Matters from the Grey Cells Contemplations of a believer in a realm of unbelief

An Alaskan Adventure

August 15
Me gathering data on tree growth during the Citizens Science Project

Me gathering data on tree growth during Alaskan Citizens Science Project

Toward the end of a miserably hot, Texas July, I went on an adventure to Alaska. As it happens, the hot July of 2010 in Texas was one of the best summer seasons Alaska had experienced in years. While most of my family was sweating through the last seven days of the month, I was enjoying wonderful 70º days, fresh glacial mountain air and breathtaking Alaskan scenery.

I was fortunate enough to participate in a Citizen’s Science project. About 15 fellow tourists and I took data from trees and plants in the national forest at Juno and continued on a whale watching excursion.

We all boarded a boat equipped with a high-powered camera to take pictures of whales.We were documenting, through photographs, the markings on the fluke (tail) of each whale we saw. It was my special duty to use the camera and take the pictures for the project. I was more than excited to be the one chosen to take these special pictures. Unfortunately, no one on the boat would take a picture of me taking the pictures of the whales because they were too busy getting pictures of the whales with their own cameras! The only bad thing about the whole day was that I took pictures of seven whales and one whale with her calf for the project but did not get one picture for myself.

After taking pictures of whales, we gathered samples of plankton from the seawater, and looked at it under the microscope (also on the boat). We also tested the water for changes in temperature and recorded all the data we gathered.

This single event defined that trip to Alaska and made it completely worthwhile. I spent seven days on a cruise ship and this little adventure was the most fascinating, exciting and pleasurable thing I did during the entire time I was gone from home.

Citizen Science projects are not as hard to find as you might think. I’ve been looking for another one to join. If you are interested go to this website

I hope all the time you spend participating in a project is as fun and fascinating as my first one!

A Growing Flower

August 2

A flower growing

A flower can’t
        its sun,
    you know!


From beginning to end
   the flower
    to grow,
   to blossom,
to be a flower above all flowers!


And when the
for the flower
   is gone
the sun helps
  bring up
        another one.

A Soul

August 2

A Soul

      turning the leaf over
                to see
                        seeing the whole
            is there nothing left to


           would feeling and touching
                  the surface
                        and then–
            memorizing. . . . . . . .
                      know the

Keeping a corn snake

April 10

Keeping a corn snake
We are keeping a corn snake in our room
as a pet, he doesn’t have much va-va-voom!

He is a fascinating creature nevertheless
though we were surprised that even he makes a mess.

He drinks lots of water, we’ve only seen that once
and he eats a mouse a week but he never goes and hunts.

His food is carried in by hand very solemnly
and placed gently in his habitat quite ceremoniously.

He wastes no time in eating his lunch
it takes less than ten minutes and there is never a crunch!

The mouse is swallowed from head to tail
his deliberate, silent, motion does not fail.

We’ve watched him eat! He’s not the least bit shy
he ate his mouse and then drank his water dish dry.

Last weekend, he began the process of shedding his skin.
This morning, I saw it lying on the opposite side of him.

Yes, it is fascinating to have a snake like Jim
except when I have to clean up after him!


Confessions of “Rightness”

April 5

Confessions of RightnessThese thoughts were originally written on 9/13/97. I am posting them now because they are still true at some levels for me today…Some small editions have been made today, otherwise, these are the original thoughts from thirteen years ago……

Fleshly desires…They come in every imaginable, conceivable form. Are we ever truly free of them? My desire to be right permeates every area of my being. Not only do I desire to be right about my point of view in a discussion, I want to be a “right” person; right in the “acceptable” sense of the word. I want to be right for the job, right wife, mother, daughter, friend… It goes even further. I want to be right as a Christian. My soul cries out to be the “rightest” Christian. Why?  What could be harder to accomplish?

To be right means I have something to prove. What could I ever prove to God? But that’s not all it means. It means there is a deep-seeded doubt (maybe buried so far down I might never find it); the fear that I’m not “right” (acceptable, correct, mature, etc.). When I look at this “rightness” issue, I see a fleshly desire. One that can never be satisfied (just as other fleshly desires). It demands hard, unsatisfying work. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. “ (Ephesians 2:8-9 NASB)

Deep in a corner of my own God-shaped vacuum, I have kept a place for “rightness.” It is a once small space that has taken on a life of its own. Like yeast when mixed with flour and water, so my rightness has been yeast. Mixed with flour from the mill of work and water from the river of proof, it has risen beyond its bounds. Once confined to a very small space in my vacuum, it has now invaded every area of my life. It has made sticky dough leaving a mess when punched down and kneaded.

