Friday, November 16, 2012

Meet My Little Love, Mia...


Can you stand the cuteness?  
Ladies and Gentlemen...Mia Elizabeth Senter


Back in June, I posted about my sweet sister-friend, Brooke, having her first baby.  Brooke really is a friend that doubles as a sister after the road she and I have trod together, which means I am TOTALLY the above baby girl's Fabulous Aunt Marti.

That's what I'm gonna have her call me.

Too much?

Maybe.  

Anyway, the child really does slay me.  Her smile will stop your heart and those chubby little legs could be dipped in chocolate.  What can I say?  I'm totally hooked.  And you know what else?  The most exciting part?  This little baby...this precious baby girl...is Ephraim brought to life.  She is the beauty that sprang right up out of the ashes, and it makes me want to sing His eternal praises and scream and cry all at once.  That's the bittersweetness of wounded lives that have chosen to move forward and to live on...but ones that will never ever forget.

"I have seen the burden God has laid on men.  
He has made all things beautiful in their time..."  
-Ecc. 3:10-11a

Beautiful...and precious...and chubby...and smiley... and so so loved.  Beauty from ashes.  It just took some time...  ;)

And she was totally worth the wait.  ;)

Ephraim.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

PJ and Doyle

When we were kids, my grandparents, Mimi and PJ, still lived in Kentucky.  Both of my folks are originally from Kentucky, but my mother's parents eventually moved to North Carolina to be closer to us.  Chad and I, my older brother, were teenagers by then, though.  When we were little kids, they lived in a tiny speck of a town in Kentucky called...Tompkinsville.  Ahhhh.  Just that name causes me to sigh for simpler days.  Tompkinsville was small town at it's best, at least to my young eyes.  It had a beautiful courthouse surrounded by a town square with a 5 & Dime, a group of old men that sat on benches day after day and whittled small mountains, and a girl's dress shop where my Mimi bought me my first pair of big girl tights.  It had a Piggly Wiggly and a Cleva's Hair Salon, a Druthers and a County Bank, a few churches and cemeteries...and I think that just about covers it.

You get the picture.

We used to visit several times a year back then, and Tompkinsville was one of my favorite places to be.  Mimi always had Cocoa Puffs, pickled bologna, and a fresh Reader's Digest.  My PJ was always running around working on on this and that.  PJ always had very important things to do...things that involved heavy equipment and fire and lots of other manliness.  He had this fella, Doyle, that seemed to be his deputy, helping him with these important things.  I wasn't sure exactly how Doyle fit into the picture, but he was sure around a lot.  Anytime my PJ was working outside or in his shop, you better believe Doyle was close by.  One time I remember asking my mom if Doyle was related to us.  She told me no, that he and PJ just helped each other out.  I could see that was true enough, so I was satisfied.  But, I could tell that somehow Doyle was different than us, even if my little mind couldn't quite figure that part out.

It turns out that my PJ had several "Doyles" over the years.  "Doyles," I learned as an adult, were fellas down on their luck, or with a problem or two that needed a hand-up and a friend.  They needed a stable influence, and some grace and provision from time to time.  They needed a model, guidance and accountability, and the truth to be told to them.  They needed someone to look up to, and a man to look them in the eye.  "Doyles" needed to know that they mattered to someone...that they were capable and productive men, and they could be respected and loved.

"Doyles" needed to see Jesus, and my PJ was just the guy to show them.

I'm not sure whatever happened to Doyle.  I'll ask my PJ the next time I see him, but he may be too old to recall now.  Today, my PJ is 90 years young.  He lives with my mom and dad in Mount Pleasant, SC, and he is one loved and well-cared for old man.  He isn't a rich man, but he has never been without and in his twilight years he is cherished and spared nothing he wishes.  He doesn't have much left in savings, but he receives a nice monthly pension from the state of Kentucky, as well as a small social security check but, truth be told, even if he had none of that he would still live just the life he does.  My mom and her brother honor and provide for their dad, my PJ, because he is worthy.  They will care for him in just that way until he goes to see the Lord.  Why?  Because you reap what you sow.  My PJ reaped generosity in his lifetime, and now he enjoys a harvest of it in his twilight.  I truly believe that.  You reap what you sow in this life.  It's the Law of the Harvest.

It's Biblical...and that means I believe it.

I didn't write this before the election because I didn't want to start anything, and I feel as though now it could be received with more gentleness and open-mindedness.  I hate to upset folks and really just want everyone to get along and be happy,  However, that doesn't excuse the fact that sometimes the truth must be spoken, always in respect and love, and I pray you will find that here.   Many of you will disagree with what I have to say, but I hope we truly can agree to disagree and still be friends, still treat one another with that same love and respect, and a heave dose of kindness.

So often I hear things like, "I'm just not political."  I used to agree, but that doesn't cut it any more.  If we care about our culture, and we care about our future, we simply must do more than vote.  I used to be that girl...the "I vote, but I am just not political" girl.  No more.  Politics are beginning to vividly show an enormous cultural divide in our society, and the time to address it has come.  How do we do that?

