Little Boxes

black boxI love little boxes.

No, I’m not talking about those little black ones tied up with a bow and containing sparkly diamonds or shiny gold jewelry.  

Instead, my heart goes pitter-pat for these little boxes.


Let me explain.

I’ve been reading up on something called a bullet journal — “The Analog System for the Digital Age”.  The purpose of this journal is to organize your life and boost productivity using a good old-fashioned notebook and a pencil.  It started as a simple, streamlined system created by an art director in New York City who “specializes in interactive design and usability”.

I have no idea what that means.

But then some really creative artsy people got ahold of this thing and took it to a whole new level.  After perusing the “Bullet Journal Junkies” Facebook page, I got hooked.

As it turns out, there’s a whole culture of dedicated fans who have very strong feelings about the best notebooks and writing utensils to use. They also are extremely supportive of each other and offer newbies tons of encouragement.

So I dove in with a Moleskine journal and some Staedtler Triplus Fineliner pens. Now I see what this really is all about.

  1. This is a way to create a completely customized planner.  I decide what goes in and what stays out.  In other words, it’s a control freak’s dream.
  2. This is a glorified chore chart.  I remember making job lists for my kids when they were learning to make their beds, get dressed, go to the potty.  After every completed task, they got a sticker to put on the chart.  A chart full of stickers usually meant a trip to town to buy a toy. It was pretty effective. Instead of stickers, I get to color in little boxes with my new pens.  It’s pretty effective.
  3. This is an ingenious mix of a right-brain organizational tool and a left-brain creative outlet.
  4. Some people need a little box to color in at the end of the day to give them a sense of accomplishment.
  5. I am one of those people.

Here’s a peek:

See all those orange boxes? They make me so happy.


This is my habit tracker — it’s keeping tabs on my behavior, helping me stay accountable to the good habits I want to develop.


Yeah, I’m not about to disclose what those habits are — that might be a little too much accountability.  I know it’s working, though, because I caught myself thinking, “If I don’t eat my 1/2 pound of raw veggies today I won’t be able to color in my box.”


I’m not much of an artist, but I can make dots and dashes and print nicely.


I already know what I want to tweak for November.

Maybe this is just another kick that will wear off by 2016.

Or maybe I will become a bullet journal fanatic.

Either way, coloring in little boxes sparks joy.

And it might give me an excuse to drive into town and pick out a new toy.

10 Things I Learned in September

sept1. I like demolition.  PB and I have been working on a house project this month, with the help of some good friends.  With a lot of help.  From some very good friends.  It included 40 pound sledgehammers and pulling up 3.7 million screws and a dumpster filled to the brim with our blood, sweat and tears.  I loved it.  I felt like I was on an HGTV show.  Busting stuff up and getting filthy dirty was great fun.

2. I’m a journal junkie. At present, I have seven journals on my desk.  One leather bound journal for, well, journaling.  One small bound book that is a five-year/one-sentence-a-day volume.  One that keeps a list of books I’ve read for the past eleven years. Another that is titled “Pretty Good Ideas”. Then there is a spiral notebook for brain dumping, another for taking notes on podcasts and sermons, and yet another for writing reflections on scripture reading.  Oh, and one more that I use for copying down excerpts from books.  Make that eight journals.  Last week I stumbled onto something called the “bullet journal” so now I am chomping at the bit to start October so I can roll out number nine.

3. Gardening is not my strong suit, but I do like digging in the dirt.  When we moved to a new place years ago, I had a hard time adjusting.  When spring rolled around, I told a friend that it finally started to feel like home when I started digging in the dirt.  She laughed and said, “You old farmer, you.”  My thumb is not green and I can’t keep a houseplant alive, but this month I’ve pulled some weeds and took pleasure in the feel of dirt in my hands.

4. Podcasts are fun to listen to, but lots of work to create.  Our church started producing a weekly podcast with updates, announcements, sermon recaps, family devotions, etc.  It helps to have a super talented technological wizard doing all the heavy lifting.  All I have to do is push record and try to talk naturally into a microphone in an empty room.  It’s harder than you’d think.

