Thursday, January 26, 2012


"I read something new last week..." I flipped back through the pages of Exodus, searching for the passage that had so recently jumped out at me.

"But, Mom, haven't you already read that before? How could there be something new?" Nathaniel asked.

"That's what's so amazing about this book -seems like no matter how much you read it, there's always something new." Always something I didn't notice before, or that I noticed and then forgot, so that it seems new with a fresh reading.

Yesterday, for example, one little piece of a verse struck me as odd, got stuck in my head where it turned over and over in the mulling machine. Exodus, Chapter 12 - the Passover, the death of the firstborn, the sudden expulsion of the Israelites from Egypt. At precisely the planned moment - exactly 430 years to the day - God delivered His people ("the hosts of the LORD" - v. 41) from bondage. Then, verse 42 begins, "It was a night of watching by the LORD, to bring them out of the land of Egypt..."

A night of watching by the LORD... It's as if all of God's attention was focused on this one event. He was watching, waiting, ready to spring the gate. Quietly working in a mighty way to liberate His people. The time was....NOW!

Reading through that piece of a verse yesterday, it seemed to me as if all of Scripture was about that one event, that one moment. It seemed as if God was looking through time and space once again at His people, trapped and miserable in their slavery, watching...and compelling me to "Look!" My mind fixed on that one moment. Watching, waiting...was ever a night so pregnant with tension and anticipation?

A night of watching by the LORD... Then another such night came to mind. A similar passage. A Passover feast. The imminent death of the firstborn. And these words, recorded in Matthew 26: "...remain here and watch with with and pray..." A night of watching by the LORD, by Lord Jesus. It's as if all of God's attention, all of Scripture is focused on this one event.

Was there ever a night so pregnant with tension and anticipation?!

The bonds are broken. The gate is sprung. The time is NOW!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


We watched the last of the Harry Potter movies last week. It's been so long since we read the books that it took a while for some parts of the story to come back to me.

When Harry and Hermione returned to Godric's Hollow to visit the graves of Harry's parents and to hopefully find Gryffindor's sword, they run into Bathilda Bagshot, an old neighbor of the Potters' and a noted wizard historian. A gray-haired, dottering old woman. The kind that you imagine living on tea and biscuits, who smells like a combination of lavendar water and moth balls.

"Watch out, Mom...this part is really going to creep you out!" the kids warned me. My mind whirred, trying to remember what was so unsettling about the encounter with Mrs. Bagshot. What could possibly be scary about having tea with a feeble little old lady?

Suddenly, Bathilda's features contorted horrifically, and she shed her old-lady skin to reveal an enormous serpent. Nagini! WHAM! Voldemort's pet snake nailed Harry Potter to the wall in a lightning swift strike. Oh, yeah, I was definitely more than a little freaked out!

Have you ever known fairly certainly that something was one particular way...only to unexpectedly learn that it was actually something very, very different from what you thought? Can be kinda scary.

I have friends who dye their hair - some, more "natural" colors like brown and blonde; others, colors like pink, blue, magenta. Friends who perm, who straighten, who weave. I have friends who bleach their teeth and who wax their eyebrows. Friends who "tan" and friends who "bronze." Friends who have undergone reconstructive surgeries after car wrecks or cancer treatments. I have friends who wear dental plates. Me, I've been known to don a "compression garment." All of that stuff is designed to serve one purpose - to make us look like something we're not. Younger. Shapelier. Sun kissed. Firmer. Whatever. But none of that seems too terribly weird to me. We're still basically ourselves, right? It's not scary, like Bathilda Bagshot.

Until this week.

Hollywood celebrities undergo painful, expensive treatments and surgeries to maintain an appearance of eternal youthfulness. Ever seen those pictures of someone recovering from a facelift? Ouch! Such pain, such trauma, risk of infection, long weeks of recovery...endured not out of necessity or for reasons of health, but for the sake of vanity or for a heightened "sense of well-being."

I've never personally known anyone who went under anesthesia and under the knife for purely cosmetic reasons. At least I didn't think I did, until Sally spilled the beans.

