He wore the uniform well. Oh, it wasn’t desert camo or dress blues, though he may have worn such in his younger years serving our country. But as the sunset of life approached, John just quietly wore the khaki trousers and shirt of a driveway attendant at a local service station. And there was the hat. Not just a ball cap. It was a full-dress hat like a General might wear reviewing his troops. The brim and strap were done in black patent leather. The cover was khaki to match his uniform. There were no scrambled eggs on the brim and no gold buttons on the sides. Its only decoration was the Standard Oil emblem prominently embroidered front and center. But the finishing touch to his hard-work finery was his name. “JOHN” was embroidered over the left shirt pocket, introducing him to the few in our small town who might not know him. It didn’t take long for the new arrivals from our country’s northeast to recognize the honesty and kindness resident in his thin face. And somehow, whether repairing a tire or changing someone’s oil, he never got in a hurry but finished quickly.
He rarely missed work. And so, it came as quite a shock when John didn’t come in several days in a row. His family didn’t know where he was. And friends were at a loss to explain his absence. Reluctantly, the service station management hired a replacement who quickly fell into the rhythm of fill-er-ups, car washes, oil changes and grease jobs. Soon, no one thought to ask about John anymore. He just seemed to have vanished.
But one day, hiking through the swamp headed for a canal to fish for the blue gill swarming the coffee colored water, a fisherman stumbled across a body. It had obviously been there propped against a tree for a long time. A small tackle box lay beside him. His fishing pole was still lying across his legs.
How would the authorities identify someone who had been deceased for so long. Neither time nor the elements are very kind in such circumstances. But wait; What is the emblem on the hat still perched on his head? Ah…you guessed it. “Standard Oil” was still dimly visible after all those months! And what about the name over the left shirt pocket? Not much color remained. But the sturdy embroidery had stubbornly held its place through it all. “JOHN” could still be easily recognized, even if it was a bit tattered.
He had been hiking out to the canal with a taste for blue gill, just like the man who found him. His big heart finally gave out and John simply sat down to rest, not realizing he had come to the end of his journey.
It crosses my mind; would we be ok with sitting down to rest and waking up in Heaven? Have we left a trail of kindness so clear that others can find their way to Heaven if they follow our tracks? By what would we be known? For most of us, we wear no emblems, nor do we have our name stitched over our pockets. What will be the means of recognition?
When John was found, a flood of memories ensued for anyone who had known him. His kind words, his large and genuine smile, his work ethic, his honesty, his dignity, his quiet faith in God; All these were his trademarks and calling cards. They identified him as surely as the ancient threads of a tattered uniform with its tell-tale embroidery identified his earthly remains.
May we live our lives so saturated with Christ that when we are gone, our loved ones remember Him (in us).
10 “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!”
What can one say to add anything to this scripture? I CAN say that in my life God has proven His word to be true. Have I always had more than I ever dreamed of? NO, but I have always had what I need, and more, when I put God to the test. He never fails!
If you’re struggling friend, Take the Malachi 3:10 challenge. Bring your 10% into the storehouse and see what God will do with it.
You cannot outgive God. Put Him to the test today, begin tithing 10% and you’ll be amazed how far the other 90% will go.
That first year of our marriage did have its challenges. Being young and in love doesn’t pay the bills.
A friend had suggested I might try selling cookware. It seemed the perfect way to keep up with the bills since it was so easy to sell. And wherever we went, there would be people needing such a fine product. It made sense to me.
So, I signed on the dotted line, purchased samples of the cookware and practiced my sales pitch. What could go wrong??
I filled up the tank of my bright blue VW and headed for the rural northern Missouri. Friday closed with four orders in my pocket and four fat down payment checks. My heart swelled with pride as I anticipated my wife’s relief when she saw this paycheck.
I checked into the local hotel after a quick burger and fries at the diner down the street.
As the night went slowly by, my throat tightened and got more painful by the hour. I realized I was getting the bug that had been going around the college campus.
“Oh well”, I thought. “At least I have four confirmed sales already”.
