Posted in Family, forgiveness, gratitude, life, loving others, Scripture, wisdom

Scars

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. Philippians 3:13

Gnarled trees stood twisted and broken along the road.  Judy and I had to make a trip to Florida to participate in my Aunt’s funeral.  She was my Daddy’s baby sister and the last of that generation.  It was a long trip but worth the journey.  I saw it as a way to honor my father while also honoring my aunt.  Like every person her life had its ups and downs and bumps and bruises.  And  like every person, there were a few scars left along the road.

It was while traveling West in Florida that I began seeing the gnarled trees.  Mile after mile of trees that were either broken in two, forever bent over or simply lifeless, like dead men standing. I knew the area had been brushed by a recent storm or two but this damage was caused by something far worse—and not so recently.  Suddenly it occurred to me.  I had seen this before about two years ago.  It was the result of a storm, a terrible storm called Michael.

If you remember in 2018 a compact yet incredibly powerful storm came ashore at Mexico Beach, a small down on the Florida panhandle.  It was so devastating that it literally destroyed that small town and the path of the storm with its destruction moved well inland.  That is where we saw the scars.  When we were here a couple of months after the storm and miles and miles inland there was debris piled everywhere along the highway.  What wasn’t broken off or blown over looked like it had been given a perm—twisted and turned.  That was two years ago. 

The scars of that harsh and horrible day remain today and will remain for many years to come.  Only time is going to slow erase the damage as trees re-grow and underbrush hides what has fallen.  It looked devastating two years ago when I saw it and today, somehow, it looked even more so.  Sometimes the scars are almost as bad as the wounds.  Sometimes the memories are worse than what caused the pain.

Many of us have caused scars and most of us bear them.  Some are still healing while others, like the gnarled trees, will remain.  We are left to wonder what to do…how to heal.  The answer I believe lies with creator God.  It is He who can give us the strength to forgive and it is He who can lead us down the path to healing.  Like a good recipe, it will include a measure of grace, a measure of mercy, and a measure of choice.  Forgiveness is really never about the one who caused the scar rather it is about the one who was hurt. When we forgive we truly begin to heal.

Forgiveness also involves forgetting…but not the kind you are thinking.  This forgetting simply means that we choose to not allow the past to control our present.  We choose to let go, so we can be set free.  When we determine that the past won’t reach into our present…we find a freedom.  While the scar will remain, slowly but surely the pain eases and we are evently left whole.

This, of course, is a faith path.  We have to believe that God can and will heal us.  We have to believe that God can forgive us if we were the one who caused the scar.  We have to believe either way that His grace is sufficient and do you know what?  It is.  The scars I saw today along the highway spoke of a devastating storm but it also spoke of hope.  You see, at the base of the gnarled trees stood dozens and dozens of new growth trees.  One day, someday in the future, they will rise to overcome the past with its scars.  That is our hope.

As I stood before that group of people today and spoke of mistakes and regrets. I also spoke of forgiveness and grace which was and is a game changer.  No matter how difficult your past and no matter how uncertain your future, His grace will see you through.  I hope you will keep trusting Him day by day.  I hope you will look up for hope, look around to see that you aren’t by yourself and look down, yes down, but only to see the new life surrounding you.  Hey, you can trust Him, you can rest in Him because no matter how hard the wind blows or how long it howls…He’s got this. 

Posted in Family, life, Scripture, wisdom

Here Kitty, Kitty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Military memories, Scripture

Minot Memories – Walking on Ice

Do not love the world [its ways, it principles] or the things in the world. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s possessions—is not from the Father, but is from the world.” 1 John 2:15-16

You know, some folks are just slow learners.  My time in Minot was short—from October to April—but filled with memories.  The base was about 20 miles from town and only a couple of guys had cars. We would load up and drive into town at negative twenty degrees with all the windows down to play “freeze out.” We would see how long we could stand the cold.   The radio would be blaring John Denver’s “Take Me Home Country Roads.”  Hey, there wasn’t a lot to do—especially in Minot in the dead of winter.

