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Monday, April 30, 2012

Adolescent Milestones: First Kiss

     “Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday, dear Sojourner, happy birthday to you!” Clapping and cheering erupted after a rather discordant chorus as my 16th birthday cake was presented to my teenaged guests.

     “And, Sojourner, are you ‘Sixteen and never been kissed’?” Laughter and a lot of, C’mon tell us the truth, popped up around our family recreation room.

     “Well, as a matter of fact, I am.” Groans and, oh sure you are, indicated some doubt on the part of my friends. The success of last year’s Halloween Party had encouraged my parents to let me throw my own sixteenth birthday party, with mostly the same couples in attendance. (Ken was gone, as recorded in last week’s episode, Going Steady Scene 2); the same was true for another pair, I think. 

     It had been a fun night with homemade pizza, a favorite for all the kids back then. Chef Boyardee produced little boxes that contained a package of the measured amount of flour, a tall cylindrical can of the spicy sauce with tiny round pieces of pepperoni, and a small round tin of grated cheese. This semi-homemade delight was seen at most adolescent parties, whatever the occasion. Our hamlet did not yet boast a pizza parlor, but it didn’t matter with Chef Boyardee on the grocery store shelves. Of course, there was lots of music and cuddling, or hand-holding (or both) around the room, but, again, that was all. Another evening of good clean fun, as my parents would say.

     My own date stayed behind to help me clean up but it seemed like he had something on his mind. Since it really was true what I had told my friends, I hoped what was on his mind was the same thing as what was filling mine. It was a bit awkward when time came for him to leave. He had his father’s pick-up and I’m not sure why we didn’t go out to the curb since it was quite dark, but we didn’t. Standing at the kitchen door, we looked at each other.

     “Is it true what you said?” I felt my face redden.

     “Yes, it is?” I was trying to look in his eyes but just couldn’t keep my eyes from drifting to the ground.
   
     “Well, we will just have to fix that, won’t we?” What a line! My heart raced in anticipation of what it would feel like to have a boy’s lips on my own. What should I be doing? Should I tip my head like they did at the movies or look straight ahead or what?

     In a flash of time, Frank’s hands were gripping my upper arms and his lips were quickly pressed on mine. They were gone as fast as they had come. I had my suspicions that this may have been his first time, too.

     “Bye! See ya Monday.” He was embarrassed but I was intrigued. It felt nice to have even a quick, amateur’s kiss and the feeling lingered as I heard him drive away.

     “Yes, happy birthday to me.” I turned, locked the door and wondered if the second kiss might last a little longer.

     “Awe, Sojourner, you’ve got to be kidding, right?”

     No, actually, this is really the truth. Even when we had a steady boy-friend, it didn’t mean sex in those days. Only one girl in the 134 students in my graduating class was amongst the teenage pregnancy statistics. How, sadly, different it is now.

     Weeks later, another boy stood with me at the front door of my home following a movie date, kissing me in exactly the same way. He was a year older than I and admitted it was his first kiss, which confirmed my impression of Frank’s earlier smooch. Don’t these guys watch any movies?

    So, what’s up with this dangling Adolescent Milestone story? Didn’t the “dating” thing end last week already? Yup, you are a very astute reader/follower. But, today I am remembering my 16th birthday because it is now 47 years later and I am, again, celebrating the notable event. Happy Birthday to me!

****Working on a “guest blog” for you tomorrow.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Adolescent Milestones: Dating, Concluding Biblical Reflections

     The Grecian city of Thessalonica has been an important city since the day it was founded some three hundred years before Christ was born. For all of its history it has been a key trading hub and a party center. It had always been known as a city full of brothels and when one of those working alongside Paul, Demas, left him, it was to return to Thessalonica and resume the life of debauchery.

     Today it is still a trading hub, serving all parts of the world. Each year there is a major international Trade Fair, as well as an International Cultural Fair.

     The city center boasts a population over 300,000 with a bit more than that as its immediate suburbs and another such figure as associated with Thessalonica because of the proximity.

     In Paul’s day, Thessalonica was also the place where Christianity was spreading the fastest. Paul’s’ first letter to the Church in Thessalonica was actually the very first book of the New Testament printed.

     Yes, Thessalonica was an important city way back then and still is. For some reason I could not find, in 2014 Thessalonica will be considered the “Youth Capital of Europe,” so you know there just has to be a lot of partying going on in this city, right?

     What was so important in that first letter Paul wrote to this city’s church? A lot of things but let’s look at this one area related to our current topic.

I. Thessalonians 4:1-8…

“As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable (or it could also mean be satisfied with your own wife), not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.“

     So, Paul was giving the movers and shakers in this party city warning to restrain themselves, keeping only to the standards already approved by Jesus. Since this is a part of the permanent record of the Bible, we can be confident that these standards are still in vogue as far as God is concerned.

     No, there are not really any, specific, rules about dating in the Bible because, frankly, dating is a social practice held more in the western lands than a global reality. However, I think that we can be sure that the key is purity before God and each other in all relationships. I recall one ministry warning kids that they should be careful what they are doing with one another because, unless they end up married, they are kissing someone else’s wife! There is some really great teaching out there for young people today. Focus on the Family led the way but others have followed with excellent training for young people on the issue of moral choices.

     God can help you; that’s the bottom line here. The “just say, ‘No’ deal doesn’t work any better for sexual issues than it did for drugs but God has a plan to help you stick to His standards in your dating relationships. Ask Him and enjoy the freedom of the relationship without all the pressure to perform. God made us to love one another, let Him help you learn the rules!
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Related post:


****Have a fun weekend!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Adolescent Milestones: Dating, Biblical Reflections

     The Apostle Paul is writing to the Church at Corinth but he could be writing to us today. The problem is exactly the same and so is the solution.

“…some people … think that we live by the standards of this world. For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
(II. Corinthians 10:2-5 NIV)

The Problem:
    
     Okay, here is the problem: As Christians, we are living in this world but shouldn’t be acting like we embrace its standards. As Jesus told us, we are not a part of this world. It is not our permanent residence. Basically, we have a job to do and when it is finished, we’re out of here. The sobering thing is that how we choose to live here will determine just where our permanent residence will be. That’s the simple truth; there’s no guesswork involved.

