A Lovely Award I Don’t Have to Risk Throwing Up in Public to Receive

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I received a lovely surprise the other day. I want to emphasize lovely because many of the surprises I’ve been subjected to in my life have not been lovely.

Like the black mold we found behind the kitchen sink when Mike pulled out the old cabinets:

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(Bleccch! Maybe this isn’t such a great picture for the start of a post. Hope you’ll keep reading…)

Fortunately, the surprise I’m referring to now is not of that variety.

Instead, this one was a message from fellow blogger, Megan, at adjacentengels.wordpress.com . Megan has graciously nominated me for the “One Lovely Blog Award.” What an honor! I’m humbly excited to pass the fun along.

There are five guidelines for accepting this award:

  1. Link back to the blogger who nominated you.
  2. Paste the award image on your blog, anywhere.
  3. Tell them seven facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate 15 other bloggers for this award.
  5. Contact the bloggers that you have chosen to let them know that they have been nominated.

Seven facts about me? Hmm…Maybe it’s best to just list the first things that come to mind and see what happens:

1. I hadn’t met another Willow until I was in my thirties, and she was actually a goat. A shaggy, smelly, cantankerous creature who stared at me like I didn’t have a right to our name.

2. I like to put coffee instead of milk on my Cocoa Puffs.

3. I once dove fully clothed into a river to pursue a fish that had jumped out of the net I was holding up to show it off. I caught it back with my bare hands.

4. Besides writing, my other favorite hobby is huckleberry-picking in the mountains that surround our home.

5. I birthed the first four of my six kids in four years, 1983-1987.

6. I once traveled 500 miles in an old, monolithic Chevy Suburban with a full-size mattress bungeed to the car roof.

7. I’ve reached middle age without, even once, meeting someone who has ordered liver and onions in a restaurant.

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I have really appreciated the writing and insights of the following bloggers, so would like to nominate them for the One Lovely Blog Award:

Janelle – http://mymenandme.wordpress.com

Caleb – http://calebtrimble.wordpress.com

Jim – http://jimfields.wordpress.com

A. Dumois – http://adumois.wordpress.com

Debbie  Rea – http://debbiereajohnston.wordpress.com

Tilly Bud – http://thelaughinghousewife.wordpress.com

Melanie –  http://thecoffeeclubandme.wordpress.com

Christine –  http://godspace.wordpress.com

Heather – http://thehomesteadatspringcreek.wordpress.com

The Author – http://samegodnewme.wordpress.com

One thing that is especially nice about receiving an award through the convenience of cyberspace is that I don’t have to go to some potentially risky affair in order to receive it. I don’t have worry about making my way in unstable shoes to a podium, or be captured with my mouth wide open or one eye closed in celebratory photographs. I can simply acknowledge the kindness of my fellow blogger and accept this award through the safety of my computer monitor. Thank you, Megan.

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Those of you who have read any of my previous blogs know why I am uneasy in public situations. I’ve just had too many things go wrong in front of people. My unlucky moments and blunders are rarely discreet, private humiliations. They’ve tended to be of the more overt, ghastly variety.

And that is exactly why I have always had a soft spot for former president, George Bush Sr.–George H.W. Bush, that is.

It has nothing to do with politics. It’s about the fact that Mr. Bush Sr. handled a ghastly public faux pas with so much light-heartedness that he will always be a role model for me. He faced an international dinner disaster with enough grace to make me and all the other spontaneous public bleeders and vomiters of this world quite proud.

Case in point:

A fuzzy shot from video footage of First Lady Barbara Bush covering her husband’s vomiting mouth with a napkin at a state dinner in Tokyo. What a supportive wife!

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A 1992 New York Times  article reported the following incident that occurred while then-president George H.W. Bush was seated at a state dinner in Tokyo with Japanese Prime Minister Miyazawa:

At 7:20 P.M., Mr. Bush entered the dining hall for a four-course dinner… He was to exchange toasts with Mr. Miyazawa, a ritual at all such dinners, a little over an hour later. Instead, as Japanese television footage vividly showed, Mr. Bush, who already looked tired, became suddenly and dramatically ill.

He threw up on his shirt and suit jacket, rolled backward in his chair and tilted toward Mr. Miyazawa, who sat with Mrs. Bush to his left, and appeared about to collapse when a Secret Service agent vaulted atop the dinner table and a second eased him to the floor…The President’s host, Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa, cradled his head for some minutes until Mr. Bush was strong enough to get up on his own.

…Mr. Bush was on the floor for some time, while a worried Mr. Miyazawa and Mrs. Bush hovered over him and aides removed his jacket. An official said an uncomfortable silence descended over the room until Mrs. Bush, convinced that her husband was not seriously ill, offered reassurances. (My note–You gotta love this. Mrs. Bush has apparently been through such things before.)

After the incident, Mr. Bush walked from Miyazawa’s official residence under his own power, but looking haggard and wan, and wearing a green overcoat provided by a Secret Service agent to cover regurgitated food on his clothes.

Over a bedlam of clamoring reporters and Japanese security police who physically restrained them, he was heard to say: “I feel good.”

Today, Mrs. Bush’s press secretary, Ana Perez, told reporters that the First Lady heard the President joke as he lay on the floor.

“He said to the Prime Minister, ‘Why don’t you roll me under the table and I’ll sleep it off while you finish the dinner,'” she said.[1]

Wow! Talk about grace under fire. Again, you just gotta love it.

I also read that it was later reported the Japanese coined a phrase, bushu-suru, meaning “embarrassing public vomiting” or, literally, “to do a Bush.”

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For some of us, this is a set up for potential public disaster.

The only tie-in to Pharisaism that I’ll make in this post is simply to say that the Matthew 23:6 account of Pharisees’ “loving the place of honor at banquets” is one of the only Pharisaism symptoms that I can honestly say I didn’t exhibit in the entire time I suffered from that nasty religious disease.

Much less intimidating. Attendees can wear wine-colored clothing and are served a drier, spill-proof entree.

That was a good thing, because my avoidance of banquets has probably saved more than one important person from getting a staining substance spilled on them, or, heaven forbid, having me throw up on them and them having to cradle my head in their lap while security people vaulted over our table. And Mike probably wouldn’t relish the idea of coming to my rescue with a face-covering napkin, either.

Of course, all of this is written under the premise that I could be invited as the honored guest at a banquet, which, to date, hasn’t happened anyway. Thank goodness.

/http://www.honeybuy.com

I think the Pharisees must have been the more organized types. The type that can get a little big-headed about their unstained, unripped clothing  and pristine reputations. The type of people that were simply more mindful, more careful than people like me.

The type who own closetfuls of white, cream, and ecru-colored expensive suits and wear them with confidence to local cherry harvest food and beverage festivals.

There’s more to be said about Pharisaical carefulness, so in my next post I’ll take a closer look at it. For now, I’m just happily accepting my award while sitting in the comfort of my stained bathrobe and eating my delicious coffee-mushed Cocoa Puffs.

Thank you again, my fellow lovely blogger, Megan.

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[1] Wines, Michael. “Bush Collapses at State Dinner With the Japanese.” http://www.nytimes.com/1992/01/09/

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A Kick in the Seat of Entitlement

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Matt Sullivan/Reuters  http://www.nytimes.com

Money and fame made me believe I was entitled. I was wrong and foolish. – Tiger Woods

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Entitlement is a curious condition. The dictionary definition of entitle is, “to give (a person or thing) a title, right, or claim to something; furnish with grounds for laying claim.”[1]

In spite of that definition, though, it’s not uncommon for people to feel entitled to things they really haven’t furnished legitimate grounds for. Take seats, for example. Paying $10,000+ for a first class airline seat entitles one to something like this:

                                 Thai Airways –  http://www.businessinsider.com/best-first-class-airlines-2010-12

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Pretty nice, huh?

In contrast, searching out the cheapest deal I could find for my last domestic flight economy seat only entitled me to sit in this section:

                                                                                                                http://www.futuresmag.com/2012/07/05

So, what would happen if I, the purchaser of a cattle stall ticket, saw an empty seat in first class and sat down in that one instead? I’d probably be frowned upon and swiftly sent back to my smelly, cramped misery by a check-listing attendant. I’ve read internet stories about a few passengers who did manage to pull off such a “self upgrade,” but the majority were discovered and treated like shoplifters.

Similar stories abound for premium sports arena seat tickets. The more you pay for your seat ticket, the closer you will be to the action, and the greater superiority you can wield over your nosebleed section compatriots.

You can pay serious money for a view like this:

http://www.charitybuzz.com/catalog_items/266404

Or a whole lot less for the bird’s-eye view:

Al Bello/Getty Images

Either way, first class airline and premium ballpark ticket holders alike feel entitled to their optimum seats by virtue of the high price they pay. Certainly, no one in their position would tolerate seat-stealing from a lowly nosebleeder.

Yet, that’s what Jesus did. He strode right on in in New Testament times and sat himself down in a teaching seat–the place of authority reserved for the Pharisees and teachers of the Law.

In the Pharisees’ eyes, Jesus had no right to take this place. He was one of the unschooled masses, one of the local hicks who hadn’t gone to their Rabbinic schools or spent every waking hour studying and interpreting the Law. He did not have any theology or divinity degrees, so they assumed he was not qualified to speak on spiritual subjects with authority as they viewed it. They were incensed that he would even try.

In Matthew 23:2 Jesus said, “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.”

It was another “letter of the law vs. Spirit of the law” thing. The Pharisees said all the correct words when they taught the law of Moses, but didn’t demonstrate any of God’s compassion or care that the law was originally intended to promote. They didn’t think they needed to engender loyalty from people by simply being nice. They believed their authority seats automatically entitled them to be honored and obeyed regardless of how they treated others. They had worked hard for the glory of the Moses’ seat, after all–being fawned over was simply their due.

So when Jesus garnered more support for his radical teaching than the Pharisees ever did for their conservative doctrines, it infuriated the Pharisees. They saw him as an imposter. A heretic to be silenced. A seat usurper to be bumped back to the cattle stall.

Of course, what they couldn’t know was that Jesus would pay a higher price for their precious authority seats than they could ever afford. And after he paid that price, he would turn around and open his box section for all his hick friends to occupy.

It would change the whole meaning of premium seating.

Jesus wouldn’t just be a seat-stealer, he would be a seat-wrecker.

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I’ve wrecked a few seats in my time. Literally.

Accidentally.

Tragically.

In the same way that my clothes rip inexplicably and liquids mysteriously spill around me, seats have a habit of spontaneously breaking underneath me. I don’t understand why this is so. I’m no bigger than the average mom and I’m not the type to throw myself forcefully into furniture, yet on several notable public occasions chairs have reached the end of their allotted life span at the exact moment I sit in them. It’s horrible.

I’m like Martin Short’s chronically unlucky character, Eugene, in the 1991 movie, Pure Luck. Does anybody else remember that movie? In one scene a psychologist, setting out to prove his observation that Eugene is cursed, purposely breaks a chair that’s among a couple dozen circling a board room table. The psychologist then sets the chair back up, making it appear perfectly fine. He opens the door for Eugene to enter the room and invites him to sit anywhere he’d like. Against the odds, Eugene predictably gravitates toward the broken chair, sits down and ends up deposited on the floor in a heap.

Something like that happened to me once. The odds would have been about one in eighty that I would sit in the singular lecture hall chair that was compromised. Of course, for most people those are pretty good numbers. But, of course again, not for me. The numbers gods seem to delight in picking my number again and again.

I walked into high school study hall that day determined to find an unobtrusive spot in which to finish reading To Kill a Mockingbird. I went all the way up the steep steps to the top level. It was the farthest away from the mean wrestling coach/room monitor who treated study hall like it was a Supermax receptacle for prison riot instigators. I sat down on one of the chairs that was actually just a plastic seat bolted onto a metal pedestal that was, in turn, bolted into the floor.

Although not quite this fancy, our high school lecture hall was similarly arranged.

Settling in, I leaned back in the seat, noticing that it had just enough give to actually recline a tiny bit. Hmm. I had never before discovered that the lecture hall seats would do that. It felt curiously comfortable. I could even rock a bit. And, because the coach/warden kept the room so quiet, I was able to mentally detach from my surroundings and lose myself completely in the novel.

Unfortunately, my mind wasn’t the only thing that would detach from its moorings that day.

I opened my book to the scary part where Scout and Jem were accosted while walking home in the dark. I became so engrossed in the story that when Jem screamed for Scout to run, I could actually hear her anguished squeals. EEEECH! The sound in my head surprised me. I kept reading and rocking in my delightful chair.

Scout tries to run, but is hindered by her unwieldy ham costume and falls. Again, I really hear her screams–EEEEERRR! I paused at that point, realizing that maybe the sound wasn’t in my head, after all.

I looked around and saw that people were looking in my direction. EEEEEEGH! What the…? Of course, because I tend to be a bit of a slow processor, the truth about the noise didn’t hit my cognition until the seat jerked completely back and hit the floor.

With me still in it.

The ear-piercing noises had been coming from me–from my chair. The one chair out of eighty with a seat that I would later learn had all its bolts loosened by an evil top-row prankster.

It was just so bad. One minute I’m with Scout and Jem on a dark, wooded path and the next I’m laying on my back on a concrete floor staring up at institutional lighting. My feet, now on the table, were the only part of me that showed to everyone in the lower rows. Whispered exclamations erupted from the rest of the class as people tried to ascertain from the shoes who it was that had met with such entertaining tragedy. I stayed on my back for a few crucial moments, cringing more from social pain than from my throbbing head pain. Staring hard into the institutional lights, I prayed that I was actually heading toward them in a tunnel and that I was on my way off the cruel planet where I was destined to be the object of people’s jeering and a constant victim to the whims of gravity. I wanted God to whisk me away.

But He didn’t, and so I slowly got off the floor and satisfied my audience’s burning curiosity.

