Eternity has Begun

If you were fortunate to have listened to Jenny speak or teach, you probably saw her hold up a large ball of twine that usually sits on her kitchen windowsill.  The very tip on the end of the strand was red. 

The small red dot was a reminder of the shortness of our life in comparison to the eternity that follows.  She frequently challenged us to run our race well; to make the most of this brief life on earth.

Jenny’s decades-long battle with cancer was perhaps a constant reminder to live well; but Jenny was not motivated by a death focus, she was not even motivated by a life focus.  She was motivated by an eternity focus. 

As Jenny has been on my mind almost constantly the past few weeks, many memories have come back to me.  Next to my mother, she’s been the most influential woman in my life.  So many miles travel with Miss Jenny over the last 18 years. So many meals shared. So many blocks walked.

I started to make a list of all the things I’ve learned (or am learning) from her.  It got long quickly: Wear comfortable shoes.  Use real plates.  Keep reading.  Appearance matters.  It is possible to be kind and authoritative.  Grieve broken relationships.  Healthy food can be tasty.  Take time to exercise.  Be thankful.  Do little acts of kindness. 

That’s just the beginning.

Perhaps what drew so many of us to Jenny is the way she humbly and joyfully did the simple tasks that make up our ordinary lives. Perhaps it was her quiet, beautiful spirit that never seemed to fight for her own way.  Perhaps it was her unusual empathy and ability to encourage others with unexpected little notes or gifts. 

I can’t help but also think of the fun that Jenny brought to life…Of her little rat “Millard” that she hid around the house for guests—suspecting and unsuspecting.  Of the rare but effective pranks she played on her family.  She never made people feel bad for having fun.  Yes, godly people can enjoy living too.

Another thing that came to mind was a quote that she shared with me a few years ago.  It stayed on her kitchen desk for a long time:

We think giving our all to the Lord is like taking a $1,000 bill and laying it on the table, saying, “Here’s my life, Lord. I’m giving it all.”
But the reality for most of us is that God sends us to the bank and has us cash in the thousand dollars for quarters. We go through life putting out twenty-five cents here and fifty cents there.
Listen to the neighbor kid’s troubles instead of saying, “Get lost.” Go to a committee meaning; give up a cup of water to a shaky old man in a nursing home.
Usually giving our life to Christ isn’t glorious. It’s done in all those little acts of love, twenty-five cents at a time.

Jenny exemplified what it is like to give her all at twenty-five cents at a time.  She made meal after meal.  She cleaned floor after floor.  Washed dish after dish.  She hosted countless people in their home.  She kept the lights on and the candles burning.  She made everyone who crossed the threshold to feel welcome and important.  She did everything she could to meet the needs of her family and friends.

But it was so much more than that.

In the last real conversation that I was able to have with Jenny, she reminded me about something I had said years ago.  Our chat was in the context of parenting, but the essence was this: not only is it not about us; it is not even about our families. It is about worship.

We must not be motivated to live our short lives for our own comfort or even for the comfort and encouragement of others.  As we step from the red tip into the ball of twine we call “eternity,” only one thing will matter.  That is our worship of God. 

Whether it was at the keyboard or the kitchen sink, Jenny’s life was about worship.

What is worship?

Worship is saying and doing what brings God pleasure.  That is all.

Why do we worship?

Because God made us fearfully and wonderfully.  He leads us gently and faithfully.  He redeemed us lovingly and powerfully; And He will take us home for all of eternity.  That is why.

How do we worship?

We worship by laying down our lives as a whole.  We worship by laying down our lives in the quarters.  In the fifty cents.  In all of those moments when we choose to put God first, others second, ourselves last.  We worship by releasing our own will and saying, “God, I trust You.  I fear You.  I hope in You.  You know best!  You are enough.”  Those demonstrations of trust bring Him glory.

Jenny lived out her worship both in her life and also in her death.

I have not fully grieved the loss of my friend…yet.  Even through this long goodbye, I have not been able to process that earth has lost one its finest citizens.  One of its finest wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, teachers and friends.  I find myself believing I will wake up and find the last few months were just a dream.  When I face it as reality, it is hard not to ask “why?”  It is hard not to think about the horrible hole that will be here in her place.

But if I had one more chance, I would say: Jenny, I believe I will run the race better because I knew you.  I believe I will be less selfish and more worshipful…And I believe I will find a little black rat to hide around the house.  What a legacy you left, my friend.  When I see you again one day, I full expect to find you worshipping.  Maybe at heaven’s keyboard.  Maybe in heaven’s kitchen. 

Your race is done and eternity has begun.  Well done, Jenny Bostic, well done. 

Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.
The LORD builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names.
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.
The LORD lifts up the humble; he casts the wicked to the ground.
Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre!
He covers the heavens with clouds; he prepares rain for the earth; he makes grass grow on the hills.
He gives to the beasts their food, and to the young ravens that cry.
10 His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,
11 but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.

Psalm 147:1-11

My Revenge

1eSOfG.AuSt.91It was no surprise.

