Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Vada's Prayers

Proverbs 31:28
Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.

My great grandmother’s name was Vada Hill Trent. She was my dad’s paternal grandmother. He spent summers with her as a boy in West Virginia. Later in life she retired to Florida. I really know her only through his stories and occasional childhood visits. She passed on to heaven a few years ago. And yet, I’m her legacy.
Vada was an uncomplicated woman of the West Virginia mountains. The wife of a coal miner, mother of four children. Loved by everyone. A Sunday School teacher for most of her life. Treasured by her church family. Lived most of her adulthood on the side of a mountain. I remember her as a soft round small woman with sparkly eyes. She wore the traditional long gray hair of her generation wrapped around her head in a bun. Sensible shoes. Quiet and slow hands rolling out biscuits at breakfast time. Rolling gentle speech often punctuated with praise and honor to her Jesus. There are shades of her face in my dad and myself. My cousins in Ohio reportedly look just like me. My sister is sometimes called “all Trent”, sometimes I am; we look very little a like in reality. But there must be glimpses of our bloodline in us all.
I’ve inherited more from Vada than eyes or cheekbones or stories of the coal mine days on the mountainside. I inherited Vada’s prayers.
Quiet gentle Vada was a mighty prayer warrior She took great umbrage at the enemy’s attempts at her family and launched serious attacks on hell’s borders every day of her life. My dad remembers as a child awaking in the mountains to Grandma calling down heaven from an outbuilding. I awoke in Florida as a teenager in her retirement home to the same sound. Every morning, she rolled biscuits and slapped the devil in the side of the head.
I can’t make biscuits to save my life but I have inherited the benefit of Vada’s prayers. She prayed down the generations. I believe she prayed for generations she never expected to see. And I’m living in the jetstream of grace as a result.
She prayed for our salvation. I inherited the legacy of a family that serves Christ. She prayed for our protection. I inherited health and strength and safe passage through adolescence and beyond. I’ll never know what exactly she called down from heaven into my life, but I know I’m living her legacy. Living on Vada’s prayers.
I never turned away from Jesus as a teenager. Perfect? Yes, well, no. But covered in the blood of Christ and Vada’s prayers, absolutely.
My husband lived in the same jetstream even though Vada didn’t know his name. But I bet she prayed for the spouses of her babies, generations to come.
My boys today serve the Christ of their great great grandmother. So will their wives and children. How do I know?
Two reasons.
Vada’s prayers. A bloodline flowing from the cross, through West Virginia and into my veins. A legacy, a birthright and inheritance. Not that she was saved for us; but she fought hell for us, and won. So we would come of our own free will to the Jesus she prayed to on our behalf.
But I said my boys, and the generations to come would know God for two reasons. The second one is Sara’s prayers.
Vada prayed until she went home to Jesus but the work isn’t done. She covered me in her lifetime, and now it’s my turn to take up the work. I learned from Vada to cover those generations I’ll never see. I took the torch, am honored to do so. I’ll get up every morning, make a cup of coffee and slap the devil in the side of the head.
I take great umbrage at his attempts on my family. He can’t have them. Vada and Jesus said so.
So hell, in case you thought the fight ended when Vada passed, think again. There’s a new generation coming. Covered in the Blood of Jesus and the prayers of a humble mountain woman.
And a great grand daughter who knows where her legacy comes from.
Vada’s prayers.

Psalm 119:90 (New International Version)
90 Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures.

Monday, February 27, 2006

See-Through Sara

There’s a personal little thing in my walk with God that I know He calls me to. One small aspect of my journey that I think much of my calling hinges on. For me, that thing is transparency, He wants me to be see-through. When I’m speaking, writing or sharing in any way, all my communicating He seems to push toward revealing the good, the bad and the ugly. Sometimes people are really moved by the inside track to my heart and sometimes they kind of stare at me and back away slowly. As daboyz say, TMI (too much information). But I’m called to transparency.
I’m not the first individual with a personal instruction sheet. Samson was instructed to never cut his hair. There is no specific record of whether he had highlights.
John the Baptist ate locust and wild honey. And wore some kind of camel hair cloak with a leather belt. Kudos on the kicky accessorizing John.
Frankly, I’m glad I am not Samson or John the Baptist.
I’m just Sara, Plain and Transparent.
It’s kind of funny actually, especially in my writing; people will read some new revelation about the bumpy road I’m traveling and write back with sympathy and compassion. They are sweetly trying to comfort me through the darkness. I love them for it but they mistake my openness for desperation. I’m no more distressed by life than the next person, I just publish my flaws. Sometimes with italics and bold print. When I figure out how to add photos, there will be no stopping the sharing!
I like the transparent part of me. I crack myself up. I challenge myself. I dare myself to share the thing the devil says I should be ashamed of. I am addicted to the rush of putting my stuff right out there and taking it away from the enemy. You can’t hold it over my head if I’ve already spoken it out loud and given praise to God for it all. Ha! Take that you stupid devil!
For some reason God did not deem it appropriate to make me a great singer, which I think is a shame because I know every lyric to every song ever written. He didn’t make me rich, also something I could’ve definitely made great use of. He didn’t call me to the mission field in South America (thank you Jesus). I’m not the female Billy Graham. Not figure skating for the Lord in the Winter Olympics. Not giving Oprah a run for her money. There is an infinite list of the things I am not. But I am transparent.
You wanna know what I’ve messed up? Pull up a chair. Wanna know what I’m scared of? Struggling with? Bad habits? How many stuffed cabbage rolls I can eat in a sitting? (I’m guessing around 6). How much I weigh? How much money I make? What irritates me about the Mr.? What God teaches me through daboyz? Ask away!
I’m willing to be transparent. I get a rush from it. Because it’s what I’m wired to be. It’s how the Creator made me. What I’m called to. What I do because He said so. It’s what breaks down my pride and reminds me who is really pumping the oxygen into my lungs. Reminds me why I’m still married after almost 20 years and not looking at year 13 as a single mom. Why my once damaged heart is still beating. Why I haven’t succumbed to bankruptcy, depression or over-eating. I’ve been denied the right to look at myself through rose-colored glasses. I don’t look good in pink anyway.
I’m not telling you to get transparent with me. The world can only deal with so many of us. I’m challenging you to figure out what your thing is. What does God call you to? What can you embrace about your DNA that will give you a spiritual headrush and give hell a headache at the same time? What’s your speciality? The Mr. plays a pretty bass, sings from his gut, never gets mad. My mom nurtures like nobody’s business and we have threatened to bury her with a soup ladle in her hand. My dad puts on a family soiree better than Martha Stewart. My oldest son is wise and quiet and my younger son is a flat out crazy servant.
And I’m transparent with a big mouth.
What are you wired for? Not sure? Grab a handful of wild locust and think about it. Something will come to you.

Psalm 139:13 (New International Version)
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Isaiah 51:11

Isaiah 51:11 (New International Version)

11 The ransomed of the LORD will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

Friday, February 24, 2006

10 Things in 6 Months

1. Jay's graduation party. May.
2. Jay's graduation. June.
3. Mac's mission trip to Thailand. July.
4. Mac's cruise to Mexico. April.
5. Jay's reception to the College of Arts, Letters & Sciences, U of M. March.
6. Jay's 18th birthday. June.
7. Mac gets his driver's license. March.
8. Sara's 39th birthday. April.
9. The Mr.'s 41st birthday. June.
10. VACATION...Shew!!! 4th of July Week!!!!!!!!

