...will I ever fully understand the depth of Christ's love?

It’s Good Friday.  What’s so good about it?  It’s the day we remember the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  I first glance, it seems a bit antithetical and morbid to call a brutal death “good.”  But when you know what that death opened the door for…

You see, without the crucifixion, we don’t have the resurrection.  And without the resurrection, there’s no hope for a sinner like me.  No hope of restoration in my relationship with an almighty, holy God.  No hope of the abundant life in the midst of a fallen creation.  No hope of eternal life.  No hope…

But because of Christ, his humble death and his glorious resurrection–all of those things become “yes.”  YES.

It’s all so big, I can’t even get my head all the way around it.  But I don’t have to in order to know it’s real.  Because everyday I’m experiencing it–God’s nearness and mercy.  His encouragement.  His assurance that he’s sovereign, and that even when the world around me looks very, very dark–he’s got a plan, and it will be completed.

Good Friday.  I mean really, “good” was the best we could do?!?

You’ll appreciate this post more when I share with you that I typed the whole thing with Mario the Hamster walking around on my keyboard, standing on letters I really needed, and with Virginia saying, “OK, type THE END.  Alright, one more sentence.  Now type THE END…MOM!”

THE END

Several months ago, Sissy started begging for a hamster.  It seems a friend had brought HER hamster “Peanut” to school for show and tell.  And just like that, Sissy knew what her calling in life was:  to be a hamster owner.  Nothing else would do.  So she shared her dream with us.

"...and they don't eat much, and they're cute, and they can roll around in a little ball, and..."

We said no.

There was wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Hamster fever waxed and waned for some time, with our parental defenses putting down the rebellion at every turn. Then my husband had to go and get clever…

He explained to Sissy that the reason she couldn’t have a hamster is that she had never proven herself responsible enough to care for a pet every day.

“I am, too, responsible!” she insisted.

“Then why don’t you take care of the pet you already have??”  he countered.

Poor Dixie.  She never asked to be thrust into the middle of this struggle…

Dixie. So dignified. So above this whole thing.

So Daddy made a deal with Sissy.  If she would feed Dixie EVERY SINGLE DAY for 30 DAYS, she would have proven herself responsible enough for hamster ownership.  He winked at me while he negotiated this deal.  He negotiates for a living, you know.  And she’s seven.  No way this could blow up in our faces.  We are as likely to see monkeys fly as she is to remember to perform this task for 30 consecutive days.  Poor little seven year old…it’s not even fair, really.

We should have known we were in trouble when we saw the chart in the pantry over Dixie’s bowl.

Uh oh.

Long story short?  We are now the proud owners of a Chinese dwarf hamster named Mario.

Mario. Who doesn't look at all Italian.

He has a little cage filled with pine shavings and tricked out with a fancy exercise wheel and hammock, and a little girl who insists on squeezing his guts out every second that she’s home.  He was glad to see Spring Break come to an end today.  I mean the poor guy went from spending his days in total anonymity in a cage at Petsmart, to a smothering level of affection from a giant snaggle-toothed humanoid.  There’s no doubt he could use a valium.

The moral of this story?  If you’re negotiating with Sissy…bring your A game.  Or get out your wallet and prepare to welcome a rodent into your home.

You may not have noticed, but for those of you who try to keep up with LTTAI (I just made that acronym up, just right now, while I was typing.  Amazing, huh?) but grow frustrated with the author’s sporadic posting, help has arrived!

To eliminate the need for you to spring from your bed each morning and rush breathlessly to the computer and pull up the blog, hoping beyond hope that I’ve posted something, ANYTHING, so that you’re day might have meaning…

You may now subscribe via email.  Look underneath the list of recent posts and archives in the left-hand column, and you’ll find the “Email Subscription” section.  You can click on “subscribe to this blog,” and then even specify how quickly you want the posts delivered to your email inbox.  I know you’ll choose “immediate” because no one could expect you to delay that type of gratification for one second…

Yes, you’re welcome.  And here’s a teaser for tomorrow:  there is a new member in the McCain family!

