Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, missions, priorities, Scripture, thankful, wisdom

Shoeless Service

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for He is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” Luke 6:35

It was a dark and stormy night.  Well, it really wasn’t but I’ve always wanted to begin a story that way.  But for one man it was, and this is his story.  Years ago, my son-in-law, Blake, and daughter, Sarah, were talking a walk on Church Street—a road that runs about a block behind where we live.  It is just one of the many side streets in town but that night it was something more.  As they walked, they noticed a man coming toward them.  He was obviously having a tough time—like I said, it was a dark and stormy night—at least for this lonely man.

His head was low as he shuffled his feet and pushed his bike.  As he got closer, when some people would have crossed to the other side of the street, Blake and Sarah took the time to greet the man.  His eyes told the story.  He was an Army veteran who had fallen on hard times.  He told how he had been refused treatment at the Veteran’s Center. He shared how memories of a band of brothers who would have stood with him were fading fast.  His uniform that night was dirty and tattered, but his shoes told the story.

Blake, looked down, and while there were shoes on his soiled feet, not much of what used to be remained.  The shoes he had on were way too small but that didn’t matter for much of the toes were blown open.  He told a little more of his story and each word made it clear that it wasn’t just a stormy day for this veteran…it was days, weeks, months, and years.  It would have been easy for the young couple to listen and mumble some semblance of a “I’m sorry” or maybe a “God bless you.”  But they didn’t—more specifically Blake didn’t.

As Blake was looking down at his feet—he saw his own.  His feet were shod in one of his favorite pair of tennis shoes—in nearly new condition.  And then something amazing, something very Jesus like, happened. Without a word, he reached down and began to untie his shoes.  Then he slipped his shoes off and handed them to the tired, banged up veteran.  I’m not sure what he said—maybe nothing.  But perhaps the gift said it all.  Perhaps the gift said better than any words could, “I care.  I feel your pain.”

So, after the exchange they went their separate ways.  He continued down the block and they finished their walk.  I believe that both the tattered veteran and the young couple left different that night.  Perhaps the man’s day was not quite as stormy as it was before his encounter with love.  Perhaps he didn’t feel quite as hopeless—quite as alone.  I know Blake and Sarah were changed.  When they got back to our house after their walk, they shared their story.  It wasn’t, a “hey, look what I did” but rather a “look what God did” kind of moment.  We cried. Jesus encounters will do that to you.

As we take our walks in this thing called life, there will always be multiple opportunities to do the right thing, the extraordinary thing, the uncommon thing.  Sometimes they will be disguised but often, they are in plain sight.  A struggling single mom, a senior adult trying to manage one too many bags, a challenged adult or child who needs a smile and the list goes on and on.  Jesus, the God-man, did plenty of amazing, brazen things during His life here.  The part we know the most about only lasted just over 1,000 days. And in those days, He impacted His known world and in the days since then the entire world.

There used to be a saying that was tossed around in our everyday Jesus walk lives.  It simply said, “W.W.J.D.” or “What would Jesus do?”  It has long since been cast aside now but the truth of those four letters or four words still ring with power.  What.Would.Jesus.Do? One thing is for sure.  It would include a multitude of acts of kindness to the most unlikely of candidates and it would be done in the name of love. Jesus said, “Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for He is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.”  What powerful words.  What life changing words.  The thought of doing this is counter-cultural and it might stretch you a bit but don’t worry— “He’s got this.”

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

Stinky Feet

Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing.” 2 Corinthians 2:15

I smelled it as soon as I opened the door.  When God made us, He did a really good job.  In one place His Word says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.  In another it says that we are made just a little lower than the angels.  And then at the beginning He says that we are made in His image. Wow…that is all pretty impressive. When God was working on our blueprint, He decided to give us five senses—five ways to interact with our world around us.  Those five senses are touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste.  All five of them are incredible and it is almost impossible to pick one over the other.  For a foodie like me, it would seem that taste would be my number one, but I’m just not sure.

If smell isn’t number one, it certainly is a close second.  Smell enhances our taste and can trigger so many different emotions. Smell can change what is going on in a whole room.  Many years ago, I went through a period when I had—oh, I hate to admit it—stinky feet.  It was bad.  We had some good friends and we were frequently at their house.  To this day, I am in the habit of taking off my shoes when I am in the house.  I think it is a throwback to my Southern genes.  Anyway, when I got to these folks’ house, I would kick my shoes off and what was in the shoes suddenly spread throughout the room.  It wasn’t pretty.  I’m trying to say, it was really bad.

