The Beauty in the Barren

House 2Definition of barren: Highway 10 from La Junta to Walsenburg, Colorado.

(So I’m not Webster, but am a watered-down relative, who is taking a few liberties.)

When I was merely a sprout of a Kansan, it was quickly imprinted on me that the mountains were created specifically for my family, but we considerately let everyone else borrow them. While there is nothing like a glorious Kansas sunset and great majesty in the red dirt wide open spaces, a refreshment of the soul happens on those pine-scented slopes one can find no where else.

However, to arrive there is no getting around trudging through a longsuffering stretch of desert wilderness. Magnetically, our engrained homing device always pulls us down this particular dusty trail.

While a two lane highway, it is  a 72 mile stretch where almost nothing grows, albeit some desperate cactuses thumbing for a lift. Scanning the horizon, one might see an anxious antelope, whose GPS evidently malfunctioned. Skeletons of homesteads mark hopes and dreams drying up and blowing away. I always have to ponder why on earth someone would purposefully decide this was the place to stop and stake a claim. Just traveling across it, I marvel the endurance and tenacity of the settlers moving west. I’m sorry, but after so much of traversing land where only sand and rocks grow, I would have demanded that Cliff Sackett turn the wagon around for what we had left was a whole heap better than where we were headed. On a hazy day, Common Sense would have campaigned that our destination had deserted us, and we would be foolishly trudging on forever.

Back in the non-air conditioned day, my family would pack the old Pontiac and head out. The 72 miles took F-O-R-E-V-E-R, especially when you’re six and the brand new crayons are melting into a clump in the back window. It was impossible to believe this was our final stretch and within 30 minutes of its end, we would be engulfed in the cool, stunning beauty of rushing streams and bejeweled pallets of wildflowers.

However, experience is a fabulous teacher. Having gone down this road more times than I can count, that 72 miles seems to get shorter, and after zipping through the harshness of Death Valley a few years back, the scraggly resilient cattle are a welcome sight, along with the possibility of maybe ten oncoming vehicles traveling this, too. I have learned that whether I can see those blessed peaks or not, they are there, strong and mighty, to welcome us.

This summer has been a rough one, hasn’t it?  And I’m not even talking personal issues, which demands unfathomable attention and energy. Our world is turning upside down with a constant volley of reports on the Zika virus, open season on police officers, tragedies that are fuzzy on who is at fault, ISIS attacks, and I’m not even touching on the insanity of the upcoming election. This list could string all day long.

Honestly, I’ve been in a funk. I’ve survived by busying myself so I don’t have to deal with  the fierceness of this desert storm. With a forecast of worse droughts ahead, I can only take so much. So I gloomily meander.

However, wandering in the wilderness is sure bleak. At times I falter a bit to being mad or scared for the future, but mostly I’m in a state of mourning, mixed with a kind of forlorn disappointment is best I can put it. Of course, I want to turn around to what was, but life is not designed that way. I can feel an on-my-face Jesus meeting is on the horizon. I kick myself for not simply getting on with it as I temporarily homestead on this impoverished ground. I know that I know that I know from covering this ground before, the refreshment and security of abiding in the shadow of the Most High will bring peace and rest.  And I will shout once again, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (Ps 91:2)

But today, I’m still not quite there. But I’m miles closer than I was. I see the majesty from a far and His scent continues to draw me like a magnet. I can stake a claim on what I know without a doubt.

Growth will come through the barren, and beauty will blossom.

 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

(PS-For those good folks that do live in that area, I have nothing but highest respect for you and would love for you to share the beauty that I believe is there.)

Photo Credit-Patrick Praelan



Witnessing a ‘Mary’ Christmas

What is everyone standing around for?  Pick up the baby!!!

What is everyone standing around for? Pick up the baby!!!

The young mama-to-be found herself in a precarious situation. Only God knew she carried the child. The circumstance was too much for even family and friends to understand. She could only imagine the glances, the whispering, the opinions, and way too much advice. This baby had to be protected at all costs. The human side of her wallowed in a bed of sleepless nights, for how could this possibly turn out well? Yet, she knew in her heart she was honored to be carrying this precious gift. To think the future of the child was unknown—well, she couldn’t afford to think about it now. All she knew was she had committed to follow this through.

