Shannon Dittemore
  • Childhood
  • June17th

    5 Comments

    My First Lie

    Posted in: Childhood

    Blue BalloonsThe first lie I remember telling led straight to death.

    Literally.

    My sixth grade class had been set a reading challenge: For every ten pages we read, we’d be given a balloon to release. Inside each balloon was the student’s name and address.

    I know, right? This would never be done nowadays, but a couple decades ago…

    Anyway, the finder of the balloon was encouraged to write the student telling them a little about themselves and where they were located.

    That way we’d know how far the balloon went. That way we’d know how far reading took us.

    You see it right? The appeal this had to a little girl with a nose for words and big dreams clawing at her gut?

    When it came time to fill out that form, I strolled through the school library and found the biggest, fattest spine there. Which happened to belong to…

    WAIT FOR IT…

    Little Women.

    Okay, so I hadn’t read it, but I would. I was sure I would.

    Now, I must also tell you that as a writer-type person, I’m not really good at math. Mostly, I just don’t have the time or the inclination to give it a try. This has never been more true than in that moment. Had I been intelligent enough to divide Little Women’s 600+ pages by 10, I’d have realized I was in a bit of trouble.

    Needless to say, math was not my first priority. Winning this challenge was. After all, maybe some glittering movie star in the hills of Hollywood would find one of my balloons. Maybe, just maybe, I’d become famous. I was a fuzzy-haired sixth grader with lofty dreams and only the promise of helium and latex to pin them to.

    The day came and the balloons were delivered. And, boy, were they. Kids on either side of me got two and three balloons. I was certain I’d get at least five or six. Stupid math.

    Of course, I’m the last one to receive my reward and that’s probably because my lie had sucked up all the helium in the universe.

    It took several staffers to wrestle my balloons through the door. All 60+ of ’em.

    Twenty-something years ago now, and I still remember breaking into a cold sweat. It was June but I was shaking and mortified. Having been swallowed by the balloon bouquet from hell, the upside was no one could see my shame. They could only see my big, fat, multi-colored lie.

    And yet… buried beneath the shame was a tiny speck of hope. After all, with sixty balloons heading into the great unknown, I could almost smell the superstardom.

    I’d like to say I was talented enough to carry this dream-filled burden out to the field by myself, but the truth is, I needed help. I passed the balloons around, making my classmates complicit in my lie. When, at last, the whistle blew, my lie was released with all the fanfare a public school can muster.

    And then… well, then I felt compelled to actually read Little Women. Which, I did. And by the time Beth had died and Amy had married Jo’s man and I’d cried all my sixth grade tears, I received a letter.

    One of my balloons had been found!

    Was it a red one or a yellow? Was it a green balloon or blue? Who cares! My dreams had come true.

    I opened the letter with the fury of a soon-to-be seventh grader praying, praying the lie had been worth it.

    Alas…

    Know who found my balloon?

    A grave digger.

    Know where he found it?

    In the cemetery behind the school.

    Oh he was a nice man, I’m sure. And I’m sure the Grim Reaper is only doing his job.

    But, as a preacher’s brat the consequences of my helium-powered lie were all too clear:

    You lie. You die.

    I mean, what could be more obvious!?

    It took a tattered edition of Louisa May Alcott’s masterpiece, sixty balloons, and a gravedigger to drive the point home.

    Balloons still give me the willies.

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  • March5th

    6 Comments

    Had a hilarious and self-evaluating experience in church yesterday morning.

    Our children’s Sunday school format has changed a bit, allowing kids past pre-school age to spend the first half of the morning with their parents. I love this change, by the way. It means my 7 year old gets to sing and dance and worship next to me.

    The hilarious part? He hasn’t quite figured out that us church folk have an unofficial list of approved dance moves.

    The Pentacostal two-step? No problem. Holy Ghost Hop? Absolutely. A little cheerleading step clap? Why not?

    But, Justus was devastated to learn that walking like an Egyptian and the Michael Jackson moonwalk have yet to make it through the approval process. Of course, I had no idea he intended to use such moves until service started and he busted them out. Right there. On the front row.

