Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Day after Christmas

The house is quiet. The girls have all gone out—a result of cabin fever.

Earlier today the house was alive. All my girls were here; this event alone is a blessing to me. Packages were opened and exchanged. Surprises were attempted and executed. We had some of our old traditions and initiated some new. Food was made and consumed (too much). A bag of torn and discarded wrapping paper sits by the door. The tree will come down tomorrow because we are going away for a few days, and I want the house in order when we return. All the decorations will be wrapped and put back in their totes and boxes.

And just like that Christmas is over.

This has been a very different Christmas. Why? I am not sure. There isn’t one single reason to which I can point.

Don’t misunderstand. This wasn’t a bad Christmas. It wasn’t a Christmas Vacation scenario. You understand: when odd-duck family members show up or a Christmas bonus doesn’t come or a squirrel gets in the Christmas tree. There weren’t any odd demands or expectations. There weren’t any mishaps or great disappointments.

A different Christmas.

What was the day after Jesus’ birth like?

Did Joseph and Mary and the new baby remain in the stable? What happened the day after the shepherds appeared unannounced declaring they had been instructed by angels to find the couple? Did Mary and Joseph experience the anti-climatic depression that often follows a huge event? Did the quietness of the stable close in on them? Or did they welcome it as they mulled the meaning of their unexpected visitors?

Did Joseph go out into the Bethlehem to locate a more suitable shelter for his wife and her baby? Was the census really over that quickly? Did hundreds and hundreds of people suddenly leave the small town of Bethlehem and go to the larger metropolis of Jerusalem? Did this, perhaps, open up a room in an inn?

As Joseph scoured the small village of his ancestor, David, did he question his sanity? The birth had been normal. And Jesus looked like a normal baby. Had he imagined the angel’s message in his dreams? As Joseph walked through the labyrinth streets looking for a real bed, sandless food and a cold drink what fears did he confront? And what thoughts and plans and doubts did he entertain?

And what did Mary ponder as she tidied up the stall and replenished the straw in the makeshift cradle? As she changed the swaddling clothes on her little boy what was she thinking? As she rubbed his little limbs and body with oil did she ask herself if she had simply dreamed or imagined the day before? As she called back to mind each shepherd’s face and words what exactly did she ponder in her heart? As she held the tiny bundle what stirred in her breast?

It is the day after Christmas.

The din and the excitement have simmered low.

My house is quiet.

My spirit is not.

What are you saying to me, Father?

What lessons have you tucked into this holiday to reveal yourself to me?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Inn or Stable?

Here we are. The day before Christmas Eve.

Many people have asked, Are you ready for Christmas? More people than I can count. What does that question mean? In the middle of writing this post someone just asked, “Are you ready for Christmas?”

How does that question translate?

Is your house clean and in order? (Are you kidding me?)

Is your tree up and decorated? (Yes. Crazy lights and red ornaments and all.)

Are all your presents bought and wrapped? (Bought? Yes. Wrapped? Not yet.)

Have your packages been boxed and mailed? (Nope, I fail with that one every year.)

Is your baking done? (No, that grand event begins tomorrow.)

Are you ready for Christmas?

Am I ready for Christmas, Father?

On this Christmas Eve Eve what preparations do I need to make? What do I need to do for this Baby to be birthed in my heart anew?

Will I be the inn or the stable?

Will I send you away—not recognizing you in the trappings of humanity? Will I tell you there’s no room because I have filled this heart of mine with so many other things? Will I dismiss the niggling feeling I have beneath my skin as just the jittery adrenaline of the season? Will I be able to discern your voice in the cacophony of the crowded streets around me?

Will I invite you in and recognize you for who you really are? Will I throw open the door of my heart regardless of the cobwebs and dustiness? Will I make a place for you in my warm and pungent scented stalls? Will I be able to set aside my embarrassment and just simply tell you to come on in? Will I welcome you despite the fact that I am a stable and inevitably filthy?

Am I ready for Christmas, Father?

Someone just asked me that question again.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Christmas Feeling

One week until Christmas Day.

I thought I was moving into the season. Catching the spirit. Snow came—unexpectedly. The Christmas program at church was incredible. The last day of school came, and there was a latent sense of excitement. Students passed out packages to the teachers, said Merry Christmas and have a good break. Snow came—again. And ice.

And still many around me are saying this doesn’t feel like Christmas. What does Christmas feel like? When you wrap your arms around this holiday what weight does it have in your embrace? Or do you even embrace it?

A co-worker of mine played the annual Santa Claus not long ago. Obviously he enjoyed himself very much; you could see the enthusiasm as he donned his red velvet coat and knee-high boots. His bells jingled merrily as he walked to his place and greeted a whole lot of children who came just to see him. Later, I asked him what he enjoyed the most about this role. He explained, “I love seeing the wonder in the children’s eyes. Knowing I helped that happen is just great. Absolutely great!”

Seeing the wonder. Perhaps that is what is missing this Christmas. This year I find myself far more cynical than in previous ones. I avoid the retail marketplace—going only when I must. It’s more than that though…

I have lost my wonder. I seemed to have misplaced my awe. Perhaps this is because my children are grown now. No Christmas lists. No Christmas wishes (other than ones I can’t provide). Gone is the starry-eyed gaze when the Christmas tree is turned on and the lights dimmed. Gone is the barely-contained excitement of hiding gifts and trying not to peek. Gone are the whispers and the anticipation of Christmas morning. Next Christmas morning we will wake up in different places and have different agendas.

So, what does Christmas feel like?

Another one of the best Christmas memories I have happened when I was about seventeen. Christmas was very close and my step-father had not shopped yet. He and I talked about what he wanted to get his children for Christmas. They were all older than me. I offered to shop for him. I remember the amount of money he gave me, and I also remember the fun I had shopping. Honestly, I can’t remember everything I found for them that year, except for my oldest step-brother. He loved to camp, so I spent a great deal of time looking at portable stoves, sleeping bags, lanterns and cooking gear. I was elated.

I brought all these gifts (plus the ones for my step-sisters) and showed them to my step-father. He seemed so pleased. I handed him an envelope with the remainder of the money he had given me to purchase these gifts.

He opened the envelope and then looked at me quite puzzled. “What’s this?”

“Your change and your receipts.”

He started to chuckle. I love to see my step-father smile and laugh. His whole face lights and his blue eyes sparkle.

“Honey, that money was for you for Christmas. That was your Christmas money.”

I stood looking at him, not quite comprehending what he was telling me. He handed the envelope back to me.

He hadn’t known what to get me, so he had given me money so I could get what I wanted. I hadn’t understood. I know I must have looked just ridiculous to him—standing there with my mouth agape.

I remember trying to think about where I had misunderstood my step-father? What phrase or set of instructions had I not heard? What course of conversation had led me to believe he was sending me out as his Christmas elf?

I still don’t know.

I do know the feeling I had in that moment standing in the back room of the family restaurant is what I want Christmas to feel like.

That was probably one of the best Christmas presents I ever received. No, not the envelope. I don’t remember what I bought myself with that left-over money. Don’t remember at all. I do know that years later my step-brother was still using the camping stove.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Investments

Recently someone asked the question what is your favorite Christmas memory? I couldn’t answer immediately. Can I answer according to genres of memories? Of course I have favorites from my daughters’ childhoods, and I have favorites that are connected with my dearest friends. One memory, however, is highlighted for me, and I think it is time to share.

When I was sixteen years old I started writing freelance for our county newspaper. No illusions of grandeur involved. It was just a small town, weekly paper. I wrote feature articles and occasionally did my own photography for my articles. I can’t express how much fun this little job was for me. To be able to interview and have conversations with interesting people, write their stories and record their expressions through film incorporated so many things I enjoyed.

I was an only child until I was almost eighteen. The Christmas I am recounting was before I had a baby brother. When I look back now, I realize how young my mother actually was. Young, pretty, charming and only thirty-four years old. Today I am ten years older than she was that Christmas—this detail fascinates me.

Christmas was always a strange event at our house. I do not say this to be critical, but just simply because I didn’t grow up with set traditions. One year Christmas was one way and the next it would be completely different. For some reason that year Christmas was at my grandmother’s house.

We ate dinner; honestly, I don’t even remember what was on the menu. I was preoccupied. After dinner was over my mother gathered everyone and pushed a huge box toward me. Huge. Beautifully wrapped and hard to move. No one else had a gift to open and I felt quite awkward. Everyone was watching me. I unwrapped the box; the brown exterior gave me no clue as to its contents. Eagerly I opened the box. Certainly what was inside was not what I expected. Inside were shredded newspaper and other packages. I am not sure how many, but I pulled out the first one and opened it.

I am sure I looked at my mother as if she had grown three heads. The first inside package was filled with potatoes. Yes, you read that correctly. Potatoes. No explanations. Everyone started to smile. I pulled out the next box. I opened it with much less enthusiasm. Inside this box was a five pound bag of flour. No explanations. Everyone chuckled. I did not. Quickly I decided everyone in the room had been clued in on this Christmas prank.

I pulled out a third box. When I got the paper off I was surprised. Surely not, I dared not to hope considering that so far I had potatoes and flour. I opened the box. Startled I reached in and pulled out exactly what was pictured on the box. I was stunned speechless. I was holding a 35 mm camera. Oh, it was a beautifully professional black monstrosity of a thing. I remember my hands shaking as I removed the lens cap. I lifted the camera to my eye and peered through the viewfinder. I felt the magic; I tingled.

Before I could fully absorb this magic my mother spoke, “There’s more. You’re not finished yet.”

