Saturday, August 30, 2008

All Torn Up Inside

"You look at the floor and see the floor. I look at the floor and see molecules." ~Dan Aykroyd

"If God wanted us to bend over he'd put diamonds on the floor." ~Joan Rivers

OK ... this can't wait any longer. I see Genny is trying to steal not only my thunder, but the clever blog titles as well. (It's okay, Genny; I'll share. I like you! And seeing as neither one of us knew the other was installing flooring this week ...) I finished all of the tiling between January and April, and I keep telling people that this will be the last major "project" we will undertake while living in this house. But I'm pretty sure we'll have to paint, too.

The kids have wanted to be in the thick of the "wood floors" from day one (they've been practicing their sock-sliding techniques). Being the wise, cautious mother I am, (it had nothing to do with being a control freak ... really ... you gotta believe me), I shooed them away at first, warning them about the dangers of nails and tack strips and crowbars and carpet knives. Soon, though, my husband handed a hammer to a kid and let him/her pound the crowbar under a baseboard. That was all it took. Soon they were ripping up carpet and carpet pad, pulling nails, and prying up tack strips with the greatest of ease.

My husband was reminded of a book he read some time ago about a man who tended to get his whole family involved in large "projects" such as this, and how good it was for them as a family. We shall see. So far, the kids are having fun, and I have not slit my wrists. Things are looking good.

As of this morning, the boxes of floor have now spent more than 48 hours "acclimating" to the environmental conditions of our home, and I have a scratchy, sore throat and an aching back. I told my husband that every time we rip up part of the floor, I wake up with a sore throat. I think I may be allergic to dust ... or concrete, one. And as for the back, my mother gave me good advice once. Loosely summarized, "Comes a time when you bend one way to get down and you have to remember to reverse the motion to get back up; otherwise you kind of get stuck in that position." Great advice, but I always forget until I do get a crick in my back and by then I can no longer access the file in my brain that holds the instructions for reversal. It's getting old.

Guess what we're doing this Labor Day weekend? After I get a hot bath, of course.

Genny, let's be in touch, eh? Oh, and can I borrow some o' that Benadryl? =)

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Stellar Performance

“Ye stars! which are the poetry of heaven!” ~Lord Byron

“How lovely are the portals of the night, when stars come out to watch the daylight die.” ~Thomas Cole

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.” ~Philippians 2: 14-16

If there is one thing I miss living in the “big city,” it is the stars. I don’t mean those on the order of Paris Hilton and Tom Cruise. I don’t care how “hot” they are, they will never match the intensity of the flaming balls of burning gas flung into space some millennia ago by the Creator.

Sometimes I sit outside at night in the hammock and peer up into the sky. It’s true that if you sit long enough, your eyes will adjust, especially if the flood light on the school next door is burned out. Still, you can’t help but recognize that you are only perceiving a fraction of what’s really out there.

But, drive 20 miles west of town and voila! Millions of points of light decorate the heavens.

I have long been familiar with God’s covenant with Abram. As part of the deal, God “… took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’” ~Genesis 15:5

I don’t think he meant that his descendents would be burning orbs of hydrogen and helium. He was referring to the number of stars Abram could see. And think about it – it would not have taken a long hike to get away from the few campfires, and his view would have been completely unencumbered by neons, fluorescents, and incandescents. Imagine the numbers of stars he would have seen. I am certain that God chose a clear night to make his point.

I heard a Rich Mullins song the other day that I have heard many times. You know how sometimes you stop and really listen to lyrics and something you never noticed jumps out at you? Well, the song, “Sometimes by Step,” includes the following line. I suggest you really take it in …

“Sometimes I think of Abraham, how one star he saw had been lit for me.”

Now, I don’t have any idea whether or not God literally placed one star in space for every person who would ever call him Lord. But, the line gave me cause to stop and consider again that God had me in mind from the beginning. Perhaps it was that on Day 4 God pulled out a large mixing bowl. After he whipped up a bunch of star batter, he grabbed his Stellar Scoop and started digging in, but instead of placing them on celestial cookie sheets, he threw them to the far corners of the universe.

This one’s for Abraham … there goes one for Moses … and here’s Daniel’s!

James and John … my dear friend Paul … Mary … and yes, even Martha gets one.

Martin Luther … Adoniram Judson … William Wilberforce … Cameron Townsend!

Ah, this makes a great Billy Graham star! And this one’s perfect for __________ …

Insert your name there and read it again. Can you see it? God is flinging the stars into space.

