You Choose the View Pt. 2

“And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten…” Joel 2:25 KJV  

 Life seldom asks our advice; It just sort of decides what’s next for us. Some things are beyond our control. We don’t begin them and we will not be the ones to make them stop. We can only decide how we will respond as we are forced to take the ride.

     What is it you’re facing right now? a deadly diagnosis, the death of a loved one, divorce, the empty nest, a chronic illness, financial ruin, job promotion, recovery after surgery, a child’s return home, a new marriage, a new course of treatment: All change can be daunting because it requires something of us. So often we wish the change away. We forget that God would use it to hone who we are. We don’t control life’s twists and turns, but we do control our responses to them. Our responses determine what we become: Godly responses reinvent us into the image of God; Ungodly responses reinvent us into something less than we were to begin with. Either way we are reinvented.

      God’s point in change is to restore what has been taken from us by the world, the flesh, and the devil. We have to let Him in if that restoration is to begin.

     One area He would right and restore within us is our ability to commit. Every change is an opportunity for us to examine our commitments. 

     I’ve taken many opportunities in this blog to talk about the crazy, complicated lives we Americans live. God did not invent or intend the 24/7 lifestyle; That was all us.

    At the root of this life of complicated rush is a problem with commitment. Somewhere along the line someone told us we could do anything if we were just committed enough. That’s a lie. God can do anything. You can successfully do what God has made you to do. The problem is that some of us have confused ourselves with God. We’ve begun to think that we have an infinite source of commitment; So we just keep committing to more and more, complicating our lives until we are half mad with weariness.

     Sometimes change is God trying to make us realize we need to detach from some of our commitments so that we can become what He really intended for us. Such change is never welcomed at first. It requires us to admit that we can’t do it all. We have to tumble to the fact we aren’t God!

    If you are in a major life-change now why don’t you take some time and reevaluate your commitments to see if they are in line with what the King wants. Ask yourself:

1. Am I over-committed in any area of my life?

2. Is there something I am doing which I was not called to be committed to?

3. Are my current commitments keeping me from something else God really wants me to be doing?

Here’s to letting the Lord restore us in the area of our commitments! May you find the path of peace!

You Choose the View

         Last Sunday I pulled a muscle while leading worship. Remember how I said my life was ironic? I couldn’t pull a bicep while playing baseball or by saving a baby from the jaws of a vicious dog….Ohhh nooo! I had to pull a neck muscle while hitting a high f! I’m pretty sure no one is going to give me a medal of valor for that one…Hah!

     Anyway, this series of posts has been dogging me for about two weeks and I haven’t known how to start it. I guess this is as good a beginning to my story as any.

     My head hasn’t let me forget my sissy wound since that service. On Tuesday after two Tylenol and an 800 milligram Motrin failed to calm my complaining grey matter I decided it was time to try taking a nap.

     As I laid my aching head on the pillow in my room a heavy rain began to fall outside my window.

     God asked, “What do you see?”

     “Rain.” I said.

     “You choose the view.” He continued.

      As I look at this picture, I am amazed that I did not see the trees that sloped so gracefully skyward or the elegant curve of the red-tiled roof outside my daughter’s window. I saw only the rain, the one thing my camera didn’t really pick up as I look at it now.

     Life-change is sort of like rain. It draws our attention. It would have us focus all our energy on itself to the extent that we lose our view of everything else that is going on in the background. If we focus on it too much life-change can bring us down. 

     Change itself is always unsettling because it steals our rhythm. It makes us feel uncertain and afraid of what lies ahead. Yet God is always working behind the change. If we can just look through the heavy mists we will see a world of blessing that is being washed and nourished by the very thing that is making us so nervous.

    Changing your view doesn’t make change less difficult. It just helps you to see that the difficulty has a purpose…a reason. It’s not all for nothing! God has a plan.

    In the next few days we will be talking about how change effects attitude, commitment, goals, relationship, and health. It’s not set in stone. Remember you choose the view!



Regret: The Good School Marm

     In Streeter Middle School where I was forced to go as a child (after all nobody chooses to go to Middle School) there was a teacher nobody wanted to have. We called her “Big Bad Bood”. Her real name was Mrs. Boudreau and she owned the reputation of being four and a half feet of pure mean. She taught algebra.

