Feeds:
Posts
Comments

IMGP4245

IMGP4246

IMGP4248

Phil and I enjoyed a nice evening out at the Broad Avenue Spring Art Walk.  One of the highlights was seeing Maggie Russell again.  We met her last week at a gallery in East Memphis and were charmed by her sweetness and approachability.  Her images are just striking.  On her website, she says this: I work with charcoal.  The organic nature of it, the fact that it’s simply dust that I can move over the canvas with my fingers to create an image is fitting. People are forever changing and the strange, delicate impermanence of charcoal is like the human temperament … I want my work to look back at the viewer, to meet them where they are.”  Great work, Maggie!

East Buntyn Art Walk

Buntyn

The East Buntyn Art Walk is coming up in a couple of weeks, and I’m busy getting the photo greeting cards ready.  I would love to sell enough to help Keith get the rest of the money he needs for his trip to Ghana this summer, but that’s a LOT of cards at $4 each!  One of the best things about this experience (and the upcoming Art Show at church this weekend) is that I’ve gotten to know a fellow artist, Boots Condrey, who took up oil painting after she retired from a brokerage firm.  She and I will have work in both shows.  Even though I like a great many of her paintings, I would especially love to have these two:

100_3519

100_3524

horizontal

I decided to open an Etsy Shop to make online purchasing easier.  Sets of 5 greeting cards sell for $20 and can be paid for securely online through the site.  Makes it easier for people who don’t live in Memphis to order.  Can’t wait to get my camera out of the shop!  Last June, I had to have the auto-focus motor (or some such thing) replaced.  Then, a few days ago, the camera froze up again and wouldn’t recognize that the lens was attached.  Thankfully, the repair was still under warranty.  Even though my Pentax is several years old, it’s familiar and easy to operate – and paid for.

Greeting Cards

I am launching a line of (blank inside) original photo greeting cards depicting people and places in the South.  To see what is available and / or to place an order, click HERE or on one of the images below.

bunt1

bunt2

bunt3back of card

mc5921

Some thoughts from the Gospel of John, Chapter 6:

People were following Jesus because they were being healed and fed and had high hopes that their fortunes would soon be restored under his leadership.  In other words, they were following him for his “stuff.”  They responded to him because of what he could do for them.  Maybe that’s why Jesus sometimes told people not to tell anyone that he had healed them; he knew physical healing was only a temporary fix and that that kind of “follow-ship” was shallow at best. Eventually people were going to get sick again and die.  Jesus wasn’t going to hang around forever to make them well every time they fell ill, and he didn’t heal or feed everyone who needed it during his ministry. His miracles were meant to demonstrate that he had God’s stamp of approval and could speak authoritatively on what was really important in life.  He didn’t come to alleviate all our physical sufferings or to mitigate all of the negative circumstances in our lives.

Because these were not his goals, he was able to say: “Don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food [or healing or the restoration of your fortunes and power or whatever other “fix” you think you need].  Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you.”

Jesus said over and over: “Are you following me because of what you think you can get?  Because that is not what this is about.” In fact, just a few chapters later in John’s Gospel, he said very clearly: “In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  He never intended to offer a “better” life to his followers, physically speaking.

His hearers saw what he did and wanted to have the same powers to do miracles.  They wanted to be able to fix other people and themselves and to make their lives easier & better.  Again, Jesus turned them aside and said, “No, you’re not doing that.  I told you that’s not the point.  Suffering happens to everybody, regardless of whether you are a God-follower or not.  If you want God to do something for you, you’re off base.  You have to abandon the notion that he is going to make your lives better in this world.  Understand that you have to eat, drink, and breathe relationship with God.  Believing in him, trusting in him, being in relationship with him is the only thing that is important.  That’s what I’m about, and that is what I have to share.  His life within you, transforming you, is what counts.  That’s what he does for you.  He is not here to offer the temporary fixes you are so desperate for.”

Their response:  “If you aren’t going to do tangible things for us or show us how to do them ourselves, then what good are you?  Who needs you?  Who needs God?”

“You do.  I am your life.  Take me in, and I will be your sustainer.”

Their response was to walk away from him when he didn’t meet their demands / requests / expectations (last verses of John 6).

If I am following God because of what he can give me (healing, a good job, a good family, etc.) and not because of who he is, my perspective is off.  If I am angry with him because he doesn’t give me what I want [and am sure I need] or because I don’t have the power to fix other people’s problems, then how is that different from his contemporaries who followed him only because of what he could do for them?

Miracles in the Hebrew Scriptures served the same purpose.  They were only meant to validate the fact that God (not what he can do for us) is what is ultimately important.  Relationship with him is what matters.

