Friday, December 28, 2012


"Certainly there was an Eden on this very unhappy earth. We all long for it, and we are constantly glimpsing it: our whole nature at its best and least corrupted, its gentlest and most humane, is still soaked with a sense of 'exile'". - J.R.R. Tolkien

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

David's Thankful List

David's "Things I'm Thankful For" list - from Children's Church the Sunday after Thanksgiving:
(Written on a cup decorated like a turkey!)

Cups [because he was writing on one]
1D [stands for One Direction!]
Llama song
[and my favorites]:
Everything that God did.  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

This is a Soup Bean Day

Today we are cooking soup beans. This is an Appalachian food not to be confused with bean soup. All day long we cook pinto beans with pork fat in it. This is the staple of a good mountain meal, although like all good mountain meals, you have to have more than one thing. So, you can't just have soup beans. Tonight we are having it with biscuits, onions, fried potatoes, and macaroni and tomatoes.

I don't usually blog about food (that would be Tim). But, as you all know, I do like to blog about Appalachian culture. Since we are getting to the time of year when we begin to think about Christmas Country Dance school, and celebrating Christmas mountain style, I thought I would share with you the wonderful story of Soup Beans.

Here's an excerpt from one of my favorite books, Appalachian Home Cooking, by Mark Sohn.

"Of all the bean dishes, the most popular is soup beans. To a native of Appalachia, soup beans is just a name for a soup everyone makes; to outsiders it is an exotic specialty. Simple, traditional, and mountain through and through, soup beans are a silky-smooth, pork-flavored dish of pinto beans usually free of bean soup ingredients... one recipe uses just three ingredients: pork, beans, and water. Elvis Hatfield, of Pinson Fork on Pond Creek in Pike County, Kentucky, makes soup beans with five ingredients: water, pinto beans, lard, salt and pepper. First, he soaks the beans overnight. Then, he puts the ingredients in a saucepan and simmers them all day. Soup beans... merit a place on the list of famous Southern soups. In the mountains when the sky turns gray and the sun is low at noon, the delicate aroma of boiling beans fills the house. Walking in from the cold out of doors, you enjoy the fragrance of smoked pork and earthy beans."

The book also includes this poem, one of my favorites:

Soup Beans and Cornbread
By Rick Neal
I promised myself
that I would never eat
soup beans and cornbread
again, when I grew up. 
That pancakes and homemade syrup
would never be served in my home.
That I would never wear
patched blue jeas
or crew cut ever again!
Such is the promise of youthful
naivete of the real world,
in which my mother
raised nine children by herself. 
She made it look easy,
as though wood cook stoves
and hand sewn quilts
were her lifestyle choices
As though working in a coal mine
was her decision
and not the requirement 
for earning a decent wage
in an Appalachian man's world. 
Yes, I promised these things
as I squeezed in between
my 8 brothers and sisters
at the dinner table,
and watched mom fill my plate
with soup beans and cornbread
before gathering her hard hat,
boots, and breathing apparatus
to work the 2nd shift
in a West Virginia coal mine. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

I don't know who Teiga is, but this is true nonetheless...

"To the right, books; to the left, a teacup. In front of me, the fireplace; behind me, the post. There is no greater happiness than this.
- Teiga

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Goodbye (Face)book, Hello (Real)book

Well, I've done it. I've deleted my Facebook account. Maybe I'm now the only person on the face of the earth without Facebook... or a cell phone (gasp). It's not an indictment against those who have those things. It's just, in my opinion, an incredibly narcissistic waste of time.

That being said, people can still find me on Facebook as Tim and I have technically combined our accounts - so if you need to get in touch with me that way, you can contact me through Tim's account which now says "Tim Anne Lawson". I don't check it much, but Tim will know if you need to message me or invite me to something.

Is Facebook evil? Well, not unless you use it for evil purposes. But in my case, I'm getting rid of something good in exchange for something better - more time reading. I've got to start getting through these books and magazines before I become buried in them. I don't want books that sit on shelves unopened (although they are like old friends). I've come to a revelation: books that aren't read aren't any good to anybody.

So, I can't be distracted.

Are there things that are distracting you? Is the Internet itself too addictive? Are you addicted?

Join me.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Telling the Christian Story

"At some point you need tell the Christian story in a way that addresses the things that people most want for their own lives, the things that they are trying to find outside of Christianity, and show how Christianity can give it to them. Alasdair MacIntyre said this about narratival apologetics: ‘That narrative prevails over its rivals which is able to include its rivals within it, not only to retell their stories as episodes within its story, but to tell the story of the telling of their stories as such episodes.’ Read that sentence again.

There is a way of telling the gospel that makes people say, ‘I don’t believe it’s true, but I wish it were.’ You have to get to the beauty of it, and then go back to the reasons for it. Only then, when you show that it takes more faith to doubt it than to believe it; when the things you see out there in the world are better explained by the Christian account of things than the secular account of things; and when they experience a community in which they actually do see Christianity embodied, in healthy Christian lives and solid Christian community, that many will believe."  

- Tim Keller

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


The recent study "Household Routines and Obesity in U.S. Preschool-Aged Children" by Sarah E. Anderson, PhD, and Robert Whitaker, MD, found that kids as young as four already have a lower risk for obesity if they had three basic routines in their life:

 Family Dinner

 Adequate Sleep
Limited Weekday TV Viewing

I quite agree! 

Saturday, June 16, 2012


"There is no dignity quite so impressive, and no independence so important, as living within your means.” –CALVIN COOLIDGE

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Those who do not read are no better off than those who cannot.  - Chinese Proverb

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Real Stars - Article by Ben Stein

The stars who deserve media attention are not the ones who have lavish weddings on TV, but the ones who patrol the streets of Mosul even after two of their buddies were murdered for the sin of trying to protect Iraqis from terrorists. We put couples with incomes of $100 million a year on the covers of our magazines. The noncoms and officers who barely scrape by on military pay but who guard the nation on ships and in submarines and are anonymous as they live and as they die.

There are plenty of other stars in the American firmament. The police men and women who go off on patrol in South Central and have no idea if they will return alive. The orderlies and paramedics who bring in people who have been in terrible accidents and prepare them for surgery. The teachers and nurses who throw their whole spirits into caring for autistic children. The kind men and women who work in hospices and in cancer wards . . . all of these are stars, and so are the teachers and social workers who cast their mortal spans into the struggle to make something of our troubled youth. Or, think of each and every fireman who was running up the stairs at the World Trade Center to rescue men and women coming down as the towers collapsed, and you have my idea of a star.

There are a few rules I have learned to keep my sanity, and I just want to say them here to help you keep your sanity and keep you in the running for stardom. The main one is that we are puny, insignificant creatures. We live as God directs that we live. We are not responsible for the operation of the universe, and what happens to us is not terribly important.

God is real, not a fiction, but real—and when we turn over our lives to Him, He takes far better care of us than we could ever do for ourselves. In a word, we make ourselves sane when we fire ourselves as the directors of the movie of our lives and allow God to be the director. When we trust in God instead of in our own frail selves, we triumph; and when we try to control events, we suffer. When we try to do God’s will, we are stars. When we do our own will, it is pathetic.

Or, I can put it another way. Years ago, I realized I could never be as great an actor as Olivier, or even close . . . or as good a comic as Steve Martin or Martin Mull or Fred Willard, or even close . . . or as good an economist as Samuelson or Friedman, or even close . . . or as good a writer as Fitzgerald, or even remotely close. But I could be a devoted father to my son and husband to my wife and, above all, a good son to the parents who had done so much for me. And this became my main task in life. I did it moderately well with my son and pretty well with my wife, but well indeed with my parents (with my sister’s help). I cared for them and paid attention to them in their declining years. I stayed with my father (and my sister did, too) as he got sick, went in extremis, and then into a coma—and then entered immortality with my sister and me reading him the Psalms. And this was the only point at which my life touches the lives of the soldiers in Iraq or the firefighters in New York. I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only life that matters, and that it is my duty, in return for the lavish life that God has devolved upon me, to help others God has placed in my path. This is my highest and best use as a human.

As so many of you know, I am an avid Bush fan and a Republican. But I think that the best guidance on living my life I ever got was from the inauguration speech of John F. Kennedy, a Democrat, in January of 1961. On a very cold and bright day in Washington, he said words that should be the wisdom that can make any of us into stars: “With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth . . . asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on Earth, God’s work must truly be our own.” Or, as I like to say, the work that we ask God to do is the work He asks us to do.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

More good thoughts for ministry and life.

