Sunday, November 21, 2010

Things I learned from Mom

Mom—the older I get, the more incredible you become. In fact, in just a couple of years, you’re going to be perfect, so I had better write this now so I don’t make all of the other moms out there jealous.

I remember several times growing up having ladies look at me and tell me how fortunate I was to have the mom I had. I wasn’t always convinced that they knew what they were talking about. After all, some of the other kids’ mom’s drove cool new minivans (yep, I thought they were cool!), bought potato chips and Twinkies at the grocery store, and let their kids have Barbies.

I had no idea just how difficult it must have been to be the teacher and the mom…and often the Sunday School teacher…the AWANA leader…the coach…the referee…the cook…the maid…the chauffer…the piano teacher…the drill sergeant…the manager...and the friend. You made keeping up with five kids look easy.


Everywhere we went and every time you had the opportunity, you and Dad served others. We served at church. Served in our home school group. Served in our neighborhood. And when holidays came and others had time off, you invited people over who had no place to go. You and Dad were givers and I know that we will never know the thousands of hours or the thousands of dollars that you invested in others.

Many of those people will never appreciate your sacrifices. But I know at least five who do. And a day doesn’t go by that the seeds that you sowed doesn’t continue to bear fruit in my life. Even though we live far apart now, you still motivate me to serve and to give.


Mom, you taught us to work hard. That’s a lesson you probably thought I would never learn. I was the one who was always skipping math problems, complaining about writing spelling words, and disappearing when it was chore time. Remember when you used to take us to the junior high school to run track? I hated that. I would do about anything to get out of having to run.

But somewhere the value of hard work must have started to sink in for me. And even though we tease you about the times that you went to sleep at the dining room table, we know that in reality, you are an incredibly hard worker. In fact, you probably went to sleep at the table because of the sheer exhaustion of the late nights, early mornings, and constant pressures of being wife, mom, and teacher. I know sometimes you got up at 3:00 in the morning to do your devotions without being interrupted.

If you ever wonder why your kids take on impossible projects, get themselves into tough situations, and attempt to get more done in a day than is legal to do, then you just need to head for the nearest bathroom and look in the mirror. We can’t help it. We are victims.


You also taught us to be respectful to others, particularly our elders. You talk about a zero tolerance policy. The first verse you taught us was “obey them that that the rule over you.” And the ones that had the “rule” over us taught us many things at the crack of the ruler. I remember the last time you spanked me. It was for talking back to you. I remember being hit 16 times, but I was determined not to cry and I didn’t. You were trying to teach me to be respectful and I was wondering how soon I could move out of the house and how far away I could get when I did.

But even though that particular spanking didn’t seem effective at the time, you taught us through your consistent lifestyle how to have self control. You were respectful to everyone—the teller at the bank, the driver in front of you, and even the customer service representatives at Wal-Mart. That was your way—and I had no idea at the time just how difficult that is.


I looked at the picture of you and Dad at Paul and Shannon’s wedding and I thought to myself, “Wow, she’s beautiful!” But you were never about external stuff…make up and jewelry and designer jeans. You taught us about modesty and that true beauty came from a meek and gentle spirit.


By your example, all of the Walker kids learned about living frugally. If any of your kids resort to living on welfare or credit cards, I’ll be surprised. You taught us to work for what we got and then to live on less.

I don’t have memories of fancy cars, expensive vacations, and eating out. In fact, some of my clearest memories as a kid involve waiting for a tow truck on the side of the road, filing up the car radiator with cups of water we took from the bathroom sink at Ross, and walking home from PIP on the hottest days of July because the drive shaft fell out of the van we bought for $800. Of course, there is the all time favorite…all seven of us in the backseat of a Honda Civic for an hour and a half.

And vacations…yep…those memories are even better…like the night we spent freezing to death in the Nastase’s pick up truck when our camping trip got interrupted with a combination of rain and snow. Or the drive down from northern California where we all took turns throwing up in the back of the van.

But not only did you raise us to live within our means, we really didn’t miss out on anything but headphones and personal DVD players. We enjoyed many happy hours in the van, singing, listening to tapes, and sometimes playing games. And when we stopped at Wendy’s at got a $.99 burger—what a treat!


You taught us discretion by example. Marrying Dad for instance. That was a good idea. Where did you get him and are there any more?

You taught us to think through things and look beyond the surface to the true message of a movie, book, or song. You taught us to just say “no” to things that seemed questionable.


Okay, so there are some things you weren’t particularly good at. Like cooking bacon, for example… Or making money (do the words “Grandma’s Garden” mean anything to you?)…or turning down your daughter’s idea to make plastic canvas manger scenes for all the relatives at Christmas. One time you even accidently bought honey nut cheerios instead of plain. But considering the number of things you’ve forgiven me (including the manger scene fiasco), it’s probably time we forgot about those things. Oh, and you are an incredible cook (bacon notwithstanding).