Yeah, I knew Sally's hair was not naturally blonde, and that she didn't actually spend every day lounging on the beach to develop that fabulous tan. And, obviously, nobody has eyes that blue, unless they're wearing tinted contacts. But that figure? I assumed Sally never ate cheeseburgers or fried chicken, and that she spent at least 90 minutes every night on her treadmill before doing 500 crunches. I kind of admired the discipline I figured it took to stay in such great shape over the years. Her smooth, wrinkle-free skin? She's probably been moisturizing every day since she turned three. And drinking lots of water, right? Maybe if I'd been so diligent, I wouldn't be sitting here looking like I was overdue for a 100,000 mile tune-up. Sally, she turns heads where ever she goes. Whenever I look at Sally, I feel a sense of awe and amazement...and, I confess, a tinge of envy. Man, I wish I looked that good!

When it came out about the regular "lifts" and "tucks," the Botox and the collagen, the extracts and the implants...well, I felt stunned. Creepified. Like I'd just seen Nagini's broad, golden head lunge out of Bathilda Bagshot's mouth. Two reactions, really. First, very briefly, a sense of horror and disbelief: You're not who I thought you were! Second, a heavy sense of sadness. A selfish, silly sadness for myself, because I could never measure up to the standard of beauty modeled by my friend, with all her surgeries, treatments, and procedures. Sad for Sally, because at 60-something, she has to repeatedly endure pain and great expense to perpetuate the illusion of 30-something.

Sad because Sally is so truly beautiful on the inside, and yet she feels compelled to project and maintain this artificial external beauty. Sad, because we live in a sick and fallen world that seduces women to starve themselves and cut themselves and carve themselves into something they're not. Sad...

But so very thankful for Jesus. Thankful that He redeems us - and that He will redeem and restore even this broken, sick world. Thankful that He makes us truly beautiful, inside and out, and that we will stand in His presence one day, radiant and glorious. Beautiful - unafraid and unashamed.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


A friend recently shared a link to a YouTube video addressing some common misconceptions about homeschooling. One click led to another, and we came across a funny video describing ten ways that boys can get girls to like them. Number Three on Jordan's countdown was: Keep your hands to yourself! As this fellow so graphically expressed it using the analogy of a kid in a candy store: DON'T eat the candy BEFORE you pay for it. It is NOT YOURS.

The candy store analogy was so simple, straight-forward, and easy to relate to...lots of discussion among my guys after watching that particular clip. One of the young men in my house commented, "Not only should you not eat the candy before paying, but DON'T LICK THE CANDY and then put it back on the shelf."

Kind of a gross way of putting it, but definitely communicated his thought effectively. Loved it. Thought I'd share with any of you moms and dads who are having conversations with your young-adult children about appropriate dating behavior.

Any nuggets of "dating wisdom" you'd like to share?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Ask any of my kids and they'll tell you without hesitation, "No, Mom doesn't like the TV." While I'd like to protest that they exaggerate, the truth is, No, I don't like the TV.

Maybe it's my history. The television wasn't a major feature in our house when I was a child. At one time, when I was a very small child, we had one of those monster cabinet TV's - you know, the kind designed to look like a piece of furniture. Weighed about 834 pounds. You changed the channel by walking across the room to it and manually turning a dial. Seems we got three channels, four if reception was exceptionally good. The TV stayed in our dank, dark, musty basement - Mom was adamant that a television was not appropriate furniture for a living room.

A tube blew on that behemoth when I was still very young. Dad pulled the back off the cabinet, removed a few parts, then turned us kids loose with pliers and screwdrivers. We spent many enjoyable hours "fixing" that TV! And so, our television-watching days were over. I don't recall that we had another television in the house until my brother, then a senior in high school, got a tiny hand-me-down portable from a friend. It had a screen about the size of a Little Golden book, was black-and-white, and buzzed loudly.

Steve and I didn't have a TV during our early married years, either. When our pastor in Pensacola upgraded to a newer model, we just couldn't refuse the freebie he offered. It wasn't long before we were eating dinner in front of Alf or just boobing out for an evening in front of whatever was playing. When we left Florida for California, we decided to leave the TV behind. "Goodbye" to Alf; "Hello!" to walks in the park. Steve taught me to catch a softball. We spent evenings playing Scrabble and Yahtzee.

Many years and many children later, we were gifted with another TV. (Funny thing, people think if you don't have a TV, then you're deprived and in desperate need of their charity.) Before long, the kids were watching Wishbone and Zaboomafoo! while I fixed dinner. After the kids were in bed for the night, Steve and I watched the 10:00 news, and then whatever came on next...Charlie Rose, BBC sitcoms. Some of it was pretty good stuff, and the TV provided a convenient, cheap way to unwind after a crazy day.

