All The Pretty Things




For as long as Edie Rudder could remember, growing up in the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Tennessee had shaped her life. The ever gnawing of her stomach that never had enough to eat, the neglect that was a constant, and her daddy’s love of alcohol were hallmarks that would follow her well beyond childhood.


Living in the midst of such poverty in a trailer on the mountainside with assorted relatives, Edie’s love for her daddy could not be dampened no matter how much her stomach hurt or her heart was wounded from disappointment. It was he who taught her to belt out the songs of Johnny Cash like “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Ring of Fire” as her daddy would swill down one beer after another.


Her daddy’s name for her was Edie Nise for Edie Denise. Edie was president of her daddy’s fan club and the one who often helped him up the steps to the trailer when he was too drunk to manage on his own. It was also she who drove the vehicle they might be riding in when he was too drunk to stay on the road and her feet could barely touch the pedals. It didn’t occur to her that he was putting her in harm’s way. Sometimes he would stop the car or truck and try to dance off the effects of the beer or liquor and he could nearly always make her smile.


Much of the time her mama was away from the trailer trying to work to earn a few dollars to bring home some food for the refrigerator shelves that waited empty. She would sometimes hear her mama and her daddy arguing about how little he tried to provide for Edie and her brother and sister, but it still surprised her when mama moved out and later filed for divorce.


When Edie and her siblings moved to live with mama, she spent much of the time alone atpt-seeand on weekends she often would be back at her daddy’s mother’s trailer. From time to time, Edie came in contact with a local preacher who would invite her to church and tell her she needed to be baptized. She wasn’t sure church was a place she could ever be good enough for, so time and again she would pray a prayer and get baptized.


It would be much later after daddy and mama had each remarried and she had survived the trailer on the mountain catching fire that someone would take time to tell her more about Jesus and His love for her.


The ups and downs of more broken marriages and a desire to make her daddy proud and somehow try to be “good enough” pushed her to work hard in school and later in athletics. Despite all the achievements, they couldn’t fill the empty place inside her or heal the conflicted relationship she had with her daddy or her disappointment with herself for her own bad choices.


No matter how hard she tried, those things haunted her until one day she came to the end of herself and could push no longer.


All The Pretty Things is a story about Edie’s life journey toward healing and forgiveness. From the poverty of the Appalachian mountainside where she grew up, through her years of hard work to become a doctor, she finally finds the courage to face her past and discover the inexhaustible love of her heavenly Father.


Edie’s journey will cause your own heart to yearn for her to discover that love from the Lord and give you a view of life in the poverty Appalachia.


To comply with new regulations introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my review.





Boredom: A Risky Place




Boredom seems so innocuous on the face of it. Certainly we have all experienced it. How often have I heard someone say in a pathetic voice, “I’m bored”? It often goes along with phrases like “I’ve got nothing to do” or “nothing interests me”. I think the word boredom is so much a part of life we often fail to recognize what the meaning of the word is. If we look at some of the meanings, we might take the complaint more seriously in others or ourselves.


I find words fascinating. Looking up other words for boredom recently gave me a new perspective on the word and its risks. What are some of those synonyms that mean the same as boredom? Here are some of the words on the list: weariness, unconcern, frustration, lethargy, dullness, dissatisfaction, restlessness, and apathy.


These other words are examples of the soil the enemy loves to play in within our hearts and minds. It often happens when we are disengaged from something we enjoy doing or must do. It can also happen when we are disengaged from someone or Someone. If it is the latter we can easily become self-absorbed or self-focused. Those can tempt us to compare ourselves with others, pity ourselves, or envy others.


Yes, we are called to times of solitude and quietness, but they are actually active times for us as we spiritually become available to the One who often needs to wait in line for our attention.


Soren Kierkegaard said, “Boredom is the root of all evil” because we are refusing to be who God made us to be. That thought truly got my mind going. As I thought about it, it made more sense to me. When we talk about someone called by God, our minds can easily turn to the disciples as ones who sought to follow in the Lord’s footsteps. As you start to go through some of the names on the list can you imagine John, James, Peter, Matthew, or the others on the list being plagued with boredom? Paul? Bored? Really?? I don’t think so.