I looked around and everyone nodded. I put my camera down and reached into the box again. This time I unwrapped canned goods. Green beans, I think. Maybe corn. By now, I had caught onto the game. I can’t remember what was in the next box. I reached for the last one. I am not sure, but I think I held my breath. What could top a 35 mm camera? Again, the box caused me to pause. Surely not. Surely this was not what was inside!

I tore the flaps back and pulled out…a typewriter.

Not just any typewriter, but one with an LCD screen that enabled me to correct my text before it ever touched the page. Flabbergasted might be a good word to describe my feeling.

A camera and a typewriter.

Almost thirty years have passed since that Christmas. Thirty years. I am sure my memory is colored and muted in some ways. Very much like when we were young and visited our grandparents’ house and it seemed enormous, then years later we returned and suddenly the same house seemed very small. I am sure I have some of the details out of place or perhaps even incorrect.

I don’t, however, have the impact these gifts made on me incorrect.

My mother invested in my future. She recognized my promise and gave me something to empower that potential.

She invested in my love of beauty. Over the yeas I used that camera to take many photographs. This developed my eye to see the unfamiliar. I learned to see something incredible in both the ugly and the lovely.

She invested in my love of words. I still have poetry and short stories printed from that early word processor. It went to college with me and helped me produce quite a few research papers.

She invested in my imagination. There was incredible magic for me in those captured images and descriptive words created with that camera and typewriter.

That Christmas my mother invested in me. With those gifts she acknowledged my giftings and encouraged them.

Many elements from that Christmas are gone. Sadly even the camera and the typewriter have been retired.

But the magic they held remains.

Thank you, Mom. Thank you so much.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Reason for the Season

There’s a billboard war going on in New Jersey. I was checking CNN news this past week and caught the blurb.

In New Jersey there are certain groups purchasing billboard space to advertise the Reason for Christmas. One declares Christmas is a myth and to please USE reason this season and one declares Christmas is not a myth and remember the reason for the season. I had to read the article twice to make sure I understood what was happening.

What a sad, sad commentary on both sides of the issue. Not only do we have to go into retail stores and be bombarded with the mentality that purchases make us superheroes at Christmas, but now we have to watch a petty tit-for-tat squabble played out on the edges of the highways.

Yes, I did say I was sad. I don’t like politics at all, and this whole scenario smacks of political bantering and bickering on both sides.

Both groups would have made better use of their funds by investing in their communities—feeding the hungry, clothing the ragged, giving shelter to the homeless, providing medicine for the sick and caring for the lonely.

Love should manifest in action. There should be feet and hands to accompany the declarations. We are exhorted to not only love in word, but in action and in truth.

We, the Christian Body, constantly make reference to the fact that Christmas is the time when our Deity became flesh. He entered our world and put skin on to become one of us in order to save us. And as cliché as it may sound we are now extensions of his flesh. We are his hands and feet.

Often we are too busy arguing religion or theology. We are too preoccupied with the abstracts of the faith instead of becoming the tangible manifestations of His flesh. We are told to know in whom we believe, to be grounded in sound doctrine, but not at the expense of neglecting those who Jesus is so tender towards: the hungry, the poor, the destitute, the weary, the helpless, the weak and the oppressed.

Please, let’s not spend this holy season arguing about the reason for the season. Let’s not spend our time in an endless debate, but instead let our love be manifested in taking care of each other.

Yes, let us celebrate reason. Our God says, “Come, let us reason together.” (Isaiah 1:18).

What I Want for Christmas, Part II

I can’t write this one.

I tired to finish it right after the last one; even then I had to set it aside. As I sat here this morning and tried to articulate the other requests I have on my heart, I realized they are far too personal -- not just for me but for the ones I long to bless.

Happy December 4th!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

What I Want for Christmas--Part 1

Earlier this week I was talking to one of my daughters on Facebook. We discussed the Christmas holidays—with our family, and all the webs and networks it contains—and how complicated they could be. She has to work on Christmas Day, and we were trying to plan Christmas at my house. Then I asked her what she wanted for Christmas.

Her answer surprised me. She explained that what she wanted this year couldn’t be bought or put under the tree. She elaborated and I realized I cannot obtain what she longs for and my mother’s heart aches.

Only the Father can fill this list.

Pondering our conversation led me to consider my own What I Want for Christmas List.

Part 1

Retreat. I would enjoy three days of retreat.

One day of retreat I would drive to Gethsemane , Kentucky and spend the day. I would take only my bible, journal, pen and a sketch pad. Simply a day designed and made for reflection—looking back, seeing now and peering forward. Just me.

Another day of retreat I want to spend with my four daughters. I want to sit around a table and have lunch and tease each other. I want to stand in line and get coffee and hot cider and linger. I want to sit in the middle of the four of them at the theater and see a movie and laugh or cry. And I want to take photos and then go and print the ones we love just so we can remember the day. Just the five of us.

And another day of retreat I want to spend with my husband. I want to visit all our favorite haunts, and then to dinner where we sit on the same side of the booth and share a plate and talk and discuss the ideas we write down on our napkins. I want to share a piece of cheesecake at a tiny table at a bookstore and laugh about two year old memories that seem like a lifetime long already. And at the end of the day I want us to read a book out loud to each other. Just us.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Remember

Usually Christmas is the highlight of my year—the culmination of a whole year of days strung together. Christmas is like putting the cherry on the top of the sundae or the curly-que on top of the ice cream cone. Christmas is the finishing touch on the year.

But I haven’t been in the mood for Christmas. I winced as I typed that sentence. It seems so disloyal and Scrooge-like. I have avoided even thinking of Christmas this year. I am not sure why; I haven’t been able to put my finger on the reason.

Procrastination? Lack of funds and time, perhaps? Fear of being unable to meet expectations and demands? Maybe even a tad of rebellion because I don’t want the retail moguls influencing me. Actually let’s get to the root of the problem—for me Christmas is only Christmas if my heart and gaze is fixed on Jesus.

And it takes time to fix your heart and gaze. You can turn in that direction, but that doesn’t mean you are fixed. To turn in that direction there has to be a moment of stillness—an immeasurable stretch of time when you are held in suspension. A holding of your breath. A remembering.

Remember sitting in the dark with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and only the lights of the Christmas tree illuminated the room?

Remember the wonder you used to feel at the tiniest, simplest of things like the play of the light on an ornament suspended from a branch?

Remember waiting for the bell to ring in It’s a Wonderful Life?

Remember when the first strains of O Holy Night wafted through the air and you paid attention—you actually heard the words?

Remember when your children came down the stairs on Christmas morning—pell-mell, tumble-bumble* and their eyes grew wide?

Remember the poignancy of The Little Drummer Boy’s melody?

Remember when during a Christmas Eve service someone reached across the aisle and lit your tilted candle?

Remember when the angels broke the stillness of the dark night to announce a baby’s birth?

Remember when Mary gave birth to her child and there was a silence before he cried?
Today I remembered.

Today I held my breath. Just for a moment.

Large, airy flakes fell today—the first day of December.

Snow.

Beautiful.

White.

Silent.

For an immeasurable moment I felt wonder and awe.

In this stillness my heart started turning and stirring.

Come, Christmas! Come.

My heart is now being prepared.

I am ready for you now.


*from The Pokey Little Puppy

Monday, November 29, 2010

Regardless and Anyway

This weekend I went to church. I didn’t want to go; I thought about staying home. As I turned into the parking lot I considered whipping the car around and going back home.

But I didn’t.

I went in and took a seat. Our crowd was low due to sickness and a four-day holiday weekend. The music did not move me; odd, since there is always one song or one phrase that catches me. Communion did not pierce me as it usually does. My spirit was dull.

I dug in my purse to find a pen to take notes. Not one to be found. I am a teacher and a librarian and no pen or pencil? Seriously? My daughter handed me one, and our minister started to speak.

Here’s the crazy thing. Our minister is one of our dearest friends, so when he speaks there’s an element of conversation—a dialogue of sorts, but I was a little off kilter and so the first part of his message filtered in and filtered out (sorry, Dave). His message was about gifts under the tree this Christmas.

I didn’t want to hear about Christmas. I had had enough of Black Friday (and I didn’t even go shopping) and I had already heard way too much about Cyber Monday. The subliminal headlines in everything I read or heard was buy, buy and buy. So, Christmas was not on my high list of priorities or even on my agenda yet. But here was Dave preaching about the gifts under the tree.

Where are you going with this, Dave? He let me know. He asked, “Do you have peace under your Christmas tree this season?” If you answered the question no then he suggested several things to help you find that peace. Typical message, right?

Nope, not with Dave.

Dave wasn’t talking about world peace. Dave was talking about personal peace, and what we must do to find it.

Now remember I was zoned out during the first part of his message. Little did I know the Holy Spirit was sitting in the row right behind me. As Dave began to discuss this last point, the Spirit leaned forward and tapped me on the shoulder. He whispered in my ear, “Are you listening? You need to pay attention. This one is for you.”

Dave’s final point. If you want peace in your life there are some relationships that must be restored. There are some people in our lives that we just simply have to decide to love regardless. And forgive anyway.

Regardless. Anyway.

Again the Spirit nudged me just to make sure I was taking notes.

I was. Reluctantly.

Dave asked, “Are there people in your life who are just mean? Family members who have wounded you in some way? Is there somebody who makes you want to grit your teeth and clench your fists? If you want peace in your life you got to love and pray for them anyway.”

And the Spirit whispered that somebody’s name in my ear.

I flinched.

I didn’t want to hear this message. Maybe I should have just stayed at home, then I wouldn’t have heard this challenge and I wouldn’t have had such an inner struggle.

Today, the Spirit whispered another name in my ear.

Obviously I needed this message.

Good thing I didn’t stay home.

