Six huge Bradford Pear trees adorn and surround the pool in the backyard. It is very appealing in the summer, providing shade from the hot sun. It looks so beautiful with the contrast of hunter green leaves against the aqua blue sky and water. But what's ahead for us is the constant undertaking of keeping the barrage of leaves out of the pool. I guess I should buy a pool cover and be done with it. But then I wouldn't be able to see the pretty water all year! Whatever..
Last season's clean up got way ahead of us and it literally took all summer to get the pool in perfect condition. Holistically speaking, it would have been better just to drain the entire pool and start all over again. Every day that we were home was consumed in cleaning, clearing out the filter, buying PH balance products, shock and treat. Over and over again. Finally about Labor Day, we were ready for the plunge. Guess how many times I actually got IN the pool? Three times. That comes out to be about $500 a plunge, I figure. For that amount of money, I could just join the country club pool in town... And they can worry about those laughing leaves.
God's beautiful handiwork of autumn's arrival - the gold, the red, the yellow, the burgundy - couldn't possibly be a menace, but it is. When the colors fall, there's a mess to contend with. As glorious as my backyard is, I know there's work to be done.
And if nothing more, it's just for a season. For when the beauty falls, the opening on the branch where the leaf fell from the tree, seals up - to prepare for the next season of green. The beauty of growth and prosperity is in a holding pattern only for a little while. We might be sad to see the naked bare Bradford Pear trees, but again we'll be happy when we see the new shoots push their way through next spring. I think..
So where are this season's leaves we "oooh-ed and ahhh-ed" over? Some are in a pile in the backyard, while others have been hauled off kicking and screaming by the city maintenance truck. But the more ornery of the bunch stare at me from the bottom of the pool, just laughing, pointing and carrying on, saying, "You can't get me now! I'll be waiting for you when it gets warm! And then we'll be all brown and slimy." Scoundrels.
I'm psychologically late to this party called The National Quartet Convention and Southern Gospel Music Industry. I go each year to Louisville kicking and screaming with my husband (this year it's in Pigeon Forge). I go mainly to see the people; to chuckle about hair styles, towering banners, buses they can't afford, and circus-like booths on the midway of trinkets. I LOVE these people though. I adore them, even in their quirkiness. (I probably wrote the book on quirky, but whatever).
I'm less of a fan of the whole stereo-typed music industry thingy. Yet, Jeff and I grow more each day in creating engaging friendships with the people we love so much. And now living in Nashville, not a day goes by that we aren't stirred by their influence, their human discourse, their ache for bookings, their financial turmoil, their strive to live, write and dream. I watch. I observe their huge hearts for survival in this fickle-demanding "entertain me" church world.
Jeff and I look like latecomers, or maybe we're actually retro newcomers to this party. Not sure. We were way too early to that crazy party back in the 70s. Our music was probably a bit too hip for the room. Singing with Sammy Hall and then later turning down offers to play and sing for other musicians' dreams, we decide to write and create our own space. From the inside world of this progressive gospel inspirational music bandwagon, Jeff is an influence. Me? Maybe not so much. But my prayer is: "God, help me to inspire others. Help me to encourage, build up and edify other musicians." That's what I love to do.
Holy Spirit-filled musicians and songwriters need to think and dream bigger, beyond their expected audience criteria or cultural demands. I ask God to "open doors", and He does. I ask God to open my ears, and He does. I even ask God to blow my socks off and knock me off my feet. And He does. And He did. Last night. Set your musical preferences aside for six minutes.
Meet new friends, The Wilbanks. This is another level. This is anointed Holy Spirit infused music, in my own opinion. It transcends genre, gets beyond the brick wall barren land and brings together the vast separation between the stage and seats. Musicianship. They've been around for years. I hadn't heard them until last night in Pigeon Forge at Patterson Productions Homecoming. I love when I'm speechless, moved to tears and forced to experience worship music that not only feeds my soul, but feeds my insatiable palette as a musician starved for musical worship experience.
And the best part of this particular Wilbanks video? Besides the fact that they aren't "young", it's the shock, awe and utter hush of the NQC center stage audience that are blown away. Pockets of praise and adoration went on for several minutes, even after the video is over. How incredible, that the very venue, which has had its preferences, its buy-out, its struggling narrow ways - now becomes a sanctuary. Music, filled with God's anointing does this.
My special needs brother-in-love is making a major transition in his life. Wayne will be moving into a group home in Maryland. And he couldn't be happier! He loves his work and he loves his friends at Bayside. Over the years, Wayne has been extremely loyal to his dad, but through recent health issues, George can no longer be his 24/7 caregiver. While we as a family have worried and labored over how to tell Wayne this news, the irony is - Wayne has expressed his excitement about his new life and his new room! It's like he's that teenager heading to college! Who knew.
Wayne entered my world in 1968 and we have been buddies ever since. He'll say, and I quote, "You're my favorite sister-in-law, Sue..". (I'm his ONLY SIL!) He may be handi-capped in description but he has a sense of humor. Wayne does not suffer a handi-cap in his heart.
How fun it would be for Wayne to receive cards and pictures from his extended family, friends and even new friends. If you'd like to send a card, include a picture of you or your family with the names on the back of the picture, and send it to:
c/o Susan Kuff
25 Townsend Ave
Bridgeton, NJ 08302
The other side of this tree looks pretty healthy. You would never know that this dangerously hollowed-out oak fortress is suffering by viewing it from the opposite side. I pass it everyday when walking the park. I've never seen this angle or view before. Why? Because today I reverse my walk. Instead of walking north to south, I'm walking south to north. I'm not sure why I change direction, but I do.
My eyes start to water as if I'm some sort of tree hugger in anguish. This towering specimen must be one hundred years old or more. It's leaning severely, its bark is dry and gray, and there's an oozing black substance in the hollow of its core. From the other side though the tree looks vibrant - green leaves growing, branches looking healthy, the ground showing no evidence of insects, fungus or cracked or raised soil. My guess is because of its root system, this tree is somehow still surviving. I put my hand inside the deep cavity and I see that the trunk is in worse shape than I thought. There's very little left around the core. This tree is living a dying life.
There's a bench near by so I sit and just stare at it. I hear birds fluttering around. I even see a nest of scattered twigs and string with baby blue eggs, nestled low among sprigs of new branches.
This tree is really trying. This tree is really holding on for dear life even while it's holding on to the life of the bird's nest. We don't know this tree's struggle unless we take a close examination of its core.
An aborist is needed; a tree expert or someone who knows what to do. The entire tree can break or split if there are cavities or cracks in its trunk. However, the presence of a cavity does not necessarily mean the tree needs to be removed. (I learned this when I had a tree guy come and examine one of my trees in Delaware years ago.) Removal depends on how extensive the cavity is, where the tree is growing and the overall state of the tree's health. A resistograph (an instrument that detects decay and cavities in trees) is valuable here because it can measure the depth of the hollow. Using those results, an arborist uses a mathematical formula to determine if there is enough trunk thickness to keep the tree upright.
Keep the tree upright? No matter if it's dying, leaning and suffering, keep the tree upright? Why does this bother me? Why am I emotional over any of this? It's just a tree, for heaven's sake. Yes, all this is flooding my mind.
