End of watch.

blue-light-73088_640It’s a weird thing to turn on the TV and watch a S.W.A.T. team – guns drawn – track a cop killer at the house just down the street. Only a week ago I was contentedly naïve about the chances of such a thing ever happening here.  But it did, and this morning there’s a flashing sign in our neighborhood:


Road Closed

12-2 p.m.

This sign is really gettting to me. It reminds me of life’s unexpected dead-ends, detours, and road closures. Rarely are any of those things cause for great joy.

I am also moved by the hundreds of police officers, firefighters, and neighbors lining our streets paying respect to fallen Mendota Heights officer Scott Patrick who was brutally and senselessly murdered.

This morning’s “detour” convicts me that I’ve neglected to pray for the people who are in authority over me and who serve me and my city and my state and my country.  I am eager to correct this.

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.     

1 Timothy 2:1-2 (NIV)

Thank you for your service, Mendota Heights police and fire and all who serve our community.

Thank you for your service, Officer Scott Patrick.

Jesus, don’t you care?

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.  He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”  Mark 4:37-40

I never have understood that story. I always thought Jesus’ admonition to the disciples about having “no faith” was … kind of harsh.  After all, the boat was sinking!

Well, Lord, the “waves” are crashing on my boat. I feel as though I’m sinking and You are asleep below deck.  How can I not be anxious when I know very well that not all earth-stories end calmly?

What is faith supposed to look like when the situation is going from bad to worse?

I know this isn’t theologically articulate, but maybe what God wants most is our complete confidence in His control in the midst of whatever rages. Maybe He wants us to cleave to Him the way we’d cling and plant our face in the back of a friend who leads the way through a haunted house at a state fair? Maybe it really is all about the journey and not about the outcome?

Some people will call my faith denial or delusion, but I know His voice and His touch on my life the way you know the voice and touch of a friend. And so, I’ll cling and trust even if my little boat completely sinks, which is a distinct possibility at this point!

all sorts of pix from the summer of 2010 107Yet I still dare to hope
    when I remember this:

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
    therefore, I will hope in him!”

The Lord is good to those who depend on him,
    to those who search for him.

 So it is good to wait quietly
    for salvation from the Lord.

Lamentations 3:21-26



How I took someone down a notch.

shoes 019

Open mouth…insert foot!

Yesterday, under the guise of humor and out of a mad, bad heart, I premeditatedly targeted a well-formulated snarky remark to just the right person. In fact, I actually had to go out of my way and make three attempts before I could share my message with someone already too familiar with the offender’s annoying tendencies. I knew my intentions were flat-out wrong, but I ignored my conscience and lobbed my little bomb from the weeds.

Seriously, I hadn’t walked three steps out of the weeds before the previous 20 minutes of my life replayed through my brain. I observed myself rationalize that it really wasn’t that big of a deal to take that offender down a notch with such a subtle, witty barb. He had it coming, and after all, I could always just confess my sin to God later, right?

Is now a good time to disclose that I’m currently reading “Resisting Gossip: Winning the War of the Wagging Tongue” by Matthew C. Mitchell?

This morning I’ve no sense of triumph, just a feeling of being small and petty – the very things I dislike about my villain.

So what lesson have I learned am I being taught?

Taking that man “down a notch” was motivated by an attempt to feel better about myself. Nothing has changed and he remains clueless; I’ve only lessened myself. With one breath I talk about loving Jesus, and with my next breath I spew meanness about the very people Jesus loves. I’m starting to see just how true Luke 6:45 is in that the words coming out of my mouth are an accurate reflection of what’s going on in my heart.

Next time around – and I know there will always be another next time around – I’ll try to remember all the times I’ve offended people with my words and actions and all the times the Lord has forgiven my offenses… and keep my mouth shut.  There’s already enough ugliness out there without me adding my two cents.

If Sheriff Andy Taylor and GW McLintock had a baby.

(C) 2003 Gateway,Inc.Submissive little wife-y that I am, I didn’t buy him a thing for his birthday, but he didn’t tell me I couldn’t give him a cyberspace shout-out.

Alan Wayne Marshall, you are an exceptional human!  If Sheriff Andy Taylor and GW McLintock had a baby, you’d be him!

I came to admire the kind of man you are early in our relationship.  Remember that night we were standing in the hallway behind the stage at Eagle Brook waiting for the service to begin? All of the sudden, an alarm started blaring!  As five or six men stood there and discussed the problem, you calmly got a ladder and went to work.  They didn’t notice you for quite a while as they debated what needed to be done. They never did decide; they ended up standing around the bottom of your ladder asking how they could help. My heart swelled just a little – in a good way – when your boss came over to me and said, “I knew Alan would fix it.”

You are my Quiet Man – my “it is what it is,” completely unselfish, kind, hardworking, generous friend. You live and work behind the scenes in support of others.  You have nothing to prove. You’ve sacrificed to make my life uncomplicated. Your down-home Marshall’s memorable sayings make me laugh – in bewilderment.

