Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fast Food and Fish

There she was. After all these years, there she was in MY house, eating MY food, talking to MY family. I took deep breaths, said a prayer, and pasted on a smile as I thanked her for coming. I looked deep into her eyes, searching for any hint of recognition. Did she remember? Had she truly forgotten our paths had crossed years ago, or was she just avoiding the issue?

I knew this day would eventually come. I remember the day my husband's family brought up her name in conversation. My ears became red, and my blood pressure sky rocketed as I bellowed out.....

"How do YOU know HER?!!"

"She's my aunt," my husband calmly replied..."but I don't see her often.."

I felt some relief that our paths might not cross as often as I dreaded. But destiny could not be delayed forever. We were meant to once again meet-and today was the day. A family fish fry at our home was the appointed time, the appointed place.

I made small talk with her, and actually found her to be pleasant, and humorous. She hugged me after seeing the farm and house, telling me how proud she was of us. As her arms held me in a genuine hug, I realized- she had no idea who I was, or the history we shared. I relived the moment briefly as she gave me what would probably be her last hug with me.

It was a foggy, December morning as I headed to work at JC Penney's. I was an 18 year old with her whole life ahead of her, and a day without conflict laying before me. But conflict was quickly positioning itself in my path, as it had a habit of doing. I commandeered my mode of transportation-a Plymouth Horizon, adjusted the broken side view mirror (the entire mirror and casing hung from a wire, long story-big tree), where at least for a few moments, it would hang so I could view vehicles at the rear of my car. I then did my preflight checklist. CD player velcroed to dash-check. Headlight on-(yes, that is supposed to be a singular light)check. Purse resting on paint stained carpet (Note-always make sure paint transported in your vehicle is tightly sealed) check. Windshield wiper secured (after losing the other one, I was faithfully monitoring this one) check. Rock in floorboard for beating car battery when it doesn't start-check. This is not a list you will find in a driver's training manual, but to each his own. A fellow employee at Penney's once told me when I got married I needed to register at Advance Auto Parts. I told him my goal was to marry a car dealership owner.

I pulled out from our driveway and waved to my neighbor as she threw herself in front of her car in the driveway, (I backed into her car once pulling out of my driveway, and she was still paranoid, but at 95 years old she would soon have to let it go- she couldn't take it with her.)

On my way to work I decided to stop at Arby's for breakfast. Some people have a hard and fast rule about not eating in their cars- I decided to focus more on rules like, "Don't hit trees, or old ladies' cars." When you have to leave a sign on your car in the parking lot at work that says, " 'Persecuted but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.' Don't tow, it's my ride home,' " ketchup stains on the interior are the least of your problems. I stopped at the marquee displaying all the Arby greats in bright lights, and placed my order. After the voice in the box declared my total and asked me to pull up, I eased up behind the white car in front of me. I pulled out my money organizer and opened the cash compartment where my bills were organized from the smallest denomination to the greatest, ...

OK I can't even type that with a straight face. If you know me at all, I am not organized. To organize denominations to me means to put all the Baptists together, all the Pentecostals, together, and separate the "loose change", leftovers from who knows what denomination.

No, the truth is I began to dig in my purse, pulling out handfuls of receipts, wadded Kleenex (remnants of good church services), highlighters, pens, makeup, travel size hairspray, Tylenol,........BAMMMMM! My body lurched forward ramming the steering wheel into my stomach! I had been hit! I flung the contents of my purse on the passenger seat, and jerked my head around to see the culprit. He was gone! Hit and run that fast?!!! Then as I turned back around and looked through the windshield, I saw that the white car had backed up to get a better look at the she was still at the window....... how did I get so close to her car? We were so close I could read her odometer and hear her radio. Her angry face staring back at me said it all. I had hit her. My foot had eased off the brake just enough to roll into the back of her car.

I sprung into action. I put my car into reverse, backed up, saw no damage on her car, gave her the thumbs up sign that all was well, and ordered another biscuit, ready to put the whole incident behind me. Some people really can't move on as quickly as I would like.

I saw her motioning frantically to the cashier, and I hoped it was because she needed extra napkins or more honey mustard sauce. When the cashier reached for the phone, I hoped she was calling to check on the next delivery of Roast Beef. When I saw the flashing lights, I hoped I was already dead and that it was County Coroner. When I saw the badge, I wondered how in world I was going to find my license in all the confetti of papers that had been sent airborne after the BIG BANG.

I cried and cried never leaving the car. The officer told me he saw no damage, and not to worry. I tried to tell him I was a careful driver, but my car wasn't the best witness to call to the stand. The Arby's manager brought my "Breakfast of Champions" to me in the car, free of charge. Apparently, gawkers and nosy people get really hungry while on the job and I had attracted quite a bit of business. The officer, again, told me forget about it, it wasn't even a fender bender, it was just a bump with no damage. That all sounded good, but the paper he kept writing on, made me worry. I parted ways with the other driver, with neither of us ever exiting our vehicles to meet face to face.

Days later, I found out the name of the driver and tried to repeatedly call her to tell her I would pay for any damage personally, not to run it through her insurance. I called and called, left message after message, drove by her house, and left notes at her house. I made it my personal mission to stop her from contacting my insurance. Why? Because that was my third accident in 6 months. Three accidents that all listed me as the at fault driver. The insurance company had me on probation, under surveillance, and made me attend mandatory AAA meetings. "Hi, my name is Jennifer, and I couldn't drive any worse if I were an alcoholic."

After weeks with no response, my dad said, "Let it go. If she was going to turn it in, she would have done it by now."

Right....Eight weeks later, my dad received a call from the insurance company, about a claim filed on me. One week later my dad received the new quote on our family insurance in the mail. Before the mailman had pulled out of our driveway, my dad had me standing in the Department of Motor Vehicles, watching my license be shredded before my eyes. Apparently, if I wasn't a licensed driver, my dad's insurance couldn't increase.

How odd it was to see my life ending in the very room it all began. I had spent many a Friday morning there registering for my driver's tests. Unfortunately, that is meant to be plural. After my parents used up their vacation days taking off work to run me to the courthouse for me to try "one more time" to pass, they recruited a lady from church that I babysat for ,to take over driving the shuttle bus. Every time I failed, she and her 3 year old son, Daniel, would take me to Shoney's for the breakfast buffet. I remember the morning I finally passed. Daniel didn't look so happy. She asked what was wrong. Daniel replied, "Do we still get to go to Shoney's?" Oh yes, that morning we shared the "Breakfast of Champions".

As I watched my license fall into the garbage can, I promised myself, I would be back.

For a year I walked to college, work, the bank, and.....Arby's. Eventually, the wrecks faded into oblivion on my driving record, and my insurance premiums no longer rivaled the national debt. I was once again a licensed driver. Aren't y'all thrilled to know I'm back on the road?

And now, sixteen years later, this woman, who had to have an entire bumper replaced 2 months after the accident was standing in my living room. Not only was she there, she was now related to me.

I can't help but wonder, if God wasn't giggling that fateful morning in Arby's. Looking into the future as only He can do, He connected two lives by what I thought was yellow police tape, but He saw as a tender thread that He would weave stronger throughout the years, as He wove into my life my husband and his family. But I don't think the thread was intended to join two lives as much as it was intended to join a past failure with present day grace. So many times relationships are the catalysts God uses to mold us, change us, teach us, grow us, bless us, guide us, and yes, break us. It was the experience that He wanted that thread to keep me connected with.

If I have learned anything in my life, I have learned this-God doesn't waste a single experience. Every moment of your life bears His fingerprint if we will look for it. The truth was, I was blaming her for my own irresponsibility. My wreck with her may have been the straw that broke the camel's back, but I had been sowing the seed that straw was harvested from for a long time. I wanted to blame others for my own mistakes. I was the one who drove too fast in the rain and hit the tree. I was the one who backed out of my driveway angrily, and hit the neighbor. I was the one who was careless and allowed my car to "embrace" the other in a morning hug. Yet, God was not upset with the accidents, he was concerned with my inability to accept responsibility, my resistance to heeding warnings about my driving, and my blindness to my own need to ask forgiveness, accept His grace, and move on.

I can think of someone else in the Bible who had three incidents God wanted to address. I am reminded of Peter fishing once again for fish, instead of men after his ministry took a nose dive from his three "accidents" or denials of Christ. After Christ's death, and the agonizing pain of his failures, Peter abandoned the call on his life, and once again chose his pre-ministry career- fishing. After an unsuccessful first day at his old job, a stranger from the shore gave some advice that yielded quite a catch. The stranger then invited Peter to the shore for a breakfast of fish. When Peter saw the stranger was Jesus, he dove into the water, unwilling to wait for the boat ride, and hauled the net of fish to shore himself.
Jesus could have seen Peter's desire to please, and let the past failures slide, but Jesus will never sweep anything under the rug. He will either cast it into the sea of forgetfulness or it will set before His eyes. He has no lost files, no unsolved cases. He wants to deal with it and remove it.
Peter is confronted by the Master. Not for what he did, but for how he handled it.
Peter had a choice. He could have blamed the three people who accused him of following Jesus...but they were right! He could have blamed the owner of the rooster, for not keeping him quiet when people were trying to sleep. He could have made excuses. He could have spent the rest of his life on a boat, fishing, his aged and weathered hands repairing nets, simply because he was too stubborn to admit he needed repairing, and that without it he would be useless to the Kingdom.
But Christ's love for Peter, you, and me will not allow us to remain crippled by unconfessed sin, when a moment of brokenness and conviction can repair and heal so quickly and efficiently. Three times Christ asks Peter questions dealing with his love for Christ, and re-iterating the call that Christ had placed on Peter's life.
Christ was asking Him, are you going to be made better by this, or crippled by this. It's not about what happened but where are we going from here. For 16 years I had a deep buried resentment towards this woman-so deep I had forgotten. But Christ saw it, and dealt with it, calling me to join Him at a fish fry, where I prepared the fish and He brought a surprise guest.

