Tuesday, November 25, 2008

“Look at this,” Josiah called me over to the edge of the porch where he’d dropped his shovel while digging holes. A five-lined skink sprawled across his back. His sudden movement must have spooked the little fellow, since he scampered up over Josiah’s shoulder and disappeared down his sleeve. Truly disappeared since we couldn’t find him, though I peered under layers of shirts.

My poor head is filled with a fast and furious piano piece that I simply cannot get worked out my fingers. Parts of it come, but so much more is scrambled up somewhere between my mind and my ability. Will I ever possess enough skill to really express myself or am I just fooling myself and others?

Josiah interrupted my complaining composing with a complaint of his own. “Is he in there? That lizard. I think he’s up my shirt still—by my shoulder blade. Otherwise I’ve got some serious muscle spasms.” Compliantly I peeled his sweatshirt up and felt all over his back. Perhaps it was a secret ploy to get a back scratch. My fingers discovered nothing of the reptilian species. “I’m sure he’s not there,” I informed Josiah. “That was just after lunch. It’s been hours since then.”

Papa arrived home late from work, having run a half dozen errands on the way. That’s what happens when I don’t go into town. He walked through the door and greeted us cheerily. “What’s that lizard doing on the table?” And there he was, the little stowaway, sprawled placidly on the dinner table, critically examining our venison and cauliflower soup. Truly, the lizard you may grasp with the hand, but it is in king’s palaces.

Dissecting the scriptural record of Rahab the harlot, I was struck by her attitude of trust. “Faith is the evidence of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” scribbles the author of Hebrews. The description fits Rahab perfectly. Raised in a wicked city, leading a sinful life, she heard of Yahweh and His powerful works. While the rest of the city melted in terror, she hoped. Her certainty that Yahweh would prevail led her to receive His messengers in peace, risking her life to help them on their way. When she through herself upon the mercy of God, He regarded her humility and trust and offered His protection. In the beautiful unfolding of His redemption He saved her out of a wicked city devoted to destruction and made her to be a part of His people, and a thread in the scarlet cord of redemption leading to His Son. In a final tribute to her trust, the writer of Hebrews lists her beside the patriarchs and Moses, beside the prophets and judges as a hero of the faith. She was a low-down, filthy Canaanite prostitute, but she trusted in Yahweh and was not disappointed.

Lord, Thy scarlet thread of hope
Runs thickly through the tale Thou penned
Of love that runs more thick than blood
For men Thou made, though we have sinned.

And always is Thy mercy shown
To those who, helpless, seek Thy face
And dare to cling to threads of hope
That Thou wilt offer saving grace.

Monday, November 24, 2008

I nearly blushed as I called Sherry to let her know I wouldn’t make it in to Choices tomorrow. “I have a pretty badly sprained ankle,” I explained. “And I’m supposed to stay off of it.” “Now, Abigail, how did you do that?” she asked me. “Were you skateboarding?” She knew it would have to be active. Unusual. And unladylike. Actually, I was doing a toe-touch off the roof of the tool shed into a pile of leaves higher than my head. And I’d been doing it safely for the past several hours, along with Josiah, Tommy and Lydia. I’d even been cautious, stuck to dives and crazy jumps instead of flips like the boys were pulling. Perhaps the slow drizzle left the leaves a little slippery. At any rate, I’m holed up for the next couple of days, alternately heating and icing my right ankle and thinking of all the wonderful things I would rather be doing. “Poor Abby,” Tabby giggled over the phone when she found out my plight. “I’d hate to see how hyper you’ll be tomorrow.” Half way through the afternoon my ankle suddenly began to feel stifled. A raging rejection of inaction surged through it and it begged for freedom to stretch. I indulged it. Pain and relief flooded simultaneously. Even a bird with a broken wing still longs to fly. “You’re such an impatient patient,” Tabby chided. I felt as if the entire day had been wasted. At least I got the Pearls and Diamonds blog revamped, caught up and archived.

I’ve not scribbled faithfully since my laptop screen went out nearly three months ago. I quit writing and I started talking. Suddenly all the thoughts and feelings and emotions I’ve been charting and graphing in the pages of my journal had nowhere to go. So they started spilling out my mouth. For the past several months I’ve felt as though I am teetering on the dangerous precipice of revealing my heart. My family has heard more of my frightening mind than in the rest of my life! And my mind is undoubtedly more frightening these days. Confusion reigns supreme. I’ve given up on making plans. Or even goals. Or even dreams. Right now I could fling my possessions to the wind and leap onto a plane headed for Alaska—if it weren’t for my ankle.

Who knows? Tomorrow I might do just that. Things change that quickly, you know.

Like Tabitha. When Cliff appeared on the scene over the summer she worried and fretted and avoided. “Just be his friend,” I encouraged her. “Just be his friend,” her dad encouraged her. Then suddenly she knew for sure he was interested. And just as suddenly her fear melted like the morning mist and was gone, replaced by wonder. Then curiosity. Then friendship. And now courtship. He can hardly concentrate on anything. While she was gone for two weeks he pined away and lost weight. He pours cereal in his cup and milk in the cereal box. He calls her every night he can’t see her and sees her every night her parents will allow him in the house. And he knows all about me, since I’m her best friend. Things just happen that fast.

Our family has grown. She might be Jack Russell Terrier or she might just be a mutt that happens to look and behave like a Jack Russell, but she’s captured our hearts from the first day she came slinking up to the back window, pleading for acceptance. Another stray and we’ve taken her in and are trying to train her. Isn’t that just how we always do? “What are we going to call that dog?” Papa asked the day after she arrived and we all knew we’d be keeping her. Later, he dubbed her Freckles. “Chase me,” she begs with every fiber of her body as soon as we step out the door. “Come play with me!” Mom was hanging laundry on the line when Freckles swiped a stocking cap from the basket and led Mom on a wild chase through the meadow. But when it comes to a trek through the woods, she’s all business—alert, silent and as stealthy as a Comanche. We walk outside in the morning and whistle, eager to see her wriggling form come dancing from under the porch—well, half of the porch. She’s already established. Things just happen that quickly.

Glenn’s been down twice in the past few months—the first time with just his boys to work on the house. Just a couple of weeks ago he brought his whole family for a week-long stay. Little Hannah kept me laughing constantly and Rachel was a closed book that slowly opened to let me peek inside. I’ve never seen anything like her piano playing. She plays so hard the piano weeps with exhaustion. I wept when I thought of wearing skirts the entire week—in the cold, in the rain, all day, every day. Skirts just aren’t my thing. But I made it. Joyfully, even, I do believe. And only half cold most of the time. The poor Schriebers all left sniveling, coughing and snorting. And they left the deck half torn off.

Poor Josiah was left in charge of building it back and it has proven to be nothing short of toil and tears, frustration and frenzy. In short, it will build in him godly character or drive him insane.

Amber and her mom have switched places entirely. Judy has come face to face with the saving grace of the Lord and has dived in head-first. She’s listened through the entire New Testament and spends time in prayer. The highlight of her day is her daily phone call with Mom, reviewing her over her memory verses. Amber on the other hand is struggling between the forces of good and evil. Of course, in some way or another, aren't we all? And I blame myself for her spiritual dryness. It seems I have an uncanny way of assuming anything that is not perfect, easy or beautiful is a fault of mine. I forget that Yahweh is in perfect control.

Exciting news rolls in from Tulsa with Nathaniel and Lauren and their church family. The Lord is casting His shadow across their little church and stirring them up to obedience. The men are taking serious steps to make Him the center, the church is reaching out to the surrounding neighborhoods, spreading the gospel and seeking to disciple. Several families have decided to headcover and more are interested in studying First Corinthians. “If this is how the church should be,” one man said during small group, “how do we do it?”

With Papa’s crazy work schedule, only having a holiday every other weekend, our meeting has switched over to Saturday night. The positive is that we often have more than just our family and Nick. The negative is that there is very little fellowship afterwards and no one comes out during the week or on Sunday anymore. Loneliness is curling it’s long, icy fingers around our little home.

Lord, change is just a part of living,
Part of Thy plan’s perfect giving,
Yet throughout eternity
There is no changing found in Thee.

This is such a comfort here,
Among the days of doubt and fear
To know Thou art always the same.
And knowing, praise Thy changeless name.

Friday, October 3, 2008

“Trust in Yahweh with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes, fear Yahweh and turn from evil. It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones.” ~Proverbs 3:5-8

Has it only been a year since I drove the dusty Tempo from the S Family’s house, down Crooked Branch Road and up our driveway for the first time? Only a year is gone and yet gone is a year of death and resurrection, of old and new, of past and present. Gone far behind us is Papa’s “ideal” job at Parkway Dental. Gone also the little home fellowship we began with the S Family. Gone are the days when I babysat for four blond, energetic kiddos. Gone are the days when I hung out on campus in the Sweetest Suite or walked into the Cafeteria at the side of Lauryn or Jacinda. Gone are Friday nights with Taylor and Nathan or Sunday afternoons with the gang. Gone are Wes and Audrey and their little Wednesday night Bible study. Because life doesn’t stay the same and things move on and people change.

Before me lies a future no more certain than the past has been, yet full of hope. Resurrected are my once buried dreams to live among the people lost in darkness that I might be able to show to them the true light. In a few months, my whole life has become a perfect preparation, a surprising equipping to do exactly what I’ve always desired—serve the low-income, low-education, sin-trapped people of the urban United States as serving Christ. Recreated are my relationships with my family—my father is my trusted friend, my mother has become a sensitive confidant, Josiah is a brother I can lean on and Lydia is a sister in Christ.

And Yahweh, in His supreme wisdom has been teaching me about wasted emotion—especially anxiety. My emotions, He reminds me constantly, are given as a precious treasure, to worship and enjoy Him forever. Yet how often I squander them in fear, guilt, anger, confusion, frustration and worry. What will tomorrow bring? Once Jesus sat on a sunny slope in the land of Israel and boldly proclaimed that it doesn’t matter! Quit worrying about tomorrow, He reminds me. Tomorrow has plenty of worries of its own. Instead of being wasteful of my emotions, I am to turn them to singing and praising and offering thanks. Then I will worship and enjoy Yahweh, even as He has intended. I turn to glance behind me at the past year, thinking how much emotion I have wasted worrying about situations that seemed cloudy or unclear, how many tears I spent weeping because I didn’t have the answers to quiet my soul. That was never what Yahweh intended. He intended me to enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise, saying each day was the day He had made. I will rejoice for He has made me glad!

