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Monday, December 24, 2012

Third Time's Not the Charm

I've figured out why I keep eating, even after I've decided the food isn't worth it. It's the same reason I keep listening to B101's Christmas music, regardless of the fact that their station managers seem to have decided there are maybe 12 holiday songs worth playing - that's their story, they're sticking with it - so no need to bore their audience with anything inspirational or - yee gads - original.

Don't misunderstand. I'm really not knocking the DJ's for playing what their audience wants to hear. Actually, I'm kicking myself for falling into the same trap time and again. I keep tuning in, hoping to hear something different, and it always surprises me just a bit when I get the same old thing, ad nauseum. In like foolish manner, I'll go back to the table repeatedly, even though, as my friend Randi says, the food really isn't that great. I know I can have leftovers tomorrow. I know it's not going to be any more delicious the second time around than it was the first. Foods that were ho hum with the first bite are not going to wow me any more with second helpings, so WHY do I go back for more?

The plain fact is, I'm chasing a high.

I don't want the experience to end. I want my heart to be warmer, the sensations I'm feeling to last longer or be amplified. Something irrational inside me subscribes to the notion that whatever is going on around or within me simply isn't enough. I have to supplement it with some sort of sensory pleasure that is always elusive and always fleeting.

Just for today, I'm going to try to let God have the last word.

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."
I Corinthians 10:31

For more like this, check out: Morsels for Meditation...: Jesus Christ, the Same Yesterday, Today, and December 26th

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Jesus Christ, the Same Yesterday, Today, and December 26th

My father-in-law used to say the heaviest thing for him to pick up was a pen. That was back in the days when people used such outdated implements to correspond with each other. Nowadays, we might say the hardest things to un-stick are the keyboard letters. Either way, we're talking about writer's block, and mine has been  noticeable these last few months.

I must acknowledge and dedicate this post to my dear friend René, who has been gently nudging me for several weeks now to get back on the proverbial horse and ride. A faithful reader of my blog, she has been dutifully checking for the latest posts, only to find there were NONE! I've been blaming my reticence on the old standby, Christmas busy-ness, but René was having none of it.

"It's been well over a month! It is time!" was her last admonition to me; so René, this one's for you.

We do make Christmas ridiculously busy in our culture. Not surprisingly, we become tired and cranky, and turn what should be a joyous celebration of imperial birth into a time of stress and often emptiness. My own cycle goes something like this:

I begin to get the Christmas spirit before Thanksgiving. I wait anxiously for B101 and oldies 98 to start playing round the clock Christmas music, and wade through my disorganized collection of CD's to supplement the radio's somewhat limited offerings. I gradually decorate the house until one day I walk downstairs and realize my vinyl Christmas tablecloth is just too much, and secretly look forward to stashing it away till next year. When my children were younger, I read Christmas stories and the Christmas story to them at bedtime; now that they're more or less grown, I read heartwarming yule tales to myself, without telling anyone (till now). Our family lights scented candles that make our artificial tree seem more piney, while watching Nick at Night's Christmas marathon, circa 1994, for the thousandth time, and munching cheater's Pillsbury cookies out of the freezer (they don't necessarily have to be baked; we don't believe in wasting time).

As our family is of mixed lineage, we celebrate Hanukkah as well as Christmas. This is one of my favorite parts of the holiday celebration, as it reminds me of my dear father, whose menorah (wax-encrusted and in dire need of polishing, but nevertheless quite functional) almost makes it seem like he's still with us. I send out holiday cards in batches, wending my way through two dilapidated personal address books and several church directories. Throughout the month I package up homemade goodies (often "ghost-baked" by my fairy godmother, Anita, whose banana bread is listed right next to nectar and ambrosia on the official menu for the gods), and deliver said treats to deserving service providers, whose good will I hope to maintain in the new year.

Somewhere around the 20th I start to panic, realizing I haven't wrapped a thing, let alone finished shopping. I make one last trip to the mall and begin wrapping with abandon. Towards the end of the Scotch Tape (and my patience), I switch over to bagging, which is more sensible anyway, since my boys have zero appreciation for ribbons, bows, or Thomas Kinkade-themed paper.

December 24th is probably my favorite day of the year, and I try to enjoy it to the fullest. I finish whatever is left to do in the way of gifting or cooking, often visit with family and friends, and generally savor the expectancy of the day. I treasure going to church on Christmas Eve, feeling the warmth in my heart glow brighter with the singing of each cherished hymn. After circling the tree with gifts, I settle down to watch Scrooge or George Bailey evolve into the men God intends them to be, while offering up silent thanks for the many blessings in my life.
Before I know it, Christmas day has arrived, with all its wonderful chaos. Some expectations are met, while other longings remain. One thing I can always count on: it goes too fast. While I'm always relieved that the mad rush is over, I usually also feel a sense of loss of excitement and forward-looking. The realization that winter is upon us, with all its dark, dreary days, that financial aid forms and tax season loom, and no amount of twinkling lights can make those realities go away. In short, a sense that the fun is over, and it's time to get back to work.

No matter how old I get, I can't seem to make the after-Christmas doldrums go away. I count the days till it's time to go back to work, and bite my nails the night before vacation ends. I usually try to stretch out the last day as much as possible, pretending the dawn won't come, and with it, the inevitable jolt back to ordinary life.

Through it all, I try to stick close to God, remembering it is He whose Son we are celebrating. Still, I wake up the day after New Years tired, over-stuffed with food and frolicking, till one thing catches me up short.

Jesus is right where I left Him.

    "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever."  Hebrews 13:8

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Ask Good Questions

"Ask good questions."

That's my friend Anita's recipe for relationship success. Posing thought-provoking questions, rather than making blanket statements, declarations and imperatives, leads to better communication, Anita swears, especially when parents are conversing with adult or nearly adult children.

