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.

Friday, March 10, 2017

BULLY FOR YOU, TEDDY ROOSEVELT!

"There are two kinds of success, or rather two kinds of ability displayed in the achievement of success. There is, first, the success either in big things or small things which comes to the man who has in him the natural power to do what no one else can do, and what no amount of training, no perseverance or will power, will enable any ordinary man to do.

"But much the commoner type of success...is the kind of success which is open to the average man of sound body and fair mind, who has no remarkable mental or physical attributes, but who gets just as much as possible in the way of work out of the aptitudes that he does possess." - Theodore Roosevelt, in his essay "The Vigor of Life."


Roosevelt went on to add, "I need hardly say that all the successes I have ever won have been of the second type."

Teddy Roosevelt was weak and sickly as a child. At the age of fourteen, after being subjected to relentless bullying by a couple of other boys, Teddy decided to do everything within his power to become physically stronger and mentally tougher. He studied boxing under a personal trainer. He took up wrestling, and then horseback riding, swimming and shooting.

Roosevelt admits that he never excelled brilliantly at any of these endeavors. He did, however, after much hard and sometimes painful work, develop the ability to "hold his own" - in the boxing ring and on the equestrian course, while big game hunting and during his tenure in the White House. Along the way, he developed greater confidence in his own limited abilities and he earned the respect of men much stronger and more physically and mentally gifted than he.

I am currently reading a delightful book loaned to me by a friend - The Letters & Lessons of Theodore Roosevelt for His Sons. One theme I have encountered repeatedly in this small volume is this: Teddy Roosevelt was not content to sit passively and complain about the things he could not do. Instead, he resolved to make the best of the resources available to him.

As a weak, asthmatic teenager, Teddy knew he would never be a prize-fighter. Even so, he determined that anyone who tried to rough him up in the future would regret doing so.

I am both challenged and encouraged by Teddy Roosevelt's example of working diligently to make the most of whatever abilities he possessed.

How often do I focus my thoughts on something I cannot do, and then use my real inability in one area as an excuse for general laziness or inactivity in other areas of my life, areas where I could actually accomplish a great deal if I only applied myself?

How often do I tell myself the lie that if success does not come easily or naturally, then it must be unattainable?

How often do I look at difficulties and obstacles as justification for giving up, instead looking at them as opportunities to grow stronger and to learn?

I am ashamed to admit that I often choose to lament what I cannot do rather than to work hard at what I can do.

Teddy Roosevelt would have had none of such nonsense.

Neither should I.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

AN UNDERSTANDING WAY

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

The footnote in my Bible for this verse reads: "Estrangement from others often affects our relationship with God (Matt. 5:23, 24). In particular, the failure to observe God's will for the marriage relationship can disrupt our spiritual relationship with God. The importance of healthy family relationships is apparent from the typological comparison of Christ and church with husband and wife (Eph. 5:23,24), and by the persistent New Testament characterization of the church as the family of God (1:14-17;Rom. 8:14-17;1Tim. 3:14,15; 5:1,2)."  The Reformation Study Bible, English Standard version.

The context of this verse (see 1 Peter) indicates that its implications extend beyond the husband-wife relationship to address male-female relationships both within the family and within the broader circle of the church.

"Why doesn't God answer my prayers?!" I have heard these words from men struggling to live out their faith in difficult circumstances. What I have consistently not heard from these same men is, "How can I live with my wife in an understanding way?"

"Why isn't God blessing this ministry?!" I have heard these words from disheartened church leaders who have poured their lives into serving churches that gasp and flail like premature babies that just can't seem to make it out of the NICU. What I have not heard from these same men is, "How can we, the male leadership, live in an understanding way with the women in our care?"

Clearly, not all marriage and family and church dysfunction springs from failure of the genders to relate biblically. However, given our proclivity for sin, this is one area of our lives that we need to examine regularly: do our words and actions line up with Scripture? Just as a person may be reluctant to schedule a routine health checkup because of a fear of finding cancer, it seems that this issue - of how do we relate as men and women - is an area we are afraid to examine because of what we might find.

