Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Good List 8-31-11

10. Apple pecan bread. Yes.
9. This dude:
I want him.
8. The way the sky looks after the storm is over. Brightest blue with the shiniest sun I've ever seen.
7. The sweet way our tiny little town does the first day of school. Parents get to be very involved, and the kids don't feel quite so abruptly thrown out and abandoned.
6. Fantasy Football. I am currently involved in 5 leagues. I know. I might need an intervention.
5. Spiderwebs. Like snowflakes. Never 2 the same.

4. When Macy sings while she does her chores.
3. Grandmom is here!!! And Granddad is coming on Sunday!
2. Macy and Grace's first day of school WITH COUSINS!!! They are ALL so excited!
1. God's protection. Lots of devastation around here after Hurricane Irene, but the worst thing we can report personally is a few days of power outage. Grateful.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Gracie's "To Do" List

When I lived away from my family during the time they had already moved to Vermont while I was still in Nashville for a few months, I told Macy and Grace each time I left them to return to Nashville that they should make a list of all the things they wanted to do the next time I visited. Today I found one of Gracie's lists tucked inside a book. Thank you, Jesus, that I don't have to wait a month (or longer) between these activities any more! (I'm listing these with her pre-1st grade-at-the-time spelling.)

--Git ice cream.
--Go out to eat.
--Woch a movie at home.
--Eat popcorn wile we woch a movie.
--Wok around the naberhud.
--Sit on the porch and injoy the brees.
--Give kisses and hugs.
--Snugle tugether.

I love that list!!!! Sounds like pretty much the perfect day any time. :-D

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Good List 8-24-11

10. Maple pepper. It's sweet. It's spicy. It's tangy. It's a culinary delight!
9. My current favorite sandwich: lean ham, cheddar cheese, and thinly sliced apple all grilled together. Fab.U.Lous!
8. The sound of a music box. There's something so simple and innocent and magical about it.
7. The Hunger Games. I'm way behind on popular culture, so these didn't even cross my radar until recently. I picked up the first book just out of curiosity and now I'm hooked! (Warning though: This isn't a gentle and uplifting book for those who prefer that. Heavy subject matter.)
6. When I serve up a healthy meal, and ALL 5 kids ask for seconds. Rock star moment. ;-)
5. Holding hands with 2-year-olds.

4. When my sweet church sings the Doxology at the end of each service. It always sounds to me like 10 times more voices than it actually is. This is because they sing it with all of their hearts. I love that so much.
3. We get to pick up Grandmom from the airport tomorrow! I think I'm just as excited as the kids, but I'm pretty sure Grandmom is the most excited of all. :-D
2. Raising a family with your family. It isn't so much that Jared and I have 2 kids and Jody and Jon have 3 anymore. It's much more that WE have 5. Awesome awesomeness.
1. The letter and picture we got from a child in Uganda who received one of our OCC boxes. So special.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


This is the exact scenario that just happened in my house--

I told Macy and Grace earlier today that this afternoon JoJo and I are going grocery shopping together to get all stocked up before GrandMom's visit and that I'll take them over to stay with Uncle Jon and their cousins for a little while so they don't have to go. They came in just a few minutes ago from playing outside and sat RIGHT NEXT to each other on the couch. Macy asked, "Mom, when are we going to the Dickersons?" And I replied, "I'm not sure, baby. Just whenever JoJo calls." And then we talked for another few minutes until Grace piped in with:

"Mom, when are we going to the Dickersons?" (!!!!!)

I couldn't help but laugh and then said, "Didn't we just talk about that?"

To which she replied, "Who? Me and you? I thought you were talking to Macy."

"Well, I was," I said. "But weren't you sitting right there beside her the whole time? And actually, you're even closer to me than she is, so surely you could hear me."

And then this: "I guess my mind was in Graceville while y'all were talking."

I wish I could live in Graceville. It HAS to be awesome given what I know about its developer. ;-)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Photo of the Week 8-22-11

This dude hid on that branch behind the leaves and kept sneaking around to grab a berry. It was fun to watch.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Story of Everything

This makes me a special kind of happy.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Outdo One Another

Romans 12:9-11

9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.

