Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Revisited

If I wrote a book about my childhood, it would be hard to believe. I try to laugh it off with my family sometimes by saying, "Yeah, we put the fun in dysfunctional." The truth is, my holidays growing up were often difficult. My step mother who raised me likely is a borderline personality. There were times when we would drive 12 butt numbing hours to her parents (my grandparents) home in Conway, Arkansas. Upon arrival, she would spew hateful words about how awful we all were and then send us packing. So, after taking my little sister out of the car there Scott, Dad, and I were. Persona non grata at Thanksgiving. Many holidays were like this and they were stressful, heartbreaking times. Thanksgiving was a day when we waited for the other shoe to drop and held our breaths hoping that this year it would not.

Today I made the mistake of calling her to wish her a Happy Thanksgiving. After 18 years of marriage and after having put a fair amount of distance between us, I thought it would be the kind thing to do. Yet again, she had nothing but ugly things to say. She took credit for saving my life (there are no words for such hubris) and actually told me how to raise my children. Other hurtful things were said and then, as always, she put in the last word and hung up on me.

After a good cry and being comforted by my husband and children, I can say I am Thankful! Those days are over and I don't have to relive them. I am so thankful that I can look forward to tomorrow and that my future is not determined by the past I survived. I'll not make that mistake again next year, but it was an excellent reminder.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Someone to Blame

Someone to Blame
We hear it all the time these days. “It’s not my fault!” Our children say it and so do our elected officials. Sometimes, it’s even hard to tell the difference between the kids and everyone else. And, if we are honest with ourselves, in the quiet moments of the day we also say it too. I find myself wanting to disavow any responsibility for the messes I have made and all of the sins I’ve committed.
These days I think we are less likely to use the word ‘Saved’ as though we don’t really require saving. Rather, in our minds, we perceive that we need ‘righting’ or a mere ‘course correction.’ Perhaps it is this faulty (aka sinful) mindset that propels us to find someone to blame. Let’s think about Jesus from this perspective for a moment. He accepted blame for sins that weren’t his—without even a word of protest! And his eyes, the eyes of this fully man-fully God savior do not look at us with blame. He looks through our eyes and into our souls with love rather than condemnation. Jesus doesn’t need to cast blame, because his blood covered and obliterated it all!
If we circle this issue of casting blame and examine our hearts closely, we must conclude that we do indeed NEED saving. We can’t save ourselves from the wallow of sin that we have created; the wallow of sin that traps us. How is it that we can convince ourselves in the face of such compelling evidence that we don’t need Christ’s intervention?
When I was a little girl, my brother and I would take our play shovels into the back yard. We had a plan to dig to China. When we began excavating, we were exuberant and excited! We would imagine, as we dug, what we would encounter along the way. Were there new and undiscovered types of animals down there? What would the Chinese think when our heads appeared through the hole like a prairie dog popping up out of it’s burrow? Would we be able to find new friends and share our discoveries with them? Five or six spadefulls of soil later, we would begin to tire and start taking turns. The exuberance was fading into a steely determination. We had set out to dig to China and BY GUM, we were going to do it! Another round of poorly aimed digs into our hole and determination died. In its place was hopelessness. Digging to China was impossible! Ultimately, we would abandon our ‘tunnel’ which was not even deep enough to plant a rosebush in, and shuffle back to the house feeling defeated, sweaty, and badly in need of a shower.
We laugh now at our silliness! Why would we think that digging through the earth’s core was possible for two kids equipped with a plastic shovel? We do the same thing when we try to blame our way to salvation. Blame is our Fisher Price spade and we are out in the back yard exhausting ourselves over an impossible task. Is it wiser to continue pursuing the impossible when it is easier to accept salvation? I think the answer is clear, but I admit that my own sin nature urges me onward too. That’s a sin I need to confess. It’s time for me to climb out of that ridiculous hole and go take a bath! Perhaps I’ll occasionally be tempted to give China another try, but it will be as impossible tomorrow as it is today.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

"We Came, We Saw, He Died!"

"We Came, We Saw, He Died!" These words uttered by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are a triumphant celebration of Libyan Dictator Colonel Gaddafi's death. The so called "Mad Dog of the Middle East" ruled by terrorizing his own subjects. Torture and execution as well as using rape as a policy of war were characteristic of the way Gaddafi maintained control over his countrymen. Mummar was both deadly and capricious. In contrast to the poverty he inflicted upon his own people, Gaddafi lived like only an oil-rich Middle Eastern man could.

