Monday, December 17, 2012


Way back in the dark ages, before the invasion, I surveyed several moms whose kids had gaming systems.  I simply asked:  Did they (the moms) feel like getting the systems was a positive thing, and what impact had gaming made on their kids and their family life?

Without exception - without exception - every single mom I talked to responded negatively.  "I wish we had never brought these games into our house."  "This has been the worst parenting decision we've made so far."  "I absolutely hate these games.  They have introduced so much strife and contention into our family..."

Now, I know I tend to be a bit hostile toward technology.  I really was trying to be open-minded, to give the gaming idea a fair chance.  It struck me odd, therefore, that not a single mom that I asked had anything positive to say about video games.

I acknowledge that I did not survey any dads.  I am not a dad.  I really wanted to know what to expect, as a mom, if we decided to take the plunge into gaming.  After talking with several moms, I was inclined to think that my initial prejudice against the idea had been right.

But we jumped in anyway.

So now, several years later, what are my thoughts as a mom who has lived with the decision to make gaming a part of our lives?

I. Hate. Gaming.

In the spirit of so many popular games, I am now going to throw up all over this blog post, splatter it with copious amounts of intestinal gore.  Here goes:

Things I Hate About Gaming:

1. I hate the violence.  I hate that violence is used as a form of entertainment.  Sure, you can be the "good guy" - all the while vicariously indulging an appetite for carnage and outright evil, and justifying your appetite for violence with "well, those are the bad guys...what do you expect?"

2.  I hate the profanity.  Wait a minute...I don't think I communicated that clearly enough:  I HATE THE PROFANITY.

3.  I hate the way women are portrayed.  I hate the way the women are used.

4.  I hate the way that gaming produces sullenness and boredom.  I'm not sure how or why this happens, but I know that it does:  The more time my kids spend gaming, the more likely they are to be moody or to complain of boredom when they are not gaming.

5.  I hate the contention that gaming has introduced into my house.  My request for someone to take out the trash is suddenly unreasonable because it interrupts a monumental mission that can't possibly be least not without some friction and tense dialogue.

6.  I hate that gaming steals so much time.  At first, we had fairly strict limits:  no gaming except Friday afternoon and Saturday, after school and chores were done.  Now, it's almost every day.  And thirty minutes turns into two hours, which melts into three.  Caught up in a game, my kids have absolutely no sense of time.  Just as an experiment, I once told one of the kids, "I need you to help me with -----.  You've got 20 minutes to wind down this game and turn the TV off."  "Sure thing," the kid replied.  Then, I simply waited to see exactly how long they thought "20 minutes" were.  When this kid finally got off the game and came to help me, I asked, "Do you know how long it has been since I told you that I needed you to turn off the game in 20 minutes?"  "Uh, no.  Did I go over 20 minutes?"   "It's been over an hour and a half."  "Oh.  Wow.  I had no idea."  No, I didn't think so.

7.  I hate that while I was never in favor of bringing games into the house, the majority of the responsibility for policing the gaming falls to me.  I hate that I have to take the flak for terminating a game.  That I have to deal with the bad attitudes and sullenness.  I hate the helpless feeling that, as much as I dislike these games, there's no going back.  They seem to be here to stay.

8.  I hate feeling like I'm being held hostage in my own house.  We have a very open floor plan.  If someone is on a game, the only way to avoid the profanity and violent imagery is to go upstairs or outside.  The space I use - the kitchen, the living area, the laundry room, my bedroom - all these are part of or open into the area where the TV is located, so there is no escaping the screen or the volume.

In spite of all this ranting, I have to admit that there are one or two games in our collection that are not offensive.  One is actually clever and witty.  Still, they are time thieves, and poor substitutes for really living.

Yep, those moms I polled way back in the day were on to something.  Me, I'm older now, and wiser, and so sorry we ever opened the door.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


"I don't have time to do everything I'm supposed to do."

Nancy Leigh DeMoss writes in her book, Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, that this was the number one lie the women she surveyed identified with.

Can you relate?  Boy, I sure can!  When I take a minute to look at my calendar for today, for this coming weekend, for next week, for next month, my chest tightens and my heart rate accelerates.  Gotta do a little Lamaze breathing to just prevent a panic attack.  How am I ever going to get everything on my list done?  And I live a relatively simple, small-town life!

Nancy writes:  "There is virtually never time in a twenty-four-hour day for me to do everything that is on everyone else's 'to do' list for me.  There is seldom time to do everything that is on my own 'to do' list....What a relief to realize I don't have to do all those things!  The Truth is that all I have to do is the work God assigns to me.  What a freedom it has been for me to accept that there is time for me to do everything that is on God's 'to do' list for my day, for my week, and for my life!"

The problem I struggle with is figuring out just what is God's "to do" list for me for today.  I have personal desires on my list:  teach; swim; write; read this book; finish the laundry.  Others also have things to add to my list:  pick up shampoo for the upstairs bathroom; review this essay; fix dinner; drop these DVDs off at the movie store; check on Mrs. So-n-so.  None of these are bad things, but how many of them truly are on God's list, not just mine?

There is also the challenge of, um, let's call it fluidity.  Life is a fluid, like water in a river - moving, ever changing.  What may not be God's will for me today, in this season of life, may very well be exactly what He wants me to invest my time in at a different season.  I can't just check something off my list today - Nope, not called to do that! Mark it off the list! - and be done with it forever.  It may pop up again later, at a time when I need to add that particular commitment or activity to my list.  There is this on-going consideration and analysis of "what's on the list today."

Then, there is the challenge of receiving and processing input from others, particularly others whose godly wisdom and insight I respect and value.  Maybe they see something that should be on my "to do" list that I've overlooked or neglected.  Maybe, because of their own personal desires, they are counseling me to add something to the list that God has not assigned to me, at least not yet.

Just figuring out the "to do" list can be a gnarly puzzle, in and of itself - never mind actually getting to the business of checking things off!

So what is my strategy so far in this struggle to redeem the time given me, hopefully in the way God wants?  First, I say "no" a lot - I figure that will keep me from unwittingly taking on assignments I was never supposed to tackle.  Plus, it's easier to come back later and say "Yes" - easier than undoing a rash commitment.  Still, I don't say "no" enough.  And, yes, I sometimes wrestle with guilt when I say "no" - feeling bad for disappointing someone else's expectations, or for not meeting a need that I could meet if I were dedicated to doing so.  I know much of that is false guilt, but it's still not always easy to shrug off.

I try to pray about my day before I get out of bed, before the "to do" list pushes in like a barking Drill Instructor.  And I try to take some time during the day to be mentally quiet, to try to silence the engines in my head - not time to review the "to do" list or reorganize my priorities, but to just still my thoughts.

I mess up a lot.  Over-commit, to myself and/or others.  Thoughtlessly add something to the list without pausing to ask, "Lord, is this something you want me to do today?"  Run too hard, too fast, and end up crashing.

