Mr. Meant To

I am suddenly filling our bird feeder every other day, which signals that summer is near. Soon I will be feeding the feathered beauties daily, as the daylight hours stretch long and bright. How pleasant it is to sit with a mug of coffee on the porch following my morning walk and observe life fluttering about our yard.


We bought our home two years ago, and each summer I have taken on a painting project or two. The physical labor feels rewarding and the undeniable results are deeply satisfying. I enjoy dabbling with color–an affordable way to transform any space. Thus far I have painted two bedrooms, one bathroom, our dining room, and my office.

This summer’s painting will be more tedious as I complete some interior trim work–baseboards and crown moulding.

Also? The dreaded bathroom.

I say dreaded because the former owners painted over painter’s tape along one tiny portion of the wall. (No one has mentioned it, and I imagine I am the only one to have noticed, at least so far.) Normally, this would not be a big deal to rectify, but sadly this happens to be the only room without any leftover paint.

If I choose to fix it, peeling the tape off the wall followed by repainting, I must either try to match the color, (which in my limited experience does not work) or repaint the entire bathroom, with a relentless amount of cutting in.

It would be considerably easier to forgive this small painting glitch and soldier on, but I have circled the sun enough times to realize that ignoring problems never works out well.

Plus the painter’s tape is driving me just a little bit crazy.


Isn’t it simple to live with a head full of good intentions, while never actually completing them?

Or perhaps you are the type to aim for absolutely nothing come summer. Therefore nothing is precisely what you get.

This reminds me of a poem that my children and I memorized many years ago. An anonymous piece called Mr. Meant-To.

Mr. Meant-To has a comrade,

And his name is Didn’t-Do;

Have you ever chanced to meet them?

Did they ever call on you?

These two fellows live together

In the house of Never-Win,

And I’m told that it is shadowed

By the cloud of Might-Have-Been.


Summer is also a splendid time to slow life’s fast-moving pace. Isn’t it wonderful to relax with family and friends: grilling out, playing cornhole and badminton; enjoying some fresh air and slow conversation while lounging in lawn chairs?

Back in our early homeschooling days, we celebrated the end of school with a long break. We worked diligently throughout the school year with our eyes on this summertime reward. Other than one hour of silent reading each day, we rested fully from schoolwork. The warm, slower days were certainly a time for special chores–such as cleaning out the garage and sorting through unused clothes and toys to donate.

But mainly we had lots of fun: many excursions to the swimming pool, outdoor romps including football and frisbee, races and bike rides, indoor games such as double solitaire and Yaghtzee, cookouts, vacations, movie nights, and of course, ice cream. Summer break maintained a loosely structured flow, built upon mental rest. Come late August, we were ready to crack open our textbooks and leap into the wonders of fall.

It never ceased to amaze me how growth always followed summer rest. None of my children fell behind on anything. They were refreshed and energized.

Doesn’t this make perfect sense? God himself created the world and then rested. Shouldn’t we do likewise?

Many of our homeschooling friends chose to partially school year-round, limping through summer, keeping up with studies–sort of. Come fall, everyone was more or less burned out, as one year rolled into another without clear distinction.

Seasons of rest are golden. So often, as adults, we are prone to plowing through, working ahead, while remaining constantly available by phone and email, half-working every single day. No wonder so many people are feeling washed out.

Personally, I have found it necessary to schedule pockets of rest. Otherwise, life becomes all work and no play.

This concept reminds me of another anonymous poem from our homeschooling archives:

Work while you work,

Play while you play;

This is the way to be happy each day.

All that you do,

Do with your might:

Things done by halves

Are never done right.

I guess what I am saying is Don’t waste your summer. Trust the Lord, who created both work and rest, declaring them good.


Perhaps this is the summer that you purchase a birdfeeder and glory in God’s creation. Or plant a tiny flower garden and surprise a friend with freshly cut blooms. Tidy up the baseboards of your home, beautifying the space God has entrusted to you, readying it for future family gatherings. Load up all of those clothes you never wear and donate them. Clean out the desk drawers and pitch the unnecessary. Sort through those tools in the garage. Organize your pantry. Write someone a kind letter and mail it the old-fashioned way. Reread the same book of the Bible again and again until you hear the words pulsing through your mind, clear and true. Obey God by resisting all pathetic selfishness, and become a happy servant in your church by helping in the nursery. Put your phone away, delete social media, and practice authentic presence with living, breathing people. Memorize a poem and sing silly songs with your children or grandchildren.

And then? Rest.

Find a comfortable spot and delve into a good book. Swing in the hammock. Sit outside with your coffee and simply think for one whole hour. Listen to the birds and enjoy those wind chimes. Take a gentle walk and rest your mind. Hold your spouse’s hand like you did when you were dating. Catch up with an old friend. Go to bed early and wake up wonderfully rested as the sun rises. Enjoy a movie. Sip an ice-cold soda. Surprise your people by taking them out for an ice cream cone, just because.

Delight in the summer that God has entrusted to you.

It won’t last forever.


I once read of a woman who worked as a personal stylist for the female elite of New York City. She was paid handsomely to select clothing that made others look their best – money was of no matter, as her clientele could afford it all.

This wardrobe stylist was exceptionally good at her work. She dressed in black—from shoulder to toe—classy with diamond studs and slender watch, soft blonde hair pulled back in a loose bun. She favored the simple and the timeless. Thus, with a twist of grace and authority, she slipped easily in and out of dressing rooms, pairing the perfect outfit with her clients of all shapes and sizes. 

Her business was met with success and born from trust. It did not matter the age nor height nor shape of her clients. These women believed in their stylist because she delivered, proving her unusual competence time and again.

They simply showed up and trusted her wisdom and judgment. Stick-thin women desiring a bit more feminine curve? Done. Rounder women longing to enhance their waistline? Check. She presented outfits that fit their unique frames, with colors that celebrated their eyes, and revived their skin tones.

The only hiccup in all of this occurred when fairy-tale living usurped reality.

I am not a size 12, a woman huffed, spotting the tags. I have always been an 8, ever since high school, she added, muttering with a dismissive wave of her hand. 

Never mind that high school was a quarter century in the rearview.

The stylist only nodded, remaining cool under pressure, dutifully rehanging the clothing that suited her client superbly. She whisked the items away and reappeared with the demanded size in hand.

Whereupon the zippers would not zip and the buttons tugged, severely. The entire ensemble looked altogether atrocious. Red-faced, the paying customer stormed off in a pout, out of sorts and infuriated by the truth.

A version of this scenario happened with an increasing number of women, which of course translated to fewer sales. 

The stylist chewed her lip, perceiving that something must change.

And then, one bright morning as she sipped her black coffee two sugars, an idea blossomed. She glanced at her watch and realized she had exactly twenty minutes before her first appointment. Abandoning her coffee, she strode to the rack of outfits that she had previously pieced together for her first customer. Taking a pair of scissors, she neatly clipped the size tags off of every article of clothing.

When the manicured client blew into the department store, a puff of perfume traipsing in her wake, the stylist welcomed her with a dewy bottle of Lemon Perrier, inquiring as to her size—a question she had never previously asked of anyone.

The patron predictably announced a size that would never, in her wildest of dreams, fit. The stylist merely nodded and returned minutes later with the 5 tagless ensembles.

