Saturday, August 28, 2010


Shrews. The small mammal variety deserves its reputation. I first learned of the word “shrew” from Shakespeare. In the film adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, the tigress Katharina brought the full fury of woman to the screen.

Webster’s definition limits the disposition to females: “a woman of violent temper and speech.” In the small mammal world, both genders of the shrew are highly active and violent.

The shrew is a tiny mammal and was thought to be the smallest on earth until the recent discovery of the bumblebee bat. A large shrew weighs about three-quarters of an ounce. In the 2004 issue of the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the species is described as having a “supercharged, hyperactive way of life fueled by one of the most extravagant metabolisms in nature.”

One researcher sedated a shrew and measured its heart- rate. The small heart averaged 760 beats per minute! Hibernating is not in their vocabulary, and they sleep little. Voracious appetites drives them to hunt, kill, and consume.

Humans have sighted the tiny shrews killing small rabbits and snakes, and the Blarina brevicauda has a poisonous bite that paralyzes its prey. Constantly searching for food, they will eat any kind of meat they can kill.

Shrews are also known to fight, bite, and devour each other. The shrew’s life is one of constant frenzy, and battle. If a shrew receives a dinner invitation from a neighboring shrew, surely he has to wonder if the motive is hospitality or need of a main course. One other characteristic of the shrew is their ability to fuss and make a scene.

Gerald Durell told of watching a shrew have a temper tantrum when a giant African snail didn’t succumb to the mammal’s first assault. “Screaming with frustration” the shrew attacked the second time and the snail doused the tiny mammal with a frothy substance. The shrew became “almost incoherent with rage.”

Researchers cage shrews and have reported their shrieking and constant chattering. Rage is anger on a rampage, and unleashed anger is not so cute when exhibited in our companions.

Paul said, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).

Shrewish behavior belongs to a lower class animal.

Compassion and forgiveness should rule the hearts of the human species.

(Photo from , where description says this particular shrew is so tiny its weight is about that of a dime.)

Friday, August 20, 2010

God's Eraser

In the 1880’s, educators predicted dire consequences from an innovative gadget. Leaded pencils were already standard classroom equipment. But the newest addition, an eraser attached to one end, had teachers clicking their tongues.

Some believed an eraser encouraged children to make mistakes. The schoolmarms and masters of the nineteenth century would surely gasp if they knew how quickly a computer keyboard delete button can scrap paragraphs and whole pages of text.

Call me modern, but I like erasers. I especially like the way God scrubs clean my past. All of us need forgiveness, and that’s probably one reason Bible hero King David’s story of sin, repentance, and forgiveness are included in the Bible. He gave in to lust and adultery which led to the murder of a trusted officer and soldier.

Here’s the timeline of his temptations and sin: At a time of war (kings usually accompanied their armies into battle), David sent his army and its commander Joab into battle, but he remained at his palace where he became restless. Sleepless, pacing the palace roof, the king saw a woman bathing on her rooftop, and he didn’t look away.

He allowed his lust to rule and summoned her to his palace, where he slept with her and she became pregnant. That’s when he schemed to get her husband Uriah, one of David’s 30 Mighty Men, to return from battle so he would be back in the arms of his wife. David hoped to deceive the husband and others through this ruse.

However, Uriah -- the more honorable soldier and man -- refused to go to his house and enjoy the comforts of home saying, “My master Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open fields. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and lie with my wife?” (2 Samuel 11:11).

That’s when David’s sin branched and turned another wicked corner. He ordered Joab to place Uriah in the fiercest battle. Within range of enemy archers, Uriah died. Later, a prophet told David a tale about man who only had one lamb and someone stole that lamb. Almost immediately David realized the parallel, saying, “I have sinned against the LORD.”

At once, the prophet replied, “The LORD has taken away your sin” (2 Samuel 12:13). Erased. Gone. Forgotten. Forgiven. David marveled at God’s lavish forgiveness and responded by writing the tender words of repentance and gratitude “create in me a pure heart” and “restore to me the joy of your salvation” (Psalm 51:10,12).

Although forgiven, David’s sin caused extreme consequences. God wipes slates clean, but residue remains. Old felt erasers scattered chalk dust. Rubber erasers leave dregs, and sin leaves scum in the life of the perpetrator and far too often the innocent.

No one escapes sinning, but thank God that cartoon-depicted-lightening isn’t zapping our lives each time we sin. Jeremiah said, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

Just as God pushes the dark of night into the folds of the horizon and allows the brightness of dawn, he is ready to brighten days with forgiveness through Jesus.

I’m not fond of the consequences of sin that sometimes remain long after the forgiveness -- but I surely do love God’s erasures.

(A special Thank You to the McKinleys of Willis, TX, who greeted me in Sam’s Club, and introduced themselves. You blessed my day.)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fake Turf Away from Home

They left early on Sunday, due to arrive home in one week. My son, Russell, didn’t stay the entire six days of church camp.

On the first full day at camp, the director C. D. Davis phoned to say my strapping 11-year-old son suffered homesickness. The director also phoned on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I’d read an article in a parent magazine, "Convert Your Kid into a Happy Camper." I’d followed nearly all the guidelines to assure a genuine, happy experience. His best friend went with him. Every volunteer knew Russell—bus driver, nurse, cooks. They were his Sunday school teachers, youth director, and friends' parents.