So, as a southern boy, this cold weather stuff was all new to me.  Some things I just couldn’t get the hang of.  One of those was walking on ice.  Now I had been walking since I was about 18 months old.  The difference was up in Minot you have to learn to walk on ice.  The winter of 1972-73 was a great opportunity to do so. I was able to go home for Christmas. I was dreaming of a green and not white Christmas.  Up until that time it had been cold, but we had very little snow.  That was kinda unusual—especially for Minot.

Well, while I was home for Christmas they had a whopper snow —and I’m not talking about Burger King.  Something like two feet of snow fell.  But what happened after the snow was chilling—literally.  It melted…all of it.  Somehow it got well above freezing for a week or so which melted the snow and then it happened.  The temperature plunged to below zero and stayed there.  Forever.

What was left behind were vast sheets of ice.  Everywhere you looked or walked there was ice.  I didn’t have a car which meant I had to walk to and from work.  So I would put on my arctic parka, my arctic gloves, pull my arctic hood up and take a hike. I would walk one way going and another way coming.  Going to work was not a deal.  I managed to make it without falling…or at least not multiple times.  Going home?  Well, that’s a different story.

About halfway there I would have to walk around the corner of a building.  So, off I go.  I get to this corner and not paying attention, stepped onto a sheet of ice. Bam.  In two seconds flat- I was flat on my back.  Because of the parka nothing was damaged except my pride.  Score one for the ice.  Day two.  I’m walking home and come to the exact same spot.  I eye the ice and ever so carefully step on and in two seconds flat I am flat on my back.  Bummer.  I crawl back upright, making sure no one is watching, and press on.

Day three. I get to the corner for the third time.  I know the ice is there.  In fact, we’ve become close friends.  I gingerly step on the ice…nothing happens.  As I take my second step in two seconds flat -I am flat on my back.  Excuse me?  Is this Ground Hog Day or what?  Anyway, for the third time I crawl off the ice and head on back to the dorm.  By this time more than my pride was bruised.

I know what you are thinking. Why don’t you take a different path?  Why did you keep doing the same thing and expecting different results.  The answer is…I don’t have a clue.  Thought I could beat it? Thought it was closer? Thought if I fell enough I would break the ice before it broke me?  I don’t know.  I was stubborn. I was a slow learner. I was doing the same thing and expecting different results.

Isn’t that what we do in life?  Don’t we journey along and come to a decision point and fall flat? Don’t we sometimes do it again on Day 2? Day 3?  You know, walking on ice is one thing.  However, flirting with disaster, the kind that has big regrets and bigger consequences, that is another. God knows this and tells us not to fall in love with the world—its ways, its principles, its stuff.  Remember your mama saying, don’t date someone you don’t want to marry?  Same principle.  Flirt with the world, date the world and you’ll end up marrying the world.

John—the guy in the Bible—says in 1 John 2:16, “For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s possessions—is not from the Father, but is from the world.” When you say, “I do” with the world you end of with twins—regrets and consequences. Life is harder…a lot harder.  Harder than walking on ice.

So, I finally did take a different route. They say that three times is a charm.  It took me four but I did learn.  On day four…I didn’t fall. I didn’t fall on day five either. In fact, I don’t remember falling again.  Why? I didn’t go that way. I chose a different route and that route, that path, had different consequences—better consequences. They also say that three strikes and you are out.  True in baseball but fortunately it isn’t true with God. He keeps picking us up, dusting us off and helping us find the right path—one with less ice.  When I fell I would quickly look to make sure no one was watching.  When we fall in life we can rest assured someone is watching…our Abba Father.  He’s got is His eye on us. So, be careful out there it can be pretty icy but don’t worry you aren’t alone.  He’s always there. Rest in Him knowing He will be there to pick you up.  After all, He’s got this.