One of the great beauties to me of Glory is that we will finally be free of the pressure of time.  We will have all the time we need, to do all the things God has planned for us.  But I guess that's what Nancy DeMoss is saying - we already have all the time we need to do all the things God has planned for us.  Again, I am struck by the truth that the Kingdom IS, and the Kingdom IS TO COME.  And, as I consider the tasks facing me today, I pray that more and more I will live in light of the reality that Christ IS King - today, tomorrow, and forever - King of me, of my "to do" list, and of my time.

I have glorified thee on the earth:  I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." - John 17:4

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


I've been reading in the book of John the past couple of weeks.  Somehow, it's like I'm seeing these words for the first time.  The words are familiar - this is not the first time I've read them - but this latest read through, it's like they are moving quickly past my brain and heading right for my heart.  They seem so...weighty.

A few thoughts from John 15.  This chapter begins with the familiar passage where Jesus tells His disciples, "I am the vine; you are the branches."  You know what sort of slapped me when I read these verses yesterday?  Everybody gets cut.  If you are not in Christ, not bearing fruit, you get cut - cut off and thrown into the burn pile.  If you are in Christ and are bearing fruit, you get cut - cut, shaped, pruned so that you bear more fruit.

Cutting - a vine, a branch, an appendage - has connotations of ouch! to it for me.  Cutting doesn't sound like something comfortable or desirable.  But Jesus is saying here that if we are in Him, and if we are bearing fruit, we are going to feel the slice of the pruning hook.

It might be tempting to think, "Well, if I get 'cut' either way - either in Christ or out - what difference does it make?"  At the moment the blade bites us, it might not seem to make any difference at all, but what happens afterward makes a world of difference.

I am going to be 'cut' in this life, and that probably isn't going to be a very pleasant experience.  The question before me, then, is:  Do I want that cutting, that pruning to end in my utter destruction, or in new life and vigorous growth?  Do I look at painful circumstances as the work of God lovingly shaping me into Christ-likeness?  Even in the midst of tears, do I joyfully consider that God is preparing me to bear more fruit - eternal, glorious fruit? 

Sunday morning, Brother Billy preached on Luke 21:25-36.  We began by looking at the tumult, fear, and distress that would accompany the coming of the Son of Man.  Tumult?  Fear?  Distress?  I don't know about you, but I sometimes feel like I'm way too familiar with things like tumult, fear, and distress.

So what should be my response to the bite of the pruning hook?   What should be my response to tumult or distress, without or within?

Steve read from Tabletalk this morning:  "Until Christ returns, His kingdom is advancing, and the Enemy is responding in fear.  In some places, that means that he flees and large numbers of people are converted.  In other places, the fearful response of the Enemy shows itself when governments suppress and persecute believers.  Either way, the kingdom is on the move..."

The reality is - in pleasant circumstances or painful - Christ is King.  He is ever advancing His rule and reign, both in my heart and in the world around me.  How am I exhorted to respond to His coming, regardless of whether it brings delightful or distressing circumstances?  "When these things begin to take place,...straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption (Jesus!) is drawing near." (Luke 21:28)

Are you feeling the bite of the pruning blade?  Are you surrounded by fear, tumult, distress?  Straighten up!  Raise your head!  Look right here - Jesus!!!

Monday, December 10, 2012


"Mrs. Lisa pulled a big Jesus on you."  This was my son's response when I described my first meeting Lisa Smartt, live and in person.

I first became acquainted with Lisa through her weekly newspaper column, "The Smartt View."  Every Wednesday evening after church, I'd come home, flip open the paper, and read her column out loud to Steve and the kids.  We'd laugh.  We'd wince.  We'd sigh in sympathy.  But mostly, we laughed.

After a couple years of following Lisa in The Messenger, I found her on-line.  Would she accept a friend request from a nobody like me?  Yes!!!  Our "relationship" had moved to a new level.

Then, finally, I had an opportunity to meet Lisa Smartt face-to-face, to see and hear and talk to her in person.  She was speaking at a Faculty Women's Club luncheon at the University of Tennessee at Martin, and the event was open to the public.  I arrived forty minutes early.  They hadn't even set up the registration table yet.  As the room filled with women professors and professionals, I began to feel very small.

"What do you teach here at the University?"

"Um, I'm a mom."

No matter if I was nobody.  Even if I was only a dandelion among a bouquet of hot-house flowers, I'd paid for my ticket and I had a seat and, by golly, I was going to hear Lisa Smartt.

Lisa describes herself as a "big woman."  Yes, she's very tall.  And, yes, she covers the ground she stands on.  But she's not just "big" in stature.  Lisa is big in joy, big in energy, big in Life.  When she walked into the room that day, it was like a joyful, sunshiny, life-giving force burst through the door.  And when she saw this insecure mom standing among a roomful of well-dressed, highly-educated, successful businesswomen, Lisa strode over and swallowed me up in a huge hug.  "Camille, I am so excited to finally meet you!"  I felt like Cinderella at the ball, like the Prince had just asked me to dance.  (Well, maybe that's not the best analogy, but you get the idea.)

Lisa has that affect on people.  Spend five minutes with her and you feel like you've found a new sister.  Someone who understands your weaknesses, who relates to your struggles and insecurities, who lays it all out on the table and then makes you laugh in spite of everything.  She is a tall woman who radiates a big joy and the love of a big Jesus to everyone she meets.

Okay, so why am I telling you all about Lisa Smartt today?  Because I want you to check out her latest book, Doug and Carlie.  You WANT to read this book.  How could you not want to read a book that begins,   "I ate a whole lemon meringue pie on May 12..."  Me, I burned the biscuits I was baking for breakfast Saturday morning because I was so excited that Carlie had managed to cram herself into a blue sequin dress at a formal wear store at the mall.  Trust me, you are going to fall in love with Carlie Davidson.

The official blurb for Lisa's book reads:  Carlie Ann Davidson only has $167.29 in the bank. She's 10 years late on college and 37 lbs. over the ideal weight chart. When she's not in her college classes, she's stocking shelves at the Dollar General Store in Commerce, Georgia, and wondering why SO many people eat pork n beans. But Carlie has dreams, dreams of love and literary success. With the humorous and engaging backdrop of small town characters and culture, Carlie realizes she's not a loser at all. Just a late bloomer. The good news? Sometimes there are rewards for late bloomers.

You can purchase your own copy of Doug and Carlie here, or you can download the Kindle version here.  You might as well go ahead and get two copies, because you're going to want an extra to pass along to a friend.  I did.      

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


I don't travel much, so even a short road trip is a big deal for me.  Yesterday, Helen and I headed east to Nashville - two travelers braving the four-lane under a low, gray sky. Helen is spending a few days with her amazing sister, so it's eerily quiet for me back here at home this morning.  But, hey, I have some extra time to write!  A couple of observations from our recent adventure:

There is SO MUCH semi-truck traffic on I-40 between Jackson, Tennessee, and Nashville.  I've heard of traffic, and congested traffic, but congested semi traffic?  Gahhh!  Remember, I am the woman who hit a semi-truck once, while driving my van full of seven kids down the interstate at 70 miles per hour.  Yeah, those big rigs still make me nervous.

