Sunday, October 8, 2017

Show, don't Tell

In fiction writing an author's greatest sin is telling, rather than showing. Explaining plot points in large paragraphs is vastly inferior to crafting the words which create the magic, moving the reader to sigh, gasp, laugh or cry. In the process the reader grasps the plot points without being specifically told. If you're a fan of good fiction, you've experienced the sensation of suddenly knowing something without having it spelled out. A good author can tell you the story he wants told through the actionthrough the unfolding lives of the characters in the book. It's what stirs our emotions, makes us care about the characters and keeps us glued to the story.

Thinking on that, I've found myself wondering if perhaps one reason the world is often cold to the Christian message is that we insist on telling rather than showing. This is most inconvenient, because I have lots of information. I've spent my entire adult life gathering all sorts of Christian factoids...from books and sermons and conferences. I like giving out my drips and drabs of wisdom and then hurrying on my way. But the world is already drowning in pithy sayings, swamped with social technology, and overrun with hamster wheels begging to be run on. To the world my information about Jesus, though accurate, sounds like one philosophy among thousands. 

The emptiness of the world cannot be filled with information about Jesus, only with Jesus Himself. Every angry individual demanding his rights is actually asking for acceptance as he is, healing for brokenness, a purpose for living, and love without condition. This is what God offers, but somehow that's lost in translation as it passes through the filters of our denominations, our personalities, our experiences and education. Too often we end up telling rather than showing.

To impact the world we don't need more information, more classes, or more techniques. We don't need better ad campaigns or more earnest evangelistic outreaches. What we've yet to consistently show the world is the person of Jesus Christ. For that we need to fill ourselves with the Prince of Peace. He leads us beside still waters for a reason. In that quiet place—alone with Him—we can risk becoming empty so that He might fill us. At the burning bush we gain oil for our watch fires. At His table we eat the bread that fully satisfies. At the stream of living water, we drink to the full and find we have water enough for others too. At the feet of Jesus we renew our spirits, heal our souls and share in His heart. And His heart beats with desire for the world He made, for the souls of those who are lost, for the children He wants gathered before the end. Amazingly, He invites us to co-labor with Him, carrying Life itself to a dying world. It truly is the greatest story ever told.

It costs me very little to give people information about Jesus. To actually give them Jesus is much more costly, because I must also give time, my compassion, and possibly my money. I am ashamed as I realize that I'd just as soon not pay that price. I'm grateful that Jesus was willing. 
 He listened and then did what his Father told him. Jesus showed us God by what He said, but also by what He did, how He lived and related to those around him. He came and lived among us, then drank our cup of ugliness to the bottom. 

I confess that before I run my mouth, telling people what they ought to do, I need to remember that my good ideas cannot fix people. It’s time consuming to wait until God tells me what to do and say, where to go and what to give. It’s humbling to admit I really don't have anything for others until He gives it to me first. My only hope of showing people my God is to go to Him, sit at His feet in adoration and wait while He fills me with Himself. I am asking for the willingness to be willing to do as He asks, when He asks and how He asks. Then perhaps I can go out and show what up to now I've only been trying to tell.

 “Preach the gospel at all times…use words when necessary.”

Attributed to St. Francis of Assisi

Thursday, October 5, 2017

A Moment of Silence

For God alone my soul waits in silence;
From Him comes my salvation. Psalm 62:1

This week America reels from yet another disaster, this one perpetrated by a crazy man. I cannot even imagine the horror of attending a happy event and having it turn suddenly into terror, pain and even death. My heart goes out to all those affected and I'm praying for God's grace and provision in this truly awful situation. 

As authorities sift through available evidence, trying to make sense of the senseless, we're hearing speculation from the media, conspiracy theories, political posturing and even some finger wagging. No wonder so many are angry or afraid. Beloved, may I gently suggest we take care that all our news doesn't come from the news? We need comfort that cannot come from an FBI press conference. The peace that passes understanding doesn't come from understanding, but only when we seek solace from Jesus. When our faith in humanity is shaken, drawing near to the unshakable Rock is a good plan. 

