Gerbil Devotions

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.

Prejudice: Answering the Call

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tree-402953__180I am often dismissive of what people do for a living. I admire social workers because they get paid to help people, something I enjoy doing. I don’t, however, think as highly of baristas and waiters because they are just convenience workers, even though they are helping me.

I think people who are gifted at mathematics and science are especially smart, and I am in awe of them, but the first time I had a coach in high school teach an academically challenging course, I have to say I was doubtful. How could a PE teacher be smart enough for that? And I remember the first time I realized that my brother-in-law, the sports trainer, was intelligent. It just hadn’t occurred to me that he would be. I remember discussing a book with him and then actually saying, “So you’re really smart?” with great shock. Sorry, Mark.

A little over a year ago I met some friends for lunch. One was telling us that her daughter was thinking about studying theater when she goes to college. We all laughed and commented on her waitressing abilities. It was fully assumed that theater is a nice sideline or hobby, but it is not a career worth pursuing.

Another friend at the luncheon was deeply hurt because her own daughter is already a theater major. Certainly she is not under the delusion that it will be easy to make a living, but following the lead that the Lord provides is obedience, not foolhardiness.

God calls each of us to a different part of the world. We each have the same mission – Bring God Glory – but he asks us to do it in different ways and through different mediums. To choose a job only because it will make a lot of money, or win the respect of others, or make you famous, is to dishonor God.

In our family we joke that we have a preacher, an author, an artist, and a hippie environmentalist. No wonder we aren’t planning to retire.

But before you laugh too hard or shake your head in American materialistic haughtiness, look a little closer. All four of us are attempting to stay true to the calling of our Master, Lord, and Savior. In each of our situations we try to bring beauty and hope to a world of dark despair.

Perhaps you laugh, so does God Almighty, Creator, Artist Extraordinaire, Originator of Words, Grandiose Gardener, Flawless Farmer. . . the laughter of pride, love, and joy. Stand firm in that knowledge.

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.
Harriet Tubman

Prejudice: Fighting the Unknown

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hands-718561__180She was small, not just petite. Looking back now I imagine that more than heredity had something to do with her size. Most likely she was malnourished. Her hair was never combed and was often full of nits and lice. Her clothes were filthy and she smelled bad enough that no one wanted to be her seatmate in class or on the bus. Hers was the last stop on the bus route. It must have been tortuous.

Mostly I ignored her, occasionally I let her join in our play or conversation. I was a good child, had a good heart, but one time I was cold-hearted, mean and ruthless. The memory of it still embarrasses me.

I was about eleven years old. Recess had just finished and we were all corralled into the bathrooms. I don’t remember why we did it. I don’t remember all of the culprits. What I do remember is partaking in a name-calling beratement that had to have hurt deeply. Pushing and shoving were involved as well. I exited the bathroom leaving my younger schoolmate in tears, the rest of us laughing and feeling accomplished.

Later, perhaps a year or so, my father who worked on the railroad near this child’s house stopped to help her mother with something. Their house tottered precariously over the river. There was no plumbing, no running water, no heat. It had to be a miserable existence this girl led with her single mother and two younger sisters. The only water they had came from the river. . . frozen over in the winter- the time of year in which I had castigated the small child.

My father told us at dinner about helping the woman and the state of her home. There were other times he stopped to help poor families in the “holler”, and the stories all sounded the same. These were houses we drove by every few days on our way to town. They were children who rode the bus with me, sat with me in class. But the stories didn’t change my thoughts. WHY did they come to school smelling like rotten potatoes, green snot running from their noses?

Then one time, during the spring floods, the river overflowed. The children went down to watch its fearsome power. Then one young boy, a brother of a classmate, slipped off the rocks and was gone. When he was pulled from the icy, rampaging water it was too late.

The funeral was held in the family’s home. I attended with my mother. And then I understood what I had been unable to before.

You cannot understand what someone is going through until you go into their world. You cannot understand the pain, the embarrassment, the confusion, the despair until you have sat beside it in shared grief. It was a lesson my parents were wise enough to teach me.