A year of death and resurrection. And isn’t that the meaning of life? The sting of death is only in hopelessness, but while there is life there is hope. My hope is in knowing the Lord works all things for the good of those who love Him. To this promise I confidently cling and plunge ahead through each day, wondering what He’ll do next. But not allowing that question to consume me.

What will He do next?

Lord, Thou sought to teach me trust,
Faith in Thy good word is a must,
Yet often I flung down Thy word
And turned to other sounds I heard:

The sounds of fear and worry’s call
That tempted me to slip and fall
Yet Thou were always near to save
And resurrect me from each grave.

It's almost 2009...

And Josiah has encouraged me several times not to abandon this poor, little, lost blog. He wants me to start posting again from my journals...which is actually a little frightening. Not nearly so much now that no one is reading along...:) So I've revamped, reformatted, and I think I'll start rewriting.

Blessings in the Beloved Son of God,

Miss Abigail Joy

It's been a year...

...Not since I posted last. Not quite. But since we moved to Arkansas. Which is almost as hard to believe as the fact that Lydia is almost as tall as I am. (Which means she's almost five foot tall. Not very impressive.) And almost as hard to believe as the fact that Josiah is now eighteen. Or that Papa has been working crazy hours for ConAgra for several months now. And Jacindarella is about to move to Bolivia for two years.

I thought I'd been promised a quiet summer, so I prepared for surprises and they certainly came. Receptionist for Choices PRC soon turned to graphic designer (when they discovered I could design t-shirts for the upcoming walk) and from there I became Public Relations (how does this always happen? I wind up smiling, shaking hands and talking to people) and I finally accepted a position as Administrative Assistant. Whatever that means. The secret is that Sherry mistakenly believes me to have computer skills. That's just the busyness I can tack a title to.

We've done some remodeling here and some landscaping there. No longer does the house have so many pink tones and the trim is real wood now. My trusty laptop screen is suffering from burn-out--the backlight, I believe. Don't ask me to explain how that all works. I've got a new screen on the way and am hooked up to the school monitor in the meanwhile, so it all works out.

The Lord's been faithfully teaching me. More than I can ever hope to regurgitate. About faithfulness--in the little things, because He is faithful in the little things. "Trust in the Lord and do good. Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness." About wasted emotion. Because God created me with emotions so that I would worship and enjoy Him forever, but I tend to waste my emotional energy on fear, discouragement, guilt and anxiety. Instead of being wasteful, I should be filled with the Spirit, singing and making melody in my heart, giving praise and thanks to Yahweh! He's been faithful to give me constant reminders to be a good steward of my emotions as well as time and money.

Josiah's been pestering me to get back to blogging--especially sharing from my journals. Hmm. I'll have to think on that one. For the meanwhile, I realized I had just dropped off the face of the world. I'm doing well! VERY WELL. Very in love with Jesus. Very busy!!

If I never post again, you can keep up with me a little at the blog I share with my sister-in-law, Lauren: Pearls and Diamonds.

Blessings to ya'll!

Abigail Joy

The "I" Meme

I've never been tagged in a meme before...and it feels weird to say "I" so often...but, here goes! Thanks, Victoria for making me try something new. ;) And I tag Jason Plett, Amber D., Raising Arrows and Taffy.

I am: just a little scribe, scribbling about the King and the great things He does
I think: thoughts, mostly. Few of them profound.
I know: enough to stay out of trouble. But does it actually work?
I have: webbed toes.
I wish: I always knew the fitting thing to say or do.
I hate: entangling sins, cruel words and distorted truth.
I miss: playing Cowboys and Indians and turning cartwheels in a skirt before I was old enough to care.
I fear: bringing discredit on the name of Yahweh.
I feel: most at rest when I am most tired.
I hear: music in my mind that I lack the skill to express.
I smell: every candle I see.
I crave: to know and understand Yahweh’s heart and desires.
I search: the faces of those around me to see if I can catch a peep inside their souls.
I wonder: what is coming next? But I’m glad I don’t know…
I regret: the opportunities I’ve let slip to spread the Good News.
I love: bowing before Yahweh, discovering His Word for myself, the thrill that follows knowing I’ve chosen to obey Him, the laughter bubbling up from a heart filled with joy, the light spirit when my conscience is clear.
I ache: when I must watch someone else aching, unable to heal their wounds.
I am not: wise, mighty, beautiful, famous, ingenious or talented.
I believe: Jesus is the Son of God, the perfect sacrifice to atone for the sin of the world and believing I have life in His name.
I dance: rather clumsily.
I sing: faster when I’m working, louder in the shower, constantly when I’m delighted, horribly if you’re listening.
I cry: when I see a broken human turn away from the abundant grace of Yahweh and when I see a broken turn to the abundant grace of Yahweh.
I don't always: pay attention to important instructions I’m being given.
I fight: my emotions, my flesh and my self. Usually I lose.
I write: because I must collect my scattered thoughts and orchestrate them into some measure of order before I sleep.
I win: every battle I surrender to Yahweh.
I lose: focus in times of ease.
I never: drink soda pop, watch TV, give advice to polar bears or wrestle alligators not in my weight division.
I always: untie my tennis shoes before taking them off.
I confuse: myself when I contemplate romance.
I listen: the little sounds that make the raging hum of the world.
I can usually be found: only if I want to be found.
I am scared: I might wound someone else.
I need: to constantly refocus and rediscover that Jesus is all I need
I imagine: all the worst possible outcomes, so that I am delighted when none of them happen.
I am happy about: life…because it is mine abundantly!

About Effectiveness

Found in a fortune cookie:

If you think you are too small to be effective,
You have never been in bed with a mosquito.

Announcing Pearls and Diamonds

We're officially up on the web--Lauren and I have started a blog together, hoping to encourage young women, both married and single, to grow in the grace of Christ! Check us out two ways--either click the nifty picture above, or click the nifty link below. And be sure to let us know what you think.

Pearls and Diamonds

About Subversive Organizations

Lizards never struck me before as subversive, but it seems that they might possibly be the most conniving creatures yet. After all, they are found in king’s palaces, says the preacher. Lately I’ve noticed these tiny dragons scamper across the deck, drop, pump out about a dozen push-ups and then vanish over the edge. Perhaps they’re not turning out in hoards for the work-outs simply to avoid suspicion. I’ve grown suspicious non-the-less.

In Which I Get Really Woolly

“Just dump it in and blow it out!” the picture on the insulation blower announces. A woman stands in front of the machine, cheerfully holding a bail over the hopper, her dress and long, flowing hair blowing in the breeze. Upstairs, a man directs the hose into the attic, a discreet pair of safety glasses perched across his nose.

It’s a pretty picture, but it’s certainly not the one I would paint.

I was decked in my tightest pair of work-jeans (with sincere hopes that they might stay up), a ragged, basketball shirt, tight bun with a protective layer of bandanna, goggles and dust-mask. I spent the morning slowly feeding bales of grey fluff into a sluggish machine which rewarded this effort by emitting clouds of grey dust. Soon Lydia and I were wild and woolly, to say nothing of hot, thirsty and bored. “I’m glad it’s you today,” Lydia confided. “Josiah’s just bossy and Mom’s boring.” I tried to keep some semblance of entertaining conversation going, but I began to feel like I was slowly being consumed by a great, grey cloud of oblivion.

My turn for adventure finally arrived after lunch when I volunteered to make an assault on the attic. Josiah and Mom both crowded around, giving me advice, recommendations, precautions and predictions until I became nearly convinced I was headed on a green beret secret mission. Feeling important and somewhat daunted, I climbed the rails and disappeared into the dark attic. Only it wasn’t dark, thanks to several trouble lights dangling from the low ceiling beams. I whipped out my walkie-talkie and signaled the others to start the machine. With a gentle cough, it came to life, blowing flakes of grey in every direction.

My jeans were sagging nearly to my knees by the time I crawled on my belly back out of the addition over Mom and Papa’s room. It must have been at least 120 degrees in there. Insulation clung to me like mohair, giving me the appearance of a woolly, black ape. I squinted through my foggy goggles, trying desperately to see through the thick murk. I couldn’t help thinking how it would be easier to see and breath without this encumbrances, but a quick try proved me wrong. Black gunk plugged my nose and burned my eyes. The spiritual parallels were smothering. How often I blame the protections the Lord has given me for the very smothering they are trying to protect me from! The fresh air breezing up from the attic entrance seemed like a whisper of another world as I worked my way toward the final feet of my project. Lydia’s head poked up through the hole, looking like a bizarre gas-mask. “How many bails left?” I demanded. “We’re on the last one,” her voice smiled from somewhere under the layers of white dust mask. “Hooray!” I held the hose up and let the insulation flutter out around the ceiling beams.

And then the machine had stopped. I tossed the hose down through the hole in the laundry room ceiling and swung my legs over the edge. With a sputter, the machine came to life again, blowing heavy, grey insulation around the laundry room in flurries. “Stop!” I shrieked, jumping down from the ladder, over the washer and dryer and rushing outside where Mom was allowed the last few bits to run through the hungry hose. Surprised, she looked up, comprehended and flipped off the machine. I covered my eyes in the bright light, ripped off my dust-mask and breathed.

It's amazing the way my perspective can change in such a short time. Normally a ninety-five degree day feels blistering--this time in felt blissful.

In Which I Make Important Choices

“This is Abigail,” Sherry introduced me. “She worked with Christy doing No Apologies in the schools.” A small chorus of “ohs”. “She’ll be joining us as our receptionist.” A few minutes later, I was settled into a chair on the far side of the table, mentally running back over the ladies’ names and taking everything in, trying to get the feel for Choices. “That’s a praise. Does anyone have any prayer requests?” Sherry asked, looking around the table at eight smiling faces. “Becky, would you mind praying for us this morning, since we’re running a little late?” The slim nurse smiled as she answered, “Sure.” We all bowed our heads.

That’s when my cell phone rang. Only, it doesn’t ring. When Papa calls, it whistles at me.

Seven heads jerked up, eyes wide, looking for the source of the interruption. Nothing like a first impression.