     I began having nightmares about her at the end of seventh grade which continued all through the summer right up until the time I started eighth grade in September. I dreamed about being hit with rulers because I couldn’t balance equations. I dreamed about being forced to inhale nose spray because I didn’t know the difference between positive and negative integers (I know weird :roll:).

    Anyway September came and I met “Big Bad Bood”. She passed out our algebra books and warned us that we would have them covered by next class or face detention. She gave us homework that day and told us how to do it. She taught with no-nonsense and gave us clear direction about what she expected. She answered questions directly and told us “The only stupid question is the one you never ask”.  I learned by the end of day one I had been frightened all summer of someone I actually liked! She was tough. She was a disciplinarian. But if you were willing to work you had nothing to fear.

      I am finding as I enter mid-life that regret is a lot like Mrs. Boudreau. As a young man I never wanted to have regret  just like I never wanted to have algebra. But I have found that regret is a part of life just like algebra is a part of eighth grade. You can’t get through life without it; That’s just part of being an imperfect human being.

    Regret is tough. Regret is a disciplinarian. Regret is a good school marm. It exists to teach us something. If we are willing to learn regret can become a friend rather than a foe. It’s when we sit and do nothing but curse our regret that she turns into four and a half feet of pure mean.

     Listen, we’ve all got regret. It’s how much you resist her teachings that determines how much pain she is going to cause!

What is your regret trying to teach you?


I Am Become Disney World!

     There are many interesting changes which come with mid-life and the empty nest.

     Some of the changes have been rather jarring. For instance: the inability to get back to 200 hundred pounds without amputation of limbs, or this new thing about not being able to drink coffee after 9 without getting heartburn (truly terrifying).

    Certain changes, on the other hand, have been very gratifying: The idea that I am no longer “the rookie”. The respect that comes with that perception is truly wonderful. Then there’s this whole thing about becoming Disney World….

     When the kids were growing up Tina and I tried to give the kids a wide variety of exposures to the world. We took them all over and showed them as much of our country as we could. The kids have been to Maine and Maryland. They have travelled as far away as Texas and Florida. We have pictures of them bathing in the Gulf waters in Galveston and walking the humid pathways of Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania.

     All those years vacation to our family meant going to a destination. Now suddenly two years into the empty nest I have become the destination! I am Disney World! Go me! Granted, I am not exactly Space Mountain or the Tower of Terror. I am more like It’s A Small World but the kids don’t seem to mind. Then there’s the added bonus that vacations no longer cost an arm and a leg. Hey! Maybe that’s why I can no longer lose the weight…hmm.

What changes has life brought you recently?

Making the Markers Matter

       I like Saturday morning sunlight better than week day sunlight.     You see, I used to spend Friday nights at my Grandparent’s camp.  I remember every Saturday I would wake up and savor for just a few moments the yellow light that poured through the chintz curtains onto the bedspreads around me.  

      Saturday mornings were always the same. Eggs and toast with orange juice followed by grocery shopping and a historic tour of Athol MA.

     On those morning drives I wrote my first poetry and I memorized the locations of Sentinel Elm, and the homesteads of the Tandys, and the Lillies. I saw almost weekly the three houses my great- great-grandfather built for his daughters and sister. I can still point out the cellar hole of the house my great-grandmother burned down while drying her sons’ clothing over the wood stove.

      On certain special Saturdays my grandparents would take a little longer to complete my education. On those Saturdays Grampa would skip his candlepin bowling and we would make the drive to Erving Where the “first Joseph” was buried.

      I can still hear Gramp’s  gravelly voice litanizing our family history. “You are Joseph Elon Lillie V but we call you the III because your mother didn’t want you to be likened to whiskey…The first Joseph was a wood cutter…father Caleb Elon… his father Caleb senior…all the way back to the revolution…Joseph’s mother-in-law was Susannah Clark they called her “Little Grandmother”…Shay’s rebellion.”

    At least that’s the way I heard it as I phased in and out of consciousness without my grandparents even knowing.

