Rusty cars, Awkward Obedience and God’s Grace

Sometimes, especially at the beginning of a new year, I get this lumpy-dumpy feeling. It’s not so much about fat handles or a rotunduous tummy. It’s more about my ineffectiveness as compared to other people.

Maybe comparing is the operative word.

You see, compared to most people I feel like I move at a snail’s space- with about as much fanfare. I mean how many snails have you seen with super dynamic personalities or exploding ministry?

(The fact that I’m actually considering relationships with snails may be part of the problem.)

To be honest, people scare me. That’s why I often wonder how God could use me to show his love to other people.

That all changed a few months ago.

I was taking my mom to the eye specialist. There was almost zero parking space around the office building.  Barely any place to drop her off.

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The very suggestion of slowing down could end your life. Death by pile-up. Yes, in Surrey, B. C. its a real thing.

So is frustration.

Mom had a two-hour appointment. What was I going to do in the meantime?

Then I noticed the Safeway parking lot across from the doctor’s office. It spread out farther than the dimensions of a Wal-mart Superstore.

So, why not park?

Then I saw the signs-

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and the men in green vests everywhere. They re-enforced the same  message as they circled the lot looking violators.

With the Skytrain and the Guildford Rec Center and Ice Rink across the street, a university satellite campus half a block away, parking spots were at a premium.

Obviously.

Fortunately, I spied a small square of Park and Pay signs to the side of Safeway.

That’s when a rusty tank of a car almost mowed me over.

I caught a quick look at the driver.  Her matted hair, tired eyes and sunken cheeks reminded me that this area was a dangerous place to be in the middle of the night.

Good thing it was in the middle of the day. Even more good news. I found a spot. It cost me all my change and then some. But, I parked.

I pulled out a paperback and tried to lose myself in some somebody else’s problems in some other place. That worked until I checked the time on my phone.

Dead battery.

Not good. How was I supposed to pick up mom? She’d never find me in this maze.I read a few more pages. Then, I sighed, shoved my book in my purse and got out of the car.

I walked across the parking lot and stood by a small bank on the corner.

Awkward.

I wasn’t used to being just “out there” standing around with nowhere to go, nothing to do. But I didn’t want my Mom to get lost or panic trying to find me.

So I let awkward be awkward. And actually kind of enjoyed it

The same rusty car that almost mowed me down earlier  pulled up. A woman in a bathroom and pajama bottoms got out. She opened the back door, unstrapped a toddler from a car seat and headed into the bank.

Dumpy  car, worn PJ’s, erratic driving. I should have felt concern and compassion, maybe even prayed for her. Instead, I waited for her to do her banking business and be gone so I could get on with my awkward wait.

It seemed to be working.

This woman came out of the bank almost as quickly as she entered.

But, she didn’t  get into the car. She plopped down on the curb beside her car and put her head in her hands. Her toddler danced around her while she sat motionless. Tragic. Sad.

I tried to put the entire scene out of my mind.

Not a chance.

God wanted more from me. And, I knew what He was saying even if I didn’t hear an audible voice.

This woman needs money.

She needs love.

Go talk to her.

I took a few hesitant  steps toward the woman. Almost got to her car where she had her back to me. Then, I got scared and circled back to the sidewalk and wrestled with my fears.

What if I was about to offend this woman? What if I made her mad?

When I gathered enough courage to start walking back to the woman again.

“Excuse me,” I said. The woman didn’t turn around.

Excuse me, ” I said so loudly I was sure everyone in Safeway heard me.

She turned around slowly.

“I’m sorry, but I had to talk to you. You seem to be having a hard time. And…I want to help you and your son.”

I held out some money. She shook her head.

“He’s my son, not my grandson,” she said, “And, this is not me. I’m the one who helps other people. This is not me…”

She looked about ready to cry. I told her how brave she was and how blessed her family was to have her.

I”ll take your money, but not for me. For my daughter. She needs medicine,” the woman finally said as she looked past me as if I was not even there. Suddenly, she grabbed me in a big hug and started to sob.

For a few moments, we stood as one. Two women, trying to get through the day.

Not sure what else to do, I asked if I could pray for her and her family.

After that, she got into the car with her grandson and drove away.

I don’t know if I will ever see her again. But, God sees her every day. And, he cares.He cares so much that he will use the most awkward of means to show his love.

Even people like me.

 We all we need to do is obey.

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The Losers of Loserville and Understanding God

When I started the blog Living in Loserville, I figured I’d journal epic losses like how I 

  • lost my fear of what other people think
  • lost my own critical attitude
  • and even those nasty sugar cravings.

Mostly I

  •  misplaced car keys,
  • lost my dignity occasionally,
  • and even the family dogs from time to time.

Not exactly what I had in mind.

Then, just before Christmas I l stood in the middle of Walmart and rummaged around for my wallet.

It was gone.

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I sent mom to check with Consumer Services while I raced to the parking lot to see if it fell on the ground.

Just as I began to slide into that deep, dark place of “why does this always happen to me? What is wrong with me? Why am I doomed to mess everything up” I prayed, begging God to bring my wallet back.

