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.