Lord, please help me with regardless and anyway.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving List 2010

I heard someone say this week that one of their favorite holidays was Thanksgiving; I suppose I was surprised. Of course, being surprised I tried to decide why. Another wise person commented that department stores had not quite commercialized Thanksgiving. And I pondered the truth of that statement.

It is not easy to market thankfulness. Gratitude is a commodity which cannot be coerced; it is either present or not.

I am rethinking Thanksgiving.

I am thankful, so very thankful for:

Mid-term Grades. Posted on the fridge and shouted from the rooftops, in classrooms or across phone towers. More importantly I am so thankful for the incredible minds producing these grades.

Hugs. These have to be one of the best parts of life. When my husband and daughters and best friends hug me I am in a sweet, sweet spot.

Phone calls. My heart is blessed a thousand times over because my grown daughters call me almost every day. What a pleasure. What an honor.

My brother. I am thankful for the letter he carries in his wallet and for his voice on the phone.

Laughter. Absolutely one of the most phenomenal medications in the world. Cleansing, refreshing and invigorating.

Babies. Precious Tatem. Hosea from Bolivia, Silas, Wyatt, Steven, Jude, Olivia and sweet Sinclair. They renew and replenish something old and ancient inside me.

Co-workers. How blessed I am that both places I work are filled with incredible people. Talented, creative, energetic, concerned, intelligent, spiritual, eccentric and beautiful people.

Teaching. What an incredible, wonderful, frightening calling.

Friends. People you love and who love you.

Family. People doing life together—in whatever way you possibly can: emails, letters, phone calls, quick visits in between classes, moments grasped in the oddest of places, after church, sharing of food drawers, watching out for each others’ children, encouragement and accountability shared.

Home. I am thankful for this place I live—these walls and the contents. I am thankful for the three other people who live here. Thankful for the piano room and all the music that comes from it. Thankful for the kitchen—the heart of the house—my favorite space. Thankful that when I walk in and close the door behind me I enter a haven. A perfect one? No. A warm and safe one? Yes.

Prayer. Short cries for help. Long, pleading prayers for wisdom. Breaths and sighings for what I don’t even understand. Frustrated jabs of angst. Weary moans of being at the end of my strength, angry snaps of expectation. He hears and translates them. He answers them all. Yes, I said all. How I always want or ask? No. How I expect? No.

Contentment. Underrated and overlooked. I am content, and it is a delicious place.

Peace. Not as the world gives. Not the absence of trouble or struggle or conflict, but an inner steadiness in spite of these.

Hunger. Both spiritual and physical. I have been both in recent days. I have made myself wait until truly hungry before eating. Food, then, tastes so good. I have been spiritually hungry because I have forgotten and neglected to come to the table. Spiritual hunger is by far the keenest.

Intimacy. I have someone who knows me. Steve anticipates my thoughts and actions. He looks to me and says, “I see you; I love you.” And the statements are powerfully synonymous.

Change. It reminds us we are alive. Keeps us flexible. Enables us to work the muscle of our faith—otherwise, it would atrophy. Change produces a sharp and persistent edge in prayer. Change keeps us awake and alert. Change reduces the possibility of stagnancy.

My list could go on, but I will stop here. My heart is full.

My heart is full.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.


May our Father pour out his richest blessings on you and yours—and may you recognize and acknowledge that all you have and are is a result of his grace and the abundance of his hands.

Rainy Morning

I woke to the rain yesterday morning—falling steadily on the roof. At first I didn’t know what it was because it hasn’t rained in a long, long time. I relaxed, sinking deeper and deeper into the softness and warmth of my bed. I didn’t fall back asleep, but the rain soothed me. Listening intently I tried to separate the sounds. The rain hit the roof in a hard, rhythmic pattern. It gushed through the gutters and rushed down the drain spout—pouring out onto the edge of the porch below. Lulled by the sound I hovered in a sleepy awareness. I had forgotten what an absolutely incredible place a dark, rainy morning can be.

I wondered what time it was; I really didn’t want to know because I certainly wasn’t interested in rising. I listened more and began to pray.

And the prayers became like rain, coming naturally, forming patterns and gushing and rushing, quietly whooshing as a whisper on the other side of my voice. It was like my breath. Perhaps that is exactly what was happening—breathing in and breathing out—praying is that simple and yet that complex. We don’t need to understand the biological details to know we must breathe.

We just breathe.

Prayer is the same. We don’t have to understand how prayer works, how it reaches the Father’s ears amid millions of others being uttered at the same time, in order to pray.

We just pray.

For a few moments yesterday morning I entered a sanctuary—a holy place. For just a moment I could smell the incense burning and smoldering. For just a brief interlude I could see the smoke rise—curling and wafting upward. (Psalm 141:2)

Then I heard the rain again. I listened to it move down the shingles of the porch roof. My bed was even warmer, the covers and blankets were heavy. Then the alarm sounded; I came out of my sleepy awareness to drowsy alertness and reached for my phone on the nightstand…

Somehow those few brief moments were more real than the cold, wooden floor as I stood to get ready for the day.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

50 Questions

I gave my Humanities students an assignment: create fifty questions. They can be serious and silly—just write. Rarely do I make my students do an assignment that I would not do myself.


Here are my fifty questions.

1. What if I wasn’t afraid of myself?
2. What if I truly didn’t allow what others think of me to sway my choices or
my behavior?
3. What if my love for Jesus actually became flesh?
4. What if I could sing?
5. Why can’t I move mountains? Is my faith too shallow?
6. If I were wealthy would I be generous?
7. Do I really trust God? Really?
8. Why does Ireland call my name?
9. Why can’t I be more disciplined?
10. Is the randomness of my mind an indicator of something amiss?
11. Will I ever learn to say no?
12. What would happen if I stopped second-guessing myself?
13. How would Alzheimer’s affect my family and me?
14. Would I be a completely different person if I had grown up with my dad?
15. What would happen if I told Go he could do whatever he wanted to do in my
life and I actually allowed him to do it?
16. I wonder what would happen if I actually sent a manuscript to a publisher?
17. Will I leave a legacy behind?
18. Why in the world do I have three dogs?
19. Why am I so scatterbrained?
20. Will I be a good grandmother?
21. Will I ever learn to speak the right words at the right time?
22. Will I ever learn to rightly measure success?
23. Is history and time linear, circular or both?
24. How do you decide that you are old?
25. Why are there only three primary colors?
26. Why do I love tomatoes so much?
27. How many times will I fail before I learn?
28. What causes an addiction?
29. Why do dogs turn around and around before they lie down?
30. Will I be able to continue learning?
31. Why do I almost always fall asleep during movies at home?
32. What holds me in bondage?
33. Why do I turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to global pain?
34. I only drink water; why do I love water so much?
35. Will I ever get to the point where I move to a deeper spiritual maturity?
36. Why am I a procrastinator?
37. Why do I drink only out of glass glasses?
38. Why can’t I be more technologically savvy?
39. Why can’t I memorize Scripture?
40. Why do I like the color red?
41. Why am I such a voracious reader?
42. Why do people judge books by their covers?
43. Why do I eat Chinese food only with a plastic fork?
44. How did my daughters get to be so beautiful?
45. Why do I write with ONLY black pens?
46. Why can’t I dance? ALL my daughters can!
47. Why am I mesmerized with thin places?
48. Why do I like peonies better than roses?
49. What if I actually followed through with everything I intended?
50. I am almost 45 years old, what does God have planned for me now?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Let Go.

In worship this weekend we sang about God’s strength. This is a common theme on Sunday mornings and we tend to glide right over the words. We know they are true, but we forget the power of the reality of them. We hope they are true—all the time wondering deep inside why this strength isn’t being lent to us.

As the words began to move out of my mouth other words moved in my heart—into the secret place of me that only the Spirit accesses. He had my attention and I began to hear.

You are depending on your own strength—you are depending on your own abilities to accomplish and achieve what you believe to be spiritual and miraculous. Your abilities and strengths, however, are futile. They are frail and fragile; they can be compromised by circumstances and situations.

You strain and strive in an attempt to repair and fix your and others’ brokenness, and when your efforts fail you either blame yourself or you blame me. You allow yourself to get busier—filling your time with good things, but even the good things will rob you, can distract you. Then you withdraw and retreat. You avoid friends and you avoid me. You are afraid someone will see through your façade of busyness you have built.

Eventually you begin to feel numb. You struggle because you have no place to breathe. Deeply-seated guilt rises as dross to the surface. And no matter how much you skim the residue remains.

Let go. My strength is not dependent on you. My strength and the offer of it are not calculated by your strength’s index or capacity.

Let go. You are afraid to let go. You are afraid to freefall—fearful of whether I will catch you if you just simply let go. Letting go is a surrender of control.

Let go. Let go of all your attempts to fill the silence. Stop avoiding me. Stop ducking around corners when you feel me coming. Stop.

Let go. Open you hands and allow everything in them to slide off into my hands. Don’t curl your fingers in an attempt to catch them. I won’t take them from you. You must decide to give them to me.

Let go and allow me to give you the strength to do what I have called you to do.

Let go and let me love you.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Evening Prayer 3

Thank you for answered prayers.

Today you moved mountains.

Thank you.

The mountains sometimes daunt me. There are moments that the bend in the road ahead causes me to pause.

Thank you tonight that you stay so far ahead of me.
And you reach around and grab my head and pull me along with you.
I am slow, Lord. I stumble over my own feet.

You tell me through Isaiah to watch the signs and to take note of the road I am on, but I forget; I get distracted. Suddenly I look up and I have missed a turn somewhere. One turn becomes two. And I keep trying to make rights to get back to where I started.

Don’t let me go. Don’t let go of my hand.

I can’t navigate this road by myself. I don’t read maps very well.

But you are faithful.