Maybe it's because I know personally that the only way I remain upright, is that I have access to THE spiritual resistograph.
The psalmist David knows all about all this. He says, "God, investigate my life; get all the facts firsthand. I’m an open book to you; even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking. You know when I leave and when I get back; I’m never out of your sight. You know everything I’m going to say before I start the first sentence. I look behind me and you’re there, then up ahead and you’re there, too— your reassuring presence, coming and going..." (Psalm 139:1-6 The Message)
David cries out for the hand of the spiritual resistograph, the God who knows him inside and out, to do His diagnosis. God shaped him first inside, then outside, and formed him inside his mother's womb. (vs. 13) God knows David. Inside and out. And God knows you, inside and out. "You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something." (vs. 14)
The day you and I turn our hollowed-out core and lean in and over to the one with the hollow in His hand, is the day we both become upright. No matter what.
"Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?" (Isaiah 40:12)
Who is He? This tree knows. He's the one with the spiritual resistograph.
Many friends I grew up with back in the 70s weren’t “churched.” They weren’t privy to all the religious sounding talk that was so common in my world back then. Once I brought a friend to a Sunday service; she became confused when I addressed everyone as “Brother Smith” or “Sister Jones.” After the introductions, she pulled me aside and said, “Sue, I know it’s a small church, but are you related to everybody here?”
During the nostalgic days of flannelgraph Bible stories and chalkboard dust, we would play some great little games like “Bible Baseball” and “Sword Drill.” One little girl’s first encounter with Sunday School and hearing “Sword Drill” caused her to say out loud, “Oh no, my mom will never let me play with anything sharp. I cut off my hair with scissors last week and I’m still grounded.” (Just in case you’re un-churched or too young, “Sword Drill” was a Bible quick-response verse search game where— with Bibles in hand—we’d flip though pages and race to find the chapter and verse the teacher announced. The winner was the first one to stand and read it aloud).
A new young Christian raised on the streets asked his pastor if he could participate in the Communion service. The young man begged to say something prior to the elements being distributed to the congregation. Apprehensively, the pastor slowly handed the Communion cup to the young man. In his exuberance and joy over his new walk with Christ, the young man lifted the chalice and shouted, “You see this cup? This blood’s for you!” Then he raised both hands high, pointed to the ceiling and yelled, “You’re the M-A-N!”
When my Jewish friend Mike went to a concert at a Pentecostal church, it was his very first time to be present in an atmosphere of exuberant praise and worship. When the music started and people began raising their hands, Mike couldn’t figure out why so many people had questions about the concert that night. He asked us, “They just kept raising their hands, obviously having questions or comments about the music. Why didn’t anyone acknowledge them?”
Years ago, I would not have been as prepared as I am today for opportunities to speak at secular or “outside the church walls” events. To assume that everyone will understand or comprehend Christianese is a real mistake. Today I am challenged and held accountable to keep from getting caught up in the rhetoric of dated language and religious expression. If I say I am saved, for example, some will inquire, “Saved from what?”
Letting go of Christianese and sharing more with Christian–ease:
1. The proliferation of the spiritual attitude that “I’ve always said it this way” is a real guarantee you’ll be ineffective. It’s nothing more than a habit. Be willing to examine what and how you communicate about Christ.
2. Words like redeemed, saved, sanctified, and blessed are incredibly endearing and meaningful to you and me, but to the new un-churched generation, our words may be perceived much like the droning teacher on the Charlie Brown cartoon series: “Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah.” The key is to practice effective communication rather than assuming someone will understand. Speak words that will draw them in—connecting words that create a desire for more of God’s Word (which is the ultimate goal) rather than push them away.
3. Jesus, the Master of communication, told parables using secular examples from His own society and culture to convey more clearly to His listeners. Some heard it; some did not. Some “got it” and were radically changed. Others walked away. Jesus is the example we need to emulate in our communication with others.
“The Message is as true among you today as when you first heard it. It doesn’t diminish or weaken over time. It’s the same all over the world. The Message bears fruit and gets larger and stronger, just as it has in you. From the very first day you heard and recognized the truth of what God is doing, you’ve been hungry for more” (Colossians 1:5,6, The Message).
(This post was originally released on Jan. 2011 at Sue-biquitous, receiving over 10,000 hits. Obviously, a very touchy subject..)
I took a shot at trying out something today... Every woman I come in contact with, while stopping at the North East Extension PA turnpike rest areas (for potty breaks!), I say, "Happy Mother's Day". It's been pretty funny to watch and hear the reactions. So far, here is my log of what's happened so far:
1. (me) "Happy Mother's Day"
(woman) "You talkin' to me? OH, I guess you are! (laughs) Well, thank you then; I'm kinda sick.."
2. (me) "Happy Mother's Day"
(woman) "Wow, that sure is nice. Thank you! My kids don't live around here, so thanks anyway!"
3. (me) "Happy Mother's Day"
(woman) "I don't have kids. (me) "That's OK. (woman) "But I do have ovaries, so I guess there's hope, right??" (me - laughing!) "Yes! There's always hope!" (woman) "I just have to find the right testicles." (yes she said that!)
4. (me) "Happy Mother's Day"
(man) "You're kidding, right?"
(I just wanted to see what a man would say!)
5. (me) "Happy Mother's Day"
(woman) "Thanks! But it's not til Sunday, right? But how nice of you? Are you a reporter or something?" (tee-hee!)
6. (me) "Happy Mother's Day"
(woman, with her adult child in a wheelchair, who can't speak or walk) "Thank you, it's the best. And my girl is the best!" (me) "Yes, she is. Can I hug her?" (woman) "Yes, but be careful, she might not let go!!" (me - I hug her, and it takes a few minutes for me to pry myself away.) "She's got a great momma. Thanks for being the best example yet of being a super mom." (woman) "Hey, we do what we gotta do.. love our kids no matter what."
7. (me) "Happy Mother's Day"
(woman, glaring at me like I just cursed at her) "Really?? What, are you selling something?"
So once again, I'm never disappointed when interviewing people. From all walks of life, these women (and man!) bring the surprise factor into full view. And most, I would say, show their true colors in less than a second. Happy Mother's Day weekend to all of you. I miss my mom so much. So much I do. But I'm so glad that my two kids give me hope that somewhere along the line, I did something right. And if you never had kids, whether by your choice or not, you are no less of a woman. In fact, in some arenas, you're a lot smarter than all of us are!
But the best part of celebrating a Mother's Day weekend, is remembering that we are women with great potential to change the world. Let's do this. Take a child, whether you're genetically attached or not, and pour love into them. Out of your pain or hardship or loss, wrap your arms around a child or teenager or an adult "baby", and lavish them with hope for their future.
As my mother used to say, "Mother's Day is a lot like Father's Day, except the presents are a LOT more expensive!" :)
I didn't make it to church yesterday. In fact, I barely made it out of bed these last few days. I'm sick with allergy-type symptoms that make me even sicker to type out. But I am relieved I thought ahead: I bought a Honey-Baked Ham, au gratin potatoes, and made a pound cake and sweet potato salad earlier in the week. I was, I guess, preparing that I wouldn't be any better by Easter Sunday, and I was correct. The few hours I had with my family around the table was great, but it wasn't too long that I just hit the couch and never moved until it was bed time (again). I did have a burst of energy to clean up the kitchen in the aftermath of the ham celebration, but that didn't last too long either. It was then I started to think, "What happens AFTER Easter?" (And I know that I shouldn't, but I pop a yellow Peep into my mouth, and shout "HE IS RISEN!", but it sounds more like "HEESH IS RISBSESN!")
