Monday, January 24, 2011


Bill and I watched the University of Wisconsin basketball team yesterday soundly defeat the Northwestern Wildcats (make that the Scaredy-cats).  Were the Wisconsin players that much better?  Obviously they made more baskets, but the victory was in the HOW they did it.  Wisconsin missed the basket a lot.  So did Northwestern.  The difference came in the rebounds.  Wisconsin caught the rebounds nearly EVERY time, whether their team’s botched shot or their opponent’s.  It appeared that Northwestern was shooting, missing and then drawing back, (“Oh well, missed again”), and just politely handing the ball to Wisconsin.  At one point, Wisconsin shot and missed THREE times in a row, each time recovering the rebound, snatching it out of thin air from their opponents, and then finally sinking it in.

We all miss baskets in life, all of us.  The significant difference is what we do with the rebounds.

I have been reading about Joseph in Genesis.  He was handed hardship after hardship, injustices building up one after another.  And he rebounded each time.  Not on his own strength, he would tell you to your face, but on God’s, even in the face of constant adversity.   It was not Joseph’s situation that made him great, but his RESPONSE, his vertical perspective, letting God use him and giving Him the glory.  (“It is not in me, but God…” Genesis 41.16)

The ball doesn’t always go in the net as we desire.  As with Joseph, God has bigger plans.  Rebound with excellence in everything you do.  And let God give the victory.

But the LORD was with Joseph

and showed him steadfast love,

and gave him favor in the sight

of the keeper of the prison.

…the LORD was with him,

         and whatever he did,

the LORD made it prosper.

               Genesis 39. 21,23

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Kick-off Sunday 2 p.m.

Chicago Bear fans – who comprise just about the entire Chicago metropolitan area – are surging with excitement about this Sunday’s NFC Championship playoff game against the Green Bay Packers.  Indeed, news broadcasts all week have been focused on this momentous event, discussing everything from scalping tickets to boycotting cheese in support of a Bears victory.  One news feature about the Bears players themselves was entitled “How to Best Prepare for the Big Game.”  Four days before the game?  Ummmm, if you aren’t prepared yet, it is a bit too late!

There are some “big games” in life that we see coming on the horizon, things that we know that we SHOULD prepare for.  But there are also those vital and immediate “play-off games,” when so much hangs in the balance and are quite suddenly standing at your front door.  How to best prepare for the crises?  I know no better way than training for it, not just the week of the “big game,” or the night before when panic sets in, but daily training in good times and bad --  spring training, so to speak, to prepare for that possible or even improbable Super Bowl of life.  The best way I know is:  Every day, read God’s Word and pray, developing your relationship with the God who loves you, so that when times are great, you acknowledge His hand… and when the hard times come, you are not just crying out for Him but you KNOW He is there.  You are always in training.

And as the theme song goes, “Bear down, Chicago Bears, make every play clear the way to victory.”

“You girded me with strength for the battle.”

                      Psalm 14.39

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Be the Mom

In case you haven’t been reading the news in the past couple of weeks, the war of parenting styles has taken the media in full force. On January 8, 2011, the Wall Street Journal published an article about the superiority of Chinese mothers, excerpted from the book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua. The article hit a virtual jugular vein among mothers, indeed generating 6871 emotionally-charged comments, the largest number of responses in the history of the Journal’s website.

Amy Chua spoke about her style of extreme (or excessive) parenting to achieve “successful” children. Her methods, which she says are prevalent in Chinese households, include harshness, strict rules, and intimidation all of which result in children who rise to the top when it comes to academia and future careers. She describes her own childhood (in which her father once called her “garbage”) and basically concludes that this parenting style motivated her… and now works in the raising of her own daughters. In the barrage of media hype after the article was published, Chua replied, “Jokes about A+s and gold medals aside…, I don’t believe that grades or achievement is ultimately what Chinese parenting (or at least how I practice it) is really about. I think it’s about helping your children be the best they can be – which is usually better than they think!” I cringed, though, when I read about the yelling, the threats, and manipulation. Not my idea of a happy family.

Chua is right in one regard, whether you are a Tiger Mom or a permissive one or one who is simply intentional in how she raises her kids, you want the best for your children. Having strong standards and high expectations is not wrong in itself, but a child’s life does not have to be harsh and hurtful for them to grow deep and strong. Think of your home as a center of love and discipling. To paraphrase First Corinthians 13 verse 1: If I have perfectly obedient children, and have not love, I am only a tyrant.

Be the Mom. Love those little ones with gentleness and grace. That’s why God gave them to you.


children are a gift from the LORD.

Psalm 127.3

Make sure your kids know you see them that way.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Snow, ice and 21 tiny little degrees

I was encouraged in my running this week by seeing my cousin Valerie who lives in New York. She is the person who was instrumental in putting me on this course of running ten years ago. Valerie is my hero. A decade ago, she called to tell me that she had lost one hundred pounds through running and as she puts it, '”hard-core Weight Watchers.” And after all this time, she still gets up to run before anyone of us would consider morning, when most of us are turning over for one last snooze before the alarm goes off, and when we all are buried alive by a thousand reasons not to get up. She runs in the cold and dark before she heads off for her job as a second-grade teacher, a job which would put most of us in the loony farm after one day. She has taught for 30 years. And last June, she shaved her head to support a little boy in her class who has leukemia. She is THAT kind of person.