That said, I really do appreciate the Pilot Service Centers that serve the trucking industry.  These are ginormous gas stations/markets/everything-you-need-on-the-road stops.  Easy access from the interstate.  Friendly, helpful staff.  Comparatively cheap gas.  Clean bathrooms - a very important feature for the middle-aged woman who chugs a gallon of water every morning.

Speaking of water, if I have to be away from the house in the morning, I usually take a couple of quart-sized bottles of water with me.  I've found that I don't drink as much water when out running errands.  Because I am slightly less hydrated and  usually get tired from the running around, I'm then more prone to those awful headaches that I want to avoid.  Yesterday, I not only took water bottles with me in the car (yes, an entire gallon), but I actually drank all of them.  Score: No headache today!  Plus, I noticed I was much less fatigued on the drive home than I had anticipated.  I highly recommend drinking lots of water when you travel...and making lots of stops at the convenient, clean, friendly Pilot Service Centers.

I am SO THANKFUL that I no longer live in a place where it is necessary for me to drive in big-city traffic on a regular basis.  Thanks to Emily and Melva's awesome directions, I made it from Franklin, to Nashville, around Nashville (just as rush hour was beginning to crank up), and all the way to Old Hickory without a glitch.  The drive felt like a 45-minute amusement park thrill ride.  That kind of adrenalin, for that long of a ride - Whew!  It's nice to live in a place where "traffic" means a combine going 10 miles per hour that has drivers snaked behind him on the two-lane highway between Troy and Hornbeak.

Purchase Parkway in western Kentucky is the most boring place on the planet after about 10:00 on a weeknight.

If it's just me in the car, I tend to gravitate toward country music when playing with the radio dial.  Weird.  Is it because I can actually understand the words?  Inevitably, though, I understand a verse of lyrics TOO well, and then it's time to hit the "Scan" button and find a new station.

Emily Pritzel is the most beautiful pregnant woman I have ever seen.  Wow!

I love Dennis Pritzel.  One reason - because when my daughter talks about him, it looks like the sun is shining from her face.

I think I know where I get my story-telling penchant from . :)

Family is precious.

Friday, November 30, 2012


I have two friends who lost babies recently.

For both, these were unexpected pregnancies.  Absolutely crazy circumstances, physically.  Emotional roller-coaster rides as each moved from "Oh, wow, we're having another baby. Are we ready for this?" - to - "Something is wrong..." - to - "Everything is going to be okay..." - to - no more baby today.  Shock, anxiety, joy, anticipation, fear, longing, relief, loss, grief.  So many emotions piling in on one another, like the rough surf on a stormy beach.  No time to "process" in between.

Both of these women have challenged me in two significant ways.  First, even in the midst of turmoil and sorrow, both have demonstrated unshakeable confidence in the sovereignty and goodness of God.  Underneath the confusion and the sense of great loss, both women possess and have communicated to those around them a very real sense of deep, soul-strengthening joy, a confidence that God is doing something very good in the midst of their awful circumstances, a firm belief that indeed, all shall yet be very well.

Second, both have been so honest, so open, so transparent about their grief.  They have not denied or downplayed the true awfulness of their circumstances.  The pain is real, the loss is huge, the tears are many - not because they do not trust God and His goodness, but because they DO trust God and His goodness.  Because God is sovereign and God is good, these women are free to genuinely grieve, to say "This hurts really, really bad."

I picked up somewhere over the years the very wrong thinking that if I really believed in the sovereignty of God, then I should be happy all the time.  That grief or sorrow which amounted to more than a few brief tears reflected a lack of faith.  I thought - wrongly - that if something hurt badly, you ran away from it.  Didn't talk about it.  Did whatever mental and emotional gymnastics you had to do to "get on top of it."  If I was scared or sad or hurt, I just needed to trust God more, pray more, read Scripture more.

That, dear friends, exposes in me a complete lack of personal integrity.  Ouch.

So yesterday was a kind of difficult day for me.  Nothing as traumatic as losing a child, no.  But an old dragon - one that beat me up for a long, long time - reappeared, scales hissing across the hardwood floor as it raised its ugly head and blinked sleepy eyes.  Woke up some old fears, old hurts, old questions that still haven't been answered.  And my first inclination was, "I need to get outside by myself for a while, wipe away these tears, get a handle on my emotions..."  Don't say anything.  Don't tell anyone that you're hurt or fearful.

But, partly because of the example of the two women above, who demonstrated such unshakeable faith in the middle of horrible circumstances, I did not run away.  I stood and spoke. (Yes, my insides were shaking like jelly.)  "I am so afraid..."  I don't know which was scarier - seeing the dragon again, or verbalizing my fear.

I'd like to say that at this point, there was an epiphany, a great spiritual breakthrough as a celestial army descended upon the scene in a huge shaft of glorious light, singing "Hallelujah!  Glory to God!"  You know, a turning point, where we can say, "Great!  Everything finally worked out okay!  Let's wrap this baby up with a bow and get it out the door!"

Nah.  No beams of light.  No music.

Instead, one witness of my timorous admission of fear responded sardonically, "You need to just get over it."  Another counseled, "If you're afraid, well, you don't need to say anything about it.  Just let it go."

I think I'm finally learning, though, that when you "just let it go," the dragon doesn't really go away.  It's like looking the other way and pretending the dragon isn't there.  That just opens up your backside so that the dragon can sneak up and bite you in the butt.  I've been playing that hide-and-seek game too long, and it is not fun.

So, today, I have a difficult conversation that I need to have with someone I love dearly.  It's not about something they've done wrong or some way they've hurt me.  No, it's about my being afraid.  This person probably doesn't need to change a thing about our relationship - but he does need to know who I am and what scares me.  And I can have this conversation - do this big scary thing - not because my fears are bigger than my faith, but because God is bigger than my fears.  And He is sovereign.  And He is good.

Sometimes, life hurts.  But even in painful circumstances, I have the assurance that God is indeed doing a very good work.  That all shall yet be very well.  That, my friend, gives me great joy...even when I'm looking into a dragon's fiery gullet.

I am free to hurt, free to weep, free to fight, free to hope, and free to rejoice.  Hallelujah!  Glory to God!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Mom was going to my first six weeks' parent-teacher conference to meet with my homeroom teacher.  You know, get to know the teacher, see how I was doing in school, find out if there were any problems that needed to be addressed.

"Mom, while you're at the school today, you absolutely have to meet Coach B---, my social studies teacher.  He's my absolute favorite teacher this year."

"Where will I find him?" Mom asked.

"Oh, you can't miss him," I replied.  "He's HUGE!  He's way taller than anyone else at the school.  Just walk up and down the hall until you see a man who is bigger than everyone else - that'll be Coach B---."

Mom did find Coach B--- that morning.  "Hello, I'm Camille Stricklin's mother, and she told me I absolutely had to find you and introduce myself..."  Turned out, Mom liked Coach B---, too.

Over dinner that night, Mom was telling me about meeting this super-awesome-amazing teacher.  She had wandered up and down the hallway, peering into one classroom after another, searching for the "HUGE!" man I had described.  Finally, another teacher directed her to Coach B---'s classroom.  "Camille," Mom laughed, "why didn't you tell me he was black?!"

