Thursday, May 21, 2015


Has anyone ever said something to you that made you instantly bristle with indignation or rage? Do you know what it's like to feel the blood rush suddenly to your face and the veins in your neck pop out like steel cables?

"That's not right - you've got that all wrong." Well, why don't you just come right out and call me a liar to my face!

"You are so worked up and anxious. Do you not believe any of the promises of Scripture? You're behaving a like a pagan!" Are you questioning the validity of my faith?!

"I don't see what the big deal is...why are you getting so emotionally worked up over (fill-in-the-blank)? Just let it go!" Oh, since it's no big deal to you, then it doesn't matter. I guess my feelings are supposed to just take a hike!

I hate - I HATE - when someone dismisses my concerns or makes light of my feelings or questions the sincerity of my faith or speaks to me in a deprecating way. I hate it.

But, whether someone's hard comments to me are completely off-mark or whether they are spot on, flash-bang anger is not an appropriate response on my part. If my first response is "How dare you!" or "Who are YOU to talk?" or if I react by counter-attacking, something is wrong. Something is definitely out of whack in my heart.

Why am I so angry?!!

Well, probably because I receive the words as a personal attack, and I immediately feel the need to defend and justify myself.

It's like, in a moment of anger, I momentarily forget that I actually AM unholy, inadequate, insufficient, impure, and I think I have to prove to the person standing before me that I really am good enough, honest enough, smart enough, righteous enough to counter any negative comments they throw at me.

Why am I so angry? I am angry because I have forgotten that Jesus covers all of me - the good, the bad, and the ugly - and that, in Him, I am safe and loved. I am angry because I have forgotten the Gospel. Again. Aaaaaugh!

Thankfully, the Gospel spreads out ever wider, ever bigger, like ripples on a pond. I forget, and then, when the heat of the moment passes, the Gospel washes over me like cool water and I remember.

I pray that more and more, God will teach me to respond to the difficult or unkind or untrue words of another less and less with the passion of self-interest, and more with the peace and grace of the Gospel.

Know this, my beloved brothers:  let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (James 1:19-20)

...receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (verse 21b)

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. (verse 26)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are joint heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. - 1 Peter 3:7

This morning, I finally finished reading through the book of 2 Kings. I am so glad to be done with that! Every morning for the last several days, I have been reading the very sad account of the degeneration of Israel and of Judah, the downward spiral recorded in the histories of one godless king after another.

I am impressed anew with the truth that the holiness we are called to live out on a personal level, the government authorities are called to live out on a civic level. Likewise for the church.

During this period, as Israel and Judah slid into rampant paganism, there were those individuals who remained faithful to the one true God. But because of the faithlessness of the religious leaders and of the kings, both the church and the nation fell under judgment. And those faithful few? For the most part, they were slaughtered by enemy armies or dragged into exile along with the godless priests and officials.

Okay, so where am I going with this?

In our day and age, we are prone to super-personalize our Christian faith. It's about me and God, me and Jesus. Do I feel loved? Do I have assurance of salvation? Do I faithfully read and study Scripture? Am I devoted to prayer? Do I tithe? Do I honor the Sabbath? Am I committed to sexual purity/fidelity to my spouse? Do I endeavor to live boldly, confident in the knowledge that God is both sovereign and good? Are my decisions and actions based on faith, or on fear?

While hyper-personalizing our faith, we then turn and look at the church (or our businesses, or our civic institutions) as something entirely different, something with a completely different set of "professional" rules and standards. It seems our corporate identity is often based more on a secular business model, when it should instead be an extension of our personal faith in and relationship with Christ. We are prone to erect boundaries between our personal holiness and the more public arenas in which we live.

Which got me to wondering:  What would the church in America look like if...

...every congregation made study of Scripture, prayer, and worship its highest priority, more important even than fun youth activities or community service (although those are important, too)?

What if every congregation committed to tithing, to setting apart a minimum of 10% of the annual budget for ministry beyond their particular congregation's operating needs? Would God "open his storehouses" on his church? (Malachi 3:10)

What if every congregation in America committed to caring for orphans and widows, instead of delegating so much of that responsibility to Uncle Sam?