Well, this week, she signed up for her first half-marathon, yes, the same week that New York was blanketed by another 20 inches of snow. Way to go. Not many excuses stand up to that kind of tenacity.

And it was enough to get me out there today….even in snow, ice and 21 tiny little degrees.

Friday, January 7, 2011


We are just one measly week into the New Year and, it has been reported,  one-third of adults who made resolutions have already dropped them.  Another third will abandon them by the end of January.  The remaining third?  Well, my guess is that they didn’t even bother making a list.

We are a strange lot.  When it comes down to it, we will bore through concrete block to do what we REALLY want to do.   NOTHING can stand in our way, even the loftiest of goals.  New Year resolutions are admirable, but, more often than not, they are inconveniences that are soon stored away in the attic with the Christmas decorations to pull out again next year.

(I am chuckling to myself that I am EVEN writing a blog about resolutions.  Actually, my husband will be doing the most chuckling of all, he who was setting goals and the steps to achieve them while he was still in diapers.) 

But we can all take heart in this:  In the dictionary, the very first definition of “resolution” is not an act of determination, but “the act of reducing something to a simpler form, such as a chemical compound.”  So, when I make a resolution, instead of building up a seemingly impossible wall to scale, I really should be breaking down the problem into tiny bites instead of annual ones – what can I do today?  What can I do this afternoon?  What can I do in the next 15 minutes before the baby gets up?  What can I do RIGHT now?  Those are the resolutions that stick.  When I set about to run the marathon, 26.2 miles didn’t just happen.  I followed a plan that reduced the enormity of the task into one run at a time.

So whether your goal is the proverbial quest to lose weight THIS year, not lose your temper, call your mom weekly, or in my case, write something every day (already broken!), think about the advertisement that I have stuffed in the front of my journal:  “There are those who do.  And those who wouldacouldashoulda.”

This year, make it happen.  One teeny bite, word, or step at a time.

“…make Your way straight before me.”

                            Psalm 5.8

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Top Ten Books of 2010

In 2010, I kept track of the books I read, not only by title and author, but also by a quote or two from the book, a nugget of truth, so to speak, as a helpful way of remembering.  So out of the 40 books that I read this year, here are my “top ten,” not necessarily in any kind of order. 

1.  A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller.  (Miller discusses the elements of what comprises a story, and more specifically, asks what story are you telling with YOUR life?  p. 115-6  “There is a force in the world that doesn’t want us to live good stories.  It doesn’t want us to face our issues, to face our fear and bring something beautiful into the world.  I guess what I am saying is, I believe God wants us to create beautiful stories, and whatever it is that isn’t God wants us to create meaningless stories, teaching the people around us that life just isn’t worth living.”   Get out there and DO SOMETHING.)

2.  Ruth, A Portrait by Patricia Cornwell.  (This very candid biography of Ruth Graham was written decades ago by Cornwell, known for her Kay Scarpetta  novels.  It is a good read about a fascinating woman in good times and despair who made the most of the adventure God laid before her.)

3.  Gilead by Marilynne Robinson  (On my list last year as well, Gilead and its companion novel Home may appear every year.  They are that good.  Robinson is an artist with words.)

4.  Absence of Mind by Marilynne Robinson  (I felt like I had an absence of mind reading this VERY dense piece of non-fiction.  Whoa.  Robinson examines the conflict of reality and the assumptions of science.  p.124 “…the strangeness of reality consistently exceeds the expectations of science…”)

5.  So Brave, Young, and Handsome by Leif Enger  (This novel is absolutely one of my year’s favorites, despite having the worst title ever for a work of fiction.  It is a good story, with humor, adventure and apt descriptions such as “the cavernous pants of a declining man.”  Good stories like this are rare.  p.236  “It’s peculiar, to reach your destination,” he told me.  “You think you’ll arrive and perform the thing you came for and depart in contentment.  Instead you get there and find distance still to go.” )

6.  Tinkers by Paul Harding  (This complex short novel weaves together the stories of three generations.  It is one of the best written books that I have read in a long time.   p. 48 “…the curtains and murals and pastel angels are a mercy, a dim reflection of things fit for the fragility of human beings.”

7.  The Tenth Man by Graham Greene (This intriguing book, largely unknown by a major novelist, was recommended highly by Chuck Colson.  The story focuses on a man who attempts to control his own destiny by literally trading his wealth for a chance to live…at least that is how it appears.)

8.  Amazing Love by Corrie ten Boom  (This is a teeny short book published in 1953, but every year I need to read something by this precious woman.   p. 34  “Where there is such prevailing prayer, something is bound to happen.”)

9.  Silence by Shusaku Endo (Translated from Japanese in 1969, this novel chronicles early Catholic missionaries to Japan in the 1500-1600s.  In his journey, the priest is transformed from being depicted as a savior into one who is saved.  The book is steeped in spiritual truth.  p. 38 “But Christ did not die for the good and beautiful.  It is easy enough to die for the good and beautiful; the hard thing is to die for the miserable and corrupt …”)

10.  Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry (This novel portrays an ordinary man and his relationships in a small town in Kentucky.  This was my first exposure to Berry.  His wording in places is like poetry.)