Friday, 29 March 2013

Joseph of Arimathaea

I'm sitting in semi-darkness weeping over Joseph of Arimathaea and the conviction I am under this morning as I examine my own life.

He took Jesus down.

How many times have I read this passage and just skipped over this man's sacrifice? This man's bravery? His dedication to do a job that nobody would have signed up for. 

To approach Pilate was somewhat crazy enough, but then it says he begged . . . Mark's version said he 'craved' the body of Christ. This morning, in the privacy that can only be found at the crack of dawn, I sit and cry, well aware that I am such a comfort seeker had I been there at the cross I most likely would not have volunteered to take on the dirty task. 

I picture Joseph prying Christ's hands and feet free. The open wound on His side oozing blood mingled with water . . . the stickiness staining Joseph's hands and clothes. The discomfort of exposure. To see His Savior naked. People were with Joseph; he had an audience of mourners during this most intimate exercise.

If you recall, Christ's accusers would not enter the governor's residence because they did not want to be defiled (that would mean they would have to miss the Passover meal). By this same Law, touching a dead body meant Joseph was disqualified for the yearly feast. For us today it would be like missing our Christmas or Thanksgiving meal. I don't think it was even on his mind. At that moment, his actions were being driven by his heart, not his stomach.

Brokenhearted, he took Jesus down

He laid him in his own new tomb. Yet another sacrifice, this time one of financial nature.

So here I sit. Walking through my mind again and again the steps of Joseph of Arimathaea; keenly aware of how many times I stumble in my own devotion to the One who loves me most.

God forgive me. Help me to fully live a life of love-driven sacrifice.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Faithful Companion

“I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.” Proverbs 8:17 (ESV ©2001)

I am not a morning person but do my best to carve out a few moments to spend with the Lord before I start my busy day. Sometimes, however, I wake up before sunrise and sneak down to my chair to spread out my Bible and be still. 

Within minutes, our little terrier—noticing my absence from the bedroom—comes downstairs and begins to search for me. Shocked to find me in my favorite overstuffed chair, (a dog of very little brain) she gallops towards me and sits at my feet . . . where she will continue to sit and stare, anxiously waiting for recognition and affection.

And she won’t leave until she gets it.

As I give in and rub her head with one hand, balancing my Bible in the other, I sigh. It never ceases to amaze me the lessons this little mutt can teach. 

Our Lord loves it when we seek him; when we sit and wait for His touch. And more than just loving our search, He loves us! Some mornings as I look down into her eyes, I wonder if my pathetic needy look makes Him sigh as well.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Vanished Into Thin . . . Mints

As I get older, I’m not as sharp as I used to be, but I’d like to believe I am a smart cookie nonetheless. Lately, however, my memory plays tricks on me and I spend a great deal of time looking for stuff. It’s not like I lose things, as that would mean they are . . . lost, but rather I just misplace things . . . temporarily.

Like my husband.

No, I’m not insinuating that he loses things. I lost him. For over twenty minutes. In one average-sized Safeway.

As we headed to the checkout, I realized that I needed to use the washroom before venturing home. I reminded my dear husband of certain sale prices that he needed to watch for as they rang up the groceries. Being a man who holds three degrees, I knew he could handle the job.

Exiting the washroom a few minutes later, I walked back and forth across the front of the store checking each till. Now, I must confess that in a vain attempt to deny my age, I had left my glasses in the car. It’s not like I’m blind, I only require them for distance . . . like when I am driving, watching movies—or clearly, finding my man in a grocery store.

Finally spotting him in the far end of the produce section, I muttered to myself, wondering what he was adding to the basket. Squinting, I motioned to him as I slowly approached. A woman was chatting him up and they were looking far too friendly for my liking. A few feet away, he finally came into focus. This was not my husband. Blushing and aware of my flirtatious wave and motions given only seconds before, I ducked behind the closest display.

That’s when I caught a glimpse of him; I saw his back just as he turned the far end of the cereal aisle. My shoes slid across the polished floor as I skid towards him, being sure to not lose sight of my target. He was motoring and clearly looking for me as he did not stop; the Mario Andretti of the grocery store. For a moment, I eyed a can of black beans and thought about winging it in his direction. 

Huffing and puffing, I finally got up behind him. Thank God the stranger turned around just as I was about to grab his shoulder. To occupy my awkward hovering hand, I contemplated grabbing a bag of Depends on display right next to him, but instead pretended to wave to someone a few feet away. 

A kind and clearly flattered silver-haired-fox waved back. 

Sauntering back to the checkout aisles, I looked up and down the store one last time, straining my eyes and nervously grinning in sheer desperation. Who would have thought that dozens of grey-haired men spent their Sunday afternoons walking around Safeway stores in dark jackets? Whatever happened to a nice game of golf . . . or lawn darts?

I was done. I had smiled at so many strange men, I wasn’t sure if I was about to be picked up or adopted. 

What was the rule when lost? Was it wise to stay put so you can be found? Or is it more prudent to keep moving and actively search? But wait! Was I lost? Or was he?

Looking at the customer service desk, the thought occurred to me that public humiliation may be necessary. I could have them put out an announcement of a lost boy. As funny as that would be, it was a long walk back to the house; especially since we shop in the United States and live in Canada. Traveling across the border also renders our cell phones inoperable.

When in doubt, go to a logical place to be found.

Shrugging my shoulders I departed the store. Some miniature cookie thugs accosted me and strong-armed me into buying a box of Thin Mints. I told them that if a grey-haired gentleman came out and was looking a bit confused; to please send him to the coffee house next door.

I had cookies. I had caffeine. Now it didn't matter to me how long it took for us to find each other. I may not have three degrees like my husband, but I manage, even when we're 180 degrees off course.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Photo Faux Pas

Seriously. I mean, seriously. 

For the love of my vanity, can people please stop taking the worst possible photos of me?

Seeing myself tagged in yet another horrendously unflattering Facebook album this past week I was horrified; this was not how I really looked! It would appear that every photo of me from the past year has been taken with a wide-angle lens. My snap-happy friends were taking shots with their crummy cell phone cameras, adding extra pounds to my girth. Not appreciated.

I decided it was time to either change my settings so I couldn’t be tagged, close my Facebook account altogether . . . or . . . weigh myself.


Ok, so truth be told, I had gained twenty pounds over the last two years. Perhaps due to my health challenges, or maybe due to honeymoon happiness, I had packed on some excess weight. Whatever the reason or cause, the unwanted poundage was coming off.

Not one to deny myself food, I decided exercise was the way to go. Now, I work with law enforcement officers and could have joined their gym for free . . . yeah right. Like I want to shake and jiggle next to a bunch of firm-bodied people who get paid to stay in shape.

No thanks.

I packed up my gear and headed to the gym across the street from my office, slapped down my Visa and hit the first treadmill I saw. Thirty-five minutes later, I had worked up a good sweat amongst total strangers. Not having to make eye contact with coworkers during the painfully slow journey back to health, more than worth the forty bucks a month fee.

As I headed out the door-- somewhat pleased with my first workout--I was startled to hear someone call out my name. What happened to my anonymity? 

“Mrs. Dixon!” a young perky administrator was waving at me from behind the front desk.

Wiping the sweat from my face, I pulled out my messy ponytail as I made my way towards the counter.

“Sorry to bother you,” she continued, “But it was so busy, and you left so quickly, we forgot to give you your membership card.”

I smiled. Membership has its privilege. In my case, privacy.

“But first, I need you to stand right here; we need to take your picture.”


Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Bungee Run

As I leaned forward to switch off the stereo, the van crossed over the center line just enough to startle me. Navigating through bitter, angry tears, I slowly meandered my way to work. 

“I don’t want to be fettered or tethered or whatever that word was,” I said, crying out to the one I was desperately trying to avoid. “Can’t you just leave me alone?” 

I don’t know what I was thinking when I put in the old CD I found in the backseat that morning. No, that wasn’t true, I did know why. I was grieving for my mother who loved traditional hymns and I thought it would bring me comfort.