Gotta run.  Narcissists Anonymous meets in a few minutes…

This is what I’ve been listening to lately.  It’s a new CD from Sarah Groves called Fireflies and Songs.  Very mellow.  Great vocals.  Good songwriting.

Groves is a Christian artist, but you could pop this CD in and be three or four songs into it before you figured it out.  I like that.

Why?  I spent some time trying to pin the answer to this down today as I cut back an entire bed of knockout roses.  My arms and hands look like I lost a fight with a cat–but I digress. I think it’s because I fear cultural Christianity.

What do I mean by “cultural Christianity?”  I mean getting so saturated in the trappings of our faith that we no longer really experience it.  If everything around us is overtly screaming “Jesus!” twenty-four seven, it’s easy to fool ourselves into thinking that we’re experiencing intimacy with Christ, when we’re just going through the motions.

I was having a discussion recently with another member of my denomination.  He said, “You know what they say about us?  We’re a mile wide and an inch deep.”  Meaning that there are lots and lots of us, but on the average, any one of us is not very deep in our understanding and passion for Christ.

I can’t disagree with his assessment, but I wouldn’t limit it to my denomination.  I would apply it to Christianity as a whole.  But the problem is that a large number of the believers who are an inch deep would never believe it about themselves.  (“I go to church every week!  I tithe!  I have a FISH ON MY CAR, for pete’s sake!)  And I’m not claiming personal immunity.  I’m probably more guilty of this than I know.

But back to Sarah Groves.  Her songwriting is thoughtful enough to layer the truths of life in Christ into prose that doesn’t jump down your throat all at once.  When you really listen, and really ponder the words, little pearls of truth continue to pour out as you think it through.  She makes you work for it a little bit.  But it’s there.

And I think any songwriter will tell you that subtlety is ten times harder than just hitting people over the head with your message.  It takes the skill of a poet coupled with the mind of a philosopher–or in Groves’ case, a theologian.

Check it out.  I bet you’ll like it…http://www.saragroves.com/

Well, it’s a fresh year.  A new start.  A chance to set new goals and  push to reach them.  Here are some of the things I’ve set my sights on:

1.  Running the Country Music Half Marathon in April.  I’ve talked my husband, Scooter into doing this one with me, so that will be fun.  But I have so fallen off the running wagon since mid-autumn, and getting back into shape to do 13.1 will require a lot of weekly mileage between now and then.  So pray for my neighbors, who will be forced to  witness a great deal of my pale, pastey self giggling around the nieghborhood…

2.  Getting my act together financially.  I handle all of our household bill paying, and I want to be more organized, and thereby get more out of every dollar.  I want to crack the code of grocery couponing. (There was a spirited local online debate a few days ago about where one could get the best deals on groceries:  trusty old Super Walmart, or the soon-to-be opened Publix, which doubles some coupons and has good sales PLUS store coupons…it’s like a Chinese riddle.)

I stumbled upon a really useful little tool in Target recently.  A meal planning and grocery shopping worksheet designed by financial guru Jean Chatzky (cute little brunette you see on the Today Show).  It’ comes in a pad that’s magnetic and can live on the fridge.  Here it is:

I used this for the first time last week, and it was pretty nice to know, within a few bucks, exactly what I’d spent before I got to the check-out.  And having that budget number square on the page in front of you keeps you honest.  You get close to that number, and you start choosing between wants and needs in a hurry.  What do I need most?  The roast for Wednesday’s dinner or the fancy cheese for my sandwiches?  Life’s about choices, folks.

I wish I could give you an easy  online resource for this, but I can’t find it ANYWHERE online.  So look at Target near the home/office supplies.

