Posted in Family, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, wisdom

The “I Want You to Die” Tick

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” Romans 13:14

You know there are one or two things that are good about a really cold winter.  And number one is the fact that it kills all the bugs. As you remember, last winter wasn’t very cold. I’m not sure what you thought about last winter’s weather, but apparently the local tick population thought it was just fine.  Even around my house—and I live on the main drag in Harrisburg—we have had to check every once in a while to make sure we didn’t pick up any unwanted hitchhikers.

Several weeks ago Judy and I went hiking in a wooded area.  The trail we were on was plenty wide but I guess ticks are good jumpers. Later in the week, I was working at my desk at home and I felt just a little itch on my leg.  You know, nothing major—just a “hi—I might need you to scratch me later” itch.  I ignored it.

After a bit, it developed into more.  It went from a “you might need to scratch me” to more of a “hey, now would be a good time to scratch me” itch.  So I did—and when I did, I felt a small bump.  At first I thought it was a small bite and whoever had done it had moved on to greener pastures.  I was wrong.  It was a dirty, rotten, no good, “I want you to die”… tick.  Oh, he wasn’t big—in fact he looked quite innocent. He was only the size of a writing pen head.  Well, I try to be a friendly guy—just not with ticks and especially not with one having dinner—and I’m the meal.  So we departed company and I did my best to make sure he went to the tick afterlife. So long friend…adios. No prayer, no service…just you’re out of here.

So, I thought it was not big deal—but I guess big is relative.  You see, by the next day that little bite site had turned red and was about twice as big as before—and it was still itching—only more.  Now fortunately it was NOT the kind of dirty rotten, no good, “I want you to die” ticks that give us weird diseases. But even so, the spot where he bit me itched for several weeks.  Even a couple of months later while the itch is gone the scar remained.  It hard to imagine that one little tick can cause so much trouble.  Write that one down:  little things can have bigger consequences.

Yep, that’s right.  Some small habit, some little action or inaction, a few seconds of a wandering mind, a few misspoken, unkind words—can have large and lasting consequences. And the worse part is that it doesn’t just affect us—it can and does affect those around us. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because it starts small it stays small. It rarely does.  It really isn’t practical to totally avoid the outdoors so there has to be another way.  A good insect repellent is a good start.

A guy in the Bible named Paul wrote gives us some good advice on how to avoid pesky sins.  He said, “but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to it’s lusts.”  So Paul said the best way to avoid the aggravation and consequences of sin is to give yourself a good smattering of Jesus and then avoid sin wherever and whenever it is likely to jump on.  The truth is the more we read the Bible and apply it and the more we act like Jesus the less likely we will find ourselves infested with pesky, troublesome sin.  Trust me…life is just better.

Well, the site where the friendly little tick decided to visit is finally about gone but it was a journey to get here.  The bottom line is it would just be better to avoid it in the first place. The old saying an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is so true.  That is also true in avoiding ticks and it is true in avoiding sin. One thing is for sure.  It is good to know that God is more than willing to help us know when there’s a pesky sin close by.  All we have to do is ask, and He will help.  Mark it down…we can rest assured with Him close by.  He’s got this.

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, Military memories, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, wisdom

It’s a “Dippity-Do-Dah” Day

If we say, “We have fellowship with him,” and yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth.”  1 John 1:6

Dippity-do dah, dippy day, my oh my, what a wonderful day!  I joined the Air Force back in 1972 and in so many ways it was a different world.  At that time longer hair was still very much in vogue.  It seemed the only guys with shorter haircuts were either born in the 1920’s or in the military.  I was the latter.

It was also a different day in the way people view the military.  The country was coming out of the Vietnam era and sadly many saw veterans and the active military in a dark light.  I can well remember walking around town and getting the “one of those” look.  While I was never ashamed of being in the military, in fact, I was proud to serve, I did want to be cool—part of the in-crowd and short hair just wasn’t in.  But you know the old saying, “Where there is a will, there is a way.”  Hello Dippity-do.

It’s funny, I don’t remember anyone else doing it nor do I remember how I started.  I found this hair stuff called, “Dippity-do.”  It was a gel like product and depending on how much you applied, it would make your hair stay where you put it.  So I bought a jar and slowly I let the hair on the top of my head and sides grow out.  I would wakeup in the morning and put this stuff, in fact a lot of this stuff, on my hair.  I would comb it kinda on top of my head and toward the back.  The effect was—well, effective. The funny part is when this stuff dried out it made my hair as solid as a rock.  Of course, my mom always said I had a hard head.

I found that I could have the required white-wall around my ears and have all this hair glued down to the top of my head.  When I got off work, I would go take a shower, wash this stuff out and believe it or not have enough hair to totally cover my ears.  I looked like any other guy in the early 1970’s.  Even as I write this I’m saying, “What?”  But believe me it worked.  I looked like a military guy during the day and a regular off-the-street guy at night.  Looking back, it was weird.

Even stranger I worked in the command section of my squadron and to show how effective my ruse was, no one said anything.  It looked, and I guess was, regulation.  I remember one day walking in the local mall and coming straight toward me was my squadron commander, Major Hobbs.  We passed within five feet of each other and he didn’t even recognize me. Yup—G.I. Joe by day and a 70’s hipster at night. Looking back there probably was a word for it.  It was probably pretty hypocritical.

The word hypocrite means to “play the part” or to “wear the mask.”  It was used to describe actors in ancient Greece who were one thing on stage and another off the stage.  The one thing I remember is that I always felt a certain amount of fear while doing this.  There was always the “what if I get called in and don’t have time to plaster my hair down” thing.  What if my commander and my first sergeant saw me and did recognize me?  I knew they respected me and what would happen to that respect?  It’s the feeling you get when you are one thing one time and another thing later.

Well, finally I figured it wasn’t worth it and I’ll tell you that story another time, but the bottom line is I went and got a regular haircut.  Two things happened almost immediately.  First, I felt free.  The fear of the wrong person seeing me at the wrong time was suddenly gone.  It was like a weight was taken off my shoulders.  The second thing that happened was I discovered that in spite of what the culture said, I was proud to be in the Air Force and that haircut identified me as part of a special family and team.  It wasn’t something to be ashamed of…it was something to be proud of.  And the best part, the girl I was dating, who I later married, thought I was even cuter.  Now for the funny part. I have been out of the military now for 36 years and I never, not even once, grew my hair out.  I decided I like shorter hair.  More than that…I decided I like being real.

So, what about you?  What is it in your life where you “wear the mask?”  What is it in your life where you have decided to pretend—to be something you aren’t?  While you find that in every aspect of life, sadly it’s also common in the Jesus follower world.  People say one thing and do another—people who act one way on Sunday and another the rest of week.  If I learned anything from my Dippity-do world is that authenticity beats a plastic mask every time. 

John, one of the guys who followed Jesus in the Bible, said it pretty well.  He said, “If we say, “We have fellowship with him,” and yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth.”  In other words, if we say we are one thing and really are another—we are just living a lie.  It is better to be real than fake.  It is better to be authentic than counterfeit.  I may have fooled my commander that day but I never fool God when I choose to be one thing in public and another in private.  But the one thing I love about God is that He never rejects me.  He is never ashamed to call me His child. I can always rest in Him and more than that, He can handle who I am—Dippity-do and all.  He’s got this.

Posted in Family, fear, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, wisdom

He’s Got This

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

I like love notes.  My wife Judy and I have been married for a long, long time.  Sometimes people ask how it is that we have stayed married to each other for forty-four years.  It could be that I am an incredible husband but the truth is Judy is an incredible wife.  She is pretty patient with me when I mess up and well, that’s quite frequently. She also has a great servant’s heart.  She is constantly doing the small things that just say, “I love you.”  In that way she is a lot like God.

It always impresses me when God does something really big in my world.  It causes me to just stop and be amazed.  Our lives are filled with stories that show the handiwork of God.  Each one is a love note and each one bears His signature.  Whether it is getting though a particularly hard time or fulfilling a dream, He is always there.  The trick is learning to see it.

Back in 1981, Judy and I were living in Warrensburg, Missouri.  We were attending the First Baptist Church there and having the time of our lives.  God had blessed us with a wonderful group of friends and we were serving in several ministries there. Two of those involved music.  We were teaching preschool choir (those songs still roll around in my head) and both of us were in the adult choir.  Our worship leader, Dan Tracy, was a great guy and great leader.  Every choir practice and performance was spiritually magical.

One of the things that Dan did was lead a choir tour every Spring.  The church would rent a bus for the weekend and our choir would sing at several churches.  In the Spring of 1981, Judy and I were brand new parents.  Our first daughter Rebecca had been born that January.  She was obviously too young to leave with a sitter so Judy and I agreed she would stay home and I would go with the choir.  So on a Thursday afternoon, she took me to church to leave with the choir.  We were all excited, but I kinda felt bad leaving Judy behind.

Finally, just about everyone was on the bus and it was time to go.  Someone, it may have been Dan, was locking the church door when he happened to hear the phone ringing. For some reason, he stopped and went back inside to answer it.  It really didn’t make a lot of since because it was after hours and it was a larger church so people called all the time.   Regardless, he answered the call.  It was for me.

Now before the story goes any further you need to understand that most of our family had no clue what state we lived in.  Most of them probably didn’t know where Missouri was on the map.  Certainly, no one knew we were attending First Baptist and certainly no one knew I was there late on a Thursday afternoon leaving on a choir tour.  Yet the call was for me.  It was Judy’s brother…her father had died suddenly of a heart attack and we needed to go home to Georgia.

Now pause just a moment and be amazed.  No one knew what church we were attending, it was after hours, I was moments away from leaving for the tour and someone just happened to hear the phone and answer it. Amazing. It was obviously very hard news but to this day Judy and I both marvel at how our Father orchestrated this.  It was as if He said, “Judy, you have a difficult journey ahead of you but I am putting this together so you will know that I love you and I will walk with you.”  And yes, it was as if He signed it, “Love, Dearest Daddy.”

