A funky alteration made necessary by small spaces

There are certain things I like to do a certain way. The normal way. But life doesn’t always provide the familiar things we’ve become dependent upon. Sometimes adjustments are necessary. Such was the case for a certain story teller I heard earlier. He was describing his experience with college dorm conditions that are not to be envied.

The poor guy was just trying to get ready in the morning and a narrow rectangle (more narrow than usual) was an obstacle to carrying out his familiar morning ritual. If only he had more room to work with. If only he could have stretched his elbows without hitting the sides of his awkward container. Maybe if he could just have lifted his knee to waist level without hitting his rear on the wall behind him.

But, alas, his ability to release his imagination was stymied by the inconvenient time pressure posed by the scheduled breakfast in ten minutes. There were only so many options and most of them were executed before his determination dissolved in disgust. Truly, there was just no way he could get the job done properly. The constraints on him were just too impossible. He searched his chest but was not surprised to find a particular swirling initial absent.

These kind of things required training–if a not unique wealth of genius–and that he did not have. When he arrived there had been no warning, no fine print to indicate that the facilities here were designed for an individual of high caliber intelligence.

So, it was with regret concerning his absentee sessions of gymnastic-contortions-research that he acknowledged his failure concerning the experiment. He knew not whether others could boast a better response to such an unnatural habitat, but one benefit he could console himself by. Because of his trying ordeal he would forever be grateful for the wonders of un-closeted indoor plumbing that is fully equipped to serve the average, modern human being.

If you can identify with our everyday hero in his extraordinary struggles, please share your own example of trying to figure out how to do something common a new way when the old way was made impossible.

Didn’t you know this wasn’t a good idea, dear?

I love this boy. He is startled by the odd ways that life can sometimes play out. Parents and supervisors do not always dole out punishments when a kid makes mistakes. Even if that was what he fully expected to receive. Sometimes adults, quite surprisingly, can just listen to your story and actually appreciate it for what it is. They can even find the funny in them–perhaps even more than you can see.

That is Sal’s story. On the most exciting and terrifying day of his life, he got to regale his chaperones with his exploits in a most compelling manner. His voice was heard and, perhaps, by the end of his speech he felt vindicated.

His tale went something like this:

He and his friend were looking for something to do with their free time afrter dinner at the food court. Thanks to a moment of incredible inspiration, they decided to trot up the “down” escalator. It went smoothly and they felt like heros. They had singlehandedly saved themselves from boredom. But, as we all know, feats like these must come in pairs. So they bravely went on to execute their next move, forgetting about how the poor cane-bearing man had just missed meeting them painfully on their way up.

Their courage mounting with every escalator moving toward them, they took the plunge. Now was the time to really live dangerously! They reached the bottom without incident. Then our story teller happened to intercept the unfriendly gaze of a man with a badge. Suddenly it looked like their lives might be over if they didn’t move quickly. “Let’s walk,” he alerted his emboldened sidekick. “Now. That security guard is looking our way.”

Breaking into a fast trot and an equally fast sweat, they make their way into the nearest store. They couldn’t have chosen a more fitting locale for their dramatic (and soon to be comical) getaway. The patrol man is not fooled by these young males adopting a sudden interest in feminine frocks for the fashion forward.

While one is holding up an article whose print would work so well with the complexion of the other, they are accosted. “Gentlemen, can I ask you some questions?” The ordeal, with its confrontation of foolish behaviors and warnings to be careful of pedestrians, ends with our dear boys being ordered to exit the mall and wait for their more obedient comrades from the outside.

Heading in the direction of the doors, our boys wonder whether their ignorance of mall security protocol puts them at the risk of following an order that is illegitimate. After all, who has ever heard of being removed from a mall–isn’t it public property? In the final analysis the two decide the man in uniform had very little grounds on which to behave as though this were “his mall.”

It is in this state that these characters have their second run-in of the night, though this one is less official. The instigator of this one is a harmless older Asian woman who sweetly asks them to contribute to her youth group’s fundraiser. They are quite touched, feeling as though they have found someone with whom they can find common ground at such a volatile time.

