Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Be True To Your School

I'm sure the man didn't intend to make me feel bad. It was my own fault and he had no way of knowing. My husband and I were waiting for our food at Wendy's and while I was collecting drinks and those little tubs of ketchup, an older man pointed at me and said the name of a city in Indiana.
"Terre Haute," he smiled.
He thought I'd been there because I was wearing a tee that boasted the name of a college I did not attend. I felt bad. I told him, no, I hadn't graduated from Indiana State, but Indiana Wesleyan. He was unfazed.
"Marion," he nodded.
He seemed concerned with nothing other than his geographical knowledge of institutes of higher education, but I still felt guilty. Dishonest. I love my school and I felt a little false wearing a shirt that implied I had gone somewhere else. I bought the shirt at a second hand place because I liked the fit. I wasn't losing sleep over it or anything, it just didn't feel honest.
The only IWU sweatshirt I have left is as old as graduation day and it's pretty ratty so I asked for some new shirts for Christmas. Now I save the Indiana State one for housework or painting and wear my new IWU ones when I go out. If anyone asks me about it I can tell them, yes, I graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University. Go Wildcats!
But here's the thing: All this silly tee shirt stuff made me realize that when I wear the name of my school I am a representative. It's like I tell my boys sometimes, "When people see you they think of Daddy and me. They think of Grandma and Grandpa. You're representing your family and you should honor your family."
So what does that say about my walk with Christ? If I wear a tee shirt that sports the  IWU logo I remind myself to behave in such a way that honors the school. Every day I am a daughter, wife, and mother and I need to conduct myself in a way that brings honor to my family.
Most of all I am follower of Christ. When I let Him down it's like I'm wearing someone else's tee shirt, pledging my allegiance
to someone other than Him.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Useless Weapons

I've been thinking a lot lately about the value people put on appearances. More to my point, I've been thinking a lot about the things people are willing to do to get what they want. Identity is important. Status...not so much. It's especially upsetting to me when it comes to believers. We're all sinners and every one of us has a sinful heart that wants to be selfish. But it seems that there are some who are more intentional about their disobedience. When it's not just a bad habit, but a strategy. 
Human beings have always used little tricks and gimmicks to get what they want. How about intimidation? Temper and abuse are effective tools for sending others scurrying out of one's way. On the other side of the spectrum is charm. It may be bogus, duplicitous, conditional, and totally insincere, but it achieves a dual payoff: getting one's way and stroking one's ego. The manipulations are probably endless. Whining, bribing, guilt-tripping, snubbing, flattering, and belittling. We humans have found ways of avoiding discomfort and accountability.
Like I said, there are payoffs to these acts of selfishness and dishonesty. But there is a huge downside. While it feels good in the moment, ill-gotten victories are cheap and temporary. But much, much graver, these tricks do not work on God.
A prominent atheist was once asked what he would do if he found himself face-to-face with the Creator he so vehemently denied. He said that he would ask Him, "Why did you take such pains to hide yourself?"
I  promise you that when he passed away in 1970, he met God and yet did not ask that question. All of our favorite little weapons that have been so effective in manipulating our brothers and sisters? We won't even think of trying them on God. Though I honestly believe that there are people who have this plan. 
God will not be intimidated by your anger. He will not cower at your temper. He will not wink at your sin because you're just so gosh-darn cute. He will not rush to soothe your whining or be abashed at your scolding. You will not out-think, out-talk, interrupt, or confuse Him. Neither will I. We won't even consider it when we stand before Him and His indescribable holiness and glory. Remember when Moses questioned God? Job? To put it mildly, they did not come out the victors of those conversations. Frankly, I think I would faint with terror if God said to me "Brace yourself like a man;I will question you, and you shall answer me." 
Remember that part near the middle of "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" when the four children are making plans with The Beavers? Edmond, having already been deceived and poisoned by the White Witch, asked a question. 

   "She won't turn him into stone, too?" said Edmond.
   "Lord love you, Son of Adam, what a simple thing to say!" answered Mr. Beaver with a great laugh. "Turn him into stone? If she can stand on her own two feet and look him in the face it'll be the most she can do and more than I expect of her."

Yes, Jadis had power. She was a witch who made it winter for over 100 years. "Always winter and never Christmas". She turned the beloved Mr. Tumnus, and many others, to stone. She had gained fear, respect, and in some cases even devotion from the Narnians. These temporary victories caused her to greatly overestimate her power. The White Witch (though she knew she was no match for Aslan, that Aslan had no match) still dared to challenge him. She lost. 

We, too, will lose if we dare to think that our ludicrous, petty, human weapons will silence God. We may feel we are a powerful, victorious Queen Jadis, turning people to stone if they get in our way, but don't be deceived. Standing on our own two feet and looking Him in the face is the most we will do and more than I expect of us. 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Who Told You That You Were Naked?

Conviction and Condemnation

Last month I was listening to an interview on the radio. James Merritt was talking about his book "52 Weeks With Jesus". The interviewer, Lynne Ford, read an excerpt from his book and I've been thinking about it ever since. You can follow the link to hear the whole interview, but I'll paraphrase the excerpt here.

There was a group of tourists watching a flock of sheep. A man was chasing them where he wanted them to go and one of the people watching asked their guide why the shepherd was chasing the sheep from behind. Don't sheep follow their shepherd?
Yes they do, the guide told them. The person chasing the sheep wasn't the shepherd.
It was the butcher. Jesus leads. It's the devil who chases.

Notice that both motivate. Jesus asks us to go along with Him where He's already gone ahead of us, protecting, preparing, promising. The 23rd Psalm is crammed with practical allegory about the trusting relationship. Sheep trust their shepherd.

Then there's the enemy. He chases us from behind with fear, accusation, and discouragement. We don't move because we trust the devil we move because we fail to trust The Shepherd. We believe the lie just like Adam and Eve did.

