Donald Trump Is Offensive And So Am I

Donald Trump is offensive. Seriously. He bad-mouths women, he brags and boasts, he’s rude, he has not been faithful to the women he has married, he makes money off of strip clubs, please don’t get me started on his ‘policies’. He claims Christianity but he doesn’t seem to understand what that means.

He offends me. And I’m offended that other Christians aren’t offended by him!

Donald Trump is offensive.

And. So. Am. I.

Is he a bad man because he’s had affairs and owns strip clubs? Is he a bad man because he calls people names? Is someone a good man because he doesn’t do those things?

It is so easy for someone like me, someone who likes to play by the rules, and make sure everyone else does, someone who identifies with the older brother in the story of the prodigal son, to say yes, yes it does! We humans love boxes and labels, and to slap them on everyone else.

But that’s missing the whole point of grace.

It is not wrong to curse or drink or go to strip clubs or cheat on tests or call people names or yell at your kids, or overeat, or whine or any such things because a rule has been broken. Rather, engaging in or abstaining from those actions reveal a heart tuned into love, or to self.

Plain and simple.

True followers of Jesus don’t obey the ‘rules’ to gain love or acceptance, but rather to express it! Jesus came down hard on religious pharisees because he knew every generation would have them; people who set themselves up as the gatekeepers of faith. People who check everyone else’s report card! (Matthew 15)

I’m not saying we don’t need leaders, spiritual or otherwise, we do. And I’m not saying that God’s word isn’t bold, straightforward, and exacting in its expression of what true life in Christ looks like, it is.

The problem is we love to measure ourselves against each other and not the real measure of truth – Jesus. If we did that, measured ourselves against Jesus, we would recognize Donald Trump and our Sunday School teacher and ourselves are all in the same boat. None of us measure up. And while some of us have embraced Jesus’ offer of forgiveness, have submitted to what he says is best for our lives, and have chosen to be obedient, it doesn’t change that we all stand on level ground and without God’s grace we are all morally bankrupt. We can’t take credit for grace, we are all offensive. Many of us church people have just forgotten that truth. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

But believe me, no one likes a snotty kid who goes around looking at everyone else’s report card in class and shouting out the grade. (I know because I was that kid, I didn’t have many friends growing up.) What we all love is kindness.

Indulge me on a little side note. My son, Max, has heard a lot of bad language at middle school lately. I’ve been torn in how to talk to him about it. Do I say, “don’t say those bad words because it’s wrong.” Or do I disapprove of his actions and scold him if he does say vulgar, ugly words? While that might be an okay thing to do, I’m unsatisfied with an authoritarian approach’s ability to get to the heart of the matter.

I decided I would tell my son that words meant to cut people down, that are common and low, words that describe the worst of human nature shouldn’t be used by people who have been deeply loved, and want to express love to others. It’s that simple.

Jesus has not called us to follow rules, but has set us free to express love profoundly, and if that means “limiting” ourselves for the good of others then that’s a life of great power and purpose.

So here’s my real problem with Donald Trump. He does not appear to be a man who has learned to limit himself or exert self control for the good of others. He does not appear to be a man who sees value in all people, especially women and his opponents. Which is Jesus’ real test. Can you love even your enemy? Because if you can it means you see in them the traces of God’s glory. Glory you seek to honor.

And that is why I am offensive too, because I haven’t chosen to see God’s glory in Donald Trump. I have laughed and mocked and ridiculed his behavior. We may argue that if someone is going to behave like a fool in public they should expect to be laughed at as one. But that’s their issue, not mine. His behavior doesn’t mean I have to take the bait and laugh. Instead, people, like me, who know what it’s like to be forgiven of so much, to be loved even at our most unlovely,  should know  bad behavior is nothing to laugh at. Foolish behavior, especially by someone in a public position should be grieved and prayed over. 

I think God would just as soon we not follow the rules, if we are not going to do it for the right reason.

All my not drinking or cussing or cheating or stealing, and all my going to church and giving money to poor people and being nice to animals mean nothing if my heart isn’t motivated by love. Love for God and love for others. Clinging tightly to the rules just highlights my pathetic attempt to prove I’m good enough for God to love me, and that’s silly, because I’m not.