It was a difficult journey that left us both shocked and surprised. Judy’s daddy had just been with us for Rebecca’s birth and suddenly, he moved to heaven. But even in those sad, heartbroken moments, we knew He was not leaving us to walk through this hard time alone. We trusted that He would show us the way as we walked this new, unplanned path. And He never left us to walk alone.

How about you?  First, I hope you have made the decision to ask God to forgive your sins and be your Father.  It is the greatest and best decision ever. Again, it has nothing to do with religion or church.  It has everything to do with a relationship with the Creator of everything.  Second, if you have done that I hope you will make it a habit to look and see the handiwork of your Father in everyday life.  He is constantly at work—in the good times and hard times.  He is at work when it is obvious and when it is not.

It is one of those verses that a lot of people throw around but it is just packed with truth. It says, “we know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”  Now, it doesn’t say that everything is good but that God can bring good from all circumstances.  God in fact did get us safely through a twenty-three hour drive to South Georgia with a six week old baby girl in the back seat.  God did show us His love through an amazing phone call. And the best part—He does it for each of His kids.  So, snuggle up and rest in Him.  He loves you and He’s got this. 

Posted in Family, food, gratitude, life, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, wisdom

Tripe and Gossip

The one who reveals secrets is a constant gossip; avoid someone with a big mouth.” Proverbs 20:19

The more I chewed the bigger it got.  I have lots of food memories from growing up.  First you need to remember that I was born in the South and folks from the South have a whole different way of eating.  And trust me…that means it was good…mostly.  I can remember fried chicken Sunday dinners with green beans and mashed potatoes…the kind that didn’t come from a box but from a real potato.  A lot of Sundays we had pot roast with those same yummy potatoes and green beans.

My mama made really good biscuits.  You can’t imagine how good they were hot out of the oven.  While we did occasionally have dessert we really didn’t need it.  We would just take one of mama’s biscuits, slather it with butter and then pour cane syrup all over it.  Shoot-that-thing! You don’t know good if you’ve never had homemade biscuits and syrup.  Now with all that said, there were a few things we had that were a bit—different.

I remember I decided to try something new with my peanut butter. It could have been that we were out of jelly but anyway I got the mayonnaise out of the refrigerator, smeared it on some bread and then loaded on the peanut butter.  Bam…just like that a new delicacy was born.  That became one of my favorites for years.  One day I had one and then got the stomach flu and well, we parted ways.

We didn’t have a whole lot of candy growing up and I’ve always had a sweet tooth.  Somewhere along the journey I discovered the sugar bowl.  Did you know you can get a teaspoon full of sugar and put it in your mouth and it tastes like a candy bar?  Well, it probably didn’t taste like a Snickers, but it was plenty sweet.  You know what they say, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”

School lunches were always an adventure.  There were deviled egg sandwiches (awesome), deviled egg sandwiches with potted meat mixed in (not so awesome), potted meat sandwiches without deviled eggs (yuk) and finally Vienna sausages (uh, well, somewhat good).  You just never knew what mom was going to put in the lunch bag.  My all-time favorite was pimento cheese.  To this day that is one of my favorites. And then there was—tripe.

Tripe wasn’t a lunch item, it was always for supper.  Some of you may not have discovered the wonder of tripe or even know what it is.  Well, for those of you who don’t know tripe is cow’s stomach.  Yup and let me just tell you it was an experience.  It always smelled great cooking but eating it was a real challenge.  Mama usually cut it up in pretty small pieces but you still had to get a sharp knife to get it down to bite size.  Now tripe was…chewy.  In fact, tripe was very chewy.  Which is why it never made it into the lunch bag—it took two hours to eat one small piece.  You see, the more you chewed it, the bigger it got! 

I’ve heard it said that celery is one of those negative calorie foods…it actually takes more calories to chew it and digest it than are in the food itself.  I think tripe must be one of those also.  In fact, I am sure there is a tripe diet somewhere out there.  You take a bite, chew for two hours and bam…lose two pounds.  Good, ole, tripe.  The supper of champions.

You do know that gossip is a lot like tripe don’t you?  You mutter a few words about your friend and before you know it, you have yourself a belly full of trouble. Those few hurtful words just get bigger and more hurtful each time they are repeated. Feelings get hurt, relationships are broken and talk about a belly ache…oh yeah.  While the Bible doesn’t say much about tripe it does say a lot about gossip.  One of my favorites is Proverbs 20:19, “The one who reveals secrets is a constant gossip; avoid someone with a big mouth.”  How’s that for being straight to the point?

One of the best ways to avoid gossip is to remember a couple of things.  If the person you are telling isn’t part of the problem…don’t tell them. Also, if you wouldn’t say something to a person’s face you shouldn’t share it behind their back.  Now the problem is, most of us just love a good piece of juicy gossip.  The Bible says, “A gossip’s words are like choice food that goes down to one’s innermost being.” That might be true but I know one more thing about tripe.  If it gets stuck in your throat you are in deep weeds.  That choice piece of gossip can get stuck too, and can cause heart breaking consequences.

