Wounds

It wasn’t uncommon for me to suffer disappointment while growing up. My parents came out of the Great Depression, where they were taught that money was scarce, nothing should be wasted, and everything could be repaired. 

It was a routine, but horrible experience, to have water added to the ketchup or salad dressing bottle so every last drip could be consumed. She would shake it all together, try to hand it to me, and I refused because I had found it tasted like death. 

“Chris, just use it. It’s not that bad.”

Even her head shaking and sighing would not move me. She had stockpiled more, and I knew it. Sometimes she would give in and act as she had just found a brand new bottle that she had “forgotten all about.” Miracles can happen every day if you are stubborn enough. 

Besides holding my ground on condiments, I had to beg and plead for her to open the purse strings for anything. If she could find a way to buy something that never needed to be replaced, she was on board. So my request to get a pumpkin at a farm was coloring way out of the lines.

“I want a real pumpkin,” I kept saying day and night, starting in September. This was a tactic that had worked on a few things in the past. But, not always. If I got her to say,

“Maybe,” I knew I was closer to my goal. 

Every house in our neighborhood had carved pumpkins on the front steps. She had chosen to buy a plastic one that she could plug in, which she had gotten long before I was on earth. Frugal at its finest. 

It didn’t have the personal touch of a kitchen knife in an artist’s imperfect hand. It was a factory-produced, false rendition of something organic, started from a seed, grown in a field. Hers was a far cry from that. The light bulb had started to burn off some of the original orange paint. But, to no avail, she got it out every single year, which killed my chances of getting a real one. 

The year I had given up, feeling that she was not going to budge an inch, she took me by total surprise and said,

“I think it would be fun to go to a pumpkin patch.”

I could not believe it! I acted as if it was not a big deal, but it was. We made the drive to the nearest place. 

I walked through rows and rows of them, trying to decide which one would be mine. Because of the age gap between my siblings and me, I was the only kid in the age bracket to find this experience exciting. All my energy and wear-down approach had finally paid off in fourth grade. 

I carried my selection to the person who she would pay. She suddenly noticed the sign stating the price per pound. I hadn’t chosen the largest one I could have, but her default kicked in once it hit the scale. 

“That’s way too much. I’m not going to spend that.”

The guy dressed like a farmer looked at her and then at me. I could not believe that she was actually going to back out now. 

“Is that the real price?” She asked. I could tell that the “fun” part was being sucked out of it. 

“Yes.”

“No, thank you. Chris, let’s go.”

I had been so close! The guy glanced over at me again with very sympathetic eyes. It wasn’t until that moment I realized I shouldn’t be happy. I had been denied so many other things so often that my ability to feel sadness had been curtailed. I was supposed to accept that whatever she did or said would produce no emotional response on my part. 

I had become really good at it, but I also made a vow to myself that once I had children, I would never do to them what had been done to me. Or at least try not to. 

So whether it was acceptable or not, I took my girls to get pumpkins in the fall. The stigma of doing so and going against what was presented as evil in the church’s eyes didn’t stop me. I read all the literature and folklore about its practice and decided that God knew my heart. I wasn’t doing this to ward off mischievous spirits or engage in the dark arts. I was trying to heal something from my past. 

It worked as I watched them produce some of the most beautiful pieces of art I had ever seen. Somewhere in their DNA, they were awarded the ability to draw and create things I had never been given. Scribbling out a stick figure is a challenge for me. 

One year, my youngest daughter decided to spraypaint her pumpkin. She had seen the idea somewhere and decided that this was something she wanted to try. She purchased a can of purple glitter spray and covered the entire thing. It turned out very professional looking. 

The only thing was that it never occurred to us to put it outside in the cold air to preserve it. Day after day, it sat in the house looking like a royal piece of artistry straight out of a fairy tale, subjected to a warm environment. One night I noticed a strange smell. Why this always befalls me, I do not know. 

“Is that your pumpkin starting not to smell so great?” I asked as it was in the air drifting and becoming more fragrant. Pumpkin in a can of spray is nowhere near this natural one.

“Maybe,” she said. 

