Tuesday, March 29, 2016


I am currently reading Not the Way It's Supposed to Be:  A Breviary of Sin, by Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. I strongly suspect this book will make my If-you-only-read-one-book-this-year-make-it-this-book recommendation list.

Not the way it's supposed to be:  this expression strikes a chord with all of us. Broken relationships, sickness, death, racism, addiction, abuse, greed, religious persecution, discontent, political corruption... - who, in the midst of life in a sin-broken world, has not thought at some point, "This is not the way it's supposed to be!"

But that is not what I want to write about today.

"The world truly does meet in Mrs. Katherine's living room."

My son and several companions had traveled from out-of-town to attend a friend's wedding. A dear sister and brother in Christ offered lodging and hospitality for the young travelers.

As we talked on the phone the week after the wedding, my son related the events of the previous weekend. He told me about the incredible cultural and ethnic and racial diversity represented by those assembled for the wedding - very different people, gathered from around the globe, because of a shared love for the couple being married and because of their shared love for Christ and his family.

A carload of these diverse but united people slept under Katherine's roof, sat at her table, gathered for fellowship in her living room.

"The world truly does meet in Mrs. Katherine's living room" - a glimmer of the way life is supposed to be.

Thursday, March 24, 2016


Home. Work. Homework.
Right-of-way. Right away. Write away.

Cleaning floors and doing laundry are chores that are not really all that important...unless you don't do them.

What I mean is, if you stay on top of the laundry and the floors, well, that's great; but it's not like someone is going to walk into your house and say, "Wow! Look at these clean floors! This is fantastic!" Your kids are probably not going to make hand-illustrated cards telling you how much they appreciate walking on clean floors. And a hundred years from now, nobody is going to know or care if you mopped your floors once a week or only when you could no longer remember if your kitchen linoleum was light tan or dark avocado.

Skip mopping a couple of weeks, however, and you will hear about the sticky juice splatters in the kitchen and about somebody's yucky socks.

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say:  household chores like laundry and mopping are not often noticed (they are important!), unless you don't do them.

A few thoughts on the under-appreciated, sacrifice-on-the-altar called housework:

A friend told me recently she never feels like she can sit down and relax when her husband is home. "There is always something else that needs to be done - clean the bathroom, mop the floor, cook dinner, fold the clothes, bathe the kids. I'm afraid that if I sit down and take a break, my husband notice all the unfinished housework and think I'm lazy."

So, while her husband reads the newspaper, or watches a ballgame, or trolls the internet, she buzzes around the house like a bee on speed. Even if she has already put in a full day's work. Even if she's exhausted. Even if she is not feeling well.

This woman finds it impossible to relax in her own home.

I understand her dilemma:  I have suffered from the same compulsion and the same inappropriate guilt. Sadly, I have often resented that my husband feels completely free to relax with a book or boob out on his smart phone for an evening, when I obviously still have so much work to do!

I got to thinking...

For my friend's husband, home and work are two completely different things. He wakes up at home and gets ready for the day; then, he drives to work. At the end of the day, he leaves work and drives back home. His job is at one location; his home is at another. I think the separation, perhaps, makes it easier to shift gears between work and rest.

For my friend - and for me - work and home are inextricably intertwined. I wake up every morning at work. My workday starts even before I am dressed:  make the coffee, feed the cat, start the first load of laundry. I am still at work pretty much right up until the minute I crawl into bed:  put away the last of the clean laundry, set up the coffee maker for tomorrow, make sure the cat is inside.

Yes, I am free to take breaks to relax occasionally throughout the day, but if I do, I am surrounded by a plethora of unfinished chores clamoring for my attention. "Taking a break" feels sort of like sitting down with a banana split at Dairy Queen, while your weight-loss coach stares at you through the restaurant window.

Anyway...(yes, there is a point to all this!)...

Thanks to tools and strategies introduced in Tim Challies's book Do More Better, I have done a better job lately of keeping my floors clean, and the laundry stays caught up, too. As a consequence, I have felt freer to take breaks from work, guilt free.

I have also been a more productive writer, writing regularly and consistently meeting my goals. However, I find my writing is more productive when I leave the house. I love to work on writing projects at UTM's Paul Meek Library, and at the coffee shop in Union City, and at the park behind the post office in Martin.

When I sit down to write away from home, I can't hear the sticky floors and dirty underwear scream.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


I have written previously about how God's Word calls Christians to deny ourselves and to give up our lives for the sake of Christ. (See HANDING OVER THE SELF.)

