ARCHIVES: August 2016


08.31.2016

Wahoowa and Welcome Bronco!

The Olympics are over. I am always a little sad to see them go, but never more than this year, when what’s left in their wake is…November. As in, the election.

I’d consider tossing the TV, except for one thing.

Football.

More specifically, U.Va. Football. The first game is Saturday.

Now, I realize that not everyone gets as up for the season as our family does, and that U.Va.’s record (34-61 in the past eight years) is not exactly something to start The Wave over, but hope springs eternal. Especially when you have a new coach.

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For those who don’t follow sports, Bronco Mendenhall came to The University from BYU where, over the past 11 seasons, he led a team that became one of only a handful of programs in the entire country to make it to a bowl game every year. Every year! For comparison purposes (and to bring the non-sports people up to speed), during that same time period U.Va. went to…less.

Maybe all those bowl games happened because the BYU players made their beds. I don’t know, but I heard Bronco speak earlier this summer and he said that, statistically speaking, just making your bed means that you will be 30% more effective during the day. He also talked about how he, his wife, and their three teenaged boys are “literally and figuratively closer than ever” after spending six months in an RV instead of bunking in a hotel while their new digs in Charlottesville were being renovated.

(Six months. In a camper. With a mom, a dad, and three strapping young men, all of whom lived out of a backpack and a small carry-on. Mrs. Bronco – who, I gather, came up with the plan – is my new hero.)

Anyhow, the conversation eventually turned to football, to things like “fiery execution” and “position mastery,” as well as the “swift and certain” consequences that Bronco said would follow both good and bad decisions. With every sentence that came out of the coach’s mouth, I found myself mentally putting another touchdown on the board. And, being the mother-in-law to two Virginia Tech grads, I could hardly wait for the Q&A. Was this the year, I wondered, that my beloved Wahoos would finally take down the Hokies?

You can hear my question – and see Bronco’s answer – by clicking here.

Or I can just tell you what the coach said. Painful as it was to hear, he noted that U.Va. hasn’t beaten Virginia Tech in football in twelve years, and that (given those stats) the in-state match-up could hardly be considered a “rivalry.” Not only that but, until we upped our game, Bronco wasn’t even sure we oughta be calling ourselves “the” University of Virginia.

Ouch. Talk about speaking the truth in love.

But things are about to change! In addition to the bed-making thing, the new coach has all sorts of strategies for getting his guys to perform, both on and off the field. If a player misses a class, for example, the “exchange rate” for that choice is 350 burpees (those awful push ups where, between each one, you have to jump – and in Bronco’s world, the jump is onto a 36-inch-high box – and reach for the sky). After each practice, the athletes are expected to take their own pulse, just to be sure they are still alive. Noting that all players will need to prove that they have what it takes to wear the U.Va. jersey (the mantra is “earned, not given”), Bronco’s plan is to ensure that opponents will be “mentally exhausted from the physical pressure.” Which is not, actually, unlike motherhood.

So I think it will work.

And, come Saturday, I will be right there in Scott Stadium, cheering for Bronco and his guys. And being so glad, I just have to say, that he is our coach, instead of our savior.

Can you imagine? What if we had to earn the right to wear the name of Christ? What if the Christian life meant having to check, at the end of each day, to see if we were still breathing? What if, every time we did something wrong, we had to do 350 burpees? Even without the box-jump, I’d throw in the towel and just head straight to hell.

My hat is off to the U.Va. players. I can’t even begin to think what this blazing hot summer was like, as they won the right to show up on that field. I am grateful for their effort, and I think that “earned, not given” is a great way to play football.

And that “given, not earned” is a great way to play life.

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For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)


ARCHIVES: August 2016


08.26.2016

A Firm Foundation

Luke 6-47-48One of the things that first drew me to our home was it’s “old house” feel. It came with leaded-glass windows, crystal chandeliers, and hardwood floors that buckled and swayed.

