Jesus Doesn’t Do Tagbacks

Don’t blink or Summer 2015 will be over, in the books. Done.

That startles me.

I made all sorts of promises to myself when the weather started warming up here in northeast Louisiana. This summer I would work less and spend more time on the lake or in the pool, less time being a grownup and more time playing like a kid. And here we are, well into August and I’m having my own little come to Jesus meeting over the realization that, as hot as it is, this season is passing all too quickly. I’m also renewing my promise. As Yogi would say, “It ain’t over, ’til it’s over.” Mark my words, y’all. Before the summer’s out, this belle is going to play Marco Polo ’til her fingers shrivel.

You do remember Marco Polo? That’s the pool game where the person who is “It” closes his or her eyes and chases the rest of the players around hollering “Marco!” while listening for them to respond with “Polo”– all this to give the designated chaser a fair chance at tagging them. By the way, if I could make the rules there would be no tag-backs in Marco Polo, ever. It’s no fun when the tagged tags the tagger. And it’s unbiblical on top of that!

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Okay, so I’m joking about that unbiblical part, but I was thinking about tag backs earlier in the light of the gospel. Humor me.

Jesus came and revealed Himself as the Light of the world and then He said to all who would believe in Him, “Now, you be the light.” He came as the Bread from heaven and then He told us to feed His sheep. He came as the Teacher and He told us to pass on His teachings.

 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28: 18-20

Granted, this is going to be an oversimplification, but I think we’re often guilty of using our prayers to tag Jesus back, so to speak, thus avoiding His directive and missing the opportunity to join Him in His transforming work.

Blink, and this world is going to pass away. It’s past time for us to be the hands and feet of Jesus, and no tag backs!

Hugs, Shellie

On Secret Service, Going to Heaven, and Calling Ahead

My cell phone buzzed late the other night with an attention getting text message from my daughter-in-law Carey, who I knew to be vacationing with my son and grandchildren in the fine state of Texas.

“Well, Keggie,” the text began, “we had a little run in with the Secret Service today, but we’re okay.”

Excuse me?! I quickly sent Carey a number of question marks along with plea not to leave me hanging. To her credit, she responded just as quickly with the rest of the story. Phillip and Carey are big fans of Fixer Upper on HGTV. (For that matter, so am I!) They had visited the Gaines’ retail store in Waco, and had even seen Chip and Joanna’s farmhouse from a distance, when it occurred to them that they may as well look for George’s place while they were in the area. Pardon me, where are my manners? That’d be President George Walker Bush, and the legendary Crawford ranch.

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The kids found it, too. (Go Garmin!) At least, they assumed they’d found it when they turned down a road and the Secret Service started running towards their vehicle! YIKES! Phillip did a quick turnaround in a nearby drive as the entire family grinned and waved in a “We’ll be leaving now” type of way!

Leave it to my family to engage with the Secret Service while on vacation. I told the kids it might be best to phone ahead the next time they decided to drop in on a living President. They agreed.

I bring you the story by way of reminder that there’s coming a day when all of us will find ourselves face to face with the highest authority of all, God Almighty, eternal ruler of heaven and earth– and most of us won’t have time to get ready for that meeting, either. We’ll turn a corner, so to speak, and there we’ll be. Only we won’t have time to change our minds and start backpedaling.

If you aren’t ready for such a day, I humbly beg you to stop right now, and call ahead. That number, #911 Jesus!

Hugs,
Shellie

I Think, You Think, We all Think

Hundreds of years ago, a French philosopher named Rene Descartes shut himself up in a room to do some thinking. He did a lot of thinking, too. In fact, good old Rene did so much thinking that even today people are still thinking about one of the things he thought. Rene’s the fellow who said: “I think, therefore I am.”

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I don’t know how Rene got his most important thought to go viral as this was centuries before Al Gore pretended to invent the Internet but word got around and Rene’s big thought has been cussed and discussed ever since. From what I understand, Rene was saying that the very ability to think proves that the one thinking exists.

