Thursday, June 10, 2010

Little Debbie

Debbie T. returned to her one bedroom apartment with the words "four to six months" boldly emblazened into her mind. A few weeks earlier, a shadow appeared on one of her test results. That shadow, her doctor discovered, was a fast-growing form of cancer. Deb was faced with the news that she had only a few months to live.

Deb had lived her life without really giving her own eventual demise much thought. Now, it was all she thought about. "But it was just a shadow," she kept repeating through her tears. "How can a shadow kill?"

Eventually, Deb began to take inventory of her life. She looked at herself and her situation. She was a divorced, 57 year-old woman with no children. Her parents had both died before she was 50. Her sister, twelve years ahead of her chronologically, was now 50 years behind her mentally and emotionally, spending her remaining years in a care facility for alzheimer patients. Deb worked as a cashier at a small, family-owned grocery store in rural Louisiana since her divorce fourteen years ago.

The first phone call she made was to her boss, Randy. Through her tears, Deb let Randy know that she would not be coming back to work. In spite of his many efforts to find out why she was crying and quitting her job, Randy soon heard the line go dead. A strange, illogical fear kept Deb from telling anyone that she was dying. It was as if, by saying it aloud, it would make it true.

The second phone call Deb made came two days later. She called her bank to find out how much money she had in her checking and savings accounts. The amount surprised her. She had hoped to have enough money to get away for a few days. She wanted to sit on a beach and watch the sun rise and set. Instead, she had enough money to go practically anywhere she wanted for a week! Upon further investigation, she discovered a sizeable deposit into her account the previous day. Randy.

Randy and his wife and family had always been good to her. She knew she had to tell them what was going on, but she decided she would wait until she returned from her trip. She had to get away. But where? Deb wanted to see at least one place on earth that she had always dreamed of seeing before it was too late.

Deb knew what that one place was --- Hawaii! For years, she watched game shows and dreamed of being a contestant and winning a trip to Hawaii. But it had only always been a fantasy. With Randy's help, she had just enough money to get to California for a week.

A plan developed in Debbie's mind. She would go to California, get on a game show, and win a trip to Hawaii. It seemed simple enough...until she tried to apply as a contestant. The waiting lists did not fit her limited calendar. The tryouts, application forms, and the odds of being selected were not in her favor either. The only game show she could get tickets to immediately was the one she had watched all her life: "The Price is Right."

"The Price is Right" is the one game show that pulls contestants from the audience. She knew the likelihood of being selected as a contestant was a long shot. She knew the chances of winning a trip was an even greater long shot. And the odds of her winning a trip specifically to Hawaii? Just this side of "not-a-chance." But what did she have to lose? At least she would die knowing she finally took a risk on fulfilling her dreams.

To her surprise, an ad on "The Price is Right" website inviting people to be a contestant on the show had a sample contestant name tag that read, "Debra!" It was all she needed to point and click her way toward contestanthood.

With great fear and enormous butterflies in her stomach, she booked a seat in the audience and one on an airplane. She then found the big, luxurious hotel that they always advertise on the game show and booked a room for three nights. The fear of the shadow was driven away by the excitement of going to California and being in a television audience.

This was a huge step for Deb. Her flight left in four days and she didn't sleep for the next three nights. She packed and packed again a dozen times, ignoring all phone calls, emails, and knocks at the door.

Deb felt totally out of place in Los Angeles. She tried to act like a seasoned traveler, but knew she was failing miserably. In spite of her anxieties, she forced her way through LAX, baggage claim, and an unforgettable cab ride to the hotel. As she checked in at the snazziest place she had ever seen, she looked around, hoping to catch a glimpse of Richard Gere, only to discover that everyone was looking at her. They had obviously never seen anyone from the other "LA"!

When the door closed behind her in her immaculate hotel room, she let out a gigantic sigh of relief, flung herself onto the soft bed, and let the emotions flow. It was an odd demonstration of grief, laughter, sorrow, satisfaction, disbelief, and relief.

The next day, Debbie sat in the studio audience of "The Price is Right" with a big tag on her shirt that read, "Deb." The process of getting to her seat was all a blur. She vaguely remembered filling out paperwork and going through security, but it was mostly a fuzzy series of events that didn't find a home in her memory.

Deb enjoyed the entire show, but her name wasn't called...until the second half! "Debbie T, come on down! You're the next contestant on 'The Price is Right!'"

Deb couldn't believe it! She didn't jump up and scream. She floated down the aisle in shock. It didn't seem real. When she reached her place in the contestant line-up, tears began to flow down her cheeks. The host of the show saw the tears and tried to help her laugh it off, "Wow. She's crying. That usually only happens backstage BEFORE I go to makeup."

Everyone laughed. Everyone except Deb. She cried harder. The place went silent. Fear gripped Deb like never before. Barely discernible words crept out of her for the first time about her diagnosis and her dream. Before she could stop herself, she blubbered to a studio full of strangers what she had kept from close friends: "A shadow...cancer...four to six months...Hawaii..."