Within minutes, perhaps seconds, moans and groans filled the air along with the atrocious odor. There was an immediate rebellion and demands to stuff my stinky feet back into my shoes.  I had no choice.  The good news is that it turns out there was something about my walk-around, everyday shoes that caused the odor.  When I changed shoes, the offensive odor went with them.  But to this day, I (and maybe you) should be aware that certain things can cause certain reactions—and they are not always good.  But, fortunately sometimes they are.

Enter Bath and Body “Leaves” candles.  You probably know that Bath and Body is famous for several things but their three wick candles are—well, wicked.  And one of our favorite scents is “Leaves.”  It is just the essence of fall.  During this time of the year I can walk into my house after a long day and as soon as I open the door a sense of calm and “all-things-good” just washes over me.  I love it. Try as I may, I can’t describe it—it is just good.  And then it happens.

Slowly, the longer I stay in the area where the candle is, the rich aroma of fall suddenly disappears.  That smell that made me feel so relaxed seems to mysteriously disappear. But wait—don’t lose hope.  If I go back outside, if I go upstairs and come back—it comes back.  Once again, the rich aroma of fall invades my senses and I am changed.  This cycle goes on hour after hour and day after day.  In the mornings, I like another candle in my home office.  It is called Teakwood Mahogany.  It is a man candle. After a few minutes…I smell nothing.  Judy opens the door and comes into my office and is instantly overwhelmed—almost offended—by the strong smell.  Amazing.

The truth is, it can be dangerous.  It isn’t dangerous if it is the scent of a candle, but what if it is the scent of love in your marriage?  What if it is the scent of faith in your Dearest Daddy?  What if it is the scent of contentment—in all things being well? If and when that happens—it becomes dangerous.  When the aroma of life becomes like stinky feet or as bland as an unscented candle—well, it can and will lead down paths that we don’t want or need to take.  Marriages go south, faith downs in fear, and discontentment creeps into every corner of our lives.  At best we become unhappy, but worse, we began to throw away the things most precious to us.  I am certain that in this COVID hot mess some of the things most precious to us have been cast aside like leftover food.  Last night’s spaghetti becomes today’s stinky garbage.  We must beware.

I think, like leaving the room refreshes the aroma, we need to keep moving.  We must avoid becoming stagnate.  You know what happens to a stream that stops flowing don’t you?  It becomes a slimy pit.  So, we need to find ways to keep our marriages, our faith, our contentment, fresh, by stirring our lives with His grace—with His presence. We have to make sure the aroma we are giving off is pleasant and not “stinky feet.”

Paul, one of the Bible writer guys, says, “Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing.” Well said, Paul, well said. What kind of aroma are you sharing with your family, your church, your workplace, your neighborhood?  Is it the sweet smell of love, faith and contentment, or is it the atrocious odor of self and sin?  I know one of the best things I ever did was ditch those shoes.  Bye, bye stinky feet.  What do we need to get rid of so we won’t be offensive but rather be welcoming?  Nothing smells as sweet in our lives like the aroma of Jesus.  So, sit down, pull off your shoes and rest with Him.  He’s got this. 

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life

A Really Bad Idea

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love.” Psalm 103:8

It was just a bad idea. Each of us have times when we do something and from the get go we know it was just a bad idea.  Yesterday’s story of me at age seven trying to ride a 26 inch bicycle was just one of many.  And these bad ideas usually bear the fruit of bad endings.

I have a really good friend who manages a local restaurant.  Before COVID, we would get together once a week and have breakfast at the restaurant. Since COVID we still try and get together for coffee and perhaps a pastry fresh out of the oven.  Suffering isn’t all bad, is it?  Well, I was famous for ordering different things for breakfast.  One was the delicious “preacher stack.”  It consisted of a slice of toast, an over-easy egg, a slice of cheese, a couple of slices of soft bacon, a small serving of hash browns (cooked crispy, of course), a second egg and finally the crowning touch, a smattering of gravy. For variety the hash browns were sometimes replaced with grits. Now, let me tell you, that was “shoot that thing” good. I do believe I might be the Rembrandt of breakfast.  Sometimes.

