Two, Four, Six, Eight…

…who do we appreciate? If you can finish this rhyme and know the context for its use, you might be Holly Bush, but you’re definitely not Pam Green! I had no clue that it’s used by youth teams at the end of a game to cheer their opponents!

I was just looking for a clever way to approach Teacher Appreciation Week and introduce you to Holly Bush, the PE teacher heroine of The Jesus Car.

My dreams of writing mini-tributes to the teachers who encouraged my writing efforts fizzled as I wrestled my manuscript to the mat for submission on Amazon.

Why did I, named last for the team in a grudging tone, make my heroine into a PE teacher?

Holly Bush entered the world of Sully Parkway as a minor character in The Substitute, Book Two of the series, which I actually wrote first. Holly’s optimism, thoughtfulness, and enthusiasm charmed me so much that I wanted to know more about her. As I planned The Jesus Car, I “learned” that Holly was most at home on the volleyball court, and didn’t consider herself much of a scholar. She also wanted to grow closer to God and farther from the influence of a fellow named Frank. She came to Northern Virginia and landed her dream job teaching PE at Sully High School. The Lord began to refine her faith, because anybody can grow—in grace.

I survived those miserable years in PE class, bullied by classmates (and occasionally by teachers) and lived to tell a different tale. God used those tough experiences to teach me empathy and perseverance. When I became a teacher, I vowed to be like my many encouraging teachers and to watch out for the underdog.

What a blast to dredge up the once nauseating gym smells and routines and weave them into Holly’s day! Thank goodness I never had a class with  Holly’s colleagues Yolanda and Katrina! But there’s a story behind both these ladies, too. You’ll see!

The Jesus Car front cover

Meet Holly and her colleagues in The Jesus Car, now available in Kindle and paperback versions on Amazon! 

For those of you who’ve already met Holly, here’s a trivia question that you can prep in advance of my Facebook launch party in June (exact date TBA): Name at least one reason the lovely coach pictured above CAN’T be Holly Bush. 

Please don’t answer in the comments. Email your response to me at:

pam@pamgreenwrites.com

If you’d like to receive my newsletter, you can request it in your email!

 

 

 

Psalm of the First Spring Walk

forsythia-324055_1920Praise the Lord warmly

All His people!

Praise Him,  ye revelers in the sun

And seekers of the shade.

Praise Him in gentle breezes

Bearing smells of yesteryear

And swell with hope for tomorrow

Ye quickened hearts.

Praise Him with sound of lawnmower

And crack of baseball bat.

Raise unto Him the tang of mulch

Mingled with incense of box elder.

Tweet unto Him, ye songbirds

Shower Him with velvet petals

Ye flowering trees.

Feast on His presence

In froufrou of forsythia

All His creatures.

Chirp in contentment, ye crickets.

Rest in Him

All His children

In cool starriness of night.

Praise the Lord

All the earth!

Dogged Pursuit of Joy

Thanks to an unfortunate mishap last week, Angie has been on a new medication that’s been tough on both of us. Her tummy has been upset and her appetite has been poor. We will soon rate a brass plaque on our exam room at the animal hospital. What a week!

Because I had an early orthodontist appointment this morning, I had to skimp on some of my usual morning routine. Angie had slept with her crate door open overnight so she wouldn’t be trapped if she had GI “issues.” I found her on the gold chair when I came downstairs. The crate was in good shape. She rolled over a bit for a tummy rub but wasn’t overly perky. I carried her into the back yard for a quick potty break, but she came right back inside and plodded upstairs. Reluctantly, I crated her with the door shut and left for my appointment.


I’m grateful that I’d seen an email devotion while I scarfed down a banana and yogurt. Susie Larson urged me to “scoot a little closer to Jesus.” I tried to do that on the way to my appointment. The germ of a plan began to form regarding Angie.

At the orthodontist, they took multitudes of pictures and scans in arcane positions. I have about a month wearing my current aligner only at night, and now I’m celebrating that freedom. At the time, I was in a rotten mood. I think I stopped short of being rude, but I was far from cheerful. I ignored the Holy Spirit’s prompt to compliment the receptionist on her necklace, but at least we exchanged the obligatory wishes for a nice day before I left.

I’ve had to make a dogged attempt to choose joy over the last two or three days. With the exception of Angie’s situation, nothing about my life circumstances has changed. I am well aware that the enemy would be delighted if he could get me to procrastinate on my writing, start dreading my role helping with the new Freedom Group, not invite any of my favorite couples to the Love and Laughter Date Night (they’d be on their own, of course), and panic about Angie. Sometimes choosing joy is counter-intuitive and just a dogged act of obedience. Feelings (may) come later. The enemy wants me to think that depression, which troubled me as a young adult, will come back to stay–that God hasn’t freed me from it. That’s not true–he is guarding my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus.

