From “The Lizard Lounge” Series on Clay
Below is the final installment in “The Lizard Lounge Series on Clay,” at least for this season. Quite a summer… Here is a link to the whole series, if you’re just tuning in. (And here’s a link that explains the whole “Lizard Lounge” bit.)
Who knew my earthly home could teach me so much about the journey toward my heavenly one…?
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I love summer in Florida. Sunshine and beaches and the smell of orange blossoms. (And tourists who need to stay out of the sun and off the beaches.) This past summer I had planned to while away the days watering my bell peppers and tomatoes, lazing on the front porch reading, and collecting rocks for my dry creek bed. However, in Jeremiah 29:11 the Lord says:
I know the plans I have for you…
…and none of those plans included tomatoes, lazing, or collecting rocks.
Trickle trickle, splash splash
(You can click this link and read my original post about the *squish* or I can just catch you up with the Reader’s Digest Condensed Book version. Condensed version? If you insist.)
*squish* is the sound shoes make when stepping into a house that’s standing in water. The *squishing* shoes were mine—so was the house standing in water. Basically the entire thing looked like a swimming pool with lamps, sofas, and coffee tables. Since it’s built on a concrete slab (pretty common in Florida), you wouldn’t think water would pose too much of a problem.
You’d be wrong.
Laying atop that slab was a beautiful hardwood floor, one that, in a fit of hoity-toity home improvement, I had personally put down to replace a cheap laminate one a few years ago. By the time I got home from work that evening, it was a floating hardwood floor: all that wood was soaked in water and starting to warp and swell.
As it turned out, the water line leading to the refrigerator had sprung a pinhole-size leak and, in the course of a mere 9 or so hours, had flooded my entire house. Bear in mind, this was a water line that lived a protected and undisturbed life behind the cabinets in the kitchen; a water line that no outside force acted upon, ever; a water line that simply lay there peaceful and serene, its only job being to let a tiny amount of water trickle through its plastic innards to fill the ice maker every so often.
Would that I led the life of leisure that water line led.
Over the course of the next few days, I watched the “moisture mitigation” guys rip up my hardwood floors piece by water-logged piece and haul it off (along with all the baseboards, more work of mine down the drain, so to speak). I spent the next few weeks walking around on bare concrete trying to decide what I was going to do, floor-wise.
Hot town, summer in the city
The only upside to having an expanse of bare concrete in your house is that it will actually keep the house a tad bit cooler than floors covered in wood or carpet. Which was good, because a couple of weeks later the air conditioner went out. In July. In Florida. Five months, two weeks, and three days after the ten-year warranty expired.
Actually, only the compressor unit (the part that sits outside and makes the coolness) had gone out—the blower in the attic still worked just fine. That wasn’t much help, though, since the air the blower was blowing was hot, because, as previously mentioned, it was July in Florida…
“So, couldn’t I just buy a new compressor unit?” I asked Chris, the Heating and Air Conditioning technician who came out and pronounced my compressor beyond repair.
His answer was as non-technical and lay-person friendly as he could make it and went something like this: “Well…”
Here were his message points:
- A new compressor wouldn’t be compatible with my old blower. It seems that, sometime during the ten years, five months, two weeks, and three days since I purchased the now-dead system, the type of refrigerant it used had been phased out by the government. (I’m sure they had my best interest in mind when they did that.)
- If they were even able to find an old-refrigerant-using compressor (big “if”), that would be a stop-gap measure at best. Plus, it would cost a lot—way more than half of a full system.
- Finally, if the ten-year, five-month, two-week, and three-day-old blower ever went out, I’d be right back where I started—sitting outside in the heat (which was actually cooler than the inside) talking to Chris.
It looked like the purchase of a new air conditioning system was in my future. Chris said he would have a salesperson give me a call. In the meantime, I hauled every fan in the house to the bedroom, pointed them at my face, turned them all on high, and slept on top of the soon-to-be-damp-with-sweat sheets, wondering how in the world the Lord was going to pay for a new air conditioner, ‘cause I certainly didn’t have the money.
You spin me right round, baby / Right round like a record, baby / Right round round round
And then, as I was driving to work one morning in my little Honda Accord, the only air conditioned thing I owned, I had an altercation with a jacked-up Silverado truck.
Guess who won?