We soon figured out that we needed to set limits. Moving to the country made it easy to restrict TV time, simply because we get zero reception out here - and we're not paying for satellite (cable isn't even available here). So with relative ease, our TV viewing shrank to one movie night a week, maybe two movies if we were on holiday from school. Of course, six years ago, the farm was a vast, unexplored frontier. There were horses to be brushed and raccoons to be trapped and forts to be built - so many things to do that were so much more interesting or appealing than sitting in front of an electronic box!

But that has changed. My kids know this entire farm like the backs of their hands. Traps have been pulled for the season. The weather's not often good for riding. It seems that now there is "nothing to do" out here and life is "boring." And so PlayStation in front of the TV has morphed from a Friday afternoon/Saturday afternoon treat, to an almost daily diversion. Movie Night moved from Saturday evening, to Friday and Saturday evening (one for the girls, one for the boys), and then to an occasional extra movie on Sunday afternoon or a weeknight evening.

We watched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows last night. It was an entertaining movie (not great), and it was nice to veg on the couch in front of the fire. But after getting in bed at midnight last night, I'm a little fuzzy-headed today. I'll be a zombie by the end of my shift at Wal-Mart tonight. Living the modern American life...

Our living room is not set up to make TV viewing particularly easy. The television is in the far corner of the room, and we have to move the furniture around each time we want to watch a movie. Last night, I recruited one of the kids to help me shove the couches back over in front of the fire place. "I don't want everything left circled around the Great Blue Eye," I protested.

"Gosh, Mom, what's the big deal?!"

What's the big deal? I don't know if I'm really sure. Something inside me stiffens ever so slightly every time we circle the furniture to study the Great Blue Eye, and I feel a vague, gray disquiet until everything is back in its proper place, circled in front of the hearth. Something inside me feels full and warm and grateful when I see my kids snuggled in front of the fire reading books, or gathered around the hassock for a game of cards or Quarto.

No, I don't like the TV. Whatever it offers is always less-than-best, yet so seductive that it subtly draws us into ever-increasing devotion. It is a struggle to keep the television a tool that we control, instead of allowing it to make us into tools that it controls.

Anyone else feel like they're fighting a Great Blue Eye?

Monday, January 16, 2012


The adult Sunday school class at Grace is winding up a study based on J.I. Packer's book "Rediscovering Holiness." I don't think I can recommend this book highly enough to my fellow Christians. Yesterday, we worked through the first half of the last chapter, which deals with endurance. The entire book is excellent, but this last chapter is my favorite yet.

After stressing the truth that Christian endurance is lived out by fixing our eyes on Jesus, Packer writes, "The most vital truth for the life of holy endurance is not, however, that Jesus is our standard, momentous as that truth is. The most vital truth is, rather, that Jesus is our sustainer, our source of strength to action, our sovereign grace giver (see Hebrews 2:18, 4:16), "the author and perfecter of our faith" (v. 2)."

Packer continues a bit later, "It is precisely the glorified Lord Jesus, who by His Word and Spirit brought our faith into being and keeps it in being...who now helps us to stand steady as we gaze on Him and cling to Him by means of our focused, intentional, heartfelt prayer. It is often said that 'Help!' is the best prayer anyone ever makes. When directed to the Lord Jesus, it is certainly the most effective."

Pain in this life is a certainty. We are assured in Scripture that we will encounter various trials, sometimes very difficult trials that threaten to overwhelm us and crush our faith, and Scripture does not lie. Our suffering is useful for our growth in holiness - sometimes exposing sin and leading us to repentance, sometimes causing us to lean harder on Christ, sometimes "building muscle" for a future battle or gifting us with the ability to encourage our brothers and sisters in their struggles. Oddly, through our struggles, we discover new encouragement: We are amazed to find God's Spirit doing in us what we could never do ourselves. We discover new strength and deeper faith. We yearn more fervently for Christ and for Glory.

And when we wipe out in this great race of faith and find ourselves face down, bruised and sore, it is then that we feel most powerfully the tender ministrations of our Redeemer. He cleans our wounds, applies His healing balm, binds us up, and lifts us back into the race. Like Paul, we discover anew that at our point of greatest weakness, God's grace and strength are put on glorious display...and we are amazed. Packer writes, "He (God) reveals the glorious riches of His resources in Christ by keeping us going, so that overwhelming pressures do not overwhelm us, even when they look like doing way God glorifies Himself in His saints is by keeping them going when anyone else would have had to stop."

