Wednesday, April 22, 2015

...not forgotten

The Facebook post asked folks to write their pastor’s name in the comments section as a way of honoring them. A long list of names followed.  
I noticed a name. It was simple. Four letters made up the first name and eight the last. The simple name may have meant nothing to the world, but it meant the world to someone. Someone had been remembered…not forgotten.
I recognized the person who had placed the twelve simple letters in the comments section. It was a long time ago, but once upon a time we were friends. I hadn’t seen him in over a decade. I didn’t know if we were still friends. I thought perhaps, well, actually I thought, probably, I’d be the last person, he’d call a friend.
I still remember the day we met. The first words I ever spoke to him were, “God hasn’t forgotten you.”
I was in town to start a church. I had no idea what I was doing. The church came together by the grace of God, and just when I was realizing my dreams, my life came undone…and I walked away. I can’t forgive myself for this—how could anyone?
But there it was. His name in blue next to another name, the name of someone he wanted to honor.  
The twelve little black letters stood out like a beacon amidst an ocean of letters swirling and swimming around the screen. I wondered why. I wondered how. I thought perhaps it was a mistake, or worse…a joke.
I tasted the trace of wet and salt.
I swallowed regret and sorrow.
My past, like a dagger pierced.
How could he place my name there, in that spot?
A spot reserved for honor.
Not me.

Lord, was he trying to be funny? Or mock? I hope not, but if so, it’s something I deserve… and more.
A captain abandoning his ship should be banished never to sail again, unless of course it’s to taste the sea one more time…by walking the plank.
And so deserve I, for such as I have done.
But it was a long time ago. What’s done is done.
I just can’t let it go. I can forgive everyone, anyone, but me. No, not me.
Isn’t Christ blood for everyone? Are you so great a sinner that His blood won’t reach far enough or deep enough to cover? Surely you can’t say He died for everyone but you.
Oh, what a wretched man am I, who shall deliver me from this body of death?
Jesus Christ, that’s who. And it is already done.

I looked again, and it was still there. My name in the place where it shouldn’t be…the place reserved to honor.
I worked up my nerve, and left two words, in a message to my friend. “...not forgotten”
“Nope” came the quick reply. I could almost hear his Texas drawl as I read the word.
I couldn’t figure out what to say next, until finally I simply wrote, “pastor?”
His reply came back almost as soon as my question was sent. “You can never repent the call, even if you're not in the pulpit you are ministering in another way....”
Suddenly I stopped thinking of me, and thought about him. I remembered how he filled in to preach. How he stepped up and gave his all to the work of the ministry…I wondered if he too, in his own way, had walked away. “Who are we talking about here?” I replied.
“I guess us.... Lol”
 And that was that.
Although his words were light and few, he helped remove a weight I’d carried far too long.   
There must be, I think, a special place in heaven for those few quiet souls who plant seeds of encouragement into someone’s Garden of Gethsemane.
And I pray that the day my friend typed my name on a Facebook page, his name was written on an Encouragers Crown waiting for him in heaven some day.

And one thing I know for sure and certain, neither you, nor I, neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
and no matter who we are, what we’ve done or where we’ve been we are…not forgotten.   


This post is a part of a series of stories shared over at The High Calling. This week you will find a community of wordsmiths sharing stories of living out faith in the line of fire.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Setting sail

The inner urging undeniable.
And so…
I climbed aboard.
Man’s lights, blinked and blurred through the misty morning, but I lifted my eyes toward the foggy black sky…and searched for His.
“Set sail.”
She didn’t rock to waves under her bow, filling her sails, pulling her out to sea.
His Voice was clear.  
I sat in the dark—that deep dark that stretches minutes into hours just before dawn—and yearned for Light.  
She didn’t pull against ropes lashed to mooring balls floating in port.
 “From here.”
The black started to fade.
Set sail…from here?
Light splashed the eastern horizon.
I crawled over the stern, and stepped out of the boat.
She didn’t move.
My foot didn’t sink or slip.
She sat silent and still, on her trailer, in the driveway, under the carport…
His Voice was clear.
“Set sail from here.”
Her identification tag read Newport. Her name read Intercessor.
The sun peaked over the horizon, and smiled.
The Son, peaked my understanding, and smiled.
 I felt the wind in my sails, and smiled.
Intercessory prayer is like setting sail from a new port every morning.

