Monday, July 30, 2012


Fear believes a lie,
Eden's lie: God has played false.
Faith cleaves to God-Truth.*

Let us give thanks today, trusting the truth revealed by God about Himself:
a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger,
abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,
keeping steadfast love for thousands,
forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin;

who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good;

He will not always chide or stay angry forever;
He does not repay us according to our iniquities;
His love is as great as the heavens are high;
He removes our sins as far as east from west;
His compassion is great toward those who revere Him;
His love is from everlasting to everlasting to those who fear Him;
and His kingdom rules over all.
(counting gifts still, #6936-6952, from Exodus 34:5-7 and Psalm 103)

*My friend Teagirl has me searching for haiku, even though not about nature, ever since her post last week.

Friday, July 27, 2012

God Is More than Enough {Book Review}

God Is More Than Enough
The headlines here in the last week have included the mass shooting in Colorado, the second local death from a mosquito-borne disease, and further compromise of our water supply by an invasive mussel. Panning out to the last month or so, there have been wildfires which destroyed hundreds of homes in Colorado Springs, devastating drought in the Midwest, civil war in Syria, and an election result which may exacerbate the suffering of a Christian minority on the other side of the world. That's not even taking into account the trials among my own family and friends.

Is any place safe anymore?

Into such troubled times, God Is More Than Enough by Tony Evans offers the only genuine reassurance: truth about the character of God. In a slim volume that walks the reader verse by verse through Psalm 23, Dr. Evans reminds us that true safety is not a place but a Person, Yahweh our Shepherd.

Dr. Evans has a knack for communicating even lofty theological concepts in rhythmic rhetoric which is as pleasing to read as to hear. Vivid, apt illustrations like the following make the teaching even more accessible:
If you’re where God wants you, even if it’s in the storm, you’re safer than anywhere else you could be. The prophet Daniel was safe and at peace in the lion’s den, while the king in his palace stayed awake all that night with worry. You’re safer with God in a bad place than you are without Him in what you think is a good place.
I had to learn this from my father, who still lives in the ghetto. I’ve been trying for years to get him to move, but he won’t. I went to visit him recently and as we sat on the porch, we saw drug deals going on down the street, and two women started fighting in the middle of the street like cats and dogs. It was another normal day in that neighborhood.
“Daddy,” I said, “why won’t you move? This is not a safe place.”
“Boy,” he answered (he still calls me that): “boy, let me explain something. The same God who got you out of this neighborhood, and the same God that got your brothers and sister out of this neighborhood, is the very same God that I’ve got with me right now. If God tells me to move, I’ll move. But He has me at peace right where I am, and if I’m in His will, I’m as safe here in the ghetto as anybody out in the suburbs.”
This book does not delve into scholarly linguistic analysis or much detailed agricultural information about shepherding in the ancient Near East, but neither of those is the primary concern here. Rather, Dr. Evans offers real sustenance and encouragement in the goodness, mercy, sovereignty, protection, discipline, and love of God our Shepherd. He is enough and more. Dr. Evans "puts the cookies on the bottom shelf" in readable prose and memorable illustrations which linger beyond the last page. In this reader's opinion, he succeeds admirably in bringing home his main point: God Is More Than Enough.
Full disclosure: Waterbrook Multnomah provided me a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Lord Is Peace {Names of God}

Judges 6:
Gideon is afraid. The angel of the LORD appears to him under the terebinth as he threshes wheat in a wine press, afraid of the Midianite raiders. When Gideon finally figures out who has been speaking with him, 11 verses after we do, he's afraid for his life. Who can see the angel of Yahweh face to face and live to tell the tale? (Never mind that this same angel has just given him marching orders.)

Gideon is afraid, and the angel speaks peace. Gideon raises an altar to praise the Lord. "The LORD is peace," he names it. Yahweh-Shalom. The Lord is peace: peace in the midst of marauders and impossible tasks; peace that calls Gideon to walk through fear and find God faithful.

Mark 4:35-41:
The disciples are afraid. The storm strikes so suddenly and fiercely that the waves swamp the boat. It was Jesus' idea to cross the lake, after all, but he lies sleeping in the stern when they need Him to bail. Despite their long-honed sailing skill, they panic. "Don't You care that we're perishing?"