As Saturday dawned, I filled the VW up again and headed for home. Sick as I was, I dropped by the office and turned in my four cookware contracts anticipating a handsome paycheck to take home to my wife. But with a sad face, the secretary let me know all four of my purchasers had called to cancel their orders. Those down payment checks would be returned and the contracts voided. My heart felt like a stone in my chest as I broke the news to my young wife; there would be no paycheck that week. Not only was there no income but considerable expense had been incurred for the sales trip plus a doctor’s visit to address the strep throat I had brought home.
But somehow, the bills got paid. We learned through this and many other experiences in early marriage, God can be trusted with our impossibilities. He comes through when all our best efforts fall short. Does that mean we can just quit trying and wait for Him to do it all? Nope…I don’t think so. Often, our most meaningful miracles show up in work clothes. But when we truly have done the best we can and failed, we can trust God to come through.
You’re going to make it. God will not let you down!
Interesting how easily one recognizes the significant after it has passed. So it was that day on the beach with our little ones. It was just a moment between parents and a small child; a seemingly light hearted and passing thing to be enjoyed and forgotten. Yet here we are decades later recalling with wonder that delightful instant when my wife and I noticed the wave coming. Together we gripped a bit tighter those two chubby little hands we were holding. We lifted our little one just high enough, so the wave didn't smack her in the face, but low enough so she felt the thrill of a close call.
"Do it again daddy!" She cackled with the delightful laughter only a child can produce. "Do it again!"
And of course, we did "do it again" until we thought our arms would fall off!
A series of events that could easily have turned tragic became the highlight of a very special day for our small family.
In retrospect, isn't life rather like that special time when we lifted our child above the crashing wave? Our Heavenly Father walks with us through life's challenging events. We are not the first of His sheep to walk this valley. He knows it well. So, in His wisdom He allows us to forge through life as well as we might. But on occasion, knowing we are passing our limits, He lifts us just enough so life does not crush us.
Our daughter that day did not possess the wisdom to avoid the larger waves nor did she have the strength to face them on her own. But she had us!
You may not be any better off than she as you face life's storm of the day. But your Father walks the path with you. Treacherous though your challenges may be, they are no match for your Father!
"Love lifted me. Love lifted me. When nothing else could help, love lifted me!"
A soft breeze ruffled his straight blond hair and cooled his skin damp from the exertions of play in the Central Florida twilight. The boy lifted his head trying to see the source of unfamiliar aircraft noises approaching over the massive water oaks lining his home town streets.
Nearly grazing the treetops, a fighter-bomber from the nearby Naval Airbase strained to stretch nearly non-existent fuel to reach the runway of the local airport. Landing lights ablaze the struggling aircraft flashed overhead in the semi darkness with a last blast of thrust from its dying engines. With relief the boy noted that although it was very close the plane cleared the trees and settled onto the runway.
What he did not realize was that the pilot had blown several tires on landing, thinking he only had a very short runway for his fast and heavy aircraft. In the darkness he simply could not see the rest of that long and beautifully maintained runway stretching a mile or more into the distance. Because the airport was currently being used by smaller general aviation planes, only a small portion of the runway was lighted. It was only in the light of tomorrow's new day that the pilot realized how useless and counter productive his panic stop had been.
Sounds rather like our responses when God's Word counsels peace but we panic anyway. It is often the light of tomorrow that reveals the security of today when we feel so vulnerable. Feelings can be so inaccurate.
The concept of seemingly innocuous but costly language buried in the fine print is common in the business community. Most of us have learned through hard experience to read each contract thoroughly, paying close attention to the fine print.
But when it comes to following Christ some paint everything with a broad brush not considering there might be hidden costs to our cross-bearing. (Matthew 16:24 & 25)
A young man came to such a moment of truth as he knelt at an altar considering the life-plan God had been speaking into his heart.
He had known since childhood that God intended he would preach the Gospel. As an older teen he was now face to face with the cross tailor-made for him.
In a moment of time it became very real to him that he would lose his girl, his career, his car and his place in the community in which he had grown up. The Holy Spirit being a Gentleman gave full disclosure to the harsh realities the boy would soon face. One cannot successfully walk two paths. He must choose one or the other. And it isn’t that one would be evil and the other a righteous pathway. It was simply inescapable that one choice would please God while the other would please himself.
