Friday, September 30, 2011

Smelly Lies, Part Two

Perhaps you wonder why I ranted about air fresheners/cleaners in Smelly Lies, Part One. Truth is, I’m not upset with the products. In fact, I thank the creators of the ad that in essence claims, “Febreze cleans the stench so well you can ignore the cause of the stench.”

I thank them for giving me the opportunity to ponder other ways we ignore the stench.

Jeremiah—the prophet, not the bullfrog—proclaimed malodorous messages during the reigns of three Judean kings before the nation fell to Babylon. When Jehoiakim ruled, God prompted the prophet to record all of his messages on a scroll. (This happened about 2500 years ago, long before the internet and even the printing press, boys and girls.) God’s reasoning: “Perhaps when the people of Judah hear about every disaster I plan to inflict on them, they will each turn from their wicked ways; then I will forgive their wickedness and their sin.” (Jeremiah 36:3)

So Jeremiah dictated the discourses to Baruch, a scribe, and then sent Baruch to read the scroll aloud at the Temple in Jerusalem. (Jeremiah was under house arrest, or I’m sure he would have gone to the Temple himself. He wasn’t a chicken, either.) The reek reached the royal officials, who summoned the scribe to read the scroll to them. The officers confiscated the scroll, but mercifully warned Baruch to hide himself and Jeremiah before they took it to the king.

Jehoiakim sat warming himself at a firepot in his winter apartment and listened. “Whenever Jehudi had read three or four columns of the scroll, the king cut them off with a scribe’s knife and threw them into the firepot, until the entire scroll was burned in the fire.” (Jeremiah 36:23) Though three advisers urged the monarch to cease slashing and burning, he destroyed the entire scroll and sent men to arrest Jeremiah and Baruch, who remained hidden.

It’s as if Jehoiakim emptied a king-sized bottle of Febreze to neutralize the odor of Jeremiah’s words. And when the words were gone, the king was still sitting on the filthy throne in the grimy palace cluttered with the wickedness of Judah’s people, priests, prophets, and sovereign.

Jehoiakim convinced himself all was springtime fresh…right up until the time “Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon attacked him and bound him with bronze shackles to take him to Babylon.” (2 Chronicles 36:6)

So here’s what I’m wondering: How are we anesthetizing our spiritual senses to avoid the odor of unpleasant truth? Please tell me what you think.

Meanwhile, I’ll have to ponder and get back to you in Smelly Lies, Part Three.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Smelly Lies, Part One

            In the Febreze television commercials, unsuspecting people are blindfolded and led into a room fragrant with sun washed meadows…or freshly baked goodies spiced with cinnamon. However, we the viewers see that these persons are actually lounging on a filthy sofa in a grimy, cluttered room.
            And this should make me want to use Febreze?
            Years ago I read that air fresheners work by anesthetizing your olfactory nerves. In an article dated 1980—has the internet been around that long??—Cecil Adams writes, “There are three basic ways of getting rid of undesirable odors: masking them with stronger scents, such as the ubiquitous lemon and pine fragrances; chemically dissolving or absorbing them, as with activated charcoal or silica gel; and numbing out your nose, so you can't smell a dxxx thing.” (
            Environmental Living, presumably written more recently, agrees. “These synthetic fragrances disguise bad smells by releasing a chemical that coats the nasal passages with a film of oil, or deadens the olfactory nerves. Plug-in air fresheners have been found to emit a suite of chemicals, some of which react with ozone (which comes into our homes from outdoors) and react to cause byproducts that are toxic.…It doesn't really matter what the delivery mechanism is-a spray, a plug-in air freshener, or an aromatic candle-pumping chemical fragrances into your indoor air is a bad idea.” (
            “Not so fast,” cautions, explaining, “The cyclodextrin molecule sort of resembles a donut. When you spray Febreze, the water in the product partially dissolves the odor, allowing it to form a complex inside the 'hole' of the cyclodextrin donut shape. The stink molecule is still there, but it can't bind to your odor receptors, so you can't smell it.” (
            Did you catch that last concept? The stink molecule is still there, but you can’t smell it. Which takes me back to the room in the Febreze ads. Whether you’re numbing your nose or donut-ing the stink molecule, THE ROOM IS STILL FILTHY. And I think we established back in Hazardous Housekeeping (July), that I know something about filthy rooms.
            Why would we as humans want to fool our noses when they do so much for us? Think of the information they provide:
Something’s on fire.
The milk is spoiled.
You need a bath.
There’s a dead mouse in your refrigerator drip pan.
Would Febreze have helped me then? Wasn’t it better that I kept searching through the refrigerator for spoiled food until I finally pulled out the drip pan…and sprinted outside with it and a drowned rodent, to the amazement and amusement of the two women in my kitchen, one of whom laughed so hard she peed her pants?
Check back for Smelly Lies, Part Two, coming soon to a blog near you.
FUNKY WORDS:  I consider myself a born speller, but spell check had to correct me on these two words:  Anesthetize and Environmental.
First used in 1848, ANESTHETIZE and its noun form ANESTHETIC come from a Greek word meaning “without feeling” or “senseless.” That makes sense.
ENVIRONMENT goes back to 1600 with the meaning “the state of being environed.” Now that was helpful. Not.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Nobody and Somebody