Can I be honest? I could think about that all day long and I still wouldn’t see why it’s such a big revelation, but then I’m no philosopher. I’m simply a Jesus loving, story stacking country girl who is about to say something that will sound unbelievably audacious to the intellectuals among us. Bear with me, brilliant people, but I would like to suggest that Rene’s sentence stops a mite short.

How about “I think, therefore I am angry” or “I think, therefore I am sad, or worried, or– you fill in the blank”. All I’m saying is that our thoughts may prove our existence, but they also dictate our experience.

And that’s why you’ll find telling the Lord these days that I simply can’t be trusted to be alone with my thoughts. I’ve come to understand that I need Him in all of them and I want Him in all of them because apart from Him, my thoughts deteriorate quickly. This after so many early years in the faith when my attitude was that if I had given God a dutiful block of my attention, the rest of the day and all of my thinking was mine.

I sense God’s pleasure that I finally understand how needy I am.

All I’m saying is that I think, therefore I need God in all of my thoughts. So do you. Think about it.

Hugs, Shellie

Living Exposed to the Light

Glow in the dark silly putty for a dollar?  Okie dokie! I tossed five packages of putty in my cart and continued towards the checkout.

The silly putty was an impulse buy during one of my half dozen trips to the grocery store last week. The multiple shopping sprees were a byproduct of having a week-long celebration with family and friends.  But, back to the silly putty.  I got suckered in on that purchase because it was raining cats and dogs at the time and my grands were temporarily relegated to the inside of my house creating what I call lovely chaos.

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I thought perhaps the silly putty would keep the little yard younguns busy. And it did. For at least five whole minutes.

That’s about how long it took me to get their prizes out of the packages and escort the littles into the secret playhouse (aka walk-in closet) I had made for them in the double bedroom. And that would be the scene of the big fail. Five green gobs of putty; no glow.

By the time I had read the fine detail on the packaging and discovered our putty needed to be exposed to a bright light in order to function as it was designed, the wee ones– who have the collective attention span of a gnat hyped up on caffeine– had lost interest. It was just me and the failed goo, and the inkling of something I knew I’d want to share with y’all.

So, here it is. I know this world is growing darker all the time but I refuse to wring my hands and pine for what was. I’m a realist, but I’m also a born again, blood bought optimist who longs to fulfill my purpose for living on this planet in this important hour, to apprehend that for which I’ve been apprehended by Christ.

Fellow believer, it’s time to shine like beacons of light in our ever darkening world but we won’t shine unless we’ve been living exposed and vulnerable to the Light!

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” John 8:12

Simply calling ourselves by the Name of Christ won’t make us shine. Walking and living in relationship with Him, will. We can be light or we can be silly putty.

Choose well.

The Curious Work of Processing Words

When I really need to process something, I find I must sit down and work it out through my fingers. Over and over again God has used my own words to speak to me, my own words to teach me what He is asking of me.

I’ve heard friends express similar sentiments. Some are published authors and others journal for their private enjoyment, but they’ve all had the experience of learning through their own writing. I tell you this in hopes that you’ll understand why I’m so completely captivated by the following verse. I discovered it while doing Biblical research for my current manuscript. The words are attributed to King David but they feel like my own.

“All this,” said David, “the Lord made me understand in writing by His hand upon me…” I Chronicles 28:19

Wow. David was made to understand, in writing, by the pressure of God’s hand? Swap a scroll for a keyboard and you’ve got King David processing what God was telling Him through his fingers, much as I do. Much as you may do.

Then again, maybe you learn through conversation. I get that, too. Over the years I’ve been instructed, counseled, and encouraged by God while praying and during heart to heart conversations with other believers. So, yes I’m familiar with that kind of “iron sharpening iron” friendship, but I’m freshly aware that I need to pay even closer attention to the way my heart burns when my fellow believers and I are chatting, and to the itch I feel in my fingers when I need to understand. I believe this is one more way our great mysterious God invites us to search Him out– through our very own words.

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It puts me in mind of another scripture, “Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who esteem His name.” Malachi 3:16

It also makes me want to talk All Things Jesus with my friends. Drop me a line sometime.