     I didn’t realize it at the time but Gram and Gramps were training me for a job that would become mine in the fullness of time. When they passed, watching over the family grave markers fell to my Aunt Joan and Uncle Walt. Now that they have moved to Seattle to live with their kids I may be the only Lillie who remembers where everyone is!

          This year I took my sister with me to check on the graves. We didn’t stay long. Talking to the dead isn’t our thing (at least not since we came to Jesus) but that really wasn’t the point. I wasn’t there to grieve. I went to make sure the markers still stood, could still be read, to show that the lives they represented still mattered.

     Maybe it’s because I am now on the edge of that phase called middle age, maybe it’s because all my kids are grown and out of the house but I find myself wanting to make things count more than ever. I don’t want to get to the end of my life and say “Well that was certainly a waste!”

     My desire to leave a legacy that matters got me thinking about what those who went before left to me:

     As I stood before my father’s marker I could still hear him chiding me “Don’t tell me what you think I want to hear. Give me an answer you can live with.”

     What can I live with? I feel like I am just learning the answer to that now twenty years after his death.


     As I visited the cemeteries this year I realized that these people effected who I am, some of them without ever knowing me. One of them spoke a name that would echo down the generations to their grandson’s grandson. A “little grandmother” lost somewhere in the folds of history has birthed a family that stands for freedom and personal responsibility. Gosh, a couple of these folks have even influenced the way I look at sunlight. They mattered…at least if my life does!

     What will the markers I leave behind matter to those who come after? I want to be more than a potted geranium some grandson I never know buys at his generation’s version of Wal-Mart.

     I’ve been thinking about what I want on my tombstone should Jesus tarry (the way things look that ain’t likely but just say I get hit by a bus or something). I think I want people to say of me “He was someone who really knew how to love. Not the gushy, fake, T.V. romance, messed up love but the real Jesus type of love.”

    I want them to write this in the dash between my years.

      I want people to say “He did it. so can I!”

      As I stood at the graves of my ancestors I realized it’s not the size of the rock that matters but the making of the marker that can only be done by the living of a life.

    I am writing my gravestone as I live each day not so that people will come and leave me pretty plants but so that lives that come behind mine will be changed.

What legacy are you choosing to leave?

Fuddy, Duddy, and Muddy Go To The Concert

     What do I do for fun?

     So glad you asked!

     First I get to serve Jesus as a pastor!

I can honestly say there is no better job if you are called to it. I get to pray, preach, and equip the saints of God to be all they can be in Christ! What could be better than that?

     If you have been reading my posts you already know I love to garden. I just moved into my mother’s house. So I have started a massive gardening project to get her house ready for the famine (read all about that in my post, “The Untimely End of the End of the World bunnies”).

     Of course I spend a good deal of time reading and writing.

    Other than these things I love to sharpen my razor wit by sparring with my mother and sister over the latest crossword puzzle, T.V. whodunnit or who’s going home on the evening reality show.

    Now you know why this post is called “Fuddy, Duddy, and Muddy Go To the Concert”.

   Recently the three of us had an opportunity to go see my youngest daughter perform in a chorale at her Bible college. My oldest daughter who stays with me at Muddy’s (my mom’s) several times a week quickly opted to drive down early with a friend. She said it was because her sister had invited her to dinner. I think it was because she didn’t want to ride with Fuddy (me) Duddy (my sister) or Muddy (her you have already met).

     No matter we had a grand time all by ourselves once we acclimated ourselves to the fact we would miss the reruns of NCIS.

    We left early and drove through the snarling traffic on 495. We had Muddy ride in the back. Someday I will think driving an hour to get to a place is too long too. I hope someone is kind enough to put me in the back seat so I can nap on the way. Come to think of it that would be nice now. Kids if your reading this next time we go somewhere far away…DRIVE ME AND LET ME NAP!

     Duddy and I practiced not using our sarcasm bones (read up on sarcasm bones in my postings) on the other drivers.

    We got to Haverhill (which if you’re in Massachusetts is properly pronounced “Hayvrull”) and stopped to eat at. the Longhorn

     We took so long over dinner we were almost late to the concert.  But we made it! And the sounds of those young Bible College students praising God in harmony was thrilling to our hearts.