We need a moment of silence, an interlude from the reports coming from the media. Silence creates an empty space in our hearts...a still place into which we invite God. Silence tunes in God's voice so He may speak to us. Silence allows us to listen and think and pray. In the midst of our grief for those who've lost someone and fear that American society is no longer safe, we need to connect with our Father and let Him remind us that He still calms storms. He is good even when our circumstances aren't.

In God we have a dependable counselor and comforter, one who is always available and never tires. Jesus longs to pour His restorative presence over our shell-shocked souls. Abundant comfort is available...enough for us and to share with others. He has what we most need. Can we quiet ourselves to let Him minister to us? We will receive His compassion for the hurting, hear His counsel on what to do, as well as strength to help.

If we want to offer true hope to the world, we have to offer something different than the platitudes on the nightly news. Aren't we glad that our help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth? He will empower us to mourn with those who mourn, serve where we can and pray for those still healing. Let's take a moment, a moment of silence and listen for God, who is always speaking.

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about 
those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest
of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus 
those who have fallen asleep in him. 
I Thessalonians 4:13-14

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Wages of Sandburs

When we moved to our (very small) acreage, we discovered a new plant. A variety of Cenchrus known as sandburs, otherwise known as Bighurtus Defootus and other, less repeatable names. Our first Fall we found them clinging to our pant-legs, lodged in the bottoms of our shoes, stabbed into our bare feet, dug into the carpet, and caught between our dog's toes. From mid-August until the yard was deeply covered with leaves sometime in late November, I was vacuuming the foyer rug every other day; I picked the remaining burrs out of the carpet with tweezers while remembering more four letter words than I thought I knew. We'd never encountered them before and hadn't seen any obvious sticker bushes. After consulting Oklahoma natives and 'the Googles,' we learned that sandburs are a member of the grass family; they grow in grass-like clumps, making them hard to identify until they begin to produce the distinctive stalks full of burrs.

Isn't besetting sin like that? A weakness that reoccurs so often it seems just part of who you are? It mingles in with regular life, growing undetected until you accidentally put your foot in it, so to speak. Then you're surprised to have received a wound from something that you didn't realize had become a problem. 

The most dangerous, long-term, hard-to-eradicate sin in my life has been bitterness. Most of my other issues seem to spring from that root. It skews my perspective, darkens my outlook and saps my faith. Criticism of myself and others rises, drowning hope. Over and over I confess. I repent. I turn to Jesus. Yet sooner or later bitterness rears its head again...a soulish sandbur with seed stalks radiating from a center planted deep in my heart. Over the years I've repeatedly dealt with the symptoms, yet the root keeps sending up shoots.

This summer, remembering last Fall, I determined to make a dent in my sandbur population. I've been pulling them up as I find them all summer, but to do nothing but that means that I will be pulling them every summer forever. The best way to rid the lawn of the pests is to attack from multiple fronts. Dig up any discovered plants, pull a blanket or towel over the grass to catch the burrs which have fallen to the ground, then apply a pre-emergent herbicide each spring. This is time-consuming, sweaty work, and I've been warned that this process can take five to eight seasons to have good effect. 

When I discover that bitterness has (again) reared its head, I'm realizing that repenting is good but not enough. This weed must also be battled on several fronts. As I turn to face the Lord confessing my weakness and sin, I need to have an eradication plan in place as well. I've learned that the best antidote for weeds is a healthy lawn. When depression and bitterness rear their heads, I know my spiritual lawn has fallen into neglect. Bitterness would have a harder time of it, if I consistently cared for my spiritual life. Worship and the Word are not just 'things I ought to do,' they are necessary to keep Jesus front and center in my heart. Jesus enables me to look at my life through the lens of gratitude and contentment. Then I can better resist worrying about my rights, whining about my unmet expectations and rehearsing the real or imagined slights of others. Immersing myself in the Word reorders my thinking and restores hope. Drinking deeply of His presence lessens my thirst for the things of this world, which only seem to satisfy. A heart full of Jesus leaves little room for bitterness.

