Category Archives: Uncategorized

When Yes Means No and No Becomes Yes

 jumping between yes and no

When someone asks me to do something for them, my natural inclination is to say yes. When it’s someone in authority over me, someone with the right to command instead of ask, the “yes” is almost automatic.

It’s not that I’m a pathological people-pleaser, but I find no pleasure in disappointing people when what they ask is reasonable.

But do you ever find yourself saying yes when you plan to avoid doing what was asked? And what about when you say no but decide to do it anyway?
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When Danger Lurks in an Appealing Package

snake's rattle

My husband came in to tell me he’d killed it. I had to go see.

By the side of the house, on the path between the front door and the side gate in the adobe wall that surrounds the pond, I found it. A western rattlesnake was still slowly coiling and uncoiling, but it was dead, its head crushed by a blow from a two-by-four. (Don’t ever touch a freshly killed rattlesnake. It can deliver a reflex bite for up to an hour.)

How sad. If it had been well away from the house and shop, I would have enjoyed seeing it. I like snakes, even rattlesnakes, but an ambush predator that might inject you with venom if you surprise it can’t be allowed to stay where people walk all the time.

As much as I appreciate the elegant design and graceful beauty of a rattlesnake, I won’t let it stay too close. I might walk by it safely a hundred times without even noticing it, but when it decides to strike…

How often do we not see the hazard in something before it’s too late?
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The Blessing of Our Fathers

father and child

Father’s Day in the US is a celebration of the role of fathers in our lives. It’s a chance to reflect on our own fathers, giving thanks for what has been good and seeking to understand and forgive what may not have been.

My own dad died in November of 1990. I was blessed to be at his bedside as he crossed the threshold between life and death. He was a man who loved God, and his passing was peaceful, even beautiful in its own way, despite the tears because there would be a dad-shaped hole in my heart.

It doesn’t seem like a quarter of a century since the last time he drove up our road, the last time he told me a joke, the last time he called me Sweetie.

He was a wonderful dad. He taught me so many things: how to ride a bike, how to use hand tools, how to fly fish.

More importantly, he taught me about honesty, responsibility, and faithfulness. He taught me about making choices and how those can have consequences far beyond the moment I make the choice.

Dad taught me about the importance of keeping God as the reference point for making life’s choices.
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When Two Become One

wedding reception

There are a few events in life that are pure treasure. One took place a week ago when my daughter married her middle-school, high-school, and college sweetheart, the man she calls her best friend. Another took place 42 years and a day ago when I married the man who is my best friend, too.

As we walked our daughter down the aisle to give her to the man of her dreams, I couldn’t have been happier. He’s a fine young man with a heart for God and a deep love for her―a good combination for a marriage that can go the distance.

One good thing about watching your grown child prepare to marry is how it can focus your own attention on what marriage ought to be.

If I want a marriage that can last until dissolved by death, I won’t find the model in what American media portrays as the ideal love. I can find it in what God tells us about the kind of love that can bind two into one for a lifetime.
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Giving Our Best to God


As I sit at my laptop rejoicing over getting my second novel, Blind Ambition, to market last Friday, I think about the gifts God gives us so we can serve Him.

I’m reminded of Bezalel and Oholiab. When it was time for the people of Israel to construct the tabernacle in the wilderness, they were chosen by God as craftsmen to make what was required and to teach others who would help them. The way in which Moses introduced them to the Israelites is found in Exodus 35:30-36:1 (ESV):

Then Moses said to the people of Israel, “See, the LORD has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft.

“And he has inspired him to teach, both him and Oholiab the son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan. He has filled them with skill to do every sort of work done by an engraver or by a designer or by an embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, or by a weaver—by any sort of workman or skilled designer.

“Bezalel and Oholiab and every craftsman in whom the LORD has put skill and intelligence to know how to do any work in the construction of the sanctuary shall work in accordance with all that the LORD has commanded.”

God called them by name. He knew exactly which person He was going to equip for the service He wanted from them. He called them to the task and filled them with the Spirit and everything they would need to do the work He called them to.

