Saturday, April 30, 2011

My observations from the Royal Wedding

I know that you can hardly wait...

First of all, I think I want to change my name to Pippa. I've always hated my name, and I think Pippa could be fun.

And good grief, no, I didn't wake up early to watch the whole thing though I did get up in time to watch them walk back up the aisle after signing the register. My first thought was, "Prince William is bald." Though not as unattractive as his father, he's not quite the picture of the fairy tale handsome prince, in my opinion. Prince Charming had more hair.

While I normally hate PDAs, or at least really blatant ones make me ill, the bride and groom barely touched one another. Even afterwards, such as the carriage ride back to the palace. They didn't even sit close to each other. It just seemed odd to me.


I saw a recap today and the final song - "God Save the Queen." Everyone was singing. Everyone except the queen. My questions are, A) Is that weird for her? B) Is she not supposed to sing the national anthem with everyone else? C) Is she as much of a sourpuss as she looks?

Thank goodness we don't have the hat phenomena in the US. Seriously. Thank goodness we don't wear hats like this. Rupert Everett on the TLC coverage was hilarious talking about them. He especially hated Posh Spice's hat with the "antenna". The rest of the world calls her Victoria Beckham these days, but he still intentionally calls her Posh Spice. And as the "British Gentlemen" they kept referring to him as, he sure was dressed casually. So help me, he had to have been the only person in the entire UK yesterday that was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt.

OK, I just Googled something that makes so much sense now. I was wondering why Rupert Everett did not look like himself yesterday. I was going to see if I could find a picture of him from yesterday, and my search yielded "bad facelift". Indeed. I was wondering why he looked so different. I'm sure that's old news, but I haven't seen him in a while. I wasn't the only one who didn't recognize him by my web search.

 Now onto my hat commentary.

I think this one may be in the running for the largest circumference.


This blue one curved forward at the top point.
According to Piers Morgan on a video I just watched,
she  had just had nose surgery and was drawing enough
attention to herself that way. One suggestion was she just
tip it on over to cover her nose. She was rubbing
under her eye and nose a lot in the video.


I thought the Queen's hat was to boxy and traditional.


 This hat reminds me of the curly drinking straws that Brookshire's
was giving away a few weeks ago when Peyton was staying with me.


I can handle the color of the flower that is bigger than her head,
but I don't like the color of the matching lipstick.


Kate's Mum. Not too bad.


I don't know how Posh kept this one on.
And the downward antenna would bug me in my peripheral.
And Mr. Bend-it-like-Beckham was much better dressed.


And someone had to have some feathers
in their hat like Yankee Doodle.
How could you see sitting behind these things?


 Camilla really shouldn't do anything to draw attention to herself.
Ever. The swigglies sticking out aren't as crazy
as some hats I've seen in her photos.


You know I love purple, but I don't love her purple get up.
You would think royalty could wear prettier clothes.


And the most ridiculous hats ever.
I think the designer was playing a mean joke on them.


Friday, April 29, 2011

The Government Can Change an Identity,
but It Cannot Change a Life
Suspense author Randy Singer brings
awareness to the plight of Dalits in India

What is our responsibility for obtaining justice for those in need? Does the end always justify the means? Randy Singer examines these questions while taking his readers through twists and turns on a powerful journey in his novel False Witness. This engrossing legal thriller is a re-telling of Singer’s original novel by the same name. The new version has many substantial changes—some designed to bring about Singer’s original vision for the book inspired by his friend’s funeral.

The deceased was David O’Malley, Singer’s good friend and former client. O’Malley’s wife had asked Singer to give her husband’s eulogy. So, at the funeral, Singer talked about his friend’s generosity and big heart. Everyone there had a David O’Malley story, so heads nodded as he shared his. David’s pastor followed Singer in the pulpit. He spoke about a man named Thomas Kelly. The man was a scoundrel involved in organized crime. He turned on everyone he knew. “You don’t think you know Thomas Kelly, but you do,” the pastor explained. “David O’Malley was Thomas Kelly before he went into the witness protection program—before he came to the Lord.”

Prior to that moment, the only people that knew about David’s past were the government, his family, Singer, and his pastor. There was utter silence as the pastor concluded with a line Singer said he will never forget. “The government can give you a new identity,” he said, “but only Christ can change your life.” It was then that he decided to write this book.

But Singer also wanted to draw attention to one of his passions. He wanted to highlight the challenges of today’s church in India. He believes that most Western Christians are unaware of the persecution of the church and the miraculous things happening there.

India is a land of civil rights, in theory, but of brutal oppression, in fact—especially for the 165 million members of the Dalits, India’s lowest caste. During Singer’s first trip to India a few years ago, he saw firsthand the systemic oppression of the Dalits (formerly known as untouchables) through the Hindu caste system. Singer was astonished by the fact that the world’s largest democracy was also a breeding ground for the world’s largest human-trafficking operations, that it would allow the exploitation of 15 million children in bonded labor, that it would tolerate temple prostitution and other forms of sexual slavery, and that it would foster economic and social systems that oppress nearly 25 percent of its people.

But there is a silver lining. A bond was formed between the Dalits and Christians. The Dalits began asking the church to help educate their children. Hundreds of schools sprang up, providing thousands of Dalit children with an English-based education (critical to landing good jobs) and newfound self-respect. The Dalits responded with another invitation: “If this is the Christian faith, come start a church in our village.” The result is that millions of Dalits and other Indians are coming to Christ, drawn by a religion that believes the ground is equal at the foot of the cross.

Singer was moved by the plight of the Dalit children, struggling to throw off the yoke of oppression and replace it with real freedom and dignity, so he committed to do his part because he believes that “no child should be untouchable.” So he is donating every penny from the sale of False Witness to the Dalit Freedom Network. His novel will take readers from the streets of Las Vegas to the halls of the American justice system and the inner sanctum of the growing church in India with all the trademark twists, turns, and legal intrigue his fans have come to expect.

False Witness begins with Clark Shealy, a bail bondsman with the ultimate bounty on the line—his wife’s life. He has 48 hours to find an Indian professor in possession of the Abacus Algorithm—an equation so powerful it could crack all Internet encryption.

Four years later, law student Jamie Brock is working in legal aid when a routine case takes a vicious twist. She and two colleagues learn that their clients, members of the witness protection program, are accused of defrauding the government and have the encrypted algorithm in their possession. Now they’re on the run from federal agents and the Chinese mafia, who will do anything to get the algorithm. Caught in the middle, Jamie and her friends must protect their clients if they want to survive long enough to graduate.

In this engrossing legal thriller, Singer shows how God is a God of justice and how, in His time, justice will be served.

