There's Room at the Cross for You

I can't get some thoughts out of my head. I am sort of constantly appalled by "Christians" who have nothing better to do than alienate entire groups of people...you know, the ones who protest and picket and hand out jabs like party favors.
I kind of get their "righteous indignation," and they'll use that example of Jesus' behavior in the temple overturning tables every time. I mean, as followers of Christ's example, we should hate sin.
But we should never hate PEOPLE. Jesus seemed to get more infuriated with the religious people of his time than any of the so-called "sinners." He hung out with the sinners. He wanted them to experience his presence. He knew that one of the best remedies for sin was to experience his unconditional love. Most of our brokenness and sin comes from fear and insecurities. The presence of God can heal us of these "diseases" and at least set us on the road to wholeness.
We are all plagued by sins. Even those who consider themselves holy--hello, pride, anyone? What dangerous ground when we as a group are identified by who and what we're AGAINST. I am sad that the Christian "haters" can't see the intrisic irony. It makes me think they're just stupid and ignorant, and then I have to repent for thinking that.
The only way for anyone with any condition of the heart that separates him/her from God to be reconciled to God and be free from sin is to draw near to God. How can sinners do that when people of our faith effectively block the way?
So, scoot over...you with your agenda to rid the world of fill-in-the-blank sinners, heathens, God-haters...Let's all bow at the foot of the cross and allow the Lord to heal us of whatever we bring to Him. They'll know we are Christians by our LOVE and RELATIONSHIPS, not by our arguments or moral policing. Find opportunities to build relationships with people and speak into their lives as God would lead, but let's not build picket lines and dare the non-believer to cross.

And I leave you with the words to one of my favorite old hymns: Do we believe it?

The cross upon which Jesus died
Is a shelter in which we can hide
And its grace so free is sufficient for me
And deep is its fountain as wide as the sea.

There's room at the cross for you
There's room at the cross for you
Though millions have come, there's still room for one
Yes there's room at the cross for you.

Though millions have found him a friend
And have turned from the sins they have sinned
The Savior still waits to open the gates
And welcome a sinner before it's too late.

The hand of my Savior is strong
And the love of my Savior is long
Through sunshine or rain, through loss or in gain,
The blood flows from Calvary to cleanse every stain.


Merry Christmas

I had to make a "music video" for my flash class...so I made a Christmas e-card from Jerod and me...
Click and enjoy!!



The Death-March of Self

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."
Those words have been ringing in my ears for a month now. Because in my own mind and when I'm feeling full of myself, I know that apart from Him I can do quite a lot. I guess it depends on how you define "something." I can create a flurry of activity that keeps me from quality time with God. I am extremely good at making THAT happen. I can generate what folks will perceive as productivity and performance and quite competent work. I am able to multi-task like a fool.
What I read in John 15 though, is "apart from me, you can nothing of lasting value for the Kingdom of God." And what I have experienced lately is "apart from me you can do a lot of things, but you will wear yourself out in the process and be no closer to me in the end."
I have fought off the Lord's advances like a child fighting sleep. You've seen it. You know the child likes sleep, needs sleep, and will be grumpy and dissatisfied without sleep. And you know what a pill that kid will be unless she just gives in and relents to the rest.
It was easier to avoid Him than to face what He wanted to do in me. But we all know that avoidance doesn't really work with our relentless pursuer. I told Him years ago that He could have me, and He intends to hold me to that. I have avoided solitude, and prayed only for general things like other people and little problems that crop up; and I have tiptoed around the one big beast that infects my thinking.
I am a performer. Not in the bright lights-on-stage kind of way, though I do enjoy that. But in the "I must do things perfectly so that other people will recognize my awesomeness" way. And of course, that twisted mindset just sets you up for a series of failures. Because for everything I do well, there are 12 things I completely drop the ball on. For everything that I do apart from God, I am left with a sense of empty victory that drains my spirit. It creeps into my job, my marriage, and my worship. I had hoped the Lord had instilled in me a drive for excellence, and that all of this could somehow be used as a gift from Him. (isn't it awesome how we can lie to ourselves!?) By labeling my need for outer perfection in performance as "excellence," I have spent years wearing myself out and rarely relying on His creativity, inspiration, and His sustenance for my soul. Apart from Him, I can do quite a lot that other people can recognize and applaud. But it's really not FOR Him. At its best, it's maybe ABOUT Him, but most likely FOR me.
We all worship at the throne of Self. We all have the one thing we'd rather the Lord not mess with. The thing we'd rather not cleanse, and that we can defend to the point of exhaustion. As my pastor said, the thing we get defensive about is the thing that the Lord wants us to lay down. I get extremely defensive when someone questions my ability in an area in which I feel I am doing well. When people underestimate me and my "abilities," I turn inside-out.
But the time has come to make the sacrifice at the mountain of God. To lay down this need for acclamation, multi-tasking, and perfection. The make my stand at the foot Sinai and let the Lord visit me, as He did with the people of Israel just before giving them The Law--the ways in which they were to LIVE. They cleansed themselves before the Lord so that He could truly direct their steps--so He could lay out His plan and His way before them. I must consecrate this area of my heart and set this twisted thinking before Him and let His holy presence burn it up.
I don't know how to live apart from this sin. I don't know how to give up the drug of affirmation. I hardly know how to be still and know that He is God, as stillness is unnatural for my kind. This sin thrives in busyness. It feeds off activity. It gets a buzz when there is a task to be done. I'm not sure where to go from here, but the death of this beast is imminent. I broke this week and cracked under the pressure of expectations at work. I wanted to scream at the universe, "I'm JUST ONE PERSON! I CANNOT DO EVERYTHING! I CAN ONLY DO WHAT I CAN DO!!!!!"

When I cracked, I thought at first that it was sadness seeping in, like a flood of depression--or worse, my grip on sanity. But this week I realized that what I'm experiencing is the beginnings of this sin seeping out. It feels a lot like sadness, as this sin has been a constant companion for as long as I can remember. It's dying, and that's just never fun. There's a reason Jesus calls it taking up a cross to follow Him. It's a death-march of Self. Kicking and screaming, we're marching up Golgotha. I'm going to leave it there and wait for the Resurrection of the Shelley He created me to be. You're allowed to watch, but just don't clap when it happens. Praise the Lord.


Wherever you go...

