The Battlefield

Over the past few weeks, my daughters and I have been studying the Civil War. Immersed in stories of honor, bravery, tragedy, horror, and suffering, we have been moved by the characters and impressed by the leadership that brought our nation through the most tumultuous time in our history.

To further our understanding, we have also begun a quest to visit battlefield sites— to stand where soldiers, young and old, venerable and vulnerable, stood and prayed and fought and died.  We have beheld the vast grave markers in crooked rows, standing bleakly in the fading sun, one after another, each a testimony to someone’s dad, brother, husband, friend…

As I cringe at the devastation that war brought upon our kinsman, I am thankful for the victory that saved our Union and freed our enslaved brothers and sisters.  And I can’t help but consider my present family and friends who are standing firm in their personal battlegrounds each day.  My sister, who is bravely fighting cancer, determined to win back her health and her wholeness to return to her life of ministry.  A friend whose seven-year-old faces a nine hour brain surgery to remove a twisted temporal tumor.  A relative who daily struggles with darkness of the mind and demons of the past that try to keep her from seeing the beauty of today. And on and on the list goes… friends and family and co-workers and acquaintances, all facing the effects of our fallen world in very real and personal wars.

History shows me that humanity will rise up— that even though we may be faced with dark days, we will live to see the sun rise again.  There is courage and great resolve wired in our DNA.  Our ancestors didn’t give up, and neither shall we. I believe those heroes of old could look past the present day and see a greater tomorrow.  They knew that as short as this life might be, the courage and integrity they lived out would live on and inspire a whole nation to make a much better world.  That is our heritage; that is what we should strive to do: live strongly and live well, think seriously about the legacy we each shall leave, and always remember, this earth is not our home: a battlefield, yes, but the spoils and riches lie just beyond.

To Fe, the girl who could do anything

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Is there a ball court in heaven?  If so, you are most certainly dominating!

 

A Poem-

I pause by the grave but know you’re not there

And I wonder, “Is there a ball court in the heavenly sphere?”

And every time the thunder rolls its mighty, terrible sound

I will know it is you crashing the boards for another rebound.

And I hope that there’s a sprawling stadium waiting us in glory

So you can stretch your powerful legs and let your speed tell your story.

And every time the winter wind blows swiftly across my face

I will know you’ve just sprinted another victory in a race.

And when the golden leaves in fall flutter down like rain

I will know you are dancing in heaven- wildly and without pain

And when in heat of summer I hear robins tweet in harmony

I will imagine you’re the drum major keeping them in time and on key

But I now stand at your grave and weep with all my friends

But you’re not there— you’re busy!

Your journey’s at the start and not the end.

You are bounding and singing and laughing with glee

You’re jumping hurdles and throwing the shot and whacking a softball happily—

You are full of life and full of joy, full of praise…

You are finally free.

See you soon, Dear Friend                                                                                                            —Kelley Griffin (Lammers)

Finish Strong

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Who doesn’t love a hero?

I just watched Avengers:, Infinity War with my family for the second time.  MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!!!!!

To say the least, I did not like the ending.  I sort of agree with Charlotte, who simply had tears streaming down her cheeks as Groot faded into oblivion.  There is something about a summer blockbuster movie that is supposed to leave us satisfied. We expect to leave the theater pumped up, ready to don our cloaks and hammers and take on the world.

But, if you didn’t believe it before, just watch Infinity War… not all movies end well.

Fortunately for us, Scripture does end well! God tells us His ending from the very beginning.  In fact, He reveals it right in the garden when He proclaims Jesus will crush Satan’s head!  Yet somehow we live day by day, defeated, as if our favorite hero has vanished like dust in the wind.  We walk mundanely through this life as if the enemy is victorious and we are enslaved.  We lie and cheat. We fuss and bicker. We are jealous and bitter. And we are neglecting the true identity Christ has bestowed upon us: we are His brotherhood.  We are heirs with Him! We are of royal blood, carefully chosen for wondrous works if we will just accept the assignment. Power is ours and victory is guaranteed.  Yes, there will be battles, and with that, scars. There will be set backs and frightening days ahead. But we know the outcome; we are aware of God’s grace toward us and His sovereign rule that is working good things in our lives, even on days that seem bad.