“Sorry,” I mumbled, digging the phone out of my bag and silencing it. The table erupted in merriment and questioning looks. “That was your phone?” “That’s…um…quite the ring tone.” Becky’s eyes crinkled at the corners as she demanded, “Where’d you get that ring tone. I totally want that ring tone—for when my husband calls me.” Embarrassed, I shrugged. “I don’t know where it came from. My dad put it on for his number.”

Discovering the perpetrator of the whistling made them titter even more, but we managed to quiet down and finish our prayer meeting before the first client had been kept waiting too long. Sherry led me back out to the front desk and waiting room and gave me a quick run-over of my duties:

• Greet clients and let their advocate/mentor know they had arrived
• Answer the phone and assist/transfer as needed
• Call tomorrow’s clients to remind them of their appointment
• Schedule any necessary appointments
• Pull client files for today
• File finished client paperwork
• Be careful to maintain “confidentiality”

All of it work they’d shared before. The “extras” that feel like overload to seven ladies with busy schedules, kept me busy for only a few minutes. “Anything else you need me to do while I’m sitting?” I asked Mary Frances. “If you’re bored, I have loads of filing you can do!” Becky teased, poking her head out of her office. “I hate filing.” She held a stack of green manila folders in one hand.

The reception desk phone beeped on line one.

“Hello, Choices Pregnancy Resource Clinic, this is Abigail. May I help you?”

A pause, then: “Yes, this is Maggie. Have any more bottles come in today?”

A pause on my end. Who is Maggie? Why does she care about the Bottles for Babies program? Why does she need to know a bottle number? Have any more bottles come in today? “Just a second,” I put her on hold and scampered to the back room where Shirley and Mary Frances were filling out client paperwork. “Maggie’s on the phone asking if any more bottles have come in today.”

Shirley shook her head. “Some this afternoon.” Then she smiled. “Abigail, Maggie is our secretary.”

Nancy was shuffling through the file cabinet when I returned to the desk. “We’re getting terrible at this filing,” she sighed. “I just can’t find her file.”

“Is this it?” I quizzed, scooping up the files I’d already pulled and handing her one from the top. A funny look crossed her face before she laughed. “Oh. You’d already pulled it? I guess I’m just not used to having a receptionist.”

“May I help you?” I asked as the door jingled and a middle-aged woman stepped through. She certainly didn’t look like she had a crisis pregnancy on her hands. “Yes, actually, I’m Dottie from River Valley Magazine, here for an interview and article. Is Sherry in?”

Feeling important, I rang Sherry and sent Dottie up the narrow staircase to her office. I wasn’t the only one who found the “reporter” intriguing. “Is she still here?” one of the ladies whispered as I entered the kitchen for a drink. “This will be good publicity for us!”

I’d just finished collecting and taking out the trash when the door jingled again. I scurried through the Dutch door to great an older man. “Hello, may I help you?”

He grinned a lop-sided grin. “Yes. May I please speak to Shirley?”

I turned toward the kitchen just as Shirley emerged. “There’s a gentleman asking for you,” I began, as she walked past me into the waiting room, giggling. “Oh Abigail,” she explained. “This is my husband, George. George, meet our new receptionist.”

The schedule book was stacked full in the morning, but by closing time, only about half of the clients had made a showing. “That’s pretty typical,” Shirley informed me. A sad thing, since these ladies are so dedicated to being available for counseling or calls, whether a girl shows up or not. It's exciting to hear the stories of girls who have come in abortion-minded and left with a babe in arms. Being a private, non-profit organization, Choices has to be creative. Based out of a two-story Victorian home near the library, the waiting room used to be a screened in porch. Bedrooms have become cozy offices. The garage is a nifty thrift-store, crammed with tidy donations for girls who have earned “parenting bucks”. The intercom system consists of calling from one line to another and transferring means calling up the desired person and asking them to pick up line one. And they have a nifty little dumb-waiter—a basket on a string—for sending papers up to Sherry in her second story office. But the Lord has really blessed the project. Thirteen years after beginning, there are a score of volunteers, hundreds of churches participating in Bottles for Babies, No Apologies makes an appearance in several local schools, and the clinic has their very own nurse and Ultra-sound room.

Well, and now they finally have a receptionist. At least on Tuesdays.

About Community

Lydia has developed a habit, during Sunday lunch, of scrunching herself onto the very edge of her chair--the one closest to me--and scarfing her meal with as little conversation as possible. I can hardly blame her since the Sunday Bruce swallowed the last piece of delicious roll, right out of her fingers while she watched wide-eyed and flabbergasted. It wasn't because he was still hungry. There's always plenty more where hers came from, but somehow, having been on Lydia's plate increases the attractiveness.

"Why thank you, Lydia," Josh beamed as Lydia carefully set her slice of banana cake on the table. "What a great idea!" He made a quick stab with his fork, but Lydia whisked the dessert out of his reach and gave him a triumphant smile.

That's when Tommy snagged her plate from across the table.

Lydia heaved an exasperated sigh and crossed her arms over her long-suffering heart. Josh's reaction lacked her forbearance. "Lydia!" He exclaimed. "Lydia! Did you see that? He took our cake!"

If I'm to be Christ-Like...

...what does it look like?

I’ve been mulling over this question in a quiet corner over my overly active brain, trying to grasp the essence of Who I should be emulating.

Some parts of His person come to mind more quickly than others: His humility, grace, love, perseverance, devotion to God’s pleasure (and success!), imitation of God, resistance to sin, patience in suffering, search for the lost, sacrificial generosity.

But this I am wrestling with: Jesus was consumed with zeal for God. He destroyed the tables of the moneychangers because they desecrated the house of God. He called the false religious leaders white-washed tomb-stones because they pretended purity, while inwardly indulged in vice. He even turned away some half-hearted followers with the blunt edge of truth.

It’s easy to perceive Jesus as the lamb led to slaughter and imagine that I should be demure, avoiding offense at all costs. But Jesus was also the majestic lion, King of Kings, on fire for God’s name. If the righteous are as bold as a lion, where is my boldness for the truth? If we are to be zealous for righteousness, where is my zeal for God’s honor? Is it my place to denounce false teachers? False teachings? Do I have that authority? Can I control my own emotions with enough purity to be sure that the zeal consuming me is godly and not of my own flesh? How can I be, at once, both gentle as a dove and wise as a serpent? Meek as a lamb and bold as a lion? A humble bond-servant, yet a faithful witness of God’s Holiness?

In this is my dilemma.

This is my hope: that in being more with Christ, I shall become more like Him.

Lord, I bow before Thee humbly,
Kneel and plead that Thou consume me.
Nail in farewell to Thy cross
The parts of me both flesh and dross.

Unite in me Thy perfect zeal,
Humility and power revealed
To spring from Thee and Thy control
To work Thy will and please Thy soul.

Concerning Hard Hearts

"Would God harden a Christian’s heart?” The question has been addressed to me a couple of times recently. Exodus chapters 1-14 and Psalm 81 are two of the passages inspiring this question. The first show Pharaoh resisting God’s command to let the Israelites go followed by God hardening his heart. The second speaks of a rebellious Israel, given over to the stubbornness of their hearts to walk in their own devices. Is this a fate that can befall the believer?

Amber and I are starting that little gem of a book "The Joy of Discovery in Bible Study" and one of the first rules for understanding a passage is to understand WHO it was written to and WHO it was written about. In the Exodus passage, we quickly see two things: first, Pharaoh was not a believer. Second, he had already chosen to harden his own heart. The obvious result of God hardening his heart was a lack of good judgment—his resistance to God prevented him from making reasonable decisions. His whole land was being destroyed, his people killed, himself tormented and yet he could not relent. The second passage might seem a little less obvious at first glance, because we are used to interpreting the Psalms as applicable to us. After a little observation, it's pretty clear that the passage is about the nation Israel. This might seem unimportant until we recall that God's relationship with Israel the nation is different than His relationship with the individual. This passage wasn't actually written FOR a believer. That doesn't mean we can't glean anything from it--we can! But the application is not as direct.

Even when Israel was rebellious to Yahweh, there was always a believing remnant. The whole nation was His chosen nation, chosen to be blessed by Him, but the nation was not a nation of believers. Many of the Israelites were rebellious—my family just finished a study of the kings of Israel and Judah--very few of which obeyed Yahweh. And even then, some of the wicked kings (like Ahab) occasionally obeyed God. And some of the good kings (like Josiah) disobeyed and lost their lives. Do you remember the blessings and the curses from Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim (Deuteronomy 27-28)? These blessings and curses were a part of Yahweh's covenant with Israel. He'd warned them that if they refused to listen to Him, to obey them, He would turn them over to poor leaders, poor judgment and ravaging enemies. As a nation. This meant if the nation as a whole turned away from Him, He would stop blessing the nation, as a whole. "The stubbornness of their heart, to walk in their own devices" meaning, He'd let them go their own foolish way--as a nation. This didn't mean He would stop interacting with individuals. He still spoke through many prophets. Even during the humanistic time of the judges we find Ruth and Boaz who loved Yahweh and who Yahweh blessed. His curse was that He would stop blessing them on a national basis. But He never stops interacting on an individual basis.

For us in the new covenant, inaugurated through Christ’s all-sufficient sacrifice, we have a different promise: “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13)

The promise for believers is that, if you believe Jesus and belong to Him, He won't deny you. He won't forsake you. Nothing separates us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:35-39) We have confident access to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:14-15). I know of no scripture to believe that God would harden your heart. Believer's can drift from the Lord and can become disobedient--and scripture says that the Lord will chasten disobedient children (Hebrews 12:6)--even sometimes putting them to death (1 Cor. 11:30). But the distance is not caused by God. Nor does He watch them wander and then place a wall between Himself and them so that they cannot return. If you have put your faith in God, He has sealed you with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13) and you have an advocate with Him, any time you sin (1 John 2:1). Not only that, He is waiting as a loving Father, to welcome you home any time you get sick of feeding pigs.