As the youth mulled his choices one fact became the overweening consideration; He could not bear to be in rebellion against the Lord of his life, no matter what the cost.
One by one he laid the things most important to him on the altar. And life for him was forever altered. In short order the young woman with whom he thought he would share his life realized he had chosen a path she could not walk.
She returned the ring.
The anticipated career came crashing down around him as his resignation reached the desk of management.The beautiful car he had struggled to buy and maintain was stolen, ruined and wrecked.
The circle of friends and influence he had enjoyed so recently quickly vaporized in the face of his announcement that he would be preparing for a life of ministry.
Decades later as life wound down and retirement became an option, the man looked back over his years and realized that yes…there were hidden costs involved with his surrender to Christ so long ago. But God pulled no surprises and buried nothing in life’s fine print. He required only that the young man count the cost, take up his cross and follow Jesus. Therein lies life’s greatest satisfaction. Life has been good for him with career, a loving wife, children, grandchildren and a huge circle of friends.
But someday the man now older and wiser will receive his greatest reward; “Well done thou good and faithful servant. …Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” (Matthew 25:21)
25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life . . .”
These words of encouragment from Matthew 6 confirm to us that God cares very much about our everyday lives. He has carefully planned out each day of our entire life. He orders our steps and we will live out every day He has planned for us.
When we face circumstances that just flat overwhelm us - we need to just do what God enables us to do. We must not rush ahead of Him, but just take God-ordained steps. Do what He directs us to do, nothing more and nothing less.
There's no more wonderful feeling than when you've done what God inspired and empowered you to do, to have Him put His arm around your shoulder, give you a 'hug' and say"You did good." What an awesome compliment from our Father.
God’s got this. HE has your best interest at heart. He has plans to prosper and protect you, and do everything for your good!
We must not live life in confusion - God is NOT the author of confusion or fear. He'll guide and direct your steps.
I love the old chorus "I'm walking arm in arm with Jesus, trusting Him to show the way. I know that if I always walk by Him, He'll never let me go astray." So lock arms with Jesus and walk forth in confidence today and every day.
When the enemy knocks on your door with fear and uncertainty, Let Jesus answer the door. He knows how to handle the enemy’s lies.
I deserved a ticket that night. I was in violation of the law and knew well what those strobing lights behind me meant.
You see, in those days, we were allowed to get our driving permit at age 14. But we could only drive during daylight hours and only with a licensed driver 18 or older beside us. I knew all that but then there was the Glee Club rehearsal for a coming concert.
Dad was working at the service station, Mother was taking college courses and couldn't drive me to school. So I just hopped on my Cushman Eagle motor scooter, picked up a friend and headed for school. I mean...what could go wrong?? We were just going a couple of miles and wouldn't be on any major highways.
'Course the brake light was out and the headlight was dim. But at least we wouldn't let the director down!
We got there safely with no incident. But the trip home was another story altogether. You see, to be "cool", I had taken the baffles out of the muffler. It was LOUD!
I'm still not sure which of the obvious safety and noise issues attracted the attention of the highway patrolman. But there he was right behind me with his lights announcing for the whole community that he was capturing a couple of fleeing lawbreakers!
I dolefully but dutifully pulled over and waited for the cuffs.
Woe upon woe! The patrolman turned out to be a family friend! His first remark was that he thought I would've known better and that my folks had raised me better than that. He pointed out several violations that should have generated a ticket for me and much revenue for the State.
But he just wrote me a warning for the violations and gave me what-for for my general lack of wisdom. Amazingly he turned both of us loose with the admonition to "get yourselves home right this minute and don't let me ever catch you out here like this again!"
Ummm....he didn't have to repeat himself! I got the message!
You know; I learned something very valuable that dark night under the flashing lights of the Police Cruiser. It was a lesson in Grace. I really did deserve an expensive ticket but was given mercy. Kinda like at Calvary. We all really do deserve Hell but God offers Heaven. What Grace! What Mercy!