     God doesn’t want us to follow the standards of this world, which vary with each generation or cultural change. God has set boundaries for the creation He has made and the rules are the same for everyone. The rules the world puts out there are a set-up to deceive you into thinking there are no rules. Oh so wrong. That’s like saying, “Here is the new 22nd Century, super-charged, all-new software programs and hardware systems, right here in this colorful little box. Oh, BTW there is no assembly booklet or owner’s manual.” Duh, who would buy such a thing? Somewhere there is a manual or it is worthless. Exactly! The Bible is the owner’s manual. The Creator wrote it and gave it to us so we would know how to keep things working smoothly for the full time the manufacturer guaranteed.

     The Apostle Paul is saying that the whole deal is a war for our minds. We are trying to combat the problems with the same weapons the world uses and that will never work for us. We can’t out produce the competitor’s heathen things, be it materialistic stuff we can’t afford and don’t really need, or stronger drugs to combat illnesses that come as a result of practices the Creator’s manual for us warns against. We will never be able to find enough drugs to keep on top of the epidemics of sexually-transmitted illnesses, never be able to find a way to kill unborn babies that no one seems to want without great consequences to the mother, and we will never find a way to replace the lost innocence of youth that the internet pornography has stolen either by availability to the kids or by sexual acts inflicted upon them by those viewing such harmful images.

The Solution:
    
     The Apostle Paul is saying the war is a spiritual one not a physical one. We can win it if we work on obeying the Lord, standing boldly for the principles of the Bible in everyday life with our peers, and use His power and might. Only then can we bring down the strongholds that are capturing our minds.  We can determine to take charge of our thoughts and not let them roam just any old place they might choose. Rein them back in. Commit your mind to Godly thoughts and refuse to entertain anything that isn’t.

     Oh, but that’s too hard; I’m sure I can’t do that, you say? If you want to do it, God will help you. Last week I shared a Scripture that proves God is willing to help you. It’s easy to remember because it is exactly one book before this one in the Bible. Above is II. Corinthians 10 telling you to not accept the standards of this world and I. Corinthians 10 tells you God is there to help you. Here it is again:

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”

     God recognizes you will be tempted but He will provide a way out of the temptations before you sin, if only you will take it. Ask Him, then let Him help you resist the destructive standards of this world.

     “Well, Sojourner, the thing is that all of this was written like so long ago. Probably the situation was different way back then.”
  
     Oh, but I am glad you said that! Let’s see just how alike things are today from the time of Christ. We will look at one city, the name of which is even the same today as before Christ was born.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Adolescent Milestones: First Teen Boy-Girl Party

     First many long strips of orange crepe paper were attached to the Recreation Room’s ceiling until they formed a temporary wall of sorts between the recreation part of the room and my father’s radio room. No, he wasn’t a disk jockey or anything cool like that; he was the Director of the Military-Affiliated Radio System (MARS) for the State as well as an amateur ham radio operator. The area at one end of the large room was known as his Ham Shack. Dad had agreed that I could have a Halloween Party for six couples in that room as long as none of us messed with his stuff. Well, duh, how likely was that anyway? From the point of view of the party decorator, it was ugliness to the max. Like who would want to sit in his swivel chair on rollers and turn any of his dials or knobs when there were boys, food, and music? Okay, well, maybe the guys could be curious; he may have a point. I promised to hide it from my party guests, hence, the orange wall.

     Once all the strips were affixed and dangling, we twisted them and secured each one to the floor. Next, the traditional Halloween decorations were attached to the crepe wall; and, in fact, it really did look just like the other decorated walls in the room. So cool! Most teenagers I knew did not do drugs or alcohol and none of my guests did, so Dad’s Shack was well-protected from any potential curiosity-seekers. When the basement room began to dim, I automatically turned on one of the table lamps. That lit a light in my decorating brain cells, too… cover the lampshades and change the ambient light color. Talk about fantabulous! The incredible orange glow was the only light in the room and I loved the effect.

     Finally, furniture was moved, including my portable stereo and stack of long play vinyl records on the stand. (By way of explanation should there be any readers under 25, the large round black disks had a small hole in the middle which slipped over a thin rod to keep it on the turntable while it went around and around. There was a small needle attached to the end of an arm suspended over the disk. When in use, the arm was lowered so that the needle rested in the groove that had been cut into the disks. Yes, that meant that records were “cut” not “burned” as in today’s CD’s. The needle followed the groove until it reached the center of the disk and, then, automatically retracted, unless it was stuck. In which case, you would get to hear the annoying last word of any song over and over until someone lifted the arm off the disk. So, if you wanted music for a party of two hours, you needed a stack of such records to keep the tunes flowing.  Okay, everyone’s up-to-speed on the ancient method of producing background music for teen parties.) 

     The advantage of the portable model I had was that it had a long extension so a few records could be stacked to drop one at a time when the arm retracted. The more permanent models had a small middle rod so only one record could be placed on the turntable at a time. The sound was better in the permanent model but the convenience of the portable made it better for parties, really. Or, so I thought. What did I know about it, this was my very first teenage boy-girl party. It wouldn’t have mattered, though, as this one portable was the only stereo I owned, the traditional 13th birthday present in our family. I had been building my collection of records for two-and-a-half years and figured it would be enough. If things went well and my parents ever said I could have another party, though, I might need to borrow some next time.

     Okay, time to get the food ready. We had all kinds of soda pop in a cooler with ice from the service station’s bagged ice freezer. I put out plates and bowls of a variety of snacky kinds of things. Probably napkins with a Halloween theme, too, though my memory is a tiny bit weak on this point; it just seems like something my mother would want me to have for the guests. At last, it was party time and I was ready, whew!

     One-by-one the young couples arrived. One pair stayed only a short time; they were in some kind of conflict when they arrived anyway, so we didn’t really mind their early exit. We had a terrific time just talking and commenting on the songs and new records we would like to have. The snacks went over well and nobody spilled their drinks, which was a real plus, in my opinion. Yes, there was handholding, like all the time unless one arm or other was wrapped around one’s date, but that’s it. “No funny business” about which my parents had warned us.

    To my parents’ credit, they never came down the stairs to check on us. Probably they could hear the music and laughter and figured nothing much could be going on in the midst of all that noise. Meanwhile, we, the revelers, enjoyed the food, music and friends, figuring my parents could drop in anytime and no one wanted to get caught doing anything best hidden from the adults. As the older generation would say, “It was just good, clean fun.”

     When the time to wrap things up came, my friends and date left. (Hmm, I just now realized he never stayed to help me clean up either, as a matter of fact. Well, guess if it took me more than fifty years to realize that, I probably hadn’t expected him to stay!) Clean-up, now here was the flip-side to any party, ugh. Nevertheless, the party had been a success and I was so happy, as well as exhausted. Not sure I wanted another party any time real soon but, at least, it was an option since everyone had managed to have a good time and not trash the place.

     When I hear of the parties kids have now, I feel sorry for them, really. The pressure around drugs, alcohol and sex seem to be everywhere for the adolescents, even in the church sometimes. Where is the good, clean fun for this generation?

     “Awe, Sojourner, get with it. It’s the 21st century and all that stuff is as out-of-date as your vinyl records!” Is it? Let’s check with the Apostle Paul, then, and see if our society today is so advanced that we don’t need to go there ever again, in God’s opinion.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Adolescent Milestones: Going Steady, Scene 2

     “Like the movie?” Ken had his arm over the back of my chair as we shared the popcorn. He had taken me to a chick-flick so I was pretty sure he wasn’t enjoying it as much as I was. On the other hand, I was equally sure he enjoyed whispering in my ear, smelling the fragrance of my new shampoo which had been purchased because he liked it. Alternating holding hands and resting his arm on my seatback, leaning in close, pleased us both.

     “Yeah, I do. Do you, at least, like the music?” I whispered back but never turned my head away from the big screen. Ken’s quiet, Uh-huh, didn’t sound all that convincing but he was being a good sport.

     About halfway through the film, I felt Ken’s arm leave the seatback and wrap around my shoulder, giving my arm a gentle squeeze. Perhaps 15 minutes later, his elbow bent and his hand hung over about mid-shoulder. Hmmmm, what’s the girl supposed to do when  a boy does that, I wondered. Should I reach up and take his hand? But, how? If I moved the arm on the side where his arm was resting, he might freak and pull his arm away. I don’t want him to take it away. If I reached across to take his hand with the opposite hand, well, that seemed a bit too awkward and, I mean, how comfortable would that be to have my arm hang in the air like that for the rest of the movie? No, I’ll just ignore it and try not to move.

     Before long, Ken’s hand found the buttons on my blouse and he kind of played with one of them. I giggled a little but, honestly, wondered what in the heck…? He had never even tried to kiss me. Shouldn’t he give me a goodnight kiss before he started playing with my buttons? I didn’t know, but I did know that my mother would kill us both if we got caught in here doing something we shouldn’t be doing. I needn’t have worried.

     At exactly the same time as I twisted to whisper to Ken to move his hand, his fingers left the button. To his great surprise, the timing of these two simultaneous actions, forced his fingertips to slip between the buttons. He nearly yelped when he touched my skin. Those fingers retreated like they had hit a red-hot iron. Ken straightened up in his chair, both hands in his own lap. I wanted to laugh so badly but, instead, reached over to take his hand in mine.

     The days that followed were strange ones; something had happened in my relationship with Ken and I hadn’t a clue what was up. Our phone conversations were very short, when we had one at all. There were no weekend plans, even just to hang out at his house or something. When the weekend passed without so much as a phone call, I phoned Ken’s mother.

     “No, he hasn’t said that you did or said anything that made him mad. He has really been upset with the news of your tennis friend, though. Maybe you should ask him about that.” Ken’s mother was such a nice lady. I would try her suggestion. Maybe it would, at least, get him talking.


     “But, how do you know it wouldn’t happen to us, too?” I pleaded with Ken that not everyone who dated, held hands, or even kissed got pregnant but he wouldn’t listen. “I… I… I just can’t be as sure as you are. How do you know?”

     “Well, I wouldn’t dare! I know my mother and, believe me, it just isn’t worth having her ticked at me for life. Maybe we need to hang out at my house more so you can get an idea what that cute little lady you think has such a good sense of humor would think if you got her daughter pregnant!” I laughed but he didn’t. He was just too afraid of the hormones he had felt one night in a movie theater.

     Holding his ring in my hand, I asked him if he wanted me to take the wrapped thread off first but he just shook his head, reaching out for the ring. And, that was that. Poof! A friend I played tennis with several hours every morning all summer, gets pregnant, and my life is ruined, too. Or, that’s how it felt, at the time.

     It wasn’t ruined forever, though. There were other rings, different kinds of rings, but this one was my first. Ken was my first, official “steady boyfriend.” The ring is what made it official, in case you were wondering.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Adolescent Milestones: Going Steady

     Ken looked down at the shiny bronze ring with obvious reverence. “This is my brother’s ring. He gave it to me when he left for the Air Force.” I watched, silently, as Ken pulled the ring off his finger and held it out to me.

     “Oh, Ken, maybe you shouldn’t let me wear it then. What if I lose it? I’d feel just terrible.” I held the ring up and noticed the flattened surface on top; it looked like something should b on the surface but I didn’t want to ask.

     “Well, I want you to have a ring and we don’t get Junior Class rings until next year. This is the only ring I have.” I tried it on and, well, it was too large to stay on. I would need to do what other girls in our Sophomore class were doing, wrap colored thread around and around the boyfriend’s ring until it would fit snuggly. Sometimes, the bulk of the wrapped thread made the ring too cumbersome so a strand of something was threaded through the ring In order to wear it around the neck rather than on the finger.

