Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, life, loving others, Scripture

Sticks and Stones

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:43-45

You’re nothing but a little Hitler.  The life of a pastor is always interesting.  You really never know what is going to come your way.  I’ve been doing this pastor thing for about 38 years now and I know two things.  First, generally speaking the sun will come up tomorrow.  There is no guarantee but it has a pretty good track record.  Second, you are going to step in someone’s mess today.  Pastor or not, you are going to bump into someone’s hot mess.

Her name was Sheila. Her mother attended our church and she and her two boys would occasionally visit.  I decided one day to go by and just let her know that we enjoyed having her visit.  I mean it sounded like a good thing, it sounded like the right thing.  What could possibly go wrong, right?  Well, I pull into her driveway and went up to the door.  I did my gentle, non-threating knock and she came to the door.  I gave the standard, “Hi Sheila, I just wanted to come back and let you know we are so glad you are visiting with us” spill.  It was pleasant…it was sincere.

I don’t remember everything she said that day.  It could be “pastoral amnesia.”  That is a defense mechanism that pastors have to guard their hearts when someone decides it is their spiritual gift to break them. It might be PTSS (Pastor Tramatic Stress Syndrome) where the event was so traumatic that you block it out.  Anyway…she cut loose and the two things I do remember included something about me running a cult and brain washing people.  The last thing I remember was when she said, in all seriousness, “You are nothing but a little Hitler.”

Well, that hurt—a lot.  It hurt so much that 30 years later I can still hear her voice, still feel her words, and still wish I had never knocked on that door.  Not too long ago I was asked to do her mother’s funeral and it seemed the wall was still there.  Amazingly…sad.  There is an old saying that is a lie.  It says, “Sticks and stone may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  Really?  I wonder who came up with that one.  They must have been deaf and blind.  Words are an incredibly powerful tool or weapon—depending on the sender.

I still am amazed at the emotional energy that chance meeting had for me that day.  But it wasn’t chance…it was somehow prescribed by my Dearest Daddy to help me grow to be more like Jesus.  He knew (and He was right) that there would be many more awkward moments in the days ahead and I needed to learn how to handle them…like Jesus.  This morning I listened to a devotional by one of my favorite writers, Bob Goff.  He was talking about loving your enemies…or maybe folks who act like your enemies. He quoted Jesus and here’s what Jesus said, “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.”

Wow…that is way powerful.  Bob told a story about a witch doctor that he took to trial in Uganda.  This witch doctor believed in child sacrifice and practiced it.  No one before had had the courage to take on these bad guys.  Well, he did and he won.  Later, he decided to go visit this guy on death row.  The former witch doctor, who by then had become a Christ follower, told Bob that he forgave him.  This confused Bob because the other guy was the bad guy, not him.  But what is important is the former witch doctor was extending grace because he wanted to be like Jesus…like his Father.  How about that?

This COVID thing has been a breeding ground for more than germs…it was been a breeding ground for division, unkindness, judging, and hurting.  I know it and you know it, too. And, unfortunately, God’s kids have not been exempt.  The world is watching and seeing and wondering if this God thing is real or a hoax.  One way we can show them that Jesus is the real deal is by loving one another.  Just because the evening news is filled with hated and bitterness doesn’t mean it should infect our Jesus world.  Remember He said that the world would know we are Christians by our love…not our dogmatism. I put something on the sign at church this week.  It says, Jesus first. Before. Everything. Else. Period.  I believe that.  He is more important than COVID, masks, politics, and everything else.  He is first and when He is first…we all do better.  Our world does better. Our marriages do better. Our churches do better.  So as we continue this journey called life, if you are a Jesus follower, make sure you are following Him closely.  Mimic His every Word and every step.  And if you are not yet a follower, I hope you soon will be.  I know sometimes we Jesus followers don’t get it right—but trust me, He never gets it wrong.  You can rest in Him.  He’s got this.

Posted in fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, wisdom

History and Hope

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

It was a bright, wonderfully normal September morning and then everything changed.  Nineteen years ago today our country found itself under attack by terrorists on a scale that was beyond almost everyone’s imagination. More amazingly it played out on national television for all of us to witness and mourn.

