What I Learned from the Grandkids’ Visit

December found our son and his wife, now that they’re back in the US, bringing their young children for a wonderful Christmas visit. We all had a great time talking, reading stories, clambering around at a local playground, enjoying Christmas specials, and watching the children unwrap an unconscionable number of presents (grandparents gotta spoil ’em a little, right?)

I learned a lot over the ten days or so they were with us…

Our sweet daughter-in-law’s love language is “baked goods.” We all benefitted from this.

On a related note, glitter may not ever sweep up, but sprinkles can be tamed with due effort.

From high-chair level, little cheese cubes bounce 30% farther than little apple cubes.

Ripe banana chunks don’t bounce at all.

Q: How do you know whether a two-and-a-half-year-old and his 1-year-old brother are competing for Mom’s attention?
A: Yes.

The box is just as much fun as the toy. (Wait… everyone already knows that)

Lace curtains are perfect for a grandma’s office, where you only need to filter the sunlight. They are less than optimal when you add a Pack & Play and a one-year-old who needs a nap.

Even the most elegant High Tea may require a plastic tablecloth.

No earthly joy compares to seeing your grandchildren’s excitement over their new gifts.

When the world’s fastest preschooler gets on a scooter, high-visibility clothing is a must.

We’re super thankful to have the rowdy little crew–and their patient, fun-loving parents–in the same part of the country with us for a while.

And now that I’ve caught my breath and come out of my sugar coma, I’d like to wish you all a belated Merry Christmas and a slightly-less-belated Happy New Year.

Thanks for reading!


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All Oppression Shall Cease

In church on a December Sunday, we sang the beloved carol “O Holy Night.” One line in the second verse really got me thinking:

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is Love and His gospel is Peace.
Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother,

And in his name all oppression shall cease.”

Wow. In His name. All oppression? How awesome is that?

Yeah, but… how’re we doing so far?

Not so awesome. Yes, Christians often get mocked, intimidated, or silenced. Some experience official pressure to violate their own conscience. We don’t like it. We want this oppression to cease.

But that goes both ways. If you want all oppression to cease, then
Do Not Oppress Anyone.

Those of us who claim the name of Jesus have some soul-searching to do. I doubt many American Christians are holding slaves or unlawfully seizing our neighbors’ property. But we must also make sure we don’t…

> Mock, intimidate, silence, or punish anyone whose race, beliefs, gender, or opinions differ from our own
> Force immigrating refugees back into danger
> Interfere with anyone’s right to campaign for the candidate they choose
> Force anyone else to violate his or her own conscience
> Shun or boycott someone for telling the truth

I believe that line in the Christmas carol comes from Jesus’ first recorded sermon, in Luke’s gospel. He addressed the synagogue by reading from the prophecy of Isaiah:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free those who are oppressed…”

Then he told the people that he was the fulfillment of that prophecy. Everything was fine until he pointed out that God loves other people besides the Jews.

That’s when the whole crowd tried to lynch him.

I guess the question is–When Jesus teaches us to love one another and treat everyone with respect because God loves those who are different from us…

Do we follow his example?

Or would we rather lynch him?

I welcome your comments in the “Your Turn…” box below.

Thanks for reading,


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An Accidental Royal Kidnap, by Paul Mathews

Paul Mathews once again presents classic British humor at its goofiest. George, our hapless main character, patiently narrates his first-person, stream-of-consciousness account of a week when absolutely NOTHING would go right. I mean, if a princess shows up in your living room and announces you must have kidnapped her… whaddaya gonna do? Obviously, you buy her a box of her favorite cereal before she throws a tantrum.

And the situation just gets wackier from there.

Why, oh why does this woman keep saying she is George’s prisoner, when he’s doing his level best to get her to leave?

If you liked Mathews’ “We Have Lost” series, you’ll find this tale a Great Weekend read!

Thanks for reading,


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The Remedy for Broken Resolutions

Hello, friends! Today I’m re-posting a piece that first appeared on this blog on January 2, 2017. Because I realized I needed to listen to my own advice. Again.


New Year’s Day is a perfectly fine and logical occasion for taking a self-inventory and setting some goals—if you have time between shopping the sales.

But it’s easy to exaggerate the importance of January 1 as The time to make a fresh start. For me, setting New Year’s resolutions led to thinking of the whole year as one single unit of time. When I relapsed on a habit in February or got hopelessly behind in my reading during April, I’d tell myself, “I blew it!”—and give up for the rest of the year.

“There’s always next January,” I’d say.

I thought about this the last week of December, during my Bible reading. I was working through the first half of the Gospel of Luke, and felt a little twinge of regret. Too bad I won’t wrap up Luke on December 31.

Then I listened to myself.

Really? Am I gonna get sidetracked trying to sync my Scripture reading with particular dates on the calendar?

Did anyone who’s actually in the Bible ever limit themselves to specific times for taking important actions?

Mondays may be my usual “laundry day,” but let’s say it’s Thursday and the dog barfs on my favorite jeans. You can bet I’ll have those babies in the washing machine before you can say “Tide with Febreze.”

As near as I can figure, a “Once-yearly Fresh Start” mindset puts too much pressure on us. The fact is, people need fresh starts all the time. So why wait? The time to make a change is whenever you need one.

Did you hurt someone? Apologize now.
Do you need to spend more time working or studying? Set up a schedule now.
Has it come to your attention that you eat too much deep-fried stuff? Break out the grill now.

And if you mess up?

Admit it and start over. Don’t wait for next year, or next month, or National Salad Day. Start over now.

If you follow Jesus, remember He wants our faithfulness. Not just on the Sabbath or on New Year’s Day. If He tells you to do something, do it now.

