Posted in focus on faith, need a laugh?

Need a laugh? Marry a preacher!

My husband, Gerry, was pastor of a small country church when we married. country churchBecause he was a University student, gardener, hobby farmer, and pastor simultaneously, he was perennially preoccupied and often forgetful.

garden hoseThe church had a built-in baptistry that Gerry filled with a garden hose connected to the outdoor spigot at the parsonage next door. It took several hours. By filling it a few days early, the ice-cold well water had a chance to thaw — becoming just bearable for the sturdy souls who were fully immersed. They went down gasping and came up glad to be alive.

One morning, my husband hooked up the hose in preparation for a baptism the following Sunday. Then he sat down at his desk — conveniently situated beside the tank — to work on his sermon. Every 30 minutes, he stood up and peered into the chest-high tub to check the water level. He finished his sermon, saw that the tank was only one-third full and went outside to plow the garden. When mechanical trouble with the garden tractor necessitated a 20-mile trip to the city for parts, he forgot all about the hose.

My doorbell rang not long after he left. It was our neighbor Pete.

“I went to the church to use the phone,” Pete said.telephone

Because Pete had no telephone at home, we left the back door of the church unlocked so he could come and go freely. The phone was on the pastor’s desk just inside.

I smiled and said that was fine, expecting him to ask me to look up a phone number for him since Pete had never learned to read.

“When I sat down at the desk, I heard a drop of water hit the floor beside me,” Pete recounted. “The tank was full to the brim and just starting to spill over so I grabbed the hose and threw it out the door! Where’s the pastor?”

Embarrassed, I told him my husband had gone to town. Pete lumbered away, shaking his head.

Initially angry, I soon cooled down and decided to have a little fun with the absent-minded pastor. I turned the spigot off, put the hose back into the baptistry and wiped up the tiny puddle on the floor. My husband and I both knew the only time our rusty well water was not red and murky was after water had been flowing for long periods. Armed with this knowledge. I cooked up my scheme.

My husband returned from town, repaired the garden tractor and came in for supper. Nothing was said about the baptistry. After the meal, he went out visiting. Returning hours later, Gerry fell into bed, worn out. I laid my book aside and turned off the lamp.

bubble bath In the darkness, I murmured, “I had such a lovely bath tonight – the water was crystal clear.”

“AAAHHHHH!” Gerry yelled. He exploded out of bed, ran down the hall and bolted out the door. He flew across the yard in his pyjamas.

Peeking through the curtains, trying to muffle my giggles, I saw him reappear a few moments later.

Treading barefoot in the moonlight like a man in a dream, he was shaking his head in amazement as he crossed the grass and came back into the house. I leapt under the covers and waited, feigning wide-eyed innocence.

Gerry floated into the room. With a look of sheer wonder on his face he smiled and whispered, “It’s a miracle!”

Posted in need a laugh?

Need a laugh? Meet my sister Margy.

naughty dogMargy’s Facebook Post this Christmas:

The busy, “naughty pet” owner’s Christmas To Do List:

Friday: Finish wrapping gifts. Place gifts under tree. Prepare guest rooms. Dig kitten out of Christmas tree. Redecorate tree.

Saturday: Rewrap gifts destroyed by naughty pets. Laugh at silly antics of pets. Dig kitten out of Christmas tree. Redecorate tree. Shake dirt off tablecloth from kitty digging in poinsettias. Take stock of grocery needs.

Sunday: Rewrap gifts destroyed by naughty pets. Reprimand pets. Dig kitten out of Christmas tree. Redecorate tree. Shake kitten. Shake dirt off tablecloth from kitty digging in poinsettia. Get groceries. Buy more gift wrap. Buy more tape.

Monday: Rewrap gifts destroyed by naughty pets. Dig kitten out of Christmas tree. Redecorate tree. Shake dirt off tablecloth from kitty digging in poinsettias. Tie up naughty dogs. Lock kitten in kennel for 10 minutes. Prepare wife saver breakfast for Christmas morning.