Pretty spiritual, I know. Me praying instead of kicking and screaming. I almost wished I had some kind of video cam for the inside of my head. Let the whole world know that I was actually turing to God instead of my usual “rage against the darkness” routine.

Then, God spoke to me. No it was not an audible voice. I”d probably had ended up in the ditch from sheer terror.

Instead, He brought to mind something my mom said earlier in the day.

“Did you ever think that are prayers are often just telling God what we want?” she said in typical octogenarian fashion interrupting my brilliant comparison of Brooklyn 99 and The Blacklist.

“What if God has something totally different in mind?” she continued, “Maybe we should wonder what He wants to do.”

It could not  have been no more clear than if he had reached down His divine hand and pulled the emergency brake on the Honda Civic as we raced home.

What does God want?

“Lord,” I prayed with renewed faith, “Where ever my wallet is now, who ever has it in their hands, bless them. Use this whole situation to bring peace and joy. Let this crazy flawed up day spell out your glory…right across the sky of someone else’s life.”

Yeah, I think I was losing it there at the end of my prayer. But, I was beginning to see that I needed something beyond a lost wallet. I needed to see God at work in my messy, insignificant life.

When I finally got home, my husband reminded me to  cancel my credit cards.

“Be sure and let the bank know,” he added the phone rang.

It was the RCMP.  My wallet had been recovered.

“Where, how…”

The officer proceeded to tell me how a young woman approached his patrol car while he sat in a Cloverdale parking lot. She cried as she gave him a thick black women’s wallet.

“This rarely happens,” the officer explained, “The young woman was a recovering addict…from dark drugs.  what she did today took great courage an willpower.”

After I signed for my wallet from the police officer, I asked for contact information so that I could properly thank this courageous young lady.

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As I pulled up at the Cloverdale A&W I saw a tall dark haired young woman at one of the outdoor tables smoking furiously. She talked on the cellphone while hugging her ski jacket close. 

The lovely young aboriginal lady was the one I”d come to thank. We hugged. Her mother and friend came out of the restaurant and hugs started all over again. In-between tears and laughter,

The mom explained how she had been praying for her daughter through this hard time. After two years of living on the streets of Vancouver, her daughter had come home. It was all part of answered prayer.

“She’s getting clean,” her mom said, “we are so proud of what she did today.”

We all hugged and cried again and then said our goodbyes. 

Weird, how a day can turn out.

Ok, more than weird. Absolutely mind boggling how God can pull back the curtain on the unseen and let us get a glimpse of what He’s all about.

Mysterious ways that we may never fully understand until we get to heaven. He does what he does and uses what He uses to fulfill plans we cannot begin to wrap our finite heads around.

Unending Mercies that reach us at our lowest point and in our darkest hour. On the streets of Vancouver or sitting out side the A and W in Cloverdale, he knows where we are and wants to draw us to Him.

Utter Delight in his children even when they are pretty much a mess. He knows the fallibility of the humans he created. He knows the flaws and the failures. Yet, he choses to us to to bless others in amazing ways.

God is good all the time. Not just when we get it all together. Not just when we are free of pain or sorrow. He hears our prayers even when we don’t know what to pray. He answers them in ways we may not even understand. For reasons we may never know.

He is good. All the time.

The end of the day at the edge of civilization

evening at lake ponderey

That’s right. I’m still in Idaho.

Right now, I’m being serenaded by my grand nephew. He warms up his voice by pinching his finger in the screen door. Helps him hit those high notes. Pretty good considering he’s barely two.

My other grand nephew  has a promising career as a kitty whisperer. Watch out, Cesar Millar.  A four year old from the back woods of Idaho just may take your place.

Well, I only have internet down in the low parts of these woods. And the sun is starting to set. Got to head up to the trailer on the top of the mountain.

Not much to tell today. Tomorrow is a literal foodie hoedown.

  • Pulled Pork
  • Baked Beans
  • Pickled veggies
  • Macaroni Salad
  • Iced Tea

Could have some Moose stew, but the meat in question is still running the back roads. No joke. He’s been eating apples off my sister’s tree.

Oh, by the way, I ascertained something very profound.

  1. Folks in these hills consider themselves civilized.
  2. Referring to them as hillbillies makes them mad.

I’ve got the bite marks to prove it.

Better run. Grandma just fell asleep in an old man’s leather chair. Gotta wake her up and take her back up the hill.

Wish you were here. You could sit on a stump and get to know the locals.

Maybe some day.

Hanging around with Hopelessness? – run back to the truth as fast as you can.

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“You can’t get anywhere unless you know somebody,” the scruffy man said as we surveyed the carpet he had cleaned, “If you don’t have money or a powerful family name, you are nothing.”

Sobering words.

They stayed with me the rest of the day.

Just before his hopelessness became a part of me, I ran back to the truth.

No matter what

  • compelling arguments I may hear,
  • mess I may find myself in,
  • I’m feeling right now,

God still cares.

Our future is not some game of chance.

We do not just happen to luck in or luck out.

People matter to God.

