In Which I Say a Bad Word

“!?&#! Hold my hand, baby!” My niece stretched her hand towards me agreeably and I boosted her up the rock slab, farther away from the precipice. She was tilting her face, totally oblivious to my racing heart or my visions of her receiving (not her first) broken bone. “Holy craft? What holy craft?”

I tried to keep my mouth very, very straight.

Pride: decapitated.

Using low-class language around children is something I cannot stand, so I was feeling about as important as an inchworm at that moment. A brown inchworm, at that, not even a cool lime-green one.

Time to apologise.

But then I lost my cool again, when the three exhausted little mountain climbers didn’t know how to manage their melting Italian ice. I waged a war with shame and sorrow for days, because of the impatient moments I had with those precious babies.



I’m a messed-up person.

Are you messed up too? Do you ever think, “Self, how could you do that? How? You are a monster, and that’s a fact.”

Impatient moments are like indicators on a dashboard. A gift from God actually, like a dashboard warning light is a gift to those of us who don’t take time for routine car maintenance.

Low oil level! Time to visit the mechanic shop!

Low river-of-life levels! Time to stop flying solo! Time to go to Jesus and repent, learn, rest and receive.

“Ugh, bad timing. I have no time for a shop visit, Jesus.” I whined.

“If you want to have time for one, you do.”

So I didn’t do laundry, didn’t deposit my checks, didn’t go shopping, didn’t make dinner for my neighbor (I found out later her refrigerator was already packed. Thanks, Jesus!), didn’t clean, didn’t weed, didn’t trim the yard, didn’t shave my legs… Basically, didn’t do all the good things nice, responsible women Must Always Do.



I had time to feast. And I was starving.

Listen to these words the Lord gave his kiddos after miraculously making them a free nation:

I have removed your backbreaking burdens
   and have freed your hands from the hard labor and toil.
You called out to me in your time of trouble and I rescued you.
   I came down from the realm of the secret place of thunder,
   where mysteries hide.
   I came down to save you.
   I tested your hearts at the place where there was no water to drink,
   the place of your bitter argument with me.

Listen to me, my dear people.
   For I’m warning you, and you’d better listen well!
   For I hold something against you.

Don’t ever be guilty of worshiping any other god but me.
I am your only God, the living God.
   Wasn’t I the one who broke the strongholds over you
   and raised you up out of bondage?
   Open your mouth with a mighty decree;
   I will fulfill it now, you’ll see!
   The words that you speak, so shall it be!


But my people still wouldn’t listen;
   my princely people would not yield to me.
So I lifted my grace from off of their lives and I surrendered them
   to the stubbornness of their hearts.
   For they were living according to their own selfish fantasies.
O that my people would once and for all listen to me
   and walk faithfully in my footsteps, following my ways.
Then and only then will I conquer your every foe
   and tell every one of them, ‘You must go!’
Those who hate my ways will cringe before me
   and their punishment will be eternal.
But I will feed you with my spiritual bread.
   You will feast and be satisfied with me,
   feeding on my revelation-truth like honey
   dripping from the cliffs of the high place.”

You are not meant to single-handedly save the day, friend! You are designed to be a partner. A helper. You might not like the sound of this one, but you are meant to be a follower.

You know Esther, that 10/10 who married an unrighteous king and risked her head for her people? She followed her uncle’s advice. She was backed up by an entire nation’s prayers. She walked after God, in faith.

Deborah, that warrior-prophetess? She spoke God’s words. “The Eternal God of Israel commands you…” “The Eternal has decreed…”

Don’t be guilty of worshipping the gods of I Was Made For Hard Work So Grrr, Let’s Do This

or of I Have Got To Hustle My Act Together Before All Is Lost, heaven-warrior. Approval traps have 100 names, but they’re all bent on robbing your joy and sanity. You’ll find your heart saying far worse things than ‘holy craft’.

Truth is, Jesus has got what it takes to save the day without your help. Right now, he just wants to be with you. “Come to me!”- that’s what he is always saying.

You’ve got to be with Jesus if you want him to feed you. After you eat your fill, you’ll have the courage to follow his unpredictable ways. He’s not from this kingdom, so his reasoning takes some getting used to. But if you are his follower… then follow!

