Surviving in a Hostile Environment

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I like to joke that I live in a hostile environment. As a Michigan transplant to Texas, I’m not at all used to the climate down here. It’s much hotter here, and the sun is a lot more intense. Some days I can’t get enough water. When the heat index is over 100 and the AC runs almost constantly just to keep it at 80, even being inside is dehydrating, and I drink water all day long. Summertime is downright miserable. My poor blonde-haired children are no match for the sun, so I need to be extra vigilant about protecting them, lest they burn or get dehydrated or get heatstroke. Like I said, we’re in a hostile environment.

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Expecting a Miracle

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The disciples should have been expecting it. After all, they’d seen Jesus do it before. But when it came down to it, they still doubted Jesus could fix the problem. Mark 8:1-4 gives the following account:

During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.” His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?”

Sigh. Just two chapters ago, the disciples witnessed the feeding of the 5,000 with just five loaves and two fish. (Actually, it was a lot more than 5,000, since that number doesn’t include women and children.) What’s more, there were 12 baskets of leftovers. And now history is repeating itself. Another large crowd, this time 4,000 men plus women and children, again getting hungry after listening to Jesus’ teaching. But despite the fact that Jesus had already multiplied loaves and fish for an even larger crowd, the disciples balk at the daunting task of feeding so many people. Did they forget how Jesus had provided for everyone last time? Did they think He wouldn’t provide again? Where is their faith? And yet, we so often do the same thing.

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Predictable

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I started a new book the other day. By the end of the first chapter, I knew who would end up with whom and what seemingly insurmountable obstacle would be overcome in the course of the story. It was completely predictable. And yet I continued reading nonetheless, and thoroughly enjoyed the book. A number of books are like this (my own included, one might argue). We know pretty much from the get-go what’s going to happen. And this knowledge helps us through the conflicts and tensions that arise in the middle of the story. We read on, through painful setbacks and embarrassing scenes, knowing that things are going to turn out okay in the end. We trust that the author has the characters’ best interests in mind and will see them to a satisfying conclusion.

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Toning Up

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I used to have toned muscles. Many moons ago when we lived in a bigger city and had two less children, I belonged to a gym, where I split my time between the elliptical and the resistance machines. I went three or four times a week, and with regular use, my muscles got stronger and more toned. But when we moved I didn’t have a gym available, and with the addition of another baby, it was too hard to coordinate anyhow. So my muscles weren’t being used in the same ways, and therefore lost their nice toned look. Recently I noticed just how un-toned they are, so I determined to strengthen them again. I found an app that led me through various exercises, and I felt great doing them––wall push ups, overhead presses, triceps dips. Ah, it was good to be working the various muscle groups. But the next day, those same muscles were pretty sore, and I had to admit a harsh truth––I’m not as in shape as I used to be.

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Infestation

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My first clue was the bites around my ankles. Nor could I deny that our dogs seemed to be scratching an awful lot. I set out traps and caught nothing, which put my mind slightly at ease. But when I walked across the carpet in my girls’ bedrooms one day, I looked dawn at my socks and saw about five little black specks. Upon closer inspection, I realized they were exactly what I was afraid they were. Fleas. 

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When Enough Isn’t Good Enough

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Taking a three-week trip from Texas to Michigan and back again with five children is nothing to sneeze at, especially if one is crazy enough to drive. It was the most ambitious trip we’ve taken to date, and by the end we were all getting on each other’s nerves a bit. Okay, a lot. Especially the last few days in the car, everyone was on edge, complaining about every little thing. When I handed back granola bars for the kids to snack on, they grumbled about which kind they got. When we stopped for dinner, they fought about how many chicken nuggets they received. When it was time for a movie in the car, inevitably one of them was mad at the selection. At one point I was so fed up with the constant whining that I said, “Would it be too much to thank your dad and me for everything we do for you, rather than complaining that it’s not exactly the way you want it? Do you have any idea how spoiled you sound?” But even as I said the words, I was convicted. Because, you see, I’m the same way.

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Life on the Plain (from the archive)

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(Originally published in 2015, I found myself thinking of this article as our family vacation draws to a close and we have to go back to life as usual.)

Last weekend I was blessed to attend a pastors’ wives retreat. It was marvelous. It was refreshing. It was uplifting. I was able to meet other pastors’ wives and swap stories with them. I stayed up late with them, sipping wine and eating chocolate. I had free time to walk, write, and relax. I went kayaking. Our group of ladies had wonderful sessions together. We sang together. We harmonized together. We did devotions together. We learned different methods of doing personal Bible study. It was a wonderful weekend. And then I came home.

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One Big Happy Family


This weekend was bittersweet for our family. My father, a pastor, retired after forty years in the ministry. The last twenty-eight of those years he spent at the same church in Michigan. He took a call there when I was in the fifth grade. I consider it my home church. It’s strange to think of my parents going anywhere else. But retiring is different for a pastor than for other vocations. If someone retires from an office job, say, there’s no need to switch churches as well. However, when a pastor retires, in most cases he leaves his church as well. This is difficult, because often that’s their support network and social circle. These are the people who have celebrated together in good times and pulled together in difficult times; people who worship together every week. Indeed, they are a church family. And it’s hard to say goodbye to such a family. Continue reading “One Big Happy Family”

One Common Destiny

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It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you’re sincere.

All roads lead to heaven.

People may call God by different names, but we all still worship the same God.

Nice sentiments, aren’t they? Why trouble yourself too much about religion, after all? What difference does it really make in the end? If we’re all going to heaven, it doesn’t matter what we believe or how we live our lives on earth, right? But is that true? Do we all share a common destiny? Actually, in one sense, yes. But it may not be exactly what you have in mind.

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Highlight Reel

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What do we know about Adam and Eve? We know God created Adam from the dust of the ground and formed Eve from Adam’s rib. Adam named the animals. Oh, and Adam and Eve were the first ones to sin. That’s kind of a big deal. They lived in the Garden of Eden until then, but were barred from it ever after. They had children and one of their sons murdered another. But seriously, Adam lived 930 years, and that’s all we know of his life? In all that time, something important had to happen, right? Or what about Noah? The ark, naturally. And the fact that he got drunk and passed out naked in his tent after getting off the ark. But again, this guy lived 950 years, and we only know two accounts from all that time. How’s that for a highlight reel?

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