Holding Back the Rain

In the Book of John, the last verse says: “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did.  Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”  The crazy thing is, he was only talking about what Jesus did while He was here on earth.   After reading what John had to say, I wondered how many people have lived for Jesus, experienced His fantastic power, and died without recording their stories?  In my own short time here on earth, I have experienced a few such miraculous happenings, one of which happened back in the year that Elvis died, in 1977.

I was working as a framing contractor in the South Austin Cherry Creek area, it was springtime, and the weather was not helping me a bit.  I needed to come up with the money for my taxes, make payroll that week, and pay the other bills that were coming due.  In order for that to happen this house had to be completely finished by 2:00 that afternoon, and the paperwork turned in to the owners.  My partner, Edgar Lormand, had been telling me all day to relax.  Jesus was in control, and everything would work out.  Edgar was my mentor, as well as partner, but the clouds I could see on the horizon were telling me a different story.

“Hey, Rob, check out those clouds, don’t you think we should roll up the tools?” asked James, my lead carpenter, as he came around the building.  Edgar and I were standing on the 2nd row of roof sheathing desperately trying to get it all laid, nailed off, and dried in before the rain hit.  “Not yet, keep working,” Edgar answered for me.  I remember standing there on the roof looking at the black roll of clouds coming over the hill and just stopped.  “Let’s pray” he said, “God can hold it back for us.”  We stood there on the roof in front of those tough framing carpenters, raised our hands and commanded the rain to hold off by the power and authority of Jesus Christ.  

After our prayer I looked down and the guys just stood there staring at us like we were from Mars.  “Hey, go back to work,” I said, “it won’t rain on us until we finish.”  They had already put the tools they were working with in the truck so some of them climbed up with us and started rolling out the black felt.  The rain came at us like a wall of water, but when it got within a couple of hundred yards from us, it split and traveled to the North and South of us.  It was like we were in a bubble with some fine mist falling on the roof.  We worked like crazy for about 20 minutes and as the last roll of felt got stapled, the bubble collapsed, and we got drenched getting off the roof.

I’ve often wondered why I didn’t ask God to let us get off the roof first.   I know God will not always change my circumstances to fit what I think is the best solution; after all, He is God and knows what is best for me.  But there is something about putting ourselves on the line and displaying our trust and faith in Him publicly that He honors.  How much easier is it to just accept our circumstances and forget what Jesus said in Mark 11:23-24:  “Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, Be taken up and thrown into the sea, and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.  Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” 

Falling in Love

I talk a lot about total surrender to God, about denying self and dying to this old world, but unless we understand that process, its just words on the screen.  How can we be expected to leave everything, even our very identity, if we don’t find a better existence and identity?  I had been told about Jesus all my life and knew a lot of second hand info about Him, but it wasn’t until I actually met Him and fell in love with Him that I traded my right of self determination for the privilege of being under His sovereignty. 

So how do we fall in love with God?  The answer is the same as falling in love with anybody.  Since I’m a teller of stories, what better story to tell than my own of falling in love, leaving my world of singleness and finding the exact person I needed for unity.

The first time I saw her she was coming down the isle of our church behind Sister Kay, so I just got glimpse of her every so often.  Thinking I’d get a better view of this new girl, I stepped to one side but wouldn’t you know, Sister Kay came to a stop right in front of me and started talking to me.  Now I liked this lady, but what I really wanted was to talk to the chick behind her.  When my brain pushed through my 17 year old testosterone-laden fog, I heard her say “…so I was wondering if you could let her go with you to the youth group?”  Wait a minute, what did I miss?  “ Uh, sure, yes ma’am, sure, be happy to.”

So off we went to youth, just she and I, and I discovered she was Sister Kay’s sister, her name was Kathy, and she sat right beside me for the whole meeting.  I don’t remember anything else about that event because it was like I was sitting in a bubble with this good looking girl, and she only seemed interested in me.  I mean, she wasn’t even checking out Larry, the Pastor’s son who had a new GTO, or Terry, his good looking cousin who could get any girl he wanted.  No, she only talked quietly to me and looked directly into my eyes while we talked.

