Pride Goeth Before a Marriage Conference

July 3, 2021 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Connie Cavanaugh –

Women buzzed around the “Love and Respect” marriage conference registration table in the church foyer, eager to sign up. The men leaned on the walls, staying well back. They had been to these gigs before and weren’t too keen on spending money to learn how messed up they were. The women, me included, secretly hoped our husbands would hear all the things they were doing wrong, smarten up, and become more like us.

The conference facilitators were Emerson and Sarah Eggerichs. I had seen their video clips on their web site and I figured Emerson would disarm us with laughter, then he’d swoop in for the kill: all the men would see their mistakes and repent, they would commit themselves to try harder and we women would go home validated. I couldn’t wait!

Erelong I would discover that pride goeth before a marriage conference.

We gathered on Friday night and took our seats amid the noisy throng. As expected, Emerson had us hooting with laughter as he dramaticly played both roles in a marital spat. Before long I was riveted to my seat as he talked about the way our culture had vilified men for 30 years — in an attempt to raise awareness and create gender equality, popular culture has normalized male bashing and tried to feminize men. He explained that God created men and women equal but different and it was that “different-ness” that provided the romantic spark as well as fostered the misunderstandings.

The more Emerson talked, the taller my husband sat. I, however, was sinking, stunned by my naivety. This was a spiritual encounter with Truth and it would set me free from the cultural lies I had swallowed for years.

I watched my husband and dozens of other men fight back tears when Emerson talked about a man’s primal need for respect in a culture that is saturated with romantic notions of love but sadly lacking in respect. I learned that a man gladly serves and dies for country and family from a sense of honor. That is his way of showing love. Too often, he isn’t thanked or even recognized.

I learned things my parents and grandparents grew up knowing, that when a man works hard and provides for his family, he is serving them in love and this service is worthy of respect. Because my husband has always been quick to say, “I love you” and is very affectionate, I didn’t realize that while my need for love was constantly being met, his need for verbal respect was seriously underfed.

The one who needed to change was me, not my spouse. I had to start expressing my respect and stop taking his contribution for granted.

There was a decidedly different feeling in the air when the crowd was dismissed that night. Gone was the she-dragged-me-here look the men had arrived with three hours earlier. They could hardly wait to come back the next morning.

My husband was pumped! He yakked my ear off all the way home in the car. I was so raw with emotion I barely had the stamina to whisper, “Can you ever forgive me for not voicing my respect and appreciation more often for who you are and all you do?”

For too many years I assumed my husband was the one who needed to do all the changing, if he would just be more like me everything would be great, I thought. The good news is that while pride goeth before a marriage conference, humility cometh after.

Hamster Meets Mini-Houdini

May 22, 2021 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Connie Cavanaugh –

Our three-year-old granddaughter Madi’s middle name should be Houdini. The minute you turn your back on her, she floats away, opens a door more quietly than a safe cracker, slips out and flees! Several frantic searches over the last year have found her happily riding a tricycle down the middle of the street in winter wearing nothing but a diaper, exploring a neighbor’s backyard while frolicking with their dog, or nibbling a snack and playing the Wii in her auntie’s basement a few doors down from Grammy’s house.

That’s why I was a little nervous about leaving her with Papa for an hour while I went with my son and his dogs to the off-leash park. It was Mother’s Day and my daughter, Madi’s mother, needed some rest after a busy weekend of ministry with her youth group and worship team so I gladly volunteered to bring Madi home after church and keep her for the afternoon.

Before leaving for the dog park I made sure Papa understood he must not take his eyes off her for a minute. I locked the door leading outdoors from the family room. Off I went for a happy hour of watching two dogs run, roll, chase balls, splash in the river, shake water all over me, get covered with dirt which quickly became mud, and if dogs could grin, I would say they had grins a mile wide. What apartment dwelling dog doesn’t love an hour of unbridled freedom?

When I got home, windblown and chilly but heart-warmed and happy, the first thing I saw when I stepped inside the house was my wild-eyed husband charging up the stairs from the basement where I had left him and Madi sixty minutes earlier. He was carrying a shoebox.

“Where’s Madi?”

“I just dropped her off at Christine’s house,” he wheezed. The shoebox he clutched rose and fell on his heaving chest, Christine is our other daughter who lives nearby.

“What’s in the box?” I asked.

Wordlessly, he lifted the lid. I peeked inside.

“A hamster?”

“Is that what it is?” he asked. “I thought it was a mouse at first but it looked too well fed so my next guess was a gerbil.”

“Where did it come from?”

“According to Madi? Louisiana!” he replied, shaking his head.

The story unfolded. Papa decided to watch a movie with Madi while Grammy was out. A dangerous idea since television is like a narcotic for Pastor Papa, but on Sunday afternoon, TV works faster than Nembutal delivered intravenously. The movie had barely begun when the snoring started.

We have no idea how long Madi waited but she quickly sensed the wind was in her favor, tiptoed upstairs, and let herself out the unlocked front door. She made a beeline next-door where 10-year-old Hannah lives. Hannah often lets Madi play with her hamster.

