Tuesday, January 31, 2012

sip it!

Caleb had a horrible cold, so I kept him home from school.  There was one errand I had to run, though, so I bundled up the miserable little child in a big, cozy blanket and tucked him into the van.  To assuage my guilt for dragging him around town, I said, “Do you want momma to buy you a hot chocolate?”  He wasn’t too sick for that, so I pulled into a road-side coffee stand. 

Two dollars later I handed him a steaming cup of chocolate and waited as the barista prepared my mocha.

As she handed my drink through the window, from the back seat I heard the loud sucking sound of a straw on empty cup bottom.

And my sweet momma voice turned into another flavor as I whipped my head around and hollered at my sick little boy.

“You already drank that whole thing?!!!  I paid to two dollars for that!  Don’t you know you’re supposed to savor it?  Sip it slowly?  Enjoy drinking it?”

“Sorry” he said. 

I learned today of a Chinese expression “man zou”, which means “walk slowly”, something said as a goodbye or a see-ya-later.  A reminder to stop and smell the roses, to savor life.

Walking is easy when the day has a lot of wiggle room, but today my list of things to do is so long I already know I will fail to get through half of it.  What if I really need to hit the floor running?

Ecclesiastes 11:8 says, “However many years a man may live, let him enjoy them all.”  Enjoyment requires intent.  Taking pleasure in the moment.  Paying attention to what is good right now.  I grab my list today and tell myself, “WALK!  

And so I bid you in this day:

Man zou.

Monday, January 30, 2012

self control: the size of a deck of cards

The first time I thought about it was when my 70-something grandma went on an adventure to China.  I loved all her stories when she got back -places she’d been and especially her experience of walking the great wall.  But one comment landed in my mind and stayed there like a bur.

She said there aren’t fat people in China.  They eat very small portions and no sugar. 

Very small portions.  It was the first time I began to think about how much I eat and the first time I wondered how much I need to eat.

The lack of self control in every area of life is almost always a problem of excess.
·        Too much eating.
·        Too much anger.
·        Too much spending.
·        Too much TV.
·        Too long of breaks at work.
·        Too much focus on self.

Jesus said, “Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth.”  (Matthew 6:19)  Too much stuff.  What do we really need? 

I just talked to a friend whose family of four is temporarily living in a 500-square-foot apartment.  She said when you only have that much space, you find out how much is really necessary to live on.

Nutritionists tell us a proper serving size of food is the size of a deck of cards.  I look at my plate when I fill it now. 

For one year I only owned two pair of pants, partly because funds were tight for clothing but also because I decided to see if I could live with a minimal amount of clothing.  For one entire year I took turns wearing those pants.  One pair on Monday.  The other pair on Tuesday.  No one noticed.  I was clothed.  It was enough.

In every area of life let's ask, “Lord, what portion size?”  How many words are enough?  How much food is enough?  How much recreation is enough?  How much stuff is enough?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

preparing for the seventh day: stand at the window

The bad thing about a gorgeous sunrise is that you can’t describe it to someone else.

My patio door looks out on a row of snow-covered mountains.  I filled a mug with coffee and was walking quickly back downstairs to get back to work on the computer, but I happened to look out the window.

The mountains were on fire with the first light of this new day.

Proverbs 4:16 says, “The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.”

The seventh day was made for standing at the window with hands wrapped around a steaming morning beverage.  Remember, this hard life isn’t all there is.  See the flaming colors of the day coming.  The day with no tears and no sighing. 

On this seventh day we will stop the chores.  Stop trying to accomplish.  Stop doing.  Enjoy the sunrise and with it the hope of a new day coming. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

my midlife crisis




These are the words on signs in her room at the nursing home, because she forgets these things.

I stare at the sign that says “bathroom”, and I wonder how long my time of thinking clearly and remembering will last. 

I plug in the electric piano that I’ve wheeled into her room and begin to play songs written many decades ago.  Ain’t She Sweet.  Tea for Two.  Charleston. 

