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.

Got Any Fallow Ground?

Break Up Fallow Ground

Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.” Hosea 10:12
(For those unfamiliar with the term, fallow ground is ground that is left untended and unproductive. Breaking it up means plowing it to remove the weeds and get it ready for sowing seed and being  productive.)

Someone asked me the other day how my garden was going. I’m thinking they could have been referring to the theme I adopted for my retirement – “Break up Your Fallow Ground.” In the last couple of years, I’ve written and talked about my need to break up the fallow ground in my garden after a time of neglect.

I replied that I had thought long and hard about it but hadn’t made any progress. I told them I definitely decided I don’t need a big garden. When two tomato plants can supply all Sharon and I want for the summer, it’s hard to take the time and effort to plant and tend a row of them. Since Sharon no longer does any canning, you can apply that to most everything that would be grown in a big garden. But I still want to rebuild the raised beds, re-establish the cypress mulch paths, and grow a few things in part of the garden. So, maybe as the weather cools, I’ll make it out there to do some work.

But, I’ve discovered in the last couple of years that the most important “fallow ground” we need to break up isn’t “out there”, it’s within us. The Scripture above doesn’t say go out and plow up your backyard and plant a garden. It says that we should open our heart and renew our mind with the Word of God and that we should diligently pray. It says we should obey and follow Jesus (Love the Lord, Love your neighbor.) It says we should get rid of the weeds in our hearts and mind. As Hebrews 12:1 in  effect says ”lay aside every weight (distraction) and the sin that holds us back and run the race of life God has given us.”

I’m thankful the Lord has shown me areas of my “fallow ground” and helped me to start breaking some of them up. The largest chunk of rock-hard land he’s shown me concerns The Great Commission. Jesus commanded us to be witnesses and make disciples for Him. Yep, the dreaded “evangelism.” Our Bible Study class did a study on evangelism and it opened my eyes to what I was more or less ignoring. Other members of the class (and some not in the class) agreed they had, too.

But we’re working on that now. The word “evangel” means good news—the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s become clearer to me that while we should be ready to explain the basics of the Gospel (to evangelize) if opportunities arise, The Great Commission covers much more than that. It involves showing Christ in us to those around us. Telling of our relationship with Him—what He has done for us. It’s being part of the community and going out of our way to help others and to make friendships and build relationships, with believers and unbelievers alike, to open doors of opportunities to show and tell the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s inviting someone to Church or someone to return to Church. Or checking up on someone who’s been absent from Church. Etc. Etc.

So, if the Lord has used these words and His Scripture to reveal some of your fallow ground, pray hard, and get to work plowing it up! God will help as He promised.

And in the End……..

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We went through a course at work many years ago on Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. One of the habits was: “Begin with the end in mind.” In the postscript, beyond the business aspect, of his book, he explained the life aspect rather starkly. What do you want people saying about you at your funeral? Figure that out and live toward it.

Along those same lines of thought, my Uncle Ivy once told me he had spent a night in his recliner praying and meditating while considering much that same question—what kind of man did he want to be? He concluded that he wanted folks to think of him and say, “Ivy Spivey is always willing to help in any way he can.” (And he always was.)

In another course at work we were required to develop a personal mission statement. I didn’t think a lot about it and just took the Boy Scout Oath as mine. That is a great statement and living by it is certainly a good “mission.”

But, through the years I’ve thought more about my life’s mission, as Steven Covey suggested and as Uncle Ivy did. My latest rendition is:

  1. The only things that really matter in life are God and other people – so live like it. (You may recognize this is a paraphrase of the two great commandments Jesus gave – Love the Lord, and Love your neighbor. I was thankful when I realized that.)
  2. Do the right things – for the right reasons. (It’s obvious The Bible tells us to do the right things and not do the wrong things. But 1st Corinthians chapter 13 (“the love chapter”) makes it clear that without the right motivation, particularly love, doing the right thing means nothing. See also the Sermon on the Mount and what I call the “woe” chapter—Matthew chapter 23)
  3. Pay Attention (If we don’t, we’ll miss opportunities to do the first two. Isaiah chapter 42 mentions looking but not seeing and listening but not hearing.)

I’m not writing those points here because I’m always successful in following them – The older I get, the more I realize how pitiful my results often are. And, I’m not saying you should take them as yours. I’m just suggesting as we go into this New Year, along with making resolutions like eating healthier and exercising, which are still good resolutions, we also spend time in prayer and meditation and, as Jesus said, consider the “weightier matters of…justice, mercy and faithfulness.”  (Matthew 23:23)
Micah 6:8  “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

