Life’s Little Detours

October 21, 2010 - Leave a Response

Life’s Little Detours
Luke 15: 11-24

Webster’s Dictionary defines detour as: a deviation from a direct course or the usual procedures; a roundabout way temporarily replacing part of a route.
The verb form definition: to send by a circuitous route; to avoid by going around – bypass.
My last visit to North Central Missouri, where I was born and raised was full of detours.
When my sister picked me up in Kansas City she said, “We can’t go home by way of Bethany. Hwy 136 is closed between Lucerne and Unionville. They’re detouring people through Milan. A new bridge is being put in at the west bottom of Chit Clark Hill.” (you know now, don’t you, that it is now known as Mullenix Hill? The “youngsters” don’t know it as Chit Clark Hill!—shows our age, huh?) “And I can’t take Hwy 5 out of Unionville home, the bridge north of the lake is out. They have the detour routed  to Hwy 63”.
We were staying at our aunt’s in Unionville but our main purpose for this sibling reunion was in Lucerne the actual town we grew up in to attend the first ever West Putnam all school reunion – our K-8 alma mater.
West Putnam was a small school located in the country attended by students living in the “west end” of Putnam County. The classes were small and the students, for the most part, were close knit.
This reunion was taking place during the 71st annual Lucerne Fair and Stock Show. WHAT AN INCONVENIENCE THIS DETOUR WAS for us during this time! Luckily, we were vaguely familiar (and only because it had been years since any of us had been by West Liberty Church) with the gravel roads around the detoured portion, so we didn’t have to journey the 60 or so miles out of the way.
Not always do we have that big detour sign when Life’s Little Detours cause a deviation in our journey through life.
“Why can’t I take the car to the movies with my friends? I’m NOT going to have an accident,” my daughter pleaded. My reply, “Now, do you think people who have accidents say when they get up of a morning, ‘I’m going to have an accident today! I’ll just schedule it in for oh, let’s say 2 p.m.!’”
A year or so later, when she was living with her dad, my phone rang. “Mom, I’m okay, but I rolled the car today.” There was a probably not so long pause and short silence. Tears were streaming down my face. She said she was okay, but I was four hours from her. Pretty soon she spoke, “And, no, I didn’t get up this morning and say, ‘I think I’ll have an accident today!” My tensions were eased and a prayer of thanks said.
Obviously, life’s little detours can remove us from our comfort zones. Detours have happened since, “In the beginning…”
Adam and Eve had pretty cushy lives until they ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. That choice caused a detour in their lives…
Noah’s life took a detour when God chose him to build the ark…
Moses – his life detoured when he found out his real parents’ identity, then again on the mountain when he encountered the burning bush and during the remainder of his life as he led the Israelites, he was deviated from the direct route to the promised land…
The Israelites took many detours because they constantly complained about everything. They wandered in the desert for forty years with God taking care of them every step of the way.
A virgin girl named Mary, betrothed to Joseph – their lives took a detour when they were approached by angels and given the news of the coming birth of the Christ child – and they would be His earthly parents…
Each of the disciples left their comfort zones for unknown travels with Jesus. And all He said was, “Come, follow Me.”
Our Scripture reading today is the parable we usually hear referred to as The Prodigal Son. The Message Bible has entitled it, The Lost Son”.
The Story of the Lost Son (from The Message by Eugene Peterson)
11-12Then he said, “There was once a man who had two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Father, I want right now what’s coming to me.’
12-16″So the father divided the property between them. It wasn’t long before the younger son packed his bags and left for a distant country. There, undisciplined and dissipated, he wasted everything he had. After he had gone through all his money, there was a bad famine all through that country and he began to hurt. He signed on with a citizen there who assigned him to his fields to slop the pigs. He was so hungry he would have eaten the corncobs in the pig slop, but no one would give him any.
17-20″That brought him to his senses. He said, ‘All those farmhands working for my father sit down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death. I’m going back to my father. I’ll say to him, Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand.’ He got right up and went home to his father.
20-21″When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.’
22-24″But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, ‘Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’ And they began to have a wonderful time.
Try to imagine the dialogue between the father and son. Son says, “Dad, I’m ready to be on my own. I want to see the world. I’m getting nowhere here.”
Dad’s reply, “Oh, son, there are so many things I haven’t prepared you for. You haven’t listened to some of my instruction. There’s college…there’s…”
“C’mon dad, just give me my inheritance and I’ll be on my way – to see the world. Nothing’s going to happen to me.”
Dad has misgivings about his son’s leaving home, as parents do. However, he gives his sons their inheritances and the younger lad heads out – to conquer the world.
Basically he had just told his dad to drop dad, that dad was of no use to him only the money dad could provide. In that culture, there could have been no greater insult to a father.
