With all my running around, and prepping for the convention Friday, I forgot it was Monday (until it was Tuesday). So I’m afraid it will be a retro post this week. Here is one of my favorites that was originally published in 2012 (wow has it been that long?);
I recently went to the eye doctor. Since I have worn glasses most of my life, I decided I was ready for a change. I tried contacts when I was younger, but they were the hard lenses and were a lot of trouble. With all the advances in the field of optometry, I thought I would give them another chance. I tried them today, and was amazed at how much clearer my vision was. I was also how much less of a hassle they have become. I started thinking about how much trouble I’ve had with my eyes and then realized that God was showing me things from another angle, yet again. I’ve always had eye trouble, and I’ve always had Itrouble. “I” tends to get in the way of so much that God wants for us. We think we know what “I” needs. We think we know what “I” wants, but when we get it, we are only happy long enough for the new to wear off of it. When God gives us things, they are things that keep on making us happy. The new never wears off of them and it fulfills us. I’ve been facing these “I” problems for the past couple of months without realizing it. “I” was focused too much on what “I” thought God wanted for me. “I” kept thinking “Why would God lead me this way?” when it seemed so contrary to the way “I” thought He would take me. “I” forgot that He knows better than “I”. “I” forgot that He can see farther than my “I” will ever be able to. I’ve finally decided I need to stop trying to see things through my “I’s” and just let Him lead the way. Amazing how a trip to the Eye Doctor can bring things into focus for you, isn’t it?
I sat here tonight trying to come up with a blog entry to write, and my mind became a perfect blank. The first sentence I tried to write was wrong. I could feel it. So I thought some more, and still ‘got nothing’. As a fall back I looked back through my past blogs to try and give me some ideas, and I came across ‘Memory Lane’. I posted it back in 2009 and as I read through it, I relived what I was thinking when I wrote it. That was a good thing, and I thought it was worth reposting. So here we go; revisiting Memory Lane.
Memory Lane: Originally Posted the week of November 29, 2009.
Today I found myself taking a walk down memory lane. I don’t do that often. There are tender spots back there and I don’t particularly like who I was back then. I’ve been saved since I was eight or nine years old. I don’t remember exactly because I have been away from God far enough that I doubted my salvation. Thanks to a merciful God, He gave me the time I needed to realize how bad I could screw up. He stood there waiting patiently until I needed Him, and then He led me back to where I needed to be. All of that was before I actually had a relationship with God. I’ve heard people say that over and over, and I never really understood it until these last six years. My God was the Fire and Brimstone God, the God who waited for you to mess up. The God that you served out of fear. I didn’t know the other side of God. The encouraging God, the gentle God that wants you to succeed. The God that stands there waiting for you to return to Him. The God who waits for you to realize you can’t do it on your own, because sometimes the child has to touch the stove to realize what ‘hot’ means. He is not a vindictive God. He doesn’t wait with the hammer poised above your head for you to mess up like I believed in my youth. I don’t regret all those years of floundering about out in the world, because I realize that they were a necessity for me to become the man I am today. I had to travel that road to help form the tool that God could use to do His will. Yes it is tender back there on Memory Lane, but pain is a teacher I am well acquainted with. I know that I was really blessed all those years but was too blinded by pride to see it. I let the Devil mesmerize me with shiny baubles and parlor tricks. All the while my God stood waiting for me to call out for Him. All he needed was for me to call on Him and He was right there with me, showing me the way back. Memory Lane IS still a little painful for me, but I still stroll down it on occasions to remind myself of the lessons I’ve learned, and that I am not who I once was. My relationship with God began a scant six years ago even though my walk with God began when I was eight or nine. I still make mistakes. I am still just a man. I still fight with carnal side as much as any other human being, but I am not blind to the fact that I am not alone. I see the miracles God works for me everyday. I see the blessings He pours out on me as I journey through this world of tears. It gives me hope that I can be what He always planned for me to be. I don’t have to look far into the past or future. I can be content with what I am at this one moment in time. So don’t worry about the past. Try to be as perfect in this one moment as you can be. Practice this. Just try to be as perfect as you can be in this one moment, and before you know it you’ll have a string of those moments. You will mess up, but all God asks is that we try.