     Honestly to me this was much more fun than, say, base-jumping!    

     Now I have never been accused of being the most exciting person in the world. In fact most people probably think me boring. I think I am OK with that. As I approach mid-life I have learned three things:

1.Life is not about the recognition, acquisition, or achievement of position. It’s about enjoying the journey day by day.

2. Joy is found by letting God create your moments rather than trying to make life the object of your own creation.

3. If you’re enjoying who, where, and what you are the flash of the world with its offers of recognition, acquisition, and achievement of position lose their allure.

     This Fuddy-Duddy living with his Muddy may sound a tad boring but I am learning the value of godliness with contentment and to me that is one of the most exciting things in the universe.

The Speed Hump

Have you noticed time seems to be speeding up? There is never less to do today than there was yesterday. As soon as one pile is out of the hopper another one has already replaced it. And I don’t know about you,  but that whole getting ahead thing…well  I’ve never actually gotten there.

In the midst of this speed ‘till you drop dead world God has graciously laid down speed humps. Yes I do mean speed humps not speed bumps.

For most of us a speed bump doesn’t do much. We slow down just enough  not to rip out the bottom of the car. Then as soon as we have crossed it,  we are back up to sixty and blazing our trail back towards oblivion.

A speed hump ,well,  that’s another matter. Four inches high and three feet across these things will pop the wheels off your car if you don’t ride over them at less than two miles an hour. Once you decelerate that much it is hard to get yourself quickly  back to sixty again. Speed humps help you slow down and smell the roses for more than just a minute.

I am crossing a speed hump this weekend. After my last post I jumped in the car and drove from Gardner to Haverhill MA. From there my daughter Melanie and I travelled eight hours down to Valley Forge PA where we are spending the long weekend with my children, Joe and Amanda.

This morning we got up at 10:30. I am sleeping in Joe’s dorm and Melanie is sleeping in Amanda’s.

We met at the picnic grounds and  I made brunch on my little Coleman stove (I borrowed it from the Royal  Rangers this is a low-budget trip).

Then I washed the dishes in Joe’s bathroom sink. We didn’t  have any face cloths or dish soap. A clean t-shirt and Old Spice body wash fit the bill so we would have dishes for supper. Now don’t you tell anyone. I said this was a low-budget trip.

We spent some time in the library studying.









Then we went to Valley Forge National park. This is us hiking the trails.


Joe had to go to work this evening so the girls and I went to Main Street Exton for some shopping. Tina and I really should have let them go trick-or-treating when they were young. Ahh well, live and learn.

Life gets scary fast sometimes. It’s at those times that God always provides a way to slow down. My wife and kids are granting me a blessed speed hump this weekend. It will be wonderful to get back to the posts about the prophets in a few days, but for now dear reader why don’t you slow down and enjoy life on the speed hump with me?


How do you slow down?


The Good-bye Girls

    Well year two has begun. Tina dropped Amanda off last week in PA and  Melanie off three days ago in Haverhill. My college children are all officially sophomores!

     I have discovered that empty-nesting is not an event; It is a lifestyle! I thought that when the kids went off to school that would be it. We would go through a period of sadness, loneliness…whatever and then be done. I was not prepared for the up and down road through the mountain passes that Tina and I have walked in this last year. I certainly was not prepared for year two to be worse that year one, but there it is.

     As summer approached my son Joe announced that he would not be coming home at all because he had full time work in PA. That was O.K. It’s not that I don’t miss him, I do! This may sound chauvinistic but somehow his staying in PA seemed right. He’s a son. Making his way in the world is what he is supposed to do. But the girls are a different penny in the wallet. I guess a father’s instinct is to shelter and keep his daughters out of the world as long as he can.  It’s a trend we have to fight in today’s world, but that is more easily said than done.

    I was so glad when both girls announced they would be coming home. Even though Melanie travelled for a month of the summer with her drama team from school, she was home.

    We went to movies. They helped out at the church. We road to church together. We went for walks. We watched ScyFy (“Haven” and “Eureka” all the way baby). Both girls were a huge help with our live-in friends.