How do we go from easter-egg hunting and Reeses Peanut Butter Egg-eatin to the everyday reality of the resurrection of Christ? And how does this affect the rest of our days after - with Him?
Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
Nothing strange about this, right? I mean, most people who have just celebrated Easter, get right back to doing the normal things they've always done, right? True. But what really startles me in this passage is THIS is what happened after the VERY FIRST EASTER, literally hours after the Resurrection, after the events of the first day of the week! The men who actually witnessed it all, decide to go back to business as usual. Ugh.
They decide to go fishing right after Mary comes running to them with the news that she just saw the risen Lord. It was also after Jesus came to them in their apartment. It was after Thomas was told to touch the wounds in Jesus’ hands, feet, and side. Sit on that for a minute...
I guess I could understand it if they hadn't known about the resurrection. But at this point, trust me - they were well acquainted with the risen Lord. Why did they go back to the same old routine? Especially since fishing (and not being really good at it) is what they did before they had even met Jesus.
As I load the dirty dishes into the dishwasher I say to myself, "Where am I today? Am I stuck doing the same old stuff I've always done?" I mean, I'm thinking - these were men who actually witnessed the Divine; saw Him, touched Him, ate with Him, cried with Him, yet they go back to doing what they've always done. Is there ANY hope for me?
Something clicks. The disciples have another encounter with the risen Lord. This time He breaks into their everyday world and turns it upside down. They realize that they can't even go fishing without the help of the Lord. Jesus, now, the Risen Lord, says something that will forever change how we view life on the other side of the cross. He says to Peter, “Feed My sheep.”
Everything changes. Peter knows there's no going back. He'll never be able to "fish" in the same way again.
So, while many will storm Wal-Mart today to get left-over half-priced Easter Candy, I ask you this question: Is it back to normal again, just doing what you've always done? Or are you so greatly affected by your Risen Lord, that you're ready and willing to "Feed His Sheep?" I hope so. And it isn't just feeding the sheep fish. (Do sheep even eat fish? LOL!) It's feeding His sheep the truth of His resurrection. This gives me hope... and that's not just on Easter Sunday.
I sent a text to Jeff today that said, "I'm at Planet Firmness...". Firmness. Yes, that's what auto-correct defaulted to. (I'm believing for this to be a prophetic word!) Of course, I laugh.
"Planet Fitness", which is what I wish to type, also has shown up on my phone (when I'm typing frivolously) as "Planter Bitterness", "Plant Fastener", "Plane Finesse", and "Plantar Fasciitis." Yes, all of these. Ironically, the recipients of these messages totally understand me and know the location, without question. And there's no doubt, they chuckle, as do I!
Sometimes I feel both TOO OLD AND TOO YOUNG for this technological journey I face every day. It kind of goes hand in hand with the ministry God puts before me. Staying both relevant to this generation as well as never loosening my grip from my retro foundational teaching, pretty much throws me into the perpetual motion of noise. Who do we listen to? Who is qualified? Me? And who are the voices of truth? Am I a voice of truth? (Much like me texting, "I'm at Planet Firmness...", I'm literally not "there", but you assume so because it looks pretty close to what I intended to type.)
Understanding Jeremiah, the prophet, and his calling is crucial to not just understanding the whole of the book of Jeremiah going forward, but our own personal calling and ministry for the kingdom of God. Jeremiah undertakes the battle for God’s Word at a time when almost no one wants to hear it, when those in authority don’t want to recognize it, and when the majority of so-called spiritual leaders are making money and fame counterfeiting and twisting it. Ugh.. (Sound familiar?) He is one of the handful of true prophets among thousands of false ones. In our present day, Jeremiah is the closest parallel to the things we currently face.
I especially love Jeremiah 1:5 (The Message) “Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you: A prophet to the nations—that’s what I had in mind for you.”
There are four very distinct actions in this little verse:
- If God is texting you today, He doesn't say, "I framed you". He says - “I formed you.” – We are equipped for His purpose.
- God isn't texting, “I knock you”. He's saying, "I know you." – We are individually called for His purpose.
- God didn't mis-text you by saying, “I confiscated you.” He says "I consecrated you." – We are separated from the world’s ways for His purpose.
- And one more, God would never text, "I have appalled you." He very distinctly says, “I have appointed you” – We are specifically called for His purpose.
A good night's sleep, without interruption, is a great treasure. At least it is for me. So while I was sound asleep (finally) the other night, I awoke to something biting my finger. In a drowsy stupor, I pushed this something off my skin. Then a few minutes later, an itchy streak grazed my elbow. I went back to sleep and didn't think about it. Until...
The next morning, my finger is red, swollen and burning. So is my elbow. It's on fire! What in the world? Maybe a spider? Ugh. Just the thought of that creeps me out. Even worse, a flea? Or two fleas?? Or a bed bug? Yikes. I don't know. I ingest some ®Benedryl and put some ®Neosporin on the area. But even in the light of the morning, there is no evidence of what did this to me other than the welts on my skin and an elevated temperature. Something was lurking, but I see nothing.
Whatever this crawling thing is, it positions itself in the night and knows exactly when I'm most vulnerable. My nerve endings are aware during the daylight hours, and they're much too quick and responsive to something inching on my outer covering. Come to think of it, I fried a mosquito once during a hot flash. I actually heard it go "zzzzzttttt" and drop to the ground when it tried to penetrate the skin on my arm! So, I KNOW when something is creeping on me.
But "in the night season" or during times when we're not paying attention, a little bite of something awful can make its way into our space. And the worst part is, it happens so quickly. We don't even know the outcome... until morning. Or until it's too late.
The U.S. troops in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan are worried about some new evidence. It appears that the enemy makes every effort to steal night vision gear. Military troops say there's no greater advantage for defeating or cheating on the enemy - than being able to see in the dark.
Any of you, like me, really need the "night vision" advantage when it comes to dealing with spiritual warfare over your kids, your teens, your aging parents, your job, your health - especially when the situation looks way too dark to handle?
"But I’ll take the hand of those who don’t know the way, who can’t see where they’re going. I’ll be a personal guide to them,
directing them through unknown country. I’ll be right there to show them what roads to take, make sure they don’t fall into the ditch.
These are the things I’ll be doing for them—sticking with them, not leaving them for a minute.” (Isaiah 42:16 The Message)
So it's pretty safe to say, you can hold the hand of the One who knows exactly the way you should go. Especially at night. And if you metaphorically fall asleep during difficult and dark times, I'd consider investing in some spiritual night vision goggles. Write on index cards the verses of scripture that will sharpen your skills. Be aware of the schemes and signals of the dark side. The enemy wants to steal your night vision defense mechanism. Because without it, you have no advantage.
Later, as a secondary precaution, I lather on ®Off Bug Repellent. That along with hot flashes should combust and throw out a singeing signal to "back off!" :)
Of course, God cares. I've known that for years. But until I totally understand that He most definitely cares about everything, I might as well just live like He cares about nothing.
