By Kim Stokely –
I’m convinced that within me is an “obsession gene.” For the most part, this gene lies dormant within my DNA, but every couple of years, like some mutant cicada, it reawakens and consumes my mind.
When I was a child, the obsessions would center on a certain book or television show. It’s all I could think or talk about for weeks. When my husband and I married 25 years ago, my mother gave us a Nintendo 64 system for our first Christmas together. Fortunately my husband was on shift work, or my non-stop game playing through the night might have caused him to rethink his marriage vows.
Over the past twenty years I’ve become obsessed with different video games. Once, it was saving the citizens of Naboo from an Imperial take-over. My family staged an intervention when I suspected a flock of birds was actually a fleet of tie-fighters. Then there was the time I became consumed with the goal of becoming a Rollercoaster Tycoon. I even had the kids pray for the victims of a terrible crash in one of my imaginary theme parks.
As I get older, the obsessions seem to be fewer and far between. There were the brief addictions to Pet Society and Angry Birds, but it’s been quite a while since the last one.
So imagine my husband’s surprise when he saw that frightening, yet familiar, sparkle in my eyes after I returned home from a craft night with the ladies from my church.
“Oh, no.” He grabbed my shoulders. “What is it this time?”
His brows furrowed. “Knitting?”
I nodded. “Scarves! Look!” I held up the half-completed, first attempt, at a sashay scarf. The silver thread in the yarn sparkled in the kitchen light. My mind was transfixed.
Since that night, some four weeks ago, I’ve knit a myriad of the twirling pieces of neckwear. Like zucchini from a summer time garden, the scarves keep appearing. I’ve begun handing them out to strangers in the street. I don’t know how long this obsession is going to last, but my husband hopes it’ll end soon before I spend all of our retirement money on yarn.
God wants us to be that consumed with Him. Jesus told us that the greatest commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30 NIV). It’s hard, in this world of distractions, to maintain that kind of focus on God. But if I can have that kind of concentration for a video game or craft project, I know that it is possible. It’ll take a commitment to His word and to prayer. But it is something to which we all should strive.
By Kim Stokely –
If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring?
I loved that joke when I was a kid. It still makes me smile, mainly because it reminds me of my childhood growing up in New England.
I once had the opportunity to visit Plymouth Plantation, the historical spot where the pilgrims first came ashore in North America and made a home. A life-sized model of the Mayflower, the boat that brought them across the Atlantic, rests in the bay. And, at least when I was there some (cough, cough) forty years ago, a large granite and iron barrier, reminiscent of a Greek temple, had been placed around Plymouth Rock, the boulder the pilgrims had to step on first before coming ashore.
Even as a kid I remember thinking, how could they possibly know that?
Did Miles Standish have a Sharpie quill marker to make sure they remembered the exact rock, among the millions along the New England shoreline that our forefathers jumped on to keep their feet out of the salty water? Although these guys were all about formality and the importance of their journey, I don’t think, after 2 months at sea in a wooden boat with so many unwashed people, that anyone cared that they had to step on a rock to get to land. I think they probably had trouble keeping everyone from jumping over the rails and swimming to shore. In fact, the first written mention of Plymouth Rock came almost 100 years after the Pilgrims landed. Oral tradition may have picked this rock, but I’m still not convinced that the one enshrined in Massachusetts is “the one”.
God doesn’t give us such nebulous facts when it comes to the story of His son, Jesus. The first four gospels include eye witness accounts of Jesus’s days on earth. Most scholars believe they were written before the destruction of Herod’s Temple in 70 A.D. This means they were written within 40 years of Christ’s death. Many of the names, dates and events can be historically cross-checked with secular accounts. God wanted those of us who came later to know His son almost as intimately as those that walked with Him. He inspired the Gospel authors to write vivid accounts of Jesus’s words and actions so we could learn, as they did, from the great rabbi.
By Kim Stokely –
Our family pets love laundry day. We had a parakeet who could say two phrases, “Hi, bird” and “Praise God!” He loved to chirp back to the various squeaks and clicks the dryer made. When it came time to fold clothes, he’d tweet happily and call out “Praise God” while I worked. His gentle reminder to be thankful for God’s provision of clothes helped make the chore easier.
Alas, the bird passed away and now we have Ollie, the sock thief. This puppy has a nose for the smell of Tide and a desire to eat all of our socks and unmentionables. Who knew that washing clothes would require making a game plan of defensive maneuvers to keep the little fuzz ball from stealing items not only out of the laundry basket, but out of the dryer itself? While I’m busy folding t-shirts, Ollie sneaks behind me like a white, puffy ninja and slides a sock from the dryer. It’s only when he’s out of my reach that he lifts his head and trots happily toward the living room. It’s that happy gait that signals he’s done it again. I spend the next two or three minutes like something out of a Tom and Jerry cartoon, chasing the fluffy delinquent in circles around our house until he drops his loot.
As harmless as chewing a sock seems to be, I know that should he actually swallow the fabric, it could cause his little tummy a world of trouble. I knew of a Dalmatian whose fetish for socks landed her in the vet’s office, undergoing emergency surgery. Ollie may not understand why I keep taking away his seemingly harmless toy, but I do.
