Riding into the Future-Medicine Lodge Style

    Some countries have the tradition of the running of the bulls. Medicine Lodge, Kansas has a unique one this time of year involving a wheat truck, Super  Soakers, and celebrating.  I don’t know when it began or who started it, but it is definitely a rite of passage. Picture this with me.

One spring afternoon while quietly sitting at your desk, you hear a cacophony of screams.  The sound travels like a wave moving down the street. You think “what the dickens?” and go out to see what ever could it be.  Screams like that can not be good.  Slowly passing by is a wheat truck, packed to capacity with the current Senior Class.  They have just completed the curriculum requirements, handed in uniforms, and paid the pesky library fines. Their time at MLHS is put to rest, except for that one last robed walk across a temporary stage on the football field to pick up that much earned piece of paper.  Usually some dad gets the privilege of chauffering this middle-american chariot.  They are decked out in swimsuits, armed with anything that will hold water.  As they take their final pilgrimage through the town, they shoot each other, cars, whoever and whatever that crosses their path.  People come out of houses and businesses to cheer them on.  Moms of Seniors grab cameras and random tears fill their eyes as they try to capture that one soggy moment.  For a short window of time, the seat belt and ‘not riding in the back of vehicles’ rules are ignored.  Out of town visitors scratch their heads and wonder what has overtaken this weird little town.  Once they get it, they laugh and are glad to see kids are having some harmless Mayberry fun.

Harmless fun is what it seems, but something bigger is going on.  This tradition brings the entire class together-athletes, musicians, and those that weren’t involved in anything.  Those have coasted through and those that worked for everything they got. Those that fit in and those that didn’t quite.  Ones who seemed to have the world by the tale and those who will surprise everyone and actually rope it and tie it to a tree. They come together in a time of celebration of who they are, what has been accomplished, and the potential of what the future holds.   They are one.

My hope and prayer for the body of Christ is that we take a life long lesson from our screaming, waterlogged graduates.  May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Romans 15:5.  

photo credit http://www.stovebolt.com/gallery/reznicek_paul_1948.html

Weekend at the Fornelli’s

   I do not know Bob Fornelli.  I would not know Bob Fornelli if he kicked me in the shins.

But I used his shower, sat on his couch and slept in his bed.

To set up the story, our son-in-law was graduating from Emporia State last weekend. His parents and sisters were staying at our daughter’s, so we had reserved a motel room.  Jill Fornelli is a friend of Robin’s and emphatically insisted that we stay at their house while they were gone to Kansas City. I have seen Jill twice in my life and conversed with her once on the phone in which she convinced me she would be highly disappointed if we didn’t  just move in.

We were in awe at the hospitality.  Someone they don’t even know is going to let us invade their space, their California King Memory Foam bed, and  lounge in their pool-did I mention fluffy beach towels were laid out for us when we arrived?

The Fornellis have 3 cute girls, a dog named Nellie Fornelli and a gray cat named Francis.  Sadly, their beloved, Barkley, the yellow lab, had to be put down this spring.  The girls were with Mom and Dad or this invitation could have been a crafty way to get babysitting.   Nellie was farmed out somewhere.  All we had to be responsible for was Francis, who was freaked out by these imposters in her space and took on the persona of a phantom cat.

Sometime in the night, Francis got brave and snuggled in with our son, Cole.  At 6 am, my husband, Cliff woke up, put his feet on the floor and felt something mess with this leg.  Francis was saying ‘hello’ by sharpening her declawed paws on his calf.  When Cliff showered, Francis sat in the sink and watched to see if he used too much shampoo.  (Rumor has it that Bob Fornelli and Cliff are almost dead ringers in looks and personality, so maybe the cat assumed this was his guy.)  The cat followed him everywhere like a dog.

We were responsible for most of the post-graduation reception goodies, which would also be held at the Fornelli’s.  Cliff began making trips to the car to pack in the supplies.  I was scurrying around, when a panicked Cliff says, “Have you seen the cat?”

Such began a scene straight out of the movies as we searched for Francis to no avail. Cliff knew the cat had slipped out the door, never to be seen again.  Reluntantly we finally gave up the hunt, went to graduation, then hurried back to pull out the reception buffet with guests arriving soon after.  Cliff kept nonchalantly searching as he debated if he needed to make a trip to the pound to find a replacement and swing by Walgreens for a bottle of steel-gray hair dye.  I think the only thing that stopped him was he knew there was no way to train a cat to sit in the bathroom sink .

After the crowd left, we realized we had missed a prime opportunity.  A herd of kids had come with their parents, so we should have offered “Five bucks to whoever finds Francis!”  As we sat and recapped all the places she could be, Robin looks over at the mantel and says “Hey, Barkley’s ashes used to sit right here.”  Oh great, we now have lost the dog’s last remains as well as the family feline.  Robin assured us that they must have done something with them as she hadn’t noticed them the night before.  Whew!