I put this theory to the test recently, when my 20-year-old son opened up to me about his life. We startedout sharing a cup of coffee and, before I knew it, were deeply ensconced in the type of discussion parents dream of, once their too loquacious grade schoolers turn into reticent teens. I gnawed my tongue mercilessly, gulping more decaf when advice threatened to tumble out unbidden. I used every trick taught to first year psych students, including reflecting, affirming, and non-judgmental listening. I used phrases like, "It sounds like" and "So you're saying," rather than my well-worn "Don't you think?" and "If I were in your shoes..." In short, I hogtied my maternity, and took the stance of an objective, non-partisan automaton.

And I asked good questions. I wondered aloud what his feelings were about the issues on the table, and what options he saw for himself and others in his sphere of influence. Those questions gave way to more questions and, surprisingly, more unleashed confidences.

Just when I thought I would asphyxiate if I had to hold in any more life-saving counsel, my adult son asked me a good question:

"So... what do you think?"

"The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out." Proverbs 20:5

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Thirty-seven Cents

Last night at prayer meeting, our leader told the story of a woman who donated a paltry 37 cents to a cause calling for big bucks. It was what she could afford -  no, probably more than she could afford. She thrust the four thin coins joyfully into the hand of the collector, along with a prayer of thanks to the Provider.

And all of heaven sang.

"So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver." 2 Corinthians 9:7

"Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much.  Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury;  for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood."
Mark 12:41-44

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Keeping My Side of the Street Clean Part 3

Almost two years ago I had a falling out with a neighbor over a trivial issue. Tempers flared, and things were quite chilly for awhile. I blogged about it at the time, vowing to do my part to repair the damaged relationship. It was hard to be civil when I felt wronged, and eventually we did have to duke things out a bit. Thankfully, the Lord spoke to me through some Peacemaker books, which explained the Biblical methods of resolving conflict. Things have been improving ever since, and I'm thrilled to report an incredible side effect of my obedience to God.

First let me relate a story a friend once shared. Like me, she had clashed with a neighbor. Not surprisingly, they weren't speaking after the argument. My friend felt terrible about the situation, and prayed for guidance. Shortly thereafter, she found a greeting card which summed up her position without apologizing, which was important to her because she truly felt the other person was in the wrong. The message inside urged reconciliation without taking the blame. She added simply, "Peace," then signed her name. Not long after sending the card, her young son had an accident and had to be taken to the emergency room. At this point in the story, my friend broke into a grin, stating, "Guess who his nurse was!" She went onto say that, while the neighbor never acknowledged the card directly, she did everything she could to make the ER experience as stress-free and comfortable as possible. What a testimony to the benefits of making the first move!

Getting back to the issue with my neighbor, I experienced a similar result. As we all know, the Northeast was hit by a doozy of a hurricane over the last couple of days. During the worst of it, a huge limb broke off a tree on my street, landing right behind my son's pickup truck. I watched wordlessly as he went over to move his vehicle, lest any other rogue boughs might decide to come crashing down on his investment. From her porch my neighbor saw what he was about to do. Suddenly she cried out, "Aaron, be careful! A power line might have come down with that limb!" She suggested a safer alternative to his backing up over the downed branch. His oblivious mother might have witnessed his electrocution, but for the quick-thinking advice of a former foe. I decided then and there I'd rather have a standoffish neighbor who comes through with the big stuff than a "hail-fellow-well-met" sort who might've let my son walk into destruction.

We don't often get such a meaningful payoff for doing the right thing. We may never know this side of heaven why He asks us to be peacemakers, especially when our attempts at reconciliation may be ignored or mistaken for weakness. I guess obedience without understanding is the essence of faith.

For more like this, check out: Morsels for Meditation...: Keeping My Side of the Street Clean

Morsels for Meditation...: Keeping My Side of the Street Clean Part 2

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Moses Revisited

It's been way too long since I blogged. Then I get out of the habit and it feels like a burden... when really, it's a privilege.

What's been on my mind is how like Moses I am. When he was asked - commanded, actually - to put the squeeze on Pharaoh to let God's people go, he resisted. His first objection was basically, "Why me? What have I got to offer?" (Exodus 3:11). When God assured His servant that He would be with him every step of the way, Moses worried that he wouldn't have answers to the questions he might be asked. Again, God patiently addressed Moses' concern. Still not satisfied, the shepherd who had miraculously been rescued by none other than Pharaoh's daughter (during a blood bath her father had launched against male Hebrew babies) fretted that his audience might not believe him. The Lord, doubtless weary of His servant's unbelief and unwillingness to take on what He had equipped him to do, let loose a couple of miracles to remind Moses with Whom he was allied.

Incredibly, Moses was not through arguing! He next protested that he wasn't eloquent enough to persuade Pharaoh (Exodus 4:10). Here is where I get the chills, as the God of the universe takes responsibility for the full gamut of human capability, ranging from the deficient to the extraordinary:
"So the Lord said to him, 'Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.'" (4:11)

I'm astonished that this patriarch, born of God's chosen race and adopted into Egyptian royalty, still continued to doubt he had the credentials to do this job. Had he realized how much courage it took to contend with almighty God, surely he would have seen the ludicrousness of fearing an earthly king.

Yet, after all God's reassurances, underscored by physical signs of just what He was capable of, Moses begged God to send someone else, anyone else (4:13).

I was recently called by God to plead a cause of my own to a human authority. At first I tried to worm my way out by denying evidence that was right before my eyes to avoid getting involved. The Lord was relentless, and refused to remove the commission. I then sought to ally myself with others so I wouldn't have to face the situation alone. When it became obvious I needed to accept the challenge with only God (did I just say only God?) to accompany me, I spent hours preparing and rehearsing what I would say.

At the heart of my behavior was cold fear. The situation had triggered the memory of a similar experience in which I had been belittled, mistreated and outnumbered. I didn't want that to happen again. In addition, I've always considered myself a poor verbal debater; I'm exponentially more comfortable trying to persuade unknown readers out there than real live hearers right here. I pretty much relived Moses' conversation with God, with about as much success. In the end I limped into the meeting with nothing but heavenly armor covering my knocking knees, and emerged to sing praises to the Lord who did exceedingly abundantly, above all I could ask or think, according to His power (Ephesians 3:20), that did indeed work through this quivering clay vessel.

