Monday, October 31, 2011


When the Community Concert Association published the list of concerts for the 2011-2012 season, I was amazed to read that Chanticleer was one of the groups coming to Union City. I accidentally discovered this vocal group about 12 years ago, driving down Covington Pike one dark winter night. Actually pulled over and turned off the car's engine so that I could better hear every single note. The following day, I began a search for my first Chanticleer CD. I don't listen much to music, people - I am already auditorially overstimulated. And I never buy CD's. So let's just say, I really like this group.

Reading through the announcement in our local paper, I progressed emotionally from disbelief to excitement, to the pragmatic realization that - however awesome it was that Chanticleer would be singing in my nothing little corner of the world - well, there was no way we could afford the tickets anyway. Still, I saved the newspaper article, taped it to my kitchen cabinet, reluctant to quash the hope that maybe...

Seems we always have some kind of a fund-raiser going on in the break room at Wal-Mart. Spaghetti supper on Thursday - $3.00 a plate - all proceeds donated to Walk-of-Hope. That kind of thing. Last month (September), we had a silent auction. People donated everything from MP3 players to a collectible model of Sam Walton's pick-up truck to...What's this? Tickets? Tickets to....Chanticleer?!

I couldn't believe my eyes. And no one - NO ONE - was bidding on them. Obviously, folks around here don't know a good thing when they see it! Long story short, at the end of the week I laid one ten-dollar bill on Mrs. Paula's desk, and she handed me 6 tickets to Chanticleer and 6 tickets to hear the Carpe Diem string quartet. No, not the $60 a ticket you'd pay to hear these guys sing in New York. Six tickets plus six tickets: ten dollars. Do the math and you'll understand why I felt like God had just handed me a birthday present.

Now, if only I could be so blessed as to not be scheduled to work at Wal-Mart the evening of October 29th. Lord, do you think maybe....? Hope springs eternal in the human breast.

Fast forward a couple of weeks from the day I walked joyfully out of Wal-Mart with 12 tickets tucked miraculously in my purse. It was time to hammer out details for the annual Reformation Party hosted here at Kendallville. Usually, we have the party in lieu of Wednesday night service, last Wednesday of the month of October. This year, Saturday seemed like a better day - we could start earlier, which would allow us more daylight. More folks would probably feel free to come...wouldn't have to worry about leaving work early or about being out on a school night. Yep, Saturday definitely seemed like the better choice. But which Saturday?

Well, you guessed it. After multiple phone calls back and forth between the various parties involved in this shin-dig, the party was set for Saturday, October 29th. I spent the next week and a half doing mental gymnastics, trying to figure out how I could play hostess for a hundred people at my house AND go to the concert. Nope, didn't seem to be any way to make it work. Finally, counting down the last week to the party, I emailed a young friend who also knew and loved the music of Chanticleer. Would you guys be interested in some free tickets to Saturday's concert?

Thursday, I planned to do my grocery shopping after I got off work. Supplies for Saturday's party, for Sunday's fellowship dinner, for meals for the week ahead. Didn't happen. Friday, school and babysitting all day, work at Wal-Mart 'til 11:00, too tired to grocery shop. I got home to find all of my children still up - glad to see them, yes...but everyone was emotionally strung out, and one child in particular had some painful issues to deal with. One weepy child who needs to talk, one wild child ripping an electric guitar in the background, one child babbling pointlessly because her mouth is the only thing keeping her awake... Ever feel like you live in a zoo, Mom? It was almost 1:00 by the time I crashed into bed.

Saturday - THE Saturday - up early for a 9-hour shift at Wally World. Yes, God had allowed me to have part of the evening off - I'd be clocking out at 6:00!

If you've stuck with me this far, you probably realize that Saturday is going to be a disaster. But you'll have to read tomorrow's post if you want to know the rest of the story.

Friday, October 28, 2011


I've had over half-a-dozen people come up to me this past week and unexpectedly bless me.

