Wednesday, July 23, 2014

"Money can't give you happiness" (a midweek morsel?)

I forgot to post a "Monday Morsel" this week:  what with going over details for next term's course, getting ready for my final set of assignments, and doing some worship-team planning, it completely slipped my mind.

So I thought that today I'd quote my hairdresser instead.  I've been going to Josie for about two years and besides liking how she cuts my hair, I really like her:  she's a quiet, humble person.  Today we were talking about someone who'd won fifty million dollars.  (Just sit back and think about that for a minute.  Fifty million.)

Then Josie said, "Money can't give you happiness.  Health, and being surrounded by nice people:  that's what makes you happy."


Thursday, July 17, 2014

"never mean" - a post from the archives

My friend Tim Fall was kind enough to say the other day how much he enjoyed the stories I tell about the kids.  So I thought I'd re-run this one (slightly edited) which I posted back in June of 2012, when Jonathan was nine years old.


Jonathan headed for the "yellow-blue-red" as usual today when we arrived at school.  His classmate Sam came over and took a few shots with the small yellow ball Jonathan had brought -- but he missed every shot.  Each time, Jonathan responded by saying, "So close!"  Sam laughed and said, "He says I suck."  I told Sam, "No, he's saying 'So close' -- Jonathan would never say you suck."

Afterward I got thinking about when Jonathan was in kindergarten and one of his classmates told her mom, "Jonathan is never mean."  To me that is a pretty good depiction of character, to have someone say that you are never mean or that you would never insult someone.  I know when I was nine, as Jonathan is now, other kids were sometimes mean to me -- and I was sometimes mean to other kids.  I remember refusing to hold a certain girl's hand when we were playing a game because she was very fat.  I still remember the look my teacher gave me.  She didn't have to say a word; the expression on her face said it all: "BUSTED."

I don't think that (most of the time) we should condemn ourselves for what we did when we were nine.  We're far more responsible for the things we do when we're nineteen, or twenty-nine, or ninety-nine, and our meannesses at those ages are likely a lot more serious.  But the thing is with Jonathan:  he will probably still not be mean when he is nineteen, or twenty-nine, or whatever.  He doesn't have that tendency most of us have (or develop) that makes us judge people according to their skills, or their weight, or their appearance, or their status.  Everyone in his world is a friend -- and not just the garbage truck guys, either.  And if that's how you see the world, how can you be mean?

Sam, you don't suck ... you're close.  Really close.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

July Twitterature: starting books, finishing books, and everything in between

Today I'm linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy's monthly Twitterature post in which we share brief reviews of what we've been reading.

This month's highlights:
- I read half a novel and couldn't finish it before the library hold expired.  But I've got it back at last!
- I read three chapters of a novel by one of my favourite authors, quit, and returned it to the library. (Does that make me a bad person?)
- I read a huge, unnerving nonfiction book.
- I read a small, encouraging nonfiction book.

My half-read novel:  I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith.  I was thoroughly enjoying this delightful novel (written in the 1940's) about a bright and resourceful teenage girl, her eccentric, penniless family, and the two intriguing young men who move in next door to the tumbledown castle where the family lives.  But my library hold expired and I had to return it unfinished!  (Oh, the trials of the frugal reader.)  I just got it back on the weekend and am eager to finish it off.  Maybe next month I'll tell you how I liked the whole thing.

My quit-after-three-chapters novel:  We are Water by Wally Lamb.  I loved Lamb's She's Come Undone, I Know This Much Is True, and The Hour I First Believed.  I also heard him speak at the Festival of Faith & Writing in 2010 and met him at his book-signing there; I was impressed by his kindness and humility.  But I just hated what I read of We Are Water:  pages and pages of self-indulgent backstory by at least three different narrators.  My sincerest apologies to Mr. Lamb and anyone who read and loved this book -- but I want to be turning pages because I can't stop reading, not because I feel guilty about quitting.

My huge, unnerving nonfiction book:  Five Days at Memorial:  Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink.  This book details how a New Orleans hospital coped during Hurricane Katrina; it focuses particularly on the controversy surrounding patients who died under questionable circumstances.  Very interesting discussion of important issues like disaster response, health care rationing, euthanasia, and societal values in general. 