After eating a Panera breakfast (plus my lunch baguette!) in the car on the way home and washing it down with real iced tea (not herbal), I felt better. I decided it was worth the risk to discontinue the medication. I told the doctor when she checked on Angie later today. We worked out a compromise I’m happy with.

The sun came out while Angie and I took a nice walk. It was a great opportunity to sing as much of “There is Sunshine in My Soul Today” and “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” as I know. It really is true that praise is a powerful spiritual weapon. This time, the feelings of joy came along with the spontaneous (not dogged) praise.

The Prince of Darkness grim– We tremble not for him; His rage we can endure, For lo, his doom is sure, One little word shall fell him.

What do you think is the “one little word” that will fell the enemy?

Hard-hatted contentment

I was convinced I’d be Teacher of the Year in no time. Make that at no time. Eventually, I made my peace with that. I concentrated on doing a good job and learning to be content. I loved Blaise Pascal’s take on contentment in his Pensées:

[…] we never actually live, but hope to live, and since we are always planning how to be happy, it is inevitable that we should never be so.

Of course, the Apostle Paul learned the secret of contentment the hard way: beatings, stonings, shipwrecks, and imprisonment. And I thought I had a rough time of it with impossible classes, papers to grade ad nauseam, and unreasonable colleagues!

In Living Beyond the Daily Grind I*, Chuck Swindoll addresses the “grind of discontentment.” He asks the reader to consider what Jesus’ life would be like if He were on earth today, and whether He’d be content or not.

If Jesus were to live on earth today, where do you think He would be employed? What kind of car would He drive? How much money would He earn? Do you think He would periodically fly first class? Would He ever feel the slight sting of discontentment? Why? Or why not?

No, this wasn’t God’s chosen era for Jesus to live on earth. But here we are, as His ambassadors now—His hands, feet, and voice. Swindoll’s questions are a great priority check.

Finding the ideal place for Jesus to live isn’t as easy as you’d think. In the United States, our weather maps focus on—you guessed it, the United States. I admit I was a bit surprised that French weathermen started with France and put North America last in the weather review. We are not the center of the universe in everybody’s eyes, so Jesus might not pick the United States! Wherever He wound up—Israel? Venezuela? China?—I think He’d choose a city because modern cities feature a cross-section of the population. In the New Testament, Jesus touched all strata of society, and I’m sure He’d do the same today.

If Jesus had a home base, it probably wouldn’t be a wealthy neighborhood. He’d be a working man in a lower income area, but not necessarily a slum. Although He could choose any noble trade, I’ll make Him a carpenter. Prior to beginning His ministry, I see Him working with a passion to bring joy to people through His craft. He wouldn’t build any old dining room table but the perfect dining room table with a well-loved family in mind. The enthusiasm would be ten times what Joanna Gaines exudes when she conceives a design idea with Clint Harp!

Maybe Jesus kept working as He taught. Just think of the possibilities a construction site would offer for parables and memorable images. In addition to the wise man building on a rock and the rich fool craving a bigger barn, He could talk about hard hats, bulldozers, window washers, and realtors.

A true minimalist, He wouldn’t own a car. He’d find flexibility in using public transportation and allowing others to drive Him around. After all, in the New Testament, He walked, rode in fishing boats, and borrowed a donkey when He needed it to make a prophetic point.

As someone who touched everybody’s lives, Jesus would occasionally fly first class, but not for comfort’s sake. He’d be after Zack up there, who was itching to see Jesus. Of course, this would draw the ire of the folks roughing it back in coach. Don’t their sacrifices entitle them to Jesus’ attention?

Would He be discontent? Never. The temptation might have come but would never be indulged. Jesus would have had such a clear sense of purpose for His life on earth that He could be content in all circumstances.

Jesus was driven, but in a different way. Am I? Are you?

___________________________

*Swindoll, Charles R. Living beyond the Daily Grind. World Pub., 1988

Wringing out the Old Year

I went to bed before midnight on New Year’s Eve. I’m not into ringing in the New Year.

Lately, though, I “wring out” the old year. (No, I’m not alluding to the unusually wet year we’ve had here in Northern Virginia.)  I don’t evaluate the year as it ends and set perfectionistic goals for improvement. Been there, done that. No more.