God is celebrating you.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Confessions of a School Supply Junkie

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” ~2 Corinthians 5:17

“Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” ~Matthew 9:17

“Organized crime in America takes in over forty billion dollars a year and spends very little on office supplies.” ~Woody Allen

I’ve been comparing notes with some of my teacher friends lately, and many of them, like me, love school supplies. Is there something about the love of college-ruled paper and three-ring binders that predisposes someone to gravitate to an educational setting?

I mean, there is something about the feel of a brand new bottle of Elmer’s glue.

And did you realize construction paper has a smell?

Twenty-four colored pencils are infinitely better than twelve.

And markers … do you keep them in the original carton or sort them neatly into the pencil box? What a quandary!

Spiral notebooks, folders, colored pencils, poster board, crayons … and don’t get me started on scissors!

Every August when I was a kid, I used to set all of my new school supplies on my bed and sort, sort, sort, all the while thinking about what the first day of school would be like. As my friend observed when we were shopping for supplies for our campuses the other day, it was kind of like Christmas! Still is, except now we purchase dry erase markers, manila folders, three-hole punches, copy paper, ink cartridges, and correction fluid. Though I seriously don’t need anything else added to my job description (already well-rounded with “other duties as assigned”), sometimes I envy Sarah, our office-supply-order-and-purchase gal. Some people have all the fun.

So, what does all of this say about me, and others like me?

Well, can you say “type-A?”

I purchased supplies for my own children a couple weeks ago. First, we checked our needs against the school-supply stash I have in the closet. (Those glue sticks and spiral notebooks only go on sale for ten cents once a year, you know!) Then we headed to our local Target. I grew concerned when the kids seemed more interested in everything else, including harassing each other, than they were with the pencils and rulers. After quick stops at Office Max and Wal-Mart to complete our list (now, why couldn’t I find everything in one place, that’s what I want to know), we carried our loot into the house.

“Come here guys … let’s get this stuff together!” I called cheerfully as they disappeared down the hall.


I began to scatter the supplies out and it looked as if Santa’s bundle had exploded in the living room floor. I was anxious to get started. Actually, I was anxious for the kids to be as excited as I was about these crazy pens and binders and backpacks and boxes. “Kids? Who wants to get their school supplies together?”

They really didn’t care.

Alone, I sorted my kids’ school supplies and placed them in their backpacks, ready for the first day of school. They were completely unconcerned that they had just missed an awesome opportunity to sort, sort, sort, as well as catch a glimpse of a peculiar obsession in their mother.

Now that I think about it, I don’t know whether to be disappointed or relieved.

Though also a first born, my husband doesn’t get it either. (He’s much less inclined to type-A-ism than I am.) He doesn’t understand why we can’t just use last year’s crayons. (There are only two missing from the box of twenty-four, after all.) Now, I did salvage what I could (paper, rulers, scissors, a zipper-binder, one of the backpacks, etc.), and my kids (okay, I) would be fine if they only had gently used supplies. But, there is something about the newness of it all that calls to me, its voice persuading me that each year students should start school with a clean slate in more ways than one. New supplies are somehow symbolic of getting off to that fresh, new start.

Hopefully I don’t take scripture out of context when I draw the following parallel, but I’m grateful God feels the same way. What if, when we gave our hearts to God and made Him our Lord, He said, “That’s really cool! Now, do the best you can with what you’ve got. Good luck!”

No! He says, “If anyone trusts in me as his Lord and Savior, he is a new person. The old things are gone and he gets to start over with brand new supplies!”

Bottom line, (other than the risk, hinted at in Woody Allen’s quote, of priming potential future members of organized crime rings) starting a new school year with new or used supplies really wouldn’t matter in the long run. But, we could never make it if God left us to start our new life in Him with the same heart, mind, and spiritual resources we had the day before.

Behold, all things are new.

Monday, August 18, 2008

This is Getting Old

“You know you're getting old when all the names in your black book have M. D. after them.” ~Harrison Ford

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” ~Isaiah 46:4

It’s happening.

I am officially falling apart.

No, I don’t mean psychologically, though I am certain a strong case could be made for that, as well. I mean physically. The other day one of my sixteen-year-old students said something about me being “older.” I don’t think she really meant it that way, but I couldn’t let her get off scot free. With a dead-pan expression on my face, I said, “You mean, older than dirt? “Oh no,” she replied with a smile. “You’re younger than dirt.” Gee, Crystina. Thanks a lot.

I do wonder how much of it is a mental thing, seeing as how the big 4-oh is looming a mere four months out on the horizon. But, you know how it is. (Okay, some of you know how it is. The rest of you can text message with Paige about us codgers you have no choice but to associate with.)

