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.
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
A Christian reveals true humility by showing the gentleness of Christ, by being always ready to help others, by speaking kind words and performing unselfish acts, which elevate and ennoble the most sacred message that has come to our world. ~ Ellen G. White
Earth Day has come and gone, but the earth is still here. We shouldn’t need a holiday to take care of the home we have been given. There are many aspects that make up this special planet, but let’s just look at water for a minute. If you want more information you can find easy access here.
Almost 97% of the world’s water is salty or otherwise undrinkable. Another 2% is locked in ice caps and glaciers. Only 1% is usable for agriculture, manufacturing, and personal needs.
The average American uses about 100 gallons of water per day and more than 100,000 gallons of water per year.
Every square mile of the oceans contains more than 46,000 pieces of floating plastic.
About 8 million metric tons of plastic goes into the ocean each year.
The U.S. consumes 3.9 trillion gallons of water every month.
There are 5 trillion pieces of floating plastic in the world’s oceans.
Earth Day is a chance to stop and consider what we are doing to our world and how we can do better. Every last one of us is adding to the problem in some way, whether we waste food, litter, don’t recycle, or leave the lights on in an empty room.
Every day is also a chance to stop and consider what we are doing to the people in the world around us. Again, every last one of us is adding to the problem in some way, whether we ignore someone who needs a caring word, refuse to help a person in need financially or physically, or say something hurtful or unkind.
As Christians we have clean, pure water, living water, to refresh the world around us. Won’t you offer some to the person next to you? An ocean starts with a single drop.
“For we are His creation – created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10
I bit into the crusty bread. The warm sauce oozed between my teeth and the fresh pepperoni gave my tongue a familiar kick. Instantly memories of Grandma and Pap’s house flooded my mind and my heart.
Di Carlo’s Pizza is a Wheeling, WV icon. The dough and chunky tomato sauce are baked together. Then, fresh from the oven, the pepperoni and cheese are placed on top. If you aren’t from the Ohio Valley, you probably won’t like it. My sister-in-law and I didn’t care for it at first, but it has grown on us. Our husbands and their families though, woo boy! If they are in Wheeling, you can bet your socks there’s gonna be a Di Carlo’s run.
But this particular day we were in Myrtle Beach, SC, 12 hours from Wheeling. We were enjoying our last day of a short two day retreat from the world when Matt saw a coupon for Di Carlo’s. It said “Ohio Valley Style,” so we knew it was the real thing and headed a half hour out of our way to get the delectable treat. I, yes, me the Di Carlo’s denigrator, ate four pieces!
It wasn’t that they made it any better in Myrtle Beach. No, it was that Di Carlo’s Pizza was a refreshing hint of home that I so badly needed. See, a friend’s son passed away a few days before, another friend is suffering mental illness, the taxes were due, the dental bills are adding up, and I had just finished the arduous process of publishing my first novel. Matt has been working three jobs and having health issues. Amos is trying to get into college, and on the list goes.
I needed Grandma’s house. I needed Christmas Eve traditions, cousins visiting and playing, safety and protection. I needed a reminder that all of the things eating away at me, taking the joy out of life, are not where I really belong.
In one bite of crunchy bread, chunky tomato, and fresh cheese and pepperoni I was transported to home, my real home.
Every Sunday that I am able, I gather with a group of people I love. We talk, we play, we share tears of joy and pain, and we eat together. Some people who aren’t used to our style of meal, well, they just don’t care for it. But for those of us who belong, that meal transports us to home, our real home. Home where celebrations occur, where families visit, where we are safe and protected.
And for those who stay long enough to become part of the family, that small bite of crusty bread and that little sip of wine become a longed for delicacy.
“For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” John 6:33 ESV
My husband’s family was Methodist until he was about eight years old. One day his mother was collecting money in the neighborhood for the American Heart Association and she met Carol, a mother of two children the same ages as her own kids. They struck up a friendship and eventually a spiritual relationship.