Hannah’s family wasn’t home so Madi tried both doors; the back door was not locked. She found the hamster in its cage, liberated it, and was heading back to Grammy’s house for some fun when Papa woke up with a start, discovered she was gone and began dashing and calling. He found her outside our front door, clutching the little critter. Thinking she had a mouse in her pudgy fists, he almost threw it into an adjacent green space. But a second look made him think it was more domesticated – hence the “gerbil” classification.

“Madi! Where did you get this gerbil?”

“Louisiana,” she replied with a poker face worthy of Cool Hand Luke.

He asked a second time and got the same response. It was at that point he realized he was dealing with not only an experienced jail breaker but a seasoned perjurer since we live in Canada.

Disgruntled church members, power-hungry deacons, political positioning, tight budgets, needy parishioners – all this and more Pastor Papa handles with diplomacy and grace but a wise man knows his limits. He pried the hamster out of her sweaty grasp amid a flood of weeping, boxed the pet and marched Madi over to Auntie’s house. He knew he was in way over his head.

Smoky the Baptist Rides Again

April 10, 2021 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Connie Cavanaugh –

“I hate camping,” my husband confessed, late one night.

“You hate camping? Since when? We’ve camped for years!”

“I know,” he admitted. “But I’ve never liked it.”

“You’re the one who researched space efficient camping equipment and bought all those supplies,” I declared. I couldn’t believe my ears. We had camped all across the country with three kids. Everything fit into the trunk of a Volkswagen.

“I like research,” he said. “But not camping. I do it for the kids.”

Our kids loved camping. These adventures were the highpoint of their summer.

We were in a pickle. Not only had we promised our kids we would go camping as soon as school let out, we planned to go with another couple.

We finally concluded that tent camping was too rustic. Perhaps if we brought along a few more comforts, we would enjoy it more. The day we arrived at our campsite we looked like a Saharan camel train. Our van was stuffed, had a bulging topper strapped to the roof and we pulled a huge pop-up trailer.

When we got to our site, within ten minutes our bicycle camping companions, who carried everything in two backpacks and four saddlebags were finished. They erected their pup tent, slung a hammock between two trees, and made tea on what looked like a Bunsen burner. They sipped and watched as we constructed our forest kingdom.

It took three hours to assemble the trailer, the tent, and the screened gazebo for our camp kitchen. We looked like a feeding station for tornado victims. By the time we were done, it was late and everyone was hungry.

Dad got ready to fire up the Coleman stove on the picnic table inside the gazebo. The first “firing” of the season was usually worth watching. We dubbed him Smoky the Bear since he had stomped out many a potential forest fire that resulted from his pyrotechnics. Smoky’s method was to pump the stove until it threatened to burst and then stand back and toss a lit match. The explosion was spectacular. After the mushroom cloud dissipated, the small burner would flame merrily and we would cook dinner.

But this time, something malfunctioned. Kaboom! Flames shot up and out. Only this time, they kept shooting.

Smoky grabbed a beach towel to use as oven mitts. Gingerly he picked up the stove and, dancing like the great Ali, struggled through the tiny zippered opening in his attempt to save the gazebo. Once outside he doused the inferno with water and stomped on the smoldering towel.

He mopped his sweaty brow with the charred towel and looked up to where we were all standing, watching him with grateful amazement. This had been the best annual fireworks display to date. Slowly, we began to applaud.

”Whew!” he exclaimed. “I almost didn’t make it through that dinky doorway. Maybe we should leave it fully unzipped from now on in case this happens again.” The kids and I had noticed that the explosion had melted one entire mesh wall in the gazebo. You could drive a car through the hole that resulted.

“Oh that’s ok,” one of the smart alecks quipped, pointing. “Leave it zipped. We can use this new opening. It’s much bigger.”

Knowing he could never outdo this performance without risking hectares of prime forest, we made that camping trip our swan song. Nowadays we “camp” in an RV at a national park where open fires are not allowed.

The Keys to my Heart

February 21, 2021 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Connie Cavanaugh –

Four drivers, two keys, one car – no matter how you add it up, it equals frustration. No one has the time to get more keys cut because we’re too busy hunting for the two keys we allegedly have.

I was working at my desk when my iPhone™ alerted me to a haircut appointment in fifteen minutes. Grabbing my purse, I lunged for the key rack. No key. Where was the one all by itself on a Free Willy key chain that I shared with our two driving daughters?

I ran to my youngest daughter’s bedroom and barged in. She was working a string of night shifts as her summer job and had to sleep during the day. Our encounter was not something I’d recommend in Good Parenting magazine.

“Where is the key to the Volkswagen?” I demanded.

“Mrrphh kublah, zzzz.”

I waded into a room that looked like it had been recently vandalized and began flinging clothes aside in an effort to find the floor and perhaps, the vagrant key.

Peeking out from under her pillow she moaned and mumbled, “I never drove the Volkswagen last, mom, you did! Please let me sleep!”

