Friday, December 26, 2008

New Spark

Our kids got an early Christmas present. A go-cart. Yellow and black, with two large headlights.

It looks like a bumblebee.

Mark and I took turns test driving it. For safety purposes, you know. And let me tell you, that little baby has some get up and go! I am considering a new profession.

Where does one go to try out for a Nascar race?

Dover race Actually, the thing tops out at about 10 mph. But it sure felt a lot faster when the wind was whipping through my hair and the cedar bushes were scraping against my elbows. The fact that my chin rested on my knees didn’t make a bit of difference. One vroom of the engine, and I was hooked. I had the need for speed.

After Mark and I declared it safe for our children to operate, we finally let them have turns at the wheel. One at a time, they placed their helmets on, fastened their seatbelts, and off they went like a speeding bullet! There was whooping and hollering and giggles and even a few close calls. That was one fun toy.

Notice I said was.

For hours, it purred like a kitten. But then, it just stopped purring. The motor wouldn’t even turn over! We did everything we could think of to try and fix it. We gave it gas, we changed the spark plug, but it was no use. There was just no life.

So, into the back of the truck it went, back to the dealer. The mechanic took one look at the gocart and determined it was a problem with the spark. Not the actual plug, but something deeper. They were going to have to take the motor apart to fix it.


Just a few hours of speed, and we were addicted. Now, for a few days, we’d have to make do with our bicycles to fulfill our speed cravings.

Somehow, a bicycle just isn’t the same.

I can relate to that little go-cart. Some days, I have no spark. At times, there just seems to be something missing, and my get-up-and-go has got-up-and-gone. I wonder where my joy is, where my energy went. I feel lifeless.

At those times, I have to do exactly what the go-cart did. I have to go to the Mechanic, who will look deep inside my heart. He is the One who can take things apart, find the problem, and make things right.

However, I don’t always want to take the time to go to Him. So I try to ignore the problem, or fix it myself. Then, the problem only gets worse. One of these days, I will learn to go to my Mechanic at the first sign of spark trouble. That will save me a lot of problems in the long run.

And when I have regular tune-ups with Him, I stay zooming through life. Wind whipping through my hair. Whooping and hollering with joy.
Ezekiel 36:26 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you.”

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Perfect Gift

Don’t you just love this time of year? I do. I love the lights and the bright colors and the holiday music playing over loudspeakers and the smell of pine and cinnamon. I love sneaking around, keeping wonderful secrets and trying to please the people I care about with the perfect gifts.

xmas present But there is one thing I don’t like as much, and that is having to make up my mind. I’ve never been very good at that.

It never fails. I’ll be standing in Wal-Mart, trying to decide whether to get my niece the pink lava lamp or the purple one, and my head nearly explodes. Honestly, if I were a ten-year-old girl, I would like either color. But I have to decide on one. Pink? Purple? Pink? Purple?

And have you ever looked at Hot Wheels? There are like, a zillion different varieties. Race cars. Spy cars. Police cars. Fire trucks. How in the world am I supposed to know which ones my nephew would prefer? Which ones does he have? What is his favorite color?

I don’t know. I just don’t know.

And it’s no use calling and asking, because then I get the tables turned on me. “Renae, what do you want for Christmas?”

More questions, to which I don’t know the answers. Honestly, I like everything. I like things that smell nice. I like cute little pot-holders and kitchen gadgets. I like music and movies and books and things to wear and things to play with. I like everything.

Just please don’t force me to make up my mind. I don’t like that.

Wouldn’t it be great if there were a Perfect Gift store? We could just march in, submit the names and ages of our loved ones, along with our budget needs, and the all-knowing store clerk could run the information through some kind of scanner. Then, voila! The perfect gift would appear, all shiny and gift-wrapped with a big, fat bow. No more decisions. No more splitting headaches, from the stress of it all.

Then again, I suppose that would detract from the meaning of the gift. After all, it’s the thought that counts, right? And if we don’t put any thought into a gift, I suppose it doesn’t really count for much.

The perfect gift, I suppose, is simply a gift that reflects the love of the giver. It doesn’t need to be fancy or expensive, though it should come with some sacrifice. After all, if there is no sacrifice involved, what’s the point? Where is the value in such a gift?

God knows that. He loves us more than anything, and He has given us the perfect gift. He knows most of us don’t need another potholder or a scented soap-on-a-rope. What we need is to feel loved. To feel wanted. To feel cherished.

That’s why He gave us the greatest gift of all time. He wanted to have a relationship with each and every one of us so that He could show us how important we are to Him. But that wasn’t possible without a great sacrifice. He gave the most expensive gift of all time – His Son – so that we could know how much He wants us, how He cherishes us. He wanted us to know how very much He loves us.

So He paid the ultimate price. He sent us His Son, born in a stable in Bethlehem. He sent His Son to live the life of a carpenter, to travel dusty roads on foot, to teach and heal and preach and reveal that very love to us. He sent His Son to take the punishment for our sins, because He knew we could never afford to pay that price without Him.

He gave us the perfect gift – His love. He holds it out to us on Christmas day and every day. All we have to do is take it.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life,” John 3:16.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Moving On

Yesterday, my coffee maker died.

It just quit working. No warning. No sputtering or strange noises.

It just died.

My first reaction was one of those deer-caught-in-the-headlights panic moments. No coffee? How will I ever make it through the day with no coffee?

Then, after a few deep breaths, I remembered that I could do what the pioneer women did. They boiled their coffee.

Just call me Dr. Renae, Coffee Woman.

Moka So, I placed a few scoops of the wonderful, black powder into a filter, wrapped it up and stapled it like a teabag. Then, I dropped it into a pot of boiling water, and voila! A few minutes later, I had delicious, life-enhancing coffee. I think it was even faster than my coffee pot.

Okay, I admit the pioneer women probably didn’t have paper filters or staplers, but I’m still pretty proud of my ingenuity.

Then, as I was sipping on that first, glorious cup of the morning, I realized . . . I get to pick out a brand new coffee pot!

A fleeting moment of guilt passed through my mind. After all, my dear coffee pot had just died. It wasn’t even in its grave yet – it was still sitting on my kitchen counter. It had seen me through years of good times and bad times. It had entertained guests and helped me through long nights. And it had gently, faithfully given me something to look forward to, each and every morning.

What kind of woman am I? How can I be smiling about a replacement pot so soon?

But I knew I had to let go. After all, have you seen some of those new-fangled, high-fallutin’ coffee makers they have on the market these days? My old one was just a plain old, low-end coffee maker. Now, they have the kinds that actually grind the beans for you. The kinds that store the coffee within the actual maker, and only release a cup at a time, when you hold your mug under the little spout.

And they have colors! My old one was just plain white plastic. With years of coffee stains, so it wasn’t actually white any more.

It didn’t take me long to move past my sorrow. After all, what’s done is done. Nothing short of a miracle will bring that pot back to life. It’s time to move on.

Does that make me a shallow person?


Then again, I have been guilty of hanging on to things for too long. I’ve been known to carry a grudge, and to nurse my wounds, and to wear my feelings on my sleeve for extended periods of time. Those habits have not done much to enrich my life. Instead, they have kept me from pressing forward. They have weighed me down like a ball and chain. And to be perfectly honest, I’m tired of clinging to the past.

So, starting today, I’m going to let go. I’m going to move on. I will remember the good, but I won’t let sadness or anger or guilt or anything else keep me from experiencing the great things that wait for me, somewhere out there in the future.

