What’s for supper?

She made her way to my house she had a meal for someone riding shotgun and she was picking up goody bags to deliver to the co-laborers in Christ who were still at the mercy of quarantine. I apologized for my rushed goodbye and sausage residue in my hands.

 “I’m in the middle of cooking supper.” She’d made a casserole for the ones she was delivering dinner.

“What’s for supper?” She asked me.

“Shrimp boil. I make it a lot on Wednesdays. So easy to just dump it all in and go.”

That was the abbreviated explanation. There really is more to it than that, but I didn’t have to explain. She knew. She understood without me offering much more in the way of explanation. 

“Ooh that sounds good.” 

She has seafood allergic people at her house; shrimp boil isn’t a good option for them, unless they want anaphylaxis and an epi-pen for dessert. I felt a pang of sadness for my friend that Wednesday night seafood boil isn’t a part of her regular supper rotation. We said our goodbyes and see you laters. I told her to be careful and I headed back inside to finishing the dumping of the items. The aroma filled my house and the lost-to-other-things teenagers began to make their way into the kitchen. 

“Is supper almost ready?”

“Did you put lots of nekka sausage in this time?”

“Mama, I’ll start making drinks, whatcha want?” 

“I’ll get the table ready, where’s that plastic throwaway table cloth?” 

I answered the questions, not necessarily in the order they’d been presented, but answered nonetheless. 

“About 5 more minutes, top drawer of the China cabinet, don’t forget to add newspaper and paper towels. I did 2 pounds tonight of nekka (“nekka” is Martin for Conecuh sausage made in Conecuh County Alabama, it’s a Martin favorite and hits our dinner rotation in some form no less than 2 times a month.) I’ll take ice water.” 

The teenage boy, the bottomless sausage pit, he towers above me now. It’s hard to believe I was just carrying him on my hip, naming him, nurturing him, teaching him sign language and begging Jesus to make him talk. Another pang of sadness. He came and stood beside me as I stirred, and I inadvertently said out loud what it was I was thinking. 

“I love to cook seafood. It always tells you when it’s done. I don’t have to guess or pull out a meat thermometer to know.” 

His deep baritone stated, “It floats to the top?” 

I chuckled, “Yeah, I reckon so, but it also tells you by,…“

The oldest teen interjected, “It changes color. Right Mama? Fish does and shrimp do too.” 

“Yes ma’am. It does indeed.” 

They’d just uncovered my Wednesday night supper choice secret in the middle of the conversation.

On Wednesdays I work for the King, it’s been nearly a decade now that Wednesday is my Bible study day. My co-laborers and I spend our Wednesdays pouring out and investing in the people of God. I ain’t even gonna lie, it wears me out sometimes. Well most times, even in the age of technology where everything is a zoom call or an internet dependent action, Wednesdays wipe me out. By pouring out I’m filled back up again that is just how the King’s economy works. That pouring out comes at a cost, everything does really, but it’s a price I’m willing to pay to know my peeps and I are being transformed by the Word of God. 

Years ago shrimp boil was reserved for special occasions and to some degree I guess it still is. We have minimal in way of clean up as I literally dump the meal out on a lined table, there’s no request to eat separately or in front of the TV on those supper nights, clean up is a breeze, one big pot to wash and very few utensils in general. When we are finished, on the rare occasion there are leftovers we pack those up for lunches and such the following days, we roll up that paper lined disposable tablecloth and with the remaining trash and toss it in the can. 

Thursday is garbage day so it is a perfect opportunity for me to remind the garbage chore person to gather trash and drag the can to the street. 

We don’t shrimp boil every Wednesday, sometimes I am just too tired, or haven’t planned that far ahead and we have something else for supper, something less exciting or not as easy, something that doesn’t let me know when it’s cooked fully thereby taking the guesswork out of my supper rotation routine. 

Those shrimp boil suppers have taught me a valuable lesson about the King’s economy. Very often our motives don’t match the actual consequences of our actions. His economy takes ashes, burnt ruins, and transforms them to beauty. His economy trades death for life, conquers death by death, opposes the proud and uplifts the humble. 