The scripture also speaks of walking in the light (1 John) and living in the Spirit--exercising the Spirit God has given you so that it is strengthened. There's the story of the Eskimo man who had a white dog and a black dog which he would bring to town, make fight and take bets on which would win. He always won the best. Finally someone asked him how he knew which would win. "Simple," he replied gruffly. "Whichever I feed." It's the same way with our Spirit and our flesh. I find that the more I feed my flesh (even just spending time in "harmless" activities--as long as they don't feed my spirit and bring spiritual growth) my desire for spiritual things slides into nonexistence. Also my spiritual perceptions dwindle--I don't notice God's working in my life or that of others, I become discontent, focused on myself, God seems to grow distant and small. On the other hand, when I am feeding my spirit, spending time on my knees begging God to open up the mysteries of His word to me, begging Him to work in my life (not just asking for things I think I need, but for growth and change in myself, too) I become starved for time with Him--ravenously hungry for His word, His people, even just to be alone with Him. Then His word comes alive to me, full of meaning for my life. "God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble"--when we seek Him humbly, we find He is there with blessing upon blessing. Others may not even see that we are blessed, but we can see little things He is doing constantly! Our perspective changes--we recognize all the spiritual blessings we have in Christ (1 Peter 1:1-9). Scripture tells us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling--this doesn't mean we are working to make it happen, but that God's worked it into us, and we must work it out--so that it's visible--with His help, of course. It's an effort. A choice. We don't just sit and say, "God, if you're real, show me." He's evidenced Himself in so many ways--just look around at the world! In all of the scientists clever stories, they really can't account for it at all. Or if we demand, "God, if you love me, show me." Look at the cross! God demonstrated His love toward us, in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us! (Rom. 5:8)

Pharaoh had no interest in a relationship with Yahweh. The Israelites thumbed their noses at His covenant. The Lord stripped them of their judgment—after all, the fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom. Did they care? Pharaoh didn’t. He plunged into the Red Sea after the Israelites and was swept away by the currents of his rebellion. The Israelites, on the other hand, often repented, returned to Yahweh and cried out to Him. Once He even tried to ignore them—but the sound of their humble cry and the smell of their sacrifices reached Him and He turned to them.

The truths I see in these stories are simple. A hard heart is a heart that doesn't care about God. Doesn't desire God. Has poor judgment. Doesn't even realize it resists God. A hard heart never asks the question, "Am I a hard heart?" Never worries that it might not be able to respond to God. A hard heart has no desire for repentance. No desire for God.

A hard heart does not belong to a believer.

For the person who feels they have turned from Yahweh, rejected Him, grown cold and hard with time, bitterness and disappointment, their hope is in God’s character, revealed through His dealings with the Israelites. David told His son Solomon, "Set your heart to seek Yahweh." (1 Chronicles 22:19) It's a choice. A decision. Something you must decide you want to do. If you want to know Yahweh, you must seek Him while He may be found. Later David told Solomon again, "If you seek Him, He will let you find Him." (1 Chronicles 28:9) Even spoken to an individual under the old covenant, these words reveal God’s character. David had beautiful insight into God's character and God's workings with man. He understood that God delights in being sought. That's His desire. It brings glory to Him when we do what we were created to do--seek Him. He doesn't hide Himself from those who seek Him. The best place to find Him is in the pages of His word. Through prayer, praise and thanksgiving, He reveals Himself to us through His word. If you're worried that you've drifted from Him, that you might have gone too far to come back--give His mercy a try! Seek Him diligently and see what will happen! If you want to find Him, seek Him! He who comes to Him must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Heb. 11:6) Anything good requires effort. Our salvation is a free gift--God did the effort there. But for us to grow strong and to enjoy a healthy relationship with Yahweh, we must exercise and feed our spirit for His work to work out.

Enjoying the Ease of E

Ethnic—Because the Italian restaurant Helen and Paul took us to in downtown Tulsa was terribly authentic.

Exotic—Because Calimari didn’t look terribly appetizing, but proved to be quite palatable. Especially the babies. “It tastes like fried spiders,” I encouragingly informed a dubious Lauren. She never did work up the appetite to try the babies.

Electricity—Because we were without it at Nathaniel and Lauren’s—for more than a day. Gathered in the hallway, we sang scripture by the light of a lantern and listened to storm warnings on a battery weather-radio.

Evelyn—Because she’s a light in a dark place—and she had the same birthday as I do! Turning seventy-eight, shut into a nursing home, yet cheerful and encouraging when Lauren and I visited her. She held our hands and prayed over us before we left, bringing tears to my eyes.

Exxon—Because they apparently still believe in the caste system. Two restrooms: one marked “ladies”, the other “women.”

Excited—Because Lauren and I are gung-ho for starting a joint blog for young women—married and single. Be watching for announcements in the future!

Economics—Because “Settlers of Catan” was a study in old-school economics—bartering, shipping and trading. When the guys had talked about it in the past, I’d done the whole “smile and nod” trick, since I thought it sounded boring. It wasn’t. Strategizing on the best way to get rid of excess wheat or attempting to convince the others they needed more sheep (“Tim, you’d look fabulous in wool!” or “Josiah, have you ever had mutton with mint leaves?”) proved more entertaining than I’d imagined.

Encouraging—Because having Ashley here from New Jersey was a pleasant happening. She seems so far away and yet, we can reconnect on the same level as if nothing has happened in between.

Exhausted—Because, starting with the well pump’s failure on my birthday, we’ve had incident after incident. Last week, with Papa home on vacation, we tackled enough projects to make me feel like I’d accomplished a lifetime of useful things. And yet, it doesn’t seem as though we actually came out ahead in the long-haul.

Embarrassed—Because my very first day cleaning the neighbor’s house, I broke a candle. One of those terribly valuable ones that come in a canning jar and smell like blue coconut.

Everything else—Because it will just have to go unnoted. The past several weeks have been a whirlwind—I feel like I’ve hardly been home! I keep thinking the next day will bring a breather—a chance to get quiet and just enjoy the Lord, but each day turns out crazier than the last one! How did David grow so close to the Lord while fleeing from Saul? And how did Jesus survive with multitudes clamoring after Him constantly?

End—Because this is it for now, folks.

About Habits

"I used to have a terrible habit," Tabby admitted in a conspiratorial tone. I pressed the phone closer to my ear. "Go on." She took a deep breath. "I used to be horrible about not knocking on closed doors. Just barged right in. Then Mom told me I needed to practice by always knocking on every door before I came in. Next thing I knew my habit had gone the other way. I caught myself knocking on my closet door before opening it to select an outfit. But, worst of all, I knocked on doors to rooms I was leaving." She never told me the sad ending to her tale--whether she's been able to break these new habits or whether they plague her still.

In Which I Celebrate the Anniversary of Something Unimportant

Exactly twenty-one years ago, at five o’clock in the morning, a very little girl made her debut on the world stage in a hurry. The scene was set in the maternity ward of the Hutchinson, Kansas hospital. Nurses bustled around the young woman, laboring as she gripped her husband’s hand. “Just wait,” they pleaded. “Don’t push yet!” The regular Doctor was on vacation enjoying Southern hospitality, because no one expects a baby on her due date. His substitute barely made it to the delivery room, whistling a hymn, in time to put his stamp of approval upon the little waif’s arrival. And then, that was that. She’d accomplished her first great task in life—in a rush.

Just a common occurrence in the little hospital. Not even the couple’s first baby. But this birth had a profound influence on my life. I was there. Announcing my entrance into God’s beautiful world with a piercing wail.

It’s not like I’d accomplished anything extraordinary. But I still get ice-cream, presents, balloons and flowers every year—just for that.

Imagine what would happen if I ever did something really outstanding.

About Opportunities

Apparently Nathaniel was inspired by Josiah's account of prank phone-calling Taylor. I walked into the study with a question for Nathaniel to discover him relaying messages via IP relay, reading Taylor's responses on the computer screen. Of course, considering that Taylor was responsible for introducing Nathaniel to the site, it couldn't have taken him long to figure out what was going on and Nathaniel didn't make much effort to maintain a farce. My interest was perked when, after a little friendly conversation, Taylor offered to share a verse he'd found--in 2 Corinthians "God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him, we might become the righteousness of God." Well. That was an interesting turn to the conversation. Realization dawned on me and Nathaniel at about the same time, and he quickly began typing questions to give Taylor a chance to explain the gospel--for the benefit of the operator relaying messages between them. I'd gotten an answer for my question and left the room without knowing how it ended, but with the distinct impression that I'd just witnessed "every opportunity." I wonder what impression the operator left with?

Because I am Completely Single

(From 2 Peter 1:2-11)

And society insists I should be whining about it. Secular society proclaims that something must be terribly amiss if I have no boyfriend while Christian society simply insinuates my second-rateness by asking, “You’re still not married?”

Because a significant other is, after all, the measure of completeness.

Step back in time with me to a day when I was at enmity with God, excluded from His promises, cut off from His mercy by my sin. Having rebelled against Almighty God, choosing myself over Him, I found myself in a place of stark emptiness, alone, accursed, afraid. Single. Strip me back to the raw bones of helpless humanity and my needs become apparent—only one: to know God. Jesus stepped in, offering His life a ransom for my sins, redeeming me into a relationship with God, saving my soul from eminent death and destruction and betrothing me to Himself for eternity. Jesus took an empty, meaningless life and hid it in His making me complete.

In Christ, God granted to me everything pertaining to life and godliness. Do I lack?

Once upon a time you, too, were incomplete. Broken. Empty. Excluded from God’s mercy. But if you know Christ, you have everything. You are complete. Society doesn’t know God and tries to fill His place with everything imaginable: talent, money, beauty, fame, intelligence, experience, health, food, power, family, friends and romance. None of these complete you. Not even having all your appendages attached and in working order makes you a complete person. Completeness is apart from anything you can touch or see. Knowing Christ, you have escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Lust that is never satisfied, that always wants more. That we pursue until it controls us. You needn’t pursue anything but Yahweh.

Does this make “other” things evil? Not at all. Each of these things is a responsibility given by God to glorify Him. Every good thing and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights (James 1:17). He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, will He not also along with Him, graciously give us all things (Romans 8:32)? We know that God will supply all our needs according to the riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). Take it back to the basics and we discover that we only have one primal need—to be saved, to belong to God. Everything else is a bonus. More. Above and beyond. An overflowing cup.

If your Heavenly Father met your primal need for a Savior, so miraculously bridging the gap between fallen man and perfect deity, does He have the power and wisdom to will and to work in your life for His good pleasure? Is there really anything “missing”? Are you incomplete? Lacking something?

Of course not. You have everything you need for life and godliness. Jesus. The lover of your soul. The bread from heaven. The pearl of great price. He beautifies the afflicted with salvation. He heals the soul. He makes wise the foolish and strengthens the weak. He is a father to the fatherless and a friend to all those who call on Him.