Many of us in the church have allowed the secular culture to hijack the conversation and to set the terms and define the tone of the discussion. Rather than doing the hard work of bringing this discussion back into the Christian home and into the church and submitting it to God's Word, we prefer to opt out of the conversation altogether while we passively absorb the world's teaching, to the detriment of our marriages, our families, and our churches.

A few errors I have seen in the way we engage this issue, both personally and within the church:

We equate "equal" with "same." Scripture clearly teaches moral and spiritual equality of men and women (see above passage in 1 Peter; also, Gal. 3:28). We err, however, when we buy into the feminist ideology that insists that "equal" means "the same." To ignore the biblical distinctions of male-ness and female-ness, to insist that what's good for one is good for the other, is laziness or ignorance at best, outright rebellion at worst.

"I believe in treating everybody exactly the same, regardless of gender." Oh, do you? And I suppose you are also okay with using maple syrup as an engine lubricant for your car.

Both maple syrup and motor oil have value and purpose, but they are not the same; neither are women and men.

(Check out Rebekah Merkle's article, Throw Like a Girl: Why Feminism Insults Real Women.)

Conscious that men and women are not the same, but ignoring the truth that they are equal, we talk and live as if one (male or female) is more spiritual than the other and we create an unbiblical struggle for power. We jockey against one another for influence and authority and for the last word. Men, because they are men, are labeled as neanderthals or misogynistic brutes, and therefore not to be respected. In a throwback to Greek paganism, women, because they are women, are dismissed as the weaker sex (interesting that Scripture exhorts men to understand "the weaker vessel," but never to dismiss them).

One evidence of this wrong way of thinking that I have seen in churches is in the area of study materials, church programs, and ministry opportunities - when these are researched, chosen, and created by exclusively men or exclusively women, we neglect the charge to live together in an understanding way.

We need to include one another in these conversations and processes. "My Two Daddies" or "My Two Mommies" may sound like a progressive way to do family or church, but God demands greater gender diversity. He created people distinctly male and female, and He did so for a reason. We need both.

We look at our differences as irritations to be endured or as obstacles to be overcome, instead of as gifts designed by God to enrich our marriages, families, and churches. For the sake of peace and the appearance of unity, we grudgingly endeavor to meet somewhere in the middle:  I'll tone down the female thing, and you tone down the male thing. We end up with an anemic, ineffective, sickly thing that looks and feels very much like a loveless marriage or a lifetime sentence in a prison camp. It disgusts and frustrates both genders, and it displays nothing of the glory of our Creator. Blech!

So what?

First, if we want to have joyful, vibrant, fruitful marriages and families and churches, we are going to have to endeavor to understand biblically and to embrace enthusiastically this crazy-awesome, God-created-&-ordained thing called gender. We are going to have to canc the whole "boys vs. girls" mentality fed to us by the world in which we live. Instead, we must foster a culture in which the boys are rooting for the girls and the girls are rooting for the boys, because we understand that unless we both win, we both lose.

Second, men, do you feel like your prayers are hindered? Husband, do you feel like your prayers are hindered? Father, do you feel like your prayers are hindered? Church elder, do you feel like your prayers are hindered? Pastor, do you feel like your prayers are hindered? If so, I encourage you to endeavor to live with understanding with the women in your life - with your wife, with the mother of your children, with your daughters, with the women in your church.

Go to these women and ask them: "Help me to understand you better. How can I demonstrate in practical ways my desire to live with you in a more understanding way? How can I show honor to you?" And then, listen to their answers. Take time to actually think about what they say.

If you do this, will God instantly answer all your prayers?

I don't know.

But I am confident of this: if the sons of God seriously endeavor to live with understanding with the daughters of God, these sons will find, when they kneel in prayer before the Father, that warrior princesses are kneeling beside them at the throne, praying on their behalf.

