In our son’s sophomore year of high school, he had knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus and torn cartilage. The timing worked out, because I had taken a semester’s sabbatical from teaching to write a book. The surgeon’s parting words at the hospital to me were, “Be careful as you lift the movement and ice machines because you don’t want to end up with back surgery.” That was wise counsel. However, I was not wise in following it. Our son wanted to move from the bedroom to th
Does your life look like a shipwreck right now? Maybe you’re sick or your loved ones are. Maybe you’ve lost someone dear to you. Maybe you’re frustrated and sad and just plain weary that you can’t spend time with loved ones. Maybe finances are just awful and you’re worried about what to do for the holidays. Paul was in a literal shipwreck. And to make matters worse, he was on the ship because he was being taken to Rome for trial on trumped-up charges related to his faith in J
When I taught high school English, Romeo and Juliet provided many an example of the oxymoron–a short figure of speech that has contradictory terms. Romeo (about Rosaline): “Yet tell me not, for I have heard it all. Here’s much to do with hate, but more with love. Why then, O brawling love, O loving hate…” Romeo again (about Rosaline): “Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health, Still-waking sleep that is not what it is!” Juliet (on learning of Romeo’s murder of Ty
I am betting more people than normal will be using the word “grace” this week. “Will you say the grace?” After all, some kind of giving of thanks is expected for thanks-giving day, right? Dictionary.com provides insight into the English origin of the word. It was first recorded in 1125–75 in Middle English, taken from Old French, which came from the Latin grātia, meaning “favor, kindness, esteem,” as a derivative of grātus “pleasing.” The English teacher in me kept reading, a
Yesterday I was in such a funk. Because of winds up to 70 mph, the power went off around 10:30 in the morning and remained off all day and into the evening. While most others here in our mountain valley have woodstoves for their heat, we rely on electricity. People think we’re nuts, but years ago when we built the house we had an asthmatic baby boy, and his doctor recommended we not use wood heat to keep the air cleaner. Part of my concern was, of course, the food in the frid
Do you feel you need a time out? As though you’re in a fast-paced game and there’s no break in sight for a rest? For direction? For clarity?
I have too, but I’ve found great strength through one single practice: prayer.
And ever since I started prayerwalking 22 years ago, I’ve been studying prayer. Most of those years I’ve read through the Bible in a year, and when I saw a reference to prayer, I marked the verse(s) with a circled P in the margin. I find it interesting that
Do you have a comfy chair for relaxing and reading or even writing? Years ago several writer friends and I drove to Reno for the day to hear well-known writer Anne Lamott speak about the writing life. I’d read several of her books–the most famous perhaps being Bird by Bird–and I knew she had a wit, but I so enjoyed lots of belly laughing that night. She gave writers permission to do lots of things, one of which was to buy a comfortable chair for writing. I went out that week
Christmas is coming, and as I find myself making a Christmas list for my immediate family of 20, plus other family and friends, I remember again what my mom used to say when we kids asked her what she wanted for Christmas. “Peace and quiet.” She never said it as a joke. She was dead serious. I am the oldest of five. With my sister Nan’s passing five years ago next month, I have two brothers and a sister. There was a lot of racket in our family of seven. A year younger, Nan an
was thinking about the typical kid sayings the other day when I took four of the grandkiddos to the dentist. It was a day of . . . Five milkshakes . . . Four fillings . . . Three extractions . . . Two whiny kids . . . And a nana sitting in a Ford . . . two and a half hours. (‘Cause I couldn’t go in . . you know why.) So, that gave me lots of time for thought. My kids’ Top 8 “I’m . . . ” statements: #8 I’m scared. #7 I’m frustrated. #6 I’m not smart enough. #5 I’m not interest
I live in the largest alpine valley in North America: the Sierra Valley. At about 5,000 feet in elevation, the Sierra Valley is surrounded by mountains ranging in elevation from 6,000 to 8,000 feet. The valley is about 120,000 acres of cattle ranch land–pastures and planted fields of various kinds of hay. We live about an hour north of Lake Tahoe, and I tell people that our valley is just like Tahoe–except without all the water. Actually, the valley floor is filled with sedim
