Wednesday, October 29, 2008

WALKING BUDDIES: Part 17 - Walking Stick - October 25, 2008

While deep sea diving in the caverns of my mind, I momentarily surface to scan the sky for a word that eludes my grasp. I’m writing about God’s Walking Buddies and balanced on the fence rail, not ten feet from me, is a walking stick. I rarely get a glimpse of these introverted creatures, but this is the second one I’ve seen in a week’s time.

I rise quietly from my chair, not wanting to send her skittering off, but I need not worry. Assuming the classic stance of a walking stick, she is frozen in time, an elongated, low lying statue without stature. I pull up a chair in slow motion and perch beside her, admiring her jointed limbs, delicate feet, sweeping antennae, and twiggy figure.

As I lose myself in her presence, awareness wells up in me and bubbles out in a smile and giggle of recognition. Waiting patiently for me to notice her is God’s “National Geographic” star among walking buddies. I’m energized, excited, and feel all silly inside over this quirky gift. God has given me spiders, mosquitoes, and lightening bugs, but a walking stick—how clever is that?

When Twiggy finally lifts her pencil-lead thin legs, I notice that she is minus her own right “walking stick.” Wonder of wonders, a walking stick can regenerate an appendage. There’s even a rumor afoot that, if beheaded, a “Carausuis” (Twiggy’s swanky scientific name) can reincarnate its head and reconnect it with its body. Alas, the nerve cord cannot reconnect, so I think that means Twiggy would essentially be rendered brainless.

In spite of her handicap, Twiggy motivates quite well and I follow her progress as she struts across the fence rail and scales effortlessly up a brick wall. I position myself in her path and she traverses my pant leg, ascends my torso, and tickles—EEK!—my neck with her “toes”.

Lest she inadvertently take a nose dive under my blouse, I delicately usher her to a nearby bush where she clambers up one stem and down another, teetering on the tips of twigs, the girth of which is similar to her own. Not deterred by dead ends, Twiggy shifts into reverse and inches her way back down the route she came to locate a safer pathway. This unassuming aerialist dangles capriciously while the wind whips the bow at will. Being a klutz from birth and afraid of heights, I really admire this about her.

Do you ever feel “up a stem without a walking stick”? I sure do. While the journey into difficulties is often a breeze, backing out of sticky situations is arduous. When I dangle over danger, the winds of worry whipping me into a frenzy, I need to lean on my Divine Walking Stick for stability and guidance.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He shall direct your paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Changes at the Herald Bulletin

Well, I knew that the ride couldn't last forever. It's been a really fun ride, too. But, I learned recently that The Herald Bulletin, my hometown newspaper, plans to change its format. In an attempt to attrack more readers, the decision has been made to make changes to my column -- or should I say, the Saturday morning "religious column."

"Readers are wanting shorter articles and more variety," I'm told. So, at a yet to be determined point in the future, I will be sharing my column with three other writers. This means that I will only be writing once a month. And my word count is dropping from 500-700 words (and I always finish at about 699 words) to 500 words.

It feels as if my space is being invaded! This has been MY column and now three other writers will be invited to set up camp in my domain. My Mama always told me to share, but sharing a toy or a pizza is my idea of sharing. Surely she didn't mean that I should have to share my writing space.

Mom had a column for several years in a small Christian newspaper and when the paper closed, her gig was up. I should be grateful that at least my gig isn't completely up. I wish that she were still alive so I could moan to her--she would understand my possessiveness and disappointment. Mom would also tell me that God has other plans for me and she would promise to pray for me.

Thanks, Mom. I'll try to remember that.

WALKING BUDDIES: Part 16 - "How I Met Your Mother"- October 17, 2008

Based on Genesis 24

My junior year in college, a friend insisted on fixing me up with her fiancĂ©’s roommate. I’d given up on blind dates and vowed this would be my last. My Camaro-driving date was really cute. Okay, so I was shallow, but who isn’t at twenty?

I find it hilarious that my eye doctor husband met his wife on a blind date. Move over well intentioned family and friends; is the matchmaker of the 21st Century.

Eons ago, Abraham devised a way to find a wife for his son, Isaac—but there’s someone better suited to tell the story than I am:

“Mommy, tell us again how you met Daddy!”

“Oh, Jacob, I’ve told you this story so many times…”

“Come on Mama! Tell us again! P-L-E-A-S-E!”

“Pipe down Esau... Well, when I was a girl, I had a most interesting encounter with a stranger when I went to the spring to fetch water. He asked me to…”

“Not that part. Skip to the really good part—when you and Daddy met.”

“Yeah, Mom, stop—what’s that word you say to me all the time—stop prograssinating!”

“Well, the man journeyed many days in search of a bride for the son of Abraham, your great-grandfather’s brother. He was adamant that I was the very woman he was looking for. And do you boys know why?”

“Cuz he prayed to God that a girl would come to the spring…”

“…and he would ask for a drink and she’d give ‘em one…”

“…and give all his camels drinks too and she’d be the one…

“…and that was you, Mama...”

