Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Best Reads of 2009

A few weeks ago, I read an article in the New York Times about its top book picks in 2009.  As a result, I have asked several people around me for their own top picks, the best books that they have read this past year.  I have been negligent in posting my own.  I keep a running list of the books that I read – and that list is buried somewhere in one of the many unpacked boxes in our new house.  So, based on my (often faulty) memory, here is my list of top ten.


1.  The Bible.  Someone told me that the Bible didn’t count, but as yet, it was my most consistent reading over the course of the year.  I would encourage you to read it through in 2010.  There is something amazing in grasping it in its entirety.  Its depth never ceases to astonish me.  I can email you a “schedule” if you are interested.  That helps me to stay consistent.

2.  Once A Runner and Again to Carthage, both by John L. Parker.  The first book was originally self-published in 1978 and sold out of the back of the author’s car at running races.  In 2007, it ranked as the number one most-sought-after out-of-print book in the United States.  It was just reprinted this year.  Again to Carthage is its sequel.  If you were ever a high school or college athlete (which I never was), you would appreciate these books.  If you run, the writing in the race sequences is powerful.  If you rather just sit on the couch and read about sweat, it will help you understand the mindset of those with worn-out running shoes and fading dreams.

3.  Home by Marilynne Robinson, newly published and the winner of many writing awards, including the coveted Orange Award in the United Kingdom which sent the Brits into an uproar that an American would win THEIR own trophy.  I read this book first, although its predecessor and companion piece is Gilead, which won the Pulitzer Prize for literature in 2005.  Actually, both books dwell on the same situation, seen from two very different perspectives.  When Gilead first came out, I had a hard time jumping in.  Home pulled me in instantly, and then I went back and read Gilead.  I was then able to appreciate it.  I also re-read Marilynne’s first book Housekeeping, her first novel published in 1980 which was nominated for the Pulitzer, an amazing feat for a first-time novelist.  Her writing  in itself is profound.  She is on the permanent faculty at the University of Iowa Writers Workshop.  I met her there when we lived in Iowa City, long before I realized who I was meeting.

4.  Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel. I have read A LOT of parenting books through the years.  This one stands far and above the rest.  I taught this book in a small group Bible study for young moms last summer.  We learned a lot about parenting  based on grace rather than performance, but the deepest discussions revolved around learning about ourselves, our backgrounds,  and how we can live grace-filled lives.  Highly recommended.

5.  Transforming Leadership by Leighton Ford.  Everyone is interested nowadays in leadership books.  I felt that this book should have been titled Transforming Servanthood, but then, who would have read it?  Published in 1991, it does not relay information about successful models of leadership, but the transforming servanthood model of Jesus Christ.  This book was on a prescribed reading list for a course that I was taking.  I did not want to read it.  It surprised me.

6.  On the same vein, Transforming Discipleship by Greg Ogden.  How many small group Bible studies have you participated in through the years?  And what can you remember from them?  How did they change you?  This book is based on the premise that information without transformation is a waste of time.  Ogden believes in the transforming power of a small group.    The key word here is “transformation.”

7.  Decades ago, Flannery O’Connor took the literary world by storm.  A single woman living with lupus on a peacock farm in Georgia, she wrote with a rare giftedness that did not mince words.  In Mystery and Manners, many of her unpublished essays and talks have been gathered together.  The underlying theme throughout this little book is the grace of God and the power of story.  I have something underlined on just about every page.

8.  At the University of Memphis, I had the privilege to hear author Elizabeth Strout read aloud portions of her new book Olive Kitteridge.   It is a witty book of short stories that are interwoven.  The common thread is the character Olive Kitteridge.  One’s perceptions about this odd woman remarkably change through the course of the book.  The stories are somewhat reckless and often quite irreverent, but the second story in this book is one of the most powerful testimonies about the sanctity of life that I have read.

9.  I was re-introduced this year to the works of the Nobel Prize-winning poet Czeslaw Milosz who is now deceased.  He is one of the writers that I wonder why I never heard of him before now.  Even though he passed away in 2004, his work is still being published.  I testify that I don’t understand much of his work, but his words are rich.  “One clear stanza can take more weight/ Than a whole wagon of elaborate prose.” (from the preface of A Treatise On Poetry).  The other book of his that I read this year was The Witness of Poetry, a series of lectures in 1981-82 at Harvard.  Not light reading.

10.  The surprise story of the year in many circles was the publication of Called Out of Darkness by Anne Rice.  Her writing career was launched with her legendary 1973 publication of Interview with the Vampire and the remainder of her vampire series.  Her fiction was dark and gothic.  This memoir focuses on Anne Rice’s return to Christianity after decades of hardcore atheism.  One of the most poignant passages that I remember was her stating “I missed God.”   She had walked away from the faith, and the reality of His absence in her life took her breath away.  No one stands beyond the grace of God.  The most spiritually thirsty people you know may be the least obvious.


This list includes books of all genres and worldviews.  It is in the revealing of human nature that we see our shortcomings.  Even a false worldview reveals what is really Truth, and even more firmly establishes the validity and consistency of a Biblical worldview.  Read everything with that lens.  As Flannery O’Connor states, fiction “should reinforce our sense of the supernatural by grounding it in concrete, observable reality.”


I’d love to see YOUR list.   Merry Christmas. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Make New Friends But Keep The Old

I had a wonderful opportunity over last weekend to go to the women’s retreat from our old church in Kansas City.  Putting it in perspective, we were part of that church family from 1993 to 1996.  When we moved there, Hannah was three.  She is now a twenty year old college junior.  I had not seen most of these women for thirteen years.  And it amazed me how quickly we were able to recognize each other and jump into conversation.  And on Sunday morning at breakfast, I met a church staff member who came to the church after we left Kansas City.  “You are the Wells?  That is why I am here.”  Our pastor in Iowa City knew we went there.  The networking threads of the Kingdom are often visible, always strong, and make me smile at God’s intricate design.

Driving on the way home that night on the pitch black two-lane roads of Arkansas, my experience over the weekend gave me strength and hope.  We are on the verge of moving again and on the verge of departing from our dear amazing friends here in Memphis.  And I realized that again it is not just saying goodbye, but see-you-later.  I was not much of a Girl Scout when I was young, but I remember a little song from my Brownie troop some fifty years ago, “Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.”  As I drove over the Arkansas bridge and the Memphis skyline appeared, I thanked God for the awesome blessing He bestowed on us by letting us live here for six wonderful years.  I didn’t see it coming.  Bill, the girls, and I have been blessed by friendships in Memphis, deep, rich, and sweet.  These are the kind that just get better and better through the years, despite the distance between us.

Memphis friends, you are solid gold.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Old Photographs

As we are moving from Memphis to Chicago in two weeks, I have been going through many boxes of accumulated stuff.  And consequently, I have dredged up a lot of memories.  There were many photographs not only of our girls, but the ancient relatives.  The old faces of previous generations peer at us on faded sepia-toned paper.  These captured images are dear to us, not because these people were beautiful by the world’s standards of beauty, but because of our love for them and how they loved us.  Some of them had infirmities, like my grandmother’s almost fifty year battle with rheumatoid arthritis.  Her hands were knotted by swollen joints, and her knees were huge from inflammation, a prime candidate for replacement knee surgery that was not available at that time.  She shuffled, but she spoke often of dancing in the streets someday in heaven.

I have also thought a lot lately about transformation and what that means in this life and the next.  We see with our eyes the deformities, the infirmities, the handicaps of living in a fallen world.  But I am convinced that in eternity, we will recognize each other not by our bodies or our faces, but by what is imperishable.


And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the LORD, are being changed into His likeness from one degree of glory to another.  2 Corinthians 3.18

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

And why exactly do you want to get married?