     “Okay, if you’re sure you want me to wear it. I’ll wrap it so it will stay on my finger. I’ll be careful not to lose it.” Ken’s eyes shot open in alarm. Apparently the possibility of losing it had not occurred to him. The brightly polished bronze ring was so strong I’m not sure how I could have damaged it so what else could I be worried about when I asked for his assurance that he really did want me to have it? Nevertheless, Ken put his fears aside and let me take the ring.

     As the weeks passed, Ken and I were usually together, holding hands between classes, talking after school and I even did the break-of-dawn deer hunting thing with Ken and his parents one Saturday. The ring I wore meant that we were “going steady,” or agreeing to exclusive dating-- with each other only.

     The glitch came when a girl’s organization to which I belonged held a dance called a “TWIRP.” That stood for “the woman is required to pay” as well as to do the asking. The girl’s organization was sponsoring the dance as a fund-raiser for their group. It had been on the calendar long before I wore Ken’s ring. Another girl had already asked him to the dance. Can you see the problem coming here? He had already accepted her invitation before he had made the commitment to not go out with anyone but me so, really, he should be expected to go with her. I, on the other hand, had not asked anyone yet but could not really ask anyone now since I had Ken’s ring. I was sick and not a very good sport, I must confess with embarrassment. Well, in the end, Ken came to the dance with me but my own guilt robbed me of the pleasure of the event, which only seems just.

     When Ken got his driver’s license, we went out for a ride or to get a coke as often as his parents let him borrow the car. What a super-thrill it was for us the day we got to take the brand-new GTO his parents had just purchased. On weekends we hung out together at his house or mine. Sometimes we went to the movies; we just liked being together. It was a “no pressure” relationship. Then, two things happened that changed everything for Ken and I.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Adolescent Milestones: Dating

     “Ya wouldn’t want to go to the matinee with me on Saturday, would ya?” Mike was looking down at his feet, both of which were kicking the loose pieces of gravel in the courtyard outside the old North School building. “It’s okay if you’ve got other stuff to do.”

     “No, I don’t have other stuff to do. I’ll mow the lawn in the morning but, uh, should I bring my own quarter? Where should I meet ya?” I couldn’t believe it. Mike was asking me to the movies. What would I wear? What color did he usually wear; that should mean he liked that color best, right?

     “Uh, how ‘bout I meet ya at the crossroads by the park. Mike was still looking down, but now he was shifting his notebook and Math book around in his hands, waiting for my response. “Yeah, bring a quarter.” Oh good, then this wasn’t really a date because he wasn’t buying my ticket. My parents wouldn’t have let me go on a real date, but, well, this was only kind of a pre-date, wasn’t it?

     Mike turned around, books in hand and face still lowered. “Okay, bye. See ya tomorrow.” I returned the same parting to him and ran to tell my girlfriends, who were waiting near the curb for me.

     At just the right time the following day, I left the house with my mother’s cheery goodbye ringing in my ears, “Have a good time and be careful not to drop your quarter on the way.” Fat chance; it was gripped in the palm of my hand so tightly that it was probably making an imprint. In my excitement I arrived too early so I walked around the block. I didn’t want Mike to think I was there too early, like I was desperate or something. Better to have him arrive first, or to think he did. At least, that’s what my girlfriends and I had decided the afternoon before this pre-date.

     I sped up when I rounded the final corner because I saw Mike there waiting and shuffling his sneakers on the sidewalk. He looked up when I called my apology for being a little late as I approached.

     “Ah, that’s okay. Let’s go so we don’t miss the cartoon.” We both turned and started walking towards town. The sidewalk was broad enough for both of us to walk side-by-side; but, every now and then, the backs of our hands lightly brushed. I just wanted him to wrap his hand around mine, or, should I do it first. I was afraid to so I just let it go and neither of us said anything. In fact, pretty much for the whole way to town neither of us said much of anything.

     Once the lights in the theater dimmed and the cartoon started, I began to relax. It felt like Mike did, too. The news reel was boring, of course, so I had a chance to think about what might happen during the movie. Would Mike try to hold my hand? It was dark and no one would know but me. I began to get nervous as soon as the main feature started. Then, I figured out if I just put my arm on the armrest that joined the two seats, my hand would be out there and waiting for his, just in case he wanted it, an easy grasp without saying a word.

     As it turned out, my arm was coming and going on the armrest most of the movie because I was also worried that Mike wanted to put his own arm there but I was hogging the space. He was certainly enjoying the movie, laughing, clapping, and shouting when the cowboys had the rustlers on the run. It took a while but I finally came to the conclusion this was not going to be the kind of movie Mike would want to hold my hand. He needed both of his to watch it properly. Maybe next time….

     And, in the interest of full-disclosure, this was the story told by one of the girls in our little group of seventh graders. As is most often the case, the rest of us just daydreamed the story with the name of our own 12-year-old heartthrob in it!

__________
If you missed Sojourner’s own first “boy-girl” story at age 10, you can find it here:

****Adolescent Milestones: Going Steady… Coming Tomorrow

Friday, April 20, 2012

Adolescent Milestones: First Driver’s License, God’s Footprints

     If you have been following this week’s story in the “Adolescent Milestones” series, you might be wondering how understanding God has anything to do with this teenagers striving to get licensed to drive a car and her relationship with God. Does everything, even normal milestones, have to have God’s footprints in the middle of it? The answer is a resounding, yes. We are not putting God in, He is putting Himself in, just as any good Father would. Everything that has to do with His kid has to do with Him. He is already in the middle of it! That should be a comfort to us.

     The purpose of sharing my journey in understanding God with you is to help us all take a look at just how God has always been in our lives but we didn’t see Him. The driver’s license story is a case in point. I was a casual church-goer at this point in my life and did not know about having a personal relationship with the Living God yet. Just because I didn’t know Him, didn’t mean He didn’t know me.

