Chapter OnePsst . Has Anyone Seen a
Table I Can Crawl Under?
Things are going to get a lot worse before they get worse. -Lily Tomlin
I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes
several days attack me at once. -Jennifer Unlimited
If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have
to be a horrible warning. -Catherine Aird
Inevitably, the funniest stories are usually the ones
we tell on ourselves. Sometimes these stories are down-right
embarrassing. But once we put away our punctured
pride and dust off our damaged dignity, they can
become an endless source of amusement. The ability
to laugh at ourselves is surely a sign that all is well with
Humbled by a Pine Tree
Many years ago, I was privileged to serve as the first pastoral staff
member of John Maxwell at Faith Memorial Church in Lancaster,
Ohio. John, a noted author, lecturer, and former senior pastor of
the Skyline Wesleyan Church, has been my mentor for more than
twenty years. He has guided me in matters of leadership, preaching,
evangelism, and church growth. And from time to time, John,
who is an excellent golfer, has felt the need to mentor me in the
great game of golf.
On one rainy fall day many years ago in Lancaster, I was working
on a project when the intercom buzzer sounded. "Toler," the
booming voice of Maxwell said, "let's play 18!"
What a welcome diversion! I thought to myself. In a matter of
minutes, we loaded our golf clubs into John's 1972 Ford Pinto and
hurried to the nearby Carrollwood golf course. Since it was raining
steadily, the course was not crowded and we were able to tee
For the first five holes, it appeared that the Maxwell Mentoring
Course on golf was working. "What a great game-thanks for asking
me to come along," I said to John.
As we approached the sixth tee box, I courageously asked John
to loan me his three-wood. He was proud of his new clubs and
most willing to share them with his prized pupil. I stepped up to the
tee box and took a practice swing. Feeling ready, I swung mightily
at the little white ball.
To this day, I don't remember whether I actually hit that ball,
but what I do remember is the club slipping out of my hands and
sailing twenty feet into the air. Embarrassing? You bet! And if that
wasn't humbling enough, the three-wood landed in a pine tree.
Maxwell was in a state of utter disbelief.
"You just threw my new club into a tree!" he cried. "How on
earth are we going to get it down?"
Mustering all the confidence I had, I said, "Give me your
shoe." Obediently, John sat down on the cart and handed me his
golf shoe. I carefully aimed his shoe at the club and gave it a mighty
heave, expecting it to knock the club out of the pine tree. To my
dismay, his shoe got stuck in the same tree.
Undaunted, I said, "Give me your other shoe." Again, without
arguing, John handed his other shoe to me. Taking better aim, I
tossed his shoe at the club, and missed again! Can you believe it?
The second shoe stayed in the tree also.
As the drizzle started to become a downpour, Maxwell stood
up and said, "Toler, you big dummy! No, wait a minute-I'm the
dummy! Stan, give me your shoe!"
In a spirit of cooperation-and fear-I took off my shoe and
handed it to him. And why not? He had a three-wood and two golf
shoes in that pine tree. Taking careful aim, he threw my shoe at the
club. Up it went, approximately eighteen feet in the air, and missed
everything. Feeling more confident, I picked up my shoe and tossed
it at the club. It missed the club, but as it fell downward, it knocked
one of John's shoes loose. In the process, however, my shoe got
stuck in the tree. John immediately grabbed his shoe that had fallen
to the ground and clutched it defensively. Now neither of us had a
complete pair of shoes, and still the golf club was stuck in the tree.
By this time, several other golfers had passed the sixth tee,
observing this Laurel and Hardy comedy routine. Remarkably,
most did not speak or offer to help us. (Can you blame them?)
When every effort had failed in retrieving the golf club, my
esteemed friend finally climbed the huge pine tree and personally
retrieved the club and our shoes. At that point, it began to thunder,
and the rain was coming down even harder. The only thing left to
do was quit for the day and go to the clubhouse for hot chocolate.
Feeling embarrassed and helpless, we drove rapidly across the
course to the clubhouse. As John opened the door, the room
became silent. And that's when paranoia instantly gripped us. Sure
enough, the other golfers had told on us! As we stood in the doorway,
laughter erupted like you've never heard.
We shut the door, turned right around, and went straight home.
