Monday, August 25, 2014

On a day the snow had fallen

I thought it a peculiar obit: “He went down and struck a lion in a pit on a day the snow had fallen. And he struck down an Egyptian, a handsome (impressive) man”—2 Sam. 23:20-21. 

Now understand—I usually do my morning devos curled up in my chair with cup of coffee and simple Bible translation—not with a huge study Bible or expository reference. So this cursory reading about one of David’s mighty men was a bit befuddling.

 I could see the mention of Adino’s slewing of eight hundred at a time, or Eleazar’s perseverance in wielding his sword, in spite of weariness. And I marked the verse about Shammah’s taking his stand alone in a plot of lentils, to think about another time.

But, it was the expression, “On a day the snow had fallen,” that caught my attention. Why on earth had the Lord chosen to have it included in the account of Benaiah’s life? It sounded so lyrical, lovely— fat wet snowflakes and glittery snow covered field.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A banana and a muffin and a happy family

  Sigh. Perhaps the time has come to stop chucking all those flyers for hearing aids in the trash. A recent conversation with my husband went like this:

Bob: “Was there any mail today?”
Me: “Just a Humana (our insurance) and a nothing (junk).”
Bob frowns, cocks head quizzically. “A banana and a muffin?”

Now, we’ve been married long enough that I’m used to this sort of response, but it does make me wonder what our conversations will be like in the next stage of lives. Maybe we’ll just happily carry on in our own little universes spun from what we thought we heard, nodding in agreement. “Yes, a banana and a muffin.”

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The New Story: "Oh, My Poor Villain"

I had always thought life first as a story—and if there is a story, there is a storyteller.”—G. K. Chesterton

Here goes charging into waters that are probably over my head. So, I preface with a disclaimer:

  • This is not a literary analysis of the intrigue and value of an antihero in a story.
  • This is not a witty movie critique.
  • It is not a denial of the power of the past to influence and inform the present.
  • And it is certainly not a denial of redemption—even for the most villainous of us—or of the power of love.

This is, however, a warning. I’m concerned we (all of us, Christians included) are enjoying our skate on a glittery lake and ignoring the warning sign: Danger-thin ice. The ice looks pretty solid to us, so we skate on, oblivious to the melting beneath our feet.

And this is a reminder to myself that things are not what they seem. We experience only one small portion of a bigger universe, which exists beyond our senses, often ignorant that it is, as C.S. Lewis put it, “a universe at war.”

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Chosen One of the Palace

Poised on the threshold of young womanhood back in the late 60s, I embraced (flung open wide my good-Catholic girl-honor-student-achiever arms) the women’s liberation movement—or at least parts of it.

Actually, I picked and chose from the counterculture and women’s lib agendas as though they were shopping lists: same employment opportunities as men? Yes. Same pay? Definitely. Same political power? Why not? The same sexual freedoms? Most assuredly.

 Did I want to go into mandatory military front-line duty? No. Did I want a guy to pay for dinner on a date? Yes.

So I took off my bra, liberated woman that I was, lived in a tepee on a mountain top, and played my newly acquired sexual empowerment card.

And that was about it. I know, I know, a shallow take on Gloria Steinem’s idea of a liberated woman.

Decades later, I’m all for gender equality, but my focus on women’s rights has shifted to the Millions of women, for whom “rights” is not a matter of equal opportunity in the work place or paycheck, or choosing with whom they can freely sleep.

For Millions of women around the globe, women’s rights is a matter of Life or Death.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The maintenance of your girls, or how to wed a daughter

Marcia Moston

Being knee-deep in wedding plans with our one and only daughter, I had to laugh when I came across the admonition in Proverbs to be good stewards of what you had, so that in time of need there would be “food for your household and maintenance for your girls.”—Proverbs 27:27

Ha! Maintenance for your girls. Lord knows us well. Our dear one and only daughter was not cheap to keep and nor is she to give away. Makes me kind of re-think the verse I used to pray over my children—“Let our sons in their youth be as grown-up plants, And our daughters as corner pillars fashioned as for a palace.”—Psalm 144:12

There’s nothing more alluring than the World of Weddings to remind you that your daughter has indeed been fashioned for a palace. I marvel at the limitless possibilities, the complexity of a cake, the minutia of a menu, the height of a shoe and the up-or-down do. All for a price, of course. If you’re not careful, at the end of the day you could come out feeling like you’ve just been the demo in a school for pickpockets. Where, oh where, did all the money go?

