Wednesday, December 28, 2016


Because I am sitting next to him, and because it's Christmas, and because it's still true...

- originally posted March 22, 2010

Several years ago, my oldest son participated in a production of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol at Theatre Memphis. While Reuben learned the roles of the Sled Boy, Ignorance, a chimney sweep, and a street urchin, Big Sister and I volunteered to work as stage hands. If I'd known ahead of time what we were getting into, I think we'd have skipped auditions! Rehearsals began in October - we met five nights a week, for 3+ hours of practice. Once the play opened, performances were held every evening except Monday, with additional matinee performances on weekends. This exhausting schedule lasted from Thanksgiving weekend until just a few days before Christmas. I truly believe that, long before closing night, the entire cast and every one of the backstage workers could have recited the complete script from memory!

Tiring - absolutely. But also tremendous fun. And amazingly, the work never got boring. The frantic silent bustle backstage, dressing and undressing actors, readying props in the pitchblack wings. The wild diversity of personalities - Kevin, who showed up for rehearsal on Halloween dressed as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, complete with ruby slippers (oh, yes); Anna, whose glow-in-the-dark tongue stud gave her a nearly blinding smile in the blackness that was "back stage"; the adult twins, Shawn and Kelley, who loved to pull surprises on stage to test other actors' ability to focus; Jim, the ghost of Christmas present, whose beautiful baritone and joy for life filled the theatre just months before he succumbed to throat cancer.

A dear friend and her family made a special trip to see A Christmas Carol that holiday season. Afterwards, Shannon commented the play had been great...but that when Reuben walked on stage, she had only been able to focus on him. The story, the music, the other characters faded to insignificance as he played his very minor parts. "All I could think was, That's MY Reuben! That's MY Reuben!" she laughed. "I was so proud of him, I wanted to stand up and tell everyone in the audience - LOOK! That's MY Reuben!"

Her experience got me to thinking. In the drama that is this life, that's how God looks at each of His children. I may stumble on stage, or say the wrong lines, or totally miss my cue. Shoot, I may even dive into the orchestra pit. But God looks at me through loving eyes and says, "That's MY Camille!"

Circumstances and our emotions sometimes conspire to deceive us, to make us believe that God groans at the mere thought of us, that we are to God nothing but a source of grief and constant frustration. But we do not have such a pathetic salvation as that, sisters and brothers. We are not saved to the extent that God is now able to barely tolerate us, to endure our existence without obliterating us with lightning bolts. We are saved completely, radically, eternally. We are HIS, and He loves and delights in us.

C.S. Lewis wrote in The Weight of GloryThe promise of glory is the promise, almost incredible and only possible by the work of Christ, that some of us, that any of us who really chooses, ...shall please God. To please be a real ingredient in the divine be loved by God, not merely pitied but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son - it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is.

God loves me because I am His - not because I have mastered the "stage" of life. He delights in me like a father in a son/daughter. Almost too good to believe, isn't it? But so it is.

The morning after the visits from the ghosts...
Ebenezer Scrooge (leaning out the window): You, there! Boy! What's today?
Sled Boy: Today, Sir? Why, it's Christmas Day!

Thursday, December 22, 2016


A friend commented to me that she thinks people enjoy celebrating Christmas and the birth of baby Jesus so much because not only is it fun, but it is also safe: we are much more comfortable with a cooing baby than we are with Jesus as the Creator and Judge of the world.

We love the story of tiny baby Jesus, wrapped in swaddling clothes, laid in a manger. But while celebrating his advent, we should also be mindful of who Jesus actually was and is, and of what Jesus came to do.

Jesus did not stay a baby.

In light of recent events in our own country and around the world, it is good to remember why Jesus was born and lived among us (Emmanuel - God with us!), and why he died and now lives to intercede for his people.

We are bombarded daily with news of terrorist attacks, school shootings, and hostage situations, and with reports of corruption in government, abuse of the law, gangs, drug abuse, sex trafficking, and missing and abused children.

We read about educational reforms that confound and frustrate teachers and undermine the authority and values of parents.

We are witnesses to a sexual revolution in this country that defies reason and mocks virtue.

We are told the problem is extremism, lax immigration standards, or easy access to firearms. Experts say we need stricter gun control laws, and schools need armed guards and police dogs. Our problems could be fixed with term limits, tolerance, rehabilitation, stricter obscenity laws, more governmnet oversight.