1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” [see the subtle cynicism here? The ever-so-slight criticism of God? The devil knew what God really said. He wasn't asking a question, he was planting one in Eve's mind]

2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”

4“You will not certainly die,”[big, fat, filthy, LIE] the serpent said to the woman. 5“For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, [very true] and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” [he knows they don't understand the implications of "knowing". He knows that he's implied that God is holding out on them, that He's offered something less than His best. Not directly spoken, but another HUGE lie, nonetheless.]

6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. [doesn't it just make your heart sick every time you read it?] She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. [Adam sitting silent is a topic for another day] 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. [They let the enemy chase them to their shame]

8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

Okay, so if you've hung in here with me though my little commentary, here's my point:
God is not the one who shames. He is not the one who scorns, or condemns.
The enemy does that.
Though he has nothing anywhere like Our Father's power* he is sneaky and efficient. He mixes up lies and the truth to trip you up. Your enemy will chase you toward sin and then try to make you feel like scum for failing.
If the voice whispering to your spirit is sneering at you in disgust you can bet your favorite hoodie that it's not Your Father, but your enemy.

So here's a practical example for you: You lost your temper and spoke harshly to a friend or family member. You know you hurt them and now you regret your words and your tone.

The enemy: You really messed up. They hate you now and you've done irreparable damage. Things like that are the reason [fill in the blank with an insecurity he's choosing to pick at, adding discouragement to guilt and shame]

The Father: Your words were spoken in anger. You know from My Word that it is not My hope for you to sin in your anger. I want better for my children. You must ask forgiveness of Me and your loved one. In the future, call on Me when you are frustrated. I will use these trials to make you more like Me.

So there's some really good news. You have total access to The One who loves you as if there's no one else to love. James 4;7 says "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."
Because of Him you have authority over the enemy of your soul. At the Name of Jesus, he, the accuser,will be the one chased away.

*read: the devil is not God's opposite; God has no opposite. the devil is not God's nemesis, though he's love for us to think it. He's under no such delusion himself, but knows he is defeated and has no power other than what God allows him. Again, that's a topic for another day.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


The "Curse" of Our Gifts

This morning on facebook a relative posted a short video about the spiritual application of a pizza box. It's a two minute clip about how we as believers are vessels of Christ. Keep it in mind as you read this post because, as I'm sure you know, we cannot take credit for our gifts. James 1:17 reminds us that "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."
  A few years ago at church we all took a spiritual gifts test. The goal was to identify our strengths so we can utilize them for service. I found it super-interesting. A couple of people were asked to speak briefly about their results and they said something that resonated with me and I'm guessing you get it, too.
They said that they know it's a blessing, and they are thankful for their gifts, but sometimes their blessing felt like a curse. That's why I sometimes refer to these things, in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way, as "blursings" because they feel like a combination of a blessing and a curse.
My friend has the gift of administration and she's amazing. Creative and organized, she is a master at making everything beautiful. Dozens of times I've heard people (myself included) say they wish they could just let her do whatever she wanted to makeover their homes. She likes things clean and organized and she's very very good at it.
But, for her, there's a downside. Disorder and mess bug her. Some people could overlook a messy bookshelf, but for my friend it would probably stress her out a little.
Then there's another lady. She spoke about one of her main gifts. The gift of mercy. Oh boy. When she said that this blessing sometimes felt like a curse I knew exactly where she was coming from because I have that one, too.
Several years ago I played "Truvy" in a stage production of "Steel Magnolias". When Shelby, regretting asking Truvy for a short haircut, begins to tear up, Truvy begs her to stop. "Oh sweetheart don't. Please don't cry or I will too. I have a strict policy that nobody cries alone in my presence."
Yep. I may not actually cry, but no one suffers in solitude if I'm around.
I'm glad I'm a compassionate person. But being compassionate means that there are times when my heart aches because of valleys I'm not actually walking through. If you are in the valley and need someone to hold your hand awhile, I'm your girl.
Don't misunderstand, I'm thankful for my gifts. Along with mercy, a couple of my other gifts are discernment and wisdom. I'm so grateful for them. I think if I had had a choice I would have picked those gifts.
But here's my point. I think that there's a reason there's some pain in the gift. What good is mercy all by myself, kept hidden? What good is wisdom if I don't share it?
Is a gift really a gift without some amount of sacrifice? Is it really worth anything if we don't grow, develop, and use it to bless others?
These gifts are meant to be manifold. Paul said in Acts "In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' "
Haven't you noticed that sometimes the best way to lift your own spirit is to bless someone else?
Let's embrace the sacrifice. Like Tom Hanks said in A League of Their Own, "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard... is what makes it great."
Like when you knit, bake, clean, create, write, craft, or just give your time. When you sit and listen and let your presence chase away loneliness. The time you spend. The risk you take in being vulnerable, the inevitable hurt we invite when we love one another. It makes it sweeter, and richer, and more. The sacrifice of our "blursings"'is all part of the gift.

Friday, March 11, 2016


You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means.

I am fighting a losing battle. Granted, I'm not fighting very hard. Just a few impassioned pleas on social media and a rant or two to family members who probably wish I'd shut up about it already. You know, the usual ways we try to save the world.
But my cause is a noble one. A brave and honorable rescue mission. Free the captive! Slay the dragon! Save the word literally! I'm talking about how everywhere we look, the word literally being used incorrectly or unnecessarily or both. "We literally died laughing." "I literally found it under the bed."
It's driving me bonkers.
 Part of the reason it bothers me so much is that I love words and generally don't like to hear them misused. People have taken to using the word literally for emphasis when that's not it's purpose at all. It's meant for clarity, not to add weight to something. This is a big deal to me and I was just sitting here thinking about why that is.
I think what bothers me is this: We can't just distort the truth to suit our wishes. Literally does not mean "really a whole lot-I mean it".  A couple of weeks ago when I said that the kids at church were "literally bouncing off the walls", I didn't mean they were extra super-duper hyper, I mean that they were so rowdy that I actually saw a kid ricochet off an actual wall.
I fear that one day the definition will bow to the abuse of the word and it will actually be changed in the dictionary.
But it's not right.
I could believe with every cell in my brain that the sun orbits the earth but it doesn't make it true. Even if all of us believed it, it would not make true an untrue thing. It would only make all of us wrong.
I'm talking about absolutes here, and I'm aware of their fading popularity in our world, but that's just the point. The world doesn't want standards? Our culture simply loathes accountability? Too bad. Truth remains. No amount of argument, condescension, ignorance, oblivion, or scorn will fade it.