Memory Lane. 

“What a beautiful sound your piano has” she says.

“Thank you.  I think it’s pretty, too.”

“Did you have to push the piano up the stairs?” she says.

“No, just down the hall here at the nursing home.”

“What a beautiful sound your piano has” she says.

“Yes, I think it has a beautiful sound, too.”

“Was it hard to push the piano up the stairs?” she says.

For 30 minutes we have this same conversation over and over and over while I play for her.

Ephesians 5:16 says, “…making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” 

As I leave the nursing home, I feel a sense of urgency to work hard and do everything God wants me to do right now, because I don’t know when this rich time of being well and mentally alive will last.  Until the day before I need a sign that says “bathroom” and a sign that says “closet” and a sign that says “dresser”, I hope I hope to make the most of time, to love God with all of my mind and all of my strength and to love people. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

self control: rub shoulders

Today is my 43rd birthday.  Woohoo!  I love the attention and presents and cake.  Very childish I know.  Maybe in my 50s I’ll be more mature about it.  But probably not.

I reflect deeply on my birthdays about who I am and who I have yet to be.  I always imagine writing notes to a few dozen people who have contributed richly to who I have become, although I'm too lazy to actually do it.

As I write about self control, I think of my friend who started using cash a few years ago.  I watched her pull out her cash envelopes for a year and finally became so intrigued that I asked her to help me use that system.  If it weren’t for her, Matt and I wouldn’t have the control over our money that we have now.

I think of the friend who, in frustration, said, “You don’t listen!!”  And the painful truth of those words got me started trying to listen better when people are talking to me.  (You may think I still stink at this, but I’ve come a long way!)

I think of several people in my life who are very kind and gracious.  When I make a snap judgment about a person or a situation, they gently offer a deeper perspective.  Because of them I’ve grown a bit (maybe a very little bit) in controlling criticism and offering grace instead.

Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

The self control of others is slowly rubbing off on me, and I hope the measure of self control I’ve gained will rub off on you.  We desperately need to learn from each other.

So to all of you whom God has used to sharpen my self control, thank you so much.  I can’t wait to rub shoulders with you in my 43rd year of life.   

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

seventh semester

On February 15th Matt and I will attend a scholars ceremony where our baby girl will receive her senior pin for seven semesters in a row of straight A’s.

I think of that proud moment in the future and remember…

An hour on my bed with flash cards trying to help her memorize the table of elements.
Matt quizzing her through list after list of current event questions.
Tears in the car because the CAD program in drafting seemed incomprehensible.
Hours of chemistry homework every night for a year.
Wondering if there would be a curve on a quiz.
Speech anxiety.
Hours of physics homework every night for a year.
Black circles under her eyes on the weekends.
School.  A snack.  At her desk studying until dinner.  Back to her desk until bedtime.

Somehow my girl mastered the day-after-day.

Matt and I sat on the living room floor last night.  Faces long.  Taking turns sighing with stress, listing the weight of responsibilities in just the next day.  So much to do.  We could use a lesson from our daughter in how to keep going. 

“The ransomed of the Lord will return.  They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads.  Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”  Isaiah 51:11.

The seventh-semester pin for her. 

A crown of everlasting joy for us. 

But not without a few tears.  Hours and hours of work.  Dark circles under our eyes on the weekends.  Sighs of fatigue.  The crown doesn’t come until we have mastered the day-after-day.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

impossible day

My son has been playing a city-building app on his iPod.  He was bragging last night that he used dynamite to blow a hole in the ground, and then he filled the entire base of the city with trampolines.  (I think this child needs more chores to do.)  He proudly showed me how he was building the walls of his city brick by brick.

Today I’ve got my own wall. 

Brick upon brick of things that must be done.  “Mom, can you have my laundry done before school tomorrow?”  A meeting at 3:00 where I’ll receive more work.  Clumps of toothpaste that need chiseled from my bathroom sink.  Medical reports to type.  An Awana lesson to write for tomorrow night that I’ve barely given thought to.  The bank statement needs balanced.  And these people I live with are going to want to eat dinner tonight… again.

