Thursday, October 13, 2016

Excuse Me, But Do You Drive a White SUV?


Did you ever have one of those mornings? The kind that seems to start off well, but then goes downhill from there? That’s what happened to me one Sunday morning while I was serving at church.

I’ve been attending my church for 23 years. If it’s Sunday morning, I’m usually pulling into the parking lot around 8:30 am and heading in to serve on a team. On this particular morning I was serving as a greeter, one of my favorite jobs. I love being the first person to smile and say good morning to someone who may or may not actually be having a good morning. It sets the tone for the rest of the service for that person entering the doors of the church. They see a smiling face, and hopefully, that encourages them to smile, even if it’s a struggle. So to me, it’s a very important job.

I’m not a morning person at all. I never have been. I’m a night person. I come alive around 4 pm. It’s my favorite time of day. So when I have to start off my day early, I’m usually rushing to arrive on time. My eyes may be open when I arrive, but inside I may be sound asleep. On this particular morning I was rushing a bit as I pulled into the church parking lot. Because, as greeters, we stand on the doors through part of the worship service we have to grab seats before service starts. Robbie and I were discussing how many seats to save for our friends. Because we arrive early to church we are the official “seat savers.” You may be one of these too. Sometimes we get a last minute text asking us to save someone a seat, so it can be a challenge to decide how many we should save, do we have something we can use to save seats, etc. So as we were getting out of the car, Robbie and I were deep into discussing how many jackets should we grab from the back of the car to use for saving seats. Apparently there was some disagreement about seats that morning, I’m not quite sure, but I know it was the topic of the hour.

We finally made a decision and walked inside the church and Robbie scurried off to save the seats. I assigned this job to her because she does it so well. I ran off to get into place to begin greeting those arriving for the morning church service. Once Robbie got the seat saving task taken care of, she too ran to stand on her assigned door to begin greeting.

After about 10 minutes or so a lady in our church walked up to me and asked, “Do you drive a white SUV?”

“Yes,” I answered.

“Someone just told me you left your car running in the parking lot.”

This is one of those moments when you don’t quite grasp what the other person is saying. So I just gave her a blank stare before answering.

“Did you say my car is running? You mean like, right now it’s running?” I asked.

“Yes,” she responded. “I’ve done that before. Is it a keyless starter?”

“Um, no it’s not,” I answered. I was still standing at the door in disbelief.

“Maybe you’d better go and check on it,” she said. “I’ll stand on your door while you go.”

“Oh, OK. Thanks!

I took off running to where Robbie was greeting. Why, I do not know.

“Robbie, do you have the keys to the car?” I asked. “Apparently we left the car running in the parking lot. Quick, give me the keys so I can go turn it off.”
Now this statement made absolutely no sense, which Robbie was happy to point out to me.

“Um, if the car is running the keys must still be in the car. I wouldn’t have them,” Robbie cleverly responded.

With this revelation, I dashed out of the church past people laughing and pointing. Apparently, word had spread quickly about our running car. I guess we were the only ones who were not aware we had forgotten to turn off the car when we jumped out that morning.

Robbie decided to take off running behind me to see for herself. There we were; running like maniacs to the parking lot, hair flying, mouths open, arms waving. We were a sight to behold.

When I arrived at the car I was praying the door wasn’t locked. (I have also left a car running with the keys locked inside, but that’s another story.) Fortunately, the door was not locked and I could get inside to turn off the motor. But then I noticed something else. The windshield wipers were running as well. However, it wasn’t raining. How or why I ended up turning on the windshield wipers, I have no idea. It was a mystery.

How could two of us walk away from a running car, with the windshield wipers flipping back and forth and neither of us notice at all? What’s two times zero?
I was speechless.

We went back inside to resume our greeting jobs, while others laughed and pointed at us for the rest of the morning. Apparently, one of the parking lot attendants noticed the running car, told a security person who told a woman who knew we drove a white SUV. So a lot of people knew before we did and it made for an entertaining moment when two frantic ladies bolted out of the church in a sheer panic, running to rescue our car. We had a good laugh ourselves. It was just one more of those funny things we could add to our list of embarrassing moments.

