I have been thinking about obedience lately. It is one of those words like prudence and chastity that is not used much. You never hear it in wedding vows and very rarely hear it being told to children. Perhaps that is not such a bad thing but I think we may be missing an important structure in our society.

Being obedient was brought home to me the other weekend when my husband and I took our dogs to the vets for a nail trim. I was inside waiting to settle up the bill while my husband took our two scallawags outside. As he waited along the side of the building, a dog that was boarding took off from behind the vets and started running down the street with the poor vet tech chasing behind. My husband secured our dogs and went to help the tech. The dog, a young terrier mix was extremely scared but also out for a frolic along a busy intersection and road. Our vet is located on a fairly busy country road with side roads of new developments mixed with farm land. The dog ran down many of the lanes and into the fields. She then would circle back to the main road and criss cross into traffic. Try as we might, she would not come to us.

At one point I was able to “corner” her in a portion of a field that was fenced on two sides. I crouched low, kept still and called her. She finally stopped bolting and lay down about a hand’s length beyond my grasp. As I tried to hook her up to the leash, she slipped out of my grip. She bolted, then stopped, looked at me and sprinted off into some deep woods.

My husband and I helped the vet staff for about two hours stopping neighbors to tell them about the little dog. The staff continued to call and look for her far into the twilight and night. The next day we got a call from them to say that the dog continued to criss-cross over the road and wouldn’t come to them. Tragically she was hit by a car. The vets tried to save her but to no avail.


With our independent streaks, we are not comfortable with someone telling us what to do. We want to control our own destiny and our own way. Unfortunately we deceive ourselves if we think that we are in control: life has too many variables for us to be in charge. All we can control is our reaction to what comes down our path.

Obedience comes when we realize that someone has a better handle on what is happening: more experience, education, or understanding. It would be wise to heed their advice, listen to their commands and do what they suggest. In the case of the little terrier, had she listened to our calls, she would have been safe. She represents not only time lost for her and those spent looking for her but also a life lost.

The whole idea of listening and obedience had me thinking. In obeying are we really giving up independence? Or are we choosing to be wise by listening to others with greater wisdom? The Hebrew writer says “to obey is greater than sacrifice.” There is the expression blind obedience but I think there is blind sacrifice. Either option seems to imply that one doesn’t have a choice in the matter. One responds almost by rote. Yet I think that there are choices in both options. We can choose to obey. We can choose what and how much we sacrifice.

Whether obedience is blind or fully understood, it also requires trust in the one whom we obey. It requires that we recognize why we should and could trust that person.

In the case of obedience to God- how can we not trust Him? God is love. Pure and thoroughly. He desires the best for us because He made us. It is inconceivable that He would harm us in any way just like it is inconceivable that we would’ve harmed that little terrier.

I think of the many times I did not (and still do not at times) listen to what is good for me. I strike out on my own and don’t come back to the safety of God’s path. If only I would learn that being obedient is not an act of weakness. It is an act of being smart. I could then get over myself and my thinking that I know best. I could embrace what I, at first glance, feel is “someone telling me what to do.” I could then move on to doing the things that God is calling me to do; willingly and obediently.

What about you? How are you with obedience? Do you bristle at someone’s attempt of guiding or helping you? Do you feel like someone is trying to squash your independence? Do you welcome the guidance? Have you ever obeyed and later realized that through obedience you avoided a catastrophe? Do you truly, deep down know that God loves you and wants the best for you?

What do you choose? To obey or not to obey?

Agents of Grace



Last weekend my husband and I went away with another couple for a mountain retreat. We had a wonderful time- ate delicious food, did a little Scotch tasting and the best of all- engaged in deep and meaningful conversation.

While we really do not need any “starter” conversations with this couple, we did bring along a video- Letters to the Exiles, which has 7 short videos with discussion questions to ponder. The videos are so thought provoking. Partly because it has a quirky vibe to the filming: there are all sorts of gems and nuggets of hidden treasures and meanings, almost a grown-up version of “I spy”. But mostly because the content has us thinking about our faith and our purpose in the world in a different way.

One of the segments that spoke to me was about justice in the world: justice is hospitality. Justice is all about how we treat one another. “We don’t give dignity to the other person, we see the dignity inside them.” That set me back on my heels. Even though I try and not portray it, I know that when I see someone less fortunate than myself (and I realize that even using that term “less fortunate than myself” exemplifies the issue) I am thinking, “poor such and such.” My reaction may not be through eyes of compassion but through eyes of comparison: they are less than me- whether the comparison is emotional, physical, or spiritual. Yet for me to be a part of justice in the world, I need to see each and every person with the dignity he deserves because we all are made in God’s image.

