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April 1, 2014

My dad has been playing the same April Fool’s joke on me and my siblings for over 40 years.

I was quite young when it began.  Early on the morning of April 1st Dad would come into my bedroom and wake me up, peeking through my curtains to the outdoors and exclaiming “Lisa! You need to look outside!  There’s snow on the ground!  Wow!  Look!”

The thing is, in southeastern Ohio where I grew up, it was entirely possible that there might be snow on the ground on April 1st.  Not probable, but possible.  Snow might mean a day off from school, too.  And so as sleepy youngsters, my brother and sister and I fell for it many times.  Once we got older and knew the deal, we still “fell” for it.  Because that was just part of the game.  Even with the phone calls during the years that Mr. Sparky and I lived in South Dakota and it was actually probable that there was snow on the ground on April 1st.

Fast forward to the current time.  For years now my younger sister and my dad have been warring to see who can pull this off first, calling each other at ungodly hours to ask the other if they’d looked outside at the snow yet.

But my 79 year-old dad started plotting two months ago to take us by surprise.  Boy howdy…did he ever take us by surprise.  And he did it by learning to text.

You gotta understand—the guy doesn’t have an email address or internet access or a smart phone.  He’s got a basic cell phone, and that’s it.  But he’s a really smart guy and an excellent problem-solver, so last night he sat down and figured it out, texting my mom’s cell phone for practice.  When she got the text, he knew he had it down.

And so I woke up to this text message at 6:36am this morning:

Lisa look out window at big snow.  APRIL FOOL!  Love YOU!

When I called him a few hours later, he was downright giddy that he’d pulled it off, giggling like a kid.  He knew he had us.  And I am sure I speak for all of us when I say we loved being had.

I’ve never received a text from my dad before, and I may never again.  But this one is priceless.  It is my dad having fun and reminding us all that we may be grown, but we’re not so grown up that we aren’t still his kids.  There are still jokes and traditions to share, ones that are unique to our family.  Ones we never outgrow.

Oh, and there wasn’t really any snow.  I checked just to be sure.


Nope. Nope. Nope. Maybe…

March 31, 2014

Sixteen pairs of jeans.

SIXTEEN pairs of jeans.

That is how many pairs of jeans I tried on tonight.  And yes, I counted them.  There were sixteen, by the way.

They were all blue. They were all made of denim.  They all had two pockets in the front and two pockets in the back.  They all had a riveted metal button and a zipper.

And that is where the similarities ended.

Too short, too long, too tight here, too loose there, too frumpy, too low-cut, too light, and then there was the Steve Urkel pair.  Seriously…they came a good 3″ above my navel.  What the heck?

I ended up with one pair that will be suitable as ankle jeans for the summer.  That was a lot of work for one pair of jeans.  Did I mention I tried on sixteen pairs?

And that six of them I tried on at least twice?

Today a friend of mine was recounting her journey as she has searched to know God.  I think she’s had a sixteen-jean experience.

I think many of us have had sixteen-jean experiences.

What we want sounds so simple.  As simple as a pair of jeans.  We want to know God and be known by Him.  We want to be secure in our relationship with Him, assured of an abundant life and a hopeful eternity.

But…there are churches and teachers and issues and interpretations and belief systems and they are too short, too long, too tight here, too loose there, too frumpy…

It can be a challenge to find a good fit.  I’m not talking about a nice church.  I mean it can be a challenge to learn how to navigate a relationship with God in a way that is authentic to how He wired you and who He is making you to be.  But that is one reason He keeps encouraging us to seek Him.  It’s not a trick. He’s not hiding.  He’s just so incredibly vast and unlimited, and we are finite beings designed to be one with the Infinite.  It can be a challenge to find out where we fit into His vastness in such a way that the relationship becomes intimate, a perfect fit.

He is worth the search.  He is worth the trying on and taking off, the twisting and turning and pinching.  He is worth the time and energy and even the heartache that comes with the journey.  Your journey is your journey.  It probably won’t look like anyone else’s.

And keep in mind…those other fifteen pairs of jeans fit someone out there.

It’s just not me.


Penny Candy

March 31, 2014

A little bell rang as I walked through the door.

The late golden sun slanted through the front window

and lit the shelves on the walls

with its warm brilliance.

Jars and tins,

filled with oddities and curios,

were stacked from floor to ceiling—

or was it ceiling to floor?

I ran my finger

along the edge of a shelf.