When the labor pains began, she cried to the Lord. And He was faithful.

The wiggly bundle looked at her with moments fresh eyes, ones filled with wonder and uncanny wisdom. She tucked the moment into her heart and said, “Oh, what a wonderful gift you will be to someone.”

As days ticked by, God’s will revealed that this precious baby would not only affect the lives of many, but would be the redemption for the mama as well.

A story straight out of Bethlehem…

And Emporia, KS.

Every year I intentionally pray that God would show me something new from the age old story of Him in baby-bound form coming to earth. Little did we know that He’d start revealing our advent revelation on the quite early date of July 3rd. In a ballet of unmerited favor and unbelievable provision on so many levels, God showed himself faithful through the birth of a unforeseen girl grandbaby. Her name is the testament of God smiling on each and every person her life touches–Gracie Olive. (A ‘wow’ moment in research just hit–Olive means ‘anointed for the good of love and charity.’ Perfect!)

Make no mistake, this child is certainly not divine. She can throw a ring-tailed fit like no other. However, her arrival was swaddled in the warmth of God’s love.

And while making different choices to scoot them down life’s road, I’m convinced our daughter Misty and Mary still would have heart-connected at the local MOPs meeting. Oh, the things they have in common. Ordinary people thrown in extraordinary circumstances. Come take a look.

Let’s start with every branch and leaf of family being nothing but supportive. Nary a stone was as much as tripped over, much less picked up. Perhaps, this was Mary’s family’s reaction as well, since she stayed in her hometown, except of visiting cousin Elizabeth, until that uncomfortable trip to Bethlehem popped up. Whether the decision would be adoption or to keep this little one, everyone respected Misty’s judgment and had her back.

Once our dear friends Megan and Michaela heard the tidings of great joy, they dropped everything and made the three hour journey faster than hyped up shepherds on the hunt for a newborn King. And Cheryl…well, she hovered over the story from afar, being the angelic ear and prayer warrior to the heavenlies we needed at critical times. Pat’s chicken and noodles were truly a Godsend after eight days of eating drive-thru meals.

While Mary was visited by Magi, bearing exotic gifts, Galen and Richelle from Argonia in the East came barreling through the door with a new baby bed and pink bedding with zebras dancing on it.

While angels winged across star-dazzled skies, singing ‘Glory to God in the Highest,” our pastor strummed his guitar, lifting up heart-felt praises from our couch.

Two communities of faith in the fashion of the true redeeming love of Christ were generous past the point of ridiculous. And while in the hospital, once it became apparent that baby was coming home with her mama, the nurses blew us away with gifts and encouragement fit for royalty as well.

Instead of Anna’s tears touching Baby Jesus’s cheek, Pam of the Co-op’s eyes glistened as she knelt in front of Gracie snoozing in the rock-in-play, unspeakable joy running in streams down her face. Our threshold became a well-worn path of those pouring love, encouragement, and offering babysitting services. Every single one of them itched to get their hands on her.

Ordinary people kissed by God, lavishly serving Him in extraordinary ways.

Tonight I gaze upon my Grandma Olive’s handed down nativity scene. I appreciate and understand the distant reverence and awe the brightly-colored characters hold for the Christ child in the manger.

However, from what we experienced, how can anyone keep their hands off of a baby? Don’t we all crave to drink in the scent of purity, snuggle the softness of love, and drink in the whispered coos that are the healing salve of the deepest wounds? The world cannot compete with this phenomenon. Even the most regal Wise Man would have cracked open a chuckle at a bit of baby slobber as it ran down lush robes. Who can resist those powers?

For almost six months we have seen that mojo every day. Like I said, Gracie Olive is not divine, but she gave joy to a lonely old woman in Wal-Mart, flirted a smile out of a car technician, and made Santa laugh when she ate his beard. Every stop takes ten times longer with her around. She’s kind of become everybody’s baby, and her dimpled smile sprinkles joy like glitter on heaven’s breath.

This little glimpse we have been blessed with has opened the earthly blind a little wider to see how hands-on our Savior is. Whether it was the bleeding woman that simply needed a touch of his garment, or the children he insisted hanging out with, or the multitudes that were drawn to him, there is comfort in knowing that no way would He be confined to a manger for one second longer than necessary.

