Tuesday, December 28, 2010


A new year is fast approaching. Any resolutions? About a year ago, I wrote about reading through the Bible. This has been an incredible year in God's Word - amazing how it is always new, always relevant, always timely. I'm winding up Revelation and the minor prophets this week, and am already looking forward to heading back to Genesis on Saturday.

Here are a few more thoughts for those beginning this journey....

Just read. A lady told me once - back when I had three babies in diapers - that I didn't have to read a lot of Scripture every day, but to try to read something. Every day. Even if it was only a few verses of a Psalm while I was locked inside the bathroom. Reading through the entire Bible in a single year may require a faster pace than you're able to maintain at this stage in life. That's okay. Just read what you can.

If you're ready to tackle a more stringent reading regimen, there are several daily reading schedules available online. Yesterday, I googled "read through the Bible in a year" and found a bazillion links. Some had you reading an Old Testament passage, a New Testament passage, and a Psalm or Proverb each day. Some had you reading straight through the Bible. Some had a few chapters from the Old Testament and a few chapters from the New. If you want a schedule to help pace yourself, there are plenty of options available. There are even two-year schedules posted online, if that sounds more do-able for you.

Another alternative - The One Year Bible. One of my sons picked up a copy of this Bible for his 2011 reading. It is formatted to a daily calendar - you read straight through the book, from cover to cover, but it is organized so that each day's reading includes Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs. Pretty cool, huh?!

Finally, I have to say again - expect to be amazed. I can't remember how many times this past year I sat down for my daily reading with a particular burden on my heart, only to have that day's passage speak precisely to my concerns. Or the number of times my Old and New Testament readings related to and enhanced each other. Or the number of times I thought, "I know I read this last year, but this just seems so totally new to me." Mostly, expect to be amazed at the majesty, holiness, goodness, mercy, faithfulness, beauty, and grace of the covenant-making, covenant-keeping God who authored this book.

Monday, December 27, 2010


In my journey through the Bible this year, I have recently been reading through the minor prophets. So much affliction and hardship and suffering poured out on God's people! And not just on the blatantly idolatrous either - in company with the covenant community, who had mostly wandered to false gods and self-promotion, even the faithful felt the hand of God's judgment. Even those calling their wayward brothers and sisters to repentance witnessed the destruction of their homeland and their families and were carried off into exile.

In Habakkuk, we read the words of a man who is zealous for the glory of the Lord. He is grieved because his countrymen have abandoned their covenant God and pursued violence, injustice, greed, and idolatry. Habakkuk knows that holiness and sin cannot co-exist - he understands that God will judge His people. Soon. On the one hand, Habakkuk is grieved because he passionately desires to see God glorified - but those around him instead profane the name of the Lord. On the other hand, Habakkuk is grieved because he loves his brothers and sisters - he is brokenhearted because they do not honor and pursue God, and because he knows their destruction is imminent. Habakkuk asks the difficult questions of his own soul, and allows us to share in his struggle of trying to understand the heart-wrenching realities of life.

O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you "Violence!" and you will not save? - Habakkuk 1:2. Have you ever felt that way when praying? I have.

O LORD, I have heard the report of you, and your work, O LORD, do I fear. - Habakkuk 3:2 Have you ever prayed from a place of brokenness and desperation, all the while afraid of what the Lord may answer? I have. Like Habakkuk, I have cried, "Oh, Lord...in wrath remember mercy!"

I love Habakkuk's honesty and transparency. It tells me that I am not alone in this difficult journey of faith. And it gives me hope.

How does Habakkuk resolve the soul-shattering tension between God's holiness and my sinfulness? the apostasy of the church? the depravity of the culture around me? The only way possible - through divine intervention. Habakkuk moves from grief and distress to a place of rest and confidence as he comes to understand that only God can reconcile His people to Himself. The Old Testament prophet Habakkuk gives us the promise of the Gospel...

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the LORD, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places. - Habakkuk 3:17-19 Here, Habakkuk tells us that God must save us and that, even in the most difficult of times, He will be faithful to do just that.

Now, a lot of folks say the Old Testament is just history. That it isn't greatly relevant to the Christian today. They assert that the God revealed in the Old Testament - who pours out judgment and wrath on His wayward people - has given way to the God of the New Testament - who compromises His justice and sacrifices judgment for fawning love and unwavering blessing. But, in my journey through Scripture, I am also reading in Revelation, and I find that such claims are simply not true. God is still a God of justice, of wrath, of judgment - He dishes out some really nasty stuff. And, He is still a God of love and mercy, accomplishing the atonement for His people that they cannot accomplish for themselves - just like in the Old Testament.

This life is hard for me today, just like it was hard for Habakkuk some 2500+ years ago. And, just as Habakkuk could only find hope and comfort in God, I can find hope and comfort nowhere else. Reading through Revelation this morning, I was struck by how many times I came across the phrase, "Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints..." When life around me is falling apart, when I consider the work of the Lord and am afraid, I am called to remember, to endure, to hold to the faith.