I realize that reflecting on these almost cliché truths sets your heart at ease and puts a smile on your face—for the duration of about two minutes. Just until the next wedding announcement arrives or you climb into bed alone. When sitting patiently, singing “Jesus is all the world to me” fails to stave off those second-rate blues, forget waiting to be pursued by a man and pursue!

Pursue Yahweh--Seek to know Him intimately, what pleases and displeases Him, His goals, His purposes, His promises. While you are unmarried, you have so much time energy and emotion you could be pouring into seeking Yahweh and building a foundation that will hold strong through the rest of your life. Are you wasting that time in pining for a husband when you already have a Perfect Lover?

Pursue your family--There is no shame, no indiscretion in a girl wooing her father or brothers. Certainly none in her reaching out to her mother or sisters. While you are unmarried you have so much time, energy and emotion that you could pour into the relationships that will best prepare you for marriage and uphold you through it—the relationships God has already blessed you with. He who is faithful in small things will be given great things (Mark 25:21). Are you wasting this precious training ground by day-dreaming of “escaping” it?

Pursue relationships with other girls—When Jesus healed the Gerasene demoniac (Mark 5:1-20), the man begged to go with Jesus. His request was a good one. Your desire for marriage is also. But Jesus told him “no.” That “no” was not a punishment. It was a redirection. The Lord had work for that man to do. The result of his cheerful obedience was that, even though Jesus had to leave the area, the entire region heard the good news of Jesus’ salvation. While you are unmarried, you have so much time, energy and emotion that you could be pouring into relationships with other girls. Are you wasting it feeling sorry for yourself when others could benefit from your encouragement?

Endure! Press on! Knowing that by the testing of your faith you will be perfect and complete, lacking nothing (James 1:2-4)! Be diligent to supplement your faith with moral excellence, consistently choosing to do the right thing. Your moral excellence comes from the knowledge of Christ! You come to know Christ through self-control and diligent study of Him and His word, which requires perseverance in your desire for God. Reach out to others, be kind to others. Forget about being “in love” and love! For real.

And guess what—you’ll find that you’ve been preparing for marriage in the best way possible. Or for whatever else the Lord might throw your way. You’re not depending on a husband to complete you. Or a father. Or a friend. Or anything else. Only Christ is perfect. Only Christ will never disappoint. In Christ you are complete. Lacking nothing. That is the secret of contentment in all circumstances (Philippians 4:11-13). Married? Single? Widowed? Your completeness comes from Christ. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

If these qualities are yours and are increasing, you’re neither useless nor unfruitful! You’re not incomplete. Second-rate. In Christ, you have everything you need for life and godliness. If you practice these things, you will never stumble. You’ll be so busy enjoying both that you’ll forget about the fact that you’re “still not married.” That you only turn down one side of your bed. You’ll forget to evaluate guys in light of your “husband-worthy” list. Time will fly by while the Lord is at work writing the life-stories that only He knows how to compose. Being completely single is an opportunity to be completely singled out to serve the Lord only. It’s an opportunity that, most likely, will not last forever.

Why would I whine about being free to serve Yahweh wholly? Why would I worry whether the God of eternity takes note of the ticking of a biological clock? Why would I feel as if I’m missing out on all the things God doesn’t have for me right now? I’ve got everything I need. In Christ I am complete.

Once I was a broken child,
Marked for death, by sin defiled,
But Thou hast brought me near by grace
To gaze upon Thy perfect face.

Complete in Jesus Christ I stand,
He holds me wholly in His hand,
I need no argument or plea—
He died to set my spirit free.

This is the love that Jesus brings,
Who left His throne as King of Kings,
And donned my sinful flesh to prove
The height and breadth and depth of love.

Complete in Jesus Christ I stand,
Receiving mercy from His hand
I trust that He will also give
Whatever I most need to live.

What else should I demand or plead?
I have no other pressing need
But to partake of Love Divine
And to be His as He is mine.

Complete in Jesus Christ I stand,
And dare to open wide my hands
To let go of my hopes and dreams,
Be emptied to be filled by Him.

Concerning Anointing

I wash my hair frequently to keep it from getting oily, so the Biblical precedent for anointing the head had long baffled me. Who wants their hair caked with oil? As I’ve been reading through the Old Testament, I’ve run across the theme of anointing again…and again…and again.

The concept first shows up with the consecration of Aaron the priest. A special oil is devised to pour over his head in preparation for the holy ceremonies. I found it next in the book of Ruth—“Anoint yourself and dress yourself” Naomi told her in hushed tones, preparing her to visit Boaz on the threshing floor. When Yahweh chose Saul to be the first king of Israel, he sent the prophet Samuel to anoint him with oil and here the picture begins to crystallize. When Samuel had finished anointing him, God’s Holy Spirit came upon him and changed him. The same was true of David, when Samuel anointed him to take Saul’s place—God’s Holy Spirit left Saul and came upon David powerfully.

Later David praises Yahweh, his shepherd for anointing his head with oil and he spoke of the oil of gladness. What is the significance of the anointing? For Aaron, it set him apart, made him holy unto Yahweh, able to offer sacrifices. For Ruth, it made her acceptable to her redeemer. For those anointed king, it empowered them to fight Yahweh’s battles. It seemed simultaneous with the filling of the Holy Spirit—Yahweh’s imparting of strength, power and wisdom. By the Holy Spirit the heroes of old prophesied, performed feats of valor and strength, exercised wisdom, discretion and boldness—they were changed into men and women who reflected Yahweh.

I find the theme again in the book of Acts, when the Holy Spirit is poured out, like a fragrant oil, bringing joy and gladness, power, wisdom and authority to those who have put their faith in God. Filled with the Holy Spirit, those in the upper room speak of God’s wonders in foreign tongues. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter preaches the gospel to thousands. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Steven stands before his accusers and proclaims the truth.

This anointing, once something rare in the days of the imperfect old covenant, has now been poured out on every believer. “Having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.” No longer is it an occasional filling, but a constant indwelling, promising and aiding our sanctification. It is the agent setting us apart, making us holy to Yahweh. It is the beauty that makes us acceptable to come before our Redeemer. It is the power, enabling us to withstand the enemy, to speak God’s word, to understand God’s will, to desire God’s glory. By God’s Spirit I can come before Him, my prayers acceptable in His sight and can cry “Abba! Father!”

Thanks to the Holy Spirit, David understood this beautiful outpouring. “Yahweh has anointed my head with oil…my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of Yahweh forever.”

Lord, Thou left us not alone
When Thou ascended to go home,
But sent Thy Spirit here instead
To feed us Thy own living bread

To lead us into truth and grace
To show to us Thy perfect face
To give us boldness, wisdom, might
And make us perfect in Thy sight.

Permeated By P

(Please Pardon me for not Posting.)

Politics—Because I made the effort to go vote in the local election only to find all the candidates I’d Painstakingly supported were unopposed.

Perturbing—Because having a fluffy, grey bunny scampering around the science class room while Presenting a PowerPoint on abstinence is certainly that. The follow-up Program we’d written (dubbed “Taking Control”) turned out splendidly We covered Photoshop, Pornography, eating disorders and Pop culture, through the Perspective of someone Planning to uphold a Pledge of Purity.

Period—Because we put one at the end of the Choices Presentations for this year.

Pictures—Because Amber took Plenty of me demonstrating work-out stations along the trail, and I took Plenty of her looking Perfectly beautiful. That was before we decided to Power-clean her apartment windows (which, I discovered, are great fun to climb in and out of).

Picnic—Because that’s the best way to describe the lunch Lauryn and I tried to shovel in our mouths without creating a disaster zone, while sitting at the front desk of her church. Our farewell Party before she departed for North Carolina for the rest of the summer.

Perusal—Because I’d no sooner been informed that Lauryn’s church library is open to the Public, than I’d dashed upstairs, applied for a card and Produced several excellent biographies to Peek at over the next couple of weeks.

Puritans—Because the first book in my stack turns out to be the “Life and Diary of David Brainerd” an early American missionary to the Indians. I've managed to hustle up enough time to make it through the Prologue. *Prolonged sigh*

Penkas—Because they have a very short cow that they left behind when they went on a very short vacation. She finds humans disgusting, dislikes being touched and runs freely up onto the back Porch at milking to time only to be relieved and munch on some grain. And guess who they asked to milk her? This very short girl.

Pandemonium—Because no weekend ever turns out quiet, it seems. One at a time, guests sought asylum (as in, insane) here for the weekend: Tim, Taylor, Bruce, Josh, Amber, Jessica, Tommy and Jordan. All shapes, sizes, Personalities and backgrounds with one thing in common: we're all being Perfected by the Power of Jesus' Spirit. A beautiful reminder of the unity in His body.

Pathetic—Because I could no longer resist the urge to try my hand at cracking Tim’s bull-whip. Devoid at last of most of the crowd, I managed to get out a Pop before successfully tying myself up.

Patient—Because Tim had to be while coaching me at last into something close to Proper form. The result was the Predecessor of a very Pathetic Pop.

Parched—Because my throat has been scratchy and my voice has made the switch to a much lower octave, courtesy of the dragon-cough I woke up with the morning after Lizzie was here. It must be sympathy, since she’d been battling hay fever.

Pearls—Because I am now the Proud Possessor of a Pizza-sized one—Pearl snare drum, that is. Apparently Josiah quizzed John about buying it from him. The next thing I knew, a hard black snare drum case and silver stand had appeared in my bedroom. So now I need to learn Paradiddles and all those other ensnaring Parts of drumming.

Pondering—Because I’ve been doing just that on a few topics, which I hope to sort out and Post soon.

Peals—Because it’s been storming for much of the Past few days. God’s Power is so magnificent!

Praise—Because Yahweh is worthy of it. Past, Present and future!

Surviving S with Style

Standing—Because we arrived late to graduation—both times—and had to crowd along the back wall while Dr. Brown droned on and on and hordes of cap and gown clad graduates filed across the platform to receive an empty diploma folder. After which we Struggled through the crowds to get outside where we Stood in the drooling rain and offered c-c-congratulations.

Sitting—Because the whole family, Zach included, Stuffed our bodies into my parent’s walk-in closet after receiving myriads of phone calls from those who love us and Lydia's Sensitive ears detected Sirens.

Storms—Because the reason for the cozy closet gathering was brewing overhead in a mass of dark “tornadic” activity, following the hail. It was almost a disappointment when we never even lost our electricity and Lydia drifted off to Sleep. Not everyone was So blessed, though, as the news the next morning Showed.