Finally Cole discovered Francis under the ginormous bed in the shadows of the headboard.  Relief relaxed Cliff’s tense jaw-some from stress and some from rapidly chewing Nicorette gum for several hours.  We cleaned and packed up to vacate the premises.

Who trusts their beautiful home and their girls’ kitty to strangers?  Those with the gift of radical hospitality.  Robin testified that this is a way of life for them.  They delight in meeting people’s needs.  It didn’t matter to them (or us) that the girls’ domain upstairs was undergoing renovation. We wouldn’t have even noticed if we weren’t on the search for the Cheshire Cat. The privilege to give a gift to us outweighed the desire for perfection.

Sometimes I forget that. Can you relate? I think everything has to be perfect or it isn’t a gift of value.  If it isn’t pristine it is a reflection on me and failure on my part.  We miss the opportunity to bless someone else.  The fact is the construction endeared them to our hearts even more.

“Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully, administering God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:9

‘Singing in the Rain!’

Our part of Kansas is dry!  I am talking so dry that if you speak snake lingo, the cotton-mouths are…well…cotton-mouthed.  You would have a better chance of water skiing in the Sahara.  Farmers are cranky.  The water meter spins like the tumblers on a slot machine.  The weather men give themselves pep talks in the green room mirror before pitching the forecast because they know their news is bleak.  Fields are being reformed into drifts, filling ditches reminiscant of Dirty 30’s images.  Our pepper plants have been so wind-whipped that they look like wilted little sticks that raspily call out “water” as we drag another hose their direction.  Church bulletins and email loops have “RAIN!” in all caps, as people remind each other constantly of the need of some favor from above.

If it would rain, the land would be like a giant Shamwow and soak up every drop.  None would be wasted. We can water ourselves crazy, but nothing is like that little bit of moisture from heaven to green the scene here.

Yesterday a chance of rain teased it’s way into the forecast.  Dust clouds are all we have received lately, so no one took it much to heart.   Even the overcast skies couldn’t talk us into getting too excited, but a glimmer of hope started to revive.  Conversations started swirling around about what the meterologists might know afterall, and the weather websites lit up with a few more hits.

Sitting at my work desk, with my back to the window, I swiveled around to discover crystal trails running down my window.  Hope was partying on the glass in front of my face!

“It’s raining! It’s really raining!” I exclaimed to the caller, who works a block away from me.

“It is?” the tone of disbelief was unmistakable.

“Run out and see!”  We hung up.

One of my partners in crime, work, and friendship, Cheryl sashayed by my office about that time.

“It’s raining!” I alerted her in my best Paul Revere impression.

“I know!  I heard it and it smells so good!”

I jumped up and said “Let’s go smell it!”  We jetted to the door and threw it open to drink in that fresh aroma and fill our lungs.  The rain was falling softly, but our spirits were anything but calm.

Knowing that Sharla, the secretary, was on the phone, and her office faced the courtyard, I proposed “Let’s go dance in it!”  It didn’t take any arm twisting.  Cheryl was out the door and her dancing took on more of a ballet style as she piroeted and leaped.  I stuck with the classic Gene Kelly tap dancy thing.  Sharla sat inside, throughly entertained and possibly a little jealous.   Giggles fox-trotted out of all of us.

We really didn’t get much in the way of moisture, but we celebrated every bit of the wet stuff.

What poured in us was a fresh dose of hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who he has given us. Romans 5:5.  Even in the longest dryest drought, hope is our oasis.

There is a slight chance of rain in the extended forecast on several occasions this week.  The prayers and thanksgivng continue with spirits filled with hope.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.  Hebrews 11:1

For fun here’s the link to watch Gene Kelly’s famous scene: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7QL46cK7B8&feature=related

photo credit-pinklesweet.wordpress.com

Amelia Earhart Stirs Up A Mystery At My House

    Have you ever opened a gift knowing your expression screams, “what the heck is this?”  Meanwhile, the giver is bouncing with anticipation, expecting a reaction like “How did you ever know?” or “This will now make my life complete!”

Such began my Mother’s Day.

My husband and I picked up my son from college to trek on another hour to my oldest daughter’s house.  Cole, who was reminded  that  the morning with a daily scripture text from me  it was Mother’s Day, handed me a waded up piece of typing paper.  On the back was a syllabus for one of his Pyschology classes.  I opened it to find a pencil drawn hand turkey that he learned to drawn in kindergarten-just a bigger hand.  He even scrawled “COLE” with the “E” drawn backwards.  I was so proud.

