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.”