And the two of you praying together...that is powerful.

(I have many more thoughts on this topic - maybe future blog posts. I would love for you to share your thoughts in the comments!)

Thursday, March 2, 2017

PRESS ON

Thursdays are running days for me.

Up early for yoga class at ADBC - today, I got to practice yoga with my favorite yogi, my daughter Martha. When I stopped by Martha's house on the way into town, my granddaughter asked me where I was going.

"I am going to a yoga class with your mom," I answered.

Lizzy replied, "That is so sweet!"

Yes, Lizzy, I agree. Very sweet indeed!

After yoga and a quick change from stretchy pants into jeans - because nobody but my workout buddies at ADBC should have to see me in stretchy pants - my youngest and I headed to Martin for her dual-enrollment class, then ran errands in town, then headed home for lunch, then back to town for piano, then...

We finally made it home for the night about 30 minutes ago. It has been a long, full day, and I am tired.

Somewhere in all of this running around, I meant to write here at the blog. Now, when I finally have time to sit down at the computer, it is after 9:00, and whether I like it or not, my brain is powering down. My head is full of little more than dull gray static.

This makes me sad.

"A longing deferred is sickness to the bones..."

...but...

Tomorrow is a new day.

The great challenge I face at the end of this crazy busy day, this day on which I did not get to write, is to not despair about what I have failed to accomplish today, but to instead press forward expectantly to what I aim to accomplish tomorrow.

"...forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on..."

True for faith, and for life, and for writing.

 Tomorrow, yes, tomorrow, I will write.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

YOU MAY BE OVER 50 IF...

Several years ago - way back in 2010, actually - I posted a list of symptoms that indicate you may be approaching 50. (For that list, click HERE.)

I "approached 50" a couple of years ago and owned it like a boss. Fifty is behind me now, in more ways than one. I have a few things I want to add to my previous list...

You may be over 50 if...

...you are finally happy with your curves. Well, happy at least until you lie down on the sofa and all those curves slide off and melt into shapeless blobs underneath your armpits.

...you always carry a water bottle with you. Always. Everywhere you go. Because drinking lots of water is healthy, and, although you are middle-aged, you are also health conscious. (Never mind the fact that drinking lots of water supposedly helps alleviate some of the unpleasant symptoms associated with menopause.)

...you know the location of the restrooms in all the stores you shop at regularly, and you know which gas stations have the cleanest restrooms. You never enter or leave a building without making a rest stop. (See "water bottle," above.)

...you prefer to watch the grandkids jump on the trampoline instead of jumping on the trampoline with them, and you reflexively cross your legs when you sneeze. (See "water bottle," above.)

...you buy pantiliners in the 120-count jumbo box. (See "water bottle," above.)

...forget wine glasses...you now drink wine out of an over-sized coffee mug. Or a quart Mason jar. Shoot, why get another dish dirty? Just drink the wine straight from the bottle. Or the box. (Didn't they used to sell this stuff in barrels? Why don't they sell barrels of wine at Kroger?!)

...those socially unacceptable thoughts that sometimes pop into your head? You start having more of those thoughts. And, they start flying out of your mouth. (Lord, please help us!)

...when Bruno Mars's "Uptown Funk" comes on the in-house radio at WalMart, you dance like a dancin' fool, baby! Don't believe me? Just watch. I'm too hot! (Or was that just a hot flash? Ooops. Well, might as well rock it.)

...you cry at everything. Everything. Your grandma's funeral, a cute puppy, the last piece of chocolate in the candy bowl, chicken on sale for 49 cents per pound at Rulers, a sharp comment from your husband, stupid cat videos on Facebook, your daughter's piano recital, cold coffee...e-ver-y-dang-thang. (Maybe I should drink more water.)

...you know - on a deeper level than you have ever known before - that life is good.

