The Days of Whine and Noses

Certain things are just meant to be together.  Peanut butter and jelly. Kermit and Miss Piggy. Back seats and whining.  I am convinced that car manufacturers actually install a device in the back seats to induce whining and route it through the surround sound system.  For activation, all it takes is the pressure of about thirty pounds.  Amazingly, the vehicle doesn’t even have to be moving to trigger this phenomenon.  If only the imaginary brake in the passenger seat could work as well.

Nothing raises my hackles as quickly as a good whine.  In fact, I didn’t even know I had hackles until I had children.  I thought they were reserved for dogs and chickens, but now I know better.  God designed hackles on the back of a parent’s neck so that we could know when we have reached our limit and need to come to Him for help before we implode.

God first realized the need for hackles when the children of Israel were wandering through the wilderness.  At first, the trip probably seemed like an exciting adventure.  But then they backed out of the driveway and for forty years the vast, barren wasteland echoed with the ancient equivalent of “Are we there yet?” and “Stop touching me!”

When the Israelites complained about the food and begged for some sort of fast food treat, God provided His children with a snack called manna, also known as “the grain of heaven” and “the bread of angels.”  But were they thankful? N-o-o-o-o-o.  They complained like a bunch of disappointed children on Christmas morning.

“What’s this?  A wafer?  Pfffff!  Where’s the beef?”

Suddenly the car came to a grinding halt and God threatened to “come back there.”

Numbers 11:18-20

 18 …’The LORD heard you when you wailed, “If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!” Now the LORD will give you meat, and you will eat it.

19 You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days,

 20 but for a whole month– until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it— because you have rejected the LORD, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?” ‘”

The threat of quail coming out of their nostrils probably brought some radio silence for a few moments.

God truly understands what a parent is going through when a child is whining and complaining.  I witnessed this truth when my kids were recently sick with a cold.  With this illness, my normally happy children gave birth to some sort of internal beast that made Oscar the Grouch seem downright jovial.

Maybe they didn’t have quail coming out of their nostrils, but their noses morphed into faucets of gunk that even the formidable team of Hans Brinker and the Kleenex company couldn’t plug.  The level of whining reached epic proportions and raised my hackles as though hundreds of miniature soldiers were standing at attention on the back of my neck.

At one point I buried my head under my pillow and tried to squelch the toxic combination of constant nose-wiping and whining.  Acting like an ostrich didn’t help, so I tried begging instead.

“God, please.  I can’t deal with this.  I’m going crazy.  Why do they have to be sick like this?  I’m so tired of wiping noses. This whining is unbearable…”

Like the sudden scrape of a needle across a vinyl record, my speech was interrupted when I got smacked in the middle of the forehead by the hand of irony.

Yes, I was whining.  I must have sounded to God exactly how my children sounded to me. The angels were buying their heads under pillows. Worse, I was probably even raising their hackles.

I put up with this for forty years, remember? 

I certainly did not want to be responsible for causing God’s head to implode.  As I bowed my head, I suddenly remembered my wedding vows.

in sickness and in health, for better or for worse

I had pledged these words to my husband, but what about my children?  When everything was going smoothly, it was so easy to focus on my overwhelming love for them.  But add a little tribulation, and I was transported back to the whining wilderness with the children of Israel.

Opening yet another box of Kleenex, I took a deep breath, gathered my little ones, and resumed my position as Royal Nose-Wiper and Whine-Taster.  As I held them close to me, a painful lump formed in my throat, but I knew it wasn’t the beginning of illness.  It was simply the realization that these kids are growing so quickly, and someday I will long for the Days of Whine and Noses.

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!”

 

Eggs From the Basement

Have you ever wondered about the moment when man first decided that an egg could be food?  Since there is no YouTube video, we will have to use our imaginations instead.  Picture Adam and Eve in Eden, tending to the chickens.  Suddenly an egg comes shooting out from the back-end of a hen, just under its tail. 

Eve:  Whoa! Did you see that?

Adam:  I’m starving. Let’s eat it.

Eve:  I’m not eating that thing.  Did you see where it came from?

Adam:  Well, they don’t hack it up like a hairball. (Taking a bite) Hey, it’s…crunchy.

Eve:  Try taking the shell off. 

Hen:  Try cooking it first. 

Adam & Eve:  Oh!

Next thing you know, they were whipping up hollandaise sauce, and the breakfast buffet was changed forever. 

