Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Devil's In My Pocketbook - Part 2: Gas Pump Adventures

The Devil's In My Pocketbook...And Other Things I Learned From Grandma (Part 2)
Gas Pump Adventures

Several years ago, (and by several I mean probably 15 or so) my cousin and my Grandma were out together and Grandma noticed that her car was in need of gas. She pulls up to a gas pump and my cousin (who was probably around 12 at the time if that old) hops out of the car to pump her gas for her.  He quickly notices that she has pulled the car up on the wrong side so he tells her that she is going to have to pull around to the other side so that he can get to the gas tank.  Grandma puts the car in gear and literally drives the car in a full circle ending up directly where she was at first...with the gas tank of the opposite side of the car from the gas pump. 

My cousin, no doubt giggling a little, tells her that she is still on the wrong side and that she will have to pull the car around to the other side so that he can get to the gas pump.  So, she once again puts the car in gear and makes a full circle around the pump ending up exactly where she started...still with the gas tank on the opposite side from the pump.  By now, my cousin is laughing full out and Grandma is quite confused.  Finally, after at least one more failed attempt to circle the gas pump (I'm not certain how many tries it took because I was not there) Grandma realized what had happened and got the car's gas tank next to the pump so that the gas could be added.  But, her misadventures with that gas pump are a part of our family lore to such an extent that if ever I am driving a car and pull up to the wrong side of a pump (which has happened to me on more that one occasion), Grandma's adventure is the first thing I think of.  :-)

It's funny to think of Grandma driving around that gas pump in circles.  Each time she thought she was in the right place and each time she had ended up exactly where she had started and with the same problem she had started with.  But as I think of her predicament (and I must admit that I have done the same thing she did before) I am reminded that we often do similar things in life. 

How many times have you found yourself running and running only to find that you keep ending up in the same spot with the same problem you started with?  We seem to get stuck in something that we know is going to be a problem, but each time we try to change it on our own we end up in the same place we started...and with the same problem.   And it could be a myriad of things that causes us to feel this way.  It could be financial issues, a destructive habit, a relationship that is harmful in some way (physically, mentally, or spiritually), or any number of other things.  Some people run when they hear God calling them to something outside their comfort zone.  Some run when they realize they need God, but are afraid to trust Him.

But thankfully, we do not have to stay in that same spot.  Just like my cousin was there to point out that Grandma was on the wrong side of the gas pump, God is right there willing to help us through our struggle and when we follow His guidance, he will lead us out of that circle and help us continue down the path He has chosen for us.  But unlike my cousin, God will never laugh at our problems.  God understands our struggles and wants only to reach out and say, "This way...follow me.  I'll show you the way out."  Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  

We often try to run away from our problems, but that tends to bring us back to where we started.  All of our running in circles gets tiresome.  What a blessing to know that it isn't necessary.  We need only to run to Jesus and let Him be our guide.  And with Him leading us, though the path may not always be an easy one, we can trust that He will lead us down a path that is exactly where we need to be...and we can say goodbye to that frustrating circle where we had once found ourselves.

It's another lesson God has taught me through my Grandmother's life.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Devil's in My Pocketbook...and Other Things I learned from Grandma (Part 1)

Grandma and Alex.  I can't wait until he can enjoy these stories too.
For years my family has been saying that we were going to write a book about Grandma and include all the funny things she has done.  We always told her that we would have to publish it in the fiction section because no one would believe that it was all true.  However, as good as our intentions have been, we have yet to finish said book.  So, I thought I'd start it in my blog.  It won't be completed in one blog, but will be a series of them that I'll post from time to time.  Though these stories are funny, they do have something to teach us...well, some of them do.  Some are just a scream and had to be included.  :-)  So, if you see the above title, you'll know...there's some humor ahead.

So, first I'll explain the story of the title of this book.  "The Devil's In My Pocketbook...and Other Things I learned from Grandma."

