Posted in Family, life, Scripture, wisdom

Here Kitty, Kitty

“Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God—who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly—and it will be given to him.” Proverbs 7:5

“Dewayne, we have a problem.” It was Judy and it was what greeted me as I was going out to the garage to get something I needed.  I think I know how it must have felt when the crew of Apollo 13 uttered those now famous words, “Houston…we have a problem.” I had started painting our upstairs bathroom. You need to know I am no Leonardo da Vinci and this was not going to be a Mona Lisa. Into that throes the news came.  “We” have a problem. 

I quickly explained to Judy that I didn’t have time for a problem.  My paint was drying and some of it was in the wrong place—like the floor.  She told me there was a cat trapped in her car.  Wait.  What?  Well, the night before she had told me she saw a cat go in our garage and I should check before I closed it up for the night.  About 9.30, I went out and did the “Here, Kitty, Kitty” thing, shined my flashlight around in the corners and such.  No cat. “Good.” I said.  Or not. 

So it turns out our homeless friend didn’t move on—it moved in.  The crazy part was that it took up residence in the engine compartment of her car.  Silly cat.  I was going to say, “stupid cat” but I thought you might think me harsh.  So anyway, I left the drying paint in the bathroom to attempt a rescue.  It was about then that I discovered why it is so expensive to work on Volkswagen cars.  You open the hood to only discover that every square inch is stuffed with something.  And somewhere in all of that was the cat.  Silly cat. 

A friend was there with Judy and all three of us looked and prodded, we called and cooed and nothing—just the occasional meow of the cat. Judy volunteered to look if I jacked up the car to see if we could see anything from underneath.  I did and she couldn’t.  It was time to call in the calvary.  I called my neighbor Jared who manages a local tire place.  Surely he would have an idea.  As we waited for him to come, we continued to prod and poke, coo and call.  In my sweetest voice I kept saying, “Hey silly kitty, come here silly kitty.”  I wanted to say stupid cat but I was trying to be Christian about this whole deal. 

Then it happened.  The cat, who turned out to be the cutest kitten south of Chicago, wiggled out of its tight spot and ran to the corner of the garage.  So I moved from poking and prodding under the hood to poking and prodding in the corner filled with stuff we didn’t need.  Cute or not this kitten was about to mash my button. Not to bore you with details but four grown adults spent the next ten minutes chasing this cute little silly kitten from one corner of the garage to the other.  From behind the washer and dryer to the corner of no return, we played hide and seek. Finally, the cute little kitten saw the light of day, ran through our friends hands and legs and out the door.  Game. Set. Match. 

The cute little silly kitten was on the run and that was all that mattered.  Jared went back to work, the ladies went on with life and I went upstairs to scape dried paint off the floor. I know I heard this kitten laughing from across the street.  So what is up with all this?   Surely the kitten knew better.  Surely he or she knew the danger of living under the hood of a car—but probably not.  To the cute little kitten it was just a place to hide. 

You see the kitten wasn’t silly, the kitten wasn’t stupid (well, not real stupid anyway). The kitten just lacked experience.  It was naive. It hadn’t lived long enough to understand the dangers of garage living.  And do you know what?  That is true of a lot of us. Solomon, the wisest guy to ever live, wrote in Proverbs, “I saw among the inexperienced, I noticed among the youths, a young man lacking sense.”  And the crazy part it was nothing to do with age.  We have all made some crazy decisions at one time or another. Too often we just throw common sense to the wind and well, we end up with a train wreck. 

God is in the train wreck avoidance business.  That’s why He led the half-brother of Jesus to write in James 1:5, “Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God—who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly—and it will be given to him.” If we would do that one simple thing we could avoid a lot of painful situations.  Just stop for a moment, ask God if this is the wise thing to do, and wait for an answer.  By the way, silence might be an answer, so don’t miss it. 

Well, I hope our cute little kitten found a new place to live and hopefully it isn’t in someone’s engine compartment.  And I hope we will learn to trust a wise, loving Father to give us the wisdom we need to live better lives with fewer regrets and better consequences.  You know He loves you, don’t you?  He wants you to come to Him and rest in the safety of His arms.  He wants you to know He has this.  And He does.

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, Scripture, thankful

Flag Day

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the expanse proclaims the work of His hands. Psalms 9:1

It was for better or worse.  In a little more than a week my wife and I will celebrate our 44th wedding anniversary.  I know if you have ever seen us you would find that hard to believe because we look so young.  Smile.  The years have flown by so quickly.  I can remember the days we would go to a conference and something and they would introduce the guest speaker saying they had been married for 35 years or so.  The crowd would erupt in applause.  I would think how old they were.  I am now that person.  But they say that age is just a number and that’s true. 

When I married Judy that hot (and I do mean hot) June day in south Georgia we made a commitment to each other.  It went something like this, “for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health till death do us part.”  It was a deal we made with each other that no matter what we were stuck on (and not stuck with) each other.  We decided that we were in this for the long haul.  There have been speed bumps, detours and even a few fender benders but love somehow learns to forgive, and sometimes ignore, those. 

