Garden Hose Living

Today I told the story I teach that both haunts and refreshes me. In Andre Dubus’ short story, The Doctor, we read the tale of a doctor who comes upon a boy who has fallen off a stone bridge into a shallow creek. 

As he falls, a stone slab from the bridge’s guardrail falls on top of the boy and pins him down under just a few inches of water.
The doctor runs to him to try and lift the stone, but he cannot. He races up to the house beside the bridge and seeks the help of a woman who calls the fire department. It eventually takes four firemen, the doctor, and the woman to lift the stone.
But it’s too late. The boys drowns in only a few inches of water. 
The doctor can’t believe what has happened. Only later does he remember that by the house sat a garden hose. He cuts a few inches off the hose and holds it to his mouth. He can breathe through it. Had he offered it to the drowning boy, he would have lived.
I teach the story because it’s about asking the wrong question and misinterpreting our circumstances. The boy’s problem wasn’t the stone slab; his problem was that he couldn’t breathe. The best question wasn’t, “How can I get the weight off of this boy?” The right question was, “How can this boy breathe?”
We look at our lives, and we ask the wrong question. Instead of working so hard to get out from under our circumstances, our first question should be, “How can I connect with Jesus here? How can I breathe in what I need of His power and presence, even if this weight of suffering remains?”
Our circumstances aren’t the ultimate problem. It’s that we need Jesus here. 
Here’s the full text of the original story published in 1969:


Training the Heart for 2015

This morning I reread something I need to remember every day. It’s from a September 2012 post that has helped shape the last three years of my life. 


I read this morning a quote from Hannah Whitall Smith. She argues that “the soul who gives thanks can find comfort in everything; the soul who complains can find comfort in nothing.”

I realize the truth of it, especially when she later writes this bold statement:

“There can be nothing in our lives that lacks in it somewhere a cause for thanksgiving, and no matter who or what may be the channel to convey it, everything contains for us a hidden blessing from God.” 

How different my days could be if I only believed that every moment has within it a cause for thanksgiving and a hidden blessing from God! 

Training the heart towards such truth–remembering it each and every day–changes everything.


Oh, Do Tell

This morning I notice all the verbs in Psalm 145 that encourage talking. Hallelujah! You know me: I have “high articulation needs.” I love to talk and write all day long.

In just 5 verses in the middle of the Psalm, we read about commending God to others. We’re encouraged to tell, speak, proclaim, celebrate, and joyfully sing about God. 
In case we don’t get the point, the psalmist performs a seriously redundant refrain. He ends by saying again, “My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord.”
It’s almost comical. It’s like David says, “Y’all! Talk about God! With your mouth! I mean it! Open your mouth and say something!”
Open your mouth and declare. But what? David reiterates this too: recount God’s awesome works, mighty acts, abundant goodness, and righteousness. 
So if you’re wondering what to tell us about, you know.
Do tell! Open your mouth and say it. 

Willing to Do Little Things

D. L. Moody said this: “There are many of us that are willing to do great things for the Lord, but few of us are willing to do little things.”

I want to be willing to do small, unseen things. God is just as powerful and present in the little, ordinary act of obedience. 


Still the Same God

Today I remember the great words spoken by Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego when Nebuchadnezzar was about to throw them into the fiery furnace for refusing to bow down to the image of the golden god.

In Daniel 3:16-18, we read the famous lines: “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up’.”

But even if he does not. . .  

I’ve been thinking so much about proclaiming the goodness of God and His immutable character traits that cannot be defined or explained in light of our circumstances. Immutable, if you remember, means unchanging and unable to be changed. When I evaluate God’s character by whether or not He behaves in the ways I’m hoping or expect, I fall into dangerous ways of thinking. God is good and right at all times, so far above my understanding of what’s happening around me. 

Sometimes life offers great opportunities to practice this truth. God is still the God we worship and serve at all times, whether He does what we want or not. 

Finally, I love how the three friends say, “We do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.” I like that we don’t have to make a defense of our circumstances to anyone. We don’t need to interpret them or explain them. God is able to do this or that, but even if He does not, He’s still the same God. I will trust Him and bow down to Him alone.


With Your Face to the Enemy

Today I recall the letter that Isaac E. Avery wrote to his father when Avery lost his life in the Battle of Gettysburg. As Avery lay dying, he wrote–in his own blood–a letter to his father that said, “Major, tell my father I died with my face to the enemy.”

Tell my father I died with my face to the enemy.

