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.

Insurance for Job

After dealing with various insurance agents all week, I have now come to the conclusion that we should just sell all of our belongings and go live in a tent on a deserted island.  Apparently there are 20,000 to 30,000 islands in the South Pacific, and that’s only because some poor guy got tired of counting.  We could just pick an uninhabited island and show up, although we might land on shore only to be greeted by the Aflac duck, seeking to insure us from the hazards of falling coconuts.

Insurance agents are always concerned about risks, but they never seem to be too worried about the fact that I have three young kids, including two boys who make a team more formidable than a cyclone.  I risk my life every time I turn a corner in our house and delve into an unknown landmine field of toys.

Just last night I was cooking dinner at the stove, when I stepped back onto my four-year-old’s train set.  Even while I feared for my life, I was briefly impressed that PlaySkool trains have even better velocity than Amtrak.  Then again, Amtrak trains don’t rappel you towards the top of a flight of stairs while holding a scalding pot of meatball soup.

Insurance agents are far too worried about an ACT OF GOD, when they should be  more concerned with an ACT OF CHILD.  They are more anxious about the improbability of a random asteroid hitting my house than they are with the very real probability that I could break my leg on a Matchbox car at any moment.

People who lived during biblical times did not have to worry about insurance.  No premiums, no deductibles, no claims.  We know this because there’s no way they would have let Mary, a nine-month pregnant woman, ride on a donkey.

I can just hear the insurance agent harassing Noah for attempting to build the ark.

AGENT:  Let me get this straight; it’s going to rain for forty days and nights, and you have no flood insurance?  You’re in a flood zone, for crying out loud.

NOAH:  Actually, the whole earth is a flood zone right now.

AGENT:  You realize you won’t be able to file a claim when this is all over.

NOAH:  When this is over, you won’t be able to file a claim either.

AGENT:  What’s that supposed to mean?

NOAH:  Oh, nothing.  Was that a raindrop?  Gotta go!

And how about David, about to attack Goliath without any personal liability insurance?

AGENT:  You’re going to attack HIM?  You could get sued!  A crazy guy like that could totally lose his head.

DAVID:  Hey, now there’s an idea…

Then there are some people, like Job, who just seem uninsurable.

Job was a righteous man who once had it all.  He had a huge number of servants and livestock.  His house could have been destroyed by the thousands of sheep and oxen, but he also had ten children, including seven boys.  Not even State Farm would have been there for Job.  Especially not after Satan started inflicting one disaster after another, causing Job to lose his family, his house, and his health.

During this time, Job’s three “friends” came to commiserate and offer their sage advice.  Unfortunately, their advice was about as useful as an umbrella in a hurricane.

Bummer, Job.  Guess you should have bought that insurance after all, hahaha.

The only one who was really there for Job through it all was God.

Job 42:10,12

the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had  before…The LORD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first.

Excuse me?  Who would take a chance on someone who has already lost everything?

That’s exactly what God did when He decided to sacrifice His son for us.  He gave us free will, knowing the risks involved with our human nature.  Being omniscient, God saw the potential for disaster and wisely set up the very first insurance policy of his own.  Even if everything possible went wrong and every person in the world gave up on us, God has already purchased us through the blood of Jesus Christ.  A true umbrella policy.

Yesterday my four-year-old came to me looking for the “big scissors.”  I didn’t want him to get hurt, so I refused, but he persisted until he wore me down.  After being reminded  never to run with scissors, he agreed and then promptly ran up the stairs, sharp scissors in hand.  In an instant I saw what we must all look like to God.  A bunch of children running with scissors and constantly putting ourselves at risk.

Thankfully, the same God who insured the uninsurable Job has got us all covered.

Hanging By a Thread

The Prodigal Son may be a story of forgiveness, but to some people it is also a story about a loose tooth.  Okay, only to me, but with good reason. 

Luke, my six-year-old, had his front tooth loose and hanging by a thread for months, with no end in sight.  Every day brought more certainty that this tooth was with us for the long haul.  Through graduations, weddings, and funerals, The Tooth would be there as an inextricable part of our family. I’ve seen bull dogs with less tenacity. 

