Monday, July 23, 2012

My Job

I am slowly stepping back into the blogging world and I gotta say, it's all good. I have been so absent from this thing I love the past year and I have missed it a crazy amount of much. I haven't written much of anything. That makes me sad. 

Paul and I are still very much involved in the youth ministry at our church. We have been blessed beyond measure and God has added roughly 15 new kids to our family. Thankfully our house usually holds them. Sometimes it's bodies everywhere, but that's okay. No one has complained yet. We're also swiftly outgrowing our room at the church and again, it's sometimes wall-to-wall bodies, but it will be okay. We'll get a new room when it's time. In the meantime, we just encourage the use of deodorant. 

Being in a ministry position we are virtually always under scrutiny. We are held to a higher standard in the eyes of the church simply because we have been entrusted with some pretty amazing students and funny, they don't want them all messed up and stuff. We have to try really hard to do the right thing, give the right words and set a good example. 

I am by no means a perfect person and my walk with God sometimes is a little more of a crooked stagger through the woods than a peaceful walk down the smooth road with Disney-esque woodland creatures frollicking and bursting into song. He never promised me - or any of us - perfection here on earth; He only promised us His love. Unconditional, undying, perfect Love. I do the best I can to live the way He wants me to and I think God appreciates my efforts. Ephesians 2:10 tells us we are His masterpiece and if He can view me in all my sin and imperfection as a masterpiece, I take value in that and just give it my best. I'm not always going to hit the mark. He knows that. I know that. It's a process. 

 As a teen I learned the phrase "Judge not, lest ye be judged." It was something thrown around by my peers when someone picked out their behavior and either got nasty and made it public or just decided to give a scathing opinion of one's previous weekend adventures or whatever someone deemed as inappropriate behavior or unacceptable acts. It was largely situational and mostly used as a retort. And let's be honest, teenagers judge. They are big-time egocentric and can justify virtually any behavior.......oh wait. 

That's not just teenagers. We all do it. We shouldn't. 

I like the way "The Message" translates Matthew 7:1. It is just plain and simple and it really speaks to me: 

"Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment."


 It's so easy to sit back and rain down judgment from our lofty heights when in all honesty, we have absolutely no idea what someone else is going through. 

Last night on Facebook I happened to catch a passive-aggressive comment on a friend's wall and because Facebook has made us all nosy stalkers, I went a'searching for what prompted the comment. Turns out, it was about Chick-fil-A. I do love me some Chick-fil-A. 


But it sent me on a Googling frenzy, trying to find out as much as I could about the chicken gurus who have my heart and my taste buds firmly in their grasp. Turns out, Dan Cathy, the president and COO of the company, made a comment about what a family "should" be and then everyone went all crazy with the judging. 

Now, don't leave me right here to go start formulating your scathing comment. Hear me out. 

I haven't requested a copy of Chick-fil-A's financials for the past 66 years, but from what I've read on the innerwebs, Chick-fil-A sends money to organizations that promote families. Traditional ones. Not "Suzy has two mommies" kind of families. Some folks on the internet view these organizations as anti-homosexual. Some view them as simply pro-traditional. I don't know anything about the alleged organizations' credos, values or programs. I also don't care. I'm not judging Chick-fil-A or Dan Cathy. 

I'm also not judging Suzy for having two mommies. 

Nor am I judging Suzy's two mommies. 

It clearly states in my Facebook profile that I am a "Southern Baptist, but the nonjudgmental kind" and I'm sticking to that. I attend a Southern Baptist church and am in student ministry in a Southern Baptist church, but folks, I am not here to judge you. Technically, I shouldn't and so, I won't. 

The Christian music group Casting Crowns has a song out right now on the airwaves entitled "Jesus, Friend of Sinners" and that song has nudged me from the first time I heard it. And by "nudged" I mean "it whacked me upside the head with a big ol' 2x4. 