I bet you think this story is about marriage, didn’t you?  Got you.  Nope, it is about my love for this country.  Yesterday, June 14th, was Flag Day.  It garnered a place on our church marquee and a mention in the sermon intro. Oh, and I also worn a flag pin.  But it had a much bigger place in my heart.  I love my country, the land where God put me, America…not because it is perfect but because I can stand every week in our church and say what I want…and no one is going to arrest me.  I love America because it is still the land of the free.  I am writing this in Tennessee.  I didn’t need anyone’s permission to leave; I just got in the car and off Judy and I went.  Yup, I love America. Having lived in and visited over twenty-five countries in this world…I have seen and experienced many others and America still tops the list. 

You are probably wondering, “Dewayne, with all its warts and imperfections, with all its injustices and wrongs, with all its junk, how can you love America?”  Well, the answer is two fold.  One, from where I sit, it is still the best place in the world to live.  Its landscape and people-scape are just amazing.  It is filled with people willing to die for what they believe…that is why we are free.  It is a place where you can speak your mind and even protest a wrong.  The second reason is I signed up for the long haul.  Its kinda like the deal that Judy and I made.  “For better, for worse; for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health till death parts us.” I’m an American till the end. 

Judy loves me…a lot.  She somehow manages to love me in spite of my failures and faults.  It kinda reminds me of God.  He just refuses to give up on us.  He extends grace and mercy and works to make us more and more like Him. With that comes a better me.  As we work to make America a better place to live and work, as we extend grace and mercy to each other, we are mirroring Him.  Sounds like a good plan to me. 

Like I said earlier, yesterday was Flag Day.  When I look at Old Glory I see the rich history, imagine the price that countless men and women have paid for this experiment in democracy and fall in love all over again.  And in these stars and stripes I see the hope not only for you and me, not only for America but for the world.  I see the gospel according to Old Glory.  I know each color and each part of the flag has special meaning but allow me some liberty…pun intended. 

When I see the field of stars I am reminded that in Psalm 19:1 “the heavens declare the glory of God.” It reminds me that every star in the sky is a witness to the existence of God. The blue field reminds me that there is a King in heaven.  Blue is the color of royalty and it points to the King of the universe…the creator of all.  His name is Jesus and He loves everybody regardless of skin color, language spoken or place lived.  The red reminds me of the measure of this King’s love..He died on a Roman cross.  He was not murdered and He wasn’t even martyred…He willingly died.  The payment for sin…all sin…was death and He paid the price. Amazing. 

And the white…well that is my favorite color because it stands for forgiveness.  White shouts that my sins are forgiven, that I am free and that I can call the Creator of the universe, “Abba Father or Dearest Daddy.”  I know you might think I’m taking a little too much liberty with that title but that is what He is. 

Anyway, I’m grateful for a wife who loves me regardless of my shortcomings.  I am grateful for a place to call home that gives me the freedom to live, worship and believe as I see fit.  Perfect? Not even by a long shot but I’m gonna stick around and do what I can to make her better.  I’m gonna stick around and make sure the America my grandkids grow up is even better that the one I knew and know.  And I am very grateful for a God that loves me unconditionally, that He is big enough to handle all the fears and warts of life and big enough to give me a place to rest…in Him.  Oh, and I’m glad that He is big enough to conquer sin, death and grave because it just proves…He’s got this.

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, Military memories, Scripture, thankful

This Day

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

June 12th is a special day in my life.  I graduated from high school on June 8, 1972.  I am amazed that 48 years have passed beneath the bridge of my life.  Time seems to travel so quickly.  As a child it was a gentle stream and now as a mature (that is in years and not necessarily actions) adult it seems a raging torrent.  So 48 years ago I was member of the largest graduating in the state of Florida for that year…714 seniors from one high School.  Trust me…it was easy to be a small fish in that big pond.  By Monday all that was in the rearview mirror.

On Monday, June 12, 1972, I raised my right hand and swore to protect and defend the constitution of the United States and to obey the orders of those appointed in rank above me.  I was eighteen, naive, had never been away from home and wondering what in the world I had gotten myself into.  If I remember that day correctly we took the oath, had last minute medical exams, and filled out a mountain of paperwork. They took us to Morrison’s Cafeteria for a last meal of sorts and then on to the airport for the flight to Lackland Air Force Base.  Intentionally we arrived at about 2:00 am…something they still do today.  We were given a couple of hours of sleep before beginning the great journey of becoming airmen.

The privilege of serving my country for the next twelve years marks that day as one of the great days of my life. The training I received there impacted the rest of my life. The skills I received in my advance training and then in my career prepared me for something far greater then I could imagine. Little did I know on June 12, 1972, what God had planned for me.  Saddle up your horses boys…this is the great adventure.

After twelve years in the Air Force it became apparent that the winds of change were blowing in my life.  I so loved the Air Force—it was my niche, my calling.  Starting in 1980 there were these whispers from Abba Father, my dearest daddy, that He wanted to do something more.  It was a whisper from Him to jump into the unknown. It was a whisper to trust Him at a level that I had never before experienced.  He was calling and it was undeniable.

