Welcome to my blog...

Green trees, cool water, a gentle breeze...the perfect place to sit at the feet of the Master and learn. Jesus taught so often on the shoreline, and He's still speaking today.

This is where I share the lessons He teaches me, often during the time I spend on the shores of a local lake. I don't have all the answers...and some days I don't have any. But I go here when I need to draw near to Him in a tangible way. Come with me...

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

My One Word for 2019 - Delight

A few months ago, I launched my new website, Tonicampbell.org. Since then, all my new blogs have been posted there. Here's the introduction to my latest...

I remember it so clearly. As 2017 came to a close, I anticipated the year ahead.

"Good riddance 2017, bring on the new year - it's got to be better!"

In March of 2017 I had been diagnosed with Marginal Zone Lymphoma resulting in 12 radiation treatments.

A month later, doctors felt the treatment had not been 100% successful. Another biopsy of the area confirmed there were still cancer cells present. After consultations with other radiation oncologists who specialized in this type of cancer, a determination was made to administer another 20 radiation treatments.

By the last treatment I was tired and sore from reddened skin. It was the week of Thanksgiving and I did my best to get through the holidays.

So by New Year's Eve, I was more than done with the current year and looked forward to the new one. Surely it could only be an improvement over my current circumstances.

It only took three weeks to discover that wasn't the case.

Please join me at tonicampbell.org to read about my one word for 2019 and to share yours. I love reading people's words and why they chose them!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Divine Telephone Tag

I retrieved a pretty typical message from a caller who wanted a food pantry appointment.

I called back, got her voicemail, and left a message to return my call.

Tag was officially in play when she called back the next day and spoke to a volunteer who didn't have the schedule. Once again, I received her message.

It was another day before I could connect with her.

"Hello?" Her voice cracked a bit and I thought maybe she had a cold.

"Hey, we finally connected! When did you want to come in?"

She gave me a date, but her voice sounded awful.

"Are you sick?"

"No, I'm just having a moment."

Suddenly I felt bad I hadn't ask how she felt sooner - I could tell something was wrong from the first word she had spoken.

"What's going on?"

She broke down crying as she shared her concerns over her two year old daughter's verbal development.

"I can't afford to send her to day care but I'm afraid I'm holding her back by keeping her home. I guess it's my fault she's not reaching the full potential for her age." She went on in this vein, beating herself up, questioning her parenting ability.

"Let me stop you right there. Conviction is from the Holy Spirit, but condemnation is a lie from the pit of hell. Stop listening to lies. You are a loving parent doing what feel is best for your child. You are training her up in the way she should go, telling her about Jesus. If you feel God's nudge to have her checked out to make sure she's progressing appropriately, go ahead. But do NOT blame yourself if you discover there really are issues to be addressed."

She explained that she had older children - the youngest of whom was already 15. She had her tubes tied, but a number of years later, she discovered she was pregnant. She had made arrangements for an abortion, but the day she was to go, she received a text that said "This is an anointed child - a gift from God. Who are you to end it's life?"

It was a harsh question, but she knew it was true. She cancelled the appointment. Perhaps guilt over her earlier plans for this child was spilling over now, making her question her ability to parent at this age and in this way.

"Can I pray for you?"

"Please, I would appreciate that."

I prayed, she wept. But when we were done, she thanked me and said she felt better. I made some suggestions on where she might go to get help with evaluating her daughter.

"You know, I think God caused that phone tag so I would call you today, at this moment, when you needed reassurance."

"I was just thinking the same thing."

From there, she shared how she hadn't been to church in awhile because of her child's separation anxiety, but she had been thinking she might be able to return by serving with the children's ministry.

I encouraged her to do so and told her the upcoming sermon series would have a component about serving where you're gifted and feel called to be.

God was already orchestrating things through her "moment" of doubt, fears and tears.

And what I thought was a game of phone tag over an every day request turned out to be a divine appointment.

God speaks every day in a million different ways if we'll only be open to hear what He's saying.

Best of all, He is always on time to answer our call.

Psalm 27:14 "Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!"

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Are You "App-athetic?"

"I'm going down the shore later today."

"Isn't the water too cold?"

"I don't go to swim. I listen to the waves, breathe in the salty sea air, maybe wade a bit. I go to relax."

"They've got apps for that."

This was my conversation a few months ago with a man who was totally serious.

He couldn't imagine making the hour long drive to sit and soak in the sights and sounds we are blessed with, living near the coast. He thought his phone and an app were sufficient substitutes.

How sad!

There is no man-made app that can capture the grainy feel of wet sand squishing between your toes.

Or convey the power of waves that crash with a roaring boom yet dissipate into tiny, delicate bubbles that look like lace on the tips of watery fingers reaching toward the shoreline.

Can an app fill your senses with the immensity and beauty of the horizon, stretched out under the expanse of sky, decorated with white, puffy clouds, or adorned with the pinks, reds, and purples of sunrises and sunsets?