"Jesus, Friend of sinners, the One whose writing in the sand, made the righteous turn away and the stones fall from their hands. Help us to remember....we are all the least of these. Let the memory of Your mercy bring Your people to their knees." 

"The least of these"? Like maybe....I dunno......sinners? A sinner? Like ...... ME? Because, guess what -- we're all sinners. 

John 8 tells the story of Jesus' writing in the sand. The Pharisees brought a woman caught in the act of adultery to Jesus and, while trying to trap Him into making a mistake, asked Him what should be done to her. Jewish law said they had to kill her by throwing rocks at her until she died. It was a very violent, personal form of execution. Jesus stooped down, wrote something in the dirt (we don't know what, the Bible doesn't say) and then stood to tell them all that the perfect ones could throw the first stones at her. He stooped to write in the dirt once more and when He stood up....funny, they had all gone away. Jesus asked the woman where they were and who condemned her. She replied, "No one."He said, "Neither do I."

It is not up to me to decide what is a perfect family. Or a perfect life. Good grief, sometimes I have trouble deciding what to fix for dinner, so why should I be allowed to decide anything about someone else's life? I can't. I won't. I'm not God. We will all stand before Him one day and be judged. I can't say I'm looking forward to that because, well.....I'm a sinner. It's my nature to sin. So why not just leave the judging to Him in His due time and in the meantime just love on everyone? If there was less judging and more loving, imagine what the world would be like.... 

I know, I know. Let's serve some wine to go with all the cheesiness. 

Seriously, though. My God is a God of love. Not hate. Westboro Baptist spews forth venomous hatred for those who don't conform to their skewed version of "religion". Regular people just trying to get through life think that is Christianity. The pro-life people blow up abortion clinics. The pro-choice people call the pro-life people bad names like "zealots" and "religious nutjobs". Chick-fil-A only recognizes daddy-mommy-2.4 children families.The folks in favor of gay marriage boycott Chick-fil-A.Divorcees are destined to hellfire and brimstone according to billboards up and down I-44 into Missouri. A woman without custody of her children is seen as a bad mother. Folks seen going into the liquor store, bar or casino on Saturday are looked down upon when they walk through the church doors, maybe in search of love and acceptance and a place they feel welcomed. The pregnant teenager is automatically a slut. A fat person is automatically dirty and lazy. A homeless person is deemed a drug addict. 

What happened to grace? Mercy? ........................ or what about love? 

The above-mentioned "Jesus, Friend of Sinners" also has a line that resounds through my head almost continually and has even louder since I started reading the Chick-fil-A stuff:

"Nobody knows what we're for, only what we're against when we judge the wounded. But if we put down the signs, cross over the line and love like You did..." 

Does anyone know or care what Dan Cathy is for? Or only what he is against? Right now, it would seem they only want to focus on the negative. He's probably a really okay guy. But he might punch kitten as a hobby. But see? I don't know him and I can't judge him. 

This girl has it down. She is quite a young lady. 

I am tired of seeing those I love judged, those I don't know judged or being judged myself. And please don't misinterpret my post today: I am not perfect. As a human, I find myself lapsing into judgment. It's that pesky sin thing. 

How many of us have hit the lock button on the car door when we stop at a stop light and see a man holding a cardboard that says, "Out of Work - Need Help". I've done it. You might have, too. Or maybe we give a disproving look to the woman taking a long time in the checkout lane because she has WIC vouchers or a food stamp card. Perhaps that exhausted mother with the young toddler currently throwing a humdinger of a fit in Walmart could really just use a word of encouragement rather than a look of judgment at her mothering skills. I want to be the person that gives that needed help, that smile, that encouragement. I'm trying. I want so badly to just love 'em like God does. Everyone. 

It's not my job to judge you, but it is my job to love you. And I'm taking my job seriously. I'm dropping my stones. I don't want to throw them. I can't. 

"Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbor's face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, 'Let me wash your face for you,' when your own face is distorted by contempt? It's this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor." ~~ Matthew 7:1-5 (The Message)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Dealin' for Some Wheels

Back in September of last year I wrote a post about our desperate need for a new van. Well, apparently it wasn't so "desperate" because it took us 10 months to take the plunge.

Yes, we finally bought a new-to-us van.


Oh, don't get me wrong - it's lovely! Seriously, very lovely. I just hate change.

I had become quite attached to my Inferno Red van with a dent in the back and the fact it wore that coating of red dirt like a champ. I was used to the noise the heater vents made, the fact that the perfect setting on the AC no longer worked so you either blasted it on "Arctic" or "Not Quite Enough to Keep Me From Sweating" and the fact that the passenger side front door lock only worked about 34% of the time. I was very recognizable in my red van. I liked the sense of persona it gave me. And apparently, so did all of Ottawa County because now....NO ONE KNOWS ME. I honk and wave and people are like, "Oh, great, some crazy is waving at me again." I like being recognized. Let's face it, I'm kind of curmudgeonly most of the time, so if I decide to be friendly enough to wave at you, I'd like to be recognized for doing it.

My own mother still doesn't register that it's me when I drive into her driveway.

We're still waiting on a title (giant red tape issue with the car lot and the previous lien holder), so right now I'm still sporting what appears to be no tag at all (the dealer tag is on the inside and the back window is so tinted it's un-seeable) (which, as a side note, makes me appear to be a soccer-mom-van-driving methamphetamine dealer) (which, now that I think about it, may be why no one recognizes me when I wave....apparently I am driving the far less cool version of the Batmobile). I think once I get my RDNKDVA vanity plate back in place I'll be a little more recognizable -- at least to those behind me.

 This was our very first experience paying cash for a vehicle. We are bigtime Dave Ramsey fans and agree that car debt is unacceptable debt. We have been debt-free for many, many moons now and had no intention of changing that. We had a budget in our heads (actually, we had cash in our hands) and knew what we wanted. We also knew, that the right vehicle was out there - we just hand to find her. We were armed with Dave's advice to flash the cash and let the power take hold. We soon learned that the power of cash is better utilized at small, mom and pop car lots. Big dealerships don't like cash sales because they make no money on the financing. The flashing of the cash bit us on the hiney a few times before we learned this and just kept our mouths shut.

We really like the size of a mini-van, but the fact they sit so low to the ground is an issue out here in our seldom-graded dirt road. We considered going up to an SUV, but would lose the gas mileage a van gave us. Paul scoured the internets for the perfect vehicle, sometimes staying up to 2am on his quest. (He's a bit obsessive, bless his heart.) I am a very literal person and seeing a vehicle in a picture just doesn't do it for me. He would research and research and then show me a picture and then want to punch a baby when I'd say, "Okay, cool, let's go look at it in person." It meant nothing to me in that flat picture on the screen. I want to look, feel, touch, smell, etc. Yeah, I'm weird.

Our first visit was to the Chevy dealership in town. He had a Town & Country van, but wanted nearly $30k for it. He had a Yukon, but it had $150k miles. He had a b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l Suburban that had e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g we wanted, though. We drove it. We loved it. We wanted it. He let us take it overnight.

We never got it to register over 10.1 mpg.

Yeah. That wasn't cool.

After arguing with another salesman over the fact that the GMAC website said we'd get 18 mpg and I repeatedly told him, "Okay, prove it. Show me. Make it happen on the dashboard readout and we will buy this vehicle today," we bid adieu to the beautiful behemoth and moved on.

A dealership website in Kansas showed a pretty Inferno Red Town & Country on their website. Paul called them and asked if it was on THAT LOT and they assured him it was. He made an appointment for us to see it at 2pm. At 1:45 we arrived at the lot to find that the van was not there, was on its way down from Kansas City and would be there by 5pm. We didn't have that much time and the next week was church camp, but we said we'd be back the following Saturday. We called the next Friday only to be told that the vehicle still hadn't made it to the lot (funny...I guess I had a different idea in my head as to what "ON THE WAY" means...), but would be there the next morning. We called the next morning. Still wasn't there. We told them to sell that van to someone else because apparently if they couldn't even give us a straight story on the whereabouts of the vehicle, we were pretty sure they wouldn't give us a straight story on anything else.