Next came the daughters’ gift.  Casey had run across a something-really-cool-Mom-I-can’t-wait-for-you-to-open-it gift.  For weeks, she made it clear she had  nailed retrieving the perfect present.  Her two sisters agreed to go in with her on it-sight unseen.

Now we break for a little background.  When I was about a 3rd or 4th grader, I got into biographies big time.  There was a series of burnt orange books on historical figures such as Abe Lincoln, George Washington Carver, Florence Nightengale, Davy Crocket and anyone who ever did anything in our American heritage.  About that time a show made for kids on Saturdays mornings featured historical events being played out like they were actually there.  Walter Conkrite would be on site at the Alamo as Santa Ana attacked.  Or he was in the radio office when the last static-y transmission from Amelia Earhart came through before her plane mysteriously disappeared.  My world would stop and I would drink in whatever drama played out. (Ok, this proves I was a nerd then, too. To this day if they ever really find Amelia, I will be sad as the mystery would end.)

Back to ‘The Gifting’.  The wrapping told me it was a book, so I ripped the paper open.  Inside is an old worn library book, complete with the little white tag on the bottom of the spine, compliments of Dewy Decimal.  The title is Amelia Earhart, Heroine of the Skies.  Already Robin and Misty are groaning since they helped pitch in on a book that might have cost 50 cents at a garage sale.

“Open it up!”  Casey’s eyes are dancing and is about to bust waiting for me to drink in the ‘coolness’ that awaites me.  I opened it to a new plastic spine, but the old title page.  As I flipped through it, confusion was etched in every line of this face.   The hodge-podge of blank pages were a mix of Big Chief tablet, plain white, cut up notebook, seed company pink receipts, maps, checkerboard designs and more random sheets.  Ever so often an Amelia illustration would pop up of her and her plane. What the heck?  The two out-of-the-loop sisters descend on Casey like piranhas: “How much did WE pay for this?”, “Way to go, Case”, and “Where in the world did you find THAT?”  Casey is desperately trying to redeem herself. “Hey, it was made by a mom of 9 kids.  I found it in a high-end little shop that carries funky handmade stuff.  Look, you can get refills for it”.

Refills?  I’m still trying to process what it is and knowing there are reactions expected of me that will make or break my children’s hearts.  Or worse. Trust me, I have witnessed these sister’s duke it out and it ain’t pretty.  But, if I don’t know what it is, how can I throw a parade?

I finally realized it was the most eclectic journal I have ever seen in my life.   The light bulb takes longer to go on a times, especially when chaos reigns supreme around me.

By now I am saying “I love it!” and mean it, but it comes off as “Mom is covering again and being nice.”  The sisters will forever roll their eyes and grumble about this one.

The next morning I proceeded to explain to the gals at work about my treasure.  “I’ll bring it back after lunch,” as they mirrored the confused looks I must have had on opening it.  But, I could not find it.  I knew I hadn’t left it at Robin’s, so it had to be somewhere.

I finally gave up the search and called Casey. “I can’t find Amelia.  She is missing.”

“Well, Mom, this is nothing new.  Everyone has searched for her for years.”  I cracked up.  Later I facebooked her and posted “Call off the search. Amelia Earhart has been found under a blanket on the couch.”

Have you ever been confused by what God puts in your lap?  So many times I have not understood what in the dickens is going on. Because he knows our hearts better than we do, the significance that this is a blessing takes a while to dawn on us and to grow.  Much of what comes our way are hard, unimaginable things to deal with.  ‘How can anything good come from this?” is usually my response.   Just like with Casey, God knows my heart and his gifts might not be conventional, but it was something tailor-made just for me.   “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28.

Can you give him the benefit of the doubt today and trust him with your confusion?  Talk to him about it. He’s already got it figured out.

Afterall he’s the only one who knows what really happened to Amelia.

Our Warm Weather Sanctuary

Part of our porch. Come sit a spell! (Psst-Cliff’s getting a new grill for Father’s Day. He’s worn this baby out.)

Is there a place that is so special that you are drawn to it like no other?  A place that you run to in crisis and can de-stress in.  Where a ticking clock is not welcome.  A refuge where the world melts away and peace massages the knots of out of the life’s shoulders.

When we were looking for a house, I knew I could be pretty happy anywhere, but there 4 four specific things I prayed for.

1. Room for 6.

2. At least 2 bathrooms pleeeaze! For EVERYONE’s sanity.

3. A fireplace-economy and coziness

4. A big front porch.

And all four came to pass.

