Monday, August 29, 2005


I'm flying the coop this morning. See you next week.

Before heading out, I'll leave you with an entry from one of my favorite devotionals, Jon Courson's A Day's Journey:

August 24th

But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel. --Philippians 1:12

Just as God used a sling in David's hand, a pitcher in Gideon's hand, and a rod in the hand of Moses, He used chains on Paul's hands. That's not surprising, for chains are what open the door to speak to people who would not otherwise give us the time of day.

You see, it's when a wife hangs in there with her difficult husband; it's when an employee refuses to talk behind his boss's back; it's when a high-schooler willingly submits to his parents that people take note, thereby opening opportunity for the wife, the employee, the high-schooler to share the reason why.

I'm convinced that the troubles, challenges, and problems we face are custom-designed to do one thing: to allow us to draw others to Jesus Christ and to encourage them in Jesus Christ.

'But my burden is too heavy,' you say.

Listen, God will not tempt you above what you are able (1 Corinthians 10:13). God doesn't play favorites--and if He has put you in a certain imprisonment, it's because He has prepared you for it and given you everything you'll need to go through it.


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

it's amazing i ever finish a thoug ...

Here's a peek into my world, and the reason why I have three half-finished knitting projects in my knitting bag, a one-quarter completed portrait on my painting easel, and only two-thirds of my new lavender beds dug and planted.

I'm nearly finished editing a book for my publisher (Watch for Groovy Chicks' Road Trip to Love from Cook Communications some time next year. I have a chapter entitled "Why?" included in this compilation). About three-quarters of the way through the book, I come across a recipe for easy cracker toffee. Now, this happens to be something I make frequently, only I've always called it Poor Man's Almond Roca. I notice, as I'm editing, that the contributor of this recipe says to melt the chocolate chips in the microwave before pouring over the toffee/cracker combo. I don't do it that way. I sprinkle the chocolate chips on top and let the oven melt them for me. So I write a note to that effect to my editor suggesting that they may want to consider simplifying that step in the book. That's where my afternoon begins to spin off-course.

I leave the editing, because suddenly, it seems like a very, very good idea to bring Poor Man's Almond Roca to church tonight. I preheat the oven, pull the jelly roll pan out of the cupboard, and take the brown sugar out of the cupboard. Noticing we barely have enough for this recipe, I decide to make a note to pick up some more. But I don't want to just write it on a tiny square of paper (like I usually do, just before losing it), because I'm turning over a new leaf. I've instituted ... the Fly Lady's Control Journal.

I go into our bedroom to retrieve my binder. Flipping through the pages to find my grocery list, I come across one I made up myself that says, "Pantry: Things to use up; things to replace." Never mind that the paper is titled "Pantry." The first image I have is of our refrigerator. I remember seeing a half-used bag of tortillas in the fridge, so of course I decide to make Enchilada Casserole for dinner. Do we have hamburger? Only a trip out to the freezer will tell.

As I'm kicking off my pink slippers and getting ready to shove my just-pedicured feet (thanks again for the gift certificate, Denise :) into my brown garden clogs, I notice that someone spilled Rice Krispies in the pantry. So of course I grab the broom and sweep up the mess. As I'm pulling out the dust pan from under the sink, I see the large Mason jar I stuck in there after the last batch of cut roses ran their course. Roses would look nice on the table alongside Enchilada Casserole ... so I don the clogs and head out to cut a few.

The clippers are down by the lavender beds. On my way to fetch them, I pass the blueberry bushes and see that the ones I left to ripen when I picked several days ago have gone and done just that. Forgetting the clippers (which is a good thing, because once back inside, I notice the roses my dad brought me yesterday, sitting smack dab in the center of the table. What was I thinking?), I grab a bowl and return to snatch the blue, plump-to-bursting orbs. Only after I've done that and am walking back up toward the house do I remember the hamburger.

I veer left and cross the lawn to the shed, where we keep the chest freezer Dave's parents passed down to us a few years back. I lift the lid and, because the hydrolic spring thingy is broken (why do you think it was passed down to us?) prop it up with my head while I poke around past the burritos and bagels and butter cubes. Near the corn dogs, I find the needed two pounds of hamburger. I dislodge my head, return to the house, and stick the baggie of frozen meat in the microwave to defrost.