Psalm 119:89 Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.

 I'm choosing one simple verse to share. There are tons of passages in the Bible about this, but Psalm 119:89 is one perfect example. It doesn't need my help by trying to add any emphasis. Using a word in an improper way does not diminish the merit of the word. Disobeying The Word does not weaken it's sovereignty either.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Before and After

My Week in the Library

You probably have one of those places in your house, too. A messy catch-all where you throw stuff when you don't know where else to put it.
I won't tell you the whole long story, but last week I finally tunneled into "the cold room" and turned it into a tiny library. My boys will probably still call it the cold room, though.
Anyway, as you can probably guess, it was a lot of work. The boys helped a little, carrying books and throwing things away when I asked. I did the painting, though I'm not very good at it.
It took me over a week, I was exhausted at the end of every day, there are still a few things to do, and it was worth it all. Every sore muscle, every scraped knuckle, every wobble of the stepladder that momentarily convinced this very afraid-of-heights girl that she was going to fall to her death was worth the end result.
I bought "oops paint" at the hardware store and I love the colors. I got a set of chairs and matching ottoman at Karen's Treasures, and we have been enjoying our little reading room.
Last night my boys and I snuggled into our new-to-us chairs and I introduced them to Junie B. Jones.
The pictures don't really do it justice. Probably because I took them on my little pink, digital Sanyo. When my photographer friend comes to visit, maybe she'll take some better ones and I'll update you.

 Isn't it lovely? Last night after the boys went to bed, Keith and I sat in our little library and we decided it's the coziest room in the  house.

I'm planning on moving the clock to a different spot because I think it looks weird there, We still need to sort through the desk you can't really see here and we could use a little table to set a cup of tea, but it's mostly done. There is for sure room for more books!
But this is all for now. I will likely have more to say about it later. For now let's just enjoy the fun of before and after. 

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Sneak Peek

Friday marked one month since I started this blog. I've liked blogging more than I thought I would. It's been fun. I've learned some things and I've posted every day so far. But like I've mentioned before, I probably won't keep doing that. I really need to work on my manuscript and I've only looked at it once or twice. I've got my work cut our for me.
If I can do it without giving too much away and still making sense, I'll try to share pieces of the story with you as I go. Here's just a tiny peek. If you're a member of my page on Facebook "Amie's Book in Progress" you may have read it before, but here's a new one
So don't give up on me, okay? Knowing you might want to know more about Meg will keep me accountable. I'll finish no matter what, but I'm grateful for the people who remind me that I'm not alone. Thanks for checking in. 


Just a quick one today. I wanted to update you on the dubious progress we're making on cleaning up the bedroom we've been using for storage.You can read the first post here. I took a picture, but I'm too embarrassed to show you until I have an "after" picture to put next to it. I realize this means I might never show it to anyone because, like I said before, it might never happen.
This is one of those things where it gets worse before it gets better. We've made progress,but you can't tell by looking at the room. (I can tell by how wiped out I am) I still don't know what I'm going to do with all the stuff that's in there and I'm reaching a point where I'm not going to be able to do it all on my own.
Sounds like a lot of things in life, doesn't it? Sometimes progress is almost invisible, we don't know how things will turn out and asking for help is a big key to overcoming challenges.
You might be thinking about how dumb all of this sounds but I bet there are a few who get it. And I guess there's another parallel here. The end result is really important to me so I'm willing to put in the effort it takes to achieve it.
Stay tuned! I hope to have something happy to share before too long.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Malicious Sneaky Product Placement

I've told you about how I'm trying to clean up the messiest room in my house. Yesterday Sam and I took another swing at it and we made some progress but it's still pretty bad. I still hold out tenuous hope that it will someday, before my boys graduate, be a cute little library type room.
Add caption
So this morning as I was running errands I thought I'd look at some rugs. I'm considering the one on the left in the picture. But as I was standing there browsing I noticed something out of place. In between the rugs and some cleaning supplies sat a tall shelf of toys. They have whole aisles for toys so why in the world would there need to be a random shelf of them in the corner by the rugs?
Of course, we already know why. I was alone this morning as I was browsing, but I could hear the echo of my children's voices in my head. If they had been with me they would have noticed them. Noticed and wanted them. I would not have browsed in peace.
Maybe it was a simple coincidence but I doubt it. They weren't sitting next to the deodorant where you grab the kind you like and move on. Nope. Right there on a big 'ol shelf where Mom has to linger a while to make up her mind. Even if it is a mistake, it's an irritating one.
I have a point to all this ranting. I'm not just talking about toy placement to whine about something that didn't really affect me at all.I really like shopping there and the people are always nice, that's why I'm only showing the cute rugs. So here's what I'm getting at.
It reminded me of how the enemy works. The devil knows how to push our buttons and he will try to make something we don't really want look exceedingly attractive.
But I want to talk about the good news. The good news is that God promises us that if we resist the devil he as to flee. Flee! Not amble away but run. I imagine a cartoon character kicking up dust as he zooms away appearing and disappearing over the hills.
And more good news. Sometimes the product placement isn't sneaky or malicious because it was God's idea in the first place. He uses trials to refine us all the time. I remember something my pastor said once in a sermon. "God is more interested in your character than your comfort."
We're going to see toys in the rug aisle at lot in life. Whether it's something God has allowed the enemy to do or it was His own idea for our best interest, the answer is still the same. If we lean on Him, He will help us. He promises that the temptation will not be impossible to resist and He promises to be with us every step of the way.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