Here you are. I think these will suit you, beautifully. She spoke with confidence and a gleam in her eye.

The clothing was just so–the colors divine, the styles smart and complementary. 

The consumer, a lantern now glowing, plucked one of her many credit cards from her Coach purse, smiling as she waltzed away with her new wardrobe, a spring in her step, feeling wonderfully attractive and oh-so-stylish.


What might happen if we trusted our Master Stylist, joyfully wearing the garments that God has chosen on our behalf, whatever those tags may read, rather than squeezing into something we were never meant to wear?

It takes genuine humility to accept our endless limitations, our sufferings, and our present conditions with gracious, implicit trust in the Lord. Yet how freeing it is to hold such genuine affection: bowing low before God, reveling in his Divine Authority, rather than bending a knee to this crooked world intent on pursuing a false narrative.


But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. (Isaiah 64:8)

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A Straight Edge

The Word of God I think of as a straight edge, which shows up our own crookedness. We can’t really tell how crooked our thinking is until we line it up with the straight edge of Scripture.

~Elisabeth Elliot

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I have always preferred reading of people who, by worldly standards, fly a little too close to the sun.

Strong, decisive individuals with backbone and grit, those saints who once bent low in genuine humility, surrendering themselves fully to God, rather than man. The Bible was their compass, their measuring rod, their straight edge.

Think: Elisabeth Elliot, Corrie ten Boom, Jonathan Edwards, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martyn LLoyd-Jones, and John Flavel.

There is a similar pattern to these faithful ones. Each took a strong stand for Scripture in the time and location in which God placed them. They were defenders of truth, sharpened through fierce trials.

Hot fires led to hotter faith.

Their stories and their books have impacted my life richly; their sufferings have bolstered my courage. Countless times, while facing difficulties, I have whispered: If Elisabeth Elliot, or Dietrich Bonhoeffer or Corrie ten Boom could do such-and-such, then I can certainly do this

These heroes of the faith shared a common manifesto: Love God and seek to relentlessly obey his Word.

No matter what.


You do not need to be a household name or a hero or a pastor or a famous somebody to be faithful and obedient. Look around. God has called you to serve him in this precise moment in history, in your specific location, and personal situation.

Perhaps you feel invisible, small, and unable to spiritually influence more than a few people?

Have you considered that this is by God’s design? As your tiny candle burns brightly, it casts light into the pitch of night wherever God sends you. You might never know the glow your life is offering to another.

Our allegiance, as Christ-followers, is first to the Lord, not to ourselves or to others. Do not neglect the small, holy tasks God places before you. Be a candle that glows only for him. He will handle the influences and outcomes in the way he sees fit. Simply be happy to trust and obey.

Many of God’s faithful candles are tucked quietly in the pews, serving the Lord, and stewarding their lives beautifully for God’s glory, with precious little fanfare. The Word of God is their straight edge, too.


When I was a very young mother, with two little boys, I joined a Mothers of Preschoolers group at a nearby church. On the first Tuesday of each month, several older women welcomed us, smiling and taking the hands of my dear sons, speaking gentle, grandmotherly words; inviting them to play trucks or blocks or puzzles with the other children.

We then gathered in a large multi-purpose room, young mothers filling up our plates with snacks from a long buffet table lined with casseroles and pastries and bright fruit. We chatted, suddenly feeling far less alone than we did before arriving. While sipping coffee, we turned our attention to our monthly speaker who had been invited to share encouragement in one specified area of expertise, such as marriage or friendship or finances or hospitality.

Often the guest had merited an award or achievement which prompted the invitation: maybe she was a well-known speaker, or had published a book, or had built a flourishing home business from the ground up. She was thereby deemed successful.

I enjoyed those Tuesdays, not for the speaker, necessarily, but for the conversation and blossoming friendships with other young moms, who, like me, were average women, trying to be a better Christian wife and mother.

The speakers were polished, engaging, and sometimes humorous, and their bios were books unto themselves. I found myself lost as their accomplishments were read, and I daydreamed, wondering if these successful women had ever sliced peanut butter and jelly sandwiches into neatly quartered triangles or scrubbed sippy cups, or cleaned up toys a million times per day?

Did they love the smell of baby shampoo as much as I did? And that feeling of chunky little arms wrapped tightly around their necks as they kissed their loves goodnight?

Did these women ever feel guilty for being a mother who despised crafts–glue and glitter and tiny shreds of paper everywhere? Did these speakers ever stop and wonder if they were failing in the eyes of God? Did they feel at loose ends in their Bible consumption?

These are the things I longed to know. Forget Home Businesses and How to Properly Apply Makeup, or Five Easy Steps to a Lasting Friendship. I could read about those in any old magazine.

I was ravenous for spiritual food but did not yet own the language to name this desire.

Instead, what was commonly dished out on those Tuesdays, (alongside fruit salad and muffins) was: Have plenty of date nights with your husband, remember that the days are long and the years are short, put your money into a good IRA, and Oh, by the way, you can purchase my book and sign up for my class right here.

And then, without warning, one Tuesday was different.


The normal speaker had come down with the flu shortly before gametime.

When the Women’s Director introduced the last-minute speaker, Mae, her bio was surprisingly short: Disciple of Christ, Wife to one, and Mother of three.

I leaned in, quite eager to hear what she had to say.

Mae did not have a manicure or pricey haircut. She wore jeans and a soft, pretty blouse paired with comfortable sandals. Her smile was bright, her eyes were clear, and her face radiated peace. She was different.

She thanked us for coming.

And then?

She changed my life.

Please bow your heads, as I pray.

While praying, she spoke to the Lord humbly, reverently, and with unscripted speech. Her adoration lilted and flowed. God was her first love and I felt it. I had never once heard an ordinary woman speak like this.

She then opened her Bible.

I prefer to center today’s conversation with God’s love letter to us, his voice, the Bible. Ladies, I am going to Read Psalm 139 to you.

And she did. As she read, she smiled, teared up, took her time, and was clearly unashamed. It was beautiful.

The Psalm itself is breathtaking, and in that moment, I was certain God was speaking to me.

In the forty-five minutes to follow, she spoke of its meaning, and shared how she prayed it over each of her children as infants. With courage, she exhorted us to remember that our children were people with souls that required spiritual nourishment and training. In fact, it was Psalm 139 that led she and her husband to homeschool their children.

This work of rearing children, she went on, is a physical, emotional, and spiritual job that mothers and fathers must take seriously. Trust God as you pour yourself into your home, your husbands, your children. Pray as you work and keep the Bible front and center.

She paused.

Satan, the world, and our stubborn flesh will try to pull you away from what matters most. Resist growing weary and distracted.

Her words were bold, strong, even as her heart was soft and tender. The Bible was her straight edge.

Nothing is more important than your full surrender to the Lord, she said. The outflow of this will make you a godly wife and mother. God is seeking obedience and faithfulness. Your little ones, like you, are fearfully and wonderfully made. God gave them to you, and please hear me clearly when I tell you that to be a godly woman, you must be willing give up some things that the world holds dear.

I could have listened to her wisdom for days.

My soul was full. I had been starving for far too long.


I was twenty-seven years old, and it was the first time that I had listened to a woman speak so passionately to other women with God himself as the magnificent centerpiece. The Bible was both her launching pad and landing point, and everything else in between.