Hugs, Shellie

Are You Sitting Down?

One day, years before children were routinely buckled into car seats, Savannah Grace and her mother were traveling down a deserted country road. Savannah couldn’t have been more than three at the time and while she knew she wasn’t allowed to stand up in the seat, she found it challenging to abide by the rule.

“Savannah Grace, sit down.” Her mother said it gently the first couple of times. Each time Savannah dutifully sat down and each time she sprang right back to her feet after a moment or two. The scenario kept playing itself until her mother finally said, “Savannah Grace! If you don’t sit down and stay seated, I’m going to reach over there and spank your little legs.”

Savannah sat down. They drove on in silence for a few miles until Julia sneaked a peak out of the corner of her eye and saw Savannah’s bottom lip quivering. Her heart melted a bit, as a mother’s heart is prone to do. Reaching over and patting her little girl lovingly on the leg, Julia said, “I’m proud of you. You’re sitting down just like I asked.”

Savannah let out a big old harrumph. “Well,” she said, “I might be sitting down on the outside but I’m standing up on the inside!”

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That story always tickles me and it never fails to amuse my audiences. I suspect it’s because we see ourselves in Savannah. The truth is, we can spend our entire churchified lives sitting down on the outside and standing up on the inside, all the while justifying our willfulness. After all, it’s our life and we know what we want out of it and how to go about getting it. At least we think we do.

It’s the reasoning Eve once employed, the thinking that resulted in she and Adam being removed from the garden. And it’s the enemy of anyone who wants to lay claim to the enormous privilege the first couple lost– the joy of walking with God. You and I will miss or discover the blessings of God’s company by yielding our will to His. One submitted choice on top of another.

Hugs, Shellie

Open Wide! Here Comes the Airplane!

Remember that? It’s from a meal time game most of us have played with a wee one at one point or another. The spoon is the circling airplane and the child’s mouth is the hanger. The object? To get the youngster in question to allow another bite of whatever food you’re offering into his or her mouth.

airplane

Should you ever find yourself feeding my youngest grandchild, Weston the Wonder Boy, you will quickly realize that particular game is unnecessary. Weston is super willing to open his mouth wide. The challenge lies more along the line of shoveling it in fast enough to please him. Wonder Boy is just shy of eighteen months old but he’s been eating like a farmhand from the first day he was offered solid food. We’ve never really seen him get full. He simply gets removed from the table when his little belly starts looking like it may explode and taken away from the dining area. Total removal is necessary because as long as Wonder Boy can still see food, he thinks he should be eating it.

In Psalm 81:10 God says to the Children of Israel, “Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.” It’s a divine offer that stands for all of His people, for all of time, you and I included. And from the context of the passage we can see that God is talking about much more than physical food.

He’s encouraging the people to look to Him for fulfillment, provision, and direction. The promise is that if they will obey Him, He will satisfy their longings. Sadly, over the next few verses we can also see that the people declined His gracious offer. They turned a deaf ear to their Deliverer and God in turn allowed them to take their fill of the rotting culture around them.

May we not be found making the same sad choice they made. Let’s have a God appetite modeled after Weston the Wonder Boy. Let’s live eager God hungry lives, opening our mouths wide and asking God to feed us with the Bread of Life.

Hugs, Shellie

The End from the Beginning

Years ago my best friend and I made a commitment to give the eulogy at each other’s funeral. We felt confident that we both knew precisely the goodbye service the other one would want: a respectful but jubilant get-together with upbeat music, as much laughter as possible, and a heartfelt invitation for everyone present to trust the Jesus we live for and adore. The two of us felt good about our pact, until the day one of our brilliant friends pointed out that we couldn’t actually speak at each other’s funerals.

“And why not?” We asked in unison.

She answered in the tone one might use with a toddler, “Because somebody would have to come back from the grave to make the second one happen.”

Oh. We were forced to agree that Mrs. Smarty Pants had a point. I suppose we could prepare our reciprocating eulogies in advance but the idea doesn’t appeal to either of us.

