“I’m a Loser, Baby”

I’m not sure why misery loves company, but it usually does.loser-head

Not because we find pleasure in someone else’s pain or we feel better because someone else feels worse. It’s just good to know we’re not alone or completely off our rocker.

And the thing about being a loser is that we all take a shot at it at one time or another.

Recently, I was in an Ancient Literature class and thought, man, even the heroes of antiquity weren’t immune. Unless, like Socrates, they had someone like Plato to give their story a positive spin.

When we think about Moses leading the Israelites out of slavery, our thoughts tend to go all Charlton Heston on us. Which is OK, but the actual narrative paints a picture that includes an overworked, underappreciated man who buckled under pressure.charlton-heston-as-moses-in-the-ten-commandments

One day, he asked God, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth?”

Am I sensing a little sarcasm here?

Then Moses added, “If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin” (Num. 11:11, 15).

Just kill me now, Lord!  

The story of Elijah isn’t much better. One minute, the great prophet is commanding fire from heaven as he boldly opposes the worship of Baal. The next minute, he’s running for his life from the crazy Queen Jezebel who wants him dead.

Then Elijah collapses under a tree and says, “I’ve had enough, Lord. . . . Take my life; I’m no better than my ancestors’ (I Kings 19:4).

I’m definitely seeing a theme.

Things weren’t much better in the New Testament either. John was a prophet called to communicate God’s truth, most notably against King Herod’s adulterous relationship with his brother’s wife. The king was intrigued with John but threw him in prison anyway.ancient_prison_by_p_h_o_t_o_n

Fueled by exhaustion and disillusionment, John’s faith was tested. He even sent his messengers to Jesus and asked, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3).

Think about it. John had boldly proclaimed the coming of Christ just days earlier. Now in chains, he barely recognized Him.

Pain will do that. It can cause us to doubt ourselves, to doubt other people, and to doubt God.

But what I love about these ancient stories is the conspicuous absence of God’s judgment. He doesn’t punish or ridicule these so-called losers. He offers encouragement and solutions instead.

To Moses, a new word was added to his vocabulary. Delegate.

To Elijah, food and rest were provided.

To John, words of comfort and assurance came from Jesus Himself.

Each difficult moment provided an opportunity for faith to be strengthened.

So, loser or not, I’d say I’m in pretty good company.




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My Dad and Fall are in the Air

The scent of burning leaves makes me ten again. It’ll get dark way before I’m done playing, and I’ll be called inside to warmth and dinner.

Or maybe I’m back in high school thinking about football games, cheerleading sweaters, and homecoming.fall-leaves

Or I’m in college and hurrying across campus with an arm full of books. Or my kids are grabbing backpacks and heading to the bus.

So many places to visit when the colors change, but today only one memory holds my thoughts. It’s two years ago, and my dad is lying very still. He’s stretched out in white linen and surrounded by the classical music he loved but can no longer hear.

As a child, he meant so much more to me than guidance and provision. He’d rescue me when I was sad or too young to go with my siblings. I knew a day being left behind with my dad would be filled with his creative games, stories, and snuggles.

It was always worth it.

Physically, my dad stayed strong almost to the end, famously doing his age in push-ups every day. It didn’t surprise any of us when the heart surgeon told us he had the chest muscle of a 30-year-old.


Early Data Processing

Mentally, though, my dad felt himself slipping toward the end of his life and grew frustrated by the numbers and equations that had once been his friends.


IBM Punch Card

He worked in data processing in the early days of IBM. I remember in grade school how much I loved visiting his office filled with gigantic computers. I’d sit at a keyboard and type the name of the boy I liked or something equally important.  Then I’d press the button to watch the punch card sail through the system and deliver my secret message.

It was so cool.

As a systems analyst, my dad managed a team of programmers for the Gossard Company, a manufacturer of women’s undergarments. When asked what they did for a living, his young guys liked to say they were in women’s bras.

