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Hands Sticking Out Of The Water…

As I sat on my patio this evening, I asked God what this gnawing feeling inside was all about. It felt like a splinter under the skin, but you can’t see it…there is something irritating in your soul

.

I admit that I wasn’t really expecting an answer. I just wanted relief.

I felt that the Lord said,

“When you were younger, you were so busy doing things and took little time to listen. He continued,

“Now, you have few things to do…but have all the time in the world to listen…and it bothers you.”

That kind of made me feel upset. Here I was trying to get some relief from my inward discomfort, but instead, I got the impression I was resisting something that God wanted me to do. it made me feel worse.

I wrinkled my brow, scowling at the ground.

“Oh…you don’t like that…?” he asked.

I didn’t speak. I just was quiet. There is nothing you can say to God that wouldn’t be prideful at that moment…He likes to test…He likes it a lot.

“You like to talk…but wisdom WANTS to listen so that when you speak, the words will have weight.”

These days I am eyeing retirement, working a little, and writing a lot. But with all of the issues swirling around the world these days, it feels like everything is thrown into a blender and placed in “puree” mode; it is difficult to understand what my activity should be.

But, I think the Lord is taking all of us back to basics. He has taught us (those who came into a relationship with Him a while back… in the Jesus Movement) to swim in placid waters.

Personally, for those my age and older, I feel that I am supposed to enter into the deep water of the personal turmoil of others and give swimming lessons in the midst of a hurricane.

There are many who will not make it to shore if they don’t have veteran swimmers to help them along.

I’m talking about coming alongside others to help them learn to trust Jesus instead of simply getting them saved and leaving them to either swim or drown.

It used to be called discipleship, but that word has a bad connotation these days.

The Christian life needs explaining.

It needs men and women who are humble and authentic lovers of Jesus that wish to serve others by sharing their experiences and helping others become like Him.

I was in the ocean on the outer edge of a hurricane in a dream not long ago.

The wind would sweep me almost out of the water in a circle. Every time it swept me out to sea, I would see a person’s hand sticking up out of the water, and I would grab their wrist, and then the wind would sweep me back toward the shore.

I would drop them off, and before I could stand up, the wind would sweep me back out to the deep where another person’s wrist was above the water.

I would grab them…but just then, a bolt of lightning lit the sky on maybe my fourth or fifth trip around in this hurricane. When the sky was lit up with the flash of lightning. I couldn’t believe my eyes…

I saw thousands of wrists and hands, maybe millions, of wrists and hands, sticking up out of the water. I could grab only one at a time…and every time I made the trip, there were fewer and fewer hands sticking up out of the water asking for help.

I began to swallow water and cough, but I wasn’t fearful I would drown. The Lord kept saying,

“You learned to swim during a time of peace…but it wasn’t so you could show your strokes…it was for this….”

I began to cry out… ”Oh Lord…they’re all going to drown if you don’t sweep others into the storm to help me!” That’s when He opened my eyes.

Another bolt of lightning crackled and lit up the ocean, and there…in the water… were thousands of us…. maybe millions…and everyone had hold of a wrist or a hand, pulling people up from under the water.

When the wind blew me toward the shore, I saw hordes of people on the beach…and people were trying to get them to safety inside. I woke up gasping for air.

As I sat quietly on my patio this evening, the Lord said,

“You can never tell which end is up in a storm at sea…that is why I walk on water…and as long as you look at me and believe, you won’t sink, and there will still be work to do no matter how old you are.”

The lesson the Lord was teaching me was that I learned that following Jesus in the deep end of the pool was not just for me when I was younger…

We learned to swim for others…for the hurricane yet to come.

“Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest?

I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now, the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus, the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”” John 4:35-38

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Lessons From Homer Smith…

I am an old movie fanatic and…I happen to be a huge Sidney Poitier fan. If you have never read his book, “The Measure of a Man” you are missing out. It isn’t a Christian book, but you need to broaden your reading anyway…

The movie “The Lillies of the Field” was a story that Ralph Nelson a movie producer had run across. He had approached United Artist with the idea, and they said, “Yeah…sure…why not?”

But they didn’t give him much money for the picture. He had to mortgage his own home in order to meet the production schedule. The entire movie was shot in the Arizona Desert in two weeks including rehearsal and actual filming. The entire budget for the film? $250,000.00

Sidney Poitier in 1964 won the Academy Award for the Best Actor for his part as Homer Smith…a drifting handy man who’s car overheated in the Arizona heat and was drafted by five East German nuns to build what they called a “shapel” (chapel.)

Now, I’m not here to give movie reviews but I believe in God calling us when we are stranded along the road. I remember when I was stranded.

Not literally. But I was drifting.

I had injured myself at Indiana University in a gymnastics accident and lost my athletic scholarship.

 Shipwrecked and alone in a small Kentucky town, I had no direction. One minute I was a member of a Big Ten Gymnastics team…and in a flash, I was sweeping floors in a greasy gas station in Owensboro Kentucky. And God, finally had me where he wanted me. Broken, alone and humble. Then he showed up and said, “Okay…you’re ready!”

You have to be at the bottom when God calls you.

You might have all the money in the world and fame and fortune or have absolutely nothing…but you have to be at the bottom…broken, with a broken heart or… Jesus won’t take you otherwise…

He won’t take you if you are self sufficient and proud.

He won’t be able to use you like Homer Smith, until you give in…and give up…and just surrender.

At one point in the movie, a Mexican family donates a small truckload of bricks to help build the chapel.

 Homer is a lapsed Baptist and when this little East German Nun, who has prayed for these bricks greets the truck with joy that her prayer has been answered, Homer chides her and says, “These won’t be nearly enough!” The Mother Superior played by Lilia Skala, responds, “Oh…then we pray some more!”

Your purpose and calling is costly. THE CALLING OF GOD REQUIRES ONGOING CONSTANT PRAYER. You can’t get your first load of bricks and say, “Wow Lord, this isn’t enough!”

We must do the asking…He does the supplying… AND HE WATCHES TO SEE IF WE WILL KEEP ON BELIEVING!

Just because you are called doesn’t mean God is going to do everything! He requires YOU to do the praying, and the persevering and the confessing.

He will do the heavy lifting, but my friend, He won’t do the lifting unless He has a partner who is as committed to seeing the work done as He is! He just won’t!

There is someone reading this who is about to give up. Maybe you have already.

You had some success in your life, but you’ve hit a hard place…everything seems dark…you ‘re broken down on the side of the road like Homer Smith and your radiator needs water. In the moment when all seems lost…when everything you hoped for is slipping from between your fingers…

Your resurrection day is about to dawn!

God builds chapels with people like YOU…the reluctant ones, the ones who have to be pushed and prodded like Homer Smith to build that “Shapel”.

But I am not so sure that the reluctant ones aren’t God’s favorite children!

Because when you finally give in… He knows you really mean it!

When my radiator was empty, God called me to be an encourager. He called me for you…today.

Press on! That “Shapel” is going to materialize…but you need to get up and brush off your backside and just buck up and believe!

