Tuesday, August 15, 2017

No east or west and our kin

If you were here early this morning, you may have seen a post, which has now been reverted to draft. Only up for a few minutes, there was nothing wrong with it, because you’ll probably see it again next week. But I didn’t want to miss a timely opportunity to respond to the events in Charlottesville this weekend.

In the church, I am not one to hold on to things just because we have always done them that way, but I regret that in many circumstances we have abandoned the great hymns of the church, for it is one of those hymns that has circled through my brain in the last couple of days.

“In Christ there is no east or west, in him no south or north; but one great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide earth.”

Written from Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Another verse reads, “In Christ is neither Jew nor Greek, and neither slave nor free; both male and female heirs are made, all are kin to me.”

“All are kin to me.”

Priscilla Shirer calls her ministry Going Beyond. I remember her telling a story in one of her Bible Studies about how God goes beyond and beyond on our behalf.

Well folks, these days, I believe God is calling us to go beyond and beyond to heal the hurt in our land and in our hearts.

It’s a time to make an extra effort, and sometimes it begins with the little things like a smile, holding a door, extending a hand as we would with our own family because all are kin to me.
Sometimes it means speaking up for our kin.

We don’t need a geography book to understand we all have the same beating heart. Because in Christ, there is no east or west, and he is the pulsing life that makes us one.

So, today, I am humming under my breath and praying for my kin.

Join me, will you?

When it seems you're building sandcastles

I watched the video of the man who builds elaborate sandcastles on Long Island. He bent over his work, sculpting and refining only to have the tide wash it away in a few hours.

Something about that story resonated with me.

A few vintage Varnado pics

All of us want to leave a legacy, a mark that says, “Hey, I was here.” Those of us who are believers want that mark to give glory to God above everything else.

But if you’re like me, much of what you do doesn’t feel enduring. Maybe it feels a lot like building sandcastles.

We work and labor and the first thing we know, it’s all melting in water up to our knees.

Before I start a new writing project, I struggle with this. Am I just building a sandcastle? It’s very likely not to be some piece of great literature or change the course of history. Will anyone actually read it or will it become only another file on my hard drive? The litany in my mind goes on.

However, that man who builds the sandcastles, he’s not motivated to make them because they’ll wind up in Architectural Digest or because he’ll make a million dollars. He builds because he loves to create and use the gifts he has.

That my friends, inspires me.

Dr. Brene’ Brown writes in the Gifts of Imperfection, “If we want to make meaning, we need to make art. Cook, write, draw, doodle, paint, scrapbook, take pictures, collage, knit, rebuild an engine, sculpt, dance decorate, act, sing―it doesn’t matter. As long as we’re creating, we’re cultivating meaning.”

Building sandcastles is cultivating meaning. In spiritual terms, it means being a good steward of the gifts God has given us, not with an eye on the outcome but with an eye on pleasing Him.

I recently started writing a new novel. I’m using the gifts I have, and I already love the story, however it very well may be another sandcastle. I have a good many of those. We never know when we’re doing something what the results will be. That’s up to God. Our part is to build to His glory.

So, get out your sand buckets and shovels. Let’s get to work.

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).

See the elaborate sandcastles HERE.

As an update on our friend T. in Asia that I wrote about HERE--She will be leaving her country in Asia on August 26th for a mandatory visa renewal and then trying to reenter the country on the 30th. Please pray she will not be turned back, but will be able to continue her life in Asia with her 16 children. I'll keep you posted. Again, if you know T. please do not mention her name in comments here or in Facebook replies.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

4 a.m. and really free

When the phone rings at 4 a.m., we usually know at the preacher’s house, it’s not good news. When Jerry is chaplain of the week at a local hospital, we’re certain of it.

He groggily picked up the phone and I heard him say, “I’ll be there in a few minutes”

Four hours later, he called me to meet him for breakfast. On the way, I thought about how maybe he needed to give up these rotations at the hospital―especially challenging at his age (don’t tell him I said that). He needed to speak to a high school football team later in the day and I knew it would be hard to prepare and deliver a message in his sleep-deprived state.

When I arrived at the restaurant, Jerry had tears in his eyes, but oddly seemed almost elated.

