Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Clout of Doubt

You would think on a hundred-degree day, somebody—something— would be moving on the lake. That’s the thought that dampened our previous enthusiasm and turned our fanciful dreams of buying a lake house into suspicions we were standing on the fishing pier of the Fifth Dimension.

We had decided to explore a nearby lake where, someone told us, there was a pleasant restaurant. A quick online map search gave me the general location. It looked simple enough to find. But after driving for an hour through unpopulated countryside, and not seeing one sign indicating nearby water, we finally found a lone soul outside a post office who redirected us back down the road. “Watch for the turn just past the Mini Mart,” she said.

We turned down a narrow road, otherwise unmarked except for a tiny Lake Dr sign. For the next hour, like kids on a scavenger hunt, we explored unoccupied houses, camps, and lakefront property whose For Sale signs begged us to peer in windows and fantasize what we would do if we owned the place.

“It’s so quiet,” Bob kept repeating, no matter which cove or dock we stood on.
Making our way around to the other shore, we found the shiny, aluminum, public fishing pier jutting out from an empty parking lot. Except for a woman in a bathing suit, who stood at the edge of the water and threw stones and muttered to herself, nothing stirred. Not a boat, not a splashing kid or stick-fetching dog or crumb-seeking duck in sight.

“It’s so quiet,” Bob said again. This time suspicion replaced his previously contented observation. “Something’s weird. Where can you go on a lake in July and not see people in the water?”

I looked down the lake. Scenes from Deliverance tainted my idyllic vision. Like a soap bubble on a blade grass, it burst.

Doubt now determined the course of our conversation on the way home.

“It’s probably really shallow. Looks like leach haven.”

“It’s so remote. Doesn’t take long to get hokey around here.”

When we got home, I looked at an aerial map of the area. Actually, it was quite populated and not so very remote after all. But the damage was done. I had allowed doubt to steal my sense of peace and beauty. And all it took was a seed of suspicion.

“Guard your hearts and minds,” we are told. Doubt is a powerful weapon. The tiniest drop eats at faith like acid.

“Why did you doubt?” The One who made the sun and the stars asked his fearful friend (Matt. 14:31).

Good question. Why do we become so easily sidetracked by doubt when He is—

The Lord [our] God who churns up the sea so that the waves roar. The Lord Almighty is his name. . . who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth, and who says . . . ‘You are my people’(Isa. 51:15-16).

Let’s continue the conversation next time. If you experienced a time that faith triumphed over doubt, please join in.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Writers Show and Tell:The Smell of Home

I love to see people get excited about the stories only they can tell. Whether through fiction, film, music or nonfiction, I believe it is important for Christians to promote their worldview in the marketplace. We truly can be in the world but not of it. But if we are not the storytellers for the next generation, then who is?

After teaching a couple of writing workshops at our church, I decided to offer the opportunity to new writers to post on "Show and Tell" day on my blog. My last post on how smells are related to memories triggered a memory in one of my workshop attendees.

Glynda Caddell ran a home for boys who had been removed from their family situations. She has many poignant stories to tell, but today she is sharing one on the importance of smells.

His name was Sam, and he spat it out like a bullet while clutching several paper sacks filled with odds and ends of seven years of life. Rescued from a drug haven,he was unceremoniously dumped into our group home.

Not knowing the grade he spent the past year in, we sent him to the on-campus teacher for evaluation.Reports flowed down within the hour–“uncooperative, sullen, physically aggressive if approached too closely”.

Sam’s hard shell cover was firmly in place and his salty language progressed to even more personal attacks. By noon the therapist had been called to help.Later, we sent Sam back to his cottage, hopefully to rest and rein in his aggression. A short-lived expectation.

The panic button sounded and several of us rushed to help. Sam was destroying his room, his belongings and anything else his legs and arms could slam into.

“For no good reason”, reported the house parent.

Hot angry tears flowed down his face as Sam screamed, “You washed my blanket, you #&@*”!

“I washed all your stuff; it was dirty and it smelled”, answered the house parent.

With his little face flattened into a tattered piece of Dollar Store blanket, Sam whispered,“But it don’t smell like home anymore”.
Lord, in our efforts to clean others up, we often overlook the things that are important. Help us to be more sensitive.And open our eyes to ways we can be a part of a good memory in another's life.

Jude 1:22 And on some have compassion, making a difference…

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The reason I remember Toni

What are five things most people don’t know about you? That’s the question my friend Keiki asks authors she features over at The Vessel Project. The question sent me rooting about in the place of long-forgotten memories, and I was surprised at some of the things that surfaced.

Toni perms.

I don’t know if any of you ever heard of one. The first thing that pops up on a Google search is “Why did they stop making Toni home perms?” One answer claims it was because they burned, but I know the real reason. They stunk.

Apparently my mother thought tight little ringlets looked better than my stringy, straggly hair. Whenever I saw a box of that stuff come into the house, I fled. One time I stood on the front porch and screamed my head off in a full-fledge Toni tantrum. But Mom and Toni prevailed.

