Have You Reached A Verdict?



Spring Break.

Not having children of this age, it shouldn’t affect me.

My job, however, allows me to work with folks who do have children this age. When the kids are home, everyone gets a little break.

I anticipated a slower week. Things needed doing–aren’t there always things that need doing? I’d made a loose schedule–emphasis on loose–and was anticipating checking things off my usually lost lists.

Which is when John informed me, before leaving on yet another jet plane, that I had jury duty Monday. Needed to report to the courthouse by 8 a.m.

I don’t know a lot of people who get thrilled about jury duty. I know they’re out there–I met several of them Monday. Many more are like me. It’s an inconvenience. Time I can’t get back.

Heading downtown is never my idea of driving fun. It was still dark, but the roads were packed with early-morning commuters and Spring Breakers heading for the theme parks to be there when they opened.

Being directionally challenged, I needed my GPS.

It chose not to work.

Panic ensued. I was driving down the toll road, screaming at Siri to find me directions. She was confused. Obviously, raised voices aren’t her preference. I was too addled to be calm. Lostness isn’t fun.

I had a vague idea of where I needed to get off. When I exited, I saw a few signs that led in a general direction. So I did what every woman does in such a situation.

At every stop light, I asked directions of those driving next to me.

Metal detectors were everywhere. They’re thinking weapons. Bangles can’t hurt others. Once through, I had to answer a questionnaire for their records. I momentarily considered snarky answers. Thought better of it. No one messes with the law.

The wait began. After rudimentary instructions, groups of people were called for different panels of jurors. I met a few of the ladies sitting next to me, and we had great conversation.

Until they got called.

At 1 p.m., I was called for a trial.

Fifty of us were escorted upstairs. A round of questions was asked as the accused sat before us. The one I found most amusing was “On a scale of one to ten, how excited were you to get a jury summons.” There were several nines. A man who was a middle school social studies teacher whose class were currently studying the judicial system. An eighteen-year-old young man, who was thrilled to be eligible to participate in this civic duty.

I said, “Three.”

Over three hours later, a panel was chosen.

I wasn’t on it.

I did learn to appreciate the process more. They’re sticklers for wanting to offer a fair trial to those accused of crimes. An impartial jury.

It struck me how God has gone out of His way to offer each of us a fair trial. We’re all guilty of falling short of perfection–heaven’s standard. God added an element that most trials here will never have. Someone who’s willing to stand in the place of the accused. Take their full punishment.

The accused goes free.

Jesus stood in the gap for us. Taking our punishment when He didn’t deserve it.

That’s a verdict I can embrace fully.


The Right Fight Will Find Us

It was one of those weekends.

I’d gotten behind on things for work. I’d done the inexcusable–losing people in the cracks of my life. I was feeling pressure to get things done. Which made me feel anxious.

Pressure from me–no one else. I work with grace-oriented people. I ask a lot of myself. With high expectations comes high angst with the lack of follow-through. I make me feel guilty rather quickly.

John was leaving on another trip. We were sharing the weekend of watchfulness with my son-in-law’s folks as Heather and Jeremy were gone on a work trip. Five urchins; five different personalities.

I love my daughter’s in-laws. Bill and Sandy are calm and steady. When I’m with them I sense an immediate decompression of my own stuff and clutter. They have that same effect on the kids. Things run smoothly. With purpose.

I drove to the house and saw Bill and Sandy sitting on the porch, with three of the kids engaged in various forms of play. The older two were at referee training.