That morning I walked into the church office like dozens of times before…only this time was different.  As I entered the door the secretary asked if I had heard that a plane had crashed into one of the world trade buildings.  “Really?” I asked almost casually.” “Was it a big one or what?”  She didn’t know and then I went into my office and slowly the news begin to spread.  A large airliner had been hijacked and flown into one of the towers.  Shortly, again on live television, we were shocked beyond belief as a second airliner flew into the other tower.  And then—both towers collapsed.  Even as I write this it doesn’t seem possible—but many of us saw it with our own eyes. Later another airliner crashed into the Pentagon. And there was more. Another hijacked aircraft heading to yet another target was taken back from the terrorists by a bunch of heroes. It crashed into a Pennsylvania field saving hundreds or maybe even thousands of lives.

The days that followed were like something we have never seen before.  All flights in over the United States were grounded.  New York, ground zero, was shutdown.  People huddled over televisions soaking up any and all news and in the process becoming more and more afraid.  To many it seemed like the end of the world as we knew it.  And I suppose in some ways it was. We needed a miracle—we needed an encounter with the living God.

In a matter of a couple of days we witnessed something else.  We saw something that was tremendously encouraging and a short time later something that was tremendously sad.  First, we witnessed a coming together of the two major political parties in America.  We watched as Democrats and Republicans stood on the Capital steps together and sang “God Bless America.”  We were amazed.  We were encouraged.  It was one of our finest hours in the modern era and it was woefully short.  Within a day, the finger pointing started as one party started blaming the other and sadly we found ourselves divided.  In a time when we desperately needed to be together we were apart.

Fast forward 19 years and we find ourselves in yet another extremely difficult time.  It is totally different and yet eerily similar.  We are facing circumstances that have not been seen in modern times.  The death toll is higher and the enemy faceless.  And this time…we skipped the moment of unity and went straight to the finger pointing. We are a nation divided when we desperately need to be a nation united. Just like 19 years ago we are in desperate need of God and His healing power. The only hope lies in the living Hope—Jesus Christ.

God has put in place the army He intends to use.  It is not Democrat, it is not Republican, it is you and I—it is His church-the body of Christ.  If there was ever a time when followers of Jesus need to act like followers of Jesus—it is now.  It is not a time for bigotry or nor is it a time for fussing over things that don’t matter.  It is not a time for circling the wagons and defending the fort.  It is a time to share the love, the kindness, the grace that every Jesus follower has experienced.  It is time to give what we have been given.

I don’t know what this world is going to look like over the next few years.  What I do know is that if this army of Jesus people will be Jesus to the world around us—it can, it will be a better place.  Will it be perfect?  Of course not—after all experiencing God’s grace doesn’t make us perfect—it makes us forgiven and forgiven people forgive others. Jesus said “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  Wow—there is so much power—so much purpose—in that one statement.

It has been said that if a people does not learn from history they can only be destined to repeat it.  In some ways I’m afraid that has become a reality.  But it is not too late.  So Jesus people, people who call Creator God, Dearest Father, let’s determine today to give up our fear, our anxiety, our pride and our prejudice and let’s rest in Him.  He is big enough, He is strong enough, He is compassionate enough and believe me, He’s got this.

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, Military memories, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, wisdom

I Was Moved, I Was Grateful

For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

I made a random turn…into the cemetery.  The other evening Judy and I were out on a mission.  One of our ladies had given us some homemade ice cream and we were returning the container.  Oh, in case you are wondering, it was way beyond delicious.  It was peach and it was peachy.  I’ve already put in a request for strawberry next.  So we returned the container and just kinda started driving randomly.  As we went down the street the entrance to the cemetery came up on the right—and I turned right in.

Slowly we started driving down the lanes and just as slowly I started reading some of the headstones there.  First, though, on the left was the newly rededicated “Little Arlington.”  It was dusk and the lights were on and I was so impressed with the great work the crew had done.  One of those was our own Jacob Palmer.  Great job, Jacob.  But I was also impressed with what it represented.  Sacrifice.  Ultimate sacrifice.  The kind of sacrifice that means you don’t get to come home from the war.  I love what is often said, “All gave some but some gave all.” For that, I was moved and I was grateful.

Just down the lane was a grave that caught my attention.  It was a young soldier who went to Korea to fight for his country in what has been called “the forgotten war.”  He was 27 years old when he died on some battlefield, some hill in a country for away.  He was fighting and ultimately died for the cause of freedom.  I was moved and I was grateful.

In several places, Judy and I would stop as we saw a headstone that was personal because we knew, we loved, the ones buried there.  Sometimes both of the names were etched there in the stone and it symbolized two lives joined into one with one story.  And for both the story was concluded.  Sometimes though only one name had the start and finish dates. The other story was still being written and there was a heart longing for heaven and a long awaited reunion.  One stone declared and celebrated 72 years of marriage.  So many of those story writers had touched our lives.  I was moved and I was grateful.

