This is my blog where I write about my daily walk and lessons learned as I change from a caged gerbil into a loved dog at the Master’s knee. Come back soon to read my latest lesson.
“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” ~ John Lubbock
Matt and I took a sweltering walk down the road. Summer in Eastern Carolina is hot and wet in more ways than one. It rains a lot here, more than in Seattle in case you were wondering. But unlike Seattle, it is hot, humid, muggy, and more. This morning was no different.
We got about a half mile or so from the house when a downpour drenched us. We walked back home in the pouring rain, watching the corn stalks lifting their arms to the sky. We contemplated running under a neighbor’s porch, but since we were already soaked, we decided to enjoy the summer weather.
Back home we changed and sat on the porch enjoying a cup of tea while the rain began dissipating. It may rain a lot here, but it comes in short spurts. We rocked in the stillness listening to the birds call out the “all clear” sign.
Then, without any wind, without any thunder or lightning, the neighbor’s tree split and fell. We heard it fall; we saw it too, so we couldn’t really test the age-old question.
BUT it made me start thinking about limitations. Everyone has them: how much you can take, how much you can put up with, how much you can stand. However you want to express it, there’s only so much. As my grandmother would say, “Enough is enough of anything.”
That tree had had enough water. It couldn’t hold anymore, and it split and fell. It didn’t take a storm, not even a breeze, to cause the collapse. It just took too much.
I’ve had a difficult year. Nothing that stands out as “Wow, that was really trying,” but one thing after another, building up on top of each other, until I am ready to collapse.
So one evening last week Matt and I drove to the beach for a picnic. We took our own food, sat in the shade, walked quietly, read light fiction . . . Took a break. Because I was at the point of enough.
And how it helped. I was able to dive back into my work, to think clearly through situations, to have new perspective and energy.
Maybe you are reaching the point of enough. If so, take some time out before you collapse. It doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate. Enjoy an evening walk along the river, sit for a few hours in the hammock, look through family photo albums and sip some sweet tea. Whatever it is that will ease the tension, lower the water levels, and give you a break, do it.
It just may be what saves you.
“For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.” Jeremiah 31:25 ESV
Last month we took the boys to French-speaking Quebec for a couple of weeks. Matt was nervous about such an endeavor, you know, seeing as NONE of us speaks French. I, on the other hand, was calm about the whole thing.
Matt: But what will we do if they don’t speak English?
Me: We’ll find someone who does. It is an English-speaking country after all. (nonchalant flip of the hair)
We purchased a card for our phone so that we could use it for GPS and data in case we needed to find a point of interest or a restaurant and headed north. On the afternoon of the second day we crossed the USA/Canada border in an extremely tiny town in Vermont. Matt pulled up to the booth only to be motioned to back up and wait. That was just the beginning.
The stop sign was in French. The signs explaining to wait until told to approach were in French. All of the directions, you got it, French.
I plugged in the phone and tried to start it up. It wouldn’t work in Canada’s remote 2G system.
We had no maps, no phones, no GPS, no . . . French.
We managed to get to Montreal and find a hotel, then we spent the rest of the trip depending on maps we found before leaving our rooms. It was nerve-wracking to say the least. Not only did we not have good maps or directions, we couldn’t understand the signs. Was the lane going to end? Was it reserved for certain vehicles? Was there something we needed to know?
Two years before we had traveled through the UK. I had imagined it would be no big deal, I mean, all you have to do is drive on the other side of the road. Oh. My. Word. Not only is that difficult to explain to your brain; all of the signs look different than in the States, and usually they don’t come with words. Having our GPS phone was our lifesaver, and I am not exaggerating.
This summer our county is doing a whole lot of road work. I had an appointment in a nearby town this morning. I drove about 25 miles and went through 5 road construction areas. Two of them had detours. I was grateful that I understood the signs. I was frustrated that they were causing me delays, but grateful that I understood what was going on.
When we got back from Quebec I looked up the translation of “travaux”; it had appeared on many road signs. There were context clues that it meant some sort of road construction, but I was curious. Literally it translates “works” and is often associated with road work.
