Sunday, August 30, 2009

What we want - isn't always what we need

My boat is sinking. I want a cup. I want a bail out. What I need is a plug to stop the leak.

You warn me of the hole. I yell at you to throw a cup. You know the waters. You've swam them before. You know it's shallow and I won't drown. You tell me to get out, it's not too deep. I yell, "throw me a cup, that‘s what I need."

You toss me a plug. I cry for a cup. You ask me to trust. I say you don't care.
You tell me, "get out and plug the hole." I sit in my sinking, refusing to move, pointing a finger, "You did this to me."

Sinking to rock bottom, realizing I won’t drown. Soaked and humbled I walk to dry ground. You wait with a towel, dry clothes and warm fire. The cup, I wanted, now filled with warm cider. “If you needed a cup I would give it. If you needed money I would provide. What you want is not always what you need.”

“For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”Jeremiah 29:11

My wife and I have felt the pelt of harsh words raining down on us. "What kind of Christians would not help someone in need, especially their own. What hypocrites."

What’s worse is the source. The words hurled at us at various times from those we love. I hate to admit it, but I am partially to blame. Guilty of “bail-outs.” We fed a monster called irresponsibility, it gave birth to a welfare mentality.

We grew up hearing cliche's such as; “If it’s not worth doing right, it’s not worth doing at all” (as a youngster I would reply, “well then, let’s not do it at all” - it never got me out of mowing the lawn though.”) and “if you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself,” and one of my favorites, “ ‘the good book says, God helps those who help themselves.’ ” (although that’s not in the Bible as far as I know, if I brought up that minor detail they would just say, “well, it should be.”)

Following those instructions worked… as far as work is concerned. But to our children’s detriment. Rather than say 1,001 times “clean your room… pick up toys… take out trash and finish your homework.” We did it ourselves, and created a monster. (Before I dig myself into a hole I can't get out of I better say; "Kids, I love you, I'm proud of you and thank God for're not monsters)

Years later we heard, "I can't afford...I don't know how I'm going to pay...If I only had the money..." Hints. Asking without coming right out and asking. A bail out. No strings attached. No advice. Just money. Be my ATM machine and we’ll get along just fine. If not, I’ll turn on you like a rabid dog. You always picked up my toys and cleaned up my messes in the past, so where are you now?

How in the world did this happen, I ask myself.

Seeing the real problem I explain…

“If I give my truck keys to a baby, they could get hurt, poked or choked. However, if I give the keys to my son, he could use them as a tool, allowing him to drive to work."

"A tool in the hand of a master craftsman can be used to create a thing of beauty. However, that same tool in my hand may be used to create… a thing. (but not of beauty.) "

"Money is a tool. Like any tool it can help or hurt, depending on how it is used."

It sounds so good to me. I can’t understand why they don’t receive my excellent wisdom. Then it occurs to me, they are acting just like me. "Give it to me I’ll just do it myself."

I want to sit down and discuss proper ways to accomplish this or that, they have no patience, no time. This is foreign territory.

If I could have a do over I’d invest more time and spend less money. Time teaching the art of enjoying undesirables. Things like chores, homework and responsibility can be enjoyed, it's a matter of perception.

I think as a father I have failed in many ways, loving impatiently and imperfectly.

I am guilty of giving (and asking for) “bail-outs” when what I needed was patching lessons to plug holes in the boat.

I started writing this before church today. To my surprise we had baby dedications, several. Parents vowing to raise children in Godliness. The church agreeing to help by prayer and example. Last night, before shutting out the light, I read out of First Samuel. (It just so happened to be where I was at in my Bible reading.) The story revolved around Hannah dedicating her son Samuel to the Lord. And Eli rebuked for not disciplining his sons. **The very scripture references read during the dedications. It got my attention.

Although my kids are young adults, and I stayed in my seat, I whispered the dedication prayer along with the new moms and dads. I stood in faith for all my kids and grand kids. I figured with God all things are possible, it’s never too late.