But what if my faith is faltering? What if I grow faint-hearted? Here is the great comfort of Habakkuk - only God can save His people, and He has purposed to do just exactly that. My salvation is not dependent upon the strength of my faith, but upon the strength and faithfulness of my God.

I used to believe that faith was a "work" - something I did myself, a consciousness I mustered up and maintained in my own strength. At some point of crisis when I was a young girl, my mother explained to me that my salvation (and thus my security, hope, joy,...) was based entirely on the work of Christ. Entirely. Not even the faith to believe came from myself, but from God. Ephesians 2:8-9 tells me, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." My mom comforted me by reminding me that my relationship with God was based on faith - and that very faith was itself a gift from God. "Camille, it is not your faith that God considers, but Christ's faith - and Christ's faith was and is perfect." Christ covers all of me, even my fainthearted faith.

With Habakkuk, I stand and proclaim: I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength.

Friday, December 24, 2010


1. The grace of God extended to me in the person of my Lord, my Saviour, my Beloved - Jesus Christ.

2. A red-headed farmboy named Steve.

3. Emily, the long-desired child we thought we'd never have. Now, such a beautiful young woman!

4. Reuben - Behold, a son!

5. Nathaniel - God laughs at my earlier fears of childlessness!

6. Thomas - a Tiger who, even in the delivery room, roared at the presumptions of the mild-mannered Dr. Settles.

7. Benjamin...

8. ...and Martha - not one, but two divine lights in a dark place.

9. Helen - a full quiver, filling her mother's heart to overflowing.

10. Dennis - When I thought there could be no more children, God blesses me with another beloved son.

G.K. Chesterton once wrote that the one thing Christ dared not reveal to us in the incarnation, the one thing we could not yet bear in our fallen human state, was the laughter of God. Christ displayed the love, the passion, the wisdom, the faithfulness, the zeal, the wrath, and the sorrow of God, but never do we have recorded in Scripture that He laughed. Chesterton believed that God's laughter would have been too much for us, too big, that it would have destroyed us. I look at Steve and at the precious children God has given me, and I think I begin to hear the distant rumblings of divine laughter, holy mirth, overflowing joy. God is very good, and He is indeed very merry!

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


A lady asked me last week, "So, are you all ready for Christmas?" I responded with a blank look, not knowing how to answer.

I know what she meant - Was the house decorated? Was there a turkey in the freezer, waiting to be defrosted? Were the gifts all wrapped and tucked under the tree? And I could have answered all those questions "No!" without hesitation.

But, what if instead she meant, "Are you done with your holiday shopping?" Then, I'd have to answer, "Yes." No, I haven't purchased any gifts. Yes, I'm done with my shopping. You see my dilemma - it's a little difficult to know how to answer.

When Steve took over handling our household finances a couple of years ago, he also took over gift shopping. That first year, I grew increasingly anxious as Christmas approached. Me - I'm the type who likes to make lists, write out shopping routes, and check things off early. Steve, being the more spontaneous type, prefers the adrenalin rush and the thrill of the hunt that comes with a less systematic approach. Anyway, my response to his particular style of Christmas shopping was a growing feeling of dread and panic. Okay, I admit it - I want to be IN CONTROL!

You know what? In spite of my fears and in spite of the fact that I wasn't in control, everything turned out just fine. All my anxiety and stress was for naught. Last year, Christmas #2 under the new system, I think I handled things a teensy bit better - I still felt antsy, but I was definitely less anxious heading into the holidays. And I did feel a whole lot freer, which I think was one of the intents of Steve's shifting these responsibilities in the first place. This year? Truthfully, I feel some butterflies in my stomach...but nothing like a full-blown panic attack.

Anyway, I was at a party last week, and one of the women commented that she liked doing all her Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve. The crowds, the hub-bub and chaos, the bustle of running here and there...she loved it. It was one of her favorite days of the year! Wow - I was totally incapable of relating.

So, in closing, what kind of shopper are YOU? Did you have all your Christmas gifts purchased, wrapped, and under the tree by the 1st of December? Or are you planning to sit down tomorrow and start making out your list?

(On another note - I have to believe that my inclination to want to be organized and in control has some useful purpose in the broader scope of things. Any suggestions?!)

Monday, December 20, 2010


A few nights ago, Steve and I walked next door to catch up on news with Grammy and Granddad. We found them in the middle of watching a movie, but Granddad muted the TV so we could visit. Personally, I find it very difficult to concentrate while a TV is on in the same room - I grew up in a house without a TV, and find myself mesmerized by the flashing images, even without sound. But, socializing under the glare of the great glowing Eye is a skill I am slowly developing.