Mildly on-task, I stand at the sink and sort the blueberries for freezing. But I leave them in mid-sort when I decide that an iced latte would make the job more fun. It takes me ten minutes to eke four shots out of our seventeen-year old espresso machine, but it's worth it.

Around sip three, for reasons known only to God and my palate, I get a hankering for dinner rolls. And that reminds me that I want to get myself back into the habit of making and freezing extra pizza crust, muffins and cookie dough. I always feel like I've managed a coup when I do that--as if I've cheated my kitchen out of an extra scrubbing. Why not make three batches of cookie dough as long as I'm dirtying the Kitchen Aid? My thoughts return to the dinner rolls. I wonder if I can find a good recipe for wheat dinner rolls on RecipeZaar.com ...

I leave the berries and search RecipeZaar. And in the middle of doing so, it occurs to me that I'm sitting right where I left off forty-five minutes ago, only back then I was doing the only thing I was supposed to do, which was editing. And then I think that I should blog about how easy it is to get sidetracked ... so here I am.

Just as soon as I hit "post," I'll get back on track. As I look at it, no harm was done. Dinner's in the works, the pantry floor is swept, and I rescued four cups of berries from an otherwise inevitable death-by-vine-wrinkle.

I'm just wondering why the jelly roll pan is sitting on the counter.



Monday, August 22, 2005

a life recorded

Her name was Martha, and she was born eleven years, two months and thirty-eight days before me. She was covered by Farmers Insurance and adhered to a strict regimen of minerals and supplements; her daily dose included 300 mgs of Passionfever and 500 mg of Psyllium. Her blood type was A+ and she had no allergies.

I learned all this when I found and skimmed Martha's six-ring, refillable, 2001 personal planner in a nearby thrift store. Tucked in among the other planners--some oversized, some slightly scuffed, some just plain nasty-looking, the small, earthy-colored tapestry cover caught my eye and drew my hand into the book bin. I loved the feel of the planner in my hand and the ease with which it unzipped. I knew instantly I'd buy it--even before I discovered Martha inside.

It startled me a bit to read such personal information about a stranger, but like a voyeur who happens upon a wide-open window, I kept looking. I found out that Martha went to the symphony in January, and that the Austen in her life had the same birthday as my middle sister. I learned that Martha had had a library book due back February 2nd, her new ID card expired in March, and she met a friend for coffee in early April.

But around that same time--early to mid April--Martha recorded a Wednesday afternoon doctor's appointment ... and then another for the following Monday. By Thursday, she'd added a new name, with the word "oncologist" after his title. In the flip of just three more pages, it became clear. Martha had cancer.

It must have been a late-stages discovery, or such an aggressive cancer that the treatments didn't touch it. For despite a flurry of doctor visits and scribbled notes about the side-effects of the prescriptions and treatments she tried, by summer of that year, Martha's entries ended. Standing along the back aisle of the thrift store, with canned music floating overhead and the cry of an irritated child somewhere to my left, I turned page after page, wanting to see Martha's handwriting, wanting to find one indication that she'd lived to anticipate fall, or Christmas, or 2002. But Martha had stopped writing in her planner.

I lost a dear friend to cancer last year. I said another good bye just three months later. But both those women knew Jesus. Both knew that death was nothing more than opening a door and seeing, finally, the face of the One they loved most. So despite missing them, my grief was laced with joy. I knew where they were, and Who they were with.

I couldn't rest on that assurance with Martha. I hadn't seen a single piece of evidence that she belonged to a group of fellow-sojourners or that she stopped at least once a week to turn her face heavenward. And no, a planner can't capture the full essence of a heart or indicate the thoughts a dying person directs toward God. But I saw no evidence. Not even a hint.

And so, standing there in that dingy thrift store, surrounded by strangers, I grieved another, and reminded myself that our mission field is really no further away than the next person we meet.
*    *    *    
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you ...
--1 Peter 3:15 (NKJV)

Look around you! Vast fields of human souls are ripening all around us, and are ready now for reaping. --John 4:35 (TLB)

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Friday, August 19, 2005

late nights ... part two

A comment left by Pam D. today brought another memory to the surface. She said, There's something wondrous about praying in the middle of the night ... a feeling that only you and God are awake and He is wanting to pour His heart into someone's sleeping spirit as you take His hands to pray for them.

