Deceiving Appearances

June 18, 2022 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Kim Stokely –

Have you ever had a taste surprise? You reach for the bottle of apple juice in the fridge, take a swallow, only to discover it’s actually the sun tea you made that afternoon? A friend of mine has held a grudge against pumpernickel bread ever since she took a cube off a buffet table, thinking it was a brownie bite.

I had, at a recent family reunion, not a taste surprise, but an appearance surprise. To understand the true nature of this, you have to know that some members of my husband’s family loathe mayonnaise. The sight of the gelatinous white sandwich spread makes them physically ill. My son, Ian, doesn’t hate it to that extent, but he still doesn’t like it. As we gathered at the picnic table to eat a lunch of leftovers, my niece, Allison, walked out with a huge jar of mayonnaise.

Her cousin, Justyn, stared at her in horror. “Why’d you bring that out here?”

She gave him a sweet smile. “I found out that I like it!”

My son looked around the table at the remaining hot dogs and burgers. Ian’s face paled. “What are you going to put it on?”

Allison plopped into her chair, setting the offensive jar, and a plate of crackers on the table. She slowly unscrewed the cap.

Justyn turned a shade of green. “Crackers? You eat it just with crackers?”

In answer, she dipped her spoon into the jar and spread a blob of its contents onto a cracker. She popped the morsel into her mouth. “Yep.”

My son stared. “I dare you to eat a spoonful on its own.”

Allison promptly did.

Ian made a retching noise before standing up. “That just hurt my heart.” He and Justyn ran into the house.

Allison laughed while the rest of us looked on with various expressions of confusion, curiosity and revulsion. She scooped out another blob and held it out. “Anyone else want some?” She giggled at the groans she heard. “It’s vanilla pudding!”

She’d fooled all of us with her practical joke, something she gloated over for the rest of our visit. We’d all looked at the jar and its label, and assumed that the white goo inside was mayonnaise. But, if we’d really thought about it, we would have realized Allison would never eat mayonnaise, as she’s always been the most vocal in her disgust of the stuff.

The joke reminded me of the passage in 1Samuel 16:7 when God warned Samuel not to judge a person by their appearance, as man does; but by their heart, as He does. How often do we jump to conclusions based on appearances? Has someone’s clothes, or tattoos, or hairstyle, stopped me from approaching them because I didn’t think we’d have anything in common? Just because the outside looks like something we might not like, the inside might hold a sweet treat, just like Allison’s jar of “mayonnaise.”

The Yokes on Me

June 7, 2022 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Rhonda Rhea –

You know how I usually know I’ve been too busy? I open the refrigerator door and find fur. And then I stand there for several seconds wondering what it used to be. Then I stand there another several seconds wondering if I should have it spayed or neutered.

It happened again the other day. I was standing with the fridge door open and my son told me he heard something groaning. I assured him it was only me.

They heard my groaning, yet there is no one to comfort me. –For I must clean the refrigerator myself. That’s from Lamentations 1:21(ESV). Except I added the entire last sentence.

At the point I start rewriting Lamentations, I usually figure out that I’m too busy and it’s time to formulate another plan. Here’s the part where I have to confess that my Plan B is almost always exactly like my Plan A—only with more coffee.

The better Plan B? It rests in the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30. And actually it’s much more appropriate as a Plan A. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light,” (ESV).

As vital as it is for our bodies to spend time at rest, it’s even more vital for us to embrace some soul-rest. Anytime we’re feeling spiritually troubled, heavy-laden or burned out, Jesus reminds us, “Come to Me.”

When your mind is cluttered with a worried jumble of to-do lists and your heart is weighted down with distresses and difficulties, your Savior comes along with this reminder that He waits for you. He waits for you to come. It’s His desire to be your comfort, your encouragement, your hope, your victory. And all you have to do is…come.

