From church mouse to church owner?

I’m not sure when it was that I first jokingly referred to myself as a “poor church mouse”. Perhaps it was sometime after our family moved to Big Bear so that my father could pastor a small church there. I was 9 years old, and it was the first time that I encountered actual live church mice.

While my father was preaching one of his first sermons in that church, a cute little mouse wandered out from the kitchen and stood right below the pulpit, looking as if he was captivated by Daddy’s preaching. Perhaps his little heart was stirred by the message. He didn’t move at all during the closing prayer — I know this because I peeked the entire time. But there was a deacon in the front row who had removed his shoe and, the second my father said, “Amen!” this man let his shoe fly, hitting the unsuspecting little creature with deadly force…and thus the mouse was brutally murdered, in church, right before our very eyes.

At least that’s how I felt about it.

I knew the mice caused problems for the church. They were the bane of our organist’s existence, what with the damage all their chewing and nesting caused to the church organ. It seemed no one wanted them. But they had my sympathies…after all, they were church mice.


It was around that time that I first called myself a “church mouse”, finding the idea rather funny. Since then, especially during our leanest years, I would refer to our family as “poor as church mice”. I guess it’s Preacher’s Kid humor.

While we were still fairly new in Big Bear, one of my schoolmates said something to me along the lines of, “Wow, your father bought the prettiest church in town!”  Up until that, it had never dawned on me that anyone actually owned churches; ever the idealistic dreamer, I somehow assumed God owned them. So I had to tell this girl that my father had not bought the church (the idea seemed laughable to me even then, because I already had a vague idea that pastors did not make a great deal of money — certainly not enough to go around buying the churches they pastored.)

But I couldn’t help thinking…what would it be like to own a church someday?

Just as with many of my other childish thoughts, that one slipped out of my memory completely. Until recently…


To make a long story short, my husband and I just closed escrow on a historic little church, built in 1898. What began as earnest prayers that this building not be turned into a venue for WWE-style wrestling, and that a church group we are not even part of would not be out on the street, turned into finding ourselves becoming the answer to our own prayers. (Be careful what you pray. But that’s for my other blog.)

We are not really owners, though. Part of me still believes that it’s God who owns church buildings. We are just stewards…embarking on a new adventure.

I forgot to ask if any church mice were included with the purchase.

I’m starting another blog…

…and I’m calling it “Adventures in prayer”.

Adventures in prayer? What kind of wackadoodle name is that for a blog? And why start a new blog when this one is so sporadic? Will it replace this one?

The idea has been percolating for perhaps a week now, and today I finally decided to implement it. Two different blogs make sense, even though there may be some overlap in readership…assuming I get some readers for the new one! The content will be different; the focus different; and the types of people drawn to either blog may eventually end up being fairly different as well. We’ll see.

As for the title…I’m reminded of, as a small child, sitting through prayer meeting after prayer meeting in our tiny church, my older brother and I the only children forced to attend. The prayers droned on seemingly forever as we sat around the table in a Sunday School room. My head was bowed with the hopes that no one would notice the scandalous truth — I didn’t keep my eyes shut the entire time. In fact, I would scrutinize the table top, memorizing every blemish, every scratch, every pencil mark, every gouge, every name or set of initials carved in with ballpoint pen. We complained about this torment once. At least, I recall only the one complaint.

“It’s so boring! No other children have to attend!” we protested.

My mother was quick to reply, “Prayer is not boring! That’s because God is not boring. People might be boring, but God is never boring.” This was followed by a speech, actually more of a sermonette, designed to inspire us to repent over our prayerlessness and have more of a love and zeal for God.

I wish I could say that I took this speech of my mother’s to heart and that, as a small child in early elementary school, I embarked on a lifelong prayer adventure, eventually becoming a spiritual giant. As anyone who has read a post or two here already knows, such did not happen.

Certainly, since that day, my attitude about prayer meetings has changed. I’ve learned the truth of my mother’s words. I’ve experienced some truly non-boring — even exciting! — times of prayer with others. But I’ve always been somewhat of a late bloomer, so it’s now, almost half a century later, that I am finally truly beginning to experience what a real adventure prayer can be.

That’s what my new blog will be about. It’s about one woman learning how to pray…how to really pray — the sorts of prayers that change me, and change others, and hopefully change my world.

If that topic interests you, I’d love you to follow my new blog, and comment extensively!

The attitude of gratitude

OK, I’ll admit that I get a bit annoyed at that phrase “attitude of gratitude” because it can sound too cutesy and trite. But I’ve been thinking about joy and happiness (not necessarily the same, but there is some overlap) and I’ve been pondering how huge a role gratitude plays.