I think sometimes we under-rate the significance of this work of God, His simply sustaining us, His working to keep us "keeping on." We think the victorious Christian life must be something like sunshine and daisies (an idea totally contrary to Scripture), when actually it looks more like this - It is the broken-hearted mother who prays again today, for the millionth time and against all visible reason for hope, for her rebellious and wayward son. It is the lonely wife who again today prays that God will empower her to love and be faithful to her emotionally distant husband. It is the college student sitting through another lecture that denies God, who confesses in his heart and conversation again today that God is sovereign over all His creation. It is the terminally ill patient who prays again today, "Lord, help me to live the days left to me to Your glory, and then help me to die well."

Jesus is my sustainer. I will finish this race - will stand one day in Glory, holy and righteous, rejoicing in the presence of God. I will. And if today I find that I lack the endurance to press on, I have this great confidence - Jesus is not lacking in endurance. He has an abundance of strength and encouragement, enough to pour over even me, and He will sustain me.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


In Matthew 9, we find the story of a paralytic, brought to Jesus by his friends to be healed. Seeing the man and the faith of his friends, Jesus said to him, "Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven."

Some of the church officials responded with disapproval. "This man is blaspheming!"

Knowing their hearts, Jesus confronted their evil unbelief. Then, in a miraculous display of power, He told the paralytic, "Rise, pick up your bed and go home." The paralytic rose and went home. The onlookers? They were afraid.

A couple of things struck me about this story as I read through it again this week. First, the scribes were outraged because Jesus, by presuming to forgive the paralytic's sins, was putting Himself in the position of God. They understood - rightly - that only God has the power and the authority to forgive sin. They understood - rightly - that Jesus was claiming to be God. What they did not understand, was that Jesus was indeed God.

I am challenged by these wrong-thinking men - not because they were wrong, but because they were passionate about what they believed, and they were distressed when confronted with what they (wrongly) understood to be blasphemy. Do I ever encounter blasphemy? Yes, I do. How do I respond to it? Usually, with something more like complacency than passion. Awkward silence. Or mumbled, inarticulate protest. Perhaps internal disquiet, an upset stomach. "This person is obviously confused," I might think, or, "He doesn't rightly understand Scripture." But to confront someone so boldly...wouldn't that be bad manners? I am challenged by these men because I do know who Jesus is, and I should be all-the-more zealous to boldly proclaim His kingship, authority, and glory.

Another thought - Jesus's first words to the paralytic were, "Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven." What if Jesus had just stopped there? Truly, forgiveness of this man's sins was the greater miracle, the more life-altering work...greater even than having his legs made whole and healthy. Would that have been enough to satisfy him? Is that enough to satisfy me? Christ has forgiven my sins, brought me into relationship with Himself and with the Father, has given me the Holy Spirit, has given me a new life and a new family and a new purpose...That is indescribably, eternally huge. But do I encounter Christ, and then turn away discontent because in addition to all that He has given me, I want physical health, financial prosperity, recognition, or some other thing that He has not seen fit to grant me at this time? Was Christ Himself enough for the paralytic? Is Christ enough for me?

When confronting the scribes, Jesus asks them, "For which is easier to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise up and walk'?" The scribes knew the right answer. Earthly physicians could conceivably say, "Rise up and walk" - but only God could say, "Your sins are forgiven." Then, to confirm His claim to be God, Jesus told the paralytic, "Rise..." - and he did. The people responded with fear...not because Jesus could miraculously heal a lame man, but because, by doing so, He had demonstrated His authority to do the greater miracle of forgiving sin. Or of not forgiving sin, for those such as the rebellious scribes who continued to deny His deity. Scary thought. A physician may heal my body, make me worse, or kill me - but Jesus, He can sentence me to an eternity in hell. Very scary stuff.

Which brings to mind the story a few verses back (Matthew 8) of Jesus calming the storm. You know the story - Jesus and His disciples were in a boat, out at sea. Jesus was sleeping. A great storm blew up, threatening to swamp the boat. The disciples feared the waves and the water, feared for their lives. "Save us, Lord. We are perishing!" Jesus rebuked the wind and the waves, and the sea became immediately calm. Suddenly, the disciples were struck with a new and greater fear. More than they feared the wind and the waves, they feared this Man. "What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?"

I love Jesus, and I am beloved by Him. I find great comfort in knowing Him as my Savior, Lord, Bridegroom, and Brother. Sometimes, though, I forget how truly terrible He is. I forget the fear, the awe, the reverence that is due Him.