If he leads you away from your Good & Proper Things and towards his heart, just go with it.

The world will remember your words of life far longer than your 24-hour stubble.




When the mountains have tucked the sun snugly to bed under a thick wool coverlet of blackest black, the moon rises, and takes matters into her own hands.

First one star joins her, then another, and as their band grows they sing a silent song of rest, and safety.

The frogs hear the song, and take part with their deepest and best bass, the crickets tune their fiddles and join in, the coyotes sing the bridge, and at that signal, laughing squads of lightning bugs take flight, dancing out and out and out until the meadow matches the sky.

A mischievous paradox links hands with the quiet air, brushing my face with warm  swaths of day-old grasses that had just begun to ferment under the sun, and snuffs of dizzily sweet locust, and surprising shiver swirls wherever my skin is bare to remind me of why the mountain creatures are tucked down warm into their nests.

“Be at peace, and sleep,” sings the night song. No response can be expected from the mountains, for the rise of the stars has buried them even more deeply under their inky coverlet.

“Come away with us, and dance!” cry the lovesick fireflies.

“Follow me,” whispers a moonbeam, twinkling distractingly on silent paths of white, “I will show you things no one else shall see.”

A bat zooms by, feasting. An owl shouts for his wife but she doesn’t hear him because she is busy shouting for someone else. Baby whitetail flicks his tail, and nudges his mother’s belly. Mr. Opposum sneaks out of his oak tree and takes a back way, hoping his neighbor will not follow him to the stawberry bed, because he wants all the strawberries AND all the grubs for himself.

The stars sing on. The crickets play on.  Fireflies dance on.


How can anyone leave this scene, and go to sleep?

Something About Heaven Vision

Sometimes folks give me really great compliments. Compliments like, “I’ve learned a lot from you.” And they are more than twice my age.

Sometimes I do really stupid things. Like promising things I actually can’t follow through on, or getting annoyed because someone is wasting my time.

Sometimes I stare at the trees for a bit, trying to decide if I am a wonderful person, or a monster.

Jesus sent some words to me one of these times. He said, “I have given you these treasures in an earthen vessel.” 

It’s amazing how he explains things so well to me. It made perfect sense, with just that simple explanation.


This priceless treasure we hold, so to speak, in a common earthenware jar—to show that the splendid power of it belongs to God and not to us. We are handicapped on all sides, but we are never frustrated; we are puzzled, but never in despair. We are persecuted, but we never have to stand it alone: we may be knocked down but we are never knocked out! Every day we experience something of the death of the Lord Jesus, so that we may also know the power of the life of Jesus in these bodies of ours.

We Don’t Get To Be Here Long

Bu-BUMP, bu-BUMP, goes the blood in my jugular vein, as if my blood vessels are a track and the blood cells are thoroughbreds, surging towards the finish line. I stomp the accelerator and turn the wheel into the mat of blackberry vines, very aware that my body is being forced back into the seat as we climb. A grumble of mud and stones, a scrape, and we slide gracefully on to the mossy space below the yellow beeches. It is 23° but my cheeks are hot. “Thank you, Jesus!” I squeak, and Harley pants and yawns loudly, as she does every time we live through a moment of terror.

Fear stomps on my lungs every time I think of driving up that lane. Some of you will shake your heads and sigh, and some of you will understand.

The only reason I began driving to the top of my dirt lane at all is because my father showed me how and then said, “It’s your turn.” I hate being wimpy in front of him after he shows me how to do something. It’s like saying, “You are a liar, Dad.”

The only reason I made it to the top of my dirt lane the second time, and the 202nd time, was because once you start going up, you can’t stop. Stopping is actually dangerous. Driving up just feels dangerous.

Once I had to jump start my car in a black parking lot, all alone. Slump-backed in the rain, I shivered and prayed for 32 minutes before finally connecting the clamps. My hand would go towards the battery, and then jerk away.

I’ve learned recently that dream-chasers fall into two categories: Tryers and Doers.

Tryers have options. They can say, “I am trying for my lifeguard certification. I’m training 14 hours a week, but I honestly doubt I will pass the test.” They never sign up for the test, because they don’t think they will pass it. Reasons, reasons, reasons…. all very valid and unable to be explained away.