There were also stones of tragedy.  There stood the stone marking the grave of two brothers tragically killed one night by a drunk driver.  Several of stones showed lives cut short by a tragic accident.  Over there was the headstone of one of the victims from the 2012 tornado.  Everywhere were stories of people who touched the lives of others. One stone showed an American flag engraved in full color—the grave of a proud veteran.  One grave was that of a pastor and a veteran of World War II.  So many stories, so many lives, so many contributions.  I was moved and I was grateful.

As we continued around the lanes inside the hallowed grounds we noticed there were places where whole families were buried together.  Generations of fathers and mothers, sons and daughters lay in eternal rest together.  The stones often bore nicknames and tag lines of the one who lay there.  On one grave was a tattered flag that said, “#1 Dad.” Some graves though were barely marked.  The only indication that someone lay there was a rock or a stone.  In another part of the cemetery were the pauper graves.  I have stood at some of those graves as we laid to rest someone that almost no one knew.  Once it was the funeral director and me.  No one else came. I was moved and I was grateful.

“Wait,” you say.  “How can you be grateful?”  Well the reason is simple.  Whether it was a family plot of many generations or a solitary grave of a person when no one came—Jesus was still there.  He is the unseen attendee of every funeral.  For many He is there as Savior and Lord. For others He is there as the Sovereign Lord Who wishes all to believe but knows not all will.  But He is there.  He is always there.  When we need Him, when we want Him and yes, even when we ignore Him.  I am moved and I am grateful.

When you get some time, take a slow drive through the cemetery.  It is anything but morbid…it is in fact one of the most meaningful things we can do.  You will be touched, you will be moved, and yes, somewhere along the way you will be grateful.  Let each headstone with a start and finish date be a reminder that for you there is still time.  Still time to make a difference, still time to mend a relationship, still time to finish well.  But most importantly…there is still time to believe and trust in Him.  The Book says that if anyone will call on His name…they will be saved—forgiven—rescued. No story is so bad that He can’t change the end.  Once again I am moved and I am grateful.

Many see the cemetery and think death.  For those who truly understand grace and Jesus they know the cemetery isn’t about death it is about life.  You learned it in Sunday School but now hear it again…like the first time.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever (that is you and me) calls on His name will not perish but have everlasting life.  So trust in Him and rest in Him.  For He has all of 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.”

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, Military memories, missions, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, travel

Forty-four Years

So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times! Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants.” Ephesians 5:16-17

Forty-four years.  16,071 sunrises and sunsets.  That’s the length of the on-going saga of our story.  It seems like yesterday but it also seems like another lifetime.  We both were young… maybe too young. But we were in love, we wanted to walk together so that day, this day forty-four years later, we started walking and just never stopped.

We were chatting last night before we drifted off to sleep and I told her we were blessed.  There have been bumps but not the kind of bumps that come from wanting to quit or wanting something new.  They were the kind of bumps that come from life.  The death of our parents, starting over when the Air Force or God gave new orders, kids being kids and people being people, and yes, me being me and her being her.  But what a journey.

Forty-four years.  I remember the excitement of our wedding day.  I in my snazzy light-blue tux and patent leather high heeled shoes (hey, cut me some slack…it was the seventies) and her standing at the back of the church in her white wedding dress and long brown hair.  Her standing and then walking…walking to me to join me…to start life together.  I was marrying up…and well.

Forty-four years.  I remember embarking on the first of many great adventures as we flew to Europe not for a honeymoon but to live.  The Air Force sent us to live in Germany and while the separation from family was hard…life was enchanting.  I remember looking out our apartment window overlooking an alpine valley with the trees covered with a light dusting of snow. I remember our German landlord knocking on our door and presenting my new bride with a freshly skinned rabbit.  He was beaming and she was wondering, “What do I do with this?”

Forty-four years.  I remember coming back to the USA after three years and seeing our country through new eyes.  Leave for a while and you never see it quite the same.  Leave for a while and the warts and imperfection all fall into perspective.  I remember traveling to the Midwest for the first time and finding out that not everyone liked grits or even knew what they were.  I remember the birth of our first daughter and realizing that we weren’t in Kansas anymore.

Forty-four years.  I remember daughter number two surprising us…and what a good surprise it was.  Our family was complete (or not) and our future secure in the Air Force…until the Whisperer whispered. So long Air Force and hello pastoring and walking by faith. With a young wife and two kids ages three and two, no insurance and a pastorate that paid $12,000..well, faith was a little harder…a little less sure. About then I began to realize just how big, how sure, God is.  I’m still learning that one but He has a perfect track record.