Tuesday (Christmas Eve): Rewrap gifts destroyed by naughty pets. Dig kitten out of Christmas tree. Redecorate tree. Shake dirt off tablecloth from kitty digging in poinsettias. Yell at @#%!! pets. Place naughty dogs and kitten in kennel for 4 hours (oops forgot they were in there). Clean bathrooms. Welcome guests (who brought their dogs). Slip into bedroom and sneak a swig.

Wednesday CHRISTMAS DAY: Get up. Kick fallen Christmas tree ornaments across the room. Hand out gifts already unwrapped by pets. Drink cup of coffee with a healthy dose of “special creamer”. Have a laugh.


Posted in need a laugh?

How Donald Trump got his start…

IMG_2797The cookie ark at Gram’s house always has cookies. Always. My grandkids have come to expect it.

One day the front door flew open and Eli (then 4) charged in. He was halfway to the kitchen before he noticed a group of women seated in the living room.

“Gram. I need five cookies!” His little chest was heaving.

“Why five?” I asked, wondering who would get the lion’s share, him or his older sister Jasmine.

“For me and Jaz and free friends!”

By the time we stopped laughing he had pocketed the cookies and was on his way back out to the street to share the loot with his sister and three neighbourhood kids.

Recently, however, disaster struck. My busy travel schedule caught up to me and the cookie jar held nothing except a few greasy crumbs. Eli’s mom was away for a week so he was spending his afternoons with Gram.

I picked him up at kindergarten at noon and brought him home with me. Eli ran straight to the cookie ark after hanging up his jacket and snow pants. I entered the kitchen just as he lifted the lid and got the shock of his life.

One hand on a hip and the other still holding the ark lid aloft, Eli turned slowly to face me. With utter disgust he declared: “Gram. You’re fired!”

Posted in need a laugh?

Beauty is the Beast

I have been obsessed with body image since I was old enough to understand there was such a thing. In elementary school I was keenly aware of my size; I matured early so while my classmates all looked like Skipper (the teenage version of the Barbie doll), I looked like Big Ethel (of Archie comic infamy). Bigger than most of the girls and far bigger than all the boys in Grade Six, I was teased and had only one friend – my cousin.

Don’t feel sorry for me; I was also a bully. I made sure I wasn’t on the bottom of the heap and did my share of making life miserable for those unlucky girls who somehow managed to have even less going for them than I did. Man, kids can be cruel!

In Junior High, things began to change for me because my womanly looks became an asset instead of a liability. That’s when body image really became an obsession. I never just hung out in the school hallway, carefree and relaxed. I sucked in my stomach, crossed my ankles in order to hide my bowed legs, lifted my chin, threw my shoulders back…sheesh!

I started dieting in Junior High and jogging in High School. I was never, not ever, satisfied with how I looked. I was always 10 pounds too heavy, too wide in the hips, too short, had too much hair, too small eyes, and so on and so on. The list was endless. And boring. And disgustingly self-centered.

Now here’s the part where the good Christian girl says, “Then I met Jesus and everything changed! I fell in love with Him and My Body and we lived happily ever after!” I wish that were true. Well, not really…the fact is, I did meet Jesus at the age of 18 and boy did He make some major changes! However, the body image issue ran deep and I now know it was one of those lifelong battles that ain’t over yet!

Paul, my current favorite Bible guy, had some lifelong issues too. In his letter to the church in Corinth he referred to one of his issues as his “thorn.” (2 Cor 12: 7) And even though he asked God three times to remove it, the thorn remained. Instead, Paul learned a valuable lesson about himself and about God, specifically, “My grace is sufficient” (v.9) In other words, we are going to have some issues in our lives that will always be there and we have a choice. We can either focus all our energy on bemoaning their presence and begging for relief. Or we can accept them and take them straight to Jesus and ask Him to use us anyway – thorn and all.

My obsession with body image has not stopped me from following God into living the dreams He has for me. If anything it has kept me coming back to Him over and over for healing and help and strength. My thorn is a constant reminder that I need Jesus every day. All day. Especially now as I watch with a mixture of horror and relief while my body droops and sags and folds over on itself creating roadmaps of history on my face and neck.