Every time Luke smiled at me, I saw his future before me in a flash.  In every scene, he still sported a dangling, loose front tooth.  Every milestone picture captured it:  driver’s license, prom, even holding his first child.

Then there was my recurring nightmare of his wedding.  In front of friends and family, Luke stood at the altar, exceedingly handsome with his surfer-blond hair and strapping physique.  He turned to greet his lovely bride and smiled.  The crowd gasped in horror at the sight of his dangling, bloody tooth.  He lisped, “I, Luke Hanthon, take thee…”

I felt a terrible sense of guilt as a mother.  When Luke got his first tooth at one year,  my heart gushed over how adorable he looked. Now I just wanted to grab a pair of pliers and yank.

When a child has a loose tooth, the rest of the family hangs in the balance.  In the middle of all this dental madness, I happened to be reading the story of the Prodigal Son.  Of course, this name was just assigned to him over time; it wasn’t actually his nickname.  It’s not like his father referred to him this way in the Christmas newsletter.  This year our Prodigal Son decided that my hard-earned money really must grow on trees so why not waste it all and have nothing to show for it.  We’re so proud.

The Prodigal Son demanded all of his inheritance at once and then led a more scandalous lifestyle than a Hollywood bad boy.  Once he hit rock bottom, he had to take a job as a pig feeder.  The only thing worse than getting a job as the Director of Pig Slop is the poor guy who didn’t get the job.

One day when the pig slop started looking tasty, the son came to his senses.  Filled with guilt and remorse, he returned to his father.  By this point he must have been looking quite gaunt and scraggly, not to mention in desperate need of a shower.  On the journey home,  he probably imagined his neighbors and family lined along the village streets and taunting him.  Hey, Bones!  Here’s some slop–you want some fries with that? Hahahahaha! Oink, oink! 

The only thing that could save this wretched man was redemption by his father.  His father had every right to be angry and hold a grudge against his son.  Instead, being filled with compassion, he ran to his son and buried the sin with his love and forgiveness.  When the son’s life was hanging by a thread, the father was able to cut the cord that tied him to his pain. 

Sometimes we just need Daddy to save us.

We were eating lunch when I noticed Luke’s loose tooth was starting to bleed.  Against Luke’s wishes, it was time for Daddy to intervene.  Dave had no choice but to end everyone’s agony and cut the cord…er, thread, that held us all in bondage.  It was a bloody scene, but one that brought great deliverance for us all, especially our son.  He now had a huge gap in his mouth, but he smiled with relief from the pain.

It reminded me of all the times in my life when I’ve been hanging on to something painful, and all I needed was the loving touch of my Father to help me let go.  God is ready with his trusty pliers; all we need to do is let Him do His work.

The day after the impromptu tooth surgery, I heard Luke crying in his room. 

“What’s the matter?” I asked. 

Nothing could have prepared me for the squeaky answer from the other side of the door:

“My other front tooth is loose!”

 

A Movie to Make Men Flee

Samson was the strongest man in the Bible, which is impressive considering the fact that he didn’t even have a gym membership.  He makes the air-conditioned health club look like a playground.  Nowadays most guys pump iron while admiring themselves in a mirror, but Samson ripped his muscles the old-fashioned way, by tearing apart lions with his bare hands.  I’ve never seen that move at the gym, although once I saw a guy viciously tear apart the wrapper of a protein bar. 

Samson also happened to have long hair, a look that normally can only be pulled off by Conan the Barbarian or Fabio.  Put simply, Samson had what every Hollywood casting agent desires. The story of his life should be the greatest blockbuster hit of all time. But when you examine his story more closely, a woman would have to really convince her man to see this movie. 

WIFE:  Let’s go see that new movie, Samson.

HUSBAND:  What’s it about?

WIFE:  Um, I’m guessing by the title, a guy named Samson?

HUSBAND:  Thank you, Captain Obvious.  I mean is there action?  And does the action outweigh the dialogue by a ratio of 5 to 1?

WIFE:  The movie trailer showed lots of blood and violence. 

That’s because the movie trailer could never include the shocking truth of the story of Samson.  No guy in his right mind would ever want to hear it.