 The scene looked idyllic.
We chatted a bit, catching up, looking at lizard skeletons with the kids. Important things. Then they left.
I felt the calm leave the house with them.
“Can we play on the computer? Video games? Use the iPad? Grandma and Poppy said we could at noon. Isn’t it time? We’ve been outside. All day!”
I looked at the kids. Rarely is such eagerness expressed apart from McFlurries or playing soccer. Technology has them in its back pocket.
When my kids were younger, I’d never have allowed them to play this kind of thing. Wasting time inside on such a beautiful day. Allowing their brains to wither with needless focus on small screens when they could be allowing their imaginations to take flight.
“Sure. You all play while I get lunch.”
I was tired. This wasn’t a hill to die on. I’d pick my battles. Save my energy for bedtime disagreements.
With age, I’ve learned there are fewer and fewer battles worth fighting. Not that there aren’t significant values in restricting video play for kids and encouraging outdoor activities. Those are true.
When I was younger, everything was a battle. If there’d been a disagreement with the kids, John, folks I worked with, I hunkered down for the fight, standing on the ground of principle and conviction. Not recognizing that much of it was opinion and attitude.
I’ve matured. Some. Conviction is something I won’t compromise on.
In the middle of crazy, advocating for a random principle I’ve no energy to uphold, the better part of valor sometimes is taking a path that leads to peace.
Jesus never compromised on truth. The religious leaders had a hard time with Him. He didn’t hold to manmade rules and traditions that gave the religious elite favor and frowned on those who “sinned”.
They failed to see that we’re all broken and in need of rescuing from our fate.
Jesus savored time with the down and outers. Those untouchable by societal standards. He refused to disregard them.
That wouldn’t be the hill He died on.
If I must engage in a battle?
Truth always trumps opinion.
And relationships matter.

Garbage Bag Buddies

Garbage isn’t a topic of conversation I typically pursue.

Until I can’t ignore the trash.

“What smells funny in here.”

“I don’t smell anything.”

“It stinks really bad!”

I’d become that commercial. I was nose blind.

There was a reason my daughter smelled something unusual. I hadn’t taken the trash out in days–it takes us longer to fill a bag–and there were some pretty ugly things near the bottom that had opportunity to ripen.

You can stuff so much more in those bags now. It’s why so many come with an added deodorizer.

This is the downside of fewer people in the house. When all the kids were home, we’d fill a big kitchen bag daily. Nothing had time to get sour indoors.

Talking to a good friend recently, we were commiserating over the reality of feeling the heaviness of life. We’ve both had a lot going on. Emotionally draining projects. Difficult decisions. Prickly people.

For some off the wall reason, I was reminded of my garbage bags. Full and foul. Things kept inside and not disposed of quickly became worse with time.

Life issues can be that garbage bag.

When I let things stay inside without dealing with them, without talking them out with someone and getting them out of my head, they become really ripe. Like my funky trash.

Having unresolved problems or people conflicts can be emotionally exhausting. I can’t always identify the real problem. My heart feels weighted. Despair feels like it’s lurking around the corner. This I know–the more I put off dealing with matters, the harder they become to face.

Because I’m not a natural internalizer and ponderer, unless I talk to someone I trust, the problem sits. Festering like an infected wound. Full of puss and problems. Those challenging issues need to be exposed to the light. Brought out of hiding so they can’t become a bigger problem than they already are.

Internal and external processors alike need opportunities to air hurts, misunderstandings, disappointments. The only way to do that effectively is with folks who know us well. Safe people. Those who won’t condemn, criticize, judge or mock me if I come to them with a yelp for help and need someone to talk me off the ledge.

People I know will listen.

Like my garbage, it’s often easier to just stuff more things in than remember to take it to the curb. The action of dealing with a stench rather than just getting it out of sight in a garbage can often requires more energy than I have in the moment. Or I just don’t care enough to do it.

I’ve got people in my life who are those places of refuge. Geography isn’t the issue. Connecting is. They’ll listen to my diatribe without panic or judgment. Then offer wise advice.

The safest of places? Jesus. He doesn’t condemn, even though He knows it all. He doesn’t mock me, even though He recognizes I hide. I can connect with Him anytime. No need to schedule, wait for a calm minute or have a charged phone.

He deals with my garbage. With a more thorough cleansing than a deodorizer.



Starstruck For Guys

Even the kids are Tebowing.

This past Saturday, John took part in the Better Man Event in Orlando. An encouragement for men–old and young–to become more of whom they were created to be. An opportunity to be around those guys that define manliness.

Translated–Guys that do sports and magic.

Women are created differently. We may be equal in some areas, but I don’t know many women who are as drawn to all sports and sports figures as are many men. We may enjoy sports, but we enjoy other things as well.

If someone wants to draw men to an event, a sure bet is to invite athletes to speak. Add a master illusionist to fill any entertainment gaps.

Jim Munroe tricks the youngsters.

Tim Tebow was the keynote speaker. A Florida Gator and darling of much of the southeast, he’s played with a variety of pro teams and is now playing for the Mets. Trying out baseball. Nothing like a multi-faceted sports guy.

