Turn, Turn, Turn

In the midst of The Great Sunglasses Search, I may have lost my sense of humor.  Now, you could probably guess that it wasn’t just the sunglasses, or the way a friend called me out for being inconsiderate, or the way I reacted to someone else being inconsiderate, or the many errands I have run over the past couple of days, or even my obsession with the Minimalist Challenge (I’ve completed 15 days in 2 days — that’s 120 items so far, but who’s counting?).

No, it wasn’t any one of those things that made me lose my sense of humor — it was a cumulative effect. I was chugging along with tons of energy, feeling very positive about this trip to Israel, when I suddenly noticed that the space between my eyebrows was wrinkled, my jaw was set, and little things were starting to bug me.  Eh, whatever, I thought, so I’m a little irked.  I’ve still got to mail two packages, stop by the library, pick up a few things at Target, print out two documents, and doggone it, did I look in those other suitcases?  Maybe my sunglasses are in there!

Yes, yes, I know, I need to pace myself.  How many times have we been over this.  Fortunately, my body hasn’t revolted and flung me on the couch.  That is probably due to the fact that although I accomplished all of the above, I also sat at the puzzle table for a few hours last night and had the satisfaction of completing a 1000-piecer, tossing it back in the box, and adding it to the donation pile. (Yes, I’m a little out of control.) Also, I know myself well enough that I made sure to do yoga twice last week and twice this week already, following each 75-minute session with a soak in the jacuzzi.

Nevertheless, I’ve got to calm down a little.  I mean, we are leaving TOMORROW  with THIRTY STUDENTS for TWELVE DAYS! The one thing I can’t leave at home is my sense of humor!!

So, you know, in the spirit of my commitment to Return to the Lord, I came home after yoga this morning, did three more things on my to-do list, then grouchily opened my Bible Reading plan. If you have read this blog more than three times, you know what happened.  I was convicted right in the middle of my reading, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: …enmity, strife,…fits of anger, …dissensions, divisions,…and things like these.” Darn flesh.

Keep reading, Rathje, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Well, of course not, silly. Who would outlaw kindness or gentleness? patience? peace? Nah, we don’t have to outlaw those things — those are the things we forget to do, the things we turn away from.  The things that need to be outlawed are the ones we are bent on doing — like getting irritated and ticked off!

So, what’s a girl to do?   Ahem, keep reading, “…those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Really? Because my flesh seems to be alive and kicking, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.”

There it is.  My flesh is alive and kicking; it’s true.  It’s got to be crucified moment by moment.  It’s a continual act of turning away from the flesh and toward the Spirit.  That’ll probably be easier to do in the Holy Land, right? Ha-ha.  That’s funny.

Alright, guys, I’m headed out one more time this afternoon.  I’m not coming home tonight until I have located one pair of sunglasses, two travel umbrellas, a pile of cash in small denominations, and a well-fortified sense of humor.

Because tomorrow, my friends, we go to Israel.

“…the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ,

will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

Amen, Come, Lord Jesus.

(I Peter 5:10)


Hi, honey, I’m ho-ome.

Guys, I have a couple of problems — parking tickets and library fines.  (I am not going to mention jury duty at the moment, because I don’t currently have a summons.)

I do realize that these are first-world problems and that I could have it much worse, but perhaps I need an intervention.

I have paid so many library fines and parking tickets in my life that I no longer get upset by them.  Sure, I feed the meter like everyone else.  Yes, I observe the due dates stamped inside my library books (which, by the way, the Ann Arbor District Library does not supply). But, you know, stuff happens.

Like yesterday.  I was meeting some friends for lunch and a cooking class (which were both fabulous by the way).  I asked in advance (I have witnesses) what the parking options were and if I could avoid feeding a meter.  Turns out we were in the very popular Kerrytown area, on a Wednesday, which happens to be market day, which happens to be extra crowded.  The only parking lot was crammed full.  I drove around figuring out the one-way streets for close to ten minutes before I found the perfect spot just steps from our lunch destination.  Woo-hoo!  I had combed the bottom of my purse earlier in the morning, collecting all the loose change I had — a few dollars’ worth, so I fed ALL of it into the meter.  That bought me enough time for lunch.  I told myself that I would get change for the few ones inside my wallet before we headed to our class.

Well, you know, we had such a nice time talking over our delicious lunches that I forgot to get change.  Once outside, I glanced at my dear, Suze Cruze sitting in her perfect spot next to an empty meter and thought to myself, “Oh well, probably going to get a ticket today.”  But, one of the other, more responsible, ladies said, “Oh, I better feed the meter,” so I said, “does anyone have any change?”  Of course one of them did.  I asked if she had one dollar’s worth, or two.  She only had one.  So, I said, “That’s ok, I like living on the edge.”  Yes, I seriously said that out loud.

I may never learn.

I fed the four quarters into the slot, and headed to the class.  I was gone just over one hour and returned to find the lovely white envelope along with the curled up citation pinched ever so daintily under my windshield wiper.  Ah, yes, I thought.   The world is as it should be.  I was past the time, I got a ticket.  I have finally arrived at home in Ann Arbor.

But I am telling you, St. Louis misses me.  Right in front of our home in St. Louis was a sign that read “No parking, first Tuesday (or was it Monday) of every month. Noon to 4pm (or was it 8am to noon).”  We lived there six year, folks.  And I couldn’t tell you which day or time we weren’t supposed to park there.  Even after paying who knows how many  $10 parking tickets.  But here’s the thing.  In my heart of hearts I believe that those fines are serving some noble purpose.  (Don’t burst my bubble.) You know, all of that money I ‘invested’ in St. Louis parking probably financed a couple of handicapped parking spots.  Right? Or re-surfaced a road downtown.  It’s possible.

