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.

During Irma’s visit, I was without power just long enough for my frozen mango chunks in the freezer to melt and then refreeze into a big wad of sweet tropical tanginess that I now have to hack apart to use. (I’ll get by.) But some folks are still without power. And while some of y’all a couple states away are having sweater weather, it’s been in the 90’s down here this past week—with no AC for many.

Interestingly (to me, at least), power outages in the area have been kind of spotty. I don’t even pretend to understand the mysteries of the power grid, but it seems odd that one block in a neighborhood can be totally dead while one block over, folks are lighting up the night.

Even more odd was the power situation at my church.

My church is one of the oldest churches in the city. Since it kept outgrowing every building that was built (and after resorting to holding services in the civic center), the membership bought an empty mall in 1999 and transformed it into a church complex. It’s quite amazing. (Take a peak.) The wide mall promenade handles the congestion between services beautifully, the former Sam’s Club has been gutted and reimagined as the worship center, and there is plenty of parking.

During Irmageddon (I wish I had made that name up), the whole campus lost power. Sunday services were cancelled, all mid-week services and events had to be cancelled, we couldn’t host our Tuesday/Thursday Breaking Bread Café where we provide meals for those locals in need—in short, the church was powerless.

As this past Sunday got closer with not a watt of electricity flowing at the mall, our pastor and our technical director began to frantically brainstorm ways to hold services. If you’re someone who would consider having no electricity a good excuse to miss church, just know that I’m not of that same mind—and neither were the throngs of church members who showed up Sunday morning at 9:30 in our large “Now Center” (formerly a Montgomery Ward store) to attend an all-church worship service. For you see, on Friday, the church’s facilities manager called the pastor to tell him, “We got power.” Power was suddenly available in one place in the entire mall: the Now Center…

…The one place other than the worship center large enough to hold everyone…

…The one place that already had a stage and a sound system and screens to project the lyrics of the hymns and songs our Family Connect pastor led us in singing while he played his guitar…

…The one place that already had plenty of chairs stacked up ready to be set out in rows to hold the worshippers who filled those 1355 chairs that morning (except for three or four seats on the front row—what can I say; we’re Baptists)…

…The one place on the entire church campus with power.

Psalm 122:1 and a favorite old hymn both say:

“I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.” KJV

So all 1300+ of us did just that, gladly: we went into the Now Center of the Lord. There was no picking which service you wanted to go to because you like the music better; no coming in late and just watching the service onscreen in the overflow chapel; no sitting in the same spot you always sit, near the same people you always sit near; no settling into a comfortably upholstered theater-style seat. It was a shoulder-to-shoulder fellowship of believers on folding chairs.

We gathered as the body of Christ, all because of power. And—pardon the pun—it was a powerful experience. But (in case my analogy isn’t obvious) it wasn’t just because of electrical power: if we individually and corporately are in a right relationship with the Father, there should be all manner of power flowing through a church and THE Church. Unlike Spiderman or Captain America, God’s power is unlimited.

Paul spoke of Him as being…

…able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us… Ephesians 3:20 NIV

And He is; and He did. Add all that together and Central Florida certainly felt its share of power this past week or so…

  • Hurricane Irma had the power to destroy lives, destroy property, topple trees, and disrupt power.
  • This past Sunday morning, the Now Center had the power to turn on the lights and the speakers and the microphones, which led to worship that happened in one accord, enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit, strengthened by the power of preaching the Word of God.
  • The church at the mall/a.k.a. Church at the Mall/a.k.a. the Church—Capital “C”—at the mall had power to be the body of Christ, send members of that body on two mission trips this week to be the hands and feet of Jesus, serve people who don’t know where their next meal is coming from, and overcome darkness and comfort and preference to worship the One Who gave His all to give us life.

But exceeding the power of a storm of any category, exceeding the power of evil in any form, exceeding the power of The Church or of a church of any size is the power of Almighty God, in whom lies all power…

…Power to create previously non-existent life
…Power to transform lost and broken life
…Power to sustain that life for all eternity

And lest we forget who the source of that power ultimately is, Paul is quick to remind us:

We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 2 Corinthians 4:7 NIV

This past Sunday, that power was on display in a big way. God could have lit up the large and comfortable worship center; instead, He had us assemble together shoulder-to-shoulder on folding chairs in a room that was the perfect size to hold us… a room where, when we sang, we could hear each other… a room where, when we lifted our hands, we could see each other… and a room where, when one felt the presence of the Holy Spirit, we all felt the presence of the Holy Spirit—and “immeasurably more.”

Power and might are in your hand… 2 Chronicles 20:6 NIV

This past Sunday, we got power.

To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:21 NIV


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, like the tattoos, that was also indelible.

Now he’s a voracious reader: the Bible, Tozer, books about what makes grace amazing. He’s curious and smart and pursues God with an unbridled passion. He texts me photos of the page from the book he’s reading, knowing it will affect me the same way, whether as an “aha” moment or gut-churning conviction. And usually, it does.

I met him when we both played in a Christian band together. He irritated me to no end at first. He’s got a smart mouth and enjoys getting a rise out of me. But one day I ended up sitting down one-on-one with him—no bass guitar or keyboard between us—and heard his whole story, heard his heart, heard his honesty.

Heard his hunger to draw closer to God.

People get under your skin, you know? Kind of like tattoo ink, their place in your life becomes indelible.

So while my time with the band was short-lived, my time with him wasn’t.

We get together and drink coffee ’til all hours, the closest thing to partying either of us does anymore. We talk about our past lives—laugh about it, mostly—and worry that we’re romanticizing it a little too much. But we both know the other will get the contrast between that past and the about-face God enabled in each of us, the power He has to heal brokenness.