    He deflated a bit when I–like a good mama–pinned him down and explained.

    But, I’m worshiping, he said.

    I just gave him the eye. You know, the mom eye. Yeah, that one.

    Defeated (and slightly dramatic) he stripped off his sweatshirt. Staring at him, my face flooded with little pin pricks of heat. Due to our prominent placement, the entire congregation was looped into a little secret he’d been keeping. His Lego Batman t-shirt was on backward.

    I like it that way, he said.

    Because he’s a smart kid and could tell that I, the mama, didn’t like it that way, he slipped his arms into his shirt and attempted to turn it around.

    He tried, God bless him, but he was all sticky and sweaty from the moonwalking and what should have been a quick little change, turned out to be a two-minute experience full of face making and little boy grunts.

    At least the music was loud.

    Next, we worked on clapping to the beat–the drummer’s beat, not the one he normally marches to. Who could have known such a thing would be so difficult? I was exhausted by the time he skipped out of the sanctuary and headed to class.

    And I felt a bit like Michal. You know, Michal, King David’s wife. Staring out the castle window she watched as her husband danced down the street. He was worshiping and thanking God and it embarrassed her. The Bible says she despised him in her heart.

    Oh, I wasn’t despising my little guy, but I was feeling the embarrassment. I mean, I’m a good Christian mama. Shouldn’t my kid know how to worship? Shouldn’t he know what to do?

    But, the reality is more complicated than that.

    First off, our approved dance moves may not be the only dance moves out there. I know it’s shocking, and I’m not advocating the Running Man, but I’m thinking being childlike isn’t a bad thing. Jesus Himself championed childlike faith. Squashing those tendencies in my son seems like an awful thing. A tragic thing.

    Of course, the book of Proverbs also tells us we’re to train up a child in the way they should go, so that when they’re old they will not depart from it. I’m not sure Proverbs is talking specifically about dance moves, but worship certainly falls into the category of things we should teach our kids.

    So, there’s this balance, right? As his parents, Matt and I are to teach him. We’re to show Justus that “worship” isn’t just dancing to music. He needs to understand why we gather together, why we have a song service at church–what all those instruments and singers are for–and we’re to teach him the kind of worship the Bible tells us God is looking for.

    But, we also have to let him stumble along in his own relationship with God and worship like a child. Because the truth of the matter is this: God’s looking at his heart and not his moonwalking feet.

    Of course, Sister So-And-So in the third row might be looking at his moonwalking feet, so it’s important that he learn not to be a distraction, but I’m happy to report we’re learning. All of us.

    Yesterday afternoon, my AMAZING and incredibly intelligent husband, opened the scriptures with Justus and they talked about worship. They wrote out what the scriptures said. They had a glorious discussion about dance and instruments and standing before the Lord in silence. They talked about worship as a lifestyle. I folded laundry and eavesdropped. The entire thing was both inspiring and highly educational.

    This morning, Justus asked if he could take his Bible to school.

    So, if walking like an Egyptian and a sweaty Lego Batman shirt taught my kid to love his Bible a little more, I have to assume we’re on the right road.

    And I like this road. I like where it’s heading.

    It’s a bit undignified at times, but I don’t want to be like Michal. I don’t want to miss the opportunity to worship alongside my son because I’m concerned about what people will think. I don’t want to miss the opportunity to teach him because I’m embarrassed or frustrated.

    Now that the chagrin has melted away, I find myself inspired by my son’s childlike faith. Motivated by his desire to dance with God.

    And all of a sudden, undignified doesn’t seem quite so… well… undignified.

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  • December10th

    2 Comments

    Know what you can’t impart, download, or summon?

    The ability to roller skate… among other things, I’m sure.

    But this roller skating thing got me thinking.

    See, my 7 year old received an invitation to a birthday party at the local skating rink. Cool, right? Only problem is we’ve never taken him skating.

    Total parent fail.

    I mean, if there’s anything a 7 year old boy would like to avoid, it’s being the WORST at something. Especially at his b.f.f.’s birthday party.

    So, the day before the party we took him skating. You know, let him give it a whirl, give him a quick lesson, and well… see just how damaged he was going to be when all was said and done.

