Yesterday, I went down a flight of rickety wooden stairs behind our house to get to the beach. The water level has eroded the sand and earth away to the point of shifting a concrete base securing the stairs, so the final descent was twisted and broken. I clung to the rail and felt like I was walking in a Escher painting. I knew it was dangerous to ignore the sign at the top that blocked the entry and said, “Under Repair”. I really wanted to get to the bottom to cool my feet in the water, and since there was no other way to get there, I took the risk. You might imagine the next part of the story continues with the stairs breaking away, and I fall and hit sense into my head or float out to the middle of Lake Erie; but nothing happened this time. I cooled my feet, found some beach glass and returned to the top. Why did I take the risk when a bathtub could have given me the same refreshing result? Exploration might have been my primary motive, or maybe there is a little part of me that rebells against authority, convention and caution. Most of my days are logical, methodical, and routine. Everyone needs to break away from those days sometimes in order to experience creative rejuvenation. Today, when I went to visit the staircase to climb down, our wonderful neighbor was making a Herculean effort to repair them by anchoring the bottom with bags of cement. It looks like their efforts will be successful until the water rises again to wash out the sands and stones. The winter icebergs can create enough power to push things around as well. Nature always gets her way. Given time, the earth heals from all that man has manipulated and vegetation grows over every human path and pillar. There may be buildings five hundred years old, but after a thousand years, all we find are ruins that were well buried. Five generations from now everything will be different. This is where I must recognize that God will be the same power and glory forever. We shall face challenges, take risks, and try to control our environment, but there is really nothing we can do to improve what God gives us. Whatever exploration I am on, my focus should be to find those who need love and pour it over them abundantly. Man made materials and machines are always exciting in their advances and seemingly the best way to invest our time and money, but they won’t even last our life time. Our words and stories make a lasting impression, so it is important to use our words wisely and share stories of God’s love and Power. I wish I could find a way to make a hug last and last. No matter how risky, I don’t want to miss a chance to to share the love of God. Go, therefore, into every nation; climb every mountain and ford every stream to complete the task God gives you. Make every exploration and mission a part of a stairway to heaven.
Yesterday, I went to the drugstore. There are so many of them now, practically one at every major intersection. Back in the Sixties, there was one; The Ben Franklin Five and Dime. It was a fun place to spend our refund money after collecting pop bottles from construction sites. Getting a candy bar or a comic book was a real treat. Then, when I became a teenager, I might go in for lip stick or other beauty supplies, a magazine, and a diet drink. Now that I am sixty, I bought hearing aid batteries, compression socks, and medications. What happened to me? Good golly Miss Molly, I now qualify to be a grandma. That is actually happening this year and tonight I will know the gender so I can go shopping for pink or blue clothes! Forget the drugstore. Here I come infant department of every major department store! My sisters have alerted me to Goodwill for infant clothes that still have tags or look brand new; a smart choice when babies grow out of their wardrobe every two to three months. My girls wore matching KMart play clothes, hand-me-downs or back to school clothes from Carlisle’s. it has been a long time since I have shopped for little ones. It will be far more fun than my current drugstore trips. We saved a couple outfits from our children’s infancy, and most all of the furniture. The conundrum is how do we ship it all to them in Florida when it would be cheaper to buy all new, state of the art stuff. It seems smarter to sell it all or give it away and start fresh. Or, if anyone is moving to Florida, perhaps we could give you a few more things to take down? This decision making gives me heart palpitations and will land me back in the doctor’s office and the dreaded drugstore. “Breathe, take one concern at a time,” says my sage hubby. My thoughts easily go to places where people have next to nothing, or have to flee their homes and leave behind all their treasures and heirlooms. We put far too much value on our stuff. The Bible has much to say about this. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” I know whether it is a boy or girl, this pending grandchild will steal my heart and suddenly nothing else will matter. All my friends tell me this is so. While our children prepare the baby’s room and create a safe and comfortable environment for their family, I will dream about being the best Grammy possible. Hopefully, health issues will never prevent me from loving the grans with my whole heart. Soon, very soon, we will walk holding hands into the drugstore to get a treat, like a smoothie and some kale chips, even though it will cost more than a nickel or a dime. The lesson today is: shopping is more fun when done with a buddy, and what we think we need now will be entirely different every decade we grow older. Which aisle can I find the Slowpokes please?