From a conference advertisement. Wise words:

Distraction has become the new norm. 
We get caught up with what happened yesterday and are preoccupied with what may happen tomorrow. Our attention is too often focused on what is happening "out there". In the same moment, we are talking on the phone, replying to an email, updating our status and checking the latest headline. We commit to be in too many places at once. And those right in our midst are hurting. Brokenness exists all around you. Right now. 

As leaders, we must be present. It's our responsibility to embrace what God has put squarely in front of us, and take action where we are. 

Being present requires time, space, and place. Eye to eye focus. Undivided attention. Messy moments of inconvenience. A willingness to lay down everything else to pay attention to who is in front of you. Listening, caring, and loving. Putting down roots in a specific place. Leading where you are. 

We need more presence. With our Savior, our families, our friends, our neighbors, our city, our teams, our circle of influence. We must show up and be in the moment.

Lead now. Influence big. Change the conversation. Your presence matters. God desires to use you for something momentous today.

Lead well. 
Be rooted. 
You are responsible.

Be present.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Orphans No More by Dudley Hall

Dudley's new book is an important little collection of his messages about "orphanity" (his new word!) and sonship. If you're not able to hear Dudley preach, this book is the next best thing.

My favorite quote:
"Jesus is gloriously exclusive in an inclusive way. Anyone who comes to the Father through believing the Son is welcome. There are no ethnic, legal, gender, or geographic boundaries; just faith in the Son!
   Many would like to approach God without a mediator. They don't get it. Orphans cannot just walk into the inheritance without mediation. Only Jesus the Son has become an orphan for Adam's race."

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Family Dinner by Laurie David

"People say they don't have time to cook, yet in the last few years we have found an extra two hours a day for the internet." - Michael Pollan


Not just a cookbook, it's full of good reasons why your family should sit down to eat together, contributions from famous chefs, and lots of good quotes. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Why You Should Read Fairy Tales to Your Kids

Four of my favorite authors/thinkers on writing fantasy, and how it leads us to recognize God:

J.R.R. Tolkien called fantasy the most perfect art form and described Christ's birth, life, death and resurrection as "the greatest fairy tale of all. And wonder of wonders, it is true."

G. K. Chesterton said that fantasy reminds us that "the universe is wild and full of marvels... In the fairy tales the cosmos goes mad, but the hero does not go mad. In the modern novels the hero is mad before the book begins, and suffers from the harsh steadiness... of the cosmos."

C. S. Lewis observed, "It would be nice if no little boy... were ever at all frightened. But if he were going to be frightened, I think it would be better he should think of giants and dragons than merely of burglars."

George MacDonald: "If I can wake in any human heart just a little fluttering of life, if I can help any human soul to feel... that there is an eternal world, a world of life, of truth; a world of duty, of hope, of infinite joy... If I can make the clouds just part the least bit, and give a glimpse of the blue sky, of the infinite realities of things, then I hold that it is worth doing."

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Grandpa Dols

My Grandpa Dols passed away today. He was in his late '80s, and it was apparently peaceful. He had been in a coma since around Christmas.

Grandpa Dols married my mother’s mom when my mom was already an adult, so I never remember her calling him “Dad.” However, I knew him as “Grandpa” because he was married to my Grandma for as long as I knew her, and he considered us his grandchildren. Since becoming a Christian, I understand the principle of relationship that transcends the technical issue of "blood" or "real". In my mind, he was my Grandpa.

So, although I am not incredibly emotional today, believing that Grandpa was a Christian and therefore is better where he is, I do have some fond memories, which I will share today before many years go by and I forget.

Grandpa was a successful electrical engineer and made enough money for him to support my Grandma and live in a very spacious house in Minneapolis. They were popular and well-known in Minneapolis due to my Grandma being the chair-woman of the League of Women Voters, both being involved in the Republican Party, tutoring for GED, very involved in their Lutheran church, and hosting various social events. Seems like there was always some sort of event happening, even if it was just a few friends getting together to drink and play bridge.

There was a certain uptightness and formality to them. Their house was always spotless, and expectations were high. Cleaning your plate was very important, much to my horror. I never could eat as much as I was expected to. I was typically denied dessert because I couldn’t eat my food. I saw this as a horrible battle that I could never win, because if I was able to stuff all the food in, Grandpa would look at my plate and say, “Great! Now go back for seconds,” not understanding the great stretching and gastric indigestion all this food was having on my little system. “Don’t you want to be a member of the Clean Plate Club?” the adults in my life would ask. I remember thinking, why would I? Every kid knows, that’s not even a real club. There are no benefits, no badges, no cash dividends to club members. You don’t even know who the other members are. What’s the incentive? I remember my Grandma tracing the bones on my back and exclaiming, "You have angel wings! You need to put some meat on those bones!" And meat and potatoes was definitely the food of choice. With butter on all the bread. And pastries for breakfast. And the only place where I could actually open the refrigerator and find Snickers bars. Unheard of!