You don’t have to go to Haiti or Kenya or Romania to fully comprehend this lesson. I lived in middle-class luxury with poverty at my doorstep. I still do. And most likely so do you.

If you find yourself turning up your nose or looking away in disgust, that is probably the house that you need to stop by and visit. You need them as much as they need you. You just don’t realize it yet.

Compassion is a practically acquired knowledge, like dancing. You must do it and practice diligently day by day.
Karen Armstong

Look Inside the House

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window-811715__180Our house is an optical illusion. Built in the 1940s, it is what is called a “shotgun house”. A hallway divides the house in half opening to the front and back doors. A new neighborhood popped up in the field next to our farmhouse about two weeks after we moved in. Looking at the House for Sale flyers I know my house is larger than most of theirs, but my simple brick walls and “A-line” roof hide it well.

In a college English course, many years ago, I wrote an essay about being blonde. Many times in life people have failed to take me seriously because I am blonde. My hair color causes people to prejudge my intellect, my concerns, my ambitions. Looking at what color my roof is has been enough for some people to decide whether they should stay and visit or move along.

I recently watched a video produced by Canon. Six photographers were asked to photograph a man, but each was told something different about the man: he was a psychic, a fisherman, an alcoholic. . . Each photographer was asked to try to reveal the essence of the man. Each photographer created a vision of the man based on what they believed about him. It seems the filters for each picture were not the lights or lenses, but the person behind the camera.

I am still blonde; I am also a preacher’s wife, a mother, a home educator, a volunteer at a nursing home, and an English teacher. I was born and raised in West Virginia, have lived in the South for most of my adult life, and I keep chickens and goats. I have a college education, drive a Nissan Sentra, and speak at Christian conferences.

Each of those characteristics brings to mind particular attributes. Some aspects of the stereotypes may be correct assumptions about me, but other aspects may not. According to the Canon experiment, there isn’t much I can do to change the filters you will use to perceive me. All I can do is be me and hope that you will make the effort to look closer than the street curb and open the door to see who really resides here.

Have you taken the time to get to know people, or have you assumed you already know who lives in that house?

Prejudice is a great time saver. You can form opinions without having to get the facts. E.B. White

Don’t Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

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beagle-700879__180Beagles never do anything quietly. They howl, they whine, they bark persistently; quiet is not in their vocabulary. Even sleeping they moan and yip.

Yesterday about 5:00, Captain suddenly started yelling at us. It was the yell of “You stepped on my tail!”, but no one had been near him. I removed his collar, nothing there. I felt along his hind quarters, nothing. I rubbed his tummy, no again. Yet the yelling continued at sudden and unexpected moments.

I took Captain into my quiet room and tried to soothe him. After an hour or so he seemed calm and the pain gone. I went into the living room to visit with Matt and the dog followed, loudly proclaiming that he was still in pain.

In sudden bursts Captain would yell and rush at us. Matt, suffering a headache, loudly told Captain, “Stop yelling at me!” I did my best to comfort the dog, but as I told Matt, he wasn’t yelling AT us, he was yelling FOR us. He was in pain, afraid, and wanting comfort.

Not everyone asks for help in the same way. Some people, when in an uncomfortable or unfamiliar position, yell loudly and brutally, like our dog. Some people get quiet. Some people ask for comfort with their eyes, some with their mouths, and some with their actions.

But however they ask, comfort and understanding is what they desire. Take the time to listen to people. If they suddenly change their behavior, you can bet something is distressing them.

I was useless to Captain. I didn’t know what was wrong or what to do. But I stayed with him through the night, patting him, reassuring him of my presence. It certainly didn’t remove the pain, but it seemed to reassure him.

Is there someone in your life who needs your presence? You probably feel helpless and useless around them, but maybe what they need most of all is not solutions but the comforting knowledge of your concern.

Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4


Salty Tears

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IMG_20151024_073001862Exhaustion had overtaken me and watching the sunrise on the beach had been postponed. Now it was the last day of my retreat and I desperately wanted to be able to see the sunrise. Dragging myself from bed I slipped on my flip flops and pulled a jacket over my t-shirt.

The morning was cool and gray. Clouds hung heavy on the horizon, denying me the beauty of sunshine bursting forth in purple and pink splashes of warm liquid gold. Matt and I walked quietly for a half mile and then turned around to return to the room certain that our time of rest would end without seeing the sunrise.

Near our condo we stopped to look one last time. A spot of sunshine could be seen peeking through the edge of gray cotton. To my right an older couple stood at the water’s edge, hand in hand, watching the coming of another day.

That is what I want to be like, I thought. Spending my life with the one I love, watching sunrises while holding hands. What could be better?


As I photographed the dawning of the day, I noticed the woman wading into the water. She was determined, insistent, focused.

When the sun finally swelled over the horizon of water and cloud I turned to leave. That was when I saw the couple, joined on shore, holding each other, wiping each other’s salty cheeks. Tears filled my eyes as I unintentionally invaded their private moment.

I don’t know what was going on. Were they saying goodbye to a friend, to a loved one, to a moment in time? I don’t know. But, I thought, I still want to be like that. Sharing all of the moments, the good and the bad, all of them poignant and dear.


At Your Elbow

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humanitarian-aid-939723__180According to World Vision, at the end of 2014 there were 38 million people in the world displaced by conflict and violence. That equals all of the people of London, New York City, and Beijing combined. It is beyond my comprehension. 90 percent of nations that are monitored find that citizens whose lives are disrupted by war and conflict remain displaced for up to a decade or more.

I was on my way to work thinking about a student who is having some difficulties in her life. Halfway down the road a car was stopped in my lane. That was when I noticed the funeral procession I was driving past. I stopped and waited respectfully for them to proceed.

And then I started wondering. How many people do I pass by who are hurting from some major conflict and I never notice because I am focused on my own struggles? How many people do I see, but not really? How many of my neighbors flounder in conflict and violence within their lives, perhaps for a decade or more, and I never take notice?

Some people’s pain is easy to see. Refugees make the news every night; their plight is openly broadcast to the world. But your child’s school teacher who is going through a divorce may never tell you. Your dentist who is struggling with the death of his wife will never mention it. The cashier at Food Lion will not tell you her lights are being turned off because her husband’s medical bills have wiped them out.

Are your eyes open to the people you meet? Or are you driving through your days with your mind only on your own problems? Stop and look up. You may be the refuge that someone is looking for.

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[a] you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:35-40

A Peanut in Paradise

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peanuts-982663_640I walked onto the porch last evening to take the garbage to the can. A loud fan was running in the distance and my first thought was, Peanut harvest. My very next thought was that this is now home.

I have lived here long enough to know that a loud fan blowing in the autumn means the farmers are drying the peanuts. In a couple of weeks the rains will come and will last for a month or more. The temperature will slowly drop, sweaters will be necessary, and the leaves, just now turning brilliant shades of red and gold, will be gone.

I recently started meeting with another author to encourage each other and to have a little accountability. She asked what I like to read and I had no trouble telling her that I enjoy non-fiction, mostly biographies and autobiographies. But, I told my husband later, I actually have six books going right now. Two are fiction, four non-fiction, and yes, one is an autobiography. “You’re finally my real wife,” he said with a smile.

Matt is always in the process of reading several books. Right now he has five going. He just finished one last night.

I have lived here eleven years. I have been married to Matt for nearly twenty-six years. Time breeds familiarity.

Time and exposure lead to understanding, expectations, even imitation.

It is no different for our Christian lives of faith. It takes time and exposure to develop faith, understanding. It takes years before expectations develop into trustworthy ideas. And imitation is most commonly found in the mature believer.

The one thing that doesn’t take time? Actually, there are two. God accepts you immediately into his home and right away he calls you his real child.

