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.

Walking a Slack Line

Posted by on 5:56 pm in Blog | 0 comments

slackline-283223__180Slacklining 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.


“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”
Psalm 46:1-3 NIV

Screening Your Calls

Posted by on 2:40 pm in Blog | 0 comments

callingWhatever your calling is as a service, follow it – that’s beautiful. ~ Hill Harper

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

Sin Sticks

Posted by on 3:01 pm in Blog | 0 comments

birch“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

Recycling At Its Finest

Posted by on 2:11 pm in Blog | 0 comments

glass-255281__180Gramacho 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:

  1. The average person generates over 4 pounds of trash every day and about 1.5 tons of solid waste per year.
  2. Americans make more than 200 million tons of garbage each year, enough to fill Busch Stadium from top to bottom twice a day.
  3. 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

Every Day Can Be Earth Day

Posted by on 2:43 pm in Blog | 0 comments

earth

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

 

Pizza Spirituality

Posted by on 5:49 pm in Blog | 0 comments

pizza-973075__180If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… the people who give you their food give you their heart. ~Cesar Chavez

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

Six Degrees to Larry

Posted by on 8:01 pm in Blog | 0 comments

friends-1272735__180My 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

 

An End to An Era

Posted by on 3:36 pm in Blog | 0 comments

IMG_20160409_170927847

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

Sunrise

Posted by on 2:47 pm in Blog | 0 comments

morningI’m a morning person. I sing, I work out, I cook breakfast, I read my Bible and other devotionals, and I do it all with gusto. I especially like mornings in the spring and summer. The songbirds greet me with a chorus of “Zippa-dee-do-dah”. The sun dances through the window, cheery and bright.

But autumn slowly seeps in with fog and dreary rain. Getting up is not as easy. I would rather snuggle down into the warm nest of my quilt and comforter and avoid what I know is coming.

The time changes, the air changes, the light and the happiness and the song of the birds all change. It is harder to get up, harder to embrace the outdoors for a walk or a drive to the gym. The window is shut tight against the cold wind and darkness that threaten to force their way in. And it is harder to open my Bible, to listen to others’ words about God, even to pray.

But I get up anyway. I go to the gym, I make some warm oatmeal, and I crack open the Good Book.

Sometimes, the bad weather, cold darkness, and bitter wind arrive in the middle of summer. A bad report from the doctor, from the financial department, from the auto shop. Sometimes it is even a bad report from church; someone has lost their way or tried to make someone else lose their’s. Occasionally a storm blows in that includes all of these at once, and I burrow into the bed like Punxsutawney Phil crying for more time, more warmth, more sleep.

But I get up anyway. I work out with the disciplines I learned during good weather. I breakfast at the table of the Lord. And I dig deeper into the Word instead of my covers.

And then, when I raise my eyes and look out the window, a light begins to dawn. The birds begin a slow chorus. And the clouds begin to scatter.

No matter the season, no matter the weather, I know I must continue to seek the One who brings light to a dark world. Don’t let the weather be your whether or not.


“. . . And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
    for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
    in the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
    whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1:76-79 ESV

 

What Kind of Belly Dancer Are You?

Posted by on 6:41 pm in Blog | 0 comments

belly-dance-323313__180A couple months ago I signed up for belly dance lessons. I thought it would be fun. I thought it would be mildly difficult. I thought I could figure it out quickly. I don’t know what I was thinking!

Belly dance is beautiful to watch. It is graceful, elegant, controlled, and sensual. My class is filled with people who have been taking lessons for years. That means I often feel left behind and inept.

I have had fun learning what it takes to be a belly dancer, but a lot of it is not so fun. Bending my knees until my thighs shake and tremble with the effort, stepping on the ball of my recently healed broken foot, holding my arms up until they ache. . . yeah, not so fun.

Mildly difficult is not even close. You watch belly dancers and think, Oh, they’re moving their spine and their hips, and then the teacher comes by and holds your back and hips still while you are instructed on which tiny muscle is actually controlling that movement. And though some of you may think you can move your hips and arms at the same time, I dare you to move your hips left to right and one arm frontward and the other backward. Pat your head and rub your belly has nothing on belly dance.

Last week we spent the entire lesson on moving sideways. Let’s just say I will need lessons for years to come before I figure this out. There is no “quick” way to learn.

Sunday is Easter. Some of you will head to church because you are Christians and Easter is a pretty big deal in Christianity. Besides Christmas, it is THE Christian event.

You may not have been to church in a few weeks, months maybe. You haven’t read the Bible in over a year. You’ve been to a handful of Bible studies, but you aren’t sure what they’re studying right now. If someone asked your neighbor if you are a Christian, they’d probably answer, “I don’t know. A nice person, yes.”

You, my friend, are a belly dancing Christian wanna-be. You think it looks good, sounds fun (who doesn’t think chocolate rabbits are fun?). You sway your hips, move your spine, but the Teacher comes by and grabs hold. Just move this part.

What?!

Yeah. Christianity is hard, and it takes time. And when people look at real disciples, the kind who go to dance class for years, they think, Looks easy. I can do that. And really they can, but not if they only dance on Easter and Christmas.

If you are really going to dance for Jesus, really be a dancing disciple, it’s going to take some work.

But when you start to learn, and you’re practicing while fixing your hair in the morning mirror, and your arm actually does what it is supposed to do, well, then . . . You’ll be having FUN!


You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally.

I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 MSG