God the Mother

Don't freak out on me, I haven't adopted any pagan ideas about Gaia or whatever I just want to talk about some attributes of God. It's because of the library book that got lost in our house for about a month.
Jesse checked out a book at school, I think we read it one time and then it evaporated. To make a long story short, I found it yesterday in the "cold room" hidden in a stack of coloring books I had removed from the kitchen while I was cleaning.
After I found it I posted a comment on facebook: "I found it because I'm the Mama."
You've seen that one quote. "Nothing is really lost until your mom can't find it." Finding is one of those things that is special about moms.
Last week Keith and I were watching this sermon by Rich Wilkerson Jr. It's really good so check it out. He talks about Jesus and lost things. He points out that we are the ones who title one of His parables "The Prodigal Son" but Jesus called it a story about two brothers. Both brothers were lost.
Moms are known for finding lost things and God is, too. God is The Father, but He also loves us like a mother. Check out this passage from the 18th Psalm:

6 In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.7 The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry.8 Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth,burning coals blazed out of it.9 He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet.10 He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind.11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him—the dark rain clouds of the sky.12 Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced,
with hailstones and bolts of lightning. 13 The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded.14 He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy,with great bolts of lightning he routed them.15 The valleys of the sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare at your rebuke, Lord, at the blast of breath from your nostrils.16 He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.17 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,from my foes, who were too strong for me.18 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,but the Lord was my support.
19 He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.

That sounds like a mother to me. I mean, if  you want to feel a woman's wrath just mess with her kid. It makes me think of a bear defending her cubs. God hears our distress and the result is smoke and lighting and hailstones and burning coals. Whoa. 
And then at the end He swoops in and comforts us. My boys adore my husband. There are, no question about it, times they want him and not me. But when they're hurt or distressed they will run past their dad to dive into my arms. 
God is Abba. Daddy. He does all the things that good daddies do. 
But He loves us like a Mama, too.
He's the one we run to when we fall and scrape up our hands and knees. I asked Him to help me find the book and He did. Just like a Mama, He's known for finding what's lost.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


I'm going to be totally real with you right now: I'm feeling like a failure this morning. A friend told me last night that someone went to Amazon to get a copy of my novel and there aren't any there. My book has been backlisted. I knew that already, but it was no fun to see the word "unavailable" there next to the picture of my book. This is not unusual. It happens to lots of authors. I still have copies of my novel and it hasn't just disappeared from the world, but it still stings. I'm working hard not to take it personally.
I'm warring with myself this morning. This is one of those times when I want to sit in the road and quit. The roadblock is steep and rocky. I can't see the other side. My metaphorical feet hurt and I'm tempted to give up.
But I won't.
I see lots of work ahead. A bunch of places to go, all of them outside of my cozy little comfort zone. So here I go. I'm pretty sure that if I had to do it on my own I wouldn't be able to. I'm not going to claim that I can just grit my teeth and pick myself up and keep trying. Not without Him anyway.
But Jesus has already acknowledged my bruises and promised to help me up out of the dust.
Just a few minutes ago Beth Moore sent out these two tweets:

This is how this earthly thing tends to go: we don't turn out to be as awesome as we hoped & Jesus turns out to be better than we believed.
Personal crisis: looking our un-awesomeness in the eye. If we can deal, we're set for some wild and woolly Jesus-awesomeness.

So I'm trying be excited about what's coming because I know He has a plan. It's going to take work. It's going to take work just to choose not to sit in the road and cry for one minute longer than I should. 
I would  not have chosen this roadblock if I were mapping my path. But I'm not that kind of Author. I know He knows best and with His help I'll put my shoes back on my tired feet and start climbing.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

All My Friends Are Gorgeous

I don't think I ever even learned the girl's name. Not sure if it was the camp where I was visiting my friend Debi or one of the places we visited for my Models of Youth Ministry class, but I remember the beautiful girl.
She was frowning. Mopping up a wet kid who had encountered some sort of mishap. I can't remember that either, what happened to the boy to get him wet, I mean. What I do remember are her words as she reprimanded the others who were laughing at him. "It's not cool to make other people feel embarrassed." Such simple words but so powerful. So heroic. She was a nice-looking girl anyway, but in that moment she was absolutely beautiful.
Then there was the time that the VBS teacher went around the room to every kid in the class to make a personal connection with them. She asked each of them their name. It sounded something like this: "Hannah? My granddaughter's name is Hannah. Ben? My son's name is Ben! Mary? That's my name." No kidding. She found a personal connection with each and every child because of their names. It was beautiful.
Another time it was one of my roommates. I walked though the front door of our apartment and they could tell by the look on my face that I had just had my heart broken. She wasn't the cuddly type. Not sappy like me. But she just looked at me and then said four words. "Come sit by me." She put her arm around me and let me cry. Beautiful.
But you went to high school with the other kind of girl, too, didn't you? Cute as a button and mean as a snake? I wonder if the government issues them to each school along with their state standards.
They seem to be everywhere we go.

Proverbs 31:30 says "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised."