"Oh, yeah, I forgot that."  Yeah, that piece of information might have made Mom's search a little easier!  In addition to being very tall, Coach B--- was the only black male teacher in my school.  Well, maybe back in seventh grade, I was much  more impressed by the fact that Coach B--- was the biggest man I had ever seen (and that he was kind and a good teacher) than by the fact that he was black.

I've been thinking a lot lately about labels - you know, those little tags we use to help us remember and relate to other people.

If you meet me for the first time ever on the cereal aisle at Wal-Mart, there are a few things you'll know about me before our shopping carts even pass.  I am a woman.  I'm white.  I'm middle-aged.  I feed a LOT of people a LOT of food every week!

If you say "Hello," you'll figure out as soon as I open my mouth to reply that I am Southern.

What you probably won't be able to determine at first glance are things like:  I am a Christian.  I am a Calvinist.  I am a writer.  I am introverted.  I prefer red wine over white.

Labels are not bad, in and of themselves.  They help us to communicate a great deal about ourselves and about others in just a few words.  "My son is an avid hunter."  Unpack that:  my son knows how to handle firearms; he owns a closet full of camouflage; he provides meat for our family; he is not a huge fan of PETA.

When labels are not helpful is when we use them to pigeon-hole people into a categories that we feel authorized to demean or dismiss.

How many of my mom friends have heard the line, "Oh, you're just saying that because you're a Mom" - when a child wants a quick, easy (and weak!) excuse to ignore his mother's instruction?

Or the line, "Well, what do you expect from a woman?" - or - "He's a brainiac" - or - "She's totally blonde."

Sometimes we use labels not to know and understand people better, but to avoid the effort of having to know or understand them at all.  Which is very sad, and very wrong.  Because one thing that can be said of every single person that you meet today is that he is an image-bearer of our great Creator.

And that's not something you can dismiss with a label.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


The leaves are off the trees behind the house, opening up our field of view to the hills beyond the red barn.  This morning, a tiny black ball of fur frolicked on the hillside, a newborn calf testing out his gangly legs.  Little John, fuzzy as a giant cuckleburr, stood under a bare oak tree at the far end of the pasture and eyed me across the valley as I fed the chickens.  Nope, not Martha, he quickly assessed.  Not worth a mad gallop for a bit of sweet feed.

It's so easy to see the birds among the tree trunks and branches now.  The sun-flash of a goldfinch.  The stark red and white and black of a woodpecker, like a Japanese ink drawing on gray bark.  A flurry of blue.  A burst of red.  The bright white bellies of the juncos.

Ben built the first fire of the season yesterday, to chase away the gray dregs of a rainy day.  Toasted marshmallows for dessert, and card games in front of the fire.  Today, venison chili for lunch - mmmmm, it just feels good to cradle the warm bowl in cold fingers and inhale the spicy steam.

Here we go, over the brink into three months in the freezer.

Hello, Winter!

Friday, November 23, 2012


So I haven't been posting much here at the blog lately.  Several factors have contributed to my sporadic posting.  Life is crazy.  Craaazzzy.  Which means there simply hasn't been much time to write.  Then, a couple of months ago, our house was struck by lightning.  Among the casualties:  the house computer.  This means the dual-enrollment students now use my computer for their on-line homework, journal reports, English papers, etc.  Which means I don't always have access to my computer if there is a small window of time to write.  Yes, I believe that school work trumps recreational writing.

And then there is the problem of the internet.

We live way out in the boondocks, so I suppose I should consider it a blessing that we even have internet access, however unreliable.  Okay, I'll try harder to have a more positive attitude about our on-again, off-again service.  Errrrgh...nope, it's not working.  Lousy attitude still entrenched.

Anyway, here is something I find perplexing:  I'll be sitting at the computer composing an email, or trying to write at the blog, and then out of nowhere, a box pops up on my screen that says, "Your internet went away.  Please wait while we try to relocate it."  What in tarnation does THAT mean?

My internet "went away"?  Went WHERE?  Does it have legs?

Here sits my computer, right in front of me on the kitchen counter - hasn't moved a smidgen.  There sits the wireless know, the thingy with the blinking green light that lets me plug in to the big wide world - hasn't moved a mouse's hair.  Here I sit in my chair - okay, maybe I've moved a little.  But, hey, I get stiff if I sit in one position too long.

But my internet connection - that mysterious, shapeless, vague, ephemeral link to the world outside my four walls - my internet connection goes away?  What, is it taking a coffee break?  On vacation?  Touring the Louvre in Paris?  Sunning on a beach in Florida?

I admit it - I am technologically challenged.  I do not understand all these cool cyber tools.  So, can somebody tell me:  Where does my internet connection go? And how do I get it to come back?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Last year on Thanksgiving, I was pulling a shift at Wal-Mart.  This year, hallelujah!, I will be at home.  Today's post is for the cashiers still standing in the registers this weekend...

Newbies, of course, work Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.  Everybody works Black Friday - newbies, old-timers, and the Big Boss.  That is actually the only day out of the entire year that you will find ALL 23 registers open.  Pretty amazing.

Without fail - without fail - someone will come through the check-out line, pile their 14 tons of junk on the conveyor belt, look at the cashier with big sad puppy-dog eyes and sigh, "I just can't believe they make you guys work on Thanksgiving Day/Christmas/whatever.  That is so awful.  These big corporations, they're just so greedy to make another buck that they don't even care about their employees...blah, blah, blah,..."

The cashier will smile, nod, and - bleep! bleep! bleep! - continue ringing up the customer's order.

Every one of us behind a register gets this same comment from at least one holiday shopper (often from several).  And every one of us thinks, "Well, if you weren't here, lady, I wouldn't be here, either!  I'd be home with my family instead."  Those of us who are less sanctified think, "Cut the smarm, lady.  I'm not stupid enough to buy the load of poo-ey you're throwing."  The kinder-hearted cashiers probably think, "I appreciate your sympathy, but you're the reason I'm here - and you'd figure that out if you gave it half a second's thought."

We've all tried to come up with some kind of witty, unoffensive come-back.  Something to shake the customer out of their gooey sentimentality and back into reality.

I read something recently that went kinda like this:  "Only in America do we celebrate a national day of thankfulness, then go out the very next day and trample one another to death buying things we don't need with money we can't afford to spend."

Are you really and truly thankful this Thanksgiving?  Are you content with the portion God has given you?


Want to prove it?

Stay home this holiday season and enjoy your family and friends.  Skip Wal-Mart.  And the mall.  And the on-line shopping.  In fact, just skip all those Black Friday sales.

I dare you. 

Monday, November 19, 2012


Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10a

I commented to the ladies at the Grace Women's brunch Saturday that I really needed to take this passage to heart.  That I had been so busy lately, was feeling so tired and strung out, that I just needed to pause a minute and consider anew that God is sovereign, that God is indeed God.