Forty-four years.  I remember the day when we had to pack up and leave a bunch of people we loved a lot and that loved us a lot.  With a station-wagon and a U-Haul stuffed to the gills we moved to a little town called Cobden.  It was new all over again and we fell in love again with another wonderful group of people.  It was at Cobden that God surprised us with daughter number three.  It was at Cobden we raised our family because God let us stay 14 years.  It was at Cobden we learned deep lessons of love and grace.  After fourteen years the Whisperer whispered again and we knew we had to obey.  It was one of the hardest things we ever did.

Forty-four years.  I remember coming to Harrisburg and to Dorrisville Church and wondering how God would write this new part of our story.  I remember wondering how long this chapter would be.  Well, here we are 20 years into this part of our story—almost half of our married lives—and I am still amazed at God’s grace and His people’s patience.  Our kids are grown, we have eight grandkids and Judy and I are experiencing what it is like to grow old together.  I highly recommend it.

Forty-four years.  James, the half-brother of Jesus tells us that life is like a vapor.  In other words it goes by quickly.  Remember how you breathe on a cold morning and your breath appears as if smoke?  As quickly as it appears…it leaves.  That’s life. I am amazed at my age, the length of our marriage and just how awesome life has been been…and is.  Paul, another Bible guy, had it right.  He says, “So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times! Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants.” Good advice, Paul, good advice indeed. Forty-Four years.  Yup, life is good.  I’m still in love with Jesus, still in love with Judy, and still in love with my kids and grandkids.  I get up each day just waiting to see what God has in store…waiting for the next whisper…the next great adventure.  Till then I bet you can guess what I’m going to do.  Yup…I’m going to rest in Him.  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

Concrete Desert

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:10

They were all heading straight for disaster and they didn’t have a clue.  I was walking on our local bike path the other day.  It was early morning but not so early that the sun wasn’t already hot.  It was going to be warm one—especially for May.  As I was walking I looked down and saw several, no many, earthworms on the bike trail. They were trying to make it across.

I know, you’re thinking, “Why did the earthworm cross the bike path?”  The answer is “I don’t know but it sure wasn’t going well.”  Some had already bit the bullet and others were in the struggle of their wormy lives.  Most were squirming…doing everything they could to make it to the other side.  The only thing is, I could see what they could not.  They were a long way from home.

I can just imagine one of the worms with the gift of leadership shouting to his friends, “Keep going guys.  You can make it.  Just a little further.”  The trouble is he just didn’t have the whole picture…the view from above.  From his perspective the end was right over there.  From his perspective just a few more inches and they would be home free. Perspectives from ground level are often like that.  That is why we need someone with a better view.

One of the things I love about believing in God is knowing that He has a higher, better view. He can see things that you just can’t see at ground level.  And when He speaks…He speaks true encouragement because He knows what is around the bend or a few days down the road.  God is really good at helping His kids do life.  If only we would learn to listen.  If only…

See, I talked to some of the earthworms as I walked.  I would say things like, “It’s not looking good, partner.”  Or maybe, “Dude, you’re not gonna make it squirming like that.” Then, “Hey, why are you crossing the bike path anyway?”  I just had to ask. Well, no one listened and on they squirmed.  It was going to be hard day for most of them.

And, then, and this is the truth, I would sometimes stop and actually pitch one or two of them into the cool, wet grass.  It was a random thing I would do.  I would stop, pick one out, and chuck them to the side.  While not one of them said “thanks” it was enough for me to save him or her from the dreaded concrete desert. It just felt good to save a life—even if it was just an earthworm.  I just hope it wasn’t his cousin I put on a hook last week.

When I thought about this whole perspective and rescue thing I just naturally thought about God.  Along with His great perspective, He cares enough to rescue us.  He wants to rescue every person from an eternity without Him.  I mean He loves us so much…and He loved us before we even thought about loving Him.  The Bible says that we love Him because He first loved us.  He saw all our warts, all our imperfections, all our bad choices and chose to love us anyway.  He loved us before we even promised to try and do things right.  A promise, by the way, that we could never keep anyway.

