Get Back on the Horse?

Daniel on a pony

He was a pony working at my friend’s birthday party. I was a five year-old kid sitting on his back. Something spooked him, and off he went with the pony version of a bucking bronco. Pony version or not, it still sent me flying and put me on the ground with a thud. I cried from the terror but, thankfully, wasn’t hurt.

My father rushed over, picked me up and made sure I was OK. After a few minutes, he asked if I  wanted to give it another try. I, in effect, said “let me think about that a minute – No!”

The old adage is that if you fall off a horse, get back on quickly or you never will. I guess that’s correct  because I ignored that advice and have never gotten back on a horse. At this point, I don’t have plans to.

The other time I got personal with (but not on) one was back when my cousins kept a horse near their home. They hadn’t ridden him for a while, so he had reverted into “wild” mode. We were trying to get him back in a pen. My older cousin put me in position and told me to stay right there no matter what.

As the other cousins maneuvered around behind the horse, he took off right at me. I didn’t see any hesitation in the thousand-pound animal running my way, so I didn’t hesitate to jump out of his way. My cousin bawled me out good for not holding my ground. I appropriately hung my head in shame, while thinking “I’m sorry, but I just didn’t feel that getting your horse back in the pen was worth dying for.”

It’s not that I don’t think horses are magnificent creatures. Sharon and I once spent a memorable day touring horse farms around Lexington, Kentucky. Seeing them run and play, hearing the stories, and watching videos of the exciting come-from-behind victories of the beautiful horse standing in the stall next to us didn’t make us experts. But, it did get me to the point that I can get goosebumps watching a race just from knowing a bit about what it means to the horse. (There is no cruelty there – they live to run!)

Do I regret not getting back on that pony sixty years ago? Not really. My life has been so full of blessings and opportunities from the Lord that I can’t begin to remember them all. I don’t know how I would have worked riding horses into the mix. And, at this point, I don’t think I was supposed to.

All of that can be like the Christian life. There will be times we’ll try things in service to God and people, and we’ll get “bucked off”. We remind ourselves we can’t, and aren’t meant to, do everything. But, we also have to take more consideration than a five year old boy deciding not to get back on the pony. It could be a situation where God expects us to get back on in order to be blessed and not have regrets later on.
Galatians 6:9—”Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Break Up Your Fallow Ground – But be careful!

Break Up Your Fallow Ground – But be careful! (Facebook folks, click on the link to see the entire post)

wheat and tares phlox 2

Here’s some fallow ground that needed breaking up in late winter. Looks like I could just go in and turn over everything and get ready for Spring. But if you look closely you see some things that aren’t weeds. So I had to be careful breaking  up this fallow ground.

This reminded me of Jesus’ Kingdom parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13:24-30). There was a field a man planted with good seed (wheat) and at night an enemy came and planted bad seed (tares) in the field. When the field hands saw it (later, when both had grown enough to recognize) they asked the owner if he wanted them to pull the tares up. The owner’s reply was to wait, since pulling up the tares may also pull up the wheat.

While, I had to be careful what to pull up, and pulling some of the weeds actually unrooted a good plant, it was clear enough I could pull the weeds and leave the plants. I’ll leave it to you to study more on Jesus’ parable since it goes deeper than good plants and bad plants. But, I’ll leave a warning that we be careful when breaking up fallow ground – whether physical, spiritual, or relationships. Be sure to look closely for the good and not take it away with the bad.

It’s summer now, and here are the white phlox that were hiding in the weeds.

Phlox in bloom

You Are the Light of the World

harbor lights

There’s a song our choir sings titled Be Ye Glad (Michael Blanchard) that has the line “So, be like lights on the rim of the water, giving hope in the storm of the night”. I’m not sure exactly what Mr. Blanchard meant but I imagine it’s close to what I think of in this photo.

The lighthouse shines brighter than all the other lights and is the true one to follow. But, the lights along the shore are also helpful and make the journey safer and easier. They show where and where not to go as we focus on the lighthouse.

The lighthouse, of course, represents Christ, Who outshines all others and is the Way, the Truth and the Life. But we’re in the picture, too. The lights along the shore represent us – the lights on the rim of the water that help others on their journey. This fact doesn’t diminish the brightness or glory of the true Lighthouse, for it is Him, our Savior, who gives us our light, and places us where we can best shine to help others.

You are the light of the world.” Jesus’ words given in Matthew 5:14

So, let us shine.