“Your neck is wrinkly Gram,” said Jasmine, my six-year-old granddaughter when we both bent over to peek in the oven window at the rising muffins. “Wrinkles are ugly right Gram?” Her little piping voice made it sound like she was announcing her favorite color was purple. “That’s okay though because when I’m a Gram, you’ll be dead!”

Perspective is everything.

Posted in need a laugh?

God is Wuv

A male interviewer, talking with young children, asked one little chap,

“Can you see God?”

branch heart seen on river bank near Kaslo B.C.; photo by Dave Wiggins

Camera shot drops down to catch his brow furrowed in concentration, his gaze upon the tips of his fingers, tapping earnestly together as he thought out his reply – “No.”

“Why can’t you see God?”

“Because God is wuv and you can’t see wuv.”

God is love.

No one has seen God at any time.

First Epistle of John 48, 12

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16

Posted in need a laugh?

My bum leg — God’s blessing

For two weeks, Gerry and I have been camping in Waterton Lakes National Park. We’ve never been able to carve out this much uninterrupted time before and in the days leading up to our getaway I was practically giddy with anticipation.

Gerry and I have made the trek to Waterton every summer for more than a dozen years. We started in a borrowed tent trailer when our teen girls went to summer camp. We would bring our younger son for a little getaway. Before long, my brother took pity on us and he started dragging his 36-foot Rv to Waterton for us to stay in. Once he had it all set up, he would barbecue us some steaks, make us laugh, grab our son and take him home with him for a holiday with his kids. And Gerry and I would have five glorious days alone.

As the years passed, our kids grew up and the girls married and had babies and our Waterton holiday became a wonderful opportunity for a shared long weekend at the portable “cottage” since this was as close as we were ever going to get to having a “home at the beach”! So our 10-day Waterton sojourn would usually start with a few solo days, then a few crowded days with all the kids and grandkids, followed by a few more solo days. It was always fabulous and we loved it.

But this year was different. Both Gerry and I were really tired. Physically pooped. Emotionally exhausted. Spiritually sapped. So when our kids told us they were not going to visit us in Waterton this year, I was surprised, but not unhappy. I appreciated their sensitivity in recognizing that ma and pa needed some rest.

We packed up as much garden produce as we could, gathered our hiking gear, and drove three hours to the RV that was all set up and waiting for us. We couldn’t stop grinning. But there was one little glitch we had not counted on. One slight adjustment in our annual tradition that caught me by surprise. My bum leg.

The main activity that tourists engage in at this quaint little national jewel is hiking. Gerry and I have hiked pretty much every day hike in this area. Every day, we would study our guide book describing all the hikes and decide which one to take. Then we would pack our lunch, grab our gear and head off. By the end of the day we would stagger back to the campsite with tired limbs and sore feet and after a little rest we would consume a massive feast prepared from all the garden goodies we had hauled along. Glorious bliss.

But not this year. We discovered soon after arriving that something is amiss with one of my hips — they’ve always been big but until now have functioned properly as hinges — it was sore and stiff and my range of motion was limited. It hurt to hike. It hurt to walk. I developed a limp. The val-de-ree-val-de-rah cheery pace of 4.5 kph that we have fallen into easily over the years was no longer a possibility. I was bummed! Gerry was amazing: “No big deal. We’ll do other stuff.”

Did I mention that the main activity in Waterton is hiking? The lake is liquid ice so forget swimming. The beach has no sand, only rocks and pebbles. I despise shopping. There are two fabulous ice cream shops but I’m allergic to dairy for Pete’s sake! I wanted to hike! I wanted to sweat! I wanted tired muscles and guilt-free feasts at the end of a long jaunt! So we still tried. We made several little forays to places we had always scorned as too easy during our hiking years — lakeside walks, the townsite tour, small elevation stuff. It was slow and I didn’t sweat. I didn’t even glow. We stopped over and over and over to sit and rest.

And something wonderful happened. I began to see things I had never seen before in my headlong pursuit of “the burn” and the summit. Flowers and berries were everywhere. We stopped and sampled saskatoons, black currants, gooseberries and thimble berries every chance we got. We tried to identify unknown berries that were green, white and red; peering at them carefully and studying them. We noticed the stones on the beach are red and gold and silver, some smooth as glass, some rough, some soft as chalk, some hard as flint.