And what of the treasures to be found dotting the beaches?

An app doesn't let you look for the perfect color and shape shell to add to your collection, or snap a picture of something that catches your eye but needs to stay right where it is on the beach.

You might be able to hear canned whistles and clicks of dolphins, but wouldn't you rather hear them as they break the surface of the water in a fast swimming pack, delighting all who catch a glimpse?

And instead of playing app games, entertaining yourself watching the silly little sandpipers run down toward the water, then scurry up the beach as they hunt for sand crabs helps you realize that endless running back and forth doesn't have to be you today. You can rest.

I don't want to settle for something man-made when I can experience the fullness of something God-made.

Man-made things are a mere shadow of, a poor replacement for, something divine.

An app will let me hear, and perhaps see, a tiny portion of what there is to be seen and heard. But when I go directly to the source, I can immerse myself and my senses in the here and now of His creation.

Jesus said "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10)

He wants us to live for Him, all senses engaged. Our heart prepared to receive the blessings that abound when we are completely open to all He has for us.

My friend, what are you settling for today? What unfulfilling thing is serving as a poor substitute for the richness God has for you? 

Don't be "app-athetic." 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

License, Registration, and Insurance Card Please

I rounded the corner and approached the crosswalk at the posted 35 m.p.h. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement.

The woman, dressed in jean shorts and a pink top, had just stepped into the roadway.

I tapped my brakes and in a split-second, assessed the situation:

  • I was too close to the crosswalk to stop fully in front of it.
  • A glance in my rear view mirror revealed a car behind me so close that hitting my brakes harder would cause it to hit me from behind.
  • The pedestrian was not quite halfway through the opposing lane of traffic.

I decided it was safest for all involved to proceed forward.

Once past the walkway, I again checked the rear view mirror and was surprised to see the other car also go through it. It was especially concerning since at this point the woman had approached the halfway point and did a stutter step to slow down and not walk into the car.

I threw on my blinker and turned the corner, continuing on to my destination.

One last glance in the mirror and my worst fears were realized. Apparently I had taken in everything in that split second except the police car that just flipped on its lights to pull me over.

My heart sank.

"License, registration and insurance card please."

"Can I ask what I did?"

"You went through the crosswalk with the pedestrian in it."

"I saw her, and I even tapped my brakes, but there was a car behind me. Can I ask why you didn't pull them over?" I was on the verge of tears, but trying to politely defend my actions.

"We've had lots of complaints about this very thing in this same area. I was there specifically looking for cars driving through the crosswalk. I felt you had the better field of vision."

He walked back to his car.

A million thoughts went through my mind. "It's not fair" was chief among them.

I threw up a prayer. "Please God, let him come back with a warning and not a ticket."

He came back with a ticket.

"If you feel you want to argue the ticket, just call and make a court date."

As he walked away, my eyes fell on the cost of the fine.


I started to weep. To put it mildly, I've endured a lot the past few months. My calendar for the entirety of July is filled with more doctor visits that equal more co-pays. About $230 dollars worth in the next eight days. I was angry, frustrated, and overwhelmed at the thought of this large financial burden being added to my plate.

It took me a good five minutes to calm down enough to get back on the road. By the time I looked up, the officer was long gone.

I thought about what I might say to the judge quite a bit over the next few days. I told the story to a friend and ended with "but I keep coming to the same conclusion. If the judge asks me two questions: Was there a pedestrian in the crosswalk?  and Did you drive through the crosswalk? I can only answer "yes" to both. Regardless of the pedestrian's decision to enter the roadway with an oncoming car, by the letter of the law I was guilty and the judge would most likely refuse to listen further.

A week before the ticket was due, I called the court to see if there were points attached. I assumed there were since it was a moving violation.

I thought about trying to make a deal with the prosecutor for a downgraded charge with no points. While they are often open to that type of deal, it always comes with a steep price tag and the current $230 was already more than I could afford.

"We don't assess points in court. You'll have to call the MVC." The clerk gave me the number.

As I held for many minutes, I flipped the ticket over to reveal a website address. The ticket instructed the recipient to visit the website for more information. Thinking the points might be posted there, I put the call on speaker and typed in the URL to check it out.

I plugged in the ticket number, the court number and my plate number. Then I saw something strange.

"Fee: $0. Ticket addressed 7/5/18."

What? Did someone pay my ticket? No one but my friend was aware I'd gotten one and I knew she didn't do it. I hadn't told her the story until July 6th.

Even as I dialed the number for the court again, I thought "are you crazy? If it's a clerical error and you're getting away with something, you're going to alert them to the mistake!"

I informed the woman on the other end about what I'd seen. "Hold on, I'll check on it."

It felt like an eternity, and all the while I was kicking myself for being too honest.

"That's correct. You owe nothing. The officer said he gave the ticket to the wrong person. Was there someone else in the car with you?"