As much as it feels good to mock Donald Trump in the moment, I can’t justify it anymore. And that’s thanks in part to Brant Hansen’s book Unoffendable. (I already knew a lot of these truths I just needed a strong reminder.) I’m afraid my actions toward Donald Trump expose me as the fool, the pharisee I am. Not the lover Jesus is and wants me to be.

It astonishes me the ways Jesus can call us to love, and hold us accountable to let love guide our actions. Anyone who says following Jesus is easy is trying to use him to their own advantage. Nothing in life is harder than following Jesus, because it means dying to our own selfish impulses, but nothing is more beautiful, captivating or exciting either!

Over the last few weeks I’ve seen Donald Trump as a great gift for the laugh I could have at his expense, but now I see him as a great gift for the love he can produce in my heart, as I learn to be like Jesus.

If you’re anything like me praying for Donald Trump doesn’t come naturally. (If you’re not like me, but like my husband, then good for you!) A gentle attitude, a kind thought, a patient heart turned in his direction seems counter intuitive, which sounds like the gospel to me. So let me offer up a prayer for Mr. Trump, and for us:

Father in heaven, your graciousness is shocking! It shocks even the senses of us who have long been acquainted with you, and we’re glad because we need it. I don’t see eye to eye with Donald Trump, but I don’t have to to recognize you knit him together in his mother’s womb, with purpose and hope. Help me to see him as a person of worth and a bearer of your glory. And help him to understand that truth about himself as well. Only you know his heart, in kindness and love search it out and teach him your ways I pray. Help him to walk in the light, in humility, and in love for his fellow man, just as I ask you to help me to do also. And help me to be ready to celebrate the work you do in his life. Amen.

{This was a hard post to write. And I’ve hesitate posting it because it may seem attention grabbing, which is not what I want. But I decided to share it since I had been public in my poking fun of Mr. Trump. I also want to clarify that disagreeing with a leader and voicing that disagreement is not wrong. The issue is why and how it’s done.}

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Lullaby – How My Mother Lived With Hope In spite of Cancer

One of the last clear sentences my mama said to us was “She wants to be free – unfettered.” A few days later she flew home to be with Jesus. She had been diagnosed with cancer almost three years before. The journey was long. On the way she wrote these words. They are a comfort to me. I hope they will be to you too as you journey home.

Taken by Steve Morton

Taken by Steve Morton

Winter wrapped the rawness of a cold night around our small cabin. The crisp, stark evening fell hard. Beautiful in it’s severity. But the sturdy cabin stood brave against nature, protecting us. Tucked away in a crease of the giant hill our small home was shielded against the seeing eyes of the world, neighbors, or the passerby. And except for the telltale mail box and open mouth of the driveway there would not have been a hint that life was being lived in that fold of earth. The capable wood stove of our cabin glowed red, fighting off the threatening cold just outside, and warmed us as we observed our evening habits, our ritual falling into place, like every other night.

My husband had achieved reentry from his day of hard work, and time together had been well spent around the black stove as we enjoyed the remains of the day. Dinner had been satisfying, delicious in it’s life giving. And our chatter had been satisfying as well. Our conversation had not been of much importance or of great interest, but necessary in sustaining the relationship, keeping us in touch with each other, a little like taking a pulse. We used this time to familiarize ourselves with each other after the separation of the day. I washed up dishes looking out on a view I never tired of. The almost gone sun made leafless trees and pines, which edged the ridge, appear shadowy against a deep purple sky creating my rural skyline. The angle of the meadow right out my window was a very steep grade and it’s contrast with the horizontal tree line could sometimes make me dizzy. I gave thanks for it’s beauty again as I looked at it for the last time of the day.