 

 

The Parts and Purposes of Extras in Film, and in God’s Plans

Crowd of Hollywood Film Extras in the 1930's

Crowd of Hollywood Film Extras in the 1930’s

 

Sometimes, I notice an “extra” on a TV show – someone in a quick shot at a table in a restaurant, or, someone who walks by in a street scene, and I pause the show. I especially look for scenes that have the stars up close and the extra is off to the side or behind them. (You’ll see why in a minute.)

I check to make sure my wife, Sharon, is reading or on the computer, and not paying attention, then rewind it a bit. I excitedly ask “did you see that?” and start the action again. As she looks and the extra comes into view, I exclaim “See! See! There I am, There I am!”

She knows I’m pretending to be that person who has this very small part in a program, but still gets excited and wants to show someone. That’s why the scene with the star up front is most effective. Viewers hardly notice anyone but the stars in those shots (“See, you can see the back of my head over her right shoulder!”). But, that extra has a part and a purpose, and I imagine their excitement bubbling over. Even though they won’t even get into the credits, there will be a sense of triumph.

Sharon and I usually then talk a bit about “extras” – their motivation and how they might get a particular part, the large quantity needed for some scenes, etc. (And, she’s so sweet, she’s never told me to stop bothering her with such silliness).

There are stories around about many big stars’ early “extra” days in show business. However, the vast majority of extras remain extras. And, because they do have a part and a purpose, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The same goes for us as Christians. Most of us won’t be famous. Most of us won’t be “stars”, especially in the world’s eyes. But, the Lord has given each of us a specific part and purpose. It won’t be just sitting at a table – but, it might be sitting at a table praying and studying His Word; or sitting down with your family to enjoy the meal you just prepared for them; or having a cup of coffee with someone who needs a good listener or comforting words.

It won’t be just passing by – but, it could be going out of our way to give someone physical assistance; or visiting at the hospital; or it could be figuratively “walking a mile in another’s shoes” to help us develop compassion for their burdens.

We can, and should, get excited about the parts God gives us. But, announcing it to the world with a “See! See! There I am!” isn’t an appropriate response. Simply and humbly telling others how God has blessed us to glorify Him is always correct. And, we should remember where our parts and successes come from.

            As the Psalmist says, all of our triumphs are through the work of God’s hands. “For thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy work. I will triumph through the works of your hands” Psalms 92:4

Out of the Billion, Where Did Mine Go?

US_Nickel_Reverse

Twenty years or so ago I collected 1964 nickels – to no avail. I kept noticing them in my pocket change every few days, thought it was interesting, and began gathering them. There were no clues why there were so many of them and I wondered what was so special about that particular vintage. Two separate stashes held the collection. One was in my chest-of-drawers at home and the other was in my desk drawer at work.

The one at work was growing impressive (for a pile of nickels, at least). Then, one day, I noticed the familiar “clinks” were silent when I opened the drawer. I looked down and saw the nickels were gone. Someone had taken all the nickels. I don’t say stolen, necessarily, because they left three one dollar bills in place of the coins.

While maybe not technically stolen, it sure felt like they were. The “perp” probably had no idea of their perpness. They needed some change so they swapped them out – equal value. Actually, the bills they left were probably worth more than the nickels they took. Of course, as I asked around, folks could tell I was aggravated and no one fessed up. No one ever did – it has remained a mystery.

I did finally research it and discovered the reason I found so many of that particular vintage. I found so many of them because there were so many of them – the mints produced tons and tons of nickels that year. And, for some reason, they kept the 1964 date in the minting on into the middle of 1965, which added to the total. The primary cause for the nickel explosion was there was a silver shortage that year, making some dimes and quarters cost more to mint than their face value. The answer to that was to decrease their numbers and increase the number of pennies and nickels. There were around one billion 1964 nickels minted, so it’s not unusual to find one from a billion chances, even now, fifty years later.

I still have a few rolls of the nickels in the chest-of-drawers. They’re not really a collection now since my thoughts have changed. I mainly just haven’t gotten around to cashing them in for what they’re really worth – 5 cents each.

That’s the story. I’ll leave it to you to think of some lessons. There are several.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21 ESV 

 

 

Got Faith? Plant an Oak Tree – Part 2

Brannen Oaks by Old Savannah Road

Brannen Oaks by Old Savannah Road

 

When you look southeast down the dirt road in front of our house, you are looking down the Old Savannah Road (see photo). It’s not called that these days, and most folks don’t know that for a time in the early 1800’s it was the Savannah Road. I happened to come across the information while researching the history of this area of our county in Georgia (Bulloch).

