Peanut Butter Rain

As a father of five children, I frequently draw upon my military experience to make sure everyone behaves properly and is ‘squared away’. It is not uncommon for me to bark out orders to various children, or to quell any dissension ‘in the ranks’ with a raised eyebrow that my Basic Training drill sergeant would be proud of. I love my children dearly, and am often playful and silly with them, but I expect to be obeyed quickly and completely, as long as they are under my authority. This gets tricky as they begin to pass out of my authority, but that is a subject for another day.

As the scripture indicates, a mature believer “… must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect.” (1 Timothy 3:4). I don’t think this passage refers only to elders, but for any Dad who desires to be a honored vessel in God’s household. Seeking to pattern myself after that standard, I like to have the things in my life under control, all nailed down and figured out.

Sarah and her bears
Even little Sarah likes to keep all her plastic bears in line, properly color-coded.

Last week I was driving home from church, and I looked in the rear-view mirror of my car. I noticed a lonely, half-bowl of dry Peanut Butter Crunch ™ cereal, neglected by my youngest daughter between the car seats. Breakfasts on Sunday mornings are often taken on-the-fly — Kathy must’ve been driving more quickly than usual, and so Sarah’s breakfast was cut tragically short. I had an idea.

David often has good ideas.

“What luck!” I chortled. “Her loss is my gain,” I exulted. Boxes of Peanut Butter Crunch don’t last long in our household, even when it seems I buy them by the gross. I reached back between the seats and grabbed the bowl with my right hand, carefully maintaining my grip on the steering wheel with my left hand.

Suppose you were riding with me in the car, and you were the kind of annoying person who liked to place bets on everything. “I’ll bet a dollar that you can’t get that cereal without spilling it,” you might sneer. I would have offered ten-to-one, or maybe even fifty-to-one odds that I could successfully grab that bowl of Peanut Butter goodness, and bring it safely to my lap without spilling a single one. After all, I have a pretty steady hand, and am a skilled driver; there is no reason I would lose control over such a simple physical operation. Besides, I’m awfully fond of Peanut Butter Crunch.

Daniel reads
David and Sarah are awfully fond of a good story.

As I brought the bowl over the passenger seat, the right front wheel of the car struck a small bump in the road, and what seemed like a family-sized box of cereal leapt out of the bowl and into the air. Pandemonium ensued, as two competing objectives fought for supremacy in my body:

  • (a) the laudable objective of keeping the car on the road, or
  • (b) the understandable effort to catch every piece of Peanut Butter Crunch before they rolled away into oblivion

Later, after the car was pulled from the ditch, I thought about this life-lesson: I am not in control of my life.

Sweatshirt Kids
Hopefully, Sarah won’t hold a grudge about her lost Crunch cereal.

The car didn’t really end in the ditch, I’m just teasing about that. But it made me think about the many factors in my life that I work so hard to control, and which are really not controlled by me at all. My health, my job, my family, my relationships with people at church, even my relationsip with God — all of these things are outside my complete control. I may be able to influence them, but the sovereignty of God is supreme. I can trust and pray, and do my best to obey my King, but He decides when the bowl moves smoothly to the front seat, and when a crunchstorm fills the car.

I love Peanut Butter Crunch!
Not my actual box of Captain Crunch.


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A Day in the Life of a Programmer

One of the huge blessings in this life that God has given me is a job that challenges my mind, and pays enough for our family to live comfortably. Because my work involves connecting remotely to servers I will never see, it doesn’t really matter where I do my work; for this reason, I am permitted to work from home quite often.

When I was employed by another company, doing a similar job, I used to work four days a week from home, only going ‘into the city’ once a week. If something prevented me from doing this, it might be a couple of weeks between visits to my office. Over time, this caused me to avoid projects on which I would need to collaborate with other employees, and ultimately that practice reduced my value to the company. In the Fall of 2002, I was laid off, and did not find regular work for another seventeen months.

When it began to be possible to work from home in this job, I was determined to be more careful. I make sure to go in to the office whenever there is any meeting that requires my attendance, and I almost never work more than three days a week from home.

