Thursday, December 9, 2010


After months of self-inflicted pressure to have a relatable 'encounter with Jesus' on a daily basis, Karen has given up this blog.  The stress was just too great.  Karen has started a new blog that will encompass various aspects of her life including, but not limited to, her Christian walk, her cooking foibles, her daily life (the entertaining parts, anyway), and her family.  She feels far less pressure to perform in this new venue, and therefore finds it much more enjoyable.  She hopes to see you there.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Have you asked?

When was the last time you asked for help?

I mean, like seriously begged Jesus for mercy.

Maybe it's my lack of time-management skills.  Or, truthfully, my lack of time-awareness skills.  Or maybe it's my clumsiness, my ability to put my foot in my mouth, my ability to bungle, well, anything.  Whatever the reason, I find myself earnestly, honestly, frequently begging Jesus for mercy.  And you know what?

He never, ever fails to be merciful.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Lessons in Luke

I'm still making my way through Luke.  I have been derailed by an exceptional study of David (Anointed, Transformed, Redeemed), and various and sundry other life events. 

Last night, at the tail end of a family-wide stomach bug, I finished reading my sister's Christmas gift (In the Company of Others, by Jan Karon).  Holy cow, can that woman write.

I want to have dinner with her.

One question I will ask, after telling her that I love her, that I aspire to be like her, that her sweet, unapologetic witness of Christ's love in the form of Father Tim touches me deeply, that I've read the Mitford series through every winter for four years, is this: "Why, Jan Karon, did you write this entire book with the dialogue in single quotes?  Is it an Irish thing?  Did it save ink?  Was it a first-run mistake, and as such should I keep this book for fifty years and then retire on the proceeds of its sale?"

If it's a first-run mistake, Sissy, you're getting a sweater for Christmas.

So what does this have to do with Luke, you ask?

Just this.  Throughout the book (In the Company of Others, not Luke), Father Tim began his day (earlier than I ever will) by reading the Daily Office (which I had to look up and understand to be daily scripture readings and prayers for the Episcopal church) and then praying for others.

It stayed with me.

I noticed this morning that I was procrastinating spending time with God.  I do this often.  Sometimes I procrastinate so long that it's bedtime.  I finally sat down with my bible and told God that I don't know how to spend time with Him.  Then I remembered Father Tim.  I closed my eyes and asked God to spend time with me.  Then I opened and read Luke Chapter 8, the parable of the sower.

I read it.  I read it again.  How does this apply to me?

I don't think my heart is "by the wayside."  I don't think it's the rock.  I do think I have been, or am in danger of being "choked with cares, riches and pleasures of life."  

What I want, more than anything, is to be the "good ground," to "hear the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What I learned in Sunday School

My husband and I serve as substitute Sunday School teachers for the youth at our church.  Prior to Sunday, my experience was limited to subbing for teachers' assistants.  I have happily accepted the role of backer-upper and encourager-of-dialogue and other, mostly easy things.  I dig teenagers.

Sunday, however, I was the Boss.  The Teach.  The Clueless One in Charge.  I have some experience with substitute teaching in public schools, so I'm familiar with the dynamic.  I was not afraid.  A wee bit sweaty, perhaps, but not afraid.  I arrived early and set up my props (an apple, a pocket knife, a squirt bottle of water) and chatted with the regular teacher's assistant, who assured me that this would be a small class, no more than four or five kids.

And then the kids came.  All fifteen of them.  They were predominantly female and ranged from excessively chatty to crossed-armed stony silent.  I began the lesson, which was from John 12:

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 
The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  
Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. 

Here is what I learned:
After we made a big whiteboard list of things they enjoy doing, ways they spend their time, the students were supposed to draw a line through the things they would give up if God asked them to.  There was a ton of discussion--girls willing to give up video games (which they didn't play) and boys willing to give up candy (which they didn't eat), but no one, not one child was willing to give up FRIENDS or MUSIC or FOOD.  One person was willing to give up Facebook, but then changed her mind.

We talked through the meaning of hating your life, because I remember being young and confused on this topic.  Did God want me to hate the life He gave me?  I thought I was supposed to appreciate it, live it fully, accept it as it was.  I guess I was a slow kid.  These kids totally got it.  They knew that hating their lives was a comparative description: love versus hate.  Jesus versus not physical life, as in breathing breaths in and out, but Jesus versus the things of this world, the things on our list.  They intuitively understood that hating their lives means loving Jesus so much that they are willing to give up every comfort for Him.

Even though, according to the list, they are not willing to do that.

Instead of disturbing, I found this strangely comforting.  I loved their honesty.  I'm pretty sure I didn't have that, or know myself so well, at their ages.  I'm pretty sure I would have spit out whatever answer I thought proper and then carried on with loving my life.

The thing is this:  God was not finished with me when I was a dim, selfish, life-loving teenager.  He is not finished with me now (I'll withhold appropriate adjectives).  God is not through with the students I taught on Sunday, not by a long shot.  We're all running this race, getting closer to Jesus with every step.  My prayer is simply that they continue the journey.  May God keeps us each on His path.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My God is Holy

I saw Glee the other night.  We don't subscribe to cable, but I tracked it down on Hulu.  I knew I had no business watching it.  So sure was the feeling that it is not in keeping with who I desire to be that I hid down in the basement and watched it on the laptop.  I didn't want the kids to know!

