Reflections on spiritual themes (and a few other things).

Category: Family


“There is more to life than simply increasing its speed.” 

Mahatma Gandhi

Unfortunately for modern Americans, speed seems to be the measure of all things. This is nowhere more evident than in our addiction to electronics.

In 1979 I took a freshman computer programming class which allowed access to the University’s mainframe computer. It was one of the fastest mainframes available at the time. My professor often joked about how computers taught us to be impatient. We’d write our programs, key them in at the terminal, and wait for the computer to execute them. We usually had to wait several minutes for the outcome. Minutes. Many, many, many seconds. Dr. Mink couldn’t have known how prescient he was.

In today’s world, we’re impatient after a few seconds’ delay, even a fraction of a second. If an app doesn’t launch instantly on our phone, it’s time to upgrade. If it takes more than a few seconds for a movie to begin streaming, our Wi-Fi is too slow. In parts of Texas, the speed limit on some Interstate highways is 85 mph. Sammy Hagar’s old tune, “I Can’t Drive 55”, is quaint by comparison. You just can’t slow down those Texans!

A certain amount of speed is unavoidable. Where both parents work, when all the kids go to school, when the whole family attends church weekly, and when you have sports and after-school jobs, life resembles an Olympic 100-meter dash. 

But there are options. First, look for those daily opportunities to slow the pace and catch your breath. May you got to work a few minutes early. Maybe you finished a project sooner than expected. Maybe the kids don’t have homework tonight. Whatever the reason, enjoy the break. There’s no rule that says you must fill it with activity. 

Second, practice slowing down. Allow extra time with errands and chores. Put fewer items on your “to-do” list. Let someone go ahead of you in the checkout line. Choose a slower, more scenic route. Chew your food slowing and enjoy its texture and taste. Change your own motor oil. Make slowing down a normal thing. 

Psalm 46.10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.”

Be still. Be quiet. Listen. Breathe. Relax. Calm down. Slow down. And listen.

May God help us take our foot off the accelerator. 

“Show Him Your Hands”

My mother was not a theologian. Nor would anyone confuse her for an intellectual. I never remember her reading much. She would read her Bible, and she always worked her Bible class lessons. She looked at various housekeeping and craft magazines. She worked her nightly word search puzzles. But, she was not bookish. 

Mom was a resourceful, talented, and meticulous woman. She took pride in her home, in maintaining and decorating it. She enjoyed gardening, and gave special attention to her rose bushes. She canned vegetables every summer for years. She was an accomplished seamstress and quilter who taught all her daughters (and one son) how to sew. She enjoyed entertaining people, and frequently had large groups of people into her home for meals.

Mom was always neat and well dressed. She kept the house in meticulous order. She had cabinets, closets and shelves in abundance. Every item in the house had its own place. The house was filled with knick-knacks, but there was a neatness and orderliness that was unmistakable. The woman even kept the original box for every small appliance she owned!

One thing I remember about both Mom and her mother, Grandma Carman, was that they were always busy. Neither of them was idle. Both worked hard and long each day of their lives. Even when they sat down, they were often busy with their hands — shelling peas, sewing a hem, or making a shopping list. I don’t know any women who worked harder, and who never complained about their work. Their work was part of their identity.

Shortly after Mom died, Dad related a story about her that greatly resonated with me. Once He and Mom were talking about spiritual matters (probably when all of us children were still young). They turned their attention to heaven, and, in a moment of self-doubt, she asked Dad, “When I meet Jesus, what will I give to him?” Dad’s gentle reply was, “Show him your hands.”

The sage said of the virtuous woman, “She looks for wool and flax, and works with her hands in delight… She girds herself with strength, and makes her arms strong… She stretches out her hands to the distaff, and her hands grasp the spindle… She extends her hand to the poor, and she stretches out her hands to the needy… She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness… Give her the product of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates” (Proverbs 31.13, 17, 19, 20, 27, 31).

The Lord has seen my mother’s hands.

Sub-stan-ti-al Food

When I was still at home, family travels were always a lengthy affair. We had exactly five destinations: (1) Grandma Carman in the St Louis area, a five hour drive, which also meant Mom’s side of the family and some of Dad’s. (2) My sister Linda and her husband Mac in Kansas City, about 10 or 11 hours away. (3) Granny Sutton in Flint, Michigan, light years away. (4) My brother Phil in Memphis, about an hour away. And, (5) my sister Deena and her husband Freddie in Forrest City, Arkansas, a 2-hour drive.

On trips #4 and #5, food was never an issue. We didn’t eat in the car and we didn’t stop to eat. I don’t recall being allowed to eat in the car, unless Mom packed a meal. We learned, on shorter trips, to swallow our spit.

On trips #1, #2, and #3, we stopped only when we had to fill up the gas tank. But ancient cars like our ‘70 Impala had 25-gallon tanks, which meant we never had to stop for gas (and thus for food).

But when we did finally stop for food, we would pass by McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Hardee’s, Burger King, Dairy Queen and at least 12 other perfectly good eateries in search of Dad’s ultimate culinary quest: “substantial food.” 

The kids would be begging: “Dad, there’s a restaurant!” “Dad, a McDonald’s!” “Look! A Wendy’s!” 

Swift came the reply: “I want a place that serves sub-stan-ti-al food,” he would say, carefully pronouncing the key word. 

Thus we would drive as far off the highway as we had been on it. We would meander through towns and suburbs, winding up in seedy places, dimly lit, in the far recesses of these villages, crowded with common folk like us. 

There were never any other children in sight. Apparently they had been offered in the pagan temples of “Substantial.” It didn’t matter to me. In my teen pride and rebellion, I always ordered a cheeseburger no matter where we went. 

Dad’s ultimate quest for substantial food reached its zenith 1985. He, Mom, and Linda all came to visit me in Kansas. While there, they took a day trip out to western Kansas. When they got back, Dad was positively radiant. Somewhere near Dodge City, he saw a billboard for a small local eatery that promised “Substantial Food.” 

As he described the glorious billboard, I thought I heard in the background faint echoes of smallish people singing, “Follow the yellow brick road.” For a few moments, Dad had found Oz.