So as I said goodbye to her tonight, I let it all go. Like Peter, I chose the relationship over the crippling shackles of wounded pride and self-defeating bitterness. But just in case there were any grudges on her part, I whispered to my husband..."You better move my car."

My advice to you, check the Spiritual menu. If fish is on prepared.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Close Encounters

My daughter recently got into one of those moods where she had a thousand questions. These questions were more of a personal nature.

"Mommy, did you date anyone before daddy?"

A thousand, (ok six) stale memories flooded my mind as I made a mental note of every dating type situation I had encountered before meeting my husband. Sadly, I have to say I never dated...I had more of what you would call "close encounters". Here's the list. You be the judge.

1. I once fell in love with a seminary student. We worked together and took a drama class together. We were assigned a play to attend at a school an hour away. He asked me if I wanted to go with him. Date? I thought so. Turns out he forgot his wallet. I paid for tickets, gas, and food. Then on the way home he told me he was struggling with "feelings" he had for the same sex. I am not sure if that struggle started before or after he met me. If you have to convince a boy he should like girls, it's probably not a date.

2. I fell in love with another seminary student. I was at a youth activity where I was asked what I was looking for in a man. I said, "Blond, blue eyes, tall, and called to preach." He walked in and said, "Here I am." His mother suggested we go bowling. While we bowled I kept envisioning an aisle, alter, and 10 groomsman wearing white every time I looked down the alley at the pins. Everything was swell. He had money with him. He expressed no feelings for my brother or other males. All was well, until he told me of his struggles with pot, and the seminary's lack of support for such behavior. Apparently, he thought it would help him relate better to the youth once he was a youth pastor. Right.......I suggested that made as much sense as him trying to go through menopause so he could relate to women when he was a pastor.

3. I was once on a blind date with a boy just back from the Persian Gulf War. We were at a young married couple's gathering. It was very awkward. I didn't think it went too bad until I asked a mutual friend about him after not hearing from him for over a week. He re-enlisted for another tour of duty overseas. Again, I don't know if he made that decision before or after meeting me. If a man thinks the heat of battle on another continent is more enticing than another date with you, you may need to reevaluate your dating strategy.

4. I once had a youth pastor ask me out. It was the strangest invitation I ever received. He asked while I was at work at JC Penney's in the shoe department. In front of customers and co-workers He opened his wallet and showed me all of his ex-girlfriends pictures, along with a short description of their virtues, and failures. It was as if he was as if he was presenting a job description, telling me what would be required. "If you can sing like Debbie, but not nag like Peggy, dress like Sarah, but not laugh like Becky then I might consider making you the next member of my hall of fame!" I doubt Debbie, Becky, Peggy, and Sarah were carrying around pictures of him. Little did he know he had just joined a hall of fame of mine.

5. I once fell in love with a Mormon. I convinced myself it WAS possible that God had another book that He had Joseph Smith to dig up. God has a lot on his mind, surely He misplaces things from time to time. It was during this "close encounter" my dad, the preacher, nearly lost his mind. Turns out I wasn't a date to this boy, I was a new recruit for the Latter Day Saints. He became a Former Day Dud to me. It dawned on me later that if God couldn't keep up with His own book He wrote, and accidentally buried it, how in the world could He keep up with me? The answer-it wasn't His book to begin with! (So yes, let me re-itirate I only believe in ONE Holy Bible that is God's Word, the other is just....well....muddy.)

6. I once had a blind date with a boy my friend fixed me up with. He picked me up in his truck right after a big snow. As I went to pull myself up in the truck, I slammed my head into the door frame. I had blurred vision most of the night. When we arrived at the house, I stepped out of the truck into snow that looked about three inches deep. It was 3 feet deep. I fell, with my feet and torso sliding under the truck. Surprisingly, he called for a second date, which resulted in him being pulled over by the police for expired tags, expired license, and no insurance. Being the only licensed driver in the vehicle I had to drive the truck which was a standard. I had never driven a standard. We compromised with me steering and him shifting. On our third date, he ran out out of gas. On Valentines Day, he told me he loved me, and then said, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to say that... I take it back." On August 30, I married him.

Needless to say I don't have a treasure box of mementos from all my suitors. All my notes, dried flowers, and pictures are from the only man I've ever kissed, or held hands with-my husband. But truthfully, those mementos would mean nothing without having a loving relationship with him.

Can I ask you something? Do you have a loving relationship with Jesus Christ, or just a lot of close encounters? Do you describe your ties with in Him in past tense, or as a daily, ongoing experience? Zaccheus could describe watching Jesus from a tree and having dinner with Him. Mary could describe Jesus' back and belly as she remembers bathing Him as a baby. The blind man could describe Jesus' face as he first saw Him through healed eyes. Mary could describe Jesus' feet as she remembers her tears running down his ankle and trickling between His toes. The Roman soldier could describe Jesus' hands as he remembers driving the nails through them. But these are all just close encounters. If there was no relationship formed, friendship forged, eternal connection made, or blood applied, these moments have no value.

Christ is not looking to be an entry in my journal occasionally, an event on my calendar a few Sundays a month, an emergency number on my fridge when things get too tough, or even the main character in a little anecdote I share with friends or my Sunday School Class. He came to earth to get up close and personal with His creation. He was up and close and personal with Adam and Eve before the Fall. He longs and desires for an intimate, daily, loving relationship with us. When we are living in that closeness with Him, we find mementos of His love all around us-a colorful sunset, a cool breeze, a child's laughter, a favorite song on the radio-they all become love messages from our Creator to His Bride. All reminders of His thoughts toward us that outnumber the sands on the seas.

If God were to be asked, "Did you love anyone else before Jennifer?" His answer would be, "No. It was not love at first sight, but love at first thought. I have loved her for as long as I can remember, since the foundation of the world! I planned our moments together before I formed her. I poured out my love for her on the cross, before she drew her first breath. I began preparing her mansion before she said, 'Amen' at the end of her sinner's prayer. She's doesn't even realize all the ways I daily intervene in her life, showing my love through my provision, protection, and preparations I make for her. My love can be seen as a constant thread woven into her life moment by moment. "

Can my love for Him be seen as thread woven through my life moment by moment? Sadly, no. When the tapestry of my life is over, inevitably there be will be spots bare where I failed to contribute anything to the fabric of my relationship with Christ. Just because He will always love me, and never look for another more willing and able to reciprocate His love, does not mean I should take advantage of Him. For, truthfully, when we neglect Him, it is we who lose.

So, no Rachael, I didn't date before Daddy. But I did have a Secret Admirer who pursued me until I was nine years old before revealing Himself to me in alter of prayer. Now, I hope to spend the rest of my life pursuing Him, catching Him daily in close encounters.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Selective Hearers and the Women Who Love Them

A tragedy has occurred in our home. I had hoped and prayed this pestilence which had caused
"a thousand to fall at my side" would somehow not come near our home. But my faith was not strong enough, my prayers not powerful enough. We were destined to become like almost every other married couple I knew. It does indeed rain on the just and the unjust.

I can remember the night well, that our home was invaded. As a newlywed, I was pouring my heart out to my husband as he watched TV to keep from being overwhelmed with emotion at the details of my story. Then as I allowed the usual moment of hesitation in my monologue, where he would normally enter the conversation with compassion, wisdom, and understanding, there was silence. I remember waiting, thinking, "Wow! He is so touched with my outpouring, he cannot speak." The silence continued...and then the scene that has been rerun in our home more times than Andy Griffith played out.

"Honey? Honey? Are you listening??......HONEY! ARE YOU LISTENING?"

His armor still shown brightly, as it rested against the blue denim background of the recliner. His shield still rested against the left side of the chair, and his sword against the right side, ready to defend me in a heartbeat, but something was still wrong. I then ran to my knight in shining armor's side convinced some thing was terribly wrong. Finally after struggling to shake that massive amount of shining metal and getting no response, denting the chest plate as I enthusiastically performed CPR attempting to revive him, I flipped open his face guard, only to find a some cob webs and a note, "Gone to get a sandwich, keep talking."

The glazed look in his eyes as he returned from the kitchen, wearing his ragged white t-shirt and jeans, said it all. (Do Knights always dress that tacky under their armor?)Not only did he not have anything to say about my vocal offerings, not only did he not hear them, he did not know I was in the room. The winds of selective hearing had blown into our home. I thought my man would be different than so many of my friends' husbands. It was a sad day, for both of us. I would now talk twice as much since he could only absorb half as much. The half he did absorb would be confused with the the half he didn't hear. The half he didn't get would be the whole juxt of the conversation.

I have come to accept my husband's late onset hearing disability, although I think it would make it easier to deal with if I could receive a monthly disability check to compensate me for the inconvenience his hearing loss has caused me. Of, course I would have more information to share with him when I came back from shopping which would only make the situation more unbearable for both of us.

The new tragedy? Our home has been struck again. My 10 year old son started exhibiting the same symptoms of this disability. I was devastated. He is only 10. He's too young for a grown man's disease. I cried out to God in desperation, "Please don't take my son from me! I still have so much to share with him! Please God, 6 months! Give me 6 months to say goodbye, before his eyes glaze over, and communication is forever limited to commercial breaks and the time it takes to fix him a sandwich!" But I did not pray through and his hearing got worse.I would frequently be giving directions in his general direction in the living room. I would wait on some sort of acknowledgment that my words had been received and processed. Moment's later, still no response. I cannot count the times I have given reminders as we walked out the door, of items he needed to grab, only to arrive at our destination "itemless". I found myself addressing him like he was 90 years old and living in a rest home.



And with the absolute sincerest look on his face, he would say, "Mom, I'm sorry, I didn't hear you."

Well, this mom got tired of apologies. I decided to take Nathan to our Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist. We drove an hour and a half, in hopes of a miracle procedure to restore sanity to our home.

We arrived, and I informed the doctor of my dilemma. "My son is turning into his father at age 10. This should concern all parties involved. " He didn't seem to realize what a state of national emergency this was. I told him of Nathan's hearing loss, his constant misunderstandings, and the all annoying phrase repeated throughout the day, "What?".