I read a mime (I think that is what they are calling them now) the other day that said; A man asked a Christian what he had gained by praying to God. The man replied ‘nothing, but let me tell you what I’ve lost; anger, ego, greed, depression and fear of death.’ I like the thought behind it to an extent. It didn’t really completely convey what I thought it should. I think it should have read more like; The man replied ‘that is yet to be seen, but I know what I’ve lost…’ I’ve heard people say that a Christian is crazy because he/she believes life starts after death. Every time I see that I try to correct it. We do not believe life starts after death, only that it gets better. Can I tell you what I’ve gained? Eternal life I know, but what shape will that life take? I can only imagine, but I do know all happiness comes from him. If you don’t have Him, then what you have is a pale imitation of happiness.
9 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. Heb 1:9 (KJV)
13 And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. John 17:13 (KJV)
11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. Psalms 16:11 (KJV)
I remember a sermon I once heard while attending Welcome No. 1 Baptist Church. It was quite a while back, and I don’t recall who the preacher was (I was really young). The preacher said that he had prayed for a message to bring to the congregation and the Lord had granted him one on the unrepentant going to hell. This can’t be right, the preacher thought. Everyone that attends church has been saved. I know them all. The preacher brought the message that the Lord had given him, and no one moved. The Spirit that had given him the message was at peace, so he knew he had obeyed as he should have. The following week the preacher prayed again, and again got a message on the lost going to hell. Again he preached the word and the Spirit was at peace. A third week went by and again another message on hell. After that the weeks that followed were the normal messages one would expect to be preached in a Believing Church. It was many months later before the reason for his messages were revealed. A man came up to the preacher and introduced himself.
“Preacher, you don’t know me, but I live by that little church where you pastor, and I just wanted to say thank you for preaching God’s Word. You see, I was in the field next to that little church one Sunday, and God convicted my heart. He dealt with me for three weeks. Three weeks I was in that field every Sunday, dreading hearing the Word, but knowing I had to hear it. On the 3rd week I was saved out there by an old stump. I just wanted to say thanks.”
I will remember that message to my dying day. It has given me strength at times when I thought I had none. Remember, sometimes God may ask you to do things that do not seem normal to you, and keep in mind you may never know why in this life, but God knows. And your actions may be the only thing that helps that ‘lost soul’ find His Way.
The message yesterday was on Acts3. While I sat and listened to the preacher talk, the scene began to play out before my eyes. Those of you that have read and are familiar with the New Testament know the story I am talking about. The story of Peter and John as they came upon the lame man begging for money outside the temple gate, where Peter spoke those famous words; “Silver and gold have I none, but what I have I give to you also. In the name of Jesus Christ stand and walk.” Immediately the beggar’s legs were healed and he ran shouting the praises of God. As the story was played out on the screen in my head, I began to empathize with one of the players. This is one of the many ways God has spoken to me through the scriptures, so I waited with eager ears to hear what He was about to say. I wasn’t disappointed. I was surprised, and astounded by the vastness of my ignorance, tho. I expected to see something of me in Peter, or for something to resonate between me and John. I did NOT expect to empathize with the lame beggar. You see when Peter spoke to him, the beggar paid attention. He turned to Peter and John expecting money, something to live on for the next day, or if he was lucky, the next two or three days. These men of God had taken pity on him, and were going to give him something. This is the way I feel when God speaks to me. He has had pity on me and is going to give me something to help me through the trying times of this life. So when Peter said his famous words, it confused the beggar for a moment, and then he reached and took him by the hand. That is when God worked through Peter. Not just giving the beggar money, but giving him something worth sooo much more! The ability to walk! No more did he have to rely on the generousness of others to live. No more sitting and hoping that some man would take pity and help him. He turned to Peter expecting money, and received his Life instead. If we count on men, at best we can only get enough to get by for a few days. If we count on God, we need never worry about it again. After the service I was in awe of how I could miss such a message in all the times I had heard and read that story. Then I had to laugh. I realized that I was going to have to go home and tell my wife that God told me I was lame.