You've heard that verse before, I know, but let's look closely. Charm is deceitful. Attractiveness, lure, glamour, all pretty easily manufactured and therefore nothing but hot air. Sure some people are charming because they're genuinely endearing, but there's no way of knowing if it's real without looking deeper than mere personality.
And beauty is even less reliable as a signifier of what someone is really like. For the most part we don't get to choose what we look like. We all age. Youth is temporary. That girl you went to high school with had golden flowing locks and sparkly eyes but her cruelty cancelled it out, didn't it? She may have gotten attention but I bet you felt sorry for her just like I did.
Because pretty is as pretty does. Beautiful comes from the inside out. Like the ladies I just mentioned. They were luminous with Christ's love.
My photographer friend who called me one morning because I was having a bad day. My writer friend who when I read her work, I feel like she's sitting right by me cradling her coffee and speaking healing right to the hearts of her readers. Another writer friend who amazes me with how she breathes life into her stories. My friend who always treats everyone with kindness and the one who seems to greet every day with patient, assured strength. All of them are stunning. Not because of what they look like, though they are beautiful, but because they use their gifts to bless others. Their beauty will never fade because it radiates from the inside out.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Pretty Pie Plans

Yesterday I told you about the peach cream pies I made and the plans I made about them.
Sunday is a big day for planning, isn't it? I always seem to have so many things to remember. We were going to have lunch at Grandma's after church. I was in charge of bringing the pie.
But one of my boys woke up not feeling very well. He laid on the couch all pale and droopy.So we stayed home.
He's much better now, running around outside enjoying the out-of-season winter sunshine.
I'm glad he's feeling better. I'm also sorry we missed church today, but I was reminded that our plans are not the ultimate authority. Not even good plans.
Today my boys stayed home and painted a wooden truck that Keith made for them. I had word fun with my Wreck this Journal (you can see some of the finished pages here) while Keith watched someone on TV install a beautiful hardwood floor.
I'm okay with our plans not working about because I know I'm not the One in charge.
And in case you were wondering, the pie is delicious.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Pretty Pie Pride

I decided to make not one, but two peach cream pies. I know. Yum.
I was going to make one for Sunday dessert, but today is Saturday and I felt bad. Right this minute my kitchen is filling up with the smell of pastry and cinnamon.
So I decided to make two. One for today and one to share at Grandma's house after church tomorrow. I'm not very good at judging "how much" so when I tried to divide the dough for the pie crust in half I don't think I got it exactly even. As I was rolling out the crust(s) I suspected that one of the pies might be a little prettier than the other. Should I take the nicer one to Grandma's where people are going to see that one? Or maybe the right thing to do would be giving my husband and my boys the best one.
Why shouldn't I? Why did I want to take the better one (if there is a better one, I don't know because they're still in the oven) somewhere and give the people who live in my house second best?
I'm sorry to say the answer is pride. Whether to keep from being criticized that "something's not quite right" about it, or because I want to maximize the possibility of praise because "oh, what a pretty pie!", really I'd be thinking of myself.
The timer will go off soon and out they'll come. Maybe they'll be identical and it won't matter. Maybe Keith will even suggest that I take the "better" one, if there is a better one.
All I know is I felt a little check in my spirit this afternoon. I really don't think there's anything wrong with taking a nicer-looking pie to a carry-in or family gathering. But keeping back our best for the wrong reason is displeasing to God. One of the very first recorded sins!

Proverbs 3:9-10 says, "9 Honor the Lord with your wealth,with the firstfruits of all your crops;10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine."

He never takes more than He gives. He will always bless us when we give our best.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Hope and Home

This morning at breakfast while discussing possible plans for the day I made a bold statement. "I think I might try and clean up the cold room today."
We call it the cold room because we only use it for extra storage so we don't have the heat on in there. It gets chilly in the winter. I've cleaned it before, but like in all catch-all areas the clutter multiplies.
So far this morning I've accomplished sorting through the boys' clothes. Until today we've been using the closet in that room for their clothes. If you know my boys you understand why. We'll see how it goes.
Anyway, It feels good to get organized.I'd really like to have it a little more usable. Maybe a chair and a desk and a quiet place to read or write with a cup of tea.  I still have a long way to go before it's "done". Every time I complete an organization project like this one I tell Keith the same thing.
"When I organize a part of our house like that I feel like I'm un-cluttering a part of my brain."
I think women especially feel a soulful connection with their homes. I believe we're all created with a longing for something this world cannot satisfy. Like a phantom pain we remember that there's something more. There are things that hint at it. Just little whispers of heaven. Like when the four of us have been in four different locations during the day, but then we're all sitting around the table together at suppertime. Just a taste of the completeness we'll experience in heaven.
I am looking forward to having a nice room to enjoy. But the truth is, it might not happen. Even if I do find a place to arrange all the mess, I don't know if I'll have the necessary odds and ends to bring about my little sanctuary room. I hope, but I don't know.
What I do know is that while I may never get my temporary home to be anything like what I wish it would be, I have an unimaginably better realer home waiting for me in heaven. Only that home is eternal. It won't have any messy closets or dust-bunnies.

Jesus knew better than anyone what it was like to be homesick. He knew we would sometimes feel bereft. So He made a promise.

1“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God ; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”

I don't just hope it happens I know it will. So much better than a chair and a cup of tea.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Self Portrait

