Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you...Do not fear or be dismayed. - Deuteronomy 31:6, 8b

If you've read this blog for very long, you've probably picked up on the fact that fear is something I struggle with. Timidity. Fear of man. Hesitancy. A propensity for way over-analyzing things. Reluctance to just jump in and enter the fray.

My son and I were talking this past weekend about fear within the church, about a lack of courage that inhibits us from jumping into the fray of modern life. My son recently completed a degree in biology at a secular university. He described his tenure in the sacred halls of organic evolution as a trial by fire. He walked into this profane temple with his eyes wide open, willing to hear out the secular priests, ready to engage and to dialogue. He described his four years in the biology department as grueling, as mentally and emotionally and spiritually exhausting.

He is tired after four years of secular university, but he is also stronger. And, he is zealous to let the world know - and the church in particular - that God is quite equal to the challenge of facing down false gods. Even professional scientists realize that the foundations of evolutionism are crumbling away, and they are scrambling to find something else to explain the natural world - something else, anything but God - before the rest of us witness the crash of their temple. Meanwhile, many of us in the church are so afraid that the doctrine of evolution (or whatever is the current explanation of life put out by the scientific community) will unravel our faith, will render God an inadequate and unnecessary myth, that we don't even engage.

We're like children, frightened by a bad dream, cringing in our beds with our eyes tightly closed, almost too afraid to even breathe.

We lie paralyzed in the darkness, terrified that if we even think about the bogeyman, he might sneak up and bite us. With our blankets pulled up over our heads, we chant silently to ourselves, "I'm not afraid! I'm not afraid!"

But we are afraid. Afraid because we think our adversary may be right, may be too big, too strong.

My biologist son is also an artist. Here, too, he finds that, largely, the church has abdicated its voice and influence. Geoff Stevens writes in the May 2013 issue of Tabletalk: "As Christians, we see so many things in the art world that repel us that we're left wondering if perhaps the problem is inherent in the emotional and subjective nature of art itself. Some may even ask: Should we care about artists and their work at all?"

Oh, how we need to know better the God who saves us! To know His power and wisdom and majesty and sovereignty and justice and holiness! In the beginning, God... This is His world, we are His creatures, and He is more than able to answer our questions, meet our needs, and face our fears. God Himself enables and empowers us to, as Stevens puts it, "thoughtfully interact with our culture as it gropes in the dark for answers."

We don't have to cower in our pews, afraid of the scientists and artists and politicians and philosophers of our day. No, we can sit across the table from them, look them calmly in the eyes and ask, "Tell me what you're thinking. Can we talk about this?"

It is time to open our eyes, stand up on our feet, walk across this dark room, and turn on the light.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. - John 1:1, 4-5

Thursday, April 25, 2013


When #6 was just a tiny girl, she would pray during bedtime prayers that God would give her a baby. Martha LOVED (and still loves) babies. I suggested that maybe we should pray for a husband, first. Oh, Ye, of little faith!

God graciously provided Martha a baby. A couple who were dear friends of ours needed someone to watch their newborn while they were at work and school. Mom or Dad would drop Baby off in the morning; we would get to hold him and love him all day; and then Mom or Dad would pick him up in the evening. On the third day of keeping Baby - after Mom had stopped by, loaded him into the car, and driven off - three-year-old Martha burst into angry tears. "Why does Mrs. S--- keep taking our baby away?!"

"Oh, honey," I explained, "We don't get to keep him. He is Mr. and Mrs. S---'s baby. They just let us have him during the day."

So Martha started praying again. Within a year, Helen joined our family:  our very own  baby, one we could really keep.

This is a picture of Martha when she first met the baby she had prayed for, the one we could finally keep. That happy face is a reflection of absolute joy! Almost fourteen years later, Martha still loves and delights in her younger sister Helen. They truly are the very best of friends.

Another thing Martha prayed for way back in her childhood was that God would allow her to serve Him through some kind of work in ministry or missions. Over the years, she has looked for opportunities to do just that - whether by loving on the younger children at church, or by helping with music for worship, or by volunteering summers at a camp for local children.

Martha loves people, and she loves Jesus, and she loves opportunities to bring those two loves together.

This summer, Martha has an extraordinary opportunity - something of a dream - to serve as a summer intern with the Mission to the World team working in Chiba, Japan. Did you know that Japan has the highest suicide rate in the industrialized world? The MTW Chiba Team understands that Japan's greatest need is Jesus, and they desire to share the good news of the gospel of Jesus with hurting people. As stated on their website, the Chiba team has "covenanted together to pray and work towards a Biblical church planting movement that is ultimately indigenous, spreading from East Tokyo throughout Japan and the world." You can learn more about the MTW Chiba team by visiting their website here.

How will Martha serve this team over the summer? While living with a missionary family and fellow interns in Chiba, she will serve in the mission church, build relationships, share the gospel, teach English and music, and help in any other areas of service God prepares for her. Yes, Mom is a little nervous - Martha is tiny, and Japan is on the opposite side of the world. But Martha - she's absolutely thrilled. I am confident that we will both be growing in our faith through this experience!

Please keep Martha (& Mom!) in your prayers as the date for her departure approaches. Pray also for the team serving in Chiba. And, if you would like to help support Martha financially, the help would be greatly appreciated. Click on MTW's donation website - here - where you can either create an MTW account or make a one-time donation. You'll need Martha's ministry account number: 14064.

I'll post some updates on Martha during the summer. I'm so excited for her - excited to see what she will learn and what opportunities she will have to serve!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


The tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. . . It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. - James 3:6a, 8b-9

My feelings were hurt.

I'd spent all morning doing one of many jobs on the to-do list here at the house. It's a job I actually really like doing (unlike, say, cleaning toilets), because this job involves being outside. This particular morning, the weather had been lovely and I'd had no pressing obligations to make me feel like I had to rush. I thoroughly enjoyed being in the fresh air, chugging through this chore.

Then, after dinner that evening, someone at the table commented to a visiting friend that "Oh, we don't really care about ______ at our house. We kinda just let things go. No one really takes care of it unless it gets really out of hand."

I was frustrated. Did you not notice the work I did today?

My feelings were hurt. So, you think no one cares? I care!

I was mad. This isn't a chore that you ever really help with, so why do you even have an opinion about it?

I felt belittled. If no one cares but me, then why am I doing this? Is my work of such little consequence?

My frustration that evening didn't spring from the chore itself - it's something that needs to be done, something I like to do, and something I'll continue doing. My frustration was - I felt unappreciated.

And so, a couple of days later, I unloaded my frustration on a friend. I told her about the incident, about how so-n-so hurt my feelings, about how I was thinking I'd just stop doing __________ until somebody else decided it was important to them.  Blah, blah, blah... And I cried.

When I got home from my friend's house, I texted her: "I shouldn't have mouthed off. Forgive me for dumping on you."

She texted back: "That's okay. Sometimes we have to vent a little."

Sunday morning during the prayer of corporate confession, the congregation - including me - read aloud together these words:  "We have failed to honor you, the God who gives us every breath and sustains our every step."

That hit me like a slap in the face. Every breath I breathe is a gift from God, and yet I so often use that very God-given breath to complain, to gripe about how someone else has done me wrong. I've got a bad case of spiritual halitosis.

If my life is God's, if my time is God's, if my very breath is God's, who am I to question how He chooses to appropriate these things? Rather than getting my feelings hurt and spouting off at the mouth, why can't I just thankfully perform the work God gives me, whether anyone else cares or notices or not?

"Where many words are present, sin is not far off; but whoever restrains his lips is wise." - Proverbs 10:19a

I can relate to the prophet who cried, "Woe is me! I am a man of unclean lips!" Not only do I need the righteousness of Jesus to save my lost soul - I need Him to save my lost lips.

Jesus, help me to speak less. And when I do speak, help me to choose words that honor you and that are life-giving to others.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Helen finished the last lesson in her Algebra I textbook yesterday. Today, she takes her last unit test; tomorrow, her final exam. And then, we will put the math book on the shelf for good.

Last night, the Trins printed out rough drafts for English 112. Today, they'll review those in class. Then, revisions. And finally, the end of this week, the very last papers of the semester will be turned in to their professor.

I absolutely LOVE the feeling that comes with completing a textbook. The last page is turned, the final assignment completed. It always amazes me to discover that - Wow! - yes, we really did it! We finished the coursework for Algebra I, or Physical Science, or whatever!

These next several weeks are going to be incredibly busy at the Kendall house as we shift gears from school work and grade reports, to graduations and senior recitals and missions opportunities and summer jobs and projects around the house. When I look at the calendar for April and May, I have to start doing Lamaze breathing. Stay calm. We can do this.

Yes, we can!

I love this season of the year.

