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, 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.