Monday, July 6, 2009

Change of Address!

Hello, friends! Sorry I haven't been around much lately. I've moved. You can find my Coffee Talk articles at this address:

And if you have a few minutes, stop by my new author site - still in the works. But I think you'll like what we're doing over there:

Or if you've a hankerin' for some down-to-earth, plain-talkin' Bible Study, come on over and join me for coffee at

I look forward to seeing each of you around the web!



Friday, June 19, 2009

Just Like Daddy

I have a new yardman. He is blonde, tan, strong and handsome. The other day, as he mowed my lawn, I snapped pictures of him.

Did I mention he is seven years old?

From the time he could walk, Foster has “helped” his daddy mow our lawn. He faithfully pushed his Little Tykes mower behind Mark, trying to follow in his father’s footsteps. For years now, he has dreamt of the day when he could do his daddy’s work. And now, with supervision, he can.


And he does a great job, too! Mark has patiently taken the time to teach him how to start the mower, how to mow in a straight line, and how to overlap the edges so stray pieces of grass aren’t missed. Foster is proud to be doing a man’s work. And Mark is proud to have a son who wants to be like his daddy. As he watched Foster mow our lawn the other day, he smiled and said, “That’s my boy!”

But the Daddy imitation doesn’t stop with the lawn. Foster wants to hunt like his daddy, fish like his daddy. We’ve even caught him preaching sermons like his daddy on more than one occasion. He admires his daddy, and he wants to be just like him. I think that’s probably about the biggest compliment a child can give a parent, don’t you?

It’s natural for a child to want to be like the parent. I can remember longing for the day I could wear lipstick and high-heeled shoes, like my mama. I can remember wanting to touch the sky like my daddy. (Yes, in my mind, he could touch the sky.) I hope I turned out with some of their wonderful qualities.

As much as it brings joy to my heart to see Foster imitating his daddy, it also brings a question.

Am I imitating my Father?

Oh, I say I want to be godly and compassionate and merciful and kind. But all too often, I find I am just the opposite. I find I am ungodly. I gossip. I judge people. I respond harshly, instead of with patience and compassion. Though I want to imitate my heavenly Father, I often fail.

But then, I remember the years when Foster followed Mark with that Little Tykes mower. I remember he often lost interest after a few minutes. Sometimes, he would trip and fall. Though he wanted to imitate his daddy, he didn’t do it perfectly. It took him a while to learn. He’s still learning. And though Foster wasn’t a perfect replica of his daddy, it still brought joy to Mark’s heart, just to know that Foster was trying, just to know that he wanted to be like his dad. Mark has patiently taught him what he needs to know, and now Foster shows great promise as a lawn boy.

I think God must be that way, too. He knows we aren’t perfect. He knows we are going to get distracted and make mistakes and fall down sometimes. But He sees our hearts, and when He sees that we truly want to be like Him, it makes Him smile. He patiently picks us up, sets us back on the right path, and continues to teach us. And somehow, miracle of all miracles, He looks at a heart that longs to imitate Him and He sees promise. He sees potential.

I want to be like my Father. I really do. And I hope that someday, somehow, I will be able to make Him proud as He says, “That’s my girl!”

“And He said to them, ‘Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?’” Luke 2:49

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Deadly Weapon

Today, I experienced one of the most terrifying moments of my life. I survived, but just barely. And I am certain that the moment will live on in my memory for decades to come.

As I write this, I am sitting in a dorm room at a camp for girls. Just in case you are considering becoming a camp counselor, I must warn you. It isn’t a job for the faint of heart. Or for anyone over the age of forty. The hours are long. The noise level, at times, will break the sound barrier. And sleep?

What’s that?

But honestly, I think I could live with the long hours and the noise and the lack of sleep. After all, I knew what I was getting into when I agreed to serve as a counselor. But then, this afternoon came, and I am almost afraid to tell you what I saw, what I took part in.

But I’m going to tell you anyway.

Today, I watched a bunch of eight to twelve year-old girls practice their rifling skills. Yes, you read correctly. A bunch of rosey-cheeked, pigtailed little girls with BB guns in their hands, target shooting. And more than once, I had to do some fancy footwork as one of those girls accidentally swung her gun barrel in my direction like a quail-hunting vice president. It’s the stuff nightmares are made of, I’m telling you.


Now, don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great that an expert in the rifling field took the time to teach these girls gun safety, and how to handle guns correctly. It is a life skill every true Texan needs to have, after all. You never know when the bad guys are gonna ride up on their black horses with bandanas tied around their faces. If that happens, I won’t need to fear. I feel safe. My twelve-year-old daughter can protect me.

I’ve heard it said that guns are the most dangerous of all weapons. After all, they are easily accessible, and they can greatly injure or kill a person. And while I agree that guns are extremely dangerous, I know of one weapon that is even more accessible. In fact, everyone I know has one.

The weapon I’m thinking of has the potential to destroy lives. And yes, it has even killed people, or at least caused their deaths. To me, this weapon is more frightening than any gun, for I’ve been the victim of its power more than once. You probably have, too.

I’m talking about the tongue.

Our words have the power to give life, or to destroy lives. All too often, we use that power for evil instead of good. And while most of us would never dream of handling a gun without using the proper safety precautions, many of us aim our words carelessly, leaving a bleeding, broken path of victims in our wake.

Remember that saying, Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me? That’s wrong. Words hurt a lot worse than sticks or stones. And they take longer to heal, too.

But the great news is that the same power that can be used for evil can also be used for good. Words have the power to destroy, but they also have the power to build up, to encourage, to give life. We just have to learn to exercise a little “tongue safety.”

Easier said than done, I know. But if we try, we can all control our tongues better. We just need to remember that we carry a dangerous weapon. Before we speak, we need to ask ourselves a few questions. Is what I’m going to say positive or negative? Do my words have the power to hurt someone? Am I building others up, or am I tearing them down?

If we can’t think of something kind and loving and encouraging to say, we really do need to put our tongues into safety mode, and remain silent. And though this is difficult at first, we’ll find that before long, our words are more positive. More loving. And before we know it, those lovely words will become a lovely habit.

Pretty soon, everyone around us will feel safe. And that’s a pretty good feeling.

James 3:5 – 6 “Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire . . .”

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Green Machine

Is it just me, or does it seem that everyone is becoming obsessed with being “green”? You know what I mean. Everyone recycles. Everyone uses chemical-free pesticides. Everyone eats tofu. Save our planet and all that.

And though I’m all in favor of saving our planet, I’m often the last one to jump on any wagon. Call it my stubborn nature, or laziness, or whatever you want. The truth is, I’m just forgetful.


I want to remember to throw my soda cans into the special blue plastic box. But I forget and put them in the regular trash, and by the time I remember, the can is beneath yesterday’s leftover peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich and this morning’s coffee grounds. And sometimes, praying for forgiveness is just easier than digging to the bottom of the trashbag. And a whole lot cleaner, too.

So, my friends, now you know the truth. I’m not always as “green” as I should be. The earth is going to pot, and it’s probably my fault.

That’s why I was so thrilled when I recently had a great recycling opportunity. It seems that my daughter’s camp will have theme days. As in, dress up to fit the theme. And one day the theme is, “Finding Your Place in the Past.” Yep. That means dressing in really old fashions.

And it just so happens that I have a poodle skirt. Now stop trying to figure out my age! I’m not that old. But in 1980, I was in a musical. And the musical was set in the 1950’s.

I knew that thing was in the attic somewhere, so Mark and I went poking around up there, trying to find it. Of course, after opening nearly every box and hefting every overstuffed suitcase, we found it. Along with my teal prom dress and a pink southern-belle Scarlett O’Hara creation that is comical now, but that made me feel like a princess back when I actually wore it.

We hauled the loot out of the attic, and my daughter tried on every item, modeling them for us. Amazingly, they fit her. Man, I forgot how skinny I was.

All this to tell you that, yes, I am a recycler. I recycled a poodle skirt from 1980, which was made from a recycled fashion from the 1950’s. And the recycling doesn’t stop there.

She needed a petticoat. I went to Goodwill to buy an old prom dress and rip the petticoat out of it. (You didn’t think I’d actually rip the one from my own Scarlett O’Hara dress, did you?) But there was nothing floofy enough. (Is floofy a word?)

So instead, I bought a little slip for $1.99. Then I went to Wal-Mart and spent another $1.68 on netting. And with a little snipping and sewing, she had herself a petticoat. A really, really floofy one. Now that, my friends, is what recycling is all about.

You can just call me the Green Machine.

As I was working on that petticoat, I recalled some other things that have been recycled through the years. Things that have been passed on to me from my parents, and their parents before them, and back and back to long before I can trace my family lineage. And I had to smile.

You see, I am blessed to have parents who taught me good things, things like honesty and integrity and the value of hard work. Things like kindness and generosity and compassion. Things like faith in a God who loves me more than life itself.

Some may think those values are old, recycled ideals from yesteryear. But I’ve learned that the value of such lessons never decreases. Each time they are passed on to another generation, they become new again, like a breath of fresh air. And isn’t that what recycling is all about? Bringing the value of something old, and creating something new and fresh?

I’m so grateful to have had lessons of love and faith passed onto me. And I pray that, as my daughter wears her recycled poodle skirt, she’ll carry those lessons with her, too.

Deuteronomy 4:9 “Be very careful. Don't forget the things your eyes have seen. As long as you live, don't let them slip from your mind. Teach them to your children and their children after them.”

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Breakthrough Discovery

I have made a breakthrough discovery, which, if marketed correctly, could earn me countless millions. I have discovered why men and women don’t understand each other.

If I were smart, I’d hang onto this information and sell it only to those who are willing to pay an obscene amount of money. But have I ever claimed to be smart?

No comments, please.

Because I am more concerned about the common good of mankind (and womankind) than I am about becoming wealthy, I’m going to share my little secret. You might want to make sure you have a pen and paper handy, so you can take notes. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Are you ready? Here goes.

Many people feel that the reason men and women don’t communicate well is because they speak different languages. You know, men speak Martian. Women speak Venution. But actually, that’s not the cause of our miscommunications. The reason that men and women don’t understand one another isn’t because we speak different languages. It’s because we use different dictionaries.

Take, for example, the question, “How do you feel?”

Any woman will answer that question with an emotion. Happy. Sad. Frustrated. Peaceful. Content.

A man, on the other hand, will reply, “I feel hungry. Let’s eat.”

When a woman says, “Let’s talk,” she means, “Let’s reveal our innermost thoughts, discuss our loftiest dreams, share our deepest fears.”

When a man says, “Let’s talk,” he means, “What’s for dinner?”

Her definition of entertainment includes anything that requires her to wear her prettiest dress.

His definition of entertainment includes anything that allows him to watch other men clobber each other.

Like I said. Different dictionaries.

It is my belief that these dictionaries are somehow implanted into the male and female brains at conception. Little girls get the amplified, expanded, unabridged variety. Little boys? Well . . . they get the trimline version.


The good news is, if we can learn each others’ definitions, we’ll have a lot less male/female conflict. So, in an effort to test my theory, I have been studying manspeak, and comparing it with womanspeak. And I think I’ve become pretty fluent. Here are just a few examples:

Make-up (female): the stuff you wear on your face, so you’ll look pretty.
Make-up (male): the thing you have to do before she’ll let you kiss her.

Tight (female): an adjective used to describe last year’s clothes.
Tight (male): an adjective used to describe a really small parking space. Seen by most men as a challenge.

Sale (female): An excuse to buy new shoes.
Sale (male): An excuse to buy ten boxes of powdered sugar donuts.

I’m telling you, the more I learn, the more excited I get. I recently shared my excitement with Mark. I went on and on, recalling various disagreements we’ve had in the past, and revealing the why’s and how’s and what-if’s which would prevent such disagreements in the future. I explained the subtle differences in our languages, and how to interpret various words and phrases. He listened intently, and I knew. I knew this was a breakthrough moment in our relationship. I was close to tears, I was so thrilled with the possibilities of our future. No more misunderstandings. No more hurt feelings. No more arguments.

Nearly choked with emotion, I asked him, “Honey, how do you feel about all of this?”

His reply?

“I feel hungry. Wanna stop for a burger?”

Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Last week, I attended a writer’s retreat in the beautiful Colorado Rockies. I didn’t say much while I was there. After all, I’m not a real writer, and I didn’t want to give away my secret. I don’t think humor columnists count, do they?

As I sat around listening to the real writers discuss things like characterization and dangling participles and POV (what in the world is POV, anyway?) I gazed longingly at the snow-capped mountains, and wondered if I could rent some skis and sneak away for a day.

But then, I thought better of it. I could just see Mark, picking me up from the airport in my wheelchair. Casts on both arms. And both legs.


Mark: Honey, what happened?

Me: Oh, those writers are a rough bunch. I got bounced.

Mark: What are you talking about?

Me: They had bouncers and everything. To make sure we didn’t break any grammar rules. I accidentally broke four, and this is what they did to me.

Needless to say, I stayed at the retreat. And I’m glad I did, because I met some really nice people there. It was a little intimidating at first, hob-knobbing with all of those published authors. People like Stephen King.

No, Stephen King wasn’t there. I said people like Stephen King.

But as I talked with other writers, I learned that we all have our own special gifts and talents. We all have a unique perspective, and that perspective, when used well, can bring encouragement and joy and hope to someone who needs it. I learned that I don’t have to try to be like anybody else. I just need to be the best little humor columnist that I can be.

And try not to break any grammar rules in the process.

Isn’t it silly that we compare ourselves to others? After all, if we were all the same, this would be a pretty dull place. So what if someone else can do something better than I can? I’ll bet that I have something to contribute that no one else can. And if we’d all stop worrying about trying to be like everybody else, and just concentrate on offering the very best of ourselves to those around us, the world would be a much better place, don’t you think?

The truth is, nobody is really keeping score. In real life, nobody cares if you’re a multiply published author, or if you won the blue ribbon at the county fair for the past twelve years, or if you can sing better than anyone else. There are no bouncers waiting to pounce on you as soon as you make a mistake, proving that you’re not as qualified as those around you. What people really want to know is whether or not you care about them. And you can quickly become the most popular person around, simply by using your gifts to bless others.

So, my friend, what do you do well? Are you a great cook? Perhaps you can garden, or play the piano, or hot-wire a car. (If it’s the latter, please don’t tell the police that I’m the one who encouraged you to use your gifts . . .) Find what you do well, and do your best at it. Then use that gift to bless somebody else.

Even if it’s as silly as writing a little humor column for your local paper.

Romans 12:6, 8 “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. . . if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Keep Going

Don’t you just love to watch people run? Whether they’re running a race, or a marathon, or just trying to get into shape, there’s something inspiring about seeing a person running. Every time I see a runner, I just want to cheer and encourage him or her to keep going.

Well, with one possible exception. If the person is wearing a ski mask and carrying a gun, I probably won’t cheer.

Just saying.

But any other kind of runner inspires me. The sight tends to stir up memories of the theme song from “Chariots of Fire.” It makes me want to go lace up my own running shoes, and give it a go.

Woman Jogging Blur

As a matter of fact, I have started running recently. Now, don’t be too impressed. I can run about .2 miles without stopping. That’s point two. Then, I walk a few steps, catch my breath, and run about .2 more. And on it continues, until I reach my goal.

Or until I collapse in the grass. Whichever comes first.

But here’s the good news: When I keep going, I eventually reach my goal. It may take a while, but I get there. As a matter of fact, last week I racked up a whopping 3.6 miles a day! Jog a little. Walk a little. Jog a little. Walk a little.

I may not win any races except my own. But in the end, isn’t that the only race that matters?

My little jogging victories remind me of the importance of continuing on in the pursuit of other goals. Like the twenty pounds I want to lose. Sure, I’d like to lose it all in a week. But even if I lose a half pound a week . . . I’ll get there. So what if it takes nearly a year? That year will pass by, anyway. If I give up, I won’t be any better off then than I am now. So I’ll just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Most of us have goals. Hard goals, or they wouldn’t be worth having as a goal in the first place. And often, we are tempted to just collapse in the grass before we get there.

Goals like finishing that college degree. One class at a time. Or getting that garage cleaned out. One square foot at a time. It may take a while. But if we just keep taking tiny little steps, we’ll get there.

Our journeys of faith can seem that way, too. Sometimes, having faith in God is hard. When things happen that we don’t understand, or things don’t go our way, we often want to just quit. We want to say, “Never mind, God. This is too hard. I’ll do this on my own, without you.”

