Hidden Treasures…

I drove this morning to an apartment complex where I was going to be de-odorizing a vacant apartment before some new tenants rented it. When I drove up, I did all of the usual things I do. Made an inventory of all of my equipment, checked my extension cords to be sure there were no frays or lose wires. I made sure I had my gas mask, because the fumes; even though all natural, can damage your lungs. I also checked and calibrated my air/gas detector to make sure it was charged up.

The air/gas detector is a pretty important piece of equipment. In the business I’m in, the air is measured by “parts per million”. My equipment releases negatively charged ions into the air, unites with the hydrogen peroxide and creates a powerful agent that literally “scrubs” every surface. It is so strong it can pass through drywall, through carpet and into attic spaces. For this reason I wear a full NIOSH face mask with a breather unit on it to protect my eyes, face and lungs. I sound like Darth Vader when I wear it. “Luke…I’m your FATHER”… (Yes, I say it every time I put it on…)

I entered the apartment and began setting up the equipment, trying to be efficient with my time and making sure that AC filters were removed and installing vaporizers to spray hydrogen peroxide into the air to be circulated throughout the two bedroom apartment. When I opened the door where the furnace unit and water heater were located, I saw the cold air return directly beneath the door and headed back out to my truck to get my nut drivers and remove the cover and take out the air filter. Can’t leave an old air filter in a unit, or it just defeats the purpose of de-odorizing.

As I walked out to get my tool box, I had a kind of sad feeling and I couldn’t begin to tell  you why at the time. But the closer I got to my truck, the sadder I became. This had been a good morning so far. It was Friday for crying out loud…who wouldn’t be happy today…right? I stopped and shot off one of my bullet prayers. “Lord, whatever this is, if I’m worrying about my son Josiah, or whatever…please just give me a peace and let joy return.” That was it, no angels appeared singing…just, my tool box and a sip of my water.

As I entered the apartment again, the heaviness came over me so much that I sat down on the floor in the living room and leaned against the wall. “Lord, I feel so sad…so heavy, what is this?” I asked. No answer…no inkling of what was happening. I sighed heavily and started playing worship music on my phone… (right after Rocky Mountain High by John Denver…had to finish that song!) I stood and walked over to the cold air intake and began removing the cover to remove the filter. As the last nut came off I lifted off the cover and it revealed an absolutely filthy filter, filled with dust and wrappers and hair and …yuck! I put work gloves on before I touched that nasty thing, but I noticed a folded half sheet of paper  pressed against the dirty filter and I pulled it off and crumpled it in my hand as I removed the filter and took it outside. The heavy feeling had lifted all was well again.

I put it all down and finished my set up, being sure to set the temperature for 78 degrees and unplugging the smoke detector. All the machines were humming and I put on my mask, checked the air quality in the room started the vaporizers and pulled the apartment door closed and locked it. I would have to return tonight around 10pm to reset my machines since they only have a ten hour timer.

I had locked the door and forgotten to return the key to the maintenance office. I got a call on my cell from the manager explaining that the property had an electronic key monitor and it had gone off telling him a key had left the premises. I apologized and ran it back over from another client’s car lot where I was working.

When I returned the key, I had hastily picked up the sheet of paper I had removed from the filter along with the keys and happened to glance at it quickly before I threw it away.

There handwritten was a short note,


“Sorry I couldn’t run with you today, but my headaches were pretty bad. They seem to be taking me away from my favorite times with you AND your mother. I’ll get back out there in a few days. Love bein’ your runnin’ buddy!”


I told the guy, I had found an old, expired debit card a back scrub brush and this note. The maintenance manager took the card and threw it and the brush away and was about to toss the note when he read it. He said, “Hey, these people moved to 03-1331…would you just see if they want these? You pass right by it as you leave the property?” I’m sorry but I thought he was being lazy. I said yes but wasn’t really enthusiastic about it. He handed me back the expired card, the brush and the note and I searched for the apartment and saw a lady just enter it and shut the door as I was driving up.

I walked up to the door and here came that feeling again. I knocked and a woman in her late thirties or very early forties answered. I smiled. I told her my name and what I did for the apartment complex and that I had evidently been preparing her old apartment for rental again when I ran across these three items.

“The maintenance manager thought you might like to have these”. She looked at the card and chuckled and said, “thank goodness that’s expired!” and then bent it up and threw it away and told me to toss the brush in the dumpster. I said, “I thought that’s what you’d say, just didn’t want to do it without asking, some people lose valuable things sometimes and want them back!” I thanked her and turned to go as she looked quickly at the note. I was at the end of the sidewalk when I heard her say, “Sir? Could you come back for a moment?” I walked back, thinking maybe I’d dropped something. She looked at me and asked, “Where did you find this?”

I explained the cold air return and how it looked like it had been sucked into it and had been there a while. She was quiet and placed her hand over her mouth while reading the note over and over to herself. I could tell it was an emotional thing for her…that note. I didn’t want to break the silence and so I just stood there. In my head I heard the Lord say, “Just wait.”  So I did.

She looked up at me after she had composed herself and said, “My husband, passed away three years ago. He and my son did EVERYTHING together, they played tennis, and swam and ran together. My husband died of a brain hemorrhage in his sleep the very next day 5/13/15.” She was strong because she did not tear up. She was very deliberate with her words and spoke slowly. “My son graduated and is at Auburn now as a freshman this year…he is a walk on member of the track team.”

She smiled ear to ear. I smiled too and told her how proud her husband would have been. “Oh Yes! She beamed, “Jim was at every single game or meet for our son Drew, they were sports nuts…both of them!” Her eyes narrowed when she spoke next. ” I’m going to frame this and give it to my son…it’s kind of like his dad sent a letter from heaven!” I said, “Only he doesn’t have a headache now!” She laughed and said, ‘You’re right…he doesn’t!” She shook my hand and said, “You’ve given the world to me today…thank you!” I told her about the feeling right before I found it. She shook her head and became serious after I said this.

She bowed her head, took my hands in hers and said, “Thank you father, for giving this man hearing ears…and thank you for your Son Jesus!” Well, I am NOT a strong woman…so of course tears flowed down my face…I’m such a baby!

I walked away, after I had thanked her for her wonderful prayer. She asked if I was a Christian and I told her yes. She kind of shouted as I walked away, “There are lots of us Doug, and there are more coming! God is going to fill this earth with us Doug!” I turned to her and shouted, “Like the waters cover the Seas!” She shouted “Hallelujah!” lifting her hands to the sky. All I could say was, “Hallelujah!” … and walking away, of course, I cried again…baby!

Last Words…

I have been reading about the last words of famous people. You know, the older I get the more I actually look forward to going home. I’m not trying to leave early though. I figure when it’s time, it’s time. There are many who have done things of note in their lifetimes and, their last words are both interesting and important.

I have read about famous last words of Presidents and Mafia bosses, (which, don’t confuse the two although there are some very close comparisons), and people of faith and those who were athiests. All of their last words are important. What we choose to say at the moment of our death may not be a summation of our lives, because some of us have surprise endings…i.e. accidents. But for those who were dying and knew it, some of them said some very profound things.

According to Steve Jobs’ sister Mona, the Apple founder’s last words were, “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.”

Emily Dickinson, America’s most celebrated poet’s last words were, “I must go in, for the fog is rising.”

