Thursday, October 07, 2010

Ten Star Service


At the beginning of the school year we cleaned off our cluttered dining room table and decided to attempt family meals together. Many have already discovered the beauty of family dining, but we’ve been a little slow to join this crowd. For the past few years we’ve generally made due with kids eating in the breakfast area and my husband and I sitting close by at the island. We knew this arrangement wouldn’t last forever, but it’s what we had become accustomed to.

Last year and the year before that the dining room table was my ten-year-old’s school work area, so between homeschooling classroom space, soccer practices, and a traveling husband who is rarely home for dinner we just didn’t give much thought to formal meal time.

Sensing it was time for a change I moved the school work area to the breakfast nook and announced all meals would now be at the dining room table. You might have thought I informed them we were going to Disney World! I had no idea what kind of enthusiasm this decision would generate. From the very moment we made the switch I’ve had four eager meal planners and service attendants vying for their chance to be the one who cooks, sets, serves and cleans. We even have an event planner each evening – because no dinner is complete without a dinner game and Ten Star Service.

At the center of our dinner event planning is a little box given to us a few years ago by some friends of ours (thanks Ferdie & Maria). Inside the box are dozens of little cards that suggest dinner conversation starters, games and ideas for family bonding. Some of our favorites are Word Whisperers, Ten Star Service, Pass the Pepper and Family Star. This is truly the highlight of our dinner. Each evening there is a great deal of discussion that precipitates exactly what we will be doing during dinner besides eating. And I am usually the last to find out just what game we will be playing and what cartoon character I may have to impersonate.

We’ve been laughing a lot lately and many evenings I arrive at a beautifully set table accompanied by a server with a folded towel over his arm waiting to take my order. On these occasions I find my daughters have created menus to go along with the dinner festivities. This is truly as the dinner card would suggest, “Ten Star Service.”

It makes me wonder why we didn’t try this sooner. I suppose we’ve been so busy that we weren’t paying attention – just so caught up in the routine of life.

This past week we were sitting around our newly broken-in dinner table and grabbed hands ready to pray. Just before we started, my six-year-old piped, “It’s like a decoration around the table. Look at our hands! They make a decoration.”

It was then that it struck me. My daughter was right - we were all together. There were no missing ingredients. It was the perfect decoration. Food, dinner games and Ten Star Service aside there is nothing more I would rather my table be decorated with then the faces of the ones I love.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

May Showers vs. May Baths

It’s a Friday night, and I have a good reason for writing. This evening’s events surpassed the usual Facebook status update and merited a story in their own right.

So I guess I should start at the beginning.

The day began much like any other. It was a morning for getting clean. The boys had already been in and out of the shower, and now it was time for the girls to have a go. I had decreed showers as opposed to baths today, and this did not sit well with my strong-willed, six-year-old daughter.

Why this was a decree and not simply a suggestion is a subject of some debate. But let’s just say that this was my hill, and I chose to stand on it today amid tears and drama, drama, drama!

Since I am used to dealing with all kinds of antics I was not moved by my daughter's pleas for a bath, though she pronounced with great passion that she did not like showers. Was it only a week ago that this same child asked if she could take a piece of bread into the shower, just in case she got hungry?

Clearly, I did not grant this request.

I’m a terrible tyrant. I know.

After maybe ten minutes of wailing, gnashing of teeth, and losing a little of my own hair I noticed that the water was running, the crying had stopped, and laughter had taken its place. This should be a good sign – right?

Hmm. Never mind – peace was what I wanted and laughter meant peace!

My little ladybug bounded down the stairs not fifteen minutes later wrapped in a towel wearing a mischievous smile that I supposed was attached to the satisfaction of being clean.

The episode forgotten, we went on to spend a wonderful family day driving all over town and back home again for a fabulous Taco dinner. Following dinner we enjoyed ice cream sandwiches, a chapter from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and the gentle removal of narwhal’s from little teeth (i.e. toothbrushing).

Upon our ascent up the stairs to tuck our submariners into bed my eyes took in all the clothes and toys that were strewn across the loft area and the floors of the kids’ bedrooms. Without fail this always causes my blood pressure to rise. Still I held my tongue as I walked from room to room until I picked up a wet raincoat that was lying on the bathroom floor. Curiously we had not been caught in the rain on this particular day.

