Previously Published

the balloon

It was a perfect sun-drenched day—touched by Spring Breeze, ordered by moms and five-year-olds. It was just Jez and me–and the bright green balloon tied securely to his wrist. It was one of our rare and special no-rules days–a day for five-year-olds to express freedom of choice and moms to exercise patience.

The Park? The Book Store? The ice cream parlour? Where do we go? Time ticked away, inconsiderate of my son’s need to make this monumental decision. The lights at the crosswalk turned red, amber, green, and back to red.

“Hurry up, Jez,” I urged, concealing impatience with motherly overtones.

“Eenie, meenie, mynnie mo, catch a tiger by its toe. . . .Ice cream. I want an ice cream first,” he yelled excitedly, pulling me in the ice cream direction.

“Chocolate, chocolate chip, strawberry, vanilla, fudge?” asked the lady at the counter as big black eyes looked at me for help, And I shook my head “No,” encouraging Jez to choose for himself.

“Eenie, meenie, mynnie, mo . . .Chocolate.”

We walked towards the Park, licking our ice cream cones faster than the sun could melt them, discussing major issues—like the difficulty of eating spaghetti and the advantage of zippers over buttons. All the while a gentle breeze blew the balloon over our ice cream, spicing serious talk with laughter. A perfect day!

Skipping through sun-basking window-shoppers, Jez went ahead of me. Less than a moment later, I heard a familiar sob. I looked ahead, expecting the worst. There he was, my little boy, arms reaching up as high as they could and the big green balloon rising farther and farther away from him.

I ran to hold him as he silently cried over his lost balloon. Between sniffles, he pointed to the store across the street. “They sell bigger and better balloons. Can I have one? Please?” The quarters having gone with the ice cream, I couldn’t buy him a fancy three-dollar balloon. So I gently told him, “I can’t today, son. Maybe another day.”

Would he fuss? Throw a temper tantrum? I didn’t want to spoil the no-rules day with discipline, and “Eenie, meenie,, mynnie, mo” couldn’t help him this time.

Jez slowly looked up, clutched my hand, glued a fourth of a smile on his face and said, “Alright, Mommy. Let’s go to the Park.” No whys, buts, or I-want-it-right-now’s: just quiet resignation. Unexpected behavior for MY son, especially on a “no-rules day.”

We tickled and played, tried everything–the swing, the sliding board, the seesaw, and the sand box too. When it was almost time to return home, an elderly man came up to us. “Excuse me, Ma’am. I’ve been looking all over for you. There’s a balloon waiting for your little boy at the store.” Then taking Jez aside, he said, “Some of us saw you lose your balloon. We don’t often see little boys who don’t fuss. And we’re proud that you are part of our community.”

Jez is all grown up now. Buried in his pile of memorabilia are the remains of his neon-colored Mickey Mouse balloon. Since that bright Spring day, Jez has been through many dreary, dark ones—days when he has been bruised by life. Yet he walks into each tomorrow with memories of many experiences like that special “no-rules day”—times when God has picked him up in an enveloping hug of infinite love, tied a brand new snazzy, I-can-do-it balloon on his wrist, and sent him into the unknown tomorrow.

For a mother to learn from a child is the ultimate blessing: I have a need to know the justification behind, in front of, and all around each calamity and joy I encounter. But Jez is different. He is not bogged down by the earthly or heavenly reasons of why life deals what it does. He has that “It’s not in my hands,” laid back, content-with-today attitude. And I’m humbled by what my son consistently teaches me every time he faces hardship: I must not be satisfied with the “Eenie, meenie, mynnie, mo” When my balloon slips away, I must be able to smile through my tears and say, “Thine will be done!”

(published in the Adventist Review sometime in the early 2000’s)


Chazown, by Craig Groeschel

If I had the patience, I’d look up the page number for you. But somewhere in Chazown, Groeschel says something like “You’ve got just one shot at life, so live it for the second embrace.” (Referring, of course, to Jesus’ hug at the pearly gates.)

This book is a manual on how to live that kind of  life–a life outlined, motivated and charged by a vision. But not just any vision; not what you aspire for yourself, not what your family dreams for you. The vision is God’s–what God foresees for you, what God wants to reveal to you. Everything about the book is practical and applicable. It’s a straight forward how-to, akin to the Dummies Series. You know what I mean–not in the sense that it insults your intelligence but in the fact that it is simple enough for anybody. You don’t have to be a seasoned theologian or an experienced Christian to grasp the fundamentals of this book. All you need is to be desirous of living your life to the fullest.