Jesus speaks peace: peace to the wind, peace to the waves, rebuke to the disciples. They haven't figured out in four chapters what Mark told us in 1:1, that this Jesus is Messiah, the Son of God. All these miracles, all this teaching, and they still don't understand. (All His provision, all His Scriptures, two millennia of Christian witness, and am I any better?)

Jesus speaks peace to the storm, and the disciples are more afraid than ever, because they don't understand who Jesus is.

As to this Jesus, "He Himself is our peace," Paul writes to the Ephesian believers (Eph. 2:14). Peter proclaims to the Gentile soldier Cornelius "the good news of peace through Jesus Christ" (Acts 10:36).

These are troubled times. The news in the headlines is anything but good. Still, the word of the Lord stands. The LORD is peace. Jesus Himself is peace to His people. The apostolic witness in the Scriptures proclaims good news of peace through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ the God-Man (Acts 10:34-43).

Let's press through fear, my sisters and brothers, and raise our own altar of praise and thanksgiving, proclaiming to the world that even now, even here, The Lord Is Peace.

Thanks be to God for His good gifts (#6864-93):

His Word, living and written
Reading through the Bible year by year
New connections among familiar passages, always more to learn
The Holy Spirit's unfolding of Your words to give understanding to the simple
Peace, a Person
His patience with the fearful
His mighty works, in times past and still today
Opportunities every day, every moment, to call on the name of the Lord for peace to those who suffer (Peace to the grieving in Aurora!)
Protection from dangers, seen and unseen

Phone visit with a friend
Lunch visit with my parents
Arrangements coming together to replace our HVAC system
Minds working in harmony

Follow-up visit with new rheumatologist
Her commitment to resolving this chest pain
Compassion beyond the clinical data
Changes in medication routine
Further tests ahead
Another new doctor

Weekend time with family
Nonni hugs
Watching our 3 little "pirate" nephews walk the plank, have a (balloon) cannonball fight, and search for treasure in their sandbox
Birthday cake
Husband a good uncle, playing with the boys and making them laugh

Three hummingbird sightings at the feeder
A very young male cardinal being fed by his papa and learning to forage for himself

A Carolina wren singing benediction beneath the kitchen window
A thunderstorm bringing lots of noise and a heaping 1/8" rain
Rainbow flying in a day later
A painted bunting, which we've never had at our feeder before
Looks pretty fierce for a rainbow, doesn't he?

Monday, July 16, 2012

What We Need Right Now

In a bit of a fretful week, what comfort it was to read these comments on Psalm 23 from Dr. Tony Evans:
David didn't say, "The Lord was my shepherd." He didn't say, "The Lord will be my shepherd." He said, "The Lord is my shepherd." Right now. In this very moment. It's a present-tense relationship, which it must be, since God's name is I Am, and that name also reveals His eternal nature.
When God says, "I Am That I Am," He's saying, "I am always in the present tense." Everything for God is now. God has never experienced a yesterday. Nor does He have a tomorrow, so God never has to use the words I hope. . . .
Why is it important to know this about God? Because when I have a need, my need is in the now. When I have a struggle, my struggle is in the now. When I have a hurt, my hurt is in the now. And God tells us, "I am the Eternal Now. I can meet you in your present experience."
Then there are those of us that are worried and upset. . . because we're thinking about tomorrow. But God shepherds us one day at a time--He makes sure we have enough grace to cover the troubles of today. God says, "Don't worry. When you get to tomorrow, I'll be there. Just deal with today. Just let Me be your Shepherd, and I will take care of you. Receive My grace for this moment. And if you take time to thank Me for the present, you won't have time to worry about tomorrow."
God meets today's needs today. He'll meet tomorrow's needs tomorrow (God Is More than Enough, 16-17, full review to follow soon).
It's a funny thing about anxiety that it dwells on negative possibilities for future events but almost always excludes from the picture the grace of God. Even when my worries do come to pass, that grace can make the impossible possible and the painful things full of inexplicable peace and grace. I can borrow trouble from the future, but I can't borrow grace any more than the Israelites could borrow manna. It is daily bread Jesus taught us to request.