In reference to the verse at the top of this post, what would happen to the prayers of the church if every congregation showed genuine honor to the women in her midst? 

What if every congregation resolved to diligently train up the next generation - not just Bible stories on Sunday morning, but something much more comprehensive:  when we sit down and when we walk by the way and when we lie down and when we rise up?

What if every local church was a "living body" made up of many "cells" that all function together to communicate, in a bigger way than our personal lives, the holiness and majesty and goodness of God?

What if we considered our corporate faith to be as intimate a relationship with Christ as our personal faith?

Monday, May 18, 2015


"Life is what happens to us when we are busy making other plans."

This quote is often attributed to John Lennon, although there are documented instances of this adage being used well before Lennon's time. Like many sayings, it probably originated who-knows-where by who-knows-whom, way back who-knows-when, and has just been passed down through common usage for decades.

We've had a particularly hectic several weeks here at Kendallville. Although I am normally a house mouse, I have been on more road trips in the past three weeks than I normally have in a year. Between road trips, we crammed in a school field trip, a bake sale, eye exams, birthday parties, a fraternal meeting, a piano audition, and a wedding. Among other things.

A week ago today - on Monday - I sat down at the kitchen table with my youngest, eager to begin a calm, quiet, "normal" day of school, writing, and household chores. All at home.

We had no road trip planned. No errands to run in town. No events on the calendar. Just school and laundry and left-overs for supper. I was so excited about the day - and the week - ahead. It was going to be awesome.

Then life happened.

We did not get all of our school work done that day. I did not get caught up on the laundry. I did not get an article submitted for my weekly newspaper column, nor did I work here at the blog.

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday...the entire week just kind of exploded into craziness.

I accomplished very few of the things I actually planned to do last week. I did a lot of fun, unexpected, exhausting, important, other things instead.

There was a day not so long ago when having my plans so repeatedly interrupted by life would have caused me a great deal of distress. I guess I've mellowed a little over the years.

This morning, we kicked off a new work week. Nothing on the calendar today - no road trip, no dental appointments, no 4-H meetings or music lessons. Just school and laundry and left-overs for supper.

We have finished math, chemistry, and history lessons for the day. The last load of laundry is in the dryer, and all the downstairs floors have been mopped. I have checked off almost every item on one of the half-dozen green sticky-note lists that decorate my work area, and the day is not over yet. It has been awesome.

When it goes according to plan, or when the plans fly out the window, life happens. Either way, I hope I endeavor to enjoy life and make the most of it.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


Tiny corn sprouts, green silk thread stitched against brown velvet.

Waist-high hay ripples like sea waves, flashing silver and green.

Towels on the clothesline, cracking in the wind, straining to get loose from pit-bull clothespins.

Black furry calves bounce across the field on stumpy pogo-stick legs.

A nest of wild turkey eggs, a secret sacred treasure tucked beneath a spindly apple tree.

Kitty, sulking, has her comeuppance, confined to the porch by a saucy mockingbird.

Lazy, daisy, sleepy buzz of bees.

Seems a new flower blooms every day. more math lesson and we're done!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


Why is it that it takes me an entire year of consistent exercise and mindful eating to lose 20 pounds, and less than one month of hectic, distracted living to gain 5 pounds back?!! That just doesn't seem right!!

Right or not, it is the reality I have to live with. So, I am taking a deep breath, forcing a pause in the chaos, and resolving to hit the Re-Set button. Back to the One Egg plan:  I only ate two of Helen's fantabulous chocolate chip cookies yesterday afternoon, when what I really wanted was to mow through the entire plate.

Maintaining a healthy weight ("healthy" as in "my pants are no longer so tight that they restrict my breathing") is not technically difficult - no complicated menus or grocery shopping lists; no cooking one dinner for the family and another for myself; no gnarly low carb, high protein, gluten free, free range, organic, restrictions; no pink drinks, expensive smoothie mixes, or fresh tarantula milk. It's as easy as eating one chocolate chip cookie and then pausing to think whether or not I really want another before eating the second, instead of eating half a dozen and then thinking, "Dang! I didn't mean to do that!"