That day was a life changing event for me, because I had met someone who really liked me, not for my money which I had very little of, or my car, which was the family 1962 ford station wagon.   The only fly in this ointment of young love we were building was the fact that she lived 150 miles away.   On top of that, her old rural dad was very adamant she did not need to associate with a city kid who didn’t hunt and fish, didn’t like baseball or just about any other thing he considered important.

After that day she went back home and life went on for both of us.  We went to school, found other people to be interested in, and occasionally saw each other when she would come back for a visit.  I’d always try to sneak in a date with Kathy but her dad was a good dad who loved his daughter and stood firm, none of that was going to happen.  I finally accepted that seeing her at church and talking out in the hallway was the best I could do and tried my best to be friendly with her dad.

Eventually she finished her senior year at High school and as the Valedictorian of her class, was going to give the speech at the ceremony.  Much to my surprise I got an invitation from her sister to attend the ceremony, and when Kathy looked out at the people in Rochelle High’s auditorium, there I sat with her family.   

Looking back at that night, I remember it was like looking down a tunnel and at the end there stood Kathy.  She was talking away about going out to meet the new world and all that stuff, but I didn’t really pay that much attention.  All I could see was her, and from that moment I knew I was so in love nothing else was important.  In fact after the graduation, we went on our first, and only true date.  I remember we were sitting in the car just talking about our dreams and such, and I grabbed her hand and said “Kathy, will you marry me?”   Yeah, I know, I’m pretty impulsive. 

She, as I have eventually found out, is as methodical a person as God ever created, and promptly told me: “No, I’ve got things going on, just got a job in Brownwood, got my first car, and I’m moving in with my great aunt.”  I saw right away that I had a bit more work to do.

For the next 7 months I drove over a hundred miles each way to visit her every other Friday.  By then her dad decided he’d have to teach me to hunt and fish so that worked out and her mom laid the best table I had ever encountered.   Man, what’s not to like.  The best thing that happened was we had time to get to know each other.  The worst thing was the wear and tear on my 1965 Fairlane that had a 390 big block, 4 barrel Holley carb and 4 on the floor.  That old beast would snort and get it if you pushed it, and push it I did-getting back to where my heart stayed.  So as they say, the rest is history.  We tied the knot 48 years ago and it’s been a wonderful journey.  

Falling in love with another human being is what God established when He created us.  But He also created us to be in love with Him, and why most folks go through life looking for something to fill the void only He can fill.  So how do we fall in love with Jesus?  First we meet Him, either by being introduced by a friend, or by simply seeking for Him on our own.   We meet Him, and talk to Him face to face, heart to heart, and His Spirit flows back to us.  The first time you encounter God’s Spirit it is a life-changing event.

Second we need to spend time getting to know Him by reading His Word, singing to Him, talking to Him and hanging out with Him.  I’m not big on creating a formula on how this should transpire, but Luke records how it happened to the original church in the Book of Acts.  That is a great place to start reading about how falling in love with Jesus will affect a person.  

The deeper we fall in love with Jesus, the more we want of Him.  

Down on the Farm

Have you ever given something your very best effort and it was not enough?  God gave me a lesson I’ll never forget about letting Him take care of things I can’t seem to do on my own.  

I had sold a couple of bull calves to a neighbor and needed to take them to him.   It was summertime and cattle don’t like to go to the barn when there is plenty of grass to munch on.  Eventually I was able to herd them all into the pens, separated the calves and got the largest one in the trailer, but the smaller one got excited, jumped the 5’ fence like a deer and ran off into the woods.  I took the one calf over to the neighbor and promised to bring the other as soon as possible.  The next afternoon, before I left the house, I prayed a very simple prayer and asked God to help me pen the calf.  Imagine my surprise when I reached the corrals and saw the calf standing in the pen along with a cow and a small calf.  Saying a quick “thank you Jesus”, I shut the gate and proceeded to slowly move the animals into the loading chute, which led to the trailer.  Now that calf weighed about 800 lbs. and it decided that going into the chute was not going to happen.  I worked for about fifteen minutes repeatedly getting him to the chute, only to have him break every time and try to knock me over.