Someday, when we have time, there are a few questions I would like to ask you…like how in the world you got stuck walking Princess at 5:00 every morning when it was really your five kids who wanted a dog? And how in the world you convinced that mongrel who followed Paul home from Charlie’s to run away? But for now, there is one more thing I want to cover…

Mom, you have been a tremendous example of genuine agape love. Perhaps that sums up everything else. You continued to give, to serve, and to love even when it seemed like there would never be a return on your investment. I will never forget the years that Grandma lived with us and the added pressure that put on you. But you just kept on giving. I know there were many other times when you wanted to quit home school, church ministries, AWANA, or other things, but you held on because it was the right thing to do. You stay teachable and willing to listen to the Lord and quick to examine yourself so that you can truly put others first.

I guess we won’t ever be able to say that we have arrived on this quality. The rest of our lives we will be working toward true selfless living. But I believe that you got us started on a path that strives to put others first and continues to move forward, to grow, and to learn…especially when the going got tough.

Someday, if I have kids, I hope to pass on the things that I learned from you by my example. And if I don’t—I still hope that I live in such a way as to pass on the things I learned from you to others. I guess, in some ways, I won’t be able to help it—I am more like you than I am like anyone else on earth.

Mom, I love you. I just wanted you to know.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Gym and I

If you've ever considered joining a gym, you've probably been told the same lies I was're going to look better, feel better, have more energy, make new friends, and be're just going to love coming here.

When I first moved to Charleston, I finally set aside my aversion to monthly payments, and I tried out several gyms before settling on Ladies Choice Fitness. As the name suggests, it was a ladies only gym. That is probably why it went out of business. There was nothing interesting there. I mean nothing interesting to do there (just treadmills and Judge Judy). I did, however, go faithfully for the two years I was a member. I do not remember looking better, feeling better, or having more energy, and I didn't get to know one single person over the course of the two years. The employees changed like the wind and very few of the members came to sit around and chat. That is, except the Mary Kay lady. She has cost me more money than the whole membership.

I did nothing for two years after severing ties with Ladies Choice. That is, my plan was to get excercise by mowing the lawn and doing other profitable activities. I tried out several gyms, though, and finally after one high-pressure sales talk, I found myself joining Select Fitness. I went there consistently for one year before Steffanie talked me into doing P90X with her in February. But Steffanie recently got married and took P90X with her, so I have found myself debating once again what I'm going to do to look good, feel good, have more energy, make new friends, and be healthier. This is where the story really begins.

By now, I had a pretty good idea of what gyms are in the area and what they offer and what they cost. I made up my mind fairly quickly to start going to St. Andrews. They don't have very impressive cardio machines, weights, or technology, but they have a pool, racquetball courts, and tae kwon do classes that all sounded interesting. I am a fan of variety and I was looking forward to trying some new things.

Last Tuesday night, I went by on my way home and they offered me a free week, so I thought I would do that to get started. I arrived early Thursday morning prepared to swim laps. The pool was already loaded with dedicated swimmers quitely gliding from one end of the pool to the other. Some of them you could only see a small snorkel sticking up above the water, and a few you couldn't see at all.

I hoped I snuck in under the radar while they were all preoccupied. I'm not a very good swimmer. In fact, I don't know if you would even call what I do "swimming." But I splashed my way to the end of the pool and back. And there and back. And I was pooped.

I looked at the clock. It had been about four minutes.

Fortunately, one of the super-good swimmers took that opportunity to swim on his back one lap and that saved me. I did some swimming on my back to break up the work out.

Well, that, and the ladies aqua aerobics class.

Little did I know that at 6:00 on Thursdays, about a dozen ladies ages 60 and up don swimsuits and do kicking and stretching in the pool right next to the lane I was in. It was so entertaining that the next 20 minutes passed quickly.

But when I got to work at 7:30 am, I was exhausted. Seriously, I was trying to prop my eyes open the whole day. I was slapping myself, eating chocolate, and playing music and I could just hardly stay awake until 5:00. In fact, I had a headache and generally felt terrible. So much for the "feel better" and "have more energy" lies. I could have gone to sleep on the asphalt in the parking lot. Maybe they put some kind of drugs in the pool.

I still felt so awful on Friday morning that I didn't go back to the gym until Saturday. They had a 9:00 am "spin" class. For those of you that don't know, that's what we cool people call riding a bike.

Again, trying to be inconspicious because I had no idea if I would be able to keep up or not, I picked a bike all of the way in the back of the room. There was a pretty good room full of people for 9:00 am on a Saturday, so I figured I would pretty much go unnoticed.

The instructor played a video of lovely scenery while giving us instructions. We climbed hills, did sprints, and just enjoyed the Peurto Rico roadways in between. As I was enjoying the class, I noticed that pretty much everyone else had brough water and a towel with them. Well, that was okay, it was only an hour.

But the more we sprinted and climbed, the hotter it got in that room. Even with fans blowing, I could tell I was starting to get light headed. Would this class never end? I kept looking at my watch. Ten minutes. Five minutes. Two minutes. Zero minutes. It should have been over, but there she was, still up there smiling and giving instructions oblivious to my agony.

