Tearing down Walls

Jesus, the Good Shepherd with a lamb draped over His shoulders, the gentle servant who tells us to turn the other cheek—He threw a temper tantrum!

He didn’t pitch fits because sinners lived in sin or because Romans acted like Romans. No, His anger was aroused when those who claimed to be God’s people kept other people away from God.

Hear Jesus’ tirade against the Pharisees in Matthew 23. What did they do to provoke Him? They took pride in their external righteousness, while inside they were full of greed and self-indulgence. They heaped extra laws on the people, but neglected the meaning of God’s Law—justice, mercy, and faithfulness.

Watch Jesus throw the moneychangers out of the temple in Matthew 21. Not only did they build a financial barrier between worshippers and the Lord, but their loud presence in the Court of the Gentiles hindered God-fearing Gentiles from praying.

Feel Jesus’ love for those who long to come to Him. Do we in the church erect barriers to those who seek Him? Do we set demands beyond what the Bible requires? Do we stick to our cozy group of friends and neglect visitors? Do we, even subconsciously, wrinkle our noses at those who don’t look or dress or smell like we do?

Lord, help me tear down human-made walls between You and those You love, root out hypocrisy in my soul, and fill me with Your love.

On the Road with Trash-Talking Geckos

“Trash-talking geckos go in the glove compartment.”

I never thought I’d say those words, but as a mom, I say lots of things I never thought I’d say.

Last summer I was driving with my three children from the Bay Area to Oregon to visit my husband’s parents. After ten hours on the road, the kids got punchy. Ten-year-old Matthew set the stuffed gecko he’d just gotten in Hawaii on the seat between him and his sister Anna, then twelve. Except the gecko couldn’t sit still. He climbed on Anna’s lap, shoulders, head.

“Mom,” Anna said with a giggle. “Make Matthew stop.”
“It’s not me. It’s the gecko.”
“Well,” I said, eyes on the road. “Tell your gecko to sit properly in his seat.”
Silence for a minute, then whispers, then more giggles. “Mo-om, Matthew said I was stupid.”
“It wasn’t me. It was the gecko.”
I changed lanes, careful to check my mirrors. “Tell your gecko to be nice.”
A minute later: “Mo-o-om. The gecko said he was going to hit me and send me to Australia.”
Australia? “Matthew, tell him to behave or…” Then I said it: “Trash-talking geckos go in the glove compartment.”

Laughter bubbled up and spread throughout the car. Have you ever seen those words strung together? Have those seven words ever been strung together before in the history of the world?

No deep lesson here. No great spiritual connection. Just a simple reminder that we are all unique, that every day presents something fresh, and that we can contribute something never seen or heard before.

And watch out for those geckos. They look cute, but talk trash.

Only One Thing

What comes between me and Jesus? Do I let money, time, my to-do list, or the opinions of others stand in the way?

Today I read three related Bible stories: when Mary anoints Jesus (Matthew 26:6-16, Mark 14:3-11, John 12:1-8), when the sinful woman anoints Jesus (Luke 7:37-39), and the account of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42).

In each story, someone can’t see beyond the things of this world.

  • Judas Iscariot only sees the money. How could anyone waste so many denarii?
  • Simon the Pharisee only sees the reactions of others. What will people think if they see a sinful woman in my house?
  • Martha – dear, much-maligned Martha, who really did love Jesus – only sees the mountains of food and dishes. How can anyone sit still when there’s work to be done?

Oh, what a contrast with those who can only see Jesus!

  • In Mary’s eyes, no cost is too great to anoint her Savior and prepare Him for burial.
  • The sinful woman doesn’t care what anyone thinks when given the chance to express her gratitude for Jesus’ forgiveness.
  • To Mary, no time is better spent than time at the Master’s feet, drinking in His teaching.

I want to be like these women. I want to be so devoted to Jesus that money means nothing compared to the joy of giving to Him, that I prefer the favor of God to the opinion of man, and that I never begrudge a minute spent serving Him or sitting in His presence.

