Monday, January 30, 2017

Rebels with a cause

Katharina and Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk


     She had me at Runaway Nun. The daughter of a Baptist minister, I can relate to wanting to run away from the convent of legalism toward a promise of freedom from ‘habit.’

     I joined the “Katharina and Martin Luther” book launch project because, first of all, I find Michelle DeRusha’s blog a breath of fresh air. Also, I love history, and this year is the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther posting the Ninety-five Theses to the doors of the church. The combination of history, great writing, and a little-known story about a marriage between a runaway nun and a renegade monk caught me hook, line, and sinker.


  


     Katharina von Bora did not choose to be a nun. Her father chose this path for her after the death of his wife and her mother. She embraced the life for many years because options for women were few, especially for a woman who had never known anything but convent life as a school girl and young lady.

     Martin Luther chose to be a monk out of fear of not fulfilling a vow he made during a terrible storm. He left a promising path in life as an educated man, perhaps even a career as a lawyer and his father was furious. He became a model monk, sometimes confessing his sins for six hours straight.

     Both Katharina and Martin made vows and followed them to the best of their ability in humble service to God. But God began to stir their hearts. Martin’s extensive study of scripture made him begin to question the tactics of the Roman Catholic Church. Those questions led to the day he nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the Castle Doors of Wittenburg Church.

     His revolutionary ‘grace not works’ theology found its way behind the cloister doors where Katharina hid behind her habit and the rituals of the convent. God was stirring her heart as well. Through doors only God could have opened, she made her escape from the convent with the help of Martin, a man who didn’t even know her name.



     I think it is quite telling of God’s providence that their story together begins on Easter Eve, the night of her escape, because Easter is a time of resurrection and new life. As you will read in Katharina and Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk, this husband and wife team will change the face of marriage for all time.




     I encourage you to read it and share it with friends. It would be a great book club choice because a love story that features rebelling against legalism in the church is fodder for many conversations. DeRusha’s book launches Jan. 31 and can be purchased wherever books are sold. Please follow Michelle’s blog at michellederusha.com.  

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Chief Musician

     Ask him to sing. 


     There aren’t many that do anymore. Most often it’s the dying 

that request hymns during his hospice rounds. Bill Colle is a great 

comfort to families and those on the verge of paradise. But it's a 

shame that his songs are only heard in dimmed rooms, because my 

dad is still anointed and still able to fill a church with his rich bass.


     A house filled with music and singing is how I remember it. 

Album covers stacked in piles and the careful drop of a needle on 

vinyl. Musicals, opera, the Bison Glee Club, or The Centurymen’s 

latest played regularly.




     Every time I hear “Eternal Life,” I think of my dad. Especially

the prayer at the end because he has not only sung this prayer, he 

has lived it.


Oh divine master grant

That I may not so much seek

To be consoled, as to console.

To be understood, as to understand.

To be loved, as to love.


For it is in giving, that we receive.

It is in pardoning, that we are pardoned.

It is in dying, that we are born to eternal life.


     
     He gave up a full ride at Louisiana State University as a drum 

major to pursue God’s call at Oklahoma Baptist University in 

Okmulgee, Okla. During those four years, he ministered music at 

every church that allowed him to sing. He did finally make it to 

Louisiana. He completed seminary there and wore the pink 

master's stole for musicians while already a husband and father.

     
     Valdosta, Ga., Palatka, Fla., Chamblee, Ga., Alief and LaPorte, 

Texas, and finally Titusville, Fla. God called and called and called 

and we moved and moved and moved. And there was always 

music. The miles traveled all over the southeast marked a 

wonderful career behind the pulpit as the chief musician before 

retiring at the age of 62.


     No matter where we called home, he made sure that we always 

knew where we would spend eternity. That there, too, would be 

music. That’s why every time I hear “Eternal Life,” which he 

recorded on an album of his own, I am reminded of my father’s 

great legacy. And I’m puzzled why no one asks him to sing 

anymore beyond the four walls of home where my mom sends him 

to the piano to sing for her.




     Ask him to sing. God gave him a beautiful instrument that at 78 

still draws me to a peaceful place, that encourages me to give more 

than I receive, and to be a light in the darkness.

