AMERICA’S GREATEST NEED

America is in need of a massive revival and spiritual awakening.
But that is not her greatest need.

I don’t know much about politics or economics or foreign policy.

But what I do know:

  • We can have the strongest leaders maintaining our desired status as the greatest country on earth;
  • We can have a mighty army such that no terrorist would dare threaten our borders or our people
  • We can be a balanced-budget-debt-free-country

and still be in grave danger.

JSU Parade (18)

My intent is not to trivialize the threat we face as a nation. I pray for our leaders and those who fight to defend our freedom. I grieve for those who bear the sacrifice.

But “without a profound return to humility and holiness, no amount of strategy or promotion can save our land.” Gregory R. Frizzell*

I remember the days and weeks when our nation rallied in prayer, crying out to God.

Today we pray and sing, “God Bless America.”

God has blessed America. I pray He continues to bless America.

JSU flag

My community is in need of a revival and spiritual awakening.

  • We can have the strongest leaders making our cities great
  • We can have a well-trained police force such that our crime rate is non-existent
  • We can have a balanced-budget-debt-free municipality

and still be in grave danger.

july 4

My family is in need of a revival and spiritual awakening.

  • We can have the perfect marriage
  • We can have an arsenal of munitions and self-defense training
  • We can have financial security

and still be in grave danger.

stacy reflection

I am in need of a revival and spiritual awakening.

  • I can have it all

and still be in grave danger.

  • the danger of exchanging happiness and health and safety for holiness
  • the danger of believing that political freedom equals spiritual freedom
  • the danger of covering myself with the flag without being covered by the blood of Christ.

I love this country and all that it means to live in the United States of America.

But what I really need is a personal revival.

Revival is just the life of the Lord Jesus poured into my heart. I have only to get into a right relationship with Him. If I am to come into this right relationship with Him, the first thing I must learn is that my will must be broken to His will. This brokenness in daily experience is simply the response of humility to the conviction of God.
In this right relationship with Him I shall see His power being demonstrated in my heart and life and service, and His victorious life will fill me and overflow through me to others. And that is revival in its essence. –from The Calvary Road

America is in need of a massive revival and spiritual awakening.

But that is not her greatest need.

America’s greatest need is MY revival and spiritual awakening.

And YOUR revival and spiritual awakening.

God will work in my family and your family, my community and your community, our country more through our brokenness than anything else we can do or say.

plow edit

Sow to yourself in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until He comes and rains righteousness on you. Hosea 10:12

*I’ll be working through Returning to Holiness: A Personal and Churchwide Journey to Revival by Dr. Gregory Frizzell in the coming weeks. You can get your own copy here.

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SHE WAS CRAZY, Y’ALL.

I’m here to tell ya’. . . she. was. ca-razy.

August that is.

Wait.

Who did you think I was talking about?

Anyway.

She was all focused on that back-to-school thing even though it’s clearly summer time down here.

Maddie and Caleb

Well, if August was crazy (and she was) then September is her weird cousin.

Labor Day has come and gone and she’s still wearing flip flops and white pants.

White pants

She doesn’t care what the Southern Fashion Police think ‘cause she’s all focused on that football thing and planning life around kick-off.

A Day Game

Crock-pot chili is what she craves but settles for one more spicy pulled pork barbecue sandwich. Lemonade punch make her happy and Frozen Banana Split is her favorite half-time treat.

Frozen Banana Split

She doesn’t really mind when her friends prematurely announce “Its Fall Y’all”. She’s excited, too, just thinking about big bowls of candy corn. After all, yellow-gold is her favorite color because it reminds her of peaceful mornings when mowers have been put away till Spring.

DSC_0375

Caleb Mowing

She’s also happy to celebrate two of her favorite people: Sharon and David.

sharon, david,

September, in all her weirdness, isn’t really so bad.

Butterfly

Just don’t tell her I like October best.

FIVE WORDS THAT CHANGE EVERYTHING

I am with you always.

These were the final Gospel words of Jesus to his disciples—and to us.

How did he know?

5 Words Square

How did he know we would so desperately need His presence with us always?

Of all the promises He could make to us, why this one?

Why not promise I’ll make you successful.
Why not promise I’ll make you happy.
Why not promise I’ll make it easy.

