Monday, June 23, 2014


Running by the grocery store is usually very uneventful.  In this case, it was uneventful but with a twist.  I marched through all of the proper steps and then returned to my car, shook my head and wondered.

The Bible talks about entertaining angels unaware.  The people who cross our path on a daily basis or the quick chance encounter with a stranger.  This wonderful army of angels is out and about checking up on us and our kindness to strangers.  Of course, it's more than that.  I like to think of heavenly angels and their place on this earth.  I never stopped to think that maybe this world was like getting the short straw.  Anything in heavenly glory, shining gold, would have to be better than keeping up with faulty folks.

Or a customer using the self-help line.  I have never liked the do it yourself version of anything.  The minute those new fangled checkouts came along, I sensed an immediate panic in the job security of the hard-working  employees.  Checking out with less than fifteen items has never been a goal of mine because I try to get everything I need in the near future, and anything that strikes my fancy for meal preparation three months from tomorrow.  I may not be organized but I am prepared.

Two yogurts.  A quart of milk.  Eggs.  Vitamins.  Dog food.   A trip to the pharmacy finishing with groceries. I never remembered the bread.  The entire quickie checkout section was open except for one person already checking out.  I had to go around him.

(I forgot to mention I had just returned from a quick trip to my mother's.  After thirty years, she had gotten a pet, Sally.  I had gone to meet the new kitten and take pictures.  My camera case was in the passenger seat but I thought to put it behind on the floor, under the umbrella.  In the past few weeks, a band of thieves has been breaking into cars in busy parking lots in broad daylight.  Summer seems to bring out the best in purse snatchers.)

Not being an expert in the serve yourself grocery genre, I was careful and deliberate.  There was only the one person behind me on another machine.  My cash back, eight five dollar bills, was so fresh the drying ink had caused the bills to stick together horribly.  I counted the money and put it in my designer handbag.  Two twenties would have been an easier transaction.  As I was finishing up the transaction, a different color had come up on the screen and a recorded voice was saying something I wasn't paying any mind.

I really didn't want to be bothered for a 25 cent off coupon or take the time to figure out what was most likely some sort of pitch from the store.  My purchase was paid, bagged and in my cart.  An ever ready employee, with expertise in the quickie lanes, pulled off my receipt and was folding it up and down to find the proper information.  She crisply folded the paper IMPORTANT RECALL NOTICE.

My first thought was "how creepy."  We still had not gotten to the bottom of the situation but I was creeped out to think this major gigantic grocer was still peering into my purchases, weeks later.  My assistant read out loud, "Important Recall Notice.  Valued Customer : You may have purchased the products....."  Then I saw the product listed and remembered buying it recently.  I laughed and said I was just wanting to try something new - Chicken Pad Thai.  She still had the receipt in her hand, once again carefully beginning to read the Important Recall Notice.

In my mind, I was beginning to have a not very polite conversation with this helpful person, wondering if I should just snatch the receipt from her hand.  She took her ink pen and circled the lines without leaving any ink.  I was trying to appreciate her sincere effort at educating me and her obvious need to do her job well.  She still had the receipt, creased at the "Important Recall Notice" but gathered up gently in her hands.  One last time, she suggested I might want to highlight this section. I thought she would never stop.  This was a comedy skit in the making.  And she was standing in my personal space.   She asked me if I still had the original receipt.  (Okay?  How do I know?  This was a wild purchase to try something different, something Thai.)She finally gave me the receipt and I thanked her but I was thinking unkind things about her education level.

After a couple of minutes being held hostage over a recall notice (who notices those anyway?) I zoomed my buggy out of the store.  Freedom.  On this hot Sunday afternoon I was glad to have gotten such a good spot, one closest to the store which was not designated handicapped.  In my family, we call it a "must be living right" spot, a silly sign that we must be doing something right.

Walking out of the store, I felt a sense of hovering, someone else in my larger personal space.   I realized the only person who had been checking out next to me in the self serve section was still behind me, even after all of my Important Recall Notice- Notices.  My purse was securely tucked up on my arm but I turned around enough to see he was hanging back, with just a small paper sack wrapped around what appeared to be a soft drink.  The lot was full but there was a lull in customers coming and going.  I turned around again, hoping he would realize I knew he was still there.  The rear gate of my car lifted as I put myself between the car and the length of the buggy.

Nothing eventful happened but I couldn't shake the feeling he had been following me.  It was all very odd.   He never got into a car but walked down the lot to the street, looking side to side, walking past a soft drink kiosk at the edge of the parking lot.  If he had walked out with a real bag of groceries, I probably wouldn't have thought anything strange.  

Next time, I won't flash my five dollar bills but I will still be wary of something out of place, trying to hone my sense of something not right.  Standing up straight, looking back twice.  Whatever it takes.

However, isn't it always after the fact we realize an angel was entertaining (helping, tolerating, guiding) us and we were terribly unaware, standing in the quickie check out lane, irritated with someone suggesting we highlight these lines as she carefully folds the receipt in just the right spot.  In exasperation, making us pause for a minute, looking around at the people in our surroundings.  