Finally, she instructed us to get off our bikes to do some final stretches. I got off my bike, but the world just kept spinning. I tried to stretch, but Puerto Rico was starting to go black. I knew I needed to sit down or I was going to end up on the floor some less desirable way. Good thing I was in the back. I sat down and leaned against the wall. The class was basically over and surely no one would notice me.

Wrong. People were on me like flies on honey. Was I okay? Did they need to call an ambulance? Did I want the rest of their water? Did I need to call someone? Had I already purchased my burial plot?

Good grief. I stood up so that people could see that I actually wasn't dying, just a little faint, and about four of them escorted me to a bench outside. It was much, much cooler, so I felt a little better and I tried very hard to act like I was fine so that they would all go away and leave me alone. No such luck. Cups of water. Juice. I tried to put it all in my system and it was not a good thing. I was going to throw up.

"I need to go to the bathroom." I said, and I made a charge for the ladies locker room. At least I could throw up in the privacy of a stall. But it wasn't over. The lady in the stall next to me took it upon herself to run to the manager. The next thing I knew I had the manager, class teacher, and a few other people all pinging me at once. "I'm fine." I kept saying.

"We're going to call someone to pick you up." They told me. "Who can we call?" Frankly, I couldn't think of anyone who would want to drive to the gym on a Saturday morning and get me when I was fine and had a perfectly good truck sitting out front.

Then they told me they had to fill out an incident report. Good grief. I hadn't even joined the gym yet and they already have a bad girl file on me. Yeah, so much for the feel better, have more energy thing. That's strike two.

Monday morning, I went to swim again before work. The only lane open was smack in the middle of all the super-good swimmers. Twenty minutes seemed like an eternity, and I kept getting water in my contacts which made it so I couldn't see where I was going. Thank God for the floating ropes that I kept bumping into.

I didn't have the same level of diverson, so I felt incredibly self conscious swimming along side of people who looked an acted like they had been doing this their whole lives. I have to swim with my head up, because if I put my face in the water like everyone else does, I end up with a coughing fit, and I really don't want another incident to add to my record. Here I am, 28, and all I know how to do is doggy paddle. That's worse than not being able to drive a stick shift. I have stopped laughing at the ladies doing aerobics in the shallow end of the pool.

Then I had an idea, all of these people had skull caps and goggles. They may not make a better swimmer out of me (especially since I can't put my head under water without holding my nose), but they do make for a fairly effective disguise. By the time I put my hair in a black latex cap and put on a thick pair of goggles, who really cares how I swim.

Well, let's just say that it's a good thing I never believed the lies about looking better, feeling better, and having more energy. So far, this gym has had me looking foolish and feeling terrible. I will say, though, that the people have all been nice; especially when I want to be inconspicuous and stay under the radar.

And this morning, I made myself go back to the spin class and this time made it through without an incident report. In fact, I made a friend at the class (calm down, it was another girl).

And maybe if I keep working at it, I will learn to swim with my face underwater. Maybe. Oh, and I bought a racquetball racket, so I'm going to give that a try. Stay tuned--I'm sure there are plenty more adventures ahead.

Monday, June 28, 2010


Day 1: Lost in Translation

We arrived in Burma a bit bleery eyed. Probably because after 25,000 miles of travel, one thing I've learned is that all originating flights leave at 6:00 am. That means we have be at the airport at 4:00 am. Of course, by then, our bodies really had no clue about the difference between am and pm anyway, so it was no big deal

There was one smiling face at the Yangoon airport and thankfully it was the man there to greet us. It's a little difficult to explain 16 scapels, large bottles of levaquin, a water purification systems that looked like flying saucers to a Burmese customs officer. Fortunately, they let us keep everything.

There is one rule in Burmese transportation: Stuff it until it can hold no more. We thought we stuffed our bus and truck with our 18 bodies and 34 suitcases, but we were put to shame when the first truck passed us: three in the cab, eighteen in the bed, and four more holding on to the back. It's the latest thing in fuel efficiency.

When we arrived at the orphanage, the children were excited, curious, and perhaps a little scared. It isn't every day that 17 white people come to their little compound. The kids were dressed in their green and white school uniforms and arranged in orderly rows as they sang "Count Your Blessings"

Our team took over the largest structure - an open building with a metal roof and concrete floor - and began to devise a medical clinic while I went into the dorm (a/k/a "oven") with the children and four suitcases worth of "kid stuff."

I had carefully planned out the next four days...Bible lessons, songs, English lessons, games, and crafts. I had also tried to pack all of the items in an orderly fashion so I would have what I needed when I needed it. I shouldn't have bothered. Fortunately, the kids were pretty patient with me as I tried to sort through the packed, sorted, unsorted, repacked, and then generally mixed around suitcases in the dim light.

People in the US had donated school supplies, flip flops, hygeine items, and other stuff that we had packed in bags for each of the children. As we called each kid's name to come get their bag, there was a thunderous applause and that child would come shake hands with me. Made me feel like Bob Barker or something.

