Tuesday, June 27, 2017

SWEETER STILL

The song "I Keep Falling in Love with Him Over and Over Again" contains these words:

"When I first fell in love with Jesus,
I gave Him all my heart.
I thought I could not love him more
Than I did right at the start.
But now I look back over the mountains and the valleys where I've been...
It makes me know I love Him so much more than I did then.

"And I keep falling in love with him
Over and over, and over and over again..."

* * *

It's been a rough week. Heck, it's been a rough decade. But this past week, rougher than usual. By Sunday morning, my ship was dragging bottom.

Then...

Sunday morning during worship, a friend preached about the plagues God inflicted on the people in Egypt. A couple of points from James's message that really stood out for me:

- Through the plagues, God displayed his omnipotence, providence, mercy and judgment. God created and rules over all of creation: God is sovereign, even in the midst of terrible circumstances.

 - In the plagues, God had a purpose for the Egyptians (including hardhearted Pharoah), AND God had a purpose for his people. While the Hebrews were exempt from some of the plagues, they were not exempt from all of them: God's people suffered under the plagues, too. While God was displaying his power to the Egyptians, He was also transforming the faith of his chosen people. One group ended up broken, wanting the presence and power of God to depart far from them; the other group was moved to worship and was empowered to embark on an arduous journey that demanded they live out their faith in the terrifying but life-giving presence of God.

I felt like Sunday's sermon was written just for me, like God used James (who knew nothing of my heartache) as a mouthpiece to speak to me the very words I needed to hear. Life is hard, people. It is hard for all of us, whether we are redeemed or lost. The good news is: as a child of God, I can be confident that my heavenly Father rules my life and He uses everything - even terrible things, even painful consequences of another's sin and hardheartedness - for my good and for his glory.

Sunday evening, while I was still weary and my heart still sore, a young friend shared her own grief and broken-heartedness, and then she shared how encouraged she had been by the words of another song, "Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken." Together, I sang with sisters in Christ:

Man may trouble and distress me,
Twill but drive me to Thy breast.
Life with trials hard may press me;
Heaven will bring me sweeter rest.
Oh, tis not in grief to harm me,
While Thy love is left to me;
Oh, were not in joy to charm me,
Were that joy unmixed with Thee.

Go, then, earthly fame and treasure,
Come disaster, scorn and pain
In Thy service, pain is pleasure, 
With Thy favor loss is gain.
I have called Thee "Abba, Father;" 
I have stayed my heart on Thee;
Storms may howl, and clouds may gather;
All must work for good to me.

Soul, then know thy full salvation
Rise o'er sin and fear and care
Joy to find in every station, 
Something still to do or bear.
Think what Spirit dwells within thee;
Think what Father's smiles are thine;
Think that Jesus died to win thee;
Child of heaven, canst thou repine?

Could these words have been more timely balm for my sore heart?! I think not!

But THEN...

Yesterday - Monday - my brother David had a heart attack. I received the news yesterday evening...he and my sister-in-law Tracy were at the hospital...still awaiting test results...messages flying back and forth between family members eager for the latest update, fervent prayers, a restless night...

This morning, a phone call. It was David. Yes, he had had a heart attack, but all is well. From the hospital, David called this morning to tell me, "I have a policy that when I'm feeling down on my luck, when I'm tempted to feel sorry for myself or to think 'Woe is me,' I think of someone else and then I focus my attention and prayers on that other person. I just wanted to call you this morning and tell you that I love you and to let you know I was praying for you yesterday."

David knew nothing of my personal grief, yet - while he was waiting in the emergency room for test results and then undergoing treatment for a heart attack - while I was praying for him - he was praying for me. I wept and laughed at the same time as I told my brother that God knew how much I needed those prayers yesterday!

These past few days, God has been telling me over and over how very much He loves me. He is such an attentive and persistent lover of my soul!

I have written before about The Incredible Sweetness of God's Love. People, this love keeps growing sweeter and sweeter. God is so good. He meets me in my need. I cannot help falling in love with him, over and over, over and over again.

* * *

Are you weary? Is your heart sore today? Perhaps these words will encourage you as they encouraged me and my young friend:




Monday, June 19, 2017

THE GIFT OF FORGIVENESS

Several times over the past few months - more times than I want to admit - I have wronged another person and needed to ask forgiveness. It is humbling to go to a brother or sister and confess, "I was wrong. I am sorry. Will you please forgive me?"

Also humbling, in a very different kind of way, is when the other person responds with "Oh, it's no big deal" and then completely skips over the issue of forgiveness. Or when the person replies "I'm not really into the whole repentance/forgiveness thing" and just walks away. Or worst of all, when the person says and does nothing at all. Ouch.

I have had several occasions to ask for forgiveness over the past few months, and I have noticed a strange phenomenon. The adults of whom I have asked forgiveness, with one exception, have either casually dismissed my personal sin and my need for forgiveness, have dismissed the need for repentance and forgiveness in general, or have ignored me altogether. By contrast, the young people of whom I have asked forgiveness - every one of them - responded, quickly and simply, with "I forgive you," followed immediately by a hug, a smile, or a kind word of encouragement.

I do not know why this is - why the young people seem so much readier to forgive. I do know, however, that I want to be more like they are. I want to be quick to repent and quick to forgive...not only quick to forgive, but to articulate that forgiveness, to speak forgiveness to the person who has asked for it.

Over the past few months, I have learned from these gracious young people: "I forgive you" is a gift.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

GOODREADS GIVEAWAY: BETHEL ROAD


Just in time for beach or poolside reading! Now through July 15, you can enter for a chance to win one of ten free copies of Bethel Road at Goodreads.com.

When Kathy Parks takes a wrong turn on a winding country road, she discovers her dream house: a dilapidated but beautiful brick Victorian on Bethel Road. Kathy must first convince her husband Ron that the derelict house is salvageable. Then, she wonders, should she tell him about the ghost in the downstairs bedroom?

Join Kathy on a journey to discover the true meaning of home as she searches for a place she can call home forever.


Thursday, June 15, 2017

THE STING OF GRACE

Thinking about the wonderful grace in which we walk in Christ Jesus, it occurs to me anew that grace carries with it a sting.

Abstract grace - some disembodied concept that floats around inside my head - that doesn't sting. No, that kind of grace is safe, faraway, romantic, painless.

But the grace that is mine in Christ is not abstract. It is real, practical, personal. It reaches into the mess of my day-to-day life and touches my flesh, my mind, my heart, my soul. It touches what I say and think and do. It touches everything about who I think I am. No part of me escapes God's relentless grace.

Whatever this grace touches, it exposes. Not sin in the abstract - sin that is mine by virtue of my being a daughter of Adam, that faraway misty sin - but sin in the particular. My actual, lived-out, freely-chosen sin. My pet, I-don't-want-the-world-to-know, today sin. MY sin.

This exposure hurts. (I did so want to believe better of myself!) Sometimes, the pain of exposure is excruciating. Sometimes it hurts the people around me, too, because they stand too close to me or because they love me.

Perhaps it is fear of this exposure and pain, this initial sting of grace, that makes some people so reluctant to receive it. Grace can indeed appear terrible.

But I can testify...

That initial sting, however painful, is nothing - NOTHING - compared to the joy that follows as grace washes over the great festered sores in my soul and transforms rancid flesh into living tissue.

All this thinking about grace brings to mind the following post from a couple of years ago... 

NAKED
- originally posted August 17, 2012

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith."
 - Romans 1:16-17

"I am not ashamed of the gospel..." Why would Paul make such a statement, unless there was some possibility, some assumption, even some likelihood, that shame would be a natural emotion for someone associated with the gospel of Christ?  Why would he need to assert that he was not ashamed?  Ashamed of what?  What is shameful about the gospel?