Towards the end of a late-night shift at Wal-Mart, the young woman pulling her bags of groceries off the carousel to place them in her shopping cart: "I really like the way you bag the groceries. Thanks! I appreciate that." Here I stood, doing a nothing kind of job, wishing I could get off my feet and home to bed. Tired, but trying to live the truth that, yes, even bagging groceries can be done to honor God. The young woman's words were life and health, and because of them I felt a little less tired.

"There is a note for you in the CSM podium." My manager whisked past as I headed to the front of the store and another night on a register. Oh, no, I thought, what have I done wrong this time? My shoulders slumped. I shifted white plastic trays until I found the dreaded note. "Camille, thank you so much for ...." In spite of all the things I've done wrong at this job, someone had noticed something I'd done right...and then taken the time to tell me. That note is now in my box of precious things.

"Thanks for dinner, Mom. It was awesome!" I don't get to hear this much any more, since I'm not often home at dinner time. All the left-overs are put away and the dishes washed by the time I drag in at night, and folks have either moved on to other activities or are already in bed. Funny how, even after almost 30 years of cooking three meals a day for other people, these words just warm my heart. There must be a little bit of Grammy in me!

"Hi, Mr. H----! How are you today?" We are only casual acquaintances, and it had been months since we last spoke. "I am so glad I ran into you today," he replied. "I just want to tell you how much I appreciate the articles you wrote recently...just what I needed to hear." My writing - through this blog, or the articles for the Messenger - are basically just vomited into a great fathomless void. Does anybody read any of this stuff? If they are, am I giving them a blessing or a curse? I feel like ET, sending signals into the dark cosmos. But then, every once in a while, a signal comes back. These rare blips on the radar screen are so humbling and encouraging and edifying - this is a big world we live in, and I yet God allows even me, every once in a while, to connect in some small way with one of His children.

All this to say, I don't know if we can truly comprehend the impact of even the smallest word of encouragement. A tiny thing, with tremendous life-giving energy. And, spoken at just the right moment to that person who, unknown to us, is feeling weary or disheartened...a word of life and light and hope.

So I challenge you today - speak life to someone. The clerk at the gas station, the mom herding small children through the grocery store, the man you pass on your afternoon walk, your pastor's wife, the teenage girl who babysits your kids. Just find someone! Speak a good word, and you'll be sowing seeds of life.

Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good word maketh it glad. Proverbs 12:25

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. Proverbs 25:11

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


I walked back to the Three Sisters yesterday afternoon...such a beautiful day to be outside. Granddaddy Kendall was mowing one of the great sleeping hills, the bush-hog whop-whop-whopping through thigh-high weeds. He was mowing because the sky was blue and the air was bright, and because he simply loves driving the tractor...but I like to think he was mowing especially for me. So much easier to walk when I don't have to goose-step over tall brambles!

In the springtime, the air is softly sweet with honeysuckle and wild roses. In summer, the fresh-bread aroma of hay baking in the sun's oven. But in fall, the scents are spicy, acidic, earthy, intense...delicious. Ripe leaf tannin, cured nettle, dried aster. And the colors? Nature is dressed for a revel!

There is an ironwood tree along the trail, back beyond the old green barn. Thomas told me about it a couple of years ago. "Ironwood? Which tree is an ironwood tree?" I asked.

Thomas explained, "Just past the gap behind the old barn, look to your left. It's on the edge of the tree line. You can't miss it - if it were an Ent, he would be totally ripped." He was right. I couldn't miss it. There stood a young Arnold Schwarzenegger, in tree form.

I haven't seen Ripped Ent all summer. He's been modestly cloaked in green draperies. But today, with all the trees riotously throwing their festival clothes off, there he stood like some buff body builder ready for a day at the snow beach. We throw off our clothes in summer heat, to better feel the slightest breeze: nature sheds her clothes in autumn, anticipating the icy winds of winter.