How dare I be amazed.

Check out Chris Tomlin's Our God

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

God Rather Than Men

I've been reading the story in Acts where the apostles are imprisoned by "the powers that be" for sharing their faith. No sooner are they miraculously rescued by an angel, than they receive instructions to jump right back into action again.

I don't know about you, but if I had just been sprung from jail, the last thing I'd want to do is head back to the same place I'd been arrested to commit the same offense. Unhesitatingly, the text seems to indicate, they obey. I have to wonder, though, if in their humanness they didn't blurt out, "You want us to go where? And do what? Remember what just happened to us? You just took us out of the frying pan, and now You want to hustle us right back into the fire? Something's wrong with this picture!"

I've had some large-ish trials this past year - nothing close to what the apostles faced in the first century - but enough to send me to my knees more often than when things are humming along at a normal pace. I've endured some pretty sticky dealings with "powers that be," and found them pretty intimidating. When we read the account in Acts, the religious leaders, at least to my mind, don't sound all that scary. We are only privy to a few lines of dialogue, and the apostles seem to come out on top in every confrontation. They don't appear to flounder for words, or think of things they should have said two days later, like I do. But I'm willing to bet if we could get inside the minds of Peter and the gang, we'd see they were just as petrified as we are about going up against the "big guns."  I would further surmise that the high priest and his cronies could hold their own in a debate, and shred a fisherman like Peter with a few clever sentences. After all, they were the leaders of the Sadducees, the conservative Jewish ruling body of the day. They would have been powerful, wealthy and well educated. Most of  the apostles were humble tradesmen. What business did they have going up against such an influential assembly?

To put a modern spin on the type of situation the disciples were facing, imagine being "invited" to a meeting with management to discuss some "issues" with your work performance. You enter a conference room with a table long enough to seat the Partridge Family, the Brady Bunch and everyone on Walton's Mountain. You're escorted to a high backed leather chair by men in Armani suits holding laptops which click incessantly as they interrogate you. You yearn for a cheesy poster or piece of fluff art to break some of the formality; all that meets your eye is a dead-white dry erase board and ceiling projector, both of which seem to scoff at your desperate situation. You feel helpless, overwhelmed, and without a prayer.

That's where you're wrong. There's always a prayer, and it's the smartest (and sometimes the only) thing to do in such circumstances.

The disciples knew that key fact, and they ran with it. Their courage came from none other than God Himself, in the form of the Holy Spirit, which descended upon them on the day of Pentecost. And yesabsolutely, the same help is ready, willing and able to be tapped by timid believers like me in today's global, post-modern world. I know this because, on more than one occasion, he has un-tongue-tied yours truly, whose tendency is to stutter and stumble when feelings of inadequacy kick in, and whose debating skills are - well, let's just say lacking.

Not only that, but He sends help from unexpected sources. Looking back at Acts 5 again, we see that the apostles' case was pleaded by none other than a Pharisee, a member of the rival religious group to the Sadducees, and certainly no friend to the early Christians. It was the persuasive and self-serving argument of Rabbi Gamaliel which prompted their accusers to let the apostles off with a flogging and a warning. They didn't get away unscathed, and we may suffer some fallout, too. There is precedent, though, for believers to anticipate deliverance and unusual means of assistance.

I personally have experienced God's creative methods of intervention many times. Last spring He "sprang" me from a dangerous and hostile situation in a way I couldn't possibly have predicted. Years ago, when my husband was in medical school and we needed every cent we could lay our hands on, God guided me to resign a part time day care job. My son was a toddler at the time, and he accompanied me to work. He was becoming increasingly jealous of the attention I had to share with his peers; every shift was becoming a combat zone, leaving both of us exhausted and angry with one another. While I knew unequivocally it was time to leave, this was insanity from a financial point of view. A week later, a better, more lucrative child care position, which included a separate classroom for my little boy, fell into my lap through no effort on my part. As such evidences mount up, so does my assurance that He can and will protect and often rescue His people from the perils which assail us.

Count on it.

For more like this, check out: Morsels for Meditation...: Deliverance

Morsels for Meditation...: Deliverance Part 2, AKA, Jurassic Park Revisited

Saturday, September 29, 2012


Someone dear to me is battling addiction, a nasty, vicious harmer of body and soul. And I don't just mean the addict's. I find myself raging at the compulsion that has reduced a once robust individual to a far frailer version of himself. I succumb to the vengeful act of setting unreasonable boundaries at times, causing shame and humiliation, where calm detachment would better serve. I rant rather than reserve comment, offering ultimatums instead of understanding.

The basis for this worthless haranguing? None other than cold, terrifying fear. Fear of losing the fight, i.e., losing the fighter. Fear that all my efforts were in vain. Fear that, in the end, I really am powerless over another person’s choices.

Yesterday it was suggested to me that a better tack would be to buoy up the struggler, really get behind him, assuring him of my faith in his ultimate conquest of the monster within. Oh, and by the way, it would help if I actually meant those cheerleading words. I rolled my eyes mentally. How many times could I be expected to come alongside this person, knowing he had relapsed time and again? After all, everyone knows “seventy times seven” is just hyperbole, right?

But desperation breeds willingness. Willingness to hope when hope is ridiculous. When all sane measures have been exhausted - when every reasonable door has been tapped on, banged on, busted down, and still another lock prevents entry to freedom – hope in its simplest form is disguised as perseverance.

So I instructed my tongue to form words of encouragement. It was merely a rote exercise, like forcing myself to get out of bed despite my body’s demands for R&R. I started small, murmuring comforting words, more to myself than to the sufferer. I worked up gradually to specific instances of overcoming, any victories I could hearken back to, reminding us both that success in past endeavors might well suggest hope for the future.

Ever so slightly, like the sun cracking open the curtains of night, my prattle took on meaning. At some point I noticed I meant what I was saying. Before I knew it, I no longer had to reach for examples of victory; they were there for the taking. Because this person really is a wondrous, accomplished individual, made in God’s image; why shouldn’t he experience deliverance?