I have been absent from bloggy-land so long, I nearly forgot my password! Tragic, to be sure. I have a load of blogs rolling around in my head, but just haven't felt inspired to set them out before you in "print."

I've been thinking lately about that phrase, "Wherever you go, there you are." I was so restless and eager to GO somewhere at the beginning of summer when I realized that I spent the first six months of this year within a 100-mile radius of home. That's fairly bizarre for me. It seems that life just sort of rolled on like a steam train without me, or ahead of me, and I struggled to keep up and catch up to it. I kept seeing things go by in a blur without feeling any connection to how I could "jump on."

Finally, in July, I was able to get out and about a bit, with a much-needed quiet respite at the beach, and a whirlwind "friends and family" tour to Georgia and Alabama. (thanks all!)

But now that I'm back, and taking stock of the year, I realize that it's just ME that I'm restless with. Wherever I went, there I was. Frustrated and undisciplined, numb and no-longer-contemplative, going-through-the-motions of life in a flurry of activity.

I don't want to be busy for the sake of having things to do.

I want to DO things that are the things I'm supposed to be doing. I want to be involved in creative projects that further the Kingdom of God. I want to be prayerful and thoughtful and engaged with God in a way that inspires me and brings glory to His name.

I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you're joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can't produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples. John 15:5-8, The Message

That's all for today. Just needed to let that one out of my head.


In Memoriam, Tinkerbell Giles Jones

I meant to write this post months ago and tuck it away for the day it was needed. I didn't. It hurt to think about.
Last Wednesday, July 8, my dear little Tinkerbell went to doggie heaven. She was a special part of my life, and I wanted to write down some memories...
Tink had two litters as a mommy for a breeder. Two of her puppies actually came to live with ladies that I worked with at the time at Central Church. I got her in a round-about way, as our receptionist had adopted her, but it wasn't working out.
I used to think Boston Terriers were odd looking, but when I met Tinkerbell, her sweet little face and big brown eyes just melted me. She was mine.
We bonded while watching the 2000 Sydney Olympics. I desperately wanted to name her "Sydney" since Tinkerbell would not have been my first choice, but I thought it might give her a complex to be renamed at the age of three. "Tink" ended up sticking, and more often than not, she earned the nickname "Stink" or "Stinker." It was her only flaw, though pronounced. :)
The first week or two she was tentative. Disinterested in toys and only mildly interested in food or cuddling, I wondered what I had taken on. I must have grown on her though. As a single gal, it was nice to have something to care for and happy to see me come home.
My parents graciously became her adopted parents when I had to travel, and I joked about sending her to "Camp Giles" for vacation. Tink was happiest when being petted, and Mom Giles was eager to please in that department. We won't talk about about the turkey and table scraps that she received at Camp Giles... She is pictured here with my parents' dog, Jazzy. What's the opposite of "Mini-me?" Jazzy was her "Mega-Me" I guess.
Tink was a great walker, depending on the weather. When I lived close to Freedom Park, we would often take early evening strolls to and around the park. If it was hot, she would stop in a cool patch of grass, roll over on her back, and stretch back and forth to cool off. She always drew attention...whether folks were excited to see her because they had had a Boston, or the few folks who were afraid of her (she was 20 pounds, people!!) and backed away because they thought she was a bulldog.
Tink was always cold indoors. Like a little old lady. At my Jefferson Drive house, I put her pink flower-shaped pillow right by the heating vent. Sometimes I thought she would crawl right in it if I'd let her! I pulled out a jacket I had for her last Fall for our camping trip, and she pretty much wore that every day around the house.
You can see from the picture why we called her "Count Tinkula."
The best moments were when she would cuddle in the crook of my legs on the sofa. In her last year or so, we developed a morning routine. I sat on the sofa, drank my coffee and put on my makeup while I watched "Good Morning America." She would always snuggle up next to me and finish her morning nap. Those last few mornings were especially hard, as I knew our little morning time was coming to a close.
Delightfully, we found a boy a few years ago who had always wanted a Boston Terrier. He must have a thing for brown eyes. :) Jerod loved the Tink, too. Last Wednesday was a pitiful day for both of us.
I will remember the way she would find a patch of sunshine streaming into the house and curl up there. I will remember how excited she would get when she realized that she was included in a road trip. I will remember that sweet face, the love she gave, and the sound of her nails on the kitchen floor when she was dancing around eager to get a treat.

We loved her so. I just hope Jesus is giving her some head scratches for me. Saying goodbye was one of the hardest things I've ever done.

Tinkerbell Giles Jones, 1996 - 2009


Justice Project update

Well, I had such hopes for the Justice Project that our fellowship was undertaking. I have had some mixed emotions with it since. My experience with the whole endeavor has seemed to be thwarted from every side. Neither of our people that we were given to work with and get to know has a working phone. And it's not like they live around the block so I can drop by at random times to check in. It's an hour round-trip...to knock on a door that no one answers. Our small group has spent some time in the neighborhood and have "adopted" some other people to some extent, but it hasn't been much more than some painting and eating and hanging out thus far.
One of our ladies landed in jail before we could form a relationship with her. We were unable to visit, and wrote letters. She seems in the most need for some friendship and support, but she's never home...and again...has no phone. The other lady has not been available up to this point yet, either.
Since March, when we started this movement, my work schedule has been spinning out of control. In addition to the classes I was taking through May and some new job responsibilities, I have had precious few weekends that were not already spoken for. I feel barely capable of handling my own home and responsibilities.
I believe in the Justice Project. I know that I'm too busy. How to clear the time? So much of what keeps me busy is not optional. I'm just purely frustrated right now. I need to pray that the Lord makes clear the path to help me walk into an obedient use of my time. What good am I to Him or anyone if I don't have time to help others?
I have known for years that ministry is not easy. It's not a walk in the park. It's dirty and challenging and doesn't play fair sometimes.
So, here I sit. Tired, defeated, and still hopeful. If we aim at nothing, we'll hit it every time.


At Last...

Well, I took a blog-break. Sometimes you don't have much to say or the desire to say it. That's ok, right? :)

By way of update on the fish tank...Science Fair "sold" me on the idea by touting its possibility for enjoyment and relaxation. I'm still hopeful for those aspects. Thus far, it has been stressful and dramatic. It seems to be now barely easing into the realm of maybe-fun.

