Friday, December 26, 2008

New Spark

Our kids got an early Christmas present. A go-cart. Yellow and black, with two large headlights.

It looks like a bumblebee.

Mark and I took turns test driving it. For safety purposes, you know. And let me tell you, that little baby has some get up and go! I am considering a new profession.

Where does one go to try out for a Nascar race?

Dover race Actually, the thing tops out at about 10 mph. But it sure felt a lot faster when the wind was whipping through my hair and the cedar bushes were scraping against my elbows. The fact that my chin rested on my knees didn’t make a bit of difference. One vroom of the engine, and I was hooked. I had the need for speed.

After Mark and I declared it safe for our children to operate, we finally let them have turns at the wheel. One at a time, they placed their helmets on, fastened their seatbelts, and off they went like a speeding bullet! There was whooping and hollering and giggles and even a few close calls. That was one fun toy.

Notice I said was.

For hours, it purred like a kitten. But then, it just stopped purring. The motor wouldn’t even turn over! We did everything we could think of to try and fix it. We gave it gas, we changed the spark plug, but it was no use. There was just no life.

So, into the back of the truck it went, back to the dealer. The mechanic took one look at the gocart and determined it was a problem with the spark. Not the actual plug, but something deeper. They were going to have to take the motor apart to fix it.


Just a few hours of speed, and we were addicted. Now, for a few days, we’d have to make do with our bicycles to fulfill our speed cravings.

Somehow, a bicycle just isn’t the same.

I can relate to that little go-cart. Some days, I have no spark. At times, there just seems to be something missing, and my get-up-and-go has got-up-and-gone. I wonder where my joy is, where my energy went. I feel lifeless.

At those times, I have to do exactly what the go-cart did. I have to go to the Mechanic, who will look deep inside my heart. He is the One who can take things apart, find the problem, and make things right.

However, I don’t always want to take the time to go to Him. So I try to ignore the problem, or fix it myself. Then, the problem only gets worse. One of these days, I will learn to go to my Mechanic at the first sign of spark trouble. That will save me a lot of problems in the long run.

And when I have regular tune-ups with Him, I stay zooming through life. Wind whipping through my hair. Whooping and hollering with joy.
Ezekiel 36:26 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you.”

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Perfect Gift

Don’t you just love this time of year? I do. I love the lights and the bright colors and the holiday music playing over loudspeakers and the smell of pine and cinnamon. I love sneaking around, keeping wonderful secrets and trying to please the people I care about with the perfect gifts.

xmas present But there is one thing I don’t like as much, and that is having to make up my mind. I’ve never been very good at that.

It never fails. I’ll be standing in Wal-Mart, trying to decide whether to get my niece the pink lava lamp or the purple one, and my head nearly explodes. Honestly, if I were a ten-year-old girl, I would like either color. But I have to decide on one. Pink? Purple? Pink? Purple?

And have you ever looked at Hot Wheels? There are like, a zillion different varieties. Race cars. Spy cars. Police cars. Fire trucks. How in the world am I supposed to know which ones my nephew would prefer? Which ones does he have? What is his favorite color?

I don’t know. I just don’t know.

And it’s no use calling and asking, because then I get the tables turned on me. “Renae, what do you want for Christmas?”

More questions, to which I don’t know the answers. Honestly, I like everything. I like things that smell nice. I like cute little pot-holders and kitchen gadgets. I like music and movies and books and things to wear and things to play with. I like everything.

Just please don’t force me to make up my mind. I don’t like that.

Wouldn’t it be great if there were a Perfect Gift store? We could just march in, submit the names and ages of our loved ones, along with our budget needs, and the all-knowing store clerk could run the information through some kind of scanner. Then, voila! The perfect gift would appear, all shiny and gift-wrapped with a big, fat bow. No more decisions. No more splitting headaches, from the stress of it all.

Then again, I suppose that would detract from the meaning of the gift. After all, it’s the thought that counts, right? And if we don’t put any thought into a gift, I suppose it doesn’t really count for much.

The perfect gift, I suppose, is simply a gift that reflects the love of the giver. It doesn’t need to be fancy or expensive, though it should come with some sacrifice. After all, if there is no sacrifice involved, what’s the point? Where is the value in such a gift?

God knows that. He loves us more than anything, and He has given us the perfect gift. He knows most of us don’t need another potholder or a scented soap-on-a-rope. What we need is to feel loved. To feel wanted. To feel cherished.

That’s why He gave us the greatest gift of all time. He wanted to have a relationship with each and every one of us so that He could show us how important we are to Him. But that wasn’t possible without a great sacrifice. He gave the most expensive gift of all time – His Son – so that we could know how much He wants us, how He cherishes us. He wanted us to know how very much He loves us.

So He paid the ultimate price. He sent us His Son, born in a stable in Bethlehem. He sent His Son to live the life of a carpenter, to travel dusty roads on foot, to teach and heal and preach and reveal that very love to us. He sent His Son to take the punishment for our sins, because He knew we could never afford to pay that price without Him.

He gave us the perfect gift – His love. He holds it out to us on Christmas day and every day. All we have to do is take it.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life,” John 3:16.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Moving On

Yesterday, my coffee maker died.

It just quit working. No warning. No sputtering or strange noises.

It just died.

My first reaction was one of those deer-caught-in-the-headlights panic moments. No coffee? How will I ever make it through the day with no coffee?

Then, after a few deep breaths, I remembered that I could do what the pioneer women did. They boiled their coffee.

Just call me Dr. Renae, Coffee Woman.