God still fills each of us with skill, ability, and knowledge to serve where He calls us.
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Love ― As It Should Be

Mother and childIt’s Mother’s Day in the US. It’s a celebration of the deep affection between a mother and her children. The Greeks in Jesus’s day had a special word for this kind of love: storge.

Storge was the natural affection for members of one’s own family. It can be one of the most powerful emotions. When my children were small, I would have done anything to rescue them from danger. Most mothers would. That protective love doesn’t go away even when babes become teenagers and teenagers grow into adults.

As a daughter, I loved my parents with that same kind of love. My father’s been dead more than 25 years, and it’s almost ten years since my mother died. I still miss sharing my life with them. I will until I die myself.

But as wonderful as the love between a mother and her children is, it’s a pale shadow compared to the kind of love we’re called to as Christians.
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Crossing the Snowfield to Reach the Mountaintop

Snowy mountaintop

We pray for moisture in the desert Southwest, and we give thanks when we get it. But we don’t want that moisture to come as a deluge that washes away roadbeds or a snowstorm when the hummingbirds are already at our feeders.

We’d rather have the warm rain fall softly and slowly, preferably while we’re sleeping so it doesn’t interfere with any outdoor fun.

But even when we get gentle rain in the valleys, there can be heavy snows near the mountaintop.

Staying in the valley is safe, but the views from the top—those can be worth all the effort and even some danger to see. It makes perfect sense that we describe our closer encounters with God as mountaintop experiences.

But to have a mountaintop experience, sometimes we must trek across a snowfield.
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Surviving the Unexpected Storms

Hummer in snow CIAshby

It’s the last weekend of April. May is only two days away, and I’m watching a heavy snowstorm as I sit at my laptop. Eight inches since midnight, and the snow’s still falling.

The black-chinned hummingbird is perching on the glider when he isn’t tanking up at our feeder. But what if there hadn’t been a feeder? What if he’d had to weather this storm on his own?

We’ve all been there. Facing an unexpected problem we can’t solve. Unsure of where to get help. Sometimes not even sure of the first step we should take to get out of the mess we find ourselves in.

How can we make it through the unexpected storms?
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Eyes on the Permanent Prize

Facing the future

It’s too easy to pass through life focused on the here and now. Or maybe the “over there” and “next week.” But how often do we take our eyes off this moment in time and focus on our eternal fate?

Today we have in our hand, but tomorrow is a question mark. Do we too often lock our focus on today because we fear what might happen when we reach the last of our “tomorrows?”

Where do we go when we die, and why?

Where our body goes is easy enough to answer, but that’s only hardware.

What about the software part of us, the spirit that makes us a unique being distinct from any other that ever lived? What will happen to the real me when this physical body known as Carol Ashby dies?

If there’s one fear common to all people across the length and breadth of human history, it’s the fear of death. But do we need to be afraid?
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Purchased at Full Price

Praying at the cross

Sin―an unpopular word in today’s culture.

We try to sanitize it by the words we choose to describe what an earlier generation would have called a “sinful act.”

Adultery becomes “an affair.” Lying becomes “stretching the truth” or “spin.” Destructive gossip becomes “sharing.”

Sin is “missing the mark.” That sounds pretty benign. It suggests that there are close misses, which might be OK, and misses so far off target that you can’t even see where the arrow landed.

Even people in the organized church, who should know better, may ask how far they can go before a sin becomes “serious.” It’s so easy to condemn the “big sins” like murder while ignoring the smaller sins, like selfish ambition and coveting.

In the past, the Church even coined terms to distinguish just how “bad” a sin was: venial for the little ones, mortal for the really big ones.

But by God’s definition, every sin is “mortal.”

Truth be told, there’s not a single human past infancy who hasn’t made choices that make us unfit to be in the presence of a holy God who can’t accept anything less than sinless perfection in his presence.

But that same God loves us, and He made us so we would find our truest selves when we love him in return.

So how can the conflicting demands of holiness and love be reconciled? Never by anything we can do, but God has made a way.
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