I suppose there are lots of answers to those questions, but one in particular has occupied my thoughts this week.  Let me try to explain...

By trusting in and testifying to the gospel - by confessing my own complete poverty and filthiness before a holy God, and by resting only in Christ's righteousness applied to my account - I am basically proclaiming to the entire world that I am a Loser.  Worse than a loser.  No, I am not "all that and sliced cheese."  I can't even do the first little thing, take the tiniest fumbling baby step toward a right relationship with my Creator.

The gospel - the "good news" - begins with the very bad news that I am a sinner, that I hate the things of God, that not only do I deny His holiness and justice, but I run from it with everything I've got.

But captured by God's grace - captured and captivated! - captured by grace which flows from God's infinite mercy, I have been made new.  Transformed by my Creator from a God hater to a God lover.  Not because I desired God and sought Him out, but because He desired me and pursued me.  Not because of any virtue in myself, but entirely because of the virtue of Jesus.  Not because I had faith, but because Jesus is faithful.  Not because I have within myself one iota of righteousness, but because Jesus has applied to me the very "righteousness of God."

As a redeemed sinner, I find the gospel message beautiful - it is life and hope and joy and peace.  But the gospel also has a dark side...it exposes me for what I truly am.  I cannot tell you about the radiant beauty of Jesus without exposing the darkness in my own heart from which He has saved me.

If I am going to tell you that Jesus died to save sinners - I am going to have to put down the facade, strip away the self-deception that so desperately labors to make me (and you) believe I have any righteousness in myself.

To truly believe and rest in and live out this gospel - it's like standing in front of the world naked.

Yes, the shame of the gospel would be too great to bear, were it not for the glory of Christ, were not for Christ's covering me with His own righteousness.  Thankfully, the gospel is powerful - powerful enough to overcome my shame.  Indeed, it is the very "power of God for salvation"!

It's a power that makes a dirty, trembling, naked sinner look up in faith and joyfully proclaim to the world around her, "I am not ashamed!"

Thursday, June 8, 2017

PERSEVERANCE

The waistband of my denim shorts is too tight. Guess I need to lay off the brownies and chocolate chip cookies...again!

I am intimately acquainted with the indulge-expand-oh,no!-cut back cycle. Over the years, I have learned that the third day of "cutting back" is the hardest.

Day 1, I am super-motivated. I imagine how trim I'll look and how much energy I'll have when I achieve my weight-loss goals, and I tell myself I'll go shopping for cute new clothes.

On Day 1, I am also not very hungry. Saying "No" to those brownies and cookies is really not that difficult (especially when I'm thinking about how awesome I'll look in a month).

Day 2, I am still motivated, but my fuel tank starts to feel a little empty. I enjoy a big, beautiful salad and grilled chicken for lunch, but then I immediately wonder if there are any chocolate chips hiding on the top shelf of the kitchen cabinet. I catch myself. "No, no, no...not going there!"

Day 3, I am ready to eat bark off a tree, as long as it's battered, deep-fried, and smothered in gravy. When I munch an apple for "dessert" (ha!), images of hot-fudge sundaes dance through my head.

Day 4, forget those images of the future thin me: I'm all about thick me today!

Here's the thing...

I can set admirable goals - lose 10 pounds. I can have lofty ambitions - write 1000 words on my manuscript today. I can intend to do wonderful things - love my neighbor. But if I lack perseverance, none of those amazing things are going to happen.

You know what? I don't have much perseverance. My perseverance reserves run completely out in about four days. Or less, depending on what I'm persevering - or not persevering - toward.

In the Bible, perseverance is called a fruit of the Spirit. Perseverance is a God thing. Perseverance is not the same as will power, which I can conjure up on my own. Will power is my resolving, "I will do this, by golly!" Perseverance is me actually doing it. One is inside my head. The other works its way out through my hands and feet and words and actions.

If I don't have perseverance, and if God is the source of perseverance, then, obviously, I need to be petitioning my Father for this gift: "Father, I need perseverance! Please, give me some! Help me persevere!" I need to be knocking on his door, day in and day out, pleading for this Holy Ghost gift.

I need to persevere in asking for perseverance. Sounds like a Catch 22, doesn't it? Except that, when I ask for perseverance, God always gives me exactly the amount I need.

Maybe it won't be enough to turn down that brownie or to type out that 1000 words, but it will be enough to draw me back to Himself so that, in my need, I can pray once again, "Father, I need more perseverance! Help me persevere!"

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

INIGO MONTOYA, LIFE, AND THE GOSPEL

Mandy Patinkin as Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride

As a young boy, Inigo Montoya stood by helplessly as a mysterious six-fingered man murdered his father. When Inigo tried to defend his father, the six-fingered man left the boy with scars on both his cheeks.

Inigo dedicated his adult life becoming a master swordsman, hoping one day to meet the six-fingered man once again. His life's ambition was to find the six-fingered man and avenge his father's death.

In a scene near the end of The Princess Bride, Inigo finally confronts the six-fingered man: "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

As a boy, Inigo had been no match for the six-fingered man. Young Inigo challenged his father's murderer, and he was humiliated, left with two gruesome scars to remind him and everyone he met that he was inadequate, a failure.

Unfortunately, here at the end of the movie, Inigo is still no match for the sadistic, cowardly, dishonorable Count Rugen. Rugen taunts Inigo as he proceeds to puncture just about every major artery in Inigo's body. Inigo, faint from loss of blood, collapses against a wall.

Confident that he has mortally wounded Inigo, Count Rugen stands calmly before the young man and waits for him to collapse onto the floor. Instead, Inigo straightens, winces, and repeats: "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

The six-fingered man is stunned. Inigo's knees buckle, but again he regains his composure. "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

Every time Inigo repeats that phrase, he grows stronger. Advancing on the six-fingered man, Inigo duels him until, finally, the six-fingered man is defenseless and begging for mercy, terrified for his life.

As a child, Inigo had not been defeated - he had only been scarred. Those scars motivated him to study, to learn, to grow strong, and to face down the thing that shattered his world when he was a boy.

When he finally faced Count Rugen, Inigo was no longer a weak, cowering child. He had grown into a focused and determined young man and a master swordsman.

What do I learn from Inigo Montoya?

I learn that although my past shapes me, it does not define who I am. The scars I bear are not the end of my story.

In this particular scene from The Princess Bride, I am reminded of the many times I have faced fear, shame, a sense of inadequacy or worthlessness.

"My name is Inigo Montoya." When I am at my lowest, I need to remind myself who I am and, more importantly, whose I am: I am a daughter of the Most High King.

When he fought Count Rugen, Inigo was strengthened by repeating his lifelong resolution. When I face the adversary of my soul, I am strengthened by repeating the truths of God's Word.

"My name is Camille, and I am a beloved child of God. My God is sovereign, He is good, and He loves me very much."

Yes, I may have scars, but, no, I am not defeated.

Friday, June 2, 2017

MMMMM, DIRT!

Photo courtesy of Dawn Guy of Troy, TN. Thank you, Dawn!

When I was a little girl, my grandmother used to tell me, "Everybody needs a little dirt to scratch in." Grandmother loved working the earth. For as long as she was able, she maintained a garden and small orchard. At 98 years old, Grandmother no longer has the physical strength to dig with a shovel or run the tiller (although her mind is still sharp as a blackberry thorn!); she does, however, keep several potted plants in her room at an assisted-living facility. Grandmother stills believes that "scratching in the dirt" is good for the soul.

Research backs up Grandmother's claim. In her article "How to Get High on Soil," Pagan Kennedy wrote that M. vaccae, a microbe found in soil, "has been shown to boost the the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine circulating in the systems of humans...In other words, [M. vaccae] works in much the same manner as antidepressant pills." (Pagan Kennedy, "How to Get High on Soil," The Atlantic, January 31, 2012. For entire article, click HERE.)