“…and we’re STILLwaitin’ for the good part.”

“You do deserve an answer—but you’ll have to wait until next week’s episode to hear the rest of the story.



“Oh, all right… Perhaps I should have been scared to marry someone I didn’t know, and to move so far away from my home and family, but I felt God calling me. After many days journey…

“Oh, look, Mommy--Daddy’s home!

“Isaac, why don’t you tell the twins the rest of the story?”

“Well, boys, I was out in a field one evening, walking and talking with God, and I saw a caravan approaching. As the camels drew near, I saw the most amazing woman sitting atop the lead camel. ‘Could this be the woman my father sent for to be my wife?’ I wondered. And there I was, all dusty and sweaty, about to meet my wife!”

“Your daddy was so handsome and rode a really cool BC-Camel!”

“Your mommy was so hot… er, I mean, so gorgeous!”

“They say that love is blind, but it truly was love at first sight.”

“And that, kids, is how I met your mother.”

“Oh, Isaac!”

“Oh, Rebekah!”




Our Divine Matchmaker longs to match us with the right partner, career, home, etc. Like Rebekah and Isaac, may we be open to God’s leading.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

WALKING BUDDIES: Part 15 - Walking in Circles - October 4, 2008

Recently I had microfracture surgery on my left knee, which I’m told will buy me a few years until I need a knee replacement. Prosthetics will be the status symbol of the Baby Boomer generation. My gift to myself on retirement will be a trip—to the orthopedic clinic for an upgrade of parts.

It’s not just golden girls and guys sporting state-of-the-art titanium upgrades; people of all ages need limbs and joints. In fact, animals are being fitted with prostheses. Several years ago, Allison, a five-inch Atlantic green sea turtle washed ashore on the coast of Texas. This little gal was missing three flippers and could only swim in circles, counterclockwise.

Against great odds, Sea Turtles Inc., a rescue organization in Texas, nursed Allison back to health on a regimen of TLC, antibiotics, and a force-fed diet of squid (you’d have to force-feed me, too, to get me to eat squid). Dr. Sudarat Kiat-amnuay* is designing a prosthetic flipper that will attach to a bony stump on Allison’s left rear side.

I recently viewed a u-tube video of a hatchling sea turtle making its way from its nest, across a stretch of beach, to the ocean, an arduous, danger-fraught journey for such a little one. Did Allison make this trek with only one fin, or was she injured by a predator in the water? How did she survive in the churning ocean waves?

Doesn’t Allison’s story just make you weep with awe and wonder? Okay, so I’m the only one weeping into my whole-grain cereal (no squid or squid byproducts—I checked the ingredients list). Allison’s incredible journey is truly miraculous.

Sometimes I feel like I’m swimming in circles, getting nowhere. This brings to mind an image of a penned up Shetland sheep dog spinning in circles, yipping and yapping ad infinitum. When I feel helpless, incapable, lost, I’m an Allison. When I’m crazed with fear or frustration, or rebelling against my circumstances, I’m that spinning sheep herder.

Life’s journey—including our spiritual journey—occasionally takes us for a dizzying spin, like getting caught in the traffic circling Monument Circle in Indianapolis, unable to exit the post-game or rush hour rat race. We feel trapped, clueless, our anxiety and frustration mounting. We go around in circles creating ruts in our lives, our relationships, our jobs.

What keeps us stuck in those ruts? Fear of change, rejection, failure; unmovable attitudes and perceptions that we cling to like a ravenous predator clings to its prey; a lack of insight, foresight, and an inability or unwillingness to learn from hindsight; laziness, stubbornness, prejudice, pride; depression, anxiety, unhealed emotional wounds from our past…

We can continue going around in circles, handicapped and disabled by swimming with only one fin, or we can strap on some additional limbs that will enable us to live effectively. Spiritually speaking, I suggest that those limbs are Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Author, Paul Young, paints an arresting picture of the Trinity in "The Shack," a very popular, yet controversial book. Paul’s wife encouraged him to write a book for their children to help them understand and learn from their father’s painful past and journey toward wholeness. So he wrote an allegory in which Mac, a depressed and grieving man, has a remarkable and life-changing encounter with the Triune God.

We are all wounded and lost, sometimes swimming in circles or embedded in rigid ruts. Paul and Mac strapped on the limbs of grace available only from Trinity, Inc. Both Paul and Mac were swimming counterclockwise to God’s will, hopelessly lost in shark infested waters. What sharks circle you—a painful past, regrets over poor choices, a belief that God can’t possibly love you, forgive you, walk with you?

The rescue boat is close at hand. The life preserver has been flung your way. Do you continue to flail or relax and float in faith? Stretch out your stubs and allow Father, Son and Holy Spirit to strap themselves on.

“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you.”
Psalm 55:22 NIV

*Dr. Sudarat Kiat-amnuay is an assistant professor in Restorative Dentistry, University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston.