Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Case of Mistaken Identity

The other evening, while at home, I thought to enjoy a nice cold beverage. I was thinking of the root beer I had in my fridge, and how it would compliment some salty popcorn. The root beer was one of those glass bottles with the twist lid, similar to many beer bottles on the market. I had been saving the root beer for a quiet evening at home, which for me is a special occasion.

I opened my fridge, grabbed the root beer, twisted the cap, and took a nice long swallow. YUCK!! Unfortunately for me it wasn’t the root beer I had grabbed, but an actual beer. One that a friend of mine had left at my place months ago, and I had been saving to cook with (which is about all I do with beer – never have liked the taste).

On my trip to the fridge I hadn’t bothered turning on the kitchen light, trusting my memory to guide me in the darkness. I had grabbed a bottle that had the same shape and feel as my root beer, and the cap twisted off like I knew it would. In that first taste I expected the sweet coldness of a good root beer. What I got was the bitter, sour taste of a cold dark beer, which for me is quite stomach turning.

I wasn’t happy about the mix up until I went back to fridge and found the actual root beer. The sweet taste of the beverage helped to wash away the previously sour-beer taste from my mouth. I then went back to my freezer and found some brats, which I cooked with the beer (gives the brats a good flavor – without all the alcohol).

As I stood by the stove cooking my brats, I kept thinking how this experience was much like one I had over ten years ago. Back then it was another case of mistaken identity, and had far greater significance.

Many of you know this part of my story, the time in my life where a friend of mine shared with me his faith in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When I first heard that name it held no significance for me whatsoever. In my eighteen years I had never knowingly heard mention of that church name, and I thought he was referencing a Christian denomination that I hadn’t heard of before. I assumed Christian, because my friend was definitely a Christian to my understanding; he was (and still is) a loving, kind person, who knew his Bible inside and out, and was actively involved in church. His image to me was a reflection of all that I had seen growing up in my own church.

By all outward appearances my friend, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints which he presented to me, looked like the “root beer” I was so use to. What I got instead was a sour taste from a non-root beer.

Just now I hesitated to write that last comment, it sounded unfair to my friend. I always want to be cautious when talking about my Latter-day Saint friends, especially since I know them to be loving and sincere people. They sincerely understand and believe the teachings of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, and I relate to their sincerity. Unfortunately, for my Latter-day Saint friends they’ve not experienced the real sweetness of “root beer”, namely Jesus Christ, and aren’t able to compare it to the sour taste of what they do have. My heart bleeds for them as they unknowingly continue to accept the sub-standard.

Getting back to my story, some have asked me through the years why it was that I, knowing how sweet the “root beer” tasted could have been fooled by the imitation. My answer, it wasn’t until I drank deeply that I knew the taste, and therefore didn’t know the difference. Like I said earlier the outward appearance was very similar, not just similar almost identical.

The lifestyle, religious culture, vocabulary…it was all so like my own Christian tradition. It wasn’t until discussions on the very nature of God were broached that I realized the substance inside held the difference. God is that very substance, and His Word speaks to us about His nature and ‘sweetness’.

Never again do I want to replace Christ with an imitation. To know and understand the difference between the true nature of God and the imitations of this world, I study His Word in the Bible.

Going back to my analogy (for you know I love analogies), there are two methods I now use so as not to be found drinking something I should not. First, I turn on the light, no more groping in the dark, assuming I have the right drink because it feels right. Those assumptions and feelings may lead to terrible mistakes. Secondly, I’m a label reader. It’s good to read, and make sure I understand what it is I’m drinking, that it’s not something I wouldn’t desire to ingest.

When we find our “root beer” in Christ, hold tight and enjoy the sweetness!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Coincidence or....


You're most likely curious as to what I'm talking about in "godwinks".  Here's some definitions before I go into a longer explanation.

Coincidence: A sequence of events that although accidental seems to have been planned or arranged. - American Heritage Dictionary

Wink: To give a signal or express a message. - American Heritage Dictionary

Godwink: A personal signal or message directly from a higher power, usually, but not always in the form of a coincidence. - SQuire Rushnell - the author of "When God Winks" 

Last Saturday after getting off from work I had some time I wanted to use to see if I could visit with one of my girls from Sandal House (not to confuse you...I'm no longer at Sandal House...but like to stay in touch with the girls when I can).  I found out she was at work at the Mercy House Thrift Store and decided to drop in and say hi to her at work.  I also did what I always do when I'm at a thrift store and that was to look at the books offered.

My eye caught on the title of a book called, "When God Winks".  I was intrigued because I have this thing about winking that started one summer while working at Highland Retreat Camp.  It was the summer that the director asked the male and female staff to refrain from hugging while camp was in session, so that campers wouldn't get false impressions.  In place of being able to give reassurance or encouragement in the form of hugs, I began to wink.  A wink meant, "God loves you and you're special." 

What I learned about winking that summer was that in order to be blessed by a wink you need to be paying attention.  If you didn't see the wink, it had still happened, but the blessing of reassurance and encouragement wasn't the same.  Also, there are times when the person needing the wink will see it, but those around (i.e. campers) will often miss the communication or if they did see it it might not have the same significance to them.

After my summer of winking I needed to create a personal email address (I had never had one before).  I created Jenwinker and that has been my screenname ever since.  It's a reminder to me that I can choose to be a blessing of reassurance and encouragement to others.

The author of "When God Winks," has taken the same principal I used that summer at camp and expounded the subject.  SQuire Rushnell created a name (godwinks) for those moments in life when we had a coincidence take place that we contribute to God, but want to call it something other than coincidence.  We can now call it a godwink. 

Personally, I couldn't put this book down.  I even believe it was a godwink that I stumbled across this book to begin with.  Weeks ago when I wrote my post entitled, Inspired, I received a lot of comments both verbal and written about the story of my grandfather's picture being in the home of a South African I met.  While writing the post I mentioned that the occurance had spoken eloquently to me of God's love...and now I have a word for that story other than's a godwink. 

Another godwink connected with the book and the post I wrote, took place two weeks ago in Sunday School class.  A member of my Sunday School class mentioned the story I wrote in my blog and that led another participant to share a quote I had never heard before and hadn't stopped thinking about since.  "Coincidence is just God working anonymously."

I loved that quote and wasn't at all surprised that it was stated in the last chapter of the book, "When God Winks."  These are just testimonies of God's love for us, that He works out the littlest details, we just need to open to seeing Him at work (or we might miss those wonderful winks).

Recently I had a godwink moment that was special to me.  I was cleaning out my desk, not something I do often, and stumbled across a crumbled piece of paper that had gotten stuck in the back of a drawer.  The note was one I wrote to myself reminding me that the next time I made chocolate roses I needed to share some with two small children I knew from church.  I had made the promise to them and then wrote the note knowing if I didn't I would forget. 

That note had been written late last summer, then lost, and the promise forgotten.  I called their Mom, my friend Davene and asked if I could treat them to some chocolate cake, chocolate roses and a lesson in how to make chocolate roses for the boys.  My schedule is kind of tight these days, and I know Davene and her family keep busy too.  After looking at our schedules the only date that worked for us both was a week away on a Thursday.  We made our plans and then Davene confessed to me that the date was actually her birthday ,and she hadn't been wanting to have to make her own birthday cake.  Wow...what a godwink!  Our Creator God, even cares about birthday cakes.

What a loving God we serve!!