Posted in fear, Grace, life, loving others

Broken Lives, Broken Hearts

 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil.  You are with me.” Psalm 23:4

 It was late afternoon.  My wife Judy and I live on one of the main streets that run through our small city.  We have a sidewalk and as you can imagine it is not unusual for all kinds of people to be walking by all the time. Sometimes there are families, loud and happy as they stroll and sometimes it just someone going somewhere.  But then sometimes it is a someone like yesterday.  Though not all the details were apparent…he wore chapter after chapter of his broken life story.

Life was hard…it was as clear as glass.  He was shuffling along pushing an empty shopping cart.  At first I thought he was an older man I see walking laps around our block.  He pushes a walker and is bound and determined not to let age stop him.  But this was not him.  This man was older but not that old and life had not been kind.  His clothes were wore and tattered.  He would take a few steps and then stop and look around and then take a few more.  He reminded me of someone I had seen at the park several months ago.

That particular day I was walking in the city park.  It wasn’t a casual walk but the exercising kind. That day was like a lot of spring days—the sun was shining, the birds were singing, the trees were doing their “leafing out” thing and it was a good day.  Then, I heard something…someone. 

I was alone in the park till then.  As I crossed the bridge on the North end of the park there was a man in his forties or fifties.  He was dressed normally—whatever that means—but that was where normalcy ended.  At first, I thought he had one of those things in his ear that enabled him to talk on his cell phone.  The closer I got the more I could see and hear.

He was angry.  He was shouting. He was cursing. Then he began to pick up rocks and throw them violently in one direction and then another.  I realized he was fighting a battle with someone I could not see but he could.  To him it was real–very real.  He felt threatened and hurt by an enemy only he could see.

That day I prayed.  I asked God to deliver him from the invisible demon that was haunting him.  I asked God for His peace to come upon this peace-less man.  Later I saw him leaving the park, less angry, less violent and no longer cursing. It seemed from where I was that a moment of calm had come to his storm wrecked mind.  I was grateful and told God so.

I have thought about that day several times and it came to my mind again yesterday when this man covered with brokenness walked by my house.  My verbalized thoughts were, “Oh, Lord, how hard his life must be. Help him…be with him” Soon, he had moved on and I was left alone with my own thoughts. You know, not all people with hard lives walk down streets pushing empty carts.  Some are the people you and I pass in Walmart, or maybe it is the neighbor next door or perhaps the person you sit next to in church on Sunday.

The truth is there are a lot of folks fighting and fearful of enemies–enemies that don’t have or need a face to wreck lives.  There’s still the COVID thing, the loss of a job or business, the fear of losing their marriage or someone they love, the fear that things will never be the same, the fear that this fear will own them–consume them.

My mind goes back to Psalm 23:4. David, chased by a crazed king consumed with jealousy, chased by too many memories of too many failures writes, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil.  You are with me.”  He was wise enough to know that as he walked through this valley it wasn’t filled with real monsters–only monster “wanna-be’s.”

You see, for him the valley became a roadway and not a residence.  Death, or things that cause death, because of his faith in a “bigger-than-anything” God, was reduced to a shadow.  Shadows can frighten but they can cause no real damage or harm.  How did that happen? Well, somewhere along the way David chose to believe his God and he found peace.  He said, “I don’t need to fear evil, no matter what it looks like, because You are with me.”  You.Are.With.Me.

Today as you journey, remember all around us are people who fight battles with enemies only they can see.  Be sure and swift not to judge but to pray.  That day in the park and I guess to some degree yesterday, I got it right but trust me I don’t always do that.  It’s then that I pray a different prayer–one for forgiveness.  And if you are fighting those invisible enemies today–just a word or two.  God loves you.  Rest in Him.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, life, Scripture

Food Truck

“When He saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36

There’s a new food truck in town.  For the past several years I have begun my day by walking for exercise.  I take several different routes but one of my favorites is around the lake at the city park.  It was there I met Bubba the goose (for past readers he said to tell you hi), saw the power of integration in the goose families (they are doing fine), saw a man waging a war with people I could not see, and saw the new food truck in town.  Let me explain.