The doctor laughed and informed me, that he has numerous wives drag their husbands into his office to get their hearing checked, only to find their husbands can hear fine, it's the high frequency of their wives' voices that they cannot hear. I cracked up laughing, assuming that was some sort of audiologist' joke, but he assured me it was true. I felt pity for those wives, but knew God could move in my situation. Apparently God moved all right- right out of that doctor's office. They performed the tests on Nathan's ears. I was shocked by the results- as I usually am when told I am the one with the problem. Apparently the high frequency of my voice does not always register in Nathan's ears. The more frustrated I get, the higher my voice goes, decreasing my chances of being heard. I am raising a 10 year old, with the hearing of a 60 year old. The doctor suggested he marry a woman with a deep voice. He did give me some pointers to making sure I am heard- make him look me in the eyes when I am giving him direction. Make him repeat the directions back to me. Minimize distractions during important conversations. He said I could also try them on my son if they worked on my husband.

Then as we were leaving, the doctor told Nathan, "Nathan, it was good to see you again."

Nathan replied, "Again, what does he mean again?"

"Nathan, he was the doctor that took your tonsils out."

"Oh, yeah. I forgot."

With his memory following so closely on the departure on his hearing, we decided to go straight to the Social Security Office and get his paperwork started. Wanted: A godly woman with a low voice, a good memory, and patience to marry my son.

As we prepared to leave the office though, the doctor looked into Nathan's eyes and gave him a clear instruction. "Don't tell your mother anymore you can't hear. You need to be honest and say, "I wasn't listening."
Well, about that time, God stepped back into the office, and convicted me of my listening skills.

"My sheep know my voice.....
I know His voice well. I can recognize Him in a crowd. I can hear Him in the crashing waves, or a gentle brook. And I know when to pretend I didn't hear Him- when He asks for more than I am willing to give. I can hear Him calling my name, when I want just 30 minutes to sleep. When He calls me from my gentle cruise to leave the boat and walk on the water, I sometimes find myself in more of a hearing mood than listening one. We as His sheep know His voice, but are we always listening? To hear is to simply acknowledge the sound, to listen is to hear the sound and process the information. So many times, I am comforted by hearing His voice, because it means He is still near. It also somehow leads me to believe that as long as I am close enough to still hear His voice, than I can hone in and listen more closely when I feel like "listening."

The sad issue is this- it we who miss out when we don't listen. When I try to tune out the noise of my kids each day, I miss out on on conversations I want to join, games I want to play, jokes when I really need a laugh, and joy and chaos I will someday miss and long to hear. Sometimes we are tuning out an invitation from God to draw closer, go deeper, soar higher, or even rest longer. We tend to always try to remember that we will not have our kids forever and time is precious with them. If only we could grasp that concept with God. Though God is eternal, the time He would share with us today under these circumstances in our lives, may never happen again. It is the changes in us that will hinder the effectiveness and impact of time spent with Him, not Him. If God calls you today, it is because He knew something of your present circumstances or tomorrow's events that makes this moment in time the perfect moment to speak to you. What if what He wants to impart to you today, will be too late to receive tomorrow? We treat God's continual presence and activity in our lives too lightly. We take for granted our God who never sleeps nor slumbers, assuming we will always another time to meet.

When the same voice that spoke light into existence, calls unto our inner man to come and dine, it is not an invitation to be taken lightly. Just as he tried to instill in the Israelites with their daily ration of manna, there is daily provision from Him available to us each day. Tomorrow's will not be available today, and today's will not sustain through tomorrow. Just as I long for Nathan to treat every word I speak to Him as significant and meaningful, how much more so should the words of our Good Shepherd be heeded and internalized.

As Dr. Schultz gently reprimanded Nathan, I too, received the rebuke to be honest-"Father, I will not say I did not hear you, but rather I was not listening. " How ridiculous to ever think God would speak too low for me to hear.

I paid a $35.00 co-pay for that rebuke. Of course, I saved $35.00 when I cancelled the appointment I had made for my husband.

Monday, July 6, 2009

"O Be Careful Little Eyes What You See"

I am tirelessly careful about what other people view me doing. I try to be cautious and modest in my dress, I am discreet and private when clearing my nasal passages (please don't make me expound on that...) and I pride myself on my proper, ladylike behavior. But there are times, when control of what others observe me doing is removed.
Such was the case this week.
In preparation for the company this weekend, I was fulfilling my job duties as "Keeper of the Cement Pond." I was skimming, chlorinating, vacuuming, and sweating. When I clean the pool, I usually dress in my oldest, tattered, faded clothes because I am notorious for getting chlorine on them and fading them. That day was no different. In addition to bumming down, I will neglect to apply makeup or style my hair. Why apply what is going to be sweated off into the pool water anyway, and then require more treatment to remove?
As this Beverly Hillbilly 90210 pool gal worked her magic clearing up the water, in a manner only Moses and his staff could rival, a predicament arose. In the bottom of the 10 foot deep end, garbage had become trapped in the drain preventing the water to flow properly through the pump. On any other given day in the summer, there would have been short elves and dwarfs in the water who would have been thrilled with the task of diving down and cleaning the drain. On this such day, no one under 5' 4" was present. Desperately needing to get the pool cleaned, I decided to take action. I would dive down and retrieve the garbage. Since I have not invested in my own pool accessories, I decided to borrow from the kids treasure box of gear. Digging through the jumbled mess, I found a pair of goggles I needed to be able to see the drain clearly under water. As I stretched the goggles over my head, I realized my head is considerably larger than a 7 year olds. I adjusted the goggles to as large as possible, and then wedged them over my head. Instead of holding all my hair down under the band, it somehow managed to redirect my hair upward, giving the appearance of a hairpiece perched upon my head ready to be released with the next good breeze. That, however, was minor to the change the goggles made to my face. I apparently have quite a bit more facial fat than a 7 year old also. The goggles had the opposite effect of a face lift. Every ounce of fat on my face was pulled down into the goggles. I was struggling to see through the two slits where the cheek fat met my eyes in each lens. Because of the immense pressure of the goggles on my face, every bit of skin out side the goggles was red and every bit of skin in the goggles was white. I looked like a homeless diver, who had been stung by a bee and was awaiting the Jaws of Life to remove me from my entrapment.
It was uncomfortable, yet I knew the sooner I got it over with, the sooner I could move on to another project. I slid into the water, and prepared to submerge beneath the surface. If submerge gives you the mental image of a submarine diving towards the depths, good. That's the only image that can come close to describing this amount of flesh entering the water.
I bobbed in the deep end for a few minutes, practicing holding my breath, and situated myself against the wall to be able to effectively push off the side and gain momentum for the journey down.I was beginning to feel like I belonged in a Jacques Cousteau documentary. " Watch as the massive creature circles her prey, preparing to lunge in for the kill," He might would say in hushed tones. I was finally ready to pursue the drain. Deep breath, solid push against the wall, and I am under. I t is really hard to judge distance under the water. I overshot the drain and tried to turn mid glide and swim back toward the drain. But a new problem arose. When shorts get wet, and when they are loose anyway, they tend to not stay put. Every time I moved forward, my shorts tried to stay stationary in the water. I developed a new stroke. I would use both hands to glide forward, then both hands to grab the shorts. I looked like a jellyfish, where the legs move first, then the head has to catch up. I repeated this stroke across the pool. Glide with arms, grab shorts. Glide with arms, grab shorts.
Finally I was back over the drain, and already exhausted with my new synchronized swimming routine. I rose to the surface, gagging and choking as I held my shorts with one hand and tried to remain afloat with the other, took a deep breath, and plunged back into the water. I managed to get to the drain and grab a huge handful of leaves. I kicked for all I was worth trying to hold onto the garbage and my shorts. I broke through the service again, gagging and coughing, as I doggy paddled my way to the shore to deposit my garbage on the concrete. Unable to use my arms, I decided to flip on my back and float to shore. I held the handful of leaves straight up in the hair like the Liberty Torch, and kicked and splashed my way to the side of the pool. When the side was in reach, I slapped those leaves on the pavement, just as the goggles slid up pulling my hair into a tight pony tail on top of my head, while the bottle of the goggles caught on the tip of my nose, pulling it straight up in "pig like" appearance. Unable to fix the goggles, hold the shorts, release my hair, and stay afloat, I just bobbed and gagged for a moment to catch my breath. It was then I noticed two boots attached to brown pants standing 12 inches from me. I looked up into the very disturbed and shocked face of the UPS man.
It was obvious by his stunned face, and perched stance, he had been standing there a while. I don't know if he was more afraid of me coming out of the water, or of possibly having to go in after me. I am not sure he wanted to hang around for either possibility.
"Hi," I blubbered.
"I...I... have a package for you," he stuttered.
"OK. Just leave it on the porch, " I said in a tone of voice that I hope resembled that of an efficient secretary and not that of a beached whale.
" I will. Are you gonna be alright?"
What a loaded question. I have never been "alright". I am an accident waiting to happen, and a candid camera's dream. I felt, however, that I needed to re-assure this man so he would not worry about me on the remainder of his route.
So what could I say, that would ease his mind and yet explain my behavior. With a contorted, red face, I gave my explanation.
"You know how rodeos have clowns? Sea World is going to try the same concept in the Shamu show. Water clowns. I'm trying out."
Without a moment's hesitation, he replied, "You're ready,"with a twinkle in his eye, as he backed the big brown van down the drive-way.
I was embarrassed, and yet it was an obvious reminder- you never know who is watching you. You may work diligently to portray to others exactly what you want them to see and perceive about you, but what you truly are will eventually shine through. Sometimes the only catalyst needed to bring out our hidden nature is a forbidden fruit tree, a bathing maiden on a roof top, a crowing rooster, or even suffering. We may be observed in the fiery furnace like the three Hebrew boys. We may be observed in our slavery like Joseph. We may be observed in our power and authority like King Saul. We may even be observed in our death like Stephen. How will we do? Will the true nature of Christ shine through us? Will we be able to draw on the unending source of strength and power in our lives, or will the emptiness of our spiritual tank become obvious to all. So many times we feel we are inadequate to be used for the kingdom. We do not realize we are daily a testimony to the world. Every action is documented by a lost world and a knowing family. It is the difference bewteen carrying the cross and wearing the cross. One strives to make a statement with no sacrifice involved, the other seeks to protray the sacrifice that requires no further statement- an innocent King on a guilty man's cross-my cross. The true measure of a Christian's commitment is not what he does with the cross, but what the cross does to him. The world will not be reached by viewing our religious jewlry and wearing our catch phrase T-shirts, if underneath we do not also bear the marks of the cross on our back and His Word on our lips. Someone is watching and a world is waiting.