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

Loud Table Talkers

They were a table of professionals clearly childless and in the prime of their working lives, out for a late lunch. I have no idea what common thread brought them all there or under what circumstances they were having that late lunch on a Monday afternoon. They did not make me privy to such table talk but I could not help but listens as they loudly declared the expense of Uber versus Lyft, hangovers from the evening before, sounds of gunshots in the night, “good” parts of the city verses “bad” parts. I cringed a little when they said that. I love this city, all of it and I was personally hurt by their statement. 

They prattled on about old homes, abandoned schools and 7 degrees of Charles Barkley. 

 “People here all know someone who’ve met Charles Barkley” 

They are not in that lot and to be quite frank neither am I. I’ve lived in Birmingham my whole life and I’ve never met Charles Barkley one time, but maybe I know someone who has and I am just unaware of it. They took inventory of landmarks they’d been to and some they needed to get to, there was talk of kayaking and hiking, yet none seemed to be rooted here in this red dirt and the “Old as Moses” barbecue place seemed to be a stop, or a check off on a list things to eat while in Birmingham, not a place they’d been eating at since they were children. They talked at a high volume as if they were the only folks in the place. 

They took a selfie with the waitress. I felt sure, none could boast what my mother-in-law once did to me. We had come for a birthday lunch and she tapped on the lid of the signature sauce saying “My mama used to carry these in her glove box.” When I quizzed her why and when she declared “She really liked that sauce, it had’t’ve been around 1957 or ‘58.” The world here was a bit different back then I thought at the time.

I imagine my husband’s grandmother who’ve I have only seen in faded sepia toned photographs, loving that sauce like her one day would be granddaughter-in-law. I was thinking about that when my pondering was interrupted by my youngest. 

“Why are they taking so loud?!” 

She was frustrated with their verbose conversation. I had already noticed that some of them seemed to be nursing the aforementioned hangovers with additional libations. I merely stated in response, 

“They’re just happy to be here.”

She shot back, “Well we’re happy to be here and we’re not that loud.” She was correct of course, we were happy to be there. Her older brother had evidently taken the same inventory I had and said bluntly,

“They’re drinking the ol’ tongue loosener.” 

He too was correct. 

I had just taken a drink of my co-cola (that’s how legit southerners will say coca-cola if left unchecked by their environment or company). When he stated the obvious, I nearly spit it out across the table.

My youngest asked for clarification which he quickly offered to give. I stopped him. He is not as genteel with his wording of sensitive matters at hand. I explained and as I listened to the young, professional, loud-talkers and immediately a verse, one that speaks of life and death and how it can be found in the tongue.

Proverbs 18:21: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”

There are words spoken that can bring life and encouragement and there are words that do the very opposite, bring death or in my case make the hearer cringe. As the young professional, touristy people left the restaurant and we settled into our meal I found myself grateful not that they were leaving, but that they had been there to demonstrate to me that if my tongue is to be loose may it be loosened with words of life and not ones of decay and ruin. May I always speak of light and life especially when I do not think anyone else is listening.

Wide Walkways

It was beginning to drizzle a cold icy rain. I’d had a particularly difficult day and I was weary. She has a craft barn at her house and when I visit I often find she is in it making and creating, using her talents and gifts for such good. I was there to pick up one of those good gifts, t-shirts she’d made to distribute to the Bible Study Peeps. 

In all honesty I’d planned to arrive there earlier than the dark dawning 5:30PM, but things and life, my day really, hadn’t gone as planned. She told me to come to the front door of the big house. It was supper time and I knew it. I’d missed the mark on this one, but as she always is, I knew she’d be gracious when I arrived. 