Have you ever had one of those moments of forgetfulness? You get busy or your mind is on a hundred other things and your brain starts operating on cruise. You actually forget to do the basic things that you do every day, like turn off the engine to the car. These moments can be hilarious, but they can also be dangerous. Sometimes we can get so busy we forget the one we serve; we forget God’s commands and we forget to trust him for our needs and desires.

“Good friend, don’t forget all I’ve taught you; take to heart my commands. They’ll help you live a long, long time, a long life lived full and well.” Proverbs 3:1-2 (MSG)

Forgetting some things can be harmless, but when we forget to put God first and to trust him for our needs, then we are treading on dangerous ground. Remembering God and acknowledging him in all things is the key to a long, well-lived life.

We spend so much time trying to figure out how to live the best life and to provide the best life for our family by staying busy, piling on more and more, focusing on minor things and forgetting about the major things in life. But none of these are the answer to an abundant life. Keeping God the center of your life is the only answer. If we remember him, he will always remember us and provide for us.


A car left running in the parking lot isn’t taking you anywhere. You have to get behind the wheel and put it in gear. You have to let the car do what it is designed to do, take you places. Having God in your life, but never letting him operate in your life is just as useless. Allowing God to be in the center of your life will take you places you never dreamed you’d go. You can’t afford to forget about him.

Monday, October 3, 2016

A New Season

I’ve had many seasons in my life; some wonderful and some I thought would never end. Sometimes I felt God was right beside me and other times I thought he had forgotten all about me. We all experience these different, ever-changing seasons. They are part of life. The truth is God’s presence doesn’t change. He is always right there beside us, but we may not always realize it at the time. Often we don’t realize how present God was in our season until it passes.

We experienced a very difficult season that I thought would never end. My sister, Robin and I took care of our mom for 25 years. She lived with us so she was right smack dab in the middle of our lives.  She slowly developed dementia and caring for her became more and more difficult. Sometimes she would be an angel and other times she would say very hurtful things to us. I didn’t realize at the time that it was the disease and not Mom saying those things. I took it personally and really struggled with her stinging words. I would have conversations with God, telling him I didn’t believe she even loved us any more, even though we did everything possible to care for her. I guess I just vented to him instead of praying, but he was silent most of the time. I’m not even sure what I wanted to hear him say, but he just let me pour out my heart to him every night.
I felt my life was slipping away at times and that God was distant and uncaring. I wanted him to wave a magic wand and make everything easy and comfortable. Sometimes I felt anger, resentment, and even numbness. I wondered how such a loving and caring God could be so distant and detached from what we were walking through. I finally resigned myself to repeatedly praying for peace and joy in our home because it had somehow gone missing over the years. I clung to worship in our church because it was my source of strength to face the unknown.

I remember one morning waking up tired and just not ready to face the day. I took off my clothes and stepped into the shower with my eyes still closed. I just didn’t feel 100%. As I showered I began to pray, trying to pump myself up. I remembered a verse in Romans 8:30, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (NIV). I started repeating to myself “I am more than a conqueror.” However, I didn’t feel anything like a conqueror at that moment. Then, as I looked down, I noticed I was still wearing my bedroom slippers. They were sopping wet. I had to laugh out loud. Yeah, I was more than a conqueror.

It’s been four years now since our mom went to be with the Lord. We miss her terribly. But we know she is in a place where she will never have to face sickness again. Her journey is just beginning and never ending.

Now we are in a new season and just recently Robin and I were talking about how hard those years were, but how we can see God’s hand in everything we walked through. Those times we thought he was distant and cold, it turned out he was working on our behalf. We traded stories back and forth about God’s faithfulness in all of it. Why didn’t we see it before? He was there all along, right in the middle of it all.  He gave us strength we didn’t have and favor to open the doors that were closed when searching for options for Mom’s care. Now I can see that he was not distant at all in that season, but very close.

I’m reminded every morning of those prayers I prayed for peace and joy that seemingly fell flat. Every morning when I get out of bed I walk to the front of the house and look out of the windows to a beautiful lake. I stare and thank God for his strength, peace and faithfulness. I take a deep breath and feel a sense of calm and joy. Without fail I look out over the beautiful, peaceful view and recall Ephesians 3:20: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” (MSG) Even when we have friends over they often comment that they feel such a great sense of peace in our home. Now I understand I can trust him through any season, whether good or bad.