So as I do the hard, physical work of pulling as many of the %#*&@ burrs as possible, I'm praying about my spiritual weed problem too. I'm asking the Lord to identify the spots where I've let bitterness grow unchecked, so it can be rooted out. And I'm working towards more consistently spending time with the Lord. I'm once again practicing silence and find it easier to quiet my mouth than my thoughts. It's hard to stop my restless mind from roaming and just be with Him, enjoying His presence and letting Him speak. To lay aside my wish list and simply adore and exalt Him. To make Him the prize of my life, rather than a bunch of other stuff I think I'm supposed to have. I'm asking for a heart that lets the Lord do what He must to make me more His own. If I can submit to His ministrations, the Master Gardener will nurture a free and full heart, not one overwhelmed with the weed of bitterness. He always gets a good result.

"The day that any of you—man or woman, family or tribe of Israel—begins to turn away from the Lord our God and desires to worship these gods of other nations, that day a root will be planted that will grow bitter and poisonous fruit." Deuteronomy 29:18 TLB

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Emperor's New Clothes

"[Jesus] is, to them, 'a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence'.
Yes, they stumble at the Word of God for in their hearts
they are unwilling to obey it—
which makes stumbling a foregone conclusion. 
1Peter 2:8 Phillips

Remember the fairy tale of the dishonest tailors who ingratiated their way into a nation's power structure by selling the Emperor woven goods which did not exist? Those smooth criminals claimed that they would craft the Emperor clothing of the richest, most fabulous fabrics and trims—clothes of the finest quality. They then insisted that only the smartest, most discerning and discriminating people would be able to see the cloth, which was actually made of nothing but air. Everyone wanting to be thought the right kind of person, from the Emperor to the Royal-Waste-Basket-Emptier, eagerly regurgitated the tailors' narrative. They admired. They gushed. They nearly swooned in their praise of the invisible clothing. They swallowed their common sense, denied what they saw, and parroted the most ridiculous lines being fed them. It goes on and on until the day a little boy who had not been coached what to say, blurts out what anyone at any time could have known had he trusted his eyes. The Emperor had no clothes on...none at all. He was naked. The imaginary cloth was just that, imaginary, insubstantial, ethereal, unable to contain his physical bulk. Not.There.

This is a story poking fun at the foolishness of adopting the popular crowd's party line, but the message is a serious one...peer pressure is a powerful force. Even for adults it's hard to be the lone contrarian in a crowd. Far easier to parrot popular sentiment in order to gain membership among the enlightened. 1984 is just a novel, but its story line hews uncomfortably close to present reality. We have our own unofficial, self-deputized Thought Police who carefully examine our words to identify anything offensive. The public stands outrage-ready at any perceived slight to any race, gender, assumed gender, or demographic. We are, one and all, commanded to be tolerant, but it's a false tolerance, for no ideas other than the 'right' ideas may be expressed. Straying from the accepted script leads to immediate intolerance. More and more Christians are being asked to strain out the parts of God the world doesn't like, or risk censure in the public square.

But Christians do not get to amend the gospel message or change their beliefs to make them more palatable or politically correct. In order for Christian orthodoxy to be orthodox it must be, well, orthodox. It must conform to established biblical and historical expressions of Christianity, not the latest poll by Cosmopolitan. If I am orthodox, I can neither believe only the things I like about my faith, nor disregard the things others find outrageous.

That does not give believers liberty to be unkind, but more and more we are seeing that the Christian worldview, no matter how lovingly or kindly delivered, is not acceptable because God Himself has become unacceptable. God commands that we exhibit the love of Jesus as we live in the mission field He has assigned us. But here's the rub, Christians are permitted less and less space to be in the world, without being of the world. Our culture's relentless message is that unless we agree with the tenets of the world—every, single one—we should be allowed no place among decent people. Whether or not we discern the Emperor's nakedness, we are now required to gush about his lavish new wardrobe. I am tempted, in order to be thought a decent person, to express my thoughts in words that artfully avoid pointing out the lack of fabric. The only other safe option offered is to keep silent. In the current social climate there is real danger of losing my Christian witness in order to be identified as a 'real' Christian by the world.

It stings to be mischaracterized and disliked, but instead of doubling down to make sure I am understood, perhaps I ought to consider just how much the world's approval should matter to me. This is a good time to remember that asking the world to define what is proper is like asking a blind man to describe the view. The folks on the talk shows can opine all day long about what they think Jesus would do, but that should not sway me.  The tenets of my faith define who and what I am, so I must carefully and thoughtfully align my thinking, my words and my actions with what God says is true, what God says is love, what God says is right.  As Elijah urged the Israelites on Mount Carmel, "How much longer will you try to have things both ways? If the LORD is God, worship Him! But if Baal is God, worship him!" (I Kings 18:21 CEV) Just like them, I must decide on which side of the fence I belong and humbly stay there.

