Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What's in a Name?

Rainstorm in the English countryside
"This is all your fault!" my unsmiling neighbor leveled at me yesterday as we crossed paths while picking up moss, limbs, and other grungy debris strewn across our yards.

"My fault?"

"Dang storm's named after you, isn't it?"

Oh. I suppose it is.

This wasn't the first time I'd heard my name taken in vain since the arrival of Tropical Storm Debby earlier this week. She arrived in a snit and decided to hang around annoying Florida all week, pounding us with rain, high winds, mayhem, newly opened sinkholes, closed roads, property damage, canceled plans, flooding everywhere, and lots of great headlines that make me somehow feel responsible:
Go Away Debby!
Damage in Debby's Wake
Debby Scary, Even From a Distance

Now, my head knows these unpleasant sentiments are not about me, but for some reason my gut takes them personally. Like everybody in my state hates me. And can't wait for me to leave.

I hear people all over muttering the name Debby in hard, angry tones, and I feel like I should apologize to ... to someone. To everyone. I don't know.

Who chooses storm names, anyway? Why couldn't they have named the thing Dipsidumquat? (That's pronounced dip-si-dum-quat.) I bet there's not a single Dipsidumquat in the state who would be the least bit offended. Heck, they'd probably even be flattered.

But look at all of us Southern Debby's. And Debbie's. And Debi's. We're not flattered. We're not amused in the least.

It's not like a whole rash of new babies will be named Debby, reminiscent of the phenomenon that happens when a name suddenly becomes famous, like Madonna ... or Pippa ... or Barak. Well, maybe not Barak.

But the point is, instead of popularizing a name by plastering it all over the media, it actually depopularizes a perfectly good moniker when a storm is named after you. Not good for a writer/speaker who is trying to get her name out there. In a positive way.

I wouldn't be surprised if traumatized Floridians don't wince, shake their heads, or spit in the dirt whenever they hear my name for the next six months. Maybe even years. Hope my book sales don't take a dive.

But perhaps that's preventable.Maybe it's not too late. I need your help.

Will you join me in my grassroots campaign to begin referring to this unfortunate name-destroyer as Tropical Storm Dipsidumquat from now on? If enough of us do it, maybe it'll catch on with the media and fine citizens of this fair state. Go ahead - practice it a time or two until it rolls off your tongue slick as buttered okra.

Okay, I'm heading out right now to see if I can name-drop a little with my irate neighbor. Hey, come to think of it, his mama's name is Dipsidumquat ...

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

It's Your Serve (Prayer, part 2)

Last week we talked about prayer being like a tennis match. You hit the ball over the net, Papa God hits it back. Over and back. Over and back.

You know, the truly amazing part is that Papa God wants to play with us at all. I mean, He certainly doesn't have to. He could just rush the net and smash, smash, smash every shot. But instead He chooses to rally.

Just think of it: the creator of the universe actually desires to spend time listening to us. And responding.

Doesn't it blow your mind that He wants to hear our deepest thoughts, feelings, disappointments, yearnings, wishes, and dreams when most of the other flesh and blood people-creations like ourselves don't seem to care? Even with the entirety of creation demanding His attention, the Almighty takes a personal interest in you ... and me.

Whoa. Hard to wrap your head around, isn't it? Such a compliment. Such an honor.

Yet we sometimes consider prayer a chore ... something nearly forgotten that we need to squeeze in before we fall asleep so we don't feel guilty. Or maybe we're just so  busily preoccupied with living our life that prayer is reduced to cougar-on-a-ski-slope desperation tweets to (Yep, the cougar thing actually happened to me.)

I've found it enormously helpful to keep a mobile prayer list of people and needs I want to pray about. Mine's a little pocket-sized pad that travels with me. I find it especially handy in my car - my rolling cathedral - so I can pray instead of scream at red lights and traffic jams. Much more productive on several levels.

I highly recommend it.

But if you do, be sure to record the answers to your prayers as well, so you'll never again doubt that prayer is the nerve that moves the muscles in the hand of God.

Hey, it's your serve!

Q of the Day: Where is your favorite place to pray?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Spiritual Punctuation

Effective conversation is like a tennis match. (Yes, you're absolutely right - this metaphor occurred to me as I was whacking a little yellow ball around a court.) You hit the ball over the net, then your partner hits the ball back.

And you keep it going. Back and forth. Back and forth.

Prayer is supposed to be like that. An ongoing conversation between the Creator and the created.

We speak to Him in prayer and He speaks back to us through various means, scripture being a primary one. He speaks, we listen. Then we speak and He listens. Back and forth like a little ball over a net.

It's a love match.

So how come on some days, "Help!" is the only word God ever hears from us? We don't even use up all 130 characters of our prayer-tweets.

Sometimes we think praying is enough. We just don't have time ... or energy ... or motivation to spend time in the Word. But you know what? It simply doesn't work if you constantly feed balls over the net and never wait for your partner to return them.

Just ask Rafa Nadal after his 7th win at the French Open. Back and forth, back and forth.

It has to go both ways for conversation to take place. 

That means, of course, that prayer and daily scripture reading go hand-in-hand. Like peas and carrots. Peanut butter and jelly. RC and moon pies.

Otherwise it's not effective communication. It's a monologue. 

Prayer is designed to be a 24/7 dynamic, organic communication with a living, loving Savior that we grow to depend upon as much as the air we breathe. Not just an occasional occurrence, but a way of living every hour of every day. A lifestyle. Woven into the fiber of our very being.

Prayer is not just spiritual punctuation; it's every word of our life's story.

So how do we cease merely dotting our i's and crossing our t's in the prayer department? How do we transition from a guilt-prayer squeezed in late at night before zzzz'ing out to a "Pray without ceasing" existence?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

More about prayer next time ...