Our clownfish got the ich. It's a protozoan disease whose name translates into "fish louse with many children." Delightful, no?

So, the clowns are now in a quarantine tank (in the ever-so-cluttered office room) as J tries to treat them. This whole month has been a never-ending battle with water levels, disease, and mysteries to solve. J has been on the internet trying to sort out fact from fiction regarding saltwater environments. These fish eat frozen food!! And he feeds our crabs little shrimpy-looking things with tongs! Who knew?

The goby (bright yellow fish pictured) seems to have quit jumping over the back into the filter area, and the wrasse has no one to um...ha-wrasse right now, except occassionally the goby, which might explain the jumping.
It's like we started an micro-alien colony in our living room.


I love Science Fair

We love to watch "Lost." There is a character on the show named Sawyer (also goes by LaFleur, Jim, James Ford) who loves to give people awesome nicknames. I came up with my own for Jerod the other day. His new nickname is "Science Fair." I called him that jokingly, but it is sticking. Last Saturday, I awoke to find him sitting at the kitchen table with all kinds of vials of colored liquid testing the water from our new aquarium. Understandable, since we thought we might hit up the local fish store's gigantor annual sale that day. The best thing was though, instead of "Good morning, sweetheart" I got a full run-down on our nitrate levels and was asked to analyze a color chart against a vial of yellow water. What shade of yellow? was of imminent importance.
Now, friends, there was no coffee in my system yet. I was still stumbling trying to remember what day it was and why I was out of bed. There was no need to be analyzing nitrate levels so early for ME. But, I remember...this is the stuff he's passionate about. After I mumbled "Good morning to you, too" I yawned and pointed at the color I thought the water was. And was greeted with another five-minute lesson about how we need to do something or other to level things out. I nodded and mustered all of my wifely interest as the sweet elixir of morning flooded my mug.
So, Science Fair and me had a great day...we hit up the fish store and spent some time there...ate Thai food, and went to a concert for his favorite band in Columbia. It was Science Fair's birthday weekend.
So, I never thought I'd say this sentence...but I do love a Science Fair.

Fish tank pics coming soon. We have our Nemo-fish!!! I think their names are Rose and Bernard. We'll see.


The longest hour...

I just heard a call-in segment on the radio about "the longest hour of your life." It prompted a bit of thinking back on my part. I'm going to go with "the time I thought I might lose an eyeball" story. (don't worry, I won't get too graphic)

It was the first night of two weeks of summer camp in 2005. I was basically the camp coordinator...the person who is over the staff and activities for about 200 people, and the one running around behind the scenes all day making sure everyone is where they're supposed to be and doing what they're supposed to be doing.

It was late Monday afternoon, and several of us on staff were in the camp office prepping for the late-night activity, which included a marshmallow roast over a campfire. Unable to find wire hangers at Wal-Mart (what the heck?), we settled on a roll of 14-gauge wire that was about the same size as coat hanger wire.

While clipping off lengths of the wire, the loose end sprang back from the roll and popped me right in the eye. YIKES!!!

As everyone turned to look at me, I could see the stages of panic go across their faces... OHMYGOD! what do we do next? where's the nurse? how are you feeling? can you see? But I really got scared when they all became surreally calm. Two or three people around me started the "you are going to be fine...don't worry about it...we are going to get you fixed up..." etc. They were being a little too reassuring, which clued me in to the fact that it must look pretty bad. That, and when I asked if it was bleeding, they said, "Yes, but it's not that bad..." and I could tell they were being nice and not entirely truthful.

The nurse came up the hill after what seemed like two hours, but was more like 5 minutes. She covered it with a bandage and asked me keep it closed. My dear friend Amanda hopped in the car and we began the trek to the nearest hospital.

Side note: our camp was about 25 miles from the nearest town in any direction. Just west of East BFE, if you will.

I was praying, and felt a tremendous peace. I asked God to keep us all calm and to help us get where we needed to go. I was navigating us toward Lancaster, SC, with my good eye and trying to make conversation so I didn't start crying or freaking out.

Thankfully, the ER only had one person waiting. But, the assistant seemed to think that my bandaged, bleeding eyeball did not warrant rushing me right in to see someone. Instead, she started getting all kinds of information. I was trying to calmly relay my address, insurance info, and surgical history without screaming at the top of my lungs, "LADY!!! MY EYEBALL IS BLEEDING!!!! GET ME IN TO A DOCTOR NOW!!!!!!!!!!"

The funniest thing was that at one point she asked me a question that sounded like this: "Do you have a leeeving whee-yul?" I didn't know how to respond, since it seemed to be asked in a dialect of Southern I had not yet met. I looked to Amanda with my one good eye, hoping for a translation. She just shrugged. "I'm sorry?" I asked. "A leeeving whee-yul." She responded, as though perhaps she hadn't said the strange syllables loudly enough. Again, with the one good eye to Amanda...again, a shrug of confusion.

LIGHT BULB! A living will. "No, I don't have a living will." As I said the words, I could see Amanda smile with recognition. Now, I'm from Georgia, and have lived in Tennessee, South Carolina, and North Carolina, and have "people" from Alabama. I am no stranger to the Southern dialect...but that one really befuddled my noggin.

Back to the eye.

Finally, the doctor saw me...did a thorough check-up, and asked me if I was in any pain. The strike had happened in the white of my eye between the inner corner and iris. When I replied that I was not, he seemed confused. He said that it might just not have started yet, or I might be in a bit of shock, but that I would surely be experiencing some hefty pain. He prescribed one of the heavy-hitters in the pain meds catagory as well as some optical antibiotic.

We tracked down a pharmacy and spent two hours getting back to camp (we got lost). Miraculously, I never really experienced any pain, and only took the pain meds about twice. The biggest bummer was that I couldn't do any lake activities or go swimming and that I had to wear my glasses (no sunglasses in the SC sun) for the next two weeks. But I will take those "bummers" over some of the alternatives. I am still super-squeamish about eye issues and wear shades anytime I think there's a possibility of anything getting near my eyes! I am thankful for my sight, and need to get working on that leeeving whee-yul. And maybe spend some time in Lancaster learning the native language.

It can be a pretty long hour when you're wondering if you will have one good eye or two!


If I only had a heart...