I parked a few feet away from the sidewalk that diverged off from the driveway. I got out of my van and the cold rain hit me squarely on the shoulders. I grumbled inside. I was weary, worn, and cold. It was getting dark and the to-do list wasn’t yet complete. I made my way up her sidewalk, it leads to her steps. I noticed how wide is was. Perhaps it is because I’ve often walked up to houses and the sidewalk is narrow and I feel like I almost have to suck in, steady  my steps, and focus as I traverse them. Some sidewalks are cracked and broken, weed covered, crooked, all manner of things, some obstacles, some just cosmetic issues. I’d never really given it much thought until I was walking up to my friend’s big house entrance. The wide, warm toned sidewalk stood out in the darkness and it curved just slightly to the right. My feet were relaxed and I didn’t have to steer myself or focus in the least as my heavy footsteps traversed the wide warm welcoming sidewalk. The thought crossed my mind that a fiat or a golf cart could just drive up to the front door of the big house, never once having a tire slip into the neat, sodded yard. I made my way up to the door. My friend answered, she is older than me but she always looks younger, lighter, more carefree than I feel sometimes. She opened her arms and hugged me, I had been quiet until then. 

“Did you know you have a nice sidewalk. It’s so wide and welcoming.” Both were declarations, rather than interrogatives. She tilted her head and let out a chuckle, I thought she might comment on the randomness of my statement to her. She didn’t. She said simply the truth, “God gave me this house.” I nodded and marveled at how in His giving a gift to her at some point in history, He’d given me one too. I wondered at how on that cold and dreary evening when my heart was heavy and my burden worrisome He used a wide warm sidewalk that seemed to speak “Come to me you burdened and weary one, come walk this broad walkway to friendship.” It made me smile. It made me ponder further the sizable widths of walkways. 

I thought about one in particular in the King’s Word, one that talks about broad and narrow ways. 

Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy[a] that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

Some years ago I’d actually memorized it in the KJV thanks to a repeated viewing of a movie when the verse is quoted as a line, “Broad is the way that leadeth into destruction. Narrow is the way that leadeth to life everlasting.” In the movie the antagonist tosses a coin with a portion of the verse on each side to the protagonist as he urges him to make a choice. He urges him to choose the narrow way of service, rejecting and forsaking the broad way of rock ‘n roll fame. The protagonist shoved the coin down deep in his pockets having declared “broad is the road to his success” and he’s gonna go down it playing the piano, pronounced in true southern drawl “playin’ the pea-anna.” 

I came back to that verse when I studied Matthew and I came away with a new understanding. An understanding not tainted by good screenplay writing and dramatic climaxes in cinematography. 

Not everyone is willing to traverse the path of life that is Kingdom Living, a life lived like Jesus led, a truly sold out heart for Jesus can be people lonely. It can be hard and at times. It often times is a divisive life. Being a Christ-follower means the ease and warmth of this world are to be rejected for the sake of souls in the next. The Narrow way of Christ means recognizing and dealing with the crooked, often overgrown with sin places of an already difficult path. Not everyone welcomes the narrow way because it can be uncomfortable and hard, but the traveler on the narrow path will know he or she will never walk it alone. There will always be another right there trudging through the hard things making the crooked places straight and when the path ends and the earthly walk is over the narrow path is the one that yields, 

“Well done.”

I hugged my friend as I left and I told her how much I loved her and would see her soon. I thanked her for the armload of goodies I carried back to my car. Despite carrying a physically heavy burden in the form of a package, I took those steps feeling just a bit lighter than I had before. 

Unintentional Eavesdropping

Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked. The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.” Acts 10:4

As I flipped the pages of the gold dotted pages I noted how pretty this shiny spring Bible study book is. It is mostly black with a pop of gold. Faith and Fire are melded together and this study is pretty, but to my sometimes struggling self it is hard. I’ve noted questions I have, written plenty in the margins, and find myself repeatedly having to take a break, walk away and ponder for a hot minute, or ten

I’d written this statement, “Elijah means ‘Yahweh is God,’ what are people saying about you in your absence?” as one I’d been pondering.

I think about this a lot and in the days of late I’ve really been pondering it. 