When I read those things I often try to imagine what they saw. There is no doubt that the veil between life and death is exceedingly thin…less than a breath in my estimation. I wonder in my heart if Steve saw something so incredibly beyond anything he could imagine that the computer genius was reduced to his child like wonder statement…”Wow.”

There are humorous ones. Charles Gussman was a writer and TV announcer, who wrote the pilot episode of Days of Our Lives, among other shows. As he became ill, he said he wanted his last words to be memorable. When his daughter reminded him of this, he gently removed his oxygen mask and whispered: “And now for a final word from our sponsor—.”

When Groucho Marx was dying, he let out one last quip: “This is no way to live!”

Donald O’Connor was a singer, dancer, and actor. He also hosted the Academy Awards in 1954. O’Connor died at age 78 with his family gathered around him. He joked, “I’d like to thank the Academy for my lifetime achievement award that I will eventually get.” He still hasn’t gotten one.

I found that some of them were particularly poignant. Billy Graham’s daughter Anne Lotz says that his last words were for her 11-year-old granddaughter. Lotz’s family surrounded Graham during her final visit with him, and she said her 11-year-old granddaughter told him she loved him as the family was leaving. Graham answered back, “I love you.” Those were his last words.

Football coach Vince Lombardi died of cancer in 1970. As he died, Lombardi turned to his wife Marie and said, “Happy anniversary. I love you.”

O.O. McIntyre was an American reporter. He died at age 53, and spoke his last words to his wife Maybelle: “Snooks, will you please turn this way. I like to look at your face.”

When he was 57, Edward R. Murrow died while patting his wife’s hand. He said, “Well, Jan, we were lucky at that.”

John Wayne died at age 72 in L.A. He turned to his wife and said, “Of course I know who you are. You’re my girl. I love you.”Humphrey Bogart’s wife Lauren Bacall had to leave the house to pick up their kids. Bogart said, “Goodbye, kid. Hurry back.” Not quite, “Here’s looking at you, kid,” but close.

While I am both healthy and happy at this moment, I can think of nothing quite so peaceful and wonderful to gaze upon; before I leave this earth, as the face of my wonderful wife Mary Ann. I hope it will be so, but God knows.

Now don’t start thinking I’ve been diagnosed with some kind of fatal disease. I have not. But what people say at the last few minutes of life can be a window into what is most important to them. Like John Adams, who lay dying on the 4th of July 1826:

“Thomas Jefferson–still survives”… John Adams, US President, d. July 4, 1826(Actually, Jefferson had died earlier that same day.)

“See in what peace a Christian can die”. Joseph Addison, writer, d. June 17, 1719

“Now comes the mystery’. Henry Ward Beecher, evangelist, d. March 8, 1887

“It is very beautiful over there.” Thomas Alva Edison, inventor, d. October 18, 1931

I have lived my life in such a way, that as far back as I can remember, I’ve always looked forward to seeing the green valley that I believe God has promised me. As a child, I asked my mother what I would see when I died. It was a curious question for such a young child.

She sat at the edge of her 4-year-old child’s bed and stared at me. I remember she looked out the window in my bedroom and; at that moment, she heard the train passing through town over 4 miles away.

She looked back at me with soft tears in her eyes and smiled gently. “Doug, when you are ready to go to heaven, you will hear the gentle call of the heavenly train whistle and there will be a seat, with a quilt on it to keep you warm. I will be waiting on board saving your seat next to me.” I smiled and would ask her to repeat that story from time to time as I grew up.

As my mother grew older, after my father had passed away, we would talk often of heaven and I could tell my mother was so looking forward to “boarding the train for home”. In her last year of life, as she slowly approached the end, she would sleep often, and at least one night, as I sat by her bed in her little apartment, she would say, “Doug, I think the train is getting closer…” this time it was my turn to weep quietly. I held her hand until she drifted off to sleep.

In her final days, I was busy at the winery, but I went to sit in her room at the Hospice. She had been asleep for 4 days straight, and they didn’t expect her to wake up. It was on this day, that I sat by her bed holding her hand and singing “I come to the Garden alone”…her favorite hymn.

As time passed, I stood and had to leave her. “Mom” I said quietly, “I have to go to work, but I’ll be back tomorrow…I love you.” This was when; for the first time in 4 days she awoke fully and spoke to me with a full voice.“Doug, your Dad said, “Come Home”!” Standing in that room I was sure, just absolutely sure, I heard a train whistle from downtown. I choked on my response.

“Mom, you do what Dad wants you to do.” Her eyes smiled at me and she went back to sleep. The next morning, February 14, 2014 just 9 days shy of her 90th birthday, my mother boarded the train alongside my dad…her had called her home on Valentines Day and had come to the station to meet her with a quilt on her seat to keep his sweetheart warm.

What I want is for you, my friend, to know in your heart of hearts that you have your ticket securely in your hand. I want you there…with me, in my green valley. It’s lovely there…the flowers make music and there are levels…oh so many levels in that place where you can visit.

I will be there waiting for you on the train to accompany you if you’d like. I’ll have a quilt sitting in your seat to put around your legs for the journey. We’ll sit and laugh and talk and watch the lovely scenery pass us by until we arrive at the station where everyone we know will be waiting for us.
There will be my wine…the perfected wine I finally have made from perfectly sugared grapes and my dogs will all be there to greet you…yours too! And there will be no strangers there…only friends, dear friends and family.

And whatever you held dear, and whatever memory that comforted you will be real and waiting for you.

I don’t know what my last words on this earth will be, but one thing is for sure…it will be a blessing, a prayer or thanksgiving for having had the privilege of being born on God’s earth. If I survive my wife, we will hold hands and I will sing to her, kiss her forehead and listen for her last words. If not, she will be there holding my hand and I will be looking into her eyes and the eyes of my children and grandchildren.

But until then, there is work to be done, and a kingdom to proclaim…and the train is quickly approaching the station.

Quite literally, a Christmas Carol…

When I was a kid, my parents owned this album of Christmas music that I could swear they got at a gas station. In fact, Terry Hehe’s Marathon Station on State Road 46 West in Columbus, Indiana (right where the Starbucks now sits) I believe is the exact location where he purchased gas and just for filling up…they threw in a Christmas album right along with the S & H Green Stamps they gave to their customers.

My dad was the freebie king and us kids who were in the back seat of the family Vista Cruiser would cringe when he would get in the car and say with pride, “Hey look what I got for free!” To my dad, it was great that someone had given him something free…but to we growing children in the car, we were mortified that someone would recognize us in the car and see our father brandishing this obviously cheap and “not cool” album around for everyone to see. We were such proud little punks…someone should have slapped our little butts and told us to “get over yourselves!”

When we got home, my dad didn’t toss it over to the pile of Catalogs and Western Auto circulars we got in the mail every Christmas. He walked into the house, unwrapped the cellophane from the album and carefully placed it on the record player in my brother’s room. Dad never took a kindness for granted and especially if it was a gift. Even though Terry Hehe may have given out 500 of those albums, Dad treated it like he was the only one who had been given this gift. He walked around the house saying, “Isn’t that just beautiful?” We would all roll our eyes, but especially my sister Terry and she would say, “yeah, sure dad…beautiful!”

When you looked at the album, you would know right away that it was some cheap record… probably recorded in some smoke filled back room by some huckster chewing a stogie and thinking about all the money he would make with this black market record stamped on the cover with Red and Gold. Even the name, “Goodyear Presents: “The Great Songs of Christmas” smacked the word, “cheap”. On the bottom of the front of the album was printed, “Columbia Special Products”. “Yeah,” I thought, “ It’s so special they give it away at gas stations!”