     When considering the “First Driver’s License” scenes, there are a couple of Scriptures that jump out easily. That helps me see that God went before me and knows what is about to happen. Often, He will make a way of escape from calamity, if only we would humble ourselves and take it! One of the most-quoted verses in my university group of friends was I. Corinthians 10:13, recorded here from the New American Standard Bible (NASB):

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”

     And a little farther down in the same book, I. Corinthians 15:33 we read:

“Do not be deceived: Bad company corrupts good morals.”(NASB)

     Or, as recorded in the New International Version (NIV):

“Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.”

     My friend was not a bad kid, but, clearly, the character my parents were trying to develop in me was not the same as was being developed in her. I knew what she was asking me to do was so wrong, and the fear of getting caught and disappointing my parents, made the whole day a stress and not at all the fun day promised. I am not sure why I even wanted to “fit in” or have her like me; I just did. I was willing to do what she wanted me to do in order to have a fun Saturday. But my understanding God knew that this was the situation for me. He provided a way of escape a couple of times; I just chose not to take it.

     Possibilities for escape:

     1. My mother thought it too long for me to wait in the library. I could have used that as an excuse to get me out of the whole plan right from the get-go. “My Mom will never believe I will stay four-and-a-half hours in the library. I’ll get caught, for sure.” But, instead, I abused her trust in me and proceeded with the plan.

     2. The tire goes flat. God is so kind to this stressed-out teenage sinner. She can easily understand, now, why her father made her learn to change a tire even before she learned to drive. Nevertheless, while she was able to change the tire herself, God had other plans to help her.  A teenage friend comes along that off-road in town at just the right time. And, not just any friend, but a guy whose uncle could make the needed repairs and return the car to the pre-adventure state. Escape now, Sojourner, before anything worse happens to you! God got you out of that one, take the kid home and go to the library while you still can. Alas, God even brought down a torrent of rain to help me make the right decision. Still, I ignored the voice of reason and listened to the sinful suggestion to just continue doing what was wrong. I even hate being cold and being out in the rain! What in the heck was wrong with me? Why didn’t I take God’s ways of “escape?”

     Well, for one thing, the longer I lingered in the sinful state, the easier it was to just stay there. Remember in the beginning, Sojourner was frightened of messing up in the driving and being humiliated as much as afraid she would get caught, right? A couple of hours into the adventure, she saw how much better she was doing with the clutch and began really enjoying the transgression. Then the flat tire jumped in to remind her that all was not well. What had happened that she didn’t quit then? Possibly her heart was already beginning to harden? She knew what was right and what was wrong but she didn’t care? In Hebrews we are warned, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts,” followed by examples of the trouble that comes when people do not care what God thinks and just go ahead anyway.

     By the end of the day, when Sojourner was dropping off her partner-in-crime, the decision had been made. She would never do that again, though her companion figured they would live to do it again on a sunny day. I believe that God understood, all too well, just how fragile Sojourner’s resolve would be later on and arranged for the rain-soaked breaks to fail. It could have been so dangerous on that busy road, had it been another day with normal traffic. Certainly, Sojourner was scared out of her mind but not in any real danger when she was without brakes. It is also just like God to not let this happen when Sojourner was alone or with the other unlicensed friend but with her mother, who would know what to do when Sojourner’s thought processes had frozen from fear. Sojourner would never forget that day; it was not likely the adventure would be repeated. It wasn’t!

     Sojourner found mercy from God in her prayers before bed that night as she confessed to the Lord and begged His forgiveness. She had had enough of the price of sin in that one day. Her heart was still soft enough to care that she had displeased the living God in her search for adventure.

     Proverbs 28:13-14 says:

“Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. Blessed is the one who always trembles before God, but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble.” (NIV)

     Or, a bit more in the common lingo:

“People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy. Blessed are those who fear to do wrong (or those who fear God), but the stubborn are headed for serious trouble.” (New Living Translation)

     I was not interested in heading for serious trouble! I had learned my lesson. I had other lessons to learn as I grew up, away from childish ways and into the maturity both my parents on earth and my Heavenly Father worked hard cultivating in me. I am so grateful that God understood, helping me through the difficult times instead of striking me with lightning or squishing me like a bug! He really does love me!

     And, dear Reader, God really does love you, too. Take a moment to walk through your own adolescent memory lane and see if there might not have been an incident or two when God was offering you a way of escape but you didn’t want it? He will not condemn you because you didn’t take it! He just wanted to spare you the consequences of a bad decision but His love is greater than your transgression. Can’t think of anything? Just ask the Lord to show you His thread through your life. He cared about us long before we were old enough to tithe, lest you think it is just our money He’s interested in. I’ve known Him since I was seven years old, at least, but have not always been the best kid in His world. Still, He loves me and He loves you! My first blog last October was a story that shows how, even at seven, we can need God in our daily lives. How much more do we need Him in our stumbling, wobbly adult lives!

Link to first Blog:

****Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Adolescent Milestones: First Driver’s License, Conclusion

     Just as I was about to protest that the rain made it hard to enjoy driving around and insist I take my friend home, the rain stopped. It was sultry and overcast.  Well, actually, it looked a lot on the outside like I felt on the inside. Still, she didn’t want to go home or to the library, which was my other suggestion. (With my sisters at home, taking her there was not an option, if I didn’t want them to tell on me at the earliest opportunity.)

     “Awe, c’mon. Don’t be a drag now that the rain has finally stopped. Let’s go check on the school parking lot. Maybe some of the guys are there for practice or something. We can see if we find any cars we know.” There was not a single car in that water-logged parking lot but there were enormous dips in the asphalt that provided pond-like areas through which my friend wanted me to drive. She loved to hear the spray of water and see the wake a fast-moving vehicle made going through the “pond.” Assured there was no real speed limit in an empty parking lot, I drove as fast as I felt I could maintain control.

     At last, I checked my watch and said it was time to draw our joy-riding to a close. I needed to take her home so I could get the car back, to let the engine cool down before my mom got off work.  I planned to sit in the library awhile to cool down myself. We left the school parking lot, heading for her home. She was about to close the passenger door when she paused and looked in at me.