5. Live theater makes me happy.  PB and I went to see “Newsies” this month and we’ve been seizing the day ever since.  I always leave musicals wishing I had stuck with dance lessons.  Alas, when I was five, I refused to go on stage in my tutu.  My mother walked me around the parking lot and tried to talk me into performing, but I was a no-go.  Hence, the end of my dance career.

6. Nobody’s favorite Bible verse is from the book of Nahum.  I’ve been reading through the Old Testament minor prophets this month and it’s a hard read.  Bless the people who are called to pronounce impending judgment on nations.  Bless the nations who heed the warnings.

7. September is my new favorite month.  Summertime has always been my season of choice, but this year September was spectacular.  Bring on the sweatshirts and flannel jammies.

8. I’m willing to be a fool for Christ.  Every Sunday morning we do some silly theatrics for the K-5th grade Sunday school classes.  So far I have 1) mixed a Super Hero concoction of chocolate syrup, maple syrup and cough syrup and drank it, 2) pretended I couldn’t lift a five pound weight, and 3) swallowed a packet of hot sauce.  Anything to get kids excited to come to church.

9. After observing Jesus’ habit of going outside to pray, our Bible study ladies were given an assignment to take a prayer walk.  I get it.  It was so much easier to praise God when I wasn’t distracted by the dust on my table or the streaks on my windows.  My confidence in God’s ability to hold the world together, including me, soared.  Getting out into big beautiful nature put my problems in perspective.

10. I am not prolific.  I wish I could pound out blog posts like nobody’s business.  I just can’t figure out how these people blog every day.  But then I remembered that I’m ghost writing for another blog, creating content for the new podcast, putting together a 12 week Bible study and trying to keep up with my eight journals. Make that nine journals starting tomorrow.  Bring on October!





The ACTS acronym has been around a long time.  It serves as a method of prayer that includes Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication. I remember learning this handy dandy prayer model when I was a kid. Plus, it’s in the book “Christian Prayer for Dummies”.  So it’s nothing new.

I’ve never had trouble coming up with things to confess — there’s plenty of fodder for that.  Thanksgiving is easy — I just have to open my eyes and look in front of my nose.  My prayers tend to lean heavy on the supplication side — there’s no end to the list of things I ask God for on a regular basis.

Adoration is my weak spot.

I can’t think of much to say.

According to the dictionary, to adore means to regard with the utmost esteem, love and respect; to like or admire very much.

If I was at Menards and happened to see a certain HGTV decorating star, I’d go up to her and say, “I love your show! Your style is so warm and inviting and your creativity is so inspiring!  I so look forward to seeing your designs each week!  You are my favorite decorator!”  (Yes, I would use all those exclamation points.)  (And I would say “so” three times.)

If I was at the library and ran into an author I highly respect, I’d whisper, “Your books have meant the world to me.  I admire the way your stories connect with life.  You are so good at putting things in a way that resonates with me.  I’m so honored to meet you and be able to tell you how I feel.”

If I had a backstage pass at a concert and had the chance to speak to a musician I’ve always loved, I’d say, “The songs you sing speak right to my heart.  I play your albums all the time and know every one of your songs.  I think you’re the best songwriter ever.”

There.  That wasn’t so hard.

Adoring God is simply telling Him what I love about Him.

“God, I love Your style, Your creativity, Your words, the way You touch my heart.  You are my favorite — the best ever, and I’m honored to worship You.”


Teach Us To Pray

The disciples didn’t ask Jesus to teach them how to

walk on water,

or multiply loaves and fishes,

or quiet a storm.

They never asked for lessons in


or healing

or driving out demons.

There was no request for interpretation of Old Testament passages,

or an explanation of original sin and the fall of man.

The only thing the disciples asked Jesus to teach them was




So let’s not ask God to wow us with wonders,

or check off our wish list,

or indulge our whims.

Let’s not get hung up on


or hagiology

or epistemology.

