Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Confessions of an Airport Troublemaker

I learned very early in life about the repercussions of causing trouble at an airport. I recall being immediately yelled at by my father AND several airport employees because I made a very inappropriate joke about a bomb. This was before security was so tight and you could go all the way to the gate with or without a ticket. I was just a little girl then. It’s funny, things have change dramatically since then. After 9-11 I gained a lot more respect for airport security and would never even think about making such a joke.

I've traveled a lot in the last few months (10 flights) and I have collected a few experiences to share.

Bomb in the Bag

I went to Madison, WI for the weekend for a bachelorette party. It was a quick trip so I only just had a small carry on bag. The weekend passed quickly and before long it was time to come home. I always get just a little bit nervous when I go through security. I don't know why since I never have anything to get in trouble for, but I still get a little uptight. I got a little more uptight when several TSA agents were called over to look at the x-ray of my bag. There was a unanimous decision to pull my bag off the belt and do a thorough search. They called me over behind the screen and asked me a bunch of questions before opening the bag. Did you pack your own bag... yes. Has anyone accessed your bag other than you... no. Do you have any weapons in your bag... no. Have you handled any explosives in the last 24 hours... NO! I start to get worried. The last question they asked was... Do you have any candles in your bag? “No, of course not. I have no reason to have a candle.” With rubber gloves in place, the TSA agent sprayed the bag with some special spray then carefully opened the bag. She looked inside then looked at me with funny disgust. I couldn't imagine what she had found... she pulled out a giant candle and said, “I thought you said you didn't have any candles in your bag.” I was mortified... yes... I did have a candle but I wasn't trying to lie. My sister-in-law had given me several gifts right before we left for the airport and I had stuffed them in my bag quickly... the candle was a gift and I had simply forgotten about it. I felt like a moron. The TSA agent put it back in the bag and zipped it up. She informed me that candles look exactly like plastic explosives on the x-ray machine. She kind of laughed at me at that point, which was nice. At least she was kind about it. I went on my way relieved, but completely embarrassed.

Pistol Whipped
Brett and I traveled to VA together to see my parents. We took two suitcases but only checked one because I didn't want to pay the baggage fee for both (they get you coming and going these days). Similar to the last story, my carry on got taken off the belt after a hefty discussion at x-ray but this time the TSA agent was extremely unfriendly. I had Brett with me so you can imagine how dangerous I looked. He asked me repeatedly if I had any weapons in my bag... my answer was a resounding no... at least until he reached into my bag and pulled out a small metal revolver. Yep, I had a gun in my carry on... what an idiot I am!!! In my defense, it was a toy... from my childhood (back when they made guns that looked real) and it was now one of Brett's favorite things to play with when he was playing Pirates. I spoke up to try and tell the TSA agent that the gun was a toy only to be shushed immediately. He looked it over for a good 5 minutes then said in a very serious voice, “You are free to go but I am going to have to confiscate your weapon.” The word confiscate made me kind of chuckle inside but this was surely no laughing matter. I apologized to the agent but he didn't want to hear it. The best part of the story is what Brett said to me as I apologized to him about having to walk away from one of his favorite toys... he looked up at me sweetly and said, “That’s okay mom, I didn't need it anyway.” Awe!!!! So you may be wondering, how the heck did I allow that gun to get in my bag??? Well, let’s just say that I will never ever let Brett pack his own things again... at least without carefully going through it before heading to the airport.