Sometimes my life van is driving along and I see a sign I don’t understand. I rubberneck it as I pass, and tip my head to the side for a while afterward. Hmm, wonder what’s going on? Sometimes it isn’t until an entire trip later that I understand what that sign was all about. But one thing is for sure. My GPS is set for only one home, and I’m going to make it there . . . some day.
When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” Exodus 13:17 NIV
I have several summertime memories from childhood: swimming in the river, catching lightning bugs in the evenings, eating popsicles from the deep freeze, and spitting watermelon seeds.
When I was about seven years old, my father bought the family farm, and we moved beside my grandparents. It was a wonderful experience that brought me closer to my grandparents, watching Wheel of Fortune with them, baking cookies and biscuits, listening to their stories. I loved them, but occasionally I discovered something odd about my grandmother.
“Why do you put salt on watermelon?” I stuck out my tongue and made a face.
She laughed. “It makes the watermelon sweeter.”
“How can salt make it sweeter?” I don’t think I waited for an answer; I turned and ran off to spit seeds from the porch.
Fast forward to last year. I put a little salt on my watermelon. Guess what? She was right. It tasted sweeter.
My taste buds have aged and don’t work as well as they once did. What used to seem sweet enough, now is nearly tasteless. But when I add a little salt, the flavor bursts forth in sweet, sugary goodness.
Lately I feel like the world is a gritty piece of commercially farmed watermelon, tasteless, bland, not worth eating. Lies are told. Angry words are shouted. Bullets are shot. Insinuations are made. Stereotypes are promoted. Brothers and sisters are hurt.
A lot of people find this world bland, even distasteful. Jesus asks us to be salt to the world. We are to make the world more palatable for those around us. We add flavor, goodness, and sweetness to people’s lives. We make the world a better place by being salt and light.
Don’t people complain about unsalted food?
Does anyone want the tasteless white of an egg?
My appetite disappears when I look at it;
I gag at the thought of eating it! Job 6:6-7 NLT
It’s that time again. The time when the internet starts lighting up with warnings and rebellions about modest dress. Ban the bikinis vs. Bare the boobies. I’ve written on this before, but I feel compelled to go at it again.
The last couple of years have introduced a new slogan: Modest is Hottest. Really? If you are looking for “hottest” then modest is not one of your by-lines. Just stop and think about the implications. If you are trying to be the hottest, attention is your goal. Attention would never be the goal of modesty.
Most Christians who enter this war are armed with 1 Timothy 2:9 “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes”. The KJV says “adorn themselves in modest apparel.”
Especially here in the South, I hear this become a set of Pharisaical rules and laws about spaghetti straps, skirt length, shorts, and swim wear. My experience is that the more you tell someone they can’t (fill in the blank) the more they want to do it. So when these girls leave home they show up at the Homecoming concert dressed like prostitutes.
But I don’t think Paul is talking about how much skin shows. He’s talking about attitude, and modesty in this circumstance has to do with money. Look at that last part of verse 9, “NOT with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes”. Paul is talking about how you make others feel.
Go on to verse 10 which finishes the thought, “but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.” The KJV says “with good works.”
I would venture to say that in today’s world it would read something like this: “Drive a Lexus or a Pontiac in such a way that people thank you for the ride and praise the Lord. Live in a mansion or a ranch house in such a way that people feel at home and bless the Father. Carry Vera Bradley or WalMart wallets so that people recognize the generosity of God. Let the way you treat others be what gets noticed.”
Some of you are cheering me on, “Give it to ’em, Mrs. Traci!” I would refer you back to 1 Timothy 2:8-9 and suggest that your attitude needs some work.
Others of you disagree with me. “But . . . God doesn’t want us prancing around naked!” you say as you fan yourself and nearly faint. Hmm. Didn’t you ever look at National Geographic when you were a kid? It was scandalous here in the States, but other places not so much. Appropriate levels of dress and undress are cultural.
So what am I saying? Just this: “Let your actions speak louder than what you wear.”
Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. Romans 13:10 NIV
Jonathan and I sat on a bench overlooking the St. Lawrence River. People passed by on the boardwalk, sharing ice creams, holding hands, talking, joking, laughing. It was our fifth evening in this foreign country.