We walked by the lake when it was smooth as glass and stopped repeatedly to just stare at the beauty God spoke into existence. We stumbled along the lake when the gale-force wind made me tighten the chin strap on my tilley hat and marvelled at the wind surfers flying over the whitecaps. We sat on the beach, leaning back against the bleached driftwood and studied the various structures tourists had assembled so far this summer — rectangular shacks, teepees and even one that looked like a pyramid.

And God gave us rest. Rest for our body and food for our souls. If my hip recovers and I am able to hike next year, I don’t think we’ll go back to our old galloping ways. We missed too much. I think we’ll take it slow and soak up the beauty all around us and let God’s “book of nature” breathe it’s own kind of healing into our lives.

How about you? Have you found time to rest this summer? It’s not too late. Even if you walk with a limp, take some slow ambles outside while it is still warm and let God speak healing into your tired soul. Stop often. Look at stuff. Breathe. Listen for His whisper of love and let Him give you rest.

Posted in need a laugh?

What do you do when your brakes fail?

For the second, and I hope the last time in my life, my brakes failed (I almost added, “while I was driving” — duh!). This latest near-catastrophe happened yesterday on my way down a hill in Calgary after visiting a friend in the Foothills Hospital. Obviously I survived otherwise you would have been reading about me in the obit’s as opposed to “reading me.”

If you want to know the 11 (yes, eleven) logical, clear-headed, rational steps to take when your brakes fail, see this link: Good Luck! If you want to know what I did, keep reading: I had noticed earlier on the drive to Calgary that there seemed to be a lot of play in the brake pedal. Not every time, but a couple of times, I had to press it all the way to the floor in order to stop. As I descended the hill on 16th Avenue going about 60 kph I saw a long line of traffic stopped in front of me so I applied the brakes and my car slowed down. But didn’t stop. The space between me and the lineup shrunk rapidly as I pumped the brakes to no avail.

I was still going about 20 kph when I realized I wasn’t going to stop. Directly in front of me was a one-ton dump truck. In the lane to my right was a steady stream of traffic. To my left was two lanes of oncoming traffic. In my rear seat was some precious cargo — my granddaughter Jasmine a.k.a Rapunzel. I had three choices, all of them bad:

1. Veer right and collide with other vehicles and cause a possible pileup since the rush hour traffic was all headed west, just like me.

2. Stay in my lane and crash into the dump truck; that would be like Marty St Louis giving Zdeno Chara a body check — bound to end badly for the little guy.

3. Veer into the oncoming traffic — light volume — and hope they see me soon enough to avoid a collision. I saw two vehicles approaching in the oncoming lanes, both still far enough away to see me coming and staggered so they could both change lanes and miss me without hitting each other.

I cranked my wheel to the left, narrowly missed the dump truck, bounced over the median and headed the wrong way on the lane closest to mine. The oncoming drivers honked, waved their fists, shook their heads and swung into the other lane to miss me. I managed to get one set of wheels back up onto the narrow median that divided our lanes — it was about a half-width of a car.

I went about three vehicle lengths past the stopped westbound traffic before I remembered my emergency brake — aptly named, I realized! I yanked on the hand brake. My car stopped, half on and half off the median. I tried to turn on my hazard flashers but my panic blocked me from finding the switch. I gave up searching and grabbed my phone. My hands were shaking so badly it took a couple of tries before I could dial 911 and explain my situation.

While I was on the phone with the police, a large truck stopped several meters in front of me, hazards flashing so that traffic had to flow around both our vehicles, protecting me from collision. The truck driver rushed over to my window and asked what had happened. With the help of this Good Samaritan, we got my car off the median and onto a triangle of grass on the roadside and out of harm’s way where I could wait for a tow truck and a family rescue.

Three choices — all of them bad. Ever been there? Sometimes life is like that isn’t it. You find yourself having to choose the “least worst” of all the possibilities. If every option seems dangerous or worrisome or somehow wrong and “doing nothing” isn’t a viable choice, what do you do when life forces your hand? You pray — not the “thee and thou” kind of prayer, the “Help!” kind of prayer — and then you pick one. The outcome is not guaranteed.