     “Next time we need to check the weather report and only go on the sunny days.” I let her know that there would not be a next time, to which she retorted, “Awe, you’ll change your mind when the sun comes out. It was fun but could’ve been a lot more fun if it hadn’t rained. See ya!” The sound of the door shutting reminded me the day wasn’t yet over for me. Why in the world had I ever agreed to do this? My nerves were about shot and I still had to drive my mother home; I just wanted to get out of the car and forget the day.

     “Did you find everything you were looking for?” The librarian was looking right at me as I folded the two books I had removed from the shelves. “You came in earlier to check on something, didn’t you? Would you like to check out the one book there with the blue cover? The other book is a reference book so it needs to remain in the library but, if you still need to use that one, I can check it out for you.”

     “Uh, no thanks. That’s okay; I’m finished with these books.” The cannonball in my stomach just jumped into my throat, strangling me. My face was burning brightly from forehead to neckline. I hadn’t lied; I was finished with the books, but…? Ugh, what must the librarian think? She had known me since I was a little kid and I was pretty sure she would be shocked to know how I had spent my afternoon between my brief visits to the library. I just wanted to run but smiled and walked as carefully as I could through the library door.

     Sitting behind the wheel, waiting for my mother to finish work, I tried to calm myself. I felt nearly sick from the nerves that just would not relax and let me breathe. I thought about how disappointed both of my parents would be if they ever found out how I had betrayed their trust. My sorrow quickly turned to fear as I realized I would, most certainly, lose the privilege of getting my driver’s license early or being able to drive again in the next two years, should this joy-ride adventure ever become known. I didn’t really know the librarian, personally, or anything but found I was embarrassed to think that she might find out one day just how irresponsible I was and not the serious student she had given me credit for on that Saturday afternoon. I felt so awful.

     “Hi, Honey! Sorry I was a little late. I hated to keep you waiting but the register just didn’t want to check out and I didn’t want to have it waiting for me on Monday.” Mom was going on with the details of the problem but I had weightier issues on my mind so really didn’t listen. I just wanted to get home.

     “Oh, that’s okay, Mom. I didn’t wait that much longer than usual, really. Glad it worked out for you.” I carefully left the parking lot as Mom continued recounting the details of her afternoon.

     “Boy, these streets are wet! I heard the rain but had no idea it was pooling like this in the streets. Just look at that!” The water was leaving small wakes as the tires sped through the puddles on First Avenue. I was so glad that the water had derailed her usual line of questioning because she always asked me about my afternoon. I didn’t want to actually lie to her; what I had done was bad enough. “Slow down here, Honey. We’re coming to our corner.” I saw it and tried to slow down but the brakes would not respond to my pressure.

     “Thanks, Mom. I will.” I wanted to but it just wasn’t happening.

     “Slow down; we’re nearly at the corner now. You need to slow down for the turn.” I was pushing hard on the brake now but it didn’t make a bit of difference.

     “I’m trying, Mom! The brake just doesn’t work. What do I do? It won’t slow down.” Okay, now, I was in a panic and not able to think my way out of the problem for worrying what my transgressing that day may have done to the brakes.

     “Just keep going straight. Don’t try to turn. Get back over to the right lane more and move your foot off the accelerator some. Try to slow down enough to turn at the next corner and we can just inch home that way.” It was a main road but, fortunately, the rain had also influenced the number of cars on the road. When it was time to turn, I was able to slow my speed enough to turn left after a car passed me. The next left was at a snail’s pace but accomplished without problem. I worried more about crashing through the garage door because I would have to give it some gas to get up to the driveway from the street.

     “Mom, we’re coming to our corner. What do I do? I don’t want to hit the garage door if it won’t stop. What do I do, Mom?” I was nearly home but the relief I had expected to feel at the sight of that final stretch was stolen away by the problem of the brakes. My shoulders ached, my knuckles white with the hold I had on the steering wheel.

     “Don’t turn in the driveway. Just park at the curb in front of the house.” I was slowly moving over as she spoke. “Take your foot off the gas pedal now and just wait for the car to stop.” It wasn’t long before I could turn the key. The silence was like a trigger to let me exhale but my hands were shaking too much to actually move them off the wheel. “Whew, that was close. Wonder what happened to those brakes? We’ll have to ask Dad to check them before we go to church tomorrow.”

     That’s when I learned one thing Dad had not mentioned in our pre-driving car tips lecture. Wet brakes do not work well. They were fine for church the next morning, having dried out overnight. I was fine for church the next day, too, as my bedtime prayers were preceded by a good dose of repentance. No, I did not tell my parents, only God. I didn’t really know I needed to tell them and ask their forgiveness as a part of that repentance back then. In fact, if my 89-year-old mother reads this blog, she will be finding out about the adventure at the same time you are. My father is already with Jesus so he still doesn’t know, unless there is a computer room in Heaven for parents to go read their children’s blogs. In any case, I never did it again!

     The Driver’s License? I passed the road test with flying colors three days after my 15th birthday. It would have been on the day I turned 15 but my father couldn’t get off work to take me to the DMV. Since the day of this joy-riding in my parents car, I had no trouble with feeling the clutch. Even when I got a motorcycle seven years later, I thought of this incident when I felt the clutch engage. A hard lesson but one learned quite well.

****Adolescent Milestones: First Driver’s License, God’s Footprints… Coming Tomorrow

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Adolescent Milestones: First Driver’s License, Scene 3

     “No one will ever know. C’mon, you’re a good driver, right? It’s just for one afternoon. It’ll be fun.” I knew my driving was getting better and better and that I needed more practice to get that jerking clutch under control, but it was not legal for me to drive without a licensed driver in the car.

     “It won’t be much fun if we get caught. I don’t want to trick my Mom and, besides, someone might see us and tell her.” I loved my mother and appreciated so much that my father was not making me wait so long to be able to get the license through the school’s class. I would just die if I had to wait another two years. If I got caught, I was totally sure it would be the end to my private driving lessons from Dad and practicing with Mom.