The driver of the truck (who, to his credit, readily admitted his guilt) wasn’t watching where he was going and hit me on the front driver’s-side tire well at an excessive rate of speed, spinning me around like a tilt-a-whirl. The impact actually knocked my glasses off and sent them sailing clear across the car. I was dazed, but unhurt.
My car didn’t fare quite as well. It was totaled.
The next two weeks were filled with two of my least-favorite activities, even more than picking out new flooring and choosing an AC system I couldn’t afford—I was forced to deal with insurance companies and car salesmen.
Could it get any worse?
Of course it could.
Don’t worry—it didn’t; which is good, because four disasters all happening that close together would have made this article sound like I made it all up in order to come up with something interesting to write about.
Growing up fast
If I were writing this a couple or three years ago, this would typically be where I talked about struggling with trusting the Lord to get me through all that; except that’s not what happened. In the five-and-a-half years since I trusted in Jesus for salvation, I’ve seen God obviously at work in all sorts of situations time and again, both in my life and in the lives of those I’ve been blessed to call brothers and sisters.
I knew He had a plan. Those plans don’t always turn out the way I think they will, but I can never resist trying to make sense of it all and imagining what He’s up to.
Like the floor thing, for example
The Lord created the heavens and the earth. Surely He could have dammed up that pin-hole size leak in that water line. He knows how hard I worked putting those wood floors down and how lame my decorating tastes are and how it takes me forever to commit to something.
On the flip side, I ended up replacing the floors with porcelain tile that looks just like wood. (I’m serious, ya’ll—real wood, only not wood and impervious to water. Click the Facebook icon at the bottom and check out the picture on my page.) They look great, the insurance settlement was enough to cover the purchase, and the newly-clad tile floors should be a boon for my house value if I ever have to part with the Lizard Lounge.
Plus, as I have not one lick of experience laying tile, a friend from church graciously volunteered to come help me. (“Help,” as in he does all the work while I make coffee and schlep pieces of tile in from outside.) In the process, he’s become a great Christian brother—something I can never have too many of—and we’ve had a wonderful time hanging out and talking (while he works).
And the air conditioner thing, for another example
Again, the Lord could have kept that AC running until Jesus returns, or at least let it go out while it was still under warranty. But He didn’t. After all, we live in a broken, fallen world where machines rust and undisturbed plastic water hoses dry rot. Instead, he sent a pleasant young technician to my house, a former Mormon who was looking for a church home. So we talked about the Lord a bit and I invited him to my church. (We didn’t get all buddy-buddy and become Facebook friends or anything, so I don’t know if he ever followed through—I’m just glad the Lord gave me a chance to hopefully plant a seed.)
Plus, I discovered that the owner of the company who sold and installed the original (now kaput) system ten years, five months, two weeks, and three days earlier and who ended up being the one who called me about a new system is a member of my church. And not just an-hour-a-week-do-your-church-duty type, but totally active in the life of the church, Sunday School and all. (Are you getting the picture here?)
Not only did he give an honest (not necessarily cheap) price on a new system, I was able to finance it interest-free for 15 months. AND (there’s an “AND”) it dehumidifies the air, so it uses less energy to heat and cool the house, in effect, paying for itself through the money it saves on my electric bill (which I’m already seeing). AND (another “AND”) since it was going to be two weeks before he could get the new system in stock and installed, he sent a couple of his guys out the next day with a temporary compressor and had them install it so I wouldn’t die of heat stroke. (Because July, Florida, yadda, yadda…) For free.
Now, being a Christian businessman, I’m thinking he would have done that for anyone and didn’t just do it for me because I was a fellow church member. Either way, the Lord used him to illustrate Jesus’ promise in Matthew 6:33 (NIV):
“Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these [air conditioned] things will be given to you as well.”
(I added some there, but I’m pretty sure that’s what Jesus meant.)
And the car thing, yet another example
If I had pulled out of my driveway that morning 10 seconds earlier I would have missed the collision with the monster truck and still be driving my little Honda Accord. It was old and had a cajillion miles on it and was starting to use oil, but it served me well.
On the other hand, it was old and had a cajillion miles on it and was starting to use oil. And on a side note, none of the airbags deployed when he hit me. Had I pulled out of my driveway 1 second later, the impact on my tire-well would have been an impact on my door with no air bags to protect me. I think you get my point.
