Day 28 – Cliché a Day: To Make A Long Story Short

By Deb DeArmond

I committed to 30 days of clichés and there are only 26 letters in the alphabet. I added an intro on Day 1 and it still leaves me three days. So, the next three days are personal favorites.

“So to make a long story short,” she said…… but didn’t.

Ever notice when someone prefaces their story with this statement, the story can be rather, well, lengthy?

It’s as though they know it’s going to be a bit longwinded, but they’re going to tell it anyway, and this is an advance warning that you should prepare yourself. It comes across like an apology for their story as it requires a few more minutes of your time than they believe you are willing to invest.

I love a good story. And often, the story relies on the details in order to be good. It creates context and adds richness that adds to the enjoyment of the listener. Leaving out the details is like leaving the whipped cream and cherry off the banana split. It’s tasty, but it’s just not satisfying.

As my mother aged, she sometimes found it difficult to recall all the details of a story. It made for frustrating interactions. They went something like this:  “Oh, Deb, I ran into one of your friends at the grocery store. I can’t remember her name, but you went all through school together. You know her – she’s tall, and has long hair. Anyway, she told me that she’s expecting triplets and has just been made president of her company. Or was it president of the PTA? And there was something about an inheritance, too, I think. I can’t recall all the details, but – isn’t it wonderfully exciting?”

Well it would be, Mom, if I had some idea of who it was.

I don’t even mind the long story, and please don’t skimp on the details. But don’t tell me a lengthy story if you’ve promised me a short one. I’m ready for the Cliffs’ Notes version and I get the Encyclopedia Britannica. Please, tell the story without the pre-emptive disclaimer; it’s rarely accurate anyway.

So, tell me your story.  Make me laugh, make me cry, but please don’t make me wonder, “If this is the short version, how long would the full unedited story have taken to tell???”

Day 27- Cliche A Day: Zigged When You Should Have Zagged

By Deb DeArmond

“Google it. Just Google it, would you please?” she pleaded.

“I know where it is. I don’t need Google to tell me where I’m going. I know exactly where I am,” his confident reply.

Ugh. If my dad had lived long enough to enter the digital world, this would have been a regular conversation with him. We went some fascinating places when I was a kid, I mean, truly interesting. Too bad we could never go back. He had no idea of how we got there.

This is often true for life in general. And while it often turned out great for my family’s outings, there were times we ended up absolutely nowhere, impossibly lost and the day wasted.

From a spiritual journey perspective, this can, unfortunately, be a familiar route. Have you ever taken a wrong turn and ended up someplace you didn’t want to go?

I’ve been there more often than I’d like to admit, forging ahead, confident, resisting the urge to check the “map” and found myself incredibly lost. But never hopelessly lost.

God has the best GPS system, ever. Even when I zig instead of zag, I’m never beyond His ability to know exactly where I am and how to get me back on track. Just like the GPS in my car, when I’m off course, the lady in the box politely announces, “recalculating” and directs me to the right path once again. The Holy Spirit does the same thing. Usually very politely. On occasion, less so.

God is always ready to help me get back back on that narrow path He’s called me to. He tells us that it’s a challenging route that many will find difficult.

“Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it,” Matthew 7:14 (NKJV).

The Lord never gives up on me, regardless of my wrong turns. I’m going to get there, despite my stubbornness and pride in wanting to do it myself.

Thank you, God that you never look at me, shake your head and think, “You can’t get there from here.” The path may be narrow, but it’s never closed. If I am willing to consult with the best direction giver ever, I will make it safely to my destination – even when I’m not exactly sure where that is. That’s okay, ‘cause He knows, and I’m willing to go along for the ride.

Day 26 – Cliché a Day: You Have To Break A Few Eggs To Make An Omelette

By Deb DeArmond

“That’s really gross. You can’t serve that. Just dump it and redo it,” I said.

My sister-in-law stared at the blobby mess in the pot on the stove. “Really? You can’t fix it?” she asked.

“The only way to fix it, is to start all over again and this time, follow the recipe,” I said, as I reached for the cookbook.

As a newlywed, she was a beginner in the kitchen. She had tried to improvise when a recipe directed her to do something she preferred not to do. And now her husband and his boss were due for dinner before long, and she had nothing to serve them. We hastily threw something together and hoped her sunny personality would make up for the ruined meal. It did.

Sometimes, there’s just no way to resurrect something without tearing it down, throwing it out, or starting all over again. The omelette cannot appear without changing the original form of the egg.

