Grace Notes

January 15, 2017
by Lissa Eggleston
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First World Problems!

Why does it seem that people in developing countries trust God and praise Him with more passion than people in the western world?

That was the question raised during a recent women’s Bible study on Psalm 33. Asked another way, does possessing more “stuff” dull our desire to worship God with all our heart, soul and strength?

That question reminded me of an article written by Calvin Miller in The Disciplined Life in which he makes 9 drastic suggestions to help westerners who have grown numb and comfortable to increase their appetites for worshiping God.

According to Miller, the following are “nine rather drastic steps wealthy Westerners would have to take to truly identify with the developing world”:

1. Take out the furniture: leave a few old blankets, a kitchen table, maybe a wooden chair. You’ve never had a bed, remember?

2. Throw out your clothes. Each person in the family may keep the oldest suit or dress, a shirt or blouse. The head of the family has the only pair of shoes.

3. All kitchen appliances have vanished. Keep a box of matches, a small bag of flour, some sugar and salt, a handful of onions, a dish of dried beans. Rescue the moldy potatoes from the garbage can: those are tonight’s meal.

4. Dismantle the bathroom, shut off the running water, take out the wiring and the lights and everything that runs by electricity.

5. Take away the house and move the family into the tool shed.

6. No more postman, fireman, government services. The two-classroom school is three miles away, but only two of your seven children attend anyway, and they walk.

7. Throw out your bankbooks, stock certificates, pension plans, insurance policies. You now have a cash hoard of $5.

8. Get out and start cultivating your three acres. Try hard to raise $300 in cash crops because your landlord wants one-third and your moneylender 10 percent.

9. Find some way for your children to bring in a little extra money so you have something to eat most days. But it won’t be enough to keep bodies healthy—so lop off 25 to 30 years of life.

In reality, giving up our stuff is no guarantee that we will draw closer to God. Our relationship with God is not really a matter of what we give up but of who we are devoted to. Still, the growing discomfort I felt when reading each item on this list makes me know there are things that I am more devoted to than the One who provided those things.

January 11, 2017
by Lissa Eggleston
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Hillbilly Marriage

Another way the hill people of my family differ from J.D. Vance’s in Hillbilly Elegy is in the area of marriage. J.D. grew up surrounded by instability and tumultuous home life both in his home and the home of his grandparent’s. The story of Granny Lawhorne’s married life painted a very different picture.

Grandmother Henson

My grandmother Henson lived with us for about 5 years before I was married. She loved to tease me about Ed who had started coming around to see me. We were so poor we didn’t have no mop so when it came time to scrub the floors, I’d put on my brother’s overalls and get down on my hands and knees to scrub the floor. Grandmother Henson would mumble and giggle around her corn cob pipe saying, “I hope he don’t ketch ya'” The more she would say it the more she would giggle. She tried to make me think Ed wouldn’t want to marry me if he saw me dressed like a man!

Granny at the schoolhouse with Ed and Lacy

When Ed and I decided to get married he was 19 and I was 15 years old. We went to the preacher’s house and who was there but two other boys who had always tried to go with me. One boy’s name was Lawrence Wilmer and the other was Lacy Coleman. Lacy said he was going to try to keep Ed from having me but I’d already decided I didn’t want to have nothing to do with him because he drank. Funny thing years later after Ed died of a massive stroke Lacy and I did marry–of course he had stopped
drinking by then! Mama would have never let me marry a Wilmer because she said they were all lazy!

Ed and I married on Independence Day 1928. We often celebrated our anniversary by splitting open a ripe watermelon that had been kept cold in the spring box at the home we shared.

For the first 7 months of my married life we lived with Mr. Paul Lawhorne–Ed’s father. Paul was a man who really cared about the way he looked to others. It took him a solid hour to get ready to go anywhere. Everyone was always waiting on Paul to get ready.

Granny in the 20’s

Ed had gotten a job at the silk mill in Buena Vista when we first got married. It was so unlike our people who cut wood, or farmed as a living but here was Ed going to the “city” for a public job. It seemed like some of our relatives were jealous thinking we had “gotten above our raisings.” Ed just always wanted his children to do well and worked hard to provide for them. His mother died of “Bright’s disease” — some kind of kidney problem when Ed was only 8 years old. Her name was Leanna Coleman and she was 49 years old when she passed. She said to Paul, “Now Paul, take the children to church and raise them like I did.” Paul did just that for the children.

I was the one that told Ed we needed to get a place of our own. I always felt that Mr. Lawhorne didn’t like us living with him and the house over the mountain was real crowded so we got a place on Factory Street in Buena Vista.

In June of 1929, Junior was born while we lived on Factory Street. Dr. Thurman looked at how big his hands were and said, “Oh my goodness, he’s going to be as big as Joe Winston!” Joe was the biggest, strongest black man in Buena Vista at the time. I was proudest of that boy as anything in my life. I remember feeling like I finally had something that belonged to me. I never had a doll or nothing like that as a girl so this little boy was something special!