There have been times in my life when I have gotten into arguments. No, really, I have. I know you find it hard to believe, but it is true. Nine times out of ten (or maybe eight, at least seven, I know) times it is because of miscommunication. More specifically on the definition of a certain word or phrase that I thought was a “given” meant something different to somebody else. I recall one time my wife and I got in a serious disagreement over the Bible. She said it was an ‘Instruction Manual’, and I corrected her (yep, mistake no.1) and said it was a ‘Guide Line’. When someone says ‘Instruction Manual’ I think of “place screw 15786509 into hole 344476349 and tighten until snug” or some such. You see it names the screw and the hole and tells you what to do with them. A Guide Line is more of “a good way to take connect these two boards with a screw. You may also use a nail or some twine, but the screw is the best way.” Do you see the difference there? It may only be a subtle difference, but there it is. It was enough that the Devil could stick his foot in the door and cause stress and dissention in the ranks. We argued over that particular subject for quite some time, and I had no idea why until much later. We were both saying the same thing, but using different words to accomplish it. The Bible tells you how to handle situations without getting bogged down with the specifics (like names of screws and pegs and what-nots). Now-a-days, with the advent of texting and social media we have to be extremely careful of how we phrase things, lest we give the enemy an opening. We as partakers in social media need to also keep this in mind and not take offense at the first perceived insult. It is really hard to apply the right ‘tone’ to some messages, and sarcasm often doesn’t translate well either (imagine that!) So when you read something you may find offensive, before you fly off the handle and start a three page rant about someone, and then unfriend them, you might stop a moment and try to figure out if what they ‘said’ was actually what they ‘meant’. (And to finish the story about me and my wife arguing, all was well as soon as I admitted I was wrong. There see how easy that was?)
There is a secret that most anthropologists use in their study of different customs and cultures. That secret is the fact that regardless of how much you try to lessen the impact of your presence on your environment, you still change things just by being there. People will react differently around you. Animals will behave different than they normally would because you are there. Even if you try to hide your presence you are still affecting things around you. Wind has to change course because you are there displacing air. Even light reflects differently because you are there. You can’t change that. What you CAN change is HOW you affect things. You have two options. You can either make a positive or a negative impact. Just by keeping a positive attitude or making an improvement in the surroundings generate waves of the same type of energy all around you. Being negative will do the same, just with the opposite effect. Now some people do not care how their actions change their surroundings, because they make their changes and move on, never having to deal with the results. Some people do not realize they are changing things, and some wear blinders to how much change they cause (and a lot of times it does no good to try to explain it). I figure if I am going to make an impact on my surroundings, I want it to be a positive one. As long as we do that, life can get better for everyone. This is what Jesus was teaching with the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have done unto you. When you do this, you improve not only your life, but everyone and everything around you. So why not make a positive impact?