“It’s Willow! Ha, ha!” and “Willow Carson’s seat broke! Hee, hee…”

People repeated various versions of the story for days. Other, even crueler pranksters, started loosening seat bolts everywhere in a global bid to create a funnier world at the expense of the unfortunate luck-impaired folks among them. It marked an era, and a sad one at that.

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The era of my Pharisaical entitlement reached its high point right before my disease diagnosis. I erroneously believed that if I paid a high enough price, I could get a higher seat in the Kingdom. And my all my bible studies and good deeds were the currency I shelled out for this premium standing.

I was the older son in the Prodigal Son story. I thought my standing as the obedient, hard-working Christian should have entitled me to be celebrated, not the rebellious, pagan younger sibling. The younger son had only paid for a cattle stall ticket, but our generous Father let him come up and steal my seat in the posh first class section. It made my Pharisaism-disease fever rage through my whole spirit, infiltrating not just my church life, but my home life as well.

The only cure for my Pharisaical entitlement would be steady doses of combative truths. When I finally allowed God to plug his IV bag into me, the following truths dripped successively into me, one after the other, almost like steps in a 12-step recovery program. I had to learn that:

-I am not always right about everything, and even some of my Christian beliefs are skewed or wrong.

-Diligent bible study does not guarantee 100% correct interpretation. I am created by God to need others’ views.

-My time is no more important than anyone else’s, even if I think I work harder than others.

-I am not entitled to be served by others. If someone chooses to do so, it is a bonus and I should appreciate it.

-I must respect others’ feelings and opinions if I want them to respect mine.

-I cannot disrespect others by insisting they do everything the way I think it should be done.

-Impatience is not a virtue and only serves to make others despise me secretly.

-The surliness and disrespect I exhibit toward others who work with me can never justify even the best of results.

-The mean words I say in my mind are louder in God’s ears than the sweet things I say with my mouth.

-I am not entitled to be loved. Love is a gift, whether from God or people, and should always be received with humble gratitude.

And finally, possibly the most important truth of all–

The only seat of true entitlement is the driver’s seat. This means that:

a. The driver is entitled to signal, pass, and/or speed whenever they do or do not want to.

b. I must submit to their choice of a parking spot, even if I don’t like its location, and I must execute said submission without sarcastic comments.

c. When I am in the lowlier passenger seat, I must behave like a passenger and give up all my driving rights. I must seal my lips and close my eyes if necessary to humbly accept this inferior position…

…or else get my seat kicked out of the car.

[1] “entitle.” Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 13 Jul. 2012. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/entitle>.

The Silencing of The Jacket’s Voice

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Here’s an interesting tidbit I ran across on the Listverse website:

“Joanne Perez, the widow of vaudeville performer Pepito the Spanish Clown, cleaned out the area underneath her bed and discovered the only existing copy of the pilot for the TV series I Love Lucy. Pepito had coached Lucille Ball and had guest-starred in the pilot. Ball and her husband, Desi Arnaz, had given it to Pepito as a gift in 1951 and it had remained under the bed for thirty years.”  (http://listverse.com/2007/06/30/8-expensive-art-works-found-accidentally/)

Wow! Almost makes me want to go clean underneath my bed.

Not.

I really don’t want to know what’s under there. I’m sure there’s nothing interesting, and besides, the dust bunnies prefer to live in an undisturbed environment where they can grow large enough to self-generate their own static charges and attract more than just dust. That’s when they can collect enough dog hair to scare the dog with his own hair. And when they get big enough to hold a sock off the ground is when we have to get them out with a shotgun instead of a broom. Of course, that’s when things get messier than if we’d just left them until we either move out of the house someday or die and leave them for the kids to kill.

Unlike Pepito the Spanish Clown’s wife, the only surprising thing I’ve ever chanced upon under any bed was certainly not interesting or valuable, and could have even triggered a home evacuation if someone had tipped off the health department. I won’t go into it, but it involved a teenager’s dirty snack dish cache and technicolor mold deposits. (Actually, it was sort of interesting, now that I think about it, considering that the removal of the infectious dishes resulted in a miraculous healing of a certain young person’s pesky nasal drip.)

I did uncover a valuable article once, however, in a clothing hand-me-down bag. Now that was a find. A real treasure.

It happened at a time when I really thought I could be a suave, put-together type of lady if I could just procure the right clothes.  I suspect my synapses weren’t all synapping correctly during those whipper-snapper thirties’ years. I really did think that it was possible to have six kids, live sixty-five miles from the nearest Wal Mart, work on a mail route, tend two woodstoves and still find a way to upgrade from Frumpy Mom to Fab Fashionista. All on a limited budget to boot. It was an impossible dream, one that deep down I knew should be put away. And I almost did.

But one day dawned with a surprising glimmer of hope.

Is was that day. The mid-1990’s day when a dear friend bestowed upon me the mother of all hand-me-downs. It was a very expensive blazer that another friend, a rich friend, had given her, but it hadn’t fit either friend quite right. So, Friend 2 passed it on to me…and it fit me perfect. It was like a gift from heaven.

It wasn’t just any Ross For Less clearance rack blazer, it was a designer brand–a fitted, cream-colored, pristine jacket that spoke softly to me the minute I saw it.

It called to me. It said, “Hi. I’m Meg Ryan. Put me on. I’ll make you look like you’re unable to sleep in Seattle, and I’m yours.”

When I held it up with trembling hands, the understated buttons cooed in unison, “We’ll make you look like a star.”

A star? Clutzy, frazzled Mom Me–look like a star?? It was too good to be true, and yet...it might just be worth a try.

All I needed was the proper occasion on which to unveil my stardom, and as luck would have it, my occasion was already in front of me. Our wedding anniversary was only a few days away and Mike had promised to take me out for a nice meal in Billings to celebrate. I had three days to plan.

And plan I did. I experimented with different skirts and dresses with which to pair the precious jacket. I actually owned one newer dress that really did work well under the blazer. I then experimented with my hair. A low ponytail twisted through and underneath itself did the trick. The results were surprising. I might not have been small, blonde and blue-eyed like Meg, but my brunette, hazel-eyed, beefier self still appeared somewhat trendier than it had in years.

It was the magic of the blazer.

Protecting that blazer then become Job One. But before I continue I need to give a bit of background. (In conversations with Mike, this is when he always sighs.)

I love to drink and drive. Coffee, that is. It’s not just that I like to do it–I am an addict and I must do it. Back when this story was unfolding, we lived twelve miles from town. It was about a fifteen minute drive, but long enough for me to get another precious travel mug of coffee down my gullet while I drove.

The problem was, though, that I drove an old Toyota Tercel station wagon. A five-speed manual stick shift.

Two of the eight Toyota Tercel wagons we have owned over the years.

Not a good choice for someone who cannot safely handle liquids. Even fluids from sealed units such as snow globes and Magic 8 Balls mysteriously spring leaks in my fumbly grasp.

It took years of spilled coffee, stinky car mats, and ruined clothing for me to realize that there is not, and never will be, a travel mug impervious to my spilling habit. I had learned instead to do what all people with disabilities do–I made accommodations for myself. I started wearing large protective bibs in the car. Inspired by earlier visits to my Gramma in the nursing home, I simply draped old towels around my front and clipped them behind my neck with clothespins.