My 19-year-old sister died in a similar scenario. An oncoming car veered into her lane. The driver of my sister’s car had to choose: stay in the lane and collide, move over to the wrong side and risk hitting the car which might veer back if the driver was asleep, or take the ditch. She chose the ditch and because my sister wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, she died from head trauma when the car rolled.

What do you do when your brakes fail? You realize that your life hangs by a thread and we are all just one whisper away from having it end. Even though I am thankful to be able to hang around a little longer, I am also grateful to Jesus, who died in my place so that if yesterday had been my final day, I have no doubt about where I’s be today — in eternity with God. If you have some doubt about life after death, say the most important yes you will ever say — Yes Lord — and give Jesus the keys to your life. Then when your brakes fail, or you experience some other disaster, you’ll already know the end of your story — alive with Christ.

Posted in need a laugh?

Yoiks and Awaaaayyyy!

It’s my birthday today and so far, it’s been a “yoiks and away” kind of day…

6 a.m. Wake up. Eat hot oatmeal because that’s what people my age do every day, even birthdays. Inhale 3 cups of hot tea. Study bible and pray. God speaks. I listen. So far it’s a pretty good day…yoiks and away!

7 a.m. Check email. There’s one from my publisher! Must be a birthday wish! Read it. It’s a list of all the Canadian authors who were nominated for Word Guild Awards. My name is not on the list but lots of my friend’s names are. Resist temptation to compare…yoiks and away!

8 a.m. Dentist appointment — prognosis: a molar that will likely calve like a glacier sometime this year. Go home and blow the dust off the bottle of calcium tablets on my countertop…yoiks and away!

9 a.m. Shopping for wasabi, pickled ginger, avocado, shrimp and many other ingredients because our home group meets at our house tonight and my husband is making sushi. Everyone will arrive hungry at seven. No one knows it’s my birthday, unless my husband secretly told them and they’re planning to surprise me! Can’t wait…yoiks and away!

9:50 a.m. Get mail. Large shiny package! Oh boy! Just in time! Open package. Three gifts inside…for 3 other people in my town. Would I mind passing them along? I’ll get right on it once my “special day” is over….yoiks and away!

10 a.m. Still trying to re-organize our storage space after adding in the accumulated gear belonging to the son-who-just-moved-home-after-three-years-gone. Space is limited but I see a spot up high and try to heave a 50-pound box onto the shelf. Heavy metal pot lid with sharp edge tumbles over left shoulder and removes chunk of flesh from left heel. Vigorous dancing and singing. Not recorded for posterity…yoiks and away!

10:20 a.m. Check email. Get uninvited to a banquet I had been invited to with a friend. It’s complicated…yoiks and away!

10:30 Two preschool grandkids in PJ’s and rubber boots arrive to fetch a Diet Coke for a tired mommy four doors down. Caffeine source delivered, kids decide to stay and help grammy have a happy birthday…yoiks and… you get the picture.

11 a.m. Book Westjet flight for speaking event three weeks hence and email itinerary to event organizer…

11:01 a.m. Receive email from event organizer with apologies for telling me wrong date…

11:02 – 11:20 a.m. On hold with Westjet to change booking…

11:30 Youngest grandbaby and her mommy arrive. “Can we give baby a nap here while I run some errands?”

11:45 a.m Husband dashes in door. “I have 30 minutes. I can chop up the veggies and slice all the fish for sushi!” He removes the 2-year-old and the 4-year-old from the countertop and starts sharpening knives. Middle grandchild peels the skin off our eardrums with a shriek. What?! Did he get in the way of the flashing blades? No. The baby grabbed his toy and his world ended…

high noon: Second daughter takes first two darlings home to their mommy. I put her baby to bed…for the first time…

12:02 p.m. Son and girlfriend arrive for lunch break. “What’s on the back of your shorts mom?” I investigate. Apparently my “dancing with the stars” routine resulted in a large amount of blood being spattered on the backside of my snow-white walking shorts. I change into something black and put the shorts in cold water…