My dad had a great sense of humor and embodied the slogan, “THINK”, which had become IBM’s mantra.ibm-think

He taught me to think too, though it took a while to kick in.

I certainly wasn’t ready for the computer science class I signed up for when I started college. It required something I wasn’t yet willing to give—my attendance.

I remember scrambling to complete an assignment and asking my dad for help. As I handed it to my professor, he took one look at it and knowingly commented, “This is beautiful work.” Far too honest to cheat, my dad would have thought he was teaching me something as we worked on the program together. And he did. I discovered I had zero interest in COBOL and FORTRAN.


Thinking was important to my dad, and a thinking faith was essential. He wasn’t drawn to the emotional aspects of religion, and instead admired the likes of CS Lewis and other logical thinkers. While his faculties were still in place, I wish I could have introduced him to scientists I admire, such as John Lennox.

As a mathematician, philosopher of science, and a professor at Oxford University, Lennox and his contemporaries resist the notion that faith and science are at odds with each other. In his book, Seven Days That Divide a World, Lennox points out that God’s creation is our discovery.


C. S. Lewis-Mere Christianity

Faith and reason have a relationship that’s all its own. In Mere Christianity, one of my dad’s favorite books, CS Lewis wrote, “Faith is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.”

Now, as the burning leaves tug at my emotions, I find comfort in the words my dad found comforting. And I celebrate their timeless truth.


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A recent episode of the TED Radio Hour on NPR made my three mile jog feel like one.

The topic was data analysis, which may sound like a major yawner, but it wasn’t.

In his book, Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think, Kenneth Cukier talks about how information is gathered and distributed in ways never thought possible in previous generations.

The first major information revolution came with the invention of the printing press around 1440. first-printing-pressJohannes Gutenberg’s contribution was a game changer. Literacy increased, and most notably, the Bible was made affordable and accessible to lay people.

Not that there wasn’t push back.

The religious establishment, for one, found it much easier to control people who were uniformed. But information is a good thing no matter how much we fear it.

The truth will set you free, Jesus said.

All of us benefit from the cutting edge technology that collects information. The possibilities in the medical field alone are mind-boggling. Without being too graphic, Cukier anticipates a toilet bowl that will be able to collect waste matter and daily track our cells to detect disease long before it becomes dangerous.

However, as with all things, we humanoids have the amazing ability to turn any good thing into a problem.

I was at a party recently and chatted with a cyber security expert, and nothing he said about how our personal information is collected and potentially used was very comforting. In fact, we’re kidding ourselves if we think we’re living under the radar.

For years I’ve told my kids they should just assume they’re being watched by surveillance cameras wherever they are. Sure it’s invasive, but the camera can defend you if you’re making good choices.

It’s a security issue too, though time consuming. And it might be a good idea for people who want complete privacy in their bedrooms to place their cell phones in their drawer.

It’s kind of creepy and a little unnerving to think that Google, Facebook, and GPS information goes directly into the hands of marketers who plan their strategies accordingly. But that’s not the worst thing. Far more frightening is our information falling into the hands of those who want to target more than our choice of food and beverage.

The other thing I find interesting is although technology can collect and read information, it still can’t replace the human touch. information-agePeople add the context necessary for proper interpretation.

Data analyst Susan Etlinger shared the story of her two-year-old son being tested and diagnosed with autism. According to the metrics, his communication skills put him at the level of a nine-month-old. But about a year and a half later, she caught him on the computer typing words into the search engine. They were spelled incorrectly, but by hitting the “back” button she was able to see his train of thought.

“He was teaching himself to communicate, but we were looking in the wrong place” Etlinger said. This is what happens when data is focused on one metric without being informed by another. Data requires context.

In college we were taught that when dealing with wisdom literature, philosophical texts, and biblical interpretation, context is everything. Hermeneutics, which is fancy-talk for interpretation, teaches us to avoid a lot of confusion by asking a few simple questions of any manuscript, such as…who wrote it, who were they writing to, what did it mean to them, and what does it mean to us.