Doers do not have options. They say, “I will refuse to be comfortable until I have set up a new way of life. By hook or by crook, I will get there, and no delay.”

The thing with trying, is that you are never truly a failure. If you set out to TRY, you can rationalize success either way. You will stand in the parking lot, in the dark rain, wasting time because you are trying to jump the car but you must first evaluate all the dangers.

If you set out to DO, there is only one way to win. You will put your foot to the accelerator, knowing once you begin you will not be ‘safe’ until you reach the goal.


You do the thing, and no delay, because you refuse to say, “You are a liar, Dad.”

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

I know I am.



What If He Asks You To Remove Your Shoes?

Have you ever raced across hot sand? I have, and what’s more, something prickly shared its bounty with me. To remove all the thorns from my foot was a significant challenge.

Imagine strolling into work one day and then stopping dead in your tracks because your tools are totally engulfed in fire. They aren’t being burned up, mind you, just surrounded by crackling flames.

Now imagine that you hear your name being called, but you see no one. So you move closer. And then you realize it is God talking, and he starts explaining your life mission to you.

My friend, Zvek, and I sometimes discuss our life missions. We are both nearing 30, so we say we have just a few more years to complete our training and get our acts together. Jesus started his ministry at 30, and we are high achievers.

So Moses–that slave baby turned prince turned fugative–do you know about him? Well, he thought he had his act together when he reached middle age. He was still a fugative, sure, but he had a family and a job. Life was as steady and predictable as it had ever been. But one day he drove his herds near the mountain of God. That was the day it all went down.


Moses sees a bush on fire, right there at the foot of the mountain of God. Weird, right? Fire in a desert is abnormal, that’s a fact, so Moses has to take a closer look. A voice calls his name, and he recognises it as God’s voice. “Moses!” God says, “Take off your shoes. This is a holy place.”

Now, reader, please remember that Moses wasn’t standing on a wave-smoothed beach. He was in the middle of a dry, rocky, thorny, burning hot (110°) climate. Scorpions and venomous snakes live here. Would you like to walk across this terrain barefoot?

Moses wants to know what God is up to more than he wants to preserve the lifespan of his feet. He tosses his shoes, follows God’s voice, and finds out his life mission, right there by a bush that is in flames… but not a bit damaged!

That bush, reader, let’s think about that bush for a minute. It was ON FIRE, the quickest death–the worst danger a bush could know–and yet, safe. Untouched. A humble bush, used for something incredible, a living picture of the language of a world close at hand, now, but also very far away. Let’s think about this for a bit. What could it mean?

Getting back to Moses before he vanishes from sight, let’s go over the steps he’s taken today.

1. He chose to travel to the mountain of God. Proximity to holy places.

2. He saw something near the mountain of God that was unusual. It reminded him of one of God’s names: Consuming Fire, and he went towards it, thinking, “Could it be that God is on the move?” Curiosity. Eyes wide open. Understanding of God’s attributes. Action.

3. God called Moses’ name, and he said, “Here I am.” Choosing relationship over being a spectator.

4. Barefoot on burning, thorn-studded sand. A walk past the snake and the scorpion’s dens. “I’d rather be in pain and near you than whole and far away”. Speaking “I will” instead of “I need”.

A refiner’s fire NEVER consumes the gold, reader. Believe it.

Know who God is. Walk in faith.

Always be curious.

My Best Reads of 2017

To Kill a Mockingbird  and its sequel, Go Set A Watchman, by Harper Lee

Adventure, laughs, suspense, history and characters whose beliefs will walk with you the rest of your life. Read these when you need a reminder that there once were and probably still are folks with deep-rooted manners and even deeper-rooted morals.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

A nail-biter, with humor and warmth. I can’t say much about this short story, because the plot is too well-crafted to risk spoiling.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

A gory and thought-provoking prediction of the future, published in 1932. Deeply depressing.

Hind’s Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard

A timid, wounded girl fights her enemies under the teaching of two silent companions. Best listened to when night hiking through bear-infested woods.

