Thursday, September 29, 2011

Stained Glass Hearts: Faithful Hope and Humor

Stained Glass Hearts, by Patsy Clairmont is a treasured collection of faith stories partnered with an "Art Gallery" devotional section including suggested paintings, music and Scriptures to add to the experience and perspective of brokenness and healing.  Clairmont uses stained glass as a metaphor for Christian living--Christ's light shining through cracked glass creates a beautiful image.

In classic Women of Faith honesty and grand humor she reveals her stories with winsome wisdom.  She and her writing are a delight.  Clairmont begins the book sharing her troubles growing up and the pain of enduring through her son's life threatening illness.  These are powerful testimonies and her honesty evokes a strong response. 

Stained Glass Hearts captures what it means to faithfully live with hope --and humor.

I also loved her chapter on reading--it's so practical and encouraging.  She shares not the who and what she reads but also the why and how she reads, concluding with C.S. Lewis' comment, "we read to know we are not alone."  It's a lovely surprise topic for a devotional book.

Overall, its a pleasant read.  It's perfect to carry around and drop into when you have a few minutes to sit and take in a quick story.  The addition of suggested art is also nice, the book would be far more substantial if the images she refers to were included in the actual book. 

If you are a Woman of Faith fan, or a lover of storytelling this would be a great addition to your library.  Patsy Clairmont leaves her listeners better than she first found them--adding to their heart and soul with love and laughter.

I reviewed this book as part of Thomas Nelson Publishing Booksneeze Program.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Zebras and Ducks

The Lord is my light and my salvation--whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?  ....Though an army besiege me, my heart will  not fear;  though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.  One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.  For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling;  he will hide me in the shelter of his Tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.  ...Hear my voice when I call, O Lord;  be merciful to me and answer me.   My heart says of you, "seek his face." Your face, Lord, I will seek.  Teach me your way O Lord, lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors.  I am sill confident of this;  I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.   excepts from Psalm 27

Personally, September has been a drag.  There has been loads of blessing and laughter but personally, it has been a wad of tension.  Something was wrong on the inside and I knew it.  By inside I mean literally the inside not some metaphor for my soul spirit or emotional center or whatnot.  The same ole things were not doing their same ole thing.

My first response.  Denial.  Denial is such a sweet liar.   Really.  It offers such compelling comfort in the form of distraction and rationalization--and as time marches forward and the problem grows, the fake escape hatch of denial keeps lurking around.  Maybe today I will feel better, "it" will go away.  As with all denial, "it"  not only stayed but made "it's" presence more known and more felt. 

Next:  seek comfort from hubby JR who, as noted in earlier posts has an abundance of logic and pragmatism.  "Call a doctor and relax," he says, "when you hear galloping behind you think horses not zebras."

I smiled and stared.  Not relaxed.

Well in JR's advice was truth and it was truth in love, but it did not comfort because it was not the answer I wanted. 

Next:  waiting in the doctor's office reading my Twitter feed--it occurs to me you are now concerned for my sanity when I confess to denial and having a Twitter feed within the same story.   Anyway, someone posted a quote from Rosa Parks on my feed:  "I have learned over the years that when one's mind is made up, this diminishes fear.  Knowing what must be done does away with fear."

Well, there is truth in that, and a little comfort as I kicked denial to the curb.

Next:  doctor M.  such a kind and smart man, who has as a nurse Bonnie who is equally kind and smart.  Took Dr. M all of 78 seconds to find the problem by looking at my blood work and my body.  Verdict:  a fibroid that is creating severe anemia. 

I smiled and stared.  Not relaxed.

In my defense, it's not easy to relax in an outfit made from paper towels.

I was trying to pretend I had quiet confidence.  I failed.  What I really thought was, well I have some form of abdominal cancer.  I actually started to wonder what treatment for abdominal cancer will do to my schedule, my relationships.  Who and how will I tell?  Dr. M. actually sorta yelled at me...Carol, this is really what it is (not cancer, fibroid), stop spinning in other directions.  I had not said anything but my staring must have spoken a lot.  Dr. M says, "If it walks like a duck, quacks,  ya know,  like a duck, looks like a duck it's well a duck."  I told you he was smart.

I smiled and asked him.  How do you know it's a duck?

