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Finding Peace on this Second Day of Advent

In our worship service today (Sunday, December 8) we observed the second Sunday of Advent. Right before our very eyes the church sanctuary underwent a transformation.  We tingled with anticipation as men, women and children combined to make ready our house for a most special event.

Huge Christmas wreaths were suspended at key points around the sanctuary.  The children join in by recreating all the characters that appear in Bethlehem’s nativity venue.

Today marks a first for our church. Selected to light the peace candle today were two friends of mine who for a very long time have been loving partners in a same-sex marriage.  I tremble with joy at this unspoken but deliberate inclusive act!

The candle they lit is called the peace candle.

Peace?  When our nation is so politically polarized.

Peace?  When the lives of innocents, almost daily, are taken by the shot of some type of gun.

Peace?  When our nation becomes the laughingstock of the civilized world?

Peace?  When political compromises are unheard of?

Gabriel proclaimed, “Don’t be afraid.  I bring you good news of great joy”

Isaiah said, “He will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

The kind of peace that Christ brings is a gift to individuals, families and churches when they are unapologetic in accepting each other in love while being void of censuring.

PRAYER THOUGHT

Saint Francis’s words. “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace” resonates with me.  God, grant me courage to speak out when human rights are being trampled.

God, grant me the courage to applaud positive, courageous steps taken by my church.  Keep us all peace hungry.

Patience is Key When Celebrating Advent

HOPE 2Advent means to wait. For Christians Advent is the time, beginning with the first Sunday in December and ending on Christmas Day, that we spend preparing individually and corporately to celebrate Jesus’ birth.

Many of us are not good at waiting! After all we have cards to send, parties to attend, gifts to buy, food to prepare, and guests to entertain.

Advent invites us to prepare our lives for the coming of Christ into the world.

This past Sunday in church, we lit the Hope candle to remind us that the Old Testament prophets Isaiah, Micah, and Joel ministered in an era when corruption was rampant. It was a time when the rich, through treachery and bribes, grew richer and the poor grew poorer. While they lived in hope of the birth of one who would reign with love and justice, they continued to confront the evils of their day.

PRAYER THOUGHT
The Promised One would usher in an era of justice, mercy and love. No longer would the “have nots” of our world be shunned.

Lord, may I be inclusive and not selective in my love for others.


If you’re interested in a fuller study please consult my book “Advent Encounters.”

Life’s Blessings Bring a Multitude of Thanks

I’m grateful for my family heritage. To be sure there have been some bumps along the road. My mom, left a widow with eight children when she was just 31, didn’t always make pristine decisions. Nevertheless, her love for each of her children was continually evident.

I’m grateful that in 1959 I married Claude Mason. The blessings that continue to flow from our commitment are innumerable. While he was definitely the love of my life, it was mostly through his example that he taught me lessons I still cling to 25 years later.

Here are some of those lessons:

~Let people know you care for them: make a visit, send a card, make a phone call, or give them a smile or a hug. I used to dread going to funeral visitations until Claude shared with me that It wasn’t necessary to say anything. He told me that what people would remember was that when their heart was bleeding I became a part of their hurting/healing.

~Always stay connected with your children. Make sure they know you love them, applaud their good decisions, refrain from being their advice doctor, and always practice lavish forgiveness.

~Being a Christian is attempting daily to model Jesus, with the caveat that we’re always missing the mark. Fortunately for us, Jesus doesn’t require us to be perfect.


I’m grateful for my retirement village that allows me to freely minister to others through smiles, laughter, sharing of food, visits, and hugs.

I’m also grateful for those who minister to me. This is a never ending list.

How about sharing your thank you list with me or those you spend time this week?

Documentary Memories Take Flight to Fascinating Hobby

Although more than five years has passed since I attended the impressive IMAX presentation, Flight of the Butterflies, I’m a supporter and involved participant with anything related to these regal descendants of Danaus, mythical king of Egypt and son of Zeus.