I thought it was charming; the builder we hired to do renovations, not so much. He said the house had not been built on any foundation. It had a basement, so I didn’t understand what he meant – until I descended the steps and found myself in what was basically a very big hole, with all sorts of wedges and carpentry shims stuck into the walls and the dirt at various angles, propping the place up.

To the builder, this was not an insurmountable problem. He hired a foundation contractor to come in and re-do the thing, and before we knew it, the floors had leveled out. I was kind of sad, because I liked the wavy feel, but Robbie was happy and, since he had let us buy the house without him ever seeing it (#BestHusband), I didn’t complain.

We were able to use some of the original bricks in the re-do, and when all was said and done, we had a few left over. Most homeowners would have disposed of the pile, but not me. I like old bricks, and you never know when you might need ’em for some sort of project. Plus, they remind me of the value of having a firm foundation in life, which is the request in today’s Friday Prayer:

Heavenly Father,

May _____ hear your words and put them into practice so that the “house” of his life will have a firm foundation that cannot be shaken by floods, torrents, or any other storms of life. (Luke 6:47-48)

Amen.

 

 


ARCHIVES: August 2016


08.24.2016

Host a Back-to-School Party with this Free Download!

Back when our kids were in elementary school, we’d get together with another family the night before school started. The chief purpose was to pray for the year ahead, but we’d throw in the promise of an ice cream sundae party (with all the toppings) as a way to lure the kids, and the evening became a much-loved tradition.

As the children grew, the friend group expanded. One year we had eight families show up. To keep the trains on time (the teenagers wanted to pray the prayers, eat the ice cream, and get home to finish their summer reading) and be sure we covered the basics, each family got a topic. One prayed for the teachers, one for the school’s athletic teams, one for the kids’ academics…you get the idea. Everything went pretty smoothy – except for that one year when the school bus crashed into a split-rail fence on Day One. Nobody got hurt, but the dad who had prayed for “Carpools and Bus Safety” lost some of his cred.

Our kids are mostly grown and, with only Robbie celebrating the “first day,” we aren’t eating much ice cream. I miss those days. This year, though, I’ve heard from three moms who have put their own twist on tradition. One’s dishing up pizza-and-prayer with the neighbors, another is having women over for a back-to-school prayer coffee, and a third told me she’d purchased copies of Praying the Scriptures for Your Children for a group of her pals and invited them to come for “Wine, Cheese, and Prayer.”

That’s my kind of Girls’ Night Out.

If you’re sending kids back to school this month, why not host your own prayer party? You’ll find more than 200 prayer prompts in the books, but if you’re short on time (or cash) and you want a free-and-easy tool to get you started, why not try these?

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These prayer cards are a sneak peek at some of the “wisdom” verses from Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children (which comes out next year). I use them for my grown-up kids, but they work well for all ages. Click here to download the collection. (You’ll have to cut them out for yourself; it helps to use card stock, but any old paper will do). You can use these prayers during your back-to-school prayer time and then send them home with your guests as party favors!

Happy praying…and as you send your crew out the door this year, may the Lord watch over their coming and going, both now and forevermore! (Psalm 121:8)

 


ARCHIVES: August 2016


08.19.2016

Friday Prayer for Your College Student

Proverbs 2-2-4I love old books and libraries. Like old friends and old wine, they just get better with age. I know the trend is toward digital readers and LEED certified spaces that come with recycled desks and energy efficient lighting, but give me a cramped linoleum workspace hidden behind rows of stacks, and call me happy.

The pic in today’s post is from Alderman Library at the University of Virginia. To me, it’s the perfect backdrop for today’s Friday prayer, which comes from the Bible’s best known “wisdom” book. It’s one I am praying for Robbie as he heads back to college this weekend; join me in praying it for your own kids, whether they are four years old or 40!

Heavenly Father,

Turn _______’s ear toward wisdom and his heart toward understanding. Give him a teachable spirit, one that looks for insight and understanding the way he would hunt for a hidden treasure. (Proverbs 2:2-4)

Amen.


