Tug of World

During the approximately 81 hours of pep rallies I experienced (translation: endured) during my high school teaching years, Tug o’ War between the classes was one of the most popular games played. The freshmen developed school spirit by competing against the sophomores. The seniors usually triumphed over the juniors, of course. What was up with that?

Even this non-athlete knows that Tug o’ War starts with each side determined to win, taking a firm, strong stance. In a good game, things appear equal on both sides as players flex muscles, lean back, and grit teeth. Slowly, the balance of power changes as one side gains the advantage. If it’s still a good game, the advantage might shift again. In a less-than-equal contest, one side wins suddenly with a mighty tug.

In yesterday’s sermon, our pastor tackled the subject of spiritual warfare, beginning a series entitled Winning: Put on the Full Armor of God. He’s dealt with this before, and one of the most useful aspects of his teaching was the technique of naming our spiritual battles. Earlier, I shared how I applied this technique in Battle of Loopy Lie Valley and The War for Independence. Once I identify what mind games the enemy is using in my spiritual battles, it’s harder to ignore them. Sometimes I’m in the middle of full-blown conflict without realizing it, and having a list of battles won previously with God’s help wakes me up and calls me back into the fight. It just occured to me that Could I Interest You in an Appetizer? grew out of my facing The Day of Distraction, another frequent battle.

So what is Tug o’ World and what do I do about it? At first, I’m standing firm, Kingdom priorities in order, viewing the world around me from a relatively mature believer’s perspective. I’m making an effort, with the Holy Spirit’s help, to stay on mission. “This world is not my home” is a growing reality in my life, not just a song.

And then I listen to the news just an hour more one day. And the next. The familiar voices and faces are comforting. And then I leave the television on as I do things around the house instead of listening to Christian music. The tug of the world is so subtle. I scroll mindlessly through Facebook, duped that something there will inspire me–still watching the news, of course. Gradually, my world is very different. If I’m not careful, I might find myself in the Skirmish of Imagination Inflation before I know it, worrying about being an invisible senior locked away forever “for my protection” or plotting a dystopian novel I do not intend to write.

A friend is having a new home built nearby. She’s immersed in design details and appliance purchases, and runs her ideas by me. Recently, I got my neighbors together to have our sad, sagging townhome fences replaced and I had my treacherous front steps rebuilt. Fun, positive conversations and projects providing a welcome distraction from current events. I watched HGTV instead of the news. But then I started salivating over appliances and flooring samples in Home Depot and dropped into bed still thinking about my next project. Tug o’ World had shifted from politics to material things, but I was still losing the battle.

Praise God that He does not leave us alone, wandering about the battlefield like soldiers with amnesia! Much more patient that a drill sergeant, He teaches the same lesson over and over in different ways, presenting me with weapons and showing me how to use them.

Here are a few of these scripture weapons:

Hebrews 12:1-3, in particular the command to “fix my eyes on Jesus” from verse 2. Sometimes a reminder is enough to prepare me for the next tug of the world. Way back when I was taking driver’s ed, one of the students in my car needed a constant reminder to “watch the road.” Scary! Those prompts kept us alive, though. Fixing my eyes on Jesus helps me win the battle.

When Proverbs 3:5-6 “insisted” on becoming my 2020 verse of the year, I admit I was disappointed. Why this oldie instead of something new and challenging? Ha! I had no idea how pertinent this advice would be in 2020! I can’t pretend to understand what’s going on right now or know how it will play out, but God does, and I need a constant reminder to lean on Him. I need to submit to Him in everything–not an easy task, but so important for straight paths and winning my battles. (Preaching to myself again–I’ve forgotten this verse lately!)

The book of Revelation has encouraged me lately. In particular, Chuck Swindoll’s Living Insights Commentary has helped me see in more graphic ways the reality of what’s become a platitude: God is in control. Oh, how the enemy wants me to think I need to be in control, or certain politicians should or shouldn’t be in control! There are so many weapons here in skirmishes of Imagination Inflation that I had trouble choosing. Here’s a sample from page 107 in the application of Revelation 5:1-14:

The One who is worthy to exercise judgment and rule over the earth will accomplish His will through your life. Human history is littered with the wreckage of failed attempts to fix humanity’s problems, but we can turn to Christ, who has paid the price to bring about a glorious future. When we trust in Christ instead of ourselves, the evil and opposition of the world seems much less daunting. It’s all subject to Him! When we see His brilliant splendor looming on the horizon, we can endure this present darkness with ever-increasing hope.

Enough said!

Stay in the battle. Preaching to myself.

The Serenaded Dog Walker

It’s been quite a while since I posted as the Singing Dog Walker! Today I’d like to share about being sung to, in other words, serenaded.

It didn’t happen while walking Angie, one of the few excuses for leaving home these days. Poor Angie doesn’t like social distancing one bit. Or maybe I’m the one who doesn’t like it. Frankly, it’s both of us! Angie strains and prances when she sees someone she wants to greet or would like to pet her. I just do it inwardly. Angie, the extrovert, and her introverted mom both miss socializing.Angie on walk

I have not decluttered, learned calligraphy, or studied New Testament Greek.

Good days have a structure revolving around virtual Bible studies and prayer interludes provided by local churches, two or three walks with Angie, a smidgen of editing, a good dinner (and probably too many desserts and news broadcasts).

Occasionally, when the balance tips toward too much news, I have to crank up the worship music instead. Or open my Bible. Soon, perspective is restored.

For the time being.

But God’s Word, whether read or sung, is one of our powerful weapons.

I believe it.

Recently, I’ve experienced it.

It’s obvious the enemy wants to sow discouragement, fear, and even despair. Anything to squelch the light. Steal our joy. Make us want to hide away, silence our voices and pens, and re-emerge when our officials give the okay.

But music and God’s Word, paired with prayer, push me out of hiding.

God has used two beautiful songs recently to quiet and encourage me:  Goodness of God and the The Blessing. I particulary love the version sung in the UK.

In this challenging time, the Lord has reminded me powerfully that He will never fail me and will never forsake me. He is good. He showers me with His good gifts. Nothing can separate me from His love. He loves me and knows what’s on my mind at any moment, whether I am focused on Him or not. He is hearing and responding to blessings prayed over me decades before my birth and continuing today.

And He is rejoicing over me with singing.

sleeping woman

Just this morning, I awakened hearing “the Lord bless you and keep you” being sung in my heart. (Normally, I just look at the clock and justify more sleep.) A few days before, I heard words singing of the goodness of God.

What an amazing heavenly Father I have. He sings to me.

How can I not say, “This is the day You have made. I will rejoice and be glad in it”?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

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.

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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!

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We had a dusting of snow before Thanksgiving.

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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!

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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