Keep going, keep praying, keep persevering.

One day soon, a small truckload of bricks will be coming down the road.

Elijah prayed for rain and all he got at first was a tiny cloud, the size of a man’s hand…but as he continued to pray, the drought that had been over the land for many years, was halted by the flood that God produced due to his perseverance.

Steaming radiators are a sign that you are ready to be used.

And God says, “Finally!”

Happy Easter…God resurrects the broken dreams of the heart.

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Your Gift Makes Room For You…

I went shopping for an updated sound system for my truck. Since I have owned my 2010 Ford F-150 Super Crew XLT I have done quite a bit of work on it, including recently installing a brand new 5.4 Liter long block 8 cylinder engine. It was actually cheaper than buying a newer truck since used trucks are selling for a premium these days.

With new tires, a rebuilt transmission and some other improvements, an updated radio was just an added improvement that I thought would help.I ran into a well-known electronics retailer trying my best to dodge the raindrops pouring down in sheets in Brentwood Tennessee. Upon entering, I found my way back to the car stereo area and began browsing.

Employee help, of course, being a rare commodity these days, I began looking for someone to answer some questions. One of the receiving crew paged someone, but it was taking a long time. I thought about coming back on another day; when, around the corner came a young man named Matt. Matt, wearing a mask, still smiled so widely that his mask practically slid off his face. Matt shook my hand, placed his left hand on my back and said, “How can I help you bud?”

Now, nothing about this was out of the ordinary, except one thing…Matt, besides being extremely outgoing also had Down Syndrome. I told him I was looking for a touch screen replacement for my F-150. His eyes stared at the ceiling for a moment while I was explaining what I needed and then, he asked, “What year is the vehicle?” I answered and he immediately asked me, “Two or Four-wheel drive? XL or XLT, or is it a Lariat or King Ranch?” Now I grinned from ear to ear and said, “XLT Two-wheel drive!”

Faster than I could walk, he hurried over to the computer and asked, “Does your radio look like this?” He pointed to the exact radio in my 11-year-old truck. Now I just giggled out loud. “Yup…that’s it Matt!” At that moment another employee came up to us and said, rather abruptly, “I’ll take it from here Matt!” I didn’t like his tone. Matt coward back and I saw all of the confidence drain from his face.

You’ll forgive me if I got a completely P.O. ed at the guy and I said, “Matt is helping me just fine!” with my best “You’re a jerk!” look on my face. The recent arrival said, “Well, I’m a salesman and he is still in training, and besides, he can’t answer any of your questions!”I asked Matt to stand aside for a moment while I talked to this “expert”. I said, “I have an XLT 2010 F-150…Super Crew…what radio do you recommend?” “He looked at me and knew I was not happy and said, “Well, if you will just hold your horses I will go and look!”

I took a chance…a REAL GAMBLE because Matt had been so quick to ask all the right questions i figured he would know the answer to my question and I said, “Hey Mr. Salesman…before you leave…I just want to ask Matt the same question…”Matt, What radio do I need?” I mean without even blinking…Matt said “I recommend the Sony XAV-AX 5600…it is a Double DIN In-Dash MP3/USB (GPS Navigation) Car Stereo Receiver with a 6.95” Capacitive Touchscreen Display,55W x 4 Channel MAX with 3 Sets of 5V Preamp Outputs and is Compatible with Apple CarPlay & Android Auto!”Mr. Salesman’s mouth dropped open…literally. I smiled, and said, “Matt will take it from here!

Matt’s countenance beamed and I said, “Okay Matt, let’s go see this thing!” He showed it to me and he said, “And…it’s on sale for 50% off!” Just then, as God would have it, the Big Manager came around the corner to make sure someone had taken care of me. I said, “Matt is so good!” “He took care of everything, found me exactly the right stereo, and I couldn’t be in better hands!” The manager smiled from ear to ear and said, “Matt has a special gift…he has a memory that is almost photographic!”

Mr. Salesman tried to butt in…”I was just going to write it up for this gentleman!” I couldn’t help myself. I said to the Big Manager, “Listen if you don’t mind, I’d like Matt to finish helping me!” I’m sure there is some kind of commission on sales and the manager simply said, “Sure…Matt, take care of this gentleman and if you need any help on the computer, just page one of us!”

Matt then showed me all of the connections, the new radio facing I would need for the truck. He began reciting OUT OF HIS MEMORY the part numbers of all the parts! I heard Mr. Salesman complaining as the manager whisked him away and was “giving him a talking to.”

We finished and Matt looked at me. I could tell He wanted to thank me, and I wouldn’t let him. Instead I told Matt, “I have been in some type of sales for over 40 years Matt and I have NEVER had anyone be this exact, confident and professional! Don’t ever let anyone try to step in front of you when you are with a customer! Matt smiled…shook my hand and said, “Thank you!” And then as if he wanted to move on said, “…Your installation is included!”

He gave me a date for installation which is over a month away, but I would have waited a year for that installation. The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable. Before I left, there were two men looking around in the same department for a car stereo. I asked them, “What kind of car and year of vehicle do you have? They answered me, and Matt piped up, “That will be a Pioneer AVH-120BT Multimedia DVD Receiver with 6.2 Inch WVGA Touchscreen Display and Built-in Bluetooth© for Hands-free Calling & Audio Playback | Double Din!””If you will step over here I will take care of you and show you all of the features.”

I began laughing to myself and Matt caught a glimpse of me smiling. He looked at me…and merely said, “People judge books by their covers all the time…why should it be any different with judging people?”He continued, “I started here stocking the shelves, but the manager thought helping customers was a better use of my time!”

“For promotion does not come from the East or the West or from the desert. but, promotion comes from the Lord…he lifts one up and abases the other.” Psalm 75 6-7

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Chip On Her Shoulder…

When I answered the phone I could hear the almost explosive anger in her voice. She had called to ask how we had arrived at 96 square feet of tile on her order. To be clear, whenever someone calls or comes in to order tile for a project, we always advise the customer to order at least 10% more for cuts and waste. Even though your wall needs 85 square feet, there will always be cuts involved when the installer finally installs your tile.

Usually, if the tile contractor has sent them in, he or she has included that 10% in the number they give to their client. Today she had her contractor in the background telling her what she had was not enough.”I want to know how you arrived at this 96 sq ft number!” she barked. When a person calls on the phone, it’s important to listen to what they are asking and repeat it back to make sure you have understood what they are asking. When they are ANGRY, it is doubly important to stay calm and listen and assure them you will do your best to answer their question.

“Okay ma’am,” I said, as politely as possible. “Let me pull up your order on my computer and we’ll take a look.” In my company computer system, we find orders by the phone number under which it was ordered and, so I asked her, “May I have the phone number you used to order the tile please?” “OMG!” she screamed, “I already TOLD you my name!” I paused for just a moment to give a beat before I explained, but before I could even get a word out, she said, “Just look it up under my name!”Fortunately, our phone system gives the number she was calling from so, I took a chance and sure enough, she came up in the system.