Several years ago, when I felt that familiar nudge and rose to meet with God, I had a strong impression to repeat a favorite scripture: When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him. --Isaiah 59:19 (NKJV)

I didn't know why I felt such an urgency to speak that verse, but I said it anyway. And then I said it again ... and again. For an entire hour, my mind was completely trained on that one truth from Scripture, and all I could do was sit in the stillness of my living room and repeat the words over and over. I have never before or since felt a leading to pray that way, but it was clear on that night that God would have me do nothing else.

It was 3:30 when I stopped. Though I felt completely energized, as if I'd just taken the most wonderful nap and was ready to face my day, I also felt so at peace that I knew I'd fall asleep as soon as I sank down into my pillow ... and I did.

The next day, a friend called me. As our conversation progressed, she kept yawning into the phone.

"Tired?" I asked, laughing.

"I am," she said. "I haven't been sleeping well. I keep waking up in the middle of the night."

"Me, too," I said. "In fact, I was up last night."

"I was, too," my friend said.

I then explained what had happened the night before. "It was the strangest thing, but I felt completely riveted, completely focused on repeating those words: When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard agains him."

I heard a long pause on the other end. And then she asked, "Exactly what time were you up?"

"From 2:30 to 3:30."

The pause lengthened, and when my friend spoke again, I heard tears in her voice. "God had you up praying for me." She had awakened at 2:00 with a heart so heavy, it drove her to the bathroom floor, where she lay sobbing and trying to pray. She didn't share the exact nature of her grief. She simply said that life felt too hard; hope seemed too distant. She felt utterly overwhelmed, she said, by a flood of worry, fear and despair. Until suddenly, at 3:30, the darkness fled, the heaviness lifted and she felt awash in peace. And at the same moment that I rose from my couch and returned to my pillow, my friend rose from the floor and returned to hers.

I am often completely taken aback by the knowledge that the God who dreamed up gravity and love, who thought to put spots on a giraffe and devotion in the heart of a puppy, who named and then scattered the stars in the sky, would watch me sleep ... and wake me to meet Him ... and invite me to put my two hands next to His on the plow.

What kind of God is this?



Wednesday, August 17, 2005

late night meetings

A few years back, I went through an extended period of insomnia. Several times a week, I'd wake between 2:00 and 3:30 a.m. The realization that I'd lost my grip on unconsciousness never failed to irritate me. I fought it as best as I could. I'd keep one eye closed as I navigated my way across our bedroom and into the bathroom, hoping to fool the other eye into believing we were still asleep. It rarely worked. I'd stumble back to bed, resume my best falling-to-sleep position, and lay there for long minutes, or an hour, or two--wondering what in the world was wrong with me that I couldn't sleep through the night.

But it occurred to me, one night, that maybe I wasn't waking up at all. Maybe I was being awakened.

"Is it You, Lord?" I asked. "Are You waking me?"

I tried to come up with a reason why God would want to interrupt my r.e.m. sleep. After rejecting "practical joke" and "health sabotage," I was left with the only reasonable conclusion: He missed me. Perhaps we hadn't had enough "us" time during the day, and He waited until dark to get me alone.

I decided I'd go with that. "Lord, from now on, if I wake in the middle of the night ... I'll know it's You."

He took me up on that offer.

During this time, we gave away our mobile home and moved into a teeny travel trailer, which was to be our dwelling for the six months it would take to build our new house. It wasn't the ideal situation for middle-of-the-night rousings, but I long ago gave up arguing with God. If He wanted me to ease myself inch by slow inch across Dave's snoring body and grope around in the darkness for my robe and slippers, then so be it.

I took to keeping a square of tin foil near the dining table so I could mold it around the plastic light cover, allowing only a small, directed beam of light to leak downward and onto the pages of my Bible. Somewhere deep, I've clutched the sounds of my sleeping family, a slumbering earth, and the gathering storm of water heating in my tea kettle. All that noise, collectively, created the most peaceful silence I've known.

I'd sip my cocoa and read, and listen. God never failed to speak to me in those quiet hours. Sometimes He'd speak to a specific need in my life; most nights He just told me He loved me. We doubtful beings never stop needing that reminder, and He knows that.

I learned a great deal about the heart of God in those late night meetings--and all the meetings since.

