Thursday, March 28, 2013


"If you can't afford to lose, then you can't afford to play the game." Back when my kids were much younger, this was my standard, not-very-gracious response when one of them would burst into tears or blow a fuse because they had lost at a board game. In my mind, sitting down to play a game meant also assuming that there was a very real possibility that you would lose. But losing was worth the risk, because the game was more about the social interaction than about who won or lost, right? Besides, if you were afraid of losing and were unwilling to take that risk, then, as a consequence, you had absolutely no possibility of winning, either. Play the game and risk losing? Intolerable! Don't play, just to be safe, and give up any chance of winning? Also intolerable! What a quandry!

The lovely GKC once said: "The paradox of courage is that a man must be a little careless of his life even in order to keep it."

If you're too afraid of dying, you'll be hindered from truly living. If you can't afford to lose, then you can't afford to play the game.

Is there something you are afraid of losing in this life? Something you can't risk giving the extent that you can't really embrace it either?

There are things like that in my life. Relationships - where I'm so afraid of doing something wrong that I can't do anything right. Dreams - that I'm afraid of not realizing, so I only halfheartedly attempt. Hopes - hopes that would be so painful to live without that I don't dare whisper them even to myself.

That women's training conference I mentioned a few posts back? A few of the things said and taught at the conference really stuck in my head. Have been banging around up there ever since. One of them was...

Courage is not not being afraid. Courage is seeing the thing that frightens you most - and then walking toward it.

And so today I am praying for the grace to take a step forward.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Last month, I attended a national training conference for ladies involved in women's ministry or leadership positions in their local churches. During the conference, each attendee wore a badge bearing the woman's name, the name of her church, and the town and state where she lived. With hundreds of ladies gathered from across the United States (and some from Canada), I had the opportunity to meet lots of new folks and make some new friends.

How do those get-to-know-you conversations usually begin?  "Hi, I'm Camille. I see that your name is Sarah. I'm not very familiar with Montana, Sarah.  Where in Montana is B_______?"  "Oh, I'm a mom and homeschool teacher.  What do you do?"  "Yes, this is my first leadership training conference. How about you?"

Where am I from? I'm from Troy, a little one-light town in rural northwest Tennessee. What do I do? I do laundry, meals, and schoolwork.

These conversations got me thinking:  Where am I really from? Yes, Troy is where I live right now, but it is not my eternal home. Like the Israelites camping in the wilderness, I "tabernacle" in Tennessee, but my heart longs for my true home, for the Promised Land.

What do I really do? What is my true occupation? Yes, I teach math, fry eggs, and fold towels, but those are only tiny facets of my larger job of glorifying my Creator. I'm a glory girl, an undercover princess, an ambassador from another kingdom.

I wish that I could maintain a constant consciousness of the fact that heaven is my home and worship is my vocation. If I could keep these truths in mind, the get-to-know-you conversations would be so different.

"Where are you from, Camille?"

"I'm from Glory!"

"What do you do, Camille?"

"I worship!"

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


I got to see the new grandbaby this weekend! She is absolutely gorgeous, and so very, very sweet. Now, I know there are a lot of beautiful, sweet babies in this world, but there are extraordinarily few "most precious babies ever." I can count them on two hands (although I think that I may need more hands in just a few years, as the circle widens!)

When someone asked my daughter what she thought about motherhood and about this tiny addition to her family, she replied, "I'm in love!"

So what makes this particular baby one of those unique babies, set apart, remarkably different? What makes this little child precious above all others?

This baby is the one God has given us.  This baby is ours.

I have seven children, one awesome son-in-law, and a jewel of a grandbaby, and they are the dearest people I know. Their voices prick my ears, their smiles bless me, their concerns grab my heart, their joys delight me, their lives touch me in ways that no other voices or faces or lives can.

My children are growing up and moving out of the nest. Still, although they live and move "out there," in different worlds from my own, they are my dearest treasures, my brightest thoughts each day. Yes, they sometimes grieve me, even break my heart, but they are precious...because they are the children God has given me. They are mine.