In fact, I learn that Avery was the closest man to enemy lines that afternoon in Gettysburg. People often quote this letter to illustrate courage and strength and a willingness to sacrifice. Avery didn’t turn away from the enemy, and he didn’t run. He died with his face to the enemy, and that’s what he needed his father to know. That was the most important thing.

As I think about the close of the Christmas season and the beginning of a New Year, I think about courage. I think about facing every battle, both internal and external, with a new resolve. God strengthens and empowers, so we do not fear. God has overcome, so we do not fear. God has ordained our circumstances, so we do no fear.

We can advance with our face to the enemy and no longer retreat into a lesser kind of living. We move forward without fear.


Merry Christmas (and a Prayer)

I love receiving my daily email from “Prayers Over Our Children.”  You can add yourself to the mailing list and enrich your own prayer life. I love how the site encourages us to prayer these biblical prayers for children all over the world, I often prayer these prayers for myself.

Today’s prayer for children involves their creativity, empowerment, and connections to the right people. Click here to enjoy today’s prayer.

My personal prayer for our family today is from Psalm 51:10-13

Create in me a clean heart, O God
and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 
Do not cast me from your presence 
or take your Holy Spirit from me. 
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will turn back to you. 

I pray that family members enjoy a clean heart, a steadfast spirit, the joy of salvation, a willing spirit, and a teacher’s heart that leads others to truth.

Have a very merry Christmas day!


“The hopes and fears of all the years / Are met in Thee tonight.”

For the past few days, I’ve thought about the Christmas carol, “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” written by Phillips Brooks and set to music by Lewis Redner. I love the line, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.”

All of our hopes–everything we’ve ever longed for or will long for–appears in Christ, the Everlasting Light. I think of C.S. Lewis’ often quoted line that in Christ, the “door we’ve been knocking on all our lives will open at last.”

It’s not just what we have hoped for; our fears come together and find resolution and peace in the Incarnation. We have nothing more to hope for; we have nothing more to fear.

It all comes about on Christmas Eve.


All the Christmas Joys

I go back and reread my blogs from this very day for the last few years. In 2010, I wrote about giving yourself the gift of novelty. In 2011, it was about the wonder of pop-up books. In 2012? All about sledding. The next year, I thought about my favorite traditions on Christmas. 

Today, I think about how thankful I am just to relax with family without needing to impress anyone. When you know you are deeply loved and deeply secure, you stop trying to impress. You get in your pajamas, take a bubble bath, and plan out the Christmas movies for the evening. The family never wanted picture-perfect; they wanted you, in your pajamas, relaxing.

Sure, everything happened that was supposed to happen, but it happened without the motivation of impressing. I can’t explain the change other than to say I finally learned that nobody really cares if your peppermint bark layers detach en route to the teachers, if your Christmas Tree Rice Krispie Treats ooze butter and marshmallows because you added the wrong amounts, or if you forget to vacuum before the neighbors pop in.

Nobody cares if your present-wrapping absolutely stinks. People want what’s inside anyway.

People want you, relaxing, without needing to impress.

Then, you find you really can experience all the Christmas joys.


Rude, Rude Drivers

With all this holiday shopping traffic, I find myself annoyed and impatient. I’m in a parking lot, trying to exit, and all lanes contain lines of crammed cars with their brake lights flashing and their horns blaring.

I feel like I’m in the clogged arteries of the city rather than in this small town.

Picture this: It’s my turn to turn onto the main road (after waiting 15 minutes at a stand-still), but another line of traffic from another parking lot keeps merging in front of me. I feel helpless and angry. It’s my turn! I’ve been waiting!

Then, out of the blue, a fancy little black car jets up around me, steals my place in line, and forces itself out into traffic ahead of me, taking my spot! The nerve! The audacity! The sheer presumption!

Inside the car, a smartly dressed couple smugly stares ahead, so satisfied with their line-cutting. I’m sure they have a fabulous party to attend. I’m sure they must think they are so special. I shake my head and frown. How dare they?

As I fume, I find that something so strange happens. The other cars, equally shocked at the audacity of the little car, stop. It’s like the Red Sea has parted. Nobody moves. People remember their manners and let our line of cars through.

Taking advantage of this momentary stall, I smoothly drive into the rude drivers’  spacious wake. In fact, I follow them out of traffic into the quiet of my neighborhood. When they turn, I turn. When they push ahead, I follow.

Their ill-mannered and impolite treatment of me actually paves the way for me. Besides, maybe I was too cautious. Maybe someone had to teach me how to assert myself a bit.

I smile and find myself admiring this brave little couple.

I remember that in every inconvenient thing, and even in every rude treatment, a special blessing hides. There’s something to learn and some path to follow, even when we lose our turn.