You see, one time, about midway through the fall season, I got an idea.  Unfortunately, it was a very bad idea.  Now the problem with bad ideas is that sometimes they look good from one angle and horrible from the other.  Well, this time I looked from the wrong angle.  I told my friend, “Jeremy, I have an idea.  I think I want to try chili and eggs for breakfast in the morning.”  Now being the good friend that he was, he tried and tried to get me to change course.  But at that time and from that angle it really sounded good.  The key word there is “sounded.”

So the next morning Jeremy cooked up a batch of chili and I was served chili and eggs for breakfast.  The first and second bite wasn’t too bad—weird, but not too bad.  From there it went down hill and by the time I was done—I was done.  I felt like I had swallowed a 12 pound bowling ball and that bowling ball stayed with me all day.  In fact, it was a couple of days before I felt half normal.  It was a very, very bad idea.  He tried to warn me, but no.  Oh boy, just the thought of chili and eggs makes my eyes cross.

Well, today I had a nice, innocent bad idea.  I usually walk in the mornings but Judy and I decided to walk in the afternoon.  That was ok—unusual, but ok.  And that wasn’t the bad idea.  We were going to walk on the bike trail so I thought I would wear an old pair of trail running shoes I had in the closet.  “Why?” Well, I liked the way they looked and I liked the way they laced up (they had these cool speed laces) but that’s where the love affair ended.  They weren’t very comfortable and the inside of the heel had long lost its padding. All that was left was a crater where the padding used to be surrounded by rough edges. Everything said, “Don’t wear those shoes.” Well, you know what I did. I wore the shoes anyway and it was indeed a very bad idea.

I had planned on only walking a couple of miles but ended up doing 3.6.  Somebody say “wow.”  Well, at about the 1.8 mile turn around point I noticed that the back of my left heel was starting to burn—to hurt.  Remember the padding that was missing—well, those rough edges that remained were now slowly eating into my heel.  And with every step it got worse.  I was almost two miles from the car and it hurt, and it hurt, and it hurt.  I found myself saying over and over again, “This was a really bad idea.”  The problem was I realized it just a little too late.  Well, about 10,000 steps later, I got back to the car and the shoes and I parted company—forever.  Even sitting there I said it again, “That was a really bad idea.”

Well, in a while Judy got back to the car from her walk.  As she came over to where I was sitting and noticed I had my shoes off. She made a comment about resting.  I said, “Judy, do you remember the time I ate the chili and eggs?”  She said, “Well, yes, but what has that got to do with today?”  I said, “That was a really, bad idea and wearing these stinking shoes today was a really bad idea.” To make matters worse, when we had started walking I commented how much I liked the shoes and she remembered that.  “But Dewayne, I thought you said you liked them?”  Well, I liked the way they looked, I liked they way they laced up, but boy, I didn’t like the way they felt after walking.  And trust me—that outweighed all the looks and all the cool laces.

Well, I wanted to tell you this story for a couple of reasons. First, don’t, do not, eat chili and eggs.  What it does to your insides requires the intervention of the EPA. If you eat chili and eggs be prepared for a period of quarantine. Be prepared to camp in the “valley of the shadow of death.” It. Is. A. Bad. Idea.  And if you are going to walk, remember to pick your shoes based on what is important not what is intriguing or flashy.  At about the two mile point you will thank me. Trust me, I know.

One thing that I really like about the Bible is that it is filled with people just like me.  People who didn’t always listen to God and people who ate chili and eggs and wore the wrong shoes.  Real, live, people who didn’t always make the best choices. The thing I like about God is that He is so loving, patient and kind.  Even when Adam and Eve ate “chili and eggs” in the garden and then wore the “wrong shoes” to cover it all up—He still loved them and still provided a way for them to be forgiven.  They tried to do it their way, but God didn’t throw them under the bus and start over. And guess what?  He doesn’t throw us under the bus either, and I am thankful. When we come to Him with our “chili and eggs,” “wrong shoes,” whining and complaining about how we got the “blisters” in our life, He is patiently waiting.

He is always there for us…bad ideas and all.  You will find the Whisper whispering warnings, “don’t got there,” and encouraging you to “go the right way” and “do the right things”.  That’s just the way He is.  You know He could have carried me back to the car yesterday but I think there was a lesson that I needed to learn and a story I needed to tell. I finished the walk limping a little, but also a little wiser.  As I sat there resting in Him I decided no more chili and eggs and no more worn out, flashy shoes. And the next time  I find myself two miles from the car—well, I’ll just remember, He’s got this.