After all, that’s how He worked. He fed the five thousand families out on the mountainside at dinnertime. He taught when it was time to teach, healed whenever sick people came for healing… and sacrificed Himself on the cross when it was time to buy our forgiveness once and for all.

That sacrifice made the priceless gift of God’s grace available to all who believe in Him.

All I have to do is admit I’ve messed up, and He extends a fresh start every time.

That’s what fixes broken resolutions: Grace.

Your Turn:
What about you? Do once-a-year resolutions energize you, discourage you, or something in between? I’d love to hear your thoughts. There’s room for you in the “Leave a Reply” box below.

Happy New Year!
Thanks for reading,


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Zombie Pickup Truck

First, let me say I always use a mirror when bicycling. Nerdy? Who cares? Cyclists gotta see what’s coming up behind them.

Recently while out on the road, a pickup passed me. Followed by a sudden flashback. I can’t believe I never blogged about this before… it would have been therapeutic. It all happened years ago…

I was riding along a rural asphalt road with virtually no traffic. As I neared civilization, I saw an old pickup gaining on me, so I moved to the right. The pickup slowed to match my speed, as cautious drivers will do. Since the road ahead was clear, I waved to signal the driver he could pass me.

But the truck stayed just behind my shoulder. I rolled my eyes and waved again, bigger this time. Nothing.

I found this Mildly Annoying.

I sped up. The truck matched my speed. I slowed. So did the truck. Glare on the windshield kept me from seeing the driver. What was he up to?

This behavior was definitely Suspicious.

How about a broad, sweeping gesture that clearly shouts, “I’m small and slow! There is no oncoming traffic! Go on around me so we can be out of each other’s way!”

Nothing doing. This guy stuck like glue.

He had now ramped up to Intimidating.

This went on for some minutes. We were approaching a semi-rural neighborhood. By now my nerves were taut, heart rate elevated. Why the heck didn’t he JUST PASS ME??

The situation had become Terrifying.

Something had to give. Up ahead on the right was a street which I knew to be a long cul-de-sac lined with several houses. I hatched a plan: If this guy doesn’t get off my wheel by the time we reach that street, I will turn in suddenly. If he keeps going straight, fine. If he follows me onto the street, I will rush to the nearest house, screaming bloody murder, and pound on the front door.

Praying someone would be home, I took a deep breath and steeled myself for action. Half a block before the street, the pickup pulled forward so the front bumper was even with me.

Now what… is he gonna run me off the road?

But the truck continued to pass, going about 1/100 mile an hour faster than me. Eventually the cab was even with my handlebar. What sort of monster had been harassing me? I dared a look.

A tiny, white-haired woman in the passenger seat barely showed above the bottom of the window. Beyond her, the driver clutched the steering wheel straight-armed, his jaw clenched, wide eyes fixed on the road. He had to be 95 at the youngest, and twice as scared as I was.


Since ‘Rip Van Winkle’ was finally passing, I slowed down so he could move to the right sooner and both our pulse rates could return to within a mile of normal.

I’m thankful I didn’t need my Death On The Backroads Avoidance Plan. Now, of course, we have cell phones that allow us to call 9-1-1 quickly (or even accidentally!)

But I’m glad to know I had a plan. You know… just in case the drama had been real.

Thanks for reading!



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Remote Shell Game

Hi. My name is Jan, and I’m not smart enough to watch television. (Of course, you could say that avoiding television is smarter than watching it, but that’s beside the point.)

To be honest, I don’t really think it’s my lack of intelligence. No, our media setup has joined the appliances and other electronics in the revolt.* I’m down 22-1, in my own end zone.

Let’s say I pick up the remote that operates the actual television set and push the power button. A menu pops up inviting me to choose what input I want.

But the various inputs are numerically coded and I can never remember which number means “television” as opposed to “Blu-ray” or whatever.

There aren’t even all that many inputs. Like, maybe four.

One day after scrambling around for several fruitless minutes, I gave up and called the AV guys who installed our system. “You want HDMI 2,” they explained.

“But when I select that, it doesn’t show our real network or cable channels. I get something that says TV but isn’t.”

Then I told them we’d recently installed a sound bar. “Ah… so, turn on the sound bar first. Select from the inputs displayed on the sound bar, not the one on the screen.”

“Ohh-kay.” (Why do they not match? I didn’t dare ask.)

“Then you can use the AT&T remote to control the television.”

“Not the television remote?”


Whatever. It worked, so… Fine.

Now, to watch Netflix, we used to turn on the actual television remote, then select “Netflix.”

Apparently, that was too easy. Over time, that method glitched once, then the next week, then every time we used it. We couldn’t access anything on Netflix.

I called AT&T for support. Several minutes of attempted troubleshooting, during which the guy clearly picked up on my level of tech-savvy. Finally he said, “Look, it’ll be simpler if you just turn on the Blu-ray disc player.”

“Use the Blu-ray? To watch Netflix? Which is via internet?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Who am I to question? I used the disc-player remote to turn on the player, which in turn triggered the television to turn on. Oh, lookie–the Blu-ray remote has its own “Netflix” button! After a few exploratory steps, none of which I can remember, I found the series I wanted. But afterward, I couldn’t figure out how to switch from Netflix to a football game on regular ol’ network TV.

I’m trapped in a house of mirrors at the intersection of “Who’s On First?” and “Rube Goldberg.”

All I know is, no matter what component you want to use, you have to start with the remote to something else.

Here, I would normally draw some insightful parallel between my media-component struggle and life in general. But with tech drama this wacky?

I got nothin’.

* If you don’t believe there’s any revolt, enter “appliances” in the search bar, upper right.

Your turn: Is anyone else confounded by too much technology? I welcome your comments in the box below. (Waaaay below.)

Thanks for reading,


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