up a chair!
Have a beer! Let's talk!
Because Cam (that’s my friend’s name) and I might SEEM pretty different – scrolling through his Facebook profile, I see a guy who’s fond of country music, digs Disney’s animated offerings, and, well... is a Baptist minister in a small tobacco town… while my tastes run to edgier music and films, and I’m a freelance graphic designer – a pew jockey at a non-denominational church in a funky, liberal college town. But the truth is, we’re as alike about this one thing as two peas in a pod – our desire to give you (or at least discuss) the keys to the Kingdom… you just have to ask!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Could it be...

So… apparently my most recent blog post went live on August 8th. I’m not sure, but I’m thinking that’s the longest I’ve gone between posts. It’s, like, more than a month!! The truth is, I am experiencing a pretty severe case of writer’s block. Thank goodness I don’t write for a living! I mean, I would if I could, but … then where would I be if I got writer’s block? I suppose I’d muddle through…

Which makes me think I should just muddle through here and write and post something… but what? What have I got to say? Except that I have writer’s block. And that I am afraid that it might be one of the symptoms of menopause. I mean, I know a muddled brain goes with that FUN time of life. So is that why I can’t write? Muddled menopause brain? 

Where are you?!?!?!
And is that why I can’t find my black Chucks? Because I really want to wear them today, and i haven’t seen them in weeks! Muddled brain —> messy house. Of course muddled menopause brain doesn’t explain the mess of the past 10 years….! Plus, I’m not even going through menopause yet. Perimenopause, maybe… 

And if this is what perimenopause is like, that makes me a bit worried about the impending real deal! What’s THAT gonna be like?! Will I burn the dinner, forget to wear pants and be unable to speak in complete sentences? ‘Cos the way it’s going now, that looks inevitable!
I'm probably gonna
need TWO a day...

Anyway, about the writing. Part of the problem is that my brain is fried and I can’t think of any good topics. Is there anything you'd like me to wax prosaic about? Also, if i DO think of a good topic, I write and write but am never satisfied with it, so it never gets posted. Is that also part of the menopause? peri- or otherwise? Is it making you uncomfortable that I keep bringing up the menopause? :-)

Today in church we heard the pastor speak about spiritual warfare – that is how the devil messes with us. He (the pastor, not the devil) said – if I heard it correcty – that the devil likes to screw with us where we are the most effective witness. So at the risk of sounding crazy, I'll say that I started to wonder if the devil was taking a poke at my writing. And it might be a valid thought IF I were that effective... and  IF I had a large audience, which I don’t. I mean, if you’re reading this, you are a member of a very small (but non-exclusive) club. I do have more readers for my column in the Chapel Hill News, and that’s been a struggle too, lately. 

Bonus points if you know
why this photo is in here!
That said, I still think I would be flattering myself to imagine that the devil would be worried about anything I might write! Of course, maybe he’s not worried about how many people are going to read what I write, but rather, he just wants to mess with each and every one of God’s children, no matter how small their audience is. Because when he messes with any one of us, he fancies that he messes with God. As if God couldn’t (and didn’t) squash him like a bug. 

Another point the pastor also made is that the devil hates when we get real about his existence. That is, he can do more damage if people think he’s a mythical creature. And what was the last thing I wrote? A blog in which I flat out said, as our friends the Louvins did, “Satan is real.

You'll have to click on 
the links down there to 
figure out this one.
Perhaps it’s a coincidence that suddenly I can’t write… who knows. It could be stress. Or exhaustion. Or, as I mentioned above, the menopause (I said it again!) But on the off-chance that it’s not any of those things, I’m writing this. And it may not be the best thing I ever wrote, but I’m writing it… in defiance of any poking at me the guy on the ham spread can might be doing. Because I know poking at me is all he can really do... and I can let it get to me, or I can remind myself that "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8) and write some stuff anyway, no matter how lame.

