Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, thankful, travel, wisdom

“A Broken What?”

But if you fail to keep your word, then you will have sinned against the Lord, and you may be sure that your sin will find you out.” Number 32:23

It didn’t sound good and sure enough it wasn’t.  There are a couple of things that are for certain and one of them is if you have a car it will eventually let you down.  It doesn’t matter the make or model, eventually, if you own it long enough, its gonna happen.

I remember more than a few years ago Judy and I headed over to Ridgecrest, North Carolina.  She was the Illinois Trustee to LifeWay which is an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention.  She loved serving and I loved tagging along every once in a while.  On Tuesday night while she was in a meeting I decided to take a trip to Wal-Mart which was about 10 miles away.  Without any warning, without even a hint of impending disaster, the van’s engine began to misfire and the dreaded check engine light began flashing. I started praying and confessing every sin I could think of cause 10 miles was a long way to walk.

Well, I made it back to Ridgecrest and the next morning told one of the folks I had engine trouble and they found a good local mechanic.  Seven hours later he calls and tells me he can’t get it to stop—he was at his wits end and thought it had to be the computer.  He towed it to the Ford dealer in Asheville and we waited.  Hmmmm.

They called two hours later and gave us the news—they were pretty sure it was a broken valve spring.  My response was, “A broken what?” Well, in fact, that turned out to be the problem.  And it turned out that it was an unusual problem that rarely happens. You know what happens when something is rare don’t you?  That’s right…it is expensive and hard to find.

That actually turned out the sorta, kinda true.  More on that in a minute.  So this rather rare thing, of course, wasn’t in stock anywhere in the area and it had to be ordered.  So we waited patiently—ok, sorta patiently—and Friday morning—actually a little earlier than expected—the car was finally ready.  We took off and got home Friday night around 9:00 pm.  So you know there is a lesson in all of this, right?

Ok, so the bill for the repair was somewhere over $400. Hello?  That would be four portraits of Benjamin Franklin.  And even though this was years ago…I am still grateful that we had the funds to cover it.  But here is the crazy part.  The part that had actually broken cost a whopping, hang on to your hat, $8.89 and all the rest was labor. Turns out you have to take a chunk of the engine apart to get to this thing.  Now, I don’t tell you that for your sympathy—oh no, God was very gracious in all of this.  I’m sharing because there’s a lesson to be learned.

You see, the cost for the part was low—the labor to install the part was not. Labor often costs more than the part. That is true in car repairs and it is definitely true in Kingdom work.  The actual cost of ministry, while not cheap is doable. The most important part of serving God is not the dollars but the man-hours—the doers.  If we had just bought the part, the car wouldn’t have worked.  Somebody had to sweat to get it installed and make a difference.  Kingdom dollars are important, but getting our hands dirty, sweating some sweat, shedding some tears is where the real cost is—and where the real reward is.

It’s not only true about Kingdom work it is also true when we decide to do the opposite—to sin.  The sin itself may seem like a bargain—bringing perhaps a little pleasure or a little satisfaction.  But rarely is that the whole cost.  In fact, I’m not sure it ever is.  The Book says we can take it to the bank that our sin will find us out.  That is found way back in the Old Testament in a story where some folks were making a commitment to do something and Moses just let them know if they didn’t keep their word it would come back and bite them.

How many times have we thought we could get away with something? You know, a little lie, a little lust, a little anger or jealousy and boom we find out that the little sin (which by the way is like a unicorn—it doesn’t exist) caused more damage that we ever imagined.  And then we get the bill and ouch. Just remember this.  Sin is never, ever, a bargain.  I don’t care how attractive the package, it is a bad deal.  Don’t walk—run away.  The good news is the Book also says there is always a way to get away.  Take it.

Well, an investment in Kingdom work is always a great thing.  It is worth every cent and every drop of sweat.  But sin—well, it is sure fire loser every time.  And like the bill for the repair, the initial cost is just a drop in the bucket compared to the fallout.  Now there is some good news.  We have a God who not only can diagnose the problem—He can take care of it.  There might still be consequences but He will never stop loving us because of it. His grace really is sufficient. So if you find yourself stranded beside the road of sin and consequences, give Jesus a call.  He’s better than any roadside service.  You rest in that.  He’s got this.

Posted in Family, life, priorities, Scripture, wisdom

Out of Alignment

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

What’s next?  It’s a question that I find myself asking just about everyday as I prepare to write and share with you a short story with a big truth.  As I was sharing yesterday at church, to introduce the message I used an illustration.  After I had written Monday’s story, Judy told me, “when you told that story in the sermon I said to myself, that is tomorrow’s story.”  Well, my wife is rarely wrong so here we go a day late, but hopefully not a dollar short.

A couple of years ago we bought a “new to us” car.  It was a 2014 Volkswagen Jetta.  I drove all the way up near St. Louis to look at their lot full of Jetta cars.  Volkswagen had gotten in trouble about emissions and recalled all their diesel cars.  It took them a couple of years to get them fixed and rerelease them to the market.  Judy and I decided to dive into the diesel market and get one.