I was at work and doing just that when I heard a conversation. I tried not to listen and made an attempt to walk away. A little feeling of panic welled up within me, I don’t like to hear people talk about other people. I feel responsible if I’m hearing it and do nothing. I looked around for a way of escape, afraid I would hear something I shouldn’t. I was trapped. I had a time-sensitive task before me. I wondered if I could shove cotton balls in my ears. I looked side to side, no cotton balls. Nothing with which to dull my sense of hearing. My panic was escalating and was manifested in irrationality. I’d have to sit, quickly finish the task, and hope I didn’t hear anything I would be responsible for.

“You know her. Annie. Annie Persons.” I continued with my calculations, head bent. I thought to myself. Nope. I don’t.

“Yeah I do but I hadn’t seen her in a while.”

“Well you know Annie Persons is old, she kinda real old. You remember? She used to just stand in a corner over there or somewhere and pray. She’d be praying all the time. “

The conversation turned from the Annie Persons person but I was stuck, struck really. There are many ways one can be remembered in life. Epitaphs as numerous as the souls to whom they are attached, but here I’d just heard an epitaph like I’d never heard. An epitaph that I ain’t even gonna lie, I was a little jealous of.

The conversation turned from the Annie Persons person but I was stuck, struck really. There are many ways one can be remembered in life. Epitaphs as numerous as the souls to whom they are attached, but here I’d just heard an epitaph like I’d never heard. An epitaph that I ain’t even gonna lie, I was a little jealous of.

She stands and prays. “She’d be praying all the time.” I didn’t know Annie Persons from Adam’s House-cat but I knew this about her, she prayed. And evidently she prayed without ceasing. She was truly known for her prayer life.  The shiny spring Bible study book question, came back to me, 

“What are people saying about you in your absence?” 

Truth is I figure they’re talking about how I look or what I make, maybe my circumstances or my family. Most likely they’re talking about what I wear or if I’ve got it all together or not, the state of my housekeeping, the state of my finances, if I’m funny or not so much. I figure they’re saying I’m alright, nice, or I serve or write or I’m married to a weatherman, but I can guarantee you I’ve never once thought they were talking about my prayer life. Based on my choices and behavior one would think folks spend an infinite amount of time studying my outward appearance, where I am gonna each lunch, or the study habits of my offspring. I have neglected to remember and to behave in such a way that serves as a reminder that I am called to be set apart and in essence marked by that very thing, a life of prayer.

Here I was overhearing a conversation about a person marked by prayer and it had never crossed my mind that in my absence that is what I want to be known for. It was those slight pangs of jealousy that made me realize that.

I was glad that there were no cotton balls to be found and that in the end my proximity and preoccupations forced me to sit and to listen, to overhear what was being said in the absence of another and to reevaluate exactly what it is I want people to remember and to talk about in my absence.

Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Ephesians 6:18

Evidence of Grace

I’m not much of a crime show, podcast, law and order kind of gal. I am fairly sure I might be the exception in that regard though. I do like a documentary and recently I ran across a crime docu-series slash drama-mentary, or two and the same word occurred in both and caught my attention.

One, because I had never heard the word before and I like a new word. I will typically make a note, I have a running list of new words.

Two, because I had no idea what the new word meant and thought I might like to know. Perhaps it would add to my overall understanding of the documentaries I’d been watching.

And three, something told me I’d want to come back to that word and ponder on it a bit. 

The word, exculpatory, in the context of the show, was in relation to evidence. Back in the day if I’d’ve wanted to know what that word meant I’d’ve had to wait until I could find myself a World Book Encyclopedia, or an Encyclopedia Britannica. The latter was my least favorite of the two as it seemed antiquated, with yellowed thin pages, fewer illustrations, and it was generally bulkier and heavier. The World Book was sleek and streamlined with gold lettering, a snazzy index, colorful illustrations and photographs. I tended to prefer it’s overall organization. Also, it seemed to weigh just slightly less despite its thick and substantial page quality. Yet now we are living the Age of Information and have volumes more information at the end of our fingertips. So courtesy of my backlit handheld device which incidentally has more computer capabilities than it took to take man to the moon, I set to searching. 