Sometimes you’ve just got to shake your fist – I mean, Fist - at fear, and show it who’s Boss.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Looking Up

I have a beautiful new bedroom. The walls are pale lavendar, the trim a creamy white. Thus far, I have managed to keep it uncluttered (no small achievement for a packrat like me). A dear friend contributed magnificent, lacy curtains (not to mention, expensive), right off her own windows, because she knew how much I loved them.

The one thing that is not so aesthetically pleasing is the floor. As the painting progressed, I toyed with the idea of fully carpeting the room; therefore, I allowed the painter to be less than careful as she worked. In addition, the floor has some nasty scarring, the result of furniture being moved without necessary caution. I selected a lovely sculpted area rug (sage green) that covers most of the unsightliness, but it's there, and I know it.

At the risk of over-spiritualizing (if there is any such thing - after all, God calls us to think about Him every day in every way, Deuteronomy 6:6-7), I think there's a message here. When I look around my room, I'm struck by the glorious, soothing colors, and the way the whole venue comes together. It really turned out better than I ever imagined. However, when I cast my eye downward, I notice all the flaws. So, being fully aware of the damaged state of the floor, I consciously turn my gaze upward, and with it go the corners of my mouth into a delighted grin, which is as it should be. Why should I allow the imperfections of my living space - whether I'm thinking of my home in particular, or the world at large - to discourage me? When the time is right, I'll tackle the marring, but for now I have every reason to be grateful and joyful. Many loving hands put this room (and this planet) together, and I'd be a fool not to enjoy them.

"Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God;
For I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God (Psalm 42:11)

"If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth." 
(Colossians 3:1-2)

Monday, September 3, 2012


A dear friend offered the following account of her recent bout with sleeplessness. Upon realizing - for the first time - that God was with her as she struggled with eyes that wouldn't stay closed, she decided to stop fighting it. She invited her heavenly Father to join her, right there, in her insomnia. The pressure off, she relaxed in the night and waited for sleep to come, when and if it would.

"If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you." Psalm 139:11-12

Check out Michael Card's Even the Darkness is Light to Him

Grade School Heroes

I was picked on as a child.

It started when I befriended a runny-nosed kid named David in elementary school. The school bullies quickly pegged him as under-confident, and they ran with it. Once word got out that he was an easy target, nothing could save him. His mother signed up to be a playground monitor; they teased him behind her back. She invited the whole class to a themed birthday party for him; they ate his cake on Sunday and resumed their cruelty on Monday. My overtures of kindness to this unfortunate boy became fodder for speculation that I liked him. I went down right along with him.

Joy, a minister's daughter who was aptly named, reached out and refused to join in with the others' harassment of me. She wasn't brave enough, as a second grader, to launch a campaign or anything, but she quietly made it known that she didn't share in the prevailing opinion. She was, quite simply, a Godsend.

My social troubles remained throughout the elementary years. I coped by taking frequent "vacations" from school, conjuring up sore throats and nebulous symptoms which my lenient mother let me get away with. Towards the end of those lonely years, God sent Jean into my life. I later learned she stood up for me one day while I was absent and the kids decided to hold a Thea-bashing session. Jean was socially everything I was not – involved, outgoing, and most importantly, well-liked. Her voice held sway. If I didn't gain in popularity, at least the bullies began to leave me alone.

In middle school (or "junior high," as it was known back in the Dark Ages when I went to school), I still struggled to be accepted. My biggest problem, I now realize, was I didn't believe in myself. I trusted that the sneerers and mockers knew what they were talking about. Also, I hadn't yet learned the liberating secret of acting as if. I didn't know that the one with the poker face wins the hand, that I could pretend to be confident, even as I was withering on the inside.

As I struggled with these growing pains, God provided yet another angel, Lisa, who candidly admitted she liked me, but simply couldn't take the risk of letting it be known, lest she become the next victim. I grasped her invisible help like one in quicksand grabs hold of a life preserver. Rescue is not an option; sinking's inevitable, but there's an illusion of hope that allows the drowning person to carry on. Lisa's whispered words comforted and strengthened my flickering self-esteem. I held on for dear life.

So on the eve of a new school year, I offer thanks to these dear souls. Their varying levels of courage did not in any way diminish the gift that each gave me in my darkest hours: the gift of a hand outstretched, however trembling, to one that needed to be held.

"'The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.'" Numbers 6:24-26

For more like this, check out: Morsels for Meditation...: Grade School Heroes Part 2

Morsels for Meditation...: Lockers and Notebooks...

Morsels for Meditation...: School Bells and Ink Quills

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Are We Young... or Are We Sleeping?

Hello, all dozen of you blog readers! You're in for a treat today. My dear friend and prayer partner has offered to guest host our blog today. Take it away, Tina!

Commentary to which Tina is responding:

"We Are Young': The Anthem of a New Generation?

 by John Stonestreet

Earlier this summer, I kept hearing this song with a very memorable sound – and not the “if I can’t get this song out of my head I may jump off a cliff” memorable sound of “Call Me Maybe,” the most popular song of the summer. No; this one reminded me of the rock anthems of the 80s and 90s.
So when I heard a commentator suggest that this song, “We Are Young” by the band Fun, could work as an anthem for the Olympics, I looked up the lyrics.
I already knew the chorus: “We are young, so let’s set the world on fire; we can burn brighter than the sun.”

As someone who often played sports with Queen’s “We Are the Champions” playing in the background, I assumed this was one of those “seize the moment” and “we can do it” songs. But the rest of the lyrics were anything but: “My friends are in the bathroom getting higher than the Empire State” and “If by the time the bar closes, you feel like falling down, I’ll carry you home tonight.”

That’s what setting the world on fire means? Scottish writer and politician Andrew Fletcher was right when he said, “If a man were permitted to write the ballads of a nation, he need not care who writes its laws.”

My friend David Eaton, who leads a terrific worldview ministry for students called Axis, says “We Are Young” is like so many other songs that focus on the here and now: dissociating actions today with consequences tomorrow. Get drunk, get high tonight, but no worries about waking up tomorrow with a pregnant girlfriend, or a drug habit, or being unable to hold down a job.