    And while my son is a fast learner, there’s something incredibly painful about watching your son fall every few seconds. So, we tried to catch him, we let him hang onto the wall, we practiced on the carpet, but progress was… well… non-existent.

    And that’s when it hit me: we have to let him fall. Well, we have to let him get out there and try. If he falls, he falls. It’s the only way to learn.

    You know what else, we wouldn’t let him hang onto the wall.

    He scowled at us a bit, but he made it around the rink. He fell. Lots. But, he learned to take it slow. He found if he didn’t–if he went faster than he was learning–he’d fall right over.

    It’s a tough lesson. One that comes with bruised elbows and skinned knees. And in a day and age where we can get most anything at the snap of a finger, the click of a button, or a drive through the drive-thru, it’s interesting to watch a child learn something by trial and error.

    By falling and getting up.

    And you know what, he likes falling, er, skating. He wants to go back. He wasn’t the best at the birthday party, not by a long shot, but he knew that falling wasn’t the end of the world.

    And he knew how to get back up.

    And really, if that’s all he learned, I’m one happy mama.

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  • August29th

    9 Comments

    My First Lie

    Posted in: Childhood

    The first lie I remember telling led straight to death.

    Literally.

    My sixth grade class had been set a reading challenge: For every ten pages we read, we’d be given a balloon to release. Inside each balloon was the student’s name and address.

    I know, right? This would never be done nowadays, but a couple decades ago…

    Anyway, the finder of the balloon was encouraged to write the student telling them a little about themselves and where they were located.

    That way we’d know how far the balloon went. That way we’d know how far reading took us.

    You see it right? The appeal this had to a little girl with a nose for words and big dreams clawing at her gut?

    When it came time to fill out that form, I strolled through the school library and found the biggest, fattest spine there. Which happened to belong to…

    WAIT FOR IT…

    Little Women.

    Okay, so I hadn’t read it, but I would. I was sure I would.

    Now, I must also tell you that as a writer-type person, I’m not really good at math. Mostly, I just don’t have the time or the inclination to give it a try. This has never been more true than in that moment. Had I been intelligent enough to divide Little Women’s 600+ pages by 10, I’d have realized I was in a bit of trouble.

    Needless to say, math was not my first priority. Winning this challenge was. After all, maybe some glittering movie star in the hills of Hollywood would find one of my balloons. Maybe, just maybe, I’d become famous. I was a fuzzy-haired sixth grader with lofty dreams and only the promise of helium and latex to pin them to.

    The day came and the balloons were delivered. And, boy, were they. Kids on either side of me got two and three balloons. I was certain I’d get at least five or six. Stupid math.

    Of course, I’m the last one to receive my reward and that’s probably because my lie had sucked up all the helium in the universe.

    It took several staffers to wrestle my balloons through the door. All 60+ of ’em.

    Twenty-something years ago now, and I still remember breaking into a cold sweat. It was June but I was shaking and mortified. Having been swallowed by the balloon bouquet from hell, the upside was no one could see my shame. They could only see my big, fat, multi-colored lie.

    And yet… buried beneath the shame was a tiny speck of hope. After all, with sixty balloons heading into the great unknown, I could almost smell the superstardom.

    I’d like to say I was talented enough to carry this dream-filled burden out to the field by myself, but the truth is, I needed help. I passed the balloons around, making my classmates complicit in my lie. When, at last, the whistle blew, my lie was released with all the fanfare a public school can muster.

    And then… well, then I felt compelled to actually read Little Women. Which, I did. And by the time Beth had died and Amy had married Jo’s man and I’d cried all my sixth grade tears, I received a letter.

    One of my balloons had been found!

    Was it a red one or a yellow? Was it a green balloon or blue? Who cares! My dreams had come true.

    I opened the letter with the fury of a soon-to-be seventh grader praying, praying the lie had been worth it.

    Alas…

    Know who found my balloon?

    A grave digger.

    Know where he found it?

    In the cemetery behind the school.

    Oh he was a nice man, I’m sure. And I’m sure the Grim Reaper is only doing his job.

