Tuesday, May 21, 2019

From Bleachers, to Balls, to Bibles (What's a Word-Loving Mama to Do?)


Silver metal bleachers shine in the sun, and tap hollow staccatos with each step. Moms and dads in sunglasses call kids closer, and one mom races to scoop a preschooler down from his high perch.

"That's not safe," she says, slipping her hands under a flower-eye-patched blonde boy's arm pits, his head and shoulders leaning ponderously over the high chain link fence.

Green turfed soccer field lies fifteen feet below us. Fifty-sixty students, from six years old to high school, are being divided by ages and then led off to different corners of the field, their soccer balls tucked under an arm or dribbled alongside. Daniel's sleeveless navy and red shirt gets further away, and I can just make out his whitening brown head and red zebra striped soccer ball. His shoulders look relaxed and I take my leave.


Nodding and smiling at strangers, I trip down metal steps, catching myself awkwardly, thankfully, in a flash. A slight breeze rattles and clanks the flag pole, and the sunlight feels warm, happy, on my face. 



Dew-dripped grass sparkles, and then turns soggy, heavy, in the ditch from the weekend's rains. Tall maple and oak trees throw shade across the lot. Two rows of silver SUVs and minivans look like a row of round metal beetle butts, and I grin to myself.

Twisting my car's ignition floods the car with a rasping pirate's summary of a blockade battle. They reload muskets and stack cutlasses before I can click pause to save the story for when my son is in the car with me. Louis's Treasure Island freezes mid-battle.

My loud muffler rumbles accompaniment past university buildings, a radio tower, and nursing homes, before coughing to silence in a small coffee shop lot. Hot coffee, and a smooth rolling pen. A Bible and note paper.


Three tall Franke black and chrome machines burr six canisters of coffee beans. Grinding, pulsing and the rhythmic thump, thump, thump of an espresso tamper being knocked out are soothing music to the right of me. Hot sunshine bathes square honey-colored tables in heat, and I shed green jacket, and soon uncoil long brown scarf, pushing up sleeves.

Hi, God, thank you for sunshine, for spring's beauty, for this time away. Please teach me? Unzipping red Bible case, I slide coffee cup over, and pull open God's word.

Just this last Saturday? My daughter and I in opposite corners of the house had been reading our Bibles and talking to God, scrawling pens across journals. Not long after, Morgan had raced up the stairs to find me.

"Can I tell you what I learned?!" she had asked, air still catching up in her lungs from excitement and the two flights of stairs.

"Sure!"

She spoke of olive trees, the details bubbling out of her, and spiritual analogies from time in God's word leaking all over.

"Wait! I've been reading about a tree in God's word too," I said. "Look!"

"What?! Me too!" Morgan exclaimed. Pointing to our journals and to God's word, we had chattered and spoken over each other.

"Wow, thanks, God," we'd both said aloud in stereo timing, and then we had laughed self-consciously.

Today in a bustling coffee shop, I grin again, remembering, and pull my Bible closer, curious to see what God will do today.

"Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power..." 

I copy the verses across lined paper, grinning at God.  "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord." 




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Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Shopkeeper's Secret (and It Impacts You)


"'I'm here for my rose,' she'd say."

Mary stopped speaking and pushed her red hair behind an ear.

"Each week she came in, this sweet retired school teacher. ...There were photos everywhere in her home of her kids. School kids would come back year after year to visit her, even when they were married and grown. They'd send her Christmas cards with family photos, and Char would add the photos to her walls. Her walls were covered with photographs. She loved her students and loved being part of their lives as they grew up."

Mary stopped to run a hand across her face. Hot chlorine-scented steam surrounded us at the public pool. We paused to glance at the swimmers in nearby lessons, and then returned to talking.

"When her husband was dying, he set it up: one peach rose for her. Every Tuesday Char would come to the flower shop where I worked."
Photo Credit: Flickr user Adam Jones, Creative Commons cc license

'I'm here for my rose!' she said.

"She and her husband were Christians and had married later when they were in their forties or so," Mary continued.

"He grew roses, and they had met over that. At his home he grew bush after bush of peach roses. They were his favorite colored rose. He always said he didn't know why he would grow any other flower."

Mary chuckled and shrugged.

"And that's what he arranged for her to receive every week after he died: one peach rose. She came in every week, and everyone in our shop knew her."

Mary paused to check on her grand-children in the pool, and I breathed it in, this act of love throughout the ages.

