Avoiding the Red Sign

The red sign of doom
The red sign of doom

A lot of folks in my small town can relate to this sign.  Never mind that the print is too small to read from the street.  You have to pretty much get your face right up to it to get the full impact of the words.   Of course the tip-off is the searing red color, which brings to mind things like a blaring fire engine, a tornado warning on the weather map, the burning flames of,…well, you get the idea. 

It’s not a friendly sign.  But not uncivil, no, nor disrespectful.  Just matter-of-fact and to the point.  No beating around the brush (pardon the pun.)  It is from the local town government stating that your grass (to use the term lightly) is higher than the allowed limit for in-town residents.  The take home message is simply this: Cut it, or else.

Or else what?

Ah, therein lies the treasure!  Seems like the only motivator for some of us is the “or else” factor, a.k.a., consequences.  If…then.   And this is not necessarily a bad thing.  It is, many times, an uncomfortable one, which is in itself a good motivator.  I need to feel the pain if I lean up against a hot stove, or if I get irritable at my friend because I’m having a bad day.  I need to see the numbers on the scale go up if I eat donuts and ice cream every day, or the numbers in the grade book go down if I don’t study for my coursework.  Consequences teach us very important things, as well as keep us safe.

Removing reasonable (i.e. safe) consequences does the opposite.  Learning from our mistakes is harder, partly


because we don’t feel any different after making the mistake.   Or we don’t even know we made one, since somebody derails or blunts the consequence before it gets to us.  In a morally maturing sense, that’s “pass interference”, except that the one who pays the penalty is the person who was deprived of learning a needed lesson. 

This sets everyone else up for a Domino Effect down the road.  Someone who is not well acquainted with the consequences of their own decisions and behavior will eventually have the rest of us reaping the benefit of their vested ignorance. 

….it’s almost like they expect the city to make their signs a friendly pink and yellow.

Doesn't have quite the same pizzazz, y'know??
Doesn’t have quite the same pizzazz, y’know??

Hobby Club rides (er, flies) again!

Waiting to log in my feathered friends.
Waiting to log in my feathered friends.

Back on board this month with the Hobby Club.  This month is for the birds, literally.  The first week of May was to list 10 birds in our geographically area which we would like to identify.  Okay, so I cheated.  I already have identified several of these, including one of my all time favorite names, the “Yellow Bellied Sap Sucker”.  Now there’s a midwest moniker if ever there was one. (Just try saying that fast three times without spitting on someone…)crow-34211_1280

I might actually go for the badge on this one.  Yes, badges!  Totally yes! Specially designed badges just for the Hobby Club members. I still have my Girl Scout blood coursing through my veins, Geritol and all. The capstone will be to design and make our own birdfeeder, which will be a hoot, (pardon the pun), since power tools are not my best friend.  Doggone it, I’m gonna earn that bird badge!

But until then, I will content myself with just keeping the existing birdfeeders filled, and trying to snap those shots for my newly christened bird-watching field notebook (oooh, that sounds just so official!)  My husband and I enjoy this pasttime together, so much so that I bought him some field glasses a few years ago.  Here’s hoping I can get him in on the fun.  (He is NOT, however, sharing my badge!!)

Although I may reconsider, of course, if he finds the Yellow Bellied Sap Sucker….

Interested in Hobby Club??  Only $1 a month!  Check it out at:  tyler@hobbyclub.org 

Take a hike (no really, I mean it.)

Road to Emmaus by Robert Zund, copied from saltandlight.org 

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

He who hesitates is lost.

The early bird gets the worm.

Our vocabulary is replete with idioms encouraging us to not procrastinate or make excuses as to why we didn’t do something we should have done.  I shudder to think of the missed opportunities and potential open doors that God may have had for me that no longer exist due to my desire for personal comfort and convenience.

This comes through to me highlighted in yellow with neon exclamation points in the story of the two V-E-R-Y disappointed disciples on the road to Emmaus.  The back story finds these two friends downcast and discouraged in that the one they thought was the long-awaited Messiah of Israel had just been (evidently) defeated and crucified by the Roman government at the behest of the Jewish high council.  Finish line.  Period.  Shelf that book and find a new one.

Well….not quite.  As they’re walking away from Jerusalem, where this tragedy just occurred, to the neighboring town of Emmaus, they were met by a fellow traveler who asked why they were so glum, whereupon a conversation ensues ending with the stranger being persuaded to eat dinner with them and stay the night, since it was getting late.  Sitting down to dinner, the stranger prayed over the repast, whereupon the two friends’ “eyes were opened” and they recognized this Stranger as no stranger at all, but in fact this was Jesus who had just died, and was now right before them more alive than ever!  Just as suddenly, Jesus disappeared and the two stunned disciples sat holding their bread, starring at an empty seat…

Not a finish line, but a starting block.  Not a period, just a comma.  Same book, new chapter.

