Monthly Archives: February 2012

Thoughts on God

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Tonight I spent my “creative juices” writing something for my friend Jermaine (www.jermainelane.com).  So, I’m offering you up one of my paintings and an old poem.  Enjoy!

Little White Box

do you have
a little white box
etched with gold
beautiful white box
lined with scarlet velvet
a little white box
to put your God in?

do you take Him out
when you need a band-aid
to heal your broken heart
when you want a magician
to make-believe a happy ending
when the wound is healed and story sounds pretty
do you put Him back again?

do you have
a little white God
who fits into your box
beautiful white God
with invisible band-aids and magic cures
a little white God
who fits inside your box?

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“Amanda’s got cooties!”

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For those of you who may be unaware, I work with kids.  More specifically–I am a children’s pastor.  Most people have no idea what a children’s pastor does outside of weekend services–probably just play with Mr. Potato Heads and create new recipes for slime.  This is not true.  I only play with Mr. Potato Head on the weekends.  So, in an effort to help bridge the gap and build a better understanding of the day-to-day life of a children’s pastor, I thought I’d tell you about the time I got cooties.

It was summer in Florida, and I was participating in a time-honored children’s ministry tradition known as camp.  Our kids went to camp at Lake Placid.  (Remember that movie?  Crocodiles who eat cows and men without regard.  Sounds like a great place to take hundreds of elementary kids swimming and camping, right?)  We never met any man-eating crocodiles, however I did have my own frightening encounter with a flesh-eating creature.

It was our camp tradition to have a luau on the beach the last night of camp, where we would roast marshmallows, play limbo, and compete in hula contests.  This particular year I was in charge of the luau and was busy running back and forth across the sand to make sure every lei and hula hoop was in place.  (You don’t want any stray leis, that would be a disaster.)  My flip-flops were not cutting it in the thick sand, so eventually I kicked them off and went barefoot.  The night was a smashing success.  S’mores were devoured, limbo champions were declared, and a good time was had by all.  The next morning I packed up and headed home.  Over the next several days I prepped for our upcoming VBS (a wonderful invention in children’s ministry in which children’s leaders spend weeks entirely sleep deprived and running on a strange cocktail of coffee and goldfish crackers).  As the week unfolded, I began to notice something wrong with my foot.

It started with a small reddish line on my big toe.  Then the line began to grow.  And not just growing larger or redder–it was leaving track marks around my foot.  It was moving!  I headed into the doctor’s office and presented my case.  After a quick exam the doctor told me I had acquired a new friend– a parasite.  This thing was living inside my foot–moving around, feeding off my flesh and blood, and leaving a reddish-purple path in its wake.  Apparently these monsters live in the soil and sand, and my barefoot night at the luau had provided them with a perfect opportunity to pack up, climb inside my foot, and take up residence in my toe.  I was given a prescription guaranteed to kill my parasitic friend, and sent on my merry way.

I dropped the script off at my local pharmacy, and came back a few hours later to pick it up.  A baffled pharmacist met me at the drive thru window and explained that my doctor had prescribed a drug that was no longer manufactured.  Great.  It was Friday night and the doctor’s office was already closed.  I could wait till his office opened on Monday and request another drug then, but that would mean two and a half more days of this parasite literally eating me alive.  No thanks.

I decided to call in a favor.  One of the benefits of being a pastor is that although you don’t usually have friends in high places, you do have a good variety of friends.  And I happened to know someone who was a doctor.  He worked as an ER physician, so he was sure to be up at 8pm on a Friday night.  I called him up and explained the situation.  I hadn’t gotten very far in when he burst out laughing.  “Amanda’s got cooties!  Amanda’s got cooties!” he began chanting, like some punk from elementary school.  Seriously?  I think he might need to work on his bedside manner.  But he quickly called in a script for a different medicine that was still manufactured, so I decided to overlook his taunting. It took about a week for the parasite to die off and the track marks to fade.  In the meantime, I spent a week leading VBS and showing off my strange red marks to kids and adults alike who were fascinated by my new friend. Eventually though, my cooties bid me a fond farewell.  Or perhaps not so fond, considering I was killing them off.  At any rate, they were gone.

