It took me a long time to realize my Christmas tree was invisible.
I would spend hours clearing space by the front window, putting away the pictures and non-seasonal objects, retrieving boxes from the garage, then sorting through countless ornaments collected over the years . . .
I’d stop to remember where I got that tiny flamingo with the goofy grin and holiday tie, the Santa posed like a rodeo rider on the back of a dolphin. I’d be thrilled when I opened the box containing construction-paper Rudolph, his crooked mouth penned by a fidgety preschooler. (Rudolph always gets the best spot on the tree.)
Smiling, I would carefully unwrap the crooked candle made of wire and plastic beads, and choke up every time at the tiny stocking labelled “FNU” (FBI-speak for “First Name Unknown”).
I’m one of those people who doesn’t buy boxes of glass balls to fill their tree. Every ornament has a special meaning or memory attached to it. I space them out so each one is properly visible and as I do, I let my mind drift back to when I shared this activity with ones now in Heaven, or those now just too busy.
It’s usually an entire afternoon of nostalgia and sentimentality, and for what? Despite its prominent placement in my front window, no one sees this tree. Continue reading That’s not just a Christmas tree you see
Lot, the nephew of Old Testament patriarch Abraham, lived in a rotten neighborhood. In fact, the entire city, as well as the one next door, was so wicked, God ordered they both be destroyed, as a warning to future generations of His disdain for unrepentant sin. To this day, even the names of the cities – Sodom and Gomorrah – have come to epitomize evil and wickedness.
The story in Genesis 19 is riveting: Because Lot was said to have been a righteous man, God sent angels to rescue him and his family before the cities were annihilated.
The angels warned them to hurry and not stop to look back. Lot’s wife famously disobeyed and the Bible tells us she was instantly turned into a pillar of salt — perhaps caught in the burning sulfur and volcanic explosions that engulfed the area.
Though some Hebrew texts refer to her as Edith and others call her Irit, Lot’s wife is never actually named in the Bible itself. Instead, she stands as a symbol of the danger of indecision, especially when God’s instructions are clear. Even in the New Testament, Jesus cautions His disciples to “remember Lot’s wife” and not look back when God calls you forward.
The more I think about it, the more I think Lot’s wife’s name could have been Diane. Continue reading I Think I Know Lot’s Wife’s Name
I’ve been told I must have “talk to me” tattooed on my forehead in a type of ink easily visible to the lonely. It must be true because apparently Karen (not her real name) could read it.
It was only about a ten minute ride on the water taxi from the marina to the beach, but that was long enough. By the time we got off the pontoon boat, I knew Karen’s entire story: Where she’s lived for all 41 years of her marriage, how much she paid for her last three houses, the nature of her latest ailment, what she and her husband disagree about, the names and ages of each of her grandchildren, and … well, you get my drift. Me, a complete stranger.
The next day I went to an outdoor art festival with two friends. As I browsed the jewelry booth, a nearby shopper found earrings to match the necklace she was admiring. To my casual comment, “Must be your lucky day!”, she blurted out that she could use some good luck; her husband had died unexpectedly last week of a massive heart attack. She said she had come to the art festival hoping for a distraction from her crushing grief. Stunned, I touched her arm as I told her how sorry I was, my voice cracking. Again, I was a complete stranger. Continue reading People are starving – and not for food
This past week I was looking for something in a closet and came across a box of old handwritten letters. They were still in their original envelopes, held together with rotted rubber bands. I pulled them out and the next thing I knew, I had lost an entire afternoon.
What a kick to read stories from my then-25 year old sister gushing about the new job she had come to love. To revisit my mother’s fretting over her upcoming nursing board exams and hear again, at the end of every letter, how much she loved me. Priceless.
There was my Dad, telling about a fire in the building next door to the church, so hot it melted the plastic curtains in one of the Sunday School rooms and Continue reading A Costly Lesson About Closed Doors
When I was a kid growing up in Key West, there was a young guy in our church, Charlie (not his real name). Every time someone greeted him with, “How you doin’, Charlie?” his response was always, “I’m tired.” Maybe he had a legitimate reason to be constantly exhausted, I don’t know. All I can tell you is, to this day the only thing I remember about that guy is he would always say he was tired.
I shake my head at that now, but I have to wonder, how many times do we – all of us – refer to ourselves in ways that are negative and, over time, allow them to become part of our very identity?
“Tired” seems minor compared to some labels we allow. We accept certain traits about ourselves as unchangeable or certain troubles as inevitable and we miss the truth that we often have a choice.
This morning, my pastor made this specific statement: “God is hard at work in your hopeless situation.” And I started thinking, “What in my life seems hopeless? And if God is hard at work, is it really?”
I was immediately reminded of an interesting story Continue reading The answer to this question is not as easy as it sounds
We laugh at that because it rings true. Sometimes we can feel like the only place to find a “stable” relationship is, well, in a stable. That’s especially true if we’ve been burned relationally more than a few times. We start to yearn for settled, reliable, safe. But stable relationships are few and far between, as much as we may wish that weren’t so.
Here’s the thing: My sister has horses; four of them and she loves them like children. But she will be among the first to tell you, the only thing stable about them is where they live.
They’re beautiful and unpredictable, thrilling and a little – or a lot – dangerous. (Ask her sometime about dislocated shoulders, torn ACLs and loosened teeth.) To watch them run with wild abandon is to be inspired and awed. (Even the old guys.)
I’ve always loved how God calls attention to the horse’s power and beauty in the Old Testament book of Job: “Do you give the horse its strength or clothe its neck with a flowing mane?” (Job 39:19) At the final judgment, we are told Jesus will ride in victory on a majestic white horse (Revelation 19:11). That’s just cool!
Which brings me to this: When we get right down to it, is a “stable” relationship really what we want out of life?
Recently I was going through a workbook/journal I had kept in connection with a book I read about 10 years ago. I came across something I had written then that not only reminded me of where I was at that time, but how far I’ve come. Here it is (don’t laugh): Continue reading If you want a stable relationship, get a horse
Go ahead. Try any font. From my point of view, it doesn’t matter. The shape of the letters that form the word July, the angles of the number 17 – these are harsh and unnecessary. Even cruel.
Every year I dread this date and the sadness it rekindles. It’s been 16 years. How many more? Continue reading The Folly of a Change of Fonts
I know I’m not the only one who sometimes imagines how I would respond if I could have a “do over”. I stew about past mistakes and think about what it would be like to have a fresh start. It can be draining.
Sometimes we whine about fairly inconsequential things. For example (and I may or may not have said any of these things, okay?):
“If I had it to do over again, I think I’d have … Continue reading How would you finish this sentence?
As I continue my focus on the word “harmony” in 2013, I’ve been thinking about behaviors that look like harmony-producers but in reality are harmony-busters. They seem innocuous enough, perhaps even helpful. But over time, they can do more harm than good.
Here are a few I’ve observed (and there are many more). Maybe you can add some others: Continue reading Four Ways to (Politely) Pummel Harmony