The smell of healthy soil, it turns out, is a natural mood booster.

We country folks are not surprised. When heavy rains of early spring give way to sunshine, farmers head out to the fields with ginormous "do-alls" and 36-row corn planters. The air fills with the rich earthy smell of freshly-turned soil. Roll down your car windows as you're driving down the road and inhale deeply, and your mood instantly brightens. Inhale too deeply, and you just might get high!

Almost seems like we humans were created to scratch in the dirt...like we were meant to live life in a garden.

* * *

"...the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. And the LORD God planted a garden...and there he put the man whom he had formed..to work [the garden]." Genesis 2:7-8, 15

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A 1-TALENT INVESTMENT STRATEGY


Who do you think is the best fiction writer ever? This question initiated a lively discussion at my house over the weekend. Most agreed that J. R. R. Tolkien was in a class of his own. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy is one of the best-selling novels of all time. Tolkien began writing his trilogy eighty years ago, but it is as lively, captivating, and relevant to readers today as when it was first published.

Who else is on your list of top/best fiction writers? The answer to this question was more varied. J. K. Rowling was a heavy contender, as was C. S. Lewis.

Mom, do you think that maybe one day you'll be as good a writer as J. K. Rowling or Lewis? At this question, I wanted to crawl in a hole and disappear. Maybe one day, if I work hard at my craft every day and if I live to be a hundred and fifty-nine...maybe one day, Son, I will write well enough to pen a foreword for the umpteenth edition of a Rowling or Lewis book. Maybe. Write as well? Ha! Such presumption!

Last week, I wrote about the temptation to be jealous of those who are more successful than ourselves. (You can read that post HERE.) No, I am not jealous of Tolkien or Lewis or Rowling, neither of their ability nor of their success. When I think of these amazing writers, I am simply grateful. I am grateful that God has extraordinarily gifted these individuals to communicate the gospel in powerful ways through the fiction they write. However...

This morning, as I recalled my family's best-author conversation, I got to thinking: with so many excellent writers in the world, why do I write at all? Why not get back to mopping the kitchen floors and leave writing to those who are so much more talented than I am?

So I asked God that question: "God, I love to write, but my writing gift is small. Should I devote my time to writing - and to learning to write better - or should I set writing aside altogether?"

God is so kind.

He took me to the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew, to the parable of the talents. In this parable, a man entrusts his property to his servants before he leaves on a long journey. He gives one servant five talents, he gives one servant two talents, and he gives a third servant one talent. After a long time, the man returns home. Servant #1 invested the five talents, and earned his master five talents more. Servant #2 did likewise with his two talents. Servant #3, however, buried his one little talent and earned no interest for his master. And for this - for refusing to invest his one talent - he was punished.

Reading through Matthew 25:14-30, I was reminded: my job is not to compare whatever talent God gives me with the talent(s) He gives others, but to be faithful with the talent with which I have been entrusted.

I can look at 100-talent writers like Tolkien and Rowling, and think of my 1-talent writing: "One talent? That's too insignificant to invest. I'll just bury it in the ground." - OR - I can look at the small talent God has given me, and ask, "Lord, how can I invest this for you? How can I grow this for you, to advance your kingdom work?"

God doesn't call me to be faithful with what He has not given me. He calls me to be faithful with what He has given me...even if what He has given me is one small talent.

What "talent" has God given you? Is it big? Is it small? Maybe, like me, you think your gift is too small to even matter. I encourage you - delight in the small gift God has given you, and then invest your gift, grow it, and present it back to God with interest.

I think we will both be amazed, you and I, at what God can do with one small talent.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

IF I AM NOT MY OWN, THEN WHY AM I JEALOUS?

"For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's...you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God...each of us will give an account of himself to God." - Romans 14:7-8, 10, 12

* * *



If I am not my own, then why am I jealous?

Jealousy is all about comparison. It's about one-up-manship. It's about feeling better about myself because I have more notches in my stick than you do...or feeling like a failure because I don't. Jealousy causes me to be unduly critical of those who achieve greater success than I do, it robs me of joy, and it sets me on a path toward discouragement and defeat. At its core, jealousy is about finding my worth, security, and delight in something other than God.

God created each of us as unique individuals:  no two people are exactly alike. Each of us has been gifted to reflect God's glory in a unique way.

For me, as a writer, that means I am called to write the story God has gifted me to write. Yes, I have much to learn from other writers, but writing is not a competition between me and the author of today's New York Times best-seller. God requires me to give an account of my obedience to his calling on my life - He does not require me to give an account of how well I fulfilled his calling for Best-seller Bob.

Karen Ball posted an excellent article at The Steve Laube Agency this week about the green-eyed monster called Jealousy and about how it preys upon writers, in particular. Karen confronts jealousy as sin and she exhorts writers to repent of the comparison game. Then, she issues a challenge to turn the temptation to indulge in jealousy into an occasion for praise instead: instead of envying the writer whose success is greater than mine, I can rejoice with other writers over God's blessing in their lives! (You can read Karen's entire post HERE.)

Jealousy demonstrates a large view of myself and a small view of God:  when I am jealous of another's success, I believe and act on the lie that life is all about me, and not about my Savior.

I am thankful for the reminder in the Romans passage above that whether I live or die, I am the Lord's. Because I am the Lord's, I do not have to play the comparison game. Because I am the Lord's, I can rejoice with those who are rejoicing, even if they are other writers who are more successful than I am. Together, we can glorify God and give thanks for his goodness!

I can't help but think that Satan smiles when we indulge in the sin of jealousy. How our enemy must recoil, then, when we turn from self-interested comparison to celebrating God's goodness to others! Is there someone in your life who, when you think of them, you feel jealous? Repent, and thank God not only for the blessings He has given you, but for the blessings He has given others, too.

* * *

"Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, 'The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.'...May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." - Romans 15:2-3, 5-6

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A BIRD SITUATION

This is my Father's world, and to my list'ning ears,
all nature sings...and sings and sings and sings!

We have a Situation at the Kendall house, one involving a bird.

I love birds. Birds are like messengers from God. The electric blue of an indigo bunting, glowing like the tip of a fairy wand on a stalk of waist-high grass; goldfinches, sparks of sunshine exploding from the creek bank; the sooty gray of delicate phoebes nesting on the porch. The slow, elegant grace of a blue heron as he lifts off the pond behind the house. The hypnotic honk of geese calling to one another as they slice a vee across the sky; the drum-like boom of owl song echoing across the valley in the evening; the buzz of wood duck wings, just above the surface of the water; the friendly whistle of the Bob White quail. I love birds.

But that mockingbird...

We have one particular mockingbird who neither sleeps nor eats. He perches on the rooftop and sings his heart out all day long. He sings all night long, too. He sings loudly, all hours of the day and night, frenetically cycling through his repertoire of quail and cardinal and meadowlark impersonations.

Did I mention that he sings LOUDLY? Did I mention that he sings ALL THE TIME?

I am normally an early-to-bed girl, but last night, I got trapped in a book. I crawled into bed around 10:30, promised myself I would read "just one more chapter," and then proceeded to read until midnight. My mockingbird provided background music for this late-night book fest.

At midnight, I turned off the bedroom light. Morning would come early. I needed to crash fast.

Mr. Mockingbird sang on and on in the darkness just outside my window.

At 1:30, I wondered, "Is this one of those things that will eventually become background noise?"

Train whistles and the slice of steel wheels down metal track became background noise when we lived in Millington. The trains rumbled through the night and shook the house, but they did not disturb my sleep. Frogs and cicadas in the summertime, shrieking so loudly you have to yell to be heard over them - I can even sleep through frogs and cicadas.

But this mockingbird...

At 3:30 this morning, he fell silent.

Finally, sleep!

Shortly after 5:00 am, Mr. Mockingbird was back at it, piping like a Scotsman. Right now, he is warbling down the chimney, his song amplified like a rock star's by the narrow brick tunnel into the house.

I have the windows open this morning so I can hear the other birds, too. The music is beautiful.

But this mockingbird...

He has been singing for days, weeks, months, almost nonstop. No, his music has not yet become background noise.

I hope Mr. Mockingbird takes the night off tonight. I am tired and need some sleep.

Friday, May 19, 2017

I DON'T GET IT

Sometimes you find yourself stuck at a party you don't want to be at.

As a rule, I don't do action films very well. If an action movie has a great story line or if it attempts to engage in a meaningful way (even a very small way) with significant questions, I do better. I loved The Matrix (although, technically, I guess The Matrix is more accurately categorized as sci-fi than as action). I guess what I'm saying is...I don't like gratuitous violence. Watching violent movies for the sake of watching violence does not make sense to me. On the contrary, it seriously disturbs me on many levels - physically, emotionally, spiritually, socially.

Yesterday evening I came home from a meeting to find my family watching the movie John Wick. The first thing anyone said to me when I walked in the door was not "Hi, honey!" - or - "How'd the meeting go?" - or - "Have you had any dinner? Can I get you something to eat?" Instead, I was greeted with:  "Oh? You're home already? I though you'd be out a least a couple hours later?" I guess I should have taken that as a warning, some kind of disclaimer. Maybe as a sideways confession: "Guys, Mom's home! We are so busted!"

I fixed a plate of dinner and sat down to watch John Wick with the rest of the family. They watch my movies, so I should make more of an effort to watch theirs, right? Besides, our house has a very open floor plan, so I had nowhere to hide away to read or write and sleep would have been impossible.

The movie had just started, so I hadn't missed any significant plot development. If I had sat through the entire movie with my eyes closed and my ears plugged, I still would not have missed any significant plot development...because there wasn't any. After nearly two hours of blood splatters and a body count that grew faster than bacteria in a petri dish, I was left asking, "Guys, what was the point? I don't get it."

To which one of member of the viewing audience replied, "There isn't a point. It's just fun."

"There isn't a point." Except that everything has a point. The writer of a book, the director of a movie, the composer of a piece of music, the potter in the clay studio...people create because they want to communicate something to others.

I didn't get a satisfactory answer to my question. I went to bed and mentally talked my heart rate down from heart-attack mode and struggled to calm my frantic brain - What was the point? What was the message? What was this movie trying to say? - so that I could go to sleep. (Movies like this distress me, remember?)

This morning, I looked for answers to my questions in online reviews.

Paul Verhoeven, over at junkee.com, wrote in his article "In Praise of 'John Wick,' Angry Keanu Reeves, and the Intensely Gritty Action Movie"-

"[John Wick] is a very serviceable, ridiculously enjoyable, unashamedly B-grade action film which plays less like a revenge flick, and more like exploitation cinema on steroids...In John Wick, we're subjected to a film that is utterly classless, but totally aware of how classless it is; it takes place in the blingiest, skeeviest [skeevy: morally or physically repulsive] yet most polished nightclubs, and it's filled with tacky cars and tackier music..." - Paul Verhoeven, "In Praise of 'John Wick,' Angry Keanu Reeves, and the Intensely Gritty Action Movie"; May 18, 2017. (Read Verhoeven's entire review HERE.)

Note: Paul Verhoeven was praising this movie. Just in case you missed that.

Over at The Atlantic, Sophie Gilbert, also in praise of John Wick, wrote:

"John Wick kills, by my count, 78 people in the movie's 93 minutes, and he doesn't just kill them, he toys with them first like a cat with a mouse, delivering a stray bullet in the shoulder or a kick to the kneecap before offing his targets with two shots to the head, assassination-style. The movie's tagline is 'Don't Set Him Off.' but it really should be 'This Idiot Killed My Puppy and Now Everyone Must Die.'" - Sophie Gilbert, "John Wick: An Idiot Killed His Puppy and Now Everyone Must Die"; October 24, 2014. (Read Gilbert's entire review HERE.)

Strange praise, indeed.

After spending a good chunk of my morning reading action-movie connoisseurs and experts in an attempt to better understand the point behind the movie John Wick, here is what I have concluded:

There isn't a point.

This is not a movie about good vs. evil: everyone in the movie is bad - there are no good guys, not even John Wick himself. It is not a movie about healing from brokenness or grief: the movie concludes with no healing, only a hint of more pointless violence to come in a possible sequel. It is not a movie about overcoming a terrible past: nobody overcomes anything, and John Wick ends up right back where he started.

If there is a point to this movie, it is this: watching people get slashed and shot up and tortured and beaten to death with steel pipes is fun. At least, it is fun for some people. In fact, some people even enjoy munching popcorn and sipping soda while they watch another person get dismembered onscreen.

Which leaves me back where I was late last night when the movie credits finally rolled: "I don't get it."

Obviously, gratuitous violence - excessive gratuitous violence - feeds something in the human soul. (John Wick: Chapter 2 was released in February of this year.)

I am inclined to think that what this kind of violence feeds is our depraved nature. It grieves me that people I love think this kind of depravity is fun.

We are all depraved, every single one of us. But why someone would want to feed that depravity? I don't get it.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STRUGGLE

"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." - Romans 5:1-5

Listen, people: I reallyreallyreally want to have my life together.

I do not like suffering, not for any reason whatsoever - not because of my own sinfulness, not because of the sins of others against me, not because of the sin that infects the fallen world in which we live.

I do not like being broken.

I do not like being a mess.

I know - honestly, I do - that God redeems my brokenness, that He somehow sanctifies my mess and uses it for his glory. I know He does.

But...

I do not want you to see my brokenness. I'd rather get past the mess and have God tidy everything up with a Holy Ghost house cleaning before I invite you into my life.

I want to be able to say to you, "My life was a mess, but through suffering, God taught me endurance. He produced character within me and gave me hope. Because God helped me get my life together, because He cleaned up all the mess, I now know that God loves me. And I'm here to tell you - God loves you, too."

Concerning my suffering, my brokenness, my trials, my mess, I want to speak to you in the past tense: I want to tell you what God HAS DONE, not what God IS DOING.

I want to postpone rejoicing until after my suffering has passed. But this passage in Romans says "we rejoice IN our sufferings" - NOT - "we rejoice AFTER our sufferings are over."

The above passage in Romans was part of my daily Bible reading this morning. These verses remind me anew that God gets glory for himself not through my strength or my success, not through my competence or adequacy, but through my weakness.

My insistence on looking like I have everything together before I invite you into my life is contrary to the way God works. It is living out a philosophy of salvation by works and not by faith. It is living by law, not standing in grace. My great desire to appear competent is idolatry.

I am reminded to "rejoice in hope of the glory of God," the glory of God revealed through me, to myself and to others, through my suffering.

Jesus gives peace, faith, grace, joy, endurance, character, hope, assurance, and a deep and abiding knowledge of God's love for me - not in spite of suffering - but in the midst of suffering.

If I want to experience for myself and to communicate to others the power of the gospel, I can't wait until I am on the other side of suffering. I can't wait until I have my act together. I'm going to have to invite you into my mess, right smack dab into the middle of it, right now.

Jesus, give me more grace!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

LIFE IS AN ADVENTURE


So many dear friends are going through difficult trials right now. Others are facing scary life changes. Me - I'm not wrestling any demons or scaling any mountains, just trying to run a marathon like it's a 100-yard dash...and I'm exhausted!

One of these friends shared recently that she begins each day by asking, "Well, I wonder what adventure I will have today?!"

As she has faced one trial after another, my friend has found much for which to be grateful. She is thankful for the support and encouragement of friends. She is thankful for the physical, mental, and financial resources to meet tremendous challenges. She is thankful for God's protection and provision.