     “No one is going to see us. If anyone does, they will just think you already passed the test. Who would tell your Mom? Nobody, that’s who. C’mon, let’s do it, just once. It’ll be so much fun and you need the practice, you already told me that. It’ll take forever if you have to wait for the Saturday’s your father doesn’t have to work. No one will find out.” I wasn’t all that convinced but didn’t want to disappoint my friend. Of course, she didn’t have a driver’s license as only one other person in my class was even working on getting one. I had just started hanging out with her group of friends and, well, I felt the pressure to fit in.

     “If I do this on one Saturday, you will want me to do it again and again and someone will tell my parents; you can bet on that!” She assured me it was a one-time deal and promised not even to mention it ever again if I would just do it this once.

     And, that’s when the plan was hatched. My father would be working on Saturday so not home until after 4:30. My sisters both planned to hang out at home so shouldn’t be anywhere they might see me, as long as I stayed away from our neighborhood. As soon as Mom came home for lunch, the plan was activated.

     “Mom, can I drive you back to work? I can hang out in the library until you finish work and drive you home. I really need the practice, please.” The library was across the street from the parking lot behind the store where Mom worked. (Of course such a ploy might not work today since kids research their papers using their computers at home but, alas, such things didn’t exist at that time.)

     “Oh, Honey, that’s a long time to sit in the library.” She didn’t get off work until 5:30 so she was thinking of those four-and-a-half hours.

     “It’s okay, Mom, really. Please.” I felt sick in my stomach and don’t know why I didn’t just use my mother’s concern as an excuse to get me off the hook but I didn’t. Instead I drove my mother back to work and parked in the lot. She wouldn’t see me unless I was dumb enough to drive around near the store, which was on the corner of one of the main streets of town. Not going there, for sure.

     “Don’t forget now, 5:30.” I agreed I would be right there at the car and she would not have to come in the library to fetch me.

     In order to keep the statement technically true, I crossed the street and took a book from the shelf in the library. My heart beat was increasing the longer I sat there, and the cannonball in my stomach even began to make it hurt. What are you doing this for? Do you think you won’t really get caught? Is it worth the risk? All of those thoughts pummeled my mind until I was sure if I didn’t just get up and do it, I never would. I didn’t want to be thought a coward by my friend and I was very sure she would tell everyone I was if I stood her up. Standing, I smiled at the librarian and headed back across to the parking lot.

     “Man, what kept you? I thought you’d chickened-out.” I didn’t want to tell her how close I had come to doing just that; or, the embarrassing fact that I was so nervous, I took a wrong turn to her house.

     “Well, I’m here now. Let’s go.” She laughed a little when the car jerked slightly. I just couldn’t get the feel of the clutch and feared I was destined to remain in the humiliating state for my lifetime.

     We drove all over the place but I stayed away from the downtown area. Finally, my friend tired of the rural and boondocks landscape and urged me to go to town. I, too, wanted to drive the familiar streets a bit but also worried about being seen.

     “We can drive the Loop but turn the block before your mom’s store. C’mon, let’s do it. We can try out the streets parallel to the Loop, too, so you can get practice on the town streets and intersections.” It sounded exciting to me to drive the popular mile-long loop all the older teens liked, but the coward in me was rearing its ugly head, too. How could I not get caught in town? Nevertheless, I over-rode good commonsense and headed for town.

     Things were going really well and, to my great pleasure, I noticed that the car had stopped lurching! I could feel the clutch by the time we had driven around the streets, stopping and starting, for about an hour. Boy, I felt great. Fear of being caught had long since left my mind.

     I saw the board in the street but not in time to stop the car. Bump and a slight rise of the car on the right let me know I had just rolled right over the board. Seconds later, the pull to the right signaled me that I was going to be glad Dad had made me learn to change a tire, after all. My elation over the clutch was immediately trounced by the fear of how to get the tire fixed and things back in the pre-borrowed state, once the tire had been changed.

     “Hey, need a hand there?” Yes, the movie scenario was right: Damsel in distress, takes out spare tire, leans it against the car, and is seen with jack in hand. Enter hero.

     “Boy, could I use a hand! I’ve been taught how to do this but never have. Those dark clouds look like a storm is coming. I hope I can get the tire changed before it lets go.” Our hero was actually one of our classmates and he took the jack out of my hands.

     “I’ll change it in a jiffy. My dad always makes me change his flat tires. Says it is good practice for when I get my own license, though he doesn’t give me any clue just when that might happen. When did you get yours?” He was busy working on the tire and not looking up as he spoke. I was relieved because I felt my face burn red hot, as my partner-in-crime began to laugh.

     “License? Uh, well, I only have a Learner’s Permit now; I’m not old enough for the actual license.” He stopped working, tools still in hand, and stared at me with raised eyebrows. “Yeah, I know it isn’t legal. It’s just for today; we thought it’d be fun but then this tire….” My face could’ve led ships in a black night’s storm the way it was radiating bright red.

     “Uh-huh. Well, then, where to get this tire fixed and back on the car just might be a little problem for you then?” My night in shining armor, disguised as a teenager in jeans and a tee shirt, dusted off his hands and shut the trunk. Finished. He laughed at the distress on my face. “C’mon, I’ll take ya to my uncle’s; he’ll fix it for ya.”

     It was raining hard by the time the vehicle was back on the road, spare tire back in the trunk. Anyone with a lick of sense would have thanked the Lord for the hero and his uncle’s rescue, calling it a day. I should have but my friend wanted to finish out the day, knowing that she would never again get me to do this! Bad mistake in judgment there.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Adolescent Milestones: First Driver’s License, Scene 2

     “Okay, let’s get started.” My father spoke as he headed up the steps and joined me outside near the locked car. It was Saturday and my first driving lesson. I could hardly wait and, of course, had already told my friends that I would be driving today. Dad opened the driver’s door but only reached in and popped the hood.

    "Hey, what’re ya doin’, there, Dad? I’m ready to start drivin’.” Dad only swung the thin, metal rod down that would keep the hood from crashing on his head, signaling me to come to the front of the car.

