The Donkey

An “I Am the Clay” Vignette*


It was a pleasant, late fall day in the Samarian hill country. The main road was lined with men, women, children, the rich, the poor—each heading south, each on his or her way to take part in a government-ordered census.

Most seemed to be traveling in large groups of family and neighbors, with the exception of the young couple with the donkey traveling alone. (They had waited until most everyone in their own village had left, so as to keep from answering too many questions.)

She—Mary, very expectant—rode comfortably on the back of the donkey (Levi, she had named him; a good-natured jab at her younger brother with the same name) while he, Joseph, led the way.

Like us, Levi’s task was to carry the unborn Savior and, in effect, the good news He would bring—the gospel—to “all Judea and Samaria, and (our task, not Levi’s) to the ends of the earth.”

Unlike us, though, Levi wasn’t aware of that; after all, he was only a donkey. He didn’t know the one he was carrying was Immanuel—“God with us”—the one the prophet Isaiah had written about 700 years earlier.

Still, he faithfully carried out the task assigned to him.

The question is—are we? Are we faithfully carrying out the task assigned to us? Do we see it our calling to carry the light of the gospel to every corner of a dark world? Or are we content to leave that baby in the manger? Content to shop and feast and sing of the angels and the shepherds, the star and the wise men, the manger and the stable, and then pack it up and store it in the attic until next year?

That’s not why He came. He didn’t come to be the centerpiece of our Christmas pageant or the “reason for the season.” He came—His words, once He was old enough to speak them—“that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

Not just life, but abundant life.

One day, after He was grown, He said that “life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:16 NIV) He also said that “everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19:29 NIV)

The abundant life He came to give isn’t found in things or people or events—even events inspired by His birth. It’s found in Him, who He is. And one day, He told us who He is…

…He said He is “the life.” (John 14:6 NIV)

The life.”

As one who has been given “the life,” how can I not do as “the life” said and carry His good news to “the ends of the earth”?

Good question.

Levi faithfully carried out the task assigned to him…

Are we…?

*A brief written piece about a person or event. Or a donkey.

• • •

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I am not ashamed

From “The Lizard Lounge” Series on I Am the Clay

clothesline [klohz-lahyn] noun 1. a strong, narrow rope, cord, wire, etc., usually
stretched between two poles on which clean laundry is hung to dry. 2. A way to cut
your power bill AND your waistline in half. (“in half” may be exaggerating a bit…)


Other than hitting a lick or two at writing a book, it was quiet here at the “Lizard Lounge” this past summer. (If you’re new to “I Am the Clay,” take a second and follow that link to find out where that name came from. You can also click here for the whole series.) That’s either a good thing or a bad thing, as it quite possibly means I haven’t done diddly squat around here—except for the laundry. (Those are my clothes in the picture above.) All is not lost, though—the most mundane activities can often inspire a blog post.

Who knew my earthly home could teach me so much about the journey toward my heavenly one…?

• • •

I have a clothesline—and use it regularly instead of the clothes dryer. (I also wash dishes by hand and don’t use a dishwasher—on purpose.) So there.

Oh, I hear you thinking, What are you, some kind of hippy, tree-hugging, off-the-grid, antiestablishment, pinko commie liberal prepper? If God had intended us to NOT use the clothes dryer He wouldn’t have created Bounce fabric softener sheets. And don’t get me started on the dishwasher thing…

(Hey, now—that’s uncalled for.) Hear me out. Consider this:

  • Clothes dryers use a la-hot of electricity.
  • Hanging out the laundry burns calories. (not pointing fingers or anything, but…)
  • You can’t beat that fresh (and free) great-outdoors smell.

So there are more reasons TO use a clothesline than to NOT use one. Especially for me.

First off, I don’t have a lot of laundry; it’s just me, and I have a high tolerance for sleeping on not-recently-laundered sheets and re-wearing unlaundered stuff for, well, a while. With no one else to worry about, it’s like really casual Friday every day around here. Take off the jeans and shirt I wore to work, fold them up (neatly) to wear a bunch more times, and grab the same old pair of baggy (but aaaah-so-comfortable) bummin’ around shorts and call it “dressed.” Who’s to know?

(Besides all of you, now. I promise that any overnight guests get clean sheets and towels. I didn’t mention reusing my towel, did I? Just ignore that and keep reading. These are not the droids you’re looking for…)

Plus, being as it’s always summer down here in Florida, things dry really fast outside. Sometimes the first things I hang out are dry by the time I finish hanging out the last things. And since I have my clothesline hanging in the carport under cover, weather is never really an issue. A little sprinkle will have no effect whatsoever on laundry day.

If you decide to put up a clothesline, though, don’t get all nostalgic and use wooden clothes pins. It’s cute and “Country Living” and all, but they sometimes leave little stain spots on wet clothes—then what was the point? I have all my plastic clothes pins in a Home Depot nail apron. That way, if someone drops by while I’m getting my domestic on, I can pretend to be adding a room on to the house or putting up new siding.

BUT… Just know that, when you hang all your stuff outside on a clothesline, ebbody can see it: sheets, towels, skivvies—the whole shebang. For me, that isn’t a problem, as I have nice sheets and cool socks and am a high-end underwear-er. If anybody wanna take a peek at my ‘spensive undies, knock yourself out—they’re flapping in the breeze every other Saturday. I’m not ashamed.

Other than camping out to sneak a peek at my unmentionables, though (which would just be weird—don’t do that), it’s doubtful anyone else will ever see my cool calzoncillos in their native environment—they’ll be securely hidden ‘neath my pantalones. So if you’re going to own expensive underwear, you may as well have a clothesline; otherwise, who’s gonna see ‘em? (Without getting yourself in all kinds of trouble with the Lord, that is. Unless it’s your spouse, who—depending on how long you’ve been married—would probably rather have a new iPhone than see you in high-end “delicates;” or your buddies in the gym locker room, who would probably rather not have to gouge their eyes out.) All that undergarment-y goodness is just going to remain hidden.

Which, in the end, is probably good, as some things just ought to be kept to yourself. Some things oughtn’t—be kept to yourself, that is. Some things need to be hauled out in public—mixed company, even—and shared and discussed; things like, say, the good news of Jesus.

I don’t know if Jesus (or anyone else in His time) even wore underwear, but He certainly had plenty of other, more life-changing stuff to hang out on the line, stuff we usually refer to as “the gospel,” a word we get from the Old English word gōdspel: “gōd” meaning “good” and “spel” meaning “tale.” The gospel of Jesus is definitely a “good tale,” but a true tale and not a tall one.

Not only did Jesus bring us a good tale, He told us to get off our tails and tell that tale:

“You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8

I don’t know any way to read that other than literally. He told his disciples to start telling the good tale in Jerusalem, spiral outward, and end up…here: in Central Florida. Or there: wherever you are.

Paul, a later addition to the apostolic band, took that command literally as well. He spent his post-encounter-with-Jesus life witnessing to anyone who would listen. Even when he was in prison—which was often—he would write letters about the gōdspel.

Paul was always eager to share the good tale of Jesus Christ, and told the church in Rome:

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes… Romans 1:16 NIV

“Salvation to everyone who believes.” Everyone. Ebbody. All y’all.

What forgiven sinner, after receiving that amazing, free gift of salvation, wouldn’t want to exercise Jesus’ imperative to “witness” and share that amazing gift with all y’all?

Most of us forgiven sinners, that’s who. Would that I had the same attitude about sharing the gospel as I do about my “delicates.” One of those two I’m not ashamed to hoist up the flagpole in front of God and country; the other one I fumble over like I’d just as soon push you over the cliff into hell rather than give you directions for getting out.

Blogging and writing about what God has done for me and can do for others is great and has the potential to spread my country-boy message to people from China, Nigeria, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, Poland, Hungary, Turkey. Seriously—my blog statistics say all of those countries have citizens who have visited “I Am the Clay.” (The Hungary click is from some young missionary friends from church, but I’m still counting it. I hope my Turkish visitor isn’t off-put by my underwear story…) But besides long distance Kiwis, Poles, and Turks, those right-in-front-o’-your-face/in-the-moment encounters with people who desperately need Jesus are just as important—maybe even more so.

People who desperately need Jesus, like…

…the Ethiopian official in Acts 8, for example. Philip, a convert to Christianity who was described as being “full of the Spirit and wisdom” found himself on a dirt road out in the desert talking to this influential man from Ethiopia sitting up in his chariot and reading Isaiah’s blog. (sort of)

“Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.

“How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” Acts 8:30-31

Exactly. And living and acting like a believer is great and expected of us, but it’s not enough. Whoever wrote this pithy little bon mot ought to be whipped:

“Preach the Gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.”

It’s ALWAYS necessary to use words. Jesus didn’t say “Get out there and wear your diamond-studded cross pin and your Jesus fish on your keyring and your ‘I ♥ my church’ bumper sticker on your car…to the ends of the earth.” He said to talk about it, to be His witnesses, to share that good tale. With ebbody.

Look around—shootings, stabbings, hatred, vehicles used as weapons. And that’s just this morning. I’m not a pessimist when I tell you that Jesus said it isn’t going to get any better. He talks at length about what it will be like near the end. He said that…

“Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold…” Matthew 24:12

That means that many of our friends, neighbors, co-workers, loved ones, people in line in front of us at the grocery store are just a crazy person in a rental truck with a foot on the gas pedal away from dying without Jesus.

He goes on to give us hope, though. In the very next verse Jesus says…

“But the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Matthew 24:13

However, Paul adds a caveat:

How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? Romans 10:14

And we’re right back where we started: hang it on the clothesline for everyone to see—i.e., be Jesus’ witnesses to the ends of the earth—or dry it in the dryer in the comfort and privacy of the laundry room—i.e., be ashamed, forgiven sinners who keep that amazing, free gift of salvation all to ourselves.

Are you ashamed? Am I?

Jesus said that…

“Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” Luke 9:26

I don’t want that. I want to say “me too” to Paul:

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…

I want to channel that power, to see somebody believe because I wasn’t ashamed.

Let’s be unashamed of the gospel: let’s live it, let’s believe it, but—most important—let’s proclaim it. For it…

…brings salvation to everyone who believes…

Clothesline or dryer—what’s it gonna be…?

• • •

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We got power

We got power

We had a hurricane down here recently. Maybe you heard.

Even as I write this, many Floridians are still reeling from the loss. (If you haven’t yet taken that much-anticipated vacation to Key West, you may have missed your chance.) Depending on what part of the state you’re from, Irma’s impact ranged from devastating to merely annoying. For the most part, up here in the middle it was mostly just annoying; with that annoyment mostly due to power outages; with those power outages mostly due to tree limbs being ripped off and hurled into power lines by 100 mph winds.

I’m sure there is a perfectly logical reason (or not) why so many humongous, spreading, live oak trees—of which Florida is rife—tend to grow intertwined with power lines. Did we not think this through? Often you’ll see where the power company has come and cut the middle out of a tall oak tree so that it looks like a big ol’ “Y” with a power line running through it. In addition to looking like something out of Dr. Seuss’s Whoville, it’s just a power outage waiting for a brisk breeze.

And now for the rest of the story…


An “I Am the Clay” Vignette*


“Ink”—slang for tattoos. Ink is actually an appropriate moniker for tattoos, as ink, in most cases, is indelible…permanent…un-erasable—like tattoos.

The most inked human I know is one I affectionately call “my boy.” He’s tattooed from the neck down—or so he says, as there are a couple of private spots I haven’t seen (and ain’t asking about and don’t wanna). Tattoos are kind of like indelible reminders of wear and tear from the past.

And he’s definitely got a past—drug use and abuse, civil disobedience, jail time. But that past also includes marrying a beautiful wife who kept his family—their family—together while his drug use ran its course.

And then one day there was an encounter with Almighty God, delivery from his demons, a sure and certain moment of salvation.

And now for the rest of the story…


An “I Am the Clay” Vignette*

Bold 1

…the righteous are as bold as a lion. Proverbs 28:1 NIV

“Can I try this one in a size 10?”

“Yes, sir—let me get that for you.”

The Thom McAnn Shoes clerk disappeared through the curtain to the stock room to retrieve a pair of black wingtips for my daddy, while we—my daddy, my mother, and I—sat at the back of the store and waited.

It was 1972, the heyday of the Gateway Shopping Center in Decatur, Alabama, just before the shopping mall explosion. Besides the shoe store, there was a Woolworths, complete with a snack counter that served huge banana splits; a Quick Chek grocery store where they let my granny buy cigarettes with food stamps; a Sears and Roebuck, also in its heyday; and a movie theater with two screens. (A few years later, I saw the original Star Wars there 11 times.)

Decatur was a small town back then and people were, for the most part, respectful.

For the most part…

And now for the rest of the story…


From the I Am the Clay “Story” Series


A farmer went out to sow his seed… Matthew 13:3-8 NIV


“Oh my goodness—Jess? Hey!” Ally stood up from her small table and gave her high-school friend a hug. “What are you doing back in town?”

“I’m here for the women’s conference this weekend at the New Life Center at Calvary Memorial.”

“It’s so good to see you!” Ally motioned to an extra chair. “Please—join me.”

Jess sat down. “I thought I might run into you at the conference, but this will give us a chance to catch up.”

“What are you having? Cappuccino? Latte?”

“A cup of tea would be great.”

Ally flagged down the server. “Evie? Can I get a tea for my friend, hon?” She turned to Jess. “How about the mango/peach tea? It’s amazing.”

“Sure.” Jess turned to the server. “Mango/peach it is. Thanks.” She looked around the small restaurant. “This is really cute. I don’t think it was here the last time I was in town. Didn’t it used to be a gas station?”