Mr. Caleb

(thursday, feb. 23, 2006)
My husband ventured into new territory last night. No, not that!
He taught our life group. You see, ‘round here I’m the teacher and he’s the musician and we have those roles pretty clear. But last night we had life group and I had this weird pull in my back (still hurts by the way). By the time he got home from work I was laying on a heating pad feeling very sorry for myself, and unable to go to group.
I gave him two choices, cancel or go teach it himself. I was sure he’d cancel. The old guy has a few surprises left because he did a quick read-through of my notes and off he went!
I laid on the couch and eventually drifted off to sleep.
He came home and reported a good group. Shared what he talked about, the manna principle and the grasshopper complex ie. Israel’s daily provision in the wilderness and the reports of the spies about the Promised Land.
He was happy and pleased with the evening. And I was impressed. I didn’t hear his teaching, obviously; but I was impressed with his willingness.
It would’ve made sense for him to cancel. No one would’ve held it against him. But his heart spoke louder. I’m proud of him for it and I’m challenged myself. When there is a list of pros and cons, I generally take the road that makes “sense”. Musicians don’t teach life groups. The wife is laying on the couch with a bad back. Stay home. Cancel. Bonus night off.
Not my Mr. He was compelled not by the list of pros and cons, but by the group of people he’s committed to serve in life group. A higher calling, you might say.
He reminds me of Caleb, the central character of last night’s “Grasshopper Complex” story. The spies had gone in to survey the land and most of them said no way. Too many giants. Too hard. We’re too small, we’re grasshoppers. Caleb saw things differently. He saw opportunity. He was excited for the chance to grab some new territory, to walk where he hadn’t walked before. I learned a lot from life group last night after all.

Numbers 13:30 (New International Version)
30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, "We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it."

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Rock of Ages

I’m in love. With a weird little (growing) group of people who don’t do things “right”. They wear jeans. Some have tattoos and piercings. Many of them never attended Sunday School. They didn’t grow up on Bill and Gloria Gaither.
They show up at a public high school on Sundays mornings and turn it into a church. With no pews or stained glass or organs or choirs or neckties or pantyhose (yeah!). They turn a cavernous auditorium into a sanctuary. They ARE a church. Some people call us the “Rock and Roll Church”. Officially we’re Metrosouth Church (www.metrosouthchurch.com). I love them (the church) and it (the church).
Downstairs I’m playing a CD of our worship music and it makes me anxious for Sunday morning. I was raised in church, complete with pews and stained glass and organs and choirs and neckties and pantyhose. I didn’t hate it, I loved it.
That’s the awe in our Awesome God. He’s indefinable and uncontainable (as one of my favorite songs just played). He hung the stars in the sky and He knows them by name, He is amazing...God. I learned that song at Metro. I sing it alone, with a CD and in a crowd of jumping teenagers and pierced bikers and Wayne County Sheriffs and single parents and recovering alcoholics and I can’t imagine heaven being any better, and yet I know I’m just catching glimpses.
I have seen worship flow thick and tangible through the strains of Amazing Grace on an organ. I have felt it flow over me in waves as a bunch of ragamuffins pull cables out of storage closets three hours before church starts in a high school.
I have seen altar calls with weeping glory-streaked faces after a revival service. I have seen living rooms where small groups gathered and wept together before their God and I have seen explosive kick drums announce a corporate push toward heaven.
I have seen my humble little pastor in the 1970s in suit and tie preach holiness and compel me toward Christ. I have seen my Pastor, younger than me, in jeans in his basement say, “You are so close to grace because you know you suck!” (Now one of my favorite quotes). I have been challenged anew toward Christ.
I have requested prayer by “the upraised hand” and on the internet. I’ve worshiped acapella and with music so loud it vibrated.
I have memorized verses for Sunday School awards and heard them 30 years later with no less amazement.
I have discovered and rediscovered God countless times. In high heels. In jeans. With an elderly pastor and a guy still in high school when I had my babies. With people who have known Christ since childhood and those just discovering Him in midlife.
God’s people. God. Heaven reaching down and us reaching up. That’s church. That’s life. God isn’t in the pew, or the neck tie or the stained glass. Or in the backbeat or the power point or the internet. He’s not in the organization with the established name. He’s not in the upstart who challenges the system. He’s in the heart, right where He’s always been. He’s ever new and ever the same. He’s the master artist sweeping His brush across our lives and slamming into open hearts to reveal His love.
If I can’t seem Him in a seventeen year old who shows up early to set up the stage for church then I probably wouldn’t see Him in the Crystal Cathedral.
If I can’t see Him in a Southern Baptist revival then I probably wouldn’t see Him in the Rock and Roll Church.
Another favorite worship song says “Show me your glory, send down your presence, I wanna see your face”.
I learned to see Him at four, I see Him through different eyes at thirty eight. I see Him though, still everywhere. In the heart of people worshiping in unlikely places. Desserts. Shipwrecks. Prisons. Coffeehouses. High Schools. Cathedrals. Hospitals.
It’s amazing. It’s the awe in the Awesome God. When your heart says “show me Your glory”, He does.

Exodus 33:18
Then Moses said, "Now show me your glory."

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Life in the Cheap Seats

Back in the days of Tiger Stadium and no money, the Mr. would regularly buy us tickets to Tigers games trying to get the best seat for the least $$. These seats usually turned out to be “obstructed view.” Basically that meant we sat behind a column and had to watch nine innings pretending it didn’t hurt to stretch like Gumby to see the action. Since I didn’t particularly care about anything but the hot dogs he plied me with, I was fine with the arrangement.
More recently we attended a concert for one of our favorite groups, Mercy Me. The Mr. once again was in charge of securing tickets but he was too slow. The best seats were long gone and he did his best to get something decent out of what remained. We ended up in the balcony, far right. Happily at a concert it’s more about the hearing than the seeing, but the seats still stunk. I told him on the way home that in the future, I wanted good seats or I was staying home. I’m tired of wasting time being almost in the action, but just missing the best of it. I’ll pay the price, I’ll stand in the lines, I’ll get there early. Just put me in the thick of it.
The beautiful thing about having a good chunk of years behind you is that you have perspective to recognize time wasted and to make better use of it now. Theoretically you have a little more money to buy the better seats. You know what you want and you learn the price that’s worth paying. I don’t want obstructed view seats to life anymore. And I don’t want to hear the music but not see the band. I want it all. Call me greedy.
This morning I happened to choose the chair in the living room that faces the front, east window of my living room. I was sipping my coffee as the daboyz got ready for school at about 6:30. It was really dark. A little while later the sun started peaking up. Not really the sun yet, just a hint of pinkness creeping up in the distance. I kept watching and sipping.
The pink spread and flared to a raspberry fuschia red and the creeping colors became prominent in the dark sky. The night time was being pushed away by the sun that I couldn’t see yet. The trees that I hadn’t been able to visualize started to stand out in contrast. The high winter clouds appeared where I hadn’t recognized them in the dark. It was beautiful, almost.
Something stopped the experience just short of beautiful. I was in obstructed view seats again. I was looking at something that I knew was spectacular, but I was looking through a dog-snotted window and over rooftops and power lines. It almost hurt my heart, knowing that something so glorious was happening just beyond my view. I found myself leaning forward in my chair, straining to take in as much as I could.
I sat there this morning and wondered where I could drive for an unobstructed view of this miracle that happens every morning. If I drove down to the river would I have a better view? One of my favorite things about our yearly up north time is creeping on to the porch with coffee in hand in the cold Northern Michigan mornings. I grab my dad’s coats that smell of campfires and wrap both hands around my steaming mug of java and in the darkness on the porch I wait. Quietly waiting for the earth to wake up. I’m never too tired to get up before the sun. It’s part of the experience. I’ll never have enough of those in my heart to be full. It’s never old. The quiet, the darkness, the hand of God pushing the sun up over the trees and the silence gently rolling away to birds and breezes. It’s over in a heartbeat. And I can’t get enough.
I live my life sometimes, in obstructed view seats. I sit too far to the right or left of the action. I hear but don’t see for myself where the music is coming from. Like this morning’s sunrise; the stuff in my way is man made. Houses and power lines and worries and foolishness block my view of glorious things. I hear the music but miss the musician.
I have lessons to learn about obstructed views and looking for the glory just beyond the roof tops. The main one is this, His glory is there nonetheless. The only thing that can really get in my way is me, not noticing the sunrise just beyond the rooftops. Wherever you are right now, take a minute and see if you can't find a hint of our awesome God from where you sit. Drop me a comment and tell me where He was in your day. For me, He was just beyond some power lines on Huron Street doing what He does best..pushing away the darkness.

