Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Who do voodoo?

I was super excited about a 2-book contract offer I received last week and in my enthusiasm, told a friend all about it.

"Shhh," she responded. "Don't tell anyone about it yet. Not until it's finished. Somebody might jinx it."

Excuse me?

Now I could certainly understand if she meant not to tell anyone for fear the deal would fall through and I would have to face humiliation in admitting to those I'd confided in that my good news was, after all, bad news. I certainly learned that lesson after my second of six miscarriages when I'd already spilled the beans before I lost the baby and had to painfully answer all the smiling folks who asked how the pregnancy was going.

But that's not what my friend meant. She explained that when she'd had good things on the verge of happening in the past, she had made the mistake of telling one particular acquaintaince who, my friend was certain, counteracted the good by wishing bad on her and thereby jinxing it. The good things never happened and were replaced by bad, worse and downright rotten.

I must say this was a surprising point of view to me. I responded that as a Christian, I believe that Jesus is stronger than Satan and mere people do not have the power to wish bad things on other people and make them come true.

She just shook her head, wide-eyed, and said that in her South American country, she had seen it happen.

So what are your thoughts on supernatural slander?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

All I can be is who I am

Had an interesting interview today with a pastor who had received my name as a referral to fill in at the pulpit while he's on vacation. Now I speak to a lot of groups - mostly at libraries, schools or women's church luncheons. But you can bet I pretty much choked up a gizzard over a Sunday morning sanctuary invitation.

My first question to this very kind and gentle man of the cloth was: "Do you realize I'm a woman?" Apparently his denomination has no problem with that issue. He'd heard I'm a Christian humorist and he felt his congregation could use a little levity with their dutiful dose of religion.

Second question: "Do you realize that I'm not a preacher?" I assured him that to consider me a preacher was demeaning to his profession. "I'm an encourager; a fellow sojourner in this Christian walk; perhaps even a lay-minister, since I consider all followers of Jesus ministers to their fellow man, but I would never in a million years be called a preacher.

"In my opinion, preaching is an honored calling for special servants of God. I have nothing but respect for true preachers and my little feet wouldn't begin to fill those large shoes."

We settled on "sharing." Now that I can do. That I love to do; my preferred delivery is through the written word, but I've found that sometimes it's got to be verbal. People need to see the joy of the Lord in action face to face, not eye to paper. Something dynamic is lost in the translation if it's just read about and not felt.

So although Billy Graham I'll never be, I can be something akin to a Rhonda Rhea, Martha Bolton, or a Chonda Pierce. Or best yet, a Debbie Coty - God's favorite choice for me.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Creepy Crawly Memories

Reptiles. The word brings a shudder to some but they've actually always fascinated me.

I suppose growing up backdoor to a swamp in north Florida had something to do with that. I have very clear memories of gators in the pond (ducks and small dogs used to disappear back there) and snakes popping up in peculiar places quite often.

I recall racing outside to the neighbor lady's screams one morning to find her clean laundry strewn all over the yard. Apparently snakes like nothing better than to curl up in a basket of fresh sun-warmed laundry from the clothesline. No dryers in those days!

On my daily treks through the woods it was not uncommon to encounter a large specimen stretched across the path sunning himself. I usually just stepped over them, although I did occasionally bring home the smaller guys forthwith to torture my sister.

Unless they were rattlers or corals or cottonmouth moccasins. With those I hastily beat a retreat in the other direction.

Then there was the time the neighbor boy Robert and I were playing cowboys and indians as 6-year-olds. I was the captured indian, so he tied me to the oak tree in his front yard with a jumprope and then galloped away on his stick horse. My play screams turned real as I caught sight of a coiled rattler about 3 feet away from my bound feet. Robert's mama dashed out of the house and beat it to a pulp with a shovel.

I still have nightmares about that one.

When I got the chance to cavort with the cute little gator in the picture (at the TV45 studio in Orlando, compliments of the Gator Crusader, Michael Isaacs) I was thrilled. Felt like old home week at the reptile farm.

At age 3, he seemed an especially calm gator, and I knew Michael had taken him on "tour" for the past year with his ministry, so I asked him what would happen if the duct tape was removed from his pointy little snout. (The gator, not Michael.)

"Why, he'd chew your arm to rawhide," he replied with a smile.

Swell. Suddenly he didn't seem so cute. (The gator; Michael was still a cutie - an American version of the late great Steve Irwin.)

My wrists and ankles began feeling warm and itchy, like they had when tied to that oak tree long ago and far away. Watercolor memories ... Where's a good shovel when you need one?

Interview with an Aligator

My little buddy...

Smile for the camera!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Picture Perfect

There's nothing quite like holding pictures of your loved ones in your grubby little hand.