I’m grateful for your commitment to being a God-loving, man of integrity. You have no idea how attractive you are – especially when I find you sitting in your chair in the morning, drinking your coffee and reading your Bible.

You were worth the 44-year wait!

Alan Wayne Marshall, you make an even better husband than boyfriend.  Happy, happy birthday! I’m really glad you were born.

Learned the hard way.

Some people say they don’t have any regrets about their lives; I’m not one of them.


Can you spot my poor choice in this photo?

I’d love the chance to go back and tweak each of my regrettable moments. But that’s not happening, and today I’m living the sum total of my choices. Case in point, I ignored the therapist who told me to stand up carefully after my massage. After all, I had been standing up successfully for many years and I’d had lots of massages. Who would have thought I’d tip over like that?  Ten years later I’m paying a price for ignoring that caution: Pass the Ibuprofen, please.

But this post isn’t about lamenting my “fails.” God is forgiving and gracious, and He promises to work all things for the good of those who love Him. I’ve moved on. My point is that probably 90% of my failures were easily avoidable. (Suddenly, I’m hearing a little voice in my head that sounds an awful lot like Homer Simpson, “Doh!”) My failures were not accidents; they were the natural outcome of the choices I made while heeding the wrong advice – a lot of it from me!

Why have I repeatedly – and to my detriment – followed the lead of friends and society to the neglect of biblical teaching or wise advice from people who actually give a rip about me – like my husband or pastor or – Heaven forbid! – my parents?

It could all be so simple; it’s my pride that makes it hard. My typical go-to rationale for ignoring wise advice goes something like this:

  • Don’t tell me what to do.  I know better.
  • I’m different. That doesn’t apply to me or my circumstances.
  • I deserve this.  I don’t want to miss out.

This kind of reasoning hasn’t once served me well. On the other hand, I don’t have a single regret related to doing the right thing.

Why would I persist in learning my lessons the hard way? Today I officially withdraw from the School of Hard Knocks. I’m old and tired and beat up and ready to learn my lessons the easy way.

Lesson #1

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge. Only fools despise wisdom and discipline.  Proverbs 1:7

Through these proverbs, people will receive instruction in discipline, good conduct, and doing what is right, just, and fair. These proverbs will make the simpleminded clever.  Proverbs 1:3-4a

Here’s to less regret and more clever …

No really; you stink.

smelling the motorcycle

Mmmmm. Gassy.

You farted and now the rest of us have to walk through your stink.

I get it. You’re fed up! Somebody served you something that isn’t sitting right, so you feel justified in causing a big stink. Well, by all means then, go ahead and pass your toxicity on so that you feel better. Just know that you’re leaving a lot of bodies in your wake, and I’m the one left to clear the air.

Apparently, only a Pollyanna believes it’s possible to work well together for a higher cause – and dare I say, enjoy each other’s company.

Why in the world would I think this?

Oh, I know.

Because that’s what God expects.  And again, They will know we are Christians by our love….

But in the meantime, here’s to the fly in my ointment.

“As dead flies give perfume a bad smell, so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.”  Ecclesiastes 10:1

*   Apologies to my mother for my crassness.

** For those of you who know my husband, Al was not the inspiration for this post. – LOL!

“Throw-away” people?

I spent my holiday vacation throwing stuff out: bags and bags of stuff once valued but now regarded as clutter. In sorting through all that stuff, I came across a picture of Sam*.  I threw the photo away and then cried.  You see, Sam recently passed away. I’ve been trying to write this post for three weeks, but it just wouldn’t come together. Maybe it still hasn’t, but here’s what I’m learning.

I barely knew Sam, but he really got to me: I fell for Sam the day I met him (even if he was a widower well into his 90s). Sam was an honest-to-goodness WWII hero who confided to me that he’d never told his full story to anyone before. Sadly, right before the story was to go to print, he asked that it be edited because of the nightmares that had started up again. FYI, Sam’s story deserves and will (soon) get its own post. But for now, let me just say that as a child, Sam was underestimated and under-valued. His teacher literally laughed him right out of the sixth grade because he stuttered.  Yeah, and the Germans way underestimated him too! Sam became a successful husband, father, and businessman, but the Sam I met had outlived his spouse, most of his friends, and many of the people who had ever known him. His children adored him and took great care of him, but much of Sam’s time was spent alone with his memories – both the good ones and the nightmarish ones.

Anyway, lately I’ve been kicking myself for throwing out his photo.  In my defense, I only had the photo for an article I was writing for a client.  But, I still regret it. I feel as though discarding that photo is symbolic – that in the grand scheme of life, all of us are eventually relegated to “throw-away” people – at least in the world’s estimation.

To morph a concept borrowed from Tom Peters, to the world, we’re all only as good as our next gig.  When age, health, or circumstances limit what we have to offer to our organizations or families or communities, we become little more than clutter, just more stuff to be cleared out. Oh, that isn’t ever officially articulated, but it is demonstrated. Often we simply size someone up as being beneath our regard and move on.