This one too!
I remember one time in a class I was in, they were addressing the topic of spiritual warfare. I guess I’m making it sound like our church is always going on about satan like the Church Lady – you know, finding demons under every rock… but seriously, we’re really not. But when we come to the topic in a natural course of things, we don’t avoid it or gloss over it. And by the natural course of things, I mean, for instance, if the pastor is preaching through a book of the Bible and comes to a clump of verses that bring up ol’ Scratch. In such a case, he’d just give us the low-down instead of pretending the verses aren’t there.

Could it be...
Anyway, so, in this class that I mentioned at the top of the previous paragraph, the teacher said this, or something very much like it: “The devil can’t read your mind, so you have to tell him OUT LOUD to leave you alone.” Remember when Jesus said, “Get thee behind me, Satan”? Like that. Now, I have no idea how this teacher knows this, but I do respect her, and her teaching hasn’t let me down thus far, so I’m just going to go with it. 

So… maybe the devil can’t read minds… but I can’t imagine that words on a page (or computer screen) are a problem for him… as they have been released into the world in some way. So this is my way of giving that sleazy rascal his marching orders. That’s right, you big red jerk, I changed the lock on my front door… so don’t come around here no more.

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Blood is the Life (Red Letter Edition!)

Too many vampires to count!
Okay, so I’ve confessed to a weird fascination with men in kilts, and that was embarrassing… so here’s another one. Vampires. Yep. Not actual vampires. I mean, IF those exist, I’m sure they’re not something I want to know about… I’m talking about literary and screen vampires, of course… Dracula, Edward and Jasper Cullen, Damon and Stefan Salvatore, Angel and Spike, Bill Compton and Eric Northman, John Mitchell, Louis and LeStat… 

…and Matthew Clairmont from Deborah Harkness’s books. He is fine. And these books are sooooo good. I can’t stop reading them. When the last one came out recently, I trekked over to Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh to meet Ms. H. She spins a fascinating tale – about a historian who studies ancient alchemical manuscripts… and just happens to be a witch. She meets the aforementioned vampire and sparks fly. Literally. From her fingertips. 

I know – it sounds about as silly as a book about a modern woman who time-travels to Scotland during the 1745 Jacobite rebellion and falls in love with a hot kilted warrior, but as I said before, I’m all over that one too!

A few of my favorite 
vamps: John Mitchell 
(Being Human,) Jasper  
Cullen (Twilight) and 
Eric Northman – long-
hair version (True Blood)
Anyway, I’ve been trying to figure out why I love vampires in books so much and, well… I’ve not been able to come up with anything…?? Maybe because the ones in the books I read are invariably described as blindingly handsome… Yes, I'm that shallow. Plus, they have superpowers: super speed, super senses, super strength, super sex appeal… And who doesn’t love a superhero? Who doesn’t wish they had super powers?

And, like the kilted warriors in my beloved Highland fantasies, they are dangerous bad-boys… the ultimate bad-boys. Of course if there really were vampires, I’ve a feeling they would look more like Count Orlok in Nosferatu or (at best) Marilyn Manson in full makeup, than Robert Pattinson or Alexander Skarsgard. And drinking blood… ew. But a good fiction writer can make these guys sound like the men of our dreams! A super hot man who thirsts for his lady like a vampire thirsts for blood. Except in this case they’re one and the same. Who doesn't want to be desired so deeply?

But then there’s the question of … is it okay for a Christian to read this kind of thing? And my answer is… Yes. No. Maybe. I don’t know. 

I mean, the Bible says not to get involved in the occult. In I Samuel 28, King Saul gets in hella big trouble when he consults a medium. Well, I’m not doing anything like that. I have no interest in what a medium might have to say. I’m reading a story. A love story. A ripping yarn. I’m being entertained. And, honestly, when I read a good love scene it sends me straight to the marriage bed… which God loves. The marriage bed, I mean. He’s into that. And so am I.

I wonder if this is one of those kind of things that people have to make up their own mind about – like eating food sacrificed to idols. (I Corinthians 8) Like… it’s not a sin unless you think it is, because idols don’t exist. It only has to do with whether it messes with your conscience. If it bothers you, don’t do it. Of course that might just be my excuse... I don't know...

