Saturday, February 20, 2010

Soapbox Saturday: Why Lent Annoys Me…

I  never fast during the Lenten season. By fasting, I mean “giving up” some creature comfort in my everyday life, as the modern custom goes. Honestly, I’m tainted when it comes to this subject.

I grew up hearing this most peculiar phrase…

”I’m giving up chocolate for Lent.”

”She’s giving up shoe shopping for Lent.”

"Little Jason is giving up Nintendo for Lent.”

As a kid in a nominal Christian home, watching this custom from the benches left me feeling…

Unrighteous. Unholy. Unworthy.

Of coarse, as a child those weren’t the exact phrases I thought of. More or less, just a general sense of “Un”.

Now, fully understanding the concept—and the many degrees—of Mortification of the Flesh, the custom irks me even more.

Not the fasting, or the sacrifice of one’s creature comforts to relate more to Christ and His sacrifice. It’s a wonderful tool to draw near to Him.

It’s the announcing it to anyone who’ll listen that makes me cringe.


I want to shout, “No! You’re not supposed to tell me! What’s the point if you tell people?”

Sure, you might find yourself needing to explain to someone WHY you aren’t watching American Idol or eating the fantastic chocolate cake their served for dessert. That type of revelation is usually not boastful. Usually. I’m sure there are exceptions.

I am not a theologian, but I know this: fasting, prayer, and charity are NOT meant to be done for the approval of man. God knows our hearts and intentions.  

If you love the Lord, and fast during Lent, that is awesome. He is where our righteousness rests.

If you insist on telling everyone and their brother that you are “giving up Starbuck’s for Lent”, I hope your audience is impressed.

Don’t get your hair shirt in a bunch, but I’m not. And I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m not the only one.

Matthew 6:16-18

"When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday Fiction: Three Inches Closer

For this week’s Friday Fiction, I am posting my story that semi-finaled and received an Honorable Mention in the WOW! Fall Flash Fiction Contest.

Three Inches Closer

Micah awoke in the dining room. The house hummed loudly of a hundred murmured conversations all bleeding together. It made her ears buzz and her head feel cloudy.

Though she couldn’t recall where she had been in the moments before, she found herself staring at the deep pink freckles of a Stargazer lily bouquet displayed on the buffet server. The obnoxious fragrance exploded in Micah’s face, clinging to her like a plastic bag held over her head. Her heart quickened and she became fearful of the blooms; their orange pistils seemed to reach out as if to strike her. They wanted to steal her breath—punish her for something. She imagined smashing the vase to the floor and crushing the lilies under her feet.

Instead, Micah opened the top drawer that held Mama’s silver set. Her knuckles brushed against the velvet lining as she removed a serving spoon. She stood captivated by her inverted reflection in its shiny bowl, stretching her face like a melting monster. Finally, she slid the spoon into her pocket and disappeared out the back door.

The steady rain pelted her back as she pried up the corner of lattice board on the wraparound porch, her secret entrance to her private oasis. As Micah squeezed through the opening, the black tulle that lined her dress tore, its scrappy ribbon dragging behind her in the dirt. She didn’t notice.

Ironically, in the dim and dank crawlspace, Micah was finally able to breathe. She sat cross-legged next to her box of prized possessions: a parrot feather, a robin’s vacated egg shell, a fossil she found in the creek bed. Inconsequential things to anyone else, but the familiarity of them in her hands calmed her.

She flinched as the screen door above her screeched open, and its weathered spring drew it violently back into the doorframe. And then again. The creaking footfalls above her caused small puffs of dust to rain down on Micah. She heard them settle into the porch swing where Mama always sat, followed by the gritty sound of a match being struck.

“Thanks for the light,” a woman said.

“No problem,” an equally unfamiliar man replied.

Disappointed, Micah returned to inventorying her memory box.

“Did you know her well?” he asked.

“Vaguely. I’ve worked with her husband, Jack, for a few years now. She tried this last fall, too.”

Absently, Micah crushed the delicate, speckled shell in her hand.


“Mmm,” Micah heard the extended exhale of smoke, “and a couple years before that. It was really just a matter of time.”