And I am trusting in your faithfulness to get me home.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Evening Prayer 2

My God, you are worthy. Worthy of my full attention. Paul tells us we are to think about that which is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable and excellent. The Hebrew writer tells us to fix our eyes on you.

You are these things, Father.

And yet, I approach you not in the confidence that the Hebrew writer exhorts us, but I talk at you—and my prayers become a rote litany of words. Artificial.

I did this tonight. Someone asked me to pray for them, and I talked at you. I hurled words into the air with little thought to where they were going or to whom I was speaking. And my spirit shrunk and shriveled because I realized the truth of the old adage “familiarity breeds contempt”.

To approach the throne with boldness does not mean to enter in arrogance. Arrogance causes me to approach the throne room on my own faulty merit, my own inflated sense of goodness. I enter using my own name.

And because I come in my arrogance my prayers feel hollow. The disconnect is sudden. I sense the space that looms between us. I feel the awkwardness—and then I am aware of how foolish I am.

Oh God, I am foolish. I. Am. Foolish. Foolish for being too familiar with you. I have mistaken familiarity with intimacy. My contempt is subtle—fed by self-deception.

Forgive me.

Forgive my foolishness and my arrogance. There is no place in your kingdom for either.

Oh my God, teach me to approach your throne.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Evening Prayer

Oh Come, Father.
Come to us.
Hover over us.
Let your great wings move the wind mightily in our direction. May it blow away our complacency and our apathy.

Oh Come, Father.
Come to us.
Expose us.
Let your great light shine in and through us. May it burn away the dross of our self-deception.

O Come, Father.
Come to us.
Divide us rightly.
Let your great sword slice through our very joints to the marrow. May your word point out the discrepancies between our thoughts and our intentions. May your word cut away the excess of our flesh---rightly called selfishness.

O Come, Father.
Come to us.
Abide in us.
Stake the pegs of your tent deep in the soil of our inner terrain. May your Spirit dwell in these limited, finite places.

O Come, Father.
Come to me.
Transform me.
Bend my reflection to match every contour of your beautiful face. Overlap your image on mine so that others see you.

O Come, Father.
Please come to me.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

17 Things

Today is my third daughter’s 17th birthday. She got her driving license on Friday; where did time go? She is beautiful and lovely all at the same time. She is a balm and salve to the wounded and the hurting and the weary. And she is good medicine; she causes ripples of laughter wherever she goes.

Happy birthday, dear Olivia.

17 things I love about Olivia:

Her ability to recognize almost any musician and any song—her version of “name that tune.”

Her eclectic sense of style—she has a recognizable signature.

Her charm—it’s genuine.

Her ability to move from one generation to another with honest ease. She can have a real conversation with a 93 year old Nanny and a 2 year old little boy.

Her ability to feel, interpret and translate music to piano keys.

Her love for her sisters.

Her physical comedy and hilarious character voices.

Her ability to see beauty in unexpected places and people.

Her scissor-happy habits.

The deep clarity in her eyes.

Her wisdom—it moves far beyond experience.

Her laughter—from a theatrical giggle to an outright belly chuckle.

Her intense, penetrating prayers.

Her ability to love the unlovable.

Her growing ability to step back and assess a situation.

Her ability to laugh at herself.

Her innate gentleness.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

It’s late.

I have tried to fall asleep, but there is too much noise in my head. My body is tired and my eyes are heavy, but my mind is in a gear that is not shifting down.

Noise.

There’s a hundred voices shouting, yelling and murmuring in my head. I have tried to shut them down—one by one like you would the lights in the house as it goes to sleep.

I keep remembering that Jesus said we are not to worry, we are not to be anxious and we are not to fear. I keep remembering there is no one to please, but Him. So, I keep attempting to shut down the voices until there is only one.

One voice in the midst of the noise.

Each voice, each agitated worry, each careful concern and each niggling anxiety I bag and lay at his feet.

Bag after bag. I watch my little self carry the bags and dump them at his feet.

His voice is different. There is no manipulation. No guilt. No coercion. No wheeling. No demanding. His voice pierces through and speaks my name:

Tamera, Tamera.

Just as he did with Martha long ago.

I am doing it again. Acting like Martha. Wondering what I am supposed to be doing rather than what I am supposed to be being.

And the doing causes the noise in my head.

You see, thinking I have to be doing something to please Him is not the way of the Kingdom. Doing sets up demands that keep you awake at night. Doing creates the clamoring of voices.

Jesus told Martha Mary had chosen the better way. She chose being over doing. There were a hundred chores Mary could have been doing. There were dishes to clean and clothes to wash. There was a to-do list and there was a litany of preparations, but Jesus was present and Mary chose to sit down at his feet and simply be. She chose to sit down and bask in his love.

I think it was hard for Martha to sit down. Hard for her to stop and push the urgency of demands aside for a little while. She wanted to serve Jesus. Her heart was right, but during that visit she missed what was valuable—time with Jesus. Instead she allowed the noise to drown out the sweetness of his voice.

Martha, I understand. Right now I resonate with your behavior. For months I have been asking Jesus what I need to be doing to serve him. What do I need to be doing to use my gifts for him? I have been in the kitchen, in the midst of chaos and noise, trying to prepare a meal to feed Him.

Martha, you and I have the audacity to think we can feed Jesus. How funny is that? Jesus just wanted and wants to feed us. He prepared a quiet place for us to eat the feast he prepared. And he just simply wanted and wants us to sit down and eat with him.

He asked me to turn off the noise.

He asked me to just come and be with him.

Years ago I often sat where Mary did. I understood the concept of being. In the course of attempting to please and impress people I started doing more and being less.

The past two nights the noise has been deafening, but his voice has pierced the roar.

Tonight I heard him.

“Tamera, Tamera. I love you. I have a crazy love for you. And this love is not wrapped up in what you do well and what you do poorly. My love is not fed by your abilities and talents. My love is not fueled by your performance. My love is not motivated by the accolades you receive or the awards you obtain or the ones you do not. My love is not fashioned or tempered by what others think of you. My love is not shaped by the tasks you fail to accomplish. I love you because that is who I Am.

So, lay down this way of doing. You cannot impress me. You can please me. You can discover my good and perfect will. You can make me smile; you can even make me laugh. These things are not accomplished by what you do. You forget this so easily. You have been deceived. You have been told you are not using your gifts and you have felt resentment and frustration—but I have allowed your field to lay fallow for a season. I want your soil rich—ready for the seed of my love. Ready to produce a harvest sixty-fold. But first, come and sit at my feet and simply be. Choose the better way."

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Forced Stillness

Rain. I watch it beat against the kitchen window this morning. The sky is dark, gray and low. Blowing wind bends the trees backwards and forwards. The dogs are completely quiet—curled in different places in the house, breathing deeply because two of them are afraid of the storms.

Forced stillness. I am grateful. My whole morning has been simpler, quieter and slower. Not my usual harried and scurried rush of wanting to get ten things finished, done or accomplished before 9 a.m.

I spoke to my daughter this past week. She has been in an RV for eighteen days traveling in the west—seeing things and places I have only read about and seen in photographs. I asked her what she was learning on this trip and she replied, “…to be still.” I laughed, but she continued.” “To be still and it is hard. I feel like I have restless leg syndrome inside.”

She and her sister have been in a place of forced stillness. They have had few other options. And so this morning I think of them and God’s exhortation through the psalmist, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Interior restless leg syndrome. I have experienced it. I can get my body still, but my mind is another territory. My mind continues long after my body gives up.

Lately, I have been restless. Not an anxious or bored restlessness, but an undercurrent—a hum just below the surface.

And I have learned in this walk of faith that when that hum begins, then, more than ever, I need to be still.

And so this morning, I sit in front of the kitchen window and watch the storm outside. My inward humming current is slowing, but it remains. I don’t yet want to assess or analyze it. I just want to be still in this place of forced stillness so that I might hear what God has to say to me.

He wants me to know him. Isn’t that astounding? He wants to draw near to me in the stillness so that I am only conversing with him. He wants me in a place where my body is still, but more importantly my mind and heart have been quieted so that He can give me my next set of instructions. He wants to assure me. Amazing isn’t it?

My prayers are just disconnected phrases and strings of thoughts. They seem inarticulate and incomplete. But they rise, and I know that before they reach the Father’s ear, the Spirit has translated them from the groanings and moanings that they are to petitions and prayers.

In the stillness the Spirit translates for me. When I am rushed and hurried and in the middle of frenetic behavior I cannot hear the translation. I cannot experience what He is doing for me.

And this morning, my God wants me to hear him. What a privilege. He wants to calm even the humming. My attention is splintered in many directions. I attempt to finish one task only to realize I left another undone. Only He can absorb the hum, the distractions and the noise that reside in my fractured mind.

The rain has stopped. The wind has stilled.

I am in a place now where I can almost hear his voice above the hum.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Seeds and Ants

Yesterday I played in the dirt.

Monday was the last morning of our vacation. We didn’t go away. All my daughters have been some place grand this year: Pawley’s Island, Yellowstone, Florida and Vegas (I am aware I sound a bit jealous, but I just want to see the ocean!) Steve and I have remained here. We have, however, been on vacation.

We got up early. This is not unusual for us. Our internal clocks seem to know when the hands mark 7 a.m. no matter what day it is. If our internal clocks do not chime then Molly (the smallest of the trio of dogs) wakes us up with her incessant whining. We got up and ate our breakfast on the front porch. We wanted to start working in the yard before the force of the Kentucky heat and humidity began.

This week Steve planted grass seed in our front yard. One day it was just a patch of soil—bare and naked. A few days later there was a mist of pale green skimming across the top of the dirt. And then there was visible grass. Sparse and thin, but growing.