And believe me, it was a long time before we played golf there
The Almond Joy Incident
Cathy Lee Phillips
It all started with a simple glass of water. It was Day Fourteen of
my Weight Watchers diet, and I was doing great! I'd lost seven
pounds by carefully keeping track of my food exchanges. For two
weeks I'd successfully avoided hamburgers and cheesecake. I was
following the regime religiously in all areas but one-I simply
couldn't drink eight glasses of water a day. Impossible! I could
never get further than glass number six. I spent the rest of the day
trotting to the nearest bathroom.
Nevertheless, on this particular Saturday, I was determined that
nothing would deter me from consuming the prescribed eight
glasses. Nothing! So I panicked at 11:36 P.M. when I realized I'd
only had seven glasses of water. Only twenty-four meager minutes
until midnight. Could I do it?
Despite the late hour and the danger of bladder-related sleep
deprivation, I braced myself for one more glass of water. In the
kitchen I grabbed a glass and sliced a fresh, juicy lemon. The nightmare
began when I opened the freezer for a few cubes of ice. It
was lying there, innocently tucked behind a few stray cartons of
frozen yogurt and two packs of Weight Watchers frozen lasagna.
How it got there is still a mystery. I only know that my eyes grew
wide and my heart beat wildly.
An Almond Joy! Two simple bits of coconut, each bathed in milk
chocolate and crowned with a large crunchy almond, swaddled in a
beautiful blue wrapper. An Almond Joy!
Rationalization was easy. I'd been on my diet for two weeks
and had lost seven pounds. Surely one simple candy bar wouldn't
harm me. I probably needed the sugar in my system after not having
had any for, lo, these fourteen days. And it was an awfully hot
night so the candy bar would be especially cool and refreshing.
Besides, it wasn't as if I'd been looking for an Almond Joy. On the
contrary, the Almond Joy had found me!
Best of all, my husband, Jerry, was sleeping soundly. He would
never know. No one would ever know. It was all so perfect. Surely
it was God's will that I eat this Almond Joy!
Grabbing the candy bar and my number eight glass of water,
I raced for the sofa. I crossed my legs underneath me, aimed the
TV remote, and found a MASH rerun. Perfect! Quite deliberately
I unwrapped my newfound treasure from its bright blue cover and
held it aloft. Life was suddenly very exciting.
The candy bar was frozen but not too firm against my teeth. It
was cool and sweet. And it was all mine. No one would ever know
that I'd surrendered my diet for this piece of heaven that had so
unexpectedly entered my life.
I ate it all. Every bit of coconut, every dab of chocolate, every
crumb of almond. And because I had something to eat, it was so
much easier to drink my number eight glass of water.
Turning off the TV, I placed my empty glass in the sink and
popped the bright blue wrapper in the trash can. Risking a mouthful
of cavities, I didn't even stop to brush my teeth. I fell asleep
with the taste of Almond Joy still dancing in my mouth.
My husband, a pastor, awoke early the next morning to put the
finishing touches on his sermon. While I slept soundly, he puttered
in the kitchen, toasting some bread and pouring himself a tall glass
of orange juice. Emptying the carton, he opened the pantry door
and reached for the garbage can. The bag was full. As he bent to
remove it, Jerry discovered the remains of a bright blue Almond
Joy wrapper perched atop the other miscellaneous garbage.
What is this? he thought to himself. He didn't remember eating
a candy bar. And knowing I was religiously following the Weight
Watchers diet, he was puzzled by the object that had somehow found
its way into our garbage can. Clutching the wrapper to his chest, he
walked quietly back to the bedroom where I slept, unaware of the
trouble at hand.
"Cathy," he nudged me gently. Opening one eye slowly, I
looked into his loving face. He smiled at me. I smiled back. Was he
feeling romantic at this hour? And on a Sunday morning? Then,
almost immediately, I caught sight of a familiar bright blue piece
of paper in his hand. Could it be? Jerry dangled the wrapper above
me, a clever smirk on his face.
"Do you want to tell me about this?" he asked. The smirk grew
It wasn't that my husband noticed every pound I gained or lost.
He loved me regardless of my weight or the number of Almond
Joys I might consume. I knew that without question.
It was the smirk.
That arrogant little grin told me that my late-night escapade
was no longer my little secret. I'd been found out.
So, why not just admit I'd found an Almond Joy and, in a
moment of weakness, had eaten it? I knew I should have told the
truth, but in the heat of the moment I panicked. I can only blame
my actions on the "sinful" chocolate in my stomach and the smirk
on my husband's face.
