Somewhere in a truck, God showed up…

As an encourager, it is particularly hard when I get depressed. In fact, I have discovered the primary form of spiritual warfare against me is for the enemy of my soul to remind me of past failures, and whisper how stupid and worthless I am. God knows I have made some real mistakes in my life, and it appears that a real stronghold over me in particular, is to foolishly leave memories of those failures lying around on the floor for the enemy to pick up and use against me whenever he wants.

 Yesterday was one of those days. The air was so thick yesterday I could barely breathe…it was halfway through the morning before I finally realized that I had slipped into depression. I pulled into the parking lot of a Barnes and Noble under a big shade tree and just sat there…being reminded by memories and the Father of Lies what a loser I was. Ever have a day like that? A day when the clouds put their heads on the ground and the grayness seeps into your soul and makes you want to go home and pull the sheets up over your head and hide in bed? That was yesterday.

As I sat in my truck, of course, being a ENFP (extrovert, intuitive, feeling perceiver) from the Myers-Briggs studies, I just began to weep. Most men don’t act like me…they just buck up and tighten that bolt or bail that hay, but not me boy…I cry like a baby. Sitting under that shade tree, I was reminded of Jonah, the prophet who became depressed after being belched out of the mouth of the great fish and sitting in the shade of the big plant that grew up next to him. I spoke to friend on the phone and felt badly that I had just thrown up all over him. He was gracious to me and we said goodbye.

I asked the Lord, “What is going on?” in a really pathetic voice. I think the Lord kind of sat there in the passenger seat of my truck and was listening compassionately, but I sensed He had that, “You’ve been here before Doug” look on His face. He asked me “So what did you do the last time you got down like this?” I didn’t want to answer Him, cause I hated the answer. Really, I hated the answer! I looked up, and said, “I sang to you”.

My relationship with God is not a normal one I think. I sense the Lord as both a Father and a friend, and this smirk kind of comes on His face and He says…”okay…so whatcha gonna do this time?’ I hated the answer…just hated it, cause I wanted… actually WANTED a pity party, and He simply wasn’t gonna throw me one. And so…

I started singing. In times like these I want to change the words of the praise song. Instead of “In my life Lord, be glorified, be glorified” I wanted to sing, “End my life Lord, here in my truck….here in my truck”. But I didn’t… I just sang simple little ditties, and old ones…”We bring the sacrifice of praise, into the house of the Lord…” “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised.” Man, let me tell you, I felt like each word weighed a thousand pounds trying to get them out of my mouth. That’s the point of depression see…to keep you in bondage to depression by focusing on yourself instead of Jesus.

About three songs in, something happened. As my pitiful praise was rising to the Throne of God, I began to raise my hands and sang louder. A tangible presence, like something coiled around my neck loosened. The blood began to flow again throughout my body…I had done spiritual warfare and the serpent couldn’t choke me…he tried but he couldn’t do it. And then…I began to laugh. I began to laugh like a fool. Listen, don’t judge me friends…depression is a spiritual attack and I felt those coils release my throat. It was so refreshing to see the world with hopeful eyes again.

I walked into the Barnes and Noble and got some coffee, because being set free from demonic oppression and getting a good caffeine buzz go hand in hand.

As I sipped my bold coffee with a shot of espresso and enough sugar to kill a small pony, I walked through the children’s book section looking at where my children’s book would soon be on the shelf and I was singing very very softly, the same praise songs I had been singing in my truck. From behind a book shelf, a young lady’s head popped up. She had been sitting on the floor in between some shelves of books and I hadn’t noticed her.

I continued to sing softly, still looking at books and she looked up again at me and again sat down. I thought she had been reading a book to a child or something, but I was wrong.

When I came around to look at the books on her side of the bookshelves, she was sitting down with her head on her knees, and with tissues in her hand. She looked at me with tear stained eyes and just put her head back down on her knees. Of course,…being me…I spoke. “Are you okay sweetie”” (Okay, any girl my daughters age or younger, I’m calling sweetie because I was old enough to be her dad.)

She raised her eyes to me and said, “I’m sorry, I just feel so empty.”  I sat down next to her, mirroring her posture. “Why do you feel that way sweetheart?” I asked. Her eyes were welling up with tears which meant I was gonna be a goner soon because I just fall to pieces when other people are crying. “I’ve had another miscarriage…and…” her words trailed off. She had come to the children’s book section to feel close to the child she had lost. She said she had wanted to be a mother ever since she was a little girl. She had so looked forward to holding her own child, reading to her or him…hearing her child laugh at funny stories.

Without fail, I teared up too. Without a moments hesitation I put my arm around her shoulders like I would my own child and hugged her. I let her cry. She leaned on my left shoulder and shook with sobs. I did too. And it was so much a God moment that He made sure we were undisturbed. I began to sing very low, the songs I had been singing in my truck…songs of hope and praise. She calmed, her breathing slowed and she sang too. It was a holy moment…and I had almost missed it. She looked at me and said, “My parents sang that song a long time ago!” I said, “Well, me too honey, me too. It’s called the “Sacrifice of Praise”. “We sing it when we don’t want to, and God shows up.” She nodded.

I stood up and so did she. She said, “My mother had miscarriages too”. I looked at her and said, “But look…here you stand a product of her prayer.” She smiled a big smile and laughed and she made me laugh too. She hugged me and said, ‘I sure didn’t expect this today…” I asked where her husband was and she told me he was at work. I asked if her mother was nearby and she nodded yes. I told her to go and to pray with her momma. To which she said “I have already, but I think I need her today.”

As I picked up my coffee and walked toward the door to leave, I happened to glance back at the counter where she was standing in line for coffee. She glanced toward the door at me, placed her hand over her heart and nodded thank you. I did the same…thanking her.

I got into my truck, and the thought came to me how the enemy of our souls wants us to focus on ourselves so that we will miss opportunities like this. I miss being a pastor. I miss loving on people and crying with them, rejoicing with them and all that comes with it. Over the years I have gotten a little more worldly than I should have and God is correcting that without stripping me of my desire for fun…God loves fun! If you are going through a depression, let me give you the one thing I have learned. Make a sacrifice of praise to the Lord and at the very moment you want to be left alone, go find someone…anyone… and be an encouragement to them. You don’t have to be smart, know a lot of scripture or anything else that’s special. Out of our need for encouragement comes the encourager. Out of sadness comes the rejoicer, out of brokenness appears the repairer of our breach. Joy is never to be subject to despair, nor can it be. It is the sun that overpowers the darkness and that vaporizes the fog.  He meets us in a truck, and gives us His joy to spread to the world. Joy to the world…

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Do You Remember the Americans?