I sat down, and he began to tell the story.

When he arrived at the hospital, he entered the room of a deceased woman. Her daughter sat beside her praying. As Jerry took a seat, she shared their story. They had lived in a war torn African nation and because of her mother’s determination and perseverance had come to this country. The daughter now had a doctorate and performed medical research. A son was a medical doctor. The mother’s faith and encouragement had been a driving force in their achievement.

The day before her sudden death, the mother had at last finished her final interviews to become a United States citizen. Taking the oath of citizenship only remained.

“Why do you want to be a US citizen?” the daughter had asked.

“Because I want to be free,” the mother replied.

“But mother, you are free,” the daughter answered.

“But I want to be really free,” her mother declared.

How convicting her appreciation of what we often take for granted. What an amazing person she must have been. Jerry agreed, so moved by the story of her life.

“I wish I could have met her,” I said.

Jerry then told me the church she attended

I put down my coffee cup and stared at him.


The server came to offer us refills. “I’m having an epiphany,” I told her.

“That’s all right,” she said, “but do you want coffee?”

As she refilled my cup, I told Jerry, “Don’t you remember last Sunday after church at the restaurant?” A woman had been coming down the aisle toward me, and she wore the most beautiful African dress with petal-like pieces on the sleeves. "I love your dress," I told her.

 She beamed, "Thank you." Then she joined a group of women from the church Jerry had just mentioned.

 “I know that was her,” I said. “I did get to meet her if only for a moment.” I had wanted to speak with the woman further but her group awaited. She had such joy on her face.

“I thought she looked familiar,” Jerry said as we both sat there and marveled at this odd sequence of events and how this woman we didn’t know had touched our lives.

I had to wonder how broad her legacy was, and how many like us were touched by her life of faith even if they had only known her for a moment or two.

So, I’m taking back all that business about Jerry giving up these rotations. He made it just fine and his message to the team that afternoon went great. I'm also realizing that sometimes the news isn't all bad in the middle of the night.

I’m thinking these days on what it means to be “really free.” I have been inspired to do so by the life of a woman I knew for only a few seconds, but whose influence on me I will never forget.

Saint Paul said in Romans 6, “Offer yourselves to the ways of God and the freedom never quits” (The Message).  Though this woman longed to be really free in this life because of this country she came to love, she now experiences in that heavenly land a freedom, which is truly without end.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The golden hour and what we can almost miss

I joined a half dozen other people snapping pictures of an incredible sunset at a retreat center. I whipped out my cell phone intent on capturing the combination of sun and clouds that made for such a display. As I turned to leave, the thought came to me that often, the pictures I most love are not the obvious ones, so I knelt down on the ground and took a few shots of the coastal marsh now bathed in light filmmakers call the “golden hour.”

It was several days later before I even stopped to look at the photos. The sunset was glorious, and most of pictures turned out the way I thought they might.

But that thought about loving the less obvious shot more turned out to be right.

The coastal marsh picture is the one that drew me in―the print of which I have beside my easel right now as I try to capture it on canvas. This is untouched, folks. No filters.

Almost looks as if the photo is a painting.

In I Kings 19, when God told Elijah He would pass by Him, a wind, an earthquake, and a fire occurred. But God was in none of these. Instead, God came in a “gentle whisper.” It was only then Elisha heard God.

Sometimes in life, we get so caught up in doing what everyone else is doing, we don’t hear that gentle whisper of God leading us in the way He would have us go. We can miss the best  simply because we aren’t willing to turn down the volume of racket in our lives to hear him and be willing to follow a less obvious path. That path is often filled with lovely surprises, just like my marsh picture.

Now, you may look a little strange as I did, sprawled out in the grass turned in a completely different direction from the others, but this is the picture that made me want to tell its story.

So, let’s be tuned in to the gentle whispers.

We don’t want to miss a thing God has for us.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

ER Encounter

I'm honored to have a devotion running today at Christian Devotions.US.

Fear lurked around the edges of the bed I lay on, ready to pounce. Did I have a brain injury? Would it require surgery? . . . .

(read more HERE)

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

When the need is urgent

(If you know the name of the person I refer to below as T., please for safety reasons, do not mention the name in any Facebook responses or comments to this blog.)
“Urgent Prayer Request.”