The details are still vivid in my mind but time doesn’t allow the whole story to be told.  On February 14, 1982, I went forward in a morning worship service and told God I would do whatever He wanted.  Four short months later I found myself still in the service but in His service pastoring a small church close to our home.  Those days were crazy days.  Over the course of a few months the deal was sealed.  He whispered that He wanted me to give myself completely to Him.  He no longer wanted share me with the Air Force.  With that, Judy and I, along with our two very young daughters, prepared to jump big.

That leads to our second June 12th.  On that date in 1983, on a hot Sunday afternoon, I sat before a large ordaining council and a larger crowd.  That day, June 12, 1983, I was ordained, set apart, to serve Him.  My fondest memory of that day came after the council had asked all their questions.  They had been graceful to me and I was grateful.  The chairman of the council told the moderator that he had no more questions.  The moderator then asked if anyone else had an questions. I only thought I was done.

An elderly pastor, slowly stood to his feet and said, “Young man, the Bible says that the husband is the head of the home.  It also says that a pastor is to rule his house well.  Are you going to rule your house well?” And he sat down. If there was ever a time that I needed for God gave me the right words to say it was probably then.  With all the intentional fortitude I could muster I said, “Yes sir…if Judy will let me.” The room erupted and I got ordained.

And here I sit thirty-eight years later so grateful for a God who believed in me and hundreds of people who were patient and loved me. I have seen wheelbarrows full of grace from the God of the universe and His people.  If you ever wonder why I am grace heavy in my teaching it is because I have needed it so much and I have experienced it so much. I am blessed. Game. Set. Match. The Bible says that this day, this very one, is a day that the Lord has made.  We get to choose how we are going to live it and how we will remember it. Well I am so grateful for two days in June, both the 12th.  They are markers for this incredible journey called life. How about you?  Do you have some special days that God moved, that God spoke, that God just showed off?  Let me encourage you to celebrate them…and Him.  He is such a good Abba Father to do less is unimaginable.  So go ahead, relive the times, relive the days when He showed up, when you rested in Him, when you just knew “He’s got this.” Then you can be the whisperer and softly say, “Thank you, Father.”

Posted in Family, gratitude, life, Military memories, prayer, Scripture, thankful, travel

Welcome to Knob Noster

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

We had to have the wrong address. Judy and I came home after living three years in Germany and headed to our new duty assignment. We stopped in Georgia to visit with family for a couple of weeks and then headed to Missouri.  We were assigned to Whiteman Air Force Base near Knob Noster, Missouri.  Yes, friend, there is a Knob Noster.  We arrived there only to find out that the State Fair was being held about twenty miles away.  There were no hotel rooms. Nada. None. Period.

Knob Noster only had a couple of small hotels and both said they were full.  Judy was expecting and I was starting to feel like the Bible story of Mary and Joseph.  You know, the whole no room deal.  Well, the one place said try back that afternoon and maybe someone will check out.  They did and we had a room.

First, you need to understand this was back in 1980 so there was no internet to check ratings and all of that.  Second, the bottom line it was the only room in town.  Third, it was bad—as in not good.  Bad as in bugs.  Bad as in bad.  But still, we were grateful.  It was a place to sleep.  God is good. Probably though, I need to be more specific next time when I ask for a place to stay. I needed to learn from Judy.

The very next day we start looking for a place to live.  There was a town called Warrensburg about ten miles from the base.  It had a small university and was a nice midwestern small town.  Unfortunately, housing options were very limited.  The few places the real estate person showed us were small, dated and pricey.  Now Judy had this prayer thing down.  She had asked God for a house with a fireplace.  My expectations weren’t that high. I had asked God for a house without bugs.  She was much more creative than me.  Honestly, I wasn’t sure God was going to pull off either one of our requests.  And then he came along.

No, it wasn’t God but he was God’s delivery man.  His name was Mario—like the brothers. He kinda looked like Danny DeVito. He too was a real estate agent and he had heard us talking with the other agent.  He came over and introduced himself. He said, “You know, I have a house that I had built but haven’t been able to sell.  I might be willing to rent it to you.”  He gave us the address and told us go and check it out. It was just outside of town in a neighborhood called, “Valley View.”

We drove out and turned in and started checking addresses.  At the end of the first road we had to go left or right on Valley View Circle.  We went left and began looking for house number 209.  Soon, on the right, was number 209.  But wait…this couldn’t be the right place.  It was a new, beautiful three bedroom split level brick home.  We were shocked  and said, “No, this can’t be right.”  We went and peeked in the windows.  “No, no way. Must have the wrong address.” And then we saw it.  A massive chimney connected to a big fireplace.

Well, this was too much. Judy and I were beyond excited. This was more, so much more, than we ever expected in our wildest expectations.  We immediately went back to the real estate office and hunted down Mario.  “Well,” he said, “I’ve changed my mind.  Sorry, no deal.”  Naw…just kidding.  He said he liked us, trusted us and would be willing to work with us.  The bottom line is he rented it to us at below market value.  He said he would need a security deposit and we told him we didn’t have anything saved up.  He readily agreed to tack $25 a month onto the rent till we had that covered.  Oh, and of course, it was refundable. 