“What is this doing in here on the floor?” I posed waving a green and white polka-dotted raincoat in the air.

“Oh! I wore that in the shower today because, remember Mommy, I don’t like showers,” quipped my six-year-old matter-of-factly as if this were a perfectly reasonable explanation.

“I don’t like to get my body wet because it’s too hot, but I didn’t wear the hood so I could wash my hair!” she beamed.

I stood there stunned and quickly shoved my head behind the bathroom door before my little problem-solver could see me explode into laughter. "What's wrong with Mommy?" the kids wondered aloud.

"I think she's upset," my husband assured them.

What is the proper response to your child wearing raingear in the shower? Whatever it is, clearly I had been outdone, and the hill I thought I had successfully defended earlier in the day had actually been overtaken by an ingenius six-year-old using the latest in water resistant technology.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Four-year-olds, Fitting Rooms and Foul Odors

Four-year-olds are fascinated with many things. Chief among these things are the noises and smells their bodies make. Come to think of it I’m not sure boys ever grow out of this stage.

Since this reality is never too far below the surface it was no surprise when my son announced his latest foul release in the fitting room today at Ross.

“Mommy, I just farted, and it STINKS!”

He was right, and I winced considering the woman who occupied the dressing room next to ours.

“I have such stinky FARTS!” he continued.

I didn’t argue. I was trying not to breathe.

“I don’t know why God made me this way, with such STINKY farts.”

I laughed wondering if God imagined this conversation when he was molding my little man-child. Regardless here we were with moms, grandmas and Ross’ associates serving as our hidden audience. I opened my mouth to respond to his question with encouragement and a chin-up sentiment, but before I could get the words out my little biohazard concluded, “But God made me this way.” With this statement he farted again, filling the dressing area with his own air of confidence.

He wasn’t concerned with who heard him discussing these intimate details, and he did not appear worried about who might benefit from his lack of self-control. He was only momentarily disrupted by his own discomfort and seemed to enjoy the conversation that ensued as a result.

At home during Bible time and throughout the course of our days we’ve been discussing how God made us each special and unique. We’ve been learning that God has a plan laid out for our lives and how he made each of us just the way he wants us. Apparently these words have found a home in my son for he is certain that he is wonderfully designed by God to emit foul odors – and he’s okay with that.

While I am delighted that my son has made peace with himself and his own unique smells, I am quite certain that God has greater plans in mind for him than mastering his bodily functions or being able to clear a room. Still I suppose that is quite a feat for a four-year-old.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Nashville Flooding*

I flew into Nashville this afternoon after being delayed a day by heavy rains and catastrophic flooding in middle TN. Thankfully my home and neighborhood were spared, but others were not so lucky.

As my plane made its descent I could hear audible gasps coming from all over the plane. Passengers stood and leaned over other passengers while everyone tried to view the devastation below.

The thing is - Nashville isn’t in a typical flood zone, but after receiving over 13 inches of rain within two days there was nowhere left for the water to go. Other areas of TN received as much as 21 inches over the two-day period.

Thankfully the rain has stopped, but not before claiming 10 lives in the Nashville area, and 18 statewide. Over 14,000 households have no power tonight and thousands more have been displaced from their homes. Downtown Nashville, Opryland, and many area businesses remain underwater at this time. Area schools are closed with 23 having sustained water damage.

But perhaps the area of greatest concern is the availability of clean water. I find it a strange idea - even the thought of being surrounded by water, but unable to drink it. One of the two water treatment centers for Davidson County is completely submerged. *Update* According to Scott Potter with the Metro Water Services, "The water is safe." News Channel 5 reports that Nashville residents are being asked to cut their water consumption in half at this time. Potter continued, "I need everyone to use one-half of the water they would normally use, if everyone does this - we will be able to get through this crisis satisfactorily. If we don't do that - we will have a problem"

I received two calls from my TN water utility company today. The first I received while in FL at the airport. A recorded voice informed me of the dire need to conserve water due to multiple water main breaks in our community and a small water reserve. Another call mentioned the possibility that we would be without water for three days!

