Sunday, May 20, 2007


Anyone that knows me will tell you that I love pictures. I love to take pictures, organize them, and attempt to capture every special moment. My obsession with photos became much more pronounced when we had kids. Mike had to develop film so often that he developed a friendship with the lady at the photo shop. He quickly realized that I needed a digital camera. I have since owned a few digital cameras. I adore these cameras because I can take hundreds of pictures a day in my attempts to fully capture the moment. I have tried in vain to capture Maria’s smile, Jacob’s stern look, or the perfect sunset.

I love pictures so much because a part of me is terrified that I will grow old and forget the small details of the past. I want to remember the feel of the ocean on my face, the smell of my granny’s biscuits, and the hum of the fan on a hot, steamy summer afternoon. Through my pictures, I hope to capture enough of each special moment to trigger the full memory.

The problem with my photos is that sometimes I spend so much time standing behind the lens of my camera, attempting to find the right lighting, trying to set up the perfect background, and observing the scene before me, that I fail to participate in the moment. I am often so focused on observing and analyzing the moment that I fail to become actively engaged in the moment of time that is unfolding around me.

Many of us live our lives like this. We stand back from life and analyze our environment. We judge the decisions and actions that others take and observe the activities around us. We know that if we stay behind the camera, we are safe. However, if we step out from behind the camera and begin to participate we may get hurt. If I spend my time taking pictures of the church members at the church picnic playing kickball I don’t have to worry about making a fool of myself due to my poor athletic abilities. If I spend time observing others in worship, I can safely ensure that I won’t get emotional or caught up in the spirit. If I simply analyze the relationships of those around me, I will never be hurt because I will never open myself up to true intimacy. If I simply read about the homeless and the hungry and the hurting in the news, I will not have to fear putting myself in danger, getting sick, or getting dirty.

God could have remained in Heaven and ruled over us from a distance. However, this is not the way of our God, who longed to have an intimate and true relationship with us. God did not remain safely detached behind a camera, but instead God sent Jesus to be an active participant in our world. Jesus touched the sick and fed the hungry. He risked being hurt when he formed relationships with his disciples. Jesus loved through action and experience.

If we are to be true followers of Christ, we cannot simply observe the world around us. We must be engaged participants in the world - acting out our faith as we love others.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Global View

Yesterday I had a conversation with a friend about her child starting school this year. She told me that she could not begin to describe how stressful the experience of deciding on the appropriate school (private, public, Christian, home school) can be. I told her that I did not even want to think about it. I had already started to stress about where my kids should go to school, if they would be ready for school, etc. I was stressed because I want my children to have the "best" of everything – the best opportunities, the best education, etc.

Last night, I received a magazine and was immediately convicted when I read an article. The article was about "honor killings" and "honor suicides" that are taking place in Turkey. According to the article, when young girls "disgrace" their family by talking to a boy or wearing Western cloths, the country sometimes has "Honor killings" of the person that disgraced the family. Now Turkey is attempting to join the European Union, and a new trend has emerged. Honor killings are down, but suicides are up. Many girls that were in the article had been sent messages stating that if they did not kill themselves the family would kill them.
I was immediately convicted because I am so myopic in my view of the world. While I, like many Americans, am stressed about buying the right cloths, living in a good neighborhood, and ensuring that my family has the "best", others in the world are searching for their next meal, being sold into slavery, or being tormented. It is sad that as Americans, we all know when Britney Spears is in rehab, but we have little or no knowledge about the suffering and the sadness that is happening in the larger world around us.

Psalm 139:13-16 says:

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.

When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

This description of God's love is not limited to describing Americans, or Christians, or people that look and act just like us. This passage speaks of the love and care that God used to knit each member of the human race together in their mother's womb. As Christians, I fear that we often fail to realize the value and beauty of all human life.

I do not know the answer to the world's problems, but I was convicted when I realized that I cannot begin to find answers if I am not even aware of the problems.