They dig in the pockets of their basketball shorts and jeans. Together they assemble a modest sum that blesees both the woman they give to ans they themselves. They introduce themselves and inform her that they belong to a youth group and love Jesus. She is delighted at the news and they take a moment to pray for their groups in different states. They leave refreshed, exuberantly declaring that “God is awesome!”

Finally, they make it outside, convinced that this is the single most exhilerating day of their lives. It makes them wonder what more fun they could be having while they’re still outta state!

YO(How)LO(Will U Go)?

Have you noticed that YOLO–the newest variant of our youth-oriented-society’s anthem–does more to stand for nothing more than it does to stand for something?

By saying, “YOLO!” we are making an admission of how senseless we are willing to live. (“Yo, it’s cool, I was just looking for a high!”)

We are confessing that we have made a leave-of-sanity and we need no excuse to maintain this state. (“After all, what’s life about if it’s not for wasting! I don’t want anyone to tell me what my life is supposed to be–I can make it whatever feels good to me.”)

Think of the occasions in which YOLO–You Only Live Once– is used:

It is a reason for driving the car through the garage door because, if I don’t, how will I ever know what that feels like?

It is a frame of mind that compels me to not waste time doing what only normal people do when I can be seeking out exhilaration in the form of binge-drinking, stifling every moral inclination and undoing my potential for greatness by merely settling for being startlingly cool.

It’s the avoidance of committing ourselves to the pursuit of a significant life legacy that we might, instead, be in favor of an easily-earned stupidity award!

The wonder of YOLO’s popularity is that, as humans, we don’t find it hard to act out a tragic misuse of our lives. Sad to say, even all by ourselves we’ve got that mission down pat! What we really need is wisdom, to seek to have our desires transformed, until we set ourselves on only the purest forms of good.

If you’re backing away from your computer or iPhone/iTouch/iPad as you read this, hold on! I’m not against fun and I’m not trying to condemn the enjoyment of oneself. Those things are part of what we were designed to experience as humans–God wanted them to be a part of who we are and how we live our lives.

It’s just that, contrary to what most of us think of ourselves, we don’t really know how to play to the full or enjoy pleasure in a lasting way. We have a relentless obsession with happiness that is only skin deep, recognition that lasts almost as long as a wisp of cotton candy once put in our mouths and substances that enable our souls to know peace only to the extent that they can successfully diminish our senses.

If we really knew what God intended to forever belong to our souls, we wouldn’t give YOLO a second thought. Rather, our steadfast conviction would be that YLAL is the fullness of human delight and significance: You Lord Are Life.

The modern-day version of boasting in the Lord

What if our days were filled with rip-roaring praise to God–praise that just came out of us like the most naturally-expressed excitement in the world? Suppose, for a moment, with me, that we–as recipients of God’s great love–could simply overflow with exaltation of our God. Thanksgiving would be to us something that did not constitute effort, but was the beautiful culmination of all we knew and received from God, our beloved Father.

We wouldn’t try super-hard to be pious and ritualistic in our affirmation of God. We would merely become chronic victims of authentic and unapologetic delight in the One who rules our lives with love. We wouldn’t care what anyone thought of us–we’d expect the same joy from them too! In case you don’t have in your head a handy picture of what this would look like, let me share with you a few sketches God gave me a few weeks ago.

Sketch One: Your best friend steps up to you tomorrow and lets loose: “Bro, I just wanna give my Lord props! Have you seen the good He’s been doin’ in me? I mean–COME ON!–He and His works are off the chain! Com’on dude, you know what I’m talkin’ about!!

You respond: “Boy it sure is a kicker! Who would have thought that we–I mean you and ME!–would be able to know God like dis!! Man, it’s crazy. Sometimes I’m not sure I’m alright–like it can’t be possible that all this good stuff is happinen to me–but if this is insanity, I don’t want to be in my right mind!”

Sketch Two: On Friday morning you get a call from your younger brother. He’s the one who’s always been jealous of what you have and how easy he estimates it was for you to get it. For years you’ve been rather frustrated with this brother, wishing he would–at the very least–stop making excuses for what he lacked in his own life and, perhaps–if there was a real miracle–be able to share in your joy over God’s grace to you.