Having a word or a scripture verse for the year–or both–is popular now. A writer could get behind that, right? Not when her internal editor transforms one word into three and insists on alliteration to boot. Imposing a verse on myself at the beginning of the year feels too much like a resolution and smacks of legalism.

Over the last three years, though, a wonderful verse has burst onto the scene of my life midway through the year. The concept would pop up in Bible study and in my quiet time, and then again in a book I was reading. What was the Holy Spirit up to?

With His help, the verse and theme of the year took hold of me in the spring or summer and ushered me straight into the New Year.  Whether  “official” or not, they were inescapable. God was working in this area of my life, and He was encouraging me to cooperate with Him so that I could grow in grace and in the knowledge of Him.

So, I am wringing the good stuff out of 2018.

Last year in Bible Study Fellowship we studied Romans. It’s a complex book, but I’d studied it before. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled across this glittering treasure in chapter 6:

We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. (Romans 6:6-7, New Living Translation, emphasis mine)

Wow! As a believer in Christ, sin has lost its power in my life! I don’t have to do what sin tells me to do. Revolutionary.

When Satan says, “You might as well give in. I won’t leave you alone until you do, but then I won’t bother you anymore,” he is lying. I don’t have to give in. Hallelujah! What freedom!

I can’t escape freedom. Sometimes God reminds me I’m free so I can simply enjoy my status, and sometimes He allows me to practice declaring my freedom by choosing to obey Him. There’s a clear purpose to my freedom, as it says in Galatians:

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1 NIV)

We are set free with the intention that we stay free. What grace! How can we not grow in it?

What word and/or verse have you wrung out of 2018? How do you ring in your New Year?

Happy New Year from Pam, Angie the dog, and Mindy the cat!

 

 

The Praying Dog Walker

Is it wrong to enjoy praying?

No.

No, it’s not wrong, but that doesn’t mean I always do.

Growing up, we prayed in King James English and said a memorized grace at meals. (I confess I resorted to that memorized grace a lot as an adult, too.)

In college, there were group prayers where I spent most of the time thinking up what I was planning to say and trying to sound spiritual.

During much of my adulthood, I enjoyed journaling and those journals often morphed into real prayers. Praying in the car on the way to school worked for me then, too.

But I’ll confess to years at a time that were close to prayerless.

In His grace, God didn’t let me stay that way. Eventually, I had to pray.

Fast forward a few years to the present.

I still struggle. I love the idea of praying continually, but do I have to wade through an checklist-2077022_640interminable list and feel guilty if I leave someone out? What do I do with the “are we done yet?” in the back of mind, or the thoughts about my grocery list?

 

 

Visuals help. I “pray around the country” for family members and unsaved friends, going in different directions for variety’s sake and zooming off to a foreign country on a tangent, then back again.

hands-600497_640

 

I pray when I walk Angie the dog or when I’m driving. I’ve given myself permission not to finish in one sitting.

I’ve tried a schedule with a different focus on each day, but I always feel like I’m leaving someone out. Scratch that.

A couple of weeks ago, as part of our Wednesday night study on spiritual warfare, our pastor, Josh Daffern, discussed “Praying on Purpose.”  One of the strategies he described was to pray a word for someone, letter by letter–a sort of mnemonic device. (Hang in there. ACTS never worked for me, either.) His first word was PURPOSE. You can check out the recording of the study to hear how he used it, along with a great story.  I guess this process is somewhat addictive–in a good way–because Josh went on to generate several more words!

I got hooked, too. I couldn’t stop thinking of words. At last, a different focus for people and situations–something to make my routine, often burdensome list fresh and exciting. When a word popped into my head, a prayer was born, letter by letter. It was easy to tuck a quick but meaningful prayer into a stray moment.

Here’s how I used LEADERS to pray for our nation’s leaders.  You might come up with something different:

L-Pray that they will LEAN on God’s wisdom and strength.

E-Pray that they will lead with EXCELLENCE.

A-Pray that they will be ABLE leaders.

D-Pray that they will be DEDICATED to serving God and their constituents.

E-Pray that they will have ENCOURAGERS in their lives.

R-Pray that they will LIVE RIGHT. (Thanks, Pastor Josh, for R.)

S-Pray that they will be SAVED.

thanks-1804597_1920

What can you do with THANKS? (See my answers below.)

