Archive for March, 2010

Filters of Grace

By Kathy NickersonMarch 28th, 2010happy endings, mercy4 Comments

I watched two movies this year that were extremely similar in theme and message. Several of the scenes in both movies were shot inside the homes of working class folks. And both homes were obviously furnished from garage sales.

In Movie One, the living room shots made me think, “Ewwww. I sold that same wreath at a garage sale in the seventies.”

Similar decor in Movie Two, though, made me say, “Ahhhh. They’re making the best of tough times.”

I couldn’t figure out the difference until I talked to someone who knows about the movie-making business. He told me, “It’s all about the filters.” The second movie was big budget, and they shot all those scenes with expensive filters that softened the feel.

Isn’t that a great description of life? We all face some pain and ugliness along the way. Babies die. Daughters get cancer. Marriages get strained, and sometimes the people you love make really, really bad choices.

But, if we are living in Movie Number Two, the grace and mercy of God becomes a filter over even the ugly stuff. His filter makes the hard scenes easier to bear.

It also causes that lovely glow at the end of the movie when the girl gets the guy, the child finds his parents, and Lassie finally comes home.

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Days of Inspection

By Kathy NickersonMarch 25th, 2010The Bible1 Comment

In ancient days, flocks were led to Jerusalem five days before the Passover. The lambs destined for sacrifice were bathed in the pool outside the sheep gate and then secured in pens for inspection. For the next five days, priests would come out daily to check each lamb for defects. They looked for any blemish, any irregularity, any miniscule imperfection to declare the lamb unoworthy as a sacrifice.

One one famous Tenth of Nissan, Jesus the Messiah came riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. For the next five days, He sat teaching in the Temple. He was questioned and inspected, prodded and pressed by the same priests who daily inspected the sheep.

But, they found no imperfection in the Nazarene. No blemish. No scar. Those would all come later.

And so, the priests stood fuming in the courtyards, scheming about what to do next. The people waved palm branches and shouted hossanna. And, the Son of God, sat unbothered by it all, pouring out His last words for hungry hearts who would soon be tested beyond what many of them thought their newly-born faith could endure.

Thank goodness, they were wrong about that.

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Up a Tree

By Kathy NickersonMarch 22nd, 2010mercy, The Bible2 Comments

Moments of mercy in the Bible generally astound me. But I’m especially moved by the ones that took place the last week of Jesus’ life. He was on His way to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration… and His death. We don’t know how long he’d had that part figured out, but he told His disciples straight up that is where He was headed.

I’m pretty sure I’d have been looking for some comfort on that trip. I’d have wanted to stay with people I knew and eat with people who loved me and wanted to anoint me with perfume and tears. Things like that.

Jesus, on the other hand, kept stopping along the road to heal the occasional blind man and such. He was near Jericho when He noticed the little man in the tree. (You’ve probably heard the children’s song). And, suddenly, Jesus had an urge to hang out with a tax collector. It is hard to appreciate the level of despicable applied to a tax collector in those days. Some people have compared them to IRS agents. But that isn’t fair. IRS agents have a legitimate job, no matter how stinky it may be.

Tax Collectors, though, were basically thieves. They were more like the collection agents who pick up protection money from neighborhood merchants on behalf of gangs or organized crime in our day. They are the guys who break your legs if you don’t pay.

So, Jesus paused on the way to the cross and helped this particular tax collector get his life right with God. The song stops there. “Cause I’m going to your house today!” But, I always wonder what happened next. Did Zacheus leave tax-collecting behind and join the caravan on the way to Jerusalem? Was he part of the triumphal entry? Did he sit in Martha’s house at night to hear the story of Lazrus being raised from the dead? Did he listen to the teaching in the Temple? Did he tremble in the darkness of the crucifixtion? Did he wait in the upper room with the faithful?

I always wonder about these things. I wonder exactly what happens in the days after we receive His mercy?

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Still Smiling

By Kathy NickersonMarch 19th, 2010Uncategorized5 Comments

Thirty years ago this coming Sunday, I gave birth to a son. Our only son, in fact. He is sandwiched in between three marvelous sisters, and he filled that spot quite well. In fact, people often comment on his name — Joe — in the middle of all those “itty” sisters. (Felicity, Serenity, Charity). Someone once said we should have kept the theme by naming him Masculinity.

I was unprepared for the emotions that hit me when Joseph was born. It felt like an ancient affirmation built into womanhood through the ages. I had produced an heir. My life was complete.