ARCHIVES: August 2016


08.18.2016

My Dog Rocks

I’m not the world’s biggest dog person, but I do like them, particularly when they are as easy-going and cheerful as Khaki and Max.

You’ve met these two before. They cheer for the Hoos:

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They are good with kids:

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And they still say “Merry Christmas” to everybody:

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They are nice dogs. Plus, they are incredibly low maintenance. One time, for example, we went away for the weekend and left Max and Khaki in the care of a neighbor. When we got back on Sunday and I went over to pay the kid, he panicked.

“Mrs. Berndt! I can’t take your money!”

“Sure you can,” I said. “The Bible says a worker deserves his wages.” (I didn’t really say that, but it’s in there – Luke 10:7 – and it would have been impressive if I’d remembered it then.)

“But,” the boy protested. “I really can’t. I never went to your house! I forgot!”

Well now, that was interesting. We’d gotten home and found the dogs happy as ever. They were hungry, sure, but that was nothing new. And they hadn’t made any kind of mess in the house. They seemed good. Chalk one up in the plus column.

I tell you this back story so that you will understand when I say our dogs really don’t require much in the way of attention. And so that you will forgive me when I tell you that, when Max refused to eat his kibble last week, I was not all that concerned.

The next day, though, he started hunching when he walked.

“Maybe it’s his dreadlocks,” I suggested. Being a golden retriever in a house where grooming is not all that de rigeur, Max has been known to grow a few long ones, and I thought maybe they’d somehow gotten mixed up together and hog-tied him.

Robbie concurred, and gave Max a dread-cut. But that didn’t help.

“Maybe it’s one of his tumors,” I suggested. (He has a few of them on his belly, one that looks and feels like he maybe swallowed a jellyfish.)

“No,” Robbie said. “The vet says those things are harmless. But he’s clearly hurting. You need to take him in.”

Ugh. The last time I took Khaki to the vet, she refused to get on the scale (a reluctance with which I sympathize) and, in the ensuing struggle, I wound up on the floor, treating (subjecting?) all the other waiting pet owners to an eye-full of my underwear. And I am not making that up. I didn’t want to go there again. But it had to be done, and so off we went.

Max was content to be prodded and poked, but when the vet tried to roll him over, he whimpered.

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“Hmm,” the vet said. “I think we need to do an X-ray.”

That sounded pricey, but what was I to do? To refuse, while my dog lay there whimpering, would appear more than just inattentive.

They took Max away. Ten minutes later, the vet came back. “Does Max eat anything unusual?” she asked.

(If you have dogs, you know that’s not a question you want to answer. It feels – particularly after an X-ray – more like an accusation than a legitimate query. I could think of any number of things Max might have ingested, but I stayed silent. Clearly, the vet had some knowledge she wasn’t sharing.)

We stared at each other, and finally she blinked.

“Like rocks?” she suggested. “Does he eat rocks?”

Ahhh. Rocks.

I knew Max was guilty. It’s not something I am particularly proud of (nor have I ever actually witnessed the deed) but, having found evidence in the artifacts, this was something I could not deny. But I didn’t want them to think less of my dog, so I decided to get on Max’s team and own it.

“Yes,” I answered, confident that I was doing right by my dog. “Sometimes he does eat the driveway.”

Maybe that was first for the vet, because she didn’t say anything. Instead, she inclined her head toward the door, the one leading into the back room (the one where they take animals when they have to do things they don’t want pet owners to see). “Follow me.”

I did. And there, on the X-ray machine, I saw this:

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Those little white things? Gravel. And even an English major like me could see that Max’s belly was full of them.

“Can I take a picture of that?” I asked. “I mean, so I can show my husband, so that he will understand about the bill?”

(I didn’t really need to show Robbie. He likes dogs, and I knew he wouldn’t complain about the charge. I wanted the picture so that I could show you. You don’t write a blog for two years and then pass up an opportunity like this one.)

The vet grabbed my phone and snapped the pic (I guess she didn’t want me to get too close to the machine) and then shooed me back out to the waiting room. Not knowing what else to do, I posted the photo onto our family text thread, and explained the situation.