As we shift gears from the school year to summer, my mind is whirring with thoughts of what to do in the "down time" - not that life will be any less busy, just busy with different things! Me, I hope to do a LOT of writing, and to work in the garden and the yard, and to clean out my bedroom closet. (Hahahaha! Just kidding on that last one - life is short, and time is precious.) Go through textbooks and plan out coursework for the fall. Visit friends I haven't seen in way too long. Go to a movie with Helen. Write lots of letters to Martha and Tom. Find the shortest driving route to Montgomery. Read more Chesteron.

What about you, Dear Reader? It will be here in a heartbeat - do you have any plans for summer?

Monday, April 22, 2013


What a difference a year makes! It's been a year since "Sally Johnson" poured Jesus all over me. Looking back at this post reminds me of how very horrible I felt a year ago, how very wonderful life is on this side of that dark, exhausting valley. Sally prayed some very specific things for me that weekend in April 2012, and it is amazing how God has answered those prayers.

On my little chalkboard in the kitchen is written this question: "What is the opportunity?" Sally challenged me a year ago with these words: "I pray that when you encounter obstacles, God will give you the grace to pause and ask yourself, 'What is the opportunity here?' I pray that instead of obstacles, you will see the opportunities God is providing you."

"What is the opportunity?" That one question has been slowly and consistently revolutionizing my world. (I feel another blog post coming on!)

Thank you, again, Sally Johnson!

- originally posted April 17, 2012

Two weeks since I last posted. Seems like ages ago.

A friend at church commented a couple of weeks ago, "Man, Camille, you look awful!" I felt awful, too. Exhausted. Wiped out. Completely drained, physically, mentally, emotionally. I'd been running on Auto-Zombie-Pilot for too long. Too little sleep, too many demands. Crash.

One of my man sons gave me some wise counsel. "Mom, it's pretty clear you can't keep doing everything you're doing right now. Something has to go. Wal-Mart seems like the obvious choice. You need to mark that off the list." So I turned in my two-week notice. How to pay school fees next fall? Hmmm, that question will have to be answered some other way than Wal-Mart.

I am usually not a very verbally emotive person. The nurse laughed when I informed everyone in the room, just minutes before delivering Son #3, "This is really very uncomfortable!" (Happy Birthday, Tom!) What I actually meant was, "I'M IN ABSOLUTELY EXCRUCIATING PAIN!!!!" I was not being funny. But, I guess because I wasn't screaming or threatening to choke the nearest person, no one seemed to appreciate the intensity of my discomfort.

I've been very, very tired for a long, long time. That's an understatement. But, despite my tendency toward understatement, a keen friend had eyes to see the sputter of an S.O.S. flare streaking across my horizon.

Let's call my friend Sally Johnson. Grace Abundant would be a better pseudonym. Sally called, out of the blue, with a proposition: "I'm going out of town for two days and want you to come with me." Sally explained that she would be at meetings on this trip - that we wouldn't be able to visit much - but that I would have two days to myself to do absolutely nothing.

On short notice, Grandma pitched in and took over childcare for the two babies I keep. We finagled a way to get me to Sally's house and still have enough vehicles for the college commuters. Steve stepped up to do eye doctor/piano lesson/mom-taxi duty. Unbelievably, everything fell into place and I found myself flying to the mountains for an unexpected holiday.

As we settled into our room that first afternoon, Sally explained, "I'll be in meetings until after 9:00 tonight. You're on your own for dinner." I am not travel savvy, and I sensed I was about to have to step out of my comfort zone, out of the familiar. "You're going to have to do dinner on your own. Just pick a restaurant here in the inn and let them know to bill me." Okay, I'd never stayed somewhere this nice, and I'd never done anything like room service or "put it on my tab." Definitely out of my league here.

Ever been in a situation where you were painfully aware of just just how small you are? How inexperienced, incompetent, or unqualified you are? A place where you feel like a rather drab, small mouse in a world of sophisticated giants and beautiful royalty? Yep, that's where I found myself.

And that's just where I found - again - the goodness of God, the grace of my Savior.

On my way to the inn lobby, I passed a spiffy young man in a crisply starched uniform. "Excuse me," I ventured, "are you a man with answers?"

"Yes! How can I be of assistance?"

"Well, I am looking for dinner. This is how I'm dressed," I indicated my not-snazzy jeans and sneakers, "and I don't really want a huge meal...I've been traveling all day. Could you direct me to a restaurant where I meet dress code and where I could get something fairly light to eat?"

"Follow me," he smiled. I did.

At the restaurant, the hostess greeted me cheerfully and asked, "Name?"