Imagine the voice; you know the one – the booming, familiar voice of the movie trailer narrator.  It’s always the same voice, which explains why there are so many starving actors out there.

MELODRAMATIC VOICE:  One man….with strength like none other… Only one thing could bring him down…One. Nagging. Woman.

Samson’s ruin came when he put his trust in a woman named Delilah, which might be the Hebrew name for “shrew.”  Delilah constantly tried to persuade Samson to tell her the source of his strength so that the Philistines could capture him.  That’s the kind way of saying it. 

Judges 16:16

With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was tired to death.

Samson eventually caved and told her that his strength was in his hair.  Confiding in a woman was one mistake.  But telling a woman that he had superior hair was the kiss of death. 

If there was true justice in this world, Samson should have been given his own line of luxury hair products.  Instead, he was betrayed by the woman he loved and then suffered a humiliating death after having his eyes gouged out.  I can just hear the male population fleeing in horror from the movie cinema.

Even though the story of Samson resembles a soap opera plot, it serves as a reminder that we should always put our trust in God, not people.  A painful lesson that my family learned the hard way this week.

Someone actually betrayed our trust, and the worst part was having to tell my children that the exciting plans we had promised them were coming to a grinding halt.  With tears streaming down my face, I prayed and agonized over how to break the news.  I just couldn’t bear to break their hearts, so I decided to lovingly hand the job over to my husband.  I’m expecting a “thank you” card any moment now.

Dave sat the children down and began by explaining that there are evil people in this world.  Mean people who will even hurt innocent children without remorse.  The kids listened attentively while their Daddy lowered the bad-news boom.  As I braced myself for screaming and crying,  I barely heard Grace’s sweet voice tinkling like wind chimes through the storminess of my mind.

“Oh well, I guess God must have a better plan for us.” 

Hurt, denial, grief, rage.  A myriad of unpleasant emotions had washed over me that day, but Grace chose to drown in God’s love and faithfulness.  I had been wallowing in anger, yet my seven-year-old knew exactly where to place her focus. 

Psalm 146:5-6

Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save…Blessed is he… whose hope is in the LORD his God, the maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them – the LORD, who remains faithful forever.

The world is full of Delilahs.  They crack open our hearts with the guise of sincerity and leave us with the empty shells of their meaningless words.  Thankfully, we do not have to accept the same sad fate as Samson.  Through Jesus, we have been given strength not only in our hair, but in every fragment of our being, and all we have to do is trust in the Almighty.  I always love a movie with a happy ending.

Tile Grout Pancakes with No Substitutions

So many of my life lessons have come from mistakes, that at times I feel like a human eraser.  Instead of footprints in the sand, I leave eraser crumbs.  Maybe they were meant to be my legacy, kind of like how Washington has his monument and Jefferson has his memorial. If people actually travel to see the World’s Largest Ball of Twine, then perhaps they would enjoy my Biggest Pile of Crumbs. 

Of course, my biggest pile of crumbs has actually been in my kitchen.  It seems I have a little trouble sticking to a recipe.  Part of my problem is my annoyance with superfluous directions. 

  •        Take out of oven.  Serve.  Have any autopsies shown that a person actually died waiting by the oven for days, watching and wondering what to do?
  •        Serve and Enjoy.  What else are you supposed to do with it?  Keep it in the pan and despise it?
  •        Serve naked or with whipped cream.  What?  This is a Christian household, for crying out loud.  Oh, the dessert. 

My other problem is ignoring the rule “No substitutions.”  I recently studied the cookbook of a renowned bakery chef, who, in an act of extraordinary benevolence, decided to share her sacred recipes with the world.  She must have attended military boot camp, because in her strict guidelines she warns not to go substituting ingredients, or “If you do, you are asking for trouble.”  With shaking hands, I locked the doors and dimmed the lights, preparing to substitute several of the ingredients in her recipe for “World’s Best Pancakes.”

As I started adding things here and subtracting things there, I recalled a verse that warns of not following the rules of a “recipe”:

Deuteronomy 4:2

Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it,

but keep the commands of the LORD your God…

I was slightly concerned when the pancake batter seemed more suitable for grouting my shower tiles.  After dumping it on the griddle, my concern grew exponentially with the rising of the grout/batter.   Something was clearly wrong, here.  My pancakes were coming to life and resembling a high school chemistry lab experiment. 