What a great way to show love, I thought, wriggling my bare toes on the wet tiled floor. Cheeks red with heat, I pushed shirt sleeves higher up my arms and leaned back in my bench. What did a gesture like that cost, I wondered.

And I loved the foresight of this flower-loving, wife-loving man to set up a fund that weekly supplied his bride with the reminder that he loved her, that he had thought of her, long after he had gone.

It reminds me of Easter, actually. This costly act of love that ripples back throughout the years, weekly reminders of our God's love for us. Jesus endured a Roman torture death to show the world how much he loved it. Our humanity-loving Creator chose to die so that he could give us life.

His love takes my breath away.

And he invites us into a relationship with him, boldly saying, "I have come that they may have Life and have it abundantly."

Too often, I think, I grow complacent, lazy, and forget to be grateful. I forget to stand up smiling, eager, thankful.

So I stand up today, and speak it out in grateful love. "I'm here for this New Life.  ...He already purchased it for me."


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Sunday, March 3, 2019

When God Pulled the Fire Alarm

Just one glance at the text sent my heart racing.

Alarm bells were blaring at our house, but we were half a nation away.

On a special once-every-ten-years-vacation to sunny Florida with my husband's family, we were still rubbing aloe vera salve onto our sun-burned skin when a neighbor in snowy Minnesota contacted us.







"Your neighbors are hearing a loud beeping noise coming from your house. Do you know what it could be?" she asked, the text glowing grey and green in the dark night.

My heart raced. "Mark!"

In hurried conversation, we thought of friends we could ask to drive to our snow-dumped home at night and to wade through six-inch high drifts of snow in our unplowed driveway to check out the sounds.

Minutes later, our son's father-in-law in Minnesota grabbed boots and mittens and drove his cold car over crackly iced roads to our house.

In another time zone, in dark humid Florida, I curled up legs onto our borrowed bed, and listened to my husband's side of the conversation. He spoke door codes through the phone, and soon after, we could hear the alarms pealing over the phone lines, across the nation, and into our dark quiet room.

Entering cautiously, our friend sniffed the air, testing for smoke, for carbon monoxide, for anything amiss. The sound drew him into our son's bedroom. After locating the ceiling-mounted fire alarm and noting the expired battery, our friend Jay disabled the alarm until we could return to repair it.

And it was then that God blew us away!

In the silence that followed, Jay noticed the creeping chill. Frost blew from his mouth. Indoors? Feeling abnormally cold, he checked the thermostat. A blank grey screen lay where the numbers should have been, and the men spoke in concerned voices across the phone lines.

A blank thermostat confirmed the chill. A malfunctioning thermostat meant a malfunctioning furnace. A malfunctioning furnace meant frozen and burst water pipes were imminent.

I bounced impatiently on the bed in Florida while our friend in Minnesota headed downstairs to the furnace room. Mark and Jay talked about screw drivers and batteries and hard-wired boxes that should have worked, and they problem-solved.

And we saw it, how God had set off a fire alarm in the bedroom that was perfectly-placed to grab our neighbor's attention so we could halt the freeze before it burst our pipes and flooded our home.

Our creative God pulled the fire alarm, and I grin to think of it.

"Okay, it's thirty-nine degrees," Jay said, breathing into the phone as he wielded a screw driver in one hand and a phone in the other.

Twenty minutes later, Mark hung up the phone after we had thanked our friend again and again for driving to our house on a dark cold Minnesota night. In a month of record-snows and cold temperatures in Minnesota, our sweet God pulled the fire alarm and saved our home.

We declared it again and again, marveling at what he had done. Thank you, God, we breathed in grateful joy.

Brushing teeth and slipping into bed, we stared at our packed suitcases for the next day's flight home. Thinking of a gently-warming house, and fearful cats who would be relaxing after the alarms had stopped, Mark and I stretched arms under pillows and pulled the blankets higher.

"Let's thank God again," I murmured, wiggling my toes and leaning back against Mark's chest. His voice rumbled behind my head, and I felt my shoulder sink deeper into the pillow.

"What a creative God he is!" I smiled sleepily, and closed my eyes.

Hi friend, how are you? What are you thankful for today?

Do you live near Minneapolis, MN? I will be speaking at the Set Apart Conference 2019 in St. Paul this Friday and Saturday, March 8 and 9th. Come find me and say hi! 

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