I hesitated. My first inclination was to answer, "Camille." I mean, I really wanted to say "This is who I am, and I am very important, and you should be so delighted to meet me and to get to serve me!" Something inside wanted to pronounce, "I am a mover and shaker, too!" But I remembered my friend's instructions. "Sally Johnson," I answered calmly. "Room 610."

"We're glad to have you dining with us this evening, Ms. Johnson," the hostess smiled. "Follow me, please." She led me to a small table next to a stage where a guitarist strummed and crooned mellow tunes. I ate a delicious meal. Watched all the sophisticated people at other tables. Listened to smooth jazz.

Later that evening, back in our room, I fixed a cup of coffee and settled into the sofa for a quiet evening with a good book. It occurred to me then that my holiday was a picture of grace. When I approach God, I so often want to come as "somebody" - I want God to look at me and pop to attention. "I'm Camille Kendall, and You'd really better listen to me, God!" But instead, God insists that I come to Him only through Christ. If I can't come with the simple confession - "I am Christ's" - then I can't come at all. Nothing to recommend me, nothing at all, except this grace association.

And what was my contribution to the holiday? What was called to do? Rest. Eat. Pray. Rest. Fellowship. Read. Quiet. Rest. That is all that was given me to do, for two delightful days. I showed up broken, exhausted, empty-handed; my friend covered me with herself - her name - and told me to rest.

Rest. Is that not what Christ Himself calls us to do? To rest, to enjoy Him, to receive His provision humbly and with sincere gratitude?

Thank you, Sally Johnson (you know who you are!) for showing me Jesus - again. The fog is lifting: today is a new and brighter day because of you.

Thank you, Jesus, for meeting me in my brokenness. Teach me to know and to live in the rest that is Your perfect provision for this broken, sinful, weary woman.

Friday, April 19, 2013


Where did spring go? I checked the weather forecast this morning and read that we have a frost warning for tonight. What's up with that?! I guess it's a good thing we haven't planted the garden yet.

Last night was not a restful night on the farm. This cold front was escorted in by some pretty stormy weather. Normally, I like the sound of rain, but last night's blustery weather and heavy deluge were definitely not conducive to sleep.

Finally, in the wee hours of the morning, the storm subsided. Then came the cats - I guess they decided to take advantage of a break in the rain. Not our cat Elizabeth (she was snug inside), but a couple of farm cats. Ever heard the term caterwauling? Well, that's what those two cats were doing. Sounded like they were tearing each other apart, tooth to tail, slowly and painfully. In reality, they were just cat singing. Seemed to be having such a good time at it that it made me wonder if they were practicing to take their show on the road. If you are the type to get easily spooked, you'd have sworn there were a couple of haints outside our bedroom window last night.

Apparently, Leaning Larry and Gorgeous George - my two reprobate roosters - decided the cats were a threat to the chicken flock. Either that, or the roosters were getting grumpy from lack of sleep. So, about 4:00 in the morning, Larry and George decided to take the noisome cats to task. Two cranky roosters, two hormonal cats...you'd have thought hell was at war with itself in our the back yard. I lay in bed hoping they'd do each other in, just to put an end to all the ruckus.

Things finally calmed down enough that I managed to doze off some time before the alarm went off this morning. When I went to let the hens out of the hen house after breakfast, I didn't see any sign of the offensive cats. I did notice that George's tail was a little less gorgeous than before, and that both he and Larry were in exceptionally crabby moods. Me, I feel like Zombie Woman.

Ahhhh, peaceful life in the country!

Thursday, April 18, 2013


Have you ever sat through a Sunday morning sermon and felt like, "Oh, my goodness. I think that preacher just spent the last week living life as a fly on my kitchen wall. How on earth did he know _______?" You know, you felt like the preacher somehow had an inside line on what was going on in your life, your heart, your mind? Like he was just God's mouthpiece, and God was using him to talk straight to you?

That seems to happen to me a lot. I usually chalk it up to the influence and power of the Holy Spirit. And I thank God for a pastor and for teachers who are sensitive to His leading and who faithfully proclaim His Word, even if the message makes me squirm a little in the pew.

Then there are writers - writers who know nothing at all about your past, or about your messed up family, or about the secret broken places in your heart that you never talk about to anyone. They know nothing about you, but then they sit down and write a book that has pieces of your story and your life all over it. Such writers are keen students of the human condition, and, thankfully, some are bold enough to write about what they see. To ask hard questions. To consider the real-life implications of living by faith while in the midst of a broken and messed up world. To admit that, yes, life throws some nasty stuff at us - but that in no way diminishes the goodness or sovereignty of God.