Before you grab a notebook and pen and go crazy, let me tell you why this has been such a liberating strategy for me:

  • Since I live in a world of words, this process automatically puts me in “pray continually” mode.
  • As I use little bits of time throughout the day to pray, I connect more often with God.
  • I avoid meaningless repetition because I can change the mnemonic when things get stale. I don’t dread a particular category on my list.
  • When I forget what a letter stands for, I’m prompted to think of a different meaning–hence, more variety.
  • If you pray in a group, with a spouse, or with your children, generating words to pray would be an engaging activity. You could even use a person’s name as a springboard for prayer.

No, my prayers haven’t become one giant acrostic, but this strategy has answered a need in my life. I hope you’ll try it, too.

It’s okay to enjoy prayer.

Let me know how it works for you!

Here’s what I did with THANKS:

T-TANGIBLE blessings; H-HEAVENLY blessings; A-ADVANTAGES; N-NATURE and creation;

K-KINSHIP with Jesus; S-SALVATION.

 

 

The Singing Dog Walker Is on the Move Again

A lot has happened since the Singing Dog Walker last checked in! I’ve decorated the house for Christmas and purchased many of the gifts. This weekend I resolved to get my blog ready for e-mail newsletter subscriptions! Rah! Rah!

Aren’t you glad I didn’t quite make it? More information on my stories and an option to subscribe to my newsletter will be here soon. In the meantime, Angie is walking and I am singing again.

Here’s what’s been happening to us:

Angie continued her rehab for her TPLO surgery and mastered the water treadmill:

Shortly before Halloween, Angie was bitten by a dog that had escaped her collar. God answered my prayer, “Lord, please protect Angie!” The other dog owner flew into action quickly and little Ang escaped with a couple of puncture wounds that healed fast. We hit the trail again pretty quickly, but for a few days she sniffed the scene of the crime, and I did a little less singing!

IMG_20181029_122900326

We had a dusting of snow before Thanksgiving.

IMG_20181115_084508865_HDR

Mindy the cat kept warm through it all.

Mindy keeps warm

Over the long Thanksgiving weekend, I did some cat-sitting for two teacher friends, which is always fun. I celebrated Thanksgiving with dear friends from my community group at church.

Angie got her “Master’s degree” in rehab when she graduated for the second time. I will miss the wonderful team at the Veterinary Surgical Center Rehab in Vienna, Virginia. We will go back for a visit when Angie’s in the mood for a car ride!

IMG_20181205_144652448

Doesn’t Angie look pensive as she contemplates her future?

Her “awards” are: Golden Paw Print, Just Keep Swimmin’, Step Master, Ninja Warrior, and Beam Me Up (for laser treatments?).

Our community group at church had an early Christmas potluck party last weekend. Beware of game organizers who hand you a gift and a pair of oven mitts!

opening gift

I’m not whining, though. These wonderful folks are my family.

no whining

And so, the Singing Dog Walker and her sidekick Angie are on the move again, bundled up and waiting for Christmas. See you soon with information on how to get my newsletter! Stay warm!

 

The Singing Dog Walker–Part 4

I grabbed Angie’s leash, collar, and harness, stuffed them in my purse, and ditched the umbrella. Anything to save time. It was 3:20 and I’d said 3:00.

I stepped up to the long counter in the emergency room and the receptionist greeted me.

“I’m here to pick up my dog, Angie Green.” It’s not like she was away at boarding school for a year. This was just two nights of medical boarding while you went to a wedding. And now she’s coming home. Relax.

“What was the last name again?”

“Green, like the color.” Am I really that hard to understand? It’s just one syllable. Common name.

“Pet’s name?”

“Angie.” I relaxed the talon-like grip on my purse strap and sighed. No “Oh, yes, Angie! We love Angie.” Usually, they say something like that. Oh, well, they did say she was a sweetheart when I called earlier. I’m sure they were nice to her.

“Have a seat and I’ll let them know you’re here. It’ll just be a few minutes.”

I handed over Angie’s paraphernalia and sat down in the seating area. The gentleman to my left watched football on the TV suspended above the desk. I kept my eye on the door through which the tech would enter, bringing Angie, released from captivity. Poor girl. Had she felt abandoned?

Staring at the posters in the hallway grew old after a few minutes. I could check the score. Don’t recognize those uniforms. What?! The Redskins are ahead? No wonder the guy is so intent on the game.

Another man entered through the main door, leading a large dog who sported a red and blue bandana decorated with white stars. Tongue out, the dog grinned at us. His owner sat down at the opposite end of the long waiting room. “Sit. Good boy. Down. Yes, good boy.”

