Journal

Victory in a Vineyard: 36 years of Marriage and Still Learning a Thing or Two

Remembering the heat and humidity of Nashville in the summer, we had packed for the tropics. But our first Sunday here, the last Sunday in June, was a complete surprise, a total gift. Blue skies, puffy clouds, moderate temperatures, glistening green hills all shouted of God’s glory. As San Diegans, we automatically think of heading to the ocean on such a day, but here in Nashville, Arrington Vineyards seems to have come to mind for hundreds of people wanting to be outside to enjoy the beauty of a summer day.

Overlooking verdant vineyards in the rolling hills of central Tennessee, the wide grassy slope was dotted with picnickers at rustic wooden tables under tall shade trees. Music and fragrance filled the air. A path through the woods led to a barn and another lush lawn seating area where a bluegrass band livened up the atmosphere. Back up the hill on the other side of the property was a wide tented pavilion for those who preferred jazz. Both styles seemed entirely appropriate for the setting and Jeff and I enjoyed spending time in each location. Since Nashville is a magnet for the most talented musicians in the world, it is impossible to have a bad listening experience here.

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Disappointed, Yes. Discouraged, No.

Disappointment is inevitable. But to become discouraged, there’s a choice I make. God would never discourage me. He would always point me to himself to trust him. Therefore, my discouragement is from Satan.” – Charles Stanley

But now don’t be discouraged, any of you. Do the work, for I am with you. – Haggai 2:4 GNB

The news about the project I’ve been pouring myself into for years now was challenging. Well—to be entirely candid—it was more than challenging. I was disappointed. I’d been feeling rather like a caterpillar inching its way from here to the ocean, and thought I was finally starting to hear the sound of the pounding surf dead ahead.

What I heard instead was: You aren’t there yet.

Or maybe it felt more like this (mixed metaphor advisory in effect throughout the rest of this post): I spent one whole summer when I was home with my little ones working on a patchwork quilt. I’d found a way to painstakingly combine scraps into an attractive pattern, pieced the top, added the batting and backing, and was now eager to take the last step of stitching the layers together.

As I spread the queen-sized quilt out on the bed and stood back to admire my handiwork, my eyes were drawn to a big, fat, unmistakeable mistake—an unintentional break

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Advent Meditation on Longings Fulfilled

We don’t always wait in vain. Faith and patience inherit the promise. Sometimes  we get a holy hint of what is to come.

My first and long-awaited grandchild was born in June . Yesterday , as I sat gazing at a photo of her, anticipating her first visit to California for Christmas, I was struck by its great significance. In the picture, Summer Adelle is being proudly held by her great-grandfather. My dad is a crusty old Swede, a sailor whose relationship with strong drink shaped my world. But God does hear

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What I Really Want

Even more than the ability to eat dark chocolate almonds and croissants all day without gaining weight, here is something I really want:

  • Favor with God
  • Favor with people
  • A good reputation.

I suspect this is what you really want too, even if your momentary craving is for just a few minutes of air-conditioned peace and quiet, with a carton of coffee Häagen-Dazs and a spoon.

This week I found a verse in the Bible that tells me exactly how to get what I want.

Proverbs 3:3-4(NLT) says:

Never let loyalty and kindness leave you!

Tie them around your neck as a reminder.

Write them deep within your heart. 

Then you will find favor with both God and people, 

and you will earn a good reputation

Be Loyal. Be Kind. Then everyone, including God, will be pleased with you. That sounds a simple enough recipe for happiness.

But is it really that easy to pull off?

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The Size of Your Canvas

(First of all, let me say that I prefer dogs to cats by a factor of about fifty, but this watercolor of a blue-eyed cat by my friend Linda Mullen almost makes me want to switch sides. I have no talent in the visual arts, so I am completely dazzled by her ability to use just a little paint and water and paper to recreate a cat that looks like it wants to hop right into your lap and meow. Linda is an artist who deserves a wider audience and so I’m taking this opportunity to share her work, lindamullen.com, and gallery, Ballast Point Gallery, with you. )

The Size of Your Canvas: Reflections on Art and Audience

Some paintings are so big that they are best seen from a great distance.