I stand in front of the bricks and look up, and I can’t even see where they stop.  It makes me want to slump down on the ground and give up before I’ve even made an attempt to begin.

Psalm 18:29 says, “…with my God I can scale a wall.”

I got down on my knees and laid my head on my prayer bench this morning.  All I could do was sigh and say, “Lord, I can’t do all of this.  I can’t.”  And then I remembered to throw all of that anxiety into his arms.  All of the tasks.  “I can’t do it” has become one of my favorite places to be -getting to the very, very end of myself and feeling that sweet dependence on the Lord.  I can’t means only he can. 

I use my imagination to picture God standing in front of my wall.  Interlocking his fingers.  Bending His knees.  And I place my foot in his hands –push my weight against them a bit to make sure I have a solid foothold.  Rest my hand on his shoulder for support.  And I know I’m about to get hoisted over this wall today. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

self control: Going somewhere?

An early lesson I teach a new piano student is about movement.  Anyone can plunk out notes on a piano.  Mary had a Little Lamb.  Chopsticks.  But a song should carry the listener to a new place.  Music swells and quiets and drives forward.  Resulting in a tear, a tapping toe, a breath held in anticipation, a racing pulse, a comforted soul.  A listener changed in the space of a few moments.

Acts 17:28 says, “In him we live and move and have our being.”  In relationship with God our lives were meant to drive forward, to go somewhere, to have an effect on everyone with whom we come in contact.

Click your iPod to the song that most stirs your soul.  Listen to the movement forward.  Crescendo.  Decrescendo.  The work of an artist who knows how to control his instrument.  And because he has spent hours and hours and years and years fine-tuning his skill… we are given a tune that transforms who we are and where we are going.

The kick of a bass drum that can be felt through the floor.

The brush of a bow across the strings of a cello.

The call of a trumpet.

We work to control the instrument of our lives… to create such a forward motion that everyone who listens is drawn toward God by our movement.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

a preparation for the seventh day: the next rock

In a great show of being a good wife and mom this summer, I put on hiking shoes and fill a CamelBak full of ice water.  We leave home and drive a few hours through Glacier National Park.  I am quite optimistic and cheerful as we find a parking place near Two Medicine Lake and gather our hiking supplies from the trunk.  A beautiful summer day and my family all together.  I am happy.

For the first hour.

A trail we have never been on before.  A cool breeze.  Almost alone on the mountain.  We stop to take a picture of some dead but beautifully twisted old trees.  We talk and laugh our way up the narrow trail.

The second hour is more challenging.  Taking a few more breaks.  Reaching for the ice water more often.  The trail climbs 2400 vertical feet in 3.1 miles. 

Not much longer and I’m worn out.  The trail seems straight up.  Not.  Gonna.  Make it.

But Matt turns around and says, “Look alive, people.”  And down the trail bops a young mom carrying a baby in a backpack.  Not long after that we move aside to allow two elderly people pass us coming down the trail.

And we pretend we’re not tired as they pass by.  

As we continue I lose hope.  Reaching Scenic Point seemed such a good idea when we were in the parking lot.  Now my legs are like jelly, and Matt, the best hiking coach ever, starts to say from ahead of us, “Let’s make it to that rock and then we’ll stop for a second.”  Instead of fighting for the peak, I start struggling for the next 10 yards.  “Okay, now that rock.  Let’s make it to that next rock.”

None of us has been on this trail before.  We know the trail is 3.1 miles, but we don’t know where we are on the trail.  No markings.  No compassionate sign that says, “Keep going book nerd, you’re only a half mile from the top!”  I finally stop in tears and inside want to beg to turn back.  I am totally exhausted.  But I look at my husband, and for his sake I keep going toward the peak.  Head down.  One step after the other.

When we make it to Scenic Point the view is breathtaking.  And worth it.  So worth it.