That’s exactly what Jesus did. He didn’t try to patch us up and apply a little Spackle to improve on our imperfections. He made us new:

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new,” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (KJV).

Who we have been must go so we can become new and whole in Him. The recipe is quite clear, but may require great determination to achieve: “He must increase, but I must decrease,” John 3:30 (KJV).

The process may at times appear messy. There may be telltale signs that suggest you’ve fiddled with the recipe.  Just follow the Book. It’s time tested and backed by a reliable author.

Go ahead. Break those eggs.

Day 25 – Cliché A Day: (E)xception To The Rule

Couldn’t find a single cliche that started with X, so I fudged a bit….

By Deb DeArmond

There’s no exception to the rule
Not at work and not at school
Not while driving on the road
Not while using Morse code

Rules are valid like the ten
Moses brought to Israel’s men
Cities, counties, states and more
Make them up – there’s more in store

Rules designed to limit fun
Are the toughest to get done
Always on the watch to see
If I can bend it to suit me.

But in the realm of God’s sweet glory
Christ is the exception story
I was dead, He gave me life
Brought me peace, replaced all strife

He didn’t break the rules you see
He satisfied each one for me
He took my place and paid my debt
Christ suffered all, I’ll not forget

He built a bridge that closed the gap
And now I climb into His lap
To find great love and sweet relief
Mercy, grace beyond belief

My life is His, not mine alone
I aim to point you to His throne
Exception to the rule you see
Cause Jesus Christ has set me free!

Day 24 – Cliché a Day: (A) Watched Pot Never Boils

By Deb DeArmond

“A watched pot never boils, babe,” I advised my hubby of just a few weeks.

He continued to stare at the pot filled with still stiff pasta.

Silence. Then, “What kind of pot is it?” he asked.

“A watched pot. You know – it will never boil,” I replied.

“Then why are you trying to cook the pasta in it?”

We had received a great many kitchen items as wedding gifts, including a variety of pots and pans: Crockpots (4 of them!), a Dutch oven, copper clad pots and more. He misunderstood that a “watched” pot was not a type or brand of cookware. I literally meant a pot that’s being watched or observed. Apparently my mother had a few favorite sayings that his didn’t.

The concept here is that the more diligently we watch to make sure something is happening, the more it may be delayed.

Life is like that at times. The single surfing the web for the perfect mate. The monthly disappointment when trying to conceive. The harder we look, the longer it takes.

The farmer does not plant his seed and then go watch it minute by minute, nor does he dig it up to make sure it’s still there. He trusts the process.

Why is this hard for us to do? Simple. We have a preference for controlling things. For the Christ follower, in particular, this is a problem. God asks us to trust him with our lives. That’s His process.

“Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to God!” Proverbs 3:5-6 (MSG)

We once faced a difficult diagnosis for my mother after a devastating car accident. The doctors told us there was nothing they could do but wait and see how she responded. It was difficult news to face, but it was easy for my husband and I to respond with prayer and faith in a merciful God. Why was it easy this time? Because there’s was absolutely nothing else we could do. No other efforts were possible.

But in the face of financial difficulties or concerns about a child’s behavior, it’s easy to fall into the process of taking matters into our own hands,using whatever methods we might select. Take on a side job to deal with the money problems. Read a new book by a popular author on childrearing. Neither of these methods is wrong, unless they replace turning to God in prayer and trusting Him to direct us.

God does not expect us to do nothing in difficult times. He expects us to pray and seek His will. He may in fact lead us to pursue some of the ideas that have occurred to us. But He wants to direct the traffic in our lives. He wants us to trust the process, trust Him.

It’s not when things are rosy in life that our faith is built; it happens in times of trouble and difficulty.

The more we monitor and work to manage our circumstances, the more frustrated we may become. If you want to watch something, forget the pot. Watch God fulfill His word to His children!

Day 23 – Cliché a Day: Variety Is the Spice Of Life

By Deb DeArmond

“Aren’t you tired of training the exact same materials every week? Sometimes twice a week?” a friend asked. “I mean, doesn’t it get pretty boring?”

She was referring to a major project I’m involved with. For about 30 weeks this year, I will be training folks across the country in 2-day training sessions, delivering 2 sessions each week. The material remains the same, but the people, of course, are different in each session.

From soup to nuts (and on occasion, there are a few of those) the participants are as diverse as they come. And therein lies the variety that keeps me showing up every week, excited to work with these fine folks. They’ve taught me as much as I’ve taught them and I’ve met interesting people with fascinating stories. I feel blessed each day I’m with them. It’s a routine, but it’s not a rut.

