Rena lined up her four boys and lovable family dog in order of size: Brent, age 16; Rick, 13, Rodney, 8 and Shawn, 6. Last in line in front of the garage was Floppy Joe, a shaggy brown mutt with ears that hung down like pancakes.
A successful businesswoman who ran a pre-school, Rena knew how to handle children. She wore a look that would stop traffic. She waited for silence from her sons. It came quickly. Even the flies stopped buzzing.
“This is the new family car,” Rena announced. “Your dad and I haven’t had a new car since Rick was born. So these are the new rules: No trash in the van! No eating! No milkshakes! Forget riding in wet swim suits! No cleats on the carpet, and no throwing up! When we park, no one will bang the doors into cars parked next to us. We will keep this car clean and polished. That will take teamwork from all of us. Any questions?”
“What about Floppy Joe?” Shawn patted the dog as the animal swatted at his own ears. An irreverent puff of dust within soiling distance of the polished new van shot out of Floppy’s fur. “Can he still ride with us?
“As long as you put a towel on the seat for him to sit on.”
Despite her best intentions and the boys’ efforts, life happened and the van took the rap for it. On day twenty, a shopping cart careened into the van, denting the rear quarter panel. Soon after, young Shawn grew woozy coming down a twisted mountain road. Rena warned him, “Whatever you do, don’t throw up in the van!” She tossed her large purse in the back seat. “Do it on my purse!” But he couldn’t stop himself and decorated the carpet instead.
Weeks later, Floppy Joe (on a scrunched-up towel) dropped to the floor to lick up grease from a juicy hamburger. “Who was eating in the van? Where did all this sauce and goo come from?” Rena never got an answer. Nobody was talking.
Car washing and detailing improved the van, but the family no longer cleaned it on a regular basis. Rena’s resolution that was supposed to last a decade or so went by the wayside in weeks, as they often do.
Paul advises, “Be joyful always; pray continually, give thanks for all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 [NIV]
My resolution was to improve my relationship with God by doing better at my prayer time. My spiritual life deepened two-fold when I took ten minutes at the table to pray with my sons and share a short Bible study. My faith leaped with growth when I prayed and studied every day, even when a rotating work schedule forced me to do prayer/study time anytime from 3:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. As a person who would probably test as Attention Deficit Disorder today, I recently learned to keep more focused by praying out loud. Too often, I had found myself in “La La Land,” skimming the written petitions and praises each day. If I’m not paying attention, is God? Hearing the words gives more weight, attention, and importance to prayers when I read them aloud.
Like Rena, I am not always consistent in my resolutions. However, I can make a new start if I fail. Overall, God guides me to stay on the path. I move forward.
So don’t give up if you fall. Begin again with a promise to yourself. Decide and do it, day by day. God will be helping along the way.
[Jo Russell is a Christian teacher, speaker, author of many articles, contributor to several anthologies, and Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women, Intermedia Publishing, 2011. For more chuckles, check her weekly blog on Button-to-God.com.]