12:15 Put two-year-old future gymnast back in crib…

12:30 “Gwammy! I waked up!” says baby, as she staggers into the kitchen dragging a 10-lb diaper that does nothing to enhance our appetites as we try to cook pizza and chop salad…

12:35 Change criticial mass poopy diaper and put baby to bed again then blow a lung running for the telephone on another floor and catch it just in time. Too winded to talk…

12:50, 1:10, 1:30 hunt for bottle, refill bottle, find blankey, put baby back in crib with orders to stay there — wasted breath…

1:50 Try for the hundredth time to write a thoughtful, insightful, spiritual, truly helpful and possibly life-changing blog designed to help others follow God one yes at a time but it’s hard to type while repeatedly bashing into tree trunks….

1:59 Hear baby coming and smell second “offering” of the day just as phone rings. It’s her mommy. She’s on her way. I decide to ignore the evidence and save it for her mother. Things are looking up…

Moral of the story (added two weeks later): Keep swinging! We laughed, we sang, we ate sushi until we tipped over, we heard from the Word; we went for a walk and a group photo, I got a gorgeous bouquet and many hugs and wishes. I decided to celebrate my birthday the next day by doing only what I wanted to do. You can see the result here.

Posted in need a laugh?

Following the crowd can be a good thing

luggage I got off the plane in Calgary last night after a 4.5 hour flight from Ottawa and it felt good to stretch my legs. Even though I know my own airport well, I turned the wrong way when getting off the airplane. Instead of going to the baggage carousel I was inadvertently following the people in front of me who were looking for a connecting gate.
Stumbling along, very weary, I was haled by an Air Canada agent from a booth set up on the passageway, “Ma’am, would you like a bottle of water?” She held it out to me.
I hesitated. Nothing’s free. I was tired and wanted to see my grandkids who were waiting for me at the baggage carousel. What was she trying to sell me by trapping me with a freebie?
“Sure,” I said because I couldn’t think of a polite way of refusing.
“I know you,” said the second Air Canada agent standing beside the one who had given me water. I detected an English accent.

“I’m flying too much if agents are starting to recognize me, ” I thought.

“Really? Who am I?” I asked, so tired, I wasn’t sure myself. (I still didn’t know I was going the wrong way.)
“You’re Connie Cavanaugh. I heard you speak a couple of years ago at a hotel in downtown Calgary.” She was smiling so I assumed she liked my speaking. That was encouraging.
I remembered that event, in particular, having lunch with a British woman who later contacted me via email and told me more of her story. But that woman had returned to the UK so this couldn’t be her, could it? Not sure, I asked anyway.
“Are you V. A.?”
“No, but I know who she is.”
At this point, the agent who had proffered the drink handed me a promotional envelope with a savings coupon for a future flight and asked me what I did.

Free water. Ten percent off my next flight. Things were looking up!

“I speak at Christian events, mostly for women, all over the Canada and the US. I’m just coming back from Brockville now and am so tired I don’t even know who I am.”
“You’re just coming back?” she asked and I nodded. “Well, you say you don’t know who you are, but it looks like you don’t know where you are either. The baggage carousel is the other direction!”
We all burst out laughing.

“I’ve been to a lot of those events to hear speakers,” she continued. “Too many.”
“Why do you say too many?” I asked.
“It hasn’t done any good.” She went on to ask me if I knew various speakers and sundry events but sadly, I did not connect with any of them. Then she said she was Catholic and many of the speakers were priests, brothers, or Catholic laypeople.

“I grew up Catholic,” I said. “And my oldest sister still attends the church. Have you heard of Alpha?”
She had heard of it but had never attended.
“Alpha changed my sister’s life,” I said.
“How?” she asked.
“It was at Alpha that  she heard about a personal relationship with Jesus.”
“Hmmm,” she replied.
“I happen to have a booklet in my carryon bag written by Nicky Gumble, the man who invented Alpha. Would you like to have it?”
“Yes,” she said.
I opened my bag and all I saw was a jumble of books, papers, chocolate wrappers (true confessions) and pens. My heart sank. Suddenly my hands found it even before my eyes saw it. I pulled it out.
“It’s called ‘Why Christmas’ I told her and it talks about knowing Jesus.” She accepted my gift and then repeated my name.
“Connie Cavanaugh. A good Irish name,” she said.
“If you can remember it,” I said, “Google my website and send me an email. I’d love to hear what you think about the booklet.”
She said she would.
“I’m glad I followed the crowd the wrong way, even though my mother always taught me not to, because it led me to you. It was a God thing,” I said as I turned to go back the way I had come.