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

Miracles and heartbreak; a narrative of one of the Sudan’s Lost Boys. Read this when you need incentive to re-evaluate your life values.

The Pearl by John Steinbeck

A suspense story full of unforgettable quotes. Read this when you need financial inspiration.

13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do by Amy Morin

A good read when your brain feels consistently overloaded.

The Paradigm by Jonathan Cahn

A biblical scholar’s view of recent USA history. A good companion when your brain needs to get up and go for a brisk run.

The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog by Bruce D. Perry

Case studies by a child psychiatrist. An atheistic explanation of the medical and scientific effect specific trauma cases have engraved into young lives. Read when your mind is strong enough to process and filter gritty subjects.

Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott

An entertaining and inspiring approach to etiquette–if you believe polite behavior starts in the mind and heart, then you will love the angle of this book.







5 Ways to be a Better Friend

Jo, my oldest sister, used to spit-shine my face on the way to church, back in the days when all 8 of us used to cram into our wood-paneled 7-passenger van. The spit-shining wasn’t painful but I hated the feeling when she took her fingernail to my eyelashes. At five years old, I had much to learn about proper etiquette. Such as face-washing.

A few decades later, I still have much to learn about etiquette and general self-improvement. I named 2017 ‘The Year of Realizing I Am A Horrible Person’

After that, I read a handful of self-help books and prayed to the Lord for change. Soon I realized that becoming a better person can be as easy as teaching yourself to say a few new words. Here are five habits I am grafting into my world:

Know your priorities.

Sit down in a quiet place, and write a list of things you care about more than anything else in the world. Number those things in order of importance. Look at this list often, and compare it to where your time is spent. If 60% of your time is taken by your third-most-important priority, it is time for a change of direction!

You will be glad for the skill of evaluating your priorities when five Very Important People ask you to do something for/with them on the same day, which also happens to be the day you blew a tire, discovered a humongous bill in the mail and accidentally deleted all of your cell phone contacts. Know your priorities and you will be prepared for days of Not-So-Present-Brain.

Don’t open a message unless you have time to immediately respond to it.

Text, email, private message and voicemail all come with the same disclaimer: ‘If you open me at a red light, telling yourself, “I will reply as soon as I get home”, you shall thereafter just narrowly escape collision with an overturned cucumber truck, slosh hot coffee down your pant and into your right boot, encounter a freak hail storm, and by the time you reach home have completely forgotten what the message said or that you received one at all.’

Teach yourself to be self-controlled enough to reach an appropriate time slot before opening messages. Even if you only have a minute to reply to a lengthy email, you can say, “Got it! I’ll share my response on such-and-such a day.”, and then write it in your schedule to send a full response on that day.

Learn to say, “I’ll think about it.”

Immediate gratification is not normal, or healthy. Similarly, expecting your brain to always configure a great decision at the drop of a hat is not to be expected. If someone asks you a question and you can’t quickly form a sure-fire answer, just admit that you need some time to think about it.

This is especially helpful when making plans. Saying, “I need to think about this before I respond.”, will give you space to evaluate your priorities before agreeing to dedicate time to something.

Show up at special events.

If you are invited to a graduation, shower, wedding, or other milestone event, make every effort to attend.

This exact event will never reoccur again, and it was an honor for you to be added to the guest list. Despite what anyone says, your friend will notice that you loved him/her enough to show up with your support. The host/hostess will be thrilled that another person showed up to eat the cheese-stuffed dates it took them three hours to make. You’ll meet people you’d have never set eyes on otherwise.

The perfect powder on the mountains will come again. Hunting season will come again. No one cares that you don’t have a perfect dress to wear.

Just go. And if you can’t, RSVP immediately. A tree died for that little RSVP card–throwing it away would be ungrateful.

Replace social media with pie.

Social media relationships require zero investment; a hand-delivered pie is a joy forever. Take a minute to send a text just because. Call someone you said you’d pray for and say, “Hey, my lunch break only lasts ten more minutes but I wanted to spend them praying for you.” Invite people to join in on things that are a part of your normal routine.

People need people. And people want to know you, even if you are five and forgot to wash your face this morning.



Have you ever written a list of your priorities? And then compared them to a list of percentages showing how you spend your time? I never have, but I’ve done so in my mind. It’s horrible.