He smiled and reviewed what he saw in my tests/examination (actual facts) and then told me that in 18 years, he'd seen this exact thing a lot (actual experience), and never, not one deviation from my symptoms.  He made it clear I was not going to be the first time he was wrong,  he then announed  we (he) will run a few more tests to confirm what he already knew-- that  need to take some iron and come in for an ultra sound and we will look at some options to fix it.  Dr. M, "I am not worried, you shouldn't  either.  STOP."  All of that from my stare, and follow up duck question.

I smiled, left, called hubby who confirmed I am a duck on Web MD and then I went home to finish up Bible study.  Not relaxed, but no longer a wad of tension either.  Did you know that a sympton of iron deficiency is irritability--JR smiled at that.

Enter Psalm 27:  fear, confidence, waiting and wanting the goodness of the Lord.  In the lesson was a reference to God being iron for the soul--given my hours old diagnosis of significant iron deficiency, I thought much about the application of faith upon fear and trusting, leaning into to what I know and believe to be truth. 

Spent a large chunk on time on study.  I almost did not post this, until test scores were in and all was settled.  Then it occured to me the truth of Psalm 27, the results don't matter to the outcome which is determined.  I will seek the Lord, and in that is my confience. 

I am not bold in my ability to manage this, but I am bold in the trust I have from faith.  I hope for good news  from Dr. M.'s office.  I hope I continue to prove him right.  I hope I am a duck.  The truth of Psalm 27 and what I really hold onto says that even if it's zebras and geese behind me, I don't have to settle for denial or fear but I know, "he will keep me safe in his dwelling." 

It may or may not be a season where that is tested, but I am bold in this--that when tested it's proven true--actual facts and experience.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Book Really Is Better

I went to see The Help  by Kathryn Stockett, over the weekend with a friend.  Great movie based on a great book about a devastating American culture.  As my friend and I discussed our thoughts about the movie, book and all things girl talk, it hit me why the book is better. 

I won't write as spoiler for the 1.3 people who have yet to see The Help,  but I was struck by how the movie has some great, powerful, confrontational scenes not in the book.  Why were they not in the book? 

Even though the book is fiction, its part of the memoir genre--based on a real life story, and no such confrontations happened in the real life, so those "scenes" from the screen were not on the page. 

We want them to be real, and Hollywood is so artistically good at exploiting our desires.  We want to have the last, best greatest word, and reduce our enemies to shiveringly shaking piles of tears.  We play those scenes out in our imagination and so when it plays out onto the big screen, it's a yeah, you tell 'em, right on,  kind of moment--it seems so powerful.

It's the "take this" moment of redemption.  But it's not real. 

In the real world, nice guys do finish last but without the last word.  Satisfaction comes at times in silence, without audience or desired outcome.  Battles can be won and moral victory achieved but not celebrated and often with a price.  That's real. 

Our egos often call out for our rightness to be acknowledged, especially in conflict--but well, such a publicly affirming spectacle is not real.

So, is it wrong to wish for a life that fits our well written script, for imagination to take hold and indulge in how we want these moments to sound like?  What's the harm in just playing it out in our mind? 

Is it so bad to want it to be real?

Well, as normal as it is for me, I think too much of my dappling into the fertile fantasy pool of my last best word is a dangerous trap.  The risk of ego inflation aside, how much wasted energy do I invest in that which is not real?  Do my fantasy scripts ever lead me to sound, healthy solutions? (ahem, no--not yet)

In the movie, these scenes work, in part because those who have the stunning moments of silencing their enemies are really the ones in the right, confronting the one's in the wrong.  Simple.  But such clear lines of right and wrong are not really real either, are they?  Life is more complicated and conflict less clear cut.

At the end of the day, this desire is really for vengeance.  You hurt/humiliate/devastate me and here it comes back--faster, harder and much more clever--with cameras rolling. 

It seems fair, you do something wrong and I say something oh so right.

Real redemption is a restoration to a whole, healing place.  Redemption is when we work to and want to leave people better than we found them, and not in a pile of what we perceive they have coming. 

Real redemption is slow, often partial or elusive and does not garner much whoops and applause.  At least here on this planet.  There seems to be rejoicing in the heavens however, when we get real.

Redemption, of which there is much in the book is not the same as vengeance.  Vengeance is so tempting, seems so just, makes us happy--but it's not real.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Alone Together

I really like my Blackberry, to love an object seems the stuff of hyperbole, even for me.  I really like it, but when that cling/ding announces a new text or e-mail--I act like Pavlov's dog in responding to check it.  That little sound has a way of cutting through all other noise around me.  I don't think my acute always up radar of semi-awareness of that cling/ding is a good thing. 