This past weekend was a time of great rejoicing.  I am guessing that those who live in Memphis, you could hear the joy of the angels.  And for others who live elsewhere, that is why there was a glow on the horizon.  On Saturday, October 24, our daughter Kate was married to Justin Gregory.  Even through the windows of the chapel, it was as though a heavenly light appeared.  Their love for each other was obvious, and their love for Christ emanated throughout the service.  I have been to a lot of weddings through the years.  I have been to a lot of weddings that may have well been in a courthouse in that they were merely ritual and obligation, obtaining a piece of paper or making it official, as they say in the secular world.  This service had all the pieces, the music, the readings, the homily, the vows, the processional, and gala attire.  But there was a strong presence of the Holy Spirit in that place.  It was fraught with meaning and significance – many people have told me how moved they were.  I continue to pray that God would use and redeem that time in the lives of those who believe and those who are seeking Him.

     What made the difference?

     The pastor Mark Ottinger produced the evidence.  He and his sweet wife Tona met with Kate and Justin for several months for pre-marital counseling.  Mark said that in one of their first sessions, he downright asked them, “So why exactly do you want to get married?”

     And Mark said that they replied without hesitation, “Because we want to glorify God together.”

     That was the difference in that ceremony.  And that statement alone will make all the difference for their lifetime together ….and for generations to come.  Glorifying God together.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Stuff in the Attic

Today, October 21, commemorates the birthday of Alfred Nobel, whom we know in regards to the Nobel Prizes that are awarded each year.  But few know how those prizes came to be established.  Alfred Nobel gained his great wealth through the invention of dynamite which was intended to be used for constructive purposes, but of course, had been used in other destructive ways as well.  When Alfred’s brother died, the newspapers mistakenly thought it was him, and so, Alfred read his own obituary. 

"Le marchand de la mort est mort ('The merchant of death is dead')," the newspaper proclaimed — and also, "Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday."

Alfred Nobel read the obituary about himself and was so upset that this was to be his legacy that he rewrote his will to establish a set of prizes celebrating humankind's greatest achievements. He wrote this final will about a year before he died and signed it at the Swedish-Norwegian Club in Paris. He left 94 percent of his assets to create and endow five Nobel Prizes: physics, chemistry, physiology or medical works, literature, and peace.

Ok, so how does this apply to me?

Many of you know that we (the nomadic Wells tribe) are moving again.  We sent out roots down in Memphis, but God engineered our goings again.  The new house in Chicago has no storage, and so, I am in the process of divesting our family of STUFF.  We have so far unloaded many boxes of unnecessary papers and other things that have ended up being moved from house to house.  My cry of “we might need it someday” doesn’t hold much weight anymore, particularly since all the girls have since left home.  I have taken a couple of carloads of things that are usable to various locations where they can be distributed.

I became very aware last night of pictures and other documents left behind by those who came before us, parents, grandparents, great grandparents and beyond.  There are pictures and family resemblances as far back as the late 1800s.  And I even came across my great grandmother’s Bible with her annotations scribbled in pencil.  What did these people leave behind?  A name, a photograph, a family anecdote?  Is that all?  Or something more lasting than what can be contained in a cardboard box?  A legacy.

I challenge you today…and myself… to think about these things.  Not in a morbid sense, nor one without hope, but by what will we be remembered someday?

“And this is the name by which he will be called:    “The LORD is our righteousness.”

                                                                                                                     Jeremiah 23.6

Press on!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Miss Maggie


A few months ago, I wrote about the end of an era

when Hannah turned 20, and suddenly there were no more

teenagers in our family.

Well, as of September 19, a huge new era took its place. 

Sweet little Maggie Anderson, our first grandbaby, was born.

And we are smitten.

So many people have told us about the fun of grandparenting.

And we are looking forward to those adventures, the laughter in

our halls, making cookies, and visiting the zoo a bizillion times.

But holding that little bundle in my arms also made me so suddenly

aware and convicted about our responsibility as grandparents.

Maggie is the beginning of “the generations to come,” which the Bible talks about.

Everything I do and everything I have done directly affects her

life.  And affects her children.  And her grandchildren.  That is a

humbling thought.  She has her Mama’s eyes and her Daddy’s smile,

but what other family legacies have been passed down in a spiritual

sense?   May we all be faithful to this next generation.


I will utter dark sayings from old,

things that we have heard and known,

that our fathers have told us.

We will not hide them from their children,

but tell to the coming generation

the glorious deeds of the LORD, and His might,

and the wonders which He has wrought.

…teach to their children

that the next generation might know them,

the children yet unborn,

and arise and tell them to their children,

so that they should set their hope in God,

and not forget the works of God….

                                              Psalm 78.2-7

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Gifts For Maggie B

As many of you may know, our daughter Beth (and Laura’s oldest sister) is expecting her first baby on September 25. Her name is Margaret Elizabeth, and they will call her Maggie. Early one morning this summer, I was thinking about this sweet little baby and the things that I would desire for her and to claim for her 3 John 4: “No greater joy can I have than this, to hear that my children follow the truth.” I claimed that verse for our own four girls, and now for yet another. Here are the gifts that I would want Maggie to have.


A child raised

         unencumbered by things,

  possessing instead

           the ability to see beyond wants and needs

     and desire Him alone,

the courage to step away and be different,

         the love to move among others freely

                           and not be ensnared,

a thirst and a vision for the Kingdom in all things,

a single heart focused on Him

        that sees the needs of others before her own

        and delights in filling them,

who ascribes to the LORD

                          the glory due His name,

who realizes the power of the Word

      and engraves it indelibly in her heart,

the eyesight that comes from the core of Truth

                         and sees all reality in that Light,

eternity in her heart,

wisdom beyond her years,

a quickness to obey the Voice she knows

                 is from the Father

                 and no one else,

the agility to turn on a dime

       drop everything

       and move in the middle of the night

                    or life,

ignorance of inability

        and fully aware of His strength within,

   a desire to turn away from whispers of “I could never do that,”

                  and shout out,

    “Here I am, send me,”



    and ready to roll,

live above reproach,

seek excellence in all things,

                    knowing that even what is not noticed

                    may bring great glory to God and be used by Him,

willingness to stand in the breach,

live invisibly for God

           under the radar when needed,

           stand up when called,

live the Truth like a prophet,

                       and at all times carry a basin and a towel.

I love you, sweet one.

I am excited for your adventure in the Kingdom.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my

No, I haven’t fallen off the edge of the earth.  I realize that it has been way too long since I have written.  No excuses.  It was summer, what can I say?  I’ve hiked in the Smokies, I’ve run in weather too hot to breathe in humid Memphis, I’ve walked the crowded streets of New York, I’ve seen 17 black bears in the wild, too many deer to count, and watched as my husband  glanced backwards at me and barely missed  stepping on a rattling rattle snake three miles out on a trail run.  I was appropriately speechless.

Hope that your summer was grand.  Here in the South, school has been in session for more than a week (always the hottest week of the summer), and we are only in mid-August.  Back to the books. 

Actually for many of us, it should be back to the Book.  Summer time schedules can be ruthless in breaking up routine and stomping it flat.  But all is not lost.  Carve out that niche of daily Bible reading once again.  Hold tight and dig deep.  I realize that trudging through the names and numbers and census counts in Numbers, Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah seems like TMI – too much information – but it is in those details that the Bible asserts its authenticity.  No one would make that stuff up.  These are real names, real genealogies, real places, and a lot of people, not just a nomadic tribe of a few scruffy-looking individuals.  Walk right through the midst of that very significant reality.  Therein lies much truth.  I’d love to hear what you are learning.


For whatever was written in former days

                 was written for our instruction,

that by steadfastness

                 and by the encouragement of the Scriptures,

we might have hope.

                                          Romans 15.4

Press on, friends!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


For those who used to follow my previous blog, you can add it to your RSS once again... It is now reopened.