I confess that I can't say I fully understood what these verses were all about until recently. Certainly, I could define the words and give a literal translation, but I had not experienced the true meaning in a way that made sense to me. I'm not sure if that is because I didn't have many people practicing this toward me (nor was I practicing it much toward others) or if it was just my lack of recognition of this kind of love in my life (which I'm perfectly willing to admit is entirely possible). Maybe it was a combination. I don't know. Either way, the "dry spell" I experienced for so long has made my current reality even that much sweeter than it would have been had I known it all along.

This is not to say that I haven't had wonderfully amazing friends and relationships in my past. I have. More than I deserve and better than I deserve. Many of them are still very much a part of my life and love me genuinely and unconditionally. I am forever grateful for these friends who are now scattered literally all over the earth. They are precious to me.

But the phrase that I really want to zero in on here is "Outdo one another in showing honor."

I KNOW, right? What is he talking about? Crazy Paul! Outdo one another? Are we really supposed to have a contest?

I suppose that would be ok if the contest led to people increasing the way they honor each other. But I don't think that's what this means. I think it has much more to do with the motivation and desire of the heart, which shouldn't have anything to do with winning a contest. This is about the opposite of legalism and selfishness. This is about choosing to honor the people that we love because it is the desire of our hearts to do so. And to do so repeatedly. Whether or not they ever "return the favor" or "pay us back" in any way. It's about loving because He first loved us. Not loving because we might get something in return. Not even loving because we know we're "supposed to" even though we don't really feel like it. And let's not miss the word "outdo". Not only are we not to *expect* those we are honoring to return the favor, but in fact, if we are truly in obedience to scripture, we better NOT let them catch up! We better "outdo." But how does that work if we have 2 parties who are both trying to obey these verses in relationship to each other? Well. . . I'm not a scholar, and I didn't do a Greek word study, but I think what God is telling me is that it really has nothing to do with keeping score. It's just about making sure the priorities of our hearts are right. In other words, if I'm truly honoring you and desiring to lift you up and hold you in esteem without ever considering what you might do for me in return and you're doing the same for me, I suggest that we're both in obedience to this scripture even though there is no scorepad to track who's "winning." Basically, this is the complete absence of "what's in it for me?" We honor and honor and honor over and over again and don't even consider whether it will be returned to us.

I'm overwhelmed (in the most amazing way) to report that the reason this has been so present on my mind recently is because my family is literally surrounded by people who practice these verses toward us on a regular basis. It's crazy in the most special and exuberant kind of way. We are in the midst of difficult ministry here in New England to say the least. There are challenges and obstacles that we never would have faced in other parts of the country. And yet God in his precious grace and sweetness to us has surrounded us with true love. What a divine and glorious blessing! I hope and pray that the people I'm talking about here know EXACTLY who they are because they feel the same way about the way I honor them. OH, I have so much work to do in that regard! But I'm grateful for the grace I receive from them and for the fact that they aren't expecting anything from me, only continuing to love and honor me lavishly and beautifully and unselfishly. I'm so unworthy of these people, but I'm so grateful that God gave them to me. And I sure hope to make them feel as loved and honored as I do. This is a life-changing thing to experience and short of the Gospel itself, it is possibly the most powerful and effective truth to exhibit to those around us. The love of Christ in action. OH how marvelous and radiant!

The Good List 8-17-11

10. When every sock in a fresh load of laundry has a match. (Is it sad that this is such a rare occurrence in my house that it's cause for celebration when it does? ;-)
9. The tripod my sister got me just because she loves me. :-D Thanks, JoJo! More (and better) moon and sunset pictures coming right up!
8. Mr. Bean. My kids and niece and nephew just about laughed themselves sick over it during a sleepover at my house last week.
7. The super scrumptious chocolate banana muffins I made earlier this week with zero oil and only 2 tablespoons in the entire (12 muffin) batch. YUM! With no guilt!
6. The Phineas and Ferb movie. We love them so much.
5. The sweet little hummingbirds that like to play right outside my kitchen window while I'm washing dishes. They're so quick, it's hard to get a good close-up shot, but I finally got a few that are pretty good.

4. Unique and outrageous talent. I've never seen anything like this, but it is fascinating. This guy is nothing short of brilliant.
3. The Genesis of New England Churches that Jared picked up in a bookstore in Saratoga last week. Printed in 1874. Amazing.
2. When "Can we meet for lunch?" turns into a day at a lake house with friends. Thanks again so much to the Dellingers for a wonderful day last Friday!
1. This preciousness:

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Too Late but not Too Late

For some reason, I have been hearing the phrase "It's never too late" a lot lately. In all kinds of different scenarios. Some comical and silly and fun, others desperate and weary but truly desiring a "do over." And on more than one occasion, I have found myself thinking, "Actually, it probably *is* too late." I'll explain. . . .