            “In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias.” Those words in Acts 9 begin the story of the most important Nobody in the New Testament.
            Now, Saul—later known by his Roman name, Paul—was Somebody. Obsessed with destroying the newborn church, he headed for Damascus to arrest and drag Christians to Jerusalem to face the Sanhedrin. Jesus—already crucified, risen, and ascended—confronted Saul on the highway, taking his sight and giving him much to ponder.
            Enter a disciple named Ananias. (Don’t confuse him with the other Ananias, Sapphira’s husband. Those two clowns died a few chapters earlier. Sorry to give clowns a bad name.)
Jesus spoke to this second Ananias. “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street. Restore the sight of Saul of Tarsus.”
            “Whoa, Lord! You mean Saul, the Christian-killer? The maniac who came to arrest us?”
            “Yep, that’s the one. I have big plans for him. Now, go!”
            Three history-changing words follow:  “Then Ananias went…” 
He delivered Jesus’ message, restored Saul’s vision, baptized him with the Holy Spirit and water…and, like a dutiful minor character, gracefully exited the drama.
            Saul—now using his Roman name, Paul—launched the life-altering good news of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ throughout the Roman Empire. He organized the new believers into congregations. He stayed from a few weeks to a few years in different cities, teaching. He also authored thirteen letters which are included in the New Testament.
Next to Jesus, Paul remains the most influential figure in Christian history.
            Ananias who? He was the obedient Nobody who launched Paul.
            The faculty of Watsontown Christian Academy began our in-service week last month by watching the DVD curriculum, Passing the Baton, by Jeff Myers. It was a lot to process in two days, so now I’m slowly moving through the accompanying book and workbook. It’s a serious and sometimes frightening responsibility to be in a position to influence the next generation.
It makes me say, “Oh my God,” and mean it.
            I’ve been passing the baton, consciously or unconsciously, for a few years now, and I already see some former students running with it, while others managed to escape my classroom impervious to my influence…so far. Only God knows how the race will end.
            Whether God assigns me to be a Nobody or a Somebody, I want to run faithfully. The baton that started with Ananias and Paul is in my hands.
I have to pass it on.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Monday's Revenge

Today started benignly enough, unless you’re bothered by balancing a handbag, a tote bag, a travel mug, and an umbrella with a humorously short handle with a dangerously sharp broken edge. I wasn’t…much. I made two trips.

After homeroom I rushed around making photocopies of a quiz for all my students and Bible curriculum and a student literature workbook for my newly returned student, whom I’m exceedingly happy to welcome back. But I was so busy that I didn’t make it down to the kitchen to get a cup of hot coffee until the beginning of third period. I slipped the cup inside my podium and led my Cults & World Religions class in a Jeopardy style review of chapter one, intermittently enjoying sips. 

Then the coffee attacked me. 