Instead of trial or hardship or setback, she thinks in terms of adventure. Instead of focusing her thoughts on all the difficulties she is facing right now, she looks for and acknowledges ways that God enables her to meet and even transcend those difficulties, and then she says, "Thank you." I love this!

Ask any of my kids, "What is your mom's 'Big Trifecta'?" and they will answer, "God is sovereign. God is good. And God loves me very much."

God is sovereign. He orchestrates every detail of my life - EVERY detail - for my good (for my GOOD!) and for his glory.

God is good. He never regards me with evil intent. He never treats me with capriciousness or malevolence.

God loves me very much. How much? Look at Jesus.

What difficult, scary, or painful things am I facing today?

God is sovereign. God is good. And He loves me very much. Because these things are true, I can, like my friend, say, "Thank you," regardless of my circumstances.

In a post from a couple of years ago - THANKFUL - I wrote this:

"When the enemy of my soul conspires with my sinful flesh to discourage and defeat me, I can meet my adversary with this prayer in my heart: 'This affliction does not come to me without the knowledge and good purposes of almighty God. Thank you, Lord, for Jesus, and for the life and the security and the joy that are mine in Him. Thank you, Lord, for even this present trial. Teach me, Lord - what would you have me learn?' Oh, how our adversary must recoil when we respond to his onslaughts with praise to our Father in Heaven!"

Thankfulness can transform even scary or painful circumstances into an adventure.

Does God have an adventure in store for you today?

Oh give thanks to the LORD for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! Psalm 118:1

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

TOO TIRED TO EXERCISE

I fell off the fitness wagon a couple of weeks ago when life got so crazy-busy that I was meeting myself coming and going through the front door.

Birthdays, graduations, going-away parties...
School, jobs, household chores...
Music recitals, writers' meetings, fellowship dinners...

Who has time to exercise?!

Last weekend, I resolved to get back on the fitness wagon first thing Monday morning - yesterday morning.

But I was up until after midnight Thursday, up until almost midnight Friday, in bed again late on Saturday and then again on Sunday...

I am an early-to-bed, early-to-rise kind of person. Funny thing is, if I go to bed late, I still wake up early. By the end of last week, I was completely pooped. Running on fumes. Exhausted.

In the gray light of predawn Monday morning, I looked at the alarm clock and thought about my resolution to go to exercise class at Caroline's. "I'm too tired!" I whined to myself. I turned off the alarm and burrowed back beneath the blankets. I dozed on and off for the better part of an hour, then gave up pretending I could actually sleep past my usual rise-and-shine time.

I didn't exercise Monday, but in spite of trying to sleep in, I still felt tired all day.

So today - Tuesday morning - still running on fumes...

I got out of bed, had my morning coffee and quiet time, and drove to fitness class in Troy.

Here is the irony: you would think that strenuous exercise would make you more tired, completely drain you of energy. Instead, it has the opposite effect.

Yesterday, because I was tired, I skipped class, dozed late, then piddled around rather unproductively all day in a gray stupor.

Today, I was still tired, but I went to class anyway. Caroline led a great workout, and I left the studio soaked in sweat. I came home and...

I ate breakfast, washed dishes, mopped the floors, cleaned the bathrooms, dusted the downstairs, and finished the laundry.

Still running on the burst of energy that this morning's exercise class gave me, I hope to finish up a couple of writing assignments and then maybe take a late afternoon walk back on the farm.

Looks like if I want to have the energy to do more productive work, then I need to get up in the morning and rev my engine!

Instead of telling myself, "I'm too tired to exercise" - I need to tell myself, "I'm too tired to not exercise!"

Planking - thanks, Caroline, for a kick-start to my day!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

SMART WOMEN

During a recent conversation with friends about an apparent dearth of doctrinally well-grounded young women at a local college campus, I commented that perhaps some women are reluctant to study doctrine because they feel that this kind of higher thinking will somehow make them less feminine. I related the awkwardness I felt as a "smart girl" growing up - you know, the girl everyone wants to help them with their homework, but that no one wants to date.

Smart girls are dangerous. They analyze things. They ask difficult questions. They blow the class curve. They reap the barbed comments of fellow classmates who are jealous or who feel stupid.

Being a smart girl is kind of like being the tubby, uncoordinated kid who is always chosen last for gym-class relays (yep, I was that kid, too) - people aren't generally out-right mean about the fact that you're "different," but they keep a little distance between themselves and you. Like you might be contagious.

Hannah Anderson, in her article How Brainy Women Benefit the Church, wrote this:

"Our cultural tendency to associate intelligence with gender affects more than a woman's education and future work. It also affects how she views herself and often prompts her to ask: 'If people tend to see intelligence as a male trait, does being smart mean that I'm somehow less feminine than my peers?'"

As a girl, I developed coping mechanisms to hide my disorder. I was naturally quiet, but I became even quieter - talk much at all, and people will figure out you're smart. I created a "ditzy girl" persona for social situations - much more fun on dates and at parties than a smart girl. I did truly stupid things - things no girl with half a brain would ever do.

In response to my comment during the conversation mentioned at the beginning of this post, one man at the table replied that he had never personally encountered the kind of negative bias I described. He thought accounts of such bias were untrue or exaggerated, because his experience had been quite the opposite.

He explained how when he was a young woman attending college (I am being totally tongue-in-cheek here), intelligence in females was encouraged and admired, not only by professors, but by classmates as well. Even within the church, he was invited into significant dialogue and his input was respected and thoughtfully considered. Being smart in no way caused him to question his femininity.

Perhaps my friend never experienced the kind of subtle and not-so-subtle cultural bias I encountered because he was not actually a woman.

It saddens me that, without thought or hesitation, this man completely dismissed what one woman had personally experienced as a woman.

Do you see the irony?

* * *

I want to be the woman God created me to be. I want to be a fully-female, uniquely feminine image bearer. With a brain.

God makes men and women who are musically gifted. He makes men and women who have keen minds for business and organization. He gives people of both genders the gift of great empathy, or of giving, or of service. Is it possible for both to also be brainy?

Later in the same article, Anderson concludes: "More than simply allowing for a category of the intelligent female, the Scriptures actively encourage women to develop their mental capacities. Just as much as men, women are called to love God with all their hearts, souls, and minds...It's taken me years, but I finally understand that nothing about my womanhood is at odds with my mind."

I am thankful for the brave, vigorous, intelligent women in my life who have demonstrated that it is possible to be both brainy and womanly. I am thankful for godly women who have taught me that intelligence is not something I need to learn to cope with, but something I need to develop and to invest in kingdom work.

If you are a woman who has felt the sting of being labeled "brainy," listen to me...

The sideways comments and not-so-subtle jabs at your femininity are real, and they hurt. But they do not speak the truth.

Your mind is not a curse or a stigma or a social handicap: it is a beautiful gift from a loving Creator. Use it for His glory.

(To read Hannah Anderson's entire article - "How Brainy Women Benefit the Church" - click HERE.)

* * *


People tell me the bias against female intelligence is not real.

I enrolled in an engineering graphics class several years ago. The first day of class, the instructor singled me out in front of everyone (I was the only female in the class): "Mrs. Kendall, there is no place in the field of engineering for a woman. Upper-level mathematics is too complicated for a female brain to understand."

I blushed and nodded. "Yes, sir."

"I don't expect you will complete this course," he concluded.

To his credit...

He apologized later, also in front of the entire class, when I made the top score on our first exam. I finished the course with an A. My teacher and I both learned a lot that semester, and ended the term as friends.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

STRONG WOMEN

"For among them [false teachers] are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth." - the apostle Paul, writing to the young pastor Timothy, 2 Timonthy 3:6-7

The expression translated "weak women" in this passage is a diminutive: it could be more accurately translated "little women." These women are "small" - they are childish. They are weak/small because they are burdened with sin, controlled by their passions, and continuously overwhelmed. (Can you say drama queen?) Although these women seem to be busy learning, they are incapable of discerning truth. And verse 5 tells us that because they do not know truth, these women are easily led astray by false teachers.