I also think it's funny how slightly dismissive it feels to me when the person I am engaging is really engaging the screen giving me the occasional eye contact/nod, but when it's my time to screen check, I am just taking a peek--quick little check in glance and of course right back to the more important human in front of me.  Kettle, pot,  black, I think Yoda say.

Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still and know that I am God."  The Hebrew for "still" is also translated enough, or stop.  God is speaking to the nations, making it clear he will be exalted, yet the instruction, correction, direction works down to the individual as well.  Be still, settle down, stop it and know that I am God.

Connection from verse to Blackberry still unclear? 
  • In a culture that dings and beeps and interrupts and multi tasks. 
  • In a culture where as my daughter's coach says, "on time is late."  
  • In an environment where more is not ever enough and there is a constant stream of messages (not really communication)
In the midst of those realities:  who really is still enough to know that God is God, when we can't pull ourselves from a 3x5 screen to talk to a person in front of us?

I heard a story recently of someone dining alone and just tuning into the the vibe around her.  At the next table, four women sat--three of them engaging a screen.  The storyteller commented, the women at the next table were alone together--the most alone the woman eating all by herself  at the table with three other women but no screen partner with which to dance.

Alone together, the new normal.  I wondered as I listened to the story, how often I am one of those at the table.  I wondered if I can pay attention to the people right in front of me and tune out the screen.  I wonder,  how well do I pay attention to God, to a still soft voice, to a whisper, nudge or invitation from the Holy Spirit. 

How might I be more faithful in who and what I tune in?  It seems I need to pay attention to how well I pay attention.

Monday, September 19, 2011

New Blog Feature: Grinning

Lately, I have been looking for circumstances that make me smile. I tend to inappropriately laugh like Mary Tyler Moore at Chuckles the Clown's funeral, but still I pursue the grin.  To be sure, there is some real pain and suffering, but it's a good thing to pause and give thanks for the absurd and amusing.

Saturday a group of lawyers who work with hubby JR invited us to a concert which included a lovely picnic supper beforehand.  It was chamber of commerce weather in Atlanta, and we pulled up to the amplitheater and walked to the VIP gate per instruction.  First smile came as the clearly marked VIP gate was nestled between two dumpsters.  As we approached a very nice lady enthusiatically greeted us and gave us the "special VIP bracelet, because we are special VIPs".  When she called me a special VIP I do think I laughed out loud assuming she was saying it tongue in cheek.  Nope, turns out we were extremely important.  Second smile of the VIP arrival came when I looked down at my VIP lime green hospital band VIP identification that was taped to my wrist so tightly that circulation to my fingers became a problem.  However, because of my VIP status I was given a second band.  It's all who you know.  The lady greeting us was so sweet but she kept calling us VIPs, telling we are going to have a great time because...yes we were VIPs and on and on.  It was odd, I said to hubby, it's like have to explain a joke--if you have to tell us again and again and again that we really are VIPs then clearly we are not.

I received a prayer request card that read, "pray for a family member who needs therapy."   I was honored to lift that up in prayer, and I it may well be the therapy sought is for a serious situation.  However the way it was phrased made me smile, because it is not a universal request?  It's the prayer card/request we all want to write. 

I had a service man come to the house for a maintenance issue and he was kind and professional, but as he explained that he was looking to move into "semi retirement" from his current work, he asked me to keep an eye out for a job that did not require him to "work much or think much."  OK.

My daughter's coach who chided the team, "Girls, you are going to have to get your dresses dirty... MOVE!"  Girl athletes have a way of going from tough to prissy as a group. 

My 10 year old nephew breathlessly yell/talking to us on the phone about how he and some buddies "ding dong ditched some girls" Saturday at a great sleepover. 

Finally for this entry, I am loving a new book titled, "My Bangs Look Good and other Lies I Tell Myself"  by Susanna Aughtmon. 

"Laugter is the closet thing to the grace of God."  Karl Barth

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Adjust and Re-adjust

My pastor shared a powerful sermon September 11, capturing the moment of the anniversary of 9/11 without having that devastating memory overwhelm the worship of God. 