Greg and Rhett joined us in the Oven for a little while and we taught them some songs in English. Then we played some games to help them learn animal names in English. Then we did a craft. Then we played some more games. Then we did another craft. Then we played some more games...We played with balloons. We played with crayons, markers, and paint. We played with beanie babies. We played with legos. We played with cards. We played with pick up sticks. We played with bouncy balls. We played with frisbees. We played with jacks. It seemed like I had no sooner finished explaining something to the translator, than she would look at me and say, "Miss, new game. They want to play."

I decided that it was time to do the Bible lesson. These kids have actually had good Bible teaching from the workers at the orphanage, so I had worked hard to try to come up with a creative way to teach Bible lessons. Today I was going to teach on creation. I thought that I would start by talking about why we study creation from the Bible. I started by asking "How many of you can remember what happened before you were born?"

I had two translators at the time and they both took turns asking the children, then they discussed it with each other, then asked the kids again, and finally turned to me and said, "Hands and feet."

"Hands and feet?" I tried again. More talking with the kids. More discussion. Same answer. I looked into the faces of 42 very confused looking children and finally gave up. We would have to stick with crafts and games.

I couldn't believe it when it was time to leave and I realized it was only 4:30 pm. It seemed like it had been an eternity. In a good way. I made new friends. I sweated out liters of water. I talked myself horse to a group of people that couldn't understand a word.

Perhaps the biggest sum of the afternoon was when the translator said to me, "Miss, you can do many things."

We had indeed done many things. Thanks to the generosity of many people and churches in Charleston, we had done many things. And now all I needed to do was come up with three more days worth of things to do...with little or no translation. And I couldn't wait.

Day 2: Boys, Boys, and more Boys

The girls went to school on day two, but I had about 27 boys ages 5 to 14. All day. Yep. It was fun.

The rest of the team was working--giving medical exams, trying to solve the puzzle presented by the water system, administering prescriptions, etc. And I was playing games and doing crafts. It really wasn't fair.

I know God can use our weaknesses because there is no other way to explain the fun we had making paper airplanes, something I stink at. The boys kept saying some phrase when they would launch their plane. It sounded like sakjd; ajksdl uewiro but it must mean something really cool in Burmese.

I tried to get them to teach me some Burmese, but the only phrase I still remember is "tata ("Goodbye"). Now you understand why we had so much trouble communicating.

I took the most time to explain "Steal the Bacon" and Football to the boys. But I had to stop Steal the Bacon after only a few minutes because it turned into World War III. Football, on the other hand, I couldn't have stopped if I wanted to. It quickly turned into an unrecoginzeable game of throwing, running, passing, kicking, jumping, and bumping with your head. After "hike" who knew what would happen, and it wasn't long before they stopped bothering with "hike."

When the girls came back from school, I thought it was time to give them some attention, so I pulled out the bags of beads that I had brought. I expected the girls to enjoy the beads. What I didn't expect was to get absolutely mobbed. There is nothing in all the world like having 42 sweaty bodies crowding around you and talking eagerly in a language you can't understand while you try to thread a needle on a fat piece of string in a dark room. Nothing.

The boys got into it just as much of the girls and were soon running around throwing the football and frisbees with strings of colored pony beads wrapped around their wrists and necks.

I remember telling my mom that I wanted ten boys. She told me that I would change my mind, and I guess I have. Now I want 27.

Day Three: Take 20 Asprin and Call me in the Morning

On Day three, the majority of the children went to school, so I got to help in our pharmacy for a while. It was cooler in the pharmacy, which was a nice plus.

Hundreds of people from the village came to the clinic and were waiting for hours on hard benches to see the doctors. We had a little of everything from head trauma, to children with heart problems, to worms, difficult pregnancies, and people needing simple operations.

One recurring complaint was dizziness and other was neck pain. I think the dizziness is because of the 110 degree heat with 200% humidity. The neck pain probably because of the loads we say them carrying around on their heads. Sometimes you saw people with a load of hay on their head as big as a Toyota Carolla.

I tried to do some photography and videotaping as well. I don't think I will elaborate on that further.

I learned a lot about medicine that day. And about deciphering doctor's writing. Maybe after the course on photography I can take one on handwriting analysis.

Elizabeth, Curtis, and I generally stayed pretty busy. The people were pretty patient as they waited their turns and the doctors worked like dogs seeing patient after patient. The dentists pulled so many teeth I'm pretty sure the Burmese tooth fairy is filing bankruptcy.

We gave everyone who came through a simple tract and several on the team had opportunities to share the gospel. Dr. McClain shared the gospel with a Buddist monk who came through and Curtis shared with one of the village leaders. Because we were helping the village, they were more receptive than they would ordinarily have been.

When the children came back from school, I felt the magnetic pull back into the Oven. We made more bead necklaces. You talk about neck pain...these kids are going to be taking tylenol because of wearing too many necklaces.

We played some other games...they loved the balloon stomp although they didn't quite understand that when your balloon popped, you are supposed to be out. Oh well. We did some other English lessons and made puppets. Every now and then you would here the sounds of hundreds of little beads hitting the floor and there would be a mad dash to recover rolling pony beads. Good stuff.