And then we collapse in the grass. And we stay there. And a day passes, then a week, then a year, then a decade passes . . . and we’re not any further along in our journeys toward becoming who He created us to be than we were when we first gave up.

Oh, the failure doesn’t come in collapsing. We all want to give up now and again. The failure comes when we refuse to get back up, when we refuse to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

I don’t know about you, but I plan to keep moving forward. One little step at a time. Point two miles at a time. Half a pound at a time. And eventually, I’ll be stronger, and healthier and skinnier. And then, it really won’t matter how long it took me to get there.

1 John 2:28 “And now, dear children, continue in Him . . .”

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

Has anyone out there ever really calculated all the things that a mother does? Oh, I’m sure they’ve tried. But I’m not sure it’s possible to come up with a complete job description. Just when you think you have recorded every possible thing a mother is required to do, something new will inevitably make its way onto the list.

Things like, “Teach older child not to turn on the dryer when younger child is inside.” And, “Teach younger child not to climb into the dryer.”

Not that anything like that has ever happened in my family.


The more experience I get as a mother, the more in awe I am of my own mother. She is awesome. Terrific. There are no words to describe how amazing she is.

So here, in black and white, I’d just like to take a moment to say thank you to her, and to all the other mothers out there who make their children feel loved and important, who make sure their children are warm and well-fed and clean and safe and happy.

Mom, thank you.

Thank you for clean underwear in my drawer. I never really knew how it got there. Never thought about it, really. All I knew was, when I opened my drawer, I always had clean undies and socks. Thanks.

Thank you for making sure I ate breakfast every morning before I went to school. Even when I refused to get out of bed on time, and made you and everyone else in the house late, you always made sure that I at least had a banana or a piece of toast in my hand, as we rushed out the door.

Thanks for wearing panty hose with runs in them, so that I could have that new pair of shoes.

Thanks for saying, “No, I don’t really care for apple pie, and I’m not hungry anyway,” when there was only one piece left. (That’s going above and beyond the call of duty, in my opinion.)

Thank you for teaching me to stand up straight, and look people in the eye, and smile.

Thank you for telling me, over and over again, that I could do anything I set my mind to. I believed you.

Thank you for not letting me get by with average grades, when you knew I was capable of more.

Thank you for teaching me that being kind is more important than being popular.

Thank you for teaching me that the girl who doesn’t date much in high school is often the girl all the boys want to marry, once they’re out of college.

Thank you for waiting up for me, when I was on a date, and acting excited to hear all the details. I knew you’d be waiting, and believe it or not, I looked forward to those girl-talks. They were fun.

Thank you for forcing me to run for freshman office, my first year of college. I thought you were being pushy at the time. But when I won the election, I was glad. I wouldn’t have had the courage to try if you hadn’t told me I didn’t have a choice. So, thanks for being pushy when you needed to be.

Thank you for teaching me to believe in myself.

I guess, Mom, what I’m trying to say is, thank you for being my best friend. I love you, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day.

Proverbs 31:28 “Her children arise and call her blessed . . ."

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Pretty Package

In my bathroom drawer, I have about every type of cosmetic product you can imagine. There is lipstick, lip liner, eyeshadow, eyeliner, blush, mascara . . . even some sparkly, glittery stuff to give me that fairy-talish quality. Then, there is the stuff that removes all the aforementioned stuff: cold cream, cleanser, astringent . . . Finally, there are lotions and creams and moisturizers to put back what the cleansers and astringents took away.

And that’s just for my face! I also have hair products galore. Hairspray. Gel. Mousse. Shiny spray stuff to give my hair that fairy-talish quality, so my hair will match my face. Of course, with all that, I need an assortment of shampoos and conditioners to remove the hairspray, gel, mousse, and shiny stuff.

The sad thing is, much of it only gets used a few times. Then, I discover that it doesn’t do what it promises to do. No matter how much stuff I put on my face and hair, I still look like me. Not Julia Roberts. Not Cinderella.

The word “cosmetic” actually comes from the Greek word, “cosmos,” meaning worldly. It refers to a skin-deep beauty. It’s all about the packaging. Funny, if we spent more time working on what’s inside our packages, instead of spending thousands of dollars and hours trying to make the wrapping look great, we’d sure get a lot more from our investment.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I love a pretty package as much as anybody. I like a pretty house. But if there isn’t love in that house, it’s no more than a box. I like a pretty face. But if there’s not a kind, generous, loving spirit behind that face, well . . . I’d rather move on to another face. It’s kind of like getting a gigantic, sparkly, beautifully wrapped bag of fertilizer. It may be pretty on the outside. But after a while, it’s gonna stink. It’s not worth any more than a pile of rubbish.

In the end, this package – my body, is going to be discarded like wrapping paper and ribbons. I don’t want that to be all there is – just a big ol’ box of nothing special. When all the glitter and sparkles and packaging are removed, I want what’s inside to be so lovely that the packaging looks like what it is – worthless. I want the real value to be inside the box, not outside.

God’s Word, His wisdom shows us how to increase the value inside our package. He teaches us to be kind and generous. He teaches us to be humble and compassionate. He shows us how to really love others, and to make every single person feel important. And when we spend time learning His ways, it’s kind of like He takes a cosmetic brush and makes our spirits more lovely, more valuable. Only His changes are the kind that last and last, and can’t be washed away – no matter what kind of astringent life throws at us.

I John 2:17 “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

To Kill a Mockingbird

An unlikely star has risen out of a village in Scotland. Her name is Susan Boyle, and she is a forty-seven year old, unemployed woman who lived with and cared for her ailing mother until the woman’s death, a couple of years ago. She’s never been married. Never been kissed.

She recently walked onto a stage in Glasgow as a contestant in “Britain’s Got Talent.” The winner of the show, which is similar to our own “American Idol,” will perform for the queen.

The packed audience mocked Susan, laughing and pointing at her unruly hair and her less-than-svelte appearance. Even the judges rolled their eyes when she revealed her age. When asked who she would like to be as famous as, she replied, “Elaine Paige,” a British actress and performer. The audience roared with laughter.

Ready for Flight

When asked why she hasn’t become famous before now, she smiled and said, “I’ve never been given the chance before. But here’s hoping that’ll change.”

The music began, and the three judges tried to look sympathetic. But their cynicism clearly reflected the mood of the entire audience. They were expecting to sit through several minutes of torturous, off-key singing. Everyone was.

And then, Susan opened her mouth to reveal the voice of a trained professional. Her performance was stellar. Within seconds, she had turned the audience in her favor. The judges, too. By mid-song, everyone was on their feet, whooping and hollering and cheering. Honestly, I don’t know how she stayed on key – she must have had trouble hearing the music with all the cheers. But with a smile on her face, with every note exactly on pitch, she finished the song and brought the house down.

Then, the unassuming little woman brought more laughter as she blew a kiss and began to exit the stage – even before the judges had their say. Only this time, the laughter wasn’t mocking. It was delighted laughter at a beloved, adorable woman who had, in one fell swoop, captured the hearts of millions. She was shooed back onstage to receive the best reviews in the history of the show, and was given the thumbs up from all three judges to proceed to the next round of the competition.

Along with the delight of the judges and the audience, however, was a bit of shame. They – we – had judged her too quickly. We had mocked her.

She showed us, didn’t she?

She silenced our mocking, jeering sneers with her pure, sweet voice. And like one of the judges said, “No one is laughing now.”

Sometimes, we’re a little too quick to judge, aren’t we?

Susan’s story reminds me of another story I’ve heard. It’s the story of One who has been mocked. His words have been scorned. His ways have been called “outdated.”

He doesn’t look like the world wants Him to look. He doesn’t try to be fashionable, or cover up who He really is. He doesn’t change His appearance or His standards to please the crowd. He’s very up-front about His identity. What you see is what you get.

Yet, we often don’t give Him the credit He deserves. We laugh and accuse Him of being weak, when He is all-powerful. We accuse Him of being a relic, when He is timeless. We assume He is cruel and judgemental, when He is actually loving, compassionate and merciful.

We have been known to laugh at Him and thumb our noses at His wisdom.

But rest assured, my friends. God will not be mocked.

One day, He will show us.

One day, the King of Kings will make His presence known to all the world, and we will be stunned. Many of us, I’m afraid, will be shamed.

On that day, our eyes will be opened, and we will see once and for all just how awesome, how brilliant, how incredibly amazing God is.