3.  Training my children to take more responsibility for our home, and with their own money.  With Bubba almost 10 and Sissy pushing 7, I think we’re to a place where they need to learn that financial gain is a direct product of hard work.  So we’re considering putting them on what Dave Ramsey calls a “comission” system.  They still have some jobs that they’re responsible for just because Momma and Daddy said so, and because we’re a family and everyone should pitch in.  But some extra chores are money-makers.  I also want to put them in the position of receiving a small amount of money on a regular basis so that they can begin to practice the golden trifecta of stewardship:  Give, then Save, then Spend.  I found this little 3-way bank that I’m considering for them.  It’s a way for them to take what they’ve earned and immediately commit it to one of those three purposes:

They can place their tithe, their savings, and their fun money in the separate compartments, and can even take it apart if they just want to grab one to take to the church, the bank, or Toys R Us.  There are lots of options out there that you can read about here.  This particular one is call the Moonjar Moneybox.  And, of course, for a little bit of nothing you could make your own system out of milk cartons or jelly jars.  I’m just not sure I’m that crafty…

So there you have it–my three big areas where I’m zeroing in on areas where I, personally, and we as a family can improve.  I don’t know if I’d even call them “resolutions” in the traditional sense, but they are my attempt at seeing the New Year as a perfect place to stop, to reflect, and to be intentional about how I live going forward.  Wish me luck, and endurance, and patience.

I’m curious…what are YOU working on?

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Bird dogs...love 'em.

When will I learn that I see through a glass darkly?  That now I only know in part?  That man (that includes me) judges by the outward appearance, but God sees the heart?

If I ever understood these things, I had temporarily forgotten them on Thursday. 

I spent the morning covering a luxury quail hunting plantation in southwest Georgia for a regional lifestyle magazine.  It was a story that I wanted to do.  I love the outdoors, and wingshooting is perhaps the most refined and nuanced of shooting sports.  I’d seen coverage of these marvelously appointed lodges with thousands of acres of carefully managed woodland, and kennels full of the best-trained hunting dogs money can buy.  I’d go for it just for the dogs, truth be known.

But somewhere in the middle of observing this exclusive and beautiful place (which you can do, as well, for around $900 per person, per day), my populist, working class roots began to twitch.  As much as I appreciated the excellence and refinement all around me, I also began to have a flash or two of internal eye-rolling and thoughts of, ‘give me a break.’  Then my hosts (the owners of the plantation, who were gracious in every sense of the word), took me out to meet the hunt party which was already in the field for the morning.

We drove out and met them–they in mule-drawn wagons and on horseback–in a glorious little patch of burned pines.  The party of three or four hunters were accompanied by the huntmaster and the wagon driver.  As the shooters were all in the field following the dogs, the owners invited me to climb up on the wagon to get a better view of the hunt.  So I stood there petting a beautiful lab named Lena and watching the hunters, and I asked the owners who these folks were, exactly.

“The older gentleman over there is Mike, Sr., and this is his 70th birthday.  His son, Mike, Jr., put this trip together with these other friends to celebrate his dad’s birthday,” they said.  “Those two live in Michigan part of year, this other gentleman over here lives in Minnesota part of the year, but they all go to their homes in Naples, Florida, for the winter.”

All of the hunters were meticulously outfitted with the finest apparel and equipment, and beautiful firearms.  My initial thought as I sized them up was, ‘These overpriveledged jet-setting turkeys don’t have a clue what life’s about.’

That’s when God decided to back-hand me.

Mike, Sr. and his friend, Dallan, climbed up on the wagon with me and introduced themselves.  They asked about the magazine I’m writing for, and we made small talk about the picture-perfect weather and fantastic dogs.  Then I asked the owners how many horses and mules they keep on the plantation.

That discussion led to Mike, Sr., commenting: “At our schools in Uganda, or biggest single expense–believe it or not–is dipping our dairy cows to protect them against tse tse flies and the like.”

Then the converstaion took some other turn.  But my curiosity was piqued.  “These schools in Uganda,” I asked, “are these part of a charitable operation of some type?”