Pastor Greg gave the kids a lesson on hygeine. After discussions on brushing their teeth, he said, "Now we're going to talk about water." Just then, the skies broke loose and a torrent of rain came down accented by thunder and lightening. Because of the metal roof, there was so much noise, you couldn't hear someone next to you if they were yelling. So much for our talk on water. We wanted to explain to them the ramifications of the new purification systems that had been installed and the importance of drinking clean water and trying to keep the water clean.

I don't know really know how to say this and maybe it won't come out right...but I don't really feel sorry for poor people. In a way I hate to see them in tattered clothes and eating mostly rice and drinking dirty water. But in another sense, their lives are so much simpler too. They don't have TV and Wii, and DS, and their lives aren't as complicated with a lot of the pressures that we put on ourselves physically and financially. So while I enjoyed bringing good things into the children's lives, I also don't want to build in them a sense of discontentment. If they can build Godliness and keep Contentment they will be richer than money can ever make them.

Day Four: A Little Bit of Everything

I sat next to one of the translators named Rhoda on the hour-long ride to the orphanage. I enjoyed talking to her and learned a lot about the persecution in Burma. She said it is less in Yangoon and the bigger cities because that is where Westerners come. The further you get from Yangoon, the greater the persecution.

Our last day at the orphanage we continued the clinic, made more bead necklackes, gave out more tylenol, and played more football and frisbee. I went back through leftovers from different crafts and with a little creativity, we were able to make new crafts from the same supplies.

Rhett and I played bubbles with the kids. It was their first time seeing bubbles and they had a ball with them. Even the older ones seemed to have fun popping them and blowing them. I let the older boys paint...they had fun with that. And Jonathan and I attempted to teach the kids to play indoor baseball. We were never quite able to communicate the sequence of the bases. The boys would hit the ball and run to the base of their choosing depending on where the ball went and what was open. I'm afraid it was a desecration of the great American sport. All the while, I was sweating my insides out chasing a ball into the furthest corners of the room trying to catch kids who were impossible to catch because if I actually did manage to get the ball to the base before them, they would pick a different base. Kudos to them for thinking outside the box, I guess.

We concluded our visit with another meeting with our whole team and the children. We sang together and Curtis shared another Bible lesson about being Jesus' disciple. I would not be surprised if our visit is something these children (and the village) remember for a long, long time.

I hope, if nothing else, that the children and the village will take from this week a greater understanding of the Church. I want them to know that faith in Jesus Christ is not just something their leaders are teaching them, but something that is so important to us that we would leave our jobs and families and travel to the other side of the world to serve. Maybe as they continue to grow, they will have that kind of vision not only to change their village - which 42 passionate Christians will almost certainly do - but also to advance the Kingdom of God throughout the world.

Monday, May 31, 2010

When I pulled up to drop something off at the Hock's house the other night, Chris asked me, "So, why are you driving that thing?"

"That thing" that he was referring to was a 1994 F150. It had a post hole digger, a shovel, a dog bowl, and a few feet of rope in the bed. In the cab with me were a few empty water bottles, a dirty paper plate, a drop cloth, and a pair of old tennis shoes. This beast is affectionately referred to as "the Farm Truck."

And why was I driving it? Well, because it is a stick shift and I don't want to get any older not knowing how to drive a standard.

Up until Thursday evening, my entire experience with a stick shift was a sad attempt at a driving lesson around the neighborhood with my friend Melissa about 4 years ago, a few country roads with my friend Anita about a year ago, and one load of junk from the house to the dumpster with Curtis and Steven. Poor Big Red.

So I pulled up after having been given due permission to drive Big Red for a week. Climbed in and started it up just fine. Then I surveyed my dilemma. The marks have long since worn off the gear selector and I couldn't remember how to put it in reverse. To make matters worse, the truck was parked right in front of a pole. I only had about four inches of trial and error. Not a great start to this adventure.

So, I did the logical thing. I called my dad and asked him how to reverse. He tried to give me instructions to drive a truck he'd never seen before while I tried to talk on the phone and try them out at the same time. Like I said, the truck started just fine. I know because I started it about ten times in a row. Yeah, in a row. I couldn't get the truck to move. Not forward or backward. It just kept dying. I finally hung up the phone so I could focus. But it wasn't until I finally figured out the parking break that I actually went anywhere.

Well, things went okay as I pulled out of the driveway and onto the country roads, but I had forgotten a very important detail. I was going to have to pull out from a stop sign and make a left into heavy, highway speed traffic. Well, here we go.

Well, here we didn't go. I tried to go. I tried to go several times. But I kept going backwards. I kept hitting the gas and the truck would roll backward. What in the world? I didn't have it in reverse. I wasn't on a hill. The people behind me started to back up. I tried a few more times. By now, I wasn't scared of getting killed pulling out into traffic, I was scared of Big Red reversing his way all the way home.

The vehicle behind me pulled up next to me. Not working? It was two guys from...another country. They were laughing and it was probably a good thing I couldn't understand much of what they said. They pushed me and Big Red over onto the side of the road. It's leaking. They informed me. That must be the problem. It's leaking.