Two days ago, I could take it no more…I grabbed a power washer and went to my back patio, cleared it of any contents and began to spray away the dirt, mold, mildew and grime like I would like to wash away this stupid virus.

Now, in my current state of social constipation, I am anxious to talk to anyone….ANYONE. But, with no one around, the sun shining and, the light breeze blowing through my hair, I hooked up my hose to the power sprayer and began cleaning.

It began with me saying out loud to a stubborn bit of mold to yield to my power sprayer…”You get out you old poopy mold!” My imagination hasn’t changed much since I was a kid, so the mold said, “Never!!!” He even told his “mold brothers” to join hands and resist the alien invader with the hose in his hand. “This is OUR patio!” he screamed. Content to have a conversation, I resorted to my secret weapon…DECK CONCENTRATED POWER DETERGENT! Needless to say, superior technology crushed the resistance and I came out victor…but, now; once again, there wasn’t anyone to talk to.

So, since I was finished with this portion of the job and; having nothing else to do for the duration of my solitary confinement, (I admit, I’ve become depressed because I like interaction with  people), I decided to go, practice social distancing and get some plants for my back patio.

Just getting into my truck was exciting! I jumped into the cab and said “Hello” to the dashboard and all the coffee cups on my floor board. “How you guys been?” Yes, it was pathetic…but when you are staved for interaction, anthropomorphic dialogue is my only option. I had a BIG smile on my face. Looking back at that  as I write this, I could sense the three month old empty StarBucks cup was quiet and angry with me for not having visited sooner. My tool belt in the back seat was as lonely as I was and jabbered the whole way to the garden nursery.

Jumping out of my truck and trying my VERY best to practice social distancing…I walked with anticipation like a child on the midway at the county fair…itching to get on his first ride. As I rounded the corner my mouth fell open as I heard voices  over the intercom and…could it be? PEOPLE walking…but NOT ONE of them talking to each other. My inner Irish Setter wanted to jump up on everyone and say, “Hi, hi there, Hi, oh I’m so glad you’re home…hi, hi!” But, getting a grip…I held back my head and walked in to retrieve the plants…after all this is my duty right now…don’t breathe and get out quick!

Well, THAT plan worked for two steps. Standing six feet away I addressed the lady watering the lemon grass. “Hi, how are  you? Having a good day? Isn’t it nice weather? I’ll bet you love working out here in this beautiful sunshine! How is your family? Do you have enough toilet paper? What has YOUR family been doing during solitary confinement? I caught myself in mid-multiple-sentence and put my hand over my mouth. She looked at me and smiled and went back to watering. I re-grouped…”Okay…be cool, she’s just a little afraid to talk…don’t spook her…act casual!”

I picked up a plant or two and saw a lady trying to manhandle a 30 lb bag of mulch. “I’ll help you!” I said. She backed up at least 12 feet and nodded. I asked how many and believe it or not, she held up three fingers! Again…out of my mouth came, “Oh, okay three…you need three? Great, are you working outside today? What are  you planting? Does this mulch have dye in it…it’s SO black!” she stared at me like I had spoken Russian, nodded and walked away. I was puzzled. I placed my hand up in front of my mouth and checked my breath, “not minty fresh but okay”…I thought.

I gathered some knock out roses, and a lot of annuals because of their bright colors. I feel I have been sensory deprived so  I got LOTS of colors. When I was loaded up, I went to stand  in line, a perfect six feet behind the person in front of me. What does an extrovert do when no one is talking? I began to whistle. I whistled the star spangled banner, I whistled “Oh, I wanna dance with somebody…I wanna feel the heat with somebody….YEAH I wanna dance with somebody….With somebody who loves me!” Whitney would have been proud…. but it was like a dial tone in that stupid check out line!!! NOTHING.

Now I’m desperate…people, people everywhere and not a word to speak! I seriously thought about faking a faint, but realized no one would move to help me. I got to the checkout girl and began my last ditch effort for human contact. I thought to myself, “Now, careful Doug…don’t spook her…just smile and say, “Hello!”. But…NOT.

“Hi!” I’ll bet you’ve been busy today!!! (insert panting like a dog and jumping up for attention). I continued, “Now, I have two of these and one of those and four of these and six of those….” She scanned silently. She pointed at the register to tell me how much. I asked, in a vain and useless attempt how to pronounce her name she replied, “Tracy”. I had failed…There was no one to talk to.

I scowled as I walked to my truck and loaded it up.  Between three weeks ago and today something had changed and I hoped it wasn’t long lasting. It reminded me of a song by Steven Stills a long time ago.

Do You Remember the Americans?

Standin’ by a snow drift in the pale moonlight
Hitchhikin’ West on a highway at night
Tryin’ to get to Frisco, lookin’ for my girl
Here come a trucker, hope he don’t mind long curls.

I remember years ago hitchin’ this same road,
Never saw a trucker leave a man out in the cold.
“No riders” sign on the window never meant a thing,
Nowadays they just roll on lookin’ kind of mean.

Kind of makes me wonder, scratch my head and kick the snow.
Four years overseas, who are these strangers in my home?
Where are the country people, does anybody know?
Do you remember the Americans, where did they go?
Were they simply bought and sold?

Getting back on my patio at home, I admit I fell into a depression. I was not made for isolation, and none of my anthropomorphic friends could console me.

Be human my friends. We are Americans…this may seem like the worst thing that ever happened to you, but I assure you it is NOT the greatest challenge we have ever had as a nation. During war and gas crisis…during Watergate and Vietnam. Through the Depression and Dustbowl… we have endured…hardships have come and they have gone but the one thing that got us through…was that we were TOGETHER…and we were Americans.  Human kindness is more contagious than this virus…and it produces incredible results.

While you’re out there today, don’t let the news or anyone else steal your soul! SMILE at people…speak comforting words… we are not each other’s enemies! Social distance may be in order, but love and caring…reaches across boundaries that cannot separate kindred spirits. Don’t be bought and sold by fear…SING out loud, shout across the way to your neighbors…drop off a flower on their front porch!

DO YOU REMEMBER THE AMERICANS? WHERE DID THEY GO?