A quick internet search revealed that exculpatory evidence is evidence favorable to the defendant in a criminal trial that exonerates or tends to exonerate the defendant of guilt. It is the opposite of inculpatory evidence, which tends to present guilt.

In the cases that I had watched, in both instances, the exculpatory evidence had been withheld presumably resulting in unmerited incarceration. 

As I pondered not on the guilt or innocence of the documentary subject matter, the perhaps wrongly convicted persons languishing in the penal system, my mind meandered to my own guilt. 

The guilt of sin, the very thing that separates us from God, condemns me to death. There is nothing I can do to exonerate myself, to declare I am innocent for that would be a lie, an untruth, and would condemn me further. Yet because of my King and the salvation He has provided, He became Exculpatory Evidence on my behalf. He has absolved my sin and annihilated the sentence of death. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, His death on a cross, He has become my sin and I have taken on His righteousness. In the cases I was watching, the Prosecution allegedly withheld the exculpatory evidence, and it struck me how freely Jesus gave of Himself to set this captive free and to exonerate this guilty party of her sin and pending death, evidence of the grace and mercy that are the very definition of Christ Himself and Salvation He offers.

I Have Called You By Name

The parking lot to the barbecue joint was crammed full of work trucks and sedans with triple A stickers on them. A law enforcement vehicle or two dotted the premises. I made note of those indicators at midday. 

Those are the hallmarks of a good food purveyor’s parking lot. Working men, law enforcers, and the elder generation always know where to find the good food and always seem to know just where to get a good midday meal. 

Ours was the only minivan in the lot and my skeptical teenagers were protesting that this place was looking “all sketchy and stuff.” I laughed at their inaccurate assessments. I started to remain silent and let the old as Moses BBQ place stuck somewhere in the past speak for itself, but I didn’t. 

“Y’all have no idea! I used to eat here every week when I was a kid, and if it’s half as good as I remember it, y’all are gonna be asking me to come back here in no time!” 

They remained skeptical as we crossed the threshold and made our way into the place.

The aroma of barbecue smoked meat met us like a warm, old friend and engulfed us like a warm welcoming hug. I looked around, just as I had remembered it. The decor was dated, the menu unchanged and basic at best, a TV or two silently flashing sports in one corner and news in the other. A buzz of chatter filled the place peppered with the sound of cleavers clop, clop, clopping on a chopping board turning pork roasts into chopped culinary meat mixed with magic. My mouth watered at the sensation of it all. Every sense bombarded and intertwined with one another making me think for a minute I could see the smells and taste the sounds. 

We made our way to the table where we were greeted by a boisterous server. She passed out copy paper menus, told us she was happy we were there, asked for our drink orders, and introduced herself all in a matter of seconds.

“I’m Tilly. That’s T-I double L-Y. Tilly.” 

Tilly had a party of twenty who each called her by name as they shouted and said their goodbyes as she was taking our orders. I thought for sure she’d lost track of our water to tea ratios in the midst of that, but knew I was wrong when she said,  “That’s two teas and  three H-two-ohs comin’ up!” She never missed a beat. 

Tilly made her way around the room delivering food items and filling drinks. She handed out extra napkins with the proficiency of a Vegas Card Dealer. She said “My Pleasure” when she’d been thanked, and she joked with an obvious regular who commented on her good as always service. Laughter rolled out as she said he best put his tip money where his mouth is. He laughed in response and assured her he had indeed. He waved as he left and said, “See ya next time Tilly!” 

Everyone knew her name. Everyone seemed to  remember her name. 

T-I-double L-Y

Tilly. 

Tea-Eye-Double-Elle-why

Tilly. 

As we left and I was recalling her name immediately, the skeptical teenagers had thanked us for bringing them there for lunch. It was amazing and I actually had been right. They were already asking when we’d be back. As I pondered her name I was reminded of one of my favorites. 