Taken by Steve Morton

Taken by Steve Morton

Settled in our favorite, respective chairs we read aloud together. Using someone else’s words to help put meaning and description to our own feelings and thoughts. We found comfort, pleasure and amusement in another’s creativity. It was an ordinary evening, exactly the same as other evenings. It was the sameness that made if feel secure, familiar, and comfortable. All seemed right with the world, especially in our secluded, private piece of it. Troubles seemed far away if not nonexistent. The grandfather clock dutifully counted off nine strikes signaling phase two of our evening, and our flow moved upstairs seeking deeper rest. Dependent pets were taken care of, their needs of food and warmth supplied, all lights were turned off, downstairs shades drawn, doors bolted securely against evening and anything unwelcome it might hold. I usually made it upstairs first, turning back covers, covering our canine companion on his bed, and beginning my relaxing, warm shower, ready for cozy covers. He lagged behind feeding the little black stove a heaping serving of logs. Guaranteeing warmth in the depths of the cold night. I was soon followed by him, where he took his place on his side of the bed, and he checked in on the cyber world while waiting for the last of the evening’s rituals to be complete. Being in a rhythm together had given peace, now for sweet, restorative sleep. Layers of covers insulated us and the nearness of another added to the warmth of our bed.

Taken by Steve Morton

Taken by Steve Morton

The silence outside so filled our sheltered nook you could almost hear it. Any sound was amplified by the cove and by the crispness of a winter night. Stillness, the partner of silence, settled on us just as the heavy, black velvet of night blanketed us. All was hushed as if the earth had put her finger to her lips and issued a slow shhhh. It was easy to imagine us all alone on the planet, but being watched by the universe. As I had pulled the last shade against the dark, I glanced up at the seamless sky seeing it full of watching, twinkling eyes. Tucked in, sleep came easily and cocooned us. Soon after darkness was allowed into our room breathing slowed and deepened, movements became involuntary and our bodies worked on auto pilot having been programed for a night setting. Visions from unknown places, funny, weird, or relating to the events of the day played in our heads while the mystery of sleep was at work holding us captives in other worlds. Dreams became our reality and there we lay. The clocks in the cabin ticked in the night and the sands of time slipped away unnoticed. The night deepened and the world whispered.

Sometime in the night I woke to change my position, adjust overs. Something wasn’t right. Maybe this leg needed to move, or that pillow be shifted. Comfort had left me. Dread lay a heavy hand on me. I sensed it in the room. It moved from corner to corner and whispered uncertainty to my fear. The menacing spectral was glad to have me alone in the darkness, there it could fill me with worry. It offered me anxiousness, not of anything certain but made me guess while my fear grew. I recognized fear. The gripping you have when you smell smoke in your house but you can’t find it. It was present but wouldn’t identify itself. It laughed at me, making fun of the peace I had celebrated during the day. It lay close, up against my cheek, ridiculing the security I had found in The Faithful One. Spinning stories of failure, ruined finances, loneliness, disaster. Casting doubt on my belief in Forever, it hissed that the dark hole may be all that awaits. I felt suffocated, my heart rate increase, panic began in my chest but the darkness gave me nowhere to hide from my tormentor. A prayer formed in my heart and I cried out for reassurance.

Taken by Steve Morton

Taken by Steve Morton

I heard it faint and far off. A low, easy sound broke the spell encasing me. I reached over my head to raise the window allowing the cold air to usher in my comfort. Deep in the woods of the ridge a lone owl sang it’s night song. Who, who,who,who. It sliced through the darkness of night and my soul. I lay still, listening, willing it to sing again. Needing the sound of a fellow living creature. A companion song came from across the meadow. The same song, the same tune, it’s mate in one accord. The two owls created to endure the cold, to give life to the empty night, sang in duet and I heard their words given to them by their Creator. They sang to the One who had given them voice, and to me. They sang, “I will praise the One who made me, I will be the owl He knows, I will watch over the darkness, I am not alone. He is faithful to His creatures, He is watching over all. He sees you in your darkness, He does not sleep, He hears our song, He sees you weep.” The mountain walls vibrated with their worship, it rippled through all of the wood. As the praise of the night filled my room, the blackness that sought to fill the night and my heart could not stay. I joined in the praise to Him, along with the singers of the night, until I fell asleep. Peace had returned with the lullaby.