Micah drew the spoon from her pocket and began to scoop the dirt floor.

“Jeez, poor guy.”

“Yeah, but I think my heart breaks most for their kids,” she paused, “especially the girl. Ya know…she found her.”

Her hands began to tremble, but Micah dug more furiously.

“For the love of…”

“Oh, yeah. Came home from school and found her in bed. Poor kid lost her mind and climbed under the covers next to her mom…Jack came home and found em’ both covered in blood.”

Micah thought she could smell the lilies again, suffocating her.

“I heard the blood soaked all the way through the mattress. At first he thought they were both dead, but the little girl was just catatonic from the shock.”

She began to hum and rock on her knees; Micah stabbed the spoon as deep as she could with her left hand, and paddled the dirt away with her right.

“Well, that’s why they’re having the funeral ten days later—Jack had to have her hospitalized and medicated. She’s still not really talkin’.” Exhale.

A sheen of sweat covered Micah’s face. Her heart pounded against her eardrums.

“Gosh, I can’t even imagine the shrink bills for this family.”

“Amen to that.” The woman flicked her cigarette butt over the rail. Micah watched it smolder in the wet mulch next to the hydrangeas. Part of her wanted to reach through the lattice and clutch it in her fist. The swing groaned in relief as they stood, “Worse yet, someday that kid’s gonna realize that her mama’s burning in hell for killin’ herself…”

Micah crumpled to her side, squirming to fit in the excavated hole that was not much bigger than her memory box. It was too shallow to swallow her up, unlike the earth that devoured the mahogany casket just a few hours before. But she was three inches closer to Mama.

Which was where she desperately needed to be.





Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Fireflight: God’s Music on Steroids

About a month ago, I left the kiddos at home with their daddy, and went to Winter Jam with my sister. I had not been to Winter Jam since I was a brand new believer, and was then drawn to the show by Third Day (who, btw, still rocks). At that concert years back I discovered Nicole Nordeman and Bebo Norman. That show made an impact on me, seeing so many young people so enthusiastic about Christian rock. Then again, it certainly wasn’t the same Christian rock that was floating around in my youthful years (Amy Grant comes to mind…not too high on the “cool” scale).

With Third Day headlining again, touring with their latest EP, Revelation, I had to go. Being so far removed from the new music scene in any genre, I was anticipating getting to hear some of the fresh artists out there on the Christian rock scene.

Fresh doesn’t begin to describe Fireflight. Intense, high-decibel, and not an iota of fluff. I heard three songs and knew I was going to purchase the CD at their merchandise table.

I hit the restroom before intermission (not my first rodeo, baby), and went on a search for their table. When I got there, I found about twenty middle school aged girls lined up to buy their stuff. That definitely stalled me a moment. I typically do not make purchases—ANY purchases—in the same demographic range as a thirteen year old girl. Perhaps a three song sampling wasn’t enough. Then it occurred to me: Fireflight was the only group with a female lead at Winter Jam. So I took a leap of faith and bought their first two CD’s, as well as their five song Unbroken and Unplugged CD.

I was not disappointed. I loved the driving tempos, the great lyrics, the metal guitars. I equally loved the contrast given on their unplugged tracks; cellos and other classical stringed instruments took the place of the raging guitars, and the melody slowed a few paces, letting me really experience the depth of Dawn Michele’s vocal talents.

Today Fireflight’s new CD, For Those Who Wait, has its official release. For a limited time, you can purchase it for $6.99 via iTunes (you can find the link on Fireflight’s website). In the right margin >>> is my MixPod, which has two tracks off  For Those Who Wait, and several more of my favorites.

I found an excellent article that gives the band’s history and profile—check it out HERE if your interested.

I am certain that Fireflight’s style would be too loud and intense for my parents. But for someone like myself that gets slightly nauseated by the bubblegum Christian pop music that is typically played on the commercial “Christian music” stations (could you hear me gag a little?), then the new Fireflight CD has the potential to be your latest driving CD.

