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.
A line of black ants marched across the sun room floor, crawled into the dog dish, took some minuscule morsel, and marched back out the door. I can’t imagine what they were finding since the dog licks the bowl until it shines, but there they were, circling the dog dish like a pack of hungry wolves who’d found an emaciated doe.
I went on a march myself – straight to the pantry for the Lysol cleaner. I grabbed some paper towels and headed back to annihilate my enemy.
I spritzed the trail of ants, the bowl, the door, whatever looked like it might attract an ant. Then I wiped up the floor, turning the white paper towel a terrible shade of gray. I really need to work on my house keeping skills.
I walked back into the kitchen to throw away the dead ants when I noticed one crawling off the towel and onto my thumb. I sprayed the ant right there on my thumb. “Die!” I chortled with an evil laugh.
The ant, however, did not die. It bit me and refused to let go. Pain raced down my thumb into my hand. I ran for the kitchen sink and turned the cold water on full force. I thrust my thumb under the running water and waited for the coolness to take away the sting. It didn’t.
I have some sin in my life like that ant. My biggest sins are probably not yours, but sin is sin, so don’t get hung up on that. The issue is that I think I have killed the sin ant, that I am on my way to the garbage can to dump all that sin and be free and clean, when, WHAM, the sin wakes up and bites . . . hard.
The sun room remained ant-free for a couple of days, but then one afternoon I walked in, and yep, ants. Sometimes the weather makes them more active, sometimes it’s the season. Just like my sins become more active under stress or in bad-habit circumstances and situations. Then again, sometimes there is no reason for their presence other than the fact that my life is a dog dish. I’m never sure when the sin ants will start marching across to find and bite me.
What I do know is that living water does take away the sting of the sin ants. Jesus is my cleanser, spritzing away the trail that is left behind. Somehow the paper towel he uses doesn’t turn gray, but gets whiter with each swipe across my life.
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Revelation 7:16-17 ESV
Cloudy mist unfurled above me like a damp wool blanket, heavy and suffocating. The app on my phone assured me it was only 74 degrees. The glistening dew that trickled down my arms and back assured me that the app didn’t know what it was talking about.
The morning noises were muffled in the mist. Forms and figures floated through the fog, first looking like a bear, then a large dog, and finally just a bush. Sunlight tried to penetrate the thick, ground-covering cloud, but more fog rolled in and the morning grew darker.
Walking along the white line at the edge of the road I noticed the tall, summer grass. An intricate spiderweb twinkled as drops of dewy moisture clung to each delicate strand. Soon I noticed spiderwebs all around me.
Attached to long, slender, wild grasses intricate designs glistened, revealing the artistic abilities of the arachnid. Thirty feet up in a long-leaf pine a spiderweb waited for some unsuspecting insect. Clinging to the underside of the mailbox, filmy webs lay one upon another.
I turned into the subdivision neighborhood and continued walking along the road now marked by manicured lawns. Tiny, quarter-sized spiderwebs decorated the yards of my neighbors. Thousands upon thousands of those silky, silver traps were set, just waiting.
Most mornings I don’t see the hundreds of thousands of spiderwebs draped across the acres of grasses and lawns that I pass, but they are there, doing their job, saving our part of the world from being overrun by insects. Without my recognition, the spiders work all night long, weaving, twisting, spinning, designing, taking care of me.
Like Elisha’s servant, my eyes were opened in the midst of the battle. Without the heavy weight of the wet fog, I would have passed through the day once more without noticing the important role the spider plays in my life.
Without the heavy, suffocating fog and dark, cloud-covered days I might never notice the many ways my Father provides, weaving, twisting, spinning, designing a plan that will protect me. Even when I’m not aware.
Our God, you save us,
and your fearsome deeds
answer our prayers for justice!
You give hope to people
everywhere on earth,
even those across the sea.
You are strong,
and your mighty power
put the mountains in place.
You silence the roaring waves
and the noisy shouts
of the nations.
