This Three-Year-Old Wasn’t Stupid!

When I think of what I believed and what I didn’t when I was little, it’s just weird. Kids are funny.

When I was three, my mom was expecting a baby. Her belly was getting big. I asked where they would get my baby brother.  My mom told me we didn’t know if it was a boy or a girl, but it was growing in her belly.  As she was trying to convince me,  I looked up at her belly, shook my head and said, “Nuh, uh.”  There was no way I would believe there was a baby in there. She had to tell me that God brings the babies to the hospital, and the parents go get the one He brought for them. I had no problem with that. “I want a boy, ‘cuz I want a brother,” I said. My mom said we have to take what God gives us. He gave us a boy.

Then there was the time I was staying overnight with my grandparents. Mema was at the sink in the bathroom doing something that required running water. Her hands were in the sink, but I could tell she wasn’t washing them. I was no more than three years old and couldn’t see what she was doing, and being the ever-curious kid that I was, I asked, “Whatcha’ doin’?” She told me she was brushing her teeth. I said, “Nuh, uh.” She said yes, she was. I didn’t believe her so she told me to come look. I stood on my tiptoes and peered over the edge of the sink. OH, NO!!! She was holding TEETH in her hands! I screamed bloody murder and ran out of the bathroom! I didn’t keep my back turned though. I stopped in the next room and stood facing the door totally terrified and crying. She was a large woman and when she laughed her whole belly shook. And shake it did, because she couldn’t help laughing at my reaction to her handful of teeth. She also couldn’t get me to come near her for quite a while.

One thing I believed was something I think my mom regretted telling me. I was a night owl and I was only three or four years old. My mom put me to bed at 7 pm. (I remember my bedtime because when my older cousin came to spend the night once, we negotiated a later bedtime.) I would still be awake when my parents were going to bed. My mom would check on me and see me wide awake, so one night she decided to tell me something that she thought would motivate me to go to sleep.

She told me I had to go to sleep because the Sandman won’t come until I do. The what? The Sandman? Who’s that?, I wanted to know. She said he walks from house to house at night putting sand on the eyes of sleeping people, but you have to be asleep or he won’t come.

Well, now. I wanted to see this fellow. I thought I’d pretend to be asleep when he came, but I needed to know when he was coming so I could be ready. I figured he probably looked a lot like Mr. Green Jeans on Captain Kangaroo. He would be wearing overalls and a hat and carrying a bucket of sand. That night when my mom was checking on me, she poked her head in my room and saw me on my bed but with my face in the window. Through clenched teeth (my poor mom!) she said, “What are you doing still awake?!” I said, “I’m watching for the Sandman.” She didn’t laugh, but if she told Mema, I bet Mema laughed.

Not Another Gimmick, Please!

This morning I saw a sign at a church that said, “10 10 10 is coming .com.” They had it all spread out like that, I guess so we could make it out without having a wreck while trying to read it. I wanted to look it up but I figured if I didn’t write it down I’d forget, so I reached in the side pocket of my purse, took out a pen and wrote “10” on top of my hand to remind myself. There is a big ditch on the side of the road that I was careful not to veer toward as I did this, and something about the blind leading the blind and both falling into a ditch came to mind.

I looked it up. Oh, please, no. It’s another gimmick some churches are going to use to try to draw attention to the fact that Jesus is perfect. To their credit, they do point out that He is the Perfect Sacrifice for redemption. However, redemption from what, they don’t say. They are also saying that without Him we are a zero, and when we stand next to Him, our “hero” and “champion”, we’re made perfect – like a perfect 10 in the Olympics. And they are using the date, the 10th day of the 10th month of 2010 as the, uh, anchor? for this. The website also says each month has a 10th day so this can go on and on… Ugh. That’s the gospel?! Not hardly. It barely scrapes the surface. That’s a way to sell t-shirts and caps and help out the billboard companies. Reminds me of the “I Found It” thing in 1976 and the more recent “WWJD” bracelets and other assorted Jesus Junk that was sold to promote that one.