Following the advice of Dr. Evans, I will take time to thank my Shepherd for the present and to renew my thanks for His gifts of this past week:

6772. The Lord my Shepherd
6773. Jesus my good shepherd
6774. Grace enough for today
6775. Grace to endure discomfort
6776. Allen's help to get the cleaning done when our helper called in sick
6777. 1/4" rain over two evenings, the first since early June

6778. My mom able to blink her right eye for the first time since the onset of Bell's palsy after her last fall
6779. Blinking, one of those gifts we don't appreciate until we can't do it
6780. Freedom to ask for prayer
6781. and give it as well
6782. God's patience in sending me the same message several times in a short period to make sure I hear what He's saying, just like "rising up early and sending" the prophets to Israel
6783. the courage of those prophets (I'm reading in Jeremiah and Amos right now) to speak what God revealed even when they knew the message would be rejected
6784. Anxiety replaced with inexplicable peace
6785. Four years of snuggles from this sweet little guy 

6786. A midday concert from our little wren friend, singing perhaps half and hour, just for Ebony and me
6787. A friend's perfect ultrasound
6788. Virtually vacationing with another friend on a Revolutionary War tour (no packing or extra laundry on my end, just lots of great photos)

Q: If you wish to comment, I'd love to hear one thing for which you're thankful right now.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Ebony's Favorite Things {A Giveaway}

*Giveaway is now closed. Ebony is happy to announce that Lucy Mae Boggess will be receiving some of his favorite things to play with. His mama will be contacting her mama for postal address details.

In honor of Ebony's anniversary in our home, we at Wits' End would like to give a few of his favorite things to one reader to be selected by at noon (CDT) on July 20. (U.S. postal addresses only, please.)

The gift box will include the following:
One Smarter Toys IQ Treat Ball in the winner's choice of size,

One Classic KONG dog toy, also in the appropriate size for the winning pet,

and a Natural Balance Dog Food Roll. (The dog trainer we worked with in Ebony's early weeks here chopped up this food as training rewards, and we're still using it four years later.)

To enter, just leave a comment before noon, Central Time, July 20.

Ebony's Faaavorites

Today we celebrate the fourth anniversary of Ebony's joining our family. We call it his arrival day, and since we don't know his birthday, this serves for that, too. He requested that I repost his favorite piece. All right, actually I asked him if he wanted to, and he wagged his tail.

If I remember my Temple Grandin reading right, animals have no difficulty staying focused on the present moment.  That is their innate design, though, and no moral virtue.  (They don't have to get to choose like we do.) Even so, not all animals seem to enjoy the present moment.

We've had three dogs in our home over the last 11 years, and our current buddy, Ebony, is the only one who consistently, habitually seems to exhibit joy.  Countless times every day he perks up his ears and wags not just his tail but his whole body in enthusiasm.  No great variety of activity or stimulation is required to provoke his happy dance.  Most of our days conform to a pretty consistent routine, in fact.  However, in Ebony's world there are no ordinary days.  He likes his routine, revels in it, and never seems to grow tired of it.  He is my paragon of celebrating the present moment.

His day starts when ours does:
"Oh, goody! The alarm!  Now Allen-Honey and Sweetie will snuggle with me on the couch while they drink their wake-up juice!  My favorite!"

"Oh, goody! Walkies!  My favorite!"

"Oh, goody! Peanut butter and allergy medicine!  My favorite!"

"Oh, goody!  My morning nap!  My favorite!"

"Oh, goody! Lunch in my treat ball! My favorite!"

"Oh, goody! Another nap and the blankie! My favorite!"

"Oh, goody! Time to help Sweetie with physical therapy! My favorite!"

"Oh, goody! Time to patrol the yard for signs of the nefarious Dr. Miao and her evil henchcats!  My favorite!"

"Blech! Pollen decontamination wipedown!  Not my favorite! NOT MY FAVORITE!!!"
(OK, so that's an exception.)

"Oh, goody!  Allen-Honey's home! My favorite!"
T-minus 3...


Blast off!!!!

"Oh, goody! Supper! My favorite!"

"Oh, goody! More snuggles! My favorite!"

"Oh, goody! Bedtime and my Kong! My favorite!"

(Adapted from

See what I mean? Nothing spectacular or exceptional marks our daily liturgy, but Ebony has a loving family, a safe home, adequate daily food, and more napping spots than he knows what to do with.  In these daily delights he finds joy.

How much more should I, a Christian, celebrate God's daily grace in the ordinary?  Is there any ordinary day, really, for a Spirit-indwelt child of the Most High God?  Or am I just too dull, too calloused, to recognize the extraordinary embedded in the mundane?  Is that why I need hardships that disrupt the routine? To wake me up to the glory I would otherwise miss?

The ordinary, messy, beautiful physicality of daily life has been three times hallowed: by creation, Incarnation, and redemption.  Surely this is cause to seek and find ways to celebrate God's involvement in this day.

In chapter 4 of his classic book OrthodoxyG. K. Chesterton even suggests that quotidian delight reflects the very character of God.
      All the towering materialism which dominates the modern mind rests ultimately upon one assumption: a false assumption.  It is supposed that if a thing goes on repeating itself it is probably dead; a piece of clockwork.  People feel that if the universe was personal it would vary; if the sun were alive it would dance.  This is a fallacy even in relation to known fact.  For the variation in human affairs is generally brought into them, not by life, but by death; by the dying down or breaking off of their strength or desire.  A man varies his movements because of some slight element of failure or fatigue. . . .  The sun rises every morning.  I do not rise every morning; but the variation is due not to my activity, but to my inaction.  Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising.  His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life.  The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they especially enjoy.  A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life.  Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged.  They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up does it again until he is nearly dead.  For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.  But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony.  It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon.  It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them.  It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.  The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.
O Father, I am so far from this joy.  Make me, us, strong enough to exult in monotony.  Work Your delight out in us today; catch our attention with the daily beauties we miss because we are all too grown up.  May we lift our hearts toward you each day with a smile that says, "Do it again, Lord. Encore!"  In the name of the Christ who welcomed little children, in His name we ask this.  Amen.

In honor of Ebony, we'd also like to give away a few of his truly favorite things. Please comment on the following post if you'd like to enter.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Duck, Duck, Nutria?

On Friday, I walked to the park at the end of our street.  This would not merit comment, except that I haven't been able to walk that far (again) since the stress fracture in my foot in April. The unpredictable changes of chronic illness do have a way of teaching one not to take everyday blessings for granted.

This being Texas, we often keep tortillas on hand along with the sandwich bread and dinner rolls. Usually, I take great care to use leftovers and not waste food, but we recently found ourselves with half a package of stale tortillas in the refrigerator. I determined to feed them to the ducks,* but I never could get to the pond to carry out the plan, so there the tortillas sat on a bench in the hallway, stale growing staler.

Finally, Thursday I walked to the park successfully without foot pain.

The tortillas were still at home.

Friday, I walked and remembered why I was headed to the park in the first place.
The large mammals (technically, rodents) are nutria. They are not indigenous to our area but have thrived since their arrival.

It amazed me how boldly the animals came to me and how close they came. All these images were taken on my phone, i.e., without zoom. Is this how Adam felt when God brought the animals to him to receive their names? One duck even approached and sat before me with head cocked, just as Ebony does when he's waiting for a treat.

While I framed one photo, there came a tap on my shoe. I jumped and looked down. This little fellow was apparently sniffing the new breakfast machine. (He had jumped too.)

I hadn't ever noticed their webbed feet until I was processing the photos.

My grandmother Nonni used to take my sisters and me to feed the Trinity River ducks every year on our summer overnight visit to her house. She saved her stale loaf ends in the freezer until we came. Has it been that long since I slowed down to enjoy God's creatures this way?

I went to the park expecting to give, receiving nothing in return but the knowledge I hadn't thrown away unused food. I was wrong.

Joy followed me home.

*Ebony would have enthusiastically disposed of the problem, but he's part Lab. His appetite far exceeds his nutritional needs. The ducks seemed a better choice.

For the Birds

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?"
Matthew 6:25-27, NLT

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today."
Matthew 6:31-34, NLT

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow!
His patience with His little-faith, who needs constant reminders to trust and not worry
watching (and sometimes chuckling at) the birds
able to walk with less discomfort with the new orthopedic devices instead of the boot
feeding the ducks at the park
piano praise
enjoying a friend's family vacation through her daily updates
honest prayer requests
the best good news in a long while for a new cancer survivor friend
sharing the prayer burden for a stem cell transplant patient
time studying Nehemiah
confession, confession, confession
watching a dear young lady dance out her fight for joy
fellowship and flourless chocolate cake
watching fireworks with my sister
sleep deprivation
grace to thank God by faith even when we don't understand
finished projects
sisters in Christ fighting for one another in prayer even without ever having met
(from the gratitude journal, #6680-6698)