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.