    But, as a preacher’s brat the consequences of my helium-powered lie were all too clear:

    You lie. You die.

    I mean, what could be more obvious!?

    It took a tattered edition of Louisa May Alcott’s masterpiece, sixty balloons, and a gravedigger to drive the point home.

    Balloons still give me the willies.

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  • June11th

    7 Comments

    Today is the last day of kindergarten.

    Justus, my five-year-old, is incredibly nostalgic for such a young soul. We had an illuminating conversation on the way to school this morning.

    “Can you believe it, Justus?”

    “What?”

    “You made it! You’re done with kindergarten now!”

    A grin spreads like taffy across his gorgeous face. “I remember my first day.”

    “Me too,” I say, thinking back. So many new kids to befriend. New teachers. New rules. Name-tags and desks. An alphabet that snaked around the room. A carpet covered with letters and numbers. “You know, God was with you then. And He’s with you now, on your last day. How cool is that?”

    “I’m blessed,” he says, wisely.

    Tears blur my eyes. “Yes, baby. Yes, you are.”

    “Know what it reminds me of?”

    “What?” I ask.

    He doesn’t answer. Instead, my little man begins a song, his blue eyes sparkling in the sunlight.

    “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path,” he sings.

    I join in. Jaz, my one-year-old, even tries to help.

    “When I feel afraid and think I’ve lost my way.
    Still, You’re there right beside me.
    Nothing will I fear as long as You are near;
    Please be near me to the end.

    I will not forget Your love for me and yet,
    My heart forever is wandering.
    Jesus be my guide and hold me to Your side,
    And I will love you to the end.”

    We sang this old Amy Grant song (which he believes originated with Jr. Asparagus) until his sneakers hit the school-yard pavement. Then, he threw his backpack on, blew me a kiss, and ran to the playground.

    And me? I prayed.

    Thank You, Jesus, for my little man. Thank You for blessing me with him. For keeping him safe. For being right beside him when I couldn’t be. Thank you for the friends he’s made this year. For the lessons he’s learned. For a wonderful teacher. Thank You for holding him and guiding him. Thank You for his child-like faith and the relationship You’ve begun with him. And for my baby girl, I also pray. That my children will always know the safety of Your guiding hand. Every day, for the rest of their lives. That when things are hard, when they travel through valleys and dry places, I pray they would know Your ever-sustaining grace. And when they walk roads they don’t understand, let them remember this song. Let them seek You in both the darkness and the light. For your Word promises that You will be found if they seek You with their whole hearts. And, I pray, dear, sweet Jesus, that my children will love you–truly love you–to the end.

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  • June1st

    4 Comments

    My sixth grade teacher royally offended me once.

    Let’s call her Mrs. X.

    The bell rings for recess and my peers file out. All except me and the popular girl. I stay back to collect the papers strewn about (yeah, I was that kid), and Popular Girl stands at the teacher’s desk, reviewing a homework assignment.

    “You need to focus, young lady,” Mrs. X tells her, exasperated. “Be more like, more like… Shannon!”

    I am flattered. And mortified. Popular Girl hardly ever lets me play double-dutch with her friends. I’ll never get the invite now.

    “But, she’s soooo smart!” Popular Girl whines.

    “No!” Mrs X says sternly, slapping her hand down hard on the desk. “No, she’s not!”

    I told you she offended me. My bottom lip quivers. I drop the stack of papers and Mrs. X catches sight of me.

    She sighs. “Well, yes. Yes, she is smart. But that’s not why she does well. She does well because she listens. Because she pays attention. Because she wants to learn. That’s what I mean. Be like that. Now, go. Recess is almost over.”

    It’s a horrible cover-up, and earns me no points with Popular Girl. She cuts her eyes at me and walks out the door in her brand new jelly shoes. Still, I gather up the papers and take them to Mrs. X. She smiles her apology and I shuffle out of the classroom. I pass right by the girls playing double-dutch and make my way to the dodge ball court. Everybody’s welcome at dodge ball.

