Wednesday, November 30, 2011

standing room only

I grew up playing the piano, and my favorite Christian composer/performer was Dino. I owned every piano book and cassette tape (I know) he ever created. Dozens of hours I spent at the piano trying to perfect his extremely difficult pieces. I even won a high school talent contest with one of them! Stars of Tomorrow in Lander, Wyoming -perhaps you've heard of it? When I was in college in Texas I heard he was going to be performing at a local church, so I immediately got tickets and couldn't wait for that night. When I arrived it was to a packed house. Every seat was full, and it was standing room only. I didn't even care. I was so excited to hear him perform, even if I could barely see him from the back. Just before the concert began there was a change, though. Someone came to the back and spoke to a few of us who were standing. He said, "Follow me. I have a seat for you." I followed -all the way down the aisle. ALL the way down the aisle. Up the stairs. Onto the stage. Into a choir chair. And I sat. Close enough to Dino I could have reached out and added a duet part as he performed. When I think of that night what I remember is that I got so close. My experience is the same with God. I slink into the back with forgiveness as my ticket, sliding down the wall and sitting on the floor in the darkness. It's okay if I can't even seen him -I'm happy just to be in the same room. But then an escort to the stage and not just to watch but to join in duet. Ridiculous and so wonderful it makes me want to laugh out loud when I think about it. So close.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

strange gift

I wake up almost every morning remembering the things I did wrong from the day before. They wait in line and present themselves to me one at a time. This morning it was my attitude at a meeting. Why wasn't I more humble? Why didn't I acknowledge someone else's idea with more respect? Why did I push so hard to be heard? My first feeling in the morning is usually remorse, and my first prayer in the morning is usually, "Sorry, Lord." Several years ago I found my guilt growing to an unbearable place. I wondered if I was becoming a more horrid person every day. Then I had an experience when I was driving in my car, and I felt God say to me that I was not becoming a more sinful, horrid person. I was just becoming more aware of my sin the closer I got to Him. God is so perfect, and as I get to know Him better I see myself more clearly in comparison. John MacArthur says, "Guilt is a gift of God." I will never enjoy thinking of my shortcomings, but I'm learning that to become the person God wants me to be I have to be willing to look at the dirt before He and I can begin to clean it out of my life. I'm glad He cares.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday comes.

I feel like all I do is wish for it to be another day than this one. If only it were Friday. If only it were Saturday. On Monday morning I need someone to give me spirit fingers and a cheer. You can do it! You can get out of bed! You can start your work-out routine again! You can do the 57 things on your to-do list! You can do five loads of laundry! But alas, there is no cheerleader. (Alas -used to express sadness, misery over loss, compassion, or apprehension of danger or evil.) When I open the Bible, though, it says the fruit of having God's Spirit bunking with mine is joy. Joy on a Monday? Instead of reaching out trying to grasp the weekend, I'm reaching out to grab joy today. I think all I have to do is believe the Spirit can make it exist out of the nothingness that is Monday. Wait a minute -maybe there is a cheer...leader. (I promise I won't say "Spirit fingers".)


When I was a young woman I went home one Christmas. Dad told me to get in the truck, and we went downtown to buy a present for mom. We went to a store that had a little bit of everything -pretty glass, perfume, decorations, jewelry, etc. As we were looking for a gift for mom, dad said, "What do you want for Christmas?" I said, "I think mom has already bought all my presents." He said, "That's not what I asked." I was standing in front of a jewelry case, so I jokingly looked down and said, "How about that emerald ring? Of course, if you get me the ring, I should have the matching earrings, too." We both laughed and went on with our shopping. A few decades later I still wear those emeralds. Spoiled child. This week my dad asked me what I want for Christmas. By experience I know He gets annoyed if I ask for something too small. Jesus said that if not-so-perfect dads know how to give good gifts to their children, how much more will our Father in heaven give His Spirit to those who ask Him? Spoiled. Might as well get used to it and start asking big.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

out of style

When I was growing up there was a woman at church who had a bee-hive hairdo, wore no make-up, and always dressed in an A-line skirt. As a teenager my aunt from Denver fed me the latest fashions (I was the first in town to wear leg warmers!), so I always felt sorry for this lady with the bee-hive hairdo. As a teenager I loved the Lord, hungered to understand the Bible, cared about missionaries, and enjoyed going to church. I was the weird one. The other teens my age at church didn't care about those things. While they tipped back in their chairs in Sunday school, I was bent over my Bible, straining to take in every word the teacher said. The woman with the bee-hive hairdo understood me. She often would see my loneliness and lack of fitting in, and quietly she would say, "Don't you worry about them. You're the one who cares about the right things." I just got a Christmas letter from her today, and I was thinking about how often she encouraged me toward being whom I am today -a pastor's wife who loves the Lord, hungers to understand the Bible, cares about missionaries, and enjoys going to church. Who cares about style.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday

Is the best part of Thanksgiving day the stack of sales fliers? I heard Target's doorbuster bins were empty by early this morning. I personally made a valient attemt to push a cart through Wal-Mart at 8:00 a.m. to get a great deal on shotgun shells for Matt. As we left my mother-in-law's home last night, after eating Thanksgiving dinner, they bid my husband and our son to be safe when hunting the next day. I said, "Really? They're just going hunting in the woods and you wish them safety, but you say nothing to a person who has committed to find a parking place at Wal-Mart on Black Friday?" Several years ago I found myself approaching Christmas like Black Friday -gearing up for the perfect season and hurrying to get to whatever would make me feel good inside the fastest. The Christmas season began to feel like getting to Target and finding the doorbusters gone -nothing but an empty bin. My feelings reached a crisis one year when I sat down at a Christmas Eve worship service and could barely breathe. I was exhausted from baking, decorating, shopping, baking, parties, wrapping, Christmas letter writing, baking, -trying not to forget a tradition or a gift. My shoulders were tense, and I just wanted to go home and collapse into bed. Worship? By evening on Thanksgiving day there were people lined up outside of Best Buy, willing to spend hours in the cold for a sale on the latest technology. I want more than Best Buy has to offer.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


I guess last weekend was huge in the world of football. I didn't even know who was playing, if that tells you anything. I was awakened by loud cheering from the guys downstairs and was so annoyed, but then I got on Facebook the next day and every other post was about the football game. Maybe I should have tried to care more. (Sorry for yelling at you, guys!) It was interesting to listen to people talk about the games for a few days. Some people are die-hard fans and will stick with their team no matter what the outcome. Some people swing their cheering to whichever team is in the lead at the moment. I was thinking about my plans versus God's plans. Sometimes my plans are in the lead. Sometimes in the toilet. If I swing my heart's allegiance over to God's plans, will I ever not be celebrating?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


I dated two guys before I met Matt. The first was when I was in high school, and I was going to marry him. Then I found out in fourth period that he had asked my good friend to the dance. Those two are married now. I dated another guy in college and was going to marry him. Then he stood on the steps to my dorm and broke up with me. My heart was broken both times, and I wondered why God said no to those guys for me. I graduated from college and applied for a teaching position in a school district that had over 200 teacher positions open. They turned me down. This week I just received my second rejection as a writer. I had imagined myself showing my parents the publication with my name in print, but I guess not this time. This weekend I was at our church Thanksgiving dinner, and I was trying to help a 7-year-old girl find her way back to her seat. She was completely turned around in the room, and all the tables looked the same to her. She started to go one way and I yelled, "cold! colder!" So she turned and started to head in the direction of her table, and I said, "warm! warmer!" I'm starting to listen for the "cold!"

Monday, November 21, 2011

losing sarcasm

She made an adorable scarf out of old pizza restaurant curtains. I sewed a beautiful pocket once -only to lift up the skirt and find the pocket hanging from the hem. She cooks mouthwatering, beautiful meals. I once put a salad in the freezer to chill it after it had sat in a hot car. (Who knew lettuce would turn black like that.) She fashioned a kitchen island out of an old cupboard, with an antique door covered in tile for the countertop. I once painted a wall the color of toothpaste. I used to respond to her latest creations with biting sarcasm -the only words I could think of that would make me feel better about myself. I've tried something new in the last several months, though -admitting that she's beyond amazing at the things I'm not amazing at. Admiration seems to be a good replacement for envy.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

flatbread living

A few summers ago my daughter and I discovered a recipe book called Flatbreads and Flavors. The authors traveled all over the world and compiled flatbread recipes. I was surprised at the ingredients when I experimented making South American tortillas, Indian chapati, and Middle Eastern pita bread. Flour, water, oil, salt. Mix it together, let it sit, roll out a ball of dough, and cook it for a few minutes on a hot skillet. A while ago I read an article about an older couple that passed away. They were simple farmers in a small town. She owned two dresses. When they died many people were shocked as they started receiving money from the estate. This couple who had lived such a quiet, minimal life had been storing up money to give away to people who needed it. I having been turning a slow, full circle -looking at area of my life to see where I could live on few and basic ingredients.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