In these days of often extreme peer pressure, I want to remember that God is not out of touch or old-fashioned. He has no need to attend diversity training in order to eliminate His biases. He has not set up a cosmic suggestion box in case humanity has better ideas than His. No heavenly office meeting has been called at which we all voice our opinions, take a vote and gain consensus. God does not need vetting, nor does the Bible need redacting. The wisest, kindest, most powerful Being in the universe is in charge. He is the Decider, not me.

I am reminding myself to seek and cling to Jesus so I am less tempted to desire acceptance from the crowd. I am rehearsing His attributes to keep them fresh in my mind. He never changes, no matter what politically correct values are trending. His wisdom, beauty, kindness, and majesty are eternal. If I stand on that Rock I am safe even amid the ever-shifting sands of public opinion.

We aren't told what the little boy in the story thought. I wonder if he was uncomfortable standing in a room of adults all applauding and shouting for their naked king. I wonder if he struggled to open his mouth to say what should have been obvious to those more learned than he. They were adults. They were in charge. He was just a kid, but he spoke the truth. Can we determine to remain as children and humbly, kindly speak the truth when needed? My struggle has always been to speak the truth with love, a rank impossibility without God's great help. Can we be kind, while being thought unkind, out of step, even a peculiar people in order to be a voice of reason in a world gone mad? Can we love the world and take the consequences as Jesus did? I hope so. I want to.

"But you are God's "chosen generation", his "royal priesthood", 
his "holy nation", his "peculiar people"—all the old titles of God's people 
now belong to you [too]. It is for you now to demonstrate the goodness of him
who has called you out of darkness and into his amazing light." Your conduct among the surrounding peoples in your different countries should always 
be good and right, so that although they may in the usual way slander you as evil-doers yet when disasters come, they may glorify God 
when they see how well you conduct yourselves."
I Peter 2:9-10, 12 Phillips

Friday, July 7, 2017

Eat this!

In Egypt we could eat all the fish we wanted, and there were cucumbers, melons, onions, and garlic. But we’re starving out here, 
and the only food we have is this manna.
Numbers 11:4-6 CEV

Way, way back in the day, while trailing through the desert on their long, long journey to the Promised Land, the Israelites gathered manna for food. They were commanded only to gather what they needed for that day. People being people, some tried to hoard it to save themselves a day of scrounging in the dirt. Later when they went for a snack, they found a moldy, inedible mess. They were told to collect double on Friday to see them through the Sabbath day of rest. And of course some went looking for manna when God said there wouldn't be any and came away empty. And because the chosen people are people just like us, there was the inevitable, recurrent bellyaching about the bland fare God had given them to eat.

Through it all, God patiently dealt with them, disciplined them, and trained them to trust Him for provision each and every day. It was for their good and ours too, for He was setting an example for us to follow. God also wants to feed us each day—not just physically, but spiritually as well. The amazing story of how God touched me 'that time at the revival meeting' works great as a memorial, but I can't maintain an active spiritual life with that. To truly live, I must eat, and only what is fresh will nourish me. We need our Father to touch us with His presence, His love, and His guidance 
every day. That is the example of Jesus, who frequently went to pray alone. He sometimes spent all night in prayer. He wasn't demonstrating His piety—Jesus knew He needed immersion in His Father's love to fulfill what He was called to do. Refreshed and refilled with the Spirit each day, Jesus knew who He was, where to go, what to do, and received the power to do it.

As heirs of God we too have the resources of heaven at our disposal, accessed by the Spirit of God. We too can eat what God provides fresh each day, gaining the spiritual nutrients necessary to strengthen and sustain us. Each day we can experience His presence, an evidence of our adoption, a tangible confirmation that we truly belong to Him. Each day we can eat the same spiritual food Jesus did while on Earth. That is good, encouraging news. 