 

The unknown has become known to my mom. What she hoped, a reality. Her hope was not in a god of her making or imagining. But in the God made known through creation and the words of the Bible. How could I have let go of her if we hadn’t received the comfort that God was present with her, with us, keeping his promises to the very end?

Regardless of what we are experiencing, God is present, he hears us, he will not leave us. And he desires the gift of our worship in those moments. It’s what all of his creatures were made for.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
    making wise the simple.

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
    be pleasing in your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:1-2, 7, 14

When Grief Is Eclipsed By Joy

Grief isn’t a land to live in, but a season to journey through. We all have seasons of grief. Strangely at times grief mingles with joy. Life is funny that way. This past weekend my family and I spoke at my mom’s memorial service. Grief was certainly present but it was mostly eclipsed by joy, at least in my heart.

My husband spoke on the legacy of faith mom passed on. My siblings and I gave examples of what that looked like in our lives. And my dad honored her well. This is what I had to say:

mommyandbeck

Mom was my first and primary teacher. She taught me about life from her example, not just through ten years of homeshcool lessons and bible studies.

Mom taught me that the word of God is powerful and important. She taught me to love books. She taught me that manners are for other people. She taught me that faithfulness and love are rooted in the nature of Jesus, not ourselves. She taught me that beauty matters. She taught me to be kind to creatures and people more vulnerable than myself. She taught me to marvel over nature, to identify trees, and rescue box turtles. She taught me to enjoy laughter and family and a good story. She taught me to appreciate the testimony of people who served as missionaries.

Most importantly she taught me that nothing satisfies our hearts more than Jesus. Let me say it again. Nothing satisfies our hearts more than Jesus. I think that’s what I loved most about our relationship, pursuing that truth with her together. My life is good because she taught me to be satisfied by Jesus. Above all else.

Mom was a beautiful person. Creative, kind, loving, fun. But years ago, for a season, mom succumbed to despair. Fear and depression at times overwhelmed her. There were moments when she didn’t know if she could hold onto God anymore. But out of that season was birthed great joy. When she didn’t feel able to hold onto God she found out he was still holding onto her. I watched that truth transform her.

And what had been her naturally fun, lovely, creative personality deepened and intensified, containing even more beauty, compassion, and kindness, and adding to it hope and joy. The love that attracted all of us to her and the beauty we saw in her came from a nature transformed by Jesus, in the midst of real life.

In the last week I’ve been thinking about the words to the song Through All Of It, by Colton Dixon. It captures her story well. Here are a few lines:

There are days I’ve taken more than I can give
And there are choices that I made
That I wouldn’t make again
I’ve had my share of laughter
Of tears and troubled times
This is has been the story of my life

I have won and I have lost
I got it right sometimes
But sometimes I did not
Life’s been a journey
I’ve seen joy, I’ve seen regret
Oh and You have been my God
Through all of it

Mom wasn’t a person of faith, that’s too fuzzy. We all have faith of some sort or another. Mom was a person of faith IN Jesus. He was her only hope. He has been her God through all of it. Through the brokenness and the healing, the loss and the joy, the sorrow and peace. He was and is the source of all her hope. That has been mom’s legacy in my life. Jesus satisfies. He still satisfies her, now more than ever. This is my comfort.

Mom4

The day was amazing. The sanctuary filled with her favorite things. People from every stage of life present with us. An opportunity for her family to rise up and bless her. The service was closed with a clip from Loui Giglio’s talk Symphony. Mom had been so comforted on her journey by the truth that stars and whales praise God and we can join in that song of creation. And then God gave us a surprise! Loui Giglio himself showed up and spoke a message of Jesus presence to our family! It was a kindness we could never have expected.

Are you comfortable with sorrow and joy intermingling in your life? How has God shown you he is present as you walk through valleys of grief?

Just some thoughts rattling in my head

Ok, so you know how I sometimes go places I shouldn’t in thought land and stick my neck out even when I know it’s risky? I’ve been pondering some things lately, and I asked myself this question: “Why, as Christians, do we feel the need to point out our disagreement with some people’s life styles?” And by people I in particular mean gay people. Although the thought applies in general. I mean I don’t walk up to an overweight acquaintance or friend and say – God condemns gluttony, I don’t condone your lifestyle but I still love you. So why in the world do we find it necessary to say that to a gay acquaintance? (And honestly few things have done more damage to holiness, the family, or marriage than greedy attitudes. Certainly, so called gay marriage isn’t nearly the risk that greed is for eroding the family.)