Call me old fashioned, but I just can't get the same warm, fuzzy thrill out of looking at cold electronic photos. It's too much like viewing someone else's life, too far removed from that private place inside that croons, "Awwww" when you're caressing a fave memory. Something crucial and not really easy to explain is missing when you can't respond with your tactile senses.

Stroking a computer screen just doesn't cut it.

Anyhow, I mentioned something like this to Chuck the other day. Actually, it was more like, "I hate not having real pictures anymore." I wasn't even sure he was listening, but the dear man just plunked an 8-inch stack of several hundred printed photos on my desk. They must be every digital photo we've shot during the last year. Wow.

Pitter pat goes my heart. I love that guy!

Guess it's time to unearth the old albums and have some fun.

Monday, May 10, 2010

True Love is Black Duct Tape

Last Friday I was in a huge rush to make it to our neighborhood Bible Study on time.

I'd rushed home from my tennis match (which I lost, leaving me in a bit of a blue funk to start with) with no time to shower. I spashed on some fruity-smelling body wash over my sweaty tennis clothes, dabbed a little make-up over my newly sprouted sun-induced freckles, threw my purse, Bible, and study book into my bicycle handlebar basket (yes, yes - I have a basket like the Wicked Witch of the West) and careened down the sloped driveway already ten minutes late.

As my front tire hit the gutter at the base of my driveway, the flimsy gizmo connecting the basket to the bike popped off, flinging my purse out and spewing the contents all over the road directly in front of my tires. As I ran over my new leather Coach purse (the only one I've ever owned, which now sports a tire tread down the center), I heard tubes of lipstick crack and all my other essential items of life spread out through the cul-de-sac like a rock slide.

Miraculously, I didn't crash, but the sudden stop caused by sticking my legs out catapulted my Bible onto the asphalt. It ended up spread-eagled upside down, flying bookmarks and ripped pages flapping in the breeze.

With none of the grace of my inbred Southern heritage, I heaved that aggrevious basket as far as I could into the bushes and left the stupid bicycle lying prostate in the gutter. I think I even kicked it.

I hope somebody steals it, I thought, angrily stuffing my broken stuff back into my poor violated handbag. Or maybe the garbage men will pick it up. I never want to see it again. I climbed into my car and tore off, a living testimonial to Christianity at it's finest.

By the time I arrived back home from the Bible Study, I was in a better frame of mind. I didn't even notice that the metalic offender was gone. In fact, I never gave that bike or basket another thought until the following day when, having forgotten all about my vows to forsake two-wheeled transportation forever, I entered the storage room to hop aboard for my regular 5-mile weekend bike route.

I was already astraddle before realizing the basket was somehow back in place and the tires had been reinflated. Now how did that happen? Are there bicycle fairies flitting about?

Glancing down, I had to smile at the black duct tape winding round and round the handlebars securing the basket in place until you-kn0w-where freezes over. Awww... my eyes teared up.

Apparently my husband Chuck had witnessed my Lance Armstrong fiasco through his office window and without saying a word, had gathered up my shattered Humpty Dumpty and painstakingly put all the pieces together again.

Now that's true love with a sticky back.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Repelling the Dagger

I had just finished my little speech at the women's banquet and was trying to catch my breath before manning the book table at the back of the room. A well-dressed lady whose lips were smiling but her eyes were not approached me, gushed a bit about how much she'd enjoyed the presentation, and then grabbed my arm like you would an old friend.

"Oh, Debbie," she said in an everybody-listen-to-me-now voice, "I thought what you said about losing 40-lbs was amazing. What do you plan to do to make the skin shrink back up?"


There's always one in every crowd. Someone who just can't find it within themselves to encourage rather than discourage. Someone who thinks their candle will shine brighter by blowing out yours.

I hope graciousness isn't becoming a relic. I value good manners and sincerely hope that a genteel countenance isn't just a cultural trait. Having been raised in the South, I have wonderful memories of two lovely white-haired ladies in floral dresses sipping mint iced tea while gracing me with their undivided attention in a room full of adults. A true gift when one feels invisible and unworthy. They were blessed with the talent of making a person feel good about herself - even a shy, chubby ten-year-old with nothing much yet to offer.

Since I've circulated more among strangers as a speaker during the last two years, I've been insulted intentionally and unintentionally many times. Thankfully, early on I learned the value of Proverbs 10:19: "Where there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise."

A simple smile in response goes a long way toward learning not to take yourself so seriously. It really doesn't hurt a bit and nobody's the better when bitterness is exchanged. Surprisingly enough, I've actually made inroads into lasting friendships when a foot-in-mouth comment or two were overlooked.

So next time someone decides to point out that I'm a human river of wrinkles, I think I'll throw my arms up in the air and let my underarm Dumbo flaps speak for themselves.