So, off I went to St. Louis.  When I arrived, I saw dozens and dozens of VW Jettas.  However, the problem was most of them were in pretty rough shape.  Apparently as the owners turned them in, they decided to treat them like an unloved dog.  Even after they cleaned them up it was pretty apparent they had lived a hard-knock life.  So with my trusty salesman by my side, I went from car to car to car—with no luck.  I’m pretty particular about cars and these were not making the cut.

Finally, after checking almost every car in my price range, we found one that was not as perfect as I wanted, but it was the best one available.  I drove it and liked it and before long it was ours.  Driving it home I noticed that the VW emblem on the steering wheel was not pointing straight up.  Hmmmm.  But trying to control my perfectionism I chose to ignore it—for a while.

So, even though it was “Judy’s car”, it had to go.  I asked my super mechanic, Chris, if we could pull the steering wheel and straighten it up.  He said, “You don’t have a steering wheel problem, you have a front end problem. You need a front end alignment.”  Well, what about that. I had noticed the car was not wanting to stay straight on the highway but I didn’t think too much about it.  I should have.

After we got the front end aligned and sure enough there is was—the VW emblem was straight up and down.  Yay—I said. Problem solved…and it was.  However, the problem was, I had waited too late.  Then, I was looking at my front tires and realized that the outside tread was virtually gone…outta there. My choice to ignore and live with a problem ended up costing me nearly $500.00 dollars for new tires.  Bummer.  Big bummer. Oftentimes procrastination can be very expensive.

Life can be like a car out of alignment. It got me thinking, what in our lives might be a little misaligned, out of balance?  What habit, what misplaced priority, what sins are we hiding, ignoring, or choosing to not take care of? I know, it seems easier not to worry about it, but truth be known, the longer we wait the more it costs. The longer we wait the bigger the consequences and the greater the regrets.  It has been said that if you aim for the moon and are less than one degree off you will end up somewhere, but it won’t be the moon…it might be Mars.

Solomon, one of the smartest guys in Bible, said it best. He said that we should learn to trust in the Lord with everything we’ve got, and don’t try to figure it out on our own. He goes on to say that in all our ways check with Him and He will make our paths straight. Make. Our. Paths. Straight.  In other words, if the steering wheel on our life is crooked, He can give us the realignment that we need.  He can make our lives straight.

Well, I don’t know about you but I think I will save the $500.00 next time and head to the alignment place as soon as I notice something’s going wrong.  I think I’m gonna do the same thing with life.  When my “VW emblem” is a little crooked or I find myself pulling away from the One who loves me most—I’m gonna head to the Master mechanic and let Him check me out.  I can trust Him.  The Creator always knows the creation best.  I’ll rest in the waiting room while He works.  I know He’s got this.

Posted in Family, food, gratitude, life, Scripture, wisdom

Judy’s “S” Words

So it is sin to know to do good and yet not do it.” James 4:17

I said the “S” word.  Oh, no—not that one.  You see we have some pretty strict standards with language in our house.  My wife, Judy, taught our children, and me, that there are certain words we just don’t say.  One is “shut-up.”  That is just too rude.  I remember a couple of years back when she was teaching ReFit. She was using a pop song called, “Shut-up and Dance with Me.”  Oh my—I had a fit.  I tried to explain to her how that was against our standards. She gently, well, somewhat gently, explained to me that it was a love song and the words were spoken in that context.  “Oh.” I said, I was always kind of cut and dried.

But that is not the word that came out of my mouth the other day.  It was the other “S” word that is banned from our family.  So, I had just finished my morning walk.  I went 3.6 miles at an average pace of 13.20 minutes per mile.  Most folks would tell you for walking that is a pretty fast pace.  I got back to the house and I was drenched with sweat…hot and tired.  But there was this kinda feeling of satisfaction at the same time. And then I got to thinking.

You see five or six times a week I do this exercise thing and it is good thing to do.  It is the right thing to do.  It’s the kinda thing that you tell your doctor you are doing and they pat you on the head and say how well you are doing. I even have a healthy breakfast—lots of protein and very little carbs or fat.  I feel another pat on the head coming on.  And then it happens.  Someone brings donuts to the office and those sweet round things whisper my name.  Sometimes it is cookies and they whisper a little louder.  Through the day the whispers get louder and louder and by the time evening coming I am eating anything and everything with sugar in it.  And that’s when I said it.

Sitting outside, drenched in sweat, proud of exercising, I said it, “Dewayne, you’re stupid (that’s the other “S” word).  You work so hard to exercise and then turn around and make a series of unwise and unhealthy decisions.  And it occurs to me that those bad decisions totally negate the good ones of the morning.  In other words, I am shooting myself in the foot.  At best I am breaking even for the day. I think I am learning the good doesn’t outweigh (no pun intended) the bad.  I need to cut back, perhaps way back, on the sweet stuff to really gain the benefit of the exercise.

