Thursday, August 27, 2009

Churches and Bars

I have communicated recently with a dear friend who is hurting.
His life is hard.
Painful and full of fear for the future.
I know how that feels and you probably do as well.

My wonderful Aunt Eve was an alcoholic for a great deal of her life. Living alone in Dallas, she found a tremendous support system in the Alcoholics Anonymous Association. That great organization assisted her to remain sober for about 25 years before her death on Christmas eve of 2000.
She believed that her 25 years of sobriety was one of her greatest accomplishments.

Her way of following God did not resemble my path to Him.
Aunt Eve would never be described as a "church lady".
When she visited us here in Arkansas, she came to our church and was loved and welcomed, but I always get the feeling that she really didn't approve of our church.
I don't think she felt as if she fit in.
She was always eager to go home and get back to her "club" in the smoky Dallas AA meeting room. It was her church and she was a faithful attender every week.

Aunt Eve asked one day;
"Do you know the difference between your church and the local bar?"
Well now.
I (we) could think of several differences!
Differences like,....Cigarette smoke? Drunks? Poor lighting? Hookers? Sin?
Ya know,..important things that lots of us "church people" have strong opinions about.

"Do you know the difference between your church and the local bar?"
I will never forget her answer......
She said "The people at the bar will tell you the truth when you ask how they are doing."

Is that not the truth?
Is that not the truth.

Our culture values our privacy and independence, however, I think we could use a little more transparency. We go to church every Sunday and sit next to people who seem to have their life all in order.
That's discouraging for those of us who don't.

This Sunday, when people ask me "How ya doin?" ....I think I'll just blurt it out and tell them I'm a crazy mess.
Who knows,..I just may cheer someone up!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Great Gulf Fixed

Here is your scripture passage to ponder for the day.
(why thank you Becky for managing everyone's life)

Luke 16 tells a touching and sobering story about the rich man and Lazarus.
It's a familiar story to most of us but I'm hung up on a verse right smack in the middle of the story which usually doesn't get much attention.
If you recall, the rich man was in the torments of hell when he lifted up his eyes and saw Lazarus in Heaven and in Abraham's embrace. The rich man asked for mercy from Abraham and begged for Lazarus to be sent to him with even a small drop of water.

Here's the reply:
v. 25 But Abraham said, "Son, remember that in your lifetime, you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.
(this next part is what's giving me pause,..)
v.26 and besides all this, between us and you is a great gulf fixed so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us."

"........Those who want to pass from here to you?....."
Do what?
There are instances of people in Heaven wishing to go to the occupants of hell?

This will be a point of discussion and study for me in the next couple of days.
One of the ways I changed the most since Jae's death is that I no longer accept some of the things which I've always thought to be true.
(and I'm tellin ya,..that's not always been a positive thing!)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Middle Of The Night Inventory

Note the time.
Does anyone out there do this besides me?

One thing that's keeping me from sleeping is
Ralph's hairy daughter. Sophie's been sleeping with Casey for a few weeks and now she's back in our bed because Casey's gone back to school.
Our kids hardly ever slept with us because I'm similar to "Princess and the Pea." Everything and anything will keep me awake.

A scripture that's recently inspired me is
the story of the prodigal son. I listened to my friend David Jeremiah preach on it as I drove home last night. I almost took the long way home so I wouldn't have to turn off the car radio. Instead I went ahead and drove home ..'cuase he's on a CD!! :) I get to listen again in just a couple of hours when I drive back in to work.
I just really really needed the reminder about the Father's grace.

The song that's been on my mind is
the one I posted on my other blog

I currently reading
no books.
Other blogs. Hey,...that counts!
In fact, go to my high school friend Rob's blog. Rob leonard is an incredible servant/writer/man of God. He's neck-deep and whole-heartedly in the trenches of a college ministry.
I wish I knew my place in God's work like Rob does.

I'm currently spending a lot of time on
planning a video scavenger hunt for our church youth group this Saturday night.
Also trying to create a logo and design a website (which is way out of my league).
And gazing at my new horse.
Did I tell you we now have a "Draft horse"? This type of horse is a member of the Clydesdale family. We got him because the owner has a carriage business and "Pete" is too short to pull the carriage.
I now own a runt Clydesdale.

One thing big in my future is
that I volunteered (somebody slap me) to organize the publicity for the national Gathering of Bereaved Parents which will be in Little Rock next summer. (Really,..just go ahead and knock some sense into me).

Something I'm pleased about is
Abby's first day of school. She came home all bubbly about her classes and schedule and it was fun to hear her talk about it all.

I wish
I could sleep.

A fun thing I did recently
was fill in about a hundred dates on our family calender. This is our busy season with Abby's band and Casey's games in Fayetteville.
Oh yeah! We also rented a pontoon boat last week for her 21st birthday. It was an incredible day. You see, although my family does a lot of camping, we are not "boat people". We have never owned a boat nor have any of us driven one.
Ralph had this massive party barge doing wide open figure 8's in the lake all day long. The other boats tried to avoid us I'm sure, but it was hard.... Ralph kept aiming for and driving through all of their wakes.

Ok dear friends,.... Thanks for staying up with me.
You've been a great listener!
(hee hee)

Monday, August 17, 2009

What The Teachers Did Right

Our church is hosting a "Teacher appreciation" luncheon for the elementary teachers at our school across the road.
I am bringing crackers.

As I drove home from the grocery store, it occurred to me that crackers is a teeny tiny, too small of a thing to bring to the teachers who invested so much into the lives of my daughters, nieces and nephews.

They pour their lives into my children for years and I bring them crackers?

That's not a fair trade-off.

If Jae, Casey and Abby's teachers were right here in front of me, I would tell them this:

1. Thank you for the field trips, even though they were a lot of trouble. Most were educational, but they all created wonderful memories.
2. Thank you for requiring 30 minutes of reading 5 nights a week. That graded "homework" created a love for reading like no other assignment. You let them read whatever they wanted to and let them keep their own time-sheet. It was homework which created hours of close family time as we lay side-by-side reading books.
3. Thank you for using encouraging endearments and giving them affirming nicknames.
4. Thank you for laughing loudly when they are funny.
5. Thank you for not laughing when they would be embarrassed.
6. Thank you for playing with them at recess and occasionally eating with them at lunch time.
7. Your lesson plans which included art and music were worth the trouble. We talked about those often at our supper table.
8. Thank you for noticing that she needed glasses. How in the world did I miss that?
9. I am grateful that you have not tolerated mean and screaming co-workers in the other class rooms. Your professional peer pressure has kept the standards high.
10. I have been inspired as I observed you show God's love to kids who have never seen it or felt it before.
11. You daily teach and role model some of the most important lessons which are not found in the text-books. Important things such as... how to work through friend-squabbles, how to treat another child who does not wear deodorant and why we should give valentines to every child in the room. Many of the friendships formed in those classrooms have followed them throughout their life.
12. I really appreciatle how you encourasged me to keep "doing music" in their classrooms. I would have quit in a heartbeat if you hadn't told me what a big deal it was to the kids.
13. Your soft touch on their arm or their head has often spoken much louder than your words.
14. Even today, years after leaving your classroom, they love it when they appear in your doorway and you stop your class to introduce them as "one of your favorites".
15. Thank you for letting all of Lauren Lee's classmates skip school for several days after her death. They all desperately needed the time playing together in our yard.
16. It's odd to say that a good memory can be recalled from a child's funeral, but I will forever be grateful for the large number who filed in and sat together at Jae's funeral. Thank you for sobbing with me at such a loss.

Each of my children's paths were nurtured for hours in your care and I truly am grateful for your help as we formed them into the beautiful young women they now are.
They may look ordinary but they are the beloved daughters of the King of all Creation.

This first day of school, as you look out across your classroom full of fresh faces, remember that you are one of the most powerful people in this world.
Your influence will live for generations.

With deep appreciation
and crackers........,

Jae, Casey and Abby's mom

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Gold-plated Addictions

Tonight, I had the privilege of hearing William P Young's book "The Shack". You may or may not have read this book, but surely you have heard about it.
AND if you have read it, you either:
loved it
you considered it heresy.
Most people are not neutral about it.

Here's my take on this book which I have read. (Also, believe it or not, I have also had this book sent to me anonymously twice. (twice!))

I have never thought it to be a lesson designed to impart deep theology.
I do not consider it a book about grief.
I honestly don't think he author planned on the vast circulation it has received.
I got frustrated about a third of the way through the book and put it down for several days. I hear this is a common behavior for many readers. Interesting.
It jumps smack in the middle of all of our prejudices.
I have a better concept of the trinity than I have ever had in my life.

I am no book reviewer, nor do I want to say that I agree with all of the symbolism I read about it. However, this author has an amazing testimony of the redemptive power and grace of God.