Time to Refocus

The amount of blog activity around here tends to have an inverse relationship to the activity in our "real" lives. As you probably guessed, the past few weeks have been busy. Ridiculously busy. As in, I stopped counting at 9 different things I would miss as I went out of town this past weekend. As in, when I arrived at work this morning, I anticipated tonight being my first free night in about 3 weeks. Now, shortly after 9 in the morning, it is already looking like that may not happen until next Monday.
For a little while, it can be fun to be busy and have a lot going on. But please be warned: Satan seems to love using busy lifestyles to take our focus off of where it should be.
Many of us seem to place our value in our schedule. The busier you are, the more purposeful your life becomes. This is a lie.
In filling in our planners and scheduling our lives, we tend to forget that our purpose and value does not have anything to do with how many meetings we attend, or how little free time we possess. We look at those around us with envy as we see all that they accomplish in their day. We jump to answer our cell phone with no regard for the individual across the table. We arrive late to meet someone, without consideration of what they dropped in order to be there on time.
I think it is great to be involved. I really do. Community is an essential part of our faith, and it is impossible to foster such fellowship without involvement and activity.
But I also think it is great to be invested. Simply showing up does not build relationships. So when you have plans, commit to them. And be fully present. Don't be thinking of what you'd rather be doing, or the million items on your to-do list, or the countless items you need to add to that list. Show whomever you are with that you value them more than your schedule. Maybe that means turning your phone off every now and then. Maybe it means setting your clock ahead in order to arrive on time. Maybe it means cutting back on a few activities and giving more to the remaining commitments. God does not need a packed schedule in order to use you for His glory.

Monday, July 27, 2009

No Offense, But I Disagree

"The morning cup of coffee has an exhilaration about it which the cheering influence of the afternoon or evening cup of tea cannot be expected to reproduce." -Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

Monday, July 20, 2009

One Small Step

Today marks the fortieth anniversary of astronaut Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. You all read about it in your history books. I watched it on television -- the one with knobs and tubes and an antenna, back when there were only three network channels and a lot of static.
I was just shy of sixteen years old, working two jobs in the summer. My dad was out of work and trying to start his own company. My older brother Bobby had just graduated from high school and trying his best to avoid being drafted and sent to Viet Nam.
I was sitting down in the basement, where the tile floor was cool on that hot summer's evening. And my three brothers and I watched that historic moment, "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." My grandmother, whom we called Mammy, sat down next to me, having just put in another load of wash. She was always moving, never sitting down, always busy, even though now at eighty she had every excuse. She had fought rheumatoid arthritis since she was 35, and her knees were as big as cantalopes. They didn't have knee replacement surgery in those days. She just kept pushing through her pain and would hit you with a stick if you told her to relax.
We watched Neil Armstrong on the fuzzy screen. I looked over. Mammy had tears on her cheeks. "What's the matter?" I asked.
"To think that I have gone from covered wagon to watching a man walk on the moon," she said. "Imagine that."
My life was about to change radically. In just a few weeks, my brother went away to college. And in just a couple of months, on her eighty-first birthday, Mammy passed away, as it says in the Bible, "full of days." Suddenly I was the oldest kid, Dad was traveling all the time, and Mom was trying to support us by giving violin lessons at 7 a.m. in our living room. I was a junior in high school, and life seemed so hard.
I remember so vividly that humid day in July. And it surprised me when I saw the headlines today, announcing the anniversary of the moon landing. I didn't read about it in the newspaper. I didn't see it on television. I read about it on the internet.
Imagine that.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Keep Wearing Those Socks

The timing of my mom's most recent post was really rather ironic.  That same morning, I had made an addition to my list of potential blogging topics.  The addition?  Why sometimes change is not always the best option.  Interesting.
Now, please don't misunderstand.  I completely agree with my mom in that sometimes, action needs to be taken.
But I think a significant difference exists between taking action and seeking out change.
And there will definitely be times when we seek change.  Times when we grow discontent with our current situation, and all we want is something different; times when we idealize various options, as long as they take us away from where we are.
Sometimes change is essential for our well-being.  I recognize that.  And sometimes it is exactly what we need to get us back on track.  I recognize that as well.  So I am certainly not opposed to what my mom had to say.
But other times, those blisters on our feet are exactly what we need to continue enduring for the sake of bringing God glory.  Because the truth is, there is a lot more to a relationship with God than finding the most comfortable pair of socks.  Discomfort is a part of the journey.
And in these times, by continuing in obedience with what He wants, rather than taking the easy way out, He is able to form us more into His likeness.
I have seen this repeatedly in the past couple of years.  Does my life look how I would choose it to look?  Not at all.  But I have seen God using so many of those "blisters" to bring me closer to Him.
Rather than seeking out change when encountering a difficult situation, why not turn to Him in obedience?  Why not trust in Him to use you in your current situation?  Because He can use you there just as much, if not more, than He can use you in your desired situation.
So instead of thinking "If only..." and how a change might enable us to comfortably enjoy our life more, our mindset should shift to how we can bring God glory by enjoying Him exactly where we are.  Blisters and all.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Change Your Socks

Over and over, the blisters would emerge after a long hike. They would then be irritated further by running.
I finally said, “I can’t do this again. I have to do something different.”
I reached into my drawer, and instead of pulling out my favorite thick white running socks, I chose an old thin black pair.
I ran without pain.
If we want things to change, we have to do something different. And why is it that it takes a personal crisis before we are willing to change? A blister, an “F” on a test, a pink slip, sickness, or ____(fill in the blank.)
What change do you want to see in your life? Be more organized, more efficient with your time, more sensitive to others, more consistent in reading Scripture, lose weight, gain weight, read more, write a novel, run a 5k, get married, learn to cook, speak French, make more friends, know God more, or make a difference for His kingdom?
The key to it is that you have to do something different. It won’t just arrive on your doorstep one morning like a Federal Express package. And no fair blaming your circumstances or those people around you. Back when I was a teenager a hundred years ago, author and friend Robert Wolgemuth told me, “You can’t change others. You can only change yourself.”
What are you going to do?
If you want things to change, do something different. Start with His Word. Daily. It will change how you look at life itself. And the transformation will affect every one around you.
Change your socks.

I waited patiently for the LORD;
He inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the desolate pit,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the LORD.
Psalm 40.1-3

Press on!

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Waiting Room

It is Monday morning, and I am again waiting on workmen to show up. I love how they schedule their appointments -- between 9 and 12, for example -- and then either show up at 11:55 or call to say they are running behind. A couple of weeks ago, I had an appointment here at the house at 9 am. I moved my schedule around to accomodate the appointment. The clock zoomed past 9 am, 9:15, and finally at 9:30 I called the office. Oh, there must have been some miscommunication, she said. You were not down on his list. He can be there at 11. Eleven went by, and finally at 11:30 his truck pulled in. He was at the house for no more than 20 minutes.

Everyone of us is waiting for something. All of us are in the waiting room, whether it is 15 minutes until supper is ready or something years down the road. Sometimes we don't even know what we are waiting for.

The biggest question is how we are waiting. Are you figuratively flipping through old copies of Reader's Digest, passing the time? Tapping your foot,dozing off, watching the clock, or surfing the web? Or are you using that time? When my friend Leeba Curlin had seven young children, she went about her day with a briefcase of sorts, right by her side in her van. When she found herself waiting for any period of time, a few minutes or a few hours, she was ready. She did her bills, wrote letters, and finished who knows how many books. She redeemed the time and made the most of it.

Are you ready to wait? Are you redeeming the time? The time that we wait is also part of life. God will use it for His glory, or we can waste it on worthless pursuits. Don't just sit there. He has strategically placed you in time and space. There is purpose, even in this. And it may not even be about you.

Wherever we are placed is always a training ground for the next adventure.