I was reminded again this weekend, as I was enjoying my sweet granddaughter, that this is how God regards us. He regards us - His children - as beautiful and precious, as His dearest treasures. Not because of anything we have done or will do, not because of any inherent quality or merit in us, but because we are His.

Jesus, facing the trauma of the cross, could not even by that terror be distracted from the great love and care He felt for His children. He prayed earnestly for the children God had given Him, "I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours" (John 17:9).

Again, in 1 John 3:1 we are told, "See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are!"  God speaks of His children in Scripture as His treasured possession, His beloved, His delight. That so amazes me - that God regards me that way! Even more, I am amazed that my position as God's beloved is eternally secure - that I can do nothing to thwart His love - because His love for me flows from Himself, is grounded in Himself. He loves me because He is my Father. As His child, I am the object of His eternal, unshakable affection.

Another thought also came to mind this weekend, as I was holding my granddaughter. Family is the seedbed, the nursery, the first proclamation of the Gospel. Only a short time ago, I had no more knowledge of my granddaughter than the vague thought of "some day, maybe..." Today and every day to come, on into eternity, she is a real and dear and powerful part of my life, a bright thought, a cherished gift.

This is as it should be - this great delight in and concern for this new person - and I think maybe this is why it is such a gross offense to God, such outrageous blasphemy, when we devalue the children He gives us. Neglect, abuse, abortion - these are not only crimes against another human (against our children no less, who should be those dearest to us) - these are crimes against the character and holiness of God.

Father, thank you for the children You have given me. Thank you for the blessing of knowing more and more of Your gospel love for me through them. Forgive me when I have not reflected the great love you have for me to the children You have given me, and help me demonstrate to them the love and sense of delight that You have faithfully demonstrated toward me.

Friday, March 22, 2013


My first laptop is history.  Dead.  Gone.

I stopped by Computers Direct in Union City yesterday to pick up the body.  "What do you do with a dead computer?" I asked the tech guru as he handed me the remains.

"Well, you can take it to the recycling center, but you'll want to remove the hard drive, first."

"How do I remove the hard drive?"  I was too embarrassed to tell him that I actually had no idea whatsoever what a hard drive was.  I mean, I knew it was kinda like the "brain" of the machine, but I wouldn't have known a hard drive if you'd set one right in front of me.  That was yesterday.  Today, yes, I do know what a hard drive looks like.  I'm getting an education here, folks - woohoo!  My dead hard drive looks a little like a fat, metal cracker.  It's sitting beside me on the kitchen counter at the moment.

Patrick flipped the computer over, gave it a bang and a jerk, and held out the fat metal cracker.  "This is your hard drive."

"What do I do with it?  How do I destroy it?" I examined the disc in my hand.  "Stomp on it?"

"Half-inch drill bit, three holes," he explained matter-of-factly.

I took the fat cracker without blinking.

"Or," he continued, "you could use it for target practice, if you have a high-powered rifle."

I'm afraid of power tools.  Guess I need to borrow a rifle.  Looks like the old laptop gets to go out with a military salute.


Thursday, March 21, 2013


The world is dark, and light is precious.  Come closer, dear reader.  You must trust me.  I am telling you a story...

So begins Kate DiCamillo's story The Tale of Despereaux, "being the story of a mouse, a princess, some soup, and a spool of thread."

Read it.  Even if you think you're too old for such tales.  This is not a story for children:  it is a story for humans.  And, by NO means opt instead to watch the cartoon/film version of this tale - it is stupid, weak, and completely misses the point of the story.

One of my favorite characters in DiCamillo's tale is the rat Chiaroscuro, called Roscuro for short.  His parents gave him this name as a joke, because rats have a sense of humor (acccording to DiCamillo) and because they hate light.  The word chiaroscuro refers to the arrangement or interplay of light and darkness together, like in a painting. Light and shadow, the revealed and the veiled, in juxtaposition.