"Nobody but Jesus" I thought...but I said, "no, he probably meant he should have given it to the car behind me." I explained the whole story. "I'm really a good driver" I said a little weakly.

She laughed and said, "Well, the ticket is rescinded. The officer actually did it the next day, but the 5th was the first day we've had court since then."

It was the last outcome I would have expected.

Just like salvation.

By the letter of the law, we are guilty. We can try to compare our sins to the person behind us and think "I'm not as bad as they are!" but we all fall short of God's glory and deserve to pay the penalty.

We can try to blame our circumstances on the actions of others, but we are responsible for our own actions.

We can even try to justify ourselves with "I'm really a good person." But we can never be perfect 100% of the time.

When we finally come to grips with the fact that there is nothing we can do to escape the penalty for those sins, God hears our tears of repentance and exercises His mercy when we look to Him.

He rescinds our ticket to hell and grants us admission to heaven. We need only believe that Jesus is His son who died to take on our guilt and act as sacrifice for our sins. It's immediate, even though we won't see the final result until the day of "court."

It's the last outcome we expect - or deserve.

I'm not sure why that officer did the unheard of that day, but I am grateful for the mercy extended to me.

I don't know why Jesus would have endured all He did to save me from eternal death, but I am grateful for the love and mercy that led Him to die in my place so that the Book of Life reads

"Fee: $0."

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Karma's Watching?

Karma. We generally hear the term used when someone has done something or someone wrong.

The hope expressed is that karma will come along to pay the offender back.

Supposedly it works the other way around too, but we rarely seem to wish good on another - we want revenge and if karma's willing to take that on, we'll stand on the sidelines and cheer it on.

So I thought it particularly odd to see this sign in the waiting room of a diagnostic imaging center as I waited for a medical test.

It was actually the same center where I was told this January to see a breast surgeon for a biopsy of something they saw that was most likely cancer. (It was and I blogged about it here.)

The sign made me angry. The insinuation was totally negative.

What did Karma see in my life that would cause me to get cancer?

Not once, but twice in two years?

Was it my full-time position pouring into people's lives when they are vulnerable and in need?

Perhaps it was my volunteer work with the same population.

No. No, it must be all the time I've spent the past year trying to help my brother get his mental illness diagnosed and get him the services he needs.

And if all those things were good, why didn't this "tit for tat" karma thing see to it I didn't get cancer?

"I saw that."

What a terrible, accusatory thought to put in someone's mind.

My heart breaks for those who might read that sign and believe they are at fault for their illness.

Lest you think all this talk of karma means I believe in it, fear not.

I'm still the same Jesus believing daughter of the King I've been for many years. And I'm so glad I know the Truth.

My cancer is not my fault, but my cancer may be used to bring about good.

Right now, I'm reading a book written by a friend of mine, James Watkins. It's called The Psalms of Asaph: Struggling With Unanswered Prayer, Unfulfilled Promises and Unpunished Evil. In it, he tells the story of a young woman who, when she learned of her cancer diagnosis, prayed that her family would come to Christ through the journey. She didn't survive, but family members will now live for eternity, able to see her again because they came to believe in God through her faith.

Would she have chosen this life over eternal life for her family? No. Would she have chosen that method for them to come to Christ? Probably not. Did judgmental people sit back and wonder what secret sin she had committed that God "saw" and punished her for? Possibly.

That's the kind of reaction Job's "friends" had. They gave him an earful on how to repent from what he must have done to deserve all the terrible things that befell him.

They didn't use the term karma. Worse, they attributed all his misfortune to God - as a result of something Job MUST have done wrong.

The truth is, we live in a fallen world. Bad things happen to good people. God can redeem those bad things.

John 16:33 comforts us with "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

Sometimes, it's not about illness and disease. Sometimes it's about the very real pain people have caused you. Is it wrong to wish a quid pro quo on them?

Matthew 5:44-45 says "But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

The New Testament is filled with scriptures: Romans 12:17-18,  I Thessalonians 5:15I Peter 3:9 and others that basically tell us not to repay evil for evil as "karma" would, but rather evil with good because that is what sets us apart as Christians.

We can't control the actions of others, but we CAN monitor our reaction.

And when it comes to disease? Well, sometimes, cancer just happens.

I don't have the BRCA gene. I don't smoke and if I have a drink once a year, it's a lot. Yet I know a number of people who smoke like a chimney and haven't been diagnosed with the disease.

Karma, if she existed, would have her scoreboard all wrong. She really doesn't see a thing. So...

Don't repay evil for evil - or wish that someone else would do the job for you.

Don't take on guilt that isn't yours to bear because sometimes, bad things really do happen to good people.

Love God, do good to others, let go of anger, don't judge.

And remember...when others are guilty, we cry for justice. When we are guilty, we beg for mercy. "Karma" doesn't extend mercy. Only God does - and He truly does see everything.