Many years ago, my cousin was ill and had to go to the doctor.  On this occasion, my Aunt was working and could not take him, so Grandma took him to the doctor.  Since my Aunt didn't want to miss what the doctor said, she sent a small tape recorder with Grandma to record what the doctor said.  No big deal...except come Sunday, Grandma still had the tape recorder in her purse.  Sunday morning Grandma heads out to church and as she drives along she starts to hear this low growl and isn't sure where it is coming from.  She checks her radio and realizing it isn't on, she continues on to church, but the low growl and grumbling continues.  By the time she arrives at church she is convinced that the devil is in her car.  When she drove up to the church and handed her car off to a young person to park her car for her (a service offered for the elderly at that time) she warned them that something seemed to be in her car.  The young person parked the car without incident and Grandma headed into the sanctuary.  As service began, she could hear the low growl continue and was becoming concerned.  Those around her had easily realized that the sound was coming from her purse and eventually she realized it too.  She gingerly started opening her pocketbook, unsure of what she would find.  When the pocketbook was opened it was found that that small tape recorder had turned on, but in the 1/2 speed setting, which of course made the doctor's recorded voice sound quite ominous.  When Grandma turned it off, she turned to her friend next to her and said in a very relieved manner, "Oh thank goodness.  I thought the devil was in my pocketbook!"  

Now, it is important to note, that during all of the above story, except for when she got to church, Grandma was alone and none of the family was sitting with her in the service.  We would never have known of this hysterical escapade except that she shared the story with us during lunch.  We laughed and laughed.  We could just picture her confusion and concern.  My Uncle asked her, "So, really...of all the things that sound could have been, the only thing you thought it could be was that the devil was in your pocketbook?" To which Grandma replied, "Well, I had already checked the radio!"

We have laughed about that story for probably 20 years now.  But as I look back on it, I realize that she probably isn't too far off in some ways.  Though, I am certain that the devil is NOT in my pocketbook, he sometimes uses the things in my pocketbook to try and keep me "too busy" for God.  My calendar gets full, my to do list lengthens, and my wallet is constantly wanting more money in it.  Plus in this present day and age, the internet, the phone, my music, tv shows and even movies will all easily fit into my pocketbook.  If you stop to think about it, if I'm not careful, the devil could indeed worm his way into my pocketbook.  Grandma's funny story reminds me to be ever careful.  He's not there now, but he's always going to try to get in...only I won't hear a low growl warning me he's arrived. 

So, that's Part O
ne!  There's many more to go, but that's all for now.  Have a great day everyone!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Peace in the Midst of the Storm

As anyone who knows me could attest, I am not a fan of summer in the slightest, but I do enjoy the rain.  I like hearing the raindrops hit the roof and windows.  I enjoy how calm and peaceful a summer shower can be to listen to.  But with Summer, we also get storms. 

Now, I am not as big a fan of storms.  I like them fine until they get an attitude and start busting out tornadoes and such.  Storms have a way of putting us on edge and making us alert to our surroundings all the more so we can watch for the strong winds and sometimes flooding.  Not much of a fan of those kind of storms. 

Because we were in evangelism, my family lived in a trailer or a motor home for most of my childhood.  When a storm came, not only could you hear it, but often you could feel it because it would cause the trailer to sway some.  The wind used to scare me in those situations.  But, my Grandma James, used to always call the wind her friend.  She liked to listen to it come through the trees and she would smile.  Or we would hear it outside the house and she would say, "That's my friend saying hello."  So when it would get windy, Mom and Dad would say, "Don't worry.  That's just Grandma's friend" and somehow it didn't seem so scary anymore.

In life, we also will have storms.  They come in all shapes and sizes.  Some are small and easily dealt with, but some are so strong that we wonder if we will make it through.  But through the storms, big or small, there has always been a constant.  We are not alone.  Jesus is always in control.  Even when life seems out of control, it is never out of His control. 

I love that old song, "Peace in the Midst of the Storm" by Shirley Ceasar.  Many times over the years the lyrics of the chorus of that song will cross my mind.  Today they came to mind again:

"There is peace in the midst of storm-tossed life
There's an Anchor, there is a rock to build my faith upon
Jesus Christ is my vessel, so I feel no alarm
He gives me peace in the midst of the storm"

No matter what goes on in my life, I know that I can trust Him to guide my path...even when the path veers off to places I didn't really want to go.  He's still in control and I trust Him to guide me to wherever I need to be. 