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;  and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior, I have called you by name. Isaiah 43:1-3

There is something poetic and beautiful about being called by name, and to think, if one server who introduces herself in a memorable way is remembered as special, how much more must I be precious to the God of the Universe who remembers and calls me, and you by name. 

Lizzie and the Locusts

She’s had a rough life. I’ve made up her early life because I don’t know the actuality of it. I’m convinced she was loved at one time, a squishy older lady who patiently leash trained her and encouraged her to snuggle and give kisses. A compassionate lady who didn’t mind Lizzie’s heart murmur in the least. 

I imagine she made her pup a big fluffy warm bed in her crate.

I imagine her original owner was named Mildred or Ethel, maybe she was named Rose or Eva May (like the matriarch of our church house) and that she loved my Lizzie. But as it is bound to do, time marched on and Lizzie’s first owner succumbed to the thief we know as death and Lizzie was forced to go somewhere else. 

I imagine Lizzie looked for her beloved owner after death took her away and I imagine Lizzie was sad and maybe she was scared. That makes me sad to think about so I don’t dwell on it too much. 

I reckon Lizzie had some really difficult days then, I don’t know if dogs pray, but if they do I suppose she prayed a lot then. She found herself somewhere she wasn’t wanted; she had her tongue cut out, by what means I am unsure, but I can’t dwell on that too long either. She lived among locusts and that was most certainly not living. Her heart murmur worsened, she longed for death to end her daily suffering, maybe she prayed for that. I don’t know. 

One day Lizzie was taken to a vet where her wish fulfillment would await at the hands of a “man who threw them money and the dog.” 

But a sympathetic veterinarian saw something in her cataract filled eyes that contradicted the requested euthanasia. So that wise vet took the money and the dog from the insistent person and in an instant, that decision would change a life… or two.

Lizzie was given the once over and she was found in decent health, all things considered. She was old and had the myriad of health issues mentioned, but she was spry and a docile little doxie. Lizzie made her way to me by way of my Mama. I was supposed to “foster” Lizzie, but history should’ve dictated to my mama that when I foster I’m very permanence-minded. Lizzie became Lizzie Lessenberry Martin and she is my dog.

Now she tells me with her actions how grateful she is that she has found a new life. We laugh sometimes and say Lizzie thinks that Heaven is pretty alright, but it’s a lot louder than she thought it’d be when she prayed for it so long ago. We have also determined she thinks the angels are more clothed than art depicts, although they are still chubby. 

Nowadays she is spry as she once was. She enjoys sitting by the window and snuggling with her new mama, and although she can’t kiss anymore she does try. She is resilient, and even the hard-headed rarely in agreement Martins agree on that. 

Several weeks ago she had a toe issue, she adapted and would walk on 3 legs but I watched her over time begin to decline. I bandaged her foot and took her to the vet but she worsened. I could feel her heart murmur become worse, and I knew it was the stress of her bad foot. I began to pray myself. I asked the King to heal her foot. I don’t rightly know if He is in the vet business too, but I do know His word says he saves Man and Beast (Psalm 36:6) so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask. 

Remarkably, resilience reigned and she began to improve some, eventually making a full recovery, adding no toenail to her list of maladies. She is walking on all fours and her appetite has picked up and she’s back to being a lap dog again. One cool December morning as we took in an episode of Perry Mason (we like the overly dramatic music and Della Street – or maybe her first Mama enjoyed it also and it strikes a familiar chord with Lizzie.) As we were watching, well I was watching the TV, she was looking out the window. I thought how carefree she looked. How content and blissfully happy that she’s found life after living a life wishing for death, and I was overcome with gratitude for the One who is Life and has the power to replenish what the Locusts have stolen (Joel 2:25) and give hope to the hopeless. 