#AJOYFULHEARTMAKETHAMERRYCOUNTENANCE

#DONOTGIVEINTOFEAR

#DOYOUREMEMBERTHEAMERICANS

The Chicago Way…

A few decades ago, I had a friend who had a somewhat worrisome problem. He was being bullied by a kid and as these things always go, he couldn’t sleep and was becoming resistant to going to school. On a weekend; as we rode our bikes, we talked about his problem and about the kid who was bullying him.

The bully was just another kid who was a friend of mine. He wasn’t particularly bigger or smarter or more popular than my pal Randy with whom I hung out, but for some reason, what had started as making a joke at Randy’s expense, became an all-out, daily ritual of public humiliation. Because my friend Randy was from a Christian home, he did his best to understand Jesus teaching of “turning the other cheek, but not only did it NOT stop the bullying…it added fuel to the fire! The bully waxed bolder.

Randy began avoiding the usual path into school when he got off the school bus. He would get off the bus and go around to the side door and run up the stairs straight to the classroom, thereby avoiding the hallway where the bully waited daily to “cut him off at the pass” and start taunting him. After the bully found out Randy’s strategy he would go and wait in the stairwell where Randy would run and continue his bullying there. Randy started a new tactic, which; at first confused the bully. Randy began to laugh along with others when the bully would taunt him in an attempt to make it look good natured and appear that he enjoyed the abuse. In reality, Randy confided in me that the guy bullying him was eroding his self confidence so much that he hated himself for being so afraid.

I remember seeing this usually happy, funny and good-natured kid, sit sullen, eyes downcast and quiet. He began to doubt whether “turning the other cheek” was such a good idea. Randy commented that he had hoped the bully would tire of taunting him but, it had escalated from mere words, to Randy now getting pushed and shoved in the back hallways of school and being threatened. The kid who was doing the bullying, now had a “posse” and they would actually make my friend do demeaning things telling him that “if you do this, we’ll stop bullying you!” Ashamedly, with tear filled eyes, my friend confided in me that he had complied with their requests, even barking like a dog to their laughter and derision. He hated himself.

On a different weekend, after months of this kind of abusive bullying…I could only see a shell of a boy where before he had been confident and full of life. You wonder why kids take their own lives? It is because they live in a prison of self-hatred…believing that there really IS something wrong with them…and looking in the mirror they begin to hate themselves for ever complying and appeasing their tormentors.

I looked at my friend and whether or not you agree with me, I told him, to stop changing his routine, and to stand up for himself. Now…it is here in the story where I ask you, what would YOU have told him to do? Go the teachers or Principal and ask him to talk to the bully? Randy had tried that with only temporary results. Have his parents speak to the bully’s parents? He did that, but it only made the bully more aggressive and want revenge. So, Randy and I made a plan. On the next Monday morning, Randy walked boldly through the front door of the school, books in hand and looking straight ahead.

The bully began his withering attack toward my friend and this time, Randy told him to stop. The bully became angry and said, “Make me!” Randy’s right fist landed squarely on the nose of the bully. The “posse” immediately wet their pants and the bully crumpled onto the floor crying and calling for the teacher. Both were marched to the Principal’s office and…even though the principal knew the circumstances and probably thought the bully had gotten what he deserved…he punished both of them.

Randy later told me, smiling ear to ear, that it was the best punishment he had ever had!

From that day on, there was no more bullying. Randy walked with impunity down the hallway and wasn’t bothered anymore. Hs confidence returned and he later told me that he had misunderstood “turning the other cheek.” He had thought it meant to take any injustice and cower in defeat. But it didn’t mean that at all. It meant in terms of injustice concerning Christ and our faith, we were to love unconditionally and go the extra mile…but it DIDN’T mean to purchase peace by allowing evil to triumph over good!

Randy is a parable to show you the path to how we as a country have arrived at the place of being “a divided nation.” And yes, I’m fixing to give somebody a bloody nose!

For decades conservatives have bought in to an absolutely ridiculous and pacifistic philosophy that we need to “purchase” peace by not making the left “angry”. Many good hearted, clear thinking conservatives, most of whom believe that when you are maligned politically or accused maliciously that you just stand silently and take it, think that peace can be purchased by silence. The left has advanced dangerous and threatening policies that have brought our country to the precipice of disaster as a result of not being challenged.

Enter Donald Trump. Trump believes in the philosophy that Sean Connery espoused in the movie “the Untouchables”.
Connery: “You said you wanted to know how to get Capone. Do you really want to get him?”
Kevin Costner looks inquisitively—
Connery: “You see what I’m saying don’t you? What are you prepared to do?
Costner: “Everything within the law.”
Connery, “and then what are you prepared to do?” “If you open the door on these people Mr Ness, you must be prepared to go all the way! Because they won’t give up the fight until one of you is dead!”
Costner: “I want to get Capone, I don’t know how to get him!”
Connery: “Want to get Capone? Here’s how you get him… He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue…THAT’s the Chicago way! Now…do you want to do that? Are you ready to do that? I’m making you a deal… do you want this deal?”
Costner: I have sworn to put this man away with any and all legal means at my disposal, and I will do so!”
Connery: Well, the Lord hates a coward…do you know what a blood oath is Mr. Ness? (shaking hands)
Costner: Yes…
Connery: “Good… cause you just made one.”

What you are thinking right now is, “That is SO unchristian!” “How can you even THINK of going so stridently against scripture you warmonger!” Well, besides the obvious of metaphors killing and bloodshed, no it isn’t. I am not calling for bloodshed even though I will be accused of that. I am calling conservatives to not back down from a good argument! I am urging them to NOT remain silent in some ridiculous belief that by being quiet we won’t make people, “angry.” I am sick and tired of that stupid straw man. “Oh, don’t say anything that will bring an “us vs. them” argument!!! It just makes our nation divided!” In other words, just let them slander your beliefs and pass legislation without making a contradictory argument and it will show love and peace. I’m sorry, but my B.S. meter just went off!

Our forefathers fought and died in numerous wars for our freedom. Many left widows and children in the wake of fighting for our right to assemble peaceably and to bear arms. They gave their lives away to be able to protect our freedom to petition Congress for a redress of grievances. We current members of this family legacy have to understand that what used to happen with bullets and mortar rounds is now taking place with words and withering character assassination…and Christian conservatives had better use the reason and eloquence bequeathed to them by Almighty God or lose everything that our forefathers fought for!