    It’s a silly little story. But, one that has stayed with me through the years. I’ve always had an interest in the way things work, always enjoyed learning new things. So, really, the teacher was right. I’m not some brainiac with the answers to life’s biggest problems. I’m just a kid in worn-out sneakers who likes to learn. That’s who I was in sixth grade and that’s who I am now.

    Though, at times, my pride takes a hit.

    It’s nice to feel superior. Nice to feel smarter than everyone around me. But, it’s not a truth. It’s not reality. And, it’s humbling when someone comes along who actually KNOWS more than I do.

    Now, I have no problem admitting that there are things I can’t do. Things I’ve never been any good at: Math, hula-hooping, ice skating, to name just a few. And it doesn’t pain me in the slightest to hand my crown off to those who excel in these areas. It’s when I feel I have a skill mastered that I get the most touchy.

    With the exception of God, my family, and my church, writing has been my chief focus of late. I spend time reading, studying the craft. I pray about it. I meet with a writing group. I write whenever I possibly can, and I take pride in the work I pump out. And when someone corrects me, when someone is brave enough to make a suggestion, I become that sixth grade girl again. My lip quivers and I’m tempted to drop the work in my hands. Tempted to run from the room, back to the dodge ball court where everyone is accepted.

    But, it’s vanity. It’s pride that drives me to that place.

    When I’m there, consumed with self-deprecating thoughts of worthlessness and failure, the words of James, the brother of Christ, bring me back to a firm foundation.

    And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. –James 1:4-5

    We must endure through the things we see as trials. Through the things that cause us to question. We must ask for wisdom and we must never, ever assume we know all there is to know. We all need wisdom, and God often uses the people around us to humble and teach us. We must allow ourselves to be teachable. Learning, even the hard way, leads to growth.

    The apostle Peter is also a great inspiration to me. Read what he says:

    You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. –1 Peter 5:6-7

    The writing industry, while unique in its own way, is like most other businesses. Everyone’s trying to get ahead. Everyone wants to come up with that one great story, the one that will speak to the masses, that will earn them kudos and back slaps. Everyone is looking for advancement. When I find myself swept up in the hysteria of the whole thing, I remind myself of Peter’s words: HUMBLE YOURSELVES under the MIGHTY HAND OF GOD, that HE may exalt you at the PROPER TIME.

    It’s all in God’s hands. We can be nothing but the Potter’s clay.

    Pliable. Teachable. Accessible.

    And when He’s ready, He will lift us up.

    At the proper time, friends.

    At the proper time.

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  • May6th

    4 Comments

    Mankind is selfish. It’s in our very nature.

    And this is how I know: My son, Justus, cheats at marbles.

    I didn’t teach him to cheat. His Dad didn’t teach him to cheat. He understands that the game has rules. He knows cheating is wrong. But man! He just wants that shiny green marble so much!

    “It was kinda on the line, Mom. I didn’t nudge it, really!”

    Ahem.

    Of course, the Bible has some things to say on the subject as well. Take Romans 7:18 for example:

    “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.”

    The willing is present in me, but the doing of good is not. That’s intense!

    Think of Adam and Eve. They get a bad rap, but really, the first truly selfish act is seen in the Garden of Eden. God tells this naked couple to steer clear of a single tree. ONE STINKING TREE! And what do they do? They eat of it. Eve first and then her husband, Adam. Of course, the snake was there. A little temptation. A little deception. Adam blames Eve. Eve blames the snake.

    But, blame can only be shifted so far. The Bible tells us in James that “each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.” So, Adam and Eve, the first humans to walk the face of the earth, were, at one time, sinless. But, according to Scripture, it was their own lust, their own desire that carried them into sin.

    God says, “Do not eat of the tree. Don’t even touch it. Or you will die.”

    The snake says, “You’re not going to die! In fact, eat that shiny apple and you will be like God!”

    The minute we believe the lie, the very second we give credence to our own selfish desires, we’re in trouble. Only complete denial of our flesh can keep us from sin. It’s only by walking in the Spirit that our selfish nature can be overcome. But how do we do that? How can we walk in the Spirit? It is only through Christ and Christ alone that such a feat can be achieved. Read Galatians 2:20:

    “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

    We must die to ourselves. When our own selfish desires dance before our eyes, when they fly in the face of the Creator’s commands, we must resist. James 4:7 says,

    “Submit therefore to God. Resist the Devil and he will flee from you.”

