Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: writing (page 2 of 3)

Follow Friday: Susan Irene Fox

I first discovered Susan Irene Fox and her self-titled blog after she started liking some of mine posts. Out of curiosity I started reading her blog. Susan has a way of sharing profound, spiritual thoughts that are welcoming and not threatening. After a twenty-year career as an elementary school teacher, that ended due to a permanent disability, Susan started blogging to get her name out there.

She had started a Bible curriculum projected for grades K-6 called Branches. The blog was to give her an online fingerprint for potential publishers. Ever since then, both the curriculum and the blog have evolved. “The curriculum,” Susan says, “is now a biblical devotional series for families.”  Branches, which is based on John 5:14-15, is currently in the editing stage. Meanwhile, the blog has greatly expanded as “a way to edify, encourage, enrich – and sometimes gently exhort – the Body of Christ,” Susan says. The blog has become, for Susan, a way to abide in the Spirit, while building the Kingdom of God.

As I have lifted the focus off me and onto God, the experience has become rich with new insight. Followers have increased organically as the Spirit has led them. And when just one person tells me the words I write have reached his or her heart, that comment keeps me motivated for weeks, because I have been an obedient vessel.

At times, Susan will post a poem, which is an incredible way to express a gospel truth. “Poetry,” Susan says, “is a rekindled love.” She wrote poetry during high school and college. She would teach grammar through poetry writing. Often, as she writes in her personal prayer journal, she will write poems. She never, however, had the courage to make any of the poems public. With great delight, the poems were welcomed and well received. Susan got a number of reassurance and support for them, including from other poets. She now posts a poem every Sunday – “my small way of praising Him.”

Susan, like other bloggers, will occasionally do a series. Currently she is doing a series on the Beatitudes. Susan says there are two reasons that went into her decision to do a series. “The first,” she says, “is because writing a series keeps me motivated, interested, and educated.” It gives her the opportunity to “dive more deeply into a small amount of Scripture,” and then share what she gleaned from that dive with others. “The second reason,” she says, “is that, as I’m editing Branches, I’m relooking at this living text called the Bible.” Susan says that each time she ponders on the Bible, “it seems to speak differently” to her. These new ponderings lead her into areas she may not have been ready to see previously in her life. “It’s an adventure,” she says, “and I love to follow each new path.”

The topics in the series are the same topics that are included in Branches. The first series was on the Fruit of the Spirits. The series after the Beatitudes will be The Twenty Third Psalm. Each series gives an opportunity to chew and digest small pieces of Scripture at a time.

I was curious to know who Susan reads. Every so often she will quote a Christian thinker and ponderer. When Susan first came to faith, she “soaked up Lee Strobel’s books.” She names her pillars as N. T. Wright, Dallas Willard, Richard Foster and Henry and Richard Blackaby. She also reads Max Lucado, Tullian Tchividjian, Jonathan Merrit, Francis Chan, Phyllis Tickle, David Platt, John Ortberg, Beth Moore, and Tim Keller. But that is just to name a few.

Blogging has its rewards. I wanted to know what the most rewarding part of Susan was from blogging.

The most rewarding part of blogging is the discovery of new things about Scripture from the most amazing blog writers. I have so much to learn as a new believer, yet just this week I was greatly comforted and inspired that I am not unlike all those other “new believers” in the first century – Mary and Martha, Priscilla and Lydia, Titus and Timothy – and I am humbled and enriched to be in such gracious company.

You can read Susan’s blog at susanirenefox.com and you can follow her on Twitter @susanirenefox.

Strangely Warmed: A John Wesley Monologue

After searching for a monologue or skit for Aldersgate Day, I wrote out the following.

Strangely Warmed

A John Wesley Monologue

I was in despair. I felt like I was losing my faith and did not think that I should continue to preach. I was finding very little comfort in religion.  I confessed these thoughts to a dear friend and mentor who answered me, “Preach faith until you have it, and then because you have it, preach faith.