“Then I will make up to you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the creeping locust, the stripping locust and the gnawing locust, My great army which I sent among you. You will have plenty to eat and be satisfied and praise the name of the Lord your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you; then My people will never be put to shame. Thus you will know that I am in the midst of Israel, And that I am the Lord your God, And there is no other; And My people will never be put to shame.” Joel 2:25-27

If You Give a Pig a Pearl

It’s gotta be my overactive imagination that gets me where it does sometimes. One shining example is when I was five years old, it was late summer, and I was starting Kindergarten that fall. I was outside swinging on my swing set and playing with my dog Suzy Q. She was to be my trusty steed and I was to jump out of my swing onto her back whereupon we would ride off into the sunset, carefully avoiding Mama who was cutting the grass in the backyard. I had outlined the plan to Suzy just as I had seen it played out on a black and white Western television show. I had explained in great detail the trajectory of my five-year-old body arcing and coming to rest upon her back; I had taken great care with explaining at what point my trusty steed was to ride away. Suzy was half a saint Bernard and half a basset hound dog. She was low and slow, perhaps riding straight, tall, and briskly off into the sunset was not to befall us, but ride we would. As I pumped my legs and gained altitude, ready to exit my swing onto Suzy’s back, tensions climbed. I closed my eyes and leapt from my swing. My trusty steed, low and slow indeed, stupid…no.

Suzy saw me, gravity pulling me to the ground like opposite poles on a set of magnets, and she moved. I hit the ground squarely on my right arm. I cracked my wrist just before school began, and as I am right hand dominant, Kindergarten proved to be a difficult, cumbersome, and itchy task. That plaster of Paris cast weighed more than half my scrawny body weight, and I felt like I leaned to the right all of that fall. It was my overactive imagination and expectations that got me there. I see it now. In hindsight.

So it should come as no surprise to me or anyone else when I heard this verse,

Matthew 7:6 “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.”

that I imagined a pretty pink pig wearing a pearl necklace. I imagined that the King was saying, you can’t pretty up a pig… it’s still a pig, albeit one wearing an expensive accessory, a pig nonetheless. 

For years that has been my mental picture, my imaginative interpretation of that scripture and for years, much to my dismay, perhaps I have been wrong. 

I read the verse again, lined the words up in my brain, and realized that the King was speaking plainly, I had just not seen it. Pigs are notorious for being… well pigs. They eat a mess of slop without regards to their origins. They are dirty and love to roll in the mud, and while pigs serve some purpose, they are not known for their genteel disposition. To be called “a pig” is not a complement. 

Pearls can not be eaten, not by pigs anyway, and despite the value of a pearl, a pig has no way of understanding that a single pearl could purchase him scrumptious slop for a lifetime. A pig doesn’t pause long enough in his gustation to ponder and examine such things. If you give a pig a pearl he will turn and attack you. Throwing your pearls before swine has nothing at all to do with a pretty pink pig in a pearl necklace. 

The reality is pigs were not domestic in Israel, and if you threw them pearls, something not edible, they’d turn around and attack you for it. Be discerning to whom you toss your pearls, and trust Jesus to give you the wisdom to do so. 

Hashtag BoyMom

We have known each other for a while now. We are all older, a tad wiser, and we have experienced much of life together. Years ago when we first met at work, our children were young, single digits in age, they – like us – have grown and aged. We all have sons and we had landed there a while. They are all different ages and in different stages of life. Many of our experiences are the same; we could all trend on the social media with the hashtag BoyMom.  

Their sons are grown and have entered the professional world. One has been drafted by the NFL and will no doubt do extraordinary things, the other is a bussiness-man in Atlanta. I wondered if they could have foreseen what the future would hold for their own boys so many years ago. I wondered what it takes to raise boys that become those kinds of men. 

“Motherhood looks different when your son outgrows you,” I thought. It saddened me to think what that was going to look like for me as my own son grows into adulthood. As I was thinking, their conversation shifted. They were talking about their boys becoming men, growing into adulthood, taking on responsibility. 

My thoughts shifted to another mother of a son. Another Boy-Mom

A young virgin, who was blessed and chosen among all the women to be the bearer of the long awaited Messiah, she would give birth to a son and he would save His people from their sins. Could she have foreseen all that the future would hold for her own boy? 