Acorns, acorns everywhere...the deer fatten. And the raccoons, Persimmon drunk.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Normally when I look out my kitchen window in the morning, I see rolling green hills, white fence posts standing sentinel on the far edge of our property, cars passing on the highway beyond. I see all the way to the distant tree line on Mrs. Mabel's farm across the road. Sometimes I see deer, in our field or in Mrs. Mabel's. Or cows next door at Mrs. Jean's farm, black dots on the grassy pasture lining the highway just east of us. I see Jackie's roosters strutting about her yard, way up at the end of our long driveway. I see Grammy and Granddad's house, next door, and check their driveway to see if Granddad has left yet to go have morning coffee with the old men at Autry's.

Today, on this particular morning, a thick white fog pushed right up to the house, obscuring everything but the front porch and the scrawny maple sapling just outside my kitchen window. No fields. No fence. No highway. No cows or deer or roosters. No next door neighbors. Nothing but shifting, misty white.

Of course, all the big wide world was still out there. The high blue sky. The far green fields. The distant trees, painted orange and brown and yellow. The cows and the traffic and the million lives that stretch from here to the other side of the globe. It was all still out there, but I just couldn't see it. I knew the world was out there, waiting, and I knew that as the sun crept higher in the sky, minute by minute, it would slowly burn off the fog and open once again a view that stretched to the horizon.

Something about the fog makes you look. Makes you strain your eyes to see further, to see more, to bring the vague shadows lurking in the mist into sharper focus. It's like waking up with brand new eyes. Like seeing for the first time things that just yesterday had been old and familiar, and thus overlooked or taken for granted.

I can't help but think this is something like the faith journey we are on. Today, I discover anew an implication of God's grace, an aspect of His holiness, the surety of His faithfulness...something I saw so clearly just yesterday or last week or last month, but then forgot about or overlooked because it seemed so close and so familiar. Like waking from a misty haze, my heart eyes are straining to see better, to see more clearly, to see further.

And as this spiritual haze lifts, burned away by the brilliance of the the Son Himself, I realize that there are far horizons that I have yet to discover. Beyond my green pasture, another farm, another family. Beyond that, a continent of souls. Beyond that, faces and languages and customs that I can't even imagine. There is so much more to discover about God's holiness, about the gospel of Christ, about the power and influence of the Holy Spirit. And over all of that vast expanse, near and far, the Spirit of God, moving and working and dispelling the fog.

Thank you, Father, for the fog, and the rising sun, and the dissipating mist. Thank you for clouding my vision so that I can learn to see with new eyes. Thank you, Father, for the hope and the assurance that one day, these eyes will see all the way to Glory.

Monday, October 24, 2011


Underlying the monumental endeavor of rearing and schooling a house full of kids, there exists a constant tension. As a mom, I want to push my children to do their best, but I don't want to be overbearing. I want them to strive for excellence...but don't want them to be enslaved by perfectionism. Structure to our day and to our activities is essential...but I must not be obsessively bound to a calendar or a clock. I want to respect their personalities...but I don't want to cater to their personal sins. Add to all of this the struggles I have with my own sinfulness, my own wrong attitudes and motives.

Always, in the back of my mind, there is the question, "Am I doing what's best? Am I asking too little of my children, or am I asking too much?" This question is a thin blanket over the fear that all my prayers and good intentions and hard choices and personal sacrifices and lifelong labor are working not to build up my children and encourage them on the path to godly adulthood, but rather are warping and twisting them into self-absorbed, perverse, angry malcontents who know nothing of the holiness, grace, and mercy of God.

There are good days and bad days in this mothering journey.

What makes a particular day "good" or "bad"? Maybe it's just that today is gray and cold, whereas yesterday was warm and sunny. Maybe it's the anticipation of a fun weekend ahead, or the emotional come-down after a holiday. Maybe it's a particular day in my monthly cycle. Maybe it's that we all are well-rested and well-fed...or exhausted and due for some comfort food. Maybe it's unresolved issues with my husband, or undesirable influences of my neighbor.

So today is a bad day. Oh, we got all our schoolwork done. The laundry is caught up. Dinner is in the oven. I even got to go for a walk back on the farm - but I spent most of it crying, wondering what on earth I'm doing, and why am I doing this, and did I just totally misunderstand what I thought was God's direction in my life so many years back, and am I just screwing up all the people I love most? Praying, God help me! Make something clear! Show me what You want, and help me to obey!