Anyway, while we were sitting around the table chatting, the movie broke to a commercial for an upcoming Victoria's Secret production - some kind of TV fashion show, I think. Wow. Basically, the ad consisted of tall, thin, busty, oiled women prancing around in their underwear, swooshing feathers and fans and all sorts of accessories. I remember one print line from the muted commercial: "This year, get her a gift you'll never forget." I guess V.S. isn't into self-less, sacrificial giving.

I personally like some of lingerie available at Victoria's Secret. Pretty, feminine, and well-engineered (not to mention, oober expensive). However, I confess I do NOT like watching other women wearing same products, sans clothing. On national TV. At 6:30 in the evening. While I'm sitting at the table with the in-laws. Basically, that TV ad was a soft porn clip, broadcast over prime-time television into who-knows-how-many homes.

Okay, let's imagine a different scenario. Instead of Mom and Dad, it's Hubby watching the said Victoria's Secret show. Yiyiyiyi. I would seriously be questioning his motives. Shopping for his wife? Yeah, right. I'd recommend he turn off the TV, buy her a gift certificate, and let her pick out her own lingerie.

After watching a gorgeous model have sex with a double-decker hamburger on a similarly-styled commercial last year, I wrote Hardee's a letter of complaint and have since boycotted that restaurant chain. First off, I'm willing to bet the woman on that commercial has NEVER eaten a fast-food hamburger. Second, the commercial was obviously designed to make men wish they were hamburgers. Or to make women think they'd be happier if they traded their men for hamburgers. Or some such nonsense.

Anyway, my point is...today, even prime time TV is pornographied. It doesn't seem there is a safe place to rest one's eyes. Do most Americans really think this is okay?

(Sadly, these statistics seem to imply most people would answer: "Yes, it's fine. What's your problem?" Sometimes, this world feels like a dark and lonely place.)

Friday, December 17, 2010


I have officially finished reading J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and hope to soon be curled up in front of the fire reading the prequel, The Hobbit. I LOVE THESE BOOKS.

Anyway, the family was discussing our favorite characters from the books. Funny how they remind us of each other! We decided that Reuben is very like Tom Bombadil - he's a character you won't be familiar with unless you read the books, because Peter Jackson left him out of the movies. Older than the elves, older than the Ents, married to the River Daughter, full of life and in love with every growing thing. Martha - definitely Eowyn, a shield-maiden of Rohan. Think warrior princess and horse mistress. Thomas - Peregrin Took, aka Pippin. He's all about having a good time - pipe weed, a pint of ale, singing and dancing, blowing things up/fireworks, pilfering the neighbor's mushrooms. Not much thought of consequences or long-term plans. We have a Frodo, who sees things others don't and who often must walk in dark places, bearing burdens others are unaware of. We have a Rosie - a sensible, happy, good-natured Hobbit. We even have a Fatty Lumpkin.

Tolkien's characters are wonderful because - be they elf or Wild Man - they are so real. So, Lord of the Rings fans, which Tolkien character are you?

Thursday, December 16, 2010


My college chemistry professor introduced me to pea soup - his wife served it at a dinner they hosted for several students. Initially skeptical of the thick green stuff, I quickly discovered how delicious it was and now fix it regularly for my family. The Davises fix this each year on Christmas Eve, to enjoy when they return home from their church's Christmas Eve service. This is one of those soups that I make without an official recipe, so I tried to pay very close attention last time I made it.

1 pound bag of dried split green peas, rinsed
6-8 cups water (chicken broth works well, too)
1 medium onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
olive oil
smoked sausage or leftover ham for seasoning
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste

Pour a couple of tablespoons of olive oil into soup pot and heat over medium heat. Add chopped onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and saute until onion just becomes translucent. Add dried peas and water or broth. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer one hour. Add chopped up smoked sausage or bits of leftover ham, along with basil, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Simmer another 20 minutes, or until ready to serve.

Notes: I usually make a triple batch of this for my family and serve it for dinner with corn muffins. We enjoy leftovers for lunch later in the week, with grilled-cheese sandwiches. The longer you cook this, the thicker it gets, and the flavor just gets better with time. While it may initially look very soupy, it thickens as it cools - thick as pea soup!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


A friend and I were half-way through our 3-mile walk and had just made the turn back toward her house. We'd been meeting a couple of times a week to walk, talk, and hopefully contain some of the middle-age spread threatening to envelope us both. As we hoofed it toward home, Amy commented, "One thing I'm going to LOVE about heaven is finally having a glorified body! Honey, I'm going to be a perfect '10'!" She signed a curvy figure in the air in front of her with her hands.

I laughed and thought how wonderful it would be to never again have to face the dilemma of too-tight jeans or embarrassing party photos. Then a thought hit me. "Amy, we know we're going to have perfect bodies, but we don't even really know what a perfect body looks like. I mean, we have our own ideas of 'perfect,' but they're all distorted. What if....what if God thinks the perfect body for us is a fat body?" Okay, I admit it - my mind works in weird ways sometimes.