So, I took his advice. I continued preaching – in fields, in prisons, and in pubs. It astounded me how people came to believe in Christ, and here I was still struggling to have faith.  I cried out many nights, “Lord, help my unbelief!”

On this day, May 24, 1738, I opened my Bible at about five in the morning and came across these words, “There are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, even that ye should partakers of the divine nature.”

Later that evening, I attended a meeting in Aldersgate. I should say, I attended quite reluctantly. I didn’t want to go! Someone was reading from Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to Romans. It was about quarter to nine while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, that I felt my heart strangely warmed. I was felt that I did indeed trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that God had taken away my sins, yes, even min, and saved me from the law of sin and death.

It would take me some time to learn how to live the life of faith, for I was always finding joy, and I thought surely I cannot be saved AND happy. I thought because I was experiencing joy that I had fallen from salvation. It took some time before I realized that it is not Christ and good works, but Christ alone who saves, resulting in good works.

Afterwards, I would ride for thousands of miles preaching the gospel to anyone who would listen.

School Lunches

In Mrs. Flakes’ first grade classroom at Rural Point Elementary, the most embarrassing  thing that could have happened happened. I was sitting in the last desk in my row. I slowly began to feel hot. As my head warmed and I began to sweat, I had an uncomfortable feeling in the bottom of my stomach. No, it wasn’t butterflies of nervousness about something that we were about to do in class. It was lunch.

I had gotten a few dollars from Dad that morning so that I could go through the cafeteria line and get pizza with my friends. Unfortunately, after lunch when we were back in the classroom, the pizza returned. I quickly turned in my seat, and like a scene from Family Guy, it seemed to not stop. I vaguely remember standing up and not knowing what direction to go. I felt awful! Mrs. Flakes tired to steer me away from the throw-up and out the classroom door to the nurse’s office. From there, my parents were called and I went home.

I made a decision that day that I held to until my senior year in high school. I would never eat cafeteria food again! From that day on Mom packed me a lunchbox (until high school when the Alf lunchbox was replaced with a brown lunch bag.)

And I still have it! My mom thinks it was Superman or Mickey Mouse before Alf.

And the lunch was always the same. There was my peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white bread. There was an off-brand ziplock bag of potato chips, a Little Debbie dessert, and a drink. Mom remembers me using the thermos that came with the lunchbox in elementary school with either milk or apple juice in it.

Even in the first grade, I was a creature of habit. I would empty the contents of my lunchbox and arrange them. When I graduated to the brown lunch bag, the drink was always in the bottom, followed by the sandwich, and the Little Debbie cake, and the chips. I would eat my peanut butter and jelly sandwich first. Then, the chips, and lastly the Little Debbie cake. And then, I would drink my drink. Why I did it this way, I have no idea. But that was my lunch routine.

When both Mom and Dad worked, I would stay at Mrs. Rice’s house. Later, when I got older, she would tell the story that whenever it was lunch time, she would ask me what I wanted, and the answer was always the same: “Peanut butter and jelly.” I image when I got older and into high school, I may have veered off that plan. But, for the most part, it was always peanut butter and jelly.

Today, whenever I’m hungry and there seems to be few options, I will make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich – either strawberry or grape. It brings me a level of comfort. It reminds me of my childhood and the security of always knowing that peanut butter and jelly would be there for me.

And the best part is, I never got sick at school again.

The Doorbell

When I was growing up, it was rare that doors were locked. I can remember as a kid roaming around and randomly going into my grandparents’ home next door. No knocking, and certainly no ringing of a doorbell. We would just walk in. But now that I think about, we haven’t asked my grandparents how they felt about any of us randomly walking in their house.

Then, at some point, the world changed. And doors were locked. It was strange. In order to go into someone’s house, we had to use the doorbell.

The Doorbell - dog rings bellIt was a little creepy at first. You didn’t know what was going to happen. The doorbell was a strange object. “We’re just suppose to push it?” we wondered. “That’s all?” We would push the button and wait to hear if anything happened. In some cases, the “bell” would be so loud it would freak us out a little bit. Others we wouldn’t be able to hear it ourselves, which meant we had to push the button again, right? Because if we couldn’t hear it, how could the people inside hear it?