Oddly, at death Gadaffi seemed such a pathetic creature who was somehow less than human. Photographs show a beaten, bloodied man who at best resembled a shadow of himself. Men in street clothes and undershirts sporting automatic rifles are shown supporting and dragging him to places he did not wish to go. His hair was matted with sweat and blood; his face testified to crushing blows to the head. The mob of men surrounding him seemed to have taken great pleasure in inflicting as much hatred as they could with their fists and shaming him in ways that the Arab world will likely never forget. In his final moments, the Mad Dog begged for mercy. How is it that a man who showed no mercy could beg for it? I suppose no matter how evil we become, we are still, at least on some level, human.

After his death, the revolutionaries wend wild looting the palaces and compounds owned by the not so royal family. One man was photographed wearing the Colonel's ceremonial wheel cap with gold braiding. Another captured a man boldly sporting the expired dictator's personal handgun with a jeweled coat of arms on the stock. Cars, homes, and bank accounts were seized by the Libyan people. Upon his death, Gadaffi ceased to wield the power he used as a club during life.

I've never been to Libya, but I did spend several months in India when I was young. There are impressions that have never left me. When I recall that time, I remember the heat was so unbearable that the very ground seemed as though it had spent several days in a pottery kiln. I'll never forget just how many people there were and how different their concept of space is. People pressed in on us and handled us as though we were fruit at a vegetable stand. Literally, strangers would come up to me and pull the hair on my arms amazed by it. They even yanked at my hair to see if it was attached not even considering that I might feel pain. I'll never forget the flies! They were absolutely everywhere and there was no way to keep them out of any space. If I stood still for any length of time, they would land on me as though I was already dead and ripe for the eating. Above everything else, I remember how prevalent death was. Early in the morning, a dump truck would comb the streets picking up the bodies of ignoble people who may not have even had one person on earth to remember them.

When I saw the pictures of Gaddafi's demise, I immediately looked at the landscape and soil. It brought to mind sights and smells that I haven't experienced in over 20 years. As I looked closer at those last images, I could see in several frames that Mummar was trying to hold himself up by bracing with one of his arms. Gaddafi surrounded, under siege. He seemed stooped and utterly exhausted. For some reason, I couldn't help but wonder if that was how Jesus looked before he was crucified. I can't erase the thought that Jesus also died in a similar region surrounded by people who were celebrating his death. I can imagine the crush of people pressing in to see if he was dead yet. I can hear the swarm of flies attracted by the smell of blood.

If we fast forward two millenia and compare, we can see that Gaddafi lived an evil life; Jesus lived a sinless one. Gadaffi made himself king among men; Jesus made himself a man though he was a king. Both men were beaten to a bloody pulp and ridiculed by the masses of people around them. The possessions of each man were taken by those seeking souvenirs. Yet, in death Gaddafi begged for mercy from his captors while Jesus prayed mercy FOR his captors. Most importantly, Gadaffi's power ended at death, while the true power of Jesus Christ was revealed when he overcame death.

Amen and Glory to God in the Highest!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Perky Turkey Duck

When I was a young motherless girl, I lived with my grandmother in the mountains of North Carolina. We had all sorts of wonderful animals on her farm and I was enthralled with them. Because of my own wounded state, I felt a special affinity to any creature that was hurt or endangered and I desperately tried to save them when I could.

One day as my grandmother and I were walking along the pond, we found a duck egg on the dock. In my mind, this treasure needed saving! Although my grandmother was in favor of making an omelet, I pleaded with her to give the egg to our turkey. This particular turkey was made to be a mother, but she was unable to lay eggs. Mamma Turkey would lovingly pluck feathers from her breast, make a nest, and sit awaiting an egg that would never come. Reluctantly my grandma agreed that we could give this lonely yet to be hatchling to the turkey. I think she was convinced the egg would be a dud, but I was determined to give the baby duck a chance.

This was a match made in heaven. Mamma Turkey tenderly sat upon her beloved egg, turned it, and talked to it. Through the shell, Little Duck was listening and imprinting with its Mamma. The day arrived when Little Duck hatched! From that first moment, Mamma was filled with a new sense of purpose and she took great care in instructing Little Duck how to be a turkey. Little Duck was never even aware that he was, in fact, a duck and I suspect Mamma Turkey was so blinded by love she never saw the difference either.

Our happy little farm was filled with other ducks, but Little Duck walked, talked, and quacked just like a turkey all the days of his life. He never ever went near the water and proceeded to ignore all of the other waterfowl. In his little bird brain, he was no duck; he was ALL turkey. My young heart was overjoyed to have played a part in finding just the right mother for him.