Fast forward a year or so.  I was preparing to leave the church where I had spent the last three years.  I had built some amazing relationships with parents and volunteers, and I was really going to miss them.  However, God had called me to go serve in another country, and I was excited about the plans he had for me.  As a farewell, a huge group from my church planned a trip to a comedy sports club.  This particular club featured an opportunity for you to purchase a special musical tribute to a member in the audience.  And my amazing friends chose to honor me with this.  They turned in a huge list of random details and funny stories from my life and the talented improv actors began to turn my life into a musical comedy.  Not surprisingly, my friendly, neighborhood parasite came back to reprise his role in my life.  The charming actors named him “Petey the Parasite” and told a story of how I exorcised him like a demon, preached the gospel to him, led him to salvation, and ultimately took him with me around the world to preach to others.

Although I’m back in the U.S. again, I like to think Petey is still  out there . . . sharing God’s love and preaching the gospel to the world–one parasite at a time.

 

In Honor of the Oscars: I Am Batwoman

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It’s well past 1am, and I’ve finally removed the hundred bobby pins molding my hair into its party up-do, and scrubbed off the three layers of makeup.  Earlier, as we watched the Oscars, we marveled at what an incredible group of Leading Actresses were nominated.  Now the Oscars are over, and it’s time to settle down and share a story with you.  In honor of this year’s amazing performances by a group of brilliant leading ladies,  I’d like to share a story with you of a performance of mine that I’m confident deserves some kind award.

Those of you who read of my humiliation yesterday remember that I have have a deeply ingrained sense that, come what may, the show must go on.  It is the mantra of every live theatre performer.  Your costume catches fire, your uncle dies, a giant speeding comet is headed your way . . . it makes no difference, the show must go on.  And so, at the ripe age of fifteen, I was prepared to carry that mantle.  I was performing in “Rumors,” a comedy by the fantastic Neil Simon.  I played Cassie, which consisted primarily of arguing and flirting.  Our stage was an ancient beast which included a fly space that seemed to go on forever.  There were ladders and platforms, ropes and rigging everywhere.  No matter how high I climbed, the space always seemed to reach higher and higher.  And up there, in the dark recesses of the fly space, lived a bat whom none of us knew existed.  Who knows how long the bat had lived up there, where it came from, or what it fed on?  But one night he decided to make his presence known.

We were well into the show, and I was in the middle of a monologue.  I was caught up in the role, so I didn’t notice it at first.  But then people started screaming.  I continued my monologue, as I began to slyly scan the auditorium.  And there it was–my nocturnal nemesis.  The bat  had declared his independence and was flying freely throughout the room.  I continued on as I saw the bat swoop lower and lower over the crowd.  In slow motion, I watched a spontaneous wave take place as people ducked deep into their seats to avoid the creature. The screaming came in swells as the bat swooped closer and closer to them.  All the while, I steadily continued my monologue.  And then the unthinkable happened.

The bat had toyed around with the audience to his satisfaction.  He wanted fresh prey.  He wanted me.  And so he careened closer and closer to the stage, before landing.  On. My. Head.

This vile creature of the night was resting calmly on my teased blonde bouffant.  And I did what any dedicated artist would do . . . I kept on going.  Continuing that monologue as if it were tethering me to a reality where I might open my eyes and discover there was not, in fact, a horrid, winged thing on my head.  Bat or not, this show was “going on.”

I’m not sure how long the whole thing lasted–it felt like hours as I bravely recited lines all while being attacked by this evil monster.  It probably was only a few minutes.  Finally my director stood up from the back of the room and shouted “Enough!”  And with that, the show came to a screeching halt.  A few stage hands quickly grabbed brooms and began to chase the bat away.  Of course, there was nowhere for the bat to go but up.  And so up he went–they continued at him with their threatening brooms as they drove him higher and higher into the fly space.  Then they climbed the ladders and stood on high, brooms in hand, waiting to catch him if he dared to venture down again.

Once the theatre calmed down, we resumed our show, but I’m not sure we ever recovered.  It’s hard to come back from a bat attack, after all.   If they gave out awards for acting under distressing circumstances, I’m sure I would be in the running.  As it is, the Academy hasn’t yet chosen to honor those of us who act in the most dire and bizarre of situations.  In the meantime we are left merely with Best Performance awards.  I am confident my performance that day would never measure up to Meryl Streep’s.  Then again she wasn’t competing with a bat on her head.