A scary building to be in during an earthquake
Not my actual office ‘in the city’.

I work in a team of four, and we mostly each have our own responsibilities, few of which overlap. Still, the days I’m in the office are often festive – we congregate in the corridor for impromptu team meetings, and there is much banter and wit exchanged. We play jokes on each other, and laugh together about the latest corporate buzz-words and propaganda. Upper-level managers, visiting our corner on days when we’re in full swing, often walk away shaking their heads in bemusement.

Today was a particularly good day, even though it started out quite badly. I woke before my alarm (a fate nearly worse than death) with an allergy attack, and spent the extra time paying bills. I packed my own lunch, and it wasn’t as generous as Kathy usually provides (I often eat all three meals away from home on my commute days). I forgot my allergy meds at home, and rushed back to get them, nearly missing my train.

Sounder Commuters
Not my actual commuter train, but very close.

Arriving at work, I fretted about the size my lunch. “Will it be enough to forestall the mid-afternoon munchies?” I wondered. “I don’t think so,” I answered myself gloomily. I’m not a major source of encouragement in my life.

Several weeks ago, I scraped the last morsels from my secret jar of Nutella (the one that I kept discreetly stashed in my desk drawer) and the last of the Christmas chocolates was long ago devoured. A sad feeling welled up briefly as I sat, contemplating an afternoon barren of chocolate. I pondered the burning question of the ages: “Is life worth living without Nutella?”

Setting my face like Play-doh ™ against such maunderings, I turned to my work. It wasn’t until lunchtime, when I needed some salt for my lunch, that I opened my desk drawer.

There, gleaming in the sickly fluorescent lights, was a brand-new, un-opened jar of Nutella! The rich auburn brown of my favorite hazelnut spread was clearly visible through the translucent jar, all the way to the top. I grabbed for it, afraid it might be a holographic trick, but its solid heft reassured my tight grasp … it was real!

“A jar of Nutella, in my desk drawer,” I exulted, loudly enough to bring my co-workers out of their cubes. “Which of you did this wonderful thing?”

Me and my faithful jar
Not my actual Nutella jar.

Guilty looks abounded, but my benefactor chose to remain anonymous. “Maybe Eric brought it up,” hypothesized one co-worker, innocently. (Eric, when he chooses to reward us, usually brings donuts, and never secretly.)

There was only one thing to do, truly the only thing that can be done with a new jar of Nutella: I broached the foil seal and dove in with a spoon.

Even now, riding home on the train, the unexpected gift brings a smile to my face. It is true that I prefer to work from home on the days that I can, enjoying my family and a very short commute, but working in the city has its charm: my faithful Nutella jar, waiting patiently in that desk drawer.


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Good to Be in the House

Today I was blessed by a song in our worship service: Jesus, Thank You.

I’ve been a follower of Jesus Christ for 38 years, and in all that time I’ve had ample opportunity to sin against my Holy God. Today it was brought home to me how awesome a gift that it is, that the blood of my Savior has cleansed me, and turns aside God’s wrath completely.


‘Nuff said.


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The Unnamed Post

I’ve got some delicious chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven. It’s 11:30 pm, but surely that’s not too late to bake cookies. Tim and I had a fun idea for our Sunday School class tomorrow and fresh baked cookies are part of our scheme.

I love this 8 year old!

David loves my chocolate chip cookies.

But then is there ever a time when fresh baked chocolate chip cookies (with a scattering of butterscotch chips) aren’t welcome.

Maybe at a Weight Watchers meeting.

bunch of park cuties

This is not an actual Weight Watchers Meeting.

These, of course, are made with half whole wheat flour. Or rather white whole wheat. What does that even mean? Does anyone know? It’s a type of King Arthur flour and it’s actually called white whole wheat. Interesting. I’m hoping it means I can use it in chocolate chip cookies and no one will fuss about the whole wheat texture/flavor.

We’ll see.

chocolate trail mix

These are not my chocolate chip cookies.