Son-in-law Geoff was among the first to weigh in:

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Who else, indeed? I was definitely not feeling the love.

Finally, after what felt like an eternity, the vet came back to deliver the verdict. “We have two choices,” she intoned. “We can do surgery, or we can induce vomiting.”

Well then. I knew which one I would pick. Wouldn’t you? I gave the go-ahead. And then, as soon as she was out of the room, I updated the family to let them know the plan, and to ask them to pray for Max’s upcoming humiliation:

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The situation was going from bad to worse. Not unlike this blog.

(And I know what some of you are thinking. You signed up for these posts to get “prayer verses and encouragement” delivered directly to your in-box, and you are now lying in bed, reading your iPhone and wondering if you should switch to Tim Keller.)

But stay with me. Because I figured there had to be some spiritual application in this experience. And there is.

Max came out of there fine and, since we’ve upped his food rations, he’s never been better. But I wondered whether he was the first of God’s creatures to eat rocks. So I typed “gravel” into the search box on BibleGateway. And, wouldn’t you know it, there’s precedent.

Proverbs 20:17 says that people who practice deceit will find themselves in Max’s condition:  Food gained by fraud tastes sweet, but one ends up with a mouth full of gravel.

And for anybody out there who is considering adultery, Proverbs 5:3-4 offers this warning: The lips of a seductive woman are oh so sweet, her soft words are oh so smooth. But it won’t be long before she’s gravel in your mouth, a pain in your gut, a wound in your heart.

If you’re a regular on this blog, you know I don’t normally come down hard on people. I want you to know you are loved. But if you are thinking of lying or stealing, or if you think you wanna cheat on your spouse, think again. A mouth full of gravel? A pain in your gut? You can’t make this stuff up. And if that doesn’t make you think twice about straying from the straight-and-narrow, I don’t know what will.

Maybe just take another look at that X-ray.

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ARCHIVES: August 2016


08.12.2016

Back-to-School Prayer

Daniel 1-4I know there are mothers out there who look forward to the end of summer and getting the kids back into a routine, but I’m not one of them. I love everything about summer:  the long days, the starry nights, the cool popsicles, the relentless heat. (I really love the heat.)

But everyone has to hang up their flip flops at some point. And when we do, here’s a good back-to-school (or, for some of us, back-to-work) prayer:

Heavenly Father,

May _____show aptitude for every kind of learning and be well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve. (Daniel 1:4)

Amen.


ARCHIVES: August 2016


08.11.2016

Michael Phelps, Dots, and Jesus

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I’ve seen those dots before.

The kind of bruises that Michael Phelps is sporting in Rio look painful. I first saw the circular marks years ago, when I visited my brother in China. David asked if Robbie and I wanted to get a massage after a long day of hiking on the Great Wall, and we agreed. Until we saw the “spa.”

It was a place on the street (one of many similar establishments, as it turned out) where folks could pop in on their way home from work or wherever to relieve sore muscles and stress. I stared, baffled, as one after another Chinese person lay, face down and without an ounce of self-consciousness, on little cots tucked side-by-side, in full view of the sidewalk. The technicians (masseuses?) would cover their clients’ backs with little glass cups, let them sit for a bit, and then pull them off with a thwock, leaving a collection of pinkish-purple spots, each a little bigger than an Oreo. The Chinese people seemed very happy with the results; to me, they looked possibly awkward and definitely uncomfortable.

When our turn came, Robbie demurred, but on the “when-in-Rome” principle, I plopped down on a cot and asked my gal for “no cups, please.” I guess something got lost in translation, because what followed was second only to maybe childbirth in the “sensations I’d like to forget” category. And I actually did forget, mostly–until I saw Phelps and his majestically dotted shoulders.

And then I remembered the cups, and I thought two things.

The first was that, as I’ve said in this space before, “People vary.” Phelps and a handful of his fellow Olympians credit the treatment with providing healing and relaxation. It’s just “superficial bruising,” they say (which I guess makes it more appealing than the normal kind of bruising). Again, people vary.