I attended a Writer’s Conference in Pell City, Alabama this past weekend. I really enjoyed myself, meeting new people, and realizing that I shared connections with some that I had no idea existed. During that time, a man came by my table and glanced at my books. He picked one up, turning it over and looking and then placing it back on the table. He started to turn around and leave, but then turned to me and asked; “What is the difference between Christian Science Fiction and regular Science Fiction?” I answered him by saying that I wrote the story from a Christian worldview, with Christian morals and beliefs. “The morals are there in regular science fiction, too.” Looking back on the conversation now, I realize that my answer was not very self-explanatory. I was always a Star Trek fan (R.I.P. Leonard Nimoy), but as I have grown older and looked back on those original episodes, I see where the writers would take ‘pot shots’ at organized religion such as Christianity. They portrayed people that believed in an all-powerful deity as ignorant savages. The misconception that is generated here is that God and Science oppose one another. I disagree. One does not have to exist excluding the other. Never have I heard a Christian exclaim “There is no science!”, but I do know there are scientists who believe in God. Science can only explain things going back so far, and the explanation always falls short of explaining the “Origin” of all things. Some people say the answer to life on earth is “alien seeding” of the universe. Even if you accept this theory as true, the question remains; “What was the origins of those aliens?” Kind of puts you right back where you started, huh? The Big Bang Theory? Nobody said God ‘quietly’ created the Heavens and Earth. Evolution? I have never seen a fish turn into a man, and if man came from apes, why did it stop happening? It seems to me if that were the case we would have some half-man/half-apes walking around somewhere. Where are they? So where does that leave us? It leaves us with questions that only religion can answer, and those answers do not deny science. They do not exclude science. I have pondered all of these questions before and I came up with this statement that covers all of the above; “Science is man’s way of describing God’s paintbrush.” So why do people insist on separating the two?
We had a visiting preacher where I attended church at this last Sunday. His name was David Marshall. He preached on heaven and it was a huge dose of encouragement for me. One that I badly needed. Too much has transpired recently that seemed to be conspiring to steal my joy. Anyway, as I listened to him preach, something he said shot my mind off on a tangent (a writers mind has a tendency to do that(a lot of times without warning or provocation)). He was talking about an oyster making a pearl. It was that reference in context with heaven that answered a question for me that my mother had asked me years ago. She asked me why God made this world and all of us people if He knew how bad we were going to mess it up. I don’t pretend to know God’s mind. He gives us examples of what He is like in the Bible. I know the things He does for me and my family, but I know that (as a mortal) I can’t possibly understand the workings of His mind. That being said I have come up with a theory of ‘why’. People say that science and religion are mutually exclusive, but I don’t believe that is true. I think one walks hand in hand with the other. They compliment each other and one is proof of the other. That is a whole different blog post though. I mention the science to give the example of the oyster, which I believe is a perfect example of why. The why is to create a pearl. In order to create something as beautiful as a pearl a process has to be started. The inside of an oyster is extremely sensitive. So when a grain of sand or some other particle gets in there and irritates that lining, a process is started to ‘fix’ that irritation. The oyster starts building around the irritant a crystalline coating called nacre. Over time the oyster completely encases this irritant in this beautiful coating. The result is this beautiful gem that is coveted by most of the human race. I thought about that and I realized that that is exactly what we are to God, a beautiful gem, precious to Him. So I asked myself, what makes us so? What qualities is it that He loves? He names them all in the Bible at one point or another. To make a pearl, you need to start with an irritant. God did the same thing. To make us into gems, He had to place us in a unique environment, an environment where all the things that He loved would be an irritant. We either become the gems that He wanted us to be, or we turn away from Him add to the environment, which in turns makes others turn into the gems. All this was a flash of insight that God granted me during Brother Marshall’s message Sunday. I’m sure that there are problems with my comparison. If there are, it is the fault of this simple wordsmith’s inept attempt to explain something that is beyond Him. I kind of like thinking that He is turning us into something so beautiful.
I heard a story once about a monkey jar trap. The basic gist of the story was that a jar was secured to the ground with a banana or some other bait inside. The mouth of the jar was just big enough for a monkey to put his hand in. When the monkey puts his hand in the jar, grasping the bait he finds that he cannot get his hand back out of the jar. All he has to do is let go of the bait and his hand would be free, but the monkey usually lacks the sense to do that and remains trapped. Sometimes I think I’m that monkey, holding onto something so hard that it keeps me trapped, unable to move forward, and unable to enjoy the ‘treasure’ that I am holding onto. Things come an go in this life. This physical realm has a lot of desirable ‘bait’ for you, but if you can’t let it go, you won’t be able to enjoy having it either. It remains stuck in the jar, held in your hand, but out of your reach. Sometimes it’s better just to let go. It’s not always the easiest thing to do, but sometimes it’s the best thing you can do.