Thank you God, for sunrises to remind me of the glories You surround me with. Teach me to look past the obstructed view to where You show yourself. Give me a quiet heart to wait on Your beauty spreading across the sky. Give me moments with nothing in my way and only You in my sight. Make me hungry to not just hear You, but to see You wherever You show yourself. Remind me that I’ve learned the lesson of taking a seat too far from the action. Teach me to wake early to seek Your face. Thank you God, for sunrises in the suburbs or on a porch swing in the woods. You are there in both.

Habakkuk 3:4 (New International Version)
4 His splendor was like the sunrise; rays flashed from his hand, where his power was hidden.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Memoirs of a Reject

I think I’m a little bit naive, which comes as a surprise to me. I really didn’t realize how people would react to my attempts at spiritual maturity. I know, I know that Christ taught to expect some opposition. But still, it catches me off -guard and I’m open to advice on how to deal with it.
I have had quite a lot of experience with the consequences of immaturity. I’m well-schooled at what rolls back into my life in response to anger, criticism, bitterness, pettiness, unkindness. I’ve spent too much money and then lived with the bill collectors on the phone. I know about the holes I dig for myself.
Here’s a new twist on the theme though. I’m trying, truly I am, to grow up. So I’m working very hard at walking in wisdom in my life. A big part of the lesson for me is one I’ve shared before, shutting my pie hole. Another issue of mine, anger, is also finding its way out the back door of my heart. So I’m making some headway on those things.
Enter the weirdness. I have people now in my life angry at me for not getting angry with them. Huh? Not angry AT them, but joining them in their anger at someone else. How do you respond to this craziness? I was not prepared to have someone respond to me in anger because I wasn’t angry. I feel like I’m back in the angry hole again but somebody else is now digging it and pushing me in! AND I’m really having to work extra hard at not getting angry at person A who is angry at person B and so angry at me for not being angry with them! Are you taking notes, because you’re gonna need a score card and a pie chart to keep up.
Not to mention that when I’m in the presence of a slamming session and don’t join in; I become Public Enemy #1.
It all sounds silly but it’s very real right now in my life and I’m stumped. There’s that maturing spirit inside of me that reminds me that this is what the New Testament writers told me would happen. There’s that knowledge that this is one marker that I’m heading in the right direction. I am aware but still my emotional self is stunned. I thought these strides would make my life easier and it is getting harder.
I asked my husband last night what advice he might offer and with great wisdom he replied, “I think you should ignore it.” Well, that solved, let me see, where’s my list? Hmmmm, that solved NOTHING.
I can’t ignore it. It’s making me want to say something, it’s making me angry. Wait a minute, those are the things I’m trying to walk away from. Those are the muscles I’m trying to build. Could it be that this is part of my personal training program? I hate it when that happens. Then again, it puts me right in the middle of the New Testament church, right where they were. Right where Paul talks about counting it all joy, this honor of being set apart and not fitting in.
I have always presumed the rejection would be in the form of standing for morality and holiness. I didn’t know that my very character, my personality; would offend people as I tried to emulate Christ.
It can hurt guys, finally cutting those ties to the world and the me that resides there. It can leave me aware of how much of me still remains that wants acceptance from men more than God. It points out how much I’ve laid down, and how much I’m still carrying.
I’m not supposed to fit in. I’m going to have to remember that. Rejection is in the response. I reject the world, the world rejects me. Good enough for Jesus, and I’ve yet to confront an angry crowd and public execution. And the revelation rolls on.

1 Samuel 8:7
And the LORD told him: "Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.
1 Peter 2:4
As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him
Hebrews 11:13
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.

Monday, February 20, 2006

All That Jazz

I’ll just be straightforward with you and admit I doubt this post will evolve into any great spiritual truth. I’m just in the mood for a story.
My dog’s name is Jazz. She is half dalmatian and half chow. She will be 12 years old this year. She doesn’t know she’s a dog. Sadly, Jazz is probably nearing the end of her journey. She’s not the model of canine magnificence she once was. She has, shall we say “lumps” and “bumps” in places that the Black Eyed Peas aren’t likely to sing about any time soon. Although I have asked her, “Whatcha gonna do with all those bumps?”
Jazz is slowing down. Her black spots and white fur are blurring around the edges. Her eyes are often watery. She has a chronic ear infection. She sleeps 27 hours a day. Her dog body is winding down.
She must be aware that her days are numbered, because she is doing things she wouldn’t have done at one time. For instance, she drinks our beverages out of our cups while we’re sitting right there. You can put a glass of iced tea of the coffee table, sit down and turn on Oprah and suddenly realize Jazz is drinking your iced tea. I guess she figures there aren’t enough days left to live on room temp water in an old tupperware bowl on the kitchen floor.
But man, back in the day, Jazz was something else. Tonight we were talking about the day she was hit by a car. You see, Jazz was a runner. Given a narrow opportunity, she’d take off into the streets and God help you if you were trying to catch her. She was streamlined and built for speed. Sometimes we didn’t even realize she had escaped until we glanced out the front window and saw her hanging out across the street. One day a neighbor knocked on the door to report that Jazz had stopped by and had a nice snack of ribs and ice water in case we were looking for her. Again, we didn’t know she had left.
So this particular day we heard the screeching of tires and realized, Jazz had escaped again. She’d been hit by a car. This poor woman was beside herself. I mean, what decent human being wouldn’t be bothered by running over some family’s dog? So she stops the car and comes running around to check on the victim, meanwhile we go to the front door just realizing what has happened to see our Jazzy...barking in extreme disgust at this idiot who has just run her over. She was highly offended. After all, pedestrians do have the right of way.
So she gives this now thoroughly rattled woman what for and turns to limp back up the front walk. Now we aren’t sure if this is tragic or hilarious so we’re waiting to check her over. She lost much of the fur on one side of her body. A little battered. Definitely ticked. And in a final indignity, at some point in the drama she had, well she had pooped on herself. We’re unsure to this day whether this happened on impact or in her great anger.
Jazz recovered to have many more adventures, which I may just share in the future, when another story-telling mood strikes. In fact, some of you commentators probably have some Jazz stories of your own. She’s legendary ‘round these parts.
In the meantime, forgive me for a sentimental journey down memory lane. Nope, there really didn’t turn out to be much spiritual significance in my story. Except that that crazy dog is a hoot and a half. And I think God is an awesome artist, He paints life with just those kind of details. Like goofy chowmations who bring years of stories and giggles to a family’s life.
Rock on J-Dog.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

10 Philosophies

1. If money can fix it, it ain't broke.
2. Buy cheap lipstick (Wet & Wild is great); spend your money on your hair.
3. God knew it was coming, whatever it is.
4. Not everyone will like me.
5. When in doubt, shut up. When I have no doubt, shut up and put my hand over my mouth.
6. Not all coffee is coffee. Only true coffee snobs will get this one.
7. Tell your kids and your spouse you love them until they can't stand it anymore.
8. Tell them you love them again.
9. Laughing until you pee your pants and snot is running down your face is bliss.
10.Take lots of pictures, you'll want them later.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Romantically Impaired

As I’m writing this, yesterday was Valentines Day. If you missed it, you can scan back and find my ode to the Mr. Oddly, much as we love one another, we’re not all that romantical. In fact, we’re downright unromantical.
Of course with the holiday just gone by everyone is talking about plans and gifts and whatnot. People at work asked me what we were doing. Let me share the scoop with you now. We went to Weight Watchers. Afterward, the Mr. picked up take-out Mexican food from his favorite hole in the wall. We went home, he ate his take-out and I had left-over pot roast. And then........
We watched American Idol.
And then.........
I went to bed. And then......
I’m pretty sure he had a bowl of cereal or something because there was a dirty bowl in the sink this morning.
No cards, flowers or chocolate flowing through candle-lit rooms. No dinner in dress or neck tie. No diamonds or even pearls. He did say, “I’m glad you’re my Valentine.” and I said, “The verdict is still out on that.”
Don’t be concerned for us, it’s how we roll.
I’m not pro or con on the trappings of romance. I’m just suggesting that it’s a neutral issue. I know lots of people who cling to these moments in time to convince themselves that there is real love in their lives. And I l know people like us, who forget it’s Valentine’s Day altogether.
Let me give you my definition of romance. I have never put gas in my own vehicle. The Mr. knows how I like my coffee depending on where he’s getting it, and he always goes and gets me coffee when I ask. He also knows that in the evening it has to be decaf, in the morning it better not be.
Romance is me making sugar free/fat free pudding after dinner for him. It’s giving him the pens I get from drug reps at work. It’s when I buy him expensive shoes because I know he won’t spend the money on himself.
It’s letting the words, “I love you” flow constantly. It’s that we never brush by one another in our house without a touch.
It’s me telling him to get away from me when he crosses the invisible barrier in the bed by throwing his leg across me and suffocating me; and him not being offended.
It’s him telling me dinner was “ok” and me not dumping it down his pants.
Romance is that I know he drinks Lipton Diet Green Tea and Diet Pepsi and so I buy them every week even though I don’t drink either. It’s listening to the run-down of the Metro song list 25 times a week including weird sounds that are supposed to represent bass lines, drum rolls and guitar riffs. It’s a play by play of practice with inside jokes I don’t find funny that just slay him. It’s the same stories about the same people at work every day that he just needs to tell and so I listen.
Romance is this man who buys feminine products for me and even knows which ones I prefer. It’s calling me “good-lookin’”. It’s a husband who goes out to pick up the kids at midnight from wherever they are so I don’t have to; even though he’s working six days a week. It’s being asked about things at work that he can’t relate to, but listens to so I can talk it through.
For us, this life we’ve given to each other is about knowing what the other person needs and just trying to do it even if it seems ridiculous. The most romantic thing in my life, is the Mr. who doesn’t ask me to justify what I need, he just wants to be what I need.
So I guess, in the post-Valentines Day moments, I’m just asking you to take a moment and define what love is in your mind. And to maybe, give a break to that person you’re sharing life with. Love is a verb, as my friend Becky insists. It should take some form, some action. It should make life better for that person you’re directing it at.
The Mr. needs to have access to pudding and he needs to make stupid sounds and talk about songs. I don’t care about any of that. But love makes them my responsibility. I am the keeper of his heart, and so I will guard what resides there, from pudding to fear to sickness and health.
I don’t need a box of Godivas, I need to be known.
Do you know what you need?

Song of Solomon 8:7 (New International Version)
7 Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away. If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

A River Runs Through It

Do you ever wake up and realize that this definition of your life is going to be changing soon? That’s us, or at least that’s me.
Nothing unpredictable or unexpected has appeared on the horizon. Just the normal ebb and flow of life bringing the next bend in the river. I’m not shaken up by it but I’m interested. I’m curious. There are no templates for life now.
I look in the mirror and I can’t kid myself; there’s a middle-aged woman looking back. I glance up as the Mr. comes in from work and he looks tired and, well, old(er). But that’s not what this river is turning toward.
Someone else’s life is redefining. This river is branching off. A tributary is forming even as I watch in wonder. My son is graduating from high school. My son took his ACTs. My son was admitted to college. My son is growing up.
I’m glad that the river divides slowly and gently. I’ve no doubt this boy will be his own rushing river, larger and more powerful than we ever were. Right now he’s stepping away a little at a time. He can still feed from our waters and I thank God that he does. I need to still have him as part of us, but I know my time is growing short. He’ll go in his own direction very soon.
Cap and gown have been ordered. Graduation party date is set. He gets mail almost daily from the university he will attend in the fall. High school days are fading.
Someone asked me if I lose sleep worrying about tuition. No. I don’t have it in the bank but I’m goofy with faith. If we had been living on our own abilities, this river would’ve run dry long ago.
My son is a good man. He will do great things. I pray for him, for his provision, tuition, safety, future. I didn’t just start that last week, been praying for him since I was younger than he is now. Since before I met his dad. He’s been in the hands of heaven for a long time now.
My son is branching off, become his own entity. We’ve not done everything right; but we’ve done most things with our faces turned toward God. I know that’s enough. My son will be moving away from us more everyday, cutting his own path through the world. He will do more than I hope to do in my life. My son, named for the river of God’s Chosen, is God’s chosen. His life will flow from it’s original source. That was never me. Flow on my River Jordan.

Amos 5:24
24 But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!

Revelation 22
1Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Blog Church 2/19/2006

Psalm 85:10 (New International Version)

10 Love and faithfulness meet together;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Isn't He Lovely?

Psalm 108:4
4 For great is your love, higher than the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies.

I was fifteen years old in 1982. Sitting in our church fellowship hall wearing a yellow and white gingham dress at a graduation party. He walked into the party like he was walking on to a yacht, wait no; that’s not right.
He did walk into the party though. He was playing in a Southern Gospel group, just home from a “singin’” and unloading equipment. He had a buddy at the party, a friend of mine. He came over to say hi to his friend. He was wearing a burgundy Members Only jacket, Sergio Valente jeans and brown boat shoes. Oh yeah.
I had braces, he had braces. I was “dating” (ie holding hands in church with) another boy. Didn’t matter. I knew I’d marry him. Nice information to have tucked away. That was June.
In October that other boy had dumped me and was no longer holding my hand in church. Loser. I decided to host the youth group’s Halloween party and invite him. Actually, the rest of those kids got on my nerves but love bears all things. Fifty kids later I was getting a stomach ache and sick of those kids. He wasn’t there.
I was dressed as a punk rocker. OK, that was basically an excuse to wear a mini skirt to woo him with my womanly wiles. He showed up late. He was wearing Sergio Valente jeans, a gray Members Only shirt and a weird mask thing. He was aloof but he was there. That was Friday night.
On Sunday his friend asked me during Sunday School if he could pass my phone number on to Mr. Sergio Valente-too-cool-for-the-room. I squealed and said with great dignity, “Uh, I guess.” I waited. Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday. I am going to die. Thursday. I’m going to bed at 7:00, my life is over. 7:30 the phone rang. My mom came into my room. It was him. He was going away with the group for the weekend. Would I want to hang out at the mall Friday after school for a while before he left? “Uh, I guess.”
He didn’t hold my hand. I walked around that stupid mall for two hours with my hand hanging at my side like a freak so he could easily slide it into his. He didn’t. That was Friday November 7, 1982. He took me home, walked me to the door and left. No kiss good bye. I was willing to be a little fast with him. No dice.
Monday he called at 7:30. Turns out that was what time he got home from work. He called every night at 7:30. Time stood still until 7:30. We started talking about how soon was too soon to “go together”. We wondered when we could say “I love you.” I loved him way before he walked into that graduation party, I just didn’t have a face or a name for my love. We decided a few weeks was enough. November 19, 1982 we went to the Fairlane Movies. We sat in his old rust colored Monte Carlo with the white vinyl interior and he asked me to “go with him”. It was a no-brainer. I was long gone. He kissed me.
He graduated in 1983. He gave me an engagement ring in April of 1985 and I graduated that June. He worked for his mom and dad and made no money. We got married in October of 1986. He got a job at Ford and we had a baby in 1988. We had another baby in 1989. We fought. I cried. He sulked. I needed him. He tuned me out. I yelled. He disappeared. Two little boys played on the floor.
He told me he didn’t love me Thanksgiving Day 1990. He told me he was through in April of 1992. I told him I’d raise his sons to hate him. I meant it. I hated him. I loved him. I hated him more than I loved him.
He prayed and I raged. I prayed and he raged. God heard. He caught us back from the edge. He talked us down from the ledge. God saved the home of the two little boys who played on the floor.
He came home from work on April 25 1992 and said he loved me. First time in two years. I cried and wanted to believe. We both cried and started back toward each other.
In 2004 I graduated from nursing school with him sitting in the audience.
I love him.
When I can’t sleep at night I lay next to him and think of innumerable slow dances we’ve shared...proms, weddings, Firemen's Balls, impromptu in the living room.
When I can’t believe he believes for me and we make it through.
When I can’t take another step he carries me.
When we’re out of money he hides it from me so I won’t worry.
He puts gas in my truck every week.
He gets me Applebee’s salads when I don’t want to eat the dinner I’ve cooked because the raw meat grossed me out.
This morning at 5:30 he sat on the edge of the bed and ran his fingers through my hair while we talked about the backed up drains in the basement. He told me to bundle up, it’s cold out there. He kissed me on the mouth even though I hadn’t brushed my teeth. Nothing about me is ugly to him.
Meet the Mr., my husband. My Dean.
He is the proof in my life that God’s love reaches to the heavens and that His faithfulness stretches to the sky.
I am Mrs. Dean Smith.
Happy Valentines Day.

