Sunday, February 12, 2012

Going Bananas and Getting a Blessing

Last Sunday I was humbled by seven bananas!

After church last Sunday, Kayla and I ran by the grocery store to pick up some bananas. Tyler, my son, was sick at home with Tanya, and we needed to keep his diet very bland. We needed bananas. No big deal...or so I thought.

So, we went to the produce section, picked out about seven good looking bananas, and headed to check out. As I was visually trying to determine the best checkout line to enter I reach in my back pocket for my wallet and stop! Great! No wallet!

If there was a day that I would forget my wallet, it would be on a Sunday! I usually get dressed right before leaving for church and many times forget my wallet on my bathroom sink. Most of the time I forget my wallet, however, I would realize it before even getting to the store.

What was I supposed to do now?

I look around to see if there is anyone I know that I could ask to borrow some money. No one! And that was weird, because I always see someone I know at this store...and especially right after church on Sunday! Ahh! Now what?

As I walk back toward produce I think to myself with Kayla a little confused, "Do I put the bananas back, go home, drop off Kayla, and come back?" I'd hate to do that!

I stop for a second to consider other options. An open checkout line comes available. The checker comes to the end of the isle, looks at me (bananas in hand), does the little eyebrow thing that asks without words, "Are you ready to checkout, sir?" I decline his offer shaking my head and think to myself, "No...I'm the idiot who left his wallet at home and is standing here like a moron with some bananas in one hand and a daughter holding the other asking me what we are doing!"

I tell Kayla that I forgot my wallet and I'm trying to figure out what we can do.

At that point, I considered asking a complete stranger! It was a crazy thought as I lingered on it for a second scanning the isles looking for prospects. Fragile, white-haired, church-suit guy with tons of stuff in his basket? No. Too long of a wait. And when would I ask him? After he started checking? Pass.

Larger, middle-aged, barely-making-it lady buying a lot of food in regular clothes? Pass.

Last option: Younger, 30ish-mother, buying cupcakes in the speedy checkout lane? Okay.

I begin to go toward that checkout lane again and think, "What am I doing? I'm about to ask a complete stranger to buy some bananas? Ahh! What? Am I going to get her number and send her a check for one dollar of bananas? Do I ask her for her address?"

I stop after a couple of steps. "This is too much! I'm just going to put these bananas back, go home, and come back."

Then, on my way back to the produce area AGAIN, a new perspective crosses my bald head brain. I consider it for a second, turn around, and continue my thoughts having decided what I need to do. No more flinching!

I get to the speedy checkout lane behind this younger, dark-haired lady who is now on the phone. "Great! Do I interrupt her?" Before I have time to chicken out another guy gets in line behind me. "Oh, man! Now I'm committed!"

I look toward the back of this lady's head, lean my head over to the side with my eyebrows raised trying to make eye contact. I wanted to get her attention without saying anything. No luck. Without touching her I say, "Excuse me, mam?" She turns to me with her phone still to her ear, takes a quick glance at my awesomely beautiful redhead holding my hand, and non-verbally gives me permission to continue.

With a weird "I'm an idiot!" smirk on my face, I reached into my empty back pocket and said, "I know this is going to sound weird, but I forgot my wallet at home. And..." I paused for about a half second to take a breath and hold up my seven bananas. "...I was wondering if you would buy my bananas for me."


The several seconds of her silent processing time seemed like four hours of humiliating torture! I lower my bananas a little. Then she says somewhat confidently as she hangs up her phone, "Sure! Throw 'em up there with my stuff. No problem!"

I put them on "the conveyor belt of shame" right on the divider thing that separates one shopper's stuff from another's. She turns to talk to Kayla a little as she waits for her turn. I'm at a loss for words. I muster up a quick yet audible, "Thank you so much! I feel weird!" She soon turns her back to me as she attends to getting out her wallet to pay for her things (and my bananas!).

"Where do I stand?" I thought. "Do I go around to the front where the bag people do their thing?" No. "Do I bag her few groceries for her as a sign of my appreciation?" way! That would make it worse for all parties involved.

Right then the checker finished ringing up all her things, leaving my bananas straddled on the divider. He looks at this lady and asks her, "This is where your stuff ends, right?"

"Are you kidding me!?" I think. "Why do you have to make this torture worse than it needs to be? Did you hear me ask this lady a few moments earlier to buy my bananas? Certainly everyone in the entire store heard this CRAZY MAN ask a complete stranger to buy his bananas! And, just in case someone missed it, you had to ask her to clarify for the masses my incompetence again!? Thanks, dude!"

I contained all those feelings as I looked at the floor.

She told the guy that she was paying for my bananas. He rang them up and gave her the total; she paid and started gathering her stuff. No one touched the paid-for bananas. I waited until she had cleared everything before I reached over the counter to take the grocery bag containing my seven bananas.

This whole time, I'm wondering what is the appropriate thing to say at the end of all this. A simple, "thanks" came to mind. So did an "I appreciate your generosity." Those seemed weird in the moment and superficial. The only thing I settled on was, "the Lord bless you."