We also planted marigold seedlings my daughter had grown from seeds. I sat on the porch and filled seedling trays with dirt. My hands loved the cool, loose moist dirt. It was black and rich. I pushed the tiny seeds into depressions made by my pinky finger and then covered them with more black, dark dirt. Then I sprayed them with water. I have a black thumb, but yesterday my fingers felt green.

I thought of Jesus. He told us that unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. BUT if it dies, it produces many seeds (John 12:24).

I buried the seeds in order for them to die. I covered the seeds; I buried them in order for them to germinate and grow and become plants—and produce more seeds.

Beautiful cycle.

Steve also dug up a rotted tree stump from the front yard. The tree died long ago and was cut down and taken away, but the stump was left behind. It was a nuisance to mow around and an eyesore in the yard and a potential hazard to someone as clumsy as me. So, he dug it up. When the main part of the stump came up out of the ground it disturbed an enormous ant hill. I have never seen one so large.

The ants began to scurry and I plopped down in the grass. I was enthralled. The stump thrummed and rippled with movement. The ants were aware they had just experienced destruction. The flipping up of the stump had exposed their nursery. All their little eggs were suddenly open to the sun, and the ants immediately went to action. In just a few minutes they transported eggs, as large as themselves, out of sight. The ants kept trying to move down into the grass, but were having to navigate the length of the wood to get there, so I built them a little bridge. I propped a leaf against the stump and they found the shortcut quickly. Their energy and efficiency was amazing.

Steve laughed at me. I am sure I looked like a child (at least in attention and posture). I was utterly absorbed. I laughed too—simply from delight.

And I thought of the proverb:

Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! Proverbs 6:6

I am not a gardener. I am not an entomologist. I don’t plant flowers in the spring and I don’t pay attention to ants unless they are in my house. I have never considered their ways. I have read the mentioned verses before, but they had always simply been deep words and an interesting proverb. I understood them in theory—but now I had experienced them.

And isn’t that the difference?

As I sat on the porch with the dirt and seeds and on the ground with the rotted stump and ants Jesus’ words shimmered before me as if alive.

They were no longer theoretical metaphors and similes.

The Kingdom of Heaven, that Jesus came to explain and declare, was and is not a theory. Not just another dogmatic doctrine. Not just another sect’s or denomination’s perspective on the Divine.

While walking down the road, Jesus would turn to his followers and say, “You want to know what the kingdom of heaven is like? Then consider this…” And he would point to a field of flowers and they would be the day’s illustration. Why? Because they were walking through the field—it was available.

Jesus wanted them and us to consider something completely familiar and common in order to see the kingdom. He constantly taught them using what they encountered every day, perhaps even several times. Why?

Jesus wanted his followers to understand that his Father was not a far off mystical being. He is not a disembodied deity who sits unconcerned with the daily toil of his people.

No, the God of Jesus was and is near; Jesus made him approachable.

So near, in fact, that he wants us to see him in what we consider the common, mundane and profane. We have been trained to see him in the sacred; but Jesus wants us to encounter his Father in the common foot trails and daily chores and raw realities of life.

Real, true and authentic spirituality plays in the dirt—it sees the Father in a kernel of wheat sown into the earth; it sees the Father’s economy and efficiency in an ant hill.

And for a brief moment, yesterday I experienced it.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

15 Things

If any of you are counting, I have four daughters.

My two oldest daughters’ birthdays were in the spring (21 Things and 22 Things), and my third in September, so there is another post (17 Things) coming in the fall.

Today is my youngest daughter’s fifteenth birthday

One night last week I was rummaging through the junk cabinet to find a jar with a lid. Of course I didn’t have one, so I created a makeshift jar and my youngest daughter and I went out to catch fireflies. We followed their trailing lights all over the yard. We were participating in a silent dance at dusk. Few words were spoken and the choreography was determined by the creatures we were chasing.

Once the fireflies were caught we carefully dropped them into the container and quickly put the lid back. I am not sure who caught more.

The fireflies were delightful to watch, but my daughter stole the show—she was so intent, focused and aware. I loved watching her face—illuminated in the faint dark by the street lights and then by the incandescent glow of the fireflies cupped in her hands.

She has absolutely no idea how beautiful she is and how lovely she is becoming.

Happy birthday, beautiful Abby!

15 Things I love about Abby—

Her love of reading
She cuts through the nonsense
Her uncanny discernment concerning people’s character (or lack of)
Her firm reliability
Her diligent, inward motivation
Her hunger to participate in true worship
Her deep and genuine compassion for the hurt and the wounded
Her love for her sisters
Her love of order
She’s the baby, but she remains unspoiled
Her affection for her family
Her tears—they are rare and unsentimental
Her incredible hugs and her laughter
Her maturing spirit—she grows more tender toward the Spirit daily
The simplicity of her soul

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Unexpected Events--Caney Creek

Well, we have had a revival and we have had a wedding. The story doesn’t end with those events. Of course the story will never end; there will just be the ends and beginnings of other chapters. This chapter cannot be finished without this story.

The six people who decided that following Jesus was the thing to do decided to be baptized—on the same day, same place and same time. Steve, my younger two daughters and I planned to be there.

We went to Christ Church that morning. As soon as church was over, we got in the car and started to my dad’s—an hour and twenty minute drive. Part of the drive is highway—a stretch of interstate through the rolling, blue-green hills of Kentucky. The other part of the drive is through and across a narrow, steep road that winds, descends and ascends landscape that is quite beautiful and picturesque in its simpleness.

We arrived at my Dad’s, and what I didn’t know was God was about to show me something.

Revelation was coming.

Everyone piled in their cars and drove to the baptism site. My dad had told me it was Caney Creek and was just down the road—just a few minutes drive. We followed Dad which took concentration and effort since he knows the roads so well.

Quite a few people were there when we arrived. The introductions and hugging began. A constant flow of people navigated the steep hill, walking sideways down the gravel road. Just a few weeks before the flooding had brought the stream’s level up fifteen to twenty feet. The asphalt of the lower parking lot was covered in the silt the flooding left behind.

I got out of the car and looked around and then I began to walk toward the creek.

And the reminder came.

A gentle, easy breeze of memory sifted and tumbled over me.

Caney Creek. Ahhhhhh, Caney Creek.

Recognition surged through me.

The place looked like a foggy, dirty mirror surrounded by trees.

The murky water lapped against the concrete loading dock. Children rolled up their pants legs and waded knee-deep and the mud and silt eddied to the surface.

For a few brief moments I didn’t see the children or the crowd that continued to grow. I stood watching the rippling and lapping of the water as it rolled and moved against the rocky bank.

In that instant, I saw me, twenty-four years younger, standing in the water. This is the place I was baptized. I had forgotten—not my baptism, but the place.

God knows place is important to us. He knows we need visual reminders of the wonders he has accomplished in us.

Here was my Jordan. Not a river, but a stream. Twenty-four years ago I had died at this spot and had been raised to new life. The stream had carried my sins and iniquities away—all the way to the sea. And that is where God left them.

I came back to the present as the minister of my dad’s church began to speak. Strange how God often brings things full circle because when I was young this was my minister too. He asked the six if they believed that Jesus was the Son of God and if they accepted him as their Lord and Savior—the Good Confession. My dad’s voice was the loudest.

Way out in the water people stood up in their boats to see what was happening. Someone began to pray and his voice boomed out over the waters. An old high school friend of mine began to sing We Shall Gather at the River. Everyone joined her.

Shall we gather at the river,
where bright angel feet have trod,
with its crystal tide forever
flowing by the throne of God?

Yes, we'll gather at the river,
the beautiful, the beautiful river;
gather with the saints at the river
that flows by the throne of God.

Robert Lowery

Time stood still. For how long I am not sure.

Four men moved out into the water. They stood waist deep and Charles, the Harley-riding, revival-speaking, Jesus-loving preacher was among them.

And two by two they began to wade in the water.

My dad and Brenda led the way—seems this is the pattern. Often they forge the trail. My dad was holding tightly to my step-mother—guarding her steps. They turned to face us and Charles held his hand toward heaven.

Backwards they fell. And their bodies plunged into the murky water of Caney Creek. I made myself not even blink. I did not take my eyes off of this beloved pair as their faces disappeared under the water.

Then suddenly up they came. And my dad came up shouting. Hands flung to heaven. Joy splattered all over his face. He turned to my step-mother and kissed her and then wrapped his arms around her and practically lifted her up out of the water.

I was clapping. And a shout left my lips before I had time to consider it.

I held the towels and met them at the edge. My dad wrapped his arms around me and held me and we cried. Glory, how we cried. We said things to each other that should have been said years ago. Brenda stood close; in her wonderful wisdom she was giving a father and daughter a special moment. Then I hugged her and she spoke words that I will never forget, “You and the girls are part of the most important part of our lives and don’t you forget it. We love you.”

Two more times couples (Marce and Tammy included) went into the water to be buried and raised in Christ.

My clothes were wet by the time I had hugged them all. Everyone began to make their way back toward the parking lot and the road. I stood and gazed at the waters of Caney Creek.

I turned to Steve, who was filming, and a butterfly lit on his arm.

Delight and awe bubbled up in me.

Slowly I put my left hand to his arm—just under the butterfly. I thought it would fly away. Instead it hopped to my finger and remained. I was so elated.

Jesus had a dove; and Dad and the others had a butterfly.

God’s visual.

I walked toward Dad and Charles and held out my hand. Charles looked at me, and then we both looked at my dad.

Often butterflies are a symbol of new life.

That’s what happened at Caney Creek that day and the day twenty-four years before.

Seven people died and were raised to new life.

Metamorphosis

We were changed in the twinkling of an eye.

God does not want us to forget.