Now, picture the lad: There he goes down the road, probably a swagger in his step, making mental notes of hopes and dreams for a bright future – without his father. He’s speculating on his new life. His new apartment. The new friends. The feasting and partying he will do – without his father.
He doesn’t seem to be looking too far into the future. He’s doing pretty nicely as long as the money holds out. BUT, he hits a DETOUR. Before long, he runs out of money. He does the right thing by getting a job, but what an assignment – feeding slop to pigs (a very degrading job in that culture) – all the while probably thinking, “life really was good at home with the father.” Then, another DETOUR. This time, it’s out of his control. The famine over the land was not due to a choice the young man made.
There’s no food. The parable tells us even the corn cobs in the pig slop looked good, but no one would give him any.
The young man realized that his father’s servants were eating three squares a day back home. He humbled himself and returned to his father with a ready speech of how he had sinned against God and before his father.
However, the father must have been watching and waiting for his son’s return. The Scripture tells us he saw his son coming from afar off and he ran to meet his son and embraced him. No explanation was necessary.
It wasn’t until he was hungry and poor that the young man humbled himself to be able to make the decision to return to his father. The boy must have thought about all the possible consequences facing him, but his father embraced him then hosted a party in his son’s honor.
Life’s little detours can be caused by many different elements: loss of job, loss of home, child or spousal abuse, wrong turns, shootings, 9/11, mines collapsing, extreme weather conditions, earthquakes, deaths of loved ones, health crises, divorce, flat tires, roads closed, injuries, etc. etc.
They can stop us in our tracks. In our earthly minds, these things make no sense. We can ponder why, but only God knows. Only God can see the big picture, we only see the here and now.
The nation came together and prayed following the attacks of 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, Midwest flooding, and other known disasters. Twenty-three years ago, many of us sat in front of our televisions praying for the safe rescue of a little girl we only knew as Baby Jessica, who was being removed from a well she had fallen into.
Last week, we prayed for the safe recovery of thirty-three Chilean miners.
All of these  – detours affecting the lives of many people.
We can just be walking down the path of life, soaking in the sun, smelling the flowers, thinking how wonderful life is. When it seems like everything is coming up roses, we can hit a roadblock, sending us on one of Life’s Little Detours.
The sun doesn’t seem to be shining as brightly, the flowers may have lost their fragrance, God seems very distant, OR, WE CAN CHOOSE TO RUN HOME TO THE FATHER!
Joyce, a very dear Christian sister, taught me some wonderful life’s lessons.  One of my favorite “Joyce-isms” is, “You know, no one will know how long that dust has been there as long as you don’t write the date in it!” (smile) However, one of the most valuable lesson she taught me was one day as she accompanied me to a doctor appointment. Driving the usual route, I came upon a road closed and a detour down a road I had never traveled. Due to being so directionally challenged and the anxiety setting in, I got very nervous. We traded places so she could drive. Her eyes twinkled as she looked into mine when she patted my hand and said, “I don’t know where this scenic route will take us, but we have a full tank of gas and signs to follow. You just sit back and enjoy the ride!”
That’s how it is with Life’s Little Detours. We need to make sure our spiritual tank is on full by being “read up” and “prayed up” and in fellowship with others of a like-mind. In faith, we believe Romans 8:28 that says, “All things happen for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.” As we try to do things on our own, at times taking needless detours away from our Heavenly Father, He waits for us to find our way back to Him. Gently calling to guide us home.
Two neighboring farmers, Smith and Jones, visited each other on a regular basis. Smith had a dog that hated cats and Jones had a cat that loved to chase dogs. Whenever Smith would visit Jones his dog would tag along. As soon as they arrived, the dog and cat would be off. The cat would fly at top speed around the house with the dog on his tail. As they would come around the corner of the house, the cat would make a flying leap and escape up a big maple tree. After a few years, Jones had to cut down the tree. A couple of days later, Smith and his dog came for a visit. The dog and cat took off. Out from around the house came the cat, the dog on his tail…DETOUR…the cat was 30 feet in the air before he realized something was amiss…(a story I read somewhere, retold in my owns words)   Sometimes, Life’s Little Detours cause us to be: “at the end of our rope”, “down to our last dime”, “up the creek without a paddle” or “in the air without a net” BEFORE we realize we haven’t asked Jesus to make the trip with us.
He patiently waits until we head on home to His loving embrace full of mercy and grace. He waits as we adjust to Life’s Little Detours, catching us if we fall, carrying us if we can’t stand on our own two feet.
It is comforting to know that no matter which of Life’s Little Detours looms, we can run to the Father and He’ll meet us. He loves us so very much and there is no detour too big or too small for Him to handle.
My prayer for you: Merciful Father, thank You for loving us so much You sent Your Son that we might have eternal life with You – no matter how many detours we take along our journey. Guide and direct us, Lord. In Jesus Name. Amen.