God's wonderful Holy Spirit comforts us with peace in troubling times; gives us power to resist the enemy; illuminates Scripture; warns us when we stray; and guides us when we do not know the way. His presence is a quiet voice, a loving touch, a firm nudge, and a kick in the pants, when needed. God's presence puts the real in reality, anchoring us to our faith in ways that simple book learning cannot. Food for our souls indeed!

Scripture is necessary to feed and renew my mind but isn't enough. Simply accumulating knowledge can lead to arrogance (I Corin. 8:1). Bible knowledge must always lead to God Himself, for He didn't send His Son in order to have a cadre of Bible scholars; He came to create a family of sons and daughters. I must have confirmation that I am God's child, His beloved, His own, and that comes from the Spirit's touch. Then God breathes on His words so that I am not just ingesting information, but a burning reality which indelibly marks my soul.

The world loudly advertises a tempting buffet for the hungry, but it's mostly empty calories. Spiritual life cannot come from such food. When I am feeling famished and weak, I want to quickly remember that my Father provides fresh, nourishing manna each and every day on my desert sojourn. Just like the ancient Israelites, I must trust God when He say, Eat this. That food, freely given from above will sustain me, if I will simply take the time to eat it.  

"You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you
in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, 
to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments 
or not. He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna 
which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you 
understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives 
by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.
Deuteronomy 8:2-3 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Unfriending Facebook

I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. It's a great way to keep in touch with family and friends, especially those I don't have much opportunity to see. I can keep tabs on events and people, see their kids, enjoy their vacations and accomplishments. I can share recipes and find some to try. News stories I might not otherwise see often show up on my page and I also love the many funny and quirky memes, pictures and videos. But Facebook is also full of misinformation and anger. People feel free to rant and rave and bully in ways they never would if they were face to face with another—at least I hope they never would. And I've found it strangely addicting. 

Two months ago I set myself to quantify my Facebook time—kind of like writing down every penny spent when beginning to create a budget. I was shocked to find out just how much time I'd been spending. I reluctantly confess that I found I was checking my wall six to ten times per day, spending an average of twenty minutes each time I checked. So I was spending as much as two to three hours—HOURS—each day on Facebook. Holy Cow! It had become a compulsion to check my newsfeed, then re-check and then check again. I had to see if others liked my 'likes' and 'shares.' I had to read comments, then comment, then read the comments on my comments and then explain my comments. It's a wonder I got anything else done in a day!

I told myself I was staying abreast of current events and 'connecting with my friends.' Facebook seems to to offer that. It provides a platform for expressing ideas and opinions; it allows us glimpses of other lives; it permits dialog (sort of). So at first blush Facebook seems to answer our deep need for connection, for friendship, and meaning, but looks can be deceiving. Facebook offers community, but it's a superficial, artificial community. I can come away from a Facebook session feeling I am more connected than I actually am. It places me square in the center of my own story, giving me much more importance than is good for me. It also tempts me to present a sanitized version of myself and my life. This is dangerous for a person called to live a life of transparent vulnerability—to confess my sins and walk in the light. And I confess it's lovely to be able to edit my comments before pressing 'post,' an option I rarely choose in real life, in real interactions, with real people. 

I guess I could toss out all my technology and go live in a cave. Sometime I feel I should, but Facebook is not the devil. Technology is a useful servant but a terrible master. I had permitted Facebook to command my time and order my day, but taking down my account would not fix my problem because it's a human condition problem. I have a regular propensity to grab whatever is available to prop up my ego—grab it, use it and abuse it. Fortunately God is faithful to eventually knock my props away to get my attention and draw me back to Him. My humanity wants to be approved and 'liked,' and Facebook is only one of many crutches I might use.

Since God hard-wired humans for relationship, we are always hungry for meaningful connection. Ultimately this is found in friendship with God...that deep, intimate, loving communion in which we are completely known and accepted as we are. Part of being made in God's image is that potential for deep relationships with other people... loving others and permitting them to love us in return. That requires vulnerability; it requires time spent face to face; it requires account-ability. Our deep friendships are one of the ways God heals our brokenness and polishes out our rough edges. We need the laughter and encouragement found in friendship. We also need the loving smack on the behind a good friend will give us when necessary.  

