Rule Your Spirit

So I’m back at work now.


Okay. Maybe slightly yes than “yay”. It’s kinda quiet here but not as quiet as you might expect. I’m covering phones and will take the afternoon campus mail run. Just as well, as I’m pretty brain dead from the 14.5 hour door-to-door trek from Wisconsin to Washington yesterday.

I’ve struggled with my attitude lately, keeping it good. Not just because we got stuck in rush-hour-plus accident-backup-traffic on the way home from SEA-TAC. I’m reminded of this scripture: A person without self control is like a city broken with broken-down walls. – Proverbs 25:28 NLT

Self-control sounds a bit tame.

Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls. – NKJV

I learned it the New King James way. In ancient times, cities had walls for protection. They were often thick enough to allow apartment-type homes to be carved into them. Literally, you lived in a hole in the wall.


Amazing, right?

Walls don’t have a great connotation in our culture. Walls, to Americans, generally mean we’re kept out of something or away from someone. Jails have walls to keep convicts in. That’s their punishment, separated from society. Think of Trump’s great wall. It’s not to protect us, necessarily; it’s to keep illegal aliens out. It probably won’t provide much in the way of protection.

Walls kept cities safe. Think of the Great Wall of China, built to keep out those marauding Mongols and hungry Huns (think Attila). In this case, the Chinese emperor tried to keep his people safe and his kingdom intact. Think of the wall of Jericho, so high and impenetrable, it intimidated the Israelite army. Only God had the power to knock it down (Joshua 6).

The “city without walls” meant no protection. No safety, no peace. The idea is that at any time, a hostile force could infiltrate and take over the city. Nobody would be watching from the city gates, so no early warning system or call to arms. Enemies would march down the street, celebrating an easy victory. People living in places without walls would probably feel uneasy and on guard. Maybe they developed a suspicious , alert nature as a default. Maybe they carried concealed knives as a precautionary measure. I can only speculate.

In this proverb, self-control or ruling your spirit saves others. You’re not a living, breathing time bomb. Your wrath doesn’t lash out like a sudden whip, leaving a red welt on their psyche. Angry words can wound deeply. If you’re in charge of your actions and attitudes, you also take responsibility when you mess up. You apologize. You make restitution somehow. In other words, you act with maturity.

Ruling your spirit protects you as well. You could incur a beat-down from someone much larger and stronger than you. You could endure great public humiliation because of your wayward mouth or aggressive, ahem, touching. When you exhibit self-control, you sail through controversy with your dignity and nose intact.

Of course, this will cost you something. You won’t get to “blow off steam” at someone who cuts you off on the highway. You’ll probably experience some stinging injustices. Your middle finger will atrophy from lack of use. You might get called wimpy, wussy or downright cowardly.

No matter. Because at the end of the day, it’s what God thinks that matters. He provides justice, when and if we need it. I’m learning, day by day, to rule my own spirit. I’m not there yet. Baby steps. Ultimately, acting with maturity reflects our Creator and brings glory to Jesus. Isn’t that the important thing?











Commit It

commit button.jpg

It’s drizzy and gray today. A half moon winked at me behind the fast-moving cloud cover as I drove into work. Every day, it’s a little brighter when I drive in. I relish it. I can see the eagles soaring overhead and the kitten fog lying between the trees.

Here we are, in the first full week of the new year. All those resolutions shine before us. What will we do with those great new goals? How do we get from here to there? I’ve been considering this.

Today’s scripture from my Bible app is out of Proverbs.

Commit your actions to the Lord, and your actions will succeed. – Proverbs 16:3

Com-mit, verb:

  1. carry out or perpetrate (a mistake, crime, or immoral act):
    “he committed an uncharacteristic error”
  2. pledge or bind (a person or an organization) to a certain course or policy:
    “they were reluctant to commit themselves to an opinion”

3. send, entrust, or consign, in particular.

The second definition applies here. To “pledge or bind” my actions to the Lord makes sense. But the third definition could fit, too. To send/entrust/consign my business to Jesus, as in transfer, could happen.