Four months ago, I wrote a review of Lisa Smartt's book, "Doug & Carlie," and told you to get a copy and read it. If you did as I advised, you enjoyed a hystetrical romp through small-town, West Tennessee life. Well, Lisa has already written a sequel, and she knocked the ball out of the park.

I do not read contemporary Christian fiction. I do not read Chick Lit. So, if I'm recommending a book with a title like "Doug & Carlie's Love Conspiracy" - well, you'd just better go read it.  (You can get a copy HERE.)

This is the second book in the Doug & Carlie series. In it, Lisa Smartt comes into her stride as a writer, skillfully weaving a tale of brokenness and hope amid the idiosyncrasies of small town life. Somehow, Lisa manages to pull all this off without loosing her country-girl humor or her infectious love for people and for life. She plunges into dark places and deep hurts, but does so with the light of the gospel and with an unquenchable confidence in the healing power of grace. "Doug & Carlie's Love Conspiracy" will make you laugh, make you cry, and leave you asking, "When is the next book coming out?"

And if you're planning a women's retreat for your church, or a business luncheon for your co-workers, or training session for the teachers at your school, or whatever, look Lisa up at her website, Smartt Speaking. Just be warned: if you invite Lisa Smartt to speak at your function, be prepared to fall in love.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


I did something Monday night that I had never done before in my life.

I attended a school board meeting.

When our family moved back to Obion County eight years ago, we arrived right in the middle of elections for school board representatives. I remember one of my sons commenting that local school board elections didn't really concern us, since we homeschool. I disagreed and vigorously assured him that, yes, these elections did matter to us, because the education of all of our county's youth mattered to us. I launched into an explanation of how education impacted everything from the moral culture of our county to its economy.

That's what I said, but did I really believe it?

I have family and friends who are teachers, teaching assistants, school administrators. Shoot, I'm a teacher myself. We've had lots of discussions about the state of local education. But I am ashamed to admit that I have invested almost no time or energy in trying to understand how my local schools work or finding ways to encourage and influence education in my area.

I am (almost) 50 years old. I have given birth to seven children, raised seven students. And yet I had never, ever been to a school board meeting. That is a very sad confession.

What did I think about Monday night's meeting? Well, I left more confused than anything. And a little disheartened - this does indeed look like a big, gnarly machine, one that won't be easy to make sense of.

But, I now have lots of questions - that, my friends, is one of the first steps to learning! So, if I'm able, I hope to attend these monthly meetings until I better understand how my local school board works and just exactly what it is they do. I want to learn how, as a parent and a taxpayer, I can have a voice in and a positive impact on education in my area.

I've spent a lot of years frustrated with what I see going on in public education, and I've jawed more than I should about our schools. No, I don't think my involvement will make a big impact, and I'm not even sure this leviathan can be turned around. But, I can't help wondering what would happen if parents just showed up, listened, and asked questions - not just when there's a "hot button" issue, but every month.

I wonder.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


"Adequacy is a liability."

Such was the wisdom offered me by a godly, humble, precious sister in Christ.

We were talking about writing - something we both love, and something with which my friend has much more experience. Writers write to process their thoughts, to "chill," to remember, to discover possible solutions to the sometimes perplexing situations life presents us, to create, to speculate. But when we write and then put our writing "out there" for someone else to read, we write to connect:  Can you relate to where I am? Where I've been? Have you experienced anything like _____? Does anybody even care?

And what my friend was saying was simply this: if you really want to connect to people, you are going to have to be vulnerable.

This is true not only in writing, but also in our relationships with family and friends.

When I was a small girl, my big brother had an annoying habit of "stiff arming" me. He was much bigger than I was - and he had much longer arms. Occasionally (I don't know why - I think it's a guy thing), he'd plant his palm on my forehead, straighten his arm, and then tell me to take a swing at him. And I'd go at it, swinging my fists with all my might. But, because he held me firmly at arm's length, and because my arms were so much shorter than his, I never landed a blow. Eventually, I would grow exhausted and give up. I thought this little game was extremely frustrating. My brother thought it was hysterically funny.

Now, my brother hasn't gone through life with a "stiff arm" mentality - that was just a childhood game. He's actually very affectionate and loves hugs. But for some folks, "stiff arming" is the only way they operate:  You're not going to get close enough to hurt me, but you're not going to get close enough to share in what delights me, either. Or close enough to know what frightens me. Or to know the dreams I have tucked away in the secret places of my heart. You are certainly not going to get close enough to know my weaknesses.

