Tuesday, February 24, 2009


The season of Lent is upon us. Truthfully, I don't remember having my attention drawn to Lent before I was in college. At least, I don't remember anyone encouraging me to give anything up for this period of time. The first time I participated in this season was in the mid-nineties, and I gave up chocolate. If you know me at all, you know how serious this is. I did it, though, and I learned a good deal from it. I also celebrated the end of the season with some amazing chocolate cheesecake, but that's not what this is about.

I haven't necessarily participated in Lent every year since then, but I have had a few seasons of intentionally fasting from something in order to allow more room for God to replace it with something else. Last year I fasted from Facebook, which was significant for me. However, if someone sent me a direct message through Facebook, I did reply to them. I just didn't go perusing through all the other options. Although I feel that Facebook is a really effective communication and reconnecting tool, I do realize that there is much temptation to waste time on it. So I gave that up for Lent last year, and it was good for me. It helped me have a greater perspective on my priorities.

Over the last few days Kevin and I have been talking with our kids about Lent and the purpose it serves. Though we aren't pressing them to give up anything, we asked them to think about it. Callie has already decided to give up carbonated drinks. She doesn't drink them that often, but she really enjoys them. So I thought this was a good choice for her. Caleb and Katie are still contemplating it. Katie just knows that she will not be giving up her baby dolls, as Caleb suggested!

When I think of Lent, I can't help but think of one of my very favorite movies--Chocolat! If you haven't seen it, please take the time to do so. You won't regret it. In the movie, the characters deal with Lent, legalism, pride, appearances, and intolerance. Quite the heavy subjects. And I believe that, in the end, each of the characters has learned and grown in some way. Watch it. If you've already seen it, watch it again. I plan to.

I think that what we give up for Lent is not nearly as important as why we give it up. It needs to be something that really matters to us--something that holds our time and attention--something we long for. Then when we withhold this thing from ourselves, we need to turn those longings and desires and attention specifically toward God. However, it's not a contest of our wills; it's a shaping of our hearts. It's an awakening and a realization of the things that we let cloud our vision in this life, which may or may not be the thing we are choosing to abstain from during this season. In fact, I think that if we are choosing a "bad" thing in our lives to abstain from during Lent but then have every intention of going right back to it starting on Easter Sunday, then nothing at all has been gained from the experience.

There are some very good things from which we can abstain during these weeks that are okay to be missed and okay to pick back up on Easter. And that thing is different from person to person. The decision is a private one between God and individuals, and we should not judge each other for "picking something easy." Nor should we think highly of ourselves for "picking something hard." These weeks are to serve as time for personal reflection, the abstinence to serve as that constant reminder of Christ's sacrifice and His love for us.

Maybe we should do this more often.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


It's extremely hard to feel anything but humbled when driving a clunker, as we called it in high school. This morning I am not driving the "really cool" mini-van but instead am driving our 13-year-old Geo Prizm. The Geo was a far cry from luxury car status when it was fresh off the assembly line, so you can imagine what it is today. They actually quit making the Geo altogether several years ago.

Don't get me wrong. The Geo has been nothing but a great car for us. Affectionately named Liz, she was my very first car. I bought her with my own money my senior year of college. She only had four miles on her when I got her, and I was so proud of her! Now 13 years and nearly 200,000 miles later, she still gets us where we need to go. She just doesn't look or sound good anymore. In fact, one of our recovering drug addict friends told Kevin that, quite frankly, it looks like a crack car.

So I'm driving Liz today, and it got me to thinking about the past clunkers in my life. There have been many . . .

One of our most famous ones was acquired when I was in sixth grade. A friend of ours in the car business said that he had a car to give us for free! Obviously my parents couldn't pass that up, especially when we were in real need at the time. So my brother, sisters, and I spent the afternoon at our friends' house while my parents went to pick up the car. We excitedly waited for them to drive up in the vehicle.

And then they did.

No doubt my smile dropped faster than it ever has, for my parents drove up in a 1960-something station wagon the color of snot when one has a sinus infection. Highlighting this lovely color were various shades of rust, particularly on the back end of the vehicle. The interior had similar nauseating hues. The radio only played AM stations, which just seemed appropriate. The good news was that all seven of us could fit in it; the bad news was that this was now our family car. My father was so proud, but all I could think of was how much I was going to get made fun of when they picked me up from school in this tank. (Cut me some slack--I was in middle school!)

For about two years this machine lived on. Then one day it decided not to go anymore, and I was more than okay with that. I think my dad was able to get $60 for it.

The next car was a little bit better but not a lot. I think it was at least a decade newer than the station wagon but was still not within our current decade. Its body was caramel-colored with a cream-colored top, and it was adorned with a ball-shaped compass mounted to the dashboard and mud flaps on its back tires. I was just thankful that the mud flaps didn't portray an angry, gun-slinging Yosemite Sam and say "Back off." I didn't mind this car quite as much as the station wagon, although I still felt embarrassed by it. I did think it was kind-of neat that you had to pull down the license plate to get to the gas tank.

Then there was the big brown conversion van. I actually have fond memories of the van, because it was my training vehicle when I was learning how to drive. The van was quite roomy, which was great for our family of seven. And not only did it play FM radio stations, it also had a tape deck! And curtains! Okay, that's just weird for a vehicle to have curtains in the windows, but they actually were quite useful when the sun was beating down. Yeah, the van served us well, until it started falling apart.