     “The first thing you need to learn about driving a car is how to keep it working well.” Huh, what? That’s not at all what I had in mind for a first driving lesson. Okay, well, if he wants to give me a few under-the-hood tips, I’ll humor him. I want to drive and it is his car, after all. “If you keep the vehicle running well, you won’t find yourself stranded somewhere. It’s not just enough gas that you need to worry about, you know?” Well, I didn’t know but sounded like I was going to find out before I felt my hands on the wheel today.

     For the next forty-five minutes I learned how to check the oil and add a quart, if necessary. I learned how to check the water level in the battery and add some distilled water, if necessary, including just where that water is kept, lest I think it okay to add any kind of water I find the fastest. I learned how to check the tension of the fan belt and how to tighten it, if necessary, including just where those tools were kept in the car’s trunk. And, then, speaking of trunk… I learned how to change a tire. Now, I thought, that is something I will never need to know. Haven’t you seen the movies, Dad. Some guy will always stop to change a tire for a damsel in distress! After a review of air pressure in the tires under normal conditions and when the car is heavily-loaded, my father opened the driver’s door. I was shrieking and clapping on the inside, but, outwardly, just quietly moved to slide behind the wheel.

     “Now, here you have your dashboard panel. This one is the oil pressure….” My father was so excited to have a captive audience to share these important points with that I just nodded and restrained my groans as best I could. I was certain that my older sister, who had waited until age 16 to get her Driver’s License through the Driver’s Education class at school, had not learned all of this stuff; or, at least, she never mentioned it. At this rate, I’d be 16 before I left the driveway! Okay, at last, there were no more gauges or levers for controlling or checking anything and it was time to drive. Yes! But, why wasn’t my father walking around to the passenger’s side of the car?

     “Go ahead and scoot over there, Punkin. I’ll back her out and then switch with you, once we get to a street that doesn’t have any traffic on it.” It wasn’t a groan, exactly, but it was a pretty loud sigh coming from his 14-year-old daughter, clutching her precious Learner’s Permit in her fist.

     Today, all of those gravel streets way out in the boonies, have been paved with homes built on each side; but, when I was 14, there was no one in sight for a long way in each direction. Guess that gave my father comfort on this first day of educating me behind the wheel. I must say, I was really disappointed, though, as I so wanted my friends to see me driving.

     At last, he stopped the car, turned off the engine, and we exchanged places. Besides the racing of my heart, I didn’t move when he shut the passenger door and looked at me. I figured there must be something he would need to tell me before I turned on the ignition and I was not mistaken. Boy, there was a lot to remember when driving a car; I had no idea.

     Dad explained the way to feel the clutch engage, signaling the driver to depress the accelerator pedal. I said I understood but the lurch, stop, lurch, stop, lurch, and silence of the engine rather gave me away. I felt the heat of embarrassment redden my cheeks, while sweat beaded on my forehead.

     “It’s okay. Try again. No one saw you way out here.” I was so glad that Dad had chosen this remote stretch after all. He told me again how to feel the clutch engage and I tried again. It was only minimally better the second time but, at least, I didn’t kill the engine this time. There was so much to think about when driving – the rules and now the pedals and all. I’m not sure I could have gone down that road any slower. “Go ahead and give her more gas.” Guess Dad agreed with me. Slowly, ever-so slowly, I increased the pressure of my foot on the accelerator.

     “We’re comin’ to a corner, Dad, what do I do?” Gripping the wheel with all my might, I waited for his instruction.

     “Well, you can see that it is clear on all sides so just go on straight through it.” The tension in my shoulders relaxed a little and I eased off my grip. This isn’t so bad, I thought, as I made an attempt to relax into the back of the seat.

     When I came to the first corner Dad asked me to turn right, I figured I should slow down to turn. However, when one is already going so slowly, well, I killed the engine shortly into the turn. Again, I was sooo glad that we were way out in the boonies and no one would be watching me but Dad. This driving thing was not as easy as it looked. I made the next right turn without much trouble but I think my father had had enough for one day. He told me to pull over to the side of the road and turn off the engine. Ha, nice to have the engine stop on purpose this time!

     Over the next few weeks, Dad rode patiently with me and, except for the feel of the clutch engaging, I did get a lot better. I would not say I was relaxed, by any stretch of the imagination, but I could drive at a reasonable speed, turn both right and left corners, as well as  whip out the correct answers to the rulebook each time Dad asked. I was feeling pretty good about driving.

     Since I was allowed to drive with any licensed driver, my mother let me drive with her in the passenger seat sometimes, too. My older sister had no such confidence in my abilities and I really don’t blame her. I think the lurching starts might have influenced her reluctance some.

     Even though Dad admitted I was improving, he had not actually let me drive the car onto our narrow driveway, its normal parking place in front of the single-car garage. I was permitted to start my lesson by backing out but never allowed to end it there. I had always thought it was because he was worried I would get off the concrete and squish the lawn. My first attempt at the driveway proved that was not it!

     “Go ahead and take the right turn here and then turn right into the driveway.” Well, I did exactly what I had been told, except that I kept turning right once I hit the driveway. I neglected to straighten out the wheels. I bounced off the edge of the driveway, chugged along across the grass, headed straight for a side-swipe of my father’s beloved pick-up, parked, as always, at the curb.

     “Dad, Dad, help! How do I stop?” Amazing how fear freezes the brain cells, isn’t it? My father, the Company Commander, knew that a level-head was needed and he spoke quickly but calmly.

     “Take your foot off the pedal and turn off the key.” I did just that and his pick-up was spared by a few inches, as the car jolted to a stop. I had no idea how to get the car off the sidewalk, back across the lawn, and back onto the driveway. I didn’t have to ask Dad; he was already coming around to take my place behind the wheel. He didn’t say a word but, just might have been thinking, combat with those big armored tanks is a lot easier than teaching a teenager to drive.

     I just needed more practice but should never have listened to a classmate who pressured me to deceive my mother in order to get it!

****Adolescent Milestones: First Driver’s License, Scene 3… Coming Tomorrow