When I do so, I see the frailty, humanity, and the potential. I also recognize the log in my own eye. It is when I remove it that I begin to see people as God sees them. I am moved towards compassion and understanding and away from comparison and pride.

I wonder if we truly grasped that concept, where would the hatred and misunderstanding go?

After the Pittsburgh shooting this weekend, I heard someone talk about people coming together to push back those deviants to the basements and their lonely lives. I certainly understand the sentiment. However, I think that would only keep the hatred bubbling up. Jesus called us to pray for those who persecute us and I believe that it is only through God’s power that we can. Anything short of prayer is just simmering hatred.

I am looking forward to watching the movie “The Best of Enemies” when it is released next year. Watch the trailer here. The movie tells “the true story of the unlikely relationship between Ann Atwater, an outspoken civil rights activist, and C.P. Ellis, a local Ku Klux Klan leader. During the racially charged summer of 1971, Atwater and Ellis come together to co-chair a community summit on the desegregation of schools in Durham, N.C.” What is somewhat alluded to in the trailer is the faith of the woman. I am sure that the change in Ellis was due to the many prayers that Atwater and her fellow congregants lifted. His heart change is nothing less than a miracle.

What about you? Have you seen any videos or read any books that have been thought provoking for you? What was your reaction to the shootings of this past week? As I write this, there are too many recent shootings to mention in addition to the PA one. That fact alone should cause us to pause and take a long look at where we are headed as a society.

In the Letters to the Exiles, it reminds us that, as followers of Christ we might live in this world but we are not of it. We are to be agents of God’s grace in a broken world. A daunting task in today’s society but necessary if we are to survive one another.

The Temper Temperer

It is that time of year when we seem to receive all sorts of catalogues that cater to the whims of those looking for presents for the people who have everything.

For some reason we received the Hammacher Schlemmer Catalogue- “Guaranteeing the Best, the Only and the Unexpected for 170 years.” There is nothing for sale that I nor anyone that I know really needs, yet I still find myself perusing the pages, seeing the merchandise and thinking “that item would be interesting for ….”


What made me chuckle was the following:

The Temper Temperer: This is the personal voice muffler that stifles expressive outbursts resulting form the workplace, politics, or a sports team’s performance. Held in place over the mouth or secured behind the head via an adjustable elastic strap, the muffler provides relief from inveterate cursing at a television as well as channeled stress release after a rough day at the office when a pillow in not available. Its sound-dampening quality also makes it ideal for impromptu close-quarters usage during family gatherings when privacy is limited. One size fits all mouths. $49.99

(I wonder if they have something to prevent one’s thumbs from tweeting? - Just a thought….)

While this is humorous it does make me think of a serious matter. Being an adult and part of a civilized society doesn’t absolve someone from actually having self-control. This gadget insists that instead of controlling one’s tongue, you just need to put on your voice muffler.

Being called “a spitfire” as a child, I get it. There were many times in my childhood and youth that I could’ve used the muffler. It certainly would have avoided conflict, hurt feelings, broken relationships and my own punishments.

Hopefully I have learned and improved a little as I have aged. Taming one’s tongue is something that may get better with maturity but always needs to be in check. If not, it can create discord, chaos, broken relationships and at the extreme- destruction.

But I know that one of the promises from God is that He has sent a helper to us (Holy Spirit) that as we grow to be more and more like Him, we demonstrate love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. For as much as we are in need of civility and manners, the true caring of one another cannot be done without God’s help.

In thinking over this past week’s news and the treatment of men and women, it occurs to me that if people, beginning at an early age, treat one another like they want to be treated (or how they would want a loved one treated), maybe some of this miscommunication and hurt can be avoided.

There is a reason that manners have prevailed ever since there was more than one person living in community. Manners are more than pinky-in-the-air hoity-toity-ness: at the core, manners are actions derived from thinking of other people first.