On the cover were 10 photographs and above the photos was the statement, “By Great Artists of our Time”. I wondered if any of these “Great Artists” even knew the little guy with the stogie in the smoke filled room had made an album with their music on it and if they were getting a piece of the action.

Nevertheless, night after night for 25 nights, my dad played that album much to our chagrin. And after Christmas was over, the album would go into a storage area for all the holiday stuff and was forgotten for another 11 months. Year after year, dad would drag that album out and play it non-stop ad nauseum until fruit cake came out our noses.

I grew up, and yes, I DID finally mature. I traveled, went out of the country for a while and was married. Every year when Christmas would roll around, like all families, we would go get a tree, put up lights, (sometimes…when I was threatened I would put up lights), and go shopping. Christmas music would fill the shopping centers and malls we went into. There would be family gatherings and gift exchanges, but even with all of the same traditions…something was missing.

Don’t hate me, but I can’t stand current popular singers making Christmas albums. I mean everyone is doing it! “Korn plays “Little Town of Bethlehem!” “Marilyn Manson: “Oh Holy Night!” Maybe they aren’t THAT obvious, but the market is flooded with celebrity Christmas albums and it is probably why they have to start at Halloween playing these things so everyone gets their ASCAP bucks.

You would think I would be happy since in my little snot-nosed proud punk days I sniffed at the cheap “giveaway” album my dad had played. I should be saying to myself, “Now THIS is Christmas music…Garth Brooks and the Bucktoothed Pumpernickle band play “Little Drummer Boy!” (don’t hate me Garth lovers…I love him too!) However, these modern celebrity albums don’t float my boat. Because, after all my ranting, all my stupid, prideful and judgmental pronouncements over that dumb FREE album…. Christmas just wasn’t the same without it.

I began looking for that album quite a few years ago and it was impossible to locate. It was from a different time and unfortunately since it was a vinyl album, no cassette, no 8 track, and no Compact Disc existed. The music I had poo-pooed all those years had infected my soul…and it’s absence made my heart not so merry and bright. It’s true, I had Bing Crosby and his White Christmas album…but without that album…at least for me, it was like eating a chocolate chip cookie without the chocolate chips….something is missing.

And then…it was a day like any other day when YouTube appeared, and I miraculously found “Goodyear Presents- The Great Songs of Christmas- Columbia Special Products” and heard the music once again. I had to be satisfied with playing over Bluetooth on my computer and it filled the chasm my Christmas has contained all these years.

I discovered that the no-name singers were not exactly no-name singers…and the music was not recorded in a smoke-filled back room…at least I don’t think so, but a good cigar wouldn’t ruin anything anyway. There will be those of you who wonder why I can’t stand modern singers crooning Christmas music but covet this one so much even though they were the modern singers of their day, like Dinah Shore, Steve Laurence and Eydie Gorme and Danny Kaye.

I think it is because this album was made to promote Christmas, not a celebrity. I’m sure the celebrities made some money. Yes, it commercialized; plastering Goodyear’s name all over the place, but I suppose it was a time when the world still honored Jesus, even if; for many, it was just lip service. Today, a lot of the Christmas music seems to be only to promote a singer they make the album to praise THEIR names…not Jesus.. Back in the day, even celebrities bowed their knees even if it was only socially to the Lord. Today, they use him to line their pockets with cash. Jesus is good for a quick climb up the charts.

I don’t begrudge anyone with a singing gift making an album…I just hope in the making it has the essence of gold, frankincense and myrrh and celebrates the newborn king.

This year, Mary Ann and I are going vinyl again. We purchased a vintage 1960’s Hi-Fi in the original cabinet and are re-purchasing a lot of the vinyl albums we tossed back when cassettes became cool and then 8 tracks and compact Discs took over the music store. There is a mellowness and a sound quality that can’t be described with a vinyl album. Listening to the Beatles “Rubber Soul” album on vinyl is a richer experience than a perfectly electronic version. There will be one more album in our “new again” stereo cabinet this year; purchased for $5.95 on eBay. “Goodyear Presents; The Great Songs of Christmas- 1965/ Columbia Special Products.” Thanks, Dad…for never taking a free gift for granted and…for the much-needed slap on the butt as I realize that free gifts ARE the best gifts of all.

Someone is bringing Firewood…

When Christmas comes around, there is one thing that makes me feel rich and it isn’t having a lot of money to buy gifts. It’s firewood.

I don’t know where or when it began but, having firewood stacked is a comforting feeling for me. Perhaps it is some ancestral emotion I inherited from long ago, but there is something about a fire in the fireplace that tells me all is well and that we are safe. You know what I’m talking about…right? The crackling of the fire; the long light it casts at night when the lights are low, the glowing of the embers… they all provide a comfort that is very tangible. It makes me pull my sweetheart a little closer, smile a little larger and think a little deeper.

A fireplace makes me remember people and places too. The flames flickering bring back images of campouts long ago, visits to my favorite place in the world…Brown County State Park, and fire pits around which I, my wife and friends used to sit and laugh. I remember building fires for my children to sit around when they were younger. A good fire draws people around it for warmth and while we are gathered we interact with one another.

In fact, after one has taken the requisite number of pictures of it, a fire becomes almost a “No Device Zone”. People put away their phones to stare into the fire and make conversation…mostly about how they love a good fire, but sometimes they tell you something deep…they make a comment about a time long ago, or a loved one far away. And I began thinking about that tonight as I sat looking into the fire.

I remember snow falling for the first time in Tucson Arizona. Well, it was the first time for my children and little family. Living in the desert southwest, the last thing one has in the drawer are gloves. But I remember my oldest son Isaac at only 4 or five, putting a pair of my white gym socks on his hands and going out to try to scape up enough snow to make a snowball. I thought about times when, in Northern Kentucky, where you DO expect snow to fall when it came down so deep and thick, that we could sled down a big hill and onto the frozen lake. Coming in with pink cheeks and frozen fingers to stand around the fireplace and warm up.

I remember skating in Columbus Indiana at Lincoln park when the Ice-skating rink was still without a roof and outside and how packed it would be. There was a constant fire going inside in the fireplace and we would eat hand made pretzels and hot chocolate around it.

I think there is another reason I am comforted by firewood. A big stack of firewood tells me there is a provision that has been made for my comfort. When I look at a cord of firewood…(four feet high, four feet wide, eight feet long…thanks Bruce!), it tells me someone labored to cut, season, gather and stack it in preparation of the time when it would be needed.

There was no firewood in the little stable near Bethlehem though. I wasn’t there, but I’ll betcha there wasn’t. It was a place the animals were fed and kept in stalls and no kidding, there were all kinds of poo on the ground, because…well, there just was. There may have been a lantern lit by Joseph or the owner of the stable where he and Mary were allowed to spend the night. And it was cold. There was a star in the East, that shone brightly that night…but there was no music or bells, or a comfy bed. Mary did the best she could to make her newborn child comfortable; placing him inside of  a feed manger lined with straw and lots of swaddling cloth.

Joseph most likely stood at or near the entrance of the little stable, keeping watch out over the landscape to protect his little family. He didn’t know it was Christmas… no one did.  He just knew it was cold, and dark and smelly and he most likely felt like a poor provider for his wife. Maybe he looked out over the distance and could see into a home of the owner of that stable where a fire roared in the fireplace around which that family gathered. I’m sure he shook his head and wondered why this was the only place he could find and probably asked himself if the whole thing about this child had been real…an angel appearing, Mary miraculously pregnant.