This week we had a home incident that was not caused by my neglect, miscalculation, or buffoonery. Hubby and I entered the house after a holiday away, and I noticed a wine bottle cork on the floor. At first, I thought it was a large creature like we the ones that greet us in Charleston, but when I picked it up I was glad that it was not. Then hubby walked by and said, “What is this oil on the floor?” We both leaned over to touch it, and then looked around to see what was leaking. “Here is the culprit,” said hubby as he lifted a corkless bottle of Johannesburg Riesling from the wine shelf above the kitchen desk. “What in the world!” I exclaimed. Apparently, the 2007 wine bottle popped the cork under pressure that had been building. Half the contents glugged out on the desk below, being absorbed by a magazine and an old computer. Out came the Swifter to take care of the floor splatters as I contemplated what happens when pressure mounts beyond our limits. Okay, no snickering from the men on this, we all understand your anatomy. Extreme pressure is often caused by deadlines to complete a project or pay the bills. The pressure cooker I remember most in my life has been student performance in my classroom, especially when the superintendent and principal both walk in unannounced. “Please, Oh Lord, may all my children be on task and answer questions brilliantly,” I prayed. Everyday was a challenge; preparing meaningful and exciting lessons, motivating students, and managing the constant behavior issues of twenty to thirty little lives that all wanted my attention and acceptance. I wanted everyday to be perfect, but people just are not. We may all agree that confrontation is an occasion that causes our hearts to race and our emotional gaskets to blow. I will never get used to accusations and anger directed at me. There were a couple times when I confronted my own children and they saw me blow my top. Pressure may form diamonds out of coal, but that takes thousands of years. Who wants to endure a thousand insults in hope of becoming something valuable to others? Most moments that are extremely stressful situations cause a mess at the breaking point. This is never something we should do to another person. It takes more than a swifter to clean up a relationship in ruins. A sticky residue remains in unseen places in the form of mistrust and dislike. It take genuine love to forgive, and a good scrubbing in the way of confession and repentance to have full reconciliation. It must be from both sides with two people or groups. With God and man, the pressure has been released by Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross. He cleaned up our mess already and has open arms for everyone. If we see pressure mounting between people or political parties, it has to be released like the opening of a carbonated beverage- slowly without shaking. Hubby and I find de- escalating with a bottle of wine can be helpful. It may be ironic that my favorite is champagne. There is skill in opening a bottle under pressure. Don’t pop your top.
Last weekend, I was in the company of three lawyers for two days. How can a plebeian survive such an event you might wonder? There were deep discussions and intense questions about life choices. There were analyses of our theater and dining experiences. There were evaluations and high level thinking about politics, religion and ice cream. There were intellectual commentaries about legal matters and the judicial process. And I survived, actually thrived, because I love these three lawyers and respect them. One question still has me contemplating. Do I consider myself very religious? It seems a loaded question in today’s climate where religion can be equated with blind followers who are ignorant, or zealous opinionated people who are not enlightened by the current trends. My family might say I am very religious because they know I am devout in my faith, theology, and traditions. So in the style of Jeff Foxworthy, I have collected some ideas that may help define my answer.
If you believe there is a God and you pray to God, you might be religious.
If you go to a gathering place to worship with others most every Saturday or Sunday, you might be religious.
If you attend classes to learn more about the history of faithful people, you might be very religious.
If you like to sing songs of praise to God and read the stories about Godly people, you might be very religious.
If you meditate and read devotionals daily, you might be very religious.
If you teach others about your faith, you might be very religious.
If you are motivated to serve others according to the teachings of your faith, you might be religious.
If you establish programs to help the poor and needy, you might be very religious, or working for the government.
If you pledge money for missions and support a pastor in ministry, you might be religious.
If you are a missionary or pastor, you might be very religious.
If you look for answers to problems in the word of God, you might be religious.
If your issues have been solved through prayer and the words of God you might feel divinely blessed.
If you credit God for all good things, you might be religious.
If you believe you have a part in eternity, you might be very religious.
I believe the above qualifies me as very religious. I do not expect others to think or act the way I do because I am the product of several generations of Lutheran doctrine. I do expect the Holy Spirit to keep working wonders in the hearts and minds of everyone, so that they may find a spiritual purpose. What ever you believe in: work, love, magic, science, sports teams, people or God; it might be your religion. If you are passionate and share your enthusiasm for anything, you might be very religious. I will never be on the level with a lawyer and be able to articulate or defend the depths of my faith, or pretend I understand everything. I celebrate the anniversary of my baptism four years ago, it might mean I am religious, but that is my response to Jesus’s love and sacrifice. I hope that our family enjoys serving the community of God’s people for generations to come and that heaven includes regular ice cream socials. Make mine a coffee gelato please.