Well, I gave up tripe a long time ago.  I guess I had enough when I was a kid.  I wish I could say I have totally given up gossip the same way.  I have found out given half-a-chance I can find myself saying, “Hey, did you hear…” and that tripe-like-sin is right back in my mouth.  We just need to be careful to keep it out of our mouth.  The good news is Jesus is more than willing to help if you ask.  He can handle all kind of things whether it be a tough piece of tripe stuck in the wrong place or a juicy piece of gossip right on your lips.  Just ask Him.  He will help cause He’s got …even this. 

Posted in Family, gratitude, Holidays, life, Scripture, Southern born, travel, wisdom

Bruiser

The one who walks with the wise will become wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm.” Proverbs 13:20

I saw it coming.  I never saw it coming.  Both are true, and the truth is, it didn’t matter. So about a month ago now, two-thirds of the family (that would be two of my three daughters and their families) were able to jail break and go to Florida for a week.  The middle daughter had been going to the Palm Coast of Florida for the last several years and she suggested we give it a try. I was a reluctant participant.

You see, I was raised on the Northeast coast of Florida.  My growing up years consisted of regular trips to the beach.  Many years later I discovered the Gulf coast with its sugary white sands and clear blue-green waters and I was sold.  Because of this, I wasn’t overly excited when the plans for the East coast were drafted.  However, having done life being the only male in the house (there was my wife, three daughters, a girl dog, a girl cat or two and six female tropical fish.  Even the mice in the barn were girls.) I realized that resistance was futile.  So off to the East coast we went.

I was pleasantly surprised.  We were about an hour or so South of Jacksonville (where I was raised) in a nice condominium complex. We shared the place with our middle daughter and family and it was just perfect.  It overlooked the golf course with a great view of the ocean.  The grounds were well maintained and it had two very nice pools—one family and one for the adults who liked things a little quieter.  The normal vacation crowd was much smaller and that was good news given the COVID thing. The only problem was “they” were there.

“They” were waves.  Pretty big waves.  You see on the Gulf side you usually have little friendly waves.  The waves gently bump into you and seem to say, “Hi, we are glad you are here.”  The waves in the Atlantic are from the Southside of Chicago.  They are gangster waves. When we went to the beach they were waiting.  This is the part I remember from my growing up and from one or two vacations from earlier years.  You can hear them before you see them.  They are inviting you into the water—so they can bully you.

Anyway, we get to the beach and you know they didn’t look too intimidating.  I mean they weren’t gentle “hey, glad you are here waves” but they weren’t “terminator” waves either.  We set our stuff down on the beach and off we went into the water.  First, I tested the waves with a knee deep stand.  Not bad.  Then I went a little deeper.  Still not too bad but I could begin to feel them.  They wanted me.  They had my number.

I was out in waist deep water and realized the power of perception.  Those waves that didn’t seem so big from shore were all of a sudden larger—much larger.  I turned to talk to Judy who was close by and looked back just in time to see a large wave coming.  Fortunately, I was able to keep my footing and survived the onslaught.  I smiled.  My sunglasses were still on my face and my hat was still on my head.  I was an overcomer.  Who’s the man now?! That’s when “Bruiser” came.

“Bruiser” was epic, “Bruiser” had one goal in mind—take me down.  I saw him coming but it was too late.  “Bruiser” was well over my head and broke right on top of me.  One minute I was standing and the next minute I was in a washing machine of ocean water…in the spin cycle.  When I came to surface, of which I was very grateful, “Bruiser” had moved on.  My swim shirt was over my head, my hat was gone and my pride and body were a little bruised.  He had won. I had taken on the big boy and come up short.  Probably worse of all my Seattle hat, the one I had worn for several years was lost to the jaws of “Bruiser.”   He never had a chance.  May he rest in peace.

Well, one time in the spin cycle was enough for me that day. And somewhat gratefully I was glad to learn that others in the family had suffered similar fates. Even the son-in-laws got bowled over a time or two. Hats and sunglasses were lost but what was found was the joy of being with family.  We had a good time.

I did learn, or perhaps more accurately, relearn a lesson about the waves of the Atlantic.  They can be pretty powerful.  Usually there is a flag system that warns of particularly rough waves.  Our beach didn’t have that, but I later heard on the news there had been some big waves.  Oh well, hindsight is 20/20.  Sometimes they manage to sneak in but even when you see them coming, they can take you down.

Life is the same way.  A day at life’s beach can quickly turn into a spin cycle of ocean water.  We can get bowled over by circumstances, uncertainties, tragedies and pandemics. Even when we see them coming, they can be overwhelming.  After my encounter with “Bruiser” that day, I decided it was time to visit the pool—eventually all of us did.  The Bible says, “The one who walks with the wise will become wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm.”  Translated another way that means there is a time to swim in the ocean and there is a time to head to the pool. Wisdom is knowing when to do what. Wisdom is also knowing that no matter what life throws at you, we can rest in the One who makes the waves because He’s got this. 