Another guy pulled up in front of me and popped the hood. That's your radiator. He said. That's your...he proceeded to point at all of the different truck guts and tell me their names. Very helpful. Finally he said, it's not leaking anything. That's just the air conditioner. Here let me try this. He hopped in and had it working just fine. He threw me a softball, "Sometimes the clutch just needs to be pumped a few times." Then he gave me his phone number and told me to call him if I had any other problems. Yeah, right.

So, it was me and Big Red again. Somehow, we made it all the way back to the office. Do you know that Fords kinda jump around? It's the weirdest thing. I just prayed no one I knew saw me hopping, crawling, dying, and just generally surviving my way into town.

When I pulled into the parking lot and shut the thing off, I couldn't for the life of me get the keys out of the ignition. Finally, I gave up and just left it. Surely no one would steal Big Red. He wouldn't even let me drive him and I had permission. Then I had a stroke of genius and I hung one of the old tennis shoes over the keys--so no one would notice.

Big Red and I got along pretty well that night and the next morning as I was on my way to work I started thinking I was starting to get the hang of driving with a stick shift. I pulled up at the final stop sign across from the office and let out a sign of relief. But it wasn't over. Big Red threw the biggest fit of his life. As I hopped my way into the parking lot--my pastor drove by. Excellent timing. Just smile and wave.

That brings us to Saturday. Saturday I was supposed to go kayaking with a group from church. Jonathan asked if we could take Big Red since it would be easy to hitch up a trailer to him. I said that would be fine as long as he drove it. I didn't want to put anyone through me driving a stick shift--with a trailer--on unfamiliar roads--with other people following me. That would be a recipe for disaster.

Jonathan had no trouble at all taking the keys out of the ignition when he stopped. So not fair. We were parked at a boat landing generally in the middle of nowhere, so we threw all of our valuables inside and locked the door. That was 9:30 am.

Little did I know, the ignition key that I so carefully put in my pocket before locking up was just that--an ignition key. It was not going to open the truck. Not ever. Not with any amount of convincing. A coat hanger wasn't going to do anything for us either. When you lock up a 1994 Ford truck, you're done. That's it.

It was 4:30 pm before Big Red and I were happily on the way home again. I was tired and he was hungry. But overall, it had been a good day.

Sunday morning, I opted not to take Big Red to church. I was going to meet my cousin and his wife whom I hadn't seen in years. Just for...good measure...I would take my Chevy Silverado.

That was probably a good decision. When Nathanial saw my wheels he said something like, "a truck? I didn't figure you to be such a redneck." Good thing I didn't bring Big Red. Nathanial would have bought me a pair of overalls and started calling me Bubba.

Well, I'm not discouraged by the fact that I can't open Big Red, can't move him, and end up going backwards when I want to go forward. Honestly, that's not the problem. The problem is that he goes through gas like he owns BP. Big Red has two tanks and we've been through both of them. I guess that is his way to get even with me and it might be working. I wish I could tell you how many miles we've traveled together, but the odometer is broken. Along with the speedometer. I guess that's kind of part of what makes him. And now that we've mostly worked out our differences, I may just let him return to his comfortable life as a farm truck. I thought about giving him a good scrubbing before I return him, but a farm truck without mud on his sides is kind of like a guy with shaved legs. He is probably happier with the mud.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

“And out of the hand of Saul”

Pastor Joel preached on David’s song of deliverance from his enemies in 2 Samuel 22 / Psalm 18 Sunday. Good Stuff.

From the time we were two, we sang about “only a boy named David” and the giant who “came tumbling down.” A lot of sermons have been preached on David and Goliath and rightfully so.

It’s a pretty cool story…a teenager defeating a nation’s greatest enemy with a slingshot. He faced his giant with the most primitive of weapons, an awesome God, and tremendous courage that let him do what no other man in his nation would do. A lowly shepherd boy became a national celebrity overnight. Clearly, God was working to defeat the Philistines; but it was also good PR for David— to help him gain the respect of a nation that he would one day rule as king.

But while fame can be acquired in a day, character cannot. Not in a day, a month, or a year. Perhaps that is why David’s greatest victory became a thorn in his flesh when a jealous Saul forced him into a life of running and hiding. One thing I did not know until this recent sermon series on David is that the running and hiding act of David’s life lasted approximately ten years. That’s a long time.

The day David faced Goliath may have been one of his fondest memories, but I doubt it was his most difficult. And even if it was, a day is just…well…a day.

I remember when I was seventeen—I was coaching debate teams, teaching piano lessons, and starting law school. I thought I could do anything. And the more likely I was to fail, the more determined I was to succeed. I wanted to be against the odds. I wanted to do what no one else had ever done before or would ever do again. It is a good thing I was not dared to fight Goliath because I would have done it. And considering my sling shot skills, I would have died trying. And I probably would have been glad that I died a remarkable death instead of an ordinary one.

Not to undermine acts of courage, but they can sometimes be accomplished without a whole lot of character. If you don’t believe me, go to Niagara Falls and look at the museum of people who have gone over the falls in a barrel. On purpose.