The religious establishment of Gutenberg’s day feared the can of worms he was opening. And open the can he did. But if there is a God who has chosen to communicate truth that transcends time and culture, I’d defend everyone’s right to discover it for themselves.

It’s not that we lack information. It’s what we do with it that matters.


The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them (Psalm 25: 14).




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Another Candle on the Cake

When I was a kid, birthdays were a big deal. I felt a little invincible and above the fray all day.

Birthdays meant bringing cupcakes to school and seeing my name written on the chalkboard…for all the right reasons.cupcakes-stacked

Even the mean kids seemed kinder than usual.

At Sunday school, birthdays meant dropping coins into the offering plate that was shaped like a little white church. It was a big deal to stand up in front of the class and hear each penny drop…one for each year.

My sixteenth birthday was a big deal. My friend and I skipped school in the afternoon so she could take me to get my license. She’d had hers for all of two months, so what could go wrong?

But the DMV wasn’t very flexible, as I recall. They promptly informed us I needed an “adult” with me. I told them my friend was a good driver, but they didn’t seem to have much of a sense of humor down there either.

Luckily I spotted another student from my high school who was there taking her test too. Her mom graciously offered to step in and be my guardian.

I hope I thanked her properly because that was a huge deal.

Turning 21 was a big deal because it meant getting into the college bars on campus.happy-hour The taste of beer never interested me much, but happy hour was one good time. And I’d been able to get in for a while after turning 19. Then they raised the drinking age to 21 and wisely started requiring picture IDs.

At 24, I was a new mom, and this was the biggest deal of all. Each of my September birthdays signaled the beginning of another school year for my kids. school-suppliesI loved buying supplies, organizing fieldtrips, and making lunches.

I’d found my calling!

But then the birthdays started coming in really fast, and soon I was being edged out of my job. No matter how much I loved baking cupcakes and being room mother, my kids were downsizing.

Being handed a pink slip is never easy, but I could see it was time to find a new job, a new interest, and a new adventure.

Birthdays are still a big deal to me because they signal transition and new terrain ahead. Every season demands adjustment, fresh ways to reinvent ourselves, and new sources of contentment. And from TED talks to WebMD, it seems everyone has an opinion about how we can be happier.

Exercise. Meditate. Declutter.

Even Reader’s Digest came up with some unique ideas.

  1. Rub your ears. It’s a pressure point and releases stress.
  2. Eat lunch at the beach or the park. Never at your desk.
  3. Have more sex. (No explanation needed.)
  4. Eat grass-fed meat. There’s a strong link between red meat and mental wellness. (Sorry PETA.)
  5. Move to Norway. It’s rated #1 on the Happiest Country in the World list. The US comes in at #12.
  6. Play video games. Researchers say it decreases depression and stimulates mental capacity. (This is no surprise to serious gamers.)

Growing up in the church, I heard lots of advice about finding contentment. Some of it has proven to be helpful. Some, not so much. In or out of the church, though, I’ve always found pat answers frustrating and even annoying.

For example, when a 30-second soundbite on Christian radio tells us that Jesus will fill all of our needs, what does that really mean? What does it look like?

Maybe it’s because I’ve struggled with so much discontentment, but I think it’s an oversimplified statement. It leaves us thinking we can pray about things, then sit in a chair and wait for miracles to happen.

They could, but it’s not what I bank on.

The intangible things, such as God’s forgiveness and grace, go a long way in promoting contentment. But for those of us who need the tangibles too, Jesus models a very practical contentment that embraces family and friends, busies itself with work and play, and finds its joy in being the solution to someone else’s struggle.

These are the things that form the rhythms of a satisfied life no matter how many candles are on the cake. contentmentThese are the things that make each birthday worth celebrating. And that’s always a big deal.



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Discontented Thoughts

_20160806_000200Contentment can be a bit of a head game.