Posted in Family, life, Scripture, thankful, wisdom

Murphy’s Law

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

Good ole Murphy.  You have probably heard about a thing called Murphy’s Law.  The bottom line is that if something can go wrong…it probably will. I have been a strong believer in Murphy’s Law for a long time.  In fact, I bet if I checked ancestry.com this Murphy fella is somehow related to me.  Now I know if you are one of those optimistic folks you are not a believer.  You probably don’t believe in Big Foot either.  Well, hey, I’m a believer.  Let me give you a couple of examples.

I have a 100 foot water hose that we use to water plants, wash the car, all kind of things.   When I am done with the hose and it is time to roll it back up, there is a 90% probably that the hose will catch on something—a flower pot, a rock, a crack in the sideway, or even an ant. When it catches, it kinks and I will have to walk out and unkink it.  And…there is 67.5 % chance that it will kink again.  There you go…Murphy’s Law.

Are you up for one more?  So, let’s say I am installing a light fixture in the bedroom and I have to screw three screws in to hold it. There is a 94.75 percent chance that I will drop at least one of the screws from atop the six foot ladder, that it will roll 7.5 feet over toward the wall and that it will drop into the heating or air conditioning vent.  AND there is a 100% chance that I will not have a replacement screw AND a 84% chance that no one in town will either.  See, it is Murphy’s Law—undeniable, irrefutable, you gotta believe it, proof.

Now the good thing about Murphy’s Law is that most of the things it involves won’t kill you or even cause serious injury …but it will definitely drive you crazy.  I’ve lived long enough to come to the conclusion that it isn’t the major disasters in life that steal our joy, rob us of peace, or make us want to move to Montana.  No, it is the little things.  One of my favorite verses is tucked away in one of those Bible books we never read—the Song of Solomon.  Trust me—don’t read it to your kids before bedtime—or maybe anytime.

Well, right in the middle of the book is this jewel, “Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom.” The author, who is a guy named Solomon, is saying he is not worried about a herd of elephants stomping and ruining his grapevines.  Nope.  He realized the danger is from those pesky little foxes that come along and eat the harvest one grape at a time.  One.grape.at.a.time.

In these crazy days that have become some kind of new normal there are some elephants out there.  The reality is that the corona virus can be very dangerous. There is a pretty small chance that I will get it.  There is an even smaller chance that it will kill me.  But there is just about a 100% chance that it and all its circumstances have and will  mess with me. And that’s the problem—worrying about things that mess with me, things I can’t change, and the Rolaids stock goes right through the roof.  Those stinking, pesky little foxes. We should be wary of the elephants, but let’s not give too much time and energy to the little foxes.

The foxes can and will mess with us.  If we allow them they can cause us to be frustrated and even angry.  They can mess with our peace, our joy, our relationships and even our sleep.  But the truth is our God is greater than any elephant or any fox. All we have to do us trust Him—to lean into Him.  The writer of Proverbs says it this way, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and don’t lean into your own understanding.  In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” 

There you go…trust and acknowledge and He will straighten this mess out. So, the next time the hose kinks or the screw disappears just remember Murphy is at work.  The choice of what we do when he visits is ours.  I think we should just probably introduce him to our Friend Jesus.  We should let him know there isn’t room for he and Jesus in our circle of friends.  Someone has to go and Murphy—it is you.  So long Murphy.  I’m gonna go rest in Jesus.  He’s got this. 

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, thankful, wisdom

The Tax Man Cometh

For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

It was from the tax guy or gal and it was waiting for me in the mailbox when I got home.  Judy is usually the mail checker but she was out of town.  I went into the house and “it” was a letter from the tax assessor’s office.  They told me they had driven by my house and they really liked it—a lot.  And, since they liked it so much, they decided it was worth more than they had previously thought.  A whole lot more.  They blessed us with a reassessment of value and the grand prize was that we got to pay more property taxes. Yay.  Well, not really but it did give me a great opportunity to learn about how much God loves me.  Here’s what happened.

If you have been here before you probably know, my day job is being a pastor. It is something that I really enjoy.  My favorite thing is sharing THE story but also sharing stories.  I love to take big truths and present them in a way that anyone can grasp them.  I think that is what Jesus did and I figure if He did it, I should too.

This past week I was sharing the story from the Bible about how four guys take this paralyzed guy to see Jesus.  When they got there, the house was stuffed with people.  There was no way they were going to get in.  They decided to take this guy up on the roof, make a hole and then lower him right in front of Jesus.  It was crazy, it was  radical, and it was different, but they believed two things.  They believed that Jesus could heal their friend and that their friend was worth the effort.  We all could use friends like that.

They began to haul this guy up the ladder to the roof.  Can you even imagine how difficult and challenging that was?  I mean how do you keep a paralyzed guy from falling off his mat while climbing a ladder?  Well, somehow they pulled it off.  When they got to the top, they began to remove the thatch first and then break apart the mud and tiles.  After they had made a hole big enough to get this guy through—they lowered him down and he landed right in front of Jesus. I bet there was more than one person who wondered what in the world was going on. I bet too some people were grumbling about tearing up a perfectly good roof to get some poor, paralyzed guy in front of Jesus. I mean if he had been some rich guy… maybe… but a nobody? And that’s what “rung my bell”.