Paul contrasts these "weak women" to two strong women, Lois and Eunice, Timothy's mother and grandmother. Lois and Eunice were strong women because they were strong theologians: they knew the word of God, they rightly handled truth, and they understood the practical implications of sound doctrine for daily life. As Paul addresses the issue of weak women in Timothy's congregation, Paul exhorts Timothy to remember what these strong women - Lois and Eunice - taught him as a child.

As Paul affirms the significance of Lois and Eunice's influence, he concludes with a familiar verse that underscores the importance of Scripture and its power in our lives: "All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man [or woman!] of God may be competent, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16).

I have had some people tell me that serious study of Scripture is man's work. That women don't need to study theology - that's for men to do, particularly the preacher. Our job as women is to listen attentively and affirm whatever we are taught.

Paul says something very different.

When Paul addresses the issue of weak women in the church - women who are weak because they do not know Scripture and are unable to discern the truth - he does not consider their weakness to be something good or healthy. Rather, having weak women in the church is a problem that needs to be corrected.

If we do not want to be weak women - if we want to be strong women, like Lois and Eunice - then, ladies, we must be serious students of the Word of God. We cannot content ourselves with knowing a few pet verses or Psalm-inspired choruses from our favorite praise songs. Instead, we must diligently seek to know the truth about God and about ourselves as revealed in all of Scripture, Genesis to Revelation.

Not only should we be diligent students of Scripture individually, but, yes, we must listen attentively to sound teaching from the pulpit. We need to glean wisdom from those who have made the study of Scripture their lives' vocation.

Why do you and I need to rightly discern and handle truth? So that we can examine what is taught in our present culture in light of the truths of Scripture. This is true of the culture we encounter both outside of the church and within the church. (Remember those false teachers who led the weak women astray in the above passage? Yep, they were in the church.)

To avoid being led astray by false teaching, to master our often fickle passions, to not be continuously overwhelmed - in short, to be strong women, we must be firmly grounded in truth. To be strong women, we must be diligent students of God's Word.

Sound like hard work? It is. But be encouraged: this is work that will make you strong.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

MANNA

In a previous blog post - Praying for Open Hands - I wrote:

"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."

But this particular morning - today - as I lay considering the day ahead, I felt so blegh. Oh, I have plenty of things I should do today - household chores, writing assignments, yard work, etc. - but I lacked the desire or motivation to climb out of bed and do any of them.

I looked at my open hand, empty palm held out for God to place in it or to remove from it whatever He wanted, and I sighed. "Nah. Just plain empty sounds fine to me...I don't really feeling like doing anything at all."

And then, as I lay there contemplating blowing the entire day in being unproductive, I thought about manna.

I thought about how God instructed his people to go out and gather this gift each morning before the sun melted it all away.

"Then the LORD said to Moses, Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day's portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not." - Exodus 16:4

God didn't tell the people, "You folks stay snuggled up in your tents while I rain down my blessing of manna all around you." No, He told them to "go out and gather."

The people were completely dependent upon God for each day's provision. They could not, however, enjoy the blessing of God's provision by sitting passively in their tents - they had to get up, grab a basket, go outside, and get to work. God sent the manna. In obedience, the people went out and gathered it.

"Okay! Okay!" I grumbled. "I get the message!" I climbed out from under the blankets in the gray light of predawn, half-heartedly repeating my "open hands" prayer as I shuffled to the bathroom.

After coffee and breakfast and conversation with the college crowd before they left for school, I sat down at the computer to work.

Blegh.

Blegh. Blegh. Blech.

My mind was blank, my eyes already glazed. Not a great way to start a day of writing!

"God, I am up and dressed and ready to work. I am struggling to be obedient, Lord, but mentally, emotionally, I've got nothing. Help me, Lord!"

I blinked at the computer screen like a stoned owl.

Beep!

I picked up my phone.

A message from a friend.

Two short verses she read this morning and wanted to share:

"To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ." - 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

The dam broke. The thick concrete in my head crumbled.

And now...

I am ready to write.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

SIGNS OF SPRING

Time flies! The fifth-grader in this post - my last homeschool student - graduates from high school in three weeks!

SIGNS OF SPRING
(from March 5, 2010)

While taking the dogs for their "long" walk Sunday afternoon, we stopped at the Robin Hood Tree so that three of the kids could practice their climbing. The Robin Hood Tree is a HUGE sycamore with great spreading branches perfectly spaced for climbing halfway to heaven. While Steve and I rested in the sunshine, I noticed unopened buds at the ends of the sycamore twigs. Buds! I mentioned The Greening in an earlier blog - but there are other signs that "Aslan is on the move" and winter is finally melting into spring. At our house, I've noticed....

Egg production is up in the henhouse. Ben's hens are laying over twice as many eggs as they were laying just a month ago. Egg salad sandwiches for lunch today - yum!

Everything with fur is shedding. The dogs are shedding all over the house - yuck. Martha says when she brushes Little John, she has to pause often to clean wads of winter hair out of the bristles.

Green things are poking out of the ground! I've found little green bumps at the base of last summer's dead hydrangea stems, and the irises and daylilies are pushing shoots up toward the sun.

The neighbor's bull was in our field again this morning. Have you ever heard an amorous bull, stalking the neighboring bull's herd? It sounds something like the low, rolling, prolonged thunder of a lion roaring out on the savanna. Scary, really, if you didn't know what it was. That's what I woke up to this morning. In the Bible, the phrase "it was the time of year when men went to war" is used to refer to spring. On the farm, we could say, "It was the time of year when bulls jump/knock down fences."

We are counting down lessons in our school work, racing to the back cover of the book. My fifth-grader has taped a poster to the wall showing the number of math lessons left in her book, and every day she marks a square off. This is more fun than watching the ball drop on New Year's Eve!

The countdown to turkey season has also started - poor Nate, I don't think he's shot anything in over a month. Ben is working on a paper mache turkey decoy, which now occupies one corner of the living room, and various other turkey gear is beginning to appear around the house.

I'm hearing more and more talk about possible summer jobs - funny how teenagers seem to be so interested in making money.

I have a growing urge to go outside and dig in the dirt.

Flip flops in Wal-Mart!

What about you? Any signs of spring in your neck of the woods?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

WELCOME TO ADULTHOOD

My youngest explained to her older brother last week that she was faced with a mountain of work she simply did not want to do. She was struggling to find the motivation to tackle tasks she needed to complete. "I guess I just have to push ahead and do the next thing," she sighed, "whether I feel like doing it or not."

Her brother's response? "Welcome to adulthood!"

I have been a mom - nonstop, 24/7 - for almost three decades. Have I ever had days when I thought, "You know, I just really don't want to do the mom thing today?" Yes, indeedy. But then, I did the mom thing anyway.

You can't really skip work when your job is The Mom. Kids have to be fed and clothed and nurtured, whether Mom is having a good day on the job or not. Kids are such great motivators!

If you are a mom or a teacher or a cashier at WalMart, being an adult means taking responsibility for the things you need to do, whether you're psyched about doing them or not.

Adulting 101: Doing things you don't particularly want to do - because they need to be done and it's your job to do them.

Sometimes, I take on more responsibilities than I ought. Sometimes, I say "Yes" too many times - and then feel overwhelmed by the number of things that must be done. My problem is not that I have so much work to do, but that I need to learn to say "No."

Again.

Saying "No" is a lesson in which I frequently need a refresher course.

Adulting 102: Learning to say No - how to have reasonable expectations and to limit your workload to something that vaguely resembles what is actually humanly possible.

You work hard, right? So, you know what? You deserve a break.