Look carefully then how you walk,
not as unwise men but as wise,
making the most of the time...
Ephesians 5. 15-16

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Not on my agenda, Not what I ordered

When things seem out of joint, we must always examine ourselves carefully
and make sure that we have not run ahead of God.
If we are abiding in Him and in His plans,
not ours,
even when thing are not working out,
they are working out.
The problem happens when we pursue our desires
instead of pursuing Him,
and when we invite God to join our plans
and fit Him in the cracks
instead of letting Him direct our paths.
“I want this,” we cry at the first thing we see.
And we hold on with a death grip with both hands
and dig in our heels.
And oh, what could have been
if we had waited and listened.
God’s Will may not be what we want.
But it is always the best,
even when we cannot comprehend.
We want Him to show us the reason first
as if it is up to us to judge it
worthy of our submission.
Stop asking God why
roll up your sleeves,
and start asking Him what.
Stop seeking the answer,
and seek Him alone.
This is when the evidence of God
moves beyond the incremental depth of Sunday School lessons
to the cavernous reaches of the heart.
A relationship with God is as personal as it gets.
And it will cost everything.
Everything must go on the altar.
Cling only to Him.
He is not a part of your life,
but life itself.
That which drives you.
That on which you stake your life.

And that is why it is so absolutely vital
to stay daily in His Word.
Get to where nothing can throw you
because Christ is at your very core.

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary,
His understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might
He increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted,
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40. 28-31
Press On!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


With the current economy, investments seem a rather touchy subject for many individuals. They are hesitant in deciding where to put their money, unsure what is worth the risk.

Now don't worry, I won't get into that. After all, this is not a finance lesson.

The truth is, we have a lot more to be concerned with than simply monetary investments. As Christians, we also need to be focused on how we invest in other aspects of our lives. That says a lot more about a person than where their money is... What is consuming their time? To what are they committed for the long term? In what and whom are they spending their thoughts and emotions? How are they using their resources?

Are the investments in your life honoring to God? Toward what returns are you focusing? Are you using what He has given you to bring Him glory?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Don't Miss Summer: Have You Played Today?

Play should be an important component of summer. I miss seeing kids playing in their yards, riding bikes, drawing in chalk on the driveway, and getting dirty playing with trucks in the mud. One of our girls once purchased a slip n’ slide for a quarter at a garage sale. The girls and their friends just about tore up the lawn on the side of our house in Kansas City playing with it by the hour. And as Bill would explain to the neighbors, “We’re raising kids, not grass.”

Everything today seems so shrink-wrapped for kids, pre-packaged with step by step instructions and pictures of how it should look. Guaranteed not to make a mess. I was once watching a friend’s children while she went to a meeting. Her children were playing with some old Legos that we still have, trying to build something from the little guidebook and getting rather frustrated that they couldn’t find the right pieces. “Well, you can make anything you want,” I suggested. “We can?” they said incredulously. That prompted almost two hours of incredible construction on the floor of our playroom.

Where are the muddy boys who play all afternoon in the creek catching frogs and capturing fireflies at night in old mayonnaise jars?
Where are the castles in the living room made of cushions, old bedspreads and every pillow in the house? Or forts in the backyard created from old refrigerator boxes?
Or “inventions” devised of old string and spools and dowel rods from the garage. Children’s bedrooms should be decorated with interesting rocks and maps and model airplanes made of balsa wood, and other things made of glue and old paint. Let them imagine. And if they make a mess, so be it.

Nostalgia aside, play is good for kids. Stuart Brown, a physician and director of the National Institute for Play (no, I did not make this up), says that in one of his studies, he observed play-deprivation in homicidal young men. Featured recently on National Public Radio, Brown says that play nurtures trust, promotes enthusiasm for learning, prevents violence, lessens stress, develops the capacity for problem solving, and invigorates the body. (And you thought it was just a waste of time). None of the murderers that he has studied had ever engaged in normal rough-and-tumble play.

And if it does that for kids, so much more for adults.

Why is play so important? I think because it is a component of life that God has hard-wired into our souls. Laughter and enjoyment. Sometimes we forget what they are. Last weekend, my husband Bill went for a long bike ride in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He was waiting for me to pick him up at a shelter at the conclusion of his ride. A man started to talk to Bill, curious about the bike and his outfit. The first thing he said was, “What are you training for?” “Life,” Bill replied.

Why is play important? Because it is part of the restoration of the world. In Scriptures, God paints a picture of the world restored. “And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets.” (Zechariah 8.5) ‘Cause that’s the way it ought to be.

Don’t miss summer. And ask your kids every night, “Did you play enough today?”
You too.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

So What’s On YOUR Plate Today?

It is the dawning of a new day, the birds begin to chirp before the light begins, and suddenly, the darkness has passed. The day is at my fingertips, so to speak, and I realize that it is not I who raised the sun. This is the day that the LORD has made. Psalm 118.24

Life comes at you fast at times. The urgent shouts to us from the other room. And as my mother used to say, “I didn’t have time to sit down today.” One thing that I have learned is to make Him first in your day, and He will redeem that time
in remarkable ways.

He will order your day.

At one point, I went from rushing headlong into the day to stopping first and laying my day before Him. But now, I see that from a different angle. It is not our responsibility to lay the day before Him, but to respond as He lays the day before us. His plans may be very different than we conceive, and ever more eternal.

Just last week, my plans were disturbed by a plumber who arrived earlier than expected, and I had to leave a meeting early. In the first few minutes, he found a break in a valve and quoted me the price of a new car to fix it. “Three hours labor,” he explained. I called another to get a second opinion. “Sorry, but I don’t do that kind of work,” the second man said. “Call Drew. He’s the best.” He gave me the number which I wrote down and dialed immediately. Drew answered the phone as he was walking across a busy street. “Hey, you know, right now, I am not too far away, and my next appointment was cancelled,” he said. He was there in less than ten minutes and had the valve replaced in twenty. Turns out he was a believer and was having a problem with his kid. We talked for a few minutes. “You know,” he said, “I could not have better engineered this conversation. If you had called me at any other time, it would have taken three weeks to get an appointment. God had you call right when you did.”

God’s day, not mine. I would have missed that divine encounter in my own schedule of events.

William Wilberforce, who God used to impact culture and dismantle slavery in the British Empire, believed that if he did not study the Scriptures “the most pressing claims will carry (my heart), not the strongest.”

Don’t give God your day. Follow Him in His plans for you. Dig deep into God’s Word, and it will change your life, one day at a time.

My times are in Your hand. Psalm 31.15

For those who are reading the Bible through in a year, congratulations.
Today marks the halfway point.
Press on!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"The Bible Says That?"

A good friend of mine recently took a group of urban teenagers to a week of Young Life Camp, an amazing experience for many who have never been outside Memphis city limits or accustomed to three meals a day.
At cabin time four nights into the trip, he told his campers, “Ask me anything.” And these young men had the opportunity to ask the questions that no one has ever let them ask and no one has ever bothered to answer.

My friend T did not elaborate on his own ideas of spirituality, but fielded the questions with Scripture, flipping back and forth through the Word in answering vital life questions. And I need to point out that my friend is not a seminary graduate or ordained minister, but a man who daily digs deep into God’s Word.

Over and over, he heard, “The Bible says that?”

It reminds me of the section in Exodus when Moses exhorts God’s people to be ready. “And when your children ask you, “What do these things mean?” (Exodus 12.26 and others) Or your co-workers or neighbors or friends. What are you going to tell them? When the opportunity comes up, there is no time for cramming. How can I do that if I don’t know what the Word says?

When God infuses the Word into a situation, God infuses His Word into hearts and changes them forever. For these young men, they comprehended the reality and truth of the Bible. It is no ordinary book, but the very words of God. They saw the Truth – perhaps for the first time. And they will never be the same.

Read His Word every day. It is the daily-ness of reading and meditating on Scripture that makes the biggest difference. In your life and the lives of everyone around you.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved,
a workman who has no need to be ashamed,
rightly handling the Word of truth.
2 Timothy 2.15
Press on!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Don't Miss Summer

This is just a first in a new series called,
"Don't Miss Summer." Hope that you make the most of these summer months. They are an investment in your life and the lives of those around you. For the first installment, I have included a guest blogger, my husband Bill with some of his recent thoughts.