Yep. Like you said, Nacho...



Friday, February 24, 2017

FIRST (NOT)DATE

About that red-headed boy...

The earliest memory I have of my monster crush on the red-headed boy a couple of farms over was fourth grade. It wasn't until I was in high school, however, that we finally connected and went on our first date. Or, to be more precise, our first not date. It happened like this...

Steve purchased four tickets to a John Denver concert a hundred miles away in the big city of Memphis: a ticket for himself, one for a friend, one for his brother and one for his sister.

As the day of the concert approached, Steve's brother and sister found they had school conflicts that prevented them from attending. Steve knew that my older sister and one of my cousins both liked John Denver's music, so he offered the two tickets to Alice and Ginny.

My cousin Ginny gladly took one ticket. My sister Alice was not free the evening of the concert, but she took the remaining ticket anyway and told Steve she would give it to someone she knew who would appreciate it.

Alice, you see, knew a young girl who liked John Denver and who also had a ginormous crush on the red-headed boy offering to drive everyone to the concert.

After school the day of the concert, the four concert-goers met at Food-Rite in Troy to ride together to Memphis. My little teenage heart was bursting with anticipation when we pulled into the parking lot. Forget John Denver - I was going to spend and entire evening in the company of the boy I'd been drooling over since fourth grade! Who knows? Maybe a magical spark would ignite between us!

My excitement turned to mortification, however, when Steve pulled into the parking lot and I learned that his "friend" accompanying us to the concert was actually a girl from his high school and his date for the evening. Talk about a painful, awkward situation for a lovesick teenage girl!

So, my first date, my first not date, with the red-headed boy was the time I went with him and his real date, S----, on a road trip to attend a John Denver concert in Memphis. The concert, of course, was awesome. Ginny, who was privy to my simmering crush, graciously did everything in her power to remove as much of the awkwardness from the evening as possible.

Still, it was a l-o-n-g night.

When we got back to Obion County in the dark wee hours of the morning, Steve drove Ginny to her house, then stopped at S----'s and walked her to her door. My house was the last stop on his drive home.

For ten whole minutes, between S----'s house and mine, I had the red-headed boy all to myself.

Unfortunately, I was practically unconscious. I've never been a night owl, and I was certainly not accustomed to late-night road trips. Think zombie girl.

Fortunately, a couple of years later there would be another first date - a real first date - for me and the red-headed boy.

But that is a story for another day.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

RUNZAS AND SOUL FOOD

The youngest and I made runzas for lunch today. My friend Katherine introduced my family to these delicious pocket sandwiches many years ago.

Decades after I first stood in Katherine's kitchen rolling out circles of dough on her counter, I still think of Katherine every time I make runzas.

Brown 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef, then add sliced cabbage and onions and saute until veggies are tender. Season with salt and lots of pepper!

"You need a lump of dough the size of a clementine."

"A what?"

Katherine introduce me to clementines, too.

Whenever I make runzas, I also think of the many sweet memories Katherine and I have shared over the years.

Take a ball of yeast bread dough about the size of a clementine, and roll into a thin circle. Place a large spoonful of meat filling in the center. Pinch dough together over the filling to create a pocket sandwich. Brush with butter and sprinkle with a tad more salt. I baked these at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Food is more than a matter of physical nutrition. Yes, it feeds the bod; but food also feeds the soul. Although we now live many miles apart and rarely see each other, Katherine continues to feed my soul by her life and faith.

Today, I am thankful for tasty food. I am even more thankful for friends who nourish my heart.

Yum!

(The beef and cabbage I cooked today was enough for 18 runzas. These freeze and reheat well, and they make great to-go meals for days when we are out running errands. We like to eat them with mustard.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

RED-HEADED BOY

"When I was a young, single woman," my friend confided, "I prayed that God would give me a husband who would challenge my thinking." She married a genius with a steel-trap memory who, many years later, still enthusiastically pursues knowledge and who is always asking questions.