Roscuro is an unusual rat because he falls in love with light.  In his enthusiastic pursuit of light, he finds himself at a royal banquet.  Light, music, glittering jewels, delicious aromas...Overwhelmed by the brilliance and sparkling beauty around him, Roscuro inadvertently falls into the queen's soup - which then triggers a series of very tragic events, one of which is that Roscuro is forever after banished to the dark and damp of the castle dungeon, never to live in the light again.

If only someone had taken the time to try to understand why Roscuro was at the banquet in the first place!  If only someone had asked a few questions!  If only the king and his court had used their heads, instead of reacting purely out of emotion!  If only...if only, so much heartache and suffering could have been avoided.  Instead, Roscuro was left to deal with the trauma of the events at the banquet - alone.  His heart was broken, but no one offered help or healing.

DiCamillo writes:  "There are those hearts, reader, that never mend again once they are broken.  Or if they do mend, they heal themselves in a crooked and lopsided way, as if sewn together by a careless craftsman.  Such was the fate of Chiaroscuro.  His heart was broken...  [He] put his heart together again.  But it was, alas, put together all wrong."

Ever felt like that, like Roscuro felt: like there was a broken place deep in your heart that was so long neglected that, once it stopped hurting so bad, you found it had "healed" crooked and lopsided, like the pieces had grown back together all wrong?

I have.

What do you do with a heart that has had to heal itself, and that has done so in a crooked and lopsided way?  Is there hope of ever truly healing, completely?  Of leaving behind the dull ache of sadness that settled in after the stabbing pain subsided?  Of being free of the Frankenstein stitches and the gristly knots of scar tissue?  Even Kate DiCamillo admits, "But the question you want answered, I know, is did they live happily ever after?"

I'm not sure yet of the answer to such questions, but I think the answer lies in another story, a much Bigger Story, also about a broken heart and lasting scars.  The One Great True Story.  And as Gregory the jailer tells the small mouse Despereaux, deep in the dark dank of the dungeon, "Stories are light.  Light is precious in a world so dark.  Begin at the beginning....make some light."

My brain is mulling this one over, and I will likely write a related post next week.  In the meantime, if you, like me, have a heart that has been broken and then healed lopsided, well, you are not alone.  We two have something in common, Dear Reader.  And this - the state of our crooked, sad hearts - this is most emphatically not the end of the story.  There are pages yet unturned.

We don't have to hide our scars...they remind us of where we have been, but not who we are. - Jonny Diaz

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Many years ago, Steve and I lived for a time in Oceanside, California.  We took advantage of being so near the Pacific coast and spent many afternoons and weekends at the beach, splashing in the surf or watching dolphins from a blanket on the sand.

I wasn't a strong or confident swimmer 30 years ago, but I loved being in the water.  On one of those rare occasions when I felt brave enough to venture into deeper water, I found myself caught in a riptide (also called a rip current, but "riptide" just sounds so much more powerful, don't you think?).  A riptide  is a strong, narrow current of water flowing out from the shore, something like the return flush from all those waves crashing onto the beach.  Imagine all the power of the incoming surf, compressed into one narrow channel of water.  Then imagine the force and speed with which that jet of water races from the shore and back toward the ocean.

Weird thing is, when you're swimming in the ocean, you don't see a riptide or feel a riptide - you just look up from paddling and suddenly realize that you are waaaay further from shore than seems possible.  How is it that folks on the beach look so tiny, when only a minute ago they were just a few yards away?

The temptation is to panic.  To kick furiously toward the nearest point on the shore.  The solution is to begin swimming calmly parallel to the shore, not toward it.  By swimming parallel to the beach, you'll soon be out of the narrow but powerful pull of the riptide, and can once again swim productively landward as the surf pushes you toward the shore.  Thankfully, someone had explained riptides to me before I experienced one first hand.  I made it back to the DelMar beach that day, instead of washing up weeks later on one of the Hawaiian islands.

Still, it was a scary experience.  In an instant, I had moved from splashing carefree in shallow water, to finding myself in completely over my head, unable to touch bottom or to swim against the current, frantically longing for the safety of land. It instilled in me a greater fear of and respect for the power of the ocean.