He woke me last night at 3:12. This time, He wanted to discuss three specific topics. Two are private--do you assume I share everything with you?--but I'll tell you the third. He wanted to talk about the Navy. And no, I'm not thinking of enlisting. Oddly, they're not recruiting scarf-knitting, herb-gardening, bread-baking 44-year old sailors these days. But it looks like I'm going aboard, nonetheless.

I'm about to get a "yes" answer to a four-year old request. Early in 2001, after touring the USS Lincoln (which floats off-shore about twenty minutes from here) and talking briefly with two or three female sailors, I left with a strong desire to come back and teach a women's Bible study. I felt such an urgency to do this that I immediately began gathering information. I talked first to the half-dozen enlisted men and women in our fellowship, but none could direct me as to how to set things in motion. So I checked the website and collected a few names and numbers. Before I could make a single call, though, the door slammed right in my face. 9-11 happened. And understandably, security on the Navy base ramped up to where civilians couldn't even walk across the parking lot, let alone onto the ship. We'd drive by the gates and stare at the armed soldier atop a tank, who would clutch his weapon and stare back at us. I had to let go of my plan.

But this is four years later. The tank is gone; the urgency is back. And so I approached two of our Navy men at church and asked them both what I should do. One of them, Matt, took matters into his hands and spoke directly with the chaplain, who latched right onto the idea and asked Matt to pass on his cell phone number.

I didn't call right away. Oh, I jumped up and down and clapped my hands and squealed a bit, but when the dust settled, so did my enthusiasm. Logic began to taunt me. What are you thinking? it whispered. Women's ministry is starting up again ... you have a 4-book proposal due in September ... speaking engagements loom. How can you possibly add another weekly commitment to your schedule?

So I waited. I waited all day, even knowing the chaplain expected my call. And all day, my heart felt like a brick inside my chest.

And then, last night, God tapped my shoulder and said, I'm here. I mostly listened, at first, and simply enjoyed the knowledge of His presence. But then He brought the Navy to mind, and I became conscious of that brick again.

"Lord, is this a check from You, or just the squirming of my flesh?" I asked. And then I asked Him to see this opportunity from His perspective. I wanted to know His heart on the subject, not mine.

He lifted the brick. I felt the weight leave me, and felt joy slip in to replace the empty spot. God paraded a steady stream of thought past my mind; I remembered Paul, who taught all night, revived a dead man who had fallen out the window (during Paul's teaching, no less), talked with that same man till morning, and then walked all day to his next destination. I remembered Jesus retreating from the crowd because He was so tired, but then returning to meet their needs because compassion compelled Him past that exhaustion. I saw a circle of young women waiting to be fed from God's Word, and realized that at any moment, those women--and my chance to know them--could sail away. And I realized that I'll have all of eternity to rest, and that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

So today, I'm making a phone call. And if all goes well, I'll be walking the plank (in the right direction) sometime in the next month or so.

If you ask me, it's about time.

I was asleep but my heart was awake. A voice! My beloved was knocking ... --Song 5:2 NASU



Monday, August 15, 2005

pray ... just pray

So I'm over visiting Ovedya and I see that there's another personality test floating around. This one tells you which classic movie best fits your personality. Oveyda was bemoaning the fact that he came back as Apocalypse Now, and I was thinking, Yeah, that's pretty scary. Then I took the test for myself. And, to quote Oveyda, "The horror. The horror."

For I am ... The Godfather!

I tried three times--twice with the 45-question test and once with the 27-question test. And despite "refining" my answers with each attempt, I still came back a heartless mob boss.

From the living room, Dave heard the moaning and gnashing of teeth. "What's up?"

"I'm The Godfather!"

He scanned the test results, looked briefly at my answers, and said, "It's all because of those few extreme questions."

I looked again.

I am calm in tense situations. (very accurate)
I am not intimidated by anger. (very accurate)
I observe events from a detached perspective. (very accurate)
I am very direct. (very accurate)
I frequently feel victimized. (very inaccurate)
I am always worried about something. (very inaccurate)

So I'm calm, unintimidated by anger, able to observe the big picture, and direct. I'm not given to self-pity and I don't waste time worrying.

Um ... instead of Don Vito Corleone, could we call me Paul? Somehow, that wouldn't sting quite so much.

Here's the clincher. My dear husband took the test for himself. And came back ... Schindler's List. "You put the needs of others before your own. You strive to be helpful to your fellow man."