We all need time to relax, do something fun, and recharge our batteries. Yeah...but maybe not today. Maybe today, what I really need is to knock out those writing assignments, so that tomorrow I can enjoy some play time.

Adulting 103: Delaying gratification - rest is much more restful when it is free from the stress of a looming deadline or an unfinished assignment.

I don't know about you, but for me, as a parent, I want my children to grow into mature adults. Yes, I want them to be happy and to enjoy life - but the truth is, life isn't always going to be - isn't always going to feel like - a Saturday picnic in the park.

Will they (will I?) have the discipline to do what needs to be done, whether they feel like it or not? Will they have the wisdom to limit themselves to making realistic commitments? Will they appreciate the value of delayed gratification?

I don't want my kids to content themselves with some kind of weak, whiny, perpetual childhood. I want them to aspire to vigorous adulthood.

Adulting 104 - What would YOU add to the above list? Share in the comments!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

THANK YOU, MATT THE TECH GUY

Nobody calls the plumber because they are having a good day.

"Hey, Sam! Just called to let you know the plumbing at my house is working great today! Toilets all flush, no faucets are dripping, no clogged drains...man, I have no plumbing worries what-so-ever! It's fantastic!"

Nope. That phone call doesn't happen.

People only call the plumber when they have a problem. They are already stressed - if not outright angry - before the plumber even picks up the call.

This evening, I am supposed to give a presentation about home education for a group meeting at the Obion County Public Library in Union City, Tennessee.
Because it is waaaay past time for me to get off the Dino Train and learn to embrace a greater diversity of technology, this evening - drumroll, please! - I will have visuals with my presentation.

Getting visuals off my laptop and onto the screen at the front of the meeting room - the thought scares the willies out of me.

Thankfully, there is Matt.

Matt is the tech coordinator at the library. Matt and I worked together at WalMart, way back in the day. So, yeah, we have that in common - we're both members of prestigious Brotherhood of Former WalMart Employees. Simpatico.

Matt is tech savvy. And he's patient. And although I am shamefully ignorant when it comes to computer-related technology, Matt doesn't make me feel stupid. Matt may be rolling his eyes inside his mind, but I don't see a hint of eye rolling when I look up and ask him yet another silly question. "Now, where did you say this cord goes?" "Whoa, what happened to my image?! Why did it just disappear like that?!" "Does this thing have a reverse gear?"

Technology - as in computers and projectors and interwebs and clicky mouse thingys - technology is rather like plumbing: it's one of those things that's easy to take for granted, until it doesn't do what you expect it to do. Then suddenly, a happy stroll through a slide show turns into a code red emergency, complete with wailing sirens and strobe lights (at least that's what it feels/looks like inside my freaked out brain).

So...

Today's post is simply to say...

THANK YOU, MATT. Thank you, Matt the Tech Guy, for all the tedious, behind-the-scenes work you do to make the magic of technology work beautifully for tech-challenged people like me.

Thanks to you, Matt, I am going into this evening's presentation with no worries what-so-ever, and it feels fantastic!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

ANOTHER KIND OF BIRTHDAY

The mother of a dear friend died recently, and I was blessed to attend this woman's funeral. Blessed, because it is always a blessing to be gathered with the saints, even in times of grief and mourning. Blessed, because even in the face of loss, it is so good to be reminded of the riches we possess eternally in Christ.

The young man who preached the service made this statement during his sermon: "The more glimpses we have of Christ in this life, the more we long to see Him face-to-face in Glory." I looked around at those gathered in the sanctuary and saw so very many "glimpses" of Christ, reflected in the faces of His precious sons and daughters. And yes, seeing those glimpses of Christ did make me long all the more to see my Saviour in Glory. The reflection of Christ radiating in believers is beautiful - how much more beautiful must be the true source and substance!

Steve has said before that I have a weird way of looking at funerals. They are sad times of tears and brokenness, certainly. But funerals are bittersweet for believers, because the sorrow is tinged with an inexpressible joy and a heart-rending longing. Death for Christians is the crossing over. The worm, on this side, has retreated into its cocoon. But, beyond earthly view, the butterfly emerges from its chrysalis into the radiant beauty of heaven, into the presence of Jesus. We call it death. I wonder if the angels in Glory call it a birthday.

At Saturday's funeral, I was reminded of a favorite poem by the 19th-century poet Christina Rossetti. Does this not make you long to see your Beloved in Glory?!

A BIRTHDAY
by Christina Rossetti

My heart is like a singing bird
Whose nest is in a watered shoot;
My heart is like an apple-tree
Whose boughs are bent with thickset fruit;
My heart is like a rainbow shell
That paddles in a halcyon sea;
My heart is gladder than all these
Because my love is come to me.


Raise me a dais of silk and down;
Hang it with vair and purple dyes;
Carve it in doves and pomegranates,
And peacocks with a hundred eyes;
Work it in gold and silver grapes,
In leaves and silver fleurs-de-lys;
Because the birthday of my life
Is come, my love is come to me.

(I originally posted this on Wednesday, June 9, 2010...wanted to re-share today as I approach the anniversary of the "birthday" of a dear friend whom I miss greatly.)

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

YOUNG WOMAN

Dear Young Woman,

You say you need a new boyfriend. After a string of disappointing relationships, you feel "less than," insecure, like maybe there is something wrong with you that keeps all the "good" guys away. You question your worth and your self-confidence is shaken. You tell me, "If I could just find a really nice young man to date, and if he genuinely cared about me and treated me well, I would feel so much better about myself."

You are probably right. If a truly admirable young man asked you out, and if he treated you with courtesy and respect, you probably would feel better about yourself.

Probably.

But, can I skip the probably-s and share with you something absolutely certain? Something that does not depend upon IF or upon the men who do or do not demonstrate an interest in you?

Young woman, you are an Image Bearer. You carry within you the imprint of the Holy, the thumbprint of the Creator of the Universe. You have value - inestimable value - not because some young man notices you, but because God himself has declared that you are precious in his eyes.

You are special, whether you feel like it or not, because you are His.

I want to challenge you...

Young woman, you do not need a new boyfriend. No, you need to remember who you are and whose you are, and you need to believe and to walk in the truth. (It is okay, dear one, to pray like the father in Mark 9: "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" God will hear and answer your prayer.)

Do not rely on relationships with men to provide that which has already been given to you by your heavenly Father.

Stop sitting in the shadows and cinders, pining for some elusive Prince Charming to come along and give you a sense of worth.

You are already a Princess.

You are a beloved daughter of the Most High King.

Stand up straight, Princess, and walk in the light.

Love,
Your older sister

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

PRONE TO WANDER


O to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be;
let that grace now, like a fetter, bind my wand'ring heart to thee.
Prone to wander - Lord, I feel it - prone to leave the God I love;
here's my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.
- from "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing," by Robert Robinson

I am prone to wander...

I am prone to flirt with temptation and to "wander" into sin, especially - for me - into the sins of doubt, ingratitude, and fear.

I am prone to wander in more subtle ways, too. I am prone to distraction and to busyness - MY LIFE IS SO BUSY! I am prone to get so wrapped up in the good gifts God gives me that forget that the Giver of those gifts should be my greatest delight. I forget my complete dependence upon God, and I focus my time and energy on a thousand good things while forgetting that my greatest need - indeed, the reason for which I was created - is to worship Him.

Prone to wander - Lord, I feel it - 

I feel it in the wanderlust toward sin and in the wanderlust toward every good thing besides my God.

Today, my prayer is that in the midst of God's blessings, that even while I enjoy much goodness at His hand, that God will take my heart and seal it...

* * *

Jesus said..."Do you want to go away as well?"

"Lord, to whom shall [I] go? You have the words of eternal life..."
(from John 6:67-68)

* * *

My heart wants to run away. It wants to pursue joy and worth and security that are grounded in myself and in what I accomplish instead of in God and in what He accomplishes for me and through me.