My anxiety must have been obvious, for I heard my five-year-old son’s voice behind me:

“God, thank you that these pancakes turn out to be the best pancakes ever.”  Soon all three of the kids were praying for the pancakes. 

Now why hadn’t I thought of that?  I prayed, too, for God to give me guidance to fix this mess.  Or at least to fix the chipped tile grout in the shower.

I was inspired to do the unthinkable.  It was a moment of mind over batter.  I gathered the half-cooked pancakes, squished them all together in a heap, and dropped them in balls on the griddle.  It’s too bad there were no contests that week for “Ugliest Pancakes,” for our fireplace mantel would now be decorated with a fancy blue ribbon. 

I served the “pancakes,”   knowing there was no way my children were going to eat these things.  I sat back and cringed as they took the first bite.

“Mommy, these are the best pancakes ever!”

“Can you make these every day?”

“Can we have more?”

While devouring my “World’s Best Tile Grout Pancakes,” I realized that I had learned my lesson, and not just about following recipes.

Mistakes come when we veer off the path of God’s instructions.  In the words of Cookbook Lady, “If you do, you are asking for trouble.”  Only through prayer can He take our ugly results and turn them into something worthwhile.

Deuteronomy 4:30

When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you…

you will return to the LORD your God and obey him.

For the LORD your God is a merciful God…

Yes, God is truly merciful. Never underestimate the power of a prayed-for pancake.

  • Take out of griddle.
  • Serve with maple syrup and eraser crumbs. 
  •  And no substitutions, please.

A Shot in the Arm for a Lamb

How did we survive twelve or more years of schooling without being taught about the microscopic magnets inside the shinbone and the big toe?  Even with my limited science background, I have deduced that these body parts are attracted to some sort of magnetic field surrounding sharp corners on furniture.  We are warned not to run with scissors or eat paste, but none of that has helped me in life. I would have appreciated a warning about keeping a twenty-foot radius between my leg and the corner of the bed frame.  

This week I injured myself on two different pieces of furniture.  Feeling down about myself, I uttered the self-ascribed nickname “Clumsy Oaf” and then deliberated for a few minutes about what in the world an “oaf” is and why it is so much fun to say.  After snapping back to reality, I realized that the problem does not really reside in me, but in the manufacturing companies.  Furniture manuals give elaborate diagrams and details about the parts required for assembly.  Not once have I seen parts labeled Toe Stubber and Shin Splitter.  Hello, Freedom of Information Act, anyone?

I’m not exactly proud about how I handled the pain.  As I was crying out and leaping in circles like a one-legged grasshopper in a circus act, I suddenly pictured Jesus on the cross.  My histrionics came to a grinding halt when I realized he had remained silent even while his entire body was tortured. 

Isaiah 53:7

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth;

he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers in silent, so he did not open his mouth.

In his brave endurance, Jesus left us some sage advice:  Take it like a lamb.

This week was also my four-year-old Nate’s annual checkup, and he was due for a shot.  If there is one thing I hate more than being in pain, it is seeing my children in pain.  As he stood waiting for the nurse to arrive, he looked so small and vulnerable in his Spiderman underwear.  All of his cuteness culminated in his protruding belly button, which I just wanted to beep like a car horn, but he had other plans. He called me over to his side and whispered in my ear. 

“I’m concerned.”  His blue eyes watered and swelled to the size of hard-boiled eggs. 

It’s funny how people can condescend to children, when here was the perfect example of a man’s heart living in a little boy’s body.  No need to patronize this guy.

“The shot is going to hurt,” I told him.  “But it won’t hurt for long.  I believe you can take it like a man.”

He nodded in agreement, as the nurse entered and prepared her portable torture chamber.  She asked me to have him look away, but my post-40 reflexes must have taken over, and I couldn’t react in time.  Oh, no.  He’s going to scream.  I braced myself for the worst. 

The needle entered Nate’s arm, and he was completely still.  I had witnessed the “calm before the storm” many times, the deafening silent scream which precedes the actual one.  But this storm must have gone out to sea, because nothing happened.  He just sat there and endured the pain without a sound or a tear. 

Try as I might, I could not help but flash back to my earlier injuries and the ensuing circus acts.  Here was my four-year-old, rubbing his Winnie the Pooh Band-Aid and grinning with pride at his bravery and fortitude. 

“Mommy, I took it like a man!”

No, my dear.  You took it like a lamb.

 

 

Jacob and the Last Brownie

A brownie can cause people to do crazy things.  In the scope of history, who knows how many conflicts escalated over a fight for the last brownie.  The Bay of Pigs.  The Cold War.  No one really knows for sure.  

Even in biblical times food caused tension between people, including brothers. Jacob and Esau bargained over lentil stew, and eventually Esau sold his birthright over it.  A conflict over stew is hard to fathom.  If Jacob had the last fudge brownie, then maybe I could understand.

You can see how much more clearly this would read:

Once after Jacob had baked some brownies, Esau came in from the field, famished.  He took one whiff and said to Jacob, “Betty Crocker?”

“No,” replied Jacob.  “Duncan Hines.”

“Chewy?”

 “Double Fudge.  Only one left.”

“Quick,” begged Esau, “Let me have that last brownie.”

Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.”

So Esau swore an oath to him.  He ate the brownie and drank some milk, and then got up and left.  So Esau despised his birthright.

Sibling rivalry can be traced back to Cain and Abel, and it doesn’t take a CSI agent to figure out how that fight ended.  The first brotherhood of all time ended in a murder and an ominous beginning for family relationships. One would hope that the first murder must have been motivated by some grand ideology, but even the Candy Man would have trouble sugarcoating this one. God favored Abel’s meat offering over Cain’s Grains, and Cain flipped his lid.

When you read that morbid record, it chills the bones to think that the first sibling fight was over something so insignificant.  I could understand an argument over land or treasure, but food?  This does not bode well for family gatherings where one member feels compelled to bring the lima bean casserole. 

Our kids fight over the strangest things, from ants to toothpaste caps.  Since ancient times, people have always found things worth fighting for, no matter how mundane.  I have personally witnessed near-maulings at bargain basement sales.  Sometimes there is just no talking common sense into people, no matter how hard we try.

God tried to reason with Cain.

Genesis 4:7

…But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.

Cain listened to the pep talk and then promptly left to kill his brother.  That went well.  Dave and I have often held family meetings and given our children sage advice that will improve their lives forever.  Immediately following the family meeting, we always follow the same agenda :

  1. Pat ourselves on back.
  2. Feel great about our parenting skills.
  3. Watch as kids walk away and repeat very actions we just told them not to do.
  4. Scrape egos off floor.

One day our kids were fighting over who should get the last macaroon.  I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I popped the treat in my mouth, thereby settling the argument in a mature manner.  The kids sat in shock for a moment, with mouths agape like a row of snoring grandfathers, and then they went off to play together as though nothing had happened.

The one silver lining to our kids fighting is that I get a glimpse at how much it breaks God’s heart when His grownup children fight.  The reasons are never much better than “lentil stew.”  But at least kids know how to let it go.  Even though our kids fight with each other, they drop it faster than I can say “family meeting.” 

Adults, on the other hand, let grievances fester like an ugly boil.  We know that sin is crouching at the door, and we put out the welcome mat.  But God is watching as a concerned parent, and He desires His children to walk in love. Nothing should get in the way of loving our neighbor.  Not lentil stew, and as hard as it is to believe, not even the last brownie.

Moses Takes I-95

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away from Interstate 95, my husband and I vacationed on the exotic shores of Mexico and in the tropical paradise of the Caribbean.  Our vacations included verbs such as “frolic” and “relax.”  A good vacation was measured by the number of steps from the plane to the warm sand and surf.  Now that God has blessed us with children, our vacation vocabulary has expanded to include “family discounts,” ” mini-golf,” and  “kids menu.”

