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.

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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

On Being Works in Progress

Heads up all you do-it-yourselfers and HGTV fans. Before y’all commit to any size home remodeling project it would behoove you to refresh yourselves on the three stages of any home improvement plan: Let’s do it, why are we doing it, and, we did it!

My man and I have just finished making over our master bathroom, so this is really fresh experience speaking. For a while it seemed we might never get out of stage two. It was hard enough to remember why we were doing it when mortar dust started blanketing everything in sight, despite the sheets of plastic that were supposed to contain it to one room, but our enthusiasm took a direct hit the day the water pipe was accidentally busted. Water plus mortar equals mud.

To make it ever more fun, it happened that I was also meeting myself coming and going to various speaking engagements during those long weeks of remodeling. Beloved Hubby, and our contractor, who had now become one of the family, were asking me questions over the phone that were way above my pay grade. But, that’s ok. I may have asked Mr. Contractor his opinion a couple times during it all, too. “Hey Ronnie, should I wear the black boots or the brown?”

Glory hallelujah, stage three finally arrived. We did it! Stage two may have been ugly, but when we look at it now we are very pleased with what we see.

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As believers, you and I are kind of like stage two. We’re works in progress, amen? What astounds me is knowing that even as Jesus is completing the good work He has begun in us, His Father and ours is already pleased with what He sees in us, and it’s all because of Jesus. I know. It’s crazy good, but the amazing truth is that God looks upon us with pleasure because He sees the finished work of Christ. Hear the two of them now, surveying the work of the Cross and announcing with joy, “We did it!”

Grace to Behave

When we were growing up on the end of Bull Run Road, my sisters and I spent many a Saturday accompanying Mama to Tallulah, LA to buy groceries and supplies for the coming week, mostly against our will. We would’ve preferred running hog wild in the fields that surrounded our house or playing Chase Don’t Touch the Ground on the farm equipment under Papa’s shed. We considered splitting precious daylight hours between the A&P and TG&Y and then traveling home again to unload and put away the supplies to be a form of torture.

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Our lack of enthusiasm probably contributed to Mama’s habit of making sure we didn’t leave home without hearing her favorite warning, “I expect you girls to behave today.”

I suppose it was a reasonable expectation, given the continuing education course Mama was putting us through on the many things little ladies did and did not do. We understood full well that we should behave, and what it meant to behave, but it wasn’t unusual for us to run out of resolve way before Mama ran out of errands.

That childhood memory makes me smile, but it also gives me cause to celebrate Father God’s marvelous provision for you and I in Christ Jesus. Color me exceedingly grateful that God doesn’t begin His work in us as believers by telling us to behave. The law did a stellar good job of proving that we don’t know how, which came as no surprise to God. In fact, according to the Apostle Paul, the law came for that very reason– to teach us how desperately needy we are and to prepare us for the saving work of Christ.

On this side of the cross, God asks us to believe and trust in Jesus so we can behave– through the power of His Holy Spirit, the Hope of Glory, living through us. And then he asks us to keep our eyes on Jesus and keep believing so that we can keep on behaving. Or, in the words of that same great Apostle, “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” Romans 6.14

Our blessed takeaway? Through His amazing grace, Father God has made it so that He can say, “I expect you to behave today,” and you and I are equipped to comply. Somebody needs to say Hallelujah!

Hugs, Shellie

 

The Tale of Mrs. Forgetful and Doctor Do Right

I have a poor track record where taking medicine is concerned. It’s a personal failing that should in no way be laid at the feet of the medical community. Many a good doctor has tried to reform me, bless their collective hearts, with little success. Before we go any further, let it be noted that there have been at least two exceptions to this rule. That would be Jessica and Phillip. My medical misses did not apply to my offspring.

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Back in the day, when it came time to administer meds to my kids, Mrs. Forgetful here turned into Doctor Do Right, seeing to it that they got every dose, capsule, or vitamin prescribed. Indeed, the issue has always been one of me doctoring me. I know I should take the full round of prescribed antibiotics lest I invite a relapse, and I always intend to comply, but once I start seeing improvements I’m prone to tapering off on the dosage.

Do you think my diligence in doling out my kids’ prescriptions leaves me without excuse in my own hit and miss habit? I do, but I’m willing to bring it up anyway because I see a teachable moment for all of us who have a heart to follow Christ. As believers, we can fall victim to a similar mentality. I’ll explain.

We’ll run to Jesus like the sin-sick folks we are, filling our minds with His loving promises because they fall like balm on our aching souls. Only, once we start “doing better” (for lack of a better description), we tend to taper off, unintentionally perhaps, unconsciously maybe, but the consequences are the same. Slowly, our thoughts turn less and less to Christ and more and more to the daily demands of what we call the real world. Can you say relapse? Our greatest strength lies in knowing that we need Jesus today as much as we needed Him yesterday. We have no stores of grace in us. Our life is in Him. In Him alone are we whole.

The strongest believers become increasingly more dependent on Jesus, not less.

Hugs, Shellie