“Well,” Mike, Sr., began, “we have a foundation, and we’ve started schools in Uganda and Rwanda in an effort to relieve the poverty, and heal a lot of the cultural strife after the genocide through Christ-centered education.  I’m the Chairman of Prison Fellowship Ministries, and Dallan here is also on the board.”

Gulp.  Ahem.  “Uh…Chuck Colson’s Prison Fellowship Ministries??” I stammered.

Mike’s eyes lit up. “That’s us!  Chuck’s a dear friend of ours.  I took over for him a couple of years ago when he needed more time to focus on other ministry areas.”

My eyes brimmed.  These people had no idea what my impression of them had been just a few minutes earlier.  But I did.  And now I knew how insanely inaccurate my snapshot assessment had been.  I was ashamed.  Yes, they were all insanely wealthy (Mike Timmis, Sr., was a very successful Detroit attorney and businessman, and Dallan Peterson owned several businesses and founded Merry Maids, which he later sold to national conglomerate Servicemaster.)  But they now spend a considerable portion of their time–and lots of that money– battling tse tse flies and spreading the gospel in third world countries.  Is it a crime for them to spend a little money to shoot quail in Georgia on Mike’s birthday?  Hardly.

I drove home in a daze.  All the way, God was whispering to me, “You are the one who doesn’t have a clue, Dana.  But I love you anyway.  You have no idea where I’m moving and what I’m doing, and the wonderful servants I’m using.  And they don’t all look and live the way you expect them to.  Honey, you just can’t even imagine what I can see from where I sit…”

After I had a few hours to digest how the Lord had let me brush up against His presence in that unexpected venue, I was heartsick that I’d only had a few minutes with these wonderful men.  I had so many questions!  And perhaps one day I’ll get to ask them.  But for now, I’ll just try to remember that I see through a glass darkly…and reserve judgement.

You can read more about Michael Timmis here.  And more on Dallan Peterson here.

Hey there, blog friends!  It’s that time again.  Time for Dana to rip off Oprah’s little “must have for Christmas” list and reinterpret it for my world.  Yes, I know it’s not even Thanksgiving, but if you wait until December to start telling people what you want thinking about the holidays, there’s hardly time to get it all done!  So let’s get the lead out and encourage some blatant commercialism…

1.  The New Ipod Nano (8G) – I know what you’re saying.  “But Dana, you already have an Ipod.”  True enough.  But my click wheel is almost worn out, and I see the end approaching on the horizon.  And this is an item that I use DAILY.  Plus, the new version has several great new features:  a bigger screen, the capability to shoot short video, and my favorite–an FM Tuner.  The lack of radio has been the only missing link with the Ipod.  And some days I just want to listen to Rick & Bubba, or some SEC football.  It comes is a bunch of great colors, and my roving eye has spotted the best price at Sam’s Club ($139).

 ipod nano

2.  A pressure cooker – Wow. Don’t you like how I went straight from sleek, of-the-moment technology to gear popular with old ladies in “comfort waist” pants?  Hope I didn’t give anyone whiplash.  So why do I want a pressure cooker?  Well, I’ve learned the hard way that cooking fresh beans or peas takes around, oh, 20 hours without one.  A gal has to put on supper right before breakfast to get ’em tender.  I stopped to look at one in Bed, Bath & Beyond a few days ago, and a kind lady–fresh from the beauty shop for her weekly set and wearing her favorite comfort waist slacks, came along side me and said, “Sugar, if you want to know the truth, QVC has the best one.  I wouldn’t mess with that rinky-dink ‘ole thing.”  I said, “Did my mother send you here?”  (My mother has a legendary preoccupation with QVC.)  I don’t need a fancy one.  Just a basic one…pressure cooker

 3.  Bobbi Brown fragrance – I am a HUGE Bobbi fan.  Her cosmetics are in great, natural-looking, classy shades, and her fragrances are just as top-notch.  I’ve worn her signature scent “Bobbi” for years, and there are others that I’d love to try like Beach, Bath and the newest one, Almost Bare.  You can find them at her cosmetics counters in a precious few department stores, or at www.bobbibrown.com.

bobbi fragrance

4.  Books, books, how I love books – and winter is my favorite time to nest on the weekends by the fire and get lost in the pages.  There are a few classic titles on my “must read” list that I’d love to have, like Zora Neal Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God , William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, and The Moviegoer by Walker Percy.

their eyes...