When you answer your iPhone, you’re startled to hear him shouting. At first you think there’s something wrong, but as you listen, you wind up needing to get off your shaky feet. The words he says wash over you like waves. He is encouraging you about God’s goodness to you:

“…What He’s given you isn’t even street-legal, man!” his full-heart bursts into your eardrum. “I don’t know how you’re able to stand so much good. Do you see what love our Father has for you, bro? I can’t believe how blind I’ve been to seeing what a bucket-load of praise this deserves from us. I feel compelled to worship the Lord with you in honor of all He has done–We can’t hang up this phone without shaking His throne room with the noise of our praises!

Sketch Three: On your commute to work, your Monday takes on a whole new chromatic quality when you start thinking about the work environment you’re about to enter. You almost feel guilty for the benefits you enjoy with such abandon. You don’t have a terrible relationship with your boss and your coworkers seem to value your input on corporate projects.

“God,” your voice fills the car, “why are You so good to me? I could be stuck in a dead-end job installing door-knobs at the county jail, but You have me here. I know it’s not because I’ve been a professional God-pleaser or anything; it’s just that, You are showering pleasure on me! Gosh, how did I not see this sooner? With all that I have in Your love, I’m making lottery-winners look bad!”

Sketch Four: On this one, God decides He wants to do the talking–after all, you’re having so much fun with this, that He wants to join you! God takes your heart on a little journey, where He reintroduces you to some key people in your life. Each of them are individuals that–with their have-it-all state of blessedness–have seemed to serve no other purpose in your life than to incite you to discontent with your personal portion of glory. He says:

“You see these people that you’ve struggled with knowing. But, My child, I have had a larger purpose for their presence in your life. I have wanted you to know that the real blessings that are worth boasting of are the ones that can’t be measured by what you can see on the outside. I could give you the world, but it would do you know good if it hindered your soul from receiving Me.

Therefore, I desire you to understand this one very best pleasure I plan to bestow upon you all your life: The invitation to have your little voice heard by Your Redeemer. I, God, have attended to every one of your cries and, in them, I have blended My own cries. I’ve made you know what it’s like to know and be known by Me. That’s just sick, you know?! Come on now, act like it is! No more grumblin’; let’s get cruisin’ in new depths of fellowship that’s holy-hot!!

I don’t know, do you think I have enough swag while I’m doing this?

I’d like to invite you to participate in something I’m calling “a life philosophy observed.” Together we will look at the consequences of living according to the maxim I was recently introduced to on a trip down those quintessential boards-that-border-the-sea. My father referenced this unforgettable theme with great confidence in its largely untapped potential–at least, in my case. (And I must admit, once I heard it, a lot of the mystery that had formerly swaddled his behaviors was stripped away.)

His counsel was: With enough swag, you can get away with anything.

Then he proceeded to demonstrate the indisputable nature of what he said. Resisting the protocol of crossing from the shop he had just exited to the “right” lane of walking traffic, he entered the fray of oncoming pedestrians and coached me in the manner of getting away with such. He took on a bold spirit of adventure, while his body followed suit–adopted a cocky swing. I think he just barely resisted the urge to announce to the crowd around us: “I’m teaching my daughter one of the most valuable lessons she’ll learn in her life. As a man, I feel it is my responsibility to school her in those sensibilities that do not come naturally to her, as she had the misfortune of not being born male. What a pity, right? Anyway, look at her: she’s learning to break the rules like a king!

I must admit, I did more watching his antics than I did practicing his instructions. He was right, confronting the crowd in this manner did insure a path was made for us where previously no path had existed. I just wasn’t so sure I wanted to be a part of the group insisting on this spontaneous creation. In a sense, he certainly knew what he was talking about in such matters but, somehow his authority did not affect a permanent alteration of my normal board-walking. I still like to follow the rules, as a rule. Thus, my life philosophy (which we will not take the time to observe today) became, as of that moment: As for me and my life, we will stick to the side of the boardwalk that welcomes the socially-conscious to exercise their discernment with the promise of esteem and reward and, most desirable of all, safety.

That’s just Natural–and that isn’t all you want is it?!