    I’ve noticed that Justus has a harder time cheating when he’s looking me in the face. It’s when his greedy little eyes are on the shiny marble that I have cause for concern. When his eyes are on me, he remembers just why we’re playing. He remembers that it’s our time together that’s important. Not the marble.

    In the same way, we must keep our eyes on the Creator. We must remember just why we’re living this life. When we take our eyes off Him–when we let our own desires dictate our focus–we’re sure to screw up. It’s in our nature. Our sinful, selfish nature. We must choose Christ, everyday. Every decision. And just why should we do that? Why should we care more about His purpose for our life than the shiny marble we can reach out and grab? The answer’s right there in Galatians 2:20.

    When you’re tempted to lie, cheat, steal… When that ripe, luscious apple is within your reach… Turn your attention to Christ. Crucify your flesh. Submit your will to the Creator’s. Remember it is no longer you living, but Christ in you.

    Because He loves you. Because He gave Himself for you.

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  • March26th

    3 Comments

    I have to brag. My five-year-old is a fantastic reader. Fantastic. In fact, his kindergarten class is going to be performing “The Three Piggy Opera” and Justus has landed the coveted role of “Narrator.” To prepare, we’ve been reading tons and tons of books.

    Oh, alright, that’s just an excuse. We’d read tons and tons of books anyway. We practically live in the children’s section of our local Barnes and Noble. In case you mistake my tone, I say that proudly.

    This morning, we were finishing off one of “The Magic Tree House Books” (which I highly recommend, by the way). In this particular chapter book, “Afternoon on the Amazon,” Jack and Annie are being chased by a rather persistent monkey. At one point, the monkey claps his hands together and screeches with laughter. As he swung away from the siblings, Justus interrupted the narrative.

    “I can see it! Mom, I can see it all in my mind.”

    He jumped off the couch and reenacted the scene. He scratched his pits and banged his chest. He “oo-oo’d” and “ee-ee’d.” He clapped his hands and pantomimed swinging away. If Justus is a fantastic reader, he’s a downright perfect monkey!

    His enthusiasm got me thinking and the mere recollection of his declaration, “I can see it!” evokes all sorts of emotions.

    Oh, how we need child-like faith!

    We need to emerge from our fig tree–from our time alone with God–with the kind of faith that says,

    “I’ve read it, Father, and I CAN SEE IT! You know that part, Jesus, the part where you fed the thousands with five loaves and two fish? I can see it! And that time, Lord, where you came to Peter walking on the water, the storm tossing and turning, the little boat thrashing about. I can actually see it! And what about that last night Lord? The last time you dined with your friends? Do you remember? Well, today, as I read it again, I could see it. I could see the pain on your face as you identified the one who would betray you. I could see the disbelief on Peter’s face when confronted with the truth that he’d deny you. I could see the love you had for each of them. The pain you felt at their impending loss. The love you still have for humanity.

    As I read your Word, it came to life, and I could see it!

    And then, Jesus, as you withdrew into the Garden to pray–as you submitted yourself to the will of the Father–I could see it. I saw the sweat, like blood, running down your face, falling to the ground. I saw your despair–your resolve–as one of your own betrayed you with a kiss. I saw you, The Prince of Peace, taken into custody. I watched as evil men lashed out, angry. I saw the self-awareness of your own humility as they turned you over to be beaten. I saw the Roman’s face as he washed his hands of the matter, as he released a murderer in your place, and your own people cried out for your crucifixion.

    I saw the cross upon your back. The crown of thorns cutting into your skin. I watched as they nailed you to that tree–your hands and feet pierced for their sins. For mine. I watched as the thief begged for mercy. I saw the pain on your face, the forgiveness you extended even then.

    And I cried.

    For the first time in a long time, Jesus, I understood that these weren’t just verses to be read. This was your life. Is your life. This is you, here in my hands, in the form of a book. Your life. Your death. Your resurrection recorded so that I could understand. You are the Word become flesh, and today, Jesus, I can see it.”