I dragged Jeff in and out of department stores the last few days, trying to find THE coat. A coat for me, that is. I know it's the end of the season, but it's a great way to find a deal too. My old one is leaking duck down everywhere! I so want a black, full length down coat with a hood. The last one I bought was at Sear's back in 2000. And I got that one for about $23. A great bargain. A great deal. And this time (again), I'm on a hunt. An intense shopping journey. A mission of finding this coat.
How many stores do you think I've been to in the last three days? Oh, let's just say, hmm, probably at least ten. Macy's, JCPenney, Burlington Coat Factory, Nordstrom,Marshall's, TJMaxx, Dick's Sporting Goods, Target, Walmart, Peebles, Goodwill and Macy's again. I bet I tried on a hundred coats. Of course all the size 0's are available. I need an XL. Large and XL sizes are the first to go, I'm told. An arsenal of mediums abound. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
"So, what exactly are you looking for, Sue?" I don't want a wool coat. (I start to get spiritual here) I want a l-o-n-g winter down coat. And I know I should have bought one earlier in the season, but who has the $$$ to buy a full length down coat at regular retail? Not me.
So, I'm on a desperate mission. Jeff laughs, but he also knows when I get this twinkle and determination in my eyes (he's seen it before!), that something miraculous is going to happen. And. It. Did.
During my last stop of the night last night, walking around Christiana Mall in DE, something inside of me said, "Go to Macy's again." In the past, I would ignore that little voice. But I don't ignore it anymore. I go upstairs to the marked down section of coats, where I was the very day before. A sweet woman stares at me behind the counter, after I ask, "Any full length down coats?"
I expected her to laugh out loud. I got the response I wasn't anticipating. I was prepared for her to say with a snarl, "Are you kidding? With these 70% off prices?? We have nothing left."
But instead she points to my left in slow motion. And then she nods. Then she says, "I think that's your coat." (How did she know?)
It was indeed. A black XL London Fog, full length down coat, with a hood. Regular price: $450, marked down 70% off, plus my 15% coupon. You do the math. Jehovah Jireh! :)
It's a trite kind of story. It's an example of little things. But it's also an amazing spirit-walk for me, to totally depend on God for everything. And every time I wear this coat, you better believe me - I'll be sharing how God takes care of everything, if you'll let him.
In the mean time, we're going through challenges with Jeff's dad and some issues of water leakage in his home. We've watched in the last two days, how God has imparted great wisdom to my husband. I love watching how he takes care of his dad and his brother. I love how, like an investigative reporter, he also took care of my mom after my dad died. I watch how he takes care of his clients and his musician buddies, devoting long hours (which he doesn't always get paid) for counsel and direction.
But here's the kicker: You don't always have to be paid. You don't always have to be given remuneration for services rendered. In fact, we watch how God "opens doors that no man can lock, and locks doors that no man can open" (Rev. 3: 7,8) when we give out of lack and rejoice when stuff hits the fan.
So, thank you God for allowing me to find a coat (cheaply!) that I love so much. Jeff was patient with me, but he probably is the reason why I found this coat in the first place! I'm not surprised at how you take care of all of us.
SO, it's time for you to make a list. Make that little list today. How has God taken care of you? And better yet, how can YOU take care of someone else today?
In Lansing, Michigan, the state Senate gave their final approval to legislation giving bicyclists another way to signal a right turn. Bicyclists can now signal a right turn by extending their right arm horizontally. They've been signaling a right turn with an L position by extending their LEFT arm upward, a signal in effect since shortly after World War II. Yes, for cycling purists, you already know this. But generally, the driving public has no clue. Some will wave back to you if you signal the old-school left hand/right turn signal. Come to think of it, (speaking of WW II), it does look rather heil-Hitler-ish!
The bill's sponsor, Republican Rep. Anthony Forlini of Macomb County's Harrison Township, said the bill grew out of his own personal biking experience. He says most car drivers (today) are unfamiliar with bicyclists' left-hand right turn gesture.
Ya think? Hmmm... SO, the gal in the picture above... Is she joyful and praising God? Or is she totally out of style wanting to make a right turn?
Apparently, MY own personal worship experience of late is less the "right-hand, right arm, left-hand, left arm" praise gesture and more the "deep and wide" (emphasis on the wide) kind of motion, which makes it inevitably hazardous to the persons standing on either side of me. Holding my arms above my head, for sustainable minutes doesn't work for me now. But the wide straight-armed expression, while less flattering and more confusing to the seasoned worship standard, is more like the slo-down signal of aircraft marshalling that goes on between the ground personnel and the pilot.
I love this new slo-mo, wing-span adoration. My mains think I'm quite flex and cray cray. (HA!) I think I'm just expressing my total-ness and complete abandon to God. It also shows off my lovely flapper cellulite, but that's another story. But don't bother me when I'm in this form. Some think I'm just working on my arm-strength and conditioning. Possibly. But don't be asking me if I'm trying to make a right or left turn. it's my updated and revised communication signal giving God permission to take me in ANY direction He wants me to go! And I surely don't need any legislation to tell me otherwise.. Definitely the "right" turn.
What are your best moves for God? And if you had a chance to really express yourself in worship, without any critique or ritualistic expectation, how freeing would that be? Give yourself permission to throw out all apprehension and take a "turn" at lifting your body, soul and spirit to the One who has set you free.
There will always be the question in my mind, "Did I experience every single second to its fullest? Did I take advantage of every hug and every kiss? Was I fully present during every waking moment?" I don't know the answer to any of that, because it felt like a dream. All I know is: I felt God's presence stronger in this impoverished place, more than any other place in the world. The children will teach you much. There were fun moments; hilarious moments. But there were also moments when you didn't think you could ever take another deep breath again. I am grateful for the privilege to share my life with the children of Jeremie.
We all know the physical benefits of laughter, but have we totally understood the spiritual health of the believer who laughs? Probably not.
After interviewing twenty young people online, both professing Christians and not, the following statements may surprise you. And if they do get to you in some way, I hope you'll do something to change what they think. I know I am. Ironically, I may offend some Christians along the way, purely because I wish to do as Jesus did - and stir up the pot! Jesus rarely struggled with unbelievers. His REAL problems began with those who were skilled in scriptures, the ones who lived by the law.
So, here you go! Here are answers from a recent group email I sent out to twenty-somethings and beyond. My question was..
"If you could change one thing about church and church people, what would that be?
- I would make it more fun. Most times I leave church feeling bad about myself.
- I love the music, but it's not nearly as upbeat and joyful as it can be.
- My pastor has an issue with fun for some reason. I think he thinks it's a sin.
- I don't go to church anymore because they try to be something they're not.
- My dad laughs a lot at home, but when he gets to church, he gets all weird and everything. I think more young people would go to church if they didn't act all pious and stuff...
- I wouldn't change one thing about my church. We laugh a lot, we cry a lot, we sing a lot, and my pastor is down to earth.
- We could maybe pattern our churches after coffee shops; people go there to drink coffee, hang out and connect with each other. Much more relaxed and much more laughter is needed in church.
- Church isn't a priority for me. Is that what you wanted to hear? Sorry if it's not. It's just too guilt-producing.
- I would surely make the services more light-hearted and more interactive. My friends would never go to a church that wasn't like that. Neither would I.
- Since most people my age have a weird slant on what church means, I think your question would be better if it asked, "If I could change one thing about ME, what would that be?" - And that would be, "To love and laugh more."
- I'm not nearly as interested in being entertained as I am being engaged in worship. I am now 35 years old, and I wish I would have understood that earlier in my Christian walk.
- I think laughing in church services is underestimated. Jesus laughed, I promise you. I wish churches would get a grip on that.
Wow. So, there you go... Ask questions? Get answers.
There's a million directions and explanations from the above statements. And we could all go into some sort of analytical reasons for many of them. But for now, I hope you see (like me), the value that laughter and humor has in the connection piece of keeping us all together. For now, that's what I see. And for now, that's what I plan to do. Laugh. In Jesus' name. :)
“You don’t have to be a star, baby, to be in my show...”
Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr.’s number one crossover hit of the 70s, on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot Soul Singles, when dissected, could be possibly the best lyrical teaching tool for all Christian artists desiring notoriety. I used to listen to this song and wonder, “Does anyone REALLY get what they’re singing about?”
The voice of Marilyn McCoo is an inspiration to me. A velvet, soulful smoothie she is. And to know that her witness for Christ is just as real, makes me love her more. A true star, inside and out. So in lies the paradox of this song: McCoo and Davis are REAL stars, singing about how NOT to be a star. Curious.
“Baby come as you are with just your heart and I’ll take you in
You’re rejected and hurt, to me you’re worth what you have within...”
Whew. I’m emotional just reading this. Some of you 70s leftovers like me can probably sing it without even looking at the lyrics. But seriously, read them again. What do you see?
For the performer in us who just can’t wait to be noticed, Jesus strongly urges us to come as we are. He takes us in. We’re rejected, hurt, filled with jealousy, envy, and even succumbing to the comparison factor. But to HIM, we’re worth what we have within. I especially love this line because no where is it stated in this pop hit, “You’re worth what you have because of what is on the outside.” So why do we work so hard on everything exterior, yet leave our insides deplete of maturity and spiritual hunger? BTW, spiritual hunger is a good thing... If you don’t have that hunger, you need it. It’s another paradox: To lack having spiritual lack means you don’t need Jesus.
The answer comes next.
“Now I don’t need no superstar...”
There it is. That’s when most of us will tune out, quit reading this post and move on. We’re enamored and impressed with everything runway, pizzaz-zy, glitzy, glossy and viral.
“What do you mean, Jesus doesn’t need a superstar to represent Him? Isn’t that what this whole aspiration of getting known is all about, to make Jesus be lifted up? The more well-known I become, the more people know about me, the more I can do so much more for Him? Right?”
My pastor’s son gripped my heart this morning. He spoke, as he always does, from his heart. Open, vulnerable, forgiven. He said, “Too many of us leave church services wanting to be empowered or to be lifted up. I’m saying, let’s leave empowering Jesus, and lift HIM up.”
This is a constant battle. WE want to be elevated, empowered, lifted up. I find little of that in scripture. In fact John 3:30 states, “He must become greater; I must become less.” (NIV)
“You won’t be denied ‘cause I’m satisfied, with the love that you can inspire..”
Hmmm... I “won’t be denied”. Awesome. And inspiring love brings satisfaction? “You mean you want me to just love you, and not be a star?” Yes, I’m pretty sure that’s what Christ is asking of us. Just love Him and don't be a star about it.
Because sooner or later,
“Somebody nobody knows could steal the tune that you want to hear...
So stop your running around ‘cause now you’ve found what was cloudy is clear...
There’ll be no cheering from the crowd, just two hearts beating out loud.
There’ll be no parades, no TV or stage
Only me till your dying day..”
You see what I mean? Priceless precise lyrics. When I worked for WNRK Oldies Radio, I had a few listeners tell me they found Christ while listening to a secular song. Imagine that! One gal told me it was the Holy Spirit that spoke very clearly to her while listening to Peggy Lee's dismal and disparaging hit, "Is That All There Is?". She said it so gripped her about her own lack that she had to do something about it.
You don’t have to be a star to be in HIS show. In fact, I'd advise you not.
“Don’t think your star has to shine for me to find out where you’re coming from..
What is a beauty queen if it don’t mean I’m you’re number one..”
Burma shave. There you go. (If I have to explain the whole "Burma Shave" meaning, well press here)
And then the song ends,
“And I don’t need no superstar ‘cause I’ll accept you as you are
You won’t be denied ‘cause I’m satisfied with the love you can inspire.”
Here’s my star-struck prevention check list:
- Inspire others to love THE Superstar
- Be less so He can be more
- Create an attitude and atmosphere that never questions your motives
- Be more concerned what God thinks about you than what others think about you
“Cause you don’t have to be a star, baby*, to be in my show..”
ˈbābē/ (noun) 1. a very young child, especially newly or recent born
(adjective) 1. comparatively small or immature of its kind.
(verb) 1. to treat (someone) as a baby; pamper or be overprotective toward.
This reminder, baby, is for all of us. God knows that we are full of ourselves. We want attention, affection and we want it our way. The star qualities abound. But none of that behavior or mindset works in HIS show. You don’t have to be...that, baby.
(song written by James Dean and James Glover/Producer Don Davis for ABC Records)
This post was inspired while driving with my daughter in a rental car. I accidentally pressed the "OnStar" button several times, getting an operator, who very harshly said,
"DON'T EVER DO THAT AGAIN!".
I don’t usually talk in clichés, but in this instance, it’s quite healing. Some of you will get the gist. Others, I may lose quickly. But hang on. I just may step on some toes! This is a true story. Oh, and see if you can tell me how many clichés I’m using! :)
I’m not gonna beat around the bush. A little bird told me I may have pushed the proverbial envelope a little too far. The egg on my face is not all it’s cracked up to be, but none-the-less, there’s not enough room to swing a cat in this over-the-top naked truth. Simply said, I was caught red-handed, but thankfully NOT with my pants down. Instead I let the cat out of the bag and was called on the carpet for jumping on the bandwagon of terse reality. I couldn’t keep it under my hat any longer, but I knew somehow this might be the kiss of death for me and my holy humor. The jig is up. Can’t hold a candle to it. It’s a Catch 22, if there ever was one.
You see, I’ve been known to charm the pants off many. I’ve chewed the fat and jumped through hoops with the best of ‘em. Since the fans of this gospel/singing/comedy life assume you live the life of Riley, the truth is: It’s pretty much hand to mouth. I have no bitter pill to swallow or reason to get my dander up. I’m no longer quiet as a mouse and I must quit my belly aching. But after three long weeks with extra long graveyard shift drives, I was head over heels weary while barking up the wrong tree of fatigue. Bet your bottom dollar, this best bib and tucker girl will say wrong things when she’s tired. (Lord, what did she say??)
Ready. Set. Go. I said the “A - double scribble” word during one of my comedy concerts. It flew out of my mouth like birds of a feather flocking together. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but I tell ya for sure - my mother would have boxed my ears, breaking a leg (or two), and surely would be busting my chops over this one. By hook or crook, I knew this can of worms would NEVER give me enough time to spew an explanation or get a word in edgewise to the audience. It’s like I was caught red-handed in “if the shoe fits, wear it” language faux pas.