weight bench repurposed

Matt bought a bench a few years ago so he could lift weights. It seems to be the perfect accessory to my unfinished basement -goes perfectly with the cement floor, lack of trim, and uncovered lightbulbs. I pretend it's a beautiful coffee table sitting in front of our 18-year-old couch. The bench sits a foot behind my computer chair, which is where I spend many hours a day as I do medical transcription and other sundry writing. Quite a while ago I was sitting at the computer, and my soul was deeply moved about something. I felt a desperate need to go to my knees in prayer about it, and as I swiveled in my chair the most natural place to go was to the weight bench. There I was on the hard cement floor, knees bent, arms resting on the bench, pouring my heart out to God. Since then Matt has gotten a membership at the local gym, so now the bench is all mine, and I have officially christened it as my prayer bench. It may not be lovely to you, but in my imagination it is placed right at the base of some stairs, and when I look up, in place of the couch is the throne of God. I pray, and He listens. My favorite spot in the house.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

living with insomnia

Today I was remembering Billy Graham's biography (a book so thick it took me months to get through it!). He grew up on a dairy farm, and he talked about getting up around 3:00 a.m. to milk cows every day, going to school, coming home and milking cows, and then doing homework late into the evening. He felt like that constant lack of sleep growing up prepared him for his strenuous life as a world-traveling evangelist, which allowed for little rest. I get so discouraged not getting enough sleep, especially in the afternoon when I'm halfway through the day and still have halfway to go. It seems impossible to keep going sometimes. But my perspective changes in recalling Billy Graham's experience. Is it possible these sleepness nights are building in me a perseverance I will need in service to the Lord in the future? I'm going to work to allow that hopeful thought to change my reaction to staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

not a crutch

I dreamed I got shot last night. (Perhaps one should not watch a graphic documentary on the Vietnam conflict immediately before bed.) I laid there completely weak and unable to move. All I could say was, "I've been hit." (Oh my goodness, I'm so dramatic even in my sleep!) Someone covered me with a blanket, and I remember waiting for an ambulance. Some people say Christianity is a crutch, but I've often thought -no. It's no crutch. It's a stretcher. People who can stand up and bear weight on their own with a crutch don't need a Savior. Christianity is for people who are flat on their backs and who can do nothing to help themselves except to whisper a weak, "God, help me." In Psalm 50:15 God says, "Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me." Parenting, marriage, friendships, finances, getting out of bed in the morning -there are so many times when all I can do from a prone position is to call out to God as medic. He stands ready to rescue every time, on the field. My Hero.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

in case of fire

A house two streets behind us burned to the ground yesterday. I can't stop thinking about it. What if I were to lose every possession in an afternoon? Matt raised the question, "What would you miss?" He looked up at his moose mount -can't replace something like that. I held up a spoon. It's plastic, and part of the handle is melted from when I forgot and left it sitting on a hot skillet. It was a wedding gift, though, and I've used it almost every day for 20 years. I would be sad to go to the drawer and not find that old spoon. I picture the burned house, look at the spoon, picture the burned house. Jesus' words stand in front of me -don't store up stuff for yourself that can be in your drawer in the morning and in an ash pile in the afternoon. Store up for yourself things that will still be there when the emergency vehicles have finally left. I once met a woman from Africa who moved to Canada to be a professor at a seminary. She put all of her personal belongings on a barge to cross the ocean. En route the barge sank, and she lost every possession she owned except what was in her suitcase. As she told me this her eyes lit up, and she said, "Best thing that ever happened to me!" She found freedom from stuff, and now she just owns the basics for life. Is it possible to find freedom from stuff before the barge sinks or the fire sirens wail? Maybe the question Matt should have asked was, "If our house burned, what would we still have?"