I have also written about the importance of cultivating personal growth and development as unique individuals. (See BEAUTIFUL YOU.)

Surely, I am not the only one who feels the great tension between those two charges!

G.K. Chesterton once said of Christianity that it was the only religious system on earth that consistently acknowledges and makes sense of the seemingly contrary truths we often encounter in life. Christianity is the point of intersection, so to speak - imagine a cross - at which the world makes sense.

Christ is fully God. Christ is fully human. Which is correct? Christianity says "Yes" to both.

God is absolutely sovereign. Man is a volitional creature with a will of his own. We want to insist that the two are mutually exclusive, that we must believe one or the other, but certainly not both. Again, Christianity says "Yes" to both.

Have you ever heard someone differentiate between the "God of the Old Testament" and the "God of the New Testament" - the God of Law and Judgment, distinct from the God of grace and love - as if God was two different entities? For an interesting exercise, read Deuteronomy Chapter 7 (Moses has just reiterated the Ten Commandments and is exhorting the people to march into Canaan and annihilate the people who live there) - read Deuteronomy 7 and count the number of times you encounter the word love, referring particularly to the love of God.

Mulling over the tension between dying to self and living fully as a unique individual, I realized that here, too, the cross of Jesus is the point of intersection between two seemingly contradictory ideas. The cross is the where these two meet and make sense. I am most fully "myself" when I am most fully submitted to God, living in humble obedience to His Word and reflecting His glory to the world around me. That is only possible through the work of Christ.

I am a mirror. Susie and Jane and Betty are mirrors, too, and yet they are different mirrors from me. I am a Christ-mirror who writes; Susie is a Christ-mirror who sings; Jane is a Christ-mirror who teaches; Betty is a Christ-mirror who heals the sick.

Each one of us is unique, possessing unique talents, abilities, gifts, and personality. Susie, Jane, Betty and I have a responsibility to develop and invest our gifts and talents in unique ways. And yet we are all called to reflect the glory of our Creator and to broadcast, like light from a mirror, the beauty and love of Jesus.

* * * * *

"I think all Christians would agree with me if I said that though Christianity seems at the first to be all about morality, all about duties and rules and guilt and virtue, yet it leads you on, out of all that, into something beyond. One has a glimpse of a country where they do not talk of those things, except perhaps as a joke. Every one there is filled full with what we should call goodness as a mirror is filled with light. But they do not call it goodness. They do not call it anything. They are not thinking of it. They are too busy looking at the source from which it comes." -  C.S. Lewis, from Mere Christianity

Friday, March 18, 2016


After my last post (WE ARE THAT FAMILY), I was reminded of this account of one of the many instances people loved on me during the difficult season of The Black Fog...

- originally posted Wednesday, February 10, 2010

When No. 1 Son was five years old, he entered and won a poster contest sponsored by the local electric company. The award ceremony, which included a fancy-shmancy catered dinner, was going to be held at a historic plantation house in Nashville. Notables from the Nashville political and social scene would be present for the occasion, along with reporters from local news stations. This was going to be a BIG DEAL.

A night out, a fancy dinner, an opportunity to meet and talk to new and interesting people...I should have been excited. Instead, I dreaded the approaching festivities. My gloomy mood only worsened as the date drew nearer. Sometimes it's so hard to be cheerful, to be grateful, when....

Enter Amy, a friend from our little church plant. Amy was an executive at a Nashville publishing firm, one of those women I tried not to envy for her glamorous lifestyle. Smart, funny, a sharp dresser....Amy unknowingly made this mother-of-six painfully aware of my frumpiness. I had a saggy, baggy body and wore saggy, baggy mom clothes that looked like pajamas and that were often splattered with spit-up or bits of baby cereal. Amy, on the other hand, usually looked like she was ready for an appointment with the President. She would have fit right in at a fancy awards ceremony.

I answered a knock at the door a few days before the dreaded event. "Camille, I've been digging through my closet and think I have a few things here that would look really good on you..." Carrying an armload of dry-cleaning bags, Amy pushed past me, past the crowd of children at my feet, into the house. "Do you have any dress shoes?" she asked as she headed down the hall to my bedroom. I stood gaping like a fish out of water. What in the world is going on?

"Here, try this first." Amy thrust a hanger into my hand as I entered the bedroom. While I followed orders, she began digging through my closet. Yes, it seems I did have a pair of dress shoes - one pair of black, patent-leather pumps I had saved from a previous life. "Good. I think we can work with these." Amy backed out of the closet and stood up, a shoe in each hand.

I pulled Dress #1 over my head. "Amy, what is this about?"

"You guys are going to a big 'Do' this weekend, right?"


"I'm dressing you for the ball." She looked at me for a minute, then shook her head. "Nope. Not that one....here try this."

And so, before Amy left my house that morning, I had a suitable outfit for the award ceremony and dinner. We settled on a beautiful cream-colored dress with black trim. Simple, straight lines, very sophisticated, absolutely gorgeous. Amy had even brought a new pair of pantyhose. I felt like a mountain had been lifted off my shoulders. Maybe this will be fun after all...

Saturday afternoon, Amy knocked at my door again. She was on her way home from a meeting. "Here," she pulled off her long black wool coat and handed it to me. "There are gloves in the pockets, if it's cold out." Amy was beaming. I was on the verge of tears. "Have fun tonight!" She gave me a big hug and left.

Why am I telling you about Amy? Because Amy modeled Christ. Amy's keen eyes and tender heart made her aware of a need I had not even expressed. Amy saw an opportunity to meet that need, and was willing to risk the possibility of some awkwardness or discomfort to help a sister.

I pray that, like Amy, I will have eyes that see into the heart of things, to the not-so-obvious needs of those around me. I pray that seeing, I will have the boldness - and the grace - to act.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


"I would rather have a thousand lazy bums live off my tax dollars than let a single poverty-stricken family go without food or shelter."

This quote is from a meme a young friend posted on Facebook recently. A week after seeing this meme for the first time, it still disturbs me.

I understand the sentiment. I really do. No one - unless they are cruel or wicked - wants to see a poverty-stricken family go without food or shelter.

But here's my problem...

The young friend who shared this meme doesn't pay income taxes. When I commented on his meme that he must have paid a lot in taxes, to be able to underwrite a thousand lazy bums, he cheerfully assured me that, no, he actually didn't have to pay any income tax at all this year.

Essentially, he is saying that he would rather spend someone else's money - not his own money, but money from that tax pool to which he himself has not contributed - to fund a thousand lazy bums, than to let a single poverty-stricken family go without food or shelter.

It's so easy to be generous with other people's money, isn't it?

And here's my other problem...

That poverty-stricken family he is so eager to help...does he even know who they are? Does he know their names? Their needs? Their struggles? Their history? Is he willing to invest some of himself - time, energy, relationship - in helping this family, besides all that someone-else's-money he is willing to spend?

And here's my other problem...

Endorsing a meme like the one above allows my friend to believe that he is generous and compassionate, with no actual expense, effort, or inconvenience on his part. It is vanity and self-aggrandizement.

You see, my family - we are that poverty-stricken family, or at least we used to be. Flash back 20 years:

My husband's entry-level salary was $20,500. (That was before income tax and social security deductions.) We had six children, ages seven and under. I worked nights at Kroger part-time, making minimum wage, just over $5/hour at the time, until my doctor ordered me to stop because I developed health problems due to exhaustion. Our house didn't have heat or air, and the roof leaked so badly that we spent rainy nights emptying 5-gallon buckets instead of sleeping.

According to federal government standards, we were way below the poverty level.

Life was hard. When I refer back to that period, I often call it "The Black Fog."

But we survived. How? I'll tell you how...

  • A friend who ran a consignment store brought us bags of donated clothing in my children's sizes. (We couldn't even afford the consignment store prices.)
  • Members of our church repaired our roof. Men from our church ripped off old shingles, replaced damaged sub-roofing, and laid down new shingles.
  • My mother-in-law sent us bulk containers of peanut butter and oatmeal. We ate oatmeal for breakfast, peanut butter sandwiches for lunch, and soup or spaghetti for supper.
  • My brother and sister-in-law paid to have window heat pump units installed.
  • Another friend gifted us with school supplies, and another helped with child care, and another helped with medical bills.

No nameless, faceless, cost-me-nothing entities gave us food and shelter. Instead, Lisa and Amy and Ken and Larry and so many others sacrificed their time, their labor, and their hard-earned income to make sure we had food, clothing, medical care, and shelter.

We survived that difficult season, and now, twenty years later, I still think about each of these people with deepest gratitude and affection. They loved my family like Jesus, and I can't help but love them and love Jesus more in return.

I want to tell my young meme-sharing friend:  I understand the desire to help a needy family. I want to help the truly needy, too, because I myself have been helped.

But, no, I don't want to give someone else's tax dollars, money laundered through a faceless government entity that gives another's wealth to a thousand bums or to a truly-needy family, without any personal investment or relationship.

That may be charity, but it is neither love nor generosity.

