The Bull Fight and the Illiterate Sea Turtle

All I wanted was to get to the beach.  A string of unfortunate events had put us an hour behind schedule, and now I faced a stack of interlocked carriages at the grocery store.  Crammed tightly together, the red carts looked like a line of menacing, hunchbacked bulls awaiting their next victim.  As I tugged at the first carriage, I had the sinking feeling I was about to participate in my first Running of the Bulls.

The carriages were jammed, but the craziness of the morning had filled me with the confidence of a matador.  Granted, I didn’t have a red cape or a sword, but I glanced around for the only weapon I needed:  a sanitary wipe.  None in sight.  Barehanded, I attacked the tangled bulls and tried not to notice that a line had formed behind me, and the arena was now surrounded by a crowd of surly shoppers.  Not to mention the security camera which could land me on YouTube.

I didn’t want to give up my fight, but time was ticking, so I humbly accepted a stray cart being offered by an elderly store assistant. Slinking into the store, I walked about five hundred feet and noticed a station of sanitary wipes.  Great. Now that my flesh has completely melded with the handle, they offer me a wipe.

As to be expected, my cart had a wobbly wheel.  This was no day to end up with the Flintstone carriage, but I was not about to engage in another fight with the bulls.  My kids were becoming impatient, and I just wanted to get in and out quickly.  Except now I couldn’t find the almonds, and I walked through the maze of the store like Theseus searching for the Minotaur.

I couldn’t find any staff member to help me, because there are two types of shopping experiences.  The first is when you are just trying to browse, but an officious sales clerk leeches to your back.  And sometimes, like this particular morning, the aisles are filled with nothing but tumbleweeds and the eerie cricket-chirping of a ghost town.

When I finally made it to the checkout, I noticed that my cashier was wearing a cross with Jesus on it.  “I like your necklace,” I said.  “I’m a Christian, too.”

She self-consciously clutched her necklace and replied,  “Whenever I have stress, I grab it and know that everything is going to be okay.”

I suddenly realized that I was not having such a bad day after all.  It was a fighting-with-bulls-kind of day, but hardly a dying-on-the-cross kind of day.

Jesus never promised that our days would be perfect, but he did promise his peace.

John 15:27

My peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

When we finally arrived at the beach, the warm breeze tingled my nose with salt air, and my troubles drowned in the depths of the sapphire sea.  As we moved toward the water, the kids spotted a sea turtle on the shore.  We ran to get a closer look, but I soon sensed that something was terribly wrong.  Maybe it was the flies swarming around the turtle’s glassy eyes.  Or maybe it was the turtle’s entrails strewn two feet from its body.  I’m no crime scene investigator, but I recognize a butcher job when I see one.

“She’s dead,” Luke, my six-year-old, profoundly announced.

Our semi-circle formed a makeshift funeral around this mommy turtle who had given her life for her eggs.  We had just studied a unit on sea turtles, and we had read about the untimely death of many of these sea creatures.  The book had tried to console children by mentioning the passing of laws to protect these turtles, but Luke had asked the Question of the Year:

“But Mommy, if the sea turtles and other animals can’t read, how can they follow the laws?”

Only a child could think of such an insightful question, for it makes no sense for humans to post laws and assume that the laws of God’s animal kingdom would magically change.

Another group of kids spotted the dead turtle, but they were not as quick to grasp reality.  Two older children started running and screaming, “Water!  Get water!  Call the rescue!  Somebody help!”  They only stopped acting like a circus clown act when their much younger brother examined the turtle, licked his ice cream, and announced, “Guys!  I think you’re too late.”

My children seemed so full of life as I watched them frolic in the sand and sea.  Their vitality was only highlighted by the lifeless turtle beside us.  That hapless creature was a great reminder of the fragility of life.

Psalm 90:12

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

I dug my toes into the warm sand and breathed deeply. This had only been a late-for-the-beach kind of day, not a dead-on-the-beach-with-entrails-removed kind of day.

All I had wanted was to get to the beach.  Thanks to a reminder from an illiterate sea turtle, my day was redeemed.