I understand the sentiment behind this phrase, and in many situations, I'm convinced it's a very healthy way to think. And in fact, even when I disagree with it from a literal standpoint, I still think the motivation is usually probably solid. Let's start over and get it right, right? That's usually what people mean when they say this. The problem is that it doesn't do much toward motivating people to get NOW right. The tendency to put things off already dominates many of our lifestyles, and this way of thinking contributes to that mentality in all sorts of ways--some healthy and others not so much. The unfortunate truth is that sometimes it really *is* too late to affect our earthly lives in certain ways, but it's NEVER too late to pursue the Gospel and move toward it in any and every circumstances.

More specifically--

It's too late to plant a garden the week before the snow comes and expect to harvest anything, but it's never too late to start planning for next year.

It's too late to read the instructions *after* you've incorrectly assembled something, but it's never too late to learn from your mistakes and have the patience to do it right the next time.

It's too late to snuggle a newborn baby against your chest and sing him to sleep once he has grown into a teenager, but it's never too late to begin loving a child well and in such a way that honors Christ.

It's too late to unbreak a child's heart after you have spit out words that cause deep and significant wounds, but it's never too late to apologize and by the power of Christ severely adjust the way you speak to him.

It's too late to expect immediate trust from someone you have repeatedly betrayed, but it's never too late to begin working toward earning trust from them again.

It's too late to fully reconcile with an ex-spouse once he has remarried, but it's never too late to offer grace and forgiveness and experience a healed relationship.

It's too late to schedule an intervention for someone who never woke up after the last time they planted a needle in their arm or poisoned their body with excessive alcohol, but it's never too late to reach out to others dealing with similar problems and help them find relief (and better yet hope) in something other than a needle or a bottle.

It's too late to lie on your death bed after a lifetime of living only for yourself and expect to leave much of a legacy, but it's never too late to start building that legacy while you're still breathing.

And of course, the list could go on and on. The point is that FOR SURE second chances exist. This is the whole point of grace. The Gospel itself is the ultimate second chance, giving all of us the opportunity to be righteous in God's sight through the power and sacrifice of Christ even after the fall of all mankind in the Garden of Eden. (And don't act like things would have turned out differently if you had been there instead of Adam or Eve, 'cause we're ALL disgustingly sinful in our own ways.) But let's not get so enamored with the idea of those second chances that we're missing the here and now altogether. Grace exists, and it is available to every single one of us. PRAISE GOD!!! I shudder to think of where I might be without it. It literally makes me sick to my stomach. But while I celebrate grace with all that is within me and need fresh doses of it every single day (actually every minute of every day), my goal is to need less of it each day. Now before you get all nervous and unsettled-- I am fully aware of the fact that I will never ever achieve that goal in this earthly body. I know that I will never be sinless or anywhere remotely close to it. But what I hope to do is to daily become more obedient, more passionate, more filled with the fruits of the Spirit, and more in love with the Gospel, therefore needing maybe just one less second chance.

Romans 6:1-2 (ESV)

"What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?"

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Good List 8-10-11

10. Buttery, salty popcorn. Sometimes it's the perfect snack.
9. Ambigrams. These are words or phrases that read the same upside down as they do right side up. Crazy. Check these out.

The Tale of Despereaux. Macy checked it out at the library and loved it so much that she insisted I read it too. How could I decline? It is quite a delightful story of forgiveness and redemption.
7. Graeter's ice cream in Columbus, OH. Y'all. The "chocolate chips" are roughly the size of golf balls. Ok--maybe I'm exaggerating, but not as much as you think I am. It's pretty much happiness in a bowl. Or cone. Whichever you prefer.
6. Watching Looney Tunes with Macy and Grace. Sweet and nostalgic.
5. Cheap concert tickets that let you sit on the lawn at SPAC and get two shows for the price of one. (The people watching is every bit as entertaining as the concert.)
4. NFL pre-season starts TOMORROW NIGHT! 'Bout dang time!!!
3. Macy's budding artistic ability that she did NOT get from her Mom. I can't even draw good stick figures.
2. New Life Church in Gahanna, OH. What a quality bunch of human individuals we got to meet and spend time with there. Excited about what God is doing in and through these amazing new friends.
1. Hearing Jared bring the Word 6 times in one weekend. Nothing stirs my affections more.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Gospel Wakefulness