Monday, February 13, 2006

My Best Friend Evander Holyfield

Psalm 126:3
3 The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.

I think Evander Holyfield just gave me a handbill. Well, I’m not actually positive it was him but it sure looked like him.
I was coming home from the grocery store and opening my front door. It’s pretty cold here in Michigan today. 26 Fahrenheit/Windchill in the teens. Shiver. I’m wearing very fashionable white long underwear under my sweat pants. Don’t be jealous.
Anyway, I was turning to walk back to my truck thinking about how my very eyeballs were freezing when Evander bounded up smiling like nobody’s business and handed me a handbill. I said to Evander, “Hey, how are ya!” and Evander said “I’m beautiful!” and I said, “Have a good one!” and he said, “You too my dear, you too.” Still smiling, off Evander went with his satchel full of handbills. Still smiling. In the cold.
This whole exchange lasted about five seconds but he was so radiantly joyful, I found myself assuming Evander was a Christian. He was just shining. Handing out handbills in the freezing cold and probably not getting paid all that many millions to do it. Joyful man walking.
Do you ever run across people who just seem to shine and you wonder if you’re looking at a Christian? I do. Last week in the grocery store, Tuesday at the hospital. Shiny joyous people. I like those people. I kind of wanted to hang out with Evander and find out what was so great that he was smiling while my teeth chattered.
We’re drawn to joy, aren’t we? It’s a magnet. The other side of the coin is that being a Debby Downer is repellant. It’s true, deal with it.
I want to be like my good friend Evander. I am not sure I’m all that shiny on a daily basis. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t exude his degree of joy whilst handing out pizza coupons during a deep freeze. But I’m inspired. I’ve got good reason to smile.

You give me joy that's unspeakable; And I like it, and I like it yeah
Your love for me is irresistible; I can't fight it, I can't fight it yeah
You carried the cross and took my shame; I believe it, I believe it yeah
You shine your light of amazing grace; I receive it, I receive it yeah

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Blog Church 2/12/2006

Isaiah 58:11 (New International Version)

11 The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

10 Things About the Mr.

1. His hair does that naturally.
2. He loves to sing.
3. He buys musical equipment without consulting me.
4. When he winks at you, it means he thinks you're a fool.
5. He isn't as laid-back as he appears, the tension is on the inside.
6. He's more like his dad than his mom.
7. He's never had a cavity (jerk).
8. He cried during King Kong, daboyz ratted him.
9. He doesn't read this blog.
10.He has great taste in women.

Friday, February 10, 2006

But Lord, I Stink!

I received an e mail from our Life Development Pastor, Mike, on Wednesday. I believe it was a mass mailing, either that or someone snitched on me. The topic was hospitality. I have hospitalitosis. My hospitality stinks.
It’s not that I don’t like people but I like them best “over there” as opposed to “right here”. I know, that’s terrible, shocking, appalling. My feelings are based not on them but on me. You see, I just don’t think I’m all that interesting. When I sidle up to someone to get all hospitable on them, I feel like they’re thinking, “who is this freak and why won’t she go away?”
Then there’s hospitality grad school; inviting people to your home. Lord have mercy. That sends chills up my spine. You see, my home is no more fabulous than I am. Again; I feel inadequate. It’s not big enough, fancy enough, in the right neighborhood, clean enough...I guess it’s the perfect house for me since I’m not smart enough, cute enough, clever enough, entertaining enough, spiritual enough....A sad little woman in a sad little house. Cue the violin music.
Hospitality: noun, the friendly and/or generous treatment of friends or strangers. That’s all. I stink at the friendly and generous treatment of friends or strangers.
When I said it’s based on me and not them, that was really hitting the nail on the head. It’s about me. Let’s talk about me. ME ME ME ME ME! I guess hospitality is not so much ME-based. My comfort or discomfort. It’s not about getting them to like ME; it’s about generosity of spirit. About giving away a moment, an hour, a gesture or a smile. The goal isn’t to receive positive feedback on my hospitality skills. It’s for them. It’s supposed to move outward, not project inward. Kind of like serving, kind of like love, kind of like Jesus.
So Mike, Life Development Guru to the stars is ever attempting to make us act like Jesus. I think he should get an annual bonus for Sara Issues. He smiles as I sing my theme song, ME ME ME ME ME! and then he gently shows me a better way. And he has this irritating thing, he and his wife (and even his kids for goodness sake!) of being so doggone sincere and sweet that he tricks you into actually attempting said Christ-likeness. So in his dastardly manner, he includes this verse in the hospitality e mail...

Romans 12:13 (New International Version)
13Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

He was focusing on the word hospitality. I cued in to the word practice. I need to practice. I need to work on the development of this skill. He even gave a few easy steps toward eliminating hospitalitosis. Crud.
So, ok. Maybe they won’t like me, maybe I’ll look stupid, maybe my house is just a plain little house. But maybe it’s time to find a new theme song. Maybe it’s time for a little practice. So if I run in to you; consider yourself my guinea pig. And if I don’t, stop by the house for a cup of coffee. I’ll make you feel right at home. Because it’s not about me. Hospitality, it’s all about you and Him.
Thanks Mike.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Happy Birthday

1 Samuel 1:27, 28
27 I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. 28 So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD."

On my desk is a picture of me, about a year old. Fat and wearing a white bonnet. Sitting on a hay bale. My Grampa stands next to me smiling.
On my desk is a picture of my son, about a year old. Chubby and cherubic. Wearing an egg shell Halloween costume. My grampa stands next to him.
On my e mail is a picture of a beautiful newborn baby boy. The son of my cousin Amanda and her husband David. Born yesterday and already much adored. My grampa will never meet him, not this side of heaven.
My grampa loved babies and little kids. Actually the picture of myself with him has been propped up on my desk for several months since I ran across it in some old photographs. Happy days that I’m not sure if I really remember or I’ve assumed as my own from other people’s stories.
The one of my son and my grampa showed up on my desk a few days ago. Jay is graduating this year and he’s looking for some photos for his school to include in their commencement slide show. That one kind of caught me off guard the other day and I’ve sort of looked around and away from it since. I’m not one of those people who can’t look at pictures or speak about deceased loved ones. I loved my grampa very much and he loved me even more. I miss him. It’s ok. He wouldn’t leave Jesus to come back to me and I wouldn’t ask him to. But once in a while the pictures will get to me. Give me the weepies for a minute or two. Sometimes I let them come and sometimes it’s just not convenient; so I look around the pictures. I think the one with my little boy looks more the way he was at the end, more familiar. More poignant.
My grampa taught me to love the idea of babies. He couldn’t get enough of ‘em. Oh, he adored the grands and great grands above all mortal average children. But kids in general lit him up. He loved the very concept of little kids; thought it was God’s greatest achievement. They made him smile huge and laugh loud. He’d sit in church and watch the toddler two pews up like he was at a Sinatra concert. Actually that’s not true, he didn’t give two rips about Sinatra.
He loved those babies though. Baby hands wrapped around his big calloused fingers, better than diamonds. He showed me the hidden treasures of life...moments in the presence of little ones. Picking apples, making a pie, telling a tired old story “one more time”. Throwing a wiffle ball in the back yard with a two year old that rears back and drops it behind his own body; then can’t find it. Quietly coaxing a squirrel from a tree with bread crusts. Garage saling for old tricycles he could scrape and paint and restore for his babies to learn to ride up and down his long driveway. And him, sitting in his rocking recliner with any one of us as infants sleeping on his chest. Heaven. Or an earth-bound glimpse anyway.
My grampa was sure each of us was a genius at birth. I look at my babies and agree. Man, my grampa sure loved babies.
If he were alive today, I suspect he would’ve shown up at the hospital for Baby Z.’s birth (invited or not). He’d be instantly enraptured, cup that tiny head in his big rough hands and declare that this baby is surely a cut above average. He’d do a lot of “Look at this...” “Listen to that....” with a silly grin on his face. He’d only give him up to his parents if he had to; he’d try to snuggle this newest member of the family into a nap on his broad chest.
So welcome to the world little one. May you be blessed, as I was, with more than one grown up who thinks you hung the moon. May you snuggle into naps in the arms of adults who adore you. May you know you were prayed for before you breathed in your first breath and given to the Lord.
It’ll be a long, long time until we’re all together again with my grampa. In the meantime, I bet he’s looking down and pointing this newest miracle out to Jesus and telling him that this one is extra special. He’s right.
I love you Baby Z.
I love you Grampa.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Unrung Hero

I hate talking on the phone. I hate hate hate it. E mail me, text message me, send me a post card, shoot off a smoke signal, fire up a flare. Just don’t call me. I hate the telephone because...well, I don’t know why but I just do; so there.
This morning at 6:08 a.m. my phone rang. So we all know what happens; heart speeds up, mind races and in the five seconds it takes to pick up the receiver we’ve considered a dozen tragedies waiting to be announced. No tragedy, thank the Lord. Just work, wanted me to come in on my day off. The phone can bring bad news, one reason I hate the phone.
The phone interrupts my at home time. I dislike the phone more now that I’m a working girl because my at home time is so very limited and precious. I look forward to my days at home like some people imagine Hawaiian vacations. I plan for them days ahead of time. I make a schedule of what I will do. I streamline my errands to preserve as much time as possible at home. I push open the blinds and curtains to admire the sunshine streaming across my living room. I buy herbal tea to enjoy in my favorite mug. I know, it seems a little extreme but there it is. I like my quiet little house and my limited time spent there. At work I’m talking to someone constantly. If you’ve been reading this blog for any time or if you know me at all; you know I’m a social misfit of sorts. Let me just tell you that eight hours a day talking wears a sister out. My house is quiet. I like it quiet. So I don’t love the shrill of a ringing phone on my day off. Another reason I dislike the phone.
The phone pushes me off my schedule. I don’t plan phone time into my day. I plan laundry and groceries and studying and often Regis or American Justice into my day. The phone rings and my schedule is all junked up. Yeah, it’s a matter of moments but nonetheless; it’s my schedule and I like it. When I’m watching the BTK Killer and the phone rings, I might miss something very important.
The phone interrupts my time with the Mr. and daboyz. This is the worst offense. I have specific hours to be with my family. As daboyz get older, the hours become fewer. We are only home together after 4:00 p.m. The Mr. has practice one night. Daboyz have small groups another night. Mac is a junior high ministry leader on Mondays. Mr. and I have life group every other Wednesday. Church on Sundays. I work every other weekend. Mr. works most weekends. My point is, the Smith family gathered at home together is a rare commodity these days. The phone rings and I lose more of the time.
I hope I’ve not offended you. I can hear it now, “See if I ever call her again!” You’re right. I’m wrong. I didn’t say everything I just said to prove that phones are evil. I forget sometimes that the very things I complain about are sweet spots in life I’m missing.
My phone rings because somebody out there wants to talk to me. Somebody is interested in what I’m up to. Somebody wants me to know something that is important to my life. Somebody wants to hear my voice. Somebody wants to offer me something (sometimes the offers are unwelcome to be sure!). Somebody wants to have a cup of coffee, go out to dinner, or giggle for a minute. Somebody wants to encourage me, tell me they’re praying for me or ask how my latest struggle is going. Somebody had a choice of what to do in a given moment, and they dialed my number.
Maybe I need to rethink my position on the telephone. Maybe I need to re-examine the things I call nuisances. Maybe there are people out there aching for their phone to ring while I roll my eyes and sigh before I answer mine. Maybe I’m so over-run with blessings that I’ve started to pick which blessings to acknowledge and which to criticize. Maybe I don’t hate the phone. Maybe I need to remember that a ringing phone means I’m loved, I’m prayed for, I have a place in the world outside my four walls.
I don’t hate the phone. I’m thankful. So thank you for calling me to tell me a story, ask what’s up, invite me to lunch or tell me where Sketchers are on sale. Thank you for calling even though you can tell I’m cutting you short because I don’t want to talk. Thank you for calling me anyway. Thank you for being in my life. And thank you because when I have a story, a problem or want to have lunch, you always pick up.
I just realized, Jesus is a lot like the phone. Sometimes when He wants to chat, I don’t want to be interrupted. I don’t want to hear the news, don’t want to share my time. But when I do decide to crawl out of my me-shell; He always picks up. He’s always ready to listen and to answer.
I like the phone. I wouldn’t trade being a part of your life for anything. Thanks for teaching me again, about God. About my need of Him, and you. And despite the times you get the machine and suspect I’m right there listening; give me a ring. I promise I’ll pick up.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Persona Non Grati