I once heard a pastor explain that the expression "be still" used here in Psalm 46 could be better translated, "SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP!"  The language is forceful, emphatic.  God is not saying, "Now, Sweetie, you've been running a bit too hard lately and you just need to slow down, take a few deep breaths, and remember - I'm still in control!"  No, it's more like He's saying, "Stop right there!  Don't move a muscle.  Nope, don't even make a peep.  Listen to me, foolish child: I AM GOD."

So I thought about Psalm 46:10 on Saturday, but apparently I didn't quite get the message.  Just a few more things to check off my list, a few more errands to run, dinner to cook, preparations for Sunday...soon, some day soon, yeah, I would "be still" and remember that the LORD is God.

I didn't quite get the message, so God made me be still.  Pinned me to the mat.  Laid me flat on my back Sunday.


All day long.

It's like someone took a knife, baby, edgy and dull, and cut a six-inch valley through the middle of my skull...

I suppose most people respond to the onset of a migraine in pretty much the same way:  "GOD, please make the pain stop!  Just make it go away!"

I've learned after a few trips through this valley that God doesn't bring pain just so that He can take it away the first time I whimper.  No, He has some other, bigger purpose for the pain - something that He wants to teach me, not by taking the pain away, but by taking me through it.

So I lay in bed yesterday trying very hard not to move.  The slightest stir brought tears and nausea.  And I knew that God was not going to take the pain away.

I also knew that if God wasn't going to make my head stop hurting, that He must be there somewhere in the pain, and that He had something to teach me in it.

So I lay with my eyes closed, barely daring to breathe because even that hurt.  "Jesus, where are you in this?"

"I am right here."  It's as if He stood right beside me, holding out His hand, inviting me to dance.

"This is a very unpleasant dance, Jesus," I thought with a grimace.

I imagined that He only smiled and extended His hand further, to enfold mine.  "Yes.  Now, be still.  Be perfectly still and know that I am God.  I will lead this dance."

There have been a few occasions in my life when I have felt like my hand has touched the hand of God.  When my first child was born, and the next, and the next...  Sitting with my Granddaddy when he died.  And yesterday, lying motionless in a quiet, dark room.

It is such a difficult thing to lie so completely still.

It is such a sweet thing to know that He is God.

Friday, October 19, 2012


Nate and Tom headed down the driveway at 6:50 this morning.  Steve followed ten minutes later.  As I washed the dishes from "early breakfast," it occurred to me that since we had all been up very late last night, the "late breakfast" crew would probably come dragging downstairs even later than usual.  Excited, I rushed to finish washing the dishes and to switch the first load of laundry over to the dryer, anticipating perhaps as much as an entire hour of uninterrupted calm.  My Beloved's hand was on the latch, and my heart was thrilled within me! (Song of Solomon 5:4)

Some mornings - too many mornings - life is crazy busy from the get-go.  The day gets all on top of me almost before my feet hit the floor.  As I rush from breakfast to school books, dentist appointments to piano lessons, a longing tugs at my heart - a yearning for my Beloved because I missed Him at the door.

The house I grew up in sat at the end of a long gravel driveway, way out in the country.  No one drove down that driveway unless they lived at our house or they were someone coming expressly to see a member of my family.  I can still remember the sensation caused by the crunch of tires on gravel - heads turned, ears strained.  One person might peer out the front window, while another bounded to the door.  Crunching gravel meant: Visitors!  Company!  And that was always a big exciting deal, way out there in the country.

When Steve and I were dating, way back about a hundred years ago, I think my ears could hear the very first stone shift when that redheaded boy turned his Dodge Colt off the paved road onto our driveway.  Talk about a sudden thrill of excitement...My heart raced, my cheeks flushed, and you did not want to be the unfortunate person to stand between me and the front door!

I didn't feel quite so excited about Jesus way back then, but, well, I didn't know Him very well then, either.  But in spite of my initial coolness, in spite of my distraction with a bazillion other things, in spite of my clouded eyes and divided heart, Jesus persistently and gently pursued me over the years, like a devoted and faithful Lover.  And, oh, how beautiful He has become!  How exciting the thought that He wants to visit with me - today, this morning!

Maybe now you understand my excitement as I stood at the sink this morning and suddenly realized, "An hour!  Together, uninterrupted!"  It was like hearing that first crunch of gravel...the thrill of excitement, the increase in heart rate.  How precious the gift of an hour alone with my Beloved, before the demands of the day set in!

Yes, I raced to answer the door.          

Friday, October 12, 2012


Today's post comes from the series of articles based on the Heidelberg Catechism that Grace is running in our local paper.  Currently, we're working through the Ten Commandments.

I was glad when they said to me, "let us go to the house of the LORD!" - Psalm 122:1

We read the Fourth Commandment in Exodus 20, beginning in verse 8:  "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God..."

Does this Commandment apply to Christians today?

Consider all the other Commandments:  You shall have no other gods.  You shall not make for yourself a graven image.  You shall not take the LORD's name in vain.  Honor your father and mother.  You shall not murder.  You shall not commit adultery.  You shall not steal.  You shall not bear false witness.  You shall not covet.

Yes, we all break all of the Commandments.  But if we are truly God's people, we understand that our sinfulness in failing to keep God's commands is an outrageous offense to His holiness.  We run to Jesus and trust the good news of the Gospel:  that Jesus has kept the Law perfectly on our behalf.  Our failure to keep God's Law grieves us, and we desire earnestly to repent and to honor God by striving to live in obedience to His Law.  As Keven DeYoung put it, "We obey the commandments, therefore, not in order to merit God's favor...We obey the law in gratitude for the gospel."

I bring up the other nine Commandments for this reason:  Why, as modern-day Christians, are we quick to acknowledge that it dishonors God for us to lie, steal, commit adultery, covet, and murder, but then we treat the Sabbath with casual indifference?  To take God's name in vain - yeah, that's bad.  To murder - or to hate  our neighbor - yeah, that's bad, too.  No, I definitely shouldn't steal or lie.  But keeping the Sabbath - that's really no big deal, is it?

Reading through the book of Exodus, I came across a passage concerning the Sabbath that stunned me.  Moses had just given the children of Israel a ton of instruction from God.  The Ten Commandments, ceremonial laws, instructions for building the tabernacle - it was like a crash course in holy living.  Maybe it seemed to the Israelites like too much information to process, too many details, too much to remember.  As if to summarize everything He had just told them, God wrapped up His lesson in holiness this way:

And the LORD said to Moses, "You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, 'Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generation, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you.  You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you.  Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death.'" (Exodus 31:12-14)

Now if I were the one writing the Law, I'd probably say something like, "If you only get one thing right, make sure you don't start murdering one another."  Or, "If you only remember one thing that I've just told you, above all else, don't lie."

But God said, "Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths."  How serious was God about the Sabbath?  So serious that the penalty for disobedience - for profaning the Sabbath - was death.

Do you take the Sabbath that seriously, Dear Reader?

I, too, have taken the Sabbath lightly.  And because of my sin, Someone had to die.