Boarding Pass Foul-up
As I've said, I've traveled a lot in the last months, enough that I have the DFW airport TSA security process down! Once you show your boarding pass and ID to the security officer who checks it, stares at you then marks it with a highlighter then you can put your boarding pass and ID away. They clearly tell you...They don't need to see it when you walk through the metal detector. In fact, sometimes they have a guy standing there just to remind you to put it away. The new thing at DFW is to put your shoes on the belt instead of in a bin. It was on the news and sure enough, this is the new rule. Aside from those times I tried to sneak candle “explosives” and a pistol into my bag, I usually breeze right through security with no problems. I was going through security at the Roanoke, VA airport... my most recent flight. I did what I always do... tucked my boarding pass and ID into my wallet after the TSA agent gave me the once over and checked me off with the official highlighter. I took my shoes off, put them on the belt along with my purse and other carry-on... laptop and mini-tv in a bin. I was all proud of myself for having it all together... no trouble this time – I was sure of it!!! It was my turn to walk through the metal detector and the TSA agent held his hand out to me and said, “I need to see your boarding pass.” Well, duh... it was in my purse which was under the x-ray machine and I told him that. He told me he needed it... I was kind and said something to this effect, “I am so sorry... but you know how it is... each airport is different and usually we don't need it here. I'm sorry.” He got really pissy with me and said, “No!!! Every airport is the exact same. TSA policy is the same across the board! You ALWAYS need your boarding pass here.” He finished his statement with these words... “You are wrong.” My hackles raised, like the hair on the back of an agitated dog, and I thought to myself... I'm gonna get arrested! I took a deep breath, reminded myself that Brett was standing right next to me and I needed to show a good example. I forced a fake smile, bit my tongue and said, “I'm sorry sir.” He allowed me to show it to him after the metal detector and we quickly went on our way. I have to be honest, I was greatly annoyed!!!! I had that “I need a drink” feeling for a nanosecond. I really don't like being told I am wrong (who does) especially when I am in all actuality correct. Maybe TSA policy is the same across the board... but hey... po-dunk Roanoke, VA airport, the airport with a grand total of 12 gates is the only place I have been asked to show my boarding pass at the metal detector in a very long time!!!! I have a feeling DFW might be a little more on top of TSA policy.

As a born sinner, I must accept that no matter how badly I may want to stay on the straight and narrow, I will always fail only to have to deal with the consequences. Sometimes my sins are a result of total forgetfulness (candle in the bag), sometimes I get wrapped up in a sin by mere association but still must accept responsibility for my part (letting a 4 year old pack his own bag), and sometimes it will happen in the midst of trying my best to follow the rules (TSA meany). There is that other kind of sin too... the willful decision to be disobedient. I think I tend to overcomplicate the whole thing though in an attempt to keep score. Inside my head I have a sin demerit chart. Gossip = 15 demerits, dishonesty =30 demerits, missing church = 40 demerits and then there are the big ones... adultery = 90,000 demerits, murder= 100,000 demerits. I don't think I'm right though, in fact I think this is down right wrong (Catholics everywhere are gasping for air). I think I'm missing the point completely. If I could ask God, I believe the truth would be that all my sins carry the same weight no matter what the circumstances are. I don't think He measures them with anything other than a desire for me to recognize them, humbly ask for forgiveness, and “learn & turn” from them. Is it ironic that there are so many rules to follow so we can safely go high up in the sky? Heaven is awaiting... but God doesn't have a crew of TSA agents to put me through the paces and make sure the rules are being followed. That part is up to me – to open myself up to the Spirit as a guide to help me remember, to guide me away from carelessness and even tell me I'm wrong when I deserve it. It's hard being this sinner... but in the wise words of an awesome Christian therapist, all God expects is for me to keep searching for Him... so I’ll just keep trying.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Watered Down

Since Brett’s birth I have planned to make certain he is raised with God in his life. In fact, my son’s birth was one of the reasons my husband and I returned to church after being gone for a time (sound familiar to anyone?). I thought getting him excited about bible stories would be easy but as it turned out, it wasn’t.

I grew up in the church but only came to really understand what being a daughter of the Father was all about 3 years ago. I did an intense yet very interesting bible study a few years ago in which we read the entire bible, cover to cover. I realized something crazy as I went through this process… in almost every case, all those bible stories I was taught as a child had been censored so much that the morals of the stories had been completely left out. The bible just so happens to be one of the most exciting, dangerous, epic, sexy, graphic books ever written – and because of that, many of the stories just aren’t very appropriate for the virginal, protected, delicate ears of children. At the same time, as an adult this made the bible totally relevant to today’s world!!!! For example, I was shocked to read about how Moses, the hand picked man of God who led the Israelites out of captivity and was given the 10 commandments… murdered a guard who was being mean to a guy he knew then hid the evidence. He got caught anyway so instead of facing the music, he ran away. Or how about Kind David, another handpicked man of God, known as the man after God’s own heart. He lustfully committed adultery which resulted in an unwanted pregnancy. In an attempt to cover up his error, he had the woman’s husband murdered. Do you think that’s relevant to today at all??? Wow… definitely not a story to tell kids though, huh?