What a safe, sad, lonely place to be.

Paul, writing in 1 Corinthians 12:9-10, affirms my friend's counsel: But he (the Lord) said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I often struggle with a "stiff arm" mentality myself. Weird thing is, when I close other people out, when I withdraw inside my safe zone and hide my hurts and my struggles, I become more and more miserable.

There are people I love who live life with a "stiff arm" mentality. It's like some invisible Star Wars defense shield that I just keep banging up against. I'm stuck on the outside, looking in, not really knowing what's going on. If I persist in trying to breach that invisible shield, it just seems to get harder and harder, as they retreat further and further behind it. Exhausting. Frustrating.

I do not want to live this life behind a sterile, silent, safe shield. For the sake of Christ, I want to learn to rejoice in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

For Christ's sake. And for His glory.

Monday, April 8, 2013


I told my oldest son that maybe I should apologize to his fellow cast members, maybe my behavior had been a little out of line. Maybe I weirded them out. You see, after a smashing performance of "See How They Run," the cast came out front and lined up to greet the audience. Folks in front of me and behind me shook hands or asked for autographs as they worked their way down the receiving line. Me, I was so excited to see all of the actors that I went down the entire line hugging their necks and telling them how much I appreciated them.

I can't help myself - I'm turning into Grammy.

But, you see, during the many weeks of rehearsal, Reuben would come home talking about how much he was enjoying this play and how much he loved working with the other people in it. His enthusiasm was contagious. Without even meeting these folks, I was falling in love with them, simply because of Reuben's delight in them.

I did the same thing last week when I ran into my son's room-mate in the parking lot of the fitness center. When I pounced on the poor fellow with a spontaneous Grammy hug, he kind of looked confused and asked, "Do I know you?"

I have a diagnosis for my recent strange behavior: I call it "love by association." It's a spontaneous, irrepressible overflow of affection for a relative stranger, based on a go-between, a mutual acquaintance beloved by both parties.

It kind of amazes me to think that God feels such abundant, joyful, irrepressible affection for me - not because of who I am or anything I've done, but because of Jesus. That is so incredible.

Thursday, April 4, 2013


The ladies at Grace are currently working through a study by Nancy DeMoss, Lies Women Believe and the Truth that Sets Them Free. I've read through this book several times, and every time it has made me uncomfortable. Nancy has a way of getting right to the hidden areas of a person's heart, where you think your secrets are safe. You can't just read through this book and nonchalantly dismiss it with, "Well, obviously, this pertains to somebody else."

I love this statement Nancy makes in Chapter One: "What we believe will be seen in the way we live." I like this because it gives a very practical diagnostic tool for analyzing and understanding what I believe. Sure, I say that I believe in the God of Scripture - but do I ignore or dismiss His commands or His claims on my life? Sure, I say that I love Jesus - but do I consistently spend time in Scripture and in prayer, earnestly desiring to be with Him and to know Him better? Do I love His Bride, the Church?

What do I really, truly believe? And, am I believing the truth, or am I believing a lie? All of my actions - my attitude cooking breakfast this morning, my promptness in paying my bills, how I talk to the cat, how I spend my leisure time - all of these flow from what I believe. To know what I truly believe, I have only to stop and examine my actions. They are like public signposts pointing to the darlings in my heart.

Now, I very much want to think that my beliefs line up with the truths of Scripture. Sadly, this is often not the case. I give lip service to God, but my actions reveal that my heart is far from Him. What's to be done then? Clearly, I think at times when my "practice" testifies to "false doctrine", I must first admit the lie I have been cherishing, then repent - trusting in Christ's righteousness to cover yet another sin - and pray earnestly for God to change my heart. Thankfully - hallelujah! - God promises to forgive repentant sinners and He is eager to transform us into true and faithful image bearers of His truth and glory. "God, change my heart" is a prayer we can pray with utmost confidence, knowing He will indeed do just that!

A few other thoughts triggered by my current read of this book:  First, I cannot know truth apart from the Word of God. Scripture - read, preached, sung, prayed - is God's chosen means of revealing Himself to His people. If I long neglect Scripture, I can be fairly certain that I am setting myself up to believe the lies which the world so convincingly, so winsomely, so persistently preaches to me every day.