“I miss English,” Jonathan said and grimaced.
It wasn’t so terribly difficult to get along in Quebec. Most people were accommodating and spoke to us in heavily-accented English. Honestly, as soon as I said “bon jour” they switched to English. I guess I have a heavy accent as well.
But Jonathan’s remark, “I miss English.”, could have seemed oddly out of place. I mean, weren’t we, right then at that moment, enjoying a conversation in English? Yes, but we didn’t understand all of the other conversations going on around us.
Earlier during a street performance, I had stepped on a woman’s foot as she was trying to stand from our position sitting on the ground. I apologized, “So sorry.” She responded, “Bunch of French words you don’t understand.” She smiled and I knew it was forgiven, but I felt out of place.
Weekly I feel like I go on a trip to a foreign land. I don’t understand the culture, the language, the reasoning, the anything. I do my best to understand, to try to explain my actions, but it’s tiring. Like listening to French for a week.
That’s why I go to church every Sunday. At church I understand people. I know what is expected. I know the culture. Church helps me to get through the rest of the week in a foreign land.
God knew what he was doing when he gave us community. Are you missing your home language? Maybe it’s time you headed back home, back to church.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25
The pulpit is one of the Basilica’s greatest ornaments. In earlier times, the priest would mount the steps to deliver his sermon. From his position above the congregation, his voice could be heard throughout the church, without electronic amplification.~basilica website
Notre Dame in Montreal was built by the Jesuits in 1657, but the congregation soon outgrew the structure. The Sulpicians took over the church and added on from 1672 to 1673. It was a beautiful wooden church that met the needs of the growing North American population. But as that population continued to grow, the church fathers couldn’t agree on how the cathedral ought to grow. Sunday worship found people standing outside trying to hear an echo of a sermon or a chord of a choir’s song. There was not room for the entire congregation to meet inside the church.
The Sulpician priests who were in charge of the church finances wanted to use the money correctly, so they discussed it for about 150 years. Finally, work began in 1824 and was completed in 1829. All of this I discovered as I stood inside the great basilica marveling at the beautiful sculpture, stained glass, and soaring ceiling.
Oddly, it wasn’t the beauty that clung to my thoughts, but the question, How many people were not helped because the leaders wanted to help the right way?
It’s actually a very old problem, going back beyond the 1600s. Go all the way back to Jesus. The Pharisees and Sadducees were in charge of directing the Israelites’ spirituality. They were the ones who were supposed to know the rules, the regulations, and the requirements. If anyone needed guidance in a spiritual matter, and what matter ultimately isn’t spiritual, it should have been them.
But the synagogue rulers made it difficult to find God. In fact, Jesus came along and they made him illegal. People wanted to find God, but the ones in charge of bringing the people to God were in the way. When God showed up and gave them something to do, they talked about it. They had meetings. They had discussions. They had arguments. And they did nothing.
Some did send messengers to ask Jesus questions, to get more information. But that just led to more arguments and more discussions and more tabling of the important things. Thank God some people skirted the discussions and conversations and actually acted.
I wonder. How many times do we, the ones who know the way to God, get in the way of helping others there?
I am ashamed to admit that I have been a part of that “holy procrastination.” Church meetings that table the agenda another month until people can mull over the options some more. Passing by a homeless person while I contemplate if giving her money would be spiritually wise. Not asking the hard questions, not pursuing the possibilities. Only talking and waiting. All in the guise of wanting to be spiritually responsible.
The Sulpicians took nearly 150 years to provide a meeting place for the Montreal Christians, but once they followed through, the church has stood there for nearly 200 years. God will bless the act that honors him. So go ahead and act.
“For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law,the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” James 1:23-25 ESV
Slacklining refers to the act of walking or balancing along a suspended length of flat webbing that is tensioned between two anchors. Slacklining is similar to slack rope walking and tightrope walking.~Wikipedia
A few weeks ago I asked Amos what he would like for graduation. We purchased a hammock and hammock stand for Jonathan when he graduated, so Amos knew the price range.
“Let me think about it a while,” he said.
“OK, but graduation is coming up, so don’t think too long.”