"You sure got what you asked for," I laughed.

"What about you? What were you looking for?"

"Ummm, me?" After her comment, I was embarrassed to answer. "Well, I really, really liked red hair."

I saw Steve for the first time when I as a little girl in fourth grade. Too young to even notice boys, right? Nope. Steve had the brightest, orangest hair I had ever seen on a human. He looked like a human torch. It was love at first sight.

My girlfriends and I had a game we would play at recess. As we sat on the sidewalk playing jacks, we would make up code names using the initials of our crush-of-the-moment. Then, we took turns seeing if we could guess each other's love interests.

I never had a crush on anyone, never had any initials to add to the game...just had to content myself with being totally awesome at picking up jacks on a single bounce of the ball. Until I met Steve.

"I have a name!" I announced gleefully as we sprawled on the sidewalk one afternoon during recess. "His initials are S.K.!"

"Sauerkraut Kisses," one girl laughed.

"Strawberry Kangaroo!"

"Give us another hint," another girl coaxed.

"He has red hair," I confessed. And then the game fell completely apart.

It just so happened we had a classmate named Steve K------, who also had red hair. None of the girls knew my Steve, and they all assumed my crush was on this other fellow. Needless to say, the girls ignored my protestations that they had guessed the wrong boy, and an unholy amount of teasing and embarrassment followed.

It wasn't until many years later - eight or nine? - that my Steve asked me out on a date. In the meantime, I had dated many boys who did not have red hair. One of the first guys I dated inflicted so much emotional trauma that the relationship ended with my praying, "Lord, is there no one kind out there?"

Someone kind did eventually come along...but, lacking an appreciation for either Cardinals baseball or sports cars, I had nothing in common with the fellow. It didn't take long for the two of us to discover that we were boring each other to death!

Too many years and too many disastrous relationships later, I finally got a call from the boy a couple of farms over, the very first boy I'd ever had a crush on and the only boy I ever had any real interest in at all. He was kind! He was interesting! And he had the most amazing red hair.

Folks, hair just doesn't get much redder than this!

Almost thirty-three years later, I can confidently say that a fondness for red hair is not a strong foundation on which to build a relationship. Steve and I have had a hard go of it at times, and are still struggling to grow in this journey called marriage. This is hard work and has often been painful. (And it has turned us both gray-headed.)

But in the midst of all the work and mess and struggle, I haven't forgotten the red-headed boy I fell in love with way back in fourth grade. Just the thought of that flaming head full of hair, now faded to gray, still makes me smile.

He was the first boy who caught my eye. After all these years, I can honestly say that he is the only man I have ever wanted for my own.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

THINGS FOR WHICH I AM THANKFUL TODAY (2/7/2017)

When the twins were newborns, we lived in a house that had functional heating in only a couple of rooms. The roof leaked in one of the bedrooms - leaked, not as in drip, drip, drip, but leaked as in garden hose on full blast. Nighttime downpours were the worst, because they required trading precious sleep for nonstop emptying of 5-gallon buckets. We ate a lot of bulk oatmeal and peanut butter that Grammy donated to our family pantry and a lot of soup. Twenty-plus years later, some of my kids still don't like peanut butter or oatmeal.

When the twins were 2 years old, we moved to a house the attic of which was infested with raccoons. If I'd been superstitious, I'd have thought the devil lived upstairs. The growling and snarling and screaming at night was terrible. Worse, though, was when the unwanted raccoons shared their fleas with us. Trying to remedy a severe flea infestation - with who-knows-how-many raccoons still living in the attic and six little kids living below - is a daunting task. When the exterminator came, I would have to strip all the beds, load the kids and the laundry in the van, and leave the house for the day. Entertaining a herd of small children "out" all day was exhausting for a pregnant woman!