I scrolled down to her name and pulled up the order. She had several different tiles on her order and I began scanning the screen for the one that had 96 sq ft. I named the tile and she said, “Yes already!” “HOW DID YOU CALCULATE THE SQ FOOTAGE…DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH YOU CONDESCENDING LITTLE MAN?”

A broad grin came across my face instantly and I was grateful for the anonymity of the phone so she could not see my amusement. I instantly knew this was a test and that God was watching. I’ve been here before. When you work with the public, it isn’t all rainbows and sunshine and unicorns…people are short with you, yell at you and become very defensive…ESPECIALLY when they suspect they have been cheated…or shorted.

I didn’t respond to her anger or insult…I just began saying.”Okay, the tile you are talking about is _________ and is 16 x 16 inches. there are 54 tiles total for this tile.” She interrupted me,”I KNOW that…I know what I have…” I tried to tell her that I was going to explain to her how we reached the number but she kept talking over me…she didn’t want to listen, she wanted to get to the part where we had cheated her or failed to ship her the correct amount of tile.

In my attempt to speak while she was speaking, she shouted over the phone, “Stop yelling at me!” This lady was laboring under a severe issue of conclusion jumping, had zero social skills over the phone, and wanted to attack me. She really didn’t want an explanation, but I proceeded anyway. “16 x 16 equals 256. Multiplied by 54 equals 13,824 INCHES” I emphasized the word “Inches”. she became quiet. I continued, “13,824 inches divided by 144″ (the total of 1 square foot) equals 96 feet.” I could tell her contractor was doing the math on his phone calculator in the background. I heard him say, “Oh, yeah, I guess that’s right…he’s right, he sent us the right amount of tile.”

However, she STILL wanted to recover from her error or; even worse in her opinion, not having understood the process. Pride goes before the fall. I listened to her quietly, careful to say NOTHING…just listened. “Well, a, the a, I can’t stand that you yelled at me!” I hadn’t at any time raised my voice to her, I hadn’t once been angry with her, but now she was embarrassed and wanted to blame me for…something!

I attempted to defuse her embarrassment. “I’m sorry it appeared that I raised my voice with you, ma’am. I think we were both talking at once and I may have spoken a bit louder so you could hear me…but I hope you feel we have answered your question.” There was a pause. An angry spirit doesn’t want to be defused…it wants to dump piles of poop on your good work shoes. It wants to ruin your day, it wants to make you as mad as the person yelling at you.

I refuse…and once again, moving in the opposite spirit piles the poop back on the sender…without even trying. If we realized the power we have with the Fruit of the Holy Spirit, we would bust up entire networks of demons. Patience and humility throw cold water, a wet blanket…whatever, on that anger. (“a fool gives full vent to his anger”) A soft word breaks the bone…

She was silent still. I waited…at this point, the next one that talked was the loser. “I guess I was wrong…I guess…a ” I stopped her. Ma’am, please don’t think another thing about it, I’m so glad we could resolve the problem.” Still quiet on the other side of the phone, I heard her step outside the door, apparently outside of her house because I heard street noises.

I heard her whisper into the phone like something was choking her. “I am sorry…I…a …I don’t know why I got so mad…I have been cheated before. Men think women are stupid and take advantage.

There was a paradigm shift at that moment. Here was a woman, who had been taken advantage of by other salespeople, and closing my eyes and shaking my head, it was obviously a man or men who had done it. I could tell this was a completely different woman than the one who had been screaming at me minutes before. What I mean is it was the same woman, but a completely different personality was coming over the phone.

She was broken, and said, “I can’t believe I’ve let people do that to me…and here I am taking it out on a man who was sincerely trying to help me!” Something inside told me to be quiet still. I listened and she said, “I do not know you…I do not think you were the one who sold me the tile…were you?” I told her no, it had been another salesperson.

Without her telling me, what had happened I just blurted out, “God is the defender of the widow and the orphan.” She sat quietly on the other side of the phone listening. “From now on, when you go to do business and a man is overbearing, do not get angry, just walk away and ask God to be your defender…ask HIm to protect you from deception and lies…and He will.”Her voice came alive.

“How did you know I was raised a Christian?” I said, “I didn’t know, but what I DO know is that God is the defender of all who fear Him and call upon His name.” she explained her husband had been an abusive man, even to the point of trying to make her intimate with other men. She had refused and he had finally left her. No children from the marriage which I had told her was a blessing. When she was getting ready to end the call, she asked me how to return to God…after being very disobedient.

I prayed for her, told her it was EASY…just ask the Lord to forgive you and be sure to forgive the men who had abused and cheated her in the past. And then the best part of the whole conversation.”I’m going back….I’m going to stop being a victim and allow God to be my protector…and I’m going to run back.”

I left the store in the rain that day…but the sun was shining. “I saw raindrops on my window, joy is like the rain. Laughter runs across my pain, slips away, and comes again, joy is like the rain.”

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Calming the Storms…

This afternoon, I went to the store again, (it always happens in stores). It’s my day off and I was buying something to make for dinner. I pulled up in the parking lot and heard a man shouting and a woman shouting back. Right there in broad daylight were two people arguing publicly and in all honesty, I had no idea what the fight was about.

Some people got out their phones and were filming it… I guess to have a record of it should it turn violent. All I knew was, that he was a lot bigger than she was and he had her by the wrist. No one wanted to help her, and no one was going to talk him down.

Now, I am not an especially brave man, but i AM a loud mouth, and I was close enough to clear my throat and the man looked at me…fiercely. I had just turned 62, and since I haven’t seen my grandchildren in a while, I figured I couldn’t quite check out of this world yet…so, as he stared a hole into my forehead the only thing I knew to do was to smile and say,


“Lots of people out here with their phones pointed at you friend… doesn’t look good!”

His look changed. It went from anger to a puzzled look. “Maybe you should let go of her wrist…?’ He did so, and she looked at me too.

I was hoping in this crazy world of ours that no one had a gun at that moment because honest to goodness a gun at this moment could really ruin your day. So, I SLOWLY moved away from my open truck door toward the rear of the truck and did what any good sales person would do… I cracked a joke.

“Don’t you hate it when you want to fight and everyone around wants to film it?”

I smiled big and this made him crack a smile too. I discovered his wife’s name was Cinda, and his name Cord…yes, I said Cord. Why the heck  people in Tennessee have movie names I’ll never know, but I ended up today wishing my name was Cord…that was cool! I later discovered it was short for Cordell and reneged on my wish.

The man, said, “Yeah, sorry for the scene!” Cinda looked at me and said,

“It was my fault, I shouldn’t have called him names.”. three people with phones kept filming and I just looked at them and said, “It’s all over folks, nothing to see here…move along!” in my best Barney Fife voice. Don’t forget, I had just pulled up and was still not sure I wasn’t going to get shot, but there was something in the air…like “open space in the air immediately over my head.” 

I can’t describe it except to say, that if Scotty and Captain Kirk could be here, they would tell you it is almost exactly the feeling they had when they were going to get “beamed up”. It was like  OPEN HEAVEN,  directly above me.