I never knew Mae’s last name, but I can tell you this:

Her love for God changed me one Tuesday, twenty-four years ago.

That straight, straight edge had sliced my heart wide open.

Piano Man

Dear Marcus,

I remember the precise moment I knew of you.

It was the same week the world stood still.

We were in a stupor after those two planes sliced through the World Trade Center. I had precisely four days of homeschooling under my belt, your brothers only 5 and 3 years old at the time. It was excruciating to process what had happened, to glimpse the footage. I cut ties with our television, those scenes too weighty to absorb.

It seems both indecent and comforting that during seasons of tragedy, we must still eat and drink and sleep and spin the dial on the washing machine. 

Life is for the living, I once heard someone say. 

And this is true. We must keep going.


A few days after that crushing Tuesday, I tiptoed from the safety of home in order to restock our refrigerator. It was intolerably humid that day, the heat smothering as I stepped from the car. I felt dizzy. Chalking it up to the terrorist attacks paired with the scorching weather, I steadied myself, leaning on a shopping cart that had been abandoned in the parking lot.

As I walked into Publix, an older gentleman passed by, carrying a styrofoam cup, steaming with coffee. I reeled. The smell of joe, normally the pinnacle of aromatic bliss, had become the scent of poison. 

This unexpected reaction had happened exactly twice before.  

And in an instant, Marcus, I knew there was you.

I hopped to it, tossing a few groceries in my cart, fairly flying to the checkout line, stacking my items on the conveyor belt. The cashier, in quiet tones, was speaking to the shopper in front of me.

Life’s beautiful music has up and died. She hesitated. Those planes—

Her smoky eyes filled as her lips trembled. 

Everything hushed.

And then my soft abdomen swirled, and I felt that maternal knowing– a flicker of hidden joy. 

Tragedy in one hand. Life in the other. 

New music had begun to play.


You have had quite a year: freshly married, a recent move, a new job, and now, come Saturday, college graduation on this, your 21st birthday.

You have also been generously gifted a Baby Grand piano.

Marcus….just think of it! 

A Baby Grand.


The May following the attack on our nation, you arrived. Handsome, serious, strong. Our third son. As your brothers peeked into your bassinet, I felt highly favored. My heart swelled with gratitude for God’s kindness in entrusting us with three boys. 

Marcus David.

Your Dad and I took name-choosing to heart, leaning hard toward the strong, the timeless, the ancient. Naming the four of you felt sacred; our first gift to each one of our children.

The nurse swaddled you tightly in that white blanket, edges bordered in lines of pink and blue, with a soft hat to keep you warm. She smiled, whispering Good job, Mama, as she gently placed you in the crook of my arm. He is beautiful, she said. 

I watched you sleep, tiny eyebrows furrowed.

There you are, I thought. My heart exploded with invisible fireworks, such surety of love for you, our precious baby. 

In those early weeks the two of us rocked by day and again by night, your sleepy song humming against my shoulder as I kissed the top of your head. My hand circled your back, round and round and round. Clockwise then counterclockwise. I sang the practiced lullabies, making up a few on the spot, so sleep deprived. I recited poems by heart, and whispered Psalm 23 again and again. I told you many secret stories, speaking little truths long before you could understand. The nights were long.

Decades later, and with jeweler’s eye, I have inspected all of those small crevices…events and stories tumbled together, the forging of a life, years built one atop another, brick-by-brick. It takes my breath away, the speed in which it all whizzed by.

I am nodding at Whitman’s perfect words:

We were together. I forget the rest.


Music was one of your earliest words as you toddled about, well before your first birthday. I remember now: the way you danced barefoot, denim overalls minus shirt, baby knees bending as you clapped your hands, as little ones do.

You whistled by the time you turned three, happy of heart, glowing with song.

And the years spun and suddenly you were six. Your Dad and I didn’t have much in the way of extras, but we saw glimmers of your giftings and stood determined to give you piano lessons.

One Saturday morning we discovered a $15 keyboard at a garage sale, and I handed over three fives and immediately signed you up for lessons. Day One came and I grinned as your first-grade legs dangled from the bench. Your teacher invited me to stay, and I sat still behind you, hiding behind a book. I read not a sentence but listened and observed. Your glasses scooted down the bridge of your little nose, and you pushed them up again as you learned your first scale.

Music proved effortless for you—my quietest child. It was your native tongue, brought to life in vivid colors. God had clearly woven this knowledge into the fibers of your being. 

After a few months, when your teacher touched my arm at the end of lesson, her eyes steady and kind and wide, she spoke what I already knew:

You must never let him quit. Make him practice. He has been entrusted with an unusual gift. I have taught many students, and I’ve never seen anything like this.

She need not have worried.

Piano was your oxygen, your life.


Your first official piano was gifted to us from an aging church member. God’s answer to my prayers, as you had long outgrown the garage sale keyboard.

We pushed and shoved the behemoth into the living room, then paid to have it tuned.

It is really, really old, the tuner-man said, wiping his sweaty forehead with a tired rag from his back pocket. I’ll do what I can.

He huffed and puffed and I thought the ancient contraption might fall apart like a house of sticks. But it held.

Later on, as I stood washing dishes while you played, I heard you whisper to your brother that it was still out of tune. 

But don’t tell Mom and Dad. They will feel bad.

You were what? Nine or ten years old at the time? My heart broke just a little. First of all because it was out of tune, and secondly because you knew we were not in a position to do more.

As I washed dishes, warm and sudsy, I begged God to make a way for you to have the finest piano, and soon. Please. This is important.

Tuned or not, you gave us a fine concert that evening, and we laughed and clapped, just the six of us together in our living room. Your dad and I glanced at each other—smiling, happy, and freshly stunned by your gifting. 

A little classical, a little praise, a little wild. You played it all.

Your hands leapt and danced over the keys that night and for many more to come. The prehistoric contraption was urged to life under your clever skill. 

Someone suggested that we take up a game.

Let’s hum a tune and see if Marcus can play it back to us on the piano.

You grinned and implored the keys to mimic whatever we warbled. We even sprinkled in songs you had never heard, in an attempt to keep it challenging. This game? It was child’s play for you, but you never let on. You remained humble, tilting back your head and laughing. 

My best memories of our time in that home are their own Twin Towers: your brothers’ Friday night football games, and your piano playing.

Such merriment, such remembrances. 


I think our family was prone to forgetting the depth of your talent. We grew accustomed to your dazzling piano playing on the daily, forgetting the fact that it was a rare and precious jewel. 

That is until those yearly recitals rolled around, lessons in patience as we waded through oceans of students—some clunking along, poking keys, many mediocre at best, and others playing to perfection, fastidiously obeying the notes, the rests, the everything. 

Such prescriptive measures lacked heart and soul. And then, when you walked on stage, so quiet, so tall, and began your piece, the audience sat up, stunned.

You, dear Marcus, never play to perfection, dutifully obeying the sheet music. 

You become the music as your hands touch the keys, your shoulders dip and sway as your foot pumps the pedals. You disappear and the music soars, as women reach for tissues and gentlemen shake their heads in disbelief. It is as though you are playing a different instrument altogether. It is exceptional.

I closed my eyes when you played those recitals, absorbing the music, delighting in the story of you.


By age fourteen you had mowed enough lawns to purchase a high-end keyboard. I remember your excitement at this upgrade, and how you practiced and played and practiced and competed and received heavy, golden trophies. 