I always wanted to be Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. I loved her songs, her "little dog," her bright red shoes...but for years I seemed to identify with the Tin Man. Not so much because I was needing some oil in my joints, but because I was possibly missing a heart.
Being task-oriented and generally driven to perform and compete, I often missed the point of being in the world with others. Self-awareness tends to creep up on us sometime after high school, and we realize that we might not be the center of the universe. Self-awareness was not so gentle with me, however. I found myself at college having to face my selfish nature and smart, tart remarks...seeing them in the eyes of others and God in a mirror that reflected back something altogether disheartening.
Once I worked through a lot of awkward and confusing situations, I began to realize that I was wired quite differently from a lot of girls I knew. I am just not that sensitive to how others are treating me. I have a (somewhat masculine?) ability to compartmentalize my emotions. I don't wear my heart out on my sleeve. It's not that I'm unfeeling or lack empathy, I just don't show it the way a lot of people do. If someone's trying to give me the cold shoulder, I don't really take it personally.
It became kind of a joke among my college roommates..."Shelley's the insensitive one." Once they all realized that I was wired "funny," it made life a lot easier for all of us.
Thankfully, all of this self-awareness has come full circle. I marvel at what the Lord can do with with an argumentative, proud, and bottom-line personality. I believed for a while that I had no capacity to love deeply or to feel deeply, but it's not true. With Jesus' help, I am able to feel immense compassion and empathy toward others. I realize that I am a fixer, but that sometimes I need to listen. Full-time ministry and marriage both have a way of knocking off your hard edges and leaving something softer behind.
I feel it creeping back in sometimes, that black-and-white selfish hard edge. But I have learned that most opinions are best left unsaid unless you are coming to the defense of the defenseless. Tasks are never more important than people. The only way to show God's love...and to be His hands and feet...is to slow down a minute and take stock of what is really important in light of eternity. Competitiveness, sarcasm, pride, condescension, and performance are not Fruits of the Spirit. I want to be fruitful, not prickly. He's making me that way.


I don't have the write stuff.

Have had little to say lately. Mostly because I have barely slowed down to THINK. April is that month...where being is difficult and doing is relentless. I have forced myself to take days off and go more slowly. But the days off make you pay up, like a hungry unshaven landlord hunting for his overdue rent. They wait for you to return and beat you up 'til you produce phone calls, emails, event sheets, and invitations and and and and and...
I hate to wish entire weeks away. I want to live for the moment. But my moments right now are better motored through. Reflection returns week after next. Next week, I pray a lot in my car as I run to and fro. I think about a lot but have little time to capture it in "ink." I will throw my energy toward the job as I'm thankful to have one.
For now, the hope of getting to bed and getting some rest is alluring.
Meanwhile, here's a photo that I took and modified. The church is in Rock Hill...


Easter Project

I recently did two versions of a fun project for my photography class.

Here I am...again and again...hunting for Easter eggs.

Click pic to see larger!


Finding Nemo

It's about time for me to watch "Finding Nemo" again. I just love that movie. And now, we will be the proud owners of our very own Nemo-fish! Jerod talked me into setting up a saltwater aquarium, or a "marine reef aquarium," as it will have "live rock," corals, sponges, etc. It took some talking to, as any hobby like this is a little pricey to get started, but the Tall One had done his homework. Craigslist, as always, came through and delivered the aquarium and a bunch of its trappings for a teeny little pricetag compared to getting everything new. We spent the better part of the evening getting everything set up. I was covered in salt water a few times while trying to fill a jug to pour in the tank.
Once the water clears, and stuff starts to show off, I'll have some pictures up of the progress. According to the textbook Jerod bought (yes, he's that serious about it), we have to wait a few weeks to everything cranking. We are definitely getting a clownfish, and I already informed him that we will have to watch our copy of "Finding Nemo" when we do...so the clownfish will be happy and feel at home. Now...what should I name a clownfish?


Practicing the Presence of God

I have been thinking a lot lately about staying in the presence of God. Not just that feeling when you get the goose-bumps when the choir hits the high note or when you hear a story about someone's being rescued by an angel...
But really believing that God is always by my side...always listening and always speaking. Giving him the smallest parts of my day, and remembering to offer him the large things as well...instead of trying to devise my own solutions and run to him when things don't work out.
I want to learn how to just BE with Him.
And in a short time of reading some scriptures, I realize that for me it's my mind and mouth that tend to steer me into an abyss.
I also realize that I need to spend some time meditating on the Scripture to fill my mind with good, honorable, and praiseworthy things (Phil. 4:8) and learn to love the law as David writes about in the psalms.
This is a short post about a much longer dialogue I'm having in my journal. But I want to REALLY live out the verse that says, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, Oh Lord, My strength and my redeemer." A verse I quoted every week for years and years.
I don't want sarcasm and judgmentalism to choke out the growth in my soul. I want my thoughts and words to be pleasing to God. I would love not to even think some of the things I think. For now, I will try to discipline my tongue to filter what I think, and hope that I am being transformed by the renewing of my mind.
When I think of the truly Godly people I know, they are often the ones who are slow to speak...but say such good things when they do. I like to fill a room with the sound of my voice all too often.
So, here, I shall stop and think awhile. Think about God's things and God's people...and seeing the characteristics of God in His people, rather than making His people the object of my jokes or judgments.
Breathe in the presence of God. Breathe out your prayers.



So, taking a break from the more serious topics...I love to read about peoples' quirks. Quirks are what make the world go 'round. Think about it, there really would be no good reality TV without quirky folk. Some of you are now thinking, "There's GOOD reality TV?" To which I can only respond, "American Idol, Audition Rounds," among other reality shows I secretly enjoy.