One day my mother backed into a BRICK sign in a church's parking lot. More damage was done to the sign than to the van, but it still rendered the spare tire holder on the back door useless. And since you have to have a spare tire somewhere, my father thought it would be a great idea to just strap it to the top of the van with some rope. So now the once not-so-clunkerish van looked more like the Beverly Hilbillies' ride. My boyfriend at the time thought it was especially amusing.

My favorite story about the van, though, is when the side door wouldn't close anymore. I'm not sure how that happened, and I'm not sure why we didn't get it fixed for a while. But then why would you get it fixed when it could be held shut just fine with some more ROPE?! (Most people swear that duct tape can fix anything; apparently my father felt this way about rope.) Now since rope tends to give a little--particularly when making a wide left turn--the daughter sitting nearest the afflicted door was responsible for holding tightly to the rope in hopes of allowing the door to gap only a couple of inches. This is really funny to think about . . . now.

The Bevell family went through many cars, but these are definitely the highlights of the clunkers. They certainly built character and kept us in our place. Like I said, it's pretty hard to be arrogant when you're driving around in one of these. Thankfully, my children are not yet old enough to realize that one of our vehicles is a clunker. They think it's cool to ride in (what is now) Daddy's car. We'll see how they feel about it a few years from now, if Liz is still around. Who knows? Maybe she'll still be running when Callie is old enough to drive. Wouldn't that be great?!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Book Review: CHRIST IN Y'ALL

Christ in Y'AllI recently read Neil Carter's book CHRIST IN Y'ALL, and I was both encouraged and challenged by it. Neil reminds us that the Christian life is to be lived in community, not in isolation. The illustrations and analogies that Neil uses are so good and are effective in communicating his message--that we ALL make up the Body of Christ. Each of us is an important part of that Body, and God speaks to and through every one of us.

Neil takes a hard look at our church traditions and invites us to question why we do some of the things we do. Are they effective? Are they meaningful? Or are they possibly a hindrance? This is not to say that all church traditions are fruitless, but they should all be examined. HOW we gather as a church is one of these to be examined. Neil suggests that meeting in homes creates a family atmosphere, which is more inviting and more conducive to the natural growth of relationships and community than the atmosphere created in a large church building. It is much harder for people to "slip through the cracks" among a group of twenty than among a group of 500!

I highly recommend this book to everyone interested in fostering a community of faith. Neil's book is well-written in a conversational tone and is quite effective in portraying the methods and reasons for living this life of faith with others around us.

To order this book, visit bookschristian.com.

Our First Kiss

This weekend marks the 12th anniversary of the first kiss between my husband and me. Let me tell you, it was quite memorable . . .

We had been dating for about a month, which, in college time, is more like six months because you see each other constantly. And I had reeeeeeeeeeeeeally been wanting him to kiss me for, oh, about . . . well, pretty much that whole time. But he was very much the gentleman, always only kissing my hand when it came time to say good-night. This was very, very sweet. I knew he was wanting to be careful with my heart and certain about our feelings for each other before sealing it with a kiss. But I think he was toying with me a little bit, too.

So this was all during the time that I was president of the Baptist Student Union at Mississippi College, and we were having a retreat at Twin Lakes on this particular weekend. Since I was one of the main ones planning this event, I got to pick my planning committee, which just happened to include Kevin. And the theme of the retreat just happened to be about relationships. (Awwww)

Everyone knows that you don't actually sleep while on a college retreat. A bunch of us stayed up really late talking and laughing in the lodge where we held our meetings. As the night went on, more and more people gave in to the urge to go to sleep, but Kevin and I held out. For some reason we ended up hanging out in the kitchen. It was very dark. And it was about 4:00 in the morning.

We had been standing there talking for a very long time, and we had our arms around each other a lot of that time. (Why am I feeling embarrassed right now?) Kevin would get, I thought, really close to kissing me but wouldn't follow through.

And then it happened.

Honestly, I don't remember what he said before he kissed me. I just remember being so excited that he did it! It was such a great kiss.

And then the other thing happened.

All of a sudden, the outside door FLEW OPEN, and these blinding fluorescent overhead lights (Remember we had been standing in the dark.) were thrown on. We quickly pulled away from each other, squinting and blinking and shielding our eyes, until we could finally identify the silhouette of . . . the cafeteria lady.

Who knew that they came in so early to start making biscuits???

As Kevin will tell you, I was completely mortified. After a quick "Good morning" to the lady, we hastily made our exit and then went and sat on a bench overlooking the lake. Kevin says that I didn't look at him or speak to him for an hour. And he wondered if our first kiss may have been our last. He was so baffled by my reaction and assured me that that lady's walking in on us was not a terrible thing (and that it most likely wasn't the first time she'd walked in on people kissing at camp).

I was mainly worried, I told him, that she thought we were doing more than just kissing. Here I was a leader on this retreat about godly relationships, and I got caught kissing a boy in the dark! Obviously, it's very funny now. Time gives a much better perspective on these things. But later that morning, I most certainly didn't make eye contact with the lady who put a biscuit on my tray.

Oh--and it wasn't our last kiss.