This calf was getting wilder by the minute as he was totally scared and confused by the proceedings and I remembered how God had penned him for me.  Once again I prayed another simple prayer for help and immediately felt a strong urge to just stop and be still.  While standing off to the side I watched the calf trembling all over, with its head and tail up high, and spraying snot with every breath.  This was one disturbed animal.  Then I quietly said to God: “Lord, you put him in the pen and I’m not doing very well at getting him in the trailer.  Would you please help me here?”  As I said these words, I was looking at the calf and instantly his head and tail came down and his body relaxed.  He walked around the cow, went over to the chute, went down it, hopped into the trailer, turned around and looked at me.  I was right behind him so it only took a few seconds to close the trailer gate.  

I was so overcome and humbled that the God of creation would even care about my little problems that I fell down on my knees in that dirty cow lot and sobbed out my thanks to Him. Looking back, I realize I’m so blessed to have this memory during our current circumstances because I know He holds me in the hollow of His hands.  So I urge you, climb up here with me, let’s get real still, and watch Him do His thing.

Prepping time

I’m a strong proponent of being prepared.  In fact, Proverbs 6 tells us to consider the ant and be wise.  So it’s very Biblical to think about the future and work hard to be ready for coming storms.  How far we take that concept is up to each individual because we are all in different situations.  Some folks, called Preppers, have taken it so far that they are prepared to hunker down and live in isolation for years.  If that is your point of view, I salute you for your forethought and wish you the best.

If we have only this present reality to exist in, that level of preparedness makes total sense, and many people are wishing right now that they had done exactly that.  This is the reason there is so much fear and anxiety when the store shelves are bare and layoffs are happening all around us.  It’s also why the gun stores are stripped of weapons and ammo nationwide.  But have we, who supposedly trust in Jesus, forgotten that our hope is not found in this present world?

Believe me, I’ve definitely had to come to grips with the fact that, even though, I went to church every Sunday, supported the church financially, did good deeds for others, etc., I was simply religious.  I even stood for the songs and clapped to the beat for the fast ones.  When God put out His hand and stopped my world, I was fearful.  It didn’t help a bit that the news outlets only spew negativity, and all we hear about are the 1.6% who have died, not the 98.4% who recover from the virus.  I have discovered that religion has not cured my fear. 

So what are we to do? How do we go to sleep at night in complete peace and face the next day with vigor and confidence?   That, my friends, is only found in absolute surrender to God.   Matthew, Mark, and Luke all recorded Jesus as saying we must deny our self, take up our cross and follow Him.  A cross was not just a burden, instead it was a means of death.  We have to die to our self where we are not in control of our life, and God is our King.  

My advice is to do whatever you can to take care of your family, but remember the best prepping is that of the heart.  God is still on His throne, and He loves His children intensely.   If you are reading this, it means you are still here and can still give Him your being.   There is no experience like trusting explicitly in God’s incredible power and knowing He will take us out of here when our work is done.  God’s kids sleep deep and wake up knowing He is in control.

Matthew 25:1-4 “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.   Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish.  Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.” 

The Resurrection Plant

My brother and I were on a fishing trip down at the Rio Grande a few years ago and noticed a strange plant growing around the drip line of a big boulder on the cliff by the river.  It was all dried up and looked totally dead. The old rancher that I was with told me it is a resurrection plant and that when the rains come it opens up, turns green and blooms.  The action of opening up causes the seeds that have formed inside to fall out and start new plants.

I asked him why they were so plentiful around the boulders, and he said that a lot of moisture comes up off the river and collects on the boulders and then drips down on the plants. When the new seeds sprout after the rain, the ones by the boulders thrive while the sprouts further out in the desert wither and die.  I dug up some and they sit on my coffee table to this day, waiting for me to give them a drink so they can transform again.

This little plant has become a reminder of just how blessed I am to have been born into a family who loves God and trusts in Him for life.   It also reminds me I have a strong church community to help channel God’s love and bring me hope, just like the boulders do for the plants.

If we only see from our natural viewpoint, it’s been a strange fearful time to exist in the last few weeks.  Obviously the politicians can’t set our world in order and are just as clueless as everybody else.  If we listen to the news, there is only fear and distress coming at us.

Think about this, just before Jesus was led away to be crucified, He told his Disciples in John 16:32-33: “Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone.  And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.  These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Right now we are literally “each with our own”, but we don’t have to be alone because Jesus is right here with us.   If it seems like you are in the desert and can’t see any clouds coming to bring rain, remember the boulder we have been living around, our church community.  We, the church, are collectively gathering the life giving flow of God’s Spirit, and if we freely give that away, new sprouts will grow in this desert.

The Boy who was God’s Friend

The clouds were hanging down like big grey mushrooms, and the wind was picking up from a norther that was blowing in. It was early October, in the year of 1935, near Guthrie, Oklahoma, and what had started as a nice warm day was now getting cold, dark and forbidding to the little blond haired boy making his way through the brush. Papa was laid up again, and the cows had to be in the barn before it got dark. When you are five years old, it’s not easy being the man of the house, but Wayne never hesitated when they told him to go get the cows.

Problem was, it was cold, and his old thin hand-me-down shirt did little to protect him. It was getting dark and scary looking. Feeling all alone, he stopped beside an old tree stump that blocked part of the wind and peered down into the ravine where the cows usually hung out when it was windy. Nothing moved. Please, please be there, he thought. With his heart pounding and teeth chattering, he slowly squatted down by the stump and started crying.

Suddenly, there popped in his mind about a lady he had heard talking about a friend, named Jesus. If he could just find a friend like that he could have help and would not be alone. With a desperation born from terrible need, he said, “I sure do need a friend, and if you are really there, would you be my friend?” Out of the air around him a voice said, “ I’ll be your friend.” Jumping to his feet, little Wayne let out a yell and with a huge smile threw his hands up and said, “Thanks, friend! Can you help me find the cows?” His new friend did not say anything else, but when he turned around, he saw a flash of tan hide, and the old Jersey milk cow poked her head out of the brush.

Over the next ten years, Wayne went regularly to the old stump where he talked to his friend. He was always there, ready to visit and talk about things that boys can’t understand, especially when you’re poor and don’t always have food to eat. On the day he turned 10 years old, Papa came home with a present, all wrapped in a brown paper sack. He tore it open, and there lay a brand new flannel shirt. His very first new shirt, all clean and soft with shiny buttons and no holes. It was the best present he could dream of, and he could hardly wait to tell his friend.

As soon as morning came, he tore off down the meadow and ran up to the talking place by the stump, proudly wearing his new shirt. “Hey friend”, he said, “look at my new shirt.” Once again his friend’s voice rolled around him, and this time seemed to be laughing as he said: “I see it. I gave that shirt to you.” Wayne just stood there by the stump and soaked up the love of his friend. From that day until the day he died, he was never alone again.

We buried Nallen Wayne Chennault yesterday at the age of 84, in the same town he was born in and lived all his life. His legacy of prayer and devotion to his wife, Marilyn, are legendary. The friendship and mentoring that he and Sister Marilyn extended to my Mother sustained her through the dark times, and my extended family will feel the ripple effects for generations.

Jesus really is a friend to those who need one, and if we will just seek Him, we will find Him.

When Mama Prayed

When Mama prayed, she would sit down on the rug with her feet drawn up under her and lean over on her elbows, then drop her head into her hands. By the time her forehead touched her open palms, she would be in the Kingdom. I’ve been around a lot of folks who prayed, but she could reach beyond this present world and into the presence of Jesus faster than any of them. And let me tell you, if you were in the house when she talked to Jesus, you either tried to join her quickly or else found a way to get out of there quickly. For Mom, praying was not something you only did in a crisis, or as a ritual in church, instead it was the sustaining flow of life itself.

I once asked her if she learned to pray by watching her mother like we learned by watching her. She gave me a strange smile and said, “ When you were about 2 years old, I had a dream that my mother came to visit me, and I was praying when she walked in the house. In the dream she came up to me and slapped me to make me stop. I thought it was a strange dream. Then a few weeks later, I was in the living room praying in the Spirit, and she and Daddy came in the house. I didn’t hear them. My first awareness of them was mother calling my name so I slowed down and opened my eyes, and there she stood, just like the dream. She said, “ Barbara, you’re disgusting,” and then slapped me hard.”