Happy Birthday to the Chief Musician in my life. Next time I’m 

home, let’s sing.


From the hymns that my daddy sang, I know I was made to glorify your name.”
Toby Mac ‘Undeniable’


Monday, December 14, 2015

Read the book, bought the tee

    
     During a weekend away at the beach, I devoured Erika Morrison’s book, Bandersnatch.

She encourages us to explore our unconventional soul and she asks us in a way that is 

poetic, lyrical, and forever outside the box.

     Life is not about “going out and fulfilling self-serving acts so that we can feel good 

about ourselves. It’s about being one, being whole, being a family, and being catalysts of 

love and healing back and forth.”



     I bought this book because I fell in love with Morrison’s words on her blog,

The Life Artist. I’ll read it again and again to keep the words fresh in my heart, especially 

when legalism rears up and stops me in my tracks.

     Buy it for yourself and then buy it for the friends who will inevitably come to mind as you 

read it. I know many who have been disappointed by man-made church life and they have 

walked away. I get it. I'm still too Protestant to walk completely away, but so many times 

I’ve felt like I was on the outside looking in through the pretty stained glass windows. I 

couldn’t live up to the expectations that put Jesus and God and Holy Spirit in a pretty box. 

Everything in me wanted to bust right out of the box and scream, “NO! He made me to be so 

much more than you allow me to be.”



     The words of Morrison’s heart echo that and put an exclamation point on abandoning 

boxes and heading straight to the source and saying to Him, “You made me. What now? 

Where are you leading me?” I dare say the answer will be astonishing and unlike anyone 

else's answer.
     
     Go check out this clip she asked me to share, then go buy Bandersnatch and unwrap your 

unconventional soul this Christmas. 


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Beyond a Facebook status


     I took a flight to Florida a few weeks ago to see my high school friends. Out of the 400 plus grads of Titusville High 1980, about 100 of us gathered to reminisce and comment on our current Facebook status eye to eye.










Here are a few things I observed:


  • Nobody remembers everything (thank goodness), but we do remember moments. We remember how our lives were intertwined for seasons of math, English, marching band, tennis, softball, and chorus. Those memories link us together as we remember teachers from freshman to senior year and growing up from early teens to late teens. The memories become fonder as we catch glimpses of them in the rear view mirror.

  • Some things never change. Everyone’s first stop after they write their names on tags in bold print is the group they were associated with in high school breezeways. That’s where the comfort level settles in and frees us to gravitate towards the other groups. Call them cliques or clubs – seeing this tendency takes us all right back to lockers and letter jackets and cheering from metal bleachers.

  • The older we get, the more we resemble our parents. We walked in and out of each other’s houses throughout those high school years, sometimes to spend the night, sometimes to just raid the fridge. We remember the parents who fed us and checked on us and kept clean towels in the bathroom. Good or bad, we are now a mirrored reflection of our parents and we said it out loud to each other more often this time.

  • No one has lived a charmed life. When we lingered a bit past the pleasantries, we told more stories of heartache and growth, loss and joy. And unlike the fifth year or the tenth year reunions, when we wanted to show brave faces and pictures of perfect children, it was comforting to know we weren’t alone in our struggles after all.

  • Some of us are harboring deep wounds. There are smiles and some disguises, but I saw heartache in some of my classmate’s eyes. No matter how much you tried to numb the pain with cups of bravado, we could see and what we want to say to you is that we want to hold you up, not tear you down. We may not have the answers you need, but by this time in life, we have all known great pain. Lean in. We can tell you how we got through it and at least offer hope.

  • Relationships – investing in them through the years – that’s what life is about. We grow in those relationships when we tell each other the truth. In five more years, there will be so much more to share and I hope we do it willingly and hold each other up. We made it through the high school physical and emotional roller coasters and those are ties that bind.

     See you in five years, but until then I'll see you on Facebook.

 (Photos stolen shamelessly from our uploads on Facebook during reunion weekend.)


Saturday, September 19, 2015

A Day of Yes


     The wildflowers along the interstate applauded my journey 
north. The brilliant yellow and fiery red blooms, gathered in 
patches along the way, cheered me on.