It’s a great recount, read it many times, one of my husband’s faves.  But here’s where the yellow marker comes in.  Luke puts it this way in his book, chapter 24, starting in verse 33: 

“Within the hour” (NLT)

“Rising up that very hour”  (Amplified)

“They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem.” (NIV)

Here’s the one I really like—

“They didn’t waste a minute.” (The Message)

Nuts to the meal, never mind that it was getting toward nighttime, that they were physically tired from a full day’s activity, not to mention emotionally hung out to dry from the events of the past week, maybe looking over their shoulders to see if the Romans had the two of them in their crosshairs.  They “didn’t waste a minute” to begin the seven and a half mile trek back to the very place of their earlier disappointment and confusion.

Why? Because that’s where they would find Jesus again.

Now, if they had decided their feet were too tired (they didn’t have Cabelas boots back then) and they’ll start tomorrow, or maybe they would  get it figured out after a good meal, or they would just let things settle down back in Jerusalem a little before heading back (which never happened, BTW), or any number of other reasons and excuses, this is what they might have missed:

  1. The two now very animated disciples arrived right before Jesus (personally, I’m thinking Jesus was waiting for them to get there, since He knew they were on their way). They were recounting to the other disciples what had transpired over the dinner they had left back on the table, and suddenly—

 While they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst and *said to them, “Peace be to you. (1)

 Had they waited, they would have missed seeing Jesus again, Who went on to prove His physically existence by eating food, and allowing them to touch His scars and wounds, proof that they would need to sustain them in the troubled times ahead.

  1. Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures”(2)—because just reading the Bible is not enough.  We need God Himself to enlighten and apply it to our specific situations and our individual lives.  We must have interaction with God as we read.
  1. And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (3) Jesus began to unfold His specific strategy to His friends, a strategy that included a powerful Agent to help them to complete the task at hand.

Each of those points have a full sermon in them, but the idea for me here is this: When convenience, disappointment, or fear are attempting to dissuade me from seeking Jesus, the correct response is to get moving and follow Him anyway.  Because I don’t want to miss the opportunity to see Jesus in the special way He wants to reveal Himself to me; I have to tap into the power that only He can give me; and I need His strategy for my life. 

Even if He’s calling me back the way I came.  Even if there is potential pain. 

Even if it means leaving the bread on the table. 

  1. Luke 24:36 (NASB)
  2. Luke 24:45 (NASB)
  3. Luke 24:49 (NASB)

The bush that ate Nevada


Many years ago, long before I was took up any discernibly sustained interest in gardening, I planted a few very small forsythia bushes around the yard.  These were the large department store variety, about $5 apiece.  Something I thought I could almost afford back then, but still superfluous on a tight budget with the growing needs of a growing family.  And yet, if I wanted color fifteen years hence, I needed to start planting now. 

And I wasn’t terribly particular (or knowledgeable) about where these bushes should be planted, I merely knew where I WANTED them to be planted.  As I recall, one was ensconced next to the patio, a place which at that time was sorely neglected and fairly ignored in the hectic pace of family life.  It was also very shaded by a massive sycamore and several other overgrown bushes.  Another was put next to the driveway, which was more merciful that the patio since it at least had part sun, albeit probably not the best soil. A few others were put near the street, which eventually had to be completely uprooted several years later when the city street crews decided we need new curbs.  But one little bush I planted, much to my husband’s chagrin, in the very spot at the end of the driveway which was not only in full sun, but also the location where Bob had, for years, burned our autumn leaves.  Admittedly, I knew precious little about plants back then (and just as humbly I agree that I don’t know that much more now), but what I did know was that there was something about organic ash that makes good nutritious soil.  Spade in hand, in it went.

Of course, several things to consider:

  • Where we plant our precious investments of time and resources can make all the difference in usefulness and beauty down the road.
  • Plant in your life now what you want to enjoy later.
  • The most fertile soil for personal growth sometimes comes from the ash of personal tragedy.

In the fifteen-plus years since my forsythia-planting fury, the different bushes have grown, well…differently (as you can well imagine), or died, been replaced, or even flourished when replanted or transplanted.  But the little bush at the end of the driveway has since been renamed (by my husband) as “the Bush That Ate Nevada.” It had grown to become a monster, albeit a beautiful one, a mountain of bright yellow in the spring and lush green in the summer. The combination of sun and soil was perfect to produce such a specimen…

…and to see a bright red cardinal sitting within the yellow flowers was a sight to relish!