See the rainbow at top of mast? God smiling.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Hitting red lights is a gift—really

I hit one red light after another. It used to make me crazy, now I just shake my head and say, “It’s a gift.”
Who am I kidding?
My knuckles still turn white on the steering wheel when the light goes from green to yellow and then red.
I was in a hurry. On days like that—I’m doubly blessed.
But, I tried to do the honorable thing. I tried to say a little prayer while I sat and waited for the light to turn green.  
“Thank you God for Your perfect timing” I said through a frustrated breath. I even tried to imagine Him slowing me down, so I’d be in tune with His perfect timing.
And then, believe it or not—this is getting ridiculous—I pulled to a stop sign. Not a light, a stop sign. A simple red sign, on a back street, that has no traffic, ever…until I show up.
As my gift would have it, as soon as I pulled up, to the simple red octagon sign on a quiet back street where nobody ever drives…a road grader that looked like it had been gathering dust on the side of the road for a hundred years, started rolling backward, right into the intersection and then, it turned toward me.
He was picking up speed and didn’t show any signs of slowing down or seeing me. I flipped into reverse and backed up so he didn’t flatten me. Another worker wearing a yellow hardhat, jumped from a white pickup with yellow lights on top. He ran behind the road grader waving his clipboard.
The backing beeping machine slowed to a stop and the back-up lights went out and it eased ahead.
I released the breath I’d been holding.
I drove away shaking my head. “Thank you God, for Your perfect timing.”
After sitting through and slamming into reverse once to prevent getting run over from a road grader with road rage, we finally made it to the Florida Hospital. My favorite hospital. The one with Bible verses painted on the walls. Over the main entrance painted big and bold for all the world to see are the words:  EXTENDING THE HEALING MINISTRY OF CHRIST 

We made our way to the third floor.
Les was still there. His wife was next to him. We talked and laughed and prayed.
When a few more friends showed up, I went to the cafeteria for coffee. There was nobody waiting in line as I walked in and the man behind the cash register looked bored. But, when I was ready to checkout, he was busy and I had to wait in line, of course. 
Two lines formed on either side of a single cashier. He’d take turns checking out customers, alternating from one side to the other.
At the exact moment I stepped up to the till the lady opposite me was saying to the man running the till, “I hope it’s not more than six dollars and seventy-four cents because that’s all I’ve got.”
He punched some numbers and said, “Seven dollars and fifty-nine cents.”
I said, “Here, I’ll cover the difference.”
She handed me her money and the man scratched his head trying to figure out how to ring up this turn of events. I told him to add my coffee to the order and I’d pay for the works.
The lady looked at me as if I’d just found a cure for cancer.
As I rode the elevator I could hear echoes in my soul, “God’s perfect timing.”
I wondered about the red lights and road-rage-grader. I thought about the lady at the till. What was she going through? Was she visiting a sick friend? Or worse? Did she just scrape up her last dime to pay for her first meal in days?  Was she sitting now, by the bedside of a dying child? She did look tired.
I should’ve found her. I should’ve asked her if she wanted to pray.
I thought about the timing. If I’d have been ten seconds this way or that, I’d have missed the lady’s comment…and the chance to help her with her purchase. I wouldn’t have whispered a silent prayer for her there in that elevator. I wouldn’t be here telling you about her, so that maybe you could say a prayer for her, too.
But then again, maybe it was just coincidence. I mean, what are the odds that God would orchestrate such an event?
Just then the elevator door opened at the third floor and there painted on the opposite wall were the words…
“Be still, and know that I AM God.”

And don't forget about Les. We’ve prayed a lot for him, since then. He was transferred to another hospital and had surgery for multiple blockages, he’s recovering nicely. And he will tell you, "God is never late, seldom early, but always good, and right on time."   


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Nevaeh's smile

Nevaeh crawled up on the bed. “I picked a good one Papa.”

And she read.

“Jesus and the twelve disciples.” She pronounced it disciplines.

And it was precious.

As she read it was as if angels descended and ascended a ladder, filling the room with a little bit of heaven.  

Did you know, Nevaeh, is heaveN spelled backward?

It was heartwarming…and heart-wrenching all at once. Because, I knew the world would try to steal all that’s precious and sweet and good about this child. Her innocence would be attacked and ridiculed and slandered. I know. I see the headlines, I’ve watched the news.

And she prayed...for the whole wide world.

Her voice, soft like the pillows around her, drifted across the room, and then wisped up the ladder to heaven.

My heart danced to her gentle tune…but my mind, jaded from too much living, raced ahead, against the onslaught that I knew was just around the bend. I knew, sugar and spice and everything nice wouldn’t always be, what danced in her head.  All too soon she’d come face to face with the ugly reality of life. 

A thousand headlines of ugly and evil flashed before me.