All I can say is that it's a good thing I'm a Christian woman and I understand the particular role my (God)Father has given me. For I have no trouble whatsoever in deferring to my Schindler.

Still ... maybe you could say a prayer for Dave today.

What Classic Movie Are You?
personality tests by similarminds.com


Friday, August 12, 2005


Here's a bit of the "before" story for Wednesday's post and the "after" story for Monday's:

Tera wanted to get this cute wooden pumpkin for my birthday. She had the $1.99, but couldn't seem to get anyone to drive her to the fabric store where said pumpkin waited. Dave was swamped for days before and after my birthday, and then he came down with something that laid him low for another day or two.

While walking through the grocery store with me Wednesday, Tera sighed in exasperation and said, "I can't get to the fabric store to buy you what I wanted to buy you. I guess I'm going to have to give you candy for your birthday." She said the word in an odd, non-kid way--with drawn out disgust, as if candy were made of doo-doo and not chocolate.

I asked, "Do you want me to take you to the fabric store?"

Tera brightened. "Oh, would you?" And she said it just like you think she said it, as if she were Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant had just offered to toss a parked car out of the way so she could cross the street unimpeded.

We drove to the fabric store. So as to act surprised when she presented me with the pumpkin, I loitered down a delightful "let's pretend it's already October" aisle and looked at harvesty stuff while Tera stood in line to make her purchase. While browsing there, I spotted a display of head band-connected animal noses and ears in amongst the Halloween costumes. Without blinking, I grabbed the furry lion nose and dashed to the end of the aisle to see where Tera was in the purchase process. Surreptitiously, squinting through the slats in an end rack, I watched her inch her way closer to the register, watched her hand the woman her money and accept the receipt and crinkly bag, and watched her turn to walk toward my aisle. I then slipped the lion head band over my head, adjusted the nose, and waited with my back turned for her to call my name.

"Mom?" she said.

I turned nonchalantly, with one raised eyebrow. "Yes?"

She didn't flinch or laugh. She just put one hand on her hip (exactly the way you think she did, as if she were Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart had just 'fessed up that he'd accidentally drilled a couple of holes in the bottom of The African Queen ) and gave me a withering look. "Mom, have you been walking around the store like that?"

"No ... just here."

She shook her head slowly. "Sometimes you embarrass me."

I was still laughing about that when I got home. Feeling inspired, I sat down and wrote perhaps the quickest post of my eight-month blogging career. Fifteen minutes later, I looked at what I had written and noted that Tera's name hadn't made it into my post. She dredged up a memory for me instead, and so she's had to wait lo these long two days to make her own brief appearance here.
*    *    *    

Inspiration number two is attached to Monday's post. After writing about my two lists, I've received several comments and private emails from people who have decided to follow suit. They're writing lists (good ones!) to friends, family ... even pastor's wives. I am so blessed by that. Thank you for responding to Tony's nudge. And thank you for letting me know!



Wednesday, August 10, 2005


In my defense, I have to say that I really never stood a chance.

I was five, and my mother called me into the living room, where Grandma was waiting in a recliner. "Hello, Shanny," she said. I screamed--and covered my eyes with my hands. For my grandmother had taken four or five of those chocolate, star-bursty medallions and situated them over her teeth ... so that it looked, from where I stood, as if her mouth were nothing but a yawning cavern of brownness.

My scream elicited an eruption of laughter from her. As I stood on my trembly legs, uncovered my eyes and watched her lick the covering off her teeth, I realized I had a choice: I could be angry, or I could enjoy the moment with her. I didn't dawdle making that choice.

"I'll get you someday, Grandma," I said, grinning.

I did get her. Several times. Over the years, it was my joy and my delight to make my grandmother shriek. "Don't ride that horse bareback. He might buck you off," she'd say. So I'd ride the horse bareback, and yell at her through the window to make sure she saw. When one did buck me off, breaking my arm, I withstood her "I told you so's." In an odd, hard-to-believe way, it had been completely worth it.

The last time I pulled a shriek-inducing scream from my grandmother, I was staying at the house she and Grandpa had shared, trying to help her out from under a stifling fog of grief. When the shock of his too-early, too-sudden death drifted away, we were left together in a clutch of stark sadness. She couldn't believe he had left her; I couldn't believe I'd lost them both. For despite her bodily presence, Grandma's self was frozen in grief. I could get her to answer my questions, but not with any semblance of Mickey there. She wasn't Mickey any more. She wasn't anybody at all--just a woman waiting to die.