What Trump has taught the conservatives in our country in three short years is that you never bring a knife to a gun fight. You counter every argument with the same virulence that it came at you. It doesn’t win you friends…but he doesn’t need more friends…and neither do I. What is dividing us as a nation is that we don’t have to swallow everything the left feeds us…we have refused and they don’t like it because the right has begun to “speak up.” Trump has thrown an elbow and the left has a major bloody nose and they don’t know what hit them. Like the character Howard Beale in the 1975 blockbuster “Network” “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

If you believe that any kind of uncomfortable discourse involving pointing out obvious error from the left is non-productive…you don’t in my opinion understand Christian reason. If you think that Christians cannot argue coherently in a social network and make conservative political statements that will anger the left while still loving them…you may need to study what love really is. If you feel that Patriotism is better served in silence and believe it to be a gentle quiet and loving force in society, that may be true in terms of loving unconditionally as a Christian, but it is NEVER to be silent about politics because Christianity preaches a Jesus upon whose shoulders rests the government of the nations.

While all of us possess different gifts, given by God, the one character trait we ALL have in common is courage. We can reason and argue righteous points if we are not afraid of losing friends. These days, we don’t stone prophets…we ridicule and laugh at them. We must not be afraid of speaking truth in order to pacify conditional friendships. No, politics is not necessarily the hill we want to die on… but standing for truth and opposing false ideas disguised as “compassion” and “reasonable” most certainly is.

IDEAS HAVE CONSEQUENCES…ASK ROE VS. WADE…

I am willing to throw some elbows…and I’m willing to take a few. But never, EVER mistake my desire to win you over to Christ or speak the truth of Biblical principles in government as me appeasing or opposing philosophies… because at the end of the day, according to biblical and Godly principles…right, will ALWAYS make might! And THAT is God’s way in my book!

Killing a Lion in a Pit on a Snowy Day…

He bent down on hands and knees to look closely at the tracks in the snow. Having been raised by a father who loved to hunt, Benaiah the son of Jehoida was accustomed to hunting as a boy. He had been timid at first to handle a sling, a sword and finally a spear but, with every hunt Benaiah grew more and more confident. As he matured, he grew strong and would go hunting by himself in the wilderness. As year passed into decade, his culminated experience brought him to the moment he was now accustomed to. Benaiah was no longer hunting birds or boars…he was hunting lions.

“Scripture doesn’t tell us what Benaiah was doing or where he was going when he encountered this lion. We don’t know the time of day or Benaiah’s frame of mind. But Scripture does reveal his gut reaction. And it was gutsy. It ranks as one of the most improbable reactions recorded in Scripture. Usually, when the image of a man-eating beast travels through the optical nerve and registers in the visual cortex, the brain has one over-arching message: Run away. Normal people run away from lions. They run as far and as fast as they possibly can. But lion chasers are wired differently. For the vast majority of us, the only lions we’ve ever encountered were stuffed or caged. And few of us have experienced hand-to-hand combat that forced us to fight for our lives. But try to put yourself in Benaiah’s snowshoes.

Out of the corner of his eye, Benaiah sees something crawling. I don’t know how far away the lion is—and their vision is probably obscured by falling snow and frozen breath—but there is a moment when Benaiah and the lion lock eyes. Pupils dilate. Muscles tense. Adrenaline rushes. What a Hollywood moment. Imagine watching it on the movie screen with THX surround sound. Your knuckles turn white as you grip the theater seat. Blood pressure escalates. And the entire audience anticipates what will happen next. Lion encounters tend to script the same way. Man runs away like a scaredy-cat. Lion gives chase. And king of the beasts eats manwich for lunch.

But not this time! Almost as improbable as falling up or the second hand on your watch moving counterclockwise, the lion turns tail and Benaiah gives chase. The camera films the chase at ground level. Lions can run up to thirty-five miles per hour and leap thirty feet in a single bound. Benaiah doesn’t stand a chance, but that doesn’t keep him from giving chase. Then the lion makes one critical misstep. The ground gives way beneath his five-hundred-pound frame, and he falls down a steep embankment into a snow-laden pit. For what it’s worth, I’m sure the lion landed on his feet. Lions are part of the cat genus, after all.

No one is eating popcorn at this point. Eyes are fixed on the screen. It’s the moment of truth as Benaiah approaches the pit. Almost like walking on thin ice, Benaiah measures every step. He inches up to the edge and peers into the pit. Menacing yellow eyes stare back. The entire audience is thinking the same thing: Don’t even think about it. Have you ever had one of those moments where you do something crazy and ask yourself in retrospect: What was I thinking? This had to be one of those moments for Benaiah. Who in their right mind chases lions? But Benaiah now has a moment to collect his thoughts, regain his sanity, and get a grip on reality. And the reality is this: Normal people don’t chase lions.

So Benaiah turns around and walks away. The audience breathes a collective sigh of relief. But Benaiah isn’t walking away. He’s getting a running start. There is an audible gasp from the audience as Benaiah runs at the pit and takes a flying leap of faith. The camera pans out.

You see two sets of tracks leading up to the pit’s edge. One set of footprints. One set of paw prints. Benaiah and the lion disappear into the recesses of the pit. The view is obscured to keep it PG-13. And for a few critical moments, the audience is left with just the THX soundtrack. A deafening roar echoes in the cavernous pit. A bloodcurdling battle cry pierces the soul. Then dead silence. Freeze-frame. Everybody in the theater expects to see a lion shake its mane and strut out of the pit. But after a few agonizing moments of suspense, the shadow of a human form appears as Benaiah climbs out of the pit. The blood from his wounds drips on the freshly fallen snow. Claw marks crisscross his face and spear arm. But Benaiah wins one of the most improbable victories recorded in the pages of Scripture.”1

When I was a young man I had to look for a job after leaving college with an injury. I recall looking in all kinds of places and in a strange turn of events I ended up selling waterless cookware door to door along with some pretty bullet proof Chinaware. Now I want you to imagine a guy showing up at your door toting a suitcase. You open your door and there stands a young guy with a suitcase in his left hand and he says, “Hello, My name is….. and I am here to show you the blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah….SLAM! Yeah, that’s pretty much the way that went.

I went to restaurants, homes, churches, civic clubs, and even talked to secretaries at their desks. I would look for young women with engagement rings on their fingers in order to ask them if they had anything in their “hope” Chests except for “Hope”. (yeah, I used that line…not effective!!) This as you may imagine was a tough sell. I mean…TOUGH. Trying to sell something that people could buy at any time much less expensively than for what I could sell it to them. Imagine trying to sell ice in Antarctica. That was kind of like what I was doing. Yes, my manager would tell me I wasn’t selling “waterless cookware” I was selling cooking in half the time! I tried to remember that when over 100 doors would slam in my face.