Take my heart, Lord, take and seal it, for you - you, O Lord! - are my life.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

MELANCHOLY

Okay, I admit it: I'm a melancholy.

I know...you are totally not surprised, are you?

Not only do I need to admit the truth that I am a melancholy - to myself and to others - but I also need to embrace that truth.

I have a friend who is a sunshine. Time spent with her is like a holiday on the beach, like basking in the shekinah of God's goodness and grace.

But my sunshine friend reminded me recently: one of the glories of God's kingdom is that it is comprised of so many different kinds of people, people created and uniquely gifted to minister the gospel in a thousand thousand different ways and situations.

There is a place, she reminded me - and a purpose - for even the melancholies.

Among my greatest blessings are the wonderful Jesus-reflecting people God has ordained to walk this life with me.

I am a melancholy.

Do you have any idea how many times I have been told to "just get over it" when I have been grieved by sin? Do you want to try to guess how often I have been told I to "toughen up" when I have been saddened by the brokenness I see in the world around me?

I take things "too seriously." Something that weighs no more than a shadow to another may feel like a millstone to me.

Feeling the weight of shadows...that's messed up. Not normal. What's wrong with you?!

Yeah, what's wrong with me?! You think I like this heaviness?

On the up side, though...

This heaviness is married to tremendous joy.

Can't handle the melancholy? You probably wouldn't be able to handle my happy side, either. The weight of the joy that is mine in Christ completely dwarfs the melancholy. Like bedrock, the weight of this joy would, I fear, crush some.

G. K. Chesterton put it this way: "Everything human must have in it both joy and sorrow; the only matter of interest is the manner in which the two things are balanced or divided...Christianity satisfies suddenly and perfectly man's ancestral instinct for being the right way up; satisfies it supremely in this; that by its creed joy becomes something gigantic and sadness something small and special...Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian."

So, if I could leave off being a melancholy...and if doing so meant I would have to trade this great heart-bursting "gigantic secret" joy for some "small publicity" knockoff...well, no thanks. I'll pass.

I'm a melancholy, and I'm happy with that.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

PAP

I mentioned in my last post how an unexpected encounter with my granddad encouraged me greatly Monday evening at a time when I was feeling weary and down. I have not seen Pap since his death almost 44 years ago, when I was only nine years old. I don't have any pictures of Pap, and I have often wondered if, after all these years, I would recognize him if I saw him.

Pap and I were big fishing buddies. I wrote about going fishing with Pap in a post that you can read HERE.

But Pap and I weren't just fishing buddies: we were best friends. I was Pap's favorite grandchild, and he loved me and delighted in me. Whenever I was with him, I KNEW that I was precious and cherished.

The funny thing is, if you ask my siblings or cousins, they would all probably say the same thing: "I was Pap's favorite grandchild." And they would be right. Pap was magic like that.

Knowing that I was Pap's favorite did not make me feel puffed up, like I had something over the other grandkids. It humbled me. I felt like I had been entrusted with a very valuable but completely undeserved gift. Knowing that Pap loved and delighted in me made me feel humble and safe and strong and beautiful and special, all at the same time.

Pap didn't think kids were a burden or an annoyance - or if he did, he never communicated that to me. Whether he was feeding hogs or fixing fences or driving to town for garden supplies, he welcomed me to go along with him to help - but, honestly, folks, how much real help can a 6-year-old be at a feed mill or on a hog farm?! Folding feed sacks, sorting nails, holding tools...Pap made little-child me feel like my "work" was important, like it had real value.

You know how a smell or a song or a sound can - in an instant - transport you completely to another place and time? There is a certain rose perfume that, whenever I smell it, for just a second - the blink of an eye - I am a young girl again, standing in the blue bedroom at Mer and Pap's. I see the dark blue satin bedspread, and the polished wooden cupboard in which Mer's fancy Sunday hats are stored, and the fan-shaped pink china perfume bottle reflected in the dresser mirror, and the twisted trunk of the red bud tree outside the window. For just a second, I am right there.

So, back to Monday night...

I had driven Helen to Farm Bureau in Union City for a 4-H meeting. Thinking I could maybe get some writing done while the kids had their meeting, I poked around for a place to hide out with my computer. The conference room looked like a perfect place to park.

Pictures of all the past Farm Bureau presidents were displayed on the wall at one end of the conference room. A bunch of old men, most of them long dead...not likely that I knew any of them, but I think old pictures are cool so I took a second to look over the pictures before unpacking my laptop.

And then...

"That's my Pap! That's my Pap!"

For one brief second, I was a little girl, looking into the face of the man I loved most in the world, the face of the grandfather who loved me most especially, and I felt humbled and loved and safe and strong and smart and beautiful and valuable, all in one enormous, electric, tumultuous surge of emotion.

Of course, two heartbeats later, I was 52-year-old Camille again, with sore joints and a nagging headache and a mile long ToDo waiting for my attention...just a tired, middle-aged woman standing alone in a chilly conference room, staring at an 8-by-10 black-and-white photograph.

Same old Camille...except for the residue of lightning that still tingled in my veins, the excitement of a most beloved child standing at the feet of her most beloved Pap.

I do not believe in chance meetings.

I have been in the Farm Bureau building countless times. I have even been in that same conference room on multiple occasions. But Monday night, my Father - who is most kind and tender and loving and who is always present - He knew that I needed a strong dose of encouragement. And He encourage me in a most powerful and unexpected way. He had me look into the eyes of my grandfather.

I have not seen Pap since his death almost 44 years ago, when I was only nine years old. I don't have any pictures of Pap, and I have often wondered if, after all these years, I would recognize him if I saw him.

Not only did I recognize him, but, for a split second, I stood at his feet.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES!

I felt truly awful most of the day yesterday. After a not-very-good night of sleep, I began the day tired. The weather was cold, gray, and rainy. I had a headache - no, not a migraine, but one of those persistent, deep dull aches that teeters on the edge. I felt worn down and sad over a relationship problem. I accomplished almost no productive work. And, in spite of spending much of the day in the company of others, I fought an overwhelming sense of loneliness most of the day.

Then, a couple of things happened at the end of my "terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day" -

First, I ran into my granddad. I have not seen Pap since his death 44 years ago. But there he was, in a completely unexpected place. My heart nearly leapt out of my chest. I don't have words to explain how seeing him again after all these years encouraged me. (I will try to write more about my reunion with Pap later this week.)

Second, a sweet friend sent me a hug over the airwaves - a hug that looked like this:

"You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call. This I know, that God is for me. In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?" - Psalm 56:8

And she and two other friends prayed together for me.

Their prayers were effective.

Today, after a not-very-good night of sleep, I began the day tired. Once again, I woke to freezing temperatures and an overcast sky.

I did not, however, wake up with a headache, or with an overwhelming sense of loneliness or grief. Instead, I woke up this morning thanking God for his faithfulness, for his unfailing mercy, for his tenderness, his patience, his compassion, for his incredible goodness to me.

Today day is only half over, but, so far, it has been delightful.

Morning exercise class at Caroline's, floors are mopped and bathrooms cleaned, chugging through the laundry...

I listened to Helen practice Beethoven on the piano while I swept the floors, and I dance to Bruno Mars while I mopped.

I am trying a new "whole food" challenge. Today's lunch - wilted spinach, sweet potatoes, beets, avocado, and I found some shrimp in the freezer. Score! Served in a one-of-a-kind bowl, handcrafted by Freedom Tommy. "Uptown Funk" sounds like happiness to me. This lunch looked and tasted like happiness.
YUM!
Outside the kitchen window now, I see a flash of blue sky, a patch of sunlight in the hay field.

And I am writing...that is happiness raised to the tenth power.

What a difference a day makes.