Easy Like Sunday Morning

I heard the Commodores song “Easy” the other day for the first time in 36 years. There was a reason for the delay.

I hated that song.

I’d turn it off every time it came on, as the familiar waves of guilt and shame came over me.

This time I felt the nudge from the Lord. Listen to it.

When I did, I was shocked at the positivity of the lyrics. You see, I’d been conditioned to hear two words in the song: easy and high.

I was 16 and in a halfway house for drug addicts and alcoholics. I think the program started out with licensed counselors because it was accredited. But by the time I got there, adults who completed the program and had nowhere to go were promoted to counselors. Crazy, right?

But my counselor, Bill, a laid-back black man who’d once roomed with Eric Clapton in rehab, seemed like a legit counselor. He got results. Unfortunately, he got them by using the tools of the devil.

In the 80’s the term easy was the go-to word for someone who got around sexually. It was a moniker I’d somewhat unfairly been assigned and definitely worse than being a drug addict, at least in my head. In fact, the drugs only came after the sexual abuse, a numbing tool for the pain.

So Bill would play this song over and over and all I would hear was EASY and HIGH. I was a sobbing mess each time. Shaming me was supposed to bring about a resolve to change.

Being away from my family and also experiencing the beauty of a Texas landscape completely sober was what really brought about that desire.

Nevertheless, this was the tool he used. I don’t remember the words he said. I do remember the feeling. And I hated that song.

But once again, the Lord took something meant for evil and used it for good. Because when I listened to the song earlier this week, I heard Easy like Sunday morning… Why, Sunday mornings in the South are the epitome of peace.

Yes, I am now easy like Sunday morning

The wanting to be “high” part? Well, regardless of Lionel Richie’s intent on that line, I choose to see being high as being extremely happy and free, much like the birds who visit my porch every morning.

This is not a bad song. It’s actually a great song about perseverance.

Easy by the Commodores

The lessons learned here are vast:

A) If you send a loved one to rehab, check out who is actually counseling them. (My time at this facility ended with a helicopter-and-SWAT-team FBI raid!)

B) Never use music to deal with problems. Satan uses music to fuel fires and plant discord. If you must blare something to deal with your emotions, I suggest TobyMac’s Move (Keep Walking) or Matthew West’s Hello, My Name Is.

C) Don’t let the devil keep you in bondage. I didn’t realize that little hold was still there until the song came on. You can’t afford little holds because they always turn into bigger chains.

D) Forgive! I’d already forgiven Bill (and the others involved) because they did what they thought would work. Maybe it’s my naivety coming out, but I think there was a true desire to help people. They were wrong, no doubt about it, but hanging on to a decades-old resentment, no matter how justified, will only hurt you.

I look back now on my time there fondly. I had my ever job at Denton County Hamburgers. My dad and I revisited the restaurant about 20 years ago and indulged in a Hickory Bacon Cheeseburger. That’s also where I learned how to count back change!

The horses were soothing and the Texas sunsets were amazing.

I learned how to say no (or face bathroom cleaning duties for a month) and I learned how to strip down all of my pretenses and just be myself. I discovered that girl was enough.

I met a boy whose mother I am still in touch with today.

God was at work, even then. In the midst of all that was wrong, He was still right.

A Christian Walk….on three different decks

The inspiration that comes from the mountains rivals none. At least that’s what I tell my husband when I get the itch to travel. He is inspired by the majestic views himself but he also knows my desire to roam sometimes transcends the truth.

However, this morning the Lord showed me something that made this vacation worth the entire day it took to get here.

Once again, we are nestled in the Blue Ridge mountains in a three-level creekside cabin. The main level, with the deck from which I’m writing now, has the master bedroom and bath, kitchen, den, and covered porches (partially screened, partial open railing. There’s a table with chairs, red rockers, and an outdoor red-cushioned rattan couch set for lounging. Bonus: there’s a pet gate so I can let the dogs out or keep them in and not have to yell their names every three minutes.

The upstairs level is just as nice, with a full bed and bath with glass and tile-shower, a bunk room with beds, two large papasan chairs and a game shelf, and a small but open sundeck with two large red lounge chairs.

The theme of Rock the River lodge is rustic wood and red, it seems, as the centerpiece of the downstairs level is a red felt-topped pool table. Two arcade games holding a variety of games in each, including the ever-popular Pac-man, sit next to the L-shaped sofa. Another bathroom, laundry room, game corner, and mini-kitchen complete this level. Outside this level is a hot tub, giant hardwood swing, red-cloth rattan wicker seating for 8, and a multi-colored hammock. Off of this deck are 200 wooden steps leading down to the rushing river below.

It is in this beautiful hammock where today’s revelation came.

I was on the bottom (terrace) level and decided to move the hammock close to the railing so I could get a little sun and read the latest Kristy Woodson Harvey novel.

The sun was too bright for reading and the hammock of my memories didn’t groan and sink like this one did. I wasn’t off to such a great start. But the sun felt great on my skin so I closed my book and just soaked it up. Because of the pandemic last year, I have only the faint tan lines of summer 2019. Once I shut my eyes, nature took over. The mighty river below combined with the dozens of species of birds making their music was nature’s playlist designed by God Himself.

But other noises kept interfering. The hot tub, for one, was churning on the setting we’d been instructed to leave on. I briefly considered turning it off to eliminate the distraction but I knew I wouldn’t. The birthday between 29 and 30 had somehow turned me from a rebellious rule-breaker to the rule police, indignantly pointing out others’ missteps. Now at 51, I’m a little less confrontational but still very conscientious. There would be no rule-breaking.