I got the courage, to walk a step or two closer. He kept telling me he was sorry, and I told him he didn’t need to apologize to me. She wasn’t hurt in any way, and I could tell they were both sorry for having made a big scene. She said

“Sir, if you are a police officer, we were just upset because of…” she stopped and put her head down. I walked right up to their car…he finished. “We can’t have children…at this she silently cried into her hands. He placed his arms around her.

She had said he wasn’t man enough to father a child and that is what made him crazy. He kissed her wrist and told her how sorry he was. She said he have NEVER touched her that way before and he kept saying, “I’m so sorry…I’m so sorry…” I told them to get into their car.

For some reason they listened and did it. I got into the back seat. Imagine if you will, a stranger getting in the backseat of your car uninvited. I was in before I had time to think and evidently they still thought i was someone in law enforcement, although I wouldn’t let a cop in my backseat either.

She told him she didn’t mean it…he said he knew that…that she was just frustrated. Here I am, with an ice scraper, an umbrella and a Jack in the Box bag in the back seat and they are in the front seat hugging. I was sure I had just pulled up into the parking lot just seconds ago, and yet, here I sat in the back seat and here they were in the front seat just like I had told them to do. So, I figured just about anything I said would be better than sitting like a dummy next to the jack in the Box bag.

“Okay, I’m gonna put my hands on you and pray. Don’t either of you hit me or pull a gun on me, because I’m here trying to help!”

She giggled and he laughed…”Pal, nobody is going to pull a gun on you…” I said good and prayed. I prayed for the children they wanted to have. I prayed for the walk down the aisle the father wanted to take his daughter down, I prayed for the first day of school they wanted to see, and the grand babies they wanted to have. I asked God to open the womb, and to heal the man. She cried, he silently did what men do…which is…not know what to do.

I asked them if they had a good church and they assured me they did and named one nearby but hadn’t attended for a while. I gave them my phone number and my name. I invited them over for dinner…and then he said,

“I’m gonna remember this day and I’m gonna keep your number…I told them it might be a good idea to go home and away from the filming phones.

Before they drove away, the guy asked if there was anything he could do for me…I told him to “ love your wife, read your Bible…”

Wouldn’t you know it… I drove away and I forgot to buy anything for dinner! I turned around and went back. I don’t recommend doing what I did that day…because when I think about it it was really dumb. I’m not a brave man and certainly don’t have the first idea about counseling people in crisis mode. But, sometimes situations take place and we are right there and that nudge to do something speaks to you to act. Both my brother and my son who are cops would have told me NOT to do what I did.

But the Holy Spirit has authority in ALL the earth. He can speak through donkeys, (which, you know; fit in my situation.) Like my friend in Texas, Sandy, once said by accident when she was speaking in front of a women’s group to a roar of laughter,

“If God can speak through the ass of a donkey He can use you too!”

Sometimes, the Great Commission includes bringing peace into turbulent waters. Jesus calmed a storm…and; I think we as the church can calm them too.

God uses donkeys a lot!

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getting to the heart of the matter…

I walked into the store the other day to pick up something for dinner. I was on my way home and just decided to stop in and grab something. I have to be choosy now, with type 2 diabetes what I eat and how much. Of course, no sugar, no rice, no potatoes no , no, no…

As I walked through the produce department, I was trying to decide if it would be head lettuce or Spring mix, when; out of the corner of my eye, I saw a woman picking up heads of lettuce and then throwing them down…hard! “Bad Day!” I thought. I continued selecting cucumbers and other greens and again this woman was picking up packages of celery and looking at one and then throwing it down and picking up another.

The force with which she was throwing legumes was disturbing. It was like she wanted to call attention to herself.A few other customers glanced in her direction and I saw eyebrows raise and people scurry off to do the rest of their shopping or maybe just to get away from her. I lingered.I still needed to find some parsley and for some reason, Publix doesn’t place many rolls of plastic produce bags in the department so I was looking for them.

As I approached one of the rolls to tear one or two off the roll, this woman was picking up apples.Yes, she was throwing them down and this time one of them hit the floor. Inwardly I was done with this and I didn’t care what the people around me said. She threw another down on the pile and it fell on the floor and I just said firmly, “Stop it!”She looked up angrily at me. I continued, “If you’ve had a bad day, that’s fine, go home and throw things, but stop acting out and tearing up merchandise!” I kept eye contact with her. She was seething, and I could see it wasn’t at me. She was angry with someone and she couldn’t control herself.

I was bigger than she was and I think she figured I worked there. I picked up the apple and put it in my cart. It was all torn up and I was going to give it to the produce guy. She calmed down as she watched me and said, “I’m sorry”…and started to cry. I stayed where I was and certainly wasn’t going to touch her in any way, but realized my rebuke had brought her to her senses. She said again,”I’m sorry…I am just so sorry…” I told her it was okay and then I got a word of knowledge.”I asked her, “something happened at work and…” she interrupted me, “…and the supervisor embarrassed me in front of the entire department!!”

Tears ran down her face and I could tell something had really hurt her. I began gathering six apples from the stand where she was standing. I’m not allowed to eat apples with Type 2 but I was buyin’ apples today…if you know what I mean. Amazingly there was a roll of paper towels sitting nearby on a cart and I grabbed one and handed it to her and she gratefully accepted it.

For some reason, I began telling her of all the times I had been embarrassed publicly. I told her the time I was in Brazil and was speaking in public at church and I inadvertently used the wrong phrase and instead of saying, “I was a chicken” as in I was a coward, I ended up saying, “I was a street prostitute”. The congregation roared with laughter and I had never turned that shade of red before. I did that a lot in Brazil…my Portuguese needed a lot of work. she began smiling and started giggling a bit.I then regaled her with stories from birth about being embarrassed and by the time I was done, she was laughing. Just about then her phone buzzed and I thought, well, my work is done here, and began walking away giving her some privacy.

About 5 minutes passed and I was in the meat section when she approached me and said, “Sir, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk me down off the ledge today.” I laughed and said, “If you want to know the truth, I felt in my heart that the Lord told me you had been embarrassed at work.She looked down at her shoes and said, “It made me so angry…I just felt like I did when I was a little girl and my mama would embarrass me in front of my friends saying I was the “ugly duckling” of the family. It was a deep wound and it would happen again I told her if she didn’t get healing for it.

She told me the phone call she had received was from her husband. She had told him about the incident at work and that she was at the store getting groceries. For some reason, he felt she was angry enough on that phone call that he wanted to come to the store to be with her. As if on cue, he walked up to us as we talked. She introduced her husband to me and I shook his hand and introduced myself. I finished my thought with him present. “When we have been injured as children, we carry that within our hearts and we react every time someone touches that hurt.” A small tear appeared on her cheek again. Her husband placed his arm around his wife and shook his head approvingly.