False Witness by Randy Singer
Tyndale House Publishers / May 2011
ISBN: 978-1-4143-3569-8 / 416 pages / paperback / $13.99

For review copy and interview information, contact:
Audra Jennings - 800-927-051 x104
 Do you have a book club?

If you would like to have Randy Singer in person or via Skype at an upcoming book club meeting to discuss False Witness, we have a contest for you!

The first 10 groups that sign up will have the opportunity to have Randy appear either live or via Skype for a 1-hour discussion with the group. (In order to qualify, groups must have at least 20 members and have the ability to use Skype.)

The first 50 groups that sign up will receive a special book club package that includes a DVD, a reading group guide, and an assortment of Randy’s backlist titles from Tyndale House Publishers.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Do you have True Courage?


Thanks to everyone who participated in today's tour!

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

David C. Cook; New edition (April 1, 2011)
***Special thanks to Karen Davis, Assistant Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Steve Farrar is the founder and chairman of Men’s LeadershipMinistries. He is a frequent speaker at men’s conferences throughout the country. Farrar has authored 16 books, including Point Man, Battle Ready, and God Built.


Visit the author's website.


SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Best-selling author and Bible teacher, Steve Farrar, reminds us that the story of Daniel holds powerful truths for today. Everyone can recall as a young child having the courage to head out the door—whether it was to your first day of school, your first game in little league, or your piano lesson. Then life takes over and you lose your bravado, giving in to the fears of the world around you. In True Courage readers will discover a God who provides incredible courage in the midst of uncertainty, even through treacherous, evil days. He gives us the courage to face lions in their den—or an unexpected job loss, the diagnosis of a sick child, or the return of a debilitating cancer.



Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (April 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 9781434768735
ISBN-13: 978-1434768735
ASIN: 1434768732

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Courage to Stay the Course


True Courage can throw you at first, because it’s counterintuitive.


In other words, it’s the opposite of what you might expect.


My best example? Getting into a pickup and backing up a trailer into the garage. No sweat, you say? What’s the big deal about backing a trailer into a garage? It’s no sweat until you try to pull it off. If you’ve never done it before, thirty seconds into it you’re sweating like a fire hydrant because that pickup and trailer are twisted like a pretzel—and you’re suddenly parked in the flowerbed with no clue how to get out.


Why it is so hard to back up a trailer? It’s counterintuitive, that’s why. If you want the trailer to go left, you don’t turn the wheel left. No, if you want to go left, you have to turn to the right. If you’re going forward and you want to turn left then you turn left—but not if you’re backing up. When you’re backing up, the rules change, and to get that trailer in the garage you have to go against the grain of what makes sense.


Okay, now let’s plow right into Daniel, who right out of the blocks, demonstrates that True Courage is … counterintuitive.


In Daniel 1, we find two events that reveal True Courage.


Also in Daniel 1, we discover three traits that are the basis of True Courage.




Two Events

The Crash


“In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god” (Dan. 1:1–2).


We can read this verse and blow right by it. But it is huge in biblical history, and it was huge for Daniel. When Nebuchadnezzar showed up at the gates of Jerusalem, it was the beginning of the end.


When I was a kid in school in the fifties, we used to have drills where we would duck under our desks in case of a nuclear attack from the Soviet Union. The Russian president, Khrushchev, had said he would bury us. So we got under our desks so that we would be protected from the Soviet nuclear missiles. That way Khrushchev couldn’t bury us, and our nation wouldn’t be crushed.


The prophet Jeremiah had told the nation that if they continued to rebel against the one true God and mock His Word, they would crash. And that’s exactly what happened. Nebuchadnezzar showed up in 605 BC, and everything changed.


It would have been easy for Daniel to imagine that his life was over. God’s judgment had arrived, and it was everyone’s worst nightmare. Another king from a more powerful nation was now calling the shots. He would leave a Jewish king in place, but only as a figurehead and puppet. For the little nation of Judah, the gig was up.


When the nation crashed, so did Daniel’s plan for his life. He was just a teenager, but teenagers have dreams, hopes, and wonderful ideas about what their lives will look like someday.


For Daniel, that someday—the someday of his boyhood dreams—would never come. All of those dreams died when the Babylonians smashed through Jerusalem’s gates. All the rules had changed, and nothing could ever look or feel the same again. Not ever.


Sometimes our worlds crash, and so do our dreams.


I have a friend who waved to his wife and daughter as they drove off for a short overnight trip. Two hours later he was in a helicopter, landing at the scene of a head-on collision that took his wife’s life and severely injured his daughter. When that truck crossed the center divider and crashed head-on into his wife’s car, my friend’s entire existence crashed. He held her lifeless body in his arms, and it was the end of everything—or so it seemed in that moment.


At some point every man’s life crashes, and it seems like life is over. It may be the death of a spouse or a child. It could be the death of a marriage. A man’s life can crash through a bankruptcy or because a teenager has run away from home. There are a thousand different events that can crash our lives. Sometimes the crash is the result of a bad decision, but it can just as easily be the result of simply living life.


When a man’s life crashes, it always kicks in cause and effect.


Sometimes, the results are devastating, and a man simply gives up, withdraws in defeat and despair, and checks out of life. In other words, the crash changes everything—permanently, and for the worse. At other times, a man will take a different course and keep moving forward, trusting God, though the path has all but disappeared in front of him.


That, my friend, is a counterintuitive response.


And that is the path of True Courage.



The Change


Some changes are exciting, propelling you into a new and positive life. But when the change is the direct result of a crash, it’s another matter altogether. Your life and your heart have been broken—and you’re wondering how in the world you will ever pick up the pieces. You’re in the middle of a transition, an unwanted change, and there’s no turning back. And when you find yourself in unwelcome change, you are suddenly dealing with new stuff in your gut—anxiety, perplexity, disorientation, crushing disappointment, or even sheer terror.


The road forks before you, and you find yourself walking where you have never walked before. You wake up one morning, and it seems like everything once so dear and familiar to you has been stripped away. You’re on alien turf and maybe wondering how in the world you got there—and what you’re going to do next. And then you remember the crash and realize that’s how you got there—but you still don’t have a clue what you’re going to do next. Here’s how the Bible describes the huge changes that crashed into the life of the young man named Daniel:


Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king. Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah. And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego. (Dan. 1:3–7)


Daniel’s nation crashed, and so did his world. Almost overnight, he found himself swimming in unwanted change. He was taken from his family, friends, and home, and relocated to a foreign city, with a foreign culture, trying to pick up some basic phrases in a foreign language. And on top of that, he suddenly landed in a foreign university. That’s a lot of unwanted change—but that’s what happens when your world comes crashing down. Daniel was immediately enrolled in a three-year course of study at the University of Babylon. You might call it Daniel’s “education,” but then again, the word indoctrination might fall closer to the mark. So what has changed? It’s still true today. Indoctrination is still the primary work of secular universities, just as it was three thousand years ago in ancient Babylon.