The second thing I thought was that people will subject themselves to pain for all sorts of reasons. Phelps & Co. do it to heal themselves; Jesus did it to bring healing to us. The Bible says that he was “pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4)

Thinking about these two guys today, Michael Phelps and Jesus, I am struck by how each got what he wanted. Phelps has 25 medals (and counting); Jesus has the salvation of our souls. That same Isaiah passage says he suffered and then, when he saw what his pain had accomplished, he was “satisfied.”

So here’s the good news, for all of us:  If you want to be like Mike and try the ancient Chinese secret, you can actually order your own set of cups on Amazon for about twenty bucks. If you want to do like the old song says and “try Jesus,” you can do that for free.

(Having been up close and personal with both–and with all due respect and a boatload of admiration for Phelps–you know which treatment I’d pick.)


ARCHIVES: August 2016


08.05.2016

Friday Prayer for a Dwelling Place

So you already know that Virginia moved to New York City this week. The first item on our agenda was to find her a place to live. Here’s how we looked, starting out:

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By the end of the next day, we weren’t smiling quite so much. Apartment-hunting is hard, and I am sure I speak for every mother when I say we want our kids to land in a place that is safe and secure. A place like the one God promises in Isaiah 32:

“My people will live in peaceful dwelling places,
    in secure homes,
    in undisturbed places of rest.”

If your children are on the move (whether they are looking for an apartment, heading off to college, buying a home, or in the midst of some other transition), why not join me in turning this verse into your own prayer? Here it is:

May ______ live in a peaceful dwelling place. Keep _____ secure, and may he/she enjoy undisturbed places of rest. (Isaiah 32:18)

Amen.

Isaiah 32-18


ARCHIVES: August 2016


08.02.2016

The Faithful Wounds of Friendship

This is the second post written by Virginia (pictured here with her pal, Cary, on the left). Virginia starts her grown-up job in NYC this week, so this is it for her for now…but I am grateful to my girl for pinch-hitting for me! I hope you like her advice on friendship as much as I do; we all need a few Carys in our lives!

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Last week I was shopping with one of my best friends, Cary. We perused through all of the stores at the mall, making our way from Forever 21 to Nordstrom. When we were in Forever, I picked up a little white top I thought was cute and held it up for Cary’s approval.

“Virginia, ew. No.”

“You’re right,” I said, “It’s kind of young for me anyways.”

“It’s not that it’s too young,” Cary countered. “It’s just ugly.”

I was kind of offended at first (because it wasn’t that bad) but I trusted Cary so I decided to agree. About an hour later, I picked up what I thought was a perfect summer shirt (it was a button down, lightweight, linen shirt, with thin blue and white stripes), and I was reprimanded again. Cary laughed when I held it up.

“What?” I said. “Its perfect! I’m getting it.”

“Virginia!” she said. “It’s 200 dollars. You don’t have a job. You don’t need it.”

While this discussion was a little bit sadder than our previous one, I knew she was right again. I didn’t have the money and I didn’t need it.

In life it is so easy and tempting to seek friends who only tell us what we want to hear. In fact, a lot of the time we intentionally ask an opinion of one of these friends, knowing they will give us the preferred answer. We can easily justify our actions through the opinion of others. A lot of my friends would have said whatever, just get the $200 shirt, who cares if you can’t afford it? And plenty of them would say the ugly white top was cute, just to make me happy and get back to their shopping.

At the end of the day though, it is the Carys of the world that make us better. Nobody knows what to do 100% of the time. We all need counsel and comfort. Whether it is which job to take, which boy to date, or which shirt to buy, surround yourself with friends who love you enough to tell you the truth even when it hurts. Or as my mom would say, find friends who are brutally honest. My prayer here (since I think I’m supposed to add one) is that God would guide us to walk through life with friends who love us, who sharpen us, and who are not afraid to say, “No. It’s ugly.”

Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses…As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.(Proverbs 27:6 & 17)




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