Musings from the Gilly Pad

Sunday, December 25, 2011

"O HOLY NIGHT" Truly He taught Us to Love One Another

As we gather with family and friends, let us feast on the One who loves us perfectly, has forgiven us fully, and will redeem us wholly.  Sometimes, loving those closest to us can be difficult, it seems.  (Not in MY family, of course!)  Our home can be our soft place to land, a battlefield, or an arena for our own agenda.  Let's face it, no family is perfect, and WE are that "difficult person" more often than we'd like to admit:(  Maybe we get lazy, and forget to show the same respect that we'd have for a colleague.  Or maybe even justifiably, we go in ready to defend ourselves, because that's just become the pattern.   People view everything we say and do through the lens of their own perception of us, and we tend to return the favor.  The good news is, we're celebrating the One whose purpose for entering the world was reconciliation!  He taught us to love well!  Maybe God put difficult people in our life; to prove not how well we love,  but how well we love Him!  Truly He taught us to love one another!

Francis Schaeffer, in the Mark of a Christian, expounds on the importance of loving our neighbors (that includes our family) as ourselves and that we're to love each other in a way the world may observe.

"This means showing the love to our brothers in the midst of our differences-great or small-loving our brothers when it costs us something, loving them even under times of tremendous emotional tension, loving them in a way the world can see.  In short, we are to practice and exhibit the holiness of God and the love of God, for without this we grieve the Holy Spirit.
Love, and the unity it attest to-is the mark Christ gave Christians to wear before the world.  Only with this mark may the world know that Christians are indeed Christians and that Jesus was sent by the Father."

Truly He taught us to love one another!  My wish for myself and for us all, is that we be devoted seekers, learners, and doers!

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
'Til He appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices! O night divine, O night when Christ was born;  O night divine, O night, O night Divine.
Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!  Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.  His power and glory evermore proclaim.
PDS Boys "O Holy Night"


-Just a little background of one of my favorite Christmas Hymns-

The Amazing Story of 'O Holy Night'
By Ace Collins
Declared 'unfit for church services' in France and later embraced by U.S. abolitionists, the song continues to inspire.

The strange and fascinating story of "O Holy Night" began in France, yet eventually made its way around the world. This seemingly simple song, inspired by a request from a clergyman, would not only become one of the most beloved anthems of all time, it would mark a technological revolution that would forever change the way people were introduced to music.

In 1847, Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure was the commissionaire of wines in a small French town. Known more for his poetry than his church attendance, it probably shocked Placide when his parish priest asked the commissionaire to pen a poem for Christmas mass. Nevertheless, the poet was honored to share his talents with the church.

In a dusty coach traveling down a bumpy road to France's capital city, Placide Cappeau considered the priest's request. Using the gospel of Luke as his guide, Cappeau imagined witnessing the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Thoughts of being present on the blessed night inspired him. By the time he arrived in Paris, "Cantique de Noel" had been completed.

Moved by his own work, Cappeau decided that his "Cantique de Noel" was not just a poem, but a song in need of a master musician's hand. Not musically inclined himself, the poet turned to one of his friends, Adolphe Charles Adams, for help.

The son of a well-known classical musician, Adolphe had studied in the Paris conservatoire. His talent and fame brought requests to write works for orchestras and ballets all over the world. Yet the lyrics that his friend Cappeau gave him must have challenged the composer in a fashion unlike anything he received from London, Berlin, or St. Petersburg.

As a man of Jewish ancestry, for Adolphe the words of "Cantique de Noel" represented a day he didn't celebrate and a man he did not view as the son of God. Nevertheless, Adams quickly went to work, attempting to marry an original score to Cappeau's beautiful words. Adams' finished work pleased both poet and priest. The song was performed just three weeks later at a Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.

Initially, "Cantique de Noel" was wholeheartedly accepted by the church in France and the song quickly found its way into various Catholic Christmas services. But when Placide Cappeau walked away from the church and became a part of the socialist movement, and church leaders discovered that Adolphe Adams was a Jew, the song--which had quickly grown to be one of the most beloved Christmas songs in France--was suddenly and uniformly denounced by the church. The heads of the French Catholic church of the time deemed "Cantique de Noel" as unfit for church services because of its lack of musical taste and "total absence of the spirit of religion." Yet even as the church tried to bury the Christmas song, the French people continued to sing it, and a decade later a reclusive American writer brought it to a whole new audience halfway around the world.

Not only did this American writer--John Sullivan Dwight--feel that this wonderful Christmas song needed to be introduced to America, he saw something else in the song that moved him beyond the story of the birth of Christ. An ardent abolitionist, Dwight strongly identified with the lines of the third verse: "Truly he taught us to love one another; his law is love and his gospel is peace. Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother; and in his name all oppression shall cease." The text supported Dwight's own view of slavery in the South. Published in his magazine, Dwight's English translation of "O Holy Night" quickly found favor in America, especially in the North during the Civil War.

Back in France, even though the song had been banned from the church for almost two decades, many commoners still sang "Cantique de Noel" at home. Legend has it that on Christmas Eve 1871, in the midst of fierce fighting between the armies of Germany and France, during the Franco-Prussian War, a French soldier suddenly jumped out of his muddy trench. Both sides stared at the seemingly crazed man. Boldly standing with no weapon in his hand or at his side, he lifted his eyes to the heavens and sang, "Minuit, Chretiens, c'est l'heure solennelle ou L'Homme Dieu descendit jusqu'a nous," the beginning of "Cantique de Noel."

After completing all three verses, a German infantryman climbed out his hiding place and answered with, "Vom Himmel noch, da komm' ich her. Ich bring' euch gute neue Mar, Der guten Mar bring' ich so viel, Davon ich sing'n und sagen will," the beginning of Martin Luther's robust "From Heaven Above to Earth I Come."

The story goes that the fighting stopped for the next twenty-four hours while the men on both sides observed a temporary peace in honor of Christmas day. Perhaps this story had a part in the French church once again embracing "Cantique de Noel" in holiday services.