These washable, absorbent bibs freed me from all the negative effects of my drinking, shifting and driving habit. It embarrassed my kids, but that was their problem. As long as I remembered to take the towel off when I got out of the car, I didn’t care if the occasional passing driver saw me. And even when I did forget to take it off when I got out to gas the car once, I figured I just looked like someone who was fleeing from the dentist.

And so the day of my Big Reveal arrived. The plan was for me to meet Mike when he got off work and make the trip to Billings in his car. I took extra time that day to make myself look nice. As I wisped my bangs, twisted my ponytail, and paired my floral cotton dress with flat shoes, I realized that my true goal was to simply be a worthy showcase for the blazer. It would speak for me if I presented it just so. It would tell the world that Willow was sophisticated and fashionable.

The problem was, it wasn’t me. The type of person who would normally wear that jacket probably wouldn’t have been driving a 1983 Toyota Tercel wagon while wearing a huge towel bib, and besides that, several yards’ worth of unsullied cream-colored material draped over my person was a set-up for disaster.

Until that blazer came into our home, I had always shied away from white or light-colored shirts in the fear that I might spill bright liquids on myself or incur a sudden nosebleed. The fact that I’ve rarely ever had a nosebleed didn’t diminish my fear, but only made me worry that the odds were stacking against me. Yet because this blazer–this Sleepless in Seattle Blazer–promised so much, I recklessly ignored all my previous worries and fears.

Not wanting to leave anything to chance, I gingerly placed the clean-as-the-driven-snow jacket on the back seat of the Tercel and smiled at my own keen foresightedness. It looked lovely, pressed and resting serenely in a protected spot, far behind me and my coffee. I could drink, shift, and drive, and then put the blazer on when I got to town. Hmm. Maybe clothes really do make the woman. I felt smarter than I had in years.

Feeling smart is not the same as being smart, however.

Being smart would have involved remembering that my fears were not irrational. They were based on history.

And so, my sad and sorry spilling history now includes that day’s incident. If my annals of time were written somewhere in literal form, that day’s entry would go something like this:

“2:00 PM – Willow begins driving down dirt lane toward highway to town, glances back in rearview mirror to admire awesome jacket on back seat, veers slightly off road, brakes to slow down, places coffee mug in center console to free her holding hand to shift down, hits a large rock in road which jars her shifting arm and causes her right elbow to jerk back. Elbow hits coffee mug hard, sends mug flying backward through the air where it lands squarely on jacket on back seat and vomits its entire staining contents onto once-beautiful blazer. Blazer receives full force of coffee, leaving seat, mats, and Willow’s bib untouched. Willow stops car, gets out, yells, kicks rock off road, hurts her toes inside flimsy shoes, and shakes fist at the gravity gods.”

My movie didn’t end well that day. But then, clutzes who insist on drinking and driving shouldn’t expect happy endings.

Ever.

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My Pharisaism disease kept me in a constant state of determination. It was a determination to make my faith look smart and sophisticated. I thought it was my duty to fancy-up the world’s image of Christianity, and so I constantly looked for ways to make my beliefs look more special than the pagans’ beliefs. I thought God looked best to the world when presented by someone wearing their “gift” like a tailored jacket.

In Matthew 23, Jesus talked about how the Pharisees put on clothes that were specifically designed to make them look smarter than the average Joe. Jesus states: “Everything they [the Pharisees] do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries [prayer boxes worn on the forehead and arm] wide and the tassels on their garments long…” (NIV)

In other words, the Pharisees dressed for celebrity and success. It was quite opposite of how Jesus dressed and presented himself. He wore plain clothing that didn’t say anything about him except that he was ordinary. Instead, he let his actions–specifically his love for people–speak for him. And that was anything but ordinary.

Churches that are infected with Pharisaism will gussy things up to try and impress the world, too. Unfortunately, that brings with it a constant need to protect that fancy image as well. And that, then, launches the potential for the image to get sullied and for people to get mad at each other.

Do we really need any more special Christian “clothing?” Are we protecting our precious gatherings to the point where our whole reputation will be ruined if something goes wrong? Do we really need any more fights over the accoutrements of our Sunday morning club meetings?

Jesus solved the problem of image promotion by giving the Pharisees such a bumpy ride they spilled their coffee all over their coats. They got mad, not realizing it was good for them.

As it turned out, it was good for me to give up on my blazer project. I went home, changed into my usual clothes and proceeded to have a really nice date with Mike. Mike didn’t need or want Meg Ryan. She was a total stranger to him.

He just wanted the plain woman he married to spend some time with him…even if she did end up spilling hot coffee in his lap and searing the skin underneath his jeans.

I’m so lucky he’s such a forgiving guy.

Nudist Colony Disappointment

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Long before Janet Jackson’s 2004 Super Bowl mishap added the term “wardrobe malfunction” to popular American vernacular, I coined my own original phrase for the many clothing disasters I have endured throughout my troubled social life. It is the simple sentence, “Oh no–I think my pants just ripped.”

The signalling rush of cool air through my seat area usually sets off a panicky search for a wall to back up against. In lieu of walls or trees or even a drinking fountain to hover in front of, I often grip the back of whatever chintzy pants or shorts I’m wearing and look for a gracious way to reverse walk out of public view. Of course, the act of walking backwards carries with it the potential of even worse hazards and so these moments have never ended well.

I can’t explain why I seem to be the victim of more pants-ripping than most people. I don’t wear my pants too tight and I try to steer toward sensible, sturdy fabrics. I think it has more to do with my tendency toward jerky, quick movements. I’m always rushing, and when that is combined with my clutziness–I drop things constantly and subsequently must bend over a lot–my clothing is put to the test. And more often than not, it flunks those tests.

For a time, I carried a tiny sewing kit in my purse. I even used it once. But once was all it took for me to find out that the snippet of thread that the kit contained would never be enough to sew up one of my signature San Andreas Fault-sized rips. I’ve also resorted to stapling a few rips with an office stapler, but that repair method always leaves odd puckers that make it look like I have a seat full of gravel or something.

It was the  discovery of duct tape for fabric repair that considerably reduced the severity of my clothing emergencies.

Hmm. Wait–before I go any further, the topic of fabric repair has just brought another childhood memory to the surface. I suddenly have a mental picture of my grandparents’ recliners stationed in front of their big RCA wood cabineted TV. I remember how they kept an end table between their two chairs that was always fully stocked with nail clippers, reading glasses, candy bowls, and of course, the two most important articles every devoted TV watcher in the 1970’s owned–the TV Guide mini magazine and the amazing remote control, something still quite novel for working class families back then.

I loved that remote. We didn’t have one at our house. As the person who usually sat on the floor in front of the TV at home, I was the remote. Obeying the whims of the watchers, I slid back and forth on the sculpted carpet, garnering plenty of static charges as I operated the clicking channel dial and the volume knobs.  I took a lot of electric hits, needless to say. Maybe enough to add up to a modern Tase or two. It’s a good thing we only got a few channels and we always sat through all the commercials.