Only then, instead of bringing us to our feet, He will bring us all to our knees as every tongue confesses that He is Lord.

Galatians 6:7 “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked.”

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Love Letters

My family is into racing. No, not the Nascar kind of racing. Actual running. Every single day.

Well, except for Sundays.

Aren't you impressed? I'll bet you had no idea we were such a fit family.

We would probably be more fit if the race were a little longer. But our racetrack is only the distance between our front door and our mailbox.

Every day, when the mail truck comes, every person in my household - who happens to be present - races to the mailbox to retrieve the mail. Sometimes, out of gracious generosity, I let the kids win. But most days, I don't have to let them. They just beat me.

That is why I have, on occasion, resorted to cheating. If I spy the mail truck coming up the road, I have been known to send the kids to their rooms with some command. "Clean your room!" "Read a book!"

The truth is, I just want to get the mail.

I have no idea why we have such a fascination with those little envelopes that land in our mailbox. Ninety percent of the time, it is just bills or advertisements. Every once in a while, we'll get a catalogue, which is worth about ten minutes of entertainment. Sometimes, there will be a check, which always brings a smile.

But once in a blue moon, there will be a treasure of great price. A pearl.

An actual, honest-to-goodness letter.

On those days, there is dancing and great rejoicing in the Brumbaugh household. "Who is it for?" We all ask. "Is it for me?"

Usually, it's a card from Nana, addressed to one of the kids. Sometimes, it's a thank-you note or a family newsletter from some distant relative. And rarely - Oh Happy Day! - rarely it is a personal letter from a friend.

It's funny, really. I don't know why we get so excited about the mail. After all, it comes six days a week. And usually it's nothing to get excited about.

Yet, we all hope and pray for that moment when there will be an actual card or letter with our name on it. That small rectangular envelope is a reminder that, to someone, somewhere, we matter. We are important. Someone sees us, knows us, and cares enough to spend a stamp on us.

We all want to be noticed, don't we? We all want to be important to someone. And a simple letter in the mailbox assures us that no, we are not invisible. Someone knows we exist. Someone cares.

But whether or not we ever get an actual letter in our mailbox, there is One who notices us. We are important to Him. He sees us, and He cares.

Though He has been known, on occasion, to use the U.S. Postal System, He usually sends His love notes in the forms of blooming flowers and singing birds and unexpected smiles from our friends and loved ones. He gives us reminders, every single day, of how much He loves us.

And we don't have to scramble or race for His attention, either. He sends individual, personalized messages to each and every one of us. Messages of love and comfort and encouragement, each one tailor-made and specially delivered just for you. Just for me.

So from now on, I think I'll make it a point to watch as diligently for the delivery of His blessings as I do for the mail truck. And I'll even encourage the kids to watch with me.

Gen. 16:13 “You are the God who sees me.”

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Pick Me!

Do you remember that feeling, in third grade, when the teacher lined everyone up against the wall, appointed two team captains, and told them to choose teams? Man, I hated those times. My palms would get all sweaty, and I could barely breathe. Pick me, pick me, please pick me. If the teams were athletic, I was often the last picked. But I just loved it when they were choosing for the spelling bee, because then, I was the first choice!

It feels good to be chosen. It doesn’t matter if it is for a sports team, a spelling bee, or a job, we all want to be picked. We all want to feel wanted, needed, loved. And it doesn’t matter how old we get, or how successful we are, deep down, we all still get that sweaty-palm feeling any time we are thrust into a new situation. We all fear rejection. We all want to be chosen.

Today is Good Friday. Now, I know some of you who are reading this may not give any thought to this day, other than the fact that many of you get a day off. But whether you give any thought to the reason for this day or not, the fact remains. This day, nearly 2,000 years ago, is the day that changed the world.

This is the day that God chose us.

Now, I’m not a theologian. I don’t hold a fancy degree in biblical studies, and I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers. But honestly, folks. The idea that God chose me just blows my mind.

Why would He do that?

I wouldn’t have done that. If I were God, and the very same people who had waved palm branches and shouted my praises just a few days earlier had suddenly turned on me, if they were spitting on me when I had done nothing wrong, if they were shouting my curses and calling for my death, even though they knew I was innocent – I would have zapped them all. Seriously, I would have. I guess that’s why I’m not God.

Today, we remember that He chose us. Instead of condemning us, He loved us. Instead of leaving us to our own godless ways, He chose to show us a better way.

He let us kill Him.

And then, to show that His love and His power were stronger than death, He rose again.

And it gets even better.

Now, the God of the Universe has put Himself on the wall, so to speak, and He wants us to choose Him. He sits on His throne in heaven, and says, pick Me, pick Me, please pick Me . . .

If He had wanted to, God could have created a bunch of robots who have no choice but to love Him. But He didn’t. He chose us, and now He stretches out His arm in a divine invitation to choose Him back. And when we do, when we accept His love, all of heaven rejoices! He lifts us up, cleans us off, and adopts us right into His family! Then, He begins His work in us, making us more like Him, creating in us a family resemblance so that all the world can see - we have been chosen.

Ephesians 1:4 “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.”

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

April Fools!

I (drum roll please . . .) am the reigning April Fool’s Champion! Perhaps I shouldn’t be quite so proud of this accomplishment, but I am. It is a title I wear proudly, along with my crown, scepter and cape. I’ve even been known to hum, “We are the Champions” every year on April 1. For I, my friends, am the champion, and everyone in my family knows it.

I originally won the title several years ago. We were trying to sell our house, and you all know what that’s like. The idea of keeping one’s home spotless, twenty-four hours a day, just in case a potential buyer drops by is a noble one. The execution of that idea is a different story.

On that particular April 1, our house was a mess. Nothing unusual about that. But as I walked around the house, knowing that I was the one who was going to have to clean the mess, I had a momentary stroke of genius! I sneaked into the bedroom and made a stealth phone call to my mom.

“Mom!” I whispered.

“Renae, is that you?”

“Yes. Hang up and call me back!”

“Renae, are you okay?”

“Yes. Just call me back, please.”

After a moment, Mom laughed, and honored my request. There’s nothing more valuable than a good partner in crime. As far as crimes go. And April Fools’ pranks.

The phone rang. This time, I answered it in the living room, in front of everyone. “Very interested, you say? And you will be here in . . . 20 minutes? Oh, yes. Come on. We’ll be ready for you!”

I hung up the phone and feigned a look of terror. (I knew that semester of Speech and Drama would come in handy for something.) “The realtor will be here in 20 minutes. Move!”

(I was especially brilliant with the “Move!” It’s those extra touches that make an April Fools’ prank especially believable. Just in case you’re taking notes.)

Well, the speed with which my little family put away, threw away, and hid the mess in that house was unmatched. We looked like a fast-forward scene in a movie. Only it was real time.

After 23 minutes, the house was spit-polished and shiny. “We’d better get out of here. They were supposed to be here already,” Mark said.

Let me tell you, friends, I relished that moment. A slow, cat-ate-the-canary smile spread across my face, and I said softly, “April Fools!”

Since that day, each member of my family has tried to one-up me. Each year, on April 1, I am the recipient of every prank attempt in the book. But I am unmatched. I am, and always will be, the champion.

Oh, I’ve had my coffee creamer replaced with salt. I’ve had my car moved, so I’d think it had been stolen. There have been fake illnesses and fake insects and all sorts of other amateurish attempts. But no one has even come close to matching my skill.

It’s fun to pull pranks on April Fool’s Day, as long as no one gets hurt. But being a fool in real life isn’t fun at all. I’m so glad that God makes foolish people wise. He’s given us everything we need, right there in His Word, to make good choices and live prosperous, successful lives. And when we follow Him, we will all be champions!

No fooling.

Psalm 19:7 “The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.”

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Mark and I have officially graduated. And to be perfectly honest, we feel a little cheated. We didn’t get a ceremony. We didn’t get the cap and gown, or even the little rolled up piece of paper with the ribbon tied around it.

There were no parties. No big sheet cake with, “Congratulations, Graduate!” There were no gifts. And – this is the worst – there were no cards with money inside them.

And what, pray tell, did we graduate from?

(Heavy sigh.)

We are now, officially, “Mom and Dad.”

Picture Day 102 To be perfectly honest, our daughter has been calling me “Mom” for a while now. But there was still the occasional “Mama,” and every once in a while, “Mommy” would slip in. Mark, on the other hand, has always been “Daddy.” Now, he’s just plain “Dad.”