With the proliferation of the facebook lists, "25 things about me..." I am doing a blog post. I do not know if there are 25 things yet. I am going to think of them as I go.
  1. I don't like to eat the top crust on loaf bread. It seems like a barrier between me and the sandwichy goodness. I have to remove it.
  2. I also can barely tolerate eating anything with bones in it. It's just too real. I need my meat to be bone-free. I keep considering giving up meat, but there is magic in a good burger.
  3. I very often dance while in the kitchen...usually when I'm waiting for something to boil or cook. There doesn't have to be music. It ranges from ballet to hip hop to interpretive movement. I wonder if my neighbors have seen this.
  4. I am a human jukebox. I literally will go from "La Isla Bonita" by Madonna to an apple commercial jingle to a worship song in about 30 seconds flat. But I never know all the words. Maybe that's why I jump from song to song!
  5. I would like a signal on my car that calls other drivers out for picking their noses. Maybe just a nice light that flashes, "WE CAN SEE YOU!" ugh.
  6. I would like to hold a world wide webcast for all the English-speaking world on the usage of apostrophes and the difference between using an apostrophe and making a word plural. There is a difference between "the apple's color" "the apples' color," and "the apples in the orchard." It's not as hard as it looks, people!!! Plural means more than one. Possessive means it is the property or a quality of something. Ugh.
  7. I still have my high school bookbag. It has seen a lot of love. It is teal. Go 90s!
  8. I majored in Political Science for one semester. I still don't know why I thought it was a good idea. I am far too honest to be a politician or even to study politics.
  9. I often wish I had stayed with piano lessons and could enjoy sitting down to play.
  10. I also wish that guitar playing had come more naturally to me. My fingers and brain just would not coordinate, despite lots of practice and lessons. It is a true tragedy.
  11. I think mushrooms are the worst texture ever known to man. I do not understand how people keep them in their mouths while eating. If I get even a little piece of one, my body sends an EJECT signal that cannot be disregarded.
  12. I think God was just showing off when He made zebras. They are amazing in the wild.
  13. I really struggle with wanting to hate racist people. It's my most real irony in life.
  14. I would be distraught if I had to have the same haircut for more than two years. I have gone from well-below my shoulders to ear-length in one cut on several occasions. I love to change it up.
  15. I am fascinated by Spring. Things that look so dead suddenly become fuzzy, growing, and green...prompted by an Unseen Force who is the embodiment of creativity. Spring alone could constitute a faith in God to me.
  16. I could eat pizza every day. Twice.
  17. I am intrigued by analytical people. I am not one. I take everything in life at face value and rarely have regrets or grudges or re-think my days. I am trying to be more contemplative and see the things that are not obvious.
  18. I used to be very argumentative and far more frank than I should have been. The Lord has knocked off a ton of rough edges. People who know me now would hate the me I was 10 years ago. I'm thankful for grace and for realizing that I am not the center of the universe.
  19. I love to make lists. Mostly of practical things, not like my "top ten power ballads of the 80s."
  20. It took me about 28 years to figure out that my taste in things is far different from most people I know...not better or worse (I hope not worse). But I will always tend toward bold, graphic, geometric, bright, funky over delicate, flowy, flowery, and muted.
  21. Number 21 will be short.


Justice Project Week

We've been processing what all of this means...here's where it started on Monday. (click here) Join the conversation!


Community and Justice

Part of our "mission" in the Justice Project is for our small group to adopt two people/families to get to know and be a resource for help. Of course, as I am an optimist, I assumed they would greet this pack of strangers with open arms and we'd all go running through the neighborhood park having picnics every Saturday, singing songs, and hugging.
Yeah. Um. Not yet.
One of the ladies, we'll call her Alice, wouldn't answer the door when some of our group came over. When we found her outside later in the day, we had a great conversation, but even yet, she was not quite comfortable giving us her phone number. (She did have a phone we found out) Of course, this is FINE, as she has no good reason to trust the random folks who showed up on her doorstep. The challenge: Alice listed lots and lots of needs on her communication card.
The other lady does have a phone and we've spoken to her briefly, but she listed only one need. Certainly, we hope to build a relationship with her in any case. I'll call her CeCe.
What we don't want to happen is for us to come parading into town like Saviors with deep pockets. We are neither saviors nor wealthy. We will learn how to minister the love of God, though, as we will not be able to do anything on our own timetable or agenda. These initial challenges are reminding me that this is God's work. He knows the hearts and needs of Alice and CeCe. He knows their hurts, their sins, their families, their needs. We have to listen to Him to proceed.
Our small group (you know, the "Fort Rock Stars") is beautifully working together to this end. Brings a whole new meaning to the idea of "community" service.


Justice Project, Messy

(This is the second in a series...go back to yesterday's post if you haven't read it yet.)

I am an optimist. I am trusting. I always assume people tell the truth about everything. I am black-and-white--meaning, I see the world as clear-cut, with right and justice falling on one side of a line and wrong and injustice falling on the other. Even the line is between them is usually straight in my head.

That's kind of a fast-track version of the way I see the world. I'm wired that way. Life has taught me, however, that (1) many, many people DO NOT see the world this way and (2) life has a lot of gray areas and (3) I am usually oblivious to gray areas, not because I'm insensitive and don't care...I just don't see gray naturally...it has to be pointed out to me.

All of this to say...social justice is a big ole BALL OF GRAY. Wait, lest I fail to portray it correctly...a big ole ball of sticky gray twisted up yarn that will take generations upon generations to untangle. Or, in my worldview...an overwhelmingly daunting task that looks fine from afar and in theory, but is messy, get-your-hands-sticky, confusing, and well...GRAY. It is not clear-cut. It's not a neat package. It is people. And people are messy. (That's why I still prefer to deal with automated customer service most of the time)

Messy in a good way. I'm still learning.

"Help the poor."
Great. Where are they? And how do I get to know them? Help them with what, really? Help them not be poor? What if they're ok with being poor? Didn't you say that the poor are blessed? By you? Or by people like me? Help. Help me help them. Lord. Help me. What do I do? What if they reject my help? Why have I made this about me again, Lord?

I talk myself in circles trying to figure out what to do.

Justice Project. Concentrated effort in ONE neighborhood for NINE MONTHS. Now, friends, that is clear-cut. Right? Two people with a list of needs. Eleven people willing to help me help them. Now, let's do it.

Do what?
Well, so far, our main objective is to get to know them. And, I gotta say, it would be so much easier if that weren't the goal. If my goal were to march in and work on a list of tasks, I'd be much better suited for this. I can plant flowers, hammer nails, and buy groceries all day long. I am very good at serving with my hands. I am not at all good serving with my heart. It's difficult. It's...messy. It's unpredictable. It's scary. It's vulnerable.

And it's our calling. All of us. God's hands and feet won't get very far unless we have His love to back it up. Messy or not...here we come.


