Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, Military memories, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials

No Excuse

The Spirit is the One who gives life. The flesh doesn’t help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.”  John 6:63

“Breach your weapons, lay them on the ground and put your hands on your head.” Fifteen words I didn’t think I would ever hear.  As I’ve said before I was raised in Jacksonville, Florida.  We lived out in the country and would often go hunting not too far from my home. We would also go shooting.  What is shooting?  Well, that is when you go somewhere and just waste ammunition. There was an old dump about four miles from my house and that was a favorite place to go shoot.  There was an abundance of old bottles and cans there just waiting to give up the ghost.

When I was about nineteen, and in the Air Force, a couple of friends (who were in the Navy) decided to go shooting.  We got in our cars and went to the old dump and preceded to start what sounded like World War III.  We had rifles and shotguns, and we were blasting away.  Cans were flying and bottles were shattering and then without trying we all happened to empty our guns at the same time.  There was a moment of silence and then we heard it.

It was that static noise when someone mashes the button on a public address system before beginning to speak. It was then that we heard those fifteen words—which I still remember to this day even though it was 48 years ago, “Breach your weapons, lay them on the ground and put your hands on your head.”  Ok, two things almost happened at that moment.  I almost died and I almost lost bladder control.  I was scared to death.  I had only been pulled over by the police once and I had never been arrested.  I was certain that the Air Force would not like the fact that one of their ambassadors was arrested…especially on weapons charges.

So, you have to be wondering, “What in the world was going? Didn’t you know better?”  And the answer is “No.”  You see, Jacksonville and Duval County had merged into one making it the largest city in the United States.  That also meant that all the laws that applied to the city now applied to the county.  Well, since it was against the law to discharge a weapon in the city limits, which now included the old dump, we were in deep weeds. You can imagine we did some tall explaining to the police officer. I am sure it included an appropriate amount of praying, begging, and pleading. I imagine it also included the “we are serving our country” card too.

Well, somehow, we got off the hook. I’m sure I explained that I was raised in the area and had gone shooting there a lot.  I’m also sure I explained that we didn’t know about the law being changed.  I’m also sure he said ignorance of the law was no excuse and made sure we understood that it had better never happen again.  And do you know what?  It didn’t.  As far as my buddies and I were concerned, the old dump was safe and sound. At least this part of the Air Force and Navy was done.

I never forgot that lesson about ignorance of the law being no excuse. When I drive, and I am pretty much a rule follower, if I don’t know the speed limit, I settle at a speed that I know should be safely below what might be posted.  I found out one time (and I’ll write about that another time) that it costs to break the law.  And sometimes it can be pricey.  That is true for man’s law, but it is also true for God’s laws.

You see, at one time or another, we have all broken one or more and probably many of God’s laws.  We are just a rebellious bunch and there really is no excuse. We just sorta, kinda, like breaking laws. The Bible even says that. But here’s the deal—we forget one thing about laws.  Generally speaking, laws are there for a reason—our protection.  There is a reason why the speed limit isn’t 120 mph.  There is a reason why you should wear your seatbelt.  There is a reason why you shouldn’t jump from a cliff that says, “rocks below.”  They are all there to keep you within the guardrails of life.  I know, we think laws are there to make us miserable, and maybe that is true for the laws of man.  But when it comes to God—well, obeying His laws means less regrets and fewer consequences.  It means a better life.

Well, if you happen to be traveling through Duval County in Northeast Florida and you have the urge to go shooting…you might try a different county.  Unless they changed their mind, it is still against the law.  And if you find yourself being lured toward some moral disaster and away from what God says is right—breach your weapon, lay it on the ground and raise your hands in surrender.  Not to a policeman, but to the God who loves you enough to help you get through life—with less regrets and fewer consequences. It might seem hard but if you choose to rest in Him, you will find out that all things are possible.  Yup…He’s got that too. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, life, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials

Time to Stop

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

I’m not sure when it started but I do know when it ended.  It was probably just part of growing up boy and part of growing up country, but the bottom line is looking back I wish it wasn’t part of my boyhood.  Somewhere along my growing journey, probably when I was six or seven, I had access to a BB gun.  Then, just a little later I had my own.  I’m sure I would pluck cans and shoot at paper targets.  While my Daddy wasn’t a big hunter, we did shoot our share of squirrels and rabbits and that might have been where it started.

One day, and I don’t remember the day, I grew tired of plucking cans and decided to go “bird hunting.”  Our yard had three large oak trees and several large cedar trees so there were plenty of birds around.  It’s funny but I never thought about shooting something as innocent as a bird but one day I did. I don’t remember the first time, but I do remember the many times.  I would walk quietly around my yard, listening for the chirp of a bird, look through the leaves and branches and find my target.  I would aim, I would pull the trigger and too often the bird would fall.

I can still remember going over and picking up the now lifeless bird and walking across the road to dispose of the body by tossing it into the woods that stood there.  I want you to know as I write this it still causes me grief…not because I shot a bird but because I senselessly took the life of a living thing. Sometimes I would feel a bit of remorse, but it only lasted until the next time I felt the need to stalk and hunt again. And it wasn’t just birds.  We had a healthy herd of toads around our house too and occasionally they too would fall victim to my deadly aim.  But it wasn’t so much the toads…it was the birds.

This went on for quite a while.  The boredom, the stalking and the shooting followed by temporary remorse…until the next time.  Then it happened and I can remember it to this day. We had a cedar tree on one of the corners of our house.  It was large and went all the way to the ground.  As I approached the tree and peered into and under the tree there on the ground, happily hunting bugs, was a brown thrasher.  It was larger than a sparrow, so the thrill of the hunt was intensified. I saw him but he never saw me.  I took aim and in a moment of time he was on his side in the dirt. But this time…it was different.

The BB had not instantly killed him…rather he lay on the ground…mortally wounded and still breathing.  It was only for about thirty seconds, but it was almost like we locked eyes and I watched as he died and…that was it.  As far as I know I never shot another bird.  As I watched his life ebb away, I saw this little hobby as what it was…senseless fun at the expense of another’s life. Yes, I can still see that brown thrasher and it still causes me grief.

What was different that day was that I saw the grim reality of my actions…a reality so harsh it caused me to stop.  It.Caused.Me.To.Stop. The truth is in our everyday walk about lives we are confronted with difficult and often painful situations.  No, they don’t involve a bird, they don’t involve a BB gun, but they can be just as painful and cause just as much harm.  Sometimes it is a senseless action and sometimes it is a senseless word, but the result is a wounded heart followed by a lifelong scar. And unlike my hunt ending experience with a brown thrasher, for some reason these encounters often go on and on.

Like what happened when I stared death in the face…we need to see what our words and actions can do to the innocents, or maybe not so innocents, in our lives.  We need to pause and think before we speak or act…before we leave another scar.  I usually write from a Jesus perspective, and I guess I am now, but really, this goes beyond that to this—be kind and love one another.  Kindness and love are not always easy, but they are always right—and especially for us who follow Jesus.  Wherever and whenever…we, of all people, should set the example of the One we follow.  Tall order? Need help? Don’t fret…your Father is waiting to help. He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne