Monday, August 01, 2011

Baby Shower Games

So...a friend of mine just asked me to come up with a good baby shower game.  I tell you what, when it comes to baby shower games, there is truly nothing new under the sun.  I think I went to my first baby shower when I was seven, and here we are, 23 years later, still playing the same games.

Can I get a witness?  I mean, seriously, how many of you have correctly guessed the number of m&ms are in the jar?  If you're like me, never.  But it isn't for lack of trying.  Again.  And again.  And which of you have not sniffed candybars melted into diapers trying to figure out what kind they are?  I can't believe we ruin perfectly good candy bars on that one (you can, of course, still use the diapers).  And how many times have you lost a clothes pin because you crossed your legs or said "mother?" many of you just went ahead and gave your clothes pins away at the beginning of the party?

And if you google "baby shower games" you will find no help.  I promise.  You will find the same twelve games we've been playing since m&ms were invented.  In fact, look up "creative baby shower games."  You will find the same twelve games.  "New baby shower ideas."  The same twelve games.  "Unique baby shower games."  The same twelve games.  In fact, go to and you may not be surprised to find...nothing at all.

So, when my friend asked me to come up with a baby shower game, I googled baby shower games and behold, I found ...  m&m's, clothes pins, candy bars...and baby bingo...Now there's a thought...I haven't played that one in at least...two showers.  Or using crepe paper to guess how big the mother's belly is.  (Not recommended when the shower is after the birth...or for that matter...before).  I could get rice and have blindfolded people try to find objects in the rice.  Or we could try pinning diapers onto dolls.  Yep, just like I told you, Danielle.  The SAME TWELVE GAMES. 

So now I understand why we have played the same games over and over. My hat is off to you ladies who who have been planning baby showers all these years.

Okay, I confess, there were a few I found that I haven't seen done at any of our church baby showers...such as chugging beer out of baby bottles; or having a binkie spitting contest.  Okay, I don't exactly remember ever bowling for baby bottles either.  But I didn't find anything helpful, if you know what I mean.

But I have exactly one week to do what the whole of American society has failed to do in at least the last 23 years and, I suspect, a good bit longer and that is--come up with a THIRTEENTH baby shower game to make it a baker's dozen for the rest of womankind on our corner of the planet.

There are some who fought in wars for our country.  There are some who give their lives to uphold justice.  There are some who will always be remembered for their unique contributions to art, music, and science.  But right now, I'd be grateful for the contribution of one...just one...brave woman who breaks all the chains of tradition and comes up with a NEW baby shower game.  Maybe it will just have to be me.
Thoughts from Proverbs 31
...and wishing a very Happy Birthday to my dear friends turning 31...
As I was thinking about Proverbs 31 and reading the familiar chapter, I tried in vain to learn the exact context of this passage. Notwithstanding Wikipedia, there is some debate as to whether the “Lemuel” referred to in the first verse of Proverbs 31 is king Solomon or some other king not mentioned significantly in Scripture.
The first nine verses of the chapter are an exhortation from a mother to her royalty son…She exhorts him not to give his strength to women or others things that destroy kings. Then she tells him it is not for kings to drink strong drink—lest they forget the law and pervert judgment of the afflicted.
So, was it Bathsheba giving advice to her son Solomon, knowing one day he would be king of God’s chosen people and encouraging him to build habits that would make him great? I guess we don’t know for sure. 
What we do know is that if it was, it didn’t work. In fact, after a thousand attempts, Solomon had not found the woman his mother describes in verses 10-31—the one who would have been worthy to wear the title “queen” and to help him rule a nation.

What we do know is that the women Solomon did find turned his heart away from the Lord his God and encouraged him to follow other gods. Solomon’s failures hastened the demise of the entire nation of Israel who, in turn, also followed strange gods.

Regardless, the Proverbs 31 woman has stayed with us, a nameless description of a wife and mother of noble character. Anyone who has spent any significant amount of time in church has probably heard countless messages and Bible studies on the Proverbs 31 woman and rightfully so. There is a lifetime’s worth of practical goals packed into those 21 verses.
But today I’d like to just talk about one. The second half of verse twenty five. I’ve seen it interpreted as “she smiles at the future,” “she shall rejoice in time to come,” and even “she laughs at the time to come.”
I thought this was fitting for a birthday party, because birthdays—like it or not—remind us that time is going by. We are getting older. The future is slowly slipping into the past moment by moment. That’s why some of us hate birthdays. While others just wish we could have the “party” part without the “growing older” part.

When I went to get my hair done a few weeks ago, I glanced through some of the health and beauty magazines lying on the table. Pages and pages of instructions on looking young, staying young, reversing aging. Product after product to erase lines, erase age spots, speed up your metabolism, thicken your hair, and who knows what all else. The fact of the matter is that we equate youth with beauty. And we, as a society, waste a lot of time and money trying to find the fountain of youth.

So…the Proverbs 31 woman smiled, even laughed at the future…why exactly was that? She would get older like the rest of us. She would get varicose veins, aches and pains, her vision would go, and maybe she would need false teeth. Yuck. So why look forward to the future? She was already married. She already had children, and in time they would grow up to leave her. They would make decisions of their own, and perhaps not even the best of decisions. The world around her would change. Kingdoms would fall. Her husband might lose his throne (his job) or even his life.

So, now that I have painted this dismal picture, I will ask one more time…what in the world was she laughing about?

I have been chewing on this verse all week, and I hope you’ll permit me to share some of the thoughts I have on this with you

The first thought I had is this…regardless of the future, of time, of aging, some things will never change. In one of my favorite passages, the writer of Hebrews says, “Let your conversation (character) be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.”

The writer makes a progression here…be content with what you have, because after all, Jesus has promised never to leave us or forsake us. Clearly, contentment leads to security. Security: that is the stuff that can smile at the future knowing that with the Lord as our helper—we have no need to fear what man will do to us.

Contentment…it’s easier said than practiced. It seems to have evaded most of the actors in Hollywood, the singers in Nashville, and the politicians in Washington. Riches, fame, and power cannot seem to produce happy people or healthy families.

But contentment is a well-rewarded virtue. It leads to happiness, security, and beauty faster than any other quality. And perhaps it grows and spreads best when radiated from the life of a woman who can smile at the future. There is no beauty like contentment.

Some things are guaranteed to change. And time will gradually rob us of some of the features that this world mistakes for beauty—No matter many surgeries you have or what products you use. But time is powerless against your contentment and your security because we are guaranteed our Savior for all eternity.
Leave the Scars

But there is more than just the gradual aging process that I dislike about looking forward. It is knowing that life includes a lot of scars…cuts, bumps, and broken bones…things that may never heal completely. Lives can be jerked to pieces in a matter of moments. And so can relationships, families, and finances.

For years, I have heard friends and church leaders take comfort in Romans 8:28, “For we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
But the most striking testimony I ever heard of this passage was given by a young Christian missionary to Australia. His wife had recently died from cancer, leaving him to father four young children. He read that verse, but he didn’t stop there. He read the next verse, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”
He talked about how in difficult times, we all tend to ask “why” and feel like we receive no answer. But the answer is in our Bible. All things work together for good to them that love God. For those who are committed to His purpose. And what is His purpose? It is to conform us to the image of His son. The fact of the matter is, we tend not to value the idea of being like Christ. We value our own comfort and happiness.

He loves us, so He allows wounds in our life. In fact, He himself “chastens” us and “scourges” us. In today’s English, He spanks us. But it goes further than that. In Bible times, when someone was scourged, they were often whipped with ropes with iron pieces tied to the ends. The scourging not only hurt, it wounded. It took pieces out of the offender.

And God tells us He chastens us because He loves us. He loves us too much to leave us the way we are. In our proud, selfish states—thinking the world revolves around us, trying to change circumstances and people, and getting frustrated when things don’t go according to our plan. Naturally, that is me. And how God must just hate that.

So God, in his love, spanks us. And in the process, we find out how much we love Him. Do we become bitter, resentful, and angry? Or do we welcome the unexpected changes knowing that He is about His purpose of making us like His Son?

As I thought about this during the week, I listened over and over again to a song that says it so eloquently—
I used to wish that I could rewrite history
I used to dream that each mistake could be erased
Then I could just pretend
I never knew the me back then

I used to pray that You would take this shame away
Hide all the evidence of who I've been
But it's the memory of
The place You brought me from
That keeps me on my knees
And even though I'm free

Heal the wound but leave the scar
A reminder of how merciful You are
I am broken, torn apart
Take the pieces of this heart
And heal the wound but leave the scar
I have not lived a life that boasts of anything
I don't take pride in what I bring
But I'll build an altar with
The rubble that You've found me in
And every stone will sing
Of what You can redeem

Heal the wound but leave the scar
A reminder of how merciful You are
I am broken, torn apart
Take the pieces of this heart
And heal the wound but leave the scar

Don't let me forget
Everything You've done for me
Don't let me forget
The beauty in the suffering

Heal the wound but leave the scar
A reminder of how merciful You are
I am broken, torn apart
Take the pieces of this heart
And heal the wound but leave the scar.

[Point of Grace]
Best is yet to come

Lastly, while we know God wounds us because he loves us, we also know that He rewards those who love Him. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love Him.” 
So, we can smile at the future, because, quite frankly, the best is yet to come! Right now we see as if through a mirror dimly, but then we will see God face to face. Now we know Him partially, but then we shall know Him the way He knows us: intimately, personally, completely.

Yes, the best is yet to come. We can’t fully imagine heaven, but we can be confident that God is preparing a place for us. And at last, life will be perfect!
I hope that it doesn’t seem morbid that I would allude to heaven at a birthday party. Okay, maybe it is a bit unusual. But when Christ took the stinger out of death, He also took the stinger out of birthdays, even for women. At least for Proverbs 31 women.
After all, younger does not mean more beautiful. So I challenge each of you – Be content. Keep your scars. And just imagine heaven because the best is yet to come!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

In Search of the Perfect Candidate

I have read many articles lamenting the lack of good presidential candidates. TV commentators have been shaking their heads in disgust. Magazine covers mock the various contenders. According to the media, the Republican Party just cannot seem to produce a decent candidate. Someone of integrity, leadership, and vision.

To be the perfect candidate…

You must be bursting with charisma and energy although catching only two hours of sleep a night in a rolling bus. To look like a million bucks while not spending $500,000 on your one-day-only designer clothes wardrobe. To eat at fundraiser dinners and exclusive receptions yet stay healthy and in good shape. To be attractive without being either ditsy or vain. To be confident and command respect without talking about yourself too much or coming across conceited and condescending. To know everything that is going on in the world; yet not forget what life is like for the soccer mom and Joe, the plumber.

You must have a fool-proof plan to fix a broken economy without raising taxes or cutting benefits. (A magic eraser for the national debt would be great.) You must know how to create jobs without feeding corporate greed. You must have a head for business—and a heart for old people and puppy dogs.
You must be able to give interesting speeches on topics that most Americans don’t care a thing about; or even understand. To be right, all of the time. To have a clear message without being repetitive. To have experience (without any unhealthy political ties) and a voting record that shuts the mouth of even Rachel Maddow.   To not be divisive, but not be a "flip flop."  And you must make the other candidates look like idiots without slinging mud.

You must be able to deal with immigration without hurting anyone’s feelings. To support our military while making the world a place where a military is not needed. You must know the capital of every country in the world (and how to spell “tomato.”) To work around the clock and not burn out; to always come up smiling.

You must have the charm of John Edwards (but not the other stuff), the grace of the Apostle Paul, the looks of Sarah Palin (…but please, NOT HER). You must have the ingenuity of Bill Gates, the wit of Yogi Berra, the work ethic of Thomas Edison, the loyalty of Davey Crockett, the honesty of Abraham Lincoln, the wisdom of Solomon, and the experience of George Washington (after his two terms in office)…Oh, and not be a white male.

You must have a fresh message and you must give us HOPE. The other four hundred and some politicians in Washington are just making a mess, and we are counting on YOU to straighten it out.

In four years.

And somehow, in all your wonderfulness, you must find a way to stand out from all the other candidates. To convince Americans to support your campaign who think they are patriotic when they buy fireworks on the Fourth of July.

You must be willing to live without an inch of privacy, to have every rock in your life kicked over. To take the blame for everything that goes wrong in the world for the next four years and to be constantly reminded that you don’t deserve the credit for anything that goes right. To be criticized for hour after hour on talk radio and television by smart people who have the luxury of having a whole staff at their disposal to search for inaccuracies in your statements and smart responses to your dumber moments. To be reminded—for the rest of your life—of mistakes that you made. Or mistakes anyone close to you made. To be told what to do by the experts in every discipline. Basically, everyone.

All things considered, the job doesn’t pay very well.

But, we promise….
If you won't scold and dominate us
We will never give you cause to hate us
We won't hide your spectacles
So you can't see
Put toads in your bed
Or pepper in your tea
Hurry, Nanny!
Many thanks
Jane and Michael Banks

Maybe, just maybe, she will come flying in.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Never Swim Alone

I’m quite sure that the four people that are long suffering enough to follow this blog are simply dying to know how my escapades at the gym are progressing. Did I stick with the spin class? Will they see me in the Olympics for racquetball in the near future? Was I ever able to do more than four minutes of swimming without a need for a respirator?