The seventh day of every week is given to us as the next rock.  A stopping point on the trail.  A drink of water.  A protein bar.  Rest for the legs.  Catching the breath.

Those of us who follow Christ know a Scenic Point is coming.  But we don’t know where we are on the trail.  And because we don’t know we need to rest.  And look up.  And remember there is a destination. 

“For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord.”  Exodus 31:15. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

this day

It was supposed to be fun hanging out at the restaurant after church, but the conversation went toward the economy and the new oil rush to the Dakota’s.  The men chatted about what length they would go to in order to support their families if need be.  I think they were having fun talking about it, but it made me scared.

Everywhere I turn there are wives living alone right now.  Their husbands working two weeks on and two weeks off.  Separated half the time. 

So I came home fearful.  What if that were to happen to us?  The need for separation to make ends meet?

But then I read about Jesus at The Last Supper.  Thanking his Father for the bread.

The day’s bread. 

And I remember that’s all I need to ask for. 

“This, then, is how you should pray…Give us today our daily bread.”  (Matthew 6:9,11)

I consider this as I make myself a turkey wrap for lunch.  A tortilla.  Some cheese.  A bit of lettuce.  Just enough for this meal.  God’s provision.

I thank God for the clinging dependence on Him that is created because I don’t know for sure where future bread will come from.

(To all my sweet friends whose husbands are out of state working to provide for the family.  I’m praying for you this morning.  May God provide exactly what you need this day for you to keep going.)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

self control: lollapalooza

It’s just so stinkin’ fun to say!  (I know you’re saying it out loud right this very second.) 

It means “a person or a thing that is particularly impressive or attractive”. 

The woman found in Proverbs 31 is a lollapalooza.  She gets up early, keeps a light on all night, makes clothes from scratch, runs a lucrative business, is totally prepared for the future, does some charity work in her “spare time”, makes her husband look good, and refuses to stop working to eat chocolate in front a chic flick while the kids are in school.  She’s particularly impressive.

And she’s our example.

Does God intend every woman to be a lollapalooza?

Every woman a Proverbs 31 lady?

The proverbs of Solomon are “for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life.” (Proverbs 1:3)  And this verse is followed by 31 chapters of little proverbs, one stacked on top of the other, one element of self control at a time. 

Controlling the tongue. 

Stocking the pantry for winter. 

Honest scales. 

Kind words.

The slow-but-steady addition of self control into our lives.  Finished with the beautiful picture of a woman who can do more than is humanly possible, with faith in God and some effort.  A lollapalooza life.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


I was so immature when we first got married.  Not really, really super mature like I am now.

(Are you still reading?)

After three years into marriage, Matt finished grad school, and we moved to Kalispell, Montana to live with his mom.  It was a good arrangement.  She was very lonely after the death of my father-in-law to cancer, and we had a brand new baby girl and were penniless.

I think back to those days and have decided my mother-in-law is a SAINT.  I was lazy and undisciplined in every way.  Selfish and outspoken.  We got along great, but I know there were times when I had to have made her nuts.  She was kind and gracious always, but I think I probably made her work at it.  Like when I decided to do a deep clean in her kitchen without even asking her, and she came home from work every day for a week to a pile of stuff I wanted her to go through.  Who does stuff like that?  Thoughtless.  (Sorry, mom!)

Genesis 26:34-34 says, “When Esau was forty years old, he married Judith daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and also Basemath daughter of Elon the Hittite.  They were a source of grief to Isaac and Rebekah.”

The word source can be followed by any word.  Source of strength.  Source of water.  Source of pride.  Source of pain.  What are we a source of to our families? 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

boot camp check-in!

Hey!  Several of you took me up on the challenge to do a 30-day boot camp this month.  Failures, successes -I'd love to hear from you.  Leave a comment below and let me know how you're doing.

My boot camp is to have the kitchen clean before bed every night, and I have accomplished that for 17 days in a row.  Woohoo!  A never-before seen act from this momma.  I was just in the kitchen cleaning up supper dishes, fantasizing about the day when my grandkids are like, "Grandma's kitchen is always so clean..."   

