Saturday, December 13, 2014

My Father the Car???

In the mid 1960's there was a television show called "My Mother the Car".  The premise of the show was of a man who's dead mother was reincarnated in his family's car.  She would speak to him through the car radio.

God, my Father speaks to me through my car.  No, I don't hear His voice coming from the radio, the glove compartment, or any other part. But He routinely has used my car to remind me of His constant presence in and care for my life.

First, there was the manner in which I got this car in the first place, back in 2008.  Then there were a number of incidents during my New England vacation of 2013. There was the breakdown that happened the day before my birthday in June.  And then there was last Thursday.

About six weeks ago, I took my car in to the shop because of a strange vibration I felt in the brakes.  I was a bit anxious that it would be a large expense, but as had happened in June, the repair costs were half what I anticipated.  A good thing, too since I knew that when I would have the car inspected in December I was going to probably need two new tires.

When I picked up the car my mechanics informed me that they recommended all four tires be replaced and that two of them needed replaced immediately, they were worn down to the metal replacement indicators and dangerous to drive.  SomeDivinehow, I was able to buy four new tires. Two times the planned expense, two months earlier than I expected.

Later I looked at the mechanic's work order and noticed another strongly recommended repair. Apparently, the protective covering around all four of my brake hoses had cracked and crumbled off, exposing the vulnerable soft hoses to damage.  If they ruptured, I would be without brakes. Understand that my daily commute is 47 miles each way, primarily over interstate highways. I drive at high speeds over all sorts of road debris and roadkill.  I don't know how long I'd been driving with exposed brake hoses, but I've always been able to stop when I wanted.

I made the appointment to have the hoses replaced, along with the annual inspection, for Wednesday and someDivinehow, I was able to pay for it all.

On Thursday morning a coworker messaged me to let me know road conditions were bad, so I left twenty minutes early.  His assessment of the roads was actually an understatement! My normal fifty minute commute took ninety minutes.

That morning's commute ranks in the top five of Worst Trips Ever.  The first third of the trip the roads were icy.  The second third, the visibility was poor with high winds and blowing, drifting snow. The final third portion of the trip, it was both! Frequently I could feel the car slip and right itself.  Ice was building up on the wipers, rendering them practically useless  I frequently adjusted the wiper speeds, like playing the gears on a bike, trying to get the most effectiveness from variable speeds and hoping to dislodge the ice.

I thought of stopping and pulling over to manually clear the wipers but because of plowed snow and drifts I couldn't see the shoulder of the road and could possibly get stuck.  There was more traffic out than usual as well, so I thought it best to stay in the car and just keep moving forward, continually shifting my attentions through small clearances that would appear in different spots on the windshield.  At times, I had to lean far over to the passenger side for the only available view.

My shoulders and neck were aching from hunching over. My back was hurting from the strain of my ever shifting positions.  Stretch up, crouch down.  Lean left, lean right.  I was starting to feel real pain, not mere discomfort.

I prayed the entire trip.  Honest, white knuckle prayers, to be sure!  Like the man in the gospel of Mark -"I believe. Help my unbelief!" (and while You're at it, please keep that FedEx semi from running me off the road).  Yet, throughout the entire trip I was amazingly calm - or at least calmer than usual. I knew I had four brand new tires with sure tread, dependable brakes and only the day before, mechanics whom I trust had deemed my car safe to drive.

My faith, though was not in the reliability of my Cooper Discoverer H/Ts or in Ford Engineering.  It was in God, who'd taken care of all these things for me, before I needed them. Cooper and Ford don't know me; my needs or desires, the hairs on my head or even my hair color, for that matter.  God does, because He made me, gave me all of those needs, desires, etc.  He planned them.

Thursday's commute was frightening, I will admit.  Despite my faith, it is an imperfect faith, being perfected daily by circumstances in which God places me. And I have no desire to find myself shivering in a snow-filled ditch on I86.  But I found that trip encouraging.  I saw evidence that some of the faith exercises God has put me through have produced some muscle.

Certainly God has spoken to people from burning bushes and clouds in the sky, but for most of us he speaks through cars, stacks of laundry, full calendars, joblessness, family disputes and the like.  He speaks through our everyday lives - lives He lovingly plotted.  And what Jesus frequently says is "Will you trust Me now?"

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Suck It Up Sisters - Part 1 Vacuums vs Milkshakes

Recently, I had a disagreement with a very dear friend.  There was a function neither of us was looking forward to attending. I sucked it up and went. She cancelled out at the last minute, which I did not find out until I got there.

Angry, I sent her a text from the party that said if I could suck it up then she should have as well and shown her face. I was wrong - for being angry and for my mean-spirited text (and for all the evil thoughts I had that no one ever saw or heard or even knows about).  I went to her and apologized - to her and to God.  Both gave me their forgiveness.

A few days later she and I exchanged texts:

ME:  I'm going to order us t-shirts that say "The Suck It Up Sisters".  Should our logo be a vacuum cleaner or a straw?

SHE:  Ha! Ha!  Definitely vacuum We suck up all our garbage. :) Plus straws make me think of milkshakes and now I want a milkshake. :D

With all due respect to my friend, she's wrong,  The logo should be the milkshake. It's not our job to do the cleaning because Jesus already has. For example:

"Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow..." (Is 1:18)

And then there's:

"For all of us have become like the one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment..." (Is 64:6) BUT...  "He spoke and said to those who were standing before him, saying 'Remove the filthy garments from him'.  Again he said to him, 'See, I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festive robes.'" (Zech 3:4) (emphasis mine)

To support the milkshake, there are these verses:

"Taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! (Ps 34:8)

"How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" (Ps 119:103)

"Your words were found, and I ate them; and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts." (Jer 15:16)

Certainly, there are times when we're called to "suck it up".  There is:

"Then Jesus told His disciples, 'If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me."  (Matt 16:24)


"Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."

