Life Lessons from “The Sound of Music”

NEWSFLASH:  I’M NOT AS SMART AS GOD!!JS1567084

Don’t tell my kids just yet…I’ve got them fooled for another few years.  OK, OK…they’re not really fooled, they’re just really good at humoring me. They learn that from their mother.

But it’s true. I’m not as smart as God, and I know that He knows that.  Fortunately I’m not alone in this condition.  I think it affects most humans–with the notable exception of my good friend Mark Lattimore.  I’m fairly certain that he & God compare notes on a regular basis.

The proof of God’s superior wisdom and knowledge is shown in how he chooses to relate to us.

Parables & Real Life Parallels.  (Translation: Stories & Object Lessons)

Recently, He’s needed to use an object lesson on me…and I’m extremely glad he did.  Here’s a little background on this particular lesson:

Over the past week, my wife and I have been trying to make sense of some pretty crazy events surrounding our foster daughter.  Perhaps we’d gotten ahead of ourselves, but based on the information we’ve had at our disposal, we were fairly convinced that we were floating merrily down The Adoption River with her in tow.  According to our own interpretation, it was a no-brainer that we would be the very best home for her to be raised in.  I’m not sure about my wife, but I know that I had pulled one of those “it’s a good thing I’m doing, so it’s OBVIOUSLY God’s will” rationalization maneuvers I’ve perfected over the years.

Well, like I said before, God’s smart enough to know that sometimes I need to be kicked in the spiritual undercarriage to jar me out of my self-righteous God’ishness (quite different from Godliness).

Last Thursday, the kick was delivered.  Squarely.

Within a 24 hour time frame, we were informed that it looked like she was going to go up for adoption (Oh! The joy!  The rapture! The elation!), and we were NOT the family selected for her. (Oh! The helplessness!  The shock!  The numbing shock!)  True to form, I immediately launched into my natural defense mode.  I like to refer to these as moments of righteous indignation–it sounds better than me throwing a temper tantrum. I spent the next two days spouting off to anyone who would listen about the unbelievable atrocity that was being heaped on this precious little girl (read as: HOW AM I NOT GOOD ENOUGH TO BE CHOSEN!?!?).  I sent out the prerequisite prayer request to friends & family asking for God’s will to be done in the situation. (read as: Please, ask God to see it MY way)  Bottom line, I tried my best to seize control of the situation.  Phone calls, e-mails, faxes, more e-mails…it was an exhausting display of panic. With every communication it seemed that this little girl was slipping farther away.  Then my wife sends me a devotional while I’m at work on Friday.  The whole point of the passage was pointing out that sometimes we find ourselves in situations that can only be handled by God.  The more we try to force on our own, the worse it gets.  The less we do, the more He can show his power.

I didn’t like what I read at first.  Fortunately, I have a wonderful wife who knows the thickness of her husband’s skull.  The next day, she sent another devotional that she had just read.  Same basic message.  Then on Sunday, the hits kept on a-comin’.  The Sunday School lesson was about how hard it is to surrender ourselves to God’s plans.   The message in the following service?  Yeah, you guessed it…more of the same.  Our pastor spoke about how most Christians claim to be siding with God in a given situation, but in reality all they want is to be able to prove that they are right and win the argument at hand.  Sometimes I wish our pastor would just pontificate on the merits of various worship styles!  That one hurt.

But it worked.  God finally got through to me.  My wife and I talked all weekend about the situation, and by Sunday night, we had finally given it over to God.  We were done getting in His way.  To borrow an old song lyric…we basically told Him, “It’s your baby….You rock it”.

On Thursday afternoon we got a call from the case workers involved, and they informed us that they had reconsidered their previous course of action, and told us that our little girl would stay with us for now and we would be allowed to continue on our path to becoming a licensed adoptive home.  There are still no guarantees that we will be the chosen family, but with each day she remains in our home and the bond with her strengthens, so does the chance that she might stay forever.

So, shocker….God comes through again.  I’m realistic enough to know that not everything that is His will will turn out all Puppies & Rainbows like this, but I’ve learned a lot about just resting in His ability to handle all the details.  And this is where the object lesson comes in.

I’ve said that I’m glad  I have children, because it helps me understand God a little better.  Once again this proves true.  Last night, I had the chance to take my 8 year old daughter out on a Daddy-Daughter Date (known as “3-D Night” in our house).  We went to a nice restaurant–decidedly more upscale than Subway for a change, and then we went to see the local Children’s Theatre production of “The Sound of Music”.  It was a fantastic night that will go down as one of my All-time Favorite Nights.  As we were sitting in our seats, watching the Von Trapp children serenade us, I reached over and patted my little girl on the knee.  Without making a big deal of it, she simply slipped one arm under mine, hugged my arm, and rested her head on my shoulder.  I dare you to find any better feeling in the world.  Can’t be done.

That’s when it hit me.  She knew that I had all the details of the night handled.  She didn’t waste any mental or physical energy trying to arrange transportation downtown, parking, restaurant reservations, restaurant bill, theatre seats, paying for ice cream after the show, paying the parking attendant, or driving home.  Her daddy had it covered.  She was able to rest against my shoulder with complete confidence in the knowledge that I had things under control.

On the ride home, she rested against my shoulder again as I drove.  She also told me that this was one of the best nights she’d ever had.  I told her the same.

I have to think that’s how God sees it when we finally give Him control.  He’s big enough and He’s strong enough  (and doggone it, people like Him!) to handle whatever we can throw at Him.  I truly believe that when we see His plans ultimatley work out for our good (maybe not the way we originally planned), He loves feeling us hug his arm and rest our heads against His shoulder.

Somehow those times that often seem the most difficult on our own power turn out to be “one of our best nights ever” when we rest in Him.

Thank God for object lessons!

A Little Courtesy Goes a Long, Long Way

I’m sure that you’ve seen the commercials on TV for the company BASF.  While their name may not be recognizable to you (which might actually constitute an ineffective commercial, now that I think about it), their tag line certainly is.  They spend the entire 45 second spot pointing out products that they don’t make.  Their entire business model is based on improving the ideas of others, hence their tag line: “We don’t make a lot of the products you buy….we make a lot of the products you buy better.”  I don’t know about you, but I’m a big fan of that concept.

It must be nice to get paid millions of dollars to not come up with new ideas.  Even better would be the fact that you’re tasked with pointing out flaws in the ideas of others and making recommendations to those that actually did give birth to the concepts.  This is a dream job for every armchair quarterback and backseat driver.

This brings me to my idea:  I’m going to improve GPS.

Now lest you think that I’m some sort of technical genius masquerading as a regular guy, I assure you I’m not.  Sure, I like technology, but I would not consider myself an expert in the technology field.  That distinction goes to the people that design and manufacture the products that BASF improves later.   My goal is to simply make technology–specifically GPS units–more user friendly.

Admittedly, I’m a GPS rookie.  I actually used one for the first time last week on a drive to Atlanta, GA. For the entire drive, this woman’s voice  ordered my every move with a warm tone and slight British accent.  “Go .7 miles and turn right onto Interstate,” she would instruct.   “Drive .3 miles and bear left onto Exit 12. Stay in right lane after that,” she implored.  While her instructions proved to be impeccable, I found myself slightly unnerved but couldn’t figure out why. However, as she directed me to “Stay right and proceed through the roundabout then turn right on Exit 17” in downtown Atlanta, it hit me.  Never once during the entire trip had she said “Please”  or “Thank You”!

How hard would it be for her to simply say, “Please drive .2 miles and turn left”, and then after I make the turn simply chime in with a brief, but hearfelt  “Thank you”?  I know enough about technology to realize that this could most likely be corrected with a simple programming change in the GPS software.  On various GPS units, I know that you can choose to have a male voice or female voice.  You can choose multiple languages.  You can even choose  a voice that speaks English with various accents.   So if you can program your GPS to direct you in the voice of a German beer wench who learned to speak English in a small Mexican village just south of Brownsville, TX, why can’t you program her to say “Please & Thank you”?  I think you see my point.

So now all I need to do is find someone with the requisite programming knowledge, and we should be able to provide the world with GPPS just in time for Christmas.  (Yes, that stands for Globally Polite Positioning System).

Just for fun, we’re also going to equip the voice with a lisp for those road trips from Simpsonville, South Carolina to Sessumsville, Mississippi.

“At GPPS we don’t make the GPS unit you use, we make that GPS unit nither.”