It took about a day. While Amos and a friend were walking on the local greenway they came across some university students who were slacklining. The students asked Amos and Alexis to join them, and he was hooked. He came home bubbling, “I know what I want for graduation.”
So Saturday at the graduation party, Amos was presented with a slackline. It didn’t take long to get it set up and for everyone to start trying it out. Shoes came off, socks were thrown thither and yon, and young feet bounded up on the nylon webbing. The line wobbled and shook as the kids ventured across. They grabbed the guideline above their heads as they swayed and then fell from the slackline.
I watched the kids try it out, and then Amos jumped up for his turn. He deftly jumped onto the line and started across. He was slow and deliberate, steady and sure. That day practicing with the university students had given him experience no one else had.
I decided to have a go at it too. In my little black party dress and nylons I reached for the guideline and gracefully placed my foot for the first step. I grabbed the guideline and steadied myself. The line shook from side to side like autumn leaves in a windstorm. I scooted my foot a little ahead, but then the foot behind was too far away to move. I took a step and flailed my leg in the air as I hung on to the guideline.
Finally, I made it all of the way across, and then hopped off to the steady ground beneath. Though I was not an expert, or even very good at it, I noticed something on my slacklining adventure.
You have to keep moving in order to not fall off. If you stand still, your balance will falter, the line will start to shake, and soon you will be swaying unsteadily hanging on for dear life. BUT if you will not let all of that bother you, but keep putting one foot in front of the other, soon you’ll be walking out the door . . . or across the slackline.
Lately I find myself hanging onto a guideline, swaying, shaking, standing still in an attempt to get everything in balance. The longer I stand there the worse life shakes and shivers. But when I start taking steps, when I go ahead in spite of the quivering and quaking, I find that the line steadies and I can walk again.
I’m looking forward to the day I can jump up on life’s rope and walk without a wobble or a bobble. Until then I will keep on practicing my walk.
This evening is my retirement party. That’s right; at 46 years old I am retiring.
Thirteen years ago we started home schooling our first born. Today is the last class I will teach to my own child, our second born, Amos. Today, after thirteen years of teaching, guiding, lecturing, demonstrating, and even banging my head on the table, I retire.
“Why did you decide to home school?” is a common question. The next common is, “Will you home school all the way through?” This last is asked with varying degrees of horror and respect.
We started this journey when our first son failed to thrive in the public school kindergarten. His personality and character traits didn’t meet the expectations of the school system, and rather than see him suffer more distress, disappointment, and depression, we removed him from that environment.
Some home school families say they were called from the beginning to educate their children at home. We never felt that. What we felt was a call to be the best parents we could be to Jonathan and Amos. So if we weren’t “called” to home school, why did we bother to go “all the way through”?
Because as time went by we could see the blessing and the correctness of the choice, for us, for our boys, for our family. We couldn’t explain it to you. Some people thought we were wrong. Some people tried to discourage us. But there was no denying the inner peace it gave us to choose home education.
Now that I am retiring, the most common question is “What will you do with all of your free time?”
Well, I am still going to teach home schooled students as a tutor once a week. I also thought I was going to teach online, but that avenue of income was thwarted, and I can only imagine it to be God. I threw out my sheep skin three times, and the answer was always “No.”
I also will serve at the rest home, at church, in the community. I will continue to look for ways to have a positive impact for Christ and the Kingdom.
But what I am called to do professionally is write. Again, I can’t tell you how I know; I can’t explain it. Some people think I am wrong, and some people discourage it. But the inner peace about it is encouraging.
Occasionally God calls in a loud, demanding voice. But more often he whispers and he waits. He waits to see if I will respond, if I will act, if I will obey. Afterward he gives the peace.
Until the peace comes is a frightening time of uncertainty, self-doubt, and frustration. You begin to wonder who really is on the other end of the line. I want to encourage you to not screen your calls; don’t ignore the directives. Don’t turn directions and go what seems to be the logical, practical way. God is seldom logical and even less often is he practical in human terms.
Have trees been rustling in the wind of his whispers? Do they seem like crazy voices, insane ideas, overwhelming endeavors and commitments?
