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.......