Wiry, gray hairs sprout up at your temples and eventually begin spreading like kudzu, snuffing the life out of every pigmented follicle they come in contact with.

After sitting in a comfortable chair (or any chair, for that matter) for thirty minutes, getting up requires two tries, a push off the arm rests, and a slow groan while your back and legs fuss at you for daring to straighten them out.

You no longer worry about the cat getting a hair ball from grooming himself, and start to become concerned that if he spends too much time on the bathroom floor, he might choke on yours instead.

Your feet ache walking barefoot inside when it’s cold outside.

After years of steady, regular rhythms, some of your natural processes seem to be trying to adopt the cadences of several different drum corps at once. Eventually they will get tired of trying to find the beat and just quit altogether, and you don’t know which to wish for.

Instead of eye shadow and body shimmer, your skin begins to be decorated by spots and dots, freckles and speckles, scratches and patches of various colors, shapes, sizes, and textures. You’re now taking recommendations for a good dermatologist.

You spend ten minutes looking for the sunglasses on your head, the keys in your pocket, and the reason you walked into this room in the first place.

You are frequently unable to access common files in the recesses of your brain. You know, the ones labeled “Names of Good Friends I’ve had for Years,” “My Address and Telephone Number,” and “Who is the Vice-President of the United States?”

Your eyesight fails, forcing you to grow Go-Go-Gadget Extend-a-arms just so you can read your various prescription bottles. (OK, those of you who know me well, stop rolling your eyes. Yes, I am blessed to still have 20/20 vision, but I expect it could go at any time. I’m just preparing myself …)

Several years ago, after much related experience with their own parents, my parents asked us kids to do them a favor. They told us, though perhaps not in these exact words, to make them just stop talking if they ever got to the point where their failing health issues were the focal point of most every conversation.

Fortunately, we have not yet had to put my parents out of their misery, as they have, for the most part, spared us the gory details of their physical deterioration. Sometimes to a fault, though, as we have found out many times after the fact about this procedure, that test, or the other worrisome situation.

I always wondered why God chose for Jesus to die at age 33. Is it some magic number? Was he in the prime of his human life? Would he have ‘fallen apart’ over the next few years? I mean all of this with the utmost respect; I am not trying to be trite at all. I seriously wondered when I turned 34 whether I was taking on some sort of additional responsibility or something. What were the implications of “outliving” Jesus?

I have no real answer to all of this. I am simply musing. But, I am encouraged by God’s promise to Isaiah quoted above: Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he … who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you, … sustain you and … rescue you.”

I have made you.

Wow. This body that always seems to have something irritated, healing, oozing, peeling, aching, scaling, wobbling, paling, struggling, sagging, tightening, dragging, stretching, dropping, straining, stopping – God designed it. He knows its capability and its limitations.

I will carry you. I will sustain you.

Even when my body is weak and aching, he will continue to support and uphold me. When I feel I can’t keep it going, he will sustain me. He doesn’t say he will always make the effects of growing older go away, but he promises to carry me through it.

I will rescue you.

He has rescued me from Hell, and he will ultimately rescue me from my body. As our pastor occasionally says (and I loosely paraphrase), “Some day you will come to my funeral and the preacher will talk about me being in that box, but don’t you believe it! The shell will be in the box, but the nut will be in heaven!”

I know we should care for our bodies, but when it’s all said and done, they are only tools - jars of clay that become cracked and broken with normal use. I can only hope that the implication of that breakage is that the Spirit seizes the opportunity to ooze out in greater and greater measure.

Friday, August 15, 2008


“Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come.” ~Daniel 10:14

“Every little kid has always wanted to be a race car driver. This gets some of that out.” ~David Alan Grier

“The future influences the present just as much as the past.” ~Friedrich Nietzsche

I often wonder what my kids will be like when they grow up. Will they be kind and considerate? Will they have aspirations for their futures? Will they have a dynamic relationship with God? Will they move out when they’re eighteen? Will they bring home a date covered with tattoos and body piercings? Will they marry that person? You know – stuff like that.

One thing I had not given much thought to was what kind of drivers they would be. And even less so, who would get the privilege of teaching them to drive.