Thursday, November 10, 2011

sucking air

I'm the most unathletic person on the planet, maybe in the entire galaxy. I have watched sports, though, kind of. My attention span is short, and I usually care more about the cute little kid playing in the bleachers or about the color of the team uniform, but I have tried to watch for the sake of my family. One thing I've learned when watching basketball is that the players get sideaches. (Nerdy book readers like me rarely get sideaches.) When my kids were playing I remember my husband telling them to take advantage of any seconds in the game when play has stopped, to raise their hands up in the air and breathe deeply. Taking in oxygen can help ease the cramps. That's my favorite trick for life now. Sometimes I'm cramping over, sucking for air, but the game doesn't stop for me to recover. I have to take advantage of every second to raise my hands up and gulp in deep breaths, especially when I know the clock is going to keep going and I can't get to the bench for a longer rest. It's an art to stay in it but to reach for God for a quick draught of oxygen.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

living with insomnia

Thank you, Captain America. (SPOILER ALERT!) My favorite spot in the movie is when he's being pummeled by the bad guy and says, "I can do this all day." But we know it's not because of his ripped body that he's able to endure it. It's because when he was weak he determined to persevere through pain. And that's what I was thinking of when I woke up at 1:00 this morning and was awake until after 5:00. James 1 tells us to consider it pure joy when we face trials of various kinds, i.e., insomnia (Christy's addition). I know insomnia is a test of faith that will develop perseverance in me, and knowing there is purpose in my suffering gives me joy (mixed with a little bit of slumber party stomach). If I can persevere through a night of laying awake for hours, God's truth assures me that somewhere down the road I will be able to face more difficult trials with steel in my eyes and say, "I can do this all day."

Monday, November 7, 2011


When Matt and I celebrated our 20th anniversary a few months ago, we decided to add some excitement to our marriage by doing something new. We determined to become coffee snobs. Armed with a 4-cup, $2 garage sale coffee pot and a small, budget-appropriate container of Folgers we began enjoying what my grandma would refer to as a "morning cuppa". Soon after our snobbery began, we were gifted with a bag of straight-from-Hawaii Kona blend. Carmel coconut. If I believed in the ancient Egyptian practice of burying a dead person with items he could enjoy in the afterlife, I would request my next of kin please sprinkle that Kona blend around my body in my coffin. It was that good. Recently we were given a Coulter Coffee bag of breakfast blend coffee, and I believe they somehow condensed a flannel quilt and crackling fire in the bag, because the taste is just that warm. When my friend was praying out loud at church last night, she referred to Job 23:12 -Job treasured the words of God more than his necessary food. But when she prayed she said, "Lord, help us to love your words more than food -even more than our morning coffee." I'm curious -did anyone hear me audibly gasp, or did I just do that internally? What the heck? Do I love God's words more than my morning cuppa? Do I? I picture myself slowly wrapping my fingers around the hot mug, sniffing deeply, talking to the coffee, "Please coffee, do something amazing and help me be awake and functioning." Do I love God's words more than coffee?

Friday, November 4, 2011

least explored date locations

In the early years of marriage we lived hand-to-mouth, so our favorite date was to the book store in the mall. They let you just walk in there for free! We enjoyed pictures of savory foods and traveled to exotic lands. I enjoyed some chick book blurbs, and Matt enjoyed some suspense novel blurbs. You know what they say, "A couple that reads blurbs together..."
Then the children were old enough for us to leave them at home, and we discovered the dump! Kids never beg to go to the dump with you. And so we have relished many intimate talks while holding our noses and swatting flies. The dump is a 10-minute drive away, just the two of us.
Now we've been married 20 years, and listen up all you young married kids. It doesn't get any better than our Friday Taco Bell lunch dates. Long, lingering glances over a hot sauce packet -all for $7.00 and free drink refills! And they play 80s music on the radio. Picture us swaying together over a burrito (SUPREME burrito -Matt's no cheapskate) to Michael Jackson. Thriller!
Those special nights with me in a little black dress and Matt wearing Polo while we enjoy shrimp cocktail and linen table cloths don't seem to happen as often as we would like, but I would say we're an impatient couple, unwilling to wait for the perfect night to enjoy being together. I think somewhere along the way we decided romance would be where we could find it.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

National Geographic

I love the human interest stories in National Geographic, but some of the photographs hang permanently on the walls of my mind -the woman who leaves her young children to spend eight hours every day walking to get a jerry can of dirty water -the homeless boys huffing paint to ease the pain of hunger -the elderly woman dividing a pile of rice to last her a week -the 14 people sharing a one-room apartment -the family standing in a foot of flood in their home cooking dinner -the family with no heat and ice on their inside living room wall. A world perspective forces my heart to its knees in thankfulness to God for what He gives my family every day.