What we are not told - not on national TV, internet news feeds, Facebook, or talk radio - is that the problem is sin. Sin infects every single one of us, whether we shoot up a restaurant or sit quietly on our church pews every Sunday morning.

Our news sources do not tell us that greater than the offenses we commit against each other - murder, rape, kidnapping, abuse, licentiousness, willful ignorance, neglect, bigotry, outrageous foolishness - far greater than all these is the offense of our sin against the holy God who created and sustains us.

We rightly respond with outrage to the latest terrorist attack. But am I as outraged by my own defiance against God's holiness?

The truth is, the jihadist is dead to the things of God; he needs Jesus. The school shooter is not just depressed; he is broken, and he needs Jesus. The angry, out-of-control parent is not just overwhelmed by her circumstances; she is a sinner, and she needs Jesus. The church member who surfs internet porn sites late at night is not just having a weak moment; he is an offense to the holiness of God, and he needs Jesus.

We are all desperate, and we all need a radical salvation. We don't need a sweet little baby: we need a mighty Savior.

A baby in a manger, who grew up and lived a perfect life, the God-man, who died for and who now lives to intercede for sinners, sinners like the terrorist on TV, the Super Bowl pimp, the businessman addicted to porn, the out-of-control mom, the angry teenager, the gay lovers, and me.

No, this baby is not safe. But I invite you to come anyway, come to the manger and see!

[Originally published in the Union City Daily Messenger, December 23, 2015.]

Tuesday, December 20, 2016


I jumped out of bed this morning eager to get started on a busy day. My morning routine typically looks something like this:

Dress, brush teeth, etc. Pour myself a cup of coffee and sit down at the kitchen counter to read my Bible. Pray for my family and my church family and for the day ahead. Start a load of laundry. Check Todoist, email, and Facebook, then head out the door to morning exercise class at Caroline's in Troy...

This morning as I waited for Todoist to load on the computer, I realized that I had not prayed for the day ahead. I am a Type A person who loves to have a plan and who loves to make that plan happen. Life doesn't always go according to plan, however, so it is important for me to pause at the beginning of each day to remember that God's plan may not be the same as my plan and to pray that I will be open and obedient to his plan instead of insisting on mine.

I pray each morning for open hands: for God to place in my hands the things He wants me to do each day, and for him to enable me to willingly release from my hands those things I am tempted to grasp tightly but which are not his purpose for me that particular day.

So today as I waited for Todoist to load, I thought, "Ah! I forgot to pray for open hands today!" I took a minute to consider the many things I need to get done today, and I prayed that God would give me open palms and relaxed fingers for the day ahead. And then I thought how silly it was to think that a simple, rather ritualistic prayer was so important.

I checked email and Facebook, switched the clothes from the washer to the dryer, grabbed a water bottle and headed out the door to exercise class. That's when my Plan A for today began to unravel...

Short story - I didn't make it to class at Caroline's.

When I realized that I wasn't going to be able to drive to Troy, a wave of frustration rose inside me. That frustration was checked almost immediately, though, by this thought: "Oh! So this is one of those things You want to take out of my hand today! Yes, I need to let this go. What do you have for me to do instead?"

As I headed back inside - disappointed, but not angry or upset or derailed - I thought to myself: that silly little prayer for "open hands" is not so silly after all.

- originally published August 3, 2016

We all have more demands on our time each day than we can possibly hope to meet. I get out of bed each morning knowing that I am not going to get everything on my ToDo list checked off before I crawl back into to bed at the end of the day.

How can I choose wisely what to do today, and what to leave undone? And at the end of each day, how can I be free from worrying about all the things I didn't get around to?!

The Bible tells us in James 1:5 - "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it [wisdom] will be given to him." Those are encouraging words for this oftentimes overwhelmed mom!

This verse tells me that God is the source of wisdom. It also assures me that God gives wisdom generously to those who ask for it, and that He doesn't reproach me when I acknowledge me need for his help. I can never ask God for wisdom too many times. I can never ask for too much. God is the source of all wisdom, and He is able and willing to meet my need.

So what does this have to do with my mile-long ToDo list?

One of the first things I pray each morning is for God to give me the wisdom to know what to do and what to leave undone. I ask him to help me choose wisely what things to make a priority. I also ask him for grace to let go of things I will not be able to accomplish.