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A Conversation With Celery

No matter how you try to dress up a piece of celery, it’s just plain boring.  You could fill it with caviar and garnish it with gold, but anybody with an I.Q. greater than an amoeba  could see through the disguise.  When you pick up a limp piece of celery, it flops over like an arthritic old man on a rainy Monday morning. Celery is depressing; it’s the Eeyore of vegetables.

The other day I was speaking with someone who reminded me of celery.  I was fighting to pay attention, but all I could imagine was a limp piece of celery with hair and a face.  When it was my turn to respond, I was suddenly in an episode of Veggie Tales, and I had to refrain myself from bursting into a rousing rendition of  “The Dance of the Cucumber.”  On the drive home, it dawned on me that one of my primary duties as a parent is to ensure that my children develop personalities greater than a stalk of celery.

Of all the interesting personalities in the Bible, David is my favorite.  Maybe that’s because he was a “man after God’s own heart,” which would certainly add flavor to anyone’s personality.  David was the life of the party, a man who could play the harp, fight off giants, and run a kingdom in his spare time.

When Samuel had to select the next king over Israel, he invited Jesse and his sons to the sacrifice to choose the Lord’s anointed one.  One by one, Jesse’s sons walked the runway, but Samuel couldn’t find the right guy.  I love the fact that David wasn’t there.  He was off tending the sheep, so Samuel had to send for him.  Casual and unassuming, ruddy and handsome, David showed up late to the party and made his appearance all the more dramatic.  A green pepper in the midst of celery.

DAVID: (humming) La la la la la…huh? Hey, everybody!  What are you doing here?  (Samuel pours oil over his head) Whoa!

SAMUEL:  I anoint you in the name of the Lord.  The power of the Lord is now upon you.

DAVID:  Cool!  Let’s go kill some giants!

David had the X factor, and he even played the harp.  That’s kind of like that moment on American Idol when you love someone’s voice, and then one week they suddenly whip out a guitar and show a whole new talent.  Saul had an evil spirit tormenting him, and his attendants knew that music would heal his soul.  I can only imagine the initial suggestions.

ATTENDANT 1:  I’m learning how to play the pan flute.

ATTENDANT 2:  My four-year-old can play the glockenspiel.

SAUL:  You’re both fired.  Anyone else have a less idiotic suggestion?

1 Samuel 16:18

One of the servants answered, “I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the harp.  He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man.  And the LORD is with him.” 

From this one suggestion, we learn many great qualities of David.  He was so likeable that Saul chose him to be one of his armor-bearers.  When Goliath, the Philistine giant, was terrorizing the Israelites, David was the only one willing to fight him.  Goliath had a little too much personality; he was more like a jalapeño pepper.  Sure, anyone could have killed Goliath with a 12-gauge shotgun.  David did it with a stone and a sling.  One shot to the forehead. Goodbye.  Apparently just killing Goliath was too ordinary, so David sliced off his head and carried it around with him for a while.  Maybe used it in a ventriloquist act.

My favorite “David moment” is when he returned with the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem.

2 Samuel 6:14

David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might.

David made this move popular way before Tom Cruise danced in his underwear.  But his wife Michal was disgusted by his public display of unbridled joy.  David’s response shows the origin of his zeal.

2 Samuel 6:21

It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD’s people Israel –

I will celebrate before the LORD.

David had such a fervor for God that it bubbled up and boiled over into an ebullient display of elation.  His love was not hindered by ritualistic worship or a phony display of passion for the Lord.  He did not have to try too hard to be funny or interesting; his personality evolved from genuine love and enthusiasm.

The other night my kids were getting ready for bed when a song on the radio made them start to dance.

“Hey, this song is about JESUS!” my four-year-old announced.

Throwing hands up in the air and dancing around the room in their underwear,  they had no idea how silly they looked, nor did they care.  It had been a rough day, the kind where I second-guessed my abilities as a parent.  But as I watched their spontaneous, uninhibited dance of joy, I thought of David’s celebration and smiled.

Somewhere in between celery and a jalapeño is all I ask.