 

Well, I can’t think of anything else right now.  I reserve the right to post a second installment of this list between now and Thanksgiving.  Now, to get to work on the things Santa needs for the kiddos in my life!  That’s where the fun happens!

Where to even begin?

First off this post feels far different for me than I imagined it would when I wrote the first installment of this series.  On that day, I imagined writing this with self-satisfied glee.  I imagined myself as some arbiter of consumer justice, meting out public relations lashes to the business wrong-doers of the world.  But it’s just more complicated than that…

So I’m going to tell my story, but I’ve decided to withhold the name of the business.  One reason for this is that the stupid problem is still not resolved.  Local readers will probably figure it out anyway, but that’s just the way it goes.  So here we go:

A few months ago, my husband sent me out to purchase two appliances for the cabin we’re restoring on our farm.  (I know, I’m going to do a post soon…)  We needed a slide-in range and a dishwasher.  I checked out the local big-box stores and didn’t see any slide-in ranges, only tons of the free standing ones (knobs on a panel that sticks up on the back, which wouldn’t work with the bar height on our kitchen island).  So I went to a local, independent appliance dealer who carries a wide range of brands and styles, from the uber-pricey Viking and SubZero stuff to the more accessible Fridgidair and GE.  He had a couple of different slide-in ranges on the showroom floor, and told me that he could get it for us in our preferred stainless steel in two weeks.

Two weeks.

I said OK, but that we did need it soon, because our cabinet man would have to have the appliance on hand to make the necessary cuts in the wood countertops.  The owner of the business (we’ll call him Larry) said no problem.  So my husband went by later that day and paid him by check in full.  The total was $1815 and change.

Two weeks went by.  No appliances.  Three weeks.  No appliances.  I called Larry.

“Hey, Larry.  I’ve really got to have those appliances in the next day or two, because my cabinet man is waiting on you, and I don’t want him to get wrapped up in another job before mine is done.  It’s hard to get people scheduled to go up to this place because it’s so far out of the way.  Can you deliever day after tomorrow?”

“Yeah, your stuff is in.  It’s in Panama City. {I didn’t realize that having something parked 90 miles away meant that it was “in,” but whatever…}  I can deliver them day after tomorrow.”

“Great.  I’ll call you Thursday morning and set up a time.  Bye.”

Thursday rolled around.  I called that morning to set up a delivery time.

“Hey Larry.  What time does your delivery guy want me to meet him at the cabin?” {Remember people, this is 35 miles from my house.}

“Well, your stuff is in Panama City.  {awkward silence that I refuse to fill with words.} I think I can send my guy to get it tomorrow.”

**Big sigh from me.**  “Ok, so can you deliver Monday?”

“Yeah, that shouldn’t be any problem.”

Do I even have to tell you how the conversation went on Monday?  You can just cut and paste the above conversation here, because it was the exact same conversation. 

So now we’re over two weeks past the promised delivery date, and I’m grinding my teeth at night.

A few days later I walked into Larry’s store and said, “Larry, I’m sorry, but this is just not working out.  I needed those appliances weeks ago, and you promised you could get them to me then and it hasn’t happened.  I need to go somewhere that has what I need in stock and get on with it, so I’m gonna need my money back.”

“It’s HERE,” he says all panicked, gesturing toward the back of the building.  “I can deliver today.”

“Today?”  I say, skeptically.

TODAY,” says Larry.  “What time do you want to meet us?”

“How about 3 o’clock?” I say.

“We’ll see you at 3!” he says.  I leave.