The thing that is hard about this is not that it is technically difficult, but that it requires me to think and to be consistent day after day after day. Why is keeping my mind turned "On" such a challenge?!!

On another note...

A couple of weeks ago, Caroline asked at the beginning of our morning exercise class, "Have you ever had one of those days that was just silver?"

Caroline went on to explain that the day before had gotten off to a bumpy start when her printer malfunctioned, and then her day had just gone downhill from there. She concluded, "Most days are gold, but every now and then you have a day that's just silver. That's what my day was yesterday."

I don't know about you, but I tend to putter along through my days and weeks with more of a wood-stubble-&-hay mentality. Not too infrequently, I'll have a "silver" day. But a "gold" day? Those only come along once in a blue moon!

This is not to say that Caroline lives an easier life than I do, or that her days always go according to plan, or that she rarely encounters frustration or disappointment. No, our circumstances are probably not that very different. What is different is our attitudes.

Caroline unknowingly challenged me that morning to endeavor to live each day with eyes that are looking for "gold" - to see and enjoy and celebrate what is good about each day - instead of focusing on what is less-than-gold.

I want to be the kind of person who can say, like Caroline, "Most days are gold, but every now and then you have a day that's just silver."

My jeans are too tight this morning, but that's's motivated me to hit the Re-Set button.

Today is a new day...and I really do believe it is going to be golden.

Monday, May 4, 2015


THINGS I LEARNED FROM MY PARENTS (besides how to read and to tie my shoes):

You catch more bees with honey than with vinegar. When I was in junior high, I used to keep horses for a local businessman. His horses boarded at our farm, and he paid me each month to brush, feed, and exercise them. Shortly into my horse-boarding enterprise, I decided that Mr. Horseman needed an education. I wrote him a long, bossy letter outlining all the things he needed to do differently.

Since I wanted the letter to sound all official and legal-ish (I took my horse-boarding business very seriously), I asked Daddy - a lawyer - to proof read the letter. After one read-through, Daddy informed me that I most certainly was NOT going to mail the letter to Mr. Horseman. "Camille," Daddy explained, "you can catch more bees with honey than with vinegar." Then, Dad went on to explain that the tone of my letter was all "vinegar," and there were better, more productive ways of addressing my concerns.

If you borrow something, return it in better shape than when it was loaned to you. If you borrow a shovel, wash it and sharpen it before you take it back to the owner. If you borrow a vehicle, return it clean and with a full tank of gas. If you borrow something and it breaks while you are using it, then fix it. If it can't be fixed, replace it.

If you can't live without it, don't loan it out. I remember my parents being pretty generous about loaning out things to folks who asked. But I also remember that they occasionally told folks, "No." Mom and Dad learned the hard way that not everyone lived by the "If you borrow it, return it in better shape" rule. In fact, some folks borrow things and NEVER BRING THEM BACK. So, while I remember my parents being very generous, I also remember that there were certain things that were off the loan list.

You don't have to know everything. There is a point when curiosity crosses the line into nosiness. My Dad was a small-town lawyer, and it wasn't unusual for clients to call or stop by the house to talk to him about their cases, upcoming trials, etc. Since having visitors of any kind was a bit of an "event" way out in the country, we kids would be all eaten up with curiosity. "Why did Mr. Fred stop by? What did he want?" I learned at an early age that I did not need to know all the details of everyone else's business.

You don't have to tell everything you know. This is sort of the complement to the previous jewel of wisdom. Don't be quick to run your mouth and share everything you know about the guy down the road. Don't be a gossip.

Make hay while the sun shines. Don't procrastinate. If you can do this job TODAY, don't put it off until tomorrow. Something unforeseen may come up before tomorrow that will prevent you from doing a task.

How can I make/do this better? Is the garden weedy? Hoe it. Is the porch junky? Take a few minutes to put a couple of things away where they belong. I'm not talking here about perfectionism - the challenge isn't how to make something perfect/do something perfectly. The challenge is, how to make or do something better. I am amazed at the number of people I meet who work no harder and aim no higher than "that'll do" or "good enough."