But the music, the pleasures of playing, the joy of reviving the sheet music, these elements remained your genuine reward. This was as beautiful as the music itself, which trembled holy. This gifting remains both a crescendo and a forte.

The piano, wordless, forms sentences, as it lifts and praises, rushes and slows, and haunts with tender emotion. Only at your bidding.


And then life grew thorny in copious ways, and I feared the music would die. 

It did not.

God is always working and always kind and always good, even when it seems he is not. Remember, Marcus, that hot trials, given time, serve to make Christ-followers stronger. I was forgetful of this truth for a time, but God nudged me, reminding me that we are kept, indelibly marked by our Heavenly Father. (Isaiah 49:16, Isaiah 43:2)

The beauty that came from life’s ashes was your new sheet music. You read it and played it and pressed into Truth. Music became your comfort, your offering before the Lord as your Bible remained opened, highlighted, freshly marked, ever-present on the table by your keyboard.

Suffering torched your heart and enhanced your music. I paid attention as I tamed the clean laundry heaped across your father’s and my bed. I thought and paused and prayed and folded while you practiced piano on the other side of our home. 


You hold an unmistakable authority over those keys, urging them to obey your will, as you submit to the notes with a princely sort of command. The strength of willing submission is life-giving, and I hear the depths of its echo.

And this, Marcus, is what I know to be true. You soar as you play–heightening the music by honoring the piece, raising it to life in a way that supersedes the composer’s best intentions. It is far grander than it was imagined to be.

Your piano playing is a magical carpet ride for all within earshot. Ask me how I know.

Some call you still waters, and maybe that is true. If so, the life beneath those calmed ponds are rivers moving… fathomless depths loaded with untold treasures. 


Mozart once said: The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.

Timing, tempo, touch, and silence, swirled together, are a masterpiece under your fingers.

In those deep waters of life, when I am tempted to think that life’s music has died, I repeat the book of James. Do you remember memorizing it as a child?

James 1:17: Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

You and your brothers and sister are the greatest earthly gifts from above, but God is our highest treasure.

Your musical talent is his perfect gift to you, regardless if you are playing the garage sale keyboard, the ancient piano, the expensive keyboard, or your new Baby Grand. You love it because he made you to be a musician. Revel in it, remaining swept up in the joy of God’s blessings.

Play for the glory of God alone, remembering with confidence that he loves you, and he designed you and chose you before the foundations of the world.

Stand amazed; always reverent.

And keep on playing.


At the sink that day, when the piano remained untuned, I begged God to give you the best piano ever.

And our Father of Lights has chosen to say Yes, many years later, just shy of your 21st.

So play us a song, you’re the Piano Man!

Happy Birthday and Happy Graduation, dear son of mine.

With so much love,


Crunch Time

I hereby give you ten things to remember when you are nearing the end of your book manuscript and facing the Mt. Everest of edits:

  1. Bagged salad and cold cuts might be the dinner of choice for the next few months. Toss a handful of baby carrots alongside and all will be fine. Promise.
  2. Deep breaths when someone tells you that your writing gig is such a nice hobby. Resist the urge to spear them with your #2 Ticonderoga. They know not what they say.
  3. Now repeat to yourself: This is a reader I am called to love and serve, not spear.
  4. Thank your family and friends in advance for honoring your banker’s hours–swaths of time spent hunched over your desk, feverishly writing. They will deserve a medal as you cross the finish line, their due reward for generously granting you those twin, golden sunbeams of silence + time.
  5. Stand up, stretch, and take a walk. Gulp the fresh air and revel in God’s magnificent creation. The world is much bigger than you and your book.
  6. There will come a day when you will reach into the depths of your wardrobe and choose to dress in something other than your favorite ratty t-shirt and sweats. Respect and honor the fact that today is not that day.
  7. You will find yourself struck by powerful waves of new and fanciful writing ideas. Exquisite concepts for books, blog posts, and articles. Visions that have absolutely nothing to do with the book coming due. Jot them down in haste and fling them into your bottom desk drawer. Return to the task at hand.
  8. Oddly enough, you might find yourself bombarded by strange ideas while striving to finish a book. For instance, perhaps as you are typing away, you choose the word carve and wonder: Why does former NFL QB Brett Favre pronounce his last name to rhyme with “carve?” It is an impossible pronunciation by all accounts given the fact that the letter ‘v’ precedes the letter ‘r.’ Wild-eyed and despondent, nearly delirious by this horrifying, unmentionable anomaly, you look up, glance at your surroundings, only to realize that you are babbling, and no one else cares a whit about such a flagrant mispronunciation.
  9. Which sparks fresh insight: It is time to resolutely step away from your book for two entire days. Take in a good movie or crawl into bed and sleep. Immediately.
  10. This too shall pass. Praise be. Only two chapters to go. As you finish this marathon, keep in mind that God has designed you, and when you write, you feel his pleasure (as Eric Liddell did while running.) God alone has graced you with this present opportunity. Thank him for it and keep going. One year from now your mind will be deliciously rested and you just might find yourself reaching into that bottom desk drawer (See #7), pulling out an idea for the next book. Make sure to stock up on bagged salad and cold cuts.

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The Lion Will Roar

I whisper into the phone like some fugitive on the run, telling my daughter that I am weary, bone-tired, and discouraged. She knows the backstories, as she has lived them alongside me.

The stresses of ministry life, as a pastor’s wife, clutch my throat; the burdens have grown cumulative. We are living in chaotic days.

I am writing this in real time. Time when sleek wolves prowl and sheep bite, and few have eyes to discern what is truly at play.

My sleep, come Sundays and Wednesdays is in the wind, as melatonin has ceased to work its magic. The difficulties creep and pounce, a feral anxiety. I awaken from nightmares, breathless, gulping for air.

Spiritual attacks are terrors–dark and foreboding shadows.

How do I slay the dragons of discouragement and exhaustion, and live with joy?

I am no fan of fake-it-til-you-make-it, pretending everything is golden and sunny when it is anything but. Such a tune rings hollow in my ears. But neither do I endorse selfish moodiness, perpetually dreary and dismal, an ongoing raincloud sprinkling overhead.

Honesty + hope is all I have.

And my hope is Christ.


I write of the treasures in Bible reading so often because God’s Word has sculpted my entire life. Every time I open Scripture and partake, a padlock is opened as God moves close, speaking truth to me, verse by verse. I am forever learning something new, and this is wonderfully exciting. God’s Word is his speech, breathing and working and constantly stretching me in holiness.

Often, the shaping hurts.

These spiritual attacks, I have come to discover, are a good type of suffering. Good in that I am whisked into a dark and unsettling place; rendered helpless. My only rescue is God, and would you believe me if I told you that such fierce attacks have worked against Satan’s schemes? That my faith blossoms through trials?

Within those deep pits of darkness, when I feel most alone and desperate, God draws near, lowering his lantern and scooping me to safety.

During those pitch-black nights, upon awakening from terrifying dreams, I am not reaching for self-help books, or delightful fiction, or even good books about God. I pray hard and reach only for my Bible, desperate for God’s voice.

The Bible is my dragon slayer. I read it and reverence it and believe it and digest it and pray it, all the while seeking to obey it. As I do, the discouragement scuttles away, always undone by Light, as the narrow path is suddenly swept clear, strung with bright, glowing lanterns to guide my way.