I believe we too easily lose sight of our original design, which was connection with the Lord and the creation we were placed in as stewards of that creation. Sounds obvious, right? If so, then take it one step farther in your consideration. If we are connected with the Lord, could we possibly be bored given His greatness and creativity? If we are connected to who He is through His creation, could we be bored as we notice and truly look at the sky, the trees, even the rocks along the path or roadside? I think not.


Perhaps it is the enemy himself who nudges us into being bored. If our minds, hearts, and spirits are dulled it seems there are several things that are likely to occur:

  • We won’t recognize the enemy’s activities
  • We won’t recognize what the Lord is doing in the world
  • We will eventually choose to do something to alleviate the boredom that will often be impulsive and not be best for us


More importantly over and over again scripture urges us to be and stay alert. If the Lord has repeatedly reminded us of that, it is a clear indication we are not to be asleep at our posts, bored and dull.


What are some examples in scripture?


1 Peter 5:8: Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. ESV


Mark 14:38: Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. ESV


Matthew 24:42: Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. ESV


Those are only three examples, but there are many more.


For those of us living in a place on the earth that is at peace, it can be easy to be lulled into unawareness about the whole big picture of God’s activity and timeline that is unfolding little by little each day. As I use a wide-angle lens to view beyond my little corner of the neighborhood, county, state, and nation, I become aware much is afoot. Much of it is serious beyond what I hear on most major news networks.


Am I taking in all I can of Him? Am I reading only Psalms and Proverbs or am I seeking the whole council of His Word? Am I growing dull, lethargic, restless, and apathetic or am I on my post, on alert?


Often fear can be the opposite of boredom. Fear rises up in us when we are called out of our comfort zone, but as His disciples are we really called to reside in comfort zones?


As God’s children we are called to make a choice of whether we face our fear and storm the gates of hell as the church is called to do, or seek shelter and a place to sleep.


Are we on watch?


Are we alert?


Are we expecting Him?


If we are doing these things, boredom will definitely not describe our situation and we will not be in its risky place.





A Time to Remember




As we prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday, there is much preparation for the feasting and family this holiday brings to mind and heart. Grocery store lines are long and so are lines in traffic and at airports, bus stations, and train depots. Media is full of new recipes to try and stories about gratitude, but I am reminded that it is good to remember this will not be a joy-filled celebration for many others.


It can be easy when life is going relatively smoothly and we are blessed with close family and friends to share these days, but there will be many others for whom these days will be long and difficult. Yes, there will be some of us who will help serve meals in homeless shelters and other places offering free hot meals for those who have no table or no food, but there is another group that may not come to mind that we should remember as well.


This celebration (along with others) will be difficult for those who are alone or are experiencing this Thanksgiving without a person who has been dear to them at the table. Who are they?


There is the widow or widower who cannot imagine this day without their companion at their side. They feel unsure of how to handle the day or what they want to do. Often they just want it to be over and to slide through December and into January with more ordinary days to deal with their loss and grief. Some may have children who share their sorrow and will likely also be sorting out how to handle the day, but others may not have children or children who are absent from their lives so the day will feel especially heavy.


PPP 013There is the single whose parents are no longer living and who feels like ‘odd man out’ with a celebration involving family. There is also the man or woman who once had a family whose lives have been broken by divorce. Family memories can be especially painful if the sense of what was once tradition and family time is no longer possible. It makes Thanksgiving a very hard day despite their best efforts to be grateful for the Lord’s blessings.


There are the children of all ages who are facing their first Thanksgiving without a parent. For their entire lives that parent has been there and their memories are full of those family times that are now changed. An ache that does not go away even in the company of other family or friends can be hard to navigate.


Anyone who is in the midst of grief and loss is trying to determine how to walk through these days.


If we are not, the question is whether or not we will remember them, be sensitive to their hurting hearts, and what may be helpful for them.


It is key to remember none of us can know their loss even if we have had a similar one. We cannot know what the relationship they have lost was like for them. It may have been a hurtful one that left open wounds unhealed before death or it may have been a rich one leaving a space that seems as vast as the ocean now.


Because of all that we also cannot know what might be helpful. For some an invitation to join our own family table may be a great blessing, but for others it will only remind them of their family loss. Be sensitive and gracious if you offer an invitation whether it is accepted or not.