    These are the types of declarations I want to come back to. I want to dig into the Scriptures craving to see the world as Christ saw it–As He still sees it. I want to read because I’m hungry for the truth buried between the pages. I want to cry because it moves me.

    But mostly, I want to jump off the couch and reenact all that His Word shows me. Not like my son. Not in a theatrical way. But, I want to love just as He loves. I want to enact that. I want to pray just as He prays. I want to forgive just as He forgives. I want to be the Christian–the Christ-follower–that I was created to be.

    He’s shown me how. He’s given me the guidebook. I want to open its pages, not because I have to, but because today, like every other day, I need to see it. I need to know just how it’s done. Just how He did it.

    I need to see it so I can do it too.

    For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them–Acts 28:27

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  • February18th

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    My son is out of school this week for winter break. And what a winter break it has been! The sun is out, kids are playing football in the court, and even the air conditioner got a brief workout. Yesterday, I took the kids to the park so that we could pretend spring had arrived. And by the way, if you’re in the area and haven’t been to the little park at Maidu, I must recommend it! It’s awesome. Trains, saloons, and a quaint little jail are just a few of the fixtures completing the Wild West motif.

    There’s also a child-sized maze built to look a bit like an old fort. Embedded into the ground below the wooden maze are the paw-prints of various animals: a fox, a badger, a deer, and a bobcat. A sign challenges the children to identify the prints. As I chased Jaz around the park, Justus and a friend attempted to conquer the maze. Their five-year-old minds had concluded that if they followed the animal prints, surely the ghosts of animals past would lead them to the exit. After several minutes, my frustrated son hollers at me,

    “Mom! Help!”

    The animal prints, it turns out, are not a reliable form of navigation. As the two boy-geniuses followed the prints, they ran into wall after wall. Time and again, they found themselves trapped–the only possibility, to retread the footsteps that had led them to failure.

    “Which way, Mom?” Justus asked. “Which way do we go?”

    I told you he was a genius! See, the maze is child-sized and I have not been child-sized for some time. My considerable height (ha!) allows me to see every path option at once. With just a glance, I know which paths lead to obstacles and dead-ends. I even know which path leads out of the maze. So, after a few misunderstood directions, Justus and his friend make their way to the exit, and their cheesy grins show all the parents at the park just how proud they are to have made it.

    The book of Proverbs says this: “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”

    I’ve been stewing on this Proverb quite a bit lately. It’s hard not to when I see friends walking into decisions that seem so completely right and yet their foundation is not the Word of God. When I put myself in their shoes, I see the perceived wisdom of their choices, but I cringe when I find that their methods do not line up with God’s. I, of course, am not immune to this behavior. In my life alone I could point to countless examples of times when I thought I knew best, when I was convinced that the path I was on was the right path. In the end, I found myself lost, with nowhere to go but back the way I’d come. Like Justus, it took me several tries before I thought to ask for help. Before I looked up and cried, “Father, which way do I go?”

    You know, that Proverb is actually recorded twice in the Scriptures–word for word. Someone wanted us to really think about its words. To consider the possibility that the direction we’re heading–while seeming to make a ton of sense–may just lead us to death. With these thoughts in mind, I challenge you to turn your face to the heavens. Maybe you’re staring a monumental decision in the face and know you need help, or maybe you’ve tried one path after another only to beat frustrated fists against dead-ends. Regardless, there’s only one place to go when you’re lost. There’s only one God with the perspective to see all paths from beginning to end. He’s just waiting for us to stop following the scattered footprints and look to Him for answers.

    It’s tough, though, isn’t it? That pride thing gets in the way. We don’t want to be wrong. We hate to admit the possibility of it, and yet, I must remind you of one other verse, found in Matthew.

    “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.”

    We’re looking for a narrow gate, friends. The odds aren’t good that you’ll stumble across it alone. We all need Christ. He is the narrow gate. The way, the truth, and the life. If we’re to avoid destruction, we must enter through Him.

    Join me will you.

    It’s a narrow road, but there’s always room for one more.

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