Today Lord I dedicate all of my children to you. I vow from this day forward I will invest more quality time and prayer in them. I will live as a Godly example. They are yours and I pray for your good and perfect will to be done in their lives from this moment forward. Amen.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Being called Jesus

I can't think of a greater compliment than the one I received tonight. From a five year old boy called "Fuzzy." His real name is Lee, same as my middle name.
We were having a family gathering. And our family is big, so big that many of the relatives are strangers for the most part. At special occasions like funerals or weddings we offer the obligatory, "so how have you been?" and try to remember their name. And once you're in the family you can't get out. When the family gets together it's everyone that ever was a part of the family. The ex-husbands, ex-wives, in-laws, unofficially adopted no blood relation relatives. Y'all come. Once you're in, you're in there ain't no gettin' out. It's easier to get out of the mafia than this family.

But tonight was different. It was a small group. We were having a going away party for Rosie (my wife's sister.) She flies back to Georgia in the morning. We did the usual stuff, talk, laugh, eat and watch kids play. And I met Fuzzy. This was new. Fuzzy is my sister in laws grandson. So, I think that would make me his great uncle .Or more appropriate he is a great nephew. (I think- some kind-of- kin anyway)

Somehow, five year old Fuzzy, took center stage. He became a fire breathing dragon. He explained that by spinning in a circle he would change from, "this thing" as he patted himself on the head, to "this, a fire breathing dragon with wings." Flapping his wings and pretending to breath fire his cousin joined in and we watched the dragons put on a show. Fuzzy said he could fly up to Jesus in the clouds and Jesus would say, "Oh what a lovely dragon."

When asked to sing he did. Not quiet and shy. But with all his might. The first song, I did not know, I couldn't understand and I wasn't too impressed. It was a few lines from a song by AC DC and it didn't sound like something a five year old should be singing but, that's just me. I smiled, it was cute and all, I mean he's five years old no matter what they do they'll be cute. Next his grandma picked a song. This one I knew, he didn’t. “How about Jesus loves me?” We helped him with the words and by the last line he was getting the hang of it, belting out at the top of his lungs, "JESUS LOVES ME THIS I KNOW FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO." When the song ended he looked at Grandma and said, "But I don't even have a Bible." Grandma told him he did, but he wasn't listening. He started to shout, as he ran out the front door, "I BELIEVE IN GOD, I BELIEVE IN GOD" Out the door he ran around cousins playing, past adults sitting in lawn chairs. "I BELIEVE IN GOD" he sang. He stopped only because he wasn’t watching where he was going and ran right smack into an Evergreen tree. (He wasn’t hurt.)

I’m not exactly sure why, but kids and I get along pretty good. So as usual when the adults are talking politics and my wife is helping clean up, I’m goofin’ off with the kids. For no apparent reason Fuzzy blurted out, “Hi Jesus, you’re Jesus.” Jesus? Huh? Me? That felt, well, good in a way, but at the same time humbling, strange (and if I don’t tell him quick I’m not Jesus I might get struck by lightning.) But he’s only a kid, what does he know right? I told him, “I’m not Jesus. He lives with me and I try to be like Him.But, I'm not Him.” He smiled, “No, you’re Jesus.”

After getting to know Fuzzy a little better, he started calling me Doug. Things were back to normal. And it was time to go. We said our goodbyes.

As we walked toward our truck a voice rang out, “I gotta say goodbye to Jesus.” I turned and saw the front door burst open, a five year old, three foot tall dragon flew out the door and bounced down the steps as fast as his little legs could carry him. He jumped and I caught as he said again, “I gotta say goodbye to Jesus.” He hugged me and said, “ Bye Jesus, I love you.” I hugged him and with quivering lips said, “I love you too.”

He ran back to the house, bouncing up the steps repeating, “I had to say goodbye to Jesus,” and then yelling over his shoulder one more time, “bye Jesus, I love you.”