Are we so afraid that if we don’t let everyone know the things we’re against they’ll think we ‘condone’ them? Life change happens best in relationship. We only get to talk about people’s personal lives when we have the permission born of intimate relationship. We really need to understand that. If we want to speak to the ‘issue’ of homosexuality then we need to be friends with gay people and earn the right to speak (says the woman writing a book with a gay protagonist, I struggle with following my own advice – often).

That applies to every area of life. How many children someone has, whether a mom works or stays home, people’s eating, drinking, smoking habits, etc., those conversations happen best in a close personal relationship. Which is why community is so important.

I’m not saying that in the church we shouldn’t hold others accountable or be held accountable. Holiness is God’s desire and plan for us. He’s committed to making us holy people. Certainly we should engage one another in conversations that challenge and stimulate obedience to God’s word. But that requires discernment, humility, and gentleness.

I feel so terribly raw lately. It seems my ears have a lifetime of critical words clogged in them. And honestly my own mouth has uttered a grotesque amount of my own.

I long for kindness. I long for gentle attitudes toward one another in the church. I’m guilty, I confess, of harsh thoughts. But I want “I understand” conversations, instead of “you ought” judgments. And for the world – what if we bathed the wounds of people who are different than us, like the good Samaritan did, rather than pass by like the pharisee because we don’t ‘agree’ with who they are. What if our mercy convicted? Because I’m not sure I’ve ever seen proclaimed moral rectitude change a heart.

How we as Christians relate to each other is different than how we relate to the world. But the truth is I think as Christians we are often more concerned with a code of conduct and behavior than with a high view of Jesus. But a high view of who Jesus is produces a humble understanding of who we are, a desire to be holy, and overflows in mercy to everyone. Those who live pure lives in winsome ways are the most compelling.

The truth is, my biggest fear in life, as a laborer in the church, is religiosity. The force of religiosity breeds judgement that quite frankly is deadly. I fear a love for religion taking up residence in my own heart. I know the consequences. Religion kills grace, promotes self righteous judgement, and breeds a fear of others.

But grace. It’s the antidote to religion. Oh it’s so hard to live in. But it heals the heart!

Dixie Lee ~ Part 7

It’s that time again! Here’s the next part of Dixie’s story. I enjoyed writing this week’s scene, though I always feel like there’s more to write as the clock breaths down my neck!

I hope you’ll join me every Friday for the continuing story of Dixie Lee. It’s my goal to post a section every week until the story is finished. I hope in the end these posts will turn into a full fledged book. If you see a typo or feel a particular sentence or scene doesn’t work well feel free to let me know. This project will be the better for your collaboration!

And if you like the story the best way to pay me a compliment is to share it with a friend, or on your facebook or twitter feed!

(If you need to catch up with Dixie’s story you can begin here.)

Dixie Lee

On the ride to church Kenny and Gabriel chatted pleasantly. Dixie was surprised how comfortably Kenny interacted with Gabriel. He was good with kids.

By the time the trio pulled into the church parking lot her two guests had become friends. Dixie’s heart was racing. They were late. Any hope of quietly hiding in a back pew was gone. Kenny helped her get Gabriel out of the truck and situated with his crutches. Slowly they crunched their way across the gravel parking lot, Kenny and Dixie on either side of Gabriel to help steady him.

Everything in Dixie was straining to move faster. But there was nothing to be done about it, Gabriel set the pace. Finally they made it to the white church’s double doors. They were opened by deacon Peal. He smiled and offered a bulletin. “I see you brought a little friend with you today Dixie.” Leaning down towards Gabriel he said, “Hello buddy, glad to have you.”