And it’s killing him.

When did this come about? When did our little girl become a . . . big girl? She’s lived with us her whole life. How could this happen right before our eyes? When did we blink?

It’s more than just the name thing. She has suddenly developed a new hobby. Talking on the phone. And just a short while ago, we could say, “We’re going to Wal-Mart!” and we would actually leave our driveway within a reasonable amount of time. Now, we say, “We’re going to Wal-Mart,” and then we wait. And wait. And wait some more while she changes her clothes three times and fixes her hair and reapplies her tinted lip balm.

But even though the transition is breaking our hearts, we are proud. We are so proud of the young lady who is kind and thoughtful, who is funny and witty and helpful, who makes friends easily and reads everything she can get her hands on, and who, someday, wants to be a missionary to China.

Yes, we are proud. But that doesn’t mean we like it.

Not one bit.

You’d think proud and happy would go together. But that’s not always the case. I can’t help but think of the parents of our military men and women. I know that none of them are happy about having their children shipped off to fight in a foreign country. Proud, yes. Happy, no.

I wish that we could have our cake and eat it too, don’t you? I wish I could keep that little girl who rode around on my hip. But I wouldn’t trade my big girl for anything. I wish we didn’t have to send anybody to fight anywhere. But I’m so grateful that we have young men and women who are willing to step up to the plate and protect our homeland.

There are some transitions in life that we just have to go through. And though we may not be happy about each and every change, we have a choice. We can fight them, kicking and screaming like children, or we can accept those changes with dignity and grace. We can learn and grow and become better people. Or we can continue on without learning a thing. But that doesn’t leave much to be proud of.

So, all in all, I suppose I could learn to like being a graduate. I could learn to like being called “Mom” instead of “Mommy.” After all, I now have a shopping buddy. I have someone to give me fashion advice. I have a friend.

And that makes me both happy and proud.

1 Corinthians 13:11 “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Standardized Tests

My children – and about a zillion others – are preparing to take their yearly standardized tests. Call me strange, but I used to love those test days when I was a kid. After all, on those days, the teachers were extra nice to us. They didn’t want us to be stressed out. And on those days, we didn’t have to do our regular “work.” At the end of test days, we were rewarded with special snacks and treats.

I’ve been working with both of my children to get them ready for their tests. My son is in the first grade, and I’m happy to say he’s passed all of his practice tests with flying colors. So have I.

My daughter is in the sixth grade. She’s done well on her practice tests, too. I wish I could say the same. My word, I don’t remember ever learning some of the things she’s expected to know!

check it 1

Which size box should be used to mail a package that is more than 130 cubic inches but smaller than 160 cubic inches? Why are they asking me this? Hand me the package. Hand me the box. I’ll see if it fits. That’s my answer.

And why do I need to divide 3.192 by 0.42? I thought that’s what calculators were for.

And where in the world is Kampuchea? I don’t know. I just don’t know.

I seem to do well in the language sections of the tests, though. After all, I was an English major.

You do the math.

It makes me wonder how I’d score if there were a standardized test for adults. Life version. I have no doubt that I’ve been taught, in lesson after lesson, how to get along in this life. Still, there are some sections that I always pass with flying colors, and other sections I fail miserably. Time and again.

For example, give me a deadline, and I’ll meet it. I’m pretty good about owning up to my responsibilities. (Pass.) But then again . . . if I don’t have a deadline, I’ll probably never get it done. (Fail.)

I also do well when I have to meet new people. I know how to smile, shake hands, ask about the other person’s interests . . . (pass). But I have this annoying little need for everyone – and I mean everyone – to like me. When someone doesn’t like me, I tend to spend hours trying to figure out what I did wrong (fail). I can’t seem to learn the lesson that when people don’t like us, quite often it has more to do with them than it does with us. Maybe we look like someone who was unkind to them. Maybe they don’t care for blondes, or women, or humor columnists. Maybe they really do like us, they just don’t know how to express themselves.

Why can’t I just learn to say, “Oh, well,” and move on? That’s a life lesson I’m still learning.

We all succeed at some life lessons, and struggle with others. The good news is that we have a Teacher who is patient and kind. He believes in us, and He will never give up on us. When we have difficulty, all we have to do is go to Him, and He will give us all the help we need.

And with His help, we will always pass with flying colors.

2 Peter 1:3 “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him . . .”

Monday, March 16, 2009

Mercy Me

I looked in the rearview mirror at the police car pulling into the street behind me. Oh, please God, don’t let him be coming after me.

I turned.

He turned.

I pulled into the parking lot.

He pulled into the parking lot.

I parked.

He pulled up behind me and turned on his lights.


Oh, dear God, what have I done now? There’s nothing like a police officer approaching your driver’s window to get your prayer life in order.

I rolled down my window, knowing that within a few short moments, he’d be hauling me off to the slammer.

“Ma’am, may I please see your driver’s license?”

“Well, officer, I . . . uhm . . . I don’t actually have my license with me.”

“Really? Why is that?”

“Last night, I went to visit my parents. They live about fifteen minutes from here. And, well, you see . . . it’s the funniest thing. I left my purse at their house.”

He didn’t seem amused. “May I see your proof of insurance?”

Oh God, please let it be in there, I prayed while digging through my glove compartment. Bingo!

I triumphantly pulled out the card and handed it to the man.

“Ma’am, this expired over a year ago.”

“Oh! I’m sorry. Let me see . . . I know the current one is here somewhere . . . Aha! Here it is!” I handed him the new card.

“Ma’am, this one expired last week.”

I picked up my cell phone and began dialing.

“Ma’am, who are you calling?”

“My husband. I’m hoping he can tell me where the current insurance card is.”

“Put the phone down, ma’am.”

I obeyed. A picture of myself in bold, black and white horizontal stripes flashed through my mind. I look terrible in horizontal stripes.

“I’m so sorry, sir. Could you please tell me what I did wrong?” I couldn’t believe my own ears. What did I do wrong? What didn’t I do wrong? “I mean . . . why did you pull me over?”

The man shifted from his right foot to his left. I’m not sure he knew exactly what to do with me. “Ma’am, you were going several miles over the speed limit. Right in front of the police station, I might add.”

“I’m sorry,” I told him. Why do I keep apologizing?

I knew my life was in his hands. He had every right to throw the book at me.

But then, he did something amazing. “Ma’am, I can verify your insurance with this card. I can also verify whether or not your license is current. If your license isn’t current, I’ll have to give you a ticket. Same with your insurance. If they’re both current, I’ll give you a written warning. Please stay in the car.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. Had he really just said what I thought he said? I knew my license was current. I knew my insurance was current. And yes, I knew I had probably been speeding. Was he really going to show mercy?

He was gone a loooooooooong time. Finally, he approached my window and handed me the expired card. “Everything checked out. I’m going to let you off with a warning.”

A warning? A warning?!?

I wanted to leap from the car and hug the officer. But I was afraid he might change his mind. Or charge me with assault.

“Thank you so, so much, officer,” I gushed.

“Do you have any questions?” he asked. He really was nice. It reminded me, once again, that our police officers are the good guys.

They protect us from the bad guys, and they protect us from ourselves. Their job is to keep us safe. And most of them really do care about the people they protect.

He had no reason to show mercy that day, but he did.

And it reminded me of another Good Guy. God knows everything I’ve ever done. He has every right to throw the book at me, to lock me up and throw away the key. But He doesn’t want to do that.

Oh, He loves justice. He doesn’t look kindly on evil. But He also knows that sometimes, we just mess up. We forget our purses, or we forget to put our current insurance cards in the car. We accidentally say the wrong things. We break His laws.

He also sees our hearts. And when He sees that we’re genuinely sorry for our mistakes, He forgives us. Though we don’t deserve forgiveness, He gives it. He shows mercy.

And I, for one, am really glad He does.

Joel 2:13 “Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.”

Monday, March 9, 2009

Getting Laid Off

My dear husband is doing what a lot of people are doing these days. He’s praying he doesn’t lose his job. Over the past several weeks, he has watched many of his dear friends and colleagues become victims of a poor economy. Our hearts break for them, even as we pray it doesn’t happen to our family.