Moka So, I placed a few scoops of the wonderful, black powder into a filter, wrapped it up and stapled it like a teabag. Then, I dropped it into a pot of boiling water, and voila! A few minutes later, I had delicious, life-enhancing coffee. I think it was even faster than my coffee pot.

Okay, I admit the pioneer women probably didn’t have paper filters or staplers, but I’m still pretty proud of my ingenuity.

Then, as I was sipping on that first, glorious cup of the morning, I realized . . . I get to pick out a brand new coffee pot!

A fleeting moment of guilt passed through my mind. After all, my dear coffee pot had just died. It wasn’t even in its grave yet – it was still sitting on my kitchen counter. It had seen me through years of good times and bad times. It had entertained guests and helped me through long nights. And it had gently, faithfully given me something to look forward to, each and every morning.

What kind of woman am I? How can I be smiling about a replacement pot so soon?

But I knew I had to let go. After all, have you seen some of those new-fangled, high-fallutin’ coffee makers they have on the market these days? My old one was just a plain old, low-end coffee maker. Now, they have the kinds that actually grind the beans for you. The kinds that store the coffee within the actual maker, and only release a cup at a time, when you hold your mug under the little spout.

And they have colors! My old one was just plain white plastic. With years of coffee stains, so it wasn’t actually white any more.

It didn’t take me long to move past my sorrow. After all, what’s done is done. Nothing short of a miracle will bring that pot back to life. It’s time to move on.

Does that make me a shallow person?


Then again, I have been guilty of hanging on to things for too long. I’ve been known to carry a grudge, and to nurse my wounds, and to wear my feelings on my sleeve for extended periods of time. Those habits have not done much to enrich my life. Instead, they have kept me from pressing forward. They have weighed me down like a ball and chain. And to be perfectly honest, I’m tired of clinging to the past.

So, starting today, I’m going to let go. I’m going to move on. I will remember the good, but I won’t let sadness or anger or guilt or anything else keep me from experiencing the great things that wait for me, somewhere out there in the future.

Wonderful things. Like a cute little $800 cappuccino/espresso/coffee maker/grinder. In red.

Or one of those nifty one-cup-at-a-time doo-dads. In a sleek stainless steel.

Or maybe I’ll just get another basic white coffee pot for $20 at Wal-Mart. The possibilities are endless.

Philippians 3: 13 – 14 “ . . . Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Friday, December 5, 2008

Extra Garbage

I got two tickets this week.

Well, that’s not exactly true. I almost got two tickets this week. The first one was when my daughter and I were on our way to Blockbuster Video. I didn’t think I was speeding. I honestly had no idea why I was being pulled over.

The officer approached my window, and I handed him my driver’s license. “What did I do wrong?” I asked.

“There is no inspection sticker on your car,” the man said.

“Oh, officer, I am so sorry! My husband usually takes care of that for me,” I told him. Hey, Mark wasn’t anywhere around. Why not blame him?

The man laughed. “Oh, so it’s your husband’s fault, is it?”

“Why, yes, sir. I’m so sorry it hasn’t been done.”

“May I see your proof of insurance, please?” he asked.

Oh, where is that insurance? Dear God, please let it be current! I found the paper, and it was current. Whew!

Then, he took my license and insurance information, went back to his car, and stayed for what seemed an eternity, while the most ridiculous thoughts raged through my mind.

What if I match the description of one of America’s Most Wanted?

What if my car matches the description of some other car that was involved in some . . . terrible crime?

What if I forgot to turn the oven off?

Finally, the man approached my window. “Mrs. Brumbaugh, how are we going to fix this problem?” he asked.

I didn’t miss a beat. “You’re going to give me a warning, and I’m going to get my car inspected first thing tomorrow!”

The officer laughed. I liked this guy. I think.

“Yes, ma’am, that’s what I’m going to do,” he said. “But next time, you’ll get a ticket.”

Yes. I definitely liked this guy.

The next day, I drove right down and got my car inspected. After all, I want to be a good citizen, and good citizens always try very hard not to get tickets.

So you can imagine my dismay when, two days later, I got a real ticket. But this time, it wasn’t issued by a police officer. It was issued by the sanitation department.

It was trash day, and when I went to fetch my empty trash can from the side of the road, there it was. A little yellow-green ticket, flapping in the wind.

garbage bin 3 Apparently, my trash can was too full. And they were charging me an extra $4.50.

Well, technically, it wasn’t a ticket. More of a notice.

But it sure felt like a ticket.

I mean, what am I supposed to do with my extra garbage? Put it down my garbage disposal? No, I’d better not. Then I’d probably get a ticket from the water department.

So, from now on, I will try to contain my trash within my trash can, so that the lid will close completely. If you drive by my house and see my dear husband jumping up and down in our trash can, just wave. You’ll know we’re simply trying to be good citizens.

I’m sure glad God doesn’t have a limit on what we can bring to Him. Can you imagine if He said, “Whoa, there, your pile of heartache and worry is getting a little too high. I’ll take care of only this much, and you’ll have to handle the rest yourself.”

Boy, would I be in a heap o’ trouble.

But God is gracious, and His love and mercy are limitless. Any time I have a problem or a need, I can bring it to Him. He doesn’t even keep track! He just says, “Oh, I see you’re having a little trouble there. Let me take that for you.”

He doesn’t make me jump up and down on my troubles to make them appear smaller. He takes them just as they are. He doesn’t give me a ticket, or charge extra.

And He even replaces all my garbage with His peace.

Don’t we have a great God?

1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”