In a very short period of time, shorter than my lifetime, the “gay rights” movement sold Americans the message that “gay rights” are “civil rights” and should be protected and respected on the same level as the color of one’s skin or the faith an individual chooses to practice.

This particular sin, which the Bible calls “Sodomy,” is now not only tolerated, but celebrated and—by some misguiding folks—considered the equivalent to the union God established to demonstrate His special relationship of love and faithfulness to the church. To be the foundation of the family. To be the fabric of society.

But, as I remind myself, the whole reason why Christians should care about this is the same reason why we do not have to fear or fret. Because there is a much higher authority than the US Supreme Court. And God is fully capable of defending His own rules. Justice Kennedy will not be writing the majority opinion for God’s court. And to God, it was just that by the way: an opinion.

But here on earth…what should our response be? As I pondered the crowds of jubilant protesters reveling in their momentary victory, I found myself grasping for a meaningful response.

I felt so helpless. And, in so many ways, disqualified from leading a charge for faith and family. Who would even listen? Who would care?

The only thing that will help us is revival.

But haven’t we made a lot of attempts at revival? Haven’t some of the best Christian leaders of our century tried unsuccessfully to stem the tide of society running amuck? Who could truly bring us to our knees in the stillness and quietness of hearts obedient to Christ?

I may not be able to light a fire of revival in our nation. But I am determined that there will be plunder. I’m determined that I can come through this more of a danger to complacency and disgusting lukewarm Christianity than ever before.

So here is my revenge:

I will love harder and give more; but most of all, I will worship more sincerely.

No more worshiping by rote. No yawning through church services half-heartedly singing words. No alternately thinking about what people are wearing, what is for lunch, and what the song-writer was prompting us to sing to our Savior. No more bowing my head to pray and drifting off into “to do” land—making lists in my head of what needs to happen that afternoon.

I will take more time to worship alone. With my phone off. The radio off. The TV off. I will take note of songs that are particularly meaningful to me. I will worship with Scripture. I will worship when no one is watching.

I’ll take everyone down the road with me that will go. And if that is zero, I’ll go alone.

I will look back and say, “Obergefell v. Hodges, that’s the day that changed me.” Five people handed down an opinion and it prompted me to turn up the heat on my Christian walk. It made me want plunder. It made me repent of sins I wouldn’t repent of before. Let go of selfishness I wouldn’t have let go of otherwise. Forgive people I didn’t want to forgive. But most of all, it made me clear the stage so I can worship.

I’m still imperfect and my zeal will fade with time, but every time someone tries to redefine “life” or “marriage” or change any truth Scripture, they will heap coals on the flames of my passion for Christ.  Let there be plunder!

At first, I was disgusted with the picture of the White House lighted up in rainbow colors. But now, I think it’s beautiful. Because the LGBT community can’t define the rainbow. God made it and He got to define it. He said, I have set MY bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between ME and the earth… Genesis 9:13 (ESV).  Every time I see the rainbow, I will be reminded of God’s love and of His justice. And I will worship.

Because I have nothing to fear. God still loves. He is still just. And the rainbow is still a reminder that God is on His throne and a refraction of light cannot hit a water droplet without the heavens declaring His glory…And this humble soul doing its best to join them.

Let there be plunder.


And…I have a few more ideas for revenge…and I would love to hear yours…


She was four years older than me and a whole lot smarter. Maybe not “off-the-chart smart” but definitely calculus and rubrics cube smart. Maybe she got that way from all of the books she read. While most girls were in to dolls and dress up, Erin was in to libraries and bookstores.

Erin’s reclusive reading habits came in handy because when my parents were gone, she would predictably curl up with a stack of library books. The rest of us could wreak havoc as we pleased and Erin would get blamed at the end of the day. Because, after all, she was the oldest and was supposed to be responsible.

People sometimes confused the two of us. I never understood that because while we did have the same eye color, she was Erin and I was Danielle. We shared a room for years and that only brought out the differences: I loved to decorate and rearrange the furniture while she preferred the Spartan atmosphere. I liked the window open. She liked the window shut. And so on.

Somewhere along the way, Erin took an interest in piano. And when she was 14, she became our church pianist. Which, admittedly, was not so much because she was a child protégé as much as just the simple fact that she was the only person in our church that played piano. It was Erin or nothing. And Erin quickly became better. Than nothing.

Erin more than rose to the challenge, because that is what Erin does. She never met a contest too big; she never did things the easy way. If we were all making quilts, Erin made a king-sized, hand-stitched quilt with a million pieces to cut and four times that many corners to match.

Not me. If there was an easy way, I was going to find it and then make it even easier. Which I think is an under-appreciated skill. But I’m getting off track…back to Erin and the piano.

For years, Erin would get up at 5:00 in the morning and play scales and exercises on the piano. Allyson would be doing aerobics. And I was probably sleeping.

Erin practiced hard—four hours every day. She became very good. I know because she always went last at piano recitals. Of course, that might have just been because the “rest of the students” included me and a bunch of kids like me. But nonetheless, she did get good.