Amie the Writer

I've really hoped to post here every day. I might not, though, because I really need to finish my manuscript. But anyway I started this blog almost a month ago and so far I've posted every day since. Usually I've had a devotional-type thought. I probably won't do that all the time though.
Today I'd like to share a little about what it's like to be a writer. For me, anyway.
You probably know that we writers people-watch. We live in fear that someone will see our search history and think we're sociopaths because we Google weird stuff. You've surely noticed we're strange.
We're also really apprehensive about letting you read our work.
A writer friend asked me one evening, "Don't you feel a little like Voldemort? With pieces of your soul just floating around out there?"
Yes. That's just what if feels like.
Writing is vulnerable. In these posts I have allowed you glimpses into my mind. If you've read and paid attention you're aware of some of my weaknesses and heartaches. You know what I believe and what I don't. An enemy could use these things as weapons if they wanted to. I do not take that lightly. The alternative is to keep silent, but I've promised God not to hide the gift He's given me under a bushel (I'm not saying I've been blessed with something like Dickensian genius, but a gift is a gift and I don't want to squander it.)
It's humbling to share my words with you. You may not agree. You might find mistakes. You are completely free to judge me any way you choose and whether your conclusions are accurate or not, there's nothing I can do about it.
Sometimes I'm really scattered. My ideas don't always align in a pretty outline in my mind so that I can happily just fill in the blanks as I go. In fact I don't think that's ever happened. I have ideas I like, or thoughts I want to communicate, and I try to find a way to intelligibly weave them together. It's not always elegant and sometimes I tie myself up because I think of something else to add, but I've composed my thoughts into tight transitions and there's nowhere for the new idea to go.
It feels messy. I'm a child with scissors and paste, clumsily patting words into a satisfactory arrangement. At my touch, the phrases slide around in the gluey mess and it doesn't look the way I imagined it would. My hands come away sticky and paper flecked, the project jagged-edged and jumbled. I think about it later in the day, finding bits of colored paper still plastered to my fingers and I wonder about the completed work. I wonder if it's the kind you'll stick to your refrigerator with your favorite heart-shaped magnet or if you'll pitch it when I'm not looking. It's scary. Because every Popsicle-stick creation and every clumsy, glitter-covered work of art is a self-portrait.
  Jon Acuff says "Your art is not your identity. Your work is not who you are, it's a byproduct of knowing who you are." And he's right. But it's very, very hard not to take criticisms bone-deep personally. It's just the way it is for a writer.
I'm not asking you for partiality. You don't have to like my writing or anybody else's. Just the other day I read a tiny bit of a popular series. It was an author far more "successful" than I. I won't tell you which series was because, I'm sorry, I thought the writing was stinkySo I do understand. Really. Please don't think of today's post as a plea for sensitivity because it's not. It's just another glimpse. Not all writers have the same measure of talent or discipline. Writers write. I don't think all writers are good. I do think all writers are brave.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Darkness and Light

I'll never understand why people create conflict. We all have those people in our lives who don't want things to go smoothly. People who create tension, awkwardness, and strife. I'm not saying that I'm perfect because I am very flawed, but that I just don't get. 
You've heard the saying: Blowing out someone's candle won't make yours shine any brighter.
And it's true.  Happy people don't go around trying to cut other people down. I don't think I've ever been jealous of someone just because they wanted me to be jealous of them. I feel too sad for them that they think they need to blow out candles. The thing about bragging is that it always sounds like bragging. Nobody has a perfect life. No one is without problems and disappointment. Whether it's because someone works hard at projecting an attractive but phony image or we look at them through rose-colored glasses, the result is the same: It's a farce.
 Who was it who first explained the idea that darkness doesn't exist?  Have you heard that before? You can't make darkness, you can only hide from the light. You can cover all the widows to keep the light away but you can't bring darkness. 
So someone might try to emphasize their candle by snuffing out yours, but it's a cheap, ineffective trick. 
There are people in my life who make me think "Oh I wish I could be more like her!" But those people aren't focusing on gaining followers, they're interested in being a follower.  People who look like Jesus. I think of my mentor. She has a gentle spirit and if your candle is sputtering she'll be the first to share hers. If you were to praise her beautiful character, she would hand the credit right over to Jesus.
How wonderful it would be if we would all just rest in His arms. If we would all focus on trying to have His perspective instead of trying to force other people to see us from the false perspective we want them to have? 
Bragging always looks like bragging. 
Jesus, help me to look more like You.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

God and Grandchildren


Have you ever heard the saying "God doesn't have grandchildren"? I remember hearing that when I was younger and, though I understood and agreed, something about it made me a little sad. I think it was because I knew what it was to be treasured and loved by a grandparent. Grandmas and Grandpas love in a way that no one else does. I mean, is there a more selfless, patient love than the love of a grandparent? I got the point of it, but a little part of me sighed.
And then I became a parent and it made a lot more sense.
One of the main things I know people mean when they say that God doesn't have grandchildren is that we don't belong to Him by proxy. Just because our parents are believers, and take us to church every week, and pray for us, and teach us what they know, doesn't mean that we have our own relationship with Him. If our relationship with Him isn't personal it's meaningless.
But there's something else, too. A parent's role is different that a grandparent's. A child's main care, upbringing and provision should come from his parents. A grandparent should be able to supplement nurturing while still being able to fawn over and spoil a child in a way that parents cannot. The love of a grandparent differs from that of a parent perhaps not in degree but in kind.
I'm really not trying to make a point about family dynamics as much as I am about  relationships with God. God does not want to be removed from us in a way that keeps Him out of major (or even minor) decisions. Parents name their children, decide which bedroom is theirs, and are responsible for the majority of disciplinary decisions.
Now when I think about God not having grandchildren I think about closeness. And not just the sweet-cuddly kind. The wake-up-with-you-in-the-middle-of-the-night kind. The pay-for-your-braces kind, The take-care-of-you when-you're-sick kind. The I-love-you-too-much-to-allow-that-behavior kind. He wants to be The Source. Not a resource.
I'm not saying that being a grandparent is a worry-free sunshine and lollipops walk in the park, and I know that lots of grandparents have stepped into a role of raising their grandchildren. My opinion about the love of a grandparent has not changed. My boys' grandparents love them so fiercely there's no way it doesn't reflect the love of God and I can't tell you how thankful I am for them.
What I am saying is that God wants all of us. He wants to be the one signing our permission slips and helping us with our homework every night. But unlike earthly parents He doesn't get tired and His patience is infinitely stronger. That's why He's God the Father. He wants you in His house under His specific care. He doesn't want you to be His kid's kid. He wants you for His own.