There was also a strange smell. Perhaps there was nearby dog excrement. Or maybe that’s just how the river smells. It wasn’t horrendous but for someone whose house smells like a Bath and Body Works outlet, it was distracting.

This is the precise moment I got my revelation.

You are down on the ground, in the world, He said. This is where you can do the most good. You have the sights, the sounds, the smells of the world but I have taught you how to block those out.

He was right. Our homeless ministry was a perfect example. I had to go into the dirtiest places in the world to bring the gospel. When we do funerals, we are ministering in the world but we still hear Him.

I tuned out the extra noises and focused solely on the river and the birds. It wasn’t quite so easy.

I like it better on the main deck, I’d said. It smells nice and I only hear YOUR sounds. It’s peaceful. It’s nice. I just have to give up the sun, the swing, and the hammock.

His Voice came through the breeze….Kinda like your home…..

Huh?

When you operate in your home and the church, which is literally 30 steps away, you are in a protected bubble. It’s your safe place, He explained.

Yes! Exactly!! There are things I don’t have there that I want (like a swimming pool!) but yet everything I need is there. And it’s safe and nice. I can hear You. I start each day listening to your playlist on the front porch rocker. I meditate; I write; I relax. That’s exactly what the main level deck is like.

His next words: And you spend too much time there…..

Wait, what?!

But my spirit knew what He was saying within two seconds. I do stay where it’s safe- both literally and figuratively. I spend a lot of time where it’s comfortable in my walk with Him as well as in my ministry. One of the perks- and subsequent downside- of a writing ministry is that it’s so peaceful one can easily turn agoraphobic.

Even the top deck was a perfect example of this reluctance to move out of my comfort zone.

I’d checked it out when we first arrived. It was the highest perch in the house. It was small; not many could be up there at once. It had a gorgeous view and the warmth of direct sunlight. The reclining outdoor loungers were bright and inviting. But a previous guest had allowed a large shaggy dog to sit on the chairs and there was pet hair everywhere. I tried to wipe it off with a washcloth but it was going to take more than a simple wipe. I understood why there was an extra $50 charge for removing pet hair. That was going to take some work.

Unfortunately they’d missed it and I decided it wasn’t worth the extra work to do it myself so I went back downstairs.

But lying on that hammock, I realized that this was just another example of me keeping myself stuck in the middle.

Not only did I not want to go down into the world, I didn’t want to put in the work to go UP either. (I did, however, go back after this revelation and scrubbed the chairs if only to show the Lord I was willing.)

Three decks, three levels of worship.

The down and dirty, convergence of good and bad, bottom level is where ministry and service to others resides. I need to spend more time here.

The upper level, where you are alone with Christ in mountaintop worship, requires a little extra work. It’s worth the effort. I need to spend more time here.

The middle level, in what we call the secret of his tabernacle (Psalm 27:5), is where we abide with the Lord in a place of shelter. We are set upon a rock and He watches over and protects us. This is a beautiful place and one we should access easily. But I need to spend a little less time here.

I hope your week is going well and that you take time for a vacation, even if it’s dragging your favorite chair under the big oak tree in your backyard for ten minutes and letting God show you the playlist He created just for you.

LOOKING FOR SOMETHING GOOD TO READ, WATCH, OR LISTEN TO?

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We are calling this May Picks since I never made it to the theater in April to preview the one movie I really wanted to see, The Girl Who Believes in Miracles. Stay tuned for a review when it eventually makes its appearance digitally.

While theaters have reopened locally, the only showings in my area have late afternoon or evening start times. This makes it difficult for me as anyone who lives on a too-narrow, low-visibility country road can tell you, driving at night is ill-advised.

At first, I thought it was a little sad that I’d turned into my grandmother at 75, unable to drive anywhere after the sun went down. But after a trip home where I spent many evenings heading back to Mom and Dad’s in the dark, I realized it wasn’t my age, it’s just my road!

Which means my movie viewing takes place primarily on my Amazon tablet. (Said country road also makes streaming on the den television less than optimal as it buffers precisely 4.3 times per minute.)

But I have found two great apps for family and faith-based movies:

Pureflix is my favorite and it’s filled with great Christian movies. The only drawback for me is that they don’t allow subscribers to download movies so you must have a strong connection to watch. I’ve found that my cellphone works best for streaming non-downloaded movies. Some favorites: Switched, Miracles from Heaven, Heaven is for Real, What If, The Ultimate Gift.

UP Faith & Family is great, too, and DOES allow downloads. This is perfect for traveling or waiting rooms. Some faves: The Baby Proposal, Instant Nanny, Twist of Fate, When We Last Spoke.

Prefer your plots in book form? I have the set for you! Christian author Lisa Wingate published The Prayer Box in 2013. It had been on my to-read shelf for nearly as long but I devoured it in one rainy week-end recently. She later published two Kindle novellas, a prequel and a sequel to The Prayer Box and I loved getting that little bit extra. It’s like having a slice (or two) of your favorite cake after indulging in your favorite meal!

Need to free up your hands and eyes and just LISTEN instead? I have an entire ALBUM for you. Some of your favorite hymns sung by the angelic-sounding, country sweetheart Carrie Underwood. My Savior has Victory in Jesus, The Old Rugged Cross, Oh How I Love Jesus, and more. Listen to Great is thy Faithfulness here.

Remember, all that you read, all that you watch, all that you listen to….should be pleasing to Him. What’s done in secret will be brought into the light….Luke 12:3