Adams had been dead for many years and Cappeau and Dwight were old men when on Christmas Eve 1906, Reginald Fessenden--a 33-year-old university professor and former chief chemist for Thomas Edison--did something long thought impossible. Using a new type of generator, Fessenden spoke into a microphone and, for the first time in history, a man's voice was broadcast over the airwaves: "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed," he began in a clear, strong voice, hoping he was reaching across the distances he supposed he would.

Shocked radio operators on ships and astonished wireless owners at newspapers sat slack-jawed as their normal, coded impulses, heard over tiny speakers, were interrupted by a professor reading from the gospel of Luke. To the few who caught this broadcast, it must have seemed like a miracle--hearing a voice somehow transmitted to those far away. Some might have believed they were hearing the voice of an angel.

Fessenden was probably unaware of the sensation he was causing on ships and in offices; he couldn't have known that men and women were rushing to their wireless units to catch this Christmas Eve miracle. After finishing his recitation of the birth of Christ, Fessenden picked up his violin and played "O Holy Night," the first song ever sent through the air via radio waves. When the carol ended, so did the broadcast--but not before music had found a new medium that would take it around the world.
Since that first rendition at a small Christmas mass in 1847, "O Holy Night" has been sung millions of times in churches in every corner of the world. And since the moment a handful of people first heard it played over the radio, the carol has gone on to become one of the entertainment industry's most recorded and played spiritual songs. This incredible work--requested by a forgotten parish priest, written by a poet who would later split from the church, given soaring music by a Jewish composer, and brought to Americans to serve as much as a tool to spotlight the sinful nature of slavery as tell the story of the birth of a Savior--has become one of the most beautiful, inspired pieces of music ever created.

Reprinted from "Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas" for educational purposes only, from Zondervan. 


Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Gilly Pad Christmas Traditions

My angels, a dwarf, and a honeymoon memory.

It seems as if it's the insignificant things that trigger rich memories of family traditions, like the common items that get brought out once a year to hang on our tree.  Look at those sweet little angel ornaments on my tree!  I don't see them as "my little angels" on a daily basis, though.  Honestly, because they're not.  Today, I've had to place a ban on the television because no one could agree on what to watch.  It became a "you vs. me" battle among the kids.  If one can't sacrifice their own agenda, no one gets what they want.  That's the way it's going down here at the Gilly Pad today!  Now back to my tree.  I love to see those precious little 5 year old faces in the center of that paper doily!  One particular ornament, the wooden sled, holds meaning for us as a couple.  I'm taken back to a time of sheer ignorance...I mean innocence and wedded bliss because we went to Maine for our honeymoon.  Honeymoons are so weird.  I have no other word.  We had a blast because mainly we really like each other.  But weird things happen.  I saw my husband brush his teeth for the first time...among other things!  Weird.
One of my favorite sets of ornaments to adorn our tree is the little plastic group of the seven dwarfs. My husband's family had a tradition of giving all the kids a Christmas ornament each year.  My husband's parents were both school teachers, and they would get odd jobs during the school break in order to buy presents.  Not a lot of money could be spent on ornaments, but it was a tradition, and they made it a priority.  So this simple, plastic ornament is a reminder of how his parents sacrificed in order to provide for their family.  Now that we're parents, we have such a better perspective of the sacrifices both sets of parents made and how meaningful our childhood was.  I love how family history grounds us and gives us a sense from where we've come.  It gives a us a sense of belonging that each of us has embedded in the depths of our soul.

Objects of old and new, dabbled in green and blue
Family traditions are really important.  It's something about being a part of something bigger than ourselves, isn't it?  It's really only through those traditions and family stories that our legacy continues.  What happens to a people when the story is no longer honored?  Without it, generations are forgotten, and we lose our family story.  Our "Elfie" has been a part of the Gilliland family for a couple of generations.  This is well before "Elf on a Shelf."  The kids don't actually see Elfie.  He comes to see the kids every night and places candy or some other unnecessary plastic object on their Advent calendar.  Since Elfie came to see my husband as a child, he has the honors of making sure Elfie does his job:)

The most popular story this time of year is so familiar, that we forget that we are a part of the story, as well.  We've let the story become irrelevant to our everyday existence.  The narrative has lost its place as truth and has been replaced by feelings, individual choices and trends of the moment.  The familiar story is about the birth of Christ, God made flesh!  We set up the nativity scene, without remembering that the baby became a man crucified, whose body and blood cleanses and sustains us.  Even His story is part of a much bigger story, and begins well before His birth in a manger.  The whole Bible is the story of the life and purpose of Christ, beginning in Genesis and threaded through a family.  Christ came to us in a family!  (Not a man who appears out from the solitude of the woods, or from a dream of a man (of course) that tells him upon death, he'll have his choice of ten virgins!)

Yes, the purpose of Christ's coming to earth in a family is so much bigger and better than Sweet Baby Jesus!  Spoiler alert:  Jesus is not a white English speaking American!  Jesus isn't a republican or a democrat.  Christ came on a mission, and lived a life of love and sacrifice.  His story hasn't sustained longevity on theatrics or cliff-hangers.  No, His story remains because He lived it.  He also brings us into His story, and we live in that story with him, now!  Our Christian religion is more than a tradition, its our heritage.  It grounds us and gives us a sense of belonging and security.  He is a covenant God and He remembers the promise He made with His family.  Jesus came to heal all of creation, to restore all things back to Himself.  His is the great story of reconciliation and peace!  All cultures everywhere are part of His great redemptive narrative found in the Scripture.  It's not just a priority to continue the story, it's an honor.  How wonderful to share and live in this story that has been sustained for thousands and thousands of years with people from every tribe and every nation! 

There's something about Christmas that also brings out my inner Texan!  This year I gathered all the sparkly, shiny things I could muster and placed them on my mantle.  I love my collection of mid-century modern vases!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thoughts on regrets, life, death, and a dose of reality

I had in mind to write about things that kept me up last night, like the fact that I had a moment of utter joy when I saw the face of my daughter when I picked her up at carpool.  I've been sick, so her daddy has been doing the afternoon carpool. (He's the man! No, he's The Gilly!) I was in his car, but when she realized it was me, you would've thought that she had just seen Justin Bieber!  O, quit being judgmental...who did we have?  Shaun CassidyAndy GibbRalph MacchioScott BaioJustin Timberlake!

