Thursday, June 20, 2013


I was changing the bag on the vacuum cleaner the other day, and a funny thing happened.  Even with a sparkling clean new bag, the thing just did not have suction.  After poking and prodding and a little grumbling, my smart and more practically minded husband detected the problem.  The filter needed to be cleaned.  And how. Ewwwww.  I will never cease to be amazed at how filthy five people can be.  Now this may be a little bit of a mental leap, but take a mind base jump with me.  It got me thinking about the filters through which we view life.  What they are...and how they can make us effective...or render us pretty useless like my poor vacuum.

You see, I take each new experience, new person I meet, new opportunity, and run it through this kind of filtration system that's accumulated over my thirty something years.  What I choose to do with it or what I take away is based on past experiences, the people I already know, and the identity I've accepted about myself.  My biggest filters right now, in no particular order, are:

1. My parents, siblings and my childhood
2. My husband
3. The Bible, Christianity, my church
4. My educational and work background
5. The small town Midwest culture in which I grew up
6. Myself as a mom
7. Myself as a friend
8. Myself as a musician and worship leader
9. Myself as a person with a chronic disease

I'm sure I could find more and dig into the nitty gritty, but these are the main things that make up who I am and how I view my world.  Some of my filters have been around my whole life. (Hi, Mom!!) And some of them are fairly new.  Two years ago, I never filtered things through a disease...weighing whether the activity was worth precious energy,  the risk of pain, or the risk of getting sick, since my treatment makes my immune system about as strong as a newborn's or the elderly...but it's a filter I'm slowly adjusting to.

When we meet someone who shares a lot of the same filters, I think there's cool instant connection.  (Oh! You pegged your pants in the fourth grade and can sing all the lyrics to 80's and 90's Amy Grant songs! Rad!) But to me it's equally cool when I meet someone whose filters are pretty different from my own.  I can learn a whole lot from that person and maybe if we dig a little deeper, we WILL find a few filters in common.  Or not!  But it's a fun journey all the same.  I'm pretty sure I don't want my whole world to be full of Beth Clones. Yikes!  Imagine a world that's unable to have clean carpets because it's full of people who can't figure out clogged vacuum filters...

So it occurs to me that good communication comes from an understanding that the person I am interacting with comes to the table with a different set of filters than I do.  Thus two people sharing the same conversation remember it very differently sometimes. 
He: "I told you about that a week ago."
Me: "Oh, I don't remember talking about that at all."
He: "But you nodded and smiled and said yes."
Me: "Was it after 10 pm?"

Or through my filters, I thought I explained something perfectly clear!  Why doesn't that person get it?!?  How can they not believe passionately in the same things that I do?!?  Yeah...I catch myself being self-centric a whole lot.  And while most of my filters come from good, healthy things, the filters can easily start clogging with things like negativity, cynicism, worry, fear, envy...if I don't give them a good regular cleaning.  I quickly become ineffective in relationships and ministry, if not destructive.

So what's the cure-all for clogged filters?  Simply this: Love.  The perfect and pure love of God.  Did I just compare God's love to a vacuum filter cleaner? Why yes, yes I did...  God in the majestic.  And God in the mundane.  But God really does reach down and scoop out all the disgusting junk I let accumulate in my life.  Because I ask Him, and He loves me. 

I can't help but view life through the filters I have.  It's what makes me uniquely me.  But when those filters are full of love instead of sin, I am much better at reaching out to those around me.  I ditch the self-serving attitudes and the judgement.  I communicate more effectively.  I see people and situations much more clearly.  Now...I know there's a fantastic "sucking" joke in here somwhere to end this.  But I've been told that word is not very ladylike. How I do love a good metaphor...

And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”  Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.   As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. (I Peter 4:8-10)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Dad, Dad, He's our Dad!

As Father's Day approaches, I am reminded of how blessed I am to have my Dad.  As my generation grew up, divorce became a lot more common...many of my peers grew up without a dad in their life every day.  Maybe they got to see him on weekends.  Or in the summer.  Or holidays.  And I've worked with so many children who had absolutely no father figure in their life.  Some children rise up.  But so many crumble and carry lifelong scars.  So, like my Mom post, here's ten parenting tips I learned from my Dad:

1. Model confidence in excellence.  There's no two ways about it.  My father is a very smart man.  Valedictorian of a large high school class.  Finished his undergrad in three years.  Is a doctor.  Teaches ethics and bio-ethics.  He's not arrogant about it.  But he doesn't apologize either.  He has a kind of quiet confidence that I've always tried to emulate.  The world doesn't always value the smart kid in the class.  So I try to let my kids know it's ok to be smart and confident in that.  (Just don't let it get boastful.)  Because with confidence in your God given abilities and lots of hard work, doors can open like scholarships and jobs and leadership opportunities.