P.S. If you're interested in more of this topic,here.
Ken Ham has already expanded on it

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

You're So Young

This one is for young people. Teens and early twenties. All I ask is that you hear me out, because I'm hoping to clear some things up. I know you hate it when older people remind you of your age. "You're so young. You have plenty of time. Don't get so serious about that relationship. Just enjoy being a kid" And I can see why you don't like it. I really can. But let me explain what we mean (and what we don't mean) when we say it.

What We DON'T Mean:

- That your feelings are childish, or somehow less "real" than that of someone older than you. We know that if you have feelings for someone it may not be a silly crush or "just puppy love". We've been there remember? And we know exactly how it it felt. We remember how scary or overwhelming or wonderful or painful it was. 

- That you're a child and therefore unintelligent.
Being misinformed is not the same thing as being stupid. It's not possible for you to have all the knowledge that comes with experience. That doesn't mean you're an idiot.

- That you're incapable.
 Sometimes it's just about timing, not your capabilities. 

What We DO Mean:
- That you still have a lot of transitions ahead of you.
 If you are just leaving high school then you have TONS of changes ahead and change is usually difficult. Your relationships are important to you. They are strong and meaningful and real. But your friends and significant others also have a lot of transitions ahead and it's likely that theirs are different than yours.

      Think of it as a bride on her wedding day. She has lots to do. She goes to the salon to get her hair done, She gets a manicure, has lunch with her bridesmaids, takes care of last minute details and she does most of those things before she puts on her dress. If she wore that dress (probably the most significant dress of her life) at the beginning of the day, through all those transitions, it would probably get damaged. She saves it for when it's the right time, to protect it for it's purpose.

     In my opinion, one of the most difficult stages of life was the teens and early twenties. So many new experiences and feelings. So many uncertainties. I hope you can read these things with an open mind. Being able to consider an idea that's different than yours, especially one that's difficult to hear, is a sign of maturity. Younger people shouldn't be surprised if older people think they're childish when they can't stand to even consider their instruction. Reflect on something King Solomon said:

1 The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: 2 for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; 3 for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; 4 for giving prudence to those who are simple,  knowledge and discretion to the young— 5 let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance—6 for understanding proverbs and parables,the sayings and riddles of the wise. 7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. 8 Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. 9 They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.
 Proverbs 1: 1-9


Monday, February 15, 2016

The Time I Stole Bob's Coat

One morning I was awakened, earlier than necessary, by one of my boys. He came into our room to tell me about his childish mishap. Though it turned out to be not as bad as I was expecting, I immediately allowed a twinge of resentment. I knew that the problem would be mine to deal with. My husband could lie there blissful and carefree, unburdened by the waiting problem. It would fall on my shoulders. But then, right away, I felt convicted. How many times has a problem come up and there was no doubt at all that it would fall on his shoulders? Leaky faucet? Keith's job. Heavy thing to carry? Keith's job. Mouse or spider or any other icky crawly thing? Keith will take care of it and we both know it. It's nice that he is able to relax knowing that there are a lot of things that I'm going to take care of, no question. But I'm a lucky girl because I can count on him, too.
It's easy to feel resentful about our responsibilities. We can fool ourselves into thinking that our loads are heavier than they should be. We think it's not fair. That sort of self-centered thinking can lead to a lot of heartache. In The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus set us straight about fairness. 

38“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth'. 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you." 
                                                                                                                      Matthew 5:38-42

I stole Bob's coat once. It was an accident.  It happened one Sunday after church. I had put a coat onto one of my boys and then he ran off. I yanked a black coat off of its hanger and ran after my son. As I called his name and demanded he return to me, I put the coat on and tried to button it. I believe I said something like "Jesse! Jesse! Get back over he- this is not my coat!"
It was Pastor Bob's coat. It was way too big, and had my kid not distracted me, I probably wouldn't have taken it. I went back to where the coats were hanging and Bob was standing there looking politely confused. 
 I confessed. He laughed. He graciously said, "I just figured someone needed it more than me."
Even though someone took something that belonged to him, he didn't act as if his rights had been violated. He didn't talk about fairness. Now, of course, it was only a few seconds that I had Bob's coat in my possession, but he still handled the mistake with grace. 
In the everyday-ness of life it's hard not to feel resentful sometimes. It's hard not to fret about things not being fair. But what I need to remember is that I am so richly blessed in so many ways. And I don't deserve it. I'll try to remind myself of that when I fall into the trap of thinking about "fairness". There are many, many times when something isn't fair in my favor. If everything was fair I would be utterly lost. It wasn't fair when Jesus took my place on the cross. 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Just for Fun II

I recently posted an interview with Sam. Jesse was at school when we did that, so I thought it was time to have the same conversation with him. Again his answers are in green.

1.What is something I always say to you?
Um, you love me. 
2. What makes me happy?
3. What makes me sad?
Being bad.
4. How do I make you laugh?
Like when Sam falls down on the couch.
5. What was I like as a child?
You had buncha hair.
6. How old am I?
7. How tall am I?
 Nine. (He didn't say nine what, while in the meantime Sam has upgraded me to twelve)
8. What is my favorite thing to do? 
Play with me.
9. What do I do when you're not around? 
Uh, make a scavenger hunt? (really should do that more often)
10. What am I really good at?
Uhm, making Fredrickson's house. (He wants me to draw it so he can color it. )
11. What am I not very good at?
Build my toy truck. (His project with Daddy)
12. What do I do for a job?
Do dishes?
13. What is my favorite favorite food?
14. What do you enjoy doing with me?
Finding scavenger hunt. (Ok, I really need to do that more often)