Oh yes, He is everybody’s Savior.

10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” Luke 2:10-12

‘Mary’ Christmas from The Long Family!

photo credit:

“Chief Rain-In-The-Face, What Are You Doing?”

This is actually Chief To-ma-To, who watches over our garden.  Rain in the Face must have done a dance because we got a downpour this afternoon and would have been too muddy to get to the 'site.'

This is actually Chief To-ma-To, who watches over our garden. Rain in the Face must have done a dance because we got a downpour this afternoon and would have been too muddy to get to the ‘site.’

Here’s the scene: A wildflower covered mound, surrounded by knee-high prairie grass.  A barbed wire fence row stands on one side, while dried skeletons of yucca blooms stand as sentries to protect the site.

“It’s right there,’ Fred, the cowboy/jack-of-all-trades whispered, “Chief Rain-in-the-Face’s grave.”

My mind shuffled through the vibrant family history of our homestead, that had been drummed in my head for all of my pre-teen years. The place had been homesteaded 100+ years prior by Aunt Lizzie, who was only thirteen at the time.  Around that time she eluded cattle rustlers along this very creek, riding horseback 60 miles to Woodward, OK in the dark with a significant bank deposit.  Up the road, my great grandpa is hailed as being the first white baby born in Kiowa County, Kansas.  Winding through the buffalo wallow dotted  pastures, I could almost picture regiments of US Calvary soldiers following the lonesome trail they laid out.  Not to be forgotten, legend tells of a headless black man buried in a long-lost grave on the property.  The man was on the lam, hired on with a cattle drive.  But when the boss rode on to Dodge City to arrange for the arrival of the herd, he came back with a Wanted: Dead or Alive poster.  He chose the dead option.  The crook’s head journeyed on to the Cowboy Capitol and his body left on the Parkin Ranch.  But I sure didn’t remember anything about an indian chief. 

Fred continued, “Go stand on the Chief’s grave and say very loudly–it has to be loud–Chief Rain-in-the-Face, what are you doing?  Listen and he will say nothing at all.”

I weighed and watched as my dad kept a straight face, while Fred’s eyes twinkled.  If I did this, would I really hear a voice answering, ‘Nothing at all?” How cool would that be! As tempted as I was with the possibility of experiencing the amazing, I leaned to common sense.  No, I didn’t fall for it, but Fred sure made me think.

The next victims to step to the grave were my younger brother and step-brother.  And as the years have gone by, there was a whole string of targets.  At his place, I hear there is a sign pointing folks to a Chief-Rain-In-the-Face gravesite. Maybe we were dealing with twins?

When Cliff and I were first married, Fred was a constant fixture at our house a lunch time.  Of course, I had a long history with him always being around, and it didn’t take Cliff long to fall in love with his humor, storytelling, and his joyful countenance, no matter what health woe had befallen him.   

 Everyday Fred shared mini-Snickers bars and Jesus.  The Snickers I could handle, but I wasn’t really on speaking terms with God at that time. Oh I knew him, but he’d let me down and I didn’t need him–unless I was about to run out of gas in the car or was stranded in a wicked ice storm with our daughter running a 104 degree temp.  Then I’d rattle his door, but kept him at arms length like the loud and bossy old aunt that smells like Vicks and Roses, Rose perfume, but always is good for some significant cash at Christmas.

Cliff and I would sheepishly look at the floor, when Fred wove the goodness of his Lord into the conversations.  I didn’t much like that he was attempting to jump-start my thinking or my soul. However he was such a great guy, we were ever-so polite, but rolled our eyes behind his back.  When we got a gift subscription to Guideposts from him and his lovely wife, Marlene, I quickly pitched all the issues in a magazine rack.  I couldn’t throw them away.  What if he asked about them?

Many months later, I can’t remember why Fred had been rerouted from our daily lunch date, but I was in the clear to clean out the magazines.  I started leafing through the booklets and reading hit-and-miss.  They backed everything Fred talked about and convicted me to get my girls in Sunday School.  (Notice: not me, but my kids.  I was just fine, thank  you very much!) 

That is when something started that I can’t stop.  Soon after, our worlds crashed with the loss of our two very special grandpas and Cliff’s live-life-to-the-fullest brother, Mike.  That is when I had no choice to cry out and grab on to the Jesus Fred had talked about. 