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

(Habakkuk 3:17,18)

Crossing Over

mc7205

Publication Information:  McMillion, C. P. (2014, Mar. / Apr.).  Crossing Over. Christian Woman Magazine, 30(2), 12-13.

Do not fear,  for I have redeemed you;  I have summoned you by name; you are mine. —  Isaiah 43:1

I remember Ira’s long legs swinging back and forth as he sat waiting outside the principal’s office, his big brown eyes roving the hallway with his usual quiet interest.  He was leaving early that day; his auntie was on her way to pick him up, and we had helped him gather his things.  “Just wait here,” his teacher had told him, “She won’t be long,” and Ira had nodded happily.  He was seven years old.  Seeing him there, I wanted to stop time, to freeze that moment and never let it pass. I did not want this gentle little boy to hear the news that we had gotten only moments before: his mother had just been killed in a car crash and the family was gathering.

Ira was about to cross that dividing line between innocence and knowing, Before the Terrible Thing happens and just After. Nothing would ever be the same again.

We all know about that line, the great division between Life and Death. It is the moment just before the doctor’s report and the moment after. Before the policeman’s knock and the moment after. Before you hurl the hateful words and after. Before he walks out the door and the moment after. Before your daughter tells you she is pregnant and the moment after. It is that moment when you know that nothing will ever be the same. One second you have a sister, the next she is gone.  One day your mother is doing fine, the next she has a massive stroke.  What starts out as an ordinary day changes forever when you hear your brother’s voice on the line. Before. After. The Terrible Thing changes it all.

If only we could rewind that instant and make it go a different way. If only, if only. We can drive ourselves mad asking questions for which there will never be answers.

We watch Bill Murray in the old Groundhog Day movie.  He is given chance after chance to relive a particular day until he finally gets it right, and we desperately wish we could do the same. We replay the scenario over and over in our minds: What if she had left five minutes earlier? What if he had not taken that wrong turn? What if she had landed differently when she fell? What if Dad had not skipped his physical last year?

But there is no going back.  There is no mistake.  The Terrible Thing has happened. There are no do-overs. The parent is gone, the relationship shattered, the diagnosis terminal, the grandchild paralyzed.  It is the new reality.

There is another great dividing line, a very different one, and we encounter it as well.  It is not the division between Life and Death; this time it is the great division between Death and Life.

We know that we have no hope. We know the evil in our own souls and the messes we have created in the lives of others. We confess our brokenness and surrender our willful hearts to God. We cross over the dividing line into Life and are made new again.

How is it then, that even before our baptismal garments are dry, we begin to question God’s love for us? We forget so very quickly that everything has forever changed. We cannot believe that the Wonderful Thing has really happened.

We rewind and rewind, unsure of God’s approval, trying again to get it right all on our own, trying to make sure everything turns out ok, trying to deserve what has been gifted.  But this time, our default setting has betrayed us. This time there is no need for rewinding and questioning.  It is done.  It is over. The Wonderful Thing has happened. Why would we insist on going back? Why would we not accept God’s grace with joy and gratitude?

A funeral I attended stands out in my mind. We were gathered quietly in the cemetery as the preacher made his remarks, remarks that included statements such as “Nothing I say today will change the final destiny of the dearly departed. That is up to God and his judgment.”  There were other observations as well, but there was no mistaking the grim implication: We can hope this person is with God now, but we cannot be sure.

It is true that nothing we could say would determine the final destiny of the one whose body was being committed to the ground, but there is a reason for that: It was never up to us. It is God who has spoken, and everything is forever different.  The Wonderful Thing has happened. God has already rendered his judgment: “Forgiven” is stamped across our souls.  Forgiven.  There is no need to doubt it.  Had the dearly departed done enough? Did she have more points on the good side of the scale than on the bad side? Had she always done everything God expected of her? Was she the kind of person of whom it could be said, “If Ava doesn’t get into heaven, nobody will”?

Is sainthood what it takes to be accepted by God?   Does God demand perfection before he embraces us?

Some versions of the Bible refer to Christians as God’s “holy people.” Other translations use the word “saint.” Either way, the meaning is the same. The Wonderful Thing has happened to us. We have indeed crossed over.

God’s message is good news.  It is grace and it is forgiveness and it is love.

But I’m not good enough, you protest. That is true.  You are not, and neither am I. We aren’t good enough, and we will never be able to do enough good things.  That’s why we have Jesus. And once he forgives us, we don’t step in and out of grace.  We are in, and there is no need to doubt it.  There is no need to be afraid anymore, no need to wonder what would happen were we to die tonight.