2. Teach your kids to seek the truth.  Teach them to seek answers to the tough questions.  I don't think many kids grew up talking about apologetics at the Sunday dinner table, but I did.  I learned a lot about Christianity and why my parents believed what they believed just by listening and asking questions at the dinner table.  If my dad wanted to know something, he found out about it and learned about it.  And this was before Google.  Studying Bible passages...studying church history...taking things back to the Greek or Hebrew...these were not new concepts to me as an adult.

3. Treat your kids like valid human beings.  I always felt like Dad listened to us and our points of view like we were an equal and not a goofy kid who didn't know anything.  Even though a lot of times, I'm sure we were goofy ignorant kids and it took a LOT of patience!  I will say that this is a struggle for me now.  I am so glad my kids love to learn new things, but sometimes it's hard to be in the mood to listen about the burrowing habits of the Peruvian horned mouse.

4. Take an interest in their interests.  Some of my favorite memories of my Dad are when he would take time out of his day to watch my cross country meets.  That meant the world to me.  I know that many times it wasn't convenient, but when he came, I was so proud!  We would ride home in the car together just him and me and have good talks.  And many summers he would take just me to the big sports store and we would take our time picking out the perfect running shoes for the season.  I loved that!

5. Demonstrate to them the value of hard work. Family practice doctors work very, very hard.  Lots of long hours and paperwork and cranky sick people and nights on call where the phone rings at 3 am.  It may mean going in to deliver a baby...or telling Mabel Sue that her itchy toe can wait until tomorrow.  I saw it all, and for some reason decided not to go into medicine... However, I did learn that any job that supports a family is going to require work, and a lot of it.  Some of it is very rewarding.  And some of it...just plain work.

6. Be a leader in your church in front of them. Dad served in lots of capacities at church while I was growing up.  He was on the board. He taught a Sunday School class. He helped rewrite the church by-laws.  He searched for pastors.  But the thing I admire most is that he did it all with integrity and a peacemaking spirit.  I think being a peacemaker is a rare and precious gift.

7. Speak wisdom into your children's lives. There are a handful of times when I remember clear and specific pieces of advice my dad has given me.  One was that he told me to be sure enjoy my college years and take some classes just for fun.  I did, resulting in things like ballet and choir and going to Spain for a semester.  But on the more serious side, I remember him coming home from a Promise Keepers conference once (Remember those?) and he said he heard a lot about how racial divisions in the church need to be healed.  He knew that he did not always have the opportunity for that kind of ministry, but I happened to be volunteering that week at a camp for inner-city kiddos, and he prayed that I might be the one with that opportunity.  I feel like that was almost a prophetic moment.  I see many times over my teen and adult life that I have had the privilege to reach across racial lines that seem to keep the American Church so very compartmentalized.  I pray those opportunities continue.

8. Take your kids on adventures.  Maybe we didn't travel the world in a sail boat (Doesn't everyone know a family like that? I do.), but we learned how to build a fire, pitch a tent, and canoe thanks to Dad.  We hiked quite a few miles of state park trails in Indiana and beyond.  We saw museums and caves and made lots of cool memories on summer vacations.  Even if Dad's long legs had us kids scrambling to keep up most of the time.

9. Never underestimate the fun in a game of keep away.  Some of my very earliest memories of my Dad were when he would take a toy, ball, etc. and hold it juuuust out of reach.  We would lunge for it...and he would quickly switch hands.  Foiled again!  Hilarious!  Again, Daddy!  How loved and secure I felt when Dad was on my level.  I love that my husband does the same for our kids, and seemed to have a knack for it the second they were born.  Joy...overflowing.

10. Think through something before making a decision.  It's no wonder I'm a ponderer by nature.  Both my parents are big thinkers, but I think Dad is the greater methodical thinker.  No rush.  Weigh the facts.  Consider the options.  It can drive others crazy (Ahem, sorry, Honey).  Yes, we heard what you said.  We're just thinking about it.  And it may take us awhile to choose our words as a response.  Deal with it.  But it is a trait, especially in parenting, that will save you from some rather bad and hastily made decisions.

So I close with verses that remind me of my Dad.  And videos of two of my favorite sitcom dads just for fun. Love you, Daddy!  Happiest Father's Day!
Proverbs 14:26 - "Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge."

Proverbs 17:27 - "The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered."

Joshua 24:15 - "But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."

Friday, June 7, 2013

And the Winner of the First Book Giveaway Is...

My friend Jessica!

Which is so fitting because:
A. She's a Media Specialist at a school.  She has the power to spread the reading love.
B. We drew the name out of a Colt's hat and she's one of the biggest Colts fans I know.
C. She lives here in town and now I don't have to pay shipping! (Okay, maybe that's an advantage for me and not her...but hey...this cheap girl celebrates any dollar saved even though I would have been very happy to send it elsewhere.)