I’m horrible, at priorities. I need to force myself to be motivated. Forcing myself to be motivated usually involves voluntarily inflicting pain on myself, and that is horrible too.

I had this great idea to redesign the American norm of comfort, once. I’d been thinking about Breakfast At Sally’s by Richard LeMieux, and about the Lost Boys of Sudan. I was thinking about this girl who had to walk three miles to gather water.

I thought, “Maybe I could try living simply all the time, not just in the wilderness. I could eat oatmeal (not very heroic, because I like oatmeal) and go without electricity and stop using technology as a mood-booster. I could start an Instagram account and show pictures about the gritty side of minimalism and inspire my generation towards change. Millennials need to stop sponging resources off their elders. They should be independent, and realize that real life is hard work and almost never fair.”

It was a very inspirational plan, in my mind.

I refused to sleep in a bed until I was 100% financially independent. That was my way of forcing myself to be motivated. I felt it was very heroic to sleep on the basement couch or in the back of the SUV instead of in my family’s guest bedrooms. “Maybe I am starting to understand what it is like to be homeless.” I told myself, after a few nights of insomnia. I became so accustomed to sleeping in the back of the SUV, without a mat, that I got a terrible backache from trying out a mattress. “How courageous I am!” I told myself, “I actually prefer the hard floor. Just like a Spartan!”

But I was never rained on while I slept, or robbed, or gnawed on by a rat, so I really wasn’t very heroic after all.

I wanted to live in a van but I couldn’t invest in one without borrowing money. So Jesus gave me a tree house and many kind souls who helped me begin to turn it into a tiny cabin. It was 8 feet square, and 12 feet high, with a loft.

Adorably perched on a hillside, and full of mice and squirrels.

“This is very ideal!” I thought. “I can evict the mice and squirrels, turn the cabin into an insulated home, and learn enough about carpentry to one day travel to devastated lands and build shelters for lost souls. I can be done in three weeks.”

It rained almost every day of the three weeks I took off work. An 8-foot-square building does not harbor space for piles of lumber and various saws and sawhorses. Even the trusty SUV could not make it up the steep, muddy track to my front door. So instead of zooming ahead, I inched.

The first project was to replace the missing studs. I was terrified of using the circular saw. I watched ten minutes of a 30-minute saw safety video and then said, “Ain’t nobody got time for this!” clamped the wood down in multiple places, grasped the saw with sweaty-palmed force, and began.

The next thing I discovered was that driving three-inch screws into hardwood located two feet above my head is nearly impossible for me.

An animal had died in the loft, and I couldn’t bleach the smell out of the wood. I tore down the loft, and sorted through Pop’s scrap pile for wood to rebuild it. A very difficult challenge it was, to drive the new wood in place while holding it steady with my not-so-spare hand. I felt like a rookie, and my muscles started picketing for rest. I’m guessing the drill I used was partially built with lead.

I was building the cabin out of trash, because that was environmentally inspiring. It was also what I could afford, and what someone from Breakfast At Sally’s would do. The only artsy, free thing I could think of with which to finish the interior walls was pallet wood. My friend brought her truck and we humbled ourselves at the hardware store,  asking for free pallets. The saber saw had a problem, so I had to hold the battery in with my knee while cutting apart 28 pallets. Then 10 more. The blisters made us feel heroic.

My brother in law loaned me a planer, and I honed the nights away and breathed in lots of dust. “The pallet work alone will take 10 solid days.” Pops warned me. “But think how much I will enjoy how it looks when I’m done! It will be so beautiful!” He agreed, but hesitantly.

I spent 5 hours taking a pick axe to the hillside, and then my sister came and directed the construction of my outhouse. The space where we built was level when we began, but it started to slope after a few days. I added more rocks and encouraged the hickory sapling below the outhouse with a rousing speech. “Grow! You alone can keep this outhouse from rolling down the mountainside!”

After the studs and the loft were replaced and the walls were insulated, it was time to install OSB. Nearly four months had raced by so far, and until this time the gables had been open. It’d been tricky, running a drill by the light of a headlamp while being dive-bombed by moths. Moths aim for the eyes, I now know. They have decent aim, too.