So, that is how Judy and I moved into our Cinderella castle at 209 Valley View Circle. Oh, and the yard needed landscaping, so he paid me to do that and took it off the rent. Amazing.  You have probably already guessed that this is one of our favorite God stories.  I still smile as I write this because it is just one example of how God has showered us with His love and grace.  A fireplace? Really? New brick home?  Yup. God is good.

Now God wasn’t good because He gave us a really nice house when there was no way we could afford one.  God wasn’t even good because He gave Judy a fireplace.  No, God is just good.  Sometimes it is very obvious and sometimes it takes a little faith to see it.  But He is good.  Someone once said, “God is good and He is good at being God.”  I was thankful for the Knob Noster Motel (bugs and all) because it was better than sleeping in our car.  But I was also thankful for the time He gave us our wildest dream. 1 Corinthians 2:9 says, “But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.” I know that is probably talking about heaven but I think it has to apply here too. Over the years there have been some real winner mountaintops when God just showed off. But do you know what?  There have been some valleys too. Hard times when we couldn’t see the next step.  The big take away has always been, “God is good. God is faithful. God can be trusted.”  So, I’m gonna lay my head down tonight and rest in Him believing that.  After all, He’s got this.”

Posted in Family, life, Scripture, Southern born

Five-Eight or Seven…Just About Right

Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, and don’t give the devil an opportunity.” Ephesians 4:26

I think I have figured it out.  From the time I could remember my mom always told me, “Dewayne, I think you are going to be six feet tall when you grow up.”  I believe she based that on the fact that I kinda looked like my brother Joe and he was somewhere near that.  Anyway, I grew up with the expectation that I would, well, grow up.  Somewhere something got lost in the translation.

The bottom line is for all of my life I have been “height challenged”.  Now, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been but it was apparent early on that mom had misjudged the gene pool.  Unless a miracle was on the horizon the height expectations needed to be lowered…a lot.  By the time I was in the eight grade I was still about five-six.  I had managed to lose some of my pudginess but I just came up short (pun intended) on the height deal.

When I was in the ninth grade I was at the top of the pecking order grade wise. In Florida ninth grade was still in Junior High.  I, we ninth graders were the kings of the campus…even if you were a tad short.  Well one day in class the teacher stepped out of the room.  A guy I knew, and he might have even been a friend, grabbed my pencil and said he was going to break it.  “Don’t do it, man” I said in my deepest, tallest voice.  He kept threatening to break it and I kept threatening to break him.  He broke it and I exploded.

Now before we go on you need to know I was a pretty compliant kid.  I am a conflict avoidance adult and I was a conflict avoidance kid.  Something just snapped.  I flipped the table over on him, put him in a head hold and proceeded to teach him not to break my pencil.  Can someone said, “Stupid?”  Well, the teacher walks in, someone breaks up the fight and we get a free trip to the principal’s office.  Judgement was swift and right to seat of the problem.  Two swats a day for five days administered by the athletic director.  He was not five-six.

So for the next five days it was report first thing in the morning to his office, bend over and grab your ankles and two hard swats.  Pow—pow.  Swift, powerful and man did they hurt.  And they worked. I always left with a strong desire to join the Peace Corps. I never got into another fight.  Break my pencil?  Sure go right ahead. I have a spare. I always wondered what sparked that outburst.  I think I know.  It was short man syndrome or SMS.

I found out that SMS is “an angry male of below average height who feels it necessary to act out in an attempt to gain respect and recognition from others and compensate for his short stature.” I’m pretty sure that is what happened that day.  I was wanting some respect and was willing to act stupid to get it. Did I mention two swats a day for five days?  So, that week, about day three and swat number six I got over my syndrome and a chunk of my anger.  I was just fine at five-six.  Fortunately the Lord gave me a couple of more inches and I ended up at a respectable five-eight.  However, I think I am back down to five-seven now.  You know, the Lord gives and the Lord takes away.  Smile.

I really did learn a valuable lesson that day.  You should never, and I mean never, let your anger get the best of you.  Anger is not a sin when it is controlled and directed in the right direction.  Jesus got angry at the people who were abusing His Father’s house. So the problem isn’t anger—the problem is control—or lack of it. Paul wrote about this when he said, “Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, and don’t give the devil an opportunity.” Keep your temper tame and don’t let it simmer over night.  It’s great for a pork butt but terrible for anger.  And every time we don’t, we give Satan the opportunity to win. And, when he wins…we lose.  Every time. So, I’ve learned to be happy where I am. I think five-eight or seven is just about right. I’m still taller than Judy and she thinks I’m tall, or at least tallish, dark and handsome.  Also, I’m learning not to lose it because I always lose when I do. And, I am learning to trust in Him.  If someone breaks my pencil I just let God handle it.  It’s much better than visiting the coach every morning for five days.  There’s something else. I found out that when I’m not facing the coach in the morning, I rest better…especially in Him.  I fall to sleep knowing, “He’s got this.”  And He does.