I have never been faced with a scenario like this, and honestly, it caused a substantial amount of anxiety. It also caused me to consider how greatly I take our most precious resource for granted. At this point I couldn’t help but consider Haiti and the plight of individuals in so many third world countries who desperately need a consistent clean water supply. And here I was worried about three days!

According to a 2006 United Nations Human Development Report over 1 billion people live without access to clean water. This number is staggering and leaves me feeling almost helpless. What can we do in the face of such an overwhelming reality?

We can help one community at a time.

I continue to be impressed with organizations like World Vision and the Global Orphan Project who are invested in building self-sustaining communities and digging fresh water wells to serve those living in poverty all over the world. We can be a part of helping these organizations and others like them meet real needs of real people. The question is will we follow through with our time and money.

We must reach out to those around the world with the love of Christ while helping to meet their practical and most basic needs. We can do this while continuing to serve those neighbors within our own communities. It is not either or it is both and.

Nashville has been hit hard and many lives have been turned upside down, but we will recover, and we will have access to clean water in a few days if not tomorrow. But others in countries like Haiti may wait indefinitely.

Please continue to pray for those in Nashville and all of Middle TN who have suffered loss, but also pray about how you might get involved in bringing clean water to communities who don’t have their own well.

I can personally recommend The Global Orphan Project as a quality and effective organization. Our family and church is personally invested with this amazing group to help bring water, medicine, food and housing to families in Haiti. To get your church or family involved visit

To join cleanup efforts in the Nashville area please visit or I pray that the aftereffects of this flooding would serve as a sobering reminder of what we have been blessed with and prompt us to care for those who live their entire lives without access to the necessities that we frequently take for granted.

*Originally posted at Caffeinated Thoughts

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Census of the Soul

Originally posted at Caffeinated Thoughts.

The other night I was reading Psalm 40. Anytime I read this particular Psalm I can’t help but think of the group U2. They sing a song called “40” which is on their 1983 album, War. The song, appropriately titled, is a modification of Psalm 40. Consequently, I started humming the tune as I continued to read.

You can listen to it below.

While reading the Psalm, verses 9-10 caught my attention:
I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, as you know, O LORD. I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and salvation. I do not conceal your love and your truth from the great assembly.

As I read this I pictured the Psalmist, David, making a case for himself before God. I see him bowing humbly before Almighty God while pouring out his heart. In the previous verses David already acknowledged that God had heard his cry and raised him up from the muddy pit of despair. He recognizes his own sin and God’s goodness. He now says, in essence, “God I stand for you. I haven’t made my belief in you a secret. In fact, it’s plain for everyone to see. You are my salvation, and I want everyone to know your love and truth. I will be counted as one who belongs to you.”

I continued to think about the boldness with which David shared his faith even as I read through to the end of the Psalm. Finishing up I searched the front of my Bible for a bookmark to hold my place and came across our unopened 2010 Census Form. As I held it in my hands I considered the millions of people who would be filling out this same form (reluctantly or otherwise) in the coming days in an effort to be counted.

Governments everywhere demand an accounting of individual citizens for varied reasons including representation, taxes, and provision of public services. In the New Testament we read that the census is what brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus.

Believe me – this is not an effort to give you warm fuzzies about filling out your census form. The truth is there is another far more important census taking place. It’s not a questionnaire that you need to fill out or a blog post you need to respond to. It is a census that takes an accounting of each heart. It asks, “Where do you stand? What do you believe, and who do you live for?” These questions are a great deal more personal that the ones you will be marking down on a black and white piece of paper.

But in contrast to the frustration we might feel toward our own government and its census this heavenly kingdom that deals with our hearts is governed by God and has eternal benefits and consequences. We must all decide for ourselves if we will stand up and be counted as a citizen of this kingdom.

Hebrews tells us that this is not an optional census. One day we will each give an account of our lives:
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

God created everything we see. Nothing that we have done or will do comes as a surprise to him. He knows our weaknesses before we even begin to list them. So even though we will give an accounting, we won’t measure up to God’s perfect standard without giving our hearts and lives to Jesus and accepting his sacrifice for our sins.

