Tag Archives: grace

“Shackles: The Playlist” – Song No. 4 ‘The world at the end of our pointing fingers’

Shackles, historical fiction, 83,000 words, set during the years 34-50 AD.

“A Roman family man, cheated by a lifelong enemy, descends into darkness and despair. A transformed persecutor of Christians avoids a vicious stoning and multiple murder plots. Shackles tells the story of two men, separated by hundreds of miles, destined for an earth-shaking encounter.”

Grace.

It was a scandalous concept demonstrated by Christ and the theme of the life, ministry and writings of Paul the apostle. But too often Christians embrace grace for themselves yet hold others up to impossible lists of rules and standards. If I can “be good” enough, obey enough, pray enough, read my Bible enough, share my faith enough, go to church enough … Hmmm. Just when will it be “enough.”

Paul said the cross was “enough.” So why do we insist on saying, “Yes, grace and the cross, but …?”

There’s no “but” or “and.”

Please don’t pull out the line, “Yeah, but a REAL Christian would …” or “But a GOOD Christian would …”

If you have even an inkling of that attitude, soak in “Jesus, Friend of Sinners.” It’s not about “those people.”

It’s about us.

“Open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers … Nobody knows what we’re for only what we’re against when we judge the wounded … Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks Yours.”

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Filed under Inspiration, National Novel Writing Month, Shackles

The Wedding Countdown: 12, 11, 10 days …

kneeling-in-prayer-at-sunrise

The Wedding Countdown is getting serious now. We’re at 10 days, counting down to Saturday, Sept. 7. Our second daughter, Natasha, is giving us a second son-in-law, Kory. I look forward to sharing with you the details (and photos?) of next week’s rehearsal dinner preparation, which will star my smoked pork butts and pulled pork. I’m a charcoal-grill-only guy, and I get a special thrill out of the hours-long process of turning a hunk of pork into savory shredded goodness. And, oh, the burnt ends! Don’t get me started this early …

I’m also trying something completely new. Think “non-meat” item. I’ll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, we’re running down “How to wreck your marriage,” so let’s continue.

Wrecking ball No. 6: Don’t pray for your wife. I could have said “spouse” instead of “wife,” and that would be good, too, but the onus has been on the dude since the dawn of time, or at least the dawn that I embrace, being the creation account of Genesis.

(Program note: Stay with me here. You can embrace evolution, intelligent design, or any other possibility that you’re comfortable with. This bit of advice is sage for spiritual folks and deity-deniers alike).

Genesis. Follow Adam’s lead. When that crafty ol’ serpent tempted Eve, where was Adam? Off naming the animals? Figuring out that round rocks rolled better than square rocks? Hitting sticks and stones together, making sparks ignite? (Clever reference there to that 1976 mega hit “Afternoon Delight” by the Starland Vocal Band).

Oh, yeah. Adam. The truth is, he was standing right there next to his wife. Watching. Right there but absent.

Silent.

If you know the story, you know it got kind of rough after that – for all of us. For us guys, we’ve been trying to redeem manhood ever since. We work 80 hour weeks, start wars, compete on the athletic field, amass collections of cars and other toys in search of masculinity. And rather than get on our knees and connect with the Creator – Who, by the way, is waiting to shower grace on us, not toss lightning bolts at us – on behalf of our family and our wife, we’re prone to keep searching for what it means to be a man.

And that search often leads to the greatest crime of marriage: the accepting eye of another woman or the “harmless” pursuit of virtual partners in cyberspace.

The silence of Adam. Didn’t work so well for him. Not so good for us – and our wives – either. A lot of marriage wrecking balls inflict little dings and dents over time, eventually destroying the fickle bonds of “I do.” This wrecking ball – not praying for your wife – is insidious, too, and capable of inflicting damage little-by-little, but it’s also capable of toppling the marriage with one strong hit. When hubby shrinks away from the responsibility of speaking into the darkness and speaking light into the life of his wife, he embraces darkness. It might lead to a stubbed toe. Or instant destruction.

How can I wreck this marriage? Ignore my wife’s spiritual needs.

Done.

Playlist

Cool video here of Aerosmith’s “Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” with scenes from “Armageddon” (Liv Tyler, Ben Affleck, Bruce Willis). Tyler’s movie dad, Willis, is on the screen she’s looking at during the tragic ending. But there’s another face on the screen in this video. See if you can figure out what I’m talking about.

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Filed under Family, Inspiration, Old Time Religion, Wedding countdown

Unexpected moments of Light

It’s time for “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting” when Jackson’s Journal undertakes a memoir-in-progress of my life’s spiritual journey.

Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting

I’ve been asked to speak and sing “The Lord’s Prayer” at a memorial service for one of Kelly’s cousins, Delena Sholler, on April 21 in the fellowship hall at First Baptist Church in Belle. The location alone sends an unexpected wave of emotion through me, something I’ll explain at a later time, under different circumstances. Delena was living in Texas; I barely knew her. But my “adopted” in-law family called on me, as they often have, to memorialize and celebrate her life.