Posted in Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture

Losing Your Grip

How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”  Matthew 7:4-5

It was definitely an “I need coffee” wakeup. You know sometimes you bound out of bed like an overactive gazelle and sometimes you just sorta fall out of bed.  Well, today was somewhere in between.  I am an early riser but today was earlier than normal…4:00 am. It wasn’t an overactive brain but an overactive bladder.  “Wakeup sleepy head.  Time to rise and shine.”  Yeah.  Right. Sure.

I went into my man-cave to tell the Keurig coffee machine I needed help…fast.  As I was getting things ready, I looked on the floor and there was a small round thing.  I recognized it as one of the mementos I had on a wall displaying memories from my stint in the Air Force.  It was then I looked up.  There was a gaping hole in the display.  A large picture frame that had been the center piece for the display was missing.

So, I stumbled around, keep in mind this is still before coffee, and started finding things.  First, there was the picture frame…not on the wall where it belonged but on the floor.  Also lying on the floor and on my desk where several things that I had placed on top of the frame.  It was like an avalanche of memories had fallen off the wall. What in the world?

Well, here’s the deal.  I am (or used to be) a fan of Command Strips.  It’s a product that allows you to hang things. You simply put a sticky thing on something and then put another sticky thing on the wall, press them together and ta-da you are done.  Well, apparently make that almost done.  Or, maybe done for a while. Or, maybe done till it decides it is done.  Regardless…the picture isn’t on the wall.  Of course there is that thing about cleaning the wall with alcohol before you stick it there.  Did I do that?  Hmmm.  Probably not…the wall didn’t look dirty to me.

Anyway, there are a couple of things that made me think about this whole falling off the wall thing.  First, I walked into the man-cave and noticed a little round medallion on the floor but didn’t see the gaping hole on the wall.  Isn’t it amazing how we sometimes notice the small things and miss the giant ones? That’s what Jesus was talking about when He said we walk around with a 2×4 in our eye while telling someone they need to take care of a speck of dust in their eye. How weird is that? Or maybe not.

And then there is this whole falling off the wall thing. You see, that picture had been hanging on the wall for well over a year. The two sticky things were stuck together like white on rice.  Then slowly over time they started to lose their grip.  Little by little the one stuck to the wall became loose and then one day…it just fell.  And when it did…it took several things with it.  I don’t think it woke up and said, “Well, today is the day I’m going to fall off the wall.” Nope…little by little gravity pulled and tugged until it won.

I have had some pretty good failures in my life.  And do you know what?  Very few of them where planned.  Most of them were just products of neglect.  Stopped getting on the scale. Stopped exercising for a few days…weeks.  Stopped having my time with God in the morning. Stopped telling my wife she hung the moon.  And then one day…you just fall off the wall.  You stop loving, stop believing, stop doing the next right thing. You suddenly find yourself in a hot mess.  And rarely does it affect just you.

So what do you do? Well, I find that the Bible is a really good resource for avoiding the landslides of life.  Jesus said in Matthew 26:41 “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He says we should watch out.  Look for signs that you are losing your grip.  Beware of pattern changes, attitude changes.  Second, pray.  Yup, prayer is a big one…but maybe not like you think. Worry less about being on your knees and using big words and just tell God what is on your mind.  Then, get ready, trust Him with the answer…the solution. Last…be ready to acknowledge your own weakness.  It’s ok to acknowledge when our “want to” doesn’t measure up to our “gonna do” or our “done”.  That’s why we need God.  Big time. So, I’m gonna put the picture back on the wall.  This time it won’t be with a sticky thing.  I gonna use a nice big screw.  That way, it can’t lose its grip…the screw will do the work. And I think I’m gonna try that with me and God.  I’m gonna stop trying to hold on to Him and let Him hold on to me.  I bet that is a better idea.  I bet I can rest in Him then.  After all, He’s got me…and He’s got this.

Posted in Family, life, Scripture

One Big Earthworm

Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?” Proverbs 6:27-28

That’s gotta be one big earthworm.  It was a great spring morning.  Judy and I were living in Cobden, Illinois and over the years we had put together a really beautiful yard.  Judy can visualize how something is going to look and then has the knack to make it grow.  I do the grunt work.  I’m the yard man and she is the architect. That day we were putting some mulch around the flower beds.

Our yard had a retaining wall at one of the front corners and the yard sloped in that corner.  I would mulch leaves (we had four large maple trees) and put them there in the fall.  The next spring we would use it as free (and I love free) mulch.  I would take my trusty pitchfork and our oversized trash can down to the corner, fill up the can and take it to wherever she wanted it dumped.  Then we would spread it out.  Great plan.  Beautiful day.  All is well.  And then he showed up.

I went to the corner, loaded up the can, brought it to the middle of the yard to one of our flower beds and she said dump it.  I dumped it.  I was about to use the pitchfork to start spreading the mulch when I noticed the tip of an earthworm barely sticking out of the mulch.  In order to appreciate this, you need to know that earthworms, in Judy’s eyes are held in very high regard.  It’s something about they aerate and loosen up the soil making it better for the flowers.  I thought they were just fish bait. Silly me.