I had a nice 40 mile ride on Little River Rd. in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As I was riding I saw families in and out of their cars taking pictures, fishing and playing in the river. Coming down out of Cades Cove, I caught up to a car and kept up with it for a mile or two at 35 miles per hour. Two boys stuck their heads out the windows, pointed and took pictures of me.

It reminded me of our own adventures with the girls when they were little; camping from Cades Cove in eastern Tennessee to Glacier National Park in northwest Montana. They got so dirty at times two baths weren’t enough and they made the Tide kids on the commercial look clean. We simply threw their clothes away on more than one occasion. They wore out their anoraks glissading down glaciers in the Rockies. They climbed trees, unconcerned with the rain that fell drenching them to the skin. They got way too close to poisonous snakes and skunks and bears and bison, but so did I. We fished in Yellowstone Lake until our fingers and toes could stand the cold no longer, and then we fished some more. We swam in the icy snowmelt waters of String Lake in the Tetons. We competed at roasting marshmallows even though we all knew Laura would have the best.

And we laughed and made stories for many trips to come.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Visit to the Eye Doctor

I am on my last pair of contacts, and I have to go to the optometrist this afternoon for my eye exam. Nothing seems to be the matter with my vision, but in a couple of weeks, I will not have any contacts to wear. Why do I need to go, if nothing seems to be out of focus? Just give me the prescription.
I dislike the procedure of the eye exam. Which do you like better? One or two, two or three, three or four?
(Is this how he asks his kids what they want to eat? I wonder). Sometimes the difference between the choices is slim to none. I have to look very carefully to see the slightest variation in sharpness –are there fuzzy edges at all? Or is the choice very clear? Sometimes I don’t realize how poorly I have been seeing. What has become “normal” for me is really not how the world is.
That is where Biblical worldview comes in, discovering the reality of God in everything, big stuff and the tiniest details. What do I miss because my vision is off even a fraction?
Every day when you read God’s Word, He is refining your vision. It is not just how you see your world, but what you do about it.
“How should followers of Jesus respond? With action and hope,” says Mark Earley, president of Prison Fellowship.
How much do we miss in what God opens to us and what God wants to do in us and through us, just because we haven’t daily focused on Him through His Word? The reality of who God is will seep into every aspect of your life.

…one thing I know,
that though I was blind,
now I see…
John 9.25

Be Thou my vision…….

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Few Thoughts On Love

From Paul Tripp's sermon at College Church this past Sunday, based in 1 John 4.

"Love grows best in the soil of gratitude."

"It is only when God is in His rightful place in the center of our world... that we are able to love as He intended."

"Our failure is not a failure to love each other. It is a failure to love God."

"If you are God's child, you have been called to love."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

I recently purchased a devotional book called Morning and Evening. I had heard mention of it several times recently, so I was excited to find it this past week on the shelves of a used bookstore. I thought I'd share with you an excerpt from yesterday's morning entry. In the words of Charles Spurgeon:

It is good to regularly weigh ourselves in the scale of God's Word. You will find it a holy exercise to read some Psalm of David and, as you meditate upon each verse, to ask yourself, "Can I say this? Have I felt as David felt? Has my heart ever been broken on account of sin, as his was when he penned his penitential psalms? Has my soul been full of true confidence in the hour of difficulty as his was when he sang of God's mercies in the cave of Adullam or in the holds of Engedi? Do I take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord?" Then turn to the life of Christ, and as you read, ask yourself how far you are conformed to His likeness. Endeavor to discover whether you have the meekness, the humility, the lovely spirit that He constantly urged and displayed. Then take the epistles, and see whether you can go with the apostle in what he said of his experience. Have you ever cried out as he did, "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death"? Have you ever felt his self-abasement? Have you seemed to yourself the chief of sinners, and less than the least of all the saints? Have you known anything of his devotion? Could you join with him and say, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain"? If in this way we read God's Word as a test of our spiritual condition, we will often have good reason to pause and say, "Lord, I feel I have never yet been here. O bring me here! Give me the true penitence about which I am reading. Give me real faith; give me warmer zeal; inflame me with more fervent love; grant me the grace of meekness; make me more like Jesus."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A lesson from the muddy paths of life

Several years ago when I began hiking with my husband Bill, he suggested that I get some hiking poles like his. I declined. I didn’t need them. And I always thought that hikers looked kind of silly using them, like something out of the Sound of Music. Ok, he said.

On one of the first extended hikes that we made with our friends Eddie and Becky, Bill offered me use of one of his poles. It was early spring. The trails were muddy and wet. No thanks, I replied. I don’t need it. Within about ten minutes of his offer, I slipped on a patch of black ice and skidded about twenty yards down the trail. I ended up with a bruise on my hip the size of Nebraska.

I then gladly took my husband’s sage advice and purchased a pair of poles.

The trails have grown longer and steeper. And I have found that the poles are very useful on the ascent, helping me to climb up the hills a little easier. But on the descents, the poles have become vital. Veteran mountaineer Ed Viesturs says that the hardest part of mountain climbing is the descent. That is when people get in trouble.

So on my last hike, while musing on a long quiet stretch up a hill, I thought about the poles and their spiritual connection. The two poles are like prayer and the Word. They keep me grounded. They help when my course is steep, but they keep me from falling when life starts going downhill fast. Prayer and the Word.

Keep grounded. Keep going.

I lift up my eyes to the hills.

From whence does my help come?

My help comes from the LORD,

Who made heaven and earth.

Psalm 121. 1-2

Press on!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


There's a little book I love called God Guides. As I have lent it to a few friends recently, it has been on my mind. If you haven't read it, I highly encourage you to do so.
Though really pretty short, it packs in story after story of author Mary Geegh's missions experiences in India. And every one of these stories contains remarkable evidence of God's hand on a situation as the individuals involved choose to follow God.
Sometimes the guidance was as simple as taking an egg to a neighbor. Other times it meant writing a letter. Or buying a train ticket. You get the idea. Small little steps, through which we can grow just a little bit closer to God. Take a paper and pen, remain silent, listen to God's guidance, and obey.
Seems simple enough.
And, aside from the paper and pen, incredibly reflective of the actions of numerous individuals in Scripture. When a situation didn't go their way, these individuals immediately turned to God.
"What did we do wrong?" they'd ask.
Followed, of course, by, "What should we do next?"
The victories and escapes and triumphs of Biblical times did not come simply because Moses or Joshua or David uttered a simple "please help me" before they went to bed. No, these men devoted themselves to seeking the truth. They chose to listen. And they chose to obey. Even in the little things. And that enabled God to use them in unfathomable ways.