The three made their way to the doors of the sanctuary. Organ music was filtering into the small lobby. Dixie peered through the narrow windows in the doors. Everyone was standing, she couldn’t tell where any empty seats were. Straightening her shoulders she pulled open one of the doors and let Gabriel pass through, followed by Kenny. A couple of ushers came toward them. She didn’t need to be told where the empty seats were, she knew, but she greeted them warmly and followed one of the men down the center isle. They moved slowly. First Dixie, then Gabriel, followed by Kenny. Every head turned and followed their progress down the isle until they came to the second pew. Dixie’s mother looked up sharply. First confusion, then surprise flashed across her face in one brief second. Immediately she checked her response and set her jaw. Dixie saw the steel come into her eye as she moved down to make room for Dixie and her entourage.

The song leader finished “‘T’is So Sweet To Trust In Jesus” and asked the congregation to be seated. Dixie helped Gabriel get situated on the smooth wooden pew. Her father stood to welcome the congregation. Briefly she caught his eye. She saw the question flash across his face as he quickly took in the scene before him. In that moment Dixie’s heart caught and she was ashamed. It was inconsiderate of her not to have told her dad that she was bringing Kenny and Gabriel. After all these years as a pastor’s daughter she should have known it was unfair to surprise him. How many times had she seen people approach him with a concern or complaint right before he preached and watched as he struggled to regain his composure?

Casting a sidelong glance at the little blond boy and young man beside her her heart sank. Maybe this was going to be harder than she thought. She could feel the eyes of a hundred people boring into her back. Her father began preaching. His words floating around her. Kenny’s head was back lit by one of the stained glass windows that lined the white sanctuary. The one where little children all gathered around Jesus sitting on a rock.

Dixie had always loved the simple, old fashioned building. The pews were satiny from years of use, glowing with a rich patina. Her dad’s pulpit was solid and timeless, matching the two sturdy chairs on the platform behind him. She doubted much in the sanctuary had changed in the last century.

Again she cast a sidelong glance at Kenny. His face was intent, taking in her dad’s words. It had been such a busy morning she hadn’t really had time to notice his appearance earlier. She hoped no one else would notice the earring and eyeliner he was wearing. Her eyes swept over him briefly, assessing the situation. Was he wearing nail polish? Yes, yes, he was. Dark brown that matched his tan stripped shirt. Great.

Sighing, Dixie looked down at Gabriel. Sweet little thing. His hands rested gently in his lap. Dark lashes blinked solemnly over bright eyes. His face looked as intent as Kenny’s though perhaps more peaceful.

Turning her attention back to her dad Dixie tried to ignore the ramrod straight figure of her mother to the left of her. Her dad was saying, “John had walked with Jesus, touched Jesus, loved Jesus. When we read his gospel we know we’re hearing from someone who has the inside scoop. Right from the first verses of his gospel John tells us that Jesus was no ordinary man. He’s the one through whom the whole of creation was made, he is very life and light itself. God had put on skin and moved into our neighborhood. Darkness has not overcome the light, John says. But the light has come to point the way.”

Dixie remembered her dad telling her he was starting a new sermon series on the book of John. As she read along in the first chapter renewed confidence surged through her heart. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory,the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Could that not be the answer? Grace and truth. Jesus was full of both. Not sacrificing one for the other. What if we were? Isn’t that what Kenny needed from God and from people? Truth to make sense of his life and set it right, and grace to meet him where he was and help him find his way. The hesitation and doubt left Dixie and courage flickered, lighting her face.

She turned her eyes back to her dad and listened with renewed interest. He concluded his sermon and the song leader, Mr. Jenkins, came up to lead them in “Blessed Assurance.” At the end of the song her father stood up and prayed over the congregation, blessing them for the week ahead.

Dixie turned to Gabriel and helped him with his crutches. The little boy turned his sweet face up to her and said, “I liked the singing a lot. I have missed singing in church.” Dixie smiled and squeezed his shoulder. She turned toward Kenny.

“I had never heard that about Jesus before. I liked your dad’s message.”

“Do you have a Bible Kenny?” Dixie asked him.

“Not with me, my mom’s bible is somewhere at my dad’s house.”

Impulsively Dixie grabbed one of the Bible’s from the pew and held it out to him. “Here take this one.”