CHOSEN

May 16, 2010 - One Response

Nearly two decades ago, a young woman paced her livingroom in darkness; fists clenched so tightly the palms of her hands had begun to bleed.  Fear, worry, depression, anxiety were foremost on her mind as she paced quickly from one side of the room to the other during the midnight hour. She felt alone and lonely.

A scenario kept playing through her mind in which her husband would come home, find her in this state, commit her to an institution and take away her children.  She felt there was nothing left to do but take ALL of the antidepressants the doctor had prescribed the day before.  She would then be cured of the pain and frustration of this life.  Some might think that, at not yet forty years old, it was a life ended too soon, but who actually would miss her?

Oh, how the enemy can attack our minds and confuse us; so easily convincing us we have no worth. We are useless forms walking the earth.

GOD however sees the BIG picture.  He knows the plans He has for us.  He formed us and knit us in our mothers’ wombs. In Him and through Him we have our being.  He is the light in our dark, bleak world.  Everything that happens to us filters first through His hands.  When we ALLOW Him to do so, He can be our Strength, our Shield, our Courage; a Refuge in the storms of life.  He is our ONLY Salvation.

John 15:16a says “You (Pat) did not choose me. I chose you(Pat) and gave you (Pat) this work to go and produce fruit, fruit that will last.

GOD CHOSE US!  EACH ONE OF US!  He doesn’t pressure us to take Him into our hearts. He doesn’t force Himself upon us.  He did not make us robots to perform at His command.  He accepts us just as we are, where we are, with what we have.  It’s after He accepts OUR invitation to be our Light and Salvation, that He begins to mold and shape us, as far as we will allow, into His will.

The young woman I was telling you about.  She thought God had left her years before.  She had made some wrong choices in life and didn’t think God could love her until she cleaned herself up.  And, she was trying.  She had started attending church regularly and taking the children.  She was basically a very kind, good and loving person. That had done her no good.  God wasn’t taking away the depression and anxiety.  He hadn’t delivered her husband or other family members from alcoholism.  God had not taken care of the financial strain.  In fact, she didn’t think He’d done much for her at all since she had started attending church again.

Feeling more hopeless and helpless than she had ever felt, she flipped on the light and illuminateded the room.  The brightness nearly overwhelmed her since she had been sitting in the dark for several hours.  She retrieved her Bible and “blew the dust” off the cover, then began searching for passages on peace.

Making her way through several passages, she soon rested on John 14:27: “My peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled nor let it be afraid.” Over and over her lips formed the words, then became a whisper.  Her voice rose louder and louder until she was shouting: MY PEACE I LEAVE WITH YOU, MY PEACE I GIVE TO YOU. NOT AS THE WORLD GIVES GIVE I UNTO YOU. LET NOT YOUR HEART BE TROUBLED NOR LET IT BE AFRAID!

She laughed, she cried tears of joy as she felt her Heavenly Father’s loving arms embracing her.  She sensed His whisper, “Now, My child, you understand. You are precious to ME.  You have GREAT worth.  You have love in your heart and a story to share!  You have children to raise, a whole life to live. I CHOSE you.

PEACE….peace like she’d never encountered before consumed her.

Since that night when she took Jesus off the shelf and dusted Him off, she has carried Him in her heart.  The depression has disappeared, the anxiety is controlled, the children are grown and have families of their own.  

God has not promised that there will never be any storms in her life.  But He has promised that He will be there for her, carrying her if  needed.  AND, as a servant of the living Christ, she is happy to be alive and thanks you for letting  her share her story with you.

What have you allowed Jesus to do for you lately? He’s patiently awaiting an invitation.

I “snapped” a towel today

July 30, 2009 - 2 Responses

It’s something I do with every towel I hang on the outside line to dry — give it a good “whip” to remove most of the wrinkles. I don’t remember ever NOT snapping my towels as I hang them to dry. It is something I watched and/or heard Mom do times too numerous to know.
Today, however, seemed to be the day I REALIZED I too snap the towels. Bittersweet are the memories of Mom at the clothesline, whether it be heated or cool days; handful of clothespins, armful of clothes, a corner of material in each hand – whip, snap, pop! then onto the line. Quick as a flash, she would repeat the maneuvers until the lines were full or all the laundry was hung out to dry.
All the while her lips would be moving in talking fashion, but her voice could not be heard. I don’t even know if she realized her lips were moving. There was so much to be accomplished, maybe she was plotting her strategy to make the most of her time…or maybe she was rehearsing a conversation she needed to have…or, could she have been singing…could it have been praises…
Now, I wish I had been brave enough to ask her.

