Monday, November 26, 2012

His Cheeseburger

"You are his cheeseburger,
his precious cheeseburger.
He'll wait for you, yeah
he'll wait for you..."
--Veggie Tales, "His Cheeseburger"

Dubbed a "love song from Mr. Lunt," the main character in this silly refrain, which happens to be a plump butternut squash, arrives at a make-believe fast-food joint just in time for closing.  The squash politely asks the waitress for his favorite meal, a cheeseburger and milkshake.  Unable to fulfill the request due to the lateness of the hour, she asks for him to come back the next morning.  

Not to be undone, the squash is undaunted.  The song builds in momentum as it races to his proclaimation:  "He said, 'I am extremely hungry,' " it crescendoes, "but I guess I can wait until then!"  Funny imagery, it seems--having vegetables parading about as people, proclaiming their madness for cheeseburgers.  But it comes with a point:  Clearly this song from Veggie Tales is all about waiting.

You see, Butternut Squash had a need even before he pulled through the Drive-Thru at Burger Bell that night--a need that mirrors our own and that, one could argue, is humanity's most profound: desire.  We are insatiable, we humans.  We are the creators and inhalers of everything consumable; and yet the consumption of whatever it be--be it food, wine, entertainment, companionship--is never enough.  

This wild thirst is not without purpose, however.  It was God's design in the first place.  "Delight yourself in the LORD..." Psalm 37 boldly proclaims, "and He shall give you the desires of your heart."  In another place the Scripture reads, "You open Your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing" (Ps. 145:16 NKJV).  This deep yearning was meant to be filled, though only by means of one thing:  God's timing.

Butternut Squash knew about the timing of God, which is why he was willing to wait--at least at first.  He decided to patiently count down the moments until 10 a.m. the next morning when he could indulge in his cheeseburger without fear of sanction.  And he al-most made it.  Sitting there in the drive-thru continuing to yearn for what he couldn't yet have, he spies a billboard for another restaurant.  Ah, breakfast!  A chance to fill his desire and still leave room for lunch.

Ultimately, he didn't wait.

And that's the question that I have to ask myself.  Am I willing to wait, even in the middle of my hunger?  Am I willing to watch my desires slowly drift away, knowing that somehow if I trust God they won't drift too far from His reach?  

I've made up my mind on this issue:  I won't go around His timing.  So I sit here tonight counting down the minutes until it's 10 a.m. and I can indulge in my cheeseburger without fear of sanction.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Corner Store

Just after 6 this evening, I walked myself down to what was once a Circle K near my parents' house for an out-of-stock recipe item.

As it sits just three houses and a vacant lot from us, the corner store was the source of many a thirst quencher and good wholesome fun growing up.  My brothers would stop in for some breakfast tacos on Saturday mornings, or ice cold sodas after a long bike ride around the neighborhood.  Dad would walk to it when he needed a break from his work outside.  Sometimes I would hike myself down there if I needed something last-minute.  We got to know the store really well--but more importantly, it got to know us.

This trip, I scanned the aging chest-high shelves for diced tomatoes, but found only a six-ounce can of tomato paste.  No other aisle in the tiny store carried food cans, I knew.  But paste wouldn't be good for Italian Sausage Soup.  Drat.

Across the open foyer, an older black man called out, "Hey, how's your mom?"  His skin was shiny and deeply lined, like an ebony walking stick that had been rubbed smooth from so much touch.  He wore a black cap and walked with a shuffling limp, a malady so mild it was hardly noticeable.  When he smiled, a gold cap hugged one of his top incisors.  

At first I brushed his question off with an oh-she's-fine, but as I milled about the store he kept talking.  "I'd see her in here nearly every day, but it's been a month since I seen her," he said.  "I come in on the weekends and I'd see her Friday, Saturday come in by herself and walk around the store a little bit."  He then went on to tell me about the first day he noticed her--shuffling from aisle to aisle, unsure of what to buy.  He thought she was just there looking for something special.

I stopped him, my arms full of fresh produce and bottled drinks.  "You do know what happened to her, right?"

"Oh, she come in one day, tol' me all about the accident, how she can't do some things.  I seen her comin' in one day with a man, could be your dad--"

I smiled.  No other man would have been with her, I was sure.  No other man had gotten close enough.  "Yep, that's my dad."