Kenny looked surprised. “I can’t take that, it belongs to the church.”

“Nonsense, Bibles are for being used. If you need one that’s what it’s for. Take it and read the book of John this week for yourself.”

He hesitated and then smiled reaching for the book. “Okay, I will. Thank you.”

Dixie’s mother, Sharon, was engaged in conversation so the three headed down the isle toward the back doors. Dixie glanced up and caught Sadie’s eye. In a moment she read her thoughts. Sadie made her way to them and stood by Dixie’s elbow.

Under her breath Sadie whispered in Dixie’s ear, “Dixie, what are you doing?”

Dixie turned to her friend and said aloud, “Sadie I’d like you to meet my friends, Gabriel and Kenny.”

Sadie was caught off guard for a moment. Her good manners took over and she said, “Hello, it’s nice to meet you.” She turned her attention to Gabriel, “Dixie’s told me about you. I’m glad you could come to church with her this morning. How is school going for you?”

Gabriel responded politely, “It’s going real well. I like Manning Academy.”

Sadie smiled at him, then turning back to Dixie said, “well I’ve got to get going, I’ll see you later.” And she hurried to join her family. Dixie’s heart sank for just a moment. Surely Sadie would come around. She was the sweetest person Dixie knew.

As the three continued down the isle Dixie caught Bo Sheridan’s eye. Dixie stopped beside him. He was handsome in his light blue oxford shirt and khakis, his gray eyes twinkling. “Hey Bo. How are you?”

“Good Dixie. I haven’t seen you since the race the other night. You been workin’ to hard?”

“No, not really.”

“Well how about after the race next Friday we grab something to eat?”

“All right, I’ll plan on it.” Turning to Kenny and Gabriel Dixie said, “Hey, Bo, I’d like you to meet my friends Kenny and Gabriel.”

Bo turned his attention to them. Dixie saw his face cloud as he took in her guests. He hesitated, then replied, “Nice to meet you boys. Glad you could come today.”  Turning back to Dixie he said, “Well Dix, guess I’ll see you Friday then, looks like the family’s leaving without me.” Dixie knew he had driven separately, she’d seen his truck in the parking lot. But she told him goodbye as he turned to go.

Mr. McAllister was standing by her elbow as they turned again to head to the door. “Oh Mr. McAllister, how are you?”

He reached out both of his bony, age freckled hands and clasped one of hers in a friendly hand shake. “Good, Dixie, I’m good. I see you’ve brought some guests.” And turning he stuck out his hands to her friends, “I’m Joe McAllister, so glad to have you.”

He was a small, old gentleman, clad in a light brown suite three decades out of date. Wispy white hair was smoothed back over his age spotted head. His watery blue eyes were smiling at Kenny and Gabriel.

“Mr. McAllister, these are my friends Kenny and Gabriel. Gabriel is in my music class at Manning Academy.”

The old man was patting Gabriel’s shoulder. “Good, good, Dixie’s a fine musician isn’t she young man? So glad she brought you along with her today.”

He turned and rested his hand on Kenny’s shoulder, “And how do you know Dixie, Kenny?”

Dixie held her breath. “She gave me a ride home last week, sir. I was having kind of a bad day and she was a good friend to me,” Kenny answered.

“Well now that’s our Dixie isn’t it? I hope you’re doing better now son. I’ll be praying for you. I’m very glad you joined us today and sure hope you know you’re welcome back any time.”

“I appreciate that Mr. McAllister,” Kenny said, and Dixie saw he meant it.

“Joe, call me Joe, young man.” And turning to Dixie said, “Well little lady, I guess you need to get these young men home but I’m sure glad you brought them today.” He reached out and cupped Gabriel’s fresh cheek with his worn hand, “sure glad.”

Dixie could feel the tears pushing a lump up in her throat, “Thank you Mr. McAllister,” she responded.

The three had just turned to head back to the door when Dixie’s mother approached, “I’ll see you at home Dixie, once you’ve dropped your guests off.” She didn’t great either of them.