The vacuum inside me can be full. I know that it has been full, even to over flowing with the mess I make out of “rightness.” It can be filled, but it’s like putting a round peg into a square hole. There are always small corners that are not filled. Our vacuums know when we try to put things in on our own. We can stuff in anything we want; the vacuum is very accommodating in that sense. But it is also very definite about the fact that it will allow only God to be the one that brings true fulfillment.

I so crave with all my heart to know God in such a way as to live “the peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7); I long to achieve enough confidence in the Lord that I never seize “rightness” to put in my vacuum again.

My prayer today, Oh God, is that You take the dough of “rightness” I have made on my own. Take it all. Please clean out every spot of the yeast from my soul. Take away the flour that comes from my “works” and dry up the source of the river that was made by my need to “prove.”

My soul has longed for this discovery, it has found an answer. Only God can fill every corner. “Be still and know that I AM GOD.”(Psalms 46:10 NIV)

Being the clay

March 31
Make me the clay in Your hands.

Make me the clay in Your hands.

The other day, my best girlfriend said to me, “Karen, I read your blog and you’re insecure.” Just like that. It was like being hit with a bucket of ice water. I was stunned. Of course, she is right, I know I am insecure, but I didn’t think you could just read my blog and see “Karen’s insecure” all over the place.

I write what is deepest in my heart. How I am on the inside, the inner struggles. I am trying my hardest to be very honest about what I am. So, how could I not show anything but insecurity? The reason I write is to get it out in the open – confess my insecurities so that God can progress me. “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

But the work is not all God’s; I cannot expect Him to perfect me without giving Him my all. I have to be the clay. “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the word of the LORD came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?” declares the LORD. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.” Jeremiah 18:2-6

Do I care if I am insecure? Sort of. I am insecure in the sense that I want to be the person God wants me to be. Mostly, I do not think I am because I know what is going on in my own mind. So I strive to get there, to be very good clay for His hands. “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:13-15

That is my greatest desire, to be Holy as He is Holy. There is my insecurity, I know He is Holy and without Him I am not. He is the only thing that makes me Holy and I have to live in Him, not on my own.


Who is the Judge?

February 2
God is the Judge

God is the Judge

“Who is the JUDGE?
The judge is God.
Why is he GOD?
Because he decides who wins or loses, not my opponent.
Who is your OPPONENT?
He does not exist.
Why doesn’t he EXIST?
Because he is a mere dissenting voice of the TRUTH I speak.”
The Great Debaters

I saw the movie, The Great Debaters, a few years ago and it made an immense impression on me. The movie is based on a true story about a team of black debaters from the South who invite white debate teams from prestigious universities to debate.  There are many themes in this movie, but to me the one that stood out from all the others is the quote printed above. “Who is the JUDGE?”

I have thought about these lines many times in the last few years wondering exactly why they struck me so deeply. I’ve realized in the last few weeks what they mean to me and why they are so powerful.

Our Sunday school lessons continue to be on the Proverbs. Several weeks ago, we were studying the Proverbs about anger. The discussion was about how we all have angry moments, but living an angry life is not an option.  At one point, I heard myself, say something I was astonished to hear from my mouth. I said something like ‘It doesn’t matter what the other person does, that’s between him and God. What matters is how I respond.’ Those words kept ringing in my ears long after class was over. I knew them to be true, I was just surprised to hear myself saying them, I do not even remember thinking that I had something to say.

A few weeks later, in class studying Proverbs about pride, the words I spoke about anger came to my mind again. It was an animated group; lots of members were speaking up and confessing pride. We were discussing to what lengths we will go to feed our own ego. No one said anything in particular that stood out, but I remember getting hold of a truth that has truly eluded me for years. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks of me. It doesn’t matter what anyone does to me or says about me. All that matters is the truth of what GOD says. God says he loves me. “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with lovingkindness. (Jeremiah 31:3)

Who is the JUDGE?
The judge is God.
Why is he GOD?
Because he decides who wins or loses, not my opponent.
He decides who rules, who is ruled. He decides who has more, who has less. He decides.