And we should walk with our heads held high.  We should aim in all endeavors to finish well, whatever the task. My daughters and I just completed our third year of homeschool.  We finished well. We worked until the end. We struggled some days, and others we soared.  But if we did only a few things right, one is that we persevered until the end. And that is how we shall do all things.

Finish well.  It is the best way to guarantee you will start well the next time. And the next. And the next.

Oh, and Marvel, please bring the dead to life!

Because of Caleb

 

aircraft-1362586_1920A set of sky blue eyes looked down at this mother and large muscled arms reached out to offer her a true hug of gratitude and goodbye. The nineteen-year-old was dressed in blue jeans and a plain hoodie, an army-issued backpack tightened behind him. He said a stoic goodbye to the others around him: his dad, his brothers, his sweet, young girlfriend. And then he proudly turned and held his head high as he walked the shiny tiled hall to his gate. He was leaving for basic training, and he was already filled with a sense of duty and military pride.

Those left behind were devastated. Their son, so young with a bright baseball career ahead had surprised the family over the holidays with his plans to leave college and join the ranks of those defending American freedom. He didn’t make excuses, he didn’t fabricate grand plans, but he spoke plainly: “It has been in my heart a long time.” “I want to serve my country.” “This is where I belong.” And in just weeks, he was shipped off.

With a courage unknown to most of us, he left the comfort of a nice home, strong family, tight community and certain future to live for something greater. His desire was simply to be a part of the fabric that holds our country together. And there are many others, just like him, who refuse to talk about doing hard things, but instead set off and do them. Missionaries, pastors, service corps, aid/relief workers, and many community servants put their lives on the back burner because they simply desire to make sure the rest of us can live freely.

Because of Caleb, and the many other young men and women just like him, I am able to worship in small Baptist church each week where we sing “Amazing Grace” and “There’s Power in the Blood” with great conviction.

Because of Caleb, and the many other young men and women just like him, I am able to homeschool my children where we may create galaxy cookies and clay models of the human body, or spend afternoons reading The Hobbit or visiting a museum.

Because of Caleb, and the many other young men and women just like him, I can participate in 5K color run or attempt a triathlon or a Spartan race, even though I am far from an elite athlete.

Because of Caleb and the many other young men and women like him, I can binge on Netflix or go nuts over March Madness. I can create a fantasy football team and join a league with my sons. I can watch the Cardinals live in St. Louis or the Razorbacks on the Hill. I can ride in a hot air balloon in California or soak in the sunset in Miami.

I can plant a garden, host a swim party, plan a summer wedding, color my hair, re-decorate my living room, or wait until February to take down Christmas lights. I can quit my job, quit my diet, max out a credit card, or sell all my possessions in a garage sale. I can write my thoughts and publish them on the world wide web, with no fear of persecution or pain.

How comfortable my life can be! How enjoyable my days with family and friends! And this idealistic American dream did not come without a price, nor is it maintained without the sacrifice of men and women, like Caleb.

To all our servicemen and women, I thank you. Sincerely and deeply, and I ask your forgiveness when I fail to honor you as I should. And to Caleb, I can’t wait to see you again!

No Turning Back

No man having put his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God, Luke 10:62

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God wants us all in. He needs laborers who are dedicated to the work, eyes forward, focused, and set on the kingdom ahead. Yet so many of us are like a plowman who keeps looking behind, distracted by the mess and the worries of the world.

My husband is a farmer and he takes great pride in straight rows and well-planted fields. Irrigation, as well as weed and pest control are much more effective when the rows are lined up so all equipment can pass through easily. Some of the success of the crop begins with a sharp focus at the beginning of spring. If he is distracted, looking behind, its much harder to keep the tractor lined up perfectly.

As a busy mom, wife, and teacher, I, too, can allow the distractions around me to keep me from doing my best work. How many times a day do I let my mind wander into what should have been or what could possibly be instead of focusing right on the relationships and work in front of me? How many times do I use my phone or computer as a distraction to avoid dealing with a problem staring me in the face? And how many opportunities for Kingdom work do I miss because I am peering into the past, mulling over regrets instead of peering forward, seeking God’s next assignment?