I’d resisted only one thing: sending his favorite stuffed animal. I didn’t put his beloved stuffed Snoopy into his duffel bag since boys can taunt mercilessly. But did he miss his Snoopy? Was that the reason he wanted to come home?

I didn’t realize the depth of his missing home until the camp letter arrived on Thursday. My cheerful kid had written on the envelope “Daddy and Momma,” scratched it out and then written “Mr. and Mrs. Messecar.” What did that mean? Detachment? I let out a mother-worry-sigh.

I unsealed the camp letter. Our big-for-his-age son, mannish in appearance—massive shoulders, near-five-o’clock shadow, had written “Dear Mommy.” He never called me mommy.

I’d only read three sentences when I discovered he’d written the sad little letter on his first night at camp instead of playing softball! What? At home, this kid slept in his mitt and cap. My worry galloped.

The letter continued in lament fashion with a few watery stains on the paper. “I wish I hadn’t come to camp. I want to see you. I wish I was dead.” To his credit, he later made the High School drama team.

The same day the letter arrived, the camp director Mr. Davis phoned again telling me he was always the first person awake at camp -- until this year. Each morning, when the director walked onto his porch, there sat my baby, waiting on his doorsteps, asking to go home.

Most kids love camp, swimming, crafts, devotional time, marshmallows and badminton. Not my son. Russell apparently was dining on misery instead of S’mores and mac and cheese. My husband said, “Russell must miss our home a lot if he wants to come home that bad.” His dad’s final word, “If he’s homesick, let him come home.” Russell rode home later that night with an adult counselor, who needed to return early to go to work.

Russell’s camp adventure reminds me of those who take greener-pasture-romps. Jesus told a story about a son who couldn’t wait to leave home. Once gone, he found the outfield to be fake turf. Money gone and at his lowest, the hungry prodigal ended up at pig troughs yearning to eat their slop. That’s when thoughts of home made a heart-call.

The errant son knew his father’s front porch had a light on, and the son backtracked. He remembered the home of his youth, and he longed to return. He remembered his forgiving, patient father who loved him. The boy who left home on a lark now wanted to return. He may have found his way home because of his father’s prayers. He may just have found his way back because a loving father had prayed day after day and night after night, “If he’s homesick, let him come home.”

May we find strength to pray the following ancient prayer for others and ourselves, when the world offers illusions of better housing than our faithful God, “One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life” (Psalm 27:4).

Friday, August 06, 2010

A Sword and Wisdom

King Solomon sits down on his throne as loyal servants hover around, but the busy hum of a royal court shatters as the frantic voices of women are overheard from the outside halls. Their voices loud—Solomon hears them plead for an audience with him.

The king chuckles to himself; he doesn’t like to get involved in women’s quarrels. After all, he’s earning a reputation as a wise king. However, his heart is drawn into the unfolding drama because of another sound. The cries of an infant are mixed in the fray.

He motions and two disheveled women rush in. In a sling in front of one woman, a tiny babe seems further irritated by the hasty entrance, but she makes no effort to comfort the child. He signals for a burly guard to console the infant until he makes a ruling. The massive soldier Hiram reaches for the baby, but a frown creases his brow as he awkwardly lifts the curled infant to his shoulder.

Solomon listens intently as the women argue their plights, each claiming to be the birth mother. They live in the same house and both delivered infant sons the previous week. However, one of the sons died in the night, and now both women swear the child—the obviously hungry baby held by Hiram—is theirs.

Solomon honestly cannot tell which woman speaks the truth, but he knows two facts: last night, one woman had a son die and one had a son stolen. He reasoned that even fools knew that added up to two inconsolable women. But who is the real mother? With a quick flick of his wrist, he signals for their bickering to stop.

Like a deep refreshing breath, a solution descends upon him. He looks toward Hiram, who cradles the infant, only whimpering by now, and Solomon wonders how the giant guard has managed to calm the babe. He calls out, “Hiram, unsheathe your sword!” Horror registers on the guard’s face, but he obeys. With his huge protective left hand, he cuddles the newborn securely against his shoulder. With his right hand, he holds the gleaming, keen-edged sword at ready. A collective gasps echoes, and then a hush falls over the room.

Solomon levels his gaze on each woman, searching for the least flicker of deceit, and then he shouts the command. “Half the child! Give half to each mother!”

Solomon’s gaze never flickers as he watches the mothers. He sees horror and indescribable pain register on one face, while the other woman slightly lifts her chin, signaling she’s won.

The pained woman cries out, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!” Solomon has his answer. Only the real mother would be willing to give her son up to another to spare his life. At the king’s nod, Hiram sheathes his sword and hands over the infant to the grateful mother.

When Solomon began his reign, God told him to ask for whatever he wanted. Instead of asking for wealth, fame, or power, the new king literally asked God for a “listening ear” to make right judgments.

This past year, I’ve especially been aware of the truth of James’ observation, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).

That’s a simple thing to do—just ask. How can we remember to do that more? This is what I did: I printed James’ words on an index card to circulate around my house to remind me to ask for wisdom. I’m a big fan of these small cards with scriptures printed on them to remind me of privileges (like asking for wisdom), of blessings (like receiving unmerited wisdom), and using God’s gifts (like the “listening ear”).

Our answers to achieving better relationships, solutions to life dilemmas, and making better choices can be summed up in this phrase—godly wisdom. James says to place your order with generous God. Need some? Then ask, seek, and knock and those efforts will open up a world of wisdom.