Jared and I are at the Columbus, OH airport (or at least we were when I started typing this). He taught his second Gospel Wakefulness conference this weekend at New Life Church in Gahanna, OH and then delivered all 3 of their weekend messages (1 Saturday evening and 2 this morning) as a nice wrap-up to the weekend. SO--I've heard him speak/teach/preach A LOT over the last few days. Including the same sermon 3 different times, although it's always interesting to me that even when he delivers the same message, it tends to take on a life of its own as he works through it repeatedly. Even with the repetition, I loved every minute of it. I'm so grateful for the many ways God teaches me through him, and I'm beyond blessed to have experienced this "Gospel Wakefulness" that he talks so much about. And as I typically do, I found myself wondering as I listened to him speak how I might express the heartbeat of the lessons he was bringing this weekend. In my own words, how would I sum up the massively important and soul-piercing condition of gospel wakefulness? What does it look like? How do you know if you've experienced it?

Well, I would say that this could certainly be an experience that looks a little (or even a lot) different for each person, but what I have come up with are 3 essential truths and 3 ways I think each of these truths need to be received and perceived. In my estimation, gospel wakefulness happens when you know, believe, and are astonished by the following truths. (And I'll continue with a bit more about this, but 2 out of 3 of those verbs will not work. All 3 must be present.)

The Critical and Unchanging Truths:

Truth #1-- Jesus loves you and approves of you. It's just that simple and yet oh so complicated, right? Because we tend to only get 1 or 2 of the three verbs on this one, but rarely all 3. Here's how that might look:

Suppose one knows and believes that Jesus loves them and approves of them, but their overall reaction to that is--Of course he does! Why wouldn't he? I'm a pretty good Christian. I go to church all the time. I give of my time and resources. I help other people. I read my Bible, etc., etc., etc. This response of course lacks astonishment. And without the astonishment, there is no true awakening to the gospel.

Then there are those who might know that Jesus loves them by nature of the fact that they are Christians and they know what Jesus says about his love for his children. They might even feel some astonishment at how Christ can love people who are so unlovely apart from Him, but they don't truly BELIEVE. The facts are there. They've read the scriptures. They know the sacrifice that Christ made, which of course had to be compelled by love. BUT--they know *themselves* too well to fully believe that Christ really does approve of them. I mean, there's just no way after all they've done. . . etc.

In either of these instances (and several other scenarios similar to them) the response is lacking. We must know. We must believe. We must be astonished. And we must do all 3 of these things at the same time.

Truth #2-- You didn't do anything to deserve the love and approval of Christ, nor can you do anything to forfeit it.

Again, we must know, believe and be astonished by this truth to fully experience gospel wakefulness. How do we know if we've gotten there? I would argue that your response to reading that sentence is the very best way to determine that. What happens on your insidest insides when you read that you have zero control in this situation?

Do the chains fall off, or do you shake your head as though I don't know what I'm talking about? (always possible, btw--but I'm pretty sure I'm right about this one.) Do you fall to your knees and raise your hands in grateful freedom, or do you become upset and uncomfortable that it's out of your hands? My contention is that gospel wakefulness brings freedom. The sweet, beautiful freedom that comes when you know this truth, believe it with all your heart, and embrace it with astonishment over just how scandalous it is that Christ chooses to love us in such a remarkable and staggering way.

Truth #3-- The work that purchased your salvation has already been done. And done perfectly, I might add. It is finished. Like completely complete. It doesn't need your help. At all. In fact, your "help" serves to do little more than prove that you doubt the effectiveness of Christ's finished work.

I have found that many people are afraid to accept the gift that Christ is offering them due to their feelings of unworthiness. Which is understandable. I mean, we are unworthy. Every single one of us. But the thing is--by not accepting his gift, we aren't saving him any time or trouble or resources. This isn't like not accepting a gift from a friend or family member so that they can return it and get their money back or something along those lines. The gift that Christ offers has already been purchased BY HIS BLOOD. There aren't any refunds or credits. The deed has been done, and it cannot be undone. And furthermore, he doesn't WANT it to be undone. He has no regrets and would in fact do it again if he had to. But he doesn't have to because he did it perfectly the first time. This calls for nothing short of sheer amazement. The kind of amazement that leads to gospel wakefulness. Knowing that it's true, believing that it's true for us, and being utterly astonished at what our Savior has done on our behalf because of his beyond-human-comprehension, perfect love for us.