I'm not sure if I should post this for fear one may say I'm being prideful about being called Jesus. I pray I am not.

Fuzzy, like Jesus, lives without reserve, unafraid to run with passion, yelling, “I believe in God” straight to the cross, the Ever Green Tree.

The WWJD bracelet on my wrist has been there for years. I wonder if others see Jesus in me.

Is it clear or is it just Fuzzy.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Learning to fly by falling

A visit from an eagle inspired my previous post. That post jogged my memory where I stored, amazing-facts-about-eagles, which prompted this post. I hope you find the information as fascinating as I do.

Eagles learn to fly by first learning to fall.

Like parents prepare a nursery, eagles prepare a nest. Maybe that's why we call it nesting when expecting mothers put everything in perfect order prior to delivery.

The mother eagle will line the outside of the nest with strong branches, like the foundation and structure of a house. Next she lines with smaller more pliable limbs and twigs. Each layer is lined with smaller, softer material. Finally, for the finishing touch, she pulls soft downy feathers from her breast and tucks them in. The crib is finally ready for Junior.

Prior to all of this, mamma eagle has her own episode of Survivor. The male eagle must pass a strenuous series of courtship challenges to be considered as an acceptable mate.

It starts out like this; Female eagle finds a small stick and carries it high into the air and drops it. The male auditioning for the role of fatherhood impresses by swooping down and catching. This is repeated. Each time with a larger stick dropped from a lower altitude. Finally, she carries the largest object she can and drops it from the lowest altitude in the series of tests. If the male ever fails to make a catch the ritual is ended and they will never mate. If he passes each test, they perform a mating ritual fraught with symbolism and mate for life…and live happily ever after... But that’s another story.

After eaglet is born, fed and nurtured. The day comes when it’s time to leave the nest. It’s time to learn to fly. Of course, mamma has made such a nice soft nest Junior has no desire to leave the comfort of his home. He’s content to have his food brought to him in bed each day and all he has to do is sit and watch T.V. (or whatever eagles do in nests.) So, mamma starts pulling comfortable feathers out of the nest. Junior now sits on twigs where mammas soft feathers used to be. But he can live with it. Next mamma pulls out twigs and small pliable sticks. Now Junior’s crib is missing a mattress. (Kind of like removing the carpet and sheetrock from your house, all that’s left is a slab and stud walls.) Junior, no longer comfortable wobbles to the edge. Eventually, he teeters and out he falls. Yes, falls. He doesn’t know how to fly. So, he falls. Proud Papa has been waiting for this moment. Now all the stick fetching for his bride pays off. With the speed of an eagle (nice comparison huh?) he swoops down and safely catches Junior before he smashes on the rocks below. He sets him back in the nest, only to watch him wobble out of the shell he once called home. Flop and flap like a wounded duck he spirals down. Each time Papa with excellent timing saves his child from certain death. With each tumble Junior learns. First he becomes familiar with the feel of air rushing past as he falls. Next he senses the balance gained by spreading his wings.

After he has fallen enough to lose his fear of falling, he flies… Like an eagle.

How many times have I fallen? How many times have I chased a stick that seemed to have no purpose?

The symbolism is thick. We could talk of how to get the kids out of the house and on their own. We could talk of the empty nest syndrome or how to choose a mate. What about learning to fly from falling, spreading our wings? Or, how about falling? We’ve all done it. We mess up. Someone bails us out right before we crash. Back in the nest we’re not comfortable so we bail out and find ourselves spiraling out of control, in need of a savior… A Savior.

We’re all somewhere in the story. And all in need of The Savior. Do you know His name? He knows yours.

“…how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.” Ex. 19:4

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Fly Like An Eagle

While writing (or I should say while attempting to write, mostly staring at a blank screen and wanting to fill it) I looked out our camper window and saw an eagle swoop down and attempt to catch a fish. Really, I did, it was amazing. I rarely see eagles, especially so close. Our camper sits about seventy-five feet from the shore.