Can we turn our backs on God and forfeit that grace?  Of course we can. We can break his heart. We are allowed that choice. We can walk away from our life in Christ, treat the Father’s sacrifice as worthless, and trample on his offer of forgiveness.  That can happen, certainly, but often the issue is far different.  We are not in rebellion. We are committed to God and want to walk faithfully with him, but we are haunted by the notion of a capricious, mean-spirited Heavenly Tyrant who is out to get us if we are less than perfect.

Sometimes that picture of God is a carry-over from childhood, based on the condemnation we felt from an adult who mattered to us then.  Sometimes it comes from the severe, unyielding standards we impose on ourselves.  Sometimes it is picked up from one who is struggling with his own self-worth and misunderstandings. However we acquire such a concept, we may never have recognized it for the falsehood it is. We may never have discarded it.

This tyrant of our imagination is not who God is. He does not to lie in wait for us to fail. The God we serve is full of mercy.

It is Satan, the Accuser, who tells us that we are not good enough, that it is all up to us. He is the Father of Lies. When we choose to believe him, we forfeit our confidence and our joy.  We stand at the grave with others who have no hope.

In James 4:7, the writer says, Resist the devil and he will flee from you, and from I Peter 5:8: Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

He seeks to destroy us, but we can refuse to believe the lies, refuse to allow him to drag us back across that line. When the Accuser assaults us, we can resist him by the power of Christ.

We can boldly declare to him that we are covered by the perfect sacrifice of Christ, that we have been set free.  It isn’t arrogance that tells us that we are right with God.  It isn’t our feelings that justify or condemn us. It is God who looks at each of us and says, “Precious child, you are mine.”

But what of those good things we are supposed to do? Isn’t God keeping a record of those? Won’t he condemn us if we don’t meet every need we encounter in the world?

Dear one, we can never earn divine favor, no matter how much we accomplish or how many mission trips we participate in.  We do good to others in response to God’s forgiveness and steadfast love toward us. Those acts are expressions of gratitude and relationship. We love because he first loved us, the apostle John once said. Just as flowers turn their faces toward the sun, so we turn toward our Father. The warmth of his love motivates and energizes us.

We sometimes think it is evidence of humility to say, “I hope I make it to heaven.” But biblical hope is more than wishful thinking.  It is assurance.  We no longer have to live in the Before.  We live firmly in the After. We have crossed the line.

It is faith, not pride or presumption, to believe in God’s continual forgiveness and steadfast love rather than in Satan’s relentless accusations and lies.  Feelings are not facts.  Where our heads persist in affirming the truth, our hearts will eventually follow.

It is interesting how faith is described in Hebrews 11:1, Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.  Verse 6 continues: Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

In Romans 4:3, Paul quotes Genesis 15:6, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.

Confidence.  Assurance. Trust. Our Father loves us extravagantly.  He tells us that our inheritance is guaranteed. He tells us that we can trust him with both our lives and our deaths.

We began by talking about little Ira and the Terrible Thing that changed his life forever.  In our walk in this world, we will experience such deaths over and over again. Grief, loss, heartache, disappointment, injury, despair, worry, disease, and dashed hopes are part of everyone’s reality. There is no escaping them.

But there is good news. The story ends well after all.

The Wonderful Thing has happened.  We are forgiven.  We are loved.  We have crossed over from Death to Life, and we never have to go back to the darkness again.  He has engraved us on the palms of his hands, and nobody can take that away from us.  Nobody.

The choice is ours. Death or Life.  Will we choose to live in the Before or in the After?

Will we rely on how carefully, how perfectly, how flawlessly, we can perform? Or will we cast our lot with the wild, reckless love of a Father who forgives and forgives and forgives?  Are we intent on saving ourselves by our own goodness, or are we willing to count on the promises of God? Will we insist on dwelling in the guilt and shame of our own inadequacies, or will our lives be grateful responses to God’s indescribable gift of grace?

Dear one, lay down the burden of guilt and fear and let your Father embrace you. Jesus said, Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. (Matt. 11:28)

Long ago, a man with a well-intentioned but dreadful past confessed himself to be the worst of sinners, but that same man, the apostle Paul, had something far more important to say in the end.  It is something we can say it along with him, right here and right now:

I know whom I have believed.

Photography

IMGP3306

IMGP3298

Oh, Mama, can this really be the end
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again.

- Bob Dylan

I headed down to Beale Street today, glad for the first warmish day in a long while.  It was quiet, nearly deserted, but I was glad to get these two shots at least.  I’ve decided to add a tab at the top and a (sidebar) link to my photos, to tie my passions for writing and photography together.  Or feel free to click HERE.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.