Gentle Reader, spiritual nourishment is at your fingertips. It is yours for the taking. All of the Good Book’s pages are bursting with honesty and hope…God’s voice to us.

Yes, the Bible is a thick book. Do not despair. Stay the course, reading little by little. It is not a race to be won, but a treasure to unearth. Memorize verses. Pray your way through the Psalms with King David. Obey God’s commands. Learn to love what the Lord loves and resolutely turn from that which he hates. Imitate the saints of old, who repented and turned and trusted God. Hold fast to the beautiful and good and true words spoken by Jesus in the New Testament. Prize your Bible by wearing it out with repetition.

The time will come when your faith, if veritable, will be rocked. This is always true for the authentic child of God. Wolves will circle and snarl and snap and although you might feel alone, you are not. Such spiritual attacks are an indicator that you pose a significant threat to Satan’s pathetic kingdom. Stay tethered to God and Scripture and remember that it is the highest of honors to suffer for faith in Christ.


Who is my safety in this harsh, depraved world?

The Lion of Judah is his name.

And who may defeat this Lion?

No one.

Cling to his mane and hear him roar for you.


Monday morning, after my long walk, I pour steaming chai into my Mama mug and slip past the dining room into to my office. It is still early as I cradle the hot drink in both hands, warming the chill away. Sinking into my chair, I gaze out the tall windows and into our front yard.

The leaves have flourished overnight, a gentle canopy of shaded privacy. It is lovely, watching as the morning sun plays peek-a-boo through leaf and branch, while dancing in the gentle wind. Songbirds awaken and flit to the feeder, taking their fill, three at once: cardinal, chickadee, and house finch. They are tiny masterpieces.

Out of habit I shift the mug to one hand as my other grazes the top of our dogs’ heads, our two Goldens sitting side-by-side. Their eyes relax at my touch.

How peaceful it is now, in these still morning hours. I am tired from a poor night’s rest.

After a time, I open my Bible to John 10. God is so kind to place me in this passage, knowing that on this given Monday I require magnificent words. It had been a grim weekend, indeed.

I read the passage once, twice, three times over, and feel life trickling back into my bones. I read it yet again and now my heart leaps at the promise: I will never be snatched from God.

Slowly, the discouragement and fatigue melt away. The dragons have been slayed.

It is critical to understand that not one iota of my outer life–the hardships and ongoing stresses and pressures of ministry– has changed.

But I am changed in the secret places, flooded with fresh hope, comforted, and strengthened in the depths of my soul. God has seen fit to wrap me up in Scripture, as he speaks.

My sheep listen to My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give them eternal life, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.

~John 10:27-30 (NASB)

All Those Vain Things

It is the summer before eleventh grade.

I babysit frequently, for several families, and word spreads. One bright June morning I receive a call from an older mother, with a handful of young children. She and her husband are comfortably wealthy, this I know, as I was informed by one of my friends who attends their church.

I care little about such things and only desire to work, fattening my savings account. College is coming.

The mother offers me a one-day trial run prior to the dog days of summer. If all goes well, I will be offered four days of babysitting per week, including some light cleaning. She announces the pay and I quickly agree.

I am sixteen-and-a-half, and don’t sweat the details.

Day One.

I arrive and the mother seems tired, melancholy, and is poor of posture. Her weighty diamond ring is muted by a faded L.L. Bean t-shirt, tattered khaki shorts, and worn-out Birkenstocks.

I find it uncomfortable to babysit when the mother is at home. Uncomfortable like this: As I read aloud to her children, I refrain from speaking the funny voices I would normally use when the parents are gone. Books like Where the Wild Things Are.

Typically? I would roar my terrible roar! and gnash my terrible teeth! and roll my terrible eyes! pretending to be the monster, prompting the children to giggle and scream in delight. When the mother is home, however, I read quietly, in case she is working or conversing on the telephone, or who am I kidding? In case she considers my reading voices weird.

I am also nervous that I might be doling out a few too many goldfish crackers or cups of apple juice to wash them down. I wonder: is that her shadow watching us play jump rope and creating sidewalk chalk figures on the driveway? Is she spying as I construct wide forts with old blankets and soft sheets?

I also wonder why in the world she is paying me large sums of cash to watch her kids while she is actually watching me watch them?

So yes, she remains at home all of day one, and as the children and I come in and out of the house, I pay attention to all of the stuff. Expensive trinkets, and tasteful. Well-made, attractive. But there are so many things, that I feel all beauty has been lost.

Plus, when the children go down for their naps, these knick-knacks will definitely make my dusting duties difficult. Heavy glass paperweights, miniature sailboats carved of fine wood, dozens upon dozens of picture frames, pewter candle stick holders clutching beeswax candles, boxes of pricey herbal teas, dozens of Longaberger baskets, and Russian nesting dolls, cleverly painted. Weighty blankets are strewn over the backs of high back Wing chairs. Furniture that cries heirloom yet has been tastefully reupholstered.

There are enormous wood hutches pushed against the east wall, two of them, side-by-side, smooth and painted a robin’s egg blue, lovely and swollen with at least four full sets of fine bone China, each.

The home is not dirty, per se, but stacked and cluttered and dusty and disorganized and I wonder why. It feels insatiably hungry and sad and although packed to the gills, empty.

At the end of the day, she walks downstairs and offers me the summertime job, and I accept.

Day Two.

I arrive, and she throws a small leather satchel over her shoulder, hair wet and pushed back by sunglasses. She escapes quickly, but not before handing me a pretty feather duster, with a please clean the downstairs when the children take an afternoon rest.

The children and I have a good morning romping in the fresh air, playing tag before the boys turn to their Big Wheels while I push the baby in her stroller. When the sun stretches high and the children’s cheeks grow flushed, we slump onto the porch and slurp popsicles while consuming one gigantic stack of books. I create all the voices and the children giggle. After peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches it is naptime.

I tuck them in one by one and locate the feather duster. The trinkets are legion, and the work proves tedious.

Late afternoon, I reach into the massive (and stuffed!) refrigerator, plucking some applesauce and cheese sticks from its depths, and the children feast. Soon the mother returns home laden with shopping bags. Crusty French bread peeks from the top of one paper bag, alongside alouette, gouda cheese, six green apples, and a head of dark Romaine. The other three bags are filled with baubles: expensive stationary, a pewter candlestick, a pair of fragrant cranberry candles, several coffee table books, a leather bracelet, a breakable China doll complete with eyelet bonnet for the baby’s dresser, and a miniature, pressed-wildflower paperweight.

Shopping is therapeutic she murmurs, and her face looks tired. I wonder where all of the things will go.

I glance at her children, little people who would likely never want for any material thing.


Last week our church sang When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, written by Isaac Watts.

Stanza two sizzled and seared:

Forbid it Lord that I should boast

Save in the death of Christ my Lord.

All the vain things that charm me most

I sacrifice them to His blood.


I sang this beautiful hymn and immediately knew — I have been giving myself a pass.

I prefer clean open spaces and few trinkets, and this is why our home is not filled with stuff. I rarely go shopping, except for groceries.


I am perfectly charmed by high-quality goods, such as fine furniture with good bones. I take pleasure in books, and sometimes grow impatient waiting for them to be delivered free of charge to my Libby library app. It is so easy! so convenient, to click on amazon and pay too much, when I could patiently wait in line, or read something I already have.