In the distance, there were figures walking toward them. Joseph grabbed his staff and told Mary someone was coming. Taking his stand in front of the stable, the men drew closer and they were carrying a torch and had wagons behind them. As they approached, one of them, spoke up.

“We…excuse me sir, we were told that a child has been born.” Joseph would have just looked at them and asked them to repeat that and one of the others would have said, “Sir, we are shepherds and…” he would turn around to look at the other shepherds with him for moral support then continue. “and, we were out with our sheep when something happened…” Another shepherd would speak up…”An angel…it was in the sky and told us that a baby savior had been born and we were led to this place….I know it’s crazy but we swear to you sir, we are not drunk.”

Inside of Joseph something like a deep sigh stirred and almost instantly tears appeared in his eyes. It was true!!! This baby that wasn’t his WAS someone special! His breathing increased and is pulse began to race. He asked, “Say that again…tell me what you just said again!” grabbing the first shepherd by the shoulders.  And so, the third shepherd repeated the story, but this time he added, “An angel of the Lord appeared to us, and the glory of the Lord shone around us, and we were terrified. But the angel said to us, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Christ….whom you have been waiting for…THE LORD!

Inside of the stable, the baby whimpered and his mother pulled a cloak over the mound of swaddling cloths wrapped tightly around the baby. Joseph looked into the eyes of the four or five men before him. Around them were many of their sheep and of course the wagon. He turned to look inside the stable and his eyes met Mary’s. She was grinning…ear to ear and shook her head as if to say, “Please let them come in!”

One by one they would come in and kneel before the manger. They smelled bad… weeks out in the open with sheep. Some of them looked at the face of the baby…taking it in like the once in a lifetime opportunity it was. As they stood, they would perhaps bow or show honor to the mother and then exit. They set up a small camp right there…and for the first time in Jesus’ life… as Kings and others from the East arrived to bring him gold, frankincense, and myrrh, the shepherds…the lowest of the low on the social ladder at that time did the one thing they knew they could offer. Taking wood from off their wagon…they built a fire to bring comfort and protection from the darkness.

Remember that even on the coldest of nights, when all the promises you have received don’t seem true or when all of the prophecies made over your life don’t look like they are ever going to happen, you are on the verge of a miracle. Someone somewhere is on their way to confirm the very thing God has promised to you.

It may seem that you have been led into a smelly and cold situation, but God’s plans are designed to outwit the enemy and are not always understood by his children. He knows what you need, He has not forgotten you. You are not hidden from God…he sees you wherever you are and He is coming!!! He is coming by the most unexpected way possible and just as a bonus, He is bringing firewood for you and for me!

You don’t use a hammer to make a souffle…

God uses people in different ways. If I could draw an analogy, I would liken us all to tools. Some of us are hammers, some of us are rachets and wrenches. Some of us are pry bars and others are drills or screwdrivers. Some of us are kitchen implements like skillets and cups and knives. All these things are tools or implements to be useful in a particular situation.

I can’t and wouldn’t use a hammer to make a souffle, I would use a wire whisk and a bowl though. I would have no use for a spatula when my tire was flat and needed to be changed, but I could definitely use a tire iron that fits the lugs on my wheel so I could loosen and tighten lug nuts. Every tool has a place and a use.

I love television shows where they are renovating an old house or better yet, taking a car that has been in the woods for 20 years and restoring it back to use. It is such an appropriate analogy for God wanting to rehab lives that have been broken down and in need of repair to make them useful. I watch as the person restoring the car takes a tool called a “clutch puller” to pull the clutch out of a car. This is a specialized tool. You don’t need a clutch puller everyday…in fact, I’ve never needed one. But the fact remains that when you find a clutch that needs pulling, don’t look to a skillet to do the job…you need a clutch puller!

Okay, so…here it is. As tools in God’s tool belt, we will be called upon at times to do something that we have been particularly designed to do. None of us can do EVERY job that comes along. When the Lord needs a drill, to drill into someone’s life to get to some deep issues, he isn’t going to use a hair dryer. A hair dryer is useful but not to drill with! Yet, I think sometimes we feel a bit helpless and maybe even despise our own gift when we see people who need help and our particular gift doesn’t fit the need. This is why the church is important.

Each of us have gifts and abilities different from one another in a church. There are some people who have a gift of helps that they use to help other people with. I had a friend named Dwayne Isenberg who one time drove to Indianapolis when my little Honda Civic threw a piston rod. He hooked up my car, towed it to his house and by golly, he put a new engine in that thing! Not everyone would do that! But someone with a gift of helps would! I didn’t need a fiery preacher that day teaching on repentance…I needed someone who knew how to help fix my car. Thanks Dwayne…your act of kindness it permanently etched on my heart. It would have done me no good to have someone who is an evangelist standing there on the side of the road with me…evangelists are effective in winning souls to Jesus, but that evangelist would have done me no good at all at that moment.

There are some people who have very specialized gifts…like a clutch puller. These people have a gift of “giving”. They have been blessed with money and they give to people…they may finance a new car for someone or donate large sums to a missionary. That gift of giving comes most often with the blessing of anonymity. Other specialized gifts are intercession, mercy and prophecy. What is interesting about these gifts or “tools” to continue my analogy, is that they are useful more than most of us know, but they too are clothed; most of the time in anonymity. Everyone needs mercy, all have a need for intercession. It shouldn’t just be used in the church.

Here, finally is my point. Maybe you don’t feel you are very useful to the Lord. Maybe you don’t feel that you get used much at all! So; here’s a thought…instead of waiting for a clutch to be pulled, go to a transmission shop!  If you are a wrench, go hang out in a car garage! If you are a hammer, go hang out on construction sites. I mean if you know that you have this precious gift of mercy, then it is quite honestly a very good thing to volunteer at the hospice down the street or counsel people who need a listening ear!

If you have a lot of discernment, which basically is the ability to judge well and see beyond the surface of things, you may want to become a judge or an attorney or again, a counselor! People with discernment are like hammers…they nail the key issue, or see the true problem and call it out for what it is.

My wife tells me a humorous story of how one of her relatives used a hammer to try and fix everything! I laugh about this because of the old saying, “to a hammer, everything looks like a nail!” Swiss watches don’t respond well to hammers, meaning, don’t try to use your gifting in places where it is not needed or where delicate care is the order of the day.

The one thing you shouldn’t do when you don’t feel your gift is being used to it’s fullest is to jump out of the tool box! “To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.” Eccl 3:1-8. God will use you as you make yourself available to him…and let’s face it, if you are only available for one hour on Sunday morning, then chances are you won’t be used very much!

God has designed you with purpose and gifts in your life to be useful not just to the church…but to the society! And the great thing about it is, that if  you have been slow to use your gifting it isn’t too late! “The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable!” Romans 11:29. Another version says, “the gifts and calling of God can never be withdrawn!” Start now and make a difference.

Today, don’t run away like Jonah did when God called him to go to Ninevah. God needs you to function the way that only YOU can function. He needs his hammers and drills; he needs his clutch pullers and His diamond cutters too. The church is in the earth to show the glory of God to the nations.