Yeah, well... 17 days is a start. 

We can do this!  If at first you don't succeed.  Try, try again.

self control: pink slip

In 20 years of marriage my husband has refined a way to stop my tongue from wagging.  When I’m talking foolishly he quietly reaches under the table and gently pushes one finger on my leg.  It works.  I shut up.

But inside my knee-jerk response is, “Hey!  Who are you to tell me what I can and can’t say?”  I’ll be honest - I feel defensive at first.  But after a minute I step back in my mind and consider what I was saying to people, the thoughtless words coming out of my mouth.  I’m thankful he loves me enough to help me stop the flow of stupidness.

In Psalm 12 David is exasperated by the people around him who do nothing but brag about themselves and lie to the people close to them.  In verse 4, these people say, “We own our lips –who is our master?”

Who owns the pink slip on my lips?  Does anyone have the right to press a “be quiet” finger onto my skin?  Can’t I say what I want?

In Psalm 12:6 David says, “The words of the Lord are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times.”

God’s lips.  Flawless… refined.

We need to sign over the papers.  Words under new ownership, controlled by the Flawless One who can inject every word we say with truth and life and goodness. 

Lips that never need to apologize.  Lips that never lie.  Lips that always have the right word to say to just the right person in just the right moment.  Lips that offer a Band-Aid instead of a knife wound.  Lips people want to kiss instead of slap.  Lips that add a solid brick instead of a wrecking crane to the construction of who someone is.  

Let us say together, “We do not own our lips –God is our master.”

Monday, January 16, 2012

self control: friendships

It was a seemingly impossible friendship that led to years of conflict.  She wanted more of my space, and I wanted more of my space.  We would enjoy each other’s company and then have a skirmish, each wishing to erase the other from her life. 

In Little Women Amy drops her school slate, and the melting snow washes away the chalk math sums.  I think sometimes we wish we could make a difficult relationship go away that easily.

Proverbs 3:3 says, “Let love and faithfulness never leave you… write them on the tablet of your heart.”

At God’s stern prompting I pull out the tablet.

“Get a Sharpie” he says.

“But Lord, permanent ink?”

“Yes, permanent.  Write her name.”

So I mechanically write her name on the tablet of my heart, holding on tight to love and faithfulness out of sheer obedience to God.  But as I write, something happens in my heart.  I begin to see the beauty of who she is.  The bitterness and frustration fall away, and in their place I begin to feel love, and I begin to want faithfulness.  She is a treasure. 

I look down at the tablet, and I see that the name I wrote as a dutiful scribble God has turned into a sweeping calligraphy.

So I keep learning how to be her friend and keep moving toward her and keep loving.  And as she has worked to do the same with me, God is bringing a slow but steady healing to our friendship.

When keeping someone close gets challenging, we must control the urge to erase the person from the heart.  Love and faithfulness stay.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


Hapuna beach is a shallow, white sand bar on the Big Island stretching some 25 feet into perfectly clear water.  Sea turtles paddling by –close enough to touch.  Quiet.  The warmth of the sun.  The rest.  The rhythm of the ocean.

Matt actually had to talk hard for several years to get me to go to Hawaii.  It felt like such a ridiculous indulgence.  I’m not much of a sun lover.  I finally agreed to go just to honor him, believe it or not.  My do-do-do personality had no desire to lie on a beach.

Until I experienced it.  No TV.  No kids.  No to-do list.  No responsibility.  Just hours of sun and waves and enjoying being with my husband.  Relaxing on straw mats on the beach while we dreamed together about life.  Playing in the ocean.  Laughing at Matt’s first attempts to boogy board.  I long to go back there.

In Luke 5:16 we read, “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”  Away from the crowds.  Away from the needs of people.  Away from his students.  Away.