Twenty-something years later, still, I often wake up in the morning and think, "Thank you, Jesus, that we live in a warm, dry house and that we are all well fed. Thank you, thank you, thank you that we don't have fleas." I am genuinely thankful for those things, because I have not forgotten how awful the alternative was!

* * *
I love birds.

Yesterday, I took a long walk back on the farm. Early in my walk, I startled a large red-tail hawk, one of my favorite birds. I was right beneath the giant oak upon which he perched before he launched into the air with a sharp skreeee! I stopped, breathless, and watched as he circled overhead and scolded me before flying off to find another perch.

As I picked my way down the steep bank to cross the creek, I came eye-to-eye with another of my favorite birds, a great blue heron. He sprang up, flapped his great wings, rose slowly into the air and veered across the field in search of another fishing spot.

Then, as I crested a hill on the far back side of Granddaddy's property, I surprised a huge flock of wild turkeys, the largest I have ever seen. I lost count at 50. Their wings thundered as they lumbered upward into the trees. I stood transfixed and marveled and wept, because the noisy upward rush was so tremendous, so beautiful.

This world is filled with so much beauty.

* * *
A couple of days earlier, on another walk back on the farm, my daughter commented to me, "We sure do have a big God, for being such small people."

Yes, we do...a very big God indeed.

And He gives me so much for which to be thankful.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

I DON'T GET TO PICK MY FAMILY

While I'm on the topic of relationships within the church...

Yesterday, I listed several reasons I am tempted to avoid the hard and sometimes uncomfortable work of developing deep, meaningful relationships with others within the body of Christ, particularly with those within my local church body. (Read yesterday's post HERE.)

I have thought of a few more reasons intimacy within the church is difficult...

These people offend me. Some are too self-righteous; others are not nearly righteous enough. Some are control freaks; others are way too passive. Some have their theology all wrong; others have their theology so precisely right that they can't afford to associate with anyone less enlightened. Some are way too smart for me - they think and talk completely over my head; others, well, they are just plain stupid. These people smile and pretend affection even as they dismiss me, provoke me, malign me, hurt me, and ignore my needs.

I offend them. Face it, relationship is difficult when you are always stepping on someone's toes or making someone suspicious, frustrated, or mad. I say too much, or I don't say enough. I wear my feelings on my sleeve, or I am not transparent enough about how I feel. One person is afraid that I will threaten his authority or make him look stupid; another needs me to set a stronger example. One fears I am becoming a raving modernist liberal; another thinks I just emerged from the Stone Age. These people, even when I have the best intentions of loving them, I offend them, provoke them, frighten them, hurt them, neglect them.

If intimate relationship is so fraught with complications, why even bother trying?!

Why? Because God saves people into and for community. There are no Lone Ranger Christians. If I am flying solo, you can bet my Christian life is pretty anemic.

Remember those National Geographic documentaries about animals in Africa that we watched on TV way back in the day? As a herd of gazelles stampeded across a grassy plain, I'd watch in fascinated terror knowing that eventually some poor gazelle would break away from the herd, veer to the side, lag behind...and I'd think, "Oh, no! Run back! Run faster!" That wandering gazelle inevitably ended up as dinner for a lion or cheetah.

Running solo is a good way to get eaten. It is not a good way to try to live the Christian life.

But, these people I have to live with, Lord...!

Let me ask you a question (I am asking myself the same question): Do you think this community into which you have been placed is an accident?

Is it possible that the sovereign, good, all-wise, all-knowing God of the universe accidentally put me into the wrong family? That He had another, better, more-like-me, easier-to-relate-to family in mind, but then He got mixed up and plugged me in with a bunch of irritating and easily-irritated yahoos by mistake?

Of course not.

I can pick my friends, but I don't get to pick my family. God picks my family.

It would behoove me to stop making excuses and to figure out just exactly how to begin loving the beautiful, broken messed up family that I am in.