Pops, Steve, Arthur and Ben closed the gables and built a little roof over my front door. Pops installed the first sheet of OSB in the interior. He took over a dozen measurements to do this. Then their time was up.

My cabin, remember, began as a tree house. It was not planning to adopt a veneer of OSB. It rejected my efforts as best it could. Measuring weather-warped studs and angles and gaps and smoothing them all over with perfectly aligned OSB swaths was impossible for a rookie like me to achieve. I did the best I could, but it took many after-work nights and several dozen swings of my favorite tool, the Persuasion Device. The summer was nearly over when I was finally ready for the first piece of pallet wood.

The pallet wood took a month. Not an actual month, you know, but a build-on-evenings-and-weekends-after-getting-home-from-work month. I used all the planed pieces on the interior, and the cracked or nail-studded pieces were used as siding on the outhouse. Pops loaned me his nail gun, an upgrade I’m sure the Spartans did not have.

This all sounds very chronological and orderly on paper, but it was not this way in real life. Many projects were progressing at any given time, but I hopped between them as dictated by weather, supplies or lack of knowledge.

The shingles went up in three stints, as determined by my ability to buy more nails and more shingles. That was a six-week time span.

10 months after I began the project, I was finally moved in. All that was needed was a heating system, and I had just enough cash for a tiny coal stove and enough fuel to drive to NJ and back.

It was a foggy, rainy night which should not have been confronted without first replacing my windshield wipers and headlights. As a consequence, I  careened Pops and myself onto and back off of a wide cement median at 65 mph, but the angels gave us a softer landing than I deserved. We made it home alive with the stove.

It is still sitting in my cabin, cold as a stone. The land is being sold. My (indoor!) cat ran away. Maybe that is a sign it’s time for me to move on too.

Sometimes things that begin heroically and ideally do not end that way. It’s just life.

But priorities, if founded in the Rock (meaning God, not Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), are unchangeable. God is a God of upgrades and that is unchangeable. 

He has given me a simple lifestyle in the civilised world. I do live without technology at my fingertips. I am financially independent and not in debt. And the minor devastation of spending over 500 hours of labor on my project without receiving over 500 hours of enjoyment in return is… Real life.

It is only a crumb of the devastation Richard LeMieux, the Lost Boys of Sudan, and the girl who carried water three miles felt all day, every day.

Real life. I did not plan for my goal of redefined comfort to feel like this, but it does, and it is my priorities fulfilled and rewarded. Upgrades that look like compassion and empathy instead of a cozy cabin and glowing embers in my tiny stove.


Would you like to buy a piece of land with a pallet-sided outhouse and a tiny, not-quite-completed cabin?


Ellen’s Home

My church has a calendar of events, and I looked at it today. Tomorrow is Ellen’s Home.

Ellen’s Home is shady.

It is shaded by wide-spread elm trees, but it is also shady in the curious way. I met the proprietor when I was 7–old and wise enough to decide I could never trust him.  The owner of Ellen’s Home looked exactly like The Donut Man and I could not possibly comprehend, in my childish mind, why The Donut Man would be operating such a rustic facility, and why it was filled with the elderly instead of children. The Donut Man is supposed to be surrounded by donuts and children, both capable of song, but I saw neither at Ellen’s Home.

Consequently, no songs either.

Maybe that’s why it became my church’s job to bring them, and for the last 20 years we have faithfully sang at Ellen’s Home every second Sunday of the month. During this span of time I’ve learned that the owner isn’t the actual Donut Man. I’ve forgiven him for that fault.

On this particular Sunday, promptly at 1:03 pm, my church shuffled into formation in a corner of the Ellen’s Home entertainment room with typical lost-yak style. “Are there songbooks today?” someone asked. “No, we forgot to bring them.” Our choral director’s skin blanched subtly. Today was his first go-round at leading us. “Let’s begin with ‘How Firm a Foundation’.” We faltered through the first verse with very little success.

