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.”