Jon Eric at J'ville Mountain

But He knew what we didn’t know….

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Matthew 27: 46

The last two words in this cry of our Savior on the cross are Aramaic (the everyday language spoken by Jesus).

In some sense Jesus had to be cut off from the favor and fellowship with the Father that had been his eternally, because he was bearing the sins of his people and therefore enduring God’s wrath. (ESV Study Bible note)

He had experienced God-forsakenness so that we would never have to know life without Him.

He knew His presence was everything.

He is El Shaddai, the All-Sufficient One.

So that’s the promise He made.

I am with you always.

In one of my favorite spiritual classics, Practicing His Presence, Brother Lawrence and Frank Laubach wrote:

We need to recognize that God is intimately present with us and address Him every moment. In things that are doubtful we need to ask His assistance to know His will. And the things we plainly see He requires of us, we should rightly perform. As we go about this pursuit we should simply offer all things to Him before we do them and give Him thanks when we have finished.

What are you facing today?

What need do you have?

As a believer in Jesus Christ, you are not alone.

The Lord is not outside of you, pouring down favors. The Lord is within you. Seek Him there, within, . . . and no where else. –from Practicing His Presence

I am with you always

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WHEN GOD SHOWS UP IN YOUR ORDINARY LIFE

I long for greatness—an extraordinary life of eternal significance. Not fame or fortune or celebrity status. Rather the deep need to know that my life matters—that I will leave behind something more than a carbon footprint and a closet full of cute clothes I found at the thrift store.

thrift store edit

WHEN GOD SHOWS UP IN YOUR ORDINARY LIFE HE CALLS YOU TO SERVE.

This season of life has me folding towels—the same 7 towels every. single. day. and making beds, scrubbing toilets, stirring soup, and teaching math and spelling. Sometimes my life in this loud house on a quiet street in the rural south leaves me with the feeling that somehow it isn’t enough—enough for me, enough for them, enough for God. There must be something out there, over there, bigger and better than this.

Again, the Devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. And he said to Him, “I will give You all these things if You will fall down and worship me.”Matthew 4: 8-9

Great Smokey Mountains 2012

Whatever our job or our role, we can spend our hours and our days constructing grand plans and elaborate schemes. Dreaming of our escape from this day of doing the thing we’ve done 100 times before or every day for weeks, or years or decades. We begin our days with dread and end them with regret. We loathe the same-old-same-old and regret that we lived another day walking down the same street and falling into the same hole.
When someone asks, “How was your day?”, we reply, “Good” or “Busy” or “Long”.

Why do we never reply, “Extraordinary!”?

Is not every minute sacred?

Is not every breath a gift from God?

Is not every task done before a holy master?

Then Jesus told him, “Go away, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve only Him.”

Matthew 4:10

I am learning.

Jesus is my teacher.

God chooses the simple and makes it sacred.

He teaches me how to make the ordinary extraordinary. How to turn water into wine.

WHEN GOD SHOWS UP IN YOUR ORDINARY LIFE HE CALLS YOU TO THE CROSS.

stop edit

My Enemy shows me the kingdoms of this world and tempts me with self-worship. My Savior shows me the cross and calls me to die to myself.

In my ordinary life I scrub a 1960’s-Harvest-Gold-non-self-cleaning-oven; He teaches me that no amount of scrubbing will make me clean. Only He can do that.

I clean clutter from a closet; He reveals clutter in my heart; souvenirs of unpleasant experiences and painful memories. He invites me to give them to Him.

I lie in bed, eyes wide open, sleepless with thoughts of unfinished tasks and tomorrow’s new list. He reminds me that He always finishes what He starts and that includes me.

I am learning that in Him I am clean, uncluttered, complete.

WHEN GOD SHOWS UP IN YOUR ORDINARY LIFE HE CALLS YOU TO LIVE FOR HIM.

When God calls edit sunset edit

With Him, my ordinary life is quite extraordinary.

Eternally significant.

.A task of heavenly proportion.

Then the Devil left Him, and immediately angels came and began to serve Him. Matthew 4:11

 

 

 

WILD OBEDIENCE: WHEN GOD SAYS “STAY”

When God invites us to Wild Obedience He always has a plan. Sometimes I am sure I know the plan. Oftentimes I’m wrong.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.” Isaiah 55:8

Wild Obedience

I want to slip out of the corner booth, leave the chips and dip and husband and put my arm around her tiny slumped shoulders. A broad shouldered, baby-faced friend sits across from her tears, defenseless. From the speaker over my head I hear trivia questions for which I have no answers. I know this answer. She needs me. This momma knows how to comfort girls with tears. I know what to say.

But He says, “Stay.”

I question His plan.

He says, “Pray. I just want you to stay put and pray. I know what she needs.”

So I stay put and pray and eat chips and wings and talk cartoon trivia with husband.

But I wonder about obedience.

Am I really just too afraid or too embarrassed or too lazy or …?

My tummy is full and I push away the plate. I look her way just in time to see the broad shouldered, baby-faced friend reach over and wipe away her tears with his napkin.

When God invites us to step out in Wild Obedience He always has a plan.

I attend the Declare Conference in Dallas and learn a lot about obedience—specifically, this Wild Obedience of which I speak.

Wild Obedience2

Lisa-Jo Baker speaks Friday night: When Wild Obedience Looks Like Foolishly Following Instead of Successfully Leading. She says:

“Wild Obedience does not equal publicly awesome acts of service. God will use anything to call you to follow Him. Throngs of heavenly hosts bear witness to your secret Wild Obedience.”

I remember trivia night and wings and her tiny, slumped shoulders and tears. I hear Him say again, “Pray. I want you to pray. I’ll give her what she needs.”

My heart is full and I push away the doubt.

When God invites us to Wild Obedience He always has a plan.

Whether Wild Obedience is to step out, speak up or stay put, He has a plan.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.” Isaiah 55:8

For the one reading this today—being secretly Wildly Obedient—know that the throng of heavenly hosts bears witness as you follow Him.

Wild Obedience3

 

Homemade Tomato Soup

Thanks to gardens, green thumbs, and generous friends we’ve had plenty of tomatoes this summer. Last week a friend from church called and said, “Call your husband and tell him to meet me in the church parking lot on his way home from the office and I’ll give him a bag of tomatoes.” I expected four or five sweet, homegrown tomatoes–enough for a round of tomato sandwiches for a bunch of hungry kids.

Tomato soup

Eric comes home with a bag FULL of large, perfectly ripe tomatoes. We did have several delicious tomato sandwiches for lunch and BLT’s for breakfast one morning and still had 7 or 8 tomatoes left. Since no respectable {and frugal} country girl would waste a single homegrown tomato I had to make a plan—and quick. I found a recipe that kind of included what I had in the pantry. Here’s my version of it:

tomato soup graphic

Ingredients:

  • Olive or vegetable oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 T. minced garlic
  • 5 cups of chicken broth*
  • 7-8 tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
  • Small can of tomato paste
  • Fresh Basil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Instructions

  • *I keep chicken and beef bouillon cubes in my pantry to use as seasoning and to make broth at times like this when I need it and don’t want to go to the store. It’s cheaper, too. To make the 5 cups of broth add 5 cups of water and 5 chicken bouillon cubes to a saucepan. Simmer to dissolve cubes while you proceed with step 2. If you bought chicken broth you can skip this step:-)
  • Add 2 tablespoons of oil to a large saucepan and heat over medium-high heat.
  • Add chopped onions to pan, stirring frequently for 4 to 6 minutes, or until onions are translucent. I like to add a little salt here, too.
  • Add minced garlic, stirring for 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Reduce heat to medium and add broth to onions and garlic. Boil gently for 15 minutes.
  • Add peeled, chopped tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes.
  • If you like your tomato soup chunky it’s ready to eat. However, I like to blend mine to get a really smooth texture. FYI!: Only add a cup at a time to the blender. The hot liquid will be all over you and your ceiling if not. Be sure to use a dish towel or pot holder to press down and hold the lid of the blender before you turn it on! Transfer pureed soup to a large serving bowl until all mixture has been blended. (I don’t have one but I think you could use a food processor instead.)
  • Add chopped fresh Basil, stir, and enjoy.