Eagles are beautiful and awesome. Did you know when an eagle sees a storm he waits for it? From his perch he watches. He can see other animals running for shelter. He patiently waits. Darkening skies don’t dim his demeanor. Pelting rain won’t dampen his attitude. Increasing winds cannot blow him off course. He stares down the storm. With instinctive timing he takes to flight. Not away but toward the storm. Against wind and rain he turns adversary into ally. Using storm created updrafts he spreads his wings. He floats on energy created by the storm to heights that reach the heavens. Soon he is soaring with the angels, floating on the clouds, high above the storm.

I’m quite sure God did that on purpose - for us. Then, He wrote it down.

“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not faint”. Is. 40:31

Remember though, the eagle missed the fish. He flopped rather clumsily for such a graceful creature, but only for a moment and he was in the air again. I watched as he performed a skydiving show. Up high and dry, down, splash, nothing. He did not catch a fish, as far as I could see, but he kept trying.

We’re like that eagle too. He made a big splash but came up with nothing. He tried and tried again. Each time empty handed (or empty talon.) Yet it made him no less an eagle. Still he flew.

Tonight, the weather report is flashing tornado warnings. I suppose our eagle is soaring high above the clouds and the misses of the day… I doubt even cross his mind.

What can I learn from the eagle?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What's better to twiddle with? Blueberry or ihop?

"The top of my flip phone broke, I want to learn to Twiddle, so should I get a Blueberry or an i-hop phone?"

Dad, you've got to be kidding. IHOP is where you get blueberry waffles. You can twiddle your thumbs while you wait. Or, you can twitter with a BlackBerry or an iPhone.

Oh... well, besides feeling stupid, now I'm hungry, let's eat and you can teach about this new fangled phone-slash-computer business.

If you ever have a computer or fancy-phone related question… ask a kid.

We sat down to eat, (at I HOP.)

“The new iPhone 3GS cell phone features faster performance, a video camera, play movies, and music, voice control and GPS maps, with compass . With the BlackBerry distance is truly outdated, smartphones keep everyone close, e-mail, text, instant message, access social networks, share latest updates. Find more, know more, do more. Browse the web, organize personal data. Bring your own entertainment, snap pictures, remember forms for quick and easy purchases. And no rush smartphones don’t have a closing time...”

“Really? ... Interesting.” I had no idea what she just said. But, it sounded familiar. I knew this stuff.

Hey, I have a device it has live streaming downloads. It’s water proof and I use it when I’m fishing.
Really? What is it, some kind of Mp3 player?
An iPod?
Nope…. It’s called a, RAD I O. (radio)(smiles)

Seriously, this phone business got me to thinking. It is amazing to me that no matter where I’m at, if you call my number somehow, the signal will know where to go and find me. We’re electronically leashed. The GPS will somehow find where I’m at and lead me to where I need to go. Satellites or towers direct our communications to where they need to go. No matter how far, we are connected. No closing time.

We’ve had access to all of this stuff for a long time. It’s not new. It’s old, as old as man. We can connect anytime, anywhere to the greatest communication in the world.

Lost? No problem, directions available.

Need someone to talk to? On call 24/7.

Questions? Live streaming downloads from The Limitless Data Source.

Broken? Help to find and fix is only a call away.

The number…. P R A Y E R.

"A faithful prayer in the hands of love is the most powerful force on earth."

call today

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Penny Story

I've been asked if The Penny Story is true. The answer is yes. It happened to me around 1993.

Have you ever found a penny?

Listen, God’s trying to tell you something.

One day I found a penny.

I stopped and picked it up.

The next day I found another.

This started a routine that puzzled me. Without trying, without searching I started finding a penny a day. At first, I thought it coincidence. After two weeks of finding a penny a day, I thought it weird.