A year after viewing the memorable documentary my interest was further piqued when Sam, one of our activity directors, established a show-and-tell project in the town hall of our retirement village. This presentation allowed me to see first-hand the intriguing development stages of the monarch butterfly. When Sam suggested our community establish a Monarch Waystation, I jumped at the opportunity to become involved. Likewise, I signed on when we were encouraged to establish our own Monarch Waystations.

As winter’s snows began to melt and spring’s buddings dotted the landscape, I planted three pots of milkweed seeds and by May the seeds had become thriving plants that I transplanted to my small garden space. Next, I had my garden spot recognized by EDA as a Monarch Waystation. My maiden venture, while successful, became mostly a learning experience.

2019 has brought me increased involvement. Instead of planting my milkweed plants in my yard, I kept them on my patio making it easier for me to monitor visits by female monarchs. Last winter I purchased a cage where I could place my tiny caterpillars and observe the monarchs’ metamorphose from a dot no bigger than the period at the end of a sentence into a monarch butterfly eager to join the migration exodus to the mountains near Mexico City.

Here are some of my photo journaling observations from May – September 2019:


Among the thousands of plants in our world the monarch butterfly chooses only the milkweed plant as its host. (This plant is growing on my apartment deck.)


The female monarch lands on a milkweed plant:


In three to five days the white dot, attached with the monarch’s excreted glue turns gray:

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Can you spot three itty bitty greyish caterpillars? Each one of them emerged from a monarch’s egg. As you can see from the opened laced leaves they are hungry!


In the LARVA stage the caterpillar becomes a voracious eater. He eats so many leaves until his skin, like a little boy’s clothes, gets too tight. The caterpillar loses his old skin four times and each time nature gives him a new skin. When the caterpillar is two-inches long, it stops eating and searches out a protected branch.


The PUPA (CHRYSALIS) stage is depicted here as a green object that looks like an unripe acorn. After shedding its skin for the fourth time it hangs down its head, forming the shape of the letter J. He begins to shrink and shrink. The caterpillar, now hidden from our view, remains in the pupa stage for 10 – 14 days.


When the chrysalis looks like this picture you know a butterfly is about to emerge. The chrysalis stage takes from 10 – 15 days.


You can’t see it but I have a monarch butterfly in my hands and am about to set him/her free. I waited 24 hours before releasing the butterfly giving it time for its wings to dry.


Some of my freed monarch’s lingered a while in my garden before spiraling upward toward the heavens.


There goes my monarch!

What started as a tiny dot is now a beautiful butterfly. He/she is now ready to begin its 3,000 or more miles to his winter haven in the mountains near Mexico City — it’s only beginning! If his journey is successful, he’ll join millions of other monarchs who choose this spot to endure the chills of winter.

Senior retirements years are determined by the choices we make. I personally enjoy becoming involved in meaningful projects bigger than myself that enhance the survival of our planet.

All Saints’ Day Evokes Beautiful Memories of Friendships

 

All Saints’ Day has long been celebrated in many denominations.  However, it was not ever mentioned in the Southern Baptist churches that nurtured me during my childhood through my senior adult years.  It was only when I became a member of First Baptist of Chattanooga, TN, that I became aware of this meaningful church celebration.

shutterstock_1498072397As we entered the vestibule leading into our church sanctuary this past Sunday, Nov. 3rd, 2019, a video of our church members who died within this past year was being shown.  I lingered to view each snippet but my heart locks in on three of them:  Jane Akers, Katharine Bruner, and Sue McNeil.

If you follow me on my blog or Facebook you’ll know I wrote a tribute several months ago to Katharine Bruner.

I cherished Katsy’s wit and the twinkle in her eyes.  It seemed to me we were always on the same page.

Sue McNeil daily fought a battle with cancer.  When I served as prayer chairperson for our class I’d get a lump in my throat every time I looked in her direction.  Sue never grumbled or complained. It seemed to me her very presence was a beseeching prayer.  As she did battle with cancer, Sue continued to enjoy her host of friends and her family.  She took trips even when health issues were pelting her reserves.