Believe it or not, though, there are some good things about getting laid off. Sure, they may take a little while to notice. When faced with mountains of bills and no money to pay them, our first response will nearly always be panic. But after we take a few moments to breathe into a paper bag or scream at an empty room or worse, we may just find a few things to be thankful for:

1. These days, everyone is getting laid off. We can find camaraderie with people from all walks of life – doctors, lawyers and Indian chiefs find common ground. It’s like an exclusive club.

2. When we get laid off, we get to be cheap, and no one thinks any less of us. We can buy discount gifts, clip coupons, and take advantage of the Kids Eat Free nights at restaurants. Everyone will think we are thrifty and wise.

3. We don’t have to go to work for a while! Many people have been trudging along at a job they hate, just so they can pay the bills. A lay-off gives a perfect opportunity to pursue that dream job. Why not? What have we got to lose?

4. We get to tap into our creative sides. Instead of going to the movies, try filming a home movie. Instead of going out to eat, try to cook like Emeril or Paula Deen.

5. We’ll have time to pursue that hobby we’ve secretly wanted to pursue. Write a novel. Paint a mural. Set a new weight-lifting record. Go on. You know you wanna.

6. Quite possibly for the first time in a long time, we’ll be forced to focus on relationships, not stuff. And that’s always a good thing. Go to the park with your honey. Fly a kite with your kids. Take time to sip tea with your grandma.

7. Our money will stretch further than it did before. When we have plenty of money, we tend to toss it around on any old thing that catches our eyes. When we have less money, we become pickier about what we buy. We tend to look for more bang for our bucks, and spend our money on things that will last.

8. We are forced to examine ourselves. Without jobs and extra money, we learn to define ourselves by our character, instead of by our titles and the size of our bank accounts. Good character is more valuable than silver and gold, and will take us a lot further in life.

9. We get to become better people. Let’s face it. A little competition is always a good thing. Rather than settling for mediocrity, the fierce job market forces us to hone our skills. We must learn to offer the best products and the most prompt, reliable service. We must have the best people skills. We are required to speak better, dress better, and be more pleasant. And those are all good things.

10. We become more grateful. Despite how grim things may seem, most of us still have more than many in this world. Most of us have clothes to wear and food to eat. We live in a country that allows us to speak freely, that holds compassion as a high ideal, and that always tries to take care of its own. And we have a God who loves us and who will never forsake us. That’s a lot to be thankful for.

Getting laid off might seem like the pits. But if you look hard enough, you may find a few cherries in the bowl.

Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Bubbling Over

Have you ever done something really dumb, even though you knew it was dumb when you did it? Well, I did.

Last week, I had a dishwasher full of dirty dishes and an empty dish cabinet. The reason? I was out of my little dishwasher tablets. And I kept forgetting to go to the store to get some.

And the dishwasher was really, really full. I thought about taking them all out and washing them by hand, but who wants to do that? So finally, and this brings me to the really dumb part . . . I put liquid dish soap in the dishwasher.

Just a tiny bit, mind you. I knew that too much would cause a bubbly, sudsy mess all over my kitchen. But I was desperate. And I thought, surely, just a little bit won’t hurt.

So I turned on the dishwasher and went my merry way, relieved that in about an hour, I would have clean dishes. But I got more than I bargained for. I got a really clean floor, as well.

A few minutes later, I returned to find bubbles spewing out of the bottom of my dishwasher. I guess even a tiny bit was too much. I turned the dishwasher off, grabbed a towel, and got to work. Then I grabbed a plastic cup and began baling out the suds that were piling up in the bottom of the dishwasher. Cup after cup after cup of the sudsy mess . . . and I finally got to the bottom of it. But then, I had to bale out the water, because that water was contaminated. I knew if I left it, I was just have more suds on my floor.

Half an hour and one aching back later, I had emptied the mess. I finished the dish cycle with plain water, and there were no more mishaps. But honestly. It would have been easier to do the dishes by hand.

The whole experience kind of reminded me of the “garbage in, garbage out” lecture my mother used to give me. You put the wrong stuff in the dishwasher, you can’t expect it to operate properly. You put the wrong stuff in your mind, you can’t expect your life to run smoothly.

Just saying.

But the good news is, I went to the store that very day and got some dishwasher tablets. And my dishwasher hasn’t spewed bubbles since. The same is true for our minds.

Sometimes we do dumb things. We contaminate ourselves, thinking that surely, just a little bit won’t hurt. And before we know it, we end up with a big ol’ spewy mess.

But if we take the time to clean it up, and to bale out the bad stuff, we can always start fresh. Then, if we fill our minds with good things, things that are healthy and positive and gracious, well . . . things start to operate more smoothly.

And hopefully, we’ll remember next time not to put the wrong stuff into our minds and hearts. Even a little bit of it is too much.

Just saying.
Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sick Days

During the last few weeks, we’ve had a lot of sick days around our house. As a matter of fact, we’ve had more sick days than well days. And because we are a loving family, and we like to share with each other, we just keep passing things back and forth.

We’ve had it all. We’ve had the coughy-sneezy-sniffly thing. We’ve had the headache-fever-achey thing. We’ve even had the yucky stomach thing. We’ve had so many bugs at our house, I’ve been tempted to call the exterminator.

Tissue box We run the gamut at our house of types of sick people, too. My daughter is ready to call 9-1-1 when she stubs her toe, but she doesn’t want to actually be sick. She runs from the thermometer, and insists that she (cough) is (achoo!) fine.

My dear husband refuses to acknowledge sickness of any kind. He just gets grumpy and keeps going like the Energizer Bunny. And heaven help the person who tries to baby him. He is a tough guy.

So he just keeps going and going until he finally falls over, and the rest of us stand around at a distance and watch to make sure his chest is still moving.

“Is he dead?”

“No, I think I saw a little movement there.”

“Maybe you’d better check his pulse.”

“I’m not gonna do it! You do it.”

“I’m not gonna do it!”

Then, about an hour into his coma-like sleep, he starts snoring. Loudly. And we all breathe a deep sigh of relief.

My son tells it like it is. He would much rather be out climbing trees than sick in bed. So, when he says he doesn’t feel well, he means it.

One such time, he complained of a stomach ache.

“Mom, do I have to eat dinner? My tummy really hurts.”

“Are you sure you can’t eat just a few more bites?”

“Okay, I’ll try. But it really hurts.”

A few minutes later . . . well, I won’t go into the gory details. One of these days I will learn to listen to my son when he tells me his tummy hurts.

Later that evening, the poor guy was holding his stomach. “Mommy, it hurts! It really hurts. Mommy . . . I think I’m having birth!”

(Please remind me to have “the talk” with my son.)

But, within a couple of days, he was out climbing trees again. It did my mother-heart good to see him back to normal. Now, if I can only keep him from falling out of a tree and breaking his arm . . .

As for me, well, I’m the biggest baby in the house. The only problem is, I’m the mom. And the mom isn’t allowed to get sick. So I usually end up pretending I’m not sick. But then I feel sorry for myself and I get caught up in the whole “poor little me” game, which is worse by far than just admitting that I’m sick and staying in bed. When will I learn?

But I shouldn’t complain. Truly, I have the greatest kids and the sweetest husband in the world. When I am sick, they fix me hot tea and plump my pillows and stroke my hair and tell me how they wish I felt better. Sometimes this outpouring of mercy and compassion lasts for the better side of fifteen minutes.

Have you noticed that we don’t appreciate our health until it is taken from us? As I type this, I am taking a deep breath. With my mouth closed, even! And I am so grateful for a nose that works. Right now, for the first time in a month, we are all healthy. I feel very blessed.

So I suppose that even in sickness, there is good. For it is in sickness that we learn to value our health. It is in sickness that we learn to be grateful for the little things, like clear sinuses and clean toilets. And it is in sickness that we are given extra opportunities to show our love for one another.

3 John 2 “Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.”

Friday, February 13, 2009

Be Mine

“Mom, can I have some chocolate? Pleeeeeeease?” I’ve been hearing this for weeks, now.

“No. It’s not Valentine’s Day yet.”

“Pretty please, Mom? I’ll share with you!”

“Well . . . okay. Maybe just one box.”

We have now completed three heart-shaped boxes of chocolates. And it’s not even Valentine’s Day yet.

Valentine box My favorite thing about Valentine’s Day is the chocolate. Did you know that in 2006, there were exactly 1,170 U.S. locations which produced chocolate and cocoa products? And 39,457 people were employed at these establishments. The total value of shipments for these chocolate-producing firms was 13.9 billion dollars. In 2007, the average American consumed 24.5 pounds of the stuff. It is quite possible that in 2009, chocolate may save our economy.