At that moment, it would not have been appropriate to go into a full inner healing session. (You know, now that I think about it, I think I chickened out…Jesus wouldn’t have cared about appropriateness. ) At any rate, I told her when she got home to place a chair in front of her and pretend her mama was in that chair and to get it all out of her heart and then to SAY OUT LOUD, “Mama, I forgive you and I love you.” (Her mother had passed away 12 years previous.) As we parted ways, they pushed their cart toward the checkout line and we chatted about churches and I marveled as I looked at them.

This couple could have been models…they were beautiful! I realized that the god of this world hates the creation of God and tries with all of his might to destroy them. This lovely woman who was called the “ugly duckling” of the family couldn’t have been further from that description than black is from white. Tonight when I got home, I saw the six apples I bought sitting on my counter and remembered her.

I realize that much of our inner anger is a lack of forgiveness and when someone pushes that button, we go into a rage. The song by Don Henley tells it right,

“These times are so uncertain There’s a yearning undefined

People filled with rage

We all need a little tendernessHow can love survive

in such a graceless age?

Ah, the trust and self-assurance that lead to happiness

They’re the very things we kill, I guess…

There are people in your life Who’ve come and gone

They let you downYou know they’ve hurt your pride

You better put it all behind you baby’Cause life goes on

You keep carryin’ that anger It’ll eat you up inside baby

I’ve been trying to get downTo the heart of the matter

But my will gets weak

And my thoughts seem to scatter

But I think it’s about forgiveness Forgiveness”

The way to put it all behind you is to FORGIVE. Stop carrying the anger, just pour your heart out before the Lord and let it out. Make a list of every person who has hurt you and against whom you hold an offense. One by one, sit them in that chair in front of you and begin pouring out your heart. It’s okay to be angry, but; before you finish, you MUST look at them and say, “I forgive you!”I know it works because I have had to do it many a time in my life and the hurt and the anger are gone.

After you forgive the person, Ask the Lord to heal your heart and to make you strong in that area of your life. I forgot to tell you, that the scripture I heard in my heart tonight when I saw those apples in the bowl in my house was,”Like apples of gold, in settings of silver, is a word spoken in the right circumstances at the right time.” Proverbs 25:11

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Mercy is a Sword…

I had just turned left onto Concord Road off of Nolensville Pike when; from a distance, I saw the car pulled over on the shoulder of the road. I was late for work because, of course, I had made what I call a “drive-thru” cup of coffee, meaning a travel cup filled with coffee from my home coffee pot. For those who don’t know, “Drive-Thru” coffee is one of the staples of balanced spiritual people. Some of the other staples include pop tarts, chicken and biscuits, and large quantities of chocolate milk. These along with fried bacon and donuts are essential to make one wise. I mention this just in case anyone was wondering what contributes to my acute spiritual acumen.

Sipping on my very hot coffee with cream and enough sugar to stunt the growth of anything good in my body I, of course, rubberneck (the art of slowing down to stick one’s nose in the business of anyone unfortunate enough to be pulled over on the side of the road, yet making sure you don’t inconvenience yourself by stopping to help), to see what misfortune had befallen the motorist.I was in luck! I was able to see that the car evidently had a flat tire. Thinking to myself “what a pity” all the while thanking God it wasn’t me, I consoled myself with the thought, “oh…that person is close to all kinds of businesses or gas stations…they’ll get the help they need.”

I patted myself on the back for slowing down to show I cared, then drove on down the road. The drone of my tires against the concrete roadway and the music streaming through my truck speakers were not quite enough to drown out the inner voice trying to tell me to stop, turn around and go help. In my defense, my right hand turned up the music as Timothy Schmitt of the Eagles sang, “I Can’t Tell You Why” and I sang louder too. Reaching for my perfectly balanced coffee, I tried lifting it by the lid, and the lid came off…coffee spilling all over my spiritually balanced front carpeting and partially ruining my chicken and biscuits.

Praise did not emanate from my pie hole. I was ticked off that I had done something so stupid and just as I had pulled over to sop up the creamy, sugary mess, out my driver’s side window I saw people rubbernecking ME! That’s when the inner donut voice said, “How’s that feel?” “How does it feel to need help and people just pass by?”

Rebuking Satan and continuing to clean my carpet, I had to get out of my nice comfortable truck cab to walk over to the other side of my truck to get some shop towels out of my back seat to finish cleaning up the mess. Again, out of the corner of my eye, I saw people slowing down to look at my misfortune, only to gun it when I made eye contact. I realized at that moment that; as a stranded driver, looking at someone on the side of the road and saying ‘Bummer” did not help them at all. In fact, It was at that exact moment that I wouldn’t have given a rip about how good someone prayed for me if i had really needed some help…and then, I remembered the person with the flat tire.

“No,” I said out loud. “I am not the archangel of roadside repair…life happens and that sometimes stinks!” I said to no one sitting there. This soliloquy happened in three seconds. I busily wadded up the soaked paper towels and threw them in my truck bed under some cardboard so they wouldn’t fly away. Getting back into the driver’s seat, I looked into the rear-view mirror to make sure no one was nearby when I pulled back into the road. As I looked, I realized that all of the spilling and cleaning and inner voice resisting had taken place only about 50 yards past the person with the flat tire.

I sat looking at that car in my rear-view mirror for almost a minute. This was a pivotal moment. Did you know that dread almost always precedes me moving in obedience? Yes, DREAD. It’s because serving others is not convenient and not a natural impulse. Self-sacrifice …crawling up on the altar and willingly laying down our lives… quite simply sucks. There, I said it. Having mercy has to cost you something and oh, how my flesh hates it. The greater the mercy, the higher the value of it impacting a life. Believe it or not, I NEVER considered at that moment whether this would make a good story! I usually try running from stories far more than I ever live them!

My eyelids closed and then I looked forlornly at my empty silver “Drive-Thru” coffee cup sitting there from my formerly favorite big box store. I then remembered something I wrote last summer. “Inconvenience is one of God’s greatest servants.” This means to me that nine out of ten times whenever I have to do something that requires self-sacrifice it is usually God’s Spirit saying, “What are you going to do?” I then have a choice.

Going against the direction of traffic, I reluctantly backed up closer to the car with the flat tire. Again looking in the rear-view mirror and making sure it was safe to get out of my truck, I opened the door and walked toward the person sitting in the car.

I waved and stood back so they would know I was safe and shouted, “Are you okay?” The guy in the car rolled down his window and said, “Yeah I’m good!” I was relieved…”Hey, I said to my self, he’s good…I can leave!”My natural inclination would have been to say, “Okay man…just checking!” My conscience assuaged, I could now walk away with confidence knowing I had listened and obeyed.

Only I didn’t say “Okay man…just checking!” No. Instead of escaping, my mouth opened again…against my will. “You have a jack? Is someone on their way?” The guy looked miffed. “No, but I don’t need your help” he yelled back. I scrunched my face into that “What do you mean?” look and walked closer to his window. Did I hear him correctly? I asked him, “Did you say no you don’t have a jack and no one is coming?” “he nodded to the affirmative. He didn’t have his phone in his hand so I wondered what I should do. Not knowing where my jack was located on my truck, (it’s under the back seat I discovered), I again walked closer and asked, “What are you going to do?”