While that may sound pathetic (and…it was), there was a preparation taking place that I didn’t understand. I was hunting small game. The very act of taking on an absurd job was an indication to God that I was willing to do anything in order to succeed. There is a powerful motivation placed into the heart of every young person, man or woman, that wants to do something meaningful. It is a sense of destiny. We even say to ourselves, “I want to do something to change the world!” Perhaps you know what I am about to say intuitively, but, great opportunities are almost always preceded by small, absurd opportunities that no one is lining up to do. I should have known when I showed up to interview for that job that it maybe wasn’t the greatest opportunity when the receptionist was sitting in an empty office at a small desk near the railroad tracks in my hometown. Not a lot of competition for this job.

Many people think that REAL spiritual learning takes place in church. THAT my friends, is a serious error. This is what has happened to the church. Many Christians have divorced true opportunities for practicing spirituality for a weekly visit to Bedtime Baptist. The majority of our spiritual training takes place outside of the cushy, hug loving, hand lifting Sunday go-to meeting church. I will go as far as to say, Sunday meetings; as important and scriptural as they are, (Pastors who read this, I DO encourage all Christians to attend church so don’t start ragging on me here,) are only a tiny percentage of the training we need in order to be effective for God’s Kingdom here in the earth.


The REAL training we experience takes place in the opportunities that God provides during our week when we must show unconditional love to people who are not so lovely. Being patient when co-workers treat you with contempt, working hard during work hours and not cheating the employer when it would be easy to do so, taking only the thirty minutes or hour for lunch instead of taking an hour and a half. These little “insignificant” events are the training God uses to find those who will be faithful in the small things when He is looking for someone to use in a meaningful way in the lives of others.

If you have ears to hear what I am about to say, God was trying to see if you and I; like Benaiah, would hunt down the insignificant opportunities he has brought across our paths to determine what we were made of. My friends Bob Perry and Bill Bennot began the Nashville House of Prayer in Bill Bennot’s garage almost fifteen years before God allowed Bob to step onto Air Force One to pray over the Presidents plane. Hidden gold is almost always disguised as trivial tasks to check our motivation. Bill and his wife Connie oversee one of the most influential churches in South Africa today. Small game hunters at first turned Lion killers!

The point is, if we are willing to be faithful in small and even might I say, dead end places in order to obey God, God will and can reward that boldness by giving us world changing and life changing assignments. Being successful in God’s economy has nothing to do with your professional delivery of a sales pitch and everything to do with being bold enough to knock on the door. In my case, back in the day of door to door pots and pan sales, I viewed life as a polka. I was a 90 pound weakling and I was dancing with an 800 pound partner. I needed to move fast and stay out of the way! But I WAS willing to dance…and THAT is what God was waiting to see!

In his book “If Only”, Dr. Neal Roese makes a fascinating distinction between two types of regret: regrets of action and regrets of inaction. A regret of action is “wishing you hadn’t done something.” In theological terms, it’s called a sin of commission. A regret of inaction is “wishing you HAD done something.” It’s called a sin of omission”.

In terms of regrets of action, there are quite a few things I truly regret doing in my youth. But in terms of regrets of “inaction”, I have very few. It’s because I disovered even in failure that God uses every single triumph and failure to bring us to the moment of our greatest tests. I highly recommend the book, “Killing a Lion in a Pit on a Snowy Day” by Mark Batterson. It’s old, but it’s message is timeless.

Jesus wants to heal the sick, the brokenhearted and proclaim the favorable year of the Lord through us. He wants to use you in words of knowledge, and wisdom, and yes, even raising the dead. He is watching to see who will do the small game hunting, so that; when the lions need to be chased, there will be thousands of us ready to run toward the pit to slay the lions of our generation. Thank you to my “lion Hunters” of the faith, Connie Bennot and Bill Bennot, Bob Perry, Nick Pappis and Patricia Pappis, Bob Weiner and Rose Russell Weiner, and the dozens of men and women who; without a thought, jumped into the pit with lions and came out victorious.

[1] Killing a Lion in a Pit on a Snowy Day Mark Batterson © Multnomah Press 1993-2002 All Rights Reserved [2] Ibid

Charming the Cobra…

Titillation is the feeling we experience when actively seeking forbidden pleasure. It’s is the anticipation of a tactile reaction that can only be experienced when; we have given ourselves over to a force that could easily destroy us, yet: somehow, we escape unharmed. Seeking the thrills with none of the consequences.

As a foolish teen, my brothers and friends tempted traffic as we would run across I-65 and hide in the median and then race back over the interstate where our friends waited and would cheer our “courage”. It is amazing a semi-tractor trailer didn’t crush us into a grease spot on the highway, but the “high” one felt from cheating death was undeniable. Our pulse quickened, my eyes became alert and it is the only way that I could explain what it was like to do a mind-altering drug. It is an appropriate metaphor, drugs and running in front of semi-tractor trailers.

No doubt if you watch any type of dangerous sport, auto racing, motocross, skydiving, bungee jumping etc. you will see people who; without exception have become hooked on the thrill of cheating death. I don’t judge these people, but I realize that the need for excitement, even danger, is ever-present and actively sought for by many. In many ways, those who seek the elixir of thrills are very much like those who charm cobras
.

Even though cobras do not possess the ability to hear the music charmer, they are nonetheless hypnotized by the pungi that the charmer waves in front of the serpent. While it is illegal these days in India and across eastern Asians countries, earlier charmers in decades gone by, placed their lives in danger in order to charm a cobra for payment. The cobra considers the pungi as a predator and follows the pungi closely. The performance before a crowd gives the spectators the experience of danger and they pay the charmer handsomely for his/her courage, but many times it is a sham. Most charmers have pulled the fangs or sewn the cobras mouth shut so that only it’s tongue protrudes.

These days, the lust for a thrill causes us to seek cobra holes that we know are dangerous, but where the stakes and odds seemingly lean in our favor. Many don’t consider what I am going to describe as dangerous at all…but they are filled with venom and their bite will result in death as surely as the cobras. I am not addressing those who are of the world and do not believe or follow Christianity… I am speaking of Christians.

For those who have promised to give Jesus control of their lives and then have become enslaved to playing around the cobra hole of immorality and sensuality, confusion comes quickly and who we are in the sight of God is no longer clear. The serpent is coming to strike and we cry out for God to deliver us, all the while, mowing and clearing the path to get to the cobra hole easier. We become self-deceived as we begin to convince ourselves that God understands our weakness and makes allowances for it. But He does not. The construct of being able to live in sin while following Jesus is just that… a construct, and mental image that goes directly against the Word of God.