I’ve been meditating on that today. What does it mean to commit my actions? Other translations say “commit your works”. “Works” always seemed like whatever type of ministry I was participating in at the moment. It had a weightier quality, like works were more deliberate and definite, even definable. The Message version says, “Put God in charge of your work, then what you have planned will take place.”

If I put God in charge of my work, it’s not just my job, though I’d greatly appreciate His blessing in that realm. My work constitutes everything my hands find to do. Taking out the trash. Washing dishes. Driving to the store. Filing. Lord knows, *somebody* ought to bless filing. Work might include conversations with the kids. Probably covers feeding and watering the mammals every morning, too. It’s everything. All of these things fall into the NLT arena of “actions”, too. Some would say talking doesn’t fall into the category of actions. I disagree. Our words have the power to create and motivate.

This seems like this verse constitutes the “legs” to what I wrote about yesterday: surrender. Will I put my faith in action (see what I did there?) and do everything to the glory of God?

Yet it’s more than the day-to-day, of course. It’s the bigger plans. What’s the next thing for Jonathon and I? Where do we want to be in 5 years? What’s the plan for retirement? What will the kids do for careers? The burden of it needs to be transferred, though not fleshed out yet.

This verse, like so much of Proverbs, contains a seed that only grows upon meditation. It’s talking about the daily jobs we handle. It’s also talking about the next steps, the dreams and purposes and future we haven’t even begun to tackle. All of it needs to belong to God. Every little bit.

I guess the real question ends up with us. God is committed to us, day in and day out, 24/7. This commitment of ours becomes a partnering of sorts. If God is for us, how can we ever truly lose? The only question is, will we commit?

Extra Effort?

It’s gray today. Hard to believe just last week we had sun and temps in the 60s. It’s 43 right now, up from 41 degrees. Rain is imminent. The bruised sky foretells it. 

I’m up to running for 30 minutes straight now. I’ve completed the first part of the Amby Burfoot training. I started all over to baby my calves back into shape. As long as I remember to stretch, and try not to sit too much, it seems to work fine. I can feel the “stuff” falling off as I run – old ways of thinking, worries, what-ifs, etc.

I have a beautiful commute. I pass over sections of the Sound as I drive. I pass tidal flats. I drove up and down hills, fog nestling in the evergreens. I get to see the sunrise, either before the drive or during. I think of 101 as kind of a baby highway. Not to be condescending, one doesn’t encounter lot of traffic on this portion of it. It does get clogged up at the merge. Yet it isn’t I-5 or any of the California something-80 freeways, with 7 lanes in the same direction and an announcing sign 1/4 mile before you hit your exit. 

Sometimes, I wonder if the effort we put into things is really worth it. Is running worth it? I get up pretty early to put in the mileage. I could get more sleep and stay warm. But I find I feel better after I’ve sweated and pounded the pavement, pushing myself. I have energy and a new attitude. Is it worth it to drive a half hour every day to a new job? Well, I need the job, as it helps us stay afloat financially. Yet the possibilities are greater here as well. Anything can happen. 

When Jonathon taught choir in a small Oregon school district that shall remain nameless, their motto was “Excellence Through Extra Effort”. Because, somehow, regular effort simply wouldn’t cut it. It was both hilarious and insulting at the same time. You can’t get there in your own strength, punk. Don’t even try. 

Life has those seasons. We give it our best go and nothing happens. We fall and get back up again. We try. The only one I know who gives us something more is Jesus. No extra effort required, only grace. No more punishing levels of work, only surrender. We do our part, and let Him do His. 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
    do not depend on your own understanding.
 Seek his will in all you do,
    and he will show you which path to take. – Proverbs 3:5-6




The Shoes

“Susan, I want to show you something.”

Dad knelt on the floor of his bedroom and pulled open his bottom nightstand drawer. I peeked over his shoulder. He took out a small black box filled with brushes and little round metal tins. He lifted out a small pot filled with a dark pasty substance. He smiled at me.

“This is how you shine shoes, to keep them looking good and help them to last a long time. First, you brush off any dirt.”

