Posted in Family, gratitude, life, Scripture, wisdom

The Clearance Aisle

So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing.” 1 Corinthians 9:26

It was a whale of a deal—I think.  Three or four months ago my wife Judy and I were at HomeGoods.  She was shopping and I was sitting.  HomeGoods is a great store if you are looking for things for your house.  After checking my email and winning several hands of Solitaire, I decided to at least take a look around.  If you know anything about me you know there is a word that draws me like iron to a magnet, like a moth drawn to the flame, like water seeking lower ground—well, you get the idea.  And what is that word? CLEARANCE.

Different stores use different colors of signs announcing their clearance, but I can spot any of them a mile away.  That particular night it was in a pretty obvious place, so I decided to check out the clearance aisle.  Now I need to be candid and let you know I see clearance stuff like I see Dairy Queen.  You see there is nothing I need at Dairy Queen but DQ isn’t about needing, it is about wanting.  I want ice cream…I don’t need ice cream.  Yes, I know it feels like a need, but it isn’t. Ice cream isn’t like air…we can live without it…I think. Anyway, when it comes to the clearance aisle it isn’t about needing it—it is about being a good deal.  Who can pass up something that is like 90% off?  Well, apparently, I can’t.

I wandered back to the clearance aisle and started poking around.  Nothing really caught my eye until right before I was about to walk away.  There was a flat box about fifteen inches square and it looked intriguing. Something was stacked on top of it which is probably why it was still there.  On the cover it showed a round circle with about 34 red balls sitting in small indentions.  It was beautiful…I think.  It was imported from Italy and made of beautiful, and I am not exaggerating, alabaster. It felt expensive, it looked expensive and the original price was rather pricey.  It was marked $39.99.  Nice.

As I looked around on the box I found the clearance price.  It was…get ready…$3.99.  “What?” I said.  “Can it be?”  I said.  “Ninety percent off?” I said.  I mean I was amazed.  I couldn’t wait to show it to Judy.  So, I covered it back up and went to find her.  She was already in line but I pulled her out to show her my prize.  When we got to the aisle, I showed it to her.  She was impressed and then she popped the question, “What is it?”  I told her I wasn’t sure, but I thought it was some sort of game.  There were no rules and no indications that’s what it was but hey, it was $3.99. We bought it.

We proudly set it up first on a table and then in our bay window.  I checked the internet but couldn’t find any information on the item.  I did find the company and they were sellers of fine alabaster but our treasure remained a mystery.  Enter the grandkids.  Judy made the mistake of showing this treasure to Will, one of our grandsons. She explained it was sorta like checkers (really?) and you would jump the balls like you do in checkers.  However, since the “board” was round there were logistical problems.  So, they started to “play” and then he popped the question.  He asked, “How do you win?”  And Judy said, “I don’t know.”

I thought that was great because so often in life we play the game and have no idea how to win.  And, truth be known, it affects all kinds of areas in our life.  How do you win in your career? How do you win in your marriage? How do you win in choosing your potential mate? How do you win with church? With Jesus?  You see, without knowing how to win you are sure to either get bored or get lost.  As much as I believe there is joy in the journey, I also know that there has to be goal, a measuring stick, a finish line.  Success needs to be measured.  If it isn’t, you might find yourself stuck in a rut and as someone said, “A rut is a grave with the ends knocked out.”  So, what are we to do?

It seems to me that we should approach life with a goal—what do I want to see happen today?  Regardless of the arena, try and define what would be a win for that day.  And the best part?  You can start stringing those days together and before long you have a life of wins.  Now when you are defining a win, I believe you should set the definition in line with an authority and I can think of no better authority than the Word of God. Even if you aren’t a God-follower you will find that the Bible is a Book worth reading, knowing, and following.  Go ahead and give it a read.  And if you are a God-follower, well, you probably already knew that—we just need to do it.

Paul, one of the writers of a chunk of the New Testament said that we should run with a purpose and not be like a shadow boxer.  We shouldn’t run like Forest Gump, aimlessly, but rather like Jesse Owens.  We should box like a man in the ring making every punch count.  Run with a purpose, fight like it matters…because it does.  Anyway, Judy and I discovered the game is called “Solitaire” and are going to keep it even though we don’t know yet, how to play or win.  But tomorrow, I think I’ll wakeup and have a chat with my Dearest Daddy, my Trainer, my Coach and get His opinion on how to win in life. After all, He never loses, and He’s always got this.

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, wisdom

Mama Knows Best

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28

Mama always knew best.  I was blessed to have a good mama and daddy.  They were everyday people but in so many ways they were anything but everyday.  Willing to take on the task of raising eight children, they gave up a lot for us.  Daddy worked hard as a jet engine mechanic and mama mostly stayed home and took care of us.  Mama was always there when we needed her.  I remember one time I was sick with some kind of stomach virus.  It was the middle of the night and mama sat down in an old wooden rocker we had and then invited me up into her lap.  There she gently held me.  It didn’t do much to ease my unhappy stomach but it sure made my heart feel better.

Mama had her own brand of medicine.  As best as I can remember, mama was a big believer in “family herd immunity.”  In case you are not familiar with that, it is where a certain illness is almost intentionally shared with members of the family, especially siblings. I guess mama thought it was best to get it all over with at one time.  And it seemed to work.  I remember one of my sisters came down with the measles.  Rather than isolate her from my sister and I, mama just put us all together in the double bed in the spare bedroom and waited.  Sure enough, we all promptly got the measles and we also all got well about the same time.  I’m not sure modern medicine would approve, but that’s ok.  It worked for us and mama was always there to help us get better.

However, mama didn’t always use herd immunity.  When I was about nine, there was a pretty serious flu outbreak in our north Florida city.  I really don’t remember too much about it.  I also don’t remember if I became a patient or not.  But there is one thing I do remember—I knew what we had in our family wasn’t good and I felt I needed to do something—so I did.  I found a piece of paper and a pencil and I made a sign warning others to stay away.  The sign said something like this, “Warning.  We have the FLEW.  Don’t come in.” Even if my spelling wasn’t the best, it still got the message out.

When I was in the second grade, mama’s brand of herd immunity took on a different look.  My sister Kathy was not feeling well so mama took her to the doctor and I tagged along.  Dr. Smothers was our Ears, Nose, and Throat doctor.  He checked my sister out and it was determined that she had tonsillitis.  That was something a lot of kids back then seemed to get. Well, Dr. Smothers suggested to mama that perhaps it was time for my sister to get her tonsils out.  Again, back then that was the standard treatment.  So, mama agreed and then said to Dr. Smothers, “Why don’t we take Dewayne’s out too?”  Hmmmm.  Herd immunity strikes again. So the doctor says, “Well, Dewayne, what do you say?  Would you like to get your tonsils out too?”  Now I had no clue what in the world he was talking about.  But I think he said something about all the ice cream you wanted and I was in.  So a few days later I found myself in the hospital with my sister and the world’s worst sore throat.  I’m still not sure if that ice cream was worth it!

I’m sure there are many more stories about mama’s medical skills and judgement but they have slipped from my memories.  But let me tell you one thing that hasn’t slipped away, that is the concrete knowledge that my mama loved me.  Whether it was the measles, the flu, or getting rid of some pesky tonsils, mama always did what she thought was best for us.  Some people probably wouldn’t agree with her medical practices but I know everything she did was for our good.  For my good.

And do you know what?  I think that is just another way my mama was like God.  You see, God is constantly working in my life for my good and His glory.  I mean He is working out His purposes but at the center, at the core of it all is—my good.  The Bible verse that is so poplar is so true.  It goes like this, “all things work together for good, for those who love God, the ones who are called according to His purpose.”  Like I have said so many times that doesn’t mean that every thing is good but that God can bring good from all things.  I know mama loved me a lot but even her love has to pale to the love that God has for me—for us.

Now I am certain if you asked me in the middle of encounter with measles, that truth might have been a little clouded.  If you asked me after the surgery to remove my tonsils, well, I probably would have doubted it.  But in the long run, looking back—well, my mama loved me and did her best to show that love.  So, today if you bump into a hot mess—today if things go south and it is hard…maybe real hard—just remember how much God loves you.  You can take it to the bank—it is a sure bet.  When life leaves you hurting worse than a bad stomach ache, you just crawl up in His lap and let His strong arms ease the pain away.  Then, just nod off and take a nap.  You can safely do that because, “He’s got this.”

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

Goose-Land, Part 1

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

There is news from goose-land.  Well, for those of you who read regularly you know that I walk for exercise five or six times a week.  You also remember that I have different routes that I take and one of those leads me around the pond in the city park.  That is also known as goose-land. Today I chose to walk in the park.  Let me tell you with the warm temperatures and high humidity a walk in the park is no walk in the park.

I left the house this morning before sunrise trying to catch the coolest part of the day.  When I got to the park the sun was just starting to peek over the horizon.  I was all alone beside the ducks and the geese.  You will be glad to know the mama duck has managed to raise almost all of her ducklings.  You go, girl.  But then I noticed something different with the geese.

A couple of months ago I wrote and told you about an unusual yet beautiful thing with the geese.  A family of brown geese had adopted one of the white geese and one of the white geese, I named him Bubba, had taken up with the brown geese.  He was kinda like an Uncle Vinny…you know a protector and bouncer all rolled up in one.  He was good at it too.  He could let out a hiss that sent a clear message,  “You mess with my family and I will mess with you.”  It was all cool. Color and creed were all laid aside.

But then there was today.  I hadn’t walked in the park for a couple of weeks and while I was gone something happened.  The white goose that had been adopted left his brown family and joined the white geese.  But that’s not all.  Bubba, well Bubba had abandoned his brown family and had too rejoined the other group.  It is eerily familiar and seemingly sad.

I’m not sure what caused the change.  It could have been just time, it could have been peer pressure.  I just don’t know.  But I do know something that was unique and special was lost in the mix or rather unmixing. The baby now adult white goose seemed quite comfortable in his new environment.  But Bubba just wasn’t the same.  As I walked past the gaggle of geese there was one that stood out and I’m pretty sure it was Bubba.

This fellow who used to be so proud, his eyes filled with the fire of purpose, now stared with empty eyes.  There was no hiss, no sound of passion, no hint of protection.  Simply put, Bubba was now just one of the guys.  He was just another goose waddling around. What made him different was gone.  Bubba had lost his identity.

We need to realize that what happened to Bubba can easily happen to us as Jesus followers.  If it was peer pressure, if it was a cultural shift, what happened to him can and will happen to us.  That is why Paul wrote, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  If we are not careful the culture around us will pressure and push us to be just like them.

See, there were and are several white geese down at the park.  There was not a shortage of white geese but there was only one Bubba—only one who was willing to take a stand and protect those even different from himself.  The world needs some people who are willing to stand and be different.  The world needs some Jesus people who will live, act and love just like Him.  It’s not so we can be better than anybody.  It is so we can show them Someone who can help them be better—in fact, be made new.

If that is going to happen, we Jesus people have got to lay aside our differences, our prejudices, our soapboxes and just be like Him.  We have got to resist the pressure to become just another “goose in the gaggle.”  We have got to be light in a dark, damaged world.  Jesus said in Matthew 6:16 “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Someone said, “These days, they are a changing” and the truth is, they are.  But we serve, we follow, the changeless one, Jesus the Christ.  And, if you are going to follow someone, that is the Someone to follow.  He is for you, He loves this world, and He is greater than any and all.  We can rest in Him because…He’s got this.