Jesus told Martha, “‘But only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her'” Luke 10:42 NIV.

Every minute of every day, I want to choose what’s better. I want to be completely devoted to my Lord. He deserves nothing less.


A graduation makes you stop, look around, and see where you’ve come from and where you hope to go.

This week my youngest son finishes elementary school, my daughter finishes middle school, and my oldest son, a high school junior, will serve in the honor guard at graduation – a dry run for next year.

Like all transitions, bittersweet.

We leave behind good things we will miss. My youngest is already mourning recess, and I will miss the atmosphere of elementary school – the glue sticks and finger paints, the tiny chairs and apple decor.

But some things we leave behind gladly. Anyone want to return to the days of middle school insecurity or high school drama? Anyone? Anyone?

Transitions also can produce worries. The First Locker in middle school. Entering high school and knowing your grades really count now. College Applications. Will your friends leave you behind? Will you ever make new friends? Will you spend the next three years upside-down in a trash can?

But oh, the joy of a fresh start, a clean sheet of paper before you to fill as you will. The chance to improve yourself, to make deep friendships, and to take steps toward the future.

That’s what we celebrate – the joy, the hope, and the opportunity of a new start.

Something New: Today in World War II History

To commemorate the coming 65th anniversary of D-Day, I will be starting something new on my blog. In addition to my usual weekly posts, every day I will make a short post entitled “Today in World War II History,” which will highlight events that happened 65 years ago. On September 1, which will mark the 70th anniversary of the start of World War II, I will add entries from 70 years ago.

I hope you enjoy this!

Never Forget

On Saturday, we will commemorate the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landings. On June 6, 1944, the Allies landed on the beaches of Normandy to liberate Europe from Nazi power.

In August 2007, I was privileged to stand on Omaha Beach on a misty, overcast morning not unlike the men faced that historic day. As I stood on that long stretch of sand and gazed at those high bluffs which once bristled with machine guns, I was moved deeply. We’ve all seen the movies and watched the footage – men dashing with rifles in hand, stumbling in the waves, beckoning their buddies onward, sheltering against debris – falling to the sand. But being there and feeling that sand beneath my feet gave me another level of understanding.

Today the Normandy beaches bristle with people on holiday – those who come to remember, and those who come to play. Children laugh and chase the waves and build sand castles. Tourists stand in silence, wipe tears, take pictures. This is as it should be.

Sixty-five years ago, 155,000 American, British Commonwealth, and Free French troops landed in the biggest amphibious operation in history, along with free people from many other occupied nations. On Saturday, take a moment and remember those who risked their lives, who gave their lives so we can live in freedom.

An Award!

I was so excited to learn today that my baby blog has received an award! Keli Gwyn at Romance Writers on the Journey http://www.romancewritersonthejourney.wordpress.com gave my little site the Lemonade Stand Award for a site showing “great attitude and gratitude” and the One Lovely Blog Award.

By the way, Keli’s blog is an amazing resource for writers on the road to publication, chockful of tips, resources, and interviews.

Fun with Pretzels

While I’m a firm believer in God’s mercy, when it comes to school projects, I think I may be cursed.

Last Thursday at fifth-grade Open House, my son Matthew showed off his state report on Kentucky. While enjoying the kids’ artwork, I noticed a handful of Big Projects – you know the kind with plywood and styrofoam and plastic trees.

“Um, Matthew,” I say. “Were you supposed to do a Big Project?”

His blue eyes stretch wide. He tucks his lips in.


“Um, yeah. It’s due Tuesday.”

“Tuesday?” I’m calculating – it’s Thursday night. I’m working Friday night, having guests for Saturday dinner, going to a friend’s house Sunday, holiday plans on Monday. Then comes Tuesday.

“I’m going to build Fort Boonesborough in Kentucky. I’m planning it in my head.”