 That’s what the subject line read on the email from our friend T. in Asia.

Oh, no, I thought. For some time, the government of the country where she lives had cut off her access to foreign funds making her ability to take care of the sixteen orphans in her care challenging. Much of her support comes from the US.

When I clicked on the email, I found the situation to be even direr. In only a few weeks, T. has to leave the country to renew her visa, a process she has gone through for the past nineteen years. Repeatedly over the past year, missionary friends of hers have been denied access back into the country and are forced to buy plane tickets on the spot to return to the US. Only two weeks ago, this happened.

She has the same kind of visa, and without divine intervention, she may face the same consequences.

She would leave behind her life’s work. In addition to the sixteen children she mothers now, there are over two dozen more she has raised, which are young adults or in college.

Her youngest child is HIV positive and lives with T. in her apartment. She came to T. when she was only weeks old, and T. is the only mother she has ever known.

These were children abandoned, with nowhere to turn, but God gave them a hope and a future when they came under T.’s care.

Folks, money can’t help now. The only thing that will help is prayer, and I’m asking you to pray as I am, morning, noon, and night. I wake up with this situation and I go to bed with it. The verse I am praying is from Proverbs 21:1, “In the Lord’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him” (The Message).

Pray God would turn the King’s heart like water, and that a door would be opened up for T. to continue her work in Asia. Yes, she has a team of people in place to continue caring for these children, but she is their mother. If you have children, imagine having to leave them, not knowing when or if you would ever be able to see them again. Pray like that. Pray with that urgency.

Friends, thank you. I’ll keep you updated.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

If you missed it the first time

If you missed this post from a while back, you may want to check it out. It includes a favorite quote from my little friend McCoy.  HERE for "If you have a case of saditosis.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

When you've got it all wrong

Early one morning, Jerry and I stood staring at the top of a huge metal power pole near us. A pecking sound closely resembling the decibel level of a jackhammer resonated throughout the neighborhood. The crested head of a giant pileated woodpecker bobbed up and down at the pole apex.


“So what do you think he’s doing?” I mused.

Pileateds are magnificent birds and I love seeing them, but his incessant drilling was puzzling and annoying. The woodpecker had been there several mornings in a row.

We batted theories around. Jerry thought he was hunting for food. I thought the constant hammering on the metal pole had jarred his brains loose addling him so much he’d lost his ability to differentiate metal from wood and just kept boring into the steel. He didn’t seem to be the brightest bulb in the box.

Again, this morning, I heard him. Rat-a-tat-tat. Rat-a-tat-tat. You’d think he was drilling through concrete.

I decided to do a little research.

Turns out both Jerry and I were wrong.

He was not looking for food. He was looking for a honey.

The loud rapping is something of a mating call. “I’m available,” He was saying. Far from dimwitted, the smartest woodpeckers find something to make the loudest sound so they can establish their territory to all the other woodpeckers.

Well, hello. We’d completely missed it.

That’s when I heard that still small voice telling me there was a lesson here. Sometimes, I draw conclusions about other people based on my perspective rather than stopping to ask for God’s perspective―the truth.

It reminds me of what God told Samuel, “God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart” (I Samuel 16:7 The Message).

Ah, the heart. God looks past all the exterior smoke and glass and sees what is really going on. God responds to that deep need.

My friend Betty recently shared a quote she’d heard that if you’re not standing in the gap for someone, you’re standing in judgment.

Ouch, Betty. Another reminder that God calls us, too, to look on the heart.

The woodpecker’s drumming has stopped. He must have found the woodpecker woman of his dreams.

But his presence in our part of the world left us much to think about. Now we can do that thinking in peace.

To hear his drum and learn more about the pileated HERE.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Dream Summer Revisited, Mount Rushmore

For the Fourth of July, a  re-post from the Dream Summer Series about our family's 7,000 mile cross country trip.  Also, HERE is a link  for a World Radio Segment I recorded about this adventure. Happy Fourth!

