Friday, September 23, 2011

Clover, Grout and Jesus

A yard full of nothing is all Mom saw out the window, but in her mind, she saw piles of mud-caked laundry that would never come clean. Her vision sent her to the gardening center for a supply of grass seed. With a wave of his hand, the clerk directed her to a couple of stacks of seed. The bag she started to pick up was torn, so she chose one from the other stack. It was not until the seed was already spread that she noticed the bag clearly said “Clover”.

A yard full of clover felt luxurious on bare feet. It did fulfill its purpose in eliminating mud, but when the blossoms emerged, every bee in the neighborhood came to our house for dinner.

Flash forward 50 years, to another generation, to another time and another place. The bathroom desperately needed to be painted. Before I could do that, though, I would need to patch several sizable holes in the wall. I had done this kind of thing before, and knew just what to do. In fact, I looked forward to seeing the finished product—a wall without spot or blemish. What I didn’t know was that the little tub of patching plaster looks a lot like the little tub of grout. I did notice the texture didn’t look right, but since we had opened it quite a while ago, I assumed it was just getting old. When it dried with the consistency of sandpaper, I realized something wasn’t right.

If you ever have to patch a hole in your wall , make sure you don’t grab the tub of grout. Finishing that job was so much harder, and so much more work than it should have been. The holes are filled and the paint is dry, but I can never go into that room without remembering the blunder I made.

Our lives are full of choices. If we make the wrong choice, there are consequences we will have to live with. Sometimes, they are not too difficult to live with—clover instead of grass, or a wall full of grit. They can be more troublesome, though—hundreds of bees buzzing around your yard, or raw knuckles and aching shoulders. So, we live and learn, and next time, we choose better.

There is a vital choice that every person will be required to make at some time, and it will have eternal consequences. “Choose you this day whom ye will serve…” You really want to get this one right, because no matter how sincere and committed you are, if your faith is not in Jesus Christ, in the end, nothing else will matter. Don’t allow procrastination, distractions, and assumptions to keep you from knowing Christ. Decide today to serve the Lord.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Such A Cute Puppy!

Today is the day you’ve been waiting for. Instead of boring you with the major events of the summer or the trials of my relationships with dogs, today you get two in one as both topics come together, and I introduce you to Guinness.

At 9 months old, most puppies are about half-grown. If that holds true, we’re going to need a bigger house, because Guinness is a big boy. Even the crate he came in is too big for me to carry, and he fills it up. I didn’t know they made puppies this big. I once saw a super-jumbo sized rawhide bone in a store. The thing was so huge you had to have a shopping cart just to get it to the checkout. I couldn’t imagine a dog big enough to be able to gnaw on the thing.

This puppy loves them.

Guinness rests easy in his crate, but once released, he becomes the poster-puppy for perpetual motion. It’s actually just normal puppy exuberance that he is expressing, but since he’s the size of a house, and he’s inside a house, every move has a huge impact. My first meeting with Guinness was for the purpose of putting his leash on so we could go for a walk. How naïve I was. I never accomplished either one. The harness he was wearing had no obvious way to attach a leash, and by the time I gave up looking for one, I found myself on the floor. His greeting to me had been friendly, in a mastiff sort of way, but by the time he was finished with me, both of my arms were dripping, having been coated with a liberal application of mastiff slobber.

You may recall I have a strong dislike for dog slobber.

When Guinness is around, you have to stay on slobber patrol. His head brushed lightly against me as I walked past him one day, and I needed a towel to blot the wet spot he left on my slacks. If you ever saw the movie, “Turner and Hooch”, you will understand. That's right…yuuuuck!

But I’m still learning to keep my guard up. I walked, unsuspectingly, through the door one day and there he was. I could tell immediately what his intentions were. I even had a second to brace myself. I don’t know. Maybe it helped, maybe it didn’t, but his “gentle little nudge” came close to toppling me. Even the earthquake hadn’t done that.

His saving grace is, he is as sweet as he can be. He loves you, even if he hasn’t met you yet. He especially loves Rose. She barricades herself to avoid the inevitable greetings he insists on, but that doesn’t faze him at all. Can you picture a 90 pound mastiff puppy crawling underneath and working his way around the back side of a dining room table, just to share a friendly “Good afternoon” with an 81 year old woman? He can’t help himself, he just has to do it. Once it’s done, he obediently responds to commands. His mommy trained him well, and I am exceedingly grateful for that, but she didn’t train the friendly or the happy out of him, and I am also glad for that.

We’ve got an abundance of friendly and happy around here lately.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Ultimate Impact

An earthquake, a hurricane, and a mastiff make a lasting impression, but none of them will have the impact of my final experience.