The thing I really love about Valentine’s Day is those little candy hearts. You know the ones – with the little sayings on them? I like to string them together and see what kinds of sentences I can make. BE MINE – HOT STUFF – WANNA KISS? Of course, you have to be careful about who is looking over your shoulder while you’re making sentences. The results could be wonderful – or disastrous.

But the thing I love the best about Valentine’s Day is the flowers. Pink roses. Yellow daisies. Purple chrysanthemums. You name it, I love them! And the absolute best is when they get delivered to your place of work while all your friends are watching. Then you can smile and read the card, flutter your eyelashes and blush a little, then replace the card in the envelope and tuck it discreetly into your purse. Hey! Nobody really has to know they are from your Aunt Emma.

In 2007, an estimated $416 million was spent in the U.S. on cut flowers, ordered from 20,227 florists. My word. Come on over to my house. For the right price, I’ll give you some real fresh ones. I’ll even tie them up with a pretty bow. Then again, you probably better go to a real florist. Those flowers could very well kick our economy back into action.

My absolute favorite thing about Valentine’s Day is the diamonds. Or rubies. Or small, shiny, sparkly things of any type. Did you know that in 2006, there were 28,300 jewelry stores nationwide? And you’ll never guess how much money was spent on jewelry in February, 2008: $2.6 billion.

Two. Point. Six.

I think the jewelry business may save our economy this month.

But truly, the thing I love more than anything else about Valentine’s Day is less costly than any of the sweets and treats listed above. As a matter of fact, it’s downright cheap. My all-time favorite thing about Valentine’s Day is the mushy, sticky, gluey home-made Valentines that my kids will make for me. You know the ones – they tout witty and original sayings such as, “MOM spelled upside-down is WOW!” and “To the best mom in the universe!”

Priceless, I tell you.

1 John 4:7 “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.”

Monday, February 9, 2009

Hanging Up

I really admire telemarketers. After all, they put up with a lot. They are hard-working people, just trying to make a living, and what do they get for their efforts?

People like me. Or worse, people like my dear husband.

A typical evening at my house has at least one episode like this:


Me: “Hello?”

Telemarketer: “Hello. May I please speak with Mr. or Mrs. Brooooom-bug?”

Me: “I’m sorry. There is no one here by that name.” Click.

Hey, I was telling the truth. There is no “bug” in my name.

Telephone 4

I know I should be more patient, more forgiving of mispronounced names. But they always call right in the middle of something important. Like Wheel of Fortune.

So, if you are a telemarketer, I apologize. You are a much more patient person than I am. I should take a few minutes and listen to what you have to say.

But I make no promises.

Honestly, I’m not as bad as my dear husband. Nobody, and I mean nobody deserves what he dishes out. Telemarketers, please accept my humble apologies on his behalf. He really is a good guy.

But he likes to toy with the sales people. He makes up stories using strange accents. Don’t ask me why he does it. I’ve been married to the man for nearly twenty years, and I’m still trying to figure him out.

One such time, the phone rang.

“Hello?” answered Mark.

“May I speak with Dr. Mark . . . Brooooom . . . bug?”

Well, Mark was in an especially feisty mood that evening. In a deep southern drawl, he said, “No, he don’t live here no more. He’s serving twenty to life at the state penitentiary.”

I wanted to die right then and there.

But then, from the other end of the line, came a tentative voice. “Oh, I see. Well, this is the Baylor University Alumni Association. I was just wondering if Dr. Brooom . . . bug is still the pastor of Central Cities Church.”

I have never seen my husband turn so white. “Uhh, yes. He is.”

“Okay, thank you.” Click.

What goes around comes around, wouldn’t you say?

Often when I answer the phone, it is a recording. Now that drives me crazy. When that happens, I just hang up. I don’t even try to listen to the message. Maybe that’s not the good, kind, loving thing to do. But I have to tell the truth. I’ll probably keep doing it.

I’m so glad God never hangs up on me. He always answers, every time I call. He’s never too busy or too distracted to hear what’s on my mind and in my heart. Not only that, but He’s always glad to hear from me! He is delighted to listen to every word I say, no matter how small or petty.

And He always responds with patience, wisdom and love.

Zechariah 13:9 “They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’”

Monday, February 2, 2009

Under the Rainbow

I am so embarrassed.

I’m not talking just a little bit of a blush, here. I may have to move to another town. Seriously.

You see, I got a new vacuum cleaner a couple of weeks ago. Not just any vacuum cleaner, either. I got a Rainbow vacuum cleaner. Top of the line.

Well, actually, it’s a twenty-year-old model that has been rebuilt, but still. Any Rainbow is better than the old bag of wind I had been using.


I filled the canister up with water and went to work. I even moved my furniture around, so I could vacuum up underneath. I had vacuumed one and a half rooms, and I did something I probably shouldn’t have done. I decided to take a peek at that water.


One and a half rooms, and you would not believe the mud and the gunk that was in that canister. It was quite possibly the nastiest thing I’ve ever seen.

Well, I emptied it out, filled it up with clean water, and continued.

Three times, people! Three times I emptied black, gooey mud out of that canister.

And to think, I have had guests in my home. With all that stuff hiding down in my carpets. And my poor children have been living here in the midst of it! I am unfit, I tell you.

I finally decided to call it quits. I hauled the vacuum into its hiding place, then walked around my house and admired my handiwork. It was almost like getting new carpet. Everything just looked and smelled fresh and clean.

But then, a few days later, it was time to vacuum again. This time, I did half the house before checking the canister. Sure enough, when I emptied it out, it was mud. But I noticed something.
It wasn’t quite as thick and black as it had been the first time. Oh, don’t get me wrong. It was still nasty. But there was a slight improvement.

I called my mother, who is a long-time Rainbow owner, and told her the good news. She assured me that each time I vacuumed, I’d see an improvement. Over time, the Rainbow will do its job.

I have to tell you, friends, that aside from being totally embarrassed by the filth I was living in, I feel great! The air in my house smells pure and clean, and my carpet seems to be turning a lighter color.

I don’t know what my previous vacuum did. It certainly didn’t clean my carpets. I think it must have just moved the dirt around some, so it wouldn’t be so noticeable.

I wonder how often I’ve done that in my own life. I know there is stuff I need to clean up, issues I need to deal with, but try as I may, I just can’t seem to accomplish much. So I just keep moving those things around, spreading them out so they aren’t quite so noticeable. And all the while, my life just keeps getting muddier and muddier.

Sometimes, I just have to face the cold, hard truth. There are some problems I’m not qualified to deal with. Thankfully, I know Someone who is. You know Who I’m talking about, don’t you?

Yep. He’s the original creator of the rainbow, which is a symbol of God’s promise to mankind. And God always keeps His promises. Just like my Rainbow vacuum has the power to pull all the dirt out of my carpets, God has the power to pull the dirt out of my life. And He’s promised to do exactly that, if I let Him.

Oh, it doesn’t always happen immediately. With God, it’s often more of a process. But I’ve found when I consistently depend on Him day after day, week after week, He does His job. Gradually, my life feels fresher, more peaceful. Gradually, I notice the mud seems . . . not quite so muddy.

And eventually, I find my life has completely changed colors.

Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”

Monday, January 26, 2009

Transfer of Power

In my lifetime, there have been nine presidents. (Stop trying to figure out my age. I was born at the end of a presidential term.) Nine presidents means eight transfers of power, from one president to the next.

Some of those transfers have been frosty, others warm. But all have been peaceful. I’m so grateful to live in a nation where people can agree to disagree, and be civil about it.

With each new presidency has come a great hope among the American people. Hope for change. For prosperity. For peace and the protection of our homeland, our way of life.

Mount Rushmore Sometimes those hopes have been fulfilled. Other times, they haven’t. But I honestly believe, from the bottom of my heart, that each president has done his best. Each one has tried to live up to the responsibilities placed on his shoulders. Each one has tried to make wise choices, and to provide the best possible leadership he can offer.

There’s just one teensy little problem.

Each president has been human.

Only human.

No matter what his credentials, no matter what experience his cabinet offers, the president is still just a man. He’s not a miracle worker.

No matter how many of the right people he knows, or how well he can present a speech, or how good he looks in a tux, there’s only so much he can do.