This sort of postmodern fantasy — that ideas don’t have consequences — dangerously resonates in the minds and hearts of young people. In fact, Rolling Stone called the performance of “We Are Young” the defining singalong moment of one of the largest music festivals this summer.

But the immorality is only part of the problem, and celebrating the drunken bar scene isn’t what bothers me most about “We Are Young.” Most troubling is how this lifestyle is portrayed as not even really meaningful, but as all that’s left because there’s nothing significant to live for.

In fact, another song by Fun called “Some Nights” is no better. The video utilizes something as historically significant as a Civil War battle in order to sing: “So this is it? I sold my soul for this? Well, that is it, guys, and that is all, five minutes in and I’m bored again.”

The rebellion of the past was a way of expressing youthful independence or personal toughness. The rebellion of today is doing anything in order to feel something, to cope with the sickening sense that life is ultimately meaningless.

Ravi Zacharias suggests that God created us with a sense of wonder that is ultimately only fulfilled in the wonder of Him. A generation without wonder, that has lost purpose, is one that needs a new anthem.

But what can we do about it? After all, you say, songs that promote immorality and nihilism have been around for decades. But folks, today’s songs are more blatant and more accessible than ever before. We went from “I want to hold your hand” in the 60s to “I want to sex you up” in the 90s, to lyrics I can’t even mention today.

So please, talk with, not just at, your students about their entertainment. And if you need help, check out the work of Axis. David Eation and his Axis teams are more effective than any group I know in confronting students’ apathy toward ideas. Go to, click on this commentary, and we’ll link you to their website. We’ll also link you to today’s "Two-Minute Warning," where I call on Christian professionals and business people to step up to the plate and engage culture.

Because if we don’t, it won’t be long before faith will be banished from the public square.

 Again, that’s my Two-Minute Warning at

As the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, John Stonestreet provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.

BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.

Publication date: August 16, 2012

Tina Simon’s Response 8/21/12:

Although I agree with the response of John Stonestreet (BreakPoint Commentary) to the song “We Are Young,” I think it is only one part of the story.
How often do we pray for those without Christ? And more than that, how often do we weep? Isaiah says that God collects our tears; if our tears were the rain, then perhaps this is why we have such a drought? When is the last time any of us looked out of a window down onto a crowded street and cried as if our hearts would break for the walking dead? Is it only the young unbeliever who has become complacent and apathetic?

For every trafficked girl, for every beaten wife, for every grandmother sitting alone in a nursing home chair, for every child soldier in Sierra Leone, for every person who has decided drugs or suicide is better than his reality, for every gay man who wants love and finds only AIDS, for thousands dying of starvation and disease in third world countries (who hardly really lived), for every warrior who dies in a myriad of unending wars, for every aborted baby and the hardened hearts that think it is “business as usual,” for every abused child who loves the hands that abused him, for all the money and goods that are consumed in the empty pit of unending pleasure that only gives pain, we should be on our faces before the throne of God. No matter how large the church, it is more than she can handle. Only God through the Holy Spirit can deal with all the weight of this much sorrow, wickedness, and woe.

Let us not harden our hearts. Remember, if we are children of the King, then we live forever; so even those who are old in earthly years are young. Let us cry an ocean over them till we put out the fire that is consuming them.

Yes, we should stand and be counted for what’s right. People need to know that we care about right and wrong. But we should go to Godly war with tears in our eyes and God’s Word on our lips. We need to speak joy and hope in a world that has become cynical, frightened, suspicious, hardened, wary, bored, mocking, disgusted, and hedonistic. As an old Peggy Lee song puts it: “If that’s all there is, my friends, then let’s keep dancing, let’s break out the booze and have a ball, if that’s all there is.”

“If life is only cradle to tomb, then perhaps it is only a Cabaret,” sings Liza Minnelli.

Cynically jaded songs are not new, but choosing them as songs of honor is new. Let’s sing a responding song in the darkness. Let us sing the songs that God gives us in the night: “Day by Day and with Each Passing Moment,” “O Love That Wilt Not let Me Go,” “All The Way My Savior Leads Me...”

For life lived only under the sun which is just vanity and a chasing after wind, are there no tears? There are over seven billion people in the world and the number one problem is loneliness; we should be sobbing. It was not Jesus’ anger that brought us salvation; it was his blood, tears, sweat, and death. With His resurrection, He opened heaven and life eternal for us. Tell of it, sing of it. Life is more than nasty, brutish, and short. Let us speak of heaven, brotherhood, love, faith, hope, joy, our Father, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and all else that is lovely, good, uplifting, and kind. Let us bring the wisdom of Scripture into a world that worships the short-sighted, adolescence, instant gratification, nastiness, and cruelty.

If the righteous King of the universe, who is our brother as well as our Lord and Savior, could give His life for us, surely we can spare some heartache and tears for this generation that is being consumed on the fires of Gehenna. Let’s pray Icharus down from the sun and tell him those who try to get to heaven on their own wings will crash and burn. Let’s “carry them to the throne tonight,” that we might see them in our Father’s home tomorrow.

Is that a choir singing, or is someone just praying them home tonight?

 Check out Keith Green's Asleep in the Light

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Comedy? Really?

There's a reason I don't like Lucy Ricardo. She's schizo. No, actually, in my mind she's a sociopath. What else would you call someone whose sole interest is in getting her own way, no matter what the cost to her husband's career or her personal relationships?

Why this tempest in a teapot? Why take seriously a 50's sitcom whose only goal was to entertain and pour laughter into the homes of post-war America?

Because of Jack Black and Olivia Newton-John, that's why.

Tonight, for the umpteenth time, my kids watched School of Rock, and I viewed it with them. Together we laughed at Dewey Finn's (Black's) stage antics and marveled at his ability to turn a bunch of straight-laced prep school students into a rockin' band. But when it was all over, I demanded equal time.