You see to those four guys and to Jesus—this guy wasn’t a nobody—he was a somebody.  He was worth way more than a hole in the roof.  In fact, through the eyes of Jesus, every soul is incredibly valuable—including yours.  And that’s when the reassessment thing came into focus. Remember, when the tax folks drove by my house?  They liked what they saw and they increased my tax assessment.  Their assessment really only meant I get to pay more taxes.  It really doesn’t mean my house is actually worth what they said.

You see, I learned a while back that anything you or I own—our house, our car, is worth only what someone is willing to pay for it. That’s the bottomline.  So, here’s the deal.  God drove by your soul, my soul and assigned a value to it—what it was worth to Him and what He was willing to pay to redeem it.  Do you know what that was?  Well, we find it in the Bible.  It says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  Get that—everlasting (as in eternal) life. God’s assessment of our value to Him was the life of His very own Son.  He allowed His Son to die on a Roman cross because He somehow counted us worth it.  He just loved us that much.

Well, the end of the story for the paralyzed guy was pretty amazing.  Jesus first calls him son—not worthless, not broken, but son. Then He forgives the guy’s sin—not what he wanted… but what he needed—and finally, He tells him to stand up, take his mat and go home.  Three seemingly impossible things. But with Jesus, as you can probably guess, nothing is really impossible. The guy jumps up, takes his mat and leaves as the crowd is standing in disbelief.  They said they have never seen anything like that—and they hadn’t. The key thing is that the guy had to not only believe, but also act on what he believed. Each one of us must do the same.  We have to believe that Jesus is Who He says He is and can do what He says He can do.  When we believe that—we are forgiven and God becomes our Father. Truth be known, I wasn’t too happy about my reassessment. However, I was glad it taught me a new way to look at how much God loves me…and you.  When we are down on ourselves, when all we can see are failures and warts, when we want to give up and quit, we are reminded that our Heavenly Father thinks we are worth a lot. You see, I’m learning that His opinion is the only one that matters. So why not claim that for yourself and take a rest in Him today.  Because you know—He’s got this.  

Posted in Family, fear, Grace, gratitude, life, Scripture, thankful, wisdom

Call a Plumber

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

I knew it, I just knew it.  A month or so ago, my wife told me that she had dropped her special eye liner down the drain in our bathroom.  It was the kind that was encased in a holder like a pencil and one day the eye thingy just slid right out.  Now, I’m not sure what an eye liner even does but I know it was important to her.  And, since it was important to her, it was important to me.

With my limited, and I do mean limited, knowledge of plumbing and drains, I did know that there is a thing called a trap on a drain.  It is designed to catch things and keep them from going wherever the water goes…the place of no return.  I also knew checking the trap was not a big deal.  You unscrew a couple of things and when you are done you screw it back on.  No deal, right? Uh, well, usually.

Well, I took it off and dumped it out.  There was some really ugly stuff in there but none of it had to do with eyes.  So after cleaning it out I screwed it back on and checked to make sure every thing was nice and dry.  It wasn’t.  One of the joints was leaking.  So I took it apart 3,291 times and 3,291 times it leaked.  I finally called it quits and asked my real plumber son-in-law to swing by and check it out.  The diagnosis was simple.

The problem was a cheaply made part from China that was apparently barely staying together before the eye-liner thing.  The answer was to buy a new part, screw it on and bam—you are back in business.  So, I go to store number one and buy the part the guy says I need.  I bring it home, take it apart, wrong part.  Bummer.  So I went to another store and bought another part that the guy said I needed.  I brought it home, I took it apart and indeed it was the WRONG part.

If nothing else, I am persistent.  I went to a third store where the nice guy behind the counter sold me a whole bag of parts at a very good price.  “Yay!” I said.  I went home, opened my big bag of parts and discovered indeed that it would fix a problem, for someone, somewhere—but not my problem.  They didn’t fit either.  I gave up and went on vacation.

Sometimes a trip to Florida with family will give renewed clarity and determination.  When I got home, I decided if I just tried harder, if I just adjusted and twisted enough I could make one of all those parts work.  Well, I got on the floor, dumped all the parts on the floor and took it all part again and…failed.  Miserably.  In fact, instead of one leak I now had two.  By now I was certain of two things.  I was not a plumber and I was very glad God called me to be a preacher.

Well, I decided to give it one more try. This time I took the old broken parts with me to the story. Store one and two were closed but store three was open.  I walked in and the nice guy said, “Can I help you?”  I told him I honestly wasn’t sure. I gave him the short story of how I now owned a small plumbing supply business and I needed this part—and I showed him the dirty, slimy old part.  He reached down and pulled a bag full of parts off the shelf and together we looked.  There, inside the bag, was the part I needed.  He saw it, I saw it.  Things were looking up.