No matter what the changing seasons bring, we can rely on the fact that God’s ability doesn’t change. He is always able to do more than we can ask or imagine and his power is always at work within us, even when we don’t feel powerful.  He walks through every season with us no matter what it may bring. It’s in his strength that we are more than conquerors, even when we find ourselves standing in the shower wearing nothing but our soaking wet bedroom slippers.

Friday, September 23, 2016

STAYING ON FIRE FOR GOD, EVEN WITH KIDS



When I think of summer I usually think of Disney World. My sister and I are both single. So a trip to Disney World is very different for us than it is for a family with small children. We make our reservations, hop on a plane and hit the ground running. We relax, eat and sleep on our own timetable. However, for families traveling with small children it’s an entirely different story. Apparently, from my observation, it seems that as soon as a baby is born in America, the parents slap a Disney Magic Band on the baby’s tiny wrist and whisk it off to Disney World. One minute the baby is safe and warm in the mother’s womb and next it’s floating in a boat with the tune of “It’s a Small World” ringing in its tiny, helpless ears. 


I chuckle when I see families arriving with their kids on the first day of their exciting new adventure. Usually, when I see them first arriving, they are all smiling from ear to ear. The kids are all fired up to start their grand journey through Disney. The parents look proud and can’t wait for their kids to experience all the fun that’s waiting for them inside the parks. They have visions of relaxing by the pool, shopping, dining together, laughing and bonding as a warm, close-knit family. But when you see them about midweek it’s a whole different picture. The kids are crying and want to go back to the hotel pool. One kid’s shoes are missing and they have pieces of Mickey Mouse lollipops stuck in their hair. The parents look exhausted as they drag their screaming kids through the park to the next fun attraction. The newborn baby is screaming at the top of its lungs because it has no idea where it is or how it got there, while the mother is loaded down with diaper bags, toy bags, snack bags, and a bag that she picked up by mistake belonging to another family altogether. Later I see the father wrestling with the stroller, trying to fold it down so he can finally take a seat on the bus carrying other screaming kids. Of course, he’ll have to stand for the entire ride because by the time he finally gets on the bus there are no more seats available. Once back in their hotel they throw the kids in the pool and then collapse in a chair somewhere with their heads spinning, wondering why they ever made the trip in the first place. They look like they need a vacation from their vacation.

Christians often experience something similar. We start off on our journey excited and all fired up to go out and do great things for God. We can’t stop smiling and we can’t wait to see what God is going to do in our lives. We’re filled with joy and expectation. We want to share Jesus with everyone we meet, knowing we’re going to absolutely change the world. But later, after we’ve had to fight a few battles, endure a few disappointments and missed expectations, our smiles slowly disappear. We feel tired and weary. Our Bible is dusty and the flame that burned so fiercely in the beginning has turned to a small, flickering pilot light. We just want to get on the bus, go home and curl up on our bed, wondering why we ever started the journey in the first place. Our original dreams start to fade and our pace slows to a crawl. Gradually we allow the simple message of the gospel to become complicated in our minds and we forget the excitement of our first love, Christ. 

Being on fire and staying on fire are two different things. The Bible warns us that we can easily lose our flame if we’re not diligent. If we’re not careful we can let the whining kids, the exhausting pace of life and circumstances overshadow all God has for us.

“Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder.” Romans 12:12-13.  (MSG)

There’s the key to staying on fire for God. Stay focused on Christ, keep expecting good things, even when you can’t see them in front of you and don’t quit just because it gets a little bumpy on your journey. And most of all, pray. Prayer is the fuel for your fire. Remember, God is in the middle of it all and he is so for you. Don’t miss out on the adventure and the plan God has for your life.


P.S. Tip for parents: Be patient and wait until the baby is at least 7 years old before taking it to Disney World. You’ll thank me later.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Life is Better with Shoes



I don’t entertain that often, but when I do, I’m usually a nervous wreck. I just so want everything to go well, for the food to be delicious and for nothing embarrassing to happen. Because, for those of you who know me, it usually does when I’m involved.

I remember one night when I invited a friend over for a casual dinner. There was nothing special, just an easy dinner and some time to chat and catch up. It seemed simple enough to pull off. I planned a dinner menu, something I could make ahead and then cook just before my friend arrived. I love those make-ahead dinners. They save time and stress, plus you’re not chained to the stove when your guests arrive. You can actually join in on the conversation and enjoy the evening like everyone else. It was a brilliant plan.