And for over a quarter of a century that Jesus has held me together through many valleys  of the shadow of death, fears, worries, etc, etc, etc.   I don’t have to think about it anymore, I know.  

A few years back, one of my brother’s kids called me.  Bursting with skepticism, a little voice said, “Aunt Kel, do you know who Chief Rain-in-the-Face is? Will he really talk to you and say nothing at all?”

And my response will always be, “What do you think?….. And once you are think it through, how about we share a Snickers, because I know someone even more amazing than Chief Rain-In-the-Face.”

Whatever you do, work at it with all of your hears, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward, It is the Lord you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24 

(Side note~For some reason, Fred and I always had a special bond, even before the Freb Webb Preaching Series.  Last week when I heard that he had gained his prize to be with Jesus, tears rolled like a fountain.  Some because I’m so glad for him and some because I owe him more than I can ever express.  While he was still with us, we visited, emailed, and even facebooked a little bit.  I will never regret letting him know how important he was in my faith walk. 

My question to you is this:  Have you told that person(s) the impact they’ve made in your faith walk? 

Photo credit-my own

Who’s Your Hero? A Quest for the Super-est

Our Bat Bren is our favorite earthly super hero!

Our Bat Bren is our favorite earthly super hero!

A one liner, discharged forward through a word web, intending to capture a laugh. Instead, it wrapped my thoughts in a cocoon of pondering.

All week we had saturated our TV viewing with topics this season is famous for: NCAA basketball and all things biblical. Mix in my arch-enemy, Seasonal Allergies, and my energy was reduced to a couch littered with piles of soggy tissues and eyeballs begging to be plucked out and floated in a sea of ice water. Sigh. My aggressive plans had been rendered helpless against the powers of pollen.

Cliff, Cole and I caught up on DVRed episodes of the History Channel’s The Bible. We reveled in the highlighted parts that are rarely addressed and sparred with each other over discrepancies, flexing our biblical knowledge and interpretive muscles on a truth’s intriguing quest. We forged through the gauntlet of the challenge of actually living the Ten Commandments and watched lasers penetrate the Shroud of Turin in a pursuit for authenticity. This was like a magnetic force that only allowed for bathroom breaks and another dose of Allegra.

At the appointed time, we switched to grasp the electrifying phenomenon that is the Wichita State Shockers. Fear the Wheat, Baby! (said in my best Dick Vitale voice). Oh how these underdogs have flown past formidable foes on a golden bolt to victory!

And our beloved heroes, the Kansas Jayhawks, fought their last game as strong as Hercules and as accurate as Apollo’s arrows, until some kryptonite must have filtered in through the arena’s vents. Those last five minutes their flaming chariot wheels fell off one by one. Our Invincibles morphed back into their original forms of 19-20 something mere mortals, students in the college of Maturity 101.

Then on Easter afternoon, while I was cleaning up for feasting, my guys went off the grid and turned to fighting the forces of evil with the movie The Avengers. Bedazzled in the most spectacular costumes—evidently a prerequisite for super-hero and Greek god status—each have muscle–ripped specialized gifts they activate against-all-odds sinister evil. (Insert deep chest rumbling ba-ha-ha-ha diabolical laugh here) Spandex must be the ultimate power source and shield.

That’s when I heard it.

The clang of iron clashed as the champions fought valiantly against just was spectacularly dressed villains. Captain America, with his star-spangled chest, announces, “There is only one God, and he doesn’t dress like that!” (Since Captain America would know how we were founded, I went with the big G ‘God.’ here)

When Jesus walked the earth, flashy dressing was about as far from his mind as a glittered cape is from cut-offs. If his time had been this current day, I imagine he’d been in faded jeans, a wash softened t-shirt and well-worn boots. In fact Isaiah predicted that “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” (53:5)

So what was his spectacular WOW factor?

Ask the woman at the well, and she’d tell you that his gaze seared right through her defenses, rivaling any high- tech lasers. A touch that healed countless needy souls of whatever infirmity attacked, and a voice that cast away many a demon hurled at him, honestly, who could combat those powers? And wouldn’t you like to know what magic was in the words he scrawled in the sand that made the stone-wielding accusers of the adulterous woman fade into the woodwork? A cape of grace was thrown over her AND the jerks ready to hang her out to dry to advance their own agenda. Who could have true peace if not for blood, so love-charged it made our damning sin vanish like a phantom?