“Mother, this is Gabriel,” Dixie said smiling down at the boy, “And you know Kenny.” They both smiled at the commanding woman dressed elegantly in plum colored wool. “I’m going to drop Gabriel off,” Dixie continued, “but I thought it would be nice if Kenny joined us for lunch. He enjoyed Daddy’s sermon and I thought he may want to discuss it with him.” She had her mother cornered and she knew it.

“Very well.” Sharon’s tight lips clipped out the words, her green eyes where impenetrable depths. She turned to go, “I’ll see you at home.” Dixie knew so much lay behind those words.

“All right guys, let’s see if we can make it out the door this time.”

Dixie and Kenny loaded Gabriel in the truck and headed to his house.

“I like Mr. McAllister,” Kenny said. “He was kind.”

“Me too,” piped up Gabriel. “But my favorite was the singing. I loved the singing.”

Dixie smiled, she was glad Gabriel had found such enjoyment in the hymns, and she was touched and relieved at Mr. McAllister’s kindness. Had he not noticed Kenny’s appearance? Maybe he didn’t see well enough to notice. Or maybe he had and didn’t care.

Come back next week to see how lunch with Kenny and Dixie’s mother goes!

So what did you think? I’m always interested in feedback. I don’t think I’ve ever written anything as challenging or as important as Dixie’s story. I believe God has given us story to teach us how to think through the reality of our lives and express ideas more clearly. Jesus used story better than anyone else. He brought truth home in contexts his listener could understand. Stories go beyond our heads and touch our hearts. I’m learning so much as I write Dixie’s story. I hope it’s reaching your heart as much as it is mine.

You can follow this blog, by clicking the button to the right that says follow, so you don’t miss any of Dixie’s story.

{I encourage you to share this link with friends. But please don’t copy and paste, that way ownership of the story will never be in question. Thank you.}

Better Than A Fairy Tale

Wedding ChapelFew love stories can compare with my own. I wish every wife felt that way. I could speak of flowers for no other reason than Chris thought of me, or laughing raucously at inside jokes, or the enjoyment of shared experiences. Or I could recall grace, a thousand times grace – received and given. Grace builds bonds. It’s an investment in the future.

These are all true, and then some, but there’s a deeper reason my husband is my hero, my true love. And I think it’s for the exact same reason that Jesus is his bride’s true love.

This is why I value my husband: he elevates me.

It’s what every true leader does. A leader lends his strength for the good of another. He’s unafraid another person’s weakness will pull him down, but is certain his own strength is most valuable when shared. Chris elevates me by allowing me to partner with him, and by not being threatened by either my weakness or my strength. He elevates me by valuing me as me. And in turn, because I trust him, I’m happy to submit to his leading.

It’s not always been so easy. It’s taken us years to get in step with each other. Thus the true value of grace. Grace has been our gold and we’ve learned to spend it lavishly on each other. We’re still learning. The first year was a doozie. We were virtually combustible. Terrifyingly in love, terrifyingly independent, it was a lethal combination. Grace, we learned, was our antidote.

By year two we had made the amazing discovery that we could become allies. My willingness to give him the lead empowered him not to demand it. We found the terms of the truce – a good willed man needn’t be feared, a loving woman needn’t be controlled. And we fell in love all over again.

Over the years we’ve had seasons where we forgot or got tired or were selfish. Grace is a powerful antidote, nigh unto a miracle drug.

Tonight as I write it’s the cusp of our anniversary. We are looking another move square in the eye. How many times have we gone through changes together? It seems we’re ever changing, yet ever the same. I’m confident this leg of the journey will be just like every other – shared. I wouldn’t want to take risks, dream bold dreams, cling to faith, cry in the dark, sing triumphant, or live with any other person.

As a girl I was chasing fairy tales and prince charming. The surprise is that my life is better than a fairy tale, better than happily ever after. It’s real love we’re celebrating. It’s life.

Sixteen years ago in Snellville Georgia, fresh out of college and wide eyed at life, a boy and a girl got married. That’s when the adventure began. Who knows where it will end. It’s getting better every year.

{September 19 is our 16th wedding anniversary. So instead of writing Dixie’s story I thought I’d share ours.)