This past weekend, when our two-almost-three-year-old grandson was staying with us, an odd November tornado also dropped by our area for a visit.
Thankfully, our little guy slept through much of the storm, then seemed to enjoy the novelty of the accompanying power outage. We cuddled and read stories by the light of a camping lantern and flashlights and sang songs about the wise man who built his house upon a rock.
We comforted him when the thunder and lightning and wind grew too scary. But the scenario reminded me of years ago when my little ones — and a God surprise — comforted me.
Purple-blue clouds raged and roiled in the yellowish sky. Enormous trucks roared around us on the interstate through curtains of blinding rain, shaking my little car like a wet terrier. Tornado warnings crackled on the radio. But my preschooler played contentedly with her Barbie® Dolls in the backseat. My two-year-old munched the crackers I’d given him.
How I envied their serene trust in me! If only I possessed such faith.
“Let’s pray Jesus will take care of us!” I said in the bright mommy-tone I always use when all is lost.
They bowed their heads and folded chubby hands. Their sweet prayer calmed my terrors.
“Look!” I cried.
An exit loomed ahead. We would leave this nightmare and seek shelter!
Even as I pulled into a truck stop and parked, the rain began to diminish.
I turned to my children, almost crying with joy. “Jesus is with us!”
“’Course He is.” The two-year-old stared at me. “I see Him.”
“No, honey,” I patted his little hand. “We can’t see Jesus. But He’s with us all the time.”
My toddler looked at me as if I’d lost my mind. “Jesus is right there, Mommy!”
My stomach, which had quieted, lurched anew. “Wh-where?” The hair on my neck prickled. “Where’s Jesus?”
He pointed an indignant finger. “There!”
Slowly I turned around, quaking.
On a nearby semitrailer, a huge colorful mural of the smiling Savior with wide-open arms offered us a hug.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you remember when children taught you a thing or two?
Hubby came running. “Did you warm your car keys in the microwave again?”
I crept from under the table. “I just wanted some tea.”
He tentatively examined the microwave. “Whatever you did sent it to its Happy Heating Ground.”
“At least, it didn’t leave a crater.” Our son had shared scary dormitory stories of popcorn-popping microwave doom.
Too cheap to buy a new one, I considered repairs. We might even survive without one.
“How do I do this?” Hubby, holding his mug with deer-in-the-headlights uncertainty, dampened my optimism.
“Easy. Fill a teakettle, set it on a burner and boil until it yells.”
“Sounds barbaric.” He took a step back. “What’s a teakettle?”
I’d given ours away, so I showed him how to fill a little pan.
He said, “Microwaving is the only cooking I do.”
“Perhaps you should return to the simple life,” I said loftily.
“Sure.” A sudden smile broke through. “You’ll do all the cooking.”
Now that sounded barbaric.
The plumber came. Five hundred dollars later, he introduced us to an appliance that actually heated water. Accustomed to our decrepit one, I burned my hands whenever I turned on the faucet.
We reset the temperature. Problem solved. But the new microwave and I had issues.
“Someday, I’ll get the hang of this,” I tried to say. The ice bag on my tongue muffled my words.
“Too bad the owner’s manual is in Sanskrit,” my husband sympathized.
After a few trips to the burn unit, we adjusted. But then, the oven’s thermostat malfunctioned.
“Maybe it likes cornbread rare?” I said to Hubby.
The fridge, taking its cue, froze a dozen eggs and melted 27 boxes of popsicles I’d bought on sale. The icemaker swore as if in labor.
The repairman suggested Band-Aid possibilities, but didn’t pull punches with his diagnosis: at best, my stove and refrigerator had six months to live. All we could do was keep them comfortable. Keep them comfortable?
Feeling flatlined myself, I decided to self-resuscitate with enough French Roast to make me lift appliances.
Like all appliances, he won’t live forever, and the guarantee ran out ages ago.
But, praise Jesus, I will, and mine won’t.
When no more replacement parts are available, will you go to the Master Designer for a new you?
If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17
Have you heard the biblical Christmas story a gazillion times? Me, too. Yet I’m always amazed how God arranged His Son’s Nativity.
We often miss one important aspect of His divine plan: God made sure Jesus had a stepfather.
Joseph, a construction worker, probably was putting the final touches on their first home when Mary gave him news nobody could fix.
Pregnant? By the Holy Spirit? Even Joseph’s bridezilla cousin Sapphira never conceived a tale like this. Devastated, Joseph decided to call off the wedding.
Until an angel told him Mary’s story was true.
How would his construction buddies regard this double-angel story? Joseph’s family, already humiliated, might not show for the wedding. Still, Joseph obeyed the angel and assumed responsibility for Mary and her child.
As if all this weren’t enough, the government raised taxes. Joseph had to register in his hometown, Bethlehem, several days’ journey away. Not the honeymoon Joseph had dreamed of. Riding a donkey her last month of pregnancy probably wasn’t Mary’s idea of fun, either. Parking and accommodations were difficult to find. Correction: impossible. Joseph’s relatives, still upset, apparently did not offer even a sleeping bag on the floor.
As Mary struggled through labor, surrounded by smelly animals, Joseph may have wondered if his angel dream had resulted from too much pizza. But he remained at Mary’s side. And when the Baby was born, he called Him Jesus.
When Joseph heard from angels again, it was bad news. King Herod wanted to kill the Baby, so Joseph sneaked his family out of town in the middle of the night. When had Joseph’s life turned into a Bourne Trilogy?