People far away marvel
at your fearsome deeds,
and all who live under the sun
celebrate and sing
because of you. Psalm 65: 5-8 CEV
I like girls who want to get up and dance and don’t mind singing in front of my family – you know, silly stuff. Some girls won’t eat in front of boys or won’t go bowling. They just want to go out and look pretty. I don’t really get that. I want someone who is up for having a good time. ~ Olly Murs
The ball wobbled right and then twisted left. Thunder echoed down the lane as the pins watched the boulder of doom roll toward them. And then the middle pins dropped, knocking over a few side pins. When the shaking stabilized, there were two pins left standing. One on each side of the lane.
I have never had much practice bowling. I don’t know the rules, except you get two turns per frame and don’t step over the line at the start of the lane. Oh, there’s also a courtesy rule that you don’t take your turn when someone in a nearby lane is rolling. You’ll get some mean looks if you do.
The only bowling experience I had as a child was Fred Flintstone on Saturday mornings followed by Bowling for Dollars. Fred danced on his tip-toes and rolled down the lane with the ball. The pros didn’t seem to care for choreography. I only stayed tuned in for them if it was raining outside.
So last week when I looked down at the taunting pins on each side of the lane I was disheartened. Fred Flintstone wasn’t going to help me here. I turned around to look at the group I was bowling with and five-year-old Hannah was all smiles. She ran and jumped in my arms.
“That was great, Mrs. Traci!”
When she looked at my roll she saw a valid attempt that ended with success. I knocked down pins, the point of the game.
I was also frustrated one day last week because I didn’t feel like I had done as well as I should have serving my Lord. I didn’t call some people, didn’t send some cards, didn’t write as much as I should . . . the list went on and on.
But then I looked down the lane at the standing pins and realized there were quite a few knocked over . . . completed Bible study, helped a sick friend, gave money to a needy individual, took care of my family . . . I had to admit, it was a valid attempt that had ended with success. My Lord was served, and that is the point.
It was when I compared my score to someone else’s that I figured I failed. Instead of listening to the taunts of the standing pins, I turned and listened to the joy of my Father.
“That was great, Traci!”
With a proud smile he opened his arms, and I jumped into his embrace. With more practice I’m sure I can improve my score. I mean, I’ve got the best coach there is. And I think he likes to tip-toe dance down the lane. Yabba Dabba Doo!
“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ Matthew 25:23 NIV
“Have they lost their mind?” Matt hollered as I walked down the hallway.
I was coming in from my morning walk and wondered what the boys could have done already.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I answered, looking around the living room. I couldn’t see any dead bodies or speeding tickets.
“Look out the window.”
I went to the window and looked north toward the water tower. Lights flashed at the intersection of the next road, orange detour signs wobbled in the wind of passing cars, and heavy equipment roared as it dug through the road. Another road construction project was underway.
When we returned from our trip to Quebec last month a sign declared the road would be closed at the south intersection for two months. The detour is unbelievable. Matt and I tried it one day just to see . . . Trust me when I say we are glad we live on this side of the construction.
Now with the new project on our north side, the detour became even longer. People were . . . ummm . . . unhappy.
I, however, am enjoying the road closure. You see, all of the traffic now turns before it gets to my house. I can walk on the road without fear of passing vehicles. I can sit on my front porch and enjoy the quiet stillness free of speeding cars and trucks on their way to work. Even the chickens are getting braver and approaching the road, which may be a problem in a couple of weeks.
The interesting thing about all of this is that, although there are signs for nearly a mile saying that the road is CLOSED, people still try to use it. They go all the way to the construction site before they turn around and fly back down the road like maniacal NASCAR drivers. Why didn’t they believe the signs?
There have been times in my life when I tried to avoid the signs. I wanted to travel a particular road . . . a certain job, adopting children, other journeys . . . but the road signs told me there was a closure ahead. I ignored them and sped on down the highway sure that the signs didn’t mean what they said. When I got to the actual construction site, I was livid. I would turn around and hightail it to the detour that had been posted all along.
In a few more weeks the round-about will be finished and traffic will reopen on our road. What once was a two way stop that often backed up for half a mile and caused several people to lose their lives, will then be a smooth flowing traffic circle.
And when I look back at those times of road work in my life, I’m pleased to see new traffic patterns that actually make my journey easier. If only I would have learned sooner to just sit on the porch and wait for that road to open.
“For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.” Habakkuk 2:3 CEV
“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 sipping 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