Dave understood when I told him I needed to stay with her awhile. He came to the farm every day to see us both, but when night rolled around, he'd kiss me good bye, hug my grandmother, and drive back to our house in the suburbs. Grandma and I would wash our faces, don flannel nightgowns, and retire to her room. Grandpa still lingered there, in a way that brought a new rush of tears whenever my heart caught the echo of one of his songs, or a whiff of his scent would untangle itself from the cedar closet and swirl around me in greeting.

One night, when the somberness pressed the oxygen from the room, I pulled a rubber pig snout from my purse when Grandma wasn't looking, and slipped it over my head. I'd bought it earlier that day--for no reason except that I had to have it. I adjusted the snout over my nose, waited until she had settled in on her side of the bed, and turned slowly.

"Good night, Grandma," I said.

"Good ni ... " she began, before a scream overtook her. In the second her shriek filled the room, I imagine she wrestled with a choice. She could get angry, or she could enjoy the moment with me.

We laughed until we cried, Mickey and me.

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Monday, August 08, 2005

on highs and lows ... and lists

Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. --Eph 4:2b (NLT)

The young woman looked nervous, but determined. As I took a chair in front of the girl and her husband, I wondered why they'd called an emergency meeting. It didn't take long for me to find out.

“I’ve made a list,” she began, “and these are all the ways you’ve failed me as a pastor’s wife.”

I couldn’t believe what I heard. One by one, she read my faults out loud. Most things were petty and insignificant. A few would have been disturbing, if they were true. But they weren’t.

"You tried to get me to disobey my husband," the girl said. "When he sent me to buy a van for our family, you tried to tell me not to go."

I remembered the situation. But it hadn't gone that way at all. Initially, I'd urged her to not to step foot on a car lot without her husband, because I knew the salesmen would eat her alive. But when she told me her husband had actually asked her to go, I simply warned her to be extremely careful and to make sure she read the fine print.

"You tried to keep my husband from going on the street and sharing the gospel," she added.

That also wasn't true. I distinctly remembered the day this young girl had called me near tears. "I'm a sinner," she said.

I had laughed at that. "You and me both." But I could tell she wasn't talking in general terms. She had something specific in mind. "What's troubling you?" I asked.

She explained that her husband had been out witnessing several nights that week and planned to go again that night, but she wished he'd stay home. She missed him and felt the kids weren't seeing him enough.

"That doesn't make you a sinner," I said. "That makes you a woman." I went on to tell her that women are like barometers -- we have a sensitivity to the needs of our family and can tell when relational storms begin to brew. "You're just recognizing that the family needs more of his time. That's not a sin." I encouraged her to ask her husband if they could plan a night that week for just the family, and promised her that God's will would not be thwarted. If her husband wasn't out on the streets sharing the gospel that night, God would make sure someone else went in his place.

But this girl remembered the conversation differently, and now, months later, she chastised me. " 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring Good News,' she quoted to me. "You shouldn't have tried to get my husband to stay home. He was out doing God's work, and you tried to stop him."

At that, I couldn't keep silent. I wanted to defend myself. It's a weakness I have, if you must know. I just wanted to sort through the misconceptions and straighten out the confusion. "I can see how you might interpret our conversation that way, but don't you remember that I ..."

"Let her talk!" the girl's husband barked. He'd positioned himself on a cabinet next to me, so the barking came at me from above. I looked up at eyes exuding anger and righteous indignation. His expression didn't change, not during our entire meeting, and every time I attempted to speak, he shut me down in the same commanding way. "Quit interrupting my wife!"

I took it as long as I could. I managed to sit through the whole list of faults, but as the last was read, I lost my composure. Now, when I had the chance to speak for the first time, I couldn't say a word. I left in a blur of tears.

I cried all the way to a friend's house, where my sister and my children were waiting. Once there, I ran smack into a dilemma. I needed to let Tarri know I was there so she could send the kids out, but I didn't want either Tarri or Paula knowing what had happened. But I couldn't stop crying long enough to compose myself. Sitting in the driveway, I looked across the lawn and saw Tarri waving at me out the living room window. I gestured to her to come out.