In the profoundly moving movie, Shadowlands, C.S. Lewis’s wife, Joy, speaks very powerful words to him as they speak about the reality of facing her death from cancer:


“We can’t have the happiness of yesterday without the pain of today. That’s the deal.”


And later she adds:PPP 044 (1)


“The pain then is part of the happiness now. That’s the deal.”


The pain of loss we experience is an echo from the Garden of Eden when death entered the world. God knows and understands it well. Isaiah 53 speaks of the Lord being a “man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief”.


As believers, we often wrestle with our response to loss depending on our theology and view of the Lord. I think that makes the pithy words of the grief and loss C.S. Lewis expresses in A Grief Observed, about the death of his beloved wife, Joy, precious indeed.


“We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it. I’ve got nothing that I hadn’t bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination.” C.S. Lewis


 Let each of us remember those among us who are in a season of loss and grief as they face an empty chair at their table this Thanksgiving. Let us give them the gift of respect, the gift of a discerning heart and ear, the gift of either words or silence depending on their choice, but let us seek to let them know we are present and that we know this day will not be the same for them. 


PPP 051 200
Evening sunset

Uncertainty: Fodder for Fear



I think there are not many things that loom as large to feed our fear than uncertainty. It seems to come at us from every direction. It can be as simple as accepting an invitation to get together with some potential new friends or it can be as risk-filled as considering a job or career change or dealing with unending medical tests with no clear diagnosis.


Without even trying I can easily think of major times of uncertainty in my own life. One was when my husband was serving in the military half a world away when I was expecting our first child. Another came when I sensed the Lord nudging me to leave my safe teaching career where I had tenure to go to graduate school in the area of counseling (specifically marriage and family therapy) followed by entering into a private Christian practice without health insurance or any clear expectation of income.


There was uncertainty about when to retire and what would be next when I am not one to golf all day or spend my time sitting on a porch leafing through magazines. There is nothing wrong with either of those, but they are not me.


What I know for certain is that life is and always will be full of uncertainty for all of us. I also know that the degree to which we fall prey to fear that can paralyze us can expose the gaps in our trust in the Lord and His presence and provision no matter what the circumstances or decisions we are facing.



When unexpected things happen, it exposes where our trust lies. Perhaps it lies with our paycheck or savings account. Perhaps it lies within a specific church or ministry. Perhaps it lies with family or one or several very close friends we rely on. Perhaps it lies with an institution like the government.


I am not suggesting not trusting anyone or anything. What I do know is that if my trust in the Lord gets stretched like a muscle that is being worked out regularly, my world will not fall apart when those people or those things I am trusting in change or disappear. My trust and faith will get healthier and stronger even though I won’t enjoy the process any more than I enjoy a workout at the gym. Both are good for me!


Mark Batterson notes the following:


Faith doesn’t reduce uncertainty. Faith embraces uncertainty. We’ll never have all the answers. And some people never come to terms with this truth. They feel there is something wrong with them because they can’t wrap their minds around God. But maybe faith has less to do with gaining knowledge and more to do with causing wonder. Maybe a relationship with God doesn’t simplify our lives. Maybe it complicates our lives in ways that they should be complicated.”


 It reminds me again of the children of in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe asking the beavers about whether or not Aslan is safe since he is after all a lion. The answer may not have comforted them because the beavers respond that he isn’t safe, but he is good!


Sometimes I think we want the Lord to be safe and miss that He is not safe in the sense we a8c34c9d68f8e8ece2a4647fbc4d39deare hoping He will be, but His goodness is plentiful. I love how C.S. Lewis depicts the Lord as Aslan. It serves notice to us all that He is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah even as He is the tender Savior urging children to come to Him.


Our challenge is to allow ourselves to grow in our Christian life and maturity until we experience the paradox of being childlike in our faith, trust, and wonder. In Him we can have spiritual certainty in the midst of circumstances and daily life filled with uncertainty.


Faith is embracing the uncertainties of life. It is chasing the lions that cross our paths. It is recognizing a divine appointment when you see one.


Embrace relational uncertainty. It’s called romance. Embrace spiritual uncertainty. It’s called mystery. Embrace occupational uncertainty. It’s called destiny. Embrace emotional uncertainty. It’s called joy. Embrace intellectual uncertainty. It’s called revelation.” Mark Batterson


 In Pat Springle’s wonderful book, Trusting: The Issue At The Heart of Every Relationship, he cuts to the chase with these words:


“Only God remains 100% trustworthy, as well as totally outside of our control.”


 Doesn’t it come down to this: If I am trusting Him for salvation and life with Him everlastingly, can I not trust Him for the circumstances in this life no matter what they may be?


It was Lucy, the youngest, in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, that was the lion chaser, who sensed and looked always for Aslan and trusted Him. She chased after and trusted Aslan with childlike trust and faith. I think we need to grow up to become more childlike like Lucy.



Age: A New Word to Define It




I wonder how you feel about age or aging. Whether I view it positively or negatively, it will still happen to all of us. As one who is farther along in the process, I can attest there are positives and negatives as well as potential positives and potential negatives. Certainly there are things we may be able to control, but many more that we cannot.


I think we are more aware than ever that our choices throughout our lifetime will have a big impact along with those genes of ours that more and more people are trying to learn about through DNA testing. The generation above me knew far less than that and I think they were often more likely to accept it and deal with it as a natural/normal thing over which they had little impact.


Most of us are getting the messages about this whether we color our hair or not, wear glasses or contacts, wear a hearing aid or turn up the volume, walk around the block or run a marathon. We get the message that God designed our bodies to move and no matter what our age, the more we move the better our bodies perform. We also get the message that what we put in our mouths has an impact not only on our waistline and hips, but also how much energy we have, how often we get sick, how well we sleep, and how alert and energized we may be.


When I look at all of that I am aware that I have some responsibility for what is happening to me at each decade. Sadly, many of us (too many) don’t think about that as much when we are in our twenties and thirties when we can be putting good stuff in our health bank for the future.


Another message we hear about what happens with age is the value of relational connections and a spiritual life that enriches us and adds to the longevity and positive aspect of aging.


I confess that despite being married for almost 52 years, with two married children, and six grandchildren who are no longer babies or toddlers, I definitely do not consider or feel “old”. (Yes, I do color my hair and wear contacts and am now retired.)


This week I discovered a new word that thoroughly delighted me while I was reading Mark Batterson’s book, In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day. Some of you may have read this book that preceded his popular book, The Circle Maker.


Clearly the title about a lion on a snowy day is intriguing. If you are a Bible scholar or avid reader, you may know Batterson is referring to Benaniah who became one of David’s mighty men.


The word I discovered in this book after reaching the conclusion that I think I am one who is a “lion chaser” is neoteny. As a lover of words, learning a new one always fascinates me. This word derives from the Greek word, neos, which means “new, fresh, or youthful”. Batterson notes that neoteny “is the retention of youthful qualities by adults”.


Reading a little further I became aware he was not talking about hair color, walking speed, vision or hearing acuity. He included a quote from the book, Geeks and Geezers, by Warren Bennis and Robert Thomas that I confess I have never seen nor read, but it was so enlightening that I wanted to share it with you here.


Neoteny is more than retaining a youthful appearance, although that is often part of it. Neoteny is the retention of those wonderful qualities we associate with youth: curiosity, playfulness, eagerness, fearlessness, warmth, energy. Unlike those defeated by time and age, our geezers have remained much like our geeks—open, willing to take risks, hungry for knowledge and experience, courageous, eager to see what the new day brings.”


 If you are in your twenties or thirties, that may not excite you and cause you to yawn in boredom, but if you are in the decades beyond that I am guessing you might be smiling.


But there is even more good news!! Batterson reminds us that neoteny is at the heart of the kingdom of God and is, in fact, what God is all about.


“He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them.  And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:2-3 NIV


 If we read Batterson as well as this passage in Matthew, I think we need to consider how often we are encouraged to become more and more childlike in our faith and trust in the Lord.


Batterson puts it this way:


“Conversion kick-starts two sanctification processes: Christlikeness and childlikeness. Spiritual maturity is becoming more like Christ and more like a little child.”


 I am not sure about you, but I want to be as filled with wonder at the Lord and all He has created and done as a child.


Neoteny—it’s a good word!