My head hurts. Rewind thirty-odd years. In fourth grade Mrs. Dickey (whom I adored) assigned the Big California Mission Project. I made plans in my head, fabulous plans, but I did nothing. In fifth grade Mrs. Bush (who kind of scared me) assigned the Big US History Project. I made lovely, detailed mental plans. Again, I didn’t turn anything in.

This – this is my punishment. Three children. Six Big Projects. And this is the sixth time it’s been sprung on me close to – or after – the due date. I need Motrin.

Thursday night: Internet search on Fort Boonesborough, convert mental plans to paper plans, notice that pretzel sticks look like tiny logs.
Friday afternoon: buy craft supplies and jumbo bag of pretzels, send desperate Facebook plea for recipe for fake dirt.
Saturday while cleaning and cooking for BBQ: Matthew constructs fort from cardboard and pretzels.
Sunday & Monday: mix sand, paint, and white glue to make glop for ground. Matthew sets in buildings and trees. Trees fall over. Hot glue trees. Burn self with hot glue gun.
Tuesday: Matthew carts project to school. I eat chocolate. And pretzels.

I can’t wait for the seventh-grade Big Cell Model Project. Hmm, pretzels would make great microtubules…


Grandpa laughed at his own jokes.

Rather than weakening stories, Fred Stewart’s laughter strengthened them. He’d tell jokes in his straight-backed chair, arms folded, and his shoulders shook with laughter. Old jokes. Corny jokes. But he told them so well, I laughed too, even when I was a too-sophisticated college student.

Grandpa was a World War II veteran, a businessman of wisdom and integrity, and a valued member of church finance committees. He enjoyed walks in the California desert with my grandmother and took his two sons white-water rafting after he retired. I am blessed to be his granddaughter.

When his heart gave way in 1992, his memorial service packed the sanctuary, and my grandmother’s home filled with out-of-town relatives, including a ravenous women in her third trimester (me). The logistics of feeding the crowd could have compounded Grandma’s grief, but the people of the church reached out with tangible love and provided meals. They stuffed the refrigerator with lasagna, enchiladas, fried rice – and peaches.

Grandpa passed away in August. Peach season.

We received peach pies, cobblers, and jam. Bags of fresh peaches covered Grandma’s kitchen counter. The scent of peaches permeated the house. As the week passed and the fruit piled up, we struggled to suppress laughter when yet another friend presented peaches with pride and delight. After they left, the laughter came, and with the laughter came tears. Grandpa would have relished the humor, he would have told the story often and well, and he would have chuckled when he told it.

Whenever I see a peach, I recall the rosiness of Grandpa’s face when he laughed and the sweetness of the gifts my family received in our grief.

The gift of peaches. The gift of laughter.

Arrogant, Overfed, and Unconcerned

Has the Lord ever given you the same message from different sources? It gives you goose bumps, doesn’t it? When God repeats something, it must be important.

My women’s Bible study has been studying “The Organic God,” a refreshing, powerful book by Margaret Feinberg. No, this is not about a tofu-eating, Birkenstock-clad Jesus, but about seeing God for who He is, in all the purity of His character. This week we looked at Ezekiel 16:49: “’Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.’”

Then today I prepared for my Sunday school lesson in Nehemiah and read: “’You warned them to return to your law, but they became arrogant and disobeyed your commands’” (Nehemiah 9:29), and “’They ate to the full and were well-nourished; they reveled in your great goodness. But they were disobedient and rebelled against you; they put your law behind their backs’” (Nehemiah 9:25-26).

Arrogant. Overfed. Unconcerned. Sound familiar?

How can we follow the path of Israel’s restoration rather than Sodom’s destruction? We can look to Israel’s humble prayer of confession, acknowledging God’s sovereignty. “’In all that has happened to us, you have been just; you have acted faithfully, while we did wrong’” (Nehemiah 9:33).

In our land of prosperity and abundance – even in today’s economic crisis – these sinful attitudes subtly creep into our lives when we aren’t paying attention. Let’s be on the alert, humble ourselves before God, and cultivate concern for others.