C.S. Lewis writes in "A Slip of the Tongue" (from The Weight of Glory):   "The tempter tells me, 'Take care.  Think how much this good resolve, the acceptance of this Grace, is going to cost.'  But our Lord equally tells us to count the cost.  Even in human affairs great importance is attached to the agreement of those whose testimony hardly ever agrees.  Here, more.  Between them it would seem to be pretty clear that paddling [near the shore] is of little consequence.  What matters, what Heaven desires and Hell fears, is precisely that further step, out of our depth, out of our own control."

God, grant me the courage to step out of the safety of a shallow relationship with you.  Catch me up in the riptide of your Grace.  Take me out to deeper water, and help me to never, ever look back.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


I have dreams.  I have aspirations.  I have plans.

When I grow up, I want to be a writer.

A paid writer.

Realizing, at 50 years old, that I am perhaps past the age of "When I grow up...," I decided over Christmas break to set some goals.  Real, practical, concrete, attainable goals. Write more on the blog.  Regularly submit articles for publication.  Rewrite that manuscript.  Goals with hard, cold numbers to them:  X number of proposals this week, Y number of queries this month.  Armed with a calendar, a financial worksheet, a binder, ink and paper for the printer, and a copy of Writer's Market (Thank you, Lisa!), I was ready to DO the writing thing.  For real.  Jumping in with both feet.  No looking back.

I threw my first proposal - made a pitch for an article in a national magazine.  My proposal was accepted!  (You can pause and do a happy dance for me right here, if you'd like - woohoo!)

Then life happened.  A lot of life.  The pages of my wall calendar for January, February, and March are full of ink.  Black ink - appointments, meetings, church activities, social commitments.  Red ink - rescheduled appointments, meetings, church activities, social commitments.  My kitchen calendar looks like a bad job from discount day at a disreputable tattoo parlor.  And both the tattoo-er and the tattoo-ee were, shall we say, a little stoned.

Not only was life a little more crazy-busy than usual, but my computer crashed.  Stone dead.  Black screen.

Still, presumptuously, I blogged back on February 14th:  "Whether my computer can be fixed or I end up having to shop for a new one, I fully intend to be more consistent in showing up here at The Hurricane Report.  Thank you, Dear Readers, for sticking with me through the long silence!"


So, here it has been another long month of silence.  Forgive me, and thank you - again - for patiently sticking with me.

What have I learned in this month of black-out?

1.)  It is presumptuous - even sinful - to assert that I will most definitely do anything.  I have no idea what tomorrow holds.  How can I declare that next week I will blog, or submit a proposal, or write an article?  Yes, I can hope to do those things; I can purpose and work to do those things; but I cannot unequivocally say that I will most certainly do those things.  I can work today with a hopeful eye on tomorrow, but I probably shouldn't write on my calendar (or my blog) with a jumbo Sharpie.

2.)  If I am going to write, I will have to do it because this is what I want myself and not because it's what someone else wants for me.  No one else wants so earnestly for me to be writing that they will see to it that I have the time or the equipment to do so.  Yes, I very badly want to write!  Whether anyone else reads it or not!  Not being able to write for these many weeks has been incredibly frustrating to me - not because I haven't been meeting those goals I set over Christmas break, but because I haven't had an outlet for the thoughts and ideas and energies that constantly flood my cranial cavity.  As I told a friend yesterday, I feel like a one-legged chicken with an irrepressible urge to scratch - can you sense my frustration?!

3.)  I have awesome friends.  No, they can't shoulder the obligations on my calendar.  No, they can't resurrect my dead computer.  But they have been praying for me and encouraging me while I've been unable to write.  They have patiently endured my groaning and my crying and my flailing around for solutions.  Thank you, thank you, thank you, dear friends, for loving me and praying for me and praying with me and encouraging me to press on.  I'm ready now to wipe the snot off my face and get back to work, back to the joyful work of writing.

If the Lord wills, I'll see you here tomorrow.

Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit" - yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.  What is your life?  For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that."  As it is, you boast in your arrogance.  All such boasting is evil.  So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. - James 4:13-17