I met Deborah Harkness, 
who created the sexy vampire 
Matthew Clairmont! There's 
no movie yet, but I picture 
him as played by Clive Owen.
I mean, honestly, I have no problem distinguishing between reality and fantasy. Although maybe atheists would beg to differ...? I mean, what is a belief in God if it’s not a belief in the supernatural? But so far, worshipping one supernatural Being hasn’t proved itself a gateway drug to believing in all proposed supernatural beings, especially those conjured by human pens. 

And truly, I'm not sure HOW I know the difference, I just know that in the actual true story of my life, my soul was dead, my body was nearly dead (undead?)… but now I’m alive. And this is NOT fiction, but my real life. A good writer can write mesmerizing stuff that entertains, but is it true? It may contain truths about love and life, but is it Truth with a capital T?

And to throw a weird wrench into the engine, I DO believe that Satan exists, as our friends the Louvin Brothers taught us. So last night when Tom and I watched an episode of Penny Dreadful where a lady surrenders to the devil, I was a completely creeped out. Why do I believe in one thing and not the other? I guess my measuring device is the Bible… which... some people might think was also conjured by human pens. 

I guess we could sit around and jaw all day about whether or not the Scriptures are inspired by God and if the Bible or God are not your thing, I’m probably not going to convince you of anything because, well, in my experience, you have to say yes to it BEFORE it makes complete sense and sounds like truth. I guess that’s faith… 

I'm thinking if there
WERE real vampires
they might look more like 

Count Orlok from 
Nosferatu or Marilyn 
Manson in full makeup.
Anyway, let’s say the Bible is my plumb line. Is Satan mentioned in the Bible? Yes. Are witches in the Bible? Actually, yes, but they’re not exactly the kind that you read about in your average paranormal romance. Moving right along… Are vampires in the Bible? No. 

Although… In the Old Testament, the Israelites are specifically prohibited from drinking the blood of the animals they killed, “for the blood is the life.” Maybe to reinforce that God Himself was the source of their life? Or to set them apart from the pagans around them whose religious rites involved drinking blood? Whatever the reason, they were told more than once that blood was NOT a suitable beverage for God’s children.

That’s why the top dogs at the Temple were so freaked out when Jesus said THIS: Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.” (John 6)

The Louvins cautioned us not to
discount the existence of Satan.
Yeah, the Pharisees freak, but it actually seems to me as if they were more puzzled by the logistics of it (“Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ ”) than concerned with violating the law – although I’m sure this came into it as well. I find it odd that those guys couldn’t seem to get a grasp of the symbolic – especially when their whole religion was chock full of metaphors – what with the temple and the sacrifices and all. Or maybe they didn’t like Jesus telling them (in so many words), “Everything you’ve been doing is just a metaphor for what’s happening NOW.” Maybe they thought THEY had the whole of the real thing…? 

But I digress… anyway, Jesus established this “blood drinking” ritual for all time with the institution of Holy Communion at that last supper he had with his friends. Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:27-28)
A famous portrayal of the event where Jesus told
his peeps to (symbolically) "drink His blood."

That’s right. Drink His blood. Because the life is in the blood. So... I started out talking about vampires… which I don’t believe in… and wandered over into a religious ritual involving the symbolic ingestion of blood… which I do believe in… which sort of pushes the question out again – how do I know the difference between what is and is not real…?

And we still do it, after a fashion.
It also has to do with faith: To understand these things (as if anyone could) you have to first grab hold of them. Knowing comes AFTER: When you have lifted up the Son of Man, THEN you will know that I am he…” is what Jesus says in John 8… followed by this: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. THEN you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (emphasis mine)

And if you find yourself unable or unwilling to reach out for God, tell Him so. That's what I did. I actually told Him to leave me alone! And we see how THAT turned out...!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Excuses, excuses...