“Hey, there’s an earthworm” Judy exclaimed with the excitement of a kid on Christmas morning.  “Grab him and put him in the garden.”  So, hey, I’m just the grunt man so I reached down and pulled on the little fella.  The little fella didn’t move.  I looked at Judy with a quizzical look. My thought was that if he wanted to stay that bad he could just go with the next pitch fork load.  No…that wasn’t gonna happen.  So I gave it another shot and this dude wasn’t moving.  “Poud (that’s Judy’s nick name) this guy isn’t coming.”

I took matters to the next level and took the pitchfork and shoved it into the mound around the earthworm and gave it a lift and a flip.  Well, shoot that thing, there was a stinking snake.  It wasn’t some innocent “let me aerate your soil” earthworm it was a 14 foot boa constrictor.  Ok, that might be a slight exaggeration.  But it was a snake, it was about two feet long and it was moving and so was I.  Now both Judy and I were a lot younger than but even for our age we were out of there.  And I do believe the grunt man outran the pretty little architect.

You ask, “What kind was it?”  Don’t know. Don’t care.  There are only two kinds of snakes—living and dead and this one was definitely alive.  Honestly, I have blocked out what happened next.  I can’t tell you if we went back and he was gone.  I can’t tell you if I got a shovel and in pure self-defense ended the life of the slithering creature or what.  I can only tell you that he was no longer a threat and I never, and I mean never, looked at the pile of mulch in the same way.

If I learned anything that day…and trust me I did…it was to be careful what you decide to pull on because things are not always as they seem.  Ask Eve.  The Genesis account of creation and the fall of man says that the serpent (that’s Bible code for snake) was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. The Hebrew language implies that the snake was beautiful, appealing. Intrigued she decided to strike up a conversation with him.  “Bad idea, Eve.” Just run. But she didn’t and now we have this messed up world and it was all because Eve grabbed a hold of something she should have left alone.

There’s an old tale about a man who was walking up a mountain and it was getting cold.  The man saw a rattlesnake and the snake said, “Please put me in your coat and take me down the mountain.”  The man said, “No way, you will bite me.”  The snake assured him he would not.  He picks the snake up, puts it in his coat and goes down the mountain.  As the temperature rises the snake gets a little more frisky and bites the man.  The man, shocked, says, “You said you wouldn’t bite me.”  And the snake replied, “You knew what I was when you picked me up.”  So true. So tragically true.

The Bible also says this, “Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?”  “What does that mean?” you ask.  It means the next time a snake wants to strike up a conversation, run.  It means the next time you are tempted to sin, run. It means the next time your wife wants you to grab the tail of an oversized earthworm, run. No…it doesn’t mean that but it does mean be sure you know what you are grabbing before you take hold. Fortunately, our Abba Father knows all about snakes and sin and grabbing hold when we shouldn’t.  He also loves us enough to give us wisdom to know the difference.  James, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God.” With wise counsel like that we don’t have to fear oversized earthworms or the other stuff we are living through right now.  No, we can rest in Him.  He’s got this. 

Posted in Family, life, Scripture, thankful

Ready. Set. Fire.

No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” (Hebrews 12:11)

I just couldn’t resist.  All of us have stories that we don’t necessarily remember but are passed down through the years.  Some are humorous, some are serious and some are the things legends are made of.  Well, this one I believe qualifies as all three. 

When I was quite young, probably six or seven, life was pretty good.  We lived in a country setting that was rapidly becoming the suburbs of Jacksonville, Florida.  There was a subdivision being built right next to where we lived.  Some of the men who were working there would drive these cool wedge shape sticks in the ground at the corners of each lot.  They had numbers on them.  They were surveyor markers for the lots.  We thought they made great rubber band guns so we would help ourselves.  We had an endless supply of rubber bands because the newspaper came each day with one or two wrapped around it. We weren’t trying to be mischievous; we just trying to have fun.  I bet it wasn’t fun for the guys who did the surveying.

Sometimes, our fun might become someone else’s pain.  And, there is where the story really begins.  Back in those days, going to the grocery store was the great adventure.  My dad got paid every other Friday.  Payday night we would load up in the car and go to buy groceries.  It seemed we would always buy the stuff to make sandwiches for supper when we got home which invariably included a gallon of chocolate milk.  It never saw the light of the next morning.

Well, one Friday night, we were at the grocery store and apparently I had a rubber band left over from my adventures that day. I must have reached in my pocket and found the small piece of rubber and thought, “You know, we can have some fun with this.”  Well, I probably should have thought that through a little better, but when you are six or seven and mischievous by nature, anything is game.  I started looking for targets.

Down the aisle was a rather large woman.  And what happens next has been blocked from my memory but is stated as fact.  As we got closer to the woman, perhaps as she studied what brand of mayo to buy, I took the rubber band, placed it between my thumb and pointer finger, moved my hand in close proximity to the intended target and let it fly.  I can only imagine what happened next.