Splattering--Because I wondered about Mom adding water to thin down the moss green paint for her bathroom walls but didn't Say anything. Moss green Speckles do not greatly improve my appearance. However, the color was a huge improvement over Pepto Bismol pink.

Spelling—Because after giving Josiah a mile long list of “oo” words, I began making up my own to see how S”oo”n he’d protest.

Solitude—Because life Seems to have Slowed down a little, and certainly grown more quiet with most of the Tech Students vanished from campus. Some of them never to return. Jacinderella, Lin N, Taylor and Nathan have all moved on, Sadly for us. Even Nick Snagged a job in Kansas (my old Stomping grounds) and Zach is headed home.

Scissors--Because I finally Snip-Snipped my hairs--every Single one. Nothing Serious--Should be a full recovery.

Samuel—Because I’m Still lost in his life Story and musing over a few details—coming Soon, I hope.

Summer—Because it’s almost here and I have a project list a mile long.

Surprises—Because I’ve got my Summer planned out, I’m Sure to be in for Some.

—Because I need good ones for Summer Study. Any good biographies or godly living or Set-me-on-fire Sermons?

Because He’s Not Sentimental

“Did you watch that Mark Twain movie with us?” Papa asked me as I sat on his bedroom floor. “No,” I answered. “Was it good?” He shrugged. “He had a daughter—his youngest I think. Susie was her name. I guess he was kind of enigmatic. Hard to understand. And she really just intuitively understood him. They were very close.” I looked up. “I think I remember hearing that,” I answered. “Didn’t he get really depressed when she died?” Papa nodded, but he didn’t say anything more. When I came to kiss him good night he said, “I love you, Baby.” “I love you, too,” I responded, thinking how far we’ve come since the days of my early teens, when we seemed to have drifted miles apart. Then he added, “Hearing about Mark Twain’s daughter made me think of you.” My heart swelled and pressed against the inside of my ribs so I could hardly breathe. I didn’t answer. What could I say? Papa’s not a sentimental person. He rarely says things that earn an “aw.” I quietly walked down the hall and into my room, my eyes filling with tears—happy tears. What amazing things Jesus can do! Just a few words, but I knew exactly what he meant. He couldn’t have said it better.

Lord, ‘tis Thou whose grace imparts
The turning of a father’s heart
To his daughter, hers to him
And sets love like a diadem

Upon the brow of each in Thee,
To mirror Thy paternity.
When I gaze on both my fathers
I am blessed among all daughters.

In Which I Go To Sixth Grade

“Whew,” we all grimaced, clipping on our “Visitor” tags in the hallway of the D-town middle school. “It smells horrible in here!”

“Mothballs,” Christy announced, covering her nose and mouthing the words “morning sickness.”

I scrunched up my nose and shook my head. “Smells like a skunk to me.”

We trooped into the science room and began unloading piles of colored folders, a projector, Daniel’s lap top and a zillion cords. Already my stomach was beginning to knot up a little. Arrived at the destination for our presentations and I still had never even seen the power point, much less the actual information I’d be delivering. Just the folders we handed out to the kids—complete with a zillion blanks waiting to be filled in. Training on the fly, I guess. Drilling while in combat. Sixth graders started filing in, a mixed bag of girls who could squash me between thumb and finger and boys who could wear my sports shirts for pajamas. I helped Christy pass out folders while Daniel scooped up the remote and launched into the first day of “No Apologies: the truth about life, love and sexual integrity.” From the back of the room I watched the PowerPoint slides and tried to tie them together in my mind. In typical youth pastor fashion, Daniel bounced around the room, calling out kid’s names, getting them involved, asking silly questions, probing for answers. “Uh, yeah,” I thought, “This is what he does for a living.” The buzzer screeched through Daniel’s voice and he tied up his presentation and grabbed up folders as we scurried to get ready for second period.

Christy took the front next, with a completely different style—a style that screamed the fourth grade teacher she’d been before her first baby. “Oh yeah,” I reminded myself, “She did this for a living, too. Besides, they wrote the program. Just try and pay attention.” Daniel elbowed me and whispered, “Did you get one of these?” he pushed an outline of the program toward me. My eyes widened, “No! Never even seen it.” He grinned. “It’s yours then.” That would certainly help, although a three page outline is a bare skeleton for a forty-five minute period.

After three periods of silent watching, followed by a lunch break, Daniel handed me the remote with a cheerful, “You’re next” and vanished for a dentist appointment. I looked out at the rows and rows of expectant sixth-grade faces, glanced down and my sparse outline and back at Christy who was stewing over information for the seventh and eight grade program next week—which we’re writing on the fly. I’m not silly like Daniel, nor do I have all the wowzer facts and figures that Choices Counselor Christy has, but I launched out, doing my best to pretend I was just having a conversation with a bunch of kids—about abstinence. And why they should, of course. Because that’s just a really normal thing to talk about. I came to the sexual progression chart—“Draw your line high, guys,” I told them, motioning toward the end where we’d scribbled “hanging out” and “hand holding”, but I really wanted to shock the socks off every kid in the room by declaring, “Look, just be friends. You’re twelve. You don’t need to date. In fact, you never need to date. Dating is stupid.” Because holding hands might not seem so dangerous physically, but the broken heart baggage is still very real. Besides having to beg Christy to perform the baggage illustration for me, due to the awkward fact that I simply couldn’t reach the bags where they hung on the board, I managed to wind up just as the bell rung and sank into a chair at the back of the room feeling like a veteran of Iwo Jima. I made it through. I survived. They seemed to have gotten it. “Funny,” I thought, peering at one boy as he gathered up his school books and headed out of the classroom. “Wasn’t he here in first period? Sitting on the other side of the room? And his name was Tanner?”

So ended day one. And I went home and slept. Hard.

The kids were excited to see us again the next day and I took notes on my outline to flesh out the ideas behind “Can a condom protect your dreams.” And I skimmed the flyers on STDs. I even hit Christy up for pronunciations. Trichomoniasis can be a mouthful, but pronouncing it is nothing compared to describing it. Disgusting stuff. “Raise your hand if you want one of these lovely little diseases,” Daniel called out from the front of the room racing through statistics and facts and recounting the story of the skanky bed, where STDs spread from teenager to teenager, wrecking havoc. Last period had filled the seats before we realized I’d done no more than handle the bed of skankiness. “Just summarize most of those statistics,” Christy whispered as I headed for the front of the classroom. “And try to put it in kid speak.” Okay. No problem. Right. I perched on the edge of a stool and launched into dreams and goals and the devastation an STD can cause. Then came the pages of STD facts and figures. Pages and pages and pages of them. And more pages of them. About halfway through I suddenly had the overwhelming sensation that I didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. “Wind up with HIV and what happens?” A girl called out, “you die!” “And condoms, even when used correctly ALL the time, only protect from HIV 90% of the time.” I counted out, Daniel-style, across the classroom. “1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9 and congratulations, you’ve got a mild case of death!” I’d forgotten that half the class was special needs students. “No!” the “infected” boy wailed. “I don’t want that bad thing! Don’t make me have that bad thing.” Embarrassed I stopped, waiting while the teachers quieted him. I felt like a crack had started in my little toe and was slowly splitting up the side of my body and my head pounded. At the back of the classroom, Christy and Daniel were absorbed in plans for next week. I clicked to the next slide and tried to regain myself. One in four wind up with an STD. One per table, I pointed out. That’s the extent. Is that a lot or a little? Next slide. One in four. Again? Weren’t we just repeating the same basic facts and figures over and over again? Daniel and Christy’d filled in with examples, illustrations, stories. I just felt lost. Expectant eyes watched me as I struggled to decipher the next fact. Teens and inconsistent use. Again? Did these statistics ever end? “Uh, Daniel,” I called and he looked up quickly. “You want to explain these?” Two slides later he’d finished the facts and was on to the fun parts again, but I just huddled in the back, feeling like I’d never want to talk again. Forty-five minutes is an eternity to have to keep moving your mouth with sounds coming out. With nobody else talking. When you’re so tired your mouth is calling it a day and shutting down. When you hardly know what you’re talking about. When you’ve already said all you have to say. I hate repeating myself. Can you tell?

My ears felt hot as I gathered up folders at the end of class and my stomach sagged. Maybe I wasn’t cut out for this after all. It’s one thing to deliver a prepared ten minute speech in the Kansas State Capitol, under a canopy of flags, to a breathless audience, it’s another to blabber on and on about STDs to a classroom of wide-eyed sixth graders and smiling special needs students. And an entire class period is a ginormous span of time to spend in one-sided conversation.

“We weren’t even listening,” Christy told me as we parted at the church. “You were rolling along just fine so we were working on next week’s presentation. You should have seen us when we first started the program several years ago. And we wrote it!”

I felt a little better. Just a little. But I still didn’t have anything to say the rest of the night. 44,000 words, a woman speaks in a day, they say. Whoever “they” are. I think I’d spent mine.

The last day I listened with a will to Christy and Daniel’s presentations, scribbled down notes on my outline (which I discovered was slightly out-dated) and told myself how easy it would be—mostly talking about “true love” versus “in love” and adoption versus abortion. Topics I could dig out of the storage bin of my brain without too much trouble. I was almost afraid to ask to teach again, until Daniel vanished again after lunch. Christy was huddling by the back wall, trying not to throw up. “Want me to do this one?” I asked. “If you don’t mind,” and she covered her mouth and shuddered. I started the PowerPoint and handed out folders as kids trooped in. Here came Tanner from first period and right behind him his spitting image. Wait. It really was his spitting image. And dressed exactly the same. “Are you guys twins?” I demanded and was answered with two sheepish nods. No kidding. They looked as alike as a boy and his reflection. The kids started chatting with me. “Oh good,” a blond girl smiled, “You’re teaching again.” I grinned. Before I knew it we’d launched into the presentation and were spinning along, talking, laughing, oohing over the videos of Christy’s baby and winding up with the pledge of abstinence. As I stuck together two pieces of duct tape, named Robby and Clare, the words “God created us…” nearly slipped out. The hardest part of the presentation is editing out the truths that fall so easily from my lips. Instead I toned it down to “We were created…” It wouldn’t do us any good to be thrown out, like they’ve been in the past. Christy was still feeling like a seasick whale when the last period rolled around, so I faced that classroom again and survived it, too. Not just survived it, but enjoyed it. I couldn’t believe I’d actually enjoyed it. Sixth graders are so smart. “Abortion is murder!” they insisted. “It should be illegal!” I wouldn’t mind having a few of them in the state legislature. “STDs are disgusting. Sex before marriage is stupid.” Those ones should be hired for TV programming. “Being ‘in love’ (that feeling of carpet in your stomach, with someone walking across it, as Tanner described it) is a dumb basis for a marriage or for not waiting.” That kid should go into counseling. Or come join us at Choices.

“I’ll miss you guys tomorrow,” kids chattered on their way out the door. “I wish you were coming back. Will you come back next year?” I hadn’t actually decided yet, but I’m thinking yes, maybe so. Whether the kids stick to their good intentions remains to be seen, but at least they know the truth…about life, love and sexual integrity. And they know that society often lies to them about all of the above.

“By the way,” Christy mentioned to the science teacher as we packed our bags to leave, “what is that horrible smell?”

“You think it’s bad now,” the teacher laughed, “You should have been here a week ago! A whole family of skunks moved in underneath the school.”

I patted Christy on the back. “See?” I said. “I was right. Skunks.”

“Funny,” Christy shrugged. “I was sure it was moth balls.”

“Oh,” the science teacher’s eyes widened. “Well, we put those out to cover up the skunk smell.”

About Necessary Additions

“Mom,” Lydia walked into the kitchen, swinging the compost bucket from her arm. “We really need to hang up a hummingbird feeder. There’s swarms of hummingbirds outside!” Mom and I glanced at each other over a sink full of dirty dishes. “Swarms of them?” I questioned, peering out the window. “Well,” Lydia deposited her bucket under the sink where I was working, “I saw one, at least.”

Because She Knows Not What She Doeth

I couldn’t help cringing. I’d just met them both—he, full of charisma and energy, her, like damp smoke, sucking the joy out of the atmosphere. He introduced her by her first name and offered me shotgun, next to her as she drove. “Oh,” she said, hearing my name, “I have a three-year-old named Abby.” Not “we have a three-year-old” even though he was sitting right there. She wore no “token of unending love”—no ring. Odd, I thought to myself, and tried to push it to the back of my mind with the rest of the garbage needing hauled out. She’s probably just been cleaning or working out or something, I tried to excuse her slovenly appearance and dirty hair. Everyone looks terrible sometimes. She’s only going out to lunch with her husband and a couple of ladies. Who cares? But I couldn’t help thinking that he might. Especially since the other ladies were dressed nicely—he was, too. She gave no apology for her outfit to tactfully hint that wasn’t how she normally appeared in public.

We headed into the restaurant and he hung back a little, talking to us, letting her go first. Well, okay, business is business. He can talk to her any time. When he finally stood next to her, there was no temptation to touch—as much personal space as I’d expect from any guy near me. He’d said he was twenty-eight. Married four years. Hardly long enough for a marriage to go stale. Why did it seem as if the fire between them had burned to cinders and only produced an irritating smoke in their eyes?

When she spoke, I wanted to hold her tongue--sharper than a needle filled with a lethal injection. Tearing down her husband, his authority, his character. It seemed to me she smiled only when she told the story of a triumph over him. Of the dog he didn’t like but she insisted on keeping. How the dog slept with her—she mentioned several times. Where did her husband sleep? How she needed to buy a hoof file for her horse. “You don’t need that,” he said because he’d already mentioned they don’t have enough acreage for the horse, “You could just take it out and exercise it,” but she made it very clear she would be buying one. “How much will it cost,” he asked then, visibly lowering his shield, about to give up. “Only about twenty,” she answered, and he shrugged. “I guess we can do that,” trying to keep one last shred of dignity, as if he’d relented. Then she told him she had an interview for a part-time job. Told him just like I’d tell a friend I hadn’t talked to in a week or two, as if he didn’t know. He didn’t really seem to. “I’d rather you didn’t drive very far for it,” he said, softly. Would he like his wife near home? “They’ll pay my gas so it doesn’t matter,” she retorted. “Be sure you ask them to pay IRS numbers,” he said. “I’d hate to see you getting ripped off.” “I’ll just write it off in my taxes either way,” she answered, brusquely. “Just be sure you’re actually making money,” he laughed a little. “That’s kind of the point of a job.” “Well, thank you for letting me know,” she smarted hotly. “It’s not like I have a degree in finance or anything. I sure never realized that was the point of a job.” I laughed nervously and shoveled in another bite of salad. The conversation shifted to issues at hand—pornography and addictions and the ways they can ruin marriages. “Some of those guys have issues,” another person commented. “Well,” interposed his wife, “My husband’s sure got some issues of his own.” Toss that out there with pornography and addictions. He’s got issues. Then she added for good measure, “He’s certainly not the man I married.”

I nearly choked on a tomato. He most certainly is the man she married. Perhaps not the man she thought she was marrying. I doubt she looked too much like his wedding day bride, either. Or behaved much like the breathless girlfriend to whom he knelt and proposed. Nobody made her say “yes.” Here she sat, hinting that “if only I’d known.” She pointed to the sharp logo on his crisp polo shirt. “I want one of those,” she demanded. “One that says ‘volunteer’.” He smiled slightly, “We don’t have any. Maybe I can get you one that says ‘staff wife’.” Her groan echoed across the restaurant. “I don’t want a ‘staff wife’ shirt. I’m sick and tired of everyone always knowing me as your wife.” She might as well have slapped him across the face. Or me, for that matter. I couldn’t tell if anyone else had mentally recoiled. He had that “please, not in front of people” conciliatory look on his face. “So, what are you going to do today?” he asked, trying to lighten the conversation. “Oh, I don’t know,” she shrugged. “Maybe wash some dishes. I have some Avon deliveries.” “Washing dishes would be nice,” he nodded. “Oh, of course,” she turned to us. “That’s because it’s his job. I hate washing dishes so I decided to mow the lawn instead. He does the dishes.” She proceeded to tell us how the lawnmower was a worthless piece of junk.

He made some comment about someone he’d had to work with once being a bozo. “Well, isn’t that Christian of you,” she commented, “Calling people names.” I cringed again. I tried to remind myself that I was just a little mouse sitting in on one lunch. I don’t know what her frustrations or disappointments are. I don’t know what he’s like at home when no one is watching or listening. I don’t know how Christian he behaves. I don’t know what his issues are. Every marriage has it’s complications. It’s even possible the whole day was a joke or simply the day after a fight. Maybe they’re not really like that. I don’t know.

I do know what I heard and saw. And I know that, regardless of his true character or her true feelings, his wife is not improving either.

Restlessly I flipped open my cell phone to check the time. My meals didn’t usually drag by like this, sitting across from a woman who seemed bound and determined to trample across every inch of the word “respect”, strip her husband of the last vestiges of manliness and drag him by his hair through the dirt. All accomplished in an hour’s time. Was she even aware of the devastation she was causing? Did she intend to offer such a distinct first impression? Did she realize that in destroying her husband’s image she was destroying her own protection? Her own security? Her own image? I’d never met either of them before. Perhaps I only saw her on a bad day. Perhaps she was PMSing. Perhaps it was all a joke between them.

I don’t for a moment believe it.

In her smug satisfaction at having embarrassed her husband, having bested him, she seemed completely clueless, like she didn’t even realize she had completely destroyed his chances of ever being her knight in shining armor, in her mind or his—or mine.

And I’d only just met them.

To B or not to B

Because my life has Been Buzzing with them.

Boulders—Because that’s what we hid Behind while waiting for Becki and Lin N to walk unsuspectingly past us. A surprise for Lin N’s Birthday.

Birds—Because the hang glider almost seemed just like a Big one, until the dude flying it hollered down to us.

Borrowed—Because Both of the cameras I toted around Family Day Belonged to someone else.

Brothers—Because Nathaniel and Lauren Bunked here over the weekend and Josiah—well, Josiah’s Beyond description.

Blessings—Because the huge group of Believers here Sunday certainly were that.

Birthdays—Because Papa had one, too, and turned fifty-four.

Beautiful—Because that Best describes Josh’s car after Jacinderella, Catherine and I finished decorating it with pink hearts, colorful flowers and shaving cream.

Busted—Because I knew I was as soon as Josh called me demanding why I’d come to DHS without coming in to say “hi.” I’m not sure if he’d seen the “Just Married” across the Back window yet.

Baking—Because I went at it like a fury yesterday.

Burning—Because fortune cookies must be shaped as soon as they come out of the oven—at three hundred degrees. But my hands are heat resistant only up to two-hundred and fifty. Lizzie and Lydia stood By the stove laughing as I Bellowed, “Ow, ow, ow” and tossed Blighted fortune cookies like flapjacks.

Boozefighters—Because our neighbor paid us $100 to fold t-shirts for his motorcycle club.

Blogs—Because once upon a time I started Blogging as a way to keep my Buddies from Kansas up to date. Several months later, with over 2,000 hits, I Began to feel exposed--especially when I kept making editing Blunders. But I believe I'll stay and continue posting, just in a less intimate style.


I'm afraid my current style of posting from journal entries isn't working so well--I keep failing in the editing job and later finding little pieces of private information that don't belong online. I've been beginning to think that I may be indiscreet as well, sharing too much of my personal thoughts and feelings for my good or anyone else's. So I'm going to take a break from Blogger for a few days, reevaluate my current posting style and figure out what (if any) would be a better way to go about it, since I've proven that I can't be trusted to edit safely. My goal has been to glorify God by simply telling what He's doing, but I'm a weak unwise little girl, and my methods seem risky, at best. I apologize for any embarrassment or offense any of my failures may have caused. I hope I'll be back in May...or so.

In the meanwhile--if you're bored, check out some of the links I've added. They are much wiser men than I, and much more careful in what they say!

Blessings from Yahweh! May you seek His face today and always!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Papa shared his opinion on the issue of Eli’s sons. He pointed out that as those in leadership, representing Yahweh, they incurred a stricter judgment. He also reminded me that Yahweh gives those whose hearts are hard over to their sin, as in Romans chapter one, and also to the wages of sin—death.