My jaw clenched and my fists grew tight. I stood in the gap and warred against the enemy of her soul.

“…and thank you for mommy and daddy and…”

She thanked the Lord for everything, from turtles to teachers at school.

Her eyes were squeezed tight… “and thank You Jesus, for dying on the cross for our sins—”

I wondered if she even knew what that meant.

“—so that mean ole devil can’t get us.”

And then I knew she did.

Yeah, the world sucks. It’ll try and suck the Life right out of a precious child—and adult.

But, Jesus said don’t worry, I’ve got that covered. In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world…so the mean ole devil can’t get you.

So, who do I believe?

Bad news

Bee stings

Heart attacks

Heart breaks

Scary wars

Skinned knees

Runaway bills

Runny noses

Or… “I have overcome the world.”

She opened her eyes, her palms still pressed together pointed toward heaven. She yawned. “Oh, so many blessings it’s hard to count them all.”

The world stood still. Time froze.

All the ugly and evil headlines vanished…His Word remained.

When was the last time I counted my blessings, instead of the cost?

Sure, there’s trouble. But where’s my focus? Who do I believe? The headline news, or, The Good news?

She looked at me and tilted her head, like maybe she knew that what I was thinking was kinda sad.

She smiled a smile that held no fear, no worry, just trust. Her smile depicted what Jesus meant when he said, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven. 

Who do I believe? I believe that smile. Who do I choose? I choose, Jesus.

I know there’s going to be bad news and skinned knees. I won’t bury my head in the sand.  But from now on, I’ll try to remember a lesson from this little child named after heaven—there’s oh so many blessings it’s hard to count them all.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Granddad lied...

Granddad lied the day he died…

But now I know, the Truth sometimes hides.

I walked in the room and saw him lying there. I didn’t smile but clenched my jaw to squeeze back the anger, hurt and fear that wanted to find release.

He lifted a little smile the way he always did and then blinked his weathered lids one time—his silent way of saying hi.

I nodded once and remembered in a flash the thousand times I’d done that before. I felt my lips start to lift into that old familiar smile we so often shared, but I looked away—out the window and then to the floor. I pushed my mouth to a frown and dropped into the chair next to his bed. “Why didn’t you tell someone…me?”

He didn’t say anything for such a long time I thought maybe he hadn’t heard.

If you were to take a picture of our eyes—you’d think he looked younger than I. His blue eyes always reminded me of the way a child’s eyes look while they’re laughing. It was hard to look at him and not smile. He was the kind of man who’d say things like, “Why use two words when one’ll do.”

I remember when I was a boy I had gotten real angry at my folks, and told Granddad, “They never listen.” 

He had said, “Let your eyes and ears do most of the talkin’ and your folks’ll listen.” I’ll never forget that…it was true. It worked. They let me have that blue heeler pup. One eye was blue and the other was brown. I named him, Blue—after Granddad’s eyes.  

I let my eyes return to him. He was staring at the white ceiling above his hospital bed, but as soon as my eyes landed on his face he rolled his head and his blue eyes caught my gaze. I shook my head. “Why didn’t you say something?”

His shoulders raised and then settled back down, his head turned ever so slightly from side to side and then one brow lifted as he pulled in a slow breath and parted his lips. “Nothin’ to tell.”

“Nothin’ to tell? What are you talkin’ about?” I stood and pointed at him, his bed. “You’re in the hospital, eaten up with—” I shook my head because I couldn’t say the word that started with a c because if I did it’d make it true. I swallowed hard and put my hands on his bed rail. “You’re lying on your…bed.” I couldn’t say the d word either.

 He smiled. He. Just. Smiled.

“Granddad, why didn’t you tell me you were sick? The doc said you were in pain for a long time.” I looked in those eyes, they were smiling…still. “This is serious. I could’ve come sooner. If you’d have said…we could’ve. We should’ve—”

He rested his hand on mine.

“Every single time I called you’d tell me you were doing fine.” I pulled my hand out from under his and crossed my arms. “That wasn’t true.”

His smiling eyes never wavered. I thought they would. I figured he’d look away knowing he’d been caught in a lie. He told me he was fine when clearly, he wasn’t. He lied. I remember it as clear as day.

Every time I called, I’d ask, “How you doing Granddad?”  

And he’d always say the same thing. “Doin’ well. And you?”  

I’d tell him about my job and the trouble I was having with my old truck—his old truck he gave me. He’d ask if I wanted to go fishin’. I used to find the time…but it’d been a while. A month or two, or maybe it was last year since I found the time. Or was it the year before? Anyway, he’d always ask the same questions like a stuck record. 