As I pray, I picture an open hand, palm up. My prayer is for God to put into my open hand the tasks He wants me to work on, and for Him to remove from my hand those things that are not his will for me that day. I also pray that I will not be tight-fisted - that I will not insist on MY ToDo list while neglecting God's priorities for me.

This "open hand" prayer does not mean I accomplish everything on my ToDo list each day. However, it does mean that, trusting God's wisdom, I can climb into bed at night without suffocating under a mountain of guilt for the Undone.

This "open hand" prayer is something I have practiced for several months now. A couple of weeks ago, I discovered a new application for this prayer.

Sunday evening, a group gathered around the table had a rather animated and emotionally intense conversation concerning a topic about which we all held strong opinions. I left the table that evening feeling bruised and discouraged because I didn't think anyone else had listened to or seriously considered my thoughts on the subject. My input into the conversation had been ridiculed and then dismissed.

I climbed into bed with a heavy heart. "God," I prayed, "I want to be heard and listened to, but I have been ignored. I want my input to be respected and thoughtfully considered, but instead I have been dismissed." I was well on my way to a full-blown pity party when my morning-prayer image of the open hand popped into my mind.

I want to be heard, listened to, respected - these were things I was grasping tightly inside my balled fists. These were things I did not want to let go of, things I did not want to give up.

Then I considered my sweet Savior. He, of all people, should have been respected...but He was reviled. He, of all people, should have been listened to, but He was ignored. His opinions, of all opinions, should have been highly considered, but they were dismissed.

And He was content to be disrespected, ignored, dismissed...for my sake.

My "open hand" prayer took on a whole new meaning. "Lord," I prayed, "help me to release from my white-knuckle grasp those things which I think I deserve, those things I think I must have, but which You, in your wisdom, have withheld from me. Things like respect and thoughtful consideration. Let me instead graciously receive what you deem necessary for me at this moment, even if it is not what I would chose myself."

Amazingly, the prayer strategy that helped so much with my overwhelming ToDo list - that same prayer strategy transformed tears and emotional turmoil that Sunday evening into inner peace and assurance.

I will not check everything off my ToDo list today. That's okay. I may not be heard or valued or respected. That's okay, too.

I have given my ToDo list and my personal desires to God: He knows exactly how best to manage them.

Monday, December 19, 2016


One of the ironies of being the mom is that while you are busy with holiday shopping, cooking, caroling, and parties - in the midst of all the festivities - you also have to keep the laundry caught up, the toilets cleaned, and the cat fed. "Holiday" does not mean you get a day off work. It means you get to enjoy a few extra special things while you work.

I'm okay with that. It's part of the job.

You want to know something that really warms my heart, though? It's when others realize that while they are enjoying a break from school or work, Mom is still on the clock - and so they decided to use some of their "holiday" time to make Mom's job a little easier.

Ben cleaned upstairs and vacuumed the landing and the stairs on Saturday. No, I didn't ask him to, but I'm grateful that he did!

Helen and Ben stripped down all the beds this morning so that I could wash sheets. Now, all the beds are freshly remade and ready for holiday visitors.

Helen cooked dinner this evening so that I could use meal-prep time to work on a writing assignment.

The kids have been asking me lately, "What do you want for Christmas, Mom?"

I can't think of a better gift than their willingness to share my workload so that I can share their holiday.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016


Prior to the recent presidential election, a group of Christians was having a passionate discussion about the dilemma they faced in determining for whom they would vote. Some felt that to vote for either major party candidate would be a violation of their consciences and of their Christian principles. Others felt that to not vote for a major party candidate was to essentially "throw away" their votes.

At one point in the discussion, one of those gathered around the table said something to the effect, "Well, you can talk about your faith and voting your conscience and the kingdom of God and all that, but the bottom line is, this is the real world we're living in. And in the real world, you only have one option of who to vote for."

In response to this comment, a young man at the table replied with calm clarity, "There is nothing in this world more 'real' than the kingdom of God."

It is easy in the noise and the busy-ness and the complicated decisions and the messy situations we encounter in this life to forget that Jesus in not just someone we pray to at the end of the day, or our Sunday-morning solace, or a figurine in our Christmas nativity decoration. Even for Christians, it is easy to forget that Jesus is reigning and ruling, right here, right now, really and truly.