I remember going to school the next day, aware of the cloud of stink floating around my head. I was in second grade, and the love of my young life, David Bartholomew sat behind me in class. Sure enough. He tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, “I smell something.”

My lie slid out smoother than a bowling ball on a waxed lane. “I do too. I saw a skunk out on the playground.”

Whether Toni went undercover after that, or my mother relinquished her dreams of my being a girlie girl, I don’t know, but that was the end of Mom’s home perms.

Our sense of smell, studies show, is closely related to memory. What memories surface in your mind when you think of things like lilies, pine needles, ozone, after shave, baby lotion, Prell shampoo, Christmas trees, spring grass, the ocean, or gasoline(Yes, before we knew anything about sniffing dangerous fumes, I liked the whiff of the gas cap.)

When we lived in Guatemala, one of the teenagers I tutored would pick any shirt or sweater I’d left around, and bury her head in it, absorbing my smell. Not having any fancy perfume up in those mountains, I worried about what she was inhaling.

I hope it left a pleasing memory.

The lover in the Song of Solomon says her beloved sends forth his fragrance over her. This is the fragrance I pray that would linger long after I have left—the fragrance of my Beloved.

For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing—2 Cor.2:15

P.S. I discovered a Facebook page for adult children of Toni perms! I guess it left a permanent impression on a lot of people!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

My spot between George Bush and Sarah Palin: Bob's bookshelf

Yep, if you look closely you will see that's my Call of a Coward wedged there in between Sarah Palin and George Bush, a placement that suggests two things about my husband: he honors me, and, he doesn't read many memoirs. (I think the two fictions are included just to distance from the hard core Bible study books that line the rest of his selves.)

As proud as I am to have my book published, I certainly don't put my achievements in the class of my bookshelf company. I do, however, boast that my God can make do with little as well as with a lot. All He asks is that we trust Him.

The Bible is full of examples of  people who were "the least" and yet God was able to do mighty things through them. I love the confidence Jonathan has in God when he says to his armor bearer, "Let's go over to the Philistines; it may be the Lord will work for us, for there is nothing to prevent Him from saving by many or by few."

To each of us is given a purpose and a gift, all ultimately to the glory of God. Some may accomplish great things that affect many, but most will live quiet lives of unacclaimed faithfulness. Helen Keller captured the sentiment of many a heart with her observation, "I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble."

It only matters that we do that which God has purposed for us. First to love Him. And to know however lofty or little we may feel our impact is, we can proclaim as did King Asa, "It makes no difference if those you help are mighty or powerless--You are God alone."

Meanwhile, I'll enjoy my sliver of a spot on Bob's bookshelf, and I will pray that the telling of God's faithfulness in my life brings glory to Him, and encourages any of you who read it.



Sunday, July 3, 2011

A rumor I will gladly spread: Flag-Folding

After witnessing the folding of the flag at my father’s burial service recently, I realized I had no knowledge of meaning behind the thirteen folds it took to produce the triangular pillow handed over to my mother., one of the Internet rumor police, was quick to say, contrary to popular opinion, each fold did not have a significant meaning, but rather was done so as to “provide a dignified ceremonial touch that distinguishes folding a flag from folding an ordinary object such as a bedsheet.” was a bit more gracious in saying the meaning of the folds was “not without importance, but is not official and not required.”

Nevertheless, the following meaning became a part of military funerals, I believe because it represents the truths we hold dear and upon which this country was founded.Although other meanings have been attached to this somber and significant ceremony, the one that evokes that quiet pride in our hearts at each turn of the red, white, and blue is the one that represents  honor for life, freedom, country, and God. 

May God bless America.

The Thirteen Folds

The first fold of our flag is a symbol of life.

The second fold is a symbol of our belief in the eternal life.

The third fold is made in honor and remembrance of the veteran departing our ranks
who gave a portion of life for the defense of our country to attain a peace throughout the world.

The fourth fold represents our weaker nature, for as American citizens trusting in God, it is to Him we turn in times of peace as well as in times of war for His divine guidance.

The fifth fold is a tribute to our country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, "Our country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right; but it is still our country, right or wrong."

The sixth fold is for where our hearts lie. It is with our heart that we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

The seventh fold is a tribute to our Armed Forces, for it is through the Armed Forces that we protect our country and our flag against all her enemies, whether they be found within or without the boundaries of our republic.

The eighth fold is a tribute to the one who entered in to the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day, and to honor mother, for whom it flies on mother's day.

The ninth fold is a tribute to womanhood; for it has been through their faith, love, loyalty and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great have been molded.

The tenth fold is a tribute to father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country since they were first born.
The eleventh fold, in the eyes of a Hebrew citizen, represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon, and glorifies, in their eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The twelfth fold, in the eyes of a Christian citizen, represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in their eyes, God the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost.

When the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost, reminding us of our national motto, "In God we Trust."

After the flag is completely folded and tucked in, it takes on the appearance of a cocked hat, ever reminding us of the soldiers who served under General George Washington and the sailors and marines who served under Captain John Paul Jones who were followed by their comrades and shipmates in the Armed Forces of the United States, preserving for us the rights, privileges, and freedoms we enjoy today.