Archive for October, 2008


A couple weeks ago, one of my chief delights on a certain day came from receiving in the mail my long awaited mushroom growing kit.  I was so excited when it came that I took a picture of it, even though it was only a box of dirt and invisible spores…

As I unpacked the contents of the box and worried that perhaps it had been left on my front door mat, in the heat, for too long before I noticed it (we never come in our front door,) I was aware of my own quivering sense of excitement.  There I was: one part excitement over my package, one part skeptic (thinking, “Will this thing REALLY grow enough mushrooms to be worth the cost”,) and one part amused onlooker, laughing at the fact that a box of promised mushrooms could produce in me the other parts of that equation.

And then it hit me: 

I’m becoming my father. 

 I’m growing strange things, largely for the pleasure of seeing if they can be grown.  My father, who could (and would, and does) grow ANYTHING…  My father, who’s always interested in the next thing…  My father, who, I’m sure, would be delighted to open my mushroom box with me if he didn’t live so far away in Florida.

I’m becoming my father. 

Only I’m not.  I actually kind of tend to kill things, because my interest in them is usually sort of flash-in-the-pan interest.  I caught my father’s curiosity, but not his ability to nurture things through to the end…

I remember, growing up in Michigan, how on days like this (it’s a rainy, blustery, COLD fall day here in Maryland) there was still work to be done in the garden.  There were potatoes to be dug and tomato vines to be pulled up and a multitude of wooden stakes and supports to be collected and carefully stored.  Even the “ending” of the garden was accomplished with careful discipline.  All was brought to completion, all was stowed, all was made ready to begin again.  Seeing it all through, with beauty and order, was just as important as beginning it in the first place.

But with me? Now? The corpses of my store-bought flower baskets hang, pitifully naked, for half the winter.  My cannas (transplanted from my father’s own stock) shrink in size each year because somehow I never get around to digging up the tubers and storing them as I should.  My compost pile has great potential, but never gets turned and used.

When I think about how I’m a poor reflection of the better parts of my father, I can’t help but be stuck by the bigger truth: I’m a poor reflection of my heavenly Father.

But I’m a reflection, none-the-less, of both of them.  And any small way in which I reflect either of them: this is grace.  I may roll my eyes and laugh at myself at how I’m like and unlike my earthly father, but the truth is, the like him part is probably the greatest.  I can’t help the things I caught from him.  I can’t help it, because I’m his.

And mercifully, only by Grace, I can’t help the image I bear of my heavenly Father.  I can’t help it, because I’m His.   I may bear His image poorly, but I bear it, none-the-less.

I’ve let my mushroom kit go several days past the directed “ten days in a dark place at 65 degrees.”  I’m a little afraid to open the box and move on to the next step.  But I will.  And I’ll take down those denuded hanging baskets some time before the spring, too.  I will, because I am at least becoming just like my dad.



P.S.  Just after I wrote this, but before pushing “publish”, I worked up the nerve to open the mushroom box.

Here’s the progress:


I must say, I’ve certainly never been soooo excited to find “small, gray, threadlike mold growing over the entire surface” of anything!


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Act I:

I unintentionally treated someone very poorly this morning by taking some jesting way beyond fun, without being at all sensitive to what was really going on with him.  To make matters worse, and to further accentuate my own stupidity, I gave one of those breezy “I’m sorry; you know I was just teasing, right?” sort of apologies that really has nothing to do with being sorry at all and is accompanied by a great surety that the other person will  respond with an equally glib:  “No problem!  I wasn’t the least bit offended!”

He didn’t.  He thanked me for the apology, and agreed that I’d hurt him.  What a heart-sinking, “I’m SO dense” sort of moment that was…

Act II:

In the afternoon, I met a different friend for what ended up being a hard/good/hard/good/hard talk (do you know the type?)  I’d thought, perhaps, at the outset of the conversation, that I could encourage him.  Instead, with almost every word that came out of my mouth, I heard my own preoccupation with being the center of the universe. (I kept getting that little Holy Spirit prick that said “You’re saying that out of wrong motives” and “You’re saying that because you want to sound wise” and… you get the idea: it wasn’t pretty.) As I struggled to piece together “encouragement,” I was painfully aware of how much of myself was in the way.  By the time we were done, I felt like a completely inept dolt, and wasn’t even sure what had come out of my mouth.  And yet there was graciousness, and gratitude, expressed.