Withdrawing to spend time with God seems like a ridiculous indulgence.  Who has time to sit down with a Bible to read and pray?  But the more I withdraw from life to seek him out, the more I enjoy it and want to slip away to be with him more often. 

In “away” we find what we need to be in the people places.

A cup of coffee, a Bible, and a warm blanket on the couch on a quiet winter morning while the rest of the family sleeps –there is a Hapuna Beach for the soul.

Friday, January 13, 2012

call dad

Remember the movie Annie?  She was the curly-red-haired orphan who was adopted by the tycoon Mr. Warbucks. 

My dad worked hard and saved wisely and got to a place where he had a good bit of money.  He has always liked spending that money on me and my brother.  I don’t remember when we started to call him Daddy Warbucks.

My favorite trip to the mailbox is when I open the door and see a thin envelope that almost seems empty.  The return address shows my dad’s solid, block-letter handwriting that says, “Daddy Warbucks”.  Inside is nothing but a check with my name on it.

When I call dad and need a little financial help, he always says, “Just a second.”  And while I’m on the phone he writes a check, and he makes me repeat the amount I need, to make sure he’s getting it right .  He gets an envelope and a stamp.  He asks for my address (because he can never remember it).  Then, while I’m still on the phone, he walks to the mail box and puts the envelope in the mail. 

“It’s on its way” he says.

A centurion came to Jesus asking for help.  His servant was at home “paralyzed and in terrible suffering…Then Jesus said to the centurion, ‘Go!  It will be done just as you have believed it would’  And his servant was healed at that very hour.”  (Matthew 8:6,13)

The God who is filthy rich is able to begin helping us when the request is barely out of our mouths.  We only need to come to him asking for help, believing he has the resources and authority to take care of the problem.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

soldier fitness

Pollyana is one of my favorite old movies. A young girl comes to a stuffy, crabby town and transforms it with her cheerful outlook and her ability to see good where no one else can see it. She talks about how her preacher father looked through the Bible and found enough “glad texts” for every day of the year.

And now the U.S. Army is employing gladness as a preparation for soldiers before they go on tour of duty. The soldiers are taught to “hunt the good stuff”. Listen to this six-minute, intriguing interview on NPR at http://www.npr.org/2012/01/08/144862810/classes-teach-soldiers-to-be-army-strong.

Paul issues two commands. In 2 Timothy 2:3 he says, “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 he says, “give thanks in all circumstances.” I'm trying to absorb the idea that thanking God for the good in every circumstance equips a soldier to be able to endure hardship.

When I was young I read The Hiding Place, the story of Corrie Ten Boom whose family helped hide Jews in World War II, and she and her entire family ended up in a Nazi death camp because of it. She was annoyed when her sister thanked God for the lice in the camp. Betsy told her she was thankful because the lice kept the soldiers out of the barracks, which allowed them to meet together to read the Bible and encourage one another.

Hunt the good stuff.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

self control: motivation (part II)

School debt.  Car debt.  Credit card debt.  I thought we would never be free.  For years we limped along, barely making it from month to month.  I found myself begging God, almost every day for years, to please help us dig out.

And then came a radio broadcast and a book I found on finances.  We developed a budget, and we slowly started trying to live by it.  An emergency savings account.  Controlling where we were spending.  Setting financial goals.  Going cash.  It took years, but now we’re free.

Freedom to give.  Instead of scraping by, we actually find ourselves with a few extra dollars now and then.  Freedom to help a friend in need.  Freedom to support a missionary.  Freedom to buy a biosand water filter for someone in a third world company.  Freedom to foot the bill at a restaurant.    

Peter says, “Make every effort to add to your faith…self control” which can “keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (2 Peter 1:5,6,8)



Self control gives us the freedom to do more than is humanly possible.

As I see the effectiveness and productivity gained by controlling just one element of our lives, my imagination goes crazy.  What could we accomplish if we were to gain self control in every area of our lives? 