Monday, June 8, 2009

End of an Era

Today marks a huge event in our family, an end of an era, so to speak. Today is Hannah's 20th birthday, and as of today, there are no more teenagers in our family. We have had teenagers in our midst for the past fourteen years, since 1995 when Beth crossed the line into the crazy world of teenage mania, closely followed by Kat, Laura and Hannah.
We have loved the ride.
It was a time of great laughter and tears for no reason at all, late late nights and school mornings when the sun didn't even come up until after classes had begun, and a thousand movies (at least) on a television "with knobs and no remote." Beth would make two phone calls and the basement would be full of kids, and fun filtered up through the vents. We outfitted a large number of the girls' friends with gently worn prom dresses, and Kate created hair styles every year for many of them, hairspray and bobby pins all over the counter. We flexed with last minute plans. We endured unending swim meets, a hundred degrees inside and subzero Iowa weather when we emerged. We stopped counting the number of cross country races we attended with boxes of rice krispie treats on crisp Saturday mornings in Ohio and muggy Tuesday afternoons in Memphis. I miss sitting on the stairs after midnight talking about deep theology and how to survive the rest of the semester. The girls learned the questions and the answers: where are you going, what time will you be home, who are you going with, who is driving, and the ultimate question of all: are the parents home? The outfits were crazy at times, the haircuts frizzy, too straight, and sometimes really bad, and of course, we heard the ever-present cry of despair,"I have nothing to wear." We endured no friends and too many friends and how to avoid creepy guys. There were study groups at the kitchen table and high school football games in Iowa City when the entire town showed up. Young Life came through the door every Wednesday night for three years, an enormous pile of mismatched shoes at the door. There were times of pain and suffering that we didn't know what to do about but pray. There were moves from Kansas City to Iowa City to Cincinnati to Memphis, all during high school. College decisions at times seemed to take a backseat to what earrings to wear to prom. First things first. Hearts were broken. Hope endured. And sometimes it was really hard to "be the mom" and say no. We lived through four driver learning permits, and I held my breath and prayed over brand new drivers on debut errands. There were four long trips to drop off the girls at college for freshman year. We wept on the way home. Every time. We prayed a lot. It was fun, it was tragic, it was quite a ride. And I am going to miss it a lot.
Today we begin another adventure of having our girls all in their twenties and a sweet new baby girl on the way.
When our girls were babies, there were those who shook their heads and said, "Just wait until they are teenagers." And then there were our friends John and Leeba Curlin who said to look forward to those years. We are glad that we took the Curlin's advice.
I post this tribute to our girls, and the amazing fun we had with you. Time for me to graduate.

Friday, June 5, 2009

North Catching Up to the South

One of the five "most read" stories this week in the New York Times is old news to me after living in the South for the past six years(and part of Bill's family for twenty-nine years of marriage). The article, entitled "For Teenagers, Hello Means 'How About a Hug?" (published May 27, 2009), analyzes a current trend among teenagers who greet each other with a hug. An amazing new greeting? It is interesting to me that the writer only quotes people living in the Northeast and San Francisco. Memphis must be a trendsetter. I am convinced that people in Memphis have been hugging each other hello, goodbye, and so good to see you, since the beginning of time. And that is one of the things I love about living in Memphis. People here hug -- and they mean it. And it makes life a lot sweeter.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Tale of an Annoying Day

Beth was five years old and had her umpteenth bout with strep throat. And I think that it was the same week that Laura had to have stitches from a fall and had an allergic reaction to her medication. I was in the doctor’s office with all three squirmy little girls for the fifth time in six days. We waited in the waiting room where the girls picked up all of the other germs that they didn’t already harbor. And then we waited in the six foot by six foot cell, otherwise known as the examining room. The girls opened every drawer, climbed up and down off the examining table, and spun around on the little wheelie chair to keep themselves occupied. When Dr. Hoppers, the pediatrician, opened the door and saw us – again – he replied, “You’ve got to be kidding.” He removed Laura’s stitches and swabbed Beth’s throat. And to placate Kate, he took her down with him to the lab to get the test results for the strep. Annoying day? Absolutely. But God always redeems those in ways we can’t imagine. It was about that time – when Kate was three – that she announced that she wanted to become a doctor when she grew up.
Last weekend, that little three year old -- twenty two years later-- marched up on stage and was given her diploma for completing medical school. She is now a doctor, headed to Vanderbilt for her residency, a dream realized, grasped initially on an ordinary day in the doctor’s office.
Let those annoying days be redeemed. Be thankful for everything. God has purpose for even such a time as this.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Road Rash

My husband Bill is a cyclist, and at one time, raced with the Athletes in Action cycling team. When they were little, our girls remember going to races all over the Midwest to watch their Dad on his bike: Cincinnati, Indianapolis,Chicago, St. Louis, Ann Arbor, among others.
As in any race, there is strategy and jockeying for position. And when you are flying by at 25-plus miles per hour on a bike, there are inherent dangers when you are only inches away from guys all around you. It is amazing how a slight tilting of one cyclist’s handlebars can turn into a massacre of bicycles and riders all over the road.
Bill’s coworkers often witnessed him limping into work on Monday mornings, sore and scraped up from a weekend race. We called it “road rash.” At least once, he had bicycle tire tracks across his back.
Sometimes the crashes happened at the end of the race when a crowd of racers focused on the finish line. But mostly, they happened in the middle of the race. If the bicycle was mangled enough, the rider was out. But if it was only the cyclist hurt, more often than not, he’d jump back in the race.
We used that lesson through the years, and it became known in our family, “When you fall, get back on the bike.” Don’t sit around. Jump back in right away. If you don’t, it is likely you won’t ever do it again.

As we near the halfway point in the year, there are many who have fallen off reading through the Bible this year. Get back on the bike. Get back in the Word. It is the daily-ness of your time with God that makes the difference, not an artificial schedule. Let a plan help you, not defeat you. And if it takes you until February or March next year -– or even beyond -- to read the Bible through, you will still have read through the Bible. The point is your daily fellowship with God, not checking something off a list.

Get back on the bike.

Fear not, for I am with you.
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My victorious right hand.
Isaiah 41.10
Press on!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

There Is No Off-Season

The first time that I ran a marathon, I was fifty years old and stupid. Someone had emailed me a training program which I followed loosely. I ran a lot of miles. I figured that counted for something, but I did not train. Things went pretty well in the race until I hit mile 20. I was a hurtin’ gator. “What in the world was I thinking?” I finished the 26.2 grueling miles, but needless to say, it wasn’t in a blaze of glory.
Early last September, I made an impulsive decision and signed up online for the Memphis/St. Jude’s marathon in December. The next morning I woke up and realized with despair what I had done… or rather what I needed to do. I printed off the training schedule and looked with dread at the rigorous plan. Not too bad initially, but then the mileage started building up. Just at the point when I was about to quit, God sent two running buddies into my life to encourage me. The mileage was the same, but the accountability kept me honest. As the race approached, I dreaded it. “I can’t do this.”
A remarkable thing happened. All of those miles, all of those hills on Shady Grove, all of those mornings when the last thing I wanted to do was run, came together. It was the first time that I had intentionally trained. And it made a significant difference.
There is a recent New Balance shoe advertisement that says, “How you prepare can change the whole game.”
The same goes for your daily Bible reading. It is not that you necessarily feel like it, but what you need to do. You are training for something in your reading and meditating on Scripture. It may be for what you would consider a Memphis marathon of life, or even Boston, or a race that you never anticipated. And you will be ready. Build up your strength. A friend’s son who is training for the Army’s Special Forces wrote,
“The ruck sacks will only get heavier and the mileage longer.” Train in God’s Word like your life depends on it, because it does.
You are always training for something. And as a friend wrote recently in an email, “Life is too short to live a mediocre Christian life.”

Train yourself in godliness;
for while bodily training is of some value,
godliness is of value in every way,
as it holds promise for the present life
and also for the life to come.
…For to this end we toil and strive,
because we have our hope set on the living God…
1 Timothy 4. 7-8,10
Press on!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Additional Step

I previously discussed positive steps to take in a state of singleness. After attending a Memorial day cookout yesterday, I realized that I left something out. Most specifically, in regard to the previously mentioned topic of establishing relationships.
This cookout was rather interesting, being that it was not at all the usual crowd. A random assortment of people, and quite a few who were new.
I went to meet two girls I hadn't seen before, and a couple of minutes later, several other girls had joined in the conversation. Glad to have connected them with others, I left the conversation to get a bottle of water. When I reentered the room, I saw a couple of guys on the other side of the room, standing off by themselves, clearly new to the group. I walked over to introduce myself, just as I had done with the girls. But this time, not one other girl came over to join the conversation.
I have noticed at such events, no matter what the location or activity, a similar layout arises: the girls all congregate together.
Please don't misunderstand me. I was so glad to see others joining me in welcoming the female newcomers. And I find it great that girls are building friendships. But I think at times, girls huddle simply because they are more comfortable talking to each other.
So the additional step I encourage you to take is really rather simple. Talk to the guys.
Obviously you do not need to do so with the intention of finding a new BFF. In fact, I think it extremely important to be cautious in how you act and how close you become in your friendships with guys. But that is another topic.
And you also do not need to do so with the intention of meeting your future spouse. (Though this is a lot more likely to occur if you are, in fact, interacting with guys.)
You do, however, need to do so with the intention of showing Christ's love to others. It becomes rather difficult for you to provide encouragement and support to your brothers in Christ if you do not know them. And you can't get to know them by huddling up with all the girls.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