Searching for family outside the garden…

I love the idea of a kindred spirit. Lucy Maud Montgomery’s book, Anne of Green Gables was the first time I had ever read this phrase and it immediately struck a chord inside of me. I am convinced that what each of us feel inside is unique only to ourselves, is actually shared by hundreds, thousands and millions of others across the world. I know this because of one distinct truth.

Whether or not you believe it; we share a common ancestry through our first parents Adam and Eve, and we are family. This human condition we hold in common, binds us together as the largest communal family in the universe. It is because of this familial connection that; when one of us is down or worried or filled with hope, others of us can sense it. It isn’t just a human condition, it is the spiritual tie that binds us together.

This is why yesterday, while taking quite a bit of time to answer the questions of a young couple about how to tile their entire house, I got a strong handshake from the young man and a short hug and kiss on the cheek from the young wife. In that moment they were not my customers…I was helping two of my kids to tile their house by giving them the benefit of my experience and knowledge. I was their old dad, helping them out.

In fact throughout the days that I am working, I find myself listening more closely, and caring more about their projects than I used to do as a young man. Later in the afternoon, a man approaches me about how to install blinds, a lady and her elderly husband ask about the best flooring for a kitchen and it’s when I begin to ask questions that they hadn’t thought about and come up with solutions that will fit into their budget, people seem to come alive.

I know it’s an old and tired saying, but people don’t care how much you know…..until they know how much you care. When they see in your eyes that you are taking time with them and that you don’t think that people are an interruption in your day, it is then; that people will listen to whatever you say and take it to heart.

Yesterday there was a couple, not much older than 22 or 23 years old walking and trying to find the aisle for air filters. I saw the lost looks on their faces and since they were walking in my direction, I simply asked, “Okay you guys”, (that is a Northern idiom, meaning…Okay you guys), “what are  you looking for?” the guy looked at me and kind of sheepishly asked, “Where are the things that you put in front of your furnace that catches all the dust and lint and stuff?” I smiled and genuinely tried not to laugh, but I was unsuccessful. “You mean air filters for your furnace?” A big smile popped onto his face…”Yes, I guess that IS what they are…air filters!” Instead of pointing to the aisle, I began to walk them down to the right area. “What size are you looking for?” I asked. “The young woman looked at me and asked, “Size…you mean there are different sizes?”

We arrived at the correct aisle and when they saw the hundreds of filters she laughed out loud and said, “Well, okay, yes there are different sizes!” We all three laughed and I asked if there was anyone at their home to go and snap a picture of the filter in their furnace and she frowned…as did he. “No, but we don’t live far away…can we go back really quick to see and come back?” I told them of course, but then the young man said, “but…well, when we come back, a …” his young wife finished his sentence, “Will you be able to help us again?” I can’t tell you why…but the feeling of being needed flooded my soul with thankfulness and I nodded yes with a big lump in my throat. They left quickly and I headed back over to the flooring department where a woman stood in the tile aisle looking at a big stack of tile.

I never just say “May I help you..” which I abandoned years ago because, if I work somewhere, I had better be able to help them! So I said, “Hi…what is your project?” the lady looked at me with big eyes that said, “Oh thank God…someone is here!” She grabbed my arm and said, “Please, tell me what to do!…I am doing something called, “flipping a house” and I was told by my husband to go and find some tile!” I’m not a judge…okay? I don’t want to make sweeping judgments against people because I don’t like being judged myself, so I refrain from asking myself judgmental questions like…(tongue in cheek…) “where is her husband if he is flipping this house and why did he send her here without explaining what to look for and “… I stopped myself and just laughed and said, “This is gonna be so easy your husband is going to feel ashamed he doesn’t know as much about tile as you do when we are finished!”

For the next 15 minutes, I asked what size were the rooms, and to my surprise she had a copy of the blueprints of the house on her phone. We began to design every room in that house, right down to the color of thinset and g rout. We built her shower and she was furiously taking notes and asking the difference between modified thinset and regular and large format tile thinset. She asked how to grout and I showed her how to hold the float. Just as that moment up walked the young couple who had gone in search of their air filter size.

“Hi Mr. Doug…we’re back!” (I get called Mr. Doug because my name appears in big bold letters on the front of my apron.) I was almost finished with the lady “flipping” her house, but she immediately grabbed my right arm and said, “HE’S MINE!” The young man and woman grabbed my left arm and said, “NO HE ISN’T, HE’S OURS…WE FOUND HIM FIRST!” At this point I understood what a wishbone must feel like when two people are tugging at it from both sides…I was gonna get broken! I laughed but neither of them did. So I said, “Okay…ma’am, I DID tell them I would help them when they came back, but it is just for an air filter!” The house flipping woman said, that’s fine, but I am walking down with you so that afterward we can come back and finish.

Down the main aisle we walked, the house flipping woman holding my right arm and the young couple holding my left. I had employees of my favorite big box store looking at me, thinking they were trying to help me walk! One even came up to me and said, “Doug, are  you okay?!” with genuine concern. The young  couple said, “Oh no, we are making sure Mr. Doug helps us and we are not going to let him go until he does! The house flipper nodded in the affirmative as well. The employee laughed and told them, “Other people work here you know… we can all help you!”

That’s when my house flipping friend said words that warmed my heart. “This isn’t an employee…this is our friend!” The young woman said, “He’s family!” With all of the fuss I made the other day in missing my family during the  holidays, I must confess that at that moment, my family was right there by my side. The young couple saw me as a dad, the house flipper as a friend and it was cemented into my heart when after picking out the correct filter, the young couple looked at me and asked, “Mr. Doug, if you don’t have family here in town, we would love for you to spend Thanksgiving with us!” I must tell you that a tear came to my eye at that  moment and I couldn’t speak. I am such a fricken BABY!

House flipper looked at me and said, “Oh, I like that.. Mr. Doug…is that your name?” I nodded and she said, “I know my husband’s mother is coming from out of town, but he would probably love it if he could talk house renovation with you at the Thanksgiving table!”

I smiled and gained my composure and said, “It is so kind of you both but my wife and I are having a couple of friends over this year…” the young man said, “Well, you sure have helped us…” I got the hug from his wife and he shook my hand and said if we didn’t have plans for dessert, they gave me their written address then they left, waving as they walked away. The house flipping woman finally got all of her questions answered and asked for my last name. I gave it to her and she then packed up her notes and pens and blueprints and off she went into the frigid air.

As I returned to the desk in the flooring department, I took a seat to catch up on follow up with other flooring clients on the computer. At that moment I had a manager on duty come over and said, “Okay…where are they?” I answered , “Where are what?’ He smiled and said, “the  drugs you gave to those customers who just came over and bragged on you?” I blinked and  said, “People are nice…aren’t they?”

A long time ago, in a garden far, far away, we all belonged to an unbroken family who enjoyed daily friendship and endless love with one another and our creator. But like the song says,

“In the land of God’s first heartache
When our line of sin began
And the eyes of man were opened
To the evil there at hand
The creator heard the footsteps
But He did not see the man
And God called out for an answer
But He turned away and ran

An attempt in desperation
To be hid from holy eyes
Was to fashion out a garment
That could hide him in disguise
But the Father bled compassion
And with a fast forgiving hand,
Took the life of one yet blameless
And made a covering for the man.

On a hill outside Jerusalem
Where the sin had took its toll
Hung the life of one as blameless
As that garden beast of old,
And He bled with God’s compassion
For the evil man had done;
And the heart that cried “Forgive them!”
Was the heart of God’s own son.”
The broken heart of God’s own son.