And he will bring us full circle so that we will remember.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Unexpected Events--The Fish Fry

The same weekend we went to church with my dad we also had a fish fry at my cousin’s house. My cousin, Marce (pronounced Mar-sss), opened his home and thirty or more people gathered.

Some mingled on the front porch chattering. I had a hard time following any one conversation because they all crossed over the other. Several people played corn hole, and you could hear the thump of the corn bags on the boards. There was a rhythmic thwack of a baseball hitting someone’s glove and the swoosh of a basketball in the hoop.

It was one of the leisurely, lazy days of the beginning of summer. The colors of the grass and sky were brilliant. The air was muggy; you could see the heat waves rising. The dogs lay sprawled on their sides on the cool dirt. The little boys chased the crawdads through the creek and finally caught one. Their little green net would swirl around in the bottom of the five gallon bucket trying to find him. They would lift him out of the murky water for all of us to see, and we would oohh and ahhh.

My cousins were inside frying fish: one at the stove with two very hot iron skillets and one with a deep-fryer. As we helped with other tasks and chores in the kitchen we sampled the fish. Fresh perch and catfish. I liked the Cajun perch the best and ate far more than I should have—stealing very hot pieces as they came out of the skillet. My tongue was scorched, but like a child I didn’t care.

There was food and fellowship in abundance.

When everything was prepared Marce gathered everyone. He began to talk. He is such a friendly, jolly guy. He has a deep raspy voice and laughs easily and often. He loves to pull pranks and tell jokes. And he has a heart the size of Texas.

He thanked everyone and then he paused. He explained that before we started eating there was something that needed to be done. The entire group was silent.

Hushed. This was an extraordinary task for such a rambunctious group.

His raspy voice grew shaky. I noticed his girlfriend was fidgety. Nervous. We love her. She is such a beautiful woman. If Marce’s heart is the size of Texas then Tammy’s is the size of Alaska.

Marce took advantage of the silence.

“Today Tammy and I are getting married. This is something we have been wanting and needing to do for a long time. Tammy has put up with me for a lot of years, and I guess she’s going to put up with me some more. This is not for a year, but for forever.”

Charles, the Harley-riding, horse-riding, preacher was present.

Very few were aware that a wedding had been planned. The group’s silence became a buzz of whispering.

The couple descended the stairs of the porch and stood side by side in the yard. The small wedding party gathered around them—a brother and sister-in-law to stand up with them and Tammy’s son, and Marce’s son and daughter. Some of us poured into the yard too.

I wanted to be where I could hear and see their faces.

Cameras began to snap and people were shifting in the yard to get the best view to record the event. Some people remained on the porch leaning over the rails and standing on the steps—arms crossed and hats removed.

Marce and Tammy were surrounded—encircled by people they loved and who loved them.

The Hebrews writer would have been pleased with this great cloud of witnesses.

This was a surreal moment.

Charles began to talk. And Marce and Tammy began to cry.

This wedding moved me.

Its simplicity, its sincerity, its intensity pierced my heart.

We witnessed a union borne out of love and the desire to do good and right.

This moment became a thin place. The veil between the spiritual and the natural was so thin you could feel God’s presence.

And it was beautiful. Utterly beautiful.

Not because of the bride’s dress—she wore short jeans and a sleeveless shirt.

Not because of the flowers—the only flowers were the ones growing wild on the edge of the creek and the flower beds.

Not because of the elaborate reception decorations—the outdoors and the family were the only decorations.

Not because of the music or the typical traditions—there was no bridal bouquet, no garter, no wedding march.

I don’t remember exactly what time the wedding began. I don’t even remember everything that was said.

I do remember the reading of Scripture. I do remember my Dad crying on the porch. I remember the strength and passion in Marce’s voice when he looked Tammy in the eye and spoke his vows. I remember the tenderness and sweetness in Tammy’s when she looked at him.

Standing there that day in the hot sun, the sweat rolling down the middle of my back, in that thin place I recognized that I was participating in something incredibly pleasing to our Father.

Unexpected events.

I have a responsibility to Marce and Tammy. I witnessed their covenant. As Samuel said in I Samuel 12:23: As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you.

Far be it from me if I fail to pray for Marce and Tammy.

God created us to want community and to desire intimacy. There is a void when we do not.

We were meant to do life together.

My path won’t cross Marce and Tammy’s on a daily basis, but I will do life with them, because I will pray for them—often.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Unexpected Events—Revival

The last few weeks have been eventful. Joyous, unexpected events—one right after another.

Several times I have written entries about my dad, A Man in His Element and Happily Ever After. Today I write about him again.

A few weeks ago I woke up one Monday morning and realized that during the busy, crazy weekend I hadn’t talked with my dad. On my drive home that night I called him. I told him I had a busy weekend and had missed talking with him. He told me he had a busy weekend too. The way he said this, I was intrigued. I asked what he had been doing knowing that it could have been anything. My dad and step-mother go all over the state trail riding. If they decide they want to go to a cattle auction, they go. If they decide they want to go on a trip, they go. They are adventurous people.

“I’ve been to church.” he informed me. I was stunned.
“Really. Really?” I know the tone of my voice must have been slathered with incredulity.

“And guess what happened to me yesterday!”

“What?”

“I got saved!” his voice was almost at shouting level.

Driving on a road known for treacherous curves—narrow and winding—I started crying. Sobbing, actually. The road blurred. This was an unexpected turn of events.

For years I had prayed for my dad. Religion was avoided even more than politics. My dad’s father had been a Baptist preacher, and so Dad had grown up hearing about salvation and Jesus and the church. People, however, do not always walk as they talk. We do not always live what we preach. And my dad is a stubborn man by his own admission. Combine all those elements and a person quickly becomes disillusioned with the organized church. They become embittered and hardened to the things of the Spirit.

To remain disillusioned with Jesus is hard. The Jesus of the gospels is irresistible. The Jesus of Sunday School, the frail,soft and flaxen-haired man, is often forgettable or dismissible.

The disillusionment and bitterness were absent from his voice. Joy reverberated as he shared with me what had happened. One of Dad’s best friends, a Harley-riding, Jesus-loving preacher, had been holding a revival at little Stark United Methodist Church down the road.

We don’t hear about revivals anymore. They are not a part of the stream-line church anymore—they have been replaced with retreats, conventions and events. Revivals tend to be a little too undignified.

The Holy Spirit, however, is not bound by fashion or methodology or convention. The Spirit moves where the Spirit wills. And He was moving in this tiny little congregation.

I continued to cry as Dad shared with me the events of the storm that blew through that tiny church. I later learned that my Dad stood up from his seat and walked forward with his arms and hands thrown upward shouting, “Thank you. Thank you for showing me the way.”

Dad ended the conversation because they were going back to church that night.
All I could say and breathe was, “Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus.” I didn’t know what else to say.

Was there anything else to say?

Later I spoke with Dad again. He shared more details. My cousin and his girlfriend had walked down that same aisle. My dad’s sister-in-law had walked it too.

I asked about my step-mother; he commented that she had a whole lot of questions.

How I love her for having a whole lot of questions and not being afraid to ask them.

Charles, the Harley-riding, revival-preaching preacher, sat down with her and let her ask anything she wanted. He explained that some questions just don’t have answers yet.

How I love him for being so forthright and candid. There was no attempt to give canned, rote or pat answers. Some questions just don’t have answers—yet.

Tuesday night I was unloading the dishwasher and my cell phone rang. Looking at the clock I knew church must be over and Dad was calling. I answered.

“Hey, Dad! How are you?” I asked as I angled plates in the bottom rack.

“I am the happiest man on earth!” He shouted. I took a deep breath.

“Brenda was saved tonight!”

Our kitchen became a hub-bub. I was trying to hear Dad talk and my youngest daughter was asking questions. Steve was smiling.

Prayers answered.

Now, for many this is old-fashioned, religious jargon. Today it is far more vogue to say someone decided to become a Christ-follower or made a decision or is seeking. Gone now are the old phrases and language—replaced by more urban and politically correct terminology.

But, the fact of the matter is, my dad and step-mother were saved. Yes, saved.

This is what salvation is: to be saved from ourselves, from the world and from the enemy.

When you are hanging on the edge of a cliff and a helicopter comes flying by and scoops you up and you find yourself sitting in the hull of that great bird—you have been saved.

Since then we have spent some time with them. Their excitement is contagious, but it is more. It is deeper than mere excitement.

We went to visit that weekend and Dad wanted us to go to church with them. I asked what I needed to wear.

“Wear your blue jeans. We don’t dress to look pretty; we are just there to worship God.”

I jarred awake. I felt like I had been reading a good book and my head had nodded. I had been dozing with the book still open in my hands.

This was Dad talking.

That night we drove up a steep and dangerous road to Stark Church. I heard Dad sing. And I sang—such old hymns that I was surprised I remembered the words. No piano, no organ. Just someone starting the song and everyone joining. Charles preached about the old man of God (Elijah) and the fire. I heard Dad say amen.

Suddenly I was very awake.

I had forgotten what it felt like to be saved. Temporarily I had forgotten the deep and residing power of this great salvation we have entered. Through Dad and Brenda’s decisions I am reminded of its glory and purpose.

The revival spread beyond the county boundaries—stretched miles and miles and found me.

My own faith is revived.

The old-fashioned revival was scheduled to last three days. It lasted eight. Seven people were saved. Six of them, in some way, related to me.

The Spirit blows where he wills.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Dead Eggs

I am reading a good book.

In the first section the author shared a story that pierced me. Days after reading this story I was still pondering, considering and evaluating (and this is part of what makes a good book—do I consider it days later).

The author was visiting a shepherdess to learn more about shepherding. She wanted to have hands-on experience so she could better relate to the shepherding metaphors in Scripture. Each day in the barn there were several geese running around aimlessly. Clearly they were hunting for something.

“What are they looking for?” I asked Lynne.

“They’re looking for their eggs,” she said.

“Where are they?” I asked.

“I threw them in the creek.” She said.

My eyes bugged in disbelief. I couldn’t help blurting out, “Why?” Lynne’s action seemed cold and cruel—a far cry from the woman who loved her sheep.

“Because they were infertile,” she said. “They will never hatch. I need to get these geese back to their regular life. For months they have been sitting on infertile eggs. The only way to get them back to the way they’re supposed to be living is to take away their dead eggs.”*


As I was pondering this, I thought of my daughter.

My third daughter.

She used to dance. Six hours a week in a second story, downtown studio. She attended a nationally known ballet intensive and took summer lessons. She breathed dance for eight years.

In the spring of 2009 she performed in her last recital. She told me she was finished; she would not be taking ballet lessons in the fall. Our family was stunned. We did not understand.

Perhaps now I do.

Ballet did not offer the kind of fruit she wanted in her life. She recognized the infertility of her dreams. She could have danced longer. She is a beautiful dancer—full of emotion and grace and loveliness.

She decided to throw her eggs in the creek.

I refrained from grabbing a basket and trying to rescue them. I wanted to save them. I wanted to hand them back to her, but I could not. For her they were infertile eggs. I did not understand how someone could work so hard and for so long and simply stop.

But God (remember the divine conjunction?) had different plans.

Plans of fertility. Plans of hope.

My daughters come from a wonderful line of musicians. Their grandfather, grandmother and uncles are musicians. And their father is a self-taught, truly gifted pianist.

We have a beautiful piano. A mahogany upright and it sits center-stage in our front room.

She began to play on the keys. Just piddling with little ditties at first. Then the ditties became recognizable melodies.

Last summer she came to me and told me she wanted to take piano lessons. I was not surprised.

Periodically through the day and night now, we listen to her. A song will interest her and she will sit at the keys and work the melody out note by note.

She is her father’s daughter.

Often at night when I am reading in bed the music will begin. And my soul breathes deeply and then holds because I do not want her music to end. It is soulful and poignant. There is an elegance in her playing, a loveliness that seems to have transferred from her days of dancing and I am so delighted.

I want that kind of courage.

I want to be able to let go of a long-held dream that seems to be going nowhere.

I want to take up a new challenge—something that stretches and expands who I am.

My daughter did this.

I am inspired by her bravery.

I am encouraged by her example.

I am challenged by her egg-tossing.

How often or how long have I sat on dead eggs?

Fruitless, infertile dreams.

One dream I have been holding in my heart for years. I have petted, pampered and protected this dream. Hoping and wishing and praying there would be fruit. I have even struggled with jealousy—often silently begrudging the success of others.

Eventually dead eggs will emit an odor, but we will ignore it as long as possible so it doesn’t seem we are sitting on an empty nest.

The shepherdess, Lynne, was not being cruel. Actually she was being very kind and showing great compassion.

God is not being cruel when he tosses our dead eggs in the creek. He is being compassionate—enabling us to move forward to embrace something that is fertile and alive.

Take these dead eggs.

Take them, please.

*Scouting the Divine
Pages 70-71
Margaret Feinberg

Thursday, May 6, 2010

22 Things

Tomorrow will be my oldest daughter’s 22nd birthday. She was born on a Saturday and so my first Mother’s Day I spent in the hospital with this tiny little girl—all along I had wanted a boy. This little girl changed my mind. I both love and hate that she was my first. I love that she was the first—she made me want more children. I hate that she was the first—because I was way too hard on her; I expected too much. Moms tend to do that with their first-borns. Her name means consecrated grace; she is well named. I see God extend his mercy and grace through this young woman often.

Happy birthday, dear Anna.

Here are just a few things I love about her:

The way she loves, delights in and applies the Word
The light in her face—beyond beautiful
Her strong sense of responsibility
Her hand movements during conversation
Her ability to talk to a child without demeaning them
Her incredible self-discipline
Her conversations with God
Her razor-sharp discernment
Her servant’s heart
Her smile
Her steel rods—they have helped to make her strong
Her wink and raised eyebrow—enjoy the first, beware of the second
Her work ethic
Her slow walk
Her gift to handicraft words until they become art
Her flaxen hair
Her overcoming, more-than-conqueror spirit
Her insight
Her appreciation for the outdoors
Her love for her sisters
Her longing for her will to be bent and aligned with God’s
Her desire to help the poor, the needy, the outcast, the invisible

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Alligators

Today I was talking with a good friend. We laugh a great deal together and enjoy each other’s company. Our families do life together.

Our discussion was about being absorbed with the acquirement and possession of material things. Especially name-brand stuff (I use this word on purpose). We are about the same age and exchanged stories about being in high school when Izod and Nike tennis shoes were the status symbols.

Now, ahead of time as a precaution, I want everyone to understand I don’t have a bit of problem with brand-name anything. And I don’t have a problem with anyone who wears or uses such. But sometimes the name-bearing goes a little over-board.

At my high school, you were not anybody until you had an Izod polo and a pair of white Nike tennis shoes with blue swooshes. Anyone remember this? My two best friends got them long before I did, however, when I finally got the tennis shoes the swoosh was the wrong color. My swoosh was red—calamities of calamities.

My friend told me that their family couldn’t afford an Izod shirt. One day their mother found a pair of Izod socks on sale. They bought the socks, removed the icon and sewed it onto a regular polo. My friend had an alligator and no one ever knew the difference.

White-washed tombs.

Beautiful on the outside, white, spit-shined. The Pharisees wore their status symbols long and wide. And no one asked to see the tags inside.

Jesus didn’t ask. He just simply knew. He knew what was in their hearts. He knew what was behind the blinding white exteriors. Jesus knew the alligators were transplants.

Our minister often exhorts us to be real. Beth Moore in her Psalms of Ascent study (Session 2) talks about posing. Christians are not supposed to be posers. We are called to be real. Being real means we don’t try to hide the ugly and pretend it doesn’t exist. We don’t try to pose as something we are not.

We are called to be authentic.

When I met Steve, my neighbor next door and now my husband, I gave him a very long list of the ugly in me. The reason? It was two-fold. I thought the list would scare him away and I wanted to be honest. I was so done with hiding, covering-up and pretending.

I had had enough.

I decided to open the doors wide and expose the broken walls, the cracked tile, the faulty wiring and the peeling paint of this house of mine. I was very tired of pretense. I was weary of trying to be something I was not. I was frustrated with sewing alligators on my shirts.

This is one of the reasons for my last blog entry Ten Miles and Baggage. Relationships are places we often try to white-wash and sew on alligators.

I am trying to live an honest, authentic life. In reality, sometimes posing is so much easier. I know how to pose. I know the right angles to position myself to accentuate my best side. I learned at a very young age how to throw a little white-wash on the outside walls. I learned how to shine the exterior and how to be a good seamstress.

But let me tell you, if no one else has—

Eventually someone will walk through the door.

At some point someone will look at the tag.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Ten Miles and Baggage

This weekend I spent a day in my hometown.

My two sets of parents live there. They divorced when I was less than two.

A little more than ten miles separates their houses, but this weekend I felt like I needed a passport to cross borders. I wondered if I would need to go through customs and claim the baggage I seemed to gather between the two far countries. Even my name changes—everyone calls me by an old name that I don’t recognize and rarely respond to because I think they are talking to or about someone else.

It is so strange, and very, very sad, to visit your childhood home and feel like an unwanted guest or more like an utter stranger. When did the language change? Did the dialect always sound like this? Did I always need a translator or has this just been a recent development? I realize I don’t understand the customs and traditions anymore. I have forgotten them, or maybe I never knew them. Perhaps, not only did I feel like a foreigner, but I was seen as one also.

And how odd and disconcerting it must have been to have a stranger living in their midst or to have one come to visit, one they almost recognize and know, but not quite.

I am a woman grown.

I am a woman grown until I go back to my mother’s house. And then I feel like a little girl again— wanting my mother’s approval, longing for her attention, hoping for her affection.

I received none of the above.

But the Spirit is at work, and during church yesterday I thought perhaps she longed for these things and didn’t receive them either. Perhaps, because I don’t know how to speak her language, I didn’t give her what she needed.

Could it be that in her wounded heart she longs for these things? Could it be that she lives with regrets? Could it be that she doesn’t know how to ask for what she needs? Could it be that her mother failed too?

I speak those words because of guilt. You know the kind of guilt I am talking about—the gnawing kind. What did I do wrong? What didn’t I do right? What can I do differently? What words and gestures can I say and do that would make the situation better or at least different. I have had this conversation with myself too many times to count.

I always come home from that far country with a lot of baggage.

As I drove home I thought and prayed. I allowed myself to be angry.I allowed myself to hurt. I allowed myself to grieve.

When I got home…

When I got home, for the first time, I sorted through the baggage.

I emptied and unpacked it.

Item by item.

Laying the articles out one by one.

The baggage was very difficult to sort; there was a lot of nasty garbage. Rotted and decayed things that had been left too long.

And I cried.

I cried for a long time.

Slow, hot tears.

Tears from deep places.

Tears I should have cried when I was a little, lost girl. Tears I should have cried when I was a rebellious teenager. Tears I should have cried when I was desperate college student. Tears I should have cried before I became a mother.

I cried this weekend as a woman grown.

I cried for my broken, inept mother.

I cried for the broken, inept daughter. Me.

We are a broken people. Hurt and hurting. Wounded and wounding.

A very good and dear friend of ours says, “Jesus plus a mess (us) equals grace.”

He says it often.

Jesus plus a mess equals grace.
That is hope. Blessed hope.