I was angry.

Paul was frustrated.

We ended up at a Kia dealership that afternoon. We told him our budget and what we wanted out of our van. He showed us a lovely Borrego and assured us the price was in our range and hey, it was the last day of the month and his boss was in a dealing mood. We drove it. We loved it. We wanted it.

He went to his good-natured, wheeling and dealing boss and came back with a "deal" of $19,500. I laughed. Loudly and borderline manically. I thought Paul was going to break a tooth or seven because his jaw was so clenched. I then told the salesman he was insulting and had wasted two hours of our time and that he could take his Borrego and his "deal" and just sit on it. We walked out. Mad. Then the guy called me three times a day for the next week. He was skeevy.

The next day Paul found a Chrysler Pacifica and a Town & Country at a dealership in Aurora, MO, an hour and a half from home. Both had decent miles and the price was right. The Pacifica sold within hours of him finding it, but the T&C remained. He spoke to a salesman, got a few more details, told him we'd be up there the next day and then we prayed. He took off work early and we gathered up our three kids, my niece and nephew and headed for the Show Me State. We drove it. We loved it. The passenger sliding door didn't work quite right. We addressed that. The salesman offered to fix it, but it might take two weeks. We told him we'd take it off the lot right then, the way it was, for a discount. He talked to his mechanic. He knocked $1000 off. We wheeled. We dealed. We offered. he counter-offered, Paul was enjoying the game, my blood pressure was nearly at stroke range.

But we got it. Paid cash. That felt really awesome.

It has leather, Stow & Go seats, a six-disc DVD player (we drove to Tulsa on Tuesday to The Aristocats and ran errands yesterday to Tangled), an on-board navigation system (that is nowhere as user-friendly as the Garman) and is a lovely mix of Cornflower and Sapphire blue. She rides like buttah, y'all.

And she wears that fine coating of red dirt pretty well. For a city girl.

Monday, July 09, 2012

An Interesting Conversation

This morning I had Bug, Sam and my nephew, G, in the van, heading home from dropping the big girls off at summer *scrapbooking/chastity training.

As we were driving we met a car where the driver was obviously texting. I said that statement aloud and added, "Or else he was just really studying his crotch." As is pretty typical with 10 to 13 year old, the word "crotch" and the thought of someone studying one sent the three of them into ridiculous laughter.

As the giggling stopped, Bug, in a teeny tiny voice, said, "Well, hello there, little fella," sending everyone into fits of laughter again. G countered with, "No, no, it's 'Hey, howya doin' there, big guy?'" in a giant, deep voice. Again, laughter.

The following are other one-liners that ensued, most of them nearly causing me to get pulled over for reckless driving:

"How YOU doin'" a la Joey from "Friends"

"Haven't seen you up and around lately."

"Nice hat you're wearing."

"Nice mullet."

"Hey, did you get a haircut?"

"I didn't know you were Jewish!"

"Nice beard, dude."

"Uhm....did you know you're a penis?"

Yeah. It was quite a ride home.


*Scrapbooking/Chastity Training: The county puts on WISE UP to teach 6th graders how to make smart choices regarding sex and relationships. Our county has a really great gal that has taken it further and really invested in the girls. She stays with them past 6th grade and does a book club with them during the school year and scrapbooking in the summer. Paul and I jokingly call it "Chastity Training". Today after scrapbooking they are actually going to watch MTV's "16 and Pregnant" then meet the couple from Miami that was on the show this past season. I hope it serves as cautionary. Not glamorous. I expect them to come home depressed.

We....the people

Originally published in The Miami News-Record, July 2020 Everything is different now. I’m not just talking about masks and social distancing...