Wonderful things. Like a cute little $800 cappuccino/espresso/coffee maker/grinder. In red.

Or one of those nifty one-cup-at-a-time doo-dads. In a sleek stainless steel.

Or maybe I’ll just get another basic white coffee pot for $20 at Wal-Mart. The possibilities are endless.

Philippians 3: 13 – 14 “ . . . Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Friday, December 5, 2008

Extra Garbage

I got two tickets this week.

Well, that’s not exactly true. I almost got two tickets this week. The first one was when my daughter and I were on our way to Blockbuster Video. I didn’t think I was speeding. I honestly had no idea why I was being pulled over.

The officer approached my window, and I handed him my driver’s license. “What did I do wrong?” I asked.

“There is no inspection sticker on your car,” the man said.

“Oh, officer, I am so sorry! My husband usually takes care of that for me,” I told him. Hey, Mark wasn’t anywhere around. Why not blame him?

The man laughed. “Oh, so it’s your husband’s fault, is it?”

“Why, yes, sir. I’m so sorry it hasn’t been done.”

“May I see your proof of insurance, please?” he asked.

Oh, where is that insurance? Dear God, please let it be current! I found the paper, and it was current. Whew!

Then, he took my license and insurance information, went back to his car, and stayed for what seemed an eternity, while the most ridiculous thoughts raged through my mind.

What if I match the description of one of America’s Most Wanted?

What if my car matches the description of some other car that was involved in some . . . terrible crime?

What if I forgot to turn the oven off?

Finally, the man approached my window. “Mrs. Brumbaugh, how are we going to fix this problem?” he asked.

I didn’t miss a beat. “You’re going to give me a warning, and I’m going to get my car inspected first thing tomorrow!”

The officer laughed. I liked this guy. I think.

“Yes, ma’am, that’s what I’m going to do,” he said. “But next time, you’ll get a ticket.”

Yes. I definitely liked this guy.

The next day, I drove right down and got my car inspected. After all, I want to be a good citizen, and good citizens always try very hard not to get tickets.

So you can imagine my dismay when, two days later, I got a real ticket. But this time, it wasn’t issued by a police officer. It was issued by the sanitation department.

It was trash day, and when I went to fetch my empty trash can from the side of the road, there it was. A little yellow-green ticket, flapping in the wind.

garbage bin 3 Apparently, my trash can was too full. And they were charging me an extra $4.50.

Well, technically, it wasn’t a ticket. More of a notice.

But it sure felt like a ticket.

I mean, what am I supposed to do with my extra garbage? Put it down my garbage disposal? No, I’d better not. Then I’d probably get a ticket from the water department.

So, from now on, I will try to contain my trash within my trash can, so that the lid will close completely. If you drive by my house and see my dear husband jumping up and down in our trash can, just wave. You’ll know we’re simply trying to be good citizens.

I’m sure glad God doesn’t have a limit on what we can bring to Him. Can you imagine if He said, “Whoa, there, your pile of heartache and worry is getting a little too high. I’ll take care of only this much, and you’ll have to handle the rest yourself.”

Boy, would I be in a heap o’ trouble.

But God is gracious, and His love and mercy are limitless. Any time I have a problem or a need, I can bring it to Him. He doesn’t even keep track! He just says, “Oh, I see you’re having a little trouble there. Let me take that for you.”

He doesn’t make me jump up and down on my troubles to make them appear smaller. He takes them just as they are. He doesn’t give me a ticket, or charge extra.

And He even replaces all my garbage with His peace.

Don’t we have a great God?

1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday

Hello friends! No new post for today. But check out my Black Friday experience here.

Blessings to you!


Friday, November 21, 2008

Giving Thanks

It is my year to do Thanksgiving. My sister-in-law, Debbie, and I switch off every year, and it is my turn.

(Note to self: Be thankful for doing Thanksgiving at my house.)

The thing is, I was really hoping to have a new kitchen by Thanksgiving. I have one of those old, Brady-Bunch style double ovens. Which would be great, if both of the ovens worked. But the door on the bottom one doesn’t actually close, so you can’t really cook anything in there. So now, the bottom oven is used for storage.

I have to be careful about what I store in there, though, since the door doesn’t close. If I store anything heavy and breakable, well . . . you figure it out. But, at least I have an oven, right? I mean, think of all the pioneer women who had to cook over an open fire. (Note to self: Be thankful for oven. And for being born in the twentieth century, instead of the nineteenth.)

Not only that, but my house still has its original 1977 yellow gold countertop and sink. (Note to self: Be thankful that the retro look is in right now.) But new kitchen or no new kitchen, the fact remains. Next Thursday, I’m going to have a house full of people.

So, as I prepare myself and my refrigerator for more food than we will ever possibly consume, I have decided to make a list of things I am thankful for. And lucky for you, I’m going to share it.

I am thankful for:

1. My husband. He offered to buy a pre-cooked turkey this year, so I wouldn’t have to bother with it.

2. Pre-cooked turkeys.

3. Instant mashed potatoes. Is it cheating if I stand over a bowl with a potato masher and pretend to work the lumps out of them?

4. Candles. If I light candles, they make the house smell like I’ve been baking, and my guests will never know I bought the apple pie at Wal-Mart. Also, I can dim the lights, and my guests will be impressed with the mood lighting. They’ll never know I’m trying to hide the stains in my carpet.

5. Paper plates. If I put a pretty tablecloth and centerpiece on my table, maybe no one will notice the Chinette. Then, I won’t have to do dishes.

Alright, already. I can hear you saying, “Doesn’t this woman do anything? She doesn’t want to cook a turkey or bake or do dishes. What does she do all day long?” The truth is, I will cook for Thanksgiving. I will bake pies and make desserts and casseroles and cute little veggie trays. But I have to leave a little time so that I can sit here and type these words to you.

Thus, the pre-cooked turkey and the Chinette.

But in all seriousness, I have more to be thankful for than I could ever hope to fit into this space. I am thankful beyond measure for my wonderful family, who loves me. I am thankful that, at present, we all are healthy and happy and strong. I am thankful for my children, who fill my heart with joy, bubbling over.

I am thankful for my husband, who makes me feel loved and special. I am thankful for my parents, who, even though I am forty years old, still think I am young. I am thankful for my wonderful, curmudgeonly older brother who still treats me like I am a child. Some things never change.

I am thankful for a roof over my head, a car to drive, food on the table, and money to pay the bills. I am thankful that I live in a land of possibility and promise, a land where, with a little integrity and a lot of hard work, any of us can reach our full potential.

I am thankful for the men and women who will be spending the holidays in a far-away land, separated from those they love the most, so that I can enjoy the holidays in peace. I am thankful for their families, who sacrifice so that the rest of us don’t have to.

Most of all, I am thankful for a God who loves me, even when I’m not lovable. I’m thankful that He wants to be my friend, and spend time with me. His is a love that will never end. It just keeps going and going.

Yep, I have much to be thankful for. My cup overflows.

1 Chronicles 16:34 “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”

Friday, November 14, 2008

Living Like Goldie

This has been a difficult week for our family. It has been a time of great weeping and wailing and mourning. This week, dear readers, we lost our beloved pet fish, Goldie.

Goldie has been with our family ever since . . . last month. He was a good fish, full of personality. He swam with such grace and vigor, and his long, flowing fins turned his movements into an art form. He was an inspiration to us all. He will be sorely missed, and his absence in our lives will leave a hole that will not easily be filled. (Actually, it can be filled for $2.50 at the local pet shop, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Services were held in our bathroom. My pastor/husband, the Right Reverend Dr. Mark F. Brumbaugh, o-fish-iated. Loving words were spoken, followed by a hymn: “I’ll swim away, oh, glory, I’ll swim away (down the toilet).” And then, we said goodbye to Goldie, and watched him swirl away to that beautiful home in the sea. (Well, sewer. But let’s just overlook that little detail for the sake of posterity, shall we?)

Goldie had a short life, but it was a good one. He had a nice, big fish bowl to swim in. He had his meals brought to him, and he had lots of little fishy things in his bowl to play with and swim around. And he brought joy to us, his family. He didn’t waste his life longing for the ocean, longing for some dream that would never develop. Nope. He happily swam around his bowl, waving his fins for us, coming up to greet us when we brought him food. He seemed to enjoy his life. I guess you could say he lived well. He had learned the secret of being content.

Our lives are pretty short, when you think about it. Whether we live 20 years or 80, our existence is really no more than a blink, in the grand scheme of things. Isn’t it a shame that we waste so much of it, wishing for things we can never have? Instead of enjoying the houses we live in, we want bigger houses. Instead of appreciating our jobs, we long for better jobs. Before we are married, we want to find that special person. After we are married, we want children. We wish for financial freedom, retirement . . . and before we know it, we have wished our lives away, wanting what isn’t ours. We would be so much better off, don’t you think, if we could learn from Goldie, and be happy with what life has handed us. Right here, right now.

From now on, I intend to look at my life through Goldie’s eyes. I will try to remember that life is short, and not a moment should be wasted. I will do my best to appreciate what I have, instead of squandering my time longing for what I don’t have. And someday, when I go on to glory, I want people to say, “She lived well.”

Philippians 4:12 “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation . . .”

Friday, November 7, 2008

Our New President

Congratulations, United States! You have a new president. And while he may or may not be the person you voted for, he does represent some positive change in our country. He is a good man with a lovely family, and his election, in many ways, represents the ideals here in the United States – ideals which have long been awaiting reality.

Barack Obama is a living, breathing example of the term, “The Melting Pot”. A white mother. A father of mixed race, including African and Arabic. Obama’s very existence is a picture of who we are in this country. His election to the highest office in our land will certainly add a more balanced view to the portraits hanging in the hallowed halls of the White House.

As a white American, I admit that I will never understand what it is like, not to be white. I admit that things have probably been easier for me, that doors have perhaps been opened more freely for me, simply because of the color of my skin. I have many dear friends of many different races, and I believe I have judged people by their character, and not their color.

But I understand that not everyone does that. And because of the folks who have judged others based on color alone, many of our citizens have suffered. Some have been denied jobs. Some have been wrongly accused.

I hope, that by putting a man of mixed race in the White House, a man who is married to a black woman, a man who has two beautiful biracial daughters . . . I hope that will bring healing to our land. I hope Barack Obama’s position will bring unity, rather than division. God knows, we need some unity.

I pledge to you today, dear readers, that I will pray for Barack Obama. I will not slander him as a person, but rather, I will choose to give him the benefit of the doubt. I will choose to believe that he will do his very best to lead our nation, and that his decisions, though they may not be my preferences, will be made from a pure heart.

I will pray that the Almighty God will shower His wisdom and guidance on this man. I will pray that God will surround him with wise, righteous advisors, people who love our country and who will help him to serve this country to the very best of his ability.

Mr. Obama, you ran your election on a platform of hope and positive change. Hope for all Americans, for a brighter tomorrow. Change which will tear down the walls that have so divided our country. I will pray God Himself will help you deliver on those promises. May God bless you, and may God bless America.

Romans 13:1 “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”

Friday, October 31, 2008


What would you say if you asked a presidential candidate, “Sir, what makes you think you’re the best man for this job?”

And he said, “Well, I’m not sure that I am the best man. But I’ll give it my best shot.”

Now, that’s something you rarely hear, during a presidential campaign. There are a lot of promises made, and many lofty ideals thrown around. Frankly, there is a lot of bragging, by each candidate.

“If you elect me, the world will be a better place . . .”

“Elect me, and you will sleep better at night . . .”

“Vote for me, and your children will be safer . . .”

“Put me in the White House, and I’ll solve all your money problems, and all your health insurance problems, and all your education problems . . .”

And by making such promises, each candidate is actually insulting his or her opponent. “Don’t vote for so-and-so, or you’ll be sorry. So-and-so will never run this country as well as I will.”

I know that is part of the job, to brag, and to put the opposition down. To show self confidence, and to convince voters to place their confidence in you. But honestly, I don’t know if I could make such promises, under any circumstances. It kind of embarrasses me, just to think about it. There is no doubt in my mind that, if I promised to make everyone’s lives better, I would fall flat on my face. I guess that’s one of the many reasons I’ll never run for president.

But once upon a time, presidential campaigns in this country were very different than they are today. Once, in a long ago world, presidential candidates were expected to be modest. Humble. Gentlemen.

Prior to 1860, if a candidate campaigned for himself, it was considered the height of egotistical rudeness. The candidate was expected to remain quiet, and to let others do his campaigning for him. I kind of like that idea.

In the election of 1860, a man named Stephen Douglas was the Democratic candidate for president. Though small in stature, he was considered to be a political giant. He had served in the Senate, and had been around all the big wigs for years. Some might have considered him to be unbeatable.

But he ran against a quiet, humble man by the name of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln had gained some serious attention during a series of seven debates against Douglas, a couple of years prior to the election. I guess Douglas got a little nervous, and felt he needed to secure some votes. He wasn’t supposed to campaign for himself – that would have been improper. So instead, he scheduled a trip to see his mother. And he went the long way around the country, on his way to her home. He scheduled many stops along the way, and made speeches and visited political rallies at every stop. But of course, when asked about his actions, he said he was merely on a trip to visit his mother.

Well, you can just imagine what the Republicans thought about his little trip. Before long, they printed a flyer. A missing persons notice, actually. It read: “A Boy Lost! Left Washington, D.C. some time in July to go home to his mother. He has not yet reached his mother, who is very anxious about him. He has been seen in Philadelphia, New York City, Hartford, and at a clambake in Rhode Island. …He is about five feet nothing in height and about the same in diameter the other way. He has a red face, short legs, and a large belly. Answers to the name of Little Giant, talks a great deal, very loud, always about himself…”

I don’t have to tell you the rest of the story. Votes were cast on Election Day, and The Pony Express delivered election results around the country. The humble Abe Lincoln had won the election. His modest, gentle nature served him well, and he went on to be one of the greatest presidents our country has ever known.

I don’t know when we began to value Hollywood star power over simple, honest-to-goodness character. But I do know that, no matter which party we are rooting for, we want our candidate to look good on camera. We want him or her to wear a sparkly smile and offer shiny promises. There’s really no way anybody can make it all the way to the White House if they aren’t willing to brag a little.

But I think I like the old way of doing things. I like the idea of finding a simple, humble, wise man or woman, and letting him or her continue about his or her simple, wise way of doing things, while the rest of us convince each other which guy or gal would serve us best. I like the idea of letting the candidate’s actions speak louder than his promises.

Honest. Meek. Wise. Humble. That’s the kind of person I want to be my president. I honestly don’t know if that person even exists in our world anymore. And if he does, I’m not sure any of us would even notice him.

Proverbs 27:2 “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips.”

Friday, October 24, 2008

Freedom of Speech

Did you know that in some parts of the world, people are thrown in jail, or even executed, for speaking against their leaders? Yes, of course you knew that. Silly question. And I am so glad that I live in a country where freedom of speech is encouraged.


But honestly, I think we cross the line, way too often.

I get tired of people complaining about, and speaking against our president. We think that any time is open season on whoever holds that office, and we bad mouth and we slander and we call him a fool, and we say he is the worst president ever.

If a Republican holds the office, many Democrats do everything possible to make him look foolish.

If a Democrat holds the office, many Republicans do the same.

Then, our words are broadcast all over the world.

And we have the audacity to say that our president has made us look bad, in the world’s eyes. Now, I don’t often get up on a political soapbox. But come on, people. Our president doesn’t make us look bad. We do a pretty good job of that, all by ourselves.

The reason many countries take it so seriously when citizens speak against their leaders is because it shows a lack of patriotism, a lack of pride in one’s country. It undermines what that particular leader is trying to do, and it makes the entire country look bad.

I don’t think that we should be a bunch of mindless, fear-driven robots spouting the praises of our leaders. But I do think that, out of love for our country, out of patriotism, and out of a respect for the highest office in our land, we should be required to exercise some self control. We ought not be allowed to undermine our president’s credibility in the eyes of the world. In my humble opinion, that is downright treason.

With a little self-control coupled with a little pride in our nation’s heritage, we can learn to express our opinions in respectful ways. We can show support for our president, and pray for him, and honor his office, even if we don’t agree with all of his policies.

For example, there is nothing disrespectful about saying, “I disagree with so-and-so’s economic plan, or his foreign policies, or his views about Roe vs. Wade.” But it is just plain wrong to call our leader names and accuse him of being a rotten leader. After all, we’re the ones who put him there. And even if he isn’t our preferred candidate, I refuse to believe that anyone who makes it to that office is unqualified. To the contrary. If he had the fortitude and the perseverance and the desire to be president, and he rallied enough support to put him in the oval office, I think that journey alone separates him from the rest of the yahoos out there who do little but sit on their sofas and criticize.

Yes, I called them yahoos. But they are not my president.

So here, in black and white, for the whole world to read, I’d like to get one thing straight. I think George W. Bush has served his country well during one of the most difficult periods our country has seen. He has made difficult choices, choices that I would not have been able to make, for I would have buckled under the pressure. Every choice he made, every direction he took has been out of the greatest sense of duty and love for country. I am proud to have had him as my president for the last eight years. Mr. President, thank you for the sacrifices you have made, the stresses you have endured, and the criticisms you have ignored. May God bless you.

And no matter who wins this next election, I will be a proud American. I will respect the office of president, and I will pray for and support the office, even if I disagree with the person. I will show that person the honor that is deserving of the title.

Thank you, dear readers, for allowing me to exercise my freedom of speech here. May God bless America.

1 Timothy 2:1 – 3 “I urge then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior.”

Friday, October 17, 2008


Last week, my friend Maryann had a garage sale. Now, Maryann’s garage sale isn’t your typical garage sale. No-sir-ee, Bob. You see, Maryann is a decorator. As in, people actually pay her money to come and decorate their homes. And trust me, I’ve seen her work. This woman has beautiful taste.

So, when I found out Maryann was having a garage sale, I must confess. My blood started pumping, my heart started racing, and I nearly hyperventilated, right then and there. Well, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But you get the idea.

And then, I went into panic mode, worrying that other people would get to the garage sale before me, and get all the good stuff! Not that Maryann would run out of good stuff, because all of her stuff is good stuff. Still, I felt the entirely selfish need to look out for number one.

I’m not too proud to beg. Okay, I am usually too proud to beg. But in this case, I made an exception. I asked her if I could come a day early and shop.

And she said yes!

So there I went, on a Thursday afternoon, over to Maryann’s garage sale. I was not disappointed.

I got an elegant picture for over my fireplace – a painting of a magnolia - at a fraction of the original cost! I got plush throw pillows, an original oil painting (in a gorgeous frame), curtains, a lamp, and many other goodies which are too numerous to list here. And now, my house has had a bargain makeover.

You know, my budget requires me to be thrifty. I love nice things, but I can’t afford to be extravagant in my spending. I’m pretty much of a Wal-Mart and garage sale kind of girl, though I’d love to be a Neiman Marcus kind of girl.

But even though my budget is limited, God’s budget is limitless. He loves me extravagantly, every second of every minute of every hour of every day. He showers me with rare and precious treasures, to show His love for me. And He does it because I have great value, in His eyes.

Instead of a bargain-basement lamp, He gives me the sun each morning. Instead of second-hand throw pillows, he gives me a plush carpet of grass in the spring and leaves in the fall. And as for the elegant picture over my fireplace, well, He gave me a real, honest-to-goodness magnolia tree. He has given me a wonderful family to love, loyal friends, and good health. His gifts are never counterfeit knock-offs, and they are never second hand. He only offers the real deal.

On top of all that, He adds to my joy by leading me to garage sales with wonderful items that fit both my taste and my budget. Just because He likes to see me smile.

I’m so glad we have an extravagant God, aren’t you?

James 1:17 “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.”

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Zipper

“Does your father have a razor?” The nurse poked her head around the corner of the hospital room.

“I don’t know. I’ll look in his suitcase,” I said.

“He wants to shave,” she continued.

“Shave? It’s midnight. He just had three feet of his small intestines removed, and he wants to shave?”

“Yes,” she replied.

So there, in the hospital room, at midnight, two days after having a very serious, very major surgery, Dad shaved. Put on Stetson cologne. Brushed his teeth and combed his hair.

In our family, vanity dies hard.

By the next morning, Dad was walking up and down the hospital hallways, cracking jokes and campaigning for the “Most Popular Patient” Award. He won, hands down.

I think it was the Stetson that pushed him over the top.

But a couple of days later, he lost some points with one particular voter. He decided to show his grandchildren his “zipper.” Yep, that would be his incision. Staples still in. Healing nicely. And yes, it looked exactly like a zipper.

“Look here,” he said. “This is where the doctors unzipped me to do the surgery. Then, they zipped me back up.”

Everyone laughed at the analogy. Everyone, that is, except my six year old son, Foster. He stared at the zipper with concern and dismay, but didn’t say much.

A little while later, when it was time for the kids to leave, Foster stayed behind. “Poppy,” he said. “Next time I spend the night with you, I’m not going to sleep in the bed with you.”

Poppy smiled at him. “Are you afraid of my zipper?” he asked gently.

“Yes,” Foster told him. “What if it comes unzipped? I might fall in, and then I’ll be your dinner!”

Now, Dad wasn’t supposed to laugh. It wasn’t good for his wounds, apparently. Needless to say, his recovery suffered a minor setback.

I’ve found that most of the things I’m afraid of are kind of like Dad’s zipper. They look scary. They look like they may swallow me alive. But my fear often gets in the way of reality and reason. Most things aren’t nearly as scary as they seem. And if I just face my fears head on, if I do my homework and educate myself about whatever is frightening me, the fear seems to disappear.

But some things really are scary. Period. Things like war, and reckless drivers, and cancer. But even when the scary things really do offer a threat, we can still face them with faith and confidence. Those things may be out of our control, but nothing is impossible for God. And with Him, even the scary things seem to shrink. With Him, they become do-able. Sometimes, they disappear altogether.

I wonder if God has a zipper. I think He must, because during the worst times of my life so far, during those times when I truly thought I would be dinner for some scary circumstance, I have suddenly found myself surrounded by His love, His peace, His compassion, and His strength. Often, that zipper has taken the form of friends and family, who have formed a protective barrier around me, who have prayed for me and held me up. Other times, it has just been a feeling that everything was going to be okay.

Yes, the more I think of it, the more I’m convinced that God must have a zipper. When we find ourselves in freefall, we needn’t be afraid, for if we call out to Him, we will simply fall straight into His “pouch” of strength and love.

And that’s not scary at all.

Psalm 31:19 – 20 “How great is Your goodness, which You have stored up for those who fear You . . . You hide them in the secret place of Your presence from the conspiracies of man; You keep them secretly in a shelter.”

Monday, October 6, 2008


Hello. My name is Renae, and I am an e-mail addict.

It all started innocently enough about ten years ago. My best friend was moving to Germany. “You have to have e-mail,” she said, “so we can stay in touch.”

I was hesitant at first. The thought of connecting myself to nearly every known location on the earth was a little scary. And exciting.

“Come on,” she coaxed. “I can set you up for free.”

Isn’t that the way it always happens? They give you freebies. Pull you in, and then you’re hooked.

At least that’s the way it happened for me.

At first, it didn’t seem to affect me much. Just a little bit of e-mail, here and there. Usually, after everyone was asleep. Just for thrills.

And thrilling it was. Every time I saw that little red flag pop up on my screen, my heart raced. It was like a Christmas gift. I had an e-mail! Someone out there saw me, knew I existed, and wanted to communicate with me.

Still, I managed to keep my addiction hidden for years. But finally, I was discovered. My poor children found me, staring at my computer, eyes glazed over. Apparently, I was hitting the Refresh button again and again, waiting for a new e-mail to pop up. I was out of control.

That was when I hit rock bottom. I knew I needed help. They say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.

So now, I have entered a ten-step program for e-mail addicts.

I turn off the computer, take ten steps away from it, and shut the door behind me. Then, I try not to think about it.

At first, it was really hard. I mean, the idea that there were unread e-mails in my inbox was almost too much to handle. I was nervous and jumpy. I needed my fix.

But gradually, my need for e-mail seemed to decrease. I learned that there are more important, more exciting things in life – things that will actually add to the quality of my life rather than take away from it.

Things like going to the park with my children, or watching their original puppet shows with balloons as the puppets. Things like writing actual pen-and-ink letters to old friends, or calling that cousin I’ve lost touch with.

It’s funny how we spend so much of our time doing things that, in the end, won’t amount to a hill of beans. We work, work, work, or we spend hours watching television or surfing the internet or watching for new e-mails to roll in. But really, when all is said and done, it’s the real flesh-and-blood relationships we built – or didn’t build – that will give our lives meaning.

So that’s my story. I am still in the recovery process. But each day, it gets a little easier. Life is good. Now I am committed to helping others with the same problem. If you have a problem with e-mail addiction, you can e-mail me at . . . wait. Never mind.

Isaiah 61:1 “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.”

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Hiding Place

The conversation in our car went something like this:

Me: Foster, are you excited about getting a pet fish?

Foster: Yes.

Me: What are you going to name your pet fish?

Foster: Jimmy.

Me: Oh, that’s nice. Isn’t that what you named your special duck at the city park?

Foster: Oh, yeah. I guess the fish can’t be named Jimmy. Instead, I think I’ll name him . . . Sportsy.

Me: Sportsy?

Foster: No, Sporty.

We had to go to three different places to find a Betta fish. The first store only sold reptiles. Lots of slithery ones. Needless to say, we didn’t stay long.

Foster: Can I have a pet snake instead of a fish?

Me: Get in the car. You’re getting a fish.

The second store had everything we needed. Fish tanks, supplies, food, even a nice little bridge for the fish to play on. But no Betta fish. Apparently, we could come back in two weeks. Or, we could try one more place.

I bought the supplies, and we headed for the third place on our list. Bingo! Right when we walked in the door, we saw a row of Betta fish, all lined up in their little cups. There were red ones and blue ones and black ones and rainbow-colored ones.

Foster: I want a boy. It has to be a boy fish. No girl fish.

The lady at the fish store: They’re all boys, so you’re in good shape.

Foster: Can I have two?

The lady at the fish store: You can’t put two of them together in the same tank. They’ll kill each other.

Foster: Cool! Can I have three?

I paid for one fish. Yellow and white, with blue fins. Foster held the cup carefully as we got into the car.

Me: Be careful with Sporty. We don’t want him to slosh too much on the way home.

Foster: Mom, his name isn’t Sporty. It’s Goldie.

Me: I thought it was Sporty.

Foster: That was before I saw him.

Made sense to me. We arrived home and placed Goldie on the kitchen counter, where he could watch us prepare his new home. Foster lovingly poured the blue and green rocks in the bottom of the bowl, then gently positioned the bridge so it wouldn’t tip over. I went into the back yard and snipped some ivy to place in the bowl.

Foster: What are you doing?

Me: I’ve heard Betta fish tend to jump out of their bowls. If you put an ivy in there, it blocks their path so they can’t jump out.

Foster: You’re crowding him.

Me: Nonsense. He’s got a lot more room in here than he has in that little cup.

Foster: (Heavy sigh.)

Finally, without much fanfare, we placed the cup in the bowl and set Goldie free. Sort of.

For the better part of the day, Foster kept his face pressed against the glass, watching Goldie’s every move. Poor little guy. Must be pretty scary to have a six-year-old giant watching your every move. Before long, Goldie discovered that the ivy leaves made great hiding places.

Foster was both thrilled and frustrated with the hide-and-seek game. Finally, he gave up and gave Goldie a break.

I can relate. Some days, I need a place to hide. Sometimes, it feels like the giants are after me. But during those times, I remember that I do have a Hiding Place. I have someone I can run to, who has promised to hide me in the shadow of His wings. There, I feel safe.

Before bed, I asked Foster, “Did you feed Goldie?”

Foster: Mom, his name is Jimmy.

Psalm 32:7 “You are my hiding place. You will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.”

Monday, September 22, 2008

Shameless Begging

Hi Friends! As many of you know, most of the posts here are actually copies of my weekly inspirational humor newspaper column, "Coffee Talk". I'm trying to peddle my little column to some more newspapers. I am creating a brochure and a website specifically for editors, and I'd like to include a "What Readers are Saying" section.

Do you have something nice to say about Coffee Talk? Leave a comment here, or contact me at: . I will be eternally grateful, friends!

Love to all -

Friday, September 19, 2008


“Mimi! Come quick! There’s a baby bird on the ground, and it needs our help!” Charis called out as she ran into her grandparents’ house.

“What? Well, don’t touch it. Let’s look and see if we can find its nest,” my mom told her. But alas, the bird was in the middle of a field, with only one small tree. Charis looked for a nest, even climbed the tree. There were no birds or nests in sight.

Finally, as gently as possible, Charis used a stick to scoop the tiny, helpless creature into a Dixie cup, and brought it to the house. And that, my friends, is how Carrie came into our lives.

It was more than two years ago. Mark and I were on an overnight trip, and the kids were staying with my parents. Charis was playing in the forty-acre yard, singing and skipping and chasing butterflies in the way that only a nine-year-old girl can do, when she spotted movement out of the corner of her eye. She took a closer look, and found the baby hummingbird, far from its nest. Barely alive.

Ever-so-tenderly, Charis and Mimi made a nest for the little bird, inside that cup. Holding her finger over the end of a straw, Mimi showed Charis how to feed it. Orange Fanta. The drink of champions.

Mark and I were greeted with this scene, when we arrived to pick up our children. “Meet Carrie,” Charis told us, and we watched with fascination as the tiny bit of fuzz gulped down the orange drink as if it were manna from heaven.

“Why did you name her ‘Carrie’?” I asked.

“Because I just studied about the carrier pigeons,” Charis said.

“You mean the passenger pigeons?” I clarified.

“Oh . . . yeah. I guess I should call her Passi. But that’s not nearly as nice a name as Carrie.”

So, Carrie officially became a part of our family that day. She made her home on Mimi and Poppy’s porch – first in that Dixie cup, and later in a cardboard box. We made sure she was free to leave anytime she wanted. But she never did.

She never even flew, except for a few feet at a time, and only once or twice.

We did our homework, and learned that hummingbirds need the protein that comes from eating small bugs. We couldn’t get her to eat bugs. So we mixed a bit of dog food in with her orange soda.

Hey, you make do.

Then, Poppy did some research, and found some special, protein-infused hummingbird food. Fifty-something dollars a box!

Yep. He ordered the food. My dad may seem like a tough guy, but he’s really an old softie.

For the next several weeks, Carrie was treated like royalty. Her meals were prepared for her. She was hand-fed. Foster and Charis decorated the inside of her box with pictures of trees, and placed leaves and branches there, so she’d feel at home. They entertained her with puppet shows, which she watched without blinking. Charis even jumped up and down, in an attempt to teach her to fly.

Believe it or not, the bird jumped when Charis did!

Once, two other hummingbirds came and perched on the side of her box. If we had known she was planning to host a party, we would have prepared the orange dog food.

The lifespan of a hummingbird is believed to be around three years. But Carrie only lived for a few weeks. It was a sad day for our family, the day our Carrie died.

Charis took it the hardest. “It’s not fair. Why did she have to die? She never even got to fly.”

I didn’t have an answer for her. Why do things like that happen to anybody? She was right. It wasn’t fair.

But then, I thought about that tiny little bird, abandoned, alone in a field. She was doomed for starvation, or perhaps destined to be the dinner of some predator. Either of those would have been a horrible way to die.

Instead, Carrie was rescued. She was fed. She was loved. She got to experience what few birds do – a puppet show put on for her enjoyment. All things considered, I’d say she had a pretty good life.

It makes me wonder about my own life. Sometimes, things aren’t fair. Sometimes, it seems like things should be better. But perhaps I need to take a closer look at all the blessings God sends my way. Only God knows what my life might have been like, without His intervention.

He has fed me, and given me a place to live. He has sent me people to love, and to laugh with, people with whom I can celebrate life. He has loved me.

All things considered, I’d say I’ve had it pretty good.

Luke 12:6 – 7 “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Friday, September 5, 2008

Smear Campaign

My children are often involved in smear campaigns. As a matter of fact, at least one of them is, at least once a day. Sometimes, both of them. They smear grape jelly on the counter. They smear peanut butter on their clothing. They smear dirt from the garden all over my carpets.

As you can imagine, this frustrates me. Many days, I feel more like the maid than the mom. At times, I have even considered going on strike. But then I remember – they are just children. Of course they are going to make mistakes, and leave behind messes. That is what children do.

And I also must remind myself of the clothes I have had to get rid of because I have spilled things or smeared things on them, leaving permanent stains. Yes, I am clumsy. I spill things. Please forgive me.

It is the knowledge that I, too, make mistakes and leave messes that keeps me from quitting my job as a stay-at-home mom. When I mess up, I don’t want or need anyone to judge me, or remind me of my failures. I just need someone to help me clean up my mess, or support me while I clean it up myself.

As we gear up for our next presidential election, it seems there is a lot of smearing going on. But this kind of thing isn’t unique to politics. At water coolers across the country and around the world, there is gossip and slander, judgment and criticism. We criticize our bosses for the way they lead. We criticize the stylish woman for spending too much money on clothes, and the frumpy woman for not spending enough on clothes. We criticize the mayor and the city council members and the school board and the teachers and . . . well, you get the picture. We are all quick to point fingers. We are all quick to find fault. It is our nature.

But can you imagine with me a better, more perfect world? Can you imagine what a great place this would be, if we all felt safe? I am so grateful for our military men and women who work to keep us safe from terrorists. But honestly, I don’t always feel safe, right here in our homeland. And it’s not the terrorists I fear. It’s the gossip, the slander, the judgment that we sling at one another.

I am far from perfect. You don’t even need a magnifying glass to find my faults – they are right out in the open for everyone to see. I make mistakes, just as we all do. But I really think it’s my flaws, my weaknesses that make me a stronger, more compassionate person. The mistakes I’ve made in the past have made me more tolerant, more loving toward others who make those same mistakes.

I want to be the kind of person who makes others feel safe. I don’t want anyone to ever fear me, or worry that I will judge them or hurt them with my words. I don’t want others to wonder if I will criticize them and slander them behind their backs. I want them to know that, no matter what their weaknesses, I will support them and love them and try to help them in any way I can. I want to be always gentle, never harsh, always uplifting, never degrading, always loving, never hateful.

Those are lofty goals. But why shouldn’t we aim for the very best? Why should we settle for being mean, judgmental, haughty, hateful people, when we can aspire to being good and loving and kind and . . . safe?

All it will take is a little self control. After all, we all have those unkind thoughts. But we don’t have to act on them. Just because something shows up in our brains doesn’t mean we have to let it tumble out of our mouths. It is our actions, not our thoughts, which show the depth of our character. And amazingly, once we train ourselves to act in the right way, our thoughts will often follow.

So next time my little ones smear chocolate on their brand new church clothes, I’m going to take a deep breath, smile, and say, “Oops! It’s okay. We all make mistakes.”

And I’ll remember that my response to others’ mistakes will last a lot longer than a stain.

John 8:7 "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."

Friday, August 29, 2008

Try, Try Again

Did I ever tell you about my first attempt at gardening? I actually decided to grow cherry tomatoes. From seeds. I bought some big clay pots, along with the expensive dirt. I carefully opened up my little seed packet and sprinkled the seeds around. Then I gently, carefully covered them with the soil, and trickled some water over them.

Day after day, I nurtured those little plants. Before long, I saw sprouts! There were far too many sprouts for one pot. So when they were big enough, I separated them. I had to buy more pots – 52 in all!

The plants grew and grew. Eventually, they got so tall they started leaning, so I bought the nifty little garden stakes. I carefully tied each tomato plant to its stake. My deck looked like a tomato jungle. But I was excited, because I love cherry tomatoes! I eat them like candy. I kept working and working, because I could envision the end results. I knew that eventually, I would have a glorious cherry tomato paradise, and could eat to my heart’s content.

But it didn’t exactly turn out that way. I’m embarrassed to tell you the results, but I will anyway. Out of all those 52 pots, all those 52 green bushy plants all neatly tied to 52 stakes, I got one little bitty cherry tomato! Only ONE! All that work, all those hours of loving labor, and I only got one teeny tomato.

Life just isn’t fair sometimes.

I was proud of my one tomato, though. Mark had helped some with the gardening project, so I offered to split it with him. But he laughed at me! So I popped the whole thing in my mouth and ate it, right in front of him. That’ll teach him to laugh at my misfortune!

That was ten years ago. I haven’t attempted to grow tomatoes, or any other vegetable, since then. Until this year, that is. This year, I decided to get back on the proverbial horse, and try again. I tried full-sized tomatoes this time.

No seeds. I bought established plants. Two of them.

No pots. I put them in the ground.

No stakes, either – I decided to let them roam.

Like before, I watered them and nurtured them, and before long, I saw tiny yellow flowers! A few weeks later, the little green balls appeared. Each day, they’ve grown bigger and bigger, until a few days ago – some of them started turning red!

I must have a dozen or more tomatoes out there on my two tomato bushes, with lots of yellow flowers still forming!

Boy, am I glad I tried again. And I’m so glad I have tomatoes! It took me ten long years to recover from the trauma of my first tomato failure. No telling how long it would have taken this time.

But just think, if I hadn’t worked up the courage to try again, I wouldn’t be experiencing the pride and sense of accomplishment I’m now feeling. The cherry tomatoes would have gotten the better of me. They would have won.

It makes me wonder what other things in my life I’ve let beat me. What kinds of things do I shy away from, because I’ve had one bad experience? Am I afraid of reaching out for new friendships because of one or two rejections? Do I hesitate to apply for that promotion because I’ve been turned down in the past?

Perhaps I should re-think things a little. Perhaps I should take more chances, and not wait a year or ten years or the rest of my life, for fear of failure. I wasted ten years without fresh tomatoes. I don’t want to waste another minute.

I plan to give the little guys a few more days to turn nice and red, and then, I’m going to pick them. I will enjoy a big, juicy tomato salad.

And I might even let Mark have a bite.

1 Timothy 4:15 “Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.”

Friday, August 22, 2008

Taping the Edges

This week, I painted my bathroom. I have paint under my fingernails, which won’t come off. I fell off the ladder, spilled paint everywhere, and now I officially own “painters” clothing. And I even have some bruises to commemorate the experience. I finished the project at around 2:00 this morning, and now I’m exhausted. But at least it’s done.

I really don’t mind painting. The actual painting part, that is. What I hate is the stuff that comes before you can actually put the brush to the wall. You know what I’m talking about – all your flat surfaces have to be covered. All the edges have to be taped off. The walls have to be clean and ready.

The painting is actually fun – like a kindergarten art project. As long as the walls have been properly prepared, it’s really kind of hard to mess up. I like to take the roller and make zig-zag pictures before I cover them up. I even let my kids paint the corners and the low surfaces. After all, one swipe of the roller will cover up any mistakes.

But have you ever gotten in a hurry, been lazy, and tried to paint a room without doing all the work that comes beforehand? I have. And trust me, it turns into a big ol’ mess. And it is hard to fix that kind of mess.

It doesn’t really seem fair that ninety percent of the work goes into what you can’t see. No one will ever go into my bathroom and say, “Hmmmm . . . she did a nice job of taping off those edges.” But if I hadn’t taped the edges, my kindergarten art project would look like . . . a kindergarten art project.

Isn’t that just how life is? Ninety percent of our effort goes into the prep work. Most of our time is spent on the menial, difficult labor that no one ever sees. What we present to the world is just the finished product. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could be polished, wise, educated, interesting people without all the boring, back-breaking work it takes to be polished and wise?

But if we try to skip the behind-the-scenes work, our lives will most likely turn into a big ol’ mess. And those kinds of messes are usually hard to clean up.

The prep work of our lives is important work. This is the time we study for the big tests, gather food for the long drought ahead, make little mistakes so we won’t make the bigger ones. This is the learning time, the growing time, the praying time. And much of this work takes place in our minds and hearts – where no one can see.

But when we take the time to properly prepare ourselves, we will end up with a finished product we can be proud of. And whether we’re showing off a pretty bathroom or a loving and wise heart, we’ll be glad we spent the time, did the work, and taped the edges.

Proverbs 6:6 – 8 “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.”

Friday, August 15, 2008


If anyone out there wants one of the sweetest, purdiest, kid-friendliest hound dogs that ever walked the face of the earth, she is available to you over at the Lampasas County Impound. She showed up last weekend out at my parents’ place in Kempner. One look at those gentle brown eyes, and I was in love. And I’m not even a dog person.

My kids spent endless hours romping around with this sweetheart of a beast, whom they named Sarah. She clearly loved the attention, and so did they. She followed them everywhere as they went on Robinhood-style adventures in the deep woods of Mimi and Poppy’s land.

You may be scratching your head and wondering why we didn’t adopt her. Well, it’s like this. We have two dogs already. As I said before, I’m not a dog person. Two dogs is already one over my limit.

And my parents would have kept her. Really, they would have. There was just one problem. Tinker, the cat, didn’t like Sarah. And while Sarah is gentle and sweet-natured, Tinker is a big ol’ mean tomcat bully. Clearly, the relationship was dysfunctional at best and downright violent at worst.

So, in an implementation of the last-hired-first-fired rule, Sarah was let go as a family pet. She is now unemployed, and in need of a position with some wonderful family who will adopt her and bask in all the love she has to offer.

Adoption is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? It evens the playing field. It allows those who could never hope to be a part of a family to become a full-fledged member of that family.

Babe Ruth was adopted. Imagine how proud his parents must have been! And Olympic Gold medallist Scott Hamilton was adopted. Melissa Gilbert, Faith Hill, Marilyn Monroe – all adopted.

Famous blues musician Bo Diddley was adopted, and so was poet Edgar Allen Poe. And one of the people in my own family was adopted as well, though you’d never be able to pick that person out by looking at us.

One of my favorite adoption stories is that of Moses, in the Bible. As an infant, he was plucked out of the river by the daughter of the man who wanted to kill him. She took Moses home to her father, and with a flutter of her eyelashes, she said, “Daddy, I found this little Hebrew baby. Can I keep him? Pretty please, Daddy?”

And of course, what father can say no to his little girl? “Okay. But you have to take care of him,” the Pharaoh told her.

So Moses, who would have been either killed or brought up as a slave, was instead given the finest education and treated like royalty. His circumstances prepared him to be the leader who would help set the Hebrew people free, and to eventually author what we now know as the Ten Commandments.

But the greatest adoption story of all time is my own. I was a nobody, with little hope or prospects for the future. But the King of Kings saw me, and invited me to become His daughter. And He wants to adopt you, as well. All you have to do is accept the invitation.

Ephesians 1:5 “In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.”

Friday, August 8, 2008

Walking with Dinosaurs

Did you hear about the recent discovery of a rock, near Glen Rose, Texas which showed a dinosaur footprint? There have been many authentic dinosaur footprints found in that area. However, this rock is unusual. If proven authentic, this rock will provide the first proof that humans and dinosaurs walked the earth at the same time.

You see, the toes of this particular dinosaur footprint lie smack-dab on top of a human footprint, and they appear to have been made within minutes of one another!

Now, I’m not going to speculate on whether or not this is an authentic discovery. I’m no paleontologist. I don’t even know the proper names for even the most common dinosaurs. I still refer to them as “the one with the long neck” or “the short, fat, scaly one.” And regardless of the outcome of this investigation, my views won’t change about creationism vs. evolution.

But as I looked at the picture of the stone, found online here, I couldn’t help but wonder about the story behind the footprints. I mean, was the dinosaur chasing the person? Did the person know he was being pursued? Maybe he was just walking along, gathering berries and whistling Dixie (did they whistle Dixie back then?) when all of a sudden, WHOMP! He was cordon-bleu.

Or was the dinosaur perhaps a pet of sorts? Anybody who has ever watched The Flintstones knows they had pets back then. Maybe the footprints belonged to Fred and Dino, out for their morning walk.

All kidding aside, I would hate to have been that guy, wouldn’t you? He must have been terrified! I mean, even if the dinosaur was a vegetarian, he was huge! And I don’t know about you, but I have never seen a friendly-looking dinosaur.

The fact that I have never seen any kind of dinosaur is totally beside the point.

There are times in our lives when we feel like we are being chased, and even stepped on, by dinosaurs. Sometimes, we worry about the bills, and they feel like dinosaurs looming over us. At times, people are cruel and unkind, and they seem more like man-eating dinosaurs than fellow humans.

When my husband Mark was told he had leukemia?

Big ol’ stompin’ dinosaur.

But there is good news, my friends! The God who created dinosaurs is bigger than the dinosaurs! And though He loves each of His creations, He loves us the most. We were made in His image, after all. No matter what is looming over us, or chasing us, no matter what threatens to eat us for lunch – God is bigger. He will help us.

He delivered Jonah from the belly of a whale. He delivered Daniel from the lion’s den. And surely, He will deliver you and me from our own beasts.

After all, you haven’t seen any dinosaurs around lately, have you?

Daniel 6:23 “And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.”

Friday, August 1, 2008

What Not to Wear

I am a big fan of education. I love learning, in every shape, form, and fashion. And as a proponent of education, I have become addicted to The Learning Channel.

Well, actually, to one particular show on The Learning Channel. I just can’t get enough of the show, “What Not to Wear.” Now don’t laugh. The show is educational. If it weren’t, it wouldn’t be on The Learning Channel. And I have actually learned a lot from watching that show.

In case you’re not familiar with “What Not to Wear,” I’ll tell you about it. Stacy and Clinton are the all-knowing professors of fashion. Viewers nominate unsuspecting fashion derelicts, and secret cameras hide and film these poor victims for several days. Then, when the person least expects it, Stacy and Clinton show up and publicly tell the person that they are a fashion train wreck.

I know, it sounds harsh. But next comes the great part. Stacy and Clinton then hand the person a credit card with $5,000 on it. The person is then whisked away to New York City for a week of intense fashion instruction and shopping. Oh, yeah, and they have to agree to be publicly ridiculed for their former fashion choices. And they have to let Stacy and Clinton throw all of their current clothing in a large metal trash can, while the entire free world watches.

This show has been life-changing for me. For example, I now understand that faded overalls paired with an equally faded t-shirt are never the best fashion choice. Even for the grocery store. Even if they are accompanied by a cute pink ball cap.

I have also learned, for the first time in my life, how to use eye-shadow to create a “smoky eye”. But apparently, the smoky eye look doesn’t match well with the faded overall look. But hey, I’m the student here, not the teacher. I’m still learning. You’ve gotta give me credit for that.

In spite of the fact that I faithfully watch this show, I still look more like the “before” people than the “after” people. I think I need some extra tutoring. So, if anybody out there would like to nominate me for this show, I’d be eternally grateful. I will not be offended. I will even bring you back a nice Stacy and Clinton mug from New York, as a thank you gift.

Honestly, I don’t know how I ended up being so fashion-challenged. My dear mother always looks like a million bucks, every time she steps out of the house. Her clothes always match, and her lipstick is always in place. She is one classy lady.

But though she may have failed miserably in passing on her fashion sense to me, she did pass on a few very important rules about what and what not to wear. And lucky for you, I’m about to share them.

1. Don’t wear a frown. It makes you ugly. No matter what you look like, a smile will make you more attractive.

2. Don’t wear a haughty attitude. No one likes to be looked down upon.

3. Don’t wear sarcasm. It is a sorry excuse for real humor.

4. Don’t wear gossip and slander. Classy people talk about things, not people.

5. Do wear love. Always make the people around you feel accepted and important.

I’m so glad I have these rules imbedded in my heart. I don’t always follow them
like I should, but they’re there, in the deepest part of my brain. And I know that no matter what I look like on the outside, following these rules will make me attractive to other people.

Now, if I could just get my hands on that $5,000 shopping spree, I’d be all set.

Colossians 3:12, 14 “Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience . . . And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

Friday, July 25, 2008

High Speed Chase 2

Last Friday, I posted the following article, which was supposed to be published in our local paper as well. Then Cheryl left a comment which made me re-think the entire article. It was one of those "I could have had a V-8" moments! I was so disappointed that the article had already been published - or so I thought.

But guess what? Due to a fluke accident (HA! We know better, don't we?) my editor ran an article of mine from several weeks back, instead of this one. So, I rewrote the ending and resubmitted it. Here is the second version of:

High Speed Chase

My husband is in the wrong profession. He may be a pastor on the weekends and a landman during the week, but in my opinion, he totally missed his calling. He should have been a bounty hunter.

Several nights ago, at 11:30 p.m., my phone rang. It was Mark. He said, “First of all, I want you to know that I am okay.”

You know that any middle-of-the-night phone conversation that begins with that statement is loaded. I pulled myself out of a deep sleep and braced myself for the unknown.

He continued. “I got hit by a drunk driver. Or at least I think he was drunk. It was a hit and run.”

Okay. I have now found a tried-and-true substitute for caffeine. I was wide awake in an instant. “A hit and run? Are you sure you’re okay?” I asked him.

“Oh, yeah. I’m standing here at the other guy’s truck. He sustained a lot more damage than I did.”

The other guy’s truck? “I thought you said it was a hit and run,” I said, with a sinking feeling in my stomach. Remember, I’ve lived with this man for seventeen years. I know what he is likely to do in any given situation.

“Oh, yeah. I chased him down,” he said, as if this were the most normal conversation in the world. Why was I not surprised, not even a little?

But of course, I played the part of the delicate Southern Belle, shocked and appalled at such reckless behavior. I know my role in this relationship. “You what? Sweetheart, you could have been killed! What if he had a gun?”

“Aww, I stayed far enough behind that he couldn’t have shot me,” he said. I didn’t know you could hear a swagger. But I promise you, there was a swagger in his voice.

Silence. I honestly didn’t know which question to ask next. “Did you call the police?” I finally asked.

“Yeah, they’re here now. There were two guys in the car, and they got away. They left the truck behind and took off on foot.”

Sheesh! Why can’t my life be a little more boring?

So, long story short, I’m glad we have good insurance. His truck is now fixed. I have no idea what happened with the fugitives. And as long as I live, I will never understand why testosterone forces men to do the things they do. But I have learned to “accept the things I cannot change,” as the serenity prayer says.

But the truth is, Mark chased down those guys for a number of reasons. He was mad. He wanted justice. And he wanted his truck fixed.

Did you know that we have all been involved in a high speed chase, at one time or another? That’s right. You and me. Only we were not the pursuers. We were the ones being chased. Some of you reading this are still being chased!

All of us over the age of, say, twelve, have run from God at one time or another. Foolish as it may seem, we have tried to get away from Him. But you know what?

He chases us. He pursues us, because He loves us. We are important to Him. And though He will not force Himself on anyone, He will never give up the chase. More than anything, He wants us to stop running and let Him catch us.

When we do, He doesn’t offer harsh judgment or cruel punishment, like many believe. He offers forgiveness, mercy, goodness, love, and a place in His family. We get written into the will, to receive an inheritance from our Father.

All we have to do is stop running.

Psalm 23:6 “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”