Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Fatherhood, Laughter and Miracles

In The Beginning...There Were No Diapers* by Tim Bete

When I was in kindergarten, I prayed for proof that God existed. I wasn't looking for God to reveal himself through the biggest miracle. I was only five so I was practical. I wanted God to place some graham crackers in a plastic bag in my coat pocket. Every day when I went into the coatroom, I dug my hands down deep into my pockets -- but they were always empty. When I graduated to first grade, I gave up asking God for graham crackers because I was convinced he wasn't going to produce.

Thirty-five years passed. Then one day, I put my hand in my pocket and felt a plastic bag. I pulled it out and there in the bottom of the bag where three graham crackers. Sure, they belonged to one of my kids, but who's to say God didn't just take the slow fulfillment route -- using my daughter as the delivery girl -- to grant my kindergarten prayer?

But that wasn't all. As I dug my hand deeper into my coat pocket, I discovered two rubber bands, a dandelion, some pebbles, and a Happy Meal prize. When God answers prayers, he does it in abundance. I showed these treasures to a friend, who showed me the contents of his pocket -- two licorice sticks, three pennies, and a feather. I didn't have to ask him what he prayed for in kindergarten.
Tim Bete writes a la Erma Bombeck ... if Erma had been a Catholic father. He looks at his life with his family of small children through a lens of laughter and the appreciation of small everyday miracles. Covering such subjects as fending off questions about impending additions to their large family, what happens when the caterpillars from a butterfly garden escape captivity into your household, and watching your five year old's T-ball game, Bete looks for the humor in every side of every situation.
Help wanted: Mother

Seven-day workweek with twenty-four hour shifts. Some vacation time accrues after first eighteen years. Must be able to cook at least ten dishes none of the kids will eat. Ability to tune out crying a must. Should be able to carry infant and three bags of groceries at same time. Must have chauffeur's license and advanced degrees in nursing, veterinary medicine, and education while not too proud to be a seamstress and maid. Must be able to juggle schedules while balancing a checkbook as well as be willing to be spit-up upon. Requires willingness to change dirty diapers, flat tires, and plans at the last minute. No previous experience necessary because no previous experience can prepare you for this job. Children willing to break in new recruits.
I will say that I never could appreciate Erma Bombeck so this is not really my sort of book. Bete seems determined to milk every bit of laughter he can and sometimes went over the top. However, so did Bombeck from my point of view so one must take that into account. I appreciated the fact that he always connected details of his family life with the big picture of God working our lives everyday. I did find some parts of the book quite funny and so did my husband, who got a big laugh from the excerpts featured here.

Bottom line, if you like Erma Bombeck and appreciate having your faith as part of everyday life, then you probably will like this book. I know that I have several friends who will like this book and will be giving this as a Christmas gift to them.
If you imagine yourself on the hillside when Jesus multiplied the five loaves and two fish to feed more than 5,000, I think you'll see my point. There must have been a thousand children present. By my calculation, immediately after the miracle, 400 kids would have said they "didn't like fish." three hundred and fifty children would have complained that their "bread was touching their fish," and therefore they couldn't eat it. One hundred and fifty kids would have whines that the fish was "inedible without tartar sauce." Seventy-five would have asked for "fish sticks instead of the whole fish." Finally, twenty-five children must have dropped their fish on the ground and cried because it was dirty, even though they never would have eaten it in the first place.

I could be wrong, but that's what would have happened if my kids were on that hillside. Because Jesus was in charge, however, two miracles occurred. First, he multiplied the loaves and fish. Second, all the kids ate it. You decide which was the greater miracle.


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