If you think that I overstate the case, note that something had to occur before Daniel could move into the dorm. They first stripped him of his name—which was step one in stripping him of his faith. One commentator writes, “Daniel and his friends received genuine heathen names in exchange for their own significant names, which were associated with that of the true God.”1


The Babylonian conquerors wanted to swallow these young people whole—mind, body, and soul—completely estranging them from their old home and their relationship with the God of Israel.


Daniel in Hebrew means “God is my Judge.” It was changed to Belteshazzar, which means “whom Bel favors.” Daniel’s friends also went through the same drill. Hananiah means “God is gracious.” He became known as Shadrach, which means “illumined by Shad [a sun god].” Mishael means “who is like God? God is great.” They tagged him with Meshach, which means “who is like Shach [a love goddess].” Finally, Azariah means “God is my helper,” but the tenured university faculty came up with Abednego, which means “the servant of Nego [a fire god].”2


Daniel found himself in a Babylonian university system that was a place of tremendous pressure and competition. At the end of the three years, each of the young men brought over from Judah were to stand before the king for the biggest final exam of their young lives. What’s more, I’m pretty sure they couldn’t bring their books, CliffsNotes, laptops, or iPhones to the exam. This is how Scripture records that moment after the university had dubbed Daniel and his friends with new names:


Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank.

Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs, and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.” Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.” So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food. So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.


As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom. And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus. (Dan. 1:8–21)


In Daniel 1:3, Daniel was a teenager. By the time we reach verse 21, he’s somewhere around ninety years of age. Cyrus conquered Babylon in 539 BC. Verses 3–21 give us a very short bio of Daniel’s career in Babylon. He started in the Babylonian university, was promoted like a rocket, and served in the highest reaches of power for at least seventy years.


In the early years at that godless university, God prepared Daniel and his sidekicks to serve as royal advisors to the king of Babylon. In addition, God gave Daniel a stunning gift: the ability to interpret dreams and visions. He was truly one of a kind. He and his friends who stood for the Lord had a place of remarkable influence because their advice, counsel, and wisdom were ten times better than anyone who had ever graduated from the University of Babylon.


At the risk of their very lives, these young men honored God by refusing to violate their consciences, and the Lord honored their faithfulness. Daniel went on to keep his high place of honor for seventy years. For the rest of his life he would live and work in the corridors of power and luxury, politics, and intrigue. The king and the palace were to be his sphere for the rest of his days.


Now how in the world did he do that?




Three Traits


How did this young man maintain his balance on such treacherous turf? And did he manage to keep that balance for the seventy years of his life there?


As I have read and reread the account of Daniel’s life, three traits continually come to the surface: humility, trust, and hope.


They don’t show up just once or twice. Throughout his life they are woven into the fabric of his character and decision making. They are a key part of Daniel’s True Courage. That may not seem obvious at first glance—what does humility, trust, and hope have to do with True Courage? The answer is all three are counterintuitive. They all run against the grain of what we would expect in Daniel.


It hit me one day that those three traits in Daniel’s life are captured in one of the shortest psalms in the Bible: Psalm 131. Interestingly enough, it’s one of the psalms of the ascent—psalms that the men of Judah would sing as they would make their way up the mountain to Jerusalem three times a year. God commanded all of the men to come during these times. But Daniel was never able to do that in his entire life. The nation was in captivity, and the feasts were on hold.


But the traits of Psalm 131 weren’t on hold in his life.


He lived them out every day and in so doing demonstrated True Courage.


He actually lived out that psalm’s truths in a sometimes seductive, always tyrannical environment. And he did it for seventy years.


It was C. H. Spurgeon who commented that Psalm 131 is one of the shortest psalms to read … and one of the longest to learn.


O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high;


I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.


But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore. (Ps. 131:1–3)


Did you catch the three essential traits in this psalm? Verse 1 speaks of the trait of humility. Verse 2 focuses on trust, and verse 3 speaks of a great hope. It’s safe to say that Daniel consistently exhibited these traits throughout his life.



Essential Trait 1: Humility


If you’re out looking for an example of humility, you probably shouldn’t start with the NFL—and particularly with wide receivers. Wide receivers, generally speaking, are known for their arrogant touchdown dances. There are notable exceptions, but arrogance could be tattooed quite naturally on most of them.


It seems like whenever these guys just happen to catch a pass in the end zone, they suddenly start pounding their chests and strutting around like a peacock. Now what’s ironic is that the guy probably dropped the last four balls that were thrown his way. But this one he caught because it went through his hands and lodged in his face mask. So now he’s running around like he just did something important. What he did was catch a football. He’s paid (actually overpaid) to catch footballs.


The wide receiver who catches a touchdown pass and then offers a sacrifice to the god of self in the end zone has forgotten a few things. He has forgotten that the touchdown was actually a team effort. There was a quarterback who had the guts to stand in the pocket and get sandwiched by six hundred pounds of blitzing wild men. There are also the anonymous offensive linemen who do the work in the trenches that nobody sees or appreciates. They get stepped on, kicked in the groin, and blinded by a thumb in the eyes. And that’s just during pregame warm-ups! Arrogance is getting full of yourself real quick and losing all perspective concerning your accomplishments.


There are two ways we can depart from humility. The first is arrogance, and it’s also been known to show up in individuals who are not wide receivers. (Frankly, you can be an incredibly arrogant person at a fast-food counter. I’ve met some of them.) Verse 1 is a description of balanced humility. The psalmist says that his heart is not lifted up. He’s not saying that his heart has never been lifted up, but rather that he’s trying to keep his heart in check. In other words, David is doing a little self-assessment here. He’s checking out his heart, as Solomon advised in Proverbs 4:23: “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”


The psalmist then makes sure his eyes aren’t raised too high so that they’re not too lofty. In other words, he’s careful of putting all of his energy into reaching the next level—whatever that may be. “There is nothing wrong with the desire to do well,” wrote D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “as long as it does not master us. We must not be governed by ambition.”3


The writer knows that it is God who grants promotion (Ps. 75), and He knows best when we are ready for the higher place. Until then, we should mind our assigned posts—and ourselves.


Humility doesn’t try to understand things that are beyond comprehension. Humility understands that some answers to hard questions will remain secret (Deut. 29:29). And that’s okay.