Congrats, I think you'll love the book and thanks to all who entered!  Hopefully I will be giving more books away in the near future.  Now back to your regularly scheduled blogging program.

Don't forget to pick up a copy of the book!  It hits shelves on Tuesday, June 11!

When Mockingbirds Sing

Monday, June 3, 2013

First Ever Book Giveaway!

I am trying my hand at being a literary critic this week.  My main qualifications are as follows:

A.  I killed my English classes.
B. I am an avid reader.
C. I have opinions about what I read.

So maybe that doesn't qualify me to be a professional critic, but I was fortunate enough to be asked to review a book that has just been released.  Which kind of makes me feel like a secret rock star, so of course I said YES!  And the best part is, I have an extra book, so one lucky commenter will get a copy dinero! (Yes, I know two of those are Spanish, but it's the only other language I know.)  Don't you want to know more?  Here's the skinny....

 When Mockingbirds Sing

The book is When Mockingbirds Sing by Billy Coffey.  This is his third book, and really, I recommend them all (Snow Day and Paper Angels are his other titles).  His website is on my blog roll if you want to go visit.

Here's a summary of the book from the publisher:

Leah is a child from Away, isolated from her peers because of her stutter. But then she begins painting scenes that are epic in scope, brilliant in detail, and suffused with rich, prophetic imagery. When the event foreshadowed in the first painting dramatically comes true, the town of Mattingly takes notice.
Leah attributes her ability to foretell the future to an invisible friend she calls the Rainbow Man. Some of the townsfolk are enchanted with her. Others fear her. But there is one thing they all agree on—there is no such thing as the Rainbow Man.
Her father, the town psychologist, is falling apart over his inability to heal his daughter or fix his marriage. And the town minister is unraveled by the notion a mere child with no formal training may be hearing from God more clearly than he does.
While the town bickers over what to do with this strange child, the content of Leah’s paintings grows darker. Still, Leah insists that the Rainbow Man’s heart is pure. But then a dramatic and tragic turn of events leaves the town reeling and places everyone’s lives in danger. Now the people of Mattingly face a single choice:
Will they cling to what they know . . . or embrace the things Leah believes in that cannot be seen?

Here's my take:

I love Billy's writing because as a small town girl, I relate.  I know I see corn fields outside my window instead of the Blue Ridge Mountains, but he describes American small town life with the richness and reality of one who's lived it.  I love that, because he knows just how to put to pen what I've experienced for years...that odd combination of wonderful close-knit ties of community, strong values, and then a darker side that's rarely discussed in the name of good manners.  I feel like I've met his characters at the store a time or two.  I went to church with them. I graduated with them.  While I can relate to each character, I seem to find myself fitting in particular characters' shoes pretty well.  The opening of the story puts us in the birthday party for a nine year old girl.  Guess who's daughter turned nine the day after I began reading the book?  I was instantly hooked.

One of my favorite writers growing up was Frank Peretti.  I loved that he looked beyond the senses of what we physically know on this earth and brought another spiritual dimension to Christian fiction.  I will always appreciate the layers of spiritual depth, imagination and intelligence in his work.  Now I'm a bit uncomfortable making comparisons because Mr. Coffey most certainly has his own unique voice as a writer, BUT.  This book did for me what I so love about Peretti's books.  It opens the door to a God so much bigger and fantastic than what small boxes our human brains have tended to put Him in.  Wrapped up in a beautifully told, compelling, and suspenseful story, there is a message that God's ways of working can be far beyond of what we can dream for ourselves.  That God still masterfully draws people to Himself.  And that heroes can be found in the most unlikely of people.  Makes me think of how the Bible is full of similar underdogs that God takes and uses for His glory.  So I think you will be rooting for the underdogs just like I did in When Mockingbirds Sing.

(Plus, there's birds that really creeped me out.  Just sayin'.  Great reading for a stormy summer night under the covers with a flashlight!)

How to win your copy!

So, if you would like your own copy of the book, please leave your name and email address in the comments below.  One time only, please.  If you are my facebook friend, I'll let you have one additional entry in the contest by sharing a link to this post, but you must let me know you shared!  Leave your named and "shared on facebook" in the comments section here or tag me on facebook, please and thank you.  Entries must be in by 8pm Eastern on Friday June 7th, and then my nine year old daughter will pick a random winner from a hat, old school style.  I will contact the winner by email and snail mail the winner the book.  You must be in the U.S. to win, although if any of my out of country relatives or friends want to enter and have an address I can send it to in the states...well...I think that counts!  So here goes the first ever giveaway for my blog...Woo hoo!  I'm a rock star!

If for some reason your comment does NOT appear, please enter the contest by emailing me your name by Friday at 8p.m. Eastern.  It seems Blogger is not a fan of comments by phone.  My email address is: .