What I saw, and did not turn off, did not turn away from, but watched in much the same way a person watches a train wreck--despair and tragedy, mangled limbs and carnage--from beginning to end, was the single most blatant anti-Christian propaganda I have ever witnessed.  It spewed hate towards my God and my beliefs, and therefore towards me.  It was offensive in the way it reduced Jesus to an image on a grilled cheese sandwich, equating Him to a genie in a bottle, Someone who might just grant a sincere request by a teenage boy to touch his girlfriend's breasts.

Make no mistake, I was offended; aghast, even, at what has become acceptable in our society.  Christians truly are the only people group in America that can be mocked openly and without consequence.  It dawned on me that we are hated.  Surely, there are those who call themselves followers of Christ who spew hate.  Biblical Christianity is not hateful.  I want to say that.  I want it to be heard, but that's not the thing that has stayed with me over the last several days.  The thing that touched me, that keeps running through my mind is this:

The God of the Bible, my God, is holy.  He will not be mocked.  My heart grieves for these people, for I believe that one day they will stand in front of the One they have mocked and be called to explain themselves.

"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap." 
 Galatians 6:7

Friday, October 1, 2010

People, Vol. 3

In early September I met a man at Chik-fil-A.

I had taken three boys school-clothes shopping and we stopped at the restaurant to refuel and assess our progress.  The place was packed.  I remember that I had to direct one particular child two or even three times to take the tray from the table to the garbage, knowing full well that his sudden desire to wash his hands (of all things) was nothing more than a lame attempt at getting out of a little work.  My re-direction was loud, seeing as how he headed to the bathroom and then continued heading toward the bathroom until he realized that a) I was serious, and b) trouble was about to rain down on his little world.

As I exhaled slowly and walked through the restaurant, probably rolling my eyes, a lone diner stopped me with an outstretched hand and asked politely if I was a single mom.  When I tipped my head sideways, he quickly explained that as he had admired my chile\d-rearing style it struck him that I was either a single mom or a military wife.

I am who I am, so I pulled up a chair.  We chatted for just a few minutes (although if you're under the age of 18, you would have said it was hours), and I learned that he had recently placed his wife of 40-some-odd years in a nursing home because her Alzheimer's had advanced to the point where he could no longer care for her at home.  It took all of ten seconds to realize that this man was guilt-wracked, and lonely.

I did what any of my mother's daughters would do and invited him to our Labor Day barbecue, where he ate home-cooked food, chatted with my lovely neighbors, and took home enough leftovers to get him through several solitary meals, each of which he reported joyfully via email.

School started the day after that barbecue and life got nutty.  Just today we finally managed to meet for lunch, back at Chik-fil-A.  He treated, and I noticed that he didn't have to give the employee his order. I also noticed that the refill guy didn't ask what he'd been drinking..

I only had an hour, but during that time I employed the Talk Less, Listen More rule (no small feat for me)It was genius--we all need to be heard--and I'm thrilled to say that I am the proud recipient of his love story.  I'm also a little bit in awe (okay, so I'm a lot in awe) of how God will use me when I'm willing to be used. 

Thursday, September 30, 2010

People, Vol. 2

I met my new-ish friend Gail this morning for coffee.  We met at 7:45 and she had explicit instructions to kick me out Panera's door at 9:00.  Today is a writing day.

We chatted like two women with a deadline--100 miles an hour, no time for breathing---and at precisely 9:11 (ahem) a sweet gentleman placed his hand on my shoulder and asked,

Have you two solved all the problems of the world?

We paused, startled, and laughed.

Yes!  Aren't you glad we're here to do just that?

As he ambled back to his table, his wife smiled and gave a patient wave, as though his behavior was nothing new.  He settled into his seat and explained it all by saying,

We've been married sixty years, you know!

Okay, seriously.  He had me at Hello, if you know what I mean.  Sixty years?  Who stays married for sixty years?  Heck, I've been married for eight, and there are days when sixty feels like looking down a long, winding road, water vapor rising in the distance and obscuring the view, making it wavering and unreal and seemingly impossible to grasp.

Gail and I pulled over our chairs, taking his revelation as the invitation it was meant to be.  We asked how they did it, how they do it, and were met with an event that took place early in their marriage, back when the kids were still little:  They had words.  A kitchen door was slammed.  A cupboard door was slammed simultaneously, causing the sugar bowl to fall off the counter and onto the floor.  The waste was was did it, she said.  That, and the long, long stretch of time during which sugar crystals were found on the floor, no matter how many times it was swept.  They learned then to talk it out.  Fighting was a waste.

We chatted some more and were given more tidbits:

If you're irritated, stay away from each other for a bit (her).
Learn to ask the other what they think, and don't hold onto your position too tightly.  Unless it's on the topic of ice cream (him).

They were sweet, oh so sweet, but something was burning in my heart.  Something just didn't add up.  Something I know to be true wasn't addressed as part of the equation, so I asked.

Tell me, are you people of faith?

There was the teeniest moment of silence, before she answered thoughtfully,

Oh, yes.  There is no other way.  When you're walking next to the Lord, really, with the Lord inside of you, it's easy to put yourself aside.  That's what you have to do.

He nodded in agreement.