I love Ollie to pieces but get so frustrated by his constant desire to do the wrong thing. Whether it be to chew socks or tunnel under the fence, I have to keep a constant eye on the wily puppy. If only he understood that the boundaries I put up were for his own good. To protect him from harm and help him to grow up healthy.
I suppose God looks at us the same way. All of us are tempted, at least at some point, to do the wrong thing. Like Ollie, we may not even know it’s dangerous, but God does. Psalm 25:8-9 says “Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way” (NIV). Just as I try and be patient with my puppy, God is patient with us. He guides us and, if we are willing, trains us to walk in His ways.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to run. The house is too quiet. Ollie must be up to something.
By Kim Stokely –
The old saying is that it comes in like a lion and leaves like a lamb.
In my house it comes in with my husband’s siren call of “IT’S MARCH MADNESS TIME!!!”
Final four brackets are discussed around water coolers throughout the nation. The merits of coaching staffs, star players and recent injuries are rehashed as the pool of college basketball teams dwindles progressively throughout the weeks.
And I am left to twiddle my thumbs and wonder what the excitement is all about. Actually, I usually use the College Basketball play-offs as a time to catch up on my “to-read” list on my Kindle.
I’m not anti-sports by any stretch of the imagination. My blood starts pumping in late August as football season arrives on the scene. It’s a game I understand. The patient boyfriend of one of my best friends in high school spent many Sunday afternoons instructing us. He joyfully explained the game’s rules and nuances. He has the undying gratitude of my husband.
I also enjoy baseball, to an extent. Take me out to the ballgame and I’m happy to root for the home team and enjoy the peanuts and Crackerjack. Watching a game on television is equal to a dose of Nyquil to me, but hey, a snoozing wife is better than a nagging one, right?
But basketball? I don’t get it. It’s a lot of frantic running around for a couple of hours until the last two minutes of the game. Then somehow, those that play basketball, are able to bend the space-time continuum and stretch two minutes into a half-hour. Endless time-outs, fouls and free throws create the ultimate drama for my husband, while I’m left scratching my head wondering why he bothered to watch the other 38 minutes of the game. I’ve told him before, they should just put two minutes on the clock, and 64 points for each team, then let them battle it out for the win.
As amusing as my limited sports knowledge is, why am I writing about it here? Well, it occurred to me to look at basketball as an example of how to live my life. I tend to take my life very seriously, running frantically from goal to goal, project to project, just like those players on the court. Trying to “score” in the game of life. But in reality, my main objective should not be in running myself ragged, but in using every moment, like those last two minutes in a game, to its fullest. To appreciate each second of the day that God has given me and use it to draw closer to Him. And besides, some of the most exciting moments of a game are played in those final seconds. I hope I can look back at the end of my life and know that I have, to paraphrase from Paul in Acts 20, “Finished the race and completed the task the Lord Jesus has given me.”
By Kim Stokely –
I know it sounds odd to say, but a puppy brought me closer to God.
It started innocently one Sunday after church when my family and I stopped at a pet store. The volunteers from the shelter saw me coming from a mile away and set their sights. I know they did. As soon as I saw their little bundles of white fluff, they had me.
To be honest, we’d come to the open house of the Little White Dog Rescue with the intention of adopting a dog. I just hadn’t intended on coming home with two. But my family fell in love with a little Maltese/Poodle mix while my heart melted when I held the Bichon/Shih Tzu puppy. The ladies from the rescue told me they’d make us a deal on adoption fees if we took them both.
My brain argued with my emotions. Don’t do it! Two puppies at once? Are you nuts? If you’re not now, you will be when you try to train them both!
But thankfully, my heart won out. We brought the two little fur balls home with us and began the process of housebreaking.
A week of them on separate schedules and different bad habits was enough to make me tear out my hair. Not that anyone one noticed. My hair blended in nicely with the tufts of fur, squeaky toys and rope bones the tiny beasts left all over the house. My attitude had sunk from joy to frustration faster than a puppy can lift his leg to mark a piano.
One of the hardest things to get used to was waking up by 5:30 to take Ollie, the hair ball I’d fallen in love with, outside for his morning constitutional. Because his sibling still lay sleeping soundly in her crate, I hesitated to bring Ollie back to the bedroom after our walks. That meant I had to stay awake with him in the kitchen because, as everyone knows, an unsupervised puppy causes more havoc than a class one tornado.
At first, this new routine was another source of aggravation. The siren call of flannel sheets can be overwhelming on cold, dark, winter mornings. I longed to crawl back into bed and hibernate until the sun rose. But I realized something around the second or third week of this new normal.
I’d been seeking the motivation to wake up earlier to spend more time with my Bible and in prayer, but invariably would pull the covers over my head when the alarm rang. It’s a lot easier to ignore an inanimate object than a whining puppy. Ollie’s schedule pushed me out of my laziness and into a time of quiet intimacy with God.
I’ve come to love the hour or so I spend with Ollie curled up at my feet while I sip my tea and read God’s word. He may be the cutest answer to prayer I’ve ever received.