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Of course, newspapers do that sort of thing. They keep prepared obituaries for all kinds of famous people on file. They have obits ready for the aged and or ill celebrity, and they have carefully crafted eulogies for the famous person who is publicly spinning out of control. Even if, chronologically speaking, the troubled star should have years ahead of them, their obituary is often written and waiting for the date behind the dash.

It can sound fatalistic, unless we remind ourselves that someone still has to see that such an advance obit is updated and revised before it’s published, lest it be filled with erroneous information. For there is only One who knows the end from the beginning.

Only God knows what we’ve been called to do in our years here on earth, and what we will do. I’m freshly convinced that our struggle is not in unearthing and fulfilling this individual mission before our obituary is finalized.

Rather, our challenge is to live with one goal, to know God and the One whom He has sent, Jesus Christ the Son. In doing this we can’t but become exactly who He purposed us to be.

Hugs, Shellie

To Retain the Joy, Revel in the Grace

Lately, I’m finding myself fielding an increasing number of questions on the subject of writing. Most are reasonable inquiries on contacting an agent and finding a publisher. And then the others, those who want to know how quickly they can expect to make the big bucks. I consider these humor relief. This writer has been in the business for over a decade now and the only big bucks I’ve seen during that time period were sporting a rack and four legs.  booksblogBig checks are for big dogs. You can think of me as junior varsity. Did you know an author can even crack the NYT’s Best Seller list without seeing a large monetary windfall? Again, that’s on the authority of my author friend as I’ve yet to crack that code. However, if you’re now duly impressed with my literary accomplishments, I shall proceed with today’s announcement. I’m considering hosting my first ATS Writing and Publishing Workshop this summer to pass on everything I know about the industry. (It shouldn’t take long.)

All jokes aside, I do want to pay it forward but I’ll be taking a limited number of applicants, so please contact me through All Things Southern if you’re interested in joining us. Among other topics, I intend to explain why writing can be easier before you learn how. Confused? You’ll have to show up to hear me unpack that bit of wisdom. I want to use my closing thoughts to consider how applicable that thought can be to our spiritual journey.

When we first come to faith, discovering we can be set right with God, forever, through the atoning work of Jesus mesmerizes us with its simplicity. Fully accepted, we apply ourselves to learning more about God. But caution friend, if we substitute the study of God for the friendship of God, we’ll soon find it was easier to walk with Jesus before we learned how! The good news? It doesn’t have to be that way. We don’t have to fall into the pit of religion. To retain the joy, revel in the grace. It really is that simple.

Avert Your Gaze and Look Away to Jesus

The beautiful young Hispanic boy behind the expressive dark brown eyes and gentle smile holds a special place in many hearts, including mine. His name is Landon, he’s twelve years old, and he’s my godson.

When Landon was five years old, he was diagnosed with Asperger, a highly functioning form of autism. He also deals with Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder, or OCD. Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder is characterized by uncontrollable, unwanted thoughts and repetitive, ritualized behaviors that a person feels compelled to perform. Landon’s OCD can frustrate the most routine everyday activities, like hand-washing.

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Landon doesn’t mind washing his hands. It’s stopping that gives him trouble. Landon’s tendency has been to wash and keep on washing long, held captive at the faucet by his OCD and unable to move on even if intellectually he realizes that his hands are sufficiently clean. And yet, a few days ago, his mother was telling me that together she and Landon have figured out an answer for the endless hand-washing. These days, when Landon can’t break away from this task, he calls for his mother. With Vicki at his side, Landon is able to look away from the water and allow his mother to turn off the faucet and dry his hands.

I introduce you to our sweet Landon today because his story compels me to share my own personal story of repetitive cleansing. In the past, I’ve suffered from what I’ll call religious washing. Many a time I’ve set out to seek God’s face only to become entangled instead in my own efforts to cleanse myself up enough, present myself sincere enough, to merit room at His throne. The temptation is especially strong if the heavens feel like brass and God feels far away. Oh, sure, theologically, I know I can’t ever wash myself clean, but I can still fall prey to trying.