The good news going forward is that God has always known that social media was something I would use and misuse. It's no surprise, nor it is an insurmount-able obstacle to my faith.  I just want to use it more thoughtfully, aware of its limitations. I want to keep God first and foremost in my affections. I want to protect the humanness of my friendships by resisting the temptation to keep a screen between me and other people. It's hard to affect the world when I'm not in it. It is impossible to affect other people without having real relationship with them. That means getting into the down and dirty of their lives, feeling their pain, bearing with their weaknesses and doing life with them. Facebook is just a social could never carry a load so heavy.  Selah.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Lessons from a Possum

In which I panic upon discovering a mother possum has made a den beneath my screen porch. After which I decide it is a good idea to catch and release her and her large family during a severe weather outbreak with widespread flooding. Concluding with a happy ending, as all—human and animal alike—live to tell the tale. Details are available for the curious. 

Don't get me wrong, I like our wildlife—it's one of the reasons we moved where we did. I enjoy watching it do its thing, but I want it to do its thing and then go home...somewhere far, far away from me and mine. Yes, I admit I am a city girl playing at country living. Possums may be beneficial creatures, but I want to enjoy the benefit from behind my windows, not up close and personal. 

In the aftermath of my Turn-around-Don't-Drown-Possum Adventure(!) I have had several thoughts about that mama possum. Over the past five years I've caught a variety of critters in my live trap.* Rabbits freeze in terror. Squirrels frenetically jump around the cage, ceaselessly looking for escape. Pack rats restlessly pace and chew the wire, and neighborhood cats look annoyed. The possum was different. Not exactly broke out with brains, she was ridiculously easy to catch. When I checked the trap right before I went to bed, she calmly considered me through the wire. Her babies—cute as they could be—crawled over her, unconcerned by their confinement. 

I don't want to anthropomorphize a wild animal, and I understand that 'my' possum may not be illustrative of all possums. Still, my encounter with her made an impression. And if God can speak through a donkey, why not a possum? Lesson number one: the mama possum's calm demeanor during what was in wildlife terms, a catastrophe, spoke to me. Anyone who has known me for even a little while knows that I am a nervous creature. I've been dismayed to find that I grow more anxious as I grow older. She was in tight surroundings with no way of escape, no place to hide, no ability to hunt and provide for her babies. She had no idea of my intentions, yet she was placid as she awaited her fate. Of course her knowledge and experience of the world is bounded by the fact that she is a creature of instinct. She lacks the capacity to worry or think things through. I am supposed to be smarter, yet a day doesn't pass without my indulging in pointless speculation and worry about the future. 

Luke 12:24 says, "Consider the ravens [and possums too]: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds![and possums too!]" God watches over them; He opens His hand and feeds them. I am are much more valuable, yet I am always thinking anxiously about what's happening and what it means and what's coming down the highway. I carry on my back a burden far too big and heavy for me, which God never intended. To take what comes as it comes is a blessing the possum is born with. I am still learning to rest in the knowledge that God has a plan. I am still learning to believe that I am valued and loved, when all around me nature declares that its Maker is good and cares for His own.

Lesson number two: while possums look like rodents of unusual size, they aren't. Possums are marsupials. Females have a pouch and keep their babies close, but only until they are old enough to handle life on their own. As they outgrow her pouch, they cling to her back for a few more weeks. At that time, they simply fall off the mother's back and go their own way. Possum mamas don't run around trying to fix things. They do their part and then it's up to the kids to figure it out for themselves. As a card-carrying helicopter Mom, that certainly speaks to me! As my youngest approaches adulthood and (hopefully) independent living, I am striving to let him find his own way, without having a nervous fit over every choice he makes on his path. 

When I released mama possum, she didn't hiss or growl or in any way complain about her imprisonment. She just waddled, pouch stuffed full to bursting, out of the cage and into the adjacent field. Granted, it was in the midst of a spectacular thunderstorm, but still. She did not stop and did not—even once—look back. I am musing on her example. I am learning to rest (with less hissing and growling) while God carries my future and my children in His capable arms. 

And I am learning how to get along with my animal neighbors

*I release the animals I catch, except the rats. Sorry if it offends the more sensitive-minded,
 but in my world, rats that interfere in my living space must die. That's all there is to it.

Show, don't Tell

In fiction writing an author's greatest sin is  telling , rather than showing . Explaining plot points in large paragraphs is vastly in...