He scowled at me. “I said I don’t need your help!” he said; this time forcefully. I shook my head to indicate I understood. I then realized, that he DID have a spare and, that he DID have a jack…but he didn’t know how to change his tire! He was about thirty years old. I felt an inner nudge and said, “Hey, I’m all dressed in construction clothes, it doesn’t matter if I get dirty…want me to get your jack and tire out of your trunk?” It looked like he sighed like, “oh man, I don’t need the humiliation of you discovering I don’t know how to change my tire.”

Without waiting for him to answer I said, “Pop your trunk!” and began walking to the rear of his car.The trunk popped open. He then got out of his car and walked back to where I was in order to see what I was doing. “Man, you don’t have to do this…I can figure this out!” he said in an agitated way. I nodded without making eye contact. “I know you can…so I’ll just get it out and set it up and let you do it…that way you don’t get all dirty.”

I then chanced a look at him. His hands were on his hips and he then said, “Oh, THAT’S where the jack is! I tried to make a joke, saying that carmakers tried to hide the jack from car owners and finally got a little chuckle out of him.I set up the jack and his little “donut” tire and set it next to the side of the car. He wanted to save face…I could tell that right away because, in all honesty, he didn’t know how to use, or where to use the jack. I just continued finding the lift point near the rear tire for the jack, placed it under, and began to lift the back of the car.

“Is the emergency brake on?” I asked. He looked at me and said, “Oh, yeah, I guess that’s a good idea.”During all of this, I continued loosening the lug nuts, then lifting the car. He was taking mental notes. Again he said, “you didn’t have to stop…I could have figured this out!” I smiled…and the voice inside said, “Mercy is gentle…be gentle.” “I know you could have”, I said as I removed the flat tire. This was when I realized that being shown mercy, for the lost, is embarrassing and frightening.

For those who live in this world who believe they are the captains of their own souls, the fruits of the Holy Spirit are a threat to them. I continued silently without acknowledging the guy at all. I replaced the flat in his trunk and placed his jack and tire tools in the trunk as well. I wiped my hands on my jeans. I didn’t offer my hand to shake or say, “There you go!” I just began walking back to my truck.

The guy was silent until I was almost to my truck. He then used the last weapon he had in his arsenal. “Hey man, I can pay you…hold on!” I swiveled and shouted, “Stop…wait a minute!” I walked back toward him so he wouldn’t reach into his car to get money. I finally said it out loud.

“Okay, I don’t want your money…just like you didn’t want my help.” That slammed the door on that. He stood looking vulnerable. I said, “Dude, you may not want to hear this, but God saw you on the side of the road this morning and had someone stop to help in order to show you He is There and Real. That is the only reason I stopped…THE ONLY reason I stopped.”

The guy blinked and looked directly at me. “I don’t believe in God,” he said. Unshaken I said, “I know that…that’s why you were shown mercy…God will never stop showing you He cares until you finally give up and acknowledge Him or slam the door forever!” I was surprised by the force with which I said it. I turned around and walked back toward my truck.

Getting back into the cab, I was looking in the rear-view mirror to check the road and to merge back into traffic. My truck smelled like dark roast with cream and sugar. I felt no compunction, no urge to go read him the “Four Spiritual laws” or give him a Bible or give him my email or blogsite. That would have lessened the point.

The Fruits of the Holy Spirit are lethal firepower to pride, arrogance and self-sufficiency. They are the assassins of the lie of the enemy that “You are the captain of your own fate.” Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are the tangible evidence of Christian morality still alive in the world and they kick pagan philosophy brutally to the curb.

The Fruits of the Holy Spirit is the aroma of a country that the lost do not know. Their presence on the earth is both enticing and heightens their senses to the fact that there is a land they do not know or understand…and it scares them. And that is good. Mercy, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are foreign qualities to this world.

People on the earth who do not know Jesus understand, Patriotism, courage, and forbearance…because these can possibly be conjured up by the law of natural selection and humanism. But Love? Mercy? …These gifts; when demonstrated to this generation, is like those who stood on the sands of Kitty Hawk and watched the first demonstration of the laws of drag and lift overcoming the laws of gravity. Both exhilarating and fearful. It makes them question what ELSE do they not know…what ELSE is there beyond their own mortal experience. God gives a slide show to the inhabitants of the earth on the screen of His people…if they are willing to be inconvenienced.

We belong to a country far away, Whose King is loving and compassionate, and we speak a language that is foreign to the inhabitants of this earth. We are ambassadors of a Sovereign who bids us to crawl upon the altar of sacrifice in order to demonstrate what his Kingdom is all about. Take up your cross…show the passport of your citizenship to that faraway Kingdom and show the earth that Jesus is still looking for them…Still looking.

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When God goes Fishing

I’ve been pretty silent for a while, not writing much due to moving into our new home. There are lots of things to keep us busy, from painting, tiling and moving around the furniture just to amuse ourselves.  From time to time, Mary Ann asks me to move the sofa just so she knows I can still do it. She’s a good wife.

However, late August has brought about a new rhythm of its own. I have succumbed to the desire to change my scenery and have returned to working with my partner Matt at our home renovation biz. Matt says good help is hard to find and he said it out loud within earshot, so I am guessing he is hinting to me to get busy and hang that drywall! Fare thee well favorite big box store!

Today however, I had just arrived at the Williamson County Dump and Recycle Center to throw out a bunch of old drywall and carpet we had pulled up from a customers home. These places are convenient Not only can you throw away old paint, tires and worn out batteries, but they have several compactors that will crush trash, metal and even a trailer for old mattresses. I’m telling you this is “Trash-o-Rama!” Williamson County residents can take one full truck load a day…A DAY mind you and it is all paid for in your handy dandy 9.75% sliding tax scale. Tennessee has no State tax and, believe me, it’s like passing a peach pit  at the cash register when you’re paying 9.75% on EVERY SINGLE PURCHASE. However…I digress.

Today while dumping lots of garbage into the compactor, a younger couple in their mid to late twenties stood on the opposite side of the compactor and were throwing their trash into the dumpster as well. They were young…and in love…Ahhh Youth! And they were quite proud of the fact that he had just bought her a diamond the size of Rhode Island as an engagement ring. She was all of 80 pounds soaking wet and without a doubt she was bigger than he was. She was flashing that piece of ice for all of us trash people to see. In all honesty, she should have been walking with an armed guard. It was beautiful and…well…

She was thrusting out her left hand for the people on my side of the trash compactor to see when two things happened exactly at the same time. The compactor was full, Buford, the compactor operator was too busy looking at her ring when he pushed the yellow button that started the compactor moving forward. The thing was full to the brim with all kinds of goodies… 2×4’s, banana peels, some rotten eggs, some used baby diapers, (Cruisers…on sale 150 pack for 12.99) oil filters, two or three rolls of fiberglass, an old floor lamp, a box of broken fluorescent bulbs and bags and bags of trash. The second thing that happened was that her ring went flying off into the trash compactor!