 

My Drug of Choice

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I love to swap embarrassing stories.  It’s a strange pastime, I know.  They say laughter is the best medicine though, so let’s just say laughter is my drug of choice.  Whatever ails you, a good dose of laughter can make things better–even if for only a moment.  So today I’d like to share my favorite drug with you.  Open wide.

Long before Janet Jackson inspired the phrase “wardrobe malfunction,” I had perfected the art.  It’s an art which is guaranteed to rob you of your dignity and leave in its place a sniveling blob of embarrassed self-loathing.  My experience with wardrobe malfunctions began in high school.  I was a naive fifteen year-old the day I first experienced such humiliation.  Our local high school had received a bomb threat, and they evacuated the building.  The threat turned out to be a prank, probably from some hoodlum hoping they’d cancel school for the rest of the day.  However the administration was on to them and instead of sending us home, they marched all five hundred of us to the local armory, about a half mile away.  The armory featured a large all-purpose room about the size of a gymnasium.  Once we arrived we were told to sit down and wait.  Great, that should be loads of fun.

Anyone who teaches high school, or has a high school student, or has ever heard of high school students, can imagine what happened next.  And it didn’t involve sitting down and waiting.  Fairly quickly we began forming groups and devising all sorts of random games and obnoxious time-killers.  This was back in the old days before high school students carried cell phones, so we had to get creative.  I linked up with a group and pretty soon we were playing Freeze–a fairly safe theatre improv game usually found in drama classes, comedy sports bars, and late night reruns of “Who’s Line Is It Anyway?”  The concept of the game is fairly simple–two people create a scene utilizing interesting body positions.  Someone yells “freeze” and the two actors freeze.  The person who called out “freeze” enters the playing area, taps one actor on the shoulder and then takes their place.  The new actor begins an entirely different scene beginning with the same body positions that the characters were frozen in.  As our group began playing, pretty soon a crowd formed around us –this was free entertainment.  I played out a couple of scenes, switching in and out of the game with my friends.  And then it happened.  I entered the frozen position and created a scene involving jumping on a trampoline.  As we joked around we jumped up and down like crazy people, bouncing on our invisible trampoline.  Everyone was laughing hysterically, and I could see the crowd growing.  “I’m killing it!”  I thought.  “I’ll probably be asked to join “Saturday Night Live” before I turn sixteen.”

But as I continued with the scene, I began to feel that something was not quite right.  I glanced down.  Houston we have a problem . . .

Now would be a great time to pause the story.  Press the rewind button.  Earlier that morning I woke up, washed my hair, and decided to put on my favorite outfit.  It was a cute little romper with loads of little white buttons.  I loved it because I was convinced it made me look skinny.  I only weighed 125 back then, but I went to school with all of Kate Moss’ long lost sisters who weighed about 90 pounds each.  Next to them I was a beached whale.  (If my fifteen year old self could see me now, she’d be mortified!)

Fast forward . . . I began to feel that something was not quite right.  I glanced down.  Every single one of those adorable white buttons had come undone.  And when you’re wearing a romper, that’s a lot of buttons.  I was mortified.  I tried to cover myself and began screaming out for someone to call “freeze” which, of course, no one did.  Instead they responded with more laughter.  That same laughter which I was sure signaled my rise to fame now cruelly mocked me.  I began frantically begging someone to take my place.  I’m not sure why I didn’t think to just run out of the room.  Probably the die-hard actor in me trained that no matter what “the show must go on,” or something like that.  That instinct would get me into a lot of trouble in life.  But that’s for another post.

I can’t really remember how it ended.  Perhaps I reached my maximum level of wardrobe malfunction tolerance and finally ran away and hid in the bathroom.  Or maybe a teacher finally got curious why hundreds of students had formed a tight circle and were laughing hysterically.  Whatever happened has been blocked out of my mind from the magnitude of my embarrassment.  One thing is certain.  When the day ended and we were finally dismissed, I went home and buried that romper where it would never see the light of day again.  And somehow I managed to get up and go to school the next day and face hundreds of people who had gotten quite a show from me the day before.  And for that, I am certain I should have received an award.

And thus began my introduction to the art of wardrobe malfunction.  Over the coming years, I would have many more opportunities to practice this art.  But I think, perhaps, you may have exceed the recommended daily dosage of laughter for today.  So you’ll just have to come back tomorrow.  The pharmacy will be reopening then.

