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the Old Way, only better

My kids are remembering “the old days.” A time when cell phone use at schools was hidden in the bathroom so you wouldn’t get caught and have your phone confiscated.

“That was like 6th grade, Mom,” she says. I’m not sure her memory is serving her exactly. ‘She’ is in 10th grade. Four years ago is ancient history to her.

This rattled my brain because I was just reading a kids book where the protagonist was surprised at the freedom of her companion who got to use her cell phone at school. She couldn’t because it would be confiscated. And I thought, that is so dated! They don’t confiscate cell phones anymore. My kids, ahem, text me from class.

But two years ago, if you were caught with your phone out, you could pick it up from the security office at the end of the day. TWO years ago. Now we’re in a new age. The rules have changed. What wasn’t right now is. What a surprise that kids often find rules and regulations simply suggestions.

Now, as a budding author of youth fiction I’m wondering, how do I keep anything relevant with change the only constant? Maybe I should play it safe and just write historical fiction. But who wants to do the research? I guess it’s all right there, in my recent memory – the good parts, the ones I can recall. Maybe it doesn’t all have to be new.

I mean whatever happened to seasons? You know, the revolving of time. Its folding back on itself. Like when the spring comes and it’s time for baseball. Same game. Same rules – pretty much. Slightly different players and managers. But you can count on it to be the same. When you turn it on or head to the field or to the ball park you’ll know how it’s supposed to be played. I like things like this. Things I can count on – not to change. If it’s spring, it must be baseball season. It doesn’t come any sooner just because the world is moving faster.

Ironically, some would say that recreation, like playing the game or going to the ball park to enjoy one, is a waste of time. After all, there are so many other “productive things” I could be doing.  Perhaps. And if I think this way, it does steal the joy from the game. I refuse to let it, but it’s a constant struggle.

But we’ve figured that dilemma out in this country, too. How to work and have our recreation, too. We overlap and shoehorn. We don’t sacrifice anything; we just find a way to fit it all in. That’s what we do at our house. Right now my 10th grader, newly driving herself, is playing both soccer and softball along with refereeing and volunteering and, when she can squeeze it in, doing some school work. I am, thank goodness, now not driving her everywhere (which means I am free to overlap and shoehorn my own schedule – ah the freedom!), but I am still chief cook and bottle washer. Literally.

This morning, I am rinsing the half dozen water bottles that were in use over the weekend. I scrub and empty and turn them upside down to put them on the wooden rack we have. My husband made it 22 years ago to accommodate the baby bottles we were washing, rinsing and drying back then.

Re-purposing. Some might call that innovative. But no, we have been using it right the way along. Perhaps that’s what’s most needed today. Innovators who take what we’ve been using and recall it into action for the new day. That’s creative and, frankly, it’s fun.

If I wrote it, what would it be? Not historical. Nor futuristic. I guess we would call that creative fiction. It speaks about the past to the future by people living firmly in the present. (Star Trek comes to mind, here.)

Speaking of terrestrial, this weekend I was standing on the sidelines, cell phone in hand because my track pants had no pockets, and I needed to free my hands to field balls before they rolled down the hill into the woods. So I reached inside my windbreaker to see if there was a secure pocket. Sure enough. My cell phone fit perfectly in the ‘cigarette pocket.’ I know it wasn’t made for cell phones or iPods because, yes, I purchased this jacket before either of these was invented.

I was creating a new use. Or making better use of the old way. Very futuristic of me, eh?

Just on time

It’s a funny thing about the pace of life these days. It hurries me. I’ve got 24 hours just like the next girl, so why is it that I always seem to be running late?

It was Sunday and I was late for church again. Brushing my teeth and grabbing the earrings that were easiest to put on, texting my friend that I was “on my way,” I tear off my offering envelope leaving a ragged edge, scribble something on the check and pray for a few red lights on the way so I can fill in the date and sign the darn thing. Funny, isn’t it, to pray for red lights when I’m already running late for worship.

But God answered with a nice long red light a mere quarter mile before I reached the turn for the church parking lot. I exhaled, threw it in park and pulled out that check. Scribbled in the date, signed my name then moved my pen to the memo line. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the folks in the turn lane going. My time was running out. Quickly, and in a hand-writing no human could read, I wrote, offering.

And that stopped me cold. Really? Was this my offering? My rush to attend worship. My pushing the speed limit? My jockeying for which was the quickest lane to get me ahead in traffic. Really?

In writing that word, I all at once, came face to face with offering. Not with what I shoved in the envelope (Now I’m not sure I even wrote my name on the outside.) but with what I brought to worship. And, ironically, I did not feel the pointing finger of chastisement I certainly deserved. No. Gone was the hurry. It had been replaced with “be quick, on purpose.” Somehow that was something I could do.

I pulled into the church lot, all the way to the back, leaving the closer spaces for the folks who needed them. I even offered a few quick words to my Maker as I shut off the car, grabbed the cell phone and joined the others who were walking smartly from their cars toward the doors held open by greeters for the morning. I even engaged in a little lighthearted banter with the other guy doing what I was, dodging cars and traffic while trying to find the button to silence his cell phone.

“Trying to silence the cell,” I say sheepishly, falling in stride.

“Me too,” he says, as we both look up and move left to avoid the oncoming car.

“They’re probably going, oh those darn people on their cell phones!” I say and smile. Of course, that’s what I would be thinking.

“Yep, and here in the church parking lot, for goodness sake!” He says and we both laugh.

We both stash our phones in time to accept the handshake of the greeter, smiling from his open doorway. I have never met the tall, blondish man who greets me with the very welcoming smile. Really wish I could remember the name on his name tag because he offered me the perfect greeting, “You’re not late. You’re just on time.”

I walked in and glanced at my watch. Sure enough, 9:15. Just on time. I slipped into a pew, greeted a few people already in seats nearby, and found myself oddly prepared for worship ~ given the hurry that consumed me a half hour ago. Offering, on purpose, seemed even to trump time.

I do believe there are times when we are meant to move quickly. But it’s not for our own good. It’s because someone where we’re going needs us to be there. Those are times to move quickly, with a purpose. It won’t feel like hurry.

It’ll probably feel more like God’s pace. I expect it was the pace of my friend the greeter on Sunday morning, arriving early, so he could offer a handshake of forgiveness, that showed no judgment, just welcome. Just on time.

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