Jane Akers and I were soul buddies.  I never needed to ask where Jane stood when it came to gender issues.  She participated each year in Gay Pride Sundays in Chattanooga’s Coolidge Park while personally ministering to many who had fallen victim to AIDS.  Her platform of love in action included responding to any type of racial injustice.

Jane was also an avid gardener.  Her backyard was eco-friendly to all of God’s creatures, both great and small.  One year while I was still living at my home in Rossville she invited me to share in the bounty of her garden and, she loaded my trunk with Hosta plants.

Jane possessed a keen mind and a loving heart.  She loved to laugh.  Jane was intent on breaking barriers that separated and pigeon-holed groups of individuals.

How blessed is my journey to have traveled with such spiritual mentors as Katharine Bruner, Sue McNeil, and Jane Akers.  I hope certain moments in time also evoke special memories of your passed loved ones for you.

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BOOK ENDINGS: Writing a Compelling Narrative from Start to Finish

I’ve been told that by the end of your first paragraph a writer should capture the interest of a potential reader. How you begin a manuscript is important. How you end your manuscript is equally important. Many writers write the ending of their manuscript near the beginning of their intended book in order to keep their writing on course as they develop the plot.

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Currently I’m in the process of writing the ending of a memoir manuscript I’ve been working on for the past two years. For this particular task I’ve chosen for the person whose story I’m telling, Doctor Phyllis Edwards Miller, to reflect on the markings–good and bad–she wants to address from her journey thus far and to conclude the manuscript with a ringing affirmation of her future goals.

TARNISHED HALOES, OPEN HEARTStarnished

I chose to end my own memoir, Tarnished Haloes, Open Hearts, with a section entitled Finding, Giving Grace. This section of my narrative chronicles the spiritual liberation I experienced when I began to focus on changing me rather than my gay son.

BEHIND ENEMY LINES (Historical Fiction)

Behind Enemy LinesHome, Sweet Home is the concluding chapter in my Civil War book entitled Behind Enemy Lines. One of the things I asked myself was how I was going to create a satisfactory conclusion to problems introduced in the earlier chapters. For instance, in the earlier chapters I relate how Bobby loses his father’s pendant, but claims to know nothing about its whereabouts. I had to create a scene where the pendant showed up among the charred remains of a cabin. Since Bobby’s dog, Cleo, had run away during the thick of the explosive battle I chose to end the book with Cleo returning to their new cabin bringing with her three puppies. This book was about a real battle, so I couldn’t end it with an ‘they all lived happily ever after’ theme. I chose to end it with hope and family love.

WHERE THE RABBITS DANCE (Historical Fiction)Rabbits Dance full cover

I had to employ the help of Cherokee mythical people to rescue Lightfoot’s family from a prison stockade manned by the Georgia guards and U.S. soldiers. To end the story we traveled a dangerously fraught escape route until we landed on Choestoe Mountain, close to the Georgia-North Carolina border where a group of Cherokees had been spared from being forced to move west. Once again Cherokee legend came to my rescue. Legend predicted that during the winter months rabbits congregate on the bald mountain tops of Choestoe and danced. Witnessing this phenomena Lightfoot is convinced her family has been saved.

Lynelle & Johnny

All three titles framed for a recognition dinner by my publisher, Nurturing Faith

TRAILBLAZER, Parts One, Two, Three

All three Trailblazer books focus on Doctor Noble Wimberly (N.W.) Jones, whose life extended through colonial Georgia’s formation (Part One) until his death in Trailblazer, Part Three.

Trailblazer, Part One ends with the death of Chief Tomo-chi-chi, the Creek Indian who became the friend of James Oglethorpe and the struggling Georgia colonists. Part One closes with N.W. and his friend John exchanging thoughts as to what life will be like for them as they grow older. In keeping with the theme of all three books, namely his desire to become a doctor, N.W. performs a simple surgery without the help of his Jewish mentor giving us hope for his future success.

Trailblazer, Part Two deals with the N.W.’s connections to his family and his expanding medical practice. Part Two closes with N.W. being unable to save his newborn infant son’s life.  This scene is followed by a cry for medical help in a neighboring village. N.W. is reluctant to leave his wife so soon after the death of their son but under the urging of his wife he does leave to bring healing to someone who needs him.