    Now they are back in school and this time I am reminded that potentially I have only a few summers  left before the final move out. So packing the van seemed a little more final to me this year than last. I feel a little like New Orleans waiting for Katrina to hit.

     For it all I am reminded that we are responsible to “carry our own weather”. So I plod on and think through to the positive side of things that lie ahead. Tina and I have an increased opportunity to travel and visit the kids. We are moving into a place where we have more freedom and control over our schedules (Admittedly we haven’t really experienced this yet but it is on the horizon). We have walked through the terrible twos, the golden years, the teen years, and now we are entering into our golden years.

     The good-bye girls are harbingers of change. It feels bad just now. But I know these initial feelings are deceptive. I miss the kids but this is an opportunity for all of us to grow. Part of me can’t wait to see where this takes us.

Tell me what you do to conquer sadness.

Reinvention Rehearsed

     The sages of the written word advise that it is always best to “write what you know”. While the current issue of Writer’s Digest may debate that I thought this early on in my life as a blogger I shouldn’t do anything to jiggle the jello bowl before the mold had set; So I’ve written much about life in the church and the challenges believers face today.

    I’m not looking to change the subject matter of “Reinventing the We’ll” anytime soon. But in the midst of the posts on theology and family I don’t want to lose the context or the reason all this began.

    “Reinventing…” was born out of a quaking, as one of our children walked out of our lives “for good” and the other three decided to go off to college together leaving us  empty nesters in…let’s see…two days.

    The blog is about change: how it’s needed, why we face it, how to face it, and those whom we face it with. I don’t just want to discuss the nature of change though or how to go about it. I want us to see a detailed picture of what change looks like in the life of an individual. How does it shape the thoughts, the feelings and the habits.

    You know, it’s all well and good to talk about the need for change in America, or the church, or the school system, or even “those people”, but change is not something we can hold at arm’s length. We all face change and how we face it determines whether change is good or bad.

     So as we deal with the Bible thoughts and the funny family anecdotes, even as you read the youth corner page, never forget the context. Behind the words, behind the thoughts I am always asking these questions, “How does what I am saying help you to change? How does what I’ve just said reinvent you?”

Be Blessed, JE

Reinvention Through Prayer

     I attended a course a while back in which I was encouraged to write my life goals down. The question we began with was “What do you want people to say about you on your 85th birthday?”

    My first response was, “I want them to say, congratulations your still kickin'”. Men in my family don’t make to 85 very often so that in itself will be a feat.

    As I thought of the question though I began to question it’s legitimacy.  We are all constantly in a state of reinventing ourselves. Each sunrise is a new day that brings with it choices that will better or worsen us in ways we can only begin to imagine.

     I suppose it is a common goal of men and women across the face of the planet to make each day a little better than the last.

   My wife and I are at a crosroads right now. That crossroads has brought with it a host of decisions,little and big, each one burgeoning with the possibility of monumental change. Yet one of the things we are learning is that the changes which come, the opportunites for reinvention are not totally within our control. There are so many outward forces working upon the hull of our lives that to say we can totally decide what our testimonials will be when we are 85 seems to me at best naive and at worst presumptuous.

    Now don’t get me wrong, I believe in planning. I have my schedule a year out. I sit down and weekly organize my life into its routine. I think anyone who doesn’t sit and think about their current and future direction is immersed in idiocy. However I question the wisdom of thinking we can just blithely lay out our personal goals without giving a measure of respect to the Master Builder of our lives. If we are in the process of reinventing our lives, doesn’t it make sense that we should consult the Original Inventor?

     I’m talking about prayer, people. Specifically I am talking about prayer to Jesus, the Word of God, who made us all and who holds all things together. In our age of self-help we have forgotten that we were never meant to help ourselves, we were meant to let God help us.

    Let’s face it, He is the only One who really knows where we’ll be when we are 85. In truth He is the only One who knows where we will be tomorrow. That means without His help we can only make an educated guess about our future. This is no aspersion on anyone’s education but however many degrees you may have you could not possibly do a better job of planning your life than Jesus could. 

    Over the next several days I think I will blog about how I have been learning to reinvent myself and our family through prayer. I hope someone out there benefits from reading about my journey