Yahweh’s call to Samuel, and Samuel’s quick answer was encouraging. I hope I am always as quick to answer the Lord, “Speak Lord, Thy servant listens.” It must have been distressing to Samuel to hear God’s judgment on Eli and his sons. I was struck through the story with the view of God’s sovereignty. At the time, the capture of the ark and the death of the priests—all of them—must have seemed like Yahweh forsaking His people! Instead, it was judgment on the wicked priests and Eli, who allowed their wickedness, as well as a reminder to the people that the ark was not a good luck charm. Yahweh is with his people when they are obedient and seek Him. But His plan was even larger than teaching the Israelites an important lesson—still He would not allow His name to be blasphemed among the Philistines. They thought they had triumphed over Him, but soon discovered that even their god Dagon must fall on his face in worship of Yahweh. When plagues swept through their cities, they knew it was the hand of Yahweh—and His hand continued to work in guiding the cows, bellowing all the way for their calves, to carry the ark home. Who had everything under control? Yahweh. Who got the glory? Yahweh. He is worthy!

Lord, Thou over rules our plans,
To show us Thou art not a man,
And though we do not understand
Thou still maintains control.

With circumstances that appear
To harm Thy purpose, Thou makes clear
That Thou redeemest, year by year,
Both circumstance and soul.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

All I really want right now is an apple. Just a simple, shiny, crunchy apple. Fuji. Or Gala. Or Pink Lady. Even Golden Delicious. I don’t really care, so long as it has a core, a peeling and is roundish.

I thought I’d been grumpy all day long. Hardly felt like myself, I was so exhausted, and weaker than the third brewing of an herbal tea bag. “Was I grumpy?” I quizzed Josiah, as I washed dishes from a jug of water. After supper the well again went on strike. “What? Grumpy?” he looked at me funny. “Just a little quiet maybe.” As queen of the roost for the day, I tried to keep all three of my charges occupied profitably. Lizzy’s not hard to entertain. I handed her “Rachel’s Tears” and zipped around the house, marking things off Mom’s list as I went. Well, actually, I tried to zip, but my feet felt as if they’d discovered a quagmire and decided to stay and search it to the bottom.

(Overheard from the dining/school room)
Lydia: Spell “famous.”
Josiah: A-B-I-G-A-I-L

They told me it was humid down here. I don’t remember who “they” were, but they were right. Chainsaw in hand, Josiah attacked the enormous tree that last lightning storm had shattered, while the rest of us tugged branches, piled logs and tried to keep out of the way of falling limbs. Soon I’d stripped my sweatshirt off and tied it around my waist. In a flash, Lizzy’d followed my example. Still feeling like a head of broccoli in a pressure steamer, I rolled my sleeves up to my shoulders and glanced up to see Lizzy doing the same. “Stand back—way back!” Josiah called, walking up a huge branch that had knelt to the ground and beginning to saw. I stepped into the shade, hands on hips and noticed that Lizzy had assumed an identical posture. I crossed my arms in front of me. A second passed and she did the same. I shoved my hands in my pockets. Soon hers had found her pockets as well. I peeked at her from the corner of my eye to see if she was imitating me on purpose. To be funny. She was watching me intently, as usual, but slyness doesn’t fit her sense of humor. With a shrug, I tugged off my green leather gloves and laid them across the handle of the wheelbarrow. As if it had just occurred to her, she pulled her pink pair off and laid them next to mine. I flopped down on the ground and she flopped down next to me. And then I scratched my nose. Just to see what she’d do. She reached her hand up and scratched her own before a confused look crossed her face and she quickly dropped her hand. That’s when I looked away to hide my smile. And that’s when I missed the excitement. “Oh!” Lydia exclaimed and I turned in time to see Josiah leap off the branch bridge he’d climbed, chainsaw still in tow, and land barely out of reach of the branch that had just crashed to the ground. With his monkey feet and spider instincts, he’s never managed to wind up hurt. Yet. Maybe it’s Someone looking out for him.

Zach must be trying to redeem his “prodigal” status. “I’m too tired to go to Wes and Audrey’s,” he told us. “Can I come spend the night?” “John A’s going to be the next Martin Luther!” he exclaimed for the fiftieth time. “I’m telling you, he’ll reform the church!” Then he turned glum. “If that’s possible.” While I played piano, Zach preached about corruption in the church, in the Bible Belt and in Arkansas, where everyone names the name of Christ, but no one abstains from wickedness. It was almost like our own big tent revival. When he quoted William Booth, that prophet from the last century, he really caught my attention. “I consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell.” I wish his prediction were not so accurate. “I don’t do Christianity because there are too many hypocrites in the church,” I’ve heard countless times. Usually I mumble something about not imposing the character of “Christians” on Christ. Yesterday my heart was burning, frustrated to think that “Christians” might be keeping the world from Christ. “The hypocrites are headed to hell,” I blurted out. “Do you want to spend eternity with them?” I couldn’t believe I’d said it straight out, but relief flooded over me as I realized I’d finally told the truth. I’ve always been afraid to condemn, to point the finger, to admit that those who don’t live for Jesus don’t live in Him either. How can I even begin to speak of others when my heart is so far from staid on Him? But my fault is not in pretending Christ when I don’t love Him. My fault is not loving Him by preaching His truth—to those who are pretending. I wonder what Jesus thinks of His bride?

Lord, Thy bride is so divided,
She’s taken grace that Thou provided
Turned it into chance for lust,
Forgotten what it means to trust,

Counterfeit the way to heaven,
Mixed Thy holy bread with leaven—
She’s grown not in Thy grace, but size,
Engorged on devastating lies.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Apparently I’ve become part of the weekly calendar for some people. “Crazy! Is it Wednesday already?” Lauryn yawned, sitting cross-legged on her bed, with her Bible spread across her lap. “No,” I grinned. “I’m off schedule.” My desire to bring the girls a whole field of red clover resulted in only a paltry handful, presented at the door as a peace offering for showing up uninvited at eight o’clock. It’s hard to believe the Sweetest Suite will go the way of the buffalo in less than a month. Sitting on the floor of Lauryn’s room, getting in on her preparation for a Wednesday night teaching from Philippians four. Helping April pick out her outfit or distracting her from homework or getting comfy on the futon as we pray. Or even working alone in the quiet while the three of them are at class.

Ministry lunches are not tops on my menu. Large crowds of noisy students and shallow devotionals from “The Message”, but if that’s what it takes to spend time with Miss Emily, I’m sure I can handle it. Zach resembled a pouting child, waiting for Emily, April and me on the back steps of Wilson, his backpack lying neglected at his feet. “Anybody see the stick yet?” he called, waving us over. Promptly we all shifted gears and headed his direction. Funny how a habit like instant obedience becomes a burden. A million times the light has dawned, “Just because he sounds like he’s in charge doesn’t mean I have to dance to his tune.” Just as we were about to give up on Taylor, he appeared and then we were five. April always voices what I’m thinking. With her it’s not doing whatever she suggests because she suggests it, but because I already wanted to do it. “Let’s walk in the grass” or “I’m going over the top of that pile of dirt”—the things I do when I’m alone…or have a confederate. No wonder people always think we’re up to something when we grin at each other across the room.

Buckling on my spider-slaying sword, I entered Amber’s house, prepared for a severe jousting match with the arachnid who’s been terrorizing them for weeks. “See it?” Amber pointed to a corner of the ceiling. I squinted up at the tiny, grey exoskeleton dangling like a hangman on a noose. “I’ll get you a stool,” she offered and vanished from the kitchen. “Where is it?” I asked, peering again at the ceiling as she returned. “I know,” she blushed. “It’s so tiny you can hardly see it.” She bustled past me to point and then stopped. “It’s gone!” One look at my guilty face and she gave me a shove as I opened the trash can and pointed to our eradicated fiend. Ah, but such valor left me bereft of energy and I nearly drifted into dreamland as Amber talked to me. A rude heroine, indeed.

Lizzy was waiting for me outside the gymnastics building when I pulled up. This is her first “for real” visit and I’ll admit to a little nervousness. More than a little I am guilty of, but refuse to admit. I’m still not exactly sure what Eileen is hoping for or expecting. Or what Lizzy herself is expecting. She cheerfully does anything I suggest or request, doesn’t question me as I sit here, busily typing about her, and tells me funny stories in her engaging way. Most teen girls say “like” like all the time. Lizzy’s word is “all.” “Mom called me into her room and I’m all, ‘What do you need?’” We started John tonight—just after Amber and I finished this afternoon. Behold my life as a hamster: forever on the treadmill of John studies. What a great way to keep me thinking about Jesus and what He’s done—and is still doing.

I can’t seem to move on in First Samuel. One verse is eating at my thoughts and won’t permit me to move on until I find a satisfactory answer. Eli, the godly priest of God who raised Samuel, had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, who were worthless men—stealing meat from the Lord’s sacrifice, profaning the Lord’s name and committing adultery publicly. It’s not so shocking to realize that, even thousands of years ago, the title “priest” did not make a man holy or even make him a servant of Yahweh. When Eli rebuked his sons, they ignored him, which is also not surprising, since wicked men stiffen their necks and harden their hearts against truth. “But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for Yahweh desired to put them to death.” And here I stop and shake my head to clear all my preconceptions, and reread and shake my head again. Did Yahweh prevent them from listening so that He could destroy them? What about His word through Ezekiel, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live”? Wouldn't He desire to incline their hearts to listen to Eli? Perhaps this is a story like that of Pharaoh, where these men had hardened their own hearts and stiffened their own necks until Yahweh wouldn’t even allow them to make a wise decision in turning from folly? That Yahweh wished to destroy them because their hearts were still wicked, and didn’t allow Eli’s words to bring them to a change of action because there was no change of heart? That the continuance of their sin would render God’s judgment on their hearts righteous and show Him to be just? Had they improved their behavior, the evil in their hearts would have seemed to vanish and men would have wondered at God’s wrath. Is this Yahweh’s sovereignty, not in causing men to be evil or to do evil, but in denying them the ability to bring forth fruits in keeping with a repentance they do not possess—or even seek? And though Yahweh desired to put them to death, that their sin might not spread and defile His people, He must still have taken no pleasure in pouring out His wrath upon these two rebellious men—sons of a man He loved.

Lord, wrath is hard to comprehend;
Thou must, by nature, punish sin,
So even all the grace Thou send
Does not extend to wicked men.

For, though Thou could, by sovereignty
Demand that all should follow Thee,
Thou shows us grace and bids us choose—
Who chooses self, himself will loose.