Trailblazer, Part Three is about N.W.’s involvement as a statesman during the Revolutionary War. To make it more relevant to readers I interlaced each chapter with what was happening in N.W.’s life in colonial Georgia with what was happening in the other 12 colonies. Part Three fittingly ends with the funeral service for N.W. where accolades were heaped upon him as doctor, husband, father, and leader in Georgia’s fight against English tyranny, along with his crowning achievement: forming Georgia’s first medical society.

In the ending of your manuscript–whether yours is a work of fiction or nonfiction–you need to make sure you haven’t ignored solving key points that you initiated earlier. You also want to create an ending that leaves your readers satisfied.

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Rachel Held Evans’ Insightful Words Leave Lasting Impression

Rachel Held Evans was a progressive Christian blogger and writer of four best-selling books. In the short span of the 37 years she lived, she broke ground advocating for women and LGBTQ rights in the church while debating the big questions evolving around theology, gender, sexuality, and science. She espouses a variety of biblical thoughts that resonate with me.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from her books Searching for Sunday and Inspired, written in 2018.

1423422279150Searching for Sunday quotes:

“In the U.S. 59% of young people ages 18-29 with a Christian background have dropped out of church.”

“I can talk about growing up evangelical, about doubting everything I believed about God, about loving, leaving, and longing for church, about searching for it and finding it in unexpected places.”

In speaking of why young people are disenchanted with today’s churches she wrote, “We’re tired of cultural wars, tired of Christianity getting entangled with party politics and power. Millennials want to be known for what we’re for not what we’re against. We don’t want to have to choose between science and religion or between our intellectual integrity and our faith. Instead we long for our churches to be safe places to doubt, to ask questions, and to tell the truth even when it’s uncomfortable. We want to talk about the tough stuff—biblical interpretation, religious pluralism, sexuality, racial reconciliation, and social justice—but without predetermined conclusions or simplistic answers. We want to bring our whole selves through the church doors, without leaving our heart and friends behind, without wearing a mask.”

“When our gay, lesbian bisexual friends aren’t welcomed at the table, then we don’t feel welcomed either.”

HiResQuotes from Inspired (2018), her final book:

“This ancient collection of stories and poems, prophecies and proverbs, letters and law, written and completed by countless authors spanning multiple centuries is cited by everyone from William Blake to Beyoncé.”

“America is no ancient Babylon or Rome. On the other hand, America’s no kingdom of God either.”

“Jesus invites us into a story that is bigger than ourselves, bigger than our culture, bigger than even our imaginations, and yet we get to tell that story with the scandalous particular moment and place in time. We are storytelling creatures because we are fashioned in the image of a story telling God. May we never lose our love for telling the tale.”

“We may wish for answers, but God rarely gives answers. Instead, God gathers us up in his arms and says, ‘Let me tell you a story.’ ”

My commentary:

I find it hard to believe this potent Christian lived 42 miles from where I live, and I never heard of her until her death on May 4th, 2019.

I’ve got a word for the millennials. Some of us top-heavy with gray hairs grapple with the same issues that hold them hostage. I’m now 88 plus and long for authenticity and openness in the church to discuss “hot-button topics” without being labeled a liberal or worse still to be tolerated.

I’m thinking that in the 1950s many Southern Baptist leaders held a high view of biblical interpretation that I fell heir to at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. What followed was the demise of the SBC I knew. The new SBC became an arm of the moral majority political movement and an inerrant Bible!

While feeling betrayed by our global group I sought refuge, dialog and understanding within the church my husband pastored. I didn’t find it there. During that same time (1970-1980s) my son shared with me that he was gay. That story is chronicled in my book Tarnished Haloes, Open Hearts.

I’m so sorry I never met Rachel Held Evans! I know we would have bonded instantly. Perhaps in God’s eternity a meeting time is still plausible.

Find out more about Rachel Held Evans at this website.

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