A nest, by any other name…

Found a bird’s nest the other day.  Unfortunately, it was not in its conventional place—it was on the ground instead of up a tree.  In my yard, this is sign that something has gone awry.  Whether from an overactive squirrel or a prowling cat, or maybe just the typical Midwestern spring winds, the nest was no longer functioning as, you know,… a nest. 

A small piece was missing from one side, and there was a hole in the lower end, maybe where it had been anchored to a branch.  But, oh, how I marveled at the beauty of it.  Those intricately woven twigs, something I could barely do with two hands and two opposable thumbs, much less using just my mouth!!  A veritable piece of art, and nothing less.  So beautiful to me, in fact, that I have a small nest that sits in my Christmas tree each year; carefully wrapped and tucked away with the other family ornaments that are so much a part of our tradition.

This one also was probably no longer destined to function as a nest.  At least not in that tree.  It was broken, forsaken by its original maker, and abandoned on the ground.  End of story…(not!).

Just because it’s no longer functional as a nest, doesn’t mean it’s no longer functional.

Scooping it up in my hands, I let it rest safely on my porch step out of the way of my lawn mower.  When my two little neighbor boys to came to visit and play with our dog Buckley, I gave the nest to them to show their mom.  A great piece of wonder for a child is a bird’s nest.   

And I realize that brokenness to us is not what it is to God.  That which I have so carefully tried to construct around me: a loving marriage, a stable family, a good reputation, a healthy church, blah, blah, blah…can fall out of the tree with one good gust of life, and lay seemingly abandoned.  Forsaken.  Forgotten.  End of story….(not!)

Thank God that my Maker is not One to forsake or abandon!  My life, even in a broken state, is still a testimony to His wonder.  It may not have the same function as I originally imagined or planned for, but that doesn’t mean there is no function for me at all.  As He holds my brokenness in His hands, He still sees me as beautiful, useable, and most of all—lovable!

I just went next door to see if the boys would let me take a picture of “their” nest.  They were excited to show me into the back yard where they had hidden it into a small bush.  Who knows?  Maybe a homeless bird will come by…

…or maybe it’ll end up in their next Christmas tree…

The problem with a leaky pen is……


So interesting how language changes, even in one’s own lifetime.   A surfboard was something of a status symbol at the beach in the 60’s.  Now that fine word has been sliced up: Typing has morphed into keyboarding, and surf is something one does on the internet.spot

Either way, there’s still no comparison to putting pen to paper.  I’m a bit picky with my pens; maybe it’s just a sign of age.  I prefer ball point, fine line.  I remember using the old cartridge pens, and when they sprung a leak, you knew it.  Ball points not quite as much, but
they can still get gooey and cause some literary angst, especially when…

  1. …it smudges and makes a mess on the paper. This must be particular frustrating to left-handed writers, as they drag their dominate hand across the paper, leaving a black trail in its wake. spot (I’m right handed, and have grown to realize how discriminated against they are!)  
  2. …the smudginess is distracting to the reader, and can even garble up the communication if they are left to interpret the ink when it looks like Chinese characters or a Rorschach test.
  3. …it wastes ink and paper, which costs money (and trees).
  4. …it’s hard to get out of clothes, especially when you wash and dry one hidden in a pocket. (You wonder how I know this???  Yes, white nursing uniform.)

Warning: Such a pen tends to be put aside for a more efficient writing tool.

This may not be a perfect analogy to my life, but a few points may be worthy of note:spot

  1. Life generally just gets messy sometimes, or many times, even without my help. Someone comes along and drags their crud through my lane leaving some ink smudges while they trek merrily along.  Or worse, I’m the leaky one.  Whether through offenses retained from someone else’s ink, or decisions of my own, I’m blotching up my own personal timeline hitting the publish button whether I know it or not.
  2. This causes distractions to those reading my life. And they are there, for all of us, usually when we are least aware of it, watching and learning from how we react and respond. 
  3. The grudge-holding blemishes are some of the worst emotion-absorbers of all time, to name but one among many. As a Christian in particular, this one wastes the abundant life that is intended to flow through me to others.  
  4. Sometimes even when the offense is resolved and forgiven, there still is that emotional or relational stain that needs to be dealt with. And this takes time, effort, and an expert Laundryman. 

Me, I tend to throw leaky pens away.  Thank God for amazing grace, that He doesn’t do that with us!  But the warning remains, that if I CHOOSE to remain leaky and continue to cause smudges, He might put me up for a while in favor of a more efficient tool.  That would be sad…

Because the best thing for a pen is to be held in the hand of the Writer!