A rut is just a grave open at both ends. I’m not ready to jump into that quite yet.

It’s easy show up, day after day, doing the same old thing, a routine that has become familiar, if nothing else. It’s tempting, even, to choose a path that requires little demand on us – we know where it goes and we settle for that.

Living a full life in Christ demands we explore possibilities, push past the humdrum, and place ourselves on notice that today could be the day that He shakes it all up. We should be actively preparing for it, so that when it happens, we can GO!

I’m not suggesting we should all quit our jobs, live like gypsies, and hit the road. Start small. Ask yourself:
• What are the tasks or routines that, although once were enjoyable, no longer engage me spiritually, mentally and/or emotionally?
• What am I doing that I wish I weren’t? What’s keeping me here?
• What interests me? How can I get involved with it? What’s the first step?
• What’s the risk of stepping into it? What’s the risk of NOT doing it?

Variety is indeed an essential ingredient to living fully in Him. I doubt the disciples would have described their lives as boring. Peter walking on water, Paul surviving shipwreck, John in the wilderness – yeah, maybe not all fun, but none of it a snooze! And they each needed to make a clear decision to follow the Spirit of the Lord in the adventure He had for them.

So shake up that routine and climb up out of that rut.  There’s great stuff waiting up top!

Day 22 – Cliché a Day: Ugly As Sin

By Deb DeArmond

Eleanor Roosevelt was a formidable woman. She became an early icon for independent women across the nation and around the world, as she spent much of her husband’s presidency touring the country on his behalf after he was confined to a wheelchair. She was an admired and much loved first lady.

What she was not, was a classic beauty. That fact was not lost on my opinionated great-grandfather.

“That Eleanor Roosevelt is no beauty,” he’d say. “Ugly as sin.”

My great-grandmother would scold him, “Sam, the woman can’t help how she looks.”

“Well, she could stay home more,” was his reply.

Ugly as sin. That’s quite an indictment. Sin is genuinely ugly and what it does to us is ugly. It separates us from God. It becomes the great divide that keeps us from Him.

Before I was born again I knew about Jesus, but had no personal relationship with Him. I knew the Bible stories and the cast of larger-than-life characters, but I did not know Him.

A high school classmate (who later became my husband) challenged me on a regular basis, quizzing me about my faith, asking me what I believed. I was baffled. And I was angry. I had grown up in church, gone to Sunday School, Vacation Bible School and Youth Group. How could I not know the answers to these questions?

The question that really got me was this one: “Have you asked Jesus to forgive you of your sins?”

What sin? I was 17 years old, a good kid, didn’t drink or do drugs. I didn’t have any sin! This guy is some fanatical holy roller, I remember thinking.

So he sat me down and showed me what it said in the Bible. My Bible.

“He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves. We have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, in Him,” Colossians 1:13-14 (HCSB).

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23 (NKJV).

The Bible says that??? So we’ve all sinned. I’m a sinner. What a revelation that was to me. He took us out of the darkness and we are redeemed, forgiven of our sin if we are in Him. So now I was convinced, I indeed was a sinner. How do I remove the ugliness of the sin that keeps me from fellowship with the most high?

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” 1 John 1:9 (HCSB).

As simple and uncomplicated as acknowledging my sin. It was the night before high school graduation that I confessed my sin and asked Jesus to sit on the throne of my heart. June 13, 1973. Nearly 40 years ago. The stain and ugliness of sin was swept away by the love and sacrifice of Christ.

He replaced death with life.  He took the ugliness of my sin and made me beautiful in His eyes. And he threw in joy, peace, and so much more. What an incredible trade.

So the next time you hear somebody say, “that (fill in the blank) is as ugly as sin,” remember that when it comes to ugly, sin is the gold standard!

Day 21 – Cliché Of The Day: There’s No Time Like The Present

By Deb DeArmond

“Oh I can get to that tomorrow. I’ve waited this long. One more day won’t hurt.” Sound familiar?

There are some things that are tempting to put off. I have a little list of my own:
• The dentist
• The DMV (and then I’m there on my birthday)
• My annual physical including the trip to the lab, the mammography unit, etc.
• Expense reports after business travel
• An apology when I know it’s due, but still don’t want to admit it.
• Getting serious about diet and exercise.

All of these are important tasks. All are necessary. And I will postpone each of them given the opportunity.