Today I’m incredibly grateful for Father God teaching me that, much as Landon calls for his mother, my victory from religious washing is only found in calling out for Jesus and looking away from me. As John said, “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin.” I John 1:7.

Consider me your witness, to discover the joy of being fully accepted and forever welcome at God’s throne, major on the finished work of Christ.

Baby Selfies, Belfies, and What in the World?

I love finding baby selfies on my iPhone, images of plump little lips belonging to wee ones who’ve managed to turn a camera phone on themselves long enough to capture partial glimpses of their own sweet faces. Oh, yes, those please! I have one of Weston the Wonder Boy from Easter 2015 stored on my phone right now that could melt butter.

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Grandkids aside, however, today I want to talk about the big people pouty lips and smiling selfies streaming endlessly on our social media walls. Please know that I am not venturing into this topic lightly. Some of my most favorite people in all the world post selfies now and again, so this is me proceeding respectfully and very carefully.

Are we good? Okay, consider this. Somewhere around 93 million selfies are posted daily. The numbers differ according to who’s counting and what platforms are being included, and Lord have mercy on my soul, that’s not even counting the belfies (if you don’t know what a belfie is, count your blessings and ignore that reference). Still, by anyone’s accounting, that’s a whole lot of duck lips. Why, these days we can even buy selfie poles to help extend our cameras for better self-portraits. It all begs a question.

What in the world?

The group shot snagged selfie style because everyone wants to be in the picture is one thing, as is the special event selfie, and the occasional selfie itself. I’m talking about the need to consistently and repetitively pose alone and share it with the world.

What are we to make of this?

If a picture is worth a thousand words, could it be we’re looking at mankind’s incessant need to be seen, noticed, and/or acknowledged? I think so. And yet, the fullest grandest life is found, not in being acknowledged, but in acknowledging and beholding Jesus, meeting place between God and man.

As followers of this Jesus, we’ve been called to die to self, not to promote it but my experience has been that self has a thousand lives. Amen? I don’t claim to have all the answers but I do have an idea. The next time we’re tempted to broadcast our own face, let’s stop and seek His. If ever something needed to go viral, we’re looking at it.

#SeekHisFace could change the world.

Hugs, Shellie

Oh, How He Loves Us. Oh!

In my first book, “Lessons Learned on Bull Run Road”, I wrote about my summer love affair with the bookmobile from the East Carroll Parish Library. I couldn’t find an image of that old vehicle but it looked a whole lot like this.

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For a little booklover at the end of a dirt road, miles from a public library, that bus of books lumbering down our country road looked like a traveling amusement park. Granted, I did have a problem with the bookmobile’s rule of six books per child, but I soon found a way around that, too. I’d do chores for my sisters in exchange for their book count, since they weren’t all fired up about reading, anyway. Score!

Picture mini me headed back up the drive with my mother lode, eighteen books. Life was good.

Fast forward with me, if you will. It appears my little radio talk show, ATS LIVE has garnered the attention of book publicists everywhere as they are sending me books by the boatload. Please hear me, I don’t think this is because I’m setting the world on fire with my Monday evening talk show as much as it is about the extreme volume of books out there and the need for today’s author to get in front of eyes and ears. Whatever the reason, practically every single work day, a big brown truck lumbers down my long driveway and a sweet fellow gets out and hands me books. Free books. Do you see the pattern? I didn’t. Not for the longest anyway.

And then, one day, I was walking back inside with a stack of freshly delivered books when literally out of the blue two words fell into my heart. “You’re welcome.” Just that quickly, the scene around me faded and I was rooted to the spot, thinking about that mini me longing for books and this grown-up me awash in ’em.

I share this story, dear listener, to celebrate the incredible intimacy of our Heavenly Father who sees the end from the beginning. I’m not His favorite. You are. And you, and you, and you. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him would not perish but would have everlasting life.” John 3:16

He knows us, one and all. He knows what makes us tick and what ticks us off– and He loves us, everyone. Oh, how He loves us. Oh.

Hugs, Shellie