The Justice Project...a starting place

Well, I should have at least introduced you by now. Blog readers, meet Justice Project...Justice Project, meet blog readers.
I am going to chronicle at least some of our journey here on the blog...since it's a Jesus-sized undertaking. I need somewhere to write all of this down. Join me in a divine experiment!

What is it?
A group of people in Charlotte, NC, (our entire church being among that group) have adopted a neighborhood that is listed as "fragile" in terms of crime rate, teenage pregnancy, drop-out rates, etc. It is a poorer neighborhood near downtown Charlotte (off Clanton Rd. if you're from around here).
We believe that God has called ALL Christians to serve the poor, fight for the marginalized, and provide for the widows and orphans. Particularly through Isaiah 58: 6-9"This is the kind of fast day I'm after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts. What I'm interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families. Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once.Your righteousness will pave your way. The God of glory will secure your passage. Then when you pray, God will answer. You'll call out for help and I'll say, 'Here I am.' (THE MESSAGE)
Of course, this is certainly not the only passage that calls us to help the poor. I was amazed just the other day to read in Galatians that when some of the Apostles were determining HOW to move forward, they agreed on this: they needed to take care of the poor among them. (Galatians 2:10...) Paul says "They [James, Peter, John] only asked us to remember the poor--the very thing I also was eager to do."
Proverbs 28:27 He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses. [YIKES!]
I won't go on and on here. No one could really refute the notion of Jesus' preference for the poor, as God's heart is laid out all over the Scriptures on this point.
But the tough question becomes...so, what do I do about it? Well, a sharp answer would be, "Something."
A kinder answer, would be, ask God to show you, and meanwhile...raise your awareness of the needs in your own backyard. Look at people as people, and don't label them as "lazy," "unemployed," "shiftless," etc. When you ask God to show you, look for the answer. It may well be the "beggar" you see on the street corner...and you may NOT know what he'll do with a handout. But you might just be Jesus' hand reaching out to him, giving him a cold bottle of water and a sandwich or a hard-earned five dollar bill.
So, it's not really just about writing out checks. It's our attitude that we must check at the door of Godliness.
We officially started our journey last Saturday; but really, it started a while back. And for the record, this is NOT "hey, pat me on the back because I'm doing something good." I am trying to sort out what this all means as I go, too. I don't know many homeless people, and am not going to be giving out my guest bed anytime soon...I don't think. Just trying to figure out how to trust and obey...and get over myself.

More on these topics throughout this week...



I took this picture at a recent store closing in Charlotte. Ironically, the one thing we wanted was the item with the small white sign on it in the background...Perhaps not the very best placement for the giant poster...?


Let us not confuse the two...

I'll just let these words speak for themselves. Or slap. Or sink into the heart.

"Service flows out of worship. Service as a substitute for worship is idolatry. Activity is the enemy of adoration."

From the chapter on Worship. p. 161, A Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster


Stinkin' Funny

Tonight (we celebrated Valentine's last night, ok?):

Jerod is in the den watching a nature special on skunks...
{Barley poots}
Jerod: "Barley just farted! It's like watching this in 4-D!!"
Shelley is ROTFL.


Uptown Girl?

I lived in Charlotte for eight years. Various parts, from Matthews to Providence/Sardis to Sedgefield (near Dilworth). I liked that there seemed to be hub-bub everywhere. Interesting people. Restaurants of every nation, tribe, and tongue. Stores filled with whatever I might want. And friends. Friends who lived 8 miles away, and yet it took 40 minutes to get to their houses.
So I met a boy (re-met, but that sounds weird), and he owned a house in Rock Hill. Rock Hill! I went to school there for four years, but never considered it home. Charlotte was home. Newnan, GA, was home. Rock Hill was a pass-through. Full of small-town politics...you know people who considered themselves VERY important, but outside of the city limits, no one really cared or knew who they were?
Rock Hill. An Applebee's, a Cracker Barrel, a few McDonald's, and a college. Big softball park. Four bazillion dollar statues declaring it as the "Gateway...to somewhere...or from somewhere." I never got the full story on that. A charming downtown district with old buildings and few tenants.
A far cry from my bright lights and big city.
Now, Rock Hill probably isn't technically a SMALL town. Last I heard, we were the 4th largest municipality in South Carolina...behind Columbia, Charleston, and Greenville. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 70,000 folk. But it still has that stink, er, charm.
All of this set up to say...I like it here. I do. I like to think to think of myself as a big city girl. I don't like to concede to the notion of suburbs. But here I am.
When I most like Rock Hill is days like Thursday. I had a series of errands to run for my job. I was in and out of several very local establishments. I exchanged actual pleasantries and genuine conversation with people who know my name because I do business with them. It seems very "Leave it to Beaver" or something, but I admit...it's nice. It's nice to get to know people, even the self-important people, who have family and stories and businesses. I could go a week in Charlotte without anyone outside of my church calling me by name. The store clerks gloss over you there...especially in certain parts of town (SouthPark, anyone?) if you're not dressed just so or driving around in a fancy car.
So, I'm only 25 minutes from downtown Charlotte, but I almost feel like a have a great secret. The place we called "The Thrill" while in school. I can get to a friend's house in five minutes. I can get to Target in 8, work in 8 and downtown Rock Hill in about 10. We're not bustling. But life is good here. I have a sweetie. A cute little house. Nice neighbors who borrow the occasional cup of sugar and who rescue us when we need a teaspoon of baking powder halfway through the cookie recipe. It's the Hill, people. It's the Hill.


Time is ticking away, tick-tick-ticking away!

In another mini-confessional, I must say that I have a lifelong struggle with time. And really, who doesn't? We are either at odds with it, never using it wisely, wasting it on frivolities...or we think we have mastered it...never late for anything, planning and planning to save it by being better-organized and mapping our routes to save five minutes since we're missing that traffic light or railroad track.
But what if time is not at our disposal at all? What if it isn't even OURS to waste or to master? How about instead of fighting it, pushing against it, and even looking back at it with regret or feelings of success...we give it to the Lord.

The Lord told me pretty clearly recently that "All of your time is Mine."

To which I inwardly replied, "Excuse me?"

And the impression came again, "It ALL belongs to ME."

Not just the wee times I carve out for prayer, reading, singing, giving...but every minute of every day is HIS.