Lastly, I was struck (again!) by the compassion of Jesus. Yes, Jesus began by telling the man, "Your sins are forgiven" - but, No, He didn't stop there. "Your sins are forgiven" was followed very quickly by "Rise up and walk." Forgiveness, then the meeting of felt needs and a commission. And that's just what happens in my own story, and yours - Jesus forgives us, meets us in our most broken places, and then commands us to "walk." To live a life of obedience, joy, and praise. Maybe not on two strong legs, as in the case of the paralytic, but in whatever place and in whatever circumstance I'm appointed. With new legs of faith and a heart full of gratitude, I am to walk a walk that glorifies God.

Today, it is good to ponder afresh the great work that Christ has done in me: "Your sins are forgiven."

Today, may I earnestly endeavor to joyfully obey His command: "Rise up and walk."

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


"Mom, I think you need to stop and reconsider: Why did you get a job in the first place?"

My teenage son was calling me up short. Giving me a reality check. Helping me focus. Teenagers are good at that!

An odd thing happened last week. During my shift at Wal-Mart, two different people came through my line and asked me if I'd be interested in applying for jobs elsewhere. One leaned over my counter and asked in a low voice, "Do you plan to work here at Wal-Mart indefinitely?"

"Um, no, I don't think so," I replied, befuddled. Seemed like an odd question, coming from a customer.

"Come by (a local business) this week and talk to me. We have an opening, and I think you'd be perfect for the job."

Two days later, another customer did almost the same thing.

Two opportunities, out of the blue. Both unsolicited. Both with respectable, well-established businesses. Both offer better pay, plus benefits. Both are full-time, day jobs.

If you've read this blog any length of time, you know how very much I dislike leaving home every evening to go to work as a cashier. I miss the family dinner and the conversation and interaction that comes at the end of the day. You know how very, very tired I am. Getting in bed at midnight after 5 1/2 hours at a cash register, then stumbling out of bed 6 hours later to start a new day of school, babysitting, and life is exhausting. So, what to do about the two job opportunities mentioned above? Seems like a No Brainer!

Except that things are never quite so simple for me - my brain makes everything uber complicated. Thus the conversation with the kids, in which my son made the above comment.

So why did I go to work at Wal-Mart in the first place? Well, the short answer is, We needed the money. Medical bills, and then school fees. Right now, everything I make goes to the local university to help cover tuition for five students (Does it sound like we are secretly trying to take over the campus with Kendalls?! And no, there's no "bulk rate" discount - I asked.) Okay, first reason: money.

So why Wal-Mart? Because it's the one local employer who hires part-time workers for other than days. I could work nights at a local factory, but I'd have to pull a full 8-hour shift...and I just don't think I could physically handle that workload. Why nights? Because it's important to me to be home during the day to school my kids and to oversee the running of the house. I'm just not ready to give up being Mom yet. So, second reason: I needed something part-time, evening or night.

Now, what reasons were NOT a part of my going to work? I did not go to work to make a load of money so that I could furnish my house or pay for a vacation. I did not go to work to secure benefits such as health insurance, although I think having health insurance would be totally awesome. I did not go to work to build a second career - I have no aspiration of being an assistant manager at Wal-Mart or anywhere else.

These two new opportunities would provide all the things on the second list, but both would also require me to work full-time, days - away from home, away from "school"/the kitchen table. What to do?

I like the people I work for and with at Wal-Mart, and I like the customers I service. I do not like always being so tired, and I miss evenings at home. Yes, I would like one day to be able to afford a vacation or a visit to the dentist. And, Yes, I would like someday to use my energy for something besides scanning groceries. (For example, I fantasize that one day, I will be a real Writer!)

But, if the opportunity requires that I give up my job as Mom, then - No, today is not that day.

Thanks to my son, and his pointed question, for bringing some clarity to the situation. Thanks for clearing the fog, so that I can say, "No, thank you" - with no regrets.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


I think God must like water music -
He sends the drops down
Like tiny crystal mallets
They strike the stone keys
Of the creek-bed marimba.

Monday, January 9, 2012


Monday morning, and we're struggling to make this a productive school day and to check off a few household chores. Hopefully, later today, I will have time to sit down and write a little...maybe during Baby's afternoon nap. In the meantime, here's a link to last week's Soli Deo Gloria article for the Union City Daily Messenger: God is My Father.