In Rome I wanted nothing more than for the guards to just go away and leave us alone so that I could lie on my back and gaze up for hours at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Instead, craning my neck in the midst of a hot and sweaty crowd of hundreds of others, I had to grab what I could in the frustratingly short 15 minutes they allowed us to view the frescoes we’d crossed an ocean and waited hours to see.

Other paintings are smaller in size, but no less powerful. At the Louvre in Paris, we were in a similar herd of tourists filing past the Mona Lisa, which turned out to be not a commanding painting at all, if size were the measure. Little more than life size, the drably colored canvas could only be viewed by few people at once. There was an optimal viewing distance, and it was much closer than that of Michaelangelo’s frescoes.

Both are masterpieces.

Last Friday night, Jeff and I happened upon on art show in San Diego featuring a Spanish artist, Royo. His paintings were grand scale expressionistic works of young beauties with downcast eyes, clad in gauzy garments and holding baskets of

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My Father’s World

Teaching the Book of Ruth has allowed me to spend delicious hours reading and studying and cross-referencing and pouring myself yet another cup of coffee. I’m tuning into tiny details, but also mindful of the bigger picture, looking for underlying structure and overarching themes. Stacked around me are lexicons and systematic theology texts, contemporary commentaries, and ancient tomes. As a natural-born nerd, big words and big ideas are my love language.

But ultimately, we are not training for a Bible Trivia Bee.

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Taste and See that the Lord is Good: Eating Wisdom

Eating Wisdom Yancey

My son recently finished a book called The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey. He found much there which stimulated his interest and seemed eager to discuss the book with me once he found out that I had read it. Problem is, it had been 5 or 6 years ago and I now remember not much more than the title and that I had enjoyed it.

He marveled at that bit of news in a sort of disappointed way. “What? How could I have read an entire book and not be able to remember any specific point the author had made? Why even bother to read at all then?”, he wondered.

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A Tantalizing Twosome

Why, on the table next to the lush burgundy brocade reading chair in my room at the Hilton, are there two different bottles, each claiming to be “the world’s best-tasting spring water?” The neck collars they wear tout their excellence in the field of recreational beverages of the non-intoxicating kind. The highway robbery price of $3.95 a bottle is displayed boldly lest the inattentive guest think this treat is complementary.

I suppose if you can stay at the Hilton you don’t deny yourself liquid refreshment for the sake of a few easily-replaced bucks. Both are mineral waters from Italy. Both are packaged in unusually attractive glass bottles.

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Glacier Bay

Jeff and Gail in Alaska

There are benefits to sticking it out and holding fast to your vows.

The joy of twenty-five years of marriage to a creationist means a cruise to Alaska to celebrate. And now, whenever I sing lines like, “From the highest of heights to the depths of the seas, creation’s revealing His majesty,” I have a new reference point: Glacier Bay.

In dazzling Glacier Bay the azure skies meet the frigid, pale turquoise sea and even the ice is powder blue. All this beauty is a result of time and pressure. Glaciers are formed from snow that has accumulated over many years and it is all these years of mounting compression that make the ice so dense it absorbs all the hues but blue.

Like the diamonds given by suitors as symbols of that which is precious and enduring, glaciers also derive their beauty from the power of great pressure. Our marriage has endured because the stresses of life have kept us as couple reaching for God, pressed down and moving together in the same direction, the way the tidewater glacier heads for the sea.

Walking with Faith – Introduction

Walking with Faith -Introduction

Walking up to the edge of the Pacific Ocean is an exercise in steeling one’s nerves. Icier by far than the Atlantic, the Pacific does not beckon bathers the way warmer Hawaiian waters do; it dares you to enter it. It taunts you with its aquamarine beauty while it threatens to shock you dead from the cold. It’s much harder even than to stand on a pier and dive into a New England lake where it is all over in an instant. No, at the California beach you have to go shallow before you can go deep. Whether you dart in like a child or tiptoe in inch by painful inch like a matron in a vast black swimming corset, it’s a process. Never comfortable. Always worth it.

I’m not afraid of my shallow side. I recognize that you have to go wade through the whitewash before you can ride the waves. Not that I surf mind you, but I do know first hand the joy of riding in on a boogie board. Not with reckless abandon, usually with some thought of the possible chiropractic implications, but with joy nonetheless. The exhilaration of those few moments always begins with my having to grab the guts to get in the water, to assume the risk, to get out there and live a little. But you do have to go shallow before you can go deep.

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