Tuesday, August 9, 2016


A week ago, I wrote about my childhood fears of scary things lurking in the closet or under my bed and of my persistent dread that someone would break into our house and harm us.  It wasn’t until my Father intervened with his unique form of reassurance that I began to let those worries abate.  Oh, certainly, there were (and are) still times when I feel unsettled and unnerved; however, now I do my best to turn those emotions over to my Father in Heaven.

A few days ago, I opened my Bible to  1 Peter 2:9 as I’d come across that scripture earlier and wished to memorize it.  As I wrote down the lines of the verse on an index card, images of another childhood anxiety washed over me; ones that I’m certain many others will be able to resonate with:  the fear of being unchosen.

I’d really like to find the person who first came up with the idea of putting two children in charge of picking who they want on their team and smack them up the  side of their head while saying, “What in the world were you thinking?”  Ok, maybe I wouldn’t physically assault them, but I would still question their wisdom in concocting a scheme that, over the decades, has tormented countless children and left so many of them emotionally scarred.  And those are just the ones forced to do the choosing.

On the off chance that some readers don’t know what I am referring to, here, in general, is how this typically played out.  A Physical Ed teacher gathers around a group of  kids  and picks two of them to be Team Captains.  Then, each Team Captain in turn selects someone from the remaining group of children to be on their team.  Back and forth, so it goes, until all children are picked for one team or the other.

So, yeah, the agony for those of us who were either clumsy klutzes with zero grace of movement (FYI:  that little ditty about “Monday’s child is fair of face, Tuesday’s child is full of grace…”?  I’m a Tuesday child.  Physical grace, um, not so much!) or who were at the bottom of the totem pole of popularity while we waited and waited and WAITED to be selected.  Even worse, the grimaces and groans and shrugs of resignation when one of the Team Captains got stuck with us.  Fun and games indeed.

The thing is, this fear of not being chosen can continue to haunt us as we progress through adolescence and well into our adult lives.  Some of us might be better at disguising this fear than others, but I’m betting that even those smug Team Captains of 3rd grade have had their moments of angst at some point or another.  As I’m writing this, my mind is humming with the memories of all the moments in my life where I’ve either been chosen, or not; or when I’ve done the choosing, or not.  Frankly, I’m not sure which feels worse now; remembering how it felt to be left out, or, remembering those times when I shunned someone else.  To quote our Pastors’ three year old daughter, “Oooooh, it’s too REAL!”  Nope, I don’t really want to go there. 

And, oh by the way, I’m not the only one in the universe whose mind is dwelling on this whole “chosen” thing; I started writing this post on Saturday August 6th.  The meditation in The Upper Room for Sunday August 7th was entitled, “Chosen” and the referenced scripture was, you guessed it, 1 Peter 2:9 (if you’re thinking that I must have somehow seen the meditation and subconsciously absorbed it and copied it, then you don’t have a clue as to how totally incredible our God is).

So, here’s the verse:

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”  1 Peter 2:9 (NRSV)

We are chosen.  God chooses us.   God chooses ALL of us.  Yet, unlike those moments in childhood where we were picked by a Team Captain and then forced to play a rip roaring game of kick ball with our two left feet, we have the option to not join God’s team.  It’s called Free Will, folks; and people certainly exercise that option.  Yet, God wants us to join in, He always has.  He said to the Israelites long, long ago as they were about to finally enter the promised  land: 

I call heaven and earth to  witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Chose life so that you and your descendants may live.”  Deuteronomy 30:19 (NRSV)

Thousands of years later, He sent THE ultimate in Team Captains to go about the business of picking everyone for God’s Team; His son, Jesus Christ.

Join the team and you’re good to go. 

But, wait.

Anyone who has ever been on a team knows what it means to be a team player.  You can’t laze about, watching your fellow team members carry the day while you cheer them on from the sidelines. You have to contribute. And you have to perform; but, you do so not necessarily for your glory, but for the greater good; so that the team will succeed.  There’s no “I” in team”, and all of that. 

Join.  Contribute. Perform for the greater good of the team; of the Kingdom. 

The good news is, you’re chosen!  You can trade in all of those fears and anxieties of being alone, never being good enough to belong.  Yet, you don’t get saved and just sit there. In other words, there is significant responsibility involved with responding in the affirmative to God’s offer to join up.

And herein lies the dilemma for many folks, myself included.  What, exactly, does this really mean?  And, does it always mean the same thing?

When I rejoined God’s Team in 2011, it was, initially all about practice; soaking up the grace that I so desperately needed, getting back into the groove of weekly community worship, beginning to seriously delve into the Bible, and developing the discipline of daily devotion time and prayer.  As the months went on, I stuck my toe into the stream of service, of active participation; serving communion, helping out with packing sacks of weekend food for low-income children, and assisting with the church’s annual Hanging of the Greens program.  Five years on finds both my husband and I considerably involved in leadership roles and a variety of other servant opportunities such that we are either at our church or out in the community several times a week. 

Yet, despite this, I still wonder if I’m contributing what God desires of me.  The majority of my fears and anxieties are gone (heck, I don’t have time to be afraid) only to be replaced by a sense of being, not so much underutilized, as MIS-utilized. 

An illustration:  When I was in high school, I played on a girls’ softball team for several years.  We were pretty good; we even made it to a few championships.  However, in the first season we played together, the coach put me at second base and, as a leftie, I totally sucked in that position.  After a few dismal games, someone finally got wise and moved me to first base and sometimes pitcher, where I (and therefore, the team) performed more effectively.