Don't be caught with garbage in your hand and holding up your britches. A lost world is not drawn in by that image, only UPS drivers.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

NyQuil -A Non-Recovering Addict's Story

I'm warning you all- I just took NyQuil, and things could get a little delusional here. I might actually start making more sense. I am fighting some evil sinus infection, and I have called for re-enforcements in the form of a pretty green liquid. I remember my first experience with NyQuil. I was in high school. (My history of drug abuse and alcohol consumption can be summed up in this one story.) My mom and dad went away for a week and the only person they would entrust me with was a little old lady from our church, named Miss Bonnie.
She told me she didn't eat a lot of snacks so I should bring my own. I did. (I actually brought a lot of snacks, because I didn't know if I would like her cooking.)Every night in front of the TV the same scenario played out.
"Now, honey, if you want a snack go ahead and get one. "
"I will, if I get hungry," I'd reply.
"I mean it now. Just go ahead and get a snack. Don't just sit there hungry."
"I won't."
A few seconds of silence would follow, and then.
"Now if I was going to get a snack, I'd get it during a commercial so I wouldn't miss any of the show. If it was me...that's what I'd do..." she offered.
"Yes, ma'am." I replied.
"Commercial is almost over, I'd be hurrying if I was wanting something to snack on....."she urged, again.
After 5 more minutes of urging I get up to go to the kitchen.
"Can I get you anything Miss Bonnie."
"Lands no child! If I ate this late I'd be up all night!"
After I returned from the kitchen, we started a whole new song and dance.
"What you got there, honey?"
"Popcorn. Would you like some?"
"Lord have mercy no, those kernels get stuck between my dentures!"
Then a few moments later.....
"Is that butter popcorn?"
"Yes. Would you like to try some?"
" I'd better not, all that butter is not good for my heart."
"Are you sure?"
A brief moment of silence and then, the moment we have been working towards for an hour and a half...
"Well, I'm not going to live forever, and it's time to soak my dentures anyway." Out pops the dentures and in goes 3/4's of the popcorn.
Every night, same routine. I had to make three extra trips to the store for snacks for myself, and for the lady who never did lose a minute's sleep with her late night grazing. I opened up a whole new world of ice cream, Doritos, cookies, and 3 different flavors of popcorn for her, (and she entered that world wholeheartedly).

She was also one of those avid doll collectors' who cover their beds with a sea of ruffles and lace, with pudgy plastic faces peering out underneath hats. In this instance, my bed was the preferred method of displaying her treasures. Everyday, I unloaded the bed and loaded the bed. I felt like I was working 3rd shift at a daycare. I tied shoes, straightened hats, fixed braids, and found lost shoes. I finally got tired of it, and decided to add one more pudgy face in the middle of it all. I looked like a cabbage patch doll in a sea of Marie Osmond dolls.

She also loved to sing. It never bothered me that she couldn't sing until that week. She had a bass voice with a soprano heart. She insisted I play for her on the organ while she sang. She would sing, insisting I couldn't get in her key. Every time I would get remotely close, she would move to a new neighborhood, musically speaking. She was a refugee in search of a home. I told her to camp where she was most comfortable and let me find her. I never found her that week.

One morning I awoke sick. Miss Bonnie went to her medicine chest and found exactly what I needed. She gave me two cupfuls and said in a few hours I would feel better, and sent me to school. She was almost right. In few hours I couldn't feel anything. She had given me a double dose of NyQuil. (I could have used it the night before when I was accompanying her on the organ.) I was in la la land at school. I went to freshman math class and fell asleep. It wouldn't have been so bad except I was supposed to be in Senior English class. (Does it bother anybody else that the teacher didn't notice me there?)

I carried the same book to every class that day, because the numbers on my locker padlock kept running together. I went to the office begging to be allowed to go home, but unfortunately Miss Bonnie wasn't on the approved list for picking me up. I vaguely remember attending a session with my guidance counselor who was encouraging me to seek help for my drug problem. I told him after my nap I would. He didn't buy the story that a little old lady got me hooked. In PE, the gym teacher worked around my obvious impairment, and let me BE 3rd base during kickball. That day I received my highest PE grade ever. (Unfortunately they do not offer scholarships for impressive performance as a base mat.)

It was the longest day of my life. I was in and out of conscienceness all day. I slept and drooled, snored and muttered in my sleep. I don't remember lunch, except I found mashed potatoes stuck up my nose (apparently I inhaled them while sleeping on my tray)and later, and my friends said I muttered something about sharing the rest with Miss Bonnie. Most of my teachers were understanding, the few that weren't turned out not to be my teachers at all. When the cloud started to lift at the end of the day, I decided never to take another medication from Miss Bonnie again.

When I got off the school bus, I stumbled up the steps to Miss Bonnie's front door, where she greeted me with a handful of sheet music and and quick hello as she performed voice exercises, similar to those of a fog horn alerting sailors to danger. She was eager to start another session of musical hide and seek, and I was in no shape to play. As she spread the music in front me, I dozed off hitting the organ keys with my forehead.
"That's it! That's my key!" She excitedly proclaimed.

"Have you got any more NyQuil?" A bed full of plastic arms and legs, and scratchy lace was looking pretty good.

While I poke fun at Miss Bonnie, she gave me some beautiful memories that week. Every morning, while I picked stray bows from my hair and doll hair from my mouth, she would read scripture to me, and pray over me before school. Every day when I came home from school, she was waiting. For the daughter of a working mom, that was a treat. From that week on, whenever I saw Miss Bonnie at church, we shared a special secret, a deeper sense of friendship that I had with no other senior saint in the church and she had with no other youth. I thought it was bizarre my parents picked her to be my guardian that week, but in truth, it was God.

The potential for unexpected God encounters are all around us. We run into people every day, thinking it is coincidence, but in reality it is God. I really think it was not just Jesus' mission to win the lost that drove Him to walk those dusty roads each day. I think it was also His desire to meet face to face each of His creations that He had molded and formed in their mothers' wombs. He could look into the deep, hidden places of their hearts, yet He wanted to look into their eyes, and more importantly for them to look into His eyes, and see the love they would find there. He watched them daily. As He walked the streets of Galilee, everyone He bumped elbows with, some of who may have walked on without a backward glance, were not strangers to Him, but objects of an intimate love relationship they could not understand. They had just made contact with the most important person they could have ever met- the one relationship that could change their entire lives and even their eternity. But they were too busy to stop, too busy with the temporal things in their lives to see the eternal activity around them. It was on one such busy street, that as people jostled and crowded the Master, it was the touch of one woman who provoked a response. One woman who reached back, to the extension of the Father's love from Heaven, embodied in a man-Jesus. One touch of His garment changed her forever.
The one thing that disturbs me about this precious story, is why none of the disciples or believers who followed Jesus, could see this woman or her need. Were they possibly one of the very ones pushing and shoving in the crowd. Was everyone so busying "sticking" with Jesus, they couldn't see the needs of others still trying to find Jesus?
In this walk, with all the activity of life, where we daily rub elbows with the Master, let us not forget to be aware of those around us. In the temporal things of life, it is the eternal that matters. Some of the most striking anointed contacts I have had with people, have not been in a crowd, but on the outskirts of the crowd. Sometimes Jesus is the center of attention in a crowd, other times you'll find Him sitting by a well, waiting for a woman who He's been watching draw water her entire life. Don't miss that moment of contact. That one bump of a shopping cart , small talk while waiting in line, or chatter with your waitress, could be an opportunity to rub elbows with the Master. People matter to Christ, for whether strangers or friends, male or female, or even young or old, He died for each one. He wants to encounter them today, and that will only happen through us. Step outside your comfort zone, to reach those who Jesus would be very comfortable with.
That one week I spent with Miss Bonnie, effected my eternity. Would I have chosen that contact? Being a teenager, not a chance. But my parents were sensitive to God's leading. They gave me a gift. For though I remember no other names of Senior Saints in my church at that time, I remember her. And someday, in eternity, I will seek her out, and thank her for being willing to take in a teenager for a week. And there by the crystal sea, I may one day attend an outdoor concert featuring "Miss Bonnie" , where I will munch my popcorn and listen in awe to the godly woman who finally has a voice to match her heart. Don't worry, I 'll save her some popcorn too. I better save her extra- there will be no dentures in Heaven.
Wait! There will be NyQuil, right?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Deep Thoughts from the Shallow End of the Pool