Saturday, February 13, 2016

It's Not What it Looks Like

I have a small scrape on the heel of my right hand. It's tiny. If I showed it to you and told you that it hurt, you would look at me like I was crazy and think that I'm a whiner. You would think I was just exaggerating unless I explained to you how I got the little mark on my hand.
A week ago I was trying to smash some trash down into the trashcan when I felt a biting pain. Earlier that day my husband had been doing some work in the hallway and thrown out the mess in the trash. I had pressed my hand down right onto a nail. The tiny mark on my hand is not a scrape, it's a puncture.
What looks like a tiny mark was a very painful wound. My whole hand hurt. Even now, it's almost healed on the surface, but really it's still very tender.You can't tell just by looking that it goes deeper.
And it makes me think about assumptions we make. A few days ago I wrote about judgement. I stand by what I said before, people use the "don't judge me" excuse to justify their bad decisions. That "don't judge me because I sin differently than you" statement I see all the time really rubs me the wrong way. Another way of saying that, in my opinion, is "I know I'm being foolish but I don't want anyone to think less of me for it. Other people are foolish too!"  We can't expect people not to lose respect for us if we admittedly do what we know is wrong.
But today I'm talking about something a little different. Sometimes people judge each other, not about right actions and wrong actions, but on the superficial. I'm talking about compassion.
 That clingy child was tiresome, but it turns out she was in foster care and was starving for affection. That girl who keeps to herself that everyone thought was a conceited snob is actually painfully shy. The person behind the counter seemed rude but really he's still stinging because his boss just yelled at him.
We just can't always know what someone else is going though. So let's be guided by what Paul said in his letter to the Galatians:

  1 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 4 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, 5 for each one should carry their own load. 6 Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor. Galatians 6:1-6

All kinds of good stuff in there. Notice that he advises us to get over ourselves and help each other out? At first it may seem contradictory that he says we should carry each other's burdens but everyone has to shoulder their own load.
My pastor explained it in a really great sermon once: A burden is more than one person can handle on their own. Something that's too much for one person. We should pitch in and help. A load is someone's personal responsibility. Something like a backpack. Even children have their own loads that they should be able to take on without help.
If we're too focused on our own loads we won't notice when someone is being crushed by a burden.
We should all go around wearing compassion colored glasses.
Check out this short video made by Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock Arkansas.  It's a powerful representation of seeing others with empathy and compassion instead of selfishness. Because sometimes what looks like a scrape is really a puncture. Sometimes we have to ask to find out that what looks like a load is really a burden.

Friday, February 12, 2016

A Big Lie

  One morning in Sunday School we talked about heaven. We read through several scriptures that tell us a little about what heaven will be like.  Although we can't really imagine how beautiful and happy and holy it will be, there's one thing that we can be certain of . Heaven will not be boring. But, this is a cultural thing we've seen over and over. Just sitting on clouds, playing harps, wearing robes. Sure the scenery will be eye-pleasing but on the whole, it's a big yawn-fest. Didn't Mark Twain say, "Go to heaven for the climate and hell for the company."?  How sad.  What a huge, horrible, ugly lie. And it isn't just limited to what heaven and hell are like. We're surrounded by this sort of thing all the time. There's this great big lie that people fall for all day every day. The idea that the devil is all about pleasure and God is all about self-denial.
 It just isn't true.
 C.S. Lewis talks about this at length in his book "The Screwtape Letters". I've posted an excerpt here about how God is the one who loves when we find bliss in His creation. Screwtape and Wormwood are sickened by it.

“He’s a hedonist at heart. All those fasts and vigils and stakes and crosses are only a facade. Or only like foam on the sea shore. Out at sea, out in His sea, there is pleasure, and more pleasure. He makes no secret of it; at His right hand are ‘pleasures for evermore.’
Ugh! I don’t think He has the least inkling of that high and austere mystery to which we rise in the Miserific Vision. He’s vulgar, Wormwood. He has a bourgeois mind. He has filled His world full of pleasures.
There are things for humans to do all day long without His minding in the least– sleeping, washing, eating, drinking, making love, playing, praying, working. Everything has to be twisted before it’s any use to us. We fight under cruel disadvantages. Nothing is naturally on our side.”
    The enemy wants you to believe that he's the ultimate party-planner, free-spirit and God is a massive wet blanket Who h a t e s it when we have any fun at all, but that's malarkey. If the devil could get us to make bad decisions without offering any sort of pleasure he would do it. The little bit of good-feeling that we get out of doing something we shouldn't? I imagine the devil resents it. Pleasure was God's invention. His idea. This idea that the devil likes it when we indulge ourselves? That he's the one who thinks of ways for us to enjoy, enjoy, enjoy? Wrong.
 He thinks of ways for us to destroy ourselves. He takes great big soul-killing decisions and paints them with the thinnest possible layer of gratification. We would never fall for it otherwise. If he told families to hate and disrespect one another they would close ranks and defend their loved ones. But take a popular sitcom, make the kids smarter than their lame parents, throw in a hefty dose of glamorized bad choices, sprinkle it with some cynical zingers and wrap it all up in laughter and it's an insidious poison. Poison that makes it seem like a good idea to disrespect your family. Poison that tastes like comedy. See the lie? Laughter is God's idea. Laughter is a very good thing. And it is used ALL THE TIME to help us ingest garbage.
The examples go on and on. Everything from gossip to lying to sexual sin, Underneath the destructive act is something that God created for our pleasure and His glory. We do it to feel better about ourselves? Self-worth is a good thing that God wants for us. We do it because we want others to accept us? Fellowship is a good thing that God encourages. But the devil wants us to go about getting these things in a sinful, empty, way. He wants us to choose the parody over the gift.
If the devil could get away with it, he would have us turn our backs on God completely without us getting any enjoyment out of it all. But God is honored when we hear birds sing and our spirits are lifted. When we sigh with contentment to rest after a trying day? God is glorified. There's not much the devil can do about how our awareness of God is impacted by His creation. The devil knows that pleasure belongs to God and I think he uses it against us begrudgingly. But it's a very useful weapon. The devil would not use pleasure if he didn't have to, but if it gets people to worship the created instead of the Creator, he'll do it.