Delena’s parents are John and Nina Tynes of Union. Kelly, Kishia and our new granddaughter Kianna were planning to visit Uncle Johnny and Aunt Nina today. They are Kianna’s Great-Great-Great Uncle and Aunt. And they are two of my favorite people. Uncle Johnny “gave Kelly away” at our wedding; I recently found a gospel song that Nina wrote and I arranged several years ago.

Remembering that shared history has given me a smile and also brought to mind Nina telling the most spine-tingling ghost stories I’ve ever heard. When I mentioned that to Kelly the other day, she held out her hand to stop me. “Nope, nope,” Kelly said, waving me off and shaking her head. I imagined that just the thought of Nina’s gift of vivid narration sent goosebumps pulsing up Kelly’s arms.

Nina and her sister, Neva, have seen their other three siblings enter eternity: Leroy Guinn, perhaps the most influential man during my early teen years; Nora Wallace, whom I was with when she breathed her last; and dear, sweet Grandma – Nola McDaniel – whom a dozen of us surrounded and serenaded into Heaven with quiet, sacred hymns just three and a half months ago.

Unexpected moments of Light. That’s what I’ve experience time and again with Kelly’s side of the family probably more than my own. The last words I’d use to describe that clan – especially the distant, great-great kinfolk – are pretentious and artificial. These folks are as real as they come. A loose cannon like me fits snugly into the fold.

I’m going to follow this theme of unexpected moments of Light for a few weeks. Last week there was no “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting” at Jackson’s Journal, the first time we’ve missed in three months. I’ve shed the legalistic view that “going to church,” even in the virtual world of The Journal, is mandatory for keeping a place at the grown-up table in Heaven. What isn’t acceptable, though, is just going through the motions when it comes to worship and examining my heart, but I’m a pretty good motion-goer-througher. I think I’ve mentioned before I learned from the best.

But you know one of the incredibly cool things about God? It’s as if He decides, “I’m gonna rock your going through the motions routine – when you least expect it.”

That’s called Grace.

So here I was, searching for guitar chords for “The Lord’s Prayer,” and thinking that I’d find something on YouTube, say “here’s what I’ve got for us for Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting,” and then we’d have a quick prayer and walk one block down the street (in Belle, Mo.) to Cecil’s for a frozen dairy treat.

What I found was The Martins singing their own version of The Lord’s Prayer. I clicked. I simply wanted to listen, grab the link, slap it on this page, say “Amen” and get on with setting my lineups for the too-many fantasy baseball teams that I’ve drafted. But wow, what a version. I love, love, love The Martins.

Instead, I went next to In the Presence of Jehovah, another Martins song.

An unexpected moment of Light. If this doesn’t launch you into full-fledged worship mode, then you haven’t got a pulse. This past Sunday Natasha texted me to say, “Visiting a church and a lady is singing ‘In the Presence of Jehovah’ for special music. Thinking of you.”

God was rocking the complacency that I’d allowed to creep in to my heart.

Finally, in observance of Lent and in preparation for Palm Sunday (Kianna is being dedicated) and then Resurrection Day (we also call it Easter) I offer what might be an overwhelming experience. An a cappella rendition of O Sacred Head (one of the more challenging bass lines there is), set to video from The Passion of the Christ.

Granted, this is a long blog entry. (Broke my own rule). And it will take 12 minutes or longer to hear all the songs – and the scenes in the video are unbearably graphic. The thoughts and emotions from this post’s music weren’t what you expected when you started reading.

But I’ll bet you, too, experienced unexpected moments of Light. You’ll let me know, right? 

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Filed under Family, Inspiration, Kianna Allene Brown, MIP: Memoir-in-progress, Old Time Religion

Birthday girl! Natasha turns 25 today …

Grace.

That’s the one word I think of when I think of my family: Kelly, Kishia and Natasha. Next to my saved soul, the three most powerful, visible signs of grace in my life are my girls.

Kishia turned 27 on Feb. 26, just 11 days after giving birth to Kianna. Natasha hits the quarter-century mark today. Putting together a photo montage of Natasha verified a few things I already knew — it’s hard to find a picture of her without an animal somewhere in the frame, without a musical instrument, without a smile … and with her mouth closed. It’s true.

Here’s a short stream of consciousness describing our youngest daughter …

Pure; laughter; Fiji. The Music of the Night, Veggie Tales and cello. (And Mrs. Manulik said you’d never do anything with that cello. Hah!) Then Sings My Soul! “I just called to say hi, I’m on my way to class, and … oh, look, SQUIRREL!” How Great Is Our God. Cameroon, Nutella, Cindy Lou, and Kory; The Application Trail; Short Bus (the name of her car); guitar, drums, bass and piano; Sweet Hour of Prayer; Sweet Pea; The Boys; brand-new niece Kianna! Butterfly. Sister, daughter … friend. Soul-winner. Destined for the mission field, very likely a long, long way from her mom and dad. Campus Crusade. Tapped into Living Water. More laughter. Endless music, eternal sense of wonder and awe, and always ready to eat Double Stuff Oreos at midnight with her dad.