What's to be done with the bad days? With the heavy emotions?

Before starting supper, I checked Facebook. A dear sister had posted this quote from Lydia Brownback as her status: "Real prayer includes letting go of your insistence on a particular answer or timing. If you have really prayed, you can simply rest and wait for God. Trust Him with your concern, and your anxiety will clear away."

Rest. Wait. Trust.

So it comes back to that again, to the Gospel. Where I have erred, Christ must redeem, in His own way and in His own timing. He died to cover my wife-ing, my mothering, my home-schooling...because I just keep smearing those precious things with sin. But, yes, I am confident that His grace is sufficient to redeem all of this.

And I must trust that His grace is sufficient to redeem the children that, as a sinful and twisted woman, I am mothering with a fallen, broken heart.

Trust. Wait. Rest.

Friday, October 21, 2011


A weekly newspaper column that I help edit is beginning a new series based on the Heidelberg Catechism. I was formatting one of the early articles, written by J.K. Jones, and was blessed to read and consider again:

Question 1: What is your only comfort in life and in death?

Answer: That I am not my own, but belong - body and soul, in life and in death - to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven: in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to Him, Christ, by His Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for Him.

I am free from the bondage of Self. I am not my own. Not now, not tomorrow, not in eternity. I belong to Jesus. That means I am free to release the death grip I've had on my own plans, my own goals, my own personal to rest instead in the confidence that Jesus, my faithful Savior, has plans and purposes for me that are greater than I can imagine, plans that He will indeed accomplish. Free from the bondage of having to promote and protect instead to honor and glorify my King.

I am free from the tyranny of the devil. I have been bought by Jesus. Paid in full. The transaction is a done deal. Although the voice of my old master is too familiar in my head, I do not have to listen to him or obey him. Satan and sin are not my master. As I endeavor to leave sinful patterns behind and to walk in the holiness which honors my Master, I am learning to recognize and respond to the lovely voice of One who loves me so much that He bought me at the cost of His own life.

I am free from the fear lurking like a dark shadow around today's struggles and the uncertainties of tomorrow. God - the Sovereign creator and sustainer of the universe - knows my needs and meets them perfectly. If He brings me plenty or want, if He brings me health or pain...whatever He brings, I can rest in the confidence that He applies every single circumstance of my life, lovingly and precisely, for my good and His glory.

I am free from the struggle to maintain and live this faith on my own. Free from my own doubts and insecurities, from the frailty of my weak faith. Christ Himself kneads into me faith, and works out in me faithfulness, through His Holy Spirit. "A cord of three strands is not easily broken." Oh, the incomprehensible strength of the three strands woven together around me to secure my salvation - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit!

Set free, like one released from the darkness and stench and terror of a slave galley. Set free, like one who feels the weight of heavy chains dropping away, clanking to the ground. Set free, to walk in the life and light and love and hope of knowing and serving my great Savior.

Set free.

I am not my own - hallelujah! - I belong to Christ!

That is comfort enough for this life, for death, and for the ages to come!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


I don't always have a positive attitude about my work at Wal-Mart. Out late, getting to bed at midnight or later, then up before dawn...that's hard on someone who is so very sleep dependent. School and babysitting during the day, rush to get dinner started late in the afternoon, assign evening chores, fill up my water bottle and hit the road. I hatehatehate leaving home and my family in the evening...feels like I'm always leaving.

But, this job definitely has an up side. There's the pay - not huge, but I'm grateful for it. There's the employee discount - woohoo! There's the delight of getting to know new people - my co-workers, supervisors, and even the customers who make a point of coming routinely through my line.

One aspect of my job for which I am particularly grateful is that it has made me comfortable with talking to absolute strangers. For someone who once suffered from crippling shyness, that's a really big deal! Yes, I can talk to just about anyone now.

"Hello, how are you today?" Eye contact, a smile. People are so hungry for someone to talk to. The lonely widower, the woman exhausted from caring for her invalid mother, the young dad out with the twins so his wife can have a few hours at home alone. The homesick truck driver, the chatty preschooler, the 8-year-old explaining the manufacturing defects in a rubber whale that should have baleen instead of teeth.