Oh and one more thing.  As I said, I would pick an earthworm to save for no apparent reason.  I just picked one.  God said, “That will never do.” And do you know what, He loved the whole world…everybody…everyone.  Now we still have to choose to repent, choose to follow, choose to believe.  But when we do…well, the welcome sign is out.  Welcome home, son.  Welcome home, daughter. And this is the best part.  Should we wander back onto the concrete desert, He doesn’t say, “Good grief or good luck.”  No He just reaches out, takes us by the hand and pulls us back into the cool, green grass called His presence.  You gotta love that. Well, I don’t know if you will ever feel compelled to rescue an earthworm or not.  But the next time you see one on the sidewalk on a hot May Day, just remember the time He rescued you.  Remember the time He didn’t leave you out in the hot to become a crispy critter.  No, He reached down and picked you up.  Isn’t it great to have a God that cares? That you can rest in?  That’s got this? Yup…I know it’s so.

Posted in Mother's Day

Mother’s Day–The Hard Way

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

Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

“So,” I asked, “what do you want for Mother’s Day?”  I mean, it was a good question and a timely question.  It was a question that I asked too many times the week before “the day.”  It reached a point where anytime I started a sentence with the word “so” she gave me “the look.”

Mother’s Day, birthdays, anniversaries are all a little difficult when it comes to Judy.  “Why” you ask? Well, one she is not a “gifty” person. Now “gifty” is not a word; I made it up.  It means one who needs gifts. I am a “gifty” person.  Second, she’s pretty content.  She’s not really heavy into the stuff thing.  She doesn’t particularly like or need jewelry, candy, or even pe-can pie.  I know, it’s hard to believe!

Well, it was Saturday before “the day.”  No matter how not “gifty” Judy is, I needed to do something.  She deserved it and I didn’t want to go to jail.  So, I decided to try one more time. “So, Judy,” I said, “what are we going to do about this Mother’s Day thing?  It is tomorrow.”  At first I thought I was going to get the look but instead she said, “I know what.”  That worried me because she had a smile on her face.  It was that “you should have quit while you were ahead smile.”  She said, “You can dig up plants for me.”

“Dig up plants?” I muttered but it was too late. The deed was done.  The deal sealed. I agreed and after stalling for a few minutes followed her out to the yard.  She took me to a spot under a large crepe myrtle where some lilirope had taken over.  So this was it.  With a stiff upper lip I attacked those pesky, rooty plants and ripped them from the ground. “Teach you to grow, you, you, plant you” I muttered.  It was a battle but one I eventually won.  I thought I had won the day but I think the muttering under my breath kinda spoiled the deal.

To make up for the muttering we started tackling these killer rose bushes.  They had some dead branches that needed to go.  Now you need to understand these bushes had thorns on their thorns.  Well, before long, blood was shed…and I muttered.  I was pretty sure I was going to have to call the Red Cross for a unit of blood before we were done.  I thought, “Surely this will win the prize.  Game, set, match.”  Nope, that stinking muttering under my breath about shedding blood spoiled things again.  I think I ended up tired, bleeding and empty handed.  I never should have muttered.  Judy calls it “losing the blessing.” I call it a real dumb move.

So, I was sitting on the patio after the medics had bandaged my arm and gave me CPR (smile) and then it occurred to me.  You know, this is what we do with God.  We tell Him how much we love Him.  We offer to do anything for Him. “Just speak the Word, Lord, and I will go and I will do.” So He speaks and then we stammer and then we mutter and then we lose the blessing. “Lord, what would you have me do?” we say. He mentions hard things like forgiving, loving, serving, giving, sharing.  You know, all those “ing” ending words that feel a whole bunch like digging plants.

Well, if I would have pressed pause on the “mutter button” I would have remembered just how much Judy does for me.  I would have remembered how much I really do love her. I would have remembered that while I don’t like digging plants I sure like seeing her smile.  It’s the same with God. If you just hit the pause button you would remember all that God has done for us and does for us every single day.  If you know Him, you gotta love Him. How could we not? How.could.we.not?

You see, God loves you to the moon and back.  Two scriptures put a bow on the package.  John 3:16 says God loved us enough to give His Son to a Roman cross.  But wait, Romans 5:8 tells us that God showed His love by sending Jesus die on that cross without us having to get it together  He just said “hey, come to Me…let’s get together.”  How about that? Well, Judy and I ended up going on a great hike later in the day and had a really great time.  We were amazed at His handiwork and I was amazed at how quickly she could forgive. I hope the next time she needs some plants dug, I’ll just hit pause on the “mutter button” and gladly start digging.  Not because I love digging plants, not because I have too but because I love the one I’m digging for.  And when we ask God what we can do for Him, whatever it is or whoever it involves let’s just get our shovels and get busy.  Afterwards, we can take a break and rest in Him.  He’s got this.