And who knows (well, the Lord knows)—even if there had been no wreck, my high-mileage, oil-burning, peppered with dents and scratches Accord may have been mere minutes away from needing repairs so costly the only sensible option would have been to buy another car, one that I would have been forced to foot the entire bill for, instead of letting Mr. lead-foot Silverado owner’s insurance company pay a portion.
And finally, the money thing
In all three instances the money was taken care of—home owner’s insurance settlement for the tile, interest-free financing for the AC system, insurance settlement as partial payment for a new(er) car. The only way I can explain the fact that I was able to write a sizeable check for the rest of the car is that God owns…
“…the cattle on a thousand hills.” Psalm 50:10 NIV
I guess that means I’m driving Elmer and Elsie right now.
Guessing at His blessing
So all this looking back from the other side and trying to figure out why the Lord let those three disasters happen and what He was up to are just me guessing. I mean, all my musings above are certainly something He could and possibly would do and were absolutely blessings; and if I were Him, those would have been my reasons. Of course, I would have said to me, “See what I did here? Sturdier floors, energy efficient AC, a new(er) car at a fraction of the price. Plus, I paid for it. You’re welcome.”
But that’s not necessarily how God rolls; and He specifically makes sure we know that:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” Isaiah 55:8 NIV
The Lord didn’t actually communicate any of the things above to me—at least not in a personal revelation, still-small-voice kind of way—even though they (hopefully) tell a wonderful story of my faith and trust in Him and His blessing, just as His Word says:
Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4
He wasn’t totally silent, though.
One morning while I was still in the midst of the chaos (bare floors, borrowed AC, rental car), I was driving to work thinking about it all. (I actually spent a lot of time thinking about it all, including, sadly, a few sleepless nights and anxiety-ridden days. There’s not really any way to defend that, but having faith that God can and will take care of the problem and trusting that you’re gonna like the end result are two entirely different things. I’m working on that.)
Sitting at a traffic light deep in thought, one of those supernatural light bulbs went off in my head. “Duh—this is going to be a blog post. I’m supposed to write about this,” I thought. All that craziness was so I can do what I always do—tell the world how incredible life lived for Jesus is.
Writing about things like this is what I do, what I’ve always felt He’s called me to do. Not preach or interpret scripture, but do just what the Bible tells me to do; the same thing Jesus told a man he had just healed to do…
“…tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been.” Mark 5:19 NIV
In other words, tell His story in a way only I can. (Unless there’s someone else with a blog who had a summer filled with disaster.) Testify that God is at work in my life and that, if He can use me, He can use anyone.
And I know I will never have to do it without Him being there every step of the way. Even if it takes a near disaster to do it, the Lord will always be good and faithful in providing the stories and the opportunities for me to shout from the electronic mountain top that He is a good and gracious father. And He will bring me through any disaster that provided fodder for those stories in a way that glorifies Him.
Because that’s what I’m here for; that’s what you’re here for—glorifying the Lord. It’s not about me or you.
Oh, I used to think it was about me…
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world… Ephesians 2:1-2 NIV
But not anymore—and not because of anything I did or anything you did…
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2:4-5 NIV
…but because of what Jesus did.
I know these challenges are minor; I get that. But regardless of whether I’m dealing with a flooded house or life-threatening disease, my only hope—anyone’s only hope—is in the cross of Jesus Christ and what it represents for the believer:
Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Psalm 62:5 NIV
Are you facing something difficult? You can put your trust in all sorts of things: money, medical care, friends or family, your own personal abilities. And all of those things can certainly play a key role in providing a satisfying solution. But ultimately, if you’re a follower of Jesus, those things should all line up under the one from whom all blessings flow. The path may not be easy and you may be walking on bare concrete for a while—or for the rest of your life—but the next life will more than compensate for whatever you’re facing in this one.
Even though my eventful summer was challenging and took every bit of trust and faith I could muster, I have to say it was worth it. And not just because of the “somethin’ somethin’” blessings that emerged out of the chaos. Those are all wonderful, and as Jesus said…
“How much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:11 NIV
But the chance to serve the Lord and give Him the glory for anyone in the world (with internet access) to read? Words (especially mine) can’t express.
So I guess I was supposed to write about it.
And so I did.
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