* * *

"Aunty," Jem spoke up, "Atticus says you can choose your friends but you sho' can't choose your family, an' they're still kin to you no matter whether you acknowledge 'em or not, and it makes you look right silly when you don't." - Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

RELATIONSHIPS WITHIN THE CHURCH: WHY DON'T WE?

I have been part of about half a dozen conversations recently about Christian community, more specifically, about the lack of meaningful, intimate relationships within the context of the visible church.

During one of these conversations, a friend asked a question that went something like this: "Why do we not pursue deeper relationships within the body of Christ?"

How would you answer that question?

I can think of a couple of answers...

I am too busy. Between work, family, kids' activities (sports, band, school, youth group), household chores, etc., I simply do not have any time left over to invest in my church family.

I am too tired. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually, I am too exhausted to make the effort to develop meaningful relationships with my sisters and brothers in Christ. See above.

I need to "get my act together" before I engage on a deeper level with others. I am a mess; everyone else I know, they're all decent people who have their lives under control. There is no way I can really be friends with someone who is so "together" until I clean up my own life.

I am afraid of rejection or of being the topic of gossip. Honestly, folks, if I decide to be transparent about my struggles, my weaknesses, and my sin with others in my church family, somebody is going to blab what I have shared in confidence - or - my brother or sister in Christ is going to walk away from me in disgust - or - worse yet, the person I endeavor to trust is going to do both.

Whatever answer you or I give to my friend's question, I think all our answers boil down to this: we do not want and we do not think we need deep, intimate, committed relationships with others within the body of Christ. We can manage this life very well on our own, thank you very much.

Think about it.

If I truly wanted a deeper level of relationship and community, I would value time with the body of Christ above - and I would prioritize time together before - bowling, band practice, Pinterest, Facebook, sitcom marathons, clean toilets, pressed shirts, and softball games.

I am not saying those things are bad. I am saying that if I truly valued Christian community, all those others things would take a lower place on my To-Do list hierarchy. Instead of saying, "I have no time left over to invest in my church family..." - these relationships would get the first and best of my time. Not the leftovers.

If I truly thought I needed deeper relationships, I would pursue deeper relationships. People, I need to eat. No one has to tell me, "Camille, you need to eat today. You will become weak and die if you continually choose to not eat." I need rest. No one has to tell me, "Camille, you really need to get some sleep. You should seriously think about catching some Zs every now and then."

I need to eat and sleep to be healthy. I know I need these things. And when I have to do without food or rest for an extended period of time, you can bet your britches I'm going to get serious about finding a way to make them happen!

But seriously, do I really need intimate relationships within the body of Christ? I have friends and family outside of the church. Surely these other relationships are sufficient to meet my emotional and spiritual needs.

I don't think so.

In 1 Corinthians 12, the church is described as a body, made up of many members. In Romans 8, we are called sons and daughters: we are God's family. In 1 Peter 2, the church is likened to a building, made up of many individual stones (you and me!). Jesus himself describes our relationship to him and to other believers this way: He is the vine; we are the branches.

A finger (or an eye, heart, or lung), isolated from the rest of the body, is dead. Even if that finger is sitting on a pew right next to the body, if it is not plugged into the circulatory and respiratory systems, if it is not in living, active relationship with the rest of the body, that finger is dead.

An individual is not a family: the word "family" implies parents and siblings. A single brick is not a building. A twig, separated from the rest of the plant, is simply a dead piece of wood. Community and deep relationship are intrinsic in all of these images of the church.

God, through his Word, clearly communicates that, yes, we do indeed need deep, intimate, meaningful relationships with others in the body of Christ.

Whatever reason I give for not pursuing deeper relationships within the body of Christ - "I don't really want," "I don't really need" - they all boil down to rebellion against God.

"I'm too busy."

"I'm too tired."

"I'm not good enough."

"I am afraid."

If I am not pursuing meaningful relationships with my sisters and brothers in Christ, I don't need more time or energy or strength or courage.

No, I need to repent.