As I think about my own experience of learning to drive, two instances will forever stand out in my memory. The first occurred the Saturday my father decided that I should learn how to drive the turquoise Datsun B-210 (a stick shift). (For those of you who have no idea what a Datsun is, 4COL! U R 2 YUNG! (VSF) @TEOTD, S A NISSAN, C? HTH.) I’m glad he decided to teach me, though, because I have certainly used that skill, oh, five or six times in my adulthood … not nearly as much as I have used my skill for text messaging, of course (ROTFLOL). (I’m kidding … I have never text messaged in my life. Just wanted to make that clear.)

Anyway, as the story goes, I practiced in my high school parking lot for an hour or so before my dad decided I was ready for the open road. I don’t really remember whether or not I agreed, but still I turned right and headed north. About a quarter mile down the road, he decided I should turn right again, this time into a church parking lot.

I sort of forgot that I had to slow down. That was my first mistake. And I’m certain that the last time I had turned into that lot, the telephone pole wasn’t there. (Oh, wait … I’d never turned into that parking lot before …)

No, I didn’t hit it, but let me assure you … it wasn’t because I didn’t try.

The next incident occurred when my father insisted I drive home from church. (I don’t remember, but surely it wasn’t the next day, because I think my father was suffering from PTSD, and I doubt he would have been so anxious for me to take the wheel.) This time my entire family was in the car, but no pressure, of course. I actually did really well – stopped at all the red lights, drove the speed limit, stayed in the right lane except to pass (which I probably didn’t even do, come to think of it). I was doing all the right stuff, so when it came time to change into the left lane to get ready for my turn into our subdivision, I started to look over my shoulder.

“It’s okay. You’ve got time,” I heard him say from the passenger’s side.

Now tell me … how would you interpret that statement?

Some of you may have interpreted it as “It’s okay. You’ve got time.”

I, on the other hand, heard him say, “It’s okay. You’ve got time,” so seizing the time I had, I began my merge into the left lane … the left lane that was at that time occupied by another vehicle.

STOP!! What are you doing??

I swerved back.

You told me I had time! You said it was okay!

You did have time! Time until you had to pull over!

No, you said I had … oh.

Okay, so fast forward to last week when my kids and I went with some friends to a local amusement park. It was a crazy hot day, but we were having fun. When all the kids wanted to go drive the antique cars, we adults complied, though it certainly wouldn’t be as good as the double-loop, three big hills roller coaster (which all the moms rode, hollering like goofballs with our hands in the air while the kids watched – heh heh heh!) Surely they could handle the antique cars. There’s a rail in the middle of the track; how hard could it be?

As we reached the front of the line, having worked through all the kinks about who was going to drive, blah blah blah, I climbed in the back of the car while the kids got in the front. You weren’t allowed to switch drivers, per se, so my son sat behind the wheel and was going to be in control first. At about the halfway point, my daughter would stick her longer leg over and finish up from the passenger’s side. Problem solved, right?

Well, you’d think so, but noooo.

My son couldn’t keep the pedal down. He finally got so frustrated he gave up. To keep the show on the road, I told him to climb across the seat behind my daughter to get out of the way as she took over. I cast a glance over my shoulder. There was a car waiting behind us.

They did so pretty quickly, but the problem was my daughter could not keep the pedal down, either.

For crying out loud! How hard can it be?

I tried to be calm and patient with the situation, but you know how it is …. 101 degrees, you’ve been playing nanny all day to kids who say no to every other ride you try to get them on, your feet hurt, and now there are three cars behind you. In my mind I’m thinking, just push the pedal down!! But, being the calm, collected mother I am, I say, Just push the pedal down!! My son soon joins in, nagging her to do this and do that. (Yeah, dude, ‘cause you mastered it, huh?)

Bless her heart (that’s Southern for “Oh, good grief!!”), she was at the same time trying so desperately to steer (wheel to the far right … BUMP! Wheel to the far left … BUMP! Wheel to the far right ……. well, you get the picture). By this time, we’d probably only gone a total of about 50 yards – in 8" segments. I stopped looking behind me, ‘cause, you know, I really didn’t want to know.

“Stop steering! You’re not going to go off the track! That’s why there’s a rail! Just push the pedal down! …..” I’m sure that her ears eventually converted my words to “Peanuts Special” language. You know, “Mwaa mwa mwaaa mwaaa mwa.”

I finally gave up, told my son to back off, and we sat back to enjoy the show, if not the ride. I’m sure my intensity really wasn’t helping. I toyed with the idea that I should jump over the seat and take over (surely they would let me break the rules for this, I reasoned), but I just couldn’t do it. I thought it better to let her finish than to bully her out of the driver’s seat and make her feel bad about it … no matter if it took us until Friday to get there.