For those of us who are tired of hearing words be turned inside-out and misused for the sake of finding a hip new expression, I have proposal that may be of interest to you. Since there seems to be tangible need for new terms that will tickle the public psyche, I think it may only be fitting that we give them something to work with.

I have a single example that I hope might fuel a modification of our present trend. I saw something that would fall under the category of “disgusting” or, at least, not proper for public display. The thought popped into my head, “Oh, how natural!” I realized that was the perfect description of what I was seeing. This was something natural, though entirely un-perfect and unlovely.

Yet, what a truthful reality. The things in our world that are perfectly natural are far from the perfection that we were really made for: what we find in God’s presence. So, more than longing for what is natural–the way the world teaches us–we ought to be desiring what is so much greater than that which belongs to our corrupted nature. We must receive from Christ the inclination for the supernatural. Nothing less than the essence of our Maker will delight our heart with glory.

So, next time you have a chance to encourage a friend toward what God would have for them, gently point out the “naturalness” of what they’re occupied with and nudge them toward what is so much more. We all have so much before us in Christ beyond everything around us that is just so natural!

 

I don’t know the answer, but you better believe I’ll give you my best guess, good and loud!

Would you like to hear a little story? The personal blooper I have to share is taken from my early days, when I didn’t have the facts about God q-u-i-t-e straight. You’ll see what I mean…

The context of this particular moment in my history is Sunday school. I am six. I don’t remember how closely I usually followed the Bible stories that were told my class mates and I, but I certainly was not fully focused on the topic of this lesson.

I imagine the theme must have centered around Paul or, at least, allowed for one of our teachers to take a minute to question our knowledge of the conversion of this early church-builder. His exact question was “What was Paul’s name before it was Paul.”

I remember hearing it and how I reacted to the seemingly mindless question like it was yesterday. I thought, What an odd question to ask! The only thing I could come up with was that we now knew him by only Paul because his name had been shortened by the dropping of his last name.

If the man delivering this challenging question had given us any clues about the answer before he posed this test, as became clear to him from my answer, it had obviously made no real impression. I only had eyes for the beautifully frilly socks and matching white shoes of the curly-haired brunette in my class who appeared unable to help being perfect and always so still. How I wanted to be her friend…

But, I digress. Needless to say, I was completely unprepared to respond audibly. But, as a person who never likes to be caught without a response to queries of any import, I boldly ventured forth! I quickly imagined an answer in place of the truth I could not account for; a flash of revelation made me aware that Paul’s original full name could have been none other than..

Paul Coffee!

In case some of you don’t know, he was a hockey player that I heard spoken of by my dad and brothers. Surely he had some relevance in this conversation if he was mentioned so often at home, right?

Oh, the way we thought as young-uns! As a side-note, if you don’t know anything about Paul’s name change or why it came about, you can read the account in Acts 9. Here you will find Christ staging one of His dramatic interventions into the misdirected course of a man He loved too much to let alone. I pray that as you read, the details that pertain to Paul’s identity will be shadowed by the redemptive name you see God making for Himself. I hope you will see that He is the same God who wants to bring the power of His name (His very person) into the denomination of your life as well.

Be prepared! Like He did with Paul, Christ will likely turn the life you know right now upside-down, but don’t lose heart; it will not take too long before He lets you recognize that He is actually setting you right-side-up for the first time in your life. Then, you will have every reason to thank Him!

Do you really know what you’re saying or do you just enjoy using that word?

I thought it might be fun to review some of my favorite exclamations whose meanings don’t necessarily align with what we know them to mean in contexts of great excitement and exuberant expression.

Check out Cool. The description the dictionary gives is:

imparting a sensation of moderate coldness or comfortable freedom from heat: a cool breeze.

I don’t know about you, but when I say cool in appreciation of something, I’m not seeking to impart some personal information about the temperature adjustments I’m experiencing because of what I’m enjoying.

One I don’t really use myself, but enjoy the thrust with which others use it, is Get out! The definition goes like this:

Chiefly British . a method or maneuver used to escape a difficult or embarrassing situation; cop-out: The scoundrel has used that get-out once too often.

Funny, but I’ve never heard this expression used that way. People are either using it to tell someone that their departure is desired immediately or as a way to let their hearer know that they can’t stay in the same mental room with what information or concept is being discussed.