From my early, well more like ancient, days of being a toddler bathing in the sink and playing in a conglomeration of blow up pools decorated with fish and smiling octopuses, I have had a dream. A dream deeply rooted in my love of water and sun. My dream- to have an in ground pool. I have memories of visiting friends with pools, envious of the favor God had shown them. Forget the coat of many colors, (they no longer come in my size anyway), throw me in a pit filled with water any day. Oh, to frolic and float in the crystal clear water of my own private aquatic refuge.
Well, my dream has come true. We now have an in ground pool.
I have done little frolicking and the only things floating have been the little bugs that have managed to escape my vengeful skimming net. Crystal clear water comes with a price. There are chemicals to make it bluer, chemicals to keep it from turning green, chemicals that make it cloudy while cleaning it, and more chemicals to remove the cloud. Once you have the clear water, then you can clearly see the bottom which holds treasures, that I would prefer remain hidden. This discovery now requires hauling out the 50 foot hose attached to a 15 foot pole and vacuuming the entire bottom of the pool. Of course, oddly enough, the hose cannot suck up the lawn furniture deposited there by the storm. So I, in one of my rare appearances in the pool, must dive 10 feet down to retrieve the lawn chair. I sat in it for a moment to rest before hauling it to the surface.
But in spite of all the toil and the tears I have found great joy in watching my children swim. They seem to become engrossed in their own world of aquatic play and forget I am there, resulting in a very entertaining show. I watched my son Nathan baptize his brother and sister so sweetly and tenderly. I watched Rachael baptize her brothers- plunging them backward and forwards repeatedly as they gasped for air, as if there was sin still struggling to hang on. I have watched Ben enter the pool every single time with a passionate leap, unhindered by the frost on the ground in late April and freezing water. I have watched the kids drag out every floatable device they can find, giving the appearance of frogs jumping from lily pad to lily pad.
My favorite memory this year by far, though, is of Rachael. Rachael is not a strong swimmer so I have insisted that she wear an inner tube in the deep end until she improves. One afternoon I watched as Nathan was repeatedly jumping into the deep end, also not a strong swimmer, and Rachael with her hot pink inner tube, would swim to save him.
Rachael informed me, "I'm practicing saving people."
I was cracking up, on the inside, thinking the most valuable asset a lifeguard could have, is the ability to swim themselves. I don't think I would find much confidence in a lifeguard who has to have nose plugs, ear plugs, a swim cap, arm floaties, and a big inflatable duck around his or her waist. I found it so humorous that Rachael thought she could be a lifeguard when her only qualification was-she had a float that kept her from drowning too.
But then in a single moment my heart was convicted. Sadly, that is my spiritual mentality also.
I only want to perform or handle tasks that match my gifting, talents, and natural strengths. I want to have that secret weapon- I can do this on my own. I don't like the uncertainty of having to trust a floatie in order to be successful. But in reality, the floatie I don't like depending on- is God. Not only do I judge myself, I judge others using the same criteria. I secretly fault or criticize those who are placed in positions I feel they are unqualified for, or unequipped to do. And you can imagine my disdain and anger, when others less qualified are placed where I want to be.
Looking back, I know why I was overlooked for so many opportunities- I wouldn't use the float.
The truth of the matter is, any HUMBLE follower of Christ has realized one truth. The float of God's grace is the only thing that seperates us from the rest of the world. Without it, we'd still be drowning.
I cannot tell you the number of times I have dove into projects and situations that I felt equipped to handle and then felt my strength quickly disappear. I have splashed and struggled, gurgled and choked on the water, arms flailing and legs kicking, struggling to get back to the shore. In some of those moments, I have heard a gentle voice speak, "Peace, Be still," as he draws me back into the boat. Sometimes I am afraid to get out of the boat, sometimes I am too stupid to stay there waiting for Him to tell me when to exit. He can speak "Peace" not only to the storms that come into our lives, but also to the ones we create all on our own ( the ones we dive headfirst into leaving the safety of His boat.)
On rare occasions, I have done projects and handled situations completely on my own and God has allowed my tired and wasted body to wash up on shore, rather than save me. He has left me there awhile to boast in my own hard fought battle- alone. I am alone not only becasue I did it without Christ, but because I alienated everyone else with my attitude and pride driven by my own agenda. Finishing the race alone, is not near as invigorating and fulfilling as winning the race with Christ by your side. There is no reward when you run alone, for Christ has the awards with Him, for those who run for Him, with Him, and because of Him.
I now, can picture God, looking to and fro for someone to send to save a lost and drowning world with the message of Jesus. He glances at world class divers, Navy Seal Commanders, Olympic Gold Medalist swimmers and then something catches His eye. He watches a little red-haired girl with freckles, goggles, and a hot pink inner tube, and says, "There she is." His ways truly confound the wise, and me- who is now off to shop for inner tubes in the plus size department.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Today, my cup runneth over, and so did our toilet.

(A golden oldie from 5 years ago.)

My life is neither remarkable nor dull. It’s just interesting, bordering on bizarre. Today, my daughter’s 5th birthday, started with an 8:45 doctor’s appointment. (The appointment was at 8:45 on the doctor’s book, but turned out to be 9:25 on my book.) I thought I had a babysitter, so I let the two boys sleep. A phone call paging my husband to come to work changed all that. So my mother came, but my youngest, Ben wouldn’t stay with her. So the three of us headed to the dentist. My daughter had hit her mouth, loosened her two bottom front teeth, and one came out. Since those teeth are not supposed to come out until ages 6-7, I was a little concerned. The receptionist said if she were 4, she’d be more concerned. “Excuse me, she was four years old yesterday! Are you telling me yesterday you would be concerned, but today, you’re not?” I could see something white under her gum, but I couldn’t tell if it was the root of her tooth, or another tooth coming in. I checked for a dental x-ray machine on e-bay, (I figured even with shipping it would be cheaper than a dental visit since we had to pay our deductible first.). Turns out Dentists do not sell many pieces of office equipment on e-bay, and e-bay does not accept Blue Cross Blue Shield. My thoughts were consumed with concern that Rachael might have to spend her birthday with her mouth sore from having the root of that tooth removed, and maybe miss out on her birthday at church. My racing thoughts came to a screeching halt as I realized I had left Rachael’s tooth at home, and the Dentist wanted to see it. Back in the house, where did I put that tooth? Rachael’s tooth was lost again. After finding it, and unintentionally leaving a dollar in its place, I raced back to the car. My thoughts were once again racing, wondering if being 45 minutes late would keep Rachael from seeing the Dentist. How great the sum of our fears, when faced with the reality of God’s Grace, and finding how few of our fears He will actually allow to become a reality. The appointment after us never showed, and we got their appointment. The dentist came in and took x-rays. Rachael was indeed getting her permanent teeth early. I wondered if God was wishing I’d get rid of some baby teeth, and be able to sink my permanent spiritual teeth into His Word and not let go.
Being the inquisitive person I am, I asked if eating habits could affect her teeth coming in early, or was it perfectly natural. As I was asking this question, I was digging through my purse trying to find a toy to keep Ben occupied. As I was digging, I was pulling out gummy worms, suckers, gum wrappers, and hard candy. The possibility of Rachael maybe getting her tooth stuck in a gummy worm and unintentionally pulling out the baby tooth, allowing the bubble gum to then take hold prematurely pulling the permanent tooth to the surface began to look quite feasible. The dentist replied no, but I distinctly saw her hand tighten on the drill, as she contemplated drilling a hole through my skull, hoping to find some way to get through to me, that candy is not good for teeth. So I told Ben he could have the gummy worms in the car. The kids were then allowed to pick prize, where my son inquired, “Could I have a sucker?” I heard a drill in the background turn on; I grabbed the kids, and fled from the office.
That was all the stress I needed that day, but that was not all I was going to get. We now had to make 75 cupcakes for church. The kids insisted on helping. One third of all the sprinkles we had, were dumped on the first cupcake. One third of my energy allowed for the day, was used up lecturing the kids about that one cupcake. I thought I heard the sound of a dentist’s drill, as I looked at that sugar volcano ready to explode in some child’s mouth. The massive bowl of cake batter proved to be a thorn in my children’s flesh. They were agonizing over not being allowed to take “just one taste.” I finally gave in, giving each child a clean spoon for one taste. I told them they could not return the used spoons to the bowl because of germs. As I returned to the kitchen from throwing in a load of laundry, I discovered my kids are creative and obedient. 18 used spoons were lying next to the batter bowl. Technically, they had not disobeyed, so I added my own spoon to the pile, as I felt three pairs of eyes peering at me from behind furniture, waiting to see what punishment surely lie ahead. I enjoy shocking my children every now and then, for I too have left way too many spoons next the big bowl of God’s grace. (Of course, I didn’t tell them right away that they weren’t in trouble. Guilt can produce massive amounts of obedience.)
As I raced against the clock, trying to finish cupcakes, get everybody dressed, look over my lesson for my class that night, and get the kids stuff together, the incomprehensible happened. The toilet got stopped up and overflowed. I wasn’t thrilled but I could grab the plunger and take care of it. I had not anticipated the actions of my three year old, who has inherited my love of running water. I returned to the bathroom to find him REPEATEDLY flushing the toilet, as cascades of waterfalls flooded my bathroom. I grabbed blankets, (towels are no match for Niagara Falls), hoping to stop the flow of water to the rest of the house, where it might carry off my children, or worse, my 75 cupcakes. After using all the blankets, I had built a wall consisting of Scooby Doo, Elmo, Barbie, and plaid flannel comforters. Much to my relief, the damage was restricted to the bathroom.
The bathroom disaster did little to help my rising stress level, nor did the decreasing amount of time available to deal with my stress before church help the situation. So the countdown continues, grab child throw in tub, wet, scrub, rinse. Grab another child, repeat. No time to dry Rachael’s hair, so we will turn on heat in the car, and she will ride backwards in the seat to get optimum exposure to vents. Grab the cupcakes, book bag, kids, and purse; lock the door we are on our way. I feel like I am forgetting something……. The keys. The keys are locked securely in the house. Thank God for cells phone, and enough presence of mind to grab it before I left the house. I call my husband to come home and unlock the door, while Rachael worries about missing her party. I too, worry that 75 cupcakes will remain in our home overnight. Let’s see 75, divided by 5 is… oh forget it. It’s still way too many cupcakes per person, especially with an indoor pool in the bathroom, and no lifeguard. I call the church to tell them I will be late, the voice on the line does not seem to be surprised. Finally, my husband returns, we speed out the drive way while the kids are flung from one seat to another trying to grab seat belts in mid air.
We survived the evening at church, and after we were back home, and the kids were curled up in bed, snuggling in beach towels (waiting for dry blankets), I reflected on the day. While standing in the bathroom, with my pant legs rolled up, surveying the damage, I was struck with the thought. In Psalms, David speaks of his cup running over. I think of my life, and how crowded some days seem to be, and when it all becomes too much, what do I spill over with? Usually, I overflow with anger, cutting remarks to my kids, and facial expressions that clearly reveal who has control of the situation, the enemy. When the toilet overflowed, amazingly, the water was a clear as spring water, because the undesirable things had been flushed out, and the water was coming from a deeper source, a well of pure, and clean and uncontaminated water. When I overflow, the things I leave unresolved, the sins I leave unconfessed, the situations still needing to be confronted, all come out in a mighty tidal wave on all the unsuspecting children, friends and family around me. Stress causes the dam of our emotions to open, and we are powerless to stop all that lie behind it. Christian and non-Christian lives all overflow from time to time, but the difference should be, in what comes out. There should also be a difference in what remains. Do we leave behind hurt feelings, and more things to be forgiven for after the devastation of the flood has passed? Or do we leave those around us asking “What was that?” as they witness a complete and utter act of God, that when disaster struck, it was God and His Spirit that swept through, leaving things remarkably cleaner and calmer, like the air after a much needed storm. I cannot allow garbage in my life to sit and rot until I can’t take anymore. I must daily flush my spirit man out, so that when I can take no more, that deeper well of the Holy Spirit can flow out of me instead, washing over me and others, bringing much needed patience, compassion, and peace to the surface. And I cannot forget that the only way to rid myself of the garbage is to daily draw from that deep well within me, the Living Water. Imagine for a moment, what the condition of your bathroom would be if no one flushed. (I know that’s disgusting, but so is unconfessed sin in the eyes of God.) It does not matter how clean the rest of your house is, that bathroom will stink up every room. (Please don’t ask me why I know this to be true.) Likewise, our spirit man who is not maintained will eventually affect every other area of our life. There’s no reason for there to be such a mess to clean up when we overflow, when maintenance takes so little time, and Christ paid such a high price to plumb us to the right well. I can’t help but wonder, if the enemy got caught up in and swept down a river of Grace and Mercy every time he creates situations to cause my dam to burst, he might find another place to fish, and leave my shores alone!
So, yes, today my cup overfloweth, and so did our toilet. But tomorrow, while I may again overflow, may I overflow into my children’s’ cups so that one day they too, will long to be connected to this same well of Living Water.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pride Cometh before a Fall, (Pain Cometh Shortly Thereafter)

