Drinking from Fire Hydrants

Drinking from Fire Hydrants

Ornate downtown storefronts in small town in the MidwestIn 1979, when we first moved to Bozeman, the police reports were comical and often ridiculous. For example, officers were summoned when a porcupine became stuck in someone’s spare tire! Even this week the report said a deputy responded to an anonymous call about a sad dog that howled a lot. “The deputy found the dog to be healthy-looking.” Seeming trifles, yet over the past few decades more serious crimes have increased in our area.

Even so, what if your town or suburb was the limit of your concern? Think of a ten-mile radius around your home or apartment. How many tragedies, crimes, and community problems would you endure over your lifetime? Maybe a few murders, a score of petty thefts, several suicides, a few businesses going bankrupt, some accidental deaths and crop failures. More than a stuck porcupine or a howling dog, but not more than you could handle.

A hundred years ago, that would’ve been normal life.

tv news media backgroundThe truth is, our sphere of reality is far greater now. Advances in technology and media have brought a boatload of problems into our living rooms—every day, all day. And as Christians, it’s as though we are asked to care and give money and pray for the whole world. As someone said, it’s like trying to sip some water from a fire hydrant.

But how many problems are we really designed to handle?

Some would argue that modern people have developed an ability to cope with many things at the same time. Yet, consider the fact that 60% of Americans are sleep deprived with emotional stress as the primary cause. Also, 70-85%Continue reading

Twelve Days

Twelve Days

There comes a time after listening and learning, when “doing” becomes all-important. I don’t know about you, but the last thing I need is another page of notes. If we don’t put anything to the test, how will we know if what we’ve learned is real? So for this last post of the year, I’m challenging you to take action.

One thing—each day—for twelve days.

Day 1 – Do something surprisingly generous. It doesn’t have to be monetary. It could be the gift of listening or sharing food. My friend Greg once went out of his way to deliver a box of donuts to a state government office—a place where the overworked staff were a little cranky. His simple gesture, so unexpected, changed the atmosphere!

Man on stormy beachDay 2 – Take a solitary walk and tell God your innermost thoughts. It helps if you can talk out loud. Tell Him your darkest, most hopeless, or cynical feelings. Tell Him what you’re afraid of—the future? Finances? Sickness? Death? Confess to Him your secret failures, your loneliness. Get it out in words and lay it all before Him. He can handle it. Then listen.

Hands in skyDay 3 – Take an hour to worship God. Not meaning church on Sunday. Pick a place where you can recline—a favorite chair, a hammock, a couch, a bed or even a floor. My granddaughter likes to lay under the Christmas tree. If you’re like me, let go of your driven holiday mindset. Pick your style of worship music and if you’re not alone, use earphones. I’m currently swept away by Ola Gjello’s Sunrise Mass. Though sung in Latin, the music is moving and sends me to heavenly places.

Day 4 – Ask God for a single word or phrase regarding your life at present. I remember feeling upset when my husband had to be away in Africa for two months. I asked God for a word of encouragement. The word “respite” came to mind. At first I thought, “re-SPITE”? Was it even a word? But the term, “RES-pite,” is in the dictionary and means an interval of rest. God reframed our time apart as a season to recharge, write, and enjoy some solitude. Any introvert would understand. Still it meant something to hear God’s take on it.Continue reading

Swimming Out of Our Depth

Swimming Out of Our Depth

In June 1975, Spielberg’s movie, Jaws, became a blockbuster. Chilling in its unpredictability, the movie left a searing mark on the imaginations of many.

photoDuring production, the mechanical shark sank on its first test run, and the crew started calling it “Flaws.” But something interesting developed as a result of the failure. Spielberg said, “I had no choice but to figure out how to tell the story without the shark. So I just went back to Alfred Hitchcock: ‘What would Hitchcock do in a situation like this?’… It’s what we don’t see which is truly frightening,” Spielberg said. With that insight, he started using the shark’s point-of-view, and in effect heightened the suspense exponentially.

It ruined ocean swimming for me.

That same summer, I worked as a lifeguard at Young Life’s Saranac Village in upstate New York. Each week, hundreds of high school campers came to enjoy sailing, swimming, canoeing, waterskiing, and even parasailing. Many would remember their experience as “the best week of their life,” because they also heard the greatest story ever told.

4YoungLifeCamp22One week, a powerboat driver pulling a water-skier failed to see some campers in a canoe. Fortunately, the kids bailed before the motorboat careened into their vessel.

No one was hurt, but they hauled the wrecked canoe up on the beach.

If you’ve been around Young Life, you know the staff had to make up a funny story about how that canoe got so mangled. With the horror of Jaws on everyone’s mind, they spun the legend of a great white “lake” shark. In its youth, the baby shark adapted to fresh water by swimming up the St. Lawrence Seaway from the ocean. Over time, it worked its way through smaller tributaries into Saranac Lake, while growing bigger every year. Right!

But the tall tale didn’t end with a mythical shark lurking in dark waters like the Lochness monster.

At the same time, certain leaders had been teasing the kitchen staff about the sticky peanut butter bars served at lunch. The treat was so gooey and tough, you risked extracting all your fillings. It was perfect fodder to embellish the shark story.

Leaders explained to the campers that leftover bars had been dumped in the lake. The scent drew the alleged shark to the camp’s waterfront. After gorging on the bars, it subsequently lost all its teeth. Thus, they nicknamed the shark, “Gums.” One leader added, “Believe me—it’s far worse to be gummed to death.”

1PropertyShot-SNV1The very next week, the camp hosted an inner-city group. The kids had never been on a waterfront, and therefore, were slightly more gullible. Leaders recounted the infamous story of Gums. The twisted canoe remain on the beach as tangible proof.

“Ah dudes, you jus messin’ wid us,” one kid surmised.

So the boat drivers schemed a live skit to bolster the tale. Continue reading