So Sue becomes Johnny on the spot, keeping her fingers crossed, that no one noticed this “let your hair down” expression. I was simply making no bones about it, the “A _ _” word came out after the mom in the audience finally took her precocious toddler out of the sanctuary. The naked truth is, the toddler was a full gamut loose cannon and mark my words, whatever I would or would not say, I’d be here today and gone tomorrow. I, the performer, was distracted. So I raise my Ebenezer, hit the nail on the head, and say (out loud to the audience), “If that was me when I was a kid, my mother would have hauled my “A _ _” to the parking lot!" (except I said THE word).
Silence, horror, then applause and laughter....
Beggars can’t be choosers, but bet your bottom dollar, someone in my world will be offended that I'm even retelling this tale. But hell or high water, I was between a rock and hard place dealing with both the toddler and his behavior and me and my “I can’t bite my tongue” any longer syndrome. My heart hurt like the Dickens, but I grinned like a Cheshire cat. We laughed, we cried, (the audience and I) for forever it seemed. Thank God they didn’t throw the baby (me) out with the bath water. I was down in the mouth for dropping the hammer for only a little while. This dyed in the wool singer/humorist of over forty years has realized that this once in a blue moon utterance was one for the road.
Before you cast the first stone, eat your heart out, oh precious sacred-talking friend! Like you’ve never done something like this...
I am eating crow and eating one’s own words, but I’m thanking God today that being real is as easy as pie for me. Too easy maybe..
In this eleventh hour, pardon my french here: If you fly off the handle or fight fire with fire, you’ll surely be an offense. If I can put my two cents in here: Put a sock in it. You’re like the pot calling the kettle black, if you haven’t at least once said something publicly you shouldn’t have. If your name is mud today, I’m not pulling your chain here - be very thankful. The people around you who are fit to be tied because of your transparency aren’t as fit as a fiddle as you think. I’d prefer to just put a feather in my cap, face the music, whistle down the wind on a wing and a prayer, and quit wearing my heart on my sleeve.
You’ll get opposition and you’ll make some mad as a hatter. But don’t ever give up being real. Two shakes of a lamb’s tale, I’m up the creek without a paddle sometimes. Thankfully my ducks are all in a row and I’m eating humble pie. With my kit and caboodle, I’m loaded for bear and keeping my shirt on ‘til Katy bars the door.
Let that cat out of the bag. Let your hair down. People need Jesus. The real Jesus. The one without the chip on His shoulder, ‘cause when the chips are down, He’s no cock and bull story. Give credit wear credit is due. Be the low man on the totem pole and you’ll be pleased as punch, flying with colors when your fair to middling life becomes truer than every other Tom, Dick and Harry. Be you. For the love of Pete, be you. Don’t sell yourself short. You’re the apple of HIS eye, even when you can’t bite your tongue or resist blowing off some steam. Loose lips sink ships, but mark my word, don’t go dragging your feet down the straight and narrow.
The photo below is the creation of my good friend and MOST HIGH REVEREND Tim Satryan. LOL!
Do you have Aibohphobia? (The fear of palindromes). If you do, here's your answer. Every word listed below can be read either way - forwards or backwards. They aren't the exact kind of palindrome we're used to, like "civic", "rotor" or even "aibohphobia". But what if words, spelled correctly both forward and backwards, two completely different words - together - share a definition? Hmmm. Let's see..
- SMUT: What a person wants when they've been locked in a closet for having too much gas.
- STRESSED: That anxious feeling as you trotted backwards, forgetting that you walked right by the chocolate cake.
- SLIPUP: A condition that comes from going to an Optometrist rather than an Opthamologist
- STINK: This happens when you don't wash your cotton socks.
- LEON: That age-old Christmas Carol, sung by Mr. Redbone
- PEES: You don't want the accidental equivalent of either of these.
- POTS: Those things Jeff Duffield never seems to find, so he halts in his tracks.
- DENNIS: Pray for this man, because "...ALL have ______ and come short of the glory of God.
- DOG: All GOD parents adopt your fury friend.
- SERACS: The fear of a large freestanding ice column falling on you.
- AIDAN: The names you pick out, in case your obstetrician is wrong
- RATS: The word you say when you're late for the race to the sun.
- SPAN: Your world, for some reason, is more palatial and broad, because you took a snooze.
- FLOG: To personally promote your own "duffer" ways..
- MOOD: If you have this, be careful, of what a bad one can do!
- PACER: Someone who diligently knows the value of a summary
Good night, all. My TIMER went off so it's time for me to dispatch the sleep fairy and give her some payola.
Do you have any words, that when spelled backwards and forwards, need a new definition? I'd love to see what you come up with! :)
Another airplane episode..
Most planes I fly these days are jammed-packed. Not an inch of wiggle room. Not that I have any plans to wiggle while on a plane, but sometimes you just have to adjust and squirm a bit in that sacred space, to evenly distribute the cellulite...
The flight attendant announces that this is a "light" flight tonight. Then she laughs.
"OK, folks - let's move around a bit. There's only forty-five of us going to Nashville tonight. So, spread out, lots of room - and enjoy the ride."
I'm ecstatic. Lots of room! Over-joyed. Until...
A very nice, (I'm assuming). tall and skinny gentleman in shorts and a Baltimore Ravens tee-shirt makes his way to my row. I'm sitting on the window seat of this Southwest 737 which is the norm for me on return flights. I can lean my head on the window-wall, slobber and pass out.
He plops his backpack onto the middle seat right next to me, while throwing something in the overhead bin. Then he grabs his backpack, jostles his body and flops into the seat right next to me. No one in front of me, no one in back of me and no one on the aisle seat! This man chooses THIS seat. I mean, c'mon!
I look at him and say, "Um, you don't really have to sit in this middle seat, sir - there's tons of seats all around."
He pauses, looks around.
"Oh, I know, but I find that I do much better flying when I'm in a middle seat, sitting next to someone", he says matter-of-factly. Then he pushes his backpack underneath the seat in front of him. He's there to stay.
Dumbfounded, I stutter a bit, in the craziness.
"Really? How come I'm your chosen one when you have a hundred middle seats all around you?"
He takes a breath and says, (get ready)
"Oh, you look like a calm person, plus you look like my sister."
Oh great. I'm his Sister-calm.
So, I do what I normally do on a home-bound flight - snore. I miss the free beverage and peanuts. I don't even remember the take off. Upon waking though, I notice my tray table is down, a cup of ice water somehow appears on it along with two mini-bags of peanuts.
I shuffle around in my seat when the gentleman next to me says,
"I took the liberty to get you some water and peanuts. I hope that was OK."
I thanked him and took a sip.
"You looked really tired and I didn't want you to miss getting some water. Water really helps when you fly. You must fly a lot", he says.
"Yeah, you got that right. I appreciate your kindness. Thank you."
Then he says, "Thanks for letting me sit next to you. It helped. I'm just not a great flier. Hearing you sleep was actually a good thing for me. I've got a hell of a week ahead of me."