Everybody sat through commercials back then. Commercial breaks gave people an opportunity to go to the bathroom and replenish their snack bowls. It probably wasn’t until sometime around the year 1985 that it dawned on Americans that they could watch something else between commercials. That must have then coincided with the start of antibiotic overuse and subsequent resistance as Americans began to experience a huge upsurge in the number of bladder infections from that time on.

But I digress. Back to fabric repair and then back to wardrobe malfunctions and then I promise I’ll get to the Pharisees’ clothing issues. Hang in here with me, please.

I was going to say that my Grampa’s recliner was upholstered in olive green vinyl. Even though the vinyl made for a really noisy and skin-rippingly sticky sitting experience when wearing shorts, it was an easy material to repair if damaged.

I’ll never forget how afraid I was to show Grampa the hole my pointy scissors made in the arm of his chair when I was cutting out paper dolls while watching The Price is Right. I was worried that I was going to be in big trouble because I had made a really big slit in the vinyl, but Grampa didn’t get upset at all. He just went to the kitchen, pawed around in the junk drawer, and came back with a piece of olive green patching vinyl and a book of matches. He then proceeded to wave the lit match above the slit until the material softened and placed a teensy piece of patch over it. He heated it up again, rubbed over the patch, and, voila!, good as new.

I’ve sometimes entertained the idea of owning vinyl pants.

That was, until I discovered duct tape.

My first brush with duct tape for fabric repair happened one day when, while doing my job as a part time highway contract mail carrier, I stupidly didn’t question the unusual amount of cool air that was flowing through the back of my jean shorts. After hefting bags of mail into the miniature post office at my route’s termination point and stopping to mingle with the customers, I discovered in the restroom that a huge rip had occurred sometime earlier and was irreverently displaying a (ahem) derriere cheek for all the world to see.

Mortified, I asked one of the ladies I had been visiting with why she hadn’t pointed this out to me and she replied that she “thought it was intentional.” What? It might have been the era of 90’s grunge, but I was a church pianist, for heaven’s sake—not a brazen hussy intentionally running around in public with my leopard-print panties roaring for attention from all the farmers and fisherman in the post office!

It was a scorching Montana prairie day and so I had no jacket or extra clothing with me. I was forty-five miles from home and I still had to finish my route. Thank goodness the postmistress had duct tape. Holding back tears of intense embarrassment, I patched my shorts from the inside, praying the rip would stay closed. It did. But I’ve had to put seven hundred miles between me and that place now to escape the humiliation of that moment.

Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be the last of such moments.

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So, finally, this brings me around to the subject of Pharisaism. Specifically to Mark 12:38:

“Jesus also taught: ‘Beware of these teachers of religious law! For they like to parade around in flowing robes and receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces.'” (NLT)

To me, the point of this reference isn’t so much about the clothes themselves, as it is about the flowing and parading of said robes. It sounds like these guys were showing off, like they were purposefully using their clothes to attract attention. And they were. Several commentaries mention that the Pharisees wore special robes to signify their position as religious gurus and to keep them visually separated from the common Jewish people.

They were a prime example of ostentation, which the dictionary defines as, “pretentious or conspicuous show; display intended to impress others.”

They wore these ostentatious robes, then, like fancy sandwich board signs. Like they were advertising their superior positions and intellectual greatness.

Before I come down too hard on the Pharisees, though, I have to say that we all use our clothing to say something or other about us. It’s natural. Even people who are adamantly against following fashion trends are telling us just that by wearing plain, utilitarian clothes. The only way to escape using clothes as a message about ourselves would be to revert back to a Chinese Red Revolution-style uniform code for all of society. Mao suits for everyone.Yay.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with diverse clothing choices. We all need to express our unique selves through our wardrobe from time to time. (Within the boundaries of modesty, of course.) But, using clothing to try and be someone we’re not can have silly consequences, indeed. Trust me, I know.

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The problem with the Pharisees’ robes was that it was yet another example of externalism–of trying to make the outside look like something that the inside just doesn’t match. Jesus called the Pharisees on this on many separate occasions, but they couldn’t comprehend what he was talking about. Most of them just tried even harder to prove their superiority to him.

The disease symptom of superiority was particularly vexing for me as a Pharisaism sufferer. I simply thought that, as a Christian, I was truly better than most people. I certainly would never have said that, but looking back, I see now how I really did feel that way about myself and my fellow believers.

I donned a religious persona, an ostentatious way of presenting myself and my beliefs that I thought would impress others. It made me think that I was above ordinary sinners, that through all my extensive bible study and worship, I had achieved a higher standing in regular society.  I displayed my lofty knowledge by speaking out and by being instructional at every opportunity to make sure no one would miss how exceptional I was as a devoted Christian.

I wore my spirituality robe like a sandwich board.

But it didn’t impress anyone. In fact, it only served to keep me separate, apart. And tragically so, considering the very ones I was trying to impress were the ones that I could have learned the most from. I wasted a lot of time parading about in a sandwich board when I could have been sitting quietly at a table with all kinds of ordinary, but really very wise sinners.

Eek! Well now–will you look at the clock?! I’VE GONE WAY OVER TIME AGAIN! Oh man–now my post title has nothing to do with the content so far and you’re probably feeling quite let down. I’m sorry.

I haven’t even gotten to my main point yet. I was about to talk about how clothes are also meant to cover stuff up and how we can make things look really good on the outside when they’re really awful underneath. And then I had planned to tell a story about an electrician I knew once who was overjoyed to win a bid on a rewiring project in a building at a nudist colony, but his experience didn’t pan out the way he had hoped it would.

He was greatly disappointed to find out that young, toned women generally don’t join nudist colonies. Aging, overweight people do. It was one giant wardrobe malfunction with nary anything even close to a Janet Jackson physique anywhere to be seen.

He regretted accepting the job there.

And I have a sneaking suspicion that truly wise, honest, reliable, God-fearing people don’t’ bother to drape themselves in layers of ostentation.

It’s generally the insecure, bloated, self-righteous Pharisees who do that. So it’s best to stay away from their colonies. You might see them stripped of their outside adornments and then you’ll find out they’re mushy like the rest of us.

It won’t be near as spiritually thrilling as you had hoped.

You’d regret accepting a job there.

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Craving Sweet Praise

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As I’ve mentioned before, our family eats a lot of wild game. At least my husband and sons do. I’m kind of a minimalist when it comes to meat of any sort. Maybe that’s because transporting freshly killed animals is sometimes inconvenient:

Leaving Grandma’s house after Thanksgiving, 1993. Eerily similar to the National Lampoon “Vacation” movie–there’s a deer carcass strapped to the top of our old Ford Taurus station wagon.

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…or maybe just because I get tired of cutting it up every year:

And to think this poor Bambi was cavorting freely just hours earlier.

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Eating game brought in from one’s backyard instead of from the grocery store is just a normal part of life for those of us who live in this section of the country. However you may feel about the topic of hunting, you can’t deny the health benefits of a purely organic, super lean, hormone-free, and pink slime-free protein source.