The smile she wore as she headed in my direction faded as soon as she saw my face. “What’s wrong?” I heared alarm in her voice. She knew where I'd been and knew who had called the meeting. "What happened? What did they say to you?"

I didn't want to tell her. I really didn't. And if it had been anyone else in the church, I probably could have kept my secret. But this was my sister, someone who knew all my deepest pains and had been with me through the toughest moments of my life. I slipped. "She ... she had a list," I said. "A list of all the ways I'd failed her as a pastor's wife."

"Oh, Shanny," Tarri said, and then she, too, began crying.

That worried me. "You can't tell anyone," I said. "Not even Paula." Even as I said it, I could see our friend standing in the window, watching the emotional scene and no doubt wondering what calamity had occurred.

I suppose it was as hard for Tarri to explain away her tears to Paula as it had been for me to explain my tears to her. She slipped, too, and told her best friend. Paula, in turn, told her husband. I learned that the next morning, when Tony showed up on my doorstep. He didn't say anything -- he simply handed me an envelope, patted me on the arm, and walked back to his car.

I’ve been keeping a list, also, his letter began. And here are all the ways you’ve blessed my family … As I stood on my porch reading, his words soothed my hurt places and brought a fresh wave of tears. Since the first day we entered this church, you've treated us with nothing but love and kindness. You’ve welcomed us into your home … you’ve been warm and loving to new people … you’ve made me laugh … you've raised children that have touched our lives ... you’ve brought my wife much closer to Jesus.

Ministry, I've learned, brings the highest highs and the lowest lows. You share in God's joy when someone understands grace for the first time. You share the fellowship of His suffering when others misunderstand, betray or reject you. There's no other calling quite like it.

Eight years ago, just one week before we arranged a circle of chairs on our front lawn and started our church, a pastor friend shook his head solemnly and warned, "You two are about to be hurt like you've never been hurt before."

Mike was right about that. He'd been there himself, so he looked down at the path below our feet and saw, with eyes of experience, that much pain awaited us on that road. But what Mike didn't see were the young people who would walk through our doors, grab hold of Jesus, and begin new lives. He didn't see the broken man who would sit down and open a Bible for the first time as Dave taught through a chapter, and later say, "Pastor, I understood every word you said ... and I'll be back for more." Mike didn't see the near-death marriages that would be revived and strengthened, or the hearts that would be healed, or the eyes that would be opened for the first time.

And he didn't see Tony walking up my porch steps with that beautiful letter in his hand.

I'll take it all, Lord. Whatever You permit, whatever You send, if it will make me more like Jesus in the end -- I'll take it all.

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Friday, August 05, 2005

new look

We're still working out the kinks with Foxfire, but if you have Internet Explorer, you can see the new site in its entirety. My blogging friend, Darlene (from Blogger, Can You Spare a Dime?) has been working on my new look all day.

So ... what do you think?


Wednesday, August 03, 2005


It began as a routine flight. The first-class passengers boarded first, then mothers with babies, then the row-by-row ticket holders. But amidst the shuffling of feet and the shoving of overhead gear, one first-class passenger perched on his plush seat, formulating an idea.

"Miss?" he said.

The nearest flight attendant turned to hear his request. Did he want cookies already? A pillow? A glass of champagne?

"I saw a group of soldiers standing together in the boarding area, waiting to get on this plane."

The flight attendant nodded.

"I'd like to give one of them my seat."

At that, the woman smiled. Not taking him seriously, she turned to greet the next passenger.

But the man with the idea wasn't deterred. You don't become a regular first-class flyer by waiting on other people to bring what you want. This guy was a man of action. He watched the doorway and scanned the oncomers. He didn't have to wait long before the first of the soldiers stepped onto the plane and walked his way.

"Hey, soldier -- where are you sitting?"

The young man looked down at the ticket in his hand and replied, "22E."

“Not any more, you’re not,” the first-class passenger said. “You’re sitting here.” Rising, he grabbed his Wall Street Journal, briefcase and jacket, stepped out in the aisle, and gestured for the startled soldier to take his seat.

Good deeds often multiply. Another passenger, noting the exchange from across the aisle, followed suit.

"Hey, soldier," he said to the next uniformed passenger. "Where are you sitting?"

Then another gave up his seat, and another. It wasn't long before twelve of the sixteen first-class seats were filled with soldiers. The switch only stopped when they ran out of soldiers.