"Angels of the Lord camping in my yard,
burning midnight fires to keep away the bears."

My own translation of Psalm 37:4

Sunday, June 15, 2014



Art glass and yard art are two of my favorite things.  A thirty year collection of cobalt glass lines a windowsill, hangs across a window top like a blue valance and dots the landscape of my home.  Hand-blown art pieces, sitting pretty, hold candy and fresh flowers except for the show-off basking in the study, proud of her curves and pedigree beginning.  A schmaltzy, whirlygig backyard has always tempted my landscaping dreams.  But to date, my only yard expression is my Francis of Assisi statue, a cobalt colored birdbath and an art glass garden stake.  Taller than me, it has a curly cue at the top with six diamond shaped blocks coming down the wrought iron pole, which pounds into the ground for secure footing.  The artist has filled each block with a thick piece of colored glass; red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple, from top to bottom.  I’m not superstitious but my friend says it looks like something to ward off the "evil eye".  Growing up, I had my own personal watch, Eagle Eye, a  long-time nickname for my father.

The American Bald Eagle is the only eagle unique to North America.  One amazing feature of the eagle is its incredible eyesight.  The eagle eye is almost the size of a human eye but it can look forward and to the side at the same time.  The eagle’s visual acuity is over 4X that of a person with perfect sight.  With such clarity, the eagle can see danger and track a moving animal almost a mile away.   

My father sang in a church choir for almost all of his life - from his hometown church to a Navy chapel. Wherever he was a member, his regular place of service was standing on the back row praising God in full voice.

His reputation as Eagle Eye began when my sister and I were little.  Children's Church had not been invented.  We started out in the Cradle Roll where babies, "so fresh from God" were presented, on their first visit to the church nursery, behind a special curtained window where the church family could oh and ah over the little babies gussied up in lacy bonnets or bitty baby shoes.  A few years later, the three and four year old children would walk into church, thus beginning their education in proper sanctuary behavior.

I know I date myself but learning how to sit still during any occasion is a learned activity and obviously a lost art in many venues.  In my opinion, no matter the age, sitting with family and friends, experiencing God in all of His Awe and Wonder through music, scripture and preaching is much more of a worship experience than being sequestered in another room participating in material that has been watered down to appropriate age levels.  As an adult, I really don't mind how many dropped crayons roll down the floor or innocent questions are asked during a worship service including the entire family.

Sister and I shared the pew with our mother and our aunt and uncle.  Our only form of entertainment was a pew pencil and the church bulletin which we used to perfect pencil drawings to amuse each other.  I always drew Iron Poor Blood and Iron Rich Blood (from Geritol, a sponsor of The Lawrence Welk Show seen on Saturday night), my tale of a rich girl and a poor girl.  Once, I drew pictures of visiting family members, giving them animal characteristics. This artwork almost got me jerked out of church.  The object of the game was pain or laughter, whichever would cause an uncontrollable outburst in a church with almost 1,500 people listening intently to the sermon.  Pinching and nail gouging were also successful.  My father’s eagle eye was usually trained on our behavior and "discussed" after church.  His eyebrows were permanently raised for much of my childhood. 

From the Doxology to the Majesty and Glory, over time, my ear became trained to hear my father’s strong bass voice.  Even in a new state and church, Eagle Eye’s job was not over when we hit high school, which was good as we considered introducing a whoopee cushion to one morning service.  From his perch, Eagle Eye kept me in line with just a look.  He was always watching and knew who talked too much, sat too close or moved around too long.  Eagle Eye saw all.

With time and his age, we reversed the keen gaze, eagling in on his own actions while sitting in the choir loft. During a prayer, he would casually but with great stealth find his nail clippers and to our horror, commence an underhanded little snip here and there after the amen.  Or pause to refresh his eyelids during a long sermon.  Then we were the ones with raised eyebrows and the Sunday noon chat.   

When the bald eagle became the national symbol in 1782, there were almost 100,000 nesting eagles in the country.  In 1963, with only 487 nesting pairs of American Bald Eagles remaining, extinction was dangerously close.   The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service defines "endangered " as a species which is considered to be close to extinction in most or all of its range.  The Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966 protected the species.  By 2007, the American Bald Eagle was removed from the list and continues to increase. 

The choir loft was only a classroom for  my Daddy's discerning eye.  While his eyesight was not quite as good as the eagle, his lifelong devotion and life lessons were just as important to me as the catch of the day on the talons of father eagle swooping down to his little eaglet.  Sometimes one might think the sharp Eagle Eye type of father is endangered.  But a look around reveals Old Eagle Eye is still thriving - looking down from the choir loft, catching a child landing in a pool, applying the imaginary brake on the passenger side of the car driven by a new driver, throwing a gentle pitch into little hands, questioning "Talks too much" on a report card, kissing the forehead of a sweaty five year old, flinging a house shoe down the hall just to hear his daughters laugh.  The loving, watchful eyes of exceptional fathers. Oh, that all children could be so lucky!