"I seen her with the man walkin' around a little bit, then she was gone.  I never knew where she went."

"She's all right," I assured him.  It was the standard spiel: some days good, some not, overall in good health.  "But she's not any better," I added.  I thought about asking him to pray for her, but I wasn't sure how he'd take the request.

"Oh, she come in--she talks to me good.  We talk about a lot of things," he said.  His face kept its animation as he talked, reflecting his genuine care.  Finally, after all these years, my mother mattered to someone outside our close circle of family and church friends.  "Tell her I been thinkin' about her."

"Just pray for her," I told him as I set my things on the counter to pay.  By now, we had talked enough that I knew I could take the risk.

"Yes ma'am."

"That's what the church of God is called to do--to pray."

"You tell her to come back," he said as I gathered my items to leave.  "If she comes down here, just know that I'll be lookin' out for her--and that comes from the heart."

Pushing my way out the heavy burglar-proof door and into the Texas heat, my thanksgiving spilled over into tears of joy.

Monday, February 20, 2012


"Oh, how great is Your goodness,
which You have laid up for those who fear You,
which You have prepared for those who trust in You,
in the presence of the sons of men!"
--Psalm 31:19

The plastic rain gauge on our soggy wooden porch reads just above 3.5 inches, its bottom covered in fuzzy brown algae. It hasn't been dumped out in two weeks or more, but there really hasn't been time for that. Before this week's rain, the San Antonio area got an unexpected 7.5 inches of rainfall for the first six weeks of 2012. Now, just after week seven, thirty-day totals for the Alamo City read 9.25 inches. Our little rain gauge has had its beaker full.

This is an unexpected boon, to say the least.

As I returned to San Antonio late last June, the city was in the middle of a severe drought which began the previous summer. Blazing wildfires and stage four water restrictions kept conditions life-threatening and left residents begging for relief. "The percentage of exceptional drought [in Texas] was the highest in the State" in ten years, records Wikipedia. Though averaging 33 inches of rainfall a year, this portion of the state would only see two inches for all of 2011 combined.

The 2012 Farmer's Almanac shows long-range forecasts that expect similar amounts to persist well into summer 2012. "Winter temperatures will be milder than normal, on average, with much-below-normal rainfall," it predicts. The publication goes on to suggest that the southern portions of Texas will continue to receive inadequate precipitation, "with drought a threat." And yet every day as I pull out of the driveway with my father's truck, the tires eat away at more and more soft sod because there's more moisture on the ground than the soil can absorb.

It's highly unusual, local weather forecasters claim. This year is a La Nina climate pattern, one in which oceanic temperatures are lower by as much as 10 degrees, causing conditions in Texas to be dry and warm this time of year. Even the almanac predictions take the La Nina phenomenon into account, assuming only 2.5 inches of rainfall for the months of February and March. That's 2.13 inches LESS than what February has already received.

For all this upset in climatology, I have only one person to blame: me.

Five weeks ago, in the middle of the first month of the year, my pastor issued a challenge to his congregation. He dared us to give this new year--with all of its problems and potentialities--over to the LORD. There would be four days of dedication, he said, to "commit our way" to Him, just as it commands in Psalm 37. The church would be open to come and pray on those nights. Having twelve months of uncertainty ahead of me, I went.

The morning of the first day, Sunday, January 15, our pastor directed us to Psalm 31:19. In the verse, King David describes what good things the righteous have coming to them: a measure of the LORD's favor that has been set aside for some future time. "There is a moment when the stored up blessings will be poured out," the pastor explained. "[So m]aybe it's gonna rain on you... And maybe it's gonna be soon. Maybe this [year] will be the end of barrenness or drought."

His statement rings oddly prophetic in my life, the full effects of which I know have yet to be realized. Just since September, I've felt sprinkles of God's blessings. Though nothing enough to satiate the need, I consider them a sort of first fruits of what is surely to come. More recently I've felt the showers getting stronger. As I watch the rain clouds of favor gathering on the horizon, my heart swells with overwhelming thankfulness.

"On the eve of 2012," I wrote in my prayer journal on December 30, "there are so many questions--so many hopes, so many fulfillments of dreams--and I don't have answers for any of them. Help me to trust You, Lord, and step out in faith in this new year."