The sleeping Sister-calm. I did nothing. I said nothing. In fact, I was kind of rude. especially when I realized he'd be my initial space-invader. But then I was aware of some things I hadn't really thought about:
- Sometimes there's no need to say a thing if Jesus truly lives inside you
- Just be; and don't be offended at every little thing
- Be aware of your body language and how it can either repel or invite
- Thank God every day for His grace towards you - even when you're not so nice
- Everyone has a story; And it rarely has anything to do with you
The one who knows much says little; an understanding person remains calm.
I consider myself quite the pompous proofreader. I'd gouge out my eyes first, before EVER letting something like a manuscript or paper get by without reading it fifty-seven times. I even pretend to be a teacher - buying red pens, circling my own mistakes, grading and writing in the columns, "You can DO much better than this!"
And yes, I will even correct you, given the chance. There is an edit button on each of your Facebook pages that, if you took the time to spell-check your posts, you could correct your own mistakes. Nah, why do that? Especially when you can just post (again), "Ooops, I meant to say or type,,, whatever..", boring us all half to death.
So enter the texting, typing, "I am lazy" editing world where it's quite common (and expected) to make grammatical mistakes or punch out mis-spelled words, or even worse - the word you type is correctly spelled, but spell-check doesn't understand that it's not the right word for the sentence. (Or run-on sentences, like the previous one..) Say, like public vs. pubic. One little "L" separates these two words. Flirting with this could be a disaster, especially in a church bulletin or on power point. I'll leave it at that..
So, tonight, I'm poof-reading. Poof. Funny word. I like it. It's here one minute; gone the next. And here's poof:
- My eyes deceive me. I think I type 2013, when indeed I type, 2103. There's poof.
- I assume I'm making you laugh here, and I have no poof of that.
- Double check not only what you type, but what you mean. Poof spoken.
- Thank God every day that you don't get penalized for your grammar lack. Otherwise, it'd be like **poof**, and you'd be gone.
Just finished watching the final season of my fav TLC program of all time, "What Not To Wear". I just enjoy watching the squirm of the most unlikely candidates they can find. Stacy and Clinton always convict me with their rigors of questioning like, "Do you like wearing your clothes?", or "Are you more concerned with comfort than fashion?", or "Do you REALLY think that looks attractive on you?", or (even worse), "You know, we're getting rid of your entire wardrobe, right?" Ugh. It's not Sue Duffield on the program today, but it might as well be. My Annie often threatens me that, one day, Stacy and Clinton will appear when I least expect it.
As far as fashion goes, I know I lead two very distinct and different looks and lives. I have a stage wardrobe life and a casual every-day "whatever" roadrobe (!) Raise your hand if you have a roadrobe? I know you do. And depending on the fluctuation of flab and distribution of equidistant fat cells, my roadrobe is much more forgiving than the wardrobe. I also have a friend who tells me that I need to wear more scarves, with different chic and creative ways to tying the knot. Now, that's "knot" saying that I can't, but I struggle with knot-tying. Definitely knot a strength I have. And that's knot saying that I can't learn... Knot really.
Here's three "knots" that I learned from Clinton today. He actually mentions these three points in one definitive sentence. Clinton has no idea how this applies to just about everything I am. I think we can learn something here:
1. Become your own woman.
I'm not sure who's dressing who, but when it comes to stage attire, it bothers me how some grown women are letting their teenage/young adult daughters tell them what to wear. Becoming your own woman really means: Be who YOU are, not your daughter's replica or the stores' style where she buys her stuff. In my line of work, I take a lot of time making sure my image isn't overshadowing the real reason I am there, and that's to be a vessel for Christ. I recently sang for an event where eighty percent of the audience were men. As a precaution and as an awareness mindset, it would never be in my thoughts to dress provocatively, curvy or exposing more flesh than necessary. Modesty, I know, has become the socially distressed dinosaur in some circles, but in this particular venue - it is imperative that I project a more business style. There is no question I am here for one reason and one reason alone: To be a carrier of the gospel and not a physical distraction. Following the service, a man approaches me and says, "Thank you, Ms. Sue, for presenting in a way where we men didn't have to fight thoughts and fantasies." I knew immediately what he meant. I smile and say to myself, "Thank you God, for wisdom." What knot to wear? Wear the knot in your throat that reminds you, you could miss this whole thing, if you wear something inappropriate. (Time capsule): I used to wear short skirts (mini-skirts) on the stages of churches back in the 70s. And yes, I listened to the wisdom of my mother-in-law, and "lengthened" my shelf life in the gospel business, by lengthening my skirts.
2. Define your own style.
Marita Littauer makes a great living counseling women speakers on how to dress. She has a more flamboyant style than I'd wear, but over all, she's right: Your personality and the colors you wear really go hand in hand. I prefer to wear more solid colors rather than prints on stage. In the professional world, solid primary colors show confidence and command attention. Imagine this: What if it was just a tweaking of a color change or a solid color that made your message even more effective? Would you change what you're wearing then? I prefer suits. Always have. Always will. But not every venue is a suit venue. I have a more tailored style taste. I know it. I live it. And because this style is never trendy or reflective of the current culture fads necessarily.. I'm always IN style. What knot to wear? Wear the knot on your head, after you've hit your noggin with your V8 moment realizing... your definitive style speaks volumes. They'll hear your message louder, without the showy distraction.
3. Get On With Your Life!
Here's the freeing aspect that goes hand in hand with the gospel: We "wear" His name. And if we wear His name, no matter what our size or style, we are free to get going with the things that matter most. What knot to wear? Wear the knot that ties us together. Keep your stomach OUT of knots, when you know you have the power to be a great witness, and not a preoccupation with how you look. Wear the knot that signifies a coming together of many strands. It's the knot that can never be torn apart. It's the knot of eternal friendship. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, "Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."
For more fun, here's a great book, "The Knot Handbook". You'll see more spiritual and scriptural application in this little manual than most Christian books! And you'll really see "what knot to wear"!
I told a little friend of mine, who will soon turn eleven - "Sweetie, you will draw more people TO you when you smile!"
She looked at me dumbfounded and said, "I can't draw people too good. I can draw trees and horses better."
I got it. I laughed.
My favorite story recently was posted on Facebook by a gal attending church here in the Nashville area. When she "checked in" and wrote a status update, she inadvertently checked in to Hooter's Restaurant, which was right across from the church. That's funny in itself. She wrote, "In His Presence" - at Hooters. (I'm dying over here!) But the best response was her friend's comment under the status update. "Girl, you better cross that street!"
Now THAT"s funny right there!
I love the comedy network on Sirius radio. Without it, I'd be in a ditch somewhere off a major highway. It keeps me in stitches, laughing, even when I'm bone tired from late-night driving. Keeping me awake is the goal. That's a good thing. A comedian said yesterday; (Husband in his eighties yells to his wife) "What's it like outside?" She says, "It's windy." He responds, "No it's not, it's Thursday." She says back, "Yeah, so am I - what do you want, water or tea?" (I'm dizzy with laughter! Love it!)
I have since decided, since most of you who follow me know - I have a communicable funny dizzy-ease. It's infectious, transmissible and comes by being in direct contact with someone who is dizzily in love with laughter, goofy stories, and spontaneous kid-like frolic. People will be drawn to you, like a horse drawn to water. (Literally though, my glass is half empty right now, 'cause it fell off the table! But that doesn't mean that my attitude is half empty. it just means I got to get up again from the table and fill my glass back up with cucumber water... and clean the mess on the floor. I need Mr. Ed..)