I’m really not an avoider. I tend to make my task list and get ‘er done in short order. There are, however, alternate schools of thought to the idea that there’s no time like the present. They might include:
• There’s always tomorrow
• Don’t do today what you can put off till tomorrow
• Don’t worry, be happy

God expects us to be diligent in our lives, to behave as grown-ups and resist procrastination. Putting things off that we may perceive as unpleasant is not a mature behavior. It’s human, but it’s not mature. Tomorrow sounds like a good strategy, it may even masquerade as a plan. The Bible warns us about putting it off till then.

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today” Matthew 6:34 (NLT).

“Don’t brag about tomorrow,?since you don’t know what the day will bring” Proverbs 27:1 (NLT).

Pushing it off till tomorrow may come with some negative impact: health and relationship are just two from my procrastination list above. I’m sure there are more.

So, my “need to do it now” list is made. Is yours? There’s no time like the present.

Day 20 – Cliché a Day: Say Your Prayers

By Deb DeArmond

“I can’t hear you Debbie,” my mother said.

“I wasn’t talking to you,” was my five-year-old reply.

I do not recall the conversation, but it was one of Mom’s favorites to recount. As she told it, we had experienced a no good, really bad, awful, terrible day. My behavior had been less than desired. There had been upset and tears and enough of my strong will to go around.

As Mom tucked me in that night, she looked at me squarely and said, “You’d better say your prayers and ask Jesus to forgive you for being so naughty today.”

I dutifully bowed my head, closed my eyes, and began my conversation with God.

“You need to speak up. I can’t hear you, Debbie,” Mom said.

I peeked open my eyes and quietly said, “I wasn’t talking to you.”

When somebody tells you to “say your prayers” it’s typically not an exhortation; it’s a warning suggesting that prayer may be the only way to ward off some impending disaster.

Sounds like good advice.

No matter how old we are, no good, really bad, awful, terrible days hunt us down. And we sometimes show up as less than the shining beacons for Jesus we desire to be. God is not surprised by our behavior – His view of us is a horizontal perspective beginning on the day of our birth and ending the day we go to be with Him. As an all-knowing God, there are no “Oh wow! Did not see that coming!” moments. He knows us and He loves us still.

And He has the best open door policy, ever. “Come in and let’s talk – you go first,” He suggests. “I’m listening.” And unlike my childhood nighttime prayer, no observers or witnesses to see that we get it done right are required.

I see Him in such a myriad of ways: the King on His throne, the Savior who took back the keys of sin and death, the sweet Spirit who nudges me on the right path, and the loving Father whose lap is warm, safe, and familiar. It’s that lap I seek when I need to come to Him, hat in hand to do business and make things right. And when I climb down I am once again free from guilt and assured that my Father and I are solid.

In truth, we are always solid, but the reality of grace is one that I struggle to understand on a daily basis. It’s incomprehensible with my limited human capacity, but I’m grateful that my ability to grasp it is not required for it to be effective in my life.

So the next time somebody suggests to you, “Say your prayers,” thank them and consider it the best heads-up of the day!

Day 18 – Cliché a Day: Quicker Than A New York Minute

By Deb DeArmond

Where is the little girl I carried?
Where is the little boy at play?
I don’t remember growing older?

These familiar lyrics from the musical Fiddler on The Roof have been played time and again at weddings around the world. A wedding is a natural moment for parents to reflect on how quickly our children grow up.

But there are other times that it occurs to us as well. When a grown child:
• buys a new car or home for the first time
• becomes a parent, him or herself
• expresses concern for your health or well being

Other times may come a bit later on in life:
• When you have to ask a son or daughter for assistance with some task.
• When you consult with a grown child on financial or legal matters.

We’ve experienced nearly all of these, I believe, at one time or another. Where did the time go? It’s flown by, quicker than a New York minute.

Friends who long for the days their children were babies always amuse me. I’ve even known women who continued to add to their families, because they missed the baby stage so.

I loved my boys as infants and toddlers with their sweet chubby faces and sticky hands. Truthfully, I enjoyed every stage of their lives. As grown men with families of their own, I find myself amazed at who they have become. I’m more than humbled and eternally grateful to God for each of them. What an incredible gift they are, as are their wives and children.

To witness the next generation is such a precious blessing. My sweet friend calls her grandchildren her “crowning glories.” She takes it from Proverbs 17:6 that says “Children’s children are a crown to the aged,?and parents are the pride of their children” (CEV).

While I’m not quite yet aged, (and may never admit that term applies) I realize that as my children have grown older, so have I. It happened when I wasn’t paying close attention – quicker than a New York minute.