I watched as he took a brush that fit in his hand and rubbed it back and forth across his dress shoes. Squiff-squiff! Squiff-squiff! His hand made the same motion each time, paired forward and back. It danced over the shoe’s surface.

“Now you rub in the polish.”

He picked up what had once been an old white t-shirt, now stained with many dots of polish – brown, blue and black – like the skin of a raggedy Dalmatian. He pushed the polish into the leather, making little circles as he went. I sat on the floor next to him and listened to him talk about taking care of the scuffed places on the heels and toes of his best shoes.

“We had to polish our boots every day in basic training,” he informed me. I remember thinking it sounded rather tedious to do every day. But the musical rhythm of the brushes fascinated me.

“Last, you buff off the excess polish.”

Now he wielded a different brush. He turned the shoe around and around in his hand, buffing from every angle. In true Army fashion, the shoes took on a new life under his care. This is where I got excited, my eyes wide. The shine on the wing tips put the sun to shame. I grabbed up the brush in anticipation.

“Dad, can I do it?”

“Sure!” he said, amber eyes twinkling, glad to teach me something he knew. I suppose one could look at this as him getting a bit of child labor for a task that probably fell to the bottom of the stack in his daily life. But I loved it.

And so, yesterday, for the first time in my adult life, I polished my own shoes.


I wiped off the dirt with a damp cloth, since we live in a wet climate and the parking lot at work becomes a soupy mess when it rains. I rubbed in the polish, taking care to cover the scuffs and scratches. Then I buffed it all out into a protective layer. Looking at the results, I can see I don’t have Dad’s skill. But I can get better.

This probably seems minor to many of you. And it took me awhile to come around to doing it myself. But I’m grateful. Thanks, Dad, for teaching me how to take care of the things I own. May we be able to teach our kids to do the same.

Direct your children onto the right path,
    and when they are older, they will not leave it. – Proverbs 22:6

Welcome, 2017!

Bring on the new beginnings! Starting today. Because yesterday turned out to be a rest day. Which happens when you actually make it to midnight on New Year’s Eve and you’re not in your 20s anymore.

Frankly, folks,  I got so discouraged during the fall, it’s taken me awhile to gather hope for a new year. I’m finally ready to take on 2017.

And so, let’s roll on.

I did the math. I worked out 260 times last year. That’s just over 71% of the year. It seems accurate, considering illnesses and just general weariness.

  • I’d like to push that to 300 or more this year. That averages out to about 6 days a week.

Also, I don’t find I have the time to put into training for half marathons right now. It’s not where I want to spend my precious free time. But I do want to up my annual mileage.

  • I want to run 750 miles this year.

That’s almost how far it would be to travel from Shelton to San Francisco, CA, one of my favorite cities. See?


It’s actually 766 miles away from Shelton’s center, give or take a fraction of a mile. I can track how far I’ve gone as the year progresses. Who knows? Maybe I’ll make it all the way to San Jose.

In other news, I also want to…

  • Read the Bible through in a year. I did a devotional plan with commentary last year. It was alright. Yet I found I didn’t get enough of the Word in me. I’m going after it again this year. I need more wisdom and understanding. I can think of no better place to get it.

While we’re talking about Scripture, an old friend of mine posted on Facebook that she sought the Lord each year for a scripture to meditate on, and another one that would motivate her actions for the year. I loved this idea and decided to jump on it myself. I haven’t gotten the meditation one yet, but I believe the motivational one is this:

A cheerful heart is good medicine,
    but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength. – Proverbs 17:22

  • I want to be someone who brings encouragement and refreshing to those around me. Every day we learn of some fresh horrors. The future can look bleak, especially this time of year with spring so very far off and Christmas a fading memory. This means, of course, that I need to mind how I speak and think. If I complain or join in the gossiping, I’m only bringing the general tone down. I also realize this will take time and effort. I can start again when I mess up.

Yet 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. – Lamentations 3:21-23

We *can* start again, right where we are. The new year is a great time to do it, but truly, any day of the week will do. What are some of your goals? Do you make resolutions? I would love to hear from you.