They start innocently enough. A casual look at the skirt in the next cubicle. Imagining that he understands you better than your husband and beginning to “admire” the man your co-worker appears to be. It begins with allowing your mind to wander so close to the cobra hole of an affair that you begin to obsess about it…and before long…as a man thinks…so is he. That’s because in humans there are two creations…the first what we construct in our minds, like an architect; and then, building the house. Speculation becomes the drawing board upon which we bring the abstract into reality…where we create from a mere thought the cobra hole that summons us to come near.

For the first few visits, the hole appears abandoned with no serpent in sight. This is the bait with any of the cobra holes we play around…adultery, pornography, deception, revenge. As soon as one has worn a trail to the cobra hole, whatever it may be, the trap snaps shut! “They promise freedom, but they themselves are slaves of sin and corruption. For you are a slave to whatever controls you.” 2 Peter 2:19 New Living Translation. The New American Standard Bible says it in a different way…” for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved..”

For those who have promised to give Jesus control of their lives and then have become enslaved to playing around the cobra hole of immorality and sensuality, confusion comes quickly and who we are in the sight of God is no longer clear. The serpent is coming to strike and we cry out for God to deliver us, all the while, mowing and clearing the path to get to the cobra hole easier. We become self-deceived as begin to convince ourselves that God understands our weakness and makes allowances for it. But He does not. The construct of being able to live in sin while following Jesus is a just that… a construct, and mental image that goes directly against the Word of God.

Let me tell you the consequences I received from playing around those cobra holes.

I used to live as a missionary and pastor. I traveled to foreign countries and speak two foreign languages. I used to sing ( yes, my fellow classmates in Columbus, I was so ashamed of being able to sing that I hid it from everyone…) I led praise and worship both in Portuguese and in English. I was part of a worship team that monthly sang over a satellite network. I once wrote a song in Brazil that swept across the nation and that God used mightily to bring others to himself. I once had the full trust of my former wife and children. Then I gave in to foolishness and went headlong into adultery. Here I was, a recipient of so many of God’s gifts, and this is how I repaid Him. It wasn’t just a one-time thing, but I will not go into it. The point is that I got bit playing around dangerous places…and my friend, so will you.

Do you know why I no longer pastor? Wonder why I don’t sing any longer? The Bible tells us that the gifts and calling of God are not able to be revoked…in other words, God will not change His mind about them, but He most certainly can and WILL restrict how they are used. I’ve had many say I should go and begin a church, but the truth is, the Lord has forbidden me from doing so. There are consequences for our sin my friends. We don’t think about those consequences, but they are real. While Jesus paid the price for the eternal consequences of our sin, there are some results we cannot run away from here on earth. For years, I was heartbroken by the realization that my own actions hurt my family and resulted in limiting my effectiveness for the Lord. God will not be mocked, and while I am forgiven, the Lord has made it clear that I may no longer be an established pastor in a church. I am not saying that God will require the same of others, but He HAS required it of me…

You may say, “Well, God would never tell you not to minister his Word!” I didn’t say that. In his great goodness and mercy, instead of teaching within a church; which is my gifting, the Lord granted me permission to write. This is why I write today. My zeal for the Lord continues, but the consequences of my sin restrict where and how I may do it. I now sit in my home in front of a computer instead of standing and teaching. It is a daily reminder of what my sin has cost me. Even though the Lord is slowly healing my relationship with my children, what I put them through is still painful in my heart and mind. I have never told this story publicly and I pray you will not judge me too harshly, but the Lord seldom does things for a singular reason.

He did not just create the Sun to heat the earth, but it is also a display and a metaphor of His glory. The sun also is the principal agent in the process of photosynthesis, by which green plants and some other organisms use sunlight to synthesize foods from carbon dioxide and water. Photosynthesis in plants generally involves the green pigment chlorophyll and generates oxygen as a byproduct.

Again, God seldom does something for a singular purpose.

And so, it has been my observation that when God teaches a lesson to us in life, it is seldom a lesson only for us. All things are made and used by God to demonstrate His goodness, His greatness and, His glory…even His discipline in our lives. My discipline from the Lord can become your lesson. You can learn obedience from my former disobedience. Even though this happened decades ago, like Jacob, I walk with a limp. I am free and forgiven and am full of joy, and I am thrilled to still be used by the Lord. But, do not tempt the Lord my friends…stay away from the cobra holes that beckon you with promises…there is only death there.

The Days are moving faster…

When I was a child summer vacation from school lasted four years…or so it seemed. Running and playing in the woods near our home, riding bikes with Kent Tovey my pal, swimming in Terrace Lake; summer was an almost endless journey in the halcyon days of my youth.

These days, it seems like we had cookouts every weekend, the Four-H Fair appeared to last a month and we went to the fair every night. Pick up baseball and basketball games were on every corner…and; especially in the 1960’s, going OUT to eat was like…OMG!!!! Even then, “going out to eat’ meant Frisch’s or even more rare…going to “Lotus Gardens” in Greenwood Indiana.

Then, when school began, it seemed that school lasted four years as well. Days seemed to go slowly, the clock ticked once every five seconds it seemed. Teachers spoke like Charlie Brown’s teacher…”Wha wha wha, wha wha….WH WHA wha wha!” As a Catholic kid, I tried to make other kids laugh while they were standing in line for communion…’cause they’d get in trouble from one of the sisters if they were caught giggling. I was a troublemaker, but then, so were Steve Deppe, and Terry Harper and Kirk Long and Don McGuire, partners in crime…all. One day in elementary school lasted approximately 3 days back then. The sun; not having much to do, would stand stationary for two hours in the morning right about during reading and it stood still for 3 hours during math class.

Around 7th grade, something peculiar happened. Days began to move a little faster. A bell would ring and then I noticed the clock ticking pretty much every second…but a second back then was longer of course. Maybe the teachers got prettier…or maybe I just noticed them nore…well, Mr. Hughes didn’t get cuter, but…well ‘nuff said. However, it began to move into a regular 24 hour day by the time I reached High School.  Summer vacations got shorter and less adventuresome.

 By the time I had grown up enough to have a family, days had begun moving at a much faster clip. I recall one day was only 6 hours long….don’t bother to contradict me…it WAS only 6 hours long and that’s when I knew that God had been hiding something from me…from ALL of us! He had been hiding the fact that life was actually a fleeting thing and that we had better make something of ourselves during the short time we have here.