Our society values new and young and shiny, so the older people get, the more likely they are to be discounted.  Personally, I prefer older people. The older people are, the more stories they have, and I love hearing their stories. Check out this fabulous series of photos (that reinforce the point I’m trying to make) entitled Reflections by photographer Tom Hussey.  When I look at these photos, I hear that whisper from the movie Dead Poets Society, the one warning us all to carpe diem! This life, and more specifically the people we go through life with, are precious and fragile.

At some point someone’s going to throw out all the photos of me too.

2012 Jansilliness 008

My five boys:
Front: Gunter, Axel, Sydney
Back: Duane, Carl

It’s not likely any of my four gnome children will want to save them!  But I hope that after I’m gone, my life will have had an impact on someone’s eternal soul; otherwise, I would consider my existence to have been little more than cosmic clutter.  I always liked this poem by CT Studd:

Only one life twill soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.

Sam, your life mattered matters to me, and your passing has not gone unnoticed or ungrieved.

*Name changed out of respect for my friend’s privacy.

On being a Minnesota Vikings fan.


We were all still hopeful in 1965 – except for Grandpa.

Being a Minnesota Vikings fan is like opening Christmas presents.

All year long you anticipate the season, and when the most wonderful time of the year finally arrives, you drop your guard and allow yourself to hope with childlike wonder. Maybe, just maybe, this is the year….

But somewhere deep down inside you know very well you’re going to get underwear. There may be a few promising packages under the tree, but ultimately, you’re getting underwear.

Every year you hope against hope that you’ll open your present and find the gift that will make you feel like all the pretty people in the Christmas ads on TV. Every year you ignore the negative voices that remind you you’re going to get underwear. Still, you wait and wait and fantasize about all the cool things that could be under the tree.

At long last the moment arrives. You rip into the pretty paper and unwrap the underwear.

And just like that it’s all over – until next year

First Christmas missing a loved one.

1963-12 85 Westeria Dr. Mel, Fl Andy,Joel,Wendi,Mitz,Bri (2)Life is too short and it goes too fast and too many people I care about are feeling the weight of this reality tonight.  It’s been a particularly harsh year, month, week, day … afternoon.

Death has won a lot of skirmishes here lately.  Christmas reminds us that God loves us so much that He made a way for us to beat death: He sent His Son.

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we also remember that Jesus was specifically born to die.  But He defeated death by His resurrection and offers us His free gift of salvation – the very best gift of all.

In a way, Christmas is a very beautiful reminder that ultimately, we win.

A little constructive criticism of my own.

DSC00242I’m a teacher; I understand the value of constructive criticism.

However, all too often pettiness is wrapped up in the name of constructive criticism, and the contributions of others are belittled in order to prop up feelings of self-worth and control.

It’s not okay, and I think that we should speak the truth – in love – to people who shoot from the shadows.

I promise this isn’t about me – this time. The other day I watched a very dear friend of mine respond to an unkind email questioning his/her workplace competence.  It was frustrating for me to watch my friend respond with grace and professionalism to unfair, under-informed, mean-spirited statements.  In this case, I felt that not responding with the facts only enabled bad behavior.

Inexpert critics have an exaggerated regard for the value of their insight and amount to little more than unqualified, sideline quarterbacks. As such, I think these types of critics need and deserve straightforward responses. I suggest something along the lines of,

You do not need to have an opinion on this.

It’s like watching the tweets that ticker-tape across the bottom of the TV during news stories.  Really?  Who cares what  j49stud@twitter.com thinks about fill-in-the-blank!  Well, apparently it does matter in our post-modern descriptive – not normative – culture.

Why are people’s feelings given more weight than truth? Why are students who dislike a professor, don’t attend class, don’t turn in their homework, and cannot even write an articulate complaint(!) given the influence to get that professor out of rotation?

We know the answer. Money.  Got to keep the people and their money coming.

The inmates are running the asylum.

Christian ministries are by no means exempt. In fact, though not the espoused culture, it is often the reality for many organizations. It’s not okay with God to take potshots at the pastor or the president or the admin or the VP or the HR rep or the grounds crew!

People are supposed to know we are Christians by our love. How can we accomplish our mission and how can outsiders hear what they need to hear if we’re too busy backstabbing, belittling, and yapping about how our coworkers are failing to measure up to our expectations – all in the name of constructive criticism and for the “good of the organization.”

Galatians 5:15 offers this warning:

But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.

Enough ranting. It is what it is. Here’s my two cents. Maybe instead of displaying our StrengthsFinder profiles, we should prominently display this verse on our desks … where we can easily see it:

Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. Ephesians 4:29b (NLT)

How many less hundreds of words would come out of my mouth if I only spoke, in love, what is good and helpful!

How many less hundreds of words would come out of my mouth if I constantly remembered that someday every word we say will be judged by God Almighty?  Matthew 12:34-37.

On that note, I pity the person who is behind me in the Great Judgment line. You’re going to have a long wait.