The Women’s Liberation Movement was at high peak in those days, so I tried not to take myself too seriously. I mean, childbirth was a miracle every time, not just when a son was born. And I had lots of other important roles besides motherhood. (I couldn’t think of any, but I tried to convince myself it was true.)

Actually, I didn’t try very hard. Instead, I sat in my hospital bed for hours and just reveled in the knowledge of his existence. My friend Judy finally put words to the emotions. She told me, “After our son was born, I just sat around and smiled at myself for two weeks.”

It isn’t politically correct. And it doesn’t take anything away from the deep joy I felt each time a daughter was born. Yet, it is still the truth. I smiled for weeks, too.

What’s more,  I’m still smiling.

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No More Quitting

By Kathy NickersonMarch 17th, 2010family, writing7 Comments

Writers have a tendency to be emotional. I think I’ve mentioned that before. And it isn’t a particularly good trait in a business that requires frequent rejections before one succeeds. My response to the roller-coaster of the business is to quit frequently. I never quit for long, of course. Just long enough to wallow a bit and hopefully garner a few words of sympathy from everyone to whom I whine.

But I think it’s time to find a new coping method. I came to that conclusion after a conversation with my husband who is my strongest supporter and also a man who gets paid for his opinion all day long. He listened to my latest excuse for why I shouldn’t send out queries, proposals, or manuscripts anymore. Then he said, “I’m starting a new policy. Every time you threaten to quit writing, I’m fining you. The cash will go in my hunting fund.”

This would have been enough of a shock, but we happened to be lunching with my friend, Anna, who says things like, “brilliant” about everything I send her and who happens to manage a small publishing company. She spoke up instantly and turned the conversation into a full mutiny. “I’ll support that,” she said. “Fining is a great idea.”

So, now I’m stuck. I can’t even threaten to quit anymore, let alone really do it. I may never make any money as a writer, but surely nothing I write will ever be so bad an editor will fine me! It will be cheaper to keep writing.

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Lifting the Layers

By Kathy NickersonMarch 14th, 2010The Bible1 Comment

The Bible is a book of many layers, and I’ve learned I have to be careful when I think I’ve figured something out. For instance, I used to teach in my Life of David class that the beloved psalmist and famous king was also a grand liar. Now, there is still some truth to that statement. He did fudge the truth in some abominable ways, but he repented for those.

One of the places I sited, though, was his encounter with the priest when he fled from King Saul. In that passage, David tells the priest, “Yeah, I’m off on an errand for the King. I know it looks like I’m all alone, but the guys are going to meet me down the road a bit.”

Obviously Saul didn’t sent him on an errand. And, apparently, the part about his soldiers waiting down the road was a big fib. At least, I always taught it that way. Until I encountered a verse in the New Testament where Jesus says otherwise. He and his disciples are being accused of breaking the Sabbath rules by picking grain to eat as they walked through a field. He says, “Haven’t you read how David and all his companions once ate the consecrated bread in an emergency?”

All his companions? So, David wasn’t lying about that part? How come Jesus knows this and I don’t? Is it because of His omnipotence?

Maybe. But, I think Jesus was being the Son of Man in that conversation. The truth is this: there were other books with more historical information. The Book of Samuel mentions a volume called the Book of Jashar and Chronicles mentions The Book of the Annals of the Kings. The people of Jesus’ day would have known some details of Jewish history that have been lost through the centuries. These weren’t part of the Biblical cannon. They were history. David was a real king with an actual history, and people learned about him the way we learned about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

So, is this an important point? Does someone’s salvation depend on whether or not David stretched the truth on this specific detail? Maybe not. It just makes me wonder how many other layers of the Bible I’ve failed to lift in my reading. That doesn’t make we worry about mistakes. It thrills my soul with the possiblities of what is waiting yet to be discovered!

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Casting Out Nines

By Kathy NickersonMarch 12th, 2010Uncategorized10 Comments

I went to school a long time ago. It was before computers, or cell phones, or calculators. Wendell and I actually took out a bank loan to buy his first calculator for college in the 1970’s. It cost $300, and you can buy a similar model for five bucks at WalMart these days. Anyway, I loved two things in school that seemed to have nothing in common: Diagraming sentences and casting out nines.

The sentence thing makes perfect sense. I’ve loved words since the day I first saw Jane run in Mrs. Epperson’s classroom. Diagramming was a pleasant game for me.  I was happier when the teacher announced we were going to diagram on a Friday afternoon than I was when she mentioned a field trip or a Valentine’s Day party.

