Monday, June 28, 2010

Chain Smoking

The plight of a mother facing an empty nest.

Phone calls and text messages one upon the other. Only two callers: son two and son three. Messages from these two still living at home are a constant onslaught. Like the cigarettes of a chain smoker, lighting a new smoke from the burning butt of the one before.

The inevitable call at the end of one activity asking or anouncing the next, often without darkening the door of our home in between.

Summer has arrived. School has ended and with it the demands of activities such as drama and swimming. But now without the structure of school the next morning there remains no compelling argument for them to come home early or to sleep at home.

One son gone already, so long gone. Just a year more with the next and three more with the youngest. The time is so precious. But my time with them burns up in smoke as one cigarette lights another.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Exhale/Inhale God's Word

Exhale. . .

Inhale. . .

Breathing is our body feeding on oxygen.
The oxygen cleanses as well as nourishes every cell.

When we breath without thought, as we do most of the time,
our breath is shallow, our muscles tense.
But when we take a moment to focus 
and we practice deep cleansing breathing,
Our bodies are refreshed, renewed and relaxed.

Exhaling eliminates stagnant, toxic air 
preparing the lungs and blood to receive fresh oxygen.
Exhaling completely must be done consciously.

Inhaling fills our body with vital, nourishing air.
The lungs pump oxygen into our bloodstream,
which carries it to every living cell. 

Completely filling with oxygen invigorates the body. 
This is why exercise makes us feel alive, 
it forces the body to take in more oxygen.

Try it: 
Exhale until you cannot squeeze another drop of air out of your system.
Next inhale slowly from the belly then fill the chest and the rest of the body.

Our mind and spirit feed on God's word the same way our body feeds on air.

Short, thoughtless snipets of God's presence and His word do not suffice.
A Sunday morning church service, 
a three-paragraph devotional before our morning shower,
an "Our Father" before bed,
These are great to sustain us for a time, 
 but we also need to go deeper.

Read God's word, the Bible.
Let its words wash over you, 
convicting you of sinful attitudes, thoughts and actions.
Confess your sin to the Father who's already made provision for your forgiveness.

Release it.

Once emptied of toxins, 
fill up on God's word.
Meditate on it, bask in it.
Let it nourish and satisfy your soul.

Exhale. . .

Inhale. . .

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Life in Defiance Review

Life in Defiance, released May 2010, is the third book in the Defiance Texas Trilogy by Mary DeMuth. The town of Defiance Texas has yet to discover the killer of one of their own, a young girl named Daisy Chance.

Ouisie Pepper is the mother of the girl’s best friend, Jed. She’s also the wife of the local pastor, Hap Pepper, and she has a number of secrets locked away inside her. These secrets threaten to ruin her if her husband doesn’t kill her first with his raging temper. Ouisie believes she can change him by becoming a better person herself. But change doesn’t come easily.

Throughout her journey, Ouisie struggles between exposing the truth, including the killer’s identity, and guarding her secrets to protect the guilty and the life she’s always known. She befriends Daisy’s mother, Emory, who’s grieving, but growing in her new found faith. Emory encourages Ouisie to get away from Hap for her own safety and that of her children, but she doesn’t want to believe it’s as bad as it really is.

Ouisie lies to herself most of all. She can’t see that most of the town already knows some of her secrets. And she doesn’t understand how the truth will, as the Bible says, set her free.

With the help of her friends and her faith in God, Ouisie is finally able to face the truth, speak it out and embark on a new life.

DeMuth weaves a powerful illustration in Life in Defiance to portray the biblical principle that the Truth will set you free. Ouisie’s story is one of abuse both physical and emotional. It is an authentic look into the mind of someone who’s been abused—a peek into the reasoning of an abuse victim. And it is a revelation of how a person can rely on loving, Christian friends to help them gain a right perspective.

Ouisie’s story is gripping and keeps the reader wondering what will happen next and who Daisy’s killer is. DeMuth’s writing is smooth, beautifully descriptive one moment and shockingly real the next. She portrays her characters well—the abuser, the abused and those who love them.

Most of us never have to suffer the things DeMuth’s characters suffer in the Defiance Texas Trilogy. For that we are grateful, but the lessons her characters learn are lessons we can each take to heart no matter what circumstances we face.

*Note: I received a complementary copy of Life in Defiance for the purpose of review.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Exaggerated Images

In his book, Contemplative Prayer, Thomas Merton touches on the importance of having a right perspective of ourselves.

"It (prayer/meditation) means the renunciation of all deluded images of ourselves, all exaggerated estimates of our own capacities, in order to obey God's will as it comes to us. . . "

I don't know about you, but I struggle with this all the time. I picture myself as being so much more effective, more disciplined and righteous. I imagine that I'm nice to everyone. But so often I catch myself thinking critically of others or being judgmental. Did I mention my selfishness? No? I don't like to mention it to myself either. 

And one more thing, I can't stop thinking about what I want to be when I grow up! I dream about where I want to live, how successful I'll be. By the way, I'm 45! Wonder when I'll grow up. But I think it's because this life just isn't as exciting as I thought it'd be, not as many people are being saved, helped or changed--at least that I can see--from my life.

God help me. I am so prideful. Merton's words "deluded images of ourselves," and "exaggerated estimates of our own capacities" knock me on my face before my God.

Father forgive me and help me renounce these delusions so that I can focus on actually doing Your will. Though it may not seem as grand or glorious, by faith I believe my obedience in the small things will make an eternal difference.

Thomas Merton was a monk, poet, and author. You can read his compelling testimony in the book, Seven Story Mountain. To learn more about him go to

I'll be using excerpts from Contemplative Prayer in the coming weeks unless I have a book review to share with you.