Recently, he asked me to be his mentor. Me: broken, faltering, stumbling, dealing-with-my-own-past-demons me. He’s got parents, so he wasn’t looking for a father figure. While I would be proud to have a son—or at least a little brother—who reads Tozer, I’ll be content to wear the “mentor” badge with honor.

And it is an honor: an honor to pray for him daily, to send him lists of books to read, to talk about the truths and mysteries of the heavenly Father we share.

The other day he told me he had been accepted into the seminary. I admit it—I cried. I thanked the Lord profusely, but I also cried. Joy tears.

He’ll make quite a minister. No one in his congregation will ever be able to say God can’t save them—he’ll just bare his inked arms, smile and say, “Sure He can—‘cause He saved me…


*A brief written piece about a person or event.

• • •

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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…

The bell tinkled as the glass door at the front of the store opened. In strode a rather large man. He was wearing a tie, probably a salesman. He was at least 6’4”, 270 lbs., had one of those over-compensatingly loud voices.

“D___, it’s hotter’n H___ out there,” he boomed to the manager who was stationed behind the cash register about midway back.

In 2017, that sort of language can be heard on any TV channel, any time of the day, and we’ve all become inured to it; but in small-town Alabama, circa 1972, that wasn’t the case. And unfortunately, Mr. Loud Mouth didn’t see the little Southern Baptist family sitting at the back of the store.

And he didn’t know my daddy.

Daddy stood up, all 5’10” of him, and turned toward the man. “Sir, I have my wife and son here and I would appreciate it if you’d watch your language.”

He wasn’t indignant or unkind—but he wasn’t apologetic, either. I was an awkward teenager then, overly self-conscious and easily embarrassed. I mentally crawled under a chair, mortified at what had just happened. Big guy just stopped dead in his tracks: Goliath in the front of the store, David in the back.

My daddy and I don’t share many physical attributes, which I was always glad for—he wasn’t very tall and was doing the comb-over by the time he was 30. I do wish we had shared more important attributes, though, especially the uncompromising way he lived out his faith in the Lord…

Big Guy suddenly reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet.

“I’m so sorry, sir—I… I didn’t mean…” he stammered. “Here.” He started flipping through his wallet. “I got a wife and kids, too. Here’s a picture. This is my youngest…”

“No, that’s OK,” Daddy said. “I don’t need to see your pictures. I just want you to watch your language in front of my family.”

“Yes, sir—I’m sorry.” He nodded to my mother. “I’m sorry, ma’am—I apologize.”

About that time the clerk returned with a pair of black wingtips. They fit perfectly and we paid and left.

It was weird: on the way out of the store, Goliath didn’t look so big anymore. David’s slingshot had found its target and felled the overcompensatingly loud giant.

• • •

Fifteen years or so ago, I wrote my daddy a letter for Father’s Day and told him what that moment meant to me, how I had never forgotten it. He told me then that he vaguely remembered it; he doesn’t remember it at all now.

There’s a lot he doesn’t remember now: that day in 1972, my letter that made him cry. But that’s OK—I remember enough for both of us.

One day, though, he’ll remember it—all of it. And on that day, he’ll remember that I told him how much I loved him, how I wished I had told him that more often, how I wished I had been more like him. Not short with thinning, blond hair, but bold: bold as a lion…

…just like my daddy.

Happy Father’s Day.

*A brief written piece about a person or event.

• • •

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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…



“…And this bedroom belongs to—” My friend stopped dead in her tracks. “Seriously?”

She quickly closed the door, but not before I got a shot of pretty-in-pink, teenage-girl chaos. Clothes festooned every surface; shoes were strewn about, with not a single one in near proximity to its mate; “delicates” littered the floor…indelicately…

“I’m so sorry you had to see that. I told them I’m not cleaning up after them.”

I just laughed. “If you think THAT’S bad, then you can NEVER come to my house!”

(I write this while sitting in my office that includes an elliptical machine, weights and a weight bench, a pair of crocs and socks to wear while ellipting, an unassembled bed leaning up against the wall, three dining room chairs, an unused scanner, a storage box full of shoes, various lengths of 4×4 pressure-treated lumber providing a make-shift corral for an exercise ball on top of the storage box full of shoes, and a zippered vinyl portfolio with Liberace’s logo on it holding a collection of Liberace piano books for the beginning pianist. She can NEVER come to my house.)

And now for the rest of the story…

New Year, New You


Christmas seemed especially joyful this year, at least to me. I think after the past year or so of nasty politics—and I’m going to blame both sides for that… and no fair saying “they” started it (if you think that, you weren’t on the same Facebook I was on)—all the joy was kind of sucked out of our country.

All the biased news stories, both sides waiting and wishing for the other candidate to implode—and that looked like a distinct possibility for either one of them—hateful responses on social media from supporters of both parties…

…I don’t know about you, but I really needed a little Christmas, as the song goes—and I got it:

  • The Christmas music seemed a little more joyful (I’m digging on the new Pentatonix Christmas album)
  • The glitter seemed a little more sparkly (and if past experience holds true, that same glitter will still be making an appearance in and around the house next July)
  • The lights seemed a little brighter this year, even in Florida where they DO NOT know how to tastefully put up Christmas lights outside (sorry Florida peeps—all those blinking, chasing, half-colored, half-white Christmas light displays with a bunch of inflatable “Despicable Me” minions in Santa hats in the front yard… To quote Nancy Reagan, “Just say ‘no’”…)
  • Even the Hallmark Channel movies seemed a little more fun. (Although I still don’t know what happened to the princess who ran away from her hotel room in New York City and took up with the contractor guy whose girlfriend dumped him. If you saw that one, leave a comment—I need to know how it ended.)

And now for the rest of the story…