This was developing into a most interesting conversation, and I urged her on “what did you do?” “Well, I just turned my face to the other side so she could give me another one, but nothing happened. I looked up at her, and she was white as a ghost and finally sat down on the couch. If I had not had the dream, I’m not sure what would have happened, but Jesus warned me and after that she never again said anything about the way I prayed.”

One time we were all riding in the back of Daddy’s pickup and had a bunch of cousins with us when our dog, Thirsty, somehow got under the rear tire. We ran over her. Thirsty was a very fruitful mother dog who usually gave us a dozen or so puppies each year and was ready to deliver. That old rear tire hit her square in the middle. Dad carried Thirsty into the kitchen and laid her down by the table. We were all standing around crying so Mom wiped her hands on her apron and gathered us all up. “Okay, lets all put our hands on Thirsty and ask Jesus to make her well.” No problem there, we all knew if Mama said Jesus would fix her that would happen. If I remember correctly, there were five of us at the time, and we prayed like she taught us. The next morning Thirsty gave us her usual big litter and not a blemish was found on any of them.

Then there was the time Daddy was working out of town and Mama loaded us all in the car for the weekly ladies’ prayer meeting in Burnet. On the way we stopped and picked up Sister Halbert who was all stooped and older than dirt, with one of those bonnet things on her head, but she was a prayer warrior from whom demons fled. I do not remember anything special about the prayer meeting, but on the way home the car died. Mama and Sister Halbert got out and lifted the hood, and all us kids followed to watch the action.

Of course, they knew nothing about mechanics and eventually closed the hood back down. Sister Halbert said, “Sister Barbara, let’s pray for it. I’m sure there were some double takes from the passing motorist who saw a little old granny, a young mother, and a bunch of kids standing around the car with our eyes closed, one hand in the air and the other on the car. After we prayed we all got back in and Mama turned the key, and it started right up. That really wasn’t a big deal, just the way we lived. However, when Daddy came back home three days later he heard the story and went out to check the car. I remember him sputtering a bit and finally admitting that the only thing wrong with the car was it was out of gas and would not start. I think even Mama was surprised that Jesus could make a car run for three days with no gas.

When I was about 12, we lived in an old farmhouse in Oklahoma and my brother, Randy, and I shared a bedroom up a very steep flight of stairs on the 2nd floor. One night after we went to bed, I woke up and noticed the light was on, but when I tried to get up, I discovered that I was frozen in place. I was on my side looking across the room at Randy, who was asleep, and no matter how I tried, not one muscle would respond. Shear stark terror engulfed my whole being, and then I heard Mom praying downstairs. As soon as I herd her praying, something even weirder happened.

Randy was dead centered in my line of sight. As Mom prayed, I saw a blue man superimposed over Randy, and he sat up and then stood up. He was staring directly at me, was aware of me, but never acknowledged me in any way. I noticed that he was bald headed and even stranger, I could sort of see through him. He turned and walked through the bedroom door. At that exact moment, my body returned to normal. I let out a scream and shot to the stairs, which I leaped down in two bounds, then crashed into the wall at the bottom. When I came back to my senses I was crying and trying to tell Dad what had happened, and all I could say was there is a man upstairs.

When Dad heard that, he went up the stirs in a couple of bounds, and we could hear doors crashing open and shut as he searched the rooms. When he stopped running around, he noticed that Randy was still lying on the bed, but something was not right; he was having some kind of a seizure. They immediately called the pastor and other folks who prayed, and a collective prayer meeting started up. I remember Mom on the floor in the living room praying for Randy and me at the same time. That night she vowed to God that if He would heal Randy she would give Him her iced tea. Mom loved iced tea, but from that day on she never drank it again to my knowledge. Randy never had another seizure either.