What does this even mean? I'm still trying to work that out with Him. It mostly means that I am listening to Him and relying on Him to let me know how to best use my minutes and hours. If it's His, He can certainly direct me on how to use it. In the process, I become less frustrated with my failure to master it...and less willing to waste it on things that will not further my mind, heart, and His Kingdom. He will allow time for rest. He will not allow for impatience, because that usually involves my heart being at unrest with someone else seemingly "wasting" my time or energy. Letting my time belong to Him will reduce frustration with traffic lights, slow people, long meetings, never-in-a-hurry husband, and a whole host of other things that seem to put me in a tailspin of evil. And may I disclaimer while I'm here (yes, I did just make disclaimer a verb, sue me)...I attempt to be ON TIME to events where there are other people because it is a community-minded thing to do. It is out of love for one another that we respect each other's time as THEIR gift from God, too.

And in the words of that wise Dan Wilson, "Whatcha gonna spend your free life on?"


Happy Groundhog Day!

Just a few things that make me smile. No, I am not Oprah; but there are a few favorite things...I won't be doing a grand giveaway to the bloggy audience (I wish I could!). Here's my list-in-progress.

1. Groundhog Day. (today!!) An underrated holiday. We pull a sleepy groundhog out of the ground and are intrigued about his weather-telling abilities. Punxsutawney Phil must be a morning groundhog. If this were me in groundhog form, I'd be biting this guy, for sure. Especially after staying up late watching the Steelers win. (surely, he's a Steelers fan, as he lives about an hour out of Pittsburg) Prediction this year, BTW, is for six more weeks of winter.

2. Dansko shoes: I have owned these shoes for about a month. They are amazing. Comfortable, stylish, tall enough to wear with dress pants, and foot-worthy for the longest day of walking about. When you have foot problems, cute shoes and comfortable shoes are often not compatible terms. These shoes marry the best of both worlds. I'm saving my pennies now for a brown pair and some sandals for summer.

3. Brooke Fraser's Albertine: Fraser is known for her contributions to Hillsong Worship in Australia. This is her solo album...it has been in near-constant rotation for me lately. Like Plumb and Christy Nockels combined: Click here for a music video.

4. I saw a sign outside of our neighborhood last Friday that said "Yard Cell." That makes me smile all over.

5. Photoshop. It will do so much. It's a powerhouse. Here is just a silly little example of its awesomeness. Just a little tweaking to make a dull picture far more beautiful. Note the subtraction of the stoplights, too. I could spend hours and hours discovering the intricacies of the Photoshop.



(a thought I wrote down last year about this time...)

I can hear the storm blowing in.
It does not take me by surprise
The rustle of dry leaves
Alerts me
That soon it will be here
One of the many virtues of Silence
I am ready for the storm

Solitude and Silence are close to God's heart. They draw me close to Him and allow space in my mind and heart for Him to draw close to me. Life without these close friends is no life at all.


MLK, Jr. Day

I was blessed to have been raised in Georgia among people of all colors. My classes have always been well-mixed. It astounds me when I remember that my own parents did not attend school with people of color. It boggles my mind to think about a world where a black man or woman could not vote or testify in court. We are really just about two generations removed (technically) from the Civil Rights movement. We have come a long way. But we have a REALLY long way to go.
Gaps in education and opportunity still abound. We need to work on the problem from all sides. The Lord still needs to heal some hearts in the area of racism...on both sides of the color line. There are no ready answers, but be sure the questions are myriad and deep.
I struggle with what I perceive about African-American "pop" culture...the media and art that comes from the most famous African Americans right now is violent, degrading to women, and unworthy of the rich artistry and history of African Americans. But it comes from people who have long been fractured, hurt, oppressed and who have had their families units ripped apart. How can we expect them to heal as a people in such a relatively short period of time? God alone can solve these questions...but he needs our hearts and hands and feet to do the dirty work of restoration, rehabilitation, and renovation. As we reach out across racial lines, our own hearts will mend, too. I have a dream, indeed.



Something of the DNA of January seeps into my blood and winds its way around until I almost must dream of some tangible thing that can be accomplished in the given year.
I am going to love well.
I am going to clear out some clutter.
Those are more ways of living than things to DO. Certainly healthy threads with which to weave my days.
But this year, I'd really like to PUBLISH. Something. Besides a blog for four people (thank you, four people!!) I have a finished young adult book (co-written by Tall One). I have ideas. It might be a story in our local yocal newsmagazine...where "news" is a flexible term and the emphasis might be on "yocal." I have no lofty goals, just a kernel of a dream. To write something that gets published or that I get paid to write.

Love. Peace. Publish. 2009
Sounds like a good idea for a tee shirt. :)


Compelled to Post

Mondays are a little like mini-new-years, and I feel compelled to post something. Like I have a clean slate and need to do the things I want and need to do.
My exciting weekend consisted of:
  • Having 7 friends over for a casual dinner and spending the entire time in the bathroom with a stomach bug. (extra fun)
  • Sitting on the sofa, hungry and thirsty, but afraid of solids and liquids. (super duper fun)
  • Watching the Panthers lose a football game that they should have won, while wondering if my soup would stay down. (mega fun)
  • Running down the hall to the restroom 82 times in one day. (more fun than I will tell you about. Really.)
  • Missing church (NO FUN!)
  • Missing two good days for working out (would have been fun)
Tall One is still afraid of me and hugs me with his elbows. He doesn't want to catch my fun. I don't really blame him. However, I did conquer both a sandwich and tacos today, and am starting to feel like myself again. I am inclined now to be more OCD about touching public things, since I don't actually know anyone who had the fun this week and could have given it to me. I either picked it up at CVS or Target.

Because it's been such an event-filled weekend, I'll also report that my scrolly-ball-thingie on my mouse doesn't seem to be working properly. It scrolls down but not up. (decidedly not fun)

And, I have to admit to watching "The Bachelor." It's that train wreck phenomenon. Can't. Look. Away. I am fascinated by self-centered drama girls and wierdo dating situations. This is the secret I carry. At least with my handy DVR, I can start watching it about 30 minutes in and skip commercials, which leaves more time for reading important things NOT centered around fantasy dates and swimming pools. Oy!

And those are my deep thoughts for today. I haven't any stored up, since my weekend was so dreary. We shall hope for a brighter week. And pray for healing for my scrolly ball. Now, Iris, go read the LOST blog. It's almost time!!!