I bought the bag of parts and took them home.  I managed to rig the other leak with some electrical tape—hey it worked—and then I put on the new part, the right part.  It took exactly one minute to screw on the right part and ta-da—it didn’t leak.  Success. Victory.  I was one happy shade-tree plumber.  Of course I now own two bags full of parts that I don’t need—yet—and probably spent enough to pay a plumber to fix it but it was done and I was the hero!  I’m going down today to apply for my plumber’s card.

I bet you are wondering what today’s big truth is all about.  We could talk about frustration. We could talk about determination.  We could talk about some other word that ends with “ion.”  But the big truth is this.  I kept trying to put the wrong part in the right place and no matter how hard I tried—it just wasn’t going to fit.  It was like trying to put a square peg in a round hole—it wasn’t gonna happen. 

Of couse, we do this all the time in life with God.  How many times do we have an issue or a problem and we are sure we can cram something into that place that doesn’t fit and be happy?  How many new cars, houses, and televisions have been bought trying to scratch an itch that only God can scratch?  Sometimes we just know if we “get religion” or start going to church or start this or stop that everything will be ok.  Our life, our marriages, our fears will all be better or disappear.  Those may be good things but they are not THE thing.

The thing is a personal relationship with Jesus. You may have heard how He came to bring light into a dark world—including your dark world.  You may have even heard how He came to set things right between you and God—in fact, make it possible for you to call God Father.  It’s all true and it’s all right there in the Book.  Paul, one of the guys who wrote a chunk of the Bible, said “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” That just means we are saved by believing and not doing.  It’s really quite amazing. So if you have a plumbing problem…save yourself some time and frustration and call your son-in-law the plumber.  If he isn’t one, hire one.  But if your life is a leaky mess, call on Jesus.  No matter the problem, no matter how big the problem—He is the fixer.  He can take care of it and you.  Why?  Because He loves you—a lot.  You can rest in Him when life wears you down.  You can turn to Him when life gets crazy because…He’s got this.

Posted in Family, gratitude, life, loving others, missions, prayer, Scripture, thankful, travel, wisdom

“Just Like Papa”

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Hebrews 10:24

It is one of my favorite pictures.  It was several years ago when Blake and Sarah were stationed in Savanah, Georgia.  He serves in the United States Army and they are one of thousands of families who make the sacrifice to go where they are sent and do what they are called to do.  Now, of all the places the Army can sent a family, Savanah was good duty.  The oldest city in Georgia and located in the Southeastern side of Georgia it is rich in heritage and about 25 miles from the beach.  Not bad.

Well, one day Judy suggested we should go down and see them.  Let’s see…family, grits, history and pralines (in case you don’t know they are a crisp or semi-crisp candy typically consisting of butter, brown sugar, and pecans. You need to try them.) Yup…sounds like a great idea.  So we load up the van and off we go.  Its about an eleven hour drive and we broke it up into two days because we are not as young as we used to be and to us the journey is part of the adventure.

When we arrive in Savanah, there are the usual “big hellos” and “what’s happening?” Soon after come the next two big questions—what are we going to eat and where do we want to go.  We decide to go to the historic downtown.  If you have never been to Savanah it is hard to describe this special part of the city.  It is a series of parks, literally block after block, filled with trees, flowers, monuments, and fountains.  Oh, and there is a Five Guys Burgers and Fries nearby.  It can’t get any better. It’s like the Southern part of heaven.

After three or four blocks of strolling I decide it is time to sit down.  So I wander over to an empty park bench and sit a spell.  As I sometimes do, I lean back, locking my hands behind my head and just relax.  The birds are singing, the squirrels are playing and life is good.  And then, it got better.  While I am sitting there doing my relaxing thing, my grandson Will, who was about four, comes over to the park bench and eyes his Papa. What he does next is recorded in a photograph and in my heart.

Will, with a bit of a struggle, climbs up and sits on the park bench.  He then gives me a look, raises his hands behind his head, locking his fingers.  He is being like his Papa. He is doing what he sees me doing. Judy, with the keen eye of a great photographer and grandmother, snaps the picture.  It was only when we got home did we see the true beauty of the picture.  Today, a copy sits on my desk in my home office and it is indeed one of my treasures.

Will reminded me that day there are always people watching and looking and often imitating us.  Sometimes they are family, sometimes they are fellow church members, sometimes neighbors, sometimes even strangers.  But they are watching and looking to see what we are going to do, how we are going to react and then they do what we do. That might be the reason when one of Jesus’ disciples ran—then they all did. It might be why when one shouted “crucify Him,” they all did.  This picture makes me pause and ask, “What are my kids, my grandkids, my friends, the yet to be friends around me, seeing when they see me?”  What do they see at the park, in Wal-Mart and yes, on Facebook?  Hmmm.