Mom’s praying sometimes made us uncomfortable, and we never wanted our friends to hear her. It was kind of a love/hate deal. If we needed God‘s help, mom‘s prayers were a wonderful source of comfort, but when we flirted with the dark side of things, beware; Mom would have a dream and start praying for us. It was crazy how something like a car wreck would happen to get our attention.

Mom doesn’t have to pray anymore, that torch has been passed to us. How we carry it will determine the course of the next generation.

…The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. James 5:16

When Worlds Collide

There is an extremely thin line between the worlds of water and air. This is a story from both sides of these worlds. Let’s sink down below that thin line where an old bass swims lazily across the pond, sure and calm in his ability and strength.   Slipping under a water lily, he turns and surveys his domain, ever vigilant for the stray grasshopper or frog that would round out his breakfast.  In the far distance he spots movement. It’s that vicious creature from the above that has chased him all his life. Holding perfectly still, he tracts the large bird streaking through the water in his direction. Although he had always been faster and quicker in his turns, it was still sure death if he hung around. Shooting down to the green depths, he slid under the old tree that he always went to for safety and waited for the danger to go away.

I sat looking at the pond from the other side of where the water meets the air and watched the cormorant surface with a small perch in his hooked beak. Although I tried to keep these pesky birds off the ponds, they still came regularly and ate the fish and small animals that lived there. Undoubtedly, the old bass I had been watching was capable of dealing with this particular danger, but what was troubling me was a much greater danger that was way beyond the capabilities of any fish living in the pond.

We were in the middle of a bad drought, and the ponds were drying up. I looked at the pond where the old bass lived and caught sight of the lower pond about a hundred feet away, and it hit me. All I had to do was drain all the water from the upper one into the lower one and move the fish. Problem solved. I just wish it had been that easy.

My buddy, Noel, was an avid fisherman so he agreed right away to help me. We got the water pumped down until only about three feet of water was left and that was pretty contaminated.   It was time to move the fish. I tried walking out into the water with a net but immediately sunk to my knees in black gooey mud. Plan B was next which was comprised of a tight fence stretched to the middle of the pond and a fish seine attached to the end of the fence in the center of the pond. My job was to sit in the boat and hold the loose end of the seine, while Noel took a rope and pulled me around the pond, hoping to pin the fish between the fence and seine.

The old bass knew something was wrong. The world was slowly changing from clear and cool to dark and foul, and the heat was intense. He stayed on the bottom as long as he could, but soon he was driven back to the upper reaches for oxygen. Then there was no upper part anymore and only the dead lower world was left.   Something was changing again.   Harsh vibrations and strange things were moving across the world, and in intense fear, he shot away from the moving wall. All the other fish were also swimming as fast as possible to get away from this terrifying danger, and then the world as he knew it, went crazy.

The first trip around the pond went great. We moved almost all the fish into a great wad of flopping, squirming bodies next to the fence so I grabbed my net and took a giant scoop of fish up into the boat. I wish. What actually happened was the fish saw the net coming and en mass shot to the end of the trap, which succumbed to the onslaught.   All the fish escaped back into the pond.

I was so amazed at what had just transpired, and so excited to see that the old bass had a lot of friends that looked to be in the 6-7 lb. range, that we immediately reworked the fence with stronger wire and made a second attempt. This time Noel was getting a little tired from all the fierce activity, and then he slipped and fell face down in the black mud. No problem, Noel comes from strong stock.   He dug the slime from his nose and eyes and took off again full bore. We rounded the last curve, and there they were, hundreds of prime fish trapped again ready to be loaded into the boat.

The old bass was getting tired. Not much oxygen, fleeing from the horrendous things that were destroying the world; it was almost more than he could take.   Jammed in with all the other bodies, it was almost impossible to move. Just when it seemed it could get no worse, the unknown thing from the surface attacked again. With adrenaline surging, he plunged into the far end of the space where they got out last time. Fear of the unknown once again sent all the fish full force against the old seine, causing it to split open, and the old bass sought refuge again under the submerged tree.