 

Brannen Oaks Closeup

Brannen Oaks Closeup

 

The photo captions reference the Brannen Oaks, so I’ll head in that direction. William Brannen came to America from Ireland before the Revolutionary War, and after marrying a wife, Elizabeth, in North Carolina, he worked his way to southeastern Georgia, and eventually ended up in northern Bulloch County.

John, one of their six sons, was born in 1798. He and his wife, also named Elizabeth, moved to the southern end of the county (where we live) where they raised their family.

The information said John and Elizabeth had a home in the “Iric” area. In the photos above, If you were on Google Earth and could turn right and look down about a half mile, you could see the woods where Iric Creek runs.

The narrative stated “At the beginning of the nineteenth century, along the Savannah Road in Bulloch County, between thirty and forty miles west of Savannah, were the spacious plantation homes of John Brannen and five of his sons.” One of those homes can be seen on the right in the top photo.

It was the home of John and Elizabeth’s son, William A. Brannen. In the description particular note was given to the twelve huge water oaks that stood on either side of the “Savannah Road” in front of his home. The photo shows the oaks that remain. The house was restored in the 1940’s (and several more times with an addition or two since then) and is now the home of our nearest neighbors. Mr. Brannen is buried in a brick-walled family cemetery about a quarter mile behind the house (down toward Iric Creek.)

A neat verification of part of this came about several years ago when there was a reenactment of the Pony Express-like mail run that in the early days came out of Savannah heading towards Milledgeville (I think it was Milledgeville). Two neat parts were that they did a rider/horse exchange on the road in front of our house, and we found they had verified this was the right road because of the huge oak trees that were mentioned in the early records.

This post seems to have become a history lesson, but the Lord is in all of those, too. Elizabeth (John’s wife and William A’s mother) was a Donaldson before she married. Her father, Robert Donaldson, and brother, Matthew, were preachers who organized a dozen or so churches in this part of Georgia in the early 1800’s. The church we attend, Lanes Church, was organized in 1831 and the early records mention that Matthew Donaldson was the preacher there at one time.

The Lord keeps working through time. I’m thankful to Him that I’m blessed to live on a small part of what was William A. Brannen’s plantation, and especially thankful that Mr. Brannen’s uncle is part of Lanes Church’s 183 year history. A history the Lord has made me a part of now.

For the Lord will not forsake his people;  he will not abandon his heritage; (Psalms 94:14 ESV)

 

 

 

 

 

Got Faith? Plant an Oak Tree

Old Oak Tree

Old Oak Tree

I went hunting for an impressive oak tree to photograph and found this one along a stretch of highway south of Daisy, Georgia. It is impressive. My purpose for the quest was to illustrate one aspect of faith: “for we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2nd Corinthians 5:7 ESV.

I don’t think this oak came about from a squirrel dropped acorn. I think someone planted this tree a century or more in the past. I have no proof of that, so that’s just a deduction from the other oaks up and down the road that appear to have been placed in particular locations. There probably was a house here then, but it probably wasn’t this one. (Could have been remodeled through the years, though).

The tree wouldn’t have become impressive during the lifetime of its planter. It’s likely it didn’t even reach “noticeable” status. And, it’s an absolute that the planter is not still around to see it become this mighty tree. But, that didn’t matter – they walked by faith. They knew what would happen far in the future. Their small efforts would become established and grow into a massive tree that would provide food and shelter for animals, and shade and comfort to people. I don’t know if they had the thought that just the sight of the tree would give a sense of wonder at God’s Creation, but I know that’s what I felt as I came around the curve and saw it.

It is just a deduction that someone planted this tree many years ago but the concept stands. Anytime you plant a long-lived, slow growing tree, you probably won’t see it reach “impressive” size. But, somebody will.

When the Apostle Paul wrote about walking by faith, not sight, he was noting that we don’t see the Lord, but we know (by the faith that God gave us and the Holy Spirit within us) we will see Him face to face one day. Paul then states that because of that, our aim in everything is “to please Him”

And that’s where I think another aspect of “walk by faith” comes in. It’s not planting trees (although I consider that a good thing), it’s doing things to please the Lord, even though we may not see the results (perhaps not even in our lifetime). As Jesus told us: Give someone who is thirsty a drink of water in His name. Feed the hungry. Welcome the strangers. Visit the sick. Make disciples.

Got faith? Then walk in it. Plant an oak tree. Or, better yet, spread the Good News about Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.