Question 103 of the Heidelberg Catechism asks:  What is God's will for you in the Fourth Commandment?  Answer:  First, that the gospel ministry and education for it be maintained, and that, especially on the festive day of rest, I regularly attend the assembly of God's people to learn what God's Word teaches, to participate in the sacraments, to pray to God publicly, and to bring Christian offerings for the poor.  Second, that every day of my life I rest from my evil ways, let the Lord work in me through His Holy Spirit, and so begin already in this life the eternal Sabbath.

My prayer for us today is that we would have a high view of the Sabbath, and that we would begin now to joyfully anticipate the eternal Sabbath we will celebrate in Glory.  May we, like the Psalmist, think of this "festive day of rest", not as a burden, but as a good gift from a loving God!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


It has been exactly one month since I last posted.  That is sad.

Not sad because any readers have particularly missed the blog - only one person has contacted me repeatedly over the past month to say, "You need to post something.  Go write!"

Sad because I have missed the blog.  Writing is my dessert.  Writing is a treat that I do for myself - my way of thinking through things, remembering things, enjoying things.  And a month's absence from the blog means that it has been too long since I've enjoyed the taste of dessert.  That, my friends, is sad.

Where did the month go?  Well, it was spent teaching my eighth-grader, and shuttling students back and forth to campus, and working on business for the Women in the Church (WIC) at Grace, and chasing reprobate chickens, and preparing devotionals, and cleaning out closets, and washing clothes and cooking meals, and sick in bed for a season, and not writing.  I've definitely missed the "chocolate cake" of blogging, but life has not been without sweetness.

One sweetness I've enjoyed this past month - sweet like a crisp fall apple, not like scrummylicious chocolate cake - is swimming.  Finally, after years of wishing, I have college students with class schedules that make it very convenient for me to be on campus around noon a couple of days a week.  The UTM pool is open for lap swimming from 11:30-1:00.  Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I'm in the water - and loving it.

I bought a new swimsuit - red, because it was on sale and red was the only color left in my, ahem, rather "voluptuous" size.  I look like one of those giant chubs of bologna puttering back and forth across the pool.  Today, I made it 32 laps.  Four more laps, and I'll be up to a mile, the distance I used to swim 10 years ago when we lived in Millington.  That's my goal for the end of the month.

I love swimming for a variety of reasons.  One:  I am very buoyant, and it is such a lovely feeling to be very buoyant and in the water.  Two: swimming doesn't hurt - not my knees, not my feet, not my back.  On the contrary, it feels wonderful.  Three:  it is quiet.  When my head is in the water, the volume knob on the world is Off.

And when the volume is Off, that means I can pray - for 32 laps, for 45 minutes - without interruption or distraction.  And I absolutely lovelovelove that about swimming.

Hit the wall and turn...lap number 7...stroke, stroke...7...breathe, stroke..."Father, thank you so much for RB and Joyce, for their friendship, for the many ways they have blessed me and my family.  Lord, please encourage them today, and help them to grow in love for You, for Your Word, for the Gospel, for each other, for the body of Christ that meets at Grace..."

Hit the wall and turn...lap 14...stroke, stroke...14...breathe, stroke..."Father, be with the Sink family as they are traveling to Japan.  Already, Lord, please be preparing hearts in Japan to receive the Gospel, so that their ministry will be fruitful..."

If you read this blog, it is very likely that you, your family, your church, or your ministry are on my mind at least one day a week, across the pool and back, stroke after stroke.  It is a very sweet gift indeed for me to have this regular time, place, and routine that allows me to stand with you before our Father's throne.

Come to think it, that's even better than chocolate cake. :)

Monday, September 10, 2012



No Zzzzzzzt!, Crackle!, or Riiiiip!

Just POW!  Instantaneous, unexpected, deafening.

That's what it sounded like when lightning hit our house Friday night.  POW! and then everything - everything - went black.

Ben came downstairs to tell us the exhaust vent had been blown out of the bathroom ceiling and that his hair was standing on end and "tingling".

Thankfully, Gibson Electric was at the house within an hour and quickly reset our transformer box.  With lights restored, we began the task of discovering what was and wasn't fried.  So far, we know the AC, the water heater, and the house computer got zapped.  Steve and the kids have been tapping into their "inner Scotsman" the past few days, braving cold showers.  (Me, I'm more than willing to take the hike to Grammy's, where I can enjoy hot water!)  Thankfully, we've had cooler weather, so the heat hasn't been a problem.  The computer?  I told the dual-enrollment kids that I would vouch for them if they needed to explain to their professor that they lost their essays because the house had been struck by lightning - but I think they'll have time to do re-writes on my laptop this morning, so maybe that won't be an issue.

The lightning hit on the northeast corner of the upstairs.  Looks like the house was zapped by a ginormous ray gun - a neat hole with a ring of black radiating outward, burned through the siding.  A feather-light brush by the finger of God...a huge explosion, hearts pounding, hair standing on end.

The boys got out on the roof and took care of exterior repairs Saturday morning.  Steve has arranged for electrical repairs...we hope to have hot water by the middle of the week - Yay!

A couple of thoughts on the heels of this electrical event:  First, I am so thankful that I have a husband who stays calm during crisis situations.  Within minutes of the strike, Steve had made an initial assessment of the damage and started making phone calls, calmly and methodically taking care of what needed to be done next.  Second, I am so thankful we didn't have any fire!  Third, I am reallyreallyreally grateful for running water.  Yeah, it's cold (brrrr!), but it's still running - the pump (which we just replace this spring) was spared.

And I'm thankful for this reminder of God's incredible power, and for the comfort that comes with knowing He is sovereign over "all the affairs of man."

(Dad, what would you have guessed would be the likelihood that we'd BOTH get hit in one summer?!)

Friday, August 31, 2012


Okay, I've had more than I can stand.  Brace yourself - major venting ahead!

Can somebody please tell me why every single day I have multiple messages in my email inbox - messages obviously targeted to men - from people or pharmaceutical companies that want to sell me products guaranteed to enhance my mojo?

This isn't the first time I've complained about this phenomenon.  Check out What's in My Inbox.  Obviously, there is a huge market for these products - thus the mass emails to the Junk boxes of middle-aged women.  Obviously, then, there are a lot of men in the world who feel, um, shall we say, a little less than adequate.  Who feel like they've lost their Voom!  A lot of men, perhaps, who find that their lady loves are not as enraptured with them as in days gone by.  A lot of men who would reallyreallyreally like to have a magic pill or potion that could transform them into super hotties.

Okay, I've got that.

But now, let me tell you what I think would be really neat to see in my Inbox:

From: Dr. Libido
Subject:  How to talk to and really listen to your wife

From:  Dr. Phallon
Subject:  Praying with your woman - the secret to great sex

From:  High Performance Pharmaceuticals
Subject:  God designed marriage and intimacy - We have His study notes!

From:  Erica Golightly
Subject:  Why work so hard for the real deal when I've got a whole box of shrink-wrapped Twinkies sitting right here on the shelf?!  You don't really want great sex - You want a cheap imitation.  Message me!