I offer to you my friends that we do not recognize each other as brothers and sisters who are far from our garden home because many are still hiding and trying to cover themselves with the leaves of their own making.  Some are hurt and others…angry. But, every once in a while, we catch of glimpse of one of our family members and they catch a glimpse of us. For a moment our hearts jump in our chests that we belong to each other…but then, we drift apart again as strangers just like my three friends yesterday.

It’s Thanksgiving season. And our brothers and our sisters are all around us. Some have been found by the Savior, and others refuse to come into the banquet. Whatever we do, let’s not give up showing bits of love, and random kindness to our lost family so that; in hope, we will all sit down around the same table holding hands reunited, in a  new and living garden from which we will never be cast away again!

A different kind of graduation…

When I first met Morrie, he was a loud-mouthed, foul talking, irresponsible braggart. We were 13 years old and he and I went to school together. He always talked dirty about girls. Of course, at 13 we didn’t know anything about girls, but Morrie said he was experienced. At times he would say things out loud and was cruel with his comments toward them. We all would kind of stand far away from him when he did this… I was embarrassed.

We went on school field trips and Morrie would always brag about how he could beat up any kid and was mean to the weaker boys in our class. As time went by Morrie was involved in a lot of mischief at school. He was caught stealing things or sneaking out of school when he was supposed to be in class. I stopped hanging out with him; as did other guys I knew. When we were in High School, Morrie became more sullen and angry.

When the day of graduation came, Morrie gave the peace sign as he walked across the stage and right before he lowered his hands, he quickly changed it to flip off the crowd to a few giggles. Afterward, while families took pictures of their kids, I saw Morrie walking away, pulling off his cap and gown, wadding them up and throwing them in the back of his car. He started the ignition and drove away…and that was the last I saw of him.

Over the years that passed, the memories I had of Morrie were the ones I had from 14-18 years of age. As we all do, I made a lot of judgments about him and resented some of the things he did to me and had said to me. Whenever I would run into classmates and his name was mentioned, none of them would make any comments except to roll their eyes and say, “He was trouble”… I did too.

After 20 years I went to my first, class reunion. I had lived too far away to come to the first 2 but at 20 years I finally went. As I arrived; I was so happy to see so many of my old friends. We caught up about what each of us was doing and I was a little shy about talking to people. I had been pretty outgoing in High School, but I hadn’t been the nicest guy either. I spent a lot of time mentioning to people that if I had treated them in a bad way that I was sorry. They were all very gracious to me. I was grateful.

I was tapped on the shoulder by a guy in a nice sport coat and jeans. I turned and said hello. I didn’t recognize him. He smiled and said, “It’s me, Morrie!” I’m ashamed to say this but I’m sure he could see my face register dread. I tried my best to smile and make small talk. Morrie smiled again and said, “It’s okay pal, I know I didn’t leave people with a very good impression during my school years.” He told me he had been convicted of a few petty crimes and had spent some time in jail. He said it was the most horrendous experience he had ever had.

I listened as he told me of being beaten by a group of men who thought he was a loud-mouth and showed him he wasn’t so tough. He said he had to pay $10 a month to a jail hitman to keep him from breaking his arm or leg. When he got out of jail, he said he had to live in his mother’s house until he found a job as a plumber’s assistant. He said during his time in jail and on days he was standing knee-deep in sewage helping the plumber, he would remember his misspent time in school. How he wished he had done differently but realized his circumstances were due to his poor choices.

As time went by, he became certified as a plumber and then a master plumber. He moved to Iowa and began his own business. He met and married a wonderful woman and became a Christian. When he had heard about the class reunion he decided to come back and ask forgiveness from the people he had wronged. He spent the entire evening going from group to group, person to person, re-introducing himself and asking forgiveness for his poor decisions from school.

One by one, just like me, Morrie won back some respect and as I saw him walk toward his car and drive away…but this time, there was a bounce in his step and a smile on his face. As soon as he left, the chatter was low but it was all about Morrie. Some said, “I don’t believe it…I think he was lying”. Others said, “Wow, what a difference! He is truly a changed man.” But I could tell…just looking in Morrie’s eyes, this was a man who had seen the depths of his own soul and met Jesus there.

He was quiet when he spoke, not bragging as in the past and he took care to not exaggerate any of the details. He corrected himself if he felt he had misspoken about something in his story. As he had turned to leave me that night, he had said, “I should have been a better person and a better friend, and I hope you will forgive me.” I had embraced him and given him a hug. He had a tear in his eye and thanked me for my forgiveness. Morrie didn’t make it to the next reunions, and I haven’t heard from him since.

I had held Morrie in jail for 20 years before I saw him at that reunion. Lots of things had changed in his life, and I feel bad that I looked crestfallen when I first saw him that night. But it made me realize how many people we hold in prison in our memories. People can change. People can become completely different over time and even though it’s natural to recall someone’s bad behavior in the past, realizing that God is active all over the world, we shouldn’t be surprised when the Morrie’s of our lives show up transformed.

That’s Jesus for you. With everyone he meets, he changes them…the man lying by the pool of Siloam, the woman with the issue of blood, the thief on the cross…and me. If you have done things in your past like me and Morrie and live your life in prison with regret, there is someone waiting in your prison cell who is with you…wanting to change you. That night, on my way home, I couldn’t seem to remember anything that Morrie had done badly in school anymore…it was like God made it all disappear. Somewhere along the way, Morrie had gone through another graduation, but his time, his cap and gown were intact, and God was taking pictures…

You Live on a Mud Ball…

I have been blessed with seeing God do really remarkable things throughout my life. Every time God interrupts my day with His presence and miraculous things happen I am so thrilled. But there are many more days in my life that those things DON’T happen. In fact, the majority of my days do not include some miraculous conversation or event. The ones that I post are stand out days and I confess, I really look forward to them…but they are few and far between.

So…what happens on the days that doesn’t happen? What happens when there are no divine interruptions? What goes on during ordinary days, when there isn’t someone to talk to in lines while waiting for coffee or at a supermarket or getting my hair cut? What happens on the days I’m not hearing the Lord speak to me in a bookstore or at my job?

In fact, what happened to the millions of people we never read about in the Bible on the days when the Red Sea wasn’t parting or David wasn’t slaying giants? What about the people in the market place when Joseph and Mary were looking for Jesus when he had stayed behind in Jerusalem when he was a 12-year-old boy? Were their lives important to God even though they didn’t make it into the Bible?

Was God only interested in the 12 apostles and the few people that came across his path when He was on the earth? What about the people who wanted to get close to him but couldn’t, and Jesus passed them by? Were those people who were working their jobs and raising their children in Galilee just not important? Were those “throw-away” days and people? Maybe you feel that way. Does God even take notice when I am going through the monotonous tasks day after day?

It may interest you to know that every single day that takes place is just as important to God and every single human being on the planet is of great worth and importance to Him. There ARE no unimportant events to Him. There is nothing that you do that He does not want to be a part of.

Most of my day is stocking store shelves, ordering a measure for carpet or cutting window blinds for people. I have days when there is NOTHING happening of any evident spiritual significance in my life. It is on those days, that God is still watching over me, still loving me and still wanting to guide me to opportunities. But I have to remember that it is almost always what happens on the non-miraculous days when I feel the Lord closest to me.

Today is one of those days. I’m writing in the morning before I go to work and in all honesty, I’m just tired and wanting the day to be over before it begins. It’s true. I want to have a “God Moment” today but if it doesn’t happen, the Lord still cares as much as He does on those days when something wonderful happens. What am I trying to say?