Do you remember the exact moment you realized, you were no longer a spring chicken? The day you knew “over the hill” was not just a cute phrase, but rather an experience- when you no longer had the physical stamina to climb any higher and rolling down the hill hitting every rock, bush, and tree limb would now be your official form of transportation? I had that moment this past year, and I realize that I am no longer a spring chicken. I am now an old hen whose days are numbered until I will soon be made into a chicken pot pie.
It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon. The Bible School kick off was in full swing. Kids were playing basketball, volleyball, and kick ball. With the shortage on helpers that day, I stepped up to the plate (pun very much intended) to be the full time pitcher in the kick ball game. I used to be very athletic. The operative word there is “was”. (Thank God for internet where I can’t hear you laughing.) I was the only girl on a boys softball team, and in the seventh grade, I was recruited by the girls high school team to play. I was ready to re-live those glory days of high school athletics.
The game was a heated battle. Alright, I was the one overheating, and the battle was with my body trying desperately not to pass out. The moment that will in infamy, in my mind and in the x-rays, had arrived. The ball was pitched, and kicked just to the left of me. No time to wait on the first baseman to intercept it. I lunged, stopping the ball. The old girl still had it. In mid lunge I went to hurl the ball to first base to tag the runner out. I had made this same play time and time again on the softball field.
Houston we have a problem. Struggling to re-gain my balance from the lunging position, my mind flashed through my whole life of physical changes since I had last made this same play. Three pregnancies. Eight surgeries. One hundred extra pounds. Asthma. Allergies. And the all-important extra 15 years. My body continued its forward momentum, as my feet kept moving, and my torso kept leaning more and more forward. Don’t bother helping Houston. No rescue scenario will get me out of this one. I am going down.
And down I went, as ants scurried out of the way, and the earth braced itself for the impact. In the same moment I slammed to the ground, I was getting back up. While my body was not what it used be, my pride was. Being carried off the field as an 18 year-old who took one for the team was an honor. Being carried off the field as a 33 year old who took one for Bible School with no trophy or pennant to show for it would just be embarrassing. I jumped up, grabbed the ball, and yelled, “All right, who’s up next?”
My body did all the yelling after that.
As I went to pitch the ball with my left hand, oddly I could only move 3 fingers. As I released the ball with my arm in mid air, I noticed a large knot on my left forearm. My hand began to throb in Morse code. “Pain. Pain. Pain.” My jeans had grass stains and dirt all over them. My shirt was covered in grass and a few ants that didn’t make it and my shoulders were aching. After attempting to continue playing with one hand, I decided I had had enough. It was time to throw in the towel, or at least have it filled with ice to nurse my wounds. I went in, admitted my defeat to the other workers, and sat down with a bag of frozen green peppers on my hand.
After 2 trips to the emergency room in 2 days, I was diagnosed with contusions, a broke finger, and shattered pride.
I still had a week of Bible School ahead of me. Fortunately, this year we were doing it a little different. I was going to tell the Bible story each night, to each class. I had decided to dress up in costumes and do monologues each night, sort of like a one man play. It went very well. The room was quiet, the kids and adults were completely engaged in the lesson, and Christ was magnified. I was right where I was supposed to be. I felt peace, fulfillment, and God’s anointing each night as I performed what God had gifted me and instructed me to do.
That week left me with such a different feeling than Saturday had. On Saturday, I went where I wanted to be. I volunteered to work the kick ball game where I thought I would be magnified. I gave little thought to my calling, or limitations, and I suffered for it. Don’t we sometimes do that spiritually? We sign up to work in church where we want to work, but not where God has led us to work. We are drawn to people we want to be around, and not reaching out to the people desperately needing to be around the Christ with in us. We allow our flesh to determine our spiritual actions, when our spirit man should be determining what our flesh should be doing. When we make those wrong decisions, it is the Body of Christ that suffers. We disable the foot of Christ, or as I now know, the hand of Christ from working effectively.
Sometimes, it is not in just being in the wrong place that hurts the Body of Christ, it is not showing up at all. When we leave the position God has called us to fill vacant, someone must fill it. That someone may do all right, but there will be a void left still.
Don’t let pride keep us from where God as gifted and equipped us to go. Don’t let the enemy use us to disable another part of the Body of Christ from being effective. Pride is a dangerous and sometimes painful thing. Proverbs 29:23 reads, “A man’s pride shall bring him low.” God words, even to this little verse shall come to pass. He brought me face down in the dirt, low. The only place lower would be six feet under. Pride does come before the fall, and pain cometh shortly thereafter. Don’t let the Body of Christ suffer the pain that your pride has caused.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Fame or Favor

I was remembering today some of the many stories our family loves to share. One of the stories is about the day our family shared fifteen minutes in the spotlight, and boy did we shine!