Okay, I'm just saying, if there really are a plethora of men out there in the world who are less-than-satisfied with the state of their love lives, I think it might be more helpful for them to actually begin the work of building intimate relationships with their wives than for them to be clicking on links to Cheap Pills!  and Local Hotties!  I'm pretty sure they'd get better results - both in the bedroom and out of it.

I realize I don't have many male readers, but, if you are a man and you don't mind strong language,check out Men and Marriage over at Mars Hill Church.  Good stuff - but, ouch!  I'm working up my courage to listen to Marriage and Women later today.  Pray for me.

As for all my lady readers, here's a question for you:  If you were a company sending a mass email to all the sexually frustrated men in the world, what would be in the subject line?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


And God spoke all these words, saying, "I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.  You shall have no other gods before me." - Exodus 20: 1-3

In yesterday's post, we looked at what God requires of us in the First Commandment:  We are commanded to love and worship God alone.  Worshiping anyone or anything other than the God of Scripture is idolatry.

Question 95 of the Heidelberg Catechism asks:  "What is idolatry?"  Answer:  "Idolatry is having or inventing something in which one trusts in place of or alongside of the only true God, who has revealed Himself in His Word."

Maybe when you hear the word idolatry, you think of primitive people living in a remote corner of the world, praying to a wooden figurine.  But here in the Bible Belt, we're too sophisticated for such foolishness, right?

A friend once shared this very simple definition of idolatry:  "I could never be happy without (fill in the blank).  If you put anything in that blank besides God, you have an idol."  To be more specific, if you put anything in that blank besides God as He reveals Himself in Scripture, you've identified an idol.

A young woman whom I love dearly found out early in her marriage that she would never be able to have children.  She became swamped in a morass of grief and depression.  Finally, she told her husband that she could never be happy if she could not have children.  Later, she confessed that having children had definitely become an idol in her life, but that, through much brokenness and many tears, Christ ripped that idol out and showed Himself to be the only worthy object of her worship.  This sweet young woman later wrote, "Christ is EVERYTHING that I need.  My loss...became much easier to bear because that heart idol had been torn out and destroyed."

Maybe you are single and thinking you can never be happy until you find that special someone with whom to share your life.  Maybe you are struggling financially, constantly fretting, "If only we had more money..."  Maybe you're preoccupied with your body, making costly and painful sacrifices to appease the god of Youth.  Human relationships, financial security, physical appearance, health, entertainment, sports - all of these can be idols if they dominate our thinking or drive all our actions.

Another, more subtle form of idolatry is when we claim to worship God, but we re-create Him in our image.  We decide that our opinions over-rule Scripture, that we can pick and choose what is "true for us" in God's Word.  We like that God is loving and merciful, but we reject the truth that God hates sin and is pleased to condemn the wicked to eternal suffering.  We like that we don't have to pay for our sins and that God freely forgives us, but we don't want to talk about the fact that even for my sins, there was hell to pay... and Someone paid it for me.

When we dissect God and value our own opinions over the truth of Scripture - all of Scripture - we are creating an idol.  You either believe that God is who He says He is in Scripture, or you don't believe in the God of the Bible at all.

Maybe this gets to the heart of why the Law of God is a burden and a condemnation to the unregenerate, but beautiful to the children of God.  The unbeliever says to himself, "I am not so very bad, and God is not so very good.  What right does He have to make such claims on my life, to tell me what to believe and how to live?"

The Christian, on the other hand, sees his sinfulness and is painfully aware of how very far short he falls of God's standards.  The Christian doesn't shush away the demands of the holy God, nor does he deny God's righteous judgment and condemnation of sinners.   Rather, he acknowledges both - and thanks God for the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who kept the law perfectly for us and endured God's wrath for those He came to save.

The Christian looks at the Law of God and cries, "Father, I have sinned.  Thank you that Christ's righteousness has been imputed to me and that I have sure forgiveness in Him.  Thank You!  I want to please you and honor You, Lord - help me to do better."

Kevin DeYoung puts it well in The Good News We Almost Forgot:  "We obey the commandments, therefore, not in order to merit God's favor but out of gratitude for His favor...We obey the law in gratitude for the gospel."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


And God spoke all these words, saying, "I AM the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.  You shall have no other gods before me."  - Exodus 20:1-3

Scholars traditionally divide the Ten Commandments into two groups, or "tables."  The first table contains the first four Commandments, and teaches us about our relationship with God.  The second table contains Commandments five through ten, and teaches us how we are to relate to our neighbor.  Today, let's consider the First Commandment:  "You shall have no other gods before me."

Question 94 of the Heidelberg Catechism asks:  "What does the Lord require in the First Commandment?"  Answer:  "That I, not wanting to endanger my very salvation, avoid and shun all idolatry, magic, superstitious rites, and prayer to saints or to other creatures.  That I sincerely acknowledge the only true God, and trust Him alone, look to Him for every good thing humbly and patiently, love Him, fear Him, and honor Him with all my heart.  In short, that I give up anything rather than go against His will in any way."

In today's culture, we are wrongly taught that there is no such thing as absolute truth:  I can have one understanding of truth and you can have a totally contradictory understanding of truth, and yet both can be equally true and valid.  As a young friend put it recently, "I have my opinion.  You have yours.  We don't believe the same thing, but God's okay with that."  However, while it is very possible that we may both be wrong, it is impossible that we can both be right!

Sadly, we often adopt that same wrong thinking concerning who (or what) we worship.  As long as a person is sincere in his faith, and he lives a decent life, and he doesn't insist that his god is the only one, then it doesn't really matter who he worships, right?

God is not so namby-pamby in stating the truth of the matter:  "I AM the LORD your God."  Period.  He is the only true God, and there is no other. "Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts:  'I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.'" (Isaiah 44:6)  There is no middle ground, no platform from which to assert that all the religions of the world are equally true and valid.

When God tells us, "You shall have no other gods before me" - He is not saying, "Believe whatever you want about all those other gods, but make sure you keep me at the front of the line."  No, Scripture is telling us that we are not to even bring any other god into His presence.  Don't play at "keeping God first" in you life while dabbling in New Age spiritualism or checking your daily horoscope.  Don't pretend to worship the God of the Bible, but throw out what He teaches in Scripture about His wrath, justice, and judgment.  Don't profess to love, honor, and worship God, then cling too tightly to your job, your relationships, your status, or anything else for security or personal worth.

God commands us to acknowledge Him as the one true God, and to worship Him alone.  Jesus Himself, citing Deuteronomy 6, rebukes Satan with these words:  "You shall worship the Lord you God and him only shall you serve"  (Matthew 4:10).  We are admonished to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30).

In his study guide to the Heidelberg Catechism, J.I. Williamson writes, "To put it quite bluntly, then:  true religion is totalitarian...God and his Christ demand absolute allegiance, and they demand it in every sphere of life."

Just as Joshua charged Israel, so the Bible charges us today:  "Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness.  Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River in Egypt, and serve the LORD.  And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve...But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD" (Joshua 24:14-15).

Monday, August 27, 2012


(This week, I'm posting three articles written for the Union City Daily Messenger earlier this summer.  In the "Soli Deo Gloria" column featured in Thursday's Religion section, we are working through the Heidelberg Catechism.)

Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it as my reward.  Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.  Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.  - Psalm 119:33-35

The Heidelberg Catechism is divided into three sections:  guilt, grace, and gratitude.  We learned early in this series of articles that all men are sinners, condemned before a righteous God.  Every one of us justly deserves God's eternal wrath.

Only by the grace extended to us through Christ's atoning work are any able to stand before the holy God.  Jesus lived a sinless life, but then He traded places with us:  He took upon Himself God's punishment for our sins, and gave us instead peace with God and the promise of eternal life in Glory.  This promise is for all who have been given to the Son by the Father (John 17:24).

Last week, we read that true repentance involves not only dying to our old, sinful nature, but that it also involves a joyful coming-to-life concerning the things of God.  (You can read that article - True Conversion - here.)  In this new life in Christ, we long more and more to please God and to glorify Him in every aspect of our lives.  God's will becomes the standard that shapes and influences our attitudes and actions.

"The Law of God" - how do those words make you feel?  Maybe you feel guilty.  You realize that you fail miserably at keeping God's Law with the purity and perfection He demands.  The Law of God, as revealed in the Ten Commandments, is a burden too heavy to bear.  As a son of Adam and an heir to Adam's sinful nature, you feel keenly your guilt and God's just condemnation.

Maybe when you consider the Law of God, you feel a desperate need for rescue.  "There's no way I can keep the Law of God perfectly," you cry.  "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!"  That, too, is a right response to the Law of God, as it points us - even drives us - to our Savior, Jesus.

We have covered guilt and we have covered grace.  What about gratitude?

Interestingly, the writers of the Heidelberg Catechism placed the lessons concerning God's Law in the section of the catechism dealing not with guilt, not with grace, but with gratitude.  Have you ever read thoughtfully through the Ten Commandments and felt compelled to cry, "Thank you, Lord!"?

Thank you, Lord, that Jesus kept your Law perfectly!  Thank you, Lord, that Jesus's perfect righteousness has been credited to my account!  Thank you, Lord, that I no longer live under the guilt of being a lawbreaker!  Thank you, Lord, that because Christ redeemed me and because I am safely and forever yours, the Law cannot condemn me!

Does this mean that Christians just throw the Law of God out the window?  That it no longer has anything to say to those who are in Christ?  On the contrary, to the Christian, God's Law is beautiful, precisely because God's Law shows us the character of the God we adore - what He loves, what He hates, what He desires for us and from us.  The Law of God is like a hand-written letter from a beloved Father.

The recent movie Nanny McPhee illustrates the beauty of the Law to the believer:  When Nanny McPhee arrived at the Brown house, she found seven wicked, disobedient children.  The children saw Nanny McPhee as a dreadful monster, complete with big hairy warts and a scary stick.  To the lawless children, she was a threat to their freedom and happiness.

Over the course of the movie, however, the children learned that it was their own terrible behavior that threatened to destroy their family and to separate them from the father they loved.  As they learned to obey Nanny's rules, they found life grew pleasanter for everyone.  They were also amazed to discover that Nanny - instead of being a scary hag - was actually very beautiful.  The Brown children had fallen in love with the very rule and structure they once despised.  They saw that their sinful lawlessness brought them heartache and bondage, not liberty; but the once-feared "law" brought life, joy, and peace.

Join us in the weeks ahead as we look at the beauty of the Law of God.  Maybe you, too, will find God's Law to be a delight!

Oh how I love your law!  It is my meditation all the day. - Psalm 119:97

Thursday, August 23, 2012


"I think maybe the chickens are finally laying eggs!"

New little peep!
We've had these chickens since mid-spring, when they arrived via U.S. Mail, tiny balls of yellow peeping fluff delivered in a cardboard box.  Ben's flock of Rhode Island Reds had long been extinct, save one precious pet who eluded the foxes and raccoons and who we liked too much to convert to stew.  This spring, I decided to order my very own flock of chickens, and Ben has been teaching me the ins and outs of chicken farming.

Buff Orpingtons.  They are simply beautiful.  So fluffy that they look like they are wearing frilly bloomers.  And they are congenial - even the roosters are pleasant.

But these are the stupidest chickens I have ever met.  They don't put themselves to bed at night until after dark, when the owls are already out hunting dinner.  They startle and run at the silliest things.  They have an entire hayfield in which to graze...but they prefer to strip the rose bushes of all their petals.

Gorgeous George

 The roosters try to put on an air of manliness on occasion - but give one a stern look and he'll trot off to hide under the chicken house.  No, they're not very smart or very brave - but, man, are they good looking.  Reuben has dubbed the fanciest rooster "Gorgeous George"  - all glam and no substance.  The other rooster, we call Larry.  Leaning Larry.  Everything about him is kind of "sideways" - his tail, his gait, his stance, his way of looking at you.  Again, definitely not the sharpest tack in the box.

I've been getting very frustrated at tending my extraordinarily stupid chickens - but have persevered in the hopes that they will soon redeem themselves by laying eggs for breakfast.  Apparently, Buff Orpingtons begin to lay later than other breeds....still no eggs.  So, Helen's announcement this morning was the cause of great excitement.  Uproarious cackling - a sure sign of egg production - had me all excited.  I walked outside - no chickens anywhere in the yard.  "Helen, I think you may be right!  I think they've all headed back to the hen house!  Maybe they've decided it's time to lay some eggs!"

(Now, why on earth would I think the idea would occur to my silly chickens to lay eggs in their nesting boxes?  Hmmm?)

It wasn't twenty minutes later that Ben looked out the window and asked, "Mom, why are the chickens all over at Grammy's?"

No, the chickens were not in the hen house laying eggs.  Rather, they had decided today was a lovely day for a road trip.  They had hiked all the way over to Grammy's, for who-knows-what reason.

Errrrrgh!  I ran into the yard and called across the hay field:  "Chick!  Chick!  Chick!  Heeeeeeere, chick, chick!"  Gorgeous George raised his head and looked at me.  The hens perked up and trotted a few steps down Grammy's driveway.  After 20 minutes of calling, I gave up.  All they did was stand at stare at me.

Thankfully, Helen agreed to help round up my wayward flock. By the time we had hiked over to Grammy's, there were no chickens to be seen anywhere.  Not in the yard.  Not in the road back to the cow pasture.  Not in the calf lot.  So we headed out to the barn.  Finally!  I found George and 5 hens chilling out under the tractor.  Where were the other 12?  Nowhere.

I began herding George and his tiny flock across the pasture toward our house.  Herding chickens is about like herding cats - if you want to develop patience, here's a good way to practice!  We reached the tree-line behind our house.  Under the canopy of trees, I found several other hens.  Then, further up the hill, more chickens.  Grrrrr!  "Come on, Chick-chick, back to the hen house!"

The entire flock is now safely back in our yard.  My legs are scratched from crawling through the underbrush, and I'm waiting for the poison ivy and chigger bites on my ankles to start itching.  We still have no fresh eggs.

But, as Helen cheerfully observed, at least I something to blog about!