It may be God calling. Will you answer? Will you act? Will you obey?
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 NRSV
“A little thorn may cause much suffering. A little cloud may hide the sun. Little foxes spoil the vines; and little sins do mischief to the tender heart. These little sins burrow in the soul, and make it so full of that which is hateful to Christ, that he will hold no comfortable fellowship and communion with us. A great sin cannot destroy a Christian, but a little sin can make him miserable….” ~Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening
We have three birch trees in our yard. Birch trees grow tall and willowy. Sitting under a birch tree on a hot summer afternoon is a pleasure; shady breezes caress your skin and bygone times are recalled to memory.
But these tall, willowy havens hide their faults. Mixed within the green, leafy branches are dried, decaying limbs. When the wind blows just right you can see their dead parts hanging precariously, waiting the impending storm that will tear them from their trunk.
After a stiff wind, or sometimes even a gentle breeze, I spend several hours picking up sticks. Some sticks are large. Their obvious forms resting in the tall grass call me to go out and get to work. I load the large branches in the wheelbarrow to push across the field to the brush heap. Some branches are so large I grab hold, lean forward, and pull with all my might across the yard to the pile.
Other branches and twigs nestle down in the lawn and wait to be noticed. Sometimes I walk over them several times before they catch on my shoe and draw my attention. My back aches from the bending and stooping. My fingers, hands, and arms are sliced by the sharp slivers of wood.
Large and small sticks alike will burn in the fire pit. The big ones burn brighter, stronger, longer, but it’s the little ones that kindle the flames.
After the picking up, after the burning off, I shower. Shampoo and soap wash away the pollen and smoke that burn my eyes and itch my nose, but they also seep into the tiny scratches that the little sticks created. My fingers burn with the cuts, my arms display angry red welts.
Surprisingly, it is the little sticks that cause the most damage.
The large sticks and branches burn longer, they’re harder to pass by, to go unnoticed. You don’t miss the big sticks. But don’t forget, little sticks make a big fire. All deadwood burns.
“Some people’s sins are obvious, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others surface later.” 1 Timothy 5:24 HCSB
Gramacho is the last landfill that allows people in. Brazil is the leading nation in recycling due to its poverty. There are people there surviving from what they find in the garbage. Vik Muniz
I inherited my great-grandmother’s sewing machine. It’s one of those old models in a wrought iron case with wooden drawers. Inside the drawers are tiny pieces of fabric and elastic, rescued from faded threadbare articles long ago. Grandma Phillips lived through hard times and she knew how to save and scrape and scrap together. Today we call it recycling, and we do it on a grander scale.
Recycling is a great way to take something used and seemingly useless and make it new again. Check out these statistics:
- The average person generates over 4 pounds of trash every day and about 1.5 tons of solid waste per year.
- Americans make more than 200 million tons of garbage each year, enough to fill Busch Stadium from top to bottom twice a day.
- Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to listen to a full album on your iPod. Recycling 100 cans could light your bedroom for two whole weeks.
Recycling may seem like a fairly new idea to some of you. The first Earth Day, which stressed recycling and keeping our planet clean, was in 1970. But you might be surprised to find out that the first American aluminum can recycling plants opened in 1904 in Cleveland and Chicago. But we can trace recycling efforts all the way back to 1031 when Japan began the first ever recorded reuse of waste paper by repulping the paper and then selling it back to local stores.
Recycling is actually even older than that. It starts at the beginning of time. God had a plan for something wonderful, but the plan had to be scrapped. So he threw Adam and Eve out of the garden and started over with a new plan. And again, it had to be scrapped. So God had Noah build a boat and he started all over again. But the garbage kept piling up.
Time went by and every generation brought a new load of garbage, a new bundle of bungles and baggage. So God decided to make the recycling program more individualized. And he sent his son to be the Director of Emissions Control.
Jesus takes each person’s pack of used and useless paraphernalia and remakes it, recycles it, into something new and useful. He cleans the can, deodorizes, and puts in a new disposal. Our Director does something better than Grandma Phillips ever could have: He makes life new.
Not with little bits of this and little tatters of that, but with wholeness and perfection. He is the ultimate recycler.
“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NRSV