The Myth of Ordinary

Two-year-olds are the not always easy. My son weighs about thirty-three pounds and his method of not doing what he is told is to lie himself down on the ground–wherever we happen to be–grocery store, public bathroom, church hallway–anywhere at all. Peeling him off the ground while he complains loudly is not exactly my idea of fun, but it is well worth it. It is a small inconvenience compared to the daily reminder of how exciting life is.

For a two-year-old, everything is new. Everything is full of wonder. It matters not how many buses he sees each day, every bus is met with utter elation. “Mom, bus, Mom!” Only God knows how many times per day I hear “Mom, big truck, Mom!” “Mom, orange, Mom!” (Orange is his favorite color and he appears to have orange-dar, detecting the tiniest splash of it from about a mile away). “Mom, Start Engines, Mom!” (This is what he says when he sees a flag and is the obvious product of watching NASCAR with his brothers) “Mom, bird, Mom!” “Mom, choo-choo, Mom!” “Mom, airplane, Mom!” Yes, every observation is introduced and concluded with my name. Every single time. And I love it. I love it. I love it. I love it! Sam’s joy is contagious. His enthusiasm endearing. But we lose that sense of awe pretty quickly; my older boys are mostly past bus-sighting elation.

C.S. Lewis’s Uncle Screwtape addressed this precise issue with the demon-in-training. He told him to “Keep pressing home…the ordinariness of things.” Have you ever thought about that? Does God want us to be bored in this life, to think people, places and things are ordinary? Of course not! Why do you think there is so much variation in His creation? It’s for our enjoyment and His glory, and I think Sam’s assessment of life is close to the heart of God. I think we should be absolutely ecstatic that we get to enjoy His majesty through Creation, through each person made in His image, through the many blessings that we enjoy in this life, physical and emotional. I love that Tommy Walker song that says, “He knows my name, He knows my every thought, He sees each tear that falls, and hears me when I call.” If Eeyore has infected your attitude, if you’ve been thinking everything is ordinary and less than exciting, try reminding yourself that the Loving God of the Universe knows your name!
My niece, Caitlin, and I were talking yesterday morning over coffee. Not knowing what I was blogging about this week, she started telling me about a song she’d heard last week called Holy Now by Peter Mayer. Here is the link. The lyrics relate so well to this post. It is all about perspective. One stanza says:
Wine from water is not so small
But an even better magic trick
Is that anything is here at all
So the challenging thing becomes
Not to look for miracles
But finding where there isn’t one
Miracles are everywhere. Ordinary is a myth. But like so many things we cannot in our own power just decide to appreciate the glory of God. Instead we need to pray that God will open our eyes and our hearts.
This week may we be like Sam, easily elated, and like the Psalmist who said “Let me understand the teaching of your precepts; then I will meditate on your wonders.” (Psalm 119: 27).

Grand Theft Auto

Some of you know this story well. You lived it too. But others may be surprised to know that when I was fifteen years old I stole a car. Actually I think the legal term for it is joyriding. I had no intention of keeping the car, and such intention is a necessary component for theft. But the proper definition has long been ignored in my family. For decades the story of Kristie stealing a car has been retold.
Melissa is one of my oldest and dearest friends, and one Saturday night in 1987, we were hanging out at her house. Her parents were out for the night, and we were talking about a boy we had decided we no longer liked. I cannot explain the lack of logic. I cannot explain the utter stupidity of it. But I had the bright idea of grabbing a couple of eggs and driving over to his house. Melissa needed convincing. I told her that it’d be fun. I may not have had a license but I was a good driver. Finally, we grabbed a couple of eggs and got in the car.
Everything was going swimmingly as we exited her neighborhood. But then we came to a four-way stop, and wonder of wonders, a police car pulled up across from us. His presence caused me to stammer, to utterly panic. We had been intending to turn left, but now I thought maybe we should turn right. I flipped the turn signal up and down and then up again, and well, it was pretty suspicious-looking. And then when I did finally turn right I doubt it was my turn. So we made it about a quarter of a mile from her house before we were pulled over. And I won’t go into the harrowing details of sitting in that caged police car, maybe another time, but it was not fun. Melissa was practically hyperventilating. And I could write a whole other post about being dropped off by the police at my sister’s house. My parents were out of town that weekend, and yet another blog could be written about finally telling my mom, and how I had to have my brother Craig by my side for the bravery to do it.
So the car was hauled away and my dad wrote her dad a check for the impounding. It was humiliating. I never wanted to see her family again. I was too ashamed. But after about two weeks, which seemed an eternity, her dad called me on the phone. It was a Sunday afternoon in early December.
“Kristie, Honey,” he said, “We want you to go to the mall with us. We miss you.”
“Okay,” I answered, voice quivering.
A half hour later, their family of five picked me up. I piled in, feeling something like a sewer rat.
There must have been some exchange involving, “I’m sorry,” but I don’t remember that. What I do remember is laughing until my face hurt. At every intersection all the way to the mall, her dad did a Kristie, flipping the turn signal up and down and then up, acting like a panicked goof.
What a picture of forgiveness!
Jesus said, she who has been forgiven much loves much. (Luke 7:47). And I love that family. Oh, how I love them. They were always, always so good to me. I vacationed with them, and I even lived with them while our new house was being built. But nothing made more of an impression on me than their willingness to forgive me.
There are many lessons imbedded in this story. But I’m only going to highlight two. The first is that we should have that same kind of heartsick love for God. The more we become aware of our own sinfulness and shortcomings the more we should feel overcome with love and gratitude. He has forgiven it all, the big hairy sins and the little things too, all through the sacrifice of His Son.
The second lesson is that if we want people to love us, and every person has a desperate need for love, maybe we should think hard about being more forgiving.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, let us forgive this week as we have been forgiven!

Fender Bender Grace

About a week ago, right after we dropped off our carpool buddy, the boys and I were involved in a bit of fender bender. It was a strange sort of accident because we were sitting at a stop sign, one car back from the road, waiting to turn right. I was talking to the boys asking about school, when the car in front of us smashed into us. I guess the woman might have thought her car was sticking out into traffic. I don’t know for sure what her rationale was, I just know she put it in reverse and floored it the four feet she had of space.

After taking a brief look at the boys, I popped out of the car, and so did the attractive, middle-aged Asian woman who bashed us.
“Oh my gosh,” she said, arms flailing. “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. Sun so bright. I’m so sorry.”
The sun excuse was just plain silly, but we were unharmed and the spectacular J-Team van also looked perfect. Well, “perfect” is a bit of a stretch with 108K miles and nearly seven years of boys, but it definitely didn’t look any different than it had five minutes before.
“It’s okay,” I said. “Please do not worry about it.”
But then she saw the boys in the van, and went from upset to nearly hysterical.
“Oh and you have children, I am so sorry. So so sorry.”
At this point I didn’t know what to do so I hugged her. “Please do not worry,” I said, patting her back. “They are fine. Really.”
Finally, she got back in her spiffy car, and I climbed back into the van and was greeted with bewilderment from Nate. “Mom, why did you hug her?” The hugging did not compute in his supremely logical little mind. What ensued was a very sweet conversation about grace and mercy.
But it made me think about another fender bender from years ago. I think I was seventeen, but I may have been sixteen. I was driving a cute little Mazda RX7, which I have no idea how I scored. My brother, Craig, was the advocate in me getting it. But it was in my possession for only a few hours before some lady took a left turn way too tight and smashed me while I was literally stopped at a light. And although many of the details are blurry after all these years, I think this woman probably apologized too. I do remember that she wet herself over the accident. Yes, that pitiful detail is still vivid. I am ashamed, horribly ashamed, that I didn’t feel one bit sorry for her. I was furious that my cute little car was smashed up, aghast that someone could be that careless, and ticked that I was being terribly inconvenienced. Whatever an anti-hug looks like, that’s what I gave her.
Yes, I was a mere child, and yes, there was actual damage, but maturity and severity have little to do with the difference in my reaction. You see I am a completely different person now, and I have a completely different heart. I may have claimed Jesus as my Savior as a little girl, but I did almost nothing to pursue him as my Lord. And my heart of stone wasn’t softened by a mere confession of faith. It remained cold and hard until the Holy Spirit, through the relationship of knowing Him and loving Him, started to melt my pride and purify my emotions. Of course, I am only a work in progress, clinging with white knuckles to the promise that He who began a good work will carry it on to completion. (Philippians 1:6). But I am encouraged that I do see some progress, at least in the realm of minor traffic accidents. And shouldn’t we all see progress in many areas of our lives? This week may we ask ourselves this most important question: In what ways, in what areas, am I becoming more and more like my Savior?

Rock the Red

The Lone Ranger

Last Tuesday night the Jackson Five took in a fabulous hockey game. The sea of red cheering on the Washington Capitals in Game 7 of Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs was something to behold. Nate, our five-year-old pictured above, was one of about seven Rangers fans at the game. It was easy to count them up because not only was every other person wearing red, but most were wearing CAPS paraphernalia. In fact the majority of those in attendance were wearing jerseys. Do you know how much an NHL jersey costs? I mean, it was a true display of devotion.

I’ve been to some pretty big sporting events, but never have I seen anything like this hockey game. I mean it was almost alarming it was so loud and so intense. Our two-year-old (and mind you, he often lives up to the “terrible” moniker) sat contently through three periods, just taking in the shock and awe display of rabid fanhood. At one point I leaned over to Will and screamed at the top of my lungs so that he could almost hear me, “I feel like we are at the Coliseum, like they are about to cart out a Ranger fan and then an unleash a tiger or something.”
By God’s grace, with three boys, I like sports. In fact, I love sports. But something about this event was over-the-top. You’d think the result of the game really mattered, like what we were witnessing wasn’t a game at all.
And if you stop to think about it, it makes perfect sense that people act like that. Displays of devotion, and expressions of awe come naturally to us as human beings. We were made to worship, and everyone worships something. Some worship the earth itself, devoting themselves to preserving and caring for the environment. Some worship money and their lives are defined by the acquisition of wealth. Some worship Hollywood, reading piles of magazines and following the lives of their beloved stars with religious zeal. Still others worship pleasure, and their pursuits focus on the next big thrill or feel good high. Sadly, sports fans sometimes let the fun of a game become something of a god. Martin Luther said, “That to which your heart clings is your god.” And while only the God of Heaven can truly know what is in one’s heart, a person’s priorities — how they spend their time, their money, their talents–are surely an indicator of inner passions. And in terms of examining our own hearts, these are valuable considerations.
So who or what do you worship? What does your heart cling to? It clings to something. Clingy devotion is in our DNA; we are beings who worship. We may laugh at how the Israelites built that golden calf and then started to worship the heap of metal like it could really help them. It may strike us as outrageous after marching through the Red Sea on dry ground, but we all seem to suffer from spiritual amnesia and they didn’t have all that we have. It is not like they chose to watch television for hours while the Bible, the revealed Word of God, sat next to them on the table. And they didn’t have the life of Jesus to emulate either, not to mention the omnipresence of the Holy Spirit. So I find Luke 12:48 rather sobering; it tells us that to whom much is given, much is expected.
My prayer and hope this week is to cling to and worship three Persons–no one and nothing else. Only our Heavenly Father, His Son (our Savior), and His Spirit (our Counselor) are worthy of such praise and honor. May we worship this week in spirit and in truth. (John 4).