Friday, August 28, 2015

What is "Cheap Grace"...really?

(Vincent Van Gogh's "Weeping Woman")

My favorite blogger Ann Voskamp, over at A Holy Experience, hit another home run with her recent post entitled "You Know They're Laughing At Us, Right?"

I also weep over the Creflo Dollars of the pop-Christian-culture...and the Josh Duggars of the fundamentalist-legalist-Christian sub-culture...and the Tullian Tchividjians of the grace-Christian camp...and I applaud and appreciate Voskamp's willingness to name names.

The great apostle Paul named names.  And so must we.  Carefully.  With many tears.

I would only add one thing to Ann's post - and it feels like wild presumption to even think I could add to the thoughts of one of our day's finest writers - but in her recent post she said:

"Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the Cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate."

I couldn't agree more.  And here is what I would add:

Cheap grace is grace without local church.  Cheap grace is grace without true community.

Where else is repentance required and lived out, if not in the context of community?  Where else does church discipline take place, but in church?  Who do we confess our sins to, if not to a safe community of believers?  Where else is discipleship fleshed out, the cross made vivid, wolves in sheep clothing called by their name, and the flock of God guarded, and where else can Christ be incarnated?

Nowhere else but the church.  

All these things - repentance, church discipline, confession, incarnation - do not find their full expression within one person, or within a small group of favorite people who think like me, or within a business.  They don't find full and robust expression even in one family.  "Family church" can be a smokescreen to avoid the pain of real, true, flawed, diverse, beautiful local church.  To avoid church community is to live in such a way as to never have to extend grace to anyone but "me and mine".

Living like a lone ranger is cheap grace.

When I hear someone refer to "cheap grace", or "easy believe-ism", I laugh. I've read (and love) all of Bonhoeffer's works, and I get what he meant, when he coined the term "cheap grace" from a prison cell, living in close community amongst a diversity of men, suffering for the sake of Christ.

But can we, with authority, use those words unless we are likewise living in community as Bonhoeffer did?  Some who use the words "cheap grace", are using them to look down their nose at someone else...or to take someone else's theology down a peg or two.  No one who bandies those words for those reasons have actually understood the grace of God - because it can't be comprehended outside the gritty community of imperfect local church...a place often filled with prodigals in various stages of return.  

That's why repentance and confession must be preached and incarnated before the eyes of our watching community, right alongside justification and grace.  That's why I appreciate Voskamp's use of the term "cheap grace" - her context is spot-on.

Grace is mere concept to the rugged Christian individualist, that is why they think it can be cheapened. When you "live of the gospel", when you live in right relationship to others, nothing is more costly or more difficult in life than to earnestly look for the good, to "keep yourself in the love of God". (Jude)

Far from being "cheap", the truth of grace will cost you more than you ever thought you could pay, and stretch your faith beyond where you thought you could go.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Wear Your Praise Wednesday {...neutrals go with neutrals go with neutrals - transitioning into fall...}

(In advance...a grateful "thanks" for pinning...)

...this morning, even as I type this post for tomorrow, fall is in the air.

Fall used to be my favorite season.  Now it is my second favorite, and that's still something.

I will miss summer, but I will also love transitioning into my fall clothing.  So today, I want to tell you something you already know, deep down:  a neutral goes with a neutral, goes with a neutral.  Here is a list of the neutral colors that have made it into my capsule wardrobe (and yes!  I've gone to a capsule wardrobe - more about that in another Wear Your Praise Wednesday post...along with pictures of my beautiful closet - which I used to hate, and now want to live in...)

olive green
white or cream

That's it.  Any combination of those neutrals (or any other neutral palette, such as navy, khaki, red, and cream), you can pile them on this fall, as many as you like even in one outfit, and you won't go wrong.  Even if you combine neutral patterns.  And that, girlfriends, is also another post for another day.  If you ever wanted to dabble in combining in, on your body....we, the over 40 crowd, can do it if we stick to neutral patterns.  (Think black and white stripes with a leopard print jacket or shoe).