God is sovereign. God is good. God loves his children very much. I think of this as my trifecta of power, assurance, security, hope, and grace. I don't remember Mom or Dad ever setting me down and drilling those three sentences into my head like a creed to be memorized and recited by rote. But, through their lives and their prayers, they communicated these truths...the most important thing by far they ever taught me.

What about you, Dear Reader? What jewels of wisdom did your parents pass on to you?

Friday, May 1, 2015


A couple of days ago, I wrote about my tendency - when I encounter difficult situations - to want to think of myself as persecuted. I feel sorry for myself, and so I want to think that I am some kind of a martyr. Which I am not.

Many years ago, I had a young friend who, like me, wanted desperately to conceive a child. But there was a problem. Macy had been a competitive gymnast throughout her childhood, her teen years, and even on through college. Her specialty:  the uneven bars. Well, over the years, she developed a lot of internal scar tissue in her abdomen as a result of her training. She found out about the scar tissue when she married and she and her husband wanted to have a baby. She learned then that she would probably never be able to conceive a child and that if she did, she probably would not be able to sustain the pregnancy.

When Macy was throwing herself into her gymnastics all those years, no one told her that infertility could be a consequence of her rigorous training. It would have been easy for Macy to be angry and bitter. But she wasn't. Yes, she was terribly disappointed. But I never once heard her protest, "This is so unfair!" She never said, "God is punishing me..." or "I am being persecuted!"

No. Macy was disappointed and sad - very sad - but she also understood that the scar tissue was a result of her gymnastics, and that gymnastics was something she herself had chosen to participate in on a highly competitive level. Her struggle with infertility was a consequence of her own actions. Instead of feeling sorry for herself, she faced the facts with incredible strength and grace, and she turned her attention from what could not be undone to what she and her husband needed to do next.

About the same time, I had another friend, Rita, who also wanted desperately to conceive a child. But there was a problem. Rita had lived a pretty wild life during her high school and college years, and, as an unforeseen consequence of her promiscuity, had developed complications that prevented her from being able to conceive or carry a child. Now that she had settled down, married, and was ready to start a family, her past came back to bite her.

Rita had given up her immoral lifestyle. She had said goodbye to old friends and old habits, and committed herself to a lifetime of loving one man. It would have been easy for Rita to be angry and bitter that she could not have children, now that she had cleaned up her act. And she was - bitter, that is. Numerous times, I heard Rita angrily protest, "This is so unfair!" She was convinced that her inability to conceive was a curse from a unloving God who had abandoned her. She truly felt like she was being persecuted.

All of this to say...

Life is so very hard sometimes. And sad.

But this is also to say...

Actions have consequences. Sometimes, like Macy and Rita, we cannot foresee the heartbreaking consequences of our actions. Still, we must be careful to recognize the consequences for what they are - simply consequences. We must be careful to not fall into the trap of thinking we being treated unfairly, that we are being abused, that we are martyrs. That trap leads only to bitterness and depression. It locks us into a prison of defeatism, where we blame God and blame others, and so lack the initiative Macy demonstrated when she turned from grieving what was lost to asking, "What do I need to do next?"

At the same time Macy and Rita were wanting to conceive children, Steve and I were wishing we could have a baby, too. Long story short, Steve and I were successful. Infertility wasn't the battle I had to fight - my dragons have had different names.

I have struggled with my weight. I have struggled financially. I have lived with chronic pain. I have experienced some emotional war zones. And I have often thought that I was being persecuted, that I was a martyr. I have thought that God and life were being unfair.

Hard things, painful things happen in this life. Sometimes as a result of the choices I make. Sometimes as a result of the choices someone next to me makes. Sometimes, simply because this is a broken, fallen, sin-corrupted world.

Sometimes, life hits like a bulldozer. When that happens, the challenge I face is moving past "Life's not fair!" - past thinking I'm a martyr - to asking: "Okay, here I am. What can I do now?"