I can go hours without eating any food without even noticing. I can miss several meals, especially when I’m trying to meet my editor’s deadline.

But the moment I declare myself to be on a diet, I become Chris Farley in the SNL sketch. “Lay off me. I’m starrrrrrving.”

It’s amazing. The food that was available to me the day before wasn’t even slightly tempting. Now, it’s all I can think about.

In her book, Hope and Help for Your Nerves, Dr. Claire Weekes talks about how troubling thoughts steal our joy. She tells the story of a nurse who was carrying a baby in her arms when she passed a flight of stairs and suddenly thought, What if I couldn’t stop myself and threw this baby down the stairs?

The woman was so horrified by the thought, it began to haunt her. She couldn’t shake it.

Dr. Weekes offered a soothing solution.

First, the doctor pointed out the harmlessness of random thoughts. Disturbing or not, all people have fleeting thoughts that pop in and out of their heads all day long. The only difference was that the woman was making much more out of hers than most people would.

Fear and fatigue had made the woman highly sensitive, and the more she tried not to think about it, the more embedded her disturbing thought became.

The doctor instructed the woman simply to let the thoughts come and go without giving them any more attention than they deserved. Over time, through rest and diversion, the thought would simply lose its punch. And it did.

Obsessive thoughts usually signal something that needs our attention. In this case, the woman needed rest. But sometimes the discontentment they bring signals something deeper.

Solomon began his reign as the third king of Israel around 970 BC. He’s known for his wisdom and wealth and his legendary discontentment.

What I admire most about Solomon, though, was his ability to ask the tough questions. Does life have any real meaning, purpose, or lasting value?HolyDiscontentment

Solomon lived in complete splendor, but his heart was empty. He tried to divert his discontented thoughts by studying books, amassing treasure, accumulating power, and collecting beautiful women.

“I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure” (Ecclesiastes 2:10).

Somehow, though, it was never enough.

“Meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing gained under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:11).

At first glance, Solomon looks clinically depressed. But as we read on in Ecclesiastes, we see his struggle with discontentment was much deeper than that.

He begins to identify a need God has placed in his heart that only He can meet. Discontentment-l

Obviously, life had its pleasures for Solomon even before he acknowledged God. But his obsessions signaled a deeper need that, when met, enabled him to enjoy everything in life on a much deeper level.

His words became the recipe for contentment…

“God has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 3:11-13).


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The Price of Freedom

I love the story of President Lincoln who is said to have come upon a slave auction one day in New Orleans. As he watched the disturbing event, he noticed a young black girl being auctioned and decided he would bid on her himself.

With every bid offered, Lincoln offered a dollar more until eventually he claimed the girl. Then he told her she was now free to go. But in disbelief, the girl questioned Lincoln. So again he assured her she was free.

When the girl finally realized Lincoln’s intent all along was to secure her freedom, she told him she didn’t want to leave. She’d rather stay with the man who set her free.  Free-Yourself

This remains one of my favorite Abraham Lincoln stories, though it’s been told so often it’s hard to know how many of the exact details remain unchanged. But the essence is true. Lincoln’s views on race may not have been as enlightened as they would have been today, but his political writings are filled with his distaste for inequality or the idea that one person can “own” another.

In a letter to Joshua Speed, Lincoln’s closest friend and confidant, on August 24, 1855 he wrote, “You know I dislike slavery: and you fully admit the abstract wrong of it.”

I enjoy this story because the picture of being purchased then set free is what the message of Christ is all about. But freedom is an interesting concept.

We like to think of ourselves as free, and in a democracy like ours, we have plenty of reasons to celebrate. Even on a bad day, I’ll take America any day of the week.

But the fact is, a lot of us are held captive by people or things we’re not even aware of. Some of us have given ourselves over willingly. Others of us have put up a heck of a fight.

Some of us have even chosen to use the freedom God has given us against Him. We ignore Him or label Him obsolete. And we see the evidence of this rejection everywhere.