My mother has, at least during my lifetime, faithfully lived out the verse, “In everything, give thanks.” We were talking about this recently, and she admitted that this isn’t always easy, especially in the midst of tragedy. She has pointed out that we are not asked to give thanks for everything, but in every situation.

To be honest, my attempts at that have sometimes been truly pitiful. “Uh, thanks God, that You promise to never leave us…although I’m finding it hard to believe You haven’t completely deserted me for some time now!” I’m learning that, since God knows what I’m thinking anyway, I might as well give words to my doubts and fears instead of trying to pretend them away, deny them, or minimize them. God wants a relationship with us, and not that we jump through hoops to approach Him, or resort to semi-fake formulaic prayers that we aren’t really feeling or even believing.

Which brings me back to gratitude: I’m beginning to believe that it’s far more for our sakes than His. God is…well, He’s God. He doesn’t need our affirmations or emotional support, because He is perfect and complete in Himself. He doesn’t suffer from insecurities, or feelings of resentment because we don’t appreciate Him enough. He doesn’t need us to help motivate Him, or to fill up His “love tank”. He doesn’t have our human frailties.

We, however, can get caught up in circumstances that seem far to huge for us, far too daunting, far too catastrophic. Come to think of it, some of those circumstances are exactly that — far too terrible. But, when we can catch our breath, when we begin to realize that we may survive after all, gratitude reminds us that all of life is not forever and always one nightmarish ordeal. When God asks us to remember “the former miracles”, it’s not because He has a need to be thanked over and over again — it’s because we have a need to remember that our entire existence has not always been this crushing defeat. Gratitude gives us perspective, and it gives us hope.

Sometimes, we need someone to “do hope” for us. What we don’t need is Job’s comforters from the Bible. And we don’t need someone urging us to put on a happy face, or telling us, “Buck up, kiddo!” If someone wants to help me when I’m despairing, first they need to be willing to sit and weep with me. The Bible doesn’t say, “Rejoice at those who weep” because God wants us to be truly compassionate with each other, and not just platitude-mouthing cheerer-uppers. Maybe we don’t need someone so much to “do hope” as to “be hope”.

Gratitude remembers what is good. It can be like a beacon drawing us out of darkness and despair.

But life isn’t all trauma and tragedy. There’s the mundane, daily grind. Gratitude gives us perspective there also, helping keep us from getting worn down and discouraged, by keeping us from focusing entirely on the negative.

There was a time during the early years of marriage that I was feeling especially defeated and exhausted. I wondered if there was something wrong with our marriage, or if this was just the way life was. No matter how hard I tried, I felt like a failure as a wife, and I felt lonely and unappreciated. I began resenting my husband for what I saw as a growing list of his shortcomings, failures, and unreasonable expectations.

One day, something dramatically changed: for some reason, I decided to write out a list of all the many things I appreciated and admired about my husband. Suddenly I remembered the guy had all sorts of good traits after all! My spirits lifted. Yes, I was still physically exhausted, and life was still life. But my feelings towards my husband underwent a complete turnaround. Once I reminded myself that his positive traits far, far outweighed the negative, my perspective greatly improved.

There are people for whom nothing ever seems good enough. They will go to a beautiful concert and complain about one wrong note only they could hear. They will notice the minutiae out of place in an otherwise immaculate room. They will comment on your failures, but not your successes. Wherever they go, they seem to feel a need to point out flaws and mistakes — as if drawn to what is negative. Even if you force them to admit that a situation is mostly positive, it’s hard to shake the feeling that, for them, that one flaw kinda ruined the whole thing.

I’ll find myself saying, “Wow, that was really enjoyable!” only to be asked, “But didn’t you notice…?” It can sound like a rebuke. Perhaps my standards are too low, or I would not find such pleasure in that which is of inferior quality.

Or maybe I have decided to be grateful even when things are not perfect. I will never have the perfect life, the perfect husband, the perfect house, the perfect anything — but is that a reason not to thank God for His abundant blessings in my life? Is that a reason to rob myself of enjoyment?

Today I spent some time thinking about what makes me feel happy.


It’s not an exhausted list…and putting it together reminded me of a preschool “craft”…but it sure put me in good spirits!

Then I thought, what about those times when I’m feeling down for no particular reason? I’m not talking about pasting on a smile when life is falling apart — that would be fake and ridiculous. But what about those days when I’m just feeling blah and out of sorts? Sometimes I need a “dose of happy”…a reminder of the beauty and goodness of life…a reminder that I have many reasons to smile.