Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, wisdom

The Prickly Past

He has removed our sins as far from us as the East is from the West.” Psalm 103:12

It was a voice from my past—and it was singing the blues.  While we were in Southwest Florida on holiday, I tried to keep up with my morning routines.  That included, first and foremost, coffee.  After coffee and a look at the weather, came God time.  After God time came Judy time.  After Judy time came—exercise time.  The problem with all these times is they all take time.  Before I knew it, the sun was up, the humidity was up and the temperature was up.  Regardless, I had to get up and get going.

The first morning we were there I was still learning the lay of the land and wasn’t exactly sure where I should walk.  So, I headed toward the way in and out of our condo property.  This led to the highway and so I took a left and decided to walk on the edge of the road.  It was safe but it was miserable.  There was no shade and soon it was just plain hot—very hot—“why am I doing this” hot.  I was determined to go my 3.6 miles but I began wondering if this was such a good idea.  After a little while longer I was sure it wasn’t.  But you know how men are—do or die and in this case, death might have been an upgrade.  Ok, I’m exaggerating.

In my misery, I met an old friend.  There was a point when I had to cross a bridge across a channel.  They had built a walkway but to get to the walkway you had to go behind a guardrail through the weeds.  Without breaking stride I charged on and then I saw them.  Sand spurs.  These were old friends from my childhood.  They are a type of weed and have sharp, spine covered balls of pain at the ends of long stems.  They will grab anything that gets close and if that happens to be your skin…you are done.  If they don’t get you when they attach, they will get you when you try to detach them. Ugh.

Like I said, they were an old foe from my childhood.  When I was a kid, we would run barefoot all the time and without fail we would step on them. They would hurt…bad.  Well, this time, even though I tried to avoid them, they found their way onto my shoes and socks but I didn’t find them till I got back from my walk.  As I was sitting by the pool trying to recover from a 145 heart rate and the 100 humidity, I found them. And, just like the old days, they made sure to give me a “stick and an ouch” as I tried to remove them.  Just. Like. The. Old. Days.  Though it was years ago, the whole sand spur scene was painfully fresh.

I find that sand spurs aren’t the only painful thing that loves to bump into our present.  Often, too often, unpleasant memories and regrets, sneak back into our lives and cause us pain all over again.  Try as we may, sometimes, it seems they reattach themselves to us and we relive the whole hot mess again.  It could be a similar situation or maybe a repeat performance but all the pain and remorse comes flooding back.  I hate it, you hate I,t but how do we avoid it?

Well, I tried to avoid the sand spurs on my walk.  I saw them, I knew they were there, but in my rush, my determination to exercise, I simply didn’t give them the wide berth they deserved.  I should have made it a higher priority. I realized that when I was later trying to remove them.  When you sense, when you feel your ugly, painful past creeping into the present, do whatever it takes to change the scenario. Don’t allow yourself to pull to the “sand spurs” of past failures. Trust me—they will attach themselves to your present with all their former pain.

There is one more thing that is even more important than that.  Should you find yourself reliving that regret, run straight into the arms of grace.  Remember, relive the forgiveness that came after the failure.  The Bible tells us that God casts our failures as far as the East is from the West.  I love that because it doesn’t say as far as the North is from the South. You see if you go North long enough you will find the South.  But not so with East from the West.  You can travel East forever and never find the West.  And that dear friend, is what God does with our failures and sin if we ask Him for forgiveness and help. It is gone—outta here and that is real good news.

Well, I couldn’t wait to show Judy my sand spurs, not because I liked them but because they reminded me of an important part of my past—the fact that I knew they were not going to be a permanent part of my future.  I may have bumped into them, but I wasn’t going to live with them again. And that is a good thing. So as you are speed walking though life, remember to give your painful past a wide berth and keep Jesus close by your side. You’ll find Him a mobile “rest stop,” there to make every step, every day survivable and “thrive-able.” And never forget, He’s got this.