It was a Saturday filled with chores and yard work. Every man, woman, and child was working in the neighborhood, and we were determined to look just as busy. We mowed, and cleaned, weed-eated, and cleaned out storage buildings. Everyone was wearing their clothes that had the least amount of life left,but still enough fabric to sufficiently cover. I had my short hair pulled up in two stubby ponytails, no make-up, a stained T-shirt, baggy jean shorts, old tennis shoes, and no socks. Chris was wearing old jeans, a battered tattered ball cap, and a once white T-shirt whose stains were a checklist of projects completed that day. Grass Stain, mowed yard. Oil stain, changed spark plugs. Feathers, fed chickens. Ketchup, tried to feed himself.
The kids were in no better shape. But the stains were of a different nature. Yellow stain, tried to grab Rachael's banana Popsicle. Larger yellow stain, Rachael threw the Popsicle. Grass stain, rolled in grass. Red stain, blood from falling out of tree. More red stains-blood from retaliating for being pushed from tree. I have found that the stains on the backs of the kids clothes are the most disturbing. These are things placed their by the other two children. There I find things, but I ask no questions. Green slimy stains. ( Note to self: Find Kleenex holder for swing set.) Brown foul smelling stains. (I assume that one involves the dog.) And the most prominent stain, small dirty hand prints, most likely not from hugging. The kids clothes were more of "trying to wear one more time before the seams split". I let them dress themselves, so clothes were selected for their location in the drawer(whatever's on top) instead of for actual style purposes.
To say the least we were a motley looking crew. When the sun started to set, and the mosquitoes started to bite, it was time for dinner. The general, unwritten, and solemn rule in our house is, if mom's day involved a lot of manual labor, someone else will be slaving over the stove. The one who has been most willing to step up is the short order cook at Wendy's. We piled in the car and headed to Wendy's to go through the drive thru for dinner. ( We were a social services dream case, and I wasn't going to give anyone the opportunity to stumble across us.)
After eating in the parking lot, Chris pulled across the street to a gas station. Near the gas pump was parked a beautiful white stretch limo. Chris parked where we could admire it while he ran in to the bathroom. As he came out, he was walking with a man in a nice suit. I immediately knew what Chris was up to. He wanted to find out who was in the limo. They chatted for a moment and then Chris got back in the car. It was empty.
"DO you guys want to look in the limo?"
"Yeeeeeeeaaaahhhh! Oh dadddy, It's just like Hannah Montana's!" So the kids piled out, and I warned them not to touch anything. "Just Look."
As the kids all exited the same car door, at the same time, Chris leaned over and whispered,
"Come on, we're going for a ride."
"Yeah, I asked the guy what he would charge to take us for a ride, and he said nothing. The people who rented it didn't use all their time."
"You can't be serious?!!!!!"
"I'm dead serious. Come on!"
My family, the poster family for Feed the Children, with all their tattered , stained, stains still setting from dinner, sweaty, sticky and stinky was climbing into a stretch limo, which would surely never be the same.
The condo on wheels was beautifully decorated with mirrors, and lights, roses and crystal glasses, black leather interior, and tinted windows. It was a very surreal moment.
The kids couldn't stop talking, and changing seats, trying to take it all in at once. From the seat behind the chauffeur Rachael, age 5 at the time, spoke up.
"Wow, I'm special now."
The chauffeur turned quickly around and said, "Honey, you were already special. Being in a limo doesn't make you special."
Rachael's little eyes were bright and her ears attentive, as he continued.
"You're very special to God. Right now, I feel special having you in my limo." Turns out the driver was a pastor.
I sat watching my family, in a limo that just an hour ago, was used in an effort to impress others out of low self worth, was now being used to build a little girl's God worth. We made special plans that night in the limo. We promised the kids, if they married a strong Christian we would try to get them a limo for their wedding day. They all decided on the same driver. We talked about daddy's gift of humility. He doesn't think he's better than anyone else, and yet, he doesn't think he 's beneath anyone either. His motto: "It never hurts to ask." He never eliminates any possibility, no matter how far fetched or seemingly unobtainable. We were in a limo, simply because he asked. He is why we have Triple Cross Farms. I saw the price tag and croaked. He saw God's provision.
We had a wonderful thirty minute drive in the limo. The interesting part was when we pulled into the parking lot at the Speedway again. A whole new crowd was there. A crowd that had not seen us load up. But there was definite interest to see us get out. I saw wives nudge husbands. Heads peaked out of windows and around the pumps. Commerce ceased in the food mart as clerks strained to see, and little faces pressed up against the glass. To further climax the moment, the chauffeur jumped from the car, ran to the passenger door and with great exaggerated movement solemnly opened the door. Guess who was the nearest to the door? The Hee Haw wife. As everyone leans in expectation as movement is seen in the limo, out emerges what ..... is that a tennis shoe with gum on the bottom? My pasty white legs blind the crowd, but not before they are treated to a buffet of food stains, a glimpse of "Hollywood's 100 worst dressed" all rolled into one, and a visual montage to accompany the song, "who let the dogs out." It was tragic yet hilarious, memorable yet unforgivable. As I exited as quickly as possible, we were all treated to another phenomenon. Rachael exited the limo, as she imagined herself to be, not as she was. You'd have thought Rachael was in a tiara and gown. She exited with style, and a smile that I will never forget. The boys did their usual, let's squeeze out together routine. And Chris climbed out like it was just another day in the life of the Clampets. (Though I saw a twinkle in his eye.) Oddly, everyone still stood frozen and still as we pulled out. Some images just take a moment to recuperate from.
That night, we weren't famous, but we were favored. God above smiled on us and favored us with a little special treat. It really made me think of salvation. That moment when the King of all Glory invites you into His Kingdom. We are filthy, and stained yet He bids us to come as we are. If you try to take the time to clean up first, you might miss that opportunity.
And still how many Christians still live in a mentality of " I don't deserve that. I can't have that."
You're right! You don't deserve it! You can't earn it! But God wants to favor you with it! How many "limo rides" do we miss, sitting on the curb while the limo door is standing open, beckoning us to enter? Don't miss the ride because you think you can't afford the trip!
1 Corinthians 1:27 "But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise........and things which are not to bring to nought things that are. That no flesh should glory in his presence."
When we emerged from that limo that night, there was no doubt in any body's mind that we weren't there because we deserved to be, we were there because we were invited. Invite God into your world of foolishness and nothingness. That is the canvas He's looking for to confound a lost world.
So our fifteen minutes of fame have ended, but our Heavenly Father's favor will last for a lifetime!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Faith From Potato Water

We have had an interesting scenario play out in our house over and over. It started with a cell phone. I remember clearly the day my husband got his first cell phone. I remember it well because it coincided with another big event in my life. I was trying to regain consciousness after having a hysterectomy. I remember struggling, still half sedated, to ask for a sip of water, while he set up his phone, trying to convince me the phone would be a great asset to us both. "You'll be able to get a hold of me 24 hours day, whenever you need something." Right. We were in the same room and I couldn't get his attention to get me a drink of water. I think I have resented cell phones ever since.
The next event occurred when after dropping his phone in a glass of soda in his truck, he decided he would have to have a new one. By this time the addiction was in full swing, so there was no quitting cold turkey from cell phone access. This time he surprised me with my own phone, so I could "get connected". I was thinking how awesome it would be on my next surgical procedure to be able to call Chris from my hospital bed and request a drink of water. With my luck however, there would be roaming charges from the bed to the chair.
My excitement was short -lived however. Chris used his phone so frequently, and dropped it so frequently, it began to short out. Since his phone was for business purposes and work, he needed one that was dependable. Guess whose phone was readily available. Yep! Mine. I was given his beautiful camouflage phone still sticky from pop to use until our contract could be renewed and new phones purchased. At least in a moment of post surgery thirst I could suck the rest of the pop from the phone.
Once again, new phones were purchased and I was given a shiny new phone. Guess who ran over their phone with a truck? Guess who inherited the camo phone again? I must say my phone was greatly admired among and "bubbas" and the "git er done" crowd in our community.
By this time, the camo phone was beginning to have it's own difficulties- I could no longer read the screen. I never knew if it was on or off. When I tried to retrieve messages, I called my doctor, and when I needed to get in to the doctor I retrieved messages. It was frustrating. SO finally, once again, new phones were purchased because my husband's old phone didn't get a strong enough signal. Once again I had a beautiful new phone, until I asked my husband to protect it during another surgery. He sat on it in the waiting room and busted the screen.
A friend took pity on me at church, and brought me one of her old phones that worked perfectly. It was such a blessing!
Finally, we qualified for new phones and I was given a new phone. I debated about whether to go and just give it Chris so I wouldn't get attached. I felt like I was running a foster program for cell phones. This time, however, my phone came with an added feature- a lecture. The Evil Knievel of cell phone destruction, was lecturing me on properly caring for our new cell phones. "We can't get new phones for 2 years, so we have got to make these last." I was beginning to think the cell phone contract would last longer than our marriage. I felt like I was listening to Roseanne Barr teach a parenting class. I turned into Roseanne Barr for a few minutes and gave a few choice remarks about who did and did not have a right to lecture about cell phone care.
The next afternoon I went to church to peel 70 pounds of potatoes for a church dinner. (I didn't find out there where 70 pounds until I got there.) I thought we were going to have to soak them in the baptistery to keep them fresh until the next day. I was alone in the kitchen, and decided to use my new speaker gadget on my phone and kill two birds with one stone. I was enjoying a wonderful conversation,with my phone propped up on a bowl to be closer to my mouth, when as I turned to reach for another potato I heard a devastating noise. It was as jarring as hearing the front of a ship crashing into an iceberg. On the right day, in the right place, it could have been the sound of a frog leaping into his favorite pond. It could have been the sound of a precious saint being submerged into their watery grave of baptism. But it was instead the sound of a cell phone plunging into the depths of quarter inch peeled potatoes soaking in water. Roseanne was quickly replaced by Lucy. 24 hours after obtaining a new cell phone, I had committed the same crime I had been hanging over my husband's head for years. As my phone bubbled and sputtered I quickly sprung into action. I opened it up, placed it on a microwave safe plate, and prepared to nuke it dry, when I realized-----no, I didn't realize I would melt the circuitry. Instead I worried Chris would call and the phone would still be on speaker and he would hear the microwave beeping, or worse he would get ear cancer from the radioactive waves pouring from the microwave through my phone into his.
I laid the phone out to dry, and after a few a hours I heard a sort of bubbly ring.
"Hey, honey, I've been trying to call you. Have you had your phone off?"
"Sort of."
"What's the matter?"
"I had a little accident."
"Didn't what?"
"You dropped your phone in water didn't you?"
The man can't perceive when his wife needs a drink a water, when he's in the same room, but he can tell when she's messed up from clear across town!That stinks!
He was very understanding, well, smug would be a better word. I was very humbled. And the phone seemed to be fine.
Until this week.
My screen is gone. It's horrible! Do you know what it's like to answer a phone and not know whose on the other end?!!! I was reminded that was the way phones worked for years. I never realized how much planning and thought went into every phone call. I answer the phone differently according to whose calling.
Our pastor gets my best Ruth Graham voice, "Reeder Residence, where God Reigns Everyday."
The Prayer Chain gets my militant "ready to do battle in the heavenlies" voice.
My children get my "momma loves you and is trying really hard not to get aggravated because you've called me 10 times in 10 minutes" voice.
My husband gets my "I'm so tired, ask me if you can pick something up for dinner" voice.
Some of my perfect friends, get my " everything's peachy, you'll never know my house is a mess" voice.
And some people just get the " I'm not here leave a message at the beep" voice.
How fake is that? I can't even be real and genuine answering my telephone!
How I desperately need to be more Christ-like in my conversations. He was a Master Communicator.I realized that with Christ's omniscience (being all knowing), every person He spoke to- He already had their number. He knew every past, present, and future detail of their lives. Yet, with love and compassion He would weave a masterful conversation, patiently pulling them to draw the conclusion He already knew, or gently extracting information He already had, much like the woman at the well.
In the story of the rich young ruler, who vainly thought he had never broken any of the commandments, Jesus could have named the time, place,and motive of every commandment the young man had broken. But Mark 10:21 says, "Then Jesus beholding him, loved him". He knew how arrogant this man was. He knew he would not heed the advice to sell all he had. But Jesus doesn't avoid the call or conversation. He doesn't use a "I'm too busy to waste my time with someone who won't change" voice. Every conversation is treated with the same attention, time, and purposeful intent.
Christ's goal- each conversation presented an opportunity to change or grow an individual and He intended to make the most of it. Some embraced the opportunities, others, like the rich young ruler,didn't. Yet, all were given the 100% attention of the Master. He could be honest in His correction because He was even more liberal with His love. He revealed truths without causing others to become defensive. He slipped away when he could, but He was pleased to be found.
Imagine the change that could take place if we would be honest and open with one another.How often are our conversations gauged by what will it cost us, or what can be gained? Kissing up to that person, pacifying this person, avoiding that person, and yet chasing down another person.
I want desperately to have Christ-like conversations. To approach each one with a love, that the Father has for that individual. To give Christ an opportunity to use my lips to touch hearts and change lives through the spoken word. Imagine the thrill, if we knew that when we opened our mouths, Heaven grew quiet to hear another conversation that sounded so similar to ones they heard over 2000 years ago involving a Carpenter from Nazareth. Oh, to have dialogues that even the angels want to join!
SO yes, I have grown in my faith since bathing my phone. I have faith that no matter who calls, when I respond with God's love, He will direct the conversation if I am yielded and listening to His Spirit.
I have Faith From Potato Water, I can say in my "I'll try to do better, Lord" voice. Wait, my phone's ringing.. ahhhh, Lord can I start that love thing AFTER this call?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Baa's and Blah's