But ten years in the wilderness, that’s another story. Ten years of running, hiding, waiting. Three things men—especially the type of men that fight Goliaths—hate. Surely David would rather have had one big fight than ten years of running. Doubtless David would have preferred just to face Saul and duke it out—at least it would be over with once and for all. I would rather face the meanest, ugliest, biggest, baddest giant that I can fight and be done with than struggle with a situation that I have no control over and that just drags on and on. Wouldn’t you?

One thing that struck me in 2 Samuel 22 and Psalm 18 was the heading. “David spake unto the Lord the words of this song in the day that the Lord had delivered him out of the hand of all his enemies, and out of the hand of Saul.”

I found it interesting that David distinguished Saul from his enemies. Most of us would consider someone that chased us for ten years, threw spears at us, tried to kill us in our beds, and forced us to live like an animal in the wilderness for ten years-- as an enemy. Shoot, even Goliath didn’t try to kill David in his bed. Yet despite all the dirty tricks, Saul was God’s anointed and the sling shot was off limits. This was a giant David could not kill; David would have to wait for him to kill himself. Not nearly as climactic. And it would take ten long, long years.

But the fact that David did not even label Saul as his enemy—that is remarkable. Despite the frustration of ten years of waiting, being falsely accused and distrusted, David looks back over his life and has the maturity to see Saul as something different than an enemy. Saul was an instrument of God to build character in David that Goliath could never have built.

The Wilderness seems to be the Ivy League of God’s training grounds. God turned a lot of boys into men in the wilderness. Some got ten years, some got forty. God taught forgiveness, endurance, patience, joy, and humility. God took absolutely everything of value away from some of his most beloved servants and taught them to rely solely on Him (See 1 Samuel 30, especially verse 6).

The times that David bypassed the opportunities to kill Saul, both in the cave and in the camp may have been David’s true greatest moments. The days the giant did not come tumbling down. The days that a giant-killer recognized that discomfort and distain is not necessarily an enemy—and waits patiently for the same God that delivered David from Goliath to deliver him out of the hand of Saul.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Passion For Christ

I've read a lot of books on it. A lot of good books on a Passion for Christ and the Cross. And it something I care about and want to develop.

But being an adult in America is it's own animal. So much of our lives are making ends meet. Working, cooking, cleaning (okay, so not cooking). But doing the things that would make us responsible parents, citizens, homeowners, employees, and neighbors.

I know everyone's calling will be somewhat different, but generally, what does Passion for Christ look like in 2010? Does Passion for Christ mean spending all my time in the Word of God, or would it take an hour every day to exercise? Does Passion for Christ eat out twice a week? once a week? or does it live on beans and rice and give the rest to missions? Would it go door-to-door on Sunday afternoons or would it lay its weary head on a pillow and close its eyes? Would it shop at Dillards, Goodwill, or wear the same thing every day? Does it eat carrots, brownies, or nothing at all?

These are perhaps dumb questions, but my point is, what do I do practically and consistently to show that Christ is the center and the motivating drive of my life? How is and should my life be different than a nice person who doesn't care about God at all... Because there are already plenty of those in this world and I'm afraid I blend in sometimes.

Recently, something happened that made me angry. Very angry. And it reminded me of a lot of other things that have made me very angry. And the person who in my mind was responsible wasn't sorry at all. I was hurt and miserable and they went their way whistling, convinced that they did a noble thing, when really (permit me to be a bit of a drama queen here) they had absolutely devastated me. There is nothing in all of the world like the feeling that you worked your heart out for something and you got the exact opposite.

So, anyway, I was hurt. And I was angry. And I just kind of let it fester. And every time I took some baby steps toward trying to reconcile, it seems like I would be given even more reason to be angry.

I did something I shouldn't have done, and I went to bed angry. Actually, I wasn't really angry, I was just hurt and I wanted to make sure they understood that. Of course, they didn't care and that made me want to be angry, but I wasn't angry.

The next morning, I spent some serious time with my Bible and got convicted that I needed to forgive and move on. And I knew I would, but first I wanted that person to understand how wrong they were and how bad it hurt. And the more I thought about it, I also wanted them to know that this was all their fault because I was pretty sure that they thought it was mine, but it wasn't.

I went back and forth between my Bible and letting the situation stew in my head. This person surely did not deserve forgiveness. They didn't think they had done anything wrong. They had done it before and will do it again. Maybe I should just move to Australia.

Passion for Christ forgives. For some reason, that statement jumped into my head right in the middle of my debate, kind of like a whistle ending the play that you thought was going to be a score. I may not know what Passion for Christ eats, wears, or shops, but I know that it forgives.

Oh really? Well, obviously, this situation is different. This person just blames me for everything. I'm always misunderstood. And this time, I just wish they would understand for once. I just wish they would act like they care. I just want to explain to them first why what they said hurt.

Passion for Christ forgives.

Well, it isn't really something I need to forgive for. They obviously don't think so. They think they did everything perfectly right and that I'm the dirty rotten sinner...yeah, I know...but they're wrong. They're just wrong.