Today is one of those times that the path is going a bit off of where I'd like.  My Grandma James (who I live with) has been quite ill as of late and this morning we are taking her in for a Heart Cath.
I am praying that they are able to fix the issue that she is dealing with...though we aren't quite sure what issue that is yet.  But even as we take her for this procedure, I am trusting that the Lord will guide the doctor's hand and that all will be well. This storm isn't forever, and this storm isn't bigger than God's umbrella.  I'll just hold a little tighter to Him until it passes. After all, giving peace in the midst of the storm is His specialty.  Thank you Jesus. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Here We Go Again...

In my family, there is one thing that is pretty much a given and that is that we will move around.  Since I was a child I have moved 21 times not including all the traveling we did in Evangelism or college moves (except one when I lived in an apartment).  Twelve of those have been since college.  My parents have moved something like 28 times since they got married (including moving to Kenya for a couple years) and Dad is closer to 39 times for his lifetime total.  In fact, the only one of us to stay in the same city for more than half a dozen years is, my brother Rick.  He's lived in Springfield, OH for more than a decade (though he has lived in three locations at least...so he has moved too).  

Because of all these moves, we know what it is like to live close together (you really can't be much closer than 4 people living in a mobile home during our years in Evangelism), and we know what it is like to be far away from each other.  When my parents lived in Kenya, I was living in Sacramento, CA.  If you used a globe and put one finger on Sacramento and the other on Nairobi, you would find that we were literally at opposite sides of the planet.  But, we have learned something...you are only as far away as you allow yourself to be. 

Now it is my parent's turn to move again.  They are moving to Oak Hill, West Virginia where Dad is going to be the Sr. Pastor at the Nazarene Church there.  It sounds like a wonderful place and I am excited for them.  In this world of computers, cell phones, ipads and more, you really can be connected to anyone no matter how far away they are.  You can chat in instant message, text, email, you can skype or facetime...or you can even write an actual letter.  (GASP!!!  Yes, we do indeed still use the US Postal Service.)   Though, it would be easy to let days and weeks go by and not talk to them, no matter how far away my parents are, I generally still talk to them about every day and sometimes several times a day.  I want to know what they are up to.  They want to know how I'm doing.  We have even been known to play games like Yahtzee while on skype.  With my brother, though we do not talk all the time, we do text some and I check his Facebook page nearly every day and I often make comments about the things he posts.  I catch myself hoping that he or Jenn will post a new picture of my nephew or perhaps they will write about something he has done.  Rick keeps us updated on his schedule and opportunities that way too.  I have messaged my brother theological questions or simply questions about different types of thinking and he always takes the time to answer...even when he is busy.   It takes an effort to connect when people do not live nearby, but it is totally doable...if you are willing to put in the work necessary.

The same can be said of our walks with the Lord.  It is so often easy to get wrapped up in the happenings of our day that we forget to take time to chat with the Lord.  He's always there ready to listen, but we are not always ready to share.  Sometimes, I feel like we treat him like on of those Facebook Friends that we don't really expect to hear from, but are excited with they "like" something we post because it reminds us that we need to touch base with them soon.  This is something that I struggle with sometimes too.  But, like keeping up with far away family, if we put in an effort to begin something, soon it becomes a part of our day and something that we miss when we don't do. 

For me, I have an audio Bible that I listen to when I get into my car.  It is my morning ritual to start my day by listening to several chapters.  It helps me focus and prepares me for what it ahead.  I like praying in my car too.  The people around me might think I look funny since I often pray aloud in the car, but when I haven't talked with God for a couple days, I miss it.  I need that time with Him and He wants that time with me. 

So, as my parents begin yet another new adventure in a new place, I plan to go along for the ride with them...from afar of course.  They will get texts, and calls and I can pretty much guarantee there will be notes from me in their mail carrier's pouch because I will miss them more than I can express.  But, we serve the same God and He has amazing plans for them in West Virginia and I am excited to find out what they are.  And besides...they like to hear from me.