Posted in Family, food, life, Scripture

Food Truck

“When He saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36

There’s a new food truck in town.  For the past several years I have begun my day by walking for exercise.  I take several different routes but one of my favorites is around the lake at the city park.  It was there I met Bubba the goose (for past readers he said to tell you hi), saw the power of integration in the goose families (they are doing fine), saw a man waging a war with people I could not see, and saw the new food truck in town.  Let me explain.

We walkers see two kinds of exercisers.  Some people come and go and some are regular as clockwork, they show up to walk each day.  Like Forest Gump they start running—or walking—and just don’t stop.  These folks become unofficial friends.  We may not know each other’s names, what we do for a living or where the other person lives but for those few minutes at the park our lives intersect. And then, there’s the “food truck.”

She loves dogs and really animals.  She walks her dogs every day in the park…and there are several.  But what is interesting is that for a long time there was a cat walking with her.  I mean a lot of people walk dogs, but a cat?  The feline wasn’t on a leash but would just quietly walk behind her and the dogs.  Talk about intriguing.  So after a while I just had to talk with her.  It turns out it wasn’t her cat at all.  She met the cat one day while walking and it looked a little thin so she started dropping some dry cat food on the sidewalk and …well the cat had breakfast and hung around for dessert. There was a new “food truck” in town.

Sadly, one day our feline friend wasn’t there and I learned that he was hit by a car and didn’t survive.  We mourned together…a lady I didn’t know losing a cat she didn’t own but we paused and grieved.  But before long, there was another cat.  I first saw him on the sidewalk about a block from the park and he was having breakfast on the sidewalk and I knew the “food truck” had been by.  The relationship wasn’t as tight or as long but she had made a new friend by meeting a need.

Well, one day I was again walking in the park and ahead I saw several squirrels having breakfast.  Yup, the “food truck” fed squirrels too.  And then a few days later I saw several ducks gathered on the walking trail.  Turns out ducks like cat food and they too were having breakfast.  The “food truck” was a hit in the park and everyone was invited.  But the funniest part was yet to happen.

So I am walking, and across the narrow lake I can see her walking her dog.  Behind her is a group of ducks having breakfast.  Then on my side of the lake there are three ducks and they are on the move.  They are waddling as fast as their little legs would take them and they are quacking up a storm.  Again, my duck is a little rusty but I believe they were saying, “Hey wait for us.”  So huffing and puffing they waddle down a small peninsula and jump in. Paddling furiously they headed straight across the lake.  Like kids chasing the ice cream truck they swam on.  It was my last lap for the day but the last time I saw them they were on shore and hollering, “Wait, we’re coming.”

I don’t know my friend’s name but I do know her impact.  Her acts of kindness to animals makes her a hit with them and with me.  She just seems to care and really, besides this strange sort of fan club, gets no other reward.  She just does what she thinks is the next right thing.  I wonder how different our world would be if we did the same.  Jesus did.  The Book tells us that when He saw people—He didn’t see social class, He didn’t see color—He just saw people and He had compassion on them. He saw them as sheep without a shepherd or maybe like ducks needing breakfast.

Compassion is best defined as simply love in action.  Its seeing a need and then doing what you can to meet that need. Imagine today taking the time to show kindness to someone having a difficult day.  Imagine today taking the time to give someone a smile when they are only used to frowns.  Imagine today doing simply the next right thing—without reward, without expectation—simply because it is the right thing to do.  It might just be amazing.  It might just look crazy…like a cat following a lady walking her dog. It might just be game changing.

In a few minutes, I’m going to do my walking thing.  I don’t have any cat food.  In fact my shorts don’t even have pockets but I can pack an intentional smile for someone who needs one.  I can do that.  Sometimes Jesus gave out free lunches to crowds—big crowds.  Sometimes He healed broken bodies and spirits.  But something that I think we overlook is that He probably smiled…a lot.  Imagine His joy as He shared and showed compassion—love in action. Like the cat, like the ducks following the “food truck” people followed Him.  Not just for the bread, though some did, but because around Him they felt safe. They felt loved. They found a place where they could rest from the craziness of life.  We can too.  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.