On Thursday nights, when I should be working on homeschool co-op prep and getting ready for a good night’s sleep, I am often overcome with an irresistible urge to bake. It’s not logical. It’s not helpful. It is, however, very tasty. Last week I made cinnamon crispies – basically an incredibly sweet and delicious cinnamon roll. I discovered the recipe on a blog. Go now and check it out. Your family will rise up and call you blessed.

Of course, they’ll also need to spend some time at that Weight Watcher meeting, but the cinnamon crispies are worth it.

This week I made up a huge batch of chocolate Chex mix. We had some at our Debt Free party and the kids have been raving over the leftovers ever since.

“I’m addicted to trail mix. Did I ever tell you that?” Joshua said to me several times during the week.

What’s a mother to do? Obviously she should wait until the last minute on Thursday night and make trail mix.

I’m sure you all agree.

Now, it turns out that my three older children are very particular about what they like in their trail mix. Or rather, what they DON’T like in their chex mix. The basic mix consists of: Chex cereal, Cheerios, nuts (this time it was peanuts and cashews), pretzels, a little bit of M&M’s, and dried fruit. As this was a “muddy” trail mix I melted chocolate and peanut butter chips and drizzled them over the entire thing, stirring gently.

Joshua likes raisins but not craisins.
Daniel likes craisins but not raisins.
Rachel likes craisins but not raisins or pretzels.

Daniel's Special Day

Tim, it has been revealed, likes any and all trail mix. Preferably the kind with lots of chocolate.

Hmmm, not a problem I decided. I pulled out several large bowls, divided out the ingredients and made individual recipes of mix per child. I did have to verify the preferences several times but after a little bit of work I had trays full of Just My Favorite Chex mix for the kids.

From there I went on to make banana chocolate chip muffins.

Please don’t ask me how many hours of sleep I routinely get on a typical Thursday night. It’s not pretty. Thankfully my Fridays include plenty of strong coffee and many other blessings.

If you have any suggestions for what I should make this week, do share. I like to bring some sort of treat or goodie to my co-op classes. You know, to bribe the teenagers into doing their work and thinking I’m a cool teacher.

It’s mostly working. They haven’t fired me yet.


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You Are What You Read

In January of this year, Tim, Joshua and I went to a prayer conference in Jefferson, Oregon. We attended this same conference two years ago, but this time we decided to bring Joshua with us and introduce him to some of the concepts of a disciplined spiritual walk.

Sure enough, Joshua loved the conference and has determined to drag some friends along next year. Since we returned home, I have seen a gentle and steady growth in his life. Already committed to daily Bible reading, he has remained faithful and consistent in his study of the Word. On Pastor Duke’s urging, Joshua created a prayer list of important people in his life and ministry. Nearly every afternoon, Joshua sets off, prayer cards tucked in the pocket of his sweatshirt, for a 30 to 40 minute prayer walk.

my oldest boy

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. I Peter 3:12

My own prayer life and commitment to Bible reading has been lackluster and dull for more years than I would care to admit. In fact, the only reason I can write about it now is I have begged the Lord for forgiveness for my apathy and neglect. Imagine my growing shame and conviction as I would see my 15 year old son sitting faithfully, morning after morning, reading his Bible.

“Well, I’ve read the Bible before,”
I would say to myself, grumbling at the pricks of conscience.

“I go to Bible study every week. Okay, nearly every week. I even do my study, most of the time. That’s reading the Bible. We’re in Esther right now. I read it today, or yesterday. Well, maybe I did 4 days worth of lessons last night, still that’s pretty good. I did finish the week’s work in time for the discussion. I wouldn’t want anyone to think I didn’t do my lesson.”

“Not to mention,” here we go, “Sunday School class. I go to the Adult Bible Fellowship class on Sunday mornings. We’ve studied book after book of the Bible. That’s some in-depth and serious reading.” The defenses go up pretty quickly.

“No, I don’t read it during the week, or look at the passages ahead of time. That’s what the teacher is for! I’m in class, though, and I bring my Bible with me every week.”