The second way we can wander away from humility is when we get into self-condemnation and self-loathing. We do something stupid that we promised ourselves we would never do again—and then because of our disappointment, we start telling ourselves we’re worthless. We’ve all done stupid things—and then done them again and again.


Speaking for myself, I’ve got enough hours in “stupid” to get a PhD. I actually have enough hours in “stupid” to teach “stupid” at a graduate level. And if we have really screwed up and done something that has horrible consequences—not only for us but also for the people we love—we start riding ourselves and telling ourselves that it would be better for them if we weren’t even alive.


Whenever a believer commits suicide, you must suspect that there was demonic oppression involved, which led to self-condemnation and self-loathing. That’s the work of Satan. The Bible doesn’t

call him the “accuser of the brethren” for nothing.


So what is humility and how do we find its balance that keeps us from arrogance on one hand and self-condemnation on the other? C. J. Mahaney hit the nail on the head when he stated, “Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.” 4 Romans 12:3–8 really brings it into focus:


For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.


I see three principles here that helped Daniel keep his balance with humility and that I believe will help us do the same.


• Know who you are

• Know what God has given to you

• Stay in your sphere


How to Keep Your Balance

Know Who You Are


The plumb line on humility is this: Don’t think too highly of yourself—and don’t think too lowly, either.


I like the way J. B. Phillips paraphrased Romans 12:3:


As your spiritual teacher I give this piece of advice to each one of you. Don’t cherish exaggerated ideas of yourself or your importance, but try to have a sane estimate of your capabilities by the light of the faith that God has given to you all.


This passage directs us to use sober or sound judgment (or “a sane estimate”) in knowing who you are. If you’re an average singer, don’t plan on cutting a CD and taking a worldwide tour. You may like music, and your brother-in-law might think you’re pretty good at karaoke, but if you’re average or even a little above average, chances are you’re not going to make it in New York or Nashville.



Know What God Has Given You


You don’t have all of the gifts mentioned in Romans 12:3–8. You’re part of the body of Christ, and He has distributed gifts to each of us. Some have more gifts than others—but everyone has a gift.


We often meet someone whom we respect and admire and think, I wish I could be like him, or maybe, I wish I had his personality. But you can’t be like him, and you don’t have his personality. That individual may have gifts you don’t have, but don’t waste your time—and your life—moping around because you don’t have certain gifts. When you do that, your heart is getting proud, your eyes are getting lofty, and you’re not thinking straight. What are the gifts God has given to you? Don’t depreciate them, and don’t

despise them. And don’t imagine that they’re not important—to God and to others.


Years ago I was up early on a Sunday morning and discovered we were out of something—salt, sugar, Ovaltine—I honestly can’t remember what it was. It was too many years ago. But here’s what I do remember. I found what I was looking for on the top shelf of the pantry, and when I reached up to grab it, I knocked over a glass jar of sweet pickles that immediately yielded to the law of gravity and fell

seven feet where it landed on my unprotected pinkie toe.


I’d never given much thought to my pinkie toe and its ministry in my life until that moment. But for the next three or four months I had trouble thinking about anything else. When that pickle-assaulted pinkie toe was broken, it messed up my entire life. I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t sleep, and I couldn’t think. I just wanted that little toe to heal up and get back to its assigned post.



Stay in Your Sphere


You’ve been given gifts. Stay with them. Develop them, work hard, and do your work to the glory of God. Colossians 3:23–24 says, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (NASB).


All work is valuable, and even the Babylonian heathens knew this when they took over Jerusalem and brought back the first round of exiles. In Jeremiah 29:1–2, the prophet makes reference to the people who were taken in the second wave from Judah to Babylon in 597 BC:


These are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. This was after King Jeconiah and the queen mother, the eunuchs, the officials of Judah and Jerusalem, the craftsmen, and the metal workers had departed from Jerusalem.


Daniel and his buddies were members of the educated royal family and had already been taken and enrolled in the University of Babylon (Dan. 1:1–7). But in the second wave, the Babylonians brought back additional members of the royal family, some government bureaucrats, and, watch this—craftsmen and metal workers.


You can understand their bringing in the government guys and the queen, but why would they single out craftsmen and metal workers? It was because they were valuable. Guys who are gifted with their hands, who can work with wood or metal, are critical. Try to build an army without craftsmen and metal workers. Those are the guys who build the chariots and the siege ramps and supply the infantry with swords and armor.


If you’re gifted with your hands—if you’re a finish carpenter or an excellent craftsman—don’t waste your time wishing you could be a preacher or a prime minister. That’s not your calling, and it’s not your sphere. Work with that wood, excel with that needle and thread, and do it to the glory of God!


On the other hand, Daniel, who was gifted with the wisdom and knowledge to lead a government, should not have been shoeing horses and working around a forge. That is honorable and critical work, but Daniel wasn’t called or gifted in that area. He needed to stay in his sphere. He wasn’t to think too highly or too lowly of himself. Instead, he correctly assessed his own gifts and then got after it with what God had given him.


Staying in your sphere doesn’t mean that you don’t improve yourself—you do. So take some classes and get the credentials you need to succeed in your sphere. That may mean that you need a college degree—but then again, you may not need a college degree if you’re going to repair cars or make crowns in a dental lab. But whatever your sphere is, work hard, show up on time, better yourself, do quality work, and God will see to your advancement. But don’t try to be something that you’re not!


Right off the top, I’m reminded of a king in the Old Testament who refused to stay in his sphere: Uzziah, king of Judah.


Uzziah started strong. He was one of the most productive kings that Judah ever had. His vast accomplishments are listed in 2 Chronicles 26:14. And then we read these words:


In Jerusalem he made engines, invented by skillful men, to be on the towers and the corners, to shoot arrows and great stones. And his fame spread far, for he was marvelously helped, till he was strong.


But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the LORD his God and entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense. But Azariah the priest went in after him, with eighty priests of the LORD who were men of valor, and they withstood King Uzziah and said to him, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Go out of the sanctuary, for you have done wrong, and it will bring you no honor from the LORD God.” Then Uzziah was angry. Now he had a censer in his hand to burn incense, and when he became angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead in the presence of the priests in the house of the LORD, by the altar of incense. And Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and behold, he was leprous in his forehead! And they rushed him out quickly, and he himself hurried to go out, because the LORD had struck him. And King Uzziah was a leper to the day of his death, and being a leper lived in a separate house, for he was excluded from the house of the LORD. And Jotham his son was over the king’s household, governing the people of the land. (2 Chron. 26:15–21)


What haunting words: “He was marvelously helped, till he was strong.”