Sometimes following the crowd can be a good thing.

Posted in need a laugh?

The Answer to the Runaway Class

deskimagesAs a young teacher with only one year of experience at the Grade 10 level, I was offered a job at a huge school teaching Grade 11.

Seventy people applied for that job and I got it. The pressure was on.

I was 24 years old and the only female in an English department with seven men — all with many years of experience.

Boy, was the pressure on!

And I was scared of Grade Eleven’s. My limited experience with them the year prior — subbing during my spare period for one day — had been a wipeout. I went to the first day of that new teaching job with fear and trembling. And right from the beginning it was obvious I wasn’t in control.

I felt like a rodeo clown with a bum leg and a target on my backside in a ring full of bulls.images

By the end of the first week I had moved from scared to panicky. In the middle of the afternoon of another stressful day, I went to the English department’s workroom during my break and slumped into a chair in the empty room, barely able to hold back the tears. My head was in my hands when I heard the door open.

“Hello, Sister Mary Mercy,” my fellow teacher Maurice, said as he breezed into the room, dropping an armload of books onto the worktable. The men in the department thought that since my husband was a preacher, I must be like a married nun, so I went by a new ecclesiastical name every day according to their whim. I didn’t mind. It was kind of funny to hear the convolutions they invented: Sister Perpetua. Sister Baptista (I was a Baptist). Sister Speedy ( I walked fast).

“Have I interrupted your matins?” he asked.

“Matins are morning prayers,” I droned. “It’s the afternoon.”

“So what are you doing?” he asked, genuine concern in his voice. Maurice was the most respected teacher in our department. I was embarrassed that he so quickly picked up on my troubled spirit. But I was also desperate.

“I’m blowing it,” I confessed. “I can’t control them. They’re running away with the class.” I choked back the tears.

“I’ve only got a minute,” Maurice said, gathering up the materials he had come to fetch. “Let me ask you one thing — do you love them?”

“No,” I admitted with shame.

“There’s your problem,” he said very kindly. Turning on his heel, he was gone.

That brief conversation changed my teaching and my life. I called out to God for the ability to love those kids. And with his help, I did. And the students noticed. Every day it was a little bit better. The three “tough guys” in one class that made my life miserable in September were “bringing apples” by October and by Christmas they had pooled their money to buy me some carved praying hands bookends that I still treasure more than 30 years later.

IMG_0046What’s happening in your life right now? Are things working out the way you thought they would or does it feel like your world is spinning out of control? Are you scared of God, or mad at Him, right now because your life feels chaotic and He doesn’t seem to be helping?

Let me ask you the question Maurice asked me: Do you love God? He is no more the enemy than those Grade Eleven students were.

If you can walk back into the chaos of your life, like I walked back into the chaos of my classroom, with a different attitude — choose love instead of fear – you will see your life change, moment by moment, day by day.

The Bible says: There is no fear in love; instead perfect love drives out fear….We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 18a, 19) God proved his love for us on the cross when Jesus died. And if you will trust him with your life, he will prove it over and over again in the details of your daily living.

Giving your life to God for the first time is not hard. Say these words to Him: Jesus, I can’t make it on my own anymore. Thank you that you proved your love for me by dying in my place so I could live. I turn my life over to you now. Thank you for giving me the living Holy Spirit to guide me. Amen (religious word meaning The End).

If you just said these words to God (aloud or silently) you are now a follower of Christ. Tell another Christ-follower about your decision and ask him/her to show you how you can learn more about your new life.

If you want to give your life back to God because you have drifted away, it is also easy: Jesus, I drifted away from you because ____________(you may not know the reason yet; that’s ok). I choose to love you even though I don’t feel close to you right now. I am saying yes to you now. Lead me one yes at a time. Amen