You’re Soaking In It!

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If you grew up in the seventies or eighties like me, you probably remember Madge, the pitch woman for Palmolive dishwashing liquid for over twenty years.  Every commercial went pretty much the same way.

A lady would walk in to get a manicure from Madge, who would immediately make a crack about her dry skin.  Then she would soak the woman’s fingers in a bowl of a mysterious beauty product while they chatted.  I don’t know how manicures work, but I’m assuming this is business as usual.   At some point the woman would break down and confess her terrible skin condition was the result of washing dishes.

That’s when Madge would tell the woman she should switch to Palmolive, a dishwashing liquid that actually softened your hands while you used it.  The woman would act surprised, then Marge would reveal the big twist.  Palmolive?  You’re soaking in it!  Mic drop!

I don’t know how good Palmolive dishwashing liquid really is at softening skin, but I was thinking about that commercial this morning when I was reflecting back on the past week.  Lately I’ve noticed my mood is drastically affected by whatever I happen to be soaking my mind in each day.

When I saturate my brain with news and entertainment, anxiety, irritability and melancholy bubble to the surface.  However, when I immerse myself in the Bible and books and music that point me back to God, I can feel my heart soften and my spirit soar.

God reminded me this morning that what I’m soaking my brain in really matters, especially at a time like this.

Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (NIV).

I first read that verse over 25 years ago, but I’m still learning the truth of it today.  My focus determines my future.  My head shapes my heart.  My obsessions affect my outcomes.

This isn’t new information, but during a season of social distancing and doing so much of our living and relating online, the effect of where I point my brain is more obvious and immediate than ever before.

Is it okay to check the news and watch my favorite shows online?  Sometimes.  Believe me, after a stressful day I’m as big a fan of mindless entertainment as the next person, and I like to stay up-to-date with what’s going on in the world.

But I can’t soak in it.  I can’t overdo it, because if I do, I’ll see it play out in my thoughts, my attitude and ultimately in who I’m becoming during the Coronavirus crisis and beyond.

The more I bend my brain toward heaven by reading, watching and listening to things that encourage my heart, the more helpful I am to everyone around me and the more I experience peace even in the midst of chaos.

 

 

 

 

The Drive-In Life

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If you’ve never been to a drive-in movie, you are missing out.  When I was a kid, I loved everything about the drive-in.  My mom would pop popcorn, and we would pack a cooler full of drinks. Then, we would pile into our Ford Pinto with lawn chairs and blankets and spend the evening watching movies under a starry sky.

I couldn’t wait for the day I could share this magical experience my own kids. The only problem is my daughters don’t like going to the movies. They would rather stream an old TV show on YouTube than watch the latest blockbuster on the big screen.  Growing up watching videos on phones, tablets and portable DVD players has turned them off to the whole cinematic experience. 

To make it even harder, they don’t like movies that aren’t classic musicals or have the words American Girl in the title.  Good luck finding one of those playing at the drive-in.  Continue reading

Taking the Plunge

One of the biggest moments in each of my daughter’s lives is the day they decided to jump off the rock.  The rock is a boulder that sits in the middle of a mountain river in Townsend, Tennessee.  It fell off the cliff that borders the river a long time ago and has served as a perch for swimmers ever since. 

Back in the fifties, my wife’s great-grandfather bought that cliff and the rock and the swimming hole that surrounds it along with a few acres of land and some old cabins.  Her family has flocked there for summer vacations ever since.

For every child who spends much time at the river, there comes a season when you can tell they’re thinking about jumping off the rock.  The first time they do it, it’s no easy task.  The mountain water is painfully cold even in the heat of summer. The poor kid has to swim or take a tube across stream, fighting the current all the way. 

Once they actually make it to the rock, they have to find handholds to climb it.  The surface is slippery so they have to watch their step if they don’t want to end up skidding back into the river, scraping their legs on the jagged edges.  I still have a scar from tussling with the rock myself.

All of this gives a kid plenty to think about sitting on the beach watching others swim across and take the plunge.  But the real moment of decision doesn’t come on the shore.  It comes once they actually make it up on the rock.  That’s where the internal tug-of-war begins.  Am I going to stand here on this rock all day or am I actually going to jump? 

I’ve gone through this with both of my girls, swimming out with them, helping them up on the rock, and treading water in the swift current waiting for them to go for it.  Some days I’ve waiting longer than others.  The rock looks a whole lot taller once you’re up on top of it than it does from the beach. 

I can still see their faces scrunched up with worry as they tried to work up their nerve.  I could tell they were wondering how deep the water really was, how cold it really was and how far they’d sink when they hit the river.  But most of all, the biggest question they were wrestling with was how much could they trust their dad.   

Would I really be able help them when they jumped?

I know how they feel.  I ask the same questions about God all the time.  Sometimes, God invites us to jump, to do something far outside our comfort zone.  Go on a mission trip.  Serve the homeless.  Teach a class.  Take a new job.  Open our house to someone who is lonely.  Give generously.  Write a book. 

Whatever it may be for you, it is a true leap of faith.  Like my daughters, we may stand on the edge of this decision for what feels like forever, trying to work up our nerve to go for it.  But the real question comes down to how much we can trust our heavenly Father.  Will his presence in the water outweigh the fear in our hearts?

The Bible is full of stories of real people just like you and me who God invited to take the plunge.  Some of them shrank back from the invitation while others leapt with wild abandon.  In the book of Joshua, we meet a young leader who was facing the same doubts and questions you and I face when God calls us out.  The advice God gave Joshua still applies today, “This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9 NLT).

Remember, it’s not the height of the jump or the depth of the stream that matters, but it’s who is in the water that counts.  We can trust our dad in heaven to catch us every time we leap to him. 

So what are you waiting for?  Take the plunge.  The adventure of a lifetime is waiting for you the moment your feet leave the security of the rock behind.