Amy stopped cold in her tracks. "Girl, I want to slap you. Don't you say things like that!" She glared at me, hands on her hips. Shaking her head, she exhaled a whispered "Damn!" and then took off down the road at double speed.

I jogged to catch up with Amy and we both laughed. "Okay, okay, we both get to be perfect '10-s'," I agreed, "but I'm just saying, '10' may not be what we're thinking. Still, whatever it is, it's going to be awesome!"

All this to say, this redeemed life isn't always what I'm thinking it should be. Anyone who has read Scripture knows God doesn't save us to a life of health, wealth, and prosperity. But I can't help thinking, couldn't there at least be a little less sore joints keeping me awake at night? Less too-many-bills, too-little-money? Less which-car-is-in-the-shop-this-week? A little less grief and drama and fear?

Then I consider guys like Jeremiah and Job and Joseph and Elijah, and I can't help thinking they'd answer me, "No, Camille. Not one iota less. Because all of this, every bit of it, is part of God's work of transforming you into something beautiful." Becoming a Perfect 10 is no easy thing. Thank God for the promise of Glory, where Amy and I will some day meet, clothed in new and perfect bodies, transformed into the likeness of our brother Christ and rejoicing at the amazing goodness of God.

The sweetness of the best created thing is a fading flower; if not before, yet certainly at death it must fade away. Job 4:21. "Does not their excellency, which is in them, go away?" Yes, yes, whether they are the natural excellencies of the body, acquired endowments of the mind, lovely features, graceful qualities, or anything else we find attractive; all these like pleasant flowers are withered, faded, and destroyed by death. "But Christ is still the same, yesterday, today, and forever," Heb. 13:8. - John Flavel

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


One of my favorite Christmas hymns - "Joy to the World! The Lord Is Come!" - was composed by Isaac Watts, known as the Father of English Hymnody. Watts wrote over 750 hymns in his lifetime, many of which are still sung in almost every Protestant denomination, in voices around the world. Here are the words to another of my favorite Isaac Watts hymns - rich fare for the holidays!

How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place

How sweet and awesome is the place with Christ within the doors,
while everlasting love displays the choicest of her stores.
While all our hearts and all our songs join to admire the feast,
each of us cries, with thankful tongue, "Lord, why was I a guest?
Why was I made to hear your voice, and enter while there's room,
when thousands make a wretched choice, and rather starve than come?"
'Twas the same love that spread the feast that sweetly drew us in;
else we had still refused to taste, and perished in our sin.
Pity the nations, O our God, constrain the earth to come;
send your victorious Word abroad, and bring the strangers home.
We long to see your churches full, that all the chosen race
may, with one voice and heart and soul, sing your redeeming grace.

Read more about Isaac Watts and his music here, in an article I wrote last January for the Union City Daily Messenger.

(For the depth and richness of the old hymns, but with a more contemporary sound, check out music by Indelible Grace here. "Our hope is to help the church recover the tradition of putting old hymns to new music for each generation, and to enrich our worship with a huge view of God and His indelible grace.")

Monday, December 13, 2010


The kids and I were in the car driving to I-can't-remember-where, and conversation turned to the topic of our little body of believers at Grace. A very diverse group. Beautiful people, beautiful because of the beauty of Christ. Yet maybe not exactly the kinds of people you might expect to hang out together, to genuinely enjoy fellowship with each other.....

Factory workers, college professors, businessmen, students. Smokers, rockers, and a dude with a ground-pounding Harley. Athletes and artists, beauties and wall-flowers, rednecks and philosophers. The kids and I were discussing in amazement the diversity of people who gather week after week, eager to study and pray and talk and laugh together.

I asked, "What about Ray? How do you think Ray would feel if he walked in the door at Grace one Sunday morning? Do you think he'd feel welcomed, or would he feel like folks at Grace were looking at him sideways?"

One of my older kids introduced me to Ray just over a year ago. Ray....he's a little different. Spiked hair, dyed an electric blue. Dress that is, well, let's just say not typical. If I'd first encountered Ray on my own, walking down a sidewalk in town, I'd have nervously quickened my pace and been careful to avoid eye contact. Thankfully, Ray and I had a mediator, someone to initiate contact between this frumpy, middle-aged homeschool mom and the bizarre-looking young man.

Thanks to this mediator, I can tell you a few other things about Ray besides his unusual appearance. He has a fantastic smile and dark eyes that sparkle beneath his blue mane. He also has a wicked sense of humor and a laugh like sunshine. And a brilliant mind. Ray is an amazing, fascinating person.

Still, how would the folks at Grace react to someone like Ray?

"Well, he'd probably get some funny looks," one of the kids responded. "And he might feel a little out-of-place, just because he's not quite like the people at Grace."

"Mrs. Kay wouldn't have any problem with Ray," Martha asserted confidently. "She'd walk right up to him and say 'Hi!'"