I finished up the summer by driving to the airport.

Driving on unfamiliar roads, especially if freeways are involved, may be my least favorite thing to do. In the past, I would not drive on the freeway at all, opting to take side roads if I absolutely had to get somewhere, but this time, there were no options. Someone had to drive to the airport, and I was the only one available to do it.

I imagine that BWI is similar to other major airports. My exit was well marked and accessed easily, roads were in good shape, and airport traffic was light. I even had a GPS for reassurance. All the same, my stomach was in knots and my limbs were trembling by the time I pulled up to the curb where my family members waited. My relief could not be measured when I finally turned the car keys over to my son.

I realize it makes no sense to feel this way, but it is a good example of how we are all unique. Each one has weaknesses and each one has strengths.  I doubt that I will ever be comfortable driving on unfamiliar roads, even though I have made several trips of hundreds of miles on my own. My first trip of any length was about 55 miles and took about an hour. It doesn’t sound like much, but even this was a drive I wouldn’t have made if I had any other choice. I have also driven from Michigan to Florida, then back the other way, three months later. Are you impressed? Don’t be. It took me six days, both ways. Last year I had to drive to Tennessee from Michigan, and most of that trip was driving through a blizzard at night. If you look closely, you can still see the imprint of the steering wheel on my hands. The last trip was just as nerve-wracking as the first.

By now, you may think I’m pathetic, and maybe I feel pathetic myself. However, I understand two things. Number one, we all have our “freeways”. Every individual will face what seems like an impossible challenge at some point, but pressing forward in our own strength is not the answer. Instead, it can be a tremendous opportunity to reap one of the benefits of being a Christian. That’s number two. A Christian always has resources available that others don’t have access to. God’s grace, his mercy, his enablement, his wisdom, his power and so much more, are at our disposable. The only requirement is that we ask for it. That means humbling ourselves and admitting we are not able to succeed on our own.

A Christian ought to be able to do that.

This doesn’t mean we don’t try anymore. It does mean that our efforts will have greater success and be directed in appropriate ways. Psalm 46:1 tells us: God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Hebrews 4:16 confirms this and emboldens us to ask for the help we need: Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

What a great God we have. He is willing to bear all of our burdens for us, even the stress of driving to the airport.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What A Way To End The Summer!

It started with the East Coast Earthquake of 2011.

You can’t really prepare for an earthquake, except to have a plan of action in the event you ever find yourself in the middle of one. Normally, only a trip to some remote corner of the world, or at least to the west coast of the USA, would make such a concern reasonable for a resident of the DC area. A couple of weeks ago, that line of thinking proved to be faulty, as Mineral, Virginia produced its very own trembler.

The entire eastern part of the country felt it, including my town, about a hundred miles from the epicenter. In DC, the National Cathedral and the Washington Monument will both need major restorations done, but my immediate area suffered little damage, and the quake seemed to be more of a curiosity than a disaster. That is not to say I was not shocked, though, when the earth moved under my feet on August 23, 2011.

Before the wonder of the earthquake had faded, tropical storm Irene made its appearance. It soon developed into an authentic hurricane whose predicted path encompassed the entire eastern coast of the nation. Only time would tell which area would be hit the hardest.

Unlike earthquakes, hurricanes allow plenty of time to prepare, and that’s what the Mid-Atlantic coast did. Stores sold out of batteries and drinking water before you could dig out your shopping list. Peanut butter, tuna fish, bread, and snacks soon followed. People stored their lawn furniture away and taped their windows. I hunkered down, alone with two cats and a small dog, to see it through.

Irene turned out to be pretty easy on the region, saving her wrath for points farther north. The power was out for some time, and small branches littered our front yard. The heavy rain added five or six inches of water to our mostly empty pool. I won’t deny that I was happy to have sturdy shelter that night, but at my location, it wasn’t much different than a good, old summer storm.

Two harrowing events that many people will never experience, both happening within the space of 5 days, by themselves, would make for a week I will never forget. But there’s more.

Enter Guinness…a 90 pound, 9 month old bundle of exuberance and drool who thinks he’s a lap dag. In reality, he is a puppy who chews and licks and commands, by his very presence, everyone’s attention. Have I mentioned how much I dislike dog slobber? Guinness is now going to be part of my workday…a turn of events that certainly qualifies as another major event of the summer.

An earthquake, a hurricane, and a mastiff make definite impressions, but none of them will have the impact of the final experience. Come back next time to find out about “The Ultimate Impact”.


Photo from Nasa.Gov