That’s the Way It’s Supposed to Be!

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Our church’s small sign at the corner of Highway 119 and Stilson Leefield Road was in sad shape. The paint was peeling terribly and even some of the wood had chipped away. It didn’t present a very inviting picture for folks looking for the church.

So, the sign company was called and scheduled to come get the sign and repair and paint it. Somewhere communication was mixed, and they not only removed the small sign and took it with them, but they also took a larger one that stands at the corner just up the road from the church.

As we remembered it, (since it was now gone) the larger one looked pretty good and there was some question whether we needed to spend the money to have it painted. But by the time that     conversation was held, it was too late. One of those “I thought you told them to take it. No, I figured you must have told them to take it” conversations.

The signs were fixed, painted and reinstalled. The small one in Stilson, as expected, looked fantastic. It had been obviously bad. And the bigger one near the church? It looked fantastic, too. My reaction was “Wow! It sure needed painting, too, but I didn’t notice! This is the way it’s supposed to look.”

We grow used to having things a bit less than they’re supposed to be.

We knew the piano needed tuning and mentioned it now and then when a note sounded a bit off. Even put it on the list to send an email and schedule the piano tech guy to come and tune it. But it didn’t seem that bad.

Eventually the tech guy was scheduled, and he came out and tuned the piano. I was messing around in the sound booth at the back of the sanctuary as he tinked high notes here and there on the keyboard, and poked low notes for about thirty minutes.

Then I heard him say to himself, “OK” and he strongly played and held a many-noted chord and let it resound throughout the sanctuary. The goosebumps formed on my neck and arms and I had to say “Wow! That’s the way it’s supposed to sound.” He simply replied, “that’s good” and   started packing up his stuff. It had been more in need of tuning than I thought.

We grow used to having things a bit less than they’re supposed to be.

Anytime I discuss having an asparagus garden in the backyard, I always get in the                description that when you cut some spears, take them inside, cook them and take a bite, the          reaction is “Wow, that’s the way it’s supposed to taste.” Canned or frozen asparagus isn’t close. Even what you get in the grocery store or from a produce stand isn’t the same.

We grow used to having things a bit less than they’re supposed to be.

The Book of Revelation includes a letter Jesus wrote to the church at Ephesus. He             commended the church for its diligence, labors, patience and holding to the truth. But, then in verse 2:4 Jesus says, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.”  With that statement we have to examine whether the “you” in his words is referring to “us.”

He then says for us to do what we used to do – love how we used to love. Get excited about Jesus and tell someone about Him. Get excited about our church and invite someone to come (or better yet, bring somebody with you.)  Go out of our way to find those in need and joyfully lend a helping hand, in Jesus’ name. And, as we love as we did at first, we will say:

“Wow, I remember! That’s the way it’s supposed to feel!”

We grow used to having things a bit less than they’re supposed to be.

Be Careful If You Think Your Bugs Will Stand

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One year in high school we had to make an insect collection, so I worked diligently finding all kinds of bugs. We lived on a dirt road with a pond and woods nearby, and I had a wide-open place ideal for finding and catching them.

I had a bunch of different beetles, crickets, butterflies and moths (I even found a huge green Luna moth dead but intact). I mounted them with straight pins on a sheet of Styrofoam covered in cloth and placed it in a large gift box lid (about 12” X 24”). It was spectacular, if I say so myself, and I knew I was on my way to at least an A, probably an A+.

We had part of Summer and most of the Fall to complete it, so I placed bugs on the Styrofoam along and along and when there was no space left for more, I left it on a shelf in our basement to turn in when it was due.

About a week before the Christmas break due date, I went to the basement to get it ready. That’s when I discovered that something living in our basement liked to feast on dead bugs. The Styrofoam and cloth covering were still there, and a little forest of straight pins was sticking up. But everywhere else there were only small bits and pieces of bug crumbs left of the spectacular collection.

I panicked. In that colder time of year there weren’t many insects out flying or crawling around. I searched every place I could think of that might have intact bugs. I checked the windowsills, took down light fixtures and emptied their contents. I examined spider webs in the basement and outside the house. Turned over every board and brick in the piles out by the garage….and

I ended up with a very non-spectacular collection. The small group of small bugs was mounted, some with straight pins, tiny ones with tape, on a much thinner sheet of cloth-covered Styrofoam placed in the lid of a box of stationery. (No, not even 8-1/2 x 11 sheet size, just the small letter writing kind.)

My teacher wasn’t impressed but, thankfully, was a bit sympathetic with the story. Instead of my spectacular A+, I got a C (and was thankful for that.)

How did I let that happen? One thing was I was smug about how spectacular I thought it was and was ready for the A+ and didn’t think of the details needed to make that happen. Another was I just left it alone and didn’t check on it anytime before I needed it. Also, I don’t remember for sure, but I can imagine my Momma and/or Daddy (with their longer time to experience life and learn from it) telling me I better cover it up just in case. I can then imagine me being lazy and smug about that, too – “what could happen to a bunch of bugs? I’m heading down to the pond.”

All that brings to mind what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:12 – “Therefore, let anyone who thinks that he stands, take heed lest he fall.” A slight paraphrase of that—”Be careful when you close your eyes and envision a big A+ on your efforts because that’s when something will come along and eat the bugs in the basement!”

Arrested (Sort of) at 12

Brannen Oaks closeup

Brannen Oaks Closeup

I got arrested (sort of) when I was twelve years old. That summer my cousin, Lewis, and I spent a lot of time driving his go-kart on a dirt road near his house. One day a teenager rode by on a motorcycle and stopped to talk. Just for fun, he and I decided to have a drag race.

I stopped fifty feet into the race because the motorcycle literally left me in the dust. I was   surprised when I turned around and saw a police car’s flashing lights. The policeman lived on that road and had been sitting in his patrol car in his driveway talking with his wife for the last hour while we rode up and down the road in front of him. Our five second “race” had apparently interested him enough to leave the driveway and join us.

He “arrested” me, loaded me in the back seat of the squad car and told the motorcyclist to follow. At the police station, he took my fingerprints and “booked” me for drag racing on a city street. The motorcyclist never showed. When I called my father to ask him to pick me up at the      police station he laughed, until I assured him it was no joke.

The officer told my father the motorcyclist was his real target (“a licensed driver who should have known better”) but he also wanted to teach me a lesson so, thankfully, no real charges were made. He thought we were “daring him to do something.”

The officer was successful in teaching me a lesson, but probably not the one he planned. As I rode home in silence with my father, and since this was my first encounter with a policeman, I was sitting there thinking that police officers are apparently stupid jerks. He told his “real target” to     follow him to the station, so, the motorcyclist went the other way when given the chance – well, duh. And, I can say “daring” him never crossed my mind since he had been sitting there watching us and never said a word.

Thankfully, since then I have learned great respect for police officers and what they do. And, concerning that particular officer, stories around town and his short career in law enforcement revealed that he apparently was a stupid jerk.

I still shake my head in disbelief when I recall the incident. I’m sure it was and still is against the law to “drag race” on a city street. But all he had to do was get out of his car, tell his wife “excuse me a minute”, walk the 50 feet to where I was sitting on the go-kart and tell me not to do that because it’s illegal. Simple and done – while some 12-year-old grumbling under my breath may have come, no more drag racing would have happened.

So, what’s to learn from the story? One thing is, no matter how slow your vehicle moves, don’t race on a street, especially if there’s a police car sitting there. The other is to consider the phrase that comes to my mind a lot these days – From Ephesians 4:15 – “But speaking the truth in love…”

While the phrase has a much broader context in our following and teaching the Word of God in every situation, it often comes to mind regarding disagreements or the need for correction. And these days there are a multitude of contentious disagreements and much need for correction. But, in those situations, if our unloving focus is that we need to “teach them a lesson”, instead of being a witness for Jesus Christ, we’ll come across as just another stupid jerk.

Just Getting By With a Busted Mailbox

Mailbox with cows

It was the middle of the night when some scoundrel swerved off the dirt road and flattened our mailbox.  It would have been better if all had been demolished, but it happened to be salvageable. I stood it up and tamped the dirt back around it. A couple of pieces of 2×2 nailed between the post and the landscape timbers around it made suitable braces. The contraption worked but had a slight forward lean and twisted to the left and looked like a busted post held up by two sticks.

“New post and mailbox” went on the to-do list that day. My wife, Sharon, and I thought maybe it was time for a change – perhaps, a different style. After several tries to find something different, we gave up and decided on a mailbox identical to the one we had, and a post only slightly different from the old one.

“Put up mailbox” went on the to-do list that day. But everyone knows you can’t rush out and just do it. You must think and plan, consider the weather, decide to paint or stain the post, etc. etc. And, with a mailbox, you need to make sure you have the time to complete the installation without being interrupted (after all, the mail comes every day except Sunday, so you must have a place for it at delivery time.) So, the mailbox and post sat under the carport where I laid it when I brought it home from Lowes. After that, anytime I got in or out of the truck, I had to step around the post and mailbox.

I’m not sure why, but one Saturday morning I took down the old mailbox and began the installation. The post was standing, and the mailbox labeled and attached when the mail carrier drove up. I asked her if the height met the regulations, and she said it was great. I tamped the post in and stained it, and the task was complete.

And, it only took me two years.

The problem was the old mailbox worked in its catawampus condition. It was ugly, and the door might flop open if you didn’t close it just right, but it held mail just fine. The alert flag was broken off so there was no way to let the mail carrier know we had mail to go. As I said above, it would have been better if it had been a total loss. Then, I would have had to get a new one and install it quickly. But we could get by with the old one and did, for two years.

Just getting by can become quite comfortable. The knowledge of something being out of kilter becomes blurred or filtered out of our vision. The thoughts of “I need to fix that” come farther apart and last shorter and shorter times, until the response becomes “Well, it’s not really that bad. I can get by with it.” And, we do just that – get by with it.

The physical things in our lives, such as catawampus mailboxes, should be fixed. But it often happens the top of our to-do list should come on the spiritual side. “Just getting by” in that area could mean we’re saying we obey the commandment to not murder anyone. But, as Jesus would respond “That’s good, but have you been angry with your brother or insulted your sister? If you have, don’t speak too quickly of your obedience.” (see Matthew 5:21-22)

Or, as the Apostle Paul wrote in 1st Corinthians 13, our faith, knowledge and charity might appear to be commendable, but we are just getting by if we aren’t acting with love.

Jesus, in Matthew 23, berated the Scribes and Pharisees for just getting by with tithing of their herbs and spices, while neglecting more important matters like mercy. I picture them proudly going to the Temple with their pouch containing an ounce of mint and five grams of cumin, while stepping around the blind beggar on the steps outside. “Get out of my way! I have something important to do!”

As I said, just getting by can become quite comfortable. In some areas, such as mailboxes, it may not be significant. But, if we discover we are just getting by concerning our walk with God, it’s time to stop “stepping around the post and mailbox on the carport” and address it.

It’s possible that may be easy to do, but usually it won’t be comfortable, and it won’t be instantaneous. It may take two days, or two years, or a lifetime of continuous work, but thankfully we don’t have to do it alone (because we can’t).

“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” Isaiah 41:10