Biblically.

I've been thinking for a long while, even before the recent election, that you don't see too many Doyle-types and PJ-types these days.  You don't see folks investing in one another's lives in that way.  Those who are able may give, but we don't form relationships with the needy in the way that PJ did with Doyle...it might get messy or uncomfortable, or cramp our calendar or our agenda.  Those in need of help simply apply for government aid, and have no need to look anyone in the eye and say thank you for that money...someone's hard-earned money...and therefore want to do better, not only for yourself but to respect the generosity of the person that blessed you with that gift.

And so, we see a great divide in our culture.  Don't we?  Many of us who work and pay our taxes are becoming increasingly embittered about giving.  We give so much of our paychecks to a government who hands it out for absolutely nothing, is spending us into strangling debt, and continually rewards the laziness of many recipients in exchange for a vote in the next election.  It makes us mad.  It makes me fighting mad, if I'm honest.  We have a hard time giving anything else...aren't we giving enough???  Then you have those receiving government aid...generation after generation of people who know no better.  They are simply doing what they have been taught and what the government offers them, and not nearly enough people look them in the eye, tell them the truth, invest in them, invite them over, and give a part of our lives to teach them better so that they want to do better for themselves.  We might write a check or give a donation of food or clothing, but we keep our distance.  Why?  Because we can't be inconvenienced and, the truth is, we're ticked.  And so able-bodied individuals continue to take from a broken welfare system, continue to abuse the system to their advantage, continue to take what they did not earn...and it is killing them, one check at a time. It's killing them.

It's killing us.

The Bible teaches generosity...absolutely and without question.  It does not, however, to my knowledge, teach generosity through government.  It does not teach impersonal generosity.  It teaches generosity from me to you, that costs me a slice of my life and my time and maybe even my bank account, and blesses you for that sacrifice.  It teaches discipleship, it teaches mentoring, it teaches investing in one another's lives for the greater good.  It teaches accountability to one another.  It teaches a hard day's work for a honest day's pay, and to earn what we eat.  It teaches the least is the greatest and the greatest is the least.  It teaches service, faithfulness, commitment, and kindness.  And to those of you who might take offense to what I am saying today, please know...my heart is broken and I mean to condemn no one, but to call us ALL to introspection.  I'm tired of giving to a government  that spends my hard-earned money rewarding laziness and funding programs with which I morally disagree.  I am.  I admit it.  I'm tired of it, I'm upset over it, and I fight bitterness over it daily.  BUT, does this excuse me from the biblical mandate to give of myself?  No.  No ma'am, no sir, it does not. And the truth is, if more of us givers started investing in lives, maybe some of those takers would see that they can do better for themselves.  Maybe they would be inspired to work and play fair.  Maybe they would begin to see and understand that working, productive lives are truly happier lives.  God calls us to this very thing!  We were MADE to WORK.  Do people need help?  Yes, some folks genuinely need help, they need a hand up.  But they need it from me, and they need it from you.  They don't need a direct deposit from the US government year after year and generation after generation.  They need help to get out of their circumstances  not a trap to keep them there.  Is there room for some sort of government welfare program?  Perhaps, but it is certainly not the one we currently have in place.  It provides no accountability, it provides no incentive to do better and no way out, it provides no policing, and it is grossly abused.  We have a broken system, and it isn't solely the job of the US government to fix it.  It is our job to fix it.  Will it be messy?  Yes.  Will it interfere with our lives?  Yes.  Will it cross our boundaries and offend and inconvenience us?  Yes.

Is it imperative to the healing of our culture and country?  Yes. I believe so.

So if you're a PJ, pray God might bring you a Doyle.  And if you're a Doyle, pray for a PJ.  Give a little more...not just money or things, but time.  Find a life to invest in, and know you will be more blessed than you bless.  That's always the way it works out. Take care of yourself, take care of your parents, take care of your neighbors, provide for your own children.  Why?  Because it's the right thing to do and the Bible calls us to do it.  Let's show people that Jesus lives in and through us, and let's give Him the glory for every good work we set out to do...not the government.

Let's not call "politics" what we are called by God to do ourselves.  Personally.  After all, we serve a mighty personal Savior, who saved us in a mighty personal way.

Please know, I am preaching to myself here more than anyone.  Before we judge any problem, we have to look inside of ourselves...so I've looked at the problem that was frustrating me and searched my own heart, and I found PJ and Doyle there.  May God bless with a mighty harvest PJ and Doyle and the family lines of both men...may their families reap what they worked and sacrificed to sow.

Generosity, Faithfulness, Service, Kindness, and Abundance...just to name a few.

Ephraim, folks.

Fruitfulness straight out of suffering, beauty from ashes...a miracle only God can perform.  Ephraim for America, Ephraim for our people, Ephraim for our world.  Only through Jesus Christ and the Power of His Word...

When you give to the poor, it is like lending to the Lord...and He will pay you back. 
 -Proverbs 19:17