Tuesday, September 18, 2007


For all those who hurried back this week because I said last Wednesday that, with any luck, somebody in my family would do something incredibly stupid and I could write about it: Well, I guess I have to admit it was me who did the most stupid thing this week.

I lost my cell phone. It turned up after six days. It was a long six days.
By an interesting God-incident the lectionary for Sunday was the parable of the Lost Sheep and Coin, found in Luke 15. I heard this scripture about four times last week between two different worship services, the Children’s Story and other readings. Apparently the theme for my week was going to be “Lost.” May I say that I completely understand how God, the Great Shepherd, mourns for a lost sheep. If God feels anything close to the way I felt losing my cell phone, lost sheep like you and me must be on God’s mind all the time. I was obsessed. I couldn’t think of anything but what calls I was missing and how much it would cost to replace the damned thing. I couldn’t concentrate on anything but the stupid phone.

And I have to say I went to the most extreme of all actions to find it. Yes, I cleaned my house.

“… what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?”

My stepmother, who raised me, always told me that if I lost something I should clean my house and I would find it. Regrettably, she was always right.

I’ve lost my wedding ring a couple of times. And both times I was eventually reduced to tearing the vacuum cleaner bag apart and looking through it. What is all that stuff, anyway? It’s totally unrecognizable but always seems to have the same character….it’s always a gray mass of bits of cat hair and dog dandruff mixed with sand and popcorn kernels. But never a wedding ring.

I sighed and realized it was past time to clean anyway. Maybe God was playing a trick on me. Maybe my stepmother, now in heaven herself, put the idea into God’s head. I can see her going up to the old man with the beard sitting at the master control panel of the universe flipping switches and pushing buttons and whispering in his ear to do something to make Jane clean her nasty house.

We checked all the usual places I leave the phone. Then all the unusual places, like the time I found my glasses outside on top of the BBQ grill. We looked in both cars--two or three times, each time with a flashlight. We called both daughters thinking I might have left it at their houses. Around the middle of the week we got serious. Beaven got on the Internet and checked our cell phone account. He found out the last conversation I had on the phone was 42 minutes with a lady we met on a hurricane Katrina recovery trip. He asked me where had I sat while I was on the phone with her. Well, that was a dumb question because it’s a cell phone, for goodness sakes, it’s portable; I was all over the house. I was everywhere. I was at my desk getting paper. I was in the kitchen eating an orange. I was in front of the TV writing stuff down. And I was on the phone over half an hour. The beauty of a cell phone is that you can go everywhere with it

I was going to have to look everywhere for the phone.

Beaven and I seldom have guests and we don’t have to answer to anyone about the cleanliness of our house. We each have a “nest” by our chair where we collect various reading materials. We don’t worry about putting these things away because we intend to get them out and read them again. But I realized my phone could be mixed in with all that stuff. By the time I gathered up travels books and electronics magazines you could see the floor. But no cell phone.

I finally had to bite the bullet and clean off my desk. It took about two days. Have I mentioned I’m writing a book? It has about 26 chapters and I don’t write linear, no-- I write a little on all 26 chapters at the same time. Usually I can find something on my desk by looking sideways at the piles. But nothing the size and color of the phone showed. I gathered up about five two-foot piles of stacks of papers from the top of the desk, sat down on the living room floor and went piece by piece, making decisions over each piece. Throw or keep? Keep where? When I get to this point I become a very organized person. I have files for most papers I keep. I even have a folder marked “Ideas to Ponder.” I’ve never actually taken that file and pondered them but, still, it’s nice to think someday I will. At the end of this process there’s always one big box for things that defy labels. In this box I might store the 1996 Commencement program from Perkins School of Theology or the newspaper clipping about the death of Dr. Katharina Dalton, the gynecologist who discovered PMS, or a map of all the counties in Texas. Some things are just hard to know where to put them but you can’t throw them away. At least I can’t. Hence my tiny little problem.

When I finally got everything cleaned off the top of my desk I was so impressed that I took a picture of it. You’ll notice how clean the surface of my desk is. That’s because it seldom sees daylight. It’s never exposed to air.

By this time I was feeling a little better about the lost phone. I had found some money in with all the flotsam and jetsam of the desk. There was an envelope with a $20 bill in it. I remembered carefully saving it a couple of years ago because someone had written “Elisabeth” on it in tiny letters. I wanted to save it and give it to my granddaughter some day. Then I found a one-pound coin left from a trip to London. At the current exchange rate, it’s worth almost $2. So I had $22 toward a new phone. Things weren’t totally hopeless.

A couple of hours after I finished my desk and taking a picture of it, apparently having satisfied my stepmother in heaven, I was released from my torture. Beaven found my phone. And he found it in the best possible way-- by losing his own. As he was leaving for the store, he took his own cell phone, lay it down on the seat of the car and watched it fall between the seats. Knowing the phone was there he reached in, felt around and pulled up a phone. It was mine. Digging around another time produced his. Not only did he find my phone but he did so in a way that left me blameless. Thank you, Jesus.

“When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’


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