Dust fish sprung into the air,

swimming in chaotic circles,

sparkling in the sunlight.

The wooden floor creaked

beneath the steps of my feet

as they traced a well-worn groove.

And there amongst the shelves

I found

a mirror on the wall,

and meaning to check my hair

I turned to my reflection

only to find my left eye at the bottom of my nose


my right ear tilted upwards,

but I could not tell which was actually broken:

the mirror or me.



Just try it on for size…

March 29, 2014

What if…

…you didn’t need to prove that you’re right?

…you believed someone else was wrong but still listened with your whole heart anyway, as if their thoughts mattered?

…you believed what you believe so strongly that you didn’t need anyone else to agree in order to be confident and comfortable in your belief system?

…you valued unity over uniformity?

…you valued diversity within unity?

…you didn’t fear error?

…you decided that love that can’t be felt is inferior?

…you really believed that everyone is made in God’s image—even the people who behave badly, or don’t think He’s real, or don’t believe that He cares about them, or think you’re a giant doofus because you do?

…you were so confident of the goodness of God and the integrity of His work in you that you stopped letting your faults and shortcomings be an excuse for playing small?

Seriously…what if?



Thunderbolts and lightning

March 28, 2014

A wacko squall blew through here this morning.  I was trapped inside the commissary, unable to get my groceries to my van because white walls of water were swirling sideways through the parking lot.  My umbrella wouldn’t have withstood that, and I’m pretty sure the tiny little Asian lady who bagged my groceries would have been blown to Walton county.  It was vicious.

When I got home I discovered that Mr. Sparky hadn’t put our giant 90 gallon recycling bin on the curb this morning.  This was a very good thing because most of the other giant 90 gallon recycling bins on the curb had been blown over and their contents scattered all over the street, along with leaves, pine cones, and small limbs.  Some folks nearby lost entire trees to the 70 mph gusts.

For as much wind and water that whipped through here this morning, there was relatively little in the way of flashes and booms.  That storm wasn’t about noise and threat.  It was about demonstrating as much destructive power as possible during its brief life.

I think we’ve all weathered those kinds of storms.

And you know what I’m talking about.

Sometimes life is full of thunder and lightning and it sounds scary and feels intimidating.  You’re glad when it’s over, but in the end the hardest part was enduring all the noise and threat.  But you don’t find that out until it’s over and the dust settles.

And then there are those other times.  The times when it feels like a massive tornado just ripped into your life, making your head spin and turning your heart inside out, and you have to hang on for dear life because there is no doubt this thing means to eat you alive if it can.

Storms are a part of life.  There is 0% chance of being born into this world and having everything go your way all the time.  Nobody gets a charmed life, and it would be terrible for us to have one anyway.  The same thing that spoils small children also spoils adults.  Without the storms, we are walking theories of character, untested and untried.

And while we can’t live a charmed life, we can live a loved life.  There is no storm so big, so loud, or so powerful that it can separate us from the love of God.  If we get offended and point an accusing finger at Him because the storm exists, it will make it hard for us to feel His love, but He won’t stop loving.  He is the refuge our hearts long for in the middle of the deluge.

He is safety.  He is shelter.  He is the foundation under our feet that won’t crack, won’t dissolve, won’t wash away.

And He can teach us to laugh at the thunder and dance in the rain, even if we laugh through tears and dance with a limp.



Behind door #1…

March 28, 2014

There is a scary bathroom upstairs.  This evening I grew tired of the Sparkette’s reluctance to clean it, and I grabbed a trash bag, a helmet, the Sparkette, and headed up there.

The first thing we did was open the cabinets under the sink.

Mercy.  I’m surprised we didn’t find a family of raccoons living under there.

We moved into this house in 2001.  At that time, four kids used that bathroom.  It is now 2014 and only one kid still uses that bathroom, and yet I found evidence of every single one of those youngsters-who-are-now-adults.  It is entirely possible that nobody has ever torn that bathroom cabinet down to nothing and sorted out its contents.  Maybe I did when I stripped the ugly wallpaper and repainted it many moons ago, but I wouldn’t bet an essential body part on it.  I wouldn’t even bet a many years-old green starlight mint on it.

And yes, we found one of those.