I can't really enter into their lives in any significant way, but for a few minutes I can listen. The ability to say "hello" and then to engage and listen, even if only for a short while, is such a gift...a sweet blessing during a long shift at the register.

"Hello." A gift for which I'm grateful. A gift that I pray I steward well.

Friday, October 14, 2011


The 30-something man in the gray business suit had been standing at the end of my register for 15 minutes, talking earnestly on his cell phone. I assumed he was taking care of a bit of work-related business while his wife shopped elsewhere in the store. Suddenly, he snapped his phone shut, grabbed a CD case from the display behind him, and bolted up to my register.

Breathless, he held out a new video game, grasped firmly between his two hands. Gears of War, on sale for the great value of only $58.96. "You have no idea how badly I need this game!"

Me, the cashier, I'm a near-50-year-old mother of seven. I just don't have the mental largesse for such nonsense. I looked the young man straight in the eye: "Sir, you do NOT need this video game." (I'm also a little testy late at night after a long day of school, babysitting, and cashiering.) The fellow straightened, his eyes wide with disbelief. I continued, "You do not need this game - you want this game. And if you want it really, really badly, and if you have the money to pay for it, I will sell it to you. But let's be honest here, okay?"

He stood with his mouth open, gulping air like a grounded fish. Finally, he croaked, "That's exactly what my wife was just telling me on the phone!"

Then there was the young mother, winding up a shopping trip for her two-year-old's upcoming birthday party. Two shopping carts, full. Piled up. Grandmom pushed one buggy while Mom wrangled the other. Grandmom made some quiet protest about didn't it seem excessive, getting all this stuff for a birthday party? "You're only 2 once!" enthused Mom, unloading her cart onto the conveyor belt. Streamers, balloons, party favors, games, paper plates and napkins, snacks, presents. Her total bill? $500.03. "Yes, sir! I even nailed my budget!" Mom counted out 5 crisp one-hundred dollar bills, then dug in her purse for the remaining 3 cents, elated at her careful shopping.

I struggled against the urge to shout, "Lady, are you crazy?! $500 on a boatload of crap, for a birthday party for a 2-year old? You've got to be kidding! You think he's really going to appreciate all this?" No, that wouldn't do at all. Swallow hard, cough, "Have a great afternoon!" There, my CSM would be proud of me.

All this to say - Folks, it's only 71 days until Christmas. (In the retail world, Christmas is the axis on which everything turns.) Have you started your holiday shopping yet? No? Me neither. Let me exhort you, as Christmas draws nearer, to exercise some restraint, to infuse a little sanity into your shopping.

After working 8 months in retail, I've learned that many Americans are living a life of non-stop stuff orgy. We think we have to have, and we think more is better. And we are so very blind and deceived, missing entirely the things of eternal value in our obsession with the junk lining the shelves of our local discount store -and, like the Mom above, we're even passing our addictions on to our children.

People, step away from the giant Kiddie Combo pack of blechy candy. Step away from the gadgets and games and beeping lights. Resist the mind-numbing siren song of the marketeers.

Keep it simple. Keep it sane.

I challenge you to step back and take a deep breath...

Breathe the free air.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


My local church gifted me recently with a weekend in Atlanta, where I was blessed to attend the Amazing Grace 360 women's conference. Grace Pres. covered my conference fees and lodging - a HUGE gift.

But there was this little problem of how to pay for meals. For someone trying to live on a dental-floss budget, even the dollar menu at McDonald's is depressing. I was going to need enough money to cover six meals, but after paying the last of Tom's fees at university, my checking account held only $12. Strangely, I wasn't too stressed, praying just a week before we hit the road, "Jesus, I need some cash for this trip. Where will it come from?"

Less than a week before the conference, I received in the mail a check from my kids' dentist's office. "Refund for overpayment." Now, I don't pay anything for my kids' dental care except a modest co-payment. Someone had obviously made an error. I called the dentist's office and explained the situation. "I have this check, but there's been a mistake...I think this refund needs to go to the insurance company."

The receptionist on the other end of the line answered, "No, no mistake. We were reconciling our books and discovered that you overpaid on your co-payments way back in January. We're sorry we didn't catch the error earlier. The money is yours."

My throat tightened. Thank you, Jesus! I thought I was going to cry. "Wow. I can't tell you how timely this is," I explained to the receptionist.

"Well, we were excited to be able to mail you the check...we kind of felt on this end, for some weird reason, that it was something you might need just now."

Then, there was the sweet fellowship with my Grace sisters on the trip, and a reunion with one sister who moved recently from Tennessee to Georgia. Trading "How we met" and childbirth stories, sharing current struggles, laughing and joking in the car on the long ride to and from. It was like stepping from the weight and weariness of daily labor into a small patch of sunshine, a pocket of heaven.

And then there was the conference itself. Ever feel like God organized a denominational conference and assembled 2000 women especially so that He could set the stage for a personal conversation with you? I've been working through some particular things mentally of late - last weekend, it seemed that every testimony, every speaker was speaking with laser-point accuracy to the questions of my heart.

And the music? Well, with 2000 women praising God together, it seemed we stood on the very threshold of Glory.

During a break before the Indelible Grace concert Saturday evening, I received a text from my son. "Mom, Mrs. Shannon is there in Atlanta where you are." My heart did a somersault. My sister was right here in the room with me! I began walking up and down the aisles. "Hi, where are ya'll from?" How on earth could I find one woman out of 2000? Impossible. But God led me right to her! Shannon and I opted to skip the concert, heading off instead to a quiet table where we could talk. A three hour friend feast!

At midnight, when my young friend Jessica and I finally headed up to our room on the seventh floor (Jessica had joined Shannon and me after the concert), I sighed, "I am SO FULL."

"Why, what have you eaten?"

"My soul is full. My soul has feasted, and my heart is full to overflowing."

God's love toward me is not indulgent. He disciplines and refines me, and sometimes, the circumstances and trials He sends feel as though they will truly destroy me. Lord, I am undone! I cannot endure! While I honestly do not always delight in the Lord's discipline, I am grateful that He loves me enough to give me the hard stuff, to burn away the dross, to refine me.

No, God's love is not indulgent, but it is extravagant. Extravagantly displayed in the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. Extravagantly poured out in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. And extravagantly lavished in those sweet moments, like this weekend, when He seems to draw me all the way into the Sanctuary, where He binds my bruises, then lavishes gift upon gift, pouring sweetness and affection all over me. It's as if He says, "Put down your toiling for a while. Let us rest. Come and celebrate with me!"

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


A friend asked me recently to complete a personal assessment on her. On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being you are doing very well in that area), how would I rate my friend on personal growth? on her faith? her marriage? How would I rate my friend's parenting? her friendships? how she handles her finances? How does my friend rate when it comes to impacting her community, and the world?

One difficulty I encountered in completing this assessment lay in the fact that this friend is such an extraordinary woman, a woman who has so greatly impacted my own life and faith, that I simply wanted to write, "10! 10! 10! ....." Of course, that probably wouldn't have been very helpful, and it wouldn't have given my friend anything to work with. It would have been like saying, "My friend is perfect! She's just exactly like Jesus!" (In which case, my friend would already be riding the Glory-vator to Heaven, instead of mucking about with folks like me, right?)

No, my friend is not perfect. I know that. But she is very much like Jesus. So much so, in fact, that there have been times - my kids can testify to this - times when I've stopped and asked myself, sometimes even out loud, "What would B--- do in this situation?" Sort of like the WWJD phenomenon, only more colloquial, more concrete to this feeble-sighted sister. I'm not really sure what Jesus would do in this situation, but I have a pretty good idea what B--- would do, and I know that she knows and loves Jesus.