Just remember to buckle up:)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Pronunciation Learning Curve

We call her chatterbox. She never stops talking. She talks in her sleep. Since this video was captured she has added oodles of words to her repertoire, but still cannot properly pronounce the “cha” prefix of this particular word. Go figure.

I really hope they never, ever, give Reagan anything chocolate at church. Seriously.


Friday, February 5, 2010

Friday Fiction: Immersed

I used to rest on the southern bank of this river. Back then, when it was all I had ever known, I thought it was a good place to be. I could see the emerald forest on each bank; the water shimmering in the sun, the wildlife coming to its edges to drink.

On the surface I was coarse and shrouded in filth—my edges sharp. And I liked that.

It’s strange, but I don’t recall exactly how I ended up in the water. It was more like the river swelled and covered me. Suddenly, an eon of accumulated dirt was washed away…pushed as far to the east as the current could carry it. And even though everything had changed—and I had no idea what was going to happen to me—I liked it so much more than resting on the bank.

For the first time, I felt alive. When the swollen river waters rushed over me, it stirred me; caressed me; smoothed my sharpest points. After a while, I barely resembled my old self. The water made me something new…something different. I felt safe, and like I was where I was always meant to be.

Eventually the swollen banks receded some, and the water calmed and cooled. Even though the river was always surrounding me, it did not pursue me like it had in those first days, or so it seemed to me. I came to rest in the shallow shoreline, a mere measure from the bank that once held me. I thought then that it was the best of both worlds. I could see the trees though the calmer waters; I could almost touch the wildlife the skirted the edges. And some part of me liked that—being able to glimpse at my old life.

However, the longer I remained there—in that shallow water, in the absence of the current—I settled my weight into the mud…seemingly content.

But then another change came.

It happened so slowly that I didn’t notice it for a long time. A spot here and there, mostly on the side facing away from the water’s flow. But before I knew it, my somewhat smooth surface was covered. Covered with the most uncomfortable green algae. It permeated every pore, hid in every crevice. I felt so ugly, so ashamed.

The worst part was being so helpless, like this slimy curse was devouring me. Occasionally, a small sucker fish would come along and attempt to remove the hideous green film from me, but the more mature fish stayed in the depths of the river, where it was safe. They would clear a spot here…a spot there, but never enough of it to make me feel clean again. I yearned for the cure from my stagnant plague. I begged for it.

And slowly, the water began to warm again.

I heard my cure coming before I felt it. The roar of the waters echoing off the towering limestone walls filled me with fear. For a moment, I wished that I could just stay put; tethered to the shallow river bed in my murky green prison. And I hated that.

But the river’s will does not heed to the whim of one of its frightened limestones, for it cuts its own path, and bows to nothing. The raging flood waters pummeled me; the uprooted trees and debris loosened and scraped me from the river bed. With a multitude of other fragments of creation, I was swept downstream in the river’s wrath.

I was thrust against a boulder, dashed across a log. I felt a pointed corner break clean off when I was dragged along a gravel bar. A fleck of green left behind here, a fleck there—a tiny work in progress. It was such a joyful pain to endure. I hated the hurt, but embraced the cure.

It seemed like an eternity the river carried me, over miles…even years. I felt it sheer strength when it was at its most fierce. But now that the waters have calmed, and it has gently rested me in its depths—where the living water smoothes me a little more every day in its hands—I feel its sovereign grace.

And I love that.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Facebook is Killing My Blog

I am probably not alone in this, but it’s true.

Why write out a five hundred word blog post about the wisdom behind using the word “pants” around your toddler instead of “britches” when I can just throw out a witty line or two in my FB status update? I mean, instantly it’s on more than one hundred friends computer screens, yielding multiple comments and endless whimsical banter…it’s just too easy.

Some people use their Facebook page as bait to get people to their blogs, but I have succumbed to just tossing out my little quippy minnows and nothing more. Bad, writer, bad. Lazy, tired writer, too, but that’s no excuse.

So, from here on out, I will put on my comfy writing britches pants, and try to pound out a blog post more often than quarterly, as well as post some of my stories for Friday Fiction. 

Sleep is overrated anyway.