Casting out nines, on the other hand, has nothing to do with words. But I think I understand why I liked it. I hated math, and the feeling was mutual. Whereas words seemed to love me and leap into my soul in all manner of delightful ways, numbers generally scattered and ran down the hall when they saw me coming. Algebra equations left me in actual tears. They were the worst, because they dangled those tantilizing letters as if the formula might actually have something to do with words. But no! In this game, Y is a number. Traitor.

Anyway, Casting Out Nines, finally gave me the power. This is an archaic method of adding a long column of numbers. It was used back in the days when brain power was the only technology available. You just go down the list and add up the 3’s, 4’s, 5’s and so forth in sums of nine. Then you multiply the nines. (and add any leftovers)

I probably made that sound complicated, but it is quite simple. And lovely. It forces numbers (or are they called numerals?) to line up and behave. They are caught!

So, I was thinking today that I loved diagraming and casting out nines because I have an inherent need to bring order to chaos (a godly trait) or an outstanding ability to manage information and make it accessible (good stuff for a writer.) But then I had this horrible thought:

Maybe I loved those things because we got to stand in front of the entire class and write on the chalkboard to do them.

It probably turns out I just like attention. Sheesh.

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Things I love about March

By Kathy NickersonMarch 9th, 2010Uncategorized3 Comments

Besides the fact that two of our children were born in March, I also love Missions Conference. We host it every year, the first week in March, and it fills our little corner of the world with people from lots of cities, states, and nations. Of course, that is kind of what our community looks like most of the time. But, I digress. Here are some of my favorite things about this week:

Felicity and the Children’s Choir leading worship one night. (if you click on the picture it gets bigger.) The blur on Felicity’s left is her son, Jesse, singing on the mic. (also, Dan’s son, of course. He was on keyboard and I swear I didn’t cut him out of the picture on purpose.)

Translators: I love that we have so many people from other nations living in our community and being part of our church. The three pictured here represent the Middle East, South America, and Eastern Europe.

I love that we can introduce the children of our church to real-life heroes like these pastors from the Philippine Islands.

And I love that our children care. The entire elementary school has been waging a Penny War for two months, seeing who can collect the most pennies for a final mission offering Wednesday night. One year they collected enough to dig a well and install a pump for a village in India.

In the end, I love Missions Conference because it makes the world look small and God look big. As Felicity pointed out when the children’s choir sang, it is just a tiny glimpse of that day when every nation, tribe, tongue, and generation will worship together around the throne. World without end. Amen.

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Another Kind of Victory

By Kathy NickersonMarch 8th, 2010Uncategorized4 Comments

This is one of my favorite basketball games of all time. We got creamed on the court. But we had a great victory in the stands. I was preoccupied for most of the game by keeping my eye on #10, who happens to be my third-born grandson. He is an energetic player who gets great delight from simply charging up and down the court. That night he set a couple of great screens (or picks, as he told me they are sometimes called). He is also prone to pat the opposing player on the back and say, “Are you okay, Buddy?” if the kid falls down. The crowd loves him.

But, just before the game ended, one of Jesse’s teammates swished a great shot from almost the three point line. It was perfect, and the crowd roared as if the shot had won the game. This player doesn’t see a lot of court time, and he is exactly the opposite of Jesse. He keeps a game face on all the time, and never draws any attention to himself. (He did break almost half a smile on this shot.)

While we were cheering, I glanced up in the stands, and that is when I saw the victory. His dad was standing on a bench, arms crossed and face beaming. He isn’t very demonstrative, either, but the pride and pleasure in his smile was obvious. Then it hit me. He could be in jail tonight. In fact, he had been in jail when his son was small.

Then I looked around the crowd and saw two more dads with similar pasts. I saw other parents who were former addicts and others who had struggled with life-controlling issues.. I watched the team line up for hand shakes and felt overwhelmed by the revelation. We looked like a regular group of fans suffering in the stands through an elementary basketball game. But, in truth, we are a clan of broken people put back together by the mercy of God. And, because of His mercy, we are watching our kids play basketball instead of withering in a jail cell.

We are winning.

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The Future’s So Bright

By Kathy NickersonMarch 4th, 2010family, writing1 Comment

I have to wear shades. That’s the way the old song goes. And I felt like singing it today. The sun was shining enough to make snowmen lose weight. Charity and Nola (sporting her shades for a walk to the cafe) had come to town for a visit. And I was thinking about final changes on a book proposal requested by an agent.

The prospect of publishing a novel is exciting. It is one of the things I’ve waited twenty years to accomplish. But, I’m not sure it is going to happen. And, if it doesn’t, I’ll keep writing anyway.

And, I’ll keep wearing my shades for moments like this.

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