Our family consumes a large amount of God’s “perfect food” every week.  Last week at the grocery store, I had so many cartons of eggs that the cashier asked if we were dyeing eggs.  It’s November, so I’m guessing she was working a second shift and feeling a little delirious. 

I had just read an article about how to cook the perfect batch of scrambled eggs.  For some reason, I never question the authority of these informative articles.  So here I was taking advice about my eggs from some forty-year old guy named Vern, who probably still lives in his parents’ basement. 

Use a whisk, not a fork.  I had always used a fork with no problem, but Vern scared me into believing I had been a fool for all these years.  I took a huge risk by taking out my whisk, and I suddenly heard Elmer Fudd’s voice: Be vewy, vewy quiet; I’m taking a huge whisk. Snapping back to reality, I remembered the next piece of advice. 

Whisk with force. Vigorously.  Redundancy aside, I decided to give it a whirl.  Before I could begin, I heard the words that strike fear into the heart of a parent:

“Mommy, can I help?”

My son wanted to help me with the eggs.  I imagined my five-year-old splattering raw egg over the countertops, the floor, and my head.  But one look at his cherubic face, and I caved like a Yorkshire pudding. 

He started to stir the eggs with a fork, and he was doing just fine until I intervened.

“No, you have to vigorously whisk them.  Like this.”

I took over with my whisk, and I beat the eggs with so much force that one slimy egg yolk catapulted across the kitchen.  After a search, I finally found the yellow Cyclops eye staring up at me from the floor.  I threw it in the trash and fumed at Vern.

Yet, I followed his next instructions.

Use chopsticks for the perfect curds.  Not only was this unnecessary, but I felt like an idiot doing it. In retrospect, now I see that Vern was messing with people.  He just chose to be more subtle than “Wear underwear on your head and do the Hokey Pokey.” 

I should have just let Luke make the eggs.  He was doing a great job until I took charge. 

I thought about how a five-year-old Jesus would have wanted to help Joseph with the carpentry.  If he were my son standing there with a wooden dowel, I would have scolded, “You’ll poke your eye out with that thing.”  But any man who was entrusted by God to raise the Messiah would be smarter than that.

If only we believed in our children the way God believes in us.

Ephesians 1:4

For he chose us before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.

Us? (look around) Really? 

God believes we are capable of doing what is good and right.  In an act of unprecedented trust, He made us the representation of His son.  He would never have stuck to this plan if He didn’t believe in the potential of His children.

Romans 8:29

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his son… 

What if God took the whisk right out of our hands and scrambled the eggs for us?  Sure, they would be the World’s Best Eggs, but what message would that send us? God lets us scramble our own eggs.  That’s why sometimes in life we get stuck with pieces of shell, and other times we get burned.  But either way, He believed. 

As I looked at my son’s face, I realized that I had not believed in him the way that Joseph believed in Jesus.  Or the way God believes in me. 

Next time I will ignore Vern’s advice from the basement, and follow the counsel from above. 

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.

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.

The Love of God in a Salmon

If we must have reality shows, then I would like to see a show on the Food Network that features a mother trying to cook a thirty-minute meal while fending off whining, argumentative children.  For years I scoffed at the book, The Joy of Cooking, wondering how anyone could have joy trying to julienne peppers while a screaming toddler pulls relentlessly on her leg.  I gave up trying to be Julia Childs and adjusted my standards so that a gourmet meal meant serving milk with the Cheerios.

My biggest culinary challenge has been my aversion to seafood.  I have always wanted my children to eat healthful meals such as grilled salmon, but how could I expect them to like something I have always loathed? 

For me, the challenge is looking the fish straight in his lifeless eye as he lies cold and humiliated with a lemon stuffed in his gaping mouth, wondering how he became Today’s Special for $17.99 with fries when just yesterday he was navigating the sunlit channels of the deep.  For some reason, I can scarf down a burger in a deluge of ketchup without imagining the cow’s last conscious thought.  But when I see a fish on the plate, all I can hear is his wife’s final sage advice, “Don’t go near that hook, dear.  It looks dangerous…”

Imagine my surprise when I read that Jesus even ate fish for breakfast.  He appeared to his disciples in his resurrected body and placed his order from the shore. Thankfully, this was before the age of garbled drive-thru microphones, so they were able to hear him.

John 21:4-5 Early in the morning…He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

I anxiously wondered why in the world he would want fish so early in the morning.  Was he searching for a pet goldfish, perhaps? 

John 21:10,12   

10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.”