Second, there are no harmless lies. As Nancy states, "As an adult, I still find it is crucial to guard my mind - to carefully choose the input I allow into my life and to reject that which promotes ungodly thinking. The world's deceptive way of thinking comes to us through so many avenues. . . A steady diet of these worldly influences will shape our view of what is valuable, what is beautiful, and what is important in life."

I know I am very susceptible to buying into the world's lies, maybe moreso than most folks, so I often seem overly guarded to people who are less easily influenced. My kids have fussed, "Mom, why can't you just listen to this song without having to stop and analyze it?" Why? Because I know that, without stopping to critically consider what I'm listening to (even singing along with!), I am prone to unwittingly tuck away in my mind and in my heart a lie. A pretty little lie, no doubt, but a lie nonetheless. I have to pause and ask myself, "Does the message in this song line up with the truth of Scripture, or is it contrary to God's truth?"

A friend commented recently that because she's an adult, she's free now to watch whatever movies she wants. She doesn't understand why I feel so compelled to limit what I watch. No, I don't believe that this movie or that will condemn me to hell - Jesus is so much bigger than that! - but I do believe that my heart is easily influenced for evil. While some would say that I should "toughen up," "get over it," or try to become a bit desensitized, I appreciate Nancy's encouragement that, on the contrary, our hearts should be sensitized to sin - that our hearts should be quickly pricked and grieved by what offends God. If I am going to watch or read or listen to something that promotes a lie, then I need to do so with my eyes wide open and my mind fully engaged, as if I'm walking into a mine field, not as if I'm disengaging the brain gears for a bit of harmless entertainment.

I have lived in bondage to so many lies over the years. Lies are the tools of Satan, the father of lies, and lies lead to bondage and death. I am in Christ now, and God is my Father. I want to know - and live - more and more of His truth. With God's truth comes freedom, and life!

Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. -Psalm 25:5

If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. - Jesus, in John 8:31

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


I haven't been out walking on the farm in what seems like forever. I messed up my feet working at MegaMart - guess it was the standing on concrete for hours on end - and got so gimpy that long hikes were impossible.

Enter my amazing son-in-law. He listened to a description of my complaints, then gave me some very simple exercises to do every morning and throughout each day. He warned me that I wouldn't feel better overnight, that this would take time. Within a few months of beginning the recommended regimen, I could get out of bed in the morning without hobbling like a 100-year-old woman. Still, if I ventured on even a short walk, I'd be a cripple again the next morning.

In February, hoping to facilitate the arrival of my beautiful grandbaby, I did a lot of walking with my very pregnant daughter. It had been about a year since beginning "treatments." On our first 3-mile hike to town and back, I developed shin splints. Shin splints. I don't think I've ever been as excited about shin splints in my life. My shins ached, but my feet? My feet felt fine!

Sunday afternoon, Steve and the kids and I took a short walk back on the farm, to the Robin Hood tree. Guess what:  My feet have not protested a bit!

Now a short walk with the family is one thing, but a long walk alone (4 hills, 40 minutes - remember?), that is something else. It's on those walks that you hear the trees whispering to one another when you pass and think that you almost understand what they're saying. You spot the tiny fairy hand prints of 'possums in the mud of the creek bank. A magical crescendo of gold rises into the air, a startled cluster of goldfinches.You hear the owls hooting, booming like drums back and forth across the valley. The fragrance of the wild roses, thick with blossoms, distills into heady sweetness in the cool evening air.

All this to say, I hope to be getting back out on the farm again this spring.  Moby Bologna will still be swimming at the Elam Center three days a week, if possible, but on "off" days, I plan to trade in the red wrapper for hiking shoes. Yes, my heart is doing a happy dance, just thinking about it!

And if you need a really good podiatrist, I know just the man to recommend:  the man who gave me my feet back.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


(originally posted 8/18/2012)

Amazing how a single verse can be so comforting.

I have just begun reading through 1 Samuel.  Hannah, grieved at her barrenness, cried out to the Lord for a son.  God heard that prayer, granted Hannah's request, and gave her a son - and then, in gratitude for God's gracious gift, Hannah turned around and gave her son back to the Lord, to serve in the house of the Lord at Shiloh.

At a very early age, Samuel went to live and work with the priest Eli...and with Eli's two worthless sons, Hophni and Phinehas.  These wicked men would abuse the Israelites who came to offer sacrifices, forcefully taking the best parts of the meat that was meant to be offered to the Lord.  They took advantage of the women who served at the tent of meeting, forcing them into adulterous sexual relationships.  They disregarded the correction of their father.  We read that Hophni and Phinehas "treated the offering of the Lord with contempt" (1 Sam. 2:17).  God sent a messenger to tell Eli that his two sons were such an offense to Him that He had resolved to destroy them both in a single day and to curse Eli's family from that time on.  These were two really bad dudes!  And they were young Samuel's new "family."