I wanted to convey the Lord's involvement somehow, without being all crazy about it. My mind considered the times that I'd heard that from others. It came from mainly strangers that I'd decided to help out in various ways. I always dismissed it as some kind of unnecessary formality. I would tell them what this lady told me after I said it: "Oh it was no big deal."

This experience has many chapters of lessons that I will share for a while. These lessons started as I went to the car. I told Kayla that she just witnessed how God blesses people through others. I communicated to her that this lady displayed the heart of Jesus in a small, yet powerful way! "Her gracious generosity," I told her, "is a loud testimony to our abundantly good God!"

Have you ever been in a position to experience God's generosity, even in a small $1.07 way?

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

The Profanity Plan

Do you have a plan for the next time you recognize your desire to unload all kinds of foul language? Most of us have no plan! Here is one suggested plan I offered last Wednesday night in our class discussing profanity.
  1. I will stop whatever I am doing the second I recognize it
  2. I will take a deep breath and close my eyes for 5 seconds
  3. I will say this phrase that I have already written down on a piece of paper in my pocket in that moment: “I desire to be an imitator of God as a dearly loved child and to live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
I wonder what would happen if we had that kind of plan to rid filthy language from our lips from which come both praise and curses! God may transform us yet!

What is your plan?

Monday, February 06, 2012

The Grass Has Grown!

Last Wednesday night, continuing the "You Asked for It!" series, we raised some questions about the use of profanity. I ended the last post stating a few principles to take home in learning to honor God with our lips. The first one was to realize that transformation happens slowly and only over time.

After class (and in class) several students talked about being unable to control the words that come out of their mouth instinctually. The examples mentioned were moments when there was no time to consider what they said. They crush their thumb with a hammer. Someone scares the living ...uh... daylights out of them. Or they fall off a chair or down the stairs. In these moments, they told me, there is no way to avoid using profanity.

I thought about myself as students were telling me these things. Does profanity even come to my mind during these instinctual moments? While I struggle to know what verbal response I typically have, I have a hard time remembering the last time profanity crossed my mind in those moments. Other moments (like when I'm angry) bring those thoughts out for me.

"How did this happen?" I kept asking myself. I know profanity used to be the norm for me almost all the time, especially in moments when I was reacting on instinct! How could I even forget that these moments were a no-brainer when it came to moments I would certainly cuss?

My answer: Transformation.

Last Wednesday night was one of those moments when I looked at the grass (so-to-speak) and noticed that it has grown to be rather green! It seems like yesterday the grass was just seed in need of germinating. Meaning: I too thought it impossible to transform instinct. Yet, my instinct is changed!

How did the grass grow? I happened slowly...and over time. One choice here. Avoiding that word there. Exploring creative ways to express myself differently. "Gina! The monkey has caught my brain instead of the banana and turned the sucker upside down right before my eyes! Things are backwards! Yet, the kingdom grows with each choice."

It takes time to transform a mind! And there are no shortcuts! It takes intentional work. Hard work. Work that you sometimes forget about. Then you remember. Then you forget again. And then someone reminds you of how things used to be for you...on a Wednesday night!

God is in the business of transformation! And He is amazingly patient as the grass continues to grow as he designed it! Grow grass grow!

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Psalm 137 and Lament Teams

In my opinion, we had a FANTASTIC conversation this morning! Thanks to all you who offered great insight.

Reading Psalm 137 (especially the last verse) confronts us with a reality that we generally ignore when we are in church. Created in God's image, we have a wide range of emotions going on inside us. Yet we sometimes feel as if we have to keep all the negative ones bottled up inside to ourself.

Who would ever say publicly in church something like, "Happy is...he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks!" What!? I can hear someone respond instantly by asking, "How could we even think something like that!? We are supposed to love our enemies!" unspoken assumption in most of our corporate worship times is that the only legitimate expressions of worship are positive and joy-filled. Thus, in class we explored the appropriateness of LAMENT in our gatherings. Instead of just having conversation about a praise team, what if we also worked to have a lament team?

Even though this brings a little bit of laughter, I wonder how (and when) we could seriously entertain the idea of encouraging lament among us.

  1. What would it look like to have a corporate lament service? Have you ever experienced this?
  2. Based on a closing question in class, do we need to reconsider what we do in our funeral services? How so?
  3. Why do you think most people are so uncomfortable with sharing any discontent about God with others in church?

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Dang Gina!

Profanity. What counts? How do we honor God in our language? Where do euphemisms fit in?

Last night we had a great discussion in our "You Asked For It" class where we are addressing various questions raised by our students. At the end of class I shared a few helpful principles to keep in mind as we learn to honor God with our lips. Here are the things I shared:

  • Realize that transformation happens slowly and only over time
  • Realize that our language both expresses and influences our heart
  • Recognize in yourself the situations when you struggle most in honoring God in your language
  • Develop a plan of action for those situations ahead of time
  • Understand that small decisions to refrain from certain words (even if you still think them) are signs of real progress
Over the next few blog entries I will go into more depth to explain some of these things. What do you think about these things?