Witches, Bad Guys, and Wolves

Catie, our oldest daughter, is absolutely certain that predatory wolves lurk in the shadows of our house. Convinced. At night she turns on all the lights, stays up late, and stares at the ceiling.

“Mommy,” she says, when I tell her to go to sleep. “You don’t see the wolves because you don’t believe in them.”

“Maybe you should not believe in them too,” I suggest.

“I try. I tell myself ‘when you close your eyes, don’t think about wolves. But you know what? THAT makes me see the wolves.’”

When I was eight years old, it was the green-faced witch from Wizard of Oz. In my dark bedroom, I was terrified to put my legs over the side of the bed because I just knew she would grab my ankles. It wasn’t until the morning came that  I could swing my legs over the bed and hop right out, completely secure in the morning light.

Elisabeth is terrified of the bad guys who want to grab her when she comes around a dark corner by herself. She is so convinced that it’s the dark the bad guys like. “I’m fine,” she says, “as long as I stay in the light.”

Which might explain our recent electricity bill. With half the kids afraid of the dark, our household is single-handedly keeping the energy company in business.

Before we left the house this morning, I turned off twelve lights.

What does this mean, except the females in our family have excellent imaginations and we’re wasting a lot of money on electricity?

I think all this self-inflicted obsessing is all a wonderful reminder for me.

Maybe for you, too.

Lately I’ve been scared about what it means to be thirty-eight.

“What happened to the first half of your life?” the wolves and witches and bad guys whisper to me. “Look at everything you didn’t accomplish then. Meeting your goals will get exponentially harder every single day now. You’re over, a has-been. You. Are. Done.”

In the dark, these whispers can motivate me to do all these the wrong things: Overbook my schedule with STUFF to distract me. Sulk. Bristle. Obsess. And, of course, just like imaginary wolves of bad guys, the more energy I breathe into them, the taller they grow in my imgaination. Suddenly the fear of being old isn’t imaginary, it’s my reality.

But this morning, as I strolled home from walking Catie to school, I prayed about the green-faced witch that lives in my head.

And you know what God told me? Those aren’t fears about getting older—that’s Me. I’m urging you, putting pressure on you, tugging on your soul to get your attention.

I’m calling you, God told me this morning in my prayer. Calling you to share my Word with my people. Calling you to get on it, Tina.

In the dark, that urgency looks a lot like a predatory wolf. But in the light of prayer, I know it’s not. It’s God whispering that sulking and bristling and obsessing really aren’t getting me any closer to the book I need to be writing.

So, with the bad guys firmly kicked out, I’m off and writing again.

And to have a chat with the girls about our electricity bill….


Sunday Lament

For my children to read when they’re adults (in case they ever wonder if churches have always met in gyms…)

Where is the old, white church? Where is the steeple that holds the clanging bell calling the town to worship? Where are the pews, saturated with that eclectic aroma of wax and incense and coffee and furniture polish?

Where’s the stained glass? The pyramid-shaped hymn-number holder? The ornate lights, throwing an amber glow onto the faithful congregation?
Where is that simple sign, the one that beckons with only the church’s name and service times?

Gone? Really, forever?

After visiting dozens of congregations over the past few months, our family has a good handle on where The Church is headed.

We’re out! Out to the community. Out to be missional. Out to do life with each other.

So, our churches look like any other building. A nice office. A fitness center. A Wal-Mart.

I’m glad we’re out and about in the community. I really am.

But, man, sometimes I miss the smell of an old church.



What We Believe…



Today was supposed to be the day that I wrote a book proposal. It was actually the day I was supposed to knock the book propose out of the park. It was all set-up: I had help with the kids, and it was rainy and cold. No distractions. Just me, my laptop, and a secluded corner at Barnes and Noble. Watch out editors, super-fantastic proposal in your inbox tomorrow morning! Pow! Sha-ZAM!

Only, it didn’t happen. In spite of the ugly weather, the perfect table, and the solitude, writer’s block set in. Bad. So, I went for a little walk around the bookstore, right to the Christian section, for inspiration. Instead of inspiration, I found a book called The Last Testament by some satire writer from The Daily Show.  It’s a mock memoir by God and was, well, really dumb.

I’m not really the intended audience of a sacrilegious book about what ridiculous idiots Christians are, but I was procrastinating, so I read a little of it. And, even though I love satire, it wasn’t funny. One-liner after one-liner about how Christians get everything so wrong and are so stupid. The tone was a bit like that kid that sits in the back of the room and mimics the teacher for a cheap laugh.

I went back to my computer, but the damage was done. That book. Really? It was so sardonic, so sophomoric. So full of f-bombs and shallow jokes about easy targets like Tim Tebow. How could anyone like a book like this? Did they? I googled the book. Turns out people love it. Every single review proclaimed, “Hilarious! The religious right gets what they deserve!” or something similar.

Huh? Why all the angst about Christianity? My book proposal ideas got mashed up with feeling misunderstood and generally frustrated with smug pop culture. Right then, I believed there was nothing I could write that anyone would “get.” My Bible study ideas suddenly seemed so misunderstood by a world who loved such rude humor. I believed I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t write another book for a world that was satisfied with so little.  Instead of knocking anything out of the park, I stewed until it was time to pick up the kids.

I was still brooding at home, when my husband suggested a family bike ride. We loaded up our seven-year-old, two five-year-olds, and two-year-old and rode out into the threatening clouds. For the first four miles, the bike ride felt wonderful. Maybe this is what I needed.

When we arrived at an old park, the kids hopped of their bikes, (or out of their bike trailer), and ran to play on the playground. The playground with the 70 or so wasps that were pouring out of their nests.

Before my husband or I could get to our five-year-old son, a wasp stung his lip.He screamed and screamed while I held him, and my husband whisked the other three kids away from the swarms.

We stood there, looked at each other, looked at the bikes, and looked at our son’s swelling lip. Then we wondered why we had ever chosen to ride so far from home.

It took my husband and I about fifteen seconds to realize that the only option was for the five-year-old to ride his bike back home. Deep down, I didn’t believe there was any way he would make it. It was so windy, he was so upset, and his lip had tripled in size.

After a prayer and a pep-talk, he hopped on his bike and began to ride into the strong (like really strong) wind. We cheered for him, and he pedaled like no five-year-old I’ve ever seen. Every time I glanced back, his lip seemed to grow four times. It was HUGE.

Oh, and then it started to rain. But, still, he pedaled.

Watching my little boy believe he could make it all four miles home was an inspiration. Instead of focusing on his painful lip, the raindrops pelting him in the face, or his tired legs, he focused on the goal of being home. And eating the M&Ms we promised him.

Why had I forgotten this lesson today? My goal–my calling-is to share God’s love with a world who desperately needs it. And, really? I would let a silly satire book distract me from that?

So, Lord, thanks for Sam’s inspiration . Thanks for teaching me to ride through the storm, and the wasp stings, and the fatigue. Thanks for the chance to share Your deep love with this shallow world. Because, yes, we all desperately need it. Amen.