Samuel served Eli in the tent of meeting.  You could say, Samuel literally grew up in church.  The doctrines and practices of the Jewish faith and worship were a part of Samuel's every day life.  Samuel knew about God, about God's people, and about their religion.  But, in the middle of all this - the messy family situation, the daily exposure to the religion of his parents - did Samuel know God?  Did God know Samuel?

I am a mother who once thought she would never have children (Hahahaha!), and who prayed fervently for a baby.  I am a mother who desperately wants to give my kids back to God - I want God to make them His own children, and I want them to know and serve Him.  I am a mother whose children now find themselves growing up in a world surrounded by godless men, men who mock God and who belittle and abuse their neighbors.  And, yes, my children have grown up in church.

Yet I find that sometimes I fear for my children's souls.  It is a daily, earnest prayer: "Lord, please grab hold of my children and make them yours!  Let them know the beauty of Jesus, and give them faith to trust in the sufficiency of His atoning work.  Give them a hunger for your Word, and a deep love for your church..."  I know that it is possible to "grow up in church" and yet never truly, personally know God or love His people.

Yesterday, I read this verse:  "Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him." (1 Sam. 3:7)  You probably know what happens next, right?  The LORD came and personally called Samuel into a relationship with Himself and appointed Samuel to be a prophet in Israel.  Yes, by God's grace, Samuel did come to know God, to love Him, and to serve Him mightily.  Samuel was passionate about the things of God and lived a life of service to God's people.

So that one little verse - "Samuel did not yet know the LORD..." - encouraged this mother greatly.  Because it reminded me that knowledge of the living God comes from God Himself.  God initiates that relationship, grows it, and establishes it securely.  It's not my child, not the culture around him, not even his familiarity with sound doctrine, that determines if he'll grow to know and love the Lord.  No.  It is God.

As a mom, that truth comforts me more than anything else can - because I know that God is sovereign over the lives of my children, and that He loves them very much.  "...the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him."  I don't have to be afraid for my children, for their souls.  Instead I can earnestly pray - with great hope - that God will in time reveal Himself to each one of my children, that He will indeed make them His own.

The LORD appeared again at Shiloh, for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD.  - 1 Sam. 3:21 

Monday, April 1, 2013


Over my many years of homeschooling, I have frequently been asked by curious family and friends, "Why did you decide to homeschool your children?" I have at times jokingly replied that I homeschooled my kids because there was no way I could possibly have the great horde of them all fed, dressed, and out to meet the school bus by 6:30 or 7:00 in the morning! Seriously, though, several factors contributed to the decision to homeschool, and I've often detailed to others the various reasons behind our family's choice to homeschool.

What I have very rarely heard over the years is a similar question asked of my public-school peers: "Why did you choose to send your children to public school?" When I asked a mom once why she and her husband opted to send their kids to public school, she simply replied, "Why not?" She really hadn't thought about it at all. There seems to be an assumption that children should naturally and obviously attend their local public school, and that the choice of an alternative such as homeschooling must be precipitated by unusual or extraordinary circumstances. I suspect that for many parents, the option of homeschooling their kids hasn't even entered their minds. It's not so much that they deliberately chose to use the public school system as that they passively conformed to the norms of their culture.

Which has me wondering lately: Why is there a mentality that, of course, I'll send my kids to public school, unless there are extenuating circumstances that would require me to choose private school or homeschool instead? Why isn't there rather an assumption that, of course, I'll educate my children at home (they are my responsibility, right?), unless there are extenuating circumstances that would require me to opt for public or private school?

Why am I asked with unmasked incredulity: "You believe in the God of the Bible? How can you sincerely believe such archaic nonsense?!" It seems to me that the much more obvious question is:  "You don't believe in the God of the Bible? Why in the world not?!"

Someone asks, "You really find this movie (song, book, video, game) objectionable? What's your problem? I don't see how it's such a big deal." - while I wonder - "How on earth can you not find this movie objectionable? The story, the imagery, the underlying message...isn't it obvious how truly awful this film is?"

Which has me also wondering...

Why are we quick to challenge, dismiss, and even belittle the opinions and choices of others who have actually spent considerable time and effort forming their opinions, while we so often assert and defend opinions and actions to which we ourselves have given very little thought whatsoever?