Let’s just lay down our pride and say,

“Lord, teach us to pray.”

teach us

Going Into the Closet

closet“But when you pray, go into your closet, close the door and pray to your Father….”  Matthew 6:6

What do you think Jesus really meant when He said this?

Was He implying that I should try to find a happy place in my mind so I can feel a sense of calm and peacefulness?

Was the Lord hinting that I should shut my eyes when I pray to cut down on distractions?

Did Jesus mean that I should pray about what clothes to wear every morning?

Could He have been suggesting that if I can’t close my closet doors, that perhaps I have too many clothes?

Or was He instructing that I should

go into a closet

close the door

and pray?

Could you do it?  Would you do it?  Should you do it?

I mean, actually clear a place in an actual closet in your house, put a folding chair inside, and go sit on it for a few minutes every day. What would it be like to close your closet door and talk to God in there?

prayer closet

Nah, that can’t be what He meant.  I’d feel foolish sitting in my closet, praying.  What if someone heard me?  That would be embarrassing.  How would I explain my unusual actions?  Surely He wouldn’t ask me to do something odd like that.  What could possibly be the benefit of such a strange practice?  I must be taking Jesus’ words too literally.

“Prayer is not learned in a classroom, but in a closet.” E.M. Bounds


praying childI used to pray the same bed-time prayer every night.  My mom would tuck me in and listen to me recite this verse:

“Day is done, gone the sun, God be with us everyone.”

Then I would go on to “God Bless” everybody — Mommy and Daddy, Grandpas and Grandmas, brothers and sister, cousins and friends.

When our family gathered around the supper table and it was my turn to say the blessing, I always rattled off this little ditty:meal prayer

“Thank you for the world so sweet,                         Thank you for the food we eat,                                 Thank you for the birds that sing,                         Thank you God, for everything.”

My siblings and I each had our own special prayers to recite.  I don’t know who chose those little sing-songy verses or they how they got assigned to us.  Meals didn’t start until dad called on someone to say grace and we all bowed our heads.  For Sunday dinner, my brother would usually get the nod because his prayer was short enough to get in between plays of the Packer game:

“God is great, God is good. Let us thank him for our food. Amen.”

My prayers have changed since those days, but sometimes I still feel like I’m saying the same things over and over again.  If I’m getting bored with the way I pray, I wonder how God feels.  I have a lot to learn here.

Prayer is one of those topics that tend to induce guilt (“I know I should pray more.”) or anxiety (“I don’t have to pray out loud, do I?”) or doubt (Does it really make a difference?”).  Prayer can seem mysterious, but as Billy Graham once said, “Prayer is simply a conversation between you and God.”  And most of us are pretty good at talking.  Listening, on the other hand, can be a problem.

This fall I’m going to be leading a Bible study on prayer, so expect the topic to come up here in the coming weeks. I don’t expect to have an answer for every question about prayer or attempt to solve this thing once and for all.  Instead, my hope is that we will take a step forward in enjoying our relationship with our loving Father, who wants to chat with us awhile every day.

Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth.  Psalm 54:2

It’s Time


Sometime this summer, this old clock stopped ticking.

Actually, it’s not an old clock.  It’s a $5.99 clock from Ikea.

I remember the day it happened.

One of my grands dipped it in the bathtub until the 5, 6, and 7 were drowning.

I dried it off and set it back on my desk, but the ticker was silent.


I guess you could say that sometime this summer, I kinda stopped ticking, too.

I don’t know when it happened.

Maybe I was drowning in funerals (5) and weddings (6) and fun activities (at least 7).

I allowed myself to be silent for awhile.

Today I picked up that clock, wiped off the soap scum, twirled those hands around, and gave it a shake.

 The ticking returned! The rhythm is back!

My clock came back to life!

So I figure it’s telling me to do the same —

dust off the dander, limber up my hands, and breath some life back into small drop.

May the click of ideas and the rhythm of words return.

It’s time.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”  Ecclesiastes 3:1