My small, encouraging nonfiction book:  A Beautiful Disaster:  Finding Hope in the Midst of Brokenness by Marlena Graves.  I won this book in a draw on Micha Boyett's blog and am very glad I did.  The author writes in a warm and gently encouraging way about how we can encounter and be changed by God in the midst of difficult "desert" times in life.   She draws on her own experiences as a child who grew up amidst poverty and alcoholism, showing how from an early age she placed herself in the Bible passages she read and learned to look for God in whatever situation she was in.  (I quoted a bit from Graves's book in a previous post.)  This is a book I know I'll return to again and again.

Have you read any of these books?  What did you think?  What are you reading at the moment?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Monday morsel: the easy yoke (from John Ortberg)

Yesterday our pastor quoted from John Ortberg's book Soul Keeping. Ortberg is an author I like a lot:  I've read his books Jesus the One and Only, Everybody's Normal Until You Get to Know Them, and The Life You've Always Wanted.

I haven't read Soul Keeping yet, though, so I can't reproduce the quote directly from the book and can't remember it word-for-word from yesterday.  But I got this version from Ortberg's blog post entitled "Fighting Soul Fatigue"

"The Bible uses the word 'easy' only once. It came from Jesus. 'Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened … and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.' [Matthew 11:28-30]

‘Easy’ is a soul word, not a circumstance word. The soul was not made for an easy life. The soul was made for an easy yoke."


quote from

Monday, July 07, 2014


We had to get a new dishwasher last month after our old one conked out.  The new one is sleek and shiny and works great:  it gets the dishes squeaky clean, and it runs so quiet, I can hardly tell it's on.

However, it's also really slow. A regular wash cycle used to take about an hour on the old machine; now it takes two hours.  So I've had to adjust to this slower, longer cycle:  I need to be careful not to start the dishwasher if someone might want to take a shower within the following two hours, and I have to make sure I don't put anything in it that I might need before the cycle's over.

The manual states that newer-model dishwashers use a longer, slower cycle in order to save energy -- just like a car uses less fuel when driven more slowly.  That makes perfect sense, yet in a world where faster is almost always seen as better (Go back to dial-up Internet?  No thanks!), it almost seems quaint to be assured that slowness is a positive feature.

In a recent post on her blog "Classical Quest," my friend Adriana remarked about recovering from illness and feeling "like a tortoise in a world of hares."  That expression seemed to strike a chord among her readers, many of whom said in their comments that that was exactly how they felt.

I'm one of those readers.  I looked at my life and realized in many ways how slow it is.
  • I read quickly, but I write slowly.  I've been working on my tween novel since the fall of 2011 (or is it 2010?  I've honestly lost track), and I'm still only on my second draft.
  • I express my opinion quickly on superficial matters (like grammar errors in the newspaper and celebrities' questionable fashion choices) but am slow to share my own deeper thoughts.  I looked back at the 6-week Beth Moore study I'd participated in at church and realized I'd only spoken up three or four times in my very talkative small group, although I felt inside that I had a lot to say.
  • I'm slow to embrace change, slow to risk, slow to decide.  I procrastinate.
  • At times I feel stuck and lacking in accomplishment.  I know one of my primary callings is to be a mom to two kids who need a lot of support, and I've accepted, even embraced, that calling -- but sometimes I feel things are going nowhere fast in my life.  And comparing myself with others (which I know is the kiss of death) only adds to that feeling.
So it was really helpful yesterday morning in church when Pastor Mark spoke on I Corinthians 15:58, and I've decided to use this verse as today's Monday morsel:

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. 
Let nothing move you. 
Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, 
because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

His whole sermon text was that one verse.  No, his I Corinthians sermon series hasn't been covering one verse per week; that would be too slow even for me.  But I'm glad he selected this single verse for yesterday's message, because it helped me realize that focusing on accomplishments and achievements and quick results is missing the point.  As he showed us, the "Therefore" that begins the verse is key:  remembering what Jesus has done for us in the past and trusting in what He's going to do in the future are like a pair of bookends.  With both of those in place, we can stand firm, trusting that God is working in and through us even when things seem slow and unproductive.  Mark even used a picture of a turtle as an example of a creature that is standing firm and purposeful, not easily moved or disturbed.

So I feel better now about being a tortoise.  Life is not about being fast.  It's about doing what we're called to do and not stressing about the outcome ... and enjoying the benefits of life in the slow lane.