Act III:

I went to bible study tonight, and TW was speaking about heaven. I was tracking with the study, and interested, but on another level I was preoccupied.  I kept playing through my mental tape of those two interactions with those two friends, and so to some extent, I wasn’t fully engaged in the study.

But then, a grand intersection of grace came crashing in.  We were musing about what precisely had been lost in Eden in a physical/material sense and it struck me that I didn’t care.  I mean, I guess I am interested to know if we lost some super-abilities (like being able to walk fifty miles without getting tired, or being able to go without sleep, or some such thing,) but I don’t care very much in light of what I know we lost and what I long to have fully restored:  We lost relationship.   We lost the ability to sinlessly interact – with God, with man, with creation – in a way that isn’t fraught with a blockheaded self-centeredness.  We’re all about enmity now, in everything we do of our own power.  And while God has definitively redeemed us and positionally sanctified us, we still live in this state of constant discord. Even as we stand, from an eternal perspective, protected by the mediating shelter of Christ, we continue to experience a painful amount of  brokenness in our every relationship.  I continue to experience being a blockhead. 

Today, I experienced that enmity – not in open conflict, but in my tremendous awareness of my own ineptitude in being a good friend. And yet, more wondrously, I experienced a remarkable reminder that we are being restored. We are not, as was pointed out in bible study tonight, merely winding down in entropy.  God is making all things new, and has already given us Christ’s perfect righteousness. And every once in a while, the sparkle and glimmer of the“newness” that creation is becoming shows through in undeserved grace extended, even when I’ve clearly been a blockhead. 


“The growth of grace is like the polishing of metals. There is first an opaque surface; by and by you see a spark darting out, then a strong light; till at length it sends back a perfect image of the sun that shines upon it.” -Edward Payson (1783-1827)


“The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn,
       shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” (Proverbs 4:18)

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Ok, not really breaking news perhaps, but I’m new enough at this blogging stuff to not know quite how to handle two posts in one day… What’s the etiquette if you’ve already posted, but then find you really really really have one more thing to say???  (Is it kind of like standing in the line for the “adult” bathroom at Rockbridge, then coming out and finding you need to stand in line again??   Awkward!)

Anyway, another thing for which I don’t really know the etiquette is this: linking to a link that provided a link that cracked one up.  What IS the proper way? (Imagine: wringing of hands, furrowing of brow…)  If someone could PUHLLLEASSSE tell me whether the linkee who linked to the original link needs to be cited, that would most wonderfully help my growing blog finesse.  Maybe.

(Seriously: the original reference came from Finding Grace, a blog of no one I know, but which I’ve been newly enjoying.)

In case you didn’t wade through all that (I’m not sure I did either) and didn’t click on anything that made you laugh out loud, let me be more specific: Here’s what you need to read, for your chortle for the day:

Stuff Christians Like: Creating The Holiest Church Logo Possible: A How-To Guide

(By the way, LC: this post, as contrasted with the previous one,  took me more like TWELVE minutes, due to all the linking of links to links…)

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I think I’ve been grumbling lately on my blog, which probably hasn’t been making it very pleasant to read.  And right now, I’m in one of those moods wherein, since I can’t say anything nice, I’d probably best not say anything at all. 

So, in the interest of redeeming myself by giving you a taste of something beautiful, here’s a photo I took last week.  Ellie was driving us home from Virginia Beach and just as the sun was setting, I spotted this and I yelled “Wait! Stop! Go BACK!!!”  (All of which, in hindsight, is probably rather unsettling for a sixteen year old engrossed in her first long distance drive…) But, she learned how to use one of those turn-around-in-the-middle-of-the-divided-highway thingys (the legal ones) and promptly deposited me  a quarter of a mile back, where all the yelling had begun.   Whereupon, I took this photo (and about thirty more like it, since I’m never really very secure in my own ability to capture what I want people to see, when I have a camera in hand…)

October sunset, Virginia

Isn’t that marvelous?  Someday, I think I’ll paint it.  (Maybe right around the time I start working on that first novel…)  So, my new motto might just have to be: if you don’t have anything nice to say, put something beautiful on your blog!

And by the way, my nay saying friend who said recently “Blog?  WHO has time to blog??” :  This will have taken me all of about six minutes to write and post.  🙂

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Following up on yesterday’s post:

All the studying in the world (or at least, in my case, two solid days of cramming,) in a coffee shop or anywhere, doesn’t make much difference if you log on to your distance learning portal and find that the online midterm you need to take has been removed because….??

Actually, I can’t figure out what happened. I swear the deadline said Oct. 19th, all week, but now I’m wondering if what was meant was “until” Oct. 19th, as in, until the stroke of midnight on Oct. 18th… (That’s the only possibility I can think of, though it seems as though that would be a very odd way to list a deadline, if that’s what was meant, so maybe there’s some other explanation.)

The distance learning program has been totally revamped as of this fall, with me in mid-stream as far as finishing my degree. And, as some of you know, I’ve been really struggling to keep my head above water with the new, significantly less flexible, requirements. If there was one thing I needed, to make possible finishing a Masters degree while teaching full time and raising two kids and 14 sheep, it was the tremendous flexibility of the Covenant Theological Seminary program, as I originally signed up for it. With these big new changes (many of which must be delightful, for people with more normal lives) I’ve spent most of the summer and fall questioning whether or not I can go on, and mourning the possibility of not…

Somehow this, today, just feels like that proverbial straw… With a new school week upon me now, it’s very hard to imagine which day I’ll fit this exam into, even if I’m still allowed to take it.


I’d like to think there will be grace given, if this is a dumb mistake of mine, but I haven’t been able to get in touch with anyone at the seminary today, Sunday, of course.

If I can’t arrange to take this test, I imagine I’ve pretty much failed the class.

(Which, I suppose, makes my next two months much easier, but which also means I’ve wasted $1200 on credits I’ll now need to retake…)

Sigh, again.

Pray for mercy. Pray for wisdom.

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I’m sitting in Caribou Coffee, cramming, cramming, cramming for a midterm exam (writing this post is the first self-indulgent break I’ve given myself in the last 4 ½ hours) and I’ve paused to consider why I come here so often in order to really buckle down and get something done. Here’s my preliminary list of reasons:

  1. Coffee
  2. Big tables
  3. Solid wooden chairs that are just the right amount of comfortable
  4. Just about the right level of background noise that keeps me alert without really being too intrusive
  5. Coffee
  6. Coffee
  7. The propensity for places like this to have other middle-aged people like me sitting around studying. As an isolated distance learner, being around other people who seem to be pursuing some sort of self-education makes me feel like what I’m doing isn’t such a solitary endeavor.


    That last one was really all I wanted to say. Now back to work!

    (Can you list Gunkel’s form-critical categories for the Psalms and list the component parts of each type with scriptural examples? Neither can I. Yet. Maybe in another four hours or so. Did I mention the part about the coffee???)

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Do you ever have days where you’re struck by the patterns you see in the simple things around you? I had one of those days today. Actually, I had one of those mornings, since these awarenesses intruded on my consciousness all before I’d drained my second cup of coffee. So, with your indulgence for my wordiness, tonight’s blog entry is about… WORDS.


  1. Words’ weirdness, relished: This is a true story. And it’s OK if it makes you think I’m weird because I just might agree.
    I woke up, around 4:45 this morning, with the word “sagacious” on my tongue. Rather, I think I was awakened by the imposition of the word “sagacious” into my consciousness. I didn’t speak it, and didn’t hear it; it was just there and I have no idea why. There was no context: I didn’t have any sense that it had been part of the dialogue of a dream. I hadn’t even used (or read, or heard, to my knowledge) that term any time recently. None-the-less, it rolled around in my mouth for most of the morning, like a slowly savored sugar candy, and I was subtly aware at occasional times that my tongue was silently playing with its feel and structure. Turning it over. Tasting it. I thought perhaps I should try to use it, but by mid-morning, its presence had faded and it felt like the opportunity had passed.


  2. Words’ wildness, recognized: I spent the hour and a half from 5:00 to 6:30, before we had to leave for school, trying to tame something civilized and reasonable out of my thoughts to compose into my own words. I was sorting out of a great gush of ideas/propositions/protestations as I answered the latest installment of a series of email exchanges I’ve had with a friend over the nature of Paul’s words in Romans 7:15-20. (The discussion being, of course, over our differing views of whether Paul was speaking there of his pre-conversion or post-conversion experience with sin.) I refer to trying to “tame something civilized” out of my words not because I’m angry at my friend, but because one view of that passage gets my ire and despair working simultaneously, in full-gear, and I tend to respond emotionally when I’m in such a state. Emotional writing, for me, shows up in tremendous redundancy, not all of which is accidental, as I find myself trying to state, and restate, and restate again (see? There you go: redundancy!) In this sense, I use words a bit like I use paint: they only make a picture when they’re built up in subtly different glazes of color and structure. It works in art, and poetry, and some types of prose, but probably isn’t good form when one is trying to speak clearly about doctrine. I continue to try to tame my tendency toward using a paintbrush when my partner in dialogue really needs me to be using a scalpel. It’s an uphill battle all the way for me.



  3. Words’ wakening, received: From 6:50 to 7:00, on the brief drive to school, I read the words of two Psalms to my girls. (Don’t panic: Ellie was driving, not me…) We’ve been reading lately out of the New Living Translation. (Please don’t hate me: I know some of you more radically careful Reformed types are probably on your way to delete my link from your blogs right now but hey! Lighten up!) Seriously, I’ve been enjoying tremendously hearing familiar words sound a bit unfamiliar again. It’s a bit like savoring the charm of someone’s accent: for a while, everything they say sounds new and exciting. It’s very sad that I need that sort of auditory novelty imposed on me once in a while when reading the very word of God, but I’ll welcome whatever literary and auditory medicine it takes to knock my sometimes dismayingly inattentive mind back into sharper focus. I really do wish I could read Scripture in another language, for much the same reason.


  4. Words’ wastage, reviled: From 7:00 to 7:30, I read and answered the first fourteen or so business-themed emails of my day, with no real attempt at making my end of those communications beautiful. (Definitely no chance to consider how I might use “sagacious” appropriately, for example…) Such use of words in cursory “communication” is a necessary evil that attends all who own computers and desk chairs with adjustable lumbar supports, it seems. But I don’t have to like it. ‘Nuff said.



  5. Words’ winsomeness, reconsidered: From 8:10 to 8:13, I looked up and pondered the definition of “akrasia” because my passionately “pre-conversion view” friend (oh, there now, I’ve given my side away… and if you aforementioned theology thugs – and you know I mean that lovingly – start in with me about how he’s right, then don’t say I didn’t warn you that I get a bit emotional about this one!) …sorry, where was I? Oh yeah, my friend used that term, akrasia, in his prompt response to my 5:00 am ramblings and… …did I mention he’s much smarter than I am? I had to look it up. I started to dwell on my feelings of intellectual inferiority, but then I remembered: I love it when I have to look words up! Isn’t it delicious to own a new word that way? To “buy” it through your notice of it and attention to it, and stick it in your pocket where you can take it out and savor it any time you want? I bought the new word “akrasia” right around the time I’d sucked all the flavor I could get, for the moment, out of the syllabic sensation of “sagacious.” And because I’d been thinking about words all morning, I had a conscious little flitter of delight go through me, like I’d been given an unexpected gift.


There’s a “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” sort of question in me when I recognize my preoccupation with words. Do I oh-so-very-much love that we’re told that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” because of my personal predilection, or have words rather taken on a new shine in light of that endorsement of their worth?

Either way, words’ worth, redeemed, is what I’ve considered today. As God moves ALL of His creation toward consummation, I’m thankful for the little graces of words and the ultimate Grace of WORD and that God gift wraps the former for me, even as He patiently continues to assure me of the reality of the latter.


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