“If I drove the car last, the keys would be on the key rack!” I huffed, all righteous indignation.

Sitting up in bed with tears beginning to spill over, she reminded me she hadn’t slept properly for a week and now she probably wouldn’t be able to fall sleep again. She assured me she had nothing to do with the lost key.

By now, I was hopelessly late, frustrated and not totally convinced Willy wasn’t somewhere under the one of the piles surrounding me. I called my husband at his nearby office and he came to my rescue. He rushed into the foyer where I waited, ready to hand over his Volkswagen key when something caught his eye and stopped him cold.

“What’s this?” he asked. He stepped over to the key rack, bent down and picked up Free Willy from the floor directly below. “It looks like Willy made a break for it….”

“I am the world’s worst mother!” I wailed, tears bursting forth. Gerry was a bit dazed by my emotional reaction but he gallantly assured me that it wasn’t so. I managed to get a grip on my emotions long enough to endure the haircut while seated in front of an acre of mirrors that reflected the person I most despised at the moment – The World’s Worst Mother. Every barren woman I had ever known, biblically and literally, came to mind as I wondered why I was chosen to procreate and not them. I questioned God’s wisdom.

On the way home I stocked up on some provisions. Tiptoeing around so as not to reawaken my exhausted daughter, I set up a shrine outside her bedroom door with two 12-packs of cola and several gift certificates for free pizza. Atop this was a lengthy note confessing my grievous sin and begging forgiveness for blaming her for my own misplacement of the key. I left again to run more errands.

By the time I returned home hours later, ready to grovel, my daughter was already up and gone. She had obviously read my note, removed a can of cola and taken the pizza certificates. Ripping off a corner from the note I had written, she penned a response I’ll never forget: All is forgiven. Hey mom, you can yell at me again tomorrow. This could be a lucrative enterprise!!! xoxoxo.

I no longer questioned God’s wisdom. Thank God for children. They teach us grace.

The Preacher Who Put the Arson in Parson

February 7, 2021 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Connie Cavanaugh –

When my new husband took his first pastorate in a northern village, he thought he’d ignite some spiritual fire in the community. He went way beyond that.

The church’s parsonage perched atop a hill overlooking a lake. Gerry kept the lawns trimmed but the rocky slope below our bay window was impossible to mow. The grass and weeds were an unsightly tangled mess that marred the beauty of our lake view so I suggested that Gerry find a way to clean it up.

He watched our neighbor burn off his tall grass early in spring before the snow melted under the fence that encircled his property. Quick to recognize a good idea, Gerry planned to copy him. But it wasn’t until several weeks later, after a hot, dry spring that Gerry finally had a chance to tend to my nagging. He decided to surprise me for my birthday.

Off to work I went on the thirty-first of May, the day before my birthday, oblivious to what lay ahead. In the late afternoon, I returned to a vacant house filled with unsettling clues. A trail of sooty water marred the white linoleum between the front door and kitchen sink. A melted, misshapen plastic blob near the door, on closer inspection, turned out to be the charred remains of my garbage can liner – a wedding gift from a dear friend. A blackened soggy pile of rags beside the sink was all that remained of my colorful handmade heirloom throw rug from Auntie Ada. I was alarmed and upset.

I headed back outside where I spied a garden hose snaking over the lip of the hill toward the lake. I ran to the crest of the hill. Blackness! All the way to the lake, to the edges of our property and dangerously beyond, the ground was still smoldering.

Halfway down the hill, slumped atop a boulder holding a dribbling hose was what appeared to be a chimney sweep from Mary Poppins.

“Caawww-neee,” Gerry hallooed, giving a feeble wave. “I can’t leave my post. Come down.” I minced my way over the scorched earth, tottering on three-inch heels. My bedraggled spouse’s smoke-reddened eyes darted in all directions. He kept whirling around, shooting pitiful spurts at puffs of smoke. There were so many burn holes in the hoses a well-aimed spit would have had more volume.

The harrowing tale unfolded. Midmorning he had decided to clean up that unsightly grass as my birthday surprise. Just like our neighbor, he had matches and a cold drink. (The missing factor was the snowpack around the perimeter!) Always in a hurry, Gerry thought he’d speed things along. He fetched the can of gasoline. After pouring a line of gas along the top of the hill, he tossed a match. Kaboom!

He managed to save our house before he ran for help.

Five elderly women—the only people he found at home—and he waged a furious battle to subdue the runaway inferno that threatened to consume our village. The not-so-volunteer ladies’ brigade plunked Gerry on that rock with strict instructions to “Stay there, young man, and keep a sharp eye. Or else!”

“I’m starving,” Gerry lamented.

I headed uphill to fetch a sandwich and found my neighbor Florence on my verandah. Her hair was still wet from the shower and she had a glass of whisky, straight up, in one hand.

“What is it with you Baptist preachers and fire?” she asked, waving her empty hand. “The last guy did the same dang thing!”

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