Friday, April 25, 2008

Extreme Makeover

My shower has a cracked pan. A few weeks ago, I thought a pan was something you cooked in. But apparently, it is also an important piece of plumbing equipment. And mine has a crack in it.

You can’t even see the pan. It sits below the drain, below the floor of the shower. If there hadn’t been a problem, I would never have known the pan was there. But that crack, though invisible to my eyes, has made itself known.

My shower, which sits in a corner, borders two walls in our home. One wall is in our bathroom. There is now water damage on the floor, on the wall, on the sheetrock. There is even some mold starting to creep its way up that wall. The other wall is in our bedroom. The carpet there is wet, and the baseboard is soaked.

I can’t fix that crack by myself. It is not a do-it-yourself kind of job. If I want my shower to stop leaking, the entire shower is going to have to come out. The walls will have to come down, and the entire area will have to be dried out and cleaned out. Then, I will need to get an entirely new shower.

This is a job for the experts.

I’m sure it will cost a pretty penny. And I won’t be able to use my shower for a while. The whole process isn’t going to be fun.

But the good news is, I’m getting a new bathroom! I’ve never been really happy with that bathroom. Oh, it was fine. I was content. But it wasn’t my dream bathroom. Now, because of the damage caused by this little cracked pan, my bathroom will get an extreme makeover! (Budget friendly edition.)

I can feel an analogy coming on.

Most of us, if we look closely, have cracks in the pans of our lives. It may be a crack in our spirits, that has been there since childhood. It may be a crack in our character. Those tiny cracks are often invisible to the rest of the world. We dress up, put on our best smiles, and convince others that we are solid and smooth. And we choose to ignore in ourselves what others can’t see.

But if left unchecked, those cracks will cause some pretty serious damage! Eventually, the crack will grow, causing all kinds of unwanted things to seep out into our lives. Before we know it, everyone around us will be able to see the wet carpet and the mold that is growing on the surface.

Because the problem is under the surface, it can’t be fixed with a simple patch. It requires the Professional, who will come in, tear out the old, nasty, damaged part of our lives, and replace it with something new and fresh. And that part is no fun at all. It is uncomfortable and annoying. It hurts.

But if we let Him have control, we will always be pleased with the end results! If we let Him come in and tear out, clean out and replace, we will end up with sparkling, shiny new spirits. Extreme Makeover, Soul Edition.

I’ve had a few of those makeovers in my time. They are never fun while they are happening. But trust me, they are worth the trouble. I am a stronger, wiser, better person than I would be, had those cracks stayed in my life.

Now, if I could just figure out how to get my kitchen remodeled, while we’re at it . . .

2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

Friday, April 18, 2008

Stop Whining

There are about a zillion reasons to be a proud Texan. I was born here, and have lived here most of my life. I am proud of our strong history. I am proud that we can fly our flag at the same level as the U.S. flag, because we were once an independent nation. I’m proud that everything seems bigger and better here in Texas. I’m proud that our people are some of the friendliest people in the world.

But today, I learned a whole new reason why I should be a proud Texan! We are . . . drum roll please . . . the home of the original elephant jokes!

That’s right, folks. The first elephant jokes were recorded right here in Texas, back in the summer of 1962. Their popularity spread, and hit California by January/February, 1963. By summer of ’63, these outlandish jokes could be found in newspaper columns across the nation, as well as in TIME and Seventeen magazines! Before long, everyone was spouting off the silly riddles, and their popularity remains to this day.

Here is one of my favorites:

Q: Why did the elephant stand on the marshmallow?

A: To keep from sinking into the hot chocolate.

(Go on. Laugh. You know you want to.)

Here’s another one:

Q: How can you tell if an elephant has been in your refrigerator?

A: By the footprints in the butter.


Okay, one more. This is the last one, I promise.

Q: What did the grape say when the elephant stepped on him?

A: Nothing. He just let out a little wine.

Get it? A little wine? So funny!

That last joke makes me feel kind of sorry for the grape, though. Poor guy. He probably never saw it coming. I’ll bet he was just sitting there, minding his own business, when all of a sudden WHAM! He was stepped on by an elephant.

But you know, there is an important message buried in that silly joke. The pressures of this life will often seem to come out of nowhere! We can just be sitting there, minding our own business, not hurting a soul, when WHAM! Life comes at us, like that big ol’ elephant’s foot.

When that happens, we have two choices: we can let out a whine, or we can let out wine. Much of the time, when the going gets tough, our first response is to protest. We grumble that life isn’t fair. We complain that we don’t deserve the hardships that have been thrown at us. We get angry and bitter, and we whine.

But if we will stop whining, we will realize that pressure creates wine. When the problems of life come, we can learn and grow from them. Most of the time, struggles don’t destroy us. They make us stronger. If we allow it, difficulties will produce sweetness, wisdom and strength that wouldn’t have been possible without the pressure.

We each have a choice to make. When that big elephant’s foot comes at us, we can whine. Or, we can produce wine.

By the way, . . . Q: Do you know why elephants wear sunglasses?

A: With all these dumb elephant jokes going around, would you want to be recognized?

2 Corinthians 4:8 – 9 “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

Friday, April 11, 2008

Feeding Jimmy

The kids and I recently took a picnic lunch to the park. No, not the old-fashioned kind of picnic, with the pretty basket and the checkered tablecloth. We did the drive-thru, fast-food kind of picnic. Fried chicken, French fries, and sodas.

We sat on the banks of the pond and watched a group of ducks swimming around, ducking their heads under the water and catching fish. I wonder if that is why we call them ducks? Anyway, as we finished up our meals, we decided to offer our leftover French fries to the fluffy birds. We tore them in small pieces and tossed them into the water. Needless to say, it wasn’t long until the ducks were crowding to our corner of the pond, begging for more.

All of them except one, that is. One of the ducks, with snow-white feathers and a bright orange beak, stayed to himself. We started giving each of the ducks names, and my son, Foster, focused in on the loner. “His name is Jimmy,” he told us.

Jimmy swam to the opposite side of the small pond and climbed onto the bank. He looked perfectly happy to be alone. He was just relaxing, chilling out, enjoying the cool breeze and the peace and quiet, away from his brothers and sisters.

Until . . .

Foster decided that Jimmy needed a French fry. He scooped up a handful of the (now) soggy fries, and took off after Jimmy. He ran full speed ahead, holding the fries out in front of him, and saying, “Here, Jimmy! Have a French fry!”

Poor Jimmy.

Foster nearly scared that duck to death. As Foster approached, Jimmy started quacking and waddling away as fast as his short little duck legs would carry him.

Foster: “Jimmy, come here!”

Jimmy: “Quack, quack!”

Foster: “Jimmy, stop running away from me! I have a present for you!”

Jimmy: “Quack, quack, quaaaaaaaaaack!”

As I watched my young son chase Jimmy around the pond, I couldn’t help but be impressed. Foster had such a desire to give, to share, and he wasn’t going to let anything stand in his way! His actions displayed that he knows the importance of giving. His technique needed a little polishing, but his heart was in the right place.

I wonder what it would look like if more of us took Foster’s attitude toward giving. What would happen if we looked around, saw our abundance, and said, “Hey! I’ve got extra! I’m going to share!” And then, what if we actually went out and found people who were in need, and met that need?

All too often, we just rely on our churches, or the Salvation Army, or the government to meet the needs of those less fortunate. We donate our old clothes, we write a check to our local church, and we’re done. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Except . . .

I want to experience the joy I saw on Foster’s face when he shared his French fries with Jimmy. And I’ve never received that kind of joy from dumping a load of old clothes at the local Goodwill.

I think I’ll try to be more aware of the people around me. Perhaps I can meet a need that someone has for friendship. Perhaps I can babysit for a young mother whose husband is deployed, or read to an elderly person, or mow someone’s lawn. I hope I’ll go about meeting those needs with a little more subtlety and grace than my son. But I also hope I will be just as enthusiastic about giving as he was.

Foster finally figured out that force-feeding Jimmy wasn’t an option. Jimmy finally figured out that Foster wasn’t such a bad guy after all, and before long, duck and boy were fast friends.

Now if Foster would just get that excited about cleaning his room . . .

Acts 20:35 “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Friday, April 4, 2008

Finishing the Race

Last Saturday, my family went roller skating for the second time in as many months. It’s a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon. But this time, we got a bonus. This time, we got to see some of Copperas Cove’s finest athletic geniuses in action.

I was a little concerned when I saw Coach Tracy Welch on roller skates. He may be a great offensive coordinator for the Bulldawgs, but I didn’t see much evidence of coordination. Then again, who am I to judge? I decided to maintain a “skate and let skate” motto. But I must admit, I’m quite relieved we don’t have a Bulldawgs Roller Derby team.

My little family had a wonderful, relaxing time, with very few mishaps. After a couple of hours, I was winded. I was about to pull off my skates when the emcee announced it was “Race Time”. I watched as different age groups took turns racing around the rink. When it was time for the adult races, I happily watched from the sidelines as coaches Welch, Tracy Ranes, and Vance McAnally took the starting line alongside one other man, and a woman. I was getting ready to enjoy a great show when my daughter, Charis, tugged on my sleeve.

“Why aren’t you racing?” she asked.

“I don’t race,” I told her.

“Pleeeeeeease,” she begged.

“No,” I said.

This continued as the racers took their places. Finally, at the eleventh hour, I decided, Oh, why not? I’ll just go skate around the circle, come in last, and Charis will be happy. I skated up to the starting line just in the nick of time.

But then, when that whistle blew, something akin to testosterone took over, and I knew I had to win! I took off, full speed ahead, and skated easily into a respectable third place. Ranes was in the lead, Welch was just ahead of me, and I struggled to overtake him. I pushed forward, and passed him for second place! Then, he passed me again. I moved ahead, then Welch, and we continued this way for the remainder of the race.

In the distance, I could hear my handsome husband and my dear children cheering for me. I had to win this race, for them. We rounded the final curve. I was going to make it. I was inches from the finish line, when I took that curve a little too fast and thud! I landed on my bottom. What was that about pride going before the fall?

Welch must have wanted to win pretty badly to have pushed me like that. (Just kidding. I fell all by myself.) The other skaters passed me, and I picked myself up, laughing, and left the floor.

Congratulations, coaches. You beat a girl. Aren’t you proud? (Insert smiley face here.)

It wasn’t until later, when asked where I placed in the race, that I realized I hadn’t placed at all. I quit.

So close, yet so far.

Now, I’m not ashamed one bit that I didn’t finish that particular roller skating race. I had a bruised backside and a bruised ego. Besides that, it gave me something to write about this week. And, I had fun.

But when it comes to the race called life, I don’t want to be a quitter. I don’t want to say, “So close, yet so far.” I want to keep going, I want to persevere, and even if I come in dead last, I want to finish this race with my head held high.

Sometimes, life throws an unexpected curve, and we fall down. Sometimes, we are even pushed. When that happens, it’s tempting to just give up. But at the end of it all, nobody is really keeping score. At the end of it all, what really matters is that we did our best, that we kept our faith, and that we finished the race.

We must never forget – there is One who is cheering us on. He created each of us for this race, and if we let Him, He will help us cross the finish line. And when we do, He will present us with a victor’s crown. For after all, in life, it’s not about who gets there first.

It’s about finishing the race.

Acts 20:24 "...if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord
Jesus has given me."