I make arrangements for someone else to pick my children up from school and drive the 40 minutes to the farm.  I unlock the gate and go wait at the cabin.  For over an hour and a half.  No delivery.

I lock up, get in my car, and start driving back to town.  I’m gripping the steering wheel tight enough to break it.

When I get back to civilization and a good cell signal, I get a call from Larry.

“Where are you?” he says.  “My guy is up there and he says the gate is locked.”

{Note:  this is where my anger gets the best of me and I LOSE IT.  I am not proud of it.  I was pretty emotionally drained, as this was just a few days after the sudden death of a family friend that set into motion the American Airlines incident.  I have prayed for forgiveness.  I’m just telling you like it is…}

“REALLY?!?!  BECAUSE IF HE HAD BEEN THERE AT THREE HE WOULD HAVE FOUND IT WIDE OPEN.  IF HE HAD BEEN THERE AT FOUR HE WOULD HAVE FOUND IT WIDE OPEN.  HIS PROBLEM IS THAT HE’S ALMOST TWO HOURS LATE!!”

“I’m sorry,” Larry says.  “I apologize.  He had a flat tire on the way back from Panama City…”

{OK, wait a minute.  This morning when I wanted my money back, Larry insisted that my appliances were HERE, emphatically gesturing toward his stockroom to make the point.  He knew that if he told me they still weren’t even in the STATE I would have insisted on my refund.  I realize now that I have not only been jerked around and inconvenienced, I have been LIED TO.  Cue anger…}

“Well, I’m done,”  I said, attempting to get it together. “I want my money back.”

“How about a big discount?” Larry pleads.

“I.  Want.  My.  Money.  Back,” I said again.

“I’ll give ’em to you half off!” he pressed.

“I WANT MY MONEY BACK!!!”  I shrieked like a crazy person.

“OK,” Larry said dejectedly. “I’ll have you a check tomorrow.”

{Would you believe me if I told you the story hasn’t gotten bad yet?}

The next morning I arrived at the appliance store shortly after they opened, and Larry met me at the door with a check for the full amount of our purchase.  I told him I was sorry it hadn’t worked out, took my check and left.

The check went into the bank a couple of days later, I paid several bills out of the account and then we left for our trip to North Carolina.  (Yes, where we suffered the Chambers Agency incident.)  I returned home to a weeks worth of mail, which included several overdraft notices.

Larry’s check had bounced.  Causing me to overdraw and incur $220 in overdraft charges.  I wanted to run into the street screaming.

At this point I looked at my husband, the trial lawyer, and said, “Um, I think I need you to take this over.”  He agreed.

The next morning we went to the store, showed him the returned check and said we’d need cash or a certified check by Monday morning.  Larry looked at us and said he wouldn’t be able to get the money until Wednesday.

Ya’ll.  This is a business that sells Viking ranges that price out at over $10,000 a piece.  Refrigerators for $8,000.  How in the world is it possible that this man can’t lay his hands on $1815 in less than five days??  HOW do you run a business like that?

Anyway, we said OK, Wednesday.  Do I even need to tell you?  On Wednesday he needed until Friday.  In the mean time my husband and I are making daily trips to his bank and presenting the returned check in the hope that we’d get there just after a deposit and be able to cash it.  It was like playing a slot machine.  We never won.

On Friday, my husband informed Larry that time was up, and if he didn’t have the cash, we’d just take some stuff.  I swear, I couldn’t make this up.  I had to go into this man’s business like a loan shark and say “I’ll take that, and I’ll take that, and I’ll take that.”  I walked out of there with a six-burner Jenn-Air gas range and a Frigidair built-in stainless microwave that I NEITHER NEED NOR WANT. 

Larry followed me out the door promising that he was going to make this whole thing right ASAP.

I have a feeling I’m going to be running an appliance business through Craigslist and Ebay soon to cover my loses.