Even when they returned to Nazareth after Herod’s death, some still calculated their wedding date and Jesus’ birthday on their fingers.
While angels were talking to Joseph, he could play super-hero. But the angels stopped talking, and Joseph found himself playing male role model to the Son of God.
Like stepparents today, Joseph fades into the background. We hear nothing about him after Jesus’ junior-high escapade of disappearing — into the temple, it turned out — for three days. Playing second halo was tough then, as now. But the lives of Jesus and thousands of other children with blessed stepparents will never be the same.
Joseph’s first Christmas was complicated, with a capital C. So are the Christmases of all caring stepparents.
But then, love usually is.
Are you a stepparent who often plays second halo? If not, do you know someone who does?
Once calendars change to December 1, airport authorities turn their attention from averting terrorists to halting the escape of Christmas program directors. Many seek asylum in remote jungles. The most desperate sign up for space shuttle flights.
Why this seasonal exodus? Until Advent, optimistic directors delude themselves that Christmas program rehearsals are going well. Yet choirs have forgotten their music every week. Sixth-grade clarinet players blow the wrong end.
With a turn of the calendar page to December, however, …
Christmas program directors run screaming from holly wreaths and The Salvation Army bell ringers.
Experts say victims of this psychosis, like Grandma, were obviously run over by reindeer. Which explains why anyone would become a Christmas program director in the first place.
The real drama begins when soloists and speaking roles are chosen. Most Nativity plays include only one Mary, and 49 hopeful candidates — backed by 49 equally hopeful mothers — eye the role. Choosing an Infant Jesus from the cute babies in a nursery is a task no Middle East negotiator should tackle.
Amidst controversy, enter the Advent flu. …
It never picks off a candy cane who speaks one line. No. This deadly illness wipes out leads and entire tenor sections. The Annunciation loses something when a nauseous-looking Gabriel delivers his lines holding a barf bag.
Standing defenseless before hacking, germy choirs, instrumentalists and casts, the courageous director battles a shower of viruses unmatched anywhere in the universe.
But by law, directors are not permitted to die during Advent. So, gulping remedies and popping pills, they face weeks of practices. It is said there are no atheists in foxholes. This also holds true during Christmas program dress rehearsals.
Finally, the Big Day arrives …
… and the cast stuns the director with an incredible performance. They were actually listening when she begged them to warm up horns, annunciate words and not pick their noses.
To be sure, no production escapes imperfection. The angels suffer from static cling. Joseph still doesn’t know how to sit while wearing a dress. And as Wise Men and Shepherds adore the Baby, a borrowed donkey leaves offerings on the hay-strewn floor.
But flawed performances only remind leaders that the original event took place with no rehearsals, except in the Mind of God. And as weary directors everywhere breathe a deep sigh of relief and shelve Christmas music until next August, no one needs to tell them Christmas miracles still happen today.
Many of us anticipated an Easter filled with church celebrations, family and fun.
But what did the day after Easter bring?
Parents sometimes dread it. “Who ate the head off my chocolate bunny?” “He tasted my jelly beans, then spit ’em back in my basket!”
And those irresistible baby rabbits Mommy bought? They’ve already matured, married, and are multiplying hourly.
Happy Day after Easter!
But for some of Polish descent, this day rates a major celebration. The first spring I lived in South Bend, Indiana, I figured the newspaper headline was an April Fool’s joke: “City Celebrates Dyngus Day.” Turned out, “dyngus” was not a driver in an adjoining parking space who smacked my car opening his door, but a for-real holiday. Participants polka with a sausage in one hand, a beer in the other, simultaneously shaking hands with politicians. Lacking coordination, I opted for the ancient ritual of eating Reese’s Peanut Butter eggs, 50 percent off.
Munching these one Dyngus Day, I wondered what Jesus, Easter’s originator, did the day after.
Though some had accused Him of being a party animal, the Bible makes no mention of Jesus’ hobnobbing with polka-dancing politicians. We know He surprised women friends, including Mary Magdalene, on Easter morning. He also nearly sent His paranoid band of disciples into seizures, showing up despite dead-bolted doors.
But what did He do the next day, while they depleted their cell phone minutes spreading the news? While they rechecked their eyes at the optometrist’s and their minds at the psychiatrist’s to confirm what they saw?
After Passion Week’s agony and the Resurrection’s ecstasy, perhaps Jesus craved a little quiet. Maybe He sat anonymously in a garden, listening to birds’ hallelujah choruses, watching baby green leaves unfold tiny, tender fingers.
Or, since time and space didn’t appear an issue after the Resurrection, He might have visited the Sea of Galilee, 80 miles away. Perhaps He played on the beach with children He had healed.
I imagine Jesus visited his mother. The Bible does not place her at the tomb with Mary Magdalene or with the disciples when He appeared Easter evening. Did they tell Mary they saw Jesus? Perhaps, still incredulous, they wanted to spare her false hope. However, rumors no doubt reached her ears. They always do.
But nothing prepared Mary for that “Hi, Mom.” For Jesus’ strong arms around her again, for the still-wounded hands that dried her tears.
A skeptic interrupts my reverie. “Wait. How do you know what Jesus did? You weren’t there.”
No. But since I will live forever because of Jesus’ resurrection, someday, I plan to ask Him.
How do you think He spent that day?