Laurian's room
Anyway...I had many thoughts on how we parents both celebrate and mourn the fact that our kids grow up.  Is it because we know the harsh reality of life that they'll experience with age?  That the more they know, bits of innocence are lost?  Or is it that there's an underlying sense of regret that maybe we didn't do all we should've done - not FOR them, but WITH them?  I have tears now...lack of sleep...I'll try to get to that one later.

Because I couldn't sleep, I read an article from the Wall Street Journal online about Steve Jobs, soon after he died.  I encourage you to read the entire article.  It's really good.  This, in particular:
Yes, I let my kids decorate their own rooms. 
At a Stanford commencement address, Jobs states, "No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It's life's change agent; it clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now, the new is you. But someday, not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away."

Well, somebody pass the Bordeaux!  I'm all warm and tingly and wish to celebrate!  Yeah, not really.  Where is hope is that?  Where is life with meaning and purpose?  But it's the comment, "No one wants to die," that sent my heart and mind into a tailspin.  I won't expound on it here, but I want you to think about this, too.  There is truth in what he says here, if we are honest.  Could it be because we've been given a life, right here, right now, that does have purpose?  Is our time here in this world meaningful in the historical narrative of life?  Is there a design and order to the fact that we're here, right where we should be because our Creator  and Author of Life has promised us life and life  That this temporal life is part of His master plan of redemption?  The fact that we have the possibility to even experience pleasures such as the smell of a baby's head, the touch of our lover, the beauty of a sunset, good wine, and good conversation are pretty solid reasons enough that what happens here in this world matters, and that we actually celebrate being in His Presence in this world!  He delights in our pleasures!

Micah 7:18  "Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance?  He does not retain his anger forever, because He delights in steadfast love."

Those pleasures are but a foretaste of what being united to Him for eternity brings.  It is possible to experience heaven on earth, to a limited degree, and depending on if you view heaven as a place in the clouds or if you view it as an eternal reality, as described in God's Word.  (I encourage us all to go to His Word and examine it's's a good, good word.)  Could it be that those of us who do, in fact, long for the new heavens and new earth don't want to die, because dying is not natural?  Humanity wasn't intended to experience it.  We were created to live in perfect relationship forever.  Wanting to avoid pain and suffering is not for a lack of faith, it just is what it's painful and we'd rather avoid it.  Sure, there is fear in the unknown of the "how" death may take place and how it would affect those left behind.  And there's certainly unbearable pain when we experience the absence of those we share our life with.  But there is no fear in the "destination" (Jobs' word) in the life of the redeemed.  Our Creator brings us to Himself, we're made whole, and we pleasure His Presence and the presence of loved ones gone before us, for eternity.  Just think about comments or questions...I'm no expert, and I certainly don't know all the answers.  I'm just thinking. dead bolt was stuck:(
Getting back to a day in the life at the Gilly Pad!!!  Reality of now! I was going to write more on both of these topics, but for now I only have broad brush strokes.  I'll have to contemplate the details for a while.  Life...REALITY!  That active, meaningful, purposeful life of mine gets a shot of chaos every once in a while, and I just wanted to let you in!  I put out a small kitchen fire and learned all my little ol' self how to pick a dead bolt lock by 10 a.m. this morning!  I feel like a dirty little criminal, AND I LIKE IT!  I feel empowered and I have impressed even myself!  It's "Yea for me!" Day around here, folks!  Check it out!
After finding the right tool, it sort of all fell off.
It's a bad, bad back door, folks.  It has been for years.  But there are more important expenses to take care of right now.  I color my hair often because I get bored, I want a Vitamix (or whatever) for Christmas (so I can throw a bunch of junk in there and drink my meals...moms don't have time to sit and eat during the day!), and we likes the red vino around here.  Priorities.

Sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo, welcome to my pleasure-filled life at my home!  You see the little lock at the top of the door is what we have to use to keep the door closed.  It's great as long as you don't need to get in.  I couldn't this morning and I thought Chad may have locked it with the deadbolt.  I don't know why though, because he doesn't even know that our house key actually fits in there.  I only found out about a month ago!  (We've been here 7 or 8 years.)  I turned the dang thing and it that's what got me into a pickle this morning!  No fear, I dare not ask for help when there are tools to be used!!!

So this is how I've patched it up for now.  It's a little racey, huh?  It works.  However, from the look of the exterior "door knob" (picture below, now that's some home-cookin') and the window I taped up a few years ago, I think we're sinking to a new level of red. 

I came up with this little contraption after I paid two different people to install a proper door knob.  I really like it, especially my arrows telling the kids which way to turn the, uh, knob!

Friday, November 11, 2011

What's Your Story?

 "What's your story?" is one of my best friend's favorite conversation starters.  It's quite genius, I think.  We all love a good story.  It's pretty amazing to think that we share a few of the same stories in our memory bank with strangers who live all around the world.  From Noah to Cinderella to Superman, there are stories that create powerful images and universally resonate with humanity.  These stories become emblazoned in our mind, and they've been sustained throughout generations from Egypt to Iceland to wherever-you-are-land.  The same is true with family stories that extend from one generation to the next.  Although they can be quite embarrassing, they are nevertheless part of our family heritage, and the stories keep us connected to one another.  Our history gives us our foundation that grounds us.  

What is our story?  Experts in the field of expertise tell us only 20% of what we do with our day really matters, so why get all hot and bothered?  Heaven forbid, we stop and think about consequences and the meaning of life.  (By the way, is it just us folks in the south that say, "Heaven forbid!" ?  I know we're the only ones who say, "Lawsy mercy!")  Digressing...focus, Leigh.  We want our story to be good, so we want to be the best at what we do, right?  How can we attain our story of ultimate awesomeness?  Surely we read a how-to book, pre-pay and actually go to a self-help seminar, or sign up for an on-line daily accountability program.  We must learn the new and improved method! We learn tactics!  We learn solutions given to us in illustrated diagrams, some of which are color-coded if you upgrade.