Eventually the Promised Land came into view. She jerked our way to the STOP sign where she was supposed to stop, and stop she did. (She had that part down.) The teenage attendant hopped up onto the running board, stuck his foot on the pedal, and pulled us up to the drop-off point. I’ve never been so happy to see a teenage driver in my life.

“I just saw my future flash before my eyes,” I said to him with a shake of my head.

He looked at me, granting me a most genuine smile with just a hint of laugh.

As we climbed out, I noticed our friends who had been in the car ahead of us standing behind the gate grinning at us. Funny … I’d kind of forgotten all about them.

I repeated my claim to her … that I had just seen my future.

“Everyone was wondering where all the cars were,” she said, a sly grin plastered from ear to ear.

It took a moment for me to comprehend the full impact of that statement.

“There hadn’t been any cars for several minutes,” she continued. “Everyone was wondering what was going on.”

I looked back. Sure enough, there were about fifteen puttering antique cars standing in a solid line.

You know, I’ve been wondering … do the missionary kids have opportunities to drive in Papua New Guinea? If not, I think I will let her grandfather teach her how to drive when she comes back to the states for college.

Don’t panic, dad. It’s okay. You’ve got time. =)

Monday, August 4, 2008

Cloudy with a Chance of Making Sense

"By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way …” Exodus 13:21a

“While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the LORD appearing in the cloud.” ~Exodus 16:10

“The LORD said to Moses, ‘I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you.’” ~Exodus 19:9

“At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.” ~Mark 13:26

I have become fascinated with clouds lately. I think the obsession developed as I was photographing sunrises and sunsets on our June vacation. More recently, too, I have driven to work several times with the arrival of dawn, each time experiencing an overwhelming feeling of privilege, as if I had been invited to some incredible high-altitude show put on just for me.

Mostly I notice the striking beauty within these condensed bundles of water vapor. Especially with the early morning light, they can be stricken with hues of pink, orange, and violet. When they cover the sun, the radiance that spills from behind is dazzling. As a storm develops and they literally roll across the sky, it is obvious the power contained within can be, dare I say, “electric.” Some days, whimsical cotton puffs drift lazily through the atmosphere as if propelled by the contented exhale of the Almighty himself.

How could I have taken them for granted?

I know it’s not the end of the world. I could ignore clouds for the rest of my life and never really know the difference. But, having caught a taste of their beauty, I now look for them, many times regretting that I’ve forgotten my camera.

They are kind of like snowflakes, or fingerprints; no two are ever exactly the same.

Children know this. Don’t you remember years ago relaxing in the grass and watching the scenes unfold above you?

Look! There’s a turtle.

Ooh! Santa Claus!

Winnie the Pooh.

A house with a chimney.


An underwear-clad hippopotamus standing atop the Empire State Building holding a megaphone in his hand.

The possibilities were endless. They still are, though I much more rarely see figures in the clouds. Oh, occasionally I will (ok, usually when my kids are with me) – you know, dogs, cats, or umbrella-toting squirrels. However, more-so now, I see the simple beauty of color, the unique variations of shape, the brilliant dance of light.

Simply put, I have begun to look forward to what the clouds have in store for me each day.

Frankly, after weeks of the intense Texas heat (as I write, it is 105 degrees outside), I seem to have forgotten why, when people are describing a glorious day they smile broadly and declare, “There’s not a cloud in the sky!” as if that’s supposed to be a good thing.

What a waste of good sky! :-)

No, in addition to their aesthetic appearance, clouds can also provide (if they are in the right place at the right time) a respite from the intense heat of the sun. Who of us hasn’t at some time commented, being surprised by a sudden broad shadow from above, “The temperature dropped ten degrees just then!” And everyone knows that clouds always precede the rain. That’s why, after years of drought and famine, when God finally told Elijah to expect relief, the prophet sent his servant (seven times, in fact) in search of just one measly cloud that would signal its coming (1 Kings 18).

And finally, but definitely not least importantly, my clouded mind has begun to muse on the many Biblical references to God manifesting Himself in a cloud, or as a cloud, or with a cloud. I have long thought of God when I see a rainbow – not just because of the Noahic covenant described in Genesis, but because of this verse:

“Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown…” ~Ezekiel 1:28

Now I am adding clouds to my personal list of triggers that point to the Almighty.

And I guess I can never have enough of those.

Here’s hoping your days are at least partly cloudy.

We are missionaries serving God and the task of Bible translation by serving the missionary community in Papua New Guinea through Personnel Administration and MK Education. We thank you for your prayers!

For the Bibleless Peoples of the World ...

(Updated 13 April 2013)