I didn’t think that was quite fair, hiding this information from little kids all that time. By the time you grow up enough to realize that eating six hot dogs quickly was a bad idea and that picking your nose wasn’t socially acceptable, you had three kids of your own and the guy running the Tilt-a Whirl at the Four- H- Fair was some creepy carnival dude who smoked too many Lucky Strikes. You wondered how in the world your parents could have dropped you off to roam free in the midway with all of the strange people on the loose.

These days, my days last approximately, 20 minutes. I eat breakfast at 3 am, lunch at 10 and dinner at 3:30. My wife seems to just get home right before I wind the alarm clock, brush my teeth and get in bed. This is why people get old quickly. God turns up the speed of the earth as you get older and you age 30 years in six months. Your tiny grandchildren yesterday are running for Congress today, and in 20 minutes they will be bouncing a grandchild on THEIR knees while you will have been dust for 20 years.

Such is the rhythm of life and as you contemplate that, also consider this…if you could stretch a rope 5 hundred yards in front of you…so that you stood on one end of it and could barely see the other end, the life you now live would only take up one inch of it. That’s right…one inch. 80 years maybe? One inch, or even less, and then all of the decisions you made in that one inch would  determine what you would experience in the other 500 yards. The problem is, the rope isn’t only 500 yards long…it goes on for eternity. The decisions you make…concerning Jesus, concerning how you treat your neighbor, concerning who is most important in your life RIGHT NOW…will determine EVERYTHING. And the earth and the Sun seem to be moving faster still.

“Resenting the Bottom Rungs…”

“As he stepped over the border, he felt no difference in the soil beneath his feet. Taking his first few steps into the unknown, he could not detect that he was now 10 yards within the boundary of a new country; a country into which he had never ventured. In fact,  since he felt no resistance; no hostility and no opposition, he became at once resentful that his journey toward great discovery was something that “any ordinary man” in his words could do. He had imagined it would at once be treacherous and adventurous, but this slow trudging across the open plain met with his disapproval and he despised that the leisurely manner of his first strides toward greatness seemed ordinary and without fanfare…”

“The Journey to Extraordinary” ©2020 Doug Pacheco All Rights Reserved.

Anything that I have attempted to do in life that still has value to me today, eventually required an incredible amount of dedication and hard work. Now, I must admit that; in the beginning,  many of the exploits that I embarked upon began with common and ordinary tasks that anyone around me could do.

In track and field, I discovered everyone could run and; at first, I wondered how hard this was going to be until a stopwatch appeared and the coach said, “The first 5 across the finish line are going to make the team and the rest can go to the showers!” It was then I realized this was not going to be a leisurely run and “racing” began a whole new challenge for me.  While the first few steps of that race seemed like everyone could do it, it was not the first few steps that made the team…even though everyone at that starting line would be required to run them. It was the resolve to endure the hardship of the race…the difficulty of the next few thousand steps that would determine the five who would finish first. Many who began with ease either walked off the track after a lap or two and headed for the showers or stopped running because what appeared easy at first, revealed that not everyone could do it. There were even some who said, as they watched the final five cross the finish line, “I thought it was going to be easy in the first lap, but…it wasn’t!”

That is the point of the struggle. As Publilius Syrus said, “Do not despise the bottom rungs in the ascent to greatness.” And as Lewis Hawes states: “Greatness is the survival of your vision across an extended timeline.”

Years ago, as a young man, a few friends of mine thought it would be a test of courage to climb an antenna tower. The challenge was thrown down that whoever could climb the ladder to the top was the real man. At first, one of my friends looked at the ladder and laughed and said “No problem” but it wasn’t until he got past the first few rungs that he suddenly realized  that the first rungs committed him to climbing to the top of a mast almost 1000 feet up! It’s easy to disrespect the climb up the first few steps on the ladder of greatness, but we need to respect them as much at the ones 10,000 feet higher up!  The crowd at the beginning of a race is thinned out after the first few steps.

In terms of your job, having respect for and climbing the lower positions of your company show those in leadership that there is no “unimportant step” to you in your journey to greater responsibility. When you show disregard for the lower positions or even contempt for them; the chances of getting through the complexities of difficult human interaction are diminished drastically…because it is always the first rungs on the ladder that teach us how to endure the next ones.

The lower rungs on any climb; either in vocation or personal calling, teach us the skills necessary for the long climb. They teach us how to pace ourselves, how to thoroughly complete small projects with excellence so that larger tasks will be possible. Without the lower rungs of a ladder, you cannot get up to the top where the few who endured the bottom rungs live.

There is a story about Columbus crossing the ocean on his voyage to the New World that King Ferdinand granted him the title: “Admiral of the Ocean Seas” and  he asked Columbus how he had found his way so clearly to the “West Indies.” Columbus commented that he used the skills he had learned as a young sailor reading the sextant and marking the distance by a method he had learned as a young man.  

It is reported that Isabella and Ferdinand then asked, “You mean the abilities learned by ANY young sailor on your ship could have found it Columbus?” Columbus smiled broadly and replied, “No my Sovereign, only ANY  young sailor able to endure 40 years of mocking and ridicule for dreaming of finding the New World would have found it!”

Perhaps in your career, you have held your lower position with contempt as you longed for the promotion to a higher rung on the ladder. But what you don’t know is, it is the hidden quality of perseverance…climbing rung by rung that shows God…YES, GOD whether or not you are ready to move up.

“For not from the east, nor from the west, nor from the desert comes exaltation; But God is the Judge; He puts down one and exalts another.”

The prizes God hands out for leadership go to those who can and will endure the mocking of naysayers on the lower rungs of the ladder. They will put up with and endure those lesser positions, the first steps of the race and demonstrate excellence in the obscure jobs… because the qualities learned in those positions are pre-requisites for being able to handle the heat of the rungs higher up and closer to the sun.

If you are a middle manager, a non-partner attorney in a law firm, a talented doctor wishing to become Chief of Staff at a hospital or maybe a young apprentice working for a plumber in a hole with water up to your knees waiting your turn to become certified…God is watching you. He is waiting for the lower rungs to do their job to see what you are made of. He is waiting to see if you will throw in the towel or go out and try to make a name for yourself without paying the price of running the first two or three thousand paces of the race. How you handle the bottom rungs will determine how you will handle the top ones… DP

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…

Why God uses less than perfect people…

When it comes right down to it, every morning when I pray and ask the Lord to use me throughout my day, I have to remind myself exactly what I’m asking.

If I look at world history and even more interesting, Bible history…I see the people that God used were the hidden, the unknown, the cowardly and the loud mouths.

God used doubters, shepherds and unlikely rich men…like Joseph of Arimathea. If he hadn’t given away his tomb, we would never have heard of him! Who would have chosen Harry Truman to be President? No one these days…that’s for sure. David was hidden in a stinking herd of sheep and was so unimportant that his father didn’t even consider him when Samuel came a knockin, looking for a king.

So, when I pray in the morning for God to use me, I am asking him to select me from the billions of nobodies in the world who are perhaps the least qualified people. God found Gideon hiding in a wine press, shaking in his boots threshing wheat. Who threshes wheat in a wine press…I’ll tell you who, chicken livers.. that’s who.

God found Jonah, a guy who basically flipped off God and ran the other way! Finally God found a fish with an obedient heart to swallow him and swim him back in the right direction. What kind of God picks such rank losers to use.

Jehovah God… that’s who. The God who sees what you CAN be and not what you are. The God who wants all the glory…not because He’s egotistical, but because He’s the only one worthy of it and can handle it!

Go ahead and judge your uselessness, judge the President, judge the pastor…but know, that God raises up the lowly and makes them great. he picks the unlikely, the one picked last at basketball, The dying thieves, the soldier with a sick servant, proud fishermen. He plucks us from obscurity and gives us His name…and together, we turn the world upside down…

Lunch Box Messages…

I remember the first day of school. It was a tiny classroom in a little parochial school in my little hometown of Columbus, Indiana. I remember the first song I learned at 6 years old.

“God is love, and he who abides in love, abides in God, and God in Him”

That is a different narrative than most children will have about their first day of school I think. Back in the sixties, growing up Catholic was a lot different than it is today. Yes, I mean it was much more God centered. In fact, I credit the Catholics for planting the seed of love for God in my heart.

As far back as fifth grade, I remember a priest visited our classroom with a filmstrip, (See antiques and ancient machines for the meaning of “filmstrip”) with background music of The Fifth Dimension’s song, “Up, Up and Away” playing telling about a group of people going to far away countries sharing the gospel with them. They were called Trinity Missions. On that day, in my fifth grade heart, I remember saying to myself, “That’s it! I’m going to become a priest and become a Trinity Missionary!”

Then there was a young priest whose name I forget, who came to our religion class in sixth grade trying to tell us about this thing called “Christian Music” that he listened to. He brought a record, (see vinyl record to understand on “Bing” to understand what a vinyl record is) and while it played he furiously scribbled the words on the blackboard, (See oldtime methods for teaching for “Blackboards). I can remember to this day how unique it was that someone had written a song and it wasn’t a hymn or a Catholic song.

“Sunday morning, very bright I read your book by colored light

That came in through the pretty window pictures.

I visited some houses where they said that you were living,

And they spoke a lot about you and they talked about you giving,

They passed around a basket with some envelopes

I just had time to write a note,

But all it said was, “I believe in you.” Hymn by Songwriters: James Mason / Karen Gold / Noel Paul Stookey

Hymn lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc

This was a song performed by a modern folk group Peter, Paul and Mary and it so impressed me that I got something in my throat and my eyes began to well up with tears and I didn’t know why. I quickly tried to stifle the feeling and to keep my eyes from watering but there in that room in that early bud of my life, God reached into a classroom and stamped his name on my heart and staked His claim for this real estate.

This narrative is stuff and nonsense to anyone who really understands “grown up” eschatology. (See “speculative arguments among “learned” Christians about what God says about the end days”.) Of course, God wouldn’t speak to a little Catholic boy. How much blasphemy is that!  Fact is, God has been after me ever since I was in the womb and on good days and bad days, He is still using any method to get my attention and He is doing the same thing with you.

Have you ever heard that special song that plays at the perfect time, maybe when you are sad, or when you needed to hear it, and it lifts you up and you say to yourself, “Wow, what a coincidence! I really didn’t know what I needed and that song played at the perfect time!”  How about when you hear someone speak and you feel inspired and begin to tear up and  you say, “Man, that moved me!” Those “Aha” moments are exactly what those early memories did in me.

As I was placing price tags on merchandise at my favorite Big Box store yesterday, I was surprised when something came to my mind and all I can say is I litereally felt the presence of God down on that floor with me while I was peeling stickers. He got right down with me, and made me to remember how He had gone to so many lengths to show me His love, to show me who He is and what He thinks of me.

Again, tears flowed on that cement floor in this hardware store in Brentwood Tennessee. I am not the most holy person. Not at all. I cuss when I hit my finger, I get impatient when the fast food line doesn’t move fast enough and I get tired of endless political chatter on television. But that doesn’t stop the Lord. He just insists on showing this former Catholic boy filmstrips in my mind about how He has clothed and fed and housed me for 62 years and I just don’t understand why He would waste so much time on a mediocre believer!

In church on Sunday, my pal Mike Spencer; a bass player who doesn’t even live here in Tennessee says during worship he tears up and it so touched me because that happens to me all the time. I think something inside of us as humans feels the atmosphere of heaven at times and it so moves us that we long for the completion of it. We long to enter fully into God’s presence. It reminds me of the words of a different Catholic song I learned as a child,


“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.”

Sometimes, I have to admit the pain of separation from God is deeper than that of a child who is stolen away from his mother at birth but carries with him a sense of loss that he can’t name. I know what that is like. We have been stolen from our mother…all of us, and carried into an evil country. But somehow, someway, she continues to send us messages in our lunchboxes that say, “I’m here, and I’m watching you…I love you…here’s a special song for you today…here is your favorite sandwich.” We look around but we can’t see her, but she sees us.

That is what it is like for God. He is sending you signals secretly into this world so you will know you are not alone. He will bring you through a friend your favorite ice cream, or make you your favorite meal, JUST FOR YOU, as you go through your day. His joy is like the rain…it falls and waters your life, and then, it’s gone, only to fall again on another day. Joy is like the rain. And while this little foolish blog may not mean much to you today, it is proof that the reason God has given me a good memory is to recall all of his lunchbox messages over the years that I have tucked away for that day, when; I finally see my mom coming for me in our family car, to reveal to me for the first time her lovely face and to say, “Here I am!!!” On that day I get to hug her for the first time and thank her for all of the lunchbox messages.

I love lunch box messages.

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…