Then, in December, I stumble through Walmart’s doors at 10:30 p.m. to escape lines. I won’t recall how I got there or that I parked my car at Lowe’s. But I’ll have plenty of time to search for it.
Many Americans, like me, despise standing in line — strange, as we spend our lives queuing up. During preschool years, we line up to bawl on Santa Claus’s lap. As elementary children, we form lines to go outside and inside. We broaden our horizons as adults, waiting in wedding reception and funeral home lines, queues at hotel desks and ballparks.
Even at church, we fear the potluck will run out of KFC before we reach the front. And will the sins of those at the head of confession lines rank higher than ours?
At best, we grit and bear it. At worst, we yak on phones.
Interestingly, people who declare there is no right or wrong morph into Moses when someone crosses a certain line: Thou Shalt Not Cut In. Businessmen, Harley riders and little old ladies all want to stone the criminal with Old Testament zeal.
Yet neither God nor OSHA has specified that we stand in lines. Why do this? Especially since we should be first. Always.
Part of the answer lies in our culture. Americans stand in line for the same reason we drive on the right, not the left; eat Kellogg’s Raisin Bran®, not blood pudding, for breakfast; and wear clothing in public — most of the time. It’s what we do.
But I like to think there are better reasons.
Bottom line, standing in line means we put others first.
Years ago, my husband and I entered a McDonald’s in Madrid, Spain. No lines formed at counters. Instead, customers rammed each other like football linemen. Hubby and I waited in vain for game’s end. Eventually, our hungry stomachs won. Readying elbows, we dove into the pack.
If only my elementary principal, Mrs. Talley, had arrived to tame us. If the ghost of my childhood Sunday school teacher, Mrs. Mamie Skeet — wearing her usual weird hat — had admonished us with Jesus’ Golden Rule, we might not have sold slivers of our souls for Big Macs.
Now I appreciate more than ever you who keep your elbows to yourself and wait patiently in line. And this December, if we allow others to go first, we will light up Christmas lines like the natal Star.
Mrs. Talley and Mrs. Skeet would be proud of us.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What will you do while waiting in line this Christmas?
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?
For years I celebrated holidays by directing church musicals. One fateful Easter I chose Watch the Lamb, which focused on Jesus as the Lamb of God. A live lamb would make the ancient story come alive.
During rehearsals, the cast greeted our lamb with enthusiasm.
Church janitors did not. “Do something before that animal pees all over — or worse.”
Why hadn’t I considered this minor complication? Especially as the lamb made entrances down different aisles. Most Passover lambs in 30 A.D. did not wear Pampers®
What other option existed?
God provided the perfect solution: we would cover the stage and church aisles with the burlap-like backside of my recently discarded carpet.
However, God didn’t send angels to cut, arrange and duct tape the carpet throughout the sanctuary. After two unspiritual, aching-knee days, all my bases were covered. No worries now, right?
Loony the Lamb had his own ideas about entrances and exits. A hay bale helped keep him quiet, but for obvious reasons, we avoided feeding him too much.
The 60-member cast’s noise made Loony more nervous than your Aunt Nellie. Kids petted him without mercy. Bright lights and heat caused him to hyperventilate. During dress rehearsal, Loony the Lamb collapsed onstage in a wooly, quivering heap.
Watch the Lamb? No audience would want to watch this.
Two animal lovers carried the prostrate lamb outside while we prayed — and Loony recovered. One guy built a pen outside the stage door where our prima donna cropped grass between scenes. Visiting hours were restricted, with no autographs. We did everything but paint a star on Loony’s gate.
Thankfully, he showed no new signs of cardiac arrest. His brassy baaaaa erupted only once during performances — during solemn prayer after the crucifixion.
Our ingenious actors shifted and blocked escape routes, all the while looking very holy.
One child earned my special appreciation: “Loony was peein’ on my foot the whole time Jesus was on the cross, but I didn’t say nothin’.”
Even after Loony returned home, I couldn’t shake off sheep. Scriptures about lambs leaped from the Bible’s pages. Jesus frequently called his followers His sheep. After Watch the Lamb, I figured He didn’t mean it as a compliment.
Nevertheless, the King of Heaven volunteered to take on the title “Lamb of God” — what God in His right mind would do that?
Even one dithery pageant director named Rachael — which means “lamb.”
Have you participated in a pageant/play that taught you more than you expected?
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