I forgot to mention that I have a golden retriever named Indiana (Indy). He’s three years old now and more mature, but at the time of my dinner party he was only a year old and still sowing his wild oats. He was a busy puppy, very curious and into just about everything. He needed 24-hour supervision and even then, he could quickly get into trouble.  I decided to let Indy stay out of his kennel during my dinner, my first mistake. My friend, Leslie loves dogs and didn’t mind him being around. He had been behaving pretty well that day so I thought he wouldn’t be a problem. I didn’t know how long the dinner and chatting would last so I didn’t want him locked up all that evening.

Well everything seemed to be going well. Leslie arrived and we had some appetizers on the front porch. Indy was lying down beside me and behaving like a perfect angel. As we moved inside for dinner I decided to let Indy stay with us. He moved under the dining room table and spread out to take a nap. I was happy to see him going to sleep. That meant I wouldn’t have to keep such a close eye on him and we could eat in peace.

When we sat down at the table to eat, I apologized to Leslie for Indy spreading out under the table. “No problem,” she said. “I’ll just pet him with my feet while he sleeps.”

We had a great dinner and continued to sit and talk after we finished eating. I served dessert and there wasn’t the slightest peep from Indy. I commented on what a good boy he was being. Leslie had slipped off her shoes and was rubbing his back with her feet as we talked. It was a very relaxing evening.

As the evening came to a close Leslie said she needed to be getting home. She seemed to be frantically searching under the table for something. Robbie was helping her. I was busy clearing away the dirty dishes to the kitchen when suddenly, Robbie stood up with what appeared to be a black leather bow. I burst out laughing thinking Indy must have chewed up something belonging to Robbie earlier and left it under the table. But as I was laughing I could see neither Robbie nor Leslie was smiling. I quickly stopped laughing. Something was definitely wrong.

“That’s all that’s left of Leslie’s shoes,” announced Robbie.

Leslie slowly shook her head, confirming they were indeed her shoes.

“What about the other shoe,” I asked, swallowing hard.

Robbie looked once more under the table. “That’s it,” she said, holding up the small black bow. “Indy completely destroyed them. This bow is all that’s left.”

“What?” I said. I couldn’t believe my eyes. He had been so quiet during dinner, not a sound. How could it be?

It turns out that when Leslie slipped off her shoes and started rubbing Indy’s back with her bare feet, Indy proceeded to eat both of her shoes. What a great night he had. He was getting a wonderful back rub and had two shoes to chew on in the process. It was every puppy’s dream.

I was mortified. What do you say? “Sorry, my dog ate your shoes. You’ll have to go home barefoot.” I wanted to kill Indy and then hide in my bedroom for the rest of my life. I considered selling my home, leaving my church, moving to another country and dying my hair black. But I just had to face the music. There was nowhere to hide.

Leslie was such a good sport. She actually started laughing and found the whole thing hilarious while I hung my head in shame. Robbie quickly ran to her room and brought back several pairs of shoes for Leslie to try on so she wouldn’t have to go home with naked feet. Leslie insisted she was fine, but finally chose a pair of shoes to wear home. I also wrote her a check to cover the cost of her shoes and insisted she take it. It was the least I could do.

After Leslie left I lectured Indy for quite a while, but he didn’t seem to care. He looked very calm and serene. After all, he had gotten a great back rub and enjoyed a tasty pair of shoes at the same time. He saw no problem with the situation. In his eyes I’m sure he saw it as a very productive and relaxing evening.

In our spiritual walk we can’t afford to relax and slip off our armor, even for a second. The enemy is crouching like a thief and he is waiting for the right moment when we let down our guard, take off our armor and allow him a foothold in our life. He doesn’t even need a big foothold, just a small space to squeeze into. He’ll make you think it’s no big deal. He will make you believe that just because you let your side down just for a little while it won’t make a difference in your walk, but believe me, every inch you give the thief turns into a giant crater before you realize it.
  
“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13 (NIV)

Never let down your guard. While you’re thinking all is well, the enemy will be destroying your life, bit by bit. God has a plan for your life and he will see it through if you keep your eyes on him. Don’t allow the enemy to nibble at your feet or you’ll be left holding the bits and pieces of your destroyed life.