But what about Jonah… how many of you know the real ending to Jonah and whale??? The story doesn’t end when the whale spits him out… there is much more that reveals the real reason for the incident. It shows Jonah as a whiny, jealous, judgmental, disobedient man who learns how loving God really is and utters, “That’s not fair!” when God wants to be merciful to sinners Jonah doesn’t approve of. Now that is a story I can TOTALLY relate to… and you know what, I think our children can too. Don’t you think it would be smart to let our children see the realness of the bible? I think if we are going to let our kids watch today’s television… maybe they can handle the REAL bible but, no… we have to protect them from the word of God… how ironic is that????

As a result, the publishers have created an array of children’s bibles and story books to help parents get kids excited about God but also keep their sweet, innocent, virginal minds safe. I have many versions of many attempts at this but it seems that no matter which method I try, Brett just isn’t interested. It’s like he can see just from the cover art that it’s a boring bible book. I don’t know what it is… but perhaps he is smart enough to know that something is missing. The only way I have found to share bible stories with Brett is to act them out with his toys, and he seems to enjoy that – but its’ WORK!!!!

I found a book at a gift shop a year ago called “The Brick Testament: The Ten Commandments” by Brendan Powell Smith. I bought it because I thought it was hilarious… this guy took scripture and illustrated it with Legos, yes Legos. I never considered sharing it with Brett because it is a little adult, meaning it doesn’t take out the goriness… murder and such. I wasn’t sure it was “appropriate” for his little mind. As I prepared for my recent trip to VA, I came across the book and for some reason decided to throw it in my carry-on. It wasn’t until our plane ride home that I pulled it out of the bag and asked Brett if he wanted to read it with me. I wasn’t sure what he would say since he seems to reject any and all religious books. He looked it over quickly and said, “Sure!” with excitement.

Well, I have never seen this child more excited about a book in my life. I read the scriptures to him then explained the pictures in my own words. Do you know he wanted to keep going and going and going… he remembers that Moses was found in a basket in the river… he knows that Pharaoh made slaves of the Israelites, he knows that God spoke to Moses through the burning bush! He even asked me how God could do such a thing… I explained it was a miracle and God can do whatever He wants and Brett accepted that!!!! So much conversation has come from this book and he keeps asking me to re-read it and read more. I know part of it is that he likes Legos… but I think another part of it is that it isn’t “watered down” for him. It’s the real Word of God and he likes it! I was so excited that I went online to see if there were any more books like this. As it turns out, Mr. Smith has done two more books, “The Brick Testament: Stories from the Book of Genesis” and “the Brick Testament: The Christmas Story.” I ordered them but found something even more exciting…. he has a website !!! On his website he has gone through the entire bible, telling many of the stories in just the same manner! Of course, we will have to look at them on-line but hey – Brett loves the computer so that is not a problem.

I think so many of us, myself included, have turned our nose up at the bible thinking it is far too boring or scary for us to actually want to read or understand but I’m here to tell you… it’s a very exciting, adult book that leaves you on the edge of your seat. With versions such as “The Message” out there now that make it really easily understood, there is no excuses to let the dust continue to collect. I’m studying Proverbs right now… and everything I’ve ever wanted to know is right there… a guideline to life… all relevant to now, all waiting to be discovered and taken to heart. I plan to base my house rules on Proverbs so when Brett asks me why he has to obey or why he can’t stay out all night I can not only say, “Because I said so…” but also point it out in the Word so he sees that these are God’s laws first and foremost! Of course that requires knowledge on my part so… wish me luck in my endeavor!

As for right now, I’m so glad I have a way to share the bible with Brett that he enjoys… nothing is going to keep me from giving him the real story. No more “watering down” or leaving out the moral of the story for us! I wonder… since God made us to need Him… is it possible that he also made us to intrinsically need the whole story… and thus we are perhaps subconsciously aware and disinterested when the whole story isn’t being told? With God… anything and everything is possible!!!