Welcome home, sweet child of God.

These (Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah) all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. Hebrews 11:13-16

He’s Got High Hopes

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bucket-269648__180The waves crash nearer and nearer to the furiously digging children. The moat around their sandcastle is nearly finished, just a few more shovelfuls and it will be complete. The tiny shells decorating the sides and the Popsicle stick poking out the top attest to the time and energy these youngsters have put into their creation. But with a swoosh and a splash, it all ends in an instant.

They don’t cry or scream or wail. They jump up and down cheering the waves on as another larger crash slides the side of the castle into the moat. Seashells are scattered, sand is smoothed, and sunshine encourages them to go at it again. Their shovels already clearing out the castle ruins, new plans are made for a bigger and better fortress.

These tiny creators are following the lead of The Creator. He made it all and it was good. And then it faltered and crashed. He made it all again and it was good, until a flood wiped out every wall, every welcome sign to sin. And then he tried again. As darkness poured into the corners of his creation, he sent some sunshine to encourage the creation to try one more time.

And at each failure, he didn’t cry or scream or wail. He patiently began again with the new materials offered him. He is still going at it, adding a touch here, digging deeper there. Making the sandcastle kingdom into a solid fortress that saves every creature who seeks its shelter.

Keep trying. Keep rebuilding. Never give up.

The Creator doesn’t.

for the righteous falls seven times and rises again,
    but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.

Proverbs 24:16 ESV

Joining the Commune

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communion-519578__180An older gentleman came into the room, opened a small container, passed crackers and juice to an older woman, and then left. I was reading to the group of elderly people when the interruption occurred. Lillie is a shut-in at the assisted living facility and someone from her church occasionally brings her communion sacraments.

Another woman commented that it was weird. You never know what people at the old folks home are going to say. And yet, to me, it was odd. Because the communion sacraments should be taken in community, in true communion.

The following Sunday as I took the body and blood, I also sent a couple of text messages. Perhaps that is weird, too. I sent one to my sister-in-law several states away to tell her that we were taking communion and that I was thinking of her and love her. The other message was to a friend from my own church who was at urgent care with a raging, painful infection. I wanted her to know that she was in my thoughts and prayers.

Yes, communion was instituted by Christ to remember his sacrifice. It is a time to remember him and reflect on his great love for all of humanity. But it is also an event that we share with people all over the world. The same day you take communion, so do brothers and sisters in Australia, China, Nicaragua, and Canada. At the same time you are thanking Jesus for his sacrifice, so are Christians in Syria, Pakistan, North Vietnam, and Togo.

All over the world we remember Christ’s sacrifice, and we remember that we are not in this alone. God adopted all of us into his family. And every Sunday is a family reunion with a feast of immeasurable proportions.

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day,attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47

Are You An Armchair?

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dog-190292__180My younger son likes to go yard sailing. Yard saling? I don’t know how you spell it, but he likes to go to yard sales. He took a summer class at the local college and after the last day of classes he celebrated by getting up early on Saturday to check out yard sales. Yep. The boy likes his yard sales.

He happened upon a yard sale that was given by a friend. They were selling some of the grandfather’s things, among them a brown armchair. Think All in the Family. The friend said he remembers his grandpa reading the newspaper in that chair. The chair was important to him, to his memory. It was symbolic of a loving grandfather.

Amos bought the chair, brought it home, lugged it upstairs to his room, and sat down. Now the chair holds National Geographics, vinyl record albums, and cords that go to something, I just don’t know what.

The chair has become new, new to Amos anyway, but the purpose of the chair hasn’t changed. The chair is still used for holding things and people. The difference is who the chair serves.

When you become a Christian you don’t become a brand-new you. You look the same. You sound the same. You even have the same purpose. The difference is that who you serve changes. No longer are you serving yourself, chasing after your own desires, thinking first of yourself. Now you serve God, chase God, think of God.

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

These thoughts were first given by Amos on Sunday as he led his first communion service.