Carol’s husband was the local minister at the Church of Christ, which just happened to be on the same block as my future in-law’s house. Soon the whole family was attending the church down the street.
Larry and Carol left the area several years later, but they didn’t leave my husband’s life. See, Larry and Carol are what doctor’s call “probiotics”; they’re good-for-you bugs. Larry and Carol served the homeless, the imprisoned, the hurting and helpless. They entered lives and stayed around to watch transformations occur. They encouraged the downtrodden, the immigrants, the sick. They celebrated marriages, births, and lives that passed on to reward.
And they stayed in touch. In fact, many years after they left my husband’s family they entered my life. Larry performed our wedding ceremony. We have stayed at their home on various occasions. They have offered us advice about being a “preacher’s family”. They send us Christmas cards with pictures of their grandchildren, who coincidentally are the same age as our own children.
If it weren’t for Larry and Carol, our children likely wouldn’t exist. My husband probably wouldn’t be my husband. My life would definitely be profoundly different.
Why? Because Matt has brought me closer to God. He has encouraged me to write, to speak, to serve, and to minister. His parents have helped to shape my marriage with the example they provide. His brother and sister-in-law are two of my best friends. Without Larry and Carol all of that would be different.
Today I spoke with my mother-in-law about our dear, dear friend Larry. He is in a hospital undergoing treatment for rapidly progressing mental illness: depression, paranoia, anxiety, and more. His wife went to get her oil changed at a local place yesterday and the mechanic, not a member of their church but only a community member, was tearing up to hear how Mr. Larry was suffering. It seems I am not the only one who has been so irrevocably changed because of the lives of these two saints, Larry and Carol.
There is a game in Hollywood called “Six degrees from Kevin Bacon” in which you connect actors and actresses to Kevin Bacon. I think a better game would be “Six Degrees to Larry Locke.”
So who out there has been touched by Larry? To start, if you are reading this post, YOU have. You are two degrees from Larry because of the way he has impacted my life. Please join me in praying for this sweet man who has served so diligently and faithfully. Pray for lucidity. Pray for clear-minded conversations. Pray for peace, and comfort, and the healing hand of the Father. I love you, Larry and Carol.
“Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.” Psalm 107:19-21 NIV
The real man smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection. ~ Thomas Paine
Friday was the beginning of the end. On Friday, Amos made the decision to attend WVU in the fall. On Saturday, he took the ACT for the final time, and he went to his Senior Prom.
He attended prom with two girl friends, not girlfriends. One girl’s mother is a photographer, so an hour before dinner we all met at a rustic, soon-to-be-remodeled building downtown and had a photo shoot. While the real photographer did her thing, I took pitiful little snapshots on my cell phone.
Then Matt and I left the kids to go get some dinner. While Matt drove to the restaurant, I flipped through the pictures. My heart climbed into my throat.
The little blonde peanut that giggled and played, that never saw anything but challenges to overcome, that snuggled and kissed his mama. . . had grown into a man.
I don’t know when it happened. Maybe it was when he started driving. Perhaps it was when he got a job. Or maybe it was the day he began classes at the local community college. I don’t know, perhaps it was the day that he took responsibility for his actions.
I really don’t know when it happened, but I know how it happened. He spent years watching those around him make decisions, take responsibility, be active and confident. Then he tried it on his own, and failed. He asked around, got some advice, and tried again with better results. And one day, without anyone realizing it, he became a man.
He still has some watching and practicing to do, but he is well on his way to being a mature man.
I have a friend who recently became a Christian. She is frustrated by her lack of growth. She isn’t sure what to do or how to do it. I’m not sure what I can tell her. Just like I don’t know when Amos became a man, I don’t know when she will become the Christian that she wants to be. But I do know it will take watching, and practice, and time.
But one day, who knows when, God will look at his little peanut and his heart will climb into his throat, because he will see a grown Christian.
If you aren’t where you want to be in your growth with God, don’t give up. Keep on watching others. Keep on practicing your skills: praying, studying, sharing, forgiving. And give it time. It will happen before you know it.
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18 NIV