     I took Highway 25 from Greenville and headed toward Bat 
Cave and Hendersonville. I dreamed I was perched in a top-down 
convertible, shifting gears as I climbed through the Blue Ridge 
Mountains. Nevermind the fact that I had the air cranked up in my 
4Runner as I added more miles to the 192,000 already traveled 
behind the wheel.

     I reached the exit in record time. Perhaps it was because I was 
alone and not putting out fires of discontent on the way. This was 
my first trip apple picking without one or both of my boys in tow. I 
missed having them with me, but a new, stronger part of me, urged 
me on.




     The annual apple-picking trip in the fall represented a whole of 
afternoon of yes when the boys were with me:
  • Yes we can eat apples as we go.
  • Yes you can pick as many as you want.
  • Yes we can buy apple cider too, and apple fritters, and apple anything you want.
  • Yes we can eat dinner at Sonic and get ice cream for the drive home.

     Saying yes always makes for blissful times as a parent.


 But we all know that there is a whole world of no when it comes 
to raising kids. The days of yes come few and far between.





     As I walked along the rows of early Fuji’s and Galas filling a 
half-bushel basket, I thought about the days of waiting for 
moments just like this one. I pushed away the melancholy of not 
having my boys with me and reveled in being alone. There were so 
many times I dreamed of taking half-day trips alone when I was 
knee-deep in travel ball and music lessons. I sat on the sidelines 
and in parking lots waiting for what seemed like an eternity at 
times.

     I didn’t miss holding my breath as the boys climbed to the top 
of the trees for the apple on the top limb. I could stop and take 
pictures wherever I wanted. I didn’t have to wander down every 
row so it didn’t take me near as long to fill my little basket.





     I found joy in the solitude. I found a sweet spot saying yes to me.


     We get to this point in life ready or not. We sit even further 
away on the sidelines as we watch our children grow up. We have 
to make a choice whether we will say yes or no to the dreams we 
stowed away in our hearts while we made sandwiches and         
Kool-Aid. I’m glad I said yes to picking apples alone.

     Today’s half-day trips may well turn into weekends away 
tomorrow and new dreams and goals. And the taste of that is as sweet as biting into a just-picked North Carolina apple on a Saturday at the end of summer.

     Life’s a journey. Pay attention. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

#nonprofit life

     I like it best when they donate two-ply, but I can’t complain when the operative word is 

“donate.”




     It has been nearly two years since I joined the #nonprofit world. Little by little my eyes 

have been opened to the road that brought me here. It’s a meandering path filled with 

nuance and subtle changes.


     The learning curve hasn’t been too broad. I saw enough behind the scenes of church work 

in my youth to know that people are not always what they appear to be at first glance. This 

time, though, the revelations have been more about me than them.

     The crust of life must continually be chipped away to keep my heart soft and pliable, even 

when I help folks that I know are lying and looking to con me out of what I want to freely 

give.

Here are a few rules of #nonprofit life that I am learning:

     
     The first rule of #nonprofit life is that there are no set rules. People don’t need food and 

clothing at the appointed hours of giving. Sometimes they drag themselves in when it isn’t 

convenient and yet, they came through the doors and humbled themselves and asked for 

help. That’s what I try to remember.

     The second rule of #nonprofit life is that all job descriptions include the clause: willing to 

do anything at any time to get it done. Before hours, after hours, during hours, and even 

when it has absolutely nothing to do with the job you were hired to do. May include heavy 

lifting (i.e. carrying large sofas down twisted staircases), folding tangled aprons, or looking 

for expiration dates on 1,000 cans before sorting them for the food pantry.




    

     The third rule of #nonprofit life is that you must ask for money and donations. Often. 

Really often. I never knew I would constantly be on the lookout for yet another way to say, 

“Please give because we’re worth it.” I believe in what we do. Deep down, I just want you to 

believe too, without all of the begging. But it doesn’t work that way.

   
 By the way, got an extra $4?
 You can purchase a meal for one of our clients.