It also seemed so formal. Like we had to wear our Sunday best to visit someone. We were not formal people. We were country, where everyone knew everyone. Honestly, though, everyone was related to everyone – which is a whole other blog post.

Doors were no longer open. Being invited in was no longer taken for granted. We had to ask to be invited in.

When the doorbell rings, we have been trained to go to the door. We may peek through the window first to see who is out there. Maybe we are expecting guests or a delivery, and we wait with anticipation for the doorbell to ring. The power of who comes in is on us, we who are inside the house. If it is a salesperson, we do not have to let them in. If it is some annoying grandchildren, we do not have to let them in.

When I lived in an apartment in the West End of Richmond, a group of Mormons from Central America were making the rounds in the apartment building. I knew when my doorbell rang that it was this group of people. I knew what they were selling, and decided that I needed to bury my  head into my textbooks instead. I figured after they rang the bell and no one came to the door, they would move on to the next door.

However, the bell kept ringing. After awhile I finally got up from the table where I was studying, and answered the door. The elder member began chatting me up in a quick pace of Spanish that I did not understand. I finally realized that they had the wrong apartment. They were looking for my neighbor, who was a relative they were looking for.

About the same time that Dad got sick with prostate cancer, I brought home  a black lab. Dad named her Lady. She had been left on the side of the road near the church I worked at at the time. She was malnourished, to the say the least. And as a result, she spent the first few months inside the house.

As we got better, she would spend most of her days outside. At some point Lady learned that if she jumped up and pushed the doorbell, one of us would come and answer the door. And I don’t mean a neat little trick where she uses her nose to push the bell. No, she would jump up and lean on the door. Once “standing,” she would use her paw to ring the bell. It looked a little bit like this:

www.catster.com

www.catster.com

And because we had been trained to response to the doorbell, we would always check to see who it was. Imagine our surprise the first time we realized it was not a person, but the dog!

Lady was not surprised. And once we started answering when she rang, she would continue this habit. Especially when she sensed a storm coming. Lady was deathly afraid of storms. On these evenings, she would ring the doorbell at the front door, and if no one came soon enough, she would run and ring the bell on the back door. This would continue for awhile until my Mom would wait patiently for her at one of the doors to let her in.

One evening while Dad was in the hospital, I was home with my two younger brothers. Lady had gone outside. Not long afterwards, the doorbell started ringing. I – the older brother – told my brothers, “Don’t answer the door. It’s just Lady, and she needs to learn to stop doing that.”

The doorbell did not stop ringing.

Finally I got up, annoyed with the lab, to let her in. Only, there was no black lab waiting at the back door. Instead, it was one of our neighbors bringing us a casserole. I was only slightly embarrassed.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I thought you were the dog.”

Lost Journal

Sometime last week during LebCamp, my journal went missing.  I  haven’t been able to find it.  I’ve looked everywhere in my office, around the church, in the church van, at home, in my car.  No journal to be found.

I’ve been hoping that it would be like one of those lost and found stories in Luke’s gospel.  Like the lost coin, I’d find my journal and rejoice!  Or like the lost sheep, I’d find my journal and bring it back to the journal fold.  Or like the lost son, I’d find my journal and throw a party.  But, alas, no journal.

And to be honest, I’ve been a little lost this week without that journal.  I do have a nice, clean, fresh, never-been-written-in leather journal, but its not the same.  That journal with its worn cover and pages falling out has been through some incredible journeys with me over the last year or so.  There were thoughts about my recent doctor visits and tests that were run on my heart.  There were thoughts about life, dad, and films.  There were outlines and scribbles about new writing projects.  And, it’s all gone.

But, I’m hopeful that it’ll turn it up and those lost thoughts will be found.  And you never know, maybe I’ll throw a party.

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