After an eight year hiatus, we finally decided that it was time to pack up our things and the kids and venture out on the highway.  Our trip began with a 12 1/2 hour car ride, which was piquantly described by Trip Tik as “7 hours, 15 minutes.”  That won’t be too bad, I thought, as the people at AAA snickered behind my back. 

In case you are wondering why we did not just get on a plane, try to imagine my plane dream sequence with children kicking seats, fighting and screaming, as the pilot hits the EJECT button.

I figured if Moses could survive wandering in the desert for forty years with the whining and petulant children of Israel, then I could endure the backseat shenanigans of my own kids for half a day.  As we started on our journey, I panicked, flashing back to the time one of the kids whined, “Are we there yet?” before we had even left the driveway.

I did not think the kids would last long being strapped in upright and looking as awkward and uncomfortable as NASA astronauts on the space shuttle. I missed the days of yore when my parents tossed us to the wind and we rolled like tumbleweeds in the vast desert-like way back of our 1970s brown station wagon.

To my surprise, the kids lasted the entire journey with hardly a whine.  They were so excited to reach our destination that they hardly noticed the grueling ride. I thought about Noah and Abraham, and the great men and women of faith mentioned in the Bible. 

Hebrews 11:15-16

If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return.

Instead, they were longing for a better country-a heavenly one.

When you set your sights on a better future, you tend not to focus on the ugliness of your surroundings.  Poor Moses, stuck in a traffic jam on the I-95 of Biblical times, must have survived by his great faith in God’s ability to find him the right exit.  He was a man who knew how to have forward thinking.

Hebrews 11:26-27

He (Moses) regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.

By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.

Thanks to the lesson from my children, I was able to ignore the more unpleasant aspects of our trip, and focus on our destination.  As we endured one traffic jam and accident after another on the interstate, I marveled at the beauty of God’s plan.

Once upon a time we vacationed in paradise.  And soon, we will live there forever, happily ever after.  The End.

 

Angels and Wobbly Rocks

I have become somewhat of an expert on rocks.  Some people can look at a rock and tell you if it is igneous or sedimentary, and even characterize it according to the Mohs Scale of Hardness.  But what good will that do you?  I can look at a rock and tell you whether it is just small enough to get sucked up in the vacuum cleaner.  I can tell you which ones will get stuffed in tiny pockets just in time to go through the laundry cycle.  And most of all, I can identify which ones will get lodged in a child’s windpipe and win you a free trip to the emergency room while you are trying to make dinner.

My rock classifications are based on their potential to wreak havoc.  How much damage can the rock do?  Can it be thrown through a window or at someone’s head?  Will it trip me if left in the middle of the living room floor?  That being said, my favorite rock is the Rock of Gibraltar.  It’s nice to look at, but you can’t fit it in a pocket, swallow it, or throw it. 

During a recent leave of our senses, my husband Dave and I decided to take our three young children for a three-mile hike along rock cliffs.  Before you worry too much, please note that any fall would be cushioned by plunging seventy feet into the Atlantic.  Two-thirds of the path is in easy walking condition.  The other third, designed to give mothers heart failure, is a rough trail over the rocky shore line.  You have to scramble from rock to rock, and even with good shoes, the rock surfaces can be very slippery.

If I had my way, my children would stay in a playpen until college.  But they insist on being fed, and thus continue to grow in leaps and bounds.  Somehow I had let them out and ended up on the cliffs, watching them leap from rock to rock, and praying that God would protect them from the endless unpleasant possibilities. 

As we walked along the path, I discovered that rocks are God’s gift to boys, who then re-gift the rocks to their mothers as a sign of affection.  With each rock gift, I would classify it according to Mom’s Scale of Damage, and either keep it or accidentally drop it down the cliff.  Everything was going smoothly until the Land of Wobbly Rocks.

The person who was in front was the designated “scout” and owned the responsibility of shouting a warning to all when they reached a wobbly rock.  The rest of us would then adjust our paths to avoid the danger.  Any job description involving shouting is a perfect fit for a child.  During one section of the path, there was so much shouting going on that the nightly news probably reported a sudden inexplicable mass migration of sea creatures. 