We walkers see two kinds of exercisers.  Some people come and go and some are regular as clockwork, they show up to walk each day.  Like Forest Gump they start running—or walking—and just don’t stop.  These folks become unofficial friends.  We may not know each other’s names, what we do for a living or where the other person lives but for those few minutes at the park our lives intersect. And then, there’s the “food truck.”

She loves dogs and really animals.  She walks her dogs every day in the park…and there are several.  But what is interesting is that for a long time there was a cat walking with her.  I mean a lot of people walk dogs, but a cat?  The feline wasn’t on a leash but would just quietly walk behind her and the dogs.  Talk about intriguing.  So after a while I just had to talk with her.  It turns out it wasn’t her cat at all.  She met the cat one day while walking and it looked a little thin so she started dropping some dry cat food on the sidewalk and …well the cat had breakfast and hung around for dessert. There was a new “food truck” in town.

Sadly, one day our feline friend wasn’t there and I learned that he was hit by a car and didn’t survive.  We mourned together…a lady I didn’t know losing a cat she didn’t own but we paused and grieved.  But before long, there was another cat.  I first saw him on the sidewalk about a block from the park and he was having breakfast on the sidewalk and I knew the “food truck” had been by.  The relationship wasn’t as tight or as long but she had made a new friend by meeting a need.

Well, one day I was again walking in the park and ahead I saw several squirrels having breakfast.  Yup, the “food truck” fed squirrels too.  And then a few days later I saw several ducks gathered on the walking trail.  Turns out ducks like cat food and they too were having breakfast.  The “food truck” was a hit in the park and everyone was invited.  But the funniest part was yet to happen.

So I am walking, and across the narrow lake I can see her walking her dog.  Behind her is a group of ducks having breakfast.  Then on my side of the lake there are three ducks and they are on the move.  They are waddling as fast as their little legs would take them and they are quacking up a storm.  Again, my duck is a little rusty but I believe they were saying, “Hey wait for us.”  So huffing and puffing they waddle down a small peninsula and jump in. Paddling furiously they headed straight across the lake.  Like kids chasing the ice cream truck they swam on.  It was my last lap for the day but the last time I saw them they were on shore and hollering, “Wait, we’re coming.”

I don’t know my friend’s name but I do know her impact.  Her acts of kindness to animals makes her a hit with them and with me.  She just seems to care and really, besides this strange sort of fan club, gets no other reward.  She just does what she thinks is the next right thing.  I wonder how different our world would be if we did the same.  Jesus did.  The Book tells us that when He saw people—He didn’t see social class, He didn’t see color—He just saw people and He had compassion on them. He saw them as sheep without a shepherd or maybe like ducks needing breakfast.

Compassion is best defined as simply love in action.  Its seeing a need and then doing what you can to meet that need. Imagine today taking the time to show kindness to someone having a difficult day.  Imagine today taking the time to give someone a smile when they are only used to frowns.  Imagine today doing simply the next right thing—without reward, without expectation—simply because it is the right thing to do.  It might just be amazing.  It might just look crazy…like a cat following a lady walking her dog. It might just be game changing.

In a few minutes, I’m going to do my walking thing.  I don’t have any cat food.  In fact my shorts don’t even have pockets but I can pack an intentional smile for someone who needs one.  I can do that.  Sometimes Jesus gave out free lunches to crowds—big crowds.  Sometimes He healed broken bodies and spirits.  But something that I think we overlook is that He probably smiled…a lot.  Imagine His joy as He shared and showed compassion—love in action. Like the cat, like the ducks following the “food truck” people followed Him.  Not just for the bread, though some did, but because around Him they felt safe. They felt loved. They found a place where they could rest from the craziness of life.  We can too.  He’s got this.