The bathroom still isn’t clean.  The Sparkette gets that dandy job tomorrow.  The bathroom is, however, organized and decluttered, to the tune of an entire kitchen trash bag full of…stuff…hauled out to the trash can.  I was merciless, even throwing out entire bottles of lotions and hair products that I know were so old the brands have since gone through several generations of new label designs.  The Sparkette now knows exactly what is in her bathroom and where it is, and there’s nothing left in there she doesn’t want or need.  Not even the medicated dog shampoo that expired in 2002.


Life can get messy like that when we don’t keep the old closets and cabinets cleaned out and up to date.  The next thing you know you’re spending hours…or days…or months trying to sort out years’ worth of the stuff you didn’t want to deal with and just shoved behind the nearest closed door.  And you can’t just open the door and quickly scoop it all into a trash bag without sorting it.  The truth is, dark places harbor treasure.  But you’ll never discover that treasure, let alone truly own it, until it’s been separated from the trash and brought into the light.

Really…why let the Raccoon King keep what’s yours?



The kindness of the woodshed

March 26, 2014

“Close your eyes.”

I closed them, and I assume everyone else in the room did also, but since my eyes were closed I can’t really prove it.

I was participating in an exercise in hearing from God.  The person leading the exercise went on to say that someone in the room would receive a tap on the shoulder.  Everyone else would be listening for what the Holy Spirit had to say to that someone, without us knowing who it was.  These exercises are usually rather fun, and they provide low-risk practice for those who are just beginning to understand that God really does love to communicate with His kids.

As I sat I heard a short sentence.  I waited quietly, in case there was more.

After a minute or two, the leader asked who heard something and began to wander the room, offering the microphone to those who’d received words.

And that is where I found myself digging in my heels.

It’s not like it’s the first time it had ever happened, but somehow this time I was keenly aware of the situation.  This time it was in my face, staring me down.

Oh my word…why do I have issues with having my voice amplified?

Now let me be clear. It’s not an issue across the board.  When I am in front of a group of people for the purpose of speaking, I use a microphone.  When I’ve done stage work, I use a microphone.  There are planned times when it’s just practical:  if I don’t use a microphone, people won’t be able to hear what they need to hear.  I’m quite fine with that.  If you hand me a microphone, I’ll use it.

This, however, was different.  I had to decide I had something to say and then voluntarily step up and take the microphone and say it.  Not because it was my turn, but simply because I had something important enough to say.

I sat and listened to what others had heard.  It didn’t take me long to talk myself out of what I’d heard, because it didn’t fit at all with what others heard.  Whew, good thing I didn’t open my mouth!

Fast forward to later in the evening.  I found myself standing in front of the woman who had been tapped on the shoulder.  All those words the others had spoken were for her.  I hadn’t offered what I’d heard, so she had no idea I’d heard anything at all.  She began to describe what she was seeing and hearing while others were listening to the Spirit for her.

I felt the color drain from my face.  The word I’d been given was a direct instruction that explained to her what to do with what she had seen at that moment.  It was precise and accurate and had I given it, it would have been exactly on time.

But I didn’t.  So it wasn’t.

I looked at her and apologized.  I then told her what I’d heard.  Her eyes got big.

“I am so, so sorry,” I said.  “I should have spoken up and I didn’t.  Please forgive me.”

“You were stealing my blessings!” she teased with a smile.

Ouch.  “You are right.  That is an absolutely correct way to put it.  Yes, I was, and I’m so sorry.”

She was forgiving and good-natured about it.  I smiled, but inwardly I was heartbroken.  How many times have I done this?  I don’t even know.

And as the evening came to a close, I knew the entire incident constituted a sobering trip to the woodshed for me.

This needs to go.  This is not tolerable anymore.  You’ve come a long way, but you still have issues with your voice.  They work against you, not for you.  They work against Me.

There was nothing to say to that other than “yes, Sir.”

I know it’s not about hearing the sound of my own voice amplified.  That’s weird, but not enough to make me refuse to spontaneously volunteer for amplification.   There is something different wrapped up in this.

I also know that the timing of this isn’t accidental.  God knew exactly what was going to happen and how I would respond.  And He knew how to let it become a bucket of ice water in my face to wake me up to the fact that it’s a problem that actually affects others.  Until I felt pain over it, I wasn’t likely to understand how much of a problem it is or be willing to receive correction.

I’m not quite sure how to correct it.  Just making myself do it doesn’t correct it.  It addresses the behavior, but not the issue that drives the behavior, and somehow I think He’s after more than forced obedience in this.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but contrary to popular belief, Christianity is not about behavior management.






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