January 10, 2017
by Lissa Eggleston
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Hillbilly Revel!

I recently completed J.D. Vance’s book Hillbilly Elegy.  As I read, I was struck by how sorrowful his story was and how different from my own family’s hillbilly story. I interviewed Granny Lawhorne, the young girl with the bow in this photo, in November 1995 when she was 83 years old.  As she recounted the difficult plight of being an Amherst County Virginia hillbilly; her tale was sprinkled with deep belly laughs and joy.  There was no elegy edge to her story at all.

Well, I’ll just tell you, my mama’s name was Emma Henson Burch and she married my daddy Frank Benjamin Burch on August 20, 1892.

Daddy was 20 years old and Mama was 15 at the time of their wedding. They were married at the Oronoco Church of the Brethren on Route 60 at the top of the mountain near Buena Vista, Virginia. They got married right after a revival meeting and then left the church in a horse and buggy and went 20 miles or so to Pleasant View where Emma’s sister Molly lived. That was the way honeymoons happened in them days. Mama went to housekeeping with a straw tick and a frying pan. She had to gather field straw to fill the tick for their bed and she cooked all their meals in that frying pan over the fireplace. One of her relatives had given her a few small potatoes so they would have something to cook.

That was all they started married life with. They didn’t have a stick of furniture but they managed to raise 10 children and Daddy never held a public job. You know I think people would die today if they had to live like we did then. The worse problem we had was how to get clothes. We grew and put up our own food but there was no money for clothes. Mama made shirts and underwear for my brothers and underwear and dresses for my sisters out of cloth the she saved from 25 pound flour sacks.

What I remember about my life as a child was working!  As soon as I was big enough to stand up on the stool at the sink, Mama put me to washing dishes. The older you got the more jobs she put you doing. We did have some good times though. We had get togethers called “Bean Shellins,” “Corn Shuckins,” and “Molasses Pulls.” At the corn shuckins, they would hide jars of moonshine in piles of unshucked corn. The men shucked corn like crazy trying to uncover those hidden jars! Moonshine was one of the ways that folks in the mountains could get their hands on money. The Colemans and the Noels and others all had family members who served prison time cuz they were caught by revenuers selling whiskey.

I also remember it being a good time to go to church. We walked 5 miles each way to get to Oronoco even when I was a young child. If they were holding nighttime revival meetings we would hear the 11 o’clock whistle blow down in Buena Vista and still have about three quarters of a mile left to walk.

As I read J.D. Vance’s book it occurred to me that while his Mamaw saw church as “breeding grounds for perverts and money changers,” Granny found solace for her soul and strength to follow the upside down values of Jesus’ kingdom at church. Her 93 year life was characterized by hard work, deep love for others, exuberant joy and resting in the grace of God.

 

September 28, 2016
by Lissa Eggleston
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Apartheid American Style

anti-apartheid-demonstration-in-johannesburg-h“American preachers have a task more difficult, perhaps, than those faced by us under South Africa’s apartheid, or Christians under Communism. We had obvious evils to engage; you have to unwrap your culture from years of red, white and blue myth.

You have to expose, and confront, the great disconnect between the kindness, compassion and caring of most American people, and the ruthless way American power is experienced, directly and indirectly, by the poor of the earth.

You have to help good people see how they have let their institutions do their sinning for them. This is not easy among people who really believe that their country does nothing but good, but it is necessary, not only for their future, but for us all.”

While many white South Africans were kind, hospitable people under apartheid, they let their government commit racial sins and oppress, he said, advising: “Take care that your institutions are not sinning for you around the world in ways that would make you ashamed.”

Peter calls good-willed Americans and people of faith to be part of a groundswell calling for “being strong in a different way,” because “history shows no empire survives by throwing its military weight around.  Having U.S. bases in 200 countries will not save this empire.  God has a way of humbling empires.”

Peter Storey, South African Methodist Pastor who worked for 40 years to dismantle the injustices of apartheid.

March 19, 2016
by Lissa Eggleston
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Don’t neglect to Workout!

Our receptivity to God may be increased by exercise or destroyed by neglect.  A.W. TozerGod Directs

God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on, There is no other.  C. S. Lewis

Get into the habit of dealing with God about everything. Unless in the first waking moment of the day you learn to fling the door wide open and let God in, you will work on the wrong level all day, but swing the door wide open and pray to your Father in secret, and every public thing will be stamped with the presence of God.   Oswald Chambers

 

March 18, 2016
by Lissa Eggleston
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Waiting Room Blues

innmon-1_000 Sitting in a waiting room on the 6th floor of MCV’s Ambulatory Care building, anticipating the moment when a too busy neurosurgeon would have time to see us, I had ample time to think and wonder what the future held for my 79 year old mother.

For two years she has been losing the use of her legs and no doctor, no matter how confident in appearance, has yet been able to unlock the mystery behind her condition. Nor has one ventured to describe what she can expect in the remaining years of her life.

Oddly, as I sat thinking how much I would like to know her future I was flipping through magazines that dated back to the year 2000.  Yes, the wait was so long that I began reading about Brittany and KFed who had just returned from their honeymoon!  They were aglow–enjoying all that we think will assure a bright future –thin bodies, overt sexuality, expensive cars, designer clothes, and of course, well defined abs.

I moved on and was reading an interview with Kirstie Alley who was weary of being the “Fat Actress” and was determined that the time was right to lose the weight. Her reasons were that it would jump start her career and give her a better chance of finding someone with whom to sleep.  I was pretty sure that she meant that euphemistically.

I was reading about the “true” love between Brad and Angelina.  This article was written right after he abandoned one wife to take up another and before he began preaching to us about how we should be more caring people.

What a weird sensation to sit there and know “the rest of the story” in these people’s lives.  How ironic– I knew their futures but really wanted to know Mom’s.  I also knew that while I was not focusing on gaining a bright future in the way that Brittany, Kirstie and Brad were, that we all had the same longing for things to turn out right.

IMG_1397[1] (Small) Still waiting on the doctor, looking out at the skyline of Richmond from the sixth floor, rescuing thoughts flooded my thinking. First, I recalled Hebrews 4:13,

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.  Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”

Mom belongs to a God who sees what we cannot, she belongs to a God who has promised that

if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” 2 Corinthians 5:1

Mom belongs to a God who so captured my heart that when the doctor pronounced that she had a systemic problem rather than a surgical one, I was not disappointed.

In my mind I heard, Lissa, I came and defeated the greatest systemic problem your mother has.  This one will last for a few months or a few years, the victory I won will last forever. I can see your mother’s future and I promise it is very bright!”

Those words did not come from outdated magazine stories that with the vantage point of time mock the main characters’ bright hopes. 

Those words came to me from a precious book of revelation that is thousands of years old and never mocks the main characters.  It is a book that promises an unfading bright future as a gift from a loving, eternal, unchanging God.

Mom passed away March 11, 2014 and entered the eternal house of God.

December 5, 2015
by Lissa Eggleston
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How to help those who are grieving

It was eSept. 11arly morning 9.11.2015 when I posted this graphic on Facebook. It was a simple way to say that I had not forgotten the day that ushered our country into a period of intense and stunned mourning. Never would I have imagined that by 3:00 pm that afternoon this graphic would also become a reminder of the day when I was ushered into the deepest mourning. On 9.11.2015 my youngest brother committed suicide.

In the days that followed, the pain deepened as my family  realized that there were sketchy details surrounding the last night of my brother’s life and that this could have been a homicide rather than a suicide. It took two months to get the Medical Examiner’s report and to learn that it was indeed a suicide.

Since that day, I have had time to reflect on the process of grief. I have lost both parents and a brother in the last 3 years and so grief is not alien to me but somehow this time I felt like I was in the ring with George Foreman before he started making grills.

It is clear to me that our culture is not at all comfortable with people in emotional pain. It was weird to feel like I needed to apologize for being sad. In several social interactions when I felt like I was drowning just trying to keep it together I would have to reach out and ease the awkwardness of well wishers who could not find right words (there are none) or right things to do to make things right (what could make this right?).

None of us wants to be someone who would crush a bruised reed so here are thoughts I have had about helpful and not helpful things to do when faced with grieving souls.

Helpful:

  • Say “I am so sorry for your loss” and nothing more.
  • Hold eye contact a few extra seconds rather than averting eyes.
  • Give a lingering hug if you are comfortable doing this.
  • Sit with the person and allow them to talk about their loved one.
  • Find tender words and send them in a card.
  • Don’t rush or expect the person to “get over it.”  Loss leaves a person changed forever.
  • Understand the person’s need to withdraw for quiet and stillness.

Not Helpful: (Please read “Never do these things!”)

  • Interviewing the person with intrusive and insensitive questions. (nosiness is never helpful…ever…why do  you need to know if the death was expected!?!)
  • Offering platitudes or quoting Bible verses. (trust me they are more infuriating than inspiring)
  • Telling the person all the stories of people that you know who committed suicide …(sigh)
  • Refusing to acknowledge the reality of grief. (this adds insult to injury)
  • Offering advice of how to “get over it.” (even on a good day people do not like advice!)

I recently read an article in which the author said, “our culture treats grief like a problem to be solved or an illness to be healed.”  I am so grateful for those who do not see me as a project to be completed or a problem to be fixed. I am grateful for those friends who saw that I was a bruised reed and did not crush me.