"This is a wretched pot-scrubber!"  Wait, wait, wait.  Reverse.  beepbeepbeep

Where in the world did that come from?  It came from a story, silly!  You mean you're confused?  Welcome to Gilly Land!  No really, it's from a story, but it could be from a number of stories.  We get what the sentence is about, but not the purpose, because we don't know the context of this fragment of the story, and most importantly we don't know the story at all.  We don't know where this piece fits.  We're clueless, but highly intelligent beings who won't give in to confusion because we're all about our awesomeness and to admit uncertainty is weak and shallow and we'll lose all credibility of the keepers of awesomeness.

Hint:  Our story is not formed or improved upon through methods or self-help programs, nor is the context of our story framed by the use of a diagram.

I taught a lesson to the Redeemer Jr. High kids in Christian Ed a few Sundays ago.  As they walked in, I began brushing my hair with a toothbrush.  One of the gals said, "UUuummmmm, that's not working so well."  I put the toothbrush down, and then my 12-year old son became both mortified and stupefied when I delivered a story in my best (which was awful) British theologian's accent.  I had recently listened to a podcast of Bishop Lesslie Newbigin telling this story of attending a festival in Liverpool as a schoolboy.  A new substance had just been invented and its surplus was given out to the people in the streets.  One woman received her portion, and after a brief time came back to loudly exclaim, "This is a wretched pot scrubber!"  Well, what was handed out was not a pot scrubber at all.  It was shredded wheat!  The purpose of what was given to her was not to be used as a pot scrubber.  Its intended purpose was to provide nourishment!  They didn't understand its fundamental purpose, so it wasn't used properly!  Just as the shredded wheat was meaningless as a pot scrubber, so my toothbrush hardly functioned well as a hair brush.  Misunderstood, they didn't have a meaningful existence because they were used out of context. 

"What's your story?"  It's a brilliant question, and one I'll try to build upon here from the Gilly Pad. The story of the life that we live now functions as a fragment within the historical context of a beautiful, comprehensive, unfolding, ongoing story.  When we misunderstand the purpose of that story, our lives function out of context, and people are unable to flourish in the way they were intended.

Newsflash!  I've recently learned to read my Bible.  "Scuuuz me?" say ye.  Yep, really.  I've read bits and pieces of my Bible for years, taking fragments, pretty pieces and parts and have twisted and cranked those pieces to fit me and my interests.  I took parts of a whole and mistakenly manipulated them for methods instead of understanding them for what they really are.  Principles given as truth, freedom, and living real life, right now.  I'm slowly beginning to understand the Author's intention, and my life in the proper context of the grand narrative.

Hint:  My story is not all about me.

*I only included the link to this Bible because it's the one I really like...the commentary is great.  It includes charts:)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Do you like everything about yourself?

Ben Crane, a notoriously slow PGA Tour player, speaking words of wisdom.

I've done some thinking about myself lately.  Don't we all, all the time?  I'm convinced I'm on 'Candid Camera.' The public gets to witness me trying to steer through the chaos of life!  I am here for your entertainment, world!  While other very diligent and well layered moms are busy getting their kids to places they're supposed to be in order for them to grow up to be the people that other people think they're supposed to be, I'm just sort of chasing my tail.  I just don't do so well at logistical things like meetings, reading or deleting emails, and remembering the last location I dropped off each kid.  One year I submitted a disclaimer to my kids' teachers:  "Hey!  I'm (CharlieBenLaurian's) mom.   I'm not very organized, and I appreciate reminder emails because chances are, I never read the first its entirety."  Set their expectations low, there's less disappointment.

"Do you think I want to be this way? 

In a word: "NO."  I don't like all the stuff of me, but I know who made me (and you), so I live with a sense of confidence that He has a pretty good handle on things.  He created us all in His image.  Red and yellow, black and white, we are precious in His sight!  God loves His creation and all of His creatures.  Everything went wonky in the garden when Eve thought she knew better and all Adam could do was blame-shift.  Since then, we've all had quite a time, haven't we?  And I emphasize ALL.  We ALL inherited the stain.  We're all more prone to do the selfish thing before we do the right thing.  Thankfully in the garden, God made a promise to never leave us, and a promise that He would make right what man had wronged.  And therein lies my confident hope!  By faith, I have confidence in a hope that will be realized.  I know with absolute certainty that I'm going to mess up royally and often...and so are you!  Why are we ever shocked at the ways of others?

"Do you like everything about yourself?"

When a golfer's pace is slow, it throws the rhythm of the other players out of whack...that's what my husband tells me, and I believe everything he says.  (heehee)  Maybe it throws others off because while pausing, they're forced to actually use their noggin to think about things like their swing, their last shot,  the next shot, the ball's lie, the direction of the wind, the sun in the sky. I know for me, when I pause long enough to examine the stuff of me, I'm much more willing to have mercy when it comes to the stuff of others.  No, I don't like everything about myself, and you probably feel the same about yourself.  So surely humility and mercy is the only response to this attitude.

Maybe Crane's rhythm of slowness is to his benefit.  The stillness of quiet solitude is the only place to honestly think and understand who we are and what things are really important.  We tend to busy ourselves with our kids, jobs, shopping, doing or watching sports, even religious activities in order to avoid the reality of who we are and what drives us.  Philosopher Dallas Willard emphasizes how essential solitude is by saying, "You learn how God works when you don't work." God gives us mercy and expects us to be merciful to others.  That transforming work enables us to try to see others the way He sees them.  And then what changes?  Our attitude!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Created with the "I wants"

I really love the payback of becoming a parent.  It's truly rewarding to see my greatest flaws smacking me right dab in the face.  My parents always told me, "Leigh, you just have the I wants!  I want this, I want that!  Want, want, want."  The torch has now been passed.  It's my turn to deal with my own little genetically wounded reproductions!  Eh, it's not always so bad.  I think it may be easier, though, if we live with at least a dose of reality and admit we're all flawed.  It is what it is.   

Ben:  "What's that list over there?"

Me:   "It's Laurian's list of songs on her ipod.  She just wrote them in a fancy font on the computer and decided to tape it on that piece of furniture."

Ben:  "Oh.  Because I thought it was a list of things she wanted, and I was like, I've been wanting a lot of things for a long time now, and if she gets those things ,well that's not gonna' be fair."

Me:   "Nope.  It's just her list of songs that she already has on her ipod."