Flurry of activity. No Angie, just people coming and going behind the counter. The Redskins are still ahead. Wonder if I should bother learning some of the players’ names this year.

A client entered and exchanged a couple of words with one of the receptionists, then helped himself to two cans of soda from a fridge under the coffee machine close to Bandana Dog.

Bandana Dog stood up. Uh oh.

“Sit. Good boy. Down. Good boy. Yes. Relax.”

Bandana dog complied happily. His owner sat back and relaxed, too. No wonder.

I checked the score and the poster on the wall about supporting dogs rescued from Hurricane Harvey. Wonder if they’ll update the poster after Hurricane Florence. Where is Angie?

Wait. Was that a skittering of doggie claws in the hall?

The door opened and Angie burst out, sliding and skittering over the three-foot distance between us. She threw herself at me, then stood on her hind legs in a move that would have made her surgeon wince.  It should have earned an “Off!” from me. Instead, I let her squeeze between my knees and I kissed her shiny black head.

I tried to listen to the tech as he recited what meds Angie had received. “Do you have any questions?”

“No, thanks so much.”

Angie sniffed Football Watching Man’s feet, did a jig, looked up at me, and sat.

She might not be perfect, and she might not have a bandana, but she does have a pink heart ringed with rhinestones on her collar that says, “Angie.”

She’s mine. My little gift from God.

“Come on, Angie. What a good girl she is. Let’s go home.”

On the way home

The Singing Dog Walker–Part 3

Have you missed the Singing Dog Walker? Little Angie has been sidelined over the last few weeks with another CCL tear–this time in her left hind leg. This is the most common orthopedic injury in dogs. She came through her TPLO surgery with flying colors, and today was her checkup and first rehab appointment. We did rehab before, and I was anticipating the royal welcome Angie would receive from the doctor and therapists there.

I wasn’t disappointed. As you can see, Angie rocked her “Doggles” prior to laser therapy. She did a doggie “clamshell” first thing, without being asked, in anticipation of the treat she’d get! (I would have enjoyed clamshells a lot more if I’d gotten treats with each one!)

We’ve taken short walks every day since Angie’s surgery. She attracted a lot of attention in her cone. When she started putting her foot down, her fans applauded her.

I’ve met so many nice people since I’ve become the Singing Dog Walker thanks to Angie. One lady always stops her car wherever she is and comes over to pet Angie and cradle her face in her hands. Today she crossed the street, balancing a boxed cake and a grocery bag. She petted Angie, then paused, looked at me with concern, and asked, “Are you going to have everything you need for the storm? You know where we live. Just come and get us if you need anything–anything at all.”

Angie may be a star, and I’m just her mom and dog walker. She attracts all the attention, but I often reflect on God’s goodness in giving this little star to me, and in planting me in such a wonderful neighborhood many years ago. Back then, only God knew what love and care I’d need over the last few years, and I’m still unpacking the little gifts He gives me every day. Thank You, Lord.

Angie in Doggles

 

Angie in Doggles 2

 

 

 

Pity Party

New teacher Holly Bush of The Jesus Car might have appreciated this poem, which I wrote in 1991 and revised recently.

PITY PARTY

What a day I’ve had!

“Who wants to come to a pity party?” you say.

Then give me something to be happy about.

Make me forget

The gloppy spitballs found on the board.

Give me courage to face the class from you-know-where.

Make me believe

I’m cut out to be a teacher

So I won’t walk straight out the front door

Instead of doing hall duty.

 

“This is the day that the Lord hath made,

We will rejoice and be glad in it,”

Proclaims the plaque on my desk.

It’s only Monday, Lord–

Four more days away from rejoicing.

Today I just want some sympathy,

Period.

 

Just yesterday the preacher asked,

“Where does it say

God wills our days

To be problem-free?”

Then he laid it on the line:

“God’s will is for us to become

More like Jesus Christ.”

 

Hmm.

Could I become like Him

Without icky spitballs,

Toothaches,

And delinquents-in-training–

Those minor annoyances

That fine tune me

And pale in the midst

Of life’s cosmic crises?

 

Jesus, You learned obedience

Through what You suffered.

Did You heal with a headache,

Then rock-pillow Your head at night,

Trying to forget mercenary whines,

Clueless questions,

Sibling rivalry

And Pharisee traps?

Little annoyances–

Pale prelude

To the cosmic work that lay before You.

 

No, Lord, I can’t say I’m eager to sign up

For the fellowship of Your suffering.

Would my bumps and bruises even qualify?

The least I can do right now

As I press on

Is leave this petty pity party.