Jim Munroe, a popular illusionist known as the Maze, added the wow factor of tricks that defied imagination. If anyone can pull anything out of a hat other than a sweaty hatband, I’m thoroughly impressed.

To round it out, Tim Johnson, a Super Bowl champion with the Washington Redskins, now pastor, also spoke.

John and some of his friends had the chance to take their sons and grandsons to this event. All of whom were quite delighted with the lineup.

Sit too close he may talk to you!

It’s part of human nature to be somewhat starstruck by the rich and famous. They have lifestyles different from ours. They drive better cars. Eat at the great restaurants. Update their wardrobes with regularity.

And people know them. They scream their names. Ask for autographs. Take selfies with them. Or ask strangers to snap a photo while they stand chummily close.

Does being close to greatness make us great?

There are lots of people I’d not want my kids or grandkids to fawn over. To make into heroes. Those who are self-obsessed, lacking in character, flaunt their status, or live lives I wouldn’t want to see replicated in my kids–not my kind of heroes.

These guys were different. They had a common thread running through these lives.

All of them know Jesus.

Tim Johnson led Penn State to a national championship, as did Tim Tebow with the University of Florida. Both were known for the character on the field and off the field. People might not have agreed with their faith, but they couldn’t find fault with how they treated others.

Jim Munroe was a skeptic. Fascinated by the supernatural and magic, he became one of the top magicians in the world. Juxtaposing truth and illusion, truth and doubt, became his passion and quest. Everything was working for him–till he got a diagnosis of terminal leukemia. He got a bone marrow transplant and experienced a medical and philosophical miracle. He’d found truth in Jesus.

These men have been masters at their crafts. They work diligently to do their best in everything. Not because they want to impress the crowds.

They do it out of love for their Lord.

Those are heroes worth having.



Twice Chosen

“Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes.”  “Radical” by David Platt

Growing up, I didn’t know families who’d adopted children. I knew about orphanages–I’d seen “Annie” and was well aware of evil Miss Hannigan who hated little girls.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen more folks choose to adopt. Two of my best friends have adopted children–bi-racial and special needs–who might not have had a family otherwise.

Thirteen years ago, my three youngest daughters and I had the privilege of  working in an orphanage in southeastern China for part of the summer. Located in the city of Dianjiang, it was nothing I’d imagined. Two hundred infants were well cared for there–196 girls, 4 boys. All four of the boys were either ill or had special needs.

The one-child policy in China made it difficult to want to raise girls when it was often the responsibility of sons to care for aging parents. These were abandoned children. Throw away kids. Not necessarily unwanted. Most definitely not needed.

As we cleaned and changed diapers, rocked babies and played with them, I fell in love with these little girls. Wondered if I could sneak one home.

Thirteen years later, we were having a gathering at our home of people John works with in the various para-church groups around the country. A gentleman walked in; I’d met him before.

Turns out he, his wife and daughter were on that trip with us. Their hearts, too, were filled with compassion for these youngsters who had no voice of their own. They did something about it.

When they returned, Ken, Judy and Heather Williams began Hope’s Heart Orphan Foundation. So many of China’s orphans are deemed unadoptable. Their eyes may not be round enough, they may have some minor physical problem, such as a cleft palate, or more serious conditions, like heart issues. These things, which parents in our country would find the resources and doctors to correct, take away the option of these children ever finding a family. Hope’s Heart focuses on giving the best possible care to these sweet blessings, whether they get adopted or not.

Sadly, most do not.

Ken and I reminisced as he filled me in on what his family was doing for these kids. Raising money to get them surgeries, providing therapists, helping them become better able to help themselves as they get older.

Adoption is on God’s heart.  He chooses us to be His. Making us an heir with His Son. Giving us the privilege of being part of His forever family. Our selfish behavior has put a barrier between us and Him, but He’s done the work to take it down.

And bring us home.

He’s chosen to create us in His image. He chooses to save us because of His love.

Twice chosen.

For those who know Jesus, there’s no better family who could take us in.

Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names.They are easier to ignore before you see their faces.It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms.But once you do, everything changes.
Radical  by David Platt

For those interested in learning more about Hope’s Heart, here’s the link: http://hopesheart.org/

Photos taken from the Hope’s Heart website.