A Flash What?

(full read at dawnlizjones.wordpress.com)  At this writing, I am 54 years old, soon to be 55 in fact—old enough to remember when 55 was the national speed limit on the interstate, yes, indeed!  Google was a semi-mathematical term that had lots of zeroes behind it, a mouse was something you would set a trap for, and a text was required reading from a book.  You remember…a book, a rectangular collection of paper pages held between two hard or soft covers, generally with a title on the front and a copyright date on the inside, and sometimes you had to lick your index finger to advance to the next page when they would stick together.  And they smelled good, too, when you stuck your nose into the center binding—they just had that “bookish” fragrance. 

Well, anyway, now I read most of my “books” on a screen, I write most of what I write on a screen, I communicate more frequently on a screen.  I wonder if that’s an indication that we, as a society, are “screening” ourselves from real life and from each other.  Bad pun, I know, just a thought.

Several years ago, my brother, the Purdue engineer, introduced me to an amazing advance in computer technology called the “flash drive”, yet another compound word that didn’t exist when I was in school.  I believe it was over the phone (phone: n– a hand-held device plugged into the wall enabling a person to give and receive audio-only transmission) that he guided me on how to plug it in and pull it up for use.  You mean no more floppy discs (those went the way of 8-track tapes, and I won’t even try to define that one…)?  So now all my writing is on a flash drive, but unfortunately I had been neglecting to do something called a back-up.  This brings me up to date in my missive.

Yesterday, after a small yet significant time of putting some thoughts on, er …paper/screen, I pulled out the desk drawer where I ALWAYS keep my flash drive.  Always.  I tend not to be like my husband, meticulous in where he keeps his things.  In fact, in describing my organizational style, Bob parodies the old saying in that I have places for everything and everything in their places.  I have not yet fully conquered this challenge, but since I am still breathing, there is hope.

Usually, I simply need to pull out the drawer and, without even looking in, put my hand in and bring out the flash drive, since it is connected to a lanyard.  This time, however, my fingers did not immediately find its prize, so I stood up to look inside, and, incredulously, it was missing.  Oh rat!  Of course, the realization hit me that much, if not most, of the contents had not been backed up, due to my procrastination.

A quick investigation throughout the house revealed no familiar flash drive.  Good grief!  I even emptied out the vacuum cleaner in the hopes I had swept it up the day before!  I checked the patio where I like to repose and compose at the same time.  I did a double-take into the same drawer somewhat irrationally thinking I may have overlooked it. (It also came to mind that I had found the Parmesan cheese dispenser in the microwave the other day, so who knows where I might have put the flash drive!)  

Probably the two words that come most to mind from that experience are “neglect” and “test”.

  • I felt I had neglected to honor what God had given me. My writing may never be read by another person, never hit the stands or be sold in a store.  That is not the point.  God does not assess value the way so-called rational mankind does.  I felt one time, many years ago, that He told something like this: “If what I say is important to you, write it down.”    I think that perhaps that was more than an invitation.  We are to do whatever the thing in front of us is being revealed for us to do.  The outcome is in God’s hands, and is frequently not what we had anticipated anyway.  God does not call us to the world’s definition of success, but to His, which is faithfulness.  I had not been faithful with what I had been given.  Then I wonder what other things we so easily neglect, things given for which we literally show contempt to God for these great and useful gifts—of friendship, family, health, time, and all the other resources which are readily taken for granted and/or misused for our own purposes. OUCH.


  • I was in the midst of a test—how was I going to respond to this disappointment, not only of losing what was so valuable to me, but also to my own fallibility? And sometimes the latter is more difficult than the former.  Repentance was first.  Repentance is ALWAYS first.  It’s one of those “don’t leave home without it” activities.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that repentance is actually one of the most important gifts of God that we neglect—it takes humility and change, neither of which necessarily come cheap.  Secondly, I was being asked to trust.  God knew this was going to happen (He always does….) and the outcome was in His most capable hand.  This is where the rubber of Romans 8:28 hits my personal road.

I’m happy to report that it wasn’t long after that, only maybe half an hour, that the thought came to me from “somewhere” (yeah, right) that I had been wearing a coat that morning when I was writing outside.  I have a real habit of leaving important items in my coat pockets.  And sure enough, there was my flash drive on its lanyard, along with some other important hand-written notes (yes, written, with an old-fashioned implement called a pen, on white stuff made from a tree, called paper) that I hadn’t even noticed was missing yet.  Needless to say, in keeping with my repentance, I bought a new flash drive that day and backed everything up. 

Admittedly, it took longer than for a Purdue engineer, but I eventually got it figured out