Venison usually takes up the majority of our freezer space, but we’ve had moose and bear meat on occasion. The moose can be a bit tough, and the bear, well…it isn’t my favorite.

My problem is that I am a lifetime carb lover. Not just any carbs will do either, but the simplest, easiest, least complex variety that is locally available. And this is a handy attitude for someone like me who believes in environmental responsibility. I wouldn’t want to be accused of contributing to the over-consumption of resources involved in trucking in exotic complex carbohydrates such as quinoa, buckwheat, bulgur, and oat bran.

I believe strongly in the  utilization of local sources of nutrition as much as possible. I mean, think about it–every convenience store and grocery store within a mere few miles of any community has all the Hostess pies and Ding Dongs a person could ever want. That’s pretty local, if you ask me. And who would want anything else, anyway?

(On top of that, the side benefit of constipation does even more to reduce environmental waste. Think of  how much less toilet paper and clean flushing water is needed by those who have consumed very little dietary fiber over their lifetimes. And this can even lead to increased spirituality due to extra meditation time in the bathroom…)

But, back to what I was saying:

If Michelle Obama were to have me fill in the new nutrition guide, “My Plate” slots with my preferred selections from each food group, I’d put Skittles’ in the fruit section, Twinkies in the grains spot, Peeps in the protein part and candy corn in the vegetables space. Top it off with dairy-ish Coffeemate creamer in the coffee and I’d say a well-rounded meal was accomplished. Mmm.

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But, if I really must eat a substantial piece of meat, like a bear steak, say, here’s the type I prefer:

http://www.barnorama.com/giant-gummy-bear/

Yes, I do bear an insatiable sweet tooth. (Huh! This pun was not originally intended, but I’m delighted that it just now happened, like a lucky accident.)

Just as I come from a long line of hunters on my dad’s side of the family, I come from a long line of sugar-eaters on my mom’s side of the family. My Great-grandpa Merz was one of the most outstanding. This tough German farmer lived to be 92, even though he daily consumed full-fat dairy products and all the puddings and baked goods that his obliging wife could come up with in order to use all their cream and butter. Yet, Great-grandpa was as healthy as a horse. He mowed his own lawn and even patched his own roof at ninety years old.

He also ate sugar right out of the sugar bowl.

In fact, family legend has it that one day, after first breakfasting on doughnuts and then consuming multiple spoonsful of sugar straight from the china bowl, he got up to answer the phone and passed out. Crashed right onto the floor with a thud. Unbelievably though, even with a blood glucose level high enough to distill into an alternative fuel source, he came to, got up, and went back out to work. A little dazed maybe, but none the worse for wear.

My mom inherited a little of that sweet gene. She reports that her mom kept a drawer stocked full of candy bars in the house and that she was allowed to eat one anytime she wanted.

Genetics, then, probably explains why I used to climb onto the table when I was little and eat sugar out of the sugar bowl when my mom left the room. I don’t recall that I’ve ever passed out from such an event, but in later years, I have gotten a bit wound up on occasion after consuming mounds of cookie dough and ended up crashing on the couch afterward for a very spontaneous nap.

Needless to say, my unhealthy craving for sweets is not something I can take responsibility for. I’m a victim of maternal genetics. I am a child of my mother and I love to eat the sweet things she does.

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The Pharisees were victims of paternal genetics. In John 8:44 Jesus tells the Pharisees, “For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does.”

And, among the many things the Pharisees inherited from their father’s side was an unhealthy, insatiable craving for praise. They coveted recognition, honor and frosted kudos. In Matthew 23: 6-7 Jesus described their behavior this way:

“…they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues. They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.'” (NLT)

The Pharisees didn’t just love to be praised for their supposed superiority, they acted like it was a limited resource. Like there was only so much to go around and if people happened to give some of that precious admiration to Jesus, they were wasting it. Like people’s praise was a box of $120 a pound Godiva chocolates and Jesus and his followers were a bunch of silly boy scouts to whom some dolt accidentally gave those chocolates for their s’mores at a Camporee cookout.

The Pharisees resented it when Jesus received respect and they didn’t. They worked tirelessly, sacrificially, to uphold the Law and their traditions, so to them it was a scandalous mistake for people to lavish honor on Jesus for easily performing a few miracles here and there. Every time someone gave Jesus praise, the Pharisees felt like something had been taken from them.

Something they thought they were entitled to.

Something sweet and delicious that they thought should be theirs and theirs alone.

Something they craved more than Life itself.

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My Pharisaism disease made me crave respect, too. I really thought that those closest to me should acknowledge and honor all my efforts to be godly. I wanted, needed the sugary words and affirmations that fueled my sacrificial works.

I would later learn that underneath my sick craving was a virulent insecurity. It was a deep-down feeling of unworthiness that I thought I could remedy on my own by simply securing approval from my peers. Having my gifts and efforts lauded brought a quick fix, in the same way that a big piece of fresh peach pie with real whipped cream can instantly satisfy any sweet craving. But, the satisfaction never lasted. I always ended up needing more.

For Pharisaical Christians, then, church can be a busy, aromatic gourmet bakery. It can provide insecure people with a place in which they can do all kinds of sacrificial deeds and share all kinds of wonderful talents and be rewarded with a steady supply of fabulous appreciation and back pats. The hardest working and most talented are seen as the most godly.

But a steady diet of pastries is not healthy. And what starts out innocently enough, when misused, can become dangerous.

Kind of like what can happen in a hospital. Even though hospitals are where we go for healing, they can also be breeding grounds for deadly staph germs. The overuse of antibiotics is thought to be responsible for these hospital staph outbreaks. Patients go into the hospital to get treated for their original ailment, but wind up coming out with a whole new problem–a deadly infection.

And so a church can sometimes become a breeding ground for insecurity. People go there for fellowship, teaching, and healing for sin wounds, but certain susceptible ones can come out infected with a raging Pharisaical sweet tooth. The over-rewarding of performance can result in something even deadlier than apathy–a raging case of Pharisaical praise entitlement.

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So, what happens when I can’t have my candy? I might gasp and whine and start shaking uncontrollably, but I won’t die. In fact, it’s good for me.

And, what happened when Paul’s Pharisaical honor was taken from him? He gasped and shook and lost his eyesight temporarily, but he didn’t die. He became stronger. Way stronger.

Now, what might happen if a church were to give up some or all of the things it’s most known for–amazing music, spectacular preaching, or creative children’s ministries? What if God asked a church to institute some sort of fast from the sweet glory that their programs bring? Would anybody die?

The problem with the last scenario is that some people would contend that death could occur. I’ve actually heard a church person worry that if they refrained from their lovely Sunday morning music for any period of time, certain prospective converts might not come and could end up unsaved because of it. Wow! Talk about self-importance–that was the worst case of sweet teeth I’ve ever encountered!

