Monday, June 27, 2011

May My Lasting Impression Not Be One of a VW Bug

The birthing center anchors the entrance to the town; a veteran’s cemetery marks its end. Dunkin Donuts, a market, bar, pizzeria, and smattering of other enterprises sustain the ebb and flow of life between. 

We snagged the only beds around—a quintessential country B&B with printed wallpaper, eclectic furnishings, and hearty breakfasts that brought new meaning to “stick to your ribs,” and everywhere else to boot.

I had been quick to secure the one bedroom with its own bath, (although my brother delighted in saying I stole it from under him—he having to share the other bath with the guests in the next room—his sons.) I had no qualms in pulling rank. And he had none in short-sheeting my bed. Having never experienced this age-old camp trick, we were totally baffled when we pulled back the blankets. Surely our innkeepers knew how to make a bed. Bill’s triumphant giggles on the other side of the door were a dead give-away.

We had come to this tiny spot on the Vermont map, wedged in between lush hillsides and Interstate 89, to celebrate a man’s life and death, and to reacquaint ourselves with family and friends long ago scattered, like a rack of pool balls, in different directions.

I was curious about the images my brain released in response to the oft asked question, “Remember me?”  In an instant, the white-haired woman facing me morphed into a teenager urging me to buy my mother a parakeet to match the one she was buying for her mother. The gregarious woman dishing out generous portions of food and picking the dog hairs off my sweater informed me I was her godmother (Lord forgive me for my delinquency in spiritual motherhood).  The lanky woman in jeans stirred sad memories of a trio of best friends broken by a family move.

A solid, towering man reminded me he was indeed the young cousin boy who worked for my father one summer. He, in turn, remembered two things about me:  I was a skinny, beaded hippie, and I had a 1964 blue Volkswagen.  Since I don’t have a cool mini cooper, or any other car of note, and I’m not decked out in beads or tattoos, this got me thinking about the impressions I make on people.

Whether we like it or not, our days are numbered. Soon my car will be at the head of the train. When it’s time for me to get off, how will I be remembered? Funerals and family gatherings remind me I have been careless with my time, my friendships, and family. There’s not much I can do about what’s behind, but I can affect what’s ahead.

[Lord] teach us to number our days, that we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom . Let Thy work appear to Thy servants, and Thy majesty to their children. And let the favor of the Lord our  God be upon us; and do confirm for us the work of our hands; yes, confirm the work of our hands.—Ps 90:12-17

I suspect the life I have lived in between the birthing center and the burial plot will be remembered along with tepees, and other assorted adventures, but in the end, I pray it will be saluted as one lived in the faith and joy of the Lord.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

These afternoon storms sure pack a punch—and so does the Lord

I was so mesmerized by the black swirling rain that obliterated my view of the pool fifteen feet away, that I didn’t even think “tornado’ until it had moved its trail of havoc down the street.  Not that I know what I would have done if it were, but I probably wouldn’t keep standing in front of the patio doors.

After the tempest passed, I surveyed the damage. Apart from some of those nasty sweet gum trees losing their heads, all was well. One lawn chair floated upside down in the pool and yet the other was undisturbed. Same chairs, same place. One gone, the other left.  It reminded me of Luke’s warning—“ two will be in a bed, one will be taken the other not; two women will be grinding, one will be taken the other left”  (Luke 17:34-35).

This was just a sudden violent storm, not a tornado, earthquake, or tsunami, still it pressed its point—all man’s might comes to naught in a few furious seconds.

The fallen tree had wiped out the fence, leaving a gap which I was sure the pooch would be happy to notice. We have a cute little electric chain saw that works great when there is electricity, but is as useful as a flashlight full of dead batteries when there’s not.  My husband left for work, saying he would come back to cut the tree out of the fence as soon as the electric came on.

I thought I’d lighten his load and surprise him by chopping all the bushy branches from the main trunk. Hoping a sweaty, filthy woman who was attacking a fallen sweet gum tree with a pair of lopping shears wasn’t worthy of the evening news, I kept my face turned away from the helicopter that hovered overhead.

As I worked, I prayed for a friend who had called. Although she lives elsewhere and wasn’t affected by my weather, she was experiencing her own emotional storm. I wanted to intercede for her and hoped the Lord would accept my prayers even as I lopped branches, but I worried whether I should be on my knees in undistracted petition.

At some point in my sweaty labor, I wondered if any of the spectators out ogling the aftermath would stop and offer to help. For some reason, I was certain if someone did, I would know the Lord heard my prayers of intercession for my friend.

A mother and daughter stopped to chat and then passed by. Two boys taking advantage of the tree- blocked street zipped by on skateboards. A tired man stopped to say he’d lost his barn. Electric trucks, road crews…slowed to look and continued on.

I chopped and prayed. Two hours passed.

A teenage boy walked by, stopped, exchanged news of ruined roofs and missing trampolines. And then, there it was. God’s sweet assurance in the storms. The boy surveyed my mess.
“Do you need some help?”

Friday, June 10, 2011

A skunk with a can on its head is reason to freeze

  There are those times when fear nails you to the spot, clips your lips shut, and freezes all your otherwise honorable actions. Sometimes these reactions are justified. Like the time my parents left me to the skunk.

One night my family was visiting friends; the adults chatted on the porch; we kids romped the yard, spun each other silly on the tire swing, and chased after fireflies with our mason jars. I was barefoot, as usual, but the dewy night grass was cold on my feet, so I went to the car where I found a pair of my father’s shoes (Why his and not mine? I have no idea).

I remember the moment well. It was dark; I could see the adults across the lawn, silhouetted against the porch. Just as I started clunking across the grass, I heard a rattling noise coming straight toward me. Apparently, my mother noticed it also because she yelled at me to get out of the shoes and run. A skunk with a tin can stuck on its head was careening wildly about six feet away from me.
I froze, as did everyone else. No one moved. Not an adult. Not a sibling.
 Finally, I started running as best as I could. My mother kept yelling for me to ditch the shoes, and the skunk, just trying to free his head, chased behind, banging and rattling. At some point, my father snatched me up as the skunk disappeared into the woods.

Well, I never held this against my parents, never needed therapy or anything, because I know all too well how easy it is to freeze while your brain weighs all its options. So many times, I’ve felt like a coward about saying the right thing, or standing up for someone, even the Lord.  I know it doesn’t do any good to berate myself when I wish I had responded differently, but I do use the moment to remind myself the next time I will have more courage.

I worry about the times we are living in. You can’t say “Amen” at a graduation. The National Anthem is too violent to be sung, and the military burns Bibles in Middle Eastern countries, because they offend, but handles the Koran with the demanded reverence.

G.K. Chesterton said, (years ago), “These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own.”

Right now, my lines have fallen in pleasant places, and for that I am thankful. I don’t have much stress or persecution. My life isn’t demanded of me because I am a woman or a Christian.

But I am praying now, in these good times, that I will live each day with courage to say and do what is good, right, true, and life-giving—wherever I am. I’m praying that I would practice integrity in the daily little things, so that should I be given a moment “for such a time as this,” I will take courage and fear not, for I know my God is with me.—Maybe even courage enough to risk the consequences and pull that can off a skunk’s head, should I ever meet up with one again!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Deleting the alphabet. In the end, the “Rs”remain

 Back in the days when we didn’t know any better, my siblings and I stuck our tongues out at each other and hurled childish names designed to inflict pain. Our little barbs were usually countered by the retort, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”   

Older, wiser, and more properly civilized, I now know that is not, and was not, true. Names do hurt. Words, although invisible to the eye and intangible to the hand do pierce and cut.

I’m not supporting name-calling, but I think our newly found super sensitivity to language is askew. Perhaps it’s the product of trying to have good without God.

We don’t say the “N” word (unless we happen to be speaking to each other) nor the “R” word, and not several of the “G” words—one because it slurs a nationality, the other because it acknowledges Deity. But, we tolerate the “F” word; even allowing it in the books almost every kid in public school reads as part of his/her literature program. Go figure.

I personally don’t like the “D” words. Whenever I feel niggled, I tell my husband I have the “Ds.”—Despair, depression, dismay, dejection, distress, disruption, destroy, disease, diet, death.

But then there are the other “R’ words. They are the best. They are the words of life, of hope, of healing. They represent the most numerous motifs of the Bible: Reform, restoration, rebirth, redemption, reunion, reconciliation, reward, reversal, and return.

The “R” words belong to those of us who know no matter how many of our rights, our words, our liberties get deleted, no matter how much we suffer the “D” words, we know we are the “people who can have tragedy in [our] heart and comedy in [our]head”* because no man can take the “Rs” away.

We live in a fall, but we will Rise.

“And as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives. And at last He will take his stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, yet in my flesh, I shall see God.—Job 19:25

*G.K. Chesterton