Last night, Donald J. Trump became the 45th president of the United States.

I never saw this coming. Not in a million years.

Zac turned on BBC news coverage of the 2016 election as he folded clothes.

“Mom,” he called from the family room. “Trump is winning.”

I saw early indicators of it when I checked in yesterday afternoon. But I never thought it would hold. I’ve lived in blue states all my life, albeit sometimes in deeply red pockets of rural areas. I figured the established party, with someone who’s been a politician already, would win handily. Experience counts, right, like when you interview for a job? I was wrong.

Watching the BBC broadcast proved fascinating. The main female announcer – Kitty? Kathy? – caught the gist of what was happening pretty quickly. She mentioned she spent some time in southern Virginia talking to a conservative radio talk show host, a shock jock. He said we were witnessing the rebellion against the “wussification of America”.

Over and over, the trend analysis pointed out that white working class men came out to the polls in droves. They never felt they had a voice before now, someone who understood their troubles. Trump has pledged to bring jobs back to America and they liked that. Evangelical Christians voted for Trump because of his stand on abortion. Women who wanted to stay home with their children and not be forced back to work found a champion in Trump.

The broadcasters had an interesting take.

“Trump did this with his own money, without GOP backing. He’s thumbed his nose at the establishment. Look at the upset. We’re witnessing history here.”

They talked about this election like watching your little brother in his first scrap on the playground, surprised and a little proud when he takes his opponent down.

Yes. As Jonathon and I sat watching the coverage, dumbfounded, I mulled it all over. No, I didn’t vote for Hillary, either. But I can’t get excited about a thug as president.

I had to run outside today in spite of the rain. It felt like the earth was crying. I thought about my Facebook feed that ranges from people protesting the electoral college system  to those thanking America, with pictures of unborn babies. How do we come back from such a divisive election season? How will we ever find middle ground, when we’ve discounted each others’ opinions and beat each other up for more than a year?

I dodged puddles, the streetlights hazy in the morning mist. I found myself considering the bullying tactics of Trump. Getting down to basics, how do we teach our children common decency in the face of someone who openly hates others who are different and incites fear of them? How do we tell young boys that it’s not okay to grope or assault girls? Never mind all the other allegations of swindling leveled against Mr Trump.

Because our president, our newly elected leader of the free world, has done all those things. You can say, “Oh, he doesn’t do that anymore.” Great. I need to see fruit. I need proof. I need him to take advice from the good people who surround him and get going on “making America great again”, whatever that means. My Christian friends say he is born again. Again, his behavior this entire campaign makes that a doubtful proposition.

This entire election process has driven me to my knees more times than I can count. I have prayed for Obama, for wisdom and strength. I will pray for Trump, too. Because only by God’s grace can America ever be great.

Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people. – Proverbs 14:34







Thursday Trust

“Everyone who has run knows that its most important value is in relieving tension and allowing a release from whatever other cares the day may bring.” – Jimmy Carter

Is it Friday yet?! This week has seemed to have some extra days between Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

I did my last 3-mile run of the week today. I’ll do my long run on Saturday. We’re topping 90 degrees again today, so the cool morning air was welcoming. A few stars twinkled in the sky next to a glowing half moon. I paced down city streets, with streetlights and porchlights to guide me. It made me think of this:

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. – Psalm 119:105

I’ve been doing some more attitude work this week. Things haven’t gone according to plan. And by plan I mean *my* plan. I’ve struggled to remember I’m not in charge and I don’t have to solve everything. Running helps, but isn’t the cure. I can’t solve everything, in point of fact. Otherwise, why would I need Jesus?

Remembering this, as I pray minute by minute about things large and small, helps me to stay in the trusting place. My fallback is here:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
    do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
    and he will show you which path to take – Proverbs 3:5-6

What’s fascinating to me is that He speaks in so many ways. Yes, through the Bible – our standard for testing direction. But also through perfect strangers and our closest family members. We only need to listen and know that He will guide.