Poetry Friday: “Father”

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So, gentle readers, I promised you a variety of posts here at Murphy’s Law Translated and I think it is time to deliver.  I solemnly declare that henceforth and forever after (or until I change my mind), Fridays shall be known as “Poetry Fridays.”

Today we shall kick things off with a poem fresh off the quill . . . or in this case, the ball point pen.

 

Father
hidden in the nighttime shadows of this present world
are you watching me?
can you hear the tremor in my voice?

Do you remember that cold winter morning
you called a taxi to take me the mile to school?
While others sent children trudging through mountains of snow in search of that brick schoolhouse
You ordered up a taxi—delivered on a silver platter to our front door
(An absurd luxury when you were out of work)
And I knew your love.

I miss that confidence—
love as tangible as bricks and mortar
or your hand in mine
sweeping me into your arms as you
killed the mouse
calmed the fears
sang me sleep every night with your magic charm:
“Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite.”
As if I could fear bed bugs with my champion sleeping down the hall.

Do you remember that cursed night you first knew?
I hope not.
I hope it is wiped forever clean from your memory.
That night our world changed
I’ve never known such fear.

There are so many things I want to tell you . . .
How thankful I am for the years we had together
How sorry I am for all the ways I failed you

If I could go back to that night
I swear I’d do it differently
Our last chance to be together
I chose myself over you
If I could do it all over again . . .
But there are no “do-overs” when it comes to death.

Do you watch us from the shadows?
This lost family you left behind
Or is it too painful?

Can you hear me crying out for you when I think no one is listening?
Longing for a shiny yellow taxi to come deliver me to you
Father

I Was Attacked In Church

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I was attacked in church.  Physically assaulted.  I swear I’m telling the truth—three fingers in the air, scouts honor.

Some of you are freaking out right now.  Some of you who know me personally are running through the Rolodex of your minds trying to figure out who it was.  You don’t know them.  I promise.

I was traveling to churches and speaking about my ministry.  I was seated in the pew, listening as someone gave the standard announcements—Sunday School picnics, bake sales—you know the kind.  The pews around me were empty, and I was focusing on the upcoming message.  Suddenly a family walked in and sat behind me.  A middle aged mother and her two teens began to participate in worship.  From the sounds behind me I was guessing the young girl had some special needs.  As I turned around to greet them during that time-honored tradition known as “handshaking time,” I saw that my guess was accurate.  I smiled and introduced myself and she nodded back. As we sang songs she became very agitated.  Later I would learn that she wasn’t used to anyone sitting near her, other than her family.  Maybe they should have given me a pre-service warning.

All of sudden it happened.  Right there in church.  Mid-song.  She grabbed my hair with the grip of She-Ra, and started pulling.  Perhaps if she’d only had a few strands of hair, or even small sections, my hair would have just vacated my head and there wouldn’t have been a problem.  But she was using both hands and had about half my hair in fists.  When she started yanking, my body almost flew backwards over the pew.  You know those crime scene dramas when some man grabs a woman by her hair and drags her across the parking lot, before stuffing her in a car?  I felt their pain.

No one really knew what to do.  The worship leader tried to focus his eyes elsewhere.  The family across the aisle staunchly stared straight ahead.  The pastor seemed oblivious.  The unfortunate mother behind me tried to wrest my head from her daughter’s hands, but wasn’t having much luck.  This girl was strong!  If they could channel her strength she would have a good chance of winning her high school the state wrestling championship.  The mother was starting to panic.  She kept whispering “I’m so sorry,” while trying to pry her daughter’s fingers lose.  Eventually, after about three minutes, I was able to break free.  Huge hunks of my hair hung limply in the girls hands.  Finally, an usher decided to get involved, and he came to help escort the poor girl out, who was now screaming at me.  I held my head in my hands, tears streaming down my face, trying to compose myself.  Trying to act like it was no big deal that my head was literally bleeding.

I was definitely a “special” guest speaker that day.

In addition to being incredibly painful, it was truly a very funny day.  (Once the swelling came down.)  But it also begs the question . . . what would you do in that situation?  How would you minister to both a beautiful young girl whom God created with her own special gifts, talents, and needs AND the unsuspecting guest in your service?