I always ponder on her this time of year. I was doing just that, imagining her wrapping her baby boy in swaddling clothes, lying him in a manger, tired, weary, elated, and unsure; pondering in her heart what it meant to be this boy’s mom, when the Preacher Man caught my attention. 

“You know why the shepherds knew right where to find Him in a town packed to the gills with people who’d come to town for a census?” 

It was a rhetorical question I knew, but I realized I did not know why. I’d always figured it was the star, or the… well the innkeeper let the cat out of the bag… maybe it was the… well… I didn’t actually know how they knew, I had never once asked myself that.

“Those shepherds weren’t just any ol’ shepherds, they were the keeper of the sacrifice.” This part I knew, the Bethlehem shepherds were responsible for rearing lambs to be sacrificed in the temple. Those sheep were special, they were to be blemish free perfect lambs to be sacrificed for the sins of the people. 

The Preacher Man  answered my question for me. 

“Those lambs were special. They had to be perfect so they were wrapped in swaddling clothes at birth and placed in a designated place of safety, like a manger, so as not to hurt themselves from thrashing around at birth. There was a place that was done, those shepherds woulda known where that was when those angels announced it.”

All my life I’d missed it, I can about quote this one from memory

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:11-12 

 I had missed a little word, sign. There it was, written out in scripture – the how they knew. 

That new mother, that ultimate boymom, had used what she had available to calm and quiet her little one. The Baby born that would change the world. That once and for all sacrifice for the sins of His people, the sins of His Mother, and the Sins of you and me. She likely couldn’t have known nor understood what was to come, what we have the perspective of history and scripture to know, but she was obedient and faithful beyond her seeing and that is all that was required of her in that moment. As time would unfold she was, and is, the ultimate Hashtag Boy-Mom. 

She’s Just Makin’ Noise

It had been a particularly difficult Sunday start. It was nothing short of miraculous that we had arrived to the Church-house intact. 

I found myself in the position of adversary for the teenage daughter. She was angry at my insistence on her obedience. My mama used to say to me that I’d better “toe the line.”  I had no idea what that idiom meant in reality, but in our house it meant I’d better straighten up or I was going to experience the dire consequence that accompanied my choices. 

On the way in the door I’d said a quick prayer, the kind mothers everywhere must pray. It was something along the lines of “Lord give me the strength not to lose my mind up in here.” My other two children heard me and giggled at their not-a-gansta mama prayer.

As I worshipped and sang, prayed and petitioned, my adversary sat beside me and fumed with protest. She declared, “Don’t touch me!” when I’d accidentally brushed up against her, and I thought for sure we’d go toe to toe when I removed from her possession a smuggled in tumbler filled with apple juice. 

She applied her lip gloss during prayer, and just when I’d had almost enough and was certain that not-a-gangsta mom prayer might go unanswered, she unzipped the loudest sounding zipper in Alabama. Even the Preacher-Man who was speaking on the authority we have been given through Jesus, glanced in our direction.

Her Daddy was to my left, and while he had not been with us when the showdown began, he has learned to read the signs. He had patted me when he made his way to us as he left the stage from his weekly praise band gig. He had heard the zipper and felt me stiffen. 

He leaned over and whispered in my ear, “She’s just makin’ noise.”

He is observant and direct. When he speaks to me, a man of few words. I’ve learned to listen when he speaks, to focus and pay attention because he doesn’t often repeat himself. I have also learned while he is not always profound and earth shattering with his words, he is wise.

“She’s just making noise.”

It was his way of saying to let it alone, let it go, and do not let the action of someone else influence me so much that I lose focus on the task at hand, on the King and what I had been instructed to do. 

I’d allowed her disobedience to become my own.

Without even being aware I had lost sight of what I was to do. The noise of another drowning out the whispers from the King. In wisdom, my husband was telling me to ignore the noise, focus and pay attention to the One who is never just noise and Who has the ability to speak peace and calm to my tumultuous heart even in the center of conflict. 

“They have made a noise in the house of the Lord.” Lamentations 2:7