According to the parking pass in our scrapbook, we entered Mount Rushmore at 1:21 p.m., way past lunchtime. So we headed for the cafeteria at the base of the monument. The dining room was divided into sections by state, each one designated with a flag. We found our spot under the red and blue Georgia colors, which gave me a twinge of homesickness as we sat down, but not for long.

That’s about the time I looked up at the monument and had a very North by Northwest moment. I’ve never been sure if the movie was shot on location or just had a very convincing set. In any event, I could picture Grace Kelly and Cary Grant bursting in any time.

The faces of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt were ever with us as we devoured our food. Jerry and I marveled at the engineering feat creator Gutzon Borglum had accomplished through his Mount Rushmore sculpture. Borglum, according to the guide for Mount Rushmore, had studied under Rodin and also "designed the flickering flame on the Statue of liberty’s torch."  He "created more art displayed in our Nations’ capital than any other artist.” 

After we finished our food, we followed a path along the base of the monument to get a closer look. I felt I was living in a Weekly Reader. As a child, I never dreamed that my universe would expand to a point where I’d actually visit the places we studied. In contrast, my children have probably never dreamed they wouldn’t visit the places they study. 

I was struck by how many other nationalities I saw visiting the monument. From all over the world they came to see this sculpture in the Black Hills of South Dakota called “America’s Shrine to Democracy.” Some of the visitors I saw probably did not come from countries who subscribed to a democratic understanding of government. I thought of this long after we left the monument, and wished I could have spoken with them about their experience that day. 

I wanted to bring in sleeping bags and sleep under the gaze of these stone men, but of course, the National Park Service would’ve never gone for it. So, we reluctantly said good-bye to our large Presidents and hoped to see them again soon.

President Ronald Reagan said of the Mount Rushmore sculpture, “Even after the many years it will take to wear away these rock carvings, their ideals, the principles of democracy and freedom, will live on. For more than 200 years now, this great country of ours has enjoyed the freedoms these four giants fought for. So, let us cherish that freedom, and never lose sight of this Memorial and the men behind it.”

Today, as Reagan said, let us cherish freedom, both physical and spiritual. If physical freedom is not yours because of where you live, spiritual freedom is always available. “So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). Unbelief is the only wall that can separate you from this liberty. 

May God’s freedom be yours today.

More Dream Summer posts HERE.

"Mount Rushmore National Monument Official Guide" and America's Shrine of Democracy by T.D. Griffith were used as a sources in this post.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

22 days and when you're looking for restoration

“So, have you written about it?” my friend Connie asked me Friday night at the after party for VBS.

I wiped down a table as I shook my head. “I just couldn’t write about one more sad thing.”

For twenty-two days, my Mama Kitty had been missing. She disappeared the week when so many tragic things were transpiring.

This feral kitten showed up seven Decembers ago in our back yard at the same time I was dealing with another painful situation that seemed irresolvable. I couldn’t change that situation, but I could try to save this little kitten that faced temperatures in the single digits. I couldn’t catch her, but I built her an insulated homeless shelter with a warming disc in it. She made it and I eventually was able to tame her, but not before she had four kittens, about which I wrote many stories.

The feral still apparent in her, she wouldn’t stay inside all the time, and literally climbed the walls wanting to get out. My vet told me both Mama Kitty and I would be miserable if I didn’t open the door. She might be gone a day or two but always returned.

After her disappearance, I called for three weeks every morning and night, listening, listening. Only crickets answered. There would be no reason to put out flyers. She’s so stealth, no one would see her grey body as she only moves at night, and if they did, they wouldn’t be able to catch her.

Jerry tried to console me by saying if cats taught survival lessons, Mama Kitty would have been the lead instructor. I tried to take comfort in that thought as well as the truth that God knows when even a sparrow falls to the ground.

 I would have normally cried my eyes out about her, but with all the profoundly sad events, I put my grief in a box and sat on it. There was just too much going on. I didn’t think I would ever write this story.

But my little friend McCoy who loves my cats found out about her disappearance. Sunday a week ago, he came up to me, “Let’s make a prayer for Mama Kitty,” he said then bowed his sweet head. “Oh Holy God, please send Mama Kitty back.”

I have to admit McCoy seemed to have more faith than I did.

Friday night, we got home late.