When I was very young, Grandpa still smoked pipes. I still think of him if I smell sweet pipe tobacco. I remember sitting at the butcher block kitchen table and watching him take out his bag of tobacco, remove the pipe from his front pocket, and press the tobacco down into it. After he lit it, the smoke "encircled his head like a wreath." Little puffs would come out of his mouth and a faint glow would come from the pipe. Then he would take out his daily crossword puzzle.

He was a puzzle fanatic. When I was older we moved to New York, and regularly bought the Sunday New York Times, famous for having one of the hardest crossword puzzles in the world. Each week we would cut out the puzzle, fold it carefully, and mail it to Grandpa. I think he solved every one. And the older I got, the more I was expected to assist. Most of the time I had no clue about any of the answers, but as always, expectations were high.

He had daughters from a previous marriage, and after his first wife died, he had to learn how to take care of girls. I remember sitting on a stool at the same kitchen table while he braided my hair. He gently combed my hair, and plaited a braid on each side, with his gnarled hands and one crooked finger. Now that I think about it, I don't know many grandfathers who can do that. 

Grandpa was a veteran of WWII, and, I’m assuming because of his high intellect, he was involved in some sort of communication with codes. He was an excellent typist and one of the first persons I knew to own a computer. He often showed me how he remembered the finger positions for typing the coded messages in the War, by closing his eyes and putting his fingers in front of him in just the right positions - then typing in mid-air. 

Education was important to him, and with it, reading, of course. There was always a copy of National Geographic magazine in the house, and articles were discussed. I'm not sure what my Grandpa thought about homeschooling. I remember being quizzed occasionally, and a sense of concern emanating from him that I didn't know algebra. When I delayed college, both Grandma and Grandpa were concerned. Still, when a book was written about my life as a homeschooling teenager, it was proudly displayed on their shelf.

He taught both me and my sister several card games, dominoes, and puzzles. Some of my fondest memories were of sitting with him and Grandma around the small card table in the corner of the living room, perhaps listening to music (jazz was a favorite), playing cards, Grandpa and Grandma with an evening cocktail and myself with cranberry juice. Although there were certain expectations to be successful and do well in school, to clean my plate, wash my hands, pick up after myself and work hard, there was an unusual patience when it came to card games. I can't remember the countless hours Grandpa took to teach us and play with us when we were too young to really be much fun as an opponent.

I think if there is anything I can do to carry on his legacy it would be to be a life-long learner and reader. Come to think of it, that is something indicative of all my grandparents. Perhaps it was their generation, one in which getting a good education really was the only way to not starve to death. Even though my Grandpa was relatively well-off financially, he still had the frugality of those who experienced the Depression. During some of our last visits together, he was still very careful to eat all the leftovers, and to use coupons when eating out.

What I understand now, but that I didn’t know then, was that all of my Grandparents had lived through the Great Depression and WWII. There’s nothing like enduring poverty and war that makes you concerned for the well-being of the next generation. Sure, we all take care of our kids. But those who lived through the Depression had a special desire that their families would never experience anything like that again. Why was it so important to clean our plates? Because for a time, parents who loved their children couldn’t feed them. Now, to be able to feed them was to say, “I love you.” For that generation, a plate of food was more than momentary sustenance. It meant the next generation was going to be okay. 

Because of Grandpa and those of his generation, I appreciate hard work, determination, frugality, sacrifice. I can keep a clean house and clean my plate. Appreciate the importance of an occasional crossword puzzle. And taking time to play with my children and grandchildren.

I think it's time to break out a deck of cards.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Grandma's Mission

"I'm on a mission to save three things," said my 83-year old Grandma.


the Post Office,

and.... what was that other thing? Oh yes, Newspapers!"

Some of my Unconventional New Year's Resolutions:
1. Read more tangible books (wait... do I read too much already?) in support of books you can hold and smell and (dare I say?) write in. 
2. Buy more stamps and write more letters.
3. Read the newspaper (the one that comes in the mail, not the one on the screen). 
Why? Because I'm on a mission!