Monday, May 14, 2007


This article was in the Winston-Salem Journal. Much of this article rings true - it is sad that in our society we babble on and on about how much we value family and value mothers. Yet the majority of employers and corporations can produce little evidence of the value they place on motherhood.

Third Gender: Workplace bias against moms a harsh reality..
By Ellen Goodman
Sunday, May 13, 2007

BOSTON - It's become a Mother's Day tradition on a par with candy, flowers and guilt. While advertisers wax poetically about the priceless work of motherhood, economists tally up the paycheck for the services she performs.
This year, estimates the value of a full-time mom at $138,095, up 3 percent from last year. The monetary value of a second-shift mom is $85,939, on top of her day job.
But, alas, the check is not in the mail. Nor will mom find it next to the maple syrup on her bed tray. Motherhood is what the economists call a monopsony, a job for which there is only one employer. And it's a rare child who's saved up to fill mom's piggybank, let alone a 401(k).
The real story of the Mother's Day economy is less rosy. This is what to expect when you are expecting - expecting to be a mom and a paid worker at the same time. You can expect to be mommified.
Mothers are still treated as if they were a third gender in the workplace. Among people ages 27 to 33 who have never had children, women's earnings approach 98 percent of men's. Many women will hit the glass ceiling, but many more will crash into the maternal wall.
Here's a Mother's Day card from a study just published by Shelley Correll in the American Journal of Sociology. Correll performed an experiment to see if there was a motherhood penalty in the job market. She and her colleagues at Cornell University created an ideal job applicant with a successful track record, an uninterrupted work history, a boffo resume, the whole deal.
Then they tucked a little telltale factoid into some of the resumes with a tip-off about mom-ness. It described her as an officer in a parent-teacher association. And - zap - she was mommified.
Moms were seen as less competent and committed. Moms were half as likely to be hired as childless women or men with or without kids. Moms were offered $11,000 less in starting pay than non-moms. And, just for good measure, they were also judged more harshly for tardiness.
"Just the mention of the PTA had that effect," says Correll.
"Imagine the effect of a two-year absence from the work force or part-time work."
If this is true in the lab, it's true in real life. Joan C. Williams, who runs the Center for WorkLife Law at Hastings Law School, says discrimination against women may have gone underground, but "the discrimination against mothers is breathtakingly open. Mothers are told, 'You belong at home with the kids; you're fired.' "
In the stories from the center's hot line and in the growing case law they've accumulated on family responsibility discrimination (FRD), you hear about women overtly denied promotions for having a child, told to have an abortion to keep a job, or rejected for a new job because "it was incompatible with being a mother." Family emergencies are treated differently than other timeouts. And things are at least as bad for dads when they take on mommy's work of caregiving.
I'm not suggesting that mothers quit the PTA, hide the kids or even sue, although the 400 percent increase in FRD suits has, um, raised some corporate consciousness. But at the very least, we have to turn the story line around.
No, mothers are not actually a third gender. More than 80 percent of American women have children and 80 percent of those are employed by the time their kids are 12. The reality of the workplace affects us all.
The much-touted mommy wars are as useful in solving our problems as a circular firing squad. And tales of women "opting out" of professional careers squeeze out the tales of women being pushed out.
As for the idea that women's lives are an endless array of choices?
Williams says ruefully, "An awful lot of what gets interpreted as a mother's choice to drop out is really a 'take this job and shove it' reaction by mothers who encounter discrimination."
How many mothers would choose to spend more time at home if the fear of re-entry weren't so daunting? How many would choose to stay in the work force except for one sick child, one snow day, one emergency room visit?
And how many dads would choose to live up to their own family ideals?
On Mother's Day 2007 there is still a deep-seated bias that puts the image of a "good mother" at odds with that of an "ideal worker."
Until we wrestle down the beliefs and the rules of the workplace, our annual homage to the family-values keeper will be as sentimental as this year's $138,095 paycheck.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

God's Pleasure

In the movie, Chariots of Fire, Eric Liddell states, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel his pleasure.” I love this quote because so often I become focused on all that is “required” of me by God, and I forget that God created me to feel joy and to bring pleasure to God.