The guy who wrote Hebrews says that we should consider—we should weigh carefully—how we may spur one another on toward love and good works.”  In other words, the things we do and say should cause others to do good—and not to do evil. We are to be beacons of light shining out into a dark, rough, and dangerous sea.  I guess I really love that picture because of the innocence of it all.  But what if, what if, that same picture showed me being hateful or rude.  What brings me joy would, and should, then bring tears. Today is a new day.  I like new days.  New days say I get another chance.  Let’s use this day with the knowledge that people are watching and we get to show them the way to get it right—not wrong.  I know, it is a daunting task…but we have a great, big God pulling for us.  Just like I got to set an innocent example for Will, so Jesus has set a sterling example for us.  Just follow the leader and you can’t go wrong.  So, climb up on the bench, sit a spell and rest.  He’s got this.

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, thankful, wisdom

Chucking Rocks

When they kept on questioning Him, He straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7

I should have listened.  I was a pretty good kid when I was young but let’s be honest.  Pretty good doesn’t mean perfect and pretty good doesn’t mean not mischievous.  I think it means I was somewhere close to normal.  The only thing is, normal can still get you into trouble.

One day I was with the family and I’m pretty sure we were at a laundromat.  Apparently the washing machine had broken down and we had to do the wash at the mat.  My daddy and I were out in the parking lot while mama was washing the clothes.  I was about nine and bored and that is not a good combination.  The parking lot was gravel and all those rocks just seemed to be saying, “Throw me.”  So, I obliged.

At first it was a little toss here and there but the more I threw, the more I wanted to throw.  First it was here and there but then I started taking aim.  Several things were lying along the edge of the parking lot and they made great targets but then I got an idea.  If hitting a can was good, imagine hitting a moving target.  So I started chucking the rocks in the direction of the road and at the cars passing by.  Bad idea.

Now, if you are going to chuck rocks at a car, every nine year old rock chucker knows you don’t just chuck your rock with obvious intention.  You ease into it. Well, I started easing into it and before long my rocks were landing dangerously close to cars passing by.  My Daddy thought it was kinda accidental and it garnered a “Dewayne, be careful to not hit the cars.”  He hadn’t caught onto my real plan to “ping a hub cap.”  Anyway, I kept chucking so he upped the warning.

“Dewayne, listen, don’t throw rocks at the cars.” He had finally caught on and I should have quit while I was ahead.  I finally got close enough so that we entered “Final Jeopardy.” “Question—what happens if you hit a car? Answer—I’m gonna give you a spanking.”  Yeah, well, you can probably guess where this is going.  I chucked a rock and hit a car going by and it was “Final Jeopardy.”  Daddy got mad, the driver got mad and I got in trouble.

Well, Daddy was able to talk to the driver and he promised him the “grapes of wrath” would fall when we got home.  As he drove off, daddy explained about the “grapes of wrath.” Translated, it meant I was gonna get a spanking when we got home and it wasn’t gonna be a little one.  So, as soon as we pulled into our driveway, I ran into the house and hid under the dining room table.  Soon, I heard Daddy’s voice, “Where are you, Dewayne?”  I felt like Adam and Eve in the garden after they had chucked rocks at God and decided to sin.  God was looking for them and they were hiding too.

And that’s where things get fuzzy.  I don’t remember the spanking which means I probably got grace instead.  It probably means that Daddy and I had a long talk about chucking rocks at cars and how that was not a good thing to do.  It must have worked because I don’t think I ever chucked another rock at a car…at least one that was moving. That day I learned about obedience and how it has a lot less consequences than disobedience.  I also learned about grace.  Grace is when you deserve a spanking but instead you get a talking.  But I also learned about rock chucking. I learned that it was ok to chuck rocks at things like stumps and cans, but it is not ok to chuck rocks at things like cars. When you do there are consequences…big ones.

Now, there’s another kind of rock chucking that I’m still learning about and that is chucking rocks at people. I’m not talking about waylaying someone with a stone but rather waylaying them with our judgmental acts and words. It’s what we do when we see someone fail and we decide to make ourselves feel better by knocking them down.

Jesus ran into this when some religious people found a woman sinning big.  They dragged her into the middle of a crowd and wanted to stone her.  They asked Jesus what He would do.  He told them that the person that had never sinned should chuck the first rock.  Well, slowly they all walked away because they had all messed up. “Where are your accusers?” Jesus asked the woman.  She replied that they had left…and indeed they had.

The only two left were her, the sinner and Him, the One who had never sinned.  He could have chucked rocks but instead He loved her and forgave her.  She deserved the rocks but He gave her grace.  I like that.  A lot. He dismissed her a smile and a word of “now don’t go on sinning” and the rocks stayed on the ground…right where they belong. So, I am grateful for grace…and you should be too.  If we have experienced grace we should extend some too. You see, rocks make great parking lots and driveways but are terrible weapons. They need to stay in the quarry or on the ground.  My daddy showed grace then and my Dearest Daddy shows it every day.  We should too.  However, it’s good to know when we are hiding under the dining room table and He calls, we can come out and sit in His lap and learn about the consequences of sin but also the wonders of grace.  So, come on out from your hiding place. We can rest in Him because, “He’s got this.”