I am charmed by delicious smelling hand soaps and hanging plants and bright hummingbird feeders. I choose thick, expensive wrapping paper rather than going cheap. I prefer things of quality, built to last, and food that is simple and delicious. I buy quality meats and bright, tasty produce. These things are not obvious, or showy, and not excessive in the way that trinkets or fancy shoes or a closet bulging with high-end clothing might seem.

Yet, as the hymn pierced my heart, I paid close attention to my soul, knowing full well that yes, I have vain little things that charm me most.

That stanza? It nudged me awake, bringing me back to Jesus, himself.


Not too long ago my husband and I went out to dinner with another couple. Afterward I came home and kicked off my heeled shoes, heated our teapot, and sighed–beyond happy to be home, introvert that I am.

I turned to Jon as he shuffled through the mail, and I told him that he had it easy, being married to me.

I ask for nothing compared to her, I said.

I know, he said.

Jon, she steamrolled her husband. Talk about beaten down! She was awful to him.

He nodded.

I thought about all of the things that the restaurant man had bought for the wife, who had shamelessly demanded it.

My eyes peered over my husband’s shoulder and into our living room. I studied our hand-me-down furniture, and gently worn carpet, and felt an irritation creeping in. The restaurant man had bought a roomful of brand-new furniture because his wife had put her foot down. Not only that, but they had also recently purchased–

I am wondering... I said aloud, and Jon looked up.

Maybe I do not ask for enough. I grew up asking for little…and I somehow intuited that it is wrong to ask for material things. But Jon, it is okay to wish for things, and to dream.

Kristin, he said, gently. Don’t ever be like her. You are on a far better path. Keep chasing God.

My eyes stung. He was right. That worn down consignment furniture, and carpet had been perfectly fine before dinner. This I knew.

Later, much later, I could not sleep as I turned over my husband’s words. Something nagged at me, and it was this: While perhaps I am not prone to bossing or demanding, I still have vain little things that charm me most, even if they are not obvious. And they don’t need to be obvious to be vain things that charm, do they?

How I long to chase God, and nothing more.

The Bible is perfectly clear. We are to be storing up treasures in heaven, and this means treasuring Christ Jesus more than anything. It is that simple, and that difficult.

I can be respectfully quiet and ask for precious little, yet long for much.

In Old Testament times God commanded the kings and rulers to demolish those high places, those places filled with idols that were not of God. Idols and high places and vain things must go. And when, with softened hearts we revere God alone as our High Place, our Strong Tower, and our Greatest Treasure, only then are we are able to thank him for allowing us to fully enjoy whatever he chooses to give to us or keep from us.

Like Job, we can bless God and truly say:

Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. (Job 1:21)

I know people who stockpile and overspend at the dollar store, buying 20 bottles of shampoo, and 30 boxes of band-aids, well…because. I know people who spend their wealth in a frenzy, gobbling up every new treasure and sparkly thing and it is never enough. I know people who skimp on birthday or Christmas gifts for others, stingy, in order to spend their money on themselves and their dreams and their bucket lists. I know people who spend and spend and spend in order to give gifts in a desperate attempt to buy another’s love. I know people who are charmed by social media, charmed by their self-made grandeur and others who are charmed by people-pleasing, lusting after affirmation.

And also? I know people just like me, who are charmed by quality furniture and books and little vain things.

It is all rotten fruit, born of the same root of discontent and idolatry, isn’t it?

There is a better way to live.

It is beautiful, and it is rare.

It is choosing the simple life of utter contentment, purposing to abide in Christ alone, with a heart full of gratitude and peace. This is what I am praying for, eager for, and striving to perfect.

If the apostle Paul was able to learn, than so can I.

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:11-13:


Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 16:19-21

The World is Still Spinning

The world is still spinning, Love.

These are the words that jogged through my mind recently, as I was playing with our 19-month-old grandson. We were in his backyard, and he was mowing the grass with his noisy plastic lawnmower.

Suddenly he paused, tilted his face upward, and smiled wide at a chirping cardinal, which sat, feathers all fluffed, trilling from the rooftop. He studied the glowing bird for a few seconds, utterly delighted and captivated, before returning to his mowing expedition.

Our grandson soon called out Papa! Papa! to his grandfather, who stood in the corner of the yard, taking a phone call. I knew from my husband’s tone that something was terribly wrong. And it was. A sorrow was unfolding in the life of one of our church members, and my pastor-husband was offering comfort in that tender moment.

But of course, our precious grandson could not possibly understand any of this.

He called again: Papa! as he continued to fly about the yard, showcasing his fine mowing skills. As Jon remained on the phone, our little buddy tried harder, and louder, to get his attention.

I finally picked him up and swung him high, kissing his soft cheek, and nuzzling his neck which made him giggle. Offering him an applesauce pouch did the trick, brightening all disappointment. He devoured his snack, pausing only to share some with me.

I hugged him close.

The world is still spinning, Love. God is here, and so is Papa.

Some things cannot be explained to a toddler, but I tried anyway, adding, Your Papa loves you, and he will soon watch you mow.

And so it goes, the warp and woof of life never quite matching our desires. Yet the planet is spinning still, held by God.


The world feels shattered doesn’t it? Our culture, ravenously lusting for power, control, and contentment, remains strapped in a merry-go-round of insanity, reaching again and again for life’s fruitless, dissatisfying pleasures.

I have found it impossible, (at least for me), to overthink and rehash the ongoing chaos while simultaneously remaining spiritually well.

So I have taken to practicing the discipline of restructuring my thoughts, which sounds fancy but simply means I am training myself to set my mind on things above (Colossians 3:2) since my natural, crippled inclination is to ponder worldly catastrophes and distractions.

And herein lies the magnificent gem: There is never a poor time to reset your mind, pinning it to the things of God.

I invite you into my personal mantra:

God is always working, and he is always good. He is Ruler of all, and by faith in Jesus Christ I am his, beloved and kept. My name is engraved on his hand. When I am weak, and begin to think God does not hear me, I am in the wrong. The world is still spinning, by God’s power and good purpose. The Lord knows my every thought and every ache, and he keeps all of my tears in his bottle. Whatever pain, tragedy, illness, or sorrow erupts in my life, I can know, without a speck of doubt, that He has allowed it for my good and his glory. I have died, and my life is hidden with Christ in God.

I have found that this repetition of biblical truth expands my soul, quiets my mind, corrects my faulty thinking, and steadies me in life’s whipping monsoons. It is a discipline of the will that serves to carve joy in those gritty places of life.

When hardships come calling, and life hurts something fierce, I am comforted and happy, trusting and treasuring God.


I gleaned an important truth from our grandson during our backyard playtime. He modeled what it looks like to be creatures of dust, enjoying the work we have been given, while also listening and pausing for songbirds. He showed me how to stop and revel in Creation by looking up and away from the tasks before us, smiling with simple joy at the wonders of life. Our days are gifts, offered to us by our Heavenly Father, who will one day mend this broken-down world.

God offers us glimpses of his beauty, to remind us of his Greatness. Although life is full of disappointments, we may choose to allow life’s difficulties to consume and derail us, or we can pause, remembering Who is holding both the nations and our days.

The world is still spinning, Love.