It slipped in between some oil filters and believe it or not I heard it hit the bottom of the steel compactor floor.  The thing was mauling and had already begun to break some boxes and bags open…one of them exploded with a “splash” as it went everywhere. The young woman looked horrified and screamed. Buford pushed the emergency stop but things were mashed in so tight after some fretting and crying …and that was Buford doing the fretting and crying, there was NO WAY to reverse the compactor. Everything ground to a halt and six of us stood staring at the compactor. The woman’s fiancé was really mad…which; considering that a diamond the size of a softball had just gone into a trash compactor, I guess made sense. Two people drove off and me, Buford the woman and her red faced fiancé stood there looking.  

What to do…what to do?

I asked Buford if the compactor had a pull out tray underneath to which he answered no. I, of course had no idea of what to do. So, I did the only thing one does in these situations…I asked the Lord what to do. The woman was hysterical at this point. She knew her ring was down in that compactor that compressed garbage up to 10,000 lbs. In view of her options, she could allow the compressor to go through it’s crushing and hop into the dumpster to see if it survived the onslaught or…well, that was it…it was the only option.

I asked her if I could pray and she said, “Anything, do anything!!! I want my ring! So I did. “Lord, I ask you to protect that ring and not let it get crushed.” She ordered Buford to start the compactor which, now had a line of cars waiting to dump things into it. Buford pushed the button. The sound of crunching, creaking, splitting wood and squishy garbage being compacted was sickening to hear. I kept hoping that thing was insured.

After the piston returned to it’s starting spot, I asked Buford to turn off the compactor for a moment. Yes…into the dumpster I dove; feet first however…let’s not get crazy. Buford handed me his flash light and I scoured the bottom of that dumpster. I got a sick feeling that didn’t come from the used diaper material on the side of the dumpster. I thought, “Oh no Lord, her ring…” and then…

Out of the corner of my eye, there, right up against a bunch of garbage and eggshells, gleamed her diamond ring…perfectly intact!

I reached down, asked Buford if he had a rag and to my surprise he handed me an alcohol wipe. I gave it a quick once over. THERE WAS NOT A SINGLE SCRATCH ON THE GOLD NOR WAS THE BAND EVEN BENT!

I handed the ring over to the woman and she shrieked with joy! They asked me if I wanted money as a reward. I told her, as I climbed out of the dumpster the only thing that came to my mind…and believe me, I wasn’t trying to be spiritual.

I said, “Store up for yourself riches in heaven where thief cannot steal nor moth destroy…you can do that for me!” They helped me out of the dumpster and she confided that she had been a lapsed Catholic for twelve years. “but “ she said, “I have to go and confess my sins.” Being a former Catholic myself, I told her, “God is available right now…you don’t have to go to the confessional.” She teared up and told me God could never forgive her. Her fiancé stood stone cold silent as she told me she had aborted a baby and could never be forgiven for that. That’s when Buford became my “mighty man of God” . Buford pulled out a Bible from a stack of three on his shelf he had pulled out of the trash from various people. He underlined the Scriptures for her and was very bold.

“Darlin’ this man has jumped into a dumpster for you but dat don’t mean nuthin’ compared to whut Jesus dun fer ya. He ain’t hangin’ on no crucifix…Jesus is Alive pumpkin….ALIVE I tell you!”  Without asking, Buford put up the “This lane closed” sign and told her Jesus “dun come to the trash bin today to find you!”. My eyes teared up. So did hers and her fiancé’s. Ole Buford prayed for her and her man. I told her God forgives everything and right there…in the compactor aisle number #2 at the Williamson County Recycling Center, The woman and her fiancé prayed the sinner’s prayer. Buford, BOLD man of faith, who knew why he was there,  he put his hand in the devil’s face and pushed him out of the way. In all honesty, no preacher in thirty years has had that kind of anointing on him. He was the preacher, I just got to be there.

After giving them a tract from  his church, we prayed again and they went their way.  Buford winked at me and said, “Hey my man, we dun did team ministry and I don’t even know yore name!” I gave Buford a big hug and said, “Not important Buford, but thank you for your boldness and authority!” Buford smiled and said, “The minute you spoke Scripture to dat couple, I knowed dat God decided to go fishin’ in the dump today…you were the hook and the bait…and I got to reel them in!”

There is nothing God won’t do to reach people. Be ready to jump into a dumpster. You never know what is going to happen. Thank God. Being the hook and bait never felt so good!

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Almost Messed Up…

I meet a lot of different people in my job at my favorite big box hardware store. It can be easy to go to two extremes for me… socialize with all of the people who come into the store and engage them in conversation which, would be MY choice or, focus on my work and consider the non stop requests for assistance as an Indiana sweat bee circling my head as I try to swat them.

You’re probably thinking if I don’t like the job to move on, but, I genuinely DO love people and I think of the job as the nuisance and the people like the bright spot in my day. Except for today it was challenging.

I was up on a ladder today doing inventory on some chandeliers that are hung up on the lighting aisle when the guy approached my ladder to ask me for help. I had heard him walking down the aisle long before he got to me…cursing and talking to someone on his phone. It was a good thing I heard him before he got there, because I had a feeling there was going to be trouble, so I held on to the ladder as his voice approached.

Arriving at the location where I was perched; instead of saying “excuse me!” he decided to shake the ladder at its base and shout “HEY!” in order to get my attention. At 62, being over 8 feet off the ground with concrete as the floor, the prospect of falling is not a good one. I was a gymnast as a kid at 18 but there would be no graceful dismount from this height and…by the way that was 42 years ago!

Holding on tightly, I turned my head in his direction and scowled. I was not inclined to be friendly to a 40 something guy who was cavalier with my safety. Instead of “What can I do for you?” I came down the ladder and stood face to face with him. In my younger and more foolish days, I would have thrown down…and job be damned, but I looked at him in the eyes and heard the quiet voice inside say, “self-control Doug…self-control…” so I said, “How can I help sir?”

Expletives came pouring out of his mouth…”No employees anywhere…#@%&!…I need help!” My inner smart ass said, “you sure do dude!” (Sorry readers, just being authentic.) Asking him what he was looking for, he stated the item he needed, which; just happened to be directly behind him. I leaned to his left and fetched the item of the shelf behind him and handed it to him. He cursed again…this time, evidently with joy (cursing with joy?), and said: “You must be Mr. Big Box Store himself” (no he didn’t say “Big Box”, he named the store). I asked if that was all he needed and he said “Yeah, that’s it…I guess you can scurry up your ladder and resume dusting!” As he turned to leave he got a phone call and began cursing again…walking toward the checkout.

In my experience, every time I have run into someone with a big temper, there has almost always been an opportunity to either get angry with them or just move in the opposite spirit. You’ll remember if you read my posts that I once was approached while sitting in the cab of my truck at a stoplight by a guy with a clenched fist wanting to hit me because I was playing “Midnight Train to Georgia” in my truck and he thought I was smiling at his girlfriend to flirt with her. When I listened patiently to him, he relaxed and ended up apologizing. Today, I was grateful I kept my cool because I can be get irked to the point of just giving it right back to a smart mouth. I really have to use self-control.