Toward the end of high school, Erin was selected to go on a short-term mission trip to Romania. Erin spent hours over the next year learning to speak, read, and write Romanian—all for a three week trip. Like I said, she was not one to just “get by” or do something the easy way.

After graduation, she decided to get a degree in piano performance—which figures, because as I understand, it’s one of the hardest majors. In addition to all of the regular studying a college student has to do, musicians have to practice for ungodly numbers of hours every day. Good thing she was already broken in on the 5:00 am thing.

After college, Erin went back to Romania for a few years as a full-time missionary. All of her hard work on language study was put to good use.

Then, she decided to come back and get her masters in piano performance. And because she is Erin, and because she never met a challenge too big, she decided to get her master’s in piano performance at Bob Jones.

Now, you may think BJ is good, bad, wonderful, terrible…all of that is beside the point. The point is, BJ is basically the mecca of conservative musicians. Kids in Greenville are born playing piano. They are proficient at violin by the time they are weaned. They do intensive music theory classes in Kindergarten. They have private tutoring sessions instead of recess. BJ is Julliard for the small but talented percentage of the world that doesn’t believe in the rock beat.

Majoring in piano performance at BJ is kind of like racing in the Kentucky Derby. Everyone is good. That is why they are there.

Erin was good, but she hadn’t had the support of a gifted music community like most of the BJ graduates. She hadn’t had all world-class teachers growing up. And, she had just spent several years overseas teaching. But once she had made up her mind, she went for it wide open.

If college piano performance was no joke, graduate level piano performance was probably the music equivalent of the Marine Corps. At the end of the program comes the “performance” part—the senior recital: an hour of memorized music that BJ professors deemed worthy of their stamp of music wizardry approval. Songs are picked a year in advance and then practiced until Fur Elise and Chopsticks feel like a nice break.

Erin selected her music and practiced literally until her hands couldn’t take it anymore. She is smart, and she worked hard, but I know that looming recital was not something she looked forward to. Even after years of church music and college classes ad nauseam, Erin was not a natural at performing. Perhaps it was become she is more the left-brained, smart analytic than the right-brain creative, artsy, performer. She is great at lot of things, and she had the skill and knowledge; she just wasn’t the showy type.

Somewhere along the line, I think it was suggested to her that she consider majoring in church music or piano pedagogy. Which, as I understand, was the same thing without the hour of music insanity known as the senior recital. But, as I understand, the difference between the two was also like the difference between being a college basketball coach and a PE teacher.

And it just wasn’t like Erin.

So she worked hard. Very hard.

Not all of my family could attend her recital. But I drove to Greenville the day before and spent the night with her. She is pretty even-keel, but like anyone, she was nervous about her recital. In fact, nervous doesn’t seem to be the right word.

The BJ standard is perfection. And most BJ students hit it or come so close that all but the pickiest of professors believe they did.

And even though she had poured her life into it the whole program, I think she knew she wasn’t going to be perfect.

Mind you, this wasn’t just a handful of family attending this recital. This was going to be a room full of professors and other piano performance majors who were required to attend. Many of them had ten or twenty years of lessons from world class instructors under their belt. Most were natural performers—because the rest had long since been weeded out. If you were just “one of the pack,” you went and found something else to do before you hit the senior recital for your master’s degree in piano performance.

Something else meaning home ec, elementary ed, or working at Chick-fil-A.   You ain’t nothing in Greenville just because you can play piano, violin, cello, tuba, and percussion. You have to be the next Dino Kartsonikis (who appreciates only Bach and Fanny Crosby).

And Erin, for all her virtues, was not Dino.

And the pressure would have put a lesser woman (me, for example) in the crazy house.

But not Erin.

I was very proud of Erin the next day. She looked nice. She had chosen difficult pieces. She played well.

And she made some mistakes. Several actually.

She just did.

But she didn’t make excuses. She didn’t blame the stiff piano. Or her hurting wrists. Or her years of service in Romania. Or her nerves. She didn’t make a point to tell everyone how long and hard she’s practiced. How many set backs she’s had. How many obstacles she had to overcome.

She had done her best. And she let it be that. She didn’t try to criticize herself just to hear people argue with gushy words of fake affirmation.

Erin told me she thought by BJ standards her recital was a disaster.

If anyone thought that, they were mistaken. Yes, if someone had come to nit pick or criticize, I’m sure they could have found something negative to say about the performance.

But not about my sister.

She was courageous. She was gracious. And I don’t know if I have ever been more impressed with her. Or with anyone.

Erin had just poured her heart into a goal because she believed that the process of working for it would make her a better pianist, a better music teacher, and more than that—a better worshiper. She went for it knowing it wouldn’t necessarily make her better than the people around her.

Erin worked to please an Audience of One.

I think she proved it that day. And I have every reason to believe that that One was pleased.

And I, for one, thought it was beautiful.

I could not have been more impressed. Not with Dino Kartsonikis.