I insisted the boys critique the film from the standpoints of morality and reality. Morally, everything this shyster did was against the rules. He copped his best friend's identity to make a fast buck. He abused his authority with a bunch of impressionable pre-teens to further his musical aspirations. He lied to everyone with whom he came in contact to satisfy his own goals. In the end he not only escaped punishment, but built a new career based on the fraud he had perpetrated, with the full consent and admiration of the very victims he had been conning. I pointed out to the boys that, beyond the realm of screenwriter Mike White's imagination, this outcome was utterly fictitious. First of all, he would have been carted off to jail for questioning, at the very least, the second his misuse of minors was discovered, rather than escaping to sleep off his shame on his scammed roommate's living room floor. Next, he would be hit with a slew of legal charges, undoubtedly by both parties he had deceived. Above all, his misdeeds certainly would not have been rewarded by the continued entrusting of tender minds to his corrupt tutelage.

I would raise the same objection to the hit 1978 film Grease. This blockbuster starred stunning Olivia Newton-John as insecure Sandy Olsen, who was so intent on keeping bad boy Danny Zuko (John Travolta) that she reinvented herself into a leather-clad sex kitten. The message: do what you have to do to get what you feel you must have.

When we consider Grease's nearly $200 million lifetime earnings, and School of Rock's just under half of that, we begin to realize the vast impact these film vehicles have. Sadly, films like Freedom Writers and Rudy, targeted to the same youthful audience, but both offering uplifting themes of hope and determination in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, max out at around a quarter of these profits.*

So when I complain about the fundamental elements of I Love Lucy, I'm not trying to be a Debbie Downer. It's just that, 50 plus years later, Americans are still reveling in - and paying dearly for - the Machiavellian philosophy underlying the shenanigans of the wacky redhead, and her enabling entourage.

I'm just not sure the laughs are worth it.

Lifetime Gross Figures
$188,755,690 Grease
$81,261,177 School of Rock
$36,605,602 Freedom Writers
$22,750,363 Rudy

*All box office statistics taken from

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Letting Go

The other night my son gave me a barrage of things to pray about. Different friends had different needs, and they all sounded pretty urgent. As he rattled off the last one, he added apologetically, "If you can take it."

"Don't worry," I responded. "I don't 'take it.' I just take it to God."

Sometimes, like tonight, when my dear friend lies deathly ill in the hospital and her husband lies awake at home without her, God's yoke seems oppressively heavy and His burden, anything but light. Times like this, I have to force myself to cast my burdens on Him, as Peter suggested (1 Peter 5:7).

I know this works because I have done it so many times. Releasing is the hardest part.

I offer my blessings and prayers for all who are struggling to release their troubles into almighty arms.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” 
        Matthew 11:28-30


As children bring their broken toys 
with tears for us to mend, 
I brought my broken dreams to God, 
because He was my friend. 
But then, instead of leaving Him, 
in peace, to work alone; 
I hung around and tried to help, 
with ways that were my own. 
At last, I snatched them back and cried, 
"How can you be so slow?" 
"My child," He said, 
"What could I do? 
You never did let go."
~ Lauretta P. Burns ~

Friday, June 22, 2012

Prodigal Son Revisited

I've always felt sorry for the prodigal son's brother. I've heard sermons likening him to the Pharisees, condemning him for being proud and contemptuous of his wayward brother, and disrespectful of his father. Still, I can't help but feel he got the short end of the stick, in more ways than one.

As the parent of two sons, each of whom has commanded the lion's share of my attention at different points, I have at times fallen into the classic parent trap - fretting over the one who's getting in trouble, while allowing the status quo one to fend for himself. The theory goes, if it's not broke, don't fix it; ergo, we leave the well performing child to continue, well, performing well, while thrusting our gaze (and efforts) onto every mess made by the erring child.

This makes sense up to a point. Some situations demand to be handled now. No one is going to walk away from a grease fire without trying to snuff out the flames, or at the very least, bellowing for help. On the other hand, it would be foolhardy to smother a blaze in one burner, then fail to check for any lingering sparks in the other three. This is precisely what we do when we try to straighten out the "misbehaver," all the while ignoring the well-doer(s).

Today I spoke with a single mom whose adult child is wreaking havoc in her own life and the rest of the family's. This mother's decision to remove her daughter from the home, while heartbreaking, reminded me of all the principles I've gleaned from 20 years in Al Anon. Her refusal to allow herself or her other children to be held hostage to one child's destructive decisions not only threw a safety net around the other offspring, but could well prove a lifeline to the offender. Enabling, as 12-step recovery programs attest, rarely produces anything except reinforcement of bad behavior. Conversely, requiring accountability and responsibility from even the neediest wrongdoer offers at least a slim chance of change for the better (as well as proving we have faith in our child's ability to overcome his or her demons).

So if I had the ear of the prodigal son's dad, I think I'd say something like this: it's fine to watch and wait for your missing son, so long as you don't neglect the one who's doing his duty. Reconciliation with your wastrel is a worthy goal, but so is recognition of the one who's been doing right all along.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Life is a Full-time Job

Isn't it? Do you, like me, sometimes feel that 24 hours is far too short a time span to accomplish the tasks that lie before you? Do you struggle to keep up with the business aspects of your life, or maybe shortchange non-mandatory things like keeping in touch with a friend who lives at a distance, or visiting a sick relative? Have you ever felt your kids needed more of your time than you could spare because their needs were cutting into grocery shopping time or - heaven forbid - your obligation to the almighty work place?

I've had to take a step back recently and think about what's really important. I'm having a room renovated in my house, and there's spackle dust everywhere. Work has been busy; I have a weekend job, as well as my full-time job, and the demands of both have been heavy lately. I've been putting time into relationships with family and friends, both of which are essential to my role as a single mom. But, as a single parent, it's critical that I be available for my sons.

Where does God fit into all this?

For a long time, I used to offer up my schedule and priorities to the Lord on a daily basis. But of late I've been trying to fit it all in and squeeze in maybe ten minutes with Him before work in the morning. It's just not enough, and I've been feeling the results of trying to carry a load that was never mine to begin with.