Makes all the webs, wings, lasers, spandex, flowing locks, magic ropes, super-charged thigh high boots seem kind of pathetic, huh?

But wait there is more! Jesus had held back his styling for his future Grand Finale! Revelation 19 lavishes on us about his eyes like blazing fire and on his head will be many crowns. Sporting the latest in fashion, his robe will be ombre dipped in blood and he will be riding in on a magnificent white stallion. His army will follow and trumpets will be fan faring to be the band! After explaining this in more detail than I just did, I find it interesting that when the clash with ‘the beast’ and his ya-hoos, it only says ‘together they make war. But the beast is captured…..’

Zip! Bang! Boom! Bif! He wins! Jesus brushes his hands and calmly goes about the business of ruling his glory-lit Kingdom.

Holy Savior! What more of a Superhero does anyone need?

(Photo of our favorite earthly grand-super guy, Bat Bren!)

Proclaming 2013 ‘The Year of the Mental Pause’

Twelve years ago today, after a death defying hysterectomy, my surgeon told me, “I left an ovary. It looks healthy and should have a good 10-15 years left on it.” After having my insides rotated and my oil changed with 2 pints added, I have been zooming down life’s road without a care. (see The Day That Almost Did Me In)

Well, the test of time has proven the good doctor correct. Of course, I knew he would be. I put my confidence in a guy who could not only wrangle a renegade artery rupturing, but could diagnose which was the best cow to cut from a herd of pesky bovines. But, I guess I figured the clock wouldn’t gallop faster than a runaway steer.

While I have only heard rumors of the joy of hot flashes, here is what has started popping up somewhere between becoming a grandma and the half-century birthday.

1. My rememberory delights in going on vacation. I can’t remember the stupidest little things, like the person’s name I just met. Or wait, did I actually meet someone new, or was that someone already I knew, but can’t place how I knew them? And did I put them in the refrigerator, where I left my keys last night?

2. Weird stuff is going on with my hair. I can handle the really , really ‘blonde’ hair coming in at my temples, and look forward to that promised ‘crown of splendor’ that the Bible promises of a life well lived. Besides I like the idea of matching my prematurely gray husband, and I figure I’ve earned every single one of them. But what is with the texture? It’s doing a bristly curl thing I don’t know how to deal with.

3. Which brings up the attack of blotches and Sahara Desert skin. The ghost of wonderful Kansas sunburns past are coming back to haunt me and leaving me a connect-the-dot motif no concealer is prepared to cover.

4. Panicking and over-thinking the littlest insignificant things. Yes, Miss Go-With-The Flow has turned into Battan-Down-Every-Hatch-and-Some-That-Have-Yet-To-Be-Built Crazy Woman. ‘Quit wringing your hands! Just make a decision already and move!’ is the pep talk I use to bust up the Anxiety Party. (I swore I’d never be that prancing in place gal.)

Most of these things have been taken care of with vitamins I’m sure were touched by the hand of God just for me—except for the beauty issues and I have a whole cabinet of stuff for that.

But there is one symptom that makes me just want to bawl and bawl and not stop bawling.–the flood of tears. My stars I have to up my fluid intake to keep from dehydrating,, and rumor has it that the Dollar General in town had to increase their shipments of Little Travelers tissue packets.

I’ve always been a soggy one and a sucker for those old Folgers Coffee Christmas commercials. The brother coming home to surprise his family for Christmas got me every time. From being banned from watching Lassie when I was young to getting misty as an adult watching Bambi and Beauty and the Beast, no one in my family is shocked that Mom is sniffing in the dark. When I went into bellowing sobs during the grown-up Peter Pan movie, Hook, because I was convinced I had lost my imagination along with Peter, ok, my family did want to lock me up on that one.

But now it is worse than the holiday special of Call the Midwife. I have no control whatsoever of when the rainclouds will descend. That’s what makes me mad. There are times I feel it crucial that I have to have it together. Like in front of a crowd or a few times on radio when my throat got thick and warned me not to push the weak spot in the dam. And in my stubbornness, I convince myself I could shove it away. Wrong.