This nice blog I read sometimes by a guy named Jeremy Riley featured this paragraph recently: 
Please pardon the lack of posts, I was out and about at a youth program back East and writing quickly jumps to the bottom of the list at a summer camp.  While I was there, I had the distinct privilege to share stories, laughs, activities, and the good news of Christ with middle and high school students for nearly a month.
Bill onboard the camp bus
And I wish I had a great reason like that for all my recent blog shenanigans (or lack thereof): that is, photo-heavy posts, reposts, but mostly not posting at all. But, honestly, I’ve really no excuse. It’s just busy around here. And not with good deeds like working at the soup kitchen or teaching at youth camp like our Jeremy. 

Just why are we so busy? Well… Bill has been in summer camp and for some reason that makes it extra busy around here. Camp pick-up is after 5pm Monday through Friday, which has us running home to make dinner or making a mad dash to a shoe-horned-in guitar lesson... and every other week the camp has a “Family Fun Night,” for which I traditionally make brownies. 

The Men in Kilts – no peeking!
We went to the Whitewater Center in Charlotte, where, unbelievably, the guy who was behind me in the queue for the MegaZipline was one of our neighbors on Pine Cone Drive in Oxford back in the day! We had the Men in Kilts clean out our gutters. It was awesome, but was it like a reverse Hooters? I don't know. I loved it, though! Still trying to get Tom into a kilt! We did the neighborhood 4th of July parade and hosted a family cookout (for which Grace and I scrubbed the house down). 

I'm working with my awesome brothers and sisters and my mom on moving her into the swanky Carolina Meadows. We're trying to strengthen Bill's grasp of Spanish for the coming school year. And in general, we work around the house, run errands, go to shows and to baseball games, have playdates and dinners out. 
Stuffed zucchini... ready to get baked!

And then there’s the farm share. That’s where you get weekly box of fresh veg from a local farm. Now, I’m not a natural cook, so lots of my thought and energy goes into figuring out how to fix all the zucchinis and such. I’ve prepared sautéed zucchini, steamed zucchini, roasted zucchini with tomatoes and onions, stuffed zucchini (stuffing makes anything delicious!), and zucchini bread like my grandmother used to make. It tasted like spice cake but Bill still refused to eat it because it had green flecks in it. 

We’ve had salads as big as your head made from a dozen different raw plants, and I’ve made roasting my go-to cooking method… roasting any and all combinations of produce – potatoes and leeks being the most successful so far. 

Nothing says Happy Birthday America
like kids in a parade!
Plus, I do have work to do… although I could do more. Really. If you know anyone who needs help with graphic design, writing, etc., I’m available. In the meantime, I expend a lot of energy looking for ways to make money and trying not to freak out about the lack of it. God provides – I know He does… It’s hard to wait, though.

That said, I actually DID work on a quite long post about the Psalms, which I'm STILL reading of a morning... but it grew unwieldy, and took no real shape. One of my favorite paragraphs from it went like this:
Psalm 101 begins like so many Psalms do... with praise! Can’t argue with that, right? But then, it starts to get freaky. David, who is named as the author, talks about how perfect he’s going to be – how he’s not even going to look at anything or anyone evil. All the stuff evil people do? Slander? Pride? Deceit? He HATES that crap.
Then I went on to say that 
“...resolving to steer clear of “bad” people… well, this goes against every fiber of my evangelistic being. Don’t the “wicked” need to hear about God? More than anyone! Does a sick man need a doctor? Evangelism is a raison d’etre I take both quite lightly and extremely seriously. I mean, how can I be salt if I’m not let near the food? Or light if I stay shut up in … a room full of other lights? Do you think Paul was worried about shunning evildoers when he climbed Mars Hill and said his piece?”
And really, the rest of it was just rambling. You know how I can get. Blah blah blah… the only other funny thing I had in it was this clip from Craig Ferguson. I love it because 1. I love Craig Ferguson, 2. I love hearing him mock Hollywood peoples’ fondness for plastic surgery and kale, and 3. I was proud that I learned how to add a video to my blog!

Anyway, that’s what’s happening over here. Not sharing the gospel with teens at summer camp or stuff like that… 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Happy Father's Day! (repost)

I’m not going to go deep with this, but in celebration of Father’s Day, I would love to share with you the story of how my husband, Tom Moore, became a father. It’s one of those against-all-odds, almost-didn’t-happen, but obviously-meant-to-be stories…

You see, when we were in our fervent premarital stage I vowed – maybe too loudly – that I did NOT want to have children. It was maybe not too strange a thing to say since first, that’s one of the things you should definitely discuss before taking the marriage plunge, and two, I was thirty-nine, closing in on forty, and Tom was forty-three. My logic was simple: I did not enjoy my childhood and was totally messed up. I was scared to do the same to any offspring I might produce.

You know what Tom said? “Me neither. No kids for me!” Because that’s where we were at that time. Falling all over ourselves to agree and please each other. So that was that… for a while. We tied the knot, started making our way in the world as a Mr. and Mrs… Until… I don’t know, a couple of years later when I started to notice babies everywhere I looked. Especially at church.  Peeking over their parents’ shoulders, sleeping sweetly in a sling, crawling on the slate floors of the sanctuary, voicing their discontent and being removed to the cry room… And I don’t know if you realize this, but those little guys are CUTE.
I learned just yesterday that what I was experiencing has a name: it’s apparently called “baby lust.” And I did have it bad. So… I sort of hinted around to Tom that maybe having a baby wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, and he hesitantly agreed that, no, it might not be completely horrible. I now know that inside, he was saying “YES!!!” and doing an extended touchdown dance.

So, we decided to see if God was on the side of this crazy semi-reluctant dream… We weren’t exactly TRYING… it was more like we weren’t NOT trying! Of course in the back of my head I acknowledged that as 41-year-old former anorexic, I probably wasn’t very likely to get pregnant at all… so I really wasn’t risking much.* Turns out that, like so many other times in my life, God was of a different mind… and at the close of the very first month, when I peed on the stick… well, there was definitely a plus sign on it. 

And Tom went nuts! He bought outdoor paint in primary colors and painted the natural wood play structure and sandbox that came with our house. He ceded the most comfortable TV chair in the house to me every night. He took me to New York City for a last hurrah. He participated in childbirth classes. He designed the nursery. He bought toys…

Of course the toy-buying was nothing new. While Tom is a responsible adult in the ways that count, he is also quite young at heart… and ever since he saw that plus sign, he’s been over the moon.

On May 4, 2004, when the doctor pulled that squirming mess of a baby out of my belly Tom cried. He loved that wriggly mess. He loved Bill as a baby, but was more excited for him to grow into a playmate. And this child has been his fondest friend, his merriest companion, his partner in crime, and his most pressing concern.

I can't begin to understand how God feels in any way about anything, but i feel like as a parent I get a whisper of the why of our creation.... like maybe He made us just to be with us... He loves having us around and teaching us what He knows and having fun with us. 

Parenthood is fantastically rewarding, but a hard row. And my man is hoeing it with aplomb, my friends. He makes the tough decisions and is on top of the follow-through. Of course, there’s always something we could be doing better, but… so far so good, right?!

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Outakes

It's no secret that I love babies. I'm sure I creep out perfect strangers with the attention I pay their sweet little cherubs. Babies are the best. If you put a photo of a baby on Facebook I will most certainly "Like" it. And I loved this completely hilarious collection of terrible baby photos.

When I saw these I laughed and laughed. Most of the photos of babies and kids people post on FB are of beautiful wide-eyed perfect pink-lipped cupids. I am guilty of this too, but the truth is that not every photo you take of your baby is going to be fantastic. That said, once I resolved to share with you some of the more hilarious "bad" pics of Bill with you, I started scrolling through our huge library of pics of nothing but our baby, and 95% OF THEM were nothing less than cherubic. Our kid is super photogenic, and super cute. Not that I'm biased or anything, but most of his pics are at least as beautiful as this:

Anyway, while he is a supermodel in most photos, there are a few bloopers... and here are some of ours, in no particular order (and let it be noted that I got tired of looking through the gazillion photos at around the 2008 mark):