Many of you can probably relate to Eric. For example, I know that many musicians and singers feel God’s pleasure when they play music or sing praises to God. However, for many of us, it may be more difficult to identify an activity that we participate in that allows us to feel God’s pleasure.

The main reason that I cannot identify activities that cause me to feel God’s pleasure is because I never slow down enough to simply take pleasure in the moment. I tend to rush to work, rush while at work, rush to do things at home, and even when I am supposed to be “relaxing” with friends or enjoying church activities, I am often thinking of things that need to be done instead of simply savoring the moment. In fact, I rush around so much that people have even told me that they can see my energy in the way that I walk – I walk fast and with a purpose.

While being organized and working hard can be good, there is a problem with work when it interferes with spending quiet time enjoying God’s creation. There are many reasons that we do not take the time to enjoy God’s creation and to “feel God’s pleasure.” For one, we live in a society that glorifies filling every moment with “productive time.” Many attorneys that I know brag about working 90 hour weeks and not having a vacation in 5 years. Parents schedule every moment of their kids’ lives with sports, dance, music, school, and other activities. When we do try to take a moment to simply breathe, we often feel guilty because others will jealously say, “I wish I had the time to relax.” As adults, we also complain that the older we get, the faster time flies. We state that when we were kids time seemed to crawl, but as adults it flies by in a flash. However, time is not racing past us - we are racing through time.

If you want to find ways to feel God’s pleasure, the solution is simple, but difficult to apply day to day. All that is required is to slow down for a moment and be fully in the moment (without worrying about tomorrow, without thinking about all you have to do). Take time to drink your coffee slowly – engage all of your senses as you smell the coffee, taste the coffee, and feel the warmth in your hands. As I have shared in the past, when I was in the hospital on bed rest for 12 weeks with Jacob, I had to learn to savor the small moments. When I showered (which was the only time I had alone in my day, away from hospital staff, etc.), I took time to smell the soap, to feel the warm water on my back. During these brief moments, I felt God’s pleasure as I enjoyed the wonderful world that God created.

Psalms 104: 24, & 33-34 says:

How many are your works, O LORD!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.

I will sing to the LORD all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
May my meditation be pleasing to him,
as I rejoice in the LORD.

As you slow down, take a moment to meditate on the many works of the Lord – then you will feel God’s pleasure.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Picking Blackberries

I, like most people, am very busy. I spend most of my day rushing from place to place. Amidst this busyness, I have created a set of “rules” that I live by. My rules are often rigid and sometimes, upon reflection, seem absurd. However, the rules give structure to my busy life, which sometimes feels out of control.

For example, I love to play with my kids. I desperately want to be a “fun” mom. However, I find myself getting stressed out when the kids get too messy, or when they mix all the play dough together, or when they break crayons. These activities do not fit with my structured “rules.”

The problem with my business and my rules is that I sometimes miss out on life, which is moving on and being lived around me. I am so concerned with doing things the “right” way, that I often miss out on the experience of the relationship.

In Exodus Chapter 3, Moses saw a bush burning in the distance. He walked to the bush and this happened:

When the Lord saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
“Here I am!” Moses replied.
“Do not come any closer,” the Lord warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground.

I love this translation of the verse because it does not state, “Take off your sandals, for this ground is holy ground.” Instead, the verse states that the ground is holy ground. I am so busy and consumed by the right way to do things that I fail to notice that the very ground that I am standing on is holy. We are constantly surrounded by the powerful presence of God, and we are standing on holy ground, if we just take the time to notice.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning stated this best in her poem:

Earth’s crammed with heaven,And every common bush afire with God; And only he who sees takes off his shoes;The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries

When we are too “busy” to see the holiness around us, we might as well be sitting round mindlessly picking blackberries. However, when we slow down and take the time to watch and listen, we will discover that the earth is “crammed with heaven” and even the most common bushes are afire with God. Only those who see will take off their shoes - the majority will simply fail to see the holiness and the miracles around them.