     The fourth rule of #nonprofit life is that when you start to feel cynicism creep into your 

belly, stop right then and go help someone. Drive a Meals on Wheels route. Take a fan to 

someone that doesn't have an air conditioner. Go buy a whole flat of canned fruit for the 

pantry. That’s the only way to stop the inner critic. That helps me remember why I’m here.


Help someone and help some more. 


     
     I pray loudly to God and ask him to use me. And he does, in the most unusual ways. And 

the more I see him at work, the more I see that it has not, nor ever will be about me.


I am a vessel.


     I want more than ever to be a vessel that is dinged, chipped, and smudged because I’m 

being used over and over again to get the hard work done. Not just because I work for a 

#nonprofit. Because I work for Him. 


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Looking for the Bright side

He wanted everyone to know that he had a perfect life.’

     Tim Bright died on Saturday, Oct. 4, after a four-and-a-half year battle with cancer. The Riverside High and University of South Carolina baseball standout, who alongside his wife Jenny founded the Brightlife organization to support cancer research, was 32.

     His death stirred up a well of grief in me that I was told shaded everyone in my path for the next few days. He was a former co-worker. He coached my son in travel baseball. But he wasn’t my son or my brother, so why did the grief swallow me up? It’s not an easy question to answer. The best one I can give is rooted in the way Tim lived his life and the way he invited me and anyone else who would listen to invest in relationships and living even when we are unsure of the ending.

     When Jenny and Tim asked me to pray, I prayed. I didn’t merely mention them in passing. I prayed the kind of prayers born out of love, believing all things, hoping all things. I took it on as a mantel. He was supposed to be one of the miracles. He had cancer for nearly five years and yet his death caught me off guard.

     I began telling Tim’s cancer story in 2010 for The Greer Citizen when we were asked to write Christmas stories that featured a different side of the holidays. With trepidation, I asked Tim and Jenny to tell me how they would spend Christmas, knowing that they had just found out that the colon cancer had returned a mere three months after it was defeated and this time in his lungs. They were grappling with the new truth that chemotherapy would be a part of their story until a cure for Tim was found. I shouldn’t have been worried. They thought it was a great idea.

     They gave up their Saturday morning to meet me at Broadway Bagel for breakfast. With hope and determination, they decided to spend their first Christmas as husband and wife without chemo. It could wait until January. And they decided together to become vocal about their story. They wanted to share it and help others in similar circumstances.

     When Tim called in 2012 and asked if I would write a story about Tee it Up for Cancer, Brightlife’s golf tournament fundraiser, I eagerly agreed. The tournament brought in thousands of dollars for the Institute of Translational Oncology Research (iTOR), a clinical research group founded by Tim’s doctors. The next year, we met again to write about the 2013 Tee it Up tournament.

     I also wrote about the time his brother Steven caddied for him at the BMW Pro-Am event. Steven asked officials for a waiver into the prestigious tournament just to put a smile on his big brother’s face. Tim, who had undergone a biopsy on his lung just two weeks before, thanked his brother by making sure his bag wasn’t too heavy to carry since the brothers refused the golf cart they were offered.

     Tim’s memorial service was last weekend and the very large auditorium at First Baptist Church Greenville was packed with people. It was a testament to Tim and Jenny’s willingness to tell their story in all of its ups and downs. We all wanted to solemnly applaud their bravery and show Jenny how grateful we are that she shared Tim with us.


     In a very poignant tribute, Steven caddied for his brother one last time. This time, instead of carrying golf clubs, he opened the pages of Tim’s journal. He said that Tim had written that he wanted everyone to know that he had a perfect life. If he helped one person along the way, it was worth it.

     By sharing his battle and giving others hope, Tim showed us all that life is not about living as individuals, but about investing in relationships and sharing in the nitty gritty of life. His legacy is this: share your story in such a way that everyone in your path wants to be a part of it. The investment in others, though painful at times, is worth it.

     We all wanted a happy ending, but perhaps another young cancer patient said it best not long before she died. “Maybe it’s not about the happy ending,” she said, “but about the story.”

     You gave us one heck of a story Tim.

This tribute first appeared in The Greer Citizen, Oct. 15, 2014. 
Visit www.storyoftim.blogspot.com for more of Tim and Jenny's story.