Or when I am so mad and want to get my point across. Gusher time. Or life’s big events like graduations and weddings. I know I’ll get teary, but will I go into rafter shaking sobs? Or sometimes for no clear reason at all, but usually it is in front of half the world and everyone want to know ‘what’s wrong.’. Which makes me as mad as when my kids snicker and say ‘Mom’s doing the menopause thing again.’ And if you see me with my hair smoking and looking charred with a nervous tick, it’s because I can’t write for long on the computer without risking electrocution. Not handy when trying to polish up a novel for submission.

A friend told me that when she was going through this a guy reminded her of a bible verse. “You know, Jesus wept. But it does not say ‘he wept and wept and wept.” Fortunately, she thought it was funny. I did, too, but now, I would have hit him. Hard.

To me, tears carry the definition of weakness. And whose life has had a lot of room for that luxury? Maybe you are like me and is the one who takes the dog to be put to sleep? Or have you had to go where angels feared to tread with family or a dear friend? Have you had to be the protector, provider, or parent to those you never dreamed of being in that role for? Or have you had great loss? Or times you don’t know what is wrong, but it feels like something is trying to crawl out of you? I’m sure you can add volumes to this severely incomplete list.

It’s okay. You are not alone, and every tear shed is of value to the Lord. Psalm 56:8 says “You have kept count of my tossings. Put my tears in a bottle. Are they not in your book?’ Oh, they are of great value for those humble tears glorify the Lord, and he records each one. Can you imagine the bottle of the woman who wet Jesus’s feet with the offering from her tear ducts? Yes, God gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6)

Enough grace to get us through the moment, the day, and 2013.

Hmmm…..As weepy as I’ve been lately, I have to wonder how big of bottle does God have handy?

Cruising With Jesus and Why My Dad Would Have Scobbed My Knob

NativityDear Dad,

Confession time.  The only reason I’m doing this 34 years later is you are hampered by a broken neck, and I have a slight chance of out running you for once.

One of the reasons I am such a rule follower is I knew better than to tangle with you.  Due to the Great-Hang-Up-Your-Towel-Young-Lady-Incident-of-1964, you got your point across.  Nor, having my milk and cookies taken away in kindergarten, because Romy talked me into doing a big flairing ‘Amen’ to the God is Great prayer, I wasn’t to mess with God either.  I behaved in high school, and hid in the bushes at a Senior Party because I knew, I knew, I knew you’d find out and the crime would not be worth the fall-out.  I was the kid that always said, “But, we’ll get in trouble…”

To this day, I can’t remember whose idea it was, or even who all conspired in the plot.  Weird, since I have an uncanny memory of bygone days, but can’t remember where my cell phone is at this moment. Maybe it was due to the blinding flood of adrenaline of the most scandalous and adventurous thing we could cook up in my sleepy hometown of 706 folk.

We took Jesus cruising.

You know the one out of the Methodist Church nativity scene?  The really, really white one with the brown plastic curl on the top of his head?  But, we had good reason!

“He looked cold and bored,” and “Mary probably needs a break,” we rationalized.  Yes, we were ultra creative to be the first ones attempting this and sure no law against Jesus nappingon the books, still, in Protection, Kansas, this was destined to be a capital offense.

But, we were not the best criminals, for we could not keep Him to ourselves.  Oh no!  Someone found a flashlight, and as we dragged Broadway, He glowed his light that whole mile down and back to oncoming motorists.

And, Dad, it was worth it!

Yes, I know our motives were not pure, but I assure you we were reverent. How could we not be? We were riding up close and personal with the Holy—even in plastic form. Yes, there was something special that noordinary doll could replicate. We cradled and rocked him, afterwards tenderly laying Him back in the manger. Make no mistake; it was a defining event.

And we never did it again.

(Rest assured, being a student of your parenting, if I had caught wind that my little pagans had done something like this, I would have scobbed their knobs, too!  Can you imagine the buzz of coffee crowd at Don’s Café, if we’d gotten caught?)

Yep, that’s it.  I hope that new pacemaker handled the shock okay—maybe more so that I truly was a pretty good kid, if this is a big confession for me.