“Have you worn that Bible out yet?” He’d given me a leather Bible with my name engraved on the front for a graduation present. Inside the front cover he’d written, “A Bible that’s fallin’ apart is owned by folks who aren’t.” The day he handed it to me he said. “Let me know when you need a new one.” 

Whenever he brought that up is about the time I'd change the subject or have to get off the phone. Never thought about it much…but that’s how our phone conversations would go.

Granddad continued to look at me with those blue eyes.

I couldn’t believe what I was about to say to the man I respected more than anyone else in the world. “You lied.” I sucked in a quick breath not believing my ears. I felt a little dizzy and grabbed the bed rail to steady myself. I had to start talking before I started crying. “Granddad you always said you were doin’ well, when you weren’t—that’s a lie.”

He wrapped a strong sun-spotted hand around mine. “It is well.”

“It is well.” I pulled my hand from under his. “It is well? No, it isn’t.” I shook my head and walked toward the door. “If you’re not going to be honest, then there’s no use in even talking—”

He sat straight up in bed and lifted both hands. “It is well…with my soul.”

His smile never faded and his eyes never closed...that was the last words he ever spoke. 

I drove home in a blur of angry tears.

It took longer than it should’ve but when I finally found that old Bible and threw it against the wall. “I’ll wear you out now” I shouted. It hit the floor and the back cover flipped open. 

There, written in blue were words I’d never read.

If you live your life in such a way
that everyday you can truly say,
It is well, with my soul,
when the day is done
and your work is through,
you’ll be able to hear the words…
Well done

~ This is my prayer for you,
Love Granddad ~

It is well with my soul, forever.

~I pray you can say now and forever, it is well with my soul.
Thanks for leaving a comment I love hearing from you...

Monday, April 6, 2015

Big Bubba

Our Pastor told us a story that went something like this:

Bubba wanted to be a preacher. He looked more like a linebacker. When he stood in the pulpit just turning the pages of his Bible made folks want to repent just by watching his biceps flex.

Bubba was so excited when he performed his first wedding ceremony. His friend Joey was getting married to his childhood sweetheart, Ann.  Other than the fact, that Joe stood as tall as Bubba and Ann was just a hair over five feet—they were a perfect match.

It wasn’t long until they heard the news, Joey and Ann were having a baby. They added a room to their trailer and already had it painted blue. If all went well they’d celebrate Easter at home with their new baby boy.  

But, life happened…and ended for wife and child.

That was Saturday.

Sunday, Bubba couldn’t think of a thing to preach. Oh, he had his Easter sermon all written out and ready to go, but words just wouldn’t come.

He stood before the congregation with that sermon all prepared but he couldn’t see the page. He opened his mouth and the words, “If Christ be not risen…” fell out.

He wanted to quote from 1 Corinthians 15:14, “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.”

But his throat squeezed shut and his tongue froze, because of what he saw when he raised his head. There he sat, no wife, no child…just Joey, alone.

His eyes blurred. Joey’s already had.

Some folks seated near Joey reached for him, and one by one they started to weep. The preacher could see their shoulders shake.

He looked to the pulpit to the words on the page but it was no use—it was all a blur. A tear fell and made it worse. “If Christ be not risen,” once more he managed to say.

Joey cleared his throat and wiped his eyes and pulled himself to his feet. He looked at Bubba through watery eyes. “But…but Pastor—” he shook his head and lifted a small quivering smile— “He is risen.” Joey looked up and his hands shot toward heaven and through the tears and through the sobs and through the pain and through the joy and through the sorrow of it all, he shouted for all the world to hear and for all of heaven to rejoice… “HE.IS.RISEN!” He rubbed a forearm across his eyes and swallowed hard, his words were strong and aimed toward heaven.  “Even still…I will love You, even now, I will give You praise.” 

Joey looked to the pastor one more time and the pastor was making his way to Joey, but it was too late. The whole church was on their feet and had surrounded Joey in great big hundred arm strong group hug.

And from somewhere, or everywhere, voices started to sing like a choir filled with angels...

Christ the Lord is ris’n today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!

Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!

Bubba only said five words, but he’ll tell you it was the best sermon he ever preached.


I'd love to hear from you...pray with you.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

I hope you dance

 “Do you wanna dance?” Were the first words I ever spoke to my wife.

“Do you work with horses?” were the second. She said, yes.

I thought, wow, she’s beautiful, works with horses and we’re gonna dance.

Only…she thought I said, houses, not horses.  She cleaned for a living.