There will be snapshots of splendor tucked within the disappointments and chaos, as the Author of Life is continually at work, painting exquisite murals for us to inhale. Brilliant tangerine and lemony hues of sunrise, flowering cascades of springtime, morning glories and lupines and lilacs, twinkly stars embedded in the inky night sky, bright-winged birds, exotic, fluttering butterflies, and people. Knit together in secret, growing from tiny newborn babies into wrinkled, aging saints. Saints whose Bibles are marked and worn, their hearts and hands stretched heavenward, ready to meet God.


My personal mantra is based on these Bible verses: (John 5:17, Mark 10:18) (Psalm 121:5) (Isaiah 49:16) (Psalm 18:6) (Psalm 24:1, Psalm 95:4-5) (Psalm 139, Psalm 56:8) (1 Peter 1:7) (Colossians 3:4)

What Will You Do?

This is the story that always begins with dead bones, and whitewashed tombs.

A story that ends in only one of two ways.

Life in Christ with God, forever.

Life apart from him, in eternal torment.

The question is this:

Will you turn to faith in Christ, or will you wash your hands of him?

What will you do with Jesus called the Christ?


I recently spoke with two women, from different parts of our country. These independent, unrelated conversations were bound together by one common thread: both had been raised in homes in which God was considered a private, unmentionable affair.

Their similar stories unfolded like this:

Decades ago, when these now mature women had been little girls, their families had filed into church, week-by-week: dutiful little soldiers marching in step behind their parents. Everyone was expected to sit quietly and respectfully, before returning home.

By the time the roast and carrots and potatoes and rolls were being shuffled around Sunday’s dinner table, silverware clanking, it was as if God had completely vanished.

That was a nice service, their mother might offer, as their father nodded, before sighing and turning the corner to more palatable topics.

And that was that.

It was unspoken yet understood. God was not the point of life but served as a way to keep up appropriate appearances. People expected such things, meaning God and church and religion were stuffed into a tiny box and kept on the shelf labeled Sunday.

Easter, however, was quite the to-do, as grandmothers and aunts and mothers and cousins spent inordinate amounts of time and money and a fair amount of handwringing before finding the perfect department store adornments: flowered hats and swishy dresses and patent leather shoes. The boys’ hair was slicked and shiny as a penny, as the entire extended family sat like perfect stairsteps, stiff and uncomfortable in the family pew, each dressed to the nines.

By Easter afternoon there was a fine leg-of-lamb, sitting lovely on a scalloped platter, which had undoubtedly been plucked from the depths of the hutch for such an occasion. The tender meat was accompanied by cold mint jelly, soft rolls, a molded gelatin, plus fruit salad speckled with chopped walnuts, marshmallows, and whisps of coconut peel. Dessert meant a heavily frosted carrot cake, plus an heirloom glass bowl filled with pastel-foiled chocolates.

The children were routinely gifted white baskets of bright candies, tangles of licorice atop verdant strands of artificial grass, a remarkably fluffy bedding for chocolates and jellybeans and Peeps spilling over the edges.

One of these women shared that one year she had received a tiny white New Testament Bible in her Easter basket.

Did you read it? I asked.

Not really. I kept it on my nightstand, but I did not know what to do, other than touch the cover from time to time.

These women came to me sadly, a quiet loss in their eyes, still spiritually stuck. They are flustered, embarrassed, uncertain, and ashamed when a lump arises in their throats as they sit in church wondering why God seems so distant.

They murmured to me, in low and whispered tones, that they cannot comfortably speak the things of God to their husband or children or friends or anybody. When they figured out that I am a pastor’s wife, (and not their pastor’s wife) they approached me for help.

Their stories were born of the same root. Stories which slice my heart. While they know there must be a God out there somewhere, and going to church is both appropriate and expected, they are following their familial upbringing by sitting in the pew, week-by-week, living decent lives, utterly void of love for Jesus Christ. (Matthew 7:21-23)

Dead bones, white-washed tombs.

Help me. Their lips did not speak but their eyes remained desperate.

I shared (while reminding myself–softly Kristin, softly,) that it was time for their souls to be smashed to bits.

They stared at me, eyes widening. Alarmed, I believe, and definitely uncertain.

If God is softening your hard heart, I said, tugging and tenderizing your soul, know that he is also stretching his arm in an invitation to rest in Him through Christ. Obliterate false notions, and godless, unbiblical systems to bits. Open your Bible and read it, savor it, study it. Pray and learn who God is. God is good, and he interrupts lives with holy intent.

It was painful to see them burdened, weighted and wilting as the mirror reflects the passage of time void of the peaceful joy of a true and saving faith.

I prayed for them, planting seeds that I am trusting God to water and grow and tend, as only he can.

To be converted from dead, dry bones to life in Christ is everything.

It is life.


Many years ago, my husband preached an Easter sermon on Matthew 27. I have always remembered it, because it sparked the question every person must answer.

Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called the Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” And he said, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!” So, when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves”…Then he released for them Barrabas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified. (Matthew 27:22-26)

The question is for every single person remains: What shall I do with Jesus who is called the Christ?

Will you be like Pilate, not wanting to inconvenience yourself, refusing to respond in surrender to Jesus, The Way and the Truth? Will you attempt to cover the bases while lying to yourself and fooling others by crying I am innocent! Or maybe you are desiring to disappear within the crowd, or to please your family, or assuage your spouse, by washing your hands of God’s Son? Are you telling the people whatever it is that they want to hear?

We are all born guilty, and only those who humble themselves, confessing sin and walking in repentance will receive a new heart, full of faith.

I remain heavily burdened for pretend Christians, people perched in church pews year-by-year, hearts remaining dead and cold and hardened…far, far from Christ.

If your heart is thumping, and this is you, Gentle Reader, I invite you to treasure God above all.

What is the alternative?

Will you carry on, as seasons pass by, wearing your finest come Easter morning, patting your Bible without reading it, filling your children’s or grandchildren’s Easter baskets with pastel candies, speaking of the joys of green trees and luscious springtime air, marveling at nature without loving and honoring our Perfect Creator? Passing the roast and offering up discussions of mere trivial pursuits, never knowing God, nor bowing low in adoration?

If this tune sounds familiar in your ears, you are living a duplicitous existence. Sitting dutifully in church without turning wholeheartedly to God, is no place to be.

Don’t stay there.

Please come to Christ Jesus today. (John 6:37)


Christ did not die to forgive sinners who go on treasuring anything above seeing and savoring God. And people who would be happy in heaven if Christ were not there, will not be there. The gospel is not a way to get people to heaven; it is a way to get people to God. It’s a way of overcoming every obstacle to everlasting joy in God. If we don’t want God above all things, we have not been converted by the gospel. – Pastor John Piper

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit. – 1 Peter 3:18


I know what you are thinking. Life is difficult, and serious.

I agree.

But life is also brimming with humor, if you pay attention.

And humor lightens our hardships, doesn’t it?

Laughter is a gift.


Our oldest son, Caleb, now a husband and a father, has been playing and organizing sports competitions since he was in grade school. He is a fine coach with a quick mind and the ability to clearly explain skills and systems and rules of most any game. He once competed in more college intramurals than anyone I have ever met, and there now hangs a shiny plaque in his honor, displayed in the workout facility of his alma mater.