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Not the trail to Pisgah

After two hours of driving winding mountain roads, we stood there, stared at the sign posted in front of the two-track dirt path, then doubled over in laughter.

Not to say I told you so, I did remind the others how odd I thought it was that there were no tourist signs marking the turnoffs that got smaller and more rugged by the mile. But we had trustingly followed the GPS directions that had led us to this point.

And it was not the trail to Mt. Pisgah. 

It had all started that morning when my brother, who was visiting from Vermont, came in from his RV parked in our driveway, and said he’d like to go see Mt. Pisgah in NC. Coincidentally, I had just been reading Deuteronomy 3 in my morning devotions—the passage where Moses says he pleaded with God to let him go over the Jordan and see the land he had been trying to lead those stubborn Israelites to for the past forty years, but the Lord was angry with him (Moses) and said, “Enough from you. Go up to the top of Mt. Pisgah and lift up your eyes…”

And so we all piled into our car, my husband, brother and sister-in-law, and went in search of Mt. Pisgah. (We did know it wasn’t the same one, by the way!)

We stopped at the pleasantly informative Discovery Center of the Cradle of Forestry (where I picked up this fun hologram(come by and try to touch the frog that looks like it’s sitting on top). 

The road forked.

“Let’s take 64. It’s the “scenic route,” my brother said.

And indeed it was—past waterfalls and mountain streams. We were blissfully unaware it was not the way to Pisgah until it dead-ended at the sign:Private Road-Not the trail to Pisgah. Hours later, after making a complete circle, we came to a marked pull-off on the Blue Ridge Parkway within spitting distance of the mountain.

We had literally driven all around the mountain, only to discover it was only a few miles away from the forestry center where we had stopped earlier.

Have you ever done that? Spent a lot of time and energy (maybe money) only to end up back where you started?  In our case, we had little at risk other than some extra gas and time, and so chose to just enjoy the diversion.

But Moses had a whole lot more at stake. One of the things that impressed me as I read the ensuing chapters of Deuteronomy that led to his death on the mountain, was how utterly, uncomplainingly surrendered to the Lord he was.

After forty years of dragging forward rebellious people whom he never asked for to begin with, many times pleading and interceding for their lives, he is told he can’t enter the promised land.

What does Moses do? Does he pull out his entitlement card? Does he kick and scream “unfair”? Does he pick up his staff and leave, resentful and angry?

No. He continues to deliver all the Lord’s instructions, warnings and blessing to the people who will go in. 

And then he worships:

Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak,
and let the earth hear the words of my mouth.
May my teaching drop as rain,
My speech distill as the dew…
For I will proclaim the name of the LORD,
Ascribe greatness to our God!
“The Rock, his work is perfect
for all his ways are justice.
A God of faithfulness and without iniquity”…. —Deuteronomy 32:1-4

Moses finishes well.

Lord, whatever the reasons we go around our Pisgahs, whether from following a faulty GPS or from our own foolishness, open our eyes to the lessons, the unexpected treasures and beauty along the way that we may see you and accept your provisions and plans without murmuring or expectation of entitlement. May we too, finish well.

Blessings abundant friends as we leave this merry month of May and look forward to our June journeys,


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Coming at it slant: lessons from the llama, the 97-year-old man, and the writers conference

When I took my dog to the vet at Pet Smart for a vaccination booster, I fully expected to encounter the usual sort of household pets—other pups, cats or the occasional guinea pig. But I never anticipated walking in the door with a llama.

A llama that calmly donned hats and glasses for all the photo ops that promptly ensued. Customers, groomers, sales people, vets and assistants abandoned their posts and gathered round to pet (only the neck, please, his owner warned) and pose.

My dog took full advantage of the chaos to try to escape, entangling herself around the end display and me. After we were finally settled in our assigned room, I reflected on how special it was to find myself in just the right place at just the right moment for an encounter with the unexpected.

That’s often the way it is—even for the most diligent of planners among us—the best things sometimes come at us slant, not head-on. As they did at the writers conference I recently attended.

Not having any work in progress to pitch to my agent or an editor, I went expecting to learn about forms I don’t usually do, like poetry and flash fiction. Craft techniques.
And although I did indeed learn much about writing in those workshops, it was the unexpected tidbits about life, delivered from hallways, classrooms, and podiums that ended up latching onto me.

I applied them to the stuck place of my writing, but I suspect they fit anywhere. I leave you with these bits of wisdom. Let me know what you think:

1.     Alton Gansky on not daring to try, or overcoming the fear of rejection: “No one ever hit a homerun from the dugout.” #Stepuptotheplate.