We do the exact same thing with our spiritual disciplines.  Do we understand that even if we get up in the morning and have a time with God—even if we read His Word, read a couple of devotional thoughts and even pray, the unwise decisions we make during the rest of the day rob us of our victory?  We need to learn to do the good and at the same time stop the bad.  We need to carefully weigh each decision we make.  Often, I visit our pantry and will find myself trying different things just to satisfy that itch I have.  In the process I consume a bunch of empty, non-satisfying calories.  I end the day wondering why and how that happened. I then start the next day with a commitment to do better.

I think the secret must be to constantly remember through the day the cost of making unwise decisions—whether they be calories or sins.  And then in the case of the pantry, turn out the light and walk out—empty handed.  It may be difficult at that moment but the win is about two minutes later when you realize you made a right decision.  And that’s another secret—make one wise decision and then wait to make the next one.  Before long—you wait—and things will begin to change.

There’s a verse tucked away in the Book that James the half-brother of Jesus wrote in the Bible.  It says that when we know to do good and then choose not to do it—well, that becomes a sin.  And if we see it though that lens it starts to make sense.  Now most of my nighttime grazing for sweets occurs when Judy isn’t around.  It’s just easier to make unwise choices when the one who loves me most isn’t there.  The idea is to stay out of the kitchen when she isn’t around.

It’s the same with our Dearest Father.  If we can get it into our heads that He is always there to help us make wise choices—well, we will make wiser choices.  He wants us to sin less because when we do—we bring glory to His name and we are happier.  So, the next time you’re tempted to make a bad or unwise decision, look around and He will be there for you.  Just turn out the light and walk out empty-handed.  Just put your hand in His.  Just lay it to rest.  He’s got this.

Posted in Family, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, wisdom

The “I Want You to Die” Tick

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” Romans 13:14

You know there are one or two things that are good about a really cold winter.  And number one is the fact that it kills all the bugs. As you remember, last winter wasn’t very cold. I’m not sure what you thought about last winter’s weather, but apparently the local tick population thought it was just fine.  Even around my house—and I live on the main drag in Harrisburg—we have had to check every once in a while to make sure we didn’t pick up any unwanted hitchhikers.

Several weeks ago Judy and I went hiking in a wooded area.  The trail we were on was plenty wide but I guess ticks are good jumpers. Later in the week, I was working at my desk at home and I felt just a little itch on my leg.  You know, nothing major—just a “hi—I might need you to scratch me later” itch.  I ignored it.

After a bit, it developed into more.  It went from a “you might need to scratch me” to more of a “hey, now would be a good time to scratch me” itch.  So I did—and when I did, I felt a small bump.  At first I thought it was a small bite and whoever had done it had moved on to greener pastures.  I was wrong.  It was a dirty, rotten, no good, “I want you to die”… tick.  Oh, he wasn’t big—in fact he looked quite innocent. He was only the size of a writing pen head.  Well, I try to be a friendly guy—just not with ticks and especially not with one having dinner—and I’m the meal.  So we departed company and I did my best to make sure he went to the tick afterlife. So long friend…adios. No prayer, no service…just you’re out of here.

So, I thought it was not big deal—but I guess big is relative.  You see, by the next day that little bite site had turned red and was about twice as big as before—and it was still itching—only more.  Now fortunately it was NOT the kind of dirty rotten, no good, “I want you to die” ticks that give us weird diseases. But even so, the spot where he bit me itched for several weeks.  Even a couple of months later while the itch is gone the scar remained.  It hard to imagine that one little tick can cause so much trouble.  Write that one down:  little things can have bigger consequences.

Yep, that’s right.  Some small habit, some little action or inaction, a few seconds of a wandering mind, a few misspoken, unkind words—can have large and lasting consequences. And the worse part is that it doesn’t just affect us—it can and does affect those around us. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because it starts small it stays small. It rarely does.  It really isn’t practical to totally avoid the outdoors so there has to be another way.  A good insect repellent is a good start.

A guy in the Bible named Paul wrote gives us some good advice on how to avoid pesky sins.  He said, “but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to it’s lusts.”  So Paul said the best way to avoid the aggravation and consequences of sin is to give yourself a good smattering of Jesus and then avoid sin wherever and whenever it is likely to jump on.  The truth is the more we read the Bible and apply it and the more we act like Jesus the less likely we will find ourselves infested with pesky, troublesome sin.  Trust me…life is just better.

Well, the site where the friendly little tick decided to visit is finally about gone but it was a journey to get here.  The bottom line is it would just be better to avoid it in the first place. The old saying an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is so true.  That is also true in avoiding ticks and it is true in avoiding sin. One thing is for sure.  It is good to know that God is more than willing to help us know when there’s a pesky sin close by.  All we have to do is ask, and He will help.  Mark it down…we can rest assured with Him close by.  He’s got this.