And that's about as simple as my limited mind and vocabulary can make it. ;-) It's not a simple thing. Honestly, it's pretty much completely illogical and nonsensical that the King of all the universe would do what he did for us. Hence the astonishment. And when the astonishment leads to a raw and fresh awakening to the gospel, oh how we taste and see what we will never again want to be without. Jesus loves and approves of you. There is nothing you can do to change that, and he has already paid in full for your salvation and needs NOTHING from you except an open heart and empty hands. Savor these truths. They are mind-boggling, life-changing and soul-piercing.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Good List 8-3-11

Today's list is brought to you by last week's trip to Maine (which I promise to stop obsessing about eventually ;-)

10. The smell of salty air.
9. What was likely the freshest seafood I've ever eaten.
8. The quintessential Maine coast architecture. There's just something about it.

7. Not hearing a phone ring for 3 days straight.
6. Not knowing or caring what time it was pretty much the entire time we were there. It's been a looooooong time since I've been able to do that.
5. Getting to watch up close one of the fishing boats come in and unload their treasure.

4. The sounds of the harbor. The faint voices of fishermen in the early morning hours, seagulls announcing their presence overhead, and the powerful and yet somehow at the same time wonderfully relaxing sound of waves crashing against the rocks.
3. The fantastically lush layers upon layers of flowers in every color, size, shape and design you can imagine.

2. The beach we had all to ourselves for long stretches of time. Total serenity.

1. Getting to watch the sunset over the Atlantic Ocean, which was a completely unexpected treat that I didn't even think was possible.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Rocks and Worship

Last week my family and I (along with our amazing friends Jeff and Anne Miserocchi) ventured up to Maine for a couple days of adventure and R&R. Jared had a conference there last year, but other than the drive, he didn't have time to explore or see the scenery. The girls and I had never been, so it was really a whole new experience for all of us.

Y'all! Can I just say we were planning our next trip before we ever left? It was magical. Way too brief, but other than that, it was pretty much perfect.

Throughout our time there, I found myself easily entering into worship. I mean, how hard is it to be reminded of God and His goodness and power when you're looking at things like this for 2 days in a row? But what's funny is that it wasn't the obvious stuff that had the biggest impact on me. I'm certain that no one would be unaffected by the gorgeousness of a sunset over the Atlantic Ocean (I mean, I didn't even know that was possible. East coast. . . Setting sun. . . Really?) Yay for the funky shape of the Maine coastline. :-D What a special treat! And I'm guessing most everyone who visits there appreciates the sound of the crashing waves against the rocks, the beauty of the lush flowers everywhere, the sparkling horizon when the sky is clear and the sun is blazing down on the water, etc., etc., etc. Maine is beautiful by just about anyone's standards. Easy to love for sure.

But do you know what stands out the most in my mind? The rocks. I know, right?!? I'm weird. I admit it. But I couldn't get over the crazy array of colors in the rocks that washed up on shore there. I could not get enough. I mean, LOOK at these things!

Now I'm quite certain that fewer than 1% of the people who visit would list the rocks as their favorite part of the Maine experience, but that's precisely why I was so affected. I kept thinking about all the steps along the way that had to be put in place to get me to the point of walking along the rocky shore of the Atlantic Ocean taking pictures of the vibrantly hued stoney art gallery. The list is forever long. And it stunned me. I mean, here is my God who knows me and loves me so well that He would go to all this "trouble" to give me this experience. And it wasn't just the normal version of the experience--the same one that most people would have in this place. It was so personal and so special and so perfect for me. I felt like a 5 year old whose Dad had just given her a huge surprise gift. And I imagined God being pleased with how much I loved it. I hope He was. I am choosing to take that whole vacation personally. In a good way. Like God planned it specifically for me many, many years ago and knew how much I would love it when it finally arrived. And I'm wondering how many times I've missed other special gifts like that. I think God loves us much more personally than we realize most of the time. But I'm on the lookout from now on, and I'm trying really hard to pay attention. :-D