How do we come to Him? We come as we sort out our priorities and line up our plans for every day with His. We come to Him as we make prayer and worship a priority and give His word an uninterruptible place on the schedule. In those precious places of prayer and worship and in reading His word, we find indescribable comfort. And guess what else we find. We find the items on an overwhelming to-do list coming into perspective and sorting themselves out. Often those things sort themselves out as we discover His calling to lay down a heavy yoke we’ve placed on ourselves—our own plans and some kind of big, fat, misdirected agenda. As we exchange those plans for His, we find a yoke that’s a much more comfy fit. Exchanging the yoke we’ve made for the one He has for us is always a trade of victory. We find grace. We find inspiration to keep going. We find joy. We find…Him.
Isn’t it fascinating that any yoke I place on myself is utterly and entirely exhausting? And isn’t it even more fascinating that the yoke of Christ is invigorating to the max in every little corner of my soul?

Every day, for every list, I need to remember to rest in Him. To give my soul a break, and to “come.”

As far as the fridge is concerned, I would love a break there, too, but I don’t see it happening. Looks like I’m going to have to knuckle down and clean it. Or maybe shave it.

Pick Up Too Many and Your Pants Fall Off!

June 1, 2022 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Liz Cowen Furman –

We are avid rock hounds. The area surrounding Dubois, Wyoming, where our little motel is, is a geologist’s paradise. So varied and rich is it that a university from Florida brings students every year to learn in God’s classroom.

Since our motel is a family-run business, for 6 days a week in the summer it is 16 hours a day of tiring work. However, on the Lord’s Day we do only what is absolutely necessary, go to church, and then head to the hills in search of archeological treasures.

We load up terrific snacks, warm socks and jackets to put on after the hunt, large five gallon buckets to carry through the streams and rivers collecting our finds, sunscreen, hats and a rock book or two.

Our three sons, my husband and I have so much fun searching the stream beds for the best find of the day. If you have boys you may have noticed that nearly everything is more fun if it is a contest. One day I found a piece of crystalized petrified wood that looks exactly like an angel. I won that day! (So wish we had room for pictures here, but it is in the video for our motel if you would like to see it).

When our oldest was about 5 or 6 (now he is 21) he was wearing a pair of shorts with deep pockets. As he walked along in the stream bed finding petrified wood, droosies, agates and more he kept putting them into his pockets.

Finally the weight was too much and when he put the last one in his shorts just fell off. Right there in the middle of the stream. He was mortified, we were all hysterical and I of course had to snap a picture.

We have been doing this for a decade and a half in the summers. In the past our boys made fun of me for picking up too many rocks like Martin did. I brought whatever seemed interesting or different. The boys are now so much more discerning, only lugging the most amazing finds home.

In recent years, I too have become more selective. I know there are lots of good rocks out there, but now I choose to carry the load of only the best.

It is kind of the same in my life. I am a recovering people pleaser. There was a time when I was young that if anyone asked me to help with anything I said yes, many times regretting it later when I was overburdened with too many irons in the fire.

As I have aged, I have discovered that there are many good rocks (and uses for my time) but it is way more productive to choose the best and focus on those. Less weight to carry back to the truck (and more ability to do a good job on the things I agree to do).

I have to admit that sometimes I still pick up too many treasures (and find myself overcommitted on occasion) out of the streams but we are all a work in progress.

A Woman’s Purse, the Final Frontier

May 24, 2022 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Kim Stokely –

Everyone knows a woman’s purse is a black hole in which a myriad of objects can be lost or found. If she carries a big purse, it can weigh up to thirty pounds and carry the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. A woman who carries a small purse may fool others, but I know she’s mastered the game of Tetris and is probably carrying the same amount of stuff, just packed more economically.

Young mothers often use their purses as supplemental diaper bags. Diapers, wipes, plastic containers of Cheerios and teething rings are often stuffed next to wallets and key chains. I know women who are prepared to survive in the wild for months. Swiss Army knives, water bottles, first aid kits and granola bars; not to mention GPS devices, flares and a box of matches somehow find the room to coexist amid mundane checkbooks and pens in their handbags.