Daivid experienced a few "low" days in those early years with the sheep. Some of the most beautiful Psalms were born in those days of pouring out his heart in the midst of the congregation of "Baaaa, Baaaaaa." Of course I have my down days too, but everyone around me sounds more like, "blah, blah, blah".
What does a depressed chicken farmer look and act like? Here's the scoop so you'll know one when you see one. (OK this is more for my family and employees so they will recognize the symptoms and follow the protocol. Most likely you'll never meet a depressed chicken farmer.)
The signs are:
1. I wear my pajamas to the chicken house. I'm going to have to shower and change clothes anyway, why change twice.
2. While in the chicken house I seek out the lonely hens, those alone in their own suffering. I plop down on the wood chips ready to swap woes with my new friend. I quickly move on though, when I realize she is isolated because she is unconscious and will probably find relief before I do.
3. I encourage and empathize with the hens who are daily struggling to produce eggs receiving no appreciation or gratitude.
4. I grieve for the hens producing offspring that they will never meet or cuddle under their wings.
5. I am overwhelmed with sympathy for the hens because they have cycles DAILY not monthly.
6. I lecture the roosters for being unsupportive and oblivious to the needs around them.
7. I lecture the roosters for the large amounts of waste in inappropriate places. Two areas in the building 12 feet by 400 feet provided for their "personal" needs and they still use the area we walk in! When I use the phrase,"and put the seat back down!" I am met with blank bug eyed stares.
"It's a metaphor! But you know what I'm talking about!" ( I think I heard the toilet seat slammed down in the employee bathroom.)
8.I walk around the chicken house three times before I recognize the door.
9. I stand at the door and cry for an hour worried about what new burdens wait on the other side of the door.
10. I cry in fear that I might have locked myself in again.
11. I cry in relief when I find the door is not locked.
11. I cry in anxiety when I realize I have no excuse not to exit the door.
12. I cry because for the life of me, I can't figure out why God felt the need to put me in a chicken house with 30,000 chickens.
13. I cry because I can't stop crying.

I hate those days depression slips in and robs me of energy and motivation. It's like walking around in a cloud, and no one else can see the storm. I've been told to thank God, by faith, for the sun shining on me, while my downcast eyes can only see the dried mascara stains on my shirt, well, my pajamas, and my two mismatched socks, because I didn't have the energy to find matching ones. I've been told Christians shouldn't get depressed. My response, if you've never been depressed, you might not be saved. I would love to have seen David's face when a priest may have told him, "Your Highness, godly people don't get depressed." His response might have been, "Let's test that theory. You are hereby removed from the temple and banished to the field with the sheep. Here take a box of Kleenex, you're going to need it."
How would you describe the following people's probable mental state:
Adam and Eve their first day outside the Garden of Eden Gates.
Sarah's first glimpse of Abraham holding Ishmael as a newborn.
Abraham's three day journey to the Mount to sacrifice Isaac.
Jacob's first breakfast with his bride Leah.
Esau's dinner of leftover venison stew.
I would have to say one word sums it up-depressed.
I don't believe there is any shame in being depressed. But I do believe it is how a Christian handles depression that sets us apart from the world. We don't turn to alcohol, foul language, or ungodly behavior to deal with it. We consult our Great Physician, who in my case, led me to a godly physican. Together, the latter is allowing the former to guide and lead him in treating me. I have found that David's words become more than ink on a page, and more of the echo of my heart, as I relate to his heart, and find comfort in His God and mine. It is the Hope of what God can do with our present situation that sets us apart, and pulls us from the pit. It is the Light of God's Word that can still break through the darkest of fogs enveloping our minds. And it is the Love of God that finds us, keeps us, draws us, and joins us no matter where we are, however much like hell it may seem.

Psalms 16:10-11
"For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore."

If you are depressed....I am praying for you as you read this. ( I know. "blah, blah, blah.)
If you are not depressed....congratulations!

Hopefully, 7,000 hens will have a better tomorrow because I straighted out the males in their lives today...... only 1 more male to go. Oh, honey.......

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Lord Giveth, and the Hairdresser Taketh Away

When I was little, God gave me beautiful strawberry blonde hair. As I have aged, God removed His hand of blessing from my scalp, and left me with sort of a dingy brown color. Yesterday, I tried to get my former glory back, by enlisting the help of my hairdresser. "Make it brighter," I requested. Apparently, there are different and varying degrees of brightness. There is a sort of sun kissed touch, a bleach bottle shine, and what I now know to be the"somebody didn't get their pool chemicals right" radioactive glow.
As long as I can remember, I have had this sort of tomenting spirit, that since it cannot gain access to my mind, has attached itself to my hair. I have had more outer cranium tragedies than you can count. I went to my first piano recital at age 7 with hair the golden girls would have been embarrassed to wear. Never get your hair done in a salon where they offer you Ensure instead of water, or where there is a crash cart next to the hair dryers. My hair was curled and poofed in true Barbara Bush style. My piano teacher didn't even recognize me under the hair, and I really don't think she placed who I was until I started playing the piano.
I have had such tragic hair cuts, that the stylist has actually "remembered" a coupon that entitles the holder to a free haircut. A "Get Out of Jail Free Card" if you will. I, of course, was imprisoned by that haircut for 6 weeks, and on probation for another four weeks, waiting for rough edges to even out.
I have had haircuts by stylists not allowed to use the curling irons, and highlights by stylists not allowed to use the foil. I am not kidding. It's like hiring a chauffeur that can't drive at night, or a Chef that's not allowed to use the stove. Why do I stay in these situations and not just leave to find more qualified professionals? Fear. I don't want to offend them or insult them. I want everybody to feel good.. even the hair stylist who sent me home in the middle of winter with a wet head because she needed time to fix her own hair before she got off work. I hope she had a great evening while I was home nursing my cold.
So here I am... Jennifer the blonde. I feel ridiculous. My daughter informed me the minute the foil fell from my golden locks that I was in serious trouble. She informed the hairdresser the color was all wrong. Goldilocks was getting a little nervous about meeting Papa Bear at home. When I beheld my image in the mirrir I knew I would be finding out just how good baby bear's bed slept that night. I got in the car and thought I left the dome light on-it was my hair brightening the whole car. I wonder if being able to save on the electric bill would be a good selling point for my husband.
And now tomorrow, I must go to church. I might wear a hat, and call it a trial run for Easter. I wonder if I could possibly get by with the "Moses Motif" and wear a veil hiding the overwhelming glory of God radiating from my hair.
There are a few mistakes we cannot hide from anyone, hair-tastrophes being one. Everyone is going to know my dilemma when I emerge from the vehicle in the church parking lot in the morning. Most will say nothing because they will not know if my hair was intentional or tragic, planned or a surprise. Sort of the way it was when I started showing when I was pregnant with my third child in 3 years. Only the most bold will comment on my poor choices and only the most godly will rejoice with me in my new season of life-regardless of how I got here. (I might add my family was not near as godly as I had hoped.)
And so I wait. I endure the looks. I avoid the mirrors. And I wait. Someday it will fade, or grow out, or possibly fall out. But it will pass.
I think we all desire to be full of God's glory, or to bear marks of His glory- but when it comes from a bottle and not His Spirit- it's just tacky. It draws the wrong attention, and does little for His cause. You cannot manufacture God's Glory. I have never seen an Easter Pageant-no matter how many millions of dollars were spent- that could truly capture God's Glory on Resurrection Morning. Man-made effects can never duplicate supernatural Glory! We might get a little tingle from man's exhaustive efforts to mirror God's Glory, but God's Glory at just a minute glimpse, takes man's breath away, causes mountains to crumble, stones to cry out with deafening worship, and graves to bursts forth with life.
I don't want a cheap imitation of God's Glory in my life. Give me the real deal! The latest bestseller, the newest worship tape, the most magnetic preaching cannot bring the change about. It can fuel the desire for it, and even reveal a path to it... but ultimately it is a one on One experience. The Potter and the clay. His feet, your Alabaster Box. Your grave, HIS LIFE!
I don't know where you are today. I know I have learned that in the most innocent of decisions I am still human and carnal flesh. I cannot escape it. I can only learn from it, and grow through it, and hope to emerge changed for the better on the other side. I really feel from the depths of my soul, that God can teach us through every circumstance in our lives- every event however small or massive can bear His fingerprints. When life leaves you stunned- strive to become a stunning display of His faithfulness. When life leaves you broken- break out in song and worship! Even the smallest of burdens can be made into monuments of God's Grace and Glory.
What a thrill when I can enter a dwelling and have people say, " What's different about you?", and know it goes beyond the hair, to a deeper level- God's Glory radiating from within.
2 Cor. 3:18 "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord are changed into the same image from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord."
Change me God from Glory to Glory!
Tomorrow I will head to church. I know the hairs of my head are numbered in Heaven, and I am assuming the color is also documented, I only hope the records in Heaven have been successfully changed. I would hate for Heaven not to recognize me, like my piano teacher.
I can picture myself hitting the alter, broken over situations in my life, and Heaven's choirs' rejoicing in the new soul coming home as the Father says...
"Never mind... it's just Jennifer.. get me recordkeeping on line 1."