So why do I have trepidation about releasing his name and the name of the business?  Because I think he’s about to bankrupt.  And as angry as I am, and as unfairly as we’ve been treated, I can’t help but feel a little bit sorry for this guy who’s so obviously on the ropes.  Granted, he’s a horrible businessman.  But I don’t like watching a husband, father, and provider go down.  That gives me no pleasure, even under these circumstances.

So there you have it.  All in the space of a couple of weeks, I had the pleasure of the American Airlines fiasco, the Chambers Agency debacle, and the ongoing appliance saga with my buddy “Larry.”  Everytime I turn on local TV, he’s standing in his showroom shouting for me to “COME ON DOWN TO **** APPLIANCES!”  He’s smiling like the cheshire cat.

I think I’d rather not, Larry.  If it’s all the same to you…

Before I unveil our big winner for ’09, I feel the need to back up and revisit why I’m even doing this series.  I have to thank my Sunday School teacher, Steve, for bringing this into focus for me today.  You see, I hope that this blog and the things in it ultimately glorify God.  I know some of it is just silly and funny, but at the end of the day, I want my life to make you think.

And let’s be honest:  I don’t always get it right.  (I know that’s shocking–take a moment and let it sink in. ;)) But I hope that even in my screw-ups and stumbles, a good dose of transparency in the retelling will help us all think about what a God-honoring life really looks like.

It doesn’t accomplish any of those goals for me to simply bash a business person who failed in his or her job.  Heck, serving the public in any capacity is hard, and we all have bad days.  If any of the people I’ve written about in this series had a front-row seat to my jobs (mom, wife, writer, teacher…) I’m sure they could find plenty to take issue with.  But at the same time, I do hope that talking about these experiences will encourage those who do serve others in their jobs to raise the bar and do their jobs–even on the bad days–“as unto the Lord.” (Col. 3:23)

So let’s just shell the corn:  I let anger seep into my attitudes and words in almost all of these situations, to varying degrees.  That’s my sin in this.  To feel anger is human, to act or speak based upon it is sinful.  To take that one step further–when I’m truly seeking the Lord (spending time in the Word and prayer, and staying in tune with the leading of the Holy Spirit), the anger monster is much more difficult to arouse.  Even in the most provoking situations, a heart that is thoroughly marinated in Jesus just acts and reacts more like Jesus.  And yes, I did just use the culinary practice of marinating as a metaphor for spiritual discipline.  You heard it here first.

So when I award the big Skunk of the Year, I have to make it clear that in my interaction with that particular business, I let anger get the best of me even more than in the previous award scenarios.  I’m not proud of that.  But because I’ve confessed it to the Lord and he is infinitely merciful, I know I am forgiven.  Which means that…

I have to forgive these people, too.  (That’s what I get for writing my little smarty-pants blog, right?) So I do.  I forgive “Lou” at American Airlines for stonewalling me.  He was probably just doing what the company trained him to do, and has the supreme pleasure of catching it from the flying public all day for being a good little soldier.  He’s probably stuck between the boss and the lady on the phone.  I forgive you, Lou.

I forgive Tucker Chambers for being a jerk.  That one’s a little tougher, because he’s an independent business person with all the autonomy in the world, but who knows what other circumstances were bearing down on him in his personal or professional life that day.  I forgive you Tucker, whatever that was about.

And I have forgiven the man who will receive the grand prize.  Totally.  No hard feelings.

Now, that being said, I think you can completely let go of bitterness and hard feelings and genuinely forgive another, but wisdom has to dictate how you interact with them going forward.  So forgiving doesn’t necessarily mean that I’ll choose to do business with them in the future.  I can love them, pray for them, and wish them well without entering into another business relationship.  That’s my understanding, anyway. 

So read these stories and learn.  Learn how to avoid the ditches I’ve stumbled into.  Learn how to look to the  Word for the guidance we need just to get through the stinkin’ day.  Learn how to be so grateful for a Lord and Savior who loves us enough to forgive us.

Even in a bad customer service moment.

Now that’s forgiveness, people.