Ben:  "Man...I want a lot of things.  I just wish, like,  I just wish I could have all the things I wanted and like, life would be sooooo easy."

Me:  "Not necessarily, Ben.  Getting everything you want could actually be really harmful.  It's not realistic and life doesn't work that way.  We don't get everything we want, and life isn't always easy.  We have to learn to deal with it.  It is what it is."

Ben:  "But, I mean, like, if I had everything I wanted I wouldn't want anything else...and then I'd stop bugging you."

Me:  "Here's the deal, Ben.  God created us to need and to want.   He wants us to desire what is ultimately good for us all.  And Ben, what He really wants is for us to realize our need for Him and for us to want Him most of all."

Ben:  "Ooooohhhyyyeahhhhh.  I kinda' forgot about that."

"The Lord is my portion", says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him." Lamentations 3:24

"Thou hast created us for Thyself, and our heart is restless until it rests in Thee."
St. Augustine of Hippo

"There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Christ."
Blaise Pascal, French Mathematician, Philosopher, Physicist

Friday, October 21, 2011

Parenting without Perfection, nugget #1

I've read a few books lately that have really challenged me to examine a lot of things about my poor little ol' self.  I'll only mention one today.  If you're like me, you may think you should bypass this one because upon seeing the title, you know you've already got it licked.  It's Parenting without Perfection by David John Seel, Jr.  I know, you see it and say to yourself, "Check. I've got that one mastered." 
Parenting without Perfection is not just for parents, either!  You know what especially vexes me, though?   The men (fathers) who will overlook this book, simply because the word "parenting" is in the title. It's as if they think they have nothing to learn or that parenting really doesn't concern them in a personal way.  It's as if "parenting" is something they don't partake in, as if it's "knitting" or something.  (you know what I mean, don't be so persnickety.)  Certainly parenting is not perceived as a primary job!  Whoa!  If so, that would require it having a sense of value, and nothing is valuable without a bottom line number, right?  UGH.  You sense my disgust, and I have many more thoughts but will spare you except for this one question.  What is the role of a spiritual leader, if not to be one worthy of respect and honor through his/her humility, service, and grace toward others...especially his/her own children?  I'm thinking that "parenting" needs to be added to a few "to do" lists. 

This book is not a cure for our kids' misbehavior, nor does it give us a million steps to follow or rules to impose in order that our underlings "obey without delay."  (That my friends, is a ferr rreeyul mantra to some whacks, and for another day, as well.  Oh, for those who don't live in the American south...that strange word just mentioned is just southern red-neck for "for real.")  Forgive me, I'm digressing.  This book doesn't tell us how to parent.  Instead of dictating how, it asks us to reflect on what a parent is, and why we parent.  It challenges us to examine what we believe as parents, and if we truly live within our beliefs.  According to Seel, our responsibility in parenting is more about a mirror than a rod.  It's more about what our lives reflect than their outward behavior!  There are so many nuggets in this book, but a fundamental theme throughout is how we should engage in the world of our kids.  We're challenged to get uncomfortable and really learn the culture of our kids' world.  Getting involved physically and mentally is fundamental when connecting with our kids emotionally and spiritually.  We need to know our kids, and maybe even more importantly, we need to know who we are & whose we are, before we're able to influence our children in any way at all.  

I love Genesis and the story of creation.  It's sort of a big deal!  The beginning of any story is essential to understanding the main idea, right?  When we see the Bible for what it really is - one big story with many chapters - then we're able to see more clearly the redemptive story of Jesus from Genesis to Revelation.  Understanding how to read the story brought the reality of the story in my life.  We're all part of that ongoing story!  From the beginning we learn a tad bit about why God made, oh, the cosmos!  We learn why and how God made us!  Being made in the image of God may have become so familiar to you that it's really quite unfamiliar.  We tend to forget the magnitude of what it really means to be created in the image of our Holy Father.  We forget to see characteristics of Him in others, and we neglect to maintain and nurture those within us, don't we?  I do.  We're creatures made in his likeness, so it's a pretty good idea to know a little about the One who created us.  It's our birthright!  In Parenting without Perfection, Seel points out what we really should already know (if we're realistic and know ourselves at all), but sometimes we need someone to put it in print in order to bring it to our attention.  Sometimes we have spiritual amnesia.  A nugget to ponder from this book-

The possibility of rebellion is the mark of being made in the image of God.  Seel writes, "As parents, we are stewards of young people who bear the image of God and whose lives will finally be directed by the choices they make before their Creator."  He quotes philosopher Dallas Willard in his book, In Search of Guidance, "God has paid an awful price to arrange for human self-determination.  He obviously places great value on it.  It is, after all, the only way He can get the kind of personal beings He desires for His eternal purposes."

Are we humbled by our own rebellion as much as we acknowledge our kids' mistakes?  Are we really shocked when our kids behavior doesn't meet our standards?  What framework shapes the standards we set for them, and do our kids see us live within those standards, as well?  I think I need to dust off my mirror and get on my knees.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Just Because You Can, Doesn't Mean You Should

"There is no being less rational than that which is human."  - Leigh L. Gilliland, life-long human

The battle is an ancient battle fought by our species since the beginning of time.  Decisions made by us (the human species) have shaped our world's history and continuously shape our future.  Usually it's several individuals, communities, cities, etc. that will either suffer or benefit from the decision of one individual.  So what I'm saying is this: An individual's decision doesn't always stop at that individual.  There is a constant battle that we humans face every single day, all throughout the day.  We have the freedom and capability to be completely rational, but so often we're not.  I'm ashamed to admit, some of my most irrational decisions have been made quite willfully.

Have mercy me, will you?  I'm no philosopher; I just find people fascinating, and this thought occurred to me while my husband and I were discussing decisions people make....very public and visible decisions...that seem to be void of any forethought.  When choices are made, do we only consider what is best for ourselves?  Do we contemplate those around us and consider the consequences of how our choices could shape or alter the lives of others?  When we act "in our best interest", are we in denial that our best interest just may be an impulsive, momentary desire and not in our best interest at all because it's not in the best interest of others?  Do we intentionally take on a posture of humility and honesty to examine our motives and its consequences?   

Just because something is permissible, does not make it beneficial.  Just because something is good, does not mean that it is right.  Just because something is beautiful, does not mean that it is to be had.  Just because something is lawful, does not mean that it is not hurtful.  Just because something is lawful, does not mean it is not evil.  Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. 

So how can we go forward and try to make more rational decisions?  I think most of the time we must look outside of ourselves and objectively, honestly ask:  What does this look like 5 years from now?  What are the ripple effects?  Is this beneficial primarily to me or to others, as well?  Am I considering the well-being of others?  What is the motivation my heart?  Just because I can, does it mean that I should?


On a related, unrelated topic:
Those who know me know I'm passionate about the preservation of historical property.  Midtown Memphis is losing the historical Union Avenue Methodist Church to CVS pharmacy.  I'm not so irrational that I think the people who agreed to sell this building are evil.  I don't even think that the members of our City Council who, although acting against our Land Use Control Board,  allowed its demolition are evil....uneducated, uninformed, and unconcerned...possibly.  However, I feel strongly that although it was quite permissible and quite lawful, it was not beneficial for our little community who fought so hard for its restoration.  I realize that decisions made here will benefit a few, and that the decision was in opposition to what I selfishly wanted for my community.  I know that my opinion is tainted with my own stuff, is what I'm saying.  I just believe to the depths of my core being that this will be more of a corporate benefit rather than my local community's benefit.  I can't hold a grudge, and my heart will need to forgive those who I think acted in poor judgement.  Life goes on, and I choose to live in this great city, albeit its flaws.  Memphis is worth it!
Union Avenue United Methodist Church in Memphis, TN  
future corner of Cooper and Union
A great big THANK YOU to June West and all the efforts of Memphis Heritage for fighting for the preservation of this beautiful, architectural gem.  The folks in Midtown Memphis are proud of our historical and cultural uniqueness within the city of Memphis, and we tried.  Thanks for allowing me to say to my peace.  Peace be with you all.

Potential buyers from a local church tour interior of Union Ave. Methodist Church

Monday, February 21, 2011

How full is our love tank, and who or what do we trust to fill it? (edited version)

Why do the longings of our heart never cease?  We love and lose, only to love again.  Or we love, and keep loving, only never to be really fulfilled by that which we love.  We're made with a love tank, it seems, and its need to be filled.  Like my kids, I grieve when things that bring me temporary happiness are gone.  Therein lies the rub, huh?  I tend to focus more on that which is temporal rather than that which is eternal.  I spend more time thinking about ___.  Fill in the blank with whatever your heart desires...fame, fortune, sex, food, perfection, status, toys, bigger-better-newer-faster toys, the perfect golf swing, the perfect kid, the position, the club, to be "in" instead of "out" of the "in" whatever the "in" is at the moment as far as you know for right now, etc.  The list goes on.  Don't get me wrong.  I think God wants us to find pleasure with things in our lives, but with a proper perspective.  When will I realize that the "things" I  allow into my love tank are there for my temporary enjoyment, not my ultimate fulfillment?   With passionate devotion, why don't I cling to the one where love itself finds its source?

I'm weak to temptation and arrogant about doing life my way.   Still, my heart gravitates to so many things that won't fulfill my love tank.  They won't, because they can't.  We claim things, they don't claim us.  The fact is, "things" don't endure because "things" have no obligation to us.  We bring the things into our world.  How ironic is it that God began his redeeming relationship with his people not with a proposition, but with a promise.  "I will be your God."  He committed Himself to us!  In spite of ourselves, He claims us.  I need to trust my fulfillment to come from the one who promises to be my portion. Out of gratitude, I should faithfully cling to the author of my being who promises to never leave me nor forsake me.  My love tank was created to be filled, ultimately fulfilled, by the very one who created it.  Maybe if I meditated more on the spiritual rather than the temporal longings of my heart, I'd actually be more free to love!  My ultimate fulfillment wouldn't be contingent upon the existence or absence of something or someone that isn't constituted to meet that need.

God's presence creates a fulfilling love that produces a peace that passes all understanding.  He keeps and completes His promises.  That gives me hope.  Our heart longs for that presence because His love is the only love that has no end.  He doesn't leave us, because He can't.  We exist in His world.  How full is our love tank, and who or what do we trust to fill it?  

Saturday, February 19, 2011

What fills my love tank and are there any floaters?

My daughter came into my room with her eyes filled with tears and her chin drooping with the weight of sadness.  The reality set in when she heard her own voice saying what she knew but didn't want to believe. "Something sad happened. Bella died!"  She was overwhelmed with grief at the loss of a fish that I forgot even existed.  My little girl was experiencing the pain of losing something she loved.  Bella's existence filled Laurian's heart with happiness.  She filled her love tank, so to speak.  Upon finding poor Bella floating belly up, she no longer had the presence of dear Bella.  Now her tacky little fish tank was representative of her heart.  It was less full.

Life throws some mean punches, doesn't it?  To unleash our emotions and cling to something or someone is as natural as breathing.  Yet toys deteriorate, metal gets dented, electronics fall into the toilet and have technical difficulties, someone tries to revive it by baking it in the oven and it suffers irreparable damages (oops...only trying to help, honey), and we are flawed and will be on both the giving and receiving ends of hurt and disappointment.  Yet longing, loving is never an option is it?  Why does the yearning never cease?  We love and lose, only to love again.  Or we love, and keep loving, only never to be really fulfilled by that which we love.  We're made with a love tank, it seems, and its need to be filled.  Like my daughter, I grieve when things that bring me temporary happiness are gone.  Therein lies the rub, huh?  I tend to focus more on that which is temporal rather than that which is eternal.  I spend more time thinking about ___.  Fill in the blank with whatever your heart desires...fame, fortune, sex, food, perfection, status, toys, bigger-better-newer-faster toys, the perfect golf swing, the perfect kid, the position, the club, to be "in" instead of "out" of the "in" whatever the "in" is at the moment as far as you know for right now, etc.  The list goes on.  My latest obsession is mid-century modern furniture, and I'm in total sweaty-lust-love with an oval Saarinen table taking up residence in my breakfast room.  I dream about it!  I long for it!  I want to own it and love it like a wee little baby!!!  I think it will fill my love tank...and it would look absolutely fabulous!  See, I'm so short-sighted.  Don't get me wrong.  I think God wants us to find pleasure with things in our lives, but with a proper perspective.  When will I realize that the "things" I  allow into my love tank are there for my temporary enjoyment, not my ultimate fulfillment?   With passionate devotion, why don't I cling to the one where love itself finds its source?

