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.

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My Cup Falleth Over

Why is it that a child’s cup refuses to stay upright?  I think there is some powerful magnetic force from the universe that pulls all kiddie cups into a horizontal position.  Even on airplanes, the flight attendants command the return of seats and trays into the upright position, but there is no mention of sippy cups.  Because they know.  It’s in the manual. 

Flight Attendant’s Manual: Section 4, subparagraph B

Due to uncontrollable laws of nature, children’s cups may not remain in the upright position, so do not require passengers to fight against this force.  Doing so may drive a mother insane and cause her to open the emergency exit door during the flight

Consider Isaac Newton, one of the most influential people in the history of mankind. He described gravitation and laws of motion, proving that the motions of objects on Earth and of celestial bodies are governed by the same set of natural laws. He was a brilliant scientist, mathematician, astronomer, and apple-ologist.  Newton himself claimed that his theory of gravitation was inspired by watching an apple fall from a tree.  An apple falling?  No, I believe it was a sippy cup.  Maybe there really was a falling apple, but if anything it fell and knocked over his child’s cup of milk.  Newton soon realized that no matter how he placed his child’s cup, it inevitably spilled.  And The Laws of Motion were born.

I learned from experience that there is no such thing as “spill proof” cups.  Yes, if the wind gauge is 0, and the cup is left by itself with no child within a ten-mile radius, the cup may be spill proof.  But any cup with liquid in it is just begging to be knocked over and spilled.  Even my four-year-old figured out that if you throw a spill proof cup hard enough against the floor, the “lock” will disengage, thereby allowing him to decorate the room with his drink.

In case you didn’t know, the adage “There’s no use crying over spilled milk” is really speaking to the mother.  What does the kid care?  The mom is the one who has to clean it up anyway.  I was recently fighting back the tears after each of my three kids knocked over their cup of milk.  The one redeeming moment was when my five-year-old noticed that the milk pools had combined to form into the shape of the United States of America.  After that brief patriotic moment subsided, I started the lengthy cleanup process.     

The next morning, I realized that my kids had actually helped me understand a Bible verse.  My late grandmother loved Psalm 23, and she could recite it with ease.  She recited it so often that I also memorized bits and pieces of it over the years.  Her love and respect for the Scriptures made an indelible impression on me as a young girl that remains etched in my heart.  As I brought the milk to the table that morning, I could almost hear her voice repeating King David’s profound words from verse 5:

…thou annointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

I smiled as I knew that I would not really mind if the cups fell over and spilled.  It would serve as a reminder that my cup may falleth over, but it also runneth over.  Nothing can keep God from spilling His cup of love and overflowing into mine.  As I looked at the faces around the table, I recognized that God is abounding in love, and He has truly poured His blessings out on me. 

King David’s Tinker Toys

Many mythical characters are a composite of various creatures.  The centaur has a human torso on the body of a horse.  The minotaur has the head of a bull on the body of a man.  I hadn’t really given this much thought until recently I noticed that my three year old has the face of an angel and the behavior of an imp.  One side of him loves to snuggle and give me bear hugs, and the other side acts like a bear in a china shop.

I remember breathing a sigh of relief when Nate turned three.  We had survived the terrible twos, and clearly things would start getting easier.  Apparently Nate didn’t get the memo.  His saucer-like baby blues expanded to the size of dinner plates, further increasing his resemblance of an angelic being, but his capability for mischief rose exponentially. 

One day I was working at my desk with my head buried in paperwork.  I didn’t even notice my little hybrid slip into the room, until his faint voice delivered a disturbing question in the same way that a distant rumble of thunder can portend a tornado.

“Mommy, can I use these for Tinker Toys?”  If his voice could have been any sweeter, I could have served him for dessert.

I sensed imminent disaster before I even looked up.  I heard the clinking of dishes and turned to see him holding a white box.  No, please don’t let it be that box. 

“Wwwwhat…is…that?” I stammered.  But I already knew.  My fine china was now in ruins, and every wave of emotion washed over me.  Anger for his outrageous behavior.  Guilt for leaving the box within his reach.  Despair for the loss of something special. Sorrow for his shame.  Amusement for his wanting to use the shards for Tinker Toys. 

How did I handle this situation?  Well, I did what any self-respecting adult would do.  I burst into tears right in front of Nate, and that alone was sufficient for his punishment.  I know that my greatest punishment for wrongdoing is the sense that I have made God cry.

Have you ever destroyed something that belongs to God?  Most of us do it all the time without even realizing it. When we trample on His Word.  When we insult or hurt His children.  Even when we hurt ourselves. 

When King David committed adultery, he hurt himself and Bathsheba.  Not to mention her husband, whom he had killed, which I’m guessing hurt a lot.  David’s soul was tortured by how much he had hurt God.  He cried out, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight“(Ps. 51:4).

He didn’t waste time with petty excuses.  He knew what he did, and he knew what God required.

Psalm 51:17

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

God looked at David’s heart, which was now in pieces like Tinker Toys in a box, and He helped put it back together again.  I wish it were easier for us to do this for each other.  Many times when others sin and earnestly repent from a broken heart, we inflict punishment on them that is too intense for one to tolerate.  Judgment and condemnation are the heaviest weights the heart can bear.

2 Corinthians 2:6-8

The punishment inflicted on him…is sufficient for him.  Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.  I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.

I looked at my distraught son before me, and I wasn’t sure which was more shattered, the china or his heart.  “I’m sorry, Mommy,” he bawled, and I knew what I had to do.  I pulled him close and loved him the way God has loved me.  And when the dust had settled on the issue, I considered moving all of my breakables to an off-site storage facility until my kids leave for college.