Reading, digesting, and then writing about this portion of the Heidelberg Catechism provided me such comfort on a very dark day. Maybe it will encourage you, too.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Okay, maybe I'm not as rustic country as I thought.

Our pump went out yesterday afternoon, and that means we have no water. Well, it means we have no running water. The kids ran next door to Grammy's yesterday evening and filled every available jug and bucket with water, which they hauled to our house. So, technically, yes, we do have drink, to brush teeth, to make coffee. What we don't have is a lot of water to wash with.

I don't care how many wet wipes you use, or how much hand cleaner, you just don't feel clean without fresh, running water. Martha jogged over to Grammy's this morning to shower and wash her hair. Since I had to be here for MaryAnna's arrival early this morning, I decided to postpone my shower until later today...I feel so blechy without my morning shower!

After I got the baby down for her mid-morning nap, I sat down at the kitchen table and went over a math lesson with Helen. Once Helen was working on today's problem set, I set about the routine morning chores. Wash the breakfast dishes. Uh, nope. Okay, no problem...there's plenty more work to do around here!

So I go to the laundry room and begin sorting laundry. Then it occurs to me, no water - no laundry. Um, well, while I figure out what to do next, I'll make a glass of tea. I pour water from one of Grammy's jugs into the kettle and brew batch of tea. Lo and behold, I find there is no ice in the ice bucket in the freezer. So I fetch ice trays from the laundry room freezer and empty them into the bucket. Out of habit, I immediately step to the sink to refill the empty ice trays. Duh! I set the ice trays aside to refill later.

What's next on the list? "Helen, while you're working on math, I'm going to run outside and water the little trees." I head out the side door and around the back of the house. Guess what I discover? Well, if the water is not working inside the house, it isn't working outside the house either. I knew that. I just forgot. Helen and I both got a laugh out of that one!

I feel nasty, and like a large part of my day is on "Pause." I also feel like a big weenie, a wimp, because my ability to function is so greatly compromised by this temporary lack of water. Really, now, Laura Ingalls Wilder wouldn't have let this mess up her day!

The good news is, Steve has someone coming out to fix the pump later this morning. And, yes, I can make it through one day without running water. What if the problem takes longer than a day to fix? Well, I may have to move in temporarily with the neighbors. I don't think Grammy would mind, would she?

(Speaking of water/washing/being clean, here's a post from a couple of years ago that I came across recently. I'm so glad Jesus washes me completely clean!)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Something about hanging up a new calendar, page 1, JANUARY: maybe there is no real reason to believe the year ahead will be significantly better, but still, there is an irrepressible feeling that with the new year comes a fresh start. January 1 feels like a giant annual Reset Button.

This year will be different. Maybe we don't say it out loud, but we think it...and we hope it. Different how? This year, I'll finally get into a regular exercise routine. This year, I'm going to lose those extra pounds I've been carrying around. This year, I will floss my teeth every single day. This year, I'm going to spend more time studying Scripture. This year, I will fill-in-the-blank. This year marks a new beginning...

In my read-through-the-Bible journey, I am back in Genesis. Yet again, I am stunned and saddened by how very quickly our story moves from creation/Eden/perfection to the Fall/God's curse/corruption. Day 2 of this new year, and already, mankind is so evil that God determines to destroy all but Noah and his family.

Ahhh, but thank goodness for Noah. His is a romantic tale, no? A righteous man and his family, tucked safely away in a floating haven by God while all the rest of creation suffers God's judgment and wrath. All the wickedness and sin of the world washed away in one cataclysmic flood. A fresh start. A chance to begin again, to "get it right."

Thank goodness for Noah - now our story will certainly take a turn for the better!

Well, actually, no, it won't. After seeing a wicked world judged by God and destroyed by water, after witnessing God's gracious salvation of their own family, after receiving God's covenant promises, after the Restart Button has been pushed in a graphic, life-altering way, how does Noah's family "start over"? Right away, we read of Noah's son Ham dishonoring his father, "righteous" Noah, who is lying passed out drunk and naked in his tent. A new curse. Dissension between brothers. Turn the page, and the descendants of Noah are building a tower to heaven, a monument to their arrogance and self-idolatry. All too quickly, our parents move from washed clean, to filthy and corrupt. From set apart by God, to set apart against God. An opportunity for a fresh start, totally wasted!