And perhaps, more than any other time, in the midst of the tears and the hurt I caught a faint glimmer of hope. Always before the baggage was just too monumental. Too much—too full.

Not too long ago, I read on someone’s Facebook status that the only place to go for approval and acceptance was the cross.

So, I am going to the cross. To Jesus.

I asked my God for healing. I asked him to heal my wounds. And I have asked him to heal her wounds. I have asked him to break the cycle.

And grace will make up the difference.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Peter's Bistro

I love Peter.

Recently my bread has been stale, and so I have been spending time in II Peter. I have just stumbled across a little bistro—one of the very best. I have been missing it because there are so many other big names on the same block and street, but this one has been tucked away, and on one of my jaunts out to find something really good to eat I found this little place. Just a little place.

Bumbling, impetuous Peter we say, yet have you read his epistles lately?

The message is deep and rich. Rich, strong food made to stick to your ribs.

And I have returned over and over to dine (yes, dine, not just eat) at this table lately.


Heavenly Father,

I long, in the deepest desire of my heart, to participate in your divine nature. I want to have fellowship with the divine nature who is the Father, the Son and the Spirit.

I want to escape the corruption of this world. I want to be pure—untainted. I want evil desires to be overcome and overwhelmed by the desire to know you and to be closer to you. With Anna I say make my desires line up with your will.

Heal my blindness. Spit in my eyes—rub mud in them. Cause me to see again. I want to see you. I want to see you, God. Call me out of darkness into your wonderful light. One step at a time, if you must. Heal me so that I might see more than shadows—more than trees walking around. I want to see your hand at work. I want to see your plan sweeping broadly across your Body. I want to be able to see the ripples and watch them extend.

Correct my near-sightedness. Adjust my vision. Enable me to not look always inward. Shorten the length of my eye so that I can see you. Measure my eyes and adjust my perspective. When I am near-sighted, Lord, I can only see what is right in front of me. I can’t see how far your hand moves into the distance or how broadly it panned in the past. Widen my line of vision—myopia is a terrible disease, cured only when our eyes are focused on you.

Amen and amen.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Good Year

A Good Year

This past weekend Steve and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary.

This has been a good year.

I think about that word good. Our English language tends to overuse and cause words to become benign. Adjectives so common and so banal (nice, pretty, cute) that we don’t even realize we use them. They become the catch-all words when we don’t know what else to say or use; they are safe.

A good year.

But this isn’t a safe or common description for us. Getting married at forty-something and fifty- something wasn’t a safe thing to do. We both took a risk—one that neither one of us ever thought about taking again. Our year together has been anything but common.

We have had one fight this past year and it was a hard one, but there was communication afterwards, and the resolve was beneficial to both of us—we learned about ourselves and each other. In this year we have laughed with and at each other. We have worried about each other, teased each other and pushed and challenged each other. We have cried together, we have prayed together, studied together and taught together.

We have loved each other.

Mutually.

Equally.

Together.

It has been a good year.

In the Gospels during Jesus’ last Passover week he is anointed by a woman. There are questions and comments concerning this woman’s reputation and possibly her motivation. She takes a risk. And Jesus declares it a good and beautiful thing.

Various versions translate the word differently. There are two words used for good in the Greek language. One is agathos and it means morally good. Righteous and upstanding. Jesus, however, uses a different word to describe what this woman has done for him. He uses kalos.

This word means good, but it has other layers. Other nuances. It means winsome and lovely and beautiful.

This is the word I would use to describe our good year.

It has been lovely. Winsomely good—achingly so.

Someone asked if we had a good anniversary day. The answer is yes we did, but what was so incredible about the day was that it was much like the other 364 days we had spent together. There wasn’t this sudden interest and heightened sense of romance or expectation. The car door was opened for me, but, you see, that happens for me every day. My hand was held wherever we walked that day, but that happens daily. We sat next to each other in our booth for our anniversary dinner, but that happens when we go out to the local Mexican restaurant here at home. We did exchange anniversary gifts, but we did that several weeks ago and we talked about and chose them together.

A delightfully, remarkably ordinary day together.

It is this beautiful, daily together life that made our first anniversary so good (kalos) for me.

Monday, March 22, 2010

21 Things I Love

She will be 21 tomorrow.

My second daughter.

She is my ray of sunshine.

Hard to believe—and yet, I remember the first time I held her in my arms as if it were yesterday. She came so quickly—this tiny little girl. White hair and pale, pale skin and enormous blue eyes. She was my smallest—weighing far less than the other three. But she has made up for it. She is still tiny, but she packs a powerful punch.

Happy birthday, dear girl!

21 Things I Love about Katherine

Her enormous green eyes
Her infectious laugh
The twinkle in her eye—usually means mischievousness is nearby
The way she looks at a child
Her in-your-face attitude
Her idealistic nature
Her fearlessness
Her funny little dance
Her compassion toward those who are hurting.
Her style
Her desire to NOT conform
Her longing to do the right thing—even when it is hard.
Her enthusiasm—it is usually contagious.
Her charisma—hard to resist
The way she holds a baby
Her guarded vulnerability
Her endless supply of lip gloss
She is easily moved to tears, but not by sentimentality
Her fingers on the guitar strings
Her love for her sisters
Her passion—intense and often furious—sometimes even random.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Goads

Our friends had an incredibly important event approaching. They are foster parents and a court hearing was set concerning the future welfare of a child they have fostered almost since birth. Their hope is to adopt—for this child to be a permanent, legal child in their family. And all of us who do life with them have the same hope.

On Sunday night before church the mom called me and asked me to pick up a photo book at Wal-mart for the court date. The photos needed to be picked up before 9:00 p.m. Let me tell you, I was in the car and there before I was out the door.

There were, however, several other things going on that night. Youth group. Bible study. And we were also going to another couple’s house for dinner. An easy dinner. We were eating with friends—the kind of friends that you don’t worry if something spills. You don’t care what is on the menu, really. You just want to sit around the table and talk, laugh, and do life together.

But Tamera slipped into a zone. Now, those who are reading this and know me might, perhaps, understand this. I had a mission. I wanted so much to “do” something for our friends who had this court date. I wanted to get that photo book, because suddenly that became crucial in my mind.

After bible study I rushed to see if youth group was over. I looked in the room and a whole group of teenagers was sitting in a circle, lights dimmed, heads bowed.

In my focus on my mission I almost barged in and interrupted their worship. I almost became a squall in the midst of their peace.

Frantically I made plans for someone to drop my daughters off at the house where we were having dinner. Then Steve and I got in the car and flew to Wal-Mart.

We jumped out and walked quickly into the store. We got through the front doors and were just a short way into the entrance when I felt Steve gently pull me back. I looked up confused. I tried to continue walking, but he kept trying to slow my pace.

He looked at me. “Slow down.” He said. I was even more confused and by this time starting to be a little irritated.

I continued walking at my break-neck speed. And he slowed down even more. Now, you need to understand, my husband is 6’3” and I am 5’5”. His strides are a lot longer than mine. We came to a complete stand-still in Wal-Mart.

“Tamera, slow down. We have until 9:00; it’s only 7:20. We’ll be okay. You are running way ahead of yourself. Just slow down. Be still.”

Interestingly, my husband was not just talking about my pace. He knew my mind was racing.

Galloping.

He wrapped his arm around my waist and held on to me. If I wanted to walk with him, I had to slow down.

I stiffened. The rebellious Tamera who lies latent started to rise. Inside my irritation and defensiveness grew, but I reluctantly slowed my pace. The outside of me had slowed down, but the inside was still running. I bristled because I had very gently been chastised. Steve was simply the tool the Spirit used that night. I didn’t want to be chastised. I didn’t want to be reined in.

We got to the photo counter only to discover the order that was supposed to be done and confirmed at 3:00 was not right. We had to wait while they corrected and completed the order.

And wait.

And wait.

Ten minutes felt like an hour.

Now, as I write this I am laughing.

A little while later we dropped the photos at our friends’ house. We visited for a few minutes, and we got a short time of connection.

Then we went to dinner.

We weren’t late.

I was exhausted.

I was exhausted from trying to run ahead.

I was exhausted because I attempted to turn a simple task, given to me to bless and aid a friend, into a crucial element in their whole court case.

We get exhausted when we try to save the world by ourselves.

We get exhausted when we move at a break-neck speed to accomplish some seemingly important task.

We get exhausted when we attempt to bear the full weight of everyone’s problems.

Oh my, how important and indispensable we make ourselves feel sometimes.

In his wisdom, my husband tried to slow me down. He was attempting to help me. I resisted. Now isn’t that something? Sound familiar?

My defensive rebellion reared its ugly neck. Steve’s voice was calm and even. There was no chastisement. No judgment. He just wanted me to slow down. And he knew that more than anything my mind needed to slow down.

You see, I am a “fixer”. When someone has a problem, dilemma or in pain I want to make it better.

We can’t hear God speak when we are in that state. We miss his direction and his guidance when we are “kicking against the goads”. I used to wonder what in the world Jesus was saying to Paul. What in the world is a goad? I still am not quite sure, but I know this: that night I was kicking against the goads. I was stiffening against Steve’s sage advice. And against the Spirit's underlying whisper.

You see I mistakenly believed this task I had been asked to do was so important and so crucial—I was thinking far too highly of my role in the whole situation.

How often have I been moving forward at break-neck speed and the Spirit has gently checked me? Sadly, I have reacted to Him just like I reacted to Steve.

I have argued, “But I am doing something good here.”

“I understand, Tamera, but wait on me.”

“But it has to be done immediately. I have to do this now.”

“Tamera, my timing is never wrong or off.”

“But if I don’t do it, who will?”

“That’s my concern.”

“But…”

“Tamera, stop with the buts.”

“But…”

“Tamera..."