The song was turned off, but the words still hung in my head, beckoning to be addressed:

‘O to grace how great a debtorDaily I’m constrained to be!Let that grace now like a fetter,Bind my wandering heart to Thee.Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,Prone to leave the God I love;Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,Seal it for Thy courts above.’

At this point in my life, it wasn’t so much about wandering as it was a flat-out-full-on run. I did not want to be bound or tied to a God who allowed so much hurt and disappointment. I wanted to be free. To be free to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. My mother had served God her whole life and was now wasting away from Alzheimer’s. I had no use for Him.

For months I had been avoiding church and most of my Christian friends. God and I were in a tug-of-war and I didn’t need anyone else pulling on His side. I began to hang out more and more with the girls at work who sympathized with my predicament and soothed me with their non-confrontational attitudes. But now that darn song was pounding on my head and heart, demanding to be played again. 

To be considered.

Gravel sprayed up as I pulled off the side of the road. Putting the car in park, I rubbed my throbbing hands together, suddenly aware of the death grip I must have had on the steering wheel for the last few miles.

I switched on the car stereo . . .

Once again it was the third verse that got to me. It made so much sense. As I mulled over the word, ‘fetter’, I pictured my daughters at the school fair only a few weeks previous. There was an inflatable bungee run that had belts that were tied around the girls’ waists. They would run as fast as they could towards the end of the bouncy lane but just when they would almost reach the finish line, the springy tether would pull on them and they would go flying backwards to where they started.

God had a bungee cord around me. I could feel it. The faster I ran, the more tension I could feel and the harder I would fall. He was not letting go.

Turning the sound up to a near deafening level, I put the song on repeat and let the words wash over me again and again.

Who was I kidding? My wandering heart was fettered, and I did love Him. 

Finally surrendered, my shoulders dropped as my hands raised . . .

“Here’s my heart, Lord, Take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.”

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Found Joy at Starbucks

I met a woman a few weeks ago while in a Calgary Starbucks . . . she was in her early thirties and had a smile that lit up the room. Very quickly I could tell that she was perhaps the main source of energy for this particular Starbucks as Baristas and patrons alike greeted her by name.

Slowly she maneuvered towards a spot by the window. Being that my husband Don had seen her coming and had jumped up to open the door for her (he’s such a charmer) I felt I had an 'open door' to approach her.

Introducing myself, I asked her a simple question, ‘What’s your story, Tammy?’

She smiled sweetly and in an ever so slightly stilted voice told me it was long.

Thankfully, I had time.

A strong athlete, she had been recruited from Castlegar to play volleyball at Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. During her first year, the eighteen-year-old was on her way to school when she was T-boned in an intersection by a young man who was not paying attention and ran a red light. Her head actually came off her spine, decapitating her for all intents and purposes.

When she arrived in the ER, they immediately called her parents and enquired if they wanted them to try and fuse her head back on (with unknown long-term complications) or take her off life support and let her go.

Her parents-thankfully unaware of the extent of her injuries-weren’t ready to let her go and told them to do anything necessary to save her life.

Now, sixteen years later, Tammy lives an exceptional life of joy. Her cane and slow walk do not define her. Nor do chronic migraines keep her home. Daily physical therapy appointments do not depress her. She is not bitter and has never had even a moment of ‘Why me, God’ but instead embraces each day knowing it is a gift from God.

She confesses that she doesn’t know God, but that she knows He has a purpose for her life and that He exists because . . . she still does. I know she’s right. That God has had His hand on her and is leading her somewhere. I am so excited to watch His purposes unfold!

Tammy is strikingly beautiful, both inside and out; her story is powerful and I was humbled to have spent a few minutes with her. When I see her so full of joy, seemingly unaffected by the constant pain, and somewhat limited mobility, it certainly removes any excuses for me to be miserable or complain.

Meeting her has compelled me to live a better, more meaningful life; it's been almost a month since our meeting and I pray and think of her almost daily.

One way she has impacted me is that I am going to stop and ask people their stories more often. I encourage you to do the same.

Who knows how much someone's story can impact your own. . . and don't we all want to live better stories?

(Tammy is on the wall of distinction at SAIT; write up can be found here