Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Be Careful What You Pray For

In retrospect, I realize I didn’t really mean what I said in that desperate prayer. 

What I was really hoping to see was a swooping deity coming to my rescue, fixing my stubborn lawn problem with a flick of his almighty green thumb completely apart from me, apart from anything that I would or could be doing. With the HOA and our relentless next door neighbor thus finally off my back, I would be able to return to living my life the way I always have. Everybody happy, everybody getting what they wanted. End of story.

Some of us are raised to believe that such is the nature of real miracles which happen to accompany real faith.  Anything short of that simply doesn’t count.

I can't pretend to be an expert on either prayer or miracles. You may say that God got me on the technicality – I indeed have said, Make me a gardener, even though what that meant to me apparently was significantly different from what it meant to God.

I guess He took me for my word and ran with it. In fact, He is still running with it. 

As they say, Be careful what you pray for. You may just get it.

Of course, hind sight being 20/20, with this twenty-ish year perspective I see how this has worked for my greater advantage.  I was asking for one thing,  but He chose to give me something far better than a quick fix, a 'Raman noodle' miracle.

Still, I realize that like Limburger cheese, some may find 'aged', 'slow cooker' miracles an acquired taste. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

It Takes a Rocket Scientist, a God and a Fool

I wasn’t aware of this until we bought our first house, but I was born with not just a brown thumb, but with all my fingers brown, both on my hands and on my feet (technically called ‘toes’).

Within the first year of the purchase we killed just about every plant on our property.  Mostly through dumb ignorance resulting in abject neglect, but during that time I also discovered that it is possible to kill by caring too much. Too much weeding, too much water, fertilizer, pesticide… you name it, we did it. We’d sunken a fortune into our front yard, only to watch it go down the drain – literally. We became known as neighborhood serial plant killers. My experience taught me that gardening is rocket science par excellence and I am not a rocket scientist.  

Still, if there was any hope for our yard, any hope at all, we needed a rocket scientist or gardener, or both.

Not a lawn mowing service that rolls around once a week, makes a lot of noise and leaves after 30 or so minutes.

And not purveyors of unsolicited gardening advice – God knows we had plenty of those but the only good they taught us was never to trust gardeners with manicured hands.

I looked closely to the right and to the left, but there was no one in sight. Finally it dawned on me that there was one thing that remained.  A long shot and rather foolish one, but at this point I had nothing to lose. So I took a deep breath and exhaled a foolish, impossible prayer.

God, you who created this world out of NOTHING, make me a gardener.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Recipe for Revival

Recently I was asked to write a piece on the topic of revival.

Revival?!!!? I can’t write about revival!, was my visceral reaction. Even I with my rich track record of foolhardy choices would think twice before blindly bumbling in where angels fear to tread.  

How do you write about the subject which is‘caught’ rather than taught? 

How do you transcribe the realm of existence where writers are like garbage pickers feeding on the scraps that fall off the ‘livers’ of life table? 

I tried to squirm my way out of it. Clearly not very successfully.

So, here I am, sitting at my desk on a rainy day writing about revival. As I look out of my window, I realize, it’s not a bad place to start.  My lawn, thoroughly saturated by torrential rains over the past several days, looks better, greener and lusher than it ever has.  I guess, one can say that it has been ‘revived’.  

If you knew the whole story, you would agree with me it truly is a miracle that it looks like this - not perfect, but pretty darn good, by my modest standards. Human, real-life good-enough good, not photo-shop, Better Homes and Gardens, Facebook good.  

This miracle, however, was long in the making. It's the kind of miracle that most people don't really care for - it's neither flashy nor instantaneous. The only miracles they believe in are the crowd-pleasing spectaculars which happen quick - like a magic trick or a drive-through burger on a squishy bun, except that you tag 'in Jesus' name' at the end of your celestial order. 

But this miracle didn't happen like that. It took many drawn out years for its wonder to unfold before our eyes.

I still remember clearly the time when our yard used to look just like our next-door neighbor’s now. 

Namely, dead. 

In sore need of revival. 

Their dried out wasteland brings fond memories of what was once our own.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Who is Taking Your Test?

Mrs. S, today I can use your help with this new computer assessment we are trying out. It's my day to help out at our kids' school, doing whatever the teacher deems most productive use of our time. There is a variety of jobs available, and this one seems easy enough. Still, she warns me,

 It’s been a bit of adjustment for all of us but we are slowly getting used to it. If you don’t mind, just monitor the process and assist the students if they get stuck.

I pull an extra chair next to the computer station and call the first name from the list. One by one, students came, type their login name and password, take the test with varying degrees of success, and are sent back to their desks with customized messages matching their final score:


Try again!

Better luck next time!

I begin to wonder what the fuss is all about when I call Jaeda’s name. She sits in front of the monitor, types her name but instead of the screen of the first page of the test, a different message is displayed.

CONGRATULATIONS! You have passed this test!
And in smaller font, a little note below,

There is no more testing available for this student at this time.

I try several times, making sure that the name and the password are typed correctly, but each time the computer comes back with the same message.

CONGRATULATIONS! You have passed this test!

Jaeda looks at me confused. She shakes her head, No, when I ask her if she has already taken the test. I call upon Mrs. D., and at first she seems as confused as we are. Then her eyes light up with sudden recognition,

I know exactly why it is doing that! In preparation for your coming I wanted to make sure that the program worked properly so I took the test, and it was in her name! I guess I already passed the test for her! There is no need for her to take it again.

We look at each other and burst into laughter. Jaeda, somewhat dazed, walks back to her desk, having a bit of trouble fully taking in her good fortune.

Nothing like having your teacher taking the test in your name – I wish they did that when I was a student…

In the echo of the laughter about the improbable exchange, I see with surprising clarity another improbable exchange that took place long ago. Today, I soak in afresh its wonder and thank the Teacher again for taking my place, and not just once, but once for all, passing the test for me.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
2 Corinthians 5:21