Yet, all too often I suck it up in the wrong manner for the wrong reasons.  I put on a mask of happiness because "God loves a cheerful giver" (2Cor 9:7) or at least that's the reason I tell myself. In fact, it's more likely I don't want people to think badly of me or I want people to think I've got it all together.

Removing my mask makes me vulnerable.  There will be people offended or who won't like the real me (ouch);or some will try to comfort or help me, bruising my self-reliant pride (double ouch); or they will confront me on some sin they see (oh, just kill me now!).

In so many instances, my reasons for sucking it up are sinful. Yet, as my pastor often says, once something is identified as sin it's easy because we know the remedy for sin - repent and believe in the gospel. Yes, I know it's easier said than done; but it's true and well worth the effort

The Promised Land was described as a land flowing with milk and honey. The Word speaks of fruits of repentance (Matt 3:8).  I see a strawberry milkshake there, folks!  Or banana smoothie whatever your pleasure.

It's really hard to suck up the milkshake through a mask.  The little mouth holes aren't big enough and they knock the straw around. To fully enjoy what God has offered us through Jesus we need to remove our masks.  Some of those around us might be surprised by what we really look like, some will be frightened away.  But those that know and love us best already knew what we looked like anyway.  And none of them know us better or love us more than Jesus.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Nature Abhors a Vacuum

Its not an imbalance
That a chemical can counter.
Its not a weight
A drug can lift up.

Its pain.  Real pain.
A hole in my heart
With raw tissue exposed,
Stinging as if alcohol is being poured over me.

A deep inhale of ice cold air
On a subzero day burns my lungs.
Breathing hurts! But its necessary;
So I suffer the searing pain.

A cavity inside me
With nerves exposed.
Air being blown inside
Jolts of agony travel my body.

Nature abhors a vacuum
And so do I.
Jacob wrestled You; Hannab begged.
And so do I.

Please, answer me
As you answered them.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

$#IT Happens

Opinions differ in the religious realm on the use of expletives .  There's the famous commandment about not taking the LORD's name in vain; yet, technically unless one uses the word God or Jesus Christ in the phrase this commandment is not applicable.

There is the Bible verse about unwholesome words (Ephesians 4:29), which has also been translated and interpreted as foul language, corrupt speech, and abusive talk to name a few.  But foul is "in the ear of the beholder" and one person's swearing can be another person's normal manner of speech.

Me, I take the middle ground.  I was raised to not swear.  If I had, my dad would probably have cussed me out! The use of some crude language does not phase or offend me and I admit that certain words have passed my lips.  You see, there are times "Darn!" and "Son of a GUN!" do not adequately express my true feelings of the moment.

Last week, I was running with Lucy when calamity struck.  I've run hundreds of miles with my dogs and this was the first time anything like this happened.  About halfway through our two-mile run the "waste" bag exploded on me.  And it's (uh) contents were not in their usual (ahem) compact form (I'm trying to be genteel here, folks).  Needless to say, my immediate reaction was shock and surprise, with a bit of disgust thrown in for good measure.  But at a time when a certain expletive would have been very appropriate; undeniably a statement of fact I said "Oh shoot" instead.

Lucy and I immediately reversed course and headed home.  It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon and my neighbors were out in full force. Sun shining brightly, they all walked with heads held high, wide awake and aware, taking in their surroundings, especially the lady in the red t-shirt walking her dog.  I was hard to miss.  Dog leash in one hand, half full blue plastic bag in the other, strange brown splotches staining the front of my t-shirt as well as the cuffs of the sleeves. I was trying too hard to be unnoticed, walking surreptitiously, avoiding all eye contact. I walked bent over a bit, trying to cover the brown stains, but I couldn't bend over too much lest I spread the damage. Besides, I didn't want my face anywhere near my shirt.  It stunk!

As we walked towards people, I found myself again muttering "Oh, shoot".  Neighborhood dogs, attracted to my new scent approached me with glee and I thought "Oh, shoot!"  When I saw people I knew, I groaned this epithet, adding additional syllables "Oh, shoooooot".

Somehow we made it the mile home without me being overcome by fumes, embarrassment or a bout of retching. Once in the safety of the my house, I threw my clothes in to the washer and threw myself in to a hot shower.  Lucy and Dora were a bit disappointed, hoping they could roll around in my dirty laundry a bit.  After the decontamination process, I calmed myself by telling myself no one had gotten close enough to know what was on my shirt (except for maybe the neighborhood dogs) and filed the incident in the back of my brain.

But that is not the end of the story.  I think my guardian angel has a side job as the Patron Saint of Irony.

At work a few days later, we received shipment of a statue for the chapel (I work at a church-sponsored organization).  The order had been placed 8 weeks prior and was complicated.  The statue, a 4-foot tall wooden carving of the Risen Christ, was pricey and had been shipped all the way from Italy.

When the Receiving staff told me the order had come in I asked how it looked.  They said it was fine but one woman thought one arm looked odd.  My shoulders and my countenance sagged.  And there, in a church-run organization, in reference to a statue of the Savior of the universe what words do you think fell out of my mouth?  "Oh Sh*t!"

I give up trying to make sense of me.