Both of us approached it warily. I have learned the hard way that once something makes its presence known by way of a foul odor, you have to think before reacting. I had been the unfortunate recipient of cleaning out the refrigerator and unearthing containers that held contents that once had good intentions of being used later. Refried beans are not your friend on day 237. And by all means, do not hastily remove the lid unless you are right over the garbage with a hazmat suit securely fastened. 

Now we stood in front of the most magical looking pretty display, trying to decide which one of us was going to pick it up. She knows she can outlast me, so of course, it would be me. 

All that glitters on the outside is not necessarily a good representation of what is really going on.

When I slowly moved it, I immediately saw the mold that started at the base and rapidly spread. Pieces of paint were falling off in the back as the green fuzz was making its attack. She leaned in to get a better look, and I turned it so she could see how bad it was. Right as I did, an enormous black spider jumped out from its hiding place, trying to dodge being squished into the afterlife.

I heard her scream, and when I looked, she was long gone, just like the spider. 

I could not stop laughing. 

“Where did it go?” She said from the farthest corner of the house. 

“I don’t know.” Dreaded words for one who is terrified of things that crawl. 

I had to throw away the decayed piece of produce, and she spent days looking over her shoulder for the escapee. 

God can bring resolution to the biggest and smallest of pain. And heaven has a way of providing it in the most perfect of ways. Even if the person who hurt you never apologizes, fractures can be mended. It may come in the form of a funny moment or a simple word spoken like this one in Psalm 71:20, 

Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth, you will again bring me up. (NIV) 

In addition, this is a steadfast promise of God’s faithfulness from Psalm 147:3: “He heals the brokenhearted and bandages up their wounds.” (NLT) 

Yep..I have talent in my house

The Door of Her Heart

I made it my mission to teach my oldest daughter about God even before she could speak. I was coming to understand faith, and while my spiritual walk was moving ahead, I had to be quiet about it as my household at the time was divided. If I tried to voice my beliefs, it didn’t go over well.

Instead of causing conflict, I studied and kept hidden anything related to the subject. I put books at the bottom of my dresser or tucked away in a dark corner that I only knew about. I didn’t let the opposition stop what God and I had started, but I went out of my way to guard myself.

I turned all of my knowledge toward her because she was a clean slate without any religious baggage or ability to argue with me.

In the car, no matter where she and I went, I played children’s music that incorporated scripture verses set to tunes that easily got stuck in the memory. As she got older, I would hear her humming happily to herself as she played with her toys.

It became very apparent that this was effective when she and I were in a crowded restaurant. She always was content sitting next to me coloring, talking non-stop about everything she could think of. On this particular night, she jumped to her feet in the booth, and at the top of her lungs, started singing Go Tell It On the Mountain.

No matter how much I tried to stop her, she wouldn’t quit. All the other customers got quiet and looked over at us. I was so worried that she was disrupting them with her unexpected off-Broadway dinner show, so I kept quietly saying her name, trying to get her to zip it.

Many people don’t appreciate an acapella version of a song in public. And I’m very aware that children, by some, are barely tolerated. But, there was no stopping her. I kept glancing up, and as she kept on going, I saw people smiling, so I just gave up my efforts. She was determined to finish all the lyrics, and there was no other choice.

At the end of it, she received applause. As if it was no big deal, she went back to her crayons.

On another occasion, my neighbor lady saw me outside working in the backyard.

“Do you know what one of my favorite things is in the evening?”

“No,” I said.

“I will be washing dishes, and I can hear your daughter singing while she is on her swing set. She goes through this long list of songs.”

It was spring, so all of us had our windows wide open for fresh air.

I had heard her do it too, and her ability to say certain words was still a challenge. Abraham was pronounced with an “n”, and it sounded like Neighborham.

“I like that one the best of all,” she said, laughing.

Someone gave me a large glass jar filled with slips of paper in it. On each one, there was a question regarding God that you could ask your child. It was an exercise to help expand their thinking about the unseen.

Because I continued to plant what I could in a secretive way, I thought this would fit right in.

So every night before bed, she would pick out a random piece of paper to be quizzed. She loved it so much that one was never enough, and sometimes she wanted so many I had to cut her off. She was like a sponge for learning and enjoyed what I was teaching her.

One night, she handed me her choice, and I asked:

“What does it mean to have God knock on the door of your heart?”

She did her usual squint and looked up at the ceiling.