Jerry got out of the car first. “I hear something,” he said. I jumped from the car. I heard it too. Faint mewing. “Mama,” I called. She called back to me with a louder mew. I followed it to a dogwood tree in the front yard where she had often waited for me to get her. She came down into my arms.

I held her close and took her inside. When I put her down at the food bowls, she had lost so much weight her sides nearly touched, and she had red clay dust all over her.

But she was back.

Mama Kitty was back. Then the tears finally came.


I couldn’t help but think of a word we studied at VBS this week.


Restored―return something to its former condition.

The Varnado animal kingdom has been restored. All members present and accounted for.

The sense I had Friday night of things being set right was so wonderful.

In a much, much larger sense, Jesus came to restore.

We sang a song this week at VBS, which told this story. I have it on replay and probably will for sometime―How Far Love Goes.

Based on Ephesians 3:18-19, God wants us to know “. . . how wide and long and high and deep. . . “ his love is for us is. How he’s searched, and gone the greatest lengths to restore us. He wants us to know that we can be restored, no matter what has gone wrong in our lives, no matter how we may have strayed from his plan, no matter how we have sinned, no matter how lost and lonely we are.

He can restore me.

He can restore you.

He can set things right.

Oh, yes, there may be consequences of sin, but those will be bearable in the context of His amazing love and provision.

Yes, I am a big fan of the word restore.

At this writing, Mama Kitty has made no move toward exiting the house. I asked McCoy where he thought she had been all this time. He said He thought she may have tried to call me from a train station. Hmmm, on a train. Of course. Makes sense to me.

How Far Love Goes HERE.

Stories about Mama and her kittens HERE.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Prickly pears, Fixer Upper, and Something Good

Jerry and I are walking in our neighborhood, and he stops and points to spiky lobes growing in a neighbor's yard―a plant called prickly pear.
“Do those things bloom?” he asks. I suppose he wondered why anyone would have them if they didn’t.  Neither one of us are big fans of cacti.

“Glad you asked,” I responded as I pulled out my cell phone. “I snapped these pictures a few weeks ago.”

He shook his head amazed as he scrolled through them.

Another day not too long ago, I had been overcome by beauty in the middle of the prickles and stopped to capture the blooms, because I sensed God would use them somehow.

I am not a big fan of prickles, but isn’t it just like God to show us that no matter how much life can stick us and make us bleed, He can bring something exquisite out of the suffering.

Of course, it isn’t always apparent while we’re going through the circumstances, and often it isn’t immediate.

I’m a big fan of the HGTV show, Fixer Upper. Chip Gaines, the contractor on the show, is a big nut, and you never know what he’s going to do. On one episode, he and his designer wife, Joanna, were redoing a house, which had many prickly pears in the front yard. Texas, you know. But they must not love desert landscaping either, because they ripped those things out. Before they did, however, Chip pretended to fall back in them screaming as if he were dying. I happen to know if he didn’t have some sort of body armor on, he would have probably gone straight to the hospital. But the point is, he looked at those cacti and saw a way to make people laugh.

Oh, to have the ability to do that with our sticky situations.

My husband is fond of saying you can lick anything you can laugh at.

I believe that is true.

So friends, even if you fall back into your prickly pears, God will be your body armor and maybe help you see the flowers . . . and the humor in them.
". . . we can be sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good" (The Message Romans 8:28).

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Knocking for joy


With the heartaches of the past week, we’re really looking for joy.

The lyrics to a children’s song come to mind, “If you want joy, you must clap for it. If you want you, you must sing for it,” etc.

When you want joy, you must knock for it, because joy doesn’t often come knocking on our door, we have to knock on its door. Often, we have to knock hard and say, “Open up joy, I’m coming in.”

It doesn’t take money, or position, or power to find joy.

What it takes is the ability to see. To find the beauty in tiny things. To set our minds on what the Apostle Paul talked about, “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious―the best, not the worst, the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse” (Philippians 4:8 The Message).

Those things.

It takes being intentional.

Here’s a list of a few joy-full events around here in the last few days or so:
  • Snapping those amazing sunset in the clouds pictures above as I was leaving church one evening.
  • A red headed woodpecker that flew right in front of us one day. He flashed his red head at me, and it almost seemed he winked. I couldn’t help but smile.