So as we place our hope in one man or another, as we watch the transfer of presidential power from one leader to the next, we need to remember to criticize gently and pray fiercely.

I’m reminded time and again that there is one transfer of power which will never fail. It is the transfer of my own will, my own faulty reasoning over to the One who is all-wise, all-knowing, and all-powerful. God is loving, gracious and compassionate. And because He knows the future and I don’t, He is much better qualified than I am to direct my steps.

But God is a gentleman. He will never force Himself on anyone. He has given each of us the power to choose for ourselves, along with an offer to show us the way. He stands ready and waiting to help us experience the best lives possible. But we must offer Him the control panel of our lives. He won’t take it by force.

The choice is ours. We can maintain control of our lives, working and preparing and crossing our fingers that everything will work out okay. But we will always know that there are some things we can’t control.

Or, we can give our lives over to the One who controls the wind and the rain, who influences the decisions of world leaders, and who longs to lovingly lead each one of us. And because He is a good and loving and compassionate God, we can know that His choices for us will always be for our best.

It’s a tough decision. I like to be in control. But honestly, I don’t have such a great track record on my own. When I call the shots, things usually end up in disaster. It has only been when I’ve allowed God to guide my steps that I’ve ended up with the peace and joy I desire.

When I find myself at the steering wheel of my own life, lost without a road map, I have to remind myself of the crash and burn experiences I’ve led myself into in the past. Then, hard as it is, I offer the control back to God. Again.

Fortunately, He is patient with me. He is always there, ready to take over when I ask for help.
And I know He’ll never steer me wrong.

Proverbs 3:5 – 6 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Monday, January 19, 2009

Spice Girl

I cleaned out my spice cabinet this week.

(Heavy sigh.)

Every time I clean out a cabinet, I promise myself I will not, under any circumstances, let things get that bad again.

But you and I both know the truth.

Let me just tell you what I found. Two cans of baking powder, one dating back to the year 2000. Two full jars of lemon pepper, two jars of thyme, two varieties of allspice, four different flavors of meat rub, two large pepper cans, two round boxes of salt, three containers of corn starch, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree.

Or something like that. From now on, you can call me the spice girl.

Spices As I lugged my full-to-overflowing Hefty cinch bag to the trash can, I lamented the waste and wondered how many trips to Hawaii I could have taken with the money I spent on items I already had, but couldn’t find.

Okay, probably not many. But you get the point.

Now I have a sparkling, gleaming spice cabinet. Each time I open the door, I expect a bright light to shine down from above and an angelic chorus to sing heavenly harmony.

We’ll see how long it lasts.

It’s funny, isn’t it? All those times I sent poor Mark to the store to buy things, and I had them right here under my nose. Well, maybe not the pepper. I would have sneezed.

But all the other stuff . . . I went out looking for what I thought I needed, when the exact item I needed was right in front of me. All I had to do was look.

I’ve actually done that for more important things, too. I’ve gone looking in the wrong places for my peace, my happiness, my self-esteem. I’ve tried to find worth in my job, in the way I look or the size of my bank account. I’ve tried to find my value based on what other people think of me.

But the whole time, I had the keys to all of those things right in front of my nose. And His name is God.

You see, God created me, and He thinks I’m great. He doesn’t always like everything I do, but His love for me will never change. He tells me that if I depend on Him, He will give me peace and joy and an inner happiness that cannot be found anywhere else.

I am so valuable to Him that He gave His life for me. He promised never to leave me or forsake me. He is always right there, and He’s given me everything I need.

Still, I go looking in all the wrong places for the things that only He can give. And I end up with a cluttered mess.

The good news is that His love for me is unending. And when I’m ready, He will help me clean out the clutter of my life. Then He’ll replace the old, outdated junk with shiny new life. He’ll replace the chaos with peace.

I can almost hear the angels singing.

2 Peter 1:3 “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him . . .”

Friday, January 9, 2009


My grocery store has recently done some remodeling. It looks great, but honestly! I can’t find anything. It took me years to learn my way around that particular store, and now, right when I was on the brink of knowing exactly where everything was, they went and changed everything.

And I don’t like change.

The aisles, which once ran parallel to one another, are all golly-gonkers. Some run north and south. Others run east and west.

The kitchen utensils, which were once smack-dab in the middle of the store are now in the front. And the school supplies? Next to automotive.

Of course. Isn’t that where you would put the school supplies?

But there is one thing they haven’t changed.

The eggs.

eggs carton 3 Have you ever wondered why, in the grocery store, eggs are stored in the dairy section?

Think about it. A dairy product is a product that is made from milk.

There is no milk in an egg. An egg is liquid chicken. And chickens don’t even produce milk. Shouldn’t eggs be stored with the poultry?

But it never fails. Every time I go to the grocery store, there are the eggs. Right in the middle of the dairy section.

I’m thinking of writing up a petition, urging the grocery store people to store things in more sensible categories. School supplies near the office supplies. Eggs with poultry. Milk with beef.

But then, would the leather products need to be stored near the beef as well? And would that mean pencils – made from wood - would be sold in the plant section?

Hmmmm . . . maybe we’d better leave the eggs where they are.

It’s funny how we often resist change. After all, isn’t life just a series of one change after another? We grow. We learn. We move. You’d think we’d be used to change. But many people would rather stay in their same old routines, even if those routines aren’t good for them. Even if change brings improvements.

I should know. I’m one of those people.

Though change can be uncomfortable for a season, it is often necessary to make our lives better. Richer. More productive. And let’s face it. Most things in life are going to change anyway, whether we like it or not. We might as well make the most of the changes we face, and enjoy the ride. Fighting and resisting usually results in nothing more than a bad mood.

Though this world is filled with transitions and replacements, there are a few things we can count on. In the midst of changing grocery stores and changing lives, we can take comfort in knowing that some things will always stay the same. Things like the beauty of a sunrise, and the peace of a snow-capped mountain, and God’s love for us.

And even the eggs being stored in the dairy department.

Psalm 52:8 “I trust in God’s unfailing love forever and ever.”

Friday, January 2, 2009


Last week, my family and I visited the San Antonio Riverwalk. It was all decorated with twinkling Christmas lights and glittery trees, and mariachi bands played festive holiday music.

We were expecting the Riverwalk to be crowded this time of year. What we weren’t expecting, however, was the great sea of college football fans.

auburn vs. georgia football game Our visit just happened to fall on the weekend before the Alamo Bowl game. Everywhere we looked, there were face-painted fans wearing purple and white for Northwestern or yellow and black for the University of Missouri. And you couldn’t even get a ticket for a riverboat ride. The boats were sold out. Entire college bands floated down the river playing their school’s fight songs, followed by entire boatloads of football players.

We figured since we couldn’t actually ride the boats, we’d just enjoy from the sidelines. So when the Northwestern band floated past followed by the Northwestern football players, we yelled, “Go Northwestern!” We became quite popular as the players waved and cheered back at us.

Then, when the University of Missouri band floated by, followed by the University of Missouri players, guess what we did?

My mama didn’t raise no fool.

We yelled and cheered at the top of our lungs for the University of Missouri.

They loved us, I tell you. Our little family was, quite possibly, the most popular family on the Riverwalk that evening.

I love that we didn’t have to make a choice. If I had to choose my favorite college team right now, I couldn’t. Ask me again in a few years. My favorite school, I’m sure, will be the one that offers the best scholarships to our children. Money talks, you know.

But while my choice of college football teams doesn’t really matter, there are many choices I make each and every day that do matter. A lot.

As I think about my new resolutions for my new year, I’m reminded that my goals are pretty meaningless if I don’t back them up with my choices.

Those extra pounds I want to lose? My choice. No one forces me to eat potato chips and chocolate truffles. I make the choices about what I eat; therefore, to some extent, I make the choice about what I weigh.

And what about that book I want to write? That garage I want cleaned out? Those friendships I want to build?

They can become reality, if I make the choices, day by day, step by step to achieve my goals. Otherwise, they will remain exactly what they are – lofty dreams.

(And yes, a clean garage is a lofty dream for me. Have you seen my garage?)

I don’t know about you, but this year, I want to stop talking about my goals, and actually achieve some of them. In order to do that, I’m going to try to make better choices. I know that my goals won’t be met in one fell swoop, but in small steps. Over time. One small choice after another.

Joshua 24:15 “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."