When he became strong, he grew proud and lost his humility. And it led to his destruction. He refused to stay in his sphere and decided that he would go ahead and do the work that was only to be done by the priest. When he lost his humility, he refused to stay in his sphere—and he was disciplined as a leper for the rest of his days. Then he was forced to stay in his sphere—in a separate house, excluded from the house of the Lord.


Daniel was humble enough to stay in his sphere.


And God favored his life and work for the next seventy years.



Essential Trait 2: Trust


The second essential trait is trust in God, and it’s something that takes years to learn. We fight it from the time we are born as Psalm 131:2 describes: “But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.”


In the days of the Old Testament, children often weren’t weaned until the age of three or four. And when the day of weaning came, the little ones fought against it with everything within them. The mother’s breast was the place of security, comfort, affection, and nourishment. But a child must get on with life, and so the time of weaning comes.


Weaning is the first great disappointment of life.


No matter what our age, however, God is continually weaning us from places or positions where we have found comfort, peace, security, nourishment, or affirmation. Sometimes we fight with everything we have to maintain those places of safety, comfort, and security—especially if it involves our income stream.


The mother’s milk is the source of provision, and no child wants to lose it. The sudden loss of a secure and consistent income scares us and makes us worry about our future. A job loss brings anxiety as we suddenly have to calibrate how we’ll buy groceries and pay the mortgage. When we lose a job or we lose our health—we’re being weaned, and it isn’t pleasant. And so we are forced into the place of trust.


Elijah the prophet confronted King Ahab and his wife, Jezebel, telling them that because of their Baal worship and their belief that Baal controlled the rain, it would not rain until God’s drought would run its course (1 Kings 17). It turned out to be a three-and-half-year drought. Immediately Elijah became number one on Israel’s mostwanted list. God, however, led him to a strange and unfamiliar refuge east of the Jordan, hiding him by a brook called Cherith.


Elijah had suddenly been weaned off his home, his income, and his security. Now he was in a secluded place where the economic outlook wasn’t good. Without much time to adapt, he found himself having to trust God to give him the daily essentials of life. He had no IRAs to cash in or gold to get him through the crisis. As far as I know, Old Testament prophets didn’t get a pension from the government or have 401(k) accounts.


But he had the Lord, and He is always enough.


During Elijah’s time of exile, he’d had fresh water from the bubbling brook, and each morning God would send the ravens with his brunch—and then they would return that evening with dinner. He had no reserves and no savings. He had to trust God—literally—to give him this day his daily bread. And God strangely chose to use the ravens—which are notorious for neglecting to feed their own young. But they never forgot Elijah. This wasn’t meals on wheels; it was dinner on the fly!


After awhile he began to feel comfortable and secure. He was adjusting nicely to his new circumstances. And then one morning the brook went dry.


Once again he was in crisis. He was being weaned off the familiar and the secure. His source of provision suddenly dried up, and now he was going to have to trust God all over again.


Then the word of the LORD came to him, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.” And as she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” And she said, “As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.” And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth.’” And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the LORD that he spoke by Elijah. (1 Kings 17:8–16)


So Elijah must have been thinking that this widow up in Zarephath had a foundation from the life-insurance money her husband had left. But when he arrived, he found out that she was in worse shape than he was. He asked her for a blueberry waffle, and she replied that she was going to make one for her and her boy, and then they were going to die. But she agreed to feed Elijah first—and then a convoy of large trucks immediately began to pull up in front of her house with thousands of gallons of Crisco oil and one-hundred-pound sacks of Gold Medal flour. She quickly hired workers to construct large warehouses to hold her great surplus of flour and vegetable oil.


No, that’s not quite how it happened, is it?


In fact, she just kept working out of the same jar of flour and the same jug of oil. She would reach in and dip out a cup of oil, and when she did, the level never dropped—and it was the same with the flour.


She didn’t have a three-year supply down in the root cellar. There never was a surplus—God just made sure that she always had enough to get by. And when that happens, you are forced to trust Him on a daily basis. When you get down to it, that’s not a bad way to live. It keeps us connected with our Provider and mindful that we can’t take a step or a breath without Him.


And that leads to the next essential trait.



Essential Trait 3: Hope


Over the last year I have come to a startling realization.


It’s simply this: The greatest blessings of my life have all come out of my greatest disappointments. I won’t bore you with the details, but every time I thought I was done or found myself fighting off some crushing setback—God brought along a blessing far greater than I could have asked for or imagined. Those disappointments have been a series of weanings. I had to be weaned off what I wanted and what I had prescribed for my own life. Eventually I would quit fighting the loss of what I wanted to happen and simply trust that He knew what was best. And that has always proven to be the case.


That’s how it worked for Daniel. He was humbled when his nation was taken over by Babylon, and no doubt he had to be weaned off his family and friends who were back in Jerusalem. Through it all, however, he learned to hope in the God of Israel who never slumbers or sleeps.


That’s our story too, as we go through life. We are humbled by some crushing setback, great failure, or defeat. We find ourselves getting weaned off something that we dearly love and want to hold on to. Through the humiliations and weanings, however, we learn that God will never abandon us. He may not give us what we want, but He always gives us what we need. And what He gives is always infinitely better than we could have ever thought or imagined— and that in turn builds our hope when the next hard and difficult time comes ripping and ramming into our lives like a runaway bulldozer.


The bottom line is this: Daniel’s hope was completely in God.


That’s it. That’s the Christian life.


Do you find yourself in a humiliating defeat? Are you being weaned off something that you are trying to hold on to?


Let it go. Submit yourself to Him and to His plan for your life. That’s what Daniel did. Trust him with everything. You will find that it’s the safest and most secure place in the entire world.


Stay in your sphere—and trust the God who isn’t bound by spheres.


In the process, you’ll find True Courage.


“We are all imprisoned by facts: I was born, I exist.”

Luigi Pirandello

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

DO less... so you can BE more


John Busacker encourages readers to trade in
their overcommitted and underwhelming lives
for the pursuit of something vital and lasting

Ever been lost in a car on the way to an important event? If so, then you know that people are the only animals that speed up when they’re lost or confused. It’s only as a last resort that we’ll finally hit the brakes, put the car in park, and set about the humbling task of asking for directions. The sad truth is that many of us live our lives the same way: lost, directionless, and never slowing down enough to find the real answers we need. Unfortunately, slowing down and doing less are foreign solutions for today’s problems. Envision a student notifying her parents that her goal is to slow down because she’s stressed out in school. Picture a husband suggesting that he wants to do less in his marriage. The very concept of doing less seems like sheer laziness, but it can actually be a very productive strategy for living.