Don’t worry. I didn’t kill Indy. He’s still around and he’s my best friend. But when I have dinner guests he goes upstairs. I like my guests to leave with their shoes still on their feet.

 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10 (NIV)

Trusting the enemy will leave you holding just the chewed up bow from your shoes. Keep up your guard. God is fighting right along side of you. 






Saturday, December 14, 2013

Something's Not Quite Right



Have you ever been going along in life, just going through your daily routine and suddenly you get the feeling that something’s just not right?
I had just such an experience one morning while I was in a hurry to get dressed. I had just finished having a cup of coffee, checking my e-mails, and looking at the weather for the day all on my handy phone. I’m not a morning person at all. I come alive about four in the afternoon. Before that I’m pretty much dragging. I’ve never been a morning person. I was even born at 2:00 p.m. on March 18th. I was supposed to be born on March 1st, but I was so comfortable where I was, I thought, “What’s the rush?”          As I started getting undressed to get into the shower, I felt like I was just going through the motions. I think my brain was still catching a few winks. As I stepped into the shower under the warm, running water, I remember thinking, “Lord, something doesn’t feel quite right. The day has begun and I feel like I’m not ready to start yet. What’s wrong with me?” As I began washing, I still couldn’t get past the feeling that something was different. Something was just not quite right. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I knew something was wrong.
I closed my eyes and started singing to myself. You know, just trying to lift my spirit a bit, but no matter how hard I tried, I just didn’t feel like myself. I stood under the water trying to wake up and get myself going. As I stood there, I tried to grasp what was different about that morning. I suddenly realized that even the shower floor felt different. It felt a bit squishy. I opened my eyes to check out the floor of the shower and I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was wearing my bedroom slippers. Nothing else, mind you, just bedroom slippers. No wonder the floor felt squishy. Wet bedroom shoes are not very comfortable. It was a very weird feeling. I felt so stupid. I lost it right there in the shower. There I stood, laughing uncontrollably wearing nothing but soaked bedroom slippers. It was a moment for the books (literally). I pulled off my bedroom slippers and squeezed out all the water. At least I had discovered a new way to get my body clean and wash my bedroom slippers all at the same time. I couldn’t decide if I was losing it or if I was a genius. 
Sometimes we have days where we feel like we could conquer the world, spiritually speaking, and then on other days, we wonder if we’ll be able to get out of bed. We know those days when we don’t feel one hundred percent victorious. Something seems a little off, but we’re not quite sure what it is. We don’t feel like a conqueror. We feel more like we’re standing in the shower wearing soaked bedroom slippers. But being a conqueror has little to do with feeling like a conqueror.
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37–39 (NIV)
No matter how we’re feeling, we are still more than conquerors because nothing can separate us from God’s love. So even on those days when you’re not feeling on top of the world, you are more than a conqueror. On those days, remind yourself who and what you are. You are a child of the Most High King, Jesus Christ, and you are more than a conqueror, even when you’re standing in the shower wearing only your wet bedroom slippers. 

Excerpt from "Life is a Buffet, But Bring a Mop and a Pail," Copyright ©2013 by Polly D. Boyette All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Volume 3 of Life is a Buffet book series is out!

Just Published! My latest book in the Life is a Buffet series just arrived! If you know someone who is going through difficulty or just needs a good laugh, this is the book for you. It makes a great gift! It is also available on Kindle by clicking here.

Life can be wonderful! Life can also be very messy. How do you deal with the mess? Do you sweep it under the rug and try to ignore it, or are you the one who worries about the mess before it even happens? Do you try to fix everything by yourself? Many of us don't feel we are equipped for most of the messiness of life, but in this book, "Life is a Buffet, But Bring a Mop and a Pail, Polly Boyette reminds us that we were not designed to do life alone. God wants us to rely on him, even in the middle of our biggest mess. "God holds the high center, he sees and sets the world's mess right. He decides what is right for us earthlings, gives people their just deserts." Psalms 9:7-8 (MSG) In this third book in the "Life is a Buffet" series, Polly Boyette once again uses humor and charming real-life stories to remind us that God is with us and for us in everything we experience in life. He has equipped us to walk head-on into any mess life may throw at us. He will rescue us, and he will never leave us abandoned or alone.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