“I know! That’s the song that I sing in the car. He knock, knock, knocks on your heart.” She added a closed fist pounding to her chest.

“So, what does that mean?”

“Ummm…What does it mean?” She asked.

“You don’t know?”

“No.”

I couldn’t believe that we were at this point already. It had taken me years to get to this, and now at 4, she was already inquiring about such a deep topic.

“Well, when you think you want to, you can let God be in charge of your life. It can’t be taken away from you, but you willingly give it.”

I grabbed a book where I knew there was a picture of Jesus knocking on a door.

“It’s like you open the door and say come in. That’s it. Do you want to do that?”

She said she did, so I had her say a little prayer with me.

After that, she had daily prayer sessions with her infant sister. She would prop her up in her carrier and try to explain the Bible. Just like I did with her, it was someone who had to listen and couldn’t talk back or run away. Even if her audience drifted off to sleep, she would keep on expounding her newfound wisdom.

I sometimes regret the decision I made to have her attend various churches alongside me. Not that she still didn’t keep the simple message she learned, but as with most formal organizations, there are rules to follow, and people get in the way by putting their own spin on it. Soon, what was so easy to know at such a young age had become so complex that the relationship started to wane. Why? Because the spiritual upkeep got to be overwhelming.

You are pressured to be something you are not, everything you do is monitored, and you slowly lose your freedom of choice. Anything supernatural that cannot be explained must be evil; the devil is behind everything, and conformity is a must because being different is unacceptable. Life becomes anxiety riddled, and you hope you are still on God’s good side.

Now you no longer depend on inner guidance, but you rely on those in leadership to educate you and discipline your wayward passage. You seek people instead of the One who holds all the answers that you need. You are instructed how to think and speak, so you don’t stand out from the rest. It was so far away from her innocent singing songs that made her heart happy. The joy of having a close relationship with the Creator was slowly being stripped away. None of this moved either of us up higher or into a deeper place with God.

If that’s how you feel where you are, get out and return to the truth. Go back to where she and I started as it says in Ephesians 5:1:

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. (ESV)

So how do you act like something you cannot see? In 1 John 4:16 it says this:

We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. (NIV)

It doesn’t take a lot of discernment to recognize when you are tangled in something that doesn’t reflect that. People are not ever going to be perfect, but there’s no reason to stay too long and lose your way.

The God I introduced my daughter to wasn’t harsh; like an old friend, He was welcoming and didn’t require anything but her eager willingness to answer the knock at the door of her heart.

More

I hate chain letters where you have to forward something or face dire consequences. Out of nowhere, someone in your contacts has a weak moment and falls for the mafia pressure. They make the poor decision to hand off the matter to all their acquaintances so they can sleep at night. 

Along the same lines, I don’t appreciate multilevel marketing schemes where your friends suddenly are known as your ‘upline’. When they call, you stop answering, and you can’t take another meeting that costs you your entire savings account for a supplement made from a rare botanical plant grown in a foreign country. 

Another life invading moment I don’t care for is the bread recipes where a freezer bag of tan liquid is put on your counter without your permission. 

“I’m giving you this nice starter bag.” They say. “It’s so easy to do; just follow the instructions.” 

It appears to be benign, but then you find out you have to stir it for ten minutes each day for ten days at the exact same time, add flour fifteen days in, squish it around in the bag until day twenty and swear yourself over to a new religion at the end of thirty days for the bread to bake.  

Then you have to take the two cups of the liquid you separated and plague someone else with the mess. That’s time you just can’t get back.

And the biggest cringe worthy scam is the one that comes with the promise of a direct connection to heaven by using various gimmicks so you can advance spiritually and unlock all the treasures that are hidden away in a vault.

I was watching something I had recorded and fast-forwarding through commercials when I saw an infomercial for a seed packet. I paused, went back, and watched pure fraud marketed for those who were in desperate situations. As if asking God for help isn’t enough, this flashy segment used words such as “miracle power” and “special blessing” to gain the emotions of the vulnerable. Planting and harvesting ancient sprouts is a sure-fire way to have it all, was the claim. 

They paraded out one paid actor after another, singing the praises of these tiny seeds that produced results that rivaled the parting of the Red Sea, Noah’s Ark, and Lazarus coming back to life. 