People in the audience gasped. Producers began to whisper. Deb saw their reaction. "What are you DOING?" she thought to herself. She suddenly felt foolish and alone. She ran as fast as she could out of the studio. She didn't stop running until she got to the hotel.

Deb hid in her room for the next two days until time for her flight home. She was miserable. She felt like a total failure, having stood at the plate of "the oppurtunity of a lifetime" and struck out.

When Deb entered her home, the sound of the door closing behind her seemed like the closing of the casket on her hopes and dreams. She went straight to bed and slept for ten hours. "Why wake up?" she thought to herself. "What's the point?"

Deb laid in bed staring at the ceiling fan for another hour before getting up and fixing herself some toast and coffee. She had two messages on her answering machine. One number she recognized. Randy. The other number must have been a telemarketer. She didn't recognize the area code. Deb let both messages sit and blink while she ate her breakfast and started the bathwater in the tub.

While in the tub, the unrecognized area code bounced around in her head until it finally found a home. In Deb's mind, there was almost a "ding, ding, ding" sound that went off. The area code was the same as her hotel in Los Angeles. Deb knew that she had paid her bill before leaving, so she decided to finish the relaxing bath before checking the message.

BEEP. "Debbie T? This is Adam Sandler, producer of 'The Price is Right.' Would you please give me a call? I have something I would like to discuss with you."

BEEP. "Deb? Hey, it's Randy. Listen, I need to talk to you. Can you please call me back?" BEEP.

"The Producer is calling ME?" Deb was shocked, scared, and embarrassed. She had replayed her incident on the show over in her mind ten million times and it always left a painful hole in her stomach. She knew they simply edited her out of the program and called another contestant to take her spot. So, why was Mr. Sandler calling?

Three slight raps on her apartment door jolted Deb out of her attempt to understand Mr. Sandler's message. Deb went to the door and looked through the peep hole. Randy and some man in a business suit. Both smiling.

"What do you want, Randy? And who is that with you?"

"This is Mr. Sandler, Deb," answered Randy. "He's a big Hollywood producer. Would you please let us in? We would like to talk to you."

Debbie stood silent, trying to process the situation. "I know about your cancer, Deb," said Randy. "Mr. Sandler tracked me down from the paperwork you filled out to be on the show. He told me what happened. You have nothing to be ashamed of. We know there's nothing we can do or say to change what you are facing. But please, give us a chance to change how you face it."

Tears flowed down Deb's cheeks. Her heart was broken, but her will was stubborn. "Randy," she answered. "You and your family have been so good to me. But this is something I have to deal with alone."

"I apologize for interrupting, Mrs. T," said Mr. Sandler. "If you wanted to deal with it alone, why couldn't you stop yourself from telling a theater full of strangers? I don't think 'alone' is working for you. We'd like to help if you would be kind enough to let us in so we can talk."

"You came all this way to talk to me?" Deb couldn't imagine such a thing.

"I did," answered Mr. Sandler.

A brief silence followed. With trembling hands, Deb unlocked her apartment door, opened it, and buried her face in Randy's embrace. The three of them sat in Debbie's apartment and talked briefly about her cancer, treatment options, and grim prognosis. Few conversations fill a room with as much heaviness and sadness as this one did.

But the heaviness and sadness didn't last long. Through Mr. Sandler's travel connections and sponsors, as well as sizeable donations from businesses and banks in Deb's small Louisiana community, Deb was going to Hawaii for four weeks! All expenses were paid. Reservations and flights were already booked. Randy handed her an envelope with all her ticket and hotel information and enough spending money for a family of twelve, and said, "I hope your toothbrush is still in your suitcase. You have a plane to catch tomorrow evening."

Did you catch her name? Deb T. Put them together. Debt. We all face Debbie's dilemma. We live in bodies cursed by sin and sentenced to death. The hope of our soul is to gain an envelope of grace that grants us a ticket to Heaven.

We can't earn it. Our debt is higher than our ability to pay. But there is One to whom our value is higher than our debt.

God loved us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to pay the cruel price and purchase our fare to Heaven. Jesus came all this way for YOU!

Debbie didn't go to Hawaii until she reached her hand out and accepted the envelope from Randy. Any gift involves a willing giver and a willing receiver. God has willingly given you the gift of salvation. Jesus willingly gave His blood to pay for your sin's penalty. Have you willingly, personally received that gift?

You can. Here's how: Admit to God that you have sinned against Him. No excuses. No comparisons to anyone else. Just acknowledge that you are a sinner in need of His gift of salvation. Then, ask God to forgive your sins through the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross. Then, by an act of your will, heart, mind, and soul --- turn away from sin and turn toward the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Invite the resurrected Christ to enter and change your life forever.

Have you? If so...believe. Stand on your soul's liberty through the promises of God's Word, the Bible, that you are forgiven and redeemed by the blood of Jesus. You invited Him into your life by faith. Now, live by that same faith.

If you just prayed to receive God's gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, I would like to know about it so that I can pray with and for you, and help you take your next steps as a born-again child of God. Please email me and let me know of your decision. I look forward to hearing from you.

Perry Crisp

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