In order to recover from Pharisaism, I had to learn that church services, music and preaching do not save people. They may be nice and might even promote a great time of worship, but still can never be responsible for a soul’s salvation. We are not to be in the business of making God entertaining or trendy, we are just to gather together and worship together and let the Spirit do His thing in the midst of us. As weak humans, we can easily fall prey to the addictive nature of too much applause candy.

And the best test of whether or not we really are indulging in too much of anything is to try and do without it for awhile.

Would you feel deprived if your church had to put away their instruments and mics for one Sunday and sing a cappella?

Would your congregation feel like they had missed out on God if they were only allowed to sing and pray together one Sunday–without any preaching at all?

What would happen if there were no bulletins and the order of service was purposely mixed up?

Maybe some people would like it. Some might feel a fresh breath of the Holy Spirit settle over when egos are no longer stroked and addictions are not sated. Some might even realize that their relationship with God is not as dependent on church stuff as they thought it was.

And others, Pharisees like the former me, wouldn’t like it at all.

Their faces would fall,

and they’d snivel and bawl,

as they curled up in a ball,

and went into withdrawal…

Okay, stop me now–this rhyming is out of control.

I think I need to go get a spoon and a jar of marshmallow creme to make it all go away. We’ll talk more about this next time.

After my crash and follow-up nap, that is.

Heaven in a jar.

Proving That I’m Better Than Her by Letting Her Think She’s Better Than Me

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Pride and  Proud are common enough words. Most of us have them stored in our vocabularies and use them in our speaking and writing on occasion. They’re words we don’t make a big deal about in the same way we don’t make a big deal about other noun/adjective siblings such as joy and happy or anger and mad. They’re utilitarian words, not fancy ones like, well, utilitarian. In most secular applications pride/proud connote positive things–pride in one’s work, proud of one’s children, country, etc.

In Christian applications, however, pride is usually a bad thing. Christians are taught that it was pride that caused Satan’s fall and pride that brought on Nebuchadnezzar’s mental fry-out. He was an Old Testament king that was so bloated by pride he could only be cured of it by undergoing a humiliation treatment from God. Daniel 4:33 says Nebuchadnezzar was “…driven from human society. He ate grass like a cow, and he was drenched with the dew of heaven. He lived this way until his hair was as long as eagles’ feathers and his nails were like birds’ claws…” (NLT)

Wow, now that’s a serious comeuppance. Resorting to eating grass (is it even humanly digestible in its raw form?) and having one’s fingernails grow into talons (“Ouch! Man, I did it again–gotta stop tryin’ to rub my itchy eyes. Stupid grass pollen allergies…”) are bizarre consequences, indeed.

At least the grass and dew and bird claw parts are. I must say that hair as long as eagles’ feathers intrigues me a little. Hmm. Anything that would stimulate more lustrous hair growth on my thinning scalp might not be such a bad thing. (True story–I actually searched the Target aisles last week for a brown Sharpie marker. I won’t explain this any further. I’m sure there are a few other middle-aged brunette readers out there who can identify with the reasoning behind such a search.)

This is getting me to thinking. I’m wondering if there’s something special in grass that promoted ol’ Nebbie’s hair growth. I just Googled, “nutrient composition of grass” but have mostly come up with bovine information.

Cows and bison…wait a minute–now here’s a fascinating article title, “Time to Chew the Cud: Dentist Invents Dentures For Cows.”

Dentures for cows? Who knew? This is fascinating!

Apparently, grass-grazing tends to wear down bovine teeth, especially in areas with sandy soil. The book of Daniel doesn’t say that Nebuchadnezzar’s teeth suffered from his foray into grazing. Maybe human teeth are more durable. Of course, we don’t burp up wads of undigested food and rechew it all a second time like cows do. That would double the amount of chewing we do for every trip to the salad bar, but health regulations require greens to be washed thoroughly, so even if the lettuce was grown in sandy soil…

Ergh, I’m doing it again. I’ll write another pointless post if I don’t stick to my topic.

Focus, focus…The disease of Pharisaism, then, is characterized not just by the symptoms of spiritual blindness and religious externalism, but also by a vexing, noxious, debilitating form of PRIDE. This strain of pride, which I think is better named “superiority,” is so virulent that it can’t be addressed in just one post. So, like the above mentioned symptoms, I’ll be writing about it for a while.

I hardly know where to start, however. The Pharisees’ attitude of superiority is smeared all over the New Testament. It’s a huge topic for a silly blogger like me to tackle. I’ll try, though, if for no other reason than to aid my own recovery from Pharisaism.

Simply put, the Pharisees thought they were better than the average Jew. Not just better, but holier. And that would be their downfall.

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As a Pharisasim sufferer, I, too, exuded noxious superiority. It wasn’t so much that I thought I was better than other people, it’s that I thought I could be.

It would take a lot of comeuppances from God before I would finally learn my lesson, though.

And that lesson is this:

“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” Phil 2:3-4 (NLT)

I can remember a time when my hackles raised immediately upon reading that verse. My holy defenses kicked in, big time.

I had no problem understanding that I should kindly elevate the poor, the indigent, the down-and-outers in my mind to a loved-just-like-me status.

I’ve had this book for over fifteen years. It’s quite helpful. Especially for all you husbands out there.

Or that I should righteously acknowledge that certain pagans in my community really do know more than I do about some political issues.

And maybe on a good day I could even agree with my husband’s suggestion that I wasn’t communicating effectively with our son, even though I’m the one who listens to all the Christian radio experts and orders all the relationship repair manuals and reads them and highlights them and leaves them out for him to read but he never does. (Ahem.)

But an actual all-out universal application of  “thinking of others as better than myself” could not possibly include the people who think they are better than me. 

Speaking from the comfort of his easy chair in my heart cave, Wally, my inner Pharisee, did his best to keep me riled up about that point. “Of course God doesn’t mean that you’re supposed to think that those who think they’re better than you are actually better than you. Thinking they’re better than you makes them less better than you, so then you are better than them. There’s no way around it.”

So, by letting that snobby lady at the _____office think she’s better than me (even though she’s obviously not) actually makes me the better person. In the Philippians two sense, no less. Wow.

That thought smoothed my hackles. For a little while, anyway. At least until the day when someone who thought they were better than me was proven right. Publicly, for-all-the-world-to-see righter, better, than me.

CAUTION: FALLING SNOBS

That painful story, though, is a little too involved for this tight space. I’ll save it for another day. It was yet another one of my real-life fulfillments of Proverbs 16:18: “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.” (NLT)

Let’s just say that I learned the hard way that sometimes plopping oneself down at the base of another’s pedestal is truly the best seat in the house. It’s a lot easier to just rest right there than to try climbing up that high, anyway. But do stay alert. You don’t want to get hit by a falling ego.

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Phew. Now that I’ve stopped trying to be better than everybody else, I’m free to just be me.

Photo by Beth Butters

Hair That Big Should Be Charged For Its Own Seat on the Plane

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(Photo by Bruce Dayton- http://www.wildlifeofnorthamerica.info)

I am the poster child for Proverbs 16:18: “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.” Yet, even though I have fallen over and over again throughout my life, I still get all proud and superior about certain things. I’m not a fast learner.

