No Whip-Poor-Wills Or Applesauce Cake

Flowers in the North End that resemble flowers on Walton’s Mountain

For Christmas 2021, my husband gave me the complete DVD set of The Waltons (a TV show from the 1970s). If I recall correctly, we began watching it straight through sometime in February, finishing with the six epilogue movies shortly after Thanksgiving. We own several DVD sets of other TV shows, and had almost decided which of them to watch next. But as the final show closed with Earl Hamner reading the voice-over of John Boy’s journal entry, I knew I wanted to go through the series again.

John Boy’s character is based on Earl Hamner Jr., who grew up in rural Virginia during the Depression era. Like Hamner, John Boy is an aspiring writer, writing mostly about his family and Walton’s Mountain. He writes with simplicity, and yet with a poignancy that often astounds me. I especially love his descriptions of the mountain at night, with its sounds and smells intermingled with fond memories of his family as they bid each other good night.

As a child, oddly enough, I had no patience for descriptive passages. I much preferred dialogue. But Earl Hamner and John Boy had such a way of using words, that they transport me to their world of whip-poor-wills and applesauce cake and younger siblings who cause irritation and joy. Each time John Boy or Earl Hamner reads the prose that supposedly flow from John Boy’s pen, I find myself wishing I could make my words paint such beautiful pictures. Perhaps the exquisite quality of those brief moments inspired me to go through the series a second time.

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Christmas: The Teacher Of Humility

As a Christian blogger, I feel a different sort of pressure at this time of year than most people feel, especially when other bloggers start writing about Advent and Christmas before I can even digest my Thanksgiving turkey. I scratch my head at my reticence to join their ranks, particularly due to my fascination with the Incarnation. Wouldn’t you think that I’d be chomping at the bit to blog about the wonder of God becoming Man? But honestly, I’m just not interested in writing Christmas themed articles right now.

A lot of the problem comes from knowing that I don’t have anything original to say about the Incarnation. Or at least feeling as if I have nothing worthwhile to contribute to the conversation. In my pride, I demand that I come up with a fresh angle on it to dazzle my readers — skillfully displaying both my cultivated talents as a writer (my college professors would be so pleased!) and my grasp of God’s Word.

Did you catch the phrase, “In my pride?” What an ironic attitude to harbor after my pastor, in preaching through Ephesians, recently did an entire sermon on humility! Look at this passage:

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. ~~Ephesians 4:11-6 (NASSB95)

My pastor focused his sermon on the first three words of verse 2: “with all humility.”

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Having Jesus Fit Our Expectations

Once again, there’s another “evangelistic” campaign floating around which emphasizes God’s love at the expense of mentioning topics like sin, wrath and judgment. I choose not to name this latest movement primarily because it will most likely fade away quickly and be replaced by a repackaged version of the same basic error. Frankly, this emphasis is nothing new; in my over 50 years as a Christian, I’ve seen it crop up numberless times. (I also prefer not to give this campaign publicity.)

Scripture gives us good reason to trust that Jesus understands everything we experience as human beings, and therefore sympathizes with our struggles. A wonderful passage in Hebrews assures us of His ability to empathize with our suffering.

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. ~~Hebrews 4:14-16 (NASB95)

This passage fills us with comfort, as well it should! We all have times — often protracted times, actually — when troubles lead us into the temptations of anxiety, self-pity and despair. In such times, we crave assurance that Jesus stands beside us, giving us far more empathy than our friends and family ever could. So we rejoice that we have such a faithful and understanding Friend Who willingly goes through our trials with us. And if we don’t rejoice in His empathy, we should! Dear sisters in Christ, please never forget how deeply He cares, even when it seems as if nothing will ever be right again.

At the same time, focusing too much on the Lord’s compassion has a serious drawback that causes a skewed perception of Him. Speaking from both personal experience and observations of some of the ways my friends have dealt with struggles, I firmly believe that we often emphasize His compassion so much that we forget His holiness.

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Why Me?

Years ago, a member of my family suffered a serious injury. Almost immediately, she asked the rhetorical question, “What did I do to deserve this?” Her question is a typical reaction to calamity.

Over the past few years, I’ve been asking the same question, but in a completely different context. As the Holy Spirit has (finally) convinced me that I played absolutely no part in my salvation, I’ve been asking, “Why me? Why would He choose someone as stubborn and prideful as me?” As I look at myself, I simply can’t find any logical reason that He would want me.

People have suggested that my disability gives God opportunity to display His glory, which is true on one level. They point to my writing abilities as their evidence that the Lord uses me, in my disability, to compose essays that direct others to Him. They mention my faith. How remarkable, they gush, that I trust in His goodness as I sit in this wheelchair! They really believe God brought me to salvation because my cheerful attitude in the face of adversity glorifies Him.

And maybe it does — on occasion.

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Flashback Friday: What Can I Say About The Gospel That Hasn’t Already Been Said?