Whether we choose to live for Jesus or not Paul tells us in Philipians 2:10-11:
At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

In Revelation John writes:
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!"

This passage speaks of events that will occur in the future. It references every part of creation giving praise to God. The U2 video here demonstrates that people have a desire to worship and will give their praise to someone or something. Regardless of the other things we choose to give our attention to here on earth eventually we will all bow before Jesus.

The question at hand is, “Are we willing to stand up and be counted for Christ now – at home, at school, and at work?” The decision we make here establishes where we will spend eternity. David determined that he would stand and proclaim God’s salvation and truth to everyone within earshot. How will you respond?

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Beyond Africa - A Book Review

After fifteen years in the States, twenty-two-year-old Lilly has returned to Africa as a nurse and a missionary. She is confident that this is where she belongs – where God wants her to be, but what she didn’t bank on was Case McCord, the handsome American pilot, strangely interested in her well-being, or Sam, the precious two-year-old Congolese boy, who has attached himself to her hip and stolen her heart.

Each week brings new refugees to the mission along with new concerns. As conflict draws nearer uneasiness settles over the camp. The Democratic Republic of Congo is flush with militants who are encroaching upon Lilly’s safe-haven. Though she finds herself in a war zone, the Congo is Lilly’s adopted home, the place she grew up as a child of missionaries. But now this land is filled with strife, fading memories of a happier time, and a gnawing pain.

Lilly’s fear and faith rise to the surface as she is forced to deal with the effects of civil war, the anguish of losing of her mom and dad as a child, and confront her own uncertain future. What further purpose could there be in the bewildering presence of Case, the exasperating yet altogether likeable pilot? What of the children and the mission – are miracles even possible in this war torn, seemingly, God-forsaken land? Why would she or anyone stay? Surprisingly, nothing could make her leave, until…

Beyond Africa is the first published work by author, Carie Lawson. Lawson appears a veteran as she masterfully weaves faith and storytelling together with captivating detail and compelling characters. The book sustains a series of wonderful paradoxes and draws its reader in through clever dialogue, the harsh realities of poverty and war, and a sense of impending romance.

As this fantastic world unfolds, Ms. Lawson triumphs in sharing her heroine’s faith in a miraculous and loving God without forcing the issue or becoming preachy. She further explores the emotional stress involved when feelings of attraction and faith collide. What does one do when heart, soul and mind are competing for attention?

Destined for success Lawson has done an excellent job of capturing the reader’s imagination and keeping her interest. While enjoying this book, I have come to know and appreciate the intriguing characters with their many facets. Even now, my mind drifts to Lilly and little Sam as my own little hip hugger cuddles up next to me.

Fortunately we have much more to look forward to from Carie Lawson. This book is just the first in a series of four soon to be released by Desert Breeze Publishing. Thank you, Desert Breeze, for such an auspicious introduction.

So what will become of the conflict raging within the African Congo and that stirring within Lilly’s heart? I hope you will take the time to read on and find out.

Beyond Africa is currently available as an E-book through online book retailers. You can purchase and download your own copy, by visiting,, or

To learn more about Carie Lawson and future projects please visit her at

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lights Out!

A week or so ago the power went out. It was Saturday night and only about 7:30 PM, so there was plenty of evening left, and I couldn’t convince my children otherwise.

In moments like these you really see your children’s imaginations come to life. Now my kids are pretty imaginative anyway, but for some reason a loss of power changes all the rules. Everything is new and scary. Bedrooms are taboo, and the living room becomes the open jungle. The family is officially on safari and struggling for their very lives. A large shadow on the wall or the settling of pipes in the floor is reason enough for any or all of the children to scream, huddle together, and bounce on and off Mom and Dad’s lap. The refrigerator is off limits and suddenly everyone needs popcorn. Bedtime is essentially out the window having been replaced with campout by candlelight. This is of course appropriate for a jungle safari. Board games are the peacemaker – that brilliant ray of light at the end of the tunnel and are, at the moment, better than sliced bread.

Normally this would be the perfect opportunity to spend that sought after quality time as a family, but after sickness and plenty of quantity time quality time isn’t exactly appealing to Mom and Dad.