I know that I need the Helper in learning self-control and manners. Left to my own devices I would be (and am) incredibly selfish- saying whatever I want, doing whatever felt good, to whomever regardless of their feelings. I need help in being disciplined in mind, body and spirit. That discipline doesn’t necessarily mean in a punitive way but in a manner that puts me on a different path- the path to caring for one another in love. I find that I have to daily (sometimes minute-by minute) ask God for help in the moments: how to respond appropriately to an awkward conversation, what insights do I need to work with a difficult colleague, how to remain focused on the task at hand, what ways should I do to stay faithful to a goal I want to achieve, when I should speak and when do I need to listen? I find that the more I ask and stay “in touch” with God, the more He changes my mind and attitude so that I am more loving and caring for those around me.

What about you? What gets you riled up? Have you ever had consequences to your outbursts? What were they?

How is your self-control? What strategies do you do to maintain it?

How are your manners? Need a tune-up or is it automatic? How are you in putting others’ needs before yours? Are you balanced with that: not bulldozing your needs over everyone else, nor piling on everyone else’s needs so that you are immobile?

Fortunate for our wallets (not so fortunate for the catalogue company) we have a free and natural temper temperer: the Holy Spirit. It’s the original model and fits great. Guaranteed.



  1. a statement acknowledging the truth of something.

  2. the process or fact of entering or being allowed to enter a place, organization, or institution.

In the spring I saw a play with our son.  It was an off-Broadway, preview play called "Admissions".  It was shown in a small theater at Lincoln Center.  I liked it.  I thought that it gave great food for thought.  Since seeing it, I have read two online reviews.  As with all ideas, there are contrary opinions.  One of the reviews thought the play was good and the other review thought that the playwright didn't do the topic justice. 


The story centers around the Mason household. In her 15 years as the head of admissions at Hillcrest, a not-quite-first-tier boarding school in New Hampshire, Sherri Rosen-Mason has increased the student body’s diversity quotient threefold: to 18 percent from 6 percent. She and her school head master husband, Bill are quite proud of their influence in changing an old-white-boy-network-prep school to reflect a more diverse society.  Three other characters weigh in on the thoughts of the schools progress: an older, "legacy" administrative assistant; a woman friend of Sherri's- the wife of English head and mother of Sherri and Bill's son's best friend, Perry;  and Charlie- Sherri and Bill's son.  All are white.  But from the first scene, questions are raised about what is equity, diversity and inclusion?  

The play takes place over a series of six months, during Charlie's senior school year.  Charlie does not get accepted to his absolute first choice of school - Yale (a childhood goal and dream)  while Charlie's best friend Perry does.  Perry's "SAT scores were not as good as mine.  He took 2, AP classes while I took 3."  Charlie questions that Perry might have gotten in because Perry has a black father and he, Charlie does not.   So begins the questions about society and race, privilege, position and using one's natural advantage to get ahead.  And, what hypocrisies do we all bring to the table? 

The one reviewer thinks that the playwright tried too hard.  That as a white writer and as white theater attendees, we might be better served not to be the ones talking about this topic. Our mere talking about it makes us seem hypocritical.   Because, as the story unfolds, the liberal parents are liberal as long as it doesn't affect their son.  When the son tries to make amends and bring the dialogue to a new level of discussion, the parents are outraged and default back to the "who do we know so that we can get our son ahead?"

Yet, through out the play, there are statements from all sides of the argument that seem plausible and understandable.  

I think the person who gives the reflective poor review has some valid points.  But I think that the play's topic is appropriate for our times.  We need a venue to talk about all sides of the diversity and privilege debate.  It is only through art that sometimes these topics can come up.  It allows a civil discourse.  

While none of the characters "admit" their biased views, I think the playwright is asking the audience to reflect and admit his/her bias.  He asks us to to recognize and admit our bias for what it is worth and then look at someone else's point of view.  Whether he is asking for a confession on the audience's part, as one reviewer has suggested, might be interpreting too much. The author might be asking for just an acknowledgment of the problem from the audience: any new journey begins with the first step.

What about you?  Have you ever wondered about what you bring to the diversity table?  Preconceived ideas? Unrecognized privilege?  Use of the network system?  Never thought about it?  Below are some links to resources that might give you some food for thought. (As one commenter to the privilege video replied, “Privilege is sitting on a MacBook and commenting on a buzzfeed video about privilege.”) There are always multiple sides to any situation but I believe it is our duty as world citizens to be open and considerate of others and their situations.


Video demonstrating privilege walk

Privilege Walk Lesson Plan

Another point of view on the privilege walk lesson plan