The language is simple and conversational, interspersed with sporadic levity. (I could have done without the jokes, but I can see how it could aid in keeping a reader’s attention. So I’ll lay off his not-so-funnies). The chapters are short and focused, with relevant pull quotes. I’m not sure if Groeschel or his editor gets credit for the quotes, but it is rare to see pull quotes used as effectively as they are in Chazone. They are so good that you can skim through the book, read just the quotes and get your money’s worth.

Somewhere else in the book Groeschel explains how living God’s will for you is simple but not easy. It’s like running a marathon, he says. The mechanics are simple–put one foot in front of the other, repeat until you get to the finish line. The process, on the other hand, is not easy. You need the stamina, the motivation, the drive, the perseverance, the support, etc, to keep you going till the finish line.

Everything from page layout to font to diagrams to cover art to white space to language to content–and pull quotes, of course–is cohesively practical and simple. And in some strange way, all these elements come together to make you, the reader, feel that this thing about living to fulfill God’s vision, God’s chazown, is doable and not as far-fetched as it seemed before you picked up this book.

Good work, Team Multnomah and Groeschel. This one is a keeper for me.

(I received this book free from Tyndale. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)

Spiritual Musings

crazy divine plans

I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve. Let it be with me just as you say. Luke 1:38

Seems to me like most of God’s plans are on the somewhat crazy side of divine. Is it to amuse His audience, to make obedience that much more difficult or to just for theatrical reasons?

For instance making man out of dirt, fighting a giant with a boy, bringing down a city wall with horns and trumpets, feeding thousands with a couple of fish. And of course creating Baby Messiah without sperm.

What’s with all this divine flamboyance? I’m not second guessing God; just wondering. All the behind-the-scene acts of grace imply that it’s not for His own dramatic glory or self-gratification. All the love and mercy He gives us wretched people imply that it’s not to trap us into sin. So, the only reason I can come up with for these bizzarre God plans is to nurture trust.

God asks Noah to build an during rainless times or us to do something equally nonsensical not because he likes to confuse or play 20 Questions, but because he wants us to learn to trust Him. God wants us to be willing to do it His way no matter how crazy the request.

Have the faith to know that when God asks us to do the illogical, He does the impossible. Like when Mary was told she would have a baby as a virgin, we too must be able to say with ease and conviction: “I am the Lord’s, ready to serve.”

Spiritual Musings

staying the course

He had a firm grip on the staff of God. Exodus 4:20

If only life were a straight road from birth to death. Even just a few forks thrown on the trail for choices, judgement and excitement wouldn’t be so hard to handle. But what we have instead is a bumpy journey with way too many crossroads and obstacles and mazes.

Moses’ life was one with numerous crossroads, with many responsibilities, with decision upon decision to make. Yet he made it; He made it from reed basket to seat next to God because he learned early on the key to a successful journey.

When he left Midian to take on his position as leader of a nation, the Bible tells us “Moses took his wife and sons and put them on a donkey for the return trip to Egypt. He had a firm grip on the staff of God.” (vv. 20, 21) That’s all we are told–This from the Book that goes into great detail about all sorts of things! We’re not told if there was hired help, whether he took cattle and grain, how long the journey was. Nothing.

Certainly there was more to his journey than wife, sons, donkey and a walking stick. But the point is that the other stuff didn’t matter. All the planning, the details, the stress didn’t matter because Moses had his priorities straight–his family and his God

We tend to drag along a tedious to-do’s and stressful decisions. Life responsibilities often make it almost impossible to know which way to turn, which task to make a priority. To get it straight, we need to do what Moses did–Keep those we love close to us and get a firm grip on God.

Spiritual Musings

looks and gifts

He was strikingly handsome . . . . she pestered him day after day, but he stood his ground. Genesis  39: 6, 10

For the ones who cannot be moved to break, let alone alone scratch the surface of the Ten Commandments, the Devil uses their goodness, their steadfastness, their good intentions to create road blocks and pitfalls of temptation.

The Devil used Joseph’s handsomeness to create a convincing scenario. When Joseph prevailed, the Devil continued to make his life worse by using Joseph’s loyal, non-defensive attitude against him. You don’t read about Joseph telling anyone his side of the story. He just let it go, became the innocent that bore the consequences of guilt.

Joseph basically just shut up and let the story play itself out. And “the head jailer gave Joseph free rein, never even checked on him, because God was with him; whatever he did God made sure it worked out for the best.” (Genesis 39:23)