Originally Published June 21, 2019:

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Lately, evangelicals have been telling us that social justice is a “Gospel issue.” A recent comment on one of my blog posts suggested that the Gospel teaches us to have unity despite theological differences (a point worthy of its own article). These sentiments, as well as similar sentiments I’ve heard throughout the years,  prompt me to think that we need periodic reminders of what the Gospel actually is.

Most of you may decide not to read this article. Why waste time reading about something so basic? Do I have new insights into the Gospel? Perhaps a fresh take on it? Can I present it in a creative manner that makes it more interesting? More relevant?

No, I can’t. As a matter of fact, adding to the Gospel would lead me to damnation (Galatians 1:8). I have no interest in dressing it up for the purpose of making it more appealing and/or entertaining.

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There’s Hope Within Those Clouds

A year ago, we all breathed a sigh of relief. 2020, with its lockdowns, social distancing and masks, was finally receding into the rear view mirror. Two vaccines had been approved, and a third was pending. We heard vague promises that schools would reopen and we’d be eating indoors at our favorite restaurants again. My doctor assured me that, once people got their shots, mask mandates would end and I could use para-transit and public transportation without anyone questioning her note exempting me from wearing a mask. We greeted New Year’s Day 2021 enthusiastically. This year would be better!

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The Gospel Christmas Teaches

I designed this quotation of Hebrews 1:1-3 as the front of the Christmas card that John and I are giving to our Personal Care Attendants this year. I wanted something unexpected — something a little more difficult for them to gloss over. Something that pointed to the deity of Christ in a way they may have never considered before.

As I worked on the graphic, wrestling with it for about an hour to keep the darker areas of the gradient from blending into the background, I read the passage several times. Although I’d originally intended on emphasizing the first and second verses, verse 3 captivated my attention. Amid testing colors and printing out samples to check how the graphic looked on paper, I grew increasingly amazed by how the writer of Hebrews moved from the sufficiency of God’s Word to Christ’s Incarnation to the atonement and resurrection in three verses. What a wonderful way to present the Gospel in a Christmas card!

The more I thought about this little fragment of God’s Word, the more I wanted to write a blog post about the rich teaching it contains. The writer’s economy in condensing the Gospel message into just three verses encourages me to remember the simplicity, and yet the profound magnificence of our Lord and Savior. We celebrate His birth precisely because He is the glorious One described in this beautiful introduction to Hebrews. So let’s spend a few minutes enjoying the teaching in this small portion of God’s Word.

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The Person Christmas Celebrates — Hymn 4

Silent Night

O Come, All Ye Faithful

What Child Is This

Angels We Have Heard On High

All these beloved Christmas hymns exalt the Lord Jesus Christ, boldly proclaiming Who He is and why He came. Since my childhood, I’ve cherished each of them, growing more fond of them once I became a Christian. I love these hymns because they celebrate God’s incarnation. All Christians probably love them for the same reason.

Another beloved Christmas hymn stands out to me as perhaps the one that most magnifies Who Jesus Christ is. Its lyrics beautifully portray His glory and His humility. Maybe the other hymns I’ve mentioned do the same, but this hymn strikes a chord with me far more deeply. Over the years, it seems to grow more profound and wonderous in its depiction of the mighty God as the offspring of a virgin’s womb.

Enjoy these powerful lyrics that exalt our precious Lord Who was born to give us second birth. May your Christmas be filled with glory to the newborn King!

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A Song To Make Us Think

As a teenager, I liked the music of B.J. Thomas — especially “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head.” So I praised the Lord when, somewhere around 1979, he made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. I bought both of his Christian albums and wore out my cassette player by playing them.

Monday John put “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” on YouTube in honor of the weather. I then asked him to search for Thomas’ Christian songs (he had no idea that B.J. Thomas had recorded Christian songs), and we were pleasantly surprised that YouTube had quite a number of them.

Of course they were simplistic and a tad smaltzy. Most popular Christian music during that time period was. But John and I listened to several songs, hoping B.J. Thomas had a genuine conversion.

One song captured my attention.

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Throwback Thursday: Missing The Reason That I Long For Heaven

Originally published September 6, 2016:

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Many evangelicals assume that my eagerness for heaven stems from a desire to escape my disability. I understand their assumption. After all, Cerebral Palsy (especially such a severe case) imposes multiple restrictions on me, and those restrictions often carry a variety of subtexts. So of course one would conclude that the promise of a new body, free of the limitations currently thrust on me, holds a significant appeal for me.

In one sense, it does. But only when I view heaven in terms of how it will benefit me. And as I grow in understanding doctrine, I become increasingly convinced that most professing Christians hold an inverted view of heaven and its purposes.

Somewhere in my past, a friend posited the idea that heaven would be different for each of us, according to our interests, tastes and desires. Using her paradigm, heaven for me would be a giant art  museum filled with works by Leonardo, Michelangelo, Monet, Sargent and Rockwell. With cheesecake for meals. Her heaven would be stables of magnificent horses for her to ride and sturdy oak trees for her to climb.

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