I want to be strong person. I don’t need lots of coddling and encouragement and attention. In fact, I kind of shy away from it. I don’t like neediness; most of all in myself. Oh, I’m well aware of my need of Christ and of the many (insert innumerable) times I’ve been bailed out by my family, parents, husband. I know. I know it but I don’t like it. Every time I have to turn to someone for help I want to kick the wall. I have actually kicked the wall more than once. I’m mature like that.
For many years I’ve grudgingly accepted the hand-out, the bail-out, the talk-it-out. I’ve been a walking advertisement for a new emotion I myself invented...gratishame. A combination of gratitude for the assist; shame that I needed it.
Gratishame wears one out. Makes you feel like walking mud. Also can make you a little resentful of the very persons who bail you. So I decided to hand over the gratishame to Christ. It wasn’t an epiphany where the heavens opened, angels sang and I glowed with inner wisdom. It was a years long process of needing, taking, and shame. It only took me 30+ years to decide I don’t like gratishame. So God, through a variety of methods I like to call “human beings” helped me embrace a new emotion.
I was blogging and reading some of the comments and realizing I’m in need of the feedback. Needy again...brace yourself. Then I realized I loved it. It felt so good to have the connection. To need and be responded to.
I checked my e mail and had several from people in my life. People I need to hear from. People who offered me help with some upcoming “stuff”; asked me how my life was going; encouraged me in some things I’m working on; cheered me for some things I’m accomplishing. I need those people. The literal hand out, the emotional lift up, the spiritual feedback, the opportunity to try, today, whatever needs trying.
I’m needy. But I’m not gratishamed of it. I’m gratijoyful. I have learned that it’s all about love, and I need it. I need to be loved and love without expression is...not sure what it is but it ain’t lovely. I have walked around doubting I was loved and at the same time resenting the expressions of love that crashed into my life constantly. The hand-out, the bail-out, the talk-it-out...that was all love with legs on it. Love that walked into my life to make it better, to get me through. Love with hands and arms that stretched out to pull me back just before I lost it all.
There’s a very good chance if you’re even reading this that you are on my gratijoyful counsel because you’re reading my words. I’m going to assume (if I’m wrong, I don’t care) that you love me. You’re encouraging me, backing me up, pushing me forward, counting me worth a few minutes; just by reading. So thank you.
If I tried to make a list I’d leave out someone. So please accept this mass thank you. It’s a thank you for those who reached out to me despite my furrowed brow and sarcastic tone. It’s a thank you that God kept sending loving walking into my life when I didn’t recognize it and tried to show it the door. It’s the funeral service for gratishame and the debutante ball for gratijoy. It’s my own reminder that I’m needy and I’m blessed to know it. It’s my attempt to tell you, Parents, Mr., Daboyz, Friends, Metroites, Ladies of P/P that you’ve sewed up some holes in my heart even when I wrestled against you. You’ve put dressings of JOY over wounds of shame. So thanks.

Romans 14:7
7For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone.

Sunday, February 05, 2006


Matthew 5:14 (New International Version)

14"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.

I was going to leave this verse standing alone as my blog post but I'm compelled to do some self-examination on what I take from it.
Superbowl is here in Detroit and oh the preparations and hoopla. It's ridiculous. I like Superbowl as much as the next guy because my dad makes tons of fattening appetizers and I eat until my eyelids swell shut, so I'm not a Superbowl hater. But give me a break.
Back to the city on a hill. I have a little thing I do in regard to scripture study where I take the first and second half of a verse and flip them to see if I get any different perspective. So here goes...You can't hide a city on a hill. You are the light of the world. Clever, no?
My manager at work was telling me that all the formerly boarded up buildings surrounding the old Hudson's are now full of businesses and looking ever so prosperous. There are signs and kiosks and volunteers wearing very official looking lanyards posted all over the fair City of Detroit to guide folks to the hotspots. The Motown Winterblast is underway with imported fake snow that Fox 2 News has been updating daily...is it melting? is it freezing? cover it with a tarp! Dignitaries of varying backgrounds are hosting parties promised to be the be all end all party. Some tickets are still available! You can rent a spot at Eastern Market for $30 per spot/per day to tailgate. The possibilities of festive fabulousness are endless.
Another person at work was telling me what Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick said, "Send 'em downriver." Not the dignitaries and athletes, nor the journalists. Mayor Kilpatrick was referring to the homeless. Oh no, we haven't forgotten the homeless! You see, there are any number of shelters with limited hours within city limits so when the beds are full or the shelter is not open; the homeless wander around looking decidedly unfabulous. If you drive into the city, take a peek into the space under the overpasses. It's a whole culture, a whole subcity, a whole society of people. Ugly people. Superbowl week is not the time for ugly people.
So here's the plan; you can check this out; it's true. Shelters are going to extend their hours, especially those outside of city limits. Open 24 hours where usually they close in the early morning and reopen in the evenings. Three meals a day are being served where generally there is one evening meal; often soup. Extra beds, blankets, and even clothing in some locations are available. Many shelters are providing large screen television sets so the ugly people can attend their own Superbowl party, out of sight of the fabulous people.
But you can't hide a city on a hill. My interpretation...you can't hide who you are. You can relocate the ugly temporarily, but it doesn't mean the ugly went away forever. You know, it's not even a secret that Detroit is exporting the homeless! It's a fact and everyone thinks it's great! Well, let me rephrase that, the Fabulous think it's great. The mediocre of downriver may feel otherwise. Kwame didn't take a poll.
It doesn't matter to me though, right? Yeah, actually it does. Because like Detroit, I can't hide what I am; I can only clean it up and try to relocate the ugly when I need to. Also like Detroit, nobody really believes the ugly doesn't exist, they just agree to party around it.
Sad how we would prefer to hide the ugly than to confront it. I'm the light of the world and the world is running headlong into brick walls. Apparently, I'm a bit dim. Still, I can't be hidden. Only the ugly tries to hide.
Here's another take on the topic; one of my greatest fears is that people will be surprised to hear I'm a Christian. It's scarier to hide well than to expose the ugly. I have moments when I imagine someone saying, "I didn't know you were a Christian!" Oh no.
So there are my two flipped around inside out insights. I can't hide who I am. The ugly remains even when it's relocated if I don't confront it. And I can't hide who I am. If someone is surprised I'm a Christian, am I?
So I live everyday trying to be brave enough to coax the ugly in myself into the daylight. To take responsibility for what lives in the dark corners of my heart and mind. To ask for forgiveness and to believe in grace. I'm not really hiding, even when I think I am; so it's a bit pointless to keep playing that game. I am not perfect. I try to ship the junk into some other place when my pride rears up, when I'm attempting to make a good impression. And we all dance around each other, we all agree that we don't see the ugly, that we don't have anything to hide. God is a better mayor though, sorry Kwame. God says that I can keep cleaning out the ugly and party at the same time. As long as I admit that it's there, He will keep coaxing it out of my life. It's not about perfection guys, it's about honesty. It's about integrity. It's about being on a hill with a spotlight shining on us.
I am an unhidden city on a hill, with ugliness living under the overpasses. I am a Christian.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

10 Foods I Eat on Superbowl Sunday

1. My dad's chilli with cheese and sour cream and crap.
2. Various dips on various dipping implements.
3. Fattening salads...taco salad, potato salad, macaroni salad.
4. Wing Dings.
5. Meatballs.
6. Cheese.
7. Full fat desserts. (Not even for Christmas!)
8. Dorritos.
9. Lunchmeat.
10. Laxatives. (Not really. Maybe really. Not really. Unless I need to.)

Hit that comment button and tell me what you're eating!
p.s. Does anybody know who's playing?