I loved hearing that news story when it broke. It made me cry, if you must know the truth. We have young people from our church serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and my thoughts often turn toward them. I loved envisioning those dozen battle-weary soldiers sinking into leather seats and relaxing for most likely the first time in a long time. I loved the honor those other passengers extended to the young men and women who had been off serving -- and hurting -- on foreign soil.

A wise someone once said, "Be kind to each other. You don't know what battles each have faced that day." What a powerful admonition -- and so true. We're all in a battle of some kind or another. The person you're near right now may have endured harsh words from a loved one this morning. They may be struggling with a painful decision. They may be scarred from countless losses. They may feel defeated, worthless, weak, overwhelmed, empty. But you have the power to soothe their wounds and lift their spirits. It's not as hard as you might think to bandage a heart. Words are free. It costs nothing -- nothing -- to speak encouragement into a person, to transfer comfort, to build courage ... to change a life.

Love each other today. And find a small way to honor the soldiers in your lives. Who knows? You might just start a revolution.

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. --Gal 6:10 (NIV)



Monday, August 01, 2005

you belong to me

The boy behind the counter had long, thick dredlocks, like earthy brown ropes. I’d only recently learned how one went about turning straight hair into dredlocks, and the whole process fascinated me. “I like your hair,” I said.

He smiled, rung up my order, and said, “Well, I like your cross.”

I know that kids today often wear crosses for no other reason than because it’s fashionable, but something told me this boy liked my necklace for a different reason.

“Are you a Christian?” I asked.

He smiled. “Yep.”

“Hey--that's great!" I handed him the money for my chicken burger. “Where do you go to church?”

His smile faded slightly and his eyes changed. I saw a spark of defiance there, a look that said he was preparing for a battle.

“I don’t. I like to think my church is wherever I am. God can’t be contained within a building.” He waited for my response.

I knew what he expected to hear. Most lone ranger, stand alone Christians have heard all the arguments. They've weathered those conversations in which they’ve been lectured to “not neglect our church meetings” (Hebrews 10:25, TLB). They’ve been warned that their faith will be weakened if they aren’t in regular fellowship, and told of all the dangers that lurk for those who’ve wandered from the fold.

I could see by the look in the boy's eyes that he expected me to say something along those lines. I could have. Those arguments are all true. But what popped into my mind wasn’t a warning about how he needed the church. Instead, I thought about how great it would be to get to know him, and how refreshing it would be to get a younger perspective on things. I thought about how much he might add to a body of believers.

“That’s too bad,” I said. “That means that somewhere, there’s a church missing out on you.”

It's an undeniable fact: We need each other. I need to hear your stories and you need to hear mine. I'm curious to hear how God drew you to Himself. I want to know about all the times He’s provided for you and given you peace and strength to get through life’s difficulties. It builds my faith to hear what God has whispered to you--and it builds yours to hear what He's said to me. Our lessons aren't ours to hoard.

Paul reminded us in Romans 12:5 that we’ve been chosen to be part of Christ’s body. “Each of us finds our meaning and function as part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we?” (Msg)

Whatever benefit we think we might derive from being a lone ranger Christian, the truth is that we weaken ourselves and deprive the church of our gifts when we try to stand alone.

Without each other, we hobble.

“Since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others.” --Romans 12:5b (NLT)



blueberry butter

Stephen put in a request for the blueberry butter I mentioned in my last post ... so here you go:

Blueberry Butter

6 cups blueberries
3 large apples, peeled and cube
3-4 cups sugar, depending on taste
1/2-1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8-1/4 tsp ground allspice

Combine all in heavy pan and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until sugar dissolves. Increase heat slightly. Continue stirring now and then and cook for a half an hour (or longer) until mixture thickens (it will thicken further as it sets up, so leave it slightly thinner than you want your end result to be). I sometimes cheat and use my immersion blender to speed up the process, but you can also just keep mashing the fruit against the sides of the pan to help break it all down.

Pour into sterilized jars and process 10 minutes, or seal with a canning lid and ring and place upside down on a towel placed on the counter until mixture cools. Or, if you'd rather, you can just pour into containers and refrigerate. Believe me, it won't last long. :)

Very, very good spread over a layer of cream cheese on English muffins. Sigh. Just typing this makes me long for a chilly, stormy, blueberry-butter fall day.