What amazes me about that crazy caper is God used it to do a little parenting of his own. He taught me that my purpose is not to keep Jesus in the manger. He doesn’t belong there anymore. Can you find a bible story where he scrunched back in it?  Me, either.

Through the years, unexpected reactions concerning Jesus have consistently landed in my lap, whether through truth I’ve shared on radio, in the everyday, and even on some of these blogposts.  And every day, opposition heats up even more.  Lately, I can’t believe the snarky comments because of my Star of David and the Cross necklace. Really.

But with each remark God tenderly opens a door for that person, even if it’s only a crack, so Christ’s light can burst through the angry darkness.

Dad, thanks for teaching me to be a rule-follower, but even more so, that Christ is worth the risk of getting into what the world sees as trouble, so someone else doesn’t miss out on this wonderful and eternal gift He freely gave.

To him, we were worth the cost.

Love ya, Dad~Kel

(My goodness, there are so many great verses I could use with this post.  Here is one of a whole Bible full!)

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Cor 15:58.

A Jesus Conversation with a Future Malibruize Barbie.

Her bull dozer attitude was backed up by a frame that predicted her future in Roller Derby with the name Malibruize Barbie.   Peppermint Patty with a Mixed Martial Arts personality. 

So, let’s call this member of the Lollipop Guild that.  Patty. 

Patty is a regular after-school church kid.  On this Vacation Bible School evening she was on a mission.  Her medium brown hairline cow lick bobbed as she stomped through the hallway, her flowered cotton dress awkwardly flapping .  A nervous worker handed her off to me, and I scooted her in the bathroom.

Before leaving, I re-routed her escape plan to include washing her hands.  Her  milk chocolate-colored eyes questioned me in the mirror as she squished the hand soap button continually.

“Why are you always here?” she interrogated.

“Well, I like helping kids learn about Jesus.”

She looked down at her slickery hands, slathering the lather up her forearms, sliding over the elbows, up to her arm pits, lost in thought.

Well, I just don’t care much for Jesus.”

What? My gut twinged in quivers of shock.  Once introduced, doesn’t every little kid love Jesus?  What is this child doing at Bible School? She’s in the easy age crowd.  Sing some old faithful songs, sit her on your lap as you tell a Bible story, and goop up a popsicle cross with some pony beads and felt.  As long as she keeps coming in the door, she should be good until Jr. High.  

Not that we don’t take our jobs seriously.  Eternal life is at stake and a great priviledge to be entrusted with them.  We take their faces home with us every night and pray for them.  For one to not care ‘much for Jesus’ at this age, is stunningly unusual.

Patty’s reflection gazed back at me, waiting for a reaction. 

And immediately, those thoughts flew into the great beyond, right along with this year’s airplane theme.   Feelings of inadequacy crashed my confidence, and guilt radioed a May Day to my inner evangelism responsibility.  

“Now,” she continued, “I’ll talk to you about God….”

Whew!  At starting point.  Holy Spirit swooped to the rescue.

Quicker on my feet than normal, I responded.  “Oh, Patty, I have good news for you!  Jesus is God’s son, so it’s like they are tied together.  I bet you’ll learn more about him tonight, and my guess is, you’re going to like him.  He’s my very best friend.”

A skeptical expression wrinkled her face, making her eyes narrow.  “Ok,” she puffed. “I suppose I can learn about Jesus tonight.”  Out the door, her grubby pink flip-flops trudged, sans any excitement.  I followed, picking up her trail of cast off paper towels.

Later in the basement, I watched a story scene play out.  A master storyteller cradled the attention of 4 year olds to 6th graders in his skilled palm.  Vivid scenes of what Jesus had sacrificed for them, played out in real time to total silence.  The love of Christ demonstrated itself as it wrapped around their hearts.

Which made me ask, why do I occasionally get so creeped out when a door opens to share Jesus to an unexpected person?  Or sometimes even  get defensive?   When someone spouts off “I really don’t care for Jesus,”–or something stronger–, why don’t I simply ask “why?” and then listen.  And love.

God will provide the starting point, orchestrate the follow-up, and already knows the ending.  I’m simply a tool–pun sort of intended. 🙂 

“Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not because of our works, but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.  2 Timothy 1:9