I laughed. Yes, indeed she would! High-heeled and dressed to the nines, salty, straight-shooting Mrs. Kay. I could just picture her walking up to Ray and shaking his hand enthusiastically. She'd no doubt say something like, "You're new here, aren't you? My, you sure are one weird-looking dude! We are so glad to have you here - come on in and have a cup of coffee. Let me introduce you to...." Martha was right. Mrs. Kay would be glad to see Ray, and she'd tell him so, too.

In our women's study last month, we looked at the group of women who traveled with Jesus during His earthly ministry. Who were these women who served Christ and his disciples as they went from village to village? In the words of Dr. Bryan Chapell, these sisters who walked closely with our Lord included the "troubled" and the "terrible."

Mary Magdalene - a woman long-possessed by demons. Immoral, deeply-troubled, an outcast among outcasts. As Dr. Chapell wrote, "Her past, her reputation, her social status, her spiritual record were all reasons for even these rejected women to reject her." But Jesus loved Mary and drew her into His inner circle...and others around Him did the same.

Then there was Joanna, the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod's household. Again, Dr. Chapell: "This was a household known for cruelty, immorality and the betrayal of the Jewish nation, and Jesus allowed the wife of the manager of that household to know His love." Jesus welcomed such a woman into fellowship? Yes, He did, and His disciples and the other women did, too.

And what about Susanna? Susanna was not troubled, like Mary Magdalene, or terrible, like Joanna. Susanna was....well, Susanna was just nobody. Kind of like me. And Jesus welcomed her into fellowship, too.

If you met Ray on the street today, you might think, "That is obviously one troubled young man." You might even assume he is terrible. If we could find our tongues, many of us would confront such a person: "Fellow, you are a mess! You need to straighten up your act, pull yourself together, grow up!"

Oh, that like Christ we could love the troubled and the terrible and the invisible, and instead say, "Welcome! I am so glad you're here!"

Friday, December 10, 2010


I am halfway through the third book of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings - I am going to hate for this story to end.

Last night, I read of the fall of Theoden on the fields of Pelennor and of the fall of Denethor in the tomb of his father. Could the deaths of two men be any different?

Against the evil forces of Mordor, each was faced with certain annihilation. As the day of battle dawned before the gates of Gondor, both Theoden and Denethor understood that they would not see another sunrise. But consider how each faced death....

Theoden, king of the Rohirrim, rode into battle - rising in his stirrups he cried in a loud voice, more clear than any there had ever heard a mortal man achieve before: "Arise, arise, Riders of Theoden! Fell deeds awake: fire and slaughter! spear shall be shaken, shield be splintered, a sword-day, a red day, ere the sun rises! Ride now, ride now! Ride to Gondor!"

Hours later, as Theoden lay dying on the gore-strewn field, his last words were: "My body is broken. I go to my fathers. And even in their mighty company I shall not now be ashamed....A grim morn, and a glad day, and a golden sunset!"

Eomer, to whom Theoden had given the charge to rule the Rohirrim, honored his fallen king thus: "Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing. To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking: Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!" Tolkien writes of Eomer, And then wonder took him, and a great joy; and he cast his sword up in the sunlight and sang as he caught it..." Having paused to consider his fallen king - his example in life and in death - Eomer passionately led yet another charge against the terrible army opposing them.

But consider Lord Denethor, Steward of Gondor. Faced with imminent death, Denethor despairs and sinks into madness. Fleeing the conflict, he takes his wounded son Faramir to the tomb of his fathers and there builds a pyre on which he plans to destroy both himself and his son. He has no hope for himself or his son or his country - if Sauron and evil are eventually going to triumph anyway, why not at least choose the time and mode of their own deaths? Racing to save Faramir, Gandalf confronts Denethor: "The houses of the dead are no places for the living..." But Denethor replies, "...soon all shall be burned. The West has failed. It shall all go up in a great fire,and all shall be ended. Ash! Ash and smoke blown away on the wind!" Although Gandalf is able to save the wounded Faramir, Denethor leaps to the top of the bier and lights the wood at his feet, thus destroying himself.

Theoden lives fully, right up to the moment of his death - and his last words to those around him are a reminder that this life is not all they have. This life is worth fighting for, and dying for, precisely because of the glorious life that comes after. He passes from pain and broken-ness, through a "glorious sunset," into the sunrise of life eternal with his fathers. The Rohirrim are not afraid to fight, to live gloriously, because they are not afraid to die.

Lord Denethor, on the other hand, had only Here and Now - this present life was all the glory to be had, and it had all come to ruin. He was terrified of death and shadow and of fading into nothingness. Unlike Theoden, Denethor saw no "glorious sunset" - he saw only ash and smoke, blown away on the wind. Denethor wanted desperately to live a glorious life...yet was impotent to do so because of his overwhelming fear of death.