First, I am certain she was shocked.  It must have felt like a killer bee had bit her but that wasn’t logical since she was in a store.  So she probably spun around and looked only to see this smiling kid with a rubber band still in his hand.  To me it was all fun.  To her it was all pain.  Lesson one.  Don’t let your fun become someone else’s pain.

Second, I am certain my parents were devastated.  Since this would have been about 1960 or 61 there were not the social rules about child discipline that we have today.  Knowing my dad and mom, there was probably swift and lethal retribution.  I can imagine one of them, both of them, making sure my bottom felt like her bottom.  No one would have called Children and Family Services.  They all would have said, “Let me help you with that.”

Third, I believe that this is when I began to really understand repentance.  Repentance means to turn around and go in a different direction.  If I could have gotten loose from Dad that night I would have definitely practiced repentance…I probably would still be running.  The other meaning of repentance is to have a change in attitude.  I am certain that happened.  If you were to ask me how many other times I decided to pop a strange lady with a rubber band in the grocery store that number would be zero.  So how the urge suddenly left me.  I had repented.

This is going to sound hokey but it is memories like this that show how much my parents loved me.  They loved me enough to teach me right from wrong, respect for other people, a strong work ethic and to believe in God.  And they loved me enough to give me a swat or two when I needed it.  It all came together to help me grow, and live and love.

God is the same way.  My dad and mom loved me so much but God outshines even them.  He loves me and teaches me to do life with fewer oops and fewer consequences. I never carry rubber bands in my pocket just to avoid the temptation.  But He also loves me enough to discipline me when I need it. The author of Hebrews says it best.  He writes, “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” Spot on.  He must have popped some lady too. So, try and show some grace.  I shouldn’t have popped the lady and I haven’t popped any more.  Don’t judge my parents for taking care of the problem.  I am grateful for the way they raised me.  And don’t be mad at God if He disciplines me or you.  He is way too wise to make a mistake and way too loving to do the wrong thing.  He is our “Abba Father,” our dearest Daddy so we can trust Him.  We can rest in Him.  Because…He’s got this.

Posted in Family, life, Scripture

Some Assembly Required

The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living. (Psalm 19:7-8)

I came so close but missed it by a mile.  Last year I was checking out the WalMart clearance aisle and came upon a bike carrier thing for your car.  Well, I happen to own two bikes and even occasionally ride them, so I bought it.  I brought it home and put it on a shelf where it happily lived.  And then, I decided to be cool.

Judy and I are regular exercisers but it normally is limited to her doing walking and Refit (something that involves dancing and rhythm so I’m out) and me walking.  We both do some hiking. Well, we decided it was time to expand our horizons so we found a bike trail down at Fort Massac and decided to load up the bikes and give it a try.  So I went and found the bike thing and proceeded to try assemble it.  Note the word try.

I dumped the parts on the kitchen counter (first hint that I am not a mechanic) and then it happened.  Because it involved attaching this thing to my car and the fact that it involved two bikes being attached to this thing and the fact that I didn’t want to get sued if they fell off the thing—I read the directions.  That is the miracle.  Everyone knows that men don’t stop and ask for directions when driving and we don’t read the directions when we are putting something together.  That is not manly.  Ask for directions or read the directions and it is almost an automatic surrender of your man-card.

I decided to risk being disbarred and read the directions anyway.  Now let me say it proved that we men are justified in not reading them in the first place.  Whoever wrote these directions obviously didn’t have a clue about the bike thing or the English language.  But I gave it due diligence and proceeded to assemble it.  It only had about six major parts, so hey, it couldn’t be that hard.  Right? Wrong.

After about an hour, yes, I said an hour, the six parts where assembled.  Judy and I take this thing out and try to strap it to the back of our car.  I have used one of these before and this one just didn’t make sense.  There was one part of the rack that had some sharp parts and I could see this thing doing some serious damage to the car.  Well, after an hour, we had it sorta mounted and even put the bikes on it.  Something just didn’t seem right.  My final thought was, “What did you expect for $15 bucks.  So I took the bikes off, threw the thing in the garage and called it a day.  I didn’t want to ride the bike anyway.

I go back in the work room (aka the kitchen) and began picking up the mess.  When I grabbed the box this thing came in I looked inside.  And there, wedged neatly inside, was a part, a really big part, a really important part.  Oops. As I thought about it I did remember reading something about this middle brace thing but I thought the guy in China was probably on a rant or something. I pulled out the part and had an epiphany…my ah-ha moment.  I brought the thing back in, disassembled too much of it, and attached the new found part.  Ta-da—it all made sense.  Amazing.  Miraculous.

Now the crazy ending to this crazy story is that we put the thing back on my car, put the bikes back on the thing and I still didn’t feel like it looked safe.  I could hear the lawyer calling.  “Yes, we are calling to sue you for everything you have because your bike fell off of this thing attached to your car.  Will you be paying with cash, credit card, or your left arm?”  So, the bottom line the thing is still in the garage and the bikes are still parked.  Stupid directions.  They must be related to the watermelon.