Seems like no matter how many times January 1st rolls around, and no matter how earnestly we resolve to do better, we just never seem to get it right. What's wrong with us, people?!

Simply put, we are broken. And nothing on this earth - no number of fresh starts, no amount of resolve - can fix that.

In my read-through-the-Bible journey, I am also back in Matthew. Here in the first Gospel, I read, "...that which is conceived in her (Mary) is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you will call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." Finally, we come face to face with the only One who can truly fix our brokenness and cure our unrighteousness! I am so thankful that God has me reading about Jesus over in Matthew, even while I'm reading about my first parents back in Genesis, grateful He is showing me anew the Great Light even while I am reading about our great darkness.

Yes, I do have a few plans for this new year, 2012 - a "fresh start" or two I'd like to make. Will I be faithful to my resolutions? Well, judging from past experience, probably not...but I can still hope, right? And still try? And, whether I succeed in losing a few pounds or not, whether I floss diligently or no, whether I learn to fire a handgun with confidence or write more consistently or pray more faithfully - one thing is certain: Jesus will accomplish all that He has resolved to do. That includes covering me with and conforming me to His own righteousness. That includes bringing me home to Glory.

In Jesus, I have a fresh start that will not be corrupted, one that cannot fail.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come... - 2 Corinthians 5:17

But according to His promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. - 2 Peter 3:13

Monday, January 2, 2012


After a heavy week last week, time for something a little light-hearted. Today, My Favorite Wal-Mart Customers:

The Price is Right! I have one customer, an elderly gentleman, who can guess the total cost of his shopping order to within 20 cents. Doesn't matter if it's a big order with a belt-load of items, or a small order at the express check-out. We have a game we play: He sets everything on the counter/belt while I wait. Then I ask, "What's your number?" He gives me an amount, say fifty-seven dollars and forty-two cents. So far, his closest guess was only five cents off. His biggest miss? A mere twenty cents. That particular shopping trip (when he was off by 20 cents), he accused me of doing some kind of voodoo to him to throw him off his game. This guy always makes me smile!

The Cat Lady: This elderly lady comes through my line with an entire buggy full of cat food. She usually has a second buggy full of people food as well. Having endured several back surgeries, she walks stooped over, very slowly. I have no idea how on earth she manages her regular shopping trips to Wally World, dragging those heavy carts through our miles and miles of aisles. But I do know that she has the sweetest smile and kindest disposition, and it always brightens my day to have her come through my line. No, I don't mind hauling all that heavy cat food out of her cart, scanning it, and then reloading it into another buggy for her, not one bit!

Mr. Miami: I met "Mr. Miami" over the Thanksgiving holidays. He was in town from Miami, Florida, visiting his country relatives. "What kind of night life is there in Obion County? Any great clubs here?" he asked. "Uh, No," I answered flatly. "Then what do people do for entertainment in this God-forsaken place?" "They come to Wal-Mart and look for their friends and neighbors," I explained. After a few days of life here in the Boondocks, he figured out I'd been telling the truth. He came through my line almost every single day for two weeks. His last night in town, he stopped to say Goodbye, and I thought that would be the end of our visits. Then last week, he popped through my line again. "Hi! I'm back for Christmas!" Night life in the big city - gotta love it!

Red-headed Reporter: "What's your name?" "Camille." "Camille What?" "Kendall." "Do you live here in Union City?" "No, I live in Troy." "What color car do you drive?" This red-headed eight-year-old peppers me non-stop with questions when she comes grocery shopping with her mother. "I want to be an investigative reporter when I grow up," she explained on her first time through my line. "I think you're off to a good start!" I laughed. Her mom rolled her eyes and groaned, "This is so embarrassing." Last week, she came through my line again, and picked up right where she had left off: "Okay, where were we? Right - you're Camille Kendall. How long have you worked here at Wal-Mart?" "You must be a very good student at school, with a memory like that," I laughed. "Yes, I am," she answered matter-of-factly. Love. This. Kid.

There are the white-haired ladies who call me "Dear," and the balding gentlemen who call me "Sweetheart," and the black women who call me "Sugar" and "Baby." And the babies, perched in their seats on the shopping carts, who stare at me with owl-eyes, daring a shy smile and a tiny, timid wave Good-bye when their moms are finished checking out. And the very earnest men and women - there are a few of them - who never complete a transaction without asking, "Are you saved? Do you know Jesus?"

Yes, these are some of my favorite customers, too. So many, many beautiful, fascinating people.