Monday, February 17, 2014

Men of The Book

I wanted to share a story from my childhood. Sorry. It’s sort of long, but it’s got a point in the end. Here goes:

I’m an old fart now. I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s in a time when school always started the day after Labor Day…ended on June 1st…and all the mothers I knew were (what is now called) stay-at-home moms. But one year, as I started 2nd grade, my mom went to work. It was a HUGE deal. My dad was a teacher at the time and the addition of my younger brother Doug, a couple of years before this, taxed the household budget. My parents had to make some hard decisions…and as crazy as this was in 1967…Mom went to work and got a job as a secretary.

Needless to say, they had to find childcare, for my brother Doug who was at home all day, and for my older brother Dave and I when we got home for school. After lots of searching and interviews, my folks landed on Mrs. Leveau—the widowed mother of one of my dad’s former students. In reality, Mrs. Leveau wasn’t that old…maybe early 60s…but she seemed ancient to every 2nd grader.

But more importantly, there was something I didn't like or trust about Mrs. Leveau.
It was hard for me to understand at the time—let alone articulate—my feelings towards Mrs. Leveau. There was just something about her. I later came to know it as “hypocrisy”—meaning this: Mrs. Leveau was just downright mean when my parents weren’t around, yet as soon as they got home, she was so sugary-sweet I nearly developed diabetes. Mrs. Leveau’s brand of babysitting consisted of keeping Doug in the playpen most of the day while she planted herself in front of our color TV in a rocking chair. When Dave and I came home from school each day, she would barely look up from the TV and mumble a greeting. Then, when Dad came home she was bubbling with, “Why hello, Mr. Foote! Davey, Danny and Dougie have been JUST wonderful today. Haven’t you, boys?” It was enough to make me puke. This went on for most of the school year.

Then, an event occurred that changed everything. It happened on March 4th—my birthday. It all started with the fact that I had to go to school on my birthday. Every kid thinks they should get the day off from school on their birthday, right? But that was not the case in 1968. Still, I was looking forward to birthday cake and presents after dinner later that night and hardly paid attention when my brother Dave got off the bus early to go to a neighbors for Cub Scouts.

I walked in the door that afternoon and found everything as usual. Doug was standing in his playpen and Mrs. Leveau was parked in front of the TV. She didn’t even look up. I bounced in and said, “Hi Mrs. Leveau! Did you know today was my birthday?” Nothing. She never even acknowledged me—and something started to stir in me. I didn't know what it was. I later came to understand it as “righteous indignation”. I scowled at Mrs. Leveau and asked, “Aren’t you going to wish me a Happy Birthday?” She simply mumbled, “I don’t wish sassy little boys Happy Birthday”.

And that’s when I snapped.

Something deep inside me let go and I marched back to my bedroom. Slowly, methodically and deliberately I began carrying out stacks of our Beginner Books to the living room. The Beginner Books were the (now famous) books published by Random House—written by the likes of Dr. Suess, Bennett Cerf and P.D. Eastman. The Cat in the Hat…Go, Dog, Go!...Green Eggs and Ham. We had them all.

As I stacked the books about 10 feet away from Mrs. Leveau and her throne she looked up from the TV and asked what I was doing. I responded to her the same way Mrs. Leveau had responded to me throughout that school year. I said nothing. I just continued to trot back and forth from the bedroom and stack my books. When I felt like I had enough, I stopped and looked at her. “Will you tell me what you’re doing, young man?” she squawked. I gave her nothing. I simply grabbed the first book and…

…threw it at Mrs. Mrs. Leveau’s head.

I chucked it with all I had in me. The book hit her square in the face…knocking off her glasses—breaking them. As she reeled from my first volley…I pelted her with another book…then another…and another. Sam the FireflyHop On PopA Fish Out of Water…each book knocking Mrs. Leveau back, defenseless.

She screamed as I showered her with books. When I threw my last…I bolted for my bedroom and jumped into the top bunk. Mrs. Leveau stormed into the bedroom and preceded to yell and flail at me with the paddle my parents used for spankings. I squirmed and squeezed close to the wall, out of her reach—waiting for her to give up—which she finally did. “You just wait until your father gets home, young man!” she huffed as she left the room. I quickly sprang from the top bunk and bolted past Mrs. Leveau in the hallway—just missing her grasp. I ran out the front door into a drizzle of rain.

I ran to the empty lot two houses down and stood with no jacket on—in a daze in some puddles. I waited for the greater storm that was soon to arrive: Dad. I knew I was already dead meat, so what did it matter if I got all muddy. I remember sloshing in an ankle-deep puddle when Dad’s car pulled in the drive.

I waited.

After a time, Mrs. Leveau came out, got in her car and left. Soon after, Dad stepped out and whistled for me. This was it. It was The End.

But it wasn’t.

As a matter of fact. I never got a spanking or even yelled at for the “Beginner Book Incident”. Yes, I had to call and apologize to Mrs. Leveau on the phone, but that was it. And in short order, Mrs. Leveau was gone, Mom quit her job, and home was back normal. My parents knew things obviously needed to change.

The reason I share this long personal story is because I sometimes think about it when I read about Jesus temptation in the desert (READ: Matt. 4:1-11). Each time the enemy throws a temptation at Jesus, what does He do? He throws a scripture verse right back. Boom. Boom. Boom. Like the books I chucked at Mrs. Leveau each time she tried to get out of that rocking chair, Jesus slams Satan with the Word of God. He was a Man of The Book.

That’s a great lesson for us. Now, I’m not saying that Mrs. Leveau was Satan, but what I am saying is that my righteous indignation was warranted. Mrs. Leveau was a hypocrite. I knew something was wrong and it festered in me until I couldn’t take it any longer. I needed to fight. Likewise, we need to get good and angry about the way the enemy is constantly trying to destroy our lives…and we need to get serious about the fight…the same way Jesus did! And the best way to arm ourselves is with His words—the Word of God. We need to be Men of The Book.

And that’s what we’re trying to do with Wake Up Call. We’re trying to help arm each of you for the fight…to try and help you know, and study, Jesus’ life and His words…the best ammunition for the war we’re all in.

I sure hope you’ll get signed up for it ( ...and that your belly will get full of righteous indignation…and that you’ll arm yourself to protect your heart, your home, your family, and your friends. 

Let’s be Men of The Book!          


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