And if you pass me in my car chatting away, I'm not crazy...I'm just touching base with my Heavenly Father as well.  He likes to hear from me too.  :-)




Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Ever feel like a mouse?

This past Sunday, I showed a clip to the kids that was shown at a kids camp a couple years ago.  Below is the link.  If you haven't seen it, I would suggest you watch it before you continue reading...or else this blog won't make a bit of sense to you. 



I have seen this commercial many times now, but it was recently that it hit me in a new way.  We, as humans, sometimes feel like this mouse.  We get ourselves into situations where we feel trapped or pinned in by life.  That can happen in many ways, but one of the things that I see most often is when we allow ourselves to be scared by things that we have no control over.  And, much like mice, we can be scared by just about anything. And fear, my friends, can be debilitating.

Now, sometimes we tell ourselves that we aren't afraid.  We are just "wondering."  We wonder what the future will hold.  We wonder where we will get the money to pay that bill that looms over our head.  We wonder what the government is up to.  We wonder what will happen to our freedoms.  We wonder about all manner of things.  But many times, we aren't "wondering" we are worrying.   And worry can make us feel like that little mouse that's stuck in the trap. 

But it's the end of that commercial that I love.  The mouse takes the situation that seems hopeless and just changes everything.  That bar across him is no longer a trap...it's a tool for exercise. We should do that same.  Those things that have us scared, need to be tools to exercise our faith.  I mean think about it.  We have a Friend who is bigger than the storms that blow through our lives.  And He's not some far off deity that looms overhead...He's our FRIEND.   He loves us and wants what's best for us.  And no matter what is happening in our lives...our God is NEVER overwhelmed by our problems.  He knows what we need and He knows when we need it...we simply have to trust Him.

Next time a worry starts to take over your thoughts...remember our mousy friend here and change that worry trap into a tool to exercise your faith. 

Bet you never look at a mousetrap in the same way.  :-)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

If you could see what I see...

There is snow all over the place.  It's piled so high in some places that it is difficult to see oncoming traffic.  It makes travel difficult and it makes work outside something of a challenge.  But I love this time of year.

In fact, without question, this has been my favorite winter weather in years.  I love how the trees look full and beautiful with their winter coats of white snow.  I love how the ground is pristine and pure looking after a new snowfall.  I love the cold air that hits me every time I step outside.  It is, quite simply, a beautiful time of year.

Many people, however, do not enjoy this time of year.  They do not feel energized, as I do, when the blast of cold hits their skin.  They focus on the dirty snow that piles up on the roads and the difficulty that snow and ice can cause in travelling.  They long for warmer temperatures and are ready for any hint of winter to be gone as soon as it arrives.  I sort of feel sorry for those people...they are missing out.

Life is all about the way you look at it.  Personally for me, I am not at all a fan of summer and probably am just as miserable in the summer as those aforementioned folks are in the winter months.  But (most of the time anyway) even in the heat of summer, I can find something of beauty to comment on.  Granted, for me, in the summer that may take some doing, but I enjoy a challenge.  However, since it comes easier for me in the winter, allow me to share with you a few things that I see in the winter.  Perhaps it will help you see the beauty around you as well.

The view out Grandma's picture window.
As I sit at my Grandmother's table, I can look out her picture window that faces the back yard and it simply makes me smile.  There are things that you notice when the ground is covered in snow that are easily missed at other times of year.  For example, yesterday, two bright red cardinal's decided to stop in the back yard for a bit.  Grandma noticed them right away and called my attention to them.  I must admit that without the white covering of snow, I might not have seen them.   But two of God's creation graced us with their presence and the snow allowed me to notice them and remember their visit.   

In the snow, footprints of those who have gone before us are easily seen and followed.  And we will often follow those footsteps more readily in the snow than at any other time of year.  Foot prints remind me of those who have gone before me.  Of those who's lives I have watched and continue to inspire me.  People like my parents (Randy and Mary Jane James), saints of the church who I watched leave a lasting legacy as I grew up like Ray and Margarite Hensley, Francis Tullin, Elsie Hale, Rev. David Whitteberry, and Rev. Merlin Hunter and so many other people I have known.  Some of these people have passed and some are continuing to leave footprints for others to follow.  I hope as I see the footprints around me in the snow, it will remind me that I am not alone in this journey to follow the Father's path.  There have been many before me and there will be many after me.