Thankfully, life for most of us isn't as horrific at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. But still, in small struggles or great, I yearn to face this life's difficulties and trials with a heart like Theoden's. A heart riding hard to Glory.

...the battle-fury of his fathers ran like new fire in (Theoden's) veins, and he was borne up on Snowmane like a god of old, even as Orome the Great in the battle of the Valar when the world was young. His golden shield was uncovered, and lo! it shone like an image of the Sun, and the grass flamed into green about the feet of his steed. For morning came, morning and a wind from the sea; and darkness was removed, and the hosts of Mordor wailed, and terror took them, and they fled,and died, and the hoofs of wrath rode over them. And then all the host of Rohan burst into song, and they sang as they slew, for the joy of battle was on them, and the sound of their singing that was fair and terrible came even to the City. - J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Got the munchies? Here's another recipe for snack mix. This one comes from my sister-in-law, Robin. This tastes sort of like caramel corn - so delicious that it's amazingly easy to eat way too much of this stuff!

2 cups Corn Chex cereal
2 cups Rice Chex cereal
2 cups Wheat Chex cereal
6 cups popped popcorn (1 bag microwave corn, popped)
2 cups pretzel sticks
1 cup honey-roasted peanuts
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 butter (margarine works, but don't use tub spreads)
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix cereals, popcorn, pretzels, and peanuts in a large bowl. In a saucepan, heat together brown sugar, corn syrup, and butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Heat to boiling. Removed from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour over ceral mixture, stirring until evenly coated. Spread in large roasting pan. Bake 20 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes. Spread on wax-paper lined baking sheets to cool. When cooled, store in airtight container.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Monday, I wrote about the frustration that often accompanies trying to get a family out of the house and off to church on Sunday mornings. Even with large kids who can dress and feed themselves, and living only 10 minutes from the church, we still have difficulty some weeks making it to church on time. This is just a guess, but I suspect that when it's back down to just Steve and me...we may even still have Sunday mornings where we just can't seem to get out the front door!

On those crazy Sunday mornings when every circumstance conspires against us, is it really worth pressing ahead and making the effort to get to church anyway? Wouldn't it just be better to throw in the towel? Concede defeat, take the day off, and veg instead? Maybe. That may be just exactly the right thing to do - pause, breathe, regroup. But I think that in most cases, the better choice would be to lean hard into the yoke and defy the obstacles that erode our joy.

Brother Billy is winding down a series through the book of Exodus Sunday mornings. This week, we looked at the beginning of Chapter 36, where the children of Israel were bringing contributions for the construction of the tabernacle. An unusual thing happened. The people brought so much stuff that the workers and craftsmen told Moses, "The people bring much more than enough for doing the work that the Lord has commanded us to do" (v. 5). Moses actually had to tell the people to STOP bringing gifts for the tabernacle!

During the sermon, it occurred to me that this is exactly what Christ has done for me. He has supplied "sufficient stuff" - and all that is left for Moses/the Law to say to me, is "STOP!" The Sunday mornings that I find myself most stressed, I am usually aware that I'm simply trying to do too much. I am working too hard to do more, do better, do bigger. I am trying to be sufficient on my own. I have no joy because instead of resting in my Beloved, I am worrying about matching shoes and pork chops and dishes in the sink. Christ, however, has already satisfied all that is required for me to commune with and worship and enjoy God.

And that is why I think it is worth pushing through the craziness of Sunday morning to join the body of Christ for worship. In fact, I think it is especially on the crazy Sundays that we need to hear the Gospel again, to consider the greatness of God's love for us, to be reminded of the efficacy of Christ's atonement for His people. It's not unusual for me to arrive at church feeling frazzled and keyed up. But without fail, I leave just after noon with a soul that is calmer, a soul that has rested, a soul that has feasted on the goodness of God's covenant love.

Life is not easy. It is chaotic, messy, and frustrating. But it's worth the fight to spend an hour in the sanctuary, resting in the sufficiency of Christ.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Most of you have probably already finished your Christmas decorating. Me...I haven't even started. But, I have helped decorate the church. Do I get points for that?

Each year about this time, we take a Saturday afternoon and hike back on the farm in search of a Christmas tree - a fresh, soft, sweet-smelling cedar. Not too tall, not too big around. The boys cut it down and we hike back to the house with our prize.

Decorating can be a bit hard on the hands. The tree, though fresh and soft, still has scratchy needles. We discovered a couple of years ago that decorating is much more pleasant using this tip: Rub a generous amount of lotion on your hands; then, pull on a pair of snug-fitting rubber gloves (the cheapy kind you can get at Wal-Mart in the cleaning products aisle). The rubber gloves allow you to feel and manipulate small hanging hooks and to handle ornaments without dropping them. Using rubber gloves is especially beneficial when un-decorating, because by then the tree is really dry, stiff, and sticky. Ouch!