In an interview after 9/11, Billy Graham’s daughter was asked how God could let such a terrible thing happen. Her answer, now legendary, was both painful and profound:

“I believe that God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are. For years we’ve been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?”

A friend recently told me he doesn’t believe in God or any kind of judgement. I told him I wish I didn’t either. But I’ve hedged my bets with God, and because of it, He’s proven Himself trustworthy.

He stood at the auction block and outbid the things that threatened to enslave me most, like fear, guilt, and bitterness.

Now I’m like the slave girl who instinctively knows to stay close to the One who has chosen to set her free.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).

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Foxhole Promises

When I was in high school, I saw an off-beat comedy called The End starring Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise.the-end-movie-poster-1978-1020240733

Sonny, Reynold’s character, was told he didn’t have long to live, so he tried to commit suicide. But when he botched his attempt, he landed in a psychiatric hospital. That’s where he met Marlon, played by DeLuise, a nutty patient committed to helping his new BFF kill himself.

But nothing Marlon tried seemed to work.

What I remember most about this movie is how it ended, which was both hilarious and insightful. When Sonny finally decided to take matters into his own hands, he swam out into the ocean as far as he could. But when he got there, he had a sudden change of heart and decided he didn’t want to drown.

Realizing how far he was from shore, Sonny frantically called out to God for help and began promising Him everything. “I’ll be a better father! I’ll be a better person! Just make me a better swimmer!”

Sonny promised to keep the Ten Commandments, though as he struggled to recite them he promised to learn them first. He promised to be honest in business and not sell lakeside lots unless there actually was a lake around.

He promised to give God 50% of his money, pointing out that no one does that. “We’re talking gross, Lord!” he yelled as he tried to stay afloat.

But the closer Sonny got to shore, the smaller the percentage became. It was quickly down to 10%, and by the time he actually reached shore, we knew all bets were off.

The movie ended with Sonny collapsing with relief on the shore but crazy Marlon waiting behind the rocks. The fiercely devoted friend was unwilling to believe Sonny had changed his mind, and the movie ended with Sonny running for his life.

I’ve always thought The End was a great example of how life can get. As autonomous creatures, we love our freedom of choice. In fact, when life is going smoothly, we’re pretty fine with God keeping His distance.

But when things get difficult, we begin to wonder where God is. Are you there? Do you care?

My family has been going through some tough things lately, and I too am waiting on God to answer. I’m not quite Sonny, flailing around in the ocean and yelling at God. Not today, anyway. But I’m not quite the Apostle Paul either…a slightly better role model.

When Paul wrote his letter to the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 12 and told them about a struggle he’d been facing, he admitted how he felt like he was drowning too. He begged God to remove his affliction, but when God told him He had another plan, which was to perfect His strength in the midst of Paul’s weakness, Paul gained an entirely new perspective.

I believe the comfort my family is sensing now comes from a prayer life that extends beyond foxholes…not that there’s anything wrong with that. Prayers under pressure are a good thing, I just sense God inviting us to go deeper.peace girl sitting

He’s proven Himself to be there in the light, so we’re quite certain He’s here with us in the dark. And foxholes or not, we’re pretty grateful for that!


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Conquering Fear

Sometimes even I have a hard time believing I actually stand up in front of people and speak. I mean the path to public speaking rarely winds its way through the world of panic attacks.

Well, maybe it does.

In college psych class, long before I entertained the idea of public speaking, we studied the statistics of fear. I was beginning to have some break-through symptoms but had no idea I was standing on the precipice of a full-fledged panic disorder.

I only knew my body was responding to anxiety in ways that seemed way over the top. So when the professor pulled out the statistics, I leaned in. I paid close attention.

Divorce, job loss, relocation…they all made the top ten. But public speaking was at the top of the list. panic-attackInterestingly, fear of death was second, which means, as Jerry Seinfeld famously points out, we’re better off lying in the casket than having to give the eulogy.