“I must be sub-consciously trying to find these little rascals.” So, the next day I refused to look at the ground. Looking like a stuck-up snob, I walked around with nose in the air. I was doing fine until mid-afternoon. After walking across the parking lot, nose in the air, I had to look down to open the truck door, and …you guessed it. There on the ground, as pretty as a picture, lay a beautiful copper penny.

Now, after more than two weeks of this, my lightening fast brain figured, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” I started to pray. Each day after my daily find, I whispered a prayer, “Lord are you trying to show me something?”

Day after day ...prayer after prayer...on and on.

Suddenly, one day, after seeing, stopping, bending down, picking up, holding and praying.

It came to me…

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted... Psalm 34:18

The Lord GOD, gathers the outcasts… Isaiah 56:8

He heals the brokenhearted... Psalm 147:3


“Those pennies have been cast aside.
Counted as nothing.
Many have been seen and stepped over.
Not counted as worthy enough to stoop down and pick up.
Many of my people are like those pennies.
In the same way I have given you eyes to see those pennies,
and the conviction to stoop down and pick them up.
I have given you eyes to see My people and
the conviction to pick them up.”

…I stopped seeing pennies that day, and started seeing people.

Have you ever found a penny?

Listen, God’s trying to tell you something.

Have you ever felt like a penny? God is near to pick you up. Let's talk about it.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Bat Story

Startled by . ..”fdfdfdfdfdfdfdfdfdfd” I dropped the razor and peaked out the bathroom door. Still dark, I could barely see kitchen curtains flutter with the sound “fdfdfdfdfdfdfdfdf.” With a gasp I closed the door. I knew that sound, and I hated bats.
While I finished shaving, I formulated a plan. “Occasionally, bats come up from the basement,” the owner had told me. It wasn’t really my problem. My family and I were just staying there until we could move into our new place. My day was already full. I did not have time to deal with a bat. But, knowing the women and children still lay sleeping, what could I do? Being the brave, all American, man of God that I am, I knew exactly what to do. I looked at my reflection in the mirror one last time and said…
“Kill that bat.”
So, I opened the door, faced the window, heard the fluttering curtain and ran as quickly and quietly as possible to the outside door, leaving the women and children inside to deal with the vampire bat.
Once outside, my courage that had somehow vanished only seconds before began to rise, as did the sun. My curiosity began to rise as well. “I may as well take a look at this huge vampire bat from a safe distance outside the window.”
Sneaking around the corner I heard, “fddfdfdfddfdfdf” only louder than before. I inched toward the window. With the rising of the sun came the rising of the wind. The closer I got the louder it grew. I imagined a huge bat flying right into my face, with fangs and claws open for the kill. Should I turn back? No I have to see it, so, closer and closer, louder and louder, five feet away, four feet, two feet…the object of my fear stared back at me.
“My God, what kind of man am I?” rolled from quivering lips as a tear rolled down my cheek. I stared at my reflection in the window.
The plastic fastened to the inside shuddered as the wind whistled through the cracked window pane…”fdfdfdfdfddffdfd.”
I can laugh about it now, but not then. It was a test of character and I failed. I ran from a fear created in my head rather than facing it with the courage in my heart. Like most fears, it was nothing to be afraid of. Like all tests God was there with love and perfect love casts out fear. I heard Him whisper in the rising wind, drying the falling tears. My scared, ashamed reflection began to shine with a new determination and courage.
That day I learned to face the biggest fear of all….myself.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

This Is The Day

This is the Day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it. It's a choice you know. No matter where you're from or how much you have, we all start this day with the same amount of time. What we do with it makes the difference, of whether it'll be a prosperous day or pitiful day. We have the same amount to invest, to spend or to waste. I think I'll choose to invest my time today. Invest it by listening with my eyes and ears when others talk. Let someone else have my favorite spot at church. Call my folks just to chat, and my kids for the same. Today, I think I'll invest my time when I read my Bible rather than just reading it as one more chore on the daily routine. Today is going to be a great day. I think I'll rejoice it in. Will you join me?