Hope: n. desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment I can have hope for a good future because I trust God. I do not put my hope in men or women, all of whom are fallible. All make mistakes. All say dumb things. All inflict hurt one way or another. Instead, I can maintain hope in God, because he is worthy of my trust. Trust: n. assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something I trust God because his character is good. I’
Ever had someone cuss you out in a nonstop blue streak of the worst possible names? I have. I tell you, teachers put up with a lot. When I gave a kid (who was also rude and sassy) a low grade because zilch effort had gone into an assignment, his mother made an appointment with me. I had a hunch what might lie ahead, so I asked both my administrator and a teaching peer to sit in on the conversation. It was more like a confrontation. Every awful word in the book was screamed at
I grew up in a church-going family, but Sunday meant one thing for me: doughnuts. Sunday was a big production. My sister and I got dropped off early, about 8:30 a.m., for girls choir practice, then we sang for the 9 a.m. service up front in the choir pews, which faced each other in front of the altar. The service was a liturgical one, which would have made me nod off except that much of it I spent on my knees on a hard wooden kneeler. I think that was the design of that thing
I was having such a great time with friends at a book convention. Each day was spent strolling the miles of aisles looking at new book releases, meeting other authors and publishing house folks, and looking at other bookstore products. Evenings were spent gadding about to fun restaurants. After dinner one night we decided to splurge calorie-wise and go to a chocolate restaurant. Yes, there were endless chocolate desserts and drinks. I decided on a double whammy: chocolate che
My dad was brilliant and kind. He once said, “There should just be one law: Be nice.” Doesn’t that make sense? If we made all our decisions based on the consideration for how they affected the people around us, what a better world this would be. When put to the test by legalists, Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love the Lord your God “with all your heart and with all your soul and without all your mind.” Then he added that the second greatest commandment was to lov
Jesus included everyone in the conversation. He spoke with a Samaritan woman–who wasn’t part of the Jewish faith in-crowd, being half-Jew and half-Gentile. He spoke with a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years–also considered unclean by the religious leaders of the time. He spoke with a Canaanite woman–who would have been part of a group of people who served other gods. Reading the passage about the Canaanite woman today in Matthew 15, I had to pause and reflect: Do I
Scripture says that God will reign over the earth. When I think about figurehead kings and queens around the world, I wonder how others view that scripture. My God is not a figurehead. He does not just hold a title with no more authority than today’s royalty that cuts ribbons and waves to a crowd affectively.
My God is not the sum total of someone’s fashionable cross piece of jewelry.
He created the stones and jewels and wood in that necklace.
My God is not something that is
As a board member of The Sierra Schools Foundation, I recently helped coordinate efforts to bring social-emotional training to our small school district’s teachers. One term struck me: compassion fatigue. As teachers have doubled up duties to teach both in an in-person setting and in a distance learning model, they have also encountered countless cases of students and parents and peers who are in emotional distress, while these same teachers also try to manage their own famil
How can we figure out God’s calling on our lives? Earlier this week I wrote about the three times God laid a call on my life. Quickly they were these: 1. Writing (1986) 2. Teaching (1989) 3. Prayerwalking (1998) I experienced something different for each of those calls: – Actual words I understood inaudibly as I had taken time to quiet my thoughts and to listen for God’s direction to me. – A dramatic dream (nightmare, really) – A scene that played out in front of me while I w
The last two days I have shared two of the three callings I know that God has laid on me, as well as how they have played out in my life. The first was in 1986 when God called me to a ministry of writing. The second was in 1989 when God called me to the profession of teaching. The third occurred in the fall of 1998. We had just sent our first and second children off to college that September. It felt like a season of new beginnings, except that my health was failing–at my own