With a box of tissues and a cup of lukewarm tea in my possession I wandered to my little alcove for quarantine and a date with my pillow. Unsurprisingly my passel of children followed my lead joining me and my husband on our full size bed. Earlier that day I could not have predicted that two adults and four children would be enjoying a paper, rock, scissors tournament in my bedroom.

This was only the first of many activities sparked by our sudden power outage. Yes this was becoming an event of Olympic proportions. The shadows which once sent each child running for cover were now a subject of great interest. As a result shadow puppets came to life all over our bedroom walls. These puppets gave rise to the inevitable discussion of monsters and scary stories which Dad quickly squelched. The children abandoned their scary tales easily and immediately replaced them with silly stories – very silly stories which involved varied forms of rhyme, alliteration and fantastic detail. Everyone had a turn and the laughter was infectious.

As time skipped along interest was given and taken from board games – Monopoly, Zooreka, Sorry, and Madagascar each had a fair shake. Additionally fascinating realities came to light in the dark.

The first response to the loss of power was not surprising. The children were disappointed that our evening had been altered – no Wii or movie tonight. These are of course traditional Saturday night family activities that would be missed. The kids, however, recovered nicely and with great zeal, but if I ever wondered how entrenched we are in modern technology a simple statement from my son reminded me with a smile. After excusing himself from a much anticipated game of Monopoly my nine-year-old called from an open bathroom door, “If you’re going to start without me, then email me!”

There is something about extreme darkness and an inability to change our situation that produces a need for everyone to be together. Even going to the bathroom can be too much separation, but thank God for the ever present option of email on one’s phone enabling us to keep in contact even at our most vulnerable station.

The overwhelming reality that superseded every game, activity, frustration and fear was the desire to be together and the knowledge that we should be together at all costs. I can hardly remember what we had planned for the evening before we lost power, but once the lights were out our course was determined, and our plans changed. Perhaps we had decided to travel in separate directions and pursue different activities, but thankfully high winds, a blackout, and nervous energy forced us into the same room to laugh, love and learn from each other.

In closing my nine-year-old later suggested that we pretend the lights are out every Saturday because it was so much fun. Sounds like a vote for family time to me, but maybe we could cheat just a little and have some popcorn and hot cocoa to go along with the candlelit craziness.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

My Love is Not...

A confession...

My love is not patient
My love is not kind
My love is very far I fear from love that is divine

Sometimes I am self-seeking
I must humbly confess
I am easily angered and seeking redress

But I long to change and set these sins aside
To start a brand new life as Jesus’ spotless bride

I set my heart and my mind on what is above
And rest in only these three things,
True Faith, Hope and Love

Today my 7-year-old daughter planned our Bible time activity and picked out a Scripture for us to read. She chose 1 Corinthians 13, commonly referred to as the Love chapter. This chapter is a beautiful expression of what true love looks like. Most of us have probably heard these scriptures referenced many times over in wedding ceremonies, books and even movies - but how often do we see these words in action or take them to heart?

As our little crew read and discussed the Love chapter I realized how woefully inadequate my attempts at loving are. I do try, but I get so frustrated, impatient and rattled. How can I ever measure up to this incredible standard.

As I contemplated my weakness and my children's weakness what became evident was our desperate need for God. If we were going to love anybody what we needed was an infusion of God's power, and the only way to connect with that power is to connect with God.

The way to connect with God is through studying His Word and spending time in prayer. Those are the two elements you just can't leave out - simple answers which require a not-so-simple daily discipline.

Discipline is always easier said than done. The truth is I need God's strength and power to even sit still and give him 20 minutes of my time, but when I do, I find that he supplies the time I was lacking for my other activities. I never regret having spent time with him, and I discover so much more than I came looking for in the process.

I could easily make the excuse that the Love chapter is too hard, even impossible to live out, but every now and then I do see glimpses of that love, and it is beautiful. It brings tears to my eyes, life to my body, and an overwhelming desire to share it with others.