The real catch is that no money is needed to obtain the Jack and the Beanstalk beans, but just a simple giving of your home address to get added to the hit list. 

I clicked past it, glad I wasn’t that gullible. 

A few days later, my girls and I were watching something, and the same ad came up again. I had them see how ridiculous it was. Then I forgot all about it until I got a gigantic packet in the mail.

If you have ever attended a closing or refinance on a house, that’s the amount of paperwork that was stuffed into this oversized envelope. I looked at the return address and realized I had somehow been caught in the seed pusher’s snare. 

I said to my daughter, 

“How did they find me?”

She came over to see what I was holding in my hand.

“What is it?”

“It’s from that ministry that promises fake results. How did they get this to me?” Were all the conspiracy theories right about our televisions being one extensive computer database that could be used to infiltrate our lives? How did this happen to me?

I opened it and took out three different colored envelopes along with multiple pages of rules. It would take hours to follow all the steps, so I decided to rip into the red envelope, which held more instructions.

I glanced over at one of the other pieces of paper and saw this written in bold lettering: 

“Do not open the red envelope! This will cause a curse to come upon your house! Open that last!” 

What if someone receiving these were color blind? Would that rule still apply, or would there be an exemption? 

Since I was already flirting with unleashing eternal damnation upon my house, I started opening up all the envelopes to skim read. Why not keep this game of Russian Roulette going? 

The central theme of it was to send in a prayer request and money. The simple message was camouflaged by threatening remarks, intimidation tactics, and arm twisting. It was a “let me help you, help us” type of approach.

Everything was time sensitive. Specific actions and rituals had to take place, or you would miss your “moment of visitation.” Each statement was backed up with a scripture verse as solid proof this was a life changing moment. 

Sprinkled throughout, there was the ego rewarding phrases such as “you have been chosen” for this, and my first name was strategically placed so that I would feel like they knew me. 

Just when I had seen it all, I found a small, clear plastic packet. Holding it up to the light, I could see beads of moisture inside like something had been in it but had evaporated. Looking further through all the material, I solved the mystery. I had not been lucky enough to get a seed packet, but I had been selected to receive healing water that had dried up or leaked out before getting to me. 

I was supposed to place it under my pillow and watch everything I had ever wanted continuously stream to me. 

That was it. I gathered it all up and threw it away, imagining a gasp from an invisible audience. 

Later, I pulled one sheet of the disposed of paper from the trash and showed my other daughter when she came home from work. 

“Do you remember this? We saw this advertised?”

She smiled.

“Yes.”

“They sent me an empty packet of tap water!”

“What?” She said, taking a closer look, laughing. 

“How did these people find me?”

Without hesitation, she said, 

“I signed you up.”

Just like that, very matter of fact.

“You did this?”

So much for being tracked by an evil entity through the TV, thank goodness! 

“Do you know how much junk I am going to get now from this?”

She laughed more. Oh, she knew pretty well what would happen! And she also was very pleased with herself for getting me all rattled. 

“I’m going to take every single thing they send, put it in a box, wrap it and give it to you for Christmas!”

She knew she had done a great job on this and wasn’t threatened in the least. 

I came home a few months later to more correspondence from the dreaded prophet.

“Oh no!”

This one was just as bad as the first with extra pleas because I hadn’t responded. Maybe I was just about to hand over my offering if they coerced more. 

“How are you enjoying your water packet?” was one of the lines. 

I clipped out the stock picture of the guy who said he had such a burden to help me and taped it directly across from my daughter’s bed. He has his arms outstretched and eyes closed, sending that extra special prayer that she needs. 

I haven’t received any more, so maybe he got the hint that I wasn’t such an easy mark. 

The counterfeit is aggravating because you know people fall for it. They think that to gain God’s attention and favor, there has to be something materially given to receive. And those who are hurting can be talked into anything. Their want for a better life isn’t wrong, but it is preyed upon by those who gain financially.

God loves a cheerful giver, not a dragged-out, beaten down, out of guilt and obligation giver. 

And in John 6:35, this verse sets you free from accepting empty promises from water packets and time-consuming recipes: 

I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (NLT).

There are no mountains to climb or steep obligations to meet. Divine messages may come that you don’t understand at first, but it’s never complicated, allowing you to cut out the middle man. God’s recipes for life are simple; Follow Him for more.