It leaped out of the podium and onto the green carpet. On the way down it deposited a puddle on the podium’s bottom shelf and baptized my dress, the lovely blue one with the daisies print.

Perhaps it thought baptism an appropriate activity for a religion class, not realizing that I had already been baptized on December 31, 1966 at the Broadway Baptist Church in Paterson, New Jersey. Perhaps it also did not realize the carpet had been baptized as well, many times, the most memorable being when a student dropped a glass bottle of soda which exploded, shooting sarsaparilla and shards in a pattern a CSI would have loved. (My son has a scar from the piece that flew into his leg.)

“Paper towels!” I cried, and my students obliged. Where’s a Sham-Wow when you need one? It would have sucked the coffee right out of the carpet and my dress. I dried the carpet, my foot, sandal, and dress as best as I could, while the students headed for lunch. 

I calculated I could drive home, change clothes, and make it back before fourth period. But who wants to miss grilled cheese and tomato soup? Not me. I wore my stained, soggy, but very fragrant dress to the cafeteria. (Coffee + Bailey’s creamer = Yum.)

My dress dried by the time I left school later this afternoon. Cruising through downtown Watsontown, I suddenly remembered my husband wanted me to take a deposit to the bank. I turned off Main Street and headed for the drive through window. It was then that I realized why my burden had felt light when I left school:  I didn’t have my handbag. 

I returned to the school to retrieve it, knowing I had missed my window of opportunity to make the deposit, since the bank closes at 4:00. No problem. This has happened to me before. (Not the handbag part, but the bank closing part.) Then I just go to the Milton branch. It stays open longer.

Back in the car with my handbag and the deposit, I drove through Watsontown again and then out of my way to the Milton branch…which has shortened its hours to match the Watsontown branch. 

Typical Monday. 

“But,” you protest, “today isn’t Monday. It’s Tuesday.” I have a theory about that: 

When we cancel Monday, as we frequently do to observe federal holidays, it just shows up on Tuesday. Only now it’s perturbed. Ticked off. It has even more of an attitude. It’s like Monday squared. Monday Monday.

Like the Mamas and the Papas said, “Can’t trust that day.” 

Especially if it falls on a Tuesday.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Fixing broken treasures

I rarely use anything in my china cabinet.
The white and pale blue Noritake fine china, bought thirty-five years ago at a pawn shop in Texas, gathers dust while the Corelle in the kitchen travels regularly from cupboard to table to dishwasher and back to cupboard.
            A few weeks ago I was forced to empty the china cabinet so that it could be moved while old carpet was ripped out and new carpet was installed. I covered the kitchen table and counters with the Noritake and other treasures, including a 1982 Penn State Coke bottle, goblets from a decade of Watsontown Christian Academy spring formals, and a Pfaltzgraff Star Trek mug given to me by Mick, a fellow Trekker who has passed beyond the final frontier.
            And my grandmother’s cup.
            Several years ago, my son and his friend were roughhousing and fell against the china cabinet. They broke a delicate teacup from Eastern Europe, my only link to the grandmother I never met, my mother’s mother, who died the day my oldest brother was born.
I cried—for the cup, for my mother and grandmother, and for myself—but I didn’t stop loving my son. I glued the handle onto the cup, but its value was diminished.
            When the first humans disobeyed God, they broke his world. God grieved, but he didn’t stop loving our parents. The value of the broken world was diminished, as Paul explains in his letter to the believers in Rome, “Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.” (Romans 8:20 – 21, NLT)
            Jesus gave his life to fix broken people in a broken world. As the prophet Isaiah wrote, “He was wounded and crushed because of our sins; by taking our punishment, he made us completely well.” (Isaiah 53:5, CEV)
In Gethsemane before his death, Jesus prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42, NIV) Because Jesus was willing to drink the cup of crucifixion, my brokenness can be fixed.
In this lifetime, the fixing seems at times like superglue holding the handle onto the cup, but I look forward to a time when I’ll join God’s children and God’s creation in freedom from death, decay, and brokenness. 
Just reading about it in Revelation 21 and 22, as we did yesterday in Sunday School, makes the glue feel stronger.