Who is your OPPONENT?
He does not exist.
Why doesn’t he EXIST?
Because he is a mere dissenting voice of the TRUTH I speak.

It is everywhere – dissenting voices of the TRUTH; he who rules, he who has more, he who has intellect, talent, beauty, power, youth. The TRUTH is “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with lovingkindness.”

Nothing matters except that He loves me. I need to be ever-aware of that one truth. He loves me with an everlasting love. I have been drawn with loving-kindness. I can be ruled and over-ruled if I know through and through I am everlastingly loved. I can have less if I know I’ve been drawn with loving-kindness. I can do anything and suffer any indignity with this TRUTH firmly fixed deep in my soul. What freedom! My only responsibility is to know He loves me and act accordingly. Anyone who thinks he is my opponent is sadly mistaken, what he does is between him and God. God decides, not me. As long as I represent the TRUTH of God, I have no opponent. As long as I live the TRUTH of God, I have no opponent. God is my loving father, protector, provider and proficiency.

Oh Lord, my Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth. I praise your name, I magnify your name, Prince of Peace, Mighty God, oh Lord God Almighty!

A Child’s Version of a “Come to Jesus meeting”

January 13

Child version of jesus meetingIn an earlier post I wrote how the Proverbs about anger spoke to me. I pray anger does not become a theme I write about often, but I do have to mention something that happened in my first grade class week before last.

My students were taking their weekly math test. One student was having trouble watt some of the problems. He knew the answer to one, but had forgotten how to write the correct number. He knew what number came next in one blank, but skipped another blank. No matter how many ways I explained to him not to skip a blank, he just did not see the same thing I saw on the paper. He was very sad and frustrated and so was I. In order to keep myself from lashing out, I told him to do the best he could and moved away from him to check on others in the class.

After the test, the students were lining up to go outside for playtime. Everything was finally quiet enough for us to file out of the room when I noticed a small hand raised high in the air. I took a deep breath to quell my frustration about how long it takes my class to line up.

“Yes, sir?” I asked. “Mrs. Sterrett, I noticed your voice got loud and you sounded angry during the test. May we forgive you now?”

At that moment, nothing could have hurt me more. A very small boy landed a blow to my heart that could have topped one delivered by a sledge hammer. I felt as though the breath had been completely vacuumed out of my body. For an instant, I could only stand there and attempt to start breathing again. It seemed to me that everything changed from a normal speed of movement, to a slow motion speed. I looked at the boy who had so sweetly landed an almost fatal blow to his teacher. He was standing there looking up at me with such anticipation he could have been the poster child for innocence. He was not the only one looking at me like that. All fifteen of my precious students were patiently waiting for my answer. Hope was on every face.

After what seemed a long time, after every thought of frustration had been crushed in me, after conviction of my sin left its wound. I was able to speak with a loving and contrite heart.

“Yes, sir, you may forgive me, but first I need to ask you all to forgive me” He nodded solemnly as if to say, well go ahead and ask.….. “Class, would you forgive me for losing my temper and speaking too loudly?”

What I saw next filled my heart with love, thankfulness and wonder. Every student was saying, “Yes, we forgive you,” some students were clapping their hands and jumping up and down with joy that I had made things right again. “Jesus’ words from Mark 10:15, “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” flooded me with peace and understanding. A child does not have to wait to be asked to forgive. A child will forgive before he’s asked!  He knows there has been a wrong and is anxious to forgive.  Am I enough like a child in this regard? Oh my dear Father, if I wasn’t before, I pray with all my heart that I am now.

My love

June 25

My love

Deep within the quietest part of my soul

            remains a memory of

                    a love beginning


                   a love growing


                   a love everlasting……………



Essay on Essence

February 10

Essay on Essence

To enjoy the fragrance of


as long as the summer


    keeps it fresh…..


To enjoy remembering its sweet


    as it touched the


        is essence,

          is the core,

              and is the truth.


To enjoy opportunities in life…..

    to accept them as they come,

         for what they are.

To adjust the perspective on them

          to one’s own life,

                  is essence…..

        is what is good

              and what is comfortable.

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