Life can be boring and monotonous, going to work, coming home, only to go to bed and repeat it all over again tomorrow. But if 99% of our lives are like that, God still takes interest in them. There are no “throw-away” days and no “throw-away” lives with God. I think this may be the greatest challenge to human beings.

When man fell in the Garden, endless and unbroken fellowship with God ended. It was broken and Man and God could no longer enjoy time in the presence of each other until Jesus opened the door again. I believe there is NOTHING boring in the presence of God. There are no days in his presence that aren’t new and spectacular. There are no moments of boredom where we will think about turning on the television because there is nothing to do. Presence and fellowship with God does not have to wait until you die and are in Heaven but PERFECT fellowship does. True, right now, “we see through a glass darkly” and so we have the Holy Spirit as a “seal” or a down payment of what we will have when the perfect comes. But a time is coming when we will not have to do with the “partial” any longer!

This is where faith comes in. We are looking diligently toward that day when there will be no more dreary task filled days where we tire easily. We are going to a place of unparalleled beauty and unequaled adventure. We are awaiting the moment our eyes see REAL color and when we hear REAL music after the lifetime of artificial substitutes. This is why it is called “The Believer’s Hope”. We await the time we sing with perfect voices, where angelic beings will be visible to us and the unspeakable beauty and joy will be ours not for 70 or 80 years but FOR ETERNITY!

We trudge through this dark muddy orb with a flicker of light within us telling us there is more…up, over the rim of this existence where the dawn explodes with colors to incredible for words. We endure, we persevere this life we live in a single file existence for a life where there will be no boundaries…no limits, and no liver and onions! A place that makes your greatest dreams appear as nothing.

I will set up measures today for a lot of customers…but there is something coming which will make everything I have ever done to be forgotten. Persevere, my friends, …persevere!

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.

Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. II Corinthians 4:7-18

On the day, when joy comes…

I’ve told the story before, but it is worth mentioning again of our family trips when I was young. We never really went on vacation as a family; that is to say, to places like Disney World or the Grand Canyon. We jst didn’t have the money for that kind of vacation. It was okay though because we didn’t know what we were missing. With four children in the family, we had plenty of entertainment.

My parents, like all parents back in the day, would pull out the old Rand McNally Atlas and once everyone was packed into the car, we would drive to my grandparents’ home in Texas. My father was raised in San Antonio, so making the trek across the country in our family Vista Cruiser from Indiana was quite a journey. Any time we were unsure of which exit to take, my mother (we children called her “Two-Lane Lorraine) would pull out the trusty Rand McNally to get our bearings.

Fast forward to 2019. These days you can dispense with old Rand and his sidekick and dial into your phone the address with zip code of your destination, and it will automatically figure your route for you along with gas stations, restaurants and points of interest along the way. Pretty slick. Except, there are times when the lady up in space doesn’t seem to know where you are. Ever get on the road, and she starts saying things like, “turn right at thus and such street…” but you’re already on Thus and Such street and then she has another glitch and says, “In 500 feet make a U-Turn” but you know you are on the right course? Somehow, she gets a smack in the head by the satellite and comes back telling you exactly where you are. It can be unnerving if you are out on a deserted country road and she goes on the fritz. You start to wish you had two guys named Rand and McNally in the car with you.

In terms of real-life direction navigation, one of the worst things that can happen is to lose sight of your goals. It is said that; in her first attempt to swim the English Channel, Florence Chadwick, due to fog and not being able to see the shore, gave up just 800 yards short of completing her goal. She was devastated after climbing into the boat to give up and discovering that she had less than a half-mile to success! She eventually tried again; this time with clear weather and became the first to swim the channel successfully!

Had she been able to see where she was in relation to the goal, she would never have thrown in the towel. That’s what happens when we can’t see where we are going. Discouragement sets in, and we begin to feel that the prayer will never be answered, the skill we’ve practiced for so long will never be mastered or the thing we have been saving for; will never be attained. Vision, along with perseverance are the two oars that enable us to continue rowing when all else tells us to stop. It is particularly important that even if the shoreline; like Florence Chadwick’s, is only in your mind’s eye, to keep the goal in sight. I have been on a championship team before, and I can tell you, there were many bumps on the road to the championship. I wanted to give up many a time!

There were the long practices, the tired, sore muscles, sacrifices that we didn’t want to make. At one point, when all of the team was discouraged, our coach would stand up year after year and make the same speech. You would think he would appeal to individual greatness in each of us…but he did not. He would say, “You have only one choice…just one.” “You can each try to be an individual State Champion OR, you can be a team player, and whether you individually capture first place (gymnastics), or not, by doing your best, the whole team can be State Champions.” He was right…and in the years the gymnastics program lasted, we won 13 of 17 State championships.

He knew he needed to show us something tangible to help our flagging vision during the hard times. Each year if our school won the championship, a city firetruck would meet us at the city limits, and we would all get on it and ride through the streets of our hometown with the siren blaring, and a banner that read STATE CHAMPIONS! Our coach, knowing that day was far off in the future for us, would go and purchase a model firetruck and hang it from the ceiling of our locker room with a sign that read…” Who wants to ride?”

Everyday, when we would enter that locker room, that firetruck hung there, offering us a vision if ours began to fade. I will never forget the faces of even the youngest gymnast on our team…beaming, on the day we saw that fire truck. It was not cool to cry, but I swear we all were misty-eyed, and our coach, stood proudly as we went through the town as champions once again.

You may be tired of working so hard for the goal you have of buying a home or saving for the car or vacation. You may have sacrificed for years, saving money to put your children through college. But Jesus says, “ASK and keep on asking, SEEK and keep on seeking, KNOCK and keep on knocking, for he who asks receives, he who seeks, finds and he who knocks, the door is opened.” Matthew 7:7.

Calvin Coolidge said, “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

There are people; many of whom you don’t even know, who are cheering for you today. God says there is a great cloud of witnesses watching as you run your race. I encourage you, my friend, don’t give up. You may have had some real low points in your life, and maybe it seems your best days are behind you…they are not! Jeremiah 33: says,

“Call to me, and I will answer you, and I will show you great and mighty things which you do not know” God isn’t mad at you. He won’t give up. His love never stops. He doesn’t say, “That’s it! I’ve HAD it with you!” God never blows his stack…never. Keep asking, keep seeking, and keep knocking. The day is coming when the fog is going to clear, and you are going to see the shoreline!! The day is going to arrive when you see the firetruck …and all of the hard work and all of the sacrifice will melt away… on that day, when the joy comes.

a Parable…

The fifth grade class of Mrs. Wallace was a perfect picture of order. All of the students sat respectfully in perfect rows of desks and chairs facing the chalkboard; Mrs. Wallace’s desk sat in front facing the children. The flag of the United States stood proudly in the corner and the students stood every morning to say the Pledge of Allegiance.

Along the side of the room, hooks on the wall had names assigned to each of them, where students would hang their coats in the winter and their backpacks and lunch boxes sat on a small bench beneath each student’s name. Mrs. Wallace loved her students. She had a special name for each of them. She would coach the slow readers and was careful to encourage them all. When one of the students was sick, Mrs. Wallace would send the lessons of the day with another student to the home, and always sent a note saying how much they were missed in class and how special and important they were to the class.

