Pam is a worrier.  She knows she isn’t supposed to, but her underlying insecurity tends to frame every thought or situation in terms of what’s the worst thing that can happen.  When people tell her it’s a sin to worry, she just worries more about that.  She would like some joy in her life, but after a couple of times being burned or disappointed, she feels the need to protect herself from pain.

Pam is living in the tension of a core conflict.  And so is her boss, Alex.

Alex lives his life in pursuit of excellence.  Work excellence.  Play excellence.  Family excellence.  Financial excellence.  Your excellence if you get close enough.  The problem is that everything has to be so excellent that most times nothing is.  Because Alex can’t settle for ordinary in anything, he’s haunted by mediocrity in everything.

Alex is living in the tension of a core conflict.  And so is his sister, Teri.

Teri is one of the walking wounded.  Her life has been a vicious cycle of injury, followed by failure, followed by injury, followed by failure again.  It seems that whenever she’s working on forgiving somebody else, she becomes haunted by her own past sins or consequences.  These past mistakes and conflicts have left her fearful of trusting and shy of trying anything or anyone new in her life.  She knows her version of “playing it safe” is only adding to the sadness.  But she’d rather have a sad heart than a seared one.

Teri is living in the tension of a core conflict.  And so is her son, Will. [click to continue…]

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Ronnie Blair spent a lifetime waiting for the perfect moment.  And he never seemed to find it.

He waited to ask Lisa Crane to the Senior Prom.  Ricky Styles beat him it to it.  Now they’re married with two kids and a third one on the way.

He waited to apply for the college scholarship from his father’s employer; didn’t want to appear too eager, he said.  He missed the deadline.

He waited for the perfect job to present itself upon graduation, and in the process passed up three good choices.  He wound up taking an entry-level hourly position not even in his field.

He waited for the perfect time to ask Leanne Wilson to marry him, and to her it seemed as though he was afraid of commitment.  They wound up possibly the only couple in town who got engaged as the result of an argument.

In Ronnie’s life, the pattern was always the same.  [click to continue…]


Jon Acuff recently shared the story of a coworker named Brian who had witnessed the death of a man in the gym a day before.  Apparently he had a heart attack, and nobody could help, except to vainly call 911.  Now a day later, the coworker was filled with regret and what-if scenarios. 

Twenty years ago, James’ life took a detour through some moral quicksand.  And though he can tell you in glowing terms today about the grace of God that lifted him out of the “miry clay” and “set his feet upon a rock,” sometimes the past comes blowing back in his face like a cold rain.  Even though he lives today as a forgiven man, at times he still finds himself on the Highway of Regret.

I can certainly relate to both of those scenarios – helpless situations and careless choices.  But the regrets that nag me the most have to do with unfinished business.   [click to continue…]


This is about a talking doll house.

No, I’m not referring to a cartoon, and no, I don’t need a trip to the you-know-what.  This doll house didn’t come with audible voices.  It was a symbol for about six months – an imposing, silent, unfinished structure that would sit in front of me and remind me of unfinished business.  Here’s the story:

Somewhere around Carrie’s eighth- or ninth-grade year, she became really interested in doll houses and all things miniature.  So we loaded her up one Christmas with the house, furniture, shingles for the roof, and other assorted stuff.  Over time, she lost interest, and needed space in her bedroom for other pursuits.  The unfinished doll house wound up in a room we used as both study/office and a family room of sorts.  It was en route to the attic, but was apparently on the scenic route to get there.

For months the doll house sat there, looking like the result of a tornado that ripped through Dollville.  (Truth is, Joel had knocked it over one day, and just crammed everything back into it.  So the bathtub sat, along with the bed, in the living room near the toilet.)

Children have passing interests that they outgrow; that’s part of living.  What haunted and taunted me was what the doll house didn’t have. [click to continue…]