The most vivid illustration of this love is Christ's selfless sacrifice for you and me on the cross. "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

How can we resist sharing this good news or fail to respond with devotion?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Justified: New song and Video

Original Song by Jake Cooper and me, JP Murie.
Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Show and Tell

Kids want to talk about what is important to them. When given the right opportunity they will pull out their treasures and invite others to join them in a world of innocence and play. For that reason we have incorporated Show and Tell into our homeschool. Show and Tell is fun, but it is also a terrific tool to help children overcome the fear of standing in front of people.

Some children struggle with the fear of public speaking while others embrace it with both arms. We have children in both camps. Our introductory Show and Tell confirmed this and was a bit like the Sesame Street piece “One of these kids is doing his own thing...”

The children prepared for their exposition by choosing a few items to share and drawing a number to determine who would go first. As I observed the goods that each child carried down the stairs from his or her room I noticed a theme. Three children were laden with blankets which cradled precious stuffed animals while one child held an assortment of papers, pens, books and buttons.

This third child, my eccentric five-year-old daughter, was adamant about going last insisting that her Show and Tell would be the longest. Little did we know the great truth harbored in her statement. To her dismay she drew the number two spot. Still my nine-year-old son went first providing a proper and well-ordered accounting of each of his stuffed animals, listing their names and explaining what he liked about each one. He received a warm round of applause and took his seat. The five-year-old was up next.

She began by passing out note cards and pencils to each participant. Apparently this was going to be an interactive Show and Tell. “Everybody draw a picture or write a story about a Bible story,” she instructed. To my surprise the three other children obeyed dutifully, as did I. Meanwhile our little instructor pulled out unrelated items and proceeded to describe each in great detail. These items included but were not limited to buttons, books, and a balloon you might use as a belt – or so we were told!

Impatiently, the nine-year-old asked, “What is your Show and Tell about?” “It’s about Jesus,” she chirped matter-of-factly. As if this answer should suffice, the kindergartener continued unruffled, “Now who wants to read The Ten Commandments?” My seven-year-old’s hand shot up. I sat in wonder, but before the young volunteer reached the third commandment, our fearless leader interrupted, “Who wants me to shoot a rubber band at them?” This time two more hands shot up; it was of course the boys.

Shortly after the rubber band war, the platform princess handed me a Bible and advised, “Mommy, it’s your turn to read a Bible verse.” “Which one do you want me to read,” I asked. “You choose, I can’t read,” she said. “Anybody want a sticker?” she followed.

Before the young audience could weary of her theatrics my darling diva wrapped up the show by asking who wanted to be first to share the Bible story they had written on their note card. One by one each storyteller stood to reveal the small piece of history he or she had recorded.

It was a hard act to follow, and it really was more of a Show than a Tell, but it was beautiful. It was lengthy, and it was the most unique display I had ever been a part of. However, next time I will be careful to limit each of the children to one item, and I will make sure that our long-winded, little, ladybug labors over her litany last.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Responding to Haiti Long-term*

Haiti remains shell shocked after its 7.0 magnitude quake little more than a week ago. The people braced themselves once again as another powerful aftershock (6.1) ripped through the country Wednesday morning. According to media sources this further complicates search and rescue efforts and is hampering the ability to distribute aid.

Soon after the first quake rocked Port-au-Prince I had an interesting conversation with a friend that began with this engaging question, “How should we respond to the devastation in Haiti?” I realize there are some obvious answers to this question, and I know for a fact that this individual is invested both financially and physically in helping the people of Haiti, so I knew there was more to his question.

I asked if he could elaborate. He went on to say that he was finding it difficult to relate to the people of Haiti. He was frustrated that his emotions and his heart weren’t lining up with what his head told him he should feel and do.

He was not asking how will I respond to this tragedy, but how should I respond as a human being to the suffering of people that I don’t know.

Some will understand his quandary and others will not, dismissing him out of hand as an uncaring individual. What he was getting at was the larger picture. His statement was, “If I involve myself, I’m all in. If I choose to feel then what I feel may be immobilizing. How can I help one person if I can’t help them all? How can I help them now, if I am not willing to continue helping them in the future?”

This is a great point. It is much easier to involve ourselves with prayer and aid at the beginning of a relief effort and then once Haiti begins to heal and falls out of the news forget about it all together – though there remains work to be done. How can we identify with Haiti and its people or any devastated people on a long term basis? Should we even try?