You use an artificial tree? I think rubber gloves would still be a great idea. We "fluffed" lots of artificial greenery when decorating the church last week. The work wasn't especially prickly, but my hands were gray with dirt/dust by the end of the evening. I'll remember to take some rubber gloves when it's time to put away the holiday decorations!

Monday, December 6, 2010


With six little children in tow, I usually arrived at Hickory Grove Presbyterian Church on Sunday mornings looking not so much like a saintly wife and mother as like a weary, frazzled, bear wrangler. If the kids were fed, decently dressed, and nobody had a dirty diaper, we were doing great. Me, I always looked frumpled and smelled of either spit up or diaper ointment. On good days, I concentrated on breathing and managed a dazed smile. On bad mornings, I herded kids irritably and tried not to growl.

One Sunday morning, having deposited all my charges in their appropriate classrooms, I stood in the "fellowship hall" (we met in a vacant restaurant) and watched in jealous amazement as Teresa breezed in with her three curly-haired cherubs. A pilot, Teresa's husband was frequently out of town, and it wasn't unusual for Teresa to have sole responsibility for getting her brood to church Sunday mornings. Teresa, hugely pregnant, swept in the door with a cloud of toddlers at her feet. Attractively dressed and wearing makeup, she smiled as she entered. "Good morning!" Her three beautiful children, bright-eyed and neatly attired, bounced off to their classes.

"How do you do it?" I asked. "Here you are - on time, calm, pretty, smiling. And you got here all by yourself. You are so together. How do you do it?!" Me, I was on the verge of tears, wishing I could sneak home alone for an hour and take a nap.

Teresa looked me straight in the eye and smiled. "It's a facade!"

Oh. So she felt no more "together" than I did. She was a frazzled bundle of nerves, too, under that beautiful veneer. We laughed as we headed for the coffee pot and some hot, black comfort.

Why...WHY is it SO HARD to get out of the house on Sunday morning?!!!

I thought this would get easier, less frustrating as my children got older. In some ways, it has. We don't often have frantic, last-minute searches for missing shoes (the shoes that were so carefully set out the night before). Nobody throws up on me just as I'm heading out the front door to church, or has a blow-out diaper in the car seat en route. Yes, in some ways, the Sunday morning process is much easier. But nowadays, it seems the problem is me - not messy babies or potty-training toddlers.

As I stepped into the entrance foyer at Grace yesterday, a group of smiling faces greeted me. "Good morning!"

My reply? "WHY IS IT SO HARD TO GET OUT OF THE HOUSE ON SUNDAY MORNING?!!" They responded in sympathetic laughter.

After an exhausting, late-night Saturday, I lingered in the bed 15 minutes past my absolute-latest-allowable getting up time. I was still so tired! Then, shower, dress, and rush to start the morning. Wash the dishes left from last night. (How is it that all the dishes can be clean when you go to bed, yet there are almost always dirty dishes waiting in the sink when you get up in the morning? Somebody explain that for me.) Get dinner started so that it would be ready when we returned home. Make pimiento cheese for sandwiches for the Sunday evening fellowship. Toast bagels for breakfast. Ten minutes for make-up. Take a few minutes to review the Sunday school lesson. Wash up any breakfast dishes. Make sure the oven is set to bake the pork chops. Coat, purse, Bible, and whoosh! out the door.

My neck felt like a bundle of steel cords and I was having to practice my Lamaze breathing as I walked up the steps to the church building.

I think Satan's minions work overtime Sunday mornings. And, in an odd way, that should be encouragement to persevere, to push through the stress and the chaos. What is he working so hard to keep us away from? Our adversary knows that something rich and good and precious awaits God's children when they limp to His house, week after week. Something worth the effort. But I'll save that for my next post!

Friday, December 3, 2010


It's ten o'clock in the morning and I really should be going over a math lesson with one of the teenagers. Instead, I'm taking a minute to doodle on the blog. Confound it, I'd rather be writing than schooling!

Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and several of the Riders of Rohan have just reached Isengard, where they are holding counsel with Fangorn, also known as Treebeard. The tension is building...what will be done with evil wizard-gone-bad, Saruman? Schooling, writing...nah, what I really want is to curl up in front of the fire and get lost for the day in The Lord of the Rings.

Or maybe I'd rather spend a couple of hours with Susan Hunt, reading and reviewing notes for tomorrow morning's study with the women of the church. I also need to take time to catch up on emails and make some overdue phone calls. I haven't walked out on the farm in two days, and could sure use the exercise and fresh air. It being Friday, I ought to clean the bathrooms and try to get the floors mopped. I definitely need to make a grocery run - because tomorrow, we'll be running from 7:30 in the morning until 9:30 at night. Women's brunch, piano recital, wedding, youth retreat, cooking for Sunday...I don't see any time for errands and household chores in Saturday's schedule!