Here is what I learned.  Man-card or not, it is beneficial to read the directions.  I know it goes against everything we men hold dear but we just need to be over-comers and read them.  But, and it is a big but, you really need to read them carefully and then do what they say.  I halfway read them and ended up leaving a big, important part in the box.  That cost me time, frustration and a chunk of my pride.  Bummer.

I asked myself, “If reading the instructions on putting a bike thing together are important, I’m wondering if it is important to read “the Instructions,” you know, the Bible.” I mean the Bible is like the most important instruction manual of all time.  And the answer was a clear yes.  I should, we should, read it carefully and apply it fully.  There is probably a paragraph on the instructions for the bike thing that tells me how important they are…to ready them carefully. I didn’t read that part.

Well, the Bible has a lot to say about, “Hey, read this…it is really important.”  It goes like this, “The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living.” And somewhere it should say you will have fewer calls from lawyers if you read it. Fewer regrets, fewer consequences, fewer disasters.  Yup.  Read them and apply them. So I’m gonna give the bike thing another shot and I’ll tell you now I’m not going to follow the directions.  It might not turn out well but I have to redeem my man-card. I’ll let you know.  But one thing is for sure.  If you choose to read, follow, and apply “the Instruction manual” you won’t regret it.  It says in there that if we follow the instructions we can rest in Him.  Oh and it also says, “I’ve got this.”  He does. 

Posted in Family, gratitude, life, Scripture

The Underwear Fairy

Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.” Song of Solomon 2:15

She did it again. I know you have heard about the Tooth Fairy and probably your Fairy Godmother but have you ever heard about the “Underwear Fairy?”  I am pretty certain this is not a one house deal.  I haven’t researched it extensively but from what I can gather this behind-the-scenes, mythical being shows up in houses across America and possibly around the world.

So it goes something like this.  Everyone has routines and mine looks something like this.  Wakeup, coffee with the weather lady on our local channel, quiet time with God, more coffee, exercise, breakfast, nice hot shower and get dressed for the day.  Part of that getting dressed thing involves the unmentionables of the underworld—underwear. And here is where it gets amazing.

Everyday I open a drawer in my bathroom and behold there are underwear in there.  I grab them up, put them on and bam out the door I go. Amazing.  As the days pass, the supply gets lower and lower.  And then out of the clear blue sky the drawer is full again and the process starts all over again.  I couldn’t really figure this out till one day it dawned on me.  There must be an “Underwear Fairy” who washed, folded and put my unmentionables right in my drawer.  Without reward, without asking, day after day and week after week it happened.

It took a while but I finally decided to find out who this mythical person was.  So I camped out in my shower behind the curtain like a kid waiting on Santa Claus. And sure enough, I heard the sound of a drawer sliding open and jumped from behind the curtain and yelled, “Got you!” And what did my wandering eyes should behold?  An old guy in a red suit with eight tiny reindeer? No, that would have been weird.  A bunny rabbit with a basket? Weirder. Nope.  It was my wife Judy.

Yup…all along it was her.  She would go and get the dirty clothes basket out of my closet, carry those clothes down three flights of stairs, throw them into the washer, go back down later and throw them in the dryer, go back down later and get them out of the dryer and take them upstairs and fold them.  She would then sneak into my bathroom and quietly fill my drawer with my drawers and tee shirts.  Amazing.  And here is the crazy part.  She has been doing this for almost 44 years.  I can’t believe it took this long to catch her.

Well, that is how I came to discover the “Underwear Fairy” and that is also how I came to begin to learn something.  While all of us appreciate the big things people do for us, sometimes, maybe a lot of the times, it is the small things that matter.  Since this discovery it is not uncommon for me to say my wife, “Judy, the “Underwear Fairy” came.” And hopefully that is followed by a thank-you and maybe even a kiss.

I really had to weigh it carefully if I could write about underwear.  I even asked the fairy herself if she thought I could.  She wasn’t sure.  Well it wasn’t a matter of could…it was a matter of should.  Each day our lives are filled with the small things that people do for us…things we take for granted.  Why not take a moment today and say thank you.  If your husband takes out the trash, or the kids pickup the house, or one of the guys at the office buys donuts or any of a thousand things…say thanks.  Learn to appreciate the small things.

Tucked away in the Song of Solomon in your Bible (That is one of the books the preacher never preaches from. You might need the table of contents.) are these words, “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.”  The little foxes can be those missed opportunities when we take others for granted resulting in ingratitude. Relationships can grow stale and love can whither on the vine if we fail to water them with gratitude. Remember that. So you might need to stop and look for the fairies and foxes in your house, your neighborhood or where you work.  Be sure and thank those around you that make your life just a little easier.  And for sure if you see the fox of ingratitude—“shoot that thing.” Oh, and on your list, be sure you have God at the top of the list of things to be grateful for.  Everyday from sunrise to sunset and beyond He is working behind the scenes and writing you love notes with acts of mercy and kindness.  Things like letting you rest in Him.  Things like letting you know, “I’ve got this.”  And He does.