THE FIFTEEN MINUTE RULE



One morning as I was sitting in a women’s meeting at my church, I suddenly became aware that I had forgotten my driver’s license and my debit card. I don’t know what prompted this realization, unless it was the fact that my stomach was growling and I was thinking about what I would get for lunch on my way home. Sometimes our brain has a funny way of connecting our feelings with the brutal facts. As my stomach began to growl, my brain had the wherewithal to say, “Fat chance of eating on the way home. She forgot to bring any money and she’s driving without a license.” Perhaps this is when I began to fumble through my purse and realized it was true. I had no way of paying for anything to eat and I had driven to church without my driver’s license. At that point there was nothing to do, but pay attention to what was happening on the stage and worry about my lack of funds and legal permission to drive after the meeting.

Later, as I was driving home, I remembered I had rented a movie from one of those convenient vending machines they have on every corner now. The movie only cost a dollar to rent, but I find that I forget to return the movie for days, so the one dollar movie always ends up costing way more than a dollar. I’m sure that’s the idea behind renting the movie for only a dollar in the first place, to make money from suckers like me who cannot remember to return the movie on time. Anyway, I was so happy that I had remembered to return the movie as I was going to be driving past the movie vending machine on my way home. It was located right outside the neighborhood grocery store, just down the street from my home. So I could easily stop by, return the movie within the proper timeframe and only pay the original dollar for the movie. I was very proud of myself for remembering, even though it was a very small accomplishment.

I parked my car just across from the vending machine and happily returned my movie rental. I then decided I should go inside the grocery store and pick up a few items I needed for the night’s meal. I grabbed a cart and made my way through the store, picking up various items, meats, veggies, etc. I think I was even humming to myself because I was having a pretty good day. The morning meeting at church had been both inspirational and encouraging. It was a great start to my day.

When I finished shopping I went up to one of those do-it-yourself-checkout registers where you scan all the items yourself and then pay. As I was just beginning to sort through my items, a friendly clerk walked up and said, “May I help you? We’re not busy. Let me do this for you, ma’am.”

“Okay,” I said. I just stood back and let her scan away. Then suddenly my brain once again warned me, “REMINDER! You have no debit card or driver’s license. Oh, and you also have no checkbook or cash. How do you intend to pay for all the groceries?” Your brain can be very annoying sometimes. Why didn’t it choose to remind me outside of the store instead of after the clerk had begun scanning all my items? You call this a brain?

Suddenly I went into panic mode. I began to frantically search through my purse for any means to pay for the groceries, but I came up empty. It’s hard to know what to say at a moment when you’re purchasing lots of merchandise, and yet, you have absolutely no way to pay for it. I paused for a moment, and then I just blurted out politely, “Excuse me, ma’am.”

“Yes?” she replied, while still scanning the items.

“Um, I regret to inform you that I just discovered I have forgotten my debit card and my cash. I actually have no money on me to pay for my groceries.” Then I just smiled a half smile and twisted my face into a look that says, “Please don’t grab the microphone and announce this to the whole store!”

“Oh, I see,” said the clerk.

We stood for a moment and just stared at one another. Those moments always seem to last for an eternity. She’s wondering what kind of idiot comes into the store to shop with no money of any kind and I’m also wondering what kind of idiot comes into the store to shop with no money of any kind?

“So what do you want to do?” she asked, as she began scanning the items to take them out of the register.

“Well, I just live down the street, very close by,” I replied quietly. “I guess I could just run home and grab my debit card and come back and pay for my groceries. Would that be okay?”

The woman just stared at me, blinking her eyes several times. I’m not sure what that meant, but she seemed to be trying to decide whether I would actually come back to the store. Then she asked, “Will it take more than fifteen minutes for you to return?”

I thought that was a curious question. I didn’t realize there was some sort of deadline for going home and returning back to the store again. I guess I had crossed a line now and new rules were in play.

“Yes,” I replied. “I’m sure I can make it back within fifteen minutes. As I said, I live very nearby, but why is it important that I return within fifteen minutes?”

“Well, you’ve got meat in your cart and we’re not allowed to keep the meat out of the freezer section for more than fifteen minutes,” she explained.