Here, I've gone with those Wal-Mart bermudas in black, and I shifted my artisan belt buckle off to the side on purpose.  Because it interests me.  And because I love the two rhinestone rivets, with the word "fly" stamped beside them.  I've combined the shorts and belt with a new Old Navy long sleeve boyfriend T.  (And oh my dear sweet, don't walk, run to Old Navy and get you some.  Boyfriend T-shirts, not boyfriends.  Mmmmm-kay?)

Comfy, baggy, cozy sweetness that you can do the "half tuck" with.  Or the "mullet tuck".  (Business in the front, party in the back...)

The point is, combine your neutrals - throw on black on black on brown on black without worrying about matching.  Throw on your black with brown shoes and a brown belt...and if your big hair bothers you...

Put on a neutral hat.  Not blue.  Not green.  Not red (though some say red is a neutral).

Then, take it right back off...

...because sister...the taller the hair, the closer to God.

Here, I've piled on yet another neutral layer.  This olive colored vest from Target was on sale at my store, and I felt like I stole it, it was so cheap.

I can't find it on the website anymore, so I went to Amazon, and found almost the exact same thing here - and I chose the most inexpensive one.  You're welcome.  (This site is not monetized.  My links are purely hard work and a courtesy.  I do not (yet) get anything at all, if you click and buy something.)

One reason why this vest is my favorite layer (I wear it with daggum near everything) is that it has pockets for my iphone.

I weep.

I used to be so old-school.  Now I am a technology snob.  "Dear Santa, I want it all."

"I like big hair, and I cannot lie."

Girl, I say rock the big hair, and rock the big whate'r else your momma gave ya.  Because beauty is not about size or age or any such thing.

That's true.

You know it is.  And if you don't know it, I will make it one of my life's goals to convince you.

If you want to keep your complexes, you better bail on me now, because #wearyourpraise
is a thing.

It is taking off, friends, and I am driving the bus.  My way or the highway - so start feeling beautiful in middle age, or I will stop this bus and fuss.

Or something.

In summary:

Belt (my design)
Necklace (my design - this is a different design, but same length)

Friday, August 21, 2015

Underlined Bits {...things I underline when I read...}

(one of my first pieces of original art)

God looked on Christ as if Christ had been sin; not as if He had taken up the sins of His people, or as if they were laid on Him, though that were true, but as if He Himself had positively been that noxious—that God-hating—that soul-damning thing, called sin. When the Judge of all the earth said, ‘Where is Sin?’ Christ presented himself…what a grim picture that is, to conceive of sin gathered up into one mass - murder, lust and stealing, and adultery - and the Father looked on Christ as if He were that mass of sin. He was not sin, but the Father looked on upon Him as made sin for us. Christ stands in our place, assumes our guilt, takes on our iniquity and God treats Him as if He had been sin…How can any punishment fall on that man who ceases to possess sin, because his sin was cast upon Christ and Christ has suffered in his place? Oh, glorious triumph of faith to be able to say, whenever I feel the guilt of sin, whenever conscience pricks me, ‘Yes, it is true but my Lord is answerable for it all, for He has taken it all upon Himself and suffered in my place.”

Charles Spurgeon, The King’s Highway

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Wear Your Praise Wednesday - Terrible Tulle {...the tulle skirt}

If you haven't seen pictures of grown women in tulle don't Pinterest, do you?

My favorite article on wearing tulle can be found at the Huffington Post.  It's entitled "How To Wear a Tulle Skirt Without Looking Like a Ballerina".

I tried really hard to copy this look...

...but I couldn't praise the Lord in this kind of getup, either.

But I did bite the bullet and buy myself an inexpensive tulle skirt.

And the jury is out, as to what I think about that.

However, in life as in art, I share epic fails as well as successes.  I am a big believer in transparency - and though everything in me wants to skip this week's "Wear Your Praise Wednesday" you go:

Lord, help.

I'm not even going to tell you how huge this skirt makes me feel, because that would be inappropriate oversharing.  ("moo".)

 Slightly better.  What have I tried to teach us, class?  "Layers are our friends!"

You can be like me, and try compensating with a scarf.  Meh...

I crack myself up.  It is so apparent, in every picture, that I'm not feeling it.