And now for the rest of the story…

Turn, turn, turn

turn turn turn
Being born and raised in Alabama and a long-time resident of Florida, I’ve heard all the redneck and hurricane jokes. Some of the rest of y’all got some good some good local jokes, too, though. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • You know you’re a Californian if the fastest part of your commute is down your driveway.
  • Top sign you’re a New Yorker #4: You believe that being able to swear at people in their own language makes you multi-lingual.
  • Q: What do a divorce in Arkansas, a tornado in Kansas, and a hurricane in Texas have in common? A: Somebody’s fixin’ to lose them a trailer.

In the years I’ve lived in Florida, I’ve come to appreciate all of ours, especially the ones that have to do with the climate. Por ejemplo:

You’re a true Floridian if…

…you judge a good parking place, not based on distance from the store, but on its proximity to shade.
…you consider anything under 70 as “chilly” and anything under 95 as “just a little warm.”
…you’re on a first name basis with the Hurricane list. They aren’t Hurricane Charley, Hurricane Frances, etc., but Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne.
…you’ve worn shorts and used the A/C on Christmas.

I can especially attest to the last two. I actually washed my car wearing my swimsuit one New Year’s Day. (I was wearing the swimsuit, not the car…)

And now for the rest of the story…


An “I Am the Clay” Vignette*


She is clothed with strength and dignity… Proverbs 31:25

She leaves her afghan folded up in the pew at church where she and my daddy have sat as long as I can remember—second pew on the right, facing the pulpit. (The Epistle side, if you’re an Episcopalian.) The men keep it way too cold in there for the women, so emergency afghans and blankets dot the church.

She loves me fiercely, as I do her. When I called them the morning I became a Christian, she shouted. Baptists don’t do much shouting. (Or hand-raising. Too prissy.) Mama did that morning.

While she’s sat in the same pew for all those years, she’s not the same person. She’s grown spiritually the past several years. Now that I’m a Christian, many of our phone conversations end up as deep theological discussions. She’s had to up her game.

I send her books and CDs and she reads my blog. I like to get off into hypothesizing on the organic fluidity of justification and the timing of the rapture. She says I challenge her. (That may just be a nice way of saying I’m full of myself.)

She’s become quite strong—stronger than I think she ever imagined being. She stood up to a car salesman last week and drove out of there with exactly what she wanted at the price she wanted. I knew she had it in her.

But that strength goes a lot deeper—it lives somewhere down about where the Holy Spirit lives. I wouldn’t mess with her.

She’s my mama. I’m proud of her and wouldn’t wanna be anybody else’s son.

Well, God’s son, of course—but she’s happy to share…

*A brief written piece about a person or event.

• • •

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Jazz Hands for Jesus

Singers 2 edited

“Now, guys… You’re going to go down on your right knee on the word ‘me.’ Ladies, you’ll spin in on two-three-four, sit on your guy’s left knee on five, and both of you will pop your outside hand up on seven. Got it? Let’s take it from ‘tell you what you mean.’ Ready? Five, six, seven, eight…”

Show choir choreography rehearsals used to be my favorite thing in all the world (‘cause you can sing anywhere, anytime—if you don’t mind weird looks—but you can’t pop your outside hand up just anywhere without risking bodily harm or, perhaps, incarceration).

But that was (quite) a few years ago when I was singing and dancing with the Auburn University Singers, by far one of the finest show choirs in existence. (That’s not a biased opinion—I must say that to avoid bearing false witness.) Now, however, the only time I pop my outside hand up is if I’m in the contemporary worship service at church, swatting a mosquito or, as I occasioned to be recently, at the weekend-long 45th reunion of those same Auburn University Singers, where I spent a couple hours on Saturday rehearsing the above choreography to “The Alphabet Song” along with all the reunion attendees who had been in the group during my era.

And now for the rest of the story…

Holy Spectacles

untitled“One…” *click* “…or two?”



“One…” *click* “…or two?”

“Two… I guess—maybe just a little.”

*click* *click* *swivel* *click*

“One…” *click* “…or two?”

And so it went. My optometrist would click a lens in place—“one”—then click a different lens in place—“two”—and ask me which one made the little teeny-tiny row of letters I was looking at more clear. Sometimes it was pretty obvious, but most of the time it was more like a Moe’s burrito vs. a Chipotle burrito—it’s a tortilla with beans, meat, and cheese. Bueno.

While the whole optometrical once-over—including the air rifle blast in the eye and the blinding dilation drops—is kind of a chore, it’s worth it to get a new pair of glasses every year.

And now for the rest of the story…