“Oh,” I answered. I had never heard of this rule before. I have probably driven around for way more than fifteen minutes, stuck in traffic with meat in my car from the grocery store and yet, I’m still alive. I guess this was the grocery store rule that I was now obliged to obey. “Well I assure you I can make it back within fifteen minutes,” I answered with confidence.

“Okay,” she said. “I will just hold your cart here until you come back. But if you don’t return within fifteen minutes, I will have to return your meat to the freezer section. Then you’ll have to shop for it again when you return.”

“I understand,” I said, nodding my head. Perish the thought! I didn’t like the idea that they would return my meat and someone else could actually grab the meat I had so carefully selected for my meal. This was added pressure for me to make it back in time to keep my selected meat and to keep it out of the hands of complete strangers. I was up to the challenge.

I left the store and jumped into my car. I bolted out of the parking lot like I had been shot out of a cannon. I felt like the clerk was standing there with my cart holding a stopwatch. I had to make it back within the allotted time or I would face disgrace and perhaps never be able to show my face in that store again. The pressure was on!

I raced to my house, opening the garage door with my remote as soon as I was in range. I left the car running and dashed into the house, hunting frantically for my license and my debit card. I found them just where I had left them, sitting on my desk in my office. I also grabbed some cash, and a credit card, just to be able to show the clerk I had multiple ways of paying. As I turned to head back to the store I remembered my puppy, Indy was still in his kennel. He had been in there while I had gone to my meeting and I knew he was more than ready to go outside. I dashed upstairs, skipping steps as I went. I opened the door to Indy’s kennel and commanded him to get downstairs as fast as he could go. Of course, he looked at me like I was completely crazy, but he complied and he quickly bounded down the stairs. Obviously, he was totally oblivious to the "Fifteen Minute Rule." I let him outside and dashed back to my running car. I had no more time to waste. Indy would have to wait until I returned to feed him and let him back inside. I’m sure he would understand the “Fifteen Minute Rule” once I explained it to him.

I made it back to the store with time to spare. I ran up to the same clerk. She was still standing by my cart and seemed surprised to see me back so soon.

“You made it!” she said.

“Yes, as I said, I live very nearby,” I answered. “I have a debit card, a credit card and cash to pay with. Did you have to return my meat to the freezer?”

“No,” she said with a smile. “You made it back within the fifteen minutes. So your meat is safe.”

As she began scanning the items again I caught my breath and felt relief that I would be taking home the meat I originally selected. I had made it within the allotted time. I was very proud, even though, once again, it was a very small accomplishment.

I proudly paid for my groceries and slowly pushed my cart out to the car. The drive home was much more relaxed this time around. There, in the quiet of my car, I started thinking about how much pressure we sometimes bring on ourselves by our own actions or lack of actions. It was my fault that I didn’t have a way to pay for my groceries and my fault for not remembering that I didn’t have a way to pay. It was also my fault that I decided I had to make it back within the fifteen allotted minutes. So what if they had returned my meat to the freezer and I had to go and pick it out again? Would that have been the end of the world? I would have had to go through the agony of re-selecting my meat. Was that really as bad as all that? Of course not.

Often we create confusion, chaos and stress in our lives just by being careless, thoughtless or just not using wisdom. We heap pressure on ourselves by getting so busy we don’t even know what we have and what we don’t have. In addition, we take on all the extra little rules that others throw at us, even when we know we don’t have to. We don’t think things through. We just react. “Fifteen minutes? I have to return in fifteen minutes?” We heap one pressure on top of another pressure until we end up exploding, usually on those closest to us.

Don’t let life make you jump through unnecessary loopholes. Stop and think. Is it really worth the stress? If I don’t make this deadline, will it be the end of the world? Often there are real deadlines we miss because we’re trying to meet unrealistic deadlines we’ve placed on ourselves. Why do we do this to ourselves? Life is busy enough without the added stress and pressure of trying to meet everyone’s expectations and rules.

“So don’t put up with anyone pressuring you in details of diet, worship services, or holy days. All those things are mere shadows cast before what was to come; the substance is Christ.” Colossians 2:16-17 (MSG)

Don’t be pressured by others. Others will try to sidetrack you with their rules, deadlines or agendas, but stay focused on what is important. The substance is Christ.