Christ’s words are are urgent because God’s work is urgent, and discipleship comes at great cost. Yet there is no greater joy than laboring for eternity. But only the unwavering worker, who has set his face forward, is worthy of the Master’s praise.

So as we move into spring, a season of plowing and planting and creating beautiful straight rows, let us reflect not on what is behind, but on what is ahead.

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth, 2 Timothy 2:15

Travel and Books

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page,” -Saint Augustine of Hippo.

Man, I love a good book. I am currently reading April Morning by Howard Fast which follows the life of a young teen caught in the fray of his family and politics during that first Revolutionary War battle in Lexington. It is an old book I have read before, but I am finding it fascinating as I read with adult eyes.

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A hot air balloon ride offers a chance to see a new destination with fresh perspective.

My reading tastes are wild and varied… I like mysteries, romance, poetry, and nonfiction too. (Next on my list is Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life.)
Reading is an amazing feat. In just a few seconds I am literally transformed into a world full of suspense and drama. Lives are in danger, relationships are explosive, dialogue is poetic and daring, and the characters become my fast friends or loathed enemies within just a chapter or two.

And the great part about it— as soon as I close the cover, I let it go. I can return to the dirty kitchen or head off to a volleyball game and not give those book folks another thought or fret. I can get involved, and then I can move on. I think that exercise of releasing someone else’s stress is good for the soul. That’s why I love a good book.

For the same reasons I love to travel. I absolutely enjoy breathing in the air of a new city; I love hiking new terrain; I am even excited about trying new food or fashion. I like meeting strangers, from all cultures and creeds, in hotel lobbies or airport gateways and engaging in soulful conversions, knowing I will probably never see them again.

I recently met a man on a plane who was on his way to Patagonia, South America for a three week hike through rough mountains and unchartered lands. He was almost seven feet tall, so I switched seats with him to give him more leg room. I met a couple in California on a hot air balloon ride. They were young and smiling and explained that they worked together in a paper company in Oklahoma. (I couldn’t help but think of Jim Halpert and Pam Beasley and wonder if their office was as fun as Dunder Mifflin.) I’ve met an up-and-coming artist from Chicago and an author from Mississippi. Fun, simple folks with big dreams and great stories.

Travel, like a good book, is an adventure. And, like a good book, it changes my perspective, reminds me that life is pretty good, and that others worldwide are struggling through the same journey that I am. Most people, in any culture, want to be listened to and respected. And the more I travel, the more impressed with people I become. And I gain a new optimism about the future.

Running With God

Proverbs 4:12
When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble.

This week I attended a wonderful Christian writers’ conference in Orlando. I gladly left the wet, cold Arkansas fog to embrace 80 degree days in the Florida sunshine. After a long day of travel I was anxious to unpack the bags, adjust the room temperature, and wash the travel grime off my face. To settle my mind, and my stomach, I pulled on my Nikes, tied back my hair and decided to take a quick jog around the beautiful facility to learn the lay of the land. It was late in the evening when I landed, and the time difference left me hungry for lunch at 9:30 P.M. But I knew some late night exercise would settle me before bed. The only problem was the lack of light. With the sun long gone, I was jogging through a path lit with sporadic street lights and the dim moon. I had to turn on the flashlight of my phone and hold it out in front of me to ensure I didn’t stumble on the uneven path, or worse, surprise an alligator or snake slithering back home to the nearby swamps. Needless to say, I ran slowly and was never fully relaxed until I made it back to my room safely.
Scripture tells us that the wise man will not stumble when he runs. A wise man listens to his father’s instructions, he discerns right from wrong, and he walks in the well-lit path of virtue and character. It is not easy to always do the right thing; it is certainly more natural to let anger surface or to let jealousy breed. It may even seem momentarily satisfying to lash out at others to get ahead by scheming and conniving. But choosing the way of the foolish is similar to running in the dark— it’s unsteady. The runner who cheats or lies or lives by any code other than the word of God might as well be running a darkened path riddled with potholes and splayed with rocks. It is a race that guarantees no winner; it is a run that does not satisfy. Wisdom leads the runner to the light.