So I've made it a point these last couple of days, when illness and fatigue kept me homebound, to put more effort into my "vertical" relationship. I placed communion with heaven ahead of earthly, "horizontal" affairs. An incredible thing happened. I spent a lot of time working on my connection with God, after which I still had time to tackle some of the matters that were being neglected. I guess Jesus was right when He told us to "seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:33).

Life is a full-time job. But we must never forget that God is our employer.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


My friend Cindy loves to garden. She has beautified the space she lives in just by adding loving touches like color and hardscape. She also "tithes" on the skills God has endowed her with by donating much time to landscaping at her church.

Yesterday, she decided to do "a little cleanup" after attending a Bible study at her house of worship. The job looked simple enough. Just some trees she wanted to extricate from the overgrowth that was obscuring their beauty and feeding on their nutrients. Five and a half hours later, she was grimy from removing a massive group of vines that had become tangled around an otherwise healthy tree. Every time she thought she was done, there was yet another layer of roots that had embedded themselves into the surrounding soil. She noted clinically that, while she was working, a group of men from the church showed up for an outside activity. Dressed and prepped for the great outdoors, they nevertheless failed to offer assistance to the obviously struggling young woman. The pastor, likewise, passed her without comment or even offering a drink of water.

When I stated that these oversights would have angered me, Cindy replied that she merely found them interesting and analogous to the sin problem many churches face. On the surface, things look like they're going along fine. There might be critical murmurings or minor dissension, just like those weeds that looked so manageable before she started tackling them. But we don't have to finish what we fail to begin, so many times we simply overlook the symptoms of a larger problem so as not to get our hands dirty. And eventually those weeds - tares, really - turn out to be only the tip of a colossal undergrowth of life-killing manglers that we would have discovered if only we had dared disturb the surface.

Is Cindy looking to cause problems, stir the pot, as it were? Heaven forbid. This Godly woman labors for her Lord because she loves Him with all her heart and soul and mind (Matthew 22:37); she's not looking for recognition or help, unless others feel the call to give it. Neither is she suggesting believers dig around in healthy gardens looking for worms. I think she would agree, though, that we ought not avoid obvious signs of trouble just because the task looks unappealing.

For more like this, check out: Morsels for Meditation...: Weeds 2

Morsels for Meditation...: Tenacity

Friday, May 25, 2012

Deliverance Part 2, AKA, Jurassic Park Revisited

After rereading my entry from April 20 and hearing my pastor preach on 2 Chronicles 20 since then, I need to amend one of the conclusions I drew before. I previously stated that God appointed unidentified attackers to fight the battle that faced His people in this chapter. I now realize the ambushes that defeated Judah's enemies were the enemies themselves! There were three armies threatening Judah, all of whom  turned on each other, leaving God's people to just show up for the "door prizes" (see v. 25).

This reminded me of the first time I watched the classic film, Jurassic Park. My sister Jo Ann, who had seen the movie before, tried to build suspense by telling me just enough without giving anything away. As we viewed the culminating scene, she promised with a sly smile, "Help comes from an unexpected source." If you haven't seen the movie, here's where you may want to stop reading, as I'm about to spill the beans.Who could have predicted the T-rex would show up at crunch time to devour the velociraptors that had cornered our heroes?

In similar fashion, the Almighty bailed me out of my recent protracted trial. When He was ready to move, His actions were sudden, stunning, and unmistakable. I had no clue what curve-throwing means He would use to spring me. I had braced myself for the long haul, so was delighted at this heavenly change-up.

Ephesians 1:13 claims that we as God's children demonstrate "the praise of His glorious grace." It really is all about the glory. His glory. He's entitled to it when He acts miraculously on our behalf, but is no less deserving when He leaves us in the trenches. If anything, the tougher the ordeal, the harder He works to get us through it.

For more like this, check out: Morsels for Meditation...: Deliverance

Morsels for Meditation...: Sleep on It

Morsels for Meditation...: God Rather Than Men

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Sheep, AKA, Shadow of Doubt

There never seems to be a shortage of news stories about people's missteps. Politicians and preachers are accused of infidelity, warranting streams of speculation and ridicule. Parents' poor choices result in public criticism and mass judgment. Everyone seems to want to jump on the bandwagon and make light of other people's embarrassment, regardless of how much or little actual evidence there may be. Caustic Jay Leno monologues solidify the ill-researched opinions we form from two-minute news clips on TV.

I have one question. Why?

Why, in a society driven by fact-finding, do we allow ourselves to be so easily led by common opinion? Why, when most of us at one time or another have felt the sting of gossip and contempt, are we so unwilling to give a fellow sufferer the benefit of the doubt?

While carting my son and a friend around in the car recently, I was struck by their preoccupation with the local news. Several stories centered around the alleged wrongdoing of some local arrestees, one of whom was known to them, and the boys were all over it. They seemed to find these people's predicaments comical. I was stunned and appalled by their lack of sensitivity to the damage being done to reputations and relationships, as they plunged into unreasoned conclusions based on one-sided presentations. The shadow of doubt that clever lawyers thrust into the face of hard evidence would have been a welcome companion - for once - to the biased reports we saw. Of the nearly half dozen newscasts we caught about these events, only one presented anything positive about the accused; the rest were short, choppy, and inflammatory.

Maybe the phrase "freedom of the press" should be changed to "long live yellow journalism."

I remember seeing a TV movie once about a man falsely accused - and tried and condemned in the media - of sexual assault. The court of public opinion proved too much for this innocent man, and he chose to opt out of life rather than keep fighting for his reputation. I wonder how well I would withstand heartless scrutiny under similar circumstances.

The donkeys and elephants may be vying for election, but for the moment it's all about the sheep.

"'Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.'" Matthew 7:1-5

Friday, April 20, 2012


I'm excited to report that God has removed a very tough faith challenge from my life. I had been struggling for many months with a difficult, uncomfortable trial that has given me, the queen of afternoon naps, agita and insomnia. In grappling with the situation, I had imagined numerous ways in which the Lord might intervene, if He chose to change my circumstances at all. At last I resigned myself to accepting things as they were, and prayed for strength to hang on until deliverance came. In less than a week, He moved creatively, definitively, and beyond the narrow scope of my imaginings. Not only was I removed from the furnace, but God granted me a lovely new situation to replace the old hair-raising one. The kicker: I did nothing but show up for the miracle.