My grandmother was an artist and when I moved away, she would draw little pictures of our duckling. She would even write stories of his adventures and we ended up calling him, "The Perky Turkey Duck." It occurs to me that we are supposed to imprint with our heavenly father just like the duckling did with his adopted mother. We are supposed to be so bonded to him that the things of this world fade into the background and we hear only Him. And when he looks at us, our Father doesn't see our sins or weaknesses. He sees only that we are His and that He himself has made us perfect with His love.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Rant To My Senator

Mr. Begich,
I watched you on Fox News today and you were supportive of President Obama's budget plan. I have a hard time understanding how and why you support his policies. Not only are they not working but it is as if no one is listening to the little guys that everyone keeps talking about. Our President mocks those of us who respectfully disagree with him. If we don't agree, then he rudely assumes that we are unable to read. He calls Wall Street folks "Fat Cats," but what about those of us who invest in the Stock Market because we think that Social Security won't be there for us? And truthfully, how is it that he can refer to people as "Fat Cats" when he flies around in a jet paid for by my tax dollars, rides a bus outfitted in Canada and vacations on Martha's Vineyard? It seems as though he has grown whiskers, pointy ears, and a tail. The bowl of warm milk that he is lapping up came from the taxpayer's cow. Why does he use inflammatory language and name calling that further divides Americans? Why does he support the Occupy Wall Street movement and liken them to the Tea Party after spending the last several years denigrating and dismissing the Tea Party? Frankly, all of this rhetoric is unbecoming and unpresidential. How is it that you can support him? How is it that you have failed to call him out and demand the civility he embraces only when it suits him? I am registered as an independent and I for one do not intend to sit idly by as my own President mocks me. In the next election, I will refuse to vote for the person who courts me will smooth words one moment and then slaps me with insults the next. Nor do I intend to vote for people who refuse to hold a member of their own party accountable for their words and actions. As a member of the middle class, I am certain that I am paying my fair share but the amount that we pay will never be enough for you all. Furthermore, some of us believe in hope and charity. We give significant amounts to charity not because you demand it, but because God asks it of us. The idea that increasing our taxes, making people pay their 'fair' share will imperil food pantries, women's shelters, and not-for profits everywhere. We will be able to give less to streamlined charities that spend less than 25% of their income on administration. In exchange, all of the money that is diverted to the government will spend 75% on administrative costs and we can only hope and pray that 25% manages to rattle down to the people it's supposed to benefit. President Obama's 'A GAME' is not good enough for America and if you support that game theory then yours isn't either.

Thank you for 'listening.'
Deborah R. Oliver

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I am NOT the maid

As I was staring at my messy house this morning, I felt a sense of profound irritation. Last night's dirty dishes were still on the table. My children have a little habit of "saving" their dinner. This is their polite, evasive way of avoiding a meal they don't like. One bite into a meal (a bite that took exactly five minutes to get onto the fork and another ten minutes to chew and swallow) they proclaim themselves to be full. My darlings then "save" their plates in case they either get hungry or in case there is a dessert tempting enough to bribe them into eating more.

It is common for me to be greeted by their leftovers and this morning was no exception. As silly as it seems, I HATE facing those plates with the now shriveled remains of an entree that failed the popularity contest. My immediate exclamation was, "I am NOT THE MAID!"

As I was grumbling, I checked myself and began thanking God for these dirty dishes. I realized if I am storing up treasures in heaven, then there will be an enormous pile of sparkling dishes and truck loads full of clean clothes to greet me when I arrive. More importantly, if I a Christ-like servant then I AM the maid. I lead my family by serving. Ultimately, I hope they will feel the love poured out for them over loads of laundry and sinks full of dishes. I clean their messes just as Christ himself cleans me.

Being the maid is hardly a glorious position. The hours are long, the labor is hard, and the recognition is minimal. However, I'd rather have these treasures in heaven than have earthly treasures parked in my garage bay or in the form of a vacation home in a trendy location. Where my heart is, there my treasure is also and I am thankful for the treasures I have.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Looking Back

I am realizing that everyone, especially me, is prone to distraction. Maybe it is the desire for wealth or a preoccupation with the lack of it. Maybe it is preserving youth or achieving social standing. Regardless, we all have at least one thing in our hearts and minds that causes us to take our eyes off of God the father.

There are things in my line of sight that at times I want more than God. Things that I seek more relentlessly than my Father. I am guilty of looking back in longing for things that won't fill my soul or quench my wants.

As a military wife, I have left homes, friends, and beloved places behind. Make no mistake; it is so hard to leave! But the pain of leaving is always tempered by the excitement of what we are going TO. There is a thrill in discovering what God has next. As Lot & his wife were fleeing Sodom & Gomorrah, a place that was in total destruction, she looked BACK.

Lot's wife was literally being saved from a place of hedonism & despair. For some reason, she preferred that place of sin to the saving grace of God Almighty. She looked back and became a pillar of salt. She lost the future God had in store for her all for the desire of what she was leaving.