For readers who are finally ready to stop speeding along and start slowing down enough to find some answers, John Busacker’s new book, Fully Engaged: How to Do Less and Be More, offers practical advice on how to do just that. In a world full of countless options and disorienting decisions, we have to allow our internal GPS to stop and recalculate the direction of our life. As we do so, we’ll find greater abundance, contentment, and peace of mind. Fully Engaged encourages and equips us to move beyond what Busacker calls an “air guitar life”—a life of furious motion and considerable energy but, in the end, one with no sound and little lasting impact. In a culture of random noise and fury, Busacker offers a measured and wise strategy for living that is marked by three key components: 1) Awareness, 2) Alignment, and 3) Action.

• Living with Awareness means that, instead of piecing together random moments, you begin to live intentionally. By doing so, you no longer measure your life’s worth by your paycheck, but by effectively blending all aspects of your life. It is understanding that the moments that make up your life contribute to the overarching story of your existence, and in order for that story to stay fresh, you must add to it regularly. A life of awareness is a life defined by the values that you hold dear rather than by the habits and routines that only lead to more monotony. In the end, awareness means that you stop sleepwalking through life and become fully engaged with the world around you.

• Living with Alignment ensures that what you have and what you do match what you really want out of life. It means that your job is not simply a means to make money, but a calling to be pursued with vigor. It is the realization that your dreams are meant to be lived out, and that your life is more than just showing up. When your life is marked by alignment, you don’t live one life at work, another life at church, and yet another life at home. Alignment patterns all aspects of your life around what you really want so that everything you value and do is interconnected with your dreams.

• Living with Action compels you to move in directions that propel you toward an exhilarating future. This means that you’re not afraid to fail and that setbacks are to be celebrated as progressive steps on the journey of success. It’s the understanding that you must pursue connection with others because community is a necessary component of fulfilled living. A life of action is a life of generosity, because giving back is the natural response to engagement. It is impossible to be fully engaged and be passive.

“You have gifts to give, family to love, and dreams to live,” writes Busacker. “You were created to learn and grow, not to replicate and repeat. What if you could not only live each day, but really live it—and love it?” Everyone desires to be this engaged—to feel connected, joyful, and alive. You’ll begin to thrive instead of survive, to act instead of react. If you’re burned out or rusted out, Fully Engaged can help you find a whole new layout for living!

About the Author: John Busacker is president of The Inventure Group, a global leadership-consulting firm, and founder of Life-Worth, LLC, a life planning creative resource. He is a member of the Duke Corporate Education Global Learning Resource Network and is on the faculty of the University of Minnesota Carlson School’s Executive Development Center.

In 2009, Busacker released his first book, 8 Questions God Can’t Answer, which unlocks the profound power of Jesus’ timeless questions. He annually teaches in a variety of emerging faith communities and supports the development needs of leaders in Africa through PLI-International.

John is an avid explorer, occasional marathoner, and novice cyclist. He and his wife, Carol, live in Minneapolis and have two adult sons, Brett and Joshua.

Fully Engaged: How to Do Less and Be More
by John Busacker
Summerside North ~ May 1, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-609361150/Paperback/144 pages/$14.99

For review copy and interview information, contact:
Audra Jennings - 800-927-0517 x104

Please note review date deadlines, etc. when you sign up via the form.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A peek inside Grandma's Attic


Thanks to everyone who participated in today's tour!

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

David C. Cook (April 1, 2011)
***Special thanks to Karen Davis, Assistant Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Arleta Richardson grew up in a Chicago hotel under her grandmother’s care. As they sat overlooking the shores of Lake Michigan, her grandmother shared memories of her childhood on a Michigan farm. These treasured family stories became the basis for the Grandma’s Attic Series.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


Remember when you were a child, when the entire world was new, and the smallest object a thing of wonder? Arleta Richardson remembered: the funny wearable wire contraption hidden in the dusty attic, the century-old schoolchild’s slate that belonged to Grandma, an ancient trunk filled with quilt pieces—each with its own special story—and the button basket, a miracle of mysteries. But best of all she remembered her remarkable grandmother who made magic of all she touched, bringing the past alive as only a born storyteller could.

So step inside the attic of Richardson’s grandmother. These stories will keep you laughing while teaching you valuable lessons. These marvelous tales faithfully recalled for the delight of young and old alike are a touchstone to another day when life was simpler, perhaps richer, and when the treasures of family life and love were passed from generation to generation by a child’s questions and the legends that followed enlarged our faith. These timeless stories were originally released in 1974 and then revised in 1999. They are being re-released with new artwork that will appeal to a new generation of girls.


Product Details:

In Grandma's Attic:

List Price: $6.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (April 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0781403790
ISBN-13: 978-0781403795

More Stories from Grandma's Attic:

List Price: $6.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; 3 edition (April 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 9780781403801
ISBN-13: 978-0781403801
ASIN: 0781403804


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

In Grandma’s Attic – Chapter 1


Pride Goes Before a Fall

“Grandma, what is this?”


Grandma looked up from her work. “Good lands, child, where did you find that?”


“In the attic,” I replied. “What is it, Grandma?”


Grandma chuckled and answered, “That’s a hoop. The kind that ladies wore under their skirts when I was a little girl.”


“Did you ever wear one, Grandma?” I asked.


Grandma laughed. “Indeed I did,” she said. “In fact, I wore that very one.”


Here, I decided, must be a story. I pulled up the footstool and prepared to listen. Grandma looked at the old hoop fondly.


“I only wore it once,” she began. “But I kept it to remind me how painful pride can be.”


I was about eight years old when that hoop came into my life. For months I had been begging Ma to let me have a hoopskirt like the big girls wore. Of course that was out of the question. What would a little girl, not even out of calicoes, be doing with a hoopskirt? Nevertheless, I could envision myself walking haughtily to school with the hoopskirt and all the girls watching enviously as I took my seat in the front of the room.


This dream was shared by my best friend and seatmate, Sarah Jane. Together we spent many hours picturing ourselves as fashionable young ladies in ruffles and petticoats. But try as we would, we could not come up with a single plan for getting a hoopskirt of our very own.


Finally, one day in early spring, Sarah Jane met me at the school grounds with exciting news. An older cousin had come to their house to visit, and she had two old hoops that she didn’t want any longer. Sarah Jane and I could have them to play with, she said. Play with, indeed! Little did that cousin know that we didn’t want to play with them. Here was the answer to our dreams. All day, under cover of our books, Sarah Jane and I planned how we would wear those hoops to church on Sunday.


There was a small problem: How would I get that hoop into the house without Ma knowing about it? And how could either of us get out of the house with them on without anyone seeing us? It was finally decided that I would stop by Sarah Jane’s house on Sunday morning. We would have some excuse for walking to church, and after her family had left, we would put on our hoops and prepare to make a grand entrance at the church.