I often feel like I’m reenacting a scene from Mary Poppins when I decide to tackle cleaning out my purse. I may not have a lamp stand like the practically perfect nanny, but I’ve found some mighty strange objects of my own.

This morning, as I waded through the inevitable sea of receipts filling the bottom of my purse, I found a carrot cake muffin. Fortunately, it was still in the take-out bag I’d stuffed it in after lunch with a friend last week. Unfortunately, I could have sent it to the NHL to use as a puck in their next game. I guess I should be thankful it hadn’t exploded into tiny carrot cake pieces of sand. That could have been a real disaster.

Every time I discover something like this I promise to do better next time. I won’t horde receipts as if I want to someday create the world’s largest paper mache′ piñata. I won’t let unwrapped cough drops melt to the bottom of the bag until I have to use a chisel to remove them.

I need to periodically take a look at my soul as well to see what kind of garbage I’m carrying. Sometimes I think, because I’m not bowing under the weight of some major sin, everything must be going okay. But it just isn’t so. I often let stuff creep into my life that I need to remove- old habits, negative thoughts, judgmental attitudes and other “small” sins can clutter up my spiritual life so that I can’t find what I need; God’s grace and His mercy.

Psalm 139: 23-24 says, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way of everlasting”(NIV). As much as I might hate the process, I know it’s the best for me. After all, I’d rather be filled with God’s blessings than a stale carrot cake muffin any day!

When God Used a Rubber Chicken

May 16, 2022 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Dawn Wilson –

The macho men stared me down. I stared back. They folded their arms, unreachable. I sent up a quick prayer for help.

While at a conference working with teachers and school administrators in Central America, I was introduced as the small group leader for six men and two women, local school administrators. The men in the group were clearly not accepting me and my two young interpreters. I prayed, “Lord, how am I going to share what you’ve brought me here to give?” I felt intimidated, conscious of a wall of … what? Distrust? Pride?

The words “rubber chicken” popped into my mind. Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard God say, “rubber chicken,” so I prayed again. “Father, I need for you to overcome the cultural differences and help these macho men listen to a simple woman like me. I don’t know what to do.”

Again, “rubber chicken.”

I suddenly remembered the silly rubber chicken I’d packed in my computer bag—a travel “mascot.” When I pulled it out, and made my chicken “nod” his hello, one man laughed and pointed at the squishy fowl.

“I want you to introduce yourselves to the group and tell us what city and school you are from,” I said, “and when you finish, pass my friendly rubber chicken to someone else in the group.” As one of my interpreters repeated my instructions, two of the men sat up, intrigued.

One man practically begged me to give him the chicken first. He squished it a bit and made the chicken “talk” to the group.

I watched as they introduced themselves, laughing the whole time. They didn’t just pass the chicken, they threw it! (Later, one administrator told me he might need to get each of his teachers a rubber chicken to encourage shy children to get involved in their classrooms.)

At the end of the week-long outreach, my new friends wanted a group photo. My chicken, which they named “PioPio,” had a starring role.

As I later considered the week-long outreach, I was struck by two things.

I wondered how many instructions I’ve received from God that I did not hear because I was either too proud to ask Him for help, or too busy to listen.

Also, I was reminded that God often uses simple things and people to accomplish His will and work.  The apostle Paul wrote, “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called” (1 Corinthians 1:26 NKJV).

God often uses the foolish, weak and base—what the world might describe as “nobodies,” sometimes even the “vile” or “unworthy” in the world’s eyes. And why? Verses 29 and 31 of 1 Corinthians 1 tell us: “that no flesh should glory in His presence… He who glories, let him glory in the Lord” (NKJV).

God used a really old man (Abraham), a stutterer (Moses), a frightened judge (Gideon), a prostitute (Rahab), a widow (Naomi), a worrier (Martha), a young guy (Timothy), and so many others—the foolish, the weak and the base.

This gives me hope. If God can use them, He can use me too. From God’s perspective, it’s not a matter of our worth, but our availability and a heart surrendered to Him. As the old song says, “Little is much, when God is in it.” Even a wiggly rubber chicken.

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