So there you have it.  I am confident each one of you will forthwith procure a tulle skirt for yourselves.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

12 Best Things I Ever Did {...from my bedroom to my business...}

Don't worry.  I'm not about to get all weird and overshare.

However, sharing is caring.  And I care.  So I decided to gather the top 12 best things I've done recently (they may or may not be the "best things I ever did") that have impacted my life significantly:

1.  Put this rebounder right beside my desk.  On days that are heavy desk days, I position it to where I have to step over it to even get to the bathroom.  This encourages me to jump up and down for several minutes at a time.  Health benefits are enormous.

2.  Began diffusing essential oils by my bed, every night.

3.  Began using Progessence Plus every morning.  Two drops, at the base of the front of my neck...about where your thyroid is.

Sorry for the really small picture.  I don't sell essential oils, and never will.  That isn't because I don't love them.  Rather, I have not found them to be the cure-all that many who make money from them portray them to be...and I realize that is just my experience, not theirs.  Big exception:  Progessence Plus, and lemongrass.  Progessence Plus for a general, overall, noticeable improvement in perimenopausal symptoms, and lemongrass because every time I wear it, women ask me what is that lovely, lovely  scent I am wearing

And they look like they might eat me alive.  It isn't a comfortable feeling, but it is oddly satisfying.

contact me for a wonderful essential oils rep.  She won't try to talk you into a thing you do not want...

4.  I started a new series:  "Wear Your Praise Wednesday"  That little weekly post drives a lot of new traffic to this blog.

5.  Put up serious boundaries with people who didn't want to take my boundaries seriously.  If you are a creative, you know this.  You have to guard your wellsprings.  For me, those wellsprings are prayer and meditation - and time to simply create in my studio without interruption.

6.  I started wearing bifocal readers

7.  I am in the process of becoming more "hard to get" so I can live the kind of life that makes good art inevitable.  I am being far more careful in my collaborations, and lengthening my turn-round time on commissions.

8.  Embraced my true giftings and calling.  (Part of this involved admitting to being an introvert, while at the same time not allowing that title to limit me.)

9.  Owned my inner bohemian.  While I don't see myself getting any tattoos, my style has markedly shifted.  I now wear jeans to church as a rule.  And I break silly rules, because silly rules should, without doubt, be broken.

10.  I found my voice again.  This happened right about this very month, in the year of our Lord 2009.  I had been in a friendship-relationship that I had been allowing to intimidate me.  I let it all go...both the intimidation...and the friendship.  The Lord said "Do not chase it down."

This was hard for me, because I am a "lifer".  I make friends for life, and I am loyal to a fault.  I will do anything, short of compromising the Gospel, to restore a relationship.

Not that time.  I had to obey God, rather than men, and rather than my own predispositions.  And it was a wonderful, bountiful dealing for my soul.  I found my voice again.  The growth has been explosive every year since.

11.  Accepted the fact that I am called to "glory and virtue".  (2 Pet. 1)  I am called to do big things, to make an impact, to be dang good at what I do and work hard and accomplish everything I can.  That word "virtue" in 2 Peter chapter 1, in the the Greek, has its roots in the word "manliness".

In other words, I have accepted the fact that I am to be strong and brave.  I can do hard things.  I'm called to give God "my best yes".  Called to virtue.  Called to glory...which means that others look at me and see the handiwork of very God.

Slackers can't do that.  Passive women can't do that.

12.  Bought a (used) Mac.  With a ginormous 22" screen.

Oh.  Happy.  Day.  Best thing I ever did for my business.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Flashback Friday {...a post from the archives on the danger of "perfect"...}

                                                 Today I'm throwing back three years to a
blog post about the danger of "perfect".
This post was entitled, "Permanent Beta Launch"
and it's a mix of small business and theology

and it was written in the language of sarcasm, in which I am, unfortunately, fluent.


(mixed media art-in-progress..."Suspended in Grace"...with four being the number of Creativity...and the amount of children I have had to release to God and His unfathomable riches of Grace!) 

Love Michael Hyatt's post today on living with Permanent Beta.  This is when you find an acceptable level of imperfection, and you roll with it anyhow. (That's my succinct paraphrase, and I think it's great.)