No way! is, of course, pretty similar. The description for it’s use is given this way:

No! (Compare this with Way!) :  She can’t do that. No way!

It’s interesting that the person who is usually saying this (with all the force of a verbal tornado) is either visibly pleased with what they are saying should not be or they are so disturbed that people like me are inclined to be glad that whatever they’re reacting to is so because I wouldn’t get to enjoy their vivid response.

One I must admit that I overuse is Sweet. What am I saying when I use this term? Technically, I am letting you know that what I recognize what I’m complementing as

having the taste or flavor characteristic of sugar, honey, etc. which may or may not be

producing the one of the four basic taste sensations that is not bitter, sour, or salt.
I’m letting you know that I don’t think what you’ve just told me or shown me is rancid or stale; thus, if it were milk that I had the choice of drinking, I would not have the fear of it being bitter. (Yay for you! But that’s another exclamation that I don’t plan to discuss in this post.)

And now, for the one that I always get a kick out of hearing someone spring on another: Shut up! What is the meaning for this one?

to put (a door, cover, etc.) in position to close or obstruct.
I may be smiling when I say this, but perhaps I am covertly informing you that I would like you to assume an indefinite silence after what I’ve just heard from you.
to close the doors of (often followed by up ): to shut up a shop for the night.
Yeah, the more I think about it, there’s no way someone could say Shut up! and not mean it…this way.
to confine; enclose: to shut a bird into a cage.
…Would you agree?
Let me leave you with this thought: When you want to express your delight or shock to someone go ahead and use any of these words above that you like. Just remember, they don’t really mean what you’re using them to say!

I’m just not exactly sure what you mean…

Have you ever seen something that you weren’t sure you were actually seeing? I did in a recent trip to Indiana. We had stopped at Payless to buy some flip-flops that I really needed. When we were leaving the shopping area, we passed a store with a name that demanded we read slowly. I even found it necessary to take a minute and meditate on the mystery of its meaning. The words were put together like this (Now, don’t be ashamed if this takes you several readings to clearly decipher; you’re in good company):

Fro Yo Your Way

First of all, flashing back to that original introduction and appraisal, I’m wondering…a few things. First, I want to know what a midwestern location like this innocent-looking, little store is doing with an identifier that, to me, screams gangsta. To my fellow peeps I’m like, “Slow yo roll! Did you jus see that sign!”

Second, I’m feeling a bit confused. The type of service this shop is offering doesn’t seem to fit with the social climate indicated by the surrounding shops. (Translation: I wasn’t seeing many people walking around with trippin-out hair-jobs.)

Third, I have a few suggestions for more customer-savvy names. For instance, “Yo fro comin at ya your way!” or “Fro me!” Another one that might not be half bad is “Fro-zactly like I like it.” (Obviously the visionaries for this establishment had not thought out the marketing end of their business as well as they might have.)

But, in case you are wondering what this shop was actually doing in that part of town and why its name fell so far short of its potential, prepare yourself for a bit of disappointment: It was a frozen yogurt shop!

Funny for no fantastic reason!

Funny things happen to each of us every day. They hide under the guise of ordinary things. Sometimes we need to sharpen our radar so we don’t miss them. They are God’s little gifts to help us walk through life and its trials with resilience and joy. Crack a smile today and let go of a little laugh. If you need a little help, sample some of these tummy-tumbler tee-hees.

Toto, tata, tee-tee…today is your day to get your teeth waxed!

Aren’t you glad you didn’t treat your sinus infection back when it was weaker, now that you need an excuse to stay home from work?

Don’t remember where your keys are? Try checking the attic, where you sent your husband long before dark…

People who doze, grouse and mosey around…they just don’t come around as often now that I cleaned out the flower beds of all my pet-une-yas that kept calling them over.

Remember how things were when you kids were young, because you are the only one who will…

Think you’re having a day of trauma today? Why not look ahead at the stuff planned for next week and be pleasantly relieved that God didn’t let Satan have a heyday and schedule it all for you today! Perhaps today isn’t so un-fantastic as you thought!

Feel like you’re wilting in the sun? Maybe you should be glad that you’re not blooming in the shade.