You know what? I can't do it all. I just can't. What will get checked off? What will fall to the wayside? I'm not sure. At this point, I'm in Do-The-Next-Thing mode. Don't worry about the impossibly long list, the insanely hectic schedule...just do the next thing. And then the next. Experience tells me the sun will continue to rise and set - days will pass (maybe in a blur!), and then I'll suddenly find myself in a quieter, calmer stretch of the river.

Martha is back from working with Little John. Ben has finished building up the fire. Blog is posted. Time to go do math.

Gandalf, how about a date one night next week?

Thursday, December 2, 2010


When the weather turns cooler, we start craving snack mix at our house. Chex mix, trail mix, anything easy to snack on as we're coming in and out of the cold. This recipe comes from my friend Mary and is a favorite with my kids.

1 envelope microwave popcorn, popped
6 cups corn Chex cereal
3 cups miniature pretzels
16 ounces dry roasted peanuts
1 14-ounce package M&M's candies
1 cup raisins, optional
1 and 1/2 pound almond bark/white candy coating

Combine all your dry ingredients in a large bowl. Melt almond bark and pour over mix, stirring to coat evenly. Spread on wax paper-lined baking sheets and refrigerate about 15 minutes. When cooled/hardened, remove from trays and store in an airtight container.

(Note: I use bulk popcorn, popped on the stove. You'll need about 7 cups of popped corn for the above recipe. Also, I use the store brand instead of Chex cereal, if it's cheaper. We don't add raisins to this mix because we prefer it crunchy, without any chewy spots!)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


It was just after 1:00 in the afternoon on Thanksgiving Day. Outside, cold drizzle peppered the windows as a gusty wind whipped around the house. Inside, the island in Grammy's kitchen groaned under the weight of a Thanksgiving feast - turkey, ham, dressing, baked sweet potatoes, oven-roasted squash, cranberries, green beans, salad, hot rolls, and half-a-dozen desserts. Nearly 30 hungry, holiday-spirited people gathered in the warm kitchen, heads bowed as Granddaddy prayed. Then came the storm warning...

Before the first slice of turkey had been speared, the TV in the corner of the room announced the approach of a tornado. A spout had been identified only a few miles to the northwest. According to the flashing TV screen, the tornado would reach our location in just under 17 minutes. "Hang on a minute, everyone," Granddaddy instructed. "Grab your coats and shoes and get ready to go to the basement." Grammy spread a large tablecloth over the top of all the dishes of food, while my sister-in-law went to fetch her sleeping grandson from his crib in the front bedroom. A few of the guys rustled up flashlights. Several of the younger kids, giggling nervously, began the descent into the dank, dark, musty basement, while the adults watched the TV screen, glancing occasionally out the windows. Steve and I headed out back to the deck where we could watch the sky and the wind-whipped clouds.

We waited. And listened. And Thanksgiving dinner waited, too.

The tornado passed by high overhead and was gone before we realized it, with nothing more than a dark sky and lashing rain to signal its going. Relieved, we all gathered again in the kitchen. Granddad prayed a prayer of thanks that we had been spared from any worse weather. And then the feasting began!

I thought the different reactions to Thursday's storm were interesting. One group quickly and efficiently organized and headed straight to the basement. Another fixated on the TV, their eyes locked on the flashing sweep of the weather radar. And then Steve and me - we walked out into the storm.

I can't answer for Steve, but I know why I headed outside. It's the way I was raised.

When I was a little girl, my family lived in a hundred-year-old farmhouse with a deep front porch that ran the width of the house. On one end of the porch hung a lovely porch swing, a favorite place to loll on a summer afternoon with a good book or to enjoy a gentle spring rain while sipping a glass of sweet tea. That porch swing was also an awesome vantage point from which to enjoy the violent thunderstorms of early summer.

I can remember Mom heading out to sit in the swing when a blustery storm roared up. I'd join her, wrapped in a blanket to keep off the spitting rain. The lightening and thunder put on an incredible show while the wind whipped the wildly-dancing trees in our yard and the rain drummed on the roof overhead. I guess I learned at an early age to run out into the storm instead of running inside to get away from it!

Monday afternoon, I had a choice of taking my daily walk during a rain shower or skipping my walk altogether. I chose the rain. I discovered that rain on the pond sounds like sshhh, sshhh, but rain on the leaf-lined floor of the forest sounds like a million pop! pop!-s. Rain in the pasture sounds like a long, quiet sigh, but rain on the revived creek sounds like a gurgle of laughter. At one point, the weather kicked up considerably and I began to wonder if there was any danger of getting struck by lightning. Heavy drops hammered the tin roof of the hay barn as I passed by - I held out my hand and let the run-off pummel my upturned palm.

I was completely soaked through by the time I returned to the house, and a little bit cold. I wondered what it would be like to be a Scotsman out on a wild, stormy moor. I smiled as I shook off as much water as possible before heading inside. It felt wonderful to be alive.