Caleb never believed in competing haphazardly or playing without keeping score. (Why would you do that?) He consistently executes game play with excellence, fairness, and the drive to win. He also adheres to the team mindset.

As in, there is no “I” in the word team.

We are a team, and the best team players will be placed in the right positions to increase the chances of a victory. Selflessness, always, for the sake of the team.

Enter Gary.

One fall, late in his college years, Caleb coached an intramural kickball team. The team ended up being so large that Caleb created a rotation of players.

One of the players was a commuter student named Gary.

Gary was a solid decade older than everyone else, a man in his thirties.

It soon became clear that Gary was a mighty legend in his own mind and had made it his life’s mission to shine as brightly as the North Star on those intramural fields–fields that had long since passed him by.

The first problem was that there was not a speck of team mindset buried within the crevices of Gary’s soul.

He began to press Caleb for more playing time, scoffing at rotations.

Caleb is not one to be pressed, and while gracious and kind, Caleb remained firm with Gary, who, how shall I say it? did not excel on the field.

Caleb adhered to his ongoing rotations, and it was a remarkable grace that Gary was permitted to play at all.

Gary began to simmer.

Our son holds little tolerance for sulky behaviors (the apple clearly does not fall far from the tree) and ignored Gary’s mood swings. Caleb happily captained his team, who in spite of Gary’s shenanigans, was having a blast on those hilltop fields in the cool of evening. As the weeks passed the team racked up enough victories to propel them into the playoffs.

As playoffs began, every team member played at least a portion of the game, but only a chosen few participated in both offense and defense.

Gary was not one of those selected to play both sides.

He desperately clung to the notion that he deserved to play the entire game and like a whiny child, moaned about it.

I know my son well enough to picture his wide blue eyes locking in on the demanding player before him. I can conjure the set of his mouth, a firm line, and his gravelly voice: low and serious and quiet.

Where should I go? Gary whined; this petulant man turned child.

Caleb pointed to the bench. Right there.

Gary huffed and stormed to the bench, enraged.

The game kept rolling and it was close.

Caleb called out: Let’s go! Defense on the field!

Defense flooded the field, and Gary joined, scurrying onto the grass, rebellion darkening his face.

Gary, I said defense. You are not on defense. Caleb said.

Gary countered. You need your best people playing right now.

I know that, Gary. Back to the bench–you are a sub.

A cool wind picked up and Gary stared at Caleb, who did not budge.

Gary, a member of the I mentality rather than the team approach, tightened his fists and again stormed off the field to the bench.

Caleb rallied the defense, clapping and offering encouragement.

Another inning passed and then?

Crunch time.

Two outs and it was Gary’s moment to shine. He was up.

The pitcher rolled the kickball straight to Gary who lifted his foot and launched that ball as high as he possibly could into the air. Something no one had ever done that season, and for good reason.

It was an intentional, easy out. Anyone with a pulse would be able catch that airborne sphere, which they did.

Game over.

Gary, who could have catapulted the team to the championships, chose to kill their entire season.

And it did not end there.

He jogged to first, patted the base, and careened off of the field and into the parking lot. He drove away, never to be seen again.

Later that night he sent Caleb a scathing text, which our son wisely ignored.

I cannot stop laughing whenever the story is rehashed.

Such silliness from a grown man, benched.


Here is another funny story of a man who benched himself.


My brother and I spent our elementary school days playing in the sunshine with friends. These were the golden days of the late 1970’s, when children actually romped outside in the delicious fresh air, for hours on end. Who had time for indoor games while the sun was still high in the blue sky?

It was grand.

Holly and Stu were a brother and sister who were the same ages as we were, which worked out perfectly. For a time, we lived in the same neighborhood, and frequented each other’s homes.

Holly and Stu’s father was named Al, and he was known affectionately as Big Al. I am not sure exactly how tall he was, but my best guess was that he stood six foot four: a massive man with an ample tummy and a friendly, booming voice. Al perpetually smoked a thick cigar, (my brother and I called it a stogie) dangling it from the corner of his mouth, clenched between his molars, and there it remained, bobbling and flaking through each and every conversation and good-natured belly laugh.

People flocked to Al, because he was friendly, generous, and the life of the party. He did not know a stranger, as they say. Soon after we were introduced to this family, Al’s career skyrocketed, propelling his family into the highest of tax brackets and into a mansion of a home that overlooked one of the finest valleys in all of New England. He built a swimming pool in their gorgeous, and enormous backyard, and graciously invited us over to swim any time during the high heat of summer.

All of this to say: Al did not change with his sudden windfall. Yes, his family’s zip code was new, but he still slapped every friend and acquaintance on the back, chuckling at a story or joke or at anything, really. He waved at his short and tiny wife, beckoning her his way, with: Honey, thaw a few more steaks, as he randomly invited so-and-so and another so-and-so for dinner.

Al loved to feast. Steaks, burgers, baked potatoes, cake, cookies, and ice cream. The more people the merrier, and the tastier the delicacies, the better.

During this time, Al and his wife stopped at a convenience store while out driving one weekend, purchasing two of Al’s favorite candy bars and on a whim, a scratch ticket.

Go ahead, honey, let’s see what we didn’t win, he said with a laugh, handing her a key to scrape away the shimmery coating.

The 5 then became a 50 which became a 500 and finally? $5000.

He laughed as he shared this story with one and all, his cigar resting lightly between two fingers while he paused to guzzle a Coke. Good fortune seemed to rain upon Al, and no one else.

In due time, as his waistline expanded further, his wife insisted that it was time for a checkup.

He obliged, and the doctor told him he must get in shape: the candy bars and potatoes and steaks and cokes were catching up with him. Time to lay off the cigars, too.

Al took the warning in stride and hit the department store, purchasing a velour jogging suit paired with a matching striped sweat band. (Anyone else remember when those suits and sweatbands were the hottest style?)

And then, when the excuses had finally run their course and the luscious spring weather blew in on a breeze, Al laced up his sneakers, pulled the sweatband above his ears and around his forehead, and pecked his little wife on the cheek.

Honey, I am going jogging, just like the doctor said.

This, if not a miracle, was certainly an enormous accomplishment, because Al preferred anything over exercising.

Little wife breathed a sigh of relief, and watched her husband scoot down the road, albeit at a slow lumber.

Al turned the corner, having huffed and puffed for less than one quarter of a mile when a familiar car, windows rolled down, pulled up next to him.

Hey! said the friendly fellow, an acquaintance from the office building next to Big Al’s.

Al, still breathless, was delighted at such good fortune. An unexpected reprieve! He leaned in, resting his arms on the vehicle’s window frame, as his friend spoke.

Say, Al, there is a brand-new doughnut shop across town that is holding its Grand Opening today. Care to join?

Without missing a beat, Al hopped in the car and off they drove.

And that is how Big Al benched himself.

His exercise days were over before they truly began.

He stoked this favorite story, building it up, tending it like a perfect campfire, warming and drawing his rapt audience in as he roared with laughter, bringing everyone to raucous delight, his cigar shaking as he passed more chips and soft drinks to the many guests circling his table.

And this was his charm: not the house with the view, nor his $5000 scratch ticket, nor his swimming pool, nor his prominent job.

The charm was his invitation to join him in laughter, never taking himself too seriously.


For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

…A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn, and a time to dance.

Ecclesiastes 3:1,4