  • Wilbur the menace (I love that cat even though he's always in trouble), who has taken up residence on a backdrop I’m working on for VBS. I decided I’m going to paint him right on the walls of my clubhouse mural. I can’t wait to see the kid’s faces when they see him.

  • This video my son sent me which I've repeatedly watched because joy just keeps bubbling up when witnessing a dog help his brother. ( If you can't get the video to play go here and here's hoping for no inappropriate ads) 

Often, it's the really small things that help you weather the really big things.  Yes, friends, if you want joy, you have to do whatever it takes to get it, because we can never forget, “ . . . the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

So, let’s get out there, do a little knocking, and see what comes up. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

When tragedy comes fast and furious

So, this is the second post I’ve written for today. The first sits idling on my computer. I have struggled to know what to write because tragedy has come fast and furious these last few days.


We had just returned from the sparkling blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean a day before. Saturday morning, I was still thinking about those sun swept days as I took another bite of my eggs at breakfast. Jerry was on the phone in another room, and though I couldn't understand his words, somehow I knew something was going on. I put my fork down.

He returned to the table. “What is it?” I asked.

“I’ll tell you when you finish your breakfast,” he said.

I didn’t pick up my fork. “It’s bad, isn’t it?”

He nodded and knowing I wouldn’t finish eating, he said, “----- took her own life yesterday.”

A Mom of four school-aged children.

I slumped in my chair awash in the numb shock that comes over us when we hear this kind of news.

Still reeling from this circumstance on Sunday, we learned a player on the football team for which Jerry is an FCA chaplain, had an accident on a skateboard, and was on life support. He died Monday.

I have found myself asking the same question that the Psalmist asked. “How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137:4). The Message reads, “How could we ever sing God’s song in this wasteland?” Because I’m telling you folks, these kinds of heartbreaking tragedies make life seem like a wasteland. How can we sing? How can we praise?

Yet, the Psalmist answers his own question a few verses later in chapter 138. “I will praise you, Lord, will all my heart . . . I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your unfailing love and your faithfulness . . .

I will.

No matter how we feel, we will to praise. We choose to praise. We put our eyes on the only One who can give us the power and strength to navigate these tragedies.

Yes, our hearts are broken. Yes, we are sad.

Yet, even in the darkest, most terrible circumstances, God has a way through. He offers us hope in the face of tragedy. He grants us life in the midst of death.

In these grief-filled days, we look to the one who is greater than all of this heartache and trust Him even with our unanswered questions. We will praise Him.

The Psalmist also said, “God is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). Friends, I would ask you to join me in praying these verses for four children who have lost their mother and a family who has lost a precious son. We pray God would be especially real to them with His healing presence.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Black goo and when you can't keep your mouth shut

As summer approaches, we're facing some home improvement projects, and I remembered this post from a few years back when God taught me an important lesson from a floor covering mess.

 Yesterday, Jerry and I embarked on a home improvement project. At the outset, we envisioned the project taking two or three hours and afterwards, we’d stand back and say, “Wow, that sure was easy, and look what we’ve accomplished.”

Historically, however, our experience involves an unexpected twist which causes someone to say, “Oh, no, I never saw that coming.” And of course, a lot of Googling for answers, several trips to the home improvement store, and at least one special order, follows.

The carpet in our den is old and terrible. The last company that cleaned it pronounced last rites. “We’ve done all we can,” the man said as he turned off his cleaning machine, took off his hat, and placed it over his heart.

In anticipation of replacing the carpet with laminate flooring, we thought we’d strip it to the cement slab, and install flooring later. We could live with a little concrete for a while.

If you’d seen the carpet, you’d understand why hard cement is preferable to tufted nylon Berber upon which a tanker truck load of apple juice has been spilled and a menagerie of critters has trod upon not to mention their other unseemly indiscretions.

We ripped up a section of carpet, peeled back the pad, and about then, is when the, “Oh, no, ” sounded.

I had some vague memory when the carpet was replaced years ago, of a little residue left from the previous owner’s indoor-outdoor carpet. I thought it was just in a few places. But I had little children then, and was probably sleep deprived at the time. In reality, black carpet backing covers the entire floor.

Surely, we thought, it’d be a cinch to get that stuff scraped off. It wasn’t. We used snow shovels, paint scrapers, razor blades, you name it, and it was like trying to peel a whole pack of bubble gum off the bottom of your shoe using a toothpick. Finally, after removing the carpet, we decided to leave the carpet pad down until we installed the laminate because although you can’t scrape that black crud up, it releases little bits which are tracked everywhere.

You can imagine how lovely this all looks. We have a section of black gunk, which we exposed before we realized the impossibility of it all. Then the rest of the floor is mottled blue foam. Someone, please call House Beautiful.

To all you floor covering installers out there, I just want to say, I’m sorry. I didn’t know how difficult your job is. I have a new respect for all that you do. Jerry and I have sore backs, sore hands, and if it weren’t for the dust masks we wore, we would probably have had to call the Centers for Disease Control to consult on some terrible air born bacteria we inhaled from the yucky carpet.

So this morning, I’m looking at all this mess on my floor, and I hear something in my spirit.

I’ve been troubled over words I spoke this week. In a twenty-four hour period, I opened my mouth on three different occasions and said things I shouldn’t have.

Hurtful things:  gossip I shouldn’t have repeated, judgments I shouldn’t have made, and a misguided response to another’s pain.

Why did I do that? I hate gossip, because I know how it feels to be the subject of it. The same for judging. And someone else's responses don't give me the right to act the same way.

“For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34).

Why did those words spill out?

Just like when we peeled back the carpet pad and found the black goo, when I allowed God to strip me, unresolved anger surfaced, black goo of my own. And unforgiveness, too.

And like that black carpet mess, which had been there for twenty-five years, covering over it won’t make it go away.

Confession is the only answer. Dragging it out in the open and saying, “Oh, Lord, I was wrong. Please forgive me. Wash me clean and heal my heart, because I spoke out of my own woundedness."

And of course, apologies all around.

Though, I know the Lord has forgiven me, I’m still looking at the ugly consequences. Because words, once they’re spoke, aren’t easily retrieved.

I look to the only one who can mitigate for my failures, who can scrape the black from my heart and make me new.

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord. ‘ Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow, though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).

I’m going to have to wait on the new flooring, but I’m so grateful to God that he’s already working on my heart.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Short and Sweet: Small Words for Big Thoughts

One of the first writing classes I had at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference was with Susan King, a long-time editor at The Upper Room Magazine. Over the course of the class, she asked us to write a 250-word devotion only using one-syllable words except when quoting the Bible, using contractions, numbers, proper nouns, and five letter or fewer words.

Her purpose for this?

Susan writes, “Simple, direct, down-to-earth communication tends to be the most effective kind.”

We writers become smitten with our ability to string words together, and in so doing, sometimes distort our meaning with over embellishment.

Susan helped us address this problem using this mean challenging exercise.

She shares that over the years some had suggested they be collected for a book. Her reply, “What would be the theme of the book, ‘One Syllable Words’?”

A few weeks ago, I received an email from Susan that Grace Publishing is indeed going to release a collection of these one-syllable pieces entitled, Short and Sweet: Small Words for Big Thoughts. To my amazement, a piece I wrote over ten years ago will be included.

Go figure. You just can’t imagine what God will do sometimes.

Susan believes this book will help anyone who writes or speaks. A quote attributed to various authors reads, “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.”

Shorter takes time, energy, ruthlessness, focus, determination, and wisdom. It’s far easier to spread out in every direction, but much harder to trim your thoughts down to the essentials.

I’m looking forward to reading the book, seeing what others wrote, and learning from them. It's an honor to be included.

This development with the book makes me ponder anew these words by Paul, “God can do anything, you know―far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!” (Ephesians 3:20-21 The Message).

Years ago, I never imagined while sitting in my hotel room working on this piece that it would go any farther than Susan’s eyes.

I’m reminded again that we follow God’s call surrendering our time, talents, and service as an offering, however, the rest is up to Him.

If you’re interested, you may get your own copy of Short and Sweet: Small Words for Big Thoughts HERE.


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