I’m wondering now if I’m in the right position on God’s Team.  Am I performing in the roll of second baseman when He really needs me to be the short stop?  Or, the pitcher?  Or, the manager?  Or, the bat boy? 

So, to prayerfully consider this (among other things) and hopefully to discern some answers as to my purpose and direction now, I’m heading to a 3 day (mostly silent) spiritual retreat next month. I’ve been writing this series as a way to both prepare myself; and, also, to ensure that I hold myself accountable to myself and actually GO.

I apologize (somewhat) for the seeming randomness and rambling of my postings, but this is the road I’m on now, folks.

Which calls to mind a  poignant verse from the Prophet Jeremiah:

“Thus says the Lord:  Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it and, find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:16

That sounds good to me!

Mrs. B.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Unsettled: 9 Years Old and Terrified of Boogie Men, Monsters, and WC Fields

Shortly before I turned 10 years old, I developed a fear of people breaking into our house.  I’m not sure where this came from or why, other than I likely saw a movie or a TV show episode depicting something like this that left an impression that refused to dissipate. As such, I had a routine every night before I got into bed; look inside my closet to make sure no one was hiding in there and also get down on my hands and knees to peer under my bed just in case a baddie was lurking amongst the dust bunnies and wayward plastic Barbie stiletto shoes.  Some nights I was so spooked that I’d repeat this several times.  On the worst nights, I’d start fretting that my parents had neglected to lock the front door and would climb out of bed, leave my bedroom, and roam the house checking and rechecking doors and windows.  The colder months were better than those tortuous warm nights when windows were left open to let in a cooling breeze.

That summer, my older sister and I went on our usual trip from my mom and step-dad’s house in San Diego, California to spend close to three months with my Father and step-mother, Margot, in Lafayette, Indiana.  When we arrived at the house from the airport, Margot had a surprise in store; they’d purchased a sofa sleeper for the TV room so that Ann and I would no longer have to share the bed in the guestroom.  Ann, who was 12 and more than ready to have a room all to herself,  was elated; I wasn’t so thrilled about it as this meant I’d be alone at night in somewhat unfamiliar surroundings.

Me with Father and Ann Summer 1973

That first night, and many subsequent ones were, frankly speaking, awful.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as though I was miserable throughout the day because I wasn’t.  Ann and I had a lot of fun with our companion (not babysitter) Judy during the week, and on the weekends, Margot typically had interesting or entertaining family activities planned.  But those nights, those nights I dreaded.  I’d start in on the dreading once it got dark, even if I wasn’t actually going to have to go to bed for several hours.  Like any kid, I’d try to find ways to prolong bedtime, but my reasoning wasn’t because I really desired to stay up longer, it was because I was terrified.

Once alone in the TV room with the door shut and securely locked, I’d pull out my bed, get the sheets and the blanket put on, and then commence my obsessive compulsive routine of determining that nothing had snuck its way into the room in the time I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth.  I’d open up the closet, poke around all the winter coats and sweaters to see if there was a person (or monster) in there; then, look under the sofa bed for the same (this despite the fact that not five minutes before there had been no bed, so how something could have crept under it with me standing right there apparently did not dawn on my 9 year old self). 

Then, I had to deal with WC Fields.

My Father was a great fan of that old movie star; although movie star doesn’t exactly describe that scary looking grouchy old geezer who (allegedly but not in actuality) hated children.  In any case, someone gave my Father this statue of WC.  It was made of something heavy and, admittedly, painted in such a way that it really did look like him; nattily dressed, complete with a very tall top hat.   It was about a foot  and a half or so tall and was creepy enough looking in its own right, however I’d recently seen a horror movie about dolls coming to life in the middle of the night and killing their owners, so good old WC was not only creepy, he was also a threat.

WC had to go.  Of course, I couldn’t actually get rid of him so I did the next best thing, I hid him.  In the closet.  Which meant that, several times a night before I finally fell asleep, I had to get up and check the closet to make sure he hadn’t become animated; and then, for good measure, look under the sofa bed just in case he’d somehow managed to open the closet door and slide under there and was waiting to burn out my eyeballs with the cigar he was wielding. 

The Terrifying WC Fields Statue

So, night after night there I was, terrified of nonexistent evil people hiding in the closet and underneath my bed, and of a statue of WC Fields.

As if this wasn’t enough, one night at dinner my Father said something to one of our dinner guests about never locking the doors to the house.  He said it  along the lines of, “Well, you know you are always welcome here.  Just come on in, we never lock our doors”.  And, you guessed it. That very night, after checking that WC was still in his closet, I unlocked the door to the TV room and went out; commencing a very lengthy process of checking the three doors and the multitude of windows in the house.

So this went on for at least a week until during one compulsive sojourn, I happened upon my Father in the kitchen getting something to drink, alarming him and scaring me to no end.  The gig was up.  He asked me, “What are you doing?” so I told him.  After thoughtful consideration, he led me over to the couch and sat me down.  He sat next to me, looked me in the face and said something that was not strictly true, but made a big impression on me, regardless, “Amy, there are no G-damned criminals in Lafayette Indiana, and even if there were, they wouldn’t be coming into our house, and even if they did, they wouldn’t hurt us because I have a 22 gauge pump action shotgun that says they won’t”.  Say what you will about my Father’s approach to my anxieties, but after that conversation, I was never again quite so fearful while staying in that house. 

I even let old WC out of the closet.

What do my childhood fears have to do with a present day count down to my spiritual retreat?

Stay tuned!

Mrs. B