Well, if they're wrong, then you need to forgive. Passion for Christ forgives.

It slowly sunk in to my dense brain, it really wasn't about what the other person thought or if they thought about it at all. The point is that as a child of God, I'm not permitted to carry grudges. End of story. Passion for Christ says, "Yes, Lord." And it obeys completely.

Forgiveness meant I couldn't dwell on it anymore. I couldn't keep blaming them. I couldn't try to make them be sorry. I had to let the feeling that they didn't deserve to be forgiven go. It really had nothing to do with them. This was between the Lord and me and I just needed to do what He said.

I apologized for my attitude and not to my surprise, the other person said a few things to make sure I knew it was my fault and that I was unreasonable. Maybe they're right, but either way, they are forgiven.

Passion for Christ. I guess the questions I should have been asking were am I listening to my Lord or do I have to be hit over the head with direction from God? Am I obedient or do I go down kicking and screaming? Do I obey immediately or do I have to have my say first?

Passion for Christ is so practical. It has everything to do with how I live now. But perhaps it is not as visible as I thought it would be. Most people have no idea how strong-willed I was naturally. And as I--hopefully--become more obedient to the Lord's will, most people will have no idea of the battles that were fought along the way. But whether or not it is recognized or even misunderstood, our job is to continue to be obedient to Christ. And perhaps as we become invisible, He will become more visible to those around us.

When I was in elementary school, we went to Focus on the Family headquarters one day on a field trip. Headquarters were in California at the time…this was back before they developed all of the cool stuff, three story slides and ice cream shops…but it was still a very welcome break from pages of math problems and underlining subjects and double-underlining verbs.

I remember seeing Dr. Dobson in the recording studio through a glass. If I remember though, they were doing some kind of a broadcast in Spanish.

About the only other thing I remember about the tour was something the guide showed us about the printing process. She took one of the magazine covers and demonstrated to us the way it was actually printed. She had a transparency that showed each of the colors—black, cyan, magenta, and yellow. When you laid them all on top of each other, it made an impressive cover for a Brio magazine. But if you took them off, layer by layer, the picture lost its depth, its balance, its shape, and its attractiveness. And if you looked at each transparency separately—you saw no picture at all. Only red, blue, or yellow blobs of color randomly spread around on a page like something a two-year old might do with a can of paint.

For some reason, the Lord brought this image to my mind on an inordinately bad day that came at the end of a difficult week. Each of the layers could represent an aspect of life. The black layer is kind of like the mundane, practical, ordinary side of life. It gives us shape, but no depth. It is taking out the garbage, scrubbing the bathroom floor, buying groceries, and washing dishes. It’s the stuff we do to maintain; the part of ourselves that gets consumed just to keep things running smoothly.

The first layer of color would be the problems, frustrations, difficulties, and just plain bad days. Lost jobs. Annoying family members. Ungrateful people that you’ve helped. Lost keys. Delayed flights. And much, much bigger problems. If you look at this layer by itself, it looks absolutely shapeless. A waste of ink. No attractiveness. No sense. And even laid against the black and white layer, there is little to convince you that there was much of a point.

The next layer, I would say, is the “good stuff” in life. The fun times with friends. The blessings. Vacations. Gifts. It’s clean sheets, and brownies and ice cream, trips to Europe to see bullfights and castles. This would be the layer of color that we look forward to. Walks on the beach. Dove bars. Motorcycle Rides.

True, taken by itself, this layer doesn’t amount to anything either. Although it is fun while it lasts, you can’t just have this layer of life. Your sheets would not be clean and your brownie pans would still be in the kitchen sink. You wouldn’t be able to pay for the trip to Spain, and you would have no one to go with because truly good relationships are built not only in fun times but in the mundane; and they are tested and strengthened in the tough times. But, even so, we are thankful for this layer and hope that the picture we’re making happened to need a lot of that particular color.

We’re going to skip a long description of last layer for now because it really deserves its own little essay and because I want to get to the point.
Someone looking at the finished product will likely have no appreciation for all of the layers of color that went into it. They see a girl skateboarding on the front of a magazine (Okay, so this was twenty some years ago). It has color, it has depth, but the casual observer doesn’t really notice.

But if you took one of those layers out, they would notice. Even the layer of problems and troubles that we would so happily just skip is serving its purpose to turn your character into just the right shade. Take it out and it would be like an old movie with the whole thing tinted blue. Really irritating.

What looks like random blobs of color are actually precisely the right intensity, not too dark to take over the page, not too light so as to prevent the right color from being mixed. They are also precisely shaped – going right up to the lines that they intended to fill, but no farther. It is perfect, exactly the way the artist designed it when he was turning an empty white page into a work of art.

I took the time to write this down because sometimes we need “standing stones” or memorials in our lives that show us God is at work. God had his children set up pillars at specific times so when they looked back, they would be reminded that God was there and He was faithful.

If we look only at the “bad” layer, we can easily produce enough evidence to convince ourselves that life is a random, pointless mess. But if we look at that same layer for what it is, we realize that there is no need to change it, but to let it come and look forward to seeing just what God will do with the finished design.