I was sick. Noel came over to the boat, and we stood on the bank gasping for air from the exertion. “Man, I wish I could talk to those fish,” I told him, “I’d tell them that just over the hill was a clear, cool world of water that would last out the drought.  All they have to do is trust me, but that is not happening.” All of a sudden my mind opened up and I realized – I was the fish. I was living on this side of the thin line separating our reality from the Kingdom of Heaven, and God was trying to get my attention.

“Do you see what just happened?” I asked him. “ Yeah, the seine was old and rotten, and I’m too tired to do it again.” I could see he was not real good at reading my mind so I said, “ No, man, I’m the fish.”   He just stood there with a strange look on his muddy face wondering if the sun had finally taken its toll on my mind. More info was needed so I said, “God has been telling me to sell our business for a long time now, but I’ve been scared to let go of my safe little world. I’m having a hard time walking away from all I’ve ever known and learning to trust Him with the future.”

We stood there a minute thinking about that. Then I said, “Just like the fish, I have been trusting in my own abilities to survive, and all along He has been trying to tell me that just over the hill is a wonderful world that He has set up for me. All I have to do is trust Him. It’s too bad He had to use these innocent fish to get my attention because they are not going to make it.”

A few days later the old bass ran out of air and floated to the top to join the rest of the fish there, and the buzzards held a fandango as they cleaned up the mess. Dust to dust…

I wish the story ended here, but a few weeks ago Noel discovered that he is also like the fish. I ask you to join me in prayer for him as he walks the journey of trusting God while battling cancer for the second time in 12 months.


Mama and the Monster

Something was intruding on my dream; there were distant rumbles of thunder coming from an approaching storm, but that was not it. This was more of a high-pitched scritch, scitch, scriiiiitch that repeated itself every few minutes. My heart started pounding, and I knew it was happening again. SOMETHING was in the room. I could hear it shuffling over by Randy’s bed. There it came again, that scratching squeak like somebody dragging their nails over a chalkboard.   I lay there frozen in fear of the unknown THING that was creeping up on my bed ever so slowly.  Just then the lightning cracked, and I saw very clearly outlined, a wierd shadow of the beast that had come to get me.

This wasn’t the first time that this had happened. Usually if I called for Mama, she came and made all the bad stuff go away. This time my little 5-year-old mind had conjured up a monster that was so evil and big I knew there was only a few seconds left before it got me. I sucked in a lungful of air and gave out a piercing shriek for Mama that let everybody in the family know about the monster. Daddy even knew about it and came flying into the room ready for combat. Mama was right behind him, and when she saw I was not being dismembered or being dragged out the window by the thing, she told Daddy to go back to bed.

After she explained that the scratching sound was a limb on the metal roof, and the shuffling was some paper blowing from the breeze, and the huge beast was only the curtain’s shadow cast by the lightning, my heart got back in my chest and slowed down.  Randy was happy that I was quiet again, and Mama knelt beside my bed and prayed to God for the spirit of fear to leave me alone. When Mama prayed, God listened, so I relaxed and drifted off to sleep, calm and serene in the love of Mama and God.

Through the long years after that, there were a lot storms in my life, and each time she assured me that God was watching over me, that all would be well, and that I just needed to pray. As we both got older, I realized she had her own storms in life and helped her pray about those. Last year Dad’s death made me realize the final chapters of Mom’s life were also being written, but I was totally unprepared for God to take her home.

Several of us were talking to her, but then she asked the guys to leave the hospital room. Three minutes after I left she was gone.   I went off to a chair in the corner of the waiting room to re-group and try to understand what had just happened. Dad wouldn’t ever let us boys cry so I always pushed emotion way down where it would not get in the way. This time I thought, “Ok, it’s all right to let it go, nobody cares, and this particular storm is overwhelming”.   I looked for the sadness to come up and felt some nibbles of it, but I knew Mama was exactly where she wanted to be and that wasn’t a sad thing. I just felt miserable, mostly because I did not get to tell her goodbye.

Then it came to me – I talk to Jesus all the time, His Spirit lives inside me giving me access to eternity.   Of course, I’m thinking, I’m in good shape here so turning within, I told Him: “Jesus, she’s right there with you right this minute.  Please tell her that I really enjoyed the day today, that I really do love her, and that I will never forget the things she told me about you. Tell her that I’ll do what she asked me to do, and I will always pray, always seek to live in Your Kingdom.”  That really felt good. But the good didn’t last long because right behind it came my humanity and deep grief – Mama was gone.