Like the day when I was walking out of a store and I snickered at a woman’s totally outdated hairdo. But, really now, in my own defense I must say that even Mr. Spock himself would have snickered had he seen what I did. It wasn’t logical. It might have made sense in 1988, but it had no place in the 21st century.

Remember this?

It was bad. The massive, hot-rollered, teased, then rounded-over concoction stood high and stiff at attention. It resembled two overweight muskrats perching on the lady’s head like they were driving her–like she was a Hertz rental they were using for the day. The ‘do was big enough to have its own parking space and encased in enough hairspray to warrant a sign saying, “No Smoking withing 25 feet.”

The problem was, I didn’t just snicker. I thought mean thoughts about it to myself–the type that are no different from spoken words because I would have spoken them if only someone had been with me to share my hilarious and clever observations.

Or this?

I said to myself that the hair lady must drive a panel van to accommodate the height of her hair. Snicker. I said I bet she was hiding things in it. Snort. I said if she had a concealed weapons permit she could carry a gun up there. Giggle. I said she must be stupid to think she looked okay like that. Guffaw. I couldn’t believe how funny I was.

And so, I invited the inevitable. The Just and Right Judgment from God that I always trigger when I cross a certain line. I set in motion the Matthew Seven law that is as reliable as the law of gravity, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”

But why can’t God give me a break once in awhile? Huh? I mean, people heckle people all the time. Mine wasn’t even said out loud for pity’s sake! Certainly not everyone gets zapped with biblical judgment everytime they deserve it. What is grace for, anyway?

Of course, on that particular occasion I had violated two bible warnings at the same time, so I suppose God had no choice. The event happened to occur on one of the rare days that I was feeling good about my own hair, so my Proverbs 16:18 pride converged with my Matthew 7:1 judgment and, well, let’s just say that what happened next wasn’t pretty.

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Before I go on, I need to explain that I have hair issues. I’ve had them all my life.

Me, 6 months and Heather, 2 1/2. Note Heather’s prolific curls.

From the time I was a baby, I played second fiddle to my older sister’s thick and curly tresses. People would comment on Heather’s gorgeous hair and then tell my mom that the “little boy is cute, too.” They were referring to bald me. Mom started sticking a daisy thing on top of my head to indicate my gender, but even then, an older gentleman in the store thought I was a boy–in a dress, no less. (Me, not the man.)

God gave me a face with large features, but a scalp with puny hair. I’ve fought its fine, limp, and staticky nature all my life. I’ve experimented with every product imaginable to add the volume that I think will balance out my facial features, but nothing’s every really looked right to me. (I know I’m sounding quite self-focused and shallow at the moment, but it’s my hair’s fault. Leave me alone about this.)

Maybe my over-the-top judgment of the muskrat lady that day stemmed from hair envy. I say that because for a short period in the 80’s I did find a hairstyle that I actually felt okay about. It was a big style that I could cement with a then-socially-acceptable amount of hairspray and feel like I was right up there with the magazine ladies.

Of course, as fashion trends are wont to do, big hair went the way of big leg warmers. By the late ’90’s I had no choice but to go straight. And flat. Sans a passe’ perm, my lazy hair no longer had the oomph to complement my facial features. So it remains to this day.

Deep down, I know that seeing Muskrat Suzie thumb her nose at such an important fashion rule made me mad. Appearing so confident in her outdatedness, she made me secretly wish I could get away with big hair again. But, alas, I’m too conformist to ever do such a thing. Instead, I did what closet bullies do–I made fun of her behind her back in order to feel better about myself.

And that’s when my judgment happened. Unbelievably, just as I passed by the lady, an apocalyptic wind gust swooped over me and lifted my hair straight up from my head. It was like something right out of the Old Testament where Satan asks God for permission to torment hapless Job. Only this was a freaky dust devil that God let attack me right there and then.

Naturally, Muskrat Suzie’s shellacked hairdo weathered the microstorm unscathed. But I was forced to dive for cover into my car. I slammed the door, then yelped as a horrific shot of pain erupted on the side of my head.

I had shut my blowing hair in the car door.

My hair was barely shoulder length, but it was long enough for a good-sized section to flap on the outside of the window and pull on my scalp with unrelenting ferocity. With my head and the left side of my body pinned to the inside of the window, I blindly fished around for the door handle with my right hand and hit the door lock button in the process. Fumbling with an unresponsive lock mechanism, I panicked. All I needed to do was open the stupid door to free my hair, but something was preventing that simple action. My squealing and twisting only made things worse and the hair-pulling pain was almost unbearable.

In a fleeting moment of desperation, I remembered the scissors attachment on the multi-tool in my purse. I started to grope for it, but then reached over to try the door handle one more time. This time, it opened.

Phew. To this day, I still feel relieved that I didn’t have to follow through with the cutting option. I probably would have been stuck for some time with teasing and spraying sections of my hair to round over the chopped area of my scalp until that part grew back. It probably would have looked like some sort of woodland rodent had taken up riding on my head for several weeks. I shiver at the thought.

After freeing my hair, I looked up to see two people in the car in front of me laughing and pointing. Apparently, they had front row seats to the entire spectacle and seemed to think laughing at me was much more fun than offering to help me. I slumped down in my seat, dismayed at how their deep guffaws made their shoulders shake. Some truly serious heckling was happening behind their car windows.

I felt stupid.

But that feeling was appropriate, because stupidity is where a superior attitude always takes its owners.

**********

Oh great–it looks like my silly story has taken up all of today’s blogging space. My intent was to recount this incident as an intro to my next Pharisaism topic, “Superiority.” I guess I’ll just have to save that for later this week. Remembering that hair tragedy has churned up a lot of post-traumatic stress and I think I need to go lie down now.

However, I do think I’ll share one last thing with my readers. This might be a bit cruel, but I can’t resist. For all the 45-60 year-olds out there I’ll leave you with the following sticky and annoying lyrics:

.

“MUSKRAT LOVE”
 (Willis Alan Ramsey)
As recorded by Captain and Tennille
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Muskrat, Muskrat, candlelight,
Doin’ the town and doin’ it right in the evenin,
It’s pretty pleasin.’
Muskrat Suzie, Muskrat Sam
Do the jitterbug at a Muskrat Land
And they shimmy, Sam is so skinny.

And they whirl and they twirl and they tango,
Singin’ and jinglin’ a jangle,
Float like the heavens above,
Looks like Muskrat Love.

Nibblin’ on bacon,
Chewin’ on cheese,
Sam says to Suzie
Honey, would you please be my Mrs.?
Suzie says, yes, with her kisses.
Now, he’s ticklin’ her fancy,
Rubbin’ her toes,
Muzzle to muzzle
Now anything goes as they wriggle,
Sue starts to giggle.

And they whirled and they twirled and they tango,
Singin’ and jinglin’ a jangle,
Floatin’ like the heavens above,
Looks like muskrat love.

Captain and Tennille, c. 1976

Me on my 13th birthday, 1977. One of my attempts at a Toni Tennille haircut.