2.     Michelle Medlock Adams on too much self-editing: “Let God define who you are.”

3.     John W., 97 years old: On living life to the fullest: “Don’t act like you are dead until God says you are.”

In the joy of the Lord,


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Standing with her who is standing firm

I have friends who say they don’t watch the news because it fills them with anger and despair. I have to agree. My reactions to many of the stories surfacing—especially those outrages aimed at Christians—frustrate me no end and recall to mind some of the psalmist’s pleas to God to deal with his enemies: “Let them be like grass upon the housetops, which withers before it grows up,” (a more mild example).

Too aware of my own shortcomings, I usually leave the eye-plucking to God and pray for the evil sent out to return on the one who sent it. But as far as despairing and losing hope, I don’t.

The one weapon I have that is more powerful than uranium in a madman’s hands is prayer. Prayer to THE Living God. THE all-powerful, almighty one. THE one with whom nothing is impossible. Nothing.

But I am sitting here in my warm, lovely home with a refrigerator full of food and a closet of clean clothes. My children are well and none lacks. It’s easy for me to keep confidence.  

I am acutely aware that despair and faltering hope prey on suffering, suffering that involves not only one’s self, but that of having to watch loved ones. These are the ones who need me and you to stand in faith when theirs weakens; when rats run over their child having to share a filthy jail cell and the hangman’s noose swings outside the cell in anticipation of their neck as soon as the child in their womb is born.

I am thinking today of Meriam Ibrahim, jailed for apostasy  (being a Christian married to a Christian man). According to new reports, her 20-month old son is with her in jail because the courts won’t recognize her husband.

Meriam has stood firm for her faith. Please stand with me in prayer for her. For her young son. For the child in her womb. And for the husband and father who has lost his family.

Evil surrounds and may at times seem to walk off victorious, but we appeal to you Lord. We pray for strength, for grace, for your very presence to fill that cell room, to protect this woman and children, to cause your face to shine upon her and hold her pain and suffering.

Prison cells are nothing for you. Jesus, we lift her to you.

 Really wanted to leave on a cheery note, as I go off to Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference this week, but I have had a heavy heart for Meriam, as well as for the kidnapped girls in Nigeria. And so, I ask you to wield that weapon of faith and power with me as you go about your day and I mine.

Until next time--


Monday, May 5, 2014

My Alice Doesn't Have Lice

Her daughter’s name was Alice. Alice was a grade-school classmate, who, as I recall, had long, mousey blonde hair that camouflaged the withdrawn demeanor that marks one wounded or weak. One easily made fun of.

Maybe Alice was just shy. Or maybe she had had the fight smothered out of her, but one thing was certain—her mom sure hadn’t.

No, even though she lived in a run-down affair off what we called the Dump Road, and was married to a man who went to jail (I suspected it was for doing things we didn’t talk much about back then, like exposing himself to my sister as she walked home from school one day) Alice’s mom had pride. And she had fight.

And if there was one thing she’d fight for, it was her daughter.

Back then (I don’t know if schools still do this) the nurse would come around periodically and do a lice check by running a pencil through our heads. After one such inspection, for some mean reason, I whispered it around that Alice had lice.

At home, later that day, my mom told me someone wanted to see me. I didn’t see a car in the driveway, but when I stepped outside, there, standing in the hot afternoon sunlight were Alice and her mom. Apparently they had trudged the miles down Dump Road, along Falls Road, and up our road, stopping at my front door.

“Come here,” Alice’s mom commanded in a voice reserved for mothers and generals. One that left no room for argument and melted the cockiness right out of me. She lifted a hunk of Alice’s blonde stringy hair and waited until I edged near. “Look. Look. Alice says you’re saying she has lice. Do you see any lice?”

Properly mortified, I peered at Alice’s pink scalp. No, no I didn’t see any lice. No, no I hadn’t seen the nurse find any either. Yes, yes I had spread those rumors. Yes, yes I was sorry (I hope I truly was, and not just trying to get out of my own uncomfortable mess.)

Satisfied her daughter’s reputation was vindicated, Alice’s mom straightened her shoulders, took her daughter’s arm and marched backed down the driveway.

My mom taught me much about faith, and perseverance, and love of learning, which I’ve shared before, but today, in thinking about moms and daughters—all these decades later, I see Alice’s mom standing there in my driveway, defying a punk kid to mock her daughter.

I salute you Alice’s mom. And Alice, I truly am sorry.