I learned that when you step on a wobbly rock, your anatomy suddenly shifts to allow room in your stomach for your heart.  Our children demonstrated how to avoid those rocks with gusto and a dash of healthy fear. As we struggled along, I imagined angels trying to cover our walk along the “wobbly rocks” of life.  After all, God commanded his angels to guard us in all of our ways, and assured us that “they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” (Psalm 91:11-12)

ANGEL 1:  No! Don’t step there!

ANGEL 2:  (swooping in to the rescue) I got it!  

ANGEL 1:  (high-five to Angel 2) Oh yeah! What a save!  Let’s watch the instant replay. 

ANGEL 2:  Maybe now she’ll take the secure path.

ANGEL 1:  Don’t look now, but…WOBBLY ROCK!!!!…

During our treacherous hike, I was reminded that “the LORD is my rock.” (Psalm 18:2)  I know  that without Him, my life would sink to the bottom of those rocky cliffs.  But I think we could at least make life a little easier for our angels and keep off the wobbly rocks.

 

The Best Calling Plan

The sea is teeming with millions of creatures that we just don’t need to know about when we accidentally swallow a gallon of ocean water.  It’s kind of like being licked by a dog, but at least when you’re in water, it somehow seems cleaner.  When I go to a restaurant, I don’t usually order the plankton and algae special with a side of seaweed.  It might be palatable with ketchup, but I always seem to forget my condiments when I go swimming.

Every child must learn the hard way to keep their mouth closed when they go under water.  This concept was especially difficult for my daughter to grasp.  If she is awake, she is talking. On many occasions, she has been hit by a wave in mid-sentence, only to earn a mouthful of salt water.  She takes a brief moment to gag and choke, and then the soliloquy continues.  As she once said, “I wouldn’t want to be a cow, because then I couldn’t talk.”  Forget standing in manure and being groped for milk at inhuman hours; it’s the limited vocabulary that would be torture.

It took a while for my kids to adapt to swimming with scuttling and slithering sea life.  I always enjoy their outrageous questions, which are inevitably screamed for the entire beach community to hear. 

  •         “Are these things dead?” …A handful of severed crab legs. 
  •         “Something just bit me!”  …A crab with legs still intact. 
  •         “This looks just like the jellyfish we saw at the aquarium!”  …Time to go home.
  •         “Is that a shark fin?” …No, just a rare sea creature called the “Snickers Wrapper.”

And then came the enlightening question that cleared out half the swimmers in thirty seconds…

“Hey! Do seagulls poop in here?!” 

My children frequently ask questions by drawing back their bows of innocence and piercing my heart with the flaming arrows of their insight.  One day my five-year-old had ventured out deep enough in the water to make himself worry.  He was not worrying about drowning, however.  He had far too profound a thought that was weighing heavily on his soul.  His small voice barely sailed to me on the wind.

“Can God hear me from way out here?”

For a moment I imagined how frightening it would be to lose connection with God.  But then I remembered Jonah.

Jonah had disobeyed God and suffered the consequences by being hurled into the sea and swallowed by a great fish.  Children’s books always show Jonah sitting on the massive tongue of a whale.  This never would have happened, since the fish actually swallowed Jonah. (Plus, the other creatures would have harassed the whale mercilessly for having a pierced tongue.)  That means Jonah would have been in the more unpleasant regions of the fish’s digestive system, if you catch my drift.  No turn-down service or mint under the pillow.

Even without five-star hotel accommodations, Jonah still had a wireless connection to God. 

Jonah 2:1-2

From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God.  He said:

“In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me.”

I can’t get my cell phone to work in the back of the grocery store, but God heard Jonah from the innards of a giant fish. Talk about impressive coverage. 

After Jonah’s fervent prayer, God commanded the fish to vomit Jonah onto dry land. What a ride; one that I have yet to see at a water park.  Even on my worst day, I have never had to be rescued by body surfing a whale’s lunch. I’m sure Jonah would have preferred a helicopter replete with Navy Seals, but a rescue was accomplished nonetheless. 

Can God hear us, even from the depths of the sea?  Yes, He can hear us from the ocean, the tunnel, and even the frozen food section of the supermarket.  He can always hear us, even from the belly of a fish.