“Be sure to wear your fullest skirt,” Sarah Jane reminded me. “And be here early. They’re all sure to look at us this Sunday!”


If we had only known how true that would be! But of course, we were happily unaware of the disaster that lay ahead.


Sunday morning came at last, and I astonished my family by the speed with which I finished my chores and was ready to leave for church.


“I’m going with Sarah Jane this morning,” I announced, and set out quickly before anyone could protest.


All went according to plan. Sarah Jane’s family went on in the buggy, cautioning us to hurry and not be late for service. We did have a bit of trouble fastening the hoops around our waists and getting our skirts pulled down to cover them. But when we were finally ready, we agreed that there could not be two finer-looking young ladies in the county than us.


Quickly we set out for church, our hoopskirts swinging as we walked. Everyone had gone in when we arrived, so we were assured the grand entry we desired. Proudly, with small noses tipped up, we sauntered to the front of the church and took our seats.


Alas! No one had ever told us the hazards of sitting down in a hoopskirt without careful practice! The gasps we heard were not of admiration as we had anticipated—far from it! For when we sat down, those dreadful hoops flew straight up in the air! Our skirts covered our faces, and the startled minister was treated to the sight of two pairs of white pantalets and flying petticoats.


Sarah Jane and I were too startled to know how to disentangle ourselves, but our mothers were not. Ma quickly snatched me from the seat and marched me out the door.


The trip home was a silent one. My dread grew with each step. What terrible punishment would I receive at the hands of an embarrassed and upset parent? Although I didn’t dare look at her, I knew she was upset because she was shaking. It was to be many years before I learned that Ma was shaking from laughter, and not from anger!


Nevertheless, punishment was in order. My Sunday afternoon was spent with the big Bible and Pa’s concordance. My task was to copy each verse I could find that had to do with being proud. That day I was a sorry little girl who learned a lesson about pride going before a fall.


“And you were never proud again, Grandma?” I asked after she finished the story.


Grandma thought soberly for a moment. “Yes,” she replied. “I was proud again. Many times. It was not until I was a young lady and the Lord saved me that I had the pride taken from my heart. But many times when I am tempted to be proud, I remember that horrid hoopskirt and decide that a proud heart is an abomination to the Lord!”


***************************************

More Stories From Grandma’s Attic

Chapter 1


The Nuisance in Ma’s Kitchen

When Grandma called from the backyard, I knew I was in for it. She was using her would-you-look-at-this voice, which usually meant I was responsible for something.


“What, Grandma?” I asked once I reached the spot where she was hanging up the washing.


“Would you look at this?” she asked. “I just went into the kitchen for more clothespins and came back out to find this.”


I looked where she was pointing. One of my kittens had crawled into the clothes basket and lay sound asleep on a clean sheet.


“If you’re going to have kittens around the house, you’ll have to keep an eye on them. Otherwise leave them in the barn where they belong. It’s hard enough to wash sheets once without doing them over again.”


Grandma headed toward the house with the soiled sheet, and I took the kitten back to the barn. But I didn’t agree that it belonged there. I would much rather have had the whole family of kittens in the house with me. Later I mentioned this to Grandma.


“I know,” she said. “I felt the same way when I was your age. If it had been up to me, I would have moved every animal on the place into the house every time it rained or snowed.”


“Didn’t your folks let any pets in the house?” I asked.


“Most of our animals weren’t pets,” Grandma admitted. “But there were a few times when they were allowed in. If an animal needed special care, it stayed in the kitchen. I really enjoyed those times, especially if it was one I could help with.”


“Tell me about one,” I said, encouraging her to tell me another story about her childhood.


“I remember one cold spring,” she began, “when Pa came in from the barn carrying a tiny goat.”


“I’m not sure we can save this one.” Pa held the baby goat up for us to see. “The nanny had twins last night, and she’ll only let one come near her. I’m afraid this one’s almost gone.”


Ma agreed and hurried to find an old blanket and a box for a bed. She opened the oven door, put the box on it, and gently took the little goat and laid it on the blanket. It didn’t move at all. It just lay there, barely breathing.


“Oh, Ma,” I said. “Do you think it will live? Shouldn’t we give it something to eat?”


“It’s too weak to eat right now,” Ma replied. “Let it rest and get warm. Then we’ll try to feed it.”


Fortunately it was Saturday, and I didn’t have to go to school. I sat on the floor next to the oven and watched the goat. Sometimes it seemed as though it had stopped breathing, and I would call Ma to look.


“It’s still alive,” she assured me. “It just isn’t strong enough to move yet. You wait there and watch if you want to, but don’t call me again unless it opens its eyes.”


When Pa and my brothers came in for dinner, Reuben stopped and looked down at the tiny animal. “Doesn’t look like much, does it?”


I burst into tears. “It does so!” I howled. “It looks just fine! Ma says it’s going to open its eyes. Don’t discourage it!”


Reuben backed off in surprise, and Pa came over to comfort me. “Now, Reuben wasn’t trying to harm that goat. He just meant that it doesn’t … look like a whole lot.”


I started to cry again, and Ma tried to soothe me. “Crying isn’t going to help that goat one bit,” she said. “When it gets stronger, it will want something to eat. I’ll put some milk on to heat while we have dinner.”


I couldn’t leave my post long enough to go to the table, so Ma let me hold my plate in my lap. I ate dinner watching the goat. Suddenly it quivered and opened its mouth. “It’s moving, Ma!” I shouted. “You’d better bring the milk!”


Ma soaked a rag in the milk, and I held it while the little goat sucked it greedily. By the time it had fallen asleep again, I was convinced that it would be just fine.


And it was! By evening the little goat was standing on its wobbly legs and began to baa loudly for more to eat. “Pa, maybe you’d better bring its box into my room,” I suggested at bedtime.


“Whatever for?” Pa asked. “It will keep warm right here by the stove. We’ll look after it during the night. Don’t worry.”


“And we aren’t bringing your bed out here,” Ma added, anticipating my next suggestion. “You’ll have enough to do, watching that goat during the day.”


Of course Ma was right. As the goat got stronger, he began to look for things to do. At first he was content to grab anything within reach and pull it. Dish towels, apron strings, and tablecloth corners all fascinated him. I kept busy trying to move things out of his way.


From the beginning the little goat took a special liking to Ma, but she was not flattered. “I can’t move six inches in this kitchen without stumbling over that animal,” she sputtered. “He can be sound asleep in his box one minute and sitting on my feet the next. I don’t know how much longer I can tolerate him in here.”


As it turned out, it wasn’t much longer. The next Monday, Ma prepared to do the washing in the washtub Pa had placed on two chairs near the woodpile. Ma always soaked the clothes in cold water first, then transferred them to the boiler on the stove.


I was in my room when I heard her shouting, “Now you put that down! Come back here!”


I ran to the kitchen door and watched as the goat circled the table with one of Pa’s shirts in his mouth. Ma was right behind him, but he managed to stay a few feet ahead of her.


“Step on the shirt, Ma!” I shouted as I ran into the room. “Then he’ll have to stop!”


I started around the table the other way, hoping to head him off. But the goat seemed to realize that he was outnumbered, for he suddenly turned and ran toward the chairs that held the washtub.


“Oh, no!” Ma cried. “Not that way!”


But it was too late! Tub, water, and clothes splashed to the floor. The goat danced stiff-legged through the soggy mess with a surprised look on his face.


“That’s enough!” Ma said. “I’ve had all I need of that goat. Take him out and tie him in the yard, Mabel. Then bring me the mop, please.”


I knew better than to say anything, but I was worried about what would happen to the goat. If he couldn’t come back in the kitchen, where would he sleep?


Pa had the answer to that. “He’ll go to the barn tonight.”


“But, Pa,” I protested, “he’s too little to sleep in the barn. Besides, he’ll think we don’t like him anymore!”


“He’ll think right,” Ma said. “He’s a menace, and he’s not staying in my kitchen another day.”


“But I like him,” I replied. “I feel sorry for him out there alone. If he has to sleep in the barn, let me go out and sleep with him!”


My two brothers looked at me in amazement.


“You?” Roy exclaimed. “You won’t even walk past the barn after dark, let alone go in!”


Everyone knew he was right. I had never been very brave about going outside after dark. But I was more concerned about the little goat than I was about myself.


“I don’t care,” I said stubbornly. “He’ll be scared out there, and he’s littler than I am.”


Ma didn’t say anything, probably because she thought I’d change my mind before dark. But I didn’t. When Pa started for the barn that evening, I was ready to go with him. Ma saw that I was determined, so she brought me a blanket.


“You’d better wrap up in this,” she said. “The hay is warm, but it’s pretty scratchy.”


I took the blanket and followed Pa and the goat out to the barn. The more I thought about the long, dark night, the less it seemed like a good idea, but I wasn’t going to give in or admit that I was afraid.


Pa found a good place for me to sleep. “This is nice and soft and out of the draft. You’ll be fine here.”


I rolled up in the blanket, hugging the goat close to me as I watched Pa check the animals. The light from the lantern cast long, scary shadows through the barn, and I thought about asking Pa if he would stay with me. I knew better, though, and all too soon he was ready to leave.


“Good night, Mabel. Sleep well,” he said as he closed the barn door behind him. I doubted that I would sleep at all. If it hadn’t been for the goat and my brothers who would laugh at me, I would have returned to the house at once. Instead I closed my eyes tightly and began to say my prayers. In a few moments the barn door opened, and Reuben’s voice called to me.


“Mabel,” he said, “it’s just me.” He came over to where I lay, and I saw that he had a blanket under his arm. “I thought I’d sleep out here tonight too. I haven’t slept in the barn for a long time. You don’t mind, do you?”


“Oh, no. That’s fine.” I turned over and fell asleep at once.


When I awoke in the morning, the goat and Reuben were both gone. Soon I found the goat curled up by his mother.


“Will you be sleeping in the barn again tonight?” Ma asked me at breakfast.


“No, I don’t think so,” I said. “I’ll take care of the goat during the day, but I guess his mother can watch him at night.”


Grandma laughed at the memory. “After I grew up, I told Reuben how grateful I was that he came out to stay with me. I wonder how my family ever put up with all my foolishness.”


Grandma went back into the house, and I wandered out to the barn to see the little kittens. I decided I wouldn’t be brave enough to spend the night there even if I had a big brother to keep me company!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A bit disturbed

By the time I get finished with today's post, you are either going to get why I was a little bit disturbed by this conversation without a whole lot of explanation, or you're not.


Mom and I have been doing a half-way decent job of walking after work several days a week. Though we miss some days, we are at least trying most. This week, we only made it out Monday and Tuesday. And the more I think about it, I think the subject of funerals came up both days or maybe it was just a rather depressing discussion on just one day. I'm not sure, but don't think it was one continual conversation.


One day she was talking about how one of the women from work had gone by one of the funeral homes at lunch and brought back everyone in the office a brochure on the various costs of a funeral and burial. "I told the others that I couldn't afford to die," my mother says. To this, I'm not exactly sure what to say. I really don't know that I said anything. I mean, what do you answer to that. "Well, I guess I better go buy a lottery ticket?" This didn't disturb me. This was rather random. This is a fact of life.


So, then another conversation comes up. "I was telling Dad about watching Brothers and Sisters the other night and how no one had anything good to say at the funeral," my mom says. She then goes on to tell Dad's reply. He has lined out who he wants and does not want to be his pallbearers. My comment to this is, "some of those people could be rather old when the time arises."


She goes on to reveal who he wants and does not want officiating, who will say a prayer, and who may have to do more if a certain preacher is not available. OK, I can understand that. I've actually thought the same thing.


Then, she asked him where they were going to be buried. This is actually a very legitimate question. Neither particularly wants to be buried at the locales their own parents chose or the other's parents. This I have known for a long time and does not disturb me either.


Well, the fact that my dad has this all planned out, that is on the depressing side. I admit that. But, here's the zinger.


"So, I told him that I guess we should go out and buy three cemetery plots out at Oakwood."


Do you get what she means by that?


"He really wishes he had gotten the ones that So-and-So got."


My response to this, "who is going to be buried in those spots anyway?" I guess this is all that I really could say at the moment.


The more I thought about it later, the more the comment kind of hurt. And no, it's not because no one asked me where I wanted to be buried even though I do like to be asked my opinion.


Maybe I'm just being ultra-sensitive. Maybe I am just sensitive that I feel like a loser that hangs out with my parents and do too much together. Like laying around together and decomposing until the end of the Earth, just the three of us. 


I relayed this story to Jenny who instantly got where I was coming from. As only a really good friend can, she said we could be buried together. I told her that would be just fine. Everyone could try to figure out why these two un-related women were buried next to each other. I'd rather get people talking about something completely innocent than for people stroll through the cemetery and say, "oh, how sad, the old maid there by her parents."

(And no, I'm really not concerned about who says what as they walk through the cemetery.)

It may be time to start seriously considering an attitude adjustment.