Jeremiah knew this when he sent a letter to the Israelites. They had been exiled in Babylon and needed to know that God was still in control.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper  you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Hope and a future.

Jeremiah revealed the heart of the God, the same God who who loves you and me.

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

God has a purpose for each one of us.

Finding God in an Instagram World

Twitter.

It makes me nervous.

Facebook keeps me up at night.

I just stare at the ceiling wondering I will ever be

  • Postable.
  • Bloggable.
  • Like Button pushable.

Let’s face it. Some updates are pretty amazing.

  1. Eating pizza at the Ritz.
  2. Jumping off a moving train.
  3. Dancing on a balcony in hurricane force winds.

Reality is – people are more than just a frozen moment in time,

  • One facial expression.
  • An offhand remark.
  • An isolated incident.

But, we’re human. Even when we are functioning at maximum capacity, we tend to make assumptions on bits and pieces of people’s lives.

No wonder we often don’t understand one another.

Human beings don’t have the eyes of God.

Never have, never will.

He knows

  • our eternal status.
  • Our inner twitter.
  • Our mental instagrams.

God sees our hearts.

Dads, Superheroes and Set-aside Dreams

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Ordinary superheroes.

Their courage is not measured in Die Hard terms. They don’t even get to fly.

But they are heroes all the same.

Dads like John Kelly.

He works not far from where I work. Sometimes I stop and chat with him.

His three favorite topics?

  • his wife
  • his kids
  • and God

Today, I asked if I could interview him.

“I wish people wouldn’t do that,” he said the moment he saw me. Weird. I hadn’t even asked him yet.

“Walking up on me while I’m working,” he clarified.

OK, I didn’t say he had nerves of steel. But, he has something better. He is madly in love with his wife.

And, his kids.

“They make me whole,” he said.

John explained how random moments of interactions fill up the spaces in a parent’s heart.

“There are little moments your kids look up at you and share something,” he said as he leaned back against wooden railing, “and you think ‘Gee, thanks for letting me into your world’”.

I didn’t want to be a party pooper with all this good will and compassion flowing. But, I had to ask.

“What was the biggest sacrifice you made for your family? What did you give up?”

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John shared his lifelong dream.

  • He wanted to build a log home.
  • Even wrote an essay about log home construction in his senior year of high school.
  • Got an A.

“Sometimes you have to put the dream aside” he said.

Right now he’s busy being a husband, father and grandfather.

I asked John, “If you could share only one piece of advice with your kids, what would it be?”

John would have none of that “one piece” stuff. (Obviously, he was in the business of raising kids not developing one-liners for fortune cookies).

Among other insights, John shared about

  • surrendering in love to your partner
  • and keeping alcohol out of the home.

Finally, he said,

“If you are given the opportunity to step out I think you should take it.”

John told about attending a recent gathering to celebrate his daughter’s ordination. In the midst of it all, John felt compelled to share a song.

“I don’t consider myself a good singer,” he confided.

But, he was not about to miss the moment.

John sang  about a blind boy who asked his father, “What color is the wind?”

I looked up the lyrics as soon as got back home. The last part of the second verse made me wonder.

“…my favorite colour has to be
The colour of your love for me
And Daddy, I’ve been told
That love is always gold.” *

Maybe Dads were superheroes simply because they had the courage to

  1. set aside their own dreams
  2. to let better dreams come true.

Sometimes just for a while.

After all, John is a builder at heart.

I found that out on http://www.logonjohn.blogspot.ca.

“My blog is all about building,” he says, “How God works in our lives. About the father heart of God.”

Interesting post on February 16, 2012, entitled Get On With It.

John wrote

“…I feel this is going to be my last entry till I break ground for real.”

*What Colour Is The Wind Lyrics performed by Charlie Landsborough

When Pentecostals and Fundamentalist Baptists collide–

Letting-go

Let go.

Those two words wondered into my thoughts this morning and just about smacked me in the face.

Now, I’m not one to say that I heard the voice of God thundering through the shower door.

No visions of angels with swords streaming into the kitchen while I ate my oatmeal.

I was raised a Baptist, after all.

Fundamental Baptist. Republican persuaded, Wal-Mart loyal, King-James-only Baptist.

The deep- south kind.

I didn’t grow up with disembodied voices or shapes that shift and glow.

Then, I met Dennis – the consummate charismatic. We fell in love. I married this man of visions, prophesy and dreams.

Maybe it’s getting to me. This romantic merging of unquenchable Spirit and unchanging Word.

Cause those two words are not just messing around.

Could not They had my attention.

Tapping their determined little feet while I perused my Facebook page. God knows it’s a danger zone for me. A cesspool of comparison and  self-incrimination.

Today, I wondered if anyone would say “happy birthday”online. Would they even notice that I was growing older? Would they marvel that I still had all my original teeth?

Then, I looked at pictures of people I knew from the past, my fundamentalist days. I started going down the “what if” lane. What if I had gotten more education, developed my music or started writing earlier? What if I had worked harder, changed directions, taken more chances?

Where would I be now?

Let go.

That voice again.

Just let go.

Let  

  • what might have been
  • what will never be

slide through your fingers and focus on today.