12 … “Come and have breakfast.”

Ugh. The Bible is replete with examples of seemingly godly people eating seafood. Jesus chose fishermen as his disciples, and they undoubtedly enjoyed many laughs together over a fish dinner. I would feel much better if he had selected cattle ranchers. 

As usual, God revealed some fitting reproof to me from His Word:

1 Timothy 4:4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving,

Everything God created is good and deserves to be received with thanksgiving – and perhaps some tartar sauce on the side. Everywhere you look, God has provided clever ways to feed man and beast. He even made the seas abound with fish and creatures to be consumed for nutrition and pleasure. It is no coincidence that the foods that are the most beneficial for our health are the ones which God provided. When Jesus returned, he wasn’t looking for nachos, but broiled fish.

God’s love can truly be found in all that He created. But could I find the love of God in a grilled salmon with a lime butter sauce?  In a moment of unprecedented bravery (or stupidity), I decided to find out. 

Something strange happened.  I actually enjoyed cooking the salmon.  Tuning out the insanity of the world, I focused on nourishing my family out of my great love for them. I pictured myself on the Food Network, surrounded by whining and crying children, yet smiling as I’m peacefully preparing a natural, wholesome meal.  (The stress would come later, with the mountain of dishes, but I’m still a work in progress.)

To my surprise, I actually enjoyed the taste of the fish.  Stranger still, all three of my kids were not only willing to try the salmon, but they loved it.  Their determination to love something that God designed inspired me to change my foolish ways.  For forty years, I had convinced myself that I hated fish.  When I saw my kids blissfully eating their dinner, three little words popped into my head:  Get. over. it.

Who would have ever thought that I would find joy in cooking.  And the love of God in a salmon.

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.

Outstanding Performance by a Fox

It started out just like any ordinary hunt.  The tall grass tickled my belly as I crept stealthily through the trees.  Ignoring the ticks and other gifts left by the deer, I stalked my prey. Silent as the passing clouds, I sat back on my haunches and jutted my vulpine nose into the air.  The unmistakable smell of rabbit wafted on the summer breeze.  

Licking my lips, I began the chase.  There were three of them, all with bright yellow fur, which meant they didn’t have the slightest chance of camouflage. Giggling uncontrollably, the older two made a mad dash for the oak tree, leaving the four-year-old far behind and vulnerable to my clutches.  He panicked as I moved in for the kill, nipping at his heels. 

And then my cell phone rang.  Well, this was awkward. 

I didn’t want to relinquish my role as the fox. One advantage of being a fox is that everyone operates on the assumption that you are clever.  You could be as dumb as a post, but wave your bushy red tail in the air, and next thing you know you receive an honorary degree from Harvard.  Being a fox commands great respect, a foreign feeling to most parents.

The phone was still ringing as I hesitated. Although I have seen plenty of foxes in my lifetime, I have yet to see one chatting on the phone.  Conflicted, I answered the phone, much to the chagrin of my kids.  It was my husband Dave, and after I explained my dilemma, he played right along.  “This is the rabbits’ attorney,” he teased.  “Cease and desist.”   

A distinct line is drawn between performing and imitating.  As soon as I answered my cell phone, my performance as a fox ended.  I did not crawl back to the house on all fours, and I certainly did not eat rabbit stew for lunch. 

The Greeks gave us the word “hypocrisy,” which is to perform or pretend, to wear a mask and pretend you are someone different from whom you really are. (I think it’s also the root word for “campaigning politician.”)  In contrast, to imitate is to copy exactly and follow as a model.    

When God asks us to imitate Him, He does not want a performance. The Emmys and Oscars are for people who do an exceptional job of acting out a part.  Even an actor who loses has to clap and smile with a painted-on grin for the camera, trying to hide his disappointment. 

The best awards show will be the one hosted by Jesus.  By the love of God, there will be no cheesy musical numbers or lame joke deliveries that fall as flat as a shadow. There will be no statuettes given for Best Performance by a Supporting Actor in a Dramatic Role.  Instead, the most coveted award goes to… 

Outstanding Imitator of Christ. 

So far the apostle Paul is a frontrunner:

 1 Corinthians 11:1

Be imitators of me, as I also am of Jesus. 

I don’t care if I never win the award for Outstanding Performance by a Fox.  I have six little eyes that are watching my every move.  Six little ears that hear every word.  And six little feet that follow in my footsteps.  Life is the real deal; I’ll leave the performances to the professionals.