If Only We Knew

Jehovah Jireh,
He is the God who provides,
far beyond my wildest dreams
far deeper than I could ever ask.
I have seen only a glimpse,
and I am awed.
If only we knew,
it would be more than we could comprehend.
I am delighted by a single drop of water
and He,
the Creator of the Universe,
moves the currents of oceans
from thousands of years ago
through thousands of lives
to touch me in this moment in time.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Just a Little Bit

I love bookstores. You don't have to know me long to figure that out. But, as much as I enjoy them, I must admit that I often find them to be rather overwhelming. Especially used bookstores. I walk in the door and don't even know where to begin.
I have found it helps immensely to start small. Maybe the first trip is for a specific book. Then maybe a row. Or a section. And, over time, as I become comfortable with the store, I am able to enjoy more and more of it with each visit.
I think God kind of works like that, too. Starts small. His mercies are new every morning. Not enough for the year, or for the month, or even for the week. Just enough for that day. Though I am not at all implying the Christian walk will be easy, He will never overwhelm us beyond what we can handle (with His help, of course). Maybe a little challenge today, and a little trial tomorrow. But, as we learn to trust Him through these experiences, we find ourselves able to take on more than we previously could. And we are able to enjoy more and more of Him.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Family Tree

One of the ancient relatives in my mother’s family was an itinerant preacher. Originally from Georgia, he chose to travel across the Trail of Tears in the 1830s with native Americans to be relocated in the Oklahoma territory. We have a copy of the phonetic chart that he used to teach the Indians to read. His name was Phillip Mulkey. He was known also by his preaching there under an oak tree. According to the family story passed down through the generations, the place became known as Okmulgee. There is an actual city by that name just outside of Oklahoma City to this day.
What was Phillip Mulkey remembered for? A place named for who he was and how God used him.

Reading the Bible through this year is a monumental decision that will affect you for the rest of your life. But it will also affect everyone around you now and beyond your lifetime.

Let God’s Word penetrate your heart and mind and soul and seep into the very core of your being. It will change you forever.

Lay to heart all the words which I enjoin upon you this day
that you may command them to your children;
that they may be careful to do all the words of this law.
For it is no trifle for you,
but it is your life…
Deuteronomy 32. 46-47

Press on!

Friday, May 15, 2009


Lately, I have told the young moms in our Bible study that when their kids leave for college, of all the things they take with them, there needs to be personal ownership in their relationship with God. They may have the behaviors down pat, or can recite their litany of beliefs, but down at the core of their worldview, God must be real. It is not the worldview of their parents or church or youth director, but it is theirs.

I stand corrected.

It is not that we would “own” God, like we would own a car. It is not that He would be ours. But that God would own us – that we would be fully His. It is not a matter of grasping something and claiming it as a little child, “that’s MINE!” But a matter of letting go and letting God, as my good friend Linda Smith says. I no longer own my life, but lay it on the altar for Him to use for His kingdom. It is not the proverbial hiding Jesus in our hearts, but letting Him shine from within – indeed He is not part of our lives, but life itself, the very core of who we are.

“Power belongs to God, not to us…so that the life of Jesus may be manifest in our mortal flesh.” 2 Corinthians 4. 7,11

Monday, May 11, 2009


My husband Bill and I went to the Memphis Symphony grand finale concert last Saturday night. The orchestra performed the Mahler Ninth symphony, a powerful piece that lasted almost two hours without a break. Gustav Mahler had a gift of building up an intense powerful sound and then receding suddenly to almost a whisper, like running up to a cliff and pulling back at the last possible second. Unlike most symphonies which increase in intensity and volume at the very end, Mahler concludes this monumental piece with a transparent thread, tapering gradually until all instruments have stopped playing and the sound hangs profoundly in the air. Not a movement, not a breath, the entire auditorium enraptured by the silence. And finally the conductor lowered his hands, reluctantly letting go of the moment.

When we carve out time to read God’s Word, all too often it is slipped in between two immovable objects on one’s schedule. In our busy-ness, we read the words and miss the impact, because we don’t take the time to breathe it in. When you read God’s Word, hang out a minute. Listen up after you have finished, absorbing the moment, contemplating and dwelling on what you have just read. That is when the real connections are made. We are in such a rush that we miss that golden moment that I witnessed Saturday night, standing in awe of what we have just read, as Bryan Loritts says, “the very Words of God.”

Dwell awhile. Soak it in. Let it gel. Give His Word time to connect with every aspect of your day.

The eternal God is your dwelling place,
and underneath are the everlasting arms.
Deuteronomy 33.27

Press on!

Prayer Request

Please be in prayer for my friends Stephen and Merri, as well as their 6-month-old son Josiah, as he undergoes surgery this morning for a brain tumor. You can read more at http://josiah-updates.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Singleness (For Our Married Readers)

My previous post on singleness did not apply to many of you, so I thought I would add to the topic in a way that would.

As the Church body, we have a unique opportunity to form deep and meaningful relationships. I think we (myself included) limit ourselves far too much in this. While I certainly enjoy having single friends, who share a similar schedule as me, and with whom I can best relate and understand their present situation, I have found that some of the individuals most instrumental in encouraging me in my faith are not those at the same stage of life as I am.

I encourage you to seek out relationships with individuals different than you. (And please understand that this is something I am currently working on as well.)

So for those who are married, a few tips in relating to the single individuals in your life:

1. Please do not hesitate to invest in our lives simply because we are single. Mentorships are an important part of the Christian community as a whole. Consequently, while I completely agree that young wives need mentors to guide and encourage them in their relationship with their spouse, single women need guidance and encouragement as well. Please do not exclude us. Or, as it may be necessary in some situations, please find other ways of including us. Though my church has one of the largest young adults groups in the area, I am realizing how separated we are from the other ministries. I would love for women of our church to offer to mentor some of the girls in our group. And I'm sure those at your church would say the same.

2. Please abstain from questions and comments including, but not limited to, the following:
"When will you get married?"
"I need to find you a man!"
"Why don't you have a boyfriend?"
While we certainly appreciate your concern and understand that you are just trying to be sympathetic, there really is no good response to these inquiries. It is really quite awkward from our side. So instead, please ask us about other aspects of our lives. Because there really is more to us than our singleness.

3. Similar to #2, please do not make it your mission in life to find a spouse for all your single friends. Again, while we appreciate your concern, please remember that just because I am single and under the age of 30, this does not mean that I will automatically be perfect with every guy you know who is also single and under the age of 30.

4. Please allow us to be a part of your lives. This especially applies to those singles who do not live near their families. I was having lunch on Monday with a friend from college, who I hadn't talked to since then. She almost seemed embarrassed as she asked, "Do you still babysit?" When I told her that I occasionally do, and very much enjoy doing so, she responded with a relieved tone in her voice, "Oh, good. I'm so glad I'm not the only one!" Though we both work full-time jobs, we (and I think I speak for most singles when I say this) enjoy helping you out. Don't feel bad when you ask us for favors. We have the time, and want to use it beneficially. Just as we want you to invest in us, we, too, want to do the same for you. We want to encourage you in your walk with Christ. Please provide us with the opportunity to do so.

And to the single readers, what else would you include?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Just a little step

Recently I saw a friend’s children who I haven’t seen in a while. I couldn’t believe how much they had grown. It was a visible difference. They did not suddenly grow six inches overnight, but the growth was in almost imperceptible increments, day by day, moment by moment. We look back to what has been and we see that there is change.