Another difficulty I encountered was the distress I felt when I paused to think, "What if someone were asked to complete this assessment on me?" What if someone who knew me intimately sat down and truthfully rated me on my personal growth, my faith, my marriage, my parenting, my friendships, my impact on my community? I have children raised under my mothering who are struggling to live sane lives, and a marriage that is held together only by the grace of God. Yes, I feel like I am growing personally and in my faith...but through much, much brokenness. My "career"? I stand looking blankly at the road ahead of me with only questions: where does God want me to be? I'm grasping blindly for answers. My impact on my community, on the world? Maybe the equivalent of a grain of sand on a beach.

If someone assessed my life, I wouldn't be scoring any 10's, no 9's....nope, I'd be lucky to pull 3's and 4's. Just thinking about it makes me nauseated. I feel like I'm going to throw up. Now.

Ever feel totally naked, exposed, ashamed? Maybe nobody knows your personal weakness, the frailty of your faith, the selfishness of your heart, the narrowness of your vision or ministry, your absolute inadequacy to walk the path to which you've been called. Maybe nobody will ever be asked to do an assessment of you, praise God....but you know the truth. And sometimes, when you sit down and really think about it, it weighs you with such shame and guilt that you just want to puke.

I was blessed last weekend to attend a women's conference where Nancy Guthrie spoke to us from the book of Hosea. Nancy gently - but painfully - exposed the truth: I am Gomer. Sinful, willful, shameful, belligerent, insisting on believing the lies I tell myself. Maybe you don't see it, perched on the edge of my life, but I see it. I know my heart. Blech.

Thankfully - hallelujah! - Nancy also spoke to us of the God who loves just such women as Gomer. The God who pursues the Gomers of this world, woos them, even goes to market to purchase them back from slavery.

I love this encouragement from Hosea: Therefore, behold, I (God) will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her...And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me 'My Husband'... I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord. (Hosea 2:14, 16, 19-20)

When my heart is weighed down with shame, with guilt, with frustration at my inclination to compromise, with an overwhelming sense of my own inadequacy, I have found one solace that unfailingly dispels the weight and gloom - meditating on the loveliness of my Betrothed. He loves me, and He is making all things new - my heart, my faith, my life, my relationships. Yes, I'm a mess, and there seems to be so much work yet to be done...but He has promised to faithfully complete every bit of it. He loves me.

He loves me.

And under the gaze of such wondrous love, there is no longer room for shame. There is only room for praise.

What wondrous love is this, O my soul! What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss to bear the dreadful curse for my soul!

Monday, October 3, 2011


Martha sat down at the piano yesterday afternoon and played.

Not the Praeludium, or the Pathetique, or any of the myriad other songs she has memorized.

Not one of the songs she is currently working to master. No, no piano book on the music stand at all.

She sat down, placed her hands on the keys, stared quietly ahead for a moment, and then began playing. She felt her way up and down the keyboard, through broken chord progressions, weaving her way into and out of new melodies. No thought of where to begin, or really of where she was going. Just Martha and the piano in a beautiful, easy, elegant dialogue.

Yesterday, Martha crossed some invisible line from playing the piano, playing what was simply playing. And it took my breath away. I stood in the kitchen, transfixed, straining to hear every note. My chest tightened with the weight of some inexplicable joy. My heart felt like it was dancing.

Later, yesterday evening, the writing group at Grace met in the parlor behind the sanctuary to map out our next series of articles. Martha had ridden in early with me so she could practice the hymns for the evening service - she loves every opportunity to play on the beautiful piano at the church! Tunes of familiar hymns crept softly under the door, providing lovely background music as we batted around ideas and planned and perused calendars.

As the discussion was winding down, one of our writers sat forward in his chair, tilted his head to one side, and froze mid-sentence. A pause. Then a whisper, "That is so beautiful...I love that..."

Martha was no longer playing the piano...she was playing again. Some magical synapse between her heart and her fingers and the keys and the strings.

I wonder if there is a similar synapse in this life of faith. Some leap from studying and practicing, knowing the composer, learning the "notes" and memorizing the simply playing.

Playing, playing like children.

Playing like children of God.

I can't help but think that when we cross that line, our Father's heart dances.