Instead, I want to give like Lisa, Amy, Ken, and Larry - lovingly, generously, personally, compassionately, sacrificially.

That kind of help - that kind of giving - changes lives.

It changed mine.

Saturday, March 12, 2016


Trust in God and keep your powder dry.
- attributed to Oliver Cromwell

It has been a rainy week here in Obion County. In the river bottoms, high-reaching twigs swell pink and chartreuse. The pond behind the house is resonator for an ecstatic froggy "Hallelujah Chorus." Barking bzzzz, bzzzz, bzzzt!, the phoebes gather grass and twigs, and meadowlarks burble like liquid sunshine in the soggy field around the house.

It has been a rainy week here in Obion County. Yesterday, I vacuumed water out of the floorboard of the van, tossed out sodden tissues, mopped up the glove box and the underside of the drippy dashboard. I drove alternate routes to avoid flooded roadways and still could not avoid large puddles and the incessant rain-rain-rain thrumming down-down-down.

It has been a rainy week here in Obion County, Where did last week's sunshine go?

My I'm-going-to-get-organized and I'm-going-to-be-so-productive ambitions for 2016 got water-logged, too. A wrist injury, a death, a change of plans, an interruption, and another, and another...my To-Do list taps a cadence of behind, behind, behind, rather like the incessant drip, drip, drip of water from the edge of the porch roof into the puddle below.

The soggy air outside has seeped into my brain and my heart, blanketing both with a heavy gray clamminess. It is so hard to think - and yet so much of what I need to do today involves thinking. It is so hard to smile - to reflect an obscured sun.

A meadowlark bursts into a spray of diamonds around a feathered heart. He shivers, he shakes, and then he sounds a crystal note, stutters, and picks up his melody where he left off.

I think Mr. Cromwell had it wrong. Trust in God and keep your powder dry? Sometimes, there is no keeping your powder dry. Sometimes, there is just too much rain. Then what?

Trust in God...

Let's leave it at that.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016


"What if you woke up tomorrow with only the blessings for which you thanked God today?"

This is a paraphrase of a question my mom shared from a Bible study she was preparing for last week.

Consider this question another way: What blessings do I enjoy today that I would be sad to do without tomorrow? What am I thankful for today that I would like to continue to enjoy tomorrow?

After I got off the phone with Mom last week, my mind raced through a list of blessings for which I am VERY grateful: names of particular people, necessities and creature comforts, life experiences and lessons learned. I quickly realized that, were I to try to name all the things for which I am thankful, I would run out of day before I ran out of blessings!

In my current journey through the Bible, I read Psalm 50 this morning. This Psalm begins with a reflection on the beauty and majesty of God. Next, it issues a call for God's covenant people to gather before him. Then, startlingly, it speaks of God's rebuke and judgment - not of unbelievers or of those who reject God, but of God's "faithful ones" (v. 5), those of whom God says, "I am God, your God" (v. 7).

As God confronts his "faithful ones" in this passage, why is He described as "a devouring fire" and a "mighty tempest" (v. 3)? Why is God angry? What is God's charge against his people?

Their great offense against God was:  they were not thankful.

God rebukes his people for their ingratitude, and He commands them:  "Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me" (vv. 14-15).

Now, I want to protest, to say that God has put the cart before the horse, so to speak:  Give thanks...and God will deliver me? Shouldn't that read:  If God delivers me, then I will give thanks?

Next, the passage goes on to contrast those who are grateful with those who hate discipline and who speak evil. Ingratitude puts a person squarely in the camp of the wicked, among those who hate God and whom God himself hates.

Again, I want to protest:  Is ingratitude really that big of a deal?!! There are so many sins that are so much worse!!!

But I am not God, and God's thoughts are not like mine:  "...you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you" (v. 21).

Ouch! My thinking is WRONG. I must correct it, must align my thinking with God's Word. Ingratitude IS a big deal:  it is an offense against a holy God, and justly deserves his wrath.

God's Word teaches that thanksgiving precedes deliverance. If I stubbornly refuse to thank God for his goodness and for his goodness to me, even in the face of trials and suffering, then I cannot expect God to deliver me "in the day of trouble."

(This brings to mind Jesus, who, on the night He was betrayed, gave thanks - before his arrest, and the flogging, and the crucifixion. He gave thanks - and He walked obediently into all that suffering - and God delivered him, and through him, God was glorified!)

Psalm 50 ends with a strong warning: "Mark this, then, you who forget God, lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver! The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly, I will show the salvation of God." (vv. 22-23)

I don't know about you, but I want to order my way rightly.

I want to give thanks, TODAY.

Thursday, March 3, 2016


How many people do you interact with regularly whom have known you your entire life?

We live in an age characterized by multiple job changes and frequent relocations. In our almost thirty-two years of marriage, my husband and I have moved at least fifteen times. Sometimes, we moved just across town. Other times, we moved across the country.

Another relocation means unpacking boxes at a new apartment or house, but it also means finding a new church, a new grocery store, and a new hairstylist. Due to frequent moves, I've had over a dozen obstetrician/gynecologists. Folks, that is just wrong.

A relocation also means leaving behind old friends and beginning the often slow process of developing new friends.

So let me ask again:  How many people do you interact with regularly whom have known you your entire life? If you're like me, probably not very many.

When I was going through a personal crisis several years ago and I was struggling with defeatism and depression, a lifelong friend encouraged me tremendously by reminding me who I was before - not who I was at the time, all downcast and defeated, but who I was before that particular season of trial.

She had been there from the beginning - she knew me back in grade school, back in high school, back in college - and, when I became overwhelmed and disoriented, she reminded me who I was. Her "I know you better than this, Camille, because I remember you when..." was like sunlight breaking through thick clouds on a dark day.

I had lost a piece of myself, forgotten something important about myself - but she remembered and she reminded me who I was.

I lost a dear friend this week. Mr. Bill knew my parents and both sets of my grandparents before I was born. He knew me as a baby, as a young child, as a teenager, and as a college student. The recessional at Steve's and my wedding - "Oh, For a Thousand Tongues to Sing!" - was chosen especially because it was one of Mr. Bill's favorite hymns, and we knew he would be there celebrating with us.

After two decades of moving from coast to coast to coast, Steve and I moved back to Obion County. Mr. Bill was still here, and he was one of the reasons that - even though we moved into a new house, among new faces - it felt like moving home.

Mr. Bill was another one of those people who on occasion sat me down and said to me, "Camille, I know you better than this..." He knew me my entire life. When I forgot something important about myself, he remembered - he knew, because he had been there all along - and he reminded me who I was.

I lost a dear friend this week, an extraordinary man, a giant among men. He took with him a wealth of experience and wisdom and memories, and he took with him a unique knowledge of Camille that I don't even possess.

I lost a dear friend this week. He took a piece of me with him.

I suspect that, when I finish moving for good, Mr. Bill will be one of the reasons Heaven will feel like home.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016


We can probably all recall someone who, when we were children, impressed us as being "larger than life" - a parent or grandparent, a teacher or a pastor, a hometown hero or celebrity - someone who stood out like a giant in our childhood world.

Over the years, as we grow older and wiser and physically larger ourselves, those giants tend to shrink, little by little, until we find that rather than looking up at these towering figures - the grandparent or teacher or star athlete - we are now, oddly enough, looking them in the eyes. We continue to respect and revere these people in a special way, but we also understand, as we enter the fellowship of Tall People, that, rather than giants, they are actually simply humans and not so very much unlike ourselves.

And then there are those extremely rare people who - when you have reached your full adult height, when you have learned to think and act like an adult instead of a child, when you realize that you stand shoulder-to-shoulder with so many who once loomed large on your childhood landscape - there are those few - maybe only one or two - who still tower like giants, who, instead of shrinking over time, grow even larger.

Those rare people who are giants...not because of their physical stature and might, but because of an inner strength evidenced even in physical brokenness, not because of their unwavering faith but because of childlike dependence on One they know is faithful, not because they feel no fear, but because they endeavor to walk through their fear clinging to the promises of Him who tells us to "Fear not."

I hear people around me talking about a highly-decorated WWII veteran, a war hero. I hear them talking about a successful farmer and businessman. I hear them talking about a passionate apologist and staunch Calvinist. I hear them talking about a man with strong opinions and an indomitable will - yes, I have felt the iron rod of that will!

But I keep thinking...

About a tiny girl, hugging a pants leg for comfort and support, and looking up...miles and miles and miles up...into the eyes of a giant...

Not the brown eyes of my own giant, Pap...oops! wrong leg! again!...but into the bright blue eyes of "my other Pap"...

...and for fifty-two years now, whenever I have looked into those blue eyes - whether he was smiling or frowning, whether we were laughing or butting heads (it is a very scary thing to butt heads with a giant) - for as long as I can remember, whenever I have looked into those eyes, they have assured me beyond a shadow of a doubt that...

I am loved.
God is faithful.
And there are Giants in the land.