God’s Word changes us daily, degree by degree, not by head knowledge but by transformation of our hearts. It changes your world view – how you view your world—as you seek to be more like Him. Scripture is not just another book among many. It is the Word of God and its power can’t help but change us.

Another way that the daily reading of God’s Word changes us is in the discipline itself. Indeed, the apostle Paul refers to the discipline of an athlete in several passages. The discipline of daily meeting with God breaks down strongholds in your life brick by brick. That mere act of discipline gives you the courage and strength to tackle those things that ensnare you and tear down those things that have become idols. Do you have the strength and courage to walk away from that one little thing around which your day revolves?– whether it is interaction with a certain person who lures you, a television series to die for, even a daily stop at Starbucks which you know you can’t afford? If you say, “Oh, I could never do that,” it has probably already has you in its web.

We are not talking “legalism” here, but discipline. Legalism means that the action is directly related to your salvation -- which is a performance-based view of life. Your salvation, according to Scripture, is based on grace, the sacrifice of Christ alone, not anything you do or don’t do. Discipline is merely taking on an action to draw you closer in your relationship with God-- or taking out those things in your life which trip you up. This weekend, I was staying at a guest house. There was a large bowl of little Hershey bars on the counter. Behind the bowl hung a sign, “Put the chocolate down, back away slowly and no one gets hurt.” The discipline is the strength to walk away.

And you thought that you were just reading your Bible. It will affect every area of your life, if you let it. Mark my words. And may those who haven’t seen you in a while say,

“What happened to you?”

And let steadfastness have its full effect

that you may be perfect and complete,

lacking in nothing.

James 1.4

Press on!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Singleness (Without Bitterness)

Following the service, the young adults at my church tend to congregate in a certain section of the lobby. As I exited the sanctuary yesterday, I approached one of the girls who happened to be standing by herself at the time.
"Hi! How are you?" I asked.
"Tired," she responded, with a grumbled tone. "I couldn't stand that sermon. What am I supposed to do? Apply it to my cats?"
Though I, too, was not an especially big fan of the service, a part of the current parenting series, I found myself a bit taken aback by her negativity regarding the situation. Though I must admit I have heard similar comments in past conversations, both with this girl and with others.

I've come to realize there are two approaches to the world of female singleness. You can let it make you bitter. Or you can let God use it.

Please understand that, in writing this, I am not trying to imply that my current state of singleness is especially easy for me. I frequently struggle with finding contentment in my present circumstances. Nevertheless, I can look back, even within the past few months, and see just how much God has used this time in my life. And, while it can be difficult, I realize just how beneficial it can be as well.

As I begin, I think it necessary to mention that, no matter what your marital status may be, your primary focus should be strengthening your relationship with God. If you are not spending time with Him each day, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of doing so.

In a state of singleness, you are at an extreme advantage in this area. Developing the habit of spending time reading the Bible each day is certainly not something that suddenly becomes easier once you are married. Yes, I realize you are busy. We all are. But the number of distractions with which you presently find yourself is fairly limited in comparison to others. Use that advantage. Let the Word become a part of your daily life. I guarantee it will make a difference. (If you don't believe me, ask me about it sometime.)

Read Scripture daily. Read whatever else you can. A friend asked me recently about my routine in doing so. The following is what I shared with her:
I like to start my day by reading the Bible. By doing this in the morning, I find that it sets the tone for my day, plus I am guaranteed to have time for it. Because I like structure, I use this reading plan. I know there are many others available if you prefer something different. Then, I save all other reading for later in the day. Typically I will read from a Christian formation book immediately prior to bedtime. This usually ends up being a chapter or less, and sometimes even just a few pages. And any other reading time I happen to have that day can be used for whatever else I am reading. Though your schedule might be entirely different than mine, I encourage you to find something that works for you. And stick to that.

That being said, here are a few additional ways I have found I can allow God to use my current state of singleness:

1. Become skilled.

Though I do not speak from experience in saying this, I am fairly confident that loving and serving a family is not an easy task. So learn all you can beforehand. Opportunities to do so are abundant:

Learn to cook. One of my single friends cooks a meal for her parents and siblings once a week. Another just makes a big batch of something and freezes it in individually sized portions. Or use cooking as a means of practicing hospitality, and invite others over.

Learn to clean. I feel kind of dumb including this, since keeping your house clean should not be limited to those who are married. But I have found many instances in which my roommates or friends have come to me asking a housekeeping question. Sometimes I know the answer, and sometimes I don't. But the more "weird" little tricks you pick up on now, the better. Plus, I think it is probably good to practice keeping things clean now, because it is not a habit you will immediately gain with marriage.

Watch other people's children. In doing so, you will not only gain experience but also can be a huge blessing to that family. You can learn various practices which you want (or in some cases, don't want) to use. Sometimes you can even pick up on little traditions which you would like to make a part of your own family someday. (I keep an ongoing list on my computer of potential "future traditions" that I add to whenever I hear an interesting idea.)

Learn whatever else you can.

2. Pray.

Prayer is one way you can be loving and serving your future husband, even if you do not yet know who he is. And I acknowledge that it does feel kind of awkward at first. But, just as God is using your singleness, He is also using the singleness of your future spouse. So what better way to support him than in prayer? I used this template to get started, though it is actually for married women. Once you get in the habit of doing that, add prayer for your future children as well. My mom previously wrote of the importance of this.

3. Save.

Establishing positive financial habits now will certainly prove beneficial in the future. You have no idea what kind of debt with which your husband might be entering the marriage. Saving now will enable you as a couple to pay off that debt more quickly. And build a good credit score. This could be extremely helpful to you as a couple if he has had past financial difficulty. And if he, too, is in good financial order, the money you saved might better enable you to buy a house. Or allow you to stay home with your children someday. Or pay for their college education.

4. Establish relationships.

Once you have a family, your husband and children will become a priority. As it should be. But this will obviously detract from your ability to invest in others. Community is an essential part of the Christian faith, whether or not you are married. But it takes more effort when you are single. I would encourage you to make that effort. Build up your friendships with other believers. Learn from them. And take the time to help others along in their walk with Christ. While this certainly can take place within friendships, I find it to take other forms as well. Maybe it is with the children you babysit. Maybe you teach Sunday school. Maybe you mentor. Or maybe you simply make sure the new girl feels welcomed. Whatever form it takes, if you enable God, He will use you.

I realize this post, while certainly longer than I originally intended, is certainly not exhaustive. What would you add? What do you wish you would have known when you were single? What were you glad you knew?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Psalm 103

Let all that I am praise the Lord;
with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
Let all that I am praise the Lord;
may I never forget the good things he does for me.
He forgives all my sins
and heals all my diseases.
He redeems me from death
and crowns me with love and tender mercies.
He fills my life with good things.
My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!
The Lord gives righteousness
and justice to all who are treated unfairly.
He revealed his character to Moses
and his deeds to the people of Israel.
The Lord is compassionate and merciful,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He will not constantly accuse us,
nor remain angry forever.
He does not punish us for all our sins;
he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
He has removed our sins as far from us
as the east is from the west.
The Lord is like a father to his children,
tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
For he knows how weak we are;
he remembers we are only dust.
Our days on earth are like grass;
like wildflowers, we bloom and die.
The wind blows, and we are gone-
as though we had never been here.
But the love of the Lord remains forever
with those who fear him.
His salvation extends to the children’s children
of those who are faithful to his covenant,
of those who obey his commandments!
The Lord has made the heavens his throne;
from there he rules over everything.
Praise the Lord, you angels,
you mighty ones who carry out his plans,
listening for each of his commands.
Yes, praise the Lord, you armies of angels
who serve him and do his will!
Praise the Lord, everything he has created,
everything in all his kingdom.
Let all that I am praise the Lord.