Monday, January 9, 2012

self control: Bob Harper

Our family loves to grab a piece of pizza or some cookies and watch The Biggest Loser, the weight loss reality show.  Last week was the first episode of the new season, and the well-known and successful trainer, Bob Harper, was laughing at how excited the contestants always are to see him at the beginning.  Then he gets them in the gym, and they are passing out, crying, and puking in buckets.  His presence at work in their lives soon brings them physical pain like they’ve never experienced. 

A good trainer knows sweat and pain are included in the fitness package. 

We want self control, but we would be wise to feel trepidation about entering into the process with God.  He wants us to get in shape, every muscle tone, heart pumping at maximum efficiency, because he has “good works… for us to do.”  (Ephesians 2:10).  Will we let God push us until it hurts, for the sake of the end result? 

No pain - no gain.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

check the trash

We threw away a $20 bill. Someone gave it to us in a card when our son was born, but we tossed all the gift packaging, including the envelope with the money in it. We discovered the loss after the trash went to the dump. 

God speaks to his people in Isaiah 56:6-7 and says, “All who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it…these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer.” To keep or to toss.

You should see my calendar, every square of the month with my handwriting in it –appointments, activities, people, tasks. Sunday looks like any other day, like an empty envelope, and I sometimes fill that calendar square with laundry and a little house cleaning and paying bills and running a few errands.

It’s usually mid week before I feel the tired, crabby, can’t-live-anymore feeling, and I realize I thoughtlessly threw away the day God ordained to restore my soul. 

Like a cash gift, let’s put this Sunday in a safe place.

Friday, January 6, 2012

cleaning house

I’m so prone to hoeing things out that my husband says he has to keep moving or he’ll end up at the Salvation Army Thrift Store. 

I'm drawn toward the Shaker style of decorating –distinctly simple, useful, and finely crafted.  Everything else goes.

I helped my son do a deep cleaning of his room last week.  We gave away two sacks of clothes that didn’t fit him, and we filled a large sack with things that were taking up space but weren’t being used anymore.  That sack goes to the thrift store.

When Jesus walks into the temple he turns over the tables of the moneychangers, annoyed by the clutter.  He says to them, “My house will be called a house of prayer.”  (Matthew 21:13) 

We need to sit down with a cup of coffee and allow Jesus to walk through the rooms of our soul.  A large space needs to be made for prayer.  Any clutter must go.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

self control: a helpful tool

When my daughter was young I used to read to her before bed, and we worked our way through the entire Little House on the Prairie series. Besides noting The Long Winter was a depressing book choice for a resident of Montana, I also found the Little House books were filled with proverbs. Parents used to regularly feed wisdom to their children in short expressions of truth. When did we stop doing that? 

I’m bringing back the proverb! My family rolls their eyes at me when I throw pithy sayings at them, however, so I mostly proverb myself. These are my favorites:

“Slow and steady wins the race”  –when my Monday to-do list takes up more than one page.

“Well begun is half done”  –when my house is such a mess I’m thinking of calling FEMA.

“Haste makes waste”  –when I’m tempted to rush through typing medical reports to the point that running spell checking takes longer than it did to type the reports in the first place. 

“When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.”  (Proverbs 10:19)  –when I need to shut up. 

The Proverbs of Solomon are “for the acquiring of a disciplined and prudent life” (Proverbs 1:3).  A proverb is like a portable micro self lecture to do the right thing, and it fits on a sticky note.  Join me in starting a trend of living by wise, meaningful sayings.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

self control: expertise

Tape, mud, texture, and paint.  How hard could it be?  My mother-in-law was coming to live with us, so we decided to enclose part of our basement to make a bedroom for her.  Time was short, so I tackled the sheetrock finishing by myself.  We installed a dim switch for the lights in that room.  If we keep the lights really, really low, to quote my friend, the mud and tape job “looks pretty good to a man riding by on a horse.”

If I take on home improvement, you will always be able to tell I did it myself.  I sometimes imagine if we were to sell this home that people would walk through with the realtor shaking their heads -making comments about how the pathetic owners should have hired out their improvement projects.  I once had a friend come over to see how I was doing on a project.  He looked at me with compassionate eyes, as if I were a handicapped child, and said, “Oh, you should have asked me to help you.” 