My Spiritual Gift is "Roll With It".  You won't find it in Scripture, not in those exact words, nor will you find it on any Spiritual Gift Test.  But I promise, my gift is Roll With It.

Not so long ago, however, my gift was more akin to "Wait Until It's Perfect".  The crazy thing is, nothing ever was.  Perfect.

Thank God He imparted the gift of Roll With It to me.  If He hadn't, very little would be getting done, except what I could do to please and bless myself. I wouldn't be actively mentoring other women, creating art and selling it, and we wouldn't even attempt some of the things on our schedule - because it's all risky business.

But we Roll With It.  What God says, we do, even when it is BigBig, even when we don't seem to have the resources, even when we can't do it perfectly the first time.

The big revelation (truly) for me was - and I didn't begin to really get it until I began naming my years, beginning with "Create" -  that you always tweak as you go.  I once knew a man, Godblesshim, who for years was hung up on pride.  He worried that The Preacher was prideful, worried about the pride of teenage boys, and prayed endlessly for humility - especially that others who were doing Big Things would Stay Humble.  He was the pride police, and of course, you aren't supposed to walk in pride.

So you sit and do little-to-nothing in the area of your true calling and passion, wearing pride turned inside-out like a reversible coat.  We all know that pride is what keeps you sitting there until you are no longer proud.  And the worst pride of all is to be certain of your own humility.  Might be best to shed that deceptively-protective layer and stand up and do something imperfectly.  By the way - be proud that you did.

Then you simply face the Tweaking Process.  Someone is going to correct/critique/tell you how you must improve.

Hug them, when they do.  I did...just last week - and they weren't just correcting my spelling or my grammar.

And I received correction a few weeks before that.  If no one is critiquing you, you aren't out in front.  (And if you are the one always critiquing...well...I've got sad news.  You aren't out in front either.  But I'll take your criticism on advisement.)

Does that mean I must embrace all correction?  Nah.  Only when it is for the Greater Good.  Only when it does not compromise the Finished Work of Christ in my life.  When it gets petty or personal, I toss it like year-old mascara.

Friend, it's all in the Tweak.  Life is one big 80 year Tweak.  Get over yourself, and move on.  If you make a mistake, own it and fix it.  I promise the juju of the universe is not moved when we screw things up.  You were born wrong, and you'll be wrong again before dinner.

All my life I thought I had God's stamp of approval because my life wasn't going badly. Now I was faced with the fear that it might actually be the opposite. What if my life was going so beautifully because I wasn't chasing after God?

- Jennie Allen, Anything

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Wear Your Praise Wednesday {...dresses as shirts...}

(image from

Is it just me, or has anyone noticed that hemlines have been alarmingly short in recent days?  That girl up there, she is beautiful, but whoever told her she was wearing a dress was punking her.  

I think that these teeny-tiny short dresses are on their way out, and the "midi dress" or "midi skirt" is making a roaring comeback.  

And that makes me sad.

It makes me sad because never...ever, in my memory...has there been a better selection of beautiful tunic-style tops as we have seen in the era of the Teeny Tiny Dress.

Still.  Younger gals, here is a piece of advice from someone who, though she is almost 50, still has some fashion chops:  if you have to wonder if it is a dress or a is a top.  If it could kind of, sort of be either is a top.

That dress up there?  Most.  Gorgeous.  Shirt.  Ever.

So, because I'd do anything for you, I dug around in my closet for the tops I have that were merchandised to me as dresses...

...and if this isn't proof that this dress is a shirt,  I can't help you.  And I can't ever take myself seriously when I shoot these blog posts.  

It's going to get worse, people, so if you are going to bail on me, do it now.

This little number is from  I call it my hippie dress, only it could never be a dress because I can't praise the Lord in it.

This dress/shirt is a design by Jeanne Oliver,   and is no longer available.

Don't cry.

(Jeanne...this is me...begging you to design more dresses.  Because I need more shirts.)

Last but not least, I chose a dress that I actually do wear as a dress.  Just to keep you confused.

But no, really.  I wear it as a dress.  I only want you to open your closet and expand your horizons.  

Just don't wear a ball gown as a top.

Um.  Nevermind.