Our church started a journey with Haiti months ago through the Global Orphan Project and The Crazy Love Campaign. Our goal is to help buy land and build a self-sustaining village to house and care for the orphans in the Jeremie region. We started by giving financially last year and have continued to follow up by sending teams and planning mission trips for the future.

When the earthquake hit my first thought was, “Oh no! What about our kids?” Amazingly through divine persuasion and practical mobilization my heart and my support were already connected to those who were hurting. We are linked in a tangible way to the people, the orphans, and their well-being. I began to think about the future and how our plans for building would be different because of the relief that all of Haiti would need immediately.

I visited our church’s blog to get on-the-ground updates and watched the news searching for more information. My search generated two stories that pressed deeply on my heart and those of my family. The first came from our local news about a couple here in Tennessee, who was in the process of adopting a five-year-old girl from Haiti named Tia.

Twelve hours after the quake, Mike Wilson, the adoptive father flew to Haiti with relief supplies and the resolve to bring his daughter home to the states. He soon discovered that Tia was safe but that all court documents for his adoption had been destroyed in the disaster along with the papers of thousands of other Haitian orphans leaving him to wonder if he would ever bring his little girl home. Miraculously only a week later Mr. Wilson and Tia left Haiti together. They arrived safely in Nashville early Tuesday morning and were greeted by a tearful group of family and friends.

The second story that moved me is harder to digest. Even Steve Harrigan, a seasoned reporter, from FOX news was choked up as he reported on the devastation around him. The most haunting image I recall is that of a woman lying on the ground insane with grief after having lost four of her children in the earthquake and the fifth shortly thereafter at the hospital. Her husband sat grief-stricken as well cradling her head in his lap and gently attempting to comfort her.

As a mom to four children and a fifth now with Jesus, my heart leapt out of me and raced to this inconsolable mom. A surprising desire to hold and comfort her, as well as run to embrace my own children overwhelmed me. Even now I long to comfort Haiti’s orphaned children and her childless mothers.

Compassion is awakened in us when we identify with another’s pain, grief, or loss. Busyness, stress, and everyday realities threaten to separate us from empathy toward our neighbors and even our own family members. This disconnect can be magnified exponentially when those experiencing loss are thousands of miles away and come from a different culture.

So, how should we respond to Haiti?

Many have acted quickly and practically by sending prayers, money, and much needed supplies through trusted organizations. And I believe we can further bridge the gap between us and the people in need by embracing the heart of God. God loves the people of Haiti and embracing God’s heart means laying our own hearts bare and asking God to let us feel their pain. Let us help to shoulder their burden.

Instead of steeling ourselves against pain and suffering through distance, culture, and isolation we can choose to get involved personally. This could mean adopting a family, an individual, or even serving on a short term mission project.

Fostering a personal relationship adds a name, a life, and a soul to the images we see on T.V. These efforts to build relationships go beyond Haiti and natural disasters. They reach across the globe and just outside our front doors to the hundreds of thousands who are hurting, hungry and alone.

My prayer is that more hearts will be softened through this tragedy and more eyes will be opened to the great need all around us, so that each of us will find a way to give, to go, and to feel.

*This post appeared first on Caffeinated Thoughts

Monday, January 11, 2010

Tickle Attack

Have you ever been the victim of a tickle attack? This is the ambush you never see coming – the surprise attack so shocking that it encounters your angry face before ever reaching your funny bone.

You’ve seen it happen – a mom quietly minding her own business, cradling a hot cup of tea while reading a magazine or book. Suddenly she shoots up out of her chair; barely aware of what has happened, registering pain on either side of her ribcage and under her arms. The tea she was holding now stains her top and still sloshes in her cup. She hears something akin to laughter coming from a nearby corner where two little hooligans skulk guiltily. The offenders who anticipated surprise and laughter have achieved only one of their goals and awoken a sleeping giant in the process. They are summarily dismissed to their rooms to await proper punishment while mom cleans up and cools down.

Tickle attacks are part of most adolescent boys’ vocabulary, and for some strange reason my son has a great need to include me in this ritual. Why he needs to see me wriggle and squirm uncontrollably I do not know. I’d like to think it’s just because he wants to see me laugh, but let’s face it, tickling is not about laughter – it’s about shock and awe!