He preached from Luke 10, the Good Samaritan and honed in on the principle of neighbors see need, not differences, and then act.  I thought about that a lot (indication of a strong message)--but I don't think I trip over differences, where I fail to be right neighborly is in the area of indifferences. 

What culturally, psychologically, religiosity, financially, emotionally, verbosity (I love words more than most) separates me from you--that is not what keeps me from responding.  It's the lure of indifference.  It's an apathy not an offense. 

The apathy does not look like the lifestyle of a sloth bear, I am busy and engaged.  I am productive and have a long list of to-do's.  I even have a list of not gonna get dones. 

The question on the table for me is, "how willing am I to be interrupted or inconvenienced?" 

In another sermon on the same passage the minister pointed to a MLK challenge to not ask what will happen to me if I stop and help, but ask what will happen to him if I don't?

See, the stopping is the rub.

I like to help--helping helps me.  Stopping from the auto pilot setting of my life to reset according to those needs of others is uncomfortable and really actually easy to avoid (because I can point to the many, many, many other circumstances that need my attention).

Looking back just over the last week, I note a few--but too few times when I stopped, and pivoted toward a need of another that was not on script. 

I am going to pray and pursue those people, circumstances more-adjust the settings so that I will apply the brakes and turn in another direction to meet a need with mercy and joy. 

My daughter's coach calls it:  adjust and re-adjust.  It does lead to better play.

"But the Samaritan, as he traveled, came to where the man was;  and when he saw him, he took pity on him.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds...".  Luke 10:33:34. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Why Bother?

It's time to jump start a new season of study.  Pencils sharpened.  New, shiny workbooks with not a wrinkle, neatly stacked.  My new reader glasses (3 pair)  ready (also double as a headband, how forty-something, I know). 

As I consider what to write on my last invitation to join in the group, I think why should these women bother?  Really, why take a Bible study?

There are endless number of reasons, but the most compelling for me is that God's word sounds much different than my word.  Christ and I don't think along the same lines and without a study to guide, prompt, reveal, confront me to that difference, I tend to assume Christ does agree with me. 

That wrong assumption is sometimes funny, but other times destructive.

Example of Carol's word:   I worry about the girls, will they make the team, make friends, make wise choices?  What about starting the school year with less than super grades?  What if they don't reach their potential (what does that mean anyway)?  Am I parenting well?  Too strong, too weak?   What if I take a risk, and it does not work out?  Why did they not include me on the GNO?  Am I a dud?  Why did I say that, or not say anything?  What is wrong with me?  What is wrong with them?  I would not do that, what were they thinking?  What if they don't want to work with me or take "my" class?  How can I be better?  How can they be better?

Example of Christ's word:  Luke 12:21-22:  "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself, but is not rich toward God."  Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Therefore I tell you do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body,what you will wear."   What about this strong warning from Mark 7:  "You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.   He said to them, "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions (or in my case my own priorities, concerns, perspective, values)."

Notice a slight difference?
It's not that the people and circumstances in my life are unimportant, they are valuable, but how I act and react to them should filter through the lens of faith.  My thoughts and words and acts should be consistent with what I believe and know to be true and a sound Bible study moves me in efficient and effective ways to line up my mind and mouth with Christ.

There is also the great joy and benefit of sharing scripture and its power with other Christians.   Learning and encouraging together is inspiring and motivating and humbling.  I think God gifts us with such fellowship.

So that's the short answer to why bother?

It's time to listen and learn and adapt to a holy voice.  It's a sweet sound.

Faith & Grace Bible Study
Roswell Presbyterian Church
Wednesday nights 6 pm and Friday mornings 9:30 am
Study Guide:  David:  Seeking a Heart Like His (written by Beth Moore)

Westchester Fellowship
Tuesday nights (2nd and 4th) 7:30 pm
Study Guide:  Brave:  Honest Questions Women Ask (written by Angela Thomas)

RPC Presbyterian Women Circle 2
Tuesday mornings (first of every month)  9:30 am
Study Guide:  Me, Myself and Lies (written by Jennifer Rothschild)

RPC Faithbuilders Sunday Morning Class (men and women)
Sunday morning:  9:45 am Sanc. 302
Study of the Gospel of John

Any of these sound sweet?  Contact me at


About Me

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Roswell, GA
Loves to find the answers to three questions of a sound Bible study: what does it say, what does it mean, what difference does it make?