The answer to the first two questions is no and not hardly. But (drum roll), I am pleased to inform you that I have stayed with swimming for about nine months now. Not every day, but often enough that I have managed to become one of the morning “regulars” in the pool.

There are a good group of “regulars” at the pool. In fact, the big lie I was told when I joined this gym is that it isn’t difficult to get a lane if you come before 7:00. Fortunately, the “regulars” look out for each other and we try to make it work.

Let me introduce you to a few of my new swimming friends:

Five O’Clock Rock

He earned that name by being at the pool every single morning of his life at 5:00. Rain, sleet, snow, or hurricane, at 5:00 he will be in the pool. He will swim for an hour. Exactly. Then he will grab his stuff and head for one of the shower/changing rooms off to the side. Thirty minutes later, he will emerge wearing a white shirt, black shorts and flip flops. Rain, sleet, snow, or hurricane, he will be wearing that white tee shirt and a pair of short shorts. The only variation is that if it’s below freezing, he will add a little black jacket to his attire.

What I want to know is not how he manages to live his life in such perfect order. What I want to know is what in the world a man does in the bathroom for 30 minutes when he is bald as a door knob and he only comes out in shorts and flip flops. Must be that he joined the gym because his hot water heater at home couldn’t support a full thirty minutes.

Monk in Trunks

This gentleman isn’t quite so regular as Five O’Clock Rock. He probably doesn’t have time because he is busy traveling the world. If you google “Buddhist monk” you will see his picture. Yep, that’s him. Only, in the picture you see, he will probably be wearing an orange drape. I would prefer to see him in the orange drape.

The Man in the Yellow Shorts

If you’ve ever wondered if The Man in the Yellow Hat ever takes his hat off, the answer is yes. But when he does, he puts his long, lean body in a pair of yellow shorts. He is a very good swimmer. He is also a very nice man. He invited me to church with him. I refrained from asking if George would be coming along although I was curious.

Synchronized Swimmers

Also known as the “swimming supermen”…these men always swim in tandem. They come with all kinds of gear like I never knew existed for swimming. Fins and gloves and weights and things I don’t even know how to describe. They bring a typed up list of everything they’re going to do and they do it. They swim together the whole time, same strokes, same speeds, same gear. I think Pete and Re-Pete taught Michael Phelps how to swim. Or maybe they are still teaching him…They are good.

The Treasure Seeker

He wears a full snorkel and fins and he goes back and forth inspecting the bottom of the pool. Either someone told him the gym was built on top of an ancient Indian burial ground and he is looking for artifacts, or else he lost something once upon a time and he is still trying to find it.

Underwater Zoo

So far all of my subjects have been men…now is time to rat on the women. They get together for water aerobics every morning. Picture seven women over seventy in swim suits. Enough said.

And then there’s me

So…now that I’ve poked fun at my swimming friends, it is only fair play to wonder what they would say about me if they were writing this. Perhaps they would call me “turtle.” There is a reason why they call the stroke I do the “crawl.” If I were any slower, I’d just sink to the bottom. I can swim a long time, but I am slower than molasses.

Or maybe they would poke fun at me for the way I leave a trail of stuff behind me. It seems like I’m always trying to get out of there dragging wet stuff, dry stuff, hangars, clothes, flip flops…it isn’t easy to figure out everything you’re going to need for a work day and pack it before your brain has finished booting in the morning. And it’s even more difficult to get it all out with you when you leave. Forget renting a locker, I need to rent a whole room. I wonder how many bottles of shampoo, hair bands, flip flops, and goggles I have donated to Goodwill via the lost and found. I at least want a tax receipt.

Or maybe they’d call me “White Eyes.” You see, the really cool swimmers have the mirrored, fogless goggles. I am not one of the really cool swimmers. I had a pair of expensive goggles, and I lost them. But I can keep track of cheap goggles just fine. The downside is that I am always looking at the black stripe at the bottom of the pool through a white haze. They say that you spit in your goggles to keep them from fogging. I have tried that. And frankly, I found out why “spit in the eye” is a derogatory phrase. It doesn’t feel very nice.
Apparently, however, despite the haze, I can see something, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this blog. And fortunately, I can hear well enough that I can look in the general direction of whomever may be speaking to me; I just nod and smile. Besides, it’s all part of the disguise. I wouldn’t want anyone to actually know who I was or I wouldn’t be able to post this.

I guess if I get to the pool in the morning and one of the other swimmers calls me White Eyes, then I’ll know my disguise has been found out. And I will look their general direction through my white haze and just nod and smile. And maybe, just maybe, that would mean that there are more than four people who are reading my blog.