For all my social media friends and experts out there who post on a regular basis, let me help you with something: Don't be God. Don't be judgmental. Don't express hatred through sarcasm. Invite others in the conversation. Applaud, praise and comment on posts that are worthy of your stamp of approval. Be communicable in the best of ways. Share in the "dizziness" and ease of your shortcomings. You never look better to the world than when you are real and vulnerable. I ain't horsin' around with this. :/
Jesus reminds us all, "Everything I have is yours." (Luke 15:31) It's a contagious and communicable "ease" (without the dis), knowing that you can have this gift called everything.
Share it. Sing it. Speak it. Write it. Live it. Draw it.
BTW, my little friend drew a picture of me. When she handed it to me, I looked like a horse. I laughed. She laughed. Then she said, "I 'drew' you, right?"
Yes, baby girl, you drew me alright. :)
I was sitting on a beach in New Jersey when Mike, a friend of mine who was running the snack shop, walked toward me said,
“Your mom’s on the phone.”
Now in those days, this wasn’t unusual, especially since there was no other way to connect. Find a community pay phone, park by it and give your mom the phone number. That’s what the Salem County Sportsmen’s Club Snack Shop/Beach phone had become: A community. Everybody used it to find their kids.
My mom said that Sammy Hall called and was offering both Jeff Duffield (my then boyfriend) and me a job. I gathered my stuff and jumped in my ’73 Plymouth Gold Duster and headed home. I’m thinking during the drive, “Who in the world is Sammy Hall?”
Jeff had a prior knowledge of Sammy after hearing him perform in Atlanta around 1971. I forgot I recorded one of Sammy’s songs, “Jesus Is the Man For the Hour”. Wow. That song was from one of my favorite Oak Ridge Boys albums, “Light”. But still, I knew nothing about Sammy. We said yes.
This was a huge step for these two yankee kids who just graduated from high school. We soon make the trek to Sevierville, Tennessee and join a group of rock ‘n roll ruffians who learned to play gospel music! What an eclectic group. Lenny Stadler, on bass, came from a hard rock music background. Mike Cain, drums, was playing clubs when he got the call. Row Jennings was a young Church of God girl. And together with Sammy, Jeff on keyboards and me on vocals, we rounded out a whirlwind of over 400+concerts in a year. Sometimes we’d sound like ‘The Mamas & The Papas” and other times we’d sound like a cross between contemporary Christian and southern gospel.
Sammy recently went home to be with the Lord and Lenny passed away also from cancer. But the legacy of these two will live on. Weekly, if not daily, I receive messages either on Facebook or by email from people who found God at a Sammy Hall Crusade. Our music at the time was years ahead of most. It was also hard to pigeon-hole Sammy into a venue. One week we’d do a series of Orrell concerts in the mid-west, then the next week, sing in High Schools all over the south, doing more of a British rock flare.
I had the privilege to sing for Sammy’s home-going service. I sang Elmer Cole’s classic, “Ten Thousand Years”. This was a signature song for us in the ‘70s and one that Sammy graciously gave me the lead.
I’ve just spent ten minutes of your time telling you facts. Some you may have known. But now, let me just share a piece of emotion that I’ve probably never shared before.
We left the group the next year. We didn’t leave because we didn’t agree with the philosophy of Sammy’s ministry. If anything, that alone could have kept us there for decades. We also didn’t leave because we weren’t getting the industry “looks” and accolades. We got plenty. And many top record labels were offering Sammy and his “new” group a chance at doing some great things. Gary S. Paxton, for one, grasped the concept and talent of this band. Jeff and I didn’t even leave because we thought our specific talents weren’t focused enough. No. Truthfully, I always thought that we had way TOO much focus. Jeff was the first American gospel keyboardist to play a Mellotron, a Clavinet and a Wurlitzer electric piano - all at the same time on stage. And I was featured way too much vocally. We also didn’t leave because we had difficulty with getting along with band members. No way. Rick Sandidge, who drove the bus for us, still remains to be one of our closest friends. And the connection piece has always been there with all the band members. We really had no clue how much we had.
The reason Jeff and I moved back to New Jersey was to start our own ministry. We could barely make it on $99 a week back then. So, soon after we were married, we began a music ministry in the northeast. Forty-plus years later, we are still in that ministry. It has taken on all kinds of dimension and changes, but I have to say, if it wasn’t for Sammy Hall and the gift he gave us, I doubt we would have taken such risk. Ironically, we moved back to Tennessee four years ago..
It’s a different world now. Groups come and go and change personnel like dirty socks. But for one very brief moment in time, Sammy Hall’s group, the one that turned heads, still continues to be discussed and written about. We saw this energy at his funeral. It was a surreal moment for me, because back in the day, I didn’t really think anyone paid attention. And maybe that was a good thing. God was protecting all of us from letting it go to our heads.
Sammy later traveled internationally doing huge business events and other outreach venues. But still, as far as I’m concerned, he was at his best when we all shared one cause, one voice, one band, one hope, one mission: To reach young people for Christ. And to do it well - musically.
Hotel rules and ticky-tack regulations could cause me to be arrested. I know that they have to jump through ALL kinds of hoops and regulations to please both the city and state. Some of their policies operate on the side of caution. I know this.
I check into a well-known chain hotel and I receive the following notice. (Verbatim. It's attached to my key sleeve, with a rubber band wrapped around it.) Here goes:
In accordance with our state's Health Department Regulations and for your safety,
it is important that you are aware of our pool regulations:
1. There is no lifeguard on duty.
2. Never swim alone
3. There is no substitute for adequate supervision. Children under 16 MUST be accompanied by an adult or guardian.
4. In an Emergency pick up pool area phone and dial #9.
5. No alcohol or glass around pool
6. No running, diving or horseplay.
7. Swim at your own risk.
The gal at the front desk says I have to sign a form stating that I have "read" these pool regulations and that I will abide by them. I'm laughing to myself thinking - this is NOT a problem. You see, it is March and it's New York and it's 29 degrees outside. Dumb. Save it for summer, for cryin' out loud.
So, in reality, these guidelines for protection weren't applicable right now, wouldn't you say? I think so. It's much like reading from the scriptures - words that don't really pertain to me right now - but later on, you find that they "fit" just right.
I remember reading a passage from Proverbs 31:25-26 when I was a teen, thinking, "This really doesn't apply to me. I'm not an old woman."
"She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.
When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness."
Maybe now the age old ice is melting and I'm ready for an arctic swim. No running or diving, mind you, but you can bet - there'll be some horseplay! That's just who I am. "Pull the icy tarp off! I'm ready for a plunge!"
So, the next day I check out of the hotel. I smile at the manager and mention, "You know, I had a good laugh over your rules and mandatory agreement for your pool - especially since it's sub-freezing outside!"
He laughed too. Then said, "You know we have an indoor pool too, right?"
(Silenced, I drop my head in embarrassment.)
Yes, I laughed out loud without fear of the future, knowing that one day I'd tell you this story. "When she speaks, her words are wise." (When exactly does this happen? Swim and speak at your own risk. I need adequate supervision...)
Also posted on "Sue-biquitous!"