I served this soup with Texas Toast grilled cheese sandwiches. Best meal ever! Ok. I exaggerate a wee bit. My best meal ever is usually whatever I ate last. But the tomato soup was really, really good! This recipe served 6 hungry people with several servings left over. I hid the left-overs in the back of the fridge and I’ll probably have to share it. But I think I know where I can get more tomatoes ’cause now I’m craving a Homemade Ham and Tomato Pie. You can find that recipe here if you’re wondering what to do with your tomatoes. 

So what do you do with your tomatoes? Got a recipe I need to know about? Email me or leave a comment. I’m always looking for my next “best meal ever”.

 

When Life Seems All Uphill

There are days when life seems all uphill. You begin the day worn and weary. You start out behind and feel you’ll never catch up. The to-do list is longer than any one person can handle and everyone seems to need a piece of you.

uphill3

I’ve had my fair share of uphill days. This “snapshot of my life” as I refer to it isn’t all blue skies and get aways. I’ve shed a lot of tears in the shower while I plotted my escape. There have many days when I’ve considered throwing in the towel, giving in and giving up, and sewing a big “L” on my sweater for LOSER. It’s convenient at my age to blame it on hormones, but I’ve found that this “feeling” doesn’t discriminate. Regardless of age or sex or race or personality type, most of us are going to feel this way at some time or another.

uphill2

On our recent Cheaha Family Adventure we decided to hike one of our favorite trails. We’ve hiked this trail many times with our children. Usually, we either hike down to the lake and get a ride back up the mountain, or we start at the lake and hike up the mountain and back to the campsite. This time we decided to make the hike down and back with a brief water break at the lake. Here’s a description of the trail from Trails.com

This is a rocky hike (or slide if you’re not careful) down through a healthy, mixed hardwood/pine forest. But don’t gloat for long as you savor the flat walking around Cheaha Lake, because the best part of this hike is the thigh-burning climb back to the top. This hike, which links Cheaha Mountain with Cheaha Lake below, is by far the steepest sustained ascent/descent within Cheaha State Park.

The “thigh-burning climb back to the top”  was all uphill. It was a very steep, sustained ascent. Some of my days have felt that way recently.

I learned some things from that hike that have helped me when life seems all uphill.

uphill 5

1. Pace yourself

Some of the hikers started out too fast. The flat part of the trail at the beginning of the ascent is deceiving. Some days are that way, too. We start out too fast, eager to get it all done. If you’re in a season of days when life seems all uphill, slow down. Ease in to your day. Step outside and greet the sun. Read a Psalm. Write down five things you’re thankful for. Pace yourself.

2. Take a break

As we began the ascent some of the hikers appeared fatigued and winded. They needed to take a break but pressed on to stay ahead. Soon they were forced to take a break or risk heat exhaustion and injury. When life seems all uphill, take a break. Sit down. Look around. Take in the view and listen. Catch your breath and get your second wind. Do it as many times as is necessary.

3. Lighten your load

One of the hikers was carrying a bag with water and snacks and first aid supplies. As the ascent grew steeper and legs grew tired, the weight of the bag became almost unbearable to its carrier. Another hiker took over the pack for the remainder of the journey. When life seems all uphill, lighten your load. Ask for help when you need you it. Receive the help that is offered. Let go of an unnecessary burden. Learn to say “no”.

4. Refuel

As we neared the top of the mountain one of the hikers said she wasn’t feeling well. Knowing this one the way I do I knew her body needed more than water. We insisted she refuel and soon she was feeling much better. When life seems all uphill, make sure you refuel. Listen to your body. Refuel regularly. Have lunch with a friend. Feed yourself well.

5. Look up

We were just a few feet from the end of the trail. I had hiked it enough to know. But the one who was weary couldn’t see it. We were at the steepest part of the trail and the gray boulder walls loomed high, dampening the spirit. I sat down beside her and said, “Look up. The end is right there.” She smiled and said, “OK. I can make it.” When life seems all uphill, look up. Listen to the One who is always beside you, showing you the way, and walking it with you. Know that there are others on the journey, too. Look up and smile. Breathe in grace and breathe out praise. You can make it.

 

 

Goodbye July

Stars and Stripes, Alabama, freedom, Old Glory

A Summer Get Away {just for two}

A while back I shared with you Why We Get Away. Even if you’ve read it before I think it’s worth reading again. It’s all still true. We get away to be together. Just the two of us. This time we went to another nearby city that is fast becoming one of our favorite places. Atlanta Trip skyline
It’s a short drive, there’s lots to see and do, and since I’m a country girl who loves the big city it’s the perfect place for us to get away.
stacy--atlanta
The last time we were in this city Eric was doing this:
race day 8race day 3

This trip did not include running 26.2 miles!
So on Day 1 on our way to Atlanta we stopped in Villa Rica to do a little thrifting. We browsed through a couple of places and then had lunch at The Olive Tree. Great food and great service. I had the Olive Tree Lasagna and Eric had an Tuscany Italian Sausage Panini. We barely had room for dessert but we had to try the Baklava. Delicious!
dessert, villa rica, olive tree, baklava, italian
We made it to Atlanta and checked into our hotel.
VFMLID=45291540
The Hotel Indigo is a beautiful historic building with a cool, city vibe. The hotel is beautiful and the service is the best. “Earl from Tuscaloosa” is hiding behind the desk. He’s a little camera shy I guess.
hotel indigo 2 hotel indigo3 hotel indigo5 hotel indigo4 hotel indigo6 hotel indigo7
There’s so much to see and do within walking distance.
fox theatre
We had a delicious dinner at Gordon Biersch. The Blue Crab and Artichoke Dip served with toasted crostinis was really good and very filling so we chose to share the Steak Frites. We barely had room for dessert but we had to try the Warm Apple Bread Pudding. Delicious! The next morning we enjoyed a great cup of coffee and an apple fritter at Caribou Coffee. Obviously, it’s a great place to lose track of time.
photo 3
We spent the day thrifting and just hanging out. Of course, we bought lots of great books!
thrifting, thrift store, frugal, thrift atlanta thrifting atlanta2
We had a very, very late lunch/early supper at Escorpion. The chips and salsa were delicious as were the Barbecue Pork tacos. We did not have room for dessert! Saturday morning on our way out of town we decided to try the Thumbs Up Diner. We were not disappointed. Eric had steak and eggs with a biscuit and potatoes and I had a huge slice of Challah bread french toast with real maple syrup and apple cured bacon. For dessert we had a third cup of coffee.

As we reflected on this trip we both agreed that the best part (besides being together) was the people we met and conversations we had. We met some great people and heard interesting stories wherever we went.

I realized as I looked through my photos from our trip there wasn’t a single photo of us together in Atlanta. But here’s a photo of us earlier this month on Our Cheaha Family Adventure.

eric and stacy on cheaha

And if you read Why We Get Away you already know what we feel like after our trip. But in case you forgot…

1986 beach copy

cs lewis marriage quote graphic

 

Our Cheaha Family Adventure

When we moved to Jacksonville 12 years ago we were thrilled to find out that we were just a short drive away from Cheaha State Park. It’s the highest point in Alabama at 2407 feet above sea level and the coolest spot to be in the middle of July in the south. This park has a lot to offer: great camp sites, large swimming pool and lake, hiking trails, a restaurant, store, and cabins, chalets, and hotel if camping’s not your thing.

In 2003, we kicked off our homeschooling adventure with a day trip to Cheaha. Here we are at the head of the Silent Trail at the Lake Chinnabee Recreation Area.Fall Hike at Chinnabee 2003 edit

This weekend we hiked the same trail to Devil’s Den Falls. They’ve grown up a bit.DSC_0105

The trail to the falls is steep and busy this time of year but it’s well worth the hike.DSC_0082DSC_0063

We had some jumpers.DSC_0090DSC_0084

Some spectators.DSC_0093

And a snake killer. (Sorry for the blurry photo. He kept waving that snake around and I couldn’t focus.)DSC_0069

We spent some time at the pool.DSC_0006

Here’s the view from the pool.DSC_0011 DSC_0010

We hiked to Pulpit Rock.DSC_0049 DSC_0046 DSC_0039

It’s also the best only place to get phone service.DSC_0056

We watched the Super Moon.DSC_0029

And we spent lots of time just hanging out.DSC_0036DSC_0035DSC_0023DSC_0020DSC_0018DSC_0002

A good time was had by all.Cheaha 2014 group

 

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