Come on, pastors, wake up! I understand that the intention of this whole thing is (not to sell a bunch more Jesus Junk – yeah, sure) to open doors to share the gospel. But, Jesus didn’t say, “Come stand next to me and I’ll make you perfect,” which to the lost just sounds like He makes us look good. Gimmicks don’t attract a world jaded by gimmicks. Most folks are sick to death of slick this and jazzy that.

Jesus calls us to be washed from our sin by His sacrifice on the cross. If we look foolish for any reason, it ought to be because we preach this religion of blood sacrifice for sin and not because we are truly acting foolish. We are called to repent of our sin and take up our cross and follow Him. My Bible has some footnotes to this that explain that we are not only to identify with Christ, but we are to “completely abandon the natural desire to seek comfort, fame, or power.” It’s not about making us more than “zero.” It’s about dying to self. And it’s hard. I’ve heard, and it’s true, that if we don’t come out with that right up front, we’re pulling a bait and switch.

When we remember what we live for – His glory and not our own, and His Kingdom and not our personal this and that – we will have our perspective changed. This is what will attract folks’ attention. Peter didn’t say to cook up an attractive ad campaign or jump on a bandwagon. He said to be able to give a reason for the hope that is in us. When our perspective is changed, when we know our sins are forgiven and this world is not our permanent home, we really will stand out among the rest of the world. This isn’t a flashy way to “open doors.”  This is the slow and steady way that the Kingdom of God is increased.

So, come on, pastors. Please preach the gospel according to the Bible and not the latest fads. Your people need nourishment so they will know not to fall for gimmicks that trivialize Jesus in the eyes of unbelievers. How can we expect an unbeliever to have respect for our God if we treat Him like an attraction in a sideshow? Congregations need to be taught how to follow Jesus by taking up the cross. And doctrine ought to be taught so Christians will know how to explain their beliefs. Jesus paid too much for our salvation for us to be spending time on foolishness.

Trying Too Hard to Be Cool

I have a friend who said he saw a red Dodge Viper today with a vanity plate boasting of the 750 Horsepower engine under the hood, and it had a racing stripe to boot. My friend said of the owner, “he’s sure the cops ignore the taunt.” Yeah, I bet they do, too. This reminds me of something that happened when I was in high school, back in 1973 or ’74.

There was this guy who sat in front of me in Spanish class who wanted so much to be cool. He needed to just be himself, but sometimes teenagers aren’t so good at that. One day the two guys who sat on either side of him kept saying to him, “Vroom, vroom.”  It was getting to him and I didn’t know what that was all about so I asked one of the guys.

Seems in this boy’s efforts to fit in, he got a little careless out on 11th Street the previous weekend. Eleventh Street was where we hung out on Friday and Saturday nights, just cruising up and down the street, guys looking at girls and girls looking at guys, and plenty of flirting and engine gunning at the red lights. The street is four lanes so two guys at a red light would rev up their engines to challenge each other to a little race sometimes.

Our classmate was stopped at a red light when he saw a car pull up next to him. Without turning his head to the side to see who it was – he was trying too hard to be cool – he revved his engine and got a reply. He did it again and got another. I don’t know how many times they did that, but by the time the light changed I’m sure his adrenaline was soaring and he figured he just shot himself up to the top of the Cool Chart. The light changed and he floored it and was promptly pulled over. He had just challenged a police officer in a cruiser to a race.

It’s a long way back to being anywhere near cool after such a show as that.

Living on the Gulf Coast Without A/C

The other day a friend asked how on earth (she later changed the question to WHY on earth, and I’ve wondered this myself) did people live here on the Gulf Coast without air conditioning? I remember how we did it.

We didn’t have an air conditioner until I was in the 5th grade. I remember having to get used to shutting the door every time I went in or out of the house. I was told by a neighbor that my parents couldn’t air condition all of Texas, so it really needed to be shut.