When the punches are thrown, I'm prone to wander, though.  I'm weak to temptation and arrogant about doing life my way.   Still, my heart gravitates to so many things that won't fulfill my love tank.  They won't, because they can't.  We claim things, they don't claim us.  The fact is, "things" don't endure because "things" have no obligation to us.  We bring the things into our world.  How ironic is it that God began his redeeming relationship with his people not with a proposition, but with a promise.  "I will be your God."  He committed Himself to us!  In spite of ourselves, He claims us.  I need to trust my fulfillment to come from the one who promises to be my portion. Out of gratitude, I should faithfully cling to the author of my being who promises to never leave me nor forsake me.  My love tank was created to be filled, ultimately fulfilled, by the very one who created it.  Maybe if I meditated more on the spiritual rather than the temporal longings of my heart, I'd actually be more free to love because my ultimate fulfillment wouldn't be contingent upon the existence or absence of a dead, floating fish, for example.

Just as Bella's presence created a (temporary) sense of happiness for my daughter, God's presence creates a fulfilling love that produces a peace that passes all understanding.  He keeps and completes His promises.  That gives me hope.  Our heart longs for that presence because His love is the only love that has no end.  He doesn't leave us, because He can't.  We exist in His world.  I like word pictures, so I'm going to visualize my love tank as if it's that tacky little fish tank.  How full is my love tank, and who or what do I trust to fill it?  I need to slow down and examine its contents, the desires of my heart, more often.  I'm sure I'll find some floaters.

Friday, February 4, 2011

What legacy are we passing on to our children?

This is an excerpt from Sacred Parenting, written by Gary Thomas

     Our search for significance can become really pathetic, like two kids fighting over a broken toy.  Now that his season home run record has been broken, how long will people remember Roger Maris?  Who was the senior vice president of General Motors in 1975?  In 1983?  Who were the two senators from Virginia in 1910?  Who pastored the largest church in America in1935?  What are the names of those who climbed Mount Everest in 1991?  Who was the top fashion designer in 1954?
     Few of us could answer more than one or two of these questions, and yet these sorts of people are the ones who most often earn profiles in USA Today and the most popular magazines and on television programs.  Children teach us the profound and simple message that what popular society values most grows irrelevant and even comical when confronted by the inexorable weight of history.  What often gets our least attention - a heritage of faith - is the only thing we actually leave behind.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Blessing of a Skinned Knee (and two broken arms and temporary blindness)

"I see dead people."  I know, out of nowhere, but that is what I feel like is ringing in my head.  I feel like I did after I saw the movie "Sixth Sense" and what I felt like for days after watching the incredible "Black Swan."  What is real?  What is not?

This cyber culture that our kids are growing up in...are incubating a world of really not knowing who is real and who is not real.  As an almost...choke, cough, spit, chew...40 year old, navigating in my own little social network is difficult enough.  The need to let someone know my thoughts or ideas and then my obsession of wanting their immediate response can be extreme.  Trying to analyze the tone of the message in an email is mental gymnastics.

Our kids DO NOT have the developmental coping skills or mental capability to navigate their cyber world they are living in!  Now, my son is no social butterfly, and I really don't think he cares to be...not now.  He has around 8 friends in his contacts for google buzz compared to the few hundred of that of his friends.  I check out his buzz, texts, etc. every now and then because those are the conditions with which we allowed him to make an account.  OH MY GOOD GRIEF!  Kids are cruel, they are immature, have no concept of respect, their brains have not caught up with the strange happenings of their bodies, and have I mentioned that they are cruel?

The Blessing of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel is by far one of the best books I've ever read.  It's a beautifully written book using Jewish teachings to raise kids who are self-reliant.  The tendency is to protect them from getting hurt, or from failing, or being disappointed, and heaven-forbid  from being unhappy!  As parents, that's what we do, right?  But the reality is, that's life.  We fail, we're disappointed, we get unhappy, life goes on.  We must allow our children that great opportunity to mature and learn coping skills so that they can go on with their own life.  As elusive as it can seem, that's what our job is.  We guide our children through life, sometimes with dictator-like control, sometimes haphazardly, but at the end of the day we raise them to leave us.  That is a hard pill to swallow.  At this point, our kids...I need...much more than scraped skinned and blood!

I'm thinking about how The Blessing of Two Broken Arms and Temporary Blindness would go over. My kids' time on the computer is limited, but if both of their arms were broken, it would just be a relief AND funny!  Sorry...mothers can be cruel, too!  Also, the fact that a box in our family room tells my boys what elderly gentleman need to do if they can't get it up, is obnoxious!  (Can I say that?  I tend to be blunt) The billboards the size of my house we pass going downtown is ridiculous!  We pass one that is advertising shoes.  I THINK it's advertising shoes because that is the only accessory on the chick's body!  Imagine what this little screen shakes at them?  I'm just over it!

The Blessing of Two Broken Arms and Temporary Blindness...that's what we need to wish upon our children until we parents stop seeing dead people!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Picking up Butch...What ESPN taught me about serving others

"Picking Up Butch"...What ESPN taught me about serving others

      I walked into the kitchen on Saturday to find my sweet husband cooking breakfast and watching ESPN. I poured my coffee, my source of kindness in the morning, and then complimented him on what a very fine job he was doing.  Minutes later we were glued to this story, and both us were a little teary.
     OK, so ESPN didn't really teach me anything in the literal sense, but this video certainly got me to thinkin'.  It's worth 10 minutes of your time. It was featured a few years ago, and won SportsCenter an Emmy and a prestigious Edward M. Morrow award.  It's a true story that exemplifies how to serve others.
      I admit I’m not so great at being a servant.  I want to be, but Selfish-Self seems to take over and she has a much more domineering personality than Selfless-Self.  I wrestle with her and she usually wins, but my hope comes from the fact that I know God is way bigger than Selfish-Self!  I’m reminded that Christ came not to be served, but TO serve.  Even if you don't believe in God - or maybe you believe but just don't like him - you have to admit the whole "love your neighbor as yourself" thing would be a great mantra by which to live.  Surely it would reduce prison overcrowding and reality tv...not that there's anything wrong with that...I do love those Kardashian crazies!
      However, we live in an extremely self-centered world, and we go against our proper design when we esteem ourselves more highly than others.  Jeffrey Lancaster, my pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Memphis TN, has been teaching a series on love.  Just yesterday he encouraged us to love and serve all mankind, like Christ.  We are to love and serve those who have different beliefs, different faiths, those who don’t look like us, those who don’t think like us, those who are difficult, and even when it calls for us to sacrifice something, and oh, goodness…even inconvenience us!  We’re supposed to love and serve not only when it’s easy, and not because we get something in return.
      I admit, I need to be more intentional about serving those who live under my very own roof!  How often do I push my own agenda because it pleases me?  How often do I tell my kids to "be quite" simply because I'm tired of hearing their voices or that I'd rather hear what Ryan Seacrest is saying?  We have such a warped view of what it really means for us to "serve".  It has become some passive little duty that ones does subserviently.  Really, "serving" is something we actively and intentionally choose to do!  How often do I serve my sweet husband?  Does my (your) "I am woman, hear me roar" attitude keep me  from serving this great guy that I love like crazy?  How messed up is that?  He loves me!  Husbands, how do you serve your wife?  How do you serve your kids?  Does your time trump time spent with your kids?  Do you consider yourself above your wife and kids because you are "the man of the house"?  Way messed up!  But you know I'm a big fan of hope!  The good news is, not a single one of us is beyond repair.  We'll never be so far gone that we're beyond God's grace.  
     Let's all try to see where there are needs in other people's lives, in our city,  in our own homes, and do our best to serve.  I'm thinking I'll start with the 3 little Gillys!

Interior of UAMC/ JFK - a set on Flickr  by Carl Fox of Memphis, TN  Union Ave. Methodist Church

***These photos taken by me, fall 2009.

Please take time to view and enjoy them.  Next Thursday, December 16th, a court will decide the fate of this historical landmark that anchors the landscape of my neighborhood in Midtown Memphis,TN.  The legacy of The Union Avenue United Methodist Church will be put to death if CVS is allowed to purchase and demolish this building.  Local organizations have expressed serious interests.  I hope they will be given the opportunity to purchase it and the honor of restoring it to a place of worship for the Midtown community.

***These photos were taken by TN Representative Steve Cohen, when he was 12 yrs. old.  It was the only day in which Kennedy and Nixon were campaigning in the same city.
(The building in the background is the Union Avenue Methodist Church.)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Words of Three Kings: Jesus, MLK, and Elvis

So many times, we think about the will of God and what it means for us as individuals. What does God want me to do? What is His will for my life? Some of us wait for a peaceful, easy feeling, and some of us wait for a phone call from the man Himself.  Sometimes I think I act like the character played by Bridget Fonda in the movie "Singles" as she's desperately waiting for a sign letting her know if she should call her boyfriend.  She's throwing balls of paper in the trash can, and the determining factor is whether or not she hits the basket.  I think I'm like that when I just want to be absolutely positive I'm doing the right thing...but I didn't make the'll make my move when I'm answered according to my guidelines and, of course, if it goes my way.

These words were spoken by Martin Luther King in Memphis, TN the night before he was assassinated.

"I just want to do God's will.  And he's allowed me to go up to the mountain.  And I've looked over, and I've seen the promised land!  I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land.  And I'm happy tonight.  I'm not worried about anything.  I'm not fearing any man.  Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."

I live in Memphis, TN so driving by the Lorraine Hotel is always haunting because we see the balcony where his blood was shed.  Yes, Martin Luther King was a Christian man who desired to do the will of God.  What humbles me when I read about his life,  is that his main interest was not just doing God's will, but in the will of God itself.  His desire extended well beyond himself as an individual or a single race.  It was for all humanity, because it is the will of God.  King's dream was not racial or political, it was spiritual. He was a man who loved his Bible and understood its story. His hope was not in an ideology but a promise.  Martin Luther King stood with King Jesus in the surety that wounds would be healed and broken lives restored.  He knew man's brokenness.  He knew our hearts are more prone to be motivated toward our own selfish gain.  His hope was not in man but for man.  Regardless of where we stand politically, without a standard of measurement outside of ourselves, how can we honestly admit that our standard is not prejudiced?   In Engaging God's World, Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. explains, "Martin Luther King appealed to the righteousness of God because he understood it as a transcendent standard of right and wrong."  The righteousness of God is much bigger than the prejudice of man and calls us to "do justice." We're not to hide our beliefs and pull them out of a hat only when it suits our advantage or agenda, right?  King quoted from Amos and declared it high time for "justice to roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream." He fought for truth in love, not by the sword.  Although he called for political change, his agenda was not to hijack the political process.  He didn't demand that everyone have the same religious convictions as he, for he didn't fear those who believed differently.  He didn't wait for a sign. He didn't expect a phone call, for people to agree with and be nice to him, and he sure as hell didn't wait for a peaceful, easy feeling.

No, Martin Luther King's story did not end on the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel.  His legacy will live. Scripture says to be a "doer of the word." So, in the words of Elvis, "A little less conversation and a lot more action" is needed.  The baton has been passed down to us, to pursue justice and mercy.  We're to continue to run the good race.  We still live in a world where all people are not treated with dignity, respect, and equality.  Silence is acceptance of discrimination.  But there is hope because where there is humility, there is repentance and forgiveness.

I hope that I can honor him by believing in that dream, and striving toward the righteousness of God to see that dream in actuality.  It is promised that there will be a family, a heavenly culture, who dwells in the Promised Land where the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and all will be free and find rest.  I hope that I extend my interests beyond my little world.  I hope I struggle with questioning my beliefs and asking myself how they play out in my life.  I hope that I will fear less and do more, and quit waiting to make that layup!