Finally, the winter allows me to really notice and enjoy the sun.  When the sunlight hits a pile of new snow, it shines in a way that simply makes me marvel.  It makes what could be dreary days bright and cheerful as if the Father is saying, "Hello!  I love you!  Have a wonderful day!".   

These are just a few of many reasons I love snowy winters.  Perhaps they are not your cup of tea, and that's fine.  Do me a favor then and when summer comes around, write a blog for me about the beauty you see.  I think I'd enjoy that. 

Have a great day everyone!


Friday, January 31, 2014

You might be a member of my generation if…

Maybe it is because I have moved to a place that holds so many childhood memories or maybe it is because I will be having another birthday in a little less than a month, but my mind is beginning to reminisce. 

I’m a part of Generation X and I always hated that name.  It’s like my whole generation got dropped into an algebra problem and everyone was trying to “find” us.  However, aside from our unfortunate generational name, we are a pretty interesting group.  And we grew up in an ever changing world that was just beginning to use computers, loved music videos, and some of our crew could nearly touch the clouds just by the height of their hair (and yes, boys are included in this statement).  So, if you will indulge me, today I thought I’d reminisce a little.  Remembering this stuff made me smile…maybe it will do the same for you. 

 You Might Be A Member of My Generation if:

You remember watching “Saved By the Bell” when it first came out.

You were keeping the hair spray, mousse, or hair gel companies in business in Jr. High and High School.

Mullets were the popular hairstyle for guys. (Even MacGyver had one!)

You played video games on an Atari 2600

You had a set of “Socker Boppers.” (FYI: I saw these in a store recently…apparently they are making a comeback.)

You owned or wanted to own your own Laser Tag set.

You ever tried to talk as fast as the guy in the Micro Machine commercials.

Trying to figure out how to transform your Transformer toy the first time was always a thrill.

New Kids on the Block were THE group…unless you were a Country Music Fan, in which case switch that to Garth Brooks.

You remember going to computer class and being asked to actually type code into the computer.

Typing class (on typewriters) was a requirement in school.

You remember the other characters that used to be in the McDonalds Commercials (Hamburgler, Grimace, etc.)

Grey Poupon mustard makes you think of people in limos.

You can quote the theme song to the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”…and are probably doing so right now in your head…or maybe out loud. J

When you were growing up, there was always a popular show on television that starred Michael Landon.

You know where the phrase “Punky Power” comes from.

If your Youth Group ever went to a Carman concert. (Always Good concerts and always free!)

If you wanted to play a game with a friend, you actually went over to that friend’s house or they came to yours.  No need for a computer.

You wrote handwritten letters to friends…and couldn’t wait to get a response in the mail.

You got your world news from “Channel 1” in school every day...and you probably still associate Anderson Cooper with that news show as opposed to his current show. (or maybe that's just me)

You loved watching “The A-Team” and found it interesting that no matter how many buildings, vehicles, or random objects blew up during the show and though bullets were flying all the time…no one ever died or was even seriously hurt (unless it was a plot point).

TGIF meant “Full House”, “Perfect Strangers”, “Step By Step”, and “Family Matters” would be on.

People rarely asked “Do you go to church?”, but rather “What church do you go to?” because it seemed that everyone went to church somewhere…even if they didn’t attend all the time.

You loved watching “The Muppet Show” and always wondered how Gonzo was going to goof up the ending of the theme song each week.

You had at least one friendship bracelet that you wore for ages. (Ok…probably just a few weeks)

You knew LeVar Burton as the “Reading Rainbow” host long before you ever heard of “Geordi LaForge”.

Twitter was something a bird did.

If you are a girl, You probably read “The Babysitter’s Club” or “Sweet Valley High” books all the time.

You were determined to find “Carmen Sandiego”

You carried a camera and took lots of pictures, but never seemed to get all the film developed. (I’m pretty sure I still have some somewhere.)

 

Lots of good memories.  There are, of course, many more.  What’s your favorite memory of Generation X?