As the man was walking out, it was time for lunch and I was going to the convenience store right in front of the Big Box store to get a big bottle of water. As I walked out of the convenience store with my water, I heard a guy cursing and looked up and saw the same guy kicking the tire of his car, and slamming the car door to open the hood of his car. His pinpoint cotton French cuffs had gotten dirt on them as he tried to twist the cable on his battery. Evidently, his battery was dead. Guess who he was parked next to?

ME.

This past Christmas I had gifted myself a battery jumper, that I carry in my back seat in my truck. Without asking permission, and seeing he was trapped in a prison of anger, I walked to my truck right next to him. He looked at me, wondering what I was doing out next to HIS car and watched to make sure I didn’t ding his car door with my truck door. He cursed again, this time slamming his fist down on the plastic cowl that was over his engine.

I took my jumper box, put it lightly on his fender, attached the jumper cables and said, “Go turn your key” All this time he had just looked at me…not saying a word. His car started immediately. Getting out of his car, he looked at me smiling and said, “You must be a F@#%$! Angel dude!” I hate to say it, but I didn’t even acknowledge his comment with a look, I just unhooked the jumper box from his car and walked back to my truck to put it away.

As I closed my door, I looked at him and he was quietly watching me. As I walked away, he shouted, “Hey, let me give you some money!” I finally looked at him and said, “You are a very angry man…and you were shown a lot of mercy just now…you need to get to the bottom of your anger. He walked toward me…and I figured, “Well Doug, you are going to get hit!” Instead he said, “My wife left me…and took my 14-year-old daughter…” Now that my paradigm was changed, I told him, “The very God you curse jumped your car today…and instead of cursing him, He can redeem your situation.” I turned and walked away.

After arriving back in the store, I looked behind me and he sat quietly at the steering wheel of his car…just staring out of the windshield.

This is why the Lord gave us the Fruit of the Spirit…which I used very poorly, because I admit it, I was ticked off at this guy. But the Lord will use whatever meager offering we have to reach the dying in this world. Moving in compassion is often accompanied by taking risks…

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The Hearts of the Fathers…

My children all live in different states. My eldest who today is 38, lives in Fairfax Virginia, my daughter, in the Queen City, Cincinnati, and my youngest son, on the west coast in Oregon. Suffice it to say that, I miss my children on holidays and well, every day along with my grandchildren.

For those of you who are separated by distance from your loved ones, the ties that bind grow stronger over the holidays. Living in the Volunteer State, I admit to not seeing my children often and due to work, both mine and theirs, visits have to be planned in advance. Those of you in the same situation as I, will understand when I say that seeing other families together fans the flames of familial love and makes the absence of my family even harder to bear at times.

Such was yesterday. I had gone to our neighborhood grocery to pick up some things and had just retrieved a cart (a buggy for those from the South…”No Ninos en la canasta!” for my Hispanic friends) and was walking into the produce aisle when I saw her.

The little girl with her mother was almost an exact copy of my granddaughter Genevieve. She had a tiny shopping cart that the grocery provides for children to walk alongside their parents to “play” shop. Being the softie that I am, I stood back and watched as she would place an apple in her cart when her mother would stop to look at apples, and would clap when the auto sprinklers came on in the produce department to water the veggies. My heart grew heavy with missing my little grand daughter and as they passed near by me, I looked at the little girl and into her cart.

“My goodness, you are being such a big helper to your mommy” I said looking her mother in the eye to make sure she knew I was a grandfather trying to be kind. She smiled broadly. “Oh yes” she said,  “She is my big helper!” I got down on her level and asked her, “do you think you have enough room in your cart for cookies…I’m sure your mommy needs your help with that…” I looked winking at her mommy who nodded. I produced two dollars and handed them to the little girl, who looked at her mother who said, “it’s okay sweetie, you can take it.”

These days with television news reporting atrocities of people kidnapping children and the reality that we live in a perverted and dangerous world, it was a refreshing thing that this mother understood I was simply trying to be kind. As I looked behind the mother, there; standing by her side was an older woman, who I presumed to be either her mother or mother-in-law. The older woman made eye contact with me, looking me over carefully. When my eyes met hers, a smile broke out on her face. She noticed my “Northern” accent, (which is no accent at all) and said, “You must be missing your grandchildren.”

Admittedly, I confessed to her, “it’s been too long…I have 5 that live on the coasts but I have 3 locally that get hugged a lot!” She asked about my grandchildren and I told her the names and ages of each one…a ritual that grandparents understand. Our encounter lasted no more than two minutes at the most, and probably less, then we all moved on to do our shopping. I waved goodbye to the little girl and walked on.

I gathered all the things I had been sent to purchase and got in line at the checkout. It was crowded for a Saturday evening, but I needed to get home for the big Titans game.

After paying and beginning to walk away, I heard the staccato sounds of little feet running toward me and the mother saying, “Sir?” I turned around to seeing the little girl running toward me…grandmother in tow. I knelt down and she gave me a hug and held out for me a chocolate chip cookie. I got a little misty I have to admit and that’s when the daughter spoke up.

“Sir, I wanted to thank you for your kindness…I am often so cautious about strangers” she paused looking at me to make sure I wasn’t offended. I nodded in agreement and said, “We live in a different world than when I grew up.” I said. Her mother, close to my age nodded. The daughter said, “I am always watching when my children are in public for fear of the stories that I have heard on the news…but…” she paused looking down at her daughter. “I wanted to thank you for renewing my trust in strangers…my little one here told me when you walked away, ‘He is somebody’s grandpa and his grandchildren are looking for him… do you think he is lost?”

The young mother smiled at me and said, “Gretchen, my daughter; just wanted you to know she doesn’t want you to be sad.” Well, of course I became a tearful mess. The mother said, “Wherever your children and grandchildren are…they should know you are a good grandpa…and have restored the faith of this cautious millennial in others.” At that the young mother, the older mother and little Gretchen gave me a hug. I melted. I thanked them for the kindness of saying something and heard little Gretchen say, as I walked out the door say to her mommy, “Maybe we should go looking for his grandchildren!”

I got into my car and just sat for a minute. I thought about my son turning 38 years old today…I thought about my daughter in Cincinnati and my son and his family on the West Coast… and said out loud, “How I miss you!” I started the car and said a prayer, “Lord, watch over my family tonight…”. I heard the Lord say, as I drove out of the parking lot and toward home, “Little Gretchen was your reminder that I always have you on my mind…and that I am watching over them.”

To grandparents everywhere…hold them all tightly…and kiss those precious little heads every chance you get. And, for young families everywhere, be mindful that kindnesses from older people toward their children may simply be the heart of the Father, reaching out to the children they miss. Thanks for the cookie…and especially the hug little Gretchen, and hugs to my five grandchildren who are not near me tonight…