It was then that I realized the little boy was still there way down deep inside. I was scared and alone, and just as the dark clouds started to roll over me, I felt her come beside me and put her arms around me. She whispered: “It’s all right; everything is going to be just fine; I love you, too; don’t forget to pray…” I could feel her smiling, and then she was gone.  I just love my Jesus; He’s so good.


Of Guilt and Self

Pastor Robin’s sermon last Sunday briefly touched on a quote about guilt from a book written by Andrew Delbanco, a professor at Cambridge University, called The Real American Dream.  The book is sort of a spiritual history on the national consciousness of Americans in their search for meaning beyond their physical human experience and is divided into three parts of God, Nation, and Self.   He tells of how from the founding of our country to the 19th century, God was the central theme who influenced our language and culture and it was our hope in God that sustained us “from the melancholy that threatens all reflective beings.”

According to him, somewhere around the Civil War the role of God was replaced by the Nation-State, but now both those ideals have become weak and impoverished, leaving us nothing but Self with which to satisfy our longing for transcendence.  He tells of the loss of guilt, and quotes an excerpt from Walker Percy’s novel, Love in the Ruins, wherein a man named Tom tells his psychoanalyst about his concern, or guilt, about NOT feeling guilty over a sexual peccadillo he had engaged in.  Delbanco says that Tom: “Fears… that he is lost to God.  The guilt he no longer feels had been his last reassurance that there exists something in the world that transcends himself.”

On Sunday Pastor noted that :” Delbanco says that people are pessimistic and hopeless because they live in a life where guilt is non existent.  When you have no reason for guilt, you are saying that there is nothing further than you.  Nothing transcends you. You are the ultimate authority. You are God.”  It is interesting that a secular guy like Delbanco would arrive at this conclusion when that is exactly what Satan promised Eve if she would partake of the fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, that she would become like God.  It seems to me then that America has become a nation of little gods, going about our physical lives guilt free because we have determined that good and evil is relative to whether something causes pleasure or pain to self– the center of our universe.

What Mr. Delbanco does not understand is that self is not a relatively new basis for us as individuals, or our national consciousness, instead it has been around for a long time, ever since Adam and Eve undertook the responsibility to determine what is good and evil, or right and wrong.  Jesus Christ came along preaching a simple message of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, and said that if we wanted to follow Him, we had to deny our self and take up our cross.  Instead of following those instructions, people set up religious systems that tell us the do’s and don’ts, the what and how, but very little emphasis is put on denial of self.

In my last post about the fake artist, I castigated the Christian church leaders for selling cheap imitations of the gospel of the Kingdom because they base Biblical truths on human reasoning.  The leaders themselves are carnal minded, have not died to self, and want to have all the promises and rewards of living in the Kingdom, without ever going through the straight gate and narrow path that leads to life everlasting.  They are just like the lawyers that Jesus told in Luke 11:52 “Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered.”  Small wonder then that American congregations are dwindling and our national search for transcendence has abandoned God as relevant.  They are tired of buying fake spiritual paintings that have a form of godliness but no power.

For something to be a fake, somewhere there has to be the genuine article, and it is no different with the Gospel.  There really is the key to knowledge that opens up scripture to become a reality.  The Apostle Paul explains the concept in Rom. 6-8, where he talks about being dead to sin, but alive to God through Christ Jesus.  He talks of being Spiritually minded and living according to the Holy Spirit, instead of allowing the old fallen human nature we were born with to be in control.  That is easy to say, but I have discovered it is not an easy thing to do.

In fact, it cannot be done without a complete and total surrender to God and His Kingdom.  Just like Jesus said, we have to deny our self, not once, but as often as the old nature tries to take back control, which is why we carry our cross with us.  The missing key is dying to self and walking down that path so narrow that self cannot make the trip.  Unless Mr. Delbanco becomes Spiritually minded, he will never understand that transcendence is only possible when self is absent.