And as for those library fines?  They are purchasing much needed books for all the children in the world.  Yes, I currently owe $3 to the Ann Arbor District Library.  I borrowed a DVD, and you can only keep those for one week.  Of course,  I forgot about it.  And every day you are late costs $1.  But while other people might be upset by this, I feel welcomed by the Ann Arbor District Library.  It’s like they were notified by the St. Louis Public Library who said, “Hey, Rathje’s moving to town, and she’s good for lots of fines.  Keep your eye on her.”

This morning I went online to pay my parking ticket.  Tomorrow I’ll stop by and pay my library fine.  (I’m still waiting for the jury summons to show up.)  Hi, honey, I’m ho-ome!

Ecclesiastes 3:4

“…a time to laugh…”

Yowling and oozing

Sometimes I look back at what I’ve written and I think, “geez, did you have to be that honest? Nobody wants to hear all that!”  I mean, I sit down at the keyboard and the truth just comes out of me.  I would really like to sugar-coat it a bit.  Really.  But, I used up all my lies by the time I was 18 and I really don’t have any more to tell.  (That’s a story for another day.)

My personality is such that I like to make people laugh…at least when I am in person.  I am somewhat quick-witted (some would say razor-tongued) and the middle child in me likes to be the center of attention.  I like to lighten the mood, set things off-balance, diffuse tension. I am loud.  And a bit obnoxious.

I really wish I could write a funny blog.

But something happens to me when I write.  Especially when I start in God’s Word before I write.  I am compelled to honesty.  Gut-wrenching honesty.  Perhaps  the Word of God, which is living and active and full of grace and truth, compels me toward self-examination and truth.

I was reading my Bible study this morning.  It’s Beth Moore’s Children of the Day, a study of Thessalonians.  She says, “Our freedom comes with the head-on collision between the truth of Christ and God’s truth about us.  There beauty meets ugly, and authenticity is born, yowling like an injured cat freed from a mousetrap” (41).

Guys, I feel like I’ve been ‘yowling like an injured cat freed from a mousetrap’!  I have been reading God’s grace-filled truth,  comparing it with God’s truth about me and trying to absorb both truths for myself…so that I can heal and be authentic with those around me who matter most.

How do you like authentic?

It’s all I’ve got, folks.  At least in my written form.

My in-person form feels more comfortable laughing, but I am finding that the more I share in writing, the less my quick wit stings, and the more it soothes.  Letting the pains from my life ooze out on the page, makes them less likely to spurt out under the guise of humor.

So, let the yowling and oozing continue.  At least for now.  Perhaps someday my blog will make you laugh.  You never know what is going to happen in the next chapter.

Challenge Accepted

With all the bravado that’s been oozing from my blog the last couple of days, I was bound to be challenged.  A friend posted on my Facebook page ’21 Actual Analogies used by high school students in English essays’ and commented ‘any chance you can string a few together in your next blog?’  Now I realize she was probably joking, but I can’t just let a challenge pass me by, can I? 

Besides, I am due for a little fun.  Life can’t be all about battles, and transitions, and illness, and such.  We do need to laugh. 

I actually love to laugh, and I have been told on numerous occasions that I have a rather loud, obnoxious laugh, one that makes my children blush when they can hear it across a crowded room.  However, It has never been described as, a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up*. 

I have been told on several occasions, though, to quiet down; I shouldn’t laugh so loud.  But what am I supposed to do, hold my laughter in?  No can do. I love that feeling of laughing until I can’t breathe. So, I’m sorry if I am embarrassing you, or making you uncomfortable, I can’t hold it in or Joy [would fill my] heart like a silent but deadly fart fills a room with no windows*. (I am not making these up.)  My kids always said the silent-but-deadlies were the worst. 

Speaking of farts, not really, just kidding. 

I can see the assignment now, “Write a five-paragraph essay using the strategies you have learned for using similes and metaphors.  Include at least three analogies in your essay.”  I can imagine the students staring at their blank screens, scratching their heads, coming up with gems like, [I] was confused; as confused as a homeless man on house arrest*.  Or, The lamp just sat there, like an inanimate object*.  The poor teacher.  She had written her plan, crafted her assignment.  They had practiced, they had done in-class exercises.  They had seen numerous examples in that catchy YouTube video.  But still, her students were coming up with stuff like, The sun was below the horizon, like a diabetic grandma easing into a warm salt bath*. (Ok, you gotta admit, that one did create a pretty graphic mental picture.) 

Aren’t words fun?  The reason I am not a very good English teacher is because if my students wrote analogies like these, I would be laughing so hard, I would forget to teach them that the tone of their image has to match the tone of their message.  It should not create tension like this: Their love burned with the intensity of a urinary tract infection*.   I should, in the classroom, say something like, “The intensity of love has positive connotations while a urinary tract infection has negative connotations.  Using an analogy like this creates dissonance, boys and girls.   Our analogies should create consonance, agreement, harmony.”  But instead, I would be laughing as hard as someone who is about to become a spokesman for Poise pads. (Yeah, that one’s mine.)  I wouldn’t be able to pull myself together enough to give the true meat of the lesson.  

But we would have fun.  And we sure had fun.  

Job 8:21

He will yet fill your mouth with laughter, 

and your lips with shouts of joy. 

*All bold statements are lifted from the original post my friend shared with me.