When God tells me in Scripture that He will supply all my needs (Philippians 4:19) - all my physical needs, my relational needs, my spiritual needs, all of my needs - He is not speaking hypothetically or talking pie-in-the-sky-someday. He means He will meet all of my needs, right here, right now, for real.

When God tells me in Scripture that He works all things - all things - for my good and for his glory (Romans 8:28), He is not speaking hypothetically or talking about some later date or far off place. He is talking about right here, right now.

Does this mean God promises me health, wealth, and prosperity in this life? Does this mean He promises that all my children will grow into wise and godly adults? Does this mean God promises my marriage will always be characterized by integrity, intimacy, and sweetness? Does this mean He promises I will never have to suffer humiliation, hardship, abuse, or persecution?

No, No, No, and No.

Rather, what Scripture teaches me is that God - and God's assessment of my true needs and my true ultimate good - is the most real, the most true, even more real than my own mixed-up perceptions of things. God's reality is not hypothetical. It is not purely spiritual or mental. God's reality is also physical, relational, and practical.

What do I need today? A new pair of shoes? A good diagnosis? A faithful lover? A career change?

This life is a mist, a vapor! How, in this swirling fog, can I even begin to see what is truly needful?!

God sees. God reigns and rules and moves and works in the real of world. God knows exactly what I need, and He has promised to meet that need. Right here, right now.

Oh, for eyes to see and faith to trust God's power and his good purposes in my life! Oh, for a heart that truly understands that nothing, nothing, nothing is more real than the kingdom of God!

Friday, December 9, 2016


I am going to tell you a sad story.

When my oldest was a toddler and I was pregnant with baby number two, Steve and I attended a very large, wealthy church in Knoxville, Tennessee. Steve was a student at UT, and I was a stay-at-home mom. We were very poor, and we lived in ancient, white cinder-block married-student housing that has since been bulldozed.

Steve and I were not like the other people who attended that church, the doctors and lawyers and politicians and university professors. We were misfits, but we attended that church anyway because the teaching from the pulpit was excellent.

We were misfits, but we attended that church anyway because, although our pokey Cavalier station wagon stood out like a sore thumb among the Mercedes and BMWs and Jaguars in the church parking lot, we knew we were part of the body of Christ and that we had significant things in common with these other church members whose lives were so different from our own.

I had an appointment for a prenatal checkup and I needed a babysitter for my toddler. I called one of the moms in my Sunday school class and asked if she could recommend someone. This mom gave me the name of a teenager who attended the church and suggested I call her.

The recommended teen would not babysit my toddler because she did not know me personally (understandable, in these dark times). So, I asked her if she could recommend someone else. She did. I called the next person. This teen would not babysit anyone in campus married housing - she didn't think it was safe. But she recommended someone else, and I called the next number. The same thing happened.

Because I have a perverse streak, I persevered...through over 20 "No, I'm sorry, I can't help you"-s. I talked to teenagers and to their parents. I called other mothers and solicited them for help. The answer was always, "No. I can't/won't help you." I eventually gave up. I never did find a babysitter.

These were all fellow Christians, fellow members of the same church that I attended faithfully. None of them - not one - was willing to help me. That experience broke my heart. I ended the afternoon in tears.

When you experience that level of rejection from the very people who have verbally committed to be in covenantal relationship with you, the brokenness you experience is more than skin deep. You don't "just get over it." Yes, we continued to attend that church, but I no longer felt like I had very much of significance in common with the other people there. I had originally assumed we shared a gospel connection, that these people loved me in spite of my circumstances. The afternoon of 20+ No-s taught me something different.

In his article 12 Reasons Millennials are OVER Church, Sam Eaton writes, "Millennials crave relationship, to have someone walking beside them through the muck...We’re looking for mentors who are authentically invested in our lives and our future. If we don’t have real people who actually care about us, why not just listen to a sermon from the couch (with the ecstasy of donuts and sweatpants)?"

I am not a millennial - too old - but Eaton's words resonate with me.

When the very people I trust to care about and for me are dismissive of my concerns or needs, when they betray or belittle me, when they respond to my hurts with "just get over it" or "it's not my problem - deal with it yourself," something breaks deep inside of me.

Christ is sufficient to meet all my needs, including my need for meaningful relationship.

Yes, He is. I know this, because He has been faithful when others have not. He has been near when others have been distant. He has been attentive when others have been dismissive. He has been tender when others have been unkind. He has been selfless when others have been self-absorbed. He has been fearless when others have been cowards.