A new resident was cemented into a chair near the TV, and my money lies on the hunch that he was a former choir director. Strong bass notes resounded out of a mouth scantily clad with teeth, and he didn’t need a book. He knew the songs by heart…. mostly.  Our next attempt, ‘I’m Pressing On The Upward Way’, tugged our faltering memories back on track, but mostly because Mr. Choir cheerfully substituted any word that rhymed with ‘stay’ if he forgot the correct one, so if any of us forgot the words we just let him fill in.

Talk about teamwork!

By now the heat was getting to little Zach, so he pulled his dress shirt up to his chin, letting his belly catch the breeze from the air conditioner. Sochi and Anita stared at their shoes, lips twitching.

We were moving forward in tempo, and Mr. Choir was not subtle about his appreciation. As the energy in the room rose, so did his arms and legs. At the peak moments of feeling in ‘Standing on the Promises’ he appeared not only to be ready to stand on the promises, but to be ready to rocket to the moon on the promises, having three limbs raised perpendicular to the floor, as if a huge vacuum cleaner behind our group was trying to suck him in.

This was just his way of saying, “Amen!” but the youngsters gazed in wonder.

A slow stench took over the crowded corner near the window. I glanced at the woman beside me to see if her face would give a clue about who to blame as the culprit, but at the same moment another slow stench joined the first one, and I didn’t have to ask about the origin of this one. And then it just became a game, back and forth for a few dozen seconds, our own little kazoo band blending in with the song.

At that moment I knew our service would never recover.


Our final song was ‘Bringing in the Sheaves” and by Mr. Choir’s ninth prophesy of bringing in sheep instead of sheaves, I had dissolved in unpardonable laughter. I would much rather bring in sheep instead of sheaves myself, and my laughter merely congratulated Mr. Choir for holding the same preference, and for being bold enough to say so.

Our smiles were wide as we bade our friends goodbye after the service. Travis and Jonathan kissed all the wrinkly cheeks that were hopefully directed at them, and out the door we marched.

Ellen’s Home is as much a part of my church as the church building itself, and we wouldn’t want it any other way.


Preparing for War

“What would you like me to teach you?” 4 sleepy, innocent faces stared at the table. 2 sets of eyes blinked back at me. It was 10 am on a Sunday morning, but the brains in the 4th grade class were functioning at the slowest possible speed. “It’s ok.” I said, “We’ll talk about this again. For now, I’ll just teach what I think you need to know.”

I love teaching people what I think they need to know.

I asked the class what they worry about, and they listed fire, drowning, being at war. Floods. We talked about Master Chef Jr., and Little League, and how kids prepare to be kid-champions. How they train & become strong. When it’s go-time, these kids are ready for action.

How can prayer get us ready for hard times?” I asked. Either the class didn’t know, or they were afraid to speak their ideas. “Let me draw a picture.”

“Here is a girl, because that’s easier to draw.”


“When we have a fear or worry on our mind, it takes all of our energy. This is how it would look if our worries were visible.”


“That’s a big backpack!”

“Sure is! Do you think this girl could compete on Master Chef Jr, or be in Little League, with this big load? No? You’re right. So if we want to be champions, we have to learn how to keep our minds strong. We can’t be champions if our minds are weak and worn down. Can you finish the verse that starts, ‘Cast all your…’ ”

“Cast all your worries on Him, because He cares about you.”

“This is how that looks!”


“God wants to carry our worries for us! We still think about them, but we don’t have to carry them around with us. God carries them because it is His job to be the Protector. Sometimes He invites us to help solve the problem, but it is always something small enough to carry around while still competing.”


“Does this make sense to you? Isn’t it cool that God sometimes invites us to help Him solve the problems we are worried about?”

I was preaching at myself, really. I found myself repeating, “Jesus, you are the prioritizer. You are the protector. I choose to let those jobs in your hands.”

It’s so simple, but similar to Naaman, who despised the idea of a muddy swim as a cure for leprosy, we despise the idea of doing something in which we have no power to control the outcome. We prefer to run, stress, work and worry. Instead of, in 4th-grade lingo, “Sending our worries up to heaven.”

Cast those worries away, heaven-champion! Buckle up that belt of truth, grasp that sword of faith and wait for battle orders! You will never be in control, no matter how hard you try.

War is here, but more war is coming. Our minds have got to be free so they can be strong.