Love you, Tash. 

The following is from my sports column, “Sports of Sorts,” in the Wednesday, March 11, 1992, edition of the Gasconade County Republican:

“My littlest girl, Natasha, who will be 5 on Friday (the 13th), was stuffing herself with spaghetti Sunday evening when my wife warned her not to take such big bites.

“‘Don’t worry, Mommy,’ she reassured, mumbling with a mouthful of noodles and sauce. ‘I’ve got a pretty big mouth.’

Just like her Daddy.”

Happy birthday, Pokey.

 

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Mountain-top moments

Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting is the mid-week topic for Jackson’s Journal, a memoir-in-progress of my life’s spiritual journey.

Are you sitting down? You might want to.

I’ll wait.

I’m actually an ordained Southern Baptist minister.

I’ll wait for you to pick yourself up off the floor. I told you it might be best to sit for that news.

Although I haven’t “practiced” my pulpit skills for more than 10 years now, I do try to practice my faith in home, work and play, because that’s who I am even though I no longer tread the pastoral waters.

I’ve been wondering what the 2012 Jodie would say to the 2001 fire-and-brimstone Jodie. Probably something like, “Wow, you talked a lot about grace. Ever try showing any?”

My sister, Kathy, and I “played house” when we were little tykes, and I’ve used that experience as an analogy when I’ve seen city councils, school boards and other official entities just kind of go through the motions when it’s painfully obvious they’re clueless. I’ve seen numerous public bodies “play” board of aldermen or board of education or even State Senate and House of Representatives.

And not only have I witnessed people “play church,” I’ve perfected that charade myself. I know what it is to go through the motions, to sing the hymns, to say the prayers, to give the right answers to Bible study questions and to give the appearance of a fine little Christian Baptist. I learned by example. My first pastor — my father — taught me the importance of image.

On the other hand, I’ve been to the mountain top, spiritually speaking. I’ve personally learned and experienced the reality — not just the doctrine — of grace, and I think I know when my beliefs and faith are real and when they are just empty motions and emotions.

I’ve had some Hank Busche moments. Hank is the fictional pastor of the Ashton Community Church, a seemingly insignificant and divided group of believers at the epicenter of Frank Peretti’s 1986  novel, “This Present Darkness.” The book begins with two very tall visitors — both seven feet tall — entering the town of Ashton. Eventually they come to the church where Pastor Busche is kneeling in prayer. Alone.

It’s quickly evident that the visitors are angels and the description of sulfur-breathing, demonic beasts unsuccessfully trying to enter the church is vivid and inspiring. The two visitors enter, locate Hank Busche and watch and listen to his heart-rending prayer. As they stand over the kneeling prayer warrior, the room fills with white light that reveals floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall angels, while sentries with flaming swords stood outside.

From “This Present Darkness”

“And now the two men were brilliantly white, their former clothing transfigured by garments that seemed to burn with intensity. Their faces were bronzed and glowing, their eyes shone like fire, and each man wore a glistening golden belt from which hung a flashing sword. They placed their hands upon the shoulders of the young man and then, like a gracefully spreading canopy, silken, shimmering, nearly transparent membranes began to unfurl from their backs and shoulders and rise to meet and overlap above their heads, gently undulating in a spiritual wind.

Together they ministered peace to their young charge, and his many tears began to subside.”

I love the picture those words paint. The story is fiction, but the description of angels comforting and protecting a prayer warrior is one I’m sure I would have witnessed many times throughout my life had my eyes been able to see the spiritual, angelic realm. Over time I’ll tell you about some of the prayer warriors I’ve known and some that I’ve created, including Edna Mae Ferguson, the spiritual matriarch of Faithful Servants Assembly. It’s the little church in my fictional town of Silverdale, Kentucky, the setting for Chasing The Devil. With apologies to Peretti, Devil shares a few similarities with This Present Darkness, although the angels are unseen.

Now, let’s do this right, and end with a couple of songs.

Victory In Jesus  a la Gaither Homecoming crowd. I gotta tell you, I love classic rock, I love anything a cappella, and I love 70s and 80s pop (apparently I stopped listening to “modern” music around 1988). But THIS is my kind of music. Try not to be put off by the sheer “whiteness” of the Gaither crowd and if watching Bill Gaither sing makes you chuckle (although I don’t think he’s in this video), keep this in mind: if you’ve ever been part of a group (writers, singers, cupcake-bakers, whatever) and knew everyone else was far more talented, but you loved it anyway, well … that’s sort of Bill Gaither. It’s kind of like being on the B team and suddenly the A team asks you to suit up.

I’m a Bill Gaither fan, what can I say? Besides, he’s written some of the all-time classics.

And now a sacred rendition of the sacred classic, Amazing Grace.

Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone),  live performance by Chris Tomlin. (Make sure your volume is turned up).

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Filed under Inspiration, MIP: Memoir-in-progress, Old Time Religion