But it was too late and it didn’t matter. I was smitten. We danced.

I loved to dance. Still do. We just never do it anymore. But, the other day I watched a dance, at church of all places, and I was smitten.

It all started with us getting to church late. Mr. Turner nodded as we took our seats in the back row next to him.

The place was packed as usual. The preacher was talking as usual. But after a few minutes our friend, Rachel got up from her usual seat near the front and walked out, holding her Bible—and Burt’s.

That was unusual.

Curiosity and concern got the best of me so I snuck out and found Rachel looking for Burt. “He should’ve been back by now.”

“I’ll check the bathroom.”

“Already did.”

We found him in the car, with his head in his hand.

The day before, we’d gone to a garage sale with Burt and Rachel, and when I had told my son in law that we were going, he said, “Make sure Burt drinks lots of water.”

Why would he say that out of the clear blue? He doesn’t even know Burt that well. But, he’s a lineman and Burt was too. Maybe there’s a connection. Anyway, the words never left me. Make sure Burt drinks lots of water.

“He’s dehydrated,” I heard myself say.

Dancers appeared from out of everywhere, two-stepping to the beat of a Divine Orchestra. They sashayed in and away and back again with help and water and prayer. They weren’t really dancing, I don’t think, but for some reason that’s just the way it seemed.

After all was said and done, I slid back in to the seat between Mr. Turner and my wife. He didn’t notice since his head was bowed and eyes were closed.

The pastor preached but I didn’t hear a word, I was thinking about what happened to Burt…and listening to the man next to me quietly snore.

At the close of the service Mr. Turner’s head rose slow, he blinked a few times and two deacons appeared. One smiled and helped him to his feet, while the other handed him a wooden cane and pulled open the door.

Mr. Turner did a two step of his own as he shuffled through, two steps forward and one step back. I watched the dance and it occurred to me, they’d swayed to this beat a thousand times before.  

After we got home we received the call. Burt’s blood pressure had spiked.

I texted my son in law and asked him to pray. After all—wasn’t he the one who’d tuned in the song? Make sure Burt drinks lots of water.

I sat on a stool next to the hospital bed and listened to my friend.

“I felt like I needed to sit during the singing, but…” Burt clenched his jaw and shook his head.

“Burt, lots of folks sit during the singing. It’s okay.”

“Yeah, some—the old people.”

Burt’s eighty-five.

“Yeah, you’re too young for that” I said.

He smiled. “I waited until after the singing, when the choir was leaving and the preacher was praying. I snuck out when no one was looking.”

That’s his way—always flowing with the music, never disturbing the song.

About that time the doc walked in and said all the tests were fine, he was free to go.

Burt in his bed and Rachel in her chair, they didn’t move but I could see it in their eyes—they were dancing.

Do you ever just sit and wonder about how things fall into place?

That day replayed over and over in my head like an old song…really, like a song. It’s like the memory has music and it just won’t go away.

As I look back, I see everyone has a part to play. A song to sing. A step to make. Some speak, some listen, others pray or give water, open a door or just show up to close their eyes and nod their head— everyone is invited to the dance. Everyone is asked to dance.

Only a few will. Only those willing to listen—and let God lead.

That day, I think I caught a glimpse of heaven’s dance. The Husband and His bride in a slow embrace. The Body of Christ waltzing with her One and only.

The song they were dancing to?

It's an old song, first sang over 2,000 years ago, but still as fresh as the sunrise...

He's alive. He has risen from the dead and He's alive.

Yes, as strange as it may sound, I think I felt, I think I heard, heaven singing...

I think I saw—God dancing.

Wait, before you roll your eyes, doesn’t His Word say, He rejoices over you with singing?(Zephaniah 3:17).

Didn’t David dance like crazy before the Lord?

Yeah, but that was David.

Right, but wasn’t David called a man after God’s own heart?

Think about it. Every day the God of all creation choreographs the most romantic of dances.  

The moon serenades the ocean into caressing slow wet kisses along the shore. 

The sun and stars dance in perfect harmony with times and seasons. At any given moment a sunrise and a sunset are being painted in all of their unending glory declaring at once, the Son has set and yet, He has risen..

Could it be that The Creator of music sings to His bride?

Could it be that His Voice floats here and now and everywhere, searching, longing, yearning for…singing to, those He loves?

Could it be that, God just wants to dance?

Will you take His nail-scarred hand…and dance?

I'd love to hear from you, pray with you...I hope you dance. 


This post was written for The High Calling Community Link Up. This week’s theme is resurrection. Read more and share your own story here