Oh, Lord forgive my pride and arrogance! To think I could grow spiritually with such a casual disregard for the Word of God.

In February, I began to listen to a series of sermons by Pastor Duke, called The Daily Dozen Duties. Dee is easy to listen to, with homespun illustrations and practical applications.

With each sermon, I became more and more alive and excited about my walk with the Lord. I was convicted about my flabby spiritual muscles and the lack of time I have spent in pursuing God.

tim, dee and moi

We paid big bucks for this shot with Pastor Duke.

“No more,” I decided. “Time for a radical change.”

In the middle of February, I began to practice the dozen duties – read my Bible, confess sin, pray for wisdom, commit my day to the Lord, and so on – on a daily basis. Not just once or twice, or halfheartedly, but with commitment and consistency.

I printed up cards on the first four points, reminding me of the scriptural basis for the daily dozen, and posted them around the house. I purchased audio versions of the Bible to load on my phone. I ordered an ESV translation of the Bible for my phone so I could read along during the day. I committed to reading a Psalm, Proverb, and New/Old Testament chapter each day. Soon that wasn’t enough. I decided to follow Pastor Duke’s example and read 5 Psalms and a chapter of Proverbs a day, going through all of Psalms and Proverbs monthly.

My love of reading God’s Word was renewed. My desire for Him grew and grew. I calculated the chapters in the Gospels and the letters to the church and divided them into a monthly reading schedule. I’m committed to reading the Psalms, Proverbs, Gospels and Epistles entirely each month! I use my phone notepad to keep track of my reading schedule.

My prayer is that this would not be a “fad” or passing fancy, but the beginning of a deep and abiding love for the scriptures. I share this, not to brag or be prideful (“Lord, my eyes are on You alone, and my ears do not seek the praise of man.”), but to encourage you to pick up your Bible!

Psalm 119 is full of the blessings that come from reading God’s Word – comfort, purity, rescue, understanding, joy, salvation, guidance, and on and on. I am greedy for those blessings and more!

studying to be knights

Not the scriptures, but at least they’re reading. Ha!

I read in the mornings when I dry my hair (ear phones on, listening to the audio Bible and following along with the text). I read in the car when I’m waiting for the children. I sneak time to read on the elliptical at the Y. I read it on the couch, snuggled under a blanket, a steaming cup of coffee in one hand. I read it at night while brushing my teeth.

Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Psalm 119:97

I am embarrassed to be a Christian of thirty-some years and to be so shallow and immature in my faith. I am racing to catch up, running and striving with everything I can to deepen my walk. As my children grow and change (and, in many ways, pass me in maturity and wisdom), I find myself confronted with my own aging. My eyes are opening to the fact that my time here on this earth is limited. I want to become a Champion for Christ, and make good use of every opportunity I have to serve Him. I feel a sense of urgency which drives me.

these two are buddies!

I’m praying these two will also become Champions for the Lord!

Along with being committed to intense, daily Bible reading, Pastor Duke is a prayer warrior. He prays 3 hours a day himself, encourages his congregation to pray every day for 15 minutes, and to work up to one hour, one day a week.

“What??? How am I going to find an hour in my day to pray?” I asked Tim plaintively. “I’m already spending all my free time reading the Bible.”

Tim shrugged. “You’re not going to find the time, you’re going to have to make the time.”

Ouch! Sure enough, there IS time in my day. Here and there, little pieces are available for prayer. I am no where near an hour yet. I pray in the mornings when I’m in the shower (is that too much information?) and try to pray/journal some every day. Tim and I pray together at least twice during the week.

My beloved friends, I strongly encourage you to find your passion for the Lord. Do not do as I did for so many years, and settle for a mediocre, lackluster spiritual walk. Stop by Pastor Duke’s church website. Go to his sermon archives and download some of the sermons. The daily dozen are on page seven. You will be blessed and encouraged! Play the sermons in your car, on the computer, on your mp3 player, wherever is most convenient.

To God be the Glory! I’m excited to see what work He will do in me next.

May the Lord bless the reading of His Word and find me faithful.


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