In my efforts to cope with the turmoil I felt during those trying months, I had availed myself of much Scripture in which God's people stood up under the divine refining process. Perhaps my favorite story is 2 Chronicles 20, in which King Jehoshophat learns just how inventive God can be in helping His people overcome adversity. I love how God's spokesman tells the worried king, "Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow march down against them... You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you." (vv. 15-17). In the end, God appoints unidentified attackers to crush Israel's enemies, while His people stand watching from the sidelines! I didn't dare hope for such a marvel in our post-modern, theologically barren society. Still, I wondered if He could possibly be giving me a hint of things to come. Little did I realize, I was only hours away from just such a stunner in my own 21st century life.

When I recently confided my seemingly insurmountable problem to a concerned party, she asked how I was holding up. At the time, my heart was thumping and stress hormones raced around my body like flies at a picnic. While I couldn't honestly deny feeling anxious, I heard myself say, "I have everything I need." And suddenly I knew that was true. It was then that I realized what the prophet Habakkuk meant when he recorded these words: "Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior." (vv. 17-18).

Rejoicing, I'm finding out, is a state of mind that comes with the doing, not the other way around.

For more like this, check out: Morsels for Meditation...: Sleep on It

Morsels for Meditation...: Deliverance Part 2, AKA, Jurassic Park Revisited

Morsels for Meditation...: God Rather Than Men

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tools for the Task at Hand

Been thinking about King David lately. He had no business defeating Goliath, especially with only a slingshot and a few rocks from a stream. Likewise, Queen Esther had no reason to expect she wouldn't receive a death sentence for speaking out of turn to her husband, the king, let alone confronting him at a banquet.

While I'm at it, I'm pondering the colonists' gutsy stand during the American Revolution, which they didn't have a prayer (well, clearly, they had a prayer) of winning. And let's not forget the Abolitionists who harbored slaves during the Civil War era, and brave souls like Corrie ten Boom and Irena Sendler, who put their lives on the line to rescue Jews during WWII.

I've often wondered how I'd cope with such life and death choices. Would I put myself in harm's way for the greater good, or wimp out like I've done so many times before?

The conclusion I've come to is, I'll never know. I wasn't asked to slay a Philistine giant or rescue God's chosen people from annihilation. I haven't been called upon to shepherd runaway slaves through the Underground Railroad. But God has seen fit lately to send certain challenges my way. I feel small and shaky, as I suspect the aforementioned activists did when they considered their options. I don't have a pebble shooter or a hidden compartment in my house, but I do have a voice and a pen. More than that, I have God Almighty walking beside me and living within me.

I have everything I need for the task at hand.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Last Friday I had the opportunity to attend our school's Save a Heart event. This is a fundraiser to support heart disease research, and it's very popular with the kids. They get to have a whole afternoon off after a long week of standardized testing, and participate in a plethora of relay games requiring teamwork and not a little strategizing. They love it.

I found several of the activities intriguing. Stonehenge, for example, requires each student to select a tall wooden block and build a sort of pi-shaped (yes, I do mean pi, as in the Greek letter) sculpture, one piece at a time, based on their recollection of a model they viewed briefly before beginning the exercise. One misplaced block can topple the whole structure, so they have to correct each other's mistakes before placing their piece. If the unthinkable happens and it gets knocked down, they have to begin the process from scratch, thus putting them in last place.

As you can imagine, the larger the sculpture becomes, the greater the pressure on the individual block layer not to upset the proverbial apple cart. I watched in fascination at the kids' concentration as they worked out problems and tried not to be the "fall guy." I imagined how stressful it must be for them to have all their peers and teachers watching their progress, and to realize that their teammates were relying on them for the win. I thought of how tempting it would be to turn tail and run rather than stick it out; how disheartening it was to be the reason for the team's failure. And yet, these little sixth graders plugged away till the last block was laid, for better or for worse, and not one dissolved into tears when things didn't go as planned.

Another activity that caught my attention was Thread the Needle. This title is deceptively simple. The goal here is to build a free-standing hula hoop sculpture as a team, after which each student must pass through without tumbling it. Success is iffy at best, but the beauty of the process is that, when one student has the misfortune of ruining the structure, the others immediately rally to his aid and quickly rebuild, enabling their teammate to take another stab at the prize. I was agog at the cooperation and perseverance shown by these pre-teens.

River Raft Relay is another team challenge. Here there are two "rafts," AKA gym mats, laid out next to each other. The object is for half a dozen or so kids to tiptoe one at a time off one and onto the other, after which the last "passenger" passes the rear raft to his teammates till it becomes the one in front. They have to repeat this process until the whole team makes it across the gym, gingerly squeezing too many 12-year-olds onto a mat the size of a pavement slab. The game requires stealth and patience, two things we don't normally equate with pre-adolescents.

Happy Gilmore is perhaps the most remarkable, as it more or less combines all the aforementioned skills into one activity. Each student receives a half piece of PVC pipe, onto which a golf ball is set. The aim is for one student to pass the ball to the next, via the pipe, without letting it drop. The trick is to make the swap quickly but cautiously, so the sender can run back and hand off the pipe to his waiting teammate, who then relieves the current holder of the golf ball. Too fast leads to disaster; the ball drops and they have to start over. Too slow leaves the holder hanging out to dry, as he struggles to balance the tipping ball with no one to pass off to. It is a game of precision and skill, camraderie and self-control. It's also an exercise in tenacity, as too often the swaying ball wins out over the tottering sixth grader, and the team is forced to start all over again.

What all these relay games have in common is, there are no shortcuts. The players' only hope of victory is to follow directions to the letter, staying the course despite frustration and setbacks. Defeat is only one misstep away.

Sometimes the only way to go is through.