When Spring starts to wake up, our porch comes alive.  I can hardly wait to put out the plants that have emphezma from a long winter of fake inside air.  Flowers get thrown in pots and blow the dust off the colorful cushions for the naked furniture.  The grill comes alive with hamburgers, roasted corn, and whatever welcomes those perfectly spaced char marks in the culinary world.  During my morning bible study lately I am serenaded by an owl that thinks he’s Michael Buble and a chorus of twitter-tweets requesting encores from his adoring female feathered fans.  In the evenings, fireflies compete with the tiki torches of who can light up our world the most.

So much happens out there. Major family decisions have been made while we rocked on the glider.  Broken hearts have realized they will go on beating through tears shed as they fell on the worn floor.  Many great books have been devoured in a variety of positions and lots of personal pondering takes place here. The world’s problems have been solved with friends over a Coke or two as a south breeze teased our senses. Celebrations of graduations, our legendary Fourth of July Whingding, and impromptu gatherings have been witnessed by this hallowed place.  On the porch everyone is welcome and everyone’s a friend.  It is truly a place of sanctuary.

So, when God and I have chatted, I have told him that I ain’t picky on the mansion he has promised.  But, could it please have a front porch?  I have a whole list of folks I want to invite for some iced tea and some of  Grill Master Cliff’s masterpieces.  You are definitely invited and drag a some folks with you. There is plenty of room for everyone.

Oh, and just so you know, Jesus has already called the glider.

Now, I’m wondering where is your sanctuary?  Would love to hear about it.

“I’m Scared We’re Going to Be Boring!” (sigh)

“I’m scared we are going to be boring!” (sigh)

That melancholy statement  was one I popped on Cliff about this time last year.  It was in reference to how I saw the future with the kids hitting the trail of adventure as we sat home on the couch, looked at each other and waited for arthritis, burcitis and every other ‘itis’ to become of topics of conversation.

Much to my delight, I can say I was wrong.  With the exiting of our excitement factories, new visions and experiences have appeared at every corner.  Cliff and I have been able to really enjoy our first loves-each other.  We are learning so much about each other that is startling.  For example, I have learned that things I assumed Cliff liked, he really hasn’t but sucked it up because everyone else did.  We can listen to each others dreams and be able to actually believe and encourage the other that they can truly happen.  Though Cliff doesn’t understand my fascination with words and how people relate to each other, or reads much of my written ramblings, he has been a great resource and a kind, but truthful sounding board.  On the other hand, I found out that he loves….drum roll…. roses!  My baseball lovin’, deer hunting, oil field managing he-man  just went crazy putting in a new bed that would rival the Portland Rose Gardens. Did not see that one coming, but I like it.

It seems random things like fly at us like machine gun fire on Osama’s compound.  I used to refer to this time of the year as ‘The Gauntlet’ because one doesn’t remember what all one did; survival is the goal.  This year it’s still true. After our last Extreme Kids Club afterschool program meeting of the year, I was hit with the plan-your-funeral-as-you-lay-on-the-bathroom-floor stomach flu.  It was bad enough that I was not able to attend the royal wedding, much to the disappointment of William and Kate. The next day I determined to not waste my flu bug confinement as punk as I did feel.  I zipped through the slow parts of the DVR nuptial version and camped on the touching ones, which couldn’t help but make the puny ol’ heart flutter.   Mix in a flurry of unexpected turns at the church and a spring football game at McPherson College…well, boredom is not an option.  To cap it off, somehow I ended up on the other side of the radio table to be interviewed for a nationally known radio show about none other than my ‘taxidermaphobia’.  I had to laugh.  Really? My psycho fear is now going to be my claim to fame?  Who plans for random stuff like that?  It seems to hunt us down.

When it doesn’t find us, we seem to jump in the middle of adventures.  Not everyone has 40 lbs of pork shoulder in their PT Cruiser in a Smokey and the Bandit type race to get it in the freezer.  It has a date with a smoker this week and then on to a graduation reception at Emporia State University.

I am thankful for the hope and purpose that comes from the ‘missions’ we are put here for.  When the kids were little, a middle-aged neighbor lady in her purple mini-van, that looked like a giant grape, would zip down my street.  I always knew that Barb was on a mission to take church bulletins to shut-ins, visit someone sick, or sometimes stop at our door to drop off juice boxes.  “I was at Sam’s and just thought your kids would like some of these.”  Then she would fly down in the street in a purple blaze. She didn’t even really know us, but was injecting my family with vitamin C as she extended the hand of friendship.  I remember thinking “I want to grow up to be her someday.”

20 years later, guess who brought me sugar cookies for Mother’s Day?  Barb!   Giggling and carrying on as she delivered these coveted delights.  What joy in being God’s messenger of encouragement and Christ’s love!

As I write this there are no references in my bible for ‘bored’ or ‘boredom’.  Intentional?  Hmmm…  I don’t think it exists in God’s vocabulary.  Let the record show that I think Barb is his Exhibit A.

Which of God’s exhibits will you be?