Peter tells us God’s “divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness, through our knowledge of him who called us…”  (2 Peter 1:3).  Gaining self-control is one project we shouldn’t try to do by ourselves.  Bring in the Expert. 

Asking God for help with self-control means the difference between “pretty good” and a professional finish.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

self control: bleeding

I’ve been horrible about doing dishes for a few decades. Around 4:00 every afternoon I walk into the kitchen and do a 360 turn, to see dishes piled high. No sign of clean counter showing. It’s a daily exercise in failure and discouragement. I need to make dinner, but who wants to make dinner in a mess? Hamburgers it is. (We fully support the salary of one Wendy’s employee.) And as I pull through the drive-through at Wendy’s, I fork out $20.00 for my family to eat a meal, 1/5 of my weekly grocery budget. Then we get home, and I pull out the fries. It should be a salad or other wholesome vegetable. Instead we eat grease.

Lack of self-control in housekeeping...leads to lack of self-control in cooking…leads to lack of self-control in spending…leads to lack of self-control in healthy eating... A little problem is like a nick in the carotid artery. Life bleeds out.

I started doing some strength training a few years ago –what seemed like an immense sacrifice of time in my day. But after a while my energy level began to change. My productivity in the day increased four times over the minutes I was spending lifting a few weights. Because I was working out, I started to care more about what I was eating. (Who wants to ruin a good workout with bad calories?) I felt better about myself, which made me feel I had more to offer to other people. I was able to handle more tasks at home and at church. So much benefit from a 15-minute workout. Self-control cauterizes.

Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10b) Arteries fully patent. Blood flowing. Oxygen moving quickly and easily to every organ, to every extremity. If we want a full life, we must begin by using self-control to staunch the flow of thoughts and habits that lead to a useless life.

Monday, January 2, 2012

self control: boot camp

I’m relieved it’s Peter who speaks the most pointedly about self control.  Peter who flails in the lake after impulsively walking to Jesus on the water.  Peter who grabs a sword and cuts off the ear of the high priest.  Peter who refuses to let Jesus wash his feet and then in the next moment insists Jesus wash his whole body.  Peter who denies being a follower of Jesus –three times in a row.  Not the poster child for self control.  Yet he becomes the rock Jesus uses to build the church on.  Speak to me, Peter.

“Make every effort to add to your faith…self control”  (2 Peter 1:5, 6).  Words from someone who had more effort to make than most.

Matt introduced boot camp to our family several years ago when he hit his 30s and all of a sudden had waist hanging over his belt.  Determined to get in shape, he mandated on himself a month-long boot camp in which he was going to work out every day, except Sunday, without fail.  He did it, and he lost a bunch of weight and looked hot!  (Can a pastor’s wife say that?) 

Since then I’ve enrolled myself in two personal boot camps.  One was to floss.  Tired of hanging my head in shame in front of the dental hygienist every six months, I determined never again to say to her, “No, I haven’t been flossing.”  One month later I was a flosser forever.  The next boot camp was two Januarys ago, when Matt and I decided to go all cash.  I made my boot camp public on Facebook and wrote daily posts about what it was like to go from debit cards to using cash.  Two years later we live in a cash society in this house.

This year it’s dishes.  I’ve lived for 20 years on the philosophy that no dish should be washed on the day it got dirty, but I’ve decided to change that, Lord willing.  So for the next 30 days I’m doing boot camp –I shall not go to bed with a dirty kitchen (and I informed my teenage son that means even if he has to do the dishes I’m determined to meet this goal!)  I’ve challenged my entire family to boot camp with me, so we’re making a game of it this month.  Each person in the family has chosen his own goal, and we’ll have fun hounding each other about it.

 Wanna play?  Determine a boot camp goal and comment about it below –would love to hear one place in which you’re willing to make every effort to gain self control.