The Spirit in the Car Wash

car wash

(Written last Spring)
I had never been inside a drive-through car wash (outside the vehicle) until yesterday. With all the  pollen on the truck, I decided to stop by Enmark and get a wash during my usual Friday afternoon grocery run. There were several vehicles in line so I pulled in to wait.
After a minute, the door of the car ahead of me opened and an elderly woman got out and slowly walked toward me. I rolled down the window and in a strong Indian accent she haltingly said she had never been through a car wash before, didn’t know what to do, and was scared. I told her not to be scared and said I’d walk up to the machine and get her started. When we got there, I saw the taped-on sign saying the machine couldn’t take payments so you had to go to the kiosk to get a ticket.
So, after a bit of cajoling and explanation, I convinced her to drive through the car wash (“yes, without a ticket, and without getting a wash this round”) and go to the cashier and get a ticket. I needed gas, so I went to a pump and paid for the car wash with the gas, but got the notice to “see cashier for receipt”.
I went over and told the cashier I needed my receipt. The lady was still standing by her car by the kiosk so I asked the cashier to get her a car wash. The lady handed me her credit card, so I bought the wash, gave her the ticket and told her to go back to the car wash and I’d be right there. As I walked toward my truck, I saw I had the wrong receipt so went back to the cashier. She couldn’t find mine in the system, so I asked her to look while I hurried to help the lady, who by this time was parked at the machine by the car wash.
I entered her code and thought I explained OK to go forward until the green light turned red. But, she continued slowly through as the light turned red and then back to green. So, I walked in the car wash and after several times of her backing up and creeping forward, got her stopped at the right position and the car wash started. I waved as I quickly headed out to avoid getting soaked. I went back and got my receipt (the cashier had found it by then), got my truck and got back in line. I realized the lady hadn’t come out, so, I walked in the car wash again and told her it was finished and it was OK to leave. She waved, thanked me and headed out.
The incident was funny in some ways, but not really in the important ones. I wrote this because just before it happened, I was stuck in a drive through lane at a bank across the street getting aggravated and impatient (mostly     calling myself stupid for not paying attention and going to a bank at lunch time on a Friday afternoon.) And, once you’re in the line, especially if a car pulls up behind you, you are stuck.
I was still grumbling at myself as I pulled in the car wash line. But, thankfully, when the lady got out of her car, God’s Holy Spirit took over. C. H. Spurgeon once wrote of the Holy Spirit, that “There is no spiritual good in all the world of which He is not the author and sustainer.” I’d have to say Amen to that, Brother Spurgeon!

 

Break Up Your Fallow Ground – Sometimes it’s OK

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(Fallow Ground – untended and unfruitful)
These Easter Lilies, planted last year, didn’t even get fertilizer this season, but they apparently didn’t mind. Sometimes things go well in spite of our neglect. But, we can’t take that for granted!
Hosea 10:12 needs to be in our mind all the time. “Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy, break up your fallow ground; For it is time to seek the Lord til he comes and rains righteousness upon you.”

 

Break Up Your Fallow Ground – Look Back

Early garden shot

(Fallow ground – ground left unplowed and unfruitful)
Here’s a view of my garden from a few years ago. When I looked back on how things were and considered how it looks now, it was easy to see the goal behind breaking up my garden’s fallow ground. Looking back can help us focus.

I started my engineering career as a Cooperative Student working at Savannah Electric. (Meaning I went to school for a quarter and then worked for a quarter, then went to school, etc. for the first 3 years at Tech.) My job for much of that time was designing service to new residences. Typically, it was only installing a pole or two with a transformer and a service to the mobile home or house.

That was no big deal for the experienced engineers in the office, but it was exciting to me. Something new – and I had the chance to make a difference. I even would take Sharon out to the jobs to show her the finished products. Ah, the enthusiasm of being new to something wonderful.

Jesus’ letter to the church at Ephesus (Revelation Ch 2) reminded them of that. He told them to return to the enthusiasm of being new to something wonderful. After commending them for their works, toil and patience, he added:
“But, I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.”

Sounds to me that He’s telling them (and us) to look back, and then break up some spiritual fallow ground.

Retire and Break Up Your Fallow Ground?

Fallow Ground in the Garden

Here’s a section of the vegetable garden as it has looked since last Summer, and the rest of the garden and the flower beds look much the same. Some of the beds are overgrown. Weeds have punctured the landscape fabric in the walkways and the cypress mulch that once covered them has disintegrated.
Last summer I listed all the things I needed to do in the garden – in addition to new walkways and rebuilding beds, it needs an irrigation system, the pump house needs rebuilding, the blueberries need something to keep the deer out, and on and on. I realized I had no extra time to work on it, so I decided to let the ground lie fallow (remain idle and unproductive) until my planned retirement in January and then I could begin rebuilding it all.
January came, and I retired (about 90%) from “work work” (my term for paid work), and I began work on the garden to-do list. Since there’s a long to-do list of things not involving the garden, and the weather hasn’t been cooperating, the garden progress has been slow. (I’ve found if you don’t have to go out in the cold and wind, it’s pretty easy to choose to stay inside.)
I’ve been pondering what I’ve left idle and unproductive in the garden and figuring out how to address the different pieces and parts (or pieces and plants?) My thoughts eventually led to considerations about other areas of my life that I might have also left idle and unproductive (or perhaps underproductive.)  While full time work work was a great blessing in its time, it also kept me from doing other things – most often for valid reasons, but it also can be just an excuse.
So, I wondered what other “fallow ground” I had left that should be addressed now. I thought in those terms because of my project in the garden, which clearly is fallow ground, and I was remembering a recent sermon by our Pastor on breaking up your fallow ground and one Scripture that he used:

Sow for yourselves righteousness; Reap steadfast love. Break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, that He may come and rain righteousness upon you.” Hosea 10:12

I took those thoughts of the garden, my life, and this verse and decided to make “Break Up Your Fallow Ground” the theme of this beginning of my retirement. One section of fallow ground is my writing and this blog. So, after several unproductive years, I’ve decided to write about breaking up fallow ground – literally and spiritually and wherever else it might lead. I hope it will give you something to think about, too.