At recess, while the students were outside playing, Mrs. Wallace would prepare for the next subject and be standing at the door when the students came in, winded from running and playing. She took them all to get a drink at the water fountain and then quieted them down so they could concentrate on the next lesson. Because there was order, every student understood the rules and each day ran smoothly.

One day, the principal entered with a new student and introduced her to the class. She was from a faraway school named Alumnus Chimeras. It was a different school and very much different in the way they learned, expressed themselves and interacted with others. The students’ name was Heloise Ele Burton. She stood impeccably dressed, with her hair brushed and curled. She seemed worldly wise, with a hint of whimsey and a broad smile across her face. Every girl in the class instantly wanted to be her friend and every boy thought she was cute.

Right from the start, when the teacher would ask the children to quiet down to begin the day, Heloise would quickly comply and was soon becoming the teacher’s pet. At recess, Heloise would slowly but surely begin to make comments to her girlfriends about how they were individually important; to be sure, but that because they were each different from one another, she felt they should each be allowed to express themselves “differently” and not have to conform to the school’s rules. The other girls would look at her strangely, but because Heloise was so pretty and popular they began to listen to her.

As the year progressed, Heloise began to influence her small group of friends to “dress the way you want to’… and say things like, “Why do you have to be just like every other girl? You’re your own person!” The small group of girls began to dress in a slovenly way, some no longer brushed their hair or even cleaned their nails. Some of the boys saw the girls doing “their own thing” and also began to do the same things. Mrs. Wallace grew concerned but she didn’t know what had happened. She decided to remain quiet in order to keep the peace. Things grew worse.

When Mrs. Wallace would ask the class to quiet down, Heloise would say, just below the murmur of other students but still loud enough to be heard, “You quiet down!” Her friends would giggle and the boys would say it louder. Laughter would fill the classroom. Mrs. Wallace did not know where the attitude was coming from, but she decided to remain quiet about it in order to keep the peace.

Soon, every student was “doing their own thing”. Students would arrive late, the clean blackboard would have graffiti drawn on it before Mrs. Wallace entered the classroom. When asked to stand for the Pledge, Heloise and her circle of friends would remain seated and now defiantly would announce, “We don’t think it’s right to have to stand if we don’t want to…” The novelty of such a bold and brazen display of disrespect was admired by the boys and soon, disrespect ruled the classroom.

Heloise and some of the other students hid the flag in the closet so they would not have to Pledge any longer. Mrs. Wallace tried to correct the students but to no avail. She had thought that because everything had been orderly for so many years, the students would always just simply obey the rules. Mrs. Wallace thought outer order and social rules were what held her class together. But she was wrong…

Order does not originate from rules, it originates from a heart that is subject to a higher order.

As the years passed, Heloise; after graduating with her Masters in Education, became the Principal of the school and re-named it, “Alumnus Chimeras” with the tagline, “Where students are their own truth.”

Of course, the above story is a parable and it is told in order to demonstrate how Satan came as an angel of light into our society and brought chaos. I’m sure you know that the name Heloise Ele Burton is merely an anagram which spells “The Rebellious One” and her former school named Alumnus Chimeras actually spells, “Secular Humanism”.

For decades if not centuries, small concessions have been made in every area of society, valuing individual rights above the order that God created. The individual and their “rights” has so inculcated into our society, that it “seems” right…but such is the deception of humanism. It neglects to tell those it deceives that each of their individual “rights” is actually a violation of everyone else’s rights. Soon anarchy ensues and society falls apart.

The other lesson to be learned is that trying to appease the spirit of secular humanism is simply an exercise in futility. In trying to appease a system that categorically dismisses and cancels out any other system of governance, the appeaser becomes compliant with the new system. Everything on the surface that was purchased with liberty of conscience from oppression, becomes the slave and property of the dictates of the crowd.

Secular Humanism is the spirit of antichrist, alive in the earth today.

The church is guilty of having given in to the small whims and desires of secular humanism. Individual responsibility for personal choices based on Scriptural truth has taken a back seat to easy humanistic believism. But there is no love in humanism and there is no mechanism for obedience to anything except obedience to the base nature of oneself. This is why when reasoning right from wrong in a social situation, the humanist will state, “There is no “right” or “wrong” only what is right for me and right for you!” Surely the weight of such a social construct is as weak as milk and water in its ability to restrain the individual to any order. The church seems to have lost its compass.

What we are discovering right now in our society, is that there is a resurgence of social restraint and political governance based on Scriptural and Christian tradition. The same tradition that made
America the nation it once was. This is a “Phoenix” movement…rising out of the ashes from the fire that has sought to burn down our sacred institutions of marriage between one man and one woman, and equal justice under the law and exchange it for the despotism of situational ethics and the cruel tyranny of the crowd.

This movement is diametrically opposed to the humanism that has abandoned bedrock truth for individual opinion and sought to exert censorship of those who resist their despotism. A system that has sought to betray our very liberties to those who would erase the order brought about by Judeo/Christian thought.

It is a battle between good and evil. And the church had better wake up and begin drawing a clear line in the sand between a Christian based society, stop using defeatist terms like “post Christian” and begin declaring that Jesus is Lord over all the earth! God has used men and women in the government to push back the darkness.

God is bringing justice and restoration by his own arm. I do not condemn the Church…that is Satan’s job. But I do reject any philosophy or eschatological belief that we turn over the earth to Satan and simply fly away. God placed man in the garden to take dominion over it, and as far as I can see in the Bible, he has NEVER rescinded the order!

Pray, seek God’s face, declare, “Come Thy Kingdom, Be DONE thy will on earth as it is in Heaven!” and then, become involved. Run for office, get on the school board, sit on the city council. God says in Isaiah 58:11-12;

“The LORD will always guide you; He will satisfy you in a sun-scorched land and strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins; you will restore the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of the Breach, Restorer of Streets of Dwelling.”

It is also in our most treasured documents…

“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” Declaration of Independence

Rise up man and woman of God…and do not believe the whisper that “the church is irrelevant”. God has made you to be: at this time in history, the Esther that goes before the throne and touches the Scepter of the King. You are not alone. There are hundreds of thousands of others even millions who are awake. God is changing the complexion of His wineskin. He is making it new and filling it with fresh wine! It is a sweet wine made with the promise of a God who has never abandoned his people. He is pouring out in these last days his Spirit upon men spoken of by Joel the prophet :

“And afterward, I will pour out My Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on My menservants and maidservants, I will pour out My Spirit in those days.…” Joel 2:28

This is not merely on the day of Pentecost, this is for today!!! O RISE UP People of God…RISE UP!

“The Battle Hymn Of The Republic

Mine eyes have seen the glory
of the coming of the Lord.
He is trampling out the vintage
Where the grapes of wrath are stored.
He has loosed the fateful lightening
Of His terrible swift sword
His truth is marching on

I have seen him in the watch-fires
Of a hundred circling camps
They have builded him an altar
In the evening dews and damps
I have read his righteous sentence
By the dim and flaring lamps
His day is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah
Glory, glory, hallelujah
Glory, glory, hallelujah
His truth is marching on

I have read a fiery gospel
Writ in burnish’d rows of steel
As ye deal with my contemptors
So with you my grace shall deal
Let the hero, born of woman
Crush the serpent with his heel
Since my God is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet
That shall never call retreat
He is sifting out the hearts of men
Before His judgment-seat
Oh, be swift, my soul
To answer him be jubilant, my feet
Our God is marching on!