Christ is sufficient.

But, shame on the one who claims the name of Christ and willfully refuses to love as Christ loves.

God, help me to love like Christ. When I am weary, help me to be faithful. When I am busy or inconvenienced, help me to be available. When I am unsympathetic, give me a heart of compassion. When I am afraid, give me courage.

When I am reluctant to love others, help me to see in them opportunities to love Jesus, the One who has loved me so very well.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016



A word used as a Jewish greeting and farewell, typically translated to mean peace.

But shalom implies so much more.

I once heard a theologian define shalom this way: "Shalom means all is as it should be." He went on to describe shalom as a kind of integrity: things are what they appear to be. No deception, no duplicity, no confusion. On an individual level, shalom-ness is integrity of person - it is being the same inside and out, in our thoughts and in our practice, in private and in public.

We are all works in progress. I am not today the same person that I was a year ago. And a year from now, I will be different from the person I am today.

We are all works in progress. I understand that. And yet, I find it very difficult to understand and relate to another who seems frenetically changeable, someone who says one thing this morning and something quite contrary this afternoon, a person who behaves one way in company and a completely different way in private, someone who in a single conversation presumes to maintain and defend completely contrary philosophies.

It makes me feel like Alice, trying to have a serious conversation with the Cheshire Cat. Or like the Psalmist, dismayed by those who say "Peace, peace," when there is no peace. I am confused. I don't know how to engage. Is this Person A today, or Person B?

We are all works in progress. I understand that. And I am thankful - so incredibly thankful - for the assurance in Scripture that Jesus - Jesus himself! - is my peace, my shalom. Where there is duality of character or a conflict of values or motives within, Jesus man, a unified person of integrity. Someone who is the same inside and out, in private and in public, in thought and in deed.

A new creation, in whom there is no deception, no duplicity, no confusion.

One day, I will be a person of whom it can be truly said, "All is as it should be."

And he [Jesus] came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. - Ephesians 2:17

Friday, December 2, 2016


"I do not at all feel like I have chosen an inferior career path. I don't understand why some people feel that way about motherhood." She kissed the newborn in her arms.

We welcomed a new baby into the family last week.

It is interesting, viewing motherhood from one step back, as a grandmother instead of as a new mother. While I pulled Grandma duty in the days just before and just after baby's arrival, a couple of things stood out to me... 

Motherhood requires incredible strength and stamina - physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually.

As I watched my hugely pregnant daughter care for her husband, her two-year-old and her home, I was amazed by her strength. A restless night of labor, a sleepless night with a newborn, another sleepless night...with constant demands on her body and her emotions...and yet she persevered with a patience and steadiness that astounded me.

Instead of complaining, "I am so tired!" (which she was) - she instead exclaimed, "I love my sweet babies so much!"

Motherhood requires incredible sacrifice.

Yes, my daughter has personal dreams. Some of these have been put on hold, possibly forever, while she focuses her time and energy on the tremendous task she and her husband have of raising their family.

Life, interrupted. Is that what motherhood is?


It is life. It is living this day, this moment in communion with the divine, in the company of eternal souls that try the limits of your understanding and your faith and your endurance.

We welcomed a new baby into the family last week.

WE welcomed a new baby into the family last week.

We welcomed a new baby into the FAMILY last week.

Motherhood is about community. It is about the WE and the FAMILY, instead of about the I and the ME.

Motherhood takes a woman out of the narrow confines of her own skin and stretches her soul, her heart, her energy, her dreams...

infuses all these parts of her mother self into the selves of others, who grow up into unique people, very different from herself, and who in turn begin the cycle anew and, by doing so, disperse her mother heart even further, into yet another generation...

so that the teeny-tiny spot one mother occupies on this planet (where she lives, her job, her aspirations, her disappointments, her personal preferences), this teeny-tiny little spot can no longer contain her because she has been so greatly expanded, through space and time, sometimes quite literally around the globe.

* * *

"I do not at all feel like I have chosen an inferior career path. I don't understand why some people feel that way about motherhood."

Why, indeed. Today, as I celebrate this newest addition to the family, my heart breaks for young mothers who are frustrated, disappointed, and depressed because they feel "trapped," the moms who feel like they have given up so much in return for so little, the mothers who have not yet understood the greatness of their calling.

Oh, for eyes to see!