He spoke much about being "performance driven" as he dealt with all of his internal brokenness and addictions as a result of a horrible childhood. He reminded us all that some of us deal with the "bad" addictions (he mentioned drugs, alcohol, sex, porn, gambling,.etc) but that there are many of us who deal with "Gold-plated addictions" such as church roles, respect, significance, success, etc.
The problem with these gold-plated addictions are that we tend to excuse the behaviors,..even celebrate them! Seldom are they considered significant spiritual issues.
We exercise self-discipline (external) and think we have acquired self-control (internal fruit of the spirit).



Time for a personal evaluation........

Sunday, August 9, 2009


Casey Leigh is 21 today.

Wait just a minute!!
Wasn't it just a little while ago that I asked Ralph if he was interested in adopting another child?

I'll always have a mental picture of him reading his paper as Jae Lynn lay on a floor pallet in front of us. He looked at her (about 5 months old) and said "Sure."
We really didn't think the details of the adoption would work out.
They never did.
I bet 100 people had given me a "lead" about a young woman who was pregnant and may be interested in placing their child for adoption. "I'll get back to you." they would say.
At least 100.
We eventually just stopped paying attention to people who told us about those "possibilities" because although they meant well, was painful when most of them simply forgot about the conversation later.

However, the Spring of 1988 there was to be a baby born in just a few months in the town of Dover, Delaware.
We were.....
Trying to be full of faith.
We experienced it all.

Then, on August 31st, 1988, a three week-old Casey Leigh Russell was placed into our arms in the middle of bustling Philadelphia airport terminal.
With a 3 hour layover, we found an empty terminal and placed her on a blanket on the floor. As we unwrapped our 2nd daughter from all her borrowed blankets we took our first good long look at her and marveled at these God orchestrated events which brought us together.
21 years later, I still marvel at His plans.
For me but especially for her.

I often looked at Jae and Casey together, 9 months apart, and would exclaim to Ralph,.."Can you imagine them separate and living in someone else's home?"

She was raised under Jae's shadow and was often overlooked as Jae Lynn perked her way through life. (There has never been a day in Casey's life where she could be described as "perky". )
After Jae's accident, to instantly become the oldest trail-blazer in the family, and in such a painful way, she really kinda had to re-learn who she is. The search is still on in a lot of ways, but gracious sakes alive the layers are getting more interesting as we go!

She's starting her senior year at college in a couple of weeks and I am so satisfied with our relationship as it has changed through the years. Although I do miss those days when she let me hold and rock her, is a wonderful thing to discuss life issues with a child who has changed and grown into an adult right before your eyes.

"You have a destiny Casey Leigh"
"How will I know what mine is?"
"You just have to pray and ask God to show it to you"
(bedtime conversation in 1993)

Jeremiah 29:11 (Msg)
I know what I'm doing.
I have it all planned out.
I have plans to take care of you, not abandon you,
plans to give you the future you hope for.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


Insomnia again last night.
Ya know, when I can't sleep, it is usually because I have something on my mind.
Maybe something I've been dealing with in life like kids, church or our scholarship project in Jae's memory.
Maybe it's something which I absolutely should not be worried about such as my farm animals or leaks in my RV when it rains.
And then it is just apt to be something bizarre like "why are my feet cold? OH NO! My circulation must be bad and both feet will have to be amputated in just a few years!"

Usually at 2:00 am, I am determined that I will get up first thing and call Dr. Fendley and get me a sleeping pill. However, then I forget about it until the next time I am awake at 2:00 am.

Last night was different however.
Last night, I was missing Jae Lynn like I have not done in a while.

I recalled the horrific nights where I could not sleep for crying for her.
I recalled the demonic nightmares which tortured me for a while.
I recalled the amazing outpouring of love and friendship which sustained me then and continues to sustain me now.
As I lay there, I recounted the numerous times she appeared at my bedside in the middle of the night.

The longing for her continued throughout the day and I found myself rifling through pictures this afternoon so I could see her face, her smile and her expressions.
I stare at those photographs and recall those moments when those pictures were taken. What would I have thought had I known how I would soon be looking at them?
Incredibly,,... 5 years after....I am filled with disbelief that I had her in our home, in our life, at my bedside and now she is gone.
I've been doing that "shaking my head No" thing again.

Sometimes, seeing her face in pictures brings me comfort.
Today however, they bring a deeper longing for Heaven.

I would not have you ignorant brothers concerning those who are asleep.
You believe in God, believe also in Me.
In My Father's house are many mansions.
If it were not so, I would tell you.
I go to prepare a place for you
so that where I am, there you will be also.
(Becky version)

Signing off now,..the moon is bright and I need to go stare at the night sky.