Thursday, February 02, 2006


It was sometime in the fist half of grade school, early seventies. My grandmother, ever vigilant to identify trouble or sickness on the horizon sounded the alert that I was pigeon-toed. Frankly, I’m not sure how pigeon-toed I was but will admit that to this day, if I’m not mindful to toe out, I toe in; especially if I’m tired.
My parents, being good and dutiful parents, wasted no time in getting me to a “foot doctor.”Again, the precise speciality of this individual is unclear in my memory. I think I know where the office is today, or I’ve created memories to match it. Doesn’t matter. Said foot doctor agreed that my feet were in dire need of a straightening. Corrective shoes were the only thing for it.
Don’t see kids wearing corrective shoes any longer. I suspect that the same movement that eliminated child labor and servitude was involved in eliminating corrective shoes. Whoever you are, I salute you.
Corrective shoes were required by federal and state law to be as ugly as possible. My corrective shoes met the requirement admirably. I had to go to a special store and I think we had a prescription. Prescription shoes. Cool. I think the store was on Michigan Avenue in Dearborn and it was bright yellow. We went that very day to buy my shoes, lest greater tragedy befall my hideously deformed feet, which were also flat. Flat and pigeon-toed. My parents would likely never marry me off. Perhaps I could sell matchsticks on the corner of Telegraph and Ford Road. If people didn’t run in horror.
Back to the bright yellow shoe store. The salesmen directed us to the corrective shoe rack upon which sat a variety of ugly shoes, two specific styles from which I could choose. One was oxblood with leaves on the sides. Sweet. One was oxblood with gold studs on the sides. Off the hook.
In a final brave attempt to regain some modicum of dignity by doing my own shoe choosing, I opted for the oxblood with leaves on the sides. Sat down. Had my hideous pigeon toed flat feet measured by the salesman with grave concern on his face for my foot future. There were murmurings that the corrective shoes were coming too late for me. Serious measuring happened. The serious man went into the stock room to get my serious oxblood shoes with the leaves on the sides to save my hideous feet. He came back and straddled the salesman stool with the little ramp to put my feet on to try my shoes. He opened the box. He pulled out oxblood shoes....with gold studs on the sides. Off the hook.
I took a ragged breath and squeaked out, “I wanted the other ones, with the leaves.”
“Sorry, out of those. Have to go with these.”
Corrective shoes wait for no man.
My corrective shoes then, purchased on that day to be worn EVERY DAY, and ALL DAY LONG and EVEN INSIDE THE HOUSE were oxblood with gold studs on the side. They were also wide and boxy around the toe with skinny stretchy shoe laces and stiff soles that did not bend and inserts to push my feet “up and out”. My corrective shoes were evil.
I wore them everyday to school after that. My mother, God bless her, was something of an outlaw and quickly let up on the in-house requirement. My shoes did not win me the admiration of my peers. For a stuttering shy stringy haired kid, corrective shoes were the final nail in my social coffin. Did I mention you cannot run in corrective oxblood shoes with gold studs on the sides? Well, you can’t. They are too stiff and you walk flat footed, clomp, clomp, clomp. Which is kind of ironic since part of my offense was flat footedness. So clearly one cannot run flat footed in corrective nonbending oxblood shoes with gold studs on the sides. Now, I didn’t really like to run and wasn’t looking for the opportunity to do much running because nonathletic would have to be added to my list of misfit talents. But sometimes a kid needed to run. There were two main reasons at Taylor Parks in the 1970s that a kid needed to run.
Reason #1. Gym class. Yes ladies and gentlemen, I wore my corrective shoes to gym class. Clomp.
Reason #2. Cool kids want to beat you up if you’re wearing oxblood corrective shoes with gold studs on the sides. Clomp.
I could not run for reason one or reason two. I could only clomp into the distance and pray for the bell to ring. I spent lots of time throwing myself in front of the dodge ball so I’d be out and standing next to the teacher at recess. I also worked very hard at turning invisible. No luck on that last one.
I did perfect the dodge ball graze, enough to be out, not hard enough to leave a welt.
My oxblood corrective shoes did not just hinder my running. They also refused to stay tied. So I literally stopped on average every six steps to retie my shoes. Actually, they didn’t untie so much as stretch. My hideous flat pigeon toed feet were also freakishly narrow and my oxblood corrective shoes with the gold studs on the side were too wide. It was possible and probable that I would step out of my corrective shoes or trip or end up with a nice heel blister if I didn’t pause every sixth step to tighten. Clomp.
My corrective shoes started off ugly, but got uglier. They were stiff leather and despite the soles, which were made of plywood, I did manage to bend slightly at the toe when trying to escape bullies or get dodged out without receiving a concussion. After a few weeks of the slight bend, my corrective shoes grew stripes across the tops of my insteps. Where the oxblood leather bent, it wore away to a pinky beige color, about four or five stripes per corrective shoe. Ahh, but that wasn’t all my corrective shoes did! They also developed a permanent bend! So while they did not give enough to eliminate the clomp; they did achieve a sloppy U shape so even at rest, my toes pointed up. Like clown shoes. Clomp.
My mom made me wear the shoes for a long time, but less time than recommended. Even she cringed at my corrective shoes I think. I don’t know when I was allowed to get rid of them, but I remember the gratitude I felt when I was told I didn’t have to wear them any more.
And since the oxblood corrective shoes with the gold studs are gone gone and can’t hurt me anymore, let me tell you something. Those stupid shoes didn’t do me a lick of good. My feet are flat. My toes point in if I’m not careful to point out (which I do, especially around my grandmother) and AND I have webbing between my second and third toes. Stupid useless corrective shoes.
I think my corrective shoe trauma is at the root of my current shoe fetish. It’s like post traumatic stress, I keep trying to relive my shoe experience and come out happy. Sketchers are a great comfort. Literally and figuratively.
Funny that I don’t think about my hideous feet much anymore. And to be honest, I now have all the aforementioned issues along with a plantar’s wart on my heel. We’re really bonding now. The stuff I thought was all that defined me doesn’t even occur to me anymore. The foot shame just kind of faded away with disco and leisure suits; and corrective shoes.
I imagine I could still dodge an incoming red ball if I needed to. I don’t stutter any more, in fact the bigger the crowd the more I like to talk. Still not athletic, don’t care, would rather read. Yeah, my hair is still stringy in its natural state but thank the Lord, it doesn’t exist in its natural state. Hair care has come a long way baby.
I do hope you’re not sad for my corrective shoe days because I assure you, every one of you has a story about childhood and the crazy embarrassed wanting to crawl under a rock moments. I let go of some, laugh at the rest.
There’s a lot to be ashamed of in life. Lots of reasons to stand behind the teacher or try to get out of the game early. Don’t do it. There is life after corrective shoes. There are Sketchers to be worn, books to be read and laughter to be had when it’s all over and you can look back. And there’s just letting it go. Leave the past and buy yourself some pretty shoes. Laugh. Don’t let your hideous feet define you.
Oh, and by the way, my parents were able to marry me off. And the Mr. has flat feet too. Too bad he walks like a duck, he should’ve worn corrective shoes.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Great Expectations

I think I’m pregnant (sit down Mom). No, I know I’m pregnant. I’m pregnant! I’m expecting! I didn’t think it would happen to me at this point in my life. Thought I was “past” that time, that possibility. I thought it was for someone younger than me. But no! I’m pregnant! And I couldn’t be happier!
I’m going to give birth to......something. I don’t know for sure what yet, no one can tell. It’s probably too early. I have a few suspicions about what I’m carrying inside of me.
Probably a teaching ministry or a book; maybe both. Huh? Oh, you thought I was literally pregnant? Ha! Oh, excuse me. No, I’m sorry if I misled you. I’m not going to be having another child in the same year my oldest graduates high school. If that were what I was talking about, I wouldn’t be writing to you because I’d be too busy defibrillating the Mr.
No, I’m pregnant with spiritual potential. With life breathed into me from God. I’m pregnant with ideas and passion and excitement and joy. I’m in a committed relationship with Christ and He’s sharing His Word and His love with me and I’m so full I need to share it. I need more of this lover of my soul. I can’t get enough. I can’t stop talking about Him. I want to call someone every time I open my Bible and tell them what I just learned. I don’t think I am meant to live life in the status quo anymore. I’m pregnant.
I’m going to give birth to something. I’m going to learn more and worship more and teach more. I’m going to lay my life into the hands of my Creator and see what He can make of me. I’m not going to sit and wonder if I’m destined for something. I’m going to live a life worthy of Him. I’m going to give birth to hope where despair sits. I’m going to bring joy where sadness dwells. I’m going to bring knowledge into ignorant corners. I’m going to live and breathe and sing and praise and teach and share.
I’m pregnant. You can still throw me a shower if you want and give me gifts. I like Sketchers, candles and coffee.
Better yet, you can get pregnant with me. We can both carry around a bundle of joy that makes our faces glow. No swollen ankles or morning sickness required.
So if you’re wondering why I’m smiling, it’s because I’m pregnant. Don’t be shocked. The Mr. is pregnant too. Come on, get pregnant with us!

Genesis 21
1 Now the LORD was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what he had promised.