"The candy bar belonged to Ray Lathem," I blurted.
Ray Lathem, a good friend of ours and member of our church,
lived across the street from our parsonage. Recently Ray had been
placed on a strict eating program by his doctor, so he and I often
shared our dieting successes and failures. I knew, therefore, that
Ray would understand my Almond Joy experience. I would tell
him about it after church and we would have a good laugh together.
"Last night, Ray Lathem knocked on our door," the lie began.
"He'd been craving a candy bar all day but knew his family would
never let him have one. Finally, he couldn't stand it! In a moment
of weakness, he ate an Almond Joy he'd hidden in his truck. But he
didn't know what to do with the wrapper. If his wife found it, she'd
know he'd abandoned his diet. So Ray sneaked out of his house
and knocked on our door. He had one simple request: Could he
place the wrapper in our garbage can? What could I do? Of course
I would let my friend and fellow dieter place the wrapper in our
garbage can," I concluded with great emotion.
"That's your story?" Jerry's smirk filled the room.
"And I'm sticking to it," I replied, rather proud of the creativity
I'd exhibited at such an early hour. I pulled the blanket over
my head while Jerry, chuckling loudly, returned to his sermon and
I put the story out of my mind until 11:35 A.M. when Jerry, beginning
his sermon, reached inside his pocket and held the familiar
wrapper before the entire congregation.
"Ray Lathem, does this belong to you?" the voice from the
Ray and his wife, Leila, were in their usual pew. Confused, Ray
looked innocently at Leila, begging to be believed.
Knowing I had a sense of humor and had agreed to having the
details of my life shared with the entire congregation, my husband
relayed the story and then thanked me for providing the perfect
illustration for his sermon entitled, appropriately enough, "The
Devil Made Me Do It." The congregation laughed and laughed.
And they kept laughing.
In fact, Ray laughed the loudest, delighted that I'd included
him in my elaborate tale.
Afterwards, many people came up to me saying I was a good
sport for being able to laugh at myself. And, before the day was
done, more than two dozen Almond Joys had been brought to our
home by sympathetic friends who themselves had fallen off the diet
wagon at least once. With his wife's permission, I shared the goods
with Ray Lathem.
During his sermon, Jerry shared the passage in Numbers 32 in
which Moses told the Israelites their sins would find them out. Jerry
said our sins would always find us out sooner or later too.
Mine sure did. I just pray I can learn to limit my sins to Almond
Sheri Rose Shepherd
When a group of women get together for a retreat without their
husbands and children, there's no telling what will happen. At one
particular gathering, the planners decided to have an icebreaker
game before I began my presentation. They divided us into Group
A and Group B and had a contest to see which group could turn
in the most items from their collective purses.
First they called for lipsticks, and we all dug around in our
purses to fish out our Cantaloupe Blush, Pouty Persimmon, or whatever,
and passed it to the front. The next category was receipts, then
breath mints, and so on down the line. The sides were pretty evenly
matched, and by the final round the score was tied at nine points
each. Whoever won the next round would be Purse Scavenger
Champs, with bragging rights for the whole weekend.
I was in Group A, and we smelled victory right around the corner.
We were pumped. The moderator prepared to announce the
last category, pausing for dramatic effect as we sat with hands
poised over our pocketbooks. "And now the championship category
is . tweezers."
One of my teammates in the back of the room pulled a pair of
tweezers out of her bag and, instead of passing them, launched
them toward the front, since time was an essential element of going
for the gold. The tweezers flew through the air to where I sat in the
front row and stuck like a blow dart in the back of my head. When
I turned to see what happened-was the other side attacking us?-the
tweezers fell out of my scalp, bounced off my shoulder, ricocheted
off my lap, and ran my hose from knee to heel.
Of course it was now time for me to speak. Bloodied, battle
scarred, and with no time to repair the damage (at least we won!),
I took my place at the lectern. To my left was a big speaker box. "Is
this in your way?" I asked the audience. "Yes!" they all shouted.
Trying to be useful, I began loosening the clamp on the stand so I
could lower it. Unfortunately, gravity had other plans. With a hair-raising
screech, the speaker cabinet slid down the stand and
pinched my hand. My eyes bulged. My heart pounded. My hand