Midnight Musings

It seems a cruel fate that I have to be at work at 8:30 am. Let me throw in the "I'm extremely grateful to have a job...that I like..." disclaimer and proceed with my thought. My creative time is about 9 pm - 2 am. I do my best thinking then. I have energy and juices are flowing. It's the day-to-day that drags me down into sleepy-land and kills my late-night dreams. When I'm on vacation (as I just was for two full weeks), my body reverts to Owl mode.
I am struggling to shake Owl mode as I get back into early bird mode. I have never been an early bird. I care nothing for worms. Who ever wanted a worm?

I lie in bed (like just now for 45 minutes WIDE AWAKE) thinking of great things to design, emails and blogs to write, songs, plays, etc. then fight falling asleep...then fall asleep, and feel that my best ideas get trapped in the neverland between conception and drool. Like just now. Had a great idea for something that I will do this year. Practical. Cute. Inexpensive. And I'd like to get started right now, at 12:15 am, thank you very much. (But there are worms for me in the morning if I go ahead and go to bed, right?)
I also laid there thinking about how to best reorganize my hall closet. I rearranged my den bookshelf in my head according to book color. I prayed. Prayer will sometimes lull me into a state of relaxation, and sometimes sleep. But tonight I crossed the hall to the big glowing screen and here I sit.
To reference my previous post, I had the oddest thing happen tonight. I am reading "A Celebration of Discipline" by Richard Foster (if you haven't read it, order it on Amazon today--I'll wait--it's that good). So the crazy thing is, the next chapter for me to read was on the Discipline of Simplicity. SIMPLICITY. OK, Holy Spirit...you trying to get my attention? Foster even mentioned the fallacy of gadgetry and the time-sucking traps that gadgets can lure you into. Yes, gadgets. (and as a side note, I did spend another hour and a half working on the wireless router that will not allow me to password protect AND actually use it wirelessly at the same time--arg! This was after an hour on the phone with my friendly Indian IT helper. So, free Wi-Fi hotspot at the Joneses! I will get it protected...but I need a tech breather for now.) Back to the disciplines. You see from this entire post that I must be in need of discipline in general. :) Simplicity. This practice is one that may well be the hardest for me to do. I see shopping as a challenge, an adrenaline rush, a problem to be solved. Jerod sees it as spending money we don't have for things we don't need. And usually, he's right. Jesus talked a lot about simplicity, too. He and his friends traveled pretty lightly. So, I really will be using those furlough days to clean out closets, reorganize, and reprioritize the place that "stuff" has in my life. I am tired of my stuff and the way it sits around lazily, occupying space and begging for attention. I am not taking a vow of poverty or anything, just really evaluating what I have and why I have it. And not just with pieces of wood and glass and plastic...what "stuff" is in my schedule and my life that is leeching my time and attention from the Kingdom of God? It needs to go out the door, too, so my home can be restored to order. Goodbye Stuff. Hello Life.


2008: The Year of the Gadget

We Joneses were not in the habit of "keeping up," per se. Trying to live a wee bit more frugally, we had not purchased a digital camera* (thanks to a hand-me-down that was working brilliantly), an ipod*, a DVR/Tivo*, and a number of other gadgets considered essential by most folk under 40. However, the year 2008 turned the tide.
The camera* was our Christmas gift at the end of 2007. Enjoyable to be able to record the most random or memorable moments. Now if I could just get all those photos backed up on the external hard drive* that's been in the package since September...
I started Jonesing for a DVR* after visiting Paul and Michelle's pad for Oscar night. I had heard of such things as pausing live TV and recording shows on a device other than a VCR (Free-vo!), but I hadn't EXPERIENCED the joy that is DVR*. Of all the devices we stumbled upon this year, DVR* has changed my life for the better. TV is now at my beck and call rather than my feeling tied to certain times when a fave show is on...and no more missing LOST because the VCR didn't comply with my wishes! Think what you might about my adoration for the DVR, it has freed up my time in a lot of ways. There is no love lost on the VCR that was a mostly faithful companion for 14 years.
The ipod* was the most suprising addition. It came free with the computer we got in the Fall, otherwise, I had few plans to add one to the family. I really thought it would change my life. Everyone I know has one. It seems to be the center of their universe at times. I always felt left out of discussions about downloading music and building playlists. Like I was the hairy, overweight uncool kid on the playground standing around picking my nose. (maybe I am!) An unfortunately busy Fall shattered my dream of ipod* glory. I have barely had time to add all those awesome songs I've been saving for a rainy day. I did manage to get a good Christmas playlist going, but aside from "Shelley's Holly Jolly," I haven't gotten my ipod* up to life-changing status yet. It's handy. But it ain't Jesus, you know?
Funny that the year AFTER the year of the gadget, I am yearning for simplicity. And after last night, when my fiddling with the wireless router for over two hours caused all manner of wireless confusion, I am STILL CRAVING simplicity. Gadgets never quite work for you the way they're supposed to. I will spend some time on the phone tonight with a NETGEAR representative explaining how I effectively cut off internet access to both computers, even though my cable modem is working brilliantly. I will be thinking of all the other things I could be doing. I will hopefully not cuss. I will try to wrap my NETGREAR customer service representative in the love of God. :) And I will never mess with my router again once it gets working.
Thus I march on, with a love-hate relationship with buttons, glowing lights, and microchips, fancy texting phones, bluetooths (teeths?), DVR, cable, internet, itunes, podcasts, and all adobe products. They don't define me, but they surely can try me and bring out a whole host of responses. Odd that gadgets play such a prominent role in our day-to-day.
Here's to 2009: The Year of Simplicity


New post. New year.

Silence is golden. Or some other such justification for my not having written for a spell. Here we are facing a new year. I love the expectations, and the clean slateishness of it.
I usually map out about 10-15 resolutions. This year I won't.
I hope to do the following:
To love the Lord my God with all my heart, mind, and soul
And...to love my neighbor as myself
(an implication that I will love myself by taking care of myself...and love my neighbor too)
If I can't do those two things well, I really shouldn't attempt to do anything else--like read a bunch of classics, learn a new language, or take up knitting, etc.
The Year of Simplicity. I want to live simply and well. Reduce the noise. Reduce the clutter. Reduce distractions.
Let us love well in 2009.