But here’s the amazing thing.

My life is a walking talking illustration of a calling and empowering that came from something outside myself. What I bring to the table is a panic disorder. What God brings to the table is strength made perfect in my weakness.

In many ways, I have fear to thank for making it “easier” for me to focus on Him. Going it alone was never an option…unless I wanted to provide some serious drama from the podium.

When I first started speaking, I’d joined a women’s group at my church that included lots of older women. I was young and had young friends, so instinctively I knew I’d learn more from the well-seasoned gray-haired set.

I knew I was being called to speak even before my first invitation came from the ladies. This was puzzling, though, because I also knew the risk of collapsing from a panic attack and traumatizing them from the podium.

But since doing the right thing isn’t about looking good or feeling good, I ignored my fear and left the details to the One who was charting my course. I’d prepare like it depended on me but trust like it depended on Him. These weren’t “my” ladies, they were His. If they were thrown into cardiac arrest, it would be on His head, not mine.

Ahh…the sweet liberation of letting go.

I was called. I went. And within days an internist diagnosed an adrenalin problem I’d been battling for thirteen years and fixed it with heart meds.

Years later, I confessed to one of the grey-haired ladies my fear of falling over in front of them. She said, “That would have been OK. We would have just picked you up.”

Her words framed my future. Of course they would have just picked me up.

Fear is normal. Finding ways to deal with it is essential. I was fortunate to have been surrounded by women who loved me as I cut my teeth. But sometimes we don’t have the luxury of a love-fest. We’re forced to walk into the lion’s den. Tlion roarhe boardroom. The classroom. The courtroom. The hospital room.

It’s those moments we need to prepare for ahead of time with mentors, coaches, trainers, and even a God who’s gone to extraordinary lengths to invite us to draw strength from Him.

I may need to drop “chapter and verse” as I expand my speaking. But I carry with me truth that transcends the lines between secular and sacred…panic and peace.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6)


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Out of my Comfort Zone

My comfort zone has always been in words, which is why I’m fascinated by people who’ve mastered numbers.

When I watch John Nash portrayed in A Beautiful Mind, Alan Turing in The Imitation Game, and Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, my head spins.


Michio Kaku

Michio Kaku is one of “those” people. He boggles my mind. He’s a renowned theoretical physicist who attempts to make quantum physics palatable to the numerically-challenged…like me.


Homer’s crayon in brain

I appreciate his effort. Though I was sort of hoping my problem was a crayon stuck in the brain like Homer. (Simpson, that is. Not Iliad.) But no such luck.

Hawking has also tried to bring science to the average Joe with his PBS series, Genius. When it first aired, I watched with interest to see just how he’d answer questions he raised, such as Why are we here? and Where did the universe come from?

I wasn’t really expecting Hawking to offer any new answers or information he’d been keeping under wraps. But I did find it interesting that he felt it important we celebrate the fact we exist at all. Call it luck, but as a species, we’ve survived against astronomical odds, Hawking said.

We are here by chance, nothing else.

Some scientists resist attaching actual meaning to the universe. Maybe because it smacks of “religion” which puts them out of their comfort zone. Who can blame them for squirming if it brings to mind a time when scientific discovery led to burning at the stake?

But maybe it’s more than that.

black holes

Black Hole

In a lecture Kaku gave on quantum mechanics, he spoke of the profound mystery of black holes. Scientists use the term singularity to describe the infinite number of zeroes they consistently come up with when they take two proven math equations, both pertaining to quantum physics, and try to reconcile them with one another.

The task is impossible, and the calculations are unanswerable, Kaku said. Another scientist called it a “virtual nightmare for the physicist” and an embarrassment, as scientists are never comfortable with something they can’t get a handle on.

Personally, I’ve never had reason to be saddled with that kind of ego. It must come with the territory.

As the brilliant men talked about the “astronomically heavy and infinitesimally small” holes, how they seem to collapse everything we know about the physical universe, and what could possibly come out of them, I thought about what a great sci-fi novel that would make.


Tower of Babel-Genesis 11

Then I thought about the story of the Tower of Babel in the book of Genesis. Whether one takes it literally or not, the message is clear: Man’s attempt to reach God or stand on His level is futile, as futile as our efforts to grasp infinity.

There are plenty of scientists who see no conflict between science and faith. In fact, science is a leap of faith far more often than we’d care to think. To the open-minded scientist, a new discovery is an opportunity to discover more about the creative forces of God.

Maybe there is a purpose to our existence…why we’re here and where we come from. Maybe it runs deeper than numbers and words, or chance and dumb luck. Maybe it involves a deliberate effort to force us out of our comfort zone and remind us that He is God and we are not.

“Call to me and I will answer you and show you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3).



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The Look of Desperation

It’s crazy the first time you look in the mirror and see your mom’s face. How did that happen?clock is ticking

You suddenly realize the clock is ticking. You’re not getting any younger. You’ve probably already peaked, and it’s all downhill from here.

Actually, I’m far more familiar with these sentiments than I’d care to admit. But, fortunately for me, I know how to surround myself with people who didn’t get that memo. Like my mom’s older siblings I sat visiting with recently.

After they wore me out and went to bed, I said to my sister, “Wow. I’ll have what they’re having.”

When they hit 70, I thought they’d be done. By 80, they were still going strong. Now, rounding 90, they totally amaze me.

Sure, they may not be as spry as they used to be, but don’t tell them that. They’re active, engaged in life and relationships, and they love to laugh.old happy people

They put me to shame.

It’s no secret I had my first mid-life crisis when I turned 30. My second at 40. So by 50 I was really good at it.

That’s when jokes about getting older started making sense. Like you know you’re getting older when your secrets are safe with your friends because they can’t remember them either. Or, you’re still hot at 50, only now it comes in flashes.

I especially love the updated version of childhood games that have been modified specifically for the aging. They include…

Musical Recliners

Sag! You’re it!

Pin the Toupee on the Bald Guy

20 Questions…Shouted in Your Good Ear

Kick the Bucket

Spin the Bottle…of Mylanta

Simon Says…Something Incoherent

Red Rover, Red Rover, the Nurse Says Bend Over

I’m beginning to see old stories in new ways too, like the one about Potiphar’s wife coming onto Joseph in the book of Genesis. Life as the wife of a captain of the palace guard must have gotten tedious for her. What was she supposed to do? Wait for her husband to give her the attention she craved?

Instead, she set her sights on Joseph, who’s described as well-built and attractive. Mrs. Potiphar may have been the original cougar. She was Mrs. Robinson!

The Graduate

Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate

I was a young woman when I read her story for the first time, and I remember thinking…Eww.

Years later, I understand how life can get routine or disappointing. I also have a new appreciation for the beauty of youth. But I also recognize desperation when I see it…and a woman so wrapped up in herself she doesn’t care how she hurts others.

Getting older is an adjustment, but the last thing I want to become is a woman whose desperation is planted all over her tightly stretched face. I don’t want to mess up others with my own hang-ups. I’d like to leave the place better off than I found it…not worse.

So, at the risk of sounding uber-spiritual, which I definitely am not, I’ve found a solution that works.

I’ve completely shifted my prayer life.

I’ve begun meditating on things that are less fleeting. I’ve begun asking God to help me age gracefully, love more intentionally, and discover new ways to really be productive.

And when I do, He is faithful to replace those feelings of desperation with a kind of satisfaction that continues to surprise me.

Most of us don’t wear the look of desperation very well, and I’m no exception. So when my vision gets clouded, as it inevitably does, and I feel the clock’s relentless ticking, I return to the One who numbered my days before one of them came to be.

That’s where this desperate woman always finds relief.

Psalm 90


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