Before that we had an attic fan in at least some of the houses we lived in. The one I live in now had one. (I lived here for a few years when I was growing up.) It was in the ceiling in the hallway. There was a switch on the wall and when it was turned on and the windows were raised, the fan pulled all the really hot air out of the house and into the attic, where it was then released through the whirlybird things on the roof. With the windows open and the air being sucked out of the house, it caused the less hot air that was outside to be pulled in through the windows. A lot of houses also had windows that could be raised at the bottom and lowered at the top. Since hot air rises, it could go out the top window and cooler – or, less hot – air came in the bottom. Houses that were built before air conditioning was common were also built with windows and doors positioned for cross-ventilation.

At night we could leave windows up without having to worry about 90% of the neighborhood trying to climb into the house. We only had to worry about 10% in those days. And when the night temps dropped to the mid-to-upper 70’s the attic fan was pulling that cool air in – moist though it is, it was cool – and it felt good to sleep near a window. In older homes some even had a bedroom with a sleeping porch. It’s too ‘buggy’ around here for me to want to sleep outside without a tent or mosquito net, but that’s just how I am.

And speaking of bugs, at night my Dad would get a newspaper and fold it up and go on Mosquito Patrol. All through the house he went, swatting mosquitoes on the walls. They were usually high up near the ceiling. At least, till they got hungry then they came down looking for us.

The summer that my brother was born, it was really hot. I remember my mom putting a tub of ice in front of a fan and setting it up to blow on my new baby brother. She needed cool air to help him stay cool since babies aren’t able to regulate their body temperature very well.

Well, the bearings in our fan motor are no good. This evening it made a really weird noise so we called our favorite a/c company. The technician who came to check it said we shouldn’t turn it on at all. Our 20.5 pound cat is all sprawled out on the floor with his belly up. We will be sweating it out till Monday. I sure wish I had an attic fan!

How the Garden Went This Year

Well, all in all, my garden was pretty much a bust. The cat ate the pepper and eggplant seedlings and gnawed away on my peanut plants, too. I put what was left of the peanut plants outside where some pesky pest finished them off. I only got a handful of Kentucky Wonder beans. Don’t know why. The vines are very lush. Same thing happened with the tomatoes. And the weird thing is, I didn’t fertilize them. I know if you over do it with fertilizer, you get lots of beautiful green growth and no veggies. Maybe they did need fertilizer. I’m reading up on organic feeding. The cucumbers and the bush beans I planted were lost in the drought. The one thing that has done OK is the purple hull peas. The ones that survived the dry spring, that is.

Most of what I planted were heirloom seeds. I have learned that you have to experiment with different varieties of them to find what will work in your area. Like most gardeners, I won’t give up. I’d even like to try the same ones again in part of the garden. I need to go with something I know will work and let my new ones be my trial area, instead of putting in a whole trial garden. Can’t believe that didn’t occur to me before I did it with tomatoes.  And I’ll try these again because I still have seeds and because each year growing conditions are a bit different.

I did some reading and found several things I need to do to improve my garden. My walkways and beds need to be permanent. I need to fence in the garden. I’ll probably go ahead and do the whole back yard. My father-in-law has offered chickens to me twice but I need to be able to keep roaming dogs out of the yard. Also, we need to install a drip irrigation system. When I tried to water the garden in the spring the ground was so dry it washed the dirt away instead of soaking in. The remedy for that was to water twice a day so the ground didn’t get so dry between watering. And I never knew if I was watering enough. Probably not.

By late spring I didn’t have a whole lot of time for the garden. I had to get my shed painted before it got too hot for the paint. And for me. The temperature and humidity info is on the can for a reason, and I only wanted to do this once. Well, eventually it will have to be done again but maybe by then my new grandson will be old enough to help. (Had to work that in, didn’t I?)

So, I’m ready to tear out the tomato plants and the weeds and get the whole bed and pathway plan in place. And I need to keep taking notes on feeding organically. I’m making a garden notebook so I can gather everything I need to know and do into one place. That way, I can make a plan and also keep a record of what I’ve planted and all I’ve done to care for it. And maybe next time I’ll have oodles and oodles of tomatoes and can make salsa and tomato sauce and can some of them and there will be lots of cucumbers and I can make pickles and lots of beans to can and peppers to pickle and…