In my heart, there resides a certain ambivalence because I want both God and mammon which is patently impossible. It's impossible to have your heart in two places at once. In Luke 16:15, Christ says that what is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

If Smells Had Color

If smells only had colors
I'm certain I would see
Little puffs of brown from the baby next to me.
Halfway through the sermon
My stomach gave a lurch
and I was sorely tempted to sprint right out of church.
The daddy is a'rockin'
The baby gives a coo
and every time dad pats his back
I get a whiff of poo.

Saturday, August 6, 2011


I've been watching the news which I should probably shouldn't. It occurs to me that:

Toler​ance is the stick people beat you with when you disagree with them. Sadly the person holding said stick rarely engages in self flagellation."

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Treasures in Heaven

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matt 6:19

I've been reading a very interesting book entitled The Prodigal God. The book follows the parable of the prodigal son that Jesus taught. In it, the author demonstrates that in this parable, the elder brother is as lost as the younger brother. It has been life changing for me in that I feel as though I am looking at myself through a microscope. Whenever I've read this parable, I have always identified with the older brother and I have had a hard time understanding all of the joy and jubilation about the younger brother's return home. I suppose I take it so personally, because I've tried so hard to prove to myself and to my parents that I am worth loving. See! Look at me, I'M living the way you taught me to live! I've felt the pain of perceived rejection and have compared myself to others. It's been hard for me to understand how it is that parents treat children differently and it's been a process in learning that I can't afford to take it personally.

In the book, the author states, "The anger and superiority of elder brothers, all growing out of insecurity, fear, and inner emptiness, can create a huge body of guilt-ridden, fear-ridden, spiritually blind people..." The question here is what is the elder brother afraid of? I believe that he (or I) is afraid of not being loved. Perhaps he worries that the father loves unequally and that there isn't enough love to fill his heart and make him feel secure in the love of his father.

I have observed that parents do often love unequally. Sometimes, they favor one child and shun another. If you are the child who has been shunned or has been abandoned, it's hard to believe that God could ever truly love you. It's hard to fathom that there is enough of his love to go around. It's hard to really know, in the very kernel of your soul that God delights in you.

As I've been mulling over these truths, I've been thinking about all of the things that elder brothers do to demonstrate their worth. They word very, VERY hard. They accumulate stuff-cars, houses, jewelry, important companions of high social standing all in an effort to show the world and themselves that they matter. In my own life, I've found myself trying to stockpile enough material possessions so that I will feel secure.

Just this weekend, as I was praying about all of my wrong attitudes I realized the contradiction between the way we act and the way Christ acted. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. So, where was Jesus' treasure? He had so much power and charisma that he could have been the richest man, the most popular man, in the world. He could have had a harem of women vying for his affections and he could have crushed all of the religious and societal leaders of his day. But his treasure was in heaven.

It occurred to me this week that Jesus came to earth to make you and to make me part of his treasure. He endured insults, homelessness, hunger, and a death of capital punishment all so that we would be his treasure in heaven. All so that we could share in the glory that he has there. So, as an elder brother, what am I afraid of and why am I so insecure?

Where my treasure is, there will my heart be also. Thus, I need to focus all of my energies on storing up my treasures where they will really count. I need to stop being a disapproving elder brother and be willing to humble myself and know that God loves me enough that I don't need to be proleptic about protecting myself and my future.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


Today I am thankful for answered prayers. I am grateful for a God who does for me what I can not do for myself.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

My Day! 2004

My Day, by Deborah Oliver

The guys have gone to Vegas, yes they have flown the coop;
And so it stands to reason, I'm ten feet deep in poop.
From noses to bottoms, I get to clean them all
Including the potty that's floating down the hall.

Now I like home improvement, but this one is a bummer
Because I never planned on learning to become a plumber.
I went into the restroom to see that all was cool
And make sure there weren't any sharks 'swimming in the pool'

Something was amiss, there was no water in the bowl,
So I leaned in a bit closer and gave the knob a pull,
I lept back in revulsion as the toilet gave a rend,
And vomited back at me the contents hiding 'round the bend.

I plunged, and swore, and plunged; but it wasn't any use
Why is it that when Brad is gone, life gives me this abuse?
Off I go to Wal-Mart to find myself a snake,
A tool from which no 'occlusions' can hope to escape.

I'm knee deep in poop and it occurs to me
That while I'm at this task I should charge a handsome fee
The pay ain't much and I demand a raise
For everyone one of us who has had this kind of day!

So, let's all have a laugh-this one is on me
Here's to the 27th Wives and my victory!