Calling plan….

May 10, 2009 - One Response

“Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!” 

“Oh, thank you, you’re the (whichever number) to call!” 

Was it a race be the first to call with Mother’s Day greetings?  No, the important thing was the callee. This year, we won’t have to race…doesn’t mean we won’t pick up the phone to call…it doesn’t mean we won’t want to call…we just can’t use the phone. 

I will, each year continue to say, “Happy Mother’s Day, Mom” — I miss you!  and I will, at least in my heart, hear her say, “Oh, thank you, honey, I’m so glad you called. I miss you, too!”

He didn’t tell me he was going so soon…

February 21, 2009 - Leave a Response

I wasn’t ready for the call

“We think Dad is nearing the end of his life’s journey here and thought you might want to say good-bye, he won’t respond or answer you, we’ll just put the phone to his ear and you can talk, he’ll hear you.”

 I’m thankful I got to tell him one more time, “I love you, Dad. I’m gonna miss you.”

I’m not really sure I was ready to let him go, but I know he had to take this  final journey.

Rest in peace Daddy.

You’ve covered many a mile in recent months: fighting battles with illnesses; losing Mom; amputations;

then deciding you’d had enough poking, prodding, surgery, loss…you traveled on…

Rest in peace, Daddy….rest in peace

 

How I Quit Smoking – Once Was Pencils

February 1, 2009 - 2 Responses

Warm Sunday afternoon sun flooded the car parked in front of the RH where inside Dad was quenching his thirst.  Sister MF and I were forbidden entrance (unless we had to pee, then if we could “hold it” ’til we arrived at Mom’s employment,  it was a far yet better thing to do).

Windows open on our four-door sedan, the hot Missouri breeze tussled our pixie cuts as we “drove” down Highway 5 on a shopping excursion to the C’ville mecca with an abundance of pretend dollars at our disposal and a recently purchased package of no. 2 pencils to replenish our school supplies.

Emulating Mom and JB during their many games of cribbage, we “smoked” pencils and called each other kid.  Now, to smoke a pencil, it should be noted that it definitely needs to be a new one.  The eraser end must remain to the outside because, you see, that is the “light”.  The new blunt end will probably not cause as much injury to the upper palette if there is an unfortunate accident, as I will soon profess to.

I was “driving” as MF and I made decisions as to where our journey would take us, when a car came out of nowhere to park beside us.  Old enough to be embarrassed caught smoking a pencil, I quickly ducked my head. And unlike a real “smoke”, the pencil did not bend or break! Oh, the pain! I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, but that pencil was stuck in the roof of my mouth, taking some effort to remove it. 

I don’t recall much bloodshed.  Just the tears welling up in my eyes as I removed the rather stable protrusion, AND the horrified look on little MF’s face. How would we  tell our parents I was smoking a pencil and was injured?  We didn’t, or at least I didn’t.  It was not mentioned by them, so I’m pretty sure MF didn’t either.  But that, my friends, was the day I quit smoking pencils!

Years later, the pencil incident, the “man without a voice box” visiting our school to lecture us on the dangers of smoking and cancer, nor my grandpa’s death from lung cancer dissuaded me from smoking cigarettes.  A (I can now say– nasty) habit I clung to off and on for nearly three decades.

I have quit nicotine and the physical habits that accompany it four times now.  The last time being five years ago.

I’ve tried to start again — to calm my nerves — but they taste horrible and I notice people have a distinct odor.  There seems to be nothing worse about the odor thing than an ex-smoker.

My desire to stop the nicotine habit derived from religious convictions.  I was working with youth and knew that was a bad example for them — I didn’t want them smoking pencils.  Every time I would “light up” I would pray, “God, I know this is not what you want for me and know that my body is your temple and I’m harming Your temple.  Please forgive me.”  Then I prayed, “God, I want to stop this crazy nicotine ruling my life, but I don’t want to eat like a horse, I don’t want to have the cravings for nicotine, and I don’t want it to bother me to be around others who do smoke.” 

He’s still being faithful! 

If  My people who are called by My Name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. — 2 Chron. 7:14 NIV

The Family Curse?

January 31, 2009 - 2 Responses

What a vile and evil thing you are

drawing those I love into the bar.

You control their lives

’til they can’t see

the pain, the hurt, the fear in me.

Grandfather, father, brother and husband

fell under your wicked spell.

The number of lives you’ve torn apart?

We aren’t yet able to tell.

Grandmother, mother, me and my kids?

We’ve all secretly cried and kept things hid.

The cycle must be broken…

another generation must not pass

to feel the pain and sorrow

of the lifting of the glass.