To reduce the incidents of just such an event I foolishly granted my nine-year-old son’s insane request that every Wednesday be deemed Tickle Day. What was I thinking?

In my defense it was a compromise which I made under extreme duress. I don’t want to be the mean mom, the one who doesn’t like to have fun, or bans tickling altogether. Surely, I could be prepared for my son’s stealthy attacks one day out of any given week. But wouldn’t you agree that after awhile all the days seem to run together into one crazy blur? As such, I can never remember when Wednesday is coming. This puts me at a distinct disadvantage and ups the ante where my son is concerned. He has one day to get all of this tickling out of his system. Therefore, he must make good use of it, and with Mom off guard the sky is the limit.

But these situations, even when sanctioned, rarely end well. I have informed my children, and even my husband, that I cannot be held responsible for my actions once the tickling has begun. My body loses all sense of propriety and goes into survival mode. This means I will do whatever is necessary to guard myself from pain. There’s no telling who will be kicked, clawed, or flailed upon in the process. You tickle at your own risk.

This has given rise the public tickle attack. The kids are getting smarter. I’ll give them that. One day last summer while running errands with all four children we stopped in at Target to return a couple of items. While there, I, unwisely, decided to try a few things on. The kids were noticeably over it, and began to flop and complain. The nine-year-old had another idea.

Between trips to the dressing room and the retail aisles the kids were hiding in the racks of clothing. I’d finally found something of interest and upon holding it up to my body and examining it in the mirror I felt that familiar shock of pain in my ribcage. I quickly grabbed the intruding little hands and whirled around to face my attacker. Before I could open my mouth he announced, “It’s Wednesday!”
Of course it was. I didn’t even try to suppress the smile. We laughed out loud as he made another go for it. This time I was ready, but found I had to withstand a siege from three more squirrelly recruits as they charged. We received many a justified glare from passersby who were witnessing the greatest blitzkrieg Target had ever seen – as far as tickle fights go I’m sure. Once the fighting had died down, I gathered up all of my little enemy combatants and headed for the door wondering what our next public outing might hold particularly if it happens to fall on a Wednesday.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

CT: New Year, New Technology, Same God - Thank God!

I first posted this on New Year's Eve on Caffeinated Thoughts.

As we greet 2010 – a brand new year, I marvel at the changes brought by 2009 and how fast-paced our world has become. The constant flood of information we receive through our radios, TVs, computers, and phones is endless. Technology greets us as we wake up in the morning and follows us to our cars, our beds, and sometimes even joins us in the bathroom.

It is understandable that we have succumbed to this technology bug because the access to the information it provides is amazing. As a result of our immersion into this sea of iPhones and internet we are able to remain abreast of the current news ready to share and comment on the events of the day by the minute.

We need not wait for a paper to be delivered or for an editor to receive our letter – for the blogosphere and social networks like Facebook have made it so convenient to read, research, and communicate our thoughts and ideas.

But when do we turn it off?

Today I was reading in Isaiah – my favorite Old Testament prophet. He writes:

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal. He humbles those who dwell on high, he lays the lofty city low; he levels it to the ground and casts it down to the dust.

Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts. My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you.

Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us. Lord, our God, other lords besides you have ruled over us, but your name alone do we honor.

Isaiah 26: 3-5, 8-9, 12-13

Sometimes I forget that this world rests in God’s hands and that nothing escapes his notice. The concerns and the challenges that each new day and new year hold can grip my heart and mind pressing me to seek out more and more information rather than turning to God and his Word for rest and comfort.

I was reminded over Christmas as I spent time with family and friends that missing a day or even a week worth of news was not the end of the world. The truth is one day this earth and all that is